Autopsy (1975)

AUTOPSY (1975)
aka Macchie solari
Article 3749 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-7-2011
Posting Date: 11-19-2011
Directed by Armando Crispino
Featuring Mimsy Farmer, Barry Primus, Ray Lovelock
Country: Italy
What it is: Giallo

A wave of suicides, possibly caused by sunspots, runs through the country, keeping the doctors in an autopsy center very busy. A woman begins to suspect that one suicide was actually a murder, but she finds that the murderer may be much closer to her than she expects…

There are some words that, if you put them in movie titles, raise certain expectations, and the word “autopsy” is one of them; it seems to promise a certain level of gross-out. And, for a while, the movie actually manages it; with an opening that features a series of non-stop suicides and a grotesque hallucination sequence in a morgue where the bloody dead rise up, the movie does achieve that level. Eventually, though, it settles into a confusing giallo plot that ultimately tries just a bit too hard to be effective. There’s just too many sick, twisted and unhealthy characters here; even the heroine of the story seems to be one baby step away from madness, and that makes it really hard to warm up to anyone. As a result, I found myself not really caring a whole lot about the movie, despite the facts that there are some pretty odd plot twists along the way. It is stylistically interesting, and I do like it better than the other Armando Crispino movie I’ve seen for this series, THE DEAD ARE ALIVE. I just wish he’d come up with ways to get us to care about his characters.

Albino (1976)

ALBINO (1976)
Article 3748 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-6-2011
Posting Date: 11-18-2011
Directed by Jurgen Goslar
Featuring Christopher Lee, James Faulkner, Horst Frank
Country: West Germany / UK / South Africa / Zimbabwe
What it is: Revenge story

When an albino terrorist rapes and kills his fiancee, a police officer takes the law into his own hands and sets out to avenge the deed. However, his actions put him at odds with his own police force, and as he hunts the albino, the law is hunting for him…

The movie has your basic revenge story setup, and I usually find these movies to be fairly predictable in their manipulation techniques; just make the villain heinous enough, and the audience will automatically want the hero to take any action necessary to bring him to justice. Fortunately, the movie is well acted, and it adds a few other layers of complexity; the African setting and the political complications add a bit more meat to the bones of the story. The movie has some messages as well, but as always, it’s easier to send messages in works of fiction where you can stack the cards any way you want to. Still, that doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have its uses, even if much of the mechanics of what happens is standard issue plotting. What the movie is not is a horror movie. Nonetheless, it is often mistaken for one, probably due to the fact that Christopher Lee (who plays a secondary role) is given top billing, and other than the fact that there’s a bit of talk about the albino terrorist being a witch doctor of sorts, there is no fantastic content to speak of. So, despite the areas of interest, for the purposes of this survey of fantastic films, it should be considered as another false alarm.

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.

Alien Predator (1987)

Article 3716 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-2-2011
Posting Date: 10-17-2011
Directed by Deran Serafian
Featuring Dennis Christopher, Martin Hewitt, Lynn-Holly Johnson
Country: USA / Spain
What it is: Alien invasion flick

SkyLab crashes in Spain near a small town in Spain called Duarte. Five years later, three young Americans become stranded in the town and discover, with the help of a NASA scientist, that the residents have been infected with an alien virus that makes them psychotic before dying horribly. Can they find an antidote and escape before the whole of Europe is infected?

I saw this movie (which I’d describe roughly as a cross between ALIEN and THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN) many years ago, and all I could really remember was a crude gross-out moment and an attempt to come up with a variation on ALIEN’s gut-busting alien effects. I thought it was bad then, though I don’t think I could really pinpoint back then what I didn’t like about it. Watching it now, I realize it was a whole combination of things. Most of the horror focuses on gross-out sights and sounds, the tepid love triangle subplot adds nothing to the movie (as they usually don’t), the attempts at humor are ineffectual, the pop-culture references (including several to “The Twilight Zone”) are witless and pointless, the acting is sometimes downright awful (especially an angry soliloquy in which the female character announces her disgust with being treated like a “floozy”), and not an iota of real suspense is generated, at least partially because many of the scenes are so darkly lit that you can’t see well. The movie had been made three years earlier, but was reportedly left on the shelf after its original distribution company was dissolved. The movie also apparently had a troubled production history which ultimately caused its producer to retire from filmmaking.

L’aspirateur (1908)

aka The Vacuum Cleaner
Article 3702 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-18-2011
Posting Date: 10-3-2011
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

Two ne’er-do-wells abscond with a new-fangled vacuum cleaner and use it to suck up everyone and everything in sight.

Here’s another one I could have covered during my Chomon-o-thon some time back, but back then, I’d been unable to match the English title on my list with the French title of the copy I had. Having just done so, I’m now watching it. I can’t read the opening title card, but I suspect it’s telling me that the movie is incomplete, and given the fact that the two villains never get their comeuppance, that may be the case. Still, the basic story is a pretty common one for the time; give some rascals a new gimmick and watch them wreak havoc with it. There’s some basic stop-motion effects combined with your basic editing tricks to achieve the effects. This one is amusing, if nothing special.

Asylum (1972)

ASYLUM (1972)
Article 3604 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-12-2011
Posting Date: 6-27-2011
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Featuring Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom
Country: UK
What it is: Anthology horror

A psychiatrist who has come to an asylum to apply for a job is given a test; he is to interview the patients and figure out which one is actually the former director of the asylum.

This is the Amicus horror anthology that I was the most curious about, largely because it’s the only one I remember seeing ads for on TV. The first story is a “revenge of the dead” story which, though a bit on the obvious side, does have the advantage of taking the “crawling hand” horror gimmick to the next level. The second, which features Barry Morse and Peter Cushing, is the most offbeat; it’s about a down-on-his-luck tailor who is hired to make a suit from a mysterious material, and it’s easily the least predictable of the bunch. The third, which features Charlotte Rampling and Britt Ekland, is about a troubled woman and her friend named Lucy; this one works better if you don’t figure out the twist, but I was able to pick up the clues in the story. The fourth story (which features Herbert Lom and Patrick Magee) is tied to the framing story; it’s a bit perfunctory, but it does have some memorable moments and contains the scene that stuck in my mind from the original ads. Then there’s a final twist to the whole thing as well. All in all, it’s not bad; it’s more consistent than some of the other Amicus anthologies, but I’m afraid it doesn’t have a story that matches the high points of some of the other anthologies; for example, there’s nothing here that has the impact of the story about the Poe collector in TORTURE GARDEN.

The Alien Dead (1980)

Article 3599 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-7-2011
Posting Date: 6-22-2011
Directed by Fred Olen Ray
Featuring Buster Crabbe, Ray Roberts, Linda Lewis
Country: USA
What it is: Extreme low budget zombie flick

Flesh-eating zombies are loose in a swamp. A reporter and his girlfriend investigate.

So now we enter the cinematic world of Fred Olen Ray. Based on this movie, I’d have to say he’s a better director than either Jerry Warren or Larry Buchanan, which may be damning with faint praise. I will give him credit though; about halfway through the movie, there was one scare scene that actually made me jump, and that’s a lot more than some other directors have ever done for me. Also, if you take into account that this movie was reportedly made for about five thousand dollars (most of which went to Buster Crabbe), then I’d have to say he got quite a bit of bang for his buck. The movie is a cross between ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. No, it’s not good, but it keeps from getting overly dull, making it work well enough for bottom-of-the-bill drive-in fare. I’ve had to sit through far worse movies.