26 August 2009

Play Dead

Play Dead
United States - 1984
Director – Peter Wittman
Academy Home Entertainment, 1986, VHS
Run time – 1 hour, 26 min.

Play Dead is part of the long tradition of evil animal films which itself is a sub-premise of the classic man vs. nature theme. Though it wasn’t the first such entry in the subgenre, Jaws ushered in a host of spinoffs in the video-era that wound down to sporadic entries featuring all nature of random animals from alligators to earthworms turning aggressive and attacking humans. Seems like the relative popularity of Cujo (1983) spawned a brief attempt to coat-tail the evil dog concept. Play Dead is an incredibly absurd case in point.

At her mothers funeral, Audrey and her boyfriend Glen have a confrontation with Audrey’s aunt Hester. She’s been at odds with the rest of the family ever since Audrey’s father rejected Hester for the deceased. Now Hester hangs around her house drinking brandy and talking to Audrey's dead father and her dog Gretta. Typically, after a few glasses Hester will break out the satanic acoutrements and chant some incantations over the dog which at these special moments refers to as “canis diabolis” and adorns with a pentagram necklace.

This time she means business, and the day after her ritual she pays a visit to Audrey and presents her with the dog, as a gift. Prior vitriol and hatred aside, apologies are quickly accepted, hands shaken and all of that and Audrey graciously accepts an unfamiliar 100 pound carnivorous gift from her mortal enemy.
That night after visiting for dinner, Audrey’s brother returns to his car where the waiting dog, having calculated the velocity and mass of an oncoming vehicle leaps from cover and startles him into the path of the car where he is killed, or anyway some blood runs from his mouth and there is a funeral. Greta has harnessed the awesome powers of geometry and physics to mastermind a series of untraceable “accidental” deaths.
Devastated by her compounding filial devastation Audrey listens to her collection of food-court ambiance records and invites Glenn over for a romp between the poorly edited shots of body doubles with different breast sizes. Her face looks a little frightened, but “her” hands eagerly ply Glen's generously bulging shorts as Greta watches patiently nearby.

Suddenly a good-ol’-boy detective is investigating the death of her brother, squeezing out homely anecdotes all the while. Audrey’s neighbor is electrocuted by Greta who opens the bathroom door in effusive and unnecessary slow-motion, picks up the hot curling iron and drops it into the tub. Waiting long enough for the convulsions to stop, she then carefully removes it from the tub.

Next it’s Glen’s turn. After a totally exhausting tennis game with Audrey he sits down next to a tree and promptly falls asleep with Greta leashed to his wrist. The dog quickly runs around the tree and Glen wakes just in time to be choked to death by the leash. But is in the coroners report where the crescendo of logically and visually dissonant scripting comes to a head. The coroner and detectives assessment is that someone choked Glen to death with one incredibly strong hand, and that Glen fought back with one hand, while the dog stood idly by. The nature of film requires the suspension of disbelief, but really, that’s your theory? When the detective finally starts to suspect the dog, it's too damned late and she quickly dispatches him with a quick dose of lye powder in his alka-seltzer (Greta is also comfortable with basic chemistry). Hester suddenly decides that her work is done, and leaves her initial victim Audrey alive to cry about her mullet.

Rather than a clever script or a good idea for one, it’s clear that the backers for this movie just found a well-trained dog and decided to build a movie on that premise alone. And it’s abundantly clear why Troma, in an effort to build their reputation picked up this film for distribution.

This box art is from Horror Playground.com in case you couldn't tell. There also exists another alternate non-Troma video sleeve which I am hoping to track down soon.

One British and two French and VHS covers courtesy of the generous Agressions Animales.

Fangoria 67 - Evil Dead II

Thanks to a post finals vacation in sunny Silver City, New Mexico I am slacking a bit on the posts. It doesn't help that a rainstorm a couple of nights ago knocked out internet connectivity for pretty much the entire town for at least a day. Nevertheless, I tracked down a functional connection and by request here is a nice old article on the special FX of Evil Dead II.
For those of you that might have missed Mr. Raimi's Drag Me To Hell, it was a fun more-or-less return to form reminiscent of (but not as good as) The Evil Dead. Enjoy.

For the record this issue was published in September of 1987 and also contained among other things a few pictures from Street Trash.

15 August 2009

I Come In Peace

United States - 1989
Director- Craig R Baxley
Media Home Entertainment, 1990, VHS
Runtime – 1 hour, 32 min.

I remember seeing trailers for this film on TV. I would have been 9 years old or so and based on those memories I have spent 20 years pining for the day I might get to see this film myself. I worked for a Chef many years ago who also had fond childhood memories of this film and we commiserated over it several times, he remembering it nostalgically, and I vicariously soaking up his belated joy.
It wasn’t until about 2 or three months ago that I stumbled headlong across this beautiful, nearly pristine Media VHS tape at a massive benefit sale and swooped upon it like a hunting falcon. There was no danger of competition, the field of battle was empty. And hence I mount this magnetically charged trophy upon my shelf of fading glory.

First, this tape opens with trailers for Delta Force 2, and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. An interesting combination to precede Lundgren. My experience with Dolph is extremely limited, perhaps a surprise considering my age and love of exploitation film. But until the last 5 years or so I didn’t go in much for action. I’m seeing this fresh.

Any good copsploitation movie from the era must open with a violent shooting heist or the other standard option, a stakeout (usually gone bad). In this case, minds could not be made up, and both options sounded good so there is a heist and a stakeout gone bad at the same time. Followed immediately by another heist pulled on the crooks who ruined the stakeout. As if that wasn’t overwhelming enough, Dolph Lundgren is the cop who survives and has to put all the pieces of this puzzle back together.

The second heist is committed using a crazy weapon that looks like a CD, no wait, it is a CD. This suggests that there is something not to be trusted about the digital format. (If this movie ever makes it to DVD I’m crying foul.) In any case this is quickly forgotten.Turns out that the owner of the CD is an evil alien who is killing off the local drug cartel, the White Boys for their heroin.

Walking the streets of Houston the alien reassures his victims of his friendly intentions with a raspy “I come in peace” before injecting them in the heart with a massive dose of heroin in order to extract the subsequent endorphins from their brain which he then transports back to his own planet as a drug.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the aliens to just shoot up heroin and generate their own endorphins? No, because if they need endorphins they must not naturally have any, hence they are incapable of feeling pleasure. If this is true the aliens world must be populated exclusively with brutal warriors fucking each other up simply because pain is the only thing they know. So, he’s trying to bring an end to warfare on his own planet, so he kind-of really does come in peace? However, to that end we must first endure Caine as “rogue cop” with standard reluctance to get a partner, in this case made worse because partner is an FBI agent and everyone knows the Feds only let bureaucratic hierarchy get in the way of pragmatic local law enforcement. Still, the estranged girlfriend and fringe “lone gunman” pal have to help propel this generic cop-actioner plus second-thought-alien toward its conclusion.

A nerd attempts some coarse analysis amidst the complex social commentary of I Come In Peace.

Perhaps more plausibly the only reason the alien says I come in peace –since he makes no other such overtures- is so that at the end of the film after blowing the alien up Caine can utter the long awaited implicit one-liner.
Awesome, American cinema is all about the catharsis of destruction.

14 August 2009

Tragedy Strikes: Metalstorm

Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
United States - 1983
Director - Charles Band
MCA Home Video, 1983, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 24 min.

Normally this would not be a problem, I have repaired many broken and damaged VHS tapes. Sadly in this case the magnetic part of the tape itself was flaking off of the plastic part in brittle fragments of sorrow all over my fingers as I gingerly removed it from the VCR. (you can see this in the top right of the photo)
Suffice to say I have still not seen this movie. I do however appreciate the double reinforcement of the "kindness clause" on the cassette.

13 August 2009


Canada - 1978
Director - David Cronenberg

Anchor Bay Entertainment, 1998, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 50 min.

Avalanche Home Entertainment, 19??, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 31 min.

Personally, I think this is one of Cronenberg's best films with the possible exception of course of Videodrome. It plays on the fear of rapid social modernization in the massive and ominously silent apartment block where anything could be happening behind any given door. It invokes the mystery of modern medical science and unethical practices and the horror that ensues when they are unleashed without testing. And finally the fear of mass society and the unpredictability of completely anonymous and unacquainted individuals in a spatially intimate society.
Simply, Shivers tells us that the things that are the most frightening are those that are closest to us.

The DVD of Shivers was a short lived phenomenon which although still available online from private sellers, is generally unafordable (for me anyway) and is only 1 hour 27 min! But there are several VHS versions still out there that are worth checking out if you love this movie as much as I do. I found the Avalanche release just a few days ago for 2 dollars and picked it up just for the interview with Cronenberg. Strangely the running time is still 19 minutes shorter than the Anchor Bay tape. I assume the shorter time doesn't include the interview. The Anchor Bay version, while missing the interview, does have a nice reverse insert and those extra 19 minutes. Coincidentally, the woman in the photo at the bottom right of the insert is Joan Blackman who was Elvis' love interest in Kid Galahad which co-starred Lord Charles Bronson.

One of the best horror movies of the last 5 years, Slither (2006) took some good ideas from Shivers, not the least of which was its cover image. Sadly Slither did very poorly at the box-office which just means that the general public are fools.

Watch a Shivers trailer at Cult Trailers.

10 August 2009

The Junkman

United States - 1982
Director – H. B. Halicki
Trans World Entertainment, 1984, VHS
Run time – 1 hour, 33 min.

This is something of a sequel to the 1974 film Gone In 60 Seconds which I’ve never seen. I’ve never really been into car movies, but for a dollar can you blame me? As soon as I saw the soft white-plastic clamshell I was sold. There was only a brief period at the beginning of the VHS age when regular movies were sold in this type of case. Later on most of the Disney type animation was released this way, but for a few minutes it was an industry standard.

In the late 70’s/early 80’s there was a strange period of time that I may never understand when it was broadly considered cool and heroic to destroy things and see if you could hurt yourself publicly. Nowadays these things are still popular but they’ve become part of the distinct profile of the Culture War. Monster trucks and Nascar simply no longer appeal to the entire country simply because the driver is wearing a flag outfit and stuff gets broke. Maybe it was because of Vietnam, and everybody was depressed and needed to feel good about a guy in a flag suit trying to do pointless shit at the risk of his life.

Think back to when Evel Knievel was more or less at the peak of his popularity, by the time Junkman was made, three movies had already been made about Evel. So other people who liked to drive cars and hurt themselves saw the opportunity and went for it. Case in point, H.B. Halicki, a minor stuntman guy who collected stuff, including cars and toys, and decided to make a movie more or less about himself. That was Gone In 60 Seconds, in which he had a used car dealership. In The Junkman we get more of the inflated story, this time about Halicki’s actual junkyard business. Here, despite what I’m sure is supposed to be dramatic tension and an interesting plot is a movie about a guy, written directed and produced by the guy. In effect it’s a 90 minute ego trip, and that’s sortof whats supposed to make it mildly interesting. Halicki apparently was a fairly eccentric character before he got killed on the set of the actual sequel to Gone In 60 Seconds.

None of these people is Halicki. All these pictures are random because I was drinking homemade raspberry wine when I watched this movie.

Unfortunately as Junkmans hubristic protagonist he’s pretty unsympathetic, and since it’s supposed to be an exaggerated version of Halicki, I get the impression he was pretty full of himself in real life too (confirmed if you trust the poorly written Wiki entry). The Junkman spends most of his movie barely escaping bumbling assassination attempts as he leaves a wake of dismissively arrogant destruction (“Over 150 Cars Destroyed”). Why, he can’t seem to figure out, would anyone want to kill him, the coolest most enviable B-list stuntman ever? I’m guessing it wasn’t his penchant for philanthropy.

Admittedly much of my take on the mud-boggin’ truck-stompin’ sidespin of Americana is colored by my metropolitan mindset and I cant help but wonder what the fuck people find so entertaining about spending loads of cash on stuff just to get the thrill of breaking it. I was born and raised in prime shitkicker territory, but I guess I never quite understood the appeal.

I was both pleased and disappointed to discover that Junkman did make it to a DVD with shitty cover art. I was hoping I had a rare VHS gem, but I’ll take solace in my clamshell with crappy painting art and in knowing that this piece of Americana, if puzzling, hasn’t been completely subsumed by pop.


Argentina/USA - 1983
Director - John Watson
Vestron Video, 1984, VHS
Run time - 1 hour, 20 min.
The first is always the best, if not the weirdest. The box features a great tagline and art that seems distinctly He-Man-ish to me. The film features Rick Hill as the titular character, as well as the late Lana Clarkson who went on to become the Barbarian Queen. Hill appeared again in the unbelievably terrible Warrior Queen with Sybil Danning and again in the fourth Deathstalker.

Deathstalker II
Argentina/USA - 1987
Director - Jim Wynorski
Vestron Video, 1987, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 25 min.
Probably the goofiest and perhaps dumbest of the series Deathstalker II stars Wynorski (whom I've talked about more elsewhere) regular John Terlesky (Naked Cage) as Stalker, and the series only appearance of zombies and goofy cartoon sound effects for almost everything. Monique Gabrielle is the love interest, she went on to do film a slew of B-movies and adult movies. Although I'm pretty sure the Deathstalkers were all backed by Roger Corman during his brief Argentina/Mexico phase, this is the first that bears evidence on the video sleeve in the form of his production company New Horizons.

Deathstalker III: The Warriors From Hell
Mexico/US - 1988
Director - Alfonso Corona
Vestron Video, 1989, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 25 min.
It's been years since I watched this one. It was the most difficult to get on VHS. I tried four times to order it online and only got it on the last try about 6 months ago. I don't remember much of what happens, but the cover art is what first drew me to all of these films. 10 years ago my good friend Regis and I decided we were going to rent all the films with rippling sweaty-dude paintings on the cover, so we did, it was awesome, end of story. All of these paintings and many more 80's Dungeons and Dragons fantasy art featuring epic mullets and impractical clothing were done by Boris Valejo.

Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans
US - 1990
Director - Howard R. Cohen
New Horizons Home Video, 1992, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 25 min.
Finally the man who wrote the entire series gets to sit in the directors chair and let me tell you, does it ever pay off. Many of the sequels have used recycled footage, particularly in the setup, but as I recall this one uses a lot of it. However, my recollection is that many of the names in the credits sounded eastern European, and I definitely remember copious breasts (exceeding the high bar set by the first three films) so I've always held that it was filmed in a former Soviet satellite state where people would do almost anything for American dollars, including bathe each other for the camera. Oh yeah, Rick Hill is back as Stalker and Corman workhorse Maria Ford appears as the love interest. She drew her bread and butter from her chest and Corman's payroll for years.

So, thanks for sticking with me on this brief quest through Deathstalker.In any case it fits with my effort to preserve lost VHS (the Deathstalker/Deathstalker 2 DVD is way out of print last I checked) and the role VHS box art played in drawing me into the exploitation fold. In that sense for me Deathstalker was a case in point. I was inspired by my friend at The Scandy Factory to post some of my old VHS boxes since this is probably all the "review" these films will ever get from me. Check out his blog for loads of great VHS scans, and here for some vintage pics of several of the lady stars.


My friend Phill and I made this semi unprofessional serigraphic homage to the dead format of our childhood. There are distant whispers of a Vestron Video, and/or a Lightning Video print as well, but the winds of war are unpredictable.

8-28-09: I heard from a friend yesterday that Rotten Cotton does a Media t-shirt print, so there ya go, for whatever that's worth.

07 August 2009


Zombie 2
EDDE Entertainment ca. 1992
Run Time - 1 hour, 32 min.

This is a VHS box I've never seen for a personal favorite, "The Lucio Fulci Classic" Zombie. My friend Phill passed this one my way. The artwork is so dark and muddy, how did they design this box, it looks like an Alice In Chains album cover.
The best part is the title which seems to denote a molecule composed of two zombie atoms.
A heavy isotope of the Zombie element indeed.

06 August 2009

Parenting Today

Parenting Today - The Preschooler: 3 to 5 Years
United States - 1993
Director – Craig Chapman
Aid Association For Lutherans, 1993, VHS
Run Time – 40 minutes

Produced by the Aid Association for Lutherans, Shelacked hive queen Michael Learned (The Waltons) hosts this undiluted divinely inspired informational/instructional video, giving a touchy feely absolute word-of-god spin to the practice of effective indoctrination of Preschoolers. Professing to have an insight into the unique epistemology of Preschooler culture, a panel of so-called Experts chosen for their unnatural appearance divulges the secrets of successful psychological manipulation and indoctrination. Their research is backed up by the testimony of numerous semi articulate Parents chosen for their rigid hair and subdued intellect.

The Experts make the assumption that their own system of institutions is the only morally “right” system, dismissing the validity of Preschooler epistemology as primitive compared to their own. Thus they offer rhetorical justifications for imposing them upon the uncivilized Preschoolers. A blinking pale toad-woman uses Parent generated language of acceptance to classify the average Preschooler into an established taxonomy of correct vs. “misbehavior”, portraying the Preschooler as a sociopathic liar in order to justify the imposition of the Parents moral institutions.

Learned summarizes the three classic methods of colonizing Preschoolers as provided by Experts Abraham Lincoln and Toad Woman, and the likely outcomes of each. Each of these techniques is demonstrated by a female Parent and a sufficiently compliant Preschooler aping the role of “typical” Preschooler.1

Permissive – Choices without limits: in this vignette, the Parent attempts to coerce the Preschooler into donning typical Parent clothing. When the Preschooler opts instead for traditional Preschooler garb, the Expert digresses and allows the subject to wear traditional clothing. This type of tolerance often leads to a lack of discipline and inability to make difficult (but ultimately correct) choices in the Preschooler.

Autocratic – Limits without choices: in this version, the Parent again attempts to coerce the Preschooler into wearing Parent attire rather than Preschooler attire. In this case the Preschoolers poor choice is met with harsh rebuke and the Parents desired outcome is harshly imposed. Discipline of this sort can later lead to the Preschoolers dependence on the Parent to make choices on the Preschoolers behalf.

Authoritarian – Choices with limits: Clearly this is the preferred method of imposing Parent culture on the primitive Preschooler. Authoritarianism invokes the best aspects of both preceding techniques. The Authoritarian Parent gives Preschoolers a choice of several actions and explains the consequences of each. However, the choices alluded to are subtly designed to conceal the fact that the only acceptable outcome is that desired by the Parent. In effect they are false-choices which cleverly manipulate the Preschoolers ability to rely on her own self-generated knowledge.

This is the ultimate form of coercion because it leads the Preschooler to “choose” Parent culture without realizing she has invalidated her own indigenous Preschooler culture. The Preschooler subliminally learns that all things Preschooler are inherently inferior, and were she to attempt to return to traditional Preschooler ways she would feel at the very least disgusted and shamed. In effect this method teaches the Preschooler that Parents are better simply because they are Parents and Preschoolers are not Parents therefore they can never be as good. The Preschooler can then spend the rest of her life hating herself and striving mightily to deny her inferior condition.

1. The Preschooler in this case appeared to be merely reciting lines that were supplied ahead of time, and lacked the genuine inflection that would indicate emotional involvement in the process. Furthermore the Preschooler was wearing a look of barely restrained boredom which leads us to believe that she was coerced into participation, most likely with candy, a favorite tool of Parents trying to undermine the traditional values of Preschoolers.

05 August 2009

9 Deaths of the Ninja

For posterity's sake I must include this tidbit of terrible cinema history which has in fact made it to DVD (and is available from Netflix). I had heard of 9 Deaths of the Ninja a few times, and that it was quite awful. I have also seen several other Sho Kosugi films including the epic Ninja trilogy beginning with Enter the Ninja in which he is the bad guy against whom Franco Nero (the original Django) as the Good Ninja must fight. Following that was the awesome Revenge of the Ninja in which Sho plays Cho, the Good Ninja. His battered visage from Revenge graces the current Kung Fu Grindhouse T-shirt, seen here at right. I had no idea sho and 9 Deaths were connected but I was pleasantly surprised as the title sequence unrolled before my eyes, Sho was the undisputed king of 80's Ninjasploitation.

In case you haven't seen it, here is the reason why (yes, the ninja is Sho:

Sequence courtesy of Bad Movie Realm.

02 August 2009

Fangoria 67 - Street Trash

This issue was published in September 1987 as the golden age of American horror cinema was coming to a close.

This is the brief Street Trash photo gallery referred to in my Fangoria 63 post, really it's more of a completist thing.

01 August 2009

Fangoria 63 - Street Trash

Issue # 63 published in May of 1987 carried several good articles including an Interview with David Warbeck and as you can see from the cover, a piece on Evil Dead II. But the one that caught my eye was the story on a personal favorite, Street Trash which at the time was about to come out in theatres. I wish I'd seen that. This Street Trash article was followed up by a small collection of photos in Fangoria # 67.

I assume that fans of old splatter films who read this blog appreciate these scans because these magazines are getting harder to find as the years pass and you probably hate collectors prices as much as I do. If you want to see one of the other articles in the issues I've scanned, or articles in other issues I might have, please feel free to leave a comment and I'll do what I can.