Killah Priest (1977)

KILLAH PRIEST (1977)
aka Shao Lin zu shi, Killer Priest, Kung Fu Exorcist, Shaolin Tamo Buddhist Monk
Article 3463 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-29-2010
Posting Date: 2-6-2011
Directed by Fu Di Lin
Featuring Chin Hai Chen, Lei Chen, Sing Chen
Country: Hong Kong / Taiwan
What it is: Mystical martial arts mayhem

A doctor is suspicious of a Taoist priest who has come to his village to solve their drought by praying for rain. The priest is not to be trusted… but fortunately, a Buddhist monk shows up with the mission of making the doctor his pupil and teaching him the 18 styles of Shaolin kung fu.

This movie first entered my list under the title KUNG FU EXORCIST; it remained so elusive (partially because the original Chinese title was unknown) that I finally consigned it to my “ones that got away” list. However, doctor kiss recently passed on new information to me about the original Chinese title, and was able to point me in the direction of finding the movie under the other English title (under which it had a VHS release in this country) listed in the heading. I think this may prove to be my first real encounter with the whole Hong Kong Kung Fu genre, though INFRAMAN may also qualify, and my hats go off to the hardy souls who research these movies; my head was swimming just trying to match the movie credits on the actual print with those listed on IMDB, as the variant spellings of names are mind-bogglingly confusing.

Of course, there was no way this movie was going to live up to the KUNG FU EXORCIST title, but I didn’t expect it would. The main fantastic content is a revelation towards the end of the movie, but it could be argued that the whole thing is a fantasy as well. The martial arts sequences are almost giddily unrealistic; they’re thoroughly unconvincing while nonetheless remaining fascinating pieces of gymnastics and choreography. I don’t know how many of these movies I’m going to see, but I’m willing to bet there are as many conventions to the genre as there are for sword-and-sandal movies. If I do catch more of these, I wonder how often I’ll run into the phenomenon of Sound-Enhanced Gesturing; a lot of the training sequences involve people making gestures to vivid sound effects. There’s also lots of flips and tree-jumping.

I’m going to hold off on a critical evaluation; I suspect I’ll have to see more of these movies to gain a perspective. Nevertheless, this makes for an interesting introduction.

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The Killer Nun (1978)

THE KILLER NUN (1978)
aka Suor Omicidi
Article 3405 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-29-2010
Posting Date: 12-10-2010
Directed by Giulio Berruti
Featuring Anika Ekberg, Paola Morra, Alida Valli
Country: Italy
What it is: Nunsploitation giallo

Sister Gertrude (who suffers from hypochondria, is addicted to morphine, is having a nervous breakdown and leads a double life to fulfill her sexual desires) has a problem; patients at the hospital where she works keep turning up dead around her. Is she also a homicidal maniac?

IMDB places this one under several genres, including mystery. Me, I find the mystery element extremely weak here; it’s so obvious who the killer is that I can’t believe they actually try to make it a big revelation at the end. The movie walks the line between nunsploitation and giallo. The stylistic touches here are bizarre and confusing, but not really ineffective. At least one of the murders is truly sadistic. I remember seeing Anita Ekberg in SCREAMING MIMI which I covered several years ago; for what it’s worth, she’s a much better actress in this movie than she was in that one, though I don’t think she quite pulls it off. If my review seems a little disjointed, then that’s appropriate; the movie itself is so, and sometimes I found myself wondering if it was a comedy, especially in the earlier scenes. All in all, it’s a real mixed bag, but at least I’ve never quite seen anything like it.

A Killer in Every Corner (1974)

A KILLER IN EVERY CORNER (1974)
Movie-length TV episode
Article 3390 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-13-2010
Posting Date: 11-25-2010
Directed by Malcolm Taylor
Featuring Joanna Pettet, Patrick Magee, Max Wall
Country: UK
What it is: Psychos and mad scientists

Three students are allowed to visit the home and laboratory of the renowned behavioral psychologist Professor Marcus Carnaby. What they don’t know is that they are actually there to be subjects in Carnaby’s experiments to see if his techniques have managed to cure three of his patients of their homicidal tendencies…

This is another episode of the British TV series “Thriller”, and I’d rate it as one of the best episodes I’ve seen. Part of the reason is Patrick Magee’s excellent performance as Carnaby, but the interesting story line also is a plus, and all the performances are very good. It was entertaining enough that it kept me from anticipating a twist that I should have seen coming, but I think that’s a sign that the story is working. Its worst problem may be that the ending feels a little too rushed and abrupt; I, for one, would like to find out what the fate was of a couple of the characters, but there probably simply wasn’t time to include it.

Kaibyo Yonaki Numa (1957)

KAIBYO YONAKI NUMA (1957)
aka Necromancy, Ghost-Cat of Yonaki Swamp
Article 3311 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-22-2010
Posting Date: 9-7-2010
Directed by Katsuhiko Tasaka
Featuring Shintaro Katsu, Takako Irie, Michiko Ai
Country: Japan
What it is: Ghost-Cat movie

When an old man is killed and his body is thrown into the swamp, his ghost and that of his cat seek revenge.

The above plot description is only an approximation and may be incorrect. My copy of the movie is in unsubtitled Japanese, and I was unable to follow the plot. I was able to appreciate certain scenes; there is one where the head of the murdered man appears out of nowhere, and I did catch one scene where an evil spirit is passed from one person to another. But how it all hangs together, I just can’t say. Apparently, ghost-cats have long been a legend in Japan, and during the fifties a string of them were made. I think this is the only one I’ve seen so far. Because of my inability to follow the story, I certainly can’t evaluate the movie, though I may give it a rewatching in the future to see if it becomes any clearer.

Kiss of the Tarantula (1976)

KISS OF THE TARANTULA (1976)
Article 3264 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-27-2010
Posting Date: 7-22-2010
Directed by Chris Munger
Featuring Suzanna Ling, Eric Mason, Herman Wallner
Country: USA
What it is: Creepy girl and her creepy-crawly friends

A young girl with an affection for spiders discovers that her mother is having an affair with her uncle and plans to murder her father. She unleashes her pet tarantula on her mother. Years later, she discovers that her tarantula friends can be useful to deal with her other enemies.

This is what you get when you cross WILLARD with THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE. It’s low budget, the pace is a little slow, and it’s mostly pretty predictable. It’s one of those movies I could probably go either way with, but which, the truth is, I rather like. Part of the reason is that it’s just fun to see tarantulas crawling around all over the place. Another is that it’s somewhat satisfying in its rather pandering way; her victims are fairly unpleasant, hateful people (for the most part) who are pretty much getting what they deserve, and you like the people you’re supposed to like, especially the girl’s father. You’ll be waiting the whole movie for her to take care of the real villain of the piece; her uncle not only plots with her mother to kill her father, but in the later part of the story starts coming on to the girl herself, and, quite frankly, you’ll be waiting for that creep to get his, which he does in a quite satisfying sequence. Still, my favorite moment is a little one in the middle of the movie; the girl approaches the coffin with the body of one of the boys she’s killed, and places the corpse of the spider he killed in the coffin with him to keep him company throughout eternity. It’s far from a great movie, but it served its purpose quite well.

Kyuketsu-ga (1956)

KYUKETSU-GA (1956)
aka The Vampire Moth, Bloodthirsty Moth
Article 3215 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-7-2010
Posting Date: 6-3-2010
Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa
Featuring Ryo Ikebe, Asami Kuji, Ichiro Arishima
Country: Japan
What it is: Japanese horror-mystery

Models are being killed by a werewolf-like creature. Detectives investigate.

Since my print of this is in unsubtitled Japanese, I’m not really sure what’s going on most of the time. I do know this; it’s part of a series of movies about Kosuke Kindaichi, a detective who investigates mysteries with supernatural elements which, in the end, prove to have non-supernatural explanations. Still, the horror elements are here; the killer wears a scary mask with jagged teeth, and some of the scenes have a definite eerie quality to them. There’s a number of striking scenes here; my favorites include the discovery of a corpse on a raised platform, and a dance scene in which all we see are six pairs of legs when there are only five dancers; the latter has to be seen to be believed. Apparently, part of the plot involves a blackmail scheme of some sort involving dress designs, as far as I can tell. Until I can see a version of this one with subtitles, I doubt I can say anything more about it.

Killer on the Loose (1936)

KILLER ON THE LOOSE (1936)
aka Killer at Large
Article 3182 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2010
Posting Date: 5-1-2010
Directed by David Selman
Featuring Mary Brian, Russell Hardie, George McKay
Country: USA
What it is: B-Movie crime drama with slight horror elements

When a safe is robbed in a department store and the store manager is murdered, a clerk who is engaged to the female store detective is under suspicion. The detective must find the real killer.

The killer in this case is a designer of wax figures who also specializes in impersonating them, a gimmick that actually plays into the robbery/murder. This isn’t really a spoiler; the identity of the murderer is given to us fairly early in the proceedings, and the movie is more concerned with the pursuit of the criminal. The horror elements are slight; there’s a scene in a warehouse full of wax figures and a cemetery scene that provide some slight horror content, and the killer is a madman of sorts as well. Henry Brandon plays the killer, and he’s the best thing here; he comes across as convincingly malevolent. Still, there really isn’t much to this low-budget movie, though fans of Lon Chaney Jr. will find him here in a small role as one of the killer’s henchmen. All in all, a fairly minor b-movie.