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Typical 1970s exploitation
'Deadbeat', aka: 'Tomcats' (theatrical title), 'Avenged' (video title), and 'Getting Even' (overseas title) is a tough, gritty, mean-spirited, but surprisingly well-made, low budget, rape-and-revenge thriller. It was directed by the same man who directed goofy 1960s soft core skin flicks such as 'Strange Rampage' and 'My Third Wife George'; Harry E. Kerwin. Before his sad and untimely death from lung cancer in 1979 at age 48, he had produced wrote and directed many sexploitation gems as well as ran the gamut from doing makeup effects for low-budget Florida-made trash pictures such as 'Love Goddess on Blood Island' and 'Sting of Death', as well as directing nudist camp flicks such as 'Girls Come a Too' and 'Sweet Bird of Aquarius'. With the sexploitation cinema dead by the 1970s as independent filmmakers were making profitable (but very illegal) X-rated hardcore sex films, Kerwin moved into the more drive-in friendly brand of exploitation flicks. In 1975, Kerwin teamed up with actor-producer-writer Wayne Crawford where they co-wrote and produced the neat little Florida hillbilly kill fest 'God's Bloody Acre' which starred Crawford under the pseudo 'Scott Lawrence'. Happy with the box office profits from that film, they decided to make another exploitation flick the following year in 1976, a rape-and-revenge thriller modeled after the 1974 Charles Bronson flick 'Death Wish'.
'Deadbeat' opens up in a small seedy suburban Miami diner where a 17-year-old, innocent and virginal waitress, named Wendy Garrett, is closing up the diner alone after her boss leaves for the night. A van with a Colorado license plate pulls up and the driver is this rugged, bearded cowboy named M.J. (played by Crawford, and acting under 'Scott Lawrence' again) along his three goonish sh-- for brains pals who walk into the diner to rob it, but just for kicks, the four goons gang-rape and murder Wendy, with M.J. doing the fatal deed with his shotgun. A few nights later, after drinking, smoking dope, and beating their girlfriends for their own enjoyment, M.J. and his group do the exact same thing again when they break into another diner after hours, gang rape, and kill another waitress. Another day later, they are pulled over for a routine traffic violation where the drunken idiots confess to both killings. But surprise, surprise.... the four cretins get away with it on a legal technicality, and a witness to the first killing, a derelict who was drunk at the time, is found unreliable. So, the four of them walk free. This of course outrages Wendy's older brother Cullen (Chris Mulkey). Despite being a law student and going against the advice of his girlfriend (Polly King) and his police detective uncle (played by Kerwin's brother William Kerwin, star of Herschell Gordon Lewis' 'Blood Feast', and acting under the pseudo 'Thomas Dowling'), Cullen decides to abandon the legal system and get justice the old fashion way: by producing his .44 Magnum revolver, going out, stalking, and killing the four bastards one by one.
Chris Mulkey (who would also later appear in the 1990-91 surreal TV series "Twin Peaks" playing Hank Jennings) is good as the troubled law student Cullen. Wayne Crawford ('Scott Lawrence'), who would go on to appear in a small role as a chem teacher in Harry Kerwin's 1977 sex comedy 'Cheering Section' and star as the doomed protagonist in Kerwin's last film 'Barracuda', before going on to appear in more mainstream films like 'Valley Girl', 'Night of the Comet', and 'Jake Speed', is marvelously repulsive as the central antagonist. The utterly amoral and sadistic M.J. is so evil that like most "revenge" films, the odds are stacked against him so that there isn't any moral dilemma in Cullen's justification for his murder plot to kill the four guys who raped and murdered his innocent sister. One is so anxious to see Cullen hurry up and kill M.J. and his goons is that watching this movie is like being part of a celluloid lynch mob. Another ignore-the-law revenge thriller for those who like the genue.
Despite it's low budget and faded-with-time color quality, and some plot holes with sometimes stupid plot twists, as well as two hard-to-watch rape scenes, and cheap violence and gore, it is recommended for those who relish with such exploitation flicks.
Good Bollywood thriller devered from Hollywood films
As a fan of Indian films, I found this one to be very entertaining and exciting from beginning to end. Though I'm not an ethnic Indian, a few of my friends are and they introduced me to this world of major Indian studio films, the best of which come from major studios in Bombay hence 'Bollywood.' This one has several major Hollywood action and dramas referenced as well as previous Bollywood action flicks too.
For the plot, it opens with police inspector Amar Damjee foiling an assassination attempt on a bus load of people at a rural rest stop (shades of Harrison Ford in Patriot Games) by a terrorist group seeking to abduct a government VIP. He is labeled by the press as a hero and becomes an instant celebrity. But one of the terrorists Amar kills is the brother of the leader and they form a complex plan to frame him for the murder of the police commissioner's daughter which Amar is sent to prison. But with the help from an inmate, Amar escapes and sets out to find the terrorist leader to clear his name with the help from his cellmate and a female journalist. From then on it becomes "The Fugitive" with a moderately erotic love scene devered from the food-tasting love scene in 9 1/2 Weeks, all of which the plot twists come together at the climax when Amar confronts the terrorists whom have taken a group of government officials hostage in a 12-story high-rise office tower in downtown Bombay and only Amar can save everybody (shades of Bruce Willis in Die Hard).
Good violent action with some impressive musical production numbers with some gripping drama and a little comic relief make this big-budget Bollywood film one for the record books.
100 Days (1991)
Good remake of Lucio Fulci's The Psychic
Spoiler alert As a fan of major studio production movies from India, 'Bollywood' as called, I found this to be a great, almost exact remake of the classic 1977 Italian 'giallo' thriller Seven notes in Black directed by Lucio Fulci.
The premise is the basically the same; a young clairvoyant woman has a vision of a murder and of the victim being walled up in an old house. Years later, she batters down the wall and finds the skeletal remains. She, with the help of a parapsychologist friend, try to solve the mystery of who the victim is and if the killer is still out there. The first hour more or less drags along with the woman, Deva, being introduced and meeting her future husband and after a nice courtship, they get married. Only during the second half does the movie really take off with the discovery of the body.
In the similarities between the Fulci film and this are many, with few differences. In the Fulci movie the heroine has her fragmented disjointed visions while driving through a road tunnel, here she has the visions while swimming in her backyard swimming pool. The yellow French cigarette burning in the ashtray in the Fulci film is replaced here by a light cigar. The magazine with a photo a young woman on the cover (the murder victim) is replaced by a photo of a racehorse. Also the incriminating letter detailing who the killer in The Psychic, is replaced here by a videotape with the English title: '100 Days' showing the killing. But basically the plotlines are all the same with the climatic chase, the murders, and even the now memorable wristwatch the heroine wears midway through the film which makes a loud beeping sound on the hour which gives away her hiding place as the killer is chasing her, and reveals her location when she's incapitated. In the Lucio Fulci film, the watch instead plays a haunting tune rather than a loud beeping.
In addition to the long dramatic opening hour, also added was an extended version of the climax which brings on a more upbeat ending. A fan of international films, I found this to be quite enjoying, not just for Indian citizens, but any fans of mystery-horror-thrillers regardless of their country of origin.
Fans of Lucio Fulci who have seen The Psychic, check this one out.
For misanthropics only
Vulgar, a low-budget, disturbing, gritty film by Kevin Smith associate Bryan Johnson, who wrote, directed and co-starred is one of those films one questions the motivation and presence. Often the movie cannot make up its mind if its supposed to be a drama, thriller, crime-story or just vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity. Do we really want to watch this kind of picture full of unlike able characters, profane dialogue, bad lighting, sound, etc.
It's mostly the story of an underachieving man living in a misanthropic world where bums sleep on the front lawns of houses, kids throw rocks and water balloons at you while driving your car, even a waitress in a restaurant can be downright rude for no good reason. The guy is Wil (Brian O'Halloran) who works as a party clown while trying to make amends meet in his small town where he grew up and taking care of his angry and spiteful mother, living in a nursing home following a stroke. Wil sees a get rich-quick scheme by dressing up as a transvestite clown for private parties. Here is where Wil runs into his very first clients, an angry, foul-speaking guy named Ed Fanelli and his two dim-witted, but dangerous, inbred sons, the hulking Frankie, and the gauntly hideous Gino. Ed Fanelli is the most scariest and disturbing villain to show up on screen. His character is so vulgar and misanthropic that he makes the character of Frank Booth (from Blue Velvet) look like a bad little boy.
Do we really need to see images like this of a negative world we live in with no happiness or sympathetic characters to root for? Worth a look for fans of the genre, but be forewarned, it does live up to it's title.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)
AKA: Silent Night, Deadly Night Redux
No one needs to see the first Silent Night, Deadly Night because most of the first third is of flashbacks to the first SNDN movie, which was deemed too anti-Christmas by people and clerics alike to be shown the public. This one, with almost no budget, attempts to outdoor Boogeyman II with it's flashback footage to make up for the under-written story.
The story is like this: it opens in a mental hospital for the criminally insane where we see a brooding, chain-smoking Ricky (Eric Freeman) the younger brother of the killer Billy (from the first SNDN movie) being interogated by a court psychiatrist, named Dr. Bloom, to determine if he's sane to stand trial for a series of murders Ricky commited. Ricky is very hostile and uncooperative with Dr. Bloom, but agrees to tell his story. The flashback footage, (the first SNDN film), has the infant Ricky and his five-year-old brother Billy witnessing their parents murder on Christmas Eve by a highwayman in a Santa Claus suit. Both brothers grow up in a Catholic orphange where they are raised by the demented and sadistic Mother Superior who prides herself on using punishment for the slightest disobedience which traumatizes Billy even more. Cut to 18-year-old Billy working in a department store where, after dressing up as St. Nick, flips out, grabs a fire axe and kills eight people, plus one innocent bystander killed by police. Billy is then shot by a detective before he can ax Mother Superior, who deserved it more than any of Billy's victms.
Then there are the 'contemporary flashbacks' with young Ricky raised by his adoptive parents, and killing a total of eight people, (five in the last part with some far-fetched, but enjoyable shootings.) Ricky finally escapes and goes on another rampage dressed as Santa to finish what his brother Billy failed to do: kill Mother Superior.
Despite the low-budget qualities, this picture moves right along and includes a quite entertaining performance by Eric Freeman who seems to be modeled after Jack Nicholson's character in The Shinning. Overall it may not be good to some, but has enough killings, including a decent hot-wired tongue-exploding eyeball gag, to maintain interest. A must see for those involved in killer Santa flicks.
Contents: 22 killings (in both movies); so-so splatter FX; flashback nudity involving Linnea Quigley; one decapitation; many blood-splattering shootings; no suspense, but not boring, but no plot at all.
Girls Nite Out (1982)
Campus Killer 101
Set at Dewitt University, a small Ohio college, this one starts out as a routine drama after a basketball game which Dewitt U wins the title cup. Afterwards, the first 30 or more minutes has the guys of the team partying, drinking, talking and talking with their co-ed girlfriends, etc. Then, an unseen killer, posing as the mascot for the basketball team, begins stalking and killing a number of young girls from the cheerleading squad. Mostly riping their throats out with a hand-made 'claw' in one of the paws made from kitchen knifes. Meanwhile, Mac (Hal Holbrook) is the campus security guard, looking very puzzled to what's going on, who wades through a series of red herrings.
Not the best of the early 1980's slasher flicks, with the bear costume the only original thing about this one. Worth a look for horror fans, with some nice touches to the low-budget.
Contents: seven killings; inferior slaughter; one psycho in a bearsuit; no sex or nudity; lots of Golden Oldies on the soundtrack; much duller and dumber than usual. Note: proper punctuation is not all this one is missing.
4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971)
Four Flies on Grey Velvet is the third, and last, of the so-called 'animal titled' trilogy of 'giallo' mystery-thrillers of the early 1970's, but not the best. As with the other predecessors, it's got it's style, music beat, and some chilling and violent murders, but very slow paced and lacking the thrill of the other Dario Argento films.
The main problem is the star Michael Brandon whom plays the insipid, neurotic 'so-called hero' of the film. Unlike the other stars, Tony Mustane from Bird With the Crystal Plumage, and James Franciscus from Cat O'Nine Tales, Michael Brandon's character of Roberto Tobias is not well liked for his casual ability to do bad things such as seducing his wife's cousin and playing jokes on people.
The movie opens with like a rock music video of Roberto Tobias playing his drums with a rock band at a recording studio when he notices a strange man dressed in all black and wearing dark sunglasses. Brief, Roeg-like flashbacks to days earlier indicate that Roberto realizes that this man is stalking him, while cuts to a beating valentine-shaped red heart is shown. After the recording session, Roberto follows the man to a deserted theater where, after a minor altercation, he semi-accidently stabs the man to death. A spotlight is turned on the scene of the crime and a masked figure from the balcony takes a role of photos of Roberto standing over the body.
From then on is where the film takes off with Roberto being blackmailed by the real unseen stalker who proceeds to make his life an living Hell, while he tries to keep his criminal secret safe from everyone including his wife Nina (Mimsy Farmer), while Roberto turns to an old friend Godfrey for help in catching his stalker.
Mid-way through the film, we learn that the man that Roberto thought he accidently killed is alive. The 'murder' was all staged by the real unseen stalker for the sole purpose to blackmail Roberto. But Roberto never finds this out as the man gets killed (for real) and his body disposed of. Whereas another movie hero might feel guilty about the killing of this mystery man, Roberto feels no guilt at all. He's more interested in not getting caught than anything else. Soon, the killer beings killing various secondary characters and setting it up to put the blame on Roberto.
Fans of Dario Argento will little doubt enjoy this. Others may use caution for its plodding and hard-to-follow narrative with periodic dream sequences of Roberto being decapitated and trying to figure out the connection between the recurring dreams and the predicament he's in. Worth a look for giallo fans of the era.
There's Always Vanilla (1971)
Little seen Romero non-horror film
There's Always Vanilla (AKA: The Affair) (1971) was the first of George A. Romero's films after Night of the Living Dead (1968) and probably the least seen. I guess after making Night... Romero feared being pegged as a horror film director and launched himself after the release of Night with this Graduate-type romantic drama, written by his associate Rudi Ricci. But sadly it's not one of his best, and it's quite obvious that the director's heart just wasn't in making it. It does not exist on video or DVD, only on crude bootlegged VHS copies here and there.
As for the plot, it could have been better if done on a higher budget. It opens with a guy named Chris Bradley (Ray Laine who appeared in Jack's Wife (AKA: Season of the Witch)) who returns to his home city in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania a year or more after his discharge from the U.S. Army and serving a tour in Vietnam. Chris has drifted from town to town, and city to city making money from playing his guitar in bars, to pimping for prostitutes. Chris' stern but benevolent father (Roger McGovern) wants him to abandon his new lifestyle and return to the family business of making baby food in a local factory which Mr. Bradley owns. But Chris refuses, wanting to make a new life for himself. On the street, Chris meets a beautiful young woman named Lynn (Judith Steiner) whom is about 10 years older than him and makes a living by modeling in local TV commercials. Chris charms Lynn into letting him move in with her.
For a time, Chris and Lynn's relationship is good with both of them sharing their love of of lovemaking, pot smoking, and rock and roll music. But she is supporting both of them as he plans to write a book based on his life, whereas he just lays around doing nothing. She motivates him to get a steady job and he lands one in a small advertising agency, which he grows not to like it with each passing day. Then Lynn finds out that she's pregnant and keeps the news from Chris knowing that despite his wits and charm, he is not responsible to be a father or a husband to her and her unborn baby. For the rest of the film, it does downhill from there and for Chris heading towards ruin and misery.
If it was restored by Anchor Bay or Blue Underground, it would be an interesting look at late 1960's early 1970's life with lusuous visuals (the grainy color of the aging VHS tapes is the disadvantage). Sad to say that even Romero himself disavowed this film for its not all bad despite the bleak storyline. I hope one day, someone will restore this movie for the public to once again view for themselves.
After Hours (1985)
Wicked and surreal.
I very much liked this movie for it was a wickedly, fast-paced, unpredictable, black comedy/thriller which was directed by Martin Scorsese, whom I'm a fan of his other films (Taxi Driver, et al.) plus this remains one of his best and less known work.
Set during one long night in the life of a lonely New York City computer programer Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) opens with him working his job and showing a new trainee (a cameo by Bronson Pinchot) who tells Paul he wants more than working in this kind of office. Paul goes home at the end of the day to his Upper East Side apartment where he wastes the evening away watching TV. Venturing out in search of carnal pleasures, Paul meets the sexy-but-quirky Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) in a coffee shop near his apartment building and begins chatting up a conversation with her. Paul asks for Marcy's phone number before she leaves and she tells him that he can call her anytime. Back at his apartment, Paul works up enough nerve to phone Marcy. She invites him to come down to SoHo where she is staying with Kiki, and artist friend of hers. Paul jumps into a taxi cab outside his apartment, and then the weirdness begins...
The burly cab driver whisks Paul through the streets of New York at 80 mph as if being chased by the hounds of hell. During the wild ride, Paul loses a $20 bill, the only money he has on him when it's whisked out the car window, and he is forced to stiff the driver. Paul finds the loft and meets Kiki (Linda Fiorentino) for the first time, who's wearing nothing but a black bra and leather miniskirt, working on a paper-maché sculpture that resembles painter Edvard Munch's The Scream. Eventually, Marcy shows up where they spend some time together. But Marcy is a strange person who prattles on about events in her life, delivering her lines with a staccato rhythm punctuated by a nervous laugh. Marcy turns out to be a hyperactive mass of contradictions, and Paul decides that swaying her emotions are a bit too weird to handle. So, he begins acting like a jerk and leaves.
In trying to get home, Paul does not have any money for a subway token and is forced to seek refuge in a bar where more wierdness happens involving an ecentric waitress (Teri Garr), the friendly barman (John Heard) as well as other ecentrics including Cheech and Chong playing a couple of dim-witted robbers that show up now and then.
I won't give any more away just in a sense of reason so one can view for themselves. Very surreal, this movie is like one long nightmare which one can never wake up from, plus I never wanted it to end. It's a film like this I myself can relate to: a well-off-but-lonely yuppie leaves his sterile apartment for a night out and pays a visit to a very different neighborhood of SoHo where it seems everyone is connected and looking out for each other, where as everyone in the Upper East Side keeps to themselves. Paul's rational sensibilities are at first intrigued, then terrified by the irrational, emotional and creative energies of this neighborhood, which is populated by every kind of different people one seldom sees in person. I think that the movie is a tragedy, because Paul, like a lot of unsure-of-themselves people, is stuck between these two worlds of SoHo and the Upper East Side, yet he belongs to neither. He seeks escape to the mundane, orderly and boring world that his day makes up in an office building, and finds the offbeat, freer lifestyle in SoHo intimidating, scary and dangerous. SPOILER In the end, through a combination of luck, skill, and divine intervention, Paul is rescued from certain danger (including death) and is delivered back to the cold comfort of his computers where he works, not that he belongs there, but because he really has no other place to go.
Stephen Spielberg's 1941 bombed when first released in late 1979. But the movie really isn't all that bad, honest. But the only problem is that it suffers from overkill. Just too many story lines going on at once and that makes the movie increasingly difficult to follow. But then again, it's something not to be taken seriously. People who take it seriously may not find it funny at all, since the whole thing is played for laughs.
As for the plot, if no one knows, let me try to explain a little. 1941 is set during one long day (and night) of December 13, 1941 one week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. One part centers on a hostile Japanese submarine, the I-19, which surfaces near the California coast where the commander Mitamura tries to find an inviting target to attack. Also on board is a Nazi advisor Capt. Von Kleinschmidt (Christopher Lee) always bickering about Mitamura's tactics.
Meanwhile, in war-crazed Los Angeles the action mostly centers on two young men, Wally and Dennis. Wally is a recent parolee from prison and wants to get the affections of his girl Betty Douglas, which her dominering father Ward (Ned Beatty) tries to prevent. Then there's this tank crew led by Sgt. Tree (Dan Ackroyd) who's crew Sitarski (Treat Williams), Foley (John Candy), Hinshaw and Reese place a 40mm AA gun in the front lawn of Ward Douglas's house, where Sitarski, a local bully, takes a liking to Betty and an instant dislike to Wally. Wally then spends the rest of the movie trying to get into the new USO club where Betty and her frumpy friend Maxine work as USO girls while Sitarski tries to starve off the advances from Maxine.
Also, there's this wild-eyed army pilot named Wild Bill Kelso (the late great John Belushi) spending most of the movie flying around in a stolen P-40 fighter plane looking for a nonexistent Japanese air raid squadron. A mad army colonel, Maddox, protecting Barstow army airport from a nonexistent Japanese landing force. Two dim-wited, bickering air raid spoters, named Herby and Claude, who spend the movie stuck on top of a carnival ferris wheel looking for Japanese aircraft. A hapless drunkard named Hollis Wood (Slim Pickens) who gets captured by Mitamura's crew to learn the directions to Hollywood, al la "Who's on First" joke. A neurotic U.S. Army general Stilwell (Robert Stack) trying to hold the city together, while his secretary Donna (Nancy Allen) is persued by airman Birkhead (Tim Matheson) who learns that Donna will only put out when airborne in a moving plane.
Lost you? That's only half of the movie as the rest of it gets increasingly chaotic and noisy. Many other familar faced character actors make cameo appearances, too many to name them all here. But for those who want some time passing movie watching this is the one to see and worth a look. Note: this review is for the 146 minute director's cut, not the theatrical 119 minute print which omits some characters and subplots. The longer director's cut is the one to see.
The Prowler (1981)
Tom Savini does it again.
Fan's of makeup and special effects artist Tom Savini will not be disapointed here for more of his over-the-top blood and gore effects. This one I rank as one of the top five (The first would be Dawn of the Dead, the second Maniac (1980), this would be the third). Those who want to see gore, you've got gore.
As for the plot, it's really not that important but let me explain a little: in an openly long prolog, a World War II vet in the small town of Avalon Bay returns home from Europe in 1945 having received a "Dear John" letter from his fiancee who does not take it easy, and armed with a pitchfork, he kills her and her new boyfriend one night during a graduation dance at the local college.
Cut to 35 years later, the present, it's the day of the first graduation dance since the murders. Care to guess who puts on an appearance? The killer, who wears World War II army fatigues, a helmet and has his face hidden behind a gas mask whom makes his presence known. But who is it really? Could it be the same killer from 1945, or someone else? Who cares?
Despite the lack of orginally, it's fairly well directed, less dumb than usual, and has a so-so twist ending. But the thing to see are the murders: pitchforkings aside, there are stabings, throat-cuttings, a bayonet through the skull, and an exploding head, most of it shown in considerable detail.
Contents: Seven killings; superior blood; one nude scene where Lisa Dunsheath takes a shower (and gets pitchforked); masked psycho; a pathetic red herring; a little suspense; and a couple of surprises.
This movie has a lot of qualities from various little seen horror films. It has a lot of qualities from The Crow, A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc. Being a fan of Italian horror, it has a lot of resemblences to a 1972 Mario Bava flick titled Baron Blood, (aka: The Torture Chamber of Baron Blood) with similar sets, costumes, and lighting of a old fashion Euro horror film. Even Jimmy Bones' black hat resembles the one worn by Joseph Cotton in playing the Baron Otto Von Kleist in Baron Blood. Worth a look if you're into that kind of old fashion grade B horror.
Don't Go in the House (1979)
Trash Treasure #1
The story goes like this, set during one cold winter in a coastal New Jersey town, twenty-something Donald Koher is a disturbed young man who works at the local incinary factory where he lives in a big house with his mother who severely abused him as a child by roasting his arms over the gas burner stove. When Donald (nicknamed Donny) comes home from work one night at the beginning of the movie, his mother has died in her sleep apparently from natural causes. Donny flips out and, after listening to the voices in his head from "others" since his childhood, he decides to return the favor what his mother did to him to the rest of the world. Donny builds a metal-plated flame-proof room in the house, lures a series of women into his home where he ties them up in the fire room, strips them of their clothing, douses them with kerosene, and then blasts them with a flamethrower, then he dresses up their charred corpses like his mother and talks to them, and they (in his disturbed mind) talk back (i.e. Norman Bates with a flamethrower.)
Sick as it seems, it's not all that vile as it sounds. There is only one on-screen flame-killing, but most of the film is concerned with Donny's inter torment from the voices he constantly hears in his head. It's like we are made to sympathize with Donny's plight and his torment from unspeakable childhood abuse by his demented mother, but it doesn't work, for the more we know about Donny, the more we hate him. Do we even care?
Donny is not very sympathetic at all and it's easy to see why no one around him respects him for his cold-stares, and hesitant behavior. Donny's only real friend is Bobby, a co-worker at the factory who too is unsympathetic. Bobby is a sleazeball jerk who cheats on his wife every chance he gets, and is set up at the climax as the unlikely hero.
Contents: three fire murders; one featured nude victim; cheap production values; terrible lighting; a decent performance by Dan Grimaldi and the sicko; lots of flames.
Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)
Another Christmas Holiday Slasher
"Another Santa is slain," is the quote one person says early in this movie and that about sums it up for the outline. Set in London, England during the Christmas holiday season, someone killer is going around killing anyone dressed as Father Christmas, while two astonishingly stupid Scotland Yard detectives track him down and dither. Most of the abundant splatter is nothing new here as we see one Santa after another get either shot, stabbed, speared, burned, cleaverd, electriuted and even castrasted. Gore and splatter fans will not be disappointed. But here the victims are not the sympathetic bunch as every Santa victim is either a derelict, drunkard, drug user, or loser we most wish the killer would get. Edumond Purdom who directs and stars as the lead detective, Inspector Harris, who's in charge of investigating the murders, serves up some potential suspense and a fair amount of black humor, but the script plays it very straight.
As for the rest of the plot, although we know that Inspector Harris is not the killer, he appears to know a lot more of what's going on with the killings than the other characters, one of whom is a woman who wants the killer brought to justice since her own father was one of the many victims. The rest of the movie is not as amusing as it sounds, but one can't completely dismiss a horror film like this that piles up more victims than a room full of attorneys. Pop star Caroline Munro even makes a musical cameo appearance as herself during one of the stalking/killings which adds a fairly nice touch to such nonsense.
Contents: 14 killings; lots of messy looking corpses; a masked psycho; costumed victims; slight suspense; mediocre mystery; not bad as usual. With Pat Astley as the model who keeps removing her top.
Terror Train (1980)
A Rolling Psycho
Another clone of Halloween this time set on a train. Three years after a nasty fraternity prank that went tragically awry that ended up with the freshman geek committed to a mental hospital, a group of college friends hire a chartered train for a masked New Year's Eve party as the last big fling of their college days before graduation. But as it happens, the traumatized victim of the prank from the very first scene is back who boards the train and targets the six students involved (Jamie Lee Curtis is one of them) to kill all of them in some nasty ways and then wearing their costumes in order to get closer to his other targets.
The train setting the about the only thing original in this horror flick and first time director Roger Spottiswoode makes good use of confining the environment and the fact that not only the killer is wearing a mask, but almost everyone else is too. But it's no surprise as to who the killer is, but the big surprise is who the killer happens to be disguised as (a second identity I won't reveal here). But what Spottiswoode can't compensate for is a script that provides unappealing characters, bad dialog, and little in the way of shocks or suspense.
Contents: Seven killings (and several disappearances) off-camera mayhem, after-the-fact blood, a severed-head-in-the-upper-berth gag, two seconds of female nudity, a masked psycho, masked victims, lots of train chat, lots of magic tricks (courtesy of David Copperfield in a rare movie appearance), not significantly stupider than usual. With the late Ben Johnson as a friendly train conductor.
Prom Night (1980)
Sit this one out
Another average slasher flick, one of two that scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis made back to back during her time in Canada fresh from her fame in John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978. It opens with four young kids in an abandoned building playing a macarible game when one girl joins them and it leads to her accidently falling out of a second floor window to her death. The four kids (three girls and a boy) make a pack never to mention it to anyone. But six years later, someone knows about the killing and decides to get those four responsible. As it also happens the anniversary of the death coincides with the big high school prom which the kids are all attending, making it convenient to borrow big ideas from movies like Carrie (1976) among others for the characters, situations and subplots.
Although it has some good qualities and was moderately successful when first released, the movie is bloodless in almost every respect, plus the murders are so murky and dimly lit. Jamie Lee Curtis, playing Kim, the older sister of the murdered young girl, is good as the popular student who wants to be elected prom queen. But she, unfortunatly, is not one of the four students targeted by the masked ax-weilding killer. In fact, she frequently becomes a suspect along with her father the school principal, as well as her younger brother Alex, the creepy school janitor, and the school bully. But the identity of the killer is fairly obvious. But so much time is spent on establishing red herrings that more than two-thirds of the movie pass before any of the killings begin. The production values are also good, but the film is starting to show its age.
Contents: Six killings, scant blood, one decapitation, Jamie Lee Curtis as prom queen, no nudity, no real suspense, no pace, lots of disco music and dancing, sit this one out.
Video nasty #1
I consider this to be the ultimate video nasty of all time. Set in New York City and starring the late great sleazball Joe Spinell who plays Frank Zito a schitzo/sicko maniac who kills women, along with their boyfriends whom get in his way, he then scalps the women and uses their hair and clothes to dress up female department store maniquins that he keeps in his tiny apartment. This one is really sick. Even gore fans may find it overwhelming with the almost nonstop killings which where done by the famed SFX splatter wizard Tom Savini (who has a cameo role as one of the victims.) Although Spinell is plausable as the creep who takes to the dark, garbage ridden, winter-cold streets to look for victims to take out his misogyinst rage steming apparently from his late mother, that does not mean that one has to watch him or care about what makes him tic.
The only reason to see this is to watch the excellent and most realistic killings on film (stabings, throat cuttings, a garotting, a head blown apart by a shotgun blast, a slow scalping, a head ripped off, etc.) But most people will by understandibly repelled by the tone. It's a movie about a maniac for maniacs. Consider yourself warned.
Contents: Seven killings, abundant blood, explicit mayhem, one nude scene of Gail Lawrence taking an all-too-brief bath, lots of psychotic ramblings and interior monologues, a much-nastier-than-usual slasher flick.
The Addiction (1995)
Dark, inteligent, desent vampire flick
**SPOILERS**A certainly, different, dark, inteligent horror flick from Abel Ferrara, the director of various violent New York urban pictures. Here he portrays the secret underbelly of New York's subculture of vampires. The vampirism portrayed here is like a form a drug addiction for junkies feed off of illegal drugs like heroin, amoung others, vampires have the feed for blood. The lead character is Lili Taylor who plays Kathleen, a NYU med student studying for her Ph.D and living a lonely existence in a small apartment in Greenwich Village. One evening while walking home from night classes studying about war and the devastation, a chicly dressed woman, known only as Casanova, grabs Kathleen off the street, drags her into an alley and bites her on the neck. The bite slowly transforms Kathleen into a vampire, one of the undead to walk the earth feasting on blood. Kathleen then spends the rest of the movie trying to come to terms with her new existence. Her first impressions of not being able to eat, sleep, tolarate sunlight, unable cast a reflection in a mirror, or to enter a person's residence without an invitation is a hard one for her. Kathleen's new life is shown as she is a type of junkie with the insasible appetite for human blood and is to be dependent on it. While fighting her blood lust, Kathleen has discussions with her history professor as well as her best friend, Jean, about things like war, death, and other intelectual issues such as poety, and books like Naked Lunch, etc. But eventually Kathleen gives into her addition and her first victim is a street bum huddled in a doorway who puts up an even less struggle than she did with Casanova. Not wanting to bite her dirty, first victim with her new stubby fangs, Kathleen takes some of his blood with a hyperdermic needle which she injects into her arm, like a heroin junkie. With that her transformation to full vampire is complete and she then goes around vitimizing fellow students, professors, strangers and friends.
Shot in black and white on a very low budget, The Addiction is a must-see for all those who crave sub-culture art house films. Though the film looks very art-house as an almost student made picture. Like some of other works by Abel Ferrara, it has strong Catholic messages symbolizing that the only way for one to survive is to seek redemption before God. Lili Taylor is very good as the student turned vampire whom we share her point of view almost throughout the film. Her transformation to vampire in the early scenes is compelling for her transformation physically changes her too into a dark, pasty complextion of a young version of Patti Smith. Kathleen belives that since she is a vampire, and cannot die, she is one better than everyone around her. But midway through the movie, Kathleen's belief that she's superior over the teeming masses of New York is shatered when, during one of her nighttime prowls for victims, she has a run-in with another vampire, a gauntly handsome bloodsucker named Penia who is played by the great Christopher Walken, who's so convincing in his minor role that one really must wonder if he really is a vampire in real life. Inviting Kathleen back to his loft for some nighttime talk, Penia makes no attempt to hide his contempt for Kathleen and her parasitic existence and saying that just because that they're vampires there's no reason to repent their sins and make a life for themselves that's (almost) human as he has. Penia's talk makes Kathleen wonder if this life is really for her, which sets the stage for the climatic massacre which she masterminds with her sire Casanova. The vampire carnage at a party Kathleen throws is both horrifying and funny as a sort of "Night of the Living Dead" meets "Kicking and Screaming."
The Catholic messages that repentence is the only way to find salvation and end one's lifestyle is a little confusing as well as some of the poetic rethoric thrown by all of the characters in the film that one may find hard to follow. But the (sort of) happy ending makes little sense since a lot of things are never fully explained in detail. Gore fans by be slightly dissapointed over the lack of blood and guts over the more favored characterization and poetic dialogue. But overwall a very good, not your average vampire drama one would expect to see.
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Good, but not great, slasher pic.
Set at a summer camp in upper New York state, it opens with a divorced man (who happens to be gay) his lover and their two young children a boy and a girl are swiming at a resort lake, which takes a turn when a motorboat carring some roudy teenagers goes out of control and runs over the father and his two kids in the water. Eight years later, the surviving child, a shy 14-year-old girl named Angela has been living with her overly cheerfull man-hating aunt and her cousin Ricky. Ricky and Angela are sent to Camp Arawak on the same lake where Angela's brother and father died. The shy, withdrawn Angela becomes subjected to various taunts by other campers whom Ricky always steps forward to defend her. Soon, an unseen killer begins killing the campers in various violent ways, and making them look as accidents. The camp owner tries to keep things under wraps while Angela is befriended by one boy who sticks up for her and eventually earns his trust, so it seems.
Although the film is technically and fairly competent, there is a lot of cheap heavy-handled parts than usual. Also there is very little mystery as to who is behind the killings since it is firmly established in the early scenes as either Ricky or Angela. But starting about half-way through the movie one begins to suspect something more about Angela when one character brings up the issue why is it that Angela will not shower or change clothes with the other girls in her cabin. To reveal anything else would have to be considers a spoiler. None of the violence is explicit or graphic but we do get to see a lot of rather messy remains of victims where one is scaled by boiling water, another guy is forcibly drowned, a third guy is stuck to death by wasps in a restroom stall, a girl stabbed while taking a shower, etc.
Contents: 10 killings, no female breasts, some seriously bad acting, and an unsavory surprise ending.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
The title tells it all
A good, better than usual Halloween clone set in a quite Venice suburb of Los Angeles where an 18-year-old girl, Trish, decides to throw a slumber party for her friends, members of her school's girls basketball team. Little do they know that a wild-eyed, middle-aged, maniac named Russ Thorn, who killed five people back in 1969, has escaped from a mental hospital and spots Trish and follows her to and from school to her house and, undercover of darkness, invades their party. Pre-slumber party killings include a telephone repairwoman named Mary, whom Thorn steals her van and drill he needs for the killing, and teammate Linda (played by Brinke Stevens in an early movie role) but they woun't be missed by the others. This one has all the elements of a good 1980's slasher flick, a high body count, a fair amount of splatter, a most phallic weapon, lots of false shocks, some gratuitious female nudity, etc. Given that this was writen and directed by women one would expect anything other than this material would have been given an edge of parody or irony, but it's all played straight. There is no masked killer, no surprise killer, no twist in the end, just straight-forward horror. Despite some cheap qualities it's all not badly done, especially in the last 20 minutes where the driller killer finally breaks into Trish's house and the girls dashing from room to room getting killed one by one, all the while the girl next door, Valerie and her little sister, Courtney, are oblivious to the going-ons. It is notable for Robin Stille as Valerie in the Jamie Lee Curtis heroine role and Andree Honore and the party goer with the largest bust.
Contents: 11 killings, good graphic gore (including a head lost and a hand getting chopped off), female nudity galore, lots of screams, a more stylish-than-usual, energetic flick.
Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
A great, never-a-dull-moment-thriller!
A great Roger Corman production again involving monsters, this time killer salmon creatures memorphed into humanhoid beings that kill men and rape women of a small Oregon fishing town. The movie opens with a fishing boat taking a group of fishermen out to bring up their nets only to have something large and unseen claw away at it which leads to one little boy falling overboard and getting eaten and the boat exploding killing all aboard. The tension, suspense, exitcement starts almost from the first scene and never lets up for a minute. For the next scene has a nighttime setting which has one humanoid lurking around a local house with the lady inside wondering where strange noises are coming from, and her going out to investigate. With the rash of attacks, and dissapearances, bring in a scientist who slowly explains the reason for the creatures existence while more and more humanoids are attacking campers, beachgoers and others in various gory ways. One may find it cheesy and absurd, but that's the whole point as a great cheesy thriller that had a tight script and a great climatic humanoid attack against the fishing pier. I'd give it a 10 out of 10 rating.
The Driller Killer (1979)
Pure kinetic sleaze
The first movie from NYU grad students director Abel Ferrara and writer Nicholas St. John, about an artist's slow disintegration into madness is not one of their best. The director Ferrara himself (appearing behind the psudo Jimmy Laine) plays Reno, a New York City artist living in a meaningless existence with his plain girlfriend Carol and Carol's stoner girlfriend Pamela. Life has not treated Reno with respect for he, Carol and Pamela scrape to pay the monthly rent and high utility bills, and his art dealer, Dalton, is pressuring him to complete his latest painting on time. To make matters worse, a punk rock band named Tony Coca-Cola and the Roosters have moved into the loft below Reno's and plays loud rock music 24 hours a day which agitates Reno even more. This, with a combination of Reno's psycho-sexual fears and thoughts of ending up like his derelict father when he eyes the homeless bums in the streets on a regular basis finally cause Reno to crack and he begins taking to the streets at night, armed with a power drill hooked up to a battery Port-O-Pack, and begins killing homeless bums in a variety of gory ways with his power drill. But late in the movie when he is shunned by his art dealer and abandoned by Carol, Reno moves from killing derelicts to those who have angered him.
First seeing this movie on DVD, I'm wondering what is the significance of it? It was shot on a obviously very low budget on grainy 16mm film blown up to 35mm with poor lighting, poor sound, and and hit-or-miss gore effects. Ferrara's performance as Reno is nothing special, although he is suprisingly a better performer than the rest of the cast. But one director as to start from somewhere. What Ferrara lacks in money he makes up for some effective character development, despite some loose ends and various plot holes. Also the suddenly abrupt, unclear ending gives the impression to me that Ferrara ran out of money, leaving the movie unresolved. If Abel Ferrara is making a point here I cannot see it for myself. Before he was to direct his next movie, the slightly higher-budgeted, but far superior "Ms. 45," Ferrara tries to make an urban horror picture about the everyday effects on one's soul, but here I think he failed miserably.
A Friend to Die For (1994)
Great, compelling, touching drama.
I first saw this movie titled "A Friend to Die For" when it first aired and a little later on the Lifetime channel under it's alternate title "Death of a Cheerleader" and it was great, compelling, touching, ultimately sad character study about the need to fit in and the jealousy and rage that leads to tragic consequences. Supposedly based on a true story and set in c.1983-1984, it stars Kelli Martin as Angela, a shy teenager from a working class family who has just moved into the small California town of Santa Mira. Told from mostly her point of view, Angela joins up with an old friend from her elementary school days where she struggles to be popular in her new high school as the sophomore she is. Angela wants to be accepted in the school clique "The Larks" headed by a snobbish cheerleader named Stacy Lockwood, who's played by Tori Spelling in a great performance. Despite joining the clique and making something of herself in the local school activities, Angela is envious against the more popular and attractive Stacy.
A great made-for-TV-movie which despite some uncomfortable scenes, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen for a minute. We actually feel sympathy for Angela as the troubled soul whose sudden outburst of violence leads to a sudden change in her life. Although Angela stops being the storyteller in the final act, the film itself is most memorable in every sense of the way and the scenes are very believable. Highly recommended.
Married with Children (1987)
The best sitcom ever!
I first watched episodes of Married With Children in 1989 on FOX Network TV during the time when a Michigan housewife named Terry Rakolta tried to organize a boycott of the TV sitcom for its "unabashed raunchiness." But I immediately liked the episodes that I saw and I became an instant fan. The characters where the most nasty ever of any sitcom. Although they occasionally let it slip that they cared for each other, every member of the household (even the family dog Buck) seemed bent on belittling and putting down each other. The Bundys were incredibly, vicious, mean-spirited, selfish, cruel and unapolgetic. Al Bundy was a lowly, chauvinist shoe salesman who worked a local shopping mall; his tall, redhead wife of 15+ years, Peggy, was a lazy housewife; and their juvenile delinquent kids, Kelly (age 15 in 1987) and Bud (age 12 in 1987), were always at each other's throats. Al's bedroom prowess, or lack of it, was the frequent topic of the shows, as well as Al's job. He was disliked by most of the town because he was a shoe salesman and that shoe salesman are the lowest of the low for they even rank below the homeless (a running joke used throught the series. Other running jokes included raunchy jokes about impotence, remarks about Peggy's always unseen obese mother, degrading jokes about fat women, and disparaging remarks about other TV network stations, CBS, NBC and ABC, all of which are FOX's competitors.) Al Bundy, in my opion, was the best bigot since All In The Family's character of Archie Bunker. Peggy never cooked, cleaned, or had a real job, Kelly became a sexpot with an IQ always one point lower than her age, and Bud was the loser who was so wrapped up in himself to know even how to come on to a member of the opposite sex and he seldom suceeded.
David Garrison and Amanda Bearse were equally good as the Bundy's next door neighbors, Steve and Marcy Rhoades. I was a little disapointed when David Garrison quit the series in early 1990, but my intrest in the Bundy's never ceased. Ted McGinley, joined the cast a year later as Marcy's new husband Jefferson D'Arcy, a gigalo and ex-con, who like Peggy, never had a real job and lived off Marcy's money.
If MWC was not the best sitcom, it was certainly longest running and the most funniest which set the theme for other sitcoms of today. But none of them will ever be as funny and as noticing as Married With Children. I miss watching it, but I will never forget it.
Fade to Black (1980)
A good idea, but poorly executed.
I first saw this film a few years ago which details a geekish movie buff that lives in a fantasy world of movies. Dennis Christopher plays Eric Binford, a young man living with his crippled, domineering aunt, and who works as a studio film delivery boy for a living. The nerd-like Eric gets teased and abused by his aunt, his nagging boss, and his co-workers. Seeing that this is a horror film, you know it's only a matter of time before Eric goes over the deep end and beings killing people, but the twist is he kills them by copying various death scenes from his favorite movies. With his studio connections, he dresses up as his favorite characters, (Dracula, the Mummy, etc.) for the killings.
Although we can relate to Eric Binford as a troubled soul, his character is not very sympathetic for it's not hard to see the reason why nobody likes Eric. With the exception that he knows a lot about movies, underneath he is just a hollow, chain-smoking, ill-tempered, clod. A subplot which includes a police psychologist tracking Eric's moves comes off as excess baggage and even the psychologist himself is not likeable either. In fact with the exception of the actress who plays the Marilyn Monroe lookalike, every character in the film is annoying, obnoxious, loud, selfish, mean-spirited and that hurts the film.
I think it could have been a lot better if it was made by more professional filmmakers other than talented amateurs. It was a good idea for a movie, but not well made. Although the storyline is good, some of the plotlines are not believable, the violence and special effects for the killings (mostly shootings) look cheep and phoney, and the editing is poor. But worth a look if you're a fan of the movies and just want to see some clips of your favorite B-movies, oafers and classic horror films. This is Dennis Christopher's show and he takes hold of it and doesn't let go. Probably his finest hour-and-a-half.