Hellhole (1985)

HELLHOLE (1985)
Article 3081 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-23-2009
Posting Date: 1-20-2010
Directed by Pierre De Moro
Featuring Ray Sharkey, Judy Landers, Marjoe Gortner
Country: USA
What it is: Women-in-Prison movie cleverly disguised as a Women-in-Loony-Bin movie with mad science thrown in for good measure.

Upon witnessing the murder of her mother, a young woman is injured trying to escape from the murderer and develops amnesia. She is placed in an asylum for recovery. However, the doctors in the asylum are engaged in horrible experiments, and the murderer (who has been hired to find out where incriminating papers have been hidden) takes on a job in the asylum so he can be there when the woman recovers her memory.

So, what have we learned from this movie?

1) What is the difference between a women-in-prison movie and a women-in-loony-bin movie? If this is an example, not a hell of a lot.

2) It’s easy to motivate any sort of behavior when most of your characters are crazy.

3) When most of your characters are crazy, you’re bound to have a number of nymphomaniacs in the batch as well.

4) Female nymphomaniacs + Lack of available men = Plenty of lesbian action.

5) Asylums have group showers. Might as well use them in the movie, then.

6) If you set your movie in an asylum, there are plenty of drugs around for characters to steal and use for recreational purposes.

7) If you have enough crazy and violent characters in your story, you don’t have to worry too much about the plot; just have everyone threaten and beat up everyone else.

8) I’ve never pondered the question as to who would prevail in a battle of wills between Marjoe Gortner and Mary Woronov, but if I had, I would have predicted exactly what happened here.

9) Robert Z’Dar is not a pretty man.

10) If you’re a mad scientist, it’s best to hide your failed experiments in the bottom section of the boiler room; inspectors just hate to go down there.

and an extra…

11) I don’t care if its an asylum or a prison; if there’s a place called Hellhole in the area, it’s not a good place to be.

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Haunted (1979)

HAUNTED (1979)
Article 3080 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-22-2009
Posting Date: 1-19-2010
Directed by Michael A. DeGaetano
Featuring Aldo Ray, Virginia Mayo, Ann Michelle
Country: USA
What it is: Ancient Indian shaman curse movie….maybe…

A small Arizona town suffers from a curse brought on by an Indian woman who was falsely executed by the townspeople. When a woman shows up who might be the reincarnation of the Indian woman, a crazed caretaker after some hidden gold decides he must kill her.

One of the first scenes in this bizarre horror movie has the phone company installing a phone booth in a cemetery. Why? Well, despite the fact that you’ll be asking that question (as well as most of the other characters in the cast), no answer is tendered, and that’s just the type of movie this is. Other weirdnesses include an organ-playing blind woman (played by Virginia Mayo), a series of wooden sculptures, and a series of microphones installed on a roof. It’s directed by Michael A. DeGaetano, who gave us UFO: TARGET EARTH, and you can tell; as in that movie, the story doesn’t make much sense, the dialogue is weirdly artificial, and you’ll be left scratching your head by the end of the movie. And, like UFO: TARGET EARTH, for some reason, I can’t quite bring myself to the point of just dismissing the movie as a ludicrous piece of crap; there’s something oddly hypnotic about his work, and some of the location photography is beautiful. It’s rating on IMDB is very low, and that’s to be expected; it’s marketed as a horror movie, and those expecting a good scare will really come up frustrated. In truth, I’m not sure what it is; there’s a chance its bizarre feel is a side effect of incompetence rather than of any intentional design. Still, if DeGaetano is a bad film-maker, at least he was an interesting one as well.

Honeymoon Horror (1982)

HONEYMOON HORROR (1982)
Article 3011 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-5-2009
Posting Date: 11-11-2009
Directed by Harry Preston
Featuring Paul Iwanski, Bob Wagner, Cheryl Black
Country: USA

A philandering wife and her lover are caught by a jealous husband, who is knocked out and left to die in a burning house. Later, the widow marries her lover, and plans to make a bundle by using the island she inherited as a honeymoon spot for young newlyweds. However, someone is knocking off the people on the island one by one. Could it be that her husband isn’t really dead, but badly burned and seeking revenge?

Oops, did I give away the ending? Well, I’d say not; I’m telling nothing more than I was able to figure out ten minutes into this bottom-of-the-barrel regional direct-to-video slasher flick. It’s one of those movies that shows such a singular lack of imagination on all fronts that you know that the special effects, suspense, scares and surprises will all disappoint. The special effects are definitely nothing special, the most suspenseful scene has you wondering whether the pot-bellied comic-relief redneck sheriff with his belt unbuckled is going to drop his pants (and this also serves as the scariest scene in the movie), and the biggest surprise is when that same sheriff is able to neatly leap a fence; who’da thunk it? Everything else is slasher-style horror at its most uninspired. If you decide to catch this one anyway, be warned; unless you really get attached to that redneck sheriff, than the movie is over ten minutes before it’s over.

Horror Castle (1963)

HORROR CASTLE (1963)
aka La vergine di Norimberga
Article 2990 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-15-2009
Posting Date: 10-21-2009
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Featuring Rossana Podesta, Georges Riviere, Christopher Lee
Country: Italy

A woman is brought to the ancestral home of her new husband, only to discover that there is a horrible family secret. Is it possible that the ghost of a family ancestor who practiced horrible tortures is active?

There are some problems with this Italian horror movie; the musical score is often either overbearing or inappropriate, and much of the running time is dedicated to trotting out some tired Italian horror movie cliches. However, this one has some real pluses; the backstory is quite original, and there’s a wonderful make-up job on display in the last half-hour of the movie. However, what makes it memorable is that it really delivers some strong horror jolts; the opening sequence is memorable, as is the first view of the hooded figure’s face. The real kicker, though, is a sequence involving rats in the middle of the movie that will definitely stick with you; it’s perhaps the most shocking moment in Italian horror cinema of the period. Though it’s not as good as Margheriti’s CASTLE OF BLOOD, it’s still a worthy shocker in its own right.

High Plains Drifter (1973)

HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973)
Article 2989 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-14-2009
Posting Date: 10-20-2009
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Featuring Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill
Country: USA

Fearing the arrival of three released criminals who were framed by them, the townspeople of Lago hire the services of a gunslinger who has wandered into the town. But the gunslinger has a secret agenda of his own. And furthermore, he’s no stranger to the town and its cowardly inhabitants…

Most attempts at horror westerns feel forced, as if the horror elements were grafted onto the western landscape and expected to live and breathe in a sort of artificial gravity. Not so this one. It works because it finds that crucial point where a western plot and a horror plot can intersect; really, it’s only a small step for revenge from this side of the grave to move over into revenge from beyond the grave. It also helps that Clint Eastwood has played men with no names in westerns before; it’s a bit of his western tradition, and it lends itself to a horror interpretation that also works well. Add to that the wicked gallows humor that permeates the story, and that the revenge is two-fold; not only do perpetrators of a murder need to be punished, but so do the cowardly townspeople who refused to help. What drives the plot is that the punishment must be different for these groups of people, and the elaborate way in which the townspeople must pay their penance is one of the compelling elements of the story. It’s also really nice to see midget Billy Curtis in a substantial and pivotal role here as one of the few townspeople who doesn’t become the target of the gunslinger’s wrath. And, of course, it’s really enjoyable to get a chance to cover a Clint Eastwood movie for this series in which he plays something other than a cameo role in a fifties science fiction movie.

Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965)

HERCULES AND THE PRINCESS OF TROY (1965)
TV-Movie
Article 2987 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-12-2009
Posting Date: 10-18-2009
Directed by Albert Band
Featuring Gordon Scott, Paul Stevens, Mart Hulswit
Country: Italy / USA

Hercules agrees to free Troy from a curse that requires the residents to sacrifice its maidens to a sea monster. However, he soon discovers that there are some Trojans who don’t want the curse lifted…

Those who can’t stand the bad dubbing and think sword-and-sandal movies are way too long may find this one more to their liking; since it was originally intended as a pilot for a TV series, it runs only 47 minutes, and the cast consists entirely of English-speaking actors. Gordon Scott had already appeared in a number of these types of movies in Italy, as well as having played Tarzan for several movies prior to that. The cast also features another veteran of sword-and-sandal films; that’s Gordon Mitchell as the pirate captain. All in all, it’s pretty much what you’d expect for a TV-series attempt at the genre, and the monster is one of the better ones out there for these movies. I suspect the idea of a Hercules TV-series would have flown better a few years earlier; by this time, the genre had burned itself out through an excess of product, and the trend was turning towards James Bond imitations. Besides, given the repetitive nature of the movies of the genre, I wonder if a series could have come up with a fresh plot for each episode, or fallen into formula (with, say, an evil queen every other week). We’ll leave Diogenes to figure out that question.

How Awful About Allan (1970)

HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLAN (1970)
Article 2842 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-17-2009
Posting Date: 5-25-2009
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Featuring Anthony Perkins, Julie Harris, Joan Hackett
Country: USA

A young man is struck blind as a result of the guilt he feels concerning a fire that caused the death of his father and the scarring of his sister’s face. When he is released from a mental hospital with his vision only partially restored, he goes to live with his sister. However, when a mysterious student boarder moves into the premises with them, he begins to feel that this new resident means to kill him.

Storywise, this movie is no great shakes; I was able to get the gist of what was really going on very early in the proceedings. Nevertheless, the movie works all right anyway for two reasons. One is the presence of Anthony Perkins as the partially-blind man; he is quite effective at projecting that paranoia and sense of persecution (which adds to the horror atmosphere that makes this one at least marginally genre) that is vital for this story to work. The other is that the movie makes good use of the character’s half-blindness by giving us a number of point-of-view shots from his perspective; we never get a good look at the boarder’s face, and during the scenes where he’s terrorized, we never see who is doing the terrorizing. These factors help the movie to work on an emotional basis, which is quite helpful when the story falters. The rest of the cast is quite solid as well. It’s not a great TV-Movie, but I thought it was effective enough.