Entries Tagged 'multi-pack mania' ↓

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."

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.

Chilling Classics Cthursday: METAMORPHOSIS (1990)

I will admit, when I saw the little (1990) on the cardboard sleeve holding this week's Chilling Classic Metamorphosis, I flinched so hard that I got cramps in places I didn't even know I had. Yeah, there's, like, The Exorcist III, but horror-ly speaking, there ain't much from that year to get excited about. But! When a credit for Joe D'Amato's production/distribution company FILMIRAGE appeared alongside writing and directing credits for George Eastman (aka Luigi Montefiori), I was cramping anew, but with curiosity. After all, Eastman co-wrote the 1987 giallo/slasher StageFright and co-wrote and starred in D'Amato's cannibal...err, classic?...Anthropophagus. Ah, so Metamorphosis is an Italian joint from these folks? Well, said I, this film should be a weirdo, perhaps gory, perhaps sleazy journey.

Spoiler alert: IT'S NOT. 

Dr. Peter Houseman (Gene LeBrock) is a brilliant, hot professor and genetic scientist who wears an obligatory 1990 mock turtleneck and is working on some top-secret project having to do with eradicating aging, disease, and death. 

It's always that with these geneticists, isn't it? Immortality! Who needs it, I say. Certainly no one in horror movies, because it never goes well.

And it's not going well for Peter, that's for sure. Not only does he keep killing his test subject monkeys (their alpha and beta waves go nuts after he injects too much glucose!), there's a suit from New York on the scene, as the folks in charge want to know where all the grant money Peter's department gets is going. Accountability! Who needs it, I say. On the bright side, the suit in question isn't "some hysterical old maid in menopause" as Peter fears, but rather a hot woman named Sally who makes eyes at him and is 29 years old. Or so she claims!

I know that style can affect someone's perceived age and there's that weird phenomenon where People Who Came Before You always seem older than they were Back Then. But 29? To that I say: hmm. One thing is for certain, though, and that's that Sally is a fucking drip. But that's okay, so is Peter! They are a couple of absolute drips who are part of the reason why Metamorphosis ends up being a near-total slog, so of course they fall in love. They even get a blue-lit, saxophone-filled 1990 sex scene that our more puritanical audiences of today would find "unnecessary" as it "doesn't move the plot forward." 

I find the whole conversation that's happening around cinematic sex scenes interesting, honestly. I can see why actors might say "no more sex scenes, please and thank you." I think intimacy coordinators are a good thing. It's awfully weird to think that sex scenes have historically been quasi-obligatory, especially in certain dramas, and we all just...accepted that. You paid your dues with surprise sex scenes when watching movies with your parents, either going to get a snack or suddenly paying a lot of attention to the family pet or simply sitting in the silent, mortifying awkwardness. It is rare, I think, for anyone to find these scenes "turn-ons" or even interesting--like I don't know who is getting off to these two loaves of crustless white bread having a go at it in Metamorphosis, but I'd like to meet them, theoretically. But I don't know, sex scenes were accepted like a...like a...like a new skin tag, maybe. You're not really a fan of it, it's not worth creating a fuss or going to the doctor over, but keep an eye on it. I'm not sure if that makes sense. 

It's the "not essential to the plot" aspect of the no sex scenes, please argument from audiences that bugs me because a movie filled with only scenes or interactions that are "essential" and "move the plot forward" sounds positively dreadful. (And really, even films where you could (should?) claim that the sex scenes are essential to the plot, such as Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden, are still denigrated so is that even really the argument?) 


At risk of losing his funding and his laboratory, Peter takes drastic measures and decides to dose himself with his serum, which requires an injection in the eye!  

Let me tell you, by this point in the proceedings I had a feeling that Metamorphosis was going to be a stinker, but that injection machine briefly raised my hopes that I would at least get to experience a truly squirm-inducing moment. Surprisingly, however, Eastman stops short of going there, cutting the shot juuuuust as the needle is about to go in. Injectus interruptus! I was left imagining what barf-inducing injectinanigans someone like Lucio Fulci might have brought to the moment. Hmm, maybe there's a more explicit cut of Metamorphosis out there...? I don't care enough to find out, but maybe you do.

After this process, which is supposed to rewrite his genetic sequence or something, Peter sweats and gnashes his teeth sometimes, and has blackouts during which he goes out, beats up, and, it is implied, sexually assaults women. This was a groan-worthy development, but thankfully Eastman is restrained here as well and we don't see much. 

It's noteworthy, perhaps, that one of Peter's victims, a woman named, uh, "Prostitute," is played by frequent D'Amato/Eastman/Bruno Mattei collaborator/exploitation star Laura Gemser of the Black Emanuelle series in one of her final roles. More noteworthy, perhaps, is that she was also the film's costume designer, credited as Laurette Gemser. She moved away from acting, as she couldn't get any roles outside of exploitation pictures, and transitioned towards costume design in the late 80s before retiring from the public eye altogether in the early 90s. Most noteworthy, perhaps, is that she also designed the costumes for Troll 2. Oh my gooooooooood!

Peter finally begins an actual, you know, metamorphosis, but into what? At first, it involves some contact lenses and one scene of him writhing on the floor.

He soon starts turning into a reverse Benjamin Buttons, which is to say that he gets really old and thinks he's dying. Hmm now that I think about it, aren't we all reverse Benjamin Buttons? I've never seen the movie so I could be wrong, but who cares when it feels right!

Peter gets kind of gross but we can't really see it, and Sally is worried. He breaks out of the hospital and kills a few people but we don't really see that either--just some brief shots of the bloody aftermath. Now look, I'm not a gorehound by any means but sometimes gore is what a movie needs. And let me tell you, Metamorphosis needed gore! This is as gross as it gets, and it's not nearly gross enough to liven up the joint:

Eventually Peter makes his way back to his laboratory with the cops in hot pursuit. (Note: temper your expectations about the word "hot." And the word "pursuit," really, as the cops are just sort of at the lab all of a sudden.) Peter busts down a door from the inside, and we get the big reveal that we've been waiting for for 90 excruciating minutes.

A kind of t-rex? It's a pretty fun and decidedly unexpected moment no doubt. It immediately instills one--or me, anyway--with so much anticipation. Imagine a rampage by a man who is now a kind of t-rex and it's obviously a rubber kind of t-rex outfit! Heaven, right? Well, we don't get that because yet again,  Eastman plays it safe. Peter-rex stands there in the doorway, flailing his arms a little and going RARR while the cops shoot him a hundred times. Then we see a puddle of goo on the floor that we are to infer are the remains of Peter. I do not have the words to describe what a let down this is!

The whole damn thing was a let down of astronomical proportions. 

Okay, that might be an exaggeration. But Metamorphosis is a let down nonetheless, no matter how hard the score from PAHAMANIAN tries to add some pizazz. It's not good enough to be good, and it's not bad enough to be good. It's just sort of there, which is really the worst thing any movie can be. It was such a slog and a drag that I will say something I never imagined I would say: A close-enough version of this same story was told more entertainingly in another Chilling Classic...Track of the Moon Beast! At least that movie has Professor Johnny Longbow's quasi-recipe for Professor Johnny Longbow's chicken and corn stew, as well as Frank Larrabee's "California Lady." 

Oh well, next week we'll be on to another Tale from the 50-Pack and when asked about the lousy Metamorphosis, I'll describe it the way some guy in the movie described Peter-rex: "It was a nightmare...from the past."

Chilling Classics Cthursday: MESSIAH OF EVIL (1974)

On the one hand, I say that Mill Creek Entertainment should be immediately arrested because they have no business being within a country mile of Messiah of Evil. As you might expect, the Chilling Classics version of this beautiful and perfect dream of a movie is cropped and smushed and yellow-tinted and inexplicably begins with a frigging ballad wherein a woman croons "hold onnnnn to looooove" over the entirety of the (what should be) eerie opening scene. It's insane, and like I said, it should be an actual crime.

Guess which version is the Chilling Classic!

On the other hand, I say that Mill Creek Entertainment should be immediately presented with all of the Nobel Prizes because regardless of the quality, this here 50-pack was my intro to a movie that has since become one of my very favorites. Sure, that was in large part thanks to the Code Red DVD, which was so gorgeous that it was like seeing the movie with, like, a baby's brand-new eyeballs or something. But still, at least Mill Creek put this movie in front of me in some form.

I've written about and talked about this film many a time, so much that you likely know how I feel about it by now--and you likely also know how hard I recommend it. (If you don't know, the answers to both "how I feel" and "how hard I recommend" are "a fuck ton" and "very.") It's so cool that this cult classique is really getting out there, what with last year's fancy-ass Blu-ray from Radiance Films and its occasional appearance on streaming services and whatnot. It's accessible! The love is spreading, like the weirdos from Point Dume (or maybe Point Dune) who are peering around buildings at night and waiting. Waiting for you! And they'll take you one by one and no one will hear you scream. No one will hear you--well, you know.

There are times that I wonder whether or not I should go door to door and ask people if they've heard the good word about Messiah of Evil. That's how much I love it! But I'm also lazy, so please consider this blog to be my missionary work, and tell me:

Have you heard the good word about Messiah of Evil?

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)

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.

Chilling Classics Cthursday: TRACK OF THE MOON BEAST (1976)

When Track of the Moon Beast's number came up for this week's Chilling Classics, I was surprised by how immediately gotdang pumped I was to watch it again for the first time in about 15 years. It's a terrible movie as far as, you know, movies go, but I don't care. I saw it at some point during my youth--it must have been on Creature Double Feature or something--and it deeply terrified me. I can't imagine it ever terrified anyone else, particularly anyone over the age of "child." But as a result, it's one of...well, I don't want to say it's one of my "favorite" movies, because that doesn't quite feel right. It's more accurate to say simply that it's one of my movies. Corny to say, maybe, but I'll say it: it's special to me, this tale of a dude who got hit in the head with a piece of the moon and subsequently turned into a lizard monster on occasion.

(Say what you will about Track of the Moon Beast, but the poster is lit!)

(Also, I'm not sure if it strictly qualifies as "a poster" because it never got a theatrical release. That's how bad it is! It was shot in 1972 but no one picked it up for distribution; it finally started playing on The Tee Vee in 1976 and has been somewhat ubiquitous ever since.)

Whenever I ask for your favorite horror movies for SHOCKtober, there are a few entries that may seem a bit out of left field. Usually, those are the movies that imprinted upon someone in some major way. Perhaps it was the circumstances it was seen a particular time: a bonding experience with mom or dad, a too-much-sugar sleepover, a first date. More often, it has to do with the film, no matter how cheesy or Z-grade, scaring one silly. We can all talk about how The Exorcist or Jaws or Halloween or Some Other Masterpiece kept us awake at night. But what of the Messterpieces that did the same? 

I think it's cool as heck that at for at least one person, this movie--this two-point-something on imdb, mercilessly roasted on MST3K movie--achieved its intended effect. It hit the right notes, and it worked

Watching it now, I go full gramma-in-a-rocking-chair-on-the-porch, shaking my head fondly and wistfully as I remember all Pepperidge Farms-style. Dare I say, though, it still has some value?...maybe?...as a curio. 

The 1970s saw a lot of films on the earnest end of redspolitation, and Track of the Moon Beast certainly counts among their number. No longer portrayed solely as the savages of 1950s westerns, indigenous characters now served to be wise and noble stewards of the land (crying over pollution in PSAs, for example) or wise and noble advisors to white men who are trying to figure stuff out. It's Frank Redbear teaching our caucasian hero about moldy corn in Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. And it's Johnny Longbow helping the police solve some murders in Track of the Moon Beast by showing them "400 year old" "paintings" of an "Indian legend" where someone also turned into a lizard monster. That's right, it's a 400-year-old painting, and definitely not a quick pencil sketch someone did on a pad they bought at CVS!

It's amusing (?) to watch all the ways Track of the Moon Beast does so wrong by Native Americans by trying to do right. Like our heroine Cathy, who heads to a Reservation to take photos of religious artifacts, only to then take one of the artifacts to use in a practical joke. It's all a bit like that frogurt bit from Treehouse of Horror on The Simpsons, you know?

Also I don't know how many indigenous religious artifacts are made out of tin, but I am not an expert so this could totally look like the real deal!!!! Just like the painting.

Also curious: this movie was co-written by Bill Finger, the man who co-created Batman. If you squint, you can see some shared DNA between Track of the Moon Beast and the formative comics and comic characters of yore. "A guy gets hit in the head with a moon rock ("Moon rock, oh wow" -- Cathy) and transforms into a lizard monster" is a premise that easily could have earned a 24-issue run at DC or Marvel in the 70s under the title Moon Beast. (I mean, Moon Knight's first appearance was in an issue of Werewolf by Night in the 70s, it's really not far-fetched at all.) 

The big show-stopper of the film, undoubtedly, is Albuquerque's own Frank Larrabee performing "California Lady" at a Ramada Inn. I love that it was a Ramada Inn. I love that Larrabee was actually performing there and they just...threw it in the movie. And you know what? Justice for Frank Larrabee! "California Lady" sounds like some discount Don McLean and it would absolutely be right at home on the 1972-1973 CD from Time-Life's Singers and Songwriters series. Sadly for Mr Larrabee, the 70s were chock full of sensitive men playing the acoustic guitar sensitively and singing sensitive songs and he never popped off beyond a 6-song EP. But "California Lady" is really theee thing that people take away from Track of the Moon Beast, which is more than Don McLean could ever boast.

Of course, I take away much more than that from it, despite the fact that it boasts some of the most wooden acting you will ever see, dialogue spoken at what feels like 75% speed, and a climactic "explosion" that looks like this:

I've written (and drawn) more about the movie a couple of times, both here and beyond, and who knows, maybe I'll write about it again in another 10 years. At the least I'm sure I'll give it another watch because although it may be terrible, it is mine, and that's rarer than a moon rock.

Moon rock, oh wow!

Chilling Classics Cthursday: MEDUSA (1973)

Okay, let's get this out of the way right up front: save for the sculpture in the opening title sequence, there is nary a gorgon in sight in the 1973 film Medusa. Not a single snake-coiffed queen to be found! One could certainly call this false advertising and file a law suit, although it's possible that an adept defense lawyer could argue that the film itself is a Medusa, seeing as how it has the ability to turn viewers to stone using the power of absolute fucking boredom.

So if we don't get a proper Medusa in Medusa, what do we get? Well, we get Ritz Cracker pitchman/ anthropomorphized ascot George Hamilton, the actor known more for his perpetual suntan (and his friendship with Imelda Marcos) than for his acting. To be honest, I don't think about George Hamilton very often. Hardly at all, you could say. But when I do think about George Hamilton, I picture him on the cover of People Magazine. I don't know if he was ever actually on the cover of People Magazine--surely he was at some point--but it feels like the place he fits best.

Medusa begins as the dead bodies of a man and a woman are found clutching hands on a bed in a boat that's adrift at sea. The man is Jeffrey (Hamilton), an American playboy who'd been galavanting around Greece. The woman is his sister Sarah (Luciana Paluzzi), who was newly married. "Clutching hands on a bed?" you say. Yes, Jeffrey and Sarah are close. So close and weird, in fact, you will often wonder if they are in love and/or "doing" "it." But it's never really addressed in blatant terms, so I guess it's up to you, the viewer, to decide the true nature of their relationship. How exciting!

Anyway, Jeffrey tells us in a voiceover that he's chilling in limbo, waiting to be reincarnated (I am not kidding), and he will tell us the tale of how he done got dead while he waits.

Jeffrey must be a shit storyteller, because Medusa immediately descends into an incoherent mess of a...well, it's less of a movie than it is a series of scenes that often have no relation to one another, make little sense, and might even have you cursing the day you ever heard the name "Mill Creek Entertainment."

As best as I can gather, Jeffrey needs money to continue his playboy ways. He owes money to a gangster named Angelo (Cameron Mitchell, 50-Pack King and the ONE bright spot in this movie), who also owes money to someone. To get the money, they are searching for a will that someone has absconded with. Also, Jeffrey might be a homicidal killer? This shit is all over the place and going nowhere, I am telling you!

The buzz that Hamilton garnered early on in his career had fizzled by the early 70s, so he turned to producing dreck like Medusa to give himself some starring vehicles. It's fun, admittedly, to keep this in mind should you decide to give this movie a go (please do not give this movie a go), not only because it's just plain terrible, but because you can feel how wonderful Hamilton thinks it all is. He is the very picture of pleased with himself throughout, overacting and treating subjecting us to impressions of Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, and other actors that you'd rather be watching. He relentlessly mugs for the camera, to the point where it's surprising he never actually says "Ain't I a handsome stinker?" and there's no little ding! sound gleaming off of his impossibly white teeth. There are also some scenes featuring his then-wife (and current political pest) Alana Stewart, which seem to be included solely to give them a chance to work and flirt with each other.

Make no mistake, Cameron Mitchell overacts even more throughout Medusa, but--bless him forever--it's in a way that serves...well, if not the movie itself, then surely us viewers. He interacts with other characters mostly through bizarre monologues delivered in strange situations. Don't try to get a handle on crime boss Angelo, he is unknowable and unexplainable! Just enjoy scenes that find him, say, all lathered up and enjoying a Turkish bathhouse, or delivering lines like these:
Old man Hendell's in pain, see? So they spaced him out on morphine, see? So how's he of sound mind, see? How can he write a will, baby, how?

Seeing all those sentences end with "see?" might cause you to think he is talking like a James Cagney-style 1930s gangster, but he is not. He is talking like a 1970s Cameron Mitchell. I love him, and without his presence I actually may have turned Medusa off. I found it to be that much of a slog. Consider this a warning to you, see? Use your time wisely, baby, wisely!

I really do love Angelo though

I will admit, I was a bit jazzed during the opening credits, what, with its NYC coffee cup font, Greek folk song, and promise of a Medusa. Director Gordon Hessler is the man behind some lesser-but-fun Cushing, Price, and Lee joints from AIP (Scream and Scream Again, The Oblong Box), the Bette Davis made-for-TV flick Scream, Pretty Peggy, and the curio/masterpiece KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. Cameron Mitchell was just gonna be the icing on the cake!

But it became quickly apparent that Mitchell was not only the icing, he was the whole entire cake--that there would be nothing else in this movie that remotely approached the entertainment value of any of the other Kessler films I just mentioned. And it didn't take long to realize its most grievous sin, that there was to be no Medusa in Medusa

I realize that it's generally unfair to lay the blame for a disastrous movie on only one person, as there are a shitton of contributing factors and moving parts that can break down at any point between "idea" and "big screen." But I don't care! I'm laying it all on George Hamilton's perfectly tanned, egotistic shoulders. Opa!

Chilling Classics Cthursday: I BURY THE LIVING (1958)

Here we are, ten weeks into this Chilling Classics thang and I have to say, it's been a worthy endeavor so far. In a box crammed full of 50 movies there has to be some gems, right? It's just statistics! And it's been proven a few times over already, by the forever esteemèd Cathy's Curse, by another movie whose number will be chosen by RNGesus at some point, and by today's lit and legit treasure of a film, I Bury the Living.

If you don't believe me, well, surely you believe one Mr. Stephen King, who hailed I Bury the Living in Danse Macabre, his 1981 foray into the realm of non-fiction. Reading about horror movies--or really, reading about movies in general--has always been as vital to me as the movies themselves, and I ate Danse Macabre the fuck up in my (obligatory) read-all-the-Stephen King teen years. So it's sure nice to check off another one of the works first plopped onto my radar in that book once upon a time. 

"Heart disease is the country's number one killer!"
"Maybe not in Milford..."

Robert Kraft (Richard Boone), the perfectly average and mild-mannered President of Kraft Department Stores, is the newly-appointed chairman of Immortal Hills Cemetery. It's a year-long post, something to do with business and committees and community outreach and you know how it goes for tycoon types. Cemetery caretaker/handyman Andy McKee (Theodore Bikel, who made appearances on Columbo, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Murder She Wrote, and Arthur Hailey's Hotel, so you know I'm in love) shows Kraft a large map of the grounds; a white pin in a plot's location means the plot has been purchased, while a black pin means the plot is filled...with a dead body! (Because that is how cemeteries work.)

Kraft accidentally sticks a black pin on a newly-purchased plot and a few hours later, the purchasers are dead. As he's always been prone to deja vu and manifesting his daydreams (like some early proponent of The Secret or something), he wonders if there might be a connection: can he kill people with the power of the black pins?

After a few more tests, a few more pins, and a few more deaths, it would seem that yes, Robert Kraft is making this happen. While you might expect that he would then, I don't know, eliminate his department store rivals and enemies or something, he just gets bummed out about this terrible power. His guilt is actually rather refreshing! Kraft locks himself away in the map room, wallowing in misery and getting all dirty and disheveled as he tries to grapple with the fact that he's essentially become a murderer, wondering: "Does a man die on his own time, or on the map's?"

I Bury the Living plays out like a really terrific Twilight Zone episode or something penned by Richard Matheson...and then it fumbles at the goal line, drops the ball, and does some...other...sports analogy in its closing minutes that may have you blurting out an "aw man!" or some such. If you don't believe me, well, even Stephen King has talked shit about the ending of this movie. Now I am not sure why I feel the need to back up my opinions with Stephen King's opinions today. I guess she moves in mysterious ways.

But you know what? It doesn't matter that the ending craps the bed, because the rest of I Bury the Living is so damn good. Director Albert Band--yes, the father of Charles Band! And the director of oh, what? Just a little something called Zoltan: Hound of Dracula (aka Dracula's Dog)--makes the absolute most of the limited sets, using special effects and unique shot set-ups to make this movie more stylish and original than a B-movie from 1958 has any right to be. In a word, I Bury the Living looks cool as hell. I'll say it again for the people at the back: this is a total gem of a movie. All hail the 50-pack! All hail Danse Macabre! All hail the map!


As you may know by now, each week's Chilling Classic is chosen by a random number generator, lest I forever flip back and forth through all 12 discs trying to figure out which movie I'm in the mood for. It's best to put my faith, as always, into RNGesus's hands. And so it was Mill Creek's will that I sat down with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966), which is really the only way I ever would have sat down with it. The title alone screams "not my bag," and I will admit to a heavy sigh as I pressed play. It was a "lie back and think of England Chilling Classics Cthursday" scenario! Now, on the other side of having done my duty (or at least half of my duty: I still have a lot of post to write), I can say with a bold confidence that I have, in fact, seen Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.

As is the case with the seminal 1985 film The Nail Gun Massacre, the title Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter tells you all you need to know. Famous outlaw Jesse James does indeed meet Frankenstein's daughter! Truth in advertising. A blessing in this chatbot-riddled world, amirite? Love it.

Dr. Maria Frankenstein  (Narda Onyx) and her assistant Rudolph have immigrated to the American southwest from Vienna. The desert lightning storms are great for their evil experiments, experiments that began attracting the attention of authorities in Europe. Now, tucked far away in a matte painting an abandoned mission, they prey on the local Mexican population; When young men die in the lab, they quickly dispose of the bodies, telling grieving families that it had to be done for fear of spreading a contagious disease.

Maria is a mad scientist who takes after her grandfather Victor, wanting to create a living automaton that will do her bidding. She makes it clear that her father was a wuss who--much like Rudolph--didn't have the stomach to do what it takes to get this unethical shit done. So she keeps bringing up her grandfather, which might make you wonder for a second why they didn't call this Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Granddaughter. But that's a more awkward title, no? Maybe someday future nerds will argue over this in some even lame-er parallel to the "it's actually Frankenstein's monster" arguments. Yes, she is still a Frankenstein's daughter, but that Frankenstein isn't the Frankenstein you're thinking of. The point is...WHO CARES, I guess. Especially when we have more important things to talk about, like the way her lab coat is more of an overcoat!

Meanwhile, Jesse James and his "friend" (I put those quotes there to fuel your imagination), the hulking lummox Hank, decide to rob a stagecoach with Butch Cassidy Curry and the Wild Bunch. But Curry's brother rats out the gang to the Marshall, who is played by STOP THE PRESSES none other than Jim Davis--no, not the inventor of Garfield Jim Davis. (Although how cool would that be?) I'm talking about the Jim Davis who portrayed none other than Jock Ewing on a little something called television's Dallas! Reader, I fell out of my chair, puked in my pants with excitement, and started spinning around in a circle going WOOB WOOB WOOB like whichever Three Stooge does that. I will never doubt the powers of the almighty RNGesus ever again!

Thanks to the ol' double cross, there's a shootout during the stagecoach robbery, and Hank takes a bullet for Jesse, as friends do.

As they're wanted by the law, they can't go to just any old doctor. The pair stumble across the Lopez family, who have left town after their son died at the hands of Dr. Frankenstein. The daughter, Juanita, reluctantly directs Jesse and Hank to Castle Mission Frankenstein. On the way, they are attacked by a single "savage injun," complete with headband and buckskin outfit; Jesse saves Juanita, which means they are now in love. (Sorry, Hank.)

Maria is excited by Hank's physique, as unlike the "ignorant" and puny locals he is sufficiently strapping enough to handle the brain transplant. There are no racial implications to any of this at all!!!

The mad doctor activates the artificial brain that she will put inside Hank's head (which gives it...a heart beat? I guess the science checks out), puts on her mad doctor helmet, gets the machines where the blue lightning spark goes "bzzzzrt bzzzzrt" as it travels up between two filaments (you know what I'm talking about), and the next thing you know, Hank is reanimated.  He is now christened "Igor," and Maria can command him around.

It all makes sense if you think about it.

Oh, speaking of other things that make sense, Maria is also in love with Jesse James. He spurns her advances (he's loyal to Juanita, whom he has known for fifteen minutes longer), so Maria wants Juanita dead. Hell hath no fury like a Frankenstein scorned!

The only reason any of this matters is because the Marshall eventually shows up, and I can pretend that the Marshall is actually Jock Ewing. So it's Jock Ewing facing off against Dr. Maria Frankenstein, which will color my viewing of every episode of Dallas forevermore. In fact, I think this makes Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter an official prequel to Dallas, which is all any of us could ever want from life.

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter was...not as bad as I thought it was going to be. And I'm not even saying that because of the surprise Jock Ewing! It's a goofy-yet-solid, delightfully dumb lite horror-oater. Narda Onyx leans into her role as Maria, arching her eyebrows and managing to wear that helmet with a straight face. John Lupton makes for a dull-as-dishwater Jesse James, but it's not entirely his fault. The film portrays James as a Robin Hood-type, making it a point that "he's not the type to hurt women" while stressing the tragic love story between the heading-for-the-gallows outlaw and the headstrong Juanita.

Yeah, it drags in the middle. William Beaudine's direction is very workmanlike, mostly wide shots of folks standing or sitting around talking. This is par for the course for Beaudine, the insanely prolific director who began making Poverty Row pictures in 1915 and ended with drive-in fare like today's movie and Billy the Kid Versus Dracula half a century later. If you wanted a movie made in a week on the cheap, you called "one shot" Beaudine, who shot only what he needed and often edited in-camera. Little fuss, little muss, hundreds of movies and television episodes. But no Dallas! Except, of course, this prequel. Later this week I will be starting a change dot org petition to have the film officially renamed Jock Ewing Meets Frankenstein's Daughter. I hope you'll sign it and forward it to your friends.

Chilling Classics Cthursday: CATHY’S CURSE (1977)

After the disappointment bestowed on me last week, RNGesus did me a real solid this time around, blessing me with an excuse to watch Cathy's Curse (1977) for the gazillionth time. In fact, it was thanks to this very same Mill Creek multi-pack that I saw it for the firstillionth time way back in 2009, and I wrote about it for this very site. The fact that a pull-quote from that review ended up on Severin's Blu-ray release of the film is one of THEE honors of my life, and I am not even kidding!

As always, "film," simultaneously feels like too strong a word for Cathy's Curse and a word that is not nearly strong enough for Cathy's Curse. This is because it transcends not only our mortal concept of what a "film" is, but it transcends our earthly laws entirely. I wrote about this phenomenon a couple of SHOCKtobers past, in the one where I talked about my favorite horror movie characters. 

[...] Cathy's Curse is here to remind you that you know absolutely nothing and you never truly will. Like a member of The Flat Earth Society or a cinematic hardened rogue vigilante cop, Cathy's Curse feels stifled by "the law," be it the law of man or the law of nature. Cathy's Curse operates outside the system, beholden only to the rules of its own world, a world in which the logic of our world simply doesn't apply. Nothing has meaning. Meaning itself has no meaning. It laughs at your struggle as you try to figure it out, as you try to impose order on its chaos--for within this film there is only chaos.

Of course, Cathy's Curse isn't really film, it's more...something you experience. It's something that happens to you. It lingers, clouding your brain, clogging it with thoughts that may not be your own. Time will no longer have meaning. Meaning will no longer have meaning. Your new life will be consumed by Cathy's Curse, as mine was long ago, and your only choices are to adapt or to die. It's the Cathy's Curse curse!

I've written about Cathy's Curse a lot. And I've talked about it even more. If you've never seen beheld it before, please avail yourself of it ASAP. Then you will see why I write and talk about it so much. In fact, I've written and talked about it so much that I don't know what I can say about it now that I haven't already said. It rules! So you could read my original review, or you could read that SHOCKtober post, or you could listen to episode 127 of Gaylords of Darkness ("Waterside Fisting"), or honestly you could just run into me at the grocery store and I will tell you all about it. 

That's because Cathy's Curse has and continues to enrich my life in countless ways. And I want it to do the same for you, because I care!  

Chilling Classics Cthursday: WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS’ DORMITORY (1961)

It used to be that when I would sit around fantasizing over what I'd teach were I a film professor, I would picture a syllabus with Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes written over and over and over, as if it was a document that Wendy Torrance found in her husband's typewriter. Now that I've seen Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory, however, I think I would shift, like, two of the Amityville 4 credit hours to covering it. I was not anticipating this outcome when its number came up and I pulled it from the 50-pack, that's for sure. But then, I didn't know it'd be a little treat with some feminist ideas sprinkled in here and there, and it'd be a...well, maybe not a prime example, but an example nonetheless of the ways in which localized film distribution can really do a movie wrong.

Its schlocky title alone recalls other sock hop screamers and drive-in fare from the era, à la 1959's Attack of the Giant Leeches or The Blob (1958); Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory even features its own catchy Blob-esque title tune, "The Ghoul in School," which would go on to be released on 45rpm. 

Side note: the Chilling Classics version of this movie omits both the song and the kooky/monstrous opening title card featuring a Dr Seuss sleep paralysis demon. Mill Creek does it again!

While all those goofy gewgaws serve to set up expectations in the viewer's mind, the movie very quickly undoes all of them by revealing its true nature. Why, this isn't a Gene or Roger Corman joint! Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory was released in the US in 1963, but it's--gasp--an Italian-Austrian film from 1961, née Lycanthropus! This wasn't directed by some "Richard Benson," it was Paolo Heusch at the helm. Meanwhile, writer Ernesto Gastaldi wasn't credited at all, English pseudonym or otherwise. But he's maybe best known as the co-writer of Bava's The Whip and the Body and Sergio Martino's Torso. Oh, and of course Ruggero Deodato's rip-off of The Concorde...Airport '79, appropriately titled Concorde Affaire '79.

It's possible that I am the only person who didn't know all of the truth behind Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory, especially as a super-deluxe, 2-disc uncut version of the film was released by Severin a couple of years ago. Yes, another film in the Mill Creek Chilling Classics-to-fancy pants edition pipeline! So sure, everyone else may have been on the Lycanthropus train long ago, but the shock of this information gave me a white streak in my hair, like Nancy Thompson at the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The titular dormitory, as it were, is a sprawling, gothic "institute" set deep in the woods that serves as a kind of reform school, one that hopes to set the wayward girls on the right path without the punishing nature of the judicial system. "They've found out about the bitterness of life much too early," one character explains, to which I responded (in my head...I'm not a weirdo) "Was this movie formative at all for The House That Screamed, which I fucking loved?" Three more white streaks immediately manifested in my locks. Should anyone ask why I look like a zebra from the neck up, I will happily tell them it's because I found out all at once that Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory is lit.

A student named Mary sneaks out one night to meet the much-older Sir Alfred in the woods. They have a sexual relationship, but Mary is only in it in the hopes that Alfred can get her out of the institute, as he sits on the school's board. He has no reason to make this happen quickly, obviously, and Mary is fed up and threatening blackmail. On her way home, she's chased through the dark by a man-shaped monster before being attacked and killed in a way that certainly makes this all seem like a sexual assault. "Is this movie...an allegory?" I said (again, in my head). Cue another coif streak.

While I love little more than seeing subtext and meaning in any ol' film in front of my eyeballs, Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory indeed makes the subtext text. "You're a beast, not a man," says Alfred's wife Sheena as they discuss his propensity for taking advantage of the girls. 

Or take this exchange between the new science professor (who studies wolves on the side) and Priscilla, the student who takes it upon herself to find out who--or what--really killed Mary:

"I'm fixing traps to save the forest from wolves," the professor boasts.
"In a certain sense, we're doing the same thing," Priscilla replies.

Mary and Priscilla were friends before they came to the institute as well; Priscilla garnered a charge of attempted murder and landed in the reform school when she nearly beat to death a sailor who was attacking Mary. Priscilla, the Protector and Avenger of Women! Priscilla is a hero for the ages, we could all use a Priscilla, I would die for Priscilla, etc etc. 

Polish actress Barbara Lass was married to Roman Polanski around the time this movie was filmed

So who is the werewolf? Is it the hunky new science professor, who has a shady past as a doctor and as I mentioned, studies wolves? 

Is it the sleazy Sir Andrew, or the school's sleazy caretaker, who sets up all of Sir Andrew's "dalliances" and reminds me of Peter Lorre?

Is it Sir Andrew's wife, who, as seen in this stylish shot, is cool?

Maybe it's any of the other teachers, or possibly even a student?

Well, I won't spoil it for you even though this movie is literally over 60 years old. But you'll know who it is the first time you see the werewolf's face, because despite the prosthetics you can tell which actor it is.

But that's okay! Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory is more a whodunnit mystery with some gothic and giallo touches than it is your typical werewolf-flavored horror flick. In fact, a more apt title for this than Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory or Lycanthropus might be Love and the Ethics of Lycanthropy. Or maybe Priscilla Rules.

Man, what a total surprise and a treat this was. Hokey drive-in monster movies are fun, and if that's all this film ended up being it would likely have been a fine time. But ultimately Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory Priscilla Rules is something meatier than that, deserving of a spot...well, surely somewhere in the annals of Italian horror.