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Meditiative and melancholy genre-clash, nicely tendered on a pinched budget
13 July 2019
LIGHT AND THE SUFFERER is a peculiar little exercise in dreamy cross-genre abstraction which centers on two young native-Manhattan brothers, one a hopeless crack addict, the other a more grounded, though susceptive college dropout. They mutually agree that starting a new life in California would benefit them both, but lacking the necessary funds for this move, they devise a scheme to rob a kingpin dope-pusher. Things don't go quite as planned, however, and the pair soon find themselves being followed by a "sufferer"... a quadrapedal, silent being with a humanlike head. Though these creatures are confirmed to be extraterrestrial, no further exposition regarding their origin is given...their existence in the world is clearly understood, and moreless acknowledged with offhand disenchantment. They are regarded with some disesteem, however, in that they habitually stalk individuals in the midst of a crisis. The motives for this behavior are argued but never made clear, though being "followed" is seen to be a potentially distressing ordeal which carries a touchy social stigma.

An earnest microbudget endeavor sourced from a story by cult writer Jonathan Lethem, and it couldn't have been a more faithful adaption. Remarkably well played by its young leads, it's borderline avant-gard in its stylization, and alluringly shot with an artful eye. Methodically slow-burning from beginning to end, its primary focus is on the situation afflicting the key characters, rather than on the fantastical ubiety of a tailgating alien. It could be argued that the creatures have a figurative placement in the story, though what, exactly, they might represent is anybody's guess. I personally don't have a problem with inexplicit narratives, but it's likely to frustrate some viewers, as will the primitive but sparingly used CGI effects.

In a nutshell, a flawed but mindfully prepared ambrosia with a pinch of hard-boiled noir, a dash of sci-fi, and a sprinkling of plaintive oddly flavorful dish, but one unlikely to appease all appetites.

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Euphonic storytelling outshines a piecemeal of random stock footage
13 March 2019
Resourcefully made docu-propaganda recounts the Biblical story of Noah , cites potentially supportive archaeological evidence, and chronicles centuries of ark search attempts and unverifiable sightings on Mount Ararat occurring as recently as the 20th Century.

THE ARK OF NOAH is Bart La Rue's only directorial effort besides the insufferable SATAN WAR(1979). Whereas the latter certainly deserves mention as one of the worst films ever made, ARK OF NOAH is, surprisingly, fairly watchable, though far more of an audio experience than a visual one. Mr. La Rue himself narrates with a robust, relaxing monotone tailor made for storytelling. What is offered onscreen is little more than hastily compiled travelogue snippets filmed(presumably) in the general region of Mount Ararat which, moreoften than not, bear little in consuetude with the narrator's exposition. The semi-avant-gard amateur background music sounds suspiciously like freeform noodling, and could very well be at least partially improvised .

ARK OF NOAH takes a rigidly one-sided Christian approach to subject matters vitally obligated to a diversified symposium(every civilization on Earth has folklore involving a flood catastrophe, yet none are acknowledged). A few remarks are, quite honestly, forthrightly anti-Muslim, and at no time are any Biblical details of the Deluge ever called into question. The verdict here is simple...a film made by Christians for Christians. That's all good and well, but I had hoped for a more thought-provoking SUNN CLASSICS sort of picture focused on detailing a compelling historical mystery rather than attempting to explain it away with a modicum of questionable data and resolute adherence to the scriptures

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Bat Pussy (1973)
Love is a many splendored thing...even for the butt-ugly underclass.
7 February 2019
There's a broad range of quality in every realm of cinema...

...take the western genre, for instance. You've got classics like SHANE and RIO BRAVO, and plenty of junk like DESERT MESA and THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN. Great musicals such as SINGIN' IN THE RAIN have antipodes like THE APPLE, and for every masterstroke of comedy like DUCK SOUP or THIS IS SPINAL TAP, you have a GIGLI or IT'S PAT at the ass-end. I think it's safe to say that the horror genre's good/bad ratio gets a bit more skewed toward the negative. Then, of course...there's porn...

Can we critique both mainstream and adult films using the same obiter-dicta? Of course we can't, though there's clearly a similar spectrum of quality. In the case of porn, however, for every OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN, there's at least a thousand TEENAGE CYCLE SLUTS. Be that as it may, most folks would probably agree that pretty much any old pornography is able to serve its intended purpose...

...except, maybe, for one...

Hidden away for decades in the musty back-room of a long-standing porn theater, BAT PUSSY possibly never saw a single public screening. Rediscovered in situ by mere chance, and subsequently released to a very unprepared public, this impossibly unarousing gutterball has officially claimed the throne of WORST PORNO OF ALL TIME, and will undoubtedly retain that honor for many years to come. Unsightly old cretins exchange spit-and-vinegar bellicosities while loitering drunkenly in loose-fitting birthday suits...that, friends, is the fatal thrust of BAT PUSSY, a stultifying avalanche of unerotica which will not only deter you from touching your nasty pudendum-virile, it will motivate you to saw the damn thing off with a steak knife. Watch in frozen terror as a gelatinous hambeast with a four-story beehive and world-weary, floor-gazing milk-bags goes down on a pugnacious, frog-gigging trailer-park bogan. Her face is crimped in sour disinclination as she spit-shines his fetid, wilting knurl with all the tantric artistry of a dog eating peanut butter. He reciprocates with equal inertia, administering a lethargic consecution of flicks and nibbles with such timid apprehension that you'd think he was defusing a bomb with his tongue. Never in the history of blue cinema has the "beast with two backs" been quite so repellent...but I reckon that's to be expected when the participants despise each other and look like they should be ringing a bell in a tower.

On a slightly more positive note, there's the titular superheroin...she's three zip-codes away from hot, but I suppose she might do in a "last call" pinch. You'd expect her outfit to be skintight and sexy, with a whiff of Emma Peel fetishism, right? Wrong. She dons a lumpy dime-store Halloween costume, and hops around on a huge rubber bouncy-ball. The aforementioned characters eventually merge for an appetite-suppressing menage-a-trois, replete with jiggling flab, erectile dysfunction, and conjoint lack of interest. To top things off, it's crudely shot on grainy, cut-rate filmstock which makes the Zapruder footage look hi-def by comparison.

There's a cringeworthy otherness innate to this smutty side-show which is as strangely compelling as it is disturbing. It compounds the interpersonal hostility of SHUT UP, LITTLE MAN and mirror-shattering visual pestilence of GUMMO with the rancorous surrealism of early John Waters projects.

5/10...profoundly awful, but an experience comparable to little else. Hold your nose and dive in.
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Another interesting "lost" indie resurfaces.
31 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In this obscure independent thriller, a young lady is stalked by an imposing stranger while searching for her missing fiancée. It is latterly revealed that an older female acquaintance of the couple has devised a sinister plot to sabotage their relationship, motivated by her secret obsession with the young groom-to-be.

WEEKEND OF FEAR spent decades on the roster of missing/lost horror films...movies known to have been made and publicly screened which inexplicably vanished without a trace. The only info I was ever able to glean on this title was that it featured Jill Banner(SPIDER BABY, 1966), as well as a then-popular Playboy model. This detail lead me to believe that WOF was one of the many sexploitation/horror hybrids released during the 60s. I found this assumption to be entirely incorrect, however, when the film emerged out of the blue, pristine and complete, on Youtube.

So...why did WEEKEND OF FEAR spend five long decades in the twilight-world of lost media? Well, I'm not entirely certain, but limited marketability due to its experimental stagecrafting could be one factor. To boot, it's not especially good, though there are far worse pictures which have managed to find distributors, if only for home video release. Whatever the case, I suspect there's an interesting backstory to this one which has yet to be told.

The presentation of WOF is rather avant-garde...variably similar in composition to DEMENTIA(aka DAUGHTER OF HORROR, 1955) and THE SAVAGE EYE(1960), it more-less evades orthodox exposition, being predominantly expounded through audible thoughts within the mind of the central female character(attractive Mikki Malone, who I strongly doubt is the adult-film actress of the same name). As conceptually alluring as this experimental narrative style may sound, it ultimately fails for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the process of thought is extremely complex, abstract, and indistinct. For instance, A man standing in front of a mirror might consider how he'd look with a moustache...he does not, however, compose in his head a communicative first-person sentence such as "I wonder how I'd look with a moustache?". It's this type of straightforward precision which quashes any realistic stream of consciouness verisimilitude...the result is a dialog-free movie with routine narration. Additionally, there's a noticeable lack of urgency in our imperiled heroin's intonation during suspenseful moments. This contradistinction deflates the film's unfortunate thing, as the story at hand carries potential for a clenching motion picture. I did find her voice pleasant-sounding, however...very sweet, with raspy notes of Merlot and Viceroy. Just as the plot begins to somewhat thicken, the film comes to an abrupt and non-resolute halt. Similar cases of "premature eventuation" have been telling indicators that a film was never completed as planned(e.g. ANGEL'S FLIGHT, 1965)...if such is true of WOF, it wouldn't surprise me at all.

Long story short, this is a project which deserves commendation for at least attempting something out-of-the-ordinary, and it's passably appointed in most technical departments. It misses the mark, but it could still interest folks who appreciate the free spirit of artistic exploration.

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The Embracers (1966)
Early effort from prolific Gary Graver...not his strongest work.
24 January 2019
THE EMBRACERS marks the directorial debut of Gary Graver(also the film's male lead), who went on to become a big cheese in the adult film industry, and was also at the helm of a few sub-B drive-in horror pictures. Rather surprisingly, he also collaborated with the iconic Orson Welles on a number of unrealized projects.

The print of this film which I viewed was heavily edited, clocking in at a full seventeen minutes shorter than the complete film's running time. I think it's safe to say the missing scenes featured mature-audience content, because this IS supposed to be an erotic/sexploitation film of sorts. What's left after the naughty bits have been shorn is a freeform and utterly pointless scribble which vaguely illustrates a budding romance between two undependable losers in the craggier environs of Hollywood...he, a down-on-his-luck thespian, and she, a spirited but pretty flaky case of human wreckage. Their ill-starred affair seems to mark the center of this beggarly amateur effort, speciously presented in a "slice of life" naturalist style replete with coffee-house beat jazz. This loose-narrative structure struggles to imitate superior "arthouse" films of the period...just a random cluster of non-ocurrences strung together willy-nilly with credits at either end. Our woebegone protagonist, for instance, is forced by hunger to take a housecleaning job overseen by a coarse and heavily imbibed dwarf. It's weird, and corresponds to nothing in the film beyond the fact that every other scene is similarly extraneous. There is a method to this messiness, mind you...similarly crafted films have occasionally been met with high praise. You can't shoot a guy for trying, I suppose. Bad art is, after all, art nonetheless.

I bet those missing scenes were awesomely hot.

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Unimpressive amateur monster movie rescued from the Lethe of lost media
23 January 2019
Archaeologists are puzzled by a perfectly-preserved human body unearthed from a multi-million-year-old geological stratum. Following subsequent analysis, the remains are determined to be of an early ancestor to modern man. This startling discovery rouses the interest of a few high muckamucks in the science world, and they prattle-on endlessly with the usual pseudo-scientific explanatory deductions. Things take an even more bizarre turn when an electrical storm unexpectedly(?) reanimates the prehistoric fellow, who proceeds to wreak very familiar B-movie havoc. He's not really much of a beast, quite frankly...long-haired and clad in a formless makeshift skirt, he looks more like an unsightly vagrant transvestite who just got thrown from a mechanical bull.

THE BEAST FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME is something of a regional curio, largely funded(well, okay, maybe not LARGELY) by a Wichita, KS area independent TV station, and written/directed by the host of a weekly horror movie show popular in the region during that time(he has the starring role, as well). The film languished in obscurity for decades, being seen only by the handful who caught it during a scant few local TV airings.

TBFTBOT has now become readily viewable on a number of streaming sites free of charge. This is fortunate, because it's not worth paying money to see, to be quite honest. Genre fans should be grateful for any monster movie that gets shielded from the death-kiss of "lost cinema", and this case is no exception...all things considered, I'm happy to have seen it. I'm also sorry to report that it has a barnyard quality very much on par with some of the era's other regional cheapies...TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING(1959), NIGHT FRIGHT(1967) and THE LEGEND OF BLOOD MOUNTAIN(1965) spring to mind. As notably low grade as these pictures are, TBFTBOT is, sadly, worse still. It's a blandly shot and poorly written picture with a loitering pace. Too, it's depressingly unimaginative and uniformly dull, with a mere modicum of action during the final stretch which is is far too little too late. To its credit, however, performances from the key players are, surprisingly, rather passable for such a picayune project, and there are dashes of gore in a couple of spots which, though tame by today's standards, were fairly excessive for '65.

All said, this might intrigue a select few for its rarity and somewhat unusual production history. Any rediscovered addition to the horror canon is a welcome one, but the best thing I have to say about TBFTBOT is that I've seen worse.

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Slick Silver (1974)
Seldom seen regional buffoonery for the..*ahem*...easily amused.
3 January 2019
In the often strange universe of low-budget cinema, there are many films which seem hand-tailored to the tastes of a specific rank-and-file. Take, for instance, SLICK obscure regional comedy of 1975. This featherlight farce/buddy flick/road movie has all the requisite trappings to appease the nethermost viewership of agreeable, domesticated typifies a very distinct brand of "low comedy" found primarily in older TV sitcoms(it even culminates in a pie-fight, I kid you not). Ergo, If a middle-age waitress saying "kiss my grits" makes you wet yourself in hysterics, then, dammit, you will loooove SLICK SILVER . It's an unchallenging, occasionally cute pinch of harmless horseplay which illustrates a wily, funloving con-man's vagabond bromance with a mild-mannered, guitar-toting hitch-hiker. Penniless and hungry, these slippery flimflammers soon become the road-trucking dynamic duo of comical con-artistry...they plunder a laundromat for "new" digs, swindle a farm wife out of some chickens, impersonate a town preacher in a church tithings heist, and even streak bare nekkid down Main Street for a few bills.

Criminal protagonist characters are generally best written with certain chivalrous or poignant qualities appealing to the viewer's sentiments. Such winning pathos is sadly lacking in this peccant pair of marauding mountebanks, who casually prey upon the working class with nary a whit of magnanimous Robin Hood valor. Even a mutuality of warm, brotherly devotion, that chemistry so essential to the "buddy" film narrative, has gone roundly unobserved. As well, their farcical, though no-less ignoble petty-crime lowjinks rarely manage to transcend the aforementioned "kiss my grits" level of comedy...dialling 9-1-1 seems far more appropriate than ebulliently cheering them on.

The question of SLICK SILVER being either a good or bad picture is a mostly subjective one. It is, by and large, rather average in the sine-qua-non sphere for a 70s-era indie, and it's passably played by a cast of relative unknowns. The film suffers from a weak script, however, and subsumes what could be politely described as a plebeian brand of benign humor which courts the softer mind. In any case, its present availability seems quite limited, so chances are slim that it will bless your life any time soon.

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Rat Fink (1965)
The rise and fall of a venomous, Machiavellian pop-singer in rediscovered B gem.
15 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Teenage farmboy Lonnie(Schuylar Hayden) rides the rails in search of the high life. He's traveling light, packing little more than his saccharine charm, boyish good looks, and coldhearted ambition. With unconscionable zeal, he seduces a middle-aged housewife and robs her blind, then casually heads toward the community dance hall. The headliner attraction is a garden-variety hip-swiveling rock & roll upstart, and Lonnie envisions himself twisting and shaking in those teen-idol shoes. Driven by jealousy and pitiless greed, he douses the young performer's car with petrol, sets him ablaze, and makes speedy headway toward the Hollywood office of his agent. Thus begins his dramatic rise to super-stardom, one which leaves a liquor-slicked trail of death, despair, and broken hearts.

The long-presumed-lost RAT FINK spent a good many years in the top-ten of several noted cinephiles' "most wanted" lists. Now available in a great-looking Blu-Ray release, it's a welcome addition to the recent windfall of similarly rediscovered B films.

Director James Landis has long been known to genre fans for his revered 1963 B classic THE SADIST, a potent little thriller which centers on a frighteningly savage and reckless spree-killer(Arch Hall, Jr.). RAT FINK, a decidedly larger-scale production, explores similar foundations, but with a markedly different, though no less formidable antagonist. Lonnie is expressionless, icy, and one-dimensional...a towering wall of self. He is also cunning, calculating, and just intelligent enough to size-up potential victims-to-be, and, perhaps most importantly...he's handsome(and knows it). His guilty conscience does nettle him from time-to-time, a problem easily remedied with a cocktail, a pretty new female conquest, and a quick dip of the wick. Despite being wholeheartedly dissociative, he frequently hosts lavish and debaucherous house parties, attended by a prismatic mix of lowbrow movers-and-shakers, flagitious swingers, and beatniks of the typically misrepresentational Hollywood variety. As with THE SADIST, RAT FINK is adroitly lensed by phenom cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, and is a more polished and roundly professional effort than that film overall. Schuylar Hayden can't hold a candle to Arch Hall, Jr.'s unforgettably evil, frenetic intensity, but it's a heady screen debut nonetheless. Performances from the supporting players range from adequate to impressive in this procacious and, for its time, purblindly cruel slice of B movie Heaven.

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A commendable homespun launchpad for the contributing amateur personnel
26 October 2018
A serial killer is at large in a small California community, puzzling investigators with a modus operandi that changes with each brutal slaying. Realizing that they are in pursuit of an uncommonly cruel and evil predator, the detectives assigned to the case find it increasingly difficult to maintain a false-front of ironclad intransigence...each bloody crime scene brings them closer to an emotional and psychological breaking-point.

This earnest amateur feature was produced on an impossibly meager allotment, and the wonted blemishes of skid-row filmmaking are unavoidably multifold. That notwithstanding, it is also quite watchable, or at least as watchable as any barnyard home-movie could ever hope to be. Performances are uniformly adequate, technical parts-and-parcels are more-less proficiently supervised, and the story, though derivative, is variably well limned and paced. Forgiving the stilted dialog and encircling minimalism at hand, you might find at the heart of this project an auguring of better things to come.

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Asparagus (1979)
mystères de la femelle
5 September 2018
Because I am a man, I feel that it might be somewhat inappropriate for me to attempt an interpretation of this animated film's abstruse images. They are quite clearly evocative of uniquely female experiences and innervations, so a male-perspective analysis could only be suppositious at best. That much being stated, I will comment that it is a relaxing, and quite visually palatial candy-colored adult fantasy, mindfully hand-animated in a post-psychedelic cartoon style quite telling of its period. Strongly implicit, and occasionally explicit, ASPARAGUS is probably best avoided by a button-down, easily offended viewership. Those of a more amenable outlook should find it, at the very least, quite intriguing.

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Satan War (1979)
Tinpot spookhouse trash with documondo augmentation
31 August 2018
Credits roll over shots of swirly, melting psychedelia, possibly a glob of that Super-Elastic Bubble-Plastic stuff kids used to huff back in the 70s. Anyway, on to our story...

A nondescript American couple can't believe what a great deal they got in the purchase of their first home. This would usually rouse suspicion, except that the place is such a tumbledown dump that no self-respecting degenerate would even cook meth in, the new owners haul in their equally atrocious furnishings, which is probably why the resident demons start throwing a fit. Yep, you guessed it... crosses invert, walls shake, slime drips, and the lady of the house is molested by hands unseen. A spiritually sensitive houseguest warns of imminent danger, an attempted amateur exorcism fails, and the couple are badgered by a black-hooded specter. Deciding, finally, that enough's enough, they climb into their ugly car, leaving their ghostly worries and hideous furniture behind them. The end? Um, not quite... ...because out of nowhere we get a coarsely vivified "mondo"-style scholarly lecture on voodoo rites which has nothing to do with the previously detailed story. Okay, now it's the end.

The most easily attainable video version(which is still rare as hell) is missing an opening scene which is nearly identical to the tacked-on ending, and is equally irrelevant to the haunted house story. It features what might be the Solid-Gold Dancers in occult attire cutting the rug to some oddly un-satanic soul music, then moving into a kind of hand-jive/interpretive dance ritual(who knew that "duck-duck-goose" was a pledge of allegiance to Lucifer?). Meanwhile, a somber narrator schools us on the history of devil-worship.

SATAN WAR is just a wattle-and-daub amateur nosedive, so technically inferior that it may well have been edited with the heel of a shoe and processed in a truck-stop toilet. Gastronoms of all-time-worst cinema should find this an especially hearty dish. Others will find it painful, if not fatal. 1.5/10
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Edge of Fury (1958)
Grim, yet empathetic case study of a mentally unstable outsider
2 August 2018
This unduly sidestepped thriller, one quite shocking for its time, recounts a psychologically troubled young painter named Richard who seeks clinical help for his worrisome condition, but is repeatedly turned away in view of his impecunious financial status. While he struggles through a tangle of procedural red tape and empty promises from indifferent social workers, his mental state grows increasingly discordant. One afternoon, he has a chance meeting with a kindly widow and her two grown daughters, and, seizing this opportunity for some much-needed stability, proceeds to sagaciously enmesh himself into their lives. It's a satisfactory situation at first, though the ladies soon begin taking notice of his high-strung, impetuous peculiarities and awkward reactions to rather benign matters(especially those of an intimate nature). Tensions escalate, and latterly give rise to unspeakable tragedy.

EDGE OF FURY is a surprisingly accomplished low-budget picture, chiefly owing to the artful and highly atmospheric black-and-white cinematography, and also to the talented key players whose names you probably don't know, but whose faces may seem familiar. It's a downbeat, extremely lurid picture, yet it approaches its core issue of criminal mental illness with some degree of sensitivity and honesty. I suspect this is a possible candidate for the small canon of "film gris"...a proposed subcategory of film noir. The distinctions, though somewhat unclear, point toward pessimistic crime dramas with a left-leaning narrative, generally cautioning that violent criminals are a natural product of the blameful society they prey upon. The femme fatale has motives which are made clear from the start, and the shadowy world so known to noir differs from that of gris, which is otherwise more stark and saturated in a drab palate of neutral and grey tones. EDGE OF FURY affirms itself to this checklist, though its production date of 1953 puts it slightly outside the presently delineated film-gris timeline.

All said, a well-made and ahead-of-its-time picture which is quite overdue for rediscovery. 7/10
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Doomed Love (1984)
Ostranenie soap opera might appeal to a very patient few.
8 July 2018
Following a failed suicide attempt, a wearied professor is drawn into the lives of a young couple who want to help him overcome the pain of a love long lost.

The uncomplicated storyline at hand becomes the pith of an experimental film so wayward and prepensely dissociative in its presentation that it challenges any sort of customary critical assay. Characters stand nearly motionless while delivering staggered, fragmentary dialog(often simultaneously) in a deliberately vacant manner stripped of inflection and expression. A number of twee musical interludes are realized with a similarly detached flatness.The sets are mostly comprised of colorless backdrops and two-dimensional foreground standees, hand painted in defiance of representational depth, scale, and symmetry.

Inasmuch as DOOMED LOVE is admirably unexampled, it's likely to be an uphill climb for any but the most ardent habitué of challenging art cinema. I did initially find it somewhat interesting in concept/composition, but it wasn't long before boredom took a seat beside me. 5/10
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Blue-Light Special on the horror aisle.
15 June 2012
In a sleepy little U.S. community, a cemetery is haunted by a family of ghouls intent on resurrecting an ancient demon. This evil deed cannot be accomplished until a certain artifact is retrieved from a group of local teenagers.

This juvenile regional chiller never found much of an audience upon its initial home-video release, and it remains relatively obscure to date. It's a bit more ambitious that the usual backyard monster movie, with some surprisingly inventive entry-level horror makeup being the highlight of the production. Beyond that, CURSE OF THE BLUE LIGHTS is precisely the amateur horror hayride you'd probably expect it would be, with cheesy Gothic sets that look like an annual Halloween spook-house attraction. Performances are uniformly substandard, and the whole film ultimately comes off feeling like a feature-length episode of the TV show "MONSTERS".

These criticisms aren't made to sway you from seeing it, mind's actually pretty fun stuff, so long as your expectations remain squarely fixed at ground-level. Despite the perplexing(and quite possibly self-imposed) R rating, I would recommend this primarily to younger horror fans.

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A concedable ghost-in-the-box handout.
28 September 2011
A trio of college pals merge their funds for an unusual online auction 18th century box which houses the malevolent spirit of a murdered Irish servant girl. When the box is opened, the ghost is set free, and predictable carnage ensues.

KILL KATIE MALONE brings nothing to the table, but it's a satisfactory little product, nonetheless. Performances from the key players are a notch or two above the yardstick, and their characters are surprisingly well developed. This is pretty subtle stuff for contemporary horror, though not entirely ineffective...I actually rather liked the way it skirted explicit visual shocks for a more veiled, spectral puissance.

All in all, a higher quality production than the flat material really deserved.

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Boy Meets Dog (1938)
Inci-dentally surreal.
29 August 2011
This disorderly late-30s singsong cartoon dares to examine the possible consequences of prohibitive parenting, animal cruelty, and the failure to massage one's gums daily.

A puppy follows a boy home from school(where musical oral hygiene class is part of the curriculum), but the boy's curmudgeonly father kicks the dog to the curb and sends the child to bed without his supper. Later that night, a wallpaper mural in the boy's room becomes a portal into some sort of otherworldly elf-kingdom, where the father is forcibly taken to stand trial for his patrilineal misconduct. Found guilty by the elf jury, the judge(revealed to actually be his son), sentences him to a bizarre age-regression chamber where he is transformed into a baby. The father wakes from his cautionary nightmare a changed man...and they all live happily ever after.

An awkwardly conceived and disjointed toothcare advert with a frenetic singalong interlude. Its sheer weirdness will appeal to some folks, but I personally found it borderline unpleasant.
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Creating Rem Lezar (1989 Video)
Warped obscuro kiddie drivel.
14 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Two especially irritating children meet in school and find that they share a peculiar mutuality...they both have the same imaginary friend, some dude named Rem Lezar. Rem is a robust fellow with a butch lesbian haircut, clad in skintight purple spandex with a cape and headband. He loves children(!), and sings with an impassioned Jim Nabors-style vocal delivery.

The kids manage to bring him to life with mannequin parts and the power of believing, but his time with them is limited to a single day because a gold chest medallion crucial to his existence has been hidden away by an evil and powerful entity(a cheap pixillating digital face in the sky). Rem Lezar and the children embark on a search for said medallion(even stopping by the World Trade Center in one scene), and as is often the case in kiddie films, love saves the day and everything's ducky in the end.

This brain-decimating travesty replaces THE APPLE as the worst musical I have ever seen. The songs(oh, Sweet Jesus...there are a LOT of them) are stentoriously racking and saccharine-sweetly twee(the diabetic stroke inducing synth-and-vocals lullaby "When I'm Dreaming, I'm Dreaming Of a Dream" will make your sphincter tighten and your toes curl). Also in the mix are a few numbers which woefully attempt to "rock out", among them a cacophonic fifties-style doo-wop ditty by a group of effete boys in the throes of Sha-Na-Na-gasm, as well as what is possibly the least urban rap tune in the history of music. What makes REM LEZAR so memorably harsh, however, is the inherent pedophiliac streak which runs through it...disturbing, to be sure, but not enough to counter the sheer hilarity of this highly irregular juvenile jumble.

Rates 7.5/10 on the Schlockometer.
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Frightmare (1983)
Featureless 80s teenkill froth.
14 August 2011
Conrad, a legendary star of classic horror films, is a narcissistic killer as monstrous in life as he is on the screen. Shortly after his death, his corpse is stolen by a group of young cinemaphiles, and this prompts his devoted widow to enlist the aid of a soothsayer in retrieving the evil actor's damned soul from the fire-pits of Hell. Once reunited with his body, Conrad proceeds to wreak bloody vengeance against the young graverobbers.

FRIGHTMARE is a largely miscarried and routine supernatural slasher with atrocious editing and exanimate characters. To the film's credit, however, it does manage to serve up sporadic atmospheric moments which are effectively punctuated by the ceepy sounds of multi-layered echos and whispers. It's a prescriptive and nonessential 80s chiller overall, but it might suffice as a tolerable time-filler when nothing better is at hand.

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Weightless hippie-horror pipedream, mostly just seeds and shake.
14 August 2011
Warhol entourage beefcake Joe Dallessandro portrays Karl, a gardener in the employ of a wealthy but neglected housewife(Katharine Houghton, miles downstream from her earlier success in GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER). His command of the botanical arts is impressive, but his references are tough to check considering most of his previous employers have died. Suspiciously.

Houghton's garden is soon the envy of her upper-crust clique, and her reserved and perpetually bare-chested gardener becomes the object of much lustful flutter among her female friends. The household staff(native to the South American environs where this is set and filmed) are less enthusiastic about Karl's presence, and they warn their housemistress of his evil wizardry. Shrugging off this superstitious cautioning, she becomes increasingly drawn to Karl...but when people around her begin to die mysteriously, she comes to suspect a tenebrous connection to the flora cultivated by her brooding and sexually Svengali-like greenskeeper. The bizarre eventuality of this mystery is the manifestation of Karl's true nature. It seems he is...quite literally...a tree.

While THE GARDENER is a semi-creditable example of an under-the-radar horror film ethos, it's not likely to have strong appeal to a mainstream viewing integer. Sluggishly paced and lacking 'comme il faut' shocks and bloodshed, it does otherwise manage to build an obfuscous atmosphere of weblike mystique.

A mellow horror high for some, probably a harsh toke for others...5/10
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Sleaze up to your of Canuxploitation's crown jewels.
14 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
We launch our story with the harpoon murder of a zaftig young lady, casually snuffed for failing to sit still while posing for the killer's artistic doodles. We're off to a good start. We next find our psychotic doodlebug in the employ of a well-to-do sexpot(we know she's a cheap little whore because her tits are hiked to her chin and she has the same on-screen saxophone leitmotif as "Ginger" from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND). Not surprisingly, she's killed as well, as is the next girl, and the next, etcetera...all for refusing to stay still while the killer is sketching them. The psychoanalytical diagnosis provided to explain this psychosis is hilariously implausible, and thus keeps perfect step with the film's immersive kitch appeal. PLAYGIRL KILLER is a comically mean-spirited exercise in sexist misanthropy..a lovable paragon of 60s-era splendor which could be regarded as Canada's answer to H. G. Lewis' iconic COLOR ME BLOOD RED(1965).

The technical parts-and-parcels of PLAYGIRL KILLER are expectedly less-than, though sparks of amateur enthusiasm are occasionally evident. A very young and doughy Neil Sedaka is on-hand for a trivial "star-power" guest spot, obviously inclusive of a brief musical repose.

A delectably gauche, consistently watchable flick with a good sense of humor about itself, PLAYGIRL KILLER is semi-essential vintage sleaze.

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Better than expected bra-and-panties thriller.
14 August 2011
Ladycop Kay Lenz goes undercover as a dancer in a seedy strip joint to investigate a string of murders the club is linked to.

STRIPPED TO KILL is a fast-moving, occasionally clever, and overall above-par sexploitation thriller, and in a cheesy way, it's a pretty sexy one to boot. Unfortunately, some of the the girls playing the strippers are rather average looking(a couple of them might even bark if you offered them a Milk-Bone), and Ms. Lenz's male sidekick in the investigation is a grating character who gets a lot more screen time than he should. Still, this is buoyantly trashy fun, released just as the death-bell tolled for the grindhouse era.

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Ethan (1964)
Well meaning, well made melodrama with a rather hollow center
14 August 2011
Robert Sampson portrays a young American priest in the Phillipines who finds trouble afoot when he gives way to the sexual advances of a pretty local woman. He is hence maligned by his congregation and left to question his faith, and must choose between the cloth and the woman he loves. Sordid story culminates in a bitterly dispiriting finale.

This very minor and long-forgotten picture is too roundly professional to warrant a punishing stars across the board, in fact. The problem making ETHAN so hard to recommend lies mostly with what it's lacking. The core premise iteslf is naïve and hopelessly dated(and was so, even in its time, to be honest). Too, it's packed in a heavy syrup of Harlequin Romance sentimentality, and is, more than not, a rather idle-while effort.

ETHAN, admittedly, is more aptly handled than most films of lower tier origins, but ultimately emerges as little more than a handsomely packaged provision of no real importance which testifies to its own lingering obscurity. In the unlikely event of this picture crossing your path, a "low priority" placement is advised.

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Ironmaster (1983)
Iron-fortified loincloth romp set during early civilization.
14 August 2011
The leader of a prehistoric hunting tribe is murdered by one of his own people, an evil young tyrant. When the tribe banishes the killer, he wanders into an area of volcanic activity and witnesses the natural formation of an iron bar. Using this weapon and the knowledge of the means to create it, he becomes mad with power and sets forth on a bloody mission to conquer all tribe at a time. It is up to his lifelong rival to thwart these sinister plans.

IRONMASTER is a better film than it has any right to be, a highly entertaining chunk of old-school Euroschlock replete with equal parts cheesecake and beefcake(and even a light smattering of gore).

You've likely seen all this before, but this is one of the better examples of those European loincloth adventures which were being made by the dozen during the 80s.

Fun stuff...5.5/10
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Peculiar cross-genre picture, better than expected.
14 August 2011
An Asian crime syndicate enlists the aid of Paul Naschy in a diamond heist, a choice they come to regret when he violently betrays them. He kills the syndicate leader, the father of a girl he's been feigning romance with. She shoots Naschy in a vengeful rage, but he escapes into the wilderness. Critically wounded, he slips under, only to awaken in the personal care of an eccentric doctor and his two sexy daughters.

At this point, the film switches gears, and what began seemingly as an action/crime film gives way to a disorienting hybrid of revenge thriller, lurid sexploitation drama, and gialliesque slasher mystery. The situational goings-on are quite strange, and while the film is rather carelessly paced and atrociously dubbed, it aptly manages to hold you by the throat straight up to its bizarre summation.

This one takes some time to get the ball rolling, but once the stage is set, you may well be glad you stuck with it. All its inconsistencies aside, HUMAN BEASTS is a likable little dish of a very different flavor.

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Autumn Born (1979)
Surrender, Dorothy...
14 August 2011
Dorothy Stratten is a haughty, self-absorbed girl who spends recklessly and goes to discotheques in the middle of the day. She's going to turn 18 in a few that time she will accede authority in her late father's financial empire, much to the chagrin of her uncle(who is currently in-charge). He concedes that the only way to avoid her interference in the family business is to have her drugged and taken prisoner to a covert(and very pricey) corrective obedience-training facility, overseen by a hatchet-faced lesbian and her deranged lackeys. Gradual disempowerment through physical, sexual, and psychological torment proves successful. The girl's spirit is broken, rendering her a docile and obedient subordinate(with a "thing" for the "ladies").

Ms. Stratten was a stellar beauty, and that beauty is showcased here in a multitude of ways...we see her helplessly tethered, trussed, and fettered, and donned in a variety of lingerie, corsets, and slinky dresses(when she's not nude, of course). It shouldn't surprise that her presence is the cynosure attraction of AUTUMN BORN, and that the production itself is typically sub-par. This is not to say it's a BAD film, just that it's traveling noticeably light in several departments. And, as is often the case with erotic cinema, it's pitched with that recherché, pseudo-European sfumato-softness...presumably an attempt at concealing the film's sleazy soft-porn bedrock beneath a gauzy layer of specious artful intent.

Not too bad of its type, actually...and with Dorothy Stratten on board, anything is watchable(for instance...GALAXINA). 4.5/10
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