31 August 2008


(No matter how bad a movie is, that shouldn't give some scissor-happy jerk the right to chop up the video box.)

1974 – United Kingdom
Director – Freddie Francis
Paragon Video Productions, 19??, VHS

I’ve learned to be wary of films starring Jack Palance, films about witches, and films made in the UK. Rarely do any of these categories deliver on their own but this is the first time I’ve seen them all boldly thrown together. In a basement somewhere Palance leads a black magic ceremony centered on a googly eyed African idol. After some spooky talk, a woman does a little topless hustle in front of the Chuko idol and unconvincingly cuts her stomach open.

After the best part of the movie is over, an older woman shows up to argue about her prior membership in the coven and during a scuffle with Palance is impaled on the idols pitchfork.
Besieged by unpaid bills and debt Palance is at his wits end and at the point of having to close his little failing antique/import business. Just as his pasty British fop of an assistant finds out about the murder and starts spiraling into a whine-fest, Palnce throttles him into silence, and discovers a secret drawer full of gold coins hidden in his favorite desk.

So sweet, this means the sacrifice worked, or at least that’s what Palance thinks. Wasting no time, Palance heads to a local bar, er, Pub and picks up a waxy looking Italian woman, takes her home, gets high, gets laid and when she won’t do a striptease for Chuko he gets chokey.

Rather soonish after that several Oriental chaps show up at his little storefront and eagerly purchase some authentic Ming vases which a previous conversation established as unsellable. Hey the bucks, er, Pounds are just rolling in now! Sweet old Chuko is paying in dividends, and despite his assistants reckless suggestion of a party, Palance decides to invest his newfound wealth in a bottle of cherry brandy which he uses to get a big pasty fat chick in leopard print drunk.

Finally killing his own aunt as a sacrifice, Palance has gone perhaps too far and has to identify her corpse for the police, his grief about as convincing as his intermittent shoddy English accent. A clever fade effect using Chuko’s eyes is used to show how evil he has become while he grins with gluttonous delight as his aunt’s will is read, and then read again thanks to an editing mistake in the film. His assistant starts whining like a pussy again and Palance visits a BDSM call-girl while the assistant visits three double scotches to get his dander up before returning to the shop to confront his boss who, surrounded by angry pale British, finally breaks.

Jack Palance tries to make it through Craze.
This PG yawn fest was pretty much exactly what I expected from any of the aforementioned three film-sinking elements. I had hoped that the combination of the three might result in some fantastic plumbing of the sloppy depths of terrible, but no, it failed even at that. It didn’t help that Palance had a thin little mustache which remided me of Charles Bronson. I love Charles Bronson, I hate Jack Palance.

27 August 2008


1978 – Italy
Director – Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates)
VCI Entertainment, 2007, DVD

Starcrash is an homage, a science-fiction movie nerd film. If I had been able to make a seriously budgeted sci-fi film at 15, I would have done the exact same thing. Luigi Cozzi is not a man of subtlety. He knows what he likes, and he seeks to recreate it. He openly admits to stealing the Aliens concept to make 1980’s Contamination. What better way to extend the ecstasy of the original experience than to do your best to mimic it. Cozzi’s films are, for lack of a better term, cinematic masturbation.

Starcrash may very well be the pinnacle of that form, an amalgam of great moments from the best sci-fi nerd films very poorly redone . Lets begin with an egregious Star Wars rip-off opening. Within the first scene, we meet Marjoe Gortner’s character (the reason I picked this up) and soon, a plethora of other B-list actors and brutally dollar store special effects. First is his sidekick, Stella Star (Caroline Munroe). The two are on the run from the space cops and enter hyperspace to escape, but when they stop to check out an abandoned ship, they are busted and sentenced to hard labor by a goofy brain creature (which screams “directly stolen from another movie”, but I can’t place it). While doing penance in a balloon mine, Stella uses a guards laser gun to escape the barbarian movie set and “board” a model ship where badguys inform her of her clandestine mission with Marjoe…

Somehow, dirty drunk Italians, Stella and her dumb-redneck sidekick Robot-L end up landing a ship on a beach and blundering into a Jason and the Argonauts ripoff with a giant metal-boobed robot titan. Yes, this fucking open theft is such garbage!

Yes, there’s some snowy planet Empire Strikes ripoff, but wait! That movie hasn’t been made yet! Another search of another shipwreck results in Stella and the damned huckster-robot being captured by cave-dwelling dwarves. (insert 2001 rip) Suddenly they are almost rescued by a hideous monster guy in tights who shoots lasers from his makeup caked eyes, David Hasselhoff! What? Hoff screws up and Marjoe must perform the final heroics with his awesome laser-sword thing, damn what a genius concept.

Luckily our heroes have tripped and fallen into the right planet, the Evil Counts HQ basey thing, where he keeps his stop-motion robot-golems. Yes! Finally, a giant incredibly prolonged laser battle, with a few mercifully brief breaks, takes place between the good guys, who make some benevolent plans, and the Count, who does some evil-planning betwixt spaceship launchings. The Count, Zarth Arn, played to the absolute hilt by Joe fucking Spinell cackles a lot, and his evil space base, which is shaped like a giant evil claw, literally curls into a fist and shoots lasers at stuff, and goes down in sparkly space-flames as Zarth Arn and I both chortled our way into glorious idiotic hell.

Watch the Starcrash trailer at CultTrailers.
See some rad promotional art at Satan's Hope Chest.

The John Solie poster that became the video cassette cover.

The publicity shot that became the DVD cover of a different title.

Thai or Indonesian poster I got from somewhere.

13 August 2008

Can - Can

1960 – United States
Director – Walter Lang
CBS/FOX Video, 1988, VHS
Run Time - 2 hours, 11 min.

OK, this is a fuckin musical, I fuckin hate music. But it does star Frank Sinatra, my favorite male vocalist and no less than Shirley MacLaine, possibly the most attractive woman ever to grace the screen.
Dance numbers are what I expects but okay, I’m willing to tolerate cute period costumed women for the fact that it’s got Sinatras voice, and MacLaine who is as usual, devastating, here as Sinatras lover and the owner of a semi-taboo Parisian dance club.

For performing the tawdry Can-Can at her club, MacLaine is hauled to court, and her lawyer Sinatra defends her against a conservative and ridiculously dressed French judge who falls for her charm.
At the club Shirley does a dance number in which she is, disturbingly, beat up (a dummy) for which the crowd cheers heartily. The conservative judge turns up at the show and Shirley plays passive aggressive brush off.
When she brushes him off, Shirley is arrested and a Sinatra must defend his lady-love in court. Success warms her heart even more to the crooner, but his waffling fear of commitment drives her into the eager arms of the hell-bent-for-marriage judge.
Nevertheless, despite his asinine fear of marriage to the most attractive woman in the world, he crumbles with helpless despair and sings a sad song. Ahhh.

At the engagement party, Frank cooks up a rather heartless scheme to drunkenly embarrass MacLaine out of her “above-her-class” wedding, and somehow succeeds. She breaks off the wedding in flight, and now my guess is that she’s going to want revenge on Sinatra and will drive forward with steely composure until she once again melts under the warmth of his brusquely charming leathery grin.

Anyway, at this point there’s an Adam and Eve ballet number which features Maclaine in sparkly tights which is, WOW.
The judge, thinking he has discovered the secret of Sinatras attractive insolence returns to woo MacLaine, but even his best efforts prove no match for supreme Sinatrification and predictability.

It took two sittings, but sometimes you’ve gotta really suffer before you smile.

05 August 2008

Terror On Tour

1980 – United States
Director – Don Edmonds
Media Home Entertainment, 1983, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 30 minutes

This almost feels like it’s going to be a big budget Christian film showing the “true horrors” of rock music, clearly the band “The Clowns” replete with face makeup, wigs and caped leotards is meant to be a KISS knockoff. On stage they dole out a goofy gore theatrics bit while grinding out tame forgettable elevator quality “rock-n-roll”.

For some reason beyond my comprehension, the band is about to hit the big-time and all the members are already gearing up for their rockstar stereotype offstage roles as junkie womanizers. OK, not all of ‘em, but we have to listen to the sensitive creative ones yammer on about it for a while. Meanwhile one of their roadies is making himself up to look like one of the band members, he’s really shy (and creepy) and this way he can get laid by girls who think he’s in the band. Everyone else is OK with that, and laughs it off. After a brief and boring show by The Clowns his buddy, Roadie #2 goes off to score some drugs from some girl, who is shortly thereafter stabbed to death by someone dressed like one of “The Clowns.”

At the after party, there’s lots of chicks and since the clowns are there in full dress uniform, ample opportunity for boobs in every sleazy hookup scene. One of the girls at the party has her throat cut, but who is it, the band or the other…oh WAIT another girl gets stabbed, OH, and abruptly, another. With all the bargain acting and laughably corny effects I’m thinking this is just a fetish movie about clown violence against women? When the cops become interested in the case, it merely adds another slack mouth to the droning robotic utterances of terrible script that sound churned out at gunpoint by a fat, bald, cigar smoking clown with DT's chained up in a New Jersey warehouse. Wait, that doesn’t make any sense.

If all of this wasn’t sleazy enough yet, we've returned to the story of shy roadie who is humiliated trying to flirt with some women in the park, then subjected to an oppressive religious trip at home. Later as a cathartic release he has a laugh putting Clowns makeup on his junkie pal roadie #2 in preparation for the after-show party. Deceiving and manipulating intoxicated women into sex is certainly much more acceptable than permitting any of the homosexual undertones suggested in these repressed outcast/buddy sequences to be realized right?

Finally spilling forth like steaming, excrement-swollen viscera, the sadistic undercurrent of filth in this movie goes all out as one of the Clowns (as far as we can tell) dispenses with the bullshit and issues raspy sexual commands to a drunk teenybopper in a bloodsplattered noose-bedecked room. If she weren’t the most jarring actress ever, I might be even more disgusted with this vile film than I already am.
As it stands, the climax of grotesquery has been reached, and what should have been the subsequent shocking reveal/resolution was neither shocking or resolving, and stood a little off to the side, too stupid and ashamed to sweep all the revulsion under the carpet.

02 August 2008

Daddy's Deadly Darling

Daddy’s Deadly Darling
AKA Pigs
1972 – United States
Director – Marc Lawrence
Paragon Video Productions, 1985, VHS

A dad who molests his daughter throughout her minute-long life montage gets his when she brutally murders him. The daughter, Lynn, is committed to an asylum but steals a nurses outfit and a car and busts out into a rural location and a rock song featuring a jews harp.

Out in the sticks, an old bald farmer named Zambrini (writer/director Marc Lawrence) apologizes to a dead body for having to feed it to his pigs, continuing the snappy dialogue, Zambrini reveals the origin story of his flesh hungry swine.
Lynn (Toni Lawrence, the directors daughter) shows up at the creepy dark farm and takes a job in Zambrinis café where, according to the terrified old ladies in the next shot, he feeds the pigs to the general public. Unfortunately for the old women, the Sheriff refuses to arrest Zambrini for stealing bodies from the graveyard because “dead bodies have no civil rights.”

Awakening sweaty from a dream in which Zambrini had slashed her apart with a straight-razor, Lynn goes for a midnight snoop around the farm and is caught and threatened by the Z man. The next day, while serving some ham to a local, Ben, he tells her about the other pretty girls who disappeared and got fed to Zambrinis pigs. Afterwards, she has another creepy talk with Z man, but stays on board for the free phone priveliges so she can make crazy raving phone calls to her dead daddy.

Later, Ben forces her to go on a date, and tries to rape her but is stopped short by the Sheriff who drives Lynn home but then also gets a little creepy. The solution to that problem is to invite Ben over for a romp between the sheets and a straight-razor emasculation. Finally!, sandwiched between those loony phonecalls and plot development scenes there’s some moderately creepy parts.

Zambrini finds Lynn rocking in the corner sobbing apologies to “daddy”. What a pair these two make, Zambrini mumbling away incoherently and Lynn outwardly in total control. But really, she’s stark raving mad and between conversations with “daddy” possibly hallucinating screaming telepathic anthropomorphic pigs.

By the time she snaps again and kills someone in another mostly bloodless stab scene, there’s been so much crazy crazy babbling under the influence of rednecky Sheriff procedural that, despite the wandering cleavage, to his and my detriment, Zambrini and I had both forgotten who the killer was. This low budget-rural slasher precursor to Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a lot of the genuinely creepy ideas that would be put to more effective use by its successors.

A cool old(?) poster for the title Pigs:

The 2002 Troma DVD release:

New Stuff

Last week I picked up a box set of Herschell Gordon Lewis films released by Something Wierd Video. I was looking for a cheap copy of The Gore Gore Girls on DVD, but the 6 movie set was cheap enough that it was worth having all six films.

I also got a couple of good looking Paragon and Media VHS tapes from a friend who moved away. These will be reviewed soon since I have to send them back to him.

Finally, Daniel found a VHS tape in Vancouver BC for me. The movie is called Night Breaker and stars Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez as the same guy who witnessed some nuclear experiments.