...because people get obsessed with trying to collect 'em all. And that's something you can discuss instead of reading these reviews of movies you probably weren't planning to watch, anyway. I did a whole bunch of 'em, though, so I can claim that to buy me a blog-post-free weekend somewhere down the line. Shit eats a lotta time when all I get is some dude using me to post links to Japanspam fapsite. I feel so cheap... sigh
Code Name Zebra (C, 1976) aka Zebra Force. There’s some confusing surrounding this title, because supposedly the director made a sequel to Zebra Force called Code Name Zebra in 1986, starring Chris Mitchum and Frank Sinatra Jr., but other sources have no record of such a film. And the version retitled Code Name Zebra on the Suspense Classics 50 movie pack is actually Zebra Force. So who knows what the hell’s going on? In any case, this one’s about a group of white Vietnam vet vigilante/bandits who decide to simultaneously clean up/commit crime by pulling violent hold-ups on casinos run by the Mafia. Since they wear masks to pose as black people, the Mafia starts a race war. The “Zebra Force” crooks are led by their former platoon leader, who came up with the plan while recovering in the hospital after stepping on a land mine. His face is scarred, he speaks through a voice box, and he’s missing an arm. The black crime syndicate is insulted by the mob’s suspicion and gladly go to war with them, while the “Zebra Force” sets them against each other. Lots of cheap (and sometimes bloody) action, including gunfights, explosions, car crashes, and one pretty scary-looking live wire electrocution. Features some early Rick Baker effects work, but nothing amazing. The scar-faced Lieutenant’s shirt is more horrific-looking than his face. The twist ending is amusing.
Commandos (C, 1968) Bloodthirsty sergeant Lee Van Cleef (he describes knifing somebody the way other guys tell dirty jokes) and a desk-jockey captain lead an Italian-American paratrooper squad behind enemy lines to kill off everybody at an Italian base, then take their places to fool some German who’ll be showing up soon. After a lot of decently-staged battle scenes (with the exception of one in which Van Cleef fires a machine gun burst at some guys five feet away and doesn’t touch a one of them) they succeed, and pal around with the Germans who roll in... until it’s time to kill them all, of course. Van Cleef suffers from flashbacks due to trauma that happened when he was almost killed by the Japanese, and he also has so much contempt for the desk-bound captain that it almost gets out of hand. It ends with a huge battle involving Panzers that look American, and one what-a-dumbass scene where a guy jams himself under the wheel of a truck that’s stuck in the sand to give it enough traction to get out. Talk about gung-ho, you only see that kind of self-sacrifice in the ant kingdom. Very ordinary war film, of interest mainly for Van Cleef.
Friday the 13th (C, 2009) aka Friday the 13th Part 12. Remake of the slasher classic is closer to a remake of Friday the 13th Part 2, with all the killer-mom stuff dispensed with in a pre-credit explanation, and then campers start being killed off by Jason, who has a sack over his head until he finds the famous hockey mask about halfway through the film... so, maybe part III is blended in there a bit, too. Six weeks after the first batch of campers are put out of our misery, another group of campers and a guy looking for his missing sister (one of the first campers) go to the area. Whoever did the casting for this movie is definitely limited in the scope of their likes, because other than the token Asian and Black guys, everybody looks a lot alike. The Kens and Barbies party a lot, smoking weed and fucking and waterskiing and playing drinking games, doing pretty much everything except anything that’d make you care if they got killed by a masked psychopath. The deaths are surprisingly non-gory; usually remakes try to up the gore level, but this one sticks mostly to simple and unspectacular arrows-through-the-head (if that’s scary then Steve Martin is a horror icon), cut throats, and lots of impalements because they’re easy to do. The only variation from standard-Jason-operating-procedure is that he keeps a girl chained up because she looks like his sister. The film falls victim to the modern rapid-editing style so you can’t really tell what’s happening during some of the attacks, and, if anything, it does an even worse job of characterization than the original films. I think Hollywood is getting so full of shallow assholes that they can’t recognize what the public would find interesting anymore; the writers and producers might like these folks, but they’re assholes, so it doesn’t flow with the rest of us. It’s not even a remake so much as a retcon; this is just a standard F13 movie set during a time before Jason was a zombie or went to Manhattan or into space or met Freddy or the Muppets (he did meet the Muppets, didn’t he? I quit caring about the time the Manhattan thing started) or any of that bullshit... and that would be great if the filmmakers had any idea what to do with it. But this film reeks of being the product of shit writers, a shallow director, and producers who’ve been co-opted. In other words, it’s a fucking product, glossed up and put on sale, nothing more, nothing else. It’s not scary, not all that gory, and doesn’t even give any cheap jump-scares because they’re so utterly predictable. If this is what they were going to deliver I’m mystified as to why they even bothered. Glad I didn’t spend any money on it. You shouldn’t either - don’t encourage them or they‘ll think their mediocre by-the-numbers holding-pattern shit is okay, and that‘s all you‘ll ever get.
Hearse, The (C, 1980) Trish VanDevere moves into her recently-deceased aunt’s house and finds her new town to be very unfriendly. Seems her aunt had been worshiping Satan and there are repercussions, mostly in the form of an old hearse that keeps showing up to haunt her. At first she thinks it’s a trick that Joseph Cotten is playing on her, trying to scare her out of the house because he wants it, but then a new boyfriend and her aunt’s diary convince her that something more supernatural is going on. I’ve always thought this was probably inspired by the creepy hearse driver in Burnt Offerings, but that’s just my theory. The movie’s not entirely successful, but you have to respect it for trying to deliver scares without blood, since it came out in the midst of the glut of gore-laden horror that came out at the time this was made. This approach may have kept this from being a hit, but it was still a brave attempt at the time.
Human Skin Lanterns (C, 1982) aka Human Lanterns, Ren Pi Deng Long. In what seems a bizarre thing for touch-guy martial artists to be preoccupied about, two rivals, Tan and Lung, compete fiercely to see who can produce the prettiest lantern for an upcoming lantern festival. Lung is especially obsessed with the competition, seemingly living for nothing but to get the better of Tan. He goes to expert lantern-maker Lo Lieh, who has been alienated from the world ever since Lung scarred his face in a duel. Lo Lieh agrees to make the lantern only because he sees a way to use it to get revenge on Lung. Dressing in a sort of monkey suit with a skull mask, the maniacally-laughing Lo Lieh kidnaps all the women in Lung’s and Tan’s lives, terrorizes them, and then peels the skin off of them to make lanterns from. Tan hires an assassin to kill Lung, but that doesn’t work out, and finally the secret of the lanterns is discovered and a final duel has to take place. The skin-peeling scenes are uncomfortably sick, and the fight scenes are great in this notorious Shaw Brothers classic.
Lonely Sex, The (B&W, 1958) Moody, weird art-porn about perverts. One is an intense, inept, tormented disturbo who's haunted by his past impotence and hangs out in a shack listening to the radio and practicing looking normal in a mirror. Occasionally he ventures out to kill or kidnap girls. He can't figure out why they think he's creepy, even though his behavior is totally bonkers. He wants help but when he goes to hi sister she just mocks him, so he finds a doctor to listen to him. Meanwhile, a Freud-looking guy named Matt decides the pervert problem is better solved by some vigilante-action... but Matt's got problems of his own, since he's a voyeur who likes to peep in windows or see how many times he can get away with the "whoops, I thought this was my room" trick on the girl who lives across from him at the boarding house. There are a couple of brief topless shots and some cheap-but-effective claustrophobic, shadow-filled photography that keeps this from being dismissed just as exploitation, despite its sleaziness.
Narcotic (B&W, 1933) aka Narcotic Racket, Narcotic As Interpreted By Dwain Esper. Another of Dwain Esper’s exploitative scare-films masquerading as a public service announcement. A certain Dr. Davis turns into a dope fiend after one visit to an opium den with a “Chinese” friend (a white guy in makeup reminiscent of Boris Karloff’s makeup in Mask of Fu Manchu). Under the pretense of research for new cures, Davis gets addicted to opium and his wife gets really concerned, even though Davis insists it’s just a “diversion.” Davis gets injured when a heroin-crazed taxi driver runs them both head-on into a train in a crash of metaphorical irony. Davis gives up legitimate medicine to start hawing a quack remedy, “Tiger Fat,” at a freakshow. In his spare time he goes to a drug party where everybody chooses from a buffet of drugs (some smoke joints, some snort cocaine, some shoot heroin) and act crazy and tell lots of really bad jokes. Some can’t shut up, some can’t stop giggling, some dance, one starts to strip, and it all degenerates into screaming madness and fighting. Davis is soon mired in crime; as he fights with other hoodlums, shots of lizards, skunks, and snakes (including one snake swallowing another) are inserted. Earlier in the film they also stuck in some brief footage of a Cesarian birth, just to up the shock value. Davis is certainly headed to a bad end. This is a confusing and hard-to-get-into film because it’s sloppily made, even for Esper; I’m not certain that things haven’t been edited out (it runs 57 minutes on DVD), and a lot of stock footage has been clumsily crammed in to fill the cracks. Surprisingly, though, some of the camera work isn’t all that bad, and the abruptness of the ending does pack a crude punch. The writer claimed it was an accurate retelling of her uncle’s job with a medicine show, so who knows? Sometimes dull, sometimes laughable, and sometimes possibly even sincere.
Nightmare In Wax (C, 1969) Cameron Mitchell is scarred and missing an eye from fire, but the most damage was done to his mind, because now he likes to inject people with fluid and turn them into was-like figures for his museum. No one suspects that his exhibit of actors who’ve gone missing are the actual missing actors. Sometimes he talks to heads on tables (which means some lucky actor got to sit with her head poking through a hole, probably for scale). Some reviewers have made fun of the film because you can see the figures move a little or breathe, but that’s not really a flaw since they’re not supposed to be dead, just drugged and paralyzed. That’s small salvation, though, since the movie’s still ridiculous, slow, and deadly dull. Mitchell’s not even hammy enough to make it intriguing. This ain’t no House of Wax.
Passing Clouds (B&W, 1941) aka Ghost Story, Spellbound, The Spell of Amy Nugent. A man named Laurie is in love with a frail, nervous girl named Amy, who dies suddenly of general weakness. Laurie goes into deep mourning and becomes obsessed with trying to contact Amy beyond the grave. A spiritualist convinces him that he’s a legit medium and manages to raise Amy’s ghost at a seance. Laurie’s been warned not to try to touch it but he can’t stop himself, and this gets him possessed by some other malefic spirit that takes advantage of the opening between the worlds. Laurie roams his mansion acting crazy while his friends try to find some way to exorcise the demon. This British horror film, based on a story by R. H. Benson, is atmospheric and has some creepiness, but it’s very dry, stiff, and slow-moving, and the heavy accents (and overbearingly corny dialogue from the Irish gardener) may put some viewers off.
Sasquatch (C, 2002) aka The Untold. Millionaire CEO Lance Hendriksen leads a disparate rescue party (the big-game hunter guide who's really a drunk with no idea what he's doing, another guide who's actually competent, a goofy young man who's into cryptozoology, a bitchy woman (Andrea Roth from Rescue Me who's gonna get typecast if she keeps taking bitch-from-hell roles) who's trying to manipulate Hendiksen, and another woman who's seemingly just there so all the women won't be bitchy) into the woods looking for a plane crash site. The premise is that he's searching for his missing daughter, but actually he's trying to recover a genetic-code-scanning device that was on the plane. Out in the middle of nowhere they get stalked by an angry Sasquatch who, for some reason, has thermal vision, and apparently (and absurdly) wants the scanner. The action's way too standard to pack much suspense for anyone who's seen a few of these movies, and the monster makeup's not all that great (although, wisely, they mostly stick to glimpses of it). It's average direct-to-video stuff, painless, but you're better off with Legend of Boggy Creek or Creature From Black Lake.
Seduction, The (C, 1982) Pretty ordinary stalker movie benefited from celebrity-stalking not being as common a topic at the time, mostly known now as a Morgan Fairchild vehicle. Morgan plays a TV newswoman who's pestered by an erotomaniac fan who insists that he has a relationship with her and won’t take no for an answer. The lunatic (Andrew Stevens) lives next door to Morgan and watches her all the time and fills his house with photos of her and calls her on the phone and follows her around and sends her gifts. His obsession gets increasingly dangerous and Morgan can’t find much help from either the police or her boyfriend, and eventually she has to turn the tables on him herself. The film has too soft and romantic a tone to really build much suspense (they seem more interested in glamour shots of Morgan swimming, bathing, having sex with her boyfriend, etc.) and the payoff is far too predictable to make this stand out, but it’s okay for what it is. You can add several points if you’re a Morgan Fairchild fan, since she’s the main thing the movie’s about.
Staunton Hill (C, 2009) George Romero's son Cameron follows in his father's footsteps with a low-budget horror film dealing with isolation. In 1969 (we have to take their word for it because it looks nothing like the '60's whatsoever) a group of college kids hitchhiking to a rally in Washington catch a ride with a jerky guy whose truck promptly breaks down in the Virginia backwoods. They take refuge with a farm family who've been alone in their junk-filled house a little too long. There's a kindly fat mother, her wheelchair-bound mom, her scar-faced retarded son Buddy, and they run their own home business which involves the use of some surgical equipment in the basement. It's a Texas Chainsaw variant with some surprisingly nasty and graphic gore (I never expect lingering shots of organ removal in an American film) and a vicious overall tone. Pretty grim.
War-Gods of the Deep (C, 1965) aka The City in the Sea, City Under The Sea. In early 20th century England, American Tab Hunter, his pseudo-twit Scottish friend, and a chicken named Herbert (okay, who wrote this shit?) go looking for a missing girl in a secret passage, fall into a whirlpool, and end up in an undersea city populated by gill-men. Vincent Price is the Captain who runs the place, and who’s had the girl kidnapped. He’s been living there with his men for a century and hasn’t aged, because they’re away from the sun. The only problem is an active volcano is about to doom the whole place and chances of escape would be slim, even if megalomaniacal Price would let them try it. There are some okay underwater-humanoid costumes and outlandish diving gear, but none of it is enough to liven up this bland adventure. Based superficially on Poe’s poem “The City in the Sea,” as Roger Corman tried to extend his Poe-sploitation cycle. Directed by Jacques Tournier, and even he couldn’t do much with the material.