Program Your Own Fucking All-Night-Movies with Mill Creek's cheapo 50 movie packs

(Title done in homage to noted punk-rock tour-guide site, Book Your Own Fuckin' Life.)

I should probably hold off on this so I could do a better job on it later, but I'm lazy and not really inspired today but still wanna get my weekly post in, so what the hell. This'll be a sloppy, composed-in-the-blog window mess, but hopefully entertaining and/or informative.

I might've already told ya this, but I am a trash fiend. I was raised on crappy VHS bootlegs and cruddy all-night late movie broadcasts, so while I like and admire video quality, I don't demand it. If I can't find a pristine, beautiful, uncut version of a movie, I'll watch a lousy, blurry, 4th-generation transfer of a splicey, hairy print that looks like it was dragged behind a truck. Depending on the film, they sometimes play better that way; scratches can add atmosphere if what you're watching is some sleazy grindhouse thing. I think you'd lose a lot of that "forbidden fruit" feeling watching Mark of the Devil on BluRay (that's a train I'm still not on, by the way -- I'm holding out hope that the format fails before I have to give up and buy into it).

Well, "the late movie" has become a museum-piece concept. Most stations and networks find it cheaper to just run all-night newsfeeds, Law & Order or Family Guy re-runs, or sell the timeslot to endless informercials for real-estate scams, household appliances, or gutless Girls Gotten Drunk softporn monkeyspank. If you find a movie at all, it's going to be some big-budget mainstream crap no more than 10 years old, not Don't Look In The Basement or Toxic Zombies or Carnival of Souls. They think we'd rather see Joe Dirt or Scary Movie again. If you want skangy old obscure movies -- y'know, something interesting -- you'll have to seek it out yourself.

Mill Creek's here to help ya with that. You can now become your own DIY late-movie programmer without shelling out a whole bunch of bucks. My favorites are the 50 movie packs, but if it's too much trouble to mix-'n'-match those, they also have 100 movie packs and even (holy shit dood!) 250 MOVIE PACKS. Rather excessive, eh wot? O' course not. Prices on these things vary - Deep Discount has better prices on the 100 packs (at the moment) but Amazon has them beat on the 50 packs right now. In any case, it breaks down to less than a quarter a movie. For a hundred bucks or so, you could conceivably run your own TV station for years. And since these things are public domain, you could probably even get away with it. Quality on these is variable, from surprisingly decent to horrifically they-oughtta-be-ashamed-of-themselves skangy, but usually you get your money's worth one way or another. If you're not super-uptight and demanding, you should have fun with 'em.

So, here's a rundown of the 50-movie box sets available and some of the highlights. This won't be super-detailed regarding quality checks and such, but it'll give you an idea of what to look for. Mill Creek's website is also phenomenal, listing movies, descriptions, and even including clips. Also, you'll need to shop around a bit, because the lineups of these 50 packs do vary from set to set. Depending on when you bought it, you might get something they had to later replace with something else due to copyright issues. Mill Creek's sometimes vaguely piratey! But that's their problem, not yours

Box Office Gold - ha ha, yeah, right. I think they're referring to the fact that the stars of these films went on to make better, more noteworthy movies, because the ones included here made no impact at the box office, and in fact a few are made for TV. There's some good (and weird) stuff on here awaiting your discovery, such as Against All Hope, which plays like a film version of one of those Jack Chick religious tract comics. I have almost peed myself watching this well-intentioned-but-horribly-misguided drek, and I bet Michael Madsen (in his first movie) wishes he could round up all the copies and bury them. Madsen plays an alcoholic who replaces booze with God, 'cuz whatever else happens he's gotta be an addict! Angels Hard As They Come and C.C. And Company are pretty good biker flicks (the second stars Joe Namath!), The Cop In Blue Jeans is a great Italian crime flick with Tomas Milian, Driver's Seat is a bizarre psycho-study and the weirdest movie Elizabeth Taylor ever made (she must've been on something to degrade herself that way), Eliza's Horoscope is an utterly-weird hippie freakout with a young Tommy Lee Jones (I reviewed that here once if you want to track it down for more details), Mean Johnny Barrows is badass Fred Williamson blaxploitation, and Twisted Nerve is a great psycho flick that's not on DVD anywhere else. There are plenty more strange, obscure things there, too many to go into in detail.

Chilling Classics - this is probably my favorite of the 50 packs, all horror flicks, many of which are great. You've heard me gush about Messiah of Evil before, and it's here, as well as some of my other favorites like Silent Night Bloody Night, Bell From Hell, Horror Express, Blancheville Monster, the Jodorowsy-related Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon, and several really hard-to-find-anywhere-else things like Witch's Mountain, Naked Massacre (a disturbing obscurity based on the Richard Speck killings), Driller Killer, Haunts, Funeral Home, Legend of Bigfoot, Land of the Minotaur, Demons of Ludlow, Murder Mansion, Panic, Revenge of Dr. X, and absolutely-classic trash like I Eat Your Skin, Cathy's Curse (funniest Exorcist rip-off ever!), I Bury The Living, Horrors of Spider Island, Track of the Moon Beast, Scream Bloody Murder (the first film to be called "gorenography") and Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory! And more! Contents vary widely on editions of these, but they're all great and a good place to start if you want to give these a try.

Combat Classics - 50 war movies, some old black and white stuff and others obscure foreign flicks and such. Includes things like The Black Brigade (a made-for-TV blacksploitation film with Richard Pryor), Commandos (Lee Van Cleef, motherfucker!), Desert Commandos, Hitler's SS (this is actually a miniseries, so since it was a two-night event it's like getting a bonus movie), Gung Ho! (a hilariously-jingoistic but not-actually-all-that-bad anti-Japanese WWII propaganda-drama; watch for the scene where a guy says he'd be good for the team because "I just don't like Japs."), Yellowneck (a Civil-War desserts lost in the swamp movie I love... color prints of this also exist, but I've always seen it in black and white), Sundown (Gene Tierney is insanely beautiful; seeing her in this movie got me a bit obsessed with her), and Go For Broke! (a good tale of a Japanese-American battalion, probably to make up for some of the stuff that was said in Gung Ho!). If you like war movies, this is worth yer bucks.

Comedy Kings - I don't have this one 'cuz I'm not huge on comedy, but there look to be some good things here if you're into that.

The Western collections - There are a bunch of these, and most of them consist of old B-westerns, with the occasional color flick or Spaghetti Western mixed in. I love 'em, but B-westerns are an acquired taste (one that I didn't always have - I used to hate 'em!), so you may want to dip your toe in before loading up on these. The sets include Cowboy Legends, Frontier Justice, Gunslinger Classics (less B-westerns on this one), Western Classics, Western Legends, and The Way West.

Crime Classics
- lotta old B-mysteries, with a few oddities thrown in. You get the *great* The Red House (I fucking love this movie, "farm noir" with amazing atmosphere and a creepily-unhinged Edward G. Robinson), The Poppy Is Also A Flower (a very weird semi-documentary on the heroin trade), Prison Train (kinda like a dry run at Narrow Margin), and The Hoodlum (scary-ass Lawrence Tierney being scary-assed!)

Drive-In Movie Classics
- along with the Chilling Classics box, this is one of my faves. There's so much good, fell-through-the-cracks stuff here that it's just beautiful. Black Hooker! Jive Turkey! The Guy From Harlem! (you have to see this, you'll never believe how awful it is, seriously. I could tell you but you'd think I was exaggerating). Don't Look In The Basement (one of my favorite movies ever). Horror of the Zombies (a Blind Dead movie!), Rattlers!, Slave of the Cannibal God, Invasion of the Bee Girls, Unsane (yeah, Dario Argento! It's a cut version of Tenebrae, but for a while it was the standard VHS release), and white-trash country sleazefests like Country Blue. Monster trucks in Twister's Revenge! Kung fu in Breakout From Oppression! And the nightmarish travesty that is Voodoo Black Exorcist!

Family Classics - pretty mild stuff, but those used to come on at 3 a.m. sometimes, too. Has some classics like Buster Keaton's brilliant The General, and W. C. Fields' Fatal Glass of Beer.

Horror Classics - This'll be a cornerstone purchase if you don't already have films like Nosferatu, Carnival of Souls, Dementia 13, Night of the Living Dead, Phantom of the Opera, Last Man on Earth, Killer Shrews, Nightmare Castle, Screaming Skull, Vampire Bat, White Zombie, The Terror, Tormented, Attack of the Giant Leeches, etc. in your library already. Almost everything here is essential, and their copy of Atom Age Vampire is one of the only full-length copies you'll find anywhere. A desert-island set.

Legends of Horror - okay, I have to quibble with 'em on this: these are some good films, but many of them aren't really "horror." There are a whole lot of early Hitchcock films here. Suspense, yeah, horror, no. There are also a lot of repeats from other 50-movie sets to pad it out, so Mill Creek was just trying to get a "new" product out there when they didn't have enough material to compose one. There are some good things here, like old Todd Slaughter flicks and such, but if you've already got some of the other horror 50's, tread carefully here.

Martial Arts - oh hell yeah buddy, kung fu movies! Most of them are the real-deal Chinese things, and there are a few blacksploitation titles and things snuck in. And a few really weird things, such as The Impossible Kid, which you have to see to believe; it's a James Bond rip-off starring an extremely small Fillipino midget named Weng Weng. Absolutely crazy shit, this. Then there's the weird bestiality classic, Tiger Love, and a couple of Sonny Chiba's ultimate-badass Streetfighter films.

Classic Musicals - not my thing, but if you're into that, check 'em out.

Mystery Classics
- lots of old programmers, but those were late-night staples, too. Bulldog Drummond and Dick Tracy and Sherlock Holmes movies, along with some good noirs like He Walked By Night, Quicksand, Suddenly, and Detour.

Night Screams - lotsa goodies here, from obscurities like Anatomy of a Psycho, Night Tide, Frankenstein 80, The Embalmer, Bloody Pit of Horror, Dungeon of Harrow (how to turn fifteen dollars worth of cardboard sets into unrelenting creepiness!) and The Vampire's Night Orgy to old B-mysteries and strange things like Son of Ingagi (an all-black-cast monster flick!)

Nightmare Worlds - nice mix of low-budget sci-fi and horror flicks, some pretty hard to find elsewhere. Alien Contamination (an Italian take on Alien which got preoccupied with the chest-burster scene and decided that was plenty -- just re-create that over and over and you've got a movie!), All The Kind Strangers (made-for-TV horror in which a bunch of orphans try to force passersby to be their parents, and if they refuse... ), Attack from Space & Evil Brain From Outer Space (hilarious Japanese "Starman" trash! If you've never seen a Starman movie, I can't even describe what you're missing), Beast of the Yellow Night (Phillipines-made horror with a cannibalistic were-monster), Embryo (Rock Hudson tries to grow himself a girlfriend), The Manster (two-headed monster classic!), The Severed Arm (a fave of mine), some Paul Naschy werewolf stuff, and more great stuff.

Sci-Fi Classics - another essential one, although several of the titles aren't actually sci-fi but Italian musclemen flix and such. There are Gamera films on this, First Spaceship on Venus, and even the Wild Women of Wongo!

Suspense Classics - ah, man, there are some beauties here. Ya got The Death Collector, which is like a poor man's version of Mean Streets, complete with Joe Pesci in one of his earliest mobster roles. Dominique is Dead (odd horror), Born To Win (great portrait-of-a-junkie-loser flick), Cat O' Nine Tails (early Argento), Escape From Sobibor (great Holocaust flick), Five Minutes to Live (Johnny Cash playing a psycho!), Julie Darling (a teenage girl has a thing for her daddy and is willing to kill to keep him to herself), Master Touch (Italian crime drama with Kirk Douglas), Mitchell (Joe Don Baker crappy-cop movie that MST3K got one of its best episodes out of), The Manipulator (aka B.J. Lang Presents - a movie so insane that I can't even describe it. You won't believe Mickey Rooney agreed to this!), Paper Man (weird 'n' creepy TV movie in which some college kids decide to create a false identity as a credit card scam... but then the guy they made up takes on a life of his own), and The Seducers (god, I love this one... Sondra Locke and Coleen Camp terrorize a guy in his apartment. Absolute craziness, with maybe the stupidest ending of any movie ever). All-around great stuff.

Warriors - all Italian muscleman peplum, Hercules 'n' shit like that. Most of the prints look pretty bad, but it's still an amazing collection for peplum fans, especially since there's not a lot of that stuff on DVD.

The Pendulum Pictures packs -- so far there are 4 of these collections of homemade, shot-on-video cheapshit horror flicks, titled Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares, Catacomb of Creepshows, Tomb of Terrors, and Mortuary of Madness. Most of these movies are made by idiots who have no idea how to tell a story, are obsessed with gore but don't care about doing the effects so they just splash fake blood around, and try to make up for it by having a lot of girls you don't wanna see get naked... get naked. A lot of 'em seem to just want to impress you with how sleazy they can be, and have no talent beyond a willingness to debase themselves and their friends. The titles scattershot and mostly good for the curious. There are a few movies on each that might entertain you a bit, but many of 'em are tedious or even might want to make you kick the shit out of the filmmakers (such as Bill Zeebub, who I used to like when I was reading his Grimoire of Exalted Deeds metal 'zine, but who I now think is a racist, talentless scumbag). If you're patient and curious about the kind of films private citizens can make in their backyards with a video camera for little or no money, then you may want to check a couple of these out. Just don't expect any Blair Witch Projects or Paranormal Activities among these amateurish things.

Anyway, that's what Mill Creek's got on the market right now. There are also 20 Movie packs that show up in Wal-Mart's $5 a lot, and those are worth getting, especially the Spaghetti Westerns collection (fucking essential!).

More Used Bookstore Joys...

Hooray! A pair of really snappy old Harlan Ellison paperbacks were hidden away at my local used bookstore...  Sure, Harlan's public image is that of an irascible curmudgeon, but who cares?! He's an amazing writer with a disturbing + fertile imagination. In case you're wondering, Earthman, Go Home! was originally issued as Ellison Wonderland. It woulda been worth the purchase price just for its wacky cover art, too!

And, since Christmas is on its way, here's a disturbing gift for that special someone: a portrait of video game superstar Mario, made of genetically-engineered fluorescent bacteria... for more about this scientific wackiness, check out boingboing.net, a regularly enthralling blog devoted to something or other... usually cool pix of homemade robots or octopii using tools or somesuch. And a major contributor is snappy sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow, whose works now encompass at least two different future-Disneys (both of which are very cleverly thought-out) in Down + Out in the Magic Kingdom and in his newest one, Makers, both highly recommended!


Trash Lit From Hell!

Ever go to some low-rent used bookstore and notice tables (sometimes outside) of battered, stained books with the corners clipped off, indicating the bookstore'strying to get rid of them and won't trade you back for them? They're usually priced-to-throw-away at 35 cents or so. Ever wonder who actually wants those things? Well, they're often my favorite part of the bookstore. Too often nowadays used bookstores will only take newer titles in trade, wanting to stock mostly mainstream authors that they'll have no trouble selling. That's not what I tend to go to those stores looking for; I want old nasty trash-lit from the 50's, 60's, and 70's that's long out of print and probably isn't good enough to get reprinted anytime soon. Yes, I like picking through society's garbage, because this is a tasteless civilization for the most part and often doesn't recognize what's good. Until the used bookstores wise the fuck up, your best bet for finding these things remains library booksales, where they give them away for a song and aren't too picky about which titles they'll accept for sale. I've even found old porn novels at library sales, just because nobody bothered to see what the hell they were. So, while I've been reading a lot of classics lately (thanks mostly to these great Barnes & Noble volumes, which I'm fully addicted to snagging), I have not (and shall not) lose my love of paperback sleaze and scum.

And now, like an STD, I'll pass the vicarious thrills on to you with a little random peek at some of my pile o' crap, complete with cover scans to capture all the ragged, rat-pee-stained glory.

Weekend of Terror - James L. Purvis, Powell, 1970. I pretty much had to read this little trash novel (even though I had it for about 20 years before I finally got around to it) because of the absolutely awful cover art: a bad cartoonish picture of an uhappily-staring woman with blood coming out of her mouth and one eye (or its empty socket?) covered in blood. It’s one of the goofiest gore-images ever seen on a book cover. The writing inside is about as bad as the cover art; an electrician gets a note saying that the daughter of his recently-deceased and much-beloved boss has been kidnapped, and unless he coughs up $70,000, one pint of her blood will be delivered every day. Thus is set in motion a vengeance hunt/ rescue against some extremely sleazy bad guys. It’s crap, but I figured on that before going in, so I’m not complaining.

Rat Pack - Shane Stevens, Pocket, 1974. An “American Clockwork Orange” that follows four white-hating black teenagers through Manhattan on a crime spree of mugging, rape, and petty theft. They’re portrayed as very stupid (they can’t even read the watches they steal, they don’t understand credit cards and checks, etc.) and all the whites are portrayed as very racist. The stereotypes weaken this simple but fast-reading urban violence novel. It’s kind of surprising that this would come from Shane Stevens, who wasn’t a stupid writer.

The Bike Bastards - George Warren, Brandon, 1975. The cover of this action novel claims that Tom Hatton, the hero, tangles with a bike gang called The Devil’s Daddies. Wotta lie! Hatton is friends with the bikers, and they help him to find a girl kidnapped by terrorists. Hatton is an alcoholic reporter who lost an arm in Vietnam -- sorta like Hunter S. Thompson minus a left. In fact, the book reads like Hunter’s classic Hell’s Angels mixed with Patty Hearst. The only problem is that the bikers are offscreen too much of the time, so the title’s not supported enough. Other than that, this is a lot more intelligently-written than most obscure mid-70’s actioners, and even though it’s slow in spots and the climax isn’t as super-charged as it should be (if I remember correctly, a similar scene was only a footnote in Hunter’s book), it’s still a groovy read.

Tomboy - Hal Ellson, Bantam, originally 1950. “The famous novel of juvenile delinquency” about a 50’s street gang called the Harps. Tomboy is the toughest girl in the club, so tough that she’s not even considered a deb. She hates all the other girls and refuses to be a slut like they are. She has no boyfriend, but is close to a kid named Mick, even though he’s kind of scared and only stays in the gang because of peer pressure. She’s also attracted to a guy named Lucky, even though she won’t admit it. Her father’s a drunk and she loathes her stepmother. There’s not much plot -- the gang just robs stores, fights with other gangs (usually for racist reasons), has sex (‘50’s style, i.e. non-graphically, although it’s less cryptic than most 50’s novels), whip each other and carve initials in their arms, and other cool J.D. stuff. The writing is simplistic but all the more effective because of it, and there’s some good imagery if you look for it. Ellson gives all the facts without ever coming across as judgmental, and even though there’s no real plot to follow, the novel never gets boring. Now reprinted with two other Ellson J.D. novels, worth checking out.

Bad Guy - Nicholas Brady, Belmont Tower, 1977. Grade-B sleazy crime novel about “hillbilly hoodlum” Jake Colby, a stock car driver/Dixie Mafia strongarm who wants out of the crime game but is forced to pull one more job -- robbing a Las Vegas casino. He falls in love with a Cajun girl who’s helping with the robbery, and she aids him in a vengeance quest against some mobsters who double-crossed him. The writing’s pretty bad that kind of adds to the sleazy ambiance, and the novel’s full of fat rednecks, cheapo slutwomen, and scumbag locations, just like you’d expect. Rather slow-moving at times, but has a couple of okay violent scenes. A must for those who enjoy bad novels. Hey, any novel that opens with a graphic scene of a redneck sheriff showing a city boy’s face into a pile of shit at a stockcar race can’t be all bad.

The Owl - Robert Forward, Pinnacle, 1984. Ultra-hard-boiled, hyper violent action mystery about a detective who has a disorder called in somnolence, which means he never sleeps. Because of this advantage, he’s almost a Batman-like figure and strikes terror into the hearts of all evildoers, and he works hard at ruthlessness just to keep up this reputation. He has no car or home because he likes to be completely off the grid, since a lot of people would like to kill him. The plot revolves around The Owl’s attempts to find the people who burned a man’s daughter beyond recognition, and this case racks up a body count equal to any two Dirty Harry movies. The writing is cool as hell, but the character is so hard-boiled it almost gets self-parodic at times. Action fans should seek it out.

The Dogfighter - Jonathan Beteul, Fawcett-Gold Medal, 1975. Ultra-sleazy novel about the shady doings of a lowlife who trains fighting dogs and pits them against other dogs in bloody battles to the death. It’s rare to find writing so utterly grimy -- the characters are a bunch of unthinking brutes who can’t talk about anything except fucking their ugly girlfriends and which foods make them fart or piss; the whole book is utterly vulgar. Which, of course, means it’s GREAT! The story’s nothing amazing (probably intended as another take on Charles Willeford’s infinitely-better The Cockfighter) but it’s so cold, violent, and gut-level that it doesn’t let you lose interest, and you can’t find such a scumbag atmosphere just anywhere. Trash novel fans should try to find this one.

The Blood Circus - Thomas K. Fitzpatrick, Fawcett-Gold Medal, 1968. A cop poses as a biker to infiltrate an outlaw gang called The Beasts, only to discover that Communists are supplying them with weapons to stage a war with the cops. Sleazy, entertaining exploitation trash-novel that’s similar to a lot of the kind of paranoid stories that appeared in scummy “men’s adventure” magazines in the 60’s. Nobody ever lost money selling fear to the status quo.

Dead City - Shane Stevens, Pocket 1973. Often-brutal crime novel about a couple of small-time hoods who serve as muscle for the mob and have hopes of working their way up to being big shots. Plenty of strong violence and a message that crime may pay, but never for you.


"B" movies

These aren't actually all "B" movies, but for some reason (t'wasn't intentional) most of the titles start with "B." Hence the title. Clever, no? No. Anyway, onward...


Babel (C, 2006) A couple of Moroccan boys playing with a rifle foolishly shoot an American tourist (Cate Blanchett, who’s not very sympathy-evoking) while firing at a distant tour bus they don’t think they’ll be able to hit. The incident is mistaken for a terrorist action and has repercussions which will link several strangers in countries all over the world. Brad Pitt is the wounded tourist’s husband, and his Mexican housekeeper has to take care of his kids during the crisis, so she takes them to Mexico. The deaf-mute daughter of the Japanese tourist who originally supplied the rifle is behaving strangely because she’s trying to lose her virginity. Scenes alternate between the different plotlines in Mexico, Japan, and Morocco (tourist viewpoint and local viewpoint) as the shooting -- and the events its set in motion -- play out, and the connections and separations of the human race are examined, through the lens of different cultures and languages (or lack thereof). Small moments of poor judgment have far-ranging effects, and a lack of communication can make them all even worse. Artistically done, and has a depth of message, but is a bit overlong and of the (mistaken) school that slowed-down pacing increases artistic merit. Flawed, but holds some reward for patient viewers.

Blackenstein (C, 1973) aka Black Frankenstein, Return of Blackenstein. Blaxploitation version of the classic has a black woman named Winifred seeking Dr. Stein’s help for her boyfriend Eddie, who lost his arms and legs to a landmine. Dr. Stein has been looking for subjects for his DNA experiments, anyway, and Eddie’s happy to get out of the hospital because he’s being tormented by a jerk orderly. Unfortunately, Dr. Stein’s methods have some bugs that need working out, because his DNA formula has a short lifespan and requires frequent booster shots, plus there are a few side-effects that cause “jungle throwbacks” like giving patients tiger stripes! And the bad formula gets even worse when the doctor’s assistant, Malcolm, falls in love with Winifred and tampers with the solution in hopes of getting Eddie out of the picture. Instead of dying, Eddie’s head squares off enough that he looks a lot like the Karloff version when in silhouette, and he stalks around mindlessly causing mayhem. There’s a little cheap gore in his killings (how’d he manage to pull out Liz Renay’s intestines without breaking the skin?) but mostly it’s laborious footage of him wandering around like a robot. Some of his victims are hilarious, like a guy who plays Christmas music on his 8-track while trying to park with a girl who apparently never wanted to go on a date in the first place. The filmmakers seem to be trying (they even hired the guy who did the electrical effects on the Universal original) but it just doesn’t work; there’s too much time spent walking around, and the acting is awful. The monster gets plenty of screen time so it should be good, but nope. It gets so dull that even a nightclub performer’s terrible jokes become a welcome distraction. ">Watch it online starting here.


Jerk orderly scene:

Blazing Justice (B&W, 1936) Bill Cody catches some outlaws and gets a $5000 reward. Since it’ll take a week or so for the money to come in, a friend fronts him $1000 to start a vacation. The vacation’s short-lived, though, because Cody’s almost framed by a dapper outlaw (he looks a little like Charlie Chaplin) who murders a rancher… and then is crass enough to plan to steal his victim’s insurance money from his daughter at the funeral! Cody helps the daughter fight off the bad guy and turn him over to the law. Comedy relief is provided by an alcoholic who’s always trying to scam free drinks. Standard combo of fistfights, shootouts, chases, and clowning around.

Blindman (C, 1971) aka Blind Man. This is an oddball even in a genre known for oddballs, and it needs a better DVD release because the versions you can currently find have around half an hour cut out of them, making them even odder. But anything is better than nothing. Tony Anthony (from A Stranger In Town) is a blind gunfighter who’s trying to recover fifty mail-order brides he was supposed to deliver to a mining camp, but they were stolen by his partner Skunk. Skunk passed the women along to a Mexican bandit called Candy (played by Ringo Starr), so Blindman goes after Candy’s gang and ends up taking a lot of abuse and getting tricked a lot since he can’t see. Blindman makes up for his shortcomings by tossing dynamite around a lot, and his seeing-eye horse and a bayonet on his rifle help him find his way around. He’s also fond of spouting smartassed philosophical points, like “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass all the time.” It’s kind of like a Zatoichi movie and is intended as a parody of the Spaghetti Western genre, although luckily it’s played pretty straight and isn’t an idiot farce like most “funny” Italian Westerns. Has a fair amount of style, a good Morricone-imitation music score, and was remade by Anthony as the 3-D Comin’ At Ya. Another blind-gunfighter movie showed up decades later, when Armand Asante played on in Blind Justice. You can watch the whole thing (apparently the full-length version) online here.

There are better quality trailers on YouTube, but this one's in English...

Born of Fire (C, 1983) A flute-player (Peter Firth) feels drawn to retrace his late father’s steps and seek out “the Master Musician” (who may be Satan) in Turkey. His astronomer girlfriend also heads to Turkey to look at a volcano, which she believes has become active in response to unusual solar activity. There they engage in mystical mumbo jumbo and meet an incredibly deformed dwarf who’s the flutist’s half-brother (in every sense of the word). The Master Musician is an intense-looking bald guy who lives in a neighboring cave where he stares at a skull all day. He can breathe fire and shoot it from his eyes. The astronomer girlfriend gets possessed by djinn and becomes controlled by the Master, and unless the flutist can get the Master to submit to the will of Allah, he will “become fire” or some such nonsense, and the world will be destroyed. The girlfriend gets pregnant with an insect-thing and that inspires the dwarf to beat his chest and call on Allah, giving the flutist enough power to fight back. Despite the pretenses at spiritual allegory, the story’s about as deep as the Charlie Daniels’ Band’s “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” but it makes less sense. It does have some nicely weird imagery and atmosphere that has invited comparison to another brilliantly beautiful faux-spiritual-hokum-horseshit classic, Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain. Strange Muslim fantasy is worth a look even though it’s ridiculous if you analyze it at all. The Mondo Macabro DVD has lots of interesting extras, including a lengthy interview with the dwarf actor, who’s a pretty cool guy (and whose first acting job was jerking off Ian McKellen onscreen!)

Boss Nigger (C, 1975) aka Boss, The Black Bounty Hunter, The Black Bounty Killer. Ever wonder what Blazing Saddles might have been like if it had been played straight? Well, thanks to Fred Williamson, now we know! Well, sorta… it’s not played completely straight, but definitely straighter. Fred and his sidekick D’urville Martin are black bounty hunters who go after white criminals. When Fred finds a letter and a badge on a dead outlaw, he goes into town and makes himself sheriff and D’urville deputy. Of course the town full of racist white folks don’t take kindly to the idea, and whenever they give Fred any crap they end up wounded, humiliated, or dead. The crooked mayor is working with an outlaw gang (led by badass William Smith) which tries to blow up Fred and D’urville, but Fred never misses when he shoots, while the bad guys always do. As a romantic interest Fred has Vampirella magazine cover girl Barbara Leigh, who’s really pretty but maybe the worst actress since “Miss Crabtree” on the Little Rascals shorts. Fred uses the coolest of all cowboy weapons, a sawed-off rifle, which he uses to shoot racists in the feet when they demand a shoeshine. Eventually the bad guys catch Fred and shoot him in the hand and tie him to a stake, but Fred dies hard. (In fact, there’s a clause in his contract that says he doesn’t die at all!) It’s kind of silly and artless, but it’s not bad overall, and Fred’s goofier than he thinks he is but he’s still cool and I always like his stuff, if only for his presence. And this one’s got a theme song you’ve just gotta hear. Fred will probably go down in history as having used the “N”-word in more titles than anyone else, and the DVD even has a disclaimer from him saying he fully endorses the use of the word in the title and theme song. Fred made another, more serious Western with the same look, Joshua, the next year.

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Brute Man, The (B&W, 1946) aka The Brute. When life gave him acromegaly, Rondo Hatton turned it into acromegaly-ade by making monster movies without needing to use makeup. Gotta love the guy for being a good sport in the face of adversity. Anyway, Rondo plays The Creeper, a big thug with an oversized, distorted face, who’s behind a series of broken-neck murders in the city. When police interview a friend (Tom Neal, from Detour) of the guy they suspect of being The Creeper, they learn that he was a handsome college football star until a chemistry lab mishap caused a distortion of his features. This turned him to a life of crime, but when a beautiful blind girl (shades of Fantastic Four’s “The Thing”) befriends him, he wants to steal enough to pay for sight-restoring surgery for her. This film was actually made by Universal, who felt guilty for exploiting Rondo’s affliction and passed the film to poverty row’s PRC for distribution. Unfortunately, Rondo died just a few months after this film was finished. It’s a shame, because even though his acting is pretty wooden and his character’s supposed to be evil, he comes across as likeable. When you consider how this film’s story must’ve made him feel while acting in it, it becomes a bit uncomfortable to watch… but also elevates it from being just another B-film.

MST3K version is online starting here.

Prison Nurse (B&W, 1938) As if they weren’t having enough trouble trying to hold back the flooding from a big storm, a prison is also hit by a typhoid epidemic. Three nurses are brought in to help the badly-overworked doctor, but he soon falls ill himself. The admiration of one of the nurses inspires an incarcerated doctor to do his bit to help out even though he’s embittered against society, but more trouble’s on the way in the form of a prison break. They force the doctor-prisoner to come with them, and he ends up framed for the murder of a guard. The law sets up a trap for him, and only the nurse who’s in love with him can help him get out of it. When you take into account that all of this happens in a running time of just 51 minutes, you’ll get an idea of how fast-paced this little B-flick is. The uncut version is reportedly 67 minutes, but you may have a tough time finding a copy of that. The shortened version on Alpha DVD feels choppy but remains coherent.

Wind Chill (C, 2007) A girl needing a ride home from college for the holidays signs up to share a ride with another student, even though she’s obviously far too much of an antisocial bitch-asshole to be in the company of other humans. The guy she gets a ride with is a putz who seems to know a little too much about her to be a complete stranger, and about the time he pulls off the highway to take a “shortcut” she figures out the guy’s lying about who he says he is. Then they have an accident and get stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere. Little Miss Charming locks him out of the car in subzero weather so he tries to walk back to a gas station, but it’s closed. Then they discover that the stretch of road they’re stuck on is haunted by some very creepy and malevolent ghosts, and if they aren’t careful they might die out there and join their ranks. Not-bad horror film that understands that atmosphere and creepiness are more important than shocks, and also does a good job focusing on character development; even though these two are pretty detestable at first, the colder they get the more the viewer warms to them. And the ghosts are an eerie bunch; priests, accident victims, and an evil highway patrolman. Drawbacks are that the movie’s too dark to see a lot of what’s going on, and they rely too much on blue filters trying to make it all look cold. Still, it’s better than a lot of newer horror films.