Death By Cinema – Day 31 – Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 31 – Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS

This review may or may not be shorter than most, as it’s been a long month of reviews and I’m tried.

So, this last one I picked because it is a mix of a lot of different sub-genres the exploitation film. It’s Nazisploitation, and one of the better known examples of such. It’s sexploitation, and fairly graphic in its depiction of sex. It exploits violence, of course, being that Nazi’s and their experiments play a large part in the film. Really, from what I’ve heard, this is a very well done and memorable exploitation film. It absolutely is grind house quality, but from what I’ve heard this is the type of film that will stick in your mind for a while.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
We open on a title card, telling us that while the incidences in this film are based on fact, it has been condensed for this film. It also serves to distance the producer from Nazis, as Nazisploitation often shows the Nazis in a constant state of dominance.
Side note: Ilsa is based on the real Nazi “The Bitch of Buchenwald” Ilse Koch.
Now, we begin with two people having sex. If it’s not real, it’s very realistic.
The woman was Ilsa, arrests the man she just had sex with. This is fairly progressive in that it’s the female using the male for sexual favors. That being said, it’s still horrendous.
Now one of Ilsa’s female assistants castrates the guy with what looks like a pizza cutter. Just thank goodness that don’t actually show it… but still… goddamn.
Oh, God, you know whenever you see a straight razor in film, you know it will never end well.
I think it is interesting that almost all the members of the camp are female, even the guards.
They’re building the tension well here, because you just know they are building to something goddamn terrible to see.
One of the newest members of the camp is an American man. Ilsa is surprised because he is blonde. Turns out, he was an American studying in Germany when the war broke out. I guess he’s going to be the hero of the film.
Well, that’s some horrific toe and eye torture. Toe torture is a form of torture that really doesn’t get talked about a lot… for good reasons.
So, apparently the Allies are coming. Good, hopefully that’s how the film ends, with the Army killing some Nazi ass.
Oh, great another rape scene, and this one a gang rape. You know, it’s really terrible how many rape scenes I’ve been forced to see this month. This one might be the worst, though. The oom-pa-pa music just makes it even worse. Possibly worse then banjos.
Goddamn, this whipping scene has gone of for a while. You can almost feel the pain.
I’d say the full frontal nudity is the most shocking part of this whole film, but it’s not even in the top 10.
The only thing I have to say on seeing and hearing this sex scene is… I’ll have what she’s having. Wait, no, she’s a Nazi and she has a penis inside her. I’m good, thanks.
So, the American is so good at sex, Ilsa decides not to castrate him. That’s nice.
I don’t know why they’re focused on the face of the other guy when the American brags about how good at sex he is.
Now Ilsa is torturing the girls in camp with an electric dildo. That’s pretty gross.
Now they’ve killed a girl by putting her in a high pressure tank, crushing her from the inside.
And here’s a girl they’re boiling alive. That’s perhaps the most horrifying death thus far, as her skin is literally flayed off.
Now Wolfe, the American, has to sex up two of Ilsa’s subordinates in order to prove he’s worthy to keep his balls. So, I guess the formula for the film is sex, torture, sex, torture, sex-torture, sex, torture.
Ilsa has fallen in love with Wolfe… as if the heart of a Nazi is capable of actual love.
I just realized, they have this stain of blood on the back of one wall pretty much permanently. Do they not have a janitorial staff?
I thought the sets looked familiar! I just looked it up and apparently, they shot this movie on the old sets for Hogan’s Heroes after the show was canceled. There has to be a good Bob Crane joke in there somewhere…
Ilsa seems content now just torturing one girl. She uses a lot of electricity and other methods on her because she planned escape.
Aw! They’re doing a live, awake vivisection of a woman’s vagina! God, that’s disturbing as hell!
Same goes for these maggots being put into the leg of a live woman.
Finally, the give another woman gangrene. You know, I know a lot of these “experiments” actually took place during WWII, but seriously… Goddamn.
The woman Ilsa’s been torturing is still alive and has still not cried out. That’s either a lot of guts or little brains.
The freaking General character is almost more creepy than Ilsa… Actually, he’s more creepy, but Ilsa is more horrifying.
Eww… The General made Ilsa pee on him… jeez, even Ilsa thinks that’s gross and she’s a sociopathic killer.
Ilsa is playing the sub for once in her twisted relationship with the American Wolfe. Note to self: steal name American Wolfe for a wrestling and/or comic book character.
Wolfe is, of course, tying her down so the rest of the camp can kill their captors and escape. Good on him… hopefully we’ll have a full Nazi bloodbath on our hands very soon.
Damn, that woman is straight razored that guy’s throat. It’s pretty convincing, too, apart from the obviously fake blood. And she just kept cutting!
One of the guards fell down dead before the shot went off. There’s a mistake.
While some of the camp victims want to escape now, the rest want to stay to kill their captors. While this happens, the tortured woman from earlier finds the now bound and gagged Ilsa. The scene is horrifying, with this bloody, one-eyed woman slowly crawling towards Ilsa, a knife in hand. Before she can bring it down on Ilsa though, she dies.
Unfortunately, more Nazis arrive and kill the remaining victims. A Nazi comes into find Ilsa and shoots her in the head, her head exploding, Hitler at the end of Inglorious Basterds style. I don’t see how she could survive that, but she comes back for 3 more movies.
The General order the camp destroyed and everyone killed so the Allies would never know of the horrific crimes perpetrated there. But Wolfe and Anna (the main tortured woman), have escaped and look back in horror. Over the credits is an upbeat German song sung by kids. My God, it’s creepy.

Ok, I’ll make this quick… I don’t know if I can recommend this movie. I can if you are a fan of exploitation films. The acting is solid, particularly from Dyanne Thomas, who plays Ilsa. The blood and gore effects are good. However, this is the definition of grind house garbage. While it is important to show the horrors of what the Nazis did and their terrible experiments, it can be done classier than this. Countless documentaries did it better. Schindler’s List DEFINITELY did it better. But then again, I think you need the exploitation film to break the ground first, so you can have the good, artsy film to take it’s place. I’ll mention one last thing and that’s the script. I didn’t like the story arc, mostly because I didn’t think it was told very well. While there was one, it was relegated to the background in favor of sex and violence. Again, I have a hard time saying my opinion about the film. I can’t say that I liked it, but I can’t say that it’s entirely terrible either. I can say, I’ll never forget it.

Hooray! I’m done! It’s been a pleasure bringing you 31 movie reviews. I may or may not do this again next year, as this year almost killed me… but then again, that’s what Death By Cinema actually means. Hopefully I’ll be back on Movie Motorbreath in the near future, but until then… Happy Halloween everyone!

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Death By Cinema – 30 – Sleazemania III: The Good, the Bad, and the Sleazy

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 30 – Sleazemania III: The Good, the Bad, and the Sleazy

No intro for this one, just finishing up this trailer and clip compilation.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
We start with a series of random clips introducing the title over bizarre chanting. Then some chick dances and we start. One card said it’s “The Hottest Thing You’ve Ever Seen!” Not even close. Another says, “It Will Live In Your Memory Forever!” God, I hope not.
I do like one of the title cards, “If You Are UNDER 18 – You Won’t Understand It… and If You Are PAST 60 – YOU CAN’T STAND IT!” True story.
Here’s a trailer for a movie called Dance Hall Racket. A guy dies with one weak punch. What a puss. It’s very stupid.
We see a striptease clip called Bagdad After Midnite. Funny how the strippers show no sign of ever having been to Bagdad either in dress or appearance.
Here’s a trailer for a movie called I Married a Savage. With a title like that, I hoped for something more. It’s literally a girl dancing with a snake for most of the trailer. It did have a cool soundtrack.
Now a trailer for a film called Escort Girl. It’s exactly what you think it is.
Here’s an old school theatre ad for a Jalopy Night at the theatre, where you could win a car. Why don’t they have that any more?!?
Here’s old school stripper Lili St. Cyr, doing what she does best… or at least moderately well.
Oh, good, it’s the trailer for a movie that literally changed the nation… Child Bride. It’s a God awful piece of exploitation trash, yet important to history as this movie actually helped enact age of consent laws across the country. So, it did a great thing for America, but at what cost to cinema?!?
We move onto a trailer for a film called I Want a Baby. They’re not even trying anymore. Literally, they don’t even show any scenes from the movie, just images.
Keeping with the baby theme, we move onto a trailer for the film Test Tube Babies. It’s one of those films that say women can only be happy if they’re married and have a baby. The best part of the thing is the guy sees his wife in a nightie and says she looks “sharp.” Man, that’s smooth as glass. Also, the woman refuses to adopt a kid. What a self centered person.
Now another striptease, this time Tijuana After Midnite. At least the girls and there costumes look somewhat Hispanic. The trailer also says “Hotter Than Mexican Chili.” Man, the days before Mexican food really became popular outside the southwest.
And… SANTA?!? It’s not even Halloween yet! He wishes us a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
There’s a trailer for Racket Girls. It’s really just women wrestling and mob bosses. Also, some girls wrestle in cat masks.
Here’s a trailer for a film called Woman’s a Fool. They’re not even trying to hide their sexism any more? Or they’re racism as all the women in the film are African-American… except for the ones in blackface. Oh, and transphobic, because there’s a girl and they don’t know if she’s “man or woman.” If she identifies as she, she’s a woman.
Here’s a trailer for a movie where a magician kills people with magic while girls dance around naked… wait, isn’t that The Wizard of Gore? No, this is Many Ways to Sin.
Actual quote from the above trailer: “Some girls have to be forced to give in.” No, they don’t. That’s called rape and it’s terrible.
We see an animated ad for the concession stand, featuring pirates for some stupid reason.
This trailer dares to show… Unmarried Mothers! *gasp of shock* That’s also the title of the film. For some reason it’s silent and feature subtitles. It also says that the children are unwanted. Dude, that’s really not cool to blame the children. I mean, it’s also not cool to blame the moms, but it’s really not cool to blame the kids. Screw you, trailer.
BTW, let me just point out, it’s a bad idea to have white lettered title cards come up in a black and white trailer, as half the message often gets lost in the print.
Here’s a trailer for a film called Babes and Hooligans. Nothing here.
Oh, my God, Color! It’s great to have you back!
Here’s the trailer for Blaze Starr Goes Nudist, yet they call it This Little Girl Had Knockers! It’s sad I know the name of this film without the real title appearing on the screen. It’s a nudie cutie. Just a stripper walking around all nude. Pretty colors.
Here’s a trailer for a film called The Naked and the Wicked. I’m surprised they aren’t saying those are the same thing, slut shaming as this compilation has been so far.
Here’s a trailer from a movie called The Depraved, The Demented, and The Damned. This one actually looks semi-interesting. It reminds we of a Doris Wishman sexploitation film, like a Bad Girls Go To Hell or Another Day, Another Man. It’s actually decently shot, decent music, and a cool looking title card. This might be the only film I’ve seen today that I’d actually watch the whole film.
Next, the trailer for Office Love-In. Surprisingly, it features a transvestite and a gay man. Of course, they’re one and the same, despite the fact that most transvestites are straight… but whatever, facts. It also features a lesbian relationship. Of course, they only show it in an exploitative way.
Now the trailer for a film called Dandy, about the girls of the “free-love generation.” The trailer is horribly edited. The only slightly interesting thing is they show body painting. It’s only interesting because it reminds me of Laugh In.
After a silent ad saying the are more Prevues for Coming Attractions, we see the trailer for Honey. The only thing I can say about the trailer is… at least the song has a smooth bass line and some decent harmonica playing.
We’ve got a trailer for a for a movie called “Don’t Just Lay There.” Arggghhh!!! Is this over yet? 10 more minutes? Son of a bitch! At least the trailer used the phrase “humping orgasmanauts.” That was kinda funny. They also describe a woman as a “non-stop humper.” Okay, there was one more great thing. It’s not rated X… it’s rated “B… for balls.” You know this is actually probably one of the more entertaining trailers of this film, though the narrator seems to be WAY too defensive and chatty about it.
Here’s a trailer for a film called Quicky Motel. The only notable thing is a girl doing naked jumping jacks. It asks the question, “Does a marriage license give license to rape?” No. Nothing does.
Actual quote: “Oh, no. A fag in drag.” Screw you… just as much for putting no emotion behind the line, just as much as that line is offensive.
Oh, good a trailer for a Mondo film… Mondo Psycho. It has some weird ass visual images, with bizarre filters and it messes with the contrast of all the images. Well, here’s the film to watch if I ever drop acid. I honestly can’t tell what’s happening in most shots.
Actual final quote: “If you liked Scum of the Earth… if you liked the Smut Peddler… you’re gonna love Mondo Psycho!” Well, it did pick out two of the less terrible sexploitation films, so I guess I’ll have to see that film at some point.

Finally, it’s over. Look, I love trailer compilations, I have and watch several of them. This one was hard to get through, and I mean all 3 parts. These were, by in large, not fun to watch as most trailers were, they were just painful. The nudity was over the top and unnecessary, but then again, that’s sexploitation. Sexploitation is probably my least favorite type of exploitation film, because so much is unnecessary. If you like it, I won’t kink-shame you, but this just wasn’t for me, especially the last part. The first part actually had its moments, even part two was okay. The third part was just painful.

Tomorrow will be my last review and… it’s a sexploitation? Damn… but it’s at least got some violence, a cool story, and was a big enough draw to spin off 3 sequels. Plus, it features the beautiful Dyanne Thorne. Those aware of exploitation films know I mean… Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS!

Death By Cinema – 29 – The Giant Claw

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 29 – The Giant Claw

I don’t have a great deal to say about this film. From all I’ve heard, it might be the worst giant monster movie of all-time. Having seen the trailer… that’s entirely possible. From what I understand, the production company hired Ray Harryhausen to make it’s monster initially. Had this gone through, it probably would have been a good decision. Harryhausen was a genius and one of the greatest actual artists film has ever seen. However, for whatever reason, funding didn’t come through for a Harryhausen budget, which is surprising to me, because I didn’t think it would be that high. Maybe not so surprising seeing as how the monster actually turned out. The monster was supposed to be a giant, bird-like figure “bigger than a battleship.” This analogy will come about at least a couple times, so get used to it. A giant, bird-like figure absolutely can work. Look at Rodan. However, what this film ended up with was a cheap Mexican creation that looked like a deformed buzzard, so surprising and so hated, it caused the “star” of the film to sneak out of the theatre when the film debuted. Is it really that bad? Let’s find out!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
Actual quote: “Once the world was big, and no man in his lifetime could circle it. Through the centuries, science has made man’s lifetime bigger, and the world smaller. Now the farthest corner of the Earth is as close as a pushbutton, and time has lost all meaning as man-made devices speed many many times faster than sound itself.”
I can usually tell if a movie is bad if it starts with an unnamed narrator reading stupid lines.
Actual quote: “An electronics engineer, a radar officer, a mathematician and systems analyst, a radar operator, a couple of plotters. People doing a job, well, efficiently, serious, having fun, doing a job. Situation: normal. For the moment…”
So, this pilot reports a UFO. We can tell because the narrator literally tells us all of this. Because you know that old rule of screenwriting, tell, don’t show. And if you can have a narrator tell us, rather than even have this be a character’s line, even better. BTW, the last few lines are meant to be oozing sarcasm. Oh, I’m soooo sorry sarcasm, doesn’t come through in type.
Big as a Battleship Count: 1. Who decided on this as a unit of measurement?
Actual quote: General: “Would radar pick it up?” MacAfee: “Well, yes.” General: “Would radar pick it up?!? Yes or no?!?” He already said yes, you silly bitch.
So a plane is missing because it went in search for the UFO. So, did they blame it on the UFO? Nope, on the pilot who saw it in the first place.
Big as a Battleship Count: 2. Technically, they say flying battleship, but I’m counting it.
The pilot of this plane hit his head on the controls. His face is supposed to be covered in blood, but it looks more like oil.
The plane crashing is nothing more than an obvious model plane slowly guiding to a man made field, much like a train model… why do I feel this will be a running theme?
Big as a Battleship Count: 3. Another flying battleship line.
Big as a Battleship Count: 4.
Big as a Battleship Count: 5. These last two were back to back.
Big as a Battleship Count: 6.
Big as a Battleship Count: 7… and 1/2. Our hero refers to it as such twice in the same sentence.
This actor playing Pierre has the most unconvincing French accent ever. Wait, he was the host of the radio show Crime Classics? Aw, man, I liked that show…
Actual quote: Pierre: “You like Pierre’s apple jack, oui?” MacAfee: “You like Pierre’s apple jack, oui?”
We see an image of the farmer’s field, which is really just a crude drawing of a large bird’s footprint in the ground.
So, MacAfee kisses a sleeping Sally, the female lead of the story. Especially considering there’s been no hint of a relationship before this, we call that sexual harassment where we come from, mister.
I’d say the dialogue in this supposedly romantic scene is good, because there’s a lot of romantic tension, but the dialogue is stupid and makes no goddamn sense.
They take out a map on this plane (on which they are riding, not actually piloting… who takes out a map on a plane?), which appears blank from the angle we see it.
MacAfee points out that the UFO’s appearances appear to come in the form of a spiral… never mind that any pattern can theoretically be in the form of a spiral if you look hard enough.
Big as a Battleship Count: 8
Actual quote: Guy sitting behind MacAfee and Sally: “Look would you two mind being quite so the rest of us can sleep? Thank you.” I’ve never agreed with a character in a movie more.
Oh, good, the nameless narrator is back. Because exposition without conflict is just what we always need.
Big as a Battleship Count: 9
THAT’S THE MONSTER?!? It looks like a diseased buzzard! I’m going to get a lot of use out of making fun of this creature.
So our overgrown deformed turkey swallows a couple of army men wearing parachute. By which I mean, it actually appears to swallow the little green army men wearing parachutes from a distance and from close up, uses terrible matte shots.
The general is still unbelieving of MacAfee, despite the fact that they now have 5 planes down and numerous missing pilots who reported they saw a bird as big as a battleship.
Big as a Battleship Count: 10… how much more traction are we going to get out of this?
A weather balloon just got more photos of our cheap Mexican piñata, and it looks stupid, despite the fact that it strikes fear in the hearts of our characters.
Actual line: “It’s a bird alright… there’s no question of that?” Duh, gee, yuh think so, Eisenstein? Seriously, we get it’s a goddamn bird! True it looks like someone glued feathers and a cut in half ping pong ball to a piece of washing machine hose, but still!
Actual line: “Honest to Pete, I’ll never call my mother in law an old crow again.” Honestly, that analogy is more offensive to crows then anything.
The pilots attacking the wrinkly Rodan die in the most monotone way ever.
A scientist tries to explain the concept of anti-matter. Now, I only have a college 101 understanding of science… but I’m pretty sure this guy’s talking some straight bullshit.
Actual quote: BS Scientist: “Uh, you are both right. And wrong. The bird itself is not antimatter, but the bird unquestionably radiates some sort of force – an energy screen, some invisible barrier – and that energy screen is antimatter.” It’s like this guy has a Republican presidential candidate’s understanding of science.
So, the “scientist” says the feather found from the bird contains no element known to man. Considering all life is likely carbon based, I must say, why does this guy have a job?
So, the mange vulture supposedly comes from “some anti-matter galaxy millions and millions of light years from the Earth. No other explanation is possible.” Does this “scientist” know how light years are measured?
There are so many bad lines, I’m having trouble keeping track. I just heard the phrase “feathered nightmare on wings.”
MacAfee comes up with a plan “somewhere out of cloud 8” (it’s cloud 9, dumb ass) that will supposedly destroy the monster. Oh, sure, the smartest scientists in the world can’t figure it out, but some random pilot gets it in like 3 days.
Sally figures out the bird came to Earth to build a nest. MacAfee takes credit for it with the General, of course. This is why we need feminism.
The bird is beginning to attack things on the ground in a montage of stock footage because there’s nothing to attack in the air.
I just remembered what the mohawked abirdtion reminds me of… that scene from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dennis: “We also have the bird with teeth.” Charlie: “Wow, okay. And I’m assuming the teeth are fake, yes?” Dennis: “Yes. Well they’re not really human teeth if that’s what you’re asking.” Charlie: “No, I mean did you discover a bird with teeth in this fashion?” Dennis: “That does not exist in nature.” Charlie: “Okay, I’m not sure, but either way, good glue work.” Now, I’m just trying to use my knowledge of bird law to see if I can make a class action defamation lawsuit on behalf of birds everywhere for this movie.
Sally and MacAfee somehow destroy this huge ass anti-matter vulture’s egg with a pair of rifles. Don’t worry, the pelican hit by a shovel manages to kill Pierre in revenge.
A bunch of teenagers hot-rodding mock MacAfee and Sally before being killed by the Goliath Cockatoo. Did anyone think that’s how any teen has ever acted, ever?
How does this common pilot keep figuring out how to destroy the mentally deficient raptor? Seriously, now he’s come up with a complicated scientific theory to destroy the creature. How the hell does he see this when no other scientist can? I mean, I get how the army scientist can’t figure it out, he’s a jackassing moron, but is the rest of the world this stupid?
Actual line: MacAfee: “Now if this thing of mine works, and we can get close, real close, and bombard that bird’s anti-matter energy shield with a stream of mesic atoms, I think we can destroy that shield. The bird would defenseless then except for beak, claws, and wings. You could hit it with everything but the kitchen sink.” General: “We’ve got kitchen sinks to spare, son!”
So, now this pilot has to make enough atoms to disable the overstuffed cassowary (look it up) that last a long while, when the longest one atom has existed so far is “one two-millionth of a second.” Somehow, this pilot succeeds where the world’s leading scientists have failed, and he does so very quickly. How?
The Sri Lanka Frogmouth (look it up) destroys a model train! Oh, no! I mean, I guess it’s supposed to stand in for a real train, but it’s clearly a model train.
Now they’re flying the plane towards the mutated baby chick, who’s astride the Empire State Building. However, they didn’t have enough foresight to install the device before they took off, so they’re hooking it up as they fly the plane. GENIUS!!!
Now the tube with feathers and teeth destroys the Empire State Building and goes for the UN building, not that many current Republican presidential candidates would mind that. Man, I’m getting some traction off that. That analogy is better than a battleship!
The flying dodo chases after our heroes, who are still putting the machine together. They fire the particles at it, then the Army kid’s toy plane shoots rockets at the feathered, yet somehow more human looking Donald Trump lookalike. It hits and I’m surprised it didn’t burst open and candy didn’t pour out from its gizzard. The last thing we see is its Giant Claw sinking into the ocean.

Wow, this one was bad. The monster is absolutely one of the worst, if not the worst, concepts for a creature I’ve ever seen. The script is laughable, what with it’s repeated lines and corny dialogue. Also one of the worst scripts I’ve ever come across. Every aspect of the film just fails. There’s no suspense, the cinematography is substandard, it’s knowledge of science couldn’t pass a 3rd grade competency course, the music is nothing special… the only thing I can say was okay was the chemistry between lead actors Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday. And I can’t even say it’s good, it’s just alright. That being said… this movie was a barrel of laughs. Seriously, when you run into a movie that’s so bad its good… well, this isn’t it, but it is so bad its fun! I’ll go ahead and recommend it, if you like fun, corny, terrible movies. Otherwise, BIG skip.

Tomorrow, I finish my review of Sleazemania!

Death By Cinema – 28 – Tenebre (Unsane)

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 28 – Tenebre (Unsane)

So today, I’ll be looking at the work of Dario Argento. Though his work is not that well regarded in recent years, in the 70s through early 80s, he was a god of Italian cinema. His work, Suspira, is still considered a masterpiece of horror, exploitation, and giallo cinema. Not just that, but he also worked on screenplays with my all-time favorite director, Sergio Leone. Now sadly, I’ve only seen one Argento film, Suspiria. It is everything it’s reputation claims it to be, a work of genius. Everything from the color to the cinematography to the suspense to the soundtrack (Goblin rules!) is brilliant. For whatever reason though, I haven’t really checked out the rest of his work.

The film I’ll watch today, Tenebre, falls in a time when Argento was at his peak, having films like Inferno and Opera coming out around the same time. The version I have of this film is, unfortunately, the American cut Unsane. That means there’s about 10 minutes missing from the Italian cut. Still, not as bad as my American cut of Deep Red: The Hatchet Murders, which is missing about 25 minutes, hence the reason I’m not reviewing that. It is also a bit of a cheap print, not at all remastered. I’m sure because of this, I’ll miss out on a bit of Argento’s brilliance, but hopefully enough will shine through.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
Before I start this film, can I just say Unsane is a stupid title? It implies that it’s the opposite of sane, yet we already have that word. It’s a common word. It’s insane. Even if the movie was just called Insane, that wouldn’t be a great title, but it would be better than friggin’ Unsane. Let’s just all call it Tenebre and be done with it. Also, Tenebre translates to Darkness, which is still a better title than Unsane.
So, the title card is meant to look like the Psycho lettering. The rest of the credits… are in Italian? So, is this the uncut Italian version? Not according to IMDb, at least as far as length goes, but it’s weird they left in the Italian credits.
John Saxon is in this? Kick ass!
Actual opening line: “The impulse had become irresistible. There was only one answer to the fury that tortured him. And so he committed his first act of murder. He had broken the most deep-rooted taboo, and found not guilt, not anxiety or fear, but freedom. Any humiliation which stood in his way could be swept aside by the simple act of annihilation: Murder.” Very cool.
The soundtrack cuts out for a brief moment at the end of the soundtrack which is a little awkward, as I want to hear Goblin!
50s actor Anthony Franciosa is the star of this particular film. Hopefully he’s good.
A young Roman woman whores her way out of a shoplifting charge. Literally, she tells a shopkeeper she’ll sleep with him over what amounts to the price of a paperback.
This woman just kicked a hobo in the nuts twice. She then escapes behind an easily climbable fence. I honestly don’t get why the hobo doesn’t hop the fence.
So far in this film, I like some of the lighting and some of the cinematography, but nothing’s really standing out… except for the music, which is amazing as always.
So, this killer (we only see his hands) slices a woman’s throat after shoving pages of a book (Tenebre) down her throat. I have a feeling this is one of the scenes that I’d get more out of in it’s uncut form.
We see a feminist come up to Peter Neal (Franciosa) who accuses his book (Tenebre) of being sexist, because the victims are all female and the heroes are all macho men. I’m a feminist myself and I think there can be stories like that that aren’t necessarily sexist, it just depends how they can be done. I do prefer strong female characters, though.
An Italian cop comes to interview Peter about the murder. Peter was on a plane when it occurred however, so he couldn’t have done it… right? Also, the cop is wearing a lime green shirt.
Actual line: Det. Germani: “I only drink on duty. Scotch, please.” I guess they do things a little differently in Italy.
Actual line: Peter: “Let me ask you something? If someone is killed with a Smith & Wesson revolver… Do you go and interview the president of Smith & Wesson?”
So, apparently this is one of those “killer mirrors the killings in a writer’s novel” stories. This is a hackneyed thing currently, but this is one the first examples I can think of, so it works.
So, the killer (who sounds female) calls Peter. Unfortunately, she whispers the whole conversation, so in this print of the film I can barely understand what she’s saying.
So Det. Germani has a female partner, Altieri. I like her. She’s alright.
We see a weird dream sequence where a woman takes her top off and people run along the beach. Then the woman puts her high heel on one dude’s face as she kicks him. I’m not sure what this is supposed to represent, but I have a feeling this is another thing that is cut.
Man, all the murders are cut to pieces. We see a razor flash in this one and blood spurt, but I don’t know if the throat was cut or what. It makes it look like bad editing or bad directing and I know it’s not either in the uncut version.
There are a couple really cool shots immediately after the killing. The murderer cracks a lightbulb with his (her?) razor, creating a really cool visual. We then see an old Argento standby shot of a woman falling dead through a window/mirror. This is immediately followed by some cool quick shots of a camera flashing. Solid work.
The killer running the straight razor under a tap is also neat.
Wait… is this movie coming out in favor of lesbian rights in 1982? Good on you, this movie. Good on you.
So, all of a sudden, a little bug appeared in the corner for the DVD production company that put out this print, Mill Creek Entertainment. I wouldn’t be bragging about your association to this print, guys. But hew, at least it’s better quality than Oasis of the Zombies, which you also put out.
Man, that girl just wacked the hell out of that dog with a stick! And the dog recovers and jumps a big ass fence? Man, talk about one badass dog. And now it’s just savaging her.
The chick running from the dog has accidentally stumbled onto the killer’s workspace. I don’t like her chances much.
You can tell this scene is edited, because the Goblin theme jumps around. Come on censors, maybe you can mess with Argento’s brilliant work, but you DO NOT FUCK WITH GOBLIN!
Yep, that woman’s dead.
There’s some bad writing in this scene where Peter and his friends are trying to figure out the killer’s motivation, because Peter does that thing where he asks himself introverted, soliloquy questions, even though everyone can hear him.
Peter is assaulted by the killer (hit with a rock on the back of the head). Luckily, his assistant Gianni saves him. Though, it’s a little suspicious.
Hey, here’s John Saxon. There’s only one problem though, the audio is a few frames out of sync with his lips, so it looks like a bad dub, when in it is clearly John Saxon speaking.
John Saxon eventually gets killed, though I can’t see anyone anywhere near him. We do see a pair of red high heels walking around the crime scene, so I think the killer being a woman is a safe bet… unless they pull a Dressed to Kill. I hope they don’t, it worked in that film, but otherwise it’s a hack ending.
So, Gianni figures out the killer seems to be this male TV host and is garroted for his trouble.
I will say, I like how this giallo keeps me guessing as to who the killer is. That being said, it is hard to follow the story a bit, though I blame this one the cut.
Alright, so we do find out the woman with the red shoes was a red herring. She’s a friend of Peter’s and will be the next victim.
Oh, son of a bitch! They cut the best scene! Basically, the red shoed woman is supposed to get her arm chopped off through a window. It’s a little cheesy, but very violent and cool. It’s part of the reason this movie ended up on the video nasty list in the UK. I’m not surprised it’s cut, but I am annoyed.
So, Peter is still here and he just hit Altiere with an axe. I guess the various flashbacks throughout the movie are meant to show how he was insane, but it was very unclear how he was the killer, though I guess he wasn’t. If that sounds confusing… it’s because it is very confusing.
Basically, how I understand it is the guy who interviewed Peter earlier was the killer for most of the movie. He then died, but Peter figured he could use their deaths to keep the murderer alive a bit longer, so he could kill his fiancee and her lesbian lover. He manages to kill the lover and the female detective before being caught. I had to look this up on Wikipedia to make sense of it all.
Peter just slit his own throat in what is, by far, the most extreme shot I’ve seen in this print. His face was a bit over-the-top, but still provoked a reaction.
So, Peter faked his death with a dummy razor that shoots blood (I want one), and he proceeds to sneak up behind Germani and kill him with an axe. He then hides behind this weird statue with a bunch of points. His fiancee opens the door and accidentally kills him. She then screams as the credits roll.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. On one hand, there is a lot to like here. The story is solid, with good mystery and a nice ending that keeps us guessing. The gore and effects (what we can see) are nice. The directing and cinematography all seems to be good here, though I expected nothing less from. The music is excellent, though I expected nothing less from Goblin. My entire problem with the film has to do with the print. First off, the colors are cloudy and muted, same with the sound. That is one thing that lessens my enjoyment. The main problems are the cuts. They cut almost all the major gore, which not only kills the feel of the film, it messes with continuity and my ability to follow the film. I think if I ever see the original Italian version, or just a better American version, I might like it a bit better. I’ll go ahead and recommend it if you can find a good copy, otherwise wait till you can.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at a film called the worst giant monster movie ever, The Giant Claw!

Death By Cinema – 27 – Oasis of the Zombies

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 27 – Oasis of the Zombies

So, I’ll make this quick, since today is a busy day for me and I’ve already talked about Jess Franco in these reviews. I like Franco’s early work. It shows a passion for film and at least a modicum of talent. His cinematography, for an exploitation film, is usually good. However, today, I’ll be looking at one of his later films, from the early 80s. Oasis of the Zombies is a movie that features Nazi Zombies! With that premise, how can you lose? Well, apparently you can, because this is often of the lists of the worst zombie film ever. How can this be? Did Franco lose the talent or passion he had? What’s going on? Let’s find out!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
To start with, this is a poor print of this movie (looks 5th or 6th generation VHS), but I can roll with it. It’s an exploitation film, so it doesn’t have to be great quality. That being said, it’s very cloudy and the frame keeps jumping.
I will say so far I’m not liking the cinematography. It’s mostly focused on zooms and shots of women’s asses so far.
God, did Franco forget there are other types of camera movements besides zooms?
A couple of bad steady cam shots later, the two females starting off the film get killed by our unseen zombies and we start the most boring credit sequence. Seriously, you could have at least shown their deaths Franco… we could at least use some blood and guts.
In the credits, Jess Franco is credited as AM Frank. It’s not a good sign when the director doesn’t want his real name attached to the film.
So the movie is all about this group of treasure hunters looking for gold lost during WWII. The Nazi’s had the gold and died while trying to move it across the desert. Supposedly their “ghosts” zombies protect the gold. One treasure hunter already poisons and kills another trying to find the gold. He’s supposed to be a Nazi himself, I suppose.
Remember how I love the sound in Bava’s film yesterday? I think I even commented on Franco’s use of sound. There’s no joy in Mudville with this film though. Long scenes of little or no sound or a bad organ score.
This film is very slow and plodding, so far. Franco never went too quick before, but this is miserably slow.
Boy, the dub on this is bad. All the characters, be they German, English, French, or Arab, all have vaguely American accents.
This fire fight is really hard to follow, as all the soldiers look exactly the same. I’m not sure who’s the British and who are the Nazis.
Man, those shots are just badly lit. Why would Franco have an outdoor shot against the sun so everyone looks like a silhouette?
This flashback has already been going on 10 minutes, yet it seems like an hour.
Ok, so the main guy looking for the gold is actually a British soldier. It’s sad it took me 27 minutes to figure that out, but that’s just bad storytelling.
It’s even more confusing as this has all been a flashback by his son, so his son is the guy who’s gonna look for the gold. His friends will come with him… and probably get eaten.
The one guy who killed the other one earlier in the film has arrived at the oasis and they decide to camp out. Maybe now we’ll actually get a couple kills.
They zoom in on something, but my print is so bad, I don’t know what it’s supposed to be.
Okay, so here’s the first zombie and… it looks okay. Not great, but not the worst zombie puppet I’ve seen. The real people dressed as zombies though… yikes. It’s bad. I just looks like they have really muddy faces. One of the guys gets eaten (off camera of course) and another is strangled. Strangled by a zombie… I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.
So, all the major villains are now dead, except for the main baddie who was bitten, but manages to drive off, leaving his friends. We see a bit of gore in this sequence eventually, but it’s real quick. Really though, we see nothing.
Ha! One of the zombies has Marty Feldman eyes.
That is the laziest street merchant I’ve ever seen. He barely tries to sell anything. “Yes. Yes. Look. Nice things.”
BTW, I’m really not commenting on much because NOTHING IS HAPPENING. This is so dull!
So, the main baddie is now a zombie… sorta kinda. He just kinda wanders around weirdly screaming. Seriously, he’s get the weakest screaming game and then dies in the lamest way.
Two reporters talk to a Muslim priest who burns the baddie’s body as our young heroes look on.
You know, the water bouncing off this river is really pretty, but it means the two characters swimming in it are put into silhouette. It’s just sloppy work, Franco.
Actual line: “You look like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.” *everyone cracks up like this is the funniest joke ever, when it is, in fact, not* “Fuck off.” Brilliant response.
So, the group arrives at the oasis, one guy swings a pickaxe one time and he thinks he’s found the gold. That would be too simple.
So there’s a sex scene set to organ music… because when I think mood music, I think a church organ!
The zombies finally begin to attack the friends of our young treasure hunter. The first one dies unconvincingly.
God, even the attacks come so slowly. Franco, I get you want to build suspense, but let’s GO!
The worms crawling across the dead are actually somewhat effective and cool.
Actual line (read with no inflection): “Ronald. No. Ronald. Help me.”
The screen is so muddy on these last shots, it’s hard for me to tell what’s going on, but I’m pretty sure they’re all going to die.
Never mind, our main guy and gas stay alive because he set most of the zombies on fire and… one just fades away? So, are they ghosts or zombies? What?
Actual closing lines of the film: Sheik: “Did you find what you were looking for?” Treasure guy: “I mainly found myself.” BOOOOOOOOO!!!
The film just ends abruptly with a title card reading THE END.

Jess Franco… what happened to you man, you used to be cool. Seriously, this was terrible. It wasn’t shot well, it wasn’t written well, the zombies were terrible, yet somehow more emotive actors than the actual actors. More over, it’s boring. I’v said it before, I can forgive a lot in a film, but I can’t forgive a boring movie. I can’t say this is the worst film I’ve ever seen, nor can I even say this is the worst zombie film, but my God this was a stinker. And I felt so bad! I want to like Jess Franco. I don’t know what happened to him. As shown by my two Orloff reviews, he was a competent director, but here… I mean, you could see flashes of decency, but that’s about as much credit as I’ll give him. I mean, I still seek out his work, especially the early stuff, but… man, what happened?

Anyway, tomorrow I’ll watch a film by Dario Argento, Tenebre. Unfortunately, my print is by the same company who put out Oasis of the Zombies, so while I do have hopes for the film being good, I’m not sure about the overall video quality. We’ll see!

Death By Cinema – 26 – Black Sabbath

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 26 – Black Sabbath

Today, I’ll watch a film by a true horror and exploitation legend, Mario Bava. Bava was Italy’s master movie maker when it came to this genre of films. Not only did he pioneer the Giallo film, he pioneered the slasher film. And here’s the thing… unlike many exploitation directors, Bava had a tremendous reputation as a filmmaker. His use of color is especially talked about, and his films have influenced filmmaker such as Dario Argento, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Bava’s own son Lamberto, himself a horror director.

So, why haven’t I reviewed Bava before? The simple answer is… I really didn’t have any of his movies. This changed last year at Phoenix Comic Con, specifically the Fangoria booth, where a couple was selling their old exploitation DVDs for $5 a pop. So for a grand total of $10, I bought both of the Bava Boxes, a couple of phenomenal sets.

The film I’ll review today, Black Sabbath or I tre volti della paura, is supposed to be one of Bava’s best (though I believe Kill, Baby… Kill might be slightly better reviewed). However, the reason I picked this film is for one reason… Boris Karloff is in it! I love Karloff the Uncanny and will watch him in anything. However, this film today is a double edged sword, because the DVD in the Bava box is only the Italian original. Now, this is preferable from the standpoint that nothing is cut, however I miss out on Karloff’s wonderful voice. So, will I still like it? Let’s find out!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
We open on the wraparound, Boris Karloff introducing the film, which has three stories. Already, I love the use of color from the first shot. I don’t know how I feel though about the guy doing Karloff’s voice. I kind of want him to do a Karloff impression in Italian, but I also don’t want it because it could ruin it. Oh, well, Karloff still mugs for the camera.
Karloff talks about drinking blood and the light on his face goes bright, blood red. Glorious.
Our first story is called The Telephone. Basically, a woman is constantly called on her phone, hearing no voice, at least thus far.
I had no idea Pronto meant Hello in Italian. I thought it meant hurry. Learn something new everyday.
The woman, Rosey, is now being harassed by a name who can clearly see her in a state of undress. He tells her he will kill her as he lusts for her.
So far, the suspense is being built very well. The cinematography is pretty solid, as well.
There’s a really cool shot of the villains eyes just barely peaking through the blinds of this apartment. The eyes remind me of a more creepy Marty Feldman.
The villain is Frank, Rosey’s former pimp, whom she helped send to jail. Rose ends up calling her friend Mary. Mary is very coy about coming over and you get a feeling she and Rosey might have had a relationship.
Oh, Jesus… it wasn’t Frank talking on the phone, it’s Mary doing a deep, husky voice into the phone through a muffled piece of cloth. That is a great reveal!
Mary is really good at being intimidating, yet weirdly comforting the Rosey, as she hasn’t revealed her true nature yet.
Mary proceeds to write Rosey a letter as she sleeps, telling her of what she did and asking for her forgiveness as Mary does love her. But as she writes it, the door quietly opens and a mysterious figure walks it. The silence and cinematography are breathtaking (it’s funny because Frank picks up one of Rosey’s nylons and strangles Mary with it). The way Bava built the suspense leading up to the murder was intense.
Frank walks slowly towards Rosey. Luckily, Mary hide a knife under Rosey’s pillow and she stabs him. Rose then breaks down crying as the phone remains off the hook.
I’ll tell you, the cinematography, the way Bava built suspense, and the sound are all really top notch in this one.
The next story is called The Wurdulak. That’s even the translated title. I looked it up and a Wurdulak is a type of vampire, so I’ll just say vampire from here on out. It’s also based on a story by AK Tolstoy. Karloff is actually in this one.
The story begins with Vladimir finding a headless body with a knife in it’s heart. He then rides to town to find shelter for the evening. I like how there’s no dialogue for the first 5 minutes or so. We only have sound effects and the wind blowing. It reminds me of how we only hear the sound of a clock ticking in the silence of The Telephone.
The lighting and the color is also really unique, with several gel filters over the lights.
In the house, Vladimir falls in love with Sdenka, the daughter of the house, but she will not return his love because her family might be cursed by a wurdulak.
A wurdulak it turns out is a vampire that thirsts most for the blood of those it loved while it was alive. Cool monster. You kill them by stabbing them in the heart.
The image of Gorca (Boris Karloff), slowly walking over the bridge to the house is just haunting. Also, when we first see Gorca’s face, it’s through a quick zoom. Very cool shot.
You know, the guy dubbing Karloff’s voice is actually doing a good job here. I’d still prefer to hear Karloff’s voice, but this is fine.
The firelight playing off Karloff’s facee is so rich with color and looks amazing.
Man, Karloff’s face when he pulls out the severed head… that man was a great actor.
Bava is beginning to have Karloff placed with some solid makeup on his faces, as well as purple colored light. Gives him a real deathly look.
Gorca now takes his young grandchild from his bed, having already bitten and killed another in the house. Gorca riding away with the boy is very intense. He’s wearing a furry hood that makes him look like some crazy, wild beast.
Vladimir convinces Sdenka to come away with him for her own safety, as he knows the wurdulak will come back for her and the rest of her family. I still hate the plot device of someone falling in love with another at first sight, but well, there you go.
Man, the light coming through the trees as Vladimir and Sdenka ride off is so cool. Plus the kid walking towards the parents house from the grave is creepy as hell. Especially because they gave his voice an echo.
So, the rest of her family dies to the wurdulak, but Sdenka and Vladimir drive in an abandoned monastery, fining a place to sleep for the night. Gorca shows up there, along with the rest of the now damned family. When this scene happens we’re met with a lot of color and Bava playing with negative space. They taste of Sdenka and she, in turn, drinks from Vladimir. Her eyes are hypnotic. Thus, the bloody prophecy is fulfilled. But keep in mind, Vladimir also has a family…
The final story is called A Drop of Water. During a large rainstorm, a nurse, Helen, is called to prepare a body for burial and- OH, JESUS! That is one creepy ass corpse.
So the dead woman was a medium who died while in the middle of a trance during a seance. While this is explained, we see a nice crane shot. There are a lot of good zooms in this particular story.
Throughout this whole thing so far, we know Helen is tempted to steal this sapphire ring from the dead woman. It’s a great bit of acting and storytelling. When she steals the ring, she also spills a glass of water, causing an incessant drip and a fly buzzes around. I have a feeling this will be a repeated thing throughout the rest of it.
Dammit, the corpse’s eyes keep opening and it’s one of the creepier this I can remember in a film. It’s giving me the jibblies.
Helen is now home with the stolen ring. I don’t think she’s going to enjoy it much. Sure enough that damn fly is back. I like that the camera goes into her perspective of trying to swat the fly. After the fly is scared off, a dripping sound is heard. Helen turns off all the faucets in her house, but the dripping continues. Great bit of playing with sound design.
This particular feature is all about the use of sound and the acting of the actress playing Helen. Bava still has his touch in the cinematography and directing, but it’s slightly more subtle here, though there’s still a great use of color throughout.
Helen opens the door of her bedroom and finds the body of the medium. We see the woman on the bed, in a rocking chair, and slowly gliding towards her hands outstretched. This honestly has me a bit freaked, but I think it’s the look of the woman. Her eyes never blink and her mouth is open in a rictus, teeth fully bared.
The… ghost?… corpse?… of the woman causes Helen to strangle herself. Damn, that’s a grim end. The ring is also mysteriously gone from her finger. But now her friend hears the dripping and a fly buzzing. She looks at Helen’s face and… Oh, God, now she’s got that rictus look on her face with the wide unblinking eyes. And Bava holds on that damn image. That is creepy as shit! Well, I guess I didn’t need to sleep tonight.
In one final scene, we see Karloff, in the guise of Gorca, saying goodbye and to watch out for vampires and ghosts on the way home. He then asks us to dream of him (sorry, Boris, but my dreams belong to creepy rictus lady tonight) as he “rides off into the distance.” Even though the horse is clearly fake and… they pull out to show to reveal he is on a film set and it’s all fake. I gotta say, that lighthearted ending does not fit at all with the rest of this horrifying film, particularly the closing theme.

Okay, so this was an amazing movie. Seriously, it tells three different stories, but manages to keep the stakes and tension very high. Each one had it’s own feel to it, though each was steeped in terror. The Telephone I think had the best sense of unease and feeling of suspense. The Wurdulak probably told the best story and had the best of all worlds, when it came to the technical aspects and acting. A Drop of Water is one of the creepiest and most terrifying films I’ve seen in a while, and I thought it would be the worst of the bunch. Really, there is no worst of the bunch and there’s no best. They are all marvelous. While each has it’s pluses, all three have some really nice cinematography and the colors, sound design, and level of anxiety are some of the best I can think of in a film in recent memory. See this movie! I’ll definitely check out more Bava soon.

Speaking of directors I said I’ll be watching more, I’m going to watch one more Jess Franco film. I’ve already said, I like early Franco, when he directed in black and white, had great cinematography, and was more subtle in his approach to sex and violence. But tomorrow, I’ll look at a later Franco film, Oasis of the Zombies. Does Franco’s style hold up? Who cares?!? Nazi Zombies tomorrow!

Death By Cinema – 25 – House II: The Second Story

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 25 – House II: The Second Story

So, yesterday I watched Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House. Needless to say, it was one of the most batshit insane movies I’ve ever seen and I loved every minute of it. However, it got me thinking of other weird ass films I’ve seen and the first one to pop into my brain was House II: The Second Story. This movie has nothing to do with and is not related at all to the Japanese House. Rather, it was related to an American franchise about a series of haunted houses. There were 4 of these movies according to IMDb. I haven’t seen 3 or 4, but I have seen 1 and 2. The first House is entirely middle of the road, though still somewhat okay. It’s watchable. William Katt and George Wendt are fun in it. But House II: The Second Story… my God, what a fun mess this film is. It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though I don’t feel that’s deserved. I mean, it’s nutty, but it’s fun. Or it is in my memory… let’s see if it holds up!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
Watching the credits, I am reminded both Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death’s Bill Maher and Motel Hell’s John Ratzenberger are in this film. Trust me, I’ll be commenting on both of them.
This weird old west ghost appears in this couple’s house looking for a skull, crystal, if my memory serves. When they don’t give it to him, he shoots them. Years later, their son Jesse, who has no knowledge of the event, comes back.
I do like the set designs, even though Jesse’s girlfriend Kate apparently doesn’t.
Jesse looks through old family photos and finds one of him and his parents. He comments how cute he was. Yeah, except the eyes in the picture are friggin’ black vortexes!
Here we see the first signs this might not be the most serious horror film. Jesse approaches a strange noise in a creepy fashion, opens the door, and an ironing board falls on his head.
Jesse’s best friend Charlie shows up at the house and it’s clear he’s the comic relief of the film.
Yeah, now we get some exposition. Jesse’s great-great-grandfather and outlaw, also named Jesse, found a crystal skull back in the day with his partner, Slim. The skull is hidden somewhere that has untold powers and can give people eternal life. Jesse and Charlie decide to dig up Gramps to find the skull. It’s so damn cheesy… and 80s.
This graveyard has no damn security.
They find the skull with Gramps, but Gramps is alive! Gramps tosses Charlie and Jesse in the grave until they convince him Jesse’s his great great grandson.
So, apparently the skull can control time and space in the house, which is a temple. They are gonna have to protect it from evil.
Actual line: Gramps: “I ain’t gonna die if it’s the last thing I do.”
Actual first line of Bill Maher: “Jesse, you old golf bag!”
Actual dialogue: John (Bill Maher): “Who’s your friend? Bozo the Clown?” Charlie: “Bozo the Death Machine.”
So, Maher’s character is a sleazy record exec. He and Kate steal Charlie’s client/girlfriend.
Gramps is flipping through the channels. “Now you take this Ronald Reagan, he sure is a pansy. He wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes in the old days.”
After listening to Gramps tell stories for a few hours, Charlie and Jesse walk upstairs to find themselves in a Halloween party.
I’m waiting for some nutty stuff to happen, because I know some stuff is coming, but it’s taking a while. That being said, a jungle just appeared upstairs and a caveman just took the skull, so hopefully it’s coming soon.
Kate hits Jesse thinking he cheated on her. Really, it’s just a misunderstanding, but whatever, we’re not supposed to like her anyway.
Walking through the jungle, they find they’re in a land of dinosaurs inside the house. They retrieve the skull, but it’s stolen by a pterodactyl. They climb a tree to get the skull. Jesse falls from the top of the tree, sending both him and Charlie through the floor, along with the skull, a baby pterodactyl, and caterpuppy. What’s a caterpuppy? Half caterpillar, half puppy. Yes, that exists in this film.
The caterpuppy is pretty cute. Terrible puppet, but cute. Same thing as the pterodactyl, but that looks more like the monster from The Giant Claw.
Seriously, Bill Maher’s character is just the worst. Luckily, if my memory serves, this is the last time we see him in the rest of the movie. He’s even harder to take here than he is in real life.
Are they ever going to explain the caterpuppy?
A couple Aztecs stole the crystal skull and beat up Gramps. BTW, if a lot of these notes sound like I’m just mentioning the plot, that’s because other than the insanity of a pterodactyl and caterpuppy, not much has really happened that’s noteworthy.
Hey, here John Ratzenberger! As I recall, he’s a great character (an electrician), so hopefully this will save the movie. So far, he’s pretty funny.
Actual line: Bill (John Ratzenberger): “I’ve seen enough tragedy that’ll make you want to upchuck in your shorts.”
Ratzenberger has good patter, if nothing else. He proceeds to tear a hole in the wall, leading to another dimension. “Looks like you’ve got some kind of alternate universe in there or something.”
Bill tells them not to go into the wall. When they do, Bill says they might need the help of an expert, and he’s dealt with this before. He reaches into his toolbox and pulls out a freaking sword! Is it wrong I would rather see a backstory on Bill now?
The group runs across the Aztecs about to sacrifice a girl. When they interrupt them, the Aztecs come a sword fight begins. Bill is a goddamn badass!
The guys save the virgin and the skull, leaving Bill behind, but he’s not worried as it’s his “kid’s little league night.” They run out, only to find Bill’s already beaten them out?!? What? Who the hell is this guy?! Bill hands Jesse a card reading Bill Towner, Electrician/Adventurer. Why has this guy not gotten just a ton of spin-off work?
Jesse and Charlie proceed to have a dinner with Jesse’s mummy Gramps, the pterodactyl, the caterpuppy, and the Aztec virgin. You know, as one does.
They take the lid off the plate and the mummy Slim rises out from under it, facing off with Gramps.
Gramps goes to his deathbed and Jesse straps on a six gun looking for Slim. He breaks through a window into the old west. Slim does have a stop motion skeleton horse which is kinda cool.
Jesse and Slim continue their shoot out, traveling between the house and the old west. The cops show up at the house, someone having heard the gunfire.
Jesse manages to destroy Slim after a few shots and once again retrieves the skull, taking it to Gramps.
Actual line: “Did you blow his head off? That’s a good boy. I thought he’d kick your ass.”
Somehow, Slim’s body comes alive again and shoots the police chief, which leads to a shootout with the cops and the house being set on fire.
Jesse travels back to the old west with Charlie, The Aztec Virgin, the pterodactyl, and the caterpuppy. He buries Gramps leaving the crystal skull to mark his grave. Uh… it’s an object of immense power, are you sure you want to just leave it laying? Also, no payoff with John, Kate, or Charlie’s girlfriend? What happened to Bill? Now that they’re in the old west, can they continue traveling through time or what? What’s up with the cops now that they believe Jesse is a psychopath? Nope, no explanations, the movie just kinda ends.

This movie was not as much fun as I remembered it. This one was bad. It was boring in places and could have been handled a lot better. I remembered this film being a lot more crazy than it actually was. It doesn’t seem to know what tone to take as it either goes from being a minor horror comedy to a straight comedy to a drama to a western. Really, the movie is all about wasted potential.

That being said, it looked nice and polished. The makeup was fairly good, as were some of the effects. The directing was… okay. Overall, it’s a watchable movie, but I can’t really recommend it, unless you want to see a caterpuppy. Honestly though, this would have worked much better as a TV pilot. Heck, it actually broke down like a TV pilot, plus another couple episodes. Had it been properly developed as such, it might have been one of the better cult TV shows of the 80s. It actually reminded me of the Friday the 13th TV show quite a bit. But whatever, it’s still a better crystal skull movie than the Indiana Jones one.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath!

Death By Cinema – 24 – House

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 24 – House

What can I say about House? Well, I don’t know much about it, but my personal history with this film begins when I was hosting a pop culture talk show, A Night at the Opera, with my friends Salim Garami and Erickh Norman. We were doing our top 100 favorite films countdown. Salim happened to mention the film House. Now, I did not study film much as an undergrad from an academic perspective, so I admittedly have some big gaps in my knowledge, though I am trying to learn. Plus I have my own wheelhouse when it comes to film studies, so I’m solid. But when Salim mentioned House, I thought he meant the early 80s film starring William Katt. This confused me because that film, apart from a nice supporting role played by George Wendt, is a very forgettable, middle of the road movie. So, Salim and Erickh proceed to tell me about this movie and… it just sounded nuts. Cool, but balls out crazy. Good, I like those kind of films and, after a couple years, I’m finally seeing it. So, how crazy is it?

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
I had no clue this was a Janus Film… and in conjunction with Toho?!? Kick ass!
The credit’s proclaim it “A Movie… HOUSE!” With an announcer saying the name.
We have a weird box in box visual effect to being the action of the film. I don’t get it.
Man, this film’s got some bizarre matte shot effects.
The music is also weird. And so is the editing. We’re 3 1/2 minutes in and I have no clue what’s going on with the visual style of this film… but I kinda like. It’s unique. But I have a feeling I’ll only be able comment on the big stuff when it comes to this, otherwise I’ll be pausing every 15 seconds.
Actual quote: Gorgeous’ Father: “Leone said my music was better than Morricone’s.” Boo! Not possible!
I love this shot through the window to the terrace. The fact that there are so many panes make a very fractured look. Same thing with the camera moving from side to side.
So, basically, the plot begins with a high school girl, Gorgeous, objecting to her father’s marriage. So, instead of going on vacation with them, she asks to stay at her aunt’s House. She takes her six friends the nerdy Prof, foodie Mac, Melody, Fantasy, Kung Fu, and Sweet.
I just realized, this music sounds like it should be featured in an anime where a girl travels to a mystical fairy land and is about to kiss the main boy, but gets interrupted. Oh, well. It’s get a pretty sunset.
Now we have aa weird American pop song that sounds like it would be best suited for a Scooby Doo chase scene. Seriously, so much of the action looks like it belongs in an anime. And sure enough part of the scene is animated!
We keep seeing a cat reappear. It’s almost like they’re foreshadowing something.
God, how am I supposed to comment on anything when I need to comment of everything?!?
There’s a really cheesy special effect of the past Aunt grasping a rose and an animated stream of blood coming from her hand. As I understand, this is only the beginning of cheesy effects.
This film is very enjoyable so far, but my God, this is a gauntlet. It’s an assault on the senses. And I’m only 20 minutes into the film. They aren’t even at the house yet!
They go to buy a watermelon and meet a merchant who reminds me of an Asian Oliver Hardy with no mustache and WAY creepier. Also, that is a big ass watermelon.
The most fake bird I’ve seen this side of Birdemic just swung by.
Why does this same white cat keep showing up? Now it’s eyes glow green causing a camera to fly out of one of the girls’ hands?
Mac went back to buy the watermelon, which she cradles like an infant. Seriously, they are getting a lot of traction out of the “Mac is fat” joke.
Some crystals fall from the chandelier and freakin’ Kung Fu reacts like this is a goddamn episode of Sailor Moon!
Actual line: “Well done! You’re so cool, Kung Fu.” This girl says it as her hat falls comically back on her head.
Ok, here we go with the haunted insanity. Fantasy pulls the watermelon up from the well, but that’s no watermelon… THAT’S MAC’S SEVERED HEAD! It talks to her, then flies around, bites her ass, and vomits blood. All of this happens in front of an obvious blue screen.
Actual dialogue: “A human head!” “Everyone has one!”
The aunt stands from her wheelchair for the first time. I’m guessing the evil house is giving her energy.
The aunt eats the watermelon, opens her mouth and winks at Fantasy, an eyeball in her mouth.
It’s weird that no one besides Fantasy has noticed Mac is gone.
Oh, good, a creepy doll. No way that won’t be a horrible plot device used for death.
Kung Fu is being attacked by a bunch of flying pieces of wood. Dude, I dig her. She’s just the right enough of anime martial arts master that I like.
Fantasy sees the aunt go into the fridge, which causes her friends to continue to think she’s crazy, while the aunt breaks the fourth wall, dances with a skeleton, and eats a human hand. She also feeds it to a goldfish and her cat meows in time to the music, flopping around the piano. What is happening?!?
Gorgeous puts on lipstick, until she sees her reflection has vampire teeth. Then the cat’s eyes make the mirror shatter, which causes her face to shatter, replaced by flames. I swear no acid caused me to write that last sentence.
Now the cat’s eyes are making the piano keys light up in red, white, and blue. ‘MURICA.
Sweet is attacked by killer pillows and mattresses. Dude, are you kidding me? That would be the best poltergeist ever!
Why is no one listening to Fantasy? Weird stuff is going on, but oh, let’s not listen to Fantasy who’s seen some of this spooky shit happening.
Fantasy continues to be worried. But fear not, “Your love, Mr. Togo, is coming soon. He’s a man after all. He can help us.” Uh, ladies, you don’t need a man to save or define you. All you need is Kung Fu. Also, Togo comes riding in on a white horse in a quick fantasy that looks like the opening to Princess Kenny.
I don’t know why in this scene it looks like the removed every 5th frame, but it does.
Finally, we have some classic haunted house stuff to scare the girls, like windows rattling and doors slamming and the fog rolls in.
I like the camera movement, following the girls as they walk in a circle, thinking over their conundrum.
They find a hand (probably the one the aunt was chomping at), and notice that Mac’s ribbon is on it. Oh, no! Their friend is dead! Let’s just go downstairs and listen to Melody play piano. That’ll solve everything!
So far, we have Sweet killed by pillows, Mac decapitated, Gorgeous is missing (only to be found dressed in Japanese bridal attire), and now Melody is attacked by the piano. Rather, the cat’s eyes flash again, cheesy lights engulf her fingers and her fingers get cut off as she’s surrounded by a blue aura. It’s cool, shellacks stoked that her fingers are gone until the goddamn piano eats her as he body parts flail around inside the piano! Jesus Christ! Anyone remember that level in Super Mario 64? The ghost level? Like the piano in that. Oh, also lots of bad blue screen.
The music we hear while Gorgeous is dressed bridal attire sounds like something from a level of The Legend of Zelda.
Ok, now Sweet is stuck in the bleeding clock in the wall as Kung Fu and Prof look on.
Melody’s disembodied fingers still play the piano, striking an off note. The effect is really corny, with the fingers basically hanging from wires.
So, now the only ones still alive and in their right minds are Kung Fu, Prof, and Fantasy, somehow.
A guy randomly appears eating a plate of ramen noodles while he has a giant teddy bear in the background dressed as a Japanese chef.
Various things begin flying around the room including some disembodied lips. Because, why the hell not at this point?
The lips tell why everything is happening. Basically, the aunt died waiting for her love to return from the war. Now she inhabits the house, eating girls, because that’s the only time she can wear her bridal gown.
A lot of quick cuts including Prof reading, Kung Fu kicking the ass of the things flying around, Fantasy being useless, and SON OF A BITCH, the cat becomes a damn monster!
Kung Fu escapes the house to fight the ghost of the aunt, as Togo drives around trying to find the house.
They keep quick cutting to the image of the cat and good lord is it creepy.
Kung Fu is then hit with an overhead lamp and is electrocuted as we see the evil smiling cat, the disembodied body parts of the dead girls float around, but all of a sudden Kung Fu’s disembodied legs, come out and destroy the cat painting, there by the cat, thereby the aunt (who bleeds buckets), and thereby the house… maybe? The cat painting then vomits blood as Prof and Fantasy are left floating on a river of cat blood.
Togo’s still driving around the countryside in his dune buggy looking for the house. He runs across the Oliver Hardy watermelon salesman. The watermelon guy says the girls were eaten and they were delicious. We then get them both trying to overact each other.
Actual dialogue: Watermelon: “Do you like watermelons?” Togo: “NOOOOO!” Watermelon: “What then?” Togo: “Bananas!”
The watermelon salesman then turns into a skeleton as Togo jumps back into the dune buggy shouting Banana over and over again.
Back on the river of cat blood, Prof loses her glasses and is eaten by an earn with teeth. She then swims in the blood naked going “Woo” as women are want to do, I assume.
The aunt then continues to pet the cat, Blanche, as Fantasy continues to roll along the river of blood. A topless Gorgeous then reappears to save Fantasy, maybe… but no it’s the Aunt. But Fantasy chooses to embrace Fantasy and see her as Gorgeous as her eyes glow.
Later on, the stepmother comes to the watermelon stand, posing in slow mo. She then blue screen walks around the house and the landscape. Gorgeous, in the aunt’s kimono, invites the stepmother into the House.
Last cool lines: Stepmother: “Where are your friends? Still sleeping?” Gorgeous: “Yes, but they’ll wake up when they’re hungry. They wake up when they’re hungry.” Her eyes then glow as Blanche the cat runs by and the stepmother’s head catches on fire. We do hear one more little monologue from the aunt, but I like this ending more.

Okay, well that was batshit insane. Seriously, where do I start? There’s not really one aspect of this film I am confident about coming from a sane person. The technical aspects were all over the place. The cinematography was wild. The editing was choppy and almost seizure inducing in its rapidity. Every aspect of the mies-en-scene from the acting to the sets to the lighting were crazy. The special effects were laughable. The writing made not one goddamn bit of sense.

And yet… this movie was awesome! Seriously, the insanity works for this film in every frame. My big thing is, you can make a bad film, just don’t make it boring. This film is absolutely not boring and it’s not bad either. The choices for all those elements were deliberate and made for some amazing art choices. Seriously, I think this was such a good time, if way too much sensory overload. This film is an all out assault you won’t want to stop. Good times.

Tomorrow, I’ll be watching another crazy film… House II: The Second Story! Oh, but this one isn’t a sequel to this House, it’s a sequel to the American one. And it is so random and fun. Good times ahead!

Death By Cinema – 23 – Frankenstein Unbound

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 23 – Frankenstein Unbound

So, I’m not going to talk about Roger Corman too much. I’ve already written quite a bit about him, though not this month. I do think it’s safe to say he’s quite possibly one of the most influential men in filmmaking of the past 60 years or so. He jump started countless Hollywood careers, from many big names, Nicholson, Deniro, Scorsese, Cameron, Towne, Howard, Bogdonovich, being just a handful. He influenced the way independent movies are shot, financed, and marketed. As a producer, he made memorable film and, more importantly, he made profitable films.

However, I don’t really see much about him as a director, though he directed about 56 films, both officially and unofficially. Last year, I did a review of his film X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes. While no modern marvel, it is at least a serviceable film, that is very watchable. The directing is unremarkable, though decent. It tells a good story though and does have some nice visual images. Today, I’ll be looking at the last film he’s directed (so far, though likely ever), 1990’s Frankenstein Unbound. Not only was this the last film he directed, though by no means the last he has produced, it was also his first official return to the director’s chair in 19 years. So, how does he do? Let’s see!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
I just realized, this is the 3rd Frankenstein film I’ve watched this month, the other’s being Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks and Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. It’s technically the 4th, if you include Dr. Orloff’s Monster from yesterday, which shares some minor plot similarities.
I should mention, by the way, that this movie has a solid cast in John Hurt, Raul Julia (playing Dr. Frankenstein), and Bridget Fonda.
We being in 2031 New Los Angeles, where we see John Hurt as a doctor who makes a machine that creates black holes. This will eventually lead to big time slips.
Hurt’s character, Buchanan, seems to both be horrified and not care that the potential end of the world weapon he’s created. Very uneven writing.
This movie is just fairly bizarre, like this scene where Buchanan helps the neighborhood kids bury a bike and one of Genghis Khan’s warriors plops down from out of the sky in a time slip.
You can say a lot about the futuristic stuff in this film (though we’re now in the past), but Buchanan has a cool car and jacket.
You know, this movie is probably the best looking of Corman’s films. It looks very professional.
The initial interaction between Buchanan and Frankenstein is quite well done and enjoyable. Comes from having two very good actors.
The dream sequence with Buchanan relies WAY too much on that wavy effect common in flashbacks.
I like that, though this film is set in Vienna, the accents are all over the place. Some English, some American, and Julia even tries for a continental accent.
We see Bridget Fonda as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, soon Shelly. She’s pretty, as usual, but like many of her co-actors, doesn’t even attempt an accent.
I’ll tell you, this movie is very cheesy thus far, but it is by no means boring and even somewhat enjoyable. I think this is largely because of Julia and Hurt, plus the polished look of the film
We see the Monster. He’s very cool looking and unique, if a bit cheesy. Plus, he speaks like in the way that was intended by the original Shelly novel.
Actual dialogue: Frankenstein: “You murdered my brother!” Monster: “Mur…dered?”
Damn, that Monster has some big ass hands.
Actual line: Byron: “I thought all American scientists were known as Ben Franklin.” True story.
The guys playing Byron and Shelly actually act sorta like an over the top version of what I think Byron and Shelly were actually like. I wouldn’t call this good writing or acting, but a mere coincidence.
The crowd reactions to the hanging is way too corny. The hanging itself looks kinda neat though.
You know, for a Frankenstein movie, we’ve seen very little of Frankenstein or his Monster. It’s not bad, because Buchanan is fairly interesting, but it is bizarre.
I was about to say, it’s weird that Buchanan can drive his car around without anyone noticing, but he blatantly drives through town just as I write this, plus he tells Mary Shelly about him being from the future. Nice undercover work there, guy.
I just realized, John Hurt became a master of time and space here, years before he became the Doctor.
And, they’re having Buchanan hook up with Mary Shelly? Jesus… for a master of time and space, Buchanan is really screwing with history. Also, I should just point out that John Hurt is 24 years older than Bridget Fonda.
Actual line: Mary Shelly: “Percy and Byron preach free love. I practice it.”
So, Mary Shelly believes that Buchanan is here to stop Frankenstein. Hopefully he does and we don’t see what we see in every Frankenstein film, a scientist become enamored by the story and helps him.
I will say, the Monster’s killing of Elizabeth, Frankenstein’s love, is very gruesome and cool. He literally tears her chest open. It still looks hokey, but it’s about as well done as can be expected.
I hate these dream sequences of Buchanan’s because of all the wavy effects Corman uses. Doesn’t matter that without it the sequences might make for interesting film.
Julia’s Frankenstein is a solid villain, though he grows to accept his Monster way too easily.
So, Frankenstein goes legitimately insane, though Julia’s performance is more subdued in it’s insanity. He and Hurt have great chemistry.
Frankenstein revives Julia as the Bride of Frankenstein… but is it his own bridge or the Monster’s bride? That doesn’t matter because Buchanan uses a laser to transport the time and place and move himself, Frankenstein, the Monster, and the Bride to a frozen tundra.
The Monster goes to Elizabeth’s aid (she’s dressed in bandages, like Elsa Lancaster), but like in the Bride of Frankenstein, she rebukes the Monster and goes to Frankenstein. Though in this one, horrified that she’s a monster, she forces Frankenstein to shoot her.
The Monster than picks Frankenstein up and breaks his back, like he’s a piece of wood. He dies soon after, leaving only Buchanan and the Monster.
The area they are now in is apparently a far flung future, where they are the only two left alive. Soon, it will be only one.
They both enter a subterranean lair, where the machine somehow recognizes Buchanan. The stupid light show looks stupid though.
Really cool actual dialogue: The Monster: “What am I that you must destroy me?” Buchanan: “An abomination, in the eyes of God.” Monster: “Then what are you?” Buchanan: “I am…Frankenstein!” Buchanan the destroys parts of his lab to destroy the Monster, finally using a laser to eradicate it. Though, I’m not sure I get how the lasers work, as he controls them as a conductor would control a symphony.
I’m not sure I get the ending. The Monster says, “You think that you have killed me. But I will be with you forever. I am unbound.” I guess the Monster is now in Buchanan’s machine? Or maybe he represents Buchanan’s machine? Buchanan then walks through the frozen tundra to a nearby city. Does the city contain life? Is there life in this future? Is it life connected to Buchanan and his time experiments? I genuinely don’t know.

Okay, this movie suffers it’s share of problems. The script waivers between very bad and sorta decent, the ending suffers from this especially. The effects of the dream sequences and the final lab scene look bad and really hurt the enjoyability of those scenes. The supporting cast beyond Hurt, Julia, and Nick Brimble (The Monster) are not very good (sorry Bridget Fonda). The film runs into the problem of being horribly campy. Corman’s directing is nothing at all to write home about.

That being said, there is a lot of good here as well. The performance from all 3 of the main actors are absolutely wonderful, particularly Hurt. I was surprised how much I like Brimble, though he’s still got some problems. The story had potential. The production design was marvelous. And finally, while I said Corman’s directing was nothing to write home about, it’s not terrible either, just middle of the road. But then again, as a director, Corman was kind of middle of the road, so this was a good film for him to go out on. I’ll always love Corman the producer, but I can also respect Corman the director. He took a lot of risks with this film. Some really paid off, most didn’t. As I said, this movie had a lot of potential and much of it was wasted, but it’s still a worthwhile film. Very watchable and fun in places. I’m glad I saw it.

Tomorrow, I’ll actually look at one of my friend Salim Garami’s favorite films, the always insane 1977 Nobuhiko Obayashi film, House!

Death By Cinema – 22 – Dr. Orloff’s Monster

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 22 – Dr. Orloff’s Monster

So, last year, I did a review of Jess Franco’s The Awful Dr. Orlof. Franco was a Spanish director who, through the weird production laws that were Generalissimo Fransisco Franco’s Spain, ended up making quite a few films in France (BTW, I am aware that Generalissimo Fransisco Franco is still dead). This was because Franco made exploitation films that exploited sex and violence.

As for The Awful Dr. Orlof, I really enjoyed it. It’s nowhere near a perfect film, but I would say it is at least good. For the second day in a row, I’m going to do the douche-y thing and quote my own review from last year, “The film is creepy, atmospheric, and pays tribute to many masters of cinema. While this is by no means the best film I’ve ever seen, or even the best exploitation film I’ve ever seen, it’s been a very nice surprise. I look forward to watching more by Franco. I don’t know if they’ll be anywhere near as good, but I’m curious. He doesn’t touch the masters in terms of overall quality, but pays enough of a tribute to be extremely pleasant. Like watching an art student’s copy of Monet’s Water Lilies, it doesn’t come close to the touch of the master, nor does it add anything to the original, it still provides a pretty picture.”

That being said, I know Franco (and a couple other directors) continued the Orlof(f) series. I’ll be looking at the second of the Orloff films, Dr. Orloff’s Monster. This one is also directed by Franco and actually does not feature the Awful doctor. Instead, it focuses on his follower, Dr. Jekyll (no relation), building a new monster. Some alternate titles of this film include The Secret of Dr. Orloff and The Mistresses of Dr. Jekyll. I don’t know if I have high hopes for this film, but I do have some hopes, so let’s check it out!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
This film, like the one last year is in glorious black and white. Good, it leant to the atmosphere of the first one.
We open on a man lying diagonally on a bed, his head facing us, from above. It’s a cool shot, though it leads to a jump-cut. I dig the slow pull in and the shadows of the montage of people’s faces. Very creepy, though I think it goes on a couple shots too long and ends too abruptly.
In the credits, Franco is called Jess Frank. I guess this being a French film, they had to give him a more Franco name and… wait a minute.
We begin by seeing Dr. Orloff on his deathbed leaving Jekyll the Frankenstein-like monster they created. I guess Orloff is in this film, though I don’t know if it’s supposed to be the actual doctor, as in the rest of the films, he is played by Howard Vernon, plus the fact that Orloff is clearly alive through the rest of the films and much younger. So maybe this is supposed to take place at the end of the series? I dunno. BTW, in the French language version, he is just called Professor, so I don’t know that Franco intended this to be apart of the Orloff canon, nor do I think he thought much about the Orloff canon.But… aw, hell. I’ve done introduced him enough.
I’m gonna just watch the French version with subtitles, so I can see it how Franco actually intended it. For instance, the monster in French is called a robot.
I love the extreme close ups on Jekyll and Orloff during this scene. It’s very creepy, especially Orloff.
It’s kinda obscene seeing an old Gothic castle with power lines behind it.
Can I just say any time there’s silence in a film, so much so that we can hear the static of the original film stock, that kinda bugs me?
Here’s the Monster, looking very French in his black turtleneck. Seriously, they did a good job of putting him together. He only has a few scars around the jawline.
Here’s a girl doing a striptease in a French cafe. Jekyll uses a button to control the Monster (I guess he is robotic) to strangle her. Maybe it’s just because of the films I’ve seen this month, but I’ve seen way too many girls take their tops off lately… what am I saying?!? I will say this girl’s better looking then most of the others I’ve seen so far this month.
This tracking shot by the taxi is unusual for an exploitation film in that it’s decent cinematography. Really, there’s a good amount of solid cinematography in this flick thus far.
So this taxi driver, who’s hitting on Jekyll’s niece, offers to drive her to her uncle’s over 100 km away, which is… *has to look up this info on a metric converter, because American public schools suck*… about 62 miles! Who hits on a girl and offers to drive her 62 miles? What girl takes a guy up on that offer? I’m surprised this cab driver’s not pulling a Pepe LePew.
Actual translated quote: “I figured you’d go for a gloomy castle the way I go for Sophia Loren.” I know Sophia Loren is still a beautiful woman, but that really dates this film.
The taxi driver then offers to stay at a hotel in the area so he can call the girl and maybe ask her out. Okay, maybe my radar’s off, but ladies, creepy or romantic?
The low, tracking perspective shot of the castle as Jekyll’s niece is entering looks very nice. It’s quickly followed by a very nice high overhead shot inside the castle.
I looked it up on IMDb, but the niece’s name is Melissa, the taxi driver is Juan Manuel, the Monster is Andros, and Dr. Jekyll’s first name is Conrad. Really, Conrad? Forgive me for thinking it might be Henry.
Additionally, Jekyll has a sickly wife and a mistress. I guess the alternate title is accurate.
Through flashback audio, it’s shown Jekyll’s wife also had an affair, causing Jekyll to go a bit mad. I’m guessing he’s also the reason she’s sickly. The idea to tell that part of the story in audio while we see a shot of Jekyll driving head on is very cool.
I’m not judge of French songs, but this singer in the club ain’t bad.
Now that’s an interesting shot. We see the silhouette of two characters, though it’s just that they are unlit, in front of an image of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
One thing I notice about Franco’s work is that he makes great use of negative space, at least in his early work.
So, it turns out Andros was the former lover of Jekyll’s wife.
Even though all the characters speak French in this, the film is supposed to take place in Austria. Also, on IMDb, it shows most of the actors (and Franco himself) are Spanish. A real European affair.
Great use of light, shadow, camera movement, and space as Melissa first sees Andros. Very reminiscent of a Universal horror film.
Here we see a woman bathing. Andros creeps on in, causing her to… faint?… as he goes down the stairs, hits her boyfriend… killing?… him. I dunno, this scene could have been told better.
The singer’s back and singing a pretty cool song about a woman who’s so sexy she’s horrifying. Unfortunately, the subtitles can’t translate all of it.
Aw, man, Andros just killed the singer! The young die good. I know what I said. The camera movements in following Andros and the singer are pretty decent.
This police inspector is a real douche. He’s insinuating pretty much everyone he talks to is the killer of the singer and being real goddamn pompous about it.
There are so many small aspects of French acting I’d like to mention in some of these performances, but I wouldn’t know how because the are small, subtle, numerous, and some are kinda weird.
The family, except Jekyll, are singing a Christmas carol who’s words seem to only include the words “Happy night, Christmas, Merry Christmas” over and over. No wonder Jekyll just left the room pissed.
I’ll tell you, I feel like I’m losing parts of the plot from time to time and I think it’s because I am watching it in French with subtitles. Plus there are a good amount of characters and subplots, most of which I’m not even commenting on.
So, the one Jekyll’s wife cheated on him with was his own brother, Michelle’s father, who Jekyll then killed with a scalpel. So, I guess Andros is Michelle’s father, who sees the resemblance of her mother in her.
Here’s a weird scene where Jekyll, his mistress, and others are tripping on… I guess opium? Maybe pot? I dunno.
Okay, so apparently all the women Andros is killing for Jekyll are Jekyll’s mistresses. There have been 3 deaths thus far. How much does this guy sleep around?
Andros comes in and scares Jekyll’s wife to death. I knew she was sickly, but dang…
Jekyll tries to kill Michelle, because she knows of the murder of her father. She is saved by Andros, who fights with Jekyll, eventually strangling him to death. Juan Manuel tries to shoot Andros, but gets a strangling for his trouble. Luckily, Michelle saves him.
The cops show up and chase Andros. He gets away and they convince Michelle to act as bait for him. Once again, the cinematography and use of light and shadows are fairly good.
They finally kill Andros by shooting him (it’s weird it hasn’t worked before…) and he dies, asking “Why?”

Overall, I liked this movie. I think I prefer The Awful Dr. Orloff, as it had a better story to it and wasn’t as confusing. However, I could easily have just been confused by the subtitles, which weren’t the best. The plot itself kind falls apart 2/3 of the way through, only picking up again in the last 5 minutes or so. There were also a couple too many subplots for my liking in an exploitation flick. That being said, the acting is pretty decent from Jekyll and Michelle particularly. The singer has a great voice. But once again, the star of this film is Franco himself as the cinematography and lighting are all top notch, at least for an exploitation film. Like I said, he’s not a master, but he knew how to mirror the masters well enough to make a solid film. And this absolutely was solid. Not great, but very watchable. I may try to watch one more Franco film before the month is out, likely one of his later films to see if he kept up the quality of his films.

Tomorrow, I’ll review Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound.