The Man with Two Heads (1972)

The Man with Two Heads (1972) movie poster

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 10/15/2017

I always think of Mario Bava as the director/cinematographer/set designer who seems to do the most with the least. In that vein, Andy Milligan is perhaps the director who manages to do the least with the least.

That said, The Man with Two Heads is possibly the most competent of his films I’ve seen. The title is a marketing deke, disguising the fact that this is actually a pretty straight-up Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie made on the cheap.

It seems that Milligan aspires to Hammer-style horror in some of his period horror films. Made with fuck-all care at having no budget and using whatever locations he can to portray Victorian wherever.

Many have noted that the opening part of the film is fairly dull, if by the numbers, and not outrageously bad. Part of Milligan’s coup is having Denis DeMarne star as Jekyll/Hyde(Blood). Under camp make-up and pasted-on eyebrows, he gives a lurid portrayal of the venal villain, whose ruthless hatred unleashes radiant sadism. DeMarne may be no Fredric March, but he’s very good, very much in the vein of Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 classic.

And Milligan may be no Mamoulian, but as the film veers into the madness of Mr. Blood, his swirly camera swoops into an S&M phantasmagoria twisty and bizarre and for my money actually very effective.

Milligan continues to fascinate me. While many voice disappointment in The Man with Two Heads, in part because of its dull competence, it’s interestingly also a much less ironically enjoyable feat of cinema from one of the form’s most strange outsider artists.

Microwave Massacre (1983)

Microwave Massacre (1983) movie poster

director Wayne Berwick
viewed: 10/14/2017

Maybe this is not the best time to watch this sexploitation-cum-gore-comedy, Microwave Massacre. Today is awash in #metoo and the sickening details of Harvey Weinstein’s years of exploitation. For Exploitation film to be fun, it needs a bit more separation from reality…and time, perhaps.

Certainly there are far more salacious and extreme depictions of misogyny, but it’s there, fully baked-in if only nuked on high for 45 seconds. 

Jackie Vernon stars, truly a comic of his time, most certainly akin to Rodney Dangerfield or Jackie Mason, though deadpanning with New York Italian patter (and a voice many people only hear as Frosty the Snowman).

The whole shtick (and shtick it is) is about a poor slob whose wife has gone on into culinary experimentation with her massive new microwave, leaving Mr. Vernon starving for the simple pleasures in eating, comfort foods, etc. This poor guy is pushed to murdering his wife and eventually cannibalism.

It’s not all bad, not all good, but catching it right at this point made it a lot more cringe-inducing and challenging for ironic pleasures.

Great White (1981)

Great White (1981) movie poster

director Enzo G. Castellari
viewed: 10/09/2017

I was in middle school when Great White (a.k.a. The Last Shark) hit the Floridian movie screens. Me and my one friend at the time were possibly the only tweens totally stoked to see it. I remember the inflatable sharks they had, emblazoned with Great White.

That said, it’s not my recollection that I actually wound up seeing it.

This meta-dialogue probably tells you a lot about Enzo G. Castellari’s approach to film-making:

“Damn you can hardly make the shark out.”
“Use a little stock. No one will know the difference.”

Yes to what everyone has pointed out about this film, Vic Morrow’s “Quint” and his fractured accent. Yes, it’s more than derivative of Jaws. But, compared to Tentacles (1978), another Italian Jaws knock-off, it’s actually pretty entertaining. And I kind of like the big cresting shark head.

It was also fun flashing back on some of that vintage swimgear: Ocean Pacific, SunDek, Hobie. God, those were lame times.

 

Splatter University (1984)

Splatter University (1984) movie poster

director Richard W. Haines
viewed: 10/06/2017

“St Trinian’s college
The next semester
Yesterday …”

When the text on the screen reads like a non-sequitur.

Early parts of Splatter University felt like Rock ‘n’ Roll High School minus the Ramones and everything else. But it plays out as sort of a slasher, sort of a mystery. One thing is for certain, the director had a thing for redheads.

Some people think it a very bad, terribly inept slasher. Others adore it. All I can tell you is that they are both right.

Alien Zone (1978)

Alien Zone (1978) movie poster

director Sharron Miller
viewed: 10/05/2017

Alien Zone (a.k.a. House of the Dead) might just be the best ever Oklahoma-filmed anthology horror film made in 1978.

Okay, it’s not terrific, but it’s also not at all badly filmed. The early going is a bit dark and murky and maybe it could use a restoration.

Whatever its shortcomings it is well-shot, sophisticated, written and produced. It’s not surprising that director Sharron Miller would go on to a pioneering career in Hollywood (mostly in television).  She clearly had pro-level chops. It would be interesting to read about the women that broke in Hollywood and the Director’s Guild glass ceilings.

And, yes, the first segment with the masked children is the stand-out.

Mondo Cannibale (1980)

Mondo Cannibale (1980) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 10/04/2017

Mondo Cannibale is neither the best nor the worst cannibal flick ever, though it’s closer to the latter.

It’s kind of like H. Rider Haggard’s She as a cannibal flick with an origin story. With 17 year old Sabrina Siani as blonde cannibal queen. Her father, played by Al Cliver must return to rescue her.

It features some very ethnically diverse cannibals in hella face paint.

It’s crap for sure but it’s the first film I’ve seen that I’d definitely say that Jesús Franco elevated with his style. Maybe because it was less a pure Franco flick, not working from his own script.

Ah, well. Vive, Franco!

America’s Deadliest Home Video (1993)

America's Deadliest Home Video (1993) movie poster

director Jack Perez
viewed: 10/04/2017

When I decided to watch America’s Deadliest Home Video starring Danny Bonaduce, I was thinking I was in for some serious 1990’s schlock. Interestingly, though it’s no masterwork, it’s a pretty earnest thriller.

Shot on video, it’s also essentially a “faux found footage” flick. Bonaduce is a guy who is addicted to shooting everything with his camera and gets abducted by a small gang of thrill criminals on a spree.

The acting is a mixed bag of low budget talent under a fledgling director, but it somehow winds up coming together by the end. Maybe only to moderate levels of decency, but more impactful than I was anticipating.

It was also kind of a surprise to see that director Jack Perez would go on to success with titles like Wild Things 2 (2004) and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, the phenomenon of 2009. Actress Melora Walters would go on to a significant career in mainstream Hollywood.

Tourist Trap (1979)

Tourist Trap (1979) movie poster

director David Schmoeller
viewed: 10/02/2017

A little Texas Chainsaw, a little Psycho, through a prism of countrified Wax Museum, David Schmoeller’s Tourist Trap is oddly more interesting than one might think. Maybe throw in some Stephen King type of psychic powers too.

Chuck Connors hosts the weirdness at his little off-the-beaten-path animatronic wax museum. When a group of young people break down on the road nearby, the intrigues start right off the bat.

The first kill struck me as reminiscent of Evil Dead 2, where everything comes alive and laughs. Inspiration for Sam Raimi perhaps?

For my money, it’s the mannequins and masks, designed by Robert A. Burns, who had worked on Chainsaw. Whether eerily filling up a room, looming, distorted, or smiling. Inanimate or animate, they strike a certain character that gives the film a creepiness it wouldn’t otherwise have achieved.

Night of the Bloody Apes (1969)

Night of the Bloody Apes (1969) movie poster

director  René Cardona
viewed: 10/01/2017

Night of the bloody rapes, AMIRITE?

Night of the Bloody Apes is such a mashup of early 1960’s style (and lady wrestlers) with gore and nudity all over the place. The gore is indeed heightened by the inserts of actual heart surgery footage including holding a still-beating heart outside of a torso. The other gore might be less convincing, like murdering a guy by ripping off his bloody toupee/scalp, but it’s copious.

In some ways the movie is quite sentimental. The mad doctor’s love for his son is the motivation for his experiment of placing a gorilla heart into a human being. Combining man and an organ from a less evolved primate triggers what is bestial in man, his less evolved instincts/drives, leading him on a campaign of rape and murder.

And turns him into a lumpy faced monster.

Mexican horror films are pretty consistently awesome.

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.