April 19, 2008

Things I've Learned Because of My (Twisted) Love of Nunsploitation Movies

I explained about exploitation movies here on Rocket Jones, including that unholiest of sub-genre's: nunsploitation. As it turns out, my limited personal collection includes four that are considered true classics of the type (and there are a surprising number of 'em out there). At the link above, I reviewed School of the Holy Beast, which is Japanese nunsploitation. Which leads to the first thing I've learned.

Japan has a small but strong Catholic population, mostly centered around the city of Nagasaki. As a seaport, missionaries first arrived in Japan there and many stayed to do their evangelical work with great success. Also, as a seaport with strategic military value, Nagasaki was selected as a target for an atomic bomb in World War II. The bomb devastated one of the few areas of Japan with real ties to the western world.

Nunsploitation movies sometimes aspired to more than casual nudity and sex while bashing the Catholic Church. The best of the group tell interesting stories that are set in a religious context. Tragic lives, murders most mysterious and the exploration of religious fervor as compared to mental instability make for a movie that's more than sacrilege for sacrilege's sake. The truth can be even more sad and terrible than lurid fiction.

In 1963, Jeanine Deckers recorded an album in which one song, Dominique rose to number one on the US charts. She was better known as The Singing Nun, and was played by Debbie Reynolds in a movie of the same name. I still remember how the movie ended, with a long elevated pull-away shot of her riding away in a jeep, to live happily ever after. One assumed.

Reality was much less kind. Jeanine Decker left the order a few years after recording her first album. Despite donating almost all of the profits from her music to the Dominicans, the Belgian government decided that she owed back taxes. Unable to overcome the resultant financial difficulties, she committed suicide with her long-time lesbian partner and they were buried together.

Like I said, I have managed to collect a few exceptionally powerful examples of nunsploitation films. I'll review them in the coming months, and hopefully I can convince you that the genre is more than just "Nuns Gone Wild".

Posted by Ted at 11:07 AM | Comments (931) | TrackBack

April 17, 2008

Quickie Movie Review

I've said many times that when it comes to horror movies, I'd rather be scared than grossed out. Even so, I am giving high marks to Evil Aliens. This is an out and out gore-fest with some amazingly over the top blood and guts. In spite of it all, it still manages to be funny as hell.

The humans aren't pushovers and use most everything at hand as weapons. The aliens are all too... human, I guess, especially when they do something clumsy or stupid. It's an even match.

If you can deal with the gruesome amounts of blood, then I heartily recommend this one. It's going on my "to buy" list.

Posted by Ted at 08:48 PM | Comments (507) | TrackBack

April 10, 2008

Movie Reviews: A Pair with Joel Moore

Joel David Moore does not look like your conventional movie star. Tall, lanky, and kinda geeky, I inadvertently wound up with a double-feature of his movies thanks to Netflix. I'll start with the weaker of the two.

Hatchet - This movie bills itself as "Old School American Horror". More correctly, this is a flick that presents nothing new or original. I'm not saying that it's a bad movie, because it's well made, well acted, and there's plenty of blood, gore and gruesomely realistic special effects. If you're a fan of slashers, you'll certainly enjoy this one. You'll also be happy to hear that they've left it wide open to make Victor Crowley the next Michael Myers (Halloween), Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th) and Freddie Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street).

Spiral - This is a nifty little thriller. Here, Joel Moore plays Mason, a young man and aspiring artist who can barely function in society. He manages, thanks to near-OCD routine and frequent help from his only friend, who also happens to be his boss. He meets a girl and she begins to draw him out of his shell until it becomes clear that his personal quirks run far deeper and darker than anyone suspected. Chock full o' suspense and dread, this is well worth a rental.

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April 07, 2008

Quote of the Day, Dahhhlink!

From Queen of Outer Space (1958):

Cruze: Professor, what do you make of all this? There's nothing but women!

Professor: Perhaps this is a civilization that exists without sex.

Turner: You call that civilization?

Professor: Frankly, no.

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April 06, 2008

Charleton Heston, RIP

The man is held in high esteem 'round here. Thanks for everything you shared with us.

Posted by Ted at 08:43 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 15, 2008

March 08, 2008

Rocket Jones, In the Theater, With a Pen

I've got some finished movie reviews that for various reasons were never published over at Wildside Cinema. I'm going to post them here, and rather than thinking of them as leftovers, consider this recycling. Even better, it's like rescuing these words from the literary equivalent of the Island of Lost Toys. Without the lifelong trauma of waking up and wondering why Santa hates you because he left you a stuffed centipede with its left legs ripped off, or a rocking horse that farts.

Lust for a Vampire

Theres something about a Hammer film. Something beyond the gratuitous nudity and the bright crimson blood and the lush symphonic musical score. They have a distinctive look and understated yet luscious style which contrasts nicely with the characters, which tend to be just the slightest bit over the top. Lust for a Vampire is a sequel to The Vampire Lovers, which was loosely based on the 1872 story Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. The title was obviously picked to titillate and obscures the fact that amongst the blood and fangs is a story about the power of love. It takes place in a generic European region where the villagers speak English, dress in a vaguely Bavarian manner and often mention Vienna as the closest prominent city.

Every forty years, the vampire inhabitants of Karsteins Castle reincarnate and feast their way through the local villager population. The year is 1830, which means that its about that time again. We meet Richard Lestrange, who has just arrived to the area. He happens to be one of the premier supernatural authors of his day, and hes there to be inspired and to write about local legends. He doesnt actually believe any of the superstitious nonsense that the townspeople are warning him about, and he barely tries to hide his amusement at their assertions. Not that they care what he thinks. Theyve warned him, and how he takes the warning is up to him.

Lestrange is of the privileged class. Hes also a horndog on perpetual prowl and there isnt a woman safe when hes around. Lucky for him theres a womans finishing school right nearby, brimming with lovely, impressionable young students. He quickly uses his name and reputation to gain access to the school, and with a cheeky bit of subterfuge manages to become the new English Literature professor.

Up in the castle, a ritual is underway. The boss evil dude who looks like Dante from Clerks, in about another ten years pours a chalice of virgins blood over a desiccated skeleton in a coffin. He intones a chant and beseeches Lucifer to Turn now this fresh, warm blood into a body of thine making, this innocent spirit into evil.

Wouldnt it figure? Pure evil comes to life as a blond woman.

Girls, both villager and from the school, begin disappearing. Lestrange believes that the vampire stories may be true (hes seen first-hand evidence), but oddly enough he doesnt actually do much of anything about it. Hes reluctant to voice his suspicions, and his first instinct when the subject arises is to scoff. Hes an educated man, and doesnt want to seem to be too like the local yokels.

The film has several intertwined storylines and it isnt until about halfway through that you finally learn how all of the mysterious characters fit in. Thats not to say that all the subplots make sense or are all that tightly woven together. There are several places in the movie where a logical or potential horrific progression is bypassed in favor of a romantic interlude or extra gratuitous boobage. Although I hate to complain about young, beautiful, busty naked ladies, sometimes the brief cut to schoolgirls kissing each other just doesnt make up for derailing the main story. This film could have been made without a single bare breast and I believe it might have improved things.

The vampires are mostly traditional, in that they are repelled by the cross and must be staked through the heart. They also have the ability to mesmerize a person with their eyes, which was always my favorite vampire power. On the other hand, daylight doesnt affect them. What keeps this group from becoming overly powerful is the fact that they dont add a bunch of newbie vampires to their group. As far as theyre concerned, there are two groups: existing vampires and food.

The vast majority of the movie takes place at the finishing school. The castle figures heavily at the beginning and then is almost entirely forgotten until the end, when were treated to a good ol torch bearing mob, led by a Cardinal in red robes.

The real standout actor of the cast is Ralph Bates, who plays an obsessive teacher at the school. His character is eccentric and memorable, and he does a fine job of playing the quirky role without falling into the trap of being weird just for the sake of weirdness. Bates was being groomed to replace Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in Hammer movie roles, but he came along during Hammers steep decline and never achieved the greatness that his predecessors did, although the potential is definitely there.

Like many Hammer movies, Lust for a Vampire is a beautiful movie. The countryside is stunning and the sets are atmospheric. Not really minimalist, instead the various sets contain enough to effectively place the scene. Whereas a bedroom might be fully furnished right down to the pictures on the walls, the tavern is suggested by a few tables and a bar that seems to float into the scene out of nowhere. In both cases, it is sufficient.

The widescreen print itself is clear and bright, which is nice, but what kills this movie is the amateurish editing. During one sequence, we are treated to a sudden close-up of fake-looking bloodshot eyes that are supposed to be the head vampire. Whats jarring is that the eyes rather obviously dont belong to him! Its these kinds of shots that are seemingly edited in at random, for whatever reason, and it just breaks the flow of the story. During one romantic scene, a sickening-sweet love ballad blossoms on the soundtrack. Where did that come from? Its glaringly out of place and does nothing but detract from the movie as a whole.

Something that amused me: the menu screen shows a Christian Cross to indicate the various choices, and when you select something the cross inverts. Nice touch, and it ties in with a minor point in the story.

As for extras on the disk, theres a theatrical trailer and several radio spots (with a nude montage of the beautiful Yutte Stensgaard in the background). Also included is a poster and stills gallery, which includes some haunting artwork. The publicity stills tended to play up the sexual aspects and lesbianism in the story. Brief bios of director Sangster, actor Ralph Bates (who was, incidentally, also Louis Pasteurs grandson), and Yutte Stendsgaard, whos career lasted only nine films in less than five years. Finally, theres a commentary track with director Sangster, actress Suzanna Leigh and a Hammer Films historian. It was ok; not the best, not the worst Ive heard.

Lust for a Vampire is the middle piece of Hammers Carmilla trilogy (The Vampire Lovers and Evil Twins round out the set), and according to many its the weakest of the three. Its not as bad as its reputation suggests. Its not as good as it could have been.

Posted by Ted at 09:21 AM | Comments (287) | TrackBack

March 03, 2008

A Useful Top 10 List

The Ten Best Post-Apocalyptic Survival Vehicles.

Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 06:02 AM | Comments (218) | TrackBack

February 25, 2008

Review: Indoctrinate U

Note: I got a free reviewers copy of this new documentary. Details at the end of the post.

Indoctrinate U website.

Many documentaries are biased, and that's ok as long as you recognize it and take it into consideration as you watch. Also, many "documentaries" these days are factually challenged. Michael Moore's work comes to mind. The man knows how to make a compelling feature, it's just that his personal agenda gets in the way so much that he has serious problems telling the whole truth. He picks and chooses facts to present things in a way that supports his viewpoint. A lot of people do that, but he is an extreme practitioner, although not the only prominent one. Al Gore, nuff said.

Indoctrinate U is biased as well, to the "conservative" side. It's a look at American college campuses and how liberal politics and groupthink are enforced by academia and students seeking to suppress opinions that don't match their own. And the great success they've had doing so.

Like any documentary that begins with a specific point of view, most of the footage that ends up in the final product is going to be supportive of that perspective. There were some silly moments shown where the director/interviewer and camera crew wandered several campuses, talking to faculty and staff while looking for the "Men's Study Center". These campuses each had a "Women's Study Center" and the law requires equal treatment.

There were also quite a few scenes where the staffs and faculty would stonewall or tell obvious lies to try to get them to leave. Quite often, the police would be called to escort the camera crew off campus.

But it was also clear from the number of on camera interviews (from both sides of the argument) that those colleges were the exception rather than the rule. I didn't keep count, but I'd guess that probably twenty universities were represented by the various professors in the interviews.

Topics covered affirmative action, speech codes, ROTC and military recruiting on campus, feminism, LBGT issues, diversity and more.

Like I said, I recognize the bias here, but still, I'd heard of most of the events specifically mentioned in the film. I've heard of the "affirmative action bake sales", where minorities are charged lower prices for cupcakes than whites as an illustration of the problems with racial preferences. I knew of the students threatened with expulsion because they violated someone's "right to not be offended" simply by hanging up a flier advertising an event featuring a conservative black speaker. There was so much more.

The point of this all was that college campuses, in general, no longer tolerate diversity of thought. You must think a certain way and believe certain things (or at least keep quiet if you don't). Going against the groupthink doesn't mean you disagree, it means that there is something wrong with you. Grades can suffer, harrassment and even threats may occur, often while the university looks the other way.

I have some personal experience with this, in that I've got two daughters who have directly dealt with this in college classes. I believe that it's real, but I'm biased, and I recognize that too.

Bottom line: Recommended for everyone. If you agree, it'll affirm your beliefs. If you don't, well, it's a good thing to hear someone with an opposing viewpoint once in a while.

*** The Indoctrinate U website offers you the chance to download a couple of different versions of the film. I chose the DVD version, which I would then burn to my own DVD. That was the plan anyway. (There's also a mp4 version for those who prefer it.)

A couple of tries later, I did a little research and found DownThemAll, a download manager plugin for Firefox. It's free and worked like a champ. When the download was interupted or hung up, I simply clicked the pause button for about a minute and then clicked resume, and the download would continue on its merry way. The download file is a little over 4GB, so do yourself a favor and get a download manager first thing.

Once you've got the file downloaded to your hard drive, you can burn the DVD. I used the package that came with my PC, called Nero. Once again, worked like a champ.

Through it all, I exchanged several emails with the support folks at the Indoctrinate U website, and they were quick to respond and genuinely helpful.

Good job guys!

Posted by Ted at 11:35 AM | Comments (445) | TrackBack

February 15, 2008

Uh... Okay.

So the other night I watched The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai, a recent Japanese "pink film". Here's the plot:

Sachiko is a promiscuous tutor (or maybe she's a hooker... unclear), who stumbles into the middle of a deal involving North Korean secret agents. She gets shot in the middle of the forehead, but instead of killing her it makes her hyper-intelligent, among other things. She winds up with the cloned finger of George Bush, which the Koreans want so they can use the fingerprint to launch nuclear weapons. Sometimes she can tell the future if she sticks the President's finger into the hole in her forehead. Oh, and she is still very, very promiscuous.

Recommended? Hell if I know. I'm still trying to decide if *I* liked it.

Posted by Ted at 08:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 10, 2008

Conversation This Morning

Liz and I were lying in bed, and I was telling her about Death Proof, the half of last year's movie Grindhouse directed by Tarantino and starring Kurt Russell.

Me: Kurt Russell's greatest role was Snake Pliskin.

Liz: What? No way!

Me: Name one better.

Liz: ...

Me: And you even knew who Snake Pliskin was.

Liz: What about...

Me: Don't even try Captain Ron.

I named six or seven off the top of my head, including Stuntman Mike, but none compared to Snake Pliskin.

Posted by Ted at 11:39 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 07, 2008

More of That "Culture" Stuff

Rachael and I raved so much about Synetic Theater's production of Poe's Fall of the House of Usher that one of her theater professors brought up a couple of vans full of students to see their latest show. They were kind enough to invite me to join them.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Wordless. All music, dance and movement to tell the story, from the prologue to the final tragic ending. Abso-freakin'-lootly amazing. If you live in the DC metro area, do yourself a favor and check these people out. I think Mookie and I already have a date for May to see Carmen.

To recap:

Synetic Theater. Romeo and Juliet. Highly recommended.

Me. Two vans full of young college girls.

You. Envious because I don't even have to make this kind of stuff up.

Posted by Ted at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 06, 2008

Must-See Movie

It didn't play in theaters, which is awful, because this movie should be seen by everyone. It's fictional, but plausible. There's no monsters or gore or jump-scares, but it's one of the scariest movies I've seen in a long, long time.

Right At Your Door is the story of a couple in Los Angeles and their experiences after terrorists set off a string of "dirty" bombs downtown. He's inside their home, sealed in according to government instructions. She's outside, contaminated.

Frightening, agonizing, frustrating, infuriating, terrifying and thought provoking; it's all of these things, delivered via a size-12 kick right to your gut.

If you have Netflix, bump it to the top of your queue. If you rent, look for it at Blockbuster or your local shop.

Posted by Ted at 05:17 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

February 02, 2008

50 Favorite Movies

We've been playing a game over on the Wildside Cinema forums where you list your favorite n movies. Like "top 10", etc.

You'd think that as the number got larger, it would get easier, but it doesn't. A lot of films that obviously aren't in your personal top 10 make it into your top 50, and it's a whole lot harder to narrow down that list. My first crack at my favorite top 50 had 90 movies on it, and there's no doubt that I've forgotten some.

Below are my "50 Favorite Movies".

Army of Darkness
Big Trouble in Little China
Black Pit of Doctor M
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Bubba Ho-Tep
Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death
Dog Soldiers
Dracula (1931)
Escape from New York
Father Goose
Frankenstein (1931)
Galaxy Quest
Ginger Snaps
Goin' South
Idle Hands
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
King Ralph
Major Payne
Monty Python's Life of Brian
My Favorite Year
Night of the Living Dead
Pan's Labyrinth
Rear Window
Saving Private Ryan
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Shaun of the Dead
Shogun Assassin
Slap Shot
ST: The Wrath of Khan
The Beast
The Blues Brothers
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Descent
The Glenn Miller Story
The Incredibles
The Mummy (1932)
The Mummy (1999)
The Shawshank Redemption
Throne of Blood
Trading Places
Whoops Apocolypse!

It would have been nice if I could have put in things like "John Wayne's cavalry movies" or "Cary Grant movies" or "Directed by Alfred Hitchcock". I've reviewed many of these here on Rocket Jones and some over at Wildside Cinema.

Agree? Disagree? Leave comments. I'm stuck in bed sick this weekend. Amuse me or I'll start whining.

Posted by Ted at 06:43 AM | Comments (509) | TrackBack

January 30, 2008

New Reviews are up at Wildside Cinema

Besides reviews for the recently released Cloverfield and There Will Be Blood, there are plenty more to check out, including my take on Jess Franco's Vampyros Lesbos (gotta love lesbian vampires!), Count Yorga, Vampire, and the aptly named Something Weird. I also revisit Bite Me!, featuring Misty Mundae as a stripper facing off against mutant spiders. Yowza!

Wildside Cinema.

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January 28, 2008

Movie Review: The Devil's Daughter

Disclosure: I was asked by the folks at Wild Eye if Id like some screeners to watch, and if I felt so inclined, theyd apprecieate it if I posted reviews of their offerings. My answer to them was Hell yeah!, and in a surprisingly short time I had two of their movies in my grubby hands.

These guys are starting to release old made-for-TV thrillers and horror flicks. This is the Rocket Jones review of the second one, in my own informal style (the first, Crawlspace, can be found here). As an added bonus, Wildside Cinema has asked me to post reviews there as well (in their own format). So the astute businessmen at Wild Eye are getting a two-fer, which should be a lesson to all, Rocket Jones is an efficient use of your resources and you should all send me free screeners to review. End disclosure and shameless self-promotion.

When you or I hear someone ask, "who's yer daddy?", we chuckle (or pant, depending on the situation I suppose). Yet when Diane hears it, the correct answer is "SATAN", although she doesn't know it yet.

The Devil's Daughter (1973), tells the story of a young woman who has one helluva pedigree. Rosemary's Baby introduced us to the idea of the Dark Lord's child being born, and this movie (airing a few years later, and three years before The Omen), runs with the concept.

After Diane was born, her mother had misgivings about the agreement, so she found a loophole that kept the coven out of their lives for 21 years. Mom also found religion. This makes me wonder if the Devil is such a lousy lover that he drives women into the arms of Jesus.

So after mom dies, Diane returns home for the funeral and meets Lilith, an old family friend (translation: member of the coven). Lilith is played by Shelley Winters, who is one of Hollywood's most underappreciated actresses. Before you know it, Diane has moved into a spare room in Lilith's huge home, and is being introduced to more of her mom's circle of friends (translation: rest of the coven). More and more, Lilith tries to take control of Diane's life while Diane pushes back, trying to maintain her independence.

Besides the aforementioned Shelley Winters, Jonathan Frid (Dark Shadows) gives a fine performance and Abe Vigoda (Barney Miller) also makes an appearance. The acting from everyone is excellent, especially the sisters next door, who manage to be kooky eccentric and blood-chillingly creepy all at the same time.

Once again, this is a made-for-tv movie, so don't expect lots of action. Smart dialog rules here, and it works well to move the story along. Instead of scares, you get tension and edgy suspense. I honestly didn't see the twist ending coming.

The beginning of the movie shows a fair amount of damage from the original source. It clears up soon enough and the rest of the film looks good.

This movie was a lot of fun. I'm a sucker for most anything Shelley Winters appears in and you'll enjoy spotting many familiar faces in the cast.

After watching Crawlspace (which I liked) and now The Devil's Daughter (which I liked more), I think Wild Eye Releasing is off to a great start. I'm looking forward to seeing more of their stuff in the future.


Posted by Ted at 05:44 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 21, 2008

Movie Review

Last night I watched Ran (translation: Chaos), which is another Japanese retelling of a Shakespeare story. This time, it's King Lear, and it's a dark and beautiful epic set (once again) in feudal Japan.

Storyline: A Great Lord decides to divide his kingdom into three, one for each son, with the oldest becoming the new Great Lord. When his youngest objects and calls his father naive, he is banished. Soon enough, intrigue and politics between the two older sons strip the old man of his standing and begin tearing the kingdom apart.

"Man is born crying, and when he's cried enough, he dies."

Like I said, dark and beautiful. There is no happy ending, and there are many disturbing scenes. The battles are frequent and huge, involving armies and castles. Even so, the very human story is never overwhelmed by the scope of the action. The entire film is heavily influenced by Noh theater, most noticable by the old man himself, who's face gradually changes from one mask-like visage to another during the course of the story.

The cinematography is gorgeous, as is the area of Japan that it was filmed in. It's not a quickie at 2 hours and 40 minutes, and there's not many chances to fast forward through the filler. All subtitles.

Like I said over at the Wildside Cinema forums, I think I'm Japanese'd out for a while. This one was wonderful but draining.

Posted by Ted at 07:49 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 17, 2008

New Reviews Up at Wildside Cinema

See my take on Throne of Blood. Also, I reworked my review of Onibaba into the new format, so if you didn't catch it the first time around, now's your chance.

Wildside Cinema has branched out from pure horror and exploitation movies, so drop by and check it out. The forums are fun too.

Posted by Ted at 07:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 16, 2008

Decisions Decisions

I've been on a Japanese classic movie kick lately. I watched Rashomon last week, which is a story about four eye-witnesses to a brutal rape and murder. None of the accounts agree with each other, and in most ways are mutually exclusive. It's a very powerful look at perception.

Next up was Throne of Blood, an amazing retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth set in fuedal Japan. This one is now on my "to buy" list.

Right now, I have Ran, another Japanese retelling of Shakespeare. This time, it's King Lear.

If you cannot deal with subtitles, then you're missing out on some amazing movies. I've probably said that before.

Or maybe I'll just forego the heavy stuff and just enjoy some mindless breastacular hixploitation fun. I've got a double feature to watch: The Pigkeeper's Daughter and Sassy Sue.

I'm sure that when the time comes, I'll do the right thing.

Posted by Ted at 04:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 03, 2008

Movie Review: Fido

Fido is a sweet, funny, heartwarming and nostalgic look at the world back in the 1950's, just after the zombies attacked.

Think of this as a cross between Night of the Living Dead and Leave It To Beaver to get a general feel for the movie. As for the look, it's reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands, although greatly toned down from the pastel hell that Ed was.

The Robinson's are the only family on their block that don't own their own zombie, and status-conscious Mrs. Robinson is bound and determined to do something about that. When she finally orders one, Timmy and the zombie (whom he names Fido) become fast friends.

Of course, even the most domesticated zombie can still be dangerous, and that's where the problems begin. Through it all, we're treated to a family becoming closer than ever thanks to love, acceptance and the undead.

Ok, that's enough dancing around the plot. Despite the fact that in a very real way this is a family movie, Fido also features some blood and mild gore. It is, after all, a movie about zombies. There are disturbing scenes and some parts of these people's lives that are genuinely scary, but it's perfectly balanced by some of the most delightful situations and funniest writing I've experienced in a long time. We actually had to stop the movie once because we were laughing our asses off.

Believe it or not, actor Billy Connolly manages to give Fido a full range of emotions and motivations, making you care for him despite the fact that he never falls out of his zombie persona.

If you've ever wanted to introduce someone to horror movies, this is about the most gentle way I can imagine. It's what the Donna Reed Show would've been like if they added all the classic horror elements, and that, my friends, is excellence. Good enough to go straight to the top of my "to buy" list.

Fido. See it. Seriously.

Posted by Ted at 08:27 PM | Comments (99) | TrackBack

December 29, 2007

Two for the "What the hell?" File

This weekend I've watched two of the oddest flicks I've ever seen. Both were very beautiful to watch, with powerful visuals and memorable scenes. I'll never watch either again, because for all their reputation and supposed greatness, I just wasn't that impressed.

Eraserhead - David Lynch's first movie. An hour and a half of strange nonsense that kind of tells a story. I've said before that as a youngster I would've been wowed by something like this, digging deep for hidden meaning and substance. Now that I'm older and jaded, I believe that Lynch just throws weird shit on screen for the sake of being weird.

Audition - I'm kind of a Takashi Miike fan (he did Happiness of the Katakuris), but this movie dragged horribly. At an hour and ten minutes Mookie and I were rewarded with something other than long, slow, meandering conversation. I wanted to love this, really I did! I would've settled for like, even. Nope, not even that. It was disturbing and terrifying at times, but mostly it was just yawn-inducing. And for God's sake, would someone give that lead actress something to eat?!? Every time she asked, "what are you thinking about?", my first thought was, "Dachau."

Two misses, but at least now I can say I saw them. And debate those who claim these are masterpieces. Sometimes it's possible to be *too* artsy.

Posted by Ted at 09:35 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 12, 2007

Doctor, It's Alive!

Wildside Cinema is up!

For those few who haven't heard, I am a staff reviewer there. It used to be called Joe Horror, but we've expanded. The old reviews are going to be migrated over, and the new ones are already available.

Looking for a great movie? Or maybe wondering about that obscure title on the shelf at the rental store? Wildside Cinema. Spread the word.

Posted by Ted at 09:32 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

December 07, 2007

It's, Like, the Universe is Conspiring Against Me

The lovely Joan opined in the comments elsewhere that perhaps I watch too many horror movies. I'm not sure that's even possible, but I want to assure everyone that I don't confine myself strictly to horror flicks.

Netflix has broken my heart not once, but *twice* this week when a sci-fi DVD arrived cracked and unplayable. Both times, it was Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity.

So there, I watch horror, sci-fi, *and* T&A.

Update: Heh, I just thought to myself, "I put the 'ick' in eclectic." Sometimes I just crack myself up.

Posted by Ted at 10:52 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

December 05, 2007

For The Record

I am not Sancho.

Posted by Ted at 05:09 PM | Comments (105) | TrackBack

December 02, 2007

Movie Review: Crawlspace

Disclosure: Recently I was asked by the folks at Wild Eye if Id like some screeners to watch, and if I felt so inclined, theyd apprecieate it if I posted reviews of their offerings. My answer to them was Hell yeah!, and in a surprisingly short time I had two of their movies in my grubby hands.

These guys are starting to release old made-for-TV thrillers and horror flicks. This is the Rocket Jones review of the first one, in my own informal style. As an added bonus, Wildside Cinema has asked me to post reviews there as well (in their own format). So the astute businessmen at Wild Eye are getting a two-fer, which should be a lesson to all, Rocket Jones is an efficient use of your resources and you should all send me free screeners to review. End disclosure and shameless self-promotion.

Im not a big television watcher, which is probably a good thing because if I watched more of it nowadays, then Id really mourn for the days when network movies like this aired on a regular basis.

Crawlspace (1972) is a psychological drama about a retired couple who discover that a creepy young man named Richard is living in the crawlspace at the back of their basement. Being childless, the womans maternal instincts kick in and she talks her husband into letting Richard stay at least through the cold New England winter. Theyve met the guy before (he did some work for them in the old cottage they bought when they retired), and although hes weird, he seems more socially retarded than scary. Before long theyre taking him meals and talking to him in the darkness, although he rarely answers back.

Slowly, the couple begin to draw Richard out of his shell. They appeal to his civilized side, which only works occasionally. Its pretty obvious that Richard has mental problems, but he appears to be harmless and starts doing chores around the house for the couple. At the same time, the local police are suspicious of Richard and warn the couple about the dangers of the situation. The couple are offended by the attitude towards Richard as an outsider, without realizing that the townsfolk view them in the same way.

That right there, the distrust of people different than themselves, is the key to this movie. In and of itself its not a terrible thing, but when it crosses the line from suspicion to exclusion, then it becomes a problem. Its kind of like if the town had had a local nutcase, theyd feel protective and make allowances for the odd behavior because theyd known him or her their whole lives. Yet if an eccentric hobo passes through town, then theyre ready to do the whole torch and pitchfork routine to rid their quiet community of the unknown menace. Its one of the darker aspects of human nature.

Richards lack of social skills cause problems, especially since the prickly locals are looking for any excuse to be assholes. Things escalate, as these things tend to do, except that normally you dont have a mentally unstable dude on your side. Thats not the advantage youd think it would be in a situation like this, at least this time it wasnt.

Im not going to tell you any more of the story, because it really is worth seeing. The movie wastes no time and jumps right into an uncomfortable situation, and from there the tension gradually builds right to the end. Now, because it was a TV movie, Richard doesnt seem all that scary and the parts that are supposed to be chilling are rather mild. Dont expect a Hollywood-style blood and gore.

What you can expect is some damned fine acting and writing. The dialog rings true and the various performances are well done, and its especially interesting to watch the couples attitudes do a complete one-eighty as the movie progresses. The score is nicely done too. I dont often mention the music in my reviews, so take that as a positive note.

Albert, the retiree, is played by Arthur Kennedy. Kennedy won a Tony award and was nominated four times for Oscars as Best Supporting Actor and once for Best Actor. His wife Alice is played by Teresa Wright, who was nominated for three Oscars in her first three movie roles! See what I mean about damned fine acting?

On to the details and the disk itself. The color of the transfer is slightly shifted to the red end of the spectrum, which made me think of well, old television. It wasnt so bad that it was a distraction. The fullscreen picture is clean and almost completely free of artifacts, although in places it is showing its age. Considering the original source is thirty-five years old, its a damn nice transfer.

Its only 74 minutes long, meaning the original hour and a half was padded out with 16 minutes of commercials. Nowadays, it would be a miniseries. Sad.

There are no extras on the DVD, but I cant think of anything Wild Eye could have included besides trailers from their other releases or some television commercials from that era or a plug to Rocket Jones (RocketJones.mu.nu). Any ideas?

I dont see it on Netflix (yet), and unless youre a television afficianado you will probably want to rent before buying. That said, I think theyre worth picking up. Yes, I said they. I have another review coming soon, for The Devils Daughter, and as much as I liked Crawlspace, I liked that one even more!

Im going to finish this up by mentioning one unintentional laugh-out-loud moment during the movie. Richard comes upstairs for dinner, wearing a suit. With his wild hair and scraggly beard, he looks like the Geico caveman!

Posted by Ted at 11:25 AM | Comments (333) | TrackBack

November 05, 2007

Best Movie Line I've Heard In A Long Time


Harold: Did Doogie Howser just steal my fucking car?

Kumar: Yeah.

Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle

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November 03, 2007

Movie Review Update

I've mentioned before that Joe Horror is changing its name to Wildside Cinema. The main site is still under construction, but we continue to post new movie reviews on the very lively forums (the old JH reviews are still here). Plus, we've expanded our coverage beyond horror and grindhouse. So c'mon over, and check out all the new reviews, including my latest on:

Lust for Dracula
Lust for a Vampire
The Beast

If you feel so inclined, sign up and jump into our hot and heavy debate over the "Top 50 Horror Movies of All Time". Lots of fun.

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October 28, 2007

A Good String of Movies

Over the last week plus, I've watched:

The Innocents - Classic British creepy ghost movie, the kind that scare the hell out of you without grossing you out or making you jump out of your seat. Highly recommended.

Ilsa, the Wicked Warden - Final episode of the "Ilsa" series, preceded by Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS and Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Sheiks. Lots of boobs and S&M going on, if you're into that sort of thing.

Masters of Horror: Imprint - This one was from season one and was directed by Takashi Miike, who also did Happiness of the Katakuris (that I gush about so often). This episode also has the honor of never being shown on US television because of concerns about the incest, abortionists, and graphic torture. This was a difficult hour to watch. Unforgettable and brilliant, but very uncomfortable viewing, like great horror should be.

Amadeus - Salieri hates Mozart. Beautiful movie. Love it.

300 - I liked this a lot. It helps to remember that this was based on a comic boo- er, graphic novel. If you're whining about historical accuracy or realism, then you're being a twit.

Malpertuis - I'm still making up my mind about this one. In Dutch with English subtitles. Stars Orson Wells and Susan Hampshire (who plays three parts!). This one is like a glimpse inside a madman's thought processes. Utterly insane and I think I loved it.

I'm too lazy to get links for all of these, but some are listed over on the sidebar.

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October 17, 2007

Movie Review: Night of the Living Dorks

This fun little flick comes to us from Germany and should be watched with the English language dubbing for the best effect. The dubbing is every bit as bad as a Hong Kong kung fu movie, which only adds to the fun.

Basically, three high school losers take part in a late-night ritual to raise the dead in a local cemetery, which doesn't work the way the goth gang had hoped. In fact, there appears to be no effect at all, and the losers wind up covered with the ashes of a cremated "zombie". On the way home, the three die in a traffic accident, and later wake up in the morgue. Back at school, they try to figure out how to control their craving for flesh and how to retard their ongoing decomposition (staple guns are used to hilarious effect). Things quickly get out of hand.

This reminded me a little bit of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (or most any other ensemble "teen" movie). There were a lot of minor storylines and the film bounces back and forth between them all. All the various loose ends get tied up nicely in a decent ending.

The movie does drag a little from time to time, but then again there were several scenes that were laugh-out-loud funny. Every single character is a stereotype but the good guys are genuinely likable. The supposed "hot" chick has a serious horse face, which made me wonder why everyone in the school lusted after her. The gore is low-budget but there are some squick-a-licious moments. Lots of juvenile humor, sight gags, a smattering of slapstick and some actual intelligent comedy thrown into the mix.

Set your sights low and you'll enjoy this one.

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October 12, 2007

Best Part of the Movie

This exchange was, sadly, the highlight of Satan's Cheerleaders:

High Priest: Women! They're nothing but trouble!

Monk: I know what you mean.

High Priest: How would you know?

Monk: I'm well read, and I dream a lot.

John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo and John Carradine are wasted in this nonsense. Their performances are so far above the airheads who play the main characters that it's just sad. The minimal amount of gratuitous boobage didn't help matters either.

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October 11, 2007

Serendipitious Crap Is Still Crap

It's Rocket Jones movie review time! Cheer or cringe, it's all the same to me.

There have been some classic "low budget" moments in film history. For instance, in "The Beast from Yucca Flats", the entire movie was filmed silent, and all dialog and sound effects were added during post-production. To avoid synchronization problems, the character speaking always has his face turned away from the camera or is off-screen. This results in the odd effect of having two people talking, and you only ever see the person listening as the conversation happens.

Another example is the movie (danged if I can recall what the title was) where all of the sound equipment fell into the lake on the first day of shooting. Their budget didn't allow them to get new equipment, so once again they shot it silent and dubbed in the dialog in post production.

This review is about "Rat Pfink A Boo Boo". That's not a typo, at least, it's not anymore. When the original movie titles were created, instead of "Rat Pfink *and* Boo Boo", they said "Rat Pfink *A* Boo Boo". There wasn't enough money to correct the mistake, so the movie title was changed to match. The cover art also spells it out as "Rat *Phink* A(nd) Boo Boo", which introduces a whole new misspelling to the mix and may have been intentional.

Anyway, if it wasn't for the "legend" behind the movie, this stinker would've been long forgotten. Taking full advantage of low-budget strategies like extended close ups and long, repetitive chase scenes, the movie stretches out to an hour and ten minutes or so, while actually having about twenty minutes of actual action.

If you're a big fan of crappy "rock and roll" singers and the even crappier songs they write and perform - see my review of "The Giant Gila Monster" for the all-time big bag o' barf award - then you're gonna *love* this one. At one point the narrator explains:

Lonnie Lords is a rock star. He carries his guitar with him everywhere he goes because he never knows when he'll be called upon to perform. Lonnie likes to sing.

Sing by the window Lonnie, I'll help you out.

The first half of the movie shows a gang of three guys who... I'm not sure what they do, but they do it as a gang. One always carries a hammer on a string, another a length of chain, and the black guy laughs a lot and they make him ride in the back of the truck. They pick women at random and psychologically abuse them before robbing them.

When they kidnap Lonnie's girlfriend, Lonnie and Titus the gardener become the title heroes and head out to rescue the fair maiden and save the day. This takes a while because mucho time is spent in close ups, car chase scenes and incredibly badly done fights. Did I already say that? Gee, just like this movie! Oh, and there's a gorilla loose too, for no reason that I could figure out. Also, there are many long close ups, car chase scenes and badly done fights.

If - and I mean that in a questioning-your-sanity kinda way - IF, you need to see this just to complete your viewing list of all-time worst movies ever, you have my sympathies. Otherwise, leave it alone. Or go watch "Giant Gila Monster".

Posted by Ted at 05:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 08, 2007

Movie Review: Pan's Labyrinth


I mean it. Just. Wow.

I started to write a review, and said the heck with it. Go read this review. If it sounds at all interesting to you, see it.

Definitely. See it.


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September 30, 2007

Coming Attractions

Mookie will be posting a review soon of our theater experience last night.

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September 29, 2007

Quickie Movie Review

Mookie and I watched the sequel Ginger Snaps: Unleashed last night (here's the Rocket Jones review of the original movie).

No spoilers for you, but I will say that it has one of the most infuriating endings I've ever seen, so original that it blindsides you like a truck despite the foreshadowing (clear in hindsight, as it should be).

This one is being added to my personal library. See Ginger Snaps first, and then definitely see this one.

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September 26, 2007

Mookie and I Go to the Theater

Saturday night, Mookie and I will be attending Synetic Theater's production of "The Fall of the House of Usher". The last time I saw one of their productions, it was "Dracula" (I talked about it here). I'll let you know how it goes.

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September 25, 2007

All Shapes and Sizes

This week at Joe Horror, I review two, count 'em, TWO vampire hunter flicks.

Go read the Rocket Jones take on Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, and yes indeedy, Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter.

Just all kinds of fangy, cheesy, holy, blood-dripping goodness at the other end of that link.

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September 17, 2007

New Movie Review

This week at Joe Horror is my review of Gwendoline, the movie version of the classic 1940's comic strip "Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline". Complete with mondo boobage, bondage galore and Tawny Kitaen in the title role! Woot!

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September 09, 2007

Boy, Do I Have You People Fooled

At least, I've fooled the ones who think I'm a nice guy. Evidence: my recent movie viewing, and I'm talking about the stuff I'm not writing reviews for over at Joe Horror.

Movies like Flower and Snake, where professional dancer Shizuko is handed over to the Yakuza by her industrialist husband when they threaten blackmail for some shady business dealings. She spends much of the movie in various stages of undress and in beautifully done Japanese-style Shibari bondage as the gangsters force her to star in sexual fetish shows. She had kinky fantasies before being betrayed by her inattentive husband, and over time she begins to enjoy the constant humiliation and frequent gangbangs. It sounds like an odd thing to say, but the film is very beautiful to look at, as the director and cinematographer were both at the top of their game during the making of the film. Japanese Pinku are not for everyone tastes, but I enjoyed it. There are sequels too.

At the other end of the quality spectrum is Black Candles, a creepy low-budget Italian flick from the 80's in which a woman and her fiance travel to England for her brother's funeral. Her sister-in-law and the locals are all part of a satanic cult and things get topless confusing in a hurry. The "highlight" of the movie is a ritual involving beastiality with a goat. That's a kind of horror porn I've never seen before, and realistic enough to make you wonder if it was really simulated. Ick. Besides that, there's lots of nudity and softcore sex between good looking humans, but overall this one is only recommended for fans of the genre and PETA activists (trust me, the goat looks happy).

Yeah, yeah, I'm going to hell. But I also keep cute little bunnies as pets. It all evens out.

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September 08, 2007

Forgot to Mention the New Movie Reviews

This week at Joe Horror, I contributed reviews for Happiness of the Katakuris (previously reviewed here on Rocket Jones and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Go check 'em out.

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September 06, 2007

Yet Another Reason Why My Life Is Better Than Yours

Because Mookie buys me stuff like this for my birthday.

Glow-in-the-Dark Flesh Eating Zombies Play Set

You know I giggled like a little kid and immediately ran into the dark bathroom to see 'em glow.

It's the perfect accompaniment to the Horrified B-Movie Victims Figure Set that she got me for Christmas.

Hey, I've got a zombie *dog*! Not to mention the bathrobian zombie on the far right. I know Dogette is jealous.

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September 02, 2007

You've Been Educated, and Didn't Even Know It

One of the hot trends in movies lately are "grindhouse" flicks. This summer past Rodriguez and Tarantino released a new movie with that title which set off the whole grindhouse craze. Suddenly, small companies are releasing old movies and hyping them as grindhouse classics.

But you know what? If you've been paying attention to Rocket Jones movie reviews then y'all have been learning about grindhouse movies all along. Nudist camp exploitation, nunsploitation, crappy B-movies, roughies, boob-o-liscious foreign films that include Mexican horror, Italian giallo and so much more cheesy goodness.

So the next time some friend gushes about discovering "grindhouse" and how it's just so retro, tell 'em that you've been watching them for years. And that's the secret, stick with Rocket Jones and stay ahead of the pack.

Posted by Ted at 08:44 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 28, 2007

New Movie Reviews Are Up

This week, amongst the usual great reviews over at Joe Horror, is my look at a classic, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, done a little differently, in the theatrical style.

Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma, chameleon...

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August 21, 2007

Movie Review

You know the drill. Over at Joe Horror, the new movie reviews are up.

This week, I give the surprising lowdown on Gojira, also known (in it's bastardized and heavily edited American version) as Godzilla.

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August 14, 2007

New Movie Review

Over at Joe Horror, my review this week is of Onibaba. Classic Japanese horror, and one of the most powerful movies I've ever seen. Read the review, see the movie.

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August 12, 2007

Movie Review: Cool World

Ralph Bakshi animation is either hit or miss.


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August 07, 2007

Movie Review

This week at Joe Horror, I review Black Magic. Hong Kong film fans might enjoy this 70's-era Shaw Brothers horror film that contains, astoundingly, *no* kung fu!

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August 06, 2007

Vincent Price on TCM

On August 10th, Turner Classic Movies will be showing Vincent Price movies all day long. I've already got the recorder set for classics like The Tingler, The Masque of Red Death, and The Abominable Dr. Phibes, amongst others. This is a grand opportunity to fill in some holes in my Vincent Price collection, and I'm taking full advantage.

It might be worthwhile to check out the rest of the month, as they're highlighting a star each day.

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August 02, 2007

Movie Review (Their Loss is Your Gain) - part II

Deep Red is the second half of the double feature with Silent Night, Bloody Night. It's also an Italian giallo by Dario Argento, who followed up with Susperia and Tenebre, two amazing flicks. Unlike many of his other movies though, this one has a reasonably coherent story to tell.

Oops! What's a giallo? From Wikipedia:

"Giallo" films are characterized by extended murder sequences featuring excessive bloodletting, stylish camerawork and unusual musical arrangements. The literary whodunit element is retained, but combined with modern slasher horror, while being filtered through Italy's longstanding tradition of opera and staged grand guignol drama. They also generally include liberal amounts of nudity and sex.

Gialli typically introduce strong psychological themes of madness, alienation, and paranoia.

This is a typical Dario Argento movie. Its filled with lush colors, surreal moments, brutal murders, sudden shocks, an exceptional music score by Goblin and a storyline that is vague enough to not get in the way of the imagery that Argento is striving to project. Calling it typical though doesnt make it ordinary, as if anything he did could be merely ordinary.

Marcus (David Hemmings Blow Up) is a professional musician. Helga (Macha Meril) is a psychic who can read minds. What they have in common is that they live in the same apartment building in the city.

One evening, Helga is appearing on a panel discussing paranormal phenomenon when she detects the thoughts of a killer. Someone in the audience is radiating enough murderous hatred that Helga is quite overcome by the emotion. Its powerful enough that she also learns who the murderer is, although she doesnt reveal that because theres no proof beyond her psychic detection.

Later that night, the murderer goes to Helgas apartment to permanently prevent her from revealing the truth. Marcus witnesses Helgas brutal (understatement alert!) murder from the street below their apartments, and when he rushes upstairs he is too late to save her life. The killer has escaped, yet Marcus is certain that he saw something that positively identifies the murderer, if he can only remember what it is. Even though the police are handling the case, Marcus becomes obsessed with they mystery and starts to investigate himself, aided by pretty newspaper reporter Giana (Daria Nicolodi - Tenebre) and Helgas fellow psychics.

The killer seems to anticipate his every move, and each time he makes progress towards solving the mystery another person who knows something important winds up dead in a savage and entertainingly gruesome way.

Its not all murder and mystery though. Several humorous scenes involving the Gianna and Marcus are used to ease the tension, and the contrast heightens the impact of the darker moments.

Youre kept guessing right up to the end. The butler didnt do it.

The city where this all takes place is never named, other than being in Italy. The direction offers frequent moments throughout the movie where a scene is framed as a static tableau, and it lingers there until movement intrudes upon the carefully crafted still-life. At other times, the cuts are frantic and almost subliminal as multiple viewpoints flash by onscreen. The storyline is more prominent than Argentos next film, Susperia.

I was taken by surprise when the movie switched from English dubbing to Italian with English subtitles and back, sometimes within the same scene. What Ive since learned is that quite a bit of the movie was edited out before the English dubbing was done. This version restores much of the original film, but its only available with subtitles because it was never dubbed in English. Apparently several versions of the source material were used because in a few scenes you can tell that the Italian is dubbed! As quirky as that was, I was able to quickly get used to it and before long I hardly noticed it.

For the most part, the acting is excellent, although the scenes where the police were involved didnt match the tone of the rest of the movie. Perhaps it was intentional, but the various cops come across as knuckle-dragging dolts. Not just ineffective police officers, but as uncouth paint-chip-eating boors. Maybe that was to give Marcus a reason to continue his personal investigation.

Damn good movie. Highly recommended.

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August 01, 2007

Movie Review (Their Loss Is Your Gain)

I submitted a couple of reviews to Joe Horror a while back which weren't accepted due to editorial considerations. I thought we'd worked it out, but they still haven't been posted there, so I'll post 'em here. I put effort into these things, dammit, so somebody is going to get to read them!

I picked up a stack of horror/thriller double features at the flea market a few weeks ago. They're one step up from no-name releases, but I recognized enough of the titles to take a chance on four of 'em (for about ten bucks and change).

First up is Silent Night, Bloody Night. After watching this movie and putting down my initial impressions, I did a little research on it. I discovered that it was made a full two years before the seminal Black Christmas even though both movies were released in 1974. Black Christmas is considered by some to be the original slasher flick, but this movie was actually the first to introduce the main elements of the genre.

Silent Night, Bloody Night is a low budget effort that mostly works, right up until the surprise ending. Yes, it was a surprise (to me anyway), but it really stretched my capacity for suspending disbelief. Stretched it right beyond the breaking point. The plot itself is somewhat confused, but I had no problem following the main arc of the story.

The movie opens with a nifty little point-of-view scene (shades of Halloween!) where someone uses a monkey wrench to bludgeon their way to freedom as they escape from a mental hospital.

Next, in a narrated flashback we witness old man Butler burning to death in his front yard. He set himself on fire in one of those freak fireplace accidents you hear about all too often. You havent? Me neither. In his will, the old man left his mansion to his grandson, with the proviso that the house be left empty. Over the years, the house gained a reputation for being haunted.

Thirty years later, the house is up for sale. Nobody has lived there in accordance with the wishes of old man Butler, but a caretaker has kept the property and house in good repair. A hotshot city lawyer is in town to handle the process, and he offers it to the town council for a fraction of what its worth. The town council jumps at the offer for reasons that become clear later on. The lawyer and his girlfriend are staying at the house overnight, even though the council members offer to put them up in a motel. Ominously, the towns switchboard operator offers to re-connect the telephone service to the house just in case.

Having that phone connected comes in handy, just not for the lawyer and his girlfriend. They get brutally hacked to death while having sex. Afterwards, the axe-wielding maniac uses the phone to place chilling calls to the members of the town council, inviting them out to the house.

The grandson himself makes an appearance and ends up accompanying the Mayors daughter (Mary Woronov) through the rest of the movie. When asked why hes selling, he simply answers that he needs the money.

The rest of the plot is your now-standard fare, as victims are isolated and killed one by one. Its only interesting here because the slasher genre that we now know so well hadnt evolved yet, at the time of this movie it was all brand new.

The acting was pretty good all around. Woronov as the Mayors daughter has the best role in the flick. John Carradine plays one of the members of the town council and he communicates by ringing a desk clerk bell when he agrees with something that someone else said.

Ok, back to the ending that I hated so much. Its memorable, because the whole background story about the house and the Butler family is told, accompanied by an extended flashback done in sepia-tone. The actors that appear in the flashback were all from Andy Warhols Factory. While the story told is chilling, the writers took it one step too far. Sharks are cool, sharks with friggin laser beams on their heads is silly. You know what I mean?

The first axe murder in the movie is nicely gory, but after that most of the killing happens in darkness, making it impossible to see details. Part of the problem is the original camera work, which is strictly low-budget, but the video transfer on my copy was very poor. The movie has been released several times by different distributors and the picture quality varies among them.

The opening music to the movie was a creepy version of Silent Night. Done in a minor key and using unexpected dissonant chords, the song was recognizable and yet the entire feel of the music went from reverential to sinister. Very nicely done.

Silent Night, Bloody Night
is kind of a missing link between 60s horror and how the genre evolved into the slasher craze, and for that reason alone I think its worth seeing.

Posted by Ted at 05:29 AM | Comments (468) | TrackBack

July 25, 2007

New Movie Reviews

This week at Joe Horror, my review of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and many more.

Posted by Ted at 04:52 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 20, 2007

World's Oldest Swinger?

I had no idea that Cheeta, the famous chimp who appeared in so many Tarzan movies in the 30's and 40's, is still alive!

He turned 75 last April.

Posted by Ted at 11:26 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

July 18, 2007

Motivational Posters for the Zombie-pocalypse

"Looking silly does not automatically make them harmless"

Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for the pointer.

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July 17, 2007

New Movie Reviews

This week at Joe Horror I review Addicted to Murder and Addicted to Murder II: Tainted Blood. Check 'em out, along with all the other cult flick reviews.

Posted by Ted at 06:33 AM | Comments (333) | TrackBack

July 10, 2007

New Movie Reviews Are Up

Over at Joe Horror, this week's reviews have been posted. Check out my take on Abby (aka "The Black Exorcist") and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. Go on, you know you want to!

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July 03, 2007

New Movie Reviews Posted at Joe Horror

Lots of good stuff this week, including my review of Jess Franco's Nightmares Come At Night.

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July 01, 2007

A Review to Come, Eventually

I mean, when you see quotes like this, how could I not?

One of the most profoundly artistic and important cinematic landmarks to ever grace celluloid

We're talking, of course, about Scream Queen Hot Tub Party!

Brinke Stevens (who I've talked about before here and here) is one of the five lovely ladies, and she is joined by Monique Gabrielle (Night Shift, Bachelor Party, Amazon Women on the Moon), Kelli Maroney (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Night of the Comet, Chopping Mall), Michelle Bauer (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, and various bondage and hardcore flicks) and Roxanne Kernohan (Critters II, Not of This Earth, Tango & Cash). The plot is simple: the scream queens are invited to a horror movie seminar in a spooky old castle. They strip down and get into the hot tub and talk about movie scenes they've appeared in, complete with flashbacks. Simple, but boob-a-licious!

This masterpiece is available at Amazon, so just look over on the sidebar and click the little "wish list" button and buy it for me. I'll mention you in the review too, how cool is that?

Huh? No button on the sidebar? Dang, I'll add it to my to-do list... eventually.

Posted by Ted at 10:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 30, 2007

Horror Movie Review: Night Watch

I started this latest series of reviews with four movies in mind. Here are links for the reviews of The Descent, Ginger Snaps, and Dog Soldiers. The fourth movie I had in mind is probably the least mainstream of the group, but I'm going to hold off on that one and offer up this bonus review of a flick I watched just this week.

Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor) (2006)

Tvarich, you must see this movie.

Set in modern day Moscow, we are witnessing the prophesied culmination of a millenium-old power struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

Notice that I did not say "good" vs. "evil". This is the first film in a trilogy that has a scope reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings.

Ages ago two armies met in battle. The slaughter was terrible, and it became apparent to the two leaders that they were perfectly and evenly matched. The leaders halted the battle to prevent further useless killing and forged an uneasy truce between them.

Still living among humans today are Others, people with extraordinary powers and abilities. They never know what they are until they are called upon by circumstances to be more than human. Once they discover themselves, they must freely choose to join one side or the other. Either dark, or light.

Some of those who control the daytime are designated as Night Watch, to maintain the truce and prevent the forces of darkness from running out of control. If a vampire wishes to take a victim, the Night Watch must approve else the forces of darkness could raise an army of vampires in a short time. There are many other such checks in play that keep the two sides in delicate balance.

At some point, a supremely powerful Other will appear and will change sides, thus disrupting the balance and allowing one side to sweep the field and be finally victorious. The prophecy says that the forces of darkness will ultimately prevail.

Sounds sexy, eh? Guess what? That's all background!

The story revolves around Anton, one of the Night Watch. We see how he discovers that he's an Other, and how small events over a period of years build up to the fulfillment of the prophecy.

I'm not going to give up any more of the plot, but I will talk about the film. It's left up in the air about whether the forces of light are any less evil than the forces of night. Put another way, the film leads you to believe that neither side is necessarily better, rather, they are just different from each other. If the dark forces seem sinister, it's only because of our human perceptions. Old legends more often attribute darkness with bad.

There are a multitude of language options on the disk, including hearing it in the original Russian with English subtitles. The English dubbed version is done really well, so you don't have to feel obligated to read subtitles. I still recommend that you do though, and to be prepared to enjoy a few little surprises.

The visuals are stunning, as are most of the special effects. Some of the scenes are uncomfortably gory. I find it odd that the effect of seeing thousands of warriors being brutally cut to pieces in battle is somehow less disturbing than a scene where two individuals are using scissors as weapons. Human nature, I suppose, and that ability for large-scale rationalization may lie at the bottom of some of mankind's less shining moments.

Even for a horror movie, some of the character's actions seem unreal. More than once I was reminded that these people aren't American or Westernized. What feels natural to a Russian in a given situation may strike you as odd, but the occasional cultural dischords don't detract from the story. If anything, they add to the underlying tension.

If you're confused, the ending nicely recaps all that had gone before, as seen through the filter of understanding how each step ultimately led to the finale. Brilliantly too.

So, to sum up: Night Watch is the first movie in an epic trilogy that takes place in a darker, more sinister universe. If that concept appeals to you, then I highly recommend this movie.

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June 26, 2007

Darn It, Why Don't You People !

We're way overdue for a Rocket Jones bondage post.

Lovely ladies from the silver screen, mostly in shackles or cuffs.

I suppose I could add a "bondage" category. What say ye?

Posted by Ted at 11:33 AM | Comments (1)

June 25, 2007

Views and Reviews

Over on the sidebar, I've updated my list of recently viewed flicks, and the new reviews are up at Joe Horror. This week, I give my take on Werewolf Woman.

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June 20, 2007

New Reviews!

Over at Joe Horror. My contributions this week include reviews of The Curious Dr. Humpp, Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time.

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June 18, 2007

Call Me Paranoid, But...

In Warning From Space, aliens came to Earth to "help" mankind. Here's what they looked like:
We responded (rightly, to my mind) by shooting at them.

Recently, I think they've decided to try again. They've developed a disguise to appear friendlier and more likable, but I'm not fooled:
When he jumped out of the box, I was so startled that I responded (rightly, to my mind) by shooting at him.

We've been wanting a bigger television anyway.

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Terrorism Goes To The Movies

I don't have a "Beautiful Sarcasm" category, so this will go under "Cult Flicks" and "Links".

The title is "Terrorism Goes to the Movies" (yep, I stole it for the title above), and it was written last September. Here's a snippet about the movies Alien and the sequel Aliens:

...I have to point out that I was repelled by the socio-political message this movie sends. A team of US Colonial Marines is dispatched to a colony to kill illegal alien beings there. No one mentioned obtaining approval from the United Nations for unilaterally attacking these illegal aliens. And the diplomatic factor was absolutely non-existent, no effort whatever was made to deal reasonably with these illegal aliens, to give them a chance to stand down and cease their hostilities. At no point did the US characters ever ask, "Why do they hate us?"

While it's true an illegal alien killed every member of Ripley's original Nostromo space ship crew without any warning whatever, a stunning surprise attack that terrorized the crew during a meal, there were no follow-up efforts to negotiate any sort of peace with the freedom-fighter -- they just unilaterally decided to kill it, as was the case with a group of these alien beings in the sequel. After the first attack on the Nostromo, everyone should have simply turned the page and moved on. After all, what's passed is past, it's old news. In the sequel, there was no patience or diplomacy whatever in dealings with the illegal aliens, the crew simply attacked and attempted to kill all of them they could.

What if the illegal aliens were driven by an ancient religion that required them to kill all the members of any other species they encountered? Who were these Marines, to question that cultural ideal? The message this sends about such creatures is that the only way to stop them is to kill them, or they will always be striving to kill you. The Marines should have done some yoga instead, and asked themselves again and again, "Why do they hate us?" They at least should have sent in some inspectors -- and if that failed, they should have given the inspections more time to work. Nothing in the world will deter terrorism more effectively than giving inspectors more time.

There is so much more there, funny and oh-so-true.

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June 15, 2007

Movie Review: Dog Soldiers

This is the third in a series of four reviews of horror movies, each more recent than the ones I usually watch and write about. You can find my reviews of The Descent and Ginger Snaps by following those links, or visit the Rocket Jones Cult Flicks category archives.

Dog Soldiers

This 2002 movie was written and directed by Neil Marshall, who followed it up with The Descent. Based on these two films, I'm really looking forward to his future work.

Dog Soldiers is another werewolf movie, but not *just* another werewolf movie. I mentioned in the Ginger Snaps review that according to legend, werewolves kill for pleasure. Now, keep that in mind but take the concept of wolves to the next logical step and you have... werewolves that hunt in packs. Chilling.

A squad of British soldiers is dropped off in a remote area of Scotland for a training exercise. As they make their way through the woods towards their objective, they come across the camp of a group of special forces troops. There's blood and carnage everywhere, but no bodies except for a single survivor, the special forces commander.

Soon enough, they're being pursued by a pack of wolf-like beasts and with the injured special forces officer in tow they make a run for it. As they cross a road, they flag down a woman driving by who gives them a lift to a local farm to get medical assistance and to call for help. At the farm, they find the family missing (or is that "they *don't* find the family because they're missing"? Eh, whatever), and are trapped inside the house when the werewolf pack tracks them down.

This isn't some wussy group of teenagers being hunted, these are trained soldiers armed to the teeth (thanks to the live ammo they collected at the special forces camp). They know how to work as a team, they know how to plan and execute tactics and support each other as they fight. The problem is, wolves may be the ultimate pack hunter, and teamwork is second-nature to them. It's an even fight.

The tension is relentless. There are moments of humor, but the humor isn't there to be funny, it is incidental to the characters and their circumstances. Soldiers bitch, and even in the most dire situations some wag will let slip some gallows humor. This film is full of small, quick smiles that might be laugh-out-loud funny if things weren't quite so desperate.

Warning: the accents get thick sometimes. A couple of times I had to rewind in order to replay a snippet that just didn't translate the first time I heard it.

There is a fair amount of gore and a few squirm-inducing moments, but mostly this is flat-out relentless terror.

Highly recommended.

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June 11, 2007

You Don't Know My Damn Words

But you can, if you head over to Joe Horror and read the latest movie reviews. My contributions this week are The Ryli Morgan Collection (for you indie movie lovers), and Hot Wax: Zombies on Wheels.

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June 08, 2007

Movie Review: Ginger Snaps

Vampires prey upon humans because they need our blood as sustenance. Mummies animate to fulfill dire prophesies on those who ignore the warning curse. Even Godzilla and his cousins leave mankind alone until someone or something causes them to open yet another can of whoopass on poor Tokyo.

Werewolves kill for pleasure. That right there is what makes werewolves so frightening.

Ginger Snaps (2000) is a werewolf movie with an original spin on the mythos. As I tend to do, I'm going to review this movie as entertainment and not dig too deeply into symbolism and philosophical meaning and such. If you're into that sort of thing, then the reviews are out there that will tell you about how the lycanthropic conversion is a metaphore for puberty and all that crap. I'm a simple man enjoying simple pleasures.

The initial scenes highlight that the story takes place in a sort of planned suburban community, and you get the feeling that they're a little isolated and in a sense even a little inbred. I grew up in a similar environment, where the folks living there tend to know everyone else. You all see the same people, you all do the same things and the kids all play together at the same games. The entire community focuses inward on itself.

Within the community, Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald are outsiders. Closer than most sisters (not *that* inbred, you perv), they're dark, morbid, and share a mocking attitude towards the "average" world around them. In other words, they're teenagers.

The people of the community are scared, in a low-key, background kind of way because something is killing pets in a horrific manner. Dogs and cats are being ripped to shreds and the news reports air constant reminders to be wary of the ferocious wild animal that is stalking the neighborhoods at night.

Late one night Ginger and Brigitte are out, hatching some half-thought-through revenge on a hated classmate. They come across yet another pet torn limb from limb and decide to get home. Just as they start back, Ginger is attacked by... something. Something big and fast and strong. Brigitte doesn't hesitate to chase the thing as it carries Ginger into a wooded area.

They manage to escape and the beast gives chase. Ginger has been badly mauled, but the girls make it to a road with the creature in close pursuit. Just after they cross the beast jumps out after them and gets splattered by a passing van.

By the time they get home, they know something is wrong because Ginger is already starting to heal. Over the next few days and weeks, it becomes apparent that Ginger is changing, and only reluctantly do the girls admit that she may be becoming a werewolf.

Through all of this, Brigitte tries to stay supportive of her sister, even as Ginger starts to become popular with the guys because she turns into an agressive slut. Both girls are confused at the changes happening in their lives, and their conflicting emotions with and towards each other drive the plot.

In the end, that's what this story is about. Two sisters, devoted to each other and how they adjust and react as they each deal with changes in their lives.

Don't get me wrong here, because this movie has buckets of blood being splashed around. There's enough gore here for the slasher fans, and it's a special treat to see the special effects being done the old fashioned way, with makeup and actors instead of computer generated stuff. The werewolf is pretty freakin' amazing to see too.

The acting is excellent all around, especially the sisters. We've all known teens like their characters, even if they weren't our friends, and the ladies nailed their performances.

This was another small-budget horror movie filmed in Canada. After I enjoyed Decoys and now Ginger Snaps, I think I'll be watching for other similiar releases in the future.

To paraphrase one of the characters in the movie, the first werewolf was splashed like roadkill by a car, so you can throw Hollywood crap like silver bullets out the window. Don't expect the "classic" werewolf mythos, but do expect to be pleasantly surprised by this excellent movie.

Posted by Ted at 10:21 PM | Comments (551) | TrackBack

I Write Like A Girl

Over at Joe Horror, I entered a contest to write a scene from a Nazisploitation movie (a sub-genre of "women in prison" movies, the best known being Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS). My entry was in short story format, and can be seen here. Warning: These movies are sick and chock full o' nudity, rape, torture, humiliation and so on. Needless to say, so is my story, although it is mostly implied. It begins:

Weakened and exhausted, Simone hangs from the ceiling, no longer caring that the heavy iron of the manicles [sic] cuts into the flesh around her wrists.

Anyway... I won!

I loved this comment after my story was posted:

I bet number four was written by a woman. It's well written, and seems to have a genuine feminine touch.

Hear that ladies? I'm in touch with my sensitive side!

Posted by Ted at 05:04 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

June 04, 2007

Movie Review - The Descent

The Descent (2005)

Ive said it before and Ill say it again: I am not a big fan of slasher flicks. Id rather be scared silly than grossed out with gore.

This movie wont scare you silly, it will scare you shitless. Much like Arachnophobia freaked out people afraid of spiders, this flick will emotionally wring out anyone who's the least bit claustrophobic. Unlike Arachnophobia though, there are no little jokes or touches of humor to lighten the moment. This movie is relentless.

The Descent is the story of a group of women who get together every year for an extreme vacation. After last years outing, Sarahs family was killed in an auto accident. This vacation is the first time that theyre all together since before the tragedy, and the tension within the group is high. Sarah and her best friend Juno are the alpha females of the group, but each of the women are strong and independent. Holly is a newcomer to the group, an avowed adrenaline junkie and although shes competent, shes also rash and self-centered.

The extreme adventure for this gathering is caving. Juno has selected a large well-known cavern to explore and the group has individually prepared themselves for it. There is some griping about going to that particular cavern because it is so well-known and thus probably relatively tame. The first sense that all is not as it seems is when Juno considers the map and guide book for the cavern, and then decides not to bring it, tossing it back into her car. Stupid decision? Maybe.

After entering the cave system, the ladies start exploring, and heres where the movie goes from tense to eerie to downright scary. As they move deeper into the caves, a few odd things are seen out of the corner of the eye, or odd sounds are heard. Being a cavern, sound does funny things, and the fact that all lighting is artificial and carried makes for confusing shadows and murky corners. These scenes alone convinced me that you have to be insane to be a caver. The film uses the alieness and unknown nature of cave systems to maximum effect, leaving you uncomfortable and edgy even as things are going along relatively smoothly.

As the ladies pass through one extremely tight passage, one of the girls starts to panic from the ultra-close quarters and her friend goes back inside the rock tunnel to calm her down and help her get through it. How tight? How about on your belly with your arms straight in front of you, pushing your pack along while you push yourself forward with your toes. Tight enough so that taking a deep breath isnt possible. In that situation, you could call me cork.

Things go downhill fast when the cavern behind the girls starts to collapse. Everyone makes it out of that tunnel, barely, but equipment is lost in the scramble and most importantly, their way back out is blocked.

Only one thing to do, and thats to find another exit route. Only problem is, Juno informs everyone that she didnt bring the map along. Even worse, she admits that the map wouldnt have helped, since they arent in the cave that they thought they were going to. She decided on her own that the other cavern was too tame, and led everyone to an unexplored system that shed found.

Recap: The ladies are in an unexplored cave with their only known entrance blocked by a collapse, and nobody knows that theyre there.

These are tough ladies though. After some interpersonal conflict (to be politically correct about it, and not worse than what any group of guys would go through in the same situation), they decide that the only thing to do is to move farther in and find a different way out. Assuming that there is one. Holly, the adrenaline junkie, is seriously grooving on the whole thing, which just pisses most of the others off even more.

They finally find signs that the cave has been explored in the past, but the found equipment is so old that its not a comfort.

You know what the movie needs right about now? Some way to *really* crank up the scare-factor! I know! How about some things living in the cave?!?!?! Hungry things. Smart things. Cannibal things.

According to the trivia at IMDB, the terrified reactions you see at this point are real too.

The appearance of the creatures was kept secret from the cast members until the first scene in which they encounter them was filmed. When the cast were finally filming the scene where the girls encounter the crawlers, the girls were genuinely scared and screamed the building down...

The rest of the movie is one long edge-of-your-seat mindfuck. The ladies fight back, and they dont get stupid. They dont let panic get the best of them, even when they get split up and things are looking bad. I wont give details, because this is a wild roller-coaster ride and the more surprises left, the better it is. But for sure, the tension keeps building, the scares keep coming, and the intensity never lets up.

Theres plenty of blood and some gore, but since much happens in half-illuminated shadow (not half-lit, but like a flare in a large dark room, where the lighting is intense in a small area surrounded by darkness), its the implied things that causes the uncomfortable feelings. The use of lighting in this movie is brilliant (no pun intended).

You know what you don't see in this movie? Boobs. Gratuitous or otherwise, there's no nudity at all. I'm glad, because it would have distracted from the story. I'm sad, because the ladies are very nice to look at.

The Descent was written and directed by Neil Marshall, who's previous movie was the most excellent Dog Soldiers. Look for a Rocket Jones review of that flick coming up soon. Marshall is on a roll, and I'm looking forward to anything he does in the future.

This is one of the scariest movies Ive seen in a long time. My usual "highly recommended" isn't enough for this flick. For horror movie fans, I'd call this a must-see.

Posted by Ted at 11:10 AM | Comments (600) | TrackBack

Rocket Jones Movie Reviews

I'm still doing movie reviews over at Joe Horror*, but that doesn't mean I won't be posting some here. As much as I love old crappy B-movies, I've seen some pretty kick-ass newer flicks recently and I will be writing about them.

*This week, my review of Vampyres is up. Yep, the lesbian vampires.

Posted by Ted at 05:09 AM | Comments (116) | TrackBack

May 30, 2007

My Latest Horror Movie Reviews

Over at Joe Horror, I review Misty Mundae's Bite Me! (mutant spiders, yay!) and the classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Lots of other good reviews posted too.

Posted by Ted at 10:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 14, 2007

New Writing Gig

I'm now a contributing reviewer over at Joe Horror. New reviews every Monday. Check out my debut on Idle Hands.

Posted by Ted at 05:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 25, 2007

Initial Review Is In

Movie: The Tripper.
Premise: Ronald Reagan stalks and murders hippies.
Review: courtesy of Joe Horror.

Posted by Ted at 05:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 10, 2007

I Vaaaaaaaant To Suck Your Bloooooooood

Dracula, the Opera.

Posted by Ted at 06:05 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 06, 2007

A Movie So Disturbing That I Must See It

Barn of the Blood Llama.


I mean, how can you *not* wanna see a movie that has a coffin for a llama?

I suspect that Robbo and Steve and the rest of the crew over at The Llama Butchers are nothing like the characters in this movie. But it's only a suspicion.

Posted by Ted at 05:48 AM | Comments (79) | TrackBack

April 05, 2007

Double Feature At The Theatre Surreal

Why not a Burl Ives Double Feature?

Kick it off with Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Finish up with Ensign Pulver.

Two characters with hearts of ice, played by a man with a heart of gold.

Posted by Ted at 11:45 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

March 17, 2007

I Don't Ever Want To Hear That Crap Again

Yesterday at an office luncheon, I was sitting at a table with some coworkers and they spent a good part of the time talking about American Idol and other reality TV. And people think *I* watch weird shit.

Posted by Ted at 09:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2007

Mi Casa Sanitorium Es Su Casa Sanitorium

Mexican horror movies, I grew up watching them and they hold a special place in my heart. I was intrigued when I heard that someone was rereleasing a series of classic Mexican horror movies, so I did some investigating. Intrigue turned to excitement when I learned that these movies were going to be remastered and restored to their original form, not just rereleased as the heavily edited and badly-dubbed prints made for US consumption. The news and reviews that I found were all in agreement, Casa Negra has done a spectacular job with these films. Of course, you know that I had to have them in my collection.

I watched the first of them last night. Let me tell you, it was like seeing your friend's mom (you know, the hot one) after she went out and got a complete makeover, and even though she looked good before, she looks amazing now and you'd risk a long-time friendship just for a shot at that.

That wasn't autobiographal.*

The Black Pit of Dr. M. (Misterios de Ultratumba)

Let me start this review by saying that the best way to watch the movie is in Spanish with English subtitles, which is great because that's the only way available on the DVD. Supposedly, there are no existing original copies of the film dubbed in English. If you absolutely cannot stand it that way, then you've only yourself to blame for missing out because this movie is worth the effort.

The English title really doesn't have much to do with the movie.

I'm all done with the downside. Read on.

This 1959 movie is simply astounding. The cast is virtually a who's who of famous faces from the Mexican movie industry (including several that we'll meet again in future reviews of the Casa Negra releases), and the acting is uniformly excellent. Unlike many contemporary Mexican horror movies, this one is played straight. There is almost no camp or melodrama, for this is a dark tale.

The main part of the story takes place in a hacienda where Dr. Masali operates a lunatic asylum. The sets here are rich and include a beautifully done courtyard full of tropical plants and misty shadows. Other than the hacienda the sets are almost minimalistic, seemingly dreamlike away from the reality of the hospital.

The overall atmosphere is haunting and gothic, and the details are extraordinary. Shadows and light play in the background in most scenes, and are an integral part of the staging. Two things combine to make it work so spectacularly, firstly the original genius of the cinematography, brought back to life in the beautiful remastering job that Casa Negra did on the film. The movie is in black and white (appropriately, in my opinion), yet looks crisp and brand new. There was a disclaimer at the beginning that due to some damage to the original source materials, portions of the soundtrack were "brassy". I never noticed.

Beatriz Aguirre, the actress who plays the medium, is the official dubbed voice of Angela Lansbury in Mexico. She has won the Mexican version of the Oscar.

Dr. Masali and his collegue Dr. Aldama make a pact that whichever one dies first will let the living one know the secrets of the afterlife. After Aldama dies, they're not even done shovelling dirt over his coffin before Dr. Masali has a medium contact his spirit. Dr. M is warned during the seance that there will be a horrible price to pay, but he brushes that aside in his obsession to know the truth. The deal is made, and Dr. Aldama's spirit will make it possible for Dr. Masali to die and then return to life with his newfound knowlege.

Thus begins a macabre series of seemingly unrelated events and coincidences that lead towards the fulfillment of the pact. More than once during the movie, you are literally told what will happen at some point in the future, yet you don't realize it until it happens and you get that chilling deja vu shiver running down your spine. You can see the ending coming from about two-thirds of the way through, yet there are still enough plot twists and surprises to make it different from what you almost but not quite guessed correctly.

The leading man, Gaston Santos, is famous throughout Spain, Portugal and Latin America, but only peripherally for his acting. He's legendary as a bullfighter of the Rejoneo style, where the bullfight is done completely from horseback.

This is a creepy scare-the-hell-out-of-you movie, not a gory bloodfest. I've intentionally not given most of the story, because you really do need to track this one down (or put it atop your Netflix queue) and see it for yourself.

The character of Dr. Masali is fascinating. Far from the mad-scientist type, his principle weakness (and ultimate undoing) is his self-confidence and utter faith in scientific reason. He truly cares for his patients, although we only meet the violently psychotic. There are few 'wasted' characters in the story. Everyone has an important part to play, even though that part might be small.

Ok, a little more about the DVD itself. Besides the aforementioned music video inspired by this movie, there are a couple of documentaries on the disk about Mexican horror and the industry in general, as well as a wonderful commentary track chock full of trivia and background to listen to as the movie plays.


* You came down here looking for dirt, didn't you? I only wanted to say that "autobiographal" doesn't look right, but the spell checker had no alternatives.

Posted by Ted at 05:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 14, 2007

Tease (updated)

Imagine this:

Back in 1993, five superb musicians set up in front of a big-screen television. Their host produced a box full of weird movies on VHS and asked them to jam as inspired by the images on-screen. Later, the recorded music was matched to scenes from the movie and their first music video was created.

The video is included with the extras on a classic horror DVD that I'll be reviewing in the near future. Very haunting music, very cool result.

Update: They have a website! I haven't had time to explore everything there, so I don't even know if the video is online or not. It looks like the original loose affiliation of musicians and artists have evolved into a multimedia consulting group.

Posted by Ted at 11:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 11, 2007

High Hopes, AKA Once A Nazi Bastard, Always A Nazi Bastard

What a great idea for a movie! During WWII, a Nazi convoy carrying a fortune in gold is ambushed at a desert oasis. Forty years later, the oasis is shunned by the Arabs because of stories that the undead still protect their cargo.

Nazi zombies! Woot!!! I had such high hopes for this one, but Oasis of the Zombies disappoints on so many levels.

I'll start with the biggest annoyance first, the soundtrack. Much of the movie background music consists solely of long, drawn-out minor organ chords, interspersed with stock generic "arab" music and seemingly randomly placed sound effects. It becomes obvious early on that you're listening to the same 5-second clip of a bird, over and over and over again. There are never layers of sound, when it's the organ, you hear only the organ. When it's bird calls that's all you hear. The dubbing in this movie is atrocious, not even to the quality of a Japanese monster movie. Everyone, from Arab street merchant to ex-Nazi commander, speak in the same accentless English.

"If Adolf Hitler came back as a zombie perhaps he would resemble Dr. Hook."
-- reviewer comment on IMDB.com

To give credit where due, the zombie makeup is pretty good, as are the bits of gore. Having said that, it spoils the effect when these supposedly WWII military veterans all return from the grave looking like a Beatles convention. For crying out loud, make the damn actors get a haircut before filming!

You know that continuity wasn't a priority when the sun rises, twice, in order to stop a zombie attack. Now if you know that the zombies only come out at night, then why in the world would you camp at the oasis? How about looking for the gold during the day, then getting the hell out of Dodge before sunset? Especially when you have to drive to get there in the first place.

Cinematography. Ha! Zooming in on the same spider-in-a-web three times in a movie is not artsy. Seeing the half-buried skull once would've sufficed, and the same goes for the box with the swaztika on it (by the way, after forty years I think the freakin' paint would've faded some, instead of looking like you painted it just that morning).

Do I sound pissed off? I am, because I'm so disappointed in this one after reading the synopsis and then seeing the movie itself.

Here's the plotline, assuming you care. I'm going to give it to you straight on, because like most everything else in this flick, they goofed it.

Modern day, and the commander of the Nazi gold guards has tracked down the only survivor of the battle. He wasn't there with his men, so he never knew where the ambush happened, only that his men didn't arrive at their destination.

Flashback: The only survivor was the commander of the British troops who ambushed the Nazis. All total, there were maybe 50 men in the battle, and apparently the battle scenes were lifted from an Italian war movie. They're very nicely done, but once again the effect is ruined when you see the same guys die the same way several times. Everyone 'cept the Captain is killed, and he's wounded, and he staggers off into the desert, where he's found by a Sheik.

The Sheik nurses him back to health, and the Captain and the Sheik's daughter fall in love. The Captain leaves to rejoin his army before a big battle, and doesn't return for almost a year. When he does, he discovers that the daughter died giving birth to his son.

Flashback over. The Nazi commander proposes to the British commander that they team up to recover the lost gold. Once the Brit tells the Nazi where the ambush happened, the Nazi poisons the Brit and heads off to find the money for himself. He takes along his wife and two strong backs to help.

The first night, the Nazi and wife go to bed, and the two strong backs decide to look around the oasis. One decides to dig a hole at random, and the zombies come up and kill him and his partner. Nazi's wife gets eaten and he manages to escape after being chewed up pretty good.

The British commander's illegitimate son (from the dead daughter) convinces three friends to skip their university finals and go to the desert to look for the lost money. He thinks he's figured out where the Sheik lives, and he can tell them where the oasis is.

I have no idea why nobody makes the connection that the Sheik is the grandfather of the kid. Through the whole movie this point is never once mentioned.

Moving right along. Find Sheik, find out location, find "Professor" who's also looking. Professor has female assistant who falls for one of the friends, providing reason for gratuitous nudity. They find "sick man", aka Nazi, who's dying from zombie bites. For some reason, the professor and assistant leave for the oasis immediately, but the kids wait for another day (honest, they never said why).

When kids find oasis, they discover professor and assistant wounded from zombie attack. They patch 'em up and start digging at random, looking for gold. That night, zombies attack. Kids panic, throw "exploding" torches (wtf?), and at dawn the son and maybe his girlfriend (unclear) are only survivors. Sheik shows up on camel, says, "did you find what you were looking for?". Kid says, "I mostly found myself", again, wtf? Sheik rides camel into sunset, kid driving beside him in land rover.

The End.

I'm disgusted with the utter dreck I've been watching lately. I love those movies that are so bad they're good, but I'm on a cold streak. This movie is a turkey through and through. But I have the answer. Four movies I've been saving, and I think it's time to queue them up. Reviews to come, and I'm almost certain there won't be a Nazi zombie to be found.

Thank God.

Posted by Ted at 12:07 AM | Comments (215) | TrackBack

March 10, 2007


"I'd stumbled into the middle of an evil, isidious cult of chainsaw-worshipping maniacs. I had to wonder if we'd let our religious freedom go too far in this country, or maybe our immigration laws were just too lax."

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)

Posted by Ted at 12:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 06, 2007

More Hippy Horror

Some time ago, I listed a whole bunch of movies that I wanted to track down and see, based simply on their descriptions. One of them was Track of the Moon Beast, and here's the synopsis that was given in the catalog:

During a meteor storm, a fragment strikes Paul Carlson, burying itself deep in his skull. An unpleasant side-effect develops causing Paul to mutate into a giant reptilian monster at night and go on murderous rampages.

I've recently added Track of the Moon Beast to my collection. Just for a change, I'm going to live-review this flick as I watch it.

Opening scene: an astronomer gazes into the night sky and focuses in on a flaming fireball. Really bad special effect.

Quick cut to an indian dance and chant ceremony, then back to the cheesy fireball. We find out via a news report that it's a meteorite that's going to hit the moon.

Joe Stud (Paul Carlson) shows up, takes off his shirt and begins carefully excavating a small bone in the ground. Apparently he's an archeologist. Funny thing though, after delicately brushing away the dirt from around the bone, he carelessly drives the shovel into the ground not two feet away to get it out of his way.

Professor buddy shows up, named Johnny Longbow. Another indian reference. Two graduate students accompany him, and we learn that the thing they just threw on the ground was an ancient Indian burial mask that they'd borrowed from a museum.

Bimbo photographer also introduces herself. Short shorts. Big blond hair.

He's not an archeologist, nor an anthropologist, he's a minerologist. What's he messing with bones for?

News report: impact on moon was "beyond the end of the Richter scale". NASA keeps reassuring everyone that all the ejecta headed towards the Earth will burn up in the atmosphere. The grad students are raving over the "authentic indian meal" that the professor made. When they ask what's in it, he rattles off chicken, corn, green pepper, chilies, onions... Wow, that's some serious ethnic cooking.

Joe Stud takes the photographer up to the top of a mountain. They're falling for each other. She's changed clothes, kind of, still short shorts.

Pretty good meteor storm, right up until one zings into the ground right near them. The photographer dabs a cloth at Studs temple, where he's bleeding a little from the meteorite grazing him. He snags the cloth from her good naturedly and flings it to the ground. Way to go, eco-boy. He finds the meteorite that almost nailed them and waits for it to cool off (maybe 10 seconds) before putting it into his pocket.

The photographer was hired for looks, not for acting talent. Either that, or the casting director was related to the producer.

They wind up at his place, where they have some deep soul-searching conversation before he scares the shit out of her by introducing her to his pet Komodo Dragon.

Hippy music!!! Yay! A Tom Petty wannabe on accoustic guitar accompanied by a bass and a chick singing harmony. Hint to bass player, don't wear black if the spotlight isn't on you. Looking at this 70's crowd, I'm thinking it might be a zombie movie, but no, they're all just "grooving" on the music.

Costume change! Photographer wearing a dress-kinda thing, still short short, but proves that she's not completely flat-chested. She looks nice, if only she'd stop trying to act. More indian lore and references, they're really pushing that aspect. We get it already.

Twenty seven minutes into this flick before the first murder happens. Still no monster shot, no gore, just a puddle of blood and some screams.

Next morning, police chief calls in Professor Johnny, shows him a bloody handprint on the wall (super-sized) and then a footprint in the mud. It's a dinosaur footprint.

Pink short shorts and matching terry top.

Chief and Professor see an expert over at the university, and when the Chief expresses disbelief that anything that large can be living in New Mexico, both of the academics assure him that lizards that large do exist. It takes a minute to realize that they're both talking about Komodo Dragons in Indonesia! The footprint though, is from something "closely related to Tyrannosaurus Rex!" (cue scary music)

The professor makes all of his own archery equipment (Johnny Longbow, get it?), right down to chipping flint arrowheads. He keeps it in the back of his car, along with two ears of maize for impromptu demonstrations.

Forty minutes in, we get our first look at the monster as he kills four guys in a tent. The monster looks like a man in a lizard-suit, minus the tail. It's pretty pathetic, as is the gore and special-effects. Particularly pitiful is the arm being ripped off.

Photographer dress-up day! Maroon business outfit over pale-pink blouse. Still short shorts though.

Stud's Komodo Dragon escaped at some point, and he doesn't seem the least bit concerned. He sure get a lot of shirtless time in this movie. Oh, and he's got a chunk of meteorite embedded in his brain.

Professor Longbow is showing the police chief a series of 400 year old paintings that depict an ancient lizard demon attack. I'm no indian painting expert, but those were drawn by a third grader told to paint like an indian.

Fifty-one minutes. Scientific mumbo-jumbo alert! At least the professor says he doesn't really know, just before launching into a detailed nonsense explanation.

Joe Stud is tied down in the hospital so they can see if he turns into a lizard monster overnight. Theory confirmed. There's a fairly well done sequence of him turning into the monster, up to the last scene, which really doesn't follow from any of the prior physical changes. He's shook up when he realizes that he's killed six people.

VIP's. Gotta hate 'em. "May we get off the plane first, please? (we're very important)". "Of course, that's already been arranged."

Experts have been brought in, but Joe Stud is screwed. His solution is to run away from the hospital to commit suicide. Photographer (monotone): "Oh Paul, why couldn't there be time for us?" Dressed in a tight white top and tighter black slacks.

How convenient, someone leaves a motorcycle running (and helmet) in front of the hospital just as Joe Stud comes out to make his escape.

One hour, eight minutes. Piss-poor motorcycle spill. Obviously every expense was spared when it comes to stunt performers.

The photographer randomly pulls off the road and grabs a pair of binoculars. She spends 10 seconds scanning a mountain and zeroes in on Joe Stud among the rocks. At least she looks both ways before crossing the road.

Another nice scene of transformation into the monster, this time focusing on his hand. Two cops on the road hear the photographer screaming halfway up the mountain and start to fire into the darkness, as if they could see anything.

Professor Longbow pulls out his bow and a special arrow. He's made a special arrowhead out of meteorite. I'd be a lot more confident if he wasn't lashing it to the shaft while he explained what he wanted to do.

Photographer lies to everyone else (again) and drives off. She takes a random turn and slams on the brakes because the monster is right in front of her. Instantly, professor shows up, takes aim and puts the arrow into the monster's chest.

Pretty special effects, mostly ruined by everyone standing ten feet away while monster disintigrates in spectacular fashion. This thing was supposed to be atomically unstable, shouldn't you be getting the hell away from it?

No closing credits. Huh.

This wasn't the hippy-fest I was expecting. The hairstyles and clothing was seriously 70's, and except for that one goofy song, the soundtrack was conventional monster movie fare. Pretty bad, but not in a bad way. Don't go out of your way to see it, but if it comes on tv and every single thing you've ever wanted to do with your life has already been done, then I suppose...

Posted by Ted at 09:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hippy Horror

Being under the weather for a week means I've had plenty of time to watch those crappy horror movies that I love so much. This one is long on the "crappy" part of the description and short on the "horror" part.

Slashed Dreams is notable more for its background story and the cast than for any resemblance to entertainment. This movie is bad. Bad bad. This movie is so bad that the horror derives from the concentrated badness of it. In spite of that, several of the cast members went on to long and successful careers in television and on the silver screen, which boggles the mind after appearing in this movie.

Somebody PLEASE kill that singer!!!
-- reviewer comment on IMDB.com

Made in 1975, this flick features (to tragically misrepresent it) folk music in the peace-puppies-and-sunshine style, sung by some unknown songstress. Her name doesn't appear on the credits, which leads me to believe that a lawsuit was involved. Either she sued to remain anonymous, or the producer sued her for her (major) part in this fiasco.

The storyline: Two college students, a guy and a girl, head into the mountains to visit a friend who's "looking for himself" by being one with nature. They meet two local nitwits who rape the girl and beat up the guy. They get over it and walk away hand-in-hand into the sunset.

That story should realistically take about ten minutes to tell, yet they stretch it to almost an hour and a half with endless (at least they seemed endless) montages of the two hiking through meadows, picking berries, admiring waterfalls, climbing rocks, etc. All accompanied by that treacly soundtrack.

The monotony - and that word is perfectly descriptive - is broken only when the two go skinny dipping and we catch the briefest glimpse of the lady naked. Even though you only see he from three-quarters behind, it's obvious that Kathrine Baumann has a spectacular body. It's a shame that we didn't see more of her, especially since this was her only nude scene ever.

The rape happens and the two are shocked to find that the world isn't the loving, peaceful la-la land that they thought it was. The next day their friend arrives back at the cabin and we get the second treat of the movie ("treat" being a relative term here since at this point the DVD player catching fire could be classified as a treat). Their friend is none other than Robert Englund, of Freddie Krueger fame. He turns in the best performance of the movie, which is a shame because he's only seen for about the last ten minutes. Not that he does anything except be sensitive to her needs and offer sympathy. There's no thought of revenge or retribution here, just more flower-power passivity.

After a few minutes of getting over it all, the other guy sees the two rapists and goes after them. In one of the lamest fights ever recorded, he manages to knock one into the mud and actually throws a few punches before Freddie (you know who I mean) and the girl show up and the bad guys run away. "They won't be back" is actually spoken. Yeah, getting one muddy is really going to deter them in the future. Sheesh. The ending is literally as described, the two hikers walking off hand-in-hand into the sunset. To that music.

Background story, you know, the interesting part. This film was originally released as Sunburst and was quickly and rightfully forgotten. Then, after the phenomenom of Nightmare on Elm Street, everything that Englund ever did was dusted off. This bomb was re-titled as Slashed Dreams (gee, I wonder why?), by crudely overlaying the original title in the credits and re-inflicted on an unsuspecting public as "horror". Ok, so not so interesting, but once again, it's relative to the rest of the film, which makes it downright fascinating.

Posted by Ted at 04:14 PM | Comments (46) | TrackBack

Know Your Japanese Movie Monsters, Part 2 - Mothra

Outside of Japan, Mothra is probably the best-known monster after Godzilla. Maybe it's the influence of my culture, but I don't think I'd ever think of twisting reality to the point of creating giant turtles and moths as monsters.

Thank God for the Japanese, eh?

Quick, grab the psychodelic bug spray!

As monsters go, Mothra is pretty much another good guy. No one knows how Mothra originated, but it is known that it was the guardian for an ancient subterranean race on Earth called the Cosmos. Another race created a monster to fight Mothra and although Mothra defeated the other monster, the Cosmos race was mostly destroyed in the battle.

The first Mothra movie starts out when researchers discover that several shipwreck survivors suffer no radiation poisoning after landing on an island used for atomic testing. A team is sent to find out why, and they discover that the island is not only inhabited, but the natives are healthy despite the recent tests. They also find two miniature fairies who are protected by the villiagers. The researchers attempt to take the fairies with them back to Japan, but the natives arrive and thwart their plans.

A few weeks later, the head of the research team arrives back on the island, this time leading henchmen instead of scientists. His crew machine gun the natives, he captures the fairies, and they make their escape.

Back in Japan, the fairies become a nightclub singing sensation, but people don't realize that the enchanting songs that they sing are actually pleas for Mothra to awaken and rescue them. The Mothra egg hatches on the island and the giant larvae comes to (surprise, surprise) stomp Tokyo.

The entire tomato crop is in danger!!!

But this is Mothra! First, after some preliminary destruction, the larvae creates a cocoon on a giant downtown tower, and finally reemerges as the fully grown Mothra. While it's been metamorphosing though, the bad guys have taken the fairies across the ocean to New York (cleverly disguised as "New Kirk City"). Mothra flies across the Atlantic and for a change of pace stomps New York Kirk City for a while.

Finally, through some clever misdirection, Mothra is lured to a spot where she is reunited with the fairies, and they return to their island home.

Suggestion: Search US cities for Al Gore eggs, before they hatch into larvae.

Now, that sounds weird. Believe me though, Mothra movies just got more and more strange through the years, eventually resembling some kind of enviro-whacked acid trip. At least thirteen Mothra movies have been made, and the last few have been out and out children's fantasies focused on righting environmental dangers to Earth.

Something else unique about Mothra is that the monster is a God. Not possessing god-like powers or being a gift-from-God for the Cosmos or such - Mothra is literally a God. For all that, God dies a lot. Mothra spends much of it's time in egg or larvae form, and when the "adult", insect version gets killed, the new egg hatches and Mothra returns to save the day.

Among Mothra's powers are the aforementioned telepathic link to the Cosmos Fairies and the ability to fly at supersonic speeds. In various movies you'll find Mothra can project a poisonous yellow dust, shoot rays from her antennae or lightning from her wings. She can also block Godzilla's radioactive breath ray.

In the first Mothra movies, the fairies are played by The Peanuts, who were a popular singing duo in Japan and Germany at the time. After the success of the movie, they released an album in the US in English.

Mothra was by far the most popular monster among women in Japan, which convinced studios to feature her more often.

Mothra is usually, but not always, female.

One of the stars in the original Mothra was US actor Jerry Ito. We all know about the Japanese and problems with the letter "r". He was billed as "Jelly" Ito in the film credits and most all publicity materials.

I'd like to thank Monster Island News for Mothra information and pictures. That's a great link to follow for all kinds of interesting B-movie knowlege. Wikipedia also has a nice page about Mothra.

Ooooo looky! You can purchase a plush of Mothra here! Isn't the internet wonderful?

Posted by Ted at 08:43 AM | Comments (841) | TrackBack

March 03, 2007

Chiller Theater

I Bury the Living(1958)

This black and white movie, despite the lurid title, sets up a nice little psychological study and does more with less than many other bigger-budget pictures. A prominent local businessman (reluctantly) takes over management of the local cemetary. While he's getting a tour of the place from the long-time caretaker, he sees this enormous map of the graveyard, filled with color coded pins. Black for occupied graves and white pins for plots that are already sold, for when the time comes.

Here is where an odd note strikes me as a plot point that just doesn't ring true. Apparently, everyone in town goes to this cemetary for any reason at all. It's like reunion week as folks drop in and reminisce about how the old manager's office sure hasn't changed over the years.

Back to the story. The manager, Kraft, accidentally puts black pins into a couple's newly-purchased plots, and shortly afterwards the couple dies in an automobile accident. When he discovers the incorrect pins, he feels somehow responsible for their deaths. Fully understanding that it was purely coincidental, he nevertheless randomly selects a plot and replaces the white pin with a black pin, just to prove to himself that he's being foolish.

Guess who drops dead? From here on, the focus of the story is on the manager and his attempts to understand what is happening. He calls in the police and his good friend (played by Herbert Anderson, who you might remember as Henry Mitchell from Dennis the Menace), and tries to convince his business partners that he caused those deaths. Every step of the way, the others involved refuse to believe him, and they ask him to exchange more white pins for black, to prove to him that he's not the cause of these untimely deaths. His mental condition deteriorates quickly until he realizes that if he can place a black pin to kill someone, then he can place a white pin to bring someone back to life (a Poe-etic ending, if I do say so).

Done groaning?

The plot is full of misdirection and twists, so don't think that I've given away any spoilers.

Richard Boone (Paladin from Have Gun, Will Travel) plays Kraft and does a fine job. Theodore Bikel (200 Motels) and his outrageous Scottish accent co-star. He's enjoyed a long and active career, appearing on television to this very day. But the real scene stealer of the movie is the map. As the movie goes on and Kraft descends farther into despair, the map seems to grow in size and power relative to him. The map itself is not malevolent, it's just the channel being used to focus Kraft's power. Because of the low budget, instead of special effects we're treated to several creative camera tricks (ok, and a few not-so-creative ones too). The above average direction and cinematography really help this movie to shine.

I see that I Bury the Living has been shown on Turner Classic Movies. If you get a chance to see it, it's worth the time and trouble. Recommended.

Posted by Ted at 10:41 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 10, 2007

The Bat

While I was recuperating the ol' back (a while back), I had the opportunity to watch a few movies, back to back (ok, I'll stop). There were some very forgettable ones, but I found a gem in the stacks.

The Bat (1959) is a tight little thriller starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead. The plot is quite intricate, and the cast is very much up to the challenge.

Agnes Moorehead plays an author who writes murder whodunnits, and she's rented a mansion for the summer. The mansion is owned by the local banker, who's away on an extended hunting trip with his doctor (Vincent Price). Price gives a wonderfully understated performance, unlike some of his later scenery-chewing roles where his inner-ham shines brightly.

In the story, the banker has embezzled a million dollars from his bank and figures that his head cashier will be blamed. Before you know it, the banker winds up dead and the scramble begins as several people have figured out what must be one of the worst-kept secrets in movie history, namely, where the money is hidden.

Mix in a mysterious serial killer nicknamed "The Bat" who's terrorizing the town, an outbreak of actual rabid bats, murder on the side, greed, embezzlement, and a missing million dollars, and you have a whole lot of possibilities to consider. The movie manages to juggle all the details in such a way to keep you guessing and not confuse the basic story.

Agnes Moorehead's character is refined and well-to-do, but she's no pushover. In fact, all of the women in the movie are strong.

Doctor: Do you know how to use that gun?
Agnes Moorehead: My books are full of guns, and I only write about what I know.

You may remember Darla Hood of Little Rascals fame. She appears here, all grown up in what turned out to be her final movie role.

I'm not sure why, but the servants always seem to get all the best comic lines. In this case it's the maid, and she's a hoot.

Something else that I saw that amused me no end is that the men all wear suits, which is normal for movies in the 40's and 50's. The funny part is that even The Bat is wearing a suit while he prowls around looking to murder again.

This one is worth looking for, especially if you're a Vincent Price fan. Recommended.

Update: Victor points out that this is a remake of the original 1926 silent version! Cool. Now I'll have to look for it.

Posted by Ted at 08:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 30, 2007

Second Shift - A Re-Review

I first reviewed the podcast Second Shift here. For those not inclined to click that link, Second Shift is an audio play done in the old-radio serial episode format. They've now completed their first season and during my vacation I downloaded all of the episodes (they're free) and listened to the entire story again before finishing up with the two-part grand finale. Let me tell you, it's a crackerjack ending.

Highly recommended. I can't wait for their next season.

Posted by Ted at 06:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 05, 2007

"It's all about cameras, conspiracies and alien girls from hooter planet!"

I picked up Decoys from the $5.50 discount bin at WalMart, and it turned out to be a likable little horror movie from Canada. That word - "likable" - is the first thing that came to mind after watching it, and it's as good a word as any to describe it.

First things first: the title sucks. "Decoys" bears no resemblance to anything that happens in the movie. I have no idea what it's supposed to mean.

As for plot, it's cliched from beginning to end, with a "surprise" twist you can see coming from a mile away. Despite that, it's fun and sometimes funny and it doesn't hurt that the bad guys are three great looking blondes.

But you know things can't be as they seem (or there wouldn't be a movie). The story takes place in the winter at a small college in New Brunswick, Canada. A freshman is doing his laundry when he meets two sexy blonde coeds who claim to be cousins. They outrageously flirt and tease him, and thanks to the magic of plot twists the creep later finds himself alone in their dorm room. He takes time for a personal perv moment with some of their laundry, and then has to quickly hide in the closet when the girls return.

At this point, we're all treated to the only bare breasts of the movie, just before one of the girls sprouts her tentacles, letting us all know (including peep boy in the closet) that these girls are really aliens in disguise.

Of course, none of his friends believe him. His roomie has the serious hots for one of the blondes, and this causes a strain in their friendship, especially when roomie announces plans to lose his cherry to her.

Things go from bad to worse when guys start to show up dead. Our hero tries to convince people that he knows it's alien babes doing the murders, but circumstances make everyone think he's jealous and being a dick about it. Probably because for much of the movie, he *is* a dick (well, aside from the whole unbelievable "alien tentacles babe" bit).

In the end, hero wins over the aliens, saving Earth and all that crap. More or less. No spoilers for you.

As I mentioned before, the alien women are gorgeous, as is practically every other female in the movie. It almost makes me willing to move to Canada and brave the great white north again. It was nice to watch a movie like this and not see gratuitous boobage every other scene, because it was sexier watching the girls do their thing half dressed. The hero is well built, so there's plenty for the ladies to drool over too.

The acting was mostly ok, although oddly uneven. Some major characters were one dimensional cartoons, while others had real depth and complexity. The differences could be jarring, especially in scenes where the two types appeared together.

There are story holes big enough to drive a zamboni through. Important plot points are introduced and almost instantly forgotten. Logic goes right out the window at times, and while you're at it, close the damn window! It's Canada and winter and cold!

The special effects are nicely done and very understated. There isn't a whole lot of blood and gore, so slasher fans will be disappointed. The real scares come via short shock scenes, which some folks might think are cheap tricks. They'd be right, but you're still gonna jump.

I'll admit to something a little stupid here. One scene opened showing a frozen body on a morgue table. The camera was still, the room was empty and quiet, and all you could see was the body. I sat there for a few seconds, waiting for the scare. And waited. And waited. I began to marvel at how the director could ramp up the anxiety in a scene by doing absolutely nothing. I *knew* something was going to happen, and it finally did. I noticed the "pause" icon on the screen and restarted the movie.

Sometimes I scare myself.

The tone of the film keeps changing, as if they couldn't figure out whether the movie was supposed to be serious horror or a T&A teen flick. It's more of that uneveness that interrupts the flow of the story. Towards the end, there is a really nice scene between the roomie and one of the alien babes. By "nice" I mean thought provoking and even touching, it's some of that darned character development creeping in. Unfortunately, the very next scene cuts to Rambo-Boy and his flamethrower (figuratively, at that point), and all trace of that potential storyline is scorched.

Mostly though, I keep coming back to "likable". Despite the many flaws, I enjoyed the movie. And that's what it's really all about, eh?

Posted by Ted at 05:35 AM | Comments (290) | TrackBack

January 01, 2007

Know Your Japanese Movie Monsters, Part 1 - Gamera

Destroy All Planets will make you go Man! And Im not even stoned! which is always the hallmark of an enjoyable bad movie night.
- Sci Fi Movie Page

Everyone knows who Godzilla is, but outside of Japan and a small but devoted group of fans, not many people know who the various monsters are that populate the Japanese Monster Movie universe.

Destroy All Planets will make you go Man! And Im not even stoned! which is always the hallmark of an enjoyable bad movie night.
- Sci Fi Movie Page

I can't think of a better starting point than Gamera. Friend to man, protector of the planet, he's been called Guardian of the Universe (amongst other things, keep reading).

Illustration by Mark Jones, 1996

He's easy to identify (besides being giant, I mean). Gamera is an overachieving turtle with a spiky carapace and two enormous upward pointing tusks. To get around he can draw in his arms and legs and shoot jet flames from the openings, making him spin around like a top as he flies. Physically, he mostly relies on brute force to defeat other monsters, preferring to fly around and bludgeon them. He's crafty and will use wits and guile to win his battles. Being a monster though, he's not above biting and clawing or using his dagger-like elbow spikes to punch holes in the hide of his enemies (great big, deep holes that gush oddly-colored watery blood). Gamera can also shoot fire out of his mouth, but doesn't use that weapon very often.

Young children who are central to the story are almost universal in Japanese monster movies. Fans have collectively dubbed these characters "Kenny".

One disturbing thing about Gamera is his... er, fondness for young boys. Every movie must have one or two youngsters (preferably chubby) who become the human focus of the story. Kidnap the kids and you might control Gamera for a while, but for certain you will piss him off. This trait of Gamera led one reviewer to describe him as "the Michael Jackson of Japanese movie monsters".

Gamera has appeared in at least eleven movies, doing his share of stomping Tokyo, but mostly he's the good guy. These are typical Japanese monster movies, full of crappy dubbing, goofy stories full of illogical plot twists, and cheesy special effects. If you enjoy the genre, you'll love these.

File this under "Big Surprise": In one movie the UN unilaterally surrenders the entire planet to the aliens to save the lives of two hostage boy scouts.

The Shrine of Gamera is a pretty good place to find out about all things Gamera.

Posted by Ted at 10:58 AM | Comments (1078) | TrackBack

December 18, 2006

Movie Review - They Call Me Trinity

My introduction to the Trinity movies was in North Dakota, at an old-fashioned drive-in movie. My best friend and I bought a pony keg and set up for an all-nighter in the last row. I remember stretching out on the hood of his car, leaned back against the windshield, and watching these amazingly funny spaghetti westerns back to back to back to back. I have no idea how many movies played that night, but damn, it was good times. A while back I found a trio of Trinity movies together in a boxed set and snapped it up.

I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at our Ma. She shoulda strangled you, or at least drowned ya when you were born.

The Trinity series revolves around the adventures of two brothers. The younger is Trinity, and he has a knack for getting into trouble. His older brother is Bambino (*snicker*), who is a huge grouchy bear of a man. Neither are particularly honest, and when problems arise (as they always do) each is able to deal with it using their wits, fists, and speed with a gun. These movies aren't westerns with funny parts, these are comedies that are set in the old west.

In They Call Me Trinity, Trinity rides into a town, only to discover that his brother Bambino is the sheriff. We quickly learn that the two brothers don't much care for each other, and then find out that Bambino isn't the real sheriff. He'd ambushed the real sheriff, stole his badge and left him for dead. Now he's biding his time, waiting for his gang to show up after getting out of jail and planning a big job to steal horses.

Bambino is a pretty good sheriff too, despite his grumpiness. His standard greeting to the townspeople's cheery "Howdy, sheriff!" is "Shut up." He keeps the town reasonably calm and safe without unduly cramping the style of most of the less law-abiding residents.

Without giving away too much, I'll mention that the real sheriff plays a prominent role later on, as do a bunch of Mormon farmers, the crooked Mayor of the town, and some Mexican banditos. Oh, and Mormon daughters. Very lovely Mormon daughters.

Each brother has his own reasons for getting involved, and it's not from the goodness of their hearts. The ending becomes a giant slapstick fistfight involving practically everyone in the movie, a highlight being the beating bestowed upon the bandito leader Mezcal by Bambino. Who suspected that Mormons could fight like that?

They Call Me Trinity gets a hearty "shut up" from Rocket Jones, and the first sequel, Trinity Is Still My Name, is almost as good. There are more in the series of varying quality. I also highly recommend the similarly titled My Name Is Nobody, starring Terence Hill and Henry Fonda. Classic western comedy.

About the actors:
The two main characters, Trinity and Bambino, are played by a pair of Italian actors who took the English names Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. Individually successful, their careers really took off when they teamed up. These two co-starred in 19 movies in all, mostly action-adventure flicks.

Besides acting, Terence Hill has been a writer, director and producer for movies both in Europe and America. His mother was German, and during WWII his family lived in Dresden, where they survived the WWII bombings. Currently, he and his long-time wife live in New England.

Bud Spencer (Bambino) has worked as writer, director, producer, plus he has composed movie scores for television, films and children's features. He was educated as a lawyer, is a licensed jet and helicopter pilot, and represented Italy as a swimmer in the 1952, 1956 and 1960 Olympics.

Posted by Ted at 12:15 PM | Comments (110) | TrackBack

September 28, 2006

As if his films weren't scary enough

According to his daughter, the late director Alfred Hitchcock's favorite movie was "Smokey and the Bandit".

Posted by Ted at 05:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 09, 2006


In 1958, the movie Hercules was released in Italy, starring American body builder Steve Reeves. This started a phenomenom of similar movies over the next five or six years, when dozens of gladiator, biblical and mythological movies were made. The wave continued until the advent of the spaghetti western.

These films are collectively referred to as "sword-and-sandal" or even as spaghetti-sword-and sandal. From Wikipedia:

Another name for the genre is peplum, from a Latin word for a sort of tunic that was easy to make and favoured by the costume departments for these films.

Hercules was only one popular figure in these movies. Ulysses, Jason (of argonaut fame), Samson, Goliath, and the ubiquitous Maciste were also common heroes. A lot of these movies were eventually (poorly) dubbed into english and released on American television, becoming a staple of weekend afternoon movie features.

I've had the chance to watch several Hercules movies over the last couple of weeks, and I thought that rather than doing straight movie reviews, I'd look at them through a comparison of the various actors playing Hercules.

One thing I did notice was that the best part about being Hercules is that evil queens automatically get the hots for you.

Steve Reeves was the first and best Hercules. I did a biography on him here.

The Reeves movie I watched for this review was Hercules Unchained, and it was a lot of fun (as these all are). Two brothers are vying for the throne of Thebes, and Hercules is enlisted to set up a peaceful transfer of power. One brother is insane, the other is a perpetual whiner, and in the middle of these touchy negotiations Hercules is taken prisoner by the evil Queen Oomphale, who uses magical "waters of forgetfulness" to keep him under her control.

In the end, Hercules escapes with the help of his friend Ulysses, the brothers end up killing each other in a duel, and Hercules kills the other bad guy and rescues his bride (played by the stunning Sylva Koscina).

Let's see... pretty servant girls (eye candy for the guys): check.
Plenty of Steve Reeves beefcake for the ladies: check.
Hercules fights beast (tiger in this case): check.

The fights and battles are only fair, quality-wise, which is about as good as it gets in this genre. One nifty scene happens early on, when Hercules and party are stopped by Antaeus, the giant (played by former world boxing champion Primo Carnera). Antaeus is bested by Hercules twice, but both times comes back to conciousness laughing. They finally figure out that Antaeus is the son of an earth god and draws strength from laying on the ground. Hercules' solution is to pick him up and heave him off a cliff into a lake. Problem solved.

Worth watching, even if it's just to see Reeves do his thing.

Peter Lupus - best known to US audiences as Willy Armitage from the television series Mission Impossible, Lupus did several peplums under the pseudonym "Rock Stevens". I watched him as Hercules in Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon (1964). The man has an impressive physique!

Rock Stevens, aka Peter Lupus

In this movie, Babylon is ruled jointly by two brothers and a sister. Of course, the sister is beautiful, one brother is scholarly, and the other is a warrior. They all plot and intrigue against each other as they attempt to gain sole control over their empire. Their troops make frequent raids on surrounding kingdoms to collect slaves to do physical labor, and in one raid manage to unknowingly capture a queen.

Hercules keeps thwarting the slave raids in his country, although the stories about a single man defeating many warriors aren't believed. With his mighty silly club, he rights wrongs and all that happy crap. At some point, Hercules allies with the Assyrian king (who knows about the captured queen and wants to marry her for control of her kingdom) and the fun moves to the city of Babylon itself. The sovereigns each double-cross and backstab (figuratively) each other without a second thought, and when they get busted everyone does the ol' "no harm, no foul" act and moves on as before. Hercules is played as a pawn the entire time, but you know an honest and virtuous man always comes out on top.

If you've ever seen a Hercules movie before, you know that there's always some scene where he performs a physical feat that would normally take dozens of normal men. In this case, the royal sister has secretly rigged up the city of Babylon with a giant underground wheel. To the central shaft of this wheel are attached huge chains, and the other ends of these chains are attached to various walls of important structures in the city. When the time comes, one hundred slaves will turn the wheel, which in turn will cause the collapse of the city itself. She'll then rule alone from the city of Nineveh. Guess who does the wheel all by his lonesome? Yep, and he doesn't wait for the signal, which throws a monkey wrench into everyone's plans. I liked the wheel.

The fight scenes are often wretched, which is to be expected. What really grates though is Hercules' club. He wields this giagantic telephone pole of a club as if it's made of balsa (which it very well might be), and is just generally silly-looking doing it. I was trying to figure out how to describe the odd noise that the club makes when it hits something and a reviewer at IMDB nailed it. It sounds like a whiffle-bat!!! There was no attempt to disguise it either.

Peter... er, Rock is no Steve Reeves. There's no charisma, and instead of the hearty "what the hell" laugh from Reeves we get this goofy Gomer Pyle grin throughout. Reeves looks like Hercules. Lupus looks like Forrest Gump's stronger brother.

Funniest moment not involving a club: At the end of the movie, Hercules and the rescued queen and entourage are walking across the barren desert towards their home country. As they crest a rise, Hercules sweeps his arm across the vista and announces, "My Queen, you are home". The scene cuts back to the scenery, and it's just more endless miles of scrub brush and dirt. Hilarious!

Funniest moment not involving a club before the ending scene: According to the credits, the name is spelled "Christophisis", but everyone pronounces it "Chris Syphilis". I had to rewind the movie twice to make sure I was hearing that right the first time.

Overall though, this is an ok movie for the genre. Worth a watch.

Alan Steel (real name: Sergio Ciani) - Hercules Against the Moonmen.

Here we've got another evil queen. This time, she's allied herself with moonmen who arrived in a meteor and live under the mountain. Every three months, she supplies children as sacrifices to the moonmen in an attempt to reawaken a moon goddess. Or something like that.


Hercules gets involved when asked by an old family friend, and has to figure out how to stop the sacrifices, overthrow the queen, and defeat the moonmen. He's not working alone, but his allies tend to die or get seriously injured at the worst times.

There's plenty of intrigue, double-crosses, traps and nick-of-time rescues. In addition, *this* Hercules knows how to fight! He's ambushed on the road into the city, and we get to see the old Hercules standby: throwing something big and heavy at the bad guys to knock several down at once. This time, he uproots a good sized tree and uses that. No whiffle-bat here, as he takes the time to snap off a big tree limb to use as a club after tossing the rest of the tree.

This Hercules is probably my favorite after Steve Reeves. Everything about him is "not quite". He's not quite as handsome, not quite as charismatic, and his physique is not quite as perfect. All in all though, he's excellent in every way, right down to his joyous "come and get me" laughter during a fight.

The chief of the moon men walks around in a robe and full face stylized skull mask, but the moon men themselves are made of rock. This would've worked a lot better if every last one of them wasn't identical. Maybe that was the idea, because they were stone robots from the moon. Or something like that.

A Hercules movie must have a fight with a beast, and rather than the standard tiger or lion we get some kind of odd moon monster hiding in the dungeons. Really, it was a gorilla suit with spock ears and sabre-tooth cat fangs (sticking up!) attached. Pointless but required standard fare.

Favorite out-of-context quote: "For the cause of liberty and justice I'm ready to do anything!" -- Agar, daughter of Claudis, upon first meeting Hercules.

Beavis and Butthead moment: "When the planet Saturn comes into conjunction with Mars, and under the evil influence of Uranus, then will occur unimaginable disasters..." - Moon Man to Queen Samara.

I wasn't expecting much from this flick, considering the title. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was!

The last of the foursome I watched was Hercules and the Captive Women, starring Reg Park as the hero. I think that by now a little genre-fatigue had set in, because this one was a real chore to sit through.

Reg Park

Reg Park has everything needed to be Hercules: massively impressive physique, deep booming voice, thick black beard and short curly hair, narcolepsy... Hmmm, maybe he's overqualified.

This is the sleepiest Hercules I've ever seen. His answer to everything except a direct attack seems to be "nap time!". I do wonder if maybe he hadn't seen advance rushes of the film, and the director desperatly worked scenes of Park falling asleep from boredom into the story.

As for the story, it's got the mandatory beautiful evil queen, this time from Atlantis. There's more to the story, but boiled down it's Hercules saves the day from a power-grab from another greedy monarch. Again. The plot is done to death, but this time it's done badly enough that it just might have stayed dead and buried. Even the frequent shouting of "Uranus" couldn't save this silly mess.

So there you have it. By the hand of Zeus, I heartily recommend Hercules Unchained and Hercules and the Moonmen. Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon (which I saw in the dollar-DVD stacks in WalMart) is an ok flick (certainly worth the buck), and Hercules and the Captive Women will make you as sleepy as that version of Hercules.

Posted by Ted at 07:11 AM | Comments (539) | TrackBack

September 04, 2006

It's my party and I'll die if I want to

Sorry for the mixed-up title. You see, my birthday is coming up, and this year my wife gifted me with several of those crappy horror movies that I love so much.

I've already reviewed Happiness of the Katakuris, and I'm proud to say that I now own my very own copy.

But one I'm *really* looking forward to seeing again is The Horror of Party Beach, featuring radioactive monsters, bikini-clad girls, bikers, scientists, and the memorable music of the Del-Aires!

I tell ya, I'm hyped over this batch o' flicks.

I also have a couple of new reviews in the works, so if you like your movies a little cheesy or a little off the beaten path (as I do, so help me God), then stay tuned.

Posted by Ted at 10:45 AM | Comments (229) | TrackBack

September 01, 2006

Review: Four boob-filled horror flicks

Last winter I picked up a discount four-movie collection called Too Hot For Hell. I'll admit right up front (no pun intended) that one of the reasons I bought it was because all four movies included nudity, and once in a while I just want to see some boobs. Moving beyond that obvious character flaw, let's look at these movies individually.

Crystal Force II. This flick is damn near unwatchable, and after reading a review of the original, I'm gobsmacked at how anyone could think that a sequel was a good idea.

Jake is a nice guy and tends bar at a nondescript place owned by someone that the producer knew (I'm guessing about that last part). He desperately wants Allison the barmaid, and a mysterious stranger arrives on the scene to help Jake's dream come true. For a price, of course.

For a low-budget horror film, the simulated sex is pretty darned explicit, not that it saves this mess.

Demonsoul is the second movie in the set. It's a step up from Crystal Meth Force, but it's a very tiny step taken by a drunken baby.

The boobs are better, the sex is less explicit. That about sums it up. Sad, isn't it? This is another complete waste of time.

Bloodbath. Dammit, I think I detected actual plot!

Someone is murdering aspiring actresses, and a pair of hip young detectives are on the trail of the killer. Set in the seedy underworld (I always wanted to say that) of Hollywood's independent movie studios, the story turns kinky and it slowly comes out that a coven of vampires and a centuries-old power struggle lie at the heart of the mystery.

The acting is (marginally) better than your average high-school production, but the police work isn't. In fact, it's the "detective" parts of this movie that really detract from the whole. And that's saying something, because mostly this movie is bad, bad, bad.

Production values are better than high school as well, barely. The "blood" is heavily watered down tomato juice (cheaper than using it straight I suppose) and the sound quality is full of echos. The swordplay and martial arts are pathetic. Overall the story is good, but as to details the plot is inconsistant to the point of nonsensical.

There are really only three sets. An apartment, the alleyway outside the studio and inside the studio. The studio appears to be a community center or some such in real life, and the major set dressing consists of drapes covering shit you're not supposed to see.

This is pretty bad, but it's pretty bad in the way that I love. Plenty of bondage and implied S&M too, which is always nice to see.

Funniest gaffe: An actress is buzzed into the studio building for an audition. While wandering the hallways, looking for anyone in the apparently abandoned building, she randomly opens doors and in one you can see several people in a mirror on the far wall. Obviously they weren't supposed to be there, and the character ignores them as if the room were empty.

Evil Sister.This movie is everything a crappy horror movie should be. The acting isn’t terrible (among the main characters at least), the story is coherent and involves more than your average slasher flick. Add in better than average cinematic competence from the makers and a few good looking women who get naked often and “that’s entertainment.”

My biggest gripe about slashers is that the plot too often consists of “group of teenagers gather in one place and get killed.” I’m sorry, but six cool methods of murder in a row do not make a storyline.

A woman spends fifteen years in a mental hospital, and when she’s “cured” she moves in with her sister and husband. She’s turned into a promiscuous nympho, which the husband attributes to being locked up in the loony bin all those years. Actually, being possessed by a succubus has the same effect. Who knew?

As the story advances, the sister can’t convince her husband that the former Miss Padded Cell is evil, mostly because he refuses to believe that the odd things going on are anything more than coincidence. In the end, the evil sister wins.

Included in the mix are satanic black mass rituals, a weird midget fortune teller, several slit throats and plenty of gratuitous boobage and simulated sex. Not a boob job to be seen either, the woman all sport unenhanced bosoms.

Mostly, the characters act like you would expect them to in a given situation, and the suspense builds nicely as the movie goes along.

Everything isn’t hunky dory in consistancy-land though. The evil one slips her sister the date-rape drug at work and has a friend rape her in her office, where she gets busted by the boss. The sister knows what happened, and when she tries to explain to the husband the conversation gets out of hand and he walks out on her. The very next morning though, everything is fine again between the sisters (“screw the husband, that loser”) and they spend the day together as if nothing happened.

Funniest prop: While sunbathing, they’re downing “beers” which are actually bottles of IBC Cream Soda.

The credits, both start and end, go on way too long, showing various scenes from the movie. To their credit, there aren’t any real spoilers given away, and it serves mostly as an excuse to string together the nudity and (poorly done) gore. After the movie ends there’s an extra few minutes of bonus trailer that I think was added just to pad the minutes listed on the box.

For a low-budget flick, this one is pretty good.

To sum up, this collection is pretty bad. The first two movies are bad in a bad way, but the other two are bad in the delightfully cheesy way that I love. There are some pretty good boobs on display, and since that's partly why I bought it in the first place, I don't feel like I got ripped off. Much.

Posted by Ted at 11:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 15, 2006

Second Shift: A Review

A really bad day was saved a couple of weeks ago when an email appeared in my box asking if I would be interested in reviewing another serial podcast. Absolutely made my day, I tell ya.

Simple minds, simple pleasures. My mom used to tell me that all the time. Sloooowly. So I'd get all the words.

Disclosure time: Beyond Tolkein (which not reading violates some kind of natural law I think) and a few other scattered offerings, I've never been a fan of the fantasy genre. I much prefer History or Science Fiction.

Which means that Second Shift has been a pleasant surprise, because even though it's Fantasy/Adventure, I am really enjoying it.

The story goes like this: Three college students find themselves in another place. Planet? Universe? Who knows.

These are *not* the three students

At first it seems that their arrival was accidental, but in later episodes there are hints that at least one of them may have been intentionally targeted.

The new place is a world where magic is pervasive. They meet the local who (might have) summoned them, and also very quickly have a run in with the bad guys. Before long, swords and sorcery and quests and adventures are experienced by the trio of friends as they search for a way back home.

I understand that the description generically describes a significant percentage of all fantasy fiction ever written, but that's all I'm going to say so as not to give away any spoilers. Ok, one spoiler: there are "Undying" wandering about. You know how I am about zombies, so major bonus points there.

These are probably not the "Undying"

While listening to the first episode I was reminded of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in "His Girl Friday", in that the dialogue comes at you in machine-gun bursts. You'll have to pay attention to these exchanges or you'll miss something.

A couple of observations about the dialogue.

First, you will hear the very occasional naughty word and the mildest of innuendo. This is a barely PG-rated story so far.

These are not the "undying" either. Not yet, anyway.

Secondly, there is quite a bit of speaking in the "local" language, and it's beautifully done. The accents (I love the accents) and pronunciations are consistant and sound real, and there's no stumbling or hesitation when the actors speak in unfamiliar syllables. The language itself is lyrical and pleasing to listen to, and sounds natural enough for me to wonder just how much of this language is already real (in the sense that there is a dictionary and humans fluent in the language of the fictional Klingon race).

A "couple" means two. Ignore my inability to count and consider this a bonus.

Thirdly, the actors voices are distinctive and you'll be able to tell who is who before you know it. Which kind of ties into the characters themselves. These characters are three dimensional, not cardboard heroes (mystery reference for you gamer geeks). They have depth and background history and realistic emotions. Their speech and exchanges with other characters sound real. Since this is an audio play, dialogue is paramount, and it is exceptional.

Like real life, the good guys aren't always good, and sometimes they're not even particularly likable. At different times, each of the three students need a whack upside with a clue-by-four to remind them that whether you like it or not, reality isn't what you feel or wish for, it is what is right in front of you. So just shut up and hide in the bushes.

Not everything revolves around the three students either. The locals have their own history and stories, and sometimes things happen just between them. Again, this adds depth and you don't feel like every character exists just to support the three travellers. In fact, I can easily imagine a storyline involving Fezmir and crew that has absolutely nothing to do with those pesky kids (no points for that one, it's too easy).

So far, the bad guys aren't as fully fleshed out, but their story keeps coming to you in bits and pieces. There's great promise there, so I remain hopeful.

On to technical matters. The sound quality is good, and there is no subscription cost. The music is only ok. Sometimes the theme music really grates on my nerves, and other times I'm like, "that's not too bad". I haven't caught myself humming it yet, although I think it's right on the edge of becoming an earworm.

Each episode gets better as far as sound effects, both in number and quality. Low point: jogging through leaves. It sounds pretty much like running for your life through leaves. Most everything else though has been good, and there are a few really outstanding sound effects that have been used.

The production schedule calls for new episodes to be released every two weeks, and they're sticking to it despite some unexpected turnover among the production crew.

Extras. Their website is pretty cool, and just chock full of those little internetty doo-dads and gimcracks that I hate so much. Despite that, you can ignore the cuteness and you'll find that it's very easy to get around. It does look and act differently in IE vs Firefox, just so you know.

There are forums to explore, and a nifty journal where you get a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work. I thought the posts on creating the sound effects were particularly interesting.

They've got a small shop to buy podcast related stuff, so far limited to "Work, Stupid Magic" stickers and buttons. Very cool, and even better after you listen and are in on the joke. They've promised more in the near future.

As an extra little bonus, these folks posted an episode of Captain Laserbeard and his Gamma Raiders! It's... odd. And funny. I mean, who doesn't love space pirates, arggh? A snippet of this show airs as background noise in one scene of the first episode.

On my last review I had a guest with me, our zombie friend Bub. The idea proved to be popular (typical comment: "More Undead, Less Ted!"), so I decided to ask another beloved movie character to rate Second Shift.


Looks like a big "thumbs up" from here!

If you like fantasy, you'll enjoy Second Shift. If you like character driven stories, you'll enjoy Second Shift. If you like Cary Grant, you'll enjoy Second Shift. You were paying attention, right? If you are intrigued by podcasts or the golden age of radio, you'll enjoy Second Shift.

Don't be Abby Something-or-other, go give Second Shift a try.

Posted by Ted at 04:57 AM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2006

Silent Universe - A Review

Before television gained dominance, radio shows entertained with all types of audio theater. I still enjoy recorded shows from "the golden age of radio" like The Shadow and Inner Sanctum (hint: available on CD and cassette, or ask Victor for copies he made when they originally aired).

Nowadays, I'm loving the proliferation of podcasts. Much like blogging gave "journalism" to the masses, podcasting is doing the same for talk radio. And now podcasts are appearing which provide a return to that classic era of radio programming.

Recently I was contacted about doing a Rocket Jones review for a podcast called Silent Universe. Like the classic radio serial format, this science fiction offering features suspense and cliffhangers at the end of each episode. Even better, unlike the old days, you don't have to be glued to the radio to enjoy the shows because you can download Silent Universe to your iPod or other .mp3 player and listen at your leisure.

From the email:

The Silent Universe is a sci-fi adventure drama, with writing that has been compared to the intrigue of TV shows like "24" and "Battlestar Galactica."

"[Space opera] is now commonly used to mean a tale of space adventure whose emphasis is on boldly delineated characters, drama, and especially action."

It's understandable that they're going for the "24" comparison since that is television's premier cliffhanger show. In my mind though, Silent Universe more closely captures the spirit of an old fashioned, rip-roaring space opera. You movie going whippersnappers can think "Star Wars", but Flash Gordon is a classic example (from before *my* time, he added pointedly). That said, there’s an edginess and tension to the Silent Universe episodes that didn’t exist in those early programs.

Silent Universe is set in the not-too-distant future, when humans have spread to the planets of our solar system. Society as a whole hasn't moved much beyond what it is today, in that there are still governments jostling for advantage and using diplomacy, war, and intrigue to gain the upper hand.

"There were those who thought that the dawn of the second space age would unite humanity in a common cause. Dreams of grand utopias fevered the minds of visionaries and futurists, who proclaimed that the stars would save us from ourselves. They couldn't have been more wrong." - from the intro

The story follows Emmeline Kaley, a professional mercenary who finds herself involved with a covert organization after a paying job goes horribly wrong. Things aren’t always what they seem, and allies can’t always be trusted. Through the blur of events, you occasionally get a glimpse of the truth: that someone far more powerful than you has been pulling strings and making events bend to their will.

There's a disclaimer at the start of the podcast for the mature language and themes in the episodes. Despite the humorous slant on free speech, don't let it fool you into believing that everything is one-sided. At one point in the episode, one of the characters makes an impassioned argument for letting the UN handle the situation. The show tries to stay balanced, and the characters are not marching along in idealogical lockstep.

There are a couple of interesting facets to this podcast. First of all, you can download the mono version for free, or you can pay a couple of bucks for the CD-quality stereo version. You can also subscribe to either version and get each episode as it comes out.

Full Disclosure: I was given a reviewer's access code for the stereo version. Was this a blatant bribe to positively influence me, or merely their way of applying pressure to for-God's-sake use a spell checker? I report. You decide.

Actually, I asked the producer to comp me the access so I could contrast the two audio versions. Spoiled the suspense for you there, didn’t I?

These episodes are performed by professional voice actors, complete with nice sound effects and an original soundtrack to go along with the action.

The initial schedule called for episodes to be released about once a month, and eleven episodes were to make up the first "season". As often happens, schedules go straight into the trash when they meet reality. The first two episodes are available now (and the first, Mission 256, is a double episode). The next is due out next month.

Online, Silent Universe has been generating some buzz:

We've been featured in online publications such as Slice of Sci Fi, Sci Fi Crows Nest, PRweb, Spaceship Radio, PodcastingNews and others.

And now of course, the coveted mention in Rocket Jones.

Here’s another unique and exciting aspect to this project:

We also invite our audience to do more than just listen; we encourage them to discuss the podcast with the production staff on our online forums (honesty is preferred to flattery, though a little flattery never hurt anyone, hehe). We welcome feedback and critiques on episodes, suggestions for future plot ideas, and even spec script submissions for hopeful science fiction writers.

I’ve been to the forums, and they’ve started to build a fan community discussing various aspects of the show. I expect it to grow quite a bit as they work the kinks out of the production process and begin to release new episodes on a more regular basis.

Ok, so that’s all well and good, but I can hear you saying, “Ted, that’s all well and good, but what did *you* think of it?�

More importantly, what did Bub think of it?

da doo ron ron ron, da doo ron ron

Enthralled, I’d say.

The episodes are fast paced and seem logical within the framework of the story. I absolutely love Emmeline’s accent (she claims Scot, but there’s some debate on that in the forums, which bothers me not).

I also like the bad guys so far. They don’t seem evil just for evil’s sake as there is an underlying rationale for their actions. When they act in a way that you personally wouldn’t, there’s a tendency, in my mind at least, to attribute that to cultural differences rather than plot inconsistencies (those crafty Asians).

A few of the characters are already on my “please die soon� list. The two sisters, Ritsu and May, are annoying as hell, which isn’t strictly a bad thing as characters go, but their dialogue doesn’t advance the action and they seem to be there only because the group needed to be bigger.

Unlike others on the forums, I’m not put off by the resident computer geek of the crew. A little over the top, yes, but he’s ok in small doses. Giving him more than a sentence or two at a time though might make me reach for the airlock handle.

My favorite line so far was in the second episode, when Emmeline muttered “bloody bastards� under her breath.

Why those simple words worked so well has to do with my major criticism. In the first episode, many characters used the word “frack� as a futuristic version of the f-bomb. “Frack this� and “you frackin’…� and so on. I’ve since learned that the word might have originated with Battlestar Galactica, but since I was never a fan of that show I don’t remember it myself. In any event, its use here just doesn’t work. Every time someone uses it, the flow of the dialogue stumbles a little bit.

The good news is that episode 2 was almost completely devoid of “frack�, which is why the “bloody bastards� line was such a pleasant surprise. I found myself mentally cringing in scenes where the word "frack" might be used, and it was a welcome improvement to hear more natural-sounding dialogue.

(mental note: new Rocket Jones tagline – “frack� free since 2003)

Hey, since this is audio theater, I should probably mention the sound quality, eh? I first tried the non-stereo version and I’ve got to tell you that the sound quality is very good. As good as it is, it doesn't come close to the exceptional experience of the stereo version. If you get into the story, I think it's worth it to subscribe. The stereo version eliminates the commercials too, although they're not terribly intrusive.

Bottom line: If you like science fiction or suspense stories, especially the old space opera genre (paging E.E. “Doc� Smith!), then you’ll probably enjoy Silent Universe. Even if you don’t, I recommend downloading the free version of the first episode and giving it a listen.

I know I’m hooked. What about you, bub?

give a big ol' Hee-Haw saaaalute!

Thought so.

* The animated Bub graphics were lovingly lifted from I-mockery.com. Hopefully that acknowledgement and link will keep their lawyers off my ass.

Posted by Ted at 08:13 PM | Comments (2)

July 19, 2006


Over at Wegg's, I discovered that there is a remake of The Eye in the works, this time starring Jessica Alba.

Here's my review of the original. Highly recommended.

Posted by Ted at 07:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 25, 2006

Six Two Haunted Tales

The other night I scored a movie collection titled Hostile Hauntings, and since it rained all weekend I was able to view most of them. According to the box, these were indie movies, which wasn't quite accurate. I'm going to concentrate on two of the films, the other four ranging from complete crap to only mildly interesting.

The collection starts off strongly with The Shunned House, a 2003 straight-to-video offering from Italy. Two word review: Kicks. Ass. The story takes it's name from a tale by H.P. Lovecraft, and the actual plot is an amalgam of three Lovecraft stories: the title piece, The Music of Erich Zann (although the Erich character is a woman in the movie) and Dreams in the Witch House.

I've said it before: I adore Lovecraft. I have a fairly complete collection of his works. When I go on a Lovecraft binge, it perceptably darkens my mood. Powerful writing.

The director here concentrated on mood and atmosphere. There is quite a bit of gore, but not enough to squick me out (well, except for one horrendously memorable scene that will forever be in my all-time top 10 greatest movie scenes). Instead of telling the three stories in serial one-after-another fashion, the stories intertwine and interelate and are sometimes opaque and confusing, much like Lovecraft's work itself. Yet also like Lovecraft, the imagery is original and chilling. These are not terribly faithful story adaptations, but they remain true to the spirit of the originals.

An occult researcher and his girlfriend/photographer visit an old building where mysterious happenings have been going on for over one hundred years. The researcher has an extensive collection of old writings and documents related to the place, including photographs of some of the victims. The girlfriend thinks that they're there to investigate three mysterious deaths, and they are, but she freaks out when she finds out that there have been hundreds of odd suicides and murders done over time. This story is used as the framework to tie the other two plotlines together, even though the three original stories are completely unrelated to each other.

From what I've read, this film was shot entirely on location inside the actual building, complete with attached chapel. I've seen nothing to indicate that the building is other than ordinary in real life.

If you can handle the gore (and the heavy Italian accents), I can't recommend this one highly enough. Fair warning though, you're going to absolutely love it or absolutely hate it.

The second film that I'm going to talk about is an indie titled The Somnambulists (sorry, no link available). According to the box, it's 75 minutes long, and I was rather ticked off to find that the total time includes a "making of" special and *two* "premier night" features. The film itself is rather short, yet very intense.

Dialogue is sparse, and the acting is above average (with a couple of glaring exceptions). It all comes together nicely in the end, including a semi-surprise ending.

Granddad winds up with the best lines, including one chilling little exchange where he explains that "there is no heaven, there is no hell. The dead go into our dreams, and it's the ones with a grudge that you have to watch out for."

I can't say more without giving the ending away. Worth a view.

Posted by Ted at 04:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 05, 2006

Must Have

Released this week, the John Wayne/John Ford Film Collection.

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May 25, 2006

Quickie Movie Review - Slapshot 2

There is a secret government program whose sole purpose is to ensure that whenever one of the Baldwin brothers needs work, Hollywood with retch up another shitty movie like this one. I have no proof of this, but it's at least as plausible as the "deal with Satan" theory.

The original was full of unique and likable characters, and even the supporting cast was memorable in their brief moments in the spotlight. This time around, unique was replaced by stereotypes and odd quirks that are supposed to pass for personality.

The story makes no sense, and "important" plot points are dropped and forgotten halfway through the movie. The characters, every last one of them, is stupid and irrational. I don't mean stupid as in "that was a dumb move", I mean Forrest Gump stupid.

The Hansen brothers risked their cult hero status with this stinker, and they're fortunate that it wasn't more widely seen. Even their schtick is tired, and the camera rather obviously avoids getting too close to them or people might see that they're in their mid-40's or so.

Stick with the original, this one is lame.

Posted by Ted at 05:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 21, 2006

You can find most anything on the 'net

Via Mookie, who writes:

They got Bub!!!

Horror and monster masks of many famous (and gruesome) faces. Including Bub, official zombie of Rocket Jones (you'll have to scroll down a ways to find him).

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April 07, 2006

Ol' Bub, kickin' it up a notch


"For dinner, let's try something I saw on TV."

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March 26, 2006

Drac Facts

Dracula (1931), Universal Studios.

  • Bela Lugosi only appeared in one other film as Dracula, in 1948's Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
  • Although Lugosi played Dracula during a successful Broadway run and subsequent tours, he wasn't the first choice for the film role. He wasn't the second, third or fourth choice either.
  • There were three versions of Dracula made at the same time. During the day the English version was filmed. At night a Spanish language version was filmed on the same sets with an entirely different cast and crew. And lastly, because at the time many theaters weren't wired for sound, a silent version of the film was simultaneously edited with dialogue boards.
  • Not once during the film does Dracula display fangs.
  • The word Nosferatu is widely considered to be Hungarian for "vampire" because Bram Stoker used the word after reading about it in a book on folklore and the occult. Problem is, no such word exists.
  • The studio insisted that Dracula only attack women in the movie because they were worried about homoerotic overtones. Dracula's first movie victim is male, but you don't see it.
  • The actor who plays Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston), had met Bram Stoker earlier in his career when he appeared in a stage production at the theater that Stoker managed.
  • Actor Dwight Frye (Renfield) and Bela Lugosi had worked together before, on Broadway in a comedy production.
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Grab popcorn and a Rosary, it's movie review time!

Sometimes you see a thing that you simply must have. For a year I made almost weekly visits to a music store in Grand Forks, North Dakota to sit and play "my" guitar while I saved the money to buy it (the one on the right).

That's kind of an extreme example, but recently I had a mini version of that emotion over a movie (surprise, surprise), and of course I'm going to tell you all about it.

Now this category isn't called "Cult Flicks" for nothing, and if you've visited before you already know that I love B-movies and old horror and things a little (or a lot) off of the beaten path. This film certainly falls into the last category. Before I tell you about it though, I'd like to take a moment to give a little background on a type of these crappy movies that I love so much.

Exploitation films are movies designed to appeal to those looking for things like nudity and/or gore. Back in the 30's and 40's, nudist camp "documentaries" filled the bill, as did "danger of drugs" movies. In the 50's Swedish "blue" movies found their niche. Some makers soon realized that actual product quality was optional as long as plenty of bare breasts or simulated gruesome violence was on display, so true exploitation flicks are always low budget and almost always feature rotten acting, directing, dialogue, etc. Go through the Rocket Jones Cult Flicks archives, and you'll find other reviews of just these types of films. Yes, I am a fan.

Within the exploitation umbrella, there are subgenres. Sexploitation movies focused on nudity and softcore porn - Russ Meyer was one leading director - and so-called Blaxploitation movies aimed at the African American audience (Abby, aka "the black Exorcist" is a fine example, although films like Shaft and Foxy Brown are much better known). There were gory cannibal movies and mondo "documentaries" that went for shock valuie by being about taboo subjects (like Toys Are Not For Children which explored psychotic incestual themes). Women in prison movies were popular, and included the sub-subgenre of Nazi women prison movies. I've got my eye on a couple of Hixsploitation collections, just to round out my library of crappy films. That wikipedia link above is a nice little introduction to the concept.

"Director Norifumi Suzuki doesn't have a clue about Christianity, but his delirious visual style is reminiscent of 60s Italian horror in its rich colors and hysterical zooming"
--Chicago Reader

So by now you've gathered that School of the Holy Beast is an exploitation film, and it's of a type I'd heard of but never seen before: nunsploitation. Actually, that was only one reason why I couldn't resist it, the other being that I never knew that any nunsploitation flicks were made anywhere but Europe. This unusual movie was made in Japan! Nunsploitation movies are generally set in a convent with plenty of nudity, sex, and frequent appearances by sleazy priests because apparently, unbeknownst to me, every nun is not a lesbian (kidding!). This type of movie is also critical of the Catholic Church and it's policies.

So what do we have here? The movie starts off with a girl named Maya having one helluva great day. She enjoys a hockey game, does some shopping, picks up a guy and later sleeps with him. When he finally asks her name (pillow talk!), she tells him that tomorrow she enters the abbey to become a nun.

Maya isn't particularly devout, instead she's on a private mission to discover how her mother died in that same convent eighteen years before. Along the way she manages to unravel a long-held secret and finds her answers. She also sneaks a couple of guys into the convent to gang rape the Mother Superior (who doesn't fight very hard once it's begun. I guess falling asleep to her private porn collection might have made her a bit receptive). There are scenes of drugs, self-flagellation, bondage, blasphemy; in other words, everything you'd expect from the Church (kidding!). In the end the bad guys all get what's coming to them, and you're left sitting there thinking "wow".

School of the Holy Beast

Unlike the typical trashy exploitation movie, this film is beautifully acted and full of spectacular imagery. One memorable scene involves Maya being punished by being whipped with bunches of long stem roses. The thorns draw blood of course, and before long each punishing stroke results in a cascade of slow motion rose petals in a halo around Maya. Uncomfortable to watch, but undeniably beautiful.

This movie far exceeded my expectations, and it's worth seeing. In Japanese with English subtitles.

Besides, how can you resist two topless nuns involved in a whip fight?

Posted by Ted at 10:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 13, 2006

Disturbing Images and Pleasant Surprises

Suncoast Video's parent company filed for bankruptcy, so the company buying the chain is closing many of the stores, including the one closest to me. The last time I stopped by, they were in the middle of a huge clearance sale. I hadn't planned on getting anything, but walked out with a few items at a terrific price.

One of those items was a five-pack of oldies grouped under the title "Vampire Collection, Volume 2". One big selling point for this batch was that each film was international: one from Canada, one from Italy/Spain, one from Germany/Spain, and a pair of USA/Philippine offerings. So let's take a look at each of them, shall we? (in the extended entry).

The Thirsty Dead

Here's the blurb on the box:

Beautiful young girls are being kidnapped off the streets of Manila by a death cult that needs their blood in order to remain immortal. This film is violent, full of nudity and a favorite of hardcore horror fans.

That sounds like an interesting variation on the vampire theme, and you can't go wrong with nudity and violence, eh?

I really want to hate this movie, because the synopsis is a crock of shit. Despite the fact that the violence is almost non-existant and "full of nudity" translates into zero nudity, I liked the film anyway.

"The Heroine, played by Meredith Baxter Birney's ugly brother in drag, is about as stupid as a bag of hammers." - IMDB Reviewer

Four ladies are kidnapped one by one by guys who look like Buddhist monks. They're taken under the city and loaded into a canoe which the monks paddle deep into the jungle. White slavery is mentioned a few times, but instead, it comes out that they're being held by an ancient jungle tribe that has found the secret of imortality and worships a talking decapitated head encased in a block of cherry jello.

These tribespeople are all young and beautiful and spend their days doing arts and crafts and being gentle and dressing in fashionable pastels. The Buddhist looking guys are their hired guards and dress like sumo wrestlers so you can tell them apart. The kidnapped girls all get makeshift bikinis to wear. The "jungle" tribe also live in a maze of caves.

Anyway, the tribe stays young by drinking the blood of young ladies in an ancient ritual. One of the kidnapped ladies is invited to join the tribe because of some vague prophecy. She declines, which causes all sorts of problems. Escapes are made, the smartass character falls to her death into a pit of rats, and the hero sacrifices himself for his true love.

Sounds silly? You bet. Kind of dull too in spots, and the acting is pretty bad. Calling it horror is outrageously overstating the issue, but there's something oddly likable about the whole thing.

Disturbing Image: Buddhist monks flogging octagenarian women.
Pleasant Surprise: An appearance by Vic Diaz as a police inspector. You might remember him as the corrupt Vietnamese Colonel Trang in The Boys From Company C.

Blood Thirst

Whoohoo, a Vic Diaz double feature! He plays a cop again in this one, also set in the Philippines. And once again the "vampires" are not the traditional kind.

Young girls are being murdered in a most unusual way. When their bodies are found, they've been drained of blood through incisions cut into their forearms. The local police are mystified so the chief inspector (Vic!) asks his American friend, a world-renowned criminology expert (specializing in sex crimes, although there is nothing sexual about the murders other than the fact that all of the victims are young, pretty girls), to assist him in discovering who is behind the grisly murders. The American character is supposed to be James Bond-like, but he's just annoying, all the more so when every woman in the vicinity goes into heat whenever he acts like an ass.

This movie is confused about what it wants to be. History's goofiest monster makes a few appearances for no particular reason, which leads you to think it might be going for horror. But the majority of the movie plays strictly as a detective flick. For a while it's almost a romance movie, when the ingenue falls for the hard boiled dick (I always wanted to use that line).

A local nightclub figures prominently, as do ancient South American blood cult immortality rituals (deja vu) and a blond belly dancer. The appearance of the monster is completely pointless, although there are enough plot twists to keep you interested. Once again, the movie is more entertaining than it has any right to be. Still no nudity though, and the presence of Vic Diaz only partially makes up for that lack.

The Vampire Night Orgy

No Vic Diaz here, although we are treated to some very nice, if rather small, boobs (pleasant surprise!).

A group of people are together on a charter bus, heading for a town where they've been hired by an aristocratic family for their various domestic skills (gardener, lady's maid, tutor, chauffeur, and so on). The bus driver has a heart attack and dies, almost wrecking the bus in the process. Since it's late and everyone is shaken by the driver's death, they decide to turn off the road and spend the night in the nearby village rather than continue on to their destination.

The village is strangely silent and deserted. Not abandoned, just seemingly depopulated, as the group finds when they go into the village inn and find the bar well-stocked and the rooms made up and comfortable. They do find one other person at the inn, another traveler who has stopped for the night.

In the morning, all is normal again. The villagers are back, serving breakfast pastry to their guests and the mayor makes an appearance to explain that last night was a local festival held in the cemetary, explaining everyone's absence. When it comes time to leave, the bus won't start, and neither will the car of the other traveller. The group is invited to stay a few more days until the local "guy with the car" stops by, then he can go to another village with a mechanic and bring back help. They are all to be guests of "The Countess", who rules the area with a benevolent hand.

Now, pastry works for breakfast, but people expect meat for lunch and dinner. A big creepy guy with an axe goes into the smithy and tells one of the assistants, a cripple, that he's there "on behalf of the Countess", and after a brief struggle removes the guy's leg. He was a cripple anyway, so it's not like he's gonna miss it, right?

"This film is great fun for those horror fans that also like all-you-can-eat buffets." - from the box description of The Vampire Night Orgy

So the next scene shows the travellers digging in to great platters of meat for dinner. Yum! Later, there's more fun when someone finds a finger on their tray, and the immediate "damage control" performed by the mayor must be seen to be believed.

Cannibals aren't vampires though, so where do the vampires come in? Oh, everyone in the village is a vampire, and the Countess is the Queen of the gang. By day, the travellers munch on long pig and bitch about the extended stay (gratis, because not a one of them has money to pay for anything), and by night they get picked off one by one by the villager bloodsuckers. Eventually the guy with the car and boob girl manage to escape (barely!) and when they return the next day with the police, the village isn't there. The signpost is gone, and it appears on no maps of the area. Very mysterious.

So far, this movie collection is batting .1000, because this was an excellent offering for the genre. I purposely didn't talk about some of the subplots that really added to the scare-factor, including one accidental death that's among the creepiest scenes I've ever seen (disturbing image). Bon Apetit!

The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman

Originally realeased as La Noche de Walpurgis in 1971, this is one in a series of ten movies where the werewolf character Waldemar Daninsky is played by Paul Naschy, (the "actor" psuedonym for actor/writer/director Jacinto Molina, a legend in Spanish horror films).

Paul Naschy, aka Jacinto Molina

Yes, there are the usual plot inconsistancies and "huh?" moments here, and as is often the case, the dialogue translation is among the most frightening parts of the film. On the other hand, the lead actresses are truly beautiful and there are nice cleavage shots (but no outright naked boobs, dammit), and the overall atmosphere of the film is outstandingly moody. What almost sinks this film, at least the version on this DVD, is the crappy sound quality. I've run into it before, where everyone sounds like they're shouting their lines up from the bottom of a well, and it can really ruin a film watching experience. The fact that this movie can overcome this usually fatal flaw is a testament to it's strength. Is is a good movie? No, not really. But it is entertaining enough to keep your interest, and the plot is deep enough to make you think.

Plot? With a title like that? Ha! Yes, oh yes, there is plot enough for the long-time horror fan, and far more than the slasher-flick kiddie of today is used to. Truth be told, sometimes there is a little too much plot, and the movie slows down here and there while pointless little side stories get dealt with.

The storyline tells of two beautiful women who are trying to complete their university thesis (???) about ancient folklore. They travel into a remote region of Northern France to look for the tomb of the legendary Countess Wandessa, a black magic adept who also practiced vampirism to achieve immortality. She was supposedly temporarily killed when a special silver cross was thrust through her heart.

When the ladies get lost, they almost run out of gas before meeting up with Waldemar Daninsky. He tells them that he is a writer looking for solitude. Apparently he's had enough solitude though, because he invites the ladies to stay at his country place until the handyman ("the guy with the car") stops by in a few days, and then he can get them some gas.

A mentally unbalanced sister makes an appearance to stir up the situation, and there are definite clues that all is not as it seems. Fortunately (for the story, rather less fortunate for the characters), the old documents and notes that the ladies bring, combined with the ancient papers that Daninsky has, are enough to tell them exactly where the tomb of the Countess Wandessa is supposed to be located.

They find the tomb and for some reason beyond fathoming (no matter how much you shout "don't do it", you know she's going to), one of the ladies removes the silver crucifix from the body of the dead Countess. Mayhem ensues, caused by both the reanimated vampire queen and Daninsky's werewolf.

And thus comes the ethical dilemma. You see, Daninsky was looking for the cross because the only way his soul could find peace was to be stabbed through the heart with the crucifix by someone who truly loved him. He was planning on having his unstable sister do it, but she becomes one of the Countess' vampire groupies, as does the girl who originally removed the cross. He has no choice but to take the other girl into his confidence, which is ok because she's falling for him.

He's conflicted about setting the Countess free again, especially since her plans include nothing less than handing Satan total control of Earth in exchange for invincible immortality. He wants to find peace (translation: permanent dirt nap), but achieving that at the expense of everyone else on Earth makes the price too high, so he and his new girlfriend frantically search for the hiding place of the Countess before Walpurgis Night, which is when hell is (literally) to break loose.

The ending is only so-so, and once again the story slows down when it most needs to speed up towards the climax, but still, this was another winner.

Disturbing Image: There's plenty of bare chest shown, unfortunately it's mostly the muscular torso of the lead actor.
Pleasant Surprise: The better looking of the two scholars (IMHO) gets major screen time in a wispy nightgown. I can completely relate to the goth tendency towards sexy vampire grrrls.

Reverse the above headings if you're so inclined.

Oh yes, one last note. For God's sake, if a man of science ever nonchalantly scoffs at folk tales or superstition just before doing something to disprove same, run like hell. It might save your life.

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

On the plus side, this Canadian offering has one of the best movie titles ever. On the down side, there isn't a vampire to be found in it since this is strictly a zombie movie. What the heck is it doing in this Vampire collection?

An early effort by Bob Clark, who went on to direct Porky's, A Christmas Story and Turk182! (among others you've probably heard of), this flick approaches greatness by going the way of zen: simplicity without being simplistic. The sets are basic, few, yet extememly memorable and well done. The atmosphere is dank and moody, and the character interaction rings true with a few glaring exceptions. The show is stolen by Orville, who doesn't have a single line and stays dead until almost the final scene.

Alan is the leader of a group of people out on a midnight excursion. Apparently he's the owner of a theatrical company, and everyone else are actors and/or stage crew. Alan is obnoxious as hell, dictatorial, abusive, unfunny and must be some sort of genius because every time one of the others shows the least sign or rebellion or resistance, his mere threat of kicking them out of the troupe causes them to backpedal and commence sucking up. The recurring rebel/threat/simpering fawning cycle gets old quickly.

One thing is certain though, Alan (and it's hard to over-emphasize what an asshole he is) has these people under his thumb. With Alan acting as tour guide, they make a late-night arrival at a secluded burial island. Part party, part "theatrical experience", part black-magic experiment, the entire group is obviously aware of the final plans and are, if not neccessarily active participants, at least willing to overlook a little grave robbing.

"Get out of the grave, Alan. Get out of the grave and let an artist show you how to call a curse down on Satan!." - Val, from Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

Alan selects a grave and the group quickly exhumes the coffin. After a little fun and games, they take the original occupant, Orville, to the caretaker's cottage. Once there, there are some more scenes of bickering, exploring, minor chills and major mockery of Orville's earthly remains. Eventually they get to the point of the whole evening, and Alan dons a robe and dabbles in a little amateur black magic over Orville, reading a reanimation spell from an ancient grimoire.

One of the actresses, Anya (Alan's real-life sister) is seemingly "in tune" with the spirit world and wigs out at the goings on, and here is where we get this movie's most disturbing image. Anya is growing more and more hysterical, and she falls to her knees in front of Orville's body, begging him for forgiveness for what they've done. It's chilling to watch as she sees and hears something none of us can, and the realization comes over her that they are not forgiven, and that revenge will be forthcoming. Truly frightening.

Still, nothing happens, as apparently it takes a while for the spell to take effect (but you know it's going to sooner or later). And when it does, it's all chaos and fun. These aren't terribly fearsome zombies, and the group are able to safely repel several attempts at gaining entry into the cottage. A nice touch is the fact that there are just enough zombies to prevent their escape back to the boat. They overwhelm with numbers and there are quite a few zombies, but the cemetary wasn't that large, so the place isn't wall-to-wall undead. It also adds to the fun that the living have nothing that will put a zombie down permanently. You can push or punch or kick and they're clumsy enough to fall, but without that head shot, well, they're just gonna get back up and come again.

This indie flick was created on a shoestring budget of just $50,000 dollars, and sometimes it shows. There isn't a lot of gore, and some of the special effects are pretty cheesy.

Few of the main characters are even remotely likable and it's hard to care when one dies, especially since they basically get what's coming to them. But the movie works, and partly it's because you realize that in a weird twist the zombies are kind of the good guys here and you find yourself urging Orville to come to life so he can kill that jerk Alan, preferably slowly. Orville displays the patience that the dead are famous for, but when his time comes he makes the most of it.

Fun little movie. Recommended.

Unlike another recent acquisition, a three-pack called The Fear Files, these five movies are long on story and quality (for B-movies) and short on gratuitous nudity. There's a place for both styles in my universe, and now, if you'll excuse me, I've a hankerin' for a tall glass of warm V8.

Posted by Ted at 05:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 04, 2006

Internet Resource

Ever have a conversation and someone wonders which movie it was where what's-her-name gets decapitated/disemboweled/immolated? Or you wonder if a certain actress ever gets killed on the big screen? Yeah, me too. All the time.

Now you can find out at Cinemorgue. Indexed by actress name, he even includes nudity alerts (where she dies naked). These aren't just the big names either, he's got some very obscure performers here. Very cool, and the enterprising soul could come up with a few bar-bet winners too by golly.

And for the ladies, there is a separate index for actors and their on-screen demise. Just scroll down to the bottom of the Cinemorgue page for the link.

Posted by Ted at 09:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If you didn't want to see it before, you really don't now

Over at Q&O, I saw that an animal rights group is complaining that Oscar nominee Brokeback Mountain was "too rough on sheep".

Stunt doubles? Setup for the sequel? I'll never know.

Posted by Ted at 08:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2006

This is probably interesting to only one other person

Nic, I found a review of Snakehead Terror.

Posted by Ted at 06:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 03, 2006

Stretching your cinematic budget

If you enjoy B-films, then you probably know the name Roger Corman. Even if you don't recognize the name, you've probably enjoyed some of his films. He's responsible for movies like Attack of the Giant Leeches, the Wasp Woman, Little Shop of Horrors, a terrific series of films based on Poe stories, Boxcar Bertha, Death Race 2000, Humanoids from the Deep, and over 350 more.

After last weekend's Mummy jag, I started watching a series of prehistoric women flicks. I'll post a review later of classics like Wild Women of Wongo and Mesa of Lost Women.

So last night I started watching a movie and things seemed *very* familiar. About halfway through I started laughing when I realized that I'd already seen much of the movie under a different title, but there were serious differences in the plotlines.

It was time to do a little research. VideoHound's Cult Flicks & Trash Pics gave up this gem:

Communism met a most ignominious humiliation at the hands of Yankee capitalist pig Roger Corman when the latter purchased the 1962 Soviet feature Planeta Burg (Planet of Storms), a serious-minded feature (with groundbreaking and costly special effects) about a collection of brave, bland cosmonauts exploring a hostile planet.

What Corman did was to use the acquired Russian film as the basis of two different movies. By adding english dialogue and extensive editing, the original film was rearranged into 1965's Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. Scenes were added starring Basil Rathbone as an Earthbound professor and Faith Demergue as Marsha, the lady astronaut who stays in orbit as the mission doormat while the commander patronizes the hell out of her. The basic plot involves a rescue mission for two explorers and a robot on the surface of Venus. I've seen it mentioned in more than one place that the film credits were invented to disguise the fact that it was a Russian movie.

In 1968 Corman did it again, again re-editing and rearranging the original movie to create Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women. This time, Mamie Van Doren stars as the leader of a telepathic group of mermaid Venusians who can control volcanos and the weather. When the exploring astronauts kill their pteradactyl "god", the women get pissed and try to destroy the alien invaders.

About 70% of the two movies duplicate each other, and I was greatly amused when, in the second movie, it's explained that "Marsha" is the code-word that everyone uses to refer to Earth. Silly, but it saved money by letting them share more of the dialogue between the flicks.

Both movies suck, and I highly recommend them.

Posted by Ted at 10:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 23, 2006

Six of one, half-dozen of the other

What would happen if a serial killer who preys on hitchhikers picks up a hitcher who slays any individual that stops to offer him a ride?

I'm looking forward to finding out next weekend during the latest episode of Showtime's Masters of Horror series.

Blue wrote up a nice preview, and then started to review each episode one by one. 'Cept he and I have both been insanely busy lately, so go enjoy what he's got there, and if you ask nicely in the comments he might do more.

Posted by Ted at 08:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 30, 2005

National Film Registry

Each year, twenty five films are selected to be included in the National Film Registry.

Here's what that means:

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress works to ensure that the film is preserved for all time, either through the Library's massive motion picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion picture studios and independent filmmakers. The Library of Congress contains the largest collections of film and television in the world, from the earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture to the latest feature releases.

Each year, films are nominated by the public and are carefully evaluated.

Here's a bit more about the criteria:

"The films we choose are not necessarily the 'best' American films ever made or the most famous, but they are films that continue to have cultural, historical or aesthetic significance," Billington said.

This year, the films include a Buster Keaton comedy, the Christmas classic "Miracle on 34th Street", "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", and "Toy Story". See the entire list here. There are some surprising titles there.

More from the article:

Half the movies made before 1950 and 80 percent to 90 percent of those produced before 1920 have disappeared, [Billington] said.

Among the more interesting additions was a 1906 documentary about the San Fransisco earthquake and fire. The disaster was one of the first ever documented on film.

While you're checking out the site, follow the link to the Moving Image Archives. I think I'll be spending many happy hours there.

Posted by Ted at 05:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 29, 2005

Movie Poster Blog

Wicked cool.

Thanks to Sheila for finding this one!

Posted by Ted at 07:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 30, 2005

I refuse to start a category for knitting

Even though this is tres cool. Behold the imagination that went into creating the zombies of Dawn of the Dead as knitted dolls. I love you, but I'm surprised they let you keep the pointy knitting needles.

Thanks to Pete for this one.

Posted by Ted at 04:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 24, 2005

Theatrical Review

I work in Rosslyn, Virginia, right across the river from Washington, D.C. I work early hours, so when I first started I'd park in the garage and then walk all the way around the block to get to the front lobby of my building. When winter rolled in, someone showed me a couple of shortcuts through the connecting garages underneath the city block so that I could reach my destination without having to brave the elements.

I missed those walks though. Every morning, I'd walk along mostly deserted city streets, and each morning I'd pass the sign for the Spectrum Theater. For all that time, the Spectrum was presenting a one-man show, Defending the Caveman.

Stay with me, I do have a point and I'm getting there.

It's been almost a year since I'd noticed the sign at the Spectrum, and I was amazed when this past week I found myself in front of the theater (fire drill) and "Caveman" wasn't on the sign. I noted the contact information and on Friday evening I stayed late after work and caught a performance of Dracula.

The Spectrum is a small and intimate space, maybe 400 seats. It doubles as a conference center. The stage itself is small and I imagine that it presents significant challenges to the theatrical folks.

As for the play itself, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd done a little research on the Synetic Theater troup. They call themselves "non-traditional" and use a fusion of mediums to create their productions.

As the lights came up and illuminated the misty room (they had the fog machines going strongly enough fill the entire room - nice effect), a very stylized battle was acted out. Without a word being spoken, one heroic yet barbaric man fought alone, and we witnessed the birth of Dracula.

They closely followed the original story of Dracula, not the melodramatic "I vant to suck your blood" nonsense that I love, and that many people remember from the movies. Nor was it the over-romanticized Ann Rice mythos. Instead, you were drawn in and keenly felt the horror, the otherworldliness, the passion and sensuality of the story. Dracula is, at one level, a very erotic tale, and this performance captured that.

The one word that keeps coming to mind is "remarkable". The sets were minimal and for the most part, successful. As you would expect, flat blacks and crimson red were the dominant colors. Even the main characters were dressed in muted browns. The only exceptions were the two ingenues, who wore whites and creams. The soundtrack was wonderful, being an integral part of the story and effortlessly moving from background to foreground as needed. One memorable scene involved a character writhing and fighting off a cloud of swarming bats, with the existance of the bats wholly created via the music suggesting the fluttering of papery wings. Likewise, the lighting was masterful, especially where, in several scenes, one character would be barely illuminated at the back of the stage, as if you were seeing the thoughts of the foreground character. Choreography... I could go on and on.

I did think that the performance dragged a little about halfway through. Mostly, this may have been caused by the need to use more dialogue to make clear the storyline. I was completely enthralled up to that point, and after a brief time, the concluding scenes drew me into their world again.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I'm not sure that their style would lend itself equally well to all tales. I wouldn't want to see their version of, say, "It's A Wonderful Life", but I noticed in their program that they mentioned a production of "Jason and the Argonauts" that I would've loved to have seen.

I'm going to close with a quote from my favorite critic:

Fluid. Lyrical. Concupiscent.

A perfect description in three words.

Posted by Ted at 11:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 01, 2005

Updated Rocket Jones Movie Review Index

I've updated the complete list of movie reviews and bios.

And, as always, you can just visit the Cult Flicks archives for all kinds of related posts. The link to all of the Rocket Jones archives are always on the right, available by category or farther down by month. I'm obsessively organized like that.

Posted by Ted at 08:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 30, 2005

Sheep?!?!?! No, please. Anything but sheep.

You gotta love this:

Hello, my name is Vic...
(crowd): Hi, Vic!
...and I'm a vampire.

Vic has a problem. He's a young vampire (as vampire ages go) who only wants a reasonably normal life. But every time he gets a girlfriend, when things get hot and heavy he's overcome with bloodlust and winds up killing her.

The only thing to do is to join a 12-step program: Vampires Anonymous.

The first part of the process involved taking a battery of tests to develop a complete psychological and physical profile. At the end, the vampire is presented with an animal especially matched to provide an alternative to feeding on human blood.

So Vic gets sent to a small town in North Carolina, known for it's sheep farms. You can imagine the fuss when sheep start disappearing, and of course there are complications with the small town badasses and women troubles.

Things really go to hell when a corporate slayer shows up in town.

There are mildly gory scenes and blood (it's a vampire movie, whaddaya expect?), and some nice minor plotlines and running gags appearing throughout the story. The VA meetings are a riot. A good description would be Doc Hollywood with fangs.

I like this movie. It's a nice blend of comedy and vampires.

Posted by Ted at 04:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 25, 2005

Two Pearls from the Orient

When the average person thinks about Japanese movies, they often think Godzilla (original title: Gojira). You might know that the horror movie The Ring (2002) is based on a 1998 Japanese film called Ringu, or that 1960's The Magnificent Seven was directly adapted from 1954's Shichinin no samurai (cowboys instead of samurai).

I recently had the opportunity to see two incredible films, neither of which involved creatures stomping Tokyo.

Onmyoji. Set in 18th century Japan, the main character is perhaps the greatest of the Onmyoji. Fortuneteller and astronomer, wizard and priest, these adepts were the guardians and monitors of the interface between the material and spiritual worlds. Beyond the swords and sorcery, this is an epic story of love, loyalty, friendship and the triumph of good over evil (although it's a very near thing). The movie is beautiful to look at, and the world it creates is alien to the western mind, yet the underlying rationale for everyone's actions are understandable in human terms. You'll have to pay attention, because the story has layers of meaning and several themes that weave in and out of the forefront of the tale. It's in Japanese with English subtitles, and if you don't mind that then I'd say that Onmyoji is a must see.

A while back, I saw a news item where opthamologists in India were petitioning the government to ban a certain horror movie. Apparently, donated organs are rare in India because the belief in reincarnation is widespread, and relatives wouldn't dream of sending their loved ones onto the next life minus parts. Especially acute is the shortage of corneas. The movie that the medical community wanted banned may have been this next one.

Jian Gui (literally: Seeing Ghosts, but released internationally as The Eye), was made by (I think) a Hong Kong filmmaker. This movie is one of those genuinely creepy films that scares you without grossing you out. In this one, a woman named Mun receives a cornea transplant which allows her to see. This turns out to be a mixed blessing, because she loses important parts of her life since she is now sighted, yet must relearn everything about the world around her - a world she only knows by touch. Again, because of the oriental slant on life (no pun intended), actions and situations are already vaguely strange, and the atmosphere and situations that come about build upon that unease to really amp up the chills. Mun begins to realize that some things she sees are invisible to others, and she's not sure if she's hallucinating or seeing ghosts that walk among us. Eventually, she comes to believe that she must discover the truth behind the donor of her corneas, and the visions become more disturbing as time goes by. The ending is just, wow.

So there you have it. One spiritual trip through feudal Japan, and one helluva chilling ride through east spooksville. You won't go wrong with either of these.

Posted by Ted at 01:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 21, 2005


Liz got into this show when it started reruns last season, and has been telling me how good it is. She bought the first season on DVD when it came out, and we've been watching an episode as time allows. It's keeping my attention, and reminds me a little bit of David Lynch's Twin Peaks, without the random weirdness. I've learned to pay attention to the details, because everything happens for a reason, and as you watch you'll flash back on previous episodes with an "ah ha!" moment.

If you haven't seen the show, the premise is that some sixty people survive an airline wreck and wind up on a seemingly deserted island. Their flight was way off course when they crashed, so the search and rescue are looking for them in the wrong place. There are a dozen or so main characters, and each episode tells one of their stories along with their continuing tale of survival. Of course there are no 'normal' background stories here, presumably the rest of the survivors are the ho-hum people, not to mention that they make the perfect pool of victims if someone needs to be killed off.

There's plenty of mystery and oddness going on, and a sweet touch of horror. Ultimately though, it's about the people. I hope they can keep up the quality, because so far I'm enjoying it.

Posted by Ted at 05:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 15, 2005

"Get It Over With" Theater

The Big Chill, performed by bunnies, condensed to 30 seconds. (warning: bunnies have a potty mouth and do what you'd expect bunnies to do)

Plenty more classics to check out here too!

Thanks to Pete for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 08:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

Atkins would approve

According to a study:

In a dramatic reversal of decades-old medical wisdom, the late Dr. Albert Rossum, director of the O'Bannon Institute For Postmortem Nutritional Studies, recommended an all-brain diet for zombies Tuesday.

The Onion has the full story.

Posted by Ted at 04:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 13, 2005

Movies on my "want to see" list

Ever read a movie synopsis that really reached out and grabbed you? Here are a few that I've noted. Some I've already seen, some I haven't.

Sore Losers - They wanted meat, so they ate the flower children! Hot rod juvenile delinguents and amazons from outer space have come to Memphis to kill hippies! As it were drained directly from the big throbbing vein of super 60's sexploitation movies, Sore Losers is an acid flashback thrill ride! Move over Quentin Tarentino, they don't make 'em like this anymore!

Now movies like this piss me off because I know that after reading that awesome description, I'm going to be disappointed. I set myself up for the heartbreak every time.

Stigma - Philip M. Thomas stars as Dr. Calvin Crosse, an ex-convict doctor just out of medical school. When Dr. Crosse returns home to his small New England town to set up a medical practice, things go drastically wrong. Long ago, the sheriff (Peter H. Clue) of the town infected Dr. Crosse’s wife with syphilis. The disease spread to their unborn daughter, and now an adult, and very contagious, the daughter (Josie Johnson) has been having group sex with the town’s young people in order to pay the old man back for his crimes. The doctor has to treat her victims and track down the disease’s source.

So what do you think? Convict movie? Medical drama? Crime thriller? Deviant sex expose? I'm hopeful on so many levels.

Pizza Wars - San Jose State professor Babak Sarrafan directed the comedy Pizza Wars. After freeing a genie (Elliott Peele) from a bong, brothers Cornelius (Omar Miller) and Scooter (Andy Sims) are granted the traditional three wishes. They transform the oregano in their family pizza recipe into marijuana. Business at the restaurant hits an all time high, arousing the jealousy of other pizzerias in the area that each fight back in their own unique style.

I own this one. It's odd but pretty darn funny. Kind of a modern, darker Cheech and Chong movie.

Shaker Run - With the accidental discovery of a lethal bio-agent at her research facility, Dr. Christine Ruben (Lisa Harrow) decides to double cross her own government by stealing the deadly formula to keep it out of the clutches of the military! To make her rendezvous with some confederates who promise to get her out of the country, she recruits daredevil driver Judd Pierson (Cliff Robertson) and his partner Casey Lee (Leif Garrett), who are down on their luck and take the job without knowing what they're getting into. Thus begins a wild thrill ride across scenic New Zealand with evil pursuers on the ground and in the air, and the fate of the human race in the trunk of the car.

Those evil New Zealander bastards, messing with lethal bio-agents. Good thing America had Cliff Robertson and Leif Garrett around... uh... Leif Garrett? And isn't New Zealand an island? If you wanted to get out of the country, wouldn't you want to hire a pilot instead? There'd better be some gratuitous nudity in this one, that's all I can say.

Run Virgin Run - A blacksmith in a remote mountain village services the local women to their complete satisfaction, but when he expresses his desire for a virgin they fear he will leave for the city. If they hope to keep him around they must find him a virgin.

I'm seriously thinking about a career change. Unless the virgin has a baby afterwards and it runs around bleating "da-a-a-a-a-a-d".

Graveyard Tramps - They'll love the very life out of your body! A powerful cosmic force is turning earth women into queen bees who kill men by wearing them out sexually. This wonderfully enjoyable, campy sci-fi film was called "A guilty pleasure" by Siskel and Ebert. This film is also known as "Invasion of the Bee Girls."

I was all hyped by this one, right up until the last line. Invasion of the Bee Girls? I already own it. *sigh*

It's good though!

Track of the Moon Beast - During a meteor storm, a fragment strikes Paul Carlson, burying itself deep in his skull. An unpleasant side-effect develops causing Paul to mutate into a giant reptilian monster at night and go on murderous rampages.

Don't you hate when that happens?

Angels: Hard as They Come - A band of schizo bikers meets a van of wasted hippies in a weird ghost town, and their mutual anarchy evolves into a free-form orgy. This biker movie glows with raw, primitive energy, rustic location shooting, a progressive rock score, and a group of the most unscrubbed characters you're ever likely to see. A fascinating 70's look at hippy culture vs. biker culture, the two groups seem originally destined for compatibility, with goal-less philosophy and wandering, nomadic lifestyle, but the disparity between the pacificism of the hips and impulsive, war-like misery of the alcoholic bikers soon erupts into all- out war symbolized by the rape/murder of a hippie chick. The stoned losers roll between angry despair and reckless bravado, ending in mutual impasse that reinforces their elemental hopelessness. This film powerfully discloses the disintegration of a culture that feeds on its own spiritual rootless ness. The verite camera style and the earthy realistic dialogue, along with generous doses of nudity and violence, make this a startling, disturbing ultimately haunting experience. Starring Gary Busey, Scott Glenn...

Aside from the title, which is straight out of hardcore porn, the producer obviously spent a good bit of the budget on a writer for that blurb. Or maybe he knew an aspiring writer. Or a psychology student. Anyways, get past the "angry despair and reckless bravado" and "elemental hopelessness" nonsense, and the important part to remember is naked chicks. Gary Busey's appearance here is proof positive that there was brain damage done in his helmetless motorcycle accident. And Scott Glenn? Leif Garrett must've been busy.

Inbred Rednecks - Get ready for a cockfightin’, beer-drinkin’, ass-whoopin’ good time! This outrageous comedy is the winner of three individual awards, including Hollywood Online’s Top Underground Film of 1998! Billy Bob, Clovis and Bubba have a dream: to strike it rich cockfighting their enormous rooster, cleverly named Bigass Rooster, across North Carolina and Tennessee. But when they defeat the villainous Monty, the enraged redneck and his bumbling thugs decide to steal Bigass, earning some quick dough and beloved revenge at once.

Enhance your viewing experience by wearing a sweaty wife-beater t-shirt and three-day stubble. Now shut yer yap and fetch me a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Yep. Fo' sho'.

Cornman - A laughable loser stumbles into a bucket of toxic waste in a cornfield and gains the ability to communicate with corn. He obtains the sidekicks and spandex necessary to become a superhero and vows to protect the corn from the evil villain Dr. Hoe. This one-armed-hoe-bad-guy enlists the aid of a giant mutant-hybrid-freak and several crappy foot soldiers in an attempt to dominate ALL THE CORN IN THE WORLD!

This probably seemed like a good idea at the time, which is why it should be shown in every school as part of the "this is why you shouldn't smoke dope" curriculum.

Drums in the Deep South - The Civil War is the battle ground for emotions and loyalties when best friends Clay Clayburn (James Craig I) and Will Denning (Guy Madison) graduate from West Point only to find themselves fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War. When two men meet each other in combat, neither knows it, as each is in an artillery position hundreds of yards from the other!

Now that's suspense. Two friends in the same general area without realizing it. Oh, be still, my heart!

Crash of the Moons - This feature-length film is culled from three episodes of the classic science fiction TV series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. Two planets are headed for collision, and Rocky Jones and his team race to prevent the catastrophe.

"Rocky Jones"? Never heard of him before. Honest!

Warning from Space - A race of aliens shaped like giant muppet starfish have come to warn us that a rogue planet is on a collision course with earth. As the planet approaches, its gravity wreaks all sorts of havoc with weather and tides. Earth scientists join forces with the five-pointed alien visitors in hopes of saving the world.

Muppet Starfish?!?!?! Oh baby, I am so there!!! I was pleased to find that I already own this one in one of my collections, but haven't had a chance to see it yet.

Posted by Ted at 05:45 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 10, 2005

Movie Review

Malibu Beach Vampires

Actually, this is more like a warning to keep away from this incoherent mess of a film. I'll describe the movie a little bit, but please, don't think I'm trying to make it sound entertaining. Any implied enjoyment value is strictly accidental.

Wanna see the funniest bit in the film?


Ignore the words, those are just stupid. Check out the teeth. Get it? Southern California? The desire for perfect teeth, even for vampires. I thought it was funny, but believe it or not, that shot in the opening credits was the highlight of the movie.

Bad, bad, bad. You'll see much better acting at your local high school production. You'll only understand the storyline if you read the description on the box first. The cameraman has parkinsons. Twice, they inexplicably break into tap dancing numbers or folk guitar sing-alongs (or both, intercut in one sanity-rending sequence).

I forced myself to finish watching, hoping for another "smile" moment that never came. This flick sucked so bad that I didn't even realize until later that there wasn't a single bare boob displayed, despite the advertising.

I can't even bring myself to blame the distributer for lying about the nudity. I'd probably lie too if I was stuck trying to sell this...

Words fail me.

Posted by Ted at 07:35 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 06, 2005

Finally, The Movie Review You've Been Waiting For

That's right, boys and girls, it's time for the Rocket Jones review of:

Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots

Pre... whatchamacallit: When I jumped at the chance agreed to accept a reviewer's copy of this movie, I promised myself that I would give a fair and honest review. I do believe that I've kept that promise, and I hope that after reading it, you'll think so too.

I was thinking about what a pain it would be to have to keep typing "Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots" throughout this review, but the acronym "DrHEHoI", is just as bad.

Everyone has had that moment while watching a movie or television show when you recognize an actor or actress but can't quite place where else you've seen them. It can drive you crazy, until at last your memory clicks, and then it's an almost physical feeling of relief. Likewise, it's often a pleasant surprise to see someone you recognize in an unexpected role. This movie is full of those wonderful and surprising moments.

Now I have to tell you that this isn't a horror movie... exactly. I mean, there are undead and werewolves that play prominent roles, but the focus isn't on horror, it's on satire and parody and spoof (spoofage? That might be a dirty word). In overall feel, I'd liken Dr. Horror (don't make me type the whole freakin' thing out people), to that paean to the surreal, Happiness of the Katakuris. Plotwise, the story is fresh, intricate and plausible in its own charming way.

Without giving away too much of the story, there are three people who come to visit a famous sex therapist. Unfortunately, the doc is away, and the caretaker scams them by passing off his buddy as the "substitute" doctor, Dr. Horror. And that's about as bare-bones a description as is possible about a movie that runs 2+ hours.

Yep, you read that right, but not to worry, because it keeps moving right along. There are several long vignettes, almost mini-movies, that are used to advance the story, and nothing is rushed or hurried. Like old-time roadshow movies, it even has an Overture, Intermission and whatever you call that music when the movie is done (Enditure?). In addition, there's one helluva entertaining documentary included on the disk called "That's Independent". All told, there's over 3 hours of viewable material.

Here are a couple of exerpts from the letter that Producer Paul Scrabo sent along with the movie:

"Dr Horror had one intention in its conception: whatever the "B-Movie rules" were, we would just do the opposite.

I wouldn't go so far as to say it's G-rated, but there's no nudity, no gore and no potty jokes. In fact, the humor and innuendo is often subtle and mature. I said "often", not always. This flick made me laugh out loud several times, and more than once I had to pause it so I could stop chuckling and then rewind to see what I'd missed.

In the low-budget world, horror is in good shape, so it did not make sense to make one. Rather, we decided to poke some fun at the world of "direct to video" fare. The "erotic" in the title is a joke on the many films that have "erotic" in the title in order to make them more "marketable".

Sex sells, even crappy B-movie sex. Dr. Horror, though, works the "erotic" into the story line, which is more than the typical indie flick. Pick up "Satanic Rites of the Erotic Cannibal Blood Sacrifice" (don't bother, I just made that up), and you can pretty much bet that "erotic" stands for gratuitous nudity. I'm all for boobs on screen, but face it, if you're spending the night at Camp Meathook, you should probably reconsider that urge to get naked. Especially since nude teenagers are the horror movie equivalent of Star Trek's guy in the red shirt.

"But mon ami," you may ask, "what about ze eye candy?!?!?"

Let me tell you, mi amigo (screw consistancy), this movie has plenty of nice looking ladies in outfits that make it fun to look. Which is as good a segue as any to start talking about the stars. The cast of "Dr Horror" is filled with familiar names, familiar faces and true legends from the world of B-movie cinema. One of the reasons this took so long to write was because every time I'd start researching the actors, I'd wind up off on a tangent following someone's career.

Debbie Rochon

First up is Debbie Rochon. Now I'm partial to brunettes in the first place, but when my wife saw Ms. Rochon on the screen, her first words to me were "oh wow, you're in love, aren't you?" She knows me so well. Debbie Rochon is drop-dead gorgeous and the lady can act too, starting out on stage on and off Broadway before going into the scream queen biz, where she's won numerous awards. She displays a great sense of comedic timing, and her "dolphin book" scene will make you forget the diner in When Harry Met Sally.

Is she really a star? Well, she's been elected into the B-Movie Hall of Fame. I'd certainly roll out the red carpet for her.

Trent Haaga plays a complete jerk, yet still manages to make you care about his character. That's quite a tightrope to walk, but he balances everything with, again, a fine sense of comedy. This is the first time I've seen his work, and he shines.

The character of Ashley is played by Nathan Sears. This was his first role, and he is so convincing as the milqutoast nebbish that you just want to reach out and force him to strip to prove he actually has testicles shake some sense into him. That is, until he is compelled to become a hero, and then he becomes... well, maybe not John Wayne, but tougher than Wayne Newton for sure.

Dr. Horror is played by Michael R. Thomas. You might not recognize the name, but you've certainly seen his work, because he's been a Hollywood makeup artist for a long time. Among his credits are The Wiz, Neighbors, Ghostbusters (both of them), Wolfen, Fatal Attraction, and television. He also did a bit of work on... *drumroll please* softcore lesbian spoofs shot direct to video. Yay!

Bela Lugosi's Ygor from 'Son of Frankenstein'

Mr. Thomas has done some acting too. I first saw him in front of the camera in Lord of the G-Strings (see above), but he played Smirnoff the wizard and hid behind a full beard. I recognized him from his part as the club owner in Bite Me! He's a funny guy, and if I had to describe him, it might be as a cross between Bela Lugosi and Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld). His background in makeup is a bonus too. I wrote recently about enjoying the Frankenstein Legacy Collection. Well, imagine my delight when Michael Thomas appeared in one Dr. Horror vignette as Ygor! Originally played by Bela Lugosi in Son of Frankenstein, Mr. Thomas brilliantly recreated the character, right down to the accent and the scarred and broken neck. That scene right there is worth the price of the movie to me.

"His business card reads, "Conrad Brooks, Movie Star." The New York Times named him, "The Gielgud of Bad Movies," a title he embraces fondly."
-- I-Con 23 website

The last main character is the caretaker, played by Conrad Brooks. He's a likeable guy, but gives the weakest performance of the cast. On the other hand, he got his start in Ed Wood movies, and over the years has appeared in, directed, produced, and written some real stinkers - many of which I own and love. He made appearances in two of the worst films ever made: Plan 9 From Outer Space *and* The Beast From Yucca Flats. Folks, that's a pedigree right there, and I have no standing to criticize.

Even the supporting characters have solid B-movie credentials. An unexpected bit of wonderfulness was the appearance of John Zacherle, who had a top-10 song in 1958 titled "Dinner with Drac".

I will make mention that Dr. Horror was co-written by "my girl" (as Victor calls her), Brinke Stevens, who also makes a cameo.

"It also helps to have a lighting director for a wife (George Ann Muller), and she made all the sets herself!"
-- Paul Scrabo
(take note, Mookie)

All right, so all I've done so far is gush about how wonderful this movie is. Surely, there must be something less than perfect about Dr. Horror. Of course there is, because it's an independent movie. If you're looking for Hollywood, this isn't it. What this is, though, are cast and crew making movies because they love what they do and have fun doing it. I also want to make clear that independent doesn't mean amateur. Don't expect Gone with the Wind, and you'll have a grand time watching this.

Highly recommended. You can get your own copy at Scrabo.com.

For the record, I am not afraid of lesbians.

Posted by Ted at 08:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 31, 2005

How to save a fortune on Purina Tiger Chow

From a review of the movie Zombiegeddon:

Having real tigers chase and maul zombies...that's cool. It's like When Animals Attack, only better.

Now how can you disagree with that?

Posted by Ted at 12:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

Movies that I want to see, just because of the titles

  • Bikini Girls on Dinosaur Planet
  • Zombiegeddon
  • Vampire Lesbian Kickboxers
  • Spacemen, Go-go Girls and the True Meaning of Christmas
  • Repligator
  • Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh Eating, Hellbound, Zombified Living Dead Part 2: In Shocking 2-D

I'm sure there's more.

Posted by Ted at 05:21 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 28, 2005

Oh, cool

Cinefear is offering classic titles on DVD now.

Posted by Ted at 10:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 19, 2005

Don't look down, but back is ok

Big thanks to John for pointing this site out.

In 1958 Alfred Hitchcock directed his masterpiece Vertigo, which was set in San Francisco. In 2003, this guy went around the city with a camera and took pictures from the same viewpoints as the movie. The photos are posted side by side, so you can see the changes that have happened in 44 years.

I love the internet for sites like this.

Posted by Ted at 05:24 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 18, 2005

Snotty, but fun!

From IMDB.com:

Premiere magazine just released their list of the "Top 20 Most Overrated Movies of All Time" -- which of them is the most overrated?
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • American Beauty
  • An American in Paris
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Chicago
  • Clerks
  • Easy Rider
  • Fantasia
  • Field of Dreams
  • Forrest Gump
  • Gone with the Wind
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Jules & Jim
  • Moonstruck
  • Monster's Ball
  • Mystic River
  • Nashville
  • The Red Shoes
  • The Wizard of Oz

I'd be interested to hear your take on this.

Posted by Ted at 07:40 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 15, 2005

"To a new world of Gods and Monsters"

You may recognize the title of this as a toast given by Dr. Pretorius in Bride of Frankenstein.

I haven't done a movie review in a while because I haven't watched many movies lately, and the ones I've seen have been unremarkable. But last week, thanks to my lovely wife, I scored a copy of Frankenstein: the Legacy Collection. I've been lusting after these since they came out, and I've already let Santa know that I expect the Dracula and Mummy sets for Christmas*.

But this isn't going to be a simple movie review, nor even just a review about the collection on DVD. Right now (and I may edit the heck out of this before I hit "publish"), this might best be described as a love letter to a dear old friend.

To many people, the term "horror movie" is interchangable with "slasher flick". I'm not a huge fan of blood and gore, preferring to be scared instead of grossed out (yes, I said that with a straight face, even though my movie collection contains more blood orgy's than the average).

Even within the horror genre there are sub-genres. Just as Dracula is the embodiment of supernatural evil and Alien has become the ultimate "creature" movie, Frankenstein's Monster is the ultimate monster character. Written by Mary Shelley** at the age of 19, the tale is less a horror story than a morality play about the consequences that result when man plays God.

Over time though, Frankenstein became a parody of itself. Mention the name and for most what comes forth in the mind's eye is a figure comprised of equal parts Herman Munster, Lurch and maybe Peter Boyle's comic portayal in Young Frankenstein. All fun, but none of them are even close to the original. Many people don't even recognize the original story when they see pieces of it in other movies (I give Van Helsing big points for being fairly true to the original in it's opening scenes). For instance, that brilliant bit in Young Frankenstein about the abnormal brain? Mel Brooks lifted that scene almost verbatim from the original movie, and most people never even realized.

The various stage versions of Frankenstein were very popular, and when the film was released in 1931 starring Boris Karloff, it became a huge hit.

The film is riddled with anachronisms and peculiarities, yet it retains its underlying believability because everyone acts consistantly within the story. The village is full of peasants named Hans and Karl, and led by a Burgermeister, yet everyone speaks with a very British accent. Somehow it works, and it's not until later that you think to yourself, "just where the heck was all that supposed to have happened?" The answer supplied by Universal Studios was "alternate reality", which neatly explains away all the inconsistancies.

Frankenstein's Monster and Maria

I was pleased to find that the original version had been restored. In 1931 and again in later years during each rerelease, censors insisted on editing out scenes deemed too intense or inflamatory for the mores of the day. Unfortunately, these cuts also altered the story in significant ways. Probably the most famous of these edits involved the scene where the monster encounters Maria. What moviegoers originally saw was the monster looking at the little girl through the trees at the edge of the lake, then later the father carrying the body of the drowned child. The restored version shows how the child was unafraid of the monster and they played together tossing flowers into the water to watch them float. Innocently, the monster then tosses Maria into the lake, thinking she'll float too. The result is still tragic, but the motivation is revealed to be completely different, even sympathetic instead of evil.

Without going into the story beyond that, here's a one sentence review of the original version of Frankenstein: See it.

So how does one go about creating a sequel worthy of a megahit? First, you convince the original director to come back, then you bring back as much of the original cast as possible.

Thus, becomes 1935's Bride of Frankenstein.

This followup may be even better than the masterpiece it reprises. Once again, the keystone of the story is man inpinging upon God's purview, and the consequences of doing so. Rather than just recreating the style and mood of the original story, Bride is more in every sense. More humor, more pathos, more irony.

Dr. Frankenstein is recovering from his final encounter with the monster he created when he recieves a visit from an old acquaintance. Dr. Pretorius was one of Frankenstein's professors at the medical institute, one who was a main inspiration and motivator for Frankenstein's experiments.

Doctor Pretorius introduces elements to his character that evoke Hannibal Lecter more than fifty years before that human monster appeared. He is brilliant, urbane, witty, magnetic and utterly amoral. He shows Dr. Frankenstein the amazing progress he's made in his own experiments, and blackmails Frankenstein into combining their talents to advance even further.

The Bride of Frankenstein

I won't give any more of the story here, suffice it to say that there are plenty of peasants bearing torches, rampaging monsters and spectacular electrical effects in the laboratory. That's for the those who haven't seen it before (or recently). There's so much more to the story though, including religious references that pushed the limits of what the censors of the day would allow. This is an incredibly rich movie experience, and I haven't even talked about the bride.

Once again, in one sentence: See it!

On to the DVD collection itself. There are three more movies in the collection that I haven't gotten to yet: Son of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein and House of Frankenstein, along with hours of theatrical trailers, movie poster archives, production stills from scenes edited out of the movies, short subjects and commentary by film historians for the two films I talked about above. This isn't filler, it's an amazing amount of additional material that really adds to the package. All total, you get two disks in the package, and the second disk is double sided. I've heard that there were problems with the early packaging that resulted in some damaged and unplayable disks, but the issues mentioned seem to have been resolved in my set. I'll let you know if I run into any problems.

Ok, bottom line for the Frankenstein: the Legacy Collection: Folks, this set runs less than $30.00, and it's well worth it!

Movie Trivia: In the opening cast credits, The Monster is shown with a question mark instead of Boris Karloff's name. This is a tribute to the very first stage production of Frankenstein's Monster performed in 1823 (that's not a typo), when the actor who portrayed the monster was credited the same way.

Quick, what were Dr. Frankenstein's and his assistant's first names? If you said Viktor and Igor, you were wrong. The correct names were Henry Frankenstein and Fritz.

Bette Davis was considered for the role of Dr. Frankenstein's fiance.

Many consider the first horror film to be a fifteen minute long version of Frankenstein done by Thomas Edison's film studio in New York in 1910.

*I'm not so interested in the Wolfman or Invisible Man collections, although I'll admit to being intrigued by the Creature from the Black Lagoon set.

**Mary Shelley was travelling as Percy Shelley's lover at the time***. Percy Shelley is now considered one of England's greatest poets, and they were visiting with Lord Byron, another extraordinary poet. During the visit they experienced a powerful thunderstorm, which inspired Lord Byron to suggest that they each write a ghost story. Frankenstein was the only story from the group to be published.

***Technically, she was still Mary Godwin when she wrote the story. Shelley abandoned his wife and two children to run off with Mary Godwin. Soon, in the same year that Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus was published, Shelley's wife committed suicide, leaving the way open for him to make Mary Godwin his wife.

Posted by Ted at 04:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 14, 2005

New Trend? I hope so!

I've been sitting on this one awhile, awaiting further developments.

Some bloggers, like Instapundit, get free books to review. That's cool.

Thanks to Triticale, I learned that a short while ago Jeff (a prominent 2nd Ammendment blogger) was given the opportunity to preview a new firearm. That's very cool.

Lastly, a couple of weeks ago, I got an email referring to the Rocket Jones online biography on Brinke Stevens. It seems that Ms Stevens has written a new horror movie which is now out as an indie effort, and yours truly was offered a review copy. How cool is that?

The internet is a twisted place full of unexpected surprises. If you're using it right.

Posted by Ted at 07:47 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 10, 2005

My collection is sadly lacking

Thanks to John at TexasBestGrok, here's a nifty link to posters and more from the many seasons of MST3K!

Alas, I actually own less than half of these titles.

Posted by Ted at 05:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 31, 2005

An Award I'd be proud to display on my mantle

Recently, the Pittsburgh Film Workers Fest was held to celebrate independent horror films.

These are the statuettes awarded (click image for bigger size):


Specially created for the Fest, these are just too cool. The heck with Oscar, I want a Creatch!

Posted by Ted at 06:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 05, 2005

Sweet & Sour

In the movie Exit to Eden, you get to see the delicious Dana Delaney in several exotic and kinky outfits. She gets naked too.

You also see Rosie O'Donnel dancing on a strip club stage in a bustier.

Posted by Ted at 06:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day

My wife got me a DVD collection of classic SciFi movies. Like a lot of these collections, "classic" is in the eye of the beholder, and several of these titles rank right down there with Plan 9 From Outer Space and The Beast of Yucca Flats. What Liz didn't realize though, was how delighted I'd be with the unexpected treasury of peblum flicks included.

Peblum, literally, is the short skirt worn by ancient gladiators, but it's also used to describe a genre of movies. Although generically it refers to any heroic fantasy movie set in ancient times (Hercules, Atlas, Jason, etc.), specifically the term applies to the movies made in Italy during the 50's and 60's. You can check out my earlier post on Steve Reeves for a bio of one of the superstars of the type.

I suppose the fantasy aspect of these movies qualified them for inclusion in a SciFi collection, but that's ok with me. Look for an upcoming Rocket Jones review of Hercules movies in the future. You know you can't wait.

Posted by Ted at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2005

Movie Quote

From Mystery Men.

"We're on a blind date with destiny, and she just ordered the lobster." -- The Shoveler

This flick is available in the $5.50 discount bin at WalMart.

Posted by Ted at 09:42 AM | Comments (2)

June 06, 2005

Something to do at your next bong party

There is supposedly a strange synchronicity between the movie Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon CD.

One crucial aspect of the WOO/DSM experience is timing. It is important to begin the CD at the end of the third, final roar of the MGM lion.

Get the timing right, and then get ready for an eerie ride.

The opening credits of the film began to roll to the heartbeats and ticking of Speak to Me. The familiar black-and-white farm scenes begin with the song Breathe. Dorothy is talking with the farm hands, then begins to walk the fence rail. The lyric "And balanced on the biggest wave You race towards an early grave" plays as Dorothy loses her balance and falls from the fence.

Of course, the movie goes on long after the CD ends.

The CD ends with the beating of a heart as Dorothy listens to the Tin Man's chest.

Give it a try sometime (altered personal reality optional). Make sure you scroll down to the bottom of the page for links to other Wizard & Dark Side sites.

And your little dog too!

Posted by Ted at 05:59 AM | Comments (3)

June 04, 2005

Frank Lloyd Wright vs. Zombies

A light analysis of one of his masterpieces and how defendable it is if the undead rise again. Plenty of interesting background history too, of the more mundane sort.

Thanks to Mrs. Spoons for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 03:06 PM | Comments (1)

May 27, 2005

All collectedly gathered together for your surfing pleasure

Got a *lot* done yesterday and finished up the evening by watching one of Misty Mundae's more recent efforts, Bite Me! Giant mutant spiders in a strip club. You know I'm loving it.

Boss: What's gotten into you?

Crystal: Spider venom, and I like it.

Consider that a mini-review and recommendation.

Speaking of clitorises... clitoris's... clitorii... what's the plural of clitoris? Oh well, doesn't matter... Speaking of female anatomy, wegglywoo points out an article that proves once again that there are always new things to discover right under our noses (ahem).

Sorry, I was up way late and up way early. Sleep deprivation makes me silly. It's a serious article though, and has some interesting implications for current surgical techniques.

Since we're navigating around the female form, it might be useful to be able to actually navigate, eh? And what better way than by sextant, especially an actual working sextant you build yourself using AOL cd's, mirrors and lego? Thanks to the Ministry for this nifty link.

Mookie picked up the soundtrack to Spamalot. Excellent. I especially enjoyed "The Song That Goes Like This". By the way, that is also one of the best home pages I've ever seen.

One Hit Wonder Central, courtesy of the Llama Butchers.

Gir has tagged me with another meme that goes on the ol' "get to it later stack", alongside the one from Elisson.

Squipper (who has a loaf of home made cinnamon-raisin bread heading her way at the speed of USPS) points out an amusing list: "Things I'd Probably Say If the Bush Administration Were Just a Weekly TV Show and I Were a Regular Viewer". In a completely non-partisan manner I'd like to mention that you can replace "Bush" with "Clinton" or even "Republican" or "Democrat" and the list would still be perfectly spot on.

(I know that contest was a long time ago and I'm just getting around to sending Cindy her prize, but I prefer to think of it this way: I take a long time to satisfy a lady.)

A while back I linked to "By Ourselves, For Ourselves" over at Random Nuclear Strikes. Basically, it's a series of practical essays on survival if the shit ever hits the fan. I consider these a must-read, and the latest installment is up.

You might not like guns, but you should understand the purpose of the 2nd Ammendment. And if you think it's terrible that the government tells you who you can or cannot marry, or what you can or cannot do in the privacy of your own home, yet you remain anti-gun, then I say you're foolish to discard the ultimate Constitutional remedy provided by the men of wisdom who designed that document. Another link from Random Nuclear Strikes.

The Everlasting Phelps has a new advertiser that sells Japanese products. I got a kick just browsing the catalog, and just might order the "Respect the Emperor, Expel the Foreign Barbarians" t-shirt.

Lynn S has been on a roll lately, with links to this page of vintage pulp Octopus covers, and this group blog called Drawn!, which is all about illustration, and which led me to By It's Cover and The Planet of Sardines.

I love the internet.

Posted by Ted at 06:01 AM | Comments (1)

May 26, 2005

Bub could be trained to do simple tasks, but then so can the average teenager


"All your base are belong to us."

Posted by Ted at 06:57 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2005

Most every Jason I've ever known has been a jerk

Even the ones who aren't hockey mask-wearing psychopathic serial murderers. But if you want a rundown on most of the Friday the 13th franchise, you're in luck, because Pete gives his take, right down to "best killing" in each flick.

I've still got an unopened copy of the original on my shelf, a gift for Christmas.

Posted by Ted at 04:55 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2005

Urkel Moments in Hollywood

What is an "Urkel Moment?"

Any time you suddenly stop and say "did I do that?" Named after the character Steve Urkel, who made a (brief) career out of doing just that in the the television sitcom Family Matters. You know, the one where the youngest TV daughter grew up to do porn movies.*

Did I do that?

I'd make bets that you've mentally asked yourself that after breaking up with someone. Any incriminating photos in your past (Dr. Laura - nsfw)?

"I'm not saying I'm gay or anything, but I would so do David Hasselhoff." from the Urban Dictionary

One night while stationed in Alabama my wife and I and another couple went to a drive-in theater we'd heard about that showed porn movies. I don't remember a thing about the movies we saw except for one item. One of the male stars was none other than David Hasselhoff. This was pre-Knight Rider days and long before Baywatch. But he was still a star, appearing as a regular and important character on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless. His character name? Snapper. I shit you not.

I wonder what he got paid for doing that porn movie? Definitely an Urkel moment.

Did you know that Harlan (Colonel) Sanders used to offer free fried chicken to movie crews if they'd give him walk-on bit parts? It's true, and there are several very forgettable movies in which he makes an appearance. Something I didn't realize was that the man was 6'5" tall, so he often literally stood head and shoulders above the other characters in a scene.

Probably best known as the upper and lower left corners of the original Hollywood Squares game shows, Wally Cox and Charlie Weaver each fell into doing parts in crap movies after their careers faded. Cox in particular did some really odd and disturbing work making use of his milquetoast personna.

Neil Sedaka's Urkel Moment is undoubtedly an uncredited appearance (probably the wisest thing he ever did, the uncredited part that is) in a 70's movie called Chatterbox. Here's the plot synopsis:

A young woman who works in a beauty parlor discovers that her vagina can talk, which causes her no end of trouble.

Who says Hollywood has gone to hell lately?

Titled with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, you know this one is on my "track down and see someday" list.

* The youngest daughter on Family Matters was named Jaimee Foxworth, so if you believe at all in karma, then that name doomed her to porn right from the start. Her porn star name was Crave and she starred in flicks such as "Booty Talk #20". She's since "found God" and is trying to get back into mainstream acting. And no, I've never seen any of her movies, but Google is my friend.

Posted by Ted at 08:58 AM | Comments (3)

May 01, 2005

Bub for President

Meet Bub, star zombie from 'Day of the Dead'

Not "Dub", Bub!

Posted by Ted at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2005

All Zombies, All the Time

(alternate title: Less Talk, More Zombies)


On a related note, I rewatched Day of the Dead last night while waiting for a loaf of bread to bake. Terribly underrated and not disturbingly gory until the last half hour (when it goes right on over the top).

Posted by Ted at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2005

The scene I keep replaying in my mind (updated)

I finally got around to watching the remake of Dawn of the Dead a few days ago. I'm a huge fan of the original, and like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I think the new version is good but in a very different way than the original.

I really like the "fast" zombies. That's not to say they're better than the traditional slow shuffling zombies, because there's a whole 'nother flavor of terror in being inexorably overwhelmed by mindless masses of the flesh-craving undead.

But these new zombies that have been showing up, like the berzerkers in 28 Days Later and these hyper-aggresive monsters in Dawn - wow. They're not just shambling around, instinctively looking for the living. The zombies in Dawn of the Dead are actively searching. And when they see a target, they go full-tilt towards it, ready to rend and devour.

Which brings me to my main gripe about the movie. Like happens all too often in these flicks, everyone is a crack shot. Dozens of zombies sprinting towards you? Your escape route threatened? Ultimate pressure because if they get you, you die? No problem, because everyone instantly achieves perfect head shots each and every time. One of my favorite bits in Shaun of the Dead was the fact that none of the main characters could hit the broad side of a barn with a gun, and it was played to both comedic and suspensful effect.

But this is about "the scene I keep replaying in my mind". It was subtle, and only peripherally related to the main action. I'll try to keep it general enough to not give away any spoilers.

When the nurse is driving away from her home, the camera shot is from the hood of the car and through the windsheild and back window you can see the zombie that almost got her in pursuit. He's running in a full sprint down the street after her. As she begins to gain some distance and turns a corner, a lady comes out of her house and he peels off, still in full sprint, and tackles her and takes her down. By this time, they're far in the background of the camera shot, and you might not even notice.

This morning while getting ready for work, I didn't turn on the TV and I didn't have a radio on. I was completely oblivious to the world outside my home, much like that lady in the movie. As I went out front to take the trashcan to the curb, it struck me how similar my situation was to that lady, who was probably just out to pick up her morning paper.

That is true horror, peeps. Everyday life, interupted by the unimaginable.

Update: If you follow the very first link above it will take you to the IMDB entry for Dawn of the Dead. From there, click on the trivia link and you'll see all of the little tributes to the original movie that were included in the remake. Cool stuff.

Posted by Ted at 11:16 AM | Comments (9)

April 01, 2005

Satan has Martha Stewart on speed dial

In 2000 an animated series aired for about three episodes before being yanked from the schedule due to intense pressure from religious groups.

Maybe you saw it. God, the Devil, and Bob.

God and the Devil

The premise is explained in a short clip at the start of every show. God is thinking that maybe he should start over, but being a benevolent God, he decides to let one person convince him that humanity is worth saving. In a sporting gesture, God lets the Devil pick the person.

Meet Bob. Bob works for a Detroit automaker. He is everyman. A family man with a young son and rebelious teen daughter. His wife is trying to go back to college and they're doing ok. Not great, but ok. Bob definitely has his human foibles.

As God puts it, "I wouldn't go making any long-term plans."

Except that Bob manages to convince God that humanity is worth saving, and the series goes from there.

This series is wonderful. Despite the objections from the fire-and-brimstone fundamentalists, God as depicted here is loving and mysterious and unfathomable and immediate.

Probably the single biggest objection was the way God is portrayed. Voiced by James Garner, God looks a lot like Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead. If the circumstances call for it, God will wear a baseball cap and sunglasses. He's been known to hoist a beer on occasion.

Most of the time, God is only visible to Bob. And Bob is trying to wrap his mind around the consequences of being God's chosen one. At first Bob thinks his job is to be a prophet ("that's what prophets do: draw a crowd and shout at people"), and in one episode comes to believe that he's invincible. For a thrill he goes skydiving without a parachute. God shows up on the way down and disabuses him of that notion ("Bob, haven't you ever heard of dumb luck?"). God is not mocked, but organized religion is.

Not unexpectedly, some Christians were up in arms:

Another segment of the show was a direct attack on those preaching the gospel. Bob goes to a preacher, who is naked and smoking a cigar, while getting a massage from a blonde whose cleavage was ready to fall out of her dress. -- George Whitten, editor of Worthy News.

More correctly, Bob went to a televangelist from the God Network (the sign out front reads "formerly UPN" *snicker*) and pitched his idea for a new show about talking to God. Bob was thrown out when the televangelist found out his idea wasn't designed to make money. As for the massage, cleavage and money-grubbing TV preacher, well, that was about the most realistic part of the show as far as I'm concerned.

Now the third side to this triangle is the Devil (voiced by Alan Cumming), and he's a treat. His character makes me think of Felix Unger if he were played by David Niven, with a healthy dollop of wicked in the mix. God and the Devil are on speaking terms, and the relationship mostly seems to be the Devil scheming while God keeps half an eye on things.

The Devil tempts Bob mightily ("I'm Evil, Bob, it's what I do"). In one hilarious episode, Bob blows off the Devil once too often and the Devil retaliates by dating Bob's daughter. In another, the Devil decides to redecorate Hell and calls on Martha Stewart to manage the job. He gets distracted by something on Earth and she takes over for a while.

Satan's sidekick is a little demon named Smeck. He's the administrator of Hell and gets nervous when the Devil goes off on a tangent. He's happiest when the Devil is doing what he's supposed to be doing, namely, raising hell.

The idea behind the show was not to be disrespectful towards God and religion. There is a theologian listed in the credits, a Catholic priest I believe.

Still, I can see why this show had so many people upset. If you'd rather believe in the Old Testament God, then this depiction is not for you. On the other hand, the stories consistently show a strong family relationship that succeeds despite the very human flaws that we all possess.

God, the Devil, and Bob is available on a two-disk DVD set that has the entire (mostly unseen) first season. Well worth it if you can deal with the subject.

Posted by Ted at 09:12 PM | Comments (3)

March 16, 2005

Quote of the Day

From A Smell of Honey, a Swallow of Brine:

I may be a bitch, but I'll never be a butch!

I was going to do a review of this DVD from Something Weird Video, but to be honest, it just isn't going to appeal to anyone but someone whose taste in movies runs far to the odd. Like me.

Briefly: three movies, and Honey is by far the best of them, and it's not very good. Joining in on the disc are The Brick Dollhouse, which is a pitifully poor murder mystery, and A Sweet Sickness, about a wannabe starlet who's sleeping her way into the biz. They're both listed at IMDB.com, you can read the reviews yourself if you've a mind.

These are 60's-style sexploitation flicks, specifically the sub-genre known as "roughies". The goal was to have a bit of story, and as much naked boobage and buns as possible. There's no happy ending in a roughie, and at some point someone gets manhandled. Usually one of the ladies, but not always. Simulated sex (very simulated), make these barely softcore. More time is spent on foreplay than on anything else, which is actually refreshing and one of the good points.

The one feature on this DVD that makes it all worthwhile (to me) is watching Honey with the commentary on. They've got the two owners of SWV sitting there with the producer of Honey and a bunch of other sleazy flicks just like it, and the guy is a treasure. Funny stories, inside details and insight on the movie business. He had me laughing my ass off when he explained the title "A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine". His first choice was "C.T." for cock tease, which is what the main character is, but the censors wouldn't allow it. Then he tried "Maneater", but no newspaper would run ads for it with that title. He finally got fed up and came up with Honey. He also released Dollhouse after buying it from the original producers. They had about 100 minutes of incoherent nonsense going on, and he edited it down to about 60-odd minutes of barely coherent dreck. It's terrible and he knows it and doesn't care.

Look at me, after saying I wouldn't do this I go ahead and review it anyway. If you're a fan and can rent a copy, this is worth it for Honey and the commentary. Otherwise give it a pass.

Posted by Ted at 04:22 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2005

Updated Rocket Jones Movie Review List


Posted by Ted at 06:05 AM | Comments (1)

March 10, 2005

A movie review you won't see here

Even I have standards. Admittedly low standards, but still...

Slaves of Love

A tribe of Amazon women use a magnetic force to pull down airplanes flying over their island. They enslave all the men aboard the planes and use them as their sex slaves.

I wonder where I can find a copy?

Posted by Ted at 06:05 AM | Comments (2)

February 22, 2005

Steve Reeves

If you've ever watched the Hercules movies on late night television, then you're familiar with Steve Reeves. It's obvious from his on-screen physique that he was a bodybuilder, but his pre-Hollywood career was phenominally successful and in fact he had to slim down and lose muscle mass to broaden his appeal to movie audiences.


Born in Montana in 1925, Reeves was strikingly handsome, personally charismatic and also blessed with the ability to quickly attain the bodybuilder's physique. To this day, his symmetry and overall looks are legendary.

Reeves began bodybuilding at 15 years of age and was always the first to admit he had a good foundation and was an "easy gainer". Within a couple of years, he was training under professional supervision in California and winning local competitions.

In 1944 he was drafted into the Army and he served for 19 months in the Asian theater, seeing action in the Philippines and being part of the initial U.S. occupation forces in Japan. During this time, he used improvised weight equipment and did rope climbing and calestetics when circumstances prevented regular workouts.

"I don't think there is one chance in 50 trillion that the particular mix of hereditary genes that formed the product we see in Steve Reeves will ever occur in combination again." -- Russ Warner, Muscle Magazine photographer

A little more than a year after his discharge from the military (and resumption of serious training), Reeves won the 1947 Mr. America contest. He was 21 years old. He went on to be a force in the bodybuilding world for several years, winning both the Mr. World and Mr. Universe titles.

And then Hollywood came calling.

At first, he was only used as impressive looking walk-on scenery in films and on television (he played a detective in Ed Wood's Jail Bait), and it wasn't until he was invited to Italy in 1959 to star as Hercules that his on-screen popularity soared. He went on to make a series of sequels and similar movies of the genre. In fact, he became so popular (quite possibly the first "action" star), that he was reportedly offered the role of James Bond in Dr. No and as the Man With No Name in A Fistful Of Dollars.

After injuring his shoulder in a chariot accident (he did his own stunts), Reeves was unable to continue serious training. He retired and bought a horse ranch. He remained a vocal critic of the use of steroids in bodybuilding, feeling that they went against the health benefits and inherent physical challenges of the sport.

The movie Gladiator was sometimes called the first "Steve Reeves type" movie to be done in decades. Some thought that Reeves should have been at least given a cameo in the film as a tribute to his groundbreaking efforts.

In May of 2000, Steve Reeves passed away on the same day that the movie Gladiator premiered. He was 74 years old, and had been diagnosed with lymphoma just six weeks previously.

Rocket Jones bondage moment Trivia: In the book Lash! The Hundred Greatest Scenes of Men Being Whipped in the Movies, ranking 7th is Reeves' flogging in Duel of the Titans and ranking 24th is his flogging in White Warrior.

White Warrior is available in the dollar bin at WalMart. It's not great, but it's not bad, and it's got Steve Reeves in it.

Posted by Ted at 06:19 PM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2005

Victor and I have this weird mental simpatico thing going on this week

I posted the lyrics to Never My Love. Victor rags on The Association, who did a version of Never My Love. I post a picture of Luuka the Bear who went to the rocket launch with me. Victor has a bear portray me in his epic birthday tribute to Joe Don Baker.

It's funny as hell, and I really suggest that you... aw crap, let Victor finish the sentence.

(oh yeah, this is under the Cult Flicks category because it's Joe Don Baker's birthday and Victor has done a remarkable series of posts on the man and his career.)

Posted by Ted at 07:45 AM | Comments (1)

February 04, 2005

Ossie Davis dies at age 87

Always dignified regardless of the role, Hollywood lost a major star today. Go read the article, it has an excellent summary of his life and body of work.

Davis, who wrote, acted, directed and produced for the theater and Hollywood, was a central figure among black performers of the last five decades. He and [wife and actress Ruby] Dee celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998 with the publication of a dual autobiography, "In This Life Together."

He was also more than an entertainer. Ossie Davis was a civil rights activist from the earliest days, and he delivered the eulogy at the funeral of his friend Malcolm X.

Posted by Ted at 02:27 PM | Comments (2)

January 27, 2005

With all the buzz going on about Phantom of the Opera

Instead of just reviewing a movie this time around, I thought I'd point out an excellent DVD for cinema fans.

The disk is a triple feature under the title Horror Classics, volume 1. Released by Navarre video, it falls under their Reel Values label. I got my copy at Suncoast Video for around ten bucks.

So what's so special about this DVD with the mundane name?

On it are three silent classics: Nosferatu, Phantom of the Opera, and Metropolis. My review for each of these movies is simple: See them, and be prepared to be wowed!

I talked a little bit about Nosferatu here:

My only complaint is that the Americanized version I have changed the names of the characters, making the story more familiar yet taking away from the original intent (for instance: Graf Orlok was changed to Count Dracula and Profesor Bulwer became Dr. Van Helsing).

There's more to the story. According to some accounts, when Bram Stoker's Dracula was first put on sale for movie rights, among the first buyers was F. W. Murnau, who was one of the most famous German directors at the time. Soon after beginning production of the film, they got the word that they had been scammed and that the widow of Bram Stoker refused to allow them to use the name and specific storyline of Dracula. To get around the problem, Murnau changed the name Dracula to Count Orlok, Harker became Hutter and Van Helsing became Professor Bulwer. Instead of London, the story is set in Bremen.

When Nosferatu premiered, the widow Stoker brought legal action against the studio and Murnau. In 1925 a German court ordered all prints of the film to be destroyed. Fortunately, several prints of the film survived.

Another interesting fact from the movie is that very little of it was shot on a movie set, almost the entire thing was shot on locations in Eastern Europe. The castle? Real. City street in Bremen? Real. The authenticity shines through.

Next on the DVD is Phantom of the Opera, the classic starring Lon Chaney (Rocket Jones bio here). As so often happens, the recent Broadway play and movie productions change the original plotline to suit "modern" audiences, and in my opinion the changes greatly lessen the impact of the original.

Not that any version of Phantom has been completely true to the novel by Gaston Leroux. Even this first version required the creation of a new ending when audiences hated the final scenes as first filmed.

The first time you see the Phantom's real face is among this list of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments, although the entire scene of the masqued ball is chilling.

Finally, there is Metropolis. Filled with amazing performances and incredible special effects (in 1927!), the cast was enormous and the expense of creating this masterpiece almost bankrupted the studio.

According to the director himself (Fritz Lang, who also did the classic Frau im Mond), the film as originally conceived wasn't seen for decades because several important filmed sequences were lost.

The lead actress, Brigitte Helm, was an early movie star. When she had to turn down one role it was given to newcomer Marlene Dietrich. Ms. Helm made her final film in 1935, after which she retired to Switzerland. She was so disgusted by Adolph Hitler and his takeover of the German film industry that she refused to talk about her career or the subject ever again.

This film influenced many SciFi films to come, including such diverse efforts as Star Wars, Blade Runner and Dr. Strangelove.

I'll repeat myself. These are must-see films, and this DVD is a wonderful value.

Posted by Ted at 08:43 PM | Comments (1)

January 24, 2005

B-movie Biology

Interesting discussion about monsters and more, both giant and miniature, to be found here, courtesy of J-Walk Blog.

Note the U. of Chicago address, some people just can't enjoy a movie... sheesh. ;)

Posted by Ted at 04:51 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2005

Big ol' mean folk-stompin' sized lizard monsters

Being sick (yeah, now me too dammit), I had some time last night to put a small dent in my to-watch stack of "Ted movies" (as my wife calls them). If you're not a regular visitor, you might not realize that I love "B" movies, the low-budget efforts that I lovingly refer to as crap movies. There's a whole category here on Rocket Jones dedicated to them, full of reviews and trivia and related nonsense, and an updated list of my movie reviews. Now grab some popcorn and let's get on with this episode.

Back at the dawn of the nuclear age, a wave of giant creature movies hit the screens. My personal favorites from that time include Them! (giant ants) and Tarantula (giant spider - shudder - and an early bit part for Clint Eastwood), but I also had the pleasure of watching the following two.

First up is a cheesy little stinker called The Giant Gila Monster. See, there's this young man named Chase Winstead who lives in rural Texas. He's clean cut, polite and respectful, and works hard at the local auto repair shop. Two odd things about him though, somehow parts from wrecked vehicles he's towed tend to end up on his hotrod, and it seems that the townspeople trust him and his judgement to a ludicrous degree. I mean, the sherrif doesn't make a move without checking with Chase first, and overlooks the obvious theft of tires and such. Mental note: work on my "aw shucks" look, I've obviously underestimated its power.

Chase is the leader of the local hot rod club (if you're a classic car enthusiest, that's enough reason to watch this one right there), and they help the sherrif search the area when mysterious vehicle wrecks start happening and people start disappearing.

"Buying a car is just like getting married or goin' to New York City. Everybody ought to do it once, but nobody ought to do it twice." - Town drunk in The Giant Gila Monster

I'm not going to go into the plot much more than that, other than to say that Chase kills the giant Gila Monster in the end and saves his crippled little sister in the process (he steals car parts because he's saving his money for leg braces for sis). He also arranges to have the hottest DJ in the area show up to spin records at their club barn dance, and finds time to sing three songs during the movie. Other than the songs, this is a good kid.

And what, pray tell, could be wrong with the songs? Chase is played by Don Sullivan, who tried, and failed miserably, to become another Frankie Avalon. He wrote and performed the songs in this movie, and they are painfully bad. Painfully. Bad. Painfully. Bad. A little known fact is that in Texas it's legal to kill someone for playing the ukelele, and it's known at the Don Sullivan law. Painfully. Bad.

Ok, enough ragging on poor Don, who turned in a pretty good performance otherwise. On to the monster, the Giant Gila Monster. The monster is incredibly realistic, mainly because every time it appears it's a real lizard in closeup or on a miniature diorama. To save money (very low-budget) you never see the Gila Monster and actual people in the same shot, it always cuts from one to the other. Something I didn't know before watching this is that Gila Monsters are slow and ponderous critters. There's not much excitement when he's on screen, although it's fun watching him wreck an HO scale a train as it goes over a trestle bridge. You can almost imagine someone picking the lizard up and turning it around for another pass over the pile of toy trains hear the screams of the people trapped inside the wrecked passenger cars. Sheer comedy terror.

Merciless, I know. But I still recommend this movie. The plot is not awful, the acting is only fair to terrible, and Don sings three times, but it's still fun. And when you're watching a movie with the title The Giant Gila Monster, if you're expecting more than fun then you're expectations are set way too high.

Trivia: This movie, and it's sister flick Attack of the Killer Shrews, were produced by Ken Curtis. Ken Curtis started his career as a vocalist for Big Band leader Tommy Dorsey before going into pictures. He appeared in many movies including the small but important role of Dolan in Mr. Roberts, but he's undoubtably best known for his long-running television role as Festus in Gunsmoke.

Everyone loves giant beastie movies. The Japanese are famous for it, and most everyone else who makes movies rattled off a few. Even Denmark.

Yep. Denmark.

The movie is called Reptillicus, and I'll say right up front that this movie is rotten. Awful. Eye-gougingly, where's-my-electric-drill-I-need-to-put-it-through-my-temple, gargling ground glass bad. Making your kids watch this is grounds for a visit from the naughty-parents police.

I also recommend it (big surprise there, eh?), with reservations.

Like most movies, this one has it's good points and it's bad points.

Good: When the monster is first discovered, the explanation actually makes a kind of sense.

Bad: They hire a cartoon as night watchman at the lab where they're studying the remains of the monster. This guy is the prototype "Rose Nylund St. Olaf" story character.

Good: The monster regenerates itself. That's how they wind up with a whole monster even though they only started with a little piece. It also causes them to be creative when killing it, because blowing it up (as per usual practice) would just cause lots of explodey bits growing into many new monsters.

Bad: The monster itself is badly done (see Don Sullivan above). His primary weapon is a green acid spitball thing that is badly animated. Even for a badly done monster movie it looks amatuerish. Also, look for the guy getting eaten, it's obviously (badly) drawn in. Pitiful (and lots of 'badly').

Good: You get to see lots of pretty scenery around Copenhagen.

Bad: You get to see lots of pretty scenery around Copenhagen. In order to pad out the movie, it looks like they took stock tourist footage of the city and stuck it in here and there. At one point the lead characters go out for a night on the town and it plays like a travelogue.

Good: Pretty Scandanavian sisters. Woo-hoo!

Bad: The American General character. Another cartoon, although a super-heroic one. This guy was the inspiration for the slogan "I am an Army of One".

My favorite line from Reptillicus:

"Shoot it point blank, from very close range."

As opposed to point blank, from long range, I suppose. I think the biggest problem with this one is that it doesn't translate well into English and some of the dialog and motivations seem 'off' to me. Unlike The Giant Gila Monster, it isn't a strength here when the film tries to take itself seriously.

So there ya go, the horror of ukelele-strummin' hot-roddin' song-singing teenagers giant reptiles and extra cheese for your popcorn or chilidog. Enjoy!

Posted by Ted at 06:35 AM | Comments (3)

January 19, 2005

"No one f*cks with the King"

Ho Tep: 1. Relative or descendant of the 17 Egyptian Dynasties, 3100-1550 B.C. 2. Family surname of an Egyptian pharaoh (king).

Bubba: 1. Male from the Southern U.S. 2. Good ole boy. 3. Cracker, red neck, trailer park resident.

We had a mini Bruce Campbell movie marathon last weekend, culminating in our first viewing of Bubba Ho-Tep. Basic storyline:

Elvis (played by Bruce Campbell) is still alive and living in a nursing home in Texas. He had switched places with an Elvis impersonator years before when he got tired of all the hype and burdens of his celebrity. Also living in the nursing home is John F. Kennedy, who's being kept hidden there by the government. His disguise is so complete that they made him black (played by Ossie Davis). These two elderly gentlemen must team up to defeat an ancient Egyptian mummy who's killing the residents of their nursing home.

Keep that in mind, because they play this movie absolutely straight within the parameters of that backdrop.

In other words, this is not the movie that you expect to see. Given the plot, you ready yourself for horror served up with a thick frosting of comedic farce. Instead, what you get is a surprisingly introspective and complex look at life. At the start, Elvis is just existing, and doesn't really start to live until JFK piques his curiosity about the mysterious deaths happening in the home. Yes, there is a mummy and he's killing elderly residents and that's central to the plot, but it also manages to be peripheral to the real story of two old guys taking control of their lives again and standing up for what they know is right.

This is a low-budget indie film, but thankfully most of the money was spent on casting and not special effects. Campbell's Elvis is subtle and brilliant, and Ossie Davis's JFK is eminently dignified, yet occasionally there are lapses that make you wonder if he's not just a mentally unstable old man. Besides Campbell and Davis, Ella Joyce (who co-starred in television's Rock) plays the nurse who takes care of Elvis. Her character is at once professional and compassionate, and she manages to portray the weary detachment of one who's spent too long taking care of and watching the elderly die without completely burying her affection for those under her care. One of the administrators is played by Reggie Bannister, who you might remember as the guitar-strumming tuning-fork-wielding ice-cream dude from Phantasm.

The movie is based on the novella by Joe Lansdale and according to what I've heard remained faithful to the original work.

A funny moment was when Elvis and JFK were talking about the mummy and how he was a "soul sucker". This made me think of another Elvis-themed movie (but I couldn't remember the title). In that flick, a teenage rocker kidnaps Elvis for his mom's birthday because she's a huge fan. In that movie the little sister sleeps with the lights on because she's afraid of "the slimy soul sucker". When I mentioned it to my wife, she immediately knew the movie and title (Heartbreak Hotel).

Back to Bubba. The plot makes sense in the context of the background story, with plenty of wry little twists and snicker-inducing moments. The special effects aren't awful, and at times they're pretty darn good. The ending was a little hokey, but it matched the tone of the rest of the movie.


On to the DVD itself. I got the collectors edition for Christmas, and the extra features are wonderful. There's a "music video" that basically highlights the guy who did all the music, and he did a helluva job too. Remember the low-budget that these guys worked with? There isn't a single actual Elvis song in the movie, but you don't even realize it until after it's over, and it isn't because the sound track is full of soundalike crap. There are two commentary tracks, the first with the producer and Bruce Campbell talking about the making of the film (very nice), and the second with "the King" providing his insights as the story unfolds (lame). There are a few other extras included too.

Posted by Ted at 04:35 AM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2005

{begin funky wah-wah guitar lick}

Blaxploitation.com: A Soulful Tribute.

Posted by Ted at 05:15 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2005

Ya know, it's possible to just *enjoy* a movie sometimes

It's probably just me. I have an obvious fondness for B-movies, so maybe it's easier for me to overlook the glaring flaws present in most of these cheesy goodies. And it annoys the hell out of me when some critic-wannabe overanalyzes a B-movie to the point of taking all the fun out of it.

You may remember the small debate Victor and I had over the movie Starship Troopers. He even went so far as to rename it Earth vs. Soup so as not to influence his critque by comparing it to the book (one of my all-time favorites).

Victor shredded the movie in his review (parts 1 and 2 - worth reading). I'm ok with that because Starship Troopers was not a B-movie. A major studio made the movie, using a top-flight director and talent with name recognition. They spent oodles of money on special effects. This movie was meant to be a blockbuster. Only problem is, they screwed up the story so bad that not only did they alienate Heinlein purists, but the end result wasn't even a very good flick. Each and every point Victor brought up was correct. I still liked the movie though.

So that's kind of the way I watch my movies, and it most certainly colors my perception when I review them. If you follow my recommendations, most of the time you won't see a great movie, sometimes it's not even a good movie. I try to be up front about that though. The key to enjoying these is to just *enjoy* them, and don't expect brilliance. But you'll also be surprised at how often you underestimate them too.

Ok, rant over. What kind of fired that up was watching a couple of old Bela Lugosi flicks, writing the reviews below, and then checking out what others have to say on the net (mostly IMDB). I usually do that, putting my own thoughts down before reading the other reviews. So anyways, on to the fun...

Imagine the kindly small town doctor. Everyone loves him, he's everybody's best friend. The shingle out in front of his office reads "Paul Carruthers, M.D." How much Rockwellian americana can you stand?

But when the doc opens his mouth to speak, what comes out is Dracula, "I vant you to take two of these und call me in ze morning."

Bela Lugosi is cast as the doctor in The Devil Bat, a little gem released in 1940. The plot is fun and has some inspired ideas, but don't think it's going to make a lot of sense.

By this stage of Legosi's career, he was pretty much stuck in B-movies, although it would be quite some time before he was reduced to appearances in Ed Wood films. In addition, the quality of the film bore no relation to the performance he gave. He was always 'on', no matter how lousy the script or supporting performances. Bela Lugosi's acting ranged from brilliant to over-the-top ham, and he appeared in few really 'good' movies, in large part because he never toned down his accent (he didn't try very hard either).

Back to the movie. Bela, er, Doc Carruthers isn't just a beloved doctor, he's an expert chemist who created a formula which made his bosses rich. He missed out on the big bucks because he sold the rights for cash. Being bitter, he develops another formula, this one designed to enrage giant bats to the point of attacking whoever is wearing it.

What giant bats, you say? Why, the giant bats that Doc is creating in his lab. He tricks selected victims into trying the new 'after shave' and then tsk-tsks over the body when found with their throat ripped out.

Lugosi is wonderful to watch, and you can even get past the ridiculous farce of the heavily-accented "Doc" (although I did chuckle through the first third of the movie every time he spoke). The newspaper photographer, One-Shot, is a hoot, in a 1940's kind of way.

Here's a lovely bit of surreal dialog between the Chief of Police and the newspaper reporter:

reporter: So what are you holding back?

chief: Oh no, I'm not trusting a reporter with details!

reporter: Chief, I promise to help solve this case.

chief: Ok then, we've got this one clue that we've kept secret...

This one is big fun.

Trivia: Dave O'Brien, who played the reporter, appeared in almost 200 B-movies, mostly westerns. His cinematic talents also included directing (43 movies), writing (31 movies), stunt work and songwriting! For all that, he's best remembered as one of the dope-smoking teen fiends in the classic cult-propaganda flick Reefer Madness.

The second Bela Lugosi flick is The Invisible Ghost. I'm going to put the synopsis from the box here:

In the effort to ease the pain of losing his wife, Kessler (Lugosi) submits to hypnosis therapy. But the hypnosis causes Kessler to have lapses of memory followed by a rash of murders - all which seem to be fulfilling the vendetta of his late wife.

There's more, but this is enough. The description above was written by someone who never saw the movie or badly confused it with something else. There's nothing in the flick about hypnosis, and as to the vendetta, well, the movie never mentions any vendetta (and his wife isn't very 'late' either, if you know what I mean). Even the title bears little relation to the actual movie.

Even so, this is another fun movie. Bela Lugosi again steals the show in every scene except when the butler Evans in onscreen. Evans was played by black actor Clarence Muse, and his character defied the stereotypes of the day, being intelligent and dignified, often moreso than the rest of the cast. He's a delight, especially when he makes wry comments during the goings on.

So yes, I recommend this movie too. After all, how often have you seen a movie where one of the lead actors gets executed in the electric chair before the film is half over? No clemency for him!

Trivia: Clarence Muse held a law degree from Pennsylvania's Dickerson University, and was one of the first inductees into the Black Filmmaker's Hall of Fame. In his long career, his film credits included roles in White Zombie, Huckleberry Finn, Showboat, Porgy and Bess, Car Wash and The Black Stallion.

Posted by Ted at 08:07 AM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2005

No way aliens ever gave John Wayne an anal probe

According to this site, it's possible that in the John Wayne movie Rio Grande, you can see a UFO in the background over the Duke's shoulder.


Another find from J-Walk, but I wanted to put it in the Cult Flicks category so it got it's own post with another Pulitzer-quality title.

Posted by Ted at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2005

Everyone in Southern California is an actor

I was recently watching Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama , and as they do occasionally there was a 'biography' feature on the DVD. Skimming the titles of the other movies done by the director and stars (yes, stars, show a little respect), I noticed that one of the ladies also had a role in the movie Body Double, a 'real' movie that I saw not too long ago.

Heading over to the Internet Movie Database, I discovered some interesting things about Ms. Brinke Stevens, who played the character Taffy in Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

Brinke Stevens

After graduating with a double-major (biology and psychology) at San Diego State, she went on to earn a master's degree in marine biology from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

She also worked as an environmental consultant for a Southern California nuclear power plant, and all this was before becoming a model, actress, and, ultimately, scream queen.

"I go from a demure co-ed to a whip-cracking dominatrix from hell. There are savage, scale-eyed zombies, virgin sacrifices and demonic posessions, and when I turn into a gorgeous, va-voom woman I say the line I've always wanted to say, 'Behold the new queen of hell!' And I say it with relish." - Brinke Stevens, about the movie Teenage Exorcist

She remains (refreshingly) unenhanced, although she is underendowed by Hollywood standards. (Rocket Jones official policy: Boob jobs bad.) This doesn't stop her from stripping down when her art requires it (yes, I said that with a straight face).

Her role in Body Double was as "Adult film actress #3". Many of her movie credits are direct to video schlock exploitation flicks, but she's tried to go mainstream more than once. She's had roles in The Three Amigo's, This Is Spinal Tap!, Psycho III and The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad, all uncredited.

Altogether she's appeared in over 90 movies, including two to be released in 2005. She also wrote and starred in Teenage Exorcist and Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots, and produced a well-received series of video's where she interviews producers and directors of low-budget horror and exploitation films.

I like that. Find your talent and wallow in it, and if you can make a living at it, so much the better. And if you can't, you can always fall back on that education thing.

Posted by Ted at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

December 30, 2004

Clerks: Uncensored

The movie Clerks is one of those movies where you love it or just don't get it. I believe it has to do with your sense of humor, to some it's outrageously funny, to others - eh, not very. I happen to fall into the "love" category.

My wife bought me Clerks: Uncensored, thinking that she was getting me the original movie. Instead, what I got is the animated series that briefly aired on television. In this case, "briefly" translates into "two episodes".

Dante, Randall, Silent Bob and Jay

There were actually six episodes completed, but the test audience watching the premier hated the pilot. After they showed the second episode to dismal response, the network yanked it from the schedule.

Apparently a whole bunch of people fall into the "don't get it" category, including network executives.

And that's a shame, because this had potential. True, it's primarily an attempt to cash in on Clerks cult hit status, but it's still some damn funny stuff. Dante and Randall return, as do Jay and Silent Bob, who've given up dealing dope to appease network television sensitivities. Instead, they're described as "merry mischief makers". Everyone's language has been cleaned up (a lot!) too.

Like the Simpsons and South Park, celebrities make guest appearances, whether they want to or not. If a celebrity doesn't want to make an official appearance, they'll often be worked into the storyline as a joke, and Gilbert Gottfried does the celebrity dialog - in his normal voice. Hilarious. The humor is very irreverent, with lots of sight gags and things to catch away from the main action, as well as movie take-offs. They pack a lot of funny into a short period of time.

Don't watch these expecting a Clerks movie clone, or you'll be disappointed. Instead, enjoy them for the toons they are, but be prepared for outrageous humor that'll make you laugh out loud.

There are also quite a few very cool extras in the DVD set (it's two disks). I'm especially enjoying the episode commentary, where you learn all kinds of back-story on what went wrong and what went right during the creation and life of the project. There are funny stories and fond rememberances of the process, tinged with a bit of bitterness over how the project turned out and why it ultimately died.

Snootch to the Nootch!

Posted by Ted at 04:59 AM | Comments (2)

December 24, 2004

Nice start to the day

Today is Christmas eve, and since Christmas day itself falls on a Saturday, today is a federal holiday. Yay! Next friday too, for the same reason. Yay again!

Mookie and I just finished watching Nosferatu, the silent classic and original vampire movie made in Germany in 1922. Good enough story to keep the MST3K moments to a minimum, and a riveting organ soundtrack added. My only complaint is that the Americanized version I have changed the names of the characters, making the story more familiar yet taking away from the original intent (for instance: Graf Orlok was changed to Count Dracula and Profesor Bulwer became Dr. Van Helsing). Still, that's a minor quibble, and if you can find a copy of this one, I highly recommend seeing it.

Posted by Ted at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2004

"I'd like to report a murder. Mine."

Before I get into the movie review, I want to tell you to get over any bias against WalMart and check out their DVD collections. Up near the registers they've taken to putting out boxes of $1.00 DVD's, and there are some minor classics in the mix. This movie is one of them, and I've got several more in the stack to be watched in the near-future.

D.O.A. Starring Edmond O'Brien, this 1950 film noir release is about as good as it gets.

The plot is intriguing: a man on vacation is poisoned and will die within a week. In that time, he tries to discover who poisoned him and why.

Parts of this flick are sheer brilliance, while others are... let's say less brilliant. Things move along quickly, and I wouldn't be surprised if this film were at least indirectly the inspiration for the series 24.

Because of the pace and complexity of the plot, most characters flash in and out of the picture, sometimes returning later, sometimes never to be seen again. There's enough going on that I'm going to rewatch it and take some notes to tie up some loose ends in my mind. The film is good enough that doing that isn't going to be a chore, it'll be pure pleasure.

Since the movie is set in the 1940's, men are tough guys and gals are dames. A lot of the acting is broad and overdone, especially one love scene between the main characters that just drags on and on and on.

The relentless pace of the story masks a lot of odd leaps of logic and believability, which helps because there's little time to reflect on the "huh?" moments. One bit that defies understanding is an odd slide-whistle "wolf call" that's used every time the main character sees a good looking dame. It's presence is senseless and distracting and goes onto my top-10 list of stupid movie moments. What the hell was the director thinking?

There's no happy ending, if there were it wouldn't be film noir. All in all this is a satisfying little film and well worth the buck you'll spend to snag a copy.

Pamela Britton plays O'Brien's girlfriend, and she later played Dagwood's wife Blondie in the television series and the landlady in My Favorite Martian.

Beverly Garland, credited as Beverly Campbell, made her debut in D.O.A. and continues to be active both in movies and television to this day. She later went on to star in the TV series My Three Sons and most recently in recurring rolls in 7th Heaven and Port Charles.

Actor Nevil Brand also made his movie debut in D.O.A. as Chester the sociopathic thug. With his chilling performance, he stole every scene he was in and went on to a successful career playing tough guys including Al Capone on television's The Untouchables. Brand originally intended to make the Army his career and emerged as the fourth most-decorated US Soldier in WWII. He caught the acting bug while making US Army training films and used his GI Bill to study acting after his discharge.

Posted by Ted at 11:37 AM | Comments (3)

December 18, 2004

Boris Karloff

While cruising the net, I ran across this image, which brought back memories:


[The stamps issued consist of] five portraits of the actors based on publicity photographs of their most famous horror films. Lon Chaney appears as the Phantom of the Opera, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and the Mummy and Lon Chaney Jr. as Wolf Man.

The descendants had wanted stamps that carried two portraits of their famous relatives, one with monster makeup and one without. Designer Derry Noyes of Washington met their wishes by placing signed photographs of the four actors at the top of the sheets of 20 stamps.

The stamps are the second to contain hidden images, using a process developed by Graphic Security Systems Corp. of Lake Worth, Fla. This time designers have scrambled an image -- not letters -- into each of the stamps: bats on the Dracula stamp, hieroglyphics on the Mummy, masks on the Phantom, wolves on the Wolf Man and lightning bolts on Frankenstein.

To see the images requires purchase of a $4.95 "decoder lens" from the Postal Service.

With that as inspiration, here's the last in a series of brief bios based on those classic stamps.

(in the extended entry)

Boris Karloff was born William Henry Pratt in 1887 in London, England. Coming from a long line of British diplomats, he turned away from family tradition to become a performer on the stage.

"When I was nine I played the demon king in Cinderella and it launched me on a long and happy life of being a monster." - Boris Karloff

In 1912, a then-unknown Karloff had taken some time off to canoe while performing in Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada. Upon his return, he learned that his hotel had been destroyed by a tornado that killed 28 people. He helped to organize a concert that raised some much needed relief funds for the city.

Karloff had a dark skin tone from his mother's East Indian heritage, so in silent films he was cast most often in Arab and American Indian roles. His breakthrough role was as the monster in 1931's Frankenstein, when he was 44 years old. Frankenstein was his 81st movie. All total, he acted in some 200 movies and made almost 100 television appearances.

He got the part as Frankenstein's Monster when Bela Lugosi turned it down because there was no dialogue and he'd be unrecognizable under the makeup. The costume included huge lifts and a heavy brace, which made the role physically difficult. In fact, Karloff suffered from back trouble for the rest of his life as a result of the costume, and underwent three major back surgeries.

After becoming a star, he wasn't so self-important that he couldn't poke a little fun at himself. His first Broadway play was "Arsenic and Old Lace" in a role that was written for especially for him. He played the black sheep of the family, whose face has been changed by a disreputable plastic surgeon so that he looks like Boris Karloff. The resemblance is comically remarked upon often during the play (and later the movie starring Cary Grant but not, inexplicably, Karloff).

Known as a warm and generous man, Boris Karloff enjoyed a reputation both as a professional performer and as a good friend. He was married five times and died in 1969 in his native England.

Posted by Ted at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2004

Like real-life 'Groundhog Day' meets Siskel & Ebert

Most people have a few special movies that they can watch over and over and over again. For me it would be the following:

Father Goose - Cary Grant
Victor Victoria - Robert Preston, Julie Andrews, James Garner
King Ralph - John Goodman
Sahara - James Belushi

Maybe this has been done before, but feel free to post yours and link back, or leave 'em in the comments.

Posted by Ted at 12:20 PM | Comments (8)

Reviewing movies you'd never hear about otherwise

Not me, well... yeah, me. But I mean besides me. Ptiza of Chicken Soup for the Vegan Soul (love that title, love her writing), tells about the Number One Worst Movie of All Time.

Posted by Ted at 05:18 AM | Comments (1)

December 12, 2004

A couple of movies starring Scandanavian lovelies

Ursula Andress in Dr. No

Ursula Andress will be forever remembered by me as Ursula Undress, thanks to Mad Magazine and one of their most accurate parody monikers ever. She starred in Dr. No, the first James Bond movie, and became the prototype Bond girl.

When Ursula is in a movie, you just know that at some point she's gonna get naked, right?

Slave of the Cannibal God was a pleasant surprise. Costarring Stacy Keach, there's a lot of plot going on, the acting was better than average for the genre and Ursula manages to stay dressed through more than half the movie. That last might not seem like a plus, but by not taking the easy copout (who needs plot when we can distract the audience with breasts?), the movie manages to sustain interest and when she finally does get naked, well, that just makes it better.

To wildly oversimplify the story, Ursula hires explorer Keach to lead her and her brother in a search for her missing husband, who disappeared on an expedition into the jungle. Shit happens.

There are uncomfortable scenes in the movie. It's about cannibals after all, and what would a cult flick be without some gruesome, eh? A lot of the jungle atmosphere is achieved by stock wildlife scenes, and we're not talking Bambi nibbling grass in a meadow. These are mini-vignettes of mother nature at her most violent and vicious, very in-your-face and disquieting.

Overall, I recommend this movie, especially if you like the jungle/cannibal sub-genre. It's done better than most, and it's got Ursula Andress naked.

Anita Eckberg. Say it slowly, let it roll off your tongue. Ah-neet-ah EK-berg. Sweeeeeet. The second movie unmistakably demonstrates that beauty overcomes talent (or lack thereof) every time.

Anita Ekberg

This time the title is Fangs of the Living Dead. Originally made in Spanish, the half-assed dubbing done here adds to the charm and unintentional hilarity. As good as the other movie was, this one isn't, which is not to say it isn't worth seeing if you love crap movies. Since it is set in Italy and Transylvania, brunette ladies abound, which is worked into the story when the conspicously blond Ms. Ekberg arrives in the village.

You get a double-shot of Anita as she plays both the main character Sylvia and her mother (in a brunette wig) in flashbacks. Sylvia, as far as I could tell, is a fashion model who inherits a castle from the mother she never knew. Or something like that. She travels to the castle to find that she has a creepy and mysterious uncle still living there. He might be a vampire, and the women chained up in the dungeons below probably are too. Her boyfriend follows her across the continent and tries to rescue her until the uncle foils his plans with, of all things, a locked gate. Yep, true love is no match for a good fence.

You can tell that this was meant to be a serious film because there's additional (some would say redundant) comic relief in the character of the boyfriend's best friend, who tags along for the adventure and bumbles his way through the movie.

"I knew your mother. She was very blonde." - Fangs of the Living Dead

One more thing, in a cherry on top kinda way, is the background music. Here's a sample:

That's the sound of an organ chord in some minor key, signifying suspense. You hear it about 600 times during the course of the film.

The acting is melodramatic and overwrought (especially Anita Ekberg's) and the dialogue doesn't help matters at all. On the other hand, we get mondo cleavage, vampire women cat fights, shirtless guys chained up (for you ladies), and cheesy special effects. In other words, Fangs of the Living Dead earns Rocket Jones' highest recommendation!

Posted by Ted at 08:31 AM | Comments (3)

December 05, 2004

Lon Chaney Jr.

While cruising the net, I ran across this image, which brought back memories:


[The stamps issued consist of] five portraits of the actors based on publicity photographs of their most famous horror films. Lon Chaney appears as the Phantom of the Opera, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and the Mummy and Lon Chaney Jr. as Wolf Man.

The descendants had wanted stamps that carried two portraits of their famous relatives, one with monster makeup and one without. Designer Derry Noyes of Washington met their wishes by placing signed photographs of the four actors at the top of the sheets of 20 stamps.

The stamps are the second to contain hidden images, using a process developed by Graphic Security Systems Corp. of Lake Worth, Fla. This time designers have scrambled an image -- not letters -- into each of the stamps: bats on the Dracula stamp, hieroglyphics on the Mummy, masks on the Phantom, wolves on the Wolf Man and lightning bolts on Frankenstein.

To see the images requires purchase of a $4.95 "decoder lens" from the Postal Service.

With that as inspiration, here's the third in a series of brief bios based on those classic stamps.

(in the extended entry)

Lon Chaney, Jr., is the only person to have played all four of the classic movie monsters: the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy and Dracula.

Born Creighton Tull Chaney in Oklahoma City in 1906, Lon Chaney Jr was inextricably tied to his father's acting career. From the earliest days, in addition to doing regional theater under his own name, he worked menial jobs to support himself without calling upon his father. He was at various times a plumber, a meatcutter's apprentice, a metal worker and a farm worker. Despite his attempts to separate himself from his father's legacy, there was no animosity between them. From his father he developed skills as a makeup artist, but was seldom allowed to utilize them because of strict union rules.

After his father died in 1930, Creighton Chaney began making films, appearing in several small parts. In 1935 a producer insisted on changing his name to Lon Chaney Jr. for marketing purposes. Chaney was uncomfortable with the change but recognized that the famous name would help his career.

Lon Chaney Jr as Lennie

In 1939 he was given the role of the simple-minded Lennie in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. This proved to be his breakout role, giving an incredibly sensitive and touching performance. The role was his personal favorite as well, and often after a few drinks, he would recite scenes from the film at parties.

His next legendary movie role was in 1941 as the Wolf Man. Once again, he brought uncommon life and pathos to an unconventional role, this time as the lead character who struggled with personal demons as well as lycanthropy.

After this, Chaney starred in a string of minor horror films and gained a reputation as a solid character actor in more prestigious, big-budget films such as High Noon.

All told, Lon Chaney Jr appeared in over 170 movies. Not too shabby for a son whose father told him that he was too tall for a successful career in film.

He suffered from various illnesses and alcohol problems later in his life, and died in 1973.

When he died, it was as an actor who had spent his life chasing the fame of his father, but who was much beloved by a generation of filmgoers who had never seen his father.

Like his father, he refused requests for autographs.

Posted by Ted at 01:05 AM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2004

That "Cult Flick" thing going around

And we all know how I avoid crap like that...

Pep and Liz from Truly Bad Films lend their take.

Steve and Robert, the Llama Butchers give their two yips worth.

"Seen it" in bold, occasional comments made (in the extended entry).

1 This Is Spinal Tap - this is one of those "get around to it someday" movies for me.
2 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
3 Freaks - wonderful.
4 Harold And Maude
5 Pink Flamingos
6 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - oh yeah.
7 Repo Man
8 Scarface
9 Blade Runner
10 The Shawshank Redemption - better than the original King story.
11 Five Deadly Venoms
12 Plan 9 From Outer Space
13 Brazil - I rent this every few years to rewatch.
14 Eraserhead
15 Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
16 The Warriors - I fell in lust with the whiskey-smooth voice of that DJ.
17 Dazed And Confused
18 Hard-Boiled
19 Evil Dead II
20 The Mack
21 Pee-Wee's Big Adventure - I can't stand him.
22 Un Chien Andalou
23 Akira
24 The Toxic Avenger - my introduction to the entire Troma lineup.
25 Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory
26 Stranger Than Paradise
27 Dawn Of The Dead
28 The Wiz - ease on out, ease on out-ta my head.
29 Clerks - I liked it, and the alternate ending really drove home the filmmaking process and how it can alter the entire tone of a movie.
30 The Harder They Come
31 Slap Shot
32 Re-Animator - loved it.
33 Grey Gardens
34 The Big Lebowski - didn't like it, couldn't even finish watching it.
35 Withnail and I
36 Showgirls
37 A Bucket Of Bood - the first half was 5 stars, the second half was pretty lame.
38 They Live
39 The Best Of Everything
40 Barbarella
41 Heathers
42 Rushmore
43 The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension
44 Love Streams
45 Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story - what a voice that woman had!
46 Aguirre, The Wrath of God
47 Walking And Talking Nicole Holofcener
48 The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years
49 Friday
50 Faces of Death, Vol. 1 - not my cup of tea
51 Monty Python and the Holy Grail
52 A Clockwork Orange - one of my all-time favorites
53 Mommie Dearest - until you've seen this dubbed in German, you haven't truly experienced it. Would probably be great in Klingon too.
54 The Princess Bride
55 Swingers
56 UHF
57 Valley of the Dolls
58 Fight Club
59 Dead Alive (aka Braindead)
60 Better Off Dead
61 Donnie Darko

Robert the Llama Butcher likes The Adventures Of Baron Von Munchausen, and I'll heartily agree.

Pep and Liz have a few suggestions too: Matinee - hell yeah! Office Space - ehhh.

My additions: Red Dawn, Idle Hands, My Favorite Year, and I definitely second the nomination of Matinee! In fact, let me add King Ralph and Always, and make it a John Goodman triple crown.

Posted by Ted at 06:01 AM | Comments (8)

November 28, 2004

Lon Chaney

While cruising the net, I ran across this image, which brought back memories:


[The stamps issued consist of] five portraits of the actors based on publicity photographs of their most famous horror films. Lon Chaney appears as the Phantom of the Opera, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and the Mummy and Lon Chaney Jr. as Wolf Man.

The descendants had wanted stamps that carried two portraits of their famous relatives, one with monster makeup and one without. Designer Derry Noyes of Washington met their wishes by placing signed photographs of the four actors at the top of the sheets of 20 stamps.

The stamps are the second to contain hidden images, using a process developed by Graphic Security Systems Corp. of Lake Worth, Fla. This time designers have scrambled an image -- not letters -- into each of the stamps: bats on the Dracula stamp, hieroglyphics on the Mummy, masks on the Phantom, wolves on the Wolf Man and lightning bolts on Frankenstein.

To see the images requires purchase of a $4.95 "decoder lens" from the Postal Service.

With that as inspiration, here's the second in a series of brief bios based on those classic stamps.

(in the extended entry)

From the PBS American Masters database:

When we think of the silent film era, we think of actors like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, or Clara Bow, stars who created trademark personas and spent their entire careers testing the limits of those characters. They perfected what they had created, but rarely attempted other roles. For many in the industry, both then and now, this type of career is considered the pinnacle of success, but for one actor it was the antithesis of the his art. For Lon Chaney, the art of acting was the art of continual transformation.

Leonidas Frank Chaney was born in Colorado in 1883, and both of his parents were deaf-mutes. That beginning allowed him to become highly skilled at pantomime and projecting emotion via his facial expression and body language. He started work as an extra at a theater, doing stage work, learning the trade and becoming an expert at stage makeup that served him well during his career (he wrote the 'make-up' entry for the 1929 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica). Lon Chaney made his first credited appearance in a film in 1912 and appeared in over 150 movies over the next 20 years. His last movie was the only "talkie" in his catalog of work.

Lon Chaney pioneered special effects makeup and prosthesis which earned him the nickname "Man of a Thousand Faces". His most famous roles were as Quasimodo in 1923's Hunchback of Notre Dame and later as the quintessential Phantom of the Opera. He also played Fagin in an early film version of Oliver Twist, and starred in Tell It To The Marines, for which he became the first actor to be awarded an honorary membership in the Corps. The shipboard scenes in the movie were filmed on the USS California, later sunk at Pearl Harbor.

Besides acting, Chaney also directed many of the films he starred in, which probably also helped establish him as a star. Unfortunately, most of his early work, both in front of and behind the camera, remains lost. His 1918 film The Kaiser, The Beast of Berlin was a major success at the time and is on the American Film Institute's "Ten Most Wanted" list of lost films.

Lon Chaney died of throat cancer in 1930, which gave Bela Lugosi the role of Dracula. There were several other roles that had to be recast in other films because of his death as well.

His craggy features kept him from romantic leads, but he found continuous work as a character actor in supporting roles. In the 60's and 70's, a number of his 'lost' films were rediscovered, including many of his non-horror movies, and his good nature and winning personality in regular roles was rediscovered as well.

"My whole career has been devoted to keeping people from knowing me." Lon Chaney

Lon Chaney was an intensely private man, which gave him a reputation as a strange and unfriendly man. His costars, among them Loretta Young and Joan Crawford, and friends tell a different story.

From his bio on IMDB.com:

A friend of Afro-American actor Noble Johnson since both were boys in Colorado together, Chaney was responsible for giving his old friend some early breaks in a career that spanned more than four decades. Likewise, Chaney befriended the young Boris Karloff shortly after the latter's arrival in Hollywood. As with Johnson, he helped Karloff gain a foothold in the movies, and until the end of his life, Karloff always spoke kindly of Chaney as a good friend and colleague.

1991 Lon Chaney postage stamp
Besides the stamps listed above, he was also included as one of ten 29¢ US commemorative postage stamps celebrating stars of the silent screen, issued 27 April 1994. Designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, this set of stamps also honored Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, 'Charles Chalpin' , John Gilbert, Zasu Pitts, Harold Lloyd, Theda Bara, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops.

His son, Lon Chaney Jr., became a famous actor of the horror genre.

Posted by Ted at 07:07 AM | Comments (1)

November 25, 2004

Bela Lugosi

While cruising the net, I ran across this image, which brought back memories:


[The stamps issued consist of] five portraits of the actors based on publicity photographs of their most famous horror films. Lon Chaney appears as the Phantom of the Opera, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and the Mummy and Lon Chaney Jr. as Wolf Man.

The descendants had wanted stamps that carried two portraits of their famous relatives, one with monster makeup and one without. Designer Derry Noyes of Washington met their wishes by placing signed photographs of the four actors at the top of the sheets of 20 stamps.

The stamps are the second to contain hidden images, using a process developed by Graphic Security Systems Corp. of Lake Worth, Fla. This time designers have scrambled an image -- not letters -- into each of the stamps: bats on the Dracula stamp, hieroglyphics on the Mummy, masks on the Phantom, wolves on the Wolf Man and lightning bolts on Frankenstein.

To see the images requires purchase of a $4.95 "decoder lens" from the Postal Service.

With that as inspiration, here's the first in a series of brief bios based on those classic stamps.

(in the extended entry)

Bela Lugosi was born in the Austrian-Hungarian empire as Be'la Ferenc Dezso Blasko (lots of little squiggly emphasis marks missing in that name) on October 20, 1882.

As a young man, he became a star of the stage and theater in Budapest, as his fine singing voice gained him many roles in operettas as well as traditional plays.

He volunteered for military service during WWI and was commissioned as an infantry lieutenant. He was wounded three times during the war.

He was forced to immigrate to Germany because of his "leftest" activities when he helped organize an actors union. He arrived in New York City in December, 1921.

He became a charter member of the Screen Actors Guild, having membership number 28.

Bela Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956. At the time of his death, Lugosi was in such poor financial condition that Frank Sinatra quietly paid for his funeral. Lugosi was buried in his full Dracula costume, including a cape.

According to Vincent Price, when he and Peter Lorre went to view Bela's body during the funeral, Lorre, upon seeing Lugosi dressed in his famous Dracula cape, quipped, "Do you think we should drive a stake through his heart just in case?"

Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia (excerpted):

The man who will always be known as Dracula actually had a long and distinguished acting career (mostly on stage) before donning cape and fangs in Hollywood. In 1901, after studying at the Budapest Academy of Theatrical Arts, this banker's son made his stage debut as a featured juvenile. Tall, aristocratic, and handsome in a vaguely sinister way (with piercing eyes and a cruel mouth), he spent the next two decades building a reputation as one of Hungary's great matinee idols, and made his first film-A Leopard-in 1917. Political turmoil in his homeland drove Lugosi to Germany in 1919; he appeared in several films there, including a 1920 adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and a 1922 filmization of The Last of the Mohicans.

Emigrating to America shortly thereafter, Lugosi toiled in stage melodramas and routine programmers (such as 1923's The Silent Command and 1925's The Midnight Girl) before assuming the title role in the 1927 Broadway production of "Dracula," which he also essayed for two years on the road. The thick, almost impenetrable accent that hampered him in most roles actually proved to be an asset when he played Bram Stoker's Transylvanian vampire. Film rights to the play were sold to Universal, which announced that Lon Chaney would play the title role. But Chaney's untimely death from cancer in 1930 prompted producer-director Tod Browning to cast Lugosi instead. Dracula (1931) launched Universal's long-running cycle of horror movies and made its star a household name overnight.

Unfortunately, the movie's success also doomed Lugosi to a lifetime of boogeyman roles in vehicles of steadily diminishing quality. After refusing to play the Monster in Frankenstein (1931, the role taken by Boris Karloff), he played his first mad doctor in Murders in the Rue Morgue a voodoo master in White Zombie (delivering a wonderfully florid, over-thetop performance), and a priest of the Black Arts in Chandu the Magician in 1932 alone. But the next year he was already working for Poverty Row producers, getting top billing in Mascot's The Whispering Shadow and Majestic's The Death Kiss but winning only supporting roles in major-studio productions such as The Island of Lost Souls and International House (all 1933). Independent producer Sol Lesser gave Lugosi a bona fide hero role as the star of The Return of Chandu a 1934 serial also released in featurelength version. That same year he returned to Universal for The Black Cat (1934), the first (and best) of several chillers that teamed him with Karloff, whose career eclipsed Lugosi's almost from the start.

Lugosi's typecasting and his failure to master the nuances of the English language certainly hampered his American film career, but he also proved to be his own worst enemy, taking leads in the most abysmal mini-budget schlockers for whatever money producers were willing to pay. A colorful character role, that of Ygor, the mad shepherd in Son of Frankenstein (1939), briefly restored Lugosi to prominence, and he appeared to good advantage in that year's Ninotchka (starring Greta Garbo), but he alternated strong supporting roles in Universal's Black Friday (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942, again as Ygor) with negligible turns in low-budget Monogram melodramas produced by schlockmeister Sam Katzman, who teamed Lugosi most ignobly with the East Side Kids in Spooks Run Wild (1941) and Ghosts on the Loose (1942).

Major thanks to IMDB.com for much of this material.

Posted by Ted at 09:12 AM | Comments (1)

November 23, 2004

Lilly and Marilyn were Hot Rod Babes

Head on over to MunsterKoach and stroll through a wonderful site dedicated to the legendary George Barris custom hotrods featured on the 60's show The Munsters. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Munster Koach (the family hearse) and Drag-u-la (Grandpa's coffin coupe), including plenty of pictures (cheesecake photos of Marilyn posing with the cars too!).

Thanks to The Astounding B Monster for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 12:36 PM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2004

Movie Review Index

Updated 10/01/05

I've been doing crappy movie reviews* since almost the beginning of Rocket Jones, and thought it might be a good time to recap and give you a one-stop place to see what's been done to this point.

American President
Andromeda Strain
Angry Red Planet
Ape Man, The
A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine
Astro Zombies
A Sweet Sickness
Attack of the Puppet People
Attack of the Sixty-foot Centerfold
Beast from Haunted Cave
Beast that Killed Women
Beast, The
Bite Me!
Braniac, The
Brick Dollhouse
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Bubba Ho-Tep
Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death
Clerks: Uncensored
Creature from the Haunted Sea
Curious Dr. Humpp
Dawn of the Dead (remake)
Destination Moon
The Devil Bat
Don't Look in the Basement
Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots
Electric Dreams
Eye, The
Fangs of the Living Dead
First Spaceship on Venus
Frankenstein (Frankenstein Legacy Collection)
Bride of Frankenstein (Frankenstein Legacy Collection)
First Spaceship on Venus
Ghost Gunfighter
The Giant Gila Monster
Gladiator Eroticus
God, the Devil, and Bob
Gorilla, The
Happiness of the Katakuris
House at the Edge of the Park
Idle Hands
The Invisible Ghost
Last Man on Earth
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Lord of the G-Strings
Malibu Beach Vampires
Monster of Camp Sunshine
My Fellow Americans
Night Train to Terror
Omega Man
Phantom of the Opera (original silent version)
Play-Mate of the Apes
Revolt of the Zombies
Severed Arm, The
Shogun Assassin
Slave of the Cannibal God
Sorority House Vampires from Hell
Story of Riki-Oh
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original and remake)
They Came from Beyond Space
Toy Box, The
Toys Are Not For Children
Vampires Anonymous
Van Helsing
The Veil (TV series)
Virtual Girl
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
What's the Matter With Helen?
Whoops, Apocolypse!
X from Outer Space, The

Bela Lugosi
Lon Chaney
Lon Chaney Jr.
Boris Karloff
Brinke Stevens
Steve Reeves

*As in: the movies I review are usually crappy, the reviews themselves are brilliant if unconventional.

Posted by Ted at 04:48 AM | Comments (2)

November 12, 2004

Queer Eye for the Undead Guy

Saw Van Helsing yesterday. I have the same basic feelings towards it that I had towards The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Great special effects, much more storyline than I expected. Not a very good movie, but fun nonetheless. Biggest nitpick: why was Dracula so damned gay? Dashing, suave and debonair, yes, but he practically swished and sang show tunes (he said, tossing out stereotypes with abandon).

Posted by Ted at 06:10 AM | Comments (8)

November 05, 2004

One premise, two movies

Boy. Girl. Jealous computer.

Two movies take this basic storyline on divergent paths: Virtual Girl (1998) and Electric Dreams (1984). What a difference 15 years makes.

Lets start with the sweet stuff first. Almost nobody saw Electric Dreams when it first premiered, which is a shame because this is a charming love story with a SciFi-ish twist. In it, an architect named Miles buys his first PC (in the days before PC's were everywhere), with plans to control his entire home with it. Of course, things get screwed up right from the start, since almost the first thing he has to do at setup is input his name. He mistypes it, and for the rest of the flick the computer calls him "Moles". The PC gradually builds itself a male personna and things seem to be reasonably under control (with amusing exceptions here and there).

Then a new neighbor moves into the apartment downstairs. Madeline hits it off with Moles Miles, and also with Miles' computer without realizing it. The computer becomes jealous over the relationship between Miles and Madeline, and an interesting if improbable love triangle develops. When Miles realizes that the mysterious 'other man' is his own PC, he tries to take control of the situation and all hell breaks loose. I said this was a sweet movie, and there is a happy ending.

Electric Dreams is one of those movies that stuck with me and I'm not sure why. It bills itself as a fairy tale, which is as good a description as any. The soundtrack is pure 80's with a strong European lean, the story is fun and interesting, the special effects are ok (considering their age), and the acting is better than average. If you get a chance, grab a bottle of wine and a blanket big enough for two and cuddle up with your snuggle buddy for this one.

Note: in the end credits, the movie is dedicated to UNIVAC 1, one of the earliest supercomputers of the 1950's.

Virtual Girl is a modern, raunchier movie that's based on the same basic plot elements. I caught it on late-night cable, so the fact that there's plenty of nudity and softcore sex wasn't a surprise. What was a surprise was how much plot there actually was. To be sure, this isn't a good movie, but it's far above the usual late-night skinflick trash that's on.

A hotshot programmer is given the task of debugging a virtual sex simulation. The underlying rationale makes sense, and the scene between him and his boss arguing over it was a nice touch and unexpected in this type of movie.

Where you'd usually see the lead male actor panting in anticipation for every woman in sight, this guy is happily married. They have a baby, and near the beginning there's a brief attempt to show him as a devoted family man. Mostly the baby is used as a prop to advance the storyline when necessary - evil threatens baby! Ratchet up the tension.

Once again, the computer becomes jealous of the man. More correctly, the computer software is the jealous partner this time. Virtuality is her name ("Just call me Virtue"), and she starts to influence reality and cause problems in interesting ways.

The special effects in this one are way beyond what you'll see in Electric Dreams, but still fall short of today's best efforts. The best bits are when Virtue morphs from one girl to another ("What do you want? blonde cheerleader? brunette amazon? Anything you desire."). I have a quirky taste in women, so I'll admit that the lead actress is good looking enough but did absolutely nothing for me.

So there you have it. I recommend Electric Dreams, and if your tastes run in that direction you could do worse than Virtual Girl.

Posted by Ted at 04:40 AM | Comments (2)

October 29, 2004

Found Wood

A while back Robert Heinlein's lost novel was published.

Not long ago they discovered a complete Jimi Hendrix concert filmed in 1968.

Check out what they've found now:

Danny and Shirley are a young couple with a problem: it seems that Danny can't rise to the occasion, and Shirley's running out of patience. The mysterious Madame Heles is a necromancer who has the solution to their boudoir blahs - a hands-on approach involving her two lovely assistants, the house stud, and some very special rituals.

Bond.  Renee Bond.

Oh yeah. They're releasing one of Ed Wood's 'lost' smut films, Necromania (link safe for work, but I'd wait until I was home). Best known for "Plan 9 from Outer Space", some say his films were so bad that it's sure proof of his genius. Besides his attempts at sci-fi, westerns and horror, he also did porn. But of course even his blue movies are blessed with that Ed Wood magic.

As I went through the Ed Wood filmography, I was delighted to discover that Rene Bond starred in several of his more mature offerings. You may recognize her, she was very popular in adult movies and as a model in men's magazines in the 60's. Knowing that doesn't mean I'm old, it means that I can appreciate vintage erotica.

I don't watch much porn, but since this is Ed Wood, well, you know I'm gonna order it.

Posted by Ted at 05:07 AM | Comments (4)

October 27, 2004

100 Scariest Movie Scenes

Check out the list at RetroCrush.

A rattle of the bones to Dave for pointing it out. I saw it in the comments at Vadergrrrl's place, and she has an excellent post on her personal favorite scary films too.

Posted by Ted at 04:50 AM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2004

Movie Review: Astro Zombies

Mad scientist. Check.
Creepy assistant. Check.
Pulsing brains and hearts. Check.
Homicidal monster. Check.
Splashing blood and gruesome gore. Check.
G-Men. Check.
Foreign spies. Check.
Busty babes in bra and panties or bikinis. Check.

So can someone please tell me why this movie is so damned dull?!?!?!?!?

Tura Satana

Astro Zombies has a decent cast, and you'll probably recognize several of the actors. Robert Carradine stars as the evil scientist, but he's barely trying here. Robert Bagdad checks in as the odd assistant, and while he looks like an evil assistant, he spends a lot of time alternating between evil genius in his own right and bumbling idiot servant. Tura Satana of Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the head of an international ring of spies out to steal the doctor's secrets, but her acting is if anything even worse in this movie. The G-men are just annoying, and tend to die after long boring chase scenes. They're supposed to be the good guys, but such faceless drones that I really didn't care whether or not they lived or died.

I think the idea was to build suspense by dragging out the action, but the director had no real clue about how to really build tension. There wasn't a lot to work with either, because the script is bad, the acting is bad, the plot is bad, the sets are bad... The cars are nice though, it's fun to see yesterday's roads filled with Mustangs and Galaxys.

About three-fourths of the way into this movie, you can almost hear the director say "time to liven this mess up!" Suddenly spies and G-men start to get shot and stabbed, the monster starts to attack, the gore becomes more graphic, and characters actually run instead of meander around the screen. Not that any of it saves this bomb.

One part that made me laugh was that the monsters (the Astro Zombies), are powered by photoelectric cells stuck to their heads. Yep, solar powered evil. For nighttime badness, they also have a built in battery pack that recharges during the day. In one fight scene, a G-man manages to remove the battery pack from the monster. The monster grabs the G-man's flashlight, and we're treated to a long sequence where the monster is struggling through the back alleys of Los Angeles, trying to make it back to the doctor's secret laboratory, all the while holding the flashlight to his forehead!

An interesting bit of trivia, this movie was co-written and produced by Wayne Rogers - Trapper John of television's M*A*S*H. I'm curious to know how many times he's been punched for having a hand in this movie.

Simply put, this movie sucks, and not in a good way. Stay away from this one, unless you need the sleep. What a shame, because it had so much potential too.

Posted by Ted at 11:45 AM | Comments (2)

October 17, 2004

Mucho Queso Gracias!

I recently had the pleasure of getting reaquainted with old friends: Mexican horror movies. These were a staple on late-night TV when I was growing up, usually coming on after Monty Python and the bullfights from Mexico City.

"Mexican horror films are, without a doubt, the closest thing to a cinematic acid trip you are ever going to encounter." Keith Crocket - Cinefear Video

Like Japanese monster movies, there's a certain atmosphere and quirkiness to these flicks, a "feel" that is recognizable and (to me) much more accessable than the Japanese flicks. Keith Crocker pegs it with his definition: simplicity. These are no-frills, straightforward efforts. No tongue-in-cheek, no broad overacting, no subtle messages or morality plays, these movies are simply meant to entertain.

The movie that fired me up again is called The Brainiac. It was part of a three-movie collection I found digging through the WalMart bargain bin.

In the movie, a Baron is condemned to death by the Catholic Inquisition in Mexico. As he's being burned alive, he looks up and sees a comet passing overhead. He then proclaims a curse whereby he'll return when the comet appears again and wreak his revenge upon the court's descendents.

And that's just what happens, except with typical Mexican-style surreal twists. It's 1961 and 300 years have passed. The Baron doesn't just come back with the comet, he comes back *from* the comet, as a brain-sucking alien monster who can assume his human shape as the Baron, turn invisible and hypnotize people with his eyes!

That 'brain-sucking' description is literal, in fact, the medical doctor who does the autopsies on the victims describes it just so:

"Two puncture wounds are here at the base of the skull, and the brains are sucked out."

I love technical medical terminology.

During the movie, you see a lot of this monster, there's no fleeting subliminal glimpses here. Obviously, the makers of this movie are proud of the mask they created (it is pretty cool), so they show it often. You might think that he's got massive fangs to make those "two puncture wounds", and you'd be wrong. The monster has this giant dorky-looking forked tongue that flops out when he's about to kill someone.

And he goes about exacting his revenge, being the charming Baron to meet the people he later kills, and occasionally snacking from a bowl of brains he keeps in a locked cabinet in his castle mansion. Mmmmm, tapioca!

Just as he's about to feast on his last victim, two policemen who've been hot on his trail - sort of - show up and just happen to have flamethrowers handy. Bye bye Baron Brainsucking Alien.

I left a lot of plot out so's not to spoil it for you. The Braniac is a great introduction to Mexican horror, and an excellent example of the genre, but there's so much more to explore!

Here's a blip from The Astounding B Movie Monster archive:

Let's browse through the musty catalog of video categories. What am I in the mood for? There are B-movies. There are horror B-movies. There are Mexican B-movies. There are Mexican horror B-movies. There are Mexican wrestling B-movies. There are Mexican wrestling horror B-movies. There are Mexican wrestling WOMEN horror B-movies. That's the one! Just what the doctor ordered.
All of the Mexican Bs seem to star the same actors and were apparently all made by the same director, producer, writer and crew. More significantly, they all have essentially the same plot. (Mad doctor murders women. Wrestlers to the rescue.)

If you get a chance, these are fun movies to watch. Three of the best from this sub-sub-sub-genre are Doctor of Doom, Wrestling Women Vs. the Aztec Mummy (one of my all-time favorite titles), and Night of the Bloody Apes.

Wrestling women Lorena Velazquez and Elizabeth Campbell

"Well, I think we better be careful! Maybe that stupid mummy has fits, and undresses! Who knows what he has beneath his clothes?!?" - Wrestling Women Vs. the Aztec Mummy

Why wrestling? Well, wrestling used to be big time in Mexico. Like American kids dreaming of growing up to be NBA superstars, Mexican kids used to dream of becoming wrestling stars. In pre-WWF days, American wrestling was fun but kind of bland. Mexican wrestling, on the other hand, added huge portions of schlock Hollywood to its product.

A typical match: To the beat of drums, ten beautiful Mexican ladies in brass bikinis would come down the aisle, dropping rose petals and waving feather banners on long poles. Next, four brawny men in loincloths would carry a gilded litter to the side of the ring, and out would step - The Aztec God. He would slowly and majestically climb into the ring, where some of his bikini-clad maidens would remove his headdress and perform silly purification rituals with incense and more dancing and drumming. When they finally withdrew, the Aztec God would be standing alone in the ring, stoic, arms crossed, waiting for his opponent.

And what an opponent! The cameras would suddenly pan upwards as bright beams of light shined down, and a UFO flying saucer would hover down on cables, belching smoke and flashing colored lights as it was lowered, until it rested on the ground. After a moment, the door would open, and two beautiful Mexican women in silver bikinis would step out. They would lay out a red carpet and suddenly a bright light would shine from the doorway, illuminating from behind a figure standing there. The Alien had arrived.

When he finally made it into the ring, they'd have a regular ol' wrestling match. And when it was over, the next match would be announced, and it would be more of the same wonderfully tacky theater, maybe Doctor Love against Snake Charmer.

For more about Mexican horror films, I highly recommend reading this article at Cinefear.

I took some trouble to format this one a little nicer than the normal Rocket Jones post. Two reasons: first, because I can use the html and css practice, and secondly because I'm truly fond of these movies and they deserve a little something special.

Posted by Ted at 12:20 PM | Comments (4)

October 09, 2004

Movie Reviews for Dummies

Don't write lines like this:

"The music that was played throughout was so awful it makes you want to rip your eyes out of their sockets."


Posted by Ted at 08:46 PM | Comments (3)

October 08, 2004

Two Three Ok, Four Remarkable Movies

I've recently seen a foursome of interesting movies, each fun and worthwhile in a unique way, yet flawed enough to keep them from reaching their full potential.

First up, and probably the best known here in America, is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, starring Sean Connery. Critics panned it and a lot of people hate it for various reasons.

Too bad, 'cause I like this movie. Characters not true to legend? Boo hoo. Unbelievable special effects? That's the point. It doesn't follow the storyline it's based on? It's based on a comic book, get over it. Much like Starship Troopers Earth vs. Soup, you need to suspend belief and just enjoy the ride. I enjoy these bigger-than-life adventures in the Raiders of the Lost Ark style (I think RotLA is overrated too). Lots of fun.

Next, I've got a pair of international offerings courtesy of my friend Dan. He's got the same twisted taste in movies that I do, so we trade flicks often and suggest weird little offerings for each other.

Shogun Assassin. From Japan, this is the movie that inspired Kill Bill. In fact, Kill Bill is an Americanized version of this cult classic and pays tribute in little ways to the original, but you probably missed them if you've never seen this one. The cover of the box proclaims that this flick has been banned since 1983 (due to extreme violence), and that it's impossible to keep a body count. The violence is intense and frequent by 1980's standards, but is fairly tame in today's slasher flick-infested world. The gore mainly consists of gushing blood and is cartoon-like in the way it sprays all over the place.

Lone Wolf is an elite and loyal Samurai for a senile and paranoid Shogun. The Shogun's ninjas kill Lone Wolf's wife, so he vows vengence and, accompanied by his toddler son, they begin their quest to topple the Shogun. Lone Wolf pushes his son along in a stroller-like cart (remember, this is medieval Japan), vanquishing all mercenaries, samurai, and ninjas sent against them, and there are a lot!

The son narrates:

"My father tells me not to count the number of men he's killed, just to pray for the souls of those he's killed. I need to know how many souls to pray for, so I keep count..."

As silly as this sounds, it works. The actor who plays Lone Wolf has a powerful screen presence (unfortunately he died a few years ago of a heart attack), and the spiritual aspects of Japan are played up somewhat. There is some nudity, and like I said the violence is plentiful but not particularly gruesome by today's standards. In short, this is a Samurai movie, and an excellent one at that.

The third movie goes in about a dozen directions at once, and although it can't seem to make up its mind about where it wants to be, it's still a riveting and enjoyable movie.

Made in France, Brotherhood of the Wolf tells the story of a legendary beast that terrorizes a rural province in pre-(French) revolutionary times. The cinematography is beautiful, and you can enjoy it just for the scenery, which is a good thing because some aspects of the plot are just plain silly. I tend to be overlook that, because what do I know about French cinema (other than I can't stand Jerry Lewis)? Same for Japanese films, so I just shrug and move on.

We've got a beast running around wreaking havoc, killing men and women, children and adult alike, and the local French army garrison has had zero luck tracking it down. The King sends his Royal taxidermist to determine what exactly is going on, and he charms the local yokels as he begins to unravel the mystery.

And it's quite a mystery. A local brothel is involved, as is the Catholic Church. His sidekick, an American Indian he befreinded during the French Indian War, gets quite involved with the local gypsies, and between them and the peasants and the clergy and the hookers and the resident royalty, well, everyone has something to hide and an agenda of their own.

Remember that "silly" part I mentioned? For some odd reason, many of the fight scenes are straight out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In fact, I had no idea that the French in those days were such kick ass kung fu fighters! I have absolutely no idea why this was included in the film, and the film doesn't even try to justify it. You're just cruising along, digging on the hoop skirts and powdered wigs, and suddenly it's Bruce Lee time, baby.

Once again, suspend belief and just go with the flow, and you'll find a lot to like. The plot keeps you guessing pretty much right to the end, and I have to again mention the absolutely beautiful scenery and cinematography.

Finally, we have a flick that I saw on the SciFi channel, titled Retroactive. This is a little gem for action film fans. The premise is inspired: if you could go back and relive a moment, what would you do differently?

Jim Belushi plays the baddie in this movie, and enjoys the hell out of it. He's a low-class Texas redneck and the kind of guy who owns a gun and is always on the edge of the law. Critical, but oddly peripheral to the story is a government lab with an experimental but functioning time machine.

Belushi and his meek wife pick up a stranded hitchhiker, a good-looking lady who's car has broken down in the remote Texas desert. Along the way they encounter a few other people and things get out of hand quickly, resulting in Belushi killing his wife.

The hitchhiker gets away, finds herself at the lab and accidentally gets to relive the last stretch of time. Knowing what's about to happen, she tries to change events but just makes things worse. It happens again and again, and each time it gets more complicated and goes more wrong as she desperately tries to set things right.

There's lots of explosions and gunfire and car chases and crashes, and like I said, the SciFi aspect is critical to the plot but not really used beyond that. Once again, just go with the flow and enjoy the action. It's by no means a great movie, but it's interesting and entertaining and Belushi makes a great bad guy.

So there you go, four movies I can heartily recommend, and I only used the word 'silly' for two of them.

Posted by Ted at 05:35 AM | Comments (6)

October 04, 2004

Janet Leigh

Best known as the woman stabbed to death in Psycho's infamous shower scene, actress Janet Leigh has passed away at age 77.

Besides that signature role, she had a long and distinguished career, starring in movies with leading men such as Van Johnson, Van Heflin, Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Martin and Lewis, John Wayne, Dick Van Dyke, Victor Mature, and Tony Curtis.

Thank you Ms. Leigh.

You can get the "Mad Mother Shower Curtain" here. I always wanted one of those.

Posted by Ted at 12:00 PM | Comments (4)

October 01, 2004

Frankenfish, the movie

You may recall the ongoing hullabaloo about Snakehead fish in the mid-Atlantic states. It's mean, tough and voracious, with the ability to scour small ponds free of other life.

Sounds like a bad movie, right?

Thanks to the SciFi Channel, now it is. I just saw a preview where the Snakeheads not only survive, but "move up a few rungs on the food ladder". They're still mean, tough and voracious, but now they're also twenty feet long.

You know I'm gonna be watching.

Posted by Ted at 09:39 PM | Comments (1)

September 26, 2004

Television of my childhood

I saw a commercial late last night about the Action network showing episodes of the old Irwin Allen series Time Tunnel.

This is another of those series I remember watching with my dad, along with Combat, Bonanza, and The Rifleman (with Chuck Connors, who played baseball for the Dodgers - boo! - but I liked the show anyways).

So the commercial came on, and even though I haven't thought about it in years, memories of the show instantly clicked back into place. Airing in 1966 and only lasting one or two seasons, later shows like Star Trek, Quantum Leap and many others owe thanks to Time Tunnel for inspiration. I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

Posted by Ted at 08:49 AM | Comments (3)

September 22, 2004

Another Icon passes

It's a sad day for us Cult Cinema buffs. Film maker Russ Meyer has passed away at age 82. Best known for his trademark well-endowed female leads and plenty of nudity, his movies stand up to the cheesy test of time and are still lots of fun to watch.

Thanks Russ, I'll watch something in your honor this week.

Posted by Ted at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

I'm still partial to MaryAnn myself

Most of us remember her as Ginger from Gilligan's Island, but Tina Louise has had a decent career in Hollywood (translation: she hasn't starved for lack of acting roles, though there are rumors of a porn movie or two in her filmography).

Of course, it helps to look this good in a toga (in the extended entry).

Tina Louise, Warrior Empress

Posted by Ted at 05:34 AM | Comments (2)

September 12, 2004

Birthday Present

Maybe I'm just easy to please. I had fond memories of an early Ralph Bakshi animated movie called Wizards, and when it was recently released Mookie got it for me for my birthday.

Like I said, maybe I'm just easy to please, because I thought it held up well. Nobody would ever mistake this for great cinema, and what some people consider weaknesses I found to be strengths. You'll recognize some similarity of style with Bakshi's later Lord of the Rings, and it's somewhat reminiscent of Vaughn Bode's Cheech Wizard comics.

Wizards features some stunningly creative graphics to tell the story. In fact, the biggest disappointment are the conventionally animated portions, because it's pretty damn poor. Not that the story is any great shakes either. There are some funny bits though.

One of my favorites is when Elenor is being held by the fairies, and the fairies are pissed. A monster shows up and starts to raise hell.

Guard: "Uh, Miss? You'd better do something about that thing."

Elenor: "It'd be better if you release me and we all just run away."

Well, it always made me laugh.

I'm not going to talk about the plot, except to say that it's not as bad as some claim.

My suggestion, if you see this, is to just go with the flow. Appreciate the movie for what it is, and don't expect too much. It helps to be easy to please, I guess.


Posted by Ted at 06:38 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2004

Too cool

A sequel to Clerks is on the way.

Posted by Ted at 05:49 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2004

Movie Reviews - Courtesy of Mookie

My other posts on cult cinema and B-movies can be found by clicking on "Cult Flicks" at the bottom of this post.

The ladies went on vacation a couple of weeks ago, and while they were gone Mookie picked up a few movies for me that she thought I'd like. She made some excellent choices, and I'll review them in parts.

The House at the Edge of the Park - This is a brutal movie, starring the same guy (David Hess), in the same basic role that he played in The Last House on the Left. Hovering right on the edge between ick and cheesy beyond redemption, the movie starts with a rape and murder, and moves right along from there. When Tony and his mildly-retarded best friend invite themselves to a party, it doesn't take long before Tony is terrorizing the entire gathering with a straight razor. He uses it too, more than once, on more than one guest. These partygoers are what we'd call yuppies today - young, wealthy, and reeking of self-satisfied ego, which pisses Tony off. Tony isn't all that stable anyway. Made in 1980, this movie delivers a heaping helping of disco and the Peter Maxx school of design and fashion, which helps set the scene instead of being the distraction I expected. The storyline is straightforward but far from minimalist, with a fair amount of intricate (if sometimes silly) interaction between characters. There's a fair amount of nudity and some uncomfortably realistic sexual assaults. The acting is only ok, and the direction is better than you usually get in this genre. The fact remains though that no character here is all that likable, so it's hard to root for the good guys or against the bad guys. The Last House on the Left is the better movie, if you have to choose only one.

Don't Look in the Basement - The suspense on this one just keeps building and building. A new nurse arrives at an insane asylum, and slowly realizes just how out of control the situation really is. This one has some blood and violence, but the unexpected plot twists and genuine chills delivered make this one fun to see. The crazies are extremely well done, both in concept and as played by the actors who portray them. Only thing is, the basement has almost nothing to do with this movie. I think they just had a good title and ran with it.

I'll save the rest for a later post. Trust me, they're worth waiting for (and that's not sarcasm). In the meantime, I have a dining room to finish painting. Ciao.

Posted by Ted at 07:45 AM | Comments (1)

August 16, 2004

I know your damn words

"Klaatu Barada Nikto."

-- The Day the Earth Stood Still

-- Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness

Posted by Ted at 05:11 AM | Comments (1)

August 07, 2004

What else did you expect?

I didn't have much energy left at the end of the day last week, so I usually just tossed in a movie and found something mostly non-lethal to gnaw on for dinner. And do you know what that means? Yep, I'm gonna tell you all about the latest B movies and obscure classic wannabes I watched. Yay!

We'll kick this off with a truly odd little flick called What's The Matter With Helen?. (does that period go there?). (or there?). (crap, this could go on forever...)

In the movie WtMwH (how doodz is that?), Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters play two moms who have almost nothing in common. Nothing, that is, except that their sons partnered up to commit a horrible murder and mutilation. Needing to get away, they move to Hollywood and open a dance studio for children. Debbie Reynolds character is your basic money-grubbing floozy, while Shelley Winters plays a semi-psychotic religious fanatic. That's a horrible over-simplification, because their characters actually do have depth and you're able to empathize with them both. Look for Agnes Moorehead in a cameo role.

And in case you're unclear on the subject, I give this one a hearty recommendation. Great fun.

Which brings me to something I was pondering a while back. Some reviewers give the traditional 'stars' or 'reels' or whatever-out-of-five or ten somethings. Others give the now-ubiquitous 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down'. Online, I've even seen the awarding of 'severed thumbs', as in "three severed thumbs out of four". I like that. I was wondering if I should do something similar, like awarding Krafts (four Krafts, three and a half Krafts, etc), because Kraft claims to be the cheesiest, and that's what these reviews are all about. In the end, I decided against it, and will just describe and recommend for or against like I've been doing. Who listens to reviewers anyways?

Moving right along, I also watched Idle Hands. I thought I might've mentioned this before, but a search of the site doesn't turn anything up. Folks, this comedy/horror flick scores a 10 out of 10, all thumbs up (severed and otherwise), plus maximum cheesiness. In other words, rent this movie and you won't be sorry. Think Fast Times at Ridgemont High meets The Exorcist. Funny funny stuff, and eminently quotable. Big thanks to my beloved for thinking of me and buying this DVD. As an added bonus, Jessica Alba (Dark Angel) plays the lead character's girlfriend.

How's about a pair from Roger Corman? I watched not one, but two creature features. First up was Creature from the Haunted Sea. Bad, bad, bad. Fun, fun, fun. Every character is a stereotype, from the Bogie-impersonating bad guy to the inept secret agent (now I know where Chevy Chase got his schtick from). The storyline is nonsensical, the monster laughable, and if I ever meet that character who communicates via animal noises and birdcalls I will strangle him on sight.

Second of the Corman flicks was Beast from Haunted Cave. Something that became obvious was Corman's reliance on quirky mannerisms to define a character. The previous movie had animal-noise boy, and this movie has the gangster who never stops eating. In every scene that he's in, he's stuffing his face, even in the middle of a robbery. The plot here is better, as is the acting, and all in all I liked this one a lot more. Not that it's a great movie or anything, but you get to see Frank Sinatra's cousin in one of his major movie roles. Oh yeah, the monster is some kinda giant spider thingie. Sorta.

Lets finish up with one of those forgotten classics, eh? Revolt of the Zombies, made in 1936, was one of the very first zombie movies ever. It seems that during WWI, some French Cambodian troops were used and proved very effective at the front. They happened to be zombies, and the Cambodian priest who controlled them was imprisoned after the war in the interests of humanity. A team of Allied scientists were sent to Angkor (Wat) to discover the secret of zombification, with the task of destroying it forever. There's lots of love interest and mystery and plenty of zombies, who just happen to be living people under someone else's control - no walking dead here. For you trivia buffs, the lead is played by the same actor who later played the General in White Christmas. Find this one and enjoy it, just don't forget that it's a 30's movie and you'll be fine.

So there ya go. Betcha didn't know zombies originated in Cambodia. You learn the darndest things when you least expect it.

Posted by Ted at 05:29 PM | Comments (5)

July 24, 2004

Andromeda Strain

I'm not going to do a regular review of this 1971 flick (adapted from the book by Michael Crichton), but I will say a couple of things about it.

First, if you haven't seen it lately, do yourself a favor and watch it again. If you've never seen it, you should. It's very much in the techno-science style of Fantastic Voyage.

Secondly, one of the most frightening scenes I've ever seen in any film is when they're testing for the whatever-it-is, and you watch the first rhesus monkey die from exposure to it. Absolutely chilling.

Posted by Ted at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2004


Not only are they remaking the classic House of Wax (and destroying the original storyline in the process), but word is out that Paris Hilton is co-starring.

Hopefully she's the first to go.

Posted by Ted at 08:04 AM | Comments (2)

July 10, 2004

Please explain

I watched Bound last night, starring Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon.

What is it about Gina Gershon that women find so attractive? She's not a classic beauty, but she is easy on the eyes, and I suspect that there's something more than just physical looks that drives ladies wild.

For the record, I really like the movie.

I just stumbled across another little interesting movie tidbit. The flick Donnie Darko (very odd so far) just started, starring Jake Gyllenhaal who also played Homer Hickam in October Sky (rocket movie, yay!), and is also the brother of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who starred in Secretary and plays one of the sisters in Donnie Darko.

No Kevin Bacon's were harmed during the making of this post.

Posted by Ted at 10:30 AM | Comments (4)

July 08, 2004

Additional thunk'd about "The Last Man On Earth" post

(original post here)

There have been countless stories written about a variation of the "Last Man on Earth" theme. Besides the classic "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson, Damon Knight's short story "Not With A Bang" is an interesting take on the situation. Originally published in the Winter/Spring 1950 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, it's also included in the excellent anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Slay Ride.

Posted by Ted at 06:09 AM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2004

Would the last person alive please turn out the lights?

You've probably seen The Omega Man, the post-apocalypse film starring Charlton Heston. But did you know that the movie had been done before? Both movies were based on Richard Matheson's classic book "I Am Legend", and tell the story of what may be the last human alive and his battle to survive against zombies who roam the night looking for blood.

Wake up, make coffee, gas up the generator in the garage, clear the zombie corpses off of the porch, go grocery shopping, then spend the day killing zombies and burning their bodies. It's a big city, so the routine goes on each and every day. You're half-crazy from the solitude, so you practically welcome the company at night as the zombies try to break into your house.

That's the plot of Last Man On Earth, an Italian chiller made in 1964. Starring Vincent Price, the black and white cinematography and eerie scenes of an empty city littered with corpses go a long way to set the dark tone. This movie is a downer right from the beginning, which feels right considering the concept. There's a lot more background story than in Omega Man, and more psychological depth to the characters.

The Omega Man is one of those wonderfully cheesy SciFi thrillers that you either love or hate. Adapted from the same story as the first movie, both share the main plot line, but where Vincent Price is borderline crazy from his situation, Charlton Heston seems to thrive on it. Details differ, but the most obvious change is recognizing that by being the last man alive, you pretty much own everything. Heston stocks his penthouse apartment with fine art, liquor and food, and as long as he remembers to keep gas in the basement generator, then life is good (except for the being alone part).

Sharing the title, but not the storyline, is the 1924 flick, The Last Man On Earth. This forgotten classic examines the situation from a more literal point of view. What happens if, after all the men die, you find a fertile male? The obvious (and cheesy) answer is "breed".

Similar storylines can be found in such classics as Hell Comes To Frogtown, among others, but here...

Ok, now I'm pissed off. The box gives the synopsis for that movie, but the actual flick included is the Vincent Price version - again. Son of a bitch. Hang on... all right, I've double checked everything, and they switched movies on the DVD.

So now I can't recommend it based on personally seeing it myself, but I am going to be looking for a copy of the original. Ya know what? Go watch Hell Comes To Frogtown.

Posted by Ted at 09:00 PM | Comments (3)

June 16, 2004

Risking my sanity so you don't have to

This is going under Cult Flicks because I'm not sure where else to put it.

I watched the premier episode of Extreme Dodgeball last night on the Game Show Network. I watched it again this afternoon with Mookie, because she TIVO'd it, and this way you get more than first impressions. As if that's important.

Do you like Slamball? If yes, then you'll enjoy Extreme Dodgeball. I admit it, I liked it. But before I actually describe the "sport" itself, well...

William Hung did a video commercial plugging various Game Show Network shows. What did he butcher sing? What else but Queen's "We Are The Champions", in that WH style that causes mass suicides we've grown to tolerate. Cheesy, and the perfect introduction, in my humble opinion. Consider yourself warned.

It's showtime! You know the format: two chatty announcer/hosts - one being Bil Dwyer (that's not a typo, it's only one "L") from BattleBots, with a much more subdued 'do - and a hot babe down near the action to 'interview' the teams during breaks in the action. Throw in pointless segments about various players (called "Beyond the Ball") and you've about summed up the entire show.

Oops, forgot about the teams, didn't I? In the Extreme Dodgeball league (?!?!), the teams are supposedly put together based on occupation, but 'concept' is the real story. Face it, even in LA you're not going to find five real Sumo wrestlers who're willing to be stupid for what probably amounts to minimum guild scale, not to mention the fact that there's no such thing as female Sumo. So the team is actually four fat guys and a fat gal. Just calling it as I see it, and as one of the circumferentially overachieving, let's just say that if I were on the team, my nickname would be 'Slim'. The other teams are horse jockeys, mimes, CPA's, rent-a-cops, hot chicks (and a guy), bodybuilders and tatooed people. Yep, I always wanted to list my occupation as 'canvas for prolific tatoo artist'.

The game itself has enough interesting twists to actually make it, well, interesting. A match is best-of-three games. For the first game, two balls are used. Second game, a third, larger ball is added, and in the third game one team member is designated the "Dead Man Walking" and if you hit them it's all over. The rest of the rules were mostly familiar. My favorite was "no head shots", which meant that a valid strategy was to curl up on your knees facing the other team and let them wail away at your head for no effect - rules-wise, not concussion-wise.

The team balance is actually pretty good, which is what the show's producers want. The rules work well, the strategies and tactics used were logical and surprised me a couple of times. All in all, you can tell that these people extensively tested and tweaked the rules.

So yes, I'll watch it again, if I stumble across it one night when nothing else is on and I want some noise on in the background. It's certainly not something I'm going to seek out and look forward to. I've seen worse. But you already knew that.

Posted by Ted at 05:42 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2004

Movie Review Time

Rejected title: Uh-oh, what's Ted gotten into this time?*

I'm going to start with the best and work down to the worst. These are all titles I've recently picked up in various bargain sections.

First and by far the best is Zulu. You may remember this 1964 classic that tells the true story of the 1879 battle at Rorke's Drift. About 150 British soldiers bravely (and barely) hold off a series of attacks by more than 4,000 African Zulu warriors. Starring Michael Caine, this one is a must-see movie, especially for anyone who loves action movies and/or historical drama. If I remember correctly, I got this one at Mieir's as part of a 3 for $10.00 deal.

The second disk of that deal wasn't quite the classic, They Came From Beyond Space. Alien minds take over earth scientists to help them repair their damaged spaceship, and it's up to a McGuyver-esque wannabe to uncover the truth. Luckily for earth, he's got a metal plate in his head, making him immune to alien mind control. I really enjoyed this one, right up until the last three minutes, when the stupidest ending ever committed to film managed to completely screw up a decent movie. This was based on the book "The Gods Hate Kansas", and at times this 60's British import tries too hard and takes itself too seriously.

I almost put this 1998 direct-to-video T&A offering last: Sorority House Vampires from Hell. It somehow seems right that the IMDB description at that link is screwed up. The cast list is correct, but the plot synopsis is for a whole different movie.

I'll just copy the blurb on the box for you instead:

Death, Demons, D-Cups! The UFO-Demon, Rabaalhazor, has sent the vampire, Natalia to destroy the Earth. Each time she takes a victim a natural disaster rocks the planet. Humanity's only hope is the sexy sorority pledge, Buffy, and the members of her sisterhood. She must not only save the world but she also must save herself from the perverted desires of both Rabaalhazor and Natalia.

They spared all expense for this one. The opening sets were cardboard boxes covered with random PC boards glued here and there. Not that you noticed, because there was a topless vampire babe go-go dancing in front of it. Intended to be in the same vein (pun intended) as movies like Scary Movie this spoof muddles along without letting anything like humor and production values get in the way.

There are occasional smirk-worthy bits, including onscreen subtitles that appear every time Surfer Boy speaks. Rabaalhazor sounds like a cross between Mako and Cheech Marin. But mostly, it's an unwatchable mess, which is a pity, because I really like the title.

So what could possibly be worse than that? This last movie was irretrievably spoiled by a horrid audio track. I can overlook weak plot, uneven pacing, poor acting, and sleaze and cheese, but when I have to strain to hear dialogue that sounds like it's coming from the bottom of a well, it kinda ruins it for me.

Ghost Gunfighter (also released as High Tomb) is a horror story set in an abandoned western ghost town. The town starts to come to life around a bunch of stranded kids (surprise, surprise), and of course they start to die (ditto).

I may upgrade my review of this one in the future, because I'm that pissed off right now about the audio. The movie has real promise, but at the moment it's in the "sucks" category. Maybe my mind will change, but there's an awful lot of stoopid and lame-ass going on, podner.

So there you have it - a classic, a fair-to-middlin' flick, and two stinkers.

* Thanks to Dawn of Caterwauling for the inspiration to use the 'rejected title' idea (translation: I stole it from her fine site).

Posted by Ted at 07:06 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2004

Sex dominates the world, and now I dominate sex!

Hi-dee-ho esteemed guest, it's movie review time! Since I seem to have driven my old readers away in disgust picked up several new semi-regular visitors, let me tell you that I adore obscure and crappy horror movies. Then I bore you to tears write all about 'em here, because that's what I do. If you'd like to see the rest of the Rocket Jones "Cult Flicks" category, click here.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of watching several movies, but for this post I'm going to review just three.

Let's start out with a question: when someone says "Argentina", do you automatically think "horror movie"?

Me neither. How about "mad scientist monster movies?" No? Hmmmm... ok then: "cheesy sexploitation movies?" Ding ding ding ding ding ding! We have a winner!!! Argentinian sexploitation sci-fi horror. How cool is that?!?!?!

Screwing around aside (no pun intended), the story here is that a mad scientist, the Curious Dr. Humpp, has his monster (we know he's a monster because he has a blinking light in the middle of his forehead) kidnap various people in order to have sex with each other. Among the victims are a lesbian couple, a group of orgiastic hippies, a stripper, and so on. According to his evil plan, he then uses aphrodesiacs and "electronic control of the libido" to coerce them to have frequent sex, after which he extracts the "blood forces of sex" from them. The title of this post is one of his dramatic lines from the movie. Of course, not all goes according to plan and even the evil talking brain in the jar on his desk can't help much.

Believe it or not, this movie is better than it sounds. The production values are reasonably decent, the acting isn't terrible, and even the dubbing is pretty well done. According to what I've dug up on the web, several extra sex scenes were added to spice up the movie for release in the US, so if you fast forward through most of the nudity and softcore you'll actually be watching the movie as the director originally intended, making it more of a morality play and less of a schlock flick.

Next up is a double feature DVD from Something Weird Video: The Toy Box and Toys Are Not For Children.

The Toy Box is just plain odd. Equal parts horror, sexploitation, science fiction, and acid trip, this is a flick that works best if you just hang on and enjoy the ride without trying too hard for understanding. If you insist on storyline, then "Uncle" throws parties where people act out fantasies to get rewards from 'the toy box'. That's about as distilled-down lucid as you can get with this movie, and even that falls way short of the actual twisted happenings.

Winding up this odd threesome of odd movies is Toys Are Not For Children. Looking for a one-word description? "Disturbing" fits as well as anything else. A young girl grows up obsessing about her father, who was tossed out of the house by mom. In a bizarre series of events, she gets a job in a toy store, gets married (unhappily), and then finds happiness by becoming a hooker. She eventually does have a reunion with her daddy, and it's hard to imagine things going any more badly than they do. Although still considered a 'sexploitation' flick, this movie is more a psychological study, and there is actually very little nudity.

So there you have it, three twisted movies, each deemed worthy of your time. If you're into that sort of thing, of course.

Posted by Ted at 06:24 AM | Comments (2)

May 14, 2004

Movie Review: Happiness of the Katakuris

Japanese. Horror. Subtitled. Musical. Schizophrenic. Fun. Thriller. Stupid. Subtle. Disjointed. Hilarious. Crude. Original. Sweet. Surreal.

Wow, this one is impossible to describe. It's all of the above, and more. Imagine watching the shower scene from Psycho, and immediately afterwards the police show up and the investigation is conducted as a musical number from Saturday Night Fever. It makes even less sense than that, but damn, it's odd fun.

Did you enjoy Clerks? Fargo? Godzilla? North by Northwest? Gumby? The Sound of Music?

I saw it on the Sundance Channel. Check your local cable or satellite listings, or according to IMDB reviews, it's also available at some Blockbuster Video stores.

If you like things a lot off the wall, you'll probably enjoy this movie. Or not. Hell, I have no idea. All I know is that *I* loved it.

Did I mention the zombies?

Posted by Ted at 07:07 AM | Comments (4)

May 11, 2004

Thunderbirds are Go!

A new live action style movie due out in July. Be sure to watch both trailers, because the US and international versions are different.

Thanks to Doug Pratt for sending this link to me! And if you go to Doug's site, you should order one of his cool new Freedom 'hoody' sweatshirts or 'rocket scientist' t-shirts. Both are Mookie-approved!

Posted by Ted at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2004

All right, your wait is over

I warned you here that I was going to watch a couple more offerings from Seduction Cinema. By the end of last month, I'd recorded Play-Mate of the Apes and Gladiator Eroticus. Boy howdy.

Like I originally stated, the formula is to spoof a popular movie, and to fill it with lesbian softcore porn. Part of what makes these films work is that the original storylines are closely followed, so the movies tend to actually have plots.

But face it - and I can't believe I'm actually saying this (my 'guy' membership will be revoked for sure) - there is such a thing as too much lesbian porn. Watching one of these movies is fun, but two is borderline boring, and three is serious overkill. Maybe it's because it was the first one I saw, but I still think Lord of the G-Strings is the best of the three I've seen. Play-Mate of the Apes was fun and funny, but there were way too many enhanced bustlines for my taste. The overstuffed petrified-chest look just doesn't do it for me.

Now that this peculiar little itch has been scratched, I can get back to my beloved obscure crappy horror movies. I do have some interesting flicks on my list to be reviewed, but with springtime here my movie time is seriously curtailed. We'll get to 'em all in time.

Posted by Ted at 12:05 AM | Comments (5)

May 05, 2004

I'm getting a little tired of the same six Egypt shows on The History Channel

The Scream network. All horror, all the time. Sounds like 'must see' TV to me!

Thanks to Bad State of Gruntledness for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 12:31 PM | Comments (4)

April 27, 2004

The greatest hockey movie of all time*

No, not Love Story. I'm talking about Slap Shot!

For the 25th anniversary of the original, they made Slap Shot 2. I don't know whether this is a good thing or not, because to be honest I haven't seen it. To balance that out, the original was one of the first DVD's I ever purchased (right after Love Story).

And here's a quickie for you, the Hanson brothers official website. This is worth a stroll through all by itself!

*Welcome to "drive-by" postings, ala Rocket Jones. No time to really develop this one, so you get some links and a friendly swift kick in the butt to go follow them.

Posted by Ted at 12:02 PM | Comments (4)

April 24, 2004

Movie Review: First Spaceship on Venus

This one is a treat, despite some flaws. Remember that bit in Shrek where he's talking about layers? You know, like an onion, there are many layers because it's not something simple? Fine, like a parfait then. The point is that there's a lot worthwhile in this movie, even if you're not a fan of the genre.

First Spaceship on Venus was made in East Germany in 1959. Rather than overt preaching about the joys of Communist living, the message here was much more subtle and pervasive. Almost every aspect of the movie was colored by the society which created the film and the society it was targeted towards. There's an grim earnestness here, where everyone is expected to pull their weight for the common good of all Earth (even those poor misguided Americans). Of course, the crew is gloriously diverse, containing both males and females and of every race. One scene that troubled me happened near the end, where some crew members were lost. There was no effort to rescue them, and even though they were hailed as heroes they weren't sacrificed. They were just left behind by circumstance when the ship returned to Earth, and little was wasted on regret. To my mind, that perfectly pointed up the socialist attitude of individual expendability.

This movie is based on a story by Stanislaw Lem, who's novel Solaris has been made into a movie twice - first in Russia, and then again a year or two ago by Hollywood (starring George Clooney). I've read some Lem, and don't much care for him. I'm wondering now if it's because of our differing viewpoints about the world we grew up in. His fiction is wildly imaginative, but there always seemed to be an alieness about his writing that had nothing to do with the story he was telling.

But despite (or maybe because of) this, First Spaceship on Venus presents an intriguing story. More cerebral than action-oriented, much of the plot is advanced via dialogue, and since it was filmed in the earliest days of space exploration, they get a lot of the science wrong, sometimes with unintentionally funny results.

The spaceship is one of the most beautiful creations ever conceived for the big screen. It also has one of the dumbest names - the Cosmostrator.

The special effects are outstanding for the most part, especially the surface of Venus. The dubbing and editing are horrible. Supposedly my copy was "fully restored and enhanced from a digital master", which just tells me that the original must've been in really bad shape. The picture isn't bad, but it's not all that great either.

Bottom line: this one is well worth watching. In fact, I'll go ahead and call this one a must-see.

Posted by Ted at 07:59 AM | Comments (2)

April 17, 2004

The Veil

This obscure series was made in 1958, and never made it to US television other than rare showings on PBS.

From SomethingWierd.com:

Two years before Thriller, Boris Karloff hosted a hitherto obscure ten-episode pilot of a unsold TV horror anthology, The Veil. Though Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond wouldn’t make their debuts until 1959, The Veil uncannily evokes both by presenting “true and authenticated” stories of ordinary people who experience some aspect of the bizarre or paranormal intruding into their lives. In addition to his duties as a genteel host -- in which Karloff greets us from in front of a gigantic flaming fireplace which looks like he’s hosting from Hell -- Boris also stars in [many of the] episodes which makes this a rare treat for Karloff fans and forces one to wonder why the shows were never aired.

Apparently, nine episodes were made with an American audience in mind, and a tenth episode titled "Jack the Ripper" was made in England and tacked onto the end of the series to round it out.

Some years after they were originally made, the episodes were grouped together into three compilation movies. This was done without the knowledge of any of the original directors or even the series creator.

SomethingWeird video offers up the series on multiple DVD's and VHS tapes, but I stumbled onto another version completely by accident. Brentwood Video offers a collection of 10 classic zombie movies called The Dead Walk (reviews will be coming eventually), and each of the five double-sided DVD's contains a bonus in the form of an episode of The Veil. Completely unexpected and a wonderful surprise.

The picture quality on the DVD's is excellent, and the acting is pretty good. Fans of the genre will recognize some familiar faces among the casts. The stories range from fair to good, and concentrate on the eerie. No explanation is ever offered for the uncanny events.

Zombie movies and Boris Karloff. Pass the popcorn!

Posted by Ted at 01:36 AM | Comments (2)

April 11, 2004

Glad I'm not in *her* address book

My wife is watching The Beautician and the Beast (1997) starring Fran Drescher and Timothy Dalton, and she tells me that they've just mentioned a third celebrity in the dialogue who's now dead: Mother Theresa, JFK Junior and just now Sonny Bono. That's kinda spooky, considering the movie was made fairly recently.

Posted by Ted at 09:29 PM | Comments (2)

April 06, 2004

Cult Cinema reviews

Last weekend I stumbled across a new genre that I'd never seen before. After doing some research, I've discovered that it's a fairly new niche in the cult flick scene and seems to have a small but loyal group of followers.

Softcore Lesbian Spoof movies shot direct to video.

Man, I can't wait to see the Google hits that one generates. The movie I saw on late-night television was titled Lord of the G-Strings: Femaleship of the String. The main characters were all female, and it was an obvious and not terribly bad parody of the Tolkien works ("terribly bad" as per my definition). I love crap movies, so if your tastes run to the normal, then these probably aren't for you.

In the movie, Dildo the Throbbit is entrusted with the task of delivering the G-String of Power to... uh, someplace... for destruction. Need I go on?

The sex is simulated and overwhelmingly (but not exclusively) lesbian. The characters get naked often. There is a plot of sorts, and actual acting is attempted at times. The humor is pretty hit and miss, but there are some laugh-out-loud moments.

And then there is the leading lady. Her screen name is Misty Mundae (go on, I'll wait for you to stop snickering). She's killer cute, with an innocent face and the morals of... well, no... she has no morals that I can determine, at least as far as making softcore lesbian spoof flicks. (Mental note: run that job search through Monster.com)

Misty Mundae has made numerous movies over the last several years for Seduction Cinema, and seems to have a cult following built up, including her own Yahoo group fan-club (as does Seduction). The movies have titles like The Erotic Witch Project and The Sexy Sixth Sense, as well as some not-spoof flicks. Apparently it's not all mindless T&A either, as I saw some good reviews of one movie as a noir thriller offering.

So what do I think? I went through the satellite-guide for the month and picked out a couple of other related flicks. I'll let you know after I've seen Play-Mate of the Apes and Gladiator Eroticus: The Lesbian Warriors. I'd pick these up if I see them in a bargain bin somewhere, but they're not going onto my "must buy" list.

Favorite review snippets:

"This is just under ninety minutes, which means total production time was about ninety minutes."

"Best scene: the gorilla having sex with the sex-doll... now there's something I hadn't seen yet..."

"...What surprised me about this movie, is that it actually worked. The movie made some sense. The formula actually worked."

"three beautiful women get lesbo-crazy in front of a camera. Talk about entertainment!"

Sexy fun, and there's nothing wrong with that. Uh huh, I already know I'm a pig. Oink.

Posted by Ted at 05:49 PM | Comments (5)

April 04, 2004

Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Old vs New

I've had the original version of this movie sitting on the shelf for awhile, purposely putting off watching it again until the remake was released. I wanted to see the original and the new to make a back-to-back comparison.

The original TCM remains one of the most disturbing films of all time. It's intense in ways that Hitchcock approached only at his very best. Considering its reputation, there is surprisingly little gore and only one murder by chainsaw. Where it gets you is the unsettling details in every scene and unrelenting suspense, because it just never lets up.

A major gripe with the original was "poor cinematography". It's pretty dark and murky much of the time, which adds to the atmosphere in my opinion. I also don't agree with the complaints about plot (or lack thereof). This movie doesn't tie up loose ends, and there's very little understandable motivation for the characters. Imagine the scariest book you've ever read, but the first and last chapters are missing. You get the distilled essence of terror, without any of the context that helps you to rationalize it. That multiplies the experience because things happen that are just on the edge of making sense.

The DVD contains several scenes that never made it to the theatrical release, including background and thoughts from the actors involved. There are plenty of other extra features too.

On to the remake. The story has been changed. It makes (a little) more sense than the original, but much of the urgency and sense of not knowing what was coming next was lost in the update. The movie just feels more modern, and that's not a good thing in this case.

The acting is better. The actual filmwork is better. The 'good guy' characters are more likable. The special effects and gore are more gruesome, and there's more blood splashing around. The lead female character, played by Jessica Biel, is a good looking lady, and she gives a fine performance.

But throughout the film the director went for the modern touches, like gore and sex jokes. Instead of suggesting, they went for explicit. Even the creepy little details that made the original so memorable seemed contrived in the remake, placed for effect instead of being the disturbing minutinae that set the scene.

So far, everything I've said about the remake are in comparison to the original. And don't get me wrong, the remake is a pretty good movie. It will scare the hell out of you. Some people will like the new version better because it is a more complete movie. My personal opinion is that the original is a scarier experience.

The remake DVD is pretty sparse in the special features department, offering the TV ads, the movie trailer, and a lame-ass music video.

UPDATE: I was reminded that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies were inspired by the real-life person Ed Gein (warning: link has some graphic photos). Despite what the movies claim, they are not true stories. Ed Gein was also the inspiration for Bloch's Psycho, later turned into the peerless classic film by Alfred Hitchcock. For more information on Gein and other mass and serial murderers, check out the Crime Library.

Posted by Ted at 08:21 PM | Comments (1)

March 21, 2004

Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold

This one was on Showtime Beyond late last night. I needed something like this movie, because I'd just watched the Caps/Thrashers hockey game, and it was the worst possible result - a tie. Why was that bad? Well, the Thrashers goalie, Numinem, is on my fantasy hockey team, so a win would've been welcomed. A win by the Caps would've been welcomed. Instead we got a tie. Blech. To be fair, it was a fun game to watch. Anyways, I tried to not let my disgust with the hockey game color my movie review.

This movie is horribly, tragically, pathetically bad. The acting is laughable, the characters are one-dimensional, and the plot is simplistic and childish.

In other words: so far, so great!

Victor and Nic will be interested in the presence of a lab rat who advances the plot in a big way. As Victor says, the presence of rat automatically makes this great cinema. To be truthful, the rats are actually someone in giant rat costumes, but it's at least as realistic as Alf was.

It also helps to have a 60' tall naked blonde with lines like "Help me, I'm huge." Yes dear, you certainly are. She's horny too, which reminds me of the Tubes lyric:

She left me there though I tried and tried
A fifty-foot woman's never satisfied.

Special effects suck were impressive. I especially liked the sledge hammer made from a rubber mallet spray painted silver. It would have been more realistic if they would've masked off the handle first. They also seemed to have a problem getting the actors to actually look in the right direction during some special effects scenes. A little more directorial care goes a long way.

Favorite line, spoken by one centerfold candidate (probably not an exact quote): "You know I'm a shallow person, I want you to be honest with me."

The climax is a lame-assed cat-fight between rival giant bikini-clad centerfolds (wow, three hyphenated words in one sentence, a personal best!). The good guy gets the good centerfold, and for some reason the bad centerfold and bad guy inexplicably and spontaneously combust. And yes, I feel really bad for not warning you about that spoiler.

This one doesn't try to take itself seriously, which is why it works as well as it does. If nothing else is on, this one's worth a look.

Posted by Ted at 08:24 AM | Comments (1)

March 19, 2004

Oscar Worthy Performance

Scandalous that this one was ignored.

Thanks to the Llama Butchers, via Farm Accident Digest, for pointing this one out.

Posted by Ted at 07:58 AM | Comments (1)

March 18, 2004

Movie Review - The Beast (1988)

Not the 50's horror feature of the same name, this movie is sometimes found under the title "The Beast of War".

The Beast of the title is a tank. A Soviet main battle tank involved in the invasion of Afghanistan, which becomes separated from the rest of its unit. The story involves the crew of the tank and their efforts to rejoin their comrades despite being surrounded by hostile mujadeen and forbidding country. It's a war story, but the focus is on the people involved on both sides, both Soviet tank crew and Afghan's fighting the invaders.

There are rumors that you can occasionally find this one in the $5.00 bargain bin at WalMart. I haven't seen it there, but I'm going to look more carefully from now on.

Another underappreciated movie, this one is thumbs up, comrades!

Posted by Ted at 08:10 AM | Comments (4)

March 07, 2004

Watching the crap so you don't have to

Oooo boy, this group is a mixed bag. One thumbs-up crapfest, one so-so offering, and one real stinker.

Behind door number so-so, we have Snowbeast. This made-for-TV bigfoot thriller stars a whole heap of washed-up TV stars like Clint Walker, Bo Swenson, Yvette Mimieux and others you'll probably recognize. Amazingly enough, this bland thriller was written by the same guy who wrote the screenplay to Hitchcock's Psycho, proving that Bob Marley was right when he sang "a hungry man is an angry man". This guy must've been desperate for grocery money (I know that doesn't quite fit the point I'm trying to make, but I wanted to throw in a Marley quote to impress you).

The plot is full of holes, and the actual violence seen is minimal - it was for TV after all. Not very good, but not unwatchable either.

Much better, in a crapesque sort of way is Night Train to Terror - a trio of tales embedded in a senseless concept meant to tie the stories together. God and Satan are riding a train together, discussing souls. Also on the train, for no apparent reason, are quite a few teenagers, partying like only teenagers in 60's beach movies can. There's a catchy song they play at various times, and you'll likely wind up with an ear-worm from it. The stories here are actually not too bad. The special effects range from tacky to good, including some pretty cool stop-action claymation work. There are gruesome moments and blood and gore, and several gratuitious breast shots (and one bush sighting as well, for those who're keeping track).

The ending credits note that God is playing himself.

Remember the Lurch-like actor Richard Moll? Apparently he had a (so-called) career playing freaks in cheesy horror movies before he hit the big time, playing the freak bailiff on the television sitcom Night Court. I used to think his role in House was what his acting career had sunk to, but apparently it was a simple return to his roots. He plays a couple different roles in this one. Recommended.

Finally, we have The Severed Arm. This flick should be studied in every cinema course as how to completely screw up a great concept. Here's the story line: "Trapped in a cave, five men cut the arm off of another companion in order to ward off starvation. After they are saved, their victim seeks revenge on them one by one."

Isn't that cool? Unfortunately, everything else about the movie is absolute dreck. I should've known that suck was inevitable when, in the first two minutes of the movie, we have an extreme windblown comb-over moment. I mean, the actor gained eight inches in height as his hair stood straight up in the breeze. Believe me, it was all downhill from there. I suggest remembering this title for the express purpose of avoiding it.

Posted by Ted at 01:15 AM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2004


Everyone (yes, everyone, and if that doesn't include you it's because we're all keeping it a secret from you), asks where I find all this useless drivel obscure trivia to talk about. When I'm lovingly describing movies (that period between 'about' and 'When' just slipped out. The management apologizes and to compensate shall not put a period after this sentence)

Here's one place I go when looking for info about the lesser-known lights of the silver screen. Some of it's not work safe.

Posted by Ted at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2004

Nothing So Strange: the movie

This is a mock documentary, pure fiction told absolutely straight. If you'd like to see something not like every other Hollywood movie out there, check this one out.

J-Walk has details.

Posted by Ted at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

February 29, 2004

Movie Review worth reading, because it's somewhere else

Over at Who Tends the Fires, Ironbear reviews a Jackie Chan movie. It ain't pretty, but the review is fun and the comments are great!

Posted by Ted at 11:49 AM | Comments (2)

February 27, 2004

Just lay off the pretzels, ok?

Three lightweight presidentially themed movies I enjoy, especially during this political season:


The American President

My Fellow Americans

Posted by Ted at 04:18 PM | Comments (3)

It's probably just me, matey. Arrrgh!

I finally got to watch the rest of Pirates of the Carribean last night. Good movie, but am I the only one who thought Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) sounded an awful lot like Arthur (Dudley Moore) in the movie?

Posted by Ted at 05:28 AM | Comments (4)

February 21, 2004

Movie Review Time

Boy Howdy, do I have some off-the-wall fun for you this time around. Y'all know that I enjoy the lesser-known classics (translation: crappy movies), but some of what I watch falls more literally into the actual classic category. These movies are perfect examples.

The Gorilla (1939) – This is a true Hollywood production, and the quality shows. Featuring great sets, real actors, a plot and special effects, this early spoof of horror movies has plenty of slapstick comedy to go along with the thrills and chills. Bela Lugosi makes a fine butler, and the Ritz Brothers play a trio of private eyes hired to protect a millionaire targeted for murder. The high point of the movie is the funniest maid (Patsy Kelly) ever to steal a scene, but it’s pretty obvious why the Ritz Brothers never made it as big as Abbot and Costello or any of the other great comedy teams. Nevertheless, this zany movie is an ok way to escape for a little while. My favorite line: “Did you see that face? I’ll bet when snakes get drunk they see him.”

The Ape Man (1943) – More Bela Lugosi and more monkey business! In this film, he plays a mad doctor who ends up the victim of his own experiments. To recover, he must kill. Overall, the mood is darker than in The Gorilla, but this flick still has some humorous moments and a rich plot full of details and minor storylines. The ending has a twist that you’d never guess in a million years.

When The Ape Man was originally released, World War II was in full swing and there are frequent mentions of it. In fact, in one scene a female character makes fun of a guy for being a “4-F reject”, and he proudly let’s her know that in 30 days he goes into the Navy. She apologizes immediately.

Something else I noticed, in both movies, was that guns were common and unremarkable. Many of the characters (male and female) were armed, and casually pulling a pistol out for protection caused no great reaction from other characters. At the same time, the guns were always handled safely and nobody was trigger-happy, in fact they were never used at all in The Gorilla and not until the very end of The Ape Man – and it wasn’t a hail of gunfire either.

Both of these movies get two opposable thumbs up.

Posted by Ted at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2004

Movie Review - Whoops Apocolypse (1982)

This was a six-episode series that ran in Great Britain, and was later made into a much inferior movie. If you do manage to snag a copy of this title, and it has Loretta Swit (HotLips of M*A*S*H fame) as the US President, then you've got the movie (bummer). You want the one with Barry Morse as American President Johnny Cyclops. I found my copy-of-a-copy version while stationed in Germany, and it's on my perpetual list of gotta-haves for when it finally (hopefully) is released on DVD.

Whoops Apocolypse is a brilliant satirical spoof of the world in the 80's.

Wow, that sounded so simple. If you are a fan of anime, and are familiar with the Excel Saga, then this is the live-action version of that concept. No idea is sacred, no institution unscathed, no tradition left untrampled.

Here's the synopsis from IMDB.COM:

A light-hearted look at the final week before doomsday. American President Johnny Cyclops is trying to run a re-election campaign while dealing with the Russians, a deposed Shah needing to be hidden, and a new weapon called a 'quark' bomb. Meanwhile, Lacrobat, the infamous terrorist, has stolen one of the quark bombs and is trying to get it into the Middle East. Stopping Lacrobat, getting the Shah to safety, placating the Russians and winning the election will require a brilliantly planned and perfectly executed strategy on the part of President Cyclops...

Like Airplane!, there is so much happening on so many levels that the mind boggles. You'll find yourself suddenly cracking up long after watching when a joke finally clicks inside your head.

Imagine the newly-elected conservative Prime Minister of England, sitting in quiet satisfaction with his closest ministers, basking in their victory. He decides to reveal a secret to his friends and colleagues, now that they're in power. The Prime Minister has a plan to save vast amounts of money by completely eliminating the military. When his ministers question the wisdom of leaving the country undefended, he reveals his secret. He is, underneath the clever disguise, actually Superman, and he will provide all defense of the homeland.

Watching the ministers trying to grasp the fact that their leader is a complete loon is priceless. Especially when the Prime Minister wants to announce to the world that he is Superman, thus deterring any and all enemies from ever again committing agression against the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, international terrorist Lacrobat (John Cleese!) has stolen one of the new 'quark' bombs, and is making his way across Europe with it. It's not a little bomb either, so some of the camoflauge he uses have to be seen to be believed.

This one is mucho rare and hard to find, but if you ever get the chance...

Posted by Ted at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2004

Movie Review - Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death

This is one of my all-time favorite movies. It pokes fun at everyone and everything, managing to slip from parody to parody without totally falling over the stupid-cliff. In fact, in places it's downright erudite.

The beginning of this movie is reminiscent of the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Well, not really, but work with me here. The story moves right along, where the feminist anthropologist Dr. Hunt (Playboy playmate-of-the-year Shannon Tweed, playing the part almost straight) is coerced by the US Military to enter the dreaded Avocado Jungle of California to search for the mythical Piranha tribe and the missing feminist Dr. Kurtz (Adrienne Barbeau).

Cutie Karen Mistal as sidekick Bunny provides airhead relief, and Bill Maher plays the guide.

I don't want to give any spoilers, because I really do recommend this movie. Like Starship Troopers Earth vs. Soup, ignore the title and be prepared to enjoy this movie more than you thought you would.

Sample dialog:

Dr. Hunt: "Dr Kurtz. I'm unfamiliar with the academic guidelines at Radcliffe, but I would think that any major university would consider warring on the United States and eating prisoners of war a serious breach of ethics."

Dr. Kurtz: "Always the cautious scholar, eh Dr. Hunt?"

Go on, take a chance. Run out right now and rent this movie. You'll thank me, and if you don't like it, well, then there's just something wrong with you.

Posted by Ted at 05:09 AM | Comments (6)

February 10, 2004

Movie Review - Destination Moon (1950)

First words spoken from the surface of the moon:

"By the grace of God, and in the name of the United States of America, I take possesion of this planet on behalf of and for the benefit of all mankind."

Impressive movie, and prescient in a lot of ways considering it was made years before space travel was even seriously considered possible. The special effects are surprisingly good for the day, and the Bonestell lunar dioramas are spectacular. Minor nitpick: keep the remote handy, because the DVD soundtrack changes from barely audible dialog to blaring music repeatedly. A little more balance would've been nice.

This would make a great rainy-day double feature with When Worlds Collide. Heck, throw in The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Angry Red Planet and make it a marathon.

Two enthusiastic spacesuited thumbs up.

Posted by Ted at 06:06 AM | Comments (2)

February 09, 2004

Like I threatened promised

Oooo goody, a movie review! Well, it's a DVD review, because besides the two movies here, there are some extraordinary extras included on the disk. Besides lots of gratuitous boobage. And by boobage, I'm talking gratuitous! This go-round, I'm talking about a double-feature from the shlock 'nudist camp' genre of the mid-60's.

In The Beast that Killed Women, the setting is a nudist camp for no discernable reason other than it gives the opportunity to show lots and lots of topless women. The concept here is to keep trotting out the boobs, in hopes that you'll never notice weaknesses in the movie, like plot, acting, dialog, acting, directing, continuity, believability... you get the idea.

How bad is it? Solidly in the "so bad it's good" category, long stretches focus on a tree or steps in the background while naked women repeatedly walk by, "enjoying nature" as nudists do. Mostly, people stand around until joined by someone else, at which point they improvise a conversation that tries to advance the story. But hey, as long as they're naked, eh? Actually, it's fun picking the movie apart, because silliness abounds.

The beast is a guy in a really tacky gorilla suit, and the total body count by the end of the movie is one. Yep, one lousy dead girl, and she was dressed. But most every other girl is naked. Did I mention the gratuitous boobs?

The second movie on the DVD is The Monster of Camp Sunshine. Rats play an important role in this movie, since one of the characters works in the lab at the hospital and is very sympathetic towards her little friends. This flick uses the pretext of warning about the dangers of runaway science to quickly move the story from the hospital lab to - you guessed it - a nudist colony. But first, the nurse accidentally drips an unknown chemical on a cage full of rats, and "their killer instinct is unleashed!" The rats jump at the nurse, causing her to fall out of the window, where she manages to hang on long enough for a doctor to come to her rescue. She's so upset that her roomate decides that they should visit the camp to cheer her up. Oh yeah, her roomie is a nude model. Big surprise, that.

Back to the plot, and from here on out just assume that any actual story is sporadically interjected between lengthy stretches of naked women and men (sorry ladies, it's butts-only on the guys). The doctor in charge of the lab figures out what happened and in a stroke of genius decides that the best way to dispose of the killer chemicals is to put them into a jar and throw them into the bay! But fate has different plans, and the jar is found the next day, upstream at the camp (we know it's upstream because they helpfully tell us so).

The stream running through the nudist camp becomes contaminated with the contents of the jar (in the most hilariously contrived and convoluted set of circumstances possible), and the simpleton camp gardener takes a drink from the stream, which "unleashes his killer instinct!" This time, they just say the hell with all restraint and go for it. The army is called in, and we're treated to stock war footage from the Civil War to World War II. I laughed out loud as a troop of US Cavalry from the old west rode by, followed by clips of troops coming ashore on D-Day. While the doctor buries the softball-sized remains of the gardener (all that was left, and he was actually kicking dirt over it with his shoe), the rest of the characters decided that it was too nice a day to be sad. So they get naked. Once again it's so bad it's fun (zero body count this time, though one girl did get her arm cut by an axe).

One of the funniest lines in the movie is where the nurse explains her love for the nudist movement. She says "I spend all day at the hospital around sick bodies. The nudist camp is my chance to be surrounded by healthy bodies." Of course, as she says this she's puffing on a cigarette, as does most everyone throughout the movie.

Like with the first movie, great fun can be had watching for the assorted silliness, especially the contortions the actors go through so as not to show anything frontal below the waist. Warning: Zither alert!

Now on to the DVD itself, which is a gem. It's put out by Something Weird Video, and besides the two (crappy but nudity filled) movies, you get all kinds of extra goodies, and this is where it shines. Three different sets of drive-in intermission features chock full of those snack bar teasers, local business commercials, and more. Notable is Ed McMahon in a Budweiser commercial, and a reminder to sign the petition in the lobby against "pay TV" and that evil "cable TV".

That's not all. There's also a gallery of trash movie posters accompanied by remastered original radio spots. These are cool as hell.

But there's more! The original theatrical trailer for The Beast that Killed Women is included, as are the trailers for the nudie flicks Eves on Skis, Goldilocks and the Three Bares, Nudes on Tiger Reef, Nudist Life, and Pussycats Paradise. Be still my heart.

And there are 'short subject' features dating as far back as the 1920's about nudists, done up in semi-documentary style. It's interesting to see what each era considered racy for the day, although each contains nudity. I especially enjoyed the variety of music used.

Finally, there's "Let's Go to the Drive-In!" - an interactive selection on the DVD that allows the uninterrupted playback of hours of content, just like being at the movies. Nifty neat-o keen.

Boobs and drive-in atmosphere. It doesn't get much better than that. Pass the popcorn, because this one was a pleasant surprise.

Posted by Ted at 06:18 AM | Comments (3)

February 08, 2004

So I walked into Suncoast Video yesterday...

... serious mistake.

I'm now the proud owner of the science fiction classic Destination Moon, directed by George Pal, based on a story by Robert Heinlein, with moon sets and backgrounds designed by Chesley Bonestell.

In the cult classic category, I got Cannibal Women in the Avacado Jungle of Death, starring Bill Maher (yep, that Bill Maher), Adrienne Barbeau and Shannon Tweed.

Next up is a straight horror double feature of Fade to Black and Hell Night.

Finally, a 'drive-in' double feature from the rare nudist camp horror genre, The Beast that Killed Women and The Monster of Camp Sunshine. I'd never seen those last two available outside of specialty catalogs, so I just had to pick them up.

Reviews coming. I know you can't wait.

Posted by Ted at 06:24 AM | Comments (6)

January 31, 2004

I'm cute *and* fluffy!

Best line from Lilo & Stitch.

Posted by Ted at 03:44 PM | Comments (2)

Mixed feelings about this one

The X From Outer Space.

I always considered myself the guy who never met a Japanese monster movie he didn't like, until now. I kept waiting for this movie to fall over the precipice into the "so bad it's good" category, but no matter how hard I wished, it just stayed firmly in the 'bad' place.

From the TV guide:

A spaceship returns to Tokyo with a spore, which grows into a spear-spitting monster.

There was actually more plot than that. Basically, the spaceship is sent to Mars to find out why the previous six ships haven't reported back. The Japanese suspect a mysterious UFO is causing the disappearances. The UFO appears, spaceship finds sparkly egg spore and returns to earth where the egg hatches spore grows into a giant monster named Guilala (Goo-La-La). Which attacks Tokyo.

"Fireball" and "spear" must be synonyms in Japanese.

Scientists find solution. Monster is reduced back to spore, and they "Shoot it out of the universe" on a rocket to nowhere. Tokyo saved.

Love triangle not resolved, no further mention of UFO nor missing spaceships.

Plenty of cheesy 60's pop music in the soundtrack if you like that sort of thing. If you ever have the chance to see this one, run screaming in the opposite direction. If you can do that and shoot fireballs at Tokyo at the same time, so much the better.

Update: I did some further digging and found the following in a movie review:

they defeat GUILALA using a rare material known as "Guilalium", which blocks GUILALA's main drive; it stops the flow of energy. Using some remaining jets, the Japanese Defense Air Force literally bukkakes the mighty monster into his small, harmless spore form. This movie marks the first bukkake scene in history.

That ought to be good for a few Google hits, eh? Anyway, this movie does seem to have it's champions among the cult movie afficianado's.

Posted by Ted at 09:13 AM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2004

Two down...

Many have already written about the passing of Captain Kangaroo. I grew up watching him (and Romper Room with Miss Maryann, and Beany & Cecil). He was my first best friend.

Also, the incredible Ann Miller has left us. In my opinion, she was the greatest female tap dancer of all time, and one of the overall best as well. If you've never seen her work, on January 27th, the Turner Classic Movie (TCM) network is going to air a tribute to her with four of her movies - On the Town, Easter Parade, Kiss Me Kate, and Hit the Deck - and an interview from 1997. I'll be setting the TiVo for this one.

Posted by Ted at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2004

Movie Review

Another in a series of Cult Flicks and Trash Picks posts.

Riki-Oh, The Story of Ricky

A friend at work lent me this one, with plenty of warning which I'll pass along to you. This is the most violent movie I have ever seen, with the blood and gore reaching absurd levels.

Basic plot: Ricky gets sent to prison where he winds up the target of practically everyone. He wins in the end.

It takes 90 minutes to tell the tale, and along the way people are disembowelled, chopped with machetes, impaled and... jeez, I can't go on. It's that graphic. Oddly though, you tend to de-sensitize and the story is just enough to keep you watching, if for no other reason than to be able to say that you've seen it (uh, that would be me Tim). The cartoonlike quality of the acting helps with the belief suspension too, especially the characters reaction to pain. And there's plenty of pain spread around for everyone. For instance, one guy is ripped open, and with his dying breath tries to strangle his opponent with his own entrails (I don't think so, Tim).

Anyways, I'll return it to my friend and thank him, and now I can say I've seen it. This movie is only for dedicated blood-freaks and Asian cinema devotees.

Posted by Ted at 06:53 AM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2004

Rat Movie Sightings

I got to watch two fun movies yesterday that met my definition of 'decent', and both had guest appearances by Victor and Nic's furry little buddies.

In the SciFi flick Angry Red Planet, the explorers are attacked by a weird giant rat/bat/spider creature thing that was pretty cool.

Towards the end of Attack of the Puppet People, two of the shrunken victims are chased by a rat as they make their way along a city street. A cat comes along and scares off the rat while the people make an escape.

Two great movies, two football games (although the Ravens lost, dammit), and two hockey games in the evening (the Caps... *sigh*). It was a pretty good day, ya know?

Posted by Ted at 07:30 AM | Comments (1)

December 29, 2003

The best kind of survey

Yep, the kind that's already been done and all you have to do is read the fascinating results. Plus it manages to combine two of my addictions - rockets and old crappy movies.

Courtesy of The Astounding B Monster! (an all-around fun place to visit), here's a pundit's guide to the top rocket jocks in movie history.

For an added bonus, check out this nifty look at SciFi's Coolest Conveyances. Notable is the invasion by the undersea Mu-vians, still pissed off at us dirtsiders after all this time.

Posted by Ted at 07:12 AM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2003

December 15, 2003

December 07, 2003

Lady Penelope

What guy wouldn't love a woman who was rich, classy, dabbled in espionage, and owned a pink six-wheeled limosine? Ah yes, Parker, go get the car...

Follow the link in that article to see the movie trailer for the new Thunderbirds movie, due out next summer. International Rescue rides again. Woo-hoo!

Thunderbirds was one of a series of sci-fi adventures produced by Gerry Anderson and the BBC during the 1960's that used puppets and the technique called Supermarionation. Similar shows included Fireball XL-5, Stingray, SuperCar and Captain Scarlet.

This is a neat page showing several of the various vehicles modeled and rendered. It includes several of the rocket ships from these shows in formats compatible with Microsoft Flight Simulator.

And if anyone was wondering (Bueller? Bueller?), I've seen flying rocket models of Thunderbirds 1, 2, and 3 (4 was a submarine, 5 the space station).

Posted by Ted at 07:01 AM | Comments (1)

November 29, 2003

An unexpected visit from an old friend

Mookie (who blogs dead people) and I had the house to ourselves today while mom did her last day of work for awhile. We did some chores and straightening up, then sat down to watch George of the Jungle together. If you haven't seen that movie, then you need to be smacked upside. If you saw it and thought it was stupid, well... duh!

So as the closing credits rolled, we were watching for the song titles because one in particular had caught our fancy, when a name jumped out at me.

Sergio Aragones. He was listed as one of the animators for the opening credit cartoon. Does that name ring a bell? I spent years loving his little doodles in the margins of MAD magazine. Each issue had countless little masterpieces scribbled in random corners of each page.

And that brought back names I didn't even know I remembered. Don Martin (master of odd sound effects), Dave Berg (The Lighter Side...), Antonio Prohias (Spy vs. Spy) and Mort Drucker. These guys were my heroes growing up, because I wanted to be a cartoonist too. I wasn't bad, but nowhere near talented enough to make a living at it. Oh well.

On the first trip to the grocery store every month I'd scan the magazine rack and snag the latest issue of Mad. My mom would just roll her eyes and add it to the pile at the checkout. She never complained much because I would read them cover to cover. Heck, most of my popular culture came from those pages, as I read parodies of the movies of the day - movies I'd never see in their original versions. I'd carefully fold each back cover to find their secret message (thanks to Al Jaffe), and cover my lunchbox with Mad stickers trumpeting inane sayings.

Once my brother got old enough, he started to get Cracked magazine, and I always looked down on him for it. Cracked was funny (remember "Shut up's"?), but it wasn't the original, ya know?

I have a box of old Mad magazines in my basement that I rescued from my parents house a few years ago. I was actually kind of amazed that they had kept them for all those years. I was proud to introduce my kids to 'the usual gang of idiots'.

Update: While doing some research for this post, I found references to early illustrations done by Basil Wolverton. I loved his work, but only found it in the complilations and paperbacks. He was a little before my time.

Also, fans should check out Doug Gilford's Mad Cover Site, especially his very cool cover trivia pages.

Posted by Ted at 08:35 PM | Comments (5)

November 23, 2003

The Duke

A while back I bought a two-DVD set of old old John Wayne westerns. I try to watch one every saturday while the girls are at work, and I've noticed a few things.

More happens in a one-hour western than happens in today's two-hour action movies. Yeah, the special effects are gazillions times better now, but for sheer plot movement and storyline, you can't beat 'em, and this includes the long stretches of horse chases and riding back and forth between town and the ranch (or wherever the secondary locations are). I'm also realizing that there is truly nothing new in Hollywood. Today I watched the Duke, in grainy black & white, run up the side of a wall and dive back onto the bad guys he was fighting. In how many kung-fu movies have we seen that done?

He always got the bad guys and got the girl too. He was honorable when wrongly accused. When someone needed help, he was there for them. He never started trouble, but he always finished it.

John Wayne was America. What a cowboy.

Posted by Ted at 12:53 AM | Comments (2)

November 04, 2003

Mad Scientist's Club

As a kid, my favorite book was The Mad Scientist's Club, written by Bertrand Brinley. This collection of tales were great fun as the seven club members used science to solve problems, uncover mysteries and pull off outrageous practical jokes. Many of these stories originally appeared in Boy's Life magazine.

Maybe you remember tales such as The Strange Sea Monster of Strawberry Lake, The Unidentified Flying Man of Mammoth Falls, The Secret of the Old Cannon, or The Great Gas Bag Race. If not, then you really missed out and should track down a copy.

Ok, so I tracked it down for you. Amazon has the original, the second collection, and the only published novel length story - The Big Kerplop!

There's talk of finally printing the final unpublished story in the future. I'll be getting a copy as soon as it's available.

Posted by Ted at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2003

Calling all Bruce Campbell fans

Bubba Ho-Tep is in the house!

Thanks to Bad State of Gruntledness for the pointers. See him for trailers.

Posted by Ted at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2003

Someone loves me very very much

I had to take half a day off with my wife today to deal with some things, and afterwards we did some shopping. I wound up with the following DVD's:

Killer Klowns from Outer Space
The Last House on the Left
Return of the Living Dead
WWII movie 3-pack including A Walk in the Sun, Gung Ho!, and Go For Broke!

Best Buy* has a sale going on, three for $20.00. The first three titles were from that deal. Other available titles were Amityville Horror, Burnt Offerings, Species and Child's Play, among others. Fun stuff for those who like their horror a little cheesy.

The WWII movies are the kinds of flicks I watch on AMC and TMT sometimes, starring folks like Van Johnson, Robert Mitchum and Dana Andrews. Sorry Victor, no Joe Don Baker.

Excalibur was a freak find at the Wal-Mart bargain bin. Classic.

* I hate Best Buy with a passion because they sell those crappy extended waranties and then weasle out of honoring them even though it breaks the heart of the little girl trying to get the service they promised. But sometimes you go where the deal is, and as long as you know that the bastards will screw you over given half a chance, well, forewarned is forearmed. Ya know?

Posted by Ted at 08:27 PM | Comments (3)

October 17, 2003

Vintage Television

Anyone remember Harry Broderick?

Here's a hint:

Once upon a time, a junkman had a dream...

Ringing any bells? The name of the show was Salvage 1, starring Andy Griffith. It ran for 20 episodes in 1979, and was among the worst crap ever broadcast or the most brilliant and inspirational programming - depending on who you talk to.

In it, Andy... uh, Harry rounded up a team of experts and built his own rocketship. He was a junkman, and the moon was full of stuff that NASA had abandoned. The whole tone of the show was that ordinary people could do extraordinary things and like the original Star Trek, the technology was only a background to the 'people' stories being told.

Wonderful pilot movie. The series was pure crap, and I never missed a single forgettable episode. Am I the only one who remembers this?

Y'all were probably watching Three's Company or Dukes of Hazzard.

Posted by Ted at 01:34 PM | Comments (13)

October 07, 2003


Mookie's education in movie classics continued last night, with her first viewing of Blazing Saddles. It's been a while since I'd seen it myself, so we had a fun couple of hours together.

The other night on one of the movie classics channels, they showed the Hammer version of The Mummy. October is easily my favorite month for television movies because all the classic horror gets trotted out for Halloween. More fun for Mookie.

I also saw an advertisement on the Bravo network that starting in November, they will be showing the 60's classic war series Combat. One of my warmest childhood memories is of sitting in the living room with my Dad watching Combat and Bonanza. I was too young to understand what was going on, but it didn't matter, because I was with Dad. I'm really looking forward to seeing this series. The main star is Vic Morrow, who was killed in a stunt gone wrong on the set of the remake of The Twilight Zone movie. Something I didn't know about him was that his daughter is Jennifer Jason Leigh. Small world, eh?

Next up for Mookie is Slap Shot.

Posted by Ted at 07:39 AM | Comments (6)

October 04, 2003

Dr. Strangelove

"You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!"

Gotta love this movie.

Posted by Ted at 08:48 PM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2003

Guilty Pleasure

The Bravo network recently started showing the series West Wing from the beginning, and we decided to watch it. We never saw it while it originally ran, and I only had the vaguest sense of what it was all about. So thanks to PVR (the satellite version of TIVO), we’ve been taping the episodes and watching when we get a chance.

I’m enjoying the show so far. It’s well made and acted, with interesting stories and likable characters. There is definitely a liberal bias here, but it’s still entertaining. Of course, reality is mostly right out the window, and we’ve had to pause the show a few times when I went off when something particularly stupid was said (the show is about a Democrat administration), but even so they good-naturedly poke fun at them too. In one episode, a senior-staffer and his secretary have this exhange about budget surpluses and tax-breaks (not exact quotes, but close):

Secretary: “I want my money back.”
Staffer: “It’s not your money, it’s our money.”
Secretary: “What do you mean, ‘your money’?”
Staffer: “It’s in our bank account, just sitting there for us to use.”
Secretary: “So give it back and let me use it.”
Staffer: “We don’t trust you.”
Secretary: “What?”
Staffer: “If we give it back, you’ll just waste it on yourself.”
Secretary: “It’s my money. I want it.”
Staffer: “Sorry. We can’t do that.”
Secretary: “Why not?
Staffer: “We’re Democrats.”

Each episode also has at least one moment where the music swells in the backround and someone – usually the President, but not always – says something poignant and inspirational. Hey, it's television.

As written, I hate the administration policies, but I could definitely respect the President himself. The show isn’t about showing both sides of the issue-du-jour, but they occasionally bring up interesting points of view and very rarely an intelligent opposing opinion. I’ve noticed that they love to serve up as the ‘primary’ opposition argument something that can be scathingly and completely discredited in one dramatic speech. There isn’t much time for nuance, so it’s a little like Barry Bonds playing T-ball.

You can imagine the ‘guns are evil’ factoids and distortions they trot out almost every episode, and the characters are painfully earnest. You feel that the characters passionately believe in what was just said. I laugh and gleefully point out the stupidity.

My favorite part is at the start of each commercial break when they do a segment called “True Tales of the Oval Office”, and talk about some little trivia tidbit or quote about one of the Presidents. Nifty.

I’m definitely enjoying the series. It’s good entertainment, as long as one doesn’t mistake it for reality.

Posted by Ted at 08:36 AM | Comments (2)

August 22, 2003

Delta Skelter

A couple of weeks ago, I was stunned when my daughters told me that they had never seen Animal House. We had been discussing classic movies, because I've been introducing them to Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, John Wayne, etc.

Last weekend we rented the video and the girls enjoyed it. It's been a while for me too, so it was like rediscovering an old friend (tired cliche, but true). Today in the news is the announcement that the DVD is about to be released, and they held an anniversary party featuring members of the original cast and a reenactment of the parade.

Screw the Prowler, I want a DeathMobile!

Posted by Ted at 04:40 PM | Comments (1)

August 17, 2003

Those were the days

I'm watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, a 1961 movie starring Walter Pidgeon and Barbara Eden. In it, a US atomic submarine tries to save the earth from being incinerated when the Van Allen radiation belts catch fire. Yep, kinda silly, but still a fun movie.

An interesting scene in the movie took place at an international conference of scientists, when a European expert insisted that the world should wait and see what happens, because he believed that everything would be ok if mankind didn't interfere. An American admiral devised a solution that required intervention, and after some debate the Euroweenie demanded that America not act unilaterally. In fact, he called for an 'international vote' to make the decision. The Americans ignored him and went to save the day.

Sound familiar?

Posted by Ted at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)
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