Hollywood Meat Cleaver Massacre (1977)

HOLLYWOOD MEAT CLEAVER MASSACRE (1977)
aka MEATCLEAVER MASSACRE
Article 2128 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-12-2007
Posting Date: 6-10-2007
Directed by Evan Lee
Featuring Christopher Lee(!), Larry Justin, J. Arthur Craig

Four students on a drunken binge break into the home of a professor of the occult, kill his family and leave him paralyzed for life. However, the professor is able to conjure up a demon to seek revenge.

If there’s any one thing I can say about this movie, it’s that it surprised me – instead of the psycho killer movie I was expecting, it turns out to have more of an occult bent then I expected. It also wasn’t near as bad as I expected it would be, but that’s no recommendation; it’s still fairly awful. The story itself is straightforward enough, but the movie engages in arty dream sequences, one gratuitous nude scene, lots of dull stretches where nothing is happening, and the occasional surprising touch of intentional and unexpected humor that may be the best thing about the film; if I have a favorite moment here, it’s when one of the students is distracted from committing suicide by something very mundane.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this movie is the presence of Christopher Lee, whose presence provided two things that the movie needed; it padded out the running time and added some star power to the movie. Actually, he only appears in beginning and ending bumpers, and, if the reports are true, he made these scenes for another producer, who then sold the footage to the makers of this movie. The other surprising presence is of Ed Wood as a photographer in the movie; it looks like he was associated with stinkers right to the end. As a result, this is the only time Ed Wood and Christopher Lee ever worked together, albeit inadvertently. And please take note that one cast member here is named Robert Clark, not Robert Clarke.

 

High Tor (1956)

HIGH TOR (1956)
TV Movie
Article 2111 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-26-2006
Posting Date: 5-24-2007
Directed by James Neilson and Franklin J. Schaffner
Featuring Bing Crosby, Julie Andrews, Nancy Olson

The owner of a mountain called High Tor wiles away his time hunting and fishing, much to the chagrin of the woman who loves him. He finds himself fending off the advances of two men who want to buy the mountain while dealing with the ghosts of sailors waiting for the arrival of Henry Hudson’s boat.

There are some definite charms to this musical version of the Maxwell Anderson play. Bing Crosby and a young Julie Andrews singing are two of them, and a likable cast (including Hans Conried and Everett Sloane) is another. The story itself is rather unique; it’s an odd little fantasy that is very unlike any other ghost story out there, with the ghosts not scary or malevolent but simply as part of the action of the story. However, time hasn’t really been too kind to this episode of “Ford Star Jubilee” (which is considered in some quarters to be the first TV movie); the modest production values and the self-conscious poetry of the dialogue really start to wear on me after a while; it’s one of those movies where the actors talk endlessly about how they feel rather than showing us how they feel by their actions. Still, take the limitations in stride and there are some pleasures to be had here.

 

How to Make a Doll (1968)

HOW TO MAKE A DOLL (1968)
Article 2110 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-25-2006
Posting Date: 5-23-2007
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Featuring Robert Woods, Jim Vance, Bobbi West

A professor works with a scientist that can create beautiful women with a machine.

This movie is extremely cheap, the sound is extremely bad, the acting is atrocious, and it’s dumb as all-get-out. These aspects of the movie don’t surprise me – it is, after all, a Herschell Gordon Lewis sex comedy. What does surprise me is how tame it is; the movie would net no more than a PG rating if it were rated. It’s not like Lewis didn’t know about the commercial possibilities of sex and nudity; he was shooting nudies before he ever became the king of gore. It’s rather odd for me (a non-fan of exploitation movie-making) to say this about a movie from one of the most famous exploitation film-makers, but it really needs some nudity in it. Either that, or it needs a decent plot (at this point there is none to speak of) and/or some decent jokes, but given my experience with Lewis’s output to date, I’m not sure he’s capable of pulling either of those things off. And given the plot and jokes as they stand now, filling it with nudity is about the only way this one could have flown.

 

Himmelskibet (1918)

HIMMELSKIBET (1918)
aka A TRIP TO MARS, THE AIRSHIP
Article 2107 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-22-2006
Posting Date: 5-20-2007
Directed by Holger-Madsen
Featuring Nils Asther, Lilly Jacobson, Nicolai Neiiendam

A pilot dreams of flying to Mars, and with the help of a professor, manages to build an airship capable of taking them to that planet. He gathers together a crew, and reaches Mars, which is populated by a utopian society.

When I started this project, the first movie to go onto my hunt list was ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, which I was able to watch immediately; it became the first entry in the series. The second movie to enter my list was this one (under the alternate title THE AIRSHIP), and here it is, six years later, and I’ve finally had a chance to watch it. Simply for this reason alone, I’m bound to feel a bit of warmth for the movie, simply due to the fact that the hunt is over.

So, how is the movie? I would say that it’s good, but not great. It’s certainly ambitious enough; there’s a huge cast of extras in both the Earth and Mars scenes. The story itself is a little too familiar; it’s your basic “adventure-into-Utopia” story. But there’s a basic problem with Utopia stories; once you get to the Utopia, you end up almost entirely with scenes of people being really nice to each other, and that really doesn’t make for an exciting story. It’s no surprise under these circumstances that the most interesting character is the villain (who stays on Earth), the aptly named Professor Dubious, whose mocking of the whole project starts out as funny, but takes some nasty turns towards the end.

Still, it’s nice to have at least one more science fiction outing from the decade of the 1910s; the only other full length non-horror science fiction movie that I’ve seen from the era is 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, and I think this one is more interesting. It’s probably the most important science fiction movie between A TRIP TO THE MOON and AELITA; it’s certainly the best extant one. So I take my hat off to this one for its historical importance alone. I’m so glad to have finally had a chance to see it.

 

The Headless Horseman (1934)

THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN (1934)
Article 2104 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-19-2006
Posting Date: 5-17-2007
Directed by Ub Iwerks
Animated Short – No Cast

Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones compete for the affections of Katrina. On the way home, Ichabod encounters the headless horseman.

Ub Iwerks was one of the early rivals to Disney in the animation business, but he is largely forgotten nowadays. As tempting as it is to compare this with Disney’s take on the Washington Irving tale, it really wouldn’t be fair – this version was designed to be little more than a standard issue cartoon, without any of the ambitions of the Disney version, and it should be judged as such. As a cartoon, it is played largely for laughs, and the laughs are pretty tepid; my favorite joke was discovering Katrina’s nickname for Ichabod (she uses it in a letter, as there is no dialogue in the movie). The music by Carl Stalling is quite nice, though it predates the innovations he developed at Warner Brothers in using music to underline the action at all moments. It’s a pretty ordinary thirties cartoon and pretty forgettable.

 

The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher (1979)

THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID ROW SLASHER (1979)
Article 2103 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-18-2006
Posting Date: 5-16-2007
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Featuring Pierre Agostino, Carolyn Brandt, Chuck Alford

A Hollywood Strangler meets a Skid Row Slasher.

In this movie, the Hollywood Strangler photographs a model who starts coming on to him. He strangles her.

Then, the Skid Row Slasher (who works at a used book store) encounters a wino who offers her a drink. The wino wanders off and finds a place to sleep. The Skid Row Slasher follows him. She slashes him.

Then, the Hollywood Strangler photographs another model who starts coming on to him. He strangles her.

Then, the Skid Row Slasher encounters another wino who offers her a drink. The wino wanders off and finds a place to sleep. The Skid Row Slasher follows him. She slashes him.

Then the Hollywood Strangler notices the Skid Row Slasher. He is convinced she is different and will understand him. He pets some pigeons and plays with some dogs.

Then, the Hollywood Strangler photographs another model who starts coming on to him. He strangles her.

Then, the Skid Row Slasher encounters another wino who offers her a drink. The wino wanders off and finds a place to sleep. The Skid Row Slasher follows him. She slashes him….

This is a plot? No, but it is a Ray Dennis Steckler film, and I’ve come to expect them to be a little lax in the story department. I’ve noticed that he likes movies with more than one psycho in them, and I always thought it a bit strange that Mad Dog Click and the gang of psychos in THE THRILL KILLERS never met; here there is no such problem. The main character here is called Johnathan Click; I wonder if he liked the name.

Yes, the movie is bloody awful, but Steckler still manages to show just enough competence on occasion that the movie doesn’t become unwatchable. That’s some feat when you consider that it was practically shot as a silent movie, with all of the dubbing done afterwards (most of which is the Hollywood Strangler’s inner monologues).

As the movie progressed, I became aware that the movie would end in one of two ways. Either it just wouldn’t end – the Strangler would keep strangling and the Slasher would keep slashing – or it would end by…well, how would expect a movie called THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID ROW SLASHER to end?

That being said, if you think of it as a romantic comedy, it’s a lot funnier than THE LEMON GROVE KIDS. And though I’m tempted to say that the topless roller disco sequence is gratuitous, that would imply that the rest of the movie isn’t.

 

Hell Night (1981)

HELL NIGHT (1981)
Article 2096 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-11-2006
Posting Date: 5-9-2007
Directed by Tom DeSimone
Featuring Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton

Four fraternity pledges undergo an initiation by spending the night in a spooky old mansion. Unbeknownst to the pledges is that some of the fraternity members have rigged up the place to scare them. Unbeknownst to all of them is that the madman mentioned in legends about the place is alive and is intent on knocking all of them off one by one.

Were I ever to forget that I am now far enough into this series that movies from the eighties occasionally come creeping up on my lists, movies like this will certainly remind me. Since I’m no big fan of slasher movies, I fully expected to hate this one; however, I found it to be not near as bad as I expected. On the plus side, the characters are likable (and better developed than is usually the case for this sort of fare), it does have the occasional good twist to some of its cliches, and I do like the idea of throwing some “old dark house” action into the mix. On the minus side, it’s pretty predictable, Linda Blair’s performance is quite bad, most of the attempts at humor are abysmal (the best is a joke about quaaludes and skin condition), and the movie tries to get way too much scare mileage by having people find dead bodies. Oh, and did I mention that there are moments when people act with incredible stupidity (a flaw that seems almost de riguer in slasher films)? The best moment is an exciting chase scene in the caves below the house.