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: