Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bad Hair Day: Beast Of The Yellow Night(1971)

During the late 1960's and early 1970's actor John Ashley teamed with director Eddie Romero to produce some very cool horror films, all filmed on location in the Phillipines, these movies all serving up generous amounts of violence, mayhem, nudity and gore. One of my favorites is Beast Of The Yellow Night, an R-Rated horror feature released to cinema in 1971.

The film's story: somewhere in the South Pacific in 1946, US Army deserter Joseph Langdon, in order to avoid starving to death, makes a deal with the Devil. Twenty-four years later Langdon's soul, permanent property of Old Scratch, inhabits the body of a man named Philip Rogers, who lies in a hospital bed, his face mangled(in an industrial accident) and just pronounced dead by the doctors. Imagine the shock to both the physicians, and Roger's wife Julia, when Rogers sits up in bed, quite alive, though, as we will see shortly, most definitely not himself. Shortly after Rogers(Langdon) leaves the hospital he begins transforming into a hideous, werewolf-like beast with a penchant for aggression and hostility towards anyone nearby. The local police struggle to figure out who is behind the killings and even after they do, trying to apprehend Rogers afters he transforms is easier said than done, the monster impervious to bullets, and going slap off on scores of the police personnel who try to stop it. The key to ending Roger's "beastly" rampage seems to lie with an old blind man befriended by Rogers, earlier in the film. (no other spoilers)

Observations: as someone who has always found "man who would be monster" storylines appealing this film definitely endears itself to me very well. The Devil is played by portly Vic Diaz, and John Ashley is good as the man who would be beast and what he looks like after transforming is definitely tha last thing you'd ever want over for Sunday brunch: fanged, hostile and possessing a werewolf-like appearance overall, the monster gets plenty of exercise killing locals and engaging the local cops. Mary Wilcox is easy on the eyes, and the makeup effects are decent. The acting is generally muted, but I think the action and gore keep things interesting. As a horror fan this one is a keeper. The Retromedia DVD of this film is very good, the film presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, and includes a trailer and an interview with John Ashley's wife, Jan. (Mr. Ashley is deceased). If you haven't seen this horror film, rent it from Netflix, or pick it up from Retromedia(

The trailer for Beast Of The Yellow Night(1971):

Here's the Retromedia DVD of this film for sale at

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Air Up There: The Abominable Snowman(1957)

It was during the early and mid-1950's that the subject of yeti came to the forefront in newspapers in the Western world. Part of the publicity was due in part to the successful ascent of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth(at over 29,000 feet in height) by Sir Edmund Hillary and his expedition, in 1953. Members of the expedition, including Hillary himself, have been quoted as saying they heard strange noises that sounded semi-human.

Hammer Studios decided to make a film about the mysterious creature, based on the 1955 BBC teleplay The Creature. The result: The Abominable Snowman, released two years later, in 1957.

The film's story:: Botanist Dr. John Rolason(played by Peter Cushing), despite an ominous warning from the local Buddhist temple priest, reluctantly decides to join an expedition to search for the yeti, aka "the abominable snowman". The expedition, led by Tom Friend(played by Forrest Tucker of F-Troop fame), begins it's ascent into the steep, rugged higher elevations of the Himalayas. After establishing a small base camp the group is indeed visited by the mysterious creatures. One is shot and killed by expedition member and trapper Ed Shelley(played by Robert Brown). The dead creature is ignominiously used as bait, to lure other members of it's kind to the expedition members. This action proves disastrous, the team discovering that the yeti have a mysterious "telepathic" ability, it's effects on the surviving team members unpredictable and dangerous. (no spoilers).

Observations: this film is one of my top five favorite Hammer horror films. It is a grim and moody feature, with great visuals of the rugged and awesome mountains of Nepal. The theme music is, like the movie, at times somber, other times creepy. Like every Hammer horror film I have seen the music compliments the film very well. Peter Cushing is great as the intellectual botanist, whose curiosity drives him to join in the expedition, despite the protestations of his wife and the mysterious, often menacing musings of the locals. Tom Friend is an amusing opposite to Dr. Rolason, the showman's desire to capture the creature driven by the almighty dollar. The skirmishes between these two men during the hike are inevitable, at one point the two nearly coming to blows after Rolason accuses Friend of being a "cheap fairground trickster" . The movie is available on Region 1 DVD as either a stand alone film, or as part of a double-feature, paired with the 1970's martial arts crime drama Shatter!

The trailer for the film:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Bear Necessities: Grizzly(1976)

One of the worst things a movie junkie like me has to endure is waiting for certain movies to be released to official DVD. While there are still some movies I'd like to see on DVD that have not yet been officially released, I was delighted to discover that an old favorite of mine from the 1970's was released to Region 1 DVD by Mediablaster's "Shriek Show". I'm referring to Grizzly(1976), directed by William Girdler. The movie itself was made on a budget of $750,000 and, earning an impressive $39 million at the box office, was the highest earning independent film of 1976.
This film has been commonly described as a "Jaws" ripoff and I couldn't agree more. That said I created this blog in part to promote horror and sci-fi films I am very fond of and Grizzly is most certainly one of them.

The film's story: the mutilated remains of hikers start turning up in the woodlands patrolled by park ranger Mike Kelly and his deputies. It's doesn't take very long for Ranger Kelly(played by Christopher George) and his tracker friend(played by Richard Jaeckel) to figure out that a bear is the culprit in the killings,,,and it damn sure ain't Yogi The Bear. The tracker deduces, from the footprints left behind by the animal, that this bear is fifteen feet tall and weighs in at 2000 lbs. Ranger Kelly is understandably distressed by this revelation, his stress aggravated by his acrimonious relationship with his immediate boss and constant smoking of cigarettes. As the body count rises Kelly and his deputies organize a hunt to isolate and kill the monstrous bear. (no other spoilers).

I have always liked this movie. It has some genuinely creepy scenes, not to mention gore(one of the camper's is beheaded by the monster grizzly), and a vulnerable, perpetually "teetering-on-the-edge" heroic "good guy" character in the park ranger, played with the necessary(but not excessive) tension and consumption of cigarettes, by Christopher George(of the 60's series The Rat Patrol). This film lacks the grandeur of "Jaws" but is nonetheless, IMO, worth a look, if you are a fan of "giant rogue animal on the loose" cinema as I am. The movie was filmed in south Georgia. This film is available on all Region DVD and Region 1 DVD at

Here's one link where the Mediablaster's 2 disc R1 DVD of this film is for sale:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Long In The Tooth: The Werewolf(1956)

There are a lot of horror movies from the 1950's and 1960's that were made on modest(or less than modest) budgets and have "flown under the radar", so to speak. One of the purposes of this blog is to promote these kinds of movies which, despite their budget limitations, provide a better than average return of entertainment value. One such film I believe does exactly that is The Werewolf, released in 1956, directed by Fred Sears and starring a then unknown actor named Steven Ritch in the title role.

The film's story: a lone man enters a small town's bar, disoriented and clearly traumatized. He seeks solace from a glass of whiskey and the warmth of a nearby fireplace but neither work. After departing the bar he is assaulted by a burly, and greedy bar patron-their scuffle ends up in a dark alley where the bar patron is killed, his throat slashed, the killer fleeing into the woods. Subsequently, another man is attacked in the neighboring woods, which prompts a manhunt for the killer, who has left some strange footprints in the snow. Meanwhile, two men, scientists, enter town looking for the killer as well. The killer is in fact one Duncan Marsh, an average, everyday guy who, we learn, was injured in an auto accident, "rescued" by the two scientists, and injected with a mysterious serum which causes Marsh to transform into a very hostile werewolf. Marsh, now hunted by both the law and the two scientists, seeks refuge in the surrounding countryside and woods outside the town limits. Marsh's wife and son arrive and help the sheriff coax him out from hiding. While in a jail cell the two scientists responsible for Marsh's condition secretly enter his cell(after knocking out the deputy), only to be surprised by the werewolf, not Marsh! The werewolf immediately preys on and kills both scientists, then escapes into the woods once more...(no spoilers).

Observations: This movie is a solid, creepy affair. Marsh is a very sympathetic character, a father and husband who through no fault of his own has had his life altered, irreparably as it turns out, by two nefarious and unethical scientists. The surrounding woods and rugged terrain used for many of this movie's shots adds to the creepy tone of the film, which is shot in black and white. The use of shadows is also expertly done, especially the "alley" skirmish at the beginning of the movie, and the scene where the two scientists sneak into Marsh's cell, thinking(incorrectly) that he is still Marsh. Duncan Marsh himself comes across as a genteel, sensitive fellow when not the beast. Give actor Steven Ritch credit for conveying these things about the character, which adds a tragic element to the man he plays in this movie.

This film used to appear on AMC's Monsterfest, though I have not seen it on this cable channel in recent years. After what seemed like an eternity this film has been officially released to Region 1 DVD as part of the Icons Of Horror Collection-Sam Katzman DVD set. Here's the link to this DVD set for sale at

For any fans of horror, especially those fans of werewolves, who have not seen this movie I highly recommend this melancholy and creepy classic!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Shell Game: Giant Monster Gamera(1965)

While Godzilla justifiably dominates many discussions of giant monsters on internet message boards there is another monster from the Orient that has also enjoyed quite a big screen career as well: Gamera. This monster made its debut in 1965 in a black and white, letterboxed film released theatrically by Daiei Studios, the movie called Giant Monster Gamera.

Like any "origin story" film this movie goes about introducing Gamera to those watching the film. The storyline: a mysterious country(presumably the U.S.S.R.) drops an atomic bomb at the Arctic(near the North Pole) which causes a huge fissure to open in the ice. Awakened by the atomic blast a 150 foot tall turtle erupts out of the ice from a long slumber. The giant turtle immediately destroys an icebreaker/research vessel, then flies south, where it stops long enough to befriend a boy with a pet turtle and then engage the local military tasked with stopping it. Scientists discover that Gamera "feeds" on energy, especially fire, which makes attacking the monster with conventional weapons ineffective. To that end scientists and the military forum and come up with the "Z Plan", by which to lure the giant monster into the enormous, and opened, nose of a rocket, then close the rocket's nose and send the giant fire breathing turtle into outer space, never to menace mankind again.

To save budget this movie was shot in black and white. The aspect ratio of the movie is 2:35.1 widescreen. Giant Monster Gamera was directed by (the late) Noriaki Yuasa. Yuasa has done, IMO, a marvelous job of creating an entertaining kaiju film, in light of the time and budget constraints he always worked under while in Daiei's employment. Yuasa was also greatly fond of children and this no doubt factored into the inclusion of a child(the little boy) into the movie's storyline.
Admittedly I found the little boy an annoyance and distraction more than anything but this movie is just serious enough in tone otherwise to keep my attention.

Giant Monster Gamera(1965) was re-released in an "Americanized" version in the U.S. with the title Gammera The Invincible, and with the inclusion of American actors Brian Donlevy and Albert Dekker. Both of these films were released on VHS by Neptune Media back in the late 1990's, these VHS releases stellar, both versions presented uncut, in the original aspect ratio(2:35.1 letterbox), the prints very clean and looking quite good.

There has been no official region 1 DVD release of Giant Monster Gamera(1965) or its Americanized version. There are a lot of cheapie DVDs of the American version(Alpha Video comes to mind) but these do the movie no favor: they're usually grainy looking and have been cropped to a pan and scan format(shaped to fit a standard TV screen). These versions can also be seen on "Mystery Science Theater" re-runs as well.

Giant Monster Gamera(1965) is on Region 2 DVD but this disc is getting harder to find. The entire 60's Gamera films are sold at Amazon Japan as a Region 2 DVD box set which is, not surprisingly, very expensive.

Hopefully this film will be released to quality Region 1 DVD soon.

The original trailer for Giant Monster Gamera(1965):

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Second Helpings: Feast 2 - Sloppy Seconds(2008)

Whenever I feel like I'm in a rut or just feeling generally "blah" I always reach for a giant monster movie or Godzilla film on DVD to cheer myself up. When giant monsters don't work I resort to Plan B: horror movies, more specifically gory and violent films that provide a jolt to my visual cortex. One such movie I recently bought on DVD jolted me out of the temporary doldrums just fine, thank you very much. I'm referring to Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds(2008). This film is a direct sequel to 2006's Feast, a movie directed by John Gulager(son of character actor Clu Gulager), which features an isolated and remote diner in the middle of nowhere that is suddenly attacked by marauding and grotesque looking humanoid monsters. In Feast 2, also directed by John Gulager, things pick up right where the first film left off: another group of people hole up in a nearby small town, trying to survive the monster's attacks on them. The group consists of a black used car salesman, a gang of tattooed and well armed female bikers, a pair of Mexican midget wrestlers, and finally "The Bartender"(played by Clu Gulager) and "Honey Pie"(played by Jenny Wade), both survivors from the first film.

Like the first installment Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds is a meat grinder, perhaps even gorier than its predecessor. There are arguably as many shots of human innards, including brains, intestines and other internal organs in this film as there are in surgical training videos. There is also one particularly nasty scene that is so disgusting, involving a dead monster carcass, that many in the group of survivors upchuck in a group vomit fest. Add to the mix a death by a pair of hammers, one especially gruesome impaling scene and a sequence in which one of the monsters fornicates with a cat . Starting to get the picture here? There is, predictably, a great deal of profanity spoken by the characters in this film, ironically most of it not prompted by their dire predicaments, courtesy of the hostile and bloodthirsty monsters that are after them, but rather because of their own disdain for each other. Humor creeps into this film, to be sure, though I did not find this movie to be nearly as humorous as it's been described in other reviews.

If you're like me, a great fan of violent and gory horror films, then I would definitely recommend this film as a DVD buy. A release of a third "Feast" film is forthcoming in the first quarter of 2009.

The trailer for Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Going Green: Die, Monster, Die!(1965)

I am a great fan of actor Nick Adams. I always have been. I grew quite fond of the actor's steady and solid presence in the Toho films Invasion Of The Astro Monsters(1965) and Frankenstein Vs Baragon(1965), the latter also known as Frankenstein Conquers The World. Sometimes when I watch these two movies it's easy to forget that Mr. Adams also appeared on television. One of his many TV appearances was in a 1964 season one episode of Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea entitled "Turn Back The Clock". Adams was actually nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as well(he didn't win) in 1963 and enjoyed success as the character "Johnny Yuma" in the TV series The Rebel.

One of my favorite movies featuring this actor is a horror movie directed by Daniel Haller and released to theaters in 1965 called, Die, Monster, Die!, an 80 minute feature based on the story The Colour Out Of Space, written in 1927 by H.P. Lovecraft.

The film's story: American Stephen Reinhart(Adams) has traveled to England to visit his girlfriend and former college classmate Susan Witley, who resides in the gloomy Witley mansion, along with her father Nahum Witley(played by Boris Karloff), and her ill, bedridden mother, played by Freda Jackson. It doesn't take long for Reinhart to discover that something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark, in this case the town and the local citizenry, who immediately shun Reinhart at the mention of the name "Witley". Reinhart arrives in town to a sullen and close-lipped populace, and finally makes it to the gloomy, fog-shrouded Witley estate on foot. The elder Witley(Karloff) wants Reinhart to leave and Susan and her ill mother want him to stay. Reinhart hangs around, his curiosity and caution about the Witley place understandably aroused by bizarre shrieks in the middle of the night, a mysterious cloaked and veiled figure prowling the grounds, even attacking Reinhart with a knife at one point, and the mysterious death of Merwyn, the elder Witley's personal assistant. As Reinhart and his girlfriend Susan discover, there's something in the greenhouse, and it's definitely not your typical vegetable garden. There's also something in the cellar of the Witley mansion, and it's not a wine collection. Turns out Nahum Witley has been giving sanctuary to a large green and glowing meteorite, which has caused some unusual plant life to flourish in the greenhouse, the space rock also having a decidedly catastrophic influence on various occupants of the Witley mansion, including old man Nahum Witley himself!

Observations: I believe this film is solid. The presence of legendary horror actor Boris Karloff is a big plus, despite his advancing age(he's 78 years old at the time of this film's lensing). The visual effects used to depict the Witley mansion and surrounding estate are basic, with matte paintings, some fog effects and the occasional screech of a crow. Still, they work. Combine these with the cacaphony of shutters slamming, doors creaking and the occasional animal-like shriek and you have the necessary audio effects upon which to play out the character's interaction with each other. The makeup effects are serviceable. There is something of a "cheese" factor in this movie, and I think the "dinner table" scene may have been a bit too long, but this movie has, like a great pair of jeans, aged well, for me anyway, and it has become a steady comfortable fit for me as well, whenever I need to watch an older horror classic, that doesn't take itself too seriously, to cheer me up. The Region 1 DVD of this movie(a MGM Midnite Movies title) is good quality, and offers scene selection, language options, and a theatrical trailer. It is presented in 2.35:1 letterbox format.

The trailer for Die, Monster, Die!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bird On A Wire: The Giant Claw(1957)

Giant winged monsters and birds are a common staple of science fiction films and I suspect they always will be. Monsters like Mothra and Rodan are well known and also well liked among the large community of giant monster movie fans, as is another Toho winged monster, King Ghidorah. Flying monstrosities are often featured in what are generally considered subpar films, to be sure, one of the more recent entries, and one I have great disdain for being Pterodactyl, a straight to video movie that utlimately, and not surprisingly, ended up on a quickie DVD release and currently makes the rounds on The Sci-Fi Channel. One of the earliest American films to fully showcase an enormous flying avian was 1957's The Giant Claw, produced by Columbia Pictures and directed by Fred Sears. It's been called a turkey in numerous DVD guides but I like it just the same. I guess there's no accounting for taste.

The film's story: a scientist named "Mitch McAfee", piloting a jet to test a new avionics system, witnesses a giant flying object. Later, on the ground, the scientist(played by Jeff Morrow), faces skepticism, even ridicule from his military colleagues, and a lovely female assistant(played by Mara Corday ). Not for long. Strange incidents begin happening, and eventually it is discovered that the cause is an absolutely gigantic bird, resembling a vulture and extraterrestrial in origin. The military's initial attempts to destroy the bird are futile, as it is determined that the enormous avian is shrouded in some kind of invisible, magnetic force screen. Meanwhile, the scientist(and his female colleague) discover the giant bird's egg, which the pair destroy with high powered rifle shots. The monster bird, predictably unhappy at the destruction of it's egg, renews it's attacks on populated areas with great ferocity. It is up to the scientists to determine how to solve the giant bird's force shield, in order to destroy it. (no other spoilers)

Observations: The Giant Claw is great fun for me to watch. There are some poorly rendered shots of the bird, no doubt, especially the effects shots used from Mitch McAfee's perspective as he first sees the gigantic space buzzard from the cockpit of his jet. A blurred shot of what looks to be a rubber chicken moving along a wire is used here. There are also some great shots as well, like when the flying monster attacks NYC and its skyscrapers, or when it swoops down and snatches up the train. Jeff Morrow is good as "Mitch McAfee", and Mara Corday is also solid, and beautiful(as always in these 50's films).

The film has been released to Region 1 DVD and is part of the DVD set Icons Of Horror Collection-Sam Katzman:

The trailer for The Giant Claw(1957):

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Kaiju Galaxy

Every now and then I like to promote other websites and message boards. One such board is called Kaiju Galaxy, founded(and run) by Donny Winter. It's currently has over three hundred(300) members and 70,000 posts. "KG" has some of the best written fan fictions(kaiju related and not) that I've seen on the web. More than anything it's a discussion board that is a reflection of it's owner, and Donny has worked hard to make KG the site it is today.

For anyone who's interested in giant monsters, Godzilla, other Toho monsters, check out Kaiju Galaxy. You'll be glad you did!

The site URL: (or click the title of this blog to access "Kaiju Galaxy")

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Load Of Boll: Seed(2007)

The only film I had on DVD directed by Uwe Boll, until a few days ago, was Bloodrayne, primarily because I'm a sucker for vampire flicks of any kind and also because I really like Kristanna Loken as a redhead in the title role.

Uwe Boll has, I believe justifiably, more than his fair share of critics who lambast the poor sets and overall production quality of his past films. Boll is also someone who is perceived as being arrogant, which makes him look even more like a buffoon in the eyes of movie fans and critics alike, especially in light of the mostly subpar movies he's cranked out.

I haven't seen Postal, a Uwe Boll helmed movie but I've seen trailers of this parody and it looks decent. Also leading me to think Boll is showing improvement in the director's chair: Seed, a 2007 horror film directed by Uwe Boll and just released to R1 DVD on 9/9/08.

Boll's Seed is a journey into the mind of a homicidal maniac, much like the "Saw" films explore Jigsaw and Eli Roth's "Hostel" films examine people who pay money in order to torture someone to death.
The villain in Seed(2007) is a bulky, masked and grubby looking man named Max Seed, who has, we learn, killed 666 people and videotaped every one of his murders, the police receiving Seed's tapes in the mail. (get the reference here? 666?) Seed is finally captured by a hard bitten cop named Matthew Bishop(played by Michael Pare), but not before Seed murders every uniformed police officer who accompanied Detective Bishop to Seed's boondocks hideout to apprehend the killer.

Fast forward to Max Seed being placed in the electric chair. You would think several jolts of 15,000 volts of electricity would kill a person. Not Max Seed. Despite remaining alive Seed is signed off as dead by the prison warden and attending physician, and unceremoniously buried alive. Predictably, Seed digs himself out of his pine box and the strata and sets off to kill those who took part in his electrocution and burial...including Detective Matthew Bishop. (no other spoilers)

Observations: As a horror movie "gorehound" I think Uwe Boll gets quite a few things right in this film as he "explores the depths of human brutality"(Boll's own words from the film's audio commentary).
What works for me:
-the villain, Max Seed, does not speak at all in the movie, which helps sustain a level of revulsion, and mystery, needed for this character
-the villain is absolutely merciless during his carnage, which is a necessity, I believe, for this genre of horror film
-the various effects shots used during Seed's carnage, in particular Seed blasting a captured female victim in the head over two hundred times with a hammer, is surprisingly realistic. Also, time lapse shots used while the cops look at Seed's videotaped abuse of his victims is effective. There's something very disturbing about watching a baby, an adult female, and a dog captured and then left to rot in a locked room. Boll's use of maggots during this part of the film is especially nasty.
-the performance of Michael Pare: the veteran actor doesn't phone in his performance, like he has done in other of his recent films. Pare is solid in this movie.
-the PETA animal abuse images at the beginning of the film: these images, from PETA archives, show animals, including dogs, being bludgeoned to death. Obviously this is disturbing and would not be easy for anyone to watch but it immediately sets the bleak tone for the film and frames, if you will, the mentality, or lack of, in the killer Max Seed as he sits in the room watching the clips of animal abuse on a TV set, mask over his head.

What I did not like:

-the production sets remain, judging by this movie, a work in progress for Uwe Boll. No doubt Mr. Boll is looking to save budget here and there.

-the acting of the secondary characters in this film is very average and at times below that

In summary: Seed(2007) is not, IMO, nearly as good as the other established "slasher" and gore horror movie franchises, like "Friday The 13th", "Halloween", "Saw" or even torture fests like the two "Hostel" films. For fans of this kind of horror film it is, however, worth a look on DVD rental and might be a "buy" for true hardcore fans of this kind of horror film. Seed(2007) is a functioning, and periodically entertaining, look at the apparent vacuum that exists in the mind and heart of a vicious maniac.

A promo trailer for Seed(2007):

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hell On Wheels: The Car(1977)

The decade of the 1970's was one great sojourn to the movie theater after another, spending an entire afternoon watching movies, playing video games like Galaga and Pac Man in the theater video arcades. There have been some great horror movies produced during the 70's and one in particular I like to revisit, by watching on DVD: The Car, a film released in May, 1977 by Universal, directed by Eliott Silverstein, and starring James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Ronny Cox and R.G. Armstrong.

The film's story: a mysterious black limousine with heaviliy tinted windows appears out of nowhere in the tiny Arizona town of Santa Ynez. The car immediately begins a murderous rampage by running over people and making the lives of others it comes in contact with absolutely miserable. Santa Ynez sheriff Wade Parent(played by James Brolin) has one hell of a problem on his hands, literally, as he and his deputies attempt to stop the marauding, and driverless, car from killing more people. As the movie progresses it becomes apparent to Sheriff Parent and his deputies that the mysterious and deadly black car may be something akin to a demon. (no other spoilers)
A surprisingly entertaining film, despite what I consider a preposterous theme. The action drives this film along and James Brolin is effective as the affable and laid back sheriff whose stress level understandably ramps up as the deadly black car terrorizes the citizenry of his town and those he's sworn to protect. Veteran character actor R.G. Armstrong is also a welcome presence in this movie. Camera mounted shots taken from the black limo from hell as it speeds along the dusty back roads of Santa Ynez, deputies cars in pursuit, also lends to the sense of dread and tension in this film.

The theatrical trailer for The Car:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Head Games: Scanners(1981)

There have been, over the decades, some truly marvelous horror movie directors: Terence Fisher, Roger Corman, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Clive Barker, John Landis, Alfred Hitchcock, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and George Romero. While I am an admirer and fan of these directors I am especially fond of David Cronenberg. One of Cronenberg's films is a personal favorite of mine, a movie I first watched in a movie theater as a college freshman. I'm referring to Scanners, a film distributed by MGM, written and directed by David Cronenberg and originally released to theaters in January, 1981.

The film's story:
An underground group of people with formidable and destructive telepathic abilities, called "scanners", are a threat to mankind, lead by an especially powerful scanner named Darryl Revok(played by Michael Ironside), who wants to build a scanner "army" and dominate the world.
Opposing Revok is a another scanner named Cameron Vale(played by Stephen Lack), a man who knows nothing about his background and who is recruited by a scientist(played by Patrick McGoohan) specializing in the study of "scanners" to ultimately stop Darryl Revok. Through plot twists and turns we see both Cameron Vale and Darryl Revok use their scanning abilities to effective and often lethal effect on others. In the end the struggle comes down to a face off between Revok and Vale, with one important story line revelation preceding their final battle, and an ending that is, IMO, terrific and startling at the same time! (no other spoilers)

What works for me:
-Michael Ironside is very effective in the role of the antagonist "Darryl Revok". He's as mentally unstable as he is powerful, which makes for an unsettling combination in this film.
-The special makeup effects: marvelous, especially the infamous "exploding head" scene and the effects used to render the absolute carnage that Revok and Vale inflict upon each other in the final battle, a test of their respective scanning abilities.

What doesn't work for me:
-Stephen Lack, whose acting was, IMO, somewhat muted. He definitely lacked a "presence" in this movie, something that his bad guy counterpart Michael Ironside did not lack at all. I've always considered Michael Ironside a terrific character actor and this movie is confirmation.

This film is a clever and entertaining look at the science, and science fiction, of telepathy, mind control and all of its potentially ugly(and gory) undersides. One of David Cronenberg's early directorial efforts and a must have DVD for any self respecting fan of classic sci-fi and horror.

One of the trailers for Scanners(1981):

Here's the MGM Region 1 DVD of this film for sale at Deep

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Winging It: Mothra(1961)

As a kid I was delighted by the fact my father was also a fan of giant monster movies. Among his favorites were War Of The Gargantuas(1966), Godzilla King Of The Monsters(1956) and Godzilla Vs The Thing(1964). My father actually saw Godzilla Vs The Thing in a NYC movie theater in 1964 while he was on business there. My father's absolute favorite kaiju film of all time was Mothra(1961) , a film he also saw in a theater. It took me, admittedly, some time to "warm up" to this gigantic, lepidopteral monster. Mothra is widely considered the second most popular kaiju, after Godzilla. I'm certain this is a debatable issue. I've seen great debate about who gets second place in popularity after Godzilla at many message boards. What isn't subject to debate is that Mothra has appeared in over a half dozen other kaiju films and has a trilogy of films, released theatrically in the 1990's, that also showcase the winged creature. The first film this monster appeared in is still, IMO, the best, overall.

Mothra was released theatrically in Japan on July 30, 1961. It would reach American theaters later in May, 1962, released by Columbia Pictures, which had bought the North American rights to the Toho film.

The film's story:
A ship called the Daini Genyo Maru runs aground in a typhoon in the waters near Biru Island, located in an area of lingering radioactive fallout from repeated atomic tests conducted by the country of Rolisica. Four survivors from the wrecked ship are found by a search and rescue effort, curiously unaffected by the radiation in the area. To investigate the mystery further, the Rolisican government sponsors a Rolisican-Japanese expedition to study the island. There they find an isolated area of lush green vegetation, natives indigenous to the island, and two six inch tall girls. Deciding to leave the tiny girls and the island alone, the expedition departs Biru Island and returns to Japan. Unfortunately, entrepreneur Clark Nelson, in charge of the expedition, returns to the island and,with the help of his thugs, kidnap the tiny girls, cutting down the natives in a barrage of gunfire. Nelson immediately puts the tiny girls on a vaudevillian-like display as part of his "Secret Fairies" show, much to the disdain of other expedition members Shinichi Chujo, a linguist/anthropologist, Zenichiro Fukuda, a reporter, and Michi Hanamura, Fukuda's photographer and colleague. This trio implore Clark Nelson to relinquish the tiny girls. Nelson refuses. Result: a gigantic egg on Biru Island hatches, loosing an enormous caterpillar called "Mothra", which swims towards Japan, to "rescue" the two girls. The giant caterpillar, surviving an at sea napalm attack, and plowing through an ocean liner that happens to be in its way, reaches the Japanese mainland and begins it's search for the two little girls. (no other spoilers).

This film has a decidedly "fantasy" feel about it, the story driven by the performance of (the late) Jerry Ito, who masterfully portrays vile, ego maniacal and greedy entrepreneur Clark Nelson. His performance makes it easy to despise him and cheer for Mothra to come and rescue the two island "fairies". The score, by Yuki Koseki, is sweeping, majestic and grand. The special effects, courtesy of Eiji Tsuburaya, are outstanding, the miniature effects and wirework effects used to bring Mothra to life a marvel to watch. The rendering of the larval Mothra is done through people inside a prop, Haruo Nakajima manning the "head" portion of the suit. The adult(flying) form is rendered through a large prop which is maneuvered via a system of overhead wires. Mattes are used quite a bit for Mothra's attack on the Rolisican metropolis called "New Kirk City". Other Toho actors in this movie include Hiroshi Koizumi as the linguist Shinichi Chujo, Frankie Sakai as Zenichiro Fukuda(nicknamed "Snapping Turtle" in the original film and "Bulldog" in the English dubbed version). Kyouko Kagawa, who played "Michi Hanamura", was very cute. Kenji Sahara has a small role as a helo pilot, Harold Conway portrays the Rolisican Ambassador, and Robert Dunham a Rolisican police detective.

The film, which did very well at the box office both in Japan and in the United States, was shot in color and 2:35.1 widescreen aspect ratio. It is available on Region 2 DVD and can be purchased via online order at either or CDJapan, though in Japanese language only(no English subtitles). Recently it was announced that Sony will be releasing Mothra to R1 DVD in 2009 as part of a DVD set, which also includes the Toho films Battle In Outer Space(1959) and The H-Man(1958). Truly great news!

The film has appeared a few times on Turner Classic Movies, though not recently, in full frame format and in English dubbed audio.

The R2 DVD for sale at CDJapan:

The Japanese trailer for Mothra(1961):

Friday, August 22, 2008

Monkey Business: King Kong Escapes(1967)

My great fondness for "Godzilla" movies has been long lasting. So, it turns out, is my affinity for King Kong, the giant ape who first appeared in American theaters in 1933 in King Kong. The giant ape would make his first appearance in a Toho film in 1962 when he was scaled to forty five meters in height to take on fifty meter tall Godzilla.
Five years later Kong would appear in another live action film, a collaboration between Rankin-Bass, an American company, and Toho, called King Kong Escapes. This 1967 film, based loosely on an episode of the 1966 Rankin-Bass "King Kong" cartoon series, was released in late 2005 on R1 DVD, paired with King Kong Vs Godzilla(1962), as a DVD two-disc pack, both films in their original aspect ratio of 2:35.1 and in English dubbed language track.

The story line of King Kong Escapes(1967) is fairly straightforward: UN CDR Carl Nelson(played by Rhodes Reason), his executive officer Nomura(played by Akira Takarada), and a nurse(played by Linda Miller), decide to check out nearby Mondo Island while the submarine Nelson commands undergoes repairs from damage incurred by an underwater landslide. The trio make landfall at Mondo Island and quickly learn that the island's indigenous animal life can be dangerous: a dinosaur who looks like Gorosaurus menaces Lt. Watson. Kong comes to the rescue and saves her, defeating his dinosaur adversary in jaw ripping fashion.
In the meantime Dr. Who(played by Eisei Amamoto) endeavors to harvest tons of the mysterious element X for his mysterious female financier(played by Mie Hama) who may, or may not, represent Communist China. To collect the glowing radioactive element X Dr. Who employs his own robot equivalent of King Kong, "MechaniKong", to get the material. The robot fails. Dr. Who then captures (the real) King Kong alive, lures Nelson/Nomura/Lt Watson to his arctic hideout and tries to use Kong, via hypnosis, to dig up the glowing material. Kong also fails and eventually escapes, Dr. Who in pursuit, which ends in Tokyo. The climax of the film features a brief battle on the ground between King Kong and his mechanical doppleganger, then a longer battle between the two high above the streets of Tokyo on the Tokyo Tower.
Observations: I've always liked this movie, despite its many failings.

Thumbs up:

1. Eisei Amamoto, whose portrayal of "Dr. Who" was, I thought, very good. He's easy to despise: hateful, vain, arrogant, ruthless, vampire-like in appearance, his facial features gaunt, his eyebrows pointy. Even more frightening about Amamoto's appearance: the absolute disaster inside his mouth, his set of choppers so bad they would give any self respecting dentist nightmares.

2. the score: I thought it was solid, especially the parts used during the Mechani-Kong sequences

3. the rendering of MechaniKong: the robot appeared to move convincingly robot like without looking like a piece of cardboard.

4. King Kong Vs the dinosaur: a nice battle and much better than Kong vs the serpent

5. the remaining cast overall: I liked the mix of American actors like Rhodes Reason and Japanese actors like Akira Takarada

6. the Tokyo Tower battle between Kong and MechaniKong

Thumbs down:

1. the Kong suit: though better, I thought, than the atrocious KK suit used in 1962's King Kong Vs Godzilla, that still isn't saying much. Many of the shots used also featured what appeared to be an alternate head, with an exaggerated leering look and over-sized lips. The zipper for the main suit can easily be seen along the back.

2. many of the water tank shots looked too much like water tanks, especially some of the background matte paintings

3. Kong vs the serpent: not what I consider a well rendered effects sequence, and lacked, like other scenes, high speed filming

4. wires are clearly visible during the scene where Dr. Who's helicopters swoop in to drop ether bombs around Kong.

Overall: I enjoy watching this movie a couple of times a year. Those wanting to see King Kong Escapes in Japanese language can buy the Region 2 DVD from or from various internet DVD-R vendors who sell the R2 copy with English subtitles.

A promo clip(w/English subtitles) for King Kong Escapes(1967):

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pit And The Pendulum(1961)

I have been a great fan of Vincent Price for the longest time. This man was, even before entering the horror movie genre, a very good actor. I think everyone would agree Vincent Price found his "niche", so to speak, acting in horror films. I have always liked many of his early horror movies, especially House Of Wax(1953) and The Fly(1958). Vincent Price starred in a handful of films, based on Edgar Allan Poe stories, directed by Roger Corman in the early 1960's as well, a group of movies that have, I believe, stood the test of time quite well. One of these Roger Corman directed films is an absolute personal favorite of mine, and also a favorite vehicle by which to watch Vincent Price, IMO a master of his craft, at work. The movie I'm referring to is Pit And The Pendulum, produced and directed by Roger Corman and released to theaters in 1961 by American International Pictures.

The film's story:
In 16th century Spain, Englishman Francis Barnard has sojourned to the seaside castle of Spaniard Nicholas Medina, to investigate the cause of his sister Elizabeth's untimely death. At the large and foreboding castle Barnard meets Nicholas Medina(played by Vincent Price), a physician, Medina's sister Dania, and Medina's butler. The Englishman demands details of his sister's death but, at least at first, few answers are forthcoming from the troubled Nicholas Medina, who is, we learn, teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Medina has a gruesome and grisly family history, his father Sebastian one of the Spanish Inquisitions' most notorious torturers, as evidenced by the torture chamber located in the bowels of the castle.
In time it becomes apparent that Elizabeth may not really be dead, a fact that pushes Nicholas Medina closer to insanity. (no other spoilers)

This film is, IMO, a great vehicle by which to showcase the acting talents of Vincent Price. Price is able to explore, and manifest, all of Nicholas Medina's psychological instabilities, and to great effect: paranoia, uncertainty, torment, guilt and finally an insanity filled revenge, acted out with ruthless efficiency on several of the other characters in this film. The score, by Les Baxter, is a moody amalgamation of keyboards and strings, and matches the movie's scenes quite well.
The film's sets will not, admittedly, blow one away but there appears to have been some effort to make the clothing worn by the characters commensurate with the setting(by year) and location of the movie. The best prop for Pit And The Pendulum is the castle's interior, replete with creaking doors, cobweb filled corridors, secret passageways, and the torture chamber itself, a somber collection of instruments used to maim and kill during the Spanish Inquisition. The pendulum is the most fearsome of these instruments, a swinging, razor sharp curved blade that swings back and forth above it's prone victim, lowering slightly with each swing...and you can guess what happens next.
The executive producers for this film might sound familiar: Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson, who partnered on many other sci-fi/horror films as producers.

The film also stars John Kerr as "Francis Barnard", Luana Anders as "Dania", Anthony Carbone as "Dr. Leon", and the exquisitely lovely Barbara Steele as "Elizabeth".

The R1 DVD of this film has been released by MGM in their "Midnite Movies" series and can be bought at a very affordable price at

The Midnite Movies DVD includes scene selection and a trailer for the film, which is presented in 2:35.1 widescreen aspect ratio.

The theatrical trailer for Pit And The Pendulum(1961):

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Grin And Bear It: Prophecy(1979)

I remember as a high school junior venturing downtown several times and catching movies on the cheap at the old "Omni" theater, the theater itself part of "The Omni", which was a facility that included an arena where the Atlanta Hawks(NBA) and Atlanta Flames(NHL) played their home games. Movies cost just 99 cents to see on weekends and I sure saw a lot of them. One of my fondest memories of this theater came from watching a film of nature gone berserk and directed by John Frankenheimer: Prophecy(1979). This movie garnered average to poor ratings from film critics and has been generally reviewed as a pedestrian horror movie at best. A TV spot promoting this movie got my attention, as did the theatrical poster. The film was distributed by Paramount Pictures, and stars Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante and Richard Dysart.

The film's story:
A public health physician named "Rob"(played By R. Foxworth) is asked by a colleague to conduct an environmental investigation into the impact of a local logging company on a large area of Maine woodland upcountry. The logging company's production of wood and paper products clashes with the local Indian community which wants to preserve the land from man made intrusion. Rob and his wife Maggie(Talia Shire) travel to Maine and soon see first hand just how polarized things are between employees of the local paper mill and the Native American Indian community there. Rob and his wife learn that the woods are being slowly contaminated by chemicals loosed into the local river, which has caused fatalities and deformities among both the Indian and local animal populace. Not coincidentally, there is something very large, very menacing, but yet unseen, prowling the woods around our main characters, that has brutally slaughtered a search and rescue party, a family on a camping sojourn, and which is now stalking Rob, his wife, and the pair of Native American Indians who're trying to help them with the investigation. Judging from the sounds of the creature it's safe to assume it damn sure ain't Smokey The Bear. The remainder of the movie focuses on the group which tries to escape the woods before the huge, mysterious monster can get to them. (no other spoilers).

What works in this film for me:

-The score: very bold, with lots of strings and urgent horns. The score adds real urgency, and dread, to many scenes in this film.

-The actors: Robert Foxworth and Talia Shire are solid, as is Armand Assante. Foxworth's "Rob" is the disillusioned doctor looking to make a difference in the world, Assante is the surly yet courageous Indian "John Hawks" who's trying to protect his people. Talia Shire is the demure wife of "Rob" who struggles to communicate with her husband. Richard Dysart's character, "Eisley", who represents the paper mill, is also good as the mill's bureaucratic and self confident representative, who ultimately must face the consequences of his mills' contamination of the local environment.

-The film's pace: the movie moves along very well. The tension and dread that builds in Prophecy is constant.

-The cinematography: director John Frankenheimer captures the rugged isolation and raw beauty of Maine's woodland up country very well. The woods take on, in a way, a life of their own once the characters are stranded on foot, and with the hulking, menacing mutated beast seemingly always lurking not too far away, concealed in the shadows and thickets of the trees.

-The small mutated creatures: sufficiently grotesque and possessing blood curdling cries. Not for the squeamish.

What doesn't work in this film for me:

-The large mutated creature: part bear(clearly evident from its appearance) and parts of other things altogether, this monster, while not what I would rate as terrible, still leaves a lot to be desired. Imagine a grizzly bear with severe psoriasis and a serious drooling problem. The growl, roar and heavy, ragged breathing of the giant, disfigured and rabid monster was, IMO, very good, but at times the creature's movements appeared sloppy and "loose". In other scenes the monster's movements were slower and more deliberate, what you would expect from something standing fifteen feet high(or more) and weighing well over half a ton.

Overall: Prophecy remains a personal favorite of mine. I watch it about twice a year. The movie has been released onto R1 DVD by Paramount. The disc includes an audio set up and scene selections. The film's aspect ratio is 2:35.1 widescreen.

Here's a TV promo clip, from 1979, of Prophecy:

Another intense scene where one of the campers is killed by the monster:

Here's the film for sale on DVD at

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Frankly Speaking: Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster(1965)

When the average person, horror movie fan or not, hears the word "Frankenstein", I would presume they would envision a mad doctor, or perhaps the monster created by the infamous mad doctor himself. Universal Studios and Hammer Studios have produced some truly marvelous Frankenstein films, and while all obviously varied in some way or another they all, still, featured a mad scientist named Frankenstein, a well stocked laboratory, and of course the often truly horrendous looking monster, which was made of sewn together body parts and re-animated through electricity.
One film went "off the beaten path" regarding the concept of the Frankenstein monster, and did so in what is widely considered bizarre fashion: Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster, a 79 minute, black and white sci-fi movie released in American theaters in September, 1965 by Allied Artists Pictures. The film had only a two week run in theaters, arguably the most memorable thing about this low budget shlocker, among those individuals, like myself, who are quite enamored with these kinds of films.

The film's story:
American rockets are being mysteriously blasted to bits after exiting Earth's atmosphere and entering the planet's orbit. In response, a pair of scientists, with the blessing of the military and NASA, put their latest creation, an android named Frank Saunders(played by Robert Reilly), into another rocket, which is sent into space to investigate the lost rockets. Unbeknownst to NASA an alien ship, from Mars, and orbiting the Earth, has been destroying the NASA manned rockets, and they do the same to Saunder's rocket, which is obliterated. The android manages to bail out and survive, the aliens landing nearby. A pair of the aliens attack Saunders with their weapons and the resulting blast grotesquely scorches off half of the android's face, also damaging Saunder's brain. The android immediately begins a wandering, almost drunkardly walkabout, killing numerous locals, who are understandably terrified at his disfigured appearance. Meanwhile, the aliens, led by a female, Princess Marcuzan(Marilyn Hanold), and a bald, pointy-eared accomplice (appropriately) named Doctor Nadir(Lou Cutell), order their crew to begin collecting human females for breeding purposes, as an atomic war has killed all the females on the red planet. In the last half-hour of this low-budget affair we are treated to an all out military assault on the alien's spaceship and a brief but intense battle between the disfigured android Frank Saunders and the alien's pet, a hulking monster called Mull.

This film has achieved turkey status in the 2007 and 2008 DVD And Video Guides, understandable as it is a typical low-budget affair, with a storyline that is shaky at best, laughably poor special effects and acting that is, for the most part, absolutely atrocious. Still, IMO some turkeys can be enjoyed, even when it's not Thanksgiving. There are some interesting scenes in this movie, to be sure, the damaged android looks fairly grisly, and the battle between the android, Frank Saunders, and the space monster inside the alien ship at the climax is not altogether bad. This film is now officially available on DVD at The DVD presents this film in it's original aspect ratio of 1:85.1 and mono audio, and includes scene selection and a trailer. The Dark Sky Films DVD looks better than several DVD-Rs I've bought of this wonky old feature, hands down.

The film has also appeared on the market under titles like Mars Invades Puerto Rico, Mars Attacks Puerto Rico, and Operation San Juan.

The Dark Sky Films DVD of this movie:

The official trailer for the film:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mirror, Mirror: Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun(1969)

Anyone that knows me will tell you that the decade of the 1960's is my absolute favorite decade for movies, and all genres of them, none more so than science fiction. During the 60's there have been some absolutely marvelous sci-fi films made: Planet Of The Apes(1968), 2001: A Space Odyssey(1968), The Day The Earth Caught Fire(1961) and Fahrenheit 451(1966) are just a handful that immediately come to mind. One such sci-fi film that perhaps doesn't get as much recognition is Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun, directed by Robert Parrish, produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the film derived from a story written by Gerry/Sylvia Anderson. This English film premiered in the UK under the title "Doppelganger" in October, 1969 and a month later in the United States by its American, and more recognized title "Journey To The Far Of The Sun".

The film's story: about one hundred years in the future the discovery of another planet in a perfectly reciprocal orbit around the sun relative to Earth, by an unmanned space probe, prompts a consortium called Eurosec to fund the construction of a rocket that will send two men to this mysterious new planet. The two men selected to make the journey, American astronaut Glenn Ross(played by Roy Thinnes) and English astrophysicist John Kane(played by Ian Hendry), undergo an accelerated and vigorous training regimen to ready themselves for the journey to the newly discovered planet. Their training complete the pair blast off into space aboard an enormous rocket. Once in space they spend three weeks in a kind of stasis, then awaken and, after entering orbit around the new planet, decide to touch down on the new planets surface. And touch down they do, though their landing is rough and their craft is destroyed as a result. The astro-physicist gravely injured, Ross and his injured comrade are soon picked up by a search and retrieval team. Later astronaut Glenn Ross is reunited with his boss, Eurosec director Jason Webb(played by Patrick Wymark) and his wife Sharon(played by Lynn Loring). Ross is accused of aborting the mission and returning to Earth by those he works for, and his wife, which makes Ross question his sanity. The astronaut knows he didn't turn back...and that he is on the new planet, which seems like Earth and could very well be Earth... But how can this new planet be so much like Earth? Well, it isn't...there's one major difference. (no other spoilers)

Thumbs up:

1. the actors, all of which turned in solid performances, especially the outspoken, vain and demanding "Jason Webb". Patrick Wymark's portrayal of the gruff but likable Eurosec chief is solid.
2. the special effects: this film lacks the grandeur and absolutely meticulously detailed effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey. That said the special effects, particularly the miniatures and pyrotechnics in this movie, are very good.
3. the score: at times dominated by strings the soundtrack for this film is at times very melancholy and beautiful, none more so than during the sequence where the astronauts continue to sleep in stasis, their rocket quietly moving ahead in space towards the new planet.
4. the sets used all effectively project a "futuristic" feel, appropriate to a film set about one hundred years in the future. I especially liked the designs of the offices and the vehicles used to transport the characters around: very cool!

Thumbs down:

1. the ending: abrupt and IMO somewhat enigmatic.
2. the brief outburst of violence(a hard slap) by Glenn Ross towards his wife. This scene seemed rather out of place in the film.
3. some of the outer space shots were a little shaky, effects wise

Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun(1969) is, I think, one of the more underrated sci-fi films of the 1960's. This movie won't blow you away, even if you're a sci-fi fan like me. It will, I think, grow a little more on you with the passage of time, and watching it once a year as I do.

This film is available on Region 1 DVD, and was actually recently re-released by Universal. The movie's aspect ratio is widescreen(1:85.1). My DVD copy is the older release(also in widescreen) with only scene selection and no chapter stops.

Here's the R1 DVD for sale at

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Short horror film spotlight

A member of Monsterland Forums, "crowmagnumman", has made a 20 minute long short horror film that I'd like to spotlight because I believe it's quite good. It's in two parts:

Here's part two:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

In Country: The Legend Of Boggy Creek(1972)

"Bigfoot"(or "Sasquatch") and the "Yeti"(abominable snowman) have been a popular and often used antagonist character in horror films over the decades. A few have done well at the box office but most have, regrettably, not turned a profit. One of my favorites that explores the mystery of this creature is The Legend Of Boggy Creek, which was released theatrically in the U.S. in December, 1972. This film was produced and directed by Texarkana(Arkansas) ad salesman Charles Pierce, who borrowed $160,000 from a local business and, using his own cameras, made a movie which utilized local citizenry from both Texarkana and Fouke, Arkansas. The return on Mr. Pierce's investment was, needless to say, stupendous: the movie raked in a total of over $20 million dollars.

The movie itself takes on a serio-documentary approach in chronicling the "Fouke monster", a hairy, bipedal man-monster which prowls the Sulphur River bottoms of Fouke, a town in the extreme southern part of Arkansas and close to the Arkansas-Louisiana border. Many of the cast in this movie play themselves as details of the monster's handiwork are recounted, via fictional reenactments.

Many things, IMO, work well to make this movie creepy and suspenseful: first, the face of the monster is never revealed and the creature is rendered throughout the movie as a faceless, growling, mysterious antagonist forever lurking in the woodland shadows. Secondly, Charles Pierce does a good job at capturing the indigenous sounds of the swampy wetland bottoms surrounding Fouke: crickets, bullfrogs and the occasional growl of an alligator all figure prominently throughout the movie and are used to great effect at the beginning credits and then later during various scenes preceding the monster's contact with the understandably traumatized local citizenry. Thirdly, the creatures roar is truly scary to listen to, part swine, part canine and part something else altogether. Though the viewer of this film never sees the monster's face it's apparent, from everything else visible, that it would be the last thing on Earth invited over for brunch after the AM Sunday church service.

The characters in this film belie the town of Fouke: blue collar, hard working, many possessing drawls and a variety of firearms, and who pass the time hunting and/or fishing, none more so perhaps than Herb Jones, a fellow who has sequestered himself deep within the rugged woodlands of the Sulphur River, for over twenty years, and whose only contact with the outside world was the youthful Travis Crabtree, who brought the old and grizzled Jones some supplies once a month. Mr. Jones, a weathered and semi-toothless old geezer who was included in the cast of this movie, presumably for his extensive knowledge of the woods around Fouke, attempts a brief commentary of his own regarding the existence of the monster. His speech slurred perhaps because of the absence of teeth, Jones uses terms like "he brung me tobaccer" and "it'ern't nuttin", which is, thankfully, not indicative of the way the remainder of this movie's cast enunciates syllables and consonants.

The climax of the film is one last encounter between a group of predictably terrified Fouke locals and the monster, albeit intensified and including a brief barrage of gunfire as two locals open up on the mysterious monster with shotguns. (no other spoilers)

This movie does not, IMO, make much attempt to provide an explanation of what the "Fouke monster" is, nor should it. It is, after all, a horror movie, only loosely based on what is purported to be a mysterious creature that appears in Fouke every so often. The film will, I think, if you watch it, make you a little more hesitant to peep out the cabin window at night on your next camping trip. Believe it.

The Legend Of Boggy Creek(1972) was released to R1 DVD in 2002 by Sterling Entertainment. The film's sequel, called Return To Boggy Creek(1977), was released to R1 DVD in 2005 by Elite Entertainment. A third installment, called Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues(1985), has also been released to DVD. Neither the second nor third "Boggy Creek" film is made in "docu" style and are both straight ahead horror films.

This film has been uploaded to YouTube(in ten parts). Here's the first ten minutes of the movie:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

London Calling: Gorgo(1960)

Older fans of giant monster movies are no doubt familiar with the various films starring these giant creatures, and without familiar Japanese "kaiju" like Godzilla and Gamera. Movies like 1967's The X From Outer Space and Gappa(aka "Monster From A Prehistoric Planet"), Mothra(1961) and Varan The Unbelievable(1958) immediately come to mind. One such giant movie that may not be as familiar to young(er) fans of the genre is Gorgo(1960), a movie produced by Frank and Maurice King and directed by Eugene Lourie. Like other films of the genre the monsters in this feature are rendered through the use of suit actors.
The film's story is fairly straightforward: a salvage vessel and her crew manage to capture a sixty foot tall marine reptilian like creature off the coast of Ireland. The creature is brought back to London and put on display at a local circus for profit. Unbeknownst to all but a pair of scientists, the captive marine monster is not fully grown and is actually an infant. Subsequently, the creature's parent, a 250 foot tall leviathan, appears at the island where it's "baby" was captured, then makes its way to London, where it proceeds to demolish the famous city in search of it's offspring.
Many of the special effects in this film are dated and would not impress by the standards, and technology today regarding visuals. Still, and like many other movies in this genre, Gorgo possesses a certain charm. The opening score for the movie is very majestic. The roars of the monsters are also unique and sound quite reasonable given the nature, and marine environment in which these creatures apparently lived.
To add some credibility to this film, established actors William Sylvester and Bill Travers were signed on, portraying "Sam Slade" ad "Joe Ryan", respectively.
The first region 1 DVD of this movie, released by VCI Entertainment, presented the film in a 1:66.1 aspect ratio, prompting some complaints of image compression(especially the opening credits). A newer edition R1 DVD was released by VCI that "corrects"(so to speak) the aspect ratio to 1:78.1 and includes improved audio and a few more DVD extras. The movie can be purchased at a very affordable price either directly from VCI's website or from internet vendors like DeepDiscount or Amazon.
The movie debuted theatrically in Japan in December of 1960 and would later arrive in American and British theaters in 1961.
The trailer for Gorgo(1960):

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hair Of The Dog: Werewolves In Cinema

Werewolves have long been a favorite of mine in films. I like the other traditional monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula just fine but for some reason they just don't evoke the same dread in me like werewolves do. There have been, over the decades, some truly marvelous movies featuring these hairy monsters, often referred to as "lycanthropes" or even "wolfmen". The earliest movie I can recall that gave the werewolf a good treatment is Werewolf Of London(1935), starring Henry Hull as the man who would be wolf. Of course in 1941 Universal released The Wolfman, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as "Larry Talbot", a man who is burdened with lycanthropy. Two films also stand out for me in the 1950's: The Werewolf(1956), starring a then unknown actor named Steven Ritch, who portrays "Duncan Marsh", a man who, through the actions of two nefarious scientists, becomes a werewolf. This film flies under the radar a good bit but is very good, I think, ably directed by Fred Sears, set in the rugged up country of northern California, and with makeup effects that make the lycanthrope in this movie look quite scary and malevolent. Another solid entry in this genre is I Was A Teenage Werewolf(1957), in which a mercurial high school student, played by Michale Landon, and given to frequent violent outbursts, is treated by a doctor(played by Whit Bissell), whose hypnosis causes the lad to begin having some seriously bad hair days. Admittedly, the plot is preposterous(even by the standards of these films) but the makeup effects are good and the film itself is campy fun. Hammer Films also contributed to the genre with a gem called The Curse Of The Werewolf(1961), in which a Spanish nobleman(played by Oliver Reed) succumbs to the curse.
I haven't seen 1973's The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, starring Kerwin Matthews but I hope it gets released to Region 1 DVD in the not too distant future.
Two more "werewolf" films would be released, both in 1981, that would revive and re-energize this particular horror movie monster: The Howling and An American Werewolf In London, directed by Joe Dante and John Landis, respectively. Both feature outstanding makeup effects, some surprisingly effective black humor, and scary beasts. I don't care much for most of The Howling's sequels with one exception: Howling V: The Rebirth(1989), set inside a creepy Hungarian castle and without too many shots of the beast early in the film(which kills the suspense). The monster picks off the group lured to the castle one by one.
Bad Moon(1996) has garnered poor reviews. Michael Pare is a lycanthrope who, in this film, meets his match in his sister's large police dog named "Thor". Not, I think, one of the better entries in the genre.
Another favorite is Dog Soldiers(2002), in which British commandos square off against a pack of werewolves in and around an isolated woodland cottage. A nice mix of action, gun play and genuine scares.

A promo clip for the 1956 film The Werewolf:

The trailer for one of my favorite "werewolf" films, Dog Soldiers(2002):

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gorilla Warfare: King Kong Vs Godzilla(1962)

I can remember the first time I watched King Kong Vs Godzilla: it was 1987 and I was at a friends' apartment watching a giant monster double feature on TBS Superstation. I had heard and read many things about this movie, which was released in 1962 by Toho, but had never seen it before.
Watching two of the most recognizable and infamous movie monsters on the planet battle it out was great fun for me. I saw none of the film's flaws the first time I watched it and, though I'm keenly aware of all this film's shortcomings now, I still greatly enjoy watching King Kong Vs Godzilla once a year. A more reptilian looking 50 meter tall Godzilla squares off against a 45 meter tall King Kong. The special effects are somewhat uneven and the Kong suit, as most would probably agree, doesn't look too good. Still, there's a lot of entertainment value to go around, from both the monsters and the cast.
Not too long ago Universal released this film, paired with 1967's King Kong Escapes, as a R1 DVD two pack. This version of the film is the "Americanized" version, with the inclusion of American actors, including James Yagi, and with sequences that "borrow" from the score for 1954's Creature From The Black Lagoon. This version was what American audiences watched in theaters when the film was released in the United States in 1963. Thankfully, Universal's R1 DVD maintains the original aspect ratio for the movie, 2:35.1 widescreen.
The original Toho version, uncut and in 2:35.1 widescreen format, can be purchased on R3 or on R2 from sites like, CDJapan(R2), and eThaiCD(R3).

The American trailer for King Kong Vs Godzilla:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Along Came A Spider: Arachnids In Horror Films

I have long been a fan of spiders in horror and sci-fi films. The fact I am something of an arachnophobe certainly makes watching spiders in cinema even more creepy for me. Over the decades there have been a bevy of horror/sci-fi movies featuring spiders, some good and some bad.
One of the first great "spider" themed horror movies was Tarantula(1955), starring Leo G. Carroll, John Agar and Mara Corday. The special effects in this film are surprisingly good and the disfigured scientists/comrades of Professor Deemer(played by Leo G. Carroll) add an extra element of horror to the already grim and creepy story of the film.

Though garnering less praise I am also quite of fond of The Spider(1958), whose alternate title is "Earth Vs The Spider"-this film continues to make the rounds on American Movie Classics(AMC), and stars (the late) Ed Kemmer. The effects are a bit more uneven in this film, and the shriek of the monster sized spider is, admittedly, laughably absurd.

In the 1970's two more movies entered the cinematic landscape of sci-fi: The Giant Spider Invasion(1975) and Kingdom Of The Spiders(1977), the latter starring William Shatner of "Star Trek" fame. Both are campy and a lot of fun if you don't take them too seriously.

In 1990 Arachnophobia hit theaters, a movie featuring a giant and poisonous South American spider that hitches a ride to a small California town where, mating with a common house spider, poisonous spiderlings are loosed on the town, the local doctor(played by Jeff Daniels) challenged to stop the creeping eight legged monsters, all while dealing with his severe arachnophobia.

More recent entries in this genre include Spiders(2000), which appears on The Sci-Fi Channel from time to time, along with its sequel Spiders 2: Breeding Ground. Another film of interest making appearances on The Sci-Fi Channel is Arachnid(2002).

Eight Legged Freaks
is also worth checking out, the spiders grown to enormous size through a local chemical spill and rendered fairly well by CGI and prominently featuring enlarged "jumping" spiders and one seriously bad ass, Airstream trailer sized tarantula.

Here's a trailer for 1958's "The Spider":

The trailer for Universal Picture's Tarantula(1955):

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Turtle Soup: Memories Of Gamera

Gamera. Mention that word to any self respecting fan of giant monster movies and you're likely to get a smile...or a roll of the eyes. Some of the first giant monster movies I watched on television as a kid were AIP Gamera films.
In 1965 Daiei released Giant Monster Gamera, a B&W film that featured a 200 foot tall flying and fire breathing turtle. This film was also "Americanized" and released under an alternate title, Gammera The Invincible, with the inclusion of American actors Albert Dekker and Brian Donlevy.

Gamera would go on to star in more of these films, including Gamera Vs Barugon(1966), Gamera Vs Gyaos(1967), Gamera Vs Viras(1968), Gamera Vs Guiron(1969), Gamera Vs Zigra(1971), & Gamera Super Monster(1980). I like these older Gamera movies. Admittedly there are many of them floating around in retailers and on the internet on DVD in pan ' scan and grainy prints. Some of these movies have been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. These classic Gamera films should be seen in their original aspect ratio(2:35.1 letterbox) in order to be fully appreciated.

Gamera has also starred in a trio of movies in the 90's: Gamera Guardian Of The Universe(1995), Gamera 2: Advent Of Legion(1996) & Gamera 3: The Incomplete Struggle(aka Gamera 3: The Revenge Of Irys)(1999). These "Gamera Trilogy" films are all marvelous and employ updated special effects. They are definitely worth checking out for any fan of giant monster movies who hasn't seen them.

In 2006 Gamera returned once more to the big screen in Gamera The Brave. This film prominently features children in the storyline and is, I think, a "children's" movie. That said the special effects are very good and the movie itself entertains fairly well.

I can't say I like Gamera as much as I do Godzilla but I do think the giant turtle has established his own place in the kaiju pantheon of movie monsters. I hope one day in the not too distant future we'll see quality R1 DVD releases of the older Gamera films.

The trailer for Gamera Vs Zigra(1971):

Friday, May 23, 2008

Monsterland Forums

I hope those browsing this blog page will check out Monsterland Forums, a message board I started about twenty six months ago, and dedicated to my great fondness for Godzilla, giant monsters, and sci-fi/horror movies. Our community is still small, with only about a dozen active members out of our membership scroll of 109 people. The site has been experiencing slow but consistently sustained growth, both in posting activity and in members. The site will be undergoing a format change soon to Zetaboards format. We have a "Casual Chat" and "Sports" forum, as well as forums for fan submissions(written, artwork and video) and "Ultraman".

To visit Monsterland Forums click the title of this blog entry above.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Movies I'd like to see on Region 1 DVD

There remain, despite my ever growing DVD collection, many titles I'd really like to see on quality Region 1 DVD. Among those I'd like to see:

Battle In Outer Space(1959)
The H-Man(1958)
Half Human(1955)
Captain Nemo And The Underwater City(1969)
Crack In The World(1965)
The Prey(1984)
The Green Slime(1968)

Here's the trailer for The Green Slime(1968), one of the films on my R1 "wish" list:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

AIP Trailers

Some of the best movie trailers I've ever seen are those from American International Pictures, or AIP. Here are a couple of favorites of mine: Frankenstein Conquers The World(1966)(top) and Die Monster! Die!(1965)(bottom):

Playing favorites

It seems like one of the more popular topics these days on chat oriented message boards is listing a favorite "this" and a favorite "that". Far be it for me to deviate from the trend. Some favorites of my own-

Favorite movies:

2001: A Space Odyssey(1968)
Gojira(1954) (the first "Godzilla" film)
The Thing(1982)
The Day The Earth Caught Fire(1961)
Mothra Vs Godzilla(1964)
Destroy All Monsters(1968)
War Of The Gargantuas(1966)
Frankenstein Vs Baragon(1965)
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms(1953)

Favorite horror films:

Pit And The Pendulum(1961)
The Haunting(1963)
The Descent(2005)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974)
The Curse Of The Werewolf(1961)
Horror Of Dracula(1958)
The Howling(1981)
An American Werewolf In London(1981)
The Burning(1981)
A Nightmare On Elm Street(1984)
Dog Soldiers(2002)
Night Of The Living Dead(1968)
The Fly(1958)
The Shining(1980)
The Changeling(1979)

Favorite science fiction films:

The Empire Strikes Back(1980)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture(1979)
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind(1977)
The Thing(1982)
Fantastic Voyage(1966)
The Andromeda Strain(1971)
Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea(1961)
Battle In Outer Space(1959)
Star Wars(1977)
Planet Of The Apes(1968)
The Day The Earth Stood Still(1951)
The Day The Earth Caught Fire(1961)
2001: A Space Odyssey(1968)