Frozen Scream (1975)

FROZEN SCREAM (1975)
Article 2980 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-5-2009
Posting Date: 10-11-2009
Directed by Frank Roach
Featuring Renee Harmon, Lynne Kocol, Wolf Muser
Country: USA

Doctors are working on a process for immortality that involves lowering the body temperature and injecting them with a fluid that increases the healing process. Unfortunately, the subjects turn into soulless zombies who occasionally go wild.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie of such startling ineptitude. First of all, there’s the acting – yes, I know some of the characters are soulless zombies, but that’s no reason for almost everyone in the cast to act that way, and two of the more energetic performances are from the “soulless zombies”. Then there’s the direction and editing; the story makes no sense, the scenes seem edited at random, and the voiceover narration that’s supposed to clear things up comes up at all the wrong moments and mostly concentrates on the least relevant plot issue – the narrator’s love life. Lil Stanhope may be attractive, but she has one of the thickest accents I’ve ever heard and it’s compounded by lack of articulation. And could someone please explain to me why the rock group that performs “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Rock Around the Clock” see fit to change the lyrics? They’re not fooling anybody. Throw in some bad gore effects, horrible dialogue and incompetently staged fight scenes, and you know you’ve got a candidate for one of the worst films of all time. Only one thing works; I got one honest intentional laugh out of a wino’s comment upon being assaulted by a zombie.

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Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)
Article 2979 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-4-2009
Posting Date: 10-10-2009
Directed by Steve Miner
Featuring Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King
Country: USA

Camp counselors arrive at the camp across from the now-closed Camp Crystal Lake, the site of a series of murders from five years ago. Legend has it that the supposedly drowned son of the murderess from five years ago is still alive and stalking victims. It’s considered just a legend… until people begin showing up murdered.

I see the slasher film as basically a cross between one of the old “Old Dark House” stories (in which people in an old dark house are knocked off one by one by a murderer) minus the mystery elements and the old dark house, crossed with the homicidal psychopath trend that started with PSYCHO, minus the psychological underpinnings for the murders. In a way, they’re stripped-down bare-bones horror movies; they’re out to deliver the scares and the blood, and everything else is just window dressing. I suspect that the reason this series lasted as long as it did was because it more or less delivered on the expectations of those who came to see them. Though as a movie, it’s not very good, it’s markedly better than a lot of other slasher movies I’ve seen, and maybe that’s the best way to look at it. This is the movie in which Jason takes over the killing, though it’s still before he wore his trademark mask, so we get lots of shots of his boots. For the record, I don’t think this one is as good as the original, but since I’m not a particular fan of this subgenre, that may not mean anything to those who are fans. I do find myself wondering just how many more of these I’m going to see, though.

Frankenstein ’80 (1972)

FRANKENSTEIN ’80 (1972)
Article 2978 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-3-2009
Posting Date: 10-9-2009
Directed by Mario Mancini
Featuring John Richardson, Gordon Mitchell, Renato Romano
Country: Italy

Someone is killing, raping and mutilating people in the vicinity. Meanwhile, a doctor’s serum intended to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs is stolen. Could these crimes both have something to do with Dr. Frankenstein and his experiments in a secret lab?

Well, I like the presence of the familiar face of Gordon Mitchell here. I also like the name for the monster – Mosaic. As for the rest of the movie, this cheap, bloody, and exploitative update of the Frankenstein story goes a long way towards making FRANKENSTEIN 1970 look really good. Fans of sleazy exploitation might like this one best, though I suspect it might have its attractions for devotees of laughably bad dubbed dialogue or fans of special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi. The rest of us may want to be excused from having to watch this stinker.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)

FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1971)
aka 4 mosche di velluto grigio
Article 2977 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-2-2009
Posting Date: 10-8-2009
Directed by Dario Argento
Featuring Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, Jena-Pierre Marielle
Country: Italy / France

A musician corners a stalker in an attempt to find what he wants, but ends up killing him when the man pulls a switchblade. The killing is captured on camera by a masked figure, who proceeds to terrorize the musician with the pictures. The musician seeks to find the identity of the masked figure.

Dario Argento’s movies can be a great deal of fun. This movie is filled with offbeat moments and amusing characters, such as the gay detective who is hoping to break his string of 84 failures by solving the case, the beleaguered mailman, and the encounter at the convention of coffin salesmen. Of course, any movie which features Bud Spencer as a character named God has gone a long ways towards charming me already. I was able to finger the culprit early on, but that didn’t destroy my enjoyment of this one; the stylistic touches add to the fun, Argento knows how to ratchet up the suspense at the right moments, and the confusing moments all eventually do clear themselves up and show their relevance to the story. The dubbing is not great, but it’s acceptable, so much of the humor still comes through. It’s not up to his best work, but I found this one quite entertaining.

Force of Evil (1977)

FORCE OF EVIL (1977)
TV-Movie
Article 2973 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-28-2009
Posting Date: 10-4-2009
Directed by Richard Lang
Featuring Lloyd Bridges, Pat Crowley, Eve Plumb
Country: USA

A doctor who refused to provide an alibi for a rapist/murderer finds himself and his family in danger when the murderer is released from prison and plots revenge.

I don’t really have a good grasp on exactly what I’m watching here. It was originally an episode of “Tales of the Unexpected”, but I don’t know if it was a special two-hour episode of the series (which usually ran sixty minutes), a two-part episode, a full-length remake of the episode, or an expansion of the original episode to full length. Well, whatever it is, it’s pretty good. Some user comments on IMDB speak of it as a remake of CAPE FEAR, but there appears to be no credit to John McDonald for the original story, so I suspect it’s not an official remake. There’s a very strong similarity in the basic premise, though the details differ substantially. I notice that the book that I use for my hunt list from which I culled this title does not also list CAPE FEAR as genre, but that’s understandable once you’ve seen this one; there’s a bit of an implication of “revenge from beyond the grave” to this one that wasn’t in the earlier movie. Sadly, I think some of these supernatural hints actually detract a little from the movie’s effectiveness, but it’s still a nail-biter nonetheless, with William Watson giving a truly scary performance as the murderer. It’s definitely one of the better Lloyd Bridges TV-Movies out there, and fans of “The Brady Bunch” will recognize Eve Plumb as the family’s daughter.

The Flight that Disappeared (1961)

THE FLIGHT THAT DISAPPEARED (1961)
Article 2972 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-27-2009
Posting Date: 10-3-2009
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Featuring Craig Hill, Paula Raymond, Dayton Lummis
Country: USA

A flight carrying several scientists who are slated to work together developing the ultimate weapon finds itself lifted into the stratosphere and vanishing.

This could have made a half-hour episode of “The Twilight Zone”, but not one of the better ones. Furthermore, it could have easily been reduced to the length of an episode simply by removing the padding, cutting the unnecessary scenes, and streamlining the events that are necessary. Even at that, I’d opt for someone with a sense of dialogue to rewrite what was left. If I don’t sound impressed by the script of this one, then you’re hearing me right; what can you say about a movie that takes ten minutes at the end to deliver its final twist when it could have been neatly handled in one-fifth of that time? Certainly, Reginald Le Borg’s flat direction doesn’t help much, but I’m not sure that even an inspired, creative director could have done much to salvage this one, so maybe Le Borg was the best choice for it. If you do decide to watch, brace yourself for some tiresome preaching as well. This one is not recommended.

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (1962)

FIRE MONSTERS AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1962)
aka Maciste contro i mostri
Article 2971 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-26-2009
Posting Date: 10-2-2009
Directed by Guido Malatesta
Featuring Reg Lewis, Margaret Lee, Luciano Marin
Country: Italy

The son of Hercules named Maxus comes to the aid of a primitive tribe of sun worshipers who are beset by evil moon worshipers.

Cool! Who wouldn’t want to see one of the sons of Hercules take on the dreaded fire monsters? What a great idea for a sword-and-sandal movie! But wait a second – where are the swords? Where are the sandals? It looks more like one of those club-and-loincloth movies to me! So what’s one of the sons of Hercules (and I know he’s one of them because he said so) doing in the prehistoric era, a time which predates Hercules? I was guessing that the son of Hercules here (named Maxus) must have borrowed Maciste’s tardis, but a quick look at the original Italian title of this one indicates that this Maxus personality is just a sham; this is the time-travelling Maciste himself.

Well, this is all secondary, of course – what we’re really waiting for is seeing this guy take on those fire monsters! So let’s see – he takes on a sea monster who doesn’t seem to have much of anything to do with fire. He battles hordes of cavemen who wear underwear underneath their loincloths (and believe me, you’ll be glad that they did), but I can’t really call these guys fire monsters. He looks at a slurpasaur for a few seconds, but we don’t hang around long enough to see if he breathes fire or anything, and they never fight anyway. He battles a prehistoric creature in a cave who has big teeth but seems noticeably lacking in fire. And then he… well, that’s about it really. If the truth be told, there are no fire monsters in this movie. I’m beginning to think someone just made up the title.

Oh, and there’s no evil queen, either, for those who are keeping score on such things.