Whatever-month-it-is holiday movie thingie whatever I'm doing some number

Goin' in raw this time 'cuz I gotta get a shower and get to fucking bed already... I'm ridiculous, doing this stuff!  You can find YouTube stuff, you're big kids...  Anyway, enjoy, if anybody's readin' this stuff!

Voodoo Black Exorcist (C, 1974) aka Vudi Sangriento. Bizarre, talky obscurity that owes a lot to Karloff's The Mummy.  A native couple in the Caribbean (neither black, although they are wearing some brown makeup) accidentally kill the girl’s father in a fight over their forbidden love.  In a voodoo ceremony the girl is decapitated (all the heads in this movie appear to be made-up styrofoam wig stands) and the guy voes to return for vengeacne upon the reincarnations of his tormentors centuries later.  Cut to the modern day (established by NASA footage) and the coffin holding the mummy of the vengeful lover is loaded onto a cruise ship.  He comes back to life and un-shrivels so he can control passengers with jabs from a drugged snake-ring and romance a girl he thinks is the reincarnation of his lost love.  He tries to win her affection by putting a severed head in her bed.  He also has another guy rolled over with a steam roller (unfortunately they don’t try to show us the aftermath).  He gives interviews about being a living mummy!  He also searches for his lost snake ring.  On the way he kills a couple more people.  This is a real mess of nonsensical scenes put together, and I can’t imagine what they were thinking when they made it, because I can’t imagine anyone thinking that it was going to be coherent.  It’s interesting just for the weirdness and obscurity, but it’s crazy and also kinda dull.

To The Devil A Daughter (C, 1976) aka Child of Satan. Christopher Lee is an excommunicated priest (“it is not heresy, and I will not recant!”  - if you ever wondered where White Zombie stole that line in “Supercharger Heaven,” you’re welcome) who’s out to bring the child of Satan into the world.  As its vessel he’s targeted a young nun (Natassja Kinski, who was only 16 but still did full-frontal) who’s visiting London.  Richard  Widmark is an expert on Satanism who’s out to protect her.   Lee and his Satanists do a rite involving a pregnant woman giving birth, which impregnates Kinski.  They also terrorize her father through supernatural means, trying to force him to keep a pact.  Kinski has been brainwashed to believe Astaroth (depicted as a guy who appears to have a giant inverted crucifix up his ass) is good , and she wants to serve him.  She has visions of Christopher Lee in a golden mask having sex with her while she’s tied down.  Widmark realizes he’s up against serious trouble and tries to rescue Kinski from an evil fate, but the deluded Kinski doesn’t help much.  Lesser Hammer but still not bad (although a hand-puppet devil is so hilarious it ruins all the creepy mood that’s built up), adapted from Dennis Wheatley’s novel (although Wheatley hated it, due mostly to the ridiculousness of the ending).  Hammer folded its tents shortly afterward.

Don’t Look Now (C, 1973) Donald Sutherland is in a very clammy-looking Venice restoring an old church, and his daughter drowns in a canal.  Sutherland and his wife Julie Christie are devastated until his wife meets a pair of sisters, one of whom is a blind psychic who tells her the daughter’s happy.  Later the sister predicts disaster for Sutherland and he almost falls from some scaffolding.  Then Christie returns to London to check on their son in boarding school but Sutherland thinks he sees her in Venice, as part of funeral procession.  He also thinks he sees his daughter running around, and since there’s a murderer loose in Venice, he becomes frantic.  The movie is self-impressed with its artiness -- Nicholas Roeg seems to be more interested in making postcards than telling a story -- and has a very sterile, formal feel (even the softcore sex scene is very stagey, though fairly explicit). and it ultimately doesn’t make a lot of sense.  The ending is creepy even if it’s inexplicable, though.  The film does have a certain giallo-ness and it’s good in moments, even if it doesn’t hang together as a whole.  It’s one of those pretentious films that people are afraid to say is badly flawed because it looks like you‘re supposed to find it intellectual. Don’t believe the hype, but it’s still worth seeing.  From Daphne DuMaurier’s superior novella.

The Devil’s Rain (C, 1975) Absurdity and nonsense can be surpremely creepy, and this disjointed devil-worshipper classic has that working for it big time.  I first fell in love with this weird movie when the CBS Late Movie used to show it in the 70’s (or early 80’s?)  and I’ve seen it dozens of times since, and it’s still never made much sense.  Damn if it doesn’t work, though, and has a strange atmosphere and a unique climax, and a cast you can’t believe would be in such a movie.  William Shatner and his mother Ida Lupino and brother Tom Skerritt try to protect a 300-year-old book of signatures of renegade pilgrims who signed their souls to Satan.  Devil-cult leader Corbis (Ernest Borgnine, who’s having a ball with his role and sometimes appears in ram’s-head makeup) is after the book and happy to subject the family members to all sorts of demented temptations.  He leads a cult of black-robed eyeless followers (including Anton LaVey in a gold mask, and John Travolta, who’d go on to become a cultist in real life).  There’s a lot of mumbo jumbo as Shatner (at his overdramatic worst -- he gnaws the scenery like it’s slathered in butterscotch) tries to survive demonic assaults and Skerritt and Eddie Albert face Borgnine in his church while the cast melts into puddles of was and slime in the rain.  Once seen you’ll never forget it, even if you never fully understand it.  The special effects are a lot better than the acting and are plentiful and creepy.  The eerieness lasts right through the end credits.

Enter The Devil (C, 1972)  aka Disciples of Death.  A deputy sheriff doing a Clint Eastwood imitation is sent out to the West Texas desert to look for a missing rock hound.  The man’s body is found burned in his car, and the deputy discovers a cult of Satanists is active in the canyons.  Since deer season just opened, potential victims abound, and the icewater-eyed sheriff is election-obsessed, so the deputy’s under pressure to shut the cult down.  Meanwhile they’re throwing people into rattlesnake pits and  barbed-wiring-and-crucifying more victims.  A lady reporter who thinks it’s a cult of penetenties  gets too close and ends up in trouble.  It’s a little too ordinary (aside from one unusual plot twist midway through) to be very effective, but the acting from the cast of unknowns isn’t bad and there’s some atmosphere and low-budget charm.  A shot of a cultist with a stone (charred wood?) dagger made it into a prominent spot in Famous Monsters.  The Sinister Cinema DVD-R edits over the memorable “Green, Green, Green, Everything’s Turning Green” opening song.

The Vampire Bat (B&W, 1933)  aka Blood Sucker, Forced to Sin. This old indie stacks up pretty well with the Universal classics, partially because it shares some sets and actors.  A plague of bats falls upon a European village, and drained corpses with fang-marks in the neck keep turning up.  Everyone thinks the village idiot (Dwight Frye at his unhinged best) is responsible because he’s a giggling creep who likes to play with bats (“They’re soft, like cat!”).  The sheriff thinks the vampire business is a load of bunk, but he doesn’t know that mad scientist Lionel Atwill has created what looks like a giant raspberry that he keeps in a tank.  A strange, atmospheric little film I find myself re-watching a lot.  If you ever wondered where the band Dog Faced Hermans got their name, this movie might answer that for you.

Strangler of the Swamp (B&W, 1945) One of PRC’s finest hours (although it’s not their best film - the people who claim that are forgetting about Detour), this ghostly tale of vengeance shows how much atmosphere you can build with no money, just a couple of sets, and a fog machine.  Swamp denizens hang a ferryman for a crime he didn’t commit, and his accusers start dying from mysterious strangling accidents.  When the replacement ferryman falls victim to the shadowy ghost, his daughter takes over the ferry.  Blake Edwards shows up in the village after being away at school and starts romancing her... but he, too, is a target of the ghost’s relentless will for vengeance, and so their love may be doomed unless drastic measures are taken.  Fast-moving and spooky little B-flick.

The Virgin Witch (C, 1972) aka Lesbian Twins.  A couple of sisters run away to London, hoping to become models but become witches instead in this British horror with an emphasis on nudity and softcore porn instead of anything scary.  Looking for work, one of the girls is drawn to a model scout named Sybil, who’s a lesbian and practices witchcraft.  At a weekend of photo shoots at a country estate things soon start getting creepy, with weird people peeping at the girls and a lot of preoccupation over their virginity.  They soon figure out they’re in the company of witches but think it’s innocent and interesting and they want to take part in a ritual, which basically consists of sex while everyone frugs naked around them.  The model sister wakes up naked with Sybil, but doesn’t seem to be all that fond of her, and wants to become a witch and take Sybil’s place.  Her sister’s boyfriend shows up all freaked out because Sybil’s a lesbian.  He’d be much more justified in worrying about the virgin sacrifice the coven has planned.  Not badly done but not much of a horror movie; it’s more of a nudie with exotic setpieces, playing to the 70’s fascination with witchcraft.  Some of the ring-around-the-rosie dancing gets pretty hilarious and kills whatever minor creepiness this bloodless “horror” film might have created.

Mystery of the Wax Museum (C, 1933)  Early two-stripe Technicolor horror with mad sculptor Lionel Atwill covering corpses in wax to create historical figures for his side-street museum.  He’s a legit artist at first, but his partner sets fire to the unprofitable business for the insurance money, melting Atwill’s masterpieces and leaving him horribly scarred -- physically and mentally.  He finds people who resemble the historical figures he wants to create and arranges their deaths.  When he meets Fay Wray, he thinks she’s the perfect Marie Antoinette, and she may be in for a horrible fate if she can’t be rescued by a smartassed girl reporter.  Well-done classic remade as House of Wax and ripped off by countless other films.

Who Can Kill A Child? (C, 1976) aka Quien Puede Matar a Nino?, Island of the Damned, Death is Child’s Play, Would You Kill A Child?, Trapped, The Killer’s Playground, Lucifer’s Curse, Island of Death.  The prologue answers, apparently a lot of people -- it shows how wars tend to make things hardest on children.  Then we’re off to the beach where butchered bodies have been washing up.  Our protagonists, a couple on vacation in Spain, decide to get away from the festival crowds by taking a trip to the island of Almanzora... which turns out to be the source of the corpses that have been washing up on the beach, because the children of Almanzora have banded together to play a game where they kill all the grown-ups.  Upon reaching the island, the couple is weirded out by how deserted it all is, and how unfriendly the children are, but things grow increasingly sinister.  They get frantic phone calls from someone speaking German but they can’t speak the language.  They see a laughing little girl (the creepy kid from Demon Witch Child) beating an old man to death with a stick, and then a group of them use the corpse as a pinata... with a scythe.  They start finding more corpses and decide they better get the hell off Almanzora, but the kids aren’t quite done playing their horrible games, and to survive the tourists will have to fight back.  But an adult having to overcome the taboo of using deadly force against children is a disturbing factor, too.  Why this masterpiece isn’t better known I have no idea; it builds an eerie atmosphere of isolation and dread that grows more and more intense until it’s full-blown horror.  If any “killer kid” movie ever scared you, be aware that the next-best one is still miles and miles behind this, which plays like a combo of The Birds and Night of the Living Dead, but with the added taboo of having to kill children to fight back.  And gore makeup on kids is a disturbing sight.  This is an absolute must-see for anyone who takes horror seriously.

Shriek of the Mutilated (C, 1976) aka Mutilated, Scream of the Snowbeast.  If only this was as good as its title.  Hell, I’d settle for half as good.  A third as good.  Michael and Roberta Findlay are at the exploitation sleaze again with this cheap Bigfoot horror.  A professor leads an expedition of college kids to an island looking for some Yeti-type monsters.  The lone survivor of a previous expedition was left homicidally insane and gets electrocuted by having a toaster thrown in his bathtub.  Once on the island the professor has his Indian cook (who looks more like a Mafia goon in a headband) feed the students “bear pie” and fills them with Bigfoot stories.  One is soon attacked by one of the fuzzy monsters (the costumes look like they’re stitched together out of white bathmats).  A search for him recovers only one of his legs, which they used for bait to try to catch the monster.  When that fails they try the corpse of a girl.  And that leads to a disappointing secret being revealed.  The movie has a little mild gore but balks when they could really have gone for some splatter; when every other aspect of a film is a big failure, why try underplaying something that would have been easy enough to deliver upon?  Throw some meat around!  DVDs substitute canned music for the extremely annoying synth song, “Popcorn” by Hot Butter.

The Most Dangerous Game (B&W, 1932)  Joel McCrea is a famous big game hunter who gets shipwrecked on the island of deranged Russian hunter, Count Zaroff, who’s gotten so good at hunting that animals bore him and now he hunts men instead.  Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong are also there, having survived a previous shipwrecked, and they’ll all end up hunted.  After showing them his torture chamber and trophy room of human heads, he sets McCrea and Wray loose in his jungle, evading their traps and trying to nail them with his bow and arrow, rifle, and dogs.   Incredible sets, lightning pace, and an atmosphere of menace add up to a compact, hard-hitting classic with major re-watch value.  Led to King Kong.

1 comment:

  1. Fuck yeah! It's pretty amazing how well The Most Dangerous Game has held up after 80 years... It's like the Sophia Loren of moobies!