The Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story (1982)

The Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story (1982) movie poster

director Joe D’Amato
viewed: 09/09/2017

From the get-go, Joe D’Amato’s Caligula (1979) knock-off, The Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story (or amusingly tersely Caligula 2), seems remarkably tame. I mean an exploitation budget version of one of the biggest budget exploitation flicks of all time — where do you go to outdo Tinto Brass and Bob Guccione?

Well, if you hang in there long enough, it starts to get all sleazy and outré. It’s been super super long since I saw Brass’s Caligula so I’ve got little to compare upon, but I think it’s safe to say that D’Amato doesn’t manage to up the ante.

You do have D’Amato favorite Laura “Black Emanuelle” Gemser as a vengeful slave/concubine.

The Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story is a metaphorical iron poker up the rectum of exploitation cinema, though it offers just that very image non-metaphorically as well.

American Mummy (2014)

American Mummy (2014) movie poster

director Charles Pinion
viewed: 09/09/2017

Full disclosure: I am friends with Charles Pinion, have known him for decades.

American Mummy (originally titled more aptly “Aztec Blood” before naming rights issues developed) is Pinion’s first feature film in two decades. And a lot of things are different from his earlier work. American Mummy comes from a time and place of more money, more professional production (it was shot in 3-D), slicker digital camera work, and a more “professional” cast. None of these upgrades by any means change the fact that this is a low-budget, independently produced horror film, but it’s less down and dirty than his work in the prior century.

A team from a university are on site in New Mexico where the mummified remains of an Aztec “god”? have been found. Unfortunately for all involved, one of the hangers-on wants to perform a blood rite to raise the spirit of the powerful dead which results in lots of blood and vomit and dismemberment for all involved.

The gore effects seem to be largely practical and make for some of the best shots in the film.

It’s a more conventional horror film for Charles (by comparison) but still carries through his mordant and morbid sense of humor. It really seems he’s enjoying himself a lot more once the blood starts flowing freely, as probably would the audience.

I hope that American Mummy is the first of many films Charles Pinion will make in this century.

Pulgasari (1985)

Pulgasari (1985) movie poster

directors Shin Sang-ok, Chong Gon Jo
viewed: 09/08/2017

Pulgasari, the only North Korean film probably most people have seen, is a fascinating artifact. The whole story of the production (via abduction/kidnapping of the director) is a worthy story itself. That it was produced by Kim Jong-Il while not yet the leader of North Korea, a passion project due to his love of Godzilla movies.

And yet, it’s propaganda. Though maybe not successful propaganda.

Pulgasari the monster is a take on the legendary creature “Bulgasari” who gobbles up iron (and the likeness maybe ends there). Here the creature is created or summoned when a poor village is robbed of all of their resources by the brutal government, taking all of their metal including cooking utensils and farm equipment. The blacksmith forms a figurine out of rice which comes to life when blood is spilled on it. Pulgasari is born and runs around cute as the dickens until he eats up all metal in sight and grows and grows.

No matter the many plans of the evil governor or his hired armies, Pulgasari manages to break free and wreak the vengeance for which he was created. The starving people and oppressive government maybe are meant to represent something other than the standing North Korean government and its people but it’s hard not to make the comparison. Pulgasari fights for the people.

But interestingly, in the end, Pulgasari himself becomes a liability. He still eats and eats and eats up all of the metallic resources, dooming to grateful people to further privations and starvation. He has to be convinced to disincorporate.

The messages do push self-sacrifice, but I’m not sure how much it pushes an appreciation of the state. Everyone has to be willing to give all of oneself to bring about change.

Pulgasari himself is pretty cool. Designed by the Japanese crew that made that era of Godzilla movies, he’s a nifty guy, who changes in looks as he changes in size. His changes in size don’t always hew consistently in proportion.

Quite an interesting entity.

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.

Two Undercover Angels (1969)

Two Undercover Angels (1969) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 09/05/2017

“Without fantasy one’s life isn’t worth anything. And one doesn’t need it only when drinking.”

I’m guessing Two Undercover Angels and Kiss Me Monster were made in quick succession because it’s hard to imagine the success of the first led to the second.

A.k.a Sadist Erotica, Two Undercover Angels is a slightly more conventional spy spoof sex comedy starring Janine Reynard and Rosanna Yanni in the hands of Jess Franco.

I preferred the sequel because it’s far loopier and nonsensical. Here the Red Lips girls are on the track of abducted models and a killer artist who likes to paint horrendous murder in the act with the help of his hirsute henchman.

There are some wonderfully dead line readings by the voice-over cast.

Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964)

Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964) movie poster

director Jerry Warren
viewed: 09/04/2017

I like how the Wikipedia author refer to Jerry Warren as “occasional film maker”.

I think it better to call Jerry Warren the author of the most boring bad cult films of all time. Like really, really, really boring.

I doubt that he was the originator of the idea of buying up foreign films (in this case two Mexican films, La Casa del Terror (1959) and La Momia Azteca (1957) and Frankensteining them into something new. But he truly does that here. La Momia Azteca was the source material for his also 1964 Attack of the Mayan Mummy which itself contributes to Curse of the Screaming Werewolf.

The best parts of Curse of the Screaming Werewolf are Lon Chaney, Jr. and the footage from La Casa del Terror. I’ve really enjoyed the Mexican horror films that I’ve managed to see and eagerly wish to see more.

But it is also true that eschewing dialogue through much of this “montage”, if you will, Warren does indeed stumble into some near Surrealist territory. There is so much dissociation and lack of concern for narrative coherence, it does sort of delve into a fantasy of mind.

Or maybe I drifted off somewhere.

Night of the Demon (1980)

Night of the Demon (1980) movie poster

director  James C. Wasson
viewed: 09/03/2017

Night of the Demon seems to be a lot of folks’ favorite bigfoot/yeti movie of all time. Who would I be to argue the point?

It’s low-budget regional fare with heaping helpings of gore and surprises, camp and madness.

A couple years back I did a little Yeti double feature of The Snow Creature (1954) and Shriek of the Mutilated (1974), and as like happens to be, I start contemplating a Sasquatch/Yeti push in film viewing only to have my mind BLOWN at the absolute number of movies about this relatively modern phenomenon/legend in Western Culture. I guess I wasn’t totally surprised. A local theater here in SF recently had a Bigfoot Marathon.

Ah, but Night of the Demon…. I don’t know what to add other than it’s definitely a bit of a slasher beyond being a Bigfoot movie. The ape-man kills folks in a variety of ways: burning them, ripping their genitals off, using an axe,…he’s really quite multi-faceted.

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.

Kiss Me Monster (1969)

Kiss Me Monster (1969) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 09/01/2017

“I just don’t understand what’s going on!”
“You don’t need to know”

————-

I had a terrible dream. I was taken prisoner by a group of queer virgins and was put in a cage. One of them worked me over with a whip. Then they let me out again and they gave me a funny kind of a whistle or something as a farewell present.”

————–

Kiss Me Monster is an apparent sequel to Jesús Franco’s Sadist Erotica/Two Undercover Angels, starring  Janine Reynaud and Rosanna Yanni as the Red Lips, a cabaret/burlesque act/spy buster duo. As noted by others, it’s Franco with a budget and a studio behind him, so the production values are sky high compared to other works.

The continuity and coherence are pure Franco.

The intentional comedy is maybe a little less funny than the unintentional, but you’d be hard pressed to figure out what’s going on either way around. It’s certainly entertaining, with a secret society clad in super-tall black klan hats to the really cool windmills to I don’t really know all what else.

Fun stuff.

Flesh Feast (1970)

Flesh Feast (1970) movie poster

director Brad F. Grinter
viewed: 08/29/2017

The ending of Flesh Feast totally makes this movie. The whole of the rest of the flick has a somewhat narcotic effect, numbing the brain from realizing how top level camp the plot really is.

Ah, but Veronica Lake. In her youth one of the iconic beauties of Hollywood. Here, at age 48, still attractive, but quite haggard at the same time. If only she dug on yoga rather than booze. She would be dead only two years later of cirrhosis at age 50.

Here she’s a mad doctor with flesh-eating grubs. And a fun and trashy final role.