Entries from April 2024 ↓



Chilling Classics Cthursday: THE GHOST (1963)

From its basic-ass title to its basic-ass plot, the 1963 Italian gothic horror film The Ghost (aka Lo spettro) ain't much we ain't seen many times before. But that's okay! After all, something about the journey being the destination and that's just super, you know? It's doubly super since this journey features Barbara Steele. Like would you care if a movie's plot was "ten years after a prank gone wrong leaves one of their friends dead, eight youths head to the woods for a weekend of partying before all but one are stalked and killed by a mask-wearing, knife-wielding maniac" if it starred Barbara Steele? No, you would not care. In fact, you would probably be psyched! Especially if she were playing the maniac. Or one of the youths. Or even the very woods themselves. 

And so it is with The Ghost. It's a tale as old as What Beckoning Ghost?, a song as old as EC Comics. (But) Barbara and the Steele.

And honestly, I was rather glad the story of The Ghost was so by-the-numbers, because I saw the name "Carol Bennet" in the opening credits, misread it as "Carol Burnett," and so long marveling, wondering, and questioning why and how Carol Burnett was in an Italian gothic horror film from 1963 that I am sure I burnt out a few synapses in my brain. I would not have been able to handle anything that made me think. I'm not even going to attempt another Mulholland Dr rewatch for 4-6 weeks.

Picture it...Scotland, 1910. Dr Hichcock (Elio Jotta) is wheelchair-bound but slowly regaining mobility thanks to the treatment he's come up with, which is a nice injection of two poisons followed by a swig of the antidote. If you ask me it sounds like perfectly good science, kind of like something a certain former President would have suggested as a cure for COVID.

Anyway, these treatments are administered by his friend and doctor, Charles Livingstone (Peter Baldwin), who is secretly--or maybe not-so-secretly--having an affair with Hichcock's wife Margaret (Steele). Margaret acts like a doting spouse, but she secretly--or maybe not-so-secretly--hates her husband. She convinces her lover to kill him, promising they'll inherit all the monies and be together forever. Besides, Hichcock isn't all that happy to be alive, and he hosts regular séances (with his trusty governess Catherine acting as a medium) so he can get a sneak peak at the other side. Would it really be so bad to just...not give him the antidote after a poison injection?

They go through with the plan, but there's no happily ever after for Charles and Margaret. The assumed riches never materialize, but Hichcock's ghost does. Or maybe he's not dead? Surely he's dead!

As the random blood drips appear and ghostly voices call out, the lovers begin to distrust each other. Their decline from bliss to...bloss...is reflected in the undo of Margaret's updo.

As I said, The Ghost doesn't really tread float over any new ground, but it does boast a fairly violent and bloody climax, a lot of delicious double-crossing, and more skulls than I could count (again, me brain hurt). While the dubbing isn't great, Steele sure is. By turns scared, sexy, evil, mad and more, (Chaka Khan voice) (or Whitney Houston voice, if it pleases you) she's every woman, they are all in her. Hichcock's house is home not only to the occasional spooky vibe, but also to more crap and clutter than like 50 TGI Fridays combined. It's so full of gewgaws and stuff and linens and things, it makes Hill House look positively minimalist.  

A few scenes are a bit painstakingly slow and it's maybe 25 minutes of story rolling around in a generous 95 minutes, especially considering we know where this is all going. Like, you can't fool us by calling yourself The Ghost, movie, we've seen Dominique and Diabolique and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotteique. We know there's no ghost! But again, who cares. WHO CARES I SAY.

For those of you who read "Dr Hichcock" and got to wondering, yes, The Ghost is indeed related to the 1962 Italian horror film The Horrible Dr Hichcock in all ways and in no ways. While the movies really have nothing to do with one another, each film was directed by Riccardo Freda, stars Barbara Steele as women married to a Dr Hichcock, Harriet Medin as a housekeeper/governess, and characters named Margaret and Margaretha. 

So all that and they also both have "not featuring Carol Burnett" in common. And yet The Ghost isn't considered a sequel? Why, that's the most surprising thing about it!



Chilling Classics Cthursday: THE ALPHA INCIDENT (1978)

At last! This week brings us the first of several Chilling Classics from the multi-pack auteur himself, Wisconsin's own Bill Rebane. To call Rebane an acquired taste is...well, I cannot decide if that's an oversell or an undersell. Let's just call it a sell, shall we? The films of Bill Rebane are, in a word, weird. They're often dull affairs only sporadically livened up by some left-field choices that can only be explained with a "Forget it, Jake. It's Rebane-town (Wisconsin)." The more bonkers moments of his films remind me of William Girdler's The Manitou, but with 98% less budget and 100% more crew members with the last name "Rebane." (Seriously, don't make a drinking game out of this, do not do a shot every time a Rebane family member pops up in the end credits, you will die long before they are over.) To the more--or the way less, I suppose--discerning among us, these movies are home-grown, home-cooked charmers. I'm a big fan of another Chilling Classic that'll be covered whenever RNGesus makes it so, but today's flick, The Alpha Incident, was new to me and reader, it did not disappoint! Except in all the ways it's disappointing. But hey, that's Rebane-town, baby!

A space probe returns from Mars, arriving with a guest: a "disease organism" that leaves scientists baffled but yours truly delighted as this laboratory uses hamsters for some reason? I don't understand the science of this decision but I do understand the cuteness of it.

As they try to figure out what they've got on their hands, vials of the stuff are put on a train bound for Colorado. When the government agent assigned to escort the package (Stafford Morgan) decides to take a nap, a nosy train worker (George "Buck" Flower, last seen in Chilling Classics Cthursday's Drive-In Massacre) messes with a vial and drops it.  He cuts his hand on broken glass and unknowingly gets infected with a mystery...well, no one knows yet.

 George "Buck" Flower, seen here with his frequent co-star Booze

The train stops at a small station in Moose Point to switch engines. The agent and George "Buck" Flower, apparently the only two people on a whole long-ass train, disembark to wait. The agent finds out what George "Buck" Flower done did, and they, along with three train office employees, end up quarantined at the station as the scientists at the lab race to find a "counter-agent." Eventually the survivors are told one thing only: don't fall asleep under any circumstances because...something bad will happen.

Side note, about 25 minutes into the picture, a buzzing began, so loud that it drowned out the dialogue. For a moment I thought it might be a new addition to the film's Casio-flavored sci-fi "soundtrack," but then I realized that it was the disc and that the buzzing may never end so, full disclosure: I watched the rest of it on Tubi. On the downside, I had to suffer through some commercials for diapers and psoriasis medication. On the upside, Tubi has what I assume is the transfer from the Arrow Blu-ray release (can you believe it??), so I got to see it in its correct aspect ratio and in colors that Mill Creek would never allow me to dream up. I felt like Dorothy stepping into Oz when I got a load of the pinks and blues and a whole Skittles' worth of rainbow in the laboratory and the office of Lieutenant General Poor Man's Raymond Burr in Rear Window! (Please note that his official name is "The Official.")

I would also accept "Lieutenant General Poor Man's Roger Ebert"

Now, a movie full of people sitting around talking doesn't sound very exciting, I'll admit ("Unless it's written by Aaron Sorkin!!" -- you, probably haha lmaoooo). But the dialogue, courtesy of screenwriter Ingrid Neumayer, is rife with that patented Bill Rebane weirdness that had me invested in the small-town drama of Moose Point, as centered on its train station office. Give me a Moose Point night soap stat!

The drama centers around a woman named Jenny (Carol Irene Newell) who comes in to "do the books" at the station every Friday. Yes, it is truly a cosmic joke that she is there today of all days, the day when the train full of space stuff is due. 

After she arrives, her co-worker Charlie (Ralph Meeker) watches her pour herself some coffee and we get this shot, accompanied by what can only be described as "floozy music." Not raucous burlesque or nudie film-esque music. Floozy music. It's...quaint. Which is fitting, in my opinion.

I'm not sure if this is "Bill Rebane film" lascivious or strictly "Moose Point" lascivious, mind. But either way, it introduced what would become the true saga of The Alpha Incident; no, it's not about any "disease organism"s from Mars. It's about the sexual politics and love games of the Moose Point Train Station, which I have yet to figure out, quite frankly. I doubt I ever will. 

By the way, Ralph Meeker, who is ostensibly the closest thing The Alpha Incident has to a "name" actor, isn't given much to do or more than a handful of lines of dialogue until the final ten minutes of this thing, when it all goes off the rails (get it?). We'll get to that, of course. The important thing to note now is that through the whole movie he reminded me of Wilford Brimley as Blair in John Carpenter's The Thing.

Okay, but hear me out: Charlie's co-quarantined co-worker Jack is played by John F. Goff, who was Al Williams (aka Mr Janet Leigh) in The Fog. George "Buck" Flower was also in The Fog. Clearly John Carpenter is a fan of The Alpha Incident and did, in fact, model Blair after Ralph Meeker. Right? RIGHT?! 

In further red string conspiracy board news, John F. Goff was also in Drive-In Massacre AND John Carpenter's They Live, both alongside George "Buck" Flower. Maybe it's not so much that John Carpenter is a fan of The Alpha Incident as he is a fan of The Chilling Classics 12-DVD Collection 50 Movie Pack from Mill Creek Entertainment. Right? Or maybe...maybe...I'm John Carpenter? Hmm, I sure do love video games...the evidence grows and grows.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Moose Point After Dark.

So we've got Charlie ogling Jenny's gams--which go all the way up to here her tasteful knee-length hemline, and Jack incessantly making lewd comments at her. Sometimes she tells him to knock it off, other times she drapes herself all over him. But she insists she's not interested, as she has a big weekend date with Ted Sheffield, a man whom she's been seeing on-and-off. Jack is unbothered and continues to hit on her relentlessly.

For her part, Jenny takes an interest in the government agent, Sorensen, who does not take an interest in her. Not even when she decides to change her clothes and put on makeup! The nerve. The space infection that may or may not be coursing through her veins is bad enough, imagine getting rejected by the man who has been in town for five minutes and is also infected and Jenny, please remember that you are all quarantined and maybe dying?

In light of all of this, she decides to go have sex with Jack in an empty train car. What! It seems that Jenny's phone number is 867-53-OH NO amirite?

She immediately regrets the decision to sleep with Jack, but don't worry, it's not because she feels bad about maybe-cheating on Ted Sheffield. She later reveals that Ted Sheffield doesn't even exist?? He's like a George Glass...? Again I say: WHAT.

See, the Jenny storyline is just part of where the Bill Rebane weirdness comes in.

The quarantined group must stay awake, right? That's part of the whole space infection deal. Well, they can barely pull one single all-nighter before they start coming apart at the seams and Jenny has--or tries to--have sex with most of the men. But no worries: the government very helpfully air drops some amphetamines to them, along with some Slim Jims and plastic bags to poop in. (We don't want the infection seeping into the environment, do we?) It all leads to those final ten minutes I mentioned earlier, ten minutes which are kicked off by poor Charlie starting to doze and...well, let's just say that it's too bad Nancy Thompson hadn't been invented yet, for perhaps she could have reminded him: Don't. Fall. Asleep.

Oh man, that last screenshot really sends me! It's not the end of the sequence, mind you. Trust me when I say that it gets way grosser, but no more realistic. The "Wait...what?" that starts running through your mind won't stop until the whole thing ends on a lousy freeze frame ten minutes later. 

To those of you who are not partial to the character actor-laden cast list or the task of parsing Jenny's sad, small-town love (?) story or Bill Rebane in general, I don't know if those final ten minutes would make sitting through all of The Alpha Incident worth it.  

But as for me, John Carpenter, well. Maybe it's just the "disease organism" talking but I loved it? I can't wait until the next time we get to partake in some Wisconsin weirdness on a Cthursday. I'm a bona fide Rebane-iac and proud of it!



Chilling Classics Cthursday: FUNERAL HOME (1980)

When I tell you how simultaneously pumped and confused I was when Funeral Home's number came up for this week's CHILLLING installment! (And yes, before you ask: Pumped and Confused is my favorite Linklater film.) 

Pumped because it's Funeral Home, duh. I love it. Like the Millennium Falcon, she ain't got much but she's got it where it counts, kid. Confused because I thought surely I have written about Funeral Home before. But after some furious computer hacking, I discovered that I haven't. Nary a mention to be found. Not even in Final Girl's earliest days, when this place was solely about slasher films and I reported on every one I could lay my greasy eyeballs on, like I was a horror blog version of Cynthia Rothrock as the lady reporter in that movie Lady Reporter. Okay, yes, I could never dare to dream that I am like Cynthia Rothrock on any level. However, should I ever hit my head on a tree, I do hope it results in my becoming psychic as happened to Cynthia Rothrock in Sworn to Justice.

You know what, let me course correct before I end up talking about Cynthia Rothrock all day. I am here to discuss Funeral Home, a film that features a lot but does not feature Cynthia Rothrock. But if it did! Can you imagine--

Funeral Home (aka Cries in the Night) does boast bona fide Canadian slasher royalty in star Lesleh Donaldson of Curtains and Happy Birthday to Me, and director William Fruet, who brought us Death Weekend and most importantly a little something called Killer Party. Talk about a movie I love! And with any Killer Party mention, I am legally and morally obligated to post the movie's theme song, as sung by Jennifer, Phoebe, and Vivia.

Not to get off track again, but what if Cynthia Rothrock sang the theme song to any one of her movies...?

In Funeral Home, Donaldson stars as Heather, a teenager who's spending the summer out in the country at her grandma's place, a former funeral home that she's converted to a "tourist home." For those of us who don't speak Canadian, that means a it's now a bed and breakfast.

On her way to grandma's, Heather encounters the most delightful cat you will ever see in your life. This cat meows and meows and meows all cutely at Heather, and starts to follow her. This is the kind of cat I dream of running into out in the wild or literally anywhere at any time! Okay yes I dream of running into any cat of course, but this is the kind of cat who wants to hang out and JUST LOOK AT HER COULD YOU DIE.

For her part, Heather is not as enthusiastic as I.

She glares, tells the cat to shoo, and literally gets into a man's van just to get away from the cat faster.

Now look, I don't have to personally identify with a character in a horror movie to feel something for them, root for them, or what have you. But Heather's shunning of that friendly-ass cat is so anathema to me that I always find myself saying "Well, I guess I am rooting for the killer, unless of course the killer is Heather, in which case I won't." Mind you, ever since I saw this for the first time I know who the killer is and whether or not it's Heather, but I like to drive the point home regardless.

Grandma needs the extra help since her husband mysteriously vanished a while ago. In fact, there have been several missing persons reported missing after paying a visit to "Chalmers the embalmers" as Grandma and Grandpa were known around town. Now that it's a bed and breakfast tourist home, the influx of guests means more people will "check out" and go missing.

Heather becomes a somewhat-reluctant Nancy Drew, not wanting to believe the less-savory small-town gossip about her grandparents (grandpa didn't "mysteriously vanish," he ran away with his mistress! and he was a mean drunk! and grandma spent time in the hospital after a nervous breakdown!) while also desperate to find out why the cellar is strictly off limits...and just who grandma argues with down there at night.

Despite the numerous suspects Funeral Home throws our way--is it any or all of the Chalmers? their simpleton handyman? a lingering guest?--you don't have to be a genius to figure out who's behind the scant murders in the film. Regardless, there's a lot of fun to be had in wondering what's up in the family basement, and even more fun when the (unsurprising) killer is revealed and has a nice, big flip-out.

I'd say that this movie wears its Psycho influences on its sleeve, but really that's underselling how much Bates DNA there is in the Chalmers family. Again, it's all so obvious that Funeral Home holds few surprises. But hey, it was 1980, man! Slashers were only on the cusp of solely treading down the Halloween path and Hitchcock was still highly influential in the burgeoning sub-genre.

Though Funeral Home never reaches out into the bonkers WTFery of Silent Scream (1979), there's a bit of a commonality between the two films, each with their weirdos and innocents together in a big, odd house o' secrets vibe. In fact, they'd make a delightful double feature, I'd dare say. 

As would China O'Brien and China O'Brien 2, starring Cynthia Rothrock.

But I'll be real for a moment: the best thing about Funeral Home--yes, even better than Lesleh Donaldson or William Fruet or any of it--is the cat, who, as the end credits inform us, is named "Mitten." Yes, while
"Mittens" seems more natural a name, it is, in fact, the singular "Mitten." What a maverick. An iconoclast!  Mitten delivers some of the best cat acting you could hope for, and she is so cute that I will never understand what Heather's problem with her is no matter how many times I see Funeral Home

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go write a spec script about Mitten and Cynthia Rothrock teaming up to fight for justice against all the mob bosses, drug dealers, murderers, and Heathers of the world.

(Pretend that's Cynthia Rothrock holding Mitten)



awesome movie poster friday – the CHILLING CLASSICS CTHURSDAY edition!

While snowed in yesterday, I looked at the paper sticking out of my typewriter and discovered to my shock that I had not been writing my masterpiece at all! Instead, I wrote awesome movie poster friday over and over and over. Yeah, I made some neat designs with the spacing and format and all, but it was a bit disconcerting nonetheless. Rather than view my fugue state typing as a sign of psychosis I am taking the glass half full approach and viewing it as a sign from Blog that I should foist an AMPF on the world, as it's been a hot minute couple of years since the last one. 

So here select posters from a few of the movies I've watched for Chilling Classics Cthursday so far. Some real bangers in the bunch!

I cannot believe Medusa has such a cool-ass poster. I mean, I can, actually...it's Italian after all, and Italian posters are always preem. But the movie is not worthy. 

That said, it does raise the question: is that a very large glass, or a very tiny woman? 

Also I suppose that's champagne she's soaking in, but it looks like something much less savory.

But overall this poster could only be improved by adding Cameron Mitchell. (You'll find that is true of most things.)

These posters for Oasis of the Zombies are way more sleazy, way more exciting, and way more fun than the movie is, that's for sure.

Hard to believe these all represent the same film, yet in my opinion none of them represent it accurately. Oh well, they all look good and take it from me: looking good is the only thing that matters. *nail polish emoji*

Speaking of inaccurate representations, this poster for Crypt of the Living Dead that has it looking like a wacky vampire comedy? Twas the style at the time I suppose (was it The Fearless Vampire Killers's fault?), and it brought to mind the cheeky/sexy poster for Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.

Two movies that were better than I anticipated, one that was not, but three great posters:

Well, I'd better get back to it. A madwoman's ranting doesn't type itself! ...or does it?

Chilling Classics Cthursday: I EAT YOUR SKIN (1971)

Writer/director Del Tenney's Zombie Bloodbath was shot in 1964 and sat unloved on a shelf until exploitation producer/distributor extraordinaire Jerry Gross snatched it up, changed its title to I Eat Your Skin, and put it on one of horror's most famous drive-in double bills alongside I Drink Your Blood in 1971. I Drink Your Blood boasts satanic hippies, Lynn Lowry, contaminated meat pies, and gore enough to warrant the MPAA's first X-rating. I Eat Your Skin boasts...that it was the movie that played alongside I Drink Your Blood.

Writer/cad/Real Man's Man/Clive Cussler wet dream Tom Harris is content with sleeping with every woman in Miami Beach, but his mega-downer publisher wants Tom to get to work on his next novel--and he's got the perfect location to provide lots of inspiration: a remote place called Voodoo Island. As its name indicates, it's an island where people do voodoo. Also there's a scientist set up there, making use of the island's bountiful venomous snake population to help his development of a cancer cure. Oh, and a hurricane wiped away a lot of the island's men, so there are a shitton of women just waiting for a man like Tom to come along and sex them.

Tom, the publisher, and the publisher's shopping-addicted, poodle-toting wife Coral head to Voodoo Island. It doesn't take long before we get our first taste of voodoo zombie; they're crusty-faced and golfball-eyed, but they eat no skin. (Spoiler.) The local white folk, including the scientist and the "plantation overseer" blame it all on drugs. The locals just do voodoo and drugs to have a good time. Maybe they are doing too many drugs and it's causing the crusty faces and golfball eyes and murderous intentions?

That said, the locals (led by Papa Neybo) intend to sacrifice the scientist's blonde, virginal daughter because virginal blondes make for the best sacrifices. The ever-resourceful, ever chest-baring Tom helps out by promptly sexing her.

Long story short, it turns out that the "plantation overseer" was also Papa Neybo, and he wanted a voodoo zombie army so he could take over the world. The scientist, who had been using the local native population as guniea pigs in his cancer research (!), was forced into helping in this bid for world domination. Before he, his daughter, and Tom and cohorts escape the island, the scientist triggers a machine that blows the island up completely, killing the entire local population and causing untold ecological damage. Hooray!

Look, it's not like you can get mad at a dumb movie from 1964 for having dumb 1964 racial and/or gender politics. But I will admit I let out a sigh or twelve during I Eat Your Skin! Not only is it all that *gestures at Voodoo Island* with regard to race, it's also the kind of movie where men laugh as an angry husband starts beating his unfaithful wife, and the women are present to swoon, to be saved, or to be insulted. As a bonus, it's capped off with some decidedly un-ASPCA animal sequences that I fast-forwarded through. 

As I said though, it's also very dumb. It's got a beach blanket horror comedy tone throughout much of it that feels very 1964 and must have been a letdown to drive-in audiences after the technicolor LSD trip bloodbath of I Drink Your Blood. I guess that's where folks went to concessions to get some lukewarm pizza squares, or maybe they started making out (if they weren't already). 

Hmm. What can I say I liked about it? Well, the music from Don Strawn's Calypso Band was good. One zombie carries a box of explosives (you know the box contains explosives because it's labeled EXPLOSIVE) into a moving plane propeller and there's a big explosion, that was cool.

Oh, and there's the sort of Dollar Tree Saul Bass cool opening credits that promised a much better movie than the one we got. Today's post trivia: I pulled the screencaps for this post from Tubi, as the Chilling Classics transfer is, unsurprisingly, trash. In fact, it's also cropped so much that the title screen reads I EAT YOUR SKI. Ski-eating is weird for sure, but admittedly less menacing than skin-eating. Not that this movie features any skin-eating whatsoever, but you know what I mean.

From one of the great double-bills in 1971 to one of the worst in 2005, when Mill Creek Entertainment put it on a disc with the miserable Medusa--wow, what a journey through cinema history I Eat Your Skin has had. And what a journey through cinema history Chilling Classics Cthursday continues to be. Right, guys?


Oh, this is the part of the post where you're all grabbing pizza squares and making out, isn't it.