Curse of the Vampires (1966)


Ibulong mo sa hangin (1964)

director Gerardo de Leon
viewed: 07/07/2017

No matter what you call it, Blood of the VampiresWhisper to the Wind, Ibulong mo sa hangin, the one thing you know is you’ve got another Gerardo de Leon vampire picture. While it’s not quite as much a masterpiece as his Blood Is the Color of Night, it does have some interesting visual effects (albeit somewhat muted by the quality of the print I watched).

Things go sideways for a noble Filipino family when the adult children find out that pops has been keeping their dead mom in the basement since she turned into a vampire at death.

The cool effects of which I speak seem to mostly be effected via lighting techniques, revealing shocking visages of vampires and their fangs. Not sure if these look better or worse due to the washed-out nature of the print, but I though they were cool.

The mother vampire is a pathetic thing, chained and whipped by the father and his henchman. There is some mad repression going on here. And if that weren’t enough, you’ve got the household staff in blackface!

I’ve yet to be disappointed by a Filipino horror film.

Well, REALLY disappointed.

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971)

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971) movie poster

director  Jesús Franco
viewed: 07/06/2017

As many Jesús Franco movies as I’ve seen (I think this makes 9), I’m still intimidated trying to draw bigger conclusions. I think I’ve only got 190 features to go to have seen them all.

But here is what it seems to me: She Killed in Ecstasy (1971) comes from Franco’s middle period, having left the Spanish studio system where in enjoyed nice production values in black-and-white fare, and started making more purely Jesús Franco movies.  Some of his best movies come from this period, and several of them star the beautiful Soledad Miranda who died tragically at 27 in a car accident in Portugal, even before She Killed in Ecsatsy was released.

Is it possible that her death posed another shift in Franco’s filmwork? I’m not sure when he started making hardcore pornographic films and endless variants of film versions from pornographic, soft-core, and mish-mash remixes. But at some point, not long after the start of the 1970’s he started releasing up towards 10 films a year, and the production values and quality control swung wildly around like a long, gold chain at a period orgy.

She Killed in Ecstasy is a revenge picture, in which Miranda is seducing and killing the doctors who had ruined her husband’s career, for his ethical violations in medical experiments. What we see of these experiments is little, and frankly, certainly questionable. But she loves him and keeps his corpse around while she takes revenge. And interestingly, this surreal picture has quite a heart to it. The emotion is there, for lost love and tragedy.

Sadly the real tragedy was that of Soledad Miranda. And the legacy? I’m still working on that.

The Creeping Terror (1964)

The Creeping Terror (1964)

director  Vic Savage
viewed: 07/05/2017

The Creeping Terror has been on my bucket list for I don’t know how long. It appeared somewhere early in my life as an example of “worst movies ever made”, describing the monster as some sort of carpet thing.

It’s interesting that one of cinema’s worst-looking monsters gets so much screen time. As a kid, I was always very disappointed if the monster only showed up in hints and then maybe for two minutes on screen at the end. But The Creeping Terror creeps and terrorizes throughout quite a bit despite looking like garbage glued to a carpet with some number of people underneath.

Of course, now reading up on it, the back story of Vic Savage and The Creeping Terror sounds more bizarre and terrible too. I’ve been torn about watching The Creep Behind the Camera (documentary/biopic), but maybe I’ll have to give it a go. Curiosity is a beast.

Given the salvaging and completion of the film, its lack of theatrical release, it is a mess of many hands.

Is it terrible? Indeed so. Is it marvelously so? Yes. Yes it is.

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD (2014)

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD (2014) movie poster

director Paul Goodwin
viewed: 07/04/2017

I experienced 2000AD sort of second hand. I got turned onto the Judge Dredd comics that were reprinted in the US in the early 1980’s and knew vaguely of the weekly British comic in which they originally appeared. I did at the time manage to land a single issue of 2000AD itself, but really had no sense of perspective or knowledge of the background of the publication.

So I was pretty stoked to see a documentary about it.

Sadly, it’s not a particularly great documentary.

Essentially an oral history as told by a litany of folks from the many decades and phases of the publication, it’s both insider-y and somewhat self-defined. It’s also a tad scattershot in focus and narrative.

Still, the tale of its origin, its eventual sapping by the DC Comics imprint Vertigo in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, and its near death around the turn of the century have interest for those interested in the subject.

Kind of a disappointment. At least I finally know how to pronounce Brian Bolland properly.

Monster a Go-Go (1965)

Monster a Go-Go (1965) movie poster

directors Bill Rebane, Herschell Gordon Lewis
viewed: 07/03/2017

For those who would call Monster a Go-Go the worst film they’ve ever seen, I would say you need to get around a little more.

True, it’s classically bad. It’s on the Wikipedia “Films Considered the Worst” list, which is a pretty legit list through the 1960’s. But just look, ye, around the rest of that list. There is some good, bad shit on there. And yes, I am only too glad to watch them all.

I will say that it’s maybe a little less joyful than some of those others. But some bad movies are just the BEST bad movies: Robot Monster (1953),  Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), and The Horror of Party Beach (1964) to name but a few of my personal favorites.

Interestingly, or not, it seems to be a no budget remake of First Man into Space (1959), science fiction horror parables about space travel just as mankind was finally actually doing just such a thing.

To be fair, I love this kind of thing.

Torso (1973)

Torso (1973) movie poster

director Sergio Martino
viewed: 07/03/2017

It’s easy to see why Sergio Martino’s Torso is so notable a giallo and proto-slasher. Interestingly, it’s not so much the gore but rather the way that the violence is played out, setting up ideas that would transform into the slasher tropes, while in its own way keeping a foot very firmly on the traditional giallo landscape.

It’s a world of mass misogyny, though it would take a closer reading of the film for me to glean exactly where Martino falls in his agreement or disgust with such a thing. The open sexuality of the post-1960’s has given license to perverts to leer and grope, expectant that all women are there for the taking…and if not: hack ’em up! The misogyny of the backstory of the killer is so bizarre and absurd that it’s almost inherent parody.

Sergio Martino’s films I’ve seen have ranged broadly in quality. Torso seems the most complete and significant. Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) was also good, but The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) and Island of the Fishmen (1979) were much less so. Maybe more of his gialli were worth seeing. I guess I’m still constructing a sense of him as director.

And Perugia, Italy? Amazing city.

Massacre Gun (1967)

Massacre Gun (1967) movie poster

director Yasuharu Hasebe
viewed: 07/02/2017

The jowliest of the jowly, Jō Shishido, stars in Yasuharu Hasebe’s yakuza picture, Massacre Gun. Shot in black-and-white, it’s as stylish as it is by-the-numbers, featuring a plot of escalating violence in a local yakuza rift.

Really, what else would you ask of genre film?

I had never realized that Shishido got cheek implants (or some sort of cheekbone surgery) to give him that look like a chipmunk. Is this where Brando got his Godfather inspiration?

I’d be interested to read an analysis of the relationship between the yakuza genre and the samurai genre. So many elements of Japanese culture is deeply imbued in these archetypes: loyalty, the individual, hierarchy, duty, violence.

What else would you ask of genre film?

Baby Driver (2017)

Baby Driver (2017) movie poster

director Edgar Wright
viewed: 07/02/2017 at AMC Dine-in Kabuki 8, SF, CA

Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is a pop confection heist car chase action flick comedy. It’s a genre picture, made of genre stuff, and interpreted through an array of popular music selections. There is verve here, quite a lot of it at times, and it’s fun. It’s inventiveness does not lie within pure originality, but rather through its remixing and comic play.

For all its buzz, the trailer didn’t really “sell” me on the picture. Star Ansel Elgort is better than he looks in the trailers, the driver with an endless collection of iPods and sunglasses. He’s “Baby” as Kevin Spacey is “Doc” and Jon Hamm is “Buddy” and Jamie Foxx is “Bats”. Everyone is a nickname and a derivative caricature, and it’s almost as if Wright is daring you to think there should be more to this whole thing.

It’s all surface and action and some decent humor, playing out to syncopation, tuned to the music. Honestly, I enjoyed it throughout.

That said, since watching it, the excitement and fun has diminished and further thoughts have sort of petered out on it. Some movies tend to grow as you contemplate them. Baby Driver has sort of sat there in Park since the viewing, not even idling, just with its engine gone cold.

I’ll see where I’m at with it by the end of the year. It may still be one of the better films of 2017. It may even be a genre classic, cult or otherwise. We’ll have to see.

The Church (1989)

The Church (1989) movie poster

director  Michele Soavi
viewed: 07/01/2017

Michele Soavi’s The Church opens on some crusading medieval knights slaughtering cowering peasants who are apparently sworn against the church, marked as some of them are with crosses on the soles of their feet. Thrown into a mass grave, it’s unclear if the dead are already arising as they are buried, but a final escapee is caught, the teenage Asia Argento.

This is the prelude to the present-day setting, in a Gothic church in an unnamed European location, a mishmash of location settings. This church was built atop the bodies of the damned, constructed to self-destruct by a tortured architect, and has stood until now, as it begins to decay and release its repressed demons.

And demons to come out, in many hallucinogenic forms to the many who find themselves trapped within the church as its one set of doors shut. But this is the mixed messaging here: are the demons real demons? So were the knights right in killing those who worshiped otherwise? Or was the church always the real villain, and the return is only the much-deserved revenge on those Catholic/Christian repressors and murderers? After all is said and done, the final image of Asia Argento’s mysterious smile seems to indicate further return of the repressed evil.

Wheresoever Soavi places the good and the evil in this film, its strengths are in its vivid imagery, as incoherent, disconnected, and dream-like as it gets. Each person imprisoned, from child to aged adult, seems to receive some tailored terror of their very own. My favorite image was the cross in the floor dropping into the blackness below.

Outside its rather mixed message of righteousness, I quite liked it.

Bad Girls Do Cry (1965)

Bad Girls Do Cry (1965) movie poster

director Sid Melton
viewed: 06/28/2017

Bad Girls Do Cry is a 1954 exploitation film by Sid Melton that didn’t manage to find the light of day until 1965. Who knows what any suckers who paid good money to see some mid-Sixties sleaze felt about this dated and tame tale of a girl in Hollywood dragged into White Slavery.

Whatever they thought, it’s better to consider the time of the film’s creation rather than release in watching and understanding this flick. Misty Ayers strips down to her very 1950’s underthings, does get raped, drugged and thrown into prostitution, but it doesn’t match the sleaze of a decade later (or the nudity).

I find Exploitation films fascinating in a way, but it must be said that the bulk of them (and the bulk of the bulk of their actual celluloid images) are quite the slog to get through, with few moments of great weirdness and offense.

I will cite here though, which features a good write-up of the picture: “But what makes Sid Melton’s movie a real mind-melter is that it’s all punctuated with shtick. Yup, this potentially grim story of a blonde bombshell forced into prostitution is continuously intercut – and undercut – by bizarre comic interludes that only succeed in giving it all a strange surrealistic edge.”