Monday, September 29, 2014

Hard Ticket to Hawaii, More Playboy Playmates in Danger

Andy Sidaris won an Emmy for directing the summer Olympics, and went on to be the first director of ABC's  Monday Night Football.  Fortunately for us, he left TV and went on to direct action films which starred Playboy Playmates (see my review of "Savage Beach" on May 12th).  Today's film is Sidaris directed "Hard Ticket to Hawaii" from 1987.  This movie features the March 1984 Playmate, a bazooka, the July 1985 Playmate, a spear gun, the May 1984 Playmate, a killer razor Frisbee, the October 1985 Playmate, a monster snake (no double entendre here...), grenades, Sumo wrestlers, gunfights, gratuitous Jacuzzi scenes, a transvestite, two martial arts hunks, Chinese throwing stars and nunchucks, a fair amount of spurting gore, and nudity.
If you care, here is the plot:  Two Hawaiian cops are gunned down when they accidentally come across members of Seth Romero's (Rodrigo Obregon) drug gang.  Donna (Donna Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton), our heroines from "Savage Beach," are two undercover drug agents who get this case, with the goal of taking Romero down.  They fly to the island, with the cover of airline pilots.  Their passengers are two sexy honeymooners, and a monster snake (don't...I know what your thinking) which has been injected with cancer cells from rats.  Upon landing, they drop the honeymooners off not knowing that they will eventually be eaten by the snake.  On their way to their base, they accidentally intercept diamonds meant for Romero, and when Romero's men try to take them, Taryn and Donna use martial arts weapons to fend them off.  Now Romero wants our heroines dead.  Our damsels decide to plan a strategy in a Jacuzzi.  Meanwhile, two hunk agents are on their way to join Taryn and Donna, but get intercepted by an assassin on a skateboard, armed with a rifle and a blow up doll.  Our hunks dispose of him with a bazooka.  Hardly a fair fight.    
Romero's assassins get the jump on our gals (see picture above) and almost kill them.  Donna and Taryn manage to escape, pursue their assailants back to the getaway car, and Donna wounds Romero. Romero then orders his hit-woman to kidnap Edy (Cynthia Brimhall), who is Taryn and Donna's contact (see picture below).  As Romero and his hit-woman torture Edy, our gals join up with their hunks and mount a rescue operation which will also serve as a take-down at Romero's compound.  Unfortunately the monster snake is loose (get your mind out of the gutter).  Before planning this rescue, Donna and her colleague, Rowdy (Ronn Moss) have passionate pre-marital sex.  Rowdy is a charmer and coos to Donna, "One man's treasure is another man's lunch."  He could work for Hallmark, someday. Armed with all sorts of sharp things, grenades, guns, and things I don't know the names of, our quartet heads to Romero's compound.
Romero isn't going to go down easily (stop it!).  The final twenty minutes will have massive gunfights, air-raids, karate carnage, and monster snake attacks (don't even go there!).  As Edy is strung up to be a plaything for Romero's hit-woman, will our rescuers get to her in time?  What will our giant mutant snake (I'm not kidding, that's enough) have to contribute to the ending of this film? Sidaris interjects more gore than usual in this film ("Savage Beach" was gore free).  The introduction of a monster served two purposes; first, we all like monsters, and second, it provided plenty of opportunity for sexual metaphors.  All the males and females in this film are...shall we say "HOT." See "Hard Ticket to Hawaii," put your brain in neutral, and enjoy!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Oasis of the Zombies, the Violence and Eroticism of Jesus Franco

Spanish director Jesus Franco died last year.  In his career, he swayed between pornographic and violent and erotic horror films.  "Oasis of the Zombies" (aka "The Treasure of the Living Dead") from 1982 is our feature today.  Filmed in the Canary Islands of Spain, this film was one of his last horror films before he returned to pornography after 1983. However much a horror film this is, one can see Franco's preference toward pornography in the way the women characters of this film fare.
As the film opens, two buxom babes, who may be lesbians (another characteristic of Franco films) get lost driving through a desert in North Africa.  Holding hands (see picture above) they come across an oasis containing battlements of a destroyed Nazi WW2 convoy.  Awakened are Nazi zombies who then grab our girls and eat them.  In 1943, this Nazi convoy carrying millions of dollars worth of gold was ambushed at this oasis.  The only two survivors were one allied and one Nazi commander.  Decades later, these two meet to go back for the gold.  The German Colonel (Eduardo Fajardo) kills his allied partner out of greed and races to the oasis with his hot wife (Lina Romay).  From Europe, the son of the allied commander, Robert (Manuel Gelin) races to North Africa to find the oasis.  He brings his main squeeze, Sylvie (Caroline Audret), who is useless but looks great in short-shorts and white boots.  They meet up with a professor and his assistant, the beautiful Erika (France Lomay).
As the Colonel's expedition fails, he makes it back to civilization as a drooling insane mad-man.  His wife, wasn't so lucky, as she was stripped and had her organs ripped out and eaten.  The zombies are cool, and most have worms crawling out of their faces.  Robert ignores the Colonel's rantings about the living dead, and brings his crew to the oasis.  Erika and the professor arrive first and are attacked, but survive.  When Robert, his gal, and team arrive, Erika's spirits improve and she gets naked with one of the male's in the expedition.  As if by cue, her nakedness seems to call the zombies, and they converge.  As the zombies begin munching members of the expedition and pursuing Erika (see picture below), Robert (...with no help from his hot girlfriend) begins to mount a defense.  Then, for a contender in the "Did He Really Say That" award, someone yells "Lets get some bottles and make Molotov cocktails...just like at school."  Which school?
The conclusion is fiery and philosophical.  Will Robert and Sylvie end up with the gold?  Will Erika learn that nakedness and pre-marital sex lead to doom in these types of movies, before it's too late? Available on Netflix in less than perfect quality, this will please fans of Euro-horror, Drive-Ins, and erotic themed films.  See "Oasis of the Zombies," especially if you have never seen a Jesus Franco film.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gog, The Misogynist Machines

Richard Egan is an interesting fellow.  In the army during WW2, he taught Judo and bayonet fighting.  A devout Catholic, he believed marriage was forever, and had five children with his wife.  Egan waited for the right woman.  Though he dated Susan Hayward, Patricia Hardy won his heart.  Constance Dowling also stayed married to the same man until her death.  Dowling married Ivan Tors (the producer of today's feature).  Unfortunately, Dowling's death was too premature, falling prey to cardiac arrest at the age of 49.  Tors and Dowling had three children, plus a foster child from Kenya.  Egan and Dowling star in today's feature, 1954's "Gog."
As our film begins, scientists in a top secret underground lab are conducting experiments which will lead the construction of a space station.  Then, apparent sabotage strikes.  Dr. Hubertus and the sultry Dr. Kirby (Aline Towne) are killed when they are locked in their refrigeration room (see picture above) as the temperatures are adjusted to -85 degrees.  Unlike most government facilities, this lab has a plethora of beautiful female scientists.  Sadly, most of these brainy vixens will be killed off by some menacing force.  David (Egan), a secret government agent, is sent to the lab to figure out what went wrong.  He meets up with Joanna (Dowling) who works at the lab, but is actually a covert agent for our government, and David's girlfriend (see picture below).  Convenient.  As David begins to investigate, more beautiful women begin to die.  David asks a chemist analyze some metal, which could be a clue.  The chemist, Marna (Jean Dunn) is a blonde cutie, but succumbs to radiation poison when someone or something plants radioactive isotopes in her lab.  
As more pretty blondes fall, David makes some frightening discoveries.  The super computer (NOVAC) which controls the facility seems to be acting on it's own.  The NOVAC controls two robots, Gog and Magog (isn't there something biblical about this?) which appear to be acting on their own.  Is there a misogynist on the loose, or has a foreign power infiltrated the lab?  David and Joanna must hurry, as all indications are that something....or someone, is bent on incinerating the lab by causing a nuclear reaction.  As Gog and Magog begin a deadly rampage, our surviving scientists fight back with flamethrowers.  Here is an important movie rule, take heed!  Whenever characters go for a ride in a hot air balloon, the movie will ultimately suck.  However, when flamethrowers are introduced into the plot...well...the film will always be a worthwhile endeavor.  
Will David be able to save pretty Joanna from being melted down by radiation?  Is the disaster that befalls this underground lab the reason why the U.S. government doesn't hire sexy women as scientists, anymore?  As David gets closer and closer to solving the mystery before him, the NOVAC and it's robot friends focus their efforts on nuclear annihilation.  Available on Netflix, this is a terrific 1950s B Movie.     

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Death Ship, .and the Bloodiest Shower Scene Ever!

For the first time in almost three months, we will look at a horror film, set in the Atlantic Ocean, and starring George Kennedy (see my entry on "Uninvited" from June 27th).  1980's "Death Ship" is a creepy and atmospheric ghost tale which features the bloodiest shower scene ever put on celluloid.  Capitalizing on the popularity of "The Love Boat," our film begins on a cruise ship captained by a very grouchy George Kennedy, who is sick of dining with blue haired old ladies.  Listed sixth in the credits is Victoria Burgoyne (an English actress most famous for her role in the "Dr. Who" TV show), who dies the goriest death while showering (see picture below).
Lets face it, if we are watching a masquerade party on a cruise ship, something bad is about to happen. Cpt. Ashland (Kennedy) is only attending because he is avoiding the over-55 gala.  This is his last voyage before he hands the ship over to Marshall (Richard Crenna), who doesn't mind dancing with blue-hairs.  Somewhere nearby is a gigantic black freighter.  This freighter charges the cruise ship and sinks her.  In a makeshift lifeboat, Marshall, his wife (Sally Anne Hawes), his two really annoying, snot-nosed children, a lunatic blue-hair (Kate Reid), a skank (Burgoyne), the purser (Nick Mancuso), and the entertainment director (Saul Rubinek).  Then out of nowhere, Cpt. Ashland rises to the surface in an unconscious state.  In the middle of the Atlantic, hopes for rescue are slim.  Then, very mysteriously, appears this big freighter...seemingly deserted and derelict.  Our castaways climb aboard and immediately are beset by macabre events.  Mercifully, the annoying cruise director is eerily tangled in a rope and thrown overboard...and drowned.  No one is too broken up about this, as his jokes were never funny.
Unknown to the rest of the castaways, Cpt. Ashland becomes possessed by the ship.  This ship has 1940s decor (including a Betty Grable pin-up), and all the signs are written in German.  Apparently this ship roams the Atlantic, trapping sailors on board, torturing them, and using their blood to power the engines.  After the annoying blue-hair eats some 1940s mints and becomes deformed, Cpt. Ashland strangles her, stating, "At least she won't be a pain anymore."  The ship appears to be reading their minds, shutting down all means of escape, including the lifeboats.  With no apparent means of escape, Lori and the purser decide to take a shower together (...why not?), with bloody results.  As Cpt. Ashland falls deeper under the control of the evil spirits controlling this vessel, Marshall and his family need to look for other ways off the vessel.  Their search uncovers meat lockers full of dead bodies and torture devices.  Meanwhile, our possessed captain finds a rifle and begins hunting down the Marshall family.
Will the Marshalls' escape this evil ship?  Will Cpt. Ashland shake free of the evil spirits?  Is the shower scene a morality statement....displaying the down-side of pre-marital sex?  This film, including the shower scene, is available on YouTube.  The derelict ship is creepy, and a perfect setting for a ghost story.  If the characters of "The Love Boat" annoyed you, watch this film and imagine it is them who are meeting the gory deaths before your eyes.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

'Gator Bait, Another Tragic End for a Playboy Playmate

From the Drive-In Exploitation Hall of Fame comes 1974's "'Gator Bait."  This film stars the 1970 Playmate of the Year, Claudia Jennings.  Jennings almost made it as a TV icon, but Shelley Hack barely beat her out as Kate Jackson's replacement in "Charley's Angels." After two perilous relationships with the wrong guys, Jennings appeared to be on her way to being a mainstream actress.  This was not to be, unfortunately.  In October of 1979, she fell asleep at the wheel of her VW convertible in Malibu, resulting in her death at the age of 29.  The next year, another Playboy Playmate, Dorothy Stratten would also suffer a violent and untimely death (see my entry on "Galaxina" from July 23rd).
The temptation to label "Gator Bait" as a hybrid of 1978's "I Spit on Your Grave" and 1981's "Southern Comfort" (both films have received critical acclaim over the past 30 years) should be avoided.  In actuality, "'Gator Bait" pre-dated both those films, and influenced their creation.  In this bloody revenge tale, Desiree (Jennings) is spied on by Deputy Billy Boy (Clyde Ventura) and Ben.  Their plan is to rape her, but when they see her poaching alligators, they chase her in their swamp boat.  Hers is faster, but during the pursuit, Billy Boy accidentally shoots Ben in the head.  Not wanting to get into trouble, Billy Boy frames Desiree, and now Billy Boy's sheriff father, and Ben's family hunts her down.  Ben's family, real swamp rednecks, are a prize and a half.  When they are introduced, Ben's brother is trying to rape his sister, much to the sister's glee.  The Sheriff, Billy Boy, and the Bracken family then board two swamp boats and venture deep into the swamps to exact justice on the innocent Desiree.
Our posse arrives at Desiree's swamp home, but she isn't there. Unfortunately for Desiree's beautiful and pure sister, Julie (Janit Baldwin), and mute little brother, they are home.  The posse then gang rapes Julie and put a shotgun barrel...well...I am not going to say where they stuck it, but Julie is killed when the trigger is pulled.  Desiree makes up her mind that she will hunt the men down and exact swamp justice on them.  The posse returns and believe they are chasing Desiree.  They soon figure out that Desiree is luring them deeper into this swamp to inflict slow tortuous deaths upon them.  With snakes, 'gators, booby-traps, and bullets, Desiree picks them off one at a time. 
Will Desiree be able to finish her vendetta before the Bracken family turns the tables on her?  Will the Cajun-Redneck community ever shake the harmful stereotypes perpetuated by this film?  This movie is gritty and serious, with much uncomfortable imagery.  One may try to find deeper meaning in this film by portraying Desiree as a metaphor for the swamp.....endangered.  Which ever way this film is looked at, it's influence in future revenge flicks can be easily detected, including both "I Spit on Your Grave" films. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Drive In Massacre, William Castle would be Proud

The much maligned "Drive In Massacre," which hit the drive ins in 1977, is actually very under-rated.  I saw this movie with my dad at the drive-in theater in West Roxbury, Massachusetts..and we had so much fun.  This film marked the first time I had ever seen a least on film.  As for 1977, this was an infinitely better film than "Annie Hall" or "The Goodbye Girl."  Only 74 minutes in length, the actors in this flick ply their trade better than Diane Keaton did in her 1970s movies.  Available on YouTube, in less than average quality, fans of the Drive In genre have to see this movie.
 The plot:  An attractive couple, in their car at a drive-in, is engaging in heavy petting which is leading to pre-marital sex.  The idiot boyfriend breaks his lip lock on his babe because he is suddenly interested in the film. As he reaches for a speaker, a maniac slices his head off with a sword.  When his rejected girlfriend screams, she gets the same sword through her neck (see picture below). Detective Koch ( Bruce Kimball) and Detective Leary (John F. Goff) are assigned the case and visit the crime scene.  They meet the theater manager Austin Johnson (Robert E. Pearson), an Anton Lavey wannabe.  Johnson hates everyone, and in true 1970s vernacular, loves to call people "pukes." Twas a poetic time, the 1970s was!  The detectives also meet Germy (Douglas Gudbye), the weird janitor.  Germy is their first suspect, as in his former job he was a sword-swallower at a carnival.
Completely unsympathetic to his nymphomaniac clientele, Johnson keeps the drive in open.  The next night, a married man and his mistress are getting it on in their car when our maniac from the morality police shish-kabobs them with a sword.  The detectives now consider Johnson a suspect, too.  Apparently Johnson was also a sword-swallower, before he became a barker at that same carnival.  The plot thickens as our detective duo (see picture below) identify a peeping-tom who was seen near the cars in which the couples were murdered.  After interrogating Johnson, one detective remarks, "They may have closed the carnival, but the freaks are still hanging around, and we just talked to the choicest one."  As our conclusion approaches, the detectives go undercover at the drive-in, and of course, our killer also shows up.  
Some suggest the Peter Bogdanovice film "Targets" (Boris Karloff's final film) inspired "Drive In Massacre."  However, the ending just oozes of William Castle films.  Directed by Stu Segall, this film sought to involve the audience in the film...a la William Castle's "The Tingler."  After seeing the movie, I couldn't wait to go back to school on Monday and tell all my friends about it.  When describing the kills to my friends in home room, for the only time in my junior high school career, I had everyone's attention.  

The Boogens, Grab a Coors and Enjoy those Tentacled Monster Things

Later this week Rebecca Balding will turn 59 years old.  In her days as a scream queen, she could be described as cute, perky, sassy, vulnerable, alluring and playful.  In today's feature, "The Boogens" from 1981 and "The Silent Scream" from 1979, she played that character to the hilt.  Most of us older guys remember her as the nurse and Billy Crystal's wife in "Soap," and today's audiences know Ms. Balding for her supporting roles in the TV show "Charmed." Married to the director of this film (James L. Conway), Ms. Balding isn't the only star with a famous hubby.  Her co-star, Anne-Marie Martin, at one time, was married to author Michael Crichton. the most famous film ever to engage in product placement for Coors beer, lets delve into "The Boogens."
The plot: The mine in Silver City closed in 1912 after unusual collapses and the mysterious disappearance of 27 miners.  Now four men enter the mine to re-open it.  As they unseal blocked tunnels, something is ready to come out. The next day, two of the miners, and hunks, Mark (Fred McCarren) and Roger (Jeff Harlan) move into a home.  Their landlady (the beautiful Marcia Reider) is not there to meet them, as she was dragged away by a boogen the night before.  Our miners are very fortunate, Jessica (Martin) and Trish (Balding) arrive, and they will engage in lots of pre-marital sex together.  Fred falls in love with Trish, probably because he keeps seeing her naked.  Also in the house is Tiger, a very annoying poodle....fortunately the boogens eat him.  Unbeknownst to our nymphomaniac quartet, a secret passageway from the mine leads to their basement...and now the boogens are loose and in a wandering (and homicidal) mood.
As Trish begins to discover the mystery of the mine, Roger and Mark continue to assist in clearing out tunnels that have caved in.  Unknown to Mark, Trish, and Jessica, Roger falls prey to the creature pictured below as he parks his pick-up in the garage.  In a very exciting final 30 minutes Mark makes some shocking discoveries in the old mine concerning the fate of those missing miners in 1912 and what is still living down there.  Meanwhile Trish heads back to the house as Jessica hops in the shower, and the boogens head up a mine shaft to the house.  As the poodle is gobbled up, a boogen sets it's sights on Jessica, who is all wet and clad only in a towel.  Will Mark and Jessica be able to save her?
The ending is frightening, and of course has our protagonists descending into the mine where the lair of these monster's is located.  To think our kids never knew a world where Coors was only available west of the Mississippi.  What "My Bloody Valentine" (see my review last June 1st) did for Moosehead Beer, "The Boogens" does for Coors.  Well acted with four great looking actors/actresses, this film was praised by Stephen King when it hit the theaters.  Now available on DVD, this is a film a fan of 1980s horror must see.  Happy Birthday, Ms. Balding.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Blood Glacier, The Hills are Alive with the sound of Mutants

Horror films set in the Alps are usually really good (see my review of "The Crawling Eye" on Dec. 3rd).  2013's "Blood Glacier" (aka "Blutgletscher") is the wildest of these films.  Heavy on monsters and gore, and somewhat reminiscent of John Carpenter's "The Thing," today's blog entry is now available on Netflix.  Made in Austria, "Blood Glacier" is filled with colorful characters, many of which meet gruesome fates.
The plot:  High on a mountain in the Alps, scientists in a climate research lab are tending to experiments.  When a piece of equipment stops transmitting, Janek (Gerhard Liebmann), a drunk scientist, goes to investigate.  He finds that a nearby glacier seems to be stained in blood.  While investigating, his dog is bitten by a mutant fox.  Back at the lab, the blood substance is tested and appears to be billions of one celled organisms.  Meanwhile, Janek comes across a fox/beetle hybrid, and drives it away.  Because of his proclivity to imbibe, no one believes him.  Meanwhile, Janek's ex-wife, the very beautiful Tanja (Edita Malovcic) is working for Austria's Climate Minister.  Tanja is bringing the Minister (Brigitte Kren) up the mountain to witness the effects of global warming.  The Minister is a beastly woman, and our hope is she gets eaten by lots of mutants.
Anything that eats the red snow will turn into a hybrid.  As Tanja leads the political entourage up the mountain, they are attacked by a falcon/mosquito hybrid.  As the scientists in the lab are gloating because of their discovery, Janek realizes the danger.  As monstrous insects are discovered, two scientists, Falk (Peter Knaack) and Birte (Hille Beseler) return to the glacier...big mistake!  Now fleeing from the mosquito monster, Tanja and her party reach the lab.  The Minister then tries to calm her party down by shrieking "STOP EATING THAT BANANA WHILE YOU'RE CRYING!" to her beautiful aide, Irene (Adina Vetter).  This line wins first place in the "Did She Really Say That" contest.  As the scientists and the Minister's entourage are trapped in the small lab, a ram/Godzilla hybrid attacks. The Minister fends it off with a power drill, but this victory is short lived.  Janek and Tanja (pictured above) realize they must come up with a plan and act. 
With heroics by Tanja and Janek, a few weird plot twists, more gore and carnage, an eerie conclusion awaits.  Is the boorish Minister a metaphor for the increasing rancor which is engulfing the Austrian parliament?  Did Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews meet any of these creatures when they fled Nazi occupied Austria?  "Blood Glacier" is a lot of fun, and lots of monsters are utilized.  As the winter approaches, this is the perfect film to prepare you for more frigid temperatures. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Ghost Galleon, Lingerie Models in Peril

Noemi (Barbara Rey) is one of the top lingerie models in Europe.  Bikinis and lingerie are her thing. Tall, blonde, elegant, statuesque, and sassy; Noemi (see picture below) is about to have the most horrifying 24 hours of any horror film character, in history.  Noemi's lesbian lover, Kathy (Blanca Estrada), is also a sexy model, and is missing.  In her pursuit to find Kathy, Noemi is beat up, raped, kidnapped, humiliated, chased by Satanic ghosts of Templar knights, and finally cut to pieces on an altar....all while wearing underwear and high heels.  This is of course the fourth installment of the "Tombs of the Blind Dead" series, 1974's "The Ghost Galleon."
Directed by Amando de Ossorio, "The Ghost Galleon" is a perfect vehicle for our beloved ghost knights.  As the film begins, two models are participating in a publicity stunt for a sporting goods manufacturer.  The bikini clad babes, Kathy (see picture below) and Lorena (Margarita Merino) intentionally run out of gas in their motorboat, with the intention of being rescued.  The plan is that the news media will take lots of pictures of the two rescued babes, and those babes will be wearing bikinis from a certain manufacturer.  Free publicity.  Uh oh, our damsels enter a strange mist that hauls them into a different dimension (I know we've all been there).  Out of gas, our first two victims make it over to an 18th century derelict galleon.  First Lorena climbs aboard, and meets the unforgiving ghosts.  Then Kathy goes to look for Lorena, and she is also ritualistically pulled apart.
With her lover missing, Noemi quizzes her boss, Lillian (Maria Perschy).  Lillian introduces Noemi to Tucker, chief of advertising for the sporting goods manufacturer. Tucker (Jack Taylor) is afraid Noemi will go to the police, so he has Sergio , his henchman, beat her up, rape her, and bring her on their voyage to find Kathy and Lorena.  Lillian plots to toss Noemi into the middle of the Atlantic on this voyage, as witnesses can be so inconvenient.  Out of nowhere, the creepy galleon emerges, and our unlucky rescuers board it.  Misty and creaky, the galleon contains ten coffins of Templar knights, and Satanic adornments hung around them.  As the knights rise out of their coffins, our rescue party plots to steal the treasures on the ship, and find a way back to civilization. 
Just as the knights seem unstoppable, our sporting goods crew figures out how to do makeshift exorcisms.  Will their new found knowledge and strategy be in time to defeat the Satanic stalkers and return to the right dimension?  If watching beautiful, scantily clad, and terrified damsels fleeing from evil fiends is a plot device to your liking, "The Ghost Galleon" is for you.  This film is available in semi-good quality on YouTube.  In an era of strong female protagonists, this throwback horror film might seem a guilty pleasure type of way. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Terror Within, Beware of Amorous Gargoyles

When something deep inside you is calling for a deviant film selection, perhaps to offset a string of romantic comedies you had to endure, a Roger Corman production is always a satisfying choice.  1989's "The Terror Within" stars Andrew Stevens, George Kennedy, and a couple of babes.  Lets face it, nothing says "sure success" as a Roger Corman movie set in an underground lab located in an apocalyptic wasteland, under attack from toothy gargoyle mutants.  This film is sold on a DVD as a companion piece to "Dead Space" (see my review on this blog dated March 19th).
The plot:  A broken test tube leads to the death of 99% of humanity ( happens...).  Under the Mojave Desert, a CDC lab with six vaccinated survivors are running out of food and water.  On the surface, a mutant gargoyle race is shredding any surviving human they come into contact with.  David (Stevens) and Sue (Starr Andreeff, picture above) head to the surface only to find the remains of their two friends, and a slaughtered commune of survivors.  They also find a traumatized girl who is immune to the deadly plague and bring her back to their lab.  Back at the lab, Hal, the boss (George Kennedy) and Linda (Terri Treas, pictured below) discuss their pregnant more mouth to feed, and low on supplies.  As Linda tends to the survivor, Karen (Yvonne Saa), it is apparent that the pregnancy is progressing at light speed.  Before the end of the day, Karen goes from three months pregnant to nine.  During delivery, a miniature monster explodes out her belly and darts into the proverbial air vent.
Now our lab team is faced with a rapidly growing monster in the facility that gets off on impregnating beautiful women.  Hal and David order the two babes to remain in the control room ( if those orders will be obeyed) and each take an expendable lab tech and go searching for this creature.  The two expendables are diced pretty quickly, and when the thing converges on David, Sue runs to his aid.  When the gargoyle sees Sue, it loses interest in David and abducts Sue.  As Hal and David find them, the thing has just raped Sue and when it attacks Hal, David rescues Sue.  With only three survivors, Linda wonders if Sue's pregnant with David's child, or the monster's (...this being a Roger Corman film, the answer is obvious).  As David and Linda believe they have figured out the creature's weakness, and traumatized Sue demands an abortion, a final conflict between man and it's nemesis approaches.
Even if Linda and David defeat this monster rapist, they will have to flee to the surface for food where more of these things wait for them?  Will our good looking duo be able to clear the Mojave Desert of mutant gargoyles?  What will become of the beautiful Sue?  Does "What to Expect When Your Expecting" have a chapter Sue could benefit from?  The acting is good, and creature is menacing (Jack Valan in a neat rubber suit).  Both Treas and Andreeff are stunning as heroic damsels in various forms of distress.  "The Terror Within" is perfect if you want to watch a vintage 1980s horror film.  Even on a low-budget, Corman delivers a very entertaining and visually pleasing work.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Literature Review #2: For Those Who Dream Monsters

What would happen if a werewolf was challenged by a World War 2 tank?  However elementary that question seems, most of the conundrums faced in Anna Taborska's "For Those Who Dream Monsters" are infinitely more soul searching.  Film maker and horror writer, Ms. Taborska (check her out on or her website ) is also a sensational storyteller.  In this collection of short stories, every one of them delivers chills and provokes thought.  Whether looking deeper into our own ethos, or re-examining painful episodes of World War 2 atrocities, or pushing the reader to face uncomfortable realities, this book is horrifying and also inspires us to always to recognize the evil, even when the masses do not.
Selfishly speaking, I quickly became a big fan of Ms. Taborska well before I finished this book.  It has pained me that public school children are inundated with irrelevant nonsense, however, are so illiterate about the evil imposed on so many good souls by the Soviets and Nazis during the first half of the 20th century.  In a very chilling ghost story, "The Girl in the Blue Coat," the horror isn't so much a specter of a dead girl, but the very real Nazis and their collaborators in Poland.  In "Arthur's Cellar," the fact that a fiend is chained in the basement is secondary to the fact that it is wearing a Nazi insignia.  In a very thought provoking story ("The Apprentice"), the relationship of a helpless victim and an evil psychopath is examined in an uncomfortable manner.  Again, the psychopath isn't what unsettles us about this story, rather the twisted relationship the victim forges with him is what vibrates our spine.
This work also has some more traditional scares, whether it be a fish monster from a nearby river, an evil cat, the devil himself, or a consuming cancer.  Even in these stories, our monsters are metaphors for so much more.  The creepiness is enhanced by the eerie illustrations by Roger Oliver.  The danger of illustrations in a work of this type is if they serve to manipulate the imagination instead of allowing the reader's journey to be his/her own.  Mr. Oliver's drawings, though provoking, are subtle enough so as not to bias our experience with these stories. With all good horror, there must be some fun, and in "Cut" we are treated to a spoiled but unbalanced actress.  I am guessing Ms. Taborska's experience with film making personalities inspired "Cut."
I read "For Those Who Dream Monsters" on flights to and from Port-of-Spain, even though I needed to doze off instead.  If you are similar to me, and actually enjoy having dreams about monsters, go to Ms. Taborska's website (listed above) and order this collection.  Usually in short story collections, the best we usually get is a third of the works will be terrific, a third will be so-so, and a third will be entirely forgettable.  In this book, all 18 stories are fantastic.  This book is published by Mortbury Press, which also publishes the "Black Book of Horror" books ( ). 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Ode to the Individual

The individual has fallen in disfavor in American society.  The power of the voters is trumping the power of this heroic figure who forged this country.  When Americans figured out that their votes could result in taking other peoples money and put it into their own wallets, America lost its moral compass.  In college, kids seek to belong to fraternities.  In labor, incompetent workers find unions.  In every election, ideas and individuals who are different, or out of a perverted mainstream, are ridiculed and beat up.  In the public schools, children are herded into group mentalities that have already proven to be failures.  In 1972's "Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance," our hero eschews the so-called honor and tradition of Japanese culture and goes it alone.  42 years after this movie was made, we Americans can draw inspiration from our Japanese protagonist, and his plight.
The plot: Shogunnates (clans) rule 17th century Japan.  The ones in power persecute, and destroy the ones without power.  Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) has a very prestigious position in the ruling clan....head executioner.  Like the dentist, no one is ever happy to make his acquaintance, but the honor of the position and the reverence it commands, floats his boat nicely.  He beheads with dignity, however.  Itto has even constructed a shrine next to his home where he prays for the souls of those he has offed.  Itto has a beautiful wife and a baby boy, so he doesn't have time for friends anyway.  Then KABOOM!  Because Itto's position holds so much influence, a rival frames him for treason and murders Itto's wife.  Ordered to commit seppuko, Itto is suspicious.  He figures out that he has been framed and disobeys the order, instead, using the seppuko sword to slice his way to freedom.  Now, armed with a sword, and other really sharp things that cause blood to spurt and limbs to fly, Itto begins a journey as an assassin for hire.  Oh yes, not only is he armed to the max...he is also toting around his baby boy.
The shogunnate fears Itto.  He has spit in the face of order, tradition, and collectivism. Itto informed the shogunnate, just before he cut up a few dozen of them, that he would assume the role of a demon and dedicate the rest of his existence to revenge.  As he strolls through the countryside of Japan, aggression follows.  Either he is recognized as the lone wolf he has become (in a society with no patience for individualism) or is beset by highwaymen...which he purees.  In one village he travels to, Itto assumes the role of the American cowboy.  The town is ruled by social outcasts and criminals, but in a final showdown, Itto cuts them into little pieces while defending an unfortunate but beautiful prostitute.
Itto is chivalrous, strong, individualistic, and heroic.  He goes it alone and swears vengeance on the collectivists that rule society.  In America, we used to consider this sort a hero....and today, a few of us still do.  However politically incorrect this film might be today, I found it inspirational.  Of course there are sequels to "Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance," and also a hope that society once again smiles on Itto and considers him noble and good.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Giant Claw, Terror From a Flying Battleship

Mara Corday is best known by contemporary audiences as the diner waitress who saturated Dirty Harry's coffee with sugar in the "make my day" scene in "Sudden Impact."  However, the 1950s were her glory days.  This striking brunette broke into entertainment as a showgirl on Sunset Boulevard before being discovered by Hollywood.  In addition to being Playboy's Playmate for October 1958, she starred in a number of B movies including "Tarantula" and "Black Scorpion."  Today's feature is my favorite Corday film, 1957's "The Giant Claw," in which she plays the beautiful and genius mathematician, Sally Caldwell.
The plot:  Sally is in the Arctic helping the military test radar systems. As she is recording radar type statistics, Mitch (Jeff Morrow) is flying a jet.  Mitch's jet is being used to test the radar stations, and all is going well until Mitch sees a UFO as "big as a battleship" fly over his cockpit.  Exactly how big is a battleship?  Who knows?  Not Sally as she continues to press Mitch about this description throughout the film.  Despite it's size, the UFO fails to show up on radar.  The military's initial reaction is to dismiss Mitch's claim as the rantings of a civilian pilot, but when other pilots report the same phenomenon, and then disappear, General Buskirk takes notice.  For no apparent reason, Mitch and Sally are flown to New York. On this flight, Mitch plants a nice smooch on Sally as she begins to doze off.  Unhampered by 1950s sexual harassment statutes, Mitch is unapologetic...and Sally is hardly offended.  Gotta love the 1950s.
Uh oh, our battleship (big bird, actually) disables the plane and Mitch takes over for an unconscious pilot and crash lands in the Adirondacks.  When the military collects Sally and Mitch from a benevolent French farmer, they are told more planes have turned up missing and it seems to be the work of a monster bird.  Indignant that no one believed him at first, Mitch tells the concerned Sally, "If I called it an overgrown adding machine (instead of a battleship), at least you would've believed me."  When a Civilian Aeronautics Board plane is attacked and crew eaten like sardines in a can, the Air Force dispatches a squadron.  The bird eats them, too.  Mitch and some scientists figure out the bird is protected by a shield of anti-matter, and comes from a distant star.  With Sally figuring out equations, and the bird now attacking cities worldwide, Mitch invents a ray gun that will penetrate an anti-matter field.  With all of the resources under General Buskirk's control, Sally and Mitch are sent to kill the bird before it lays more eggs.
As Mitch and Sally fall further in love, will Mitch reveal to her the true size of a battleship?  Will the wildlife and environmental regulations of the Eisenhower Administration hamper the hunt for our clawed menace? Corday is fantastic and her interplay with Morrow is quite entertaining. In one scene, surprising Mitch, Sally aims a rifle at a giant bird egg.  Before she fills it with holes, Mitch gives her a look of subtle alarm , and Sally says to him, "It's okay, I'm from Montana."  Gotta love that pioneer spirit in our monster movie heroines.  The creature was created by a low-budget Mexican model maker and the stars never saw it until the movie was premiered.  Jeff Morrow was so embarrassed by the thing that he hid his face during the premier.  In 2014, everything about this film is endearing, and sure to entertain.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Laid to Rest, An Extreme Hangover

Robert Hall might be the best special effects/make-up artist in the business. In 2009 he directed "Laid to Rest" and cast his then wife, Bobbi Sue Luther (see photo below) in the lead.  What resulted was an incredibly gory and well acted horror film, which some refer to as gore-porn.  Filmed in and around Annapolis, Maryland, we the viewer are introduced to a fiend called Chrome-Skull, who makes Jason and Freddy resemble Sunday school teachers.  Though we've all had blurry nights when we've woken up in coffins, this film exploits that experience with horrific results.
The plot: A beautiful woman wakes up inside a coffin in a funeral home. She has amnesia because of a blow to her skull, and her ability to recall some words hampers her ability to communicate.  No time to fret as the mortuary director (Richard Lynch) finds her.  The two don't have an opportunity to chat, unfortunately, as a monster with a chrome skull mask, a go-pro type camera mounted on his shoulder, and the meanest knife in movie history arrives.  After killing the mortician he tries to do the same to the woman.  We find out that Chrome-Skull has abducted 31 young women, tortured them, then cut them into little pieces, and this woman stands to be #32. Oh yes, Chrome-Skull videos the torture and murders then mails the videos to the cops. With some luck and determination she escapes and is taken in by a Christian couple, Tucker (Kevin Gage) and Cindy (Lena Headey, see photo below).  They want to help her, but this woman is hysterical and can't remember enough words to tell them a coherent story.  Unfortunately, Chrome-Skull is determined, and follows the woman everywhere she runs.
To Tucker's misfortune, Chrome-Skull makes him a widower (see photo above).  Now Tucker and the woman are on the run.  Chrome-Skull has marked his territory, and his territory is the woman.  Anyone who happens within 50 yards of her is cut up.  This maniac kills off the local police department, Tucker's brother-in-law and his hot girlfriend (Jana Kramer), and about a dozen more poor saps.  Tucker, who by the way, only has one working leg is determined to protect the woman and avenge his wife's murder.  Unfortunately for our unlikely duo, the only help they can enlist is from Steven (Sean Whalen), a nerdy computer novice who refuses to drive above the speed limit.  As the now trio try to stay one step ahead of Chrome-Skull, Tucker begins to figure out the identity of his amnesiac friend.
Every kill ranks at the top of the gore-meter.  Seemingly outmatched by the evil of their foe, Tucker, Steven, and the woman ready themselves for a violent and icky final battle.  However violent and horrifying this tale is, the altruism of Tucker, the Christian, is touching.  When the true identity of the amnesiac woman is finally revealed, it becomes a plot twist that sets up a weird, but satisfying conclusion.  Not for those with weak stomachs, but "Laid to Rest" is one of the most memorable films you will see this year. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dust Devil, The Hitcher goes to Namibia

1992's "Dust Devil" will remind you of "The Hitcher."  Beautifully shot in the sands of Namibia, the desert and creeping sands emerge as an ominous menace. This film from South Africa ran into great difficulties with the sand storms that proved an essential part of this film.  A woman on the run from an abusive marriage finds a handsome man....and then the real horror starts.  When she realizes her new beau is no savior, but a monster, she utters a classic line, "you're not from Texas."
The plot:  A mysterious drifter (Robert John Burke) hails down a woman driving through the desert.  The woman brings him home, they have sex, and he kills her.  When the police arrive, they find he has gutted her, spread her organs and body parts all over the bedroom, painted demonic murals on the walls with her blood, and absconded with her severed fingers (!).  Realizing he has a ritualistic murder on his hands, Ben (Zakes Mokae), a Namibian detective, consults a witch doctor.  Meanwhile, Wendy (Chelsea Field) escapes from her violent marriage and takes her red VW across the border into Namibia.  Going nowhere in particular, she is determined not to return to her abusive husband.  Her first stop is in a town called Bethany, which is dying because of drought.  In Bethany, the drifter first sets eyes on her...not because of her beauty...but because he senses she has given up on life.  In pursuing her, he hitches a ride with a guy in a camper and does the same to him he did with the above mentioned victim.
Wendy, driving through desert, picks up our handsome fiend.  The two are instantly attracted to each other, and she believes he is from Texas.  She falls in love with him and they spend a passionate night in a motel room.  As our demon friend is showering, she, of course, looks through his things and finds a box of bloody fingers.  This is a clue to her.  After a narrow escape, she takes to the desert, running for her life.  Meanwhile, Ben has joined forces with Wendy's husband.  Ben realizes what he is seeking, and his witch doctor friend has given him the tools which could defeat it.  As Wendy is followed by buzzards and the dust devil through the sands, Ben and the husband are close behind.  
The desert landscapes are beautiful and haunting and serve this plot well.  The final scene eerily unfolds in a modern town that has been consumed by the drought inspired sands.  Will Ben be able to rescue Wendy from the dust devil and her husband?  Will Wendy turn the tables on our evil creep?  Beautifully shot and directed by Richard Stanley, this film is available on Netflix.  Heavy on the gore, "Dust Devil" will consume you as the sands have consumed much of Namibia. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Crawl or Die, Claustrophobic Terror

Oklahoma Ward's "Crawl or Die," was released on DVD last month.  Starring Nicole Alonso, this film will attract a cult following quickly.  Both Ward (the director) and Alonso appear several times each throughout the credits, and have obviously delivered a product in which they put their heart and soul into.  I would be shocked if these two talents do not become the biggest names at horror conventions within the next decade.  Though I loved this move, some will not.  I must say that Mr. Ward's responses to his critics (check out the comments on show a maturity and class that will propel him to great success in the film industry.
The plot: A virus makes women infertile.  One woman (known as "the package") is immune and an elite tactical team is tasked with delivering her to an installation on Earth 2.  Earth 2?  Yep, our planet is dying and a similar one is being readied, where women can give birth again.  Some may argue after seeing "Crawl or Die," this back story doesn't really matter.....they're wrong.  As soon as our team lands, they are under attack (....but from whom?).  They retreat into an underground chamber with the package (Torey Byrne), which must be delivered whatever the cost.  Our six man team quickly finds out that a hungry monster is dwelling in this chamber.  Our team ends up being led by Tank (Alonso).  Her name says it all....straight ahead with aggression and and force.  With very little lighting, Tank and her team have trouble confronting this creature.  
As team members get eaten one by one, and bullets prove ineffective, Tank leads the package deeper into this mysterious underground installation.  However menacing the monster is, even more ominous is the fact the further they go into these tunnels, the narrower they get.  With the roars of this thing close behind, their knees and elbows carry them through an ever narrowing maze.  With the future of mankind entrusted to her, and the increasing possibility that her team may fail for the first time, and the potential tortuous death that pursues them, Tank begins to show a human side (...not weakness, however).
The ending is horrifying and will cause the thoughtful viewer to give it some heavy thought.  One clue: a sequel is promised.  The last 20 minutes of this film show us Tank is deeper than a mere comic book character, and within the next 18 months, I'm sure Mr. Ward will show us more of her.  Ms. Alonso did a magnificent acting job, and her performance must have been very physically challenging.  I hope to see more horror and suspense from these two.  The DVD is very reasonably priced on Amazon.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cheerleader Massacre, Carnage and Chocolate Syrup

In the style of a 1980s slasher film, 2003's "Cheerleader Massacre" is our selection today.  Be warned, if this first paragraph is at all offensive to your sensibilities, do not read the remaining text.  Whatever one thinks of this film, two weeks after seeing it, the first scene one will recall is when three irrelevant babes share a bath and then breakout the chocolate syrup.  Yeah we have decapitations, electrocutions, a cheerleader is drained of blood and gutted, a typical back story, and plot twists, but the main attraction here is a very attractive cast...and the bathtub scene.  Every actress in this film is stunning, even the ones who play cops.
The plot: Four cheerleaders and their coach Ms. Hendricks (Tamie Sheffield, pictured below) are preparing for a road trip.  The previous day, a cheerleader, Kelly (Rikki Ray) and a jock were shish-kabobbed by a psycho while camping.  Her disappearance is of little concern to her cohorts, as they have last minute practicing and showers to attend to.  During some last minute locker room prep, two more cheerleaders are gutted.  With four left, Ms. Hendricks hurries them onto the van, driven by pervert Buzzy (Lenny Juliano, who also wrote this tale), and two cocaine addicted jocks.  Meanwhile, a serial killer has escaped prison and has started killing again.  A blizzard moves in and the van runs out of gas and our cheerleading party finds an abandoned cabin.  Several law enforcement personnel, most of them really hot, are on the case and realize the girls are stranded in the same woods the killer is loose in.  Deputy Adams (Gigi Erneta) is on the case, and Detective Demarco (Melissa Brasselle) helps out by sounding concerned on the telephone, but she is very good looking, so the plot doesn't suffer with her in it.
As our pep squad warm in the cabin, the deaths pile up.  Both jocks get it...of course (see photo below).  Ms. Hendricks and Parker (Charity Rahmer) emerge as the two main protagonists and begin to plot a strategy for escape.  Ms. Hendricks is unaware of the events of one year ago, when our cheerleaders participated in an awful episode which all swore secrecy to.  Before Buzzy is cut to pieces he tells the girls a classic ghost story, referenced in the first paragraph.  When a cheerleader asks "what does this have to do with ghosts?," Buzzy's response is "does it matter?"  Perhaps not.  As the beautiful Deputy Adams races to the cabin to save the surviving lovelies, our serial killer has already arrived....but is he the only killer?
Filled with gore, shower scenes, beautiful female cops with guns, and cheerleaders, the appeal of this movie is obvious.  Sheffield as the coach and Rahmer as a cheerleader are captivating.  However exploitative this film (directed by Jim Wynorski) is, our female characters all find their fight and emerge as strong characters (cops and cheerleaders). Available on Netflix, and if you are not offended by chocolate syrup bath scenes, see "Cheerleader Massacre."