Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again... and shot a buncha guys, so it became Rebecca #2: Massacre at Manderley

Tiz the season to hide from your obnoxious family and catch up on yer readin', although I'm cheating and including a few things I read a few months ago, too, because, really, what difference does it make? I hide from people year 'round! I stuck to mostly action-series books just for the hell of it, although I tossed a couple more in there for readers who could care less about such things. I also read Oliver Twist but thought I'd wait and see if I could scare up any sequels, like Oliver Twist #2: Idaho Immolation or something... y'know, something where Oliver doesn't fucking cry every time he shows up in the book. Jesus Christ, I was starting to root for Fagin before the end. (By the way, y'know who would've loved Oliver Twist? Hitler! There's more anti-semitism in that book than there is in The Turner Diaries!

Crystal Kill: The Terminator #4 - John Quinn (Pinnacle, 1984) Good action novel in which Ron Gavin, a CIA assassin who quit and went fugitive over principles, takes a simple assignment to deliver a message to a runaway husband. While visiting a friend in the area he gets mixed up in the aftermath of a drug deal that went bad and is turning into an ugly bloodbath. The action scenes are limited but the book makes up for that in a higher level of plausibility than most action series novels deliver, plus the characterization is good: Gavin has a personality and seems like a regular fella, but more capable of handling violence than most. His interest throughout the book is seeing old friends and doing some partying rather than just being hell-bent on fighting crime like an obsessed vigilante. The writing is good and it's a quick read, so I'll look for more of these even though it's not slam-bang wall-to-wall gunfire.

Death Bird Contract - Philip Atlee (Fawcett-Gold Medal, 1966). Top government troubleshooter Joe Gall is sent to Mexico to find out if a candidate for Under-Secretary of State for the Far East has gotten rid of a past heroin addiction. Why this mission would require the country's supposed best agent of mayhem is unclear, as is the wisdom of hooking Gall on heroin so he'll be able to infiltrate the drug underground more easily. In any case, Gall is given a heroin habit and a beautiful black model for an ersatz girlfriend (who he falls madly in love with far too easily) and is turned loose on Mexico... where he honestly doesn't do much. The book cover calls him "the Nullifier" but he's more like the Stultifier because he spends more time reading magazines and eating lunch than anything else, and he doesn't come across as double-tough; a couple of nips from piranha in a pool (one of the only attempts to inject any kind of menace into the book) make him swoon for four days, and when something resembling a car chase happens, he's the passenger, not the driver. He talks a lot about all the violence he's engaged in but the book is nearly action-free, with only one brief fight and no exchanges of gunfire. The writing style is good and Gall makes for an interesting, opinionated wise-guy jerk of a narrator, but it's hard to get around the fact that nothing really happens. Where a Nick Carter book would be packing in climactic gunfights, explosions, fistfights and chases, Gall is getting ready for a marathon game of gin rummy, and I'm not even kidding about that. The cover is the best part of the book, because the back makes it sound like it might actually be bad-ass. And I kinda like that the guy in the picture's got some of the worst acne-scarring ever.

Deep Sea Death - Nick Carter (Jove, 1989) This time the spy has to deal with a more-outlandish-than-usual threat: a megalomaniacal villain who's built an undersea kingdom full of cyborg clones. Nick teams up with a female archaeologist (who doesn't let being a pacifist stop her from doing her share of killing) and they use missile-firing scuba sleds to stop the sub-marine supervillain from taking over the world with technology and nukes. Plenty of action, decent entry in the series.

Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King (Scribner, 2010) Stephen King is near the top of his game in a collection of four novellas, less supernatural and darker in tone than most of his recent work. The first story, 1922, concerns the horrific results of a farmer murdering his wife with the help of his son and getting nothing but tragedy -- and rats -- for his effort. This one's well-written and grim as hell. The next story, Big Driver, has a spunky writer of cozy mysteries getting thrust into a noir world when she falls into a predator's trap and is raped and (he thinks) murdered, and she -- even though it's out of character for her -- decides to gets some Death Wish style vigilante vengeance. But this situation keeps getting more complicated than she counted on. You can't help but root for her as she takes on some truly evil scum, as well as her own nature, but the device of having her cat and GPS system converse with her is a bit too cutesy for the incredibly dark situation. Other than that, aces! The third, Fair Extension, involves a terminal cancer patient making a deal with the devil for more time. It's like a Twilight Zone story with no real twist and I don't get the point of it. It's very mediocre but it's fairly short so it doesn't drag the book down much. The last, A Good Marriage, sees a wife whose discovery of her husband's horrific secret hobby shakes her marriage, and the rest of her life. Very well done. Overall, one of King's best books in years, and one of the few I didn't feel was too long. King is at his best when he doesn't indulge himself with page count, and I think staying away from the supernatural is a good idea for him now, since the last things he's done that were "supernatural" were embarrassingly idiotic (giant multicolored frogs? Sheesh). This one's worth checking out even if you've been down on him for a while.

Mekong Massacre: Black Eagles #2
- John Lansing (Zebra, 1983) Commie-hatin' Captain Falconi (cleverly called "The Falcon") leads a team into VC territory to recover a captured pilot who's being brainwashed by an evil Korean who Falconi's also supposed to bring back for questioning. Pretty soon the whole North Vietnamese army is after Falconi's squad... and it's not terribly interesting because the characterization is so weak. Major characters do get killed in significant numbers but Lansing isn't able to make them stand out as individuals or make them seem interesting. Even Falconi, his main guy, is almost devoid of personality. You get a better sense of the bad guys, who are seethingly, cartoonishly evil. The action scenes are okay, including kung fu fights, which Falconi gets in whenever he leaves his tent. At least two kung fu fights could be totally removed without changing the book at all; they're completely incidental, like "Suddenly on the way to visit a friend some guys jumped out of the bushes and attacked him." It's not terrible, just not memorable and doesn't really build to anything.

A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die: Mondo #3 - Anthony Destefano (Manor Books, 1977) Final entry in the hardboiled series has coldblooded killer Mondo tangling with assassins who are out to kill his sensei. He's distracted by a beautiful female Eurasian assassin named Michi, who uses sex as a weapon, but even his feelings for her (which admittedly aren't that deep because Mondo's feelings are pretty much limited to rage) can't get in the way of protecting his father figure and destroying the kill team. Mondo gets some help from a pimp named Spiderman, but in the end he has to settle things himself. Fairly realistic (although Mondo does escape police in a car chase far too easily) and as hard-ass as it gets. And Mondo doesn't let being a total badass keep him from having the most awesome guy-perm in action series history. Gotta love the back copy, too. And, yes, they stole the title from a spaghetti Western...

- Daphne Du Maurier (Harper, 1938) Classic suspense novel that works like a gothic ghost story with no actual ghost, but no less creepy for its absence. A young and somewhat foolish narrator, never named, falls in love with a rich but troubled man whose wife, Rebecca, died in a storm at sea the year before. They marry and move into his estate, known as Manderley, which is very beautiful but has an atmosphere of something being wrong. The narrator feels like she's always being judged by everyone and found lacking. The skeletal housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, is disturbingly passive-aggressive to her, and becomes completely sinister. Rebecca's memory pervades the estate -- things are still done the way she wanted them done, they still eat meals from menus Rebecca prepared, rooms are laid out as if awaiting her return, whiffs of her perfume can still be smelled, and Mrs. Danvers' chief loyalties still lie with her even though she's dead. The narrator feels like she's competing with a dead woman - and losing - and that big, dark secrets are being hidden from her. And the more she discovers, the more morbid the truth about Rebecca and her influence become. Even though this isn't technically a horror novel I would (as with Wuthering Heights) be temped to count it as one, since the them of past-haunting-the-present is very strong here. Rebecca, and Manderley itself, are like characters and have great influence over the living, although they are unliving things. And memory haunts like a ghost (the eerie opening chapter is a dream of Manderley in ruins -- even at the opening of the book, Manderley, like Rebecca, is gone, yet still making its presence felt: nearly the entire book is a haunting memory). The writing is brilliant. The plot takes a little while to get into, feeling too much like some standard romance novel, but once the darkness kicks in it's hard to put the book down, and some scenes are skin-crawling without ever really becoming horror. Du Maurier manages a tricky feat -- having the reader be a better guesser at what's going on than the naive narrator who's supplying the information. But the narrator does believably grow with experience. Total masterpiece.

Shark North: Sea Wolf #2
- Bruno Krauss (Zebra, 1978) WWII from the other point of view, predating Das Boot. A German U-Boat Leutnant tries to make his mark despite an incompetent superior and malfunctioning equipment as his submarine faces a great deal of strife off the frozen coast of Norway. Other than an overabundance of technicalities and some clumsily-handled flashbacks, this is very well-written and the naval and air battles generate some real suspense, and defy action-novel convention by being realistic enough not to have everything work out perfectly. Not bad.

Valley of Death: Chopper Cop #1
- Paul Ross (Popular Library, 1972) First in the short-lived (three book) action series is pretty scant in even setting up the hero as a character, and the mystery is pretty predictable and not as action-packed as it should be. Long-haired motorcycle-riding cop Terry Bunker sets out to rescue a girl from a weird religious cult that supposedly resurrects people from the dead; the parents of the cultists think their daughters are dead, but then they appear again to be ransomed off. Bunker mostly figures out what's going on, as he is a very hesitant-to-use-his-gun kind of guy and most of the deaths in the book are the results of accidents the bad guys have while trying to escape. The writing is spare but decent and the story is an okay change of pace with a counterculture bent, but doesn't fully exploit its potential.

If books are too long and you prefer your writing to be 140 characters or less, you can be one of the few people who follows my Twitter shit, which is very funny and enchanting if you like juvenile vulgarity and peepee and hostility toward the human race and like that-there.


The ultimate Christmas song & more movie reviews

Christmas songs just don't get any better or more true-to-the-spirit-of-the-season than this UK Subs classic:

Oi! Sing along, ya fuckin' buncha cunts, or I'll punch yer 'ead in!

Quite often I get a thinking
How as kids we got by
Like christmas time in our house
We couldn't even afford a fire

But we made do in our house
Back then when I was young
Dad used to suck a peppermint
And we'd all sit round his tongue

We couldn't afford no tinsel
On our christmas tree
So we'd just wheel old grandad in
And make the old cunt sneeze...atchoo

Wheel him round the other side granny...atchoo

Well things change so bloody fast
I got children now of me own
Now I heard 'em unwrap their presents
Last night when I got home

Santa claus you cunt
Where's my fucking bike
I've unwrapped all this other junk
There's nothing what i like

I've wrote you a letter
And i've come to see you twice
You geriatric wanker
Where's my fucking bike?

If i wanted a pair of fucking socks
I would've fucking asked
This cowboy suit and ping-pong set
You can stick right up your arse

You went and mucked my order up
It's enough to make you spew
It's not just me that's pissed off
My sister's cheesed off too

Santa claUs you cunt
Where's my fucking pram
You promised me you fucking cunt
You know who I am

'Cos I'm the little girl
You made sit right on your hand
Never mind your ho ho ho
Where's my fucking pram?

Next time i go to see him
I'm gonna punch him in the guts
Set his fucking reindeer loose
Kick rudolf in the nuts

Just you wait til next year
'Til we get to that store
A mate of my little sister
'll come stomping through that door

Hey mums and dads just check his breath
And watch his bloodshot eyes
Don't listen to him boys and girls
'Cos he tells fucking lies

He's a pisstake and a pervert
He's not even fucking bright
'Cos that fucking wanker
Forgot my fucking bike

Hey santa claus you cunt
Where's my fucking bike
I've unwrapped all this other junk
There's nothing what I like

I wrote you a fucking letter
And I came to see you twice
You geriatric wanker
Forgot my fucking bike

Yeah I'm gonna tell my dad on you
Fucking punch your head in....cunt
I saw mummy sucking santa

I also find this very Xmasy for no reason that any sane person could decipher:

Hey, Santa... are you going to liberate us from male white corporate oppression?

My cat would look like that if I did a bit o' shavin'. And I've got two weeks off to get bored enough to try it. I wanna. I think so.

I don't always like Sonic Youth, but that is a song that can do no wrong, budreaux. Kim Gordon, Chuck D, that naaaaaaasty guitar tone and maddening riff, it's all there. Don't fight it.

Now, 'cuz I know I gotta dance with the one what brung me even though I'd rather YouTube wank my way through the whole thing, here's some movie reviews. Read 'em or I'll punch yer 'ead in!


Bloodbath in the House of Knives (C, 2009) Terrible shot-on-video homejob horror that's being compared to Argento's movies for some unfathomable reason. A girl named Ivy is being stalked by a lunatic wearing a "comedy" theater mask. He leaves her pretentious whispered messages on her phone and kills several of her friends. The killings are inept but mean-spirited and misogynistic; one girl's repeatedly stabbed in the crotch (fortunately kept out of frame - who really wants to see shit like that?) and another gets pierced by skewers which are then ripped out, via weak gore effects. A detective is trying to catch the killer without a lot of luck. The acting is the only thing worse than the directing; when Troma's Lloyd Kaufmann puts in the best performance in a film you've got a real dog on your hands. The director may have been shooting for Argento's style but shows no understanding whatsoever of how Argento works. In fact, he doesn't even seem to understand what's interesting. For instance, every time anyone in this film pours a beverage, we get a lingering close-up of it, as if it's significant. That's not style... that's autism. I do get the sense that the filmmakers were trying, and that made me want to work with the movie, but lord it's hard when something's this bad. It did manage to hold my interest more than some homemade video horror, but don't buy the "giallo" hype for a second.

Carved (The Slit-Mouthed Woman) (C, 2007) - aka Kuchisake-onna, The Slit-Mouthed Woman. Just when you thought it was safe to give up on Japanese horror, they deliver this ultra-creepy boundary-pushing film. An urban legend is spreading among Japanese children about a tall woman in a coat and surgical mask who appears in lonely spots to snatch children and cut their mouths from ear to ear with giant scissors, so they'll look like her. The slit-mouthed woman is apparently unkillable because she's a ghost who inhabits the bodies of mothers and uses them to do her killing/maiming... which makes it even more horrifying, since mothers may involuntarily be used to attack their own kids. A teacher teams up with the slit-mouthed-woman's son (she was a psychotic abusive mother in life) to try to stop her, but that proves no easy task, and a few children are subjected to her scissoring before they even get a chance to confront her. The child-abuse subject matter is strongly disturbing stuff to begin with (it's exploitative as hell, yet also sympathetic to the victims), and the woman is presented in a very grim manner, silent and ruthless. The gore isn't pervasive but since children are the targets of most of it it's still tough to watch. The movie's a variation on A Nightmare on Elm Street in a way, but more morbid and ultra-dark.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow (C, 1981) One of the highest-regarded made-for-TV horror movies. In a farming community, a little girl is saved from a dog attack by her friend, a retarded man named Bubba. Four redneck vigilantes, led by pedophile-tendencied postmaster Charles Durning (who does a great job of being detestable) jump to the wrong conclusion and gun Bubba down while he tries to hide from them by dressing as a scarecrow. Soon afterward the men who killed Bubba start finding a scarecrow in their fields before they die in apparent "accidents," such as gas-leak explosions, grain-silo suffocations, and falls into woodchippers. They think the district attorney, Bubba's mother, or Bubba's little friend may be behind the attacks, but the truth may be more supernatural than that. It's pretty straightforward and simple but nicely done, with plenty of atmosphere and restraint that suggests more than it shows. This was a Halloween-week event directed by Frank DeFelitta, who wrote Audrey Rose.

Whole movie starting here:

Redeemer, The (C, 1978) aka Class Reunion Massacre, The Redeemer: Son of Satan. Oddball cheapo slasher flick with a Christian bent. A kid comes out of a lake and refuses to laugh at dirty jokes the other boys in his choir tell. Then there's a reunion of the class of 1967, which appears to be made up mostly of bitches, prissy jerks, and other unlikeables. They meet at their old high school and get locked in and stalked by a killer who uses disguises to trick them (and a skull mask and Grim Reaper gear to scare them) and kills in sometimes bizarre ways (such as a puppet that uses a flamethrower, or swords that fall from the ceiling, or drowning a girl in a sink while dressed as a clown). The killer is a minister who's possessed by a second thumb he has, and he's trying to redeem himself and his old classmates by killing them for their sins. The backstory doesn't make a whole lot of sense (double thumbs are tough to explain under the best of circumstances) and suggests that the killer may be doing God's work. Very strange and pretty clumsily-handled but interesting, and has a few elements that may have inspired the Saw films (especially that puppet). The gore effects aren't splashy but they're decent.

Obligatory plug for my Twitter feed of endless stupidity and personal debasement which you can follow and expand your happiness in ways you never dreamed. Or, at least you can pad my follower-list until the teevee gives me my own show like that ShitMyDadSays fella. Yeahbuddy.


A Fistful of Spaghetti

And a "fistful" in this case is almost 4,500 words. I got a little carried away, but thought maybe this could be a handy reference for some Spaghetti fan out there. I've got more, I just left off there 'cuz of carpal tunnel...

If you have no interest in Spaghetti Westerns, you can always go to my Twitter page and I'll tell you really stoopid jokes about poop and such instead.


And God Said To Cain (C, 1970) aka E Dio Disse a Caino, Cain's Revenge. Klaus Kinski is a guy named Gary Hamilton who gets paroled from a hellish chain gang and goes after the ruthless rancher who framed him and got him sent to prison. When he returns to town there are all sorts of spooky bad omens, such as birds of prey screeching when his name is said, and a tornado that blows through as he rides in. The rancher is so scared of him that he puts a $10,000 bounty on his head, but that's not easy to collect since Kinski's a deadly shot and has a tendency to appear and disappear like a ghost. Director Anthony Dawson (Antonio Margheriti) is most familiar with horror films, and that's pretty much the way he directs this atmospheric Spaghetti Western, filling it with dark scenes and gothic trappings such as tolling bells, howling wind, dripping water. You could probably edit a few minutes of this into Horror Castle without anyone noticing. There's not a lot of story, though -- just people wandering around a stormy night trying to kill Kinski and meeting their own fates instead. That's not bad, but the problem is that the movie is way too dark, and it would be hard to make out what's going on even in a good print... and the print used in the low-budget DVD isn't a good print at all: it's a muddy 2nd-generation full-frame mess. So, until a better version comes out, this is recommended for Spaghetti Western fanatics only.

Between God, The Devil, and a Winchester (C, 1968) aka Anche Nel West C'era Una Volta Dio, God Was In The West Too At One Time A chubby old outlaw named Bob Ford with a ten-grand price on his head is desperate to escape his pursuers and hires a guy with a metal hand to sneak him out of the state... but ends up falling off a roof and dying. Some bandits were also after him, and they still want something they think he was hiding. A boy recovers a map he'd secreted, and he and a man he trusts with it travel off with the metal-handed fella, trying to get to a place called The Valley of the Caves, where a treasure in gold is hidden. On the way they're stalked by bandits, and the guy with the treasure map is a crack shot but also a sworn pacifist who refuses to shoot anybody, even when they get pinned down by the bad guys. Turns out the gold they're looking for was stolen from a church during the Civil War. They're kept guessing about which side the metal-handed guy is really on -- the priest's or the bandits'. There's not enough action in this Spaghetti Western and no style to speak of; it's okay, but nothing special.

Clint The Nevada's Loner
(C, 1967) aka Clint el Solitario, Clint the Stranger, Nevada Clint. Though the title probably loses something in translation and it's stylistically more American-looking than Italian, this Spaghetti Western isn't bad. After six or seven years of hard luck being a wandering gunslinger, a guy named Clint vows to hang up his guns so he can reunite with his wife (who was so ticked at him that she's been claiming to be a widow) and her little son Tom, who takes an immediate liking to Clint even though he doesn't know Clint's really his father. Clint picked a fine time to become peaceful, though, because his wife is one of a group of farmers who are being terrorized by some sadistic gunmen who want their land. Everybody, including Tom, starts thinking that Clint is a coward because he doesn't fight back when the ranchers abuse him. When killings start, though, Clint gets fed up and starts retaliating, first with fists, then with firearms. It's a long wait to see the bad guys get theirs and you have to watch your hero take a whole lot of misery first, but what works in kung fu movies also proves pretty effective in Spaghetti Westerns, so it's worth the wait. The movie's very obviously built on Shane, with lots of matching incidents (even down to a "Clint, come back!" ending - albeit with a slightly different twist). It was followed by a sequel/remake that's paired with this on the DVD, under the where'd-they-come-up-with-that? title of There's a Noose Waiting For You, Trinity!.

Duel in the Eclipse
(C, 1967) aka Requiem Para el Gringo, Requiem for a Gringo. Quirky Spaghetti Western with a weird mystical atmosphere and a plot that keeps you off balance until it's brought together at the end. A bandito and his colorful gang of sadistic weirdoes are terrorizing Arizona, raping women and forcing citizens into duels that they cannot win, just for fun. Then our bizarre antihero, who wears a leopard skin poncho and uses astrology to predict the weather and other natural events, shows up and starts killing them off, usually playing mind games with them first, such as exploiting their superstitions or using a sandstorm to appear and disappear, or terrifying them with stories of how he killed the others. He's out for revenge because they killed his brother, and takes it during a solar eclipse that really freaks his enemies out. The hero's kept offscreen a little too much, but when he takes center stage the movie starts building in strangeness until it's almost at a horror movie level. The style's pretty pedestrian until the climactic battle, where the director goes crazy with the zoom lens. Interesting and unique.

Forgotten Pistolero, The (C, 1969) aka Il Pistolero dell'Ave Maria, Gunman of Ave Maria. Hard-to-follow Spaghetti Western in which a hunted gunman seeks out his childhood friend Sebastian to tell him that he's been living an illusion; his real mother is living in Oaxaca with the man who killed his father. Together they travel to take revenge, and it all gets overly complicated, but there is some decent action and it's all pretty stylish. Director Ferdinando Baldi tries to imitate Leone a few times, and the music score by Roberto Pregadio shows an attempt at Morricone-ness, with its whistling, somber guitar, and trumpets. This looks the part, and its regrettable that the plot doesn't manage to be more involving.

Full House For The Devil
(C, 1968) aka Uno Di Piu All'inferno, One More To Hell, To Hell and Back. Johnny King (George Hilton) is a happy-go-lucky gunslinger who helps a preacher friend protect his ranch from an evil land-grabber whose hobby is shooting watermelons off the heads of running peasants. King gets framed for a murder that happens during a comedic bar brawl (where Hilton's briefly in drag), and while in jail he bonds with another prisoner by fist-fighting over who gets the one bunk. They escape and King helps them rob a bank (using trickery to avoid unnecessary violence), then returns home to find that the land-grabber has killed his preacher friend in his absence. King wants revenge for that and gets help from his bank-robber buddy. He gets some vengeance, including killing the land-grabber's brother, but then he's caught and a slow, painful death is put into operation and there seems no escape. The first twenty minutes of this spaghetti western makes it look like it's going to be one of those obnoxious, unfunny slapstick jobs, but then it turns grim and keeps getting grimmer. Good stuff, especially the ending, which is just badass.

Gatling Gun
(C, 1968) aka Quel Caldo Maledetto Giorno di Fuoco, Damned Hot Day of Fire, Machine Gun Killers. Complex and intrigue-filled Spaghetti Western set during the Civil War. Richard Gatling and the machine gun he designed have both gone missing, and the North and South are both trying to get him, since ownership of the machine gun could decide the course of the war. A half-breed bandit (John Ireland with dark makeup) has both and wants to ransom them to whoever will pay him a million dollars each. A prisoner named Tanner, going under an assumed identity of another prisoner named Grant, is working for the Union to try to find Ireland and recover Gatling, the prototype machine gun, and the million dollars in jewels that the South is trying to use to pay for Ireland's ransom. The skullduggery involved in this endeavor gets pretty convoluted but there are plenty of gunfights. Not to be confused with the 1972 American film of the same name. Includes a surprisingly-gruesome close-up of a bullet being dug out of a wound.

Hills Run Red, The
(C, 1966) aka Un Fiume di Dollari, River of Dollars. Soon after the close of the War Between the States, a couple of buddies, Ken Seagall and Jerry Brewster, are transporting a large sum of money when they're chased by Union troops. Seagall gets away with the money while Brewster gets caught and jailed. Five years alter, Brewster is released from jail and comes home to find that Seagall has killed his wife and stolen his son. Brewster's so determined to get revenge that he even has a tattoo carved off his arm and sent to Seagall so he'll think one of his hit men killed Brewster. Under the cover of being "dead," Brewster sets out to get revenge on Seagall, who's now become a ruthless land baron, stealing from settlers. But he's got a lot of men to protect him from getting his comeuppance, including a young, sleazy Henry Silva. Good Spaghetti Western doesn't boast anything too flashy in terms of style, but the story is good and there's plenty of action, including fistfights, gunfights, and dynamite. Dan Duryea is also in the cast.

Kill The Wicked (C, 1968) aka Dio Non Paga il Sabato, God Does Not Pay On Saturday. After rescuing their leader from hanging, three bandits go to a ghost town to meet up with their equally-vicious female companion and plan out a stagecoach robbery. They pull it off, losing one of their men in the process, then hide out in the ghost town, where the leader hides the gold from the others. They're all already paranoid of each other, but that intensifies when an old lady still living in the ghost town sneaks around setting fires (director Amerigo Anton films some of this like a horror film, and one shot of her peering through a window is an obvious homage to Bava's Kill Baby Kill), and a stranger and a woman who survived a stagecoach wreck show up. One of the perverted bandits gives himself gigglefits by trying to beat the stranger to death. With the help of his trained horse, the well-tenderized stranger turns the tables. Then the wounded friend who they left for dead also shows up, and a big battle over the gold ensues, survivor take all. Decent Spaghetti Western, with plenty of atmosphere in the windswept ghost town. The cartoon opening credits (involving more colors than a bad Hawaiian shirt) are pretty odd and very 60's, and the "Death's the price of gold" theme song matches it well.

Long Ride from Hell, A
(C, 1968) aka Viva Per la Tua Morte, I Live For Your Death. Hercules goes West as Steve Reeves (in his final film, which he also produced and co-wrote) stars in a Spaghetti Western. Some outlaws frame Reeves and his brother for a train robbery and they're sent to Yuma Prison, which is so harsh it looks like the Circle of Hell reserved for puppy-rapists. Reeve's brother dies from abuse by the guards, but Reeves manages to stage a breakout, which sees most of the guards dead. He escapes into the badlands and deals with Mexican bounty hunters, then he goes after the bandits who framed him in the first place, while evading the law. (What good clearing his name would do after he's killed about a dozen prison guards, I don't know, but we're probably not supposed to notice that). The film briefly loses its grit with an absurdly out-of-place comedic bar brawl scene (complete with rinky-tink piano music that'd be more appropriate for a plate-spinner act) but mostly remains grim and brutal, with action scenes that are far better than average. Reeves is almost unrecognizable without the beard, but makes as effective a badass cowbody as he does a mythic muscleman, and the plot does a good job of making the bad guys so evil that you really want to see him get revenge, and an even better job of seeing that it doesn't come easily.

Matalo! (C, 1970) aka Kill Him! One of the most bizarre Spaghetti Westerns. A prematurely-grey (and apparently somewhat psychotic) bandit is snatched from the noose by an outlaw gang... whom he promptly kills for their trouble. Then he hooks up with his crime partners in a dusty, windy ghost town (which, judging from the whispering noises the wind makes, may have actual ghosts). Using it as a base, they get back to work robbing stagecoaches for gold shipments. Then a few thirsty passersby show up in the ghost town and the bandits terrorize them until one of them busts loose and starts fighting back using boomerangs. Somebody slipped some LSD into the spaghetti sauce on this one, and it's more El Topo than Fistful of Dollars, with a soundtrack that's half blaring fuzz-rock and half horror movie weirdness, cowboys who look more like Manson Family hippies than anything else, and long stretches of slow motion and freakish camera angles. Way way way more style than substance (there's hardly any dialogue and lots of footage of people sitting around doing nothing) but that style is interesting enough to carry it and make it worth seeking out.

Badass fuzzadelic theme song...

Payment in Blood
(C, 1967) aka Sette Winchester per un Massacro, Seven Winchesters For A Massacre, Renegade Riders, Winchester for Hire, The Final Defeat, Texas 1867, Blake's Marauders. After the end of the Civil War, Confederate Colonel Blake (Guy Madison) refuses to quit and leads a gang of bandits who terrorize the West, looting, burning, and murdering anyone they meet. Edd "Kookie" Byrnes is a government agent who infiltrates the gang by claiming to know the whereabouts of some stolen money that was hidden during the war. Director Enzo D. Castellari keeps the emphasis on action (including lots of fires), which keeps this good-but-fairly-average Spaghetti Western moving at a fast clip.

Red Sun
(C, 1971) aka Soliel Rouge, The Magnificent Three. Charles Bronson (with his hair long) and his gang hold up a train carrying the Japanese ambassador, who's carrying a gold-encrusted sword that's supposed to be a gift for the president. One of Bronson's men (Alain Delon) steals the sword, leaves Bronson for dead, and takes off. One of the samurai (Toshiro Mifune) sent to guard the sword has seven days to recapture it or he'll have to commit hara kiri, and he forces Bronson to help him track down the gang. After fighting each other for a while, they become buddies and kidnap Delon's girlfriend (Ursula Andress) to trade her for the gold. The big problem is that Mifune swears to kill Delon on sight, while Bronson wants to keep him alive long enough to make him tell where the gold is hidden. The movie emphasizes the comedy a little too much for my taste, but also has good action scenes, and it's great seeing two of the greatest cinema badasses ever work together.

Watch carefully, because you'll seldom see Charles Bronson get manhandled like this by anybody else...

Ringo The Lone Rider
(C, 1968) aka Dos Hombres Van a Morir, Two Brothers One Death In the aftermath of the Civil War, Confederate Bill Anderson retains some of his troops, which he uses as a bandit gang to rob banks. There are supposed to be Pinkerton detectives after them, but no one knows who these Pinkerton agents might be. A guy named Captain Bligh interferes when Anderson tries to hang a couple of miners he suspects of being Pinkertons, but Bligh still gets suspected of working with Anderson's gang. The gang goes on the run and comes across a group of traveling Mormons. They massacre them all, intending to take their place and run a ranch they've bought, and carry on their bandit business with no suspicion, since everyone will think they're devout Mormons. That plan lasts about five minutes since they can't behave and get in a barroom brawl. After a few more chases and shoot-outs, we get a big revelation... part of which is that there's nobody in the movie called Ringo. Bland, very average Spaghetti Western is devoid of style and burdened by some really terrible dubbed fake Southern accents.

Tequila Joe
(C, 1968) aka ...e Venne il Tempo di Uccidere, And Then A Time For Killing, Time and Place for Killing. Two rival gangs - one run by a guy named Mulligan, the other by Trianis - run rampant in an isolated town because the sheriff, Tequila Joe, is a stumbling gutter drunk who makes no effort to keep law and order because it gets in the way of his drinking. A new deputy is sent in, and he takes the job much more seriously and struggles to clean up Sheriff Tequila Joe so he'll have some help in cleaning up the rest of the town. He has little luck with that, but the deputy's badass enough to make quite a dent in the criminal activity by himself. After he whittles down the ranks of the gangs, Mulligan sends for more men -- the Crawfords -- and they're too tough to handle alone, so Tequila Joe will have drag himself out of the gutter long enough to shoot some people. There's not much style to this film, but the storyline's good enough to carry it and make it a worthwhile Spaghetti Western.

Texas, Adios (C, 1967) aka Texas Addio, Goodbye Texas, The Avenger. Spaghetti Western starring Franco Nero as a sheriff who decides its time to avenge his father's death, so he and his younger brother head off into Mexico, looking for a bandit named Cisco Delgado. Before they can turn him up they run into plenty of other bandits and end up killing quite a few of them. When Franco tracks Delgado down he plans to take him back to Texas to stand trial, but there's a complication: he learns that Delgado is his brother's real father! Still, Franco is as determined to bring him in as Delgado is not to be taken, so much struggle results. Decent Spaghetti Western hampered just a bit by some really terrible opening music and a rather incidental plot. It also bugged me a bit that Franco's clothes look like the inspiration for Indiana Jones (I hate Indiana Jones), but that's just me; his performance is cool as always, there's no shortage of action, and the music does improve after that opening song. I had hesitated on picking this up because I'd heard that it was too "American style," but fear not, it's firmly spaghettified.

They Call Him Graveyard (C, 1971) aka Gli Fumavano le Colt... lo Chiamavano Camposanto, A Bullet For A Stranger, They Call Him Cemetery, His Pistols Smoked... They Call Him Cemetery. A pair of super-gunfighters (Gianni Garko and William Berger, who look exactly alike -- at first I thought it was a dual role) are operating in a town that's being controlled by a gang that's running a protection racket. A couple of brothers from Boston, who have more courage than sense or skill, stand up to them. One of the gunfighters, who's extremely Sartana-like (Garko) takes pity on them and trains them to use guns. They're very quick studies. Their two Mexican sidekicks never pick up the gun skill, but they can throw knives well enough to pluck cards out of the air. People start calling the Sartana-like gunfighter "Cemetery" (partially because he puts people there, and partially because it's implied that he's the sole survivor of a massacre that killed his wife and children, who are buried in nameless graves that he visits), but he's also known as "the Ace of Hearts." The bad guys hire the other gunfighter, Duke, to take him on... plus they're after the same cache of stolen money. The movie has a lot of comedic elements, but they're not overbearing, and mostly this plays like a Sartana movie, in that it's mostly played straight but there's no way you can take it seriously because of the supernatural level of the skills the characters have. Some okay cinematic style and an interesting musical score.

They Call Me Trinity
(C, 1971) aka Lo Chiamavano Trinitia, My Name is Trinity, Just Call Me Trinity. Spaghetti Western that's a satire of the rest of the genre was a major hit which (unfortunately, to my thinking) led to a lot more Italian "Western comedies" and (not as unfortunately) led to a lot more movies teaming up stars Terrence Hill and big Bud Spencer. Hill is Trinity, "the Right Hand of the Devil," a lazy gunfighter who drifts around the West, sleeping on travois dragged by his horse, wearing filthy rags and seldom bathing, eating a lot, and effortlessly gunning down all opposition with lightning speed. Spencer is his half-brother Bambino, "the Left Hand of the Devil," who's also very fast with a gun but usually settles conflicts with brute force. He's not a big fan of his slovenly brother, but teams up with him to take on a gang of bad guys who are trying to run off a group of peaceable Mormon settlers. Lots of ridiculous slapstick action results. It's amazing that a movie so goofy and silly became such a huge international hit, because there's really not much to it once you get past the first half hour and the Mormons show up, but Hill and Spencer and likeable and charismatic, and the film does have some style (when it's not overbearingly cartoonish), including a catchy-as-hell theme song. I remember when one of the three big TV networks aired this as the movie of the week, and now you can find it and its sequel (Trinity is Still My Name) together on one DVD for about a dollar.

Try to get that theme song out of your head... I dare ya... And beans: it's what's for dinner.

Three Bullets for Ringo (C, 1966) aka 3 Colpi di Winchester per Ringo, Three Graves for a Winchester. Mickey Hargitay is Ringo Carson, a hired gun who decides to settle down and become a sheriff, as well as protect his mom from a ruthless land baron. Then the Civil War breaks out, and during a raid by Ringo's estranged friend, Ringo has to rescue his son from a burning house. A falling timber hits Ringo's head, leaving him blind. Soon after, Ringo's old friend kills his mother, steals his wife, and kidnaps his son. There's not much Ringo can do about it... until another blow on the head restores his sight. Then Ringo sets out for revenge, utilizing some weapons he confiscated from an armory, such as dynamite and a multi-barreled cannon. The shootouts are sloppy and chaotic and the plot's confusing and uninvolving, making this a lesser Spaghetti Western, although it does have its moments. Some of the music is re-used from Tomb of Torture, and it's even more out of place in this than it was in that. Not lacking in action, although it's kind of ridiculous; the guns never seem to need reloading, and despite all the firing, few people die.

Today It's Me... Tomorrow, You! (C, 1968) aka Ogga a Me... Domani a Te!, Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die. Top-notch Spaghetti Western with Montgomery Ford (aka Brett Halsey) as Bill Kiowa, a man framed for a crime committed by a bandit named Elfego (Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakadai passing for half-breed Commanchero), who also killed his wife. Kiowa thinks of nothing but revenge, spending all his prison time practicing fast draws with a wooden pistol he carved. When he's released he recovers a cache of stolen money and uses it to hire four expert gunmen (including big Bud Spencer, who's playing a non-comic version of the same sort of character he played in the Trinity films) to help him take on Elfego's marauding band of Commancheros. The script (co-written by Dario Argento!) has good pacing and the action scenes are well-shot and have some variety; some of the bad guys end up stabbed or hung instead of just shot, and time is taken to build suspense. Elfego's use of a machete makes him a more-fearsome adversary than usual (and gives Nakadai a chance to show off kendo forms), and there's a sawed-off rifle in the mix, just for coolness. I'd worried that this might be a comedy because of the presence of Spencer and a too-breezy title score, but it's dead serious. The long-lamented Carribbean Superstation used to play an especially-skangy looking print of this, but VCI's DVD looks nice and sharp, if somewhat faded.

Twice A Judas (C, 1969) aka They Were Called Graveyard, Due Volte Guida, Shoot Twice. Any Spaghetti Western that begins with a "dead" man reviving to shoot at the buzzards that are trying to eat him can't be all bad. Our hero (Antonio Sabato, who keeps a moronic pout on his face throughout the movie) wakes up with amnesia, but the other guy with him wasn't so lucky, so the buzzards have something to eat after all. He finds a rifle with the name "Dingus" on it, but when he gets to town a man he apparently has some business with identifies him as Luke Barrett. He learns that he's agreed to kill his own brother for money, but when the time comes he renigs on the deal and kills his partner instead (nailing him with one shot from a six gun after the guy's missed him about a dozen times with a scope-equipped sniper rifle -- yep, it's one of those movies). His brother (Klaus Kinski) thought he died in the Civil War, and his mother's too insane to give him much family history, although he does figure out that he had another brother and a pregnant wife who were killed by Yankees. While he struggles to remember his past and learn the identity of "Dingus" (that's a helluva embarrassing name to have to go around asking people about), Kinski is muscling homesteaders not to sell their land to his rival and sneaking Mexicans over the border as farm labor. There's lots of hard-to-believe plot elements in this (any time a character has amnesia in a film, start taking notes) but they try to make up for it by brining in a giant riot gun for the finale. The film does a pretty good job of keeping us confused (like the amnesiac protagonist) for a while, and having us put the story together as he does is a nice effect. Average spaghetti.


Sham 69 is just a brilliant freakin' band

...but that has nothing to do with my post, because it's just more movie reviews.

Children, The (C, 2008) At a family Christmas gathering, several of the kids start getting sick. At first it just looks like flu, but then the kids start getting violent, causing horrible sledding accidents or attacking with knives or tricking parents into breaking legs. The winter-wonderland shit is out the window pretty quickly as the homicidal kids get down to business, and the adults are hesitant to accept what’s going on (preferring to blame gothy teenage daughter Casey at first) and even slower to properly defend themselves since that involves hurting their own kids. Weakness of characterization and general sloppiness to the storytelling keep this from being another Who Can Kill A Child?, but it’s still not bad at all, with some creepily-sick kids and some quality cinematography for its budget.

Frankenstein 1970 (B&W, 1958) Boris Karloff is an ancestor of the original Dr. Frankenstein. Scarred from Nazi tortures and embittered, he wants nothing to do with people, yet still allows a film crew to work in his castle because he needs the money to buy an atomic reactor. With it, and the brain of his murdered servant, he revives his ancestor’s creature, which is covered in bandages with a huge covering over its head; it’s like someone mummified guitar wizard Buckethead. Because Boris dropped a jar of eyeballs, the monster has to stumble around blind while it tries to catch girls for further experiments. It still manages to cause a good bit of trouble before the silly surprise climax. Boris is overacting in this one, but was doubtless aware that he wasn’t in any James Whale or Val Lewton production, so why not? Hokey but not terrible.

It! The Terror From Beyond Space (B&W, 1958) 50’s sci-fi/horror standout that basically serves as the blueprint for Alien. An expedition to Marks ends up stranded there with only one member of the crew surviving. A second ship is sent to rescue him and take him home to stand trial, because they think he murdered the rest to make the food stores stretch further. He swears they were all killed by a monster, but they don’t believe him... until they discover the monster has snuck about their ship and is hunting them for food. It’s seven feet tall, lizardy, and its claws can shed steel, and bullets, grenades, gas, and electrocution merely annoy it. They’re in a bit of trouble... Well done, more-intense-than-usual 50’s monster-suit flick (inside the suit, by the way, is Ray “Crash” Corrigan).

Love Me Deadly (C, 1973) Pretty young blonde Lindsay is a necrophiliac, driven to sneak into open-casket funerals so she can smooch the dead in their coffins. Fred, a mortuary worker who likes to pick up prostitutes (male or female) and embalm them alive, recognizes Lindsay as a fellow dabbler in the colder, darker side of erotica and tries to get her to join his little cult of corpse-lovers. She resists and tries to get over her perverse cravings by dating hunk Lyle Waggoner (from The Carol Burnette Show), which is chronicled in a long, dialogue-free montage (originally there was dialogue, but in many scenes the dialogue was considered so awful that they thought it was wiser to just play music instead). Her cravings are too strong, though, and soon she’s cheating on him with the deceased, even though they’ve gotten married. Her housekeeper reveals that part of her mania stems from an obsession with her dead father; she likes to dress like a little girl and then childishly frolic around his grave. Lyle figures out his new wife has a problem and discovers the necro-cult, which lands him in serious trouble. This should be a lot creepier than it is, given the subject matter, but the film looks too bright and sunny, and none of the corpses actually look dead. There are a few brief gory bits to spice things up (the “embalmed alive” sequence is pretty disturbing, due to the guy’s screaming if nothing else) but it could benefit from more atmosphere. Still, it’s a weird one and worth checking out.

Lucifera, Demon Lover
(C, 1972) aka L'amante del Demonio, The Devil's Lover, Ceremonia Satanica, The Demon Lover. Featherweight Eurohorror in which some silly and ill-mannered girls visit a castle rumored to be owned by the devil. That night one of them falls unconscious and the movie turns into a long flashback to an earlier century in which she was planning to marry a guy in a village where a sinister robed-and-hooded figure keeps appearing and disappearing. Because this figure sees her trying on her wedding dress (that's supposed to be bad luck) she goes to a witch-woman to break the curse. She's told to take two virgins out to the boonies, where they're abducted and ravished by some cave-dwelling weirdoes and then killed by a naked vampire woman. After that the robed figure reveals itself to be a demon, and she becomes obsessed with him, losing interest in her fiance to the point that she's willing to kill him. There's some very brief and mild witchcraft-inquisition stuff (which the opening credits claim is “gran guignol”) but the special effects are hilariously bad and there’s really no payoff to this timid, artless cheapie. You know you’re in for an underwhelming experience when the opening credits to a horror film are scored with bouncy grocery store muzak. To top it off, the increasingly-lousy MYA Communications has transferred the DVD from a choppy, digitally-flawed source.

Sweet Sound of Death, The
(B&W, 1965) aka La Llamada. Included as a free bonus feature on Troma’s Hanging Woman DVD, this old black and white Spanish horror film is interesting despite its artificiality and mild simplicity. A guy who looks vaguely like David Hemmings and his beautiful girlfriend (credited only as “Dianik”) are madly in love and won’t shut up about it (pausing only to make oddly-preoccupied observations about the differences between Spain, France, and Britain). The girl has an obsession with death and makes the boy swear a pact that if one of them dies they’re to return from the beyond and report to the other. Then the plane she’s on promptly crashes and he thinks that she’s the sole female survivor, but it eventually becomes clear that she died in the crash and has come back to keep her promise. And, what’s more, this returning-from-the-dead thing runs in the family. There’s not much that’s really horrific about this film -- no gore or morbidity -- and the dubbed dialogue is really silly and clumsy, but it still somehow manages to be intriguing, even if the plot is straight out of an old horror comic and there’s never much doubt about where it’s going. Interesting obscurity with some atmospheric photography.

Okay, okay, just so nobody's disappointed that there's no Sham69 material at all (I seriously do love this band)...

Every band who ever plays in a bar should cover this song:

Sorry, but I like Sham's version of this song better than the Clash's...

Hilarious, yet also oddly pretty...

Listen, for fuck's sake, he's sick of making speeches, a'ight?

And this is a powerful, simple little song...

Here's my Twitter thang. Please "follow" it so I won't feel like I'm posting all this stupid shit brilliantly hilarious material for just three friends and a bunch of bots who are trying to advertise something...