The Night of the Devils (1972)

The Night of the Devils (1972) movie poster

director  Giorgio Ferroni
viewed: 10/29/2017

The Family of the Vourdalak, a novel by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy  (the “other Tolstoy”), is the source material for Giorgio Ferroni’s The Night of the Devils. It’s also known for being the source material of the “I Wurdulak” segment of Mario Bava’s fantastic Black Sabbath (1963).

Yeah, I know, everybody knows that or can look that up on Wikipedia.

I actually don’t have a lot to offer here that others have not said already. The Night of the Devils is a different flavor of Italian vampirism, salted with its variant folklore. There is something strange and hard to put one’s finger on about modernizing the story to the then present day 1970’s. It’s sort of dislocated, like having stepped into a dream (or nightmare) of more Gothic times. It also features some very evocative effects on top of it all.

Well worth seeing.

Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972)

Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972) movie poster

director  Ed Adlum
viewed: 10/21/2017

Invasion of the Blood Farmers is some legitimate trash cinema. Written by director Ed Adlum and co-scribe Ed Kelleher, edited by Michael Findlay (the two Eds also wrote Findlay’s abominably amazing Shriek of the Mutilated (1974), it’s got psychotronic pedigree.

Wonderfully stiff acting right out of Ed Wood. It also begs comparison to other low budget auteurs such as Andy Milligan or Al Adamson, maybe with a little prime H.G. Lewis thrown in.

“The more I scrub this bloodstain the bigger it gets!” – some dude scrubbing a bloodstain from the floor of a bar

The leads could be the prototypes for Brad and Janet in Rocky Horror they are so bland and ludicrous. Says the Brad to his Janet, “You’re just a pushover for pathologists!” This because both this Brad and Janet’s father are medical guys working at home on some strange multiplying blood. Ultimately it turns out that it’s all due to some literal blood farmers who are part of some weird druidic blood cult.

It’s the kind of bad that is so close to intentional comedy that you may wonder if there was intent of seriousness here at all.

The Cat Creature (1973)

The Cat Creature (1973) title

director Curtis Harrington
viewed: 10/21/2017

The 1973 made-for-TV movie, The Cat Creature won’t necessarily blow your mind, but it should entertain you. From the pen of Robert Bloch and the direction of Curtis Harrington comes this mummy-cum-vampire-cum-werewolf wholly made-up monster creature.

It’s actually kind of cute how this all starts out, with an auditor/attorney looking into the Egyptian artifacts of a wealthy collector in dark of night. Only a sneakthief steals an amulet and awakens The Cat Creature itself. Most of the happenings are just off-screen (this is 1970’s television, after all).

The fun, in my opinion, is in the cast and cast of characters that populate this flick. Meredith Baxter is fine as the lead, but I really enjoyed Gale Sondergaard, who plays the witch store matron. Apparently, Harrington wanted her to be a lesbian, which might explain a rather interesting pair of customers in her shop. In real life Sondergaard was an Academy Award winning actress whose career fell prey to the HUAC anti-communist bastards.

John Carradine shows up for a cameo, maybe the most notable name from the cameo crowd, but far from the only one of interest. Milton Parsons is amusing as the coroner. And a midget prostitute (unnamed actress) was apparently Harrington’s revenge on not getting a more pronounced lesbian portrayal.

Yeah, it’s no great shakes, but it’s decent fun.

The Penalty (1920)

The Penalty (1920) movie poster

director Wallace Worsley
viewed: 10/21/2017

Lon Chaney stars as “that cripple from hell,” a criminal mastermind in San Francisco who lost his legs in a trolley accident (though more significantly due to malpractice), by the name of Blizzard.

1920’s The Penalty is a sleazy pulpy proto-noir that helped Chaney burst into stardom despite playing largely villains or monsters. Really, he himself is the special effect. He plays a man who lost his legs beneath the knees and moves around with the help of buckets and crutches. Chaney’s legs were strapped painfully behind him.  It’s an amazingly physical role as he climbs around and menaces venally. He even slides down a fireman’s pole.

I’m not sure how much of it was shot in San Francisco but parts of the film certainly were. It’s a glimpse into a much different city.

It’s not brilliant but it is good pulpy fun despite the rather odd deus-ex-machina happy ending. It’s cool that Chaney was such a star since he’s so against type as a star though full of star-power.

“Don’t grieve, dear, death interests me,” a sweet epitaph.

 

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.

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.

Roadgames (1981)

Roadgames (1981) movie poster

director  Richard Franklin
viewed: 09/27/2017

Roadgames is a thriller on the road, the Australian highway system to be exact.  It’s stylish, almost DaPalma-esque (minus split-screens), though more accurately it  name-checks Hitchcock in various ways.

Stacy Keach stars as the chatty (mostly to himself and his pet dingo) trucker, an intellectual of sorts who has taken to the road, hauling meat during a strike. He eventually picks up Jamie Lee Curtis, a child of means dodging her family. They both wind up on the trail of a possible serial killer, also on the highway, dodging in and out.

It’s a plucky affair, a very likable film which lurches towards comedy even at times of the highest intensity. Probably the most polished movie I’ve watched in a while. I guess I’ve been slumming it a lot.

The single best scene takes place in the interior of a roadhouse, a nice 360 shot while Keach tries to dial the cops about his suspicions. As the camera slowly gazes around the room, it takes in a Playboy pinball machine, your typical Outback rednecks, and vivid murals of colonials killing aborigines.

Really good stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

The Game (1984)

The Game (1984) VHS cover

director  Bill Rebane
viewed: 09/02/2017

Outside of Monster a Go-Go (1965), I’d never seen a Bill Rebane picture before. And as far as Monster a Go-Go  a go-goes, truly he can’t take all the blame. A goodly portion perhaps but not all the blame.

And then we have The Game (a.k.a. The Cold(?)) Rebane concocts a House on Haunted Hill (1959)-ish story, where a trio of millionaires draw a group of people to “dare” to stay in a resort for a long weekend, the last one standing gets a million bucks.

Only it’s never clear to the players exactly what is going on, whether they are being pranked or killed or spooked or whatever. And with budgets like this one, the cast of characters are your weekend actors most.

It’s bad, yes, but vaguely fun. Its weirdest component is the Ragtime score, which I assume was employed because it was in the public domain(?) Ragtime is great and all but not the least bit eerie.