Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"The Beast Must Die " (1974) d/ Paul Annett

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Eleven years after British horror rival Hammer Studios produced their only werewolf movie, Curse of the Werewolf, Amicus Studios put out their own in tonight's review, though it's less a horror film than a groovily light seventies whodunit with a Castle-esque gimmick thrown in at the outset and three quarter mark for nostalgic effect. Utilizing Calvin Lockhart instead of originally slated  Robert "Count Yorga" Quarry in the lead role gives the film a dynamite blaxploitative flavor and elevates the production from the typical fear fodder it might have otherwise become. Along for the ride are Peter Cushing, Anton Diffring, Charles Gray, and Marlene Clark. Let's get into it.

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"Beyonce start the halftime show without me?", wonders Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart).
After being informed of an impending "werewolf break" (I shouldn't have to tell you that's a warning I can get behind),  we meet independently wealthy big game hunter Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) as he's being chased over every inch of his extensive property by armed men, who are aided by electronic surveillance/security he's only recently had installed, as evidenced by the video cameras robotically panning from the trees and microphones jutting from the earth below. His progress is being tracked by a man named Pavel (Anton Diffring), who questions the necessity of such equipment in the first place, as do his eight house guests, which include the likes of Dr. Lundgren (Peter Cushing), a self-proclaimed expert on lycanthropy, a pompous ass named Pennington (Charles Gray), a pianist named Jarmokowski (Michael Gambon) and his current piece of army candy, Davina (Ciarron Madden), a libertine named Foote (Tom Chadbon) who's previously tasted human flesh on a whimsy, and let's not exclude Tom's own sultry wife, Caroline (Marlene Clark). Over dinner, he divulges the reasoning behind the equipment, and why he's gathered them there in the first place. You see, one of these cats is a werewolf, the one beast Tom hasn't had the pleasure of hunting down and killing,  as of yet.

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"Like, groovy disguise, Scoob! Come down from there, and we can, like,  make some tasty sandwiches before that spooky pterodactyl ghost comes back."
 We're given the full moon's glorious arrival, signalling moving Radio Shack-esque blips on a dated grid map the likes of which I haven't seen since little boys in polyester checked slacks sunk each other's Battleships, and it's not long before Tom is running around in the day-for-night with a high powered rifle, looking for the optimum shot at the ferocious beast. And it's even sooner that he's got his guests all taking turns holding a solid silver candle holder, their inability to do so surely signifying werewolfery. Lundgren introduces some fake lycanthropic science involving wolf's bane pollen with a poker face, while Pavel gets himself chewed up and spit out by the titular beast, who doesn't forget to destroy all of Tom's high tech equipment, in the process. With no leg up from his groovy gadgetry, Newcliffe naturally points more than one accusatory finger at each of his guests, with all the zeal and twice the paranoia of the Twilight Zone's "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" episode. Discovery of the werewolf's secret identity is given to you, the viewer, and late in the final reel, the aforementioned "Werewolf Break" occurs, providing you with the opportunity to solve the murderous mystery before you. I won't do your detective work for you here, either, as you'll have to score a copy to handle it yourselves. You'll be glad you did.

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Seinen hals ist verwundet und sein auge ist weg.
Despite the film's lo-fi werewolf being little more than a common German Shepard with some extra fur glued on, I applaud the film's producers for envisioning a four-legged beast a la/ Landis' An American Werewolf in London (1981), instead of the usual Wile E. Coyote two-legged standard we've come to expect. It's an appreciated change of pace, despite the obvious budgetary restrictions. It's that same change of pace that makes this one so refreshing and entertaining for just about anybody who'd give it a look, and thus, well worthy of the solid three Wops I've gotta bestow upon it here. Recommended, for sure.

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This is just his Facebook profile pic, he's really a Jack Russell terrier.
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Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Sledgehammer" (1984) d/ David A. Prior

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As somebody who experienced the eighties firsthand, let me state that tonight's review, a no budget shot-on-video slasher movie called Sledgehammer, is a beautifully inept example of everything that was right and wrong with that decade. The entire cast is comprised of meatheads with Chachi haircuts and zero acting ability or screen presence, who wouldn't look out of place in a Chams De Baron clothing commercial getting hugged on by some Brooke Shields-looking hooker. I'd be willing to wager that the director, one David A. Prior, likes slow motion a lot. He's also pretty fond of lingering on the exact same establishing shot of a house that he uses over and over again throughout this thing. This golden turd that must have been whipped up over a weekend full of bad decisions. Some people might have gotten pissed while choosing this one off the shelves at the local video store back then, but I wouldn't have been one of those cats by a long shot. Had it been born out of my own personal Sony Betamovie camcorder, I would have recorded over the takes with kung fu movies and porn, granted, but it's also exactly the movie that my friends and I would have had a blast tearing the shit out of and laughing our balls off at. So, let's finally have at it...

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"Shirts are for fags.", says Chuck (Ted Prior).
A horny Puerto Rican in a silk nightie locks her hysterical son in a closet, so she can slink downstairs for some strange dick, only someone with a sledgehammer serves cock blocking, smashed skull death before it can progress past awkward shoulder rubbing and flubbed dialog. Fast forward to the present day, where a gaggle of Chachullets and their C grade steady big haired trim have decided to party down in the very house where the dome flattening occurred years ago. Names aren't important here, there's a blond muscle prep who goes for romantic shirtless slo-mo strolls with his squeeze, romantically balancing an open beer on the top of her head, along the way. There's also a guy who looks like the retarded steroid-blasted variant of Louis CK who stuffs food in his mouth and spits chewed food on the blonde dude's girlfriend's head. The blonde dude consoles his girlfriend by squirting mustard on her head. There's also a guy who looks like the result of Geraldo Rivera and Tony Orlando, sans Dawn, dumped into a giant blender. The mustard incident kicks off a gross food fight that lasts a long time, and a subsequent food fight clean up scene that's even longer. The blonde guy plays a melody on his acoustic guitar on the porch, to offset how abusive he is to his girlfriend the rest of the time, I guess.

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"And then the Swamp Witch and the Zombie chased the kids around and Scooby and Shaggy put on disguises and made a giant sandwich..."
Once they're seemingly finished drinking cheap beer from the can and shouting stupid things at each other (and over each other), it's seance time, seance being a word that Muscle Louie comically cannot pronounce correctly. Ha ha. An unconvincing campfire story follows, along with a replay of the intro murders, and then more murders finally start happening, when a flannel-wearing goon in an expressionless clear mask materializes on the steps and skewers one of the lads through the neck, dragging him off. Geraldo, reluctant to bed his companion to this point, caves in and takes her upstairs for some awkwardly blatant non-sex. Sledge makes the scene and bashes them both in, leading Muscle Louie to issue a slo-mo beatdown to the killer. The bodies of Geraldo and his girl are laid out in an underfurnished white room (they pretty much all are) with a sloppy blood pentagram drawn on the corner of a wall. The killer pops up, courtesy of a video dissolve effect. He's the goon. He's the kid from the intro. He's the goon again. Louie takes a knife to the back. Blonde guy fights the goon, and his shirt disappears during the scrap. Mustard Head is forced to fend off the goon alone, and electrocutes him with a charged doorknob. Blonde guy reappears and clobbers him with a sledgehammer for good measure. As the couple is walking out of the house, the goon is watching from an upstairs window. Joke credits follow (I.C. Knun, Mike Hunt, Jac Meough, Nick Gnoes, etc.).

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I had the same expression watching this.
I should probably mention that the director didn't stop here, going on to helm thirty-four movies, including gems like 1987's Killer Workout, Deadly Prey (1987), Future Force (1989), Future Zone (1990), and Invasion Force (1990). It's also worth mentioning that the lead actor here, Ted Prior, is his brother, and has appeared in things like Nudes in Limbo (1983), Surf Nazis Must Die (1987) and Karate Warrior 2 (1988). Needless to say, this one is a one Wopper all the way, but most definitely one of those legendarily rotten one Woppers that you're bound to get a massive kick out of, under the proper circumstances. If you revel in the rotten, this one's for you.

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"You'll be tiptoeing through traction if you don't give me back my fucking ukelele!", demands Tiny Tim.
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"13 Frightened Girls" (1963) d/ William Castle

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Contrary to popular belief, this one isn't about what's on Bill Cosby's voicemail. Instead, it's another offering from the schlock king, William Castle, some extremely light espionage fare that saw the filmmaker put out a worldwide casting call for the prettiest girls from thirteen countries for the production, filming slightly different versions showcasing each girl for their respective homeland. Personally, I would have rathered a plastic skeleton on a wire or a cheap joy buzzer under my theater seat, but that's just me. On board for this cold war Gidget Goes Mata Hari, are the likes of Murray Hamilton, who you'll remember as the mayor of Shark City in Jaws (1975), and Emil Sitka, who you may recall catching a custard pie or two in the mush throughout many Three Stooges shorts. In the lead is Kathy Dunn, who would go on to appear on Days of Our Lives in 1965. The story goes like this...

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"Think of it as payback for the days of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force..."
Candy (Kathy Dunn) is the teenage daughter of an American ambassador, who's home on vacation from a prestigious finishing school with thirteen (fifteen, if you're actually paying attention) other international beauties. She's hopelessly in love with a C.I.A. agent named Wally (Murray Hamilton), a friend of her father's  who's already engaged to one of his colleagues nicknamed "Soldier" (Joyce Taylor) and old enough to be her Uncle Vaughn, the mayor of Amity Island...alright, alright,  no more Jaws jokes. Anyway, Wally's been slacking with his spying, and Candy eavesdrops on her old man (Hugh Marlowe) chewing him a new one during the chauffeured family ride, and if he doesn't provide some valuable information on a cat named Kagenescu pron-fuckin'-to, he'll be forced to seek employment elsewhere. I hear Amity Island is electing a new mayor soon, buddy. Candy vetoes the haughty tennis matches,  formal parties, and hours endlessly yapping on the phone to boys that normally comprises the vacation of a diplomat's daughter, and decides to help her unrequited love keep his job by becoming a secret agent named "Kitten". She dips her pet cat's paw in ink and signs her anonymous tip notes with its paw, too. What an adorable little coquette.

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"...but Alex Kintner was supposed to be my prom date!", sobs Candy (Kathy Dunn).
Naturally, nobody in the entire American embassy can figure out who "Kitten" is, as she gathers more secret information than any agent under employment by the country. She's visiting Mai-Ling (Lynne Sue Moon), the Chinese communist friend she ought not have, when she stumbles upon Kagenescu's body hung on a meat hook in the basement, with her father's letter opener sunk into his bread basket, gathers the murder weapon, avoids detection by crawling on all fours (apparently, the Chinese are incapable of looking down when they're searching for someone), and delivers the vital evidence to dad anonymously through Wally. She courageously thwarts a planned student uprising by vamping it up for a Russian fellow masquerading as a Swede at his apartment, even sending him plummeting from the balcony to his death just as he's about to do the same to her. I can't see Sandra Dee pulling that one off. Things eventually heat up to where those sneaky Chinese kidnap "Soldier", demanding "Kitten" in exchange, hiring a super secret agent named "The Spider" to remove the pesky operative from the Asian equation. Does Candy get eighty-sixed on the job? See this one for yourselves and find out.

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"Steam rice extra unless you buy combo!", exclaims Mai-Ling (Lynne Sue Moon).
Even by Castle's usually pretty tame standards, this one is torentially drippy and twice as bathetic as an hour and a half of Gidget reruns on Antenna TV, save for a few moments where Candy discovers the hanging corpse. Unless you've taken a fancy to Ms. Dunn, who resembles an early sixties version of Miley Cyrus, this is rough terrain for most genre folks to tread, I'd imagine. Castle completists will want to check it out, certainly, but speaking as one, myself, and somebody who's not entirely opposed to watching goofy shit now and again (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as an example...), I didn't draw much from it. Two Wops seems like a good fit for this baker's dozen of chicks, none of which seemed all that frightened by anything that transpired throughout the movie. Unfortunately, that's something we had in common.

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"Cry all you want. I'm taking you to Cleveland."
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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Baby Blood" (1990) d/ Alain Robak

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I missed this twisted and darkly humorous piece of French horror from Alain Robak the first time around, and I admittedly regret it, as it fits quite nicely into the indie genre mindset (Frank Henenlotter, Peter Jackson, Jorg Buttgereit, etc) that I was immersed in and constantly seeking out, at the time. Far out shit like tonight's review remains high on my list of favorite things, and when a film is packed to the gills with splattery grue, lots of nudity involving massive breasts, murderous Teuthida-esque parasites, and an unusual, often very funny story tying it all together, who could step up to the podium and point the judgmental finger of blame at ol' Wop over here? That was a hypothetical question, don't break my cazzies.

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Voici deux raisons d'enormes pourquois J'aime les francais.
A miserable French circus takes on a new leopard that's hosting an evolutionary parasite that ultimately results in the big cat exploding in a shower of gutty-wuts and thick slime in its cage one night. While the circus performers are searching for the responsible varmint, it slithers into Lohman's (Christian Sinniger) trailer where his top heavy, gap toothed, pregnant squeeze lies sleeping. Naturally, it shimmies into her body via the panty purse, and instantly begins influencing her life decisions, which had previously been less than optimal, as evidenced by her abrasive, abusive asshole boyfriend who thinks nothing of throwing her into the cage while animal trainers are working with tigers and lions. She jacks a pile of scratch from the till box and takes a taxi ride to a remote crack house, until Lohman tracks her down and earns himself a midsection shiv for his troubles. The parasite then tells her to slit the corpse's throat and drink the blood, which will provide nourishment for the creature now growing inside her. You see where this one is going?

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Parkour isn't for everyone.
Pretty soon, Yanka (Emmanuelle Escourrou) is having public debates with her own swollen stomach, which has developed a fondness for her, despite being spawned from the sea, and destined to replace humans on the evolutionary ladder in a few million years. There are also several spirited arguments between them over which skeevy male perverts it wants her to murder, and there's no shortage of those here. See ugly, lecherous, misogynist bastards get scissored to death, get their heads crushed by oxygen tanks, get mowed down by cars, et cetera, at every juncture. Heavy splatter, dad. When she isn't traipsing about in front of the camera in her birthday suit, she's packing her meager belongings and rapidly vacating the premises, with her alien advisor calling the shots. Further complicating the duo's love-hate relationship are the horrific childbirth nightmares she's been experiencing. It all comes to a head as she nears her monstrous delivery, which I won't further spoil for you here, just in case this sounds like it might run directly up your genre alley (I'm guessing it does, in most cases).

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"Pass the ball to my fetus, he's wide open for the slam dunk!"
Eighteen years later, a sequel entitled Lady Blood was produced. Needless to say, you should probably keep your eyes out for an upcoming review of that one, right here at the Wop. I'm forced to advise you to hunt down the Anchor Bay dvd release, as I'm blissfully ignorant concerning most Blu-ray releases, and this grainy arthouse gore movie is one whose impact would probably only be lessened by the concept of a high definition transfer. That's about it. On the scale, it's three Wops all the way, and comes with a strong recommendation from your genre guide and nutty pal over here. I love it, and you might, too. See, with all speed!

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"Singing in the sunshine, laughing in the rain, hitting on the moonshine, rocking in the grain..."
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Monday, February 1, 2016

"Faceless" (1987) d/ Jesus Franco

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As we enter the second month of 2016 our thoughts quickly turn to love and romance, and the great lengths we go to prove it to our significant other, usually spending vulgar amounts of cash around the middle of the month, just to save face. In the world of cult cinema, saving face can take on entirely different connotations, and in the case of tonight's review, a late eighties gore-packed variation on his initial effort, director Jess Franco does an awful lot of it. In fact, he also ruins some faces, removes a few, and throws in a chainsaw and a power drill just for kicks. You've got to appreciate the man's unwavering dedication to capturing intimacy between the sexes on celluloid. The Richard Marx-esque late eighties synth pop soundtrack that (constantly)accompanies this one? Not so much. Not so fucking much at all. Still...

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It's not often that we see Brigitte doing the poking. Just sayin'.
Dr. Flamand (Helmut Berger) witnesses his sister, Ingrid (Christiane Jean), block a vial of acid that was meant for him, chucked by a disgruntled, partially scarified former patient, with her own beautiful face, leaving her with a permanent Manwich grill, and leaving her brother to spend every resource available to him to restore her former beauty. Nathalie (Brigitte Lahaie) helps out by kidnapping unsuspecting donors from the Paris nightclub scene of the late eighties, locking them naked in cells in a private wing of their clinic, and subjecting them to the advances of Gordon, an especially creepy subordinate with a perm-ullet and no fucking eyebrows. When they abduct Barbara (Caroline Munro), a coked-out model, right from her photo shoot, her father (Telly Savalas) enlists a cat named Morgan (Chris Mitchum) who comes off as a skinny, less imposing Dirty Harry,  to fly to Paris and find his daughter. When Flamand and Nathalie consult Dr. Orloff (Howard Vernon) for helpful face transplant hints, he suggests they bring Dr. Moser (Anton Diffring), an escaped Nazi surgeon who specialized in such operations at Dachau, on board.

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Also just sayin': I'd wrap those legs around my head like a turban.
Luckily for Flamand, Moser is seemingly available for work almost immediately, but he shows up and fumbles the first attempt, destroying a young whore's face, and forcing Gordon, chainsaw in hand, into action, as he beheads her with it. Meanwhile, Morgan is bullying Barbara's last employer (sort of a French Charles Nelson Reilly) for answers, leading to a ham-fisted comedic scrap with a muscle-bound gay named Doudou, and copping cheap feels from the headless corpses piling up at the morgue, to the dismay of the French authorities. In need of new face, Flamand and Nathalie come upon none other than Florence Guerin (as herself) in the dance club, talk her into some menage a trois action, and kidnap her for impending facepiece surgery. Don't sweat it, Flo. Can't be any worse than appearing in Bruno Mattei's Caligula et Messaline (1981). As Morgan traces Barbara's credit card to the clinic, where he also notices Nathalie sporting the jewel-encrusted watch that Babs was wearing when she went missing in the first place. Will he rescue her before Ingrid can adopt her good looks? Will Dr. Moser fumble the dermal mask again while staring at Nat's ample pornographic charms? Will Gordon get a decent haircut and grow his eyebrows out? Did Telly Savalas just speak French? The answers to these questions and more await you, once you've bagged yourselves a copy and screen it personally.

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"I've eaten all the strawberry preserves, but that Florence Guerin face roll up looks appetizing."
Besides playing more than his fair share of archetypal Nazi villains over a film career that spanned nearly fifty years, Anton Diffring turned up in a few horror movies along the way, usually as an unhinged plastic surgeon, like this Jesus Franco update of his own pioneer genre effort, The Awful Dr. Orloff aka/ Gritos en la noche (1962), where he plays a nazi and an unhinged plastic surgeon. Faceless, which marked the second last role for Diffring before his death in 1989, would also be the last big screen appearance of Telly "Kojak" Savalas, but they're not the only recognizable names in the credits, as British scream queen Caroline Munro, Visconti regular Helmut Berger, Robert Mitchum's son Chris, Lina Romay, and even French porn goddess Brigitte Lahaie all make the scene. If you can manage to ignore the awful soundtrack, and some of the horrible eighties fashions on display, as hard as that is,  you'll probably enjoy Faceless, though it isn't nearly the best of it's kind, or even the best Franco approach on the subject matter. On the scale, a modest two Wops sounds fitting here. Give it a look.

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"Don't be silly, darling...you're still very reverse-beautiful."
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Sunday, January 24, 2016

"Innocent Blood" (1992) d/ John Landis

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I've gotta admit, by the time director John Landis was busy churning out mainstream comedy fare like Spies Like Us (1985), Three Amigos! (1985), and Coming to America (1988), I wasn't really paying attention, and had kind of lost sight of him altogether after Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). In fact, I had no idea he'd made tonight's review until I saw the one sheet upon the wall of a certain vampiric witch I had been "staking down", so to speak...ahem, back in the nineties. Another twenty years would pass before I'd give it a look; nothing personal, I'd gotten deeper into obscure Italian directors by then and this effort, also known as "A French Vampire in America" (why stop there, says me, An Albanian Ghoul in Senegal is just screaming to be crowdfunded...) ,  was just one of those under-the-radar movies that I let slip by, for whatever reason.

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Marie (Anne Parillaud), a beautiful French vampire in America, with exquisite taste in food.
Marie (Anne Parillaud), a vampire starving for both sex and blood, sets out to "eat Italian" one night, and in doing so, naturally sets her sights on the local Mob, as headed by Sallie "The Shark" Macelli (Robert Loggia), coincidentally the very same crime syndicate that undercover cop Joe Gennaro (Anthony La Paglia) has been targeting. When she charms Tony (Chaz Palmintieri) out of his precious red stuff, using a shotgun afterwards to remove any tell-tale signs of vampirism and mimic a mob hit, Gennaro gets fingered by the press at the crime scene, effectively blowing his cover. She then targets The Shark himself, while he's putting the make on her at the crew's hideout, but she doesn't finish the job, and the neck-ravaged Don reanimates from his slab in the city morgue. Her further pursuit of the loose end mafisoso is temporarily thwarted by the persistent police officer, who tails her all over town, discovering that she's far different than the average beautiful, under dressed French girl with a yap full of coagulating blood, in the process.

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"You call this capocolla?!!? Madonna!! Where's the red peppers?",  snarls Sallie the Shark (Robert Loggia).
With his trusty lawyer, Bergman (Don Rickles) in tow, Sallie quickly adapts to life as one of the undead, greedily sucking the blood out of frozen chunks of meat, rapidly healing significant body wounds, and jumping from building tops like an Italian flea. Meanwhile, Marie comes clean about her condition to her police pursuer, and after allowing him to handcuff her from the rear, she finally convinces him to wax, plus tax her, solving her other missing desire from afterlife. She informs Gennaro that she has to re-kill Sallie before he can feed, otherwise his power will equal hers, but unluckily for her, after taking shelter from the destructive daylight in a frozen meat locker,  he's already dined on Bergman, and started adding his favorite goodfellas to his undead organization, two by two. Can the cop and the countess reel in the Shark and his thugs before it's too late? Will you ever see a vampiric Don Rickles agonizingly crumble into burning ashes in another movie? The answers to these and other pertinent questions can be answered when you screen this one for yourselves...

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"I'm all outta 'Rack of Campbell' back there, Boss...", notes the Roma Meats Man (Sam Raimi).
Like any Landis movie, there are genre celebrity cameos a plenty. Look for the likes of Tom Savini, Forrest J. Ackerman, Linnea Quigley, Frank Oz, Vic Noto, Sam Raimi, and even Dario Argento himself, among the director's fanged frames here. Besides Loggia AKA/ "Feech La Manna", there's also an awful lot of Sopranos regulars (naturally) like Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico, Tony "Carmine Lupertazzi" Lip, and David "Richie Aprile" Proval, to name a few. John allegedly took on the film after Jack (Alone in the Dark, The Hidden) Sholder left the production, and his own Oscar (1991), a Sly Stallone mafia comedy, tanked like an M4 Sherman at the box office. Landis ultimately replaced that director's choices for the lead roles, in Lara Flynn Boyle and Dennis Hopper with Parillaud, who you'll remember as La Femme Nikita (1990), and Loggia. Though, it'd be hard to mistake Blood for an immortal genre classic, or even one of Landis' best works, for that matter,  it certainly never bores in its surprisingly even-handed delivery of the bloodsucking goods. It scores an average two Wops on the scale, but don't let that stop you from checking it out, just the same,  you might even like it more than I did.

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"I haven't done meth this pure since that Vegas bender with Humperdinck in '07!", exclaims Mr. Warmth.
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