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Starts off great, but takes a serious nosedive…, 31 May 2016

As a fan of really trashy films, I absolutely loved the first part of Terror in the Jungle, which introduces a wonderfully eclectic selection of ridiculous stereotypes flying down to Rio but destined to never arrive at their destination. Among those on board the doomed flight: irritating blonde kid Henry Clayton Jr. (Jimmy Angle) and his cuddly toy tiger, an acquitted murderess making off with her dead husband's cash, a buxom aspiring starlet, a trio of pop-stars with very silly hair, a wealthy businessman, a caring stewardess, and a pair of nuns escorting their dead colleague, whose coffin will soon become an important plot device. It's like the beginning of classic disaster spoof Airplane, but without a shred of irony.

As they pass over the Amazon basin, the passengers are in good spirits thanks to the Beatles-esque group entertaining with a rendition of their hit song 'Soft Lips', while the aspiring actress gyrates in the aisle to the groovy tune. However, disaster strikes when the plane inexplicably begins to lose fuel. The passengers are forced to throw any unnecessary baggage out of the door (an exercise that sees one of the nuns accidentally falling to her death) but this course of action doesn't prevent the need for an emergency landing. The plane ditches into the Amazon. Those who survive the crash leap from the wreckage into the river, where they are immediately devoured by crocodiles! Only the irritating kid survives, set afloat in the dead nun's coffin shortly before the plane explodes. So far, so hugely entertaining! Unfortunately, after the plane crashes and burns, so does the film.

With all of the interesting characters killed off by the impact, the crocs, or the explosion, the rest of the film is really dull, the action now centred around the kid, whose incessant whimpering really grates on the nerves. Arriving unscathed at the river bank, the young lad wanders through the undergrowth until he is discovered by a tribe of Indians who believe him to be the son of their god INTI, on account of his blonde hair (a fact emphasised by a terrible 'golden aura' special effect). Meanwhile, rescuers searching for survivors of the crash find the boy's life-jacket hanging from a branch and report their findings. The lad's worried father rushes to the site to help with the search, but will he locate his son before one of the tribesmen, who isn't convinced by the child's status as a deity, can convince the other villagers to stop pampering the insufferable brat and sacrifice him instead?

This jungle-bound nonsense is handled with zero style by Andrew Janczak, who took over when original director Tom DeSimone wisely abandoned ship. A pathetic piranha attack, a dismal dance routine (helmed by a third director, Alex Graton), and a mind-bogglingly strange moment where the boy's cuddly toy transforms into a real animal to protect him from the evil Indian who wants him dead, all fail to inject any fun into proceedings. In fact, it's hard to believe that a film that is so entertaining in the first act can wind up being so boring.

8/10 for everything pre-jungle; 0/10 for the rest. That's an average of 4 out of 10, minus one point for that irritating kid.

Monster (1980)
It's all true. Honest., 30 May 2016

According to this film, the events portrayed are based on fact, meaning that, in 1971, a really dumb looking monster, the result of industrial pollution, rose from a lake to terrorise the rural Colombian village of Chimayo, before eventually being blown to smithereens with dynamite, the creature's spectacular demise captured on camera by numerous onlookers, including a television crew. And yet no evidence of this remarkable event survives.

Even more unbelievable than writer/director Kenneth Hartford's claims of authenticity is the fact that he not only somehow scraped together a budget to film this hokey garbage, but also managed to get some semi-decent performers involved, including legendary horror actor John Carradine, Robert Mitchum's son James Mitchum, and Spanish character actor Aldo Sambrell. I can only guess that Hartford hid the film's incredibly pathetic looking monster from the cast until they signed on the dotted line.

Hartford also hides his creature from his audience for much of the running time, the large proportion of the film consisting of lots of dull dialogue and quite a lot of footage of helicopters taking off and landing. The monster is only seen clearly in the closing moments, when troubleshooter Travis (Mitchum) and cement-plant foreman Pete (Anthony Eisley) go fishing for the craptastic creature with a lamb stuffed full of explosives, at which point the film becomes a fully-fledged unintentional comedy.

2.5 out of 10, rounded up to 3 for the sheer chutzpah of player Pete, who dumps his beautiful blonde girlfriend Laura for equally attractive brunette Juanita, goes to meet Laura at the lake to explain his behaviour, has sex with her, and then immediately dumps her again, leaving her to get eaten by the monster! And he's one of the film's heroes!

It's Italian Exorcist rip-off time again., 29 May 2016

After examining a historical religious icon, pretty young art student Danila (Stella Carnacina) begins to exhibit some of the classic signs of demonic possession: poor complexion, an irrational fear of all things churchy, and a bad case of stigmata. Her doctors believe that her condition is the result of religious torment and emotional stress, but suggest that an exorcism might be her best chance of recovery.

I saw this one under the title of The Eerie Midnight Horror Show, but it is probably best known as The Sexorcist, which is certainly more apt since the film is a blatant Italian Exorcist rip-off with extra sexy stuff chucked in to make it seem even more exploitative. Director Mario Gariazzo, who gave us the incredibly seedy giallo Play Motel, quickly introduces some primo sleaze, Danila chancing upon her adulterous mother indulging in some sado-masochistic sex with her lover, and continues to throw in random raciness throughout, including Danila indulging in a spot of masturbation, attempting to seduce her own father, and dreaming of having sex with a wooden figure of Jesus that comes to life.

While all of this might sound like a whole lot of exploitative fun, most of the deviancy is presented in a surprisingly reserved fashion (especially when compared to Play Motel, which frequently bordered on the pornographic), and, as a consequence, is frustratingly dull for much of the time. The finale is particularly lacklustre, Danila's exorcism over in a flash, the girl giving priest Father Xeno (Luigi Pistilli) a few whacks with a chain before chucking up some watery soup, after which she is as right as rain.

Hair and Hyde., 29 May 2016

Newlyweds Imre (José Marco) and Justine (Shirley Corrigan) travel to the Carpathian mountains of Transylvania for their honeymoon, where Imre intends to visit the graves of his murdered parents (the man sure knows how to show his new wife a good time). Ignoring warnings from a superstitious local who tells them that the cemetery is a place of evil, the couple are attacked by a gang of local villains that try to break into their car. Imre is stabbed to death, and Justine narrowly avoids being raped when Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) leaps to her assistance (crushing one guy's face with a rock in the process).

Waldemar carries Justine to his castle, which is also home to a leprous man who has zero bearing on the plot, and an old lady whom the locals believe is a witch, and who tells Justine of Waldemar's 'illness': whenever the full moon rises, he turns into a werewolf!!! After Waldemar, in hairy form, kills several more villagers, a rabble of pitchfork wielding locals hack off the old woman's head, stick it on a pole, and proceed to storm the castle. Waldemar and Justine sneak out the back door and flee to London, where they enlist the help of Dr. Jekyll (Jack Taylor), whose infamous grandfather's personality-altering serum might be able to release Daninsky from his curse.

The sixth film in Paul Naschy's Waldemar Daninsky series, Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf is just as silly as the title suggests, offering up all manner of Euro-monster-mash madness. Naschy not only sports one of his more impressive looking werewolf make-ups, but also looks sufficiently slimy as Mr. Hyde, whose personality he adopts when injected by Jekyll's serum. The daft plot also includes a treacherous assistant for Jekyll in the form of Sandra (Mirta Miller), sees Hyde enjoying enjoying London's swinging nightlife (which allows for some particularly hilarious gyrating from a podium dancer), and provides several excuses for some cheesy gore.

N.B.: There are three edits of this film doing the rounds. My middling rating of 5/10 is for the heavily edited Spanish version that came as part of my Mill Creek Pure Terror box-set, and which is notably bereft of any gratuitous nudity (what's a Euro-horror without some boobs to go with the blood?). The US edit, however, does feature some nudity in the last half hour, while the fullest cut—the German version—delivers even more bare flesh, with Justine's breasts getting an airing during her attack, and Waldemar's werewolf tearing open his victims' clothes before tearing out their throats, all of which undoubtedly adds to the fun.

Curse of Bigfoot (1975) (TV)
Having trouble sleeping? Here's the answer to your problem., 28 May 2016

Really good Sasquatch/Yeti movies are rarer than the legendary creatures themselves, Abominable (2006) being the only one I've seen that I would happily recommend to fellow horror fans (although 1980 gore-fest Night of the Demon is entertaining trash for those who enjoy a hefty dose of schlock). Up until today, I had The Legend of Bigfoot (1976) down as the worst example of the genre, but The Curse of Bigfoot is even more execrable—a dreadfully dull mish-mash of scenes from an old '50s flick clumsily edited together with newer footage from the '70s.

The film sees a group of teenage archaeology students discover the body of a mummified creature sealed in a cave for hundreds of thousands of years. The creature turns out to have been laying dormant for all that time, and wakes from its slumber to kill, leaving the students and local cops to try and lure the beast into the open so that they can set it on fire. With very little monster action, but lots of interminably dreary chit-chat and horribly wooden acting throughout, The Curse of Bigfoot makes other mediocre missing-link monster films like Shriek of the Mutilated (1974), The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975) and Snowbeast (1977) look like works of genius by comparison.

What a load of Ars (Magna)., 25 May 2016

As part of a Mill Creek box set called Pure Terror, I expected this 1974 Paul Naschy film to offer up the excess of cheesy gore and gratuitous female nudity that one typically finds in many a Euro-horror of the era—except that this isn't a horror, more of a historical adventure (with more than a touch of Robin Hood about it), and as such delivers not nearly enough in the way of graphic violence, and absolutely no bare flesh.

The pedestrian plot sees Naschy playing power hungry Barón Gilles de Lancré, who, along with his wicked mistress Georgelle (Norma Sebre), turns to the dark arts to further his plans of becoming king, employing the services of an alchemist who uses the blood of virgins in his magic. Shocked by de Lancré's nefarious activities, valiant nobleman Gaston de Malebranche (Guillermo Bredeston) joins a band of partisans determined to put a stop to the wickedness.

Much of the film consists of poorly choreographed sword-fights, with a boring jousting competition, and extremely mild scenes of torture, while Naschy rants about the Philosopher's Stone and Ars Magna — all of which proves extremely tedious. There is some amusement to be had as de Malebranche repeatedly leaps onto a trampoline (hidden from camera) during a melee in a bar, and from a silly scene featuring an unconvincing severed head, but for the most part this is a very disappointing and instantly forgettable vehicle for Spain's premier horror star.

A fairly decent Poe adaptation., 23 May 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When beauty Betty Clare (Adrienne Corri) moves into the building opposite introvert Edgar Marsh (Laurence Payne), the shy young man seeks advice from his friend Carl Loomis (Dermot Walsh) on how best to romantically approach the young woman. Edgar's attempts at wooing Betty are clumsy, and his feelings unreciprocated, and when Edgar introduces Betty to Carl, he really sets himself up for a fall: one evening, he sees Carl and Betty together in her apartment, and they're not talking about the weather! Enraged, Edgar lures Carl to his home, bashes his head in with a fire poker, and stashes the body under his floorboards, but his guilt over the terrible crime manifests itself as a incessant, pounding heartbeat.

A loose adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell-tale Heart (a story familiar to me through an episode of The Simpsons), this film opens with a warning for the squeamish, although for the most part the action is far from horrific, revolving around Edgar's obsession with Betty (on whom he spies from his first floor window) and his unsuccessful attempts at getting to first base. Things get far more interesting when Edgar eventually loses the plot: we get a surprisingly vicious murder scene, Ed giving Carl numerous hefty whacks that leave him spattered with blood (gruesome stuff for a film from 1960); the young man's descent into complete and utter madness is handled well by director Ernest Morris, with dripping taps, pulsing floorboards and a ticking metronome pushing him even further over the edge; and in the film's juiciest scene, Edgar clutches the still beating heart that he has cut from Carl's chest and buries it in the garden.

I rate The Tell-Tale Heart 6/10, which I might have raised to a 7 if it hadn't been for the trite, cop-out ending in which it all turns out to be a dream (that might just become reality).

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Worth digging out., 21 May 2016

Rapist vampire Caleb Croft (Michael Pataki) rises from his tomb to attack a young couple courting in the cemetery, sinking his fangs into the young man, draining him of his blood, and sinking his dick into the girl, getting her up the duff. Nine months later, the girl gives birth to a half-vampire son James, who she feeds on her own blood (he doesn't take to breast milk), a course of action that ultimately costs her her life. Years later, James (William Smith), now a stocky young man, encounters Croft working at a night school as Professor Lockwood, and sets out to teach the wicked bloodsucker a lesson of his own.

After a novel opening, Grave of the Vampire becomes fairly mediocre fare, with very little in the way of decent scares, atmosphere, or gore, although there is a reasonably interesting subplot involving a young woman who wants to become Croft's vampire bride that prevents total boredom from setting in. The film does, however, manage to end on a high with a rousing finale that sees Lockwood/Croft arranging a seance in an attempt to allow the spirit of his dead wife to possess James' girlfriend Anne (Lyn Peters); after this plan backfires, the evil vampire slaughters the other participants in the seance, and goes head to head with James in a battle to the death that is surprisingly well choreographed with some decent stunt-work.

6.5/10, rounded up to 7 for IMDb.

Sleazy Argentinian trash., 20 May 2016

Mentored by a disembodied brain suspended in a jar of bubbling liquid, mad scientist Dr. Humpp (Aldo Barbero) instructs his monstrous automatons to kidnap highly sexual men and women for use in his diabolical experiments. With the help of sexy blonde assistant Enfermera (Susana Beltrán), Humpp doses his helpless victims with aphrodisiacs, using the strength of their passion to create a serum to nourish his body and increase his lifespan.

Reporter George (Ricardo Bauleo) investigates the case, but is captured and finds himself the subject of one of Humpp's experiments, forced to experience heightened sexual pleasure with beautiful brunette Rachel (Gloria Prat). Is there no end to Humpp's cruelty?

A sex movie with horror overtones, The Curious Dr. Humpp is packed with nudity and nookie from the get-go, the mad scientist shenanigans merely the catalyst for numerous scenes of softcore rumpy-pumpy. All of the romping and humpping soon becomes rather tedious, but the plot is just about daft enough to still make this late '60s trashfest fairly entertaining for those who enjoy offbeat cinema.

This particular viewer found the kidnapped hippies hilarious, couldn't help but be amused at the idea of a monster paying a visit to his local drugstore, and perked up every time the lovely Ms. Prat was on screen and unclothed.

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Susan. The radiologist. Wears glasses., 20 May 2016

I last caught Prince of Darkness on VHS many years ago; all I could recall from that viewing was a pink swirling mass in a glass cylinder and Alice Cooper as a bag-person. As it happens, it was a green swirling mass. The film is that memorable.

Cooper actually has a very small role in the film, despite being featured prominently in the marketing. The real stars of the piece are Donald Pleasance, who plays a priest, and Lisa Blount and Jameson Parker, who play Catherine Danforth and Brian Marsh, two of a group of talented college students drafted in by Prof. Howard Birack (Victor Wong) to run tests on the aforementioned glass tube of rotating green goop. What the scientists discover is that the spinning mass, which has been kept hidden by the Catholic church for thousands of years, is the essence of Satan, and it wants to get out.

Clearly taking his cues from Nigel Kneale's Quatermass works (there are numerous references to the writer's creations), Carpenter blends science and theology to create a frustratingly dull film lacking in genuine atmosphere or decent scares. The action unfolds at a snail's pace and is accompanied throughout by an equally plodding soundtrack, one of Carpenter's least effective scores.

Despite its supposedly intelligent premise, Prince of Darkness actually works best when it is at its least cerebral, offering up some cheesy special effects set-pieces (a man transforming into bugs and a woman possessed by Satan who can regenerate severed limbs), but there simply aren't enough of these to alleviate the boredom.

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