Wednesday, October 31, 2007


THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973, directed by Roy Ward Baker) is a British horror anthology and is a follow-up to the original film version of TALES OF THE CRYPT. Both are based on classic stories from the notorious EC Comics series from the early 1950s.

The film starts out as five men meet in an elevator in a London office building. They are taken to the sub-basement level, despite that was no one's chosen destination. They enter a plush sitting room as the elevator door closes behind them. They are trapped. As they waiting for help, they pour some drinks and begin discussing their dreams of death. Sounds like a fun way to kill time, eh?

The first story is called "Midnight Mess" - and it tells the tale of a man who tracks down his missing sister, only to kill her so that he be the sole claim to their inheritance. After killing her, he dines at a restaurant where both the wine and the soup are blood!!! Then, in a strange twist of fate, his sister appears to be still alive - but she's a vampire! Her and her restaurant friends murder the brother and hang him up to drain his blood, so they can drink it. Midnight mess indeed!

The second and best of the five stories is titled "The Neat Job" and stars funnyman Terry Thomas as an Felix Unger-type neat freak who has just married Glynis Johns (Tony winner who originally sang "Send in the Clowns" on Broadway) - who turns out not to be up to his strict OCD standards. His eventually drives her mad with his bellyaching - so she hammers him to death (with a hammer) and then cuts him up and organizes his body parts in neatly labeled jars. Martha Stewart would be so proud.

Epiode 3 is "This Trick’ll Kill You" about a magician and his wife on vacation in India, where he obnoxiously exposes the local magicians as frauds. Sort of like Penn & Teller. Then he comes across a woman "rope charmer" who plays a flute that brings a rope to life! He lures this woman back to his room, where kills her and he attempts to make the trick work for him. The wife climbs the rope - then disappears, leaving only a patch of blood on the ceiling. Huh? Was Aunt Flo paying a visit? Then the rope comes to life and viciously attacks the magician. That'll show 'em for messing with someone else's trick! This was the second best story.

The next, "Bargain in Death" – was the worst and thankfully shortest. It has to do with being buried alive. My least favorite way to die. The bloody ending is the only good part.

The final tale, "Drawn and Quartered" stars DOCTOR WHO's Tom Baker as a starving artist living on Haiti. He visits a voodoo priest and soon his artwork has powers like a voodoo doll. Anything that happens to his paintings, then happens to it's subject. Unfortunately his self-portrait gets acid poured on it. Ouchie!

Epilogue (with apologies to Quinn Martin): After all five stories are told, the elevator door opens, to reveal a graveyard. Then the five drunk men walk out and vanish into the cemetery. The last remaining fellow explains that their souls are damned - and must tell their stories over and over, day after day till the end of time. That's just gotta suck - luckily I only had to live though it all once.

You would think this film would be more fun - but it's slow pace makes you want to hit the FFWD button quite often - it really drags starting with the fourth story. Overall, I'd give this one a 6 outta 10 - but mostly only worth seeing for the second and third story.


DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965) opens as an obnoxious American named Steven Reinhardt (Nick Adams) arrives in an quaint English town named Arkham. Fans of the BBC TV series LEAGUE OF GENTLEMAN will notice more than a passing resemblance to Royston Vasey. The locals do not welcome him with open arms, especially when he mentions that he is looking for the Witley house. As soon as he mentions the Witleys, everyone treats him with such disdain that you'd think he was wearing an "I Love George Bush" tee shirt. He can't get a taxi, he can't rent a bicycle and nobody will even give him directions! "What will it cost me to get to the Witley place?" he asks the bike shop gent. "More than you'd imagine!" the fellow replies. Whatever the Witleys have done - it must be pretty darn awful.

Steven sets out on foot to find the dreaded house, barely noticing the dead plants and trees along the way. He arrives at the mansion, but when his knock goes unanswered, the doors fly open - as if to invite him in. Spooky! Once inside, he snoops around a bit until he is startled by Nahum Witley (the great Boris Karloff), who appears to be disabled and is bound to a wheelchair. Witley is not very welcoming to Steven - until he tells Witney that his wife Leticia had invited him to visit, in order to "help" their daughter Susan, who Steven met back in college. Susan has been having a difficult time since returning home. Old man Witley wants Steven to leave at once, but Susan then appears and insists on him staying. Dad reluctantly agrees let him stay for a few days - and then he proceeds to spy on the two lovebirds.

We next meet the mysterious Leticia, who is bedridden with a mysterious illness. Mrs. Witley is hidden behind black lace, and she tells Steven that she wants him to take Susan as far away from the Whitley house as he can! She also mentions that her maid Helga has disappeared. It's so hard to find good help these days.

We also meet Merwyn the Butler, who looks like Frankie Valli in a gray wig with mod sunglasses. Whitley and Merwyn pay a visit to the cellar to give us a clue to what Whitley's father was up to that might have made the townsfolk hate him so much. Whitley exclaims "If there is evil… it's buried with him!" I predict it had something to do with selling Amway products...or Satan...or both.

Whitley has a chat with his wife and promises "Whatever happened to my father will not happen to me!" "It is already happening" she replies. What could that be all about??? After Merwyn the butler collapses at the dinner table, Steve and Susan take a tour of the house. Susan tells him that she wants to leave the house. Steven tells her they can go right now. Susan says she can't leave her mother - but maybe in the morning. Like she's gonna be all better in the morning? Meanwhile, we learn that Merwyn has taken a turn for the worse - he's died. So Witley buries him. Oh - I thought Whitley was disabled...

Steven spies on Witley, and notices that he can walk - and that the family greenhouse has a unworldly green glow. The next day Steven visits the town doctor, who tells him that he was the last person to see Whitley's dad alive - he died in the doc's arms - but his body disappeared! Okay...I guess that's reason enough for everyone to loathe the family. Not really.

Later at the Witley place, Susan shows Steven how to break into the greenhouse - and we learn that Whitley has been genetically modifying vegetables by placing glowing green stones in their soil. There are also some odd mutant animals in cages - "It looks like a zoo in hell!" Oh yeah - then Susan gets attacked by a living vine. What I guess is that a radioactive meteorite crashed near to the house and Whitley hid it in the greenhouse, and it made his veggies grow big. Not only that, but it made everyone in the house sick - including turning their pets into the "menagerie of horrors!"

Steven visits the cellar and is attacked by a crazed faceless Leticia, who then dies and is buried. As Steven and Susan prepare to leave, Helga (remember her?) attacks Witley who then turns into the Silver Surfer! Steven and Susan must then fight off her father and escape the mansion before the end credits. Wow. What the fuck did I just watch?

I have no idea what the Satanic Whitley family history and the glowing meteorite have to do with each other, if anything... and most of all - why the Arkham townfolk hate the Whitley family so much. I feel like that maybe a half-hour of plot that explained all this was cut out of the film, because none of it makes any sense. It really feels like a jigsaw with about ten big pieces missing.

And what exactly does DIE, MONSTER, DIE! refer to? I guess any movie with Boris Karloff had to have some sort of Frankenstein reference in order to sell tickets. Maybe the title of the original HP Lovecraft story that this is based on makes more sense. Oh wait - it's called "The Color Out of Space". Nevermind.

But you know what - even if all the "Huhs?" don't add up, I still found the film quite atmospheric and gorgeous to look at. Karloff is always fun to watch - and here he's at his Grinch-y best, I'll give him - 7 outta 10. Directed by THE DUNWICH HORROR's Daniel Haller .

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Sometimes when I'm feeling scared I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad. So while watching a frightening movie, I sometimes reflect upon my favorite TV show of all time to help me get through it. :)

CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962, directed by Herk Harvey) is an haunting and mesmerizing film. The story opens with a wild battle-of-the-sexes drag race between a car full of rowdy young men and a trio of sassy chicks. The girls don't fare so well when their car plunges off a bridge into a river. Three hours later, after the rescue team gives up hope, one of the girls, Mary Henry, a church organist (brilliantly played by the beautiful Candace Hilligoss) appears - she somehow survived! This world is awfully big, and girl this time you're all alone.

We are then treated to a magnificent organ concert performed by Mary - who we learn is kinda bitchy for a church lady. She seems to snap at everyone and treats everything around her with indifference. Not to mention that her two friends just died. Well it's you girl, and you SHOULD know it, with each glance and every little movement you show it.

Mary soon heads to Salt Lake City, Utah where a new job playing organ at a church awaits her. Let's just pretend she's going to work at a local TV station as an associate producer for a news show. During her drive she passes a large, mysterious structure by a lake - and she suddenly sees a creepy zombie-like man (we'll just call him "Murray Slaughter") in her passenger window. His image really is quite chilling - much like Gavin MacLeod in whiteface.

As the story continues, we meet Mary's nosy landlady Mrs. Thomas, um Lindstrom (who doesn't mind if Mary takes a lot of baths) and her horny drunken neighbor Mr. Linden, er Rhoda? (who likes his coffee with booze cause it makes him happy). Her interactions with these two are somewhat awkward. Mary doesn't even thank Phyllis for fixing her a meal. What a bitch!

Mary soon meets her new boss, Rev. Lou Grant - and he seems to like her spunk. She asks the minister about the building by the lake. He tells her it was an old bath house (not THAT kind of bath house!) that was later transformed into a carnival, but is now abandoned. He even drives out there with her to see it. Murray begins appearing everywhere Mary goes. The next day, while shopping for a smart little black dress (at Hempel's?) Mary becomes invisible and inaudible to everyone around her in the department store, as if she isn’t there!!! And she doesn't even shoplift! You CAN have a town, why don't you take it?

Mary begins experiencing mood swings as Murray's presence becomes more and more prevalient. No one else can see him, but we can!!! (Unfortunately) When sipping water from a fountain in a park, Mary sees Murray standing over her, drops her purse and runs smack into another man - who turns out to be a doctor - who immediately tries to help her. After unloading her bag of bullshit on Dr. Samuels, he tells her that she should face her fears. Like that carnival pavilion for starters. It's time you started LIVING - It's time you let someone else do some giving!!!

The next night, while practicing hymns alone in church, Mary falls into a trance and her music suddenly transforms from beautiful church hymns to a creepy demonic dirge. Visions of stained glass images give way to zombie-like ghouls emerging from the lake that begin to dance in a ballroom. Murray approaches her, but then Rev. Lou Grant appears suddenly - declaring her music a sacrilege and tells her she has a "lack of soul" and she's fired! Turns out he hates spunk! He then he tells her that the church can help her. She totally dissmisses him and meets up with her horny neighbor for a date. Love IS all around, no need to waste it .

Mr. Linden/Rhoda wants Mary in the worst way - but she just wants somebody around to protect her from Murray. The more Rhoda tries to get close to her, the more she resists. But she doesn't want to be alone. When they are finally alone back at house, Mary freaks out and Rhoda declares that Mary's a crazy chick. Mary then rearranges the furniture in her room to keep Murray out. Just be sure to keep your head, Cause girl you know that's ALL you need.

The next day, Mary decides to leave Salt Lake City, but her car has transmission trouble - so she pulls into an auto body shop where she decides to stay in the car while it is being repaired on the lift. Of course, Murray shows up and she escapes from the car - and tries taking a bus outta town only to find that all of the passengers are zombies!!! Invisible again to everyone, she winds up at Dr. Samuels' office again - only when he turns around he's Murray!!!

She then wakes up in the car - and drives out of the gas station to the Carnival pavilion where she is chased down by the pack of zombie people. The minister, the doctor, and the police all arriving at the pavilion to investigate, but only find her car, her footprints in the sand and no body. GULP!

The film’s final scene, however, shows us what has been Mary's secret all along: She's NOT gonna make it after all ...

This film is amazing. See it. 10 outta 10. Then watch MARY TYLER MOORE to erase the creepiness.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


A BUCKET OF BLOOD is a great Halloween treat! This 1959 black comedy from Roger Corman is 66 minutes of delight - similar in theme to LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, but different enough to entertain.

The story involves a shy, clumsy busboy named Walter (Dick Miller) who works at a beatnik coffeehouse where poets, folk singers and modern artists routinely abuse and insult him. He is smitten by his coworker Carla, but she doesn't feel the same. Longing to belong, Walter attempts to create some art - but his landlady's cat is distracting him by getting trapped inside the apartment wall. Huh?

Walter attempts to rescue the cat by stabbing into the wall with a carving knife. Ooops! So now Walter has one dead cat and a big box of molding clay on his hands. Quickly Walter comes up with an idea similar to the old "you've got your chocolate in my peanut butter" ad campaign and...voila - presenting his first piece entitled "Dead Cat!"

When the hipster snobs at the cafe see the sculpture they suddenly dub Walter a genius- and at last his life starts to turn around. One beatnik chick is so impressed with his artistic talent that she gives him a vial of heroin! Huh? Um, thanks beatnik chick, I think.

Undercover narc Burt Convy (long before he grew his TATTLETALES "jewfro") tries to arrest Walter for the drugs, but ends up as the subject of Walter's next piece - "Murdered Man", thanks to a frying pan on the noggin.

Meanwhile, Walter's boss Leonard discovers that there's a real dead cat inside the sculpture - which is now becoming a highly-sought after object d'art. Bitchy bad girl barfly Alice still doesn't believe that Walter is talented and continues to verbally harass him. Walter then asks her to model for him. Later, at Walter's apartment, Alice strips and poses for him, then he strangles her! Goodnight, Alice.

The next day, he reveals his latest work - and good girl Carla plants a big kiss on him. He's really made it now! Leonard grows continually concerned about Walter and suggests that he try other subjects. After a wild night of partying, Walter stumbles home, realizing he has to create more art - so he randomly attacks a factory worker with a buzz-saw to create a bust. Busted!

When news of the decapitation spreads the next day, Leonard realizes that Walter is out of control and beyond help. At an art exhibit of his work, Walter later professes his love to Carla proposes to her - but she rejects him because doesn't love him, just his art. Walter then offers to do a sculpture of her! Uh oh...

Carla accidentally finds a chip in the Alice sculpture, which reveals a real finger and fingernail!!! When Carla tells Walter that there's a real body in one of the sculptures, he doesn't deny it but exclaims that he "made them immortal," and that he will make her immortal too! Um, no thanks, Walter...I gotta go now...

So Carla runs like the wind, and Walter follows as his secret is revealed to the rest of the beatniks and they all chase after them. The chase goes from a lumberyard to Walter's apartment - where the angry mob opens the door to find...

I'm not saying.

Snappy, biting dialogue and a great cast distinguish this satirical thriller that rates a big 10 out of 10 on my chart. My only complaint is that there's actually no BUCKET OF BLOOD anywhere in the film...just a saucepan with a few drops in Walter's kitchen, but I guess SAUCEPAN WITH A FEW DROPS OF BLOOD wouldn't sell many tickets.

Friday, October 26, 2007


SCARECROWS (1988, directed by William Wesley) revolves around a group of thieves who have just robbed a 3 million dollar military payroll (in cash!!!) from Camp Pendelton and are on their way to a tropical island to live it up. Oh yeah, they have "kidnapped" a pilot, his bratty daughter Kellie and Dax, their cute pit bull terrier.

Things start to go wrong when one of the damn thieves decides to take the money and run - parachuting from the plane, and landing in a cornfield (where no corn plants actually grow)...but there are scarecrows aplenty...and a spooky old farmhouse!

The remaining robbers land the plane and head for the farmhouse. With the aid of night vision goggles and Janet Jackson-inspired headsets, our little A-Team sets out to find their AWOL partner in crime.

They come across the abandoned farmhouse - once owned by the Fowlers - three redneck hillbillies (we know this cause we keep seeing their crooked black & white family portrait on the farmhouse wall and their old truck has a Confederate flag - they must be Ted Nugent fans). A sign outside reads "No Trespassing" so of course it's an invitation for our crew to enter. Yikes, Scoob!

The team leader is a cleft-chinned matinee-idol named Corbin. He's the least interesting character in the whole movie. His cohorts includes a butch blonde Bonnie Tyler lookalike named Roxanne, who plays an unwilling babysitter for Kellie, the pilot's increasingly annoying teen-age daughter. Roxanne begins to warm up to Kellie by offering her some rouge (or "blush"), though the teen remains icy to her cosmetic offers and seductive gazes. Another likeable team member (Jack?) wears a red bandana around his neck, we assume it's because he's into fisting. Just a guess. There's also a huggable bald/daddy bear type fellow named Curry who seems to have an endless supply of cigars, cause he's smoking one is every scene! He also takes a liking to young miss Kellie, who is wearing virginal white and remains "clean" for most of the movie, while everyone else is covered in blood, sweat, dirt and rouge.

Kellie's dad is the first to go missing. So, then, one by one, the three main Scarecrows in the "cornfield" come alive and kill off the trespassers, dooming their victims to live on as scarecrow/zombies as well! Hmmm...three Scarecrows...three Fowlers in the dingy family photo. Do I really need to spell it out?

After almost all the thieves are systematically slaughtered in slasher-movie repitition, Kellie, Curry and Dax escape the farmhouse and make their way back to the plane (Kellie can fly it cause daddy showed her how), not knowing that daddy has now become a scarecrow!!! Of course, I'm not gonna tell you how it ends, you'll just ask "Huh?"

Well, aside from the occasional dorky Rambo references (it was 1988 after all) and some awkward lesbian moments between Roxanne and Kellie, there isn't much fun to be had here. And frankly, there's nothing much to be scared about either - unless of course you happen to be a crow. I give this one a 6 out of 10 "Huhs?" just for trying.

Some interesting notes: Radio news broadcast voice is provided by Don Herbert, the late Mr. Wizard. Station call letters are WORZ, but should be KORZ since this supposedly takes place in Southern California. Also, this is supposedly based on an actual event which occurred in Texas in 1972. But I think the part about the supernatural scarecrows was made-up to make the robbery story seem more interesting.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


It's 1986. What do you get when you have Gene Simmons of KISS (looking like Lainie Kazan) as an sadistic hermaphrodite (wearing a costume later worn by Lynda Carter on one of her variety specials - according to my friend Peter)...pre-FULL HOUSE John Stamos as a college gymnist/newbie secret agent named Stargrove (with an annoying theme song about him)....ex-James Bond George Lazenby as Stamos' father...and ex-Prince protege Vanity (before becoming born-again) as Stamos' love interest?

You get NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE aka STARGROVE - it's 007 meets MAD MAX meets ROCKY HORROR - especially when Simmons performs a little number called "It Takes a Man Like Me to Be a Woman Like Me".

This mess of a movie from director Gil Bettman (also known for episodes of THE FALL GUY and KNIGHT RIDER) had so many "Huh?" moments - I couldn't keep track. Painful to watch and even more painful to listen to. With atrocious music and painfully dumb dialogue. I can only recommend this to true fans of 80s craptraculars along the lines of MEGAFORCE or METALSTORM.

Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind or maybe this is just not my taste. Despite all the "Huh?"s, I give it 4 out of 10 cause it made me want to chuck the VHS tape into my fireplace and watch THE APPLE instead.

Friday, October 19, 2007


During an amazing opening sequence, we are introduced to the fabulous models of Countress Cristina's fashion house. Suddenly one of the models (Isabella) is brutally attacked by a faceless assailant wearing a trench and fedora - looking much like the DC Comics' The Question. Through some of the worst dubbed dialogue ever, we soon learn that there are all sorts of secrets floating around the fashion house - including the fact that some models use cocaine!!! This is 1965 people - in Italy. How progressive - I don't think American models snorted coke til the mid-70s.

But the fashion show must go on! It is revealed that Isabella had kept a diary, and suddenly almost the entire House of Cristina becomes distressed, especially when another model finds the diary and declares that she is bringing it to the cops. I think this happen on CHARLIE'S ANGELS once too.

The book is stolen from her purse, she suddenly finds herself stalked by The Question, and is also brutally killed!!!
Another model has stolen the diary, and has decided to burn it in her fireplace - The Question soon attacks her, and is then tied to a chair and tortured. She is able to unmask The Question, who then kills her by burning her face off. Not pretty!

All the men of the fashion house are then placed under arrest. But then The Question strikes again! Is the killer a woman??? Or are there two Questions??? (In DC Comics the original Question died and was replaced by a woman...hmmm).

Well, after the men are release from jail, it turns out that there ARE two killers - and it all involves blackmail and the dreaded diary! Later that night, a the voluptuous Siouxsie Sioux lookalike model is drowned in her bathtub by The Question -who then removes the mask and is revealed to be _______! The killer then slashes the corpse’s wrists in order to make the death seem like a suicide. What follows is a final confrontation between the two killers.

With plenty of opportunities to ask "Huh?," this one is a classic - if not only for the amazingly kitschy production design. The hairstyles, fashions and office decor in the fashion house scenes make THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA look like GREY GARDENS. Score: 9 outa 10.

This Mario Bava film is an example of Italian "giallo" (yellow) films - named for pulp paperback novels with yellow covers.. The title of this film translates as SIX WOMEN FOR THE ASSASSIN, though I like to call it ITALY'S NEXT TOP DEAD MODEL. This film is also credited for inspiring the modern-day stalker/slasher flick.


First of all, if you don't like seeing animals injured or killed - avoid this 1984 film. Not sure if the humane society approved this film or not, but between the wolves, a cow, some pigs, a couple of frogs, a goose and a peacock...not a creature seems to go unharmed. And then there's senior abuses suffered by Angela Lansbury, who appears here as a twisted version "Granny" from SYLVESTER & TWEETY rather than loveable Jessica Fletcher or sassy Auntie Mame.

Here's the story: the movie opens in present day. A young girl in bad Baby Jane make-up has a creepy collection of dolls and stuffed animals. She's having a dream that she's gone "into the woods," where her older sister has just been slaughtered by a company of wolves. After they bury sis, the girl goes to live with her Granny - who decides to cheer up the tyke by telling her tales about werewolves. Charming. It also appears that the girl has either travelled back in time or joined a Renaissance Faire.

In the first tale, a young groom is about to bed his new bride when he summoned by 'call of nature'. I guess he had to pee. He never returns. Men! Several years later, he returns looking like Tina Yothers from FAMILY TIES. The bride has since remarried and has kids. Angered by this development, he rips his flesh off and slowly transforms into his werewolf form (a very graphic - but incredible sequence), but is soon killed by husband number two. Whew!

Then there's a boring subplot about a flirty village boy. Zzzzzzzzzz....

In Granny's second story, a strapping young lad meets the Devil and his disturbingly made-up female chauffeur (who looks like Jon Benet Ransey - forcing us to wonder if her parents saw this film and decided that their daughter should look like this character). The devil gives the boy a potion, which he rubs onto his hairless chest - and suddenly blooms into puberty ...and beyond!

Later, Granny has made a Riding Hood for the girl, who we might as well call Red.
The horny village boy harasses Red again, causing her to climb a tree, where she finds a birds' nest with eggs that hatch tiny figurines of fetuses. Huh? Next we are treated to a scene of a mutilated cow. Huh?

While the villagers hunt down the wolf, Red tells her mother a story that Granny told her. This tale is about a wedding party where everyone is transformed into wolves. Fun!

Later Red's father returns after the villagers slay the cow-killing wolf. When he presents the wolf's paw, it has transformed into the hand of a man!!! Of course they chuck it into the fireplace! Wonder what THAT smelled like.

Soon it is winter and Red is off to Grandmother's house once again (presumably for a holiday visit). On the way she meets a huntsman with a unibrow. (Granny always warned her about guys with one brow!)

Once Red arrives at Granny's house, the huntsman has done away with Granny (in an amazing scene - sorry Rob Herrmann), and is taking her place. Sound familiar? There is a final encounter between Red and the Wolf...followed by another tale. This one is about a girl who looks like Chaka from LAND OF THE LOST.

I will not spoil the ending, since I highly recommend this film (despite the animal and Lansbury abuse). Directed by Neil Jordan (THE CRYING GAME), the film is gorgeously shot, and the sets and special effects are wonderful.

On the "Huh?' scale, I'll give it an 8 outta 10 because with it's mix of dreams, nightmares, stories within stories - it still gives you many reasons to scratch your head and ask "Huh?" Oh yeah, and Angela doesn't even get to sing! Wonder if Lucille Ball was behind that... (inside joke)

Sunday, October 14, 2007


First let me say that this Italian sci-fi epic from 1965 is a production design dream come true for me. Clean, streamlined miniature sets with beautiful old school Tomorrowland-style architecture, funky futuristic furniture, mod fashions, amazing hairdos and some far-out vehicles. You name it - it's the future that I wish we were living in right now. So I highly recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of this style of design.

As for the storyline, I'll try to convey it the best I can: It's the future and Earth is ruled by evil transnational corporations (think Haliburton). Aboard a space station we meet Cmdr. Mike Halstead and biochemist Dr. Nurmi of the Chembiomed corporation (aka CBM). Nurmi and his staff have set up a laboratory on the station in order to cultivate replacement human organs for transplants. Halstead doesn't like Nurmi and his experimental organs - and isn't too thrilled that doctor is after his slutty sexpot of a girlfriend, Lt. Connie Gomez. Mad scientist Nurmi invites Connie to join him for a spontaneous holiday getaway. Connie first refuses to go, but them he gets her drunk and she's like - yeah, okay, I'll go.

We are soon treated to a crazy minimalistic dance performance. Then Halstead gets a call from Earth asking him to investigate a situation involving some strange disappearances. You see some voluptuous big-haired women and mysterious bald sunglass-wearing Zombie-men in black trenchcoats (did this look inspire THE MATRIX?) have been roaming the planet, shrinking people down to Barbie doll size!!! One such attempt goes awry when they only manage to shrink an old man down to midget-size, but only after they kill his young bratty granddaughter. They also attack a studly male gymnist who is wearing a skimpy brilliant blue leotard and they try to kidnap Halstead's apparently Asian nephew - but his non-Asian mom intercedes. Later, Halstead discovers a briefcase full of miniaturized victims, a four-armed (!) dead zombie man, and a bunch of the big-haired women. What does this all mean??? I just don't know.

When Halstead comes across a list of the victims, roads start to lead back to CBM and the wild, wild planet Delphus - where CBM conducts most of their research...and just happens to be where Nurmi took Connie for their little getaway! Once on Delphus, Halstead confronts Nurmi, who reveals his ultimate goal is to create a new master race of perfect people. Beautiful women and physically perfect men. He's doing this by kidnapping them and shrinking them down to doll size and then blowing them back up to normal size. I'm not sure what the heck this all has to do with the zombies and the replacement organs that they grow. Am I missing something here? Maybe I fell asleep and didn't know it.

It turns out his plans for Connie are even more evil - Nurmi wants to somehow "merge" himself with her to form the perfect person. Halstead and his men decide it's time to kick Nurmi's ass and all sorts of chaos ensues- ending with gallons of not-quite-gelled Jello-O bursting through the walls of the CBM complex. Complex indeed.

This movie had me asking "huh?" quite a bit - mostly because it sometimes felt I was watching more than one movie and that I was accidentally flipping channels. Everytime it seemed like something finally made sense, something strange would happen that would make me go "Huh?" again. For all that plus all the fabulous imagery, I have to give this one a big 8 outta 10. Apparently there are three sequels out there!!!

Friday, October 12, 2007


When I heard that there was a movie that was known as THE BLACK EXORCIST - I knew that I had to seek it out. What I found was ABBY (1974, directed by William Girdler), a crazy blaxploitation thriller about a preacher's wife possessed by an evil African sex spirit. Supposedly Warner Bros. had sued to keep ABBY out of circulation due to it's similarities to THE EXORCIST. Obviously, nobody at Warners actually bothered to watch it.

The story starts as out a group of students bid farewell to their favorite teacher, a Reverend (played by BLACULA star William Marshall) who is leaving on a research trip to Nigeria. One student mentions his "thesis" about four or five times, somehow managing to rhyme it with "feces". Soon we all learn about "Eshu" - some kind of god or demon or something that is very powerful - it creates whirlwinds and chaos. Then one of the students gives Prof. Rev. Blacula Sr. (what I'll call him) a ridiculously large silver crucifix. Thanks, um, I think. Then we are treated to the "Love Theme from Abby" over the hardest-to-read-opening-titles ever.

Now we're in Africa, where Prof. Rev. Blacula Sr. finds a wooden lunchbox, which when opened releases the recently mentioned Eshu. Imagine that! Eshu - by the way - looks like a bad INCREDIBLE HULK mask made out of green Play-Doh.

Back home, the professor's son Rev. Blacula Jr. (Terry Carter) and his pretty wife Abby (Carol Speed) move into a new house. Abby's mother (played by Hollywood legend Juanita Moore of IMITATION OF LIFE fame) is there help, by carrying a big box that says "Eggs" and by ordering a bucket from KFC. (I swear to Eshu - I'm not making this up!)

So, after settling in a bit in the new home, Abby decides to shower - unaware that the evil spirit Eshu has travelled cross the sea to pay her a visit. So we are treated to Abby's showering shadow being attacked by what looks like the shadow of Bigfoot. Soon Abby's helping the church ladies prepare a chicken meal, when she suddenly gets the urge to stab herself. I think she just thought her arm was a chicken breast. Innocent mistake. After the doctor bandages her up, Abby freaks out about not wanting scars on her arm. Well, you should have thought about that BEFORE you stabbed yourself, Abby.

Later Abby is leading the choir at her husband's church, but flips out during his sermon, first just coughing uncontrollably, then attacking a churchgoer and finally foaming at the mouth!!! This scene is pretty amazing because it takes so long for anyone to even attempt to help her, even when she was just coughing - no one even offers her water or a cough drop! Rev. Blacula Jr. calls his father overseas and mentions that Abby's acting strange. Prof. Rev. Blacula Sr. seems too preoccupied with his "work" and tells his son that Abby just needs rest. Later, he tries to get on with his wife, but Abby tells him, "I'm not your 'ho!" and then kicks him in the balls.

Next up, when another couple visits, Abby declares that she's gonna "fuck the shit out of" the husband. Clearly, something is up with Abby. It was here that I noticed that Abby's possession turns her into an odd combination of Carol Burnett's Eunice and RuPaul. Then the church organist pays a visit to a bedridden Abby and ends up dying of fright!

Rev. Blacula Jr. calls his father again, and dad begrudgingly agrees to come home to help. Then Abby is given a medical exam, but everything turns out normal. Abby tells her husband, "I wanna thank you for callin' that mother fuckin' father of yours. Give him my worst regards." In the best scene in the film, possessed by Eshu, Abby declares "I'm goin' home, bitch!" and escapes from the hospital, plowing through assorted nurses, patients and doctors.

Abby turns up at her home, with a big "welcome home" for the senior Reverend - she tries to give him a lapdance.
Abby then gets behind the wheel and drives to a disco and picks up a nerdy looking dude from her church. Her husband "borrows" some woman's car and chases after her. Abby and the church dude start going at it in his car (can't tell if it's a limo or a hearse) , but then the car starts to shake and fill with smoke. We never find out what actually happened, before we can question it, Abby then returns to the club, where she sets her sights on creepy Doc Severinsen lookalike. They soon disappear into a room upstairs. You have to wonder where Abby gets her bad taste in men from.

Meanwhile, Abby's detective brother joins Rev. Blacula Jr. in a search for our missing heroine. They eventually find her disco-dancing with TWO men! Then Abby decides to start tossing patrons around the room. Prof. Rev. Blacula Sr. finally shows up with his big ass crucifix. Abby then grows a unibrow, levitates and Eshu releases his wrath on the entire disco! Yay! I'm not gonna tell you how it ends - but suffice to say we see that old wooden lunchbox from Nigeria again!

Well, ABBY was cerftainly a treat. Carol Speed was fun to watch and you can't help but love Juanita Moore as her mama. My theory is that Juanita had memorized all her lines from IMITATION OF LIFE and just recited them again here. I really was hoping to LOVE this movie - but the best I can muster is 8 out of 10 "Huhs?". I'm really hoping some day for a big budget remake starring Wanda Sykes and Billy Dee Williams.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


I asked my friend Danny to contribute a couple of guest reviews to my blog because our shared love for these movies. I happened to be in the very same room with Danny as he watched these treasures, so it's almost if my words are coming out of his fingers. But not quite...

A pretty woman sits fondling one strand of her somewhat pretty hair.  Then, a figure appears behind her and smashes her head against the mirror, over and over again!  At times it's so brutal the head almost looks  like a mannequin's!  Then the gloved black hand smooshes her face and grabs her eye out! ...and so begins our feature THE GORE GORE GIRLS! (1972, directed hy HG Lewis).

This is how it goes... Uhm, this Go Go girl is murdered, so saucy novice-girl reporter, Nancy Weston goes to -we're never really sure who he is or what he does- Abraham Gentry.  All we do know about him is that he uses his cane like a third hand and the cane has magical powers, like it can knock down a burly bouncer with one weak swing. 
Anyway, this Gentry guy is special too, he's like a chameleon, 'cause when we first see him he's blended into his couch so well, he needs to put on a vest so that we can see him. MAGIC!!!! 

Anyway, the newspaper hires him to solve the murders and he sets out to do just that.  Before he gets very far in his investigation, a go-go girl watches herself in the mirror as she gyrates and undulates, topless, while chewing bubble gum.  Then  the  black-clad figure appears and shoves her face in the mirror and slits her throat as she's mid bubble. 
The bubble fills with blood (actually, I thought that was kind of cool) and then the figure stabs her more and tears out her eye, then puts the eye back, then stabs the eye with the knife... I was confused.  Apparently so was the killer. 

So Nancy and Abraham show up to the murder scene before the cops and Nancy passes out at the sight of the body and Abraham walks into the dead girl's kitchen, grabs a huge can of 7-Up and pours it on her to wake  Nancy  up.  Then he goes back to the titty bar where all the waitresses are really c*nty and switch work uniforms every time they leave a table. 
We get a glimpse of our first suspect, a guy what looks like the big guy who played Bluto in the POPEYE movie.  Yeah, he sits at the bar all day smashing up fresh fruit after drawing faces on 'em.  I don't know much about detective work, but I'd say, "That's a clue! That, or he's gonna make a smoothie. 

Anyway, Abraham interviews the bartender, who get's out of his duties by uttering my favorite line of the night, "Hey, Charlie, Take over. I gotta take a shit!"  So all this exposition stuff happens, then some more go go girls are killed.  Like these two; one's ironing while making french fries (as we all do), then the black figure slits her throat and then irons her face, both the left and the right side, for an even scorch. Then mutilates the face, plays with the eye, smooshes the eye..., then there's scissors and they are applied to the nipples, where one is snipped and milk pours out and is caught in an appropriate cocktail glass, then the other is snipped and CHOCOLATE milk spews out and caught in a glass and the killer clinks the glasses together in a toast.  Then, her roommate walks in, then finds her own face in the boiling french fry grease, so hot that her eyes pop out, then (that thing with the face)... Then Mrs. Garrett comes in, sees the mutilated girls and screams, then two other older women come in and shake Mrs. Garrett to find out what she's screaming about Tootie and Blair (Not that Blair would ever do her own ironing...) and she just screams and screams.  We watched that bit four times.  I'm just wondering who these three older women were who were bunking with two stripper girls.

Oh yeah, somewhere in there, while a go-go girl is dancing,  Prudy Pingleton comes in with a group of girls, protesting the stripperness of their lives, carrying signs that I think included "Quit with tit!". 
All hell breaks loose and ANOTHER girl goes home, gets topless, takes a cucumber out of the fridge and rubs it around her face, then looks up to ask her apparently 9 foot  tall  assailant, "What are YOU doing here?"  Then the black-clad figure slits her throat, turns her over and kills her by pounding her exposed tushy with a meat tenderizer. 

Finally getting clever, Abraham convinces Henny Youngman(!) to hold an amateur stripper contest where he knows, the killer will be present, the novice reporter Nancy will get drunk and storm on to the stage and strip and get the attention of the killer, who will follow them home and try to kill Nancy, if not for winning the contest, then simply for being an annoyingly bad actress.  Which is exactly what happens.  Abraham puts drunk Nancy down on the sofa and pretends to leave.  The black-clad figure comes to kill Nancy with Acid! FROM POLAND!
As if acid weren't bad enough, it had to be FROM POLAND!

Then Abraham reveals his presence, the killer is revealed to be the c*nty waitress.  She breaks the grasp of his cane and jumps out the window, where she falls onto the street and her head is smashed under a car tire.  Then for another ten minutes, Abraham reveals the reason C*nty C*ntman was killing the girls, which I won't get into here.  Suffice it to say she was a wrestler who got burned. I think the best part about it was that Henny Youngman turned in a breakthrough performance as a sleazy strip-joint owner who tells really bad jokes.  The end!

Doug's footnote: Plus look for a cameo by Latin-American singer Vicki Carr!!! 10 out of 10 "Huh?"s for damn sure!

Sunday, October 7, 2007


As Halloween approaches the desire to see horror films becomes more overwhelming. When given the choice of seeing some of today's mind-numbering torture porn and the low-budget classics that I grew up with - I'll always choose the oldies but baddies. HELL NIGHT is one of the latter. Directed by Tom DeSimone, this 1981 shocker stars my friend and personal hero Linda Blair, so it feels weird to revisit it 26 years later. The film is actually part of a sub-genre that was popular in the 80s, the fraternity hazing movie. I was a big fan of these films - especially ones that involved college students in their underwear!

The plot goes like this: evil frat leader Peter and his crafty sidekicks Scott and May force four co-ed fraternity pledges - Marti (Linda Blair, in a Dolly Madison costume), Jeff (POWERS OF MATTHEW STAR's Peter Barton in way too much make-up), Seth (Celebrity offspring Vincent Van Patten, looking uncomfortably like Jodie Foster), and pill-popping Denise (oddball Suki Goodwin, sporting a Madonna-like fake English accent) - to stay overnight at creepy Garth Manor- this plot was also once used on THE FLINTSTONES, wasn't it?

You see, twelve years ago, crazy Mr. Garth murdered his wife and his four deformed children and then hung himself! However, local police only found three of the bodies, and rumors persist that the house may be haunted or that one (or two) of the Garth kids might be still living there! Things start off fun, but before too long, someone begins killing the kids....

The story starts at a costume party at the frat house in celebration of Hell Night. Soon the pledges are taken to the Garth Manor (where someone has lit thousands of candles and then padlocked the gate! Huh?) So now our four new friends will be on their own for the night...or so they think! Then then instantly pair off in order to get to know each other. We are soon treated to several scenes of Seth (or it is Wes?) in his skimpy white boxers, as he and slutty Denise begin testing out one of the bedrooms. Marti and Jeff, on the other hand, try to get to know each other on a more friendly basis - I secretly hoped that Jeff would have asked Marti if he could play with her makeup, since that seems to be something he might be interested in. I'm just guessing.

We soon learn that, in true SCOOBY-DOO/"Brady kids try to scare each other fashion", the house rigged with lots of gizmos designed to scare the hell out of our foursome. Peter's pranks are working, at one point he tries to scare everyone by donning a mask that looked strikingly like actress Linda Hunt! Frightening!!!

It quickly becomes obvious that someone else is in the house besides the four (...and oh yeah, the three pranksters)! Things get bloody when ringleader Peter's blonde henchwoman May is decapitated, followed by similarly grisly ends for Harry Potter lookalike Scott and Peter as well. Finally, with all the hazers out of the way, the killer can concentrate on our four pledges.

At one point, Seth manages to escape the house - climbing the nasty front gate with sharp blades on the ends of it's wrought iron bars. There are some slightly frightening moments that follow - enough to entertain and bemuse. Suffice to say, by the end of the story, only Marti remains, and she faces off against the killer in a very satisfying ending that might make you wince...or say "huh?".

Though it's contrived, predictable and full of plot holes, some great production design and a spirited performance by Ms. Blair make this one stand out from the pack, I'll give it 8 out of 10 "Huh?"s. Best watched as a double feature with Linda's other classic in which she teams with a Van Patten :ROLLER BOOGIE (to be reviewed at a future date).

Saturday, October 6, 2007


If John Waters directed a murder mystery with Edith Massey as the murder victim, it would be SINS OF RACHEL. This twisted 1973 ultra-low budget whodunnit takes place in the picturesque setting of Lake Elsinore, CA - a quaint town littered with fine boutiques!

Rachel Waring (played by Massey doppelganger Ann Noble), a plus-sized, terminally bitter, washed-up nightclub entertainer has returned to her hometown to write her memoirs, which promise to reveal the sinful secrets of many people in the small town - basically PEYTON PLACE. But Rachel also has some sinful secrets herself - including an inappropriate relationship with her studly young son, Jimmy! (Sin #1) In addition, we soon learn that slutty Rachel had an affair with a local married doctor (Sin #2) - who soon became a widower.

Meanwhile, Peter - the doctor's son -a violent, often-shirtless, motorcycle-riding ex-con (who knows Kung Fu) has also returned to Lake Elsinore. He blames shrew-ish Rachel for his mother's death. (Sin #3). The plot thickens! Next we meet Hank, who Rachel seduces... with the help of some cash. (Sin #4).

Then there's Reverend Taylor and his daughter, Shirley. Shirley pines for Jimmy. The Rev. loathes Jimmy. Shirley loathes Rachel. Jimmy loathes himself. Turns out Jimmy might be gay - and who's gonna help him find out if he is? How about our shirtless drifter Peter? Remember, Peter laothes Jimmy's mom, Rachel (the Sinner). There's alot of loathing going on in Lake Elsinore - especially when somebody ends up preggers!

All these sudsy soap opera plots would normally be a lot of fun, but whenever Noble isn't on screen, the whole affair becomes a giant snooze. Noble (who also wrote script) is so unusual that you can't look away. She's got a Mrs. Slocombe/Mrs. Naugatuck/Sister George/tragic drag queen thing going on. The supporting actors all actually make her look good, which I guess is the job of a supporting actor.

So Rachel ends up dead - she's a big bloody pile of wig and blood. Detective Jennings intends find out who killed her and why, after all he was helping her write her memoirs!

I've waited a long time to see this flick because the trailer looked so good (the way it keeps showing tighter and tighter close-ups of Rachel's bloodied face is genius) - but I have to say I was greatly disappointed. Except for the amazing Tom Jones- inspired theme song - and some brilliantly wacky dialogue about wanting an abortion, SINS OF RACHEL is sinfully dull. Whodunnit? Who cares? Rent THE LAST OF SHEILA instead. I hate to do it, but 6 out 10 "Huhs?" for the lady.

Something Weird has packaged it with the equally awful SHE-MAN.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


I was in the mood for a musical tonight - so after perusing my vast collection, I decided on THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS! This 1982 adaptation of the Broadway smash (written and directed by Colin Higgins) was a box-office hit and is fondly remembered by fans of both Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds. I have not seen this film since it's theatrical release, so I decided to revisit it 25 years later (with an open mind). Oh yeah - it's based on a true story! Yee-ha!

Narrated by Jim Nabors as if he was hosting one of those Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, we learn all about the 150-year history of this "house of ill repute" through a rousing opening number, promising us that there's nothing dirty going on. I'm still amazed how happy, perky and clean the whores are...sadly, we never get to know any of them, they are just nameless ladies of the evening.

We soon meet our co-stars Burt & Dolly - At 46, Reynolds was still in pretty good post-Cosmo centerfold shape, and Dolly was at her peak following her stunning film debut in the comedy classic 9 TO 5 - and they do have a certain folksy chemistry. Reynolds plays Ed Earl, a sheriff and Dolly is Miss Mona, a madame who runs The Chicken Ranch - a very popular local brothel. These two have an ongoing affair and all seems pretty happy in whore-ville until we meet Houston-based peckerwood/electronic bounty hunter Melvin P. Thorpe (Dom DeLuise - looking slightly slimmer than usual), who stages a musical investigative report about the bordello on his "Watchdog Report" TV show.

Thorpe then brings his crusade to the town square and confronts Burt about taking payola and protecting the whores. Burt scares the be-jesus outta Thorpe and sends him packing (or so we think!). Burt celebrates by taking Dolly camping. They have a painfully long fireside heart-to-heart about spaceships, forgiveness, Jesus, politics, America, dreams, smiles, ballerinas, Dolly's tits, monogamy and other things whores routinely discuss with sheriffs.

The shit hits the fan later that night when Thorpe appears on the local 11:00 News with footage of Ed Earl cussing and firing a gun at him. The local gentry wants to calm the townfolk down and Burt agrees to talk to Dolly into closing down for two months. After a heated argument, Dolly agrees to shut it down. Only it's the day before the big Thanksgiving football game!!! The next day, the whores watch the game on TV as they decorate for the victory party and anticipate which team they are gonna get to screw.

Next up is the best locker room song & dance number ever filmed. Lots of jockstraps and fine naked asses, followed by shirtless shuffling in boxer shorts and tight jeans. Basically, it's Texas two-step night at Oil Can Harry's. And then the eventual bus ride to the Chicken Ranch. To create drama, the bus breaks down and the boys hitch a ride with an old geezer. Dolly and the whores are all awaiting - wearing prom gowns for the special occasion - but not for long! Luckily there was one black whore for the one black football player! (After all it is the south!) I strained my eyes to see if the Asian whore found a likewise Asian footballer. Couldn't tell. Then they all FUCK! Yay!

Jim Nabors shows up at Burt's and tells him that something dirty's going on at the Ranch even though Dolly promised. Of course, Thorpe shows up with camera crew and all hell breaks loose as half-naked whores and jocks battle Thorpe and his crew. What follows as another even more heated argument between Burt & Dolly - and Dolly accuses him of being a chicken-shit sheriff in a chicken-shit town!!! I love when Dolly uses swear words! Then he calls her a "whore" (which she is, kind of). Dolly later tells her housekeeper that she loves Burt. Awww...

The Chicken Ranch soon becomes a political hot potato as the townfolk and local politicos are divided about the issue. We soon meet Oscar-nominee Charles Durning, as the Governor - and his well-remembered musical tribute to political double-talk "Sidestep". The song is clever, reminding me of "One Foot In Front of Another" from SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN - but something about Durning singing and dancing gives me a feeling of anguish. Can't explain why.

Burt and the Governor debate about the Ranch - but Gov. Durning declares to "Shut it down" after a poll claims that's what his people want. They we are "treated" to another rendition of "Sidestep" - this time with a marching band! Burt calls Dolly - apologizes for the other night and tells her to close it down...leading to my favorite Dolly Parton song ever - "Hard Candy Christmas" and some of the whores actually get a bit of airtime as they bid farewell to the cathouse they call home. The girls wave goodbye and board a Greyhound outta whore-ville and Dolly is left alone with her housekeeper. Back to narration by Jim Nabors (who's now the sheriff!).

After Dolly learns that Ed Earl went to the Governer to defend her and the whores, he pays her a visit. He tells Dolly he loves her - and she tells him she's loved him since she was 16! Then Dolly sings her chestnut "I Will Always Love You" a million times better than Whitney Houston could ever sing it! Burt then proposes marriage to Dolly (which she accepts), even though that might endanger his chances to be elected as a state legislator (he is elected anyway, after all this IS Texas!). Happy Hollywood Ending!!!

Of course, the stage play and this film take many liberties in telling the story of the infamous Chicken Ranch.
For a more accurate version of the story, visit The Chicken Ranch! The real Melvin P. Thorpe, Marvin Zindler died this past summer at 86.

I give this one a big 8 out of 10 "Huhs?" just for the candy-coated fictionalization of a real news story and for Burt's horrible singing. But there's nothing dirty going on!