The Eerie Midnight Horror Show (1974)

THE EERIE MIDNIGHT HORROR SHOW (1974)
aka L’ossessa, The Sexorcist
Article 2938 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-24-2009
Posting Date: 8-30-2009
Directed by Mario Gariazzo
Featuring Stella Carnacina, Chris Avram, Lucretia Love
Country: Italy

An art student encounters a wooden sculpture of a crucified man that turns out to be Satan. He comes to life and takes possession of her soul. An exorcist is found to save her.

Sometimes I marvel at the shamelessness of those who market movies. Releasing this lame but slightly sexed-up Italian rip-off of THE EXORCIST as THE SEXORCIST is not only tacky, but really overstates the case (though, in truth, since my print is short by seven minutes, it may depend on what is in that missing footage); nevertheless, I can understand that tactic. However, to call it the title it has above and to release it with the image of red disembodied lips is a blatant attempt to link it to another movie (and you should be able to figure out which movie I’m talking about if you consider that the title of that one featured both “horror” and “show” in the title, was a big hit on the midnight movie circuit, and was also marketed with the image of red disembodied lips). Still, I find it hard to believe that fans of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW would find much to their taste in this non-musical, non-campy, decidedly hetero movie. As for the movie itself, other than one good scene in which the wooden statue comes to life, I found it mostly derivative and dull; in particular, endless discussions about the artistic merits of the statue (and occasionally other items) will most likely bore the hell out of anyone who isn’t an art student. The director also gave us VERY CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FOURTH KIND, if you want a hint at the level of quality here.

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Drive In Massacre (1977)

DRIVE IN MASSACRE (1977)
Article 2937 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-23-2009
Posting Date: 8-29-2009
Directed by Stu Segall
Featuring Bruce Kimball, Steve Vincent, Douglas Gudbye
Country: USA

A sword-wielding homicidal maniac is terrorizing a local drive-in. Is it the abusive manager who used to be a knife thrower? The dim-witted janitor (affectionately known as Germy) who used to be a sword swallower and geek? Or the voyeuristic regular customer?

Obviously designed to be played at drive-in theaters around the country, this gimmick horror film is neither scary enough on its own terms to be effective, nor inventive enough in terms of its gimmick to be much fun. Still, I’ve seen worse, and it has the advantage of being short (only 74 minutes) and of coming up with at least a couple of fun moments; the cops flip coins to decide who gets to be the good cop and the bad cop, and one murder is witnessed as a shadow on the projection screen. Still, it’s a washout; the special effects are weak, the acting is the same, and much of the cinematography is too dark to be effective, as you’ll often be staring at the screen without a clue as to what’s going on. The gimmick ending is obvious, and is more likely to produce snorts of laughter than shudders of terror. Director Stu Segall came up with the story under the pseudonym of Godfrey Daniels, which may be a W.C. Fields reference.

Toto sceicco (1950)

TOTO SCEICCO (1950)
aka Toto the Shiek
Article 2936 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-22-2009
Posting Date: 8-28-2009
Directed by Mario Mattoli
Featuring Toto, Tamara Lees, Laura Gore
Country: Italy

When his master leaves to join the foreign legion, a majordomo is sent by a marquesse to fetch him back. Complications arise, however, when the majordomo is mistaken for the son of a shiek.

In terms of Italian comedy, I would choose Toto over Franco and Ciccio any day. However, one must bear in mind that this choice is based upon viewings of their movies without the benefit of English dubbing or subtitles, so I can’t say I can fully appreciate them. In the purely visual sense, I know that Toto appeals to me more; his facial expressions don’t seem to resort to the shameless mugging of the Franco and Ciccio movies, and his movies just seem to be more creative. I’d love to know what’s going on in some of the scenes towards the beginning, especially one in a restaurant involving a kissing sound and lots of sausages. Things becomes a little easier to follow in the second half of the movie when Toto stumbles across the lost world of Atlantis; this part is essentially a parody of L’ATLANTIDE, which I’ve seen. It seems fairly amusing, though not as memorable as TOTO IN HELL, though there does seem to be an inordinate amount of joking about mirages in this one.

Dreamscape (1984)

DREAMSCAPE (1984)
Article 2935 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-21-2009
Posting Date: 8-27-2009
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Featuring Dennis Quaid, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer
Country: USA

A young psychic is drawn into experimental research that involves psychically entering people’s dreams. He stumbles upon a conspiracy intent on assassinating the president through an attack on his dreamworld.

The rise of STAR WARS and the coming of age of special effects technology led to a flood of fantastically-themed cinema during the eighties, but, despite my love for the genres, I was less than enthusiastic. One of the reasons was that far too many of these movies ended up like this one – a possibly intriguing concept that does little more than lend itself to cliches and convention. The cast is surprisingly strong and rather appealing, but they’re playing cliched, one-dimensional characters that don’t challenge them. I found much of this movie unbelievable; just for example, I found it hard to believe that a ordinary horror movie concept like a scary snake monster would be enough to cause one psychic researcher to have a complete mental breakdown. For me, though, the real disappointment is that it never delivers on one of its promises; if, as one character says, you can “do anything you want” in a dream, than the movie shows a distressing lack of imagination in giving the characters that power over the dream reality. Another problem I have is one that may be a matter of individual experience; the use of dream sequences in movies has rarely worked for me because I so seldom see ones that look like actual dreams, and this movie fares no better in that regard. Sure, it’s entertaining enough if in the “popcorn” movie tradition, where you’re supposed to turn off your mind and enjoy the ride, but I’m not a fan of that form, and it takes a fairly special movie of that kind for it to work for me, and this isn’t one of them.

I have a funny feeling that I’m slated to see a lot of movies like this in years to come.

Dr. Death: Seeker of Souls (1973)

DR. DEATH: SEEKER OF SOULS (1973)
Article 2934 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-20-2009
Posting Date: 8-26-2009
Directed by Eddie Saeta
Featuring John Considine, Barry Coe, Cheryl Miller
Country: USA

A grief-stricken widower seeks a way to bring his wife back from the dead. He encounters a sinister doctor who is capable of transferring souls to other bodies.

The basic concept here is that a man achieves immortality not by keeping his body alive but by developing ways to transfer his soul to another body when his current body runs down. He also offers his services to others. Eventually, he becomes obsessed with reanimating the body of a beautiful woman who rejects every soul he presents to it. I find this whole concept rather interesting, but the movie that is attached to it is a disappointment. At least part of it is that, despite the gore and blood, the movie ends up feeling like a TV-Movie, which, given that most of director Eddie Saeta’s work in this regard was with TV shows, is no surprise. It’s also marred by the fact that John Considine doesn’t really give us that sense that his character has lived as long as he did. I also was disappointed by the fact that, despite the novel plot elements, it tries to hone to the conventional horror movie as much as possible, so we end up being treated to constant scenes of the doctor hunting and killing victims. If there’s fun to be had with this movie, it’s the interesting assortment of actors who appear; Leon Askin plays a Tor Johnson character (called Thor), Florence (QUEEN OF BLOOD) Marly appears as a gypsy woman, Moe Howard has a cameo appearance in his last screen role, and Horror Host Larry Vincent (Seymour) appears as a strangler in a movie being watched on TV. Somewhere in this movie is a better movie longing to get out; it’s too bad it doesn’t happen.

The Revenge of Doctor X (1970)

THE REVENGE OF DOCTOR X (1970)
aka The Double Garden, Body of the Prey
Article 2933 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-19-2009
Posting Date: 8-25-2009
Presumably directed by Kenneth G. Crane
Actually directed by Norm Thomson
Featuring James Craig and James Yagi
Country: USA / Japan

A rocket scientist decides to engage in botanical studies while on an extended vacation. He ends up created an ambulatory venus fly-trap monster.

Well, here’s a rare treat (and I use the word “treat” loosely); it’s a movie featuring one of Ed Wood’s latter-day scripts. For me, the most striking thing about the movie is watching actor James Craig channel Lon Chaney Jr.; he looks and sounds like a slightly older version of Chaney from his Inner Sanctum movies. It’s somehow fitting that Craig is channeling one of the Universal stars; Ed Wood seems to be channeling the scripts from the Universal Frankenstein series here, with at least one quote definitely inspired by a similar one from THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. Still, Ed Wood is Ed Wood, and between his efforts and those of director Kenneth G. Crane, the movie ends up channeling LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, THE NAVY VS. THE NIGHT MONSTERS and especially Crane’s earlier movie THE MANSTER, with the similarities to the last one being particularly striking. Unfortunately, I don’t know who the person in charge of the music was channeling, but I hope they called an exorcist. And when it came time for those who designed the opening credits of this movie to do their stuff, they should have focused on the movie at hand rather than channeling MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND; anyone looking for John Ashley, Angelique Pettyjohn or locations from the Philippines will be sorely disappointed. Did I mention the goofy-looking venus flytrap monster? If not, there’s a goofy-looking venus flytrap monster as well. The end result is bloody awful, but really, what did you expect?

Postscript: I’ve come upon some new information on this movie thanks to doctor kiss on the Classic Horror Film Board. Because the movie was first discovered in a warehouse without any sort of credits whatsoever (which is why credits from another movie were slapped onto it), much of the production info above was based on inspired guesses rather than hard research. Recent research requires an amendment. Despite the similarities to THE MANSTER, we know now that the director is not Crane, but Norm Thomson. The movie was originally titled BODY OF THE PREY, and the script was from Thomson as well rather than Ed Wood. I’ve changed a couple of things in the beginning credits above so as not to confuse anyone who just looks at them and doesn’t read the review, but I’ve left the original review intact and added this postscript for clarification. And a special thanks to doctor kiss and his research!

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972)
aka Le charme discret de la bourgeeoisie
Article 2932 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-18-2009
Posting Date: 8-24-2009
Directed by Luis Bunuel
Featuring Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphin Seyrig
Country: France / Italy / Spain

Six friends are thwarted by circumstance in their attempts to have meals together.

Given that Luis Bunuel is one of the great surrealistic directors, I’m surprised that I haven’t covered more of his work; this is only the second movie I’ve covered of his, the first being THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL. It’s basically a plotless series of setpieces tied together by the concept of several friends trying to have a meal together, but who are constantly interrupted by any number of bizarre events; the events get stranger as things go along, and eventually any sense of linearity or reality goes out the window when the events turn out to be dreams (and even dreams within dreams). One meal is cut short when the hosting couple sneak out of the house to have sex and the other guests fear that the reason for their departure was an impending police raid (it turns out some of the characters are involved in drug smuggling); another is interrupted when the chosen restaurant is keeping a dead body in the next room. There are various distractions and side issues, such as the attempted assassination of the Mirandan ambassador and the appearance of a bishop that wants to be a gardener. Three of the distractions are ghost stories, which further adds to the fantastic content. What does it all mean? Well, I have no doubt there’s some political subtext (I’d expect that from any movie with the word “bourgeoisie” in the title), but it really doesn’t matter to me; I find the movie positively hilarious at times, and it’s a great deal of fun, albeit in an art-house film way. It’s recommended for anyone with an absurdist sense of humor.