Rattlers (1976)

Rattlers (1976) movie poster

director John McCauley
viewed: 09/26/2017

You’d think a rattlesnakes on crack kind of movie ought to kinda interesting at least, right?  The 1976 horror chiller Rattlers might have you reconsider that position.

I don’t abandon many movies I start. In for a minute, in for an hour whatever. In something this unimpressive, you look for anything of interest.

  • Picturesque Southern California locations
  • A seemingly actual dead dog
  • Amusing Rattly soundtrack
  • Lush doctor who offers a martini when he first meets the heores
  • One of the least impressive deaths by snake to a lady in a bubble bath.

It truly is remarkably dull if generally decently produced. When you think it can’t get less compelling, they go to Las Vegas for a romantic interlude which includes a montage of silly “date night” activities.

 

Full Moon of the Virgins (1973)

Full Moon of the Virgins (1973) movie poster

directors Luigi Batzella, Joe D’Amato
viewed: 09/25/2017

I’m going with Full Moon of the Virgins here, contrary to the title the movie is better known as: The Devil’s Wedding Night. That’s what it said on the version I saw, a literal translation of the Italian Il plenilunio delle vergini.

What neither really gives you is that this is a vampire flick. A sort of throwback Gothic vampire flick in the style of heyday Hammer Films.

Mark Damon stars as twin brothers researching some Wagnerian biz of German lore, only to step into a sort of gender-swap Dracula thing. The Countess Dracula is Rosalba Neri, and she’s got the goods as resident vampire lady.

I sensed a vein of humor running throughout. Not camp, per se, but playful?

I guess I’m at a bit of a loss to say why I liked it, but I did. The production is really pretty solid, putting location Piccolomini castle in Balsoranao to great use, and employing mostly nice cinematography.

And ultimately, you get those full moon virgins for the devil’s wedding night, eventually in their altogether.

It Conquered the World (1954)

It Conquered the World (1954) movie poster

director Roger Corman
viewed: 09/24/2017

It Conquered the World (spoiler: It didn’t)

Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World is really a half-decent 1950’s sci-fi alien invasion picture. It’s undermined (or alternatively enhanced), however, by a classically comical schlock monster that is almost impossible to take seriously.

In the 1950’s it’s always about Communism, isn’t it?

The film starts with a nice opening shot following cool, low budget title sequence. More than anything, it features a cast of folks who perform well and would go on to bigger, better things. Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland, and Peter Graves perform nobly.

It features some quintessential 50’s sexism, what with women not understanding stuff like science and whatnot, though also winds up having the wife take on the monster with a shotgun towards the end. So, feminism?

“The world is full of fat heads, full to overflowing.”

Charming.

Video Vixens (1975)

Video Vixens (1975) movie poster

director Henri Pachard
viewed: 09/23/2017

Video Vixens features a premise in which a television executive decides to air an X-rated Oscars on his failing network (most of the film is then elements of this awards show and commercials and clips from the “movies”.) Interestingly, he’s inspired by something very Infowars: he claims that something in soap is turning America gay – (chlorapheme?), so broadcasting good ol’ heterosexual sex will set America straight.

You can readily imagine how all over the place this decidedly un-PC movie is. It is to its credit, an artifact of its time, when sex humor was unfiltered and occasionally amusing.

I think I heard the line: “I used to be able to remember the names of all types of nipples” at one point.

My notes included: Trump, homophobia, and Tex Avery, though as not a very good note-taker, I can’t say why exactly.

The Monster (2016)

The Monster (2016) movie poster

director  Bryan Bertino
viewed: 09/22/2017

Is The Monster a metaphor, or is The Monster not a metaphor?

In the end, it’s not a metaphor, but it really seemed like it wanted to be.

What’s left is a thriller about a dysfunctional mom and her daughter stuck on an isolated road with a shadowy beast. Who is not a metaphor for mom’s alcoholism.

Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine carry Bryan Bertino’s 2016 The Monster as far as they can. Unfortunately, his script and direction leave them shy of something totally worthwhile.

Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959)

Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959) movie poster

directors Riccardo Freda, Mario Bava
viewed: 09/21/2017

There is debate about how much Caltiki – The Immortal Monster is Mario Bava and how much it’s Riccardo Freda. It doesn’t really matter. Certainly it’s not “pure” Bava. But there are certainly some shots that look like prime Bava.

For 1950’s sci-fi, there are some well-noted gruesome effects. I even sensed a little bit of Godzilla in the miniatures. I also found some of it to be quite Expressionistic.

What I found kind of odd was that a movie about a vengeful Mayan goddess, Caltiki, (d)evolves into a much more scientific description of events. Caltiki the monster is an irradiated amoeba, essentially, grown to huge proportions resulting from earthquakes and then further powered by a returning meteor. (I didn’t say it was “good” science).

I don’t know. I pretty much dig 1950’s sci-fi/horror.

The Hideous Sun Demon (1958)

The Hideous Sun Demon (1958) movie poster

directors  Tom Boutross, Robert Clarke
viewed: 09/20/2017

“Whiskey and soda mix, not whiskey and science.”

That line, uttered early in 1950’s sci-fi/horror flick, The Hideous Sun Demon, is the film’s tell as to its real significance. Alcoholism isn’t subtext so much as pretty well-woven into the film’s full text.

Many have compared The Hideous Sun Demon to a werewolf movie, probably because the monster is brought about, rather than by recognition of a full moon, but under the eye of the sun. Writer/star/director Robert Clarke thought it more of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of thing, but it’s not the sun as much as the booze that brings out the beast in Dr. Gilbert McKenna (Clarke). It’s his own booziness that caused the accident that exposed him to nuclear radiation in the first place and warranted the “whiskey and science” quip.

And it’s his need for hooch that drives him continually out of the shadowy confines of his home and into dangerous situations. It’s what leads his to meeting Trudy, the lounge singer (played by the voluptuous Nan Peterson), who he leaves naked on a beach when his monstrous realization starts again. Peterson “sings” Marilyn King’s “Strange Pursuit”, a nice jazzy number, reminiscent of Chet Baker.

Some of the best parts of the film are the location shots around more desolate parts of the greater 1950’s Los Angeles, especially the oil derricks and old shacks. I also though that Suzy the little girl (Xandra Conkling) was pretty funny. She’s petulant and conniving like no other 1950’s moppet I’ve seen on film or television. She was taking those cookies and sneaking out no matter what mom said!

Oh yeah, and the monster costume is pretty cool.

For an independent production, shot on weekends with USC students, it’s really a pretty decent film. Perhaps more interesting as a cheapo The Lost Weekend meets 1950’s science fiction that any straight-up pure quality.

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) movie poster

director Amy Holden Jones
viewed: 09/19/2017

Wow, The Slumber Party Massacre is such a remarkable slasher film.

It has frequently been noted that the film’s script was originally crafted as a satire by feminist writer Rita Mae Brown, and that it is one of the few classic era slashers directed by a woman, Amy Holden Jones. The Slumber Party Massacre has been read (and fairly so) as feminist and/or a genre critique specifically one the issue of “the male gaze”.

My reading, though, focused not so much feminism or the female gaze, but more the female experience and to a smaller extent feminine desire. That it is a female dominated story, in which women are all the main characters (the killer, despite showing his face, is much more symbolic than a real entity). Bechdel test the heck out of this one.

Even when the camera lingers over the gratuitous nudity or the blatant phallic nature of the killer’s weapon, this film’s perspective is novel and unique in genre so typically focused on female victimization.

I found the creepy older neighbor guy a fascinating trope on its own. This film is so ripe for analysis, Freudian, feminist, whatever. There is so much text to work with, and also to enjoy.

This is where my star rating really fails me. I might give it 3 1/2 stars but I would give it five full hearts.  The movie is only so good quality wise, but off the charts in lovability. Maybe I need an equivalent heart rating to accompany my star rating.

The Zero Boys (1986)

The Zero Boys (1986) VHS cover

director Nico Mastorakis
viewed: 09/18/2017

Kelli Maroney really nails it on the head when she tells Joe Estevez that his crew The Zero Boys are “all soon to be yuppies”. It’s not often a character in a movie speaks the mind of the audience so concretely.

Our heroes are automatic weapon-lugging paintballers, who went from worst (thus “The Zero Boys”) to first in their little play action weekend warrior fun. Not exactly the types of protagonists that I particularly identify with. Luckily Maroney joins the gang for their celebratory outing in the woods. I always liked Maroney.

Nico Mastorakis does put this together pretty well, though it’s nowhere as interesting our out-there are his Island of Death (1974).

The hillbilly snuff film crew thing, if that really was what was going on, was a little hard to decipher. For a while I thought maybe it’s a good ol’ slasher guy or even that this would turn out to be pranks played by the team that they had beaten with Maroney in on the gags.

A decent effort.

Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964)

Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964) movie poster

director Giacomo Gentilomo
viewed: 09/17/2017

“Under the evil influence of Uranus,” Hercules Against the Moon Men is goofy peplum fun. Peplum is a new term to me for “sword and sandal” movies.  I like it.

It totally channels old movie serials (maybe because as a genre it dates back to silent films and old genre tropes. That and more contemporary of television’s Batman.

Totally agree that Alan Steel is a very good Hercules.

The moon men are silly as fuck but awesome. Sadly they get hardly any screen time. This film needs more moon men.

Evil queen, Samara (Jany Clair), looks vaguely like a brunette Nancy Grace but without her harpy voice. She’s somehow worked a deal with the moon men to do evil.

Needs more moon men.