Garden of the Dead (1974)

Article 3878 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-18-2012
Posting Date: 3-27-2012
Directed by John Hayes
Featuring Phillip Kenneally, Duncan McLeod, John Dullaghan
Country: USA
What it is: Low-budget zombie mayhem

Convicts forced to work in a camp manufacturing formaldehyde plan a breakout which then goes awry, and they all die and are buried in unmarked graves. But some of the formaldehyde spills onto the graves, and they rise to take revenge!

I’ll give the movie a little credit for not being a slavish imitation of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD; the zombies here are intelligent (which is to say that they’re as intelligent as they were when they were alive), able to talk, and can move fast. But that doesn’t keep this one from going off the goofy meter; for one thing, despite the fact that they’re intelligent, they still like to walk around saying “Urrrr… Urrrr….Urrrr” (Is that all they can think of to say, or does that just come with the territory?) And instead of going after human flesh, they’re after … hold on, I can barely believe it myself… FORMALDEHYDE!! which they sniff, pour over their bodies, rub on their faces…I guess it must be like zombie catnip. Oh, they have their weaknesses; bright light is fatal to them, they can be killed by close-range shotgun blasts, and they’re hypnotized by… and once again, I can barely believe it myself…. CLEAVAGE! Yes, they can be stopped in their tracks by the sight of a low-cut blouse. No wonder Troma’s logo opens the movie. Can’t you just see the inevitable sequel being made, BIKINI BIMBOS VS. FORMALDEHYDE ZOMBIES. Oh, I certainly hope I don’t give anybody ideas out there. Awful, but irresistible.

Fatal Games (1984)

Article 3877 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-17-2012
Posting Date: 3-26-2012
Directed by Michael Elliot
Featuring Sally Kirkland, Lynn Banashek, Sean Masterson
Country: USA
What it is: Slasher film

A group of Olympic hopefuls are being stalked one by one by a killer who uses a javelin as a murder weapon.

Who is the killer? Is it one of the two coaches? The doctor? The nurse? Or one of the students? All I’ll say is that the revelations towards the end of the movie give us one of the silliest slashers I’ve encountered yet for this series. The rest is pretty much by the book, with a lot of nudity towards the beginning, forgettable characters and a lot of pointless scenes. Restricting the slasher’s murder weapon to a single item makes the murders duller than usual. It’s not the worst slasher I’ve seen, but I doubt that I’ll remember much about it in a couple of days.

Endgame (1983)

ENDGAME (1983)
aka Endgame – Bronx lotta finale
Article 3876 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-16-2012
Posting Date: 3-25-2012
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Featuring Al Cliver, Laura Gemser, George Eastman
Country: Italy
What it is: After-the-apocalypse action

It’s after the apocalypse. While roving bands of the military gun down mutants, the rest of the world enjoys a violent game show called ENDGAME, where violent warriors square off against each other in hunter-vs-hunted scenarios. One of the reigning champions of the game is recruited on a mission to save a handful of telepathic mutants by leading them on a journey to a meeting place where they can be saved.

Here’s another one of the many ROAD WARRIOR clones of the eighties, though, truth be told, I’m beginning to think they owe as much to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK as they do the other movie. It’s nonstop action, loud, violent, and, if not quite stupid, I can say that it’s obvious. Still, if you take this all into consideration, then I think I can say that it’s at least not too bad for what it is; it neither takes itself too seriously or too lightly, and even though the themes are obvious, it does set them forth with a modicum of wit. I have to admit that I even liked the somewhat open-ended ending, largely because the movie manages to find just the right degree of character development to make it work. I usually hate movies like this, but at least this one left me with a little smile on my face, and that’s saying something.

Eating Raoul (1982)

Article 3875 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-15-2012
Posting Date: 3-24-2012
Directed by Paul Bartel
Featuring Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran
Country: USA
What it is: Black comedy

When a down-on-their-luck straightlaced couple (with dreams of opening a country restaurant) accidentally kill a couple of swingers, they discover that their victims had lots of money on them. They hit on the idea of financing their dream by posing as swinging prostitutes and knocking off their respective customers. All goes well until a opportunist discovers their secret and decides to horn in…

This is the third movie I’ve seen from Paul Bartel, and I marvel a bit at the way he can deal with sleazy, shocking and taboo subjects in a way that is witty and fun; I don’t feel my nose is being pushed into the slime when I watch his movies. Of the movies I’ve seen of his, this is perhaps the one that qualifies the least for genre; though it does deal with serial killing and cannibalism (among other things), this is not a horror movie. In fact, the whole style feels like a sitcom; I could actually imagine a laugh track being grafted onto this movie. Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov are excellent as the “too-square-for-words” couple; one of my favorite moments in the movie is seeing the arrangement of their bedroom. Another of my favorite moments features Billy Curtis as one of the couple’s prospective clients. I also like Susan Saiger as Doris the Dominatrix, who has a surprisingly normal home life. All in all, this is a genuinely amusing black comedy that doesn’t really feel like one.

Jekyll and Hyde: Pact With the Devil (1969)

aka Pacto diabolico, Diabolical Pact
Article 3874 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-14-2012
Posting Date: 3-23-2012
Directed by Jaime Salvador
Featuring John Carradine, Regina Torne, Miguel Angel Alvarez
Country: Mexico
What it is: Jekyll and Hyde variation

A colleague of the late Dr. Jekyll is trying to come up with a formula for eternal youth so that he can become young again and continue his experiments. However, his younger self turns into a monstrous killer.

This Mexican horror movie adds a bit of American star power by including John Carradine in the cast. However, one of the appeals of Carradine is hearing his rich, sonorous voice, and since in this subtitled version of the movie his voice has been dubbed by someone who can speak Spanish, we’re robbed of that voice. Actually, the most fun I had out of this movie was imagining Carradine’s voice while reading the subtitles for his character; beyond that, this is a tired, static movie, Mexican horror at its least inspired. It does come up with a few twists to the basic Jekyll and Hyde story, but they’re not particular good or original, and the repetitive sound effects and score (which on occasion gives you the feeling that you’re watching a silent movie) gets tiresome quickly. I’d been curious about this one for some time, but it’s a real disappointment.

Demented (1980)

Article 3873 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-13-2012
Posting Date: 3-22-2012
Directed by Arthur Jeffreys
Featuring Sallee Young, Harry Reems, Deborah Alter
Country: USA
What it is: Rape victim freaks out

A rape victim, still troubled by her experience, returns home with her husband. When some hoods begin threatening her, she is not believed by her husband or the cops, since they think she’s having a flashback. When the hoods return, she snaps, and…

You know, the subject matter, unpleasant as it is, isn’t unworkable, but there’s at least three things you need – a decent script, strong acting (especially from the woman playing the rape victim) and solid direction. For this movie, that means “Three strikes, you’re out!” The script is obvious, loaded with cliches, and has no subtlety; it’s one of those scripts where the characters remind you that the woman was raped every five minutes or so, just in case you forget. Sallee Young is really trying her best in the central role, but she just doesn’t have the acting chops to pull it off, and the crazier her character gets, the worse her performance gets. And the functional-at-best, petrified-at-worst direction just makes the whole experience seem lifeless; it’s one of those movies where you realize the only thing that keeps you from going to sleep is the high exploitation quotient (nudity and violence). I’m sure that’s enough for some; me, I found this one just plain lousy.

Gemini Man (1976)

TV show pilot
aka Code Name: Minus One
Article 3872 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-12-2012
Posting Date: 3-21-2012
Directed by Alan J. Levi
Featuring Ben Murphy, Katharine Crawford, Richard Dysart
Country: USA
What it is: Invisible man TV series

A government agent is exposed to an explosion by a radioactive mine, and it gives him the ability to turn invisible. He uses his ability to uncover a Soviet spy ring that is trying to take over a munitions industry.

Here’s another pilot for a TV series, but this is one of them that actually made it. I can see why; it’s got a workable premise and is competently made. It isn’t particularly inspired, though, and I know I would have found the semi-romantic bantering between Ben Murphy and Katharine Crawford to tire very quickly. The first half of the movie is concerned with working the fairy dust so that we get some clearly delineated limits to his abilities; he can only remain invisible for fifteen minutes a day, his clothes are able to disappear with him due to his proximity to them (though I notice the movie is conveniently selective on how this works; there’s one point where they have him completely swaddled in bandages which for some reason do not disappear), and he has to control his abilities with the help of an atomic wrist watch. In truth, the science behind it seems rather silly, and the plot is pretty run of the mill, and I gather from the swift cancellation that the stories didn’t get much better. In truth, I didn’t see anything really special about this one.

Brainwaves (1983)

Article 3871 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-11-2012
Posting Date: 3-20-2012
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Featuring Keir Dullea, Suzanna Love, Vera Miles
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction crime thriller

A housewife suffers a brain injury in a car accident that leaves her in a coma with little chance of recovery. Her family agrees to an experimental procedure that reprograms the electrical impulses in her brain. Though the process works, there is a side effect; the person who posthumously provided the electrical impulses was in fact a murder victim… and the housewife is beginning to remember the victim’s final moments…

I’ve only seen two other of Ulli Lommel’s movies at this point – THE TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES and THE BOOGEYMAN. Ulli Lommel’s reputation, as I’m given to understand, was that after the promising start of his first movie (WOLVES), he descended into an abyss of awfulness from which he never recovered, and certainly there was nothing in THE BOOGEYMAN to convince me that it wasn’t true. So I was expecting the worst going into this one, but, truth to tell, I didn’t find this one an atrocity; in fact, I found it rather engaging at some points. It’s certainly not a mess like THE BOOGEYMAN; the story is simple, concise and clear, the performances are solid, and the movie, though a bit slow-moving, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Granted, the story isn’t really that original, though in most of the other variations on the story, it’s usually some psychic power that makes someone privy to the dead person’s final moments, and it could be pointed out that this movie spends a lot of its running time getting to the point that a similar movie might reach in the first five minutes. There’s a few other script problems (including a rather useless twist ending), but I find it a definite step up after THE BOOGEYMAN. Still, a sort on Ulli Lommel’s directorial oeuvre by rating on IMDB puts this as his third best movie, and if it’s only okay, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of his work.

Boardinghouse (1982)

aka Housegeist
Article 3870 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-10-2012
Posting Date: 3-19-2012
Directed by John Wintergate
Featuring John Wintergate, Kalassu, Lindsay Freeman
Country: USA
What it is: A bloody mess

A playboy decides to rent out rooms in a house he owns to beautiful women so he can have his own harem. However, the house has an evil history, and people start dying once again…

I first became familiar with this movie via ads for it on several Paragon home video VHS packages, which make the movie look relentlessly bloody, but I suspect that the ad would be all that a gorehound might need, as I think it probably contains almost all the gore in the movie. Yeah, there’s some nudity for anyone looking for that sort of thing, too. But the movie as a whole is a train wreck; despite the fact that it has some interesting ideas (such as the fact that the gore attacks often involve telekinesis), most of the movie seems to be either written or edited at random, and though the movie does set up its premise and has a resolution, there’s an enormous black hole in the center full of pointless scenes, unpursued ideas, unnecessary characters, and filler. It also has a gimmick called Terrorvision; whenever you see a certain image or hear a certain sound, you can cover your eyes if you want to miss the gory parts; however, if you’ve seen the aforementioned ad, it’s already too late for that. All in all, it’s an awful movie, albeit one that did have the seeds of a much better movie contained within it.

The Bloodbath of Dr. Jekyll (1981)

aka Docteur Jekyll et les femmes, The Blood of Dr. Jekyll
Article 3869 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-9-2012
Posting Date: 3-18-2012
Directed by Walerian Borowczyk
Featuring Udo Kier, Marino Pierro, Patrick Magee
Country: France / West Germany
What it is: Jekyll and Hyde variation

Various people attend the engagement party of Dr. Henry Jekyll to Miss Fanny Osbourne, but the murder of a child in the streets is followed up by the deaths of the guests, one by one.

My only other encounter with Walerian Borowczyk so far has been with IMMORAL TALES, which, quite frankly, didn’t impress me as being anything more than a slightly pretentious experiment in softcore porn. This one I found more interesting. It reworks the Stevenson tale quite a bit, turning it somewhat into one of those “old dark house” movies where people get killed off one by one, and laces it with a certain eroticism. Though its weird, flowing cinematic style makes it a little difficult to follow at times, I think it actually does an interesting job of updating the story for more permissive times, and it actually has a enough real horror and shock to make it not seem like a literary adaptation, especially of a tale that has had as many adaptations as this one has. I’m certainly glad it’s not just the basic tale with a bunch of sex added, which, given my previous experience with the director, was what I was expecting; there is some sex in it, but it doesn’t seem gratuitous. At least this movie piques my interest in the director. The cast also features Howard Vernon as Dr. Lanyon.