Friday, December 24, 2010

This is Horror Redux

I have talked about this BEFORE. But now I own a little piece of the puzzle.

I cannot stress how important This is Horror AKA Stephen King's World of Horror was to my burgeoning horror movie fandom. This show was stretched out over several Saturday nights on MTV (it was on before Headbangers Ball if I recall correctly). My curiosity about the genre had already been stoked by Elvira, Commander USA, Jason, and Freddy. This is Horror gave me some direction. The next time I was at the video store (Video-X-Tron had already been bought out by Blockbuster by then) but they still had a good selection. I beheld the horror aisle and I made the proclamation that I would watch every single horror movie in the store.

Most irritatingly, I haven't found the entire series yet. Apparently, it was on Japanese laserdisc at one point but all I have right now is this one VHS tape. First things first, the whole description on the back of the box is bullshit. The description might be for the entire series but the person buying this one tape is in for something slightly different.

When it comes to converting old VHS to DVD-R, this is my favorite company.

Nice use of the killer in Phenomena there. Or just a major spoiler.

Stephen King comes off a little ridiculous here.

Argento is also just a tad wound up.

I am shocked by how much Dario Argento is on this tape. Most (if not all) of the footage of the "Italian Hitchcock" comes from the Michele Soavi directed documentary, Dario Argento's World of Horror. This is quite interesting for me because it seems as though this may have been the impetus for me to seek out old Dario. So this show might have been why I marched into the video store and demanded me some Creepers. My last post shed some light on this confusing moment.

The joke's on us. These frames are back in style now.

There's some talk with director Brian Yuzna and special effects designer Steve Johnson. There's lots of good stuff here. I'm glad that films of my youth like the very disturbing Society and the very fun Dead Heat were mentioned. There's a weak and rather half-assed section on vampire movies. They show clips from Vampyres which was very surprising (never found that one on VHS as a kid!), the comedic vampire scenes from The House that Dripped Blood, and friggin' Vamp which I can remember renting but still can't remember a single scene from.

I'm sure this looked much funnier on paper.

So yeah, there you go. That pretty much sums up what is on the tape. I finally got a little tiny slice of what was an extremely influential part of my growing up. All of this took place in Jupiter, Florida so you can imagine how important having a world of fantasy to escape to was for me at the time. I was not what you would call a popular kid so many of my weekends were spent alone in front of the TV with the VCR buzzing away. Horror movies were my best buds and they continue to warm my heart even after all these years.

Well jeez, Christmas Eve is upon me and here I am babbling about my childhood again. Have a nice holiday everyone. I'll try to post some more cool stuff before the end of the year but you know how it is. Maybe I'll do some obnoxious "unboxing" videos on Youtube. I may only get a few pairs of socks this year but I know I can count on you to be interested in them. I leave you all with some cool stuff that didn't appear on my tape:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

VHS Covers of Doom - Part 4

VHS Covers of Doom Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Some things are becoming clear to me. As some of you may remember, for a very long time, Dario Argento's Phenomena was my favorite horror movie of all time. I spent a fair bit of time thinking about it. I really never put much thought into how that movie entered my life. It was just there. However, while I've been sorting through my strangely disjointed childhood horror movie memories, something revelatory happened. I remember very distinctly going straight to my local video store looking for Creepers, the truncated form of Phenomena. I found it, rented it, and there you go, end of story, right? WRONG, duder, WRONG!

The night I rented The Creepers, I was supposed to be renting Creepers. Since I was such a young idiot, I didn't know anything about anything and rented a totally different film. So I'm sitting there in my room, watching schoolgirls getting sexually assaulted and strangled by a madman (who I thought was French) and I kept thinking "This ain't right, y'all. This very, very ain't right at all, damn it!" The next day, I took the tape back and was able to get Creepers. Finally, I was able to witness my first Dario Argento film.

But wait, there's more! Man, this is boring. Anyway, not only had I found out that I did not enjoy watching women being raped; I also discovered my first taste of Euro-sleaze. Thank you, The Creepers AKA In the Devil's Garden AKA Assault AKA Say Goodbye to Your Innocence, Richard. But wait, didn't I get a free rental out of it? That's true, I did. Okay folks, my memory is coming to life here. The Creepers was in the Creepers box at the store. So I got to rent the proper film for free AND I'm totally blameless for the mishap. This is my primal scream therapy. AWOOOOOOO!

So there you go. Forget everything you know about how I came to find the magic that is Phenomena. Seriously, forget it. I did. Gee, do you think something may have led me to go searching for Creepers in the first place? Could it have been a little something called Stephen King's World of Horror AKA This is Horror? OMG! Will I be talking about that very program at length this month? ROFL! Thanks, this has been very fun.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Toxic Zombies

Toxic Zombies
AKA Bloodeaters
Directed by Charles McCrann
Released: 1980
Starring Charles McCrann, Beverly Shapiro, Dennis Helfend, Kevin Hanlon, Judith Brown
Running Time: 89 minutes

A shady government agent and his crony decide to wipe out some marijuana growers by dusting them and their crops with an untested herbicide. This turns the dirty hippies into bloodthirsty and fleshhungry (okay, that's not word, WTF?) zombies who go on a rampage. It's up to one fish and game inspector named Tom (played by Charles McCrann) to um... well, I was going to say "save the day" but really Tom was just going fishing with his wife Polly (Beverly Shapiro) and kooky brother and happened to be there when all those mellows got harshed.

In the same movie, a very special young man named Jimmy (Kevin Hanlon) and his sister Amy (Judith Brown) are orphaned when their parents get all kinds of devoured by the zombie horde (there's like 4 of them). Tom and Polly rescue the "kids" from danger thus endangering themselves and there's lots and lots of running around in the woods. The four of them take shelter in a shack in the woods filled with a crazy loner named "Hermit" (Dennis Helfend) but things go awry when the zombies miraculously learn how to light torches and bring on the siege. Do I have to go on? Blah blah blah, everyone is killed except for some people who didn't.

My dogged pursuit of every single darn film from my formative years has led me to another dud. While Toxic Zombies isn't all bad, I have to wonder what kind of super perfect attention span I had back in the day. Because this movie has too many of those dangling (and hope-murdering) plot points to fill out its running time. This flick also has too many characters which are introduced very quickly and are given to time to speak their thoughts aloud because the writer didn't trust the viewers to figure out what the fuck is going on ourselves.

I first encountered Toxic Zombies on TV one Saturday afternoon (and I think it was followed by The Loch Ness Horror) when I was probably pretty young. I saw it shortly after I'd seen Night of the Living Dead but years before Dawn of the Dead. And despite my difficulty sitting through this film now (horrible head cold notwithstanding), I can see why this little indie zombie flick stayed in the back of my head all these years. The gore is pretty wet in some places (they cut almost nothing for TV) and the overall mood is surprisingly bleak.

Well, the hammy performances do illicit some laughs and I was particularly charmed by Beverly Shapiro as Polly, the whiniest human female ever captured on film. I feel slightly different about the slightly less enigmatic Judith Brown as Amy or as I call her The Amy. While looking out for her very special brother, she is able to be one helluva strangely alluring old teenager. Director McCrann gave each of these lovely ladies plenty of screentime and saved the movie. Toxic Zombies is no lost classic, that's for sure. It's got that Super 16 charm, plenty of cheap gore (nothing over the top or anything), a piano and synthesizer heavy score, and a little nudity.

Her Adam's apple just exploded.

This is Polly, the best character in the whole movie in the world.

The coolest zombie in the movie. Sadly, very little rampaging from this one.

Collateral damage from the gender wars.

Why is this a Gilbert Gottfried impression? Who couldn't afford the real thing?

Come for the zombie hippies, stay for the tedium.

"Retarded" Jimmy and the The Amy, my favorite 35 year old teenager.

I waited 80 minutes for this fucking guy to show up and advance the plot.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Season For Taking

Woops! While the wife and I were out spreading Christmas cheer, we decided to keep it all for ourselves. We ended up at that crazy old Moviestop AGAIN and I was able to fill in some more gaps in the collection. Hell, I filled in a few gaps that I didn't even know I had.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Ghost Galleon

Sometime in 2003, I picked up Tombs of the Blind Dead on DVD. It was a rewarding experience. I knew I'd seen this movie when I was a kid and it was like nostalgia overload. But one question kept popping up in the back of my mind: Where's the part where they're on the ghost ship? I watched the sequel. Nope, no boat. What the fuck? It turns out that I had seen the third Blind Dead film, The Ghost Galleon and forgotten all about it. I knew those nasty Templars were creeping around on a creaky ship. And this week, I finally sat down to watch The Ghost Galleon.

The Ghost Galleon
AKA Ship of Zombies, Horror of the Zombies, El Buque Maldito
Directed by Amando de Ossorio
Released: 1974
Starring Maria Perschy, Jack Taylor, Barbara Rey, Carlos Lemos, Manuel de Blas
Running Time: 89 minutes

For the dumbest publicity stunt in human history, two models are stranded out in the middle of the ocean wearing the clothes of fashion designer, Howard Tucker (played by Jack Taylor). He and his photographer Lillian (Maria Perschy) are convinced that this harebrained scheme will help sell their designs. The models' boat collides with a ghost ship and the two disappear. Tucker and company go looking for the girls and find the ship. They are transported to another dimension and discover that this spooky boat is inhabited by the bloodthirsty walking corpses of the Knight Templar. An unnamed observer was quoted as saying, "Sucks to be you, bro."

The first thing you have to know about The Ghost Galleon is that it's pretty boring. The second thing: it's bad. But I of course think that it is delightfully bad. The borderline gibberish dialog, the hilarious 70s fashions, and the ridiculously fake model ship in a swimming pool at night just make this film a big joke. Nothing can excuse the pacing of this film, which is just a setup for the final Blind Dead flick, Night of the Seagulls (which I'll be watching soon). To director Amando de Ossorio's credit, this film almost works thanks to some atmospheric moments and the sheer creepiness of the bloodthirsty zombies of the previous films.

I love Austrian born Maria Perschy (of Exorcism, Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll). She has these piercing eyes and is just one hell of a classy lady. Jack Taylor is certainly no slouch when it comes to genre pictures. He was in Jess Franco's Succubus and Leon Klimovsky's Vampires' Night Orgy just to name a couple. The lovely Barbara Rey (who played the foolhardy fashion model Noemi) also appeared in de Ossorio's Night of the Sorcerors.

So you see, absence did not make my heart grow fonder; it did grow curiouser. I just remembered that them there blind zombies was on a boat. Dang it, that's genius. Ghost Galleon is mostly terrible but even worse, it's freakin' boring. There is one thing about this film that is true about all the Blind Dead series: death is slow but his step is assured. Death will come for you and he will drag you kicking and screaming to oblivion. Death may be blind this time around but he can hear the blood pumping in your veins. Dang it, how many hot chicks do these friggin' undead knights have to munch on before their undead bloodlust will be satisfied?


"I don't believe in Santa Claus, phantom ships, and fortune tellers."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

At The Big Top

Last weekend, Nafa and I raided the Big Top Flea Market which I honestly think has seen better days. Now don't get me wrong, it's still the same in many ways, it's just that I've been visiting this flea market for about 12 years now. The comic book duder is gone and the old guy with all the awesome DVDs (TONS of Anchor Bay) is gone too. Even the toy lady is gone. She had action figures and dolls of nearly every conceivable pop culture thing. And she was really nice. Unfortunately, the creepy anime guy is still there. His booth is mostly Avatar and Dragon Ball Z stuff now.

However, there are still lots of goodies to be found. There is still a big DVD selection if you snoop around enough but VHS tapes are getting more and more rare. I was lucky to find a really nice copy of Humanoids From the Deep but the tape itself was beyond help. Oh well, at least I can display the case somewhere. Nafa and I got some sketchy hotdogs from the food court and wandered around this friggin' huge place. After a couple of hours, I managed to fill a grocery bag with 8 movies. And everything was a dollar apiece. Fantastic!

So anyway, here's my haul:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sodomatik Mixtape Volume 1

Sodomatik Extreme Gore Mixtape Volume 1
Running Time: 71 minutes

Sodomatik Extreme Gore Mixtape Volume 1 begins with a dying nun. She’s been stabbed multiple times and she eventually collapses. And we’re off. This collection of gore footage culls clips from Suicide Club to Evil Ed to Death Smiles at Murder to New York Ripper to Nekromantik 2 to the infamous Guinea Pig films, just to name very few. I guarantee you will see some friggin’ insane acts of brutality on this one. There were even times when I really, really wanted to look away. The “best parts” of Douglas Buck’s short film Cutting Moments are so brutal and so truly heart and gut wrenching (even out of context) that I felt my happy thoughts die a very slow death.

This is not for the faint of heart and nor is it for the squeamish. I’ve heard of people making gore compilations before but it never occurred to me to watch one or make one myself. Don’t get me wrong, I get a roller coaster charge from a good gore scene but I still love the rest of the movie surrounding the “money shot”. Atmosphere and weirdness still ride highest on my list of essential parts to a viewing experience and this gore compilation sacrifices those for visceral thrills.

Even though it sounds like I’m wussing out here, I did have a good time with this volume of ghastly and very wet delights. My only complaint is that the first half hour or so has a very interesting* selection of music while the last two thirds sticks with the soundtracks of the original films. I would have preferred to keep the music video vibe. Eventually, I just turned the sound off and listened to Carcass’s Symphonies of Sickness and Entombed’s Clandestine. Once again, death metal saves the day.

*Where else are you going to hear The Postal Service while someone’s head is being bashed into a bloody pulp?

Get more info right here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Darkroom: "Catnip"

One of the horror anthology TV shows from the 80s that seems to slipping into obscurity is Darkroom. This show hosted by James Coburn had some pretty cool stories on it. I'm not kidding. James. Coburn. Obviously, this was destined to be one of my favorite shows. And then it was gone with only a brief shot at reruns on various networks (which is when I believe I first saw it). Oh yeah, duh, Darkroom also had a fucking creepy as intro too.

There was one episode in particular that scared the crap out of me. But it was a vague kind of terror, a half-forgotten nightmare. Something about "Catnip" really freaked me out. Thankfully, the internet came through for me and I was able to get my hands on "Catnip". I confronted my fears and discovered an entertaining, silly, and yet frightening slice of made-for-TV horror.

Ronnie (played by Cyril O'Reilly) is a total jerkoff. He's fresh out of the military (probably dishonorably discharged), he lives with his poor, helpless mother, and he robs people for cash so that he can buy and deal drugs. He also has a hot girlfriend named Loretta (Karin Argoud) that he shares his drugs with. So yeah, things are going pretty well for Ronnie until an ornery black cat crosses his path. The cat belongs to an old witch (Jocelyn Brando) who lives across the street from his supplier.

For a normal person, this would not be a problem. But like I said, Ronnie is a jerkoff. When the old witch gives him grief for trying to hurt her cat, he gets the bright idea to assassinate the feline by planting a friggin' bomb on the cat-door. His plan goes awry and he accidentally blows up the old lady. The cat comes after Ronnie but now it has supernatural abilities. A battle ensues between man and cat and he vastly underestimates the kitty's powers. Did I mention that Ronnie is a jerkoff idiot bastard?


The final battle takes place in Ronnie's room. The black cat has managed to get inside his room and hide under the bed. He gets a katana out of his closet and goes after the cat. Ronnie slashes and slashes under his bed without looking and he thinks he's killed the cat. He looks under the bed and BAM! the old witch's head is under there hissing at him. This is where my memory kicks in and I know what happens next. Ronnie falls to floor, frozen with terror, and the cat proceeds to eat his tongue right out of his mouth! Of course, they don't show any gore but you know what is going on.

Spoilers over.

That ending totally freaked me the fuck out. I was afraid of cats. I was afraid of what was under my bed. I was afraid of Marlon Brando's sister! It was totally insane. Revisiting this episode years later was a real treat. "Catnip" is surprisingly good with moody music, cool camera filters and effects, and decent performances from everyone involved. It is impossible not to hate Ronnie and draw real delight from his undoing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Angry Red Planet

The Angry Red Planet
Directed by Ib Melchior
Released: 1959
Starring Gerald Mohr, Laura Hayden, Jack Kruschen, Les Tremayne
Running Time: 83 minutes
DVD Studio: MGM

The MR-1, a missing rocket on a mission to the planet Mars, suddenly shows up in Earth's orbit. The military manages to land the rocket safely but it is discovered that only two of the mission's crew have survived their journey. One survivor is Colonel Tom Obannion (played by Gerald Mohr) who is suffering from an unidentifiable space infection. The other is Dr. Iris Ryan (Laura Hayden) but she is in shock from her experiences and cannot immediately relate her experiences. When Iris is ready to talk, we see what occurred on their mission to Mars.

I feel like I'm hijacking someone else's memories. I am not a child of the 1950s so why is Angry Red Planet part of my childhood? The fact is that this schlocky silliness has several great things going for it. The writing is stupid and the performances from the actors are hilarious. However, this film has atmosphere. One wouldn't think that something this cheesy and almost totally devoid of brains would be almost impossible to forget on a visual level. When the team finally gets out of the friggin' ship, they step onto an eerily silent, strangely lit planet brought to life with drawn backdrops and crazy filters.

Okay, The Angry Red Planet does have one major flaw and this is a problem for most sci-fi films of its era. This film takes forever to get to the good stuff. The cornball crap that happens can only distract a viewer for so long. It becomes all too clear that there isn't a whole lot to this movie. It is weird in the way, the story is related in flashback. At first Iris can't talk about what happened then the doctor recommends trying "narco-synthesis" to jog her memory. They go on to say that the story she'll tell won't be what actually happened. It will be distorted by her own memories. What? No, seriously. WHAT? I have no idea where the writers were going with that one.

I stumbled upon The Angry Red Planet sometime in the 80s. It captured my interest despite its slow start and stock footage. (My attention span used to be a whole lot more resilient to this type of junk.) For my kid self, the weird-looking scenes on the surface of Mars were almost unbearably tense. The stylized backdrops of the alien city look like something straight out of a comic book. And who can forget that insane monster? It's a cartoony bat with spider legs! Years later, I would see that very creature on a Misfits album cover.

"You know what I think? That thing up there... it's a flying coffin."