Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Today's bit of cinematic wonder is a classic. Well, it is one of those that scarred the memory of this adult child. Back when I was a wee lad, they used to run ads for movies on your local radio stations. Why? Because they were honest-to-god local stations, not corporate dumping grounds. Anyway, someone came up with the great idea of using the promo line of "Just repeat to yourself: It's only a movie. It's only a movie...." And this would repeat and fade out to reverb echoes. For a kid who spent three hours locked in the family bathroom because I was sure a monster was outside the door, this was Trauma City.
Honestly, I can't remember if that ad campaign was used with this movie, but it could have been. I remember seeing the ads for it in the paper alongside Three On A Meathook and Last House On A Dead End Street and similar gross out films from the time. So it has that stigma attached to it.
Yes, sleaze horror fans, we are talking about Scream Bloody Murder, made in 1971 and released around 1973. Do not confuse it with the beefcake/cheesecake slasher clone that came out a few years ago. This is the stuff that really matters to a true crap film fan. Like wine, crap films must age before they have any real flavor.
We start, rather abruptly, with a boy watching his father on a bulldozer. When the father goes to adjust something on the engine, the boy hops on, throws the thing in gear and flattens dear dad in a second. When his mom sees what he had done, he ends up coming off the bulldozer and his arm is crushed. Years later, sonny boy, with his new hook arm, is released (or escapes, which would have more fun) from the nut house after finding out his mother is getting married. See, sonny boy kinda has this warped love-thing going with Mom. And he isn't about to let anyone take Mom away from him.
Lots of people die, including a poor dog who just happened to be in the wrong house at the wrong time. The blood (there's lots of it) looks like they used red poster paint for the effect. It gives an already warped little film an extra touch of unreality.
Don't look for name stars. Don't look for Oscar-caliber acting. But do enjoy the icky weirdness that is shoveled about with gusto. But is it as unnerving as the old ads that I associate with this film? Nah. I generally rack up a few good laughs. Well, worth the the time. You can find it on two different releases from Mill Creek. The first is a 50 movie set called Chilling Classics (a great deal for 20 bucks), and the other is Mental Maniacs, which is released under Pendulum Pictures and the film is under the video release title of Matthew.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Everyone has seen bad movies. Admittedly, one's definition of what is "bad" can vary widely. I've actually heard people try to defend Xanadu, and if you haven't seen that movie to understand why they would defend it, let me offer this bit of advice: Some things are best left undisturbed. But then a lot of people thought Jurassic Park was great, and I personally thought it was the lowest point in the career of everyone involved, and, yes, I have seen Goldblum in Vibes.
We aren't here to discuss who is right about this film or that film. Our topic is "crap" films. What is a "crap" film, you might ask? What makes it different from a bad movie? Well, there are a lot of factors to consider here. Yes, they are all mostly subjective, but when I finish with you, I think you'll be able to scan your video rental shelves and be able to find a fine piece of "crap" to piss away your evening. And be aware that "crap" is not the same as shit. The film version of The Da Vinci Code is shit, but it will never be crap.
We shall use one of my all-time favorite "crap" films to make our point in this discussion. The film is Blood Mania, a twisted flick from the early 70's with Pete Carpenter leading us along as he does most of the work behind and in front of the camera.
Titles -- Okay, when I told you the name of the film we would be using as an example, you probably cringed or flinched or groaned. That is the first way to pick out a "crap" film. Titles can be very useful in figuring out what you are about to get yourself into. Now, a title like The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie really tells you little more than you are most likely not going to be watching car chases or large amounts of bloodletting. A title like Snake Eater pretty much tells you that your girlfriend/wife/gay lover will most likely refuse to sit in the same room with you as it plays across the screen. Blood Mania, Blood Freak, This Is Not A Test, Fury Of The Wolfman, They Saved Hitler's Brain, and Twisted Brain all pretty much set the tone for you before you even watch the first scene. So if the title has its own Cheese Factor built in, you may well have a "crap" film on your hands.
Budget -- This varies from film to film. Expect to see things happen in out-of-the-way places or deeply confined inside of a house. You won't see a car chase through the National Mall and you won't be seeing a gun fight take place on a busy sidewalk on Wall Street. You won't find yourself wondering where they spent the film's budget, but you might be wondering, "Couldn't they afford to crop out that damned boom mike?" No, they couldn't. Really. In Blood Mania, watch for the claustrophobic nature of the shots. You really don't see the actors doing a lot of exterior shots. And the few that were done look very, very crappy.
Stars -- Don't look for them. Oh, if you go back a few years, you'll find a handful of people who might be currently famous, but if they are in a crap film, you can bet they were young enough to jump at anything that offered two bucks an hours. And if you see a "star" from a few years ago (*cough*William Katt*cough*) in a crap film, you can bet their career has come full circle and they'll jump at anything that will keep them from Dumpster diving for dinner. Blood Mania sports the then-lovely Maria De Aragon. Wait, you claim you've never heard of her? But she went on to play Greedo in Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Yeah, I thought you'd remember.
Story/Plot -- You really are asking for a lot, aren't you? Oh, pray for something that actually makes sense. Legacy Of Satan had a great idea -- a woman targeted by a demonic cult as the perfect bride for its leader. Lots of potential. Just try to keep up with the randomness of the events in that film, and forget the ending. But they started with a great idea, which is usually the case with a lot of these films. Either that or they have a great image in their heads and decide to build a story around that one image. With Blood Mania, that one image seems to be in the scene in which Ms. De Aragon shakes her two major assets for the camera. Wait, that was one of my favorite images. Maybe it was the painting revealed in the climax. That image certainly sticks in your head. It has been stuck in my head since 1978 when I originally saw the film. Even now, after multiple viewings, that one image sticks and the rest fades
Coolness/Cult Factor -- You remember the kids in your high school who always seemed to be sitting alone at lunch and acted happy as clams to do so? That will be you when you start watching crap movies. You'll find no one will value your opinion on anything, except, maybe, junk food. Even fans of horror films tend to ignore these things as being beneath them. Even if they have no idea who Andy Milligan is, they will curl their collective nose up at the thought of watching one of his films. You are on your own and all alone. Do yourself a favor: Stop showering -- you can save money, and there will be no one to complain.
By now you should have a vague handle on what a crap film is. Just keep in mind that once you start down this path, you often become lost. You'll know you have joined the rest of us when you find yourself discussing the merits of anything made by Roberta Findley. You don't know who she is? Heh Heh Heh. Step this way, and I'll show you.
(Look for information on any of these actors and/or films at the wonderful Internet Movie Database http://www.imdb.com. It is the best friend of us crap movie fans because it never questions our film choices, and it never, ever asks for our Doritos.)
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Where does one start with something like this? There's no easy way to break it to you. I just want you to know that I sympathize with your pain and disappointment. Well, let me get this over with.
The Revenge Of Doctor X is NOT what the credits claim it to be. There, I've said it. Of course, if you are a diehard fan of crap cinema or if you have Mill Creek Entertainment's Chilling Classics then you already know this to be true. This warning is for those who don't know. And what I am about to tell you isn't news to those of you who research your films, but I'm sure there are those who have no clue about the awful truth behind The Revenge Of Doctor X.
Your opening credits say that it is an Eddie Romero film. It says you'll see John Ashley. That can mean only one thing to those of us who have sampled some of Eddie Romero's Philippine-based horror -- blood and insanity in copious amounts. So the film starts. It's a couple of older gents, one of whom is throwing the biggest snit-fit about storms throwing off a rocket launch. Oooookay...doesn't seem like Eddie Romero's style, but I'm game. Twenty minutes later, after the main older guy has spiked a dozen times on the overacting scale, you start to realize that John Ashley ain't gonna be showing up. No pretty Angelique Pettyjohn flitting about so alluringly in tacky late 60's clothes.
Oh, wait, what's this? A Japanese lady who speaks English like she's chewing an entire package of Big League Shredded Bubble Gum? Hmmm, still not Eddie Romero material. At this point, you realize you've been had, and you consider shutting the damn thing off. But then you see the poorly blue-screened volcanic eruption coming from a perfectly normal mountain (where I come from, it just looked like a really big hill), and the main characters react as if they had seen a squirrel eating acorns in the park. So you give it a while longer. More extreme bipolar action from our lovely doctor, and the little Japanese assistant lady puts up with this. You are hoping she'll slit his throat, for her sake and for yours. But, no, the doctor has it in his noggin to create a super Venus flytrap creature. And let's not forget the surprise bare breasts of the pearl divers.
You've been lied to. The film is nothing like what was promised by the credits. Even the video boxes for the VHS release set up promises that the film can't keep. But you should have known, considering the credits were the crappy video generated type from the early 80's. What you have seen is a diseased nightmare of gut-churning bad acting added to a script that seems dated from the 50's and devoid of logic. Where the hell have we seen the likes of this before?
Ed Wood, Jr. Blame him for this nearly 90 minute waste of time that could have been spent downloading illegal music files or beating the neighbor. A stealth attack of crap. Ed Wood, Jr. wrote the script. He didn't direct it. Kenneth G. Crane is to blame for not attempting to raise the script's low bar. He didn't wallow in the crappiness of the script like Ed Wood tended to do as a director. But he never tempted to wrangle the lead actor to modulate his performance. That is sin enough to condemn him.
Mill Creek is blameless for this mess. They were just doing what they do, which is give you good variety at a dandy price. No, the blame falls on the late Ed Wood, Jr. This was meant to be called Venus Flytrap, which is rather unimaginative but fitting. Then the title of The Devil Garden is attached to it. Again, that would work, and would have actually fooled enough people into seeing it. Somewhere along the line, that morphed into The Double Garden, which just smacks of either a bad translation or someone just wasn't listening (maybe they were still stunned by the film). How the hell anyone came up with The Revenge Of Doctor X is beyond me? Under any name, it reeks of Woods and his overly theatrical sense of style.
Just a tip. If you want to attempt to kill someone on the sly, have them watch this film. They just might slip into a coma from which they may never awaken.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
It can be so easy to get suckered into watching a movie. Me, I love to see things that promise low-grade thrills. In volume. So, over 15 years back, I rented a tape (that's VHS, folks -- retro technology these days) called Terror On Tape. I believe it came from the fine folks at Continental Video, known for their oversized tape boxes which were graced with the most incredible cover art. (As an aside, I recommend snagging any of these that you can find as I'm sure they will be collector's items, even if the tapes are shot to hell. Where else can you find a Boris Vallejo painting for Mistress Of The Apes?)
Anyway, while watching Terror On Tape, they showed a couple of clips from a film called Cathy's Curse. Vaguely creepy little girl wagging an even creepier doll around. People falling to their death. Rotting fruit. Sounds effects done on an old synthesizer. I had a new goal in life. I had to get me a dose of Cathy's Curse. A year or two later and I find it in a grocery store video rental section. Oh, I was in heaven. I was hyper, I was elated, I thought I'd wet my pants.
Then I watched the movie.
Canadians can make some awful, awful films. Cathy's Curse is almost reason enough to overthrow their government. Okay, it isn't that bad. Actually, my girlfriend and I laughed our asses off through most of this crapfest. But I was disappointed. Not because I thought I was going to see something along the lines of the original Omen. It was just that Terror On Tape had prepared me for a scene of gratuitous blood-spurting when the housekeeper throws herself out of a second-story window (which would only be fatal in extreme circumstances, like landing on your head, impaling yourself or being forced to do so by the most butt-ugly doll on the planet). THE BLOOD WAS NOT THERE!! The whole experience was tainted. Never mind the wet-tissue performances or the fact the little girl's hair never looked as though it was washed or the randomness of the scenes. I wanted my spurting blood.
Denied my cheap thrill, I hoped to find a complete copy out there in the world. First, my girlfriend and I bought the tape off eBay, hoping for a different copy that what we had rented. It was, but it too was missing the spurting blood. Now, thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment and BCI, I have two more copies of the film. Alas, no spurting blood in either one.
Short breakdown on the story for those who have stuck it out this long: Decades ago, a family had troubles, so the father decides to run off with the young daughter. Due to the child's liberal tree-hugging nature, they swerve to avoid splatting a bunny, and they both burn to death. Jump to sometime in the late 70's, and the dead girl's brother, who was taken away by the bitch of a mother (Hey, that's what the father called his wife before he burned!), moves into the family home. His daughter, with a face that appears to be paralyzed for the most part, finds her aunt's hideous doll in the attic, and before you can say "Brown recluse spider", we are off to possession city.
To be honest, I think the filmmakers were trying to equate the whole possession theme with the fact the girl was of the age to begin her period. Usually a possessed person, in the movies that is, become more and more evil. This little fluff bunny has mood-swings and seems to be vaguely sexually aware at the most improper moments. And they call it Cathy's Curse. If she scarfed down chocolate and complained of sore breasts, we would have had serious confirmation. But to think the filmmakers had any deep thoughts concerning this film is giving more credit that anyone involved with this film deserves. So never mind.
As I said, this film is released by both Mill Creek and BCI. I watched both. They seem to be the same print for the most part. The same line runs through both prints in the same location for the same length of time (most of the beginning, but it isn't troublesome). The big tip-off was the letters in the bottom right corner of the screen. I couldn't read them, though they appeared to be "SC". I have no idea what company those marks belong to. Possibly Canadian? Oddly, the BCI print seems to be a touch darker, but that could have more to do with the transfer process than anything else, but I openly admit I have no clue. You can find the movie on Mill Creek's Chilling Classics 50 movie megapack and on BCI's Nightmares From The Crypt 20 movie set.
Worth watching for grins and giggles. Don't expect logic. Don't look for anything to be emotionally involving. But I doubt you'll be able to refrain from repeating "She's seen me! Kill her!" for weeks after seeing this film. That scene, though missing the spurting blood, is worth the price of suffering through this film.
Round two for Mill Creek Entertainment's "Chilling Classics" megapack. This installment's title is the fun family-minded film Naked Massacre, also known under the title Born For Hell.
It seems I read a short review of this film many years ago, and it called it a rather nasty film. I filed this comment away in my mind (knocking loose memories of my siblings' birthdays in the process). Figured I'd never see this thing. Then came this DVD set, and the title kept nagging at me. So I watched it.
Ever seen Last House On The Left? Liked that? Wished you could see something similar? Welcome home. Oh, I'm not saying that it has the same raw power that Last House has. But it is like its pale cousin. Oh, yeah, definitely from the same internal place full of rage.
We are in Belfast. The IRA and British troops are turning the streets into slaughterhouses. Just like the Americans are doing in Vietnam. Not my opinion. This film won't let you forget its historical setting, bombarding you (poor choice of words there, sorry) with images from the television. Into this violent nightmare comes our main character, a vet who wants to go home to America but has decided to spend some time in Belfast. It wouldn't have been tops on my list of vacation spots back in the early 70s. Our focal point character becomes fixated on a group of young beautiful nurses all living together. He acts stranger and stranger. Then he finds himself sneaking into the place where the nurses live. Knives get involved. Lives are ruined. Lesbian love is mocked. Yes, truly, bad things happen.
Not a happy movie. You have the filmmaker's attempt to dazzle you with a stab at "Art". You know, the whole bit with "All the violence in the world, with all these global atrocities, how can we, in good conscience, mourn a smaller display of violence?" Or maybe they were asking which bit of violence is more despicable? Hell, maybe they were just padding the running time. And then you have the pointless violence on the screen, simple wanton violence thrown about with a pace that will give you time to consider the fact these women are just tools for the killer.
But is it worth watching? Eeh. As long as you don't mind showering with a wire scrub brush when it's over, go for it. DO NOT expect a girlfriend to sit with you while you watch this. If she does and she LIKES this film, be very afraid of her.
Seriously, it is well made. The performances range from iffy to unnerving. The violence is off-putting, but then, it should be, right? Torturing innocent women should turn you off. And sitting through 90 minutes of this stuff to get to an end that practically slaps you across the face for even watching, well, you knew what you were getting into the minute the main character makes an old hooker dance at knife point. If you stay beyond that scene, you give up your right to complain.
The copy on the set is complete as far as I can tell. It looks pretty good for a film that has probably been rotting on a shelf. Not a horror film, in spite of its inclusion in this set. Just an exercise in violence filmed in drab color and light.
Our first trip into Mill Creek Entertainment's "Chilling Classics" Megapack is the classic The Alpha Incident, directed by Bill Rebane.
I admit, until this weekend, I had never seen this film. Heard of it, yes, but never watched it. It must have escaped the clutches of Channel 2 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when I was addicted to their assault on my young senses known as "Night Owl Theatre". Okay, not an original name, but when you are swilling down liters of Mountain Dew and bags of Doritios, all you care about is entertainment. How they could have missed this film is beyond me as it fit perfectly into their concept of showing films that generally promised more than they delivered.
Let's pretend you've never heard of this movie. Here's the story: Craft returns from outer space (I think Mars is mentioned) and it brings some nasty substance that could be deadly. The bulk of this stuff is shipped across country by train, on which some drunk lunkhead (played by George "Buck" Flower) exposes himself to the substance. At the next stop, he and four others are quarantined until the effects of the substance can be determined. Well, it's terminal, and if you fall asleep, your brains will swell and pop your skull like a zit. So now it's a race to find the cure before these poor folks go to sleep and wake up dead.
If you're in the least interested in watching this film, avoid the Internet Movie Database as almost everyone gives away the ending. I mean, you'll see it coming before it happens, but it's the journey that counts, right? Please, God, tell me I'm right. Otherwise, I wasted my time watching this movie.
Entertaining stuff, but make sure you know you aren't watching an exercise in action and haute tension. It can be slow going. Have distractions. Soda, chips, marching bands. Okay, it isn't that bad. I just squeak by on five hours of sleep a day. Die Hard can put me to sleep on any given day.
Mill Creek's version is as good as any version you're likely to find. Well, maybe Bill Rebane has the original master copy and that might be sharper. Otherwise, learn to live with old broadcast television quality. I personally think it enhanced the experience.
Things to look for: Ralph Meeker. This was one of the last films he did. He acts heavily medicated. Don't know if that is just good acting or if he was medicated. He gets credit in this review for being the biggest name star in the film AND he gets the best exit from the film. You might want to hit the rewind button and review that scene just for cheap thrills.
Weird facts: George "Buck" Flowers (the lunkhead train employee Hank) and co-star John F. Goff (mucho macho guy Jack Tiller) wrote a fine piece of drive-in trash called, of all things, Drive-In Massacre. Oddly enough, this film also appears on the "Chilling Classics" Megapack as well as Bill Rebane's Demons Of Ludlow and The Cold. If you read the descriptions for the films, you see that his Capture Of Bigfoot is supposed to be in this set under the name Legend Of Bigfoot, but instead you get the real Legend Of Bigfoot, a reasonably entertaining documentary from the 70's.
(As always, thanks to the people at Mill Creek Entertaiment for permission to use graphics from their site.)
Hello. This is just an introduction to what we are doing here. Sort of a handshake before the serious business begins. I just want you to know what you are letting yourself in for. It is only fair, you know. You never hand a loaded gun to someone with the safety off.
You see, we here at Bargain Basement Thrills love movies. No, no, nothing with Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt. If you are hoping for something of that nature, then you have wandered too far from the "New Release" section of your favorite video store. Here, we lean more towards the lesser films. Oh, hell, we LOVE crap! Why be coy about it? Snooze-inducing, boom mike displaying, actors as bad as your brain-damaged cousin, pointless storyline crap. The stuff your mother would slap you for watching.
We have low standards. What was that? Why, yes, we do have standards. Okay, we have basically one. The stuff has to be cheap. By that, we don't really mean cheaply made, though that does tend to be the case most of the time. No, we are looking for the stuff where you can score a DVD for less than the cost of a double cheeseburger at most fast food places. Face it, times are getting rough, and entertainment CAN be had as cheaply as pouring a bucket of water on the sidewalk outside the front door of a nursing home in the dead of winter. (We don't condone that behavior, and use that example for humor purposes only. Anyone sick enough to actually do that deserves to have their own hip shattered.) So, basically, our flicks have to be as inexpensive as possible.
We will begin our examination of the world of cheap thrills with the Chilling Classics 50 Movie Megapack from Mill Creek Entertainment (www.millcreekent.com). They were kind enough to grant us permission to use the image from their products. Great people. Dirt-cheap DVDs. The 50 pack you see above can be had as cheap as $19.99 from Best Buy. We don't do math here, but that works out to around 40 cents per movie. Go buy this thing.
Now, we agree the price is great. But are we here to tell you about prices? Not really. We intend to watch the movies on this set and give you the run down on these flicks. Sure, some of them are golden oldies that you've seen enough to make you scream, but there are some great weird little gems hiding on this (and other multi-disc collections). We'll cover them all. Some will get a quick mention. Others, we will do some digging. We may even redirect your attention to our sister site (thedogpilemagazine.blogspot.com) if we can track down a director or actor from one of these films and do a short interview.
Prepare yourself. The door is open. The scent of cheesy films floats on the breeze. Is that a freak with a severed head? Yes. Yes, it is. Thank goodness for simple pleasures, eh?