Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Mary Jane" (1968) d/ Maury Dexter

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Some of you older heads might remember Philly native and bubblegum pop star of the late fifties, Fabiano "Fabian" Forte from his movie work in the early sixties after those mop-topped British Beatle bastards invaded the American music scene, appearing alongside the likes of John Wayne and Bob Hope. Tonight's review, a lost drive-in drugsploitation number, came later, when neither his music nor his movies were in the spotlight anymore. It's too bad, too, because this one is a real pisser that toes the straight laced lines of earlier, equally uninformed anti-pot scare films like Reefer Madness, Marihuana (both 1936) and Assassin of Youth (1937), while making Fabian's character more sympathetic to the edgier pot smoking scene of the day.

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"You toke pipe-blasting punks are ruining my Happy Days!", says Gas Station Attendant (Garry Marshall).
Jerry (Michael Margotta) wants to be in with the "In Crowd" at his school in the worst possible way. It just so happens that that particular clique, the "Mary Jane" club, a group of preppies and jocks who secretly blow pot all the time, and wear custom dog tag necklaces with their full name on one side and "Mary Jane" on the other (how conspicuous-like), is run by silver spoon-yapped, jock-asshole-extraordinaire, Jordan Bates (Kevin Coughlin), who doesn't find Jerry very groovy at all, man. To further complicate matters, three kids have just died from this mary-huana stuff via hokey pre-credits stoned balls car crash, and the staff is in cooperation with the local badges to put an end to this rapidly spreading menace, that influences high school kids (who all look mid-twenties, at the least) to commit heinous acts like spraying gas station attendants with hoses, necking on a blanket in the grass, and even pretending to ride amusement park rides while the park is closed... fucking dope fiend kids.

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A pinner like this today, cocaine and heroin tomorrow.
Luckily for them, they've got a groovy young art teacher/ football coach named Mr. Blake (Fabian) who's hep enough to have tried grass in college, and always leaves his keys in his convertible, in case, you know, Jerry needs to jack his car and lead cops on a high speed chase with a discarded sack of dope in the back seat, where Phil had hoped to land fellow educator Ms. Holden (Diane McBain), if she wasn't so frigid towards his grass blanket antics. Blake gets framed for the buddha and lands in jail, where he raps with Hymie from Get Smart (Dick Gautier, who co-wrote the movie) and a junkie in withdrawal uses his sweater to hang himself(!). Meanwhile, for his unresponsive peers, Jerry's physically ill from smoking grass, drowning himself in a lake, shoplifting watches, and ultimately, blasting hashish and delivering a package of low grade shwag-weed to some punchy jocks from across town that are expecting Acapulco Gold.Jerry's sympathetic teacher buddy, Blake, bailed out by Holden, intercepts Jordan's drug deal with the local ice cream man (pre-dating Cheech and Chong by some thirteen years by my count!), and takes the stuff to the author-no, he doesn't. Free on bail, he takes the stuff home with him. What follows is a predictable climax, but with an unexpected twist, that I'll leave you to discover for yourselves.

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It's a little too late to turn this one loose.
Fabian appeared two years earlier with Vincent Price in Mario Bava's campy mess, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966), while the clubfooted  Coughlin suffered an untimely death at thirty at the hands of a hit-and-run driver, eight years later. Patty "Bad Seed" McCormack appears here as Jordan's sweet blonde arm candy. Besides Gautier and Gary Marshall, who'd also appear in Dick Clark's choice drug opus, Psych-out!, the same year, there are also blink-and-you'll-miss-'em cameos from Terri Garr and Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall, who also co-wrote the script. Despite the mook-nificently misinformed marijuana un-science abound throughout, there remains a decent movie underneath it all, and on the scale, it inhales and buries a pair of Wops; worth a look if you can hunt down a copy, though I imagine the folks that would appreciate this one the most probably lack the motivation to get off of their asses and find it.

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"Bitchslapped by Fabian" is not something you wanna put on your resume', kid.
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Heavy Metal" (1981) d/ Gerald Potterton

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... or as the Nick Adams-tongued denizens of the Wyoming Valley would say, "Evvy Meh-ull". To spice up my regular cardboard boxed haul of reads, my old man would throw in issues of Epic Illustrated and Heavy Metal, whose hallowed pages often contained the stuff that any prepubescent boy's dreams are made of ; naked, pillow-chested damsels-in-distress thrown over the shoulders of muscle-bound warmongers in the act of saving their world from saurian terrors, or power-mad wizards, while wielding a hernia-inducing weapon of destruction against an alien blood-red sky...that sorta thing. I always envisioned those publications to be like a long boat full of  master artists I grew up on, like Berni Wrightson and Richard Corben, being whipped like galley slaves to the sounds of  Dio-era Sabbath into creating jaw-dropping scenes of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. Then, they went and made it all into a movie.

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"Freddy doesn't own me, Shaggy. Now get those bell bottoms off..."
The film opens with "Soft Landing" (O'Bannon/Warkentin), where a space shuttle orbiting the planet releases a convertible 1960 Corvette, driven by an astronaut, into the atmosphere and segueing into "Grimaldi" where a returning astronaut brings his daughter a present, the Loc-Nar, a green, glowing orb of great evil that melts the space traveler where he stands and connects the fantastic stories that follow. Next is "Harry Canyon" (Goldberg/Blum), concerning the two day exploits of a New York cabbie in 2031. This is followed by my favorite segment, "Den" (Corben), where a timid earth-nerd accidentally transports himself to the land of 'Neverwhere', transforming himself into a bald, muscle-bound warrior, in the process. Next comes "Captain Sternn" (Wrightson), as we see a Bruce Campbell-esque space captain on trial for numerous unforgivable charges.

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No jokes here. Corben's stuff leaves me at a loss for words.
Next, we see "B-17" (O'Bannon/ Ploog), as the Loc-Nar affects a World War II B-17 during a bombing run with heavy casualties, resurrecting dead soldiers into walking zombies. "So Beautiful And So Dangerous" (McKie) follows, a humorous short that involves sultry red-headed Jewish stenographers being abducted by a spacecraft captained by stoner aliens and seduced by horny robots. Taarna (Goldberg/ Blum) concerns a beautiful female warrior atop a pterosaur mount and her vengeance upon a barbarian army that has wiped out her people under the influence of the Loc-Nar. Finally, we return to "Grimaldi", where the astronaut's young daughter endures the destruction of her mansion home and the orb alike, only to replace Taarna from the previous story, as the next Taarakian champion, flying off into the sunset.

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If it ain't Wrightson... it's just wrong, son.
Attaining cult classic status as a 'Midnight Movie', Metal's VHS release was delayed some fifteen years due to licensing headaches over the high profile bands who lent their music to the soundtrack, like Journey, Donald Fagen, DEVO, Sammy Hagar, and Black Sabbath. An SCTV-heavy list of actors lent their unmistakable voices to the production, with the likes of John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis, and longtime Bakshi vet, Richard Romanus all giving memorable performances within their respective stories. Some thirty-three years later, Heavy Metal remains one of the greatest original showcases of artistic creativity that the motion picture industry has ever produced, a few uneven moments aside. This is a must-see, obviously, a lush explosion of scintillating imagery, both sensual and violent. A diversion at it's worst, at best, a highly evocative piece that deserves a place among your all-time favorites. Four wops and my highest recommendation.

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If you're gonna force me to look at goofy robots, you've gotta throw a naked, smoking chick in there, as an incentive.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Holy Flame of the Martial World" (1983) d/ Chin Lu Ku

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By 1983, the legendary Shaw Brothers had pretty much exhausted every traditional gung fu interpretation of historical Chinese legend, every high-kicking superstar pair up a fan of cinematic pugilism could dream of, so it's no wonder when translating a popular Hong Kong comic book to the silver screen, director Chin Lu Ku pulled out every imaginable stop in delivering a deliriously crazy, special effects-heavy wushu fantasy, packed with laser beams, flying personified Chinese characters, pugilist magic, 32 year old Kuo "The Lizard" Chui and 23 year old Liu Hsueh-hua playing grey-haired clan elders(!), and I'm pretty sure I saw the martial sink hurl past the lens on a wire on more than one occasion, too. Also aboard for the visually dazzling ride are the likes of Pai Piao, Chiang Tao, Mary Jean Reimer (former wife of eldest Liu, Liu Chia-Liang himself!), and Chan Shen.

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You-ming Elder's (Kuo Chui) "Deadly Echoes" technique will make your whole brain bubble and your body disintegrate. His words, not mine.
After their parents are martially snuffed by a pair of scheming power-hungry baddies (ain't that always the case?), Monster Yu (Pai Piao) and Tsing Yin (Liu Hsueh-hua), a pair of babies' lives are saved by the intervention of the Elder of the You-ming (Kuo Chui),  who takes the male child under his wing for eighteen years, while Tsing Yin mothers the female under the pretense that You-ming Elder is responsible for her parents' deaths. After the allotted time passes, a fully grown Yin Tien-chou (Mok Siu Chung) is sent on a perilous quest for the fabled Holy Flame sword, battling murderous ghosts and rescuing a snake bladder merchant's daughter named Chuan (Mary Jean Reimer) from the Bloodsucking Clan along the way. After he solves a dangerous yin-yang platform inside Moon Cave, where Chinese characters spin through the air like bladed self-aware weapons, he retrieves the plastic-looking Yang half of the Holy Flame, then again rescues Chuan from the Bloodsucking HQ, where their elder (Chiang Tao) uses the blood of young girls to resurrect a blue English-speaking mummy(!). When Tsing Yin shows up, she nearly defeats Yin, except that Chuan has developed a super laser-shooting finger, from a snake bladder venom infection (of course) that allows the young couple to escape. You with me, so far?

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It's gotten so that a girl can't even gather snakes with her father without getting harassed by the Bloodsucking Clan.
It turns out that the evil Tsing has the equally plastic Yin half of the Holy Flame, but it can only be wielded by an eighteen year old female virgin(!!) like Yin's sister Tan (Yeung Jing-Jing), who eventually learns the truth about her family from "Snake Boy" (Wen Hsueh-Er, a girl) and reunites with her brother, who's been learning how to fly his sword around like a radio-controlled helicopter from You-ming Elder. Except Monster Yu and Tsing have developed a counter to his hilarious-looking Ghostly Laugh/Deadly Echoes technique, where they can close their ears up like shuttered windows (I'm not making this up). If that isn't enough, their magic pugilism has become so powerful they can explode their foes into meaty skeletons without so much as a touch. In the end, it's gonna take both orphans and both halves of the Holy Flame, not to mention many brightly colored light effects, explosions, and much wire work to bring this one to a close, that's for sure...

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Yin Tien-Chou (Mok Siu Chung) practices his "Flashy Visual Effects" style.
This film would be another feather in Kuo Chui's storied cap, enjoying a career as a fight choreographer, having ably handled that task as far back as Chang Cheh's Ten Tigers of Kwangtung in 1979 and staging the fights for over sixty films in all, with titles like The Story of Ricky (1992), Erotic Ghost Story (1990), The Peacock King (1989), and John Woo's Hard Boiled (1992) to follow, and even appearing in James Bond vehicle Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) along the way. His reputation for excellence in Asian action films is well-deserved and uncontested. Mok Siu-Chung, appearing in only his second feature here, will have acted in well over eighty by the time of this writing, including titles like Once Upon a Time in China II (1992) and Sammo Hung's Pedicab Driver (1989). Four Wops here, you gotta see this one to believe it, and afterwards, you still might not.

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Rock-paper-smoke-electricity is the game you play once your gung fu's good enough.
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Monday, April 21, 2014

"The Stranger Within" (1974) d/Lee Philips

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Normally, the notion of a made-for-television horror movie from the seventies that was written by the late, great Richard Matheson and stars Barbara Eden, still well within the realm of "Jeannie"-level sexy,  and I'd be front row and center for the next hour and a half, glued to the screen like two-sided tape on a toupee. Except, in this particular case, the end result is a lot less stiffie-inducing than one might envision; light on terror, and heavy on unintentional laughs. In Matheson's defense (and I'll always defend my favorite writers, the list of which he is no doubt very high upon), he was probably creatively nudged in the direction of a Rosemary's Baby rip-off by the TV execs, and his material might have inspired a few chills had they cast someone other than Babs to pull it off here. Less miscast is David Doyle as a hypnotist, as his scenes in Charlie's Angels would always leave me in a deep sleep that only a vision of sopping wet Cheryl Ladd climbing out of a pool could snap me out of.

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"Come down to dinner, sweetheart, I made your favorite... extra salty coffee grounds."
Despite her husband David (George Grizzard) having undergone a vasectomy three years earlier, Ann (Eden) is suddenly surprised to find herself pregnant and forced to detour her successful career as a painter. David juggles feelings of jealousy and mistrust before accepting that his wife has indeed been faithful to him the entire time, and it's then that her detour takes her down Oddball Blvd, as she finds herself obsessively pouring salt over her food, chugging hot coffee, speed-reading books on sociology, and wandering off into the cold night with barely a stitch on, leaving all of the windows wide open when she is home, slapping her next painting together only to mood-swing off the handle and lash out at David in unknown languages before apologetically cuddling up next to him a few moments later. You readers of the female persuasion are snickering to yourselves, right about now...

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"The baby wants to know how 'disaster movies' became so popular..."
As time passes, the titular stranger within Ann's womb grows more demanding, forcing her to eat raw coffee grounds, making her body more adept to handle cold temperatures, and leading all involved parties, including maternity doctors (Nehemiah Persoff), hypnotists (Doyle), and best friends (Joyce Van Patten), to express growing concern over her far-out schitzy condition. Eventually, the unborn is forced to possess her spirit, talking through her, to spell it all out for the dense humans in his mother's life: he is not of this world. As David finally sees her finished painting, an alien landscape as Ann described to him under the will of the infant, she carries her newborn out to a waiting army of women with infants, and they descend in blank unison towards a light in the woods, and onward to worlds unknown...

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Can't blink yourself outta this one, huh, Barb?
Pregnancy often brings on a slew of irrational behavior in both parents-to-be, even if the fetus is from the same star system. I've even had a few non-preggo girlfriends over the years who went Margot Kidder-in-the-bushes nuts on a pretty regular basis, so maybe I'm not the right guy to cast the judgmental stone here, but tiptoeing into the California woods at night in a lace negligee isn't scary. Hell, that's not even TV scary. On the other hand, Ms. Eden's erratic mood swings do make for a pretty entertaining look-see if you're in the right frame of mind, but I can't help thinking I'd rather be watching her blink Major Healy into the eye of a hurricane or something. Scale-wise, a single seems like a good fit here, so approach with caution.

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Not something I'd be particularly overjoyed to see outside my front door in the morning...
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Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Scream and Scream Again" (1970) d/ Gordon Hessler

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Tigon Studios really left the crazy cage wide open on this one, a minor masterpiece of espionage and mystery, well seasoned with elements of  horror and sci-fi, purveyed upon the screen by an all-star genre cast of casts, the first time the likes of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and no less than Vincent Price himself all share the marquee, though I warn you up front: the elder statesmen of horror never appear in the same scene all together. Still, that's a small complaint to register against such a dizzy nuthouse of a cult classic as this one. Veteran genre director Gordon Hessler, who'd done movies like The Oblong Box (1969) and Cry of the Banshee(1970) for A.I.P., builds a rambling, schizophrenic narrative off the foundation of a sci-fi novel by Peter Saxon, but pulls it all together nicely for a wild finish if you can manage to stay on board the whole time.

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"Sometimes I'm not very nice at all... a dreadful chap to make your acquaintance, really."
Just as London's getting it's swing on, the groovy partying is disrupted by a series of modern-day vampiric slayings, only this Dracula's more on the Thin White Duke side, with flash clothes and motor, C.T.F.O.ing go-go birds and draining their blood just as they're thinking they've landed themselves a real keeper. Meanwhile, a poor heart-afflicted bloke gets poorer by the minute, waking up in hospital significantly less of a man than he was the last time he checked. Also, there's a cyber-bully uber-fascist (Marshall Jones) who's been rising through the regime's runic ranks via a neat little trick he learned from Sifu Spock: the old Vulcan nerve pinch-to-the-shoulder, Achilles heel to both intergalactic dictators and Peter "One Scene" Cushing, alike.

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" ...I think I'll just skip this round of 'If You're Happy and You Know It', if it's all the same."
When the Old Bill finally gets the bead on the young psycho (Michael Gothard) after a well-lengthy chase sequence, he pulls his own hand off while handcuffed to a car bumper, proceeds to ascend a real nose-bleed of a vertical climb, only to get pegged in the dome with a rock by one of the unarmed constables below, causing him to tumble awkwardly back down to justice. Was that trip worth it, young man? The trail leads to a private clinic that specializes in organ replacements and transplants, as run by Dr. Browning (Price), who's been secretly building a super race of cyber-men for that shadowy militaristic organization we saw earlier, and he's paid a visit by the synthetic uber-fascist, which leads to an enjoyably hammy nerve pinch-off between the two, culminating in the good doctor dunking the hit man in his nifty acid bath like a two hundred pound glazed kruller in coffee. Finally, Fremont (Christopher Lee) makes the scene, revealing himself as the real head honcho in the insane precedings, and wills Browning to dip himself into his own acid tub, which he does, emotionlessly.

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"These swollen tonsils should be removed right away!"
You'll remember Gothard from Russell's The Devils the same year, and Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce(1984), while Yutte Stensgaard later made herself famous as Carmilla/Mircalla in the Hammer production of Lust For a Vampire (1971), the sequel to it's own Vampire Lovers(1970). Welsh pop group Amen Corner also appear in one of the nightclub scenes. Originally, the final reveal was to be aliens behind the sinister plot, just as in the novel, "The Disoriented Man", but the film's producers chose to roll with unexplained and mysterious, instead, which worked out just fine, I think. On the scale, Scream earns a well-deserved three Wops, and stands as an enjoyably ludicrous ride that comes with my recommendation. See it!

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Say, what's that your ham is soaking in...
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"Demonoid- Messenger of Death" (1981) d/ Alfredo Zacarias

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I can't remember where I first saw the 'Holy Fuck!' of a one-sheet for tonight's review, either in the once-glorious movie section of the New York Post or the pages of Variety, but I'm pretty sure my thoughts were along the lines of : They're gonna have a helluva time living up to the amount of rule in that poster, what with screaming chicks and slave girls in gold bikinis grovelling at the feet of a bellicose Baelzebub, holding a sword aloft, like some visual interpretation of a Venom lp. Hell, I never even paid much mind to the groping severed mitt above the title. With the constant geyser of horror flicks being released at the time, this Mexican-American cheapie soon fell off my pre-teen radar, and it wasn't until the Media VHS later found it's way into my Panasonic top loader that I fully realized how dead on, balls accurate my original thoughts turned out to be...

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"I can't see where you are on the sound stage with this damned fog machine...wave your sword, Satan!"
We're treated to a subterranean pre-title sequence where a hooded cult of kooks subdues an fiesty blonde and chains her to a wall before hacking her left hand off with an axe (her top comes off first, for good measure, of course). The mysterious cultist then skewers the disembodied hand on a knife blade as it tries to finger-creep the fuck outta there, placing the hand in the empty left hand shaped box, that looked like it could use a new left hand...yeah, you get the idea. Fast forward to Guanajuato, Mexico (no wrestling this time, I promise), where Jen Baines is visiting her husband Mark (Samantha Eggar,  Roy Jones) at his mine, where the terrified local workers refuse to enter, superstitious that it's haunted. With Scooby and the gang unavailable on such short notice, the couple descends into the mine's depths themselves only to discover a secret chamber when Jen leans into a tentative pile of styrofoam rocks, complete with a sacrificial altar to the devil, and the aforementioned severed-left-hand-in-the-devil's-left-hand-box from the intro. Mark straight ganks the unholy mitt from it's final resting place to prove to the simple fools that the legends hold no water. Guess what happens next...

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"I don't wanna sleeeeep, I juss wanna keep on lovin' youuuuuuuu..."
The dust inside the hand box time-lapses back into the rubbery devil's digits, which make their way out of the metal box with the grace of a phony chicken before copping a cheap feel of Jen's calves, and then possessing her husband's own left hand, which then recklessly pushes the plunger on some dynamite, sealing his workers in the mine, then driving off in his wife's Volkswagen Thing, which is still parked in the very next shot. Oh sweet continuity! The hand wins him some folding money at a Vegas crap table before squashing the faces of a pair of local extortionists and dumping a gas can over Mark's head, finally burning him like Megatron does to the Chicago defensive backfield on a game-to-game basis. By now, you know the routine. Ol' scratch possesses the left hands of  everyone from black police officers, who hilariously demand anesthetic-free gore-soaked amputation at gun point ("Either you cut my hand off, or I'll kill you!"), to fat Dr. Mustache, who uses train tracks to release himself from his homicidal lefty, which hitches a ride on the passing train afterwards. Jen confides in a guardian priest named Father Cunningham (Whitman), asking him at one point: "Do you believe there's a hand?", to which he replies, "I believe there's something." That makes one of us...

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"Devil's hand?? Don't be silly, that's my new barrette!"
Russ Meyer favorite, Haji shows up here in a cameo as a gangster's moll. It's hard to believe that in this day and age where, seemingly, every last horror movie ever made, no matter how insignificant, gets lovingly restored and released in a SE dvd/BluRay by somebody, that tonight's flick hasn't seen an official disc yet. Still, it won't likely bump "...And Now The Screaming Starts"(1973), "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors"(1963), or "The Beast With Five Fingers"(1946) as your fave crawling hand movie, by any means, and with zero scares, unintentionally hilarious dialog, and shoddy editing outweighing some passable gore and a decent synthy soundtrack that reeks of the period, yer 'ol pal B.W. is forced to hold up his own favored left with one finger on display, while his right hits the stop button on the remote.

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"...and then Jesus took his flame thrower...again he gave you thanks and praise..."
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

"Revenge of the Cheerleaders" (1976) d/Richard Lerner

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Anybody that can't get a few cheap kicks out of a good vintage teenage sex comedy from the seventies is either dead inside or harbors some deep-seated resentment towards young people having a blast a la Dennis the Menace's drape neighbor, Mr. Wilson, that old fuddy-duddy. High school serves as a good diving board towards embarking on a lifetime tour as a partying wildman from Borneo if you play it the right way; my only regrets are that I didn't pull more shit back then than I did. Had dimepiece genre chicks like Rainbeaux Smith, Penthouse Pet Helen Lang, Jerii Woods, Patricia Rohmer, and Susie Elene gone to my school, I probably would have thought about dosing the coffee pot in the teacher's lounge to score some pom-pom poonany, but at my school, it wouldn't have affected most of the drug addict bastards one bit! Or so I heard...

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You German readers see anything in this screen cap you like?
 At Aloha High (Cali, Hawaii, what's the difference), you can pretty much do whatever you want, maaaan. The school maintains a constant anarchy and healthy buzz thanks to it's cheerleading squad (Lang, Woods, Pohmer, Elene, and Smith in the latest stages of pregnancy possible), who spend their days getting high, fucking, and lazily executing corny choreographed disco dance numbers with the rhythmically-challenged "Boner" (Hasselhoff) and the basketball team, when they aren't infiltrating rival school Lincoln Tech, holding the students hostage with a fire extinguisher while robbing them of their narcotics and booze, leading to the inevitable altered states cafeteria food fight (I was never a big 'food fight' guy, always found that kinda gross)/ mid-day bubble bath gym shower orgy with state inspectors in attendance, no less.

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So that's where the peanuts in a CMP sundae come from...
Now that you've stopped pissing yourself laughing at the care-free hijinks that would get you expelled/prosecuted/jailed (in that order) in today's era of fake tolerance, let's get to the meat of the story. Except, it's more like a pink meat paste substitute, in this case. A greedy land baron by the name of Hartlander (William Bramley) has his beady eye set on Aloha, with plans to bulldoze it and turn it into one of those awful shopping malls, and worse, his ambitions will force a school merger with the rival gearheads from Lincoln. To speed up the process, he even contracts out Aloha's evil nurse (Eddra Gale) as a spy/ kidnapper, who abducts their beloved principal, leading to the inescapable chase sequence in and out of the massive dinosaur sculpture in the Cali desert that you last saw in Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985) and some ambitious spatial reasoning leads to the consequential Bronson Caves, which just so happen to lead to Hartlander's mall HQ. Of course, they save the day in the end, and a parting shot reveals Heather is no longer pregnant, proudly holding her newborn son for the cameras (Smith's real-life son, Justin). Awwww...

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"Heaven smells kinda salmon-y..."
It's become pretty trendy for everyone to get their cheap jollies by shitting on Hasselhoff for his early "work" (I say work, because his scenes are pretty much an endurance test for anyone who happens to be watching) here, as though "Knight Rider" and "Baywatch" were the equivalent of Master-fuckin'-piece Theater, ferchrissakes..."Drunk Floor-burger" is the best thing the guy's done, IMHO. Let's not forget a memorable appearance from Carl "McHale's Navy" Ballantine as the most easy going school principal ever committed to celluloid. Still, all the softcore-level promiscuity (there's a sequence between a pair of cheerleaders and a boy scout in the woods that pushes the envelope on that assessment, if you're wondering) and wanton full-frontal nudity in the world can hardly mask the technical ineptitude of tonight's cheapie, a one Wop flick if there ever was one, but then again, nobody's sitting down to this one and expecting Casablanca.

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My favorite Rainbeaux in the spectrum, obviously.
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Friday, April 18, 2014

"A Candle for the Devil" (1973) d/ Eugenio Martin

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Tonight's review, a solid little seventies-tastic genre effort from the director who brought you things like "Horror Express" (1972) and "Death at the Deep End of the Swimming Pool" (1971), explores the horrific end of the inevitable culture clash when conservative Spain meets swinging London. If you're envisioning lots of bare breasts and blood-splashy homicide, you're barking up the right tree. Martin dresses his moody gothic locale with lovelies of the day like Judy Geeson, Esperanza Roy, and even his wife, Lone Fleming,  no stranger to genre films herself, having appeared in two of  de Ossorio's Blind Dead pictures, among others.

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The sun burns through to the planet's core, but it wasn't enough, she wanted more.
Marta (Aurora Bautista) and Veronica (Esperanza Roy) are a pair of repressed, judgmental spinsters who run a bed and breakfast in a remote Spanish village that's a current stopover for tour buses packed with free-spirited horn-dawgs and morally reprehensible sluts from all over Europe. Despite the boost in business, this proves too troubling a predicament for the overzealous sisters to deal with rationally, as Marta takes it upon herself to chuck a topless British sunbather head first down a flight of stairs and into a stained glass window, killing her instantly. While Veronica panics, Marta takes an ornate chunk of bloody glass from the corpse's neck, citing the holy sword upon it as a sign from God / rallying cry for religious homicide. Makes sense. While V's skimming the till box for the virile young manservant she's been secretly breaking her bountiful bobblers out for, Marta's been spying on some prepubescent boys skinny-dipping in a nearby pond, their tiny jimmy's sending her into a shameful sexual fervor, which she sates by doing repeated fanatical laps through the thorny briar patch. When Laura (Judy Geeson) makes the scene, looking for her missing sister, things really start getting curious...

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"Is that a croqueta in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"
While the inquisitive Laura scores conservative points a plenty with the unhinged innkeepers thanks to her extravagantly busy bell bottoms, other less bashful tourists aren't so lucky. Helen's (Lone Fleming) propensity to traipse through the fountain in a skimpy top and hot pants and make mocking sexual advances to Marta while she's gussying herself up in the wedding dress she never got to wear ultimately gets her stabbed the eff up in the end, while a young single mother gets removed from the equation for having a child out of wedlock and lying about it to the sisters, even worse. When the latest of Laura's acquaintances mysteriously checks out without a word, she enlists the nearest thing to authority the village has, to investigate the disappearances. It doesn't help matters when one of the dinner guests at the Inn discovers a woman's eye, preserved in alcohol, on their plate. Oh, which of the basement vats holds the good wine again? Just as the sisters are about to add Laura to their list of victims, the curtain falls, revealing the maddening real life diorama to the townspeople and authorities who have gathered outside the window...

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"Unless Mil Mascaras books a room here, no one can stop us NOW!"
The lovely Geeson had a nice genre run at the outset of the seventies, appearing in Doomwatch (1972),  Fear in the Night (1972), and tonight's feature, before famously turning up in the schlocky Horror Planet/ Inseminoid (1981), while the late Aurora Bautista also appeared in 1969's La bambola di Satana. The busty Roy can also be seen in de Ossorio's El ataque de los muertos sin ojos/ Return of the Evil Dead, released the same year. You may have seen tonight's review under it's alternate title, "It Happened at Nightmare Inn", but since that cut of the film runs just over an hour and excises all the groovy bits of nudity and violence within, you're probably better off sticking with the uncut eighty-three minute print under the somewhat misleading "Candle" title, available on a region two dvd, from the folks over at Odeon. On the scale, Candle merits an impressive three Wops, and should be seen at all costs. Recommended.

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Well I've got to be forgiven if I wanna spend my livin' with a long, cool woman with a cloth gag...
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"El Robo de las Momias de Guanajuato" (1972) d/ Tito Novaro

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As a kid, I'd usually follow up my Saturday afternoon horror movie double dip with  WPHL-17 Philadelphia's own late, great horror host Dr. Shock with some WWF wrestling over dinner, and my favorite was always Mil Mascaras, hands down, with his high flying Mexican Lucha Libre maneuvers and colorful masks; a far cry from the usual cadre of lumpy, middle-aged palookas with broken noses and cauliflower ears slapping each other in the chest for twenty minutes. While Mil, or "Thousand Masks", was my favorite wrestler, he's never been one of my favorite actors. Tonight's review, known in English as "Robbery of the Guanajuato Mummies",  is another solid piece of evidence of why that is.

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"Wait, was this the thousandth mask or the fifth or sixth one? I lost count, dammit!"
Count Cagliostro (Tito Novaro, the director himself) makes the scene in a carriage drawn by an animated skeleton with a scythe. At Dr. Raymond's futuristic silver-themed pad, they map out their plans for world domination: Mine an element that's "stronger than Uranium" out of a nearby abandoned silver mine, but not by putting the scientist's hired midget henchmen(!) at risk of radiation poisoning, but by stealing the mummies of Guanajuato, reanimating them through a forgotten Egyptian rite(!!), and forcing them to do the duo's dirty work. Only, a shoe shining peasant boy witnesses the robbery, and when the authorities naturally dismiss the boy's wild story, his grown up hobo sidekick suggests that they take the matter to his compadre, Thousand Masks. After thumping some lower tier humps in a lengthy tag team match with his pals, Rayo de Jalisco and Blue Angel (Santo and the Blue Demon must have been preoccupied with Dracula, the Wolfman, and the guy with a spider for a hand somewhere across town), Mil hears the transient's story as he's getting a rub down from some groovy seventies dish and totally buys it. This sounds like a job for some masked wrestlers.

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"Of course, I'm a top scientist, can't you see all the silver things in here?"
After entirely too long, Mil and his cape-wearing sidekicks-on-motorcycles (Mil whips a flash convertible full of groupie birds like a pugilistic pimp in a leopard print bomber jacket, for the record) descend upon Cagliostro and Raymond's shiny hideout, on a heroic sabbatical from sold out wrestling matches and the fitness workshop for mini-skirted chicks that they run on the side, these fuckin' guys! Though "The Lightning from Jalisco" experiences great difficulty executing his trademark diving headbutt to oncoming attacking midgets, and Blue Angel (looks more like "Cap'n South America" to me) is similarly inept duking it out versus the mummies, Thousand Masks throws on his ornate cape and proves more than able enough in defeating all manner of baddies with flying dropkicks and submission holds par excellence, culminating in total destruction of the witchcraft/science alliance (don't expect any Michael Bay-style pyrotechnics here, whatever you do), and our heroes drive off into the sunset, until the next time their beloved Mexico is threatened by the forces of evil...

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In a low budget movie, a brush fire on a hill like this one could only mean the day has been once again saved.
Mascaras, who's made twenty or so of these wrestling movies since his inception in the late sixties as a replacement of sorts to El Santo and the Blue Demon on the silver screen, was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010 and the WWE Hall of Fame two years later. All of that aside, it still doesn't excuse such a meretricious cinematic taco of stinkamole as this, with a story that'd insult the average four year old's intelligence. In other words, great fun to shred on with your snarky film chums over a well-packed bubbler. On the scale though, El Robo gets headstand-headscissored into a one count, and angry fans throw milk cartons towards the squared circle...

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"How you chicks feel about the Burger Chef drive thru?"
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