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Two Stocking Stuffers- RAY HARRYHAUSEN FAIRY TALES/STRANGE & UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS FILMS

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RAY HARRYHAUSEN’S FAIRY TALES
– COLOR http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7875D.html

STRANGE AND UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS FILMS-Color/b&w -http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7871D.html

$7.98 each. Oldies.com

Just in time for the Christmas Season come two fun stocking stuffers from OLDIES.COM.

The first is probably the one that people will feel is the must have . Ray Harryhausen is a god to anyone who grew up watching fantasy films made between 1953 (BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (WB)) through 1981 (CLASH OF THE TITANS,MGM). You were at some time enthralled and in awe of the stop motion wizardry that this one man special effect auteur brought to the cinema screen. While ILM and others can do the same thing now via computer, recall that Harryhausen for most of his work was creator, camera person, and director ,single handedly doing what now takes teams of CGI experts to try and emulate.

However, unlike Athena born fully grown from the skull of Zeus, Ray Harryhausen’s artistry came from experimenting . Some of these experiments are to be found on RAY HARYHAUSEN’S FAIRY TALES.

After working as an animator on a George Pal Puppetoon (TULIPS WILL GROW,Paramount,1942),Ray continued to refine his talents as both cinematographer and animator on shorts produced for and by the U.S. Army.red-stare

After his service, he returned to his family home, where he got a 16mm camera and some Kodachrome color film to produce a series of shorts. It was a family affair, with his parents helping with costuming and set building. He completed five of his Fairy Tales between 1946 and 1953 ( a final film not on this collection ,TORTOISE & THE HARE, was started in 1952, but never completed when Harryhausen began making features. That is , it remained unfinished until 2002, when Ray and two fans who worked on tv’s ROBOT CHICKEN (Cartoon Network,2005-2015)decided to complete it.).

The films were released to schools as well as television filler but while they probably did not make Ray much money, he was able to learn his trade and improve his technique on each film .

The first film, THE MOTHER GOOSE STORY (1946) consists of very short vignettes, silent save for some public domain classical music. The influence of George Pal’s animated shorts is quite obvious in the style of puppetry design. The faces use a variation of Pal’s system of substitution faces rather than animating the features. A quick dissolve is used to smooth the transition of facial reactions.

The next film ,THE STORY OF LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (1949) ,showed more confidence ,experimenting with camera movements ,and lighting. It also boasted a voice over narration by actor Hugh Douglas.

hanselTHE STORY OF HANSEL & GRETEL (1951)was once again narrated by Hugh Douglas ,has more reassured camera moves, and even uses some rear projection for a giant oven fire mixed with the stop motion animation figures .

THE STORY OF RAPUNZEL (1951), this time narrated by Del Moore ,seems a bit more stilted than the previous effort ,and the witch figure seems to be just a repainting of the witch from the previous film.

THE STORY OF KING MIDAS (1953),the final of Harryhausen’s short stories on this disc, is the most assured. Once again narrated by Del Moore, the character work on the faces is much more assured, and the villain of the piece is a marvelous piece of villainous design.midas

As a bonus, we get a variation of Little Red Riding Hood, this time via a short 1949 color film of the Wahmann Hand Puppets. The film was released by Encyclopedia Britannica Films, and was produced by Helen Wahmann Lanthop and Lee Wahmann Keel, co-founders of the Children’s Artist Series and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, North Carolina (still in existence today). It is a straightforward recording of a well rendered puppet show telling of the familiar tale.

Back in 2005, RAY HARRYHAUSEN: EARLY YEARS (Sparkhill /Global Entertainment) was a two disc Special Edition that included the Harryhausen shorts on this disc, as well as a completed TORTOISE & THE HARE and many other extras. That collection is out of print and selling for over $100 . The Alpha/OLDIES.COM Collection is an affordable alternative to that release, and their prints are quite clean and acceptable.rh-the-early-years-collection-dvd-pal
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Next up is the well named STRANGE & UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS FILMS. The films are an odd mash up of color and black & white shorts made between 1945 through 1961. Many of them have been used and featured in recent Rifftrax Comedy Christmas specials, and once you see them, you will know why .

behind-scens-xmas-dreamThe 1945 Czech made “Vánoční sen” was released in the U.S. to tv and home video by Castle Films in 1948 as A CHRISTMAS DREAM . This was the first film that director Karl Zeman mixed live action and stop motion animation . He later become world famous for fantasy films like THE FABULOUS WORLD OF JULES VERNE (Czech: Vynález zkázy /The Deadly Invention,1958,released by WB in 1961).Consider that this short was made when there was devastating rationing due to Nazi occupation until April,1945, it is astounding that the film has such a magical feel.In effect, a young girl neglects her old toy for a new toy,and the older one comes to life.

The English dubbing, however, makes the film enter into the realm of creepy. The high pitched voice of the doll will make a younger generation think of Mr Hankie from tv’s SOUTH PARK (Comedy Central,1997-still running) .

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Next up is SANTA CLAUS‘ STORY (Board of Education,Buffalo,1945).In this story,Santa appears to two little children and tells them “A story you‘ ll always remember“ – about monkeys. That’s right, lots of footage of monkeys. Did I mention monkeys? These first two films have been satirized by the Rifftrax team during their various Christmas specials .

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS(Castle Films,1946) is a live action telling of the the classic Clement C Moore tale, with bits of cartoon animation thrown in. The only thing wierd about it is how it haphazardly jumps from cartoon animation to live action, but is probably the most “normal“ film on the disc.

SANTA IN ANIMAL LAND (Art Reels Production/Official Films,1948)- A bunch of big headed animals get together and go to the North Pole to ask Santa Claus for gifts. This is basically a puppet show that was filmed. However, the behind the scenes history is very interesting. Puppeteer Alfred Wallace (1914-1985) was a Native American puppeteer who had a strong career in the nightclubs during the 1930s through the 1950s. His specialty seemed to have been political satire ,using puppets such as FDR as a baby, or a Senator puppet with two faces. This production seems more like a work for hire piece.

 

 

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The 1945 Czech made “Vánoční sen

 

 

SANTA & THE FAIRY SNOW QUEEN(Sid Davis Productions 1951)is probably the longest film in the collection(26 minutes) and the first in color .Sid Davis is a man best known for his public scare films, mostly about not talking to strangers ,running with scissors or you’ll impale yourself ,or the ‘dangers ‘of homosexuality .fairy Here, he seems to be showing you the dangers of community theatre telling a Christmas tale . Using public domain music , several annoying toys come to life(someone stop Jack In The Box,please!),an  female Elf named Snoopy and a drunk sounding Santa encounter a thick accented Snow Queen. This episode too has been spoofed by the Rifftrax team, but here you can experience it in all it’s bizarre glory.sfq100

THE ELF & MR. LITTLE (1953)seems to be a short made for local television (due to the chroma-key titles) Christmas tale shot in Arizona . It features marionettes by Rex Crum,better known as Rex Castle,who while Arizona based,toured and performed all over the world,even on Cruise ships and Las Vegas Night Clubs.In this a toymaker and his wife meet a Christmas elf.

 

SILENT NIGHT: THE STORY OF THE CHRISTMAS CAROL (Coronet ,1953)is a live action telling of how the famous song came into being.Though shot in color, the print appears at times to have faded almost to black and white.

THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL (CASTLE FILMS,1954)- Hans Christian Anderson’s 1845 story was shot as a live action French short in 1952,that Castle Films re-dubbed and sold on 16mm as well as to television syndication. While many of us think of a the Danish story teller as making lively children’s stories, a lot of his tales are damn depressing ! The Brave Tin Soldier has the title character melted with his ballerina love, the Little Mermaid in its original incarnation had the title character wanting to murder the Prince to get his blood , and then there is this ,the most depressing and saddest of all his stories.

A little barefoot Match Girl is forced into the cold by her (unseen) father to sell her wares. Hungry and cold, she lights her matches for warmth to no avail.As she dies, she sees a vision of the Virgin Mary (in the original story, it is her grandmother who greats her )who floats her off to Heaven. Actually, Anderson was ,like his contemporary Charles Dickens ,was pointing out the inequities of the poor and wanted to show how we neglect our fellow humans.

THE LITTLE LAMB: A CHRISTMAS STORY (Castle Films/United World 1955) is a live action film where a mother (Maureen O’Sullivan), after having her brood of five children say their prayers, tells them a story of a lost lamb and the Nativity. Morris Ankum, known mostly for playing generals and judges, here plays Azur The Shepherd. Not so much strange as a straightforward Christian tale.

CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE (1961), seems to be a Canadian made film about a little girl who looks at a book and suddenly it dissolves to barely moving clockwork mechanisms. In fact, over 6 minutes of its nearly ten-minute running time is footage is of a revolving diorama with non-moving figures that have a narrator filling in the story!hqdefault

If you want another interesting animated stocking stuffer ,check out also the just released                                                                                 LOST COLD-WAR PROPAGANDA CARTOONS-Color –                                                                       http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7874D.html

 

Kevin G Shinnick

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     (Go Home,Santa, you’re drunk !)

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X MARKS THE SPOT (1931)

X MARKS THE SPOT (1931) B&W. 67 Minutes. Oldies.com $7.98
http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7792D.html

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Inspired by plays and films like THE FRONT PAGE (U.A.1931), X MARKS THE SPOT (Tiffany,1931) starts with peppy banter that was common in newspaper stories of the 1920’s and thirties.

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The film changes tone briefly when reporter Ted Lloyd (Wallace Ford) finds his younger sister collapsed in the street. Ted finds out he will need $5,000 to save his kid sister by sending her to this one Dr. Mueller in Germany.

He gets offers of $500 here and $600-$700 there from his friends, but says it’s not enough (hinted, if you take it and add it up, it’s closer to your goal!).

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Desperate, Ted goes to the local pool hall to meet with gangster Edward Riggs (Fred Kohler)to ask for the money. “Ha ha Ha-you don’t make five grand a year, says the gangster. Ted offers to get info on the district attorney if it helps save his sister. The gangster socks him saying he hates squealers but gives him the five grand.

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More stuff occurs in the newsroom before Ted meets with Sue(Sally Blane) for some quips and flirting before the film heads off to the Follies. Some pre-code dialogue (reporter offers to print an actress’ photo in the paper, only this time with her clothes on.).

Showgirl Vivian Parker (Mary Nolan) ends up murdered, and Ted becomes the main suspect as he was the last one to see her alive. Ted finds out that Riggs was responsible for the killing, but the gangster reminds him of how he helped with his sister’s medical bills.

How will Ted act when Riggs is put on trial?

X MARKS THE SPOT was one of the last three films made by Tiffany (along with DEATH KISS,1932 starring Bela Lugosi). The studio had been involved with a major prestige picture (JOURNEY’s END ,1930, James Whales ‘adaptation of the stage play), but like so many indie producers, they lacked proper distribution. When they folded, their films like so many independent productions, fell into public domain.

X … is a compactly made drama of the early sound era. The acting ranges from very good to stiff.

Lew Cody as editor George Howe is a strong competent performer. He had been acting in films since 1914, and had been married to actress Mabel Nomand. He died in 1934 at age 50.

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Wallace Ford is probably the best known actor from this film by today ‘s viewers, appearing a year later in MGM’s FREAKS as well as Frankie McPhillips in THE INFORMER(RKO,1935). His career last until 1965, with television making up the bulk of his later work.

Sally Blane also had a long career, usually in supporting roles in major films (CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND, FOX,1939) but here she is the female lead and makes one wish that she had larger parts in films.

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Mary Nolan as showgirl Vivian has a bit of a Midwest accent (“Git Outta heah!”) and is a bit stiff (no pun intended). Her life seemed to be one of those tales that warned of the dangers of show business. She had been a Ziegfeld showgirl who had been fired due to a scandal with a married man (who beat and abused her), but had a good career in silent films both in the U.S. and Germany. Under contract to Universal, she was loaned out to appear in the Lon Chaney MGM film WEST OF ZANZIBAR (1928) and received good reviews. She had another abusive relationship with Eddie Mannix (who also was possibly involved with the murder of George Reeves. Reeves had been having an affair with Mannix’ wife), who beat her so bad that she became addicted to morphine. This led to her contract being terminated at the major studios and thus struggled along at the indies. She died at age 45 from a Seconal overdose.

Clarence Muse made a career of playing butlers, porters, and servants, but the actor had starred and worked in theatre, as well as starring in HEARTS IN DIXIE (1929), the first all-black movie produced by Fox. Here he is trapped in embarrassing stereotype dialogue in his scenes.

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Helen Parrish also began in silent films, playing Babe Ruth’s daughter in BABE COMES HOME (1st National,1927; also released as a Vocafilm sound film, with added music and sound effects) as well as appearing in Our Gang films. Later she appeared in films starring Deanna Durbin, as well as the female lead in another film called X MARKS THE SPOT (Republic,1942), also available from OLDIES http://www.oldies.com/product-view/4748D.html . She died at only age 34 from cancer.

Fred Kohler had made a career playing baddies, most memorably in the silent John Ford THE IRON HORSE (Fox,1924).

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Director Earl C. Kenton directed over 130 films from 1916 to 1957. He is best known for ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (Paramount,1932) and HOUSE OF DRACULA(Universal,1945). The camera work is very fluid at times with some dolly work showing that sound equipment was no longer holding directors to static shots that had plagued earlier sound films.

The film comes from the collection of John Carpenter and his THE MOVIE MAN’S MOVIE MATINEE https://www.facebook.com/groups/1117540858264025/ . Collectors like Carpenter have done much to save a lot of films from disappearing, as well as getting them out to the general public. The print is from a dupey 16mm, but to be fair, I would doubt a better print still exists. At one point, we see a notice about a reel change, which made me nostalgic for when the only way you could see these films was from a private collection.

While not a classic, it is an entertaining little drama, with some good 30s banter, a bit of pre code naughtiness, a shootout near the finale and a style that would later lead to film noir.

Kevin G Shinnick

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NO STOPPING THE STOVER

NO STOPPING THE STOVER – (ALPHA NEW CINEMA,2016). Color /B&W. 91 minutes. Documentary /DVD. $7.98
Available at

http://www.oldies.com/product-view/1100D.html

 

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2016 is shaping up to be the year of the Stover. Retromedia just released a limited edition of THE ALIEN FACTOR (reviewed recently https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/07/08/the-alien-factor-1978-limited-edition-blu-ray-1000-copies-only/ )

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and he has at least nine (!) films that he appears in awaiting release or currently filming, including MANOS RETURNS, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: GENESIS (which stars Judith O’Dea from the original N.O.T.L.D (Continental,1968)) and RETURN OF THE DEVIL BAT (which co-stars Lynn Lowry (THE CRAZIES, Cambist Films1973), Ruby LaRocca (FLESH FOR THE BEAST, Media Blasters,2003), and Conrad Brooks (Ed Wood star). Now for his 70th birthday, we have a documentary of the life of the Baltimore Maryland cult film actor.

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One of the nicest and modest people whom you might ever wish to meet, George was in the forefront of self-publishing genre fanzines, publishing the tiny wonder BLACK ORACLE.BLACK O                                           For ten issues, this ¼ size fanzine sold bloody hair hunksBloodyHunksRev                     as well as wonderful articles overlooked by a lot of the larger genre magazines. cinemacabre7Later he followed it up with another slicker fanzine called CINEMACABRE that published at least seven issues.

Having acted in a college school authorized production of a STAR TREK play called ‘One Cube or Two?”, wherein he played an alien in heavy makeup, Star-TrekStover continues to appear in off beat film roles. His first was in John Waters classic FEMALE TROUBLE (Saliva Films,1974) and he soon became a staple in Maryland Indie filmmaking, while supporting himself working in a regular 9 to 5 job.

He endeared himself to genre fans when he began appearing in films by fellow fanzine publisher(CINEMAGIC) Don Dohler. He appeared in Don’s first feature length film THE ALIEN FACTOR (Cinemagic Visual Effects, 1978) and appeared in all of Dohler’s films in roles of various sizes throughout.

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  (I think my favorite Stover performermance in a Dohler produced film ,STAKES ,2002 Timewarp Films)

In February,2012, George was attacked and robbed in his own home by a career criminal who rather than just leaving, shot George and left him for dead. Even though he was in hospital, he made sure that he called the director of a film that he was working on (DANGEROUS DECEPTION, Lee Doll ,2012) to apologize that he would not be on set! Hearing the actual phone message is quite chilling and yet also shows the professionalism of Stover. Luckily, George survived this real life horror, and is still with us, still sharing his joy of appearing in films.

(You can read local coverage after the event here: 

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/towson/ph-tt-george-stover-1128-20121127-story.html   )

 

Several filmmakers and fellow performers are interviewed to talk about working with The Stover, including director Fred Olen Ray (ATTACK OF THE SIXTY FOOT CENTERFOLD, Concorde ,1995), writer director Mark Redfield (THE DEATH OF POE (Alpha New Cinema ,2006) and many others who have had the pleasure of knowing and working with the man himself.

jj northCenterfold(  George and the charming  J.J. North on set of 60 FT CENTERFOLD )

If you’d like to have a good idea of what it is like to work in low budget films, find out why there is NO STOPPING THE STOVER.

Recommended.9848bf_2c5af2d3381a4f409d509b65ec1873e8

-Kevin G Shinnick

(Full disclosure -I have known of George since subscribing to his original fanzine Black Oracle, and have had the pleasure of meeting him on many occasions.).

If you have a completed  film seeking distribution, contact BRIAN KREY at  briank@oldies.com .Alpha New Cinema has released films by cult directors such as Brett Piper  Mark Redfield to great success.

 

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TIME TABLE

TIME TABLE (1956) originally released by United Artists .79 minutes. Crime Drama. B&W.
$ 7.98 Alpha Video. Available from OLDIES.COM
(http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7594D.html )      POSTER ALSO AVAILABLE :  http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7594PS.htmlalp7594d

TIME TABLE begins on a train speeding through the night in Arizona. A physician (Wesley Addy, later the sheriff in HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE (1962)) is summoned from his compartment to check out a passenger who has taken ill. He goes and tells the waiting porter , conductor , and wife of the sick passenger that he suspects that the man has polio and is contagious .The doctor has the train car isolated and asks to be taken to the baggage car for his medical bag. Just as we think we are going to have a medical drama like PANIC IN THE STREETS (1950) TIME TABLE turns into a very fast paced heist thriller with a lot of unexpected twists and turns.

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Directed by actor Mark Stevens (FROZEN ALIVE (1964)), who also stars as insurance investigator, Charles Gorman, keeps this entertaining Film Noir moving at a quick pace. The script by Aben Kandel (later to write scripts for Herman Cohen
horror films from I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957) to CRAZE (1974)), from an original story by Robert Angus (producer of the first season of THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET!) has the well planned caper starts to fall apart almost as soon as it begins when unexpected variables begin to occur. Well photographed by cinematographer Charles Van Enger (who mostly worked on TV but did lens BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA (1952)), it is a shadowy world that befits the story and its characters.

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You may recognize two brief but important character appearances in the film. The first is Jack Klugman (TV’s THE ODD COUPLE) in his second film appearance * as a stoolie getaway driver. The other is Alan Reed, who looks like he was the template for James Gandolfini. His voice will sound familiar to many, as he was the original Fred Flintstone!

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I have been careful not to give away too much of the plot of this short but well-crafted little 79 minute b&w gem, so you can discover them for yourselves. This is a B film in the best possible sense, a super supporting feature done economically but quite effectively.11143730_1574048846167403_1992782247097042989_n

ALPHA VIDEO once again releases a film that other distributors overlook. The print is a bit muddy, but that is to be expected, and I am doubtful we would see a better quality print released to DVD.

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Kevin G Shinnick

*- Did you know Klugman’s first film role was in a Larry Buchanan quickie western in 1952 ?According to IMDBD ,he appeared in a $16,000 quickie called GRUBSTAKE for the director later made (in)famous for such films as MARS NEEDS WOMEN (1967) . Stanley Kubrick was almost the cinematographer, but Buchanan would not meet his salary requests. Anyone ever see GRUBSTAKE aka APACHE GOLD?

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TRICLOPS

TRICLOP0S BIG

TRICLOPS– Alpha New Cinema / Oldies.com – Director Brett Piper– released May 17 ,2016 -80 min- Color DVD Region 0 – $ 7.98

http://www.oldies.com/product-view/1098D.html

Brett Piper is the Bert I. Gordon of the New Millennium. Like Mr. Big, Brett writes, directs, does cinematography, edits, and does the effects in his films. Doing Bert one better, Brett is an accomplished special effects stop motion animator (no enlarged iguanas* or grasshoppers here).

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Even more impressive, his average film budget** is about the same (or even less ) than that spent by Mr. Gordon on his first film in 1954 (that film was KING DINOSAUR, shot for $15,000 in black and white ,released by Lippert Pictures ).

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Brett’s latest effort is perhaps his most loving tribute to Bert ,the king of Do-it-Yourself Filmmakers . The film TRICLOPS is basically an homage/remake of B.I.G.’s THE CYCLOPS (Allied Artist,1957).

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Not to be confused with Brett’s earlier effort, PSYCLOPS (Edgewood Entertainment, MTI ,2002), TRICLOPS concerns Samantha Katzman (Erin Waterhouse) who is searching for her lost fiancé Glenn Edwards. Edwards’ plane supposedly crashed in a mysterious crater, and so she gets a team to help her in the manhunt. Flying over the crater, the plane is swarmed by a strange flock of bat like creatures that forces the plane] down. Landing, they find a lot of other freakish mutated bugs, killer plants and creatures.

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Searching the area, they encounter the Triclops (Kurt Jordan, though producer Mark Polonia donned the outfit on occasion), a gigantic three eyed mutants. Could this be Edwards?

The film is a love letter to the films Brett grew up with, containing visual and verbal references to many effects films from the 1950s and 1960s. Keeping his already tiny budget low, Brett recycles many animation models from previous films to populate the irradiated canyon.

To me, the Triclops is a bit of a disappointment. Since Brett is such a wonderful animator, I had hoped that her would animate the title creature. For time and to save himself the extra work, he put a mask and gloves upon a performer. Supposedly the makeup went through various permutations before the one used was picked.

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The actors in the film have appeared in previous films for Piper, except for Miss Warehouse’s gamely goes through the wringer for director Piper, and will be appearing in his next film, OUTPOST EARTH (currently in post-production).
The film is more entertaining than the majority of the films that I have come across on the SY FY channel, and with often better effects.

The DVD boasts an audio commentary with Piper and the cast (with Miss Waterhouse phoning in literally her comments). Also included is a blooper reel.

If you are one of those who says why can’t they make monster films like they used to, then seek out TRICLOPS.

-Kevin G Shinnick***

ALPHA NEW VIDEO

For any D.I.Y. filmmakers seeking distribution, ALPHA New Cinema is looking for your films.

In the last few years, they have distributed films as varied as DOCTOR MABUSE (2013), AMICUS HOUSE OF HORRORS, SAM Z ARKOFF FANEX FILES, ASTRO ZOMBIES M3 CLONED, COLD HARBOR, THE DEATH OF POE, MAGDALEN, THE SERPENT’S TONGUE, SEX LOVE & FANTASY, TALES OF DRACULA, and many more.

Contact Brian Krey at briank@oldies.com on how to submit your work for review.

*- I know it sounds like a sexual euphemism

**-THEY BITE (1996,MTI) was rumored to have had a budget of $130,000.

***- full disclosure – I appeared in Brett’s film SCREAMING DEAD(EI) in 2003.

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