Death Metal Zombies (1995)

dmz-vhs-artwork-aGreetings, readers, Bill here again. It dawned on me that it’s been ages since I’ve reviewed a film that wasn’t from either the 1980s or the 1970s. I decided I needed to mix things up a bit, and it came down to either 2004′s SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER (which I’ll be reviewing soon anyways, as a coworker of mine’s friends with the kid who starred in the film and has been asking me to review it) and 1995′s DEATH METAL ZOMBIES. I can’t remember the last time I reviewed something from the 1990s, plus my girlfriend’s using the Netflix account tonight, so DEATH METAL ZOMBIES it is.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Spoilers ensue.

Brad Masters is a fan of heavy metal – the heavier, the better.  So when he wins an exclusive first-listen recording of the newest album from his favorite band, Living Corpse, you bet your ass he’s not going to wait to listen to it – his girlfriend Angel will have to wait to listen to it on the second spin.  Playing the album turns Brad and his friends Tony and Kelly into Death Metal Zombies, undead killing machines enslaved to the will of Shengar, lead singer of the band Living Corpse.

Now Angel has to find a way to reverse the Death Metal Zombie curse as the infection spreads…

If you don’t like cheesy, no-budget, SOV horror made by a group of friends with a camcorder and a dream, you won’t like DEATH METAL ZOMBIES.  But if you can look past the video quality and that the cast isn’t composed of classically-trained thespians, DEATH METAL ZOMBIES has a lot to offer.

For starters, I’ve never seen a film with headbanging zombies created by playing a heavy metal album forwards (or backwards, for that matter), roaming the streets with switchblades and butcher knives at the command of their favorite vocalist.  You hear that? For everyone bitching about the lack of originality in horror these days, BAM, DEATH METAL ZOMBIES.  Check it out, because it’s something you haven’t seen done to death.

The zombie make-up is done simply and effectively – some white face paint and heavy eyeshadow forms the majority of it, which is fine as these are fresh ghouls, most of them dying without major traumatic injuries.  And for those used to Romero-style zombies, the smirking, tool-using zombies here (going so far at one point as to find a can of gasoline and start splashing it around the house Angel is in in order to burn it down) with their moaning cries of needing to kill for Shengar might be a bit hard to swallow, but I personally had a lot of fun with them and with this film.

The biggest draw, here, is the soundtrack.  Metal tracks, specifically early 90s underground metal (of the sort that arose as a response to the Glam scene and nascent Grunge movement), play throughout, and my understanding is that filmmaker Todd Cook contacted Relapse Records to request the use of one song, and they sent him 40 discs of music to use as he pleased.

Final Analysis: A fun movie of the sort that have become more common without getting any better as technology has grown more widely and cheaply available, I think I can safely recommend DEATH METAL ZOMBIES to anyone with a taste of trashy SOV B-grade horror and heavy metal music.  The film was remade in 2012, also by Cook, as ZOMBIFIED with a larger budget; I haven’t watched that one yet so I can’t comment.

Overall, I give DEATH METAL ZOMBIES (1995)…

three_barrels_of_toxic_waste

THREE BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.

Filed in Reviews | Comment Now

The Beast Must Die (1974)

beast_must_die_poster_01Greetings, readers, Bill here again. Tonight’s film was chosen by a vote over at the Radiation-Scarred Reviews Facebook page, selected as tonight’s film over 2004′s SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER. I actually just purchased this DVD today as well – I discovered a little mom-and-pop video rental store that happened to be across the street from the yarn shop where my girlfriend takes knitting classes. While she was learning how to make mittens, I decided to check this place out. The selection was excellent, but the prices were a bit high and the staff wasn’t composed of movie-people; the woman at the front desk just kind of glazed over when I commented about how nice it was to see places like this still existed; they started giving me the stink-eye when I was lingering too long going through the shelves, so I brought this film up to the register and bought it (because there’s not enough Peter Cushing in my personal collection; the woman’s only comment was “Huh, no one’s ever rented this one from us before.”) just to leave without a cloud of suspicion hanging over me.  But anyways, enough about that, on to the film!

Spoilers ensue.

“This film is a detective story,” our opening narration intones, “in which you are the detective.  The question is not ‘who is the murderer’ but ‘who is the werewolf.’”

Millionaire and big game hunter Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart, of COTTON COMES TO HARLEM) has his sights set on the biggest game of all – the legendary werewolf! To this end, he has invited to his country estate six people that he believes may be lycanthropes – disgraced diplomat Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray, of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW); scandal-clouded pianist Jan Gilmore and his wife, Davina; artists Paul Foote, recently released from prison for cannibalism and Dr. Lundgren (Peter Cushing, last seen around these parts in THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR), an archaeologist and expert on lycanthropy.  Using a series of closed-circuit TV cameras, Newcliffe intends to determine which of them is a werewolf and then hunt them for sport.

Amicus, the studio that produced THE BEAST MUST DIE, was kind of a second-string Hammer in the 1960s and 1970s, best-known for their anthology films.  Their non-anthologies were pretty hit-or-miss, and THE BEAST MUST DIE ended up a miss, proving to be the last horror film from Amicus before they closed their doors for good.

The film moves very, very, very slowly, and not in a good, building-suspense kind of way.  The film feels front-loaded with padding from the very first scene of Newcliffe testing his security systems.

Of the cast, only Peter Cushing’s character Dr. Lundgren isn’t presented as a complete miserable asshole deserving of a werewolf-related disemboweling — which makes it very hard to care about solving the mystery of who the werewolf is, just the mystery of why the werewolf isn’t killing these people off faster.  Speaking of characters, Calvin Lockhart was not the original desired star for this film – Robert Quarry (of COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE and DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN) was originally supposed to play the role of Newcliffe, but they decided on Lockhart instead as an attempt to cash in on the then-current blaxploitation craze.

The werewolf itself, due to budget restrictions, was played by a german shepherd with a fur coat on it, to make the dog look bigger and shaggier.

The film’s probably best known for its gimmick – a thirty-second “Werewolf Break” before the climax of the film in which audiences were invited to review the evidence and figure out who the werewolf was for themselves.  It’s not on par with something like selling life insurance against dying of fright in the lobby – heck, it’s not even on par with the “Hooter Honk” and “Gore Gong” schtick from CEMETERY GIRLS.

Final Analysis: I really, really wanted to like this film.  I mean, c’mon, Peter Cushing and a werewolf? What could go wrong? Unfortunately, the film feels poorly put together, the characters are pretty flat and uninteresting (in addition to being assholes) and overall the film was just plain boring – the cardinal sin of movies.  I like the concept, the blending of TEN LITTLE INDIANS, THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME and werewolf lore (for which the film provides an entertaining “scientific” explanation), but overall it just didn’t work for me.

Overall, I give THE BEAST MUST DIE (1974)…

two_barrels_of_toxic_waste

TWO BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.

Filed in Reviews | 1 Comment

Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)

godmonsterGreetings, readers, Bill here again. Tonight’s film is one I’d reviewed ages ago on the old blog, but which I wanted to revisit – funny story, actually, I picked up the DVD of this film at Cinema Wasteland a while back, having previously reviewed it after having gotten the disc from Netflix. The guy who sold it to me was flabbergasted that, knowing what it was, I still wanted to own it. What can I say, I might be a bit of a cinematic masochist.  Anyways, that being said, tonight’s film is one that would have rotted away to nothing in a forgotten canister somewhere if it had not been for the valiant efforts of the late Mike Vraney of Something Weird Video.  He discovered it in a forgotten vault, remastered it and released it on a special edition DVD, which is perhaps kinder then a film of this caliber deserves.  As for Something Weird, if you’ve got any interest in obscure (s)exploitation and cult movies ranging from horror and sci-fi to westerns, martial arts, old and obscure hardcore porn and more, Something Weird has something weird to sell you.

Gratuitous plug aside, on to the review.  Spoilers ensue.

Virginia City, Nevada is the home of the Comstock Lode, a silver mine that hit it big a century ago.  Now, Virginia City is largely a seedy tourist trap, controlled by the greedy and conniving Mayor Charles Silverdale (Stuart Lancaster, of THE LOCH NESS HORROR and a number of Russ Meyer movies, most notably as the sick and depraved Old Man in FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!) who dresses everyone up in period western clothes and employs most of the town as reenactors and casino-workers, fleecing the tourists of every penny they’ve got.  When an African-American land speculator, Barnstable (Christopher Brooks) comes to town looking to buy land around Virginia City, Mayor Silverdale makes sure Barnstable gets the warmest possible reception – including framing him for the murder of the sheriff’s dog!

While all this is going on, a mutant sheep was born on a nearby ranch and was being raised in an incubator by local scientist Dr. Clemens.  I say was, because at this point in the film the sheep breaks loose and goes on a “rampage” of shambling around a meadow and frightening children away from their hot dogs, which it promptly suctions up into its gaping maw.  It’s sheep maw.  The kind adapted for eating grass.  Yeah.

Anyways, the sheep-monster’s rampage coincides with an attempt to lynch Barnstable, a fate from which the “Godmonster” conveniently, inadvertently saves him from.  When Mayor Silverdale decides that the Godmonster in a cage would be a fantastic tourist attraction, all hell breaks loose as cowboys and roughnecks set out hunting for the beast.

Oh lordy, what a film! Yes, it’s a film titled after what is essentially a neglected subplot in the form of a giant mutant sheep; I stand by my previous assessment that a more accurate title for this film would be LAND-GRAB OF INDIAN FLATS, since so much of the film focuses on the land speculator Barnstable and his thwarted attempts to buy property around Virginia City.  And honestly, I think this lends the film a weird sort of charm.  Sure, it’s a giant mutant sheep movie, but it’s also so much more, a semi-surrealistic piece of outsider art from writer/director Frederic Hobbes.  The more I think about it, the more I really kind of like this odd bait-and-switch we get; the sheep subplot more or less opens the movie, and then we quickly transition to the land speculation for the majority of the film; the overall run-time is 89 minutes, and the mutant sheep doesn’t start its rampage until 66 minutes into the movie.

The sheep monster suit (puppet?) is a thing of transcendent beauty.  It looks like it was pieced together from scraps of shag carpet and naugahyde, has an ass like a truck and a rancid rubber sheep’s head surmounting the whole thing.  Whoever wore the suit clearly had no way of seeing out of it judging from the way he stumbles and staggers back and forth.  I’ve widely seen this thing references as one of the worst monster suits of all time, and by all means, yes, a giant stumbling sheep is a terrible idea for a monster.  Absolutely terrible.  But I can’t help but salute Frederic Hobbes for having the balls to go forward with that idea regardless.

That’s kind of the thing with a lot of these sorts of movies – the filmmakers did not make “safe” choices.  They took risks and sometimes those paid off, sometimes they can best be described as a warning to others, but still, they took those risks.  How often do you hear indie horror filmmakers nowadays announce they’re making a zombie or slasher movie? Too damn often, truth be told, because those are “safe” choices and more or less guarantee sales of their film.  But all those “safe” films blur together.  GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS, for all its faults, is a film that cannot be forgotten once seen.

Final Analysis: A good movie? Hell no.  While technically proficient enough, the acting is mostly crap and the presentation – of a movie about land speculation book-ended by segments involving a mutant sheep – is kind of baffling.  I absolutely recommend those interested in weird cinema and outsider art take a good long look at this film, because it’s something that must be seen to be believed.

Overall, I give GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS (1973)…

two_barrels_of_toxic_waste

TWO BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.

Filed in Reviews | Comment Now

The Night Stalker (1972)

6737715Greetings, readers, don’t mind the dust. I apologize for the lack of activity around here lately; I haven’t been in much of a writing mood as of late and haven’t watched much in the way of Radiation-Scarred Reviews-worthy movies. But the pendulum’s swung back around and I’m ready and eager to get some writing in once more. That being said, I recently rewarded myself for earning a raise at work by picking up the out-of-print MGM DVD of the two made-for-TV movies that introduced Carl Kolchak, one of my favorite horror characters, to the world.  Without further ado, let’s take a look, shall we?

Spoilers, as always, ensue.

Carl Kolchak, dedicated reporter for the Las Vegas Daily News, has been called back from his vacation early to report on a new serial killer that’s arrived in Vegas – one that favors young women and leaves his victims broken and short a couple pints of blood.  Working off the theory that the killer is a deluded maniac who thinks he’s a vampire, Kolchak is frustrated to find his investigations stymied by city officials at every turn.

Eventually, Kolchak is forced to confront the unthinkable: that the killer, claimed by the police to be 70-year old European fugitive Janos Scorzeny, may actually be an honest-to-God bloodsucking Nosferatu.  With the city officials wanting to keep Kolchak’s big mouth shut on this subject out of concern that reports of a vampire would damage city revenues and his girlfriend troubled by his sudden interest in the supernatural, Kolchak finds he has no choice but to sharpen a few stakes and go after Scorzeny himself…

This is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.  Written by Richard Matheson of I Am Legend fame, from a novel by Jeff Rice (which I recently picked up as well) and produced by Dan Curtis, whose work we’ve previously seen here with DRACULA, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, and THE NORLISS TAPES, we can see a staggering amount of talent behind the camera, resulting in a magnificently written and directed tale of gothic horror in the swingin’ ’70s.

And in front of the camera? Of course, we have the late great Darren McGavin in the lead, and he’s got such a powerful, bombastic presence that everyone else in the film kind of fades into the background.  Simon Oakland (of PSYCHO) of course excels as Kolchak’s long-suffering editor Anthony Vincenzo, though we get less of the mutual-antagonism between him and Kolchak that we get in the TV series that followed.  Indeed, we actually get Vincenzo sympathizing with Kolchak over what he has to go through to and giving him whatever emotional and spiritual support the big blustering Sicilian is capable of.  A number of other talented actors are on display here as well – Claude Akins (last seen around these parts in MONSTER IN THE CLOSET) can be seen here, as well as Charles McGraw (who got his first film role in THE UNDYING MONSTER) and in a small role, the great Elisha Cook Jr. (THE MALTESE FALCON, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, ROSEMARY’S BABY, and after this, he’d encounter vampires twice more in BLACULA and ‘SALEM’S LOT).

Barry Atwater appears as the vampire Janos Scorzeny, and surprisingly, his craggy, grim appearance here is achieved without prosthetics – during the late 1960s and early 1970s Atwater’s face extensively reshaped itself, possibly in relation to steroid use earlier in the 1960s.  Regardless of the cause, Atwater would undergo extensive surgeries during the 1970s to try and counteract the changes to his face.  His performance owes more to the savage, predatory vampires of Christopher Lee then to the suave, decadent aristocracy of Lugosi, and notably it’s not a speaking role.

Of particular note here is the way the authorities are involved in covering up the existence of the supernatural and suppressing Kolchak’s exposé of Scorzeny’s vampirism.  THE NIGHT STALKER premiered six months prior to the Watergate break-in, which took me by surprise when I looked it up because I would have readily believed that the behavior of the authorities and the heroism of an investigative journalist here would have been inspired by the effect Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation into the coverup at Watergate had on the American zeitgeist.  Color me surprised that this came first!

Final Analysis: An exceedingly enjoyable vampire film and top-notch investigative horror film, in which the resolution of a mystery results in horror, I can’t recommend this film highly enough.  Carl Kolchak is without a doubt my favorite horror hero and the sort of which I’d like to see more of; forget the quip-spitting wise-ass with a shotgun, give me the cautious wise-ass smart enough to piece together the puzzle and run screaming from the results long enough to grab a stake and mallet.

Overall, I give THE NIGHT STALKER (1972)…

five_barrels_of_toxic_waste

FIVE BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.

Filed in Reviews | Comment Now

Mystics in Bali (Mystik/Leák, 1981)

600full-mystics-in-bali-posterGreetings, readers, Bill here.  I recently got a $45 credit for Amazon.com from selling some stuff back, and decided to load myself up with $45 worth of weird world cinema.  Now, I know a lot of horror fans are really into Italian Horror, following in the explorations of Chas Balun, J-horror of course had its day in the wake of RINGU in the 2000s, and now it seems French horror is garnering its day in the sun.  Personally, of the three I like the films made in the wake of RINGU the best, as they represent a non-western form of storytelling and a mythological underpinning divorced from that of Europe.  While Italian and French horror are all well and good, they’re still more or less coming from the same roots that American horror has descended from.  I’m far more interested in seeing films rooted in other cultural backgrounds and biases, which brings us to tonight’s film, an Indonesian film centered around the local equivalent of the vampire.  You’ll see no black-cloaked aristocrats here tonight!

Spoilers ensue.

Catherine Keane (Ilona Agathe Bastian in her sole film role) is an American tourist in Indonesia.  But she’s not there just for sun and tropical drinks — she’s conducting research to write an authoritative book on the subject of black magic traditions around the world.  She’s really getting into it, too — her research consists of finding a practitioner of the black art in question and becoming their apprentice.  She’s come to Indonesia to apprentice herself to a practitioner of Leyak.

Her local boyfriend, Mahendra, warns her that Leyak is nothing to trifle with, and is perhaps the most powerful black magic on earth, but nevertheless arranges for Cathy to meet with a local witch.  After agreeing to take Cathy on as an apprentice, the old witch offers to seal the deal the western way – with a handshake.  As the Leyak witch leaves, Cathy realizes she left her taloned hand in hers! Dropping the severed member, the clawed hand springs to life and scuttles after its owner.  How’s that for confirmation that Leyak is the real deal?

After delivering a handful of gemstones and five pints of blood to the Leyak, the lessons begin in earnest, consisting of striking strange poses and transforming into pythons and wild boars.  After spending one night as a python, the next morning Cathy pukes up a belly full of live mice! Before long, however, it’s clear she’s in over her head as the old Leyak witch enslaves her, turning her into a blood-sucking Penanggalan — Cathy’s head flies off, trailing a full set of viscera, to drink the blood of pregnant women and their unborn children.

Mahendra begins to suspect that there might be a problem.  Fortunately, his uncle and his uncle’s uncle are practitioners of white magic…

Penanggalans are one of my favorite forms of vampires from around the world, right behind the Jiangshi, the hopping vampires of China.  While I’d known that there was a tradition of Penanggalan movies from Southeast Asia, I’d never see any until now.  And boy, did it not disappoint!

While this has been my introduction to Indonesian cinema, my understanding is that usually Indonesia follows Bollywood in blending genres in most films — MYSTICS IN BALI is considered a “Western-style” film in Indonesia due to its heavy reliance on special effects and the fact that it stays a horror movie all the way through.

Speaking of the special effects, they aren’t going to win any Academy Awards, but they are mostly effective.  The matte-work showing Cathy’s head separating from her body and pulling out her organs is pretty hilariously bad, though the prop head and guts that flies around isn’t bad.  The make up effects when Cathy’s transforming into a snake are stylish and effective as well, though the prop snakes used in the interim between her being human and her being an actual snake make the dollar store rubber snakes I had as a kid look good.

Some of the elements in how the story is told are distinctly non-western.  Some characters, for example, aren’t properly introduced until they die, while others show up out of nowhere after being referenced in dialogue that makes it sound as if they had lived generations back.  It’s very disorienting.  I still can’t figure out why the Leyak turned into a floppy-boobed pig woman during her battle with the white magician uncle.  Didn’t seem to do her any good, though the fight is an awesome one to watch.

Final Analysis: A surrealistic and often hilarious monster movie, MYSTICS IN BALI is a must-see for anyone interested in introducing themselves to Indonesian cinema.  I’m definitely eager to see more movies like this in the near future, and MYSTICS’ director, Tjut Djalil has apparently done a number of other “western-style” horror movies in this vein.  I got a good kick out of it and got to see some things I’d never seen before, including a woman puking up live mice, a severed head flying around, and aforementioned severed head sucking the fetus out of a pregnant woman, resulting in her stomach deflating rapidly.  If you want to see something strange and new and get past the paradigm of Italian horror, I wholeheartedly recommend MYSTICS IN BALI.

Overall, I give MYSTICS IN BALI (1981)…

four_barrels_of_toxic_waste

FOUR BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.

Filed in Reviews | 1 Comment

Monster in the Closet (1986)

Monster-in-the-Closet-1986Greetings, readers, Bill here again.  Suffering from indigestion after dinner last night, I decided to grab a DVD at random and pop it in while I sprawled out on the couch.  As luck would have it, this was the movie I grabbed; I picked it up god-knows-how-long-ago, and I forget if it was from the Troma booth at a convention or at my local FYE video store before it closed.  Either way, I hadn’t watched it in years but remembered it being good.  I’m pleased to report it exceeded my expectations and made for a very pleasant night as the volcanic rumblings in my gut subsided.  Let’s take a look-see, shall we?

Spoilers ensue.

Richard “Dick” Clark, a mild-mannered and bespectacled reporter out of San Francisco, is badgering his editor for a meatier assignment then just writing the obituaries.  As luck would have it, he’s given ace reporter Scoop (Frank Ashmore, of AIRPLANE)’s “next assignment,” i.e., a joke assignment fished out of a trash can: a series of unsolved murders have been committed in a nearby small town, with the victims (one of which is John Carradine, and another a very young Fergie, years before joining the Black Eyed Peas) being found mutilated in their closets.

Upon investigating, Clark soon learns that the police are operating on a theory that it’s a maniac with an ice pick behind the killings, while local biology professor Diane Bennett is convinced that the marks on the corpses are fang-marks, possibly from a large, snake-like creature.  As the investigation continues, it becomes clear that neither hypothesis is correct — the killings are being carried out by a big, slobbering, grunting, warty-skinned monster with a perpetually-gaping maw and a secondary set of jaws on a long, wormy tongue.  With the aid of a cowering priest, absent-minded Professor Pennyworth, madcap general (Donald Moffat, of THE THING) and “The Professor,” Dr. Bennett’s young son (played by an extremely young Paul Walker), Clark sets about trying to find a way to destroy the Monster in the Closet once and for all.

As you might expect, this is not a movie to be taken seriously.  It’s actually a really spot-on spoofing of the 1950s “mystery monster on the loose” movies.  Donald Moffat’s performance as General Turnbull is like Morris Ankrum in a cocaine frenzy, while Howard Duff’s performance as the priest strongly evokes the equivalent character in THE WAR OF THE WORLDS.  Heck, Professor Pennyworth even quotes THEM! at one point, noting, “we may be witness to a Biblical prophecy come to life…and the beast shall inherit the world.”

The creature suit (worn by Kevin Peter Hall, of WITHOUT WARNING, HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS and PREDATOR) is a beautiful piece of ugly work, and one of my favorite creatures I’ve seen lately.  I love the gaping, circular maw lined with fangs, I love the humped back and low, forward-slung head, I love its warty, leathery skin and the weird gait it carries itself with.  The filmmakers were obviously quite proud of the suit as well, as it gets a lot of screen time including plenty of shots of it in bright light.  There’s some obvious seams in the costume around Hall’s hips, but they don’t really detract from the overall effect of the creature.  I also really liked that the film played coy with the creature’s origins — Professor Pennyworth speculates that the Monster might be an alien, but it’s never really clarified where this thing came from or what exactly it is.

Oddly enough, the film could be read as an allegory for homosexual identity, with the Monster standing in for the fear and shame associated with being “in the closet.”  The military cannot destroy the Monster, and ultimately flees in the face of it, and applying powerful electric shocks can’t eradicate it either.  It’s only when the Monster comes fully out of the closet, sweeps up Clark in its clawed arms in a loving embrace (mirroring the cliche’d sequence in many 1950s monster movies where the leading lady is carried off by the monster) and, refusing to return to the closet, “marches on San Francisco” that the Monster is weakened and ultimately defeated, just as the sense of shame experienced by many gay and lesbian individuals prior to their “coming out” is only strengthened by being bottled up and cleansed by embracing their own sexual identity.

Or it’s just a goofy monster movie.

Final Analysis: Distributed by Troma but hardly a “Troma” movie in the sense we would normally think of such, MONSTER IN THE CLOSET is a silly, affectionate spoof of the 1950s monster films.  Some of the broader humor falls flat, at least for me, while more lightly-handled jokes had me rolling — but I think that’s largely my sense of humor.  With a mostly-solid cast of good character actors, a beautifully done monster suit and some surprising subtext, MONSTER IN THE CLOSET is a goddamn fun ninety minutes.

Overall, I give MONSTER IN THE CLOSET (1986)…

four_barrels_of_toxic_waste

FOUR BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.

Filed in Reviews | 3 Comments

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)

220px-BloodmummytombI don’t watch enough Hammer films.  They’re always so damn good, even when they aren’t, and such elegant, genteel productions.  That being said, a set of images from today’s film crossed my Tumblr feed for the umpteenth-time today, hitting my retinas precisely as my girlfriend asked, “Are you reviewing anything today?” Serendipity.  A quick check of Amazon revealed that I could watch it streaming on Prime.  So, leaving her to her knitting and astrophysics documentaries on Netflix, I retreated to the bedroom with my laptop to give this late-Hammer film, the last of their “mummy” movies (and unrelated to preceding entries), a watch.

Spoilers ensue.

Twenty years ago, archaeologist Dr. Fuchs (Andrew Keir; the role was originally cast as Peter Cushing, but he bowed out of production to care for his ill wife) opened the tomb of Queen Tera, “The Queen of Darkness,” and became obsessed with her perfectly-preserved corpse.  At the precise instant he opened Tera’s sarcophagus, his wife died giving birth to their daughter, Margaret.

Twenty years later, Margaret has grown into a young woman (the STUNNING Valerie Leon) and has begun experiencing disturbing nightmares about ancient Egypt, dreams in which she’s a queen, but dead, and the priests sever her hand and throw it to the jackals.  Her father gives her an ostentatious ring for her birthday, a ring she soon learns belonged to Queen Tera…of whom she’s the spitting image…and whose sarcophagus is in the basement of the house she and her father live in.  As the malevolent spirit of Tera possesses Margaret in order to live again, Margaret and her father struggle to find a means of banishing Tera to the grave permanently.

BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB is a visually lavish, beautiful production, marred somewhat by inconsistency of vision and a muddled storyline.  This can hardly be helped; in addition to Peter Cushing dropping out of the production, director Seth Holt died of a heart attack five weeks into the six week shoot, with producer Michael Carreras stepping in to finish the production.

The story of the film is adapted from the novel Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram “Dracula” Stoker, which I have to admit is one novel of his I haven’t read, so I can’t comment on how closely the film mirrors the novel.

Regardless of the seven stars in the jewel, the star of the film here is Valerie Leon in the dual role of Margaret and Tera.  And while Tera spends most of her time on the slab being all corpsey, don’t think that made Leon’s workload easier, as Tera’s spirit sporadically took over Margaret’s body, forcing a personality change.  And you can tell when Tera’s in control just from Leon’s body language and how she carries herself.  Regardless of persona, she also oozes sex appeal.  Her eyes are absolutely entrancing here, and that effect is used to its utmost to sell us on her as the modern and sexy Margaret and the timelessly sensual Tera.  While my heart and soul belong to Caroline Munro, Valerie Leon is a very, very, very close second on my Hammer Glamour favorites list.

And clearly, given the costuming choices, someone at Hammer felt the same way about Miss Leon, as she spends much of the film (as Margaret) in an assortment of negligees and low-cut tops, while as Tera she’s topless save an ornamental collar that comes down to the lower edge of her areolas.  She’s entirely unwrapped, despite being a mummy of sorts.

Like I said, the story gets a little muddled in places and I think the exposition explaining what’s going on took place a little later in the film then I would have liked, but ultimately I think the film pays off in spades – both in the climactic dagger-duel to the death between Margaret and the resurrected Tera and the ambiguous final shot.  I won’t say too much about it, but I have to give the film major kudos for having the balls to have a less-then-happy ending.

Final Analysis: A nice twist on the traditional mummy narrative and one that showcases that even as they were about to close their doors, Hammer was still at the top of their game.  Valerie Leon and her jaw-dropping figure stand out from among a strong cast of Hammer’s go-to second tier of actors and the film maintains a good sense of mystery for much of its running time.  If you can deal with the slightly-confusing plot, then I definitely recommend checking it out.

Overall, I give BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1971)…

four_barrels_of_toxic_waste

FOUR BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.

Filed in Reviews | Comment Now

The Pleasures of a Woman (1972)

MPW-52368Greetings, Readers, Bill here again.  After the light-hearted special effects romp of FLASH GORDON this morning, I thought this afternoon, since I’ve got a little extra free time, I’d review something a bit sleazier.  I am, after all, a lovable pervert at heart, no shame felt there, it’s just who I am.  I’m also a huge fan of top-heavy Swedish starlet Uschi Digard, best known for her roles in a few of Russ Meyer’s 1970s skin flicks, and had purchased Retro Seduction Cinema‘s Uschi Digard Collection a few Cinema Wastelands ago.  Thus, I decided to pop in this afternoon’s movie and give it a spin in the ol’ DVD player.  Let’s see what pops up, shall we?

Spoilers ensue.

Lynn (Lynn Harris, of such films as TAKE IT OUT IN TRADE, ERIKA’S HOT SUMMER, and STREET OF A THOUSAND PLEASURES) Roger’s uncle Brian has passed away, and at the funeral, is informed by his now-widowed third wife Martine (Uschi Digard, last seen around these parts in ALL THE LOVIN’ KINFOLK and THE BEAST AND THE VIXENS) that the reading of his will will take place in a few days, and invites Lynn to stay at her house until then.  That night, Lynn catches Martine masturbating furiously with one of Lynn’s shoes, and realizes that her aunt is an insatiable lesbian.  Being very sexually open-minded herself, Lynn settles in and waits for Martine’s inevitable seduction attempts.

When the attempt arrives, Lynn plays innocent but dives right into the deep end of sapphism with the older, busty woman.  Unfortunately, Martine gets Lynn hooked on more than just hot bush – she gets her hooked on pills as well.  “I was a lesbian pill head,” Lynn muses, “that’s only a little better then being a two-headed freak!” Well, to each their own, Lynn.

Youtube unsurprisingly does not have any trailers for this one.  Google it, the film’s been uploaded in its entirety across an assortment of porn tube sites.

The film’s only an hour long, but within that hour it tells a pretty solid story – and a surprisingly dark one for a sapphic skin flick.  Even more interestingly, it tells the story without dialogue; the entire film is narrated by Lynn’s inner monologue.

I haven’t watched a whole lot of this sort of 1970s softcore; to me, when I think softcore, I think Andy Sidaris movies and Cinemax bouncing boobies.  I was surprised at how “hardcore” a lot of the sequences looked.  There’s one heterosexual coupling as Lynn balls an old friend to get her mind off Martine early in the film, and in a couple shots it’s easy to imagine you’re seeing full penetration, with just the way the shadow of her arm falls across their loins disguising the act.  And I gotta say, how refreshing it is to see a stocky guy with an enormous pelt of chest and back hair getting his rocks off in a movie as opposed to a chiseled, waxed Adonis like we see in porn today.

For that matter, how fucking refreshing these women are to look at! Lynn Harris has a broad frame, gappy teeth, wide hips and chunky thighs with medium-sized perky breasts capped by enormous dark areolas while Uschi is, well, Uschi, with her gigantic breasts, hourglass figure and powerful hips and legs.  And both women have fuckin’ pubic hair! They’re not plasticine, waxed, tattooed cookie-cutter blondes.  Maybe I’m just wired weird for my generation, but these women here are really mind-blowingly fuckin’ hot.

Another way in which the film took me by surprise is that while it’s focused on lesbian sex, it doesn’t seem like it’s catering to male fantasy; the sex seems much more natural and it doesn’t present lesbianism as pure titillation, but just as another road to orgasm, entirely natural.  It’s given a sense of comfort here – while Lynne gleefully admits to being a gutter-minded insatiable pervert in the film, at the same time there’s a sense that she and Martine are drawn together to assuage their grief through each other as well.

There’s a lot of shoe fetishism on display here too.  Uschi masturbates with one of Lynn’s shoes, and their later couplings feature thigh-high leather boots extensively, including an intriguing scene of Uschi massaging the crack of Lynn’s ass with the heel of a black leather stiletto boot.  So if you’re into shoes and 1970s bush, go see this.

Final Analysis: A dark little story about a lesbian relationship that springs up in the wake of the two characters’ male link – Lynn’s uncle and Martine’s husband, and how that relationship spirals out of control.  Softcore sex and nudity abound, plenty of big breasts on display, real “girl-next-door” type bodies for those who are into that sort of thing.  Those looking for the airbrushed model types of Maxim or Playboy will leave disappointed but ultimately I found the film enjoyable in more ways then simply carnal.

Overall, I give THE PLEASURES OF A WOMAN (1972)…

three_barrels_of_toxic_waste

THREE BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.

Filed in Reviews | 1 Comment

Flash Gordon (1980)

flash_gordon_xlgGreetings, readers, Bill here again.  Now, it’s worth remembering that as originally conceived, Radiation-Scarred Reviews was not strictly a “horror” blog.  I mean, yeah, I watch a lot of horror movies, and the focus of the site has been more or less tightly focused on horror over the years, but I originally started Radiation-Scarred Reviews to be a “B-Movie” site, inspired by BadMovies.Org and the now-defunct Bearded Weirdo Reviews.  As much as I love horror, my tastes have been running more towards the plain-damn-weird lately, and it’s likely what I opt to review here will reflect that in the days and weeks to come.  This morning, inspired by an article over at io9, we have what might be the biggest budgeted surrealistic cheeseball B-movie ever made, Dino De Laurentiis’ 1980 classic FLASH GORDON, starring Sam Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, Brian Blessed, Timothy Dalton and featuring a soundtrack by Queen.

Spoilers ensue.

When bizarre weather patterns begin to threaten Earth and more alarmingly, the moon begins to shift out of its orbit, only disgraced scientist Hans Zarkov (Topol) recognizes it as an attack from space.  Kidnapping travel agent Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) and New York Jets quarterback Flash Gordon (Sam Jones) in his homemade rocket, Zarkov blasts off to confront the threatening force.

Astonishingly, Zarkov’s madness doesn’t get them all killed, and indeed is proved correct as their rocket arrives at the Planet Mongo, where Flash, Dale and Zarkov are captured by the forces of Ming the Merciless, a totalitarian dictator and self-proclaimed “ruler of the universe.” After a scuffle in Ming’s throne room, Flash is sentenced to death, Zarkov to brainwashing, and Dale to concubinage.

Ming’s rebellious and nymphomaniacal daughter Aura (Ornella Muti), has the hots for Flash however, and sets the clean-cut all-American hero free.  Can Flash, Dale, and Zarkov, with the aid of Princes Barin of the Treemen (Timothy Dalton) and Vultan of the Hawkmen (BRIAN BLESSED!) overthrow the twisted tyranny of Ming and save the Earth?

I love this movie.  I’ve watched it more then probably any other movie except CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, and it’s an extremely close second, if not surpassed CREATURE by this point.  I’ve got the soundtrack on both vinyl (courtesy my father, who bought it in 1980) and on CD (purchased by me), and I quote the movie often, much to my girlfriend’s chagrin.  Brian Blessed’s performance as Prince Vultan is basically my spirit animal.

So this is not going to be the most objective of reviews, but when am I ever truly objective?

FLASH GORDON is a perfect storm of things going gloriously, beautifully wrong, and without that storm, I think the film would have disappeared and have been forgotten.  There was a huge language barrier between Dino’s Italian crew and the English speaking cast, resulting in the actors and the crew having entirely different ideas about what the tone of the film was supposed to be (a language barrier that would be repeated in Claudio Fragasso’s TROLL 2), with Sam Jones and Melody Anderson playing as straight as possible in the midst of neon art-deco space madness, resulting in much of the unintended comedy for which the film is so famous.

The true star of the film I feel, and of course the best actor in the picture, is Max von Sydow’s performance as Ming the Merciless.  Von Sydow plays the role with all the gravitas and sneering villainy the Ruler of the Universe would command, putting more talent into the arching of a single eyebrow then some of the performers in this film had in their entire bodies.

BRIAN BLESSED!, meanwhile, chews up scenery like a crazed Yeti (which he is) that hasn’t eaten in days (which I suspect he has).  His leering, manic portrayal of the bombastic Prince Vultan is perhaps the most fondly-remembered aspect of the film, which such classic lines as “Gordon’s alive?” and “Oh well…who wants to live forever?” becoming part of the public lexicon.  My favorite story from the production of this film is that during the scenes set on the Hawkman city, he kept grabbing Melody Anderson’s ass, “RIGHT ON THE SPHINCTER!” to quote Blessed, to help her stay in character as a woman who’s confused and terrified in an unfamiliar place.

If you think that’s the first time I’ve used the word “sphincter” in a review, then you must be new here.

Final Analysis: A fun, silly throw-back to the early days of science fiction on film, I think in a lot of ways this film flopped at the box office because it wasn’t sufficiently like STAR WARS.  Given where the Star Wars franchise has gone, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.  With fluorescent visuals, outrageous dialogue and the catchiest damn soundtrack I’ve ever heard in a film, this is one film I don’t want to live without.

Overall, I give FLASH GORDON (1980)…

five_barrels_of_toxic_waste

FIVE BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.

Filed in Reviews | Comment Now

Nightwing (1979)

NightwingPosterGreetings, readers, Bill here.  I picked up a copy of this film from the VHS Preservation Society a few weeks ago when I went to the Salt City Horror Fest; I’ve been friends with Sean and George for years now, and whenever I’m looking for an obscure horror movie that never got a legit DVD release, they’re the first place I look.  I’d first heard about this film from the review posted by El Santo over at 1000 Misspent Hours; I’m a big fan of nature-run-amok movies and gullible flicks about non-western magic, and this film promises both.  Pawing through the boxes of DVDs VHSPS has brought with them to Salt City, I was pleased to discover this film, along with CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE and THE RESURRECTED, quickly snapping up all three.  I’ve got some free time tonight, so let’s take a look-see at this killer bat movie that came out in the wake of JAWS, shall we?

Spoilers ensue.

Youngman Duran (Nick Mancuso), a deputy near Tuscon and member of the Maskai Native American tribe struggles with the division between his heritage and his “anglo” career as he investigates a series of strange animal mutilations around the joint reservation shared by the Maskai and Pahana tribes, cattle seemingly torn apart by hundreds of deep incisions, drained of blood, with no tracks but the cattle’s own.

Meanwhile, wealthy Pahana tribesman Walker Chee (Stephen Macht, of THE MONSTER SQUAD) has discovered a layer of oilshales that he intends to capitalize on — the catch being that it’s right in the heart of the most sacred land of the Maskai.  He’s more than willing to sell out his tribe’s rivals for the profits the oil shales represent.

To top it all off, old Abner, the medicine man/evil sorcerer who raised Youngman, has decided to end the world, and to do so has cast a spell releasing the Maskai god of death, Yehwah (!?!), in the form of thousands of Bubonic Plague-infected vampire bats.  It’s up to Youngman, his girlfriend Anne (Kathryn Harrold) and batshit-insane bat-biologist Payne (David Warner, CAST A DEADLY SPELL, THE OMEN, TIME AFTER TIME) to destroy the horde of bloodsuckers before they wipe out everyone in the area.

I dunno about this one, readers; it’s not the worst killer bat movie I’ve seen, but it’s not winning itself too many prizes either.  The film ends up being a bit dull, which if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you’ll know is the deadliest sin I think a film can commit.  A big part of the problem I think is that the film is pulling itself in too many different directions at once, and doesn’t commit any which way.  Jack of all trades, master of none, you know?

The movie’s a clear attempt to cash in on the success of Steven Spielberg’s JAWS, and additionally is adapted from a novel written to cash in on the success of Peter Benchley’s Jaws.  I haven’t read the original novel, but my understanding is that the Native American mysticism is a side thing in the novel, an aspect of Youngman’s struggle to reconcile his ancestral superstitions with his modern education and career; here it’s brought front and center and the audience is asked to accept that in an otherwise non-fantastic film, a dying priest summons tens of thousands of diseased bats to avenge the sins committed against his people.  The film plays everything very straight, very seriously, making this sudden inclusion of magic even more jarring.

As much as I love movies about Native American sorcery kicking white man ass (THE MANITOU, THE DARK POWER, etc.), I think this is one film that would have been better off without it.

The film introduces a lot of ideas and plotlines – Youngman Duran’s struggle between the beliefs of his people and the demands of the western world; Chee Walker’s attempts to gain access to the oil shales; Payne’s fanatical crusade against vampire bats and their evil – but doesn’t put in the effort to adequately flesh out any of them.  All these ideas are half-formed, most of the characters are little more than cartoonish stereotypes (especially the Native American characters) and thus, the film is ultimately kind of disappointing.  I’d have rather they cut it down and focused on developing these ideas more thoroughly.  Hell, even just detailing the conflict between Youngman and Chee so that it wasn’t so superhero comic black-and-white would have been appreciated.

The bats are represented through the same sort of bat-on-a-string technology displayed by Hammer in the 1950s and ’60s and by Universal in the 1930s; the bats themselves look pretty good but they’re not particularly impressive, and hilariously given their centrality to the plot, don’t seem to have enough to do in the film.

Final Analysis: For completists of animal-attack movies and fans of outrageous overacting (David Warner’s ranting about the evil of vampire bats is worth the cost of admission, or of a VHS tape, alone), overall it’s not a great film but I’ve seen worse ways to spend 90 minutes.  I would have liked the number of plotlines cut down in favor of improvements in the quality of those plot lines, more bat attacks, and more Outer Batshittosphere ramblings from David Warner, but them’s the breaks.

Overall, I give NIGHTWING (1979)…

two_barrels_of_toxic_waste

TWO BARRELS OF TOXIC WASTE.

Filed in Reviews | Comment Now