Brainwaves (1983)

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.

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Boardinghouse (1982)

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)

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.

Beyond the Universe (1981)

BEYOND THE UNIVERSE (1981)
Article 3868 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-8-2012
Posting Date: 3-17-2012
Directed by Robert Emenegger
Featuring David Ladd, Jacqueline Ray, Christopher Cary
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction drama

In the twentieth century, mankind is on the verge of dying off after two nuclear wars, and martial law is put into place. A scientist with a plan for saving humanity finds himself forced to work on a project to which he objects, but he has the help of a group of rebels who plan to help him carry out his own plan…

I recognized the names of director Robert Emenegger and producer Allan Sandler in the credits at once, and I discovered that I had already encountered them a few times in my cinematic journeys. I have yet to see a good movie from them, but I also have yet to see a worthless movie from them, either; as bad as they can be at times, they also make movies that are not obvious rehashes of better known movies and there are occasionally interesting ideas in them. This one starts out like a typical dystopian movie before subtly adding some elements that remind me of STAR WARS, but it ends like something from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and even if that makes the movie sound like a real hodgepodge, it nonetheless feels organically whole, if not competently acted or directed. So maybe it was no surprise I kept thinking of Kilgore Trout while watching this movie; he’s the fictional science fiction writer from the works of Kurt Vonnegut who, despite being a bad writer, has fans because he has such interesting ideas. Maybe that’s why there are certain bad directors we love; they sometimes give us something that nobody else really gives us, which may explain why people like Andy Milligan have staunch defenders. No, I can’t recommend this movie, but if you do watch it, I don’t think it will be a total waste of time.

Beiss mich, Liebling (1970)

BEISS MICH, LIEBLING (1970)
aka Bite Me, Darling; Love, Vampire Style
Article 3838 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-6-2012
Posting Date: 2-16-2012
Directed by Helmut Fornbacher
Featuring Eva Renzi, Patrick Jordan, Amadeus August
Country: West Germany
What it is: Horror comedy

A psychiatrist, jealous of the sexual escapades of the town’s new mailman, plots to kill him only to have his plans backfire.

Yes, it’s a vampire comedy (one of the alternate titles makes that clear enough), so why don’t I mention anything about vampires in my short plot description above? It’s because I generally limit any plot description I have to the first half of the movie, and this movie is a good three-quarters through before we get any vampire antics at all. The three-quarters mostly plays out like a bawdy comedy. My copy of the movie is in unsubtitled German, but the movie is one of those that uses a lot of visuals to tell its story, and if you know the premise, it’s pretty easy to follow. It really doesn’t seem to have much of a plot for the first half; it’s not until the psychiatrist begins his plans to kill the mailman that it seems to follow a story thread. Still, there are some plot points that are lost in the mix; I’m not quite sure why the psychiatrist becomes a vampire, though a scene where he discovers he has grown vampire fangs does seem to indicate that he is prone to it for one reason or another. The humor comes through even without subtitles, and though it’s hardly a great movie, it has its moments; my favorite has the vampire, denied access to his coffin, finding a substitute container for the night. Incidentally, I watched the 85 minute version, which is how it was originally shown in theaters; the longer 102 minute version had extra hardcore sex footage edited into it at a later time. My thanks to doctor kiss for this tidbit of info.

Blood Song (1982)

BLOOD SONG (1982)
Article 3836 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-4-2012
Posting Date: 2-14-2012
Directed by Alan J. Levi
Featuring Donna Wilkes, Richard Jaeckel, Antoinette Bower
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho-killer movie

A teenage girl, recovering from a leg injury, begins having visions of a psycho having escaped from a mental institution and engaging in a series of murders. Unfortunately, everyone believes she’s just stressed out… but she’s destined to discover that these aren’t just dreams…

Given the year of this movie, I was expecting something more along the lines of a conventional slasher, and, yes, I do think there is a difference between psycho killer movies and slasher movies. For one thing, characters are usually better developed in psycho killer movies, and this one goes quite a ways in developing the heroine, so much so that you really become attached to her. There’s also an interesting love/hate relationship between her and her father (well played by Richard Jaeckel), and though it does seem extraneous at first, it sets up one of the most interesting scenes in the movie when he encounters the escaped psycho. Unfortunately, the script fumbles the character development of the psycho; he’s given a quirk (he likes to play the flute) and is given lots of psycho things to do, but he never feels like a real character and remains a hodgepodge of psychoses. Frankie Avalon does as well as he can with the character, but I’m afraid it required more acting chops than he had at his disposal. There are other touches I like in the movie; in particular, I like the way the movie sneaks in the explanation for the girl’s dreams without ever spelling it out. Unfortunately, the ending is one of those that tips the movie in the negative direction for me, because…
SPOILER
… I also believe there’s a difference between being artistically nihilistic and being just cruel and mean-spirited, and I’m afraid this one falls on the wrong side of the line.

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)
Article 3831 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-30-2012
Posting Date: 2-9-2012
Directed by Jimmy T. Murakami and Roger Corman
Featuring Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, John Saxon
Country: USA
What it is: STAR WARS rip-off

When a peaceful planet is threatened by evil invaders, one of the residents escapes in a spaceship to gather mercenaries to do battle with the invaders.

Yes, it’s another ripoff of STAR WARS, but it’s probably the one I enjoy most of that type. I think the main reason is that it has a decent script from John Sayles, and just the right kind of star power to pull this sort of thing off. Given that George Lucas borrowed from Akira Kurosawa’s THE HIDDEN FORTRESS for his movie, I think it’s pretty fitting that Sayles borrows from another Kurosawa film – namely, THE SEVEN SAMURAI – for this one. It works because the mercenaries end up being a fairly interesting bunch, and the script is strong enough that neither the attempts at humor nor the attempts at pathos fall flat. If anything, it manages to be somewhat more adult than its model, especially with some of the bizarre and daring costumes they give to Sybil Danning. It’s silly at times, and the battle sequences are more confusing than entertaining, but the character bits will stay with me. My favorite line comes when a child asks the ruthless Mercenary Gelt (Robert Vaughn) if he was bad even when he was little, and he replies “I was never that little.”