Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Paper Lion" (1968) d/Alex March

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With NFL training camps kicking off this week, I thought it'd be pertinent for us to discuss my favorite football movie to date and an excellent means to properly perturb all the football-hating female readers out there. Paper Lion stands as a cult comedy that's manes and tails over made-for-tv sniffly Chi-town tearjerkers like Brian's Song (1971) or even the Cowboy-based cocaine and hot tubs of North Dallas Forty (1979), in my book, which is admittedly bound for life in Honolulu Blue and Silver. Tonight's review is based on a best seller by Harvard journo, George Plimpton, and his trials and tribulations while posing as a rookie quarterback for the Detroit Lions for a Sports Illustrated article.In it, the likes of Alan Alda, Lauren Hutton, David Doyle line up against real pro footballers of the day, like Alex Karras, Joe Schmidt, and Frank Gifford, giving the viewer an inside look at the game the way it used to be played, before all the endzone dances, multi-million dollar contracts, and spectacle.See: any number of rotten musical acts plodding through Super Bowl halftime shows for proof of that.

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"Listen, Hawkeye. Gap-tooth is gonna stay in and block, Sheriff Brody's gonna run a post route, and I'll be out on the yacht, sipping champagne with the Angels," says Bosley (David Doyle).
After a spirited game of catch in Central Park with the fellows, George's (Alda) editor stumbles upon the really smashing idea of having the thirty-six year old writer pose as a rookie quarterback in the NFL for his next piece for Sports Illustrated, having already gotten him roughed up by boxing champ Sugar Ray Robinson and taken deep by baseball all-stars in his earlier work for the publication. After being denied by a few teams, including Vince Lombardi's Packers, the Detroit Lions agree to take him on, with only coach Joe Schmidt knowing Plimpton's true identity: a noodle-armed weenbag. There's some rookie hazings and drunken shenanigans orchestrated by Mike Lucci and Alex Karras, and we see Roger Brown traded off to the Rams. Plimpton sings his "Newfoundland Newfs" school song, gets roughhoused in practice, and the fellas dupe him into thinking he's scored a long touchdown in front of his girl, Kate (Hutton), until he sees them laughing at him afterwards.

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"Oh yeah, some kid from USC named Simpson left that for you, Plimpton."
After much Jerry Lewis-like tomfoolery on the gridiron, his teammates begin to suspect that Plimpton isn't who he says he is, and Lucci and company start to play increasingly cruel pranks on the writer, when a knowing Karras takes him under his protective wing. There's a team talent show where the "Mad Duck" does an impersonation of Coach Schmidt as a nazi, and finally, Schmidt decides to let Plimpton take some snaps in a preseason game against the St. Louis Cardinals after the game has been decided, and George obliges by losing yards on four straight plays, culminating in a self-k.o. into the goalposts. Once again, the writer has come through with another memorable tale for his avid readers...

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"Let's discuss it in my office. I'll pack us up a super bowl." says Vince Lombardi.
I should probably mention that, though my Lions didn't make much noise on the field in '67(5-7-2, 3rd place), they scored Offensive Rookie of the Year (Mel Farr) and Defensive Rookie of the Year (Lem Barney) that year, the only time in NFL history that a team has ever snagged both awards in the same season(!).Schmidt's Lions would go on to get blanked in the playoff round to Dallas three years later, 5-0 (!!), in Alex  "Mad Duck" Karras' final season. Meanwhile, Karras would establish himself as a competent actor in his own right, post-Lions, appearing in things like Blazing Saddles, Porky's, and Buffalo '66, before passing away in 2012, still excluded from the NFL Hall of Fame, despite being a four time Pro Bowler and member of the 1960's All-Decade Team.Speaking of Hall of Fame CB Lem Barney, he would also turn up in the football-based blaxploitation epic, The Black Six (1973), with fellow footballers Mercury Morris, Gene Washington, Carl Eller, Willie Lanier, and "Mean" Joe Greene.The real Plimpton would turn up at the end of the decade in commercials hawking something called Mattel Intellivision. Meh, says the old Atari 2600 man from way back. Four big ones.

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"You're lined up behind the guard, George..."
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Friday, July 26, 2013

" The Devils" (1971) d/ Ken Russell

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Before the inevitable influx of knee jerk religious zealotry comes raining down on this post, I've scheduled some flagellation in my personal fornicatory at the hands of twin raven-haired Wop-ettes in nun costumes for myself, having allowed such a blasphemous and incendiary piece of cinematic filth to slither it's evil way among my list of all-time favorite movies. Yea, though I greatly admire the powerful visual style of directorial conspirator, Ken Russell, who also hath writ the screenplay ( based upon the Aldous Huxley novel, The Devils of Loudon),  I shall also give thanks and praise to the dramatic contributions of those actors who would bring these shocking images to light, specifically Oliver Reed, though Michael Gothard, Dudley Sutton, Gemma Jones, and a hunchbacked Vanessa Redgrave all compliment Reed in supporting roles here. Riveting, disturbing stuff whose punch has lost very little, if any, potency, despite the passing of forty-plus years and countless censor's cuts, though one should pay heed to the poster's warning, as this is definitely not a film for every one...

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I had a hunch that Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave) would be back...
The time is the seventeenth century, the place is France. At one of King Louis XIII's less masculine get together's, Cardinal Richelieu is buzzing about uppity protestants, suggesting the country's city fortifications all be torn down, to which the monarch agrees, excluding the town of Loudon, of course, as he had made a promise not to do such a thing, to it's governor, in the past. Only the governor has since turned his toes up, leaving the city's control in the hands of Urbain Grandier(Reed), a priest who's as insatiable for political power as he is for snug cunny, as evidenced by the number of Loudon women who daydream about receiving the holy in-out from him (even hunchbacked women of the cloth like Sister Jeanne(Redgrave) wouldn't mind drying his feet after a lengthy water walk with their scarlet tresses), and the growing number of rival priest's daughters suddenly pregnant at his doing is nothing to sneeze at, either.

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"Take this spear wound, all of you, and lick obscenely at it, as though it were a vagina.", whispers dream-Jesus(Ollie Reed).
When an elitist Baron's (Sutton) attempt to carry out orders to bring down Loudon's walls are thwarted by a steadfast Grandier, backed by the city's army, he joins forces with Father Mignon (Murray Melvin), whose pregnant daughter has been rejected by Grandier. Meanwhile, Grandier has secretly married another woman (Jones), the news of which bodes ill upon the fragile psyche of Sister Jeanne, who implicates the priest in all manner of blasphemous charges to Mignon und Baron, who, in turn, enlists the services of a lanky drink of water inquisitor named Father Barre (Gothard) to get to the bottom of it all, even if it means pumping foul enemas up the asses of every nun at the convent in doing so.The King shows up in disguise during an exorcism, claiming to have a relic containing the blood of Christ to use in the cleansing spiritual rite, but after Barre appears to have used it successfully to clear the sisters of demons, the monarch flips it open to reveal it was empty in the first place. Good one, Louie. The still-"possessed" sisters pull the crucified statue of Christ from the wall and rape it in every conceivable manner, to celebrate. Grandier and his wife return just in time to catch the party, and are subsequently taken into custody by the Baron's soldiers. All that follows, you should really experience for yourselves.

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Q: How many of these women are committing blasphemy? A: Nun.
Religious faith is a funny thing. Some people are content to believe what they believe and carry on their lives in a relatively normal fashion, while some treat their faith as an elitist badge of authority over others who don't share them, and some commit unspeakable crimes against their fellow man within the protective umbrella of their religious teachings. Who's wrong? Who's right? Let 'em scrap it out among themselves until the end of time if it's so important to them to find out what's waiting for them after they're gone. I'm more focused on enjoying the finer things in what life I've got left to live, with the people I care about, that care about me. I think if everybody gave that a shot,  we might be alright, after all. But we're just humans, hahaha. So we won't. I'd be more worried that you didn't give The Devils a shot, though, as it really is an extraordinary film, worth all the discourse and analysis one could possibly invest in it, and then some. Once you have, let me know what you think. Obviously, four wops.

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"Is it too late to pass on martyrdom for the five quid and what's behind curtain number two?"
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Altered States" (1980) d/ Ken Russell

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Time to tune in, turn on, and drop out here at the Wop with tonight's review, a sometimes dazzlingly perceptive inward journey into man's baser self through the abuse of heavy hallucinogenic drugs and sensory deprivation tanks, as documented through the artful lens of Ken Russell, no stranger himself to bizarre visuals. I walked down to the American Theater for this one, upon release in 1980, and though I was expecting something more from the production, the one sheet still ended up on display in my room for years, as the black sheep of my collection ( long since been replaced  by 'Student Bodies' and 'Poliziotto superpiu', if you're keeping score at home).FX god Dick Smith provides some unforgettable work, as usual, in supplying amorphous face-trippers, cracked bodysuit bitches, schitzy proto-humans, and more, for a game cast headed by William Hurt and Blair Brown, .
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" cue that copy of "Burnt Weenie Sandwich", maaan, I'm peaking balls!"
Ed Jessup (Hurt) is the local college's Abnormal Psych professor extraordinaire, and as such he's the envy of his colleagues, Arthur and Mason (Bob Balaban, Charles Haid) and the love object of fellow brainiac, Emily (Brown), who somehow convinces him to marry her amid his exhausting studies on schizophrenia and much sweaty couch sex. While grooving his days away in a sensory deprivation tank he surmises that even sleep states of consciousness can be brought to the surface, and pisses off to Mexico to partake in a hallucinogenic Indio mushroom party to prove his point. After tripping his face off in the middle of the jungle (hard, bro), the violent fungal roller coaster ride awakens a sudden desire to devolve into a naked, howling caveman in the prof. His desire quickly becomes obsession, as he ignores the pleas of reason from his assistants, and his now ex-wife and kids in favor of a canning jar fulla the stuff the tribe's medicine man must've let him bring home(!).

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I'm not exactly sure what she's doing here, but I like it a lot.
Before too long, Eddie's running around, screeching like a monkey on bath salts, clobbering campus guards to near-death (Ohhh, that explains how Jessup and Co. are allowed back into the campus lab afterwards, he only nearly killed people in a drugged-out haze, gotcha.) and biting antelopes at the zoo, which naturally leads his wife and assistants to 180° their positions on the potentially deadly experiments, now enthusiastically supporting his decision to go ahead and fuck with his inner chemistry like a mad Russian Roulette player. He begins to lose control of his transformations, leading to a knock down, drag out orgy for the eyes as he becomes a shapeless lump of humanity, while his ex-wife naturally realizes that stripping nude and becoming a neon lightning-being is the only way she can rescue him from the mental abyss...

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There's something you don't see every day...
A wee Drew Barrymore briefly appears as Hurt's daughter, and since we've never mentioned her before here and she's clearly too hot for such an injustice to continue, I threw that in. Schizophrenic as Syd Barrett in a cellar full o' psilocybin, States never seems certain of its own identity, mixing appropriately trippy imagery and lengthy moral tirades about the dangers of undertaking such a reflective journey, with mixed results in the end. Normally, reporting on Russell's usual level of artistic flair in the director's chair plus solid performances from Hurt and Brown and the Kafkaesque Smith effects work would merit a higher ratings scale score than the pedestrian deuce, but the meh feeling I'm left with afterwards, even after repeated viewings over the years, demands that I give it such. That said, I'll still watch it again sometime in the future, and you should probably give it a look, as well, if any of what I've just discussed grabs you.

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Three decades later, we finally see the devastating long term effects of repeated exposure to Lipps, Inc.
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Bloody Birthday" (1981) d/ Ed Hunt

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Anybody know if there was an eclipse on October 5th, 1969? The vein of earlier killer kiddie classics like Village of the Damned is well tapped in tonight's review,  from the director who sent Christopher Lee into the far reaches of outer space long before George Lucas did, with 1977's Starship Invasions. Watching this movie is like hitching a ride in Mr. Peabody's WABAC Machine for somebody like me who's somehow matured into a reasonable adult after a similar childhood to the demonic little scapegraces on the screen. If you happen to be from my old neighborhood during this era: Eff you, I cop to nothing. If deviously remorseless ten year old's ( portrayed by Billy Jacoby/Jayne (who's older bro Scott was Bad Ronald), Elizabeth Hoy, and Andrew Freeman, respectively) hunting down the likes of Susan Strasberg and Julie Brown like game animals in eighties gear doesn't appeal to you, then you're probably on the wrong website.

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Remember MTV's two Julie Brown's? I always dug this one's wubba wubba wubba's over "Downtown" Julie's.
In 1970, three babies are born synchronous to a solar eclipse in California, with Saturn's astrological blockage leaving each child void of any real emotions or remorse. After nearly a decade has passed, we revisit the children as their tenth birthdays approach only to find that they've added insidious homicide to their play habits, as a young couple trying to enjoy cemetery sex soon find. Voyeurism is also a favorite, as we see Debbie earning pocket change by allowing Curtis and Steven (Wait, one's even named Steven? Spoooky.) to peep on her older sister, Beverly (Brown), as she mirror-dances with her buhhuhbas out. Timmy, a young peer, figures out the trio's propensity for wrongdoing after they lure him into a nearby junkyard and lock him in a discarded refrigerator. Debbie's father, the sheriff, is marked for a fatal accident on the steps, but when he steps over the strategically placed skateboard, Steven brains him with a baseball bat, instead. Their teacher, Ms. Davis (Strasberg) begins to catch on to their destructive vibe, but Curtis puts a slug in the woman's back in an empty classroom, for her interference.

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"No, I don't know what a skull fracture feels like, honey, why do you ask?"
Timmy's older sister Joyce (Lori Lethin) suspects the kids, but at their collective birthday bash, they fool her into thinking they've laced the party cakes with ant poison(!!), thus, making her seem like the unhinged one to the whole neighborhood. When Beverly stumbles upon her little sister's scrapbook of newspaper clippings concerning their growing list of crimes(!!!), she eats ocular arrow-driven death for her nosiness. Finally, Debbie asks Joyce and Timmy to babysit her, an elaborate trap that fails, getting Curtis and Steven subdued for the police while the devious little girl manages to escape. At home, Debbie tearfully implicates her partners-in-crime to her mother. At the crime scene, we see Curtis shoot a disturbed look at his failed last victims from the back of a police cruiser as it pulls away. Elsewhere, we see Debbie's mother rehearsing her daughter's new alias with her, unaware that she's already dropped a car on a local auto mechanic nearby, killing him...

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Take it from a former little bastard: These are little bastards.
You may remember Lethin from her genre work in fare like The Prey (1984) and 1987's Return to Horror High.When Julie Brown wasn't shaking her nude melons for ten year old boys, she was making funny music videos like "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun".At least, it seemed a lot funnier before antisocial water heads started shooting up schools on a regular basis. Still, there's always Earth Girls Are Easy (1988), right? If you're plum tuckered out by the vast number of by-the-numbers 80's slasher flicks out there, this one might just provide the spark to enliven your appreciation of the sub-genre, all over again. Three wops, and a recommendation, say I.

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"C'mon, Julio, this is no time to fall asleep under the rear axle with preserves on your face..."
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Cry of the Banshee" (1970) d/Gordon Hessler

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Banish any visions of crimson-locked fairy women chasing hysterical celt lasses through the Scottish highlands from your consciousness before sitting down to watch tonight's review, as you're not gonna find such things in it. In fact, if you're looking for three dimensional characters, or even some semblance of originality from the screenplay, you may as well forget that, too. What you will encounter here is a generous helping of immortal genre-god Vincent Price, portraying as a barbaric magistrate/witchfinder as you're likely to find in one of these period pictures (certainly one of his, anyway), lustily pawing at wenches with the unmistakable pomp and pretense that old school horror fans know well and love even more. On top of that, factor in loads of  tasty eye candy of the day, not excluding Swedish Gemini, Essy Persson and A.I.P. genre reg, Hillary Heath of 'Oblong Box' and 'Witchfinder General' fame, none of which seem too concerned with being topless in a movie that was rated GP (all ages permitted!).

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"...Its! Vincent Python's Circus of Religious Persecution-on-on."
Lord Whitman (Price) graciously invites a pair of dirt merchants into the hall where an ostentatious feast is being held in his honor, to ridicule their impoverished state as Elizabethan magistrates often did in those days, but more so, to accuse of witchcraft and condemn to death, as was also wildly popular among the aristocratic class during that time period. Wenches get ogled, fondled, stripped, accused, publicly humiliated, and tortured according to schedule, with Whitman's eldest son (who blackmails his own step-mother for sex! Hot DAMN, this family is effed up.) and his two foul henchmen, Burke and Bully Boy (Michael Elphick, Andrew McCulloch), all doing their sadistic part to keep the villagers nicely gripped by constant terror. That is, until the magistrate's zeal leads him to an actual coven of real witches flitting around in the forest nearby, who's leader, Oona (Elizabeth Bergner), feels instantly compelled to bring a curse down upon the lascivious land baron and his entire house when she discovers that he's caused many of her followers to eat axe chop-death while netted like so many animals.

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"I want my tree pahdeydah's in advance, boyyo..."
The witch's curse takes the form of a sidhe, a magical shape-shifting/fake looking beast called upon to exact bloody off-camera revenge upon Whitman and his kin... or in this case,his faithful manservant, Roderick (Patrick Mower), who's got a way with animals and people (especially Whitman's daughter, Maureen) alike that deeply concerns Father Tom, who's only just returned home with the magistrate's youngest son, Harry.When family members start dropping like the Chicago Bears playoff hopes in November, Harry and the priest extirpate Oona from existence, while Maureen speeds a transformed Roderick to his maker via blunderbuss(!). Relieved to have lifted the curse from his family once and for all, Whitman packs up his remaining son and daughter into a coach for greener future pastures, but when he brazenly stops at Roderick's grave for a final hammy gloat, he finds the coffin empty, and once inside the coach, he discovers that Harry, Maureen, and Bully Boy have all been dispatched by Roderick, who drives off in the midst of the sounds of the lord's feeble screams...

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Stop, collaborate, and listen. Price tortures witchy bitches like the Inquisition...
After collecting this third collaborative credit with director Hessler (Oblong Box and Scream and Scream Again would precede), Price did some tv work on shows like Love, American Style, Mod Squad, and Hilarious House on Frankenstein in the year leading up to his appearance in the Fuest cult classic Abominable Dr. Phibes(1971).You might recognize Michael Elphick from his later roles in movies like Quadrophenia (1979) and The Elephant Man (1980). You might also recognize the clever title sequence as one of Terry (Monty Python, Time Bandits, Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, et al) Gilliam's.Not nearly as good as other similar Price vehicles, like 'Conqueror Worm', but still packed with enough classic Pricery, groovy topless witch-wenches, and hokey period sadism/misogyny to please the average genre nut. Despite some faults, it still merits a healthy three wop score in the end. Check it out!

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Her hair turned white while trying to memorize all the words to Edgar Winter's Frankenstein...
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Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Black X-Mas" (2006) d/ Glen Morgan

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If Bob Clark's 1974 cult classic were tantamount to the year that perfect Christmas present found it's way under a well-decorated tree (I dunno, 'matching buxom brunette boudoir bookends' comes to mind directly, for some unknown reason), then the 2004 remake would represent the year your old man fell off a ladder while hanging lights on the rain gutter and ate neck-snapped death a week before Christmas. Some of you already disagree with me, but I don't see how you can replace the real suspense and terror of the original with a handicapped backstory, replacing the engaging '74 subplots with more hot broads that already know what they have coming to them before they start dropping like flies, yet stick round any ol' way just to get whacked, and not see a total failure. This one doesn't just throw the kitchen sink at you in vainly trying to camouflage it's holes, the bathroom sink, the guest bedroom sink, the basement sink, and even the garden hose are all projectiles with your face written on them here. A body mechanic would have better chance of filling in the bullet holes in Bonnie and Clyde's deathmobile with a baby spoon full o' Bondo. Sure, it's a somewhat entertaining, splattery, incoherent mess, but I expected a little more out of something titled "Black X-Mas", and less is what I got, instead.

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Remember the incestuous, jaundiced cannibal from the first movie? Me neither.
This time around, Billy has a surname (Lentz), a liver condition (jaundice), and a drunken, abusive mom so disgusted by the yellowy sight of him that she locks him in the attic until, years later, sexually unsatisfied by his blank-bustin' poppa, she naturally climbs up and socks it to him as only a hateful mother could, resulting in a sister-daughter named Agnes, who he jealously blinds in one eye when he escapes one legendary Christmas to snuff his mother's candle ...while she's in the cellar... trying to bury his father's corpse. Have you swallowed all of that so far? Yeah, then you'll eat anything. Meanwhile, the authorities find him eating his mother's baked back flesh after shaping it with a cookie cutter and abruptly throw him in the 'Clark' Sanitarium. Oh, you two-guys-that-shoulda-stuck-to-X-Files-and-Millenium-on-television, you're clever, really you are. Speaking of television, several familiar small screen faces turn up as sorority sisters at Lentz's former home, now the Delta Alpha Kappa house, as overseen by Mrs. Mack (Andrea Martin, from the original movie). Lacey Chabert, Michelle Trachtenberg, Katie Cassidy, among others, all joke openly about the house's terrible past, even leaving Billy a yearly gift under the tree, so it should come as no surprise to any of them when they start getting bag-smothered and crystal unicorn-shanked one by one, but it somehow does, anyway, doesn't it.

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Cheap over-the-top gore for dinner again?
While the sisters are getting eyeballed and asphyxiated , we see Billy cleverly orchestrate a dramatic and bloody escape from the sanitarium (especially clever, since the guard even remarks that the disturbed man attempts a break out every year at the same time just moments before he's added to the body count himself), meaning that his cyclopean sibling-offspring has been the one chopping the heads off of wallflowers back at the sorority house, leaving the obligatory one or two most resilient gals to square off against both murderers in a fiery false finale that naturally claims neither Lentz psycho, so they're able to be more dramatically wiped out at the hospital, with a defibrillator and Christmas tree impalement, respectively. Big deal...

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I liked Margot's head gag considerably more than this gag head.
If you tried replicating the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel with a crayon on the back of a toilet lid using only your feet, you'd probably come closer than Wong and Morgan came to succeeding on any level here. It's too bad,  as I liked both of  their big tv shows just fine. Goofy self-aware nods to several, more effectively executed slasher flicks, shlocky gore, and terrible writing bereft of anything remotely resembling tension or a scare might be worth a good laugh with your buddies, but if you're on board to re-experience any of the original's potency, you're fucked outta luck, Chuck. Don't let Bob Clark's producer credit fool you here, either, as he had no problem attaching his name to crap towards the end of his career. See: Super Babies:Baby Geniuses 2 (2004). One wop, but just for laugh's sake.

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Smother me with the bag when you're finished, would ya?
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Monday, July 15, 2013

'Blue Sunshine" (1978) d/ Jeff Lieberman

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I can't imagine a more terrifying prospect to the self-engrossed "in crowd" of the late seventies than to discover one's feathered back 'Eight is Enough' 'do disaffiliating itself with their dome, due to some minor hallucinatory indiscretions from a decade earlier. That giant back pocket comb would be worthless, man, think about it. Jeff Lieberman of 'Squirm' and 'Just Before Dawn' fame knew the world didn't wanna boogie with wigged-out eggheads, and thus, tonight's review, an exemplary freak-out flick seasoned with laugh out loud camp, heavy Cronenberg vibes, and Hamill-coiffed disco dollies abound.

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"Aaargh! What the hell happened to my Chachi haircut?"
A party at a cabin the woods goes sour when Frannie (Richard Crystal) gets his postiche pilfered in mid-Sinatra tune (what you trying to say over there, Jeff!), causing him to throw screaming girls into the fireplace like a real nut. When Frannie's buddy Zipkin (Zalman King) ends his zany antics by shoving him him in front of an eighteen wheeler, he's compelled to dramatically run around, acting like Columbo and looking like the kosher Sean Penn in uncovering the real reason behind his friend's impromptu homicidal schitz, instead of turning himself in and letting the cops deal with it. With his disco sweetie Allison (Deborah Winters) keeping the detectives at bay and a suit borrowed from an old doctor pal (Robert Walden), he ties the increasing number of baldy murders to a shady local politician named Edward Flemming (Mark Goddard), whose wife has been experiencing headaches and hair loss, herself, of late. The follicles may be thinning, but the plot thickens...

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Toupee or not toupee? That is the question.
It seems that while all parties involves were enrolled at Stanford U, Fleming doled out some bunk chromosome-altering acid called "Blue Sunshine" that causes the dose-dropper to lose his locks, become aggro at loud noise, and in the end, homicidal. Before the whole delirious tale is hastily wrapped up with on screen character updates a la 'Animal House', you'll see crazy eggheaded broads chasing little kids around with butcher knives, burly Irish sportos-turned-enraged-lightbulb-heads hurling horrified groove thang-shakers through the air, polyester first, at an indoor mall discotheque (!!), Sinatra and Streisand puppet shows, and Zipkin rescuing Allison from the disco booth with an air gun full of tranquilizers. You might feel as though you've tripped your face off, yourselves, by the time the end credits roll here, so you might wanna check your collective hairlines in the mirror. You never know...

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"...but you gotta play 'Night on Disco Mountain' for me, lady!"
It's really pretty amazing how engaging this one ends up being, despite the ridiculous mad baldies premise. I, too, was skeptical prior to my first viewing, it having been the last of Lieberman's films of the era I hadn't seen, but I came away impressed as usual, and it might be my favorite of his films, to date. I dunno, JBD holds special golden slasher era memories for me. We'll have to call it a toss up for now. On the scale, a Three wops triple-dipped blotter for your mind's eye . Recommended.

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I'm the same way when I miss a spot, believe me.
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Saturday, July 13, 2013

"A Day of Violence" (2010) d/ Darren Ward

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If crime drama was nourishment you could grub on, then British newcomer Darren Ward would be the equivalent of a back street cuisinier splashing the viewer's palate with bloody good eats, indeed. His second full-length feature plays like a low budget variant of his country's popular recent gangster epics like Snatch, Sexy Beast, or Gangster No. 1, but with a generous pinch of tribute to the Italian poliziotteschi of the seventies and eighties and a dash ( this should read "lid fell off of container, entire contents dumped haphazardly into mixture", really) of Big S und Big V*, for that downhome genre gusto. Though some of the dialog circumvents the power of the film's splattery reveal in the end, Violence is a pretty engaging piece of urban thuggery with a solid performance from Nick Rendell in the lead, and a welcome appearance by the legendary Johnny Morghen himself as a bong-reefing deadbeat crud.

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The ol' "Bbbbllllblllllbllbbbbllll plus tax" does 'em in every time.
We meet Mitchell (Rendell) as his body bag is unzipped in the morgue, his hulking, lifeless body with a middle piece missing; his voice providing the narrative for the circuitous tale of how he got there in the first place, which starts just twenty-four hours earlier...after some lengthy spirited fuckage with his bird, he pays a visit to the dilapidated porn-papered digs of Hopper (Giovanni Lombardo-Radice), a vulgar derelict who owes him some money, but discovers significantly more cash stashed away in the beanbag chair than he's been leaning hard on his mark for. Having already pinned the pleading transient to the counter top with a steak knife (!), the burly bonebreaker decides to blag the extra bucks, slashing the neckpiece of the stoner and making the dash. Ironically, he seeks employment from the very crime lord he's only just robbed, a cold cunt named Boswell (Victor D. Thorn) who bases his criminal organization out of a print shop(!!).

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They went easy on you compared to the old days, Johnny.
Unbeknownst to Mitchell, Hopper captured his slayer's sticky fingers on a cell phone vid, which ends up in the hands of one of Boswell's cartoony bald thugs, who all seem to have dainty nicknames for some unknown, yet convivial reason. Having just escaped some eye-watering-ly remorseless torture at the mitts of the boss' skin-pated brutes, he returns to his lover's, ready to deliver the blood money over for motivations that I'll leave un-discussed here, so that you readers might be able to better appreciate the claret-splashed climax for yourselves.

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"At least he din't suffah."(Tony Soprano voice)
A stylized, nihilistic vision that's brimming with exploitative sex and violence for the gorehounds in the audience, and surely a sign of many more good things to come from this young director, who I'll be keeping my eye out for, as should you. On the scale, Violence earns a sterling score of tre wops. Recommended.

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Faster than you can say Bob's your uncle and Fanny's your aunt, it's the new Pasta Slingshot...only from Montco.
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*Sesso e violenza, naturalmente.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Curse of the Crimson Altar" (1968) d/Vernon Sewell

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Despite bearing little resemblance to H.P. Lovecraft's short story 'Dreams in the Witch House', which tonight's review is supposed to be based upon (though I find it more similar stylistically and in tone, to 1970's film version of Dunwich Horror, which combined trippy psychedelic visuals of the day with indescribable horrors in the same fashion), this seldom seen late gothic effort from Tigon Studios full of witchery and human sacrifice proves lively and entertaining enough to satsify even the most jaded genre die-hard in the end. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a cast headed by the likes of Christopher Lee, Barbara Steele, Michael Gough, and Boris Karloff in front of your lens, either, as this one can boast.

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"Isn't anyone going to paint psychedelic flowers on my belly, too?"
We meet an antiques dealer named Robert Manning (Mark Eden) as he departs for his hometown of Greymarsh, where it seems his brother Peter has vanished, though the audience sees him signing into a witchcraft circle upon the uber-repetitive hard sell of a sultry green witch named Lavinia (Steele), ritual-shanking a sacrificial chick, then getting branded by a muscle creep in a leather loincloth and matching antlers (!) before his cinematic sibling even realizes he's gone missing. On route to Craxted Lodge, Manning interrupts some young sophisticates as they hunt down a bit of strumpet in a cat suit through the woods. These groovy kids and their exotic kicks...Upon arrival, he crashes something of a high brow hallucino-orgy before finally meeting Morley (Lee) to inquire about his brother, remarking that the lodge's ambience leads him to expect Boris Karloff to pop up any minute. He's then introduced to the invalid Professor Marshe (Karloff, ha-ha.), the area's foremost authority of witchcraft and the occultish arts, who likes neither his attitude nor his limited appreciation for fine brandy. Despite the spooky vibes he's catching, Manning agrees to stay at the lodge while he scrutinizes his brother's whereabouts, and Morley's attractive young niece, Eve (Virginia Wetherell), while he's at it.

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"Konga!! Put me down, Konga! Dreadfully sorry, old chap, wrong movie..."
Thanks to the meddling of Morley's half-witted manservant, Elder (Gough), Manning begins to uncover the mystery behind Peter's disappearance, and it's connections to the town's current festival commemorating the stake-burning of the lodge owner's green-hued ancestor for witchcraft. Fancy that. He begins having vivid dreams of said ancestor goading him to sign something, then dagger-shivving him when he refuses, with his missing brother and some en-masked cultists in attendance. Before anyone can point the accusatory finger at the chatty green bird, we find out her spirit is being invoked through a zany kalaideoscopic lamp, and that Manning stands as the last descendant of those who sentenced Lavinia to death, and what's more, neither Eve nor the wheelchair-bound Marshe is aligned with the lanky mustachioed warlock looking to even the ancient score. In the end, the lodge burns to the ground with Morley inside, and as the relieved survivors look on, he transforms into the witch among the licking flames from atop the building.

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"Lord Satan has informed me that, unless we recruit more cult members, he shall be forced to downgrade us to 'The Crimson Get-together'."
Curse would stand as the last of Karloff's films that he would live to see premiere, famously contracting pneumonia on the set, before tackling roles in four low-budget Mexican horror films, with just half of one lung. Despite suffering from weak script and direction, I'd still consider it one of the better efforts from Tigon, and dare I say, a must-see for any fans of the actors involved, as they're all much better individual pieces than the film itself is, on the whole. If you want to see the same general idea executed at a much higher level, look no further than 1960's City of the Dead/Horror Hotel. On the scale, let's call this one a deuce.

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Why, yes. Yes, I would. Flames, ceremonial headdress, green skin, and all.
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