Blue Demon vs el poder satanico (1966)

BLUE DEMON VS EL PODER SATANICO (1966)
aka Blue Demon vs. the Satanical Power
Article 2822 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-28-2009
Posting Date: 5-5-2009
Directed by Chano Urueta
Featuring Alejandro Munoz Moreno, Marta Elena Cervantes, Jaime Fernandez
Country: Mexico

A man with Satanical powers avoids execution by putting himself into a cataleptic state. Fifty years later he is resurrected, and returns to his evil ways by using his mystical powers to seduce and murder women. However, he must deal with the powers of a heroic Mexican wrestler…

For a movie which I’ve seen only in an unsubtitled Spanish-language version, this one is fairly easy to follow. This isn’t necessarily a compliment; the reason it’s so easy to follow is because there’s so little to it. The opening scenes are the best, but once the villain begins his seductive reign of terror, the movie begins padding itself excessively. The movie runs about 75 minutes, but we have four (count ’em, four) wrestling sequences, one of which doesn’t even feature Blue Demon, but his friend (and already established movie star) Santo. We have three sequences where the villain seduces women. We have scenes of Blue Demon pursuing his career as a crimefighter; unfortunately, these mostly consist of him sitting around reading books. In fact, Blue Demon doesn’t lift a finger to battle the villain until the villain decides to use his Satanic powers to try to force Blue Demon to commit suicide. Only then does Blue Demon swing into action, but even this is a disappointment, because… well, I won’t give away the ending, but let me just say that if it weren’t for the wrestling sequences, there wouldn’t be any action scenes in the movie. This one is bad even by Mexican wrestler movie standards.

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The Body Beneath (1970)

THE BODY BENEATH (1970)
Article 2766 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-3-2008
Posting Date: 3-10-2009
Directed by Andy Milligan
Featuring Gavin Reed, Jackie Skarvellis, Berwick Kaler
Country: UK

A clan of vampires living in Carfax Abbey are planning on finding a way to regenerate their bloodline, which has been thinned by inbreeding.

It’s another Andy Milligan film here, folks; that’s one way to make me wish I was still covering Mighty Mouse shorts. This one looks a lot better than the other ones I’ve seen, and it avoids a number of the problems I’ve had with his other films. This is not to say that it’s good; the script is muddled, the editing is pretty bad, and the use of music is horrible. Still, the movie’s worst problem is that it’s incredibly talky. It has a couple of gory moments to catch the attention, but, beyond that, the movie largely consists of people standing around talking. Even in the big scene near the end, where we have a meeting with a whole clan of vampires, they do little more than talk, debate, argue, etc. – it’s a little like going to a horror movie and finding yourself at a speech contest instead. I suppose that’s a step up; whereas most of the other Milligan films I’ve seen have ended up annoying me, this one just bores me. Or is that a step down?

Beauty on the Beach (1950)

BEAUTY ON THE BEACH (1950)
Animated Short
Article 2762 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-29-2008
Posting Date: 3-6-2009
Directed by Connie Rasinski
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA

At a seaside amusement park, Mighty Mouse must save Pearl Pureheart from the evil machinations of Oilcan Harry.

Sometimes I find some of the choices in my various movie source books to be rather curious. In the shorts section of the first volume of Don Willis’s “Horror and Science Fiction Films”, the Fleischer “Superman” series is listed, but only two individual titles specified (a requisite for me to include a cartoon on my hunt list). On the other hand, he also lists the Terrytoon’s “Mighty Mouse” series, and list around twenty titles or so, which seems a little bit odd to me, as I would consider the Superman series in to be more authentically science fiction than the Mighty Mouse series. At any rate, that may explain why I’m covering Mighty Mouse cartoons before I’ve started any of the Superman ones.

Now, the idea of an opera-singing supermouse sounds to me like more of a horror concept (that is, with my aversion to opera), but, strictly speaking, Mighty Mouse isn’t singing opera – he’s singing operetta, which is a slightly different form (think Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald instead of Wagner). In this particular cartoon, the Eddy/MacDonald comparison is apt, as Pearl Pureheart is obviously modeled off of the latter. It’s also a parody of serials, as it sets itself up like the last episode of one, opening with a cliffhanger in which the heroine is tied to the tracks of a roller-coaster (she doesn’t seem too concerned, as she’s doing her needlepoint). The cross between serial and operetta ends up working quite well, and the cartoon makes good use of music as well as containing some good gags; one of my favorites does a nice twist on the old gag of two characters trying to get rid of a bomb by passing it back and forth to each other, with the variation consisting of the fact that they are also passing one character’s hat back and forth as well, with a logical bit of confusion as a result. All in all, I found this one quite enjoyable, which is good, as I have a few others to get through in the next few days.

Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (1976)
aka The Incredible Torture Show
Article 2759 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-26-2008
Posting Date: 3-3-2009
Directed by Joel M. Reed
Featuring Seamus O’Brien, Viju Krem, Niles McMaster
Country: USA

A magician specializes in the torture of women in his Soho theater act. However, the tortures are real, and he is a white slaver. To get revenge on a critic, he kidnaps a ballerina in order to force her to perform in a sadistic ballet he has written.

The most sickening and repellent film ever made? I can’t say, but if it isn’t, it will do until the real one comes along. I’m not surprised the movie has a cult following; any movie with this much bad taste, sadistic violence, and exploitation of women is bound to have its admirers, especially if it presents itself as some sort of black comedy as this one does. A number of horror movies have had to endure the accusation of misogyny over the years, but if I had to choose a movie where that accusation is most likely to stick, this is the one; almost every woman in the movie only exists to endure humiliation and torture (usually while they are completely naked) for the entertainment and applause of men. In a sense, it hardly matters that the special effects are usually very bad; the sheer level of nastiness combined with the glee of those perpetrating it is cringe-inducing. I suppose movies like this can be useful if they produce a catharsis of some sort, but, to my mind, this one doesn’t. And as far as black comedies go, I didn’t get one laugh from this one. To me, this one is just a descent into sad degradation.

The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965)

THE BEACH GIRLS AND THE MONSTER (1965)
aka Monster from the Surf
Article 2742 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-8-2008
Posting Date: 2-14-2008
Directed by Jon Hall
Featuring Jon Hall, Sue Casey, Arnold Lessing
Country: USA

A monster is killing teens on the beach. Police investigate. Meanwhile, one teen’s father (who has an unfaithful wife) is trying to get him to give up his beach life and go back to work.

If you need a companion piece for a beach/monster double feature with HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, you could do worse than this one. Wait, I take that back; maybe you couldn’t do worse than this one. Apparently, this isn’t actor Jon Hall’s only directorial work; he did some uncredited direction on THE NAVY VS. THE NIGHT MONSTERS. It is his last acting performance, and he couldn’t have gone out on a worse note. This is one of those movies where the padding and stock footage (girls dancing, surfing footage, etc.) is more entertaining than the hackneyed and annoying plot, with Jon Hall’s character constantly grousing, Sue Casey’s character acting bitchy, and Arnold Lessing’s character just wishing everyone would let him alone and let him hang out on the beach. The monster costume is lame, but so is the script and the acting. Quite frankly, this movie is so dead in the water that it makes HORROR OF PARTY BEACH look intelligent and innovative, and I’ll take the song “Zombie Stomp” over the “Monster in the Surf” song here. On a side note, I find it interesting that Jon Hall is a cousin to Ben Chapman, who is most famous for having played the Creature from the Black Lagoon during the land scenes; this movie certainly gave them something in common. Incidentally, Kingsley the Lion is played by himself.

Blacula (1972)

BLACULA (1972)
Article 2734 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-31-2008
Posting Date: 2-6-2009
Directed by William Crain
Featuring William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas
Country: USA

When a black prince visits the castle of Count Dracula, he is turned into a vampire and sealed in a coffin. He is finally released from his bondage in modern times, and he meets a woman who resembles his long-dead wife.

The direction is fairly weak and the script could use a revision or two, but this blaxploitation horror movie works well anyway. Part of the reason is that the acting is quite good, especially from classically-trained William Marshall in the title role; he imbues his character with a genuine sense of tragedy, and this adds a dimension to the movie it might not otherwise have. There’s none of the annoying jive talk that marred the sequel here; in fact, the movie is generally free from black stereotypes (though other stereotypes show up). Outside of Marshall, the most familiar name in the cast to me is Elisha Cook, but his role as a morgue attendant is so small that he barely has anything to do, though I did hope he would show up as a vampire eventually. One thing I did like about this movie is that it actually addresses the fact that a vampire on the loose might well result in a plague of vampirism, a fact that many other vampire movies overlook. I also like the fact that the detective on the case shows some forethought in his dealing with vampires, though his inconsistency in this regard in the later scenes is one of the script problems that should have been fixed.

Blood for Dracula (1974)

BLOOD FOR DRACULA (1974)
aka Andy Warhol’s Dracula, Dracula cerca sangue di vergine… e mori di sete!!!
Article 2733 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-30-2008
Posting Date: 2-5-2009
Directed by Paul Morissey
Featuring Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Vittorio De Sica
Country: Italy / France

Dracula must leave Romania because of the distressing lack of virgins; he can ingest only the blood of the untouched. He goes to Italy, where he’s sure the religious traditions will make a virgin bride easy to find.

When this movie played in my area during the seventies, I remember the local reviewer gave it the lowest rating I’ve ever seen; he used to rate them on a scale of 1 to 100, but he rarely gave ratings less than 80. He gave this one a 20. I don’t think the movie is anywhere near that bad, though I do think it’s so-so at best. It’s at least partially conceived as a comedy, with our Dracula here being perhaps the least intimidating version of the character I’ve seen; he’s sickly and given to vomiting, especially if he’s drunk the blood of a non-virgin (for what it’s worth, actor Udo Kier does an excellent job of vomiting, though I’m not sure it’s a talent really worth pursuing). Despite the fact that it’s an Italian/French movie, there’s no dubbing problem, as it was shot in English, and we get a fascinating cornucopia of accents, what with the Count’s Romanian accent, the Italian accents, and Joe Dallesandro’s New York accent. In the sex and gore departments, it’s out to out-Hammer Hammer, and though this may make it of some interest to horror fans, as a comedy it’s not really that funny (my favorite moment here was hearing Vittorio De Sica ruminate on Dracula’s name), and once you get the gist of where it’s all going, it’s fairly predictable. The movie features two famous directors in the cast; the aformentioned De Sica, and a cameo from Roman Polanski who plays a bar game in one of the movie’s more memorable scenes. One question I’ve always had is this; just how much artistic input did Andy Warhol really have in this one? And I’d love to hear confirmation on one curious fact; according to the “Fantastic Cinema Subject Guide”, Italian sources do not credit Paul Morrissey as the director of this movie, but Antonio Margheriti.