Ruby (1977)

RUBY (1977)
Article 3723 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-9-2011
Posting Date: 10-24-2011
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Featuring Piper Laurie, Stuart Whitman, Roger Davis
Country: USA
What it is: Revenge from beyond the grave

A gangster is betrayed and killed by members of his own gang. Years later, the spirit of the dead gangster haunts a drive-in theater owned and operated by his former moll and which employs members from his own gang. They start dying one by one in horrible ways…

After her memorable performance as the mother in CARRIE, Piper Laurie made this rather muddled horror movie which tries to be a combination of the standard “revenge from beyond the grave” plot with touches from THE EXORCIST. The uneasy mixture of possession and bizarre murders never gels, partially because some crucial characters remain ciphers; the title character in particular seems to be a different person in every scene, and it’s really difficult to become involved in her story when she never comes across as a distinct person. Some of the murders are more goofy than scary, with the most memorable one involving a soda pop machine. I remember catching the movie many years ago, but all that stuck in my memory was the soda pop machine scene and the ineffectual ending. Watching it again, I didn’t find it any better, and found myself getting more enjoyment from the footage from ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT WOMAN, the feature playing at the drive-in.


Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974)

Article 3722 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-8-2011
Posting Date: 10-23-2011
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Featuring Barry Crocker, Barry Humphries, Donald Pleasence
Country: Australia
What it is: Wild Aussie comedy

When Barry McKenzie goes abroad with his Aunt Edna, the latter is mistaken for the queen of England by Transylvanian spies who intend to kidnap her and take her to the castle of Count von Plasma, a communist vampire. Can Barry rescue her?

This Australian comedy (an example of the current renaissance of Australian culture, or so the man tells me at the beginning of the movie) is what is generally described as “outrageous”; it’s certainly not politically correct, with its flirtations with racism and homophobia, and it’s often crude and very lowbrow (with its incessant foul language and its emphasis on bodily functions, sex, scatology, and nonstop beer-drinking). And, truth to tell, it’s only sporadically funny. But what may be more to the point is that even when the movie doesn’t work, it doesn’t annoy me; the jokes that fall flat don’t do so in a way that makes me cringe. In truth, I think, on a whole, the movie more or less works. I think it’s because it succeeds in its primary purpose, which I believe is to present a somewhat endearing yet over-the-top parody of broad Australian stereotypes. Somehow, all the cussing sounds natural when peppered with a plethora of Australian idioms, so it doesn’t grate on the ear. My favorite moments are the musical numbers; somehow, these crude ditties gain a lot of comedic value when whole crowds of people sing along with them. I do find myself wondering just how much of the budget of the movie was dedicated to creating the geyser of foam that emerges from every can of Foster’s opened during the run of the movie. Sadly, one of the things that does not work is Pleasence’s performance here; his vampire character is saddled with a bad speech impediment that simply isn’t funny.

Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985)

Article 3721 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-7-2011
Posting Date: 10-22-2011
Directed by Bill L. Norton
Featuring William Katt, Sean Young, Patrick McGoohan
Country: USA
What it is: Dinosaur film

A female paleontologist and her husband discover a family of brontosauruses living in an African jungle. When a rival paleontologist discovers them, he captures the mother dinosaur, and the father dinosaur gets killed in the process. Can the husband and wife rescue the mother dinosaur while keeping the rival from also kidnapping the baby dinosaur?

Because in my heart, I believe that dinosaur movies will always have a special magic for children, I believe that when they’re made, the filmmakers should take a certain amount of consideration of that audience. I think that’s why this movie leaves an unpleasant taste in my mouth; though the basic story itself could appeal to children, the movie is peppered with touches that make it somewhat inappropriate for that audience; there are nasty and mean-spirited characters, an ugly strain of sexism, a certain preoccupation with sex, and too much violence, much of which could have been left out without harming the basic story. I also found the special effects to be a real mixed bag; the dinosaurs look more impressive in full body shots and from a distance than they do in the up-close head shots, where they look rather unexpressive. Quite frankly, the movie betrays a certain lack of care and thought. In the end, the problems sapped the fun out of the movie for me.

The Love Butcher (1975)

Article 3720 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-6-2011
Posting Date: 10-21-2011
Directed by Donald M. Jones and George Theakos
Featuring Erik Stern, Kay Neer, Jeremiah Beecher
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer movie

An ugly and crippled gardener has an alternate personality; he’s also a handsome ladies’ man who seduces and then kills his victims, usually women that have insulted his other personality. Will the police be able to catch him?

Between the sleazy title, the unpromising-sounding premise, and the fact that, according to one of my guides, it sat on the shelf for seven years before finally getting released in 1982 during the slasher era, I was expecting something pretty awful, and for about the first twenty minutes or so, I didn’t see anything that contradicted that expectation. It wasn’t until about the halfway mark, when the studly alter ego kills a victim he failed to seduce and then begins conjuring up an alternate reality in which he succeeded in his seduction, that I began to really take interest, as it begins tapping in to an unexpected complexity in the interplay between the two personalities. In some ways, it ends up being a very interesting variant of PSYCHO, one in which the explanation of the psychosis actually adds texture to the story rather than coming across as something thrown in at the last moment. Oh, it’s still pretty sleazy, and some of the killings are cruel and nasty, but that’s to be expected; what isn’t expected is some of the interesting story turns it all takes before it’s done. I ended up finding this one a lot more worthwhile than I expected it would be.

Kiss Daddy Goodbye (1981)

Article 3719 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-5-2011
Posting Date: 10-20-2011
Directed by Patrick Regan
Featuring Fabian, Marilyn Burns, Jon Cedar
Country: USA
What it is: Odd zombie movie

When their father is killed by some bikers, two children gifted with psychic powers resurrect him and use his body to take revenge on those that killed him… and anyone else that threatens the children.

I don’t think I’ve ever quite seen this conjunction of various types of horror movies put together in quite this way; it’s a “revenge from beyond the grave” zombie movie, as well as a creepy kid movie with touches of THE FURY added to the mix. In its own low-budget way, it has certain charms; I like some of the spontaneous touches such as the background noise at various points in the movie and the way the car that is being pulled from the lake practically falls apart as we watch. Yet, there’s a listlessness about the production; it moves at a snail’s pace at times, and the acting seems distant and muted. In fact, after watching the first half, I found myself trying to find the best word to describe it, and came up with “preoccupied”; everybody in the movie seems to be acting as if they’ve got something else on their mind, as if there was a better movie being shot across the street and everyone wanted to go over there. In fact, there are times where this movie feels incomplete; in particular, a scene where the resuscitated father attacks a couple of surfers is nearly impenetrable, as if some scenes were missing. The movie ends up being quite bad, but in one of those curious ways that makes it almost an object of fascination. And it’s one of the only movies I’ve seen where you can see a man dig his own grave… after he’s dead.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

Article 3718 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-4-2011
Posting Date: 10-19-2011
Directed by Daniel Haller
Featuring Gil Gerard, Pamela Hensley, Erin Gray
Country: USA
What it is: STAR WARS-inspired TV series pilot

After being frozen aboard his spaceship for 500 years, a pilot from the 20th century is revived. He finds himself embroiled in a plot by aliens to destroy the Earth, but the Earthlings of the future think he’s a spy. Can he defeat the aliens and convince the Earthlings of his sincerity?

Despite the fact that I’m primarily covering movies for my project, I seem to brush up against TV shows quite a lot, thanks to the concepts of editing TV episodes into movies or (as in this case) making movie-length pilots for the TV shows. I was expecting something fairly juvenile at first, but the opening credits take place while Buck is frozen and apparently dreaming, and his dreams largely consist of him encountering and making out with half-dressed females, a concept which made me feel the movie was a lot closer to FLESH GORDON than to STAR WARS. Well, I understand the concept of including sexy females to attract some of the older males, but, truth to tell, I found the females on display to be of the type that I would describe as sexy in the “I’ve just spent the last fifty hours with my hairdresser and cosmetician to remove any last vestige of humanity from my looks; please don’t breathe on me or you’ll lose the effect!” way that I find distinctly unsexy. The movie eventually descends into a series of double-entendres that are reminiscent of Matt Helm at his worst, and this, combined with the lousy script and the presence of one of the most obnoxious “cute” robots I’ve ever seen (I’m sure there must have been a “Dismantle Twiki” movement somewhere), I not only found this pretty painful but I wondered just who it was intended for. On the plus side, I did find it colorful. I avoided this series when it was on TV, and now I’m glad I did. Worst scene: Buck teaches the people of the future how to dance to rock and roll. Worst double entendre: I’m not going to repeat the whole thing, but the phrase “the emperor’s seat” is involved.

A*P*E (1976)

A*P*E (1976)
aka Ape, Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla
Article 3717 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-3-2011
Posting Date: 10-18-2011
Directed by Paul Leder
Featuring Rod Arrants, Joanna Kerns, Alex Nicol
Country: South Korea / USA
What it is: The nadir of the giant monster movies

A giant ape gets loose in Korea. Panic ensues.

For a while I was part of a movie-watching group called The Exposed Film Society which tried to dig up some of the worst cinematic atrocities for our viewing “enjoyment”. As time went by, three movies ended up having such a permanent impact on us that they became de rigeur for initiations of new members to the group. I’ve covered one of these so far (2 + 5 MISSION HYDRA). This is the second. The best summary of our reaction to this one came from one of my friends who said “This movie hates you!” I was quite startled to find that one of the IMDB reviews used almost the exact same phrase. So, taking this as my cue, I’m now going to give you “10 Ways the movie A*P*E Hates You”.

1) The movie has simply the most godawful special effects I’ve ever seen in a giant monster movie. Not only that, it doesn’t even care how bad they are. Any self-respecting movie of this sort wouldn’t try to pass off the plastic cow as a real one as this one tries to do.

2) If there’s any audience that would be most attracted by a movie about a giant ape, it would be children. This movie instead tries to present itself as a racy, adult giant monster movie, thus shooting itself in the foot.

3) Not only does it try to present itself as a racy, adult giant monster movie, but it does it badly. Those expecting a racy good time will have to settle for a few bad double entendres, a shot of Joanna Kerns in a see-through bra, a crass and stupid staged attempted rape (being shot for a movie), and lots of gratuitous cussing. Even a sequence where the ape peers into a window to watch a couple making love stops at the point that a woman has just taken off her jacket. Anyone expecting racy pleasures from this movie will walk away disappointed.

4) Every scene featuring Alex Nicols as the beleagured Army Colonel is painful. For the longest time I used to think it was the acting of Nicols himself, but upon watching it this time, I realize it’s because he was given the worst dialogue in the movie…. as well as most of the gratuitous cussing.

5) The movie makes some of the most repetitive attempts at utilizing the 3-D gimmick I’ve ever seen. How many times can you see a soldier aim a gun straight at you and fire? How many times can you see the giant ape throw a rock at you? How many gratuitous sequences can you handle that only exist because of the 3D effects? Some of these scenes are never even resolved, such as the one in which the giant ape interrupts the filming of a martial arts film.

6) When the giant ape is carrying around Joanna Kerns, her screams are constantly looped in the soundtrack. If this doesn’t annoy the hell out of you, you’re probably deaf.

7) Every time the military comes out in force, you will hear an endless loop of a “drum and bugle corp” melody that is sure to drive you up the wall. And that’s not the only musical motif that gets overworked during the course of the film.

8 ) Every time the giant ape battles the military, he waves his arms around in a meaningless manner that will leave you wonder what he’s trying to do. Is he conducting an orchestra? Swatting flies? Performing an interpretive dance? Trying to get his underarm deodorant to dry? Occasionally he manages to knock a helicopter out of the sky, but I’m sure it’s coincidence. But whatever his intention is, it’s pretty annoying.

9) The movie features puppet antics. And children whose sole dialogue in the movie is to laugh at puppet antics. This is never recommended.

10) And finally, there’s the moment when the giant ape flips off the audience. Yes, ostensibly it’s aimed at a helicopter he’s just destroyed, but I’m not fooled – I know it’s directed at me and at anyone else who sat through this movie. As my friend said before, this movie hates you.