Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974)

Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974) movie poster

director Manuel Caño
viewed: 09/15/2017

“In infinite time, what happens happens.”

Just last week, I watched American Mummy (2014) which was a bit of a misnomer since there was no re-animated mummy in it. And now Voodoo Black Exorcist, which despite its title, is actually a mummy movie! Go figure. Marketing moves in mysterious ways.

Voodoo Black Exorcist is indeed stupefying, as the poster suggests, though terrifying, not so much. It’s a Spanish production that starts out with some seriously chocolaty black-face before we get our Caribbean mummy story. Why is it every mummy story hews to the trope of awakening and looking for a doppelganger or reborn version of a lost love? Don’t mummies have other motivations?

The camerawork is kinda bizarro, in a good way, but this is cheap, bad cinema, which you have to like in order to appreciate. It’s terrible but terribly fun too if you like trash like I do.

Some of the action takes place in some really cool caves.

And the quote that kept resounding: “The best hamburgers in the world.”

Dark Future (1994)

Dark Future (1994) DVD cover

director Greydon Clark
viewed: 09/13/2017

Dark Future starts bad, quite hilariously bad, stays pretty bad, and then somewhere takes a turn and gets a little better. I don’t know that it actually achieves “good” or quality by the end, but it decent’s itself up enough to not be merely and completely derided.

Of all its many shortcomings the fight sequences are remarkably crap. Director/co-writer Greydon Clark is clearly working without a budget (it might be the first film I’ve seen in which a medium-sized plasma ball is the film’s most high-tech element).

This is a world where humans have been decimated by disease and are trapped underground by cyborgs who use them for pleasure(?). They rise up and rebel finally, or at least one guy does. Humans are wonderfully apathetic save Kendall (Darby Hinton), the mustachioed one.

Somewhere towards the ending with the weird multimedia propaganda/indoctrination videos that the cyborgs are fed that I somehow warmed to this often ridiculous sci-fi yarn. A yarn from which you should definitely not pull any threads for fear of loosing its whackadoo plot holes and notice its goofy dialogue.

The Incubus (1982)

The Incubus (1982) movie poster

director  John Hough
viewed: 09/11/2017

Rapist, murderer, destroyer of uteri, and spewer of insane amounts of red semen, the incubus of The Incubus is a pretty serious masculine sexual demon. It’s some pretty outrageous stuff, even if in cinematic reality it’s more described than seen.

Director John Hough pushes the envelope in this horror thriller starring John Cassavetes. The small community of Galen is home to covens and witchhunters, demons and their prey, a whole history of such stuff (and lots of bizarre artwork on the walls in case you were missing the hints).

It actually made me quite curious about the works of writer Ray Russell, from whose novel of the same name the film was adapted.

This is an interesting one.

The Forgotten Pistolero (1969)

The Forgotten Pistolero (1969) movie poster

director Ferdinando Baldi
viewed: 09/10/2017

Sebastian (Leonard Mann) must return to “Oh-ah-saka” in “Meh-hee-ko” (varying degrees of proper pronunciation — actually thought they said “Osaka” at first) to avenge his father at the bidding of his long lost friend Rafael (Peter Martell).

The Forgotten Pistolero is a Spaghetti Western take on the tale of Orestes. Ferdinando Baldi’s tale of rightful revenge makes lists of the finest Spaghetti Westerns and features an iconic score by Roberto Pregadio, yet seemingly isn’t as well known as many others.

I was reminded again of the Spaghetti Western’s influence on the American revisionist Western (such as Peckinpah), depicting class disparities, outsiders and antiheroes, as well as it’s visual style and editing.

The Big Sick (2017)

The Big Sick (2017) movie poster

director  Michael Showalter
viewed: 09/10/2017 at Ua Stonestown Twin, SF, CA

I have this thing about comedies. They make me feel like I don’t have a sense of humor because I think most of them suck. And romantic comedies? That’s a genre I bypass largely as a rule.

But I do like Kumail Nanjiani (first experienced as Prismo from Adventure Time) and so does my son and so we went and caught The Big Sick.

Perhaps because it’s adapted from Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon’s real life experiences, The Big Sick isn’t quite as formulaic as many romantic comedies. The humor is more lowkey and turns on the development of their relationship in more quiet and naturalistic ways.

And Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are very good, making the most of their characters, probably the better written and best performed in the film. Zoe Kazan is good too.

We both enjoyed it.

The Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story (1982)

The Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story (1982) movie poster

director Joe D’Amato
viewed: 09/09/2017

From the get-go, Joe D’Amato’s Caligula (1979) knock-off, The Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story (or amusingly tersely Caligula 2), seems remarkably tame. I mean an exploitation budget version of one of the biggest budget exploitation flicks of all time — where do you go to outdo Tinto Brass and Bob Guccione?

Well, if you hang in there long enough, it starts to get all sleazy and outré. It’s been super super long since I saw Brass’s Caligula so I’ve got little to compare upon, but I think it’s safe to say that D’Amato doesn’t manage to up the ante.

You do have D’Amato favorite Laura “Black Emanuelle” Gemser as a vengeful slave/concubine.

The Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story is a metaphorical iron poker up the rectum of exploitation cinema, though it offers just that very image non-metaphorically as well.

American Mummy (2014)

American Mummy (2014) movie poster

director Charles Pinion
viewed: 09/09/2017

Full disclosure: I am friends with Charles Pinion, have known him for decades.

American Mummy (originally titled more aptly “Aztec Blood” before naming rights issues developed) is Pinion’s first feature film in two decades. And a lot of things are different from his earlier work. American Mummy comes from a time and place of more money, more professional production (it was shot in 3-D), slicker digital camera work, and a more “professional” cast. None of these upgrades by any means change the fact that this is a low-budget, independently produced horror film, but it’s less down and dirty than his work in the prior century.

A team from a university are on site in New Mexico where the mummified remains of an Aztec “god”? have been found. Unfortunately for all involved, one of the hangers-on wants to perform a blood rite to raise the spirit of the powerful dead which results in lots of blood and vomit and dismemberment for all involved.

The gore effects seem to be largely practical and make for some of the best shots in the film.

It’s a more conventional horror film for Charles (by comparison) but still carries through his mordant and morbid sense of humor. It really seems he’s enjoying himself a lot more once the blood starts flowing freely, as probably would the audience.

I hope that American Mummy is the first of many films Charles Pinion will make in this century.

Pulgasari (1985)

Pulgasari (1985) movie poster

directors Shin Sang-ok, Chong Gon Jo
viewed: 09/08/2017

Pulgasari, the only North Korean film probably most people have seen, is a fascinating artifact. The whole story of the production (via abduction/kidnapping of the director) is a worthy story itself. That it was produced by Kim Jong-Il while not yet the leader of North Korea, a passion project due to his love of Godzilla movies.

And yet, it’s propaganda. Though maybe not successful propaganda.

Pulgasari the monster is a take on the legendary creature “Bulgasari” who gobbles up iron (and the likeness maybe ends there). Here the creature is created or summoned when a poor village is robbed of all of their resources by the brutal government, taking all of their metal including cooking utensils and farm equipment. The blacksmith forms a figurine out of rice which comes to life when blood is spilled on it. Pulgasari is born and runs around cute as the dickens until he eats up all metal in sight and grows and grows.

No matter the many plans of the evil governor or his hired armies, Pulgasari manages to break free and wreak the vengeance for which he was created. The starving people and oppressive government maybe are meant to represent something other than the standing North Korean government and its people but it’s hard not to make the comparison. Pulgasari fights for the people.

But interestingly, in the end, Pulgasari himself becomes a liability. He still eats and eats and eats up all of the metallic resources, dooming to grateful people to further privations and starvation. He has to be convinced to disincorporate.

The messages do push self-sacrifice, but I’m not sure how much it pushes an appreciation of the state. Everyone has to be willing to give all of oneself to bring about change.

Pulgasari himself is pretty cool. Designed by the Japanese crew that made that era of Godzilla movies, he’s a nifty guy, who changes in looks as he changes in size. His changes in size don’t always hew consistently in proportion.

Quite an interesting entity.

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) movie poster

director Joe D’Amato
viewed: 09/06/2017

Ah, Laura Gemser…

I was first introduced to Laura Gemser and Emanuelle in Black Emanuelle (1975) and Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976) via Skinemax in the 1980’s. Lots and lots of skin and flesh and pretend sex (I’m sure I never saw a hardcore version of this stuff). Storytelling isn’t exactly secondary but certainly not the primary in this film series. Laura Gemser is the remarkable beauty so often in her altogether that drove this whole thing, and though I haven’t seen one of these things since the 1980’s, it’s really nice to see her again.

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, of course, is a “Black Emanuelle” movie and a cannibal flick too. Two exploitation tropes meet up and what do you get? A cannibal flick with a lot of sex scenes. Director Joe D’Amato goes all in for the cannibal bits too, some reasonably good gore.

The tastelessness of the cannibal genre is full-on here. Racism being core to this particular genre.

But really, I can’t help but think that the most bizarre moment comes early in the film when Gemser is undercover in a NYC mental ward when she basically sexually assaults a patient in a straight-jacket and then photographs her private parts.

Two Undercover Angels (1969)

Two Undercover Angels (1969) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 09/05/2017

“Without fantasy one’s life isn’t worth anything. And one doesn’t need it only when drinking.”

I’m guessing Two Undercover Angels and Kiss Me Monster were made in quick succession because it’s hard to imagine the success of the first led to the second.

A.k.a Sadist Erotica, Two Undercover Angels is a slightly more conventional spy spoof sex comedy starring Janine Reynard and Rosanna Yanni in the hands of Jess Franco.

I preferred the sequel because it’s far loopier and nonsensical. Here the Red Lips girls are on the track of abducted models and a killer artist who likes to paint horrendous murder in the act with the help of his hirsute henchman.

There are some wonderfully dead line readings by the voice-over cast.