Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Torso Directed By Sergio Martino, Starring Suzy Kendell (1973).
If there's one sub genre I really despise it's Giallo, but I'll be damned though if this doesn't have one entertaining credit sequence! A camera clicks while demented heavy breasted Lesbians get down to some horny business with freaky dolls. I've tried to watch this at 16000 video, which was a great trashy video store in Florida. I could never stay awake and had to bring it back before I could give it another watch. This is the first time I'd seen it since the mid 90s and it was never available on Netflix (it was always on save).

Most epic trailer of all time

    It's pretty mediocre, but easy on the eyeballs. The mystery elements are convoluted and irritating and the gore is minimal. But what do I know, I hate giallos!

   Torso is a very famous Giallo, but for me, it's a departure for Sergio "Monkey Javellin" Martino. I'm used to him shooting sweaty cannibals and slaughtering animals for the sake of Neo-realism. But I guess I'm biased because I've never seen a Giallo I liked (unless you count Argento's films). As most horror fans know Giallo is a term associated with cheap yello pulp trashy mystery novels that have overblown sentence titles like An Iguana with the Tongue of Fire or Black Belly of the Tarantula. It's almost always an animal in some crazy situation and to me equals cinematic tranquilizer. The scores are more enjoyable than the films.   

   After being mesmerized by one of the greatest trailers of all time, how could I not want to give Torso another chance! It was parodied by Edgar Wright as "Don't" in the fake trailers portion of Tarantino's "Grindhouse". There's never been a more cheaper and effective way to sell a Giallo than to have stings of fuzz guitar over extreme zooms and cartoon hacksaws.

I brought this to cut the birthday cake
   Torso opens at a college in Rome, as a killer in a ski mask spies on a couple humping in their car. The secluded location they pick, looks like a demolished construction site and doesn't seem very sexy to me. Most of the women in this film are really attractive and look like busty 70s models. They give away the clue early on that the killer cuts up women and imagines he's slicing a giant doll. So as a viewer, you suspect someone with these kinds of issues and mental hang-ups will eventually spill his guts to somebody and then you'll be able to figure out who the killer is. If I learned anything from Maniac or Mosquito The Rapist, it's that limp dicked wienies who cant perform for prostitutes and almost strangle them to death are dangerously unhinged criminal suspects. That's just what happens to this sweaty creep in a hotel room who's offered Swedish movies as an aphrodisiac. I think the college kids in Torso might get more action than the super horny ones in Pieces.
They smoke dope in abandoned buildings and grope each other, its soo European!

Check out the fun bag on this hose hound!

   One girl, who leaves the party in a huff is confronted by the serial killer out in the foggy woods. For some reason whenever I see someone in a ski mask, it reminds me of Ratfink and Boo Boo, or surf garage bands like The Go-Nuts and The Swiss Family Skiers. It's probably the least menacing costume a killer can wear, I don't think anyone would even flinch at Jason Voorhees' name had he worn a helmet crochet out of material from the yarn barn.

More appropriate attire for garage rock, not killing co-eds

The college students all seem like rapists and some girls begin to suspect one of them may be the killer on the loose. A bug-eyed cutie with orange hair played by Tina Aumont (Salon Kitty, 70's Playboy) is prank called by a guy doing a hilarious Alfred Hitchcock impression!

 One rodent-like creep who looks sort of like Richard O Brien as Riff Raff gets intentionally and repeatedly smooshed by a car until he dies. Well, there's one murder suspect you can cross of your checklist!

Cut it out, ugly people have feelings too Ya know!

   This Italian village looks like it's near a fallout shelter as a bunch of mutant townspeople drool over the scantily clad college girls joy riding around. They focus on a red scarf that a teacher wears, the bug-eyed redhead believes he used it to strangle a murder victim. The killer uses a variety of weapons, like hacksaws, knives and frilly scarves he's a total creampuff.

Stop ragging on my eye balls, I happen to have proptosis!

   The film starts to really drag toward the middle and even though girls start taking their clothes off, it get really tedious and threatens to sink the whole momentum. Then bang, the killer shows up at the cottage and murders all the girls accept Jane (Suzy Kendell). Too bad she gets trapped in her nice house while the killer slowly uses a hacksaw to chop up the bodies of her friends. Once the killer is finally unveiled, he has some great lines at the end and blames it all on "bitches", saying "Death is the best keeper of secrets". Torso is a typical Giallo infused slasher, it's enjoyable enough to keep it bobbing toward the surface but also duller than shit. But then again I'm not a fan or Giallo-Puddin', It's available from Blue-Underground. I've definitely seen worst, which is not a good recommendation.


I should've starred in To Sir With Love 2: Electric Boogaloo

Yeah reach for the doll, what could possibly happen?


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Collector's Item (La Gabbia)

Collector's Item (La Gabbia, The Trap) Starring Tony Musante, Directed By Giuseppe Patroni Griffi  (1985).

The first time I saw Tony Musante, he scared the shit out of me, playing a racist subway terrorist punk, along with Martin Sheen in The Incident. To me, he's never surpassed that role. He was also the lead in Dario Argento's landmark giallo, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, upstaged Franco Nero in The Mercenary  and later ended up on HBO's Oz. Before he starred in this film, he was in The Pope of Greenwich Village. Sadly, Musante died a year ago and was a very talented actor who will be missed.  

   I found this title leafing through the tattered catalog as usual, thinking this was just another "collectors item" from the famed Deep Red archives, but it turned out that it was just an alternate title for tonight's feature. It's an over stuffed manicotti, packed with all kinds of talented meatballs! 
  Let's see-- we got Lucio Fulci's chubby sausage fingers behind the typewriter, Roberto Leoni (the cowriter of Santa Sangre), Florinda Bolkan from Don't Torture a Duckling and Flavia The Heretic on board and Cristina (Opera) Marsillach. Also Morricone is slumming it again, providing the funky bass heavy score.
It's a bubbling cheesy lasagna crammed with all kinds of Italian Horror stars! 
And wouldn't you know, just in time for the holidays here at ToG Headquarters--it's Christmas time! Michael's (Musante) wife, played by Florinda has to go and visit their son on Christmas, leaving the door open for this letch to cheat on her.

Answer the door for your mystery date

   In Michael's apartment, they establish that someone behind a peephole is watching his every move. It turns out to be Marie Colbert (played by Laura Antonelli), a former lover of his. They flash back and forth to the past and present a lot during this film to illustrate their relationship. Young Marie is played by Cristina Marsillach, the girl whose eyelids were held open by scotch tape and nails in Argento's Opera. That actress is way too pretty to be believable as Marie Colbert, but it works to our benefit because we get to see her naked and she looks amazing!

Gorgonzola cheese by Calvin Klein

   This anonymous sexual encounter from the past, coincidentally has come back to roost and not in his favor. Fulci, you sly dog--you nailed it out of the park with the ultra-sleazy Devil's Honey--so I'm inclined to trust that you can pull off another erotic thriller with gusto! I'm not familiar with director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, but he seems too classy to be involved with Italian horror. Speaking of the Devil's HoneyBlanca Marsillach (Christina's sister) played the twisted sexual dominator in that film. This would make a nice double feature for people who want to see what kind of demented torture she's capable of as an accomplished actress. At one of the Castro Theatre screenings, they did something similar with actress Isabella Adjani, when they pared Possession (Zulawski 1981) with The Tenant (Polanski 1976).

Who's gonna tickle me till I pee?

   Collector's Item is smeared with a little too much vaseline on the lense and not enough dirt and grime (the kind we all love here at ToG). I'm thinking Griffin smoothed over some of the more hideous elements of the Fulci script and plugged it up with more sequins and elderly ladies in granny garters. When Musante and Antonelli have relations, it skeeved me out, they are both in the geriatric set and it just feels wrong. 

AARP Viagra ad

   Marie feels guilty about the sexual reunion and cries afterward. Michael stayed behind, so he could cheat on his wife, whatever happens, he deserves the consequences. Colbert gets a tad bit possessive at first, possibly just the flicker of a psychotic firestorm thats brewing for later. They all have a pathetic forced surrogate family Christmas and I'm thinking the eggnog will finish with him getting it on with mother and daughter. His sexual conquest plans derail, as Marie drugs his drink and ties him up in a creepy foodie (food+sex) S&M way. No safe words though, just humiliation games, only benefitting her revenge. Some Christmas this turned out to be!   

Geez Mom, you win at shower handgun Connect 4 again.

   The daughter engages in some of these sick games as well and won't untie Michael. The worst part is that Colbert isn't even interested in more sex, she wants to keep him prisoner, until he decides to marry her and leave his current wife. One very gross scene has her smear Foie Gras and Caviar on his head and chest hair!

I said I don't like German poop sex

   In La Gabbia, the version I saw, Musante is dubbed and you can audibly hear his real voice during the caviar scene go "You Fucking Nut!" It's pretty funny.
   Jacqueline gives Michael blue balls, by cozying up to him while he's tied up and then leaving the room. The mother and daughter are an incestial, sadistic duo of some sort. There's no gore and this is not really a horror film, but the Caviar matted into Musante's hair and face looks disgusting. This is a great performance for him, I do miss hearing that gritty street thug voice, that's the only complaint I have. I'm pretty sure there's a non-dubbed version, which may slightly be edited. The psychotic mother and daughter stab him and stitch the wound back together, but have no idea what they are doing and it gets infected. This besides the icky food getting stuck to different places, is the grossest scene and the wound looks like it's smeared with mustard and ketchup! Maybe the makeup and craft services guy were the same.

No, I don't want to play Santa Sangre hand puppets again!

    The cracked Marie seems to have a history of getting fixated on different men, torturing them then dumping them. The ending is very abrupt and they expect you to connect the dots (besides Fulci this was written by two others), they should have picked up the slack for sure.

   The Marsillach sisters look extremely sexy and both show full bush, even if you absolutely hate this kind of erotic eurotrash, at least there's that to latch onto. 
   Collector's Item is very classy with a hint of sleaze lingering throughout, the only flaw for me, was that it ending, because you're all invested in what's going to happen next. It has that kind of Argento finale, where things are resolved, but then something jarring or frustrating happens to cap it off. 

"Have you seen your mother Baaby, slatherin dudes in Foie Gras"

   All in all, Collector's Item is worth checking out, it's fun in a trashy soap opera kind of way, with elements of supreme weirdness thrown in. Critics online have compared this to Fatal Attraction, which came out a few years later and I see only a flimsy connection, this is definitely not a ripoff of that big budget flick. 


Yummy nourishing Booze

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Unearthed Works of Kris Gilpin: Interview with Don Gordon


You've seen the face for the past 30 years. Don Gordon worked with the late Steve McQueen (they were good friends) in three films, including Bullitt. He was Dennis Hopper's drinkin' buddy in The Last Movie and Out Of The Blue. He's played rednecks, bad guys (as in his early Twilight Zone episode "The Four Of Us Are Dying") and a slew of cops, the latest one, seen in Exorcist 3. He's appeared in the TV shows Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Outer Limits, The Wild Wild West, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea and The Invaders and got his head ripped off in The Beast Within, which he gets a big kick out of talking about. He's been around a longtime; one of our best, most natural character actors, he was the original Joe Cool. And he's just as nice a guy as you would expect him to be. Many thanks for finally meeting and speaking with Don Gordon in the late summer of 1990 and to Crank and the usual gang of idiots at ToG Headquarters for transcribing all this for me and Greg Goodsell for finding it in a dumpster for your viewing enjoyment. 

Kris Gilpin: So what you got coming out?

Don Gordon: Exorcist. It's going to be called Exorcist 3. Because William Peter Blatty who wrote the first Exorcist had nothing to do with the second one. He hated that movie so he wanted to do this one. It's got George C. Scott, me. . . it should be out now.

Don on the Left next to George DiCenzo in Exorcist 3

KG: What do you play?

DG: A cop. So does George C. It should be an interesting movie.

KG: You've played a lot of cops haven't you? 

DG: Yeah.

KG: Ever get tired of it?

DG: NO. . . played a lot of cops and a lot of heavies. It doesn't matter, I just act.

KG: OK, what's the most fun part you've ever had and why? Does any one part stand out?

DG: Yeah. I think the role I had in Bullitt. I played Steve McQueen's partner. I loved doing that movie. We were three months in San Francisco, didn't shoot in any studio because McQueen had his own company and we just had fun. We worked hard--we worked slowly but it was a very elegant way to work. We'd spend an entire day on a scene, just to get it right. That's nice.

Don with McQueen in Bullitt

KG: I saw that movie ten or twenty times when it first came out in like 1967, now it's like a classic cop flick.

DG: You know it was the father, the grandfather, the sire of the car chase movie that's so common today. Before Bullitt, no one had ever seen a chase like that. Steve and I were good friends. He was probably my best friend. We drove motorcycles together. One night, we were firing down a hill. He took off on a bike, hit a bump on a hill, got airborne, came down, looked back and said, "That's what I'm gonna do in this movie. I'm gonna do that in a car!" He did his own driving in Bullitt. 

KG: So all that was his idea?

DG: Yeah, he came up with the idea.

KG: What was the toughest shoot you ever had to go through?

DG: The toughest shoot was The Last Movie with Dennis Hopper because it was in the Andes.

KG: That's one of my favorite movies because it's so fucking weird, What did you think when you read the script?

DG: The script had nothing to do with the movie. Dennis called me and said "I'm going to do a movie in Peru and I'd like you to be in it". And everybody was in that movie. And so I went to meet Dennis on Sunset Blvd. and he gave me a script. I brought it with me to Peru and he asked me if I read it, but we improvised. When we came back and saw the rushes, there were hours and hours of film. He could have made a trilogy of movies! I don't know why it was put out the way it was. . . it was probably the studio.

KG: So he had a linear story line with an ending included and he just wanted to do something else with it?

DG: That's what I'm saying.

KG: Cause the film literally has no end. . . the last shot of the movie was this long assed improv of you guys sitting by the camp bitching at each other. . .

DG: Well that's taken out of context. There were about seven of those campfire scenes. Each one was improvised and ran about ten minutes each. We're talking over an hour of us sitting around bullshitting. That actors that saw them loved it. Did you find the movie disturbing?

Liquid fuel for creative genius

KG: (pause) I wouldn't call it disturbing, purposely disorienting maybe, I thought it was "Hopper's Satyricon", But I like alternative weird stuff. 

DG: I think that movie is meant to be felt and perhaps a year later, thought about. I think Dennis did an incredible thing. He wanted the audience to feel a certain way and did it. It's like "what is reality and what is the dream world?"

KG: The shots, especially of you two drinking and laughing . . . it looked like a big party, You guys actually must have partied for days to get that footage, right?

DG: Yeah, it was like a party but you must remember that it was very professional. Once we got on the set, there was no fucking around. Everybody was there to do a specific job and you'd better know what you're doin' because Dennis is a very tough taskmaster. He's a professional man and he's always been professional . . . wacky sometimes, but who isn't? We did party but it was hard work too. It was physically the hardest shoot.

Hopper, directing The Last Movie

KG: You must have some crazy anecdote working with all those characters?

DG: I was there for about a month when Dennis and I got into a car and started driving up high in the Andes. We were up about 17,000 feet and we would drive along and the crew would be behind us in trucks. When Dennis would see something, he'd grab Laslo Kovacs, who was the cameraman, we'd stop and go running across and shot a scene. One night we didn't know where we were gonna sleep, so we were driving along and saw this little building. You have to understand we were in the Andes on top of the world . . . there's nothing up there! The sky is incredible! There's this little church. Now we all go to sleep in it and it's cold. On the alter, there's this glass box. In that glass box is the head of Christ--very weird. I go to sleep and somebody shakes me, "Hey man, wake up!" It's Dennis. I ask what's the matter? He says, "Come here, I wanna show you something", so we go outside. Up in the air is a comet. Very freaky right? He says, "Now come here. How many people are in the church?" There were 13 of us--12 apostles and Jesus Christ make thirteen. So I got very freaked out!

Get me out of this terrarium ese!

KG: So would the guys from Universal be runnin' around saying "What the fuck it this?" what are you sending us? Were they freaking out?

DG: I don't know. It's amazing to me that pictures get down as well as they do today with these guys who are in there with their shiny shoes and their machines. Why don't they leave the movies alone. Let directors make their movies and let producers produce their own movies, maybe they'd come out with some great product. Everybody wants to make 200 million dollars the first week.

KG: Absolutely, now, in the 9 years between The Last Movie and Out Of The Blue, did you see any kind of change in Dennis; his style or the way he directed?

DG: No.

KG: Obviously he tried to keep this one more in check, he hadn't made a film in years . . .

DG: Let's get this straight. Universal went after him after he did Easy Rider. They pursued him and asked him to please do a movie. They're the ones who said, "You can do anything you want". They did.

KG: The scenes of you two drinking for hours and bullshitting really looked real. You guys must've been wasted when you were doin' the scenes, right?

DG: No, I don't drink.

KG: Wow, that was really incredible. You looked like you two were friends for a hundred years and were just shit-faced.

Not really drunk?

DG: Well, we'd been friends for a long time but Dennis doesn't drink when he's working.

KG: OK, you started out in the early days of really fun half hour episodic series like Hitchcock, Outer Limits, The Invaders, what were those like?

DG: They were fun to do. I started out in live television . . . live! It was like doing a play and a movie at the same time. I used to do Robert Montgomery Presents . . . two shows. One at ten o' clock New York time and another at midnight; we'd do it again for the West Coast. They didn't tape in those days. You'd do it, go out and eat, come back and do it again! No audience, just cameras.

KG: How did you like getting your head ripped off in The Beast Within?

DG: Yeah, it was great. It was freaky watching it!

KG: So they used you up to the last moment?

DG: Yeah. First of all, they made a full cast out of my body and my head,which was a pain in the ass. So when you saw my head getting ripped off, it was my body and I got to watch my own head being torn off. It was shot in Mississippi. A weird place, Mississippi. Great people but a lot of ghosts there.

Don as The Judge getting brutally decapitated 

KG: Ghosts? Literally?

DG: Yeah, you could feel 'em. There was a lot of shit going on. We shot in an insane asylum and my wife and I were taken to a ward to see these people by a doctor. These were homicidal maniacs, all walking around inside. Now within, where these guys are walking were cells. And there were some that were bad, they were kept locked up from the other maniacs in the same area. We passed this one guy and he starts looking at my wife. And I suddenly realized, he wasn't looking at her sexually. He was looking at her as though she were a pork chop! And I asked the doc about him and he says "Oh yeah, the guy's a cannibal". Yeah, he stabbed somebody and started eating them. The reason they kept him locked up was that one of these homicidal maniacs had a pet pigeon and this one got ahold of the pigeon and ate him!

KG: Wow! Are you a genre fan? You know, science fiction, fantasy, horror?

DG: No. I used to be. I was a Ray Bradbury fan but that's about it. I was a fan of 2001. I was a fan of The Day The Earth Stood Still, but I gotta be honest with you. I don't like science fiction now with a lot of tits and ass. I mean that's not science fiction, you know what I'm saying? Or when they show these broads very seductive. It used to be that it was all left to the imagination . . . and it was better.

The kind of naked Sci-Fi Don doesn't approve of

KG: How did you like doing blaxploitation with Slaughter or The Mack?

DG: Well, I thought I was doing something that would help and not hurt people, but I think black exploitation films are just that! I liked doing Slaughter--that's not a blaxploitation film to me. I love Jim Brown, a terrific man. 

KG: You mean you think blaxploitation hurts people? How come?

DG: I think they exploited the black audience. I'm talking early on . . . I don't know about now.

KG: Yeah, I interviewed Richard Roundtree for DRAMALOGUE and I said, "What were the early days of blaxploitation like?" and he leaned back and almost got pissed off with the term. He said, you know, you don't ask people what "white-ploitation" is like and I said you're absolutely right. So he doesn't even like the term.

DG: I don't blame him. It's just another movie.

KG: In summary, what do you want to do from here? Direct?

DG: No, I'm an actor. I'm too old to direct--these guys want 25 year olds to direct--but I'd love to. I'd like to be in a TV series. I'd like some young guy to be the lead with a girl and I'd be the third guy. I love working and TV is steady work.

KG: Any particular role you'd like?

DG: A cop. I love playing a cop (I loved the racist boob fondling cop, he played in The Mack .ed)

KG: You're the best Don!

You can't trust a Gazelle but you can trust a K9!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

She Beast

(a.k.a. LA SORELLA DI SATANA / “Satan’s Sister” [It]; IL LAGO DI SATANA / “Satan’s Lake” [alt It]; THE REVENGE OF THE BLOOD BEAST [US])
Italy, 1965

Review by Steve Fenton

Kicking off this fast-paced little film is a prologue wherein a hideous old bag of a witch named Vardella (which was also the film’s original shooting title) is captured by superstitious (what else?!) Transylvanian villagers, who promptly dispose of her by roping her to a ducking-stool and – as if that wasn’t indignity enough – then proceed to drive a metal spike through her spine (and quite a grisly scene it is too). Her body is then unceremoniously consigned to an unconsecrated watery grave in the local lake. However, before Vardella finally bites it, she succeeds in hissing out a nasty curse at her assembled tormenters: they killed her, but she will be back, so they better watch out…

This isn't my first unholy resurrection

Centuries later, a freshly-married couple – Philip (Ian Ogilvy, star of the ’80s remake of THE SAINT teleseries) and Veronica (Italy’s then reigning ‘Scream Queen’ Barbara Steele, who was paid a measly 5-grand for the gig) – are off on a sightseeing honeymoon through Transylvania (actually rural Italy outside Rome) that brings them right smack-dab into the vicinity of the very lake where Vardella got dunked, dumped in and died long ago.

Stopping at a “quaint” rustic roadside inn, the newlyweds seek lodging from the boorish, shifty-eyed proprietor, Ladislav Groper (actor-director Mel Welles: best known as florist Gravis Mushnick in Corman’s LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS [USA, 1961]) and meet the at-first-impression rather dotty Von [sic] Helsing (American-born frequent Italo industry character player John Karlsen), who is related to local aristocracy and is soon revealed to possess an extensive working knowledge of the region’s occult history and customs, which of course comes in mighty handy later.

I finally ate that stupid plant, Mushnick wins!

Events move at a brisk if leisurely, ‘holiday’-like pace, the overall tone quite lighthearted in the wake of that nasty prologue, with attempts at comic relief highly in evidence (e.g., the grumbling, surly innkeeper’s antics, Von Helsing riding on a swing with obvious juvenile delight, etc). But in not too long the creepy-crawling business starts again, and unexpectedly we’re treated to more than a couple of effective, no-frills shocks, which can sometimes register that much more strongly when contrasted by humor. That approach either works or it doesn’t, and here it is sometimes quite effective.

This skull and bible combo should keep my erection at bay

Propelling the main narrative (based on a script by Paul Maslansky), upstanding hero Ogilvy catches Welles as that untrustworthy innkeeper – who amongst other things is a lecherous peeping tom – mentally slapping the bishop right underneath the bride and groom’s conjugal windowsill (while shot very chastely, their love scene is quite frank in its implications for 1965). Understandably disgusted by the Welles character’s voyeuristic activity, Ogilvy gets his new wife out of there ASAP; but, while making their retreat, having been accidentally forced off the highway by a passing truck, the couple’s car comes to rest in the very same lake from the prologue (i.e., Vardella’s not-so-final ‘resting’ place). The trucker drags what should rightfully be Veronica from the water, but in her place Ogilvy is justifiably horrified to discover the soggy, poor-condition remains of she whom he later learns is Vardella, a 200-year-old witch-bitch from hell! As predicted, the corpse shortly returns to life (and here’s one of those creepy scares I mentioned), kills a man (there’s another one), then goes on a localized murder spree, as per the malingering malediction she had placed on the vicinity all those years before.

I was a teenage Van Helsing, no one would ever make that film!

Seeking the eccentric Von Helsing’s aid, skeptical young realist Ogilvy and the learned senior scholar of supernature join forces to hunt down the elusive reanimated witch, who has taken possession of Steele’s Veronica so that she may live again inside her unwilling hostess’ body, which is by far preferable to her own mangy carcass (both to her and to us!). There is only a limited period left before Vardella shall become Veronica completely, and the transfer will thereafter be irreversible… so time is of the essence.

During the sundry chase scenes which form a large part of the climax, the ghoulish effect of the witch – which was played by a male actor in a rubber mask, but subdued lighting often endows it with an impressively nightmarish appearance – is softened somewhat by the slapstick, ‘Keystone Kops’-like spectacle of the bumbling local constabulary as they seek to apprehend our heroes. Ogilvy as Philip and Karlsen as Von Helsing must out of necessity re-enact the exact circumstances of Vardella’s death in the lake, but their timing must be spot-on if they wish to reclaim Veronica and simultaneously end the hag’s vengeful killing spree along with her unnaturally sustained unlife.

I'm taking Steve Miner to court for ripping my character off in House.

Needless to say, the vile Vardella finds herself back in her soggy grave, Veronica returns to Philip, and they all drive off Europe-bound in Von Helsing’s cute little yellow Rolls Royce, which adds a sweet capper to a sometimes pretty gloomy plot. Originally, a far darker ending had been proposed, only to be scrapped as economically unfeasible. According to star Ogilvy when later interviewed for Cinefantastique magazine during an overview of Michael Reeves’ career, his character and Steele as his onscreen bride were due to return to England, where, while they are in bed together he sees that she has again reverted to become Vardella, the putrescent witch; which might have made for quite the shocking twist, if handled right.

Can you direct me to the nearest McDonalds, I'm one of their short lived characters

A real quickie for sure, THE SHE BEAST was shot over a rushed two-and-a-half-week schedule, during which the cast and crew toiled for long hours on the set and were paid piecemeal as the shoot progressed. Watching this movie, you can observe the fetal development of ill-fated, short-lived director Reeves’ wunderkind style (THE SORCERERS [UK, 1967] and WITCHFINDER GENERAL [UK, 1968], both also starring Ogilvy, are wildly dissimilar must-see items of cynical, brooding horror). Don’t let THE SHE BEAST’s on-the-cheap, ‘loose’ quality hinder your indulgence… It’s also got lots of style, and a lot of Steele goes a long way.

Tell me something I don't know!

Note: Prior to co-directing the present title with Welles, Reeves had served as assistant director on Warren Kiefer’s eerie period Gothic horror melodrama IL CASTELLO DEI MORTI VIVENTI / a.k.a. CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (Italy, 1964), starring Christopher Lee; although Reeves never actually directed any of Lee’s scenes. THE SHE BEAST’s co-director Welles has frequently been mistaken for German filmmaker Ernst von Theumer, and vice versa, which is not the case. Circa the ’60s, Welles also served as co-producer (along with one Richard Lewellen) on a travelling horror show (“Live On Stage”) entitled ORGY OF EVIL (ad: “Your Nightmares Will Never Be The Same!”). Other lurid ad-copy for the show promised: “SEE… A virgin beheaded on the guillotine. SEE… The dance of the undead. SEE… A man burned on the funeral pyre. SEE… A victim impaled on the silver spikes. SEE… A ripsaw cut into human flesh. SEE… The fiends of hell appear.” The show toured in Australia to some extent, but I am unsure if it ever made it to North America (?).

THE SHE BEAST was formerly available on North American Beta/VHS cassette from Gorgon / MPI Home Video. It’s also floating around on DVD from any number of cheapo vidcos, so it’s not hard to find. I’m unsure what the optimum disc version is.

Dark-Sky Films has a restored edition available.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Twilight of the Cockroaches (1987)

Twilight of the Cockroaches (1987, aka "Gokiburi-tachi no Tasogare", directed by Hiroaki Yoshida, screenplay by Hiroaki Yoshida. English version dialogue by Steve Kramer.)

Review By Goat Scrote

     There’s something about roaches that triggers deep revulsion in most human beings. Perhaps it’s right down in our genes to recognize them as an ancient enemy, a despoiler of food and invader of our homes. The cockroaches see things differently, of course. This is their story.
     “Twilight of the Cockroaches” is a a fantasy-melodrama about the fall of a cockroach civilization. It uses a fusion of animation and live action to tell the tell of a tribe of cockroaches living in a paradise: The apartment of slobby drunk Mr. Saitô (Kaoru Kobayashi), who treats them almost like pets. Paradise starts to unravel when  Saitô-san gets a girlfriend (Setsuko Karasum) and cleans up his act. The concept is similar to the later American film “Joe’s Apartment” (1996) but this movie is better.

ジョーのアパート (Joe's Apartment)

     The animation is cartoony, as you’d expect from a 1980s anime feature. The color palette is very dark. The animated cockroaches are highly anthropomorphic to help make them easier for us to identify with. We see the world from  their perspective at floor level and from inside cracks in the walls. Even a human toe seems to take on a gigantic scale. The score by Morgan Fisher is beautiful, especially the heart-aching main piano theme. The human characters have no dialogue at all but their expressions and actions speak for them.

Let's leave some Roach feces in this continental breakfast.
     Naomi is a young female cockroach, age 19 in roach years. Her peaceful tribe lives in harmony with their human host. Naomi and her fiancee Ichiro greet Mr. Saitô and he simply ignores them and drinks liquor. Food is plentiful and available to all, and they can travel safely anywhere in the apartment without fear. The cockroaches are having a huge party and Naomi and Ichiro have a discussion about moving in together. Life is happy and domestic for the cockroaches.

just call me an Asian Paul Lynde as Templeton the rat, "Smorgasborg, Forgusnord!"

     A strange roach appears, Hans, from a tribe in another apartment nearby. It looks like Hans has had too much plastic surgery. His people are trapped in endless warfare against the humans they live with.
     The local roaches celebrate Armistice Day, when their own war with humankind came to an end. The way the cockroaches tell the story, the other side retreated. The horrible roach-slaying family moved away and their “savior”  Mr. Saitô moved in. The roaches take a slightly superior attitude toward the tribes elsewhere who can’t seem to make peace with their human hosts. They are quite content, oblivious to the fact that it can’t last for long.

If I give her some money will she finally leave?

     Naomi finds out one of her friend is pregnant again by a new lover. What a cockroach slut! When Hans leaves, Naomi realizes she has developed feelings for him. She goes outside and meets a genteel talking turd. The stop-motion turd directs her after Hans. Ichiro and the others are concerned for her but a severe storm prevents them from following. After many trials in the hostile outdoors, Naomi arrives at the apartment where Hans lives.

offical Talking Turd action figures found in some China Town shops

     Life is hard in the other apartment. They must struggle for every bit of food. They drive away the human preparing a meal, but the family comes back armed with swatters and bug-spray. Hans throws himself in front of the aerosol can to prevent the spray from hitting others, and survives it. For some reason Hans has a heavy fake German accent even though his peers mostly don’t even try to pretend. He and Naomi quickly become a couple.
     Ichiro, back at the other tribe, is a little delusional and refuses to call off the wedding. A politician claims that God chose the roaches to inherit the world. The self-satisfied complacency of the peaceful roach tribe is apparent. Naomi accidentally gets carried back across the field to her old home in a purse, and Ichiro is overjoyed.

The S&M portion of a typical anime wedding.
     The wedding goes forward as if nothing happened but the human woman begins smashing the roaches mid-ceremony. The roach leader promises to meet with Mr. Saitô to figure out what happened. He soon ends up impaled on a dartboard, but that's not the only sign of trouble. The human girlfriend comes over armed with bags of supplies. The humans begin the genocide with clouds of bug spray. The roaches watch as the poisonous jet gets closer and closer, unable to believe what they’re seeing until too late. Whole families get sucked up in a vacuum cleaner. Oh the humanity!

What about the ozone, jerk?
     “Humans love cockroaches!” Ichiro insists, until he learns the true history of the tribe. The Armistice Day story is a lie made up by their leader. The reality is that Saitô has lived there since the old days. He was their great enemy until his wife and daughter left. Now that there is a woman back in his life he is going to begin the slaughter again. He even uses a rapid-fire pellet gun to shoot roaches.
     The other cockroach tribe shows up in force, their soldier in disciplined ranks unlike Ichiro's soft decadent tribe. Naomi reunites with Hans and the love triangle is revealed but they mutually agree to settle their personal issues after the war. That's pretty sensible!

     The soldiers attack the humans in force but they’re up against bug-bombs which fill the room with insecticide. Bug spray, bug powder, and stomping feet turn it into a slaughter. The humans have had enough and start dropping poison into the vents and spaces in the walls. Hans is the last of the soldiers to be crushed.
     The cockroach civilization is devastated. Naomi prays to the idol of her people, a toy rabbit, and the spirit of one of her ancestors speaks to her. An unmerciful God created humans to test the cockroaches, to refine them by culling the weak. It is Naomi’s destiny to carry her stronger traits forward. Ichiro finds Naomi but she gets blasted with poison. Ichiro is blown apart by Saitô-san’s pellet gun.
All praise Bun-Bun, Dread Lord of the Cosmos!

     Naomi is not dead, however. As a result of selective breeding among the roaches, she is more poison resistant than the others. She grows to old age after bearing a litter of offspring partially fertilized by both of the cockroaches she loved, restarting the cycle of cockroach civilization.
     It’s an odd little movie and the use of animation and live action together is inventive, especially for this era. The movie is clearly intended to be deeply thought-provoking but never quite got there for me. It’s a little bit depressing but moderately entertaining.
     3/5 - Slightly Recommended.

The female Titan is attacking!

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