director Juan Piquer Simón
Were there any half-decent E.T. knockoffs or were they all nutso psychotronic garbage? When I’d thought Mac and Me had to be the all-time E.T. knock-off, little did I know of Nukie. Dig thine eyes on Extra Terrestrial Visitors (1983). Behold! Compare and contrast as you will, I dare you to say which one of these films is more bizarre and atrocious.
Extra Terrestrial Visitors was initially an Alien knock-off, but then E.T. happened and movie magic delivered ETV, an early 80s Eurovision mashup masterpiece of crapitude and mindfuckery.
“What a fuck up this back to nature crap is!”
I watched this not as the MST3K version which brought this movie notoriety. Perhaps more the shame to me.
directors Stefano D’Arbo, Sebastián D’Arbó
Psychophobia arrives in a rough print with an even rougher dub, courtesy of the nearly endless whimsy of Amazon Prime.
The bad dub would make this fish in a barrel for MST3K or the like.
“You load your brain with psychic gunpowder.”
El Ser, as it was in its original Spanish, came out in ‘82 yet feels more like ‘72. Though this supernatural oddity mashed up a decent amount of Poltergeist in its parsnormality. So it seems.
That said, it’s kinda entertaining as an unintelligible object. Definitely qualifies as psychotronic. Weirdness out of time.
A pretty definitive write-up is available at Bloody Pit of Horror in case you desire more details.
director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
A shade of giallo and Hitchcock’s Psycho tint La Residencia, so inaptly re-named in English The House That Screamed. Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s elegant and sophisticated boarding school horror film could almost be a “Women In Prison” movie, “Young Girls In Reform School,” if you will.
Señora Fourneau (Lilli Palmer) runs her school for wayward girls with an iron fist, dishing out rigorous structure and necessary punishment with a flair of S&M.
“This is a boarding school, not a prison.”
“If it isn’t one, we’ll make it one!”
The repression and desire of the girls brought to mind Don Siegel’s The Beguiled , though the only roosters in this hen house is Señora Fourneau’s also repressed son, Luis (John Moulder-Brown), a gristly handyman, and the occasional visits by the hunky woodsman.
“None of these girls is any good. You need a girl like me.”
Mama Fourneau forces the Oedipal on Luis and let’s just say that the results are … “interesting.”
Another solid horror film from the director who also gave us Who Can Kill a Child?
director Jesús Franco
I think I may be forgiven for mistaking A Virgin Among the Living Dead as one of Jesús Franco’s lesser works. In reality, it’s one of his best.
The late 1960s through early 1970s, when gratuitous nudity was de rigueur, Jess Franco found himself as director. Franco burned brightly during this time and in this period made his finest films. True, along with some much less fine films, but when you’re releasing upwards to a dozen films a year, they’re not all going to be wonderful.
Here, Jess appears as a babbling idiot, a gofer for a family of arch weirdness, kooky sexuality, and supernatural possibility. Christina (Christina von Blanc) comes to visit, having never met any of her family before, and discovers her heritage isn’t what you’d call “run of the mill”.
For me, this is one of Franco’s most aesthetically pleasing films. The dreamy nightmare is beautiful and the plot isn’t challenged by unnecessary logic.
It’s been a decade since I saw Vampyros Lesbos and Venus in Furs, two other high point Francos. A Virgin Among the Living Dead may be in the running for my favorite.
director Vicente Aranda
The Blood Spattered Bride offers lots of Freudian/Jungian imagery relating to brutal masculinity and sexuality.
Director Vicente Aranda deals not so much in pulp but in the artsier vein, ultimately channeling Sheridan Le Fanu’s oft-channeled Carmilla into some lesbian vampire biz. With a proto-feminist heft.
“Destroy his masculinity!”
The best scene is the most surreal, when the husband finds the naked blonde buried in wet sand at the beach, having survived through her snorkel. Digging her out and feeling her up in one act.
director Amando de Ossorio
“What the devil’s going on?”
In the Seventies, we were taught not to take candy from strangers and that there might be razor blades in apples and all but not to beware of gypsies bearing gifts, like demonic totems and necklaces. It’s pretty funny how right after accepting this totem, little Anne (Lone Fleming) instantly turns into The Bad Seed with a foul mouth.
Amando de Ossorio‘s witchy take on The Exorcist, Demon Witch Child, is a gnarly and loopy knock-off. Which I definitely enjoyed.
Its charms are a mixture of things, like the super clunky dub, the rather good makeup when Anne becomes the witch, the weird subplot about the priest and the prostitute, and literal emasculation by a possessed little girl.
director José Ramón Larraz
Director José Ramón Larraz’s 1980 horror flick Stigma is a walking ghostly bad dream. Actually, it’s Sebastian’s (Christian Borromeo) bad dream, psychic visions, or past life recollections.
Are his incest obsessions fantasies or tricks of repressed memories of a prior existence?
Larraz surprises at times with genuinely eerie images, somewhat surreal. Inflected as it is with a confused and violent sexual maturity, Stigma winds up being pretty interesting and evocative, even with a rough dubbing and a print in need of restoration.
director León Klimovsky
The Vampire’s Night Orgy is light on orgy, but is a pretty solid Spanish horror flick.
When their bus driver croaks suddenly, a group of people on their way to employment at some hacienda instead find themselves in the village of Tolnia, a town not to be found on any map. This is because the village is under the sway of the Countess (Helga Liné), a vampire. She rules the roost over all the villagefolk, who seem to all be cannibals or undead? Interestingly, they are cannibals that have to sacrifice their own limbs to feed these stranded travelers.
There is also a ghost boy(?) who befriends the little girl of the group. But with friends like these, who needs enemies?
It’s not as eerie as Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead films, but works along with that sort of vibe. The townfolk never speak, which is especially eerie when they descend on their victims.
As noted elsewhere, the soundtrack is unintentionally dissonant and annoying, but otherwise León Klimovsky’s The Vampire’s Night Orgy is a pretty intriguing slice of early 1970’s Euro horror.
director Eugenio Martín
The Ugly Ones features a lean, deft premise: a bounty hunter is after a popular criminal. Tomas Milian is Jose, the Mexican kid turned storied outlaw, a “Jesse James type”, ensnared by fortune-seeking free agents, not traditionally legitimate lawmen. Richard Wyler is the straight-shooting freelancer, but who is the real villain of this picture?
The Ugly Ones is also known as The Bounty Hunter, which is the name of the Marvin H. Albert novel from which it was adapted. Eugenio Martín’s Spaghetti Western offers a kind of noirish characterization – moral ambivalence, at least initially, on either side. Though, as the film wears on each protagonist starts to show his true colors.
In between the men is Eden, an interesting role for Ella Karin (a.k.a Halina Zalewska). No shrinking violet, she’s reaching for a pistol when we first spot her, hearing an intruder breaking in. She is at the heart of the village’s understanding of Jose, an active participant in the story, and moral barometer as well. Maybe a little too stylish for a Western but an interesting character and good performance.
It’s tight and aesthetically pleasing production. The Ugly Ones makes Quentin Tarantino’s list of top Spaghetti Westerns. As usual, his favorites are worth investigating.
director Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent
Cut-Throats Nine arrives as advertised, a pessimistic and violent Western, filmed in the snowy beauty of the Pyrenees. Its delicious premise, a lone lawman and his daughter are marching a chain gang across the snowy mountains, is inherently fraught with tension. The simplicity of this scenario is upended when it turns out that the chains that hold the men together are made of the gold that they had mined. And the intentions of even the lawman are thrown into deep doubt.
Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent uses interesting freeze frame preludes to flashbacks, stylizing further the backstories to the rough-hewn characters. Marchent and cinematographer Luis Cuadrado make the most of the gorgeous, icy landscapes.
It’s probably my second favorite Spaghetti Western I’ve newly seen this year, after Cemetery Without Crosses (1969). Interesting since these two aren’t purely Italian films and feature directors who were French and Spanish. Not that any grouping or genre needs to be completely neat and clean.