31 January 2012

Black Mama, White Mama

Philippines/US - 1972
Direstor - Eddie Romero
Orion Home Video, 1996, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 26 minutes

This is a personal favorite of mine because it is one of the first Corman/Philippine exploitation movies I saw. It's a favorite of many people apparently, across many genres. Oftentimes it is classified among the Blaxploitation and Women In Prison genres. I can see elements of both, (more of the latter) but I would call it more of a Caper movie. It doesn't really matter though because it is awesome, and written by Jonathan Demme!

26 January 2012

The Last Circus

It had been almost a decade since I saw any of the films Spanish writer/director Alex de la Iglesia had made. When I read that Balada Triste de Trompeta, A.K.A. The Last Circus was playing in town I was super excited, but like too many things, it slipped my mind and I missed it. Fortunately thanks to this amazing thing called "home-video" I was able to track it down and give it a watch. Much to my delight and horror, it was fucking amazing. I recommend that you read what I wrote about it at Paracinema, and then watch the damn thing, it's soooo good.

23 January 2012


United States - 1989
Director - Manny Coto
Republic Pictures Home Video, 1990, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 27 minutes

The Communist Bloc is the perfect place to set a psychological horror movie. Not only are the lush mountain landscapes of Yugoslavia wonderfully enchanting, but socially in the late 80's, it began to exhibit more and more the symptoms of dissociative identity disorder.  It is after all a land brimming with conflicting versions of history, and history is sortof like repressed memories right? In that case, archaeologists are basically psychologists who prefer pickaxes to fountain pens. Hey, a phallic symbol is a phallic symbol okay?

When Chris was a boy his father was an archaeologist working at an old monastery in the Western Balkans. In the midst of the dig, Chris's whole family was slaughtered, leaving only him alive to grow up as a repressed and neurotic adult. Having become a whiny, irritating man-child, Chris (Christopher McDonald) has followed in his fathers footsteps and become an archeologist in his own right. Seeking to pick up where his father's work was cut short, he returns to the monastery in Croatia. To keep things interesting, for this movie relies heavily on excessive display of "personality," he brings along his girlfriend/publisher, as well as an alcoholic photographer and a spoiled society brat. Each is more grating than the last, but this is a character driven horror film, and as we shall soon discover, our satisfaction is largely to be derived from the elimination of various sensory irritants, paramount among them our protagonist!

As the digging progresses through the brain-like labyrinth of the monastery to it's deepest hidden core, Chris's sanity also begins to deteriorate. Ranting sweatily and approvingly about the delight children take in torturing animals, Chris waxes nostalgic about the time he spent wandering the monastery's halls with his surly imaginary friend. Just as it becomes increasingly clear that his flashbacky visions of his family's demise are more first-person-narrative than we had thought, Chris breaks through the physical and metaphorical walls into the "playroom." In this secret torture-chamber Chris (re)discovers himself/his old friend; an animatronic mummy prince and a bunch of repressed childhood memories recreated in a deluge of implied violence.

Staffed by ample hyperbole and a former Miss Virginia, Playroom delivers a satisfying, moderately surprising conclusion, yet with few of the hoped-for thrills incumbent in psychological horror. The awesome sets and torture devices alluded to in the dialogue remain mostly unused, and the jerky mummy puppet is an entertaining disappointment. Nevertheless, Playroom is still a delightfully simple Freudian metaphor.

18 January 2012

Yog Monster From Space

Japan - 1970
Director - Ishiro Honda
Movie Favorites (Trans-Atlantic Video Inc.), 1987, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 24 minutes

A few months back I shared an awesome poster for this Kaiju movie. I really wanted to see the film, but the version available on DVD has the original title Space Amoeba, and features a totally different photo cover. I really like the poster art! As it happens this VHS tape showed up shortly thereafter but something seemed a bit strange about it. It looks to me like someone did a quick copy of the poster. It's a pretty close reproduction as far as composition goes, but the quality of detail is much less on this box. But hey, it matches the quality of the film print!
Ahhhhh, public domain VHS.
Anayway here a few more posters I found.

This nice lobby card comes thanks to Black Hole Reviews

This poster thanks to Super Punch

This one from Toho Island

16 January 2012

Brotherhood of Justice

United States - 1986
Director - Charles Braverman
Sterling Entertainment, 2001, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 35 minutes

As much as I like bad movies, I haven't been able to bring myself to watch this one.

15 January 2012

Lunchmeat #6

I'm a little behind the curve on this one, it's been a busy couple of weeks. Still, I wanted to let you VHS nerds out there know that the latest issue of Lunchmeat, that would be #6, is available. It full of movies I've never even heard of which is saying something. After all, VHS obscura is their whole schtick.
Check out Lunchmeat HERE!

09 January 2012


Box scan courtesy of VHS Wasteland

United States - 1993
Director - Aaron Norris
Cannon Video, 1995, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 35 minutes

In the Dark Ages, during one of many terrible Crusades against the eastern desert heathens, Richard the Lionheart personally slew Satan's voice-modulated emissary of Armageddon, Prosatanos, and stuck him in a stone sarcophagus. Unfortunately, he sealed the tomb with jeweled golden daggers, a prize far too tempting to remain undisturbed. 800 years later Prosatanos (Christopher Neame) is freed by several tomb robbers. Cleverly disguising himself as an archaeologist he begins searching for the pieces of a broken scepter which holds his power. Sometime in 1993, he finds himself in Chicago... At the very same time, while patrolling the streets looking for drug dealers, Frank Shatter (Chuck Norris) and his shuckin’& jivin’ partner Calvin (Calvin Levels) find themselves at the scene of a murder. After a short fight in which his adversary flees, Shatter discovers what appears to be the head of a broken scepter.

Returning to HQ, Frank and Calvin are interrogated by Israeli police, and instructed to escort the Rabbi's body back to Israel. Fortunately for us, this gives them ample time to ham up the white cop/black partner routine that has frequently made American action cinema so inspiringly progressive since the end of the70’s. Sporting a mop of Jheri Curls and a fanny-pack, perpetually hungry/whiney Calvin isn't going to challenge any cinematic stereotypes. All arguments, whether goofy or simpering merely bounce off the Norris's stony, practically comatose personage like so much bird shit. While I am not holding my breath to discover what value anything conceived by Team Norris has, I am curious to see how much worse this can get.

Following a string of clues which Prosatanos conveniently leaves lying on his writing desk, Shatter and Calvin manage to track Big-P to a partially excavated temple in the desert. Having collected and reassembled the pieces of the scepter, Big-P now intends to sacrifice his glorified secretary and usher in Armageddon. While Calvin distracts Big P with more whining, Norris storms in and personally delivers his traditional beat-down. Cue corny rubber demon-mask and writhing, mostly obscured by flames and Norris is once-again the savior of the world.

8 years after Chuck's finest moment, Team Norris is clearly running out of ways to present the same trite shit. The not-so-clever twist here is that Norris is just a two dimensional beard with fists, and the ethnics are left to compensate for the vacuum of personality with the amplified clowning that white people seem to find so reassuring. Relying heavily on both, Hellbound is arguably the laziest application of Team Norris’s “detached-benevolence” schtick to be found among their pantheon of hits.

Arabic poster from The Movie Poster Page

UK VHS sleeve from Froggyflix

02 January 2012

Jennifer 8

United States - 1991
Director - Bruce Robinson
Paramount Home Video, 1993, VHS
Run Time -2 hours, 4 minutes

This is an old guilty pleasure from my teenage years. Almost two decades later, as I talk a big game sometimes about feminism and the struggle against patriarchy, yet I am still subject to the same socially programmed male desires as always. That said, Jennifer 8 is a decent STV Noir. In retrospect, any teenaged excitement at Uma Thurman's nudity is now tempered by an awareness of the ugly context.
It isn't a pleasant movie, but what well made Noir is?