Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Most Dangerous Game, Not Quite King Kong

Almost "King Kong, which would premier in 1933, but 1932's "The Most Dangerous Game," one might say, birthed the classic gorilla flick.  Like "King Kong," this film stars Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong.  Both these films had David O. Selznick, Merian Cooper, and Ernest Schoedsack involved in the making and production.  Also, like "King Kong," this film has also been re-made, but even more frequently than the gorilla epic.  In fact, readers of this blog may find the plot of today's feature a bit familiar.  Both Turkey Shoot and Awaken , which have been reviewed on this blog, are terrific rip-offs of "The Most Dangerous Game."
Bob (Joel McCrea), a big game hunter, is the only survivor of a shipwreck.  The wreck was no accident. The evil and eccentric Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks) lures ships into a coral reef near his island, with the intention of sinking them.  Survivors who make it to his island are welcomed into his castle, treated with much hospitality, and then set loose for the Count to hunt.  Bob arrives and meets some earlier castaways including the lovely Eve (Wray) and her brother Martin (Armstrong). Eve warns Bob that the other survivors were taken out hunting by the Count and never returned.
You guessed it, the Count is bored with animals and now seeks the most dangerous game...man! As Eve and Bob snoop around, looking for Martin, they find the Count's trophy room and the severed heads of his human kills.  The game is on, our evil host sets the two budding lovebirds loose on the island for a hunt no one has ever survived.  But wait!  Bob is no ordinary prey.  He is an expert hunter himself, and instead of behaving like prey, he and Eve will also turn hunter.
Faye Wray is stunning and will be wet a lot as her clothes are gradually torn to shreds...not that we care about this.  For 1932, this film is very gory, showing a graphic shipwreck with sharks eating passengers, and also the aforementioned severed heads.  Will Bob and Eve have a chance to cultivate their love?  Will Count Zaroff be fair in his hunting methods? If she survives the hunt, will Eve emerge as the diminutive wallflower she was before the hunt?  Treat yourself to one of the most re-made films in cinematic history, catch "The Most Dangerous Game" on YouTube.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dark Age, Another Aussie Killer Croc Film

One might argue that 1987's "Dark Age" is merely another Australian crocodile film, which offers nothing new.  That would be unfair.  Yeah, I do admit that much of this film may be interpreted as a cheap rip-off of "Jaws."  Entire scenes seem to be lifted out of Spielberg's expensive rip-off of "Moby Dick."  However...would you rather see a gratuitous rip-off of "Jaws" or a rip-off of "Silkwood"?  For horror fans, "Dark Age" is an interesting film which inspired many plot devices in those made-for-Syfy films.
Okay, a 25 foot Australian saltwater crocodile starts eating everyone...including a cute little aboriginal boy. An evil monster to some, but to a wise old Aborigine, Oondabund (Burnham Burnham), it is a deity.  In fact Oondabund has some sort of psychic connection to the thing.  Enter a park ranger, Steve (John Jarratt). He is in charge of monitoring the croc population and is real stupid. He will have lots of numb-skull ideas.  Also enter the beautiful anthropologist, Cathy (Nikki Coghill). She is Steve's GF and always reminds him how stupid he is and how awful he is. The chemistry between Steve and Cathy will remind you of the Diet Coke and Mento experiment. They have lots of passionate pre-marital sex, and afterwards, instead of a cigarette, she yaps to him about how he mistreats her and never wanted commitment.  We can only hope she becomes gator bait!
As tourist dollars are jeopardized, Steve and Oondabund hatch a really stupid idea...and ironically...Cathy likes it.  This will entail capturing the monster alive with tranquilizer darts.  Yeah...tranquilizer darts always work out well in these films...almost as good as Ouija boards. The croc will eat more Aussies and eventually a small reward sends every gun-toting, beer guzzling Aussie after the thing.  As the idiot Steve and his aborigine pals set out on their plan, some local-yokels grab axes, shotguns, and harpoons and follow.
Will Cathy get eaten?  Is the monster croc really a god?  Are anthropologists all hot, or is this a sexist plot device put out by B horror film makers for exploitative purposes?  Directed by Arch Nicholson, "Dark Age" has lots of kills, which we usually cheer at.  Not a masterpiece, but still better than any Meryl Streep film.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Frankenstein's Island, Bikini Babes vs. Frankenstein

All well respected literary journals agree that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was a near miss on being considered a great classic.  the Oxford Review of Literature quotes, "...perhaps a more drastic plot device to anchor this story to the sublime. Bikini clad Amazon women, for example, is just what Shelley's story thirsts for."  So in 1981, "Frankenstein's Island" was released in order to fill out Shelley's horror story and perhaps convert it into a timeless classic.  After all, is there any film plot in which very alluring bikini clad women, who run and jump a lot, will not enhance?
So here we go!  Four guys, riding a hot air balloon (don't ask) are blown off course. They land on a mysterious island occupied by babes wearing leopard skin bikinis.  They run around, dance, jump up and down, and charm snakes.  The four guys immediately befriend their potential mates.  But wait!  Mutant goons emerge and hunt down the girls.  The girls are brought back to a secret lab run by Dr. Frankenstein's granddaughter, Sheila (Katherine Victor).  Oh yes, a crew of sailors, captained by Clay (Cameron Mitchell) are also discovered.  Sheila keeps Clay alive as his blood is needed for transfusions.
The bikini babes dance and run some more, and we learn Sheila is in touch with Dr. Frankenstein's spirit in order to channel life itself and to cure death...or something like that.  As mutants grab more of the bikini clad babes, the lovelies team up with our balloonists, grab a big machine gun, and attempt a rescue and destroy mission on Sheila's lab.  In preparation for this, the bikini babes dance and jump around some more.  As the final battle approaches, guess who appears from a cave?  Yep, the Frankenstein creature himself.  I stop here, but is there really any more one needs in a plot?
Will the nubile bikini babes prevail against the creature, Sheila, and the mutants?  Will we be treated to any cat-fights among the bikini clad babes?  Gratuitous and exploitative, "Frankenstein's Island" is highly praised in the halls of the Oxford Review of Literature."  A guilty pleasure indeed, however, Mary Shelley would have been well pleased.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Slaughter of the Vampires, The Romance of the Vampire Tale

From Italy, we have a vampire tale which will appeal to fans of romance novels.  1964's "The Slaughter of the Vampires"  (aka "Curse of the Blood Ghouls") is equipped with flowery language, a big castle, a waltz in the ballroom, and a hunk prince-type fawning all over the vulnerable, buxom lady dressed in white gowns.  Don't fret guys, this film has a really attractive leading woman, lots of vulnerable cleavage action, and some vampires. Directed by Roberto Mauri, probably for the benefit of his wife or GF, let us take a look a neat Gothic horror tale.
As our tale begins, a vampire (Dieter Eppler) and his babe vampire wife are fleeing angry townsfolk. The vampire gets away, but his wife is skewered with a dozen pitchforks.  He gets out of Dodge and finds himself back at his old castle where he sets up his coffin in the cellar.  Times change, and so do real estate deeds, as Wolfgang (Walter Brandi) and his buxom wife Louise (Graziella Granata) have moved in.  On their first night they throw a formal ball and all the ladies are dressed in ornate ball gowns.  Our vampire awakens and wanders upstairs and is immediately captivated by Louise's cleavage....er, beauty.
Game on, he puts Louise under his spell and bites her in her bedroom.  She'll become his vampire bride.  Wolfgang, clueless that he is, needs help.  He fetches Dr. Nietzsche (Luigi Batzella) from Vienna.  Yep, nothing new here for the good doctor.  He knows exactly what they're dealing with, and begins a war against the vampire.  He better hurry as everyone in the estate is in danger of being bitten, from the beautiful governess to the groundskeeper's little daughter. The hungry fiend, and his new bride set their sights, or fangs, on anything that moves....and has cleavage.
Gothic and melodramatic, this is still an enjoyable film during moon-lit evenings.  The women, living and undead, are stunning, and the men who protect them are handsome and over matched. Available on YouTube, if you guys want your GF or wife to watch a horror film with you, try "The Slaughter of the Vampires."

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hell High, Revenge of the Homicidal Educator

Teachers aren't paid enough.  We trust them with our most precious asset, and still ridiculous athletes make hundreds of times more money than them.  How can we blame these heroic educators if they go a little crazy sometimes?  In 1989's "Hell High," we meet a biology teacher who goes a little crazy. Warning, this is a weird and awkward film, but the last 30 minutes are worth waiting for.
As a little girl, cute Brooke accidentally murders two nymphomaniac teens (who among us hasn't had similar indiscretions in our youth?).  In fact, the two lovebirds end up impaled on lots of rusty spikes.  18 years later, Brooke (Maureen Mooney) is a high school science teacher.  Even better, no one knows she skewered two unfortunates years ago. Unstable, Brooke is harassed by a quartet of sadistic teens.  Dickens (Christopher Stryker) is the leader of the gang, and he's a weird one.  Queenie (Millie Prezioso) is the lone female in the group, and quite the tease.  Jon Jon (Christopher Cousins) is an ex- jock who has been adopted by the weirdos.  Smiler (Jason Brill) is the fat, obnoxious idiot that rounds out this team.
Our quartet decides to follow Brooke home one day and pull an awful prank on her.  These antics get out of hand and Brooke will be sexually assaulted by both Dickens and Queenie.  Yep...you guessed it...she snaps.  Thinking Brooke's dead, our juveniles let their guard down.  Bad move.  The previous unstable, and now psycho teacher, clad in lingerie, embarks on a most gory path of revenge.  Lots of gore will follow as impalement and crushed skulls will rule the last few minutes of this film. Warning, psycho Brooke will consult Gray's Anatomy as she inflicts carnage on one of the fiends.
Is "Hell High" good therapy for millions of teachers who must put up with the abuse of society's little darlings?  Is Brooke's treatment of four of her students a metaphor for America's education system relying too heavily on the standardized Standards of Learning tests?  Okay, that one is a reach.  Feel free to fast forward to the final 30 minutes of this film for some squeamish fun.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Brain Eaters, Slimy Parasites Conquer the World

Icky, slimy, hissing parasites are our villains today.  In 1958's "The Brain Eaters," we have a mix of "Night of the Creeps" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."  Though a B movie from the 1950s, many might choose to read lots of social commentary into this film.  Let them, but I suggest you just have fun and enjoy the little creatures, arrogant hunk heroes, a couple of damsels in distress, and...here's the surprise...Leonard Nimoy!  Yes, Mr. Spock himself is a major part of this exciting science fiction/horror offering.
An alien space craft apparently crash lands in Riverdale, Illinois.  The bad news is immediate as several murders then occur in this usually sleepy town and even more citizens, including the mayor, go missing.  To make matters worse, the U.S. Congress gets involved and Senator Powers (Cornelius Keefe) arrives to lead the investigation.  Square-jawed scientist, Paul (Ed Nelson) studies the ship, but no clues can be found.  He teams up with the mayor's secretary, the lovely Alice (Joanna Lee), who screams well, takes lots of notes, and makes coffee.  The invasion has already started as tiny parasitic insect type things are roaming the town, attaching themselves to the townsfolk and turning them into subservient and violent drones.
As the film progresses, everyone in the town seems to have been taken over by these little buggers, and now they want Alice to join them.  At this point in the story, we are introduced to another damsel, the fair Elaine (Jody Fair).  She's real pretty, screams well, but has no bearing on the plot.  As Paul and the Senator begin to understand what they are up against, twists manifest that offer many surprises about the evil invaders.  Now our team must figure out a way to blow up the ship, kill all the monsters, and save the remainder of the world.
Is our alien ship really from outer space?  Will our fiends get to Alice, and if so, will she be able to scream?  With Senator Powers in town, will ridding Riverdale of these alien parasites give way to an invasion of parasites from the U.S. Senate?  "The Brain Eaters," low-budget as it is, turns into an exciting horror yarn, and eventually we do see lots of the monsters.  Oh yes!  In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I have not mentioned Leonard Nimoy's character, but you'll see lots of him in the second half of the film.  Enjoy "The Brain Eaters," available on YouTube.  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Bay of Blood, Mario Bava on Greed

Former Miss France and Bond Girl, Claudine Auger, absolutely owns the camera in any film she is in.  In 1971's "A Bay of Blood" (directed by Mario Bava), she will also attempt to own everything else by way of murder.  To be fair, everyone in this film is a homicidal maniac, so what is a little murder among murderers?  Unfortunately, this is an Italian horror film, hence Ms. Auger isn't too beautiful to die horribly.  Will she survive a plethora of seedy characters?  Should she?
Renata's (Auger) step mom, the Countess, is murdered by Renata's dad.  Uh oh, her dad is then instantly murdered, as well.  Now the fun starts.  The Countess owns the bay and everyone wants it so they can make a fortune developing it.  A lawyer (Chris Avram) rushes to the bay with his mistress, the beautiful, but soon to be dead Laura (Anna Maria Rosati).  Renata and her husband, Albert (Luigi Pistilli) also rush to town with a plan of killing everyone they meet who might have claim to the bay. Oh yes, Simon (Claudio Camaso)!  He is the illegitimate son of the Countess, and may be in the will. When Renata confronts Simon, she finds her dad's body in his boat as his face is being eaten by an octopus (a metaphor of what awaits us all?).
As Renata and Albert search for the will, they find the bodies of four youngsters who wandered into the Countess' mansion with the intention of skinny-dipping and pre-marital sex. No time for mourning, Albert and Renata begin their murderous plan, and kill without hesitation or emotion. The lawyer and his mistress have a similar plan, but there's isn't as good as Renata's. As more bodies pile up, or are thrown into the bay, Renata and Albert seem to have an upper-hand on the quest for the bay.  However, when everyone in the film is a murderer...well...you'll see.
Fans of the "Friday the 13th" franchise will see much in this film that inspired some of Jason's kills. The body count is enormous in this film, as it seems to take an Agatha Christie plot and inject it with a lot of steroids.  Will anyone survive to take possession of the bay?  Will Ms. Auger and Ms. Rosati engage in a cat-fight? Did this film also inspire the 1977 Shelley Winters monster classic "Tentacles."?  Fans of Italian horror will love this film, as well as fans of Jason and "Friday the 13th." Enjoy!