Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Vault of Horror"(1973)d/Roy Ward Baker

We focus next on the 1973 sequel to the Amicus hit, Tales From The Crypt(1972), another horror anthology that draws upon the darkly humorous stories found in the groundbreaking E.C. Comics of the 1950's.The U.S. theatrical print, which shares a now out-of-print MGM Midnight Movies double dvd release with Crypt, was hastily edited to merit a PG rating from the MPAA, replacing two gory sequences with blatantly censored stills(involving Daniel Massey's tapped jugular vein and Terry-Thomas' clawhammered loaf), and two more are cut entirely from the print.You'll probably want to snare a UK region 2 Vipco disc to avoid this problem, as the print is fully uncut.Interestingly, the original ending which showed all five characters in zombie/corpse makeup which can be seen briefly in the international trailer(and made somewhat famous in British horror film reference books over the years) seems to have never made it to any existing print of the movie.Fancy that, chappies.The cast includes a pre-Doctor Who Tom Baker, gap-toothed comedic actor extraordinaire, Terry-Thomas, Denholm Elliot of Indiana Jones fame, and was directed by Ward Baker, no stranger to the anthology format himself, having helmed Asylum(1972) a year earlier.Onward!
Donna(Anna Massey) prefers to sip straight from the tap.
Five professional looking chaps board an elevator in a London office block that unexpectedly brings them to the basement, where they empty out into a comfortably furnished room that they quickly settle into, relating recurrent nightmares to each other each has been suffering from as of late.Midnight Mess finds Rodgers(Daniel Massey) tracking his sister Donna(Anna Massey,his sister IRL)who has recently inherited a tidy sum of money to a strange suburb where people rush to be indoors before the sun sets.He shanks her, stopping into a restaurant for a celebratory meal, where he discovers not only that his sibling isn't dead, but that he'll be providing the newly tapped beverage for the fanged patrons.In The Neat Job,Gritchit(Terry-Thomas) is an obsessive compulsive neat freak with a young trophy wife(Glynnis Johns) whose inability to comply with his demand for order drives her to ultimately plant a claw hammer in his forehead; neatly arranging all of his body parts and organs in labelled jars just as he would've wanted it.This Trick'll Kill You finds a magician named Sebastian(Curt Jurgens) looking for new tricks for his act while vacationing in India with his wife.He stumbles upon a young girl who charms a length of rope out of a basket, and when she climbs it to the top and the prestodigitator is unable to work out the trick, he convinces her to perform it in the couple's hotel room where he offs her and steals the enchanted length of rope.He attempts the trick himself, but when his wife climbs the outstretched rope, she disappears at the top, leaving only a puddle of blood on the ceiling.The rope then constricts around the magician's neck and hangs him, while the young girl appears, still alive down in the bazaar.
Gritchit(Terry-Thomas) seems to have gone to pieces over his messy new bride.
Bargain in Death has Maitland(Michael Craig) burying himself alive as part of a scheme to collect insurance money with a fellow conspiritor named Alex, who naturally double-crosses him, leaving him to suffocate in the premature grave.Two aspiring med students bribe the local gravedigger to unearth a corpse for their studies, which happens to be Maitland,but when he pops out of the coffin, scaring the would-be doctors, they run out into the street,causing a car driving by at that moment(containing Alex) to crash.Back at the open plot, the gravedigger apologizes for damage to the corpse's head, which he's gone and split open with his spade in the excitement.In Drawn and Quartered,a penniless artist named Moore(Tom Baker) living in Haiti finds out that back on the mainland, critics who've told him that his paintings were worthless have been selling them for top dollar behind his back.He enlists the services of a voodoo priest who implants the power to bring real life physical harm to whatever he paints or draws in his artistic mitts,which he uses for bloody vengeance upon the men responsible, realizing too late that the magic also affects an earlier self-portrait he'd done, with fatal results.The five men ponder the underlying meaning of their nightmares when the elevator door opens, revealing a graveyard which they walk out into and disappear, one by one.Sebastian relates that the five are souls damned for all eternity by their evil deeds, and forced to re-tell their stories every night ad infinitum.Credits.
Sebastian's(Curt Jurgens) hung rather extraordinarily, don't you think?
Ironically, the stories that comprise tonight's review were taken from the Vault of Horror comic itself; instead E.C. anthologies Tales From The Crypt and Shock SuspenStories provided the source of the material.Roy Ward Baker, who was responsible for genre classics like Quartermass and the Pit(1967), Scars of Dracula(1970), The Vampire Lovers(1970), as well as Asylum(1972) and tonight's feature, passed away last year at the ripe old age of 93.I love good horror anthologies like these.Studios should attempt them more often, instead of remaking successful foreign films and taking the piss out of the original in the name of meager box-office success.Vault, for me, is slightly stronger than Crypt, with more of a comic book feel and stronger overall stories.On the scale, it merits three big ones.
Tom Baker eats it.A closed-Tardis viewing will be in order, no doubt.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Crawlspace"(1986)d/David Schmoeller

Here's one of my favorites(no shit!) from the mid-eighties, 77 low budgeted minutes of movie madness featuring everyone's top twisted teuton, Klaus Kinski, who, left to roam free on the pazzo prairie, just might be at his nervous chill-inducing crackers-est in this one, which is no small statement if you've seen your share of Kinski's 200 plus movies thus far in life.I laid tonight's review on my trusty roommate, Doc, the other night, allowing for generous portional intake of chocky hallucino-cake to help him mentally cope with the many bizarrely fantastic moments herein, and he still wasn't where he needed to be when Kinski lets out a carnal moan before flopping onto the mighty crawlspace/air vent toboggan of death in the movie, effectively blowing his fragile mind.I know I was in the same boat as he the first time I saw such amazing events transpire before my eyes back in the vhs era, too.Where an Empire Pictures title produced by Charles Band would normally signify cheap dimestore thrills at best,a la Laserblast(1978) or Troll(1986), Kinski singlehandedly rescues the picture from its otherwise very pedestrian fate,like so much of the mid-eighties horror fare (NOT the greatest era for horror movies,IMHO).John Buechler's gore effects,which look to consist of Sharpie marker and some cheap Halloween store props and appliances, are rightfully understated here; hell, most of the movie's bodycount transpires off-camera and the viewer still comes out of the experience feeling as though they've just bore witness to a much, much sicker little movie, thanks to herr Klaus.Released as a choice lil' Midnight Movies double feature dvd with The Attic by MGM years back, Crawl is a memorably enjoyable ride I'm conscientiously obligated to recommend to all.
Insert your own testosterone-soaked wisecrack about nipples here.
Karl Gunther(Kinski) is a practioner of medicine-turned-voyeuristic serial killing landlord since the day his psyche brought him to the realization that his father had proudly donned the uniform of the German Schutzstaffel under the 'Stache, and was executed for war crimes, and that he, a former Hitler Jugend himself, had saved enough lives as a doctor in Buenos Aires, and it was high time he started taking some himself.In his apartment building full of handpicked young eighties girls, secret passages, caged n' shaved slaves, and innovative booby traps, he carries out his blood-caked bender; an occasional round of Russian roulette being his only self-dictated karmic implication for his crimes, which he shrugs off with a creepy smile and "So be it." each time the hammer clicks into an empty cylinder chamber.When he's not crawling through the duct system and spying on his tenants:an eighties-tastic blonde would-be composer whose ballads produce tears for all the wrong reasons(is it any wonder she's got Barbara Streisand albums framed on the wall?) that enjoys stalker-rape roleplay fantasies with her boyfriend, a bubbleheaded soap opera star too vapid to form her own opinions, a man-starved secretary, and an innocent college student(take a wild stab in the dark who makes it alive to the last reel), he's reciting his memoirs aloud to a tongueless chick he keeps in a cage who begs him to kill her.He refuses, of course, because if he did,
he'd have no one to talk to(!).
"I triet viss gurls. It didn't vurk out."
Interrupting his voyeurism, late night tapping, and releasing of rats into the apartments through remote controlled trapdoors that the tenants happen to never notice, is Josef Steiner, the chainsmoking brother of one of the sixty-seven patients with routine illnesses that perished mysteriously under Gunther's care in Argentina years earlier.His repeated meddling soon buys him a fatal sitdown in Karl's specially designed spring loaded anal-spear chair.After screening Triumph of the Will on a film projector while decked out in an SS uniform and garishly slapped on makeup, he declares himself his own god, jury, and executioner, and sieg heils himself.He fills Lori's(Talia Balsam) fridge with live rats, and dumps Steiner's corpse(with obligatory swastika carved in his forehead) in her bathtub, causing the hysterical young student, desperate to escape, to stumble across the other tenants in the building, all swazzied up n' dead-like.When she tries to flee the building, she is thwarted by Karl's spring loaded escape-proof steel bars, and when she tries to escape into the crawlspace, she discovers that it, too, is booby-trapped by a motion sensor activated blade that slices her sneaker in half.When Karl's rats prove ineffective in chasing her through the ducts, he climbs in himself, and hops upon his trusty crawlspace toboggan(!), but the girl manages to escape back into his room and free the captive girl from her cage in the process.Just when it seems Gunther has fallen prey to one of his own motion sensor blades, he surprises the girls in mid-police call, unhurt and wearing a knife harness(!!).Before he can remove these final victims from the equation though, Lori picks up his revolver and aims it at him,clicking empty chambers several times before a gun shot is heard.Karl's voice is heard to say, "So be it".
All of your tomorrows are belongs to Kinski, plix.He'll take your eyeliner and lipstick if you aren't using it, too.
Uncredited in a cameo as the rejected male tenant, Schmoeller, who captained the excellent Tourist Trap(1978) and The Seduction(1982) prior to tonight's review, went on to direct Puppetmaster and Netherworld for Full Moon.Though I obviously have no problem sitting down to watch some atrocious movies when the mood strikes me, I'm gonna take this opportunity to state for the record that I'm no big fan of Full Moon movies to say the least, from Puppetmaster(as I've mentioned before, Schmoeller wrote all EIGHT of these,ferchrissakes) to Castle Freak, Subspecies on through to Demonic Toys and every last movie tie-in collectible that nobody asked for.You can keep all of that craptastic cheesy shit, thank you very much.Cutie survivor Talia Balsam followed this up with 1987's The Kindred, then went on to a very successful career in movies and television with credits in everything from Happy Days and Magnum P.I. to Law & Order:Criminal Intent and Ally McBeal. Kinski worked right up until his untimely end in 1991 in fare like the unofficial Italian 1988 sequel to Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampire, where his legendary difficulty resulted in three different directors being credited to the picture.You gotta love Klaus.Three big ones.
I've got no words for this.There are none.

"Tintorera"(1978)d/Rene Cardona, Jr.

First of all, to those of you woprophiles out there who have only managed to catch the truncated 85 minute American cut of tonight's entry thus far, that might feel like they've missed out on witnessing the missing forty or so minutes, I say this.The uncut Tintorera experience is pretty easily summed up, really. It's like a two hour long made-for-cable episode of Love Boat, if Captain Steubing was a Speedo-clad Hugo Stiglitz and Gopher was a hispanic shark fisherman with red hair (unconvincingly dyed Kool Aid red, methinks), as written by Bob Guccione, with the Mexican equivalent of Umberto Lenzi behind the camera, screaming wildly for more real animal killings, bad disco dancing, and casual nudity.I apologize if I've made any of this seem appetizing to the refined Cult palates of Wopsploitation readers out there, because it really isn't in the least.If you're on board for a gripping, Jaws-inspired cinematic adrenaline rush, it sucks to be you.You're not even getting unintentional Jaws rip off laughs a la Castellari's Great White here.If you're looking for daring, exploitative seventies sex unapologetically depicted in front of the camera, you're shit out of luck, as well.What you will see, is yachtfuls of juvenile sharks getting their skulls pulverized with bats, when they aren't being fatally harpooned in the labonza, that is, by two male characters so immersed in constant macho competition that they've gone fluttery in the flippers for each other, despite having a seemingly neverending supply of willing beach babes with less sexual inhibitions than clothes, a fully stocked houseboat, and piles of cash at their disposal.Personally, I'd sink the houseboat in the shallows by overloading it with sexy ladies to party with and be done with it, but maybe I'm simply not the target audience here.As many exploitative elements as this film has going for it, the viewer shouldn't be daydreaming about their next nap, the way I was on more than one occasion during this mostly boring waste of fucking time.The convoluted story goes like this...
To Esteban(Hugo Stiglitz), vacation means hedonism.
After work, coffee, and chainsmoking lead to his eventual breakdown(as if that was possible!), a doctor prescribes three months in Cancun to a reluctant Esteban(Hugo Stiglitz) who borrows a yacht, and hires Coronado(Roberto Guzmán),a gangly redheaded shark fisherman as his personal assistant during his sun-baked rehabilitation on the beach.Esteban immediately hooks pillow-chested Patricia(Fiona Lewis), before losing her to professional Mexi-stud Miguel(Andres Garcia), who bottoms her out himself before she goes for that nude swim at sunrise,a wigged prop head full of guts in the mouth of a tiger shark signalling her premature exit in our tale.Miguel uses his charms on a jilted Esteban, who decides becoming best friends in hedonism with his competitor makes a lot more sense than searching for the woman he may have fallen in love with, now missing.The new pals hook up with two hitchiking honeys,Cynthia and Kelly, who laughingly recount how they consented to rape from two horny fruit picking Mexicans in the back of an orange truck just to get there.Now there's one their kids'll love hearing about years from now, and a perfect cue for an ensuing evening of drinking, dancing, casual sex, and partner-swapping on Esteban's boat.In a momentary pause from their womanizing after a hung up Esteban angrily busts up an impromptu disco marijuana party on the boat, the men enjoy some scuba diving* the next day(*bravely harpooning some undersized, sleeping sharks on the ocean floor).They encounter Gabriella(Susan George),a British tourist they're both instantly taken with(translation:making bets as to which will bed her first), who agrees to go fishing with the self-proclaimed "shark hunters" the next day.
Clearly, not much of Fiona Lewis' salary went towards costumes.
Impressed with how adept they are at whacking everything that swims(including a manta ray for some inexplicably worthless reason), Gabriella agrees to an uncomfortable love triangle where she wholly belongs to both men and they both wholly belong to her.If you think that's weird, wait 'til you see the establishing montage that follows.The unorthodox three way bond continues to evolve, with Gabriella and Miguel moving onto Esteban's boat full-time and sharing duties, clothes, and errrrvrythin'; until just when you're sure the men are about to dump the broad and kiss each other, that titular tiger shark you probably forgot about by now decides to graphically eat Miguel, swimming around with his disembodied head in his toothy yap as a pair of severed wetsuit legs float lifelessly to the bottom.After you've wiped the tears of uncontrollable laughter from your eyes, you'll notice that a grieving Gabriella bows out of the reduced love equation, herself.Back at the starting gate, Esteban respects his dead pal Miguel's wishes and parties like nothing ever happened, even reuniting with the loose hitchhiking tourist chicks from earlier in the movie.His brooding even finds him burying the hatchet with the unwanted party guests on his boat, and in a fine display of friendship, he invites them all to skinny dip their way to his boat at night.Yeah, that's probably not a great idea, Esteban.Tintorera again makes the scene, swimming in and out of the shallows full of terrified nude swimmers(I'm thinking they pulled a sizeable dead tiger shark on a tow to achieve this impressive sequence), making off with one of the girls' shapely pegs in the process.Esteban vows to the girl's father to kill the offending cartillagenous culprit, which he seemingly does after another underwater sequence where he jams his spear gun into the shark's yap, but not before the tiger relieves him of one of his arms(or not,I dunno at this point).We see Esteban bandaged in the hospital, reminiscing about his time with Miguel and Gabriella.If you think that's headache-inducing confusion, just wait until we cover Hugo's Incubo sulla Citta Contaminata in the future...
Severed Mexican gigolo heads: Antonio the Tiger(Shark) sez, "They're GRRRRRRRRREAT!"
There's nearly as much underwater footage of tiger sharks here, handled by Mexican marine biologist/author of the novel, Ramón Bravo, as there is of hairy male asses(arguably the Ben Hur of naked male ass movies, no doubt, if that's your thing.Not mine, by any stretch of the imadge, droogies.).Making matters worse is an embarrassingly rotten disco soundtrack supplied by the late Basil Poledouris, who would later score films like Conan the Barbarian and Starship Troopers.Perplexing to think a biologist like Bravo would be cool with the wanton, pointless death of so much marine life that transpires in front of Cardona's lens here.Not trying to sound like the hip new President of PETA here or anything(sharks are indeed quite delicious), I just think it was wholly unneccessary and made me a little uncomfortable, as it has to anybody else I've shown the movie to.In closing, Tintorera has all the potential elements needed to satisfy cult, horror, and exploitation fans, but somehow manages to lifelessly float upside down at the surface; a mostly boring and inept mess.Just one big one on the scale.
There's plenty of sex on display here, if by "sex" you mean bloody meat-filled wetsuits.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Kung Fu Executioner"(1981)d/Lam Chin-Wai

We'll kick the night off here with a knock down, drag out slice of murderous martial mayhem from the Channel 5 days of mid-Saturday afternoon-in-the-eighties kung fu goodness.Now, some might be inclined to slag off the venerable Billy Chong as little more than Eternal Films copycat answer to Jacky Chan's worldwide breakout success at the time, and his earlier work in films like Crystal Fist/Jade Claw(1979) and Super Power(1980) might only reaffirm that notion for some, but personally, I've always felt Chong was a step above imitators or clones; a chiseled fighter brimming with screen presence and personality whose Tae Kwon Do-trained legs always stretched higher than most of his peers.Sadly for kung fu fanatics, he only managed to blaze through a handful of movies before dropping off the martial map, a direct result of Eternal's seeming inability to match their inexhaustible lead with a villain of near to or equal fighting skills(watch an early era Jacky Chan period piece to see what I'm talking about), causing them to close the distance during the final fight sequences in most of his work with more acrobatic stunt doubles for the antagonists, clumsily handled trick photography, or boosted film speeds.
Tonight's review, a period piece set in twenties Shanghai, reunites Chong with dynamite black-titioner Carl R. Scott, who he'd shared top billing with in the earlier American settler period-based Sun Dragon/A Hard Way to Die(1979).Executioner is a grimly disturbing pot boiler that borrows generously from Coppola's The Godfather(1972) with surprising levels of gore, sex, and mondo-style animal cruelty peppered in throughout the rare uncut Ocean Shores print, from which the scan of my custom cover(based on the Cantonese language print sleeve I scored in Chinatown all those years ago), as handled by the honorable Doctor-san, originates.A supporting cast headed by veteran belligerent bad guys extraordinaire Chan Sing and Chiang Tao keeps the derivative revenge-based tale flowing like sweet leaved tea.
Two times five across the eyes cuts Kuen Kong's(Billy Chong) opponents down to size.
Following an impressive form sequence by Scott and Chong over the credits featuring brick-breaking, escrima, nunchaku, and nine sectional steel whip kata, Li Kuen Kong(Billy Chong)returns to Shanghai from studies abroad to find his family immersed in a stand off with a gaggle of unscrupulous criminals,lead by ruthless murderer, Hung Chun Fai(Chen Sing) who's recently escaped from prison(and traveling on the same train as Li, who notices Hung's handcuff scars during the ride), over opium trafficking.Aiding Hung in pressuring Li's successful father into investing in the drugs, are Gawa Shima(Chiang Tao), a Japanese thug with an army of swordsmen at his disposal, and former brothel madam-turned-casino owner, venemous Chan Yim Hung(Lily Lan Yu-Li).At first, Kuen Wei does his best to keep his prodigal son from getting involved in the dirty dealings(several sneaky labonza shanks and throat slittings follow), preferring to allow Li to practice martial arts with his older brother, Ysun Nam(Chan Yau-San) and family friend, Donny(Carl R. Scott), but when Hung puts the squeeze on the elderly man, hanging Ysun Nam's dog's bloody, severed head from an awning(blech), and later botching Kuen Wei's public stabbing, the young martial artist is inevitably drawn into the mix.
The Godfather's severed horse head gets downsized in Asia.
With Kuen Wei hospitalized and Ysun Nam angrily locked away in a workout room after thugs kill his wife in their bed, Hung appeals to Li to sanction the business deal himself before more of his family meet their respective makers.Meanwhile, Chan uses Li's cousin, a degenerate gambler who's amassed large debts at the casino, to free Ysun Nam, who immediately rushes blindly to his wife's killers for vengeance.Hung and Shima oblige him by kicking his face through some plate glass.Meanwhile, Chan and Shima plan a side deal to become sole partners eliminating Hung in the process, which backfires when she tries to shank him after a graphic shower/sex scene.Hung repays her loyalty by cutting her throat.After Kuen Wei is finally dispatched while convalescing at home by Hung's signature sword-cane, Li and Donny leap into revenge-fueled retributive action at last.Hung's cabbie sporting blade man fights Donny at a paper mill, and ends up impaled through the chest on a spiked crane like a human log, ready for processing.Li digs into his suitcase full of weapons, taking on all of Shima's swordsmen in the forest with extendable nunchaku.He then squares off against Shima, kicking him into a bloody mess(cut from the television edit) when Hung arrives for the final showdown.A lengthy battle ensues with Li fending off Hung's cane sword with tonfa and nunchaku before both men square up for some good old fashioned hand to hand(foot to foot?).Li erases the criminal with a spinning double front kick to the throat that sends Hung flying backwards into a tree, smashing the back of his skull against the bark.Afterwards, Kuen Kong vows to pick up the pieces of his life with the help of his girlfriend and Donny.
Mr. Shima(Chiang Tao)'s facial forecast:Fully fucked
In some countries, tonight's review was confusingly packaged as a Carl Scott starring vehicle where he's referred to as "Black Jim".Though he enjoys several fights (excellently choreographed by Leung Siu-Chung) throughout the film, he's plainly on board in guest star capacity to Billy Chong's lead.Chong would follow this one up with the crazy Kung Fu Zombie(1981) and excellent Sun Chung collaboration A Fistful of Talons(1983) before retiring to his native Indonesia, where he married a pop star, fathered kids, starred in and directed a hit television series, and instructed martial arts to the country's military.Executioner is a solid effort, with some breathtaking fight choreography that Chong, who's always got a spot in my top 5, effortlessly executes as always.Three big ones.
I can't hear you, Hung(Chen Sing), you've got a flying side kick in your mouth.

"Tales from the Crypt"(1972)d/Freddie Francis

A couple of spot on British horror anthologies would cap off the week rather nicely, eh wot? This Amicus production based upon stories that appeared in the E.C. Comics titles Tales From The Crypt and Vault of Horror was helmed by renowned genre director, Freddie Francis, who had handled previous anthologies Dr. Terror's House of Horrors in 1965, and Torture Garden two years later.Amicus had unsuccessfully expanded their collective oeuvre in the sixties to include sci-fi and arthouse films, and after 1971's I, Monster, a 3D Jeckyll and Hyde variant starring Christopher Lee that failed to make a lasting impression on anybody, they got back to what they did best, the horror anthology.As a grade schooler with a wealth of British hardcover examinations of horror films to gawk at at my disposal, thanks to 70's mall staple, Waldenbooks, I often came across luscious full page color stills from tonight's movie and the sequel that followed(next on our agenda, I assure you)and couldn't wait to finally see it for myself.While most other boys my age assuredly read comic books involving superheroes, horror anthologies like D.C.'s House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Tales of the Unexpected, and The Witching Hour were my ocular narcotic, and even then, E.C.'s graphically horrific line of comics were the stuff of legends to me.My father, who had worked in book and magazine distribution for years, kicks himself to this day over the number of mint E.C. comics he discarded in the trash back then.Tsk, tsk, Chaz.As for Crypt, a menagerie cast of familiar actors like Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Patrick Magee, and Richard Greene all signed on for the studio's big return to the portmanteau formula, and the result? Well, you'll have to read on for that, won't you...
Congrats Joan, you got choked the fuck out by Santa Claus for Christmas.
A tour of some underground catacombs leaves five tourists separated from their group, and sealed into a chamber where a mysterious hooded figure recalls terrifying stories involving each person.All Through The House finds Joanne Clayton(Joan Collins)trying to dispose of her recently murdered husband down the fire escape on Christmas Eve, without rousing their daughter from her slumber, or more importantly, letting in an escaped psychopath who happens to be dressed in the guise of old Saint Nick. Things don't work out the way she had planned.In Reflection of Death, Carl Maitland(Ian Hendry) checks out on his family for greener pastures with his mistress, but wrecks his car in the process.He awakens in the wreckage, trying to hitchhike home, but no one's interested in stopping for him.At his house, his wife, who's in the arms of another man, screams and slams the door on him.He visits his mistress who isn't taken aback by the sight of him, and finds that she was blinded in their accident, the same one that took his life, as he discovers in the horror of his own coffee table reflection.In Poetic Justice,the Elliots, a snobbish father-son pair smear and terrorize their neighbor, Arthur Grimsdyke(Peter Cushing), a retired garbageman whose flat is filled with dogs and visiting neighborhood children, ultimately resulting in the lonely old man's suicide.One night, his corpse pulls itself from the grave and ends the class struggle in the most horrible way imaginable.
"Have you been snorting lines off the coffee table again??!!"
Wish You Were Here finds the unscrupulous Ralph Jason(Richard Greene) uncomfortably close to bankruptcy when his wife stumbles upon a Chinese statuette that grants wishes.Her first wish, financial security, comes when her husband is killed on his way to the lawyer's office, resulting in her inheritance of his insurance monies.When she wishes for his return just as he was before the accident, she learns of the heart attack he suffers when he notices Death personified following his car on a motorcycle.I was under the impression Death drove a Mini.Blind Alleys has Major Rogers(Nigel Patrick) drastically cutting finances as the new director of a home for the blind, greatly reducing heating and rationing food for the residents, while he enjoys a luxurious existence with his Belgian Shepard, Shane.He ignores all complaints from the residents until one of them dies due to the cold, and the remaining tenants force comeuppance upon him when they build a basement maze with razor blade-laden walls, place him in the middle, turn out the lights, and release his dog, who they've deliberately starved.Ouch.At this point, the hooded man tells the visitors that the tales were not cautionary at all, but events that had already happened.The tourists watch the gate to Hell open then walk inside."And now...who is next?" ponders the Crypt Keeper."Perhaps...YOU?" he asks, looking at us.
Oh,dear.Grimsdyke(Peter Cushing) seems to have left his cheerful disposition in the afterlife.
The stories within all appeared first in E.C. anthologies,Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear, before their silver screen debut here, and all were reworked to different degrees again for the popular puppet-hosted cable series of the same name in the eighties.Francis, who had toiled previous to tonight's entry in 1970's Trog with Joan Crawford, went on to helm Tigon's The Creeping Flesh the following year.Joan Collins stayed the genre course over the next few years, appearing in Fear in the Night(1972), Dark Places(1973), and even 1973's Tales That Witness Madness(also directed by Francis), another anthology!Not to be outdone, genre legend Peter Cushing worked on two horror portmanteaus shortly afterwards, Asylum(1972), and From Beyond the Grave(1973).Patrick Magee remained a genre staple himself,in Asylum(1972), Demons of the Mind(1972), And Now the Screaming Starts!(1973),and later with maestro Lucio Fulci.Though one or two of the stories are a little flat, the overall result is excellent, especially due to the Cushing short.Three solid big ones on the scale.
Possessing a ceiling like this above my bed, quick haircuts would come lemon squeezy.

"Martial Monks of Shaolin Temple"(1983)d/Godfrey Ho

I dunno about you guys, but I'm in the mood for some spinning wheel kicks, kiais, and nunchaku tonight, as we avenge our teacher's death at the hands of an: a)ruthlessly homicidal rogue martial expert out to rule over all the area boxing clubs, b)those Manchu bastards! c)a kung fu scoundrel in a frog buttoned jacket and Farrah Fawcett wig, or d)some crazy combination of a, b, and/or c.I'm not looking for something epic, or even remotely well done in any regard, and I think I know just the source material...
I can still remember stumbling across tonight's little dittie in an out of town Mom and Pop video store,the sunbaked VHS box promising to only set me back a couple of greenbacks, well worth the price for guilty but cheap entertainment in the middle of the week.Years later, I would upgrade to dvd at a corner newsstand late one night outside Port Authority for something like two bucks.On the positive side of the coin, this cheap chopsocky choice stands as one of the better Dragon Lee movies I've sit through to date, the negative being that it still is a Dragon Lee flick, and as such, the bottom of the barrel would be a step up, indeed.If the Shaw Brothers were the Sergio Leone of Kung Fu movies in the seventies and eighties, then Godfrey Ho would almost certainly be the genre's answer to Ed Wood, Jr.In Ho's mostly incompetent hands, bad voice overdubbing becomes laughably worse voices providing the embarrassing, mismatched dub.You'd have to remaster and restore one of his prints just to upgrade it to "washed out and dull looking",and plots are seemingly handled by drop outs with short term memory loss.If you happened to find yourself actually following along with one of his half-baked stories, he'd simply lose you with ineptitude behind the camera, throwing all continuity to the wolves with choppy, guillotine editing and/or badly framed shots.Of course, as you may have already guessed, this makes his body of work highly enjoyable for viewers in the right(severely altered) state of mind.
This week on Chau Lee's Angels: Farrah goes undercover as a Wu Dong thug in pajamas.
Okay, so the Abbot of Shaolin takes a spirited pummelling at the hands of the head of the Wu Dong clan, he of the monotone delivery and dramatic cape(which, by the way is decorated with two clawing hands that vaguely resemble a pair of tigers, if designed by an eight year old girl.Stylin'.),as portrayed by the venerable Wong Cheng Li(I'm sure his character has a name,I just didn't pick it up amidst the annoying-assed dub voices).Besides mastering "panther fist",a style designed solely for committing evil acts(!),he's got a ruthless band of martial miscreants at his disposal, men not opposed to donning a Farrah wig or impersonating Shaolin's great hero in smoking out the whereabouts of Shaolin's true hero,a man who filters his canteen water and keeps a snake in a box as a pet, who goes by the name of Dragon(Surprise.Dragon Lee.).Wong's henchmen attack Dragon from all angles and at every juncture; on the rocky beach, in wheat fields,even at the restaurant where he's been posing as an orphaned stock boy/waiter/blind mop headed beggar.Meanwhile, Wong's bald headed associate(whose piss-poor monk pose includes indulging in wine and getting bare chested rub down action from a local street urchin) squares off with a chicken-chompin' chooch with obligatory glued on handlebar moustache(to which a greasy chunk of chicken attaches itself, dangling annoyingly through both dialogue and martial action, for roughly five minutes.)and a tin foil sword so colossal he needs servants to carry it for him.During this washed out palooza of wrongdoing, Dragon flexes his skills in disguise(none of which are particularly effective),and sluggish and choppily choreographed physical comedy fights(none of which are all that impressive, or even funny, for that matter).
Enough is enough, put down the giant tin foil sword and get that chicken out of your fake handlebar moustache already, dammit.
Eventually, Dragon reveals himself as Shaolin's would be detective-cum-avenger,but after being captured by Li's henchmens' logic-defying leg ropes(that shoot inexplicably at Dragon from out of their pants legs) his first attempt at revenge gets him slo mo triple kicked at the legs of Wong, earning him the choice of licking Li's feet or certain death."Lick it. Lick it!" says Wong,as Dragon noisily slurps the bottom of his kung fu shoe.That sucks, dude.With the help of the female vagabond, Dragon escapes Wong's clutches to heal his wounds and pride,and to do some crazy Texas Two-Step looking training around an enormous outdoor plywood yin and yang, recalling training sessions with one of the temple monks.As he lazily ploughs through Wong's netherworld ne'erdowells, he proudly relates that he's a direct descendant of "the great Dragon himself".Not that the story was the portrait of coherence thus far or anything, but where exactly does a guy who died in the seventies fit into a period piece anyway?Cue headache.The payoff is a lengthy battle between Dragon Lee and Wong Cheng Li that incorporates several large slo mo acrobatics and jump kick combos,as well as a Whack-a-mole sequence where Dragon traps Wong in a barrel via trick photography then kicks it into splinters with him inside for the bumpy ride.With Wong still kicking, Dragon breaks out a technique which apparently requires a spear and repeated footage of a stunt double flipping off a trampoline that's just out of frame over and over again, but Wong proves harder to kill than Rasputin with a gun full of blanks and a dull butter knife.When Dragon's sparring partner suddenly drops in on the death duel, he sways the odds in favor of the Shaolin proponent,and finally, he doles death down upon the dastardly bastard, winning the day for the good guys and all the viewers in the audience who aren't sawing logs yet.There might be a couple, you never know.
Dragon Lee doesn't only imitate Bruce Lee here,he does a pretty mean Rex Ryan, head coach of the New York Jets, as well.
The Korean born Tae Kwon Do proponent/Bruceploitator has made a storied career for himself playing Bruce-esque characters in zero budgeted exploitation fare,often working with Wong Cheng Li,one of the top cinematic leg fighter villains in martial arts movie history, who really should have known better.The two most recently collaborated on Emperor of the Underworld in 1994.Apart from directing a hundred plus forgettable crapsocky flicks(mostly with "Ninja" slapped in the title somewhere,and poor one-time international star with drawing power, Richard Harrison on board), Ho most notably helmed Laboratory of the Devil, an unofficial sequel to notoriously nasty Men Behind the Sun(1988),in 1992.So uh, yeah.This one stinks, but it's sort of an unintentionally hilarious kind of whiff you just might find yourself quoting or bringing up in conversation for laughs days later.On the scale,just one big one for Monks.
If the continuity-free editing doesn't get your head spinning, the dizzying flips and flying kicks'll do the trick.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"The Abominable Dr. Phibes"(1971)d/Robert Fuest

As Vincent Price is one of the greatest character actors of all-time, so then is this perhaps the single most persuasive testimony to his brilliance upon the silver screen, and undoubtedly the acmatic cult classic of our time.His unrivalled presence and flair,stolen too early from this world in 1993,are never more apparent than in this Fuest vehicle,irreplaceable by any, savoured by all.He delighted in the inexhaustible array of acting gifts he was blessed with, and never shrank from the task of drawing raw emotion from an audience with them.As a tribute to this immortal legend of the cinema, and specifically, his performance in this paradigm of genre art, I thought we'd depart from the ordinary review just once, and dream up something special, that were he present to read himself, just might bring that familiarly sardonic grin to his face one more time.Forward...
"Nine killed her; nine shall die! Eight have died, soon to be nine. Nine eternities in doom!"
We embark on a fable about a man, Anton Phibes(Vincent Price)
whose Victoria(Caroline Munro)perishes on an operating table
whose vehicle wrecks as he recklessly drives
silently assisted by Vulnavia(Virginia North), who's decked out in sable
A concert organist and doctor of music and theology
Gruesomely disfigured, he rebuilds his face
from the responsible doctors he'll accept no apology
with Inspector Trout(Peter Jeffery)of the Yard assigned to the case
Inspired to blood vengeance by the plagues of the Pharoah
He plots the horrific demise of all parties involved
Dunwoody's bat-shredded body chills constables' bones to the marrow
with no clues to build on, the murder's unsolved
Hargreaves is strangled by a masquerade frog
and Longstreet is siphoned of every drop of his life
While no suspects get penned into the inspector's crime log
Phibes continues to avenge the premature loss of his wife
"There are a lot of strange men practicing medicine these days."
On a countryside road,Hedgepath freezes to death
while rats in the cockpit signal Kitaj's demise
A catapulted brass unicorn steals Whitcombs last breath
as Trout starts to flesh out where the real blame lies
He teams with Vesalius(Joseph Cotten)to predict the upcoming curse
Nurse Allen's face is devoured by locusts right under their noses
For Victoria's head surgeon,Trout fears the worst
when his first born is abducted, it's clear what his biblical dose is
He has just six minutes to free his son from a shackled gurney
before acid drops from above upon his young face
while Phibes makes preparations for his final journey
to disappear from this world with nary a trace
As Vulnavia destroys, the inspector arrives
embalming fluid replaces blood from jars on the shelf
The surgeon rescues his boy, but there's no sign of Phibes
It seems he saved the last plague of dark for himself.
"The curse of hail in the bloody middle of nowhere."
For any horror aficionado or fan of cult cinema this should be regular viewing, without an iota of resistance.Price, who had memorized everyone's lines in the script, and whose post-dubbed delivery drew legendary balks of disapproval from co-star Joseph Cotton, serves up a tour de force of under and overstated campiness and black humor.The supporting cast which includes Cotten(in a role Peter Cushing was forced to decline due to health issues),an uncredited Caroline Munro,Virginia North,the ever smarmy Terry-Thomas,and Hugh Griffith,are all solid in this witty and original revenge-aganza opus.The soundtrack by Basil Kirchin is appropriately incredible.The black humor,inventive deaths,and witty dialogue are second to none.An enjoyable sequel surfaced a year later.Both films are available as a double disc,essential to every self-respecting woprophile's collection.Bravo, dear Vincent.Four big ones to an all-time favorite.Highly recommended.
"...when the acid reaches him, he will have a face like mine!"
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