Entries Tagged 'From The Feeds' ↓

Invitation to Love (and a podcast)

I looked at the clock and realized it was high time to toss out a reminder about The Detective and the Log Lady, the weekly podcast about Twin Peaks that I'm co-hosting along with Mike Muncer of The Evolution of Horror. 

We're on the back half of the too-short season one, so it's not too late to catch up whether you are a Twin Peaks lover and veteran or a Twin Peaks lover and newbie like me. A new episode dropped today, so check it out on the EoH website or whatever podcast platform you enjoy most. Or least, if you're feeling spicy!

And yeah, I called myself a Twin Peaks lover because I am indeed loving it so far. Settling in for the week's episode is such a treat. The theme song kicks in, wraps me in its warm embrace, and I feel my cares and worries slip away (into the night). And I love that I get to pick it apart with Mike because man, there is so much to pick apart--and simply luxuriate in. This cast giving weird, spooky mystery one minute and delicious nightsoap the next is heaven, I tells ya. I am so happy to finally be getting into Twin Peaks and to talk about it, so do give a listen and subscribe if it sounds like your thing, too. And rate and review! It will help this little baby bird of a show get in front of more eyeballs and earholes.

Oh and if you've got questions and/or comments for us, you can email them to logladypodcast @ gmail.com. At the end of the season we're going to do a mailbag grabbag episodebag, so getcherself in there!

Oh OH and if you're looking for a board to discuss les Peaks and I guess the podcast, members of Mike's patreon (any level) can access discussion groups, both spoiler-filled and spoiler-free. 

You can also discuss it in any of the Twin Peaks-post-related comment sections here at Final Girl, but please keep it 10000% spoiler-free if you do. I have sealed myself away tighter than a jar of Howard Hughes's urine to protect myself from spoilers! (And from contrails and 5G but that's another story!)

Chilling Classics Cthursday: MAN IN THE ATTIC (1953)

They say that the only constant is change, so I'm starting with the man in the attic. I'm asking him to change his ways. No message could've been any clearer: if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and don't be Jack the Ripper!

Yes, dear reader, Man in the Attic is indeed an adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes's groundbreaking 1913 novel The Lodger, the first fictionalized take on the 1888 murders in Whitechapel and the Ripper himself. It's rather classy as far as Chilling Classics go, and were it not for the shadows cast by previous adaptations I dare say it might have garnered a bit more attention over the years.

You're probably familiar with the tale by now: When several murdered women are found nearby, a couple begins to suspect that their recently-arrived lodger may indeed be Jack the Ripper. 

But is he? The lodger has some dubious quirks to be sure, but they're all explained away--sometimes even plausibly. Sure, he goes out late at night to "do work." But that's when things are quiet! Yes, he fits the description of the Ripper, what with his small black bag and Ulster and all. But doesn't every man have a small black bag and an Ulster? He has a habit of burning things at odd hours, like pieces of clothing that seem to have blood all over them. But he's a pathologist who does experiments! It's all business as usual.

But is it? Of course not! The lodger is played by Jack Palance in one of the busiest years of his nascent career. He's cutting up people with his magnificent cheekbones.

Palance, of course, had a long and storied filmography and earned his place in Valhalla with his legendary speech and one-armed push-ups after winning the Oscar for City Slickers. There's always something vaguely sinister and potentially unhinged lurking just beneath the surface of a Palance performance, no matter the genre he was working in. He could make Dracula both sympathetic and intimidating, and he could make ostensible family fare like Ripley's Believe It or Not! inexplicably terrifying. (Or was that just me?) This vibe is prevalent even in his earliest roles, including one of my faves, opposite Joan Crawford in the 1952 noir thriller Sudden Fear. If you've never seen it, well, you have some homework to do. It's stylish as all get out and Crawford is terrific, giving one of her career-best performances, while Palance exudes both mance and charm. 

This quality is why he's perfect for Man in the Attic, a film that wants to leave you questioning  the truth about the lodger Slade until you can't question no more. From the moment he arrives on the Harleys' doorstep, you might be as suspicious as the missus...

But as his fumbling romance with Lily, an actress and the Harleys' niece, progresses, you might see him as she does: an awkward, shy, and inexperienced young man who needs a woman to take a chance on him.

But then it's not long before he's talking about his harlot mother and sweating everywhere and you're like yeah, no, he definitely hates and murders women.

It's rather interesting to see the sort of game of telephone that's occurred over the course of each filmic adaptation of Lowndes's novel--not only how far each may or may not stray from the source material, but how much changes are passed from movie to movie, beginning with Alfred Hitchcock's The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927). Studio interference added the love story and dictated that the film's popular star, Ivor Novello, must be proven an unequivocally innocent lodger by the picture's end. In a (sadly) less shocking change, Hitchcock made it a point that the killer purposefully targeted blonde women.

In the 1944 film The Lodger, the victims are no longer prostitutes but actresses, a profession against which the lodger harbors long-standing grudges.

Man in the Attic hews closest to the 1944 iteration, but holds on to some of the proto-feminist and political aspects of Lowndes's work. 

We don't see the women get murdered, nor the aftermath of it. Instead, we watch as they react to their approaching killer. One striking sequence employs an actual POV shot as the Ripper closes in; the execution is a bit clunky given the era, but it was wholly unexpected and cool as heck. The victims throughout Man in the Attic aren't afforded intricate stories or a surplus of development to be certain, but they're all unique and each gets her moment to shine. That can still feel like a novelty in the more slasher-end of the horror spectrum, never mind in media that dips into true crime territory. But it was an unheard-of hallmark of Lowndes's novel, so it's fantastic to see it here, where one might expect the full focus to be on one of history's most notorious serial killers. 

It's also a reminder to me that I really ought to read Hallie Rubenhold's lauded The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper (it's been on my library to-read list since it was published in 2020), but I know I'll probably keep putting it off because I just know it'll be depressing.

Then, of course, there is the matter of Mrs Harley (or Bunting in the novel), she who suspects Slade from the start and puts all the pieces together long before Scotland Yard does (although to be fair, Scotland Yard was busy chasing down every one of Queen Victoria's bonkers mandates: It couldn't have been a married man, investigate every bachelor! It couldn't have been an Englishman, investigate every foreigner!). She's shut down at every turn by her exasperated husband, but, you know, nevertheless she persisted. Even better, the comedic banter and bickering between the Harleys is one of the best things about the movie.

And then and then, there is their niece Lily, who shares a kind, wonderful, sad scene with a former actress fallen on hard times, who is moments away from being the Ripper's next victim. It shows what Lily's all about, it humanizes a woman who could have been a throwaway horror thrill, and it encapsulates what sets Man in the Attic apart from your standard serial killer fare.

Sure, Lily makes too many concessions for Slade's behavior because she's got hearts in her eyes. But when push comes to shove and sweaty Slade is like "Quit your job and run away with me so we can be alone together" she refuses because hey, she loves being an actress and she's got stuff she wants to do. If this kind of attitude still felt revolutionary with Olivia Hussey as Black Christmas's Jess in 1974, imagine how revolutionary it felt in a 1953 that is supposed to be 1888. Go on, imagine it! I'll wait.

Ain't it grand? Even better, we get to see Lily do her thing in a full number--like, a full number that takes up a not-insignificant amount of screentime--and another number that quite literally triggers Slade with its can-can action.

To be honest, I mightn't have ever seen this film were it not for this wild Cthursday endeavor. Despite the Jack Palance of it all, I could see myself thinking "oh great, another Jack the Ripper movie" but I'm sure glad I saw it. Perhaps it doesn't have the style and technique of Hitchcock's The Lodger, but Man in the Attic director Hugo Fregonese did just fine, thank you, from the evocative, wet and foggy Whitechapel streets and alleys to the rather thrilling carriage chase during the film's climax. And it may not have the star power of Merle Oberon and George Sanders in the 1944 movie, but Jack Palance already had IT and the supporting cast is engaging as well. (Shout out again to the Harleys!)

Well, here we are, halfway through the Mill Creek Chilling Classics 50-pack. They sure grow up so fast, don't they? And hey, Man in the Attic marks three weeks in a row that Chilling Classics Cthursday has given me something surprisingly...really good. Surely that streak will continue and continue for the next 25 installments, right?!

Chilling Classics Cthursday: THE DEVIL’S HAND (1961)

Got a li'l treat this week with The Devil's Hand, a film that would be at home as the superior half of a drive-in double feature with another Chilling Classic, I Eat Your Skin. The two share a kind of early 60s feel, although The Devil's Hand keeps any beach blanket vibes contained to its surf tune-flavored opening credits.

One thing I really appreciated about this film is that it's a lean 71 minutes and it wastes no time before it gets to the goods. There's no fat on this baby, no useless scenes full of, like, character development, it's just boom-boom-boom laying it all out there. 

Rick and Donna (Robert Alda--father of Alan!--and Ariadna Welter--excuse me, how cool is the name "Ariadna") are engaged to be married, but Rick's been having dreams about a sultry blonde in a diaphanous gown...and the dreams have got him all stirred up.

One day Rick spies a doll that looks just like the dream woman in the window of a shop--and hey, there's also a doll that looks like Donna in the shop. What gives? 

I'll tell ya what gives: this is no ordinary doll shop. It's a doll shop by day, but by...well, also by day but sometimes by night, it's home to a cult that conducts their ceremonies and sacrifices and the such in the basement, all in service to The Great Gamba, Highest Executioner Supreme, Devil-God of Evil. (But you can just call him Gamba.)

One contrived doll delivery later, Rick meets Bianca (Linda Christian), literally the woman from his dreams. Again, The Devil's Hand eschews any coyness around what's what with all of this, as Bianca tells Rick Hey, I'm in a Satanic-adjacent cult, I used mental projection to lure you to me, I want your bod, but you have to convert to the cult before we can Do It.

Rick asks no questions, says Absolutely!, and promptly ghosts Donna, who oh by the way is laid up in the hospital after a voodoo attack from the cult's high priest. This sounds like some terrible behavior from Rick, and it is. Donna's great! And she's in the hospital! But on the other hand--the devil's hand, you might say--Bianca is a sultry babe who can traverse the planes and engages in witchcraft. Donna never stood a chance.

FUN FACT BREAK: Ariadna Welter was the younger sister of Linda Christian, and her acting career was largely based in their native Mexico. Christian, however, was persuaded to abandon her dreams of becoming a doctor (yay?) and give Hollywood a shot by none other than Errol Flynn, who also gave her the "Christian" surname after his performance as Fletcher Christian in a production of Mutiny on the Bounty.

Christian went on to marry Tyrone Power and would later gain a bit of infamy with a 1957 photograph dubbed "The Kiss of Death," wherein she was snapped kissing a race car driver during a pit stop. Moments later a tire blew, he crashed the car, and several people (including the driver) died. Hmm, I guess that's not really a "fun" fact, but you know what I mean.

The old Hollywood connections are some of the best things about these Chilling Classics, I tells ya.

Anyway, things proceed apace in The Devil's Hand. The cult engages in a few sacrifices, lots of jamming out to bongo beats, and the accruement of wealth and power. Rick remains into Bianca, telling her "If I thought I'd lose you, I'd kill you!" which...well, I guess a worshipper of Gamba doesn't see that as a red flag, so who am I to judge?

Rick's got a Robert Mitchum-lite kind of way about him, but otherwise I'm not sure why Bianca found him so alluring that she hopped on the metaphysical highway to chase him, but again, who am I to judge?

The Devil's Hand is worth 71 minutes of your time if you're in the mood for some 50s-feeling early-60s cult action. It's one of the first films released by Crown International Pictures, producers and distributors of some of the finest B-movie dreck (I say that in a loving way) you'll find, such as perennial Final Girl favorites Zoltan: Hound of Dracula and Click: The Calendar Girl Killer

No, The Devil's Hand doesn't have a colon in its title like Zoltan and Click do. But you'll never catch me hating on a movie where there's a business called "Amalgamated Industries" and the sinister cult has a wall lined with dollies that look just like its members. 

Never mind the mental projectionist sultry blonde, getting a doll carved in my likeness is reason enough for me to sign up. All hail The Great Gamba, Highest Executioner Supreme, Devil-God of Evil!



Chilling Classics Cthursday: HAUNTS (1976)

I'm thanking my big bowl of lucky stars that it took me until this very week to get around to the 1976 film Haunts, because I'm sure I wouldn't have given it a fair shake. Given it's a film from Herb Freed and Anne Marisse (the husband-and-wife duo behind Graduation Day, the masterpiece featuring the football-with-a-sword-attached and the mostly-rollerskateless roller skating party) and pitched as something of a slasher flick featuring a maniac-with-scissors-attached scissor-wielding maniac, well, that's what I would have hunkered down to see. Instead, Haunts is an unabashed women's (horror) picture that's all about loneliness, isolation, and unchecked trauma. (Apparently they made horror movies about that stuff before A24 came along...? Weird.) I stand (well, truth be told I am sitting) before you today to spread my Haunts agenda. "Criminally underseen" may be an overstatement--though really, how could it not be underseen when it's pretty much only available as a Chilling Classic with potato-levels of picture quality? But the right audience for this film is out there, and that audience needs to get eyeballs on this one.

The rape and murder of a young woman sets a small, rural California-that-feels-like-Pennsylvania town on edge. The amount of  prurient gossip ("They found one arm clear down by the lake!") is exceeded only by the number of suspects, as the town is full of a veritable Rogue's Gallery of men. From the leering rockabilly bad boy grocery clerk Frankie (William Gray Espy) to new nerd in town Bill Spry (Robert Hippard), nearly anyone could be the scissor-wielding killer. 

The Sheriff (an understated Aldo Ray)--who also seems to be the town drunk--is in way over his head with the investigation, as evidenced by the fact that said investigation seems to consist solely of asking a few people "Have you seen anything strange lately?"

In the midst of all of this is Ingrid (May Britt), a quiet, church-going woman living an unassuming life on a farm with her reclusive uncle Carl (50-Pack King Cameron Mitchell), coping as best she can with hazy intrusive thoughts about childhood traumas. Though she tries to suppress her memories, her lingering doubts and fears about men prove true, but she gets no support from law enforcement, her fellow townsfolk, or even her church elders. "Continue to pray" is about all anyone can offer her.

Things twist and turn as Haunts plays out at a leisurely pace. That may scare some of you away, but I was luxuriating in the sad small-town drama of it all. Everyone knows everyone there, but nobody really knows anybody. Ingrid deals with the violence she's faced by not dealing with it, leaving her healing in the Lord's hands. Local gossip/barfly Nel (Susan Nohr) laments the lack of "classy" men in town, all while having too many drinks and settling for anyone who pays her some attention. 

As she endures and endures, Ingrid unravels more and more, increasingly isolating herself even as she tries to figure out who's behind the murders. Like the Sheriff, you may find yourself unsure of what to believe, or maybe not. Haunts is compelling, in part, not simply because of its reveals, but when those reveals happen, and the fact that it leaves many dots for the viewer to connect.

It's no surprise that Haunts is informed by films like Repulsion and Carnival of Souls and, like those films, it's anchored by a terrific central performance. Ingrid is a woman on the outside of her community, even if she's always been there. She's marked as different in many ways, whether it's the traces of her Swedish accent, her piousness, or her reticence to mingle with friends or potential romantic partners. It's hard to resist thinking of the parallels between the character and the actress who came out of retirement to portray her, as Britt herself was no stranger to outsider status thanks to her 1960 marriage to Sammy Davis, Jr. At the time, interracial marriage was illegal in more than half of the country, and the controversy their pairing stirred up caused the Kennedy administration to revoke Davis's invitation to sing at JFK's inauguration. (It's insane to think it was ever illegal, but even insane-ier that it was still illegal in many states when the Supreme Court finally ruled laws disallowing it as unconstitutional in 19fucking67. 1967!) 

Whatever her reasons were for signing onto Haunts, Britt scuttled back into retirement after Haunts, emerging only once again for one episode of, oddly enough, the 80s sci-fi show Probe.

Again, I'm spreading my Haunts agenda because hot dang, it deserves more love. It's got a score from Pino Donaggio, who rose to even greater heights later in 1976 with his work on Carrie. After loving Graduation Day and the (wonderfully) cheesy Lynda Day George-led possession flick Beyond Evil, I never expected this kind of film from Herb Freed, but I'm sure glad I got it.



Chilling Classics Cthursday: NAKED MASSACRE (1976)

Sigh. Honestly, when I read the synopsis on the sleeve of this week's Chilling Classic, I should have said "no thank you, taking the week off, everyone!" 

In Belfast, a group of eight nurses share a home while working at various hospitals and clinics throughout the city. Entering into their lives is a crazed Vietnam veteran with a hatred for women who decides to take out his hatred on them. Stalking them one by one, the killer terrorizes and tortures the women while the authorities attempt to track him down.

If you said "Oh, so it's Richard Speck? But Belfast and Vietnam?" you get some kind of prize because you're right on the money! Except this movie--also known as Born for Hell because the killer has a "Born for Hell" tattoo, you know, kinda like Speck's "Born to Raise Hell" tattoo--features more sexual assault than Speck's 1966 spree. 

But I though, this is the covenant I entered with Mill Creek Entertainment and a horror blog, so buck up, girlie, and do your duty.

I didn't make it, sorry.

To tell the truth, Naked Massacre (sigh part deux) begins as something that almost wants to be interesting, or at least it wants us to think it does. A Vietnam vet on his way home after scamming his way out of service winds up in Belfast during "The Troubles," as Protestants and Catholics and the IRA and British forces clash in the streets. A bomb goes off in a church, children "play" by reenacting firing squad executions, and our nurses get their first taste of death. The vet makes a point about how he "swapped one Hell for another" and while that's not exactly a profound point, I felt for a second like maybe I'd end up surprised that the synopsis wasn't giving the movie proper credit. You know, something about governent-sanctioned violence and so on.

It got even more interesting when the vet formed a quasi-friendship with his fellow flophouse denizen, a fey Viet refugee, who seemed to clock the vet as perhaps a kindred spirit, or perhaps just a woman-hater.

But any potential Somethings to Say flew out the window when he arrived at the house and the film heads into exploitation territory, its true destination all along. Armed with a large switchblade, and sets about terrorizing, raping, and murdering the young women, and that was where I bid the film a middle-fingered adieu

I decided to read some other reviews and thoughts, though; I had no intention of going back to finish the movie (life is short, I could be watching...anything else), but maybe there would be some attempt at a point to all of it. Doesn't seem so, and if you'd like to read the descriptions of what the girls are forced to endure, then you are welcome to go find it as I'm not going to waste the energy typing all that abhorrent shit out.

But there were also comments I saw from exploitation fans who were bummed the movie didn't go far enough, that the "naked chicks" were the best part of it and that, as one hilariously-phrased gripe put it, there were better movies to watch if you wanted to watch "people/women" be terrorized. 

No one ever comes here looking for hot exploitation tips (or if they do, they must leave quickly) as it's not my purview nor my bag. I dabble on the rare occasion (a girl sometimes has cannibal feelings, okay), but I'll never see the point in sexual assault as titillation fare ever. But hey, this movie is another in the Mill Creek to Fancy Blu-ray pipeline, so.

There sure are all kinds of horror fans around.

She’s dead! Wrapped in plastic!

Thought I'd open the drapes (and close them) (and open them again) (and close them) (and...oh, you've probably watched Twin Peaks, right? you get it) to remind you (or inform you, if you had no idea...I don't know your life!) that The Detective and the Log Lady, the weekly Twin Peaks (re)watch podcast I'm doing with Mike Muncer of The Evolution of Horror launches in earnest today with a discussion about the 90-minute pilot episode. Huzzah! And phew! That was a long sentence.

You can of course find the show wherever you getcher podcasts--your Apples and your...I don't know, Podplops or whatever--or you can listen right on the Evolution of Horror website.

From now on there will be a new episode every Monday. I doubt I will post reminders here every week, that seems like a lot if you ask me. I'm not sure why I feel so weird about possibly over-promoting my work on my own website, but hey, what's a little complex between friends, amirite. The point is, if you like the show, subscribe somewhere.

I love the weekly one-episode format, which is preventing me from any binge-watch urges and also makes the experience feel a bit retro. And I think it's cool as heck that there are listeners diving into the show for the first time, just like moi. Not sure why it took me so long to get to this show, but now that I'm here I'm excited to finally get invited to all the parties!



Chilling Classics Cthursday: THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD (1978)

When it was decided by a roll of the click of the mouse on a random number generator that this week's Chilling Classic would be the anthology film The House of the Dead, I had a big, profound thought. That big, profound thought was "Oh yeah, I mostly remember that one." For you see, I reviewed it from the hallowed halls of Final Girl Manor all the way back in 2007. 2007! Doris, were we ever so young?

Then I continued to think. "I bet readers will get tired of reading about how much my sensibilities as a viewer have changed since those naughty aughties, how I like things I didn't used to like and vicey versy. Self, I will wager with you right now that I did not enjoy this movie when I originally reviewed it but I surely will enjoy it now! After all, back then I was not a girl, but not yet a woman. My glass used to be filled with MD 20/20 Strawberry Kiwi and a splash of Celestial Seasonings Berry Zinger but now, now she only holds the Zinger. I am no longer a girl gone wild. Rather, I am a dowager gone mild."

Or something like that. But I held off on reading my old-ass thoughts about The House of the Dead until I finished watching it for this reassessment. I had not seen it in the interim. How did it hold up after all that time? 

Well, I can't say I enjoyed it more than I did in 2007. It surprised me, though, to find that I was mostly into its weirdness back then. Because it sure is weird! I mean, this film also goes by the title Alien Zone, and it hails from Oklahoma. Weird should be expected. 

So what I'm gonna do, see, is sometimes post a few of my ~*~vintage~*~ thoughts and see how those thoughts stack up today. Think of it like it's one of those "You won't believe what they look like now" slide shows you see advertised from Tabooly or whatever that spam site is, and one time you think "hmm, I would like to know what Small Wonder looks like now" so against your better judgment you clicked the link and you get completely trapped in that slide show, you click and click and click and you're like "What the fuck, I'm on slide 83, where is old Small Wonder?" and you want to stop but the sunk cost fallacy kicks in and you click more and more until you finally give up around slide 123. "All that time wasted! Another step closer to carpal tunnel!" you think. "And I never even got to see old Small Wonder!" 

Okay, maybe that's just me. Anyway!


I can say with enthusiasm that I was into this segment, wherein a misanthropic schoolteacher goes home, gets scared, and is attacked by children who are not actually children I guess? It's simple and stupid as hell and it makes no sense (that's the running theme of The House of the Dead, really) but it was the right kind of dumb. And hey, if you watch the Vinegar Syndrome blu-ray--because of course it exists--or the Tubi version the kids' masks pop way more than they do in the Mill Creek version (shocking) and they look great.

I need to post this look again because it's obviously my favorite:


What I wrote then:
A weird man who loves photography sets up a motion picture camera in his living room and films himself killing blind dates. The mortician tells us he was caught and executed a year or so later.


And don't go thinking this was some sort of interesting Peeping Tom-style story, either, because it was positively dreadful. DREADFUL. We see everything through the camera the dude sets up, which means one stationary shot for the entire segment. It made me feel like I was back in acting class, sitting through everyone's boring-ass scene studies. Let me tell you...that's not a feeling I enjoy.

Well, I agree it was pretty dull and the non-ending ending was awful. But! This time the stationary camera idea made me go "ooh, proto-found footage!" so that's something.


Ye olde thoughtes about this story, wherein "Britain's Number One Sleuth" goes head-to-head in crime-solving against "America's Greatest Detective":

There's really no way to describe this segment beyond calling it just plain stupid. Did I like it? Well, yes, I did- it had me laughing my head off. It totally reminded me of something I would have written in 7th grade for a mystery-writing assignment. 2 "great" detectives, the worst police procedurals ever, magnifying glasses, 3 twist endings, and Rolling Stone magazine. I would have called it World's Greatest Murder, and my "author's bio" would have consisted exclusively of "STACIE PONDER #1".

Totally agree, and I'm still super into Britain's Number One Sleuth, who looks exactly how I feel inside:


Ah yes, an a-hole office worker has nothing but disdainful thoughts about his co-workers, panhandlers, store clerks, and probably you and me. Well, you at least. *nail polish emoji* He gets trapped in an empty building in kind of a Saw-like scenario, for some reason, and by the end of the segment he's a full-on wino, which may lead one to conclude that the building--though the reasons why are still unknown--was actually a wino factory.

The big draw of this story is when the a-hole's co-worker suggests lunch at a new hamburger place that features 23 different kinds of hamburgers. I am just as fascinated by and as pragmatic about this idea as I was in 2007:

I don't know why, but I was really into the idea of 23 different hamburgers. I mean, it sounds incredible, right? Hardly believable, even. In reality, though, we all know that "23 different hamburgers" simply means 23 different combinations of hamburger toppings...then it doesn't seem so incredible.

My overall feelings have maybe ebbed a little, but they still hew pretty close to the first time:

House of the Dead didn't disappoint. I mean, it did, because it sucked, and yet there I was, enjoying it and all its inexplicablies. Maybe when the suckage is restricted to 15-minute segments I become more forgiving. 

Actually, no, scratch that. One new development on this second viewing is that I realized that The House of the Dead was actually directed by (gasp) a woman! Sharron Miller! Who also directed several episodes of a short-lived early-aughties sitcom starring Danielle Harris (!), Debi Mazar (!!), Ellen Burstyn (!!!), and Heather Dubrow of The Real Housewives of Orange County (!!!!!!!!). So yeah, I guess you could say my feelings about The House of the Dead have changed since 2007. It's obviously perfect



Chilling Classics Cthursday: THE BLOODY BROOD (1959)

Because I am a simple creature, when I saw that today's Chilling Classic was called "The Bloody Brood" I thought "Oh, well, Bloody Birthday was about killer children and The Brood was sort of about killer children. So it only makes sense that The Bloody Brood is also about killer children, hooray!" 

If you're thinking "That's not how things work, dumbass," well, congratulations to you for being so smart and worldly wise because no, The Bloody Brood isn't about killer children. It's about killer adults! One of whom is a young Peter Falk, which is really as good as like four killer children combined, so.

Yes, straight outta Toronto, Canada comes a cautionary tale of gangsters, beatniks, and other assorted ne'er-do-wells ne'er doing well. Falk, in only his second film role, stars as Nico, a small-time wannabe mobster and current psychopath, whose charisma has the whole bongo madness crowd hanging on his every word.

When a nameless local geezer keels over of a heart attack in the bar one night, Nico has an epiphany. "Did her die," he asks, "Or was he murdered by life?" He then suggests to his sidekick Francis (Ron Hartmann) that they go out and kill someone. It's a natural progression! You see, dying from a heart attack is pointless and random. But dying from murder, now that's really something, a real intellectual kick. And Nico makes it a point that he doesn't just talk his kicks, he does 'em, see? 

Side note: please don't so a shot every time someone says "kick." You will die within five minutes.

Other side note: shout-out to the nameless old geezer, who is a total drama queen when dying of a heart attack. For a moment I had visions of sugarplums Paul Reubens in Buffy the Vampire Slayer dancing in my head as he made the most of it.

When a messenger boy shows up at their beatnik house party, Nico and Francis see a perfect opportunity to get their murder on and they feed the young man a hamburger filled with ground glass. That is hardcore! Nico and Francis are now bound by their secret crime, like Leopold and Loeb but no homo. No homo, honest! Okay, Francis at least seemed quite a bit yes homo for Nico to me, but don't take my word on it. There's probably someone out there whose word you can take on it, though.

The young man's brother Cliff (prolific character actor and spaghetti western vet Jack Betts, in his film debut) is convinced the glassburger was no accident. The police aren't much help, so Jack takes matters into his own hands and investigates, eventually diving into the seedy beatnik underbelly to find out what happened. But Cliff's a real square, see, and he may end up getting a glassburger of his own--or worse.

Incidentally, A Glassburger of One's Own is my favorite work by Virginia Woolf.

With its scant 68-minute runtime, its no-nonsense flatfoots, and its squares-vs-deviants story, The Bloody Brood feels like an extended episode of Dragnet. Now maybe you're a deviant, a hippie, or a weirdo out there doing heaven knows what to get your kicks and "an extended episode of Dragnet" sounds like a one-way ticket to Dullsville. Well, if the promise of bongos-a-go-go isn't enough for you, there's the whole this is Peter Falk in only his second film thing, which, be ye a daddy-o or otherwise, should have you buying not only that one-way ticket but the whole damn train to Dullsville. You dig? Yes, that sentence was tortured, but there's a case for The Bloody Brood as a time capsule curio that starts with some discount Saul Bass opening credits, segues into ahhh it's Peter Falk, and ends with this guy, just a pure beatnik right outta central casting:

Funny, isn't it, how variations on "is the square life really the only life?" emerges like a cicada into the conversations and movements of all generations of post-WWII American youths? Sure, it manifests in different ways, from tuning in, turning on, dropping out, and rolling around in the mud at Woodstock to "no one wants to work anymore." (Gen X is perhaps the outlier, taking on a depressive/detached sort of "it sucks, but it is what it is" slant.) Nico and his friends sitting around opining about life on "the treadmill" and how The Man will make you go to the dentist for your own good and then send you to war wouldn't be an unfamiliar scene amongst the kids today...I mean, on their tiktoks or whatever it is they do. 

It's interesting to see the cultural responses to this, both satirical and sincere. It's the stuff of media theses, I suppose. But films like The Bloody Brood seem to be squarely on the side of...the square. There's little difference to be found between the amoral Nico and the random gal at the bar who just wants to dance (and who makes uncomfortable 4th wall-breaking eye contact with us throughout her whirling dervish bit).

Make no mistake, Cliff is the real hero of this show, extolling True American Values like getting a good job and living that white picket life. He wins over Ellie, a young woman who hung out with beatniks  because she wanted more from life than simply becoming her (perfectly fine) parents. They're smooching each other by the end of this show, while Nico and friends decidedly are not. (Sorry, Francis!)

Ultimately, The Bloody Brood isn't more than the sum of its parts, but the parts are so notable that it doesn't matter. I mean, it's got Peter Falk enjoying some spontaneous beat poetry, what more do you need?

Hmm, I wonder what surprise the 50-pack will puke up for me next week. You know, Nico once said that "death is the last great challenge to the creative mind" but I'm pretty sure that by "death" he meant "Mill Creek's Chilling Classics."

Logs, pies, etc

Hello! I thought I would send up a flare about a new podcast endeavor I've got going on with Mike Muncer of The Evolution of Horror:

It's a weekly show that'll have us running through the entirety of Twin Peaks, episode by episode (and, you know, a movie when appropriate). The introductory episode is available now, wherever the finest podcasts are...available. Or you can listen right on the Evolution of Horror website

Mike is a bonafide Twin Peaks lover and I am a bonafide Twin Peaks total newbie, so I'm excited to see where this journey takes us. I've been a frequent guest on EoH, both the main series and through the Patreon, and it's always a grand ol' time podcasting with Mike. So whether you are a Peaks fan or, like me, you've never seen it, I hope you'll dig the show. Grab your logs, subscribe, and join us as we...I don't know, walk across the weird zigzag floor? 

See, I don't know this show. BUT I WILL. Huzzah!



Chilling Classics Cthursday: VIRUS (1980)

I tells ya, grabbing the ol' 50-pack every week for Chilling Classics Cthursday is a bit of a thrill. The anticipation as I dig through the box-o-movies! The moment of truth when RNGesus's selection is revealed! It feels like coming down the stairs on Christmas morning as a yoot, or reaching into the bowl at a Saturday night neighborhood key party as an elder. The movie itself may be garbage or it may be gold, of course. It might even be gold-garbage or garbage-gold. But no matter; I make high-pressure executive decisions about what to watch or not watch six days out of the week, so my seventh day of rest is appreciated. And I doubly--nay, triply--appreciate that this whole endeavor puts movies in front of my eyeballs that I may otherwise have never encountered. 

Like this week's movie, Virus (1980)...although it's strange this was not on my radar because on paper, at least, it seems like it was absolutely made just for me. So much so, in fact, that I'm pretty sure you could play Final Girl Mad Libs at a key party (that's what you do at key parties, right?) and easily end up with Virus's story and cast. 

Over in East Germany, some shady types abscond with a vial of MM88, a virus so virulent and deadly that it freaks out the scientists behind it. Unfortunately for...well, the world, the shady types crash their getaway plane and MM88 art loosed. Dubbed the "Italian Flu," the virus wipes out millions and millions of people all over the globe, including US President Glenn Ford and Senator Robert Vaughn!

Researchers at all the international antarctic research stations are safe, not only because of their isolation, but because the virus becomes dormant in below-zero temperatures. As if figuring out what the hell they're going to do as the presumed last survivors wasn't enough, they also must contend with another terrifying development: one of the scientists predicts that an earthquake is about to fuck shit up back in Washington, DC, which will surely trigger the automated nuclear response system that was armed by a hotheaded US general before he croaked. It's got to be deactivated before there's global nuclear armageddon, which means a likely one-way trip into VirusLand for some someones.

Virus is a curiosity, indeed: a Japanese disaster movie with an all-star, mostly English-speaking cast, directed by Kinji Fukasaku of Battle GD Royale fame. At the time of its production, it was reportedly the most expensive Japanese film ever made, one that producers hoped would break through in the western market. Instead, it flopped both at home and abroad, where its 156-minute runtime was chopped down to 108 minutes, its widescreen visuals were chopped down to pan-and-scan, and it was chopped plopped down into the public domain, where it landed in cheapie releases like Mill Creek's Chilling Classics. According to the legends, the full version of the film is only available in a random Sonny Chiba 3-pack (Chiba appears in the western cut for all of maybe five minutes). Essentially, they excised as much of the Japanese content as possible for the truncated cut, including the collapse of Tokyo in the wake of the virus, whole-ass backstories for major characters, and a denouement that is perhaps a bit less bleak than the one we get. They even cut the subtitles for the handful of Japanese scenes that remain. Madness. 

Also madness: that so many of the obscure Chilling Classics Cthursday messterpieces (like Drive-In Massacre, say) have received the fancy Blu-ray treatment while something like Virus, with its stacked crew and cast, is crying out for one.

Because honey when I say stacked cast, I mean a DISASTER MOVIE STACKED CAST that would make Irwin Allen proud. At the risk of sounding like imdb, can I just say:

  • Glenn Ford
  • Robert Vaughn
  • Sonny Chiba
  • Henry Silva
  • Edward James Olmos
  • Chuck Connors
  • Bo Svenson
  • Janis Ian provides the end credits song??
I am telling you, the hits just kept coming and coming. I was that Leonardo DiCaprio meme, pointing at the screen every time a beloved and familiar face appeared.

The best part, perhaps, about this insane cast is that Fukasaku did not give one flying fig about accents, or the lack thereof. Olivia Hussey is Norwegian, but just talks like Olivia Hussey (yes, it is like cashmere for your earholes). And really, what could be better than Chuck Connors as a British submarine captain saying "You chaps alright?" in his regular Chuck Connors voice? Nothing could, that's what.

"Pip pip, fellas"

Virus gets to it quickly and goes hard as MM88 wipes out humanity. Fukasaku makes liberal (and sometimes distressing) use of stock footage as the world collapses into riots and chaos. Things slow down considerably when the story shifts to Antartica, as a whole Benetton's worth of global representatives try assess, plan, and survive. Surprisingly, they only have one or two flare-ups before settling into the "let's all work together" vibe the movie seems to put out. 

It's that vibe, however, that leads to an issue I found so off-putting that it almost completely derailed the I Love Virus Express. At the combined international research bases, there are 855 men, and 8 women. Sure enough, this red flag of a demographic disparity quickly becomes a central issue when one of the women is sexually assaulted. A French scientist responds with, essentially, "Iz zis not zee way of man? Iz man not an animal?" 

The men decide that the only answer is for the women to learn "a new morality," wherein they must forget about 1:1 relationships and "accommodate more than one man." Mind you, this is not about survivors feeling tasked with repopulating the planet. It's strictly about 8 women servicing 855 men, whenever the men feel like it, through "appointments." 

This struck me as fairly appalling and completely egregious, particularly in a Japanese film given the country's dark history concerning the hundreds of thousands of women (overwhelmingly, Korean women) forced into sexual slavery as "comfort women" during World War II. It's a history that Japan has downplayed, inaccurately recorded, and even outright denied and tried to erase. Since 1992, there has been a weekly protest at the Japanese embassy in Seoul by some of the few remaining survivors and those in solidarity to receive some justice, particularly a satisfactory return of dignity to the women by means of a sincere acknowledgment and apology. 

So to watch the 8 women in Virus be told they just have to suck it up and "be accommodating" was, in a word, "not it." The icing on this repellant cake is that the women served no other purpose in the film. None. It was 1980 so surely they couldn't even be scientists at the research stations, they served as secretaries. Virus easily could have gone full The Thing and done away with female characters altogether, they mattered so little. (Honestly, I'm still mad about it as I sit here typing this!)

If there were no women in the movie, however, then you wouldn't have the limp love story between Olivia Hussey's character Marit (she's Norwegian!) and Masao Kusakari's Dr. Shûzô Yoshizumi. It may be expanded on in the Japanese cut, but here they just kind of look at each other a few times and have, like, one conversation. I get it, though, they're the two biggest babes in Antarctica and literally the hottest people left alive. Might as well fall in love! (Though Marit still has to keep all of her "appointments" with other men. New morality, remember.)

Sigh. That whole angle was a real buzzkill for me, like my bra immediately went up in flames, you know? Otherwise, though, Virus has so much going for it and is worth a view (if not some kind of reassessment) even in the heavily-edited state. The acting is largely as ham-and-cheesy as you might expect from that cast list (and from a disaster movie), but it works. The film predicts the Cold War nuclear scare downer films that would soon come along to traumatize audiences, such as The Day After (1983) and Threads (1984). It's interesting that America quickly assumes the leadership position amongst the survivors, yet America is also responsible for the virus and the nuclear threat. We're portrayed as trigger-happy, gung-ho for war, and a country that denounces the Soviet Union while also engaging in Soviet tactics like developing biological weapons and erasing whistleblowers. That sounds...well, completely accurate, really.

Although now that I think about it, maybe they weren't all following "America" so much as they were just following George Kennedy. Now that's an idea I can get behind.