Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I'm a Good Read!

The sweet, sweet Carl over at I Like Horror Movies has deemed the Cavalcade a 'good read.' Thank you, Carl, good buddy. There are so many great horror-related blogs out there and I feel privileged to be considered one of them. Aw, warm fuzzy cuddly tingly feelings all around!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shriek of the Mutilated

It's mutilated! And it's shrieking! Well, not really, as you come to find out after watching Mike Findlay's 1974 Bigfoot opus, Shriek of the Mutilated. But I could really care less about the actual shrieks or mutilations as long as I get to watch a guy in a furry costume run around scaring kids. I'm a huge Bigfoot fan, whether he may or may not cause shrieks and/or mutilations.

The movie begins as Dr. Prell ends his lecture on cryptozoology and prepares to take his four students (apparently Yeti Studies isn't that popular a major) - Tom, Karen, Lynn, and Keith (his star pupil) on a Yeti hunting expedition on Boot Island, about six hours north of the college. He invites Keith to a special dinner, while the rest of the gang heads off to a party, Karen being a little miffed since Keith's her man and she wanted him to go with her, but whatevs.

Later on at the party, which is for some reason centered around a movie theatre popcorn machine in the middle of the apartment's living room, ex-student-of-Doc Prell's-turned-alcoholic-janitor, Spencer St. Sinclair shows up with his wife, April. (Doesn't St. Sinclair sound like a vintage stripper name?) Everybody rolls their eyes; apparently Spence doesn't "do well" at parties. Karen engages Spencer in a dialogue about the time he went on a Yeti-focused field trip with Prell. Well, she couldn't have said anything worse to poor ol' Spence. Swilling vodka and gesturing wildly, Spencer goes on to tell the partygoers the horrors of that fateful day some seven years ago, where his whole expedition was killed by a mysterious creature, with he and Prell being the only survivors.

Let's check in on Keith. He's having dindin with Prell at a very exclusive establishment off campus. It's exclusive because the professor tells us it's exclusive. The whole conversation between Prell and Keith is very cryptic and Prell takes it one step further and orders some mystery meat, his 'usual dish,' for Keith to try. Keith digs in, questions nothing, and listens and nods in the appropriate places. Seems Prell has some big plans for Keith, but what they are, we aren't quite sure yet.

After Spencer's tirade, he and April return home. April's pretty pissed; she'd like to just go out one time, just one time, without having to hear how Spencer escaped the the furious yeti. She throws her coat at him and he retaliates like any drunk who's escaped a crypto-legend and then became a janitor would, he cuts her throat with an electrical serrated blade. He then grabs a Bud and heads to the already full tub, getting in with all his clothes on. April's not done for yet though, and has the resourcefulness to crawl from the kitchen to the bathroom, dragging the toaster behind her. One quick plug in into the outlet, and another quick push into the tub, and Spencer's toast.

The next day, Keith, Prell, and the gang head on up to Boot Island, to the house of Prell's good friend and colleague, one Dr. Carl Werner, who reminds me a bit of a less flamboyant David Lochary. The kids are also introduced to Carl's housekeeper, a mute Native American chap, who looks more Italian really, named Laughing Crow. The irony wasn't lost on me. Karen's a little unsettled by Laughing Crow's demeanor - he tends to lurk quite a bit - but everyone else seems cool with the weirdness and everyone settles in, Tom even singing an original song about a Yeti with piano accompaniment.

Dr. Carl tells the crew about a recent Yeti encounter - he heard a noise or something and grabbed a rifle, and saw a furry white bipedal creature in off in the woods a distance. It's exciting stuff and the next morning, Prell and the kids venture out into the woods in search of the Yeti. Tom eventually looses the group and wanders off on his own, thus becoming the first victim of our fuzzy wuzzy costumed critter.

When Tom doesn't return, Lynn gets very upset because she was hoping to do sexy times with him that weekend, and Carl and Prell assure her Tom is an experienced woodsman and will find his way back to the house eventually. To calm herself the next morning, Lynn takes a walk out to the greenhouse, and discovers, what I'm assuming, is Tom's body inside, and runs freaking out into the woods, becoming the Abominable's second victim.

Karen has officially decided when they find Lynn's body, that something ain't right goin' down, so she pleads with Keith to leave. She implores Keith to get her the hell out of there, but Prell and Carl have convinced Keith to help them use Lynn's body as bait to lure the Yeti close to the house so they can catch it in this teeny tiny little wolf trap.

After this, the whole thing utterly degrades into a whole mess about a secret cannibalistic theatrical society with global membership. Seriously. Karen dies of fright, everyone stabs Keith with some forks, and we find Laughing Crow wasn't a mute after all. White meat or dark, indeed!

Honestly, I didn't think a Findlay could have made a movie like this. If you're not familiar with the Findlay's work, please check them out - they made some of the sickest, so sick you need shots, movies of the exploitation age. And while SotM has none of the trappings of the other Mike Findlay features I've had the (un)pleasure of watching, this movie is a great time! This was probably the fourth or fifth time I've seen it and I never get tired of it. I could ask for a bit more Bigfoot action (greedy, greedy), and the explanation about the presence of the creature is a little lacking, but the whole absurdity of the conclusion leaves me reeling. L.O.V.E.I.T.

And what kinda soundtrack to you think a movie about Yetis, secret devil cults that eat people, and the Saturnalia would have? Yeah, classical sounds just about right.

Check out my beautiful new banner!

I want to send lots of hugs and kisses to Mykal over at Radiation Cinema for coming up with my amazing new banner for the site. As I may have mentioned before, it's all I can do to use blogger to keep the site looking the way it does, so designing something like Mykal has done for me is completely outside of my realm of possibilities. I'm multi-talented, don't get me wrong, just in other areas :P So let me know what you think and maybe Mykal would be interested in designing some more stuff for the site in the future!

Rock on!

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Need A Banner

I was sitting here watching Friday the 13th on Spike TV drinking wine (lame, because of commercials) and thinking I need a good banner for the Cavalcade of Perversions. Being that I have no graphic design savvy whatsoever, I thought I would appeal to you, my good readers, to provide. I want something sideshow banner-esque with a perverted feel, but of course, and I am hoping one of you can provide. My title is looking a little lame, as it were, and I need something with panache. I can't say that I can pay you, if you choose to accept the task of designing me a stellar looking banner to grace ye' ol' blog, but I can likely hook you up with a vhs tape or two and/or the esteemed honor of having developed the banner for the esteemed (ahem) blog that I write. Help me out guys! I'm trying to look all professional and shit.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Driller Killer

When I think of sweaty, greasy, dirty, possibly heroin addicted, unhinged Noo Yawk filmmakers from the late seventies-early eighties, I naturally think of Abel Ferrara. And then when I get to thinkin' about Abel Ferrara, I start thinking about Harvey Keitel's naked ass in Bad Lieutenant. Well, Driller Killer is sans Harvey's naked ass, but it does have some thrills and good times (and some unreconciled issues!), in a seedy grindhouse sort of way.

Ferrara's a double threat in Driller Killer, directing the film and playing main character Reno, a starving New York artist struggling to make ends meet. Reno has been busy perfecting his masterwork - a giant painting of a buffalo (which incidentally looks like it should be on black velvet). It's been a struggle getting this buffalo juuuuust right and the bills haven't gotten paid. Carol, Reno's girlfriend, and Pam, Carol's girlfriend, live with Reno and do basically nothing but run up the bills and complain about when the buffalo is gonna get finished. As patiently as possible, Carol pays the rent with an alimony check from her husband, who is still trying to get her to come back to him.

If the women and landlord and telephone company all being on his case ain't enough, Reno has to contend with the garage band, Tony Coca-Cola and the Roosters (yes, seriously, that is their name, I had to back up the DVD twice to make sure I heard it correctly), that's moved in underneath him practicing at all hours of the night. Distracted as ever, Reno appeals to the landlord to no avail, but the landlord does bestow upon him a dead skinned rabbit, one he was cutely feeding cucumbers in a prior scene. Reno takes the rabbit back upstairs and runs a knife along it, then starts stabbing it maniacally. Stressed much, Reno?

After seeing a commercial for a power pack - a device that allows the user to operate any plug-in device without the plug-in - Reno heads off to the hardware store to get one to operate the drill. At least, I'm assuming that's his thinking, after the incident with the rabbit. See, there was already a drill in the house, because towards the beginning Reno helped a strung-out chick who was inexplicably in their apartment drill an arbitrary hole in the pantry door, after some painful deliberation upon its placement. About the thirty-minute mark, things start to get little confusing. Since some of it is so dark, the copy has been public domain for awhile, and parts of it were supposedly shot in 1977 and then other parts shot in 1979, it's difficult to discern sometimes what happened/is happening.

Anyway, it's safe to assume Reno is becoming a little unhinged - he starts hearing ghostly voices and decides it's best to get out the drill and do a little homeless killin.' His first kill is a bum he previously tried to council, telling him - 'why don't you get off the street, man? Go home to your girlfriend'. Oh, you don't have a girlfriend because you're a bum. It went a little something like that. It's a pretty bloody mess and has a certain realistic quality to it, like most of this.

After Reno gets his first taste of murdering the homeless by power tool, there's really no stopping him, and he goes on a rampage wearing some tight red pants. The Roosters keep right on practicing their horrible brand of punk rock. They practice A LOT. (Every other scene is literally a shot of them practicing.) But there's a job to do and despite all the distractions, Reno manages to complete the buffalo (although it really looks no different from when we first see it), and invites his art dealer over to see it. Behold!

The words 'unacceptable', 'mockery', 'work of unadulterated ego', 'waste of time', and 'worthless' are all used to describe the poor buffalo and the art dealer leaves in a huff. Carol flips her shit, and starts screaming at the art dealer and I almost (almost) feel a little bit sorry for Reno (and Pam). Carol then decides she's had it with the starving artist and returns to her husband.

So his woman left him, his art dealer called him mean names, what's there left to do but play with a light saber toy in the dark, answer a non-ringing phone and have an imaginary conversation with your ex, and kill, kill as if you're life depended on it! Kicking it up a notch, Reno decides to call the art dealer over for dinner, but not before donning a face full of makeup and an outfit of tight women's clothing, and of course, his power pack and drill, so he's ready when that son of a bitch who renounced his mighty buffalo gets there.

Now, you might be asking yourself, why would the art dealer come back over to the apartment after he got all pissy about the painting, calling Reno and the buffalo all sorts of ugly names and storming out? There was a early scene, between Reno and Pam, about the art dealer's sexuality. Pam urges Reno to have sex with the art dealer; it could help Reno's artistic career. She says something like, 'use KY, it won't hurt. I know this.' Reno denounces her and figures he'll get famous on his own abilities, rather than a casting couch type situation. Sooooo, when Reno calls the art dealer back over, I think it's strongly alluded to that their may be sexy times in the art dealer's future on the part of Reno.

I might just be imagining all this (because I'm always thinking about sex), but there are some sexuality issues here. All of Reno's victims are males. He does kill Pam at the end, however, Pam is bisexual based on her relationship with Carol, as well as her coming onto Tony Coca-Cola and eventually sexing him. Reno's initial victims are homeless men. Perhaps it's just a matter of accessibility; he must kill someone (the 'disposable' homeless) because of his burgeoning insanity, and the majority of the homeless are men (at least in Reno's neighborhood), and perhaps he's sane enough to realize he does care about Pam and Carol enough to not kill them. Is Reno a closeted homosexual? Well, is he? I really only mention it because, you know, you watch a lot of horror movies, women are usually the victims. Especially when a killer wielding a phallic instrument, such as a drill, is involved. (Ferrara plays with genre gender conventions again in Ms. 45, a superior Ferrara film and favorite here at the Cavalcade.) I won't get into a long drawn out literary analysis here, but it did intrigue me. Driller Killer is a seemingly gritty inept grindhouse feature on the surface, but a complex (?) gender and sexuality study beneath. But isn't everything? :P And chock one up for a random lesbian shower scene thrown in there!

Don't get me wrong, this thing has an extremely labored pace, much akin to actually descending into madness, is my guess. And the quality of the print I watched was horrible. And there was a thunderstorm raging outside and scaring me and the power was flickering on an off so I had to keep restarting the damn thing, so I think I missed a scene or two. And the continuity is terrible, even without the power going out. (For instance, Carol's husband is named Peter in the beginning; Stephen by the end.) But if you get through it, there's enough here to entertain and perplex. You'll be scratching your head over why The Roosters have so many groupies.

In closing, I will leave you with this line of dialogue, spoken by Pam, which can easily be appreciated out of context, since there was no prior context in the film anyway - 'You don't have to kiss to make babies. I told him, you gotta fuuuuuck.'

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guru, The Mad Monk

At the medieval Lost Souls Church of Motavia, Father Guru has fallen on hard times. Seems this particular church is on an island in the middle of nowhere and Mommy Church has all but forgotten all about it. Guru is forced to make ends meet by imprisoning losers brought over from the mainland and seeing to their eternal damnation. He'll get a bonus (I guess, some of it's a little hazy, and I was also dealing with an ear infection while I was trying to watch this) if he punishes them in a corporeal manner. The church is actually the least of Guru's worries, since he has a couple of special needs mouths to feed - Igor, his hunchbacked assistant, who is, um, a hunchback (apparently Milligan was a big 'fan' of the crippled and included a crippled character in many of his films), and Olga, his lady friend who has an austere diet, meaning, um, she drinks blood.

Just as things are looking their worst, the lovely Nadja is brought in kicking and screaming, condemned by the church because she was thought to have murdered her newborn baby. Seems that it was all just a big mistake, because the baby was actually stillborn and Nadja was just trying to give the poor thing a proper burial and forget the whole nasty business because the baby was actually the product of Nadja's being raped by a gypsy king who had also imprisoned her. Luckily, her ex-boyfriend Carl (how's that for a medieval name?) has taken a job as Guru's lackey and finds Nadja locked up. Carl decides he'll appeal to Guru on behalf of Nadja and hopefully get her released from the church jail.

Guru agrees fairly readily, at least I think he does, but instead of just letting her go free, he devises a plan in which Olga will mix up a potion causing Nadja to just appear dead so they can smuggle the body out of the prison and resusitate her with an anecdote also prepared by Olga. Guru's mad, now, don't forget, and there is a catch to this plan. In return for sparing Nadja's body, I mean, her soul will still be condemned to eternal damnation, Carl has to get dead bodies from several towns over and sell them to medical students in exchange for gold. A man in love's gotta do what a man in love's gotta do, and Carl sets about his mission wearily.

First things first though, Olga wants in on the deal too, and she's not gonna part with the potion until Carl offers to get her some fresh blood. She's sick and tired of having to eat the coagulated blood left over from the Guru's executions. It's just not the same as some nice fresh product and I can't say that I blame her. No blood = no potion, so Carl's gotta add that to his grisly shopping list.

Meanwhile, we get to see the Guru in action, saving souls. And by saving souls, he executes people. It's an eye for an eye literally here, for the unfortunate peeping tom. The shoplifter gets her hands cut off. I think a branding iron is also used on somebody (my ear infection was making it really hard to concentrate). Don't expect any stellar gore here - the maiden's dismembered hands are obviously mannequin hands; the peeping tom's eyeballs look more like ping pong balls or maybe even marshmallows, it's hard to say. But Guru ain't all bad, because, true to his word, he manages to slip Nadja the potion here, and she is whisked away by Carl.

Carl's delighted to have Nadja free and alive, but before they can run off into the sunset, the Guru drops the nicety and demands Carl go out on another body snatching errand. This is when the monk really flies off the handle, arguing with himself in a mirror (Taxi Driver, anyone?). He goes from nice, kind Father Guru to batshit crazy Guru the Mad Monk. He says, 'You really should be nice to Igor, he really does love you.' Then crazy comes out and retorts, 'You go to hell!' It's seriously a tour de force performance, because I feel like Guru really does want to be good, and I enjoyed every second of it. His evil side just keeps gettin' stronger and stronger. It's actually almost sort of believable and I actually almost sort of felt bad for ol' Guru.

If things couldn't get any worse, Mama Church, who hasn't forgotten about Guru after all, has sent Father Polanski to remove Guru from his post at Lost Souls because of his blasphemous relationship with Olga, who isn't necessarily crazy, but was once bit by a beast at some undisclosed location and turned into the Soul of Darkness she is today. But Guru loves her and has promised to care for her. And I think (I know, I need to stop thinking so much) that Guru was also bit by a similar (?), the same (?) beast that turned Olga, so that's why they have this special connection (?).

If that whole deal wasn't enough to get Guru excommunicated, Polanski takes it upon himself to interview Nadja, who's been holed up in the vestry while Carl's off on his corpses for gold mission. Nadja tells Polanski of the parishoners who arrive but never leave, like Christine, a young pregnant woman who Olga drained of blood, or Lars, a sailor, who wants a mass before leaving for sea, who Guru took the opportunity to dispatch and add to his growing body count. This is all Polanski needs to hear, and the whole thing swirls out of control for poor Guru and Olga - Guru even tries break up with Olga and get her out of his life so he can go on business as usual. But Olga doesn't take this news very well and stabs herself. It's mutiny after this and a happy ending (maybe?) for Carl and Nadja. Fin.

Oh, that Andy Milligan! He had actually admitted that Guru was his worst film and disowned it. I thought it was a blast, as well as a very overt attack on organized religion, and Lord knows I love an overt attack on organized religion. The subtext don't run too deep here, folks, and if the dialouge doesn't tip you off right away, Guru's (aforementioned) actions will. At one point, Guru says, 'I preach one thing and continue believing another - self survival.' He preaches about God, yet he kills people, damning them to hell. So he's a duplicitous character; he's also a hypocrite.

Jimmy McDonough, in his fascinating look at Milligan in his book The Ghastly One, says, 'strip away the medieval costumes and canned music in Guru and everything can be viewed in terms of a street pickup. The exchanges are all so sleazy and desperate. Don't trust anyone, every man for himself, perhaps I'll do for you if you do for me' (219). Everyone's out for themselves; we see how easily Guru's willing to forsake Olga to save his own ass. Even the 'happy' ending is unconvincing - what's going to happen to Carl and Nadja after all they've already been through?

Despite the serious stuff, Guru is a great sleazy time! The costumes are a scream, fabric everywhere! I'm assuming Andy made all those outfits because despite being degenerate indie director and all-around sleaze ball, Milligan was also quite the accomplished dressmaker. All the characters are totally fucked up and no one really gets out unscathed. I'm not desperate to take a shower after watching this, maybe I would be if it had lasted longer (it's only about 55 minutes), but I'm sure Milligan could make me want to bathe in scalding water given the opportunity. I'm sort of a novice when it comes to his movies - this is my third; but I'm willing to start the shower now in hopes of being really repulsed (in a good way) later.
Since we're on the subject of Milligan , I've been after an original Midnite Video VHS copy of the Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here! forever now - since before I even knew Milligan's name. I love that title! I think it might even be the BEST title EVAR!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Don't Look in the Basement

Man, I love the 70's. Not only was it the decade in which I was born (give it up for that alone), it is also the decade that produced some of the greatest cinema to grace the pantheon of all cinema. Not that SF Brownrigg's (sounds like a phoney name, doesn't it? Like Mr. Bigglesworth Pighaven of Fallingsworth or something) 1973 flick Don't Go in the Basement goes down in celluloid history for any reason as far as being termed 'great' is concerned, but it's still pretty darn 70's and pretty darn good, at least as far as the standards here at the Cavalcade are concerned.

First, everybody, get out yer DSM IV's, because it's gonna be a long night trying to figure out what actually plagues all these characters in this movie. I wish I had a copy still lying around; I think I took a psych class somewheres along the way that required us to have one, but I can't find it anywhere. No bother. I think if we were to actually diagnose all these people, we would realize they weren't all that fucking crazy to begin with. Because aren't we all a little mental? Allow me to unpack this (I used to have this professor that would always say that, 'let's unpack this novel or this story or whatever and now I find myself using it even though we would always tally up how many times the woman would say 'unpack' in the course of a class).

So, the movie starts out with Janey, the elderly nurse with killer fifties glasses who is getting on in years, telling Sam, a lobotomized black man with the mind of an eight-year old who eats Popsicles all day, that's she's leaving Dr. Stephen's Sanitarium, a old farmhouse in the woods, at least an hour off the beaten track, and infamous (?), well known for (?) it's experimental methods in treating the mentally ill. Experimental simply means he lets them run around unsupervised while indulging in their psychoses until they absolutely explode with the CRAZY, which should cure them. Experimental, right? I'll explain more in a second and you'll see what I mean. Janey just can't take 'it' any more and, as much as she's grown to care for Sam, she just has to get the fuck outta dodge, and we'll see later that that's a pretty good decision.

We're then introduced to Dr. Stephens, the patriarch of the institution, in a treatment session with Oliver, who thinks he's a judge, or once was a judge, I couldn't quite discern. Treatment session here means letting Oliver hack away mercilessly at a fallen tree trunk with an axe while egging him on to release his aggression. It's only a matter of time, here a few moments, before the old judge has hacked his way into Dr. Stephens, killing him.

Enter 'Dr.' Geraldine Masters, who ushers Judge off to his chambers and has Sam deal with Dr. Stephens' body. It's up to Dr. Masters now to take over where Stephens left off and run the asylum. Just as we thought Dr. Masters had her hands full, the lovely psychiatric nurse Charlotte, looking a little Lindsay Lohan-ish, but without the disgusting fake tan and drug problem, shows up, saying Stephens' hired her last week to assist because of Janey's departure. Dr. M is initially turned off by Charlotte's arrival, in that she never discussed Charlotte's employment with Stephen's before his untimely death, but figures she'll take Char Char on in the interim, because, well, you know how crazy people can get outta hand. And you see it comin' a mile away, which you probably didn't because my attempts at narrative are so poor, Dr. Masters certainly ain't no doctor.

After all this painfully obvious exposition, we get to meet the rest of the characters. Oh, and what characters they are! We've got Danny, a ginger afro-ed young man who's only affliction seems to be that he laughs maniacally at everything. There's Allison, a seemingly normal ex-hooker who only wants men to love her, but at what cost? There's Sam, who we've encountered before, as well as Oliver, the dude that used to maybe be a judge. Then there's Jennifer, a catatonic, sometimes prone to serious instances of knife wielding rage, and Sarg, an ex-Sargent from the army, who lost his whole platoon due to some fault of his own and has resorted to wearing fatigues and starring out the window, waiting for the other side to attack. There's also Mrs. Callingham, an ancient old woman who cuts out her own tongue and Harriet, a young lady who thinks a baby doll is a real child.

Seems Dr. S had just let everybody go about their insane business, including Dr. Masters, who thought she was a doctor, so Stephens let her continue to think that, including letting her assist in Sam's second lobotomy (!). Charlotte finds the hard way that no one is actually being treated for anything, as she tries her best to relate to the aforementioned patients. The whole thing winds up dissolving into this complete descent into madness on the part of absolutely everyone, including Charlotte, although it doesn't end as badly for her as I thought it would initially.

We actually aren't treated to footage of the titular basement until the absolute end, which isn't a big deal, since the the crazies give us enough entertainment throughout to really forget there was a basement we should be concerned about to begin with. Harriet, the one with the baby doll she thinks is a real baby, smacks so much of Mink Stole from Female Trouble (when she plays 'car accident' I almost think John Waters riffed from this, considering FT was made in '74). Her performance is so Mink, it's uncanny, at least to this JW obsessive. Allison is damn near eerie as the former prosty turned mental case, as she seduces, kills, and winds up in a necrophiliac situation with a telephone repairman, I would have given her an Academy award. And Sam, he's so endearing as the lovable Popsicle eating sweetheart, it's hard to believe the depravity he results to by the end of the film. The performances, while over the top, are still quasi-believable; because they are portraying crazy people, it really doesn't fucking matter how ham-fisted this stuff really gets.

This movie was riddled with plot holes, full of obvious red herrings, and rife with scenery chewing performances. I loved every second of it. This movie is one of the many reasons why I choose to ensconce myself in the cinema of the 70's rather than anything else. The aforementioned, and the eye makeup. Definitely the eye makeup.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory

With a title like Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory, what are the first images that spring to mind? I think of non-stop, bloody werewolf attacks resulting in a veritable werewolf/co-ed orgy ensuing after plenty of shower scenes, some lesbian lovin', and lots and lots of bare breasts. This is just one of those movies that was just begging for a remake in the 80's. Instead, what we get is talking, lots and lots of talking, and then a bit more talking.

The whole tale begins with Dr. Julian Alcott arriving at a girl's school, a sort of reformatory for young women who have fallen in trouble with the law. Alcott's a cutie, by sixties standards, I guess, and the girls are excited that he's in their midst. One girl, Mary Smith, even faints at the sight of him, as he makes his way to meet Director Swift. Upon meeting with the director, Alcott alludes to a mysterious past but we learn he was cleared of all charges. He's at the school to start fresh and leave his old life behind.

The night of Alcott's arrival, Mary, the girl who fainted earlier (or was she faking it to get out of gym class?), sneaks away from campus to meet a lover, presumably, as wolves howl menacingly. Make no mistake, this is a meager attempt at atmosphere, and by no means sucks the viewer in. It's like, oh, some wolves are howling. How scary. Hold me please. Mary meets up with Sir Albert Whiteman and tells him she's gonna blackmailing him. Seems they were knockin' boots maybe and now she wants Albert to spring her from the school. He tells her no, she was sentenced there by the court, and he can't get her out. But isn't she already out? She broke out of the school pretty easily, she just climbed over a wall, no alarms or releasing of the hounds or anything, couldn't she just run away into the night? She doesn't do this and decides to get mad at Albert and huff off into the night. As she storms off, a wolf man pursues her in a classic scene we've all come to know and love - young woman runs through the woods pursued by beastly other and is subsequently killed and possibly violated sexually (although that's pushing it here).
I can dig it.

Alfred, unawares of Mary's fate, returns home to his wife, Sheena, who is not at all befitting of the name Sheena. When I think of the name Sheena, I think of a teenager with drawn on eyebrows who works at a smoothie place in the mall part-time, is addicted to text messaging, and will cut you if you look at her wrong. Sheena in this movie is an aging old bitch given to wearing flowing robes and and berating her husband. There's lots and lots of talking between Alfred and Sheena and she may or may not know about Alfred's affair with Mary and she also kind of alludes to the fact that Alfred's a wolf man, but not really.

The next morning, Mary's body is discovered and taken back to the school. The coroner's report names wolves as the culprit, but Alcott and Sir Alfred, upon examining the body, know better. Priscilla (who is at least ten years too old for her role) enters the picture at the point, and as a friend of the deceased, she's determined to find out what really happened to her friend. Seems Priscilla knew about Mary's blackmailing scheme and sees Director Swift about it. But since Sir Alfred never signed the letters and Priscilla doesn't have them in her possession, nothing can be proven. It's also at this point that Priscilla sees a telegram alluding to that mysterious past of Alcott's. So there's all this correspondence flying about and speculated on and blah blah and Priscilla starts to think Mary was assassinated.

So Priscilla strikes a deal with creepy grounds caretaker, Walter, to find out more about Mary's death. He leads her off grounds to a house, where she meets with Sheena, who gives her a wad of cash in exchange for her to stop meddling, I suppose. I was kinda unclear on why Sheena gives her the dough. They talk and blather about stuff, it all pans out very slowly, and Priscilla leaves and runs into Alcott, of all people, in the woods in the middle of the night. While Priscilla and Alcott discuss wolf traps, Sheena returns to her other house (the previous house was just her meeting and giving money to people in exchange for their silence house), and is injected with something that kills hers by a black gloved killer. Then Priscilla gets attacked by a wolf man but a dog comes out of nowhere and bits the wolfie on the hand, so Priscilla can live and keep meddling.

The next day at Sheena's funeral, Walter, Alcott, and Sir Alfred are all limping or holding their arms funny. Anyone of them could be the wolf man. Sandy, another friend of Mary's and Priscilla's, fingers Alcott as the killer since the killings didn't start happening until he arrived on campus, and then the truth of Alcott's sordid past is forced to come to the surface. Seems he meddled in a lycanthropic viral infection of some sort back at an asylum for the criminally insane where he use to be a medical doctor. He fell in love with a beautiful patient suffering from thinking she was wolfen, and he had to put her down. He was, of course, discredited, and was forced to become a Teacher of Science at the girl's school. Oh, and he injected himself with the virus once, to see what effect it might have had on a human. It's shaping up that Alcott's our wolfie, but don't be so sure yet. I'm sure you're just dying with suspense.

In what I'm sure the filmmakers thought was a delightful twist, the identity of the lycan is revealed (it's not Alcott, Walter, OR Sir Alfred) and since I can't remember properly because I was so bored, it's unexplained as to why this individual is the wolf man or why he's doing what he's doing. I guess he got injected with the virus somewheres along the way. Seriously, I was in an out of consciousness while watching this snoozefest, you're lucky (I'm lucky?) I remember what I do. I had to bear in mind since this wasn't an exercise in sleaze, that it's also not a movie about the struggle of the wolf man, like the Universal Larry Talbot movies.

So instead of being a sleazy bestial orgy with lots of shirt ripping, werewolf transformations, and unbridled sexuality like the title invokes, we get a tepid, soggy whodunit that happens to feature a wolf man virus. And there aren't even that many wolf scenes! Maybe three? Four, tops. To its credit, the acting is solid, I suppose, and Priscilla isn't terrible to look at, either, yet she's missing something and is kind of annoying with all her meddling.
If you dig your werewolf yarns ramped up, and and you don't mind cracking a book, I highly recommend Ray Garton's werewolf novels, Ravenous, and its sequel, Bestial, which I just finished. I think those two books have threatened to ruin me on werewolf cinema for the rest of my life, since they are just so filled with werewolf sex and werewolf violence, in a good way.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Night Train to Terror

If I told you one movie contained within Nazis, stop motion animation, a Russian roulette death club, breakdancing, a porno scene involving a squaw and an explorer, an omniscient narrator, a carnival, and Richard Moll in a dual role, would you be all like, hell yeah, sign me up, that sounds like a real coherent good time! Or would you be like, hmmm, I don't know, it sounds like a leeetle to much for my poor senses to take in right now.

Such is Night Train to Terror. If I was to describe it to you play by play, you would be like, hell yeah, Jenn, that sounds right the fuck on! But then I would have led you astray with my comedic writing style (ha!), and you would watch the movie expecting this great marvel of cinema, yet you would be sorely disappointed. Sorely, my friends. And then you'd hate me. Since I want nothing more than to win your love and adoration, I won't write a play by play of Night Train to Terror. I will merely say this: when you have a movie with a frame type situation (here it's God and Satan on a train discussing the fates of three people - those who you see in the vignettes involving Nazis, squaws, Russian roulette, et. al.) make sure....wait, I'm not really sure what you should make sure of. That shit makes sense? You know, I don't often care if stuff doesn't make sense, in fact sometimes I rather enjoy it when it doesn't. But this movie made little sense and not in good, I'm watching a fever dream, let me sit back and enjoy it kinda way. If a movie can take you (in fifteen minutes of screen time or so) from seeing a girl selling popcorn at a fair to the same girl and her lover, as well as ex-pimp, all strapped to electric chairs while a computer chooses who gets to be electrocuted, it's done something. I'm not sure what. And if that same movie can take you from watching 'band' (in the loosest sense of what constitutes a band - drums? guitar? lots of dancing while wearing headbands? One song to their repertoire?), to seeing a Nazi demon mow down with a machine gun imprisoned females playing the violin for the entertainment of Nazi troops, I guess that's talent. I shouldn't be so harsh on NTtoT. It makes some pretty impressive leaps.

I'm at a loss for words. And I love bad horror movies! You know, as I was watching this last night, I didn't even feel like finishing my glass of wine! I went to bed at 11 pm! Well, I tried watching Drive-In Massacre but was too exhausted emotionally after NTtoT, I couldn't even commit to another movie! I hope I'm okay. I feel a little better now, thank goodness. Your sympathy is appreciated.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fourth of July Weekend

I hate weekends where I'm forced to take off work - and for what? Because of fireworks? I light fireworks off every day, bitches. Well, I don't really, but I should. It's on the list. Anyway, looks like the weekend off is shaping up to where I get super acquainted with the above bottle of vodka, the wine featured next to it (although I'm not really expecting that to last much more of tonite, really) and the Gore and More Ten Pack which includes The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Women starring my man, Paul Naschy, as well as Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory, which I have always wanted to see and never have. Doesn't really take much to make me happy, honestly. So Happy Fourth of July or whatever, drink a lot, watch a lot of horror movies and enjoy a picture of a kitty riding a shark. Because nothing screams independence like a furry mammal atop a prehistoric killing machine.

And because there aren't any Fourth of July themed horror flicks out there, unless you count Silver Bullet, which I think takes place during Fourth of July. Hey, it's got a werewolf (who's also in Twin Peaks AND People Under the Stairs, not in werewolf form though, unfortunately, how different would those aforementioned have been, huh?) AND Busey AND Corey Haim in a souped up wheelchair. I might just have to add that to this weekend's festivities. Oh, sorry, you were enjoying the picture of the kitty with the shark. So sorry.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Scream Blacula Scream

Sream! Blacula! Scream! Whenever I hear or think of that title (which ain't all that often, but often enough to assure me I am, indeed, not normal), I think of the one sheet in the shop where I get tattooed. It's the Spanish language version of the one sheet and, of course, since everyone knows my affinity towards the Spanish titles of horror movies, it's way better sounding - Grita! Blacula! Grita! So even though I'm not Spanish and my Spanish language speaking skills are utterly lacking, I still call this one by its Spanish name. Just saying Grita! Blacula! Grita! over and over completely out of context until people start to look at you weird is more fun that actually sitting through this movie in its entirety. Although that's not to say Grita! Blacula! Grita! isn't without its merits. It's actually pretty darn fun, at the very least, pleasing aesthetically.

Made in 1973 and directed by Bob Kelljan (the same guy that directed Count Yorga, Vampire, along with a host of Hill Street Blues episodes), Scream Blacula Scream was was initially called Blacula is Beautiful. How to say that in Spanish? Blacula es Hermoso, I think. Blacula es Guapo, maybe? Regardless, the movie begins at a voodoo priestess' funeral. She forgot to name a successor, and her son, Willis, thinks he's the rightful heir to the voodoo throne. The rest of the practitioners think the lovely Lisa (Pam Grier) should take over and Willis gets pissed. As part of his revenge, he procures the bones of Blacula from a hobo/dethroned voodoo priest, and takes off his shirt, oils up, dons a necklace of (human?) teeth, lights some candles and strokes a pigeon before killing it. He rubs the pigeon blood on the bones, chants some voodoo shit and the bones start sparking and flaming. Satisfied that the ritual is complete, Willis grabs a can of Coors and sits at the table.

He doesn't have to wait long before Blacula shows up, fangs barred, and bites Willis right on the neck. Willis' little plan for absolute power has backfired and Blacula quickly turns the tables, making Willis his slave. Roll opening credits.

I'll spare you the excruciating minutia of the rest of the movie, seriously, it's not worth it, and provide the rest as follows: Blacula (played to the hilt by William Marshall) spends the rest of the movie turning Willis' friends into a legion of the undead for his own protection, while setting his sights on Lisa, as a love interest and also as a avenue to rid him of the voodoo curse, her being a voodoo priestess and all. Meanwhile, Lisa's boyfriend, Justin, an ex-detective and collector of African art and voodoo artifacts, tries get to the bottom of who Blacula really is (he gave Justin his African name upon meeting him at a party), and finally, with the help of cop Hardy, and the occult section of the library (which is disappointing, it's just in the regular part of the library, not in a creepy library basement or anything, it's simply in a section called Occult) figures out Blacula's real identity, which isn't a huge secret to begin with, in that he discloses his real identity to Lisa, turns into a bat in front of people readily, has no reflection, doesn't show up in photographs, and wears a very Dracula-like cape at all times (which most of the dumdums in the movie think is a sign of wealth).

Marshall absolutely OWNS the role of Dracula, and is almost Shakespearean in his delivery. He manages to exude quiet dignity, whether he's discussing rare ancient African art, turning into a bat, or draining the blood outta some hot mama. When Justin asks Blacula (who I called B. in my notes so I keep affectionately referring to him as such in my head; Willis call him 'Blac') about vampires and Dracula, Blacula remains dignified, albeit curt, as he tells Justin to mind his own damn business. I could watch Marshall act like Dracula all day, seriously. He might actually be my favorite Dracula. Just look at him.

I'm a bit upset by Grier's character, however. She's terribly underused as the goody goody Lisa. She's supposed to be a voodoo priestess, right? Shouldn't that involve her taking off her clothes, dancing around naked and chanting, most likely covered in some sort of animal blood, for most of the movie? Would it have killed her to sex up the scene where a female vampire rises out of the coffin and beckons to her? Just as I could watch Marshall play Dracula all day, I could watch Grier do nothing all day; I'm just not used to her as the good girl.

What the movie lacks in plot, pace,and nekkidness, it makes up for in fashion and interior set design. Oh, the fashion! I swooned. I felt faint. I think I even got dizzy at one point over the fashion. And the set pieces! Oh, the set pieces! Willis' house is some sort of 70's groovy version of a haunted house, complete with gaslights and totally outrageous velvet wallpaper. The fashion is almost a parody of 70's style it's so over the damn top, and clashes with the art design of the rooms. I found myself watching the movie for the outfits more than anything else, particularly Willis'. If you watch this movie for anything, let it be the clothes.

Oh, and towards the end during B.'s exorcism (another scene that begged for Grier's nudity, although she does get a little sweaty), Lisa uses the cutest little wee voodoo doll carved in B.'s image, complete with little cape. Feast your eyes:

I want one. Seriously. Someone make me one and send it to me.

So there you have it. Not the greatest movie in the history of the land, but still not unenjoyable either. And although the trailer promises 'The Bloodiest Legend of Our Time' and there really wasn't all that much blood, you could definitely waste time on worse. Dracula's soul brother is back, y'all.