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BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION (VCI)

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BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION (VCI,2 discs, DVD) Released September 2018. Color.  $14.99

https://www.vcientertainment.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1104

Many years ago, when the late great Boris Karloff passed away in February 2,1969, Jim Warren’s and Forrest J Ackerman’s FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND provided two fitting tributes.

One, was issue #56 of FMOF with a beautiful  Basil Gogos cover of Karloff as his most famous role.

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The other was a paperback by FJA called THE FRANKENSCIENCE MONSTER (Ace,1969, a cover not by Gogos but paperback cover artist Verne Tossey.). At the time,before the ability to google, this was the source for any monster news. Many of us though that Karloff’s final film was a classic of modern cinema, Peter Bogdanovich’s   TARGETS  (August 1968,Paramount).

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However, thanks to Uncle Forry , we found out that 80 plus year old Karloff had signed with producer Luis Enrique Vergara and Azteca Films of Mexico (who in turn had a distribution agreement with Columbia Pictures) for a four-picture deal at a salary of $400,000. The actor could have said no to the projects and easily retired, having a comfortable sum saved up over the years. No one could have blamed him, either, as his lungs were barely functional (due to years of smoking as well as damage from pneumonia he contracted in Italy filming BLACK SABBATH,1963,AIP , leaving him dependent on oxygen tanks to aid his breathing) as well as crippling arthritis that made walking difficult.

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Still, as he often said, he wanted to die with his boots on, doing the job he loved if audiences wanted to see him. An example was when he filmed an episode of THE RED SKELTON SHOW (“He Who Steals My Robot Steals Trash” aired September 24,1968, CBS), rather than do the show before the live audience in a wheel chair as rehearsed, he willed himself to walk with the aid of a cane rather than have the people see him so confined.

Thus, the quartet of Mexican horror films were jobs that he readily accepted, feeling fortunate that audiences still wished to see him.

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Difficulties for the productions arose when it was discovered that Karloff’s health would not permit him to film in Mexico, and his sequences were shot in a small studio in Santa Monica, California in April/May 1968, while the rest of the films were completed in Mexico, often with a double for the star.

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The four films were to be made over a 5-week period, so this extra expense of two crews, duplicating sets, and flying up some of the Mexican cast to work with Karloff must have frayed the already low budgets.  Juan Ibáñez directed the Mexican main unit, while cult director Jack Hill (SPIDER BABY,1967, American General) handled the American Karloff unit, as well as contributing to the screenplays.

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Hill it seems was hampered because the producer wanted to use an early form of video playback by tying a primitive video camera to the top of the 35mm Mitchells used to film the movie. Jerry Lewis had pioneered the idea and it is now the common practice, but Hill felt that it slowed down his process.

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With all these problems somehow the four films were filmed and completed. Karloff did not live to see the release of these films, which seemed to have been held back until 1971 for their limited distributions (Cannon also got around to distribute Karloff’s 1967 Spanish lensed CAULDRON OF BLOOD the same year, which got a wider release in the U.S. than the four Mexican thrillers).

 

Over the years, the films have been released on various video labels, including MPI and United American budget label, as well as several of the titles getting a DVD release by Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia label.

 

VCI has now for the first time put all four films together in an affordable (less than the cost of some single DVD releases) two-disc collection.

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The four titles in the collection are

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(Disc One)

DANCE OF DEATH (aka HOUSE OF EVIL, SERENADA MACABRA)

TORTURE ZONE (edited version of FEAR CHAMBER)

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(Disc Two)

ALIEN TERROR (filmed as THE INCREDIBLE INVASION, Invasión siniestra)

CULT OF THE DEAD (edited version of ISLE OF THE SNAKE PEOPLE, La muerte vivente)

 

The discs seem to be sourced from the old MPI videos, with the same video generated titles (©1987 by the Parasol Group). The prints of the four movies are a bit dark and sometimes the color is a bit off.  The copy  of TORTURE ZONE seemed in the worst condition, with several visible splices.

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It is a shame that they did not seek out the Retromedia or Elite release of FEAR CHAMBER, as both of those are in the original aspect ratio with sharp picture and color quality, as well as extras such as an audio commentary by Jack Hill and a deleted scene.MPI’s TORTURE ZONE is an edited version of this film ,so all of the nudity Is eliminated .

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Only TORTURE ZONE was set in present day, with the rest set at around the turn of the 20th Century. ALIEN TERROR was supposedly the last one filmed, and the only one NOT starring Julissa, giving actress German actress Christa Linder a chance.

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The 2.0 Dolby Digital sound for the films is clear with no noticeable loss in quality of dialogue or the sound effects.

There are no extras to the discs, but again, to get these four films together at such a low price, one should not expect any special edition treatment.

While we would all like to get the best possible and most complete versions, certain films have limited audiences and the profitability is to say the least, narrow.

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One wonders, for example, if VCI had gone out of their way to get new prints, cleaned up and loaded with extras, would fans shell out $29.95 for each of these films?

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DANCE OF DEATH -this film is perhaps the most traditional horror film, with obvious influences of the Roger Corman Poe films. The film even claims to be based upon a Poe story, though none that I am familiar with.hoise of evil                                                  original Spanish language credit

 

Wealthy toymaker Matthais Morteval (Karloff) summons his family to his mansion to discuss how his estate will be divided. Recent murders in the nearby hills has a macabre touch, wherein the victims have had their eyes removed makes Matthais suspect that a member of his family is the killer.

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Karloff has an ancestral portrait that looks exactly like him (these old families have strong genes), and Karloff gets to play huge pipe organ. Matthais supposedly suffers a fatal heart attack half way into the film, and shortly thereafter, one by one his greedy relations die. Keeping with the Corman Poe- like feel, the film ends with a huge fire, as Matthais, obviously not dead, plays his final concerto as the walls burn around him. It is quite amazing that the octogenarian actor is working so close to such huge plumes of flames, controlled or not  .

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Karloff perhaps passed away before being able to loop dialogue, or the final lines were an afterthought , but they are not his voice.

People who dismiss the Karloff Mexican quartet of films have obviously not seen them, as DANCE OF DEATH was quite entertaining.

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TORTURE ZONE – (which in the original titles also claimed to be Poe inspired, though I would say more Lovecraft, like Karloff’s own DIE, MONSTER DIE! 1965 ,A.I.P. ). This one is a bit of a mess, no two ways about it. Psychedelic zooms & colors, and jump cut edits do not make this film any more interesting, and indeed, show how little sense the plot has.  A living rock is discovered within the depths of the earth. Scientist Karl Mantell (Karloff), who spends much of this film either sitting behind his office desk or behind a lab computer table, discovers that the creature feeds on the blood of young women, particularly those who are frightened. Naturally, our loveable scientist and his staff create a fear chamber to terrorize young women who come seeking employment. The rock (no, no that one) starts to grow tentacles, and only then does Mantell seek to stop it.

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Mantell is supposed to be a kindly scientist, but his actions here are in opposition to that appearance. Still, at least, Karloff gets to survive to the end credits. The topless scenes that are edited out of this print were probably shot later, added to try and keep audience attention. Probably one of Karloff’s worst movies, though, as always, he is worth watching.                                                                              .firrreee

Karloff tries to blow up all prints of FEAR CHAMBER .

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ALIEN TERROR– Another period piece, this one is another science fiction/horror hybrid. In an 1890s European country, Professor John Mayer (Karloff) is working on a new power source, when a lab accident sends a pulse off into space, attracting the attention of an alien spaceship passing by. The alien comes across a Jack the Ripper style killer and takes over his body. More killings continue as the alien tries to get to the professor’s invention and destroy it. Mayer uses his invention to defeat the killer, and later, when the alien hops into his niece, he uses the machine again to drive it from her. Mayer lets the machine destroy itself and, in the process, burns down his home.c3f80e4ebb33139abba0d67198ef960c

 

The final shot of the surviving cast members watching the house burn has an obvious Karloff stand in facing away from the camera with hair that looks like it was streaked with shoe polish.

A confusing picture, as if two different scripts were dropped into a blender, yet it held one’s interest and it tried to be original. As mentioned, this was Karloff’s last work in a motion picture.karloff_at_03_dvd

An alien Spaceship, lit and designed to look like a Dario Argento sequence !

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CULT OF THE DEAD – On the island of Korbai, Carl Van Molder (Karloff) is a major plantation owner. A police captain comes to Korbai to try and bring order when it is discovered that voodoo is rampant. This is a much more entertaining film than Karloff’s earlier film VOODOO ISLAND (1957, U.A.), which was one of the only roles I felt the great actor seemed to walk through.

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In this film, Karloff seems fully invested in the part and brings his great screen presence to each scene.  The voodoo scenes are well staged, though once again at the end of the film, a voice not Karloff’s is used for the line: “I’m dying! “followed by some sputtering coughs. The picture ends with a big explosion as the hero and heroine escape with their lives. This too was an entertaining piece of cinema fluff and does not deserve all the scorn heaped upon it.

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To sum up, two of the films (DANCE OF DEATH and CULT OF THE DEAD) I would say are quite entertaining, a third (ALIEN TERROR) is just odd enough to hold your interest with a feeling of “WTF?” throughout and only one (TORTURE ZONE) is close to a complete disaster. Karloff is always giving his all in each work, and for that alone these are well worth seeing.

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Are the prints the best? No.  However, unless some deep pocket cinema collector seeks out original negatives, gives them a 2 K scan and restores them, and licenses the Elite and Retromedia commentaries, this VCI set will be the best way of getting affordable copies of these final films by the Master of Horror, Boris Karloff.

 

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Recommended for – Karloff completists. Fans of Mexican Horror. Cult films lovers.

 

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

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THE BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY (Arrow Blu Ray) THE VAMPIRE DOLL; LAKE OF DRACULA; EVIL OF DRACULA

BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY (THE VAMPIRE DOLL; LAKE OF DRACULA; and EVIL OF DRACULA; Toho, 1970-4)

Arrow Blu Ray set release .2 disc set. Color. Japanese with subtitles.

U.S. Release $49.99 s.r.p. https://www.amazon.com/Bloodthirsty-Trilogy-Vampire-Dracula-Special/dp/B07B12HN97

U.K. Release £ 29.99 s.r.p. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bloodthirsty-Trilogy-Blu-ray-Kayo-Matsuo/dp/B079VCZJC3/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1525722582&sr=1-1&keywords=bloodthirsty+trilogy

In the 1960s and early 1970s, vampire films were quite popular, Thanks to Hammer Films, Dracula and his many off-shoots invaded movie theatres and television sets internationally. Many countries made their own variations and even rip offs of the British horror studio’s output.

One country where fantasy films and horror were enjoyed by a wide audience was Japan.
Japanese theatre had a long history of popular ghost stories. Oddly, Japan seems to lack any legends of vampire folklore, the closest being the Yōkai, a malevolent spirit.

Yotsuya Kaidan (四谷怪談 Ghost Story of Yotsuya), written in 1825, was a kabuki ghost story revenge play. So far it has  been adapted for films at least 30 times.

One year after the cinema camera was introduced in the country, local filmmakers made Bake Jizo (Jizo the Spook / 化け地蔵) and Shinin no sosei (Resurrection of a Corpse),1898 ,both films currently presumed lost.

The first film adaptation of Yotsuya Kaidan was made in 1912, and it was filmed some 18 times between 1913 and 1937. All but the 1936 and 1937 films were silent adaptations.

In 1933, a three-reel silent comedy Wasei Kingu Kongu (和製キング・コング, literally  Japanese King Kong) was made, also now sadly missing for modern viewers. Japan made silent films well into the mid-1930s. In 1938, Kong returned for another silent Japanese film, this time released in two parts, King Kong Appears in Edo (江戸に現れたキングコング Edo ni Arawareta Kingu Kongu) .This film ,like so many Japanese films made before the 1950s, is also lost.

From the early to mid-1940s, most of Japanese cinema was turned to the propaganda for the war effort. Still, future great artists like Akira Kurasawa began their careers during this period.

In the 1950s, Japanese films began to get a wider release worldwide. Kurasawa’s brilliant RASHOMON (Toho,1950) won international praise and awards. Ugetsu, Tales of Ugetsu or Ugetsu Monogatari (雨月物語) was a 1953 ghost story from Daiei Studios that won great acclaim.

1954 ,The same year that people were introduced to Seven Samurai (七人の侍 Shichinin no Samurai,Toho), the same studio released a film that would spawn sequels, remakes ,rip-offs ,and introduced the world to Kaiju (giant monster )cinema, Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira). Both films nearly bankrupted the studio but luckily the international box office rewarded the daring producers . Another supernatural film, The Invisible Avenger (透明人間 Tōmei ningen, literally Invisible Man), loosely based upon the H.G. Wells classic, was released by Toho that same year, but never was given international release.

Between all the monsters stomping all of Tokyo, supernatural tales continued to be popular. Nobuo Nakagawa directed a series of horror films, including The Ghosts of Kasane Swamp (Shintoho Films. 1957), The Mansion of the Ghost Cat (亡霊怪猫屋敷Bōrei kaibyō yashiki, Shintoho, 1958) and The Ghost of Yotsuya (Tokaido Yotsuya kaidan (東海道四谷怪談), another telling of the famous ghost story, Shintoho 1959), and Jigoku (Jigoku (地獄, “Hell”, Shintoho ,1960).

The 1960s continued to have more supernatural tales ,alternating between the giant monsters, and supernatural thrillers, including an interesting hybrid ,GOKE BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (吸血鬼ゴケミドロ Kyuketsuki Gokemidoro ,which translates to Vampire Gokemidoro, Shochiku,1968).This hybrid vampire /ufo film has an alien invasion using bloodsuckers ,and has a rather bleak ending.

Finally, Toho, one of the oldest of the big four Japanese Film companies, saw the profits Hammer was making on their relatively modest budget horror films, and decided to take a chance on their own three vampire films.

All these films were directed by Michio Yamamoto ( 1933- 2004 ) . Yamamoto began as an assistant director to the great Kurasawa on THRONE OF BLOOD (Kumonosu-jô), the director’s take on the tragedy of Macbeth. He continued as an A.D. until 1969, when Toho let him direct Yaju no fukkatsu , a gangster crime drama.

He was given directorial control on the Hammer influenced but modern setting vampire films that the studio produced between 1970-4. Between films, he directed for Nippon tv some dramas, ending his career in 1976 directing episodes of a tv action drama.

First was The Vampire Doll (幽霊屋敷の恐怖 血を吸う人形 Chi o suu ningyo, Toho,1970, color ,71minutes). THE VAMPIRE DOLL was released in a subtitled form in NY and LA as THE NIGHT OF THE VAMPIRE. THE VAMPIRE DOLL as also been known as BLOODSUCKING DOLL, THE GHOST MANSION’S HORROR: A BLOODSUCKING DOLL, FEAR OF THE GHOST HOUSE: BLOODSUCKING DOLL, and when released on VHS by Paramount, THE LEGACY OF DRACULA.

The film shows that the director and writer Hiroshi Nagano (who doesn’t seem to have any other fantasy credits and worked mostly on television) and Ei Ogawa (who wrote all three vampire films, as well as SPACE AMOEBA (Gezora, Ganime, Kamēba: Kessen! Nankai no Daikaijū  (ゲゾラ・ガニメ・カメーバ 決戦! 南海の大怪獣ba: , , translated as “Gezora, Ganimes, and Kamoebas: Decisive Battle! Giant Monsters of the South Seas ”, Toho, 1970) seemed have studied THE OLD DARK HOUSE (Universal,1932), PSYCHO (Paramount ,1960), and CITY OF THE DEAD(Vulcan,1960), as well as Hammer’s vampire films.

Kazuhiko goes to an isolated house during a rainstorm to reunite with his fiancé, Yuko. Interestingly, the house and cab are depicted via model work.

Upon arriving, the young man is greeted by Genzo, the silent servant, as well as Yuko’s mother, Shido. Kazuhiko is told by Yuko’s mother that the young woman died during a landslide just a few weeks prior. Due to the storm, he must spend the evening, wherein he is awakened by the cry of a woman. It does not end well for him.

We cut to Kazuhiko’s sister Keiko and her boyfriend Hiroshi ,who are concerned that he hasn’t returned or even contacted
them to let them know how he is. They go to the same remote home and are greeted by Shido and Genzo. What they uncover leads to more deaths as the family curse is uncovered.

The film is a mix of Gothic horror (old dark house, stormy night) and Japanese Ghost Story. While the killer is called a vampire, they never spout fangs, instead using a very deadly blade to dispatch their victims. Still, the film is full of atmosphere, and at a brisk 71 minutes, it really moves.

Composer Ricchiro Manabe wrote the scores for all three Toho vampire films. Besides composing for the vampire trilogy, Manabe also wrote the scores for GODZILLA VS HEDORAH (ゴジラ対ヘドラ Gojira tai Hedora, Toho,1971) better known as GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER; and GODZILLA VS MEGALON ( ゴジラ対メガロ Gojira tai Megaro, Toho,1973).

His scores for this first film is harpsicord, piano, and organ, mixed in with discordant sounds to create a feeling of unease. It also includes some traditional Kokiriko (basically a pair of sticks struck together rhythmically) electric keyboard and flute. At one point it goes a little muzak, but overall, it is quite spare but effective. At times, it reminded me of some of the music from tv’s DARK SHADOWS (ABC TV 1966-1971) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5Kh9z-mExk .

The cinematography by Kazutami Hara is effective, with nicely composed shots that help the mood of the piece. He would skip the next film in the series, only to return for the final entry.

The film must have done well, as the studio made another vampire film the following year with the same director, screenwriter (Ei Ogawa) and composer.

Lake of Dracula (呪いの館 血を吸う眼 Noroi no yakata-Chi o su me, Toho, 1971, also known as also known as Japula, Dracula’s Lust for Blood, The Bloodthirsty Eyes and Lake of Death). After it’s Japanese release, it was given a limited subtitled release in the U.S., followed up by a television dubbed version from UPA under the title LAKE OF DRACULA.

A young girl, Akiko, looking for her lost dog, wanders into a house, where she finds a dead woman and a vampire. We jump ahead years later, where Akiko is now a young woman. She thinks what happened to her was only a dream, until the vampire turns up again, and her dog once again goes missing, only now her sister Natsuko also disappears.

She is attacked by a friend who has been vampirized and brought to the original vampire. Just before he can bite her, two men interrupt the monsters, and they run away.

More near fatal events happen, wherein they discover that the original vampire chasing them is a descendent of Dracula himself!

This film is a more traditional vampire film, with an ancestor of the King of all Vampires playing heavily into the story. The vampire here has a ghastly pale complexion and yellow eyes. The final staking is effective (I understand that this was cut from some tv prints, making a very frustrating viewing for late night tv addicts). Certain points in the film made me think of BRIDES OF DRACULA (Hammer/Universal,1960).


The Hammer influence is strong in the design of the vampire’s mansion , which has a very European look, or at least strong Bernard Robinson construction (kudos to production designer Shigekazu Ikuno, who had worked on the horror film MATANGO, Toho ,1963). The film overall has a feel of a larger budget than its predecessor.

The camerawork by Rokurô Nishigaki is quite good, and it is a shame he didn’t do more genre work.

Three years later, the final film of the series was EVIL OF DRACULA ( 血を吸う薔薇 , literally The Bloodthirsty Rose, Toho,1974). The original cameraman returned to join the other original director, writer and composer.

 

Once again, BRIDES OF DRACULA seem to have had some influence on the plot, along with LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (Hammer, 1971).

Shiraki, a new teacher at the Seimei School for Girls, finds out that he is to become the new Director. The principal has just suffered the death of his wife. That night, Shiraki, who is staying in the principal’s home, is attacked. He wakes up in his own bed, and at first assumes it was all a dream.

However, he goes down into the cellar and finds that the ghastly woman who attacked him the night prior is the occupant of a coffin, namely the principal’s late wife.


Later, one of the female students is attacked and left with two bite marks upon one of her breasts. The school Doctor Shimimura, who also collects local legends, feels that the violence and strange things going on are the result of a vampire.

The origin of this Dracula is quite original, to say the least. If you have seen Martin Scorsese’s SILENCE(Paramount,2016), you will be aware of the 17th Century attempt at bringing Christianity from Europe to Japan. Well, here, Dracula comes into being as a pious man who renounces his faith due to the tortures of the missionaries, and thus is cursed with vampirism! 

This film is a bit more violent and some semi nudity to spice up the proceedings. Once again, the team has done a great job of mixing Western culture with a Japanese spin.

These films were released sparsely in the U.S. in subtitled prints in limited release, as well as dubbed versions, somewhat edited for television by UPA.

Paramount Home Video released the films in the edited dubbed versions on VHS, but they have long been out of print. The prints were rather flat and the copies suffered from pan and scan .

Finally, ARROW FILMS has once again graced us with an amazing presentation of an unjustly obscure film, or in this case, three.  

First off, they have gone to the original film elements for a   1080p High Definition Blu Ray release. The color and image quality are amazingly sharp and clear, with no noticeable speckling or blemishes. Though supposedly low budget, the artisans and artists at Toho bring a professionalism and pride to their work.

The Mono sound is now in a clean uncompressed 1.0 PCM Audio.  The previous VHS release was on certain videos released in the LP (long play) speed, rather than the SP (Standard Play). This softened the picture image as well as flattened the sound.

Though not mixed in any fake stereo, the music and sound effects mix are clear.

The prints used are in the original Japanese, so you can hear the performances of the actors, with very easy to read new English language subtitles.

 

Kim Newman (film historian, as well as author of the delightful ANNO DRACULA book series) provides a nice little video appraisal of the trilogy on disc one.

• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin (which also graces the discs), while on the flip side are some of the original Japanese theatrical posters.

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp (Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema; Scarecrow Press ,2011), illustrated with some beautiful photos from the movies.

Disc One consists THE VAMPIRE DOLL and Kim Newman’s video comments.
Disc Two consists of LAKE OF DRACULA and EVIL OF DRACULA.

The only thing that I could have suggested was perhaps adding alternate audio track of the English dubs from UPA , but perhaps they were too prohibitively expensive to license .

Once again, Arrow Films has given us another must have Blu Ray Collection.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Kevin G Shinnick

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ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES/D.O.A.-A RIGHT OF PASSAGE special editions Blu Rays from MVD REWIND

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1978) (MVD Rewind) 2-disc special edition Blu Ray/DVD combo. 87 minutes color.

https://www.amazon.com/Attack-Killer-Tomatoes-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B075MYG9XC

Back in the 1970s and 80s, it was possible for independent films to get theatrical releases. A lot of these films would play their one week run and then disappear, unless they would end up as second features later for another film, or, perhaps a sale to television.

 

With the advent of the home video market, people were able to program their own films, whenever they wanted to view a film. Magnetic Video was one of the first companies to license titles (most were from major studios) and offer them for sale to consumers. The high mark up (many were $100) meant that people were more likely to rent than purchase, thus giving rise to video rental stores.

The offerings available on Beta (then VHS) were limited, due to studios wishing to prevent bootlegging of their titles. Smaller companies lept into fill the void for demanding renters (as well as the adult video market, which drove a lot of business for the video marketplace, but that is a different part of the story).

Suddenly, older public domain titles were appearing on store shelves, along with many independent films that had pretty much vanished after their original run. One of those indie labels was Media Home Entertainment, started in 1978 by filmmaker Charles Band. In 1981, one of the titles the company released was ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (Four Square Productions).

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES, unlike a lot of independent films, had a bit of name recognition. Johnny Carson, then at the height of his popularity as the star of THE TONIGHT SHOW, had mentioned the film on the program, and interviewed star Jack Riley (who at the time was known for his role in tv’s THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, MTM Productions) who survived an accidental helicopter crash that ended up in the final cut of the film.

 

It was one of the first films that I ever owned on video, and thus it has fond memories for me.

Who would have thought that the film would spawn three sequels (so far), a video game, comics, a novel, and an animated television series?

For the five people who have never heard of the film, the film is a spoof inspired by the bad horror films that the filmmakers grew up loving.

A series of mysterious killings (including one that spoofs JAWS ,Universal,1975) baffle everyone, until it is discovered that Tomatoes have become sentient and are murdering people in various ways. At one point, one knocks a helicopter down, causing it to crash. They say tomatoes can’t fly and the response is well tomatoes cannot kill people either!

Finally, it is discovered that an obnoxious teen song “Puberty Love” causes the members of the nightshade family to flee in horror. People size their chance and smash and mash them, until they are vanquished. However, just at the end, we see that the carrots are now preparing to arise….

The film is like the big budget spoof THE BIG BUS (Paramount,1976), which exaggerates and satirizes their respective genres (THE BIG BUS spoofs the popular “disaster films” of the 1970s) and were the forerunners of the everything AND the kitchen sink humor of AIRPLANE (Paramount,1980).

A.O.T.K.T. was inspired by a short film that the filmmakers had done years earlier and raised the funds to expand on the simple premise into a full-length feature. That they were able to raise between $90,000 -$100,000 is an amazing feat.

At times, though, the film feels a bit padded to fill it’s running time. Indeed, some of the best scenes are recreations of those that appeared in the original Super 8 short (plus the astounding helicopter accident of course). Also, a major drag is the use of many non-professionals in featured roles. Working with people like Jack Riley shows how uneven the performances are.

That said, the film hits the mark more often than misses, which is more than many bigger budgeted films can claim (I’m looking at you, VAMPIRE ACADEMY (Weinstein,2014, $30 million budget). Indeed, some of their throwaway jokes may be missed by the non-genre fan, but truly tickle the horror aficionado. My personal favorite is the dubbed Japanese scientist, which no one in the scene notices or comments upon!

The film’s fame even extends to being referenced in a foodie festival! 

 

Now, MVD/REWIND has given the film the deluxe treatment, giving it the kind of extras one would expect and find on the DUNKIRK (WB,2017) blu ray release.

First off, MVD REWIND has given the film a 4k remastering, with a hi-def (1080p) Blu-Ray as well as a standard definition of the film for DVD. The aspect ratio is 1.85.1.

Pulling out an old vhs copy shows how much the film has been given a facelift. Gone is the heavy grain that made me always think that it had been shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm.

Now you can see the sharpness of the original 35mm photography, which is impressive for an independent production. HALLOWEEN (Compass,1978) also was shot in 35mm (as well as Panavision), which also elevated it from many indie films of the period.

Grain remains in some of the effects sequences, but that is from the original negative.

The sound is presented in LPCM 2.0 mono that is clean of pops and hisses. Some of the dialogue is low, but that is due to the original recording rather than any loss in the mix. The music does not drown out any of the dialogue or effects, which is a good or bad thing, depending upon how much of a fan that you are of the film.

We have a tomato basket full of extras for this release though I am unsure of how many of these are ported over from the long out of print Rhino 25th Anniversary .

There is a running audio commentary from the original team of John DeBello, Steve Peace, and Costa Dillon. The team recall their long friendship their original friendship that endures, and the process of putting together this cult feature. some 38 years ago.

There are three scenes that were deleted and while it is interesting to see these (which are in rougher form than the rest of the release), they would have added nothing to the film and in fact might have slowed the picture down.

LEGACY OF A LEGEND -is a collection of interviews with the team who created the original, as well as John Astin (who would star in the three sequels as well as provide his voice to the animated series), film critic Kevin Thomas and fan Bruce Vilanch, among others.

CRASH AND BURN is a brief discussion of the accidental helicopter crash, how the secondary camera kept rolling while the first shut off as the crash began, and how the actors came up with a way to work the incident into the plot, and work in one of the funniest lines about flying tomatoes.


FAMOUS FOUL– the San Diego Chicken reminiscences how he ended up in the film.


KILLER TOMATOMANIA – a man on the street interview with people walking along to see what they know of the film.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW– This was to me quite interesting. Many returned to their regular jobs ,but Steve Pearce went on to be a Democratic Senator in California (not to be confused with the New Mexico G.O.P. Congressman, who as far as I know, has never met a killer tomato , that the film had the first appearance of Dana Ashbrook , now best known for playing Bobby Briggs in the various incarnations of TWIN PEAKS, made his debut as an uncredited boy in boat ,and that the teenage vocalist of “Puberty Lovehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jViBFzytVXo is drummer Matt Cameron (Soundgarden ,The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO2FzVvA3TQ )!

WE TOLD YOU SO– a spoof investigation into killer tomato conspiracies.

    An actual NY POST cover also referenced the film for a salmonella scare!

SLATED FOR SUCCESS -a short bit about the original film’s slate woman.

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES” – the original super 8mm short film. Running about 18 minutes, it begins with the scene of the tomato coming out of the sink and killing the woman, and several other major scenes that were later recreated in the feature. There is even the model tank sequence with miniature houses, and the surprise ending. There is also a commentary track by the original team.


GONE WITH THE BABUSULAND– another super 8mm short by the team. This one is over 32 minutes long but seems more self-indulgent. Having done my own super 8mm shorts, sometimes improv would bring out unexpected brilliance, and other times, well, editing comes in handy. A silent film made for a Kodak Film Festival  (which yours truly also submitted films) this also comes with commentary by the original team.

The original theatrical trailer.

Production Design Photo Gallery -six images.


Radio spots– these play over images from the film.

Vintage Retro Video Store Style Slipcover /O -Card (first pressing only). -For those old enough to remember the joy of discovering films lined along the video shelves, this was a nice touch.

Collectible Poster– to replace your long-tattered poster that you got when the video store was done with it.

In a press release, MVD Entertainment Group’s Eric D. Wilkinson , in charge of the MVD Rewind Collection , explains, “I’m a dedicated collector of movies on disc, with over 8,000 plus discs in my collection and I want collectors to know that the MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray + DVD sets are being overseen by a collector and I will do my best to create the kind of releases you will look forward to adding to your collection every month.”

The other inaugural release from MVD REWIND is

D.O.A.: A Right of Passage Special Edition, 2-Disc Special Edition
https://www.amazon.com/D-Passage-2-Disc-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B075DSLWFS

D.O.A.: A RITE OF PASSAGE is a raw gritty Super 8 documentary about the 1978 Sex Pistols tour of the U.S. that ended with the group breaking up, practically all captured on camera as it happened. Mixed into the mix is footage of other bands like The Dead Boys, The Rich Kids, and others, plus some The Clash and Iggy Pop music tossed into the mix.

This title has long been unavailable, so for fans of Punk Music, this is a must have.

The film has been cleaned up as much as possible, but its graininess also feels right for the subject matter. It is a great time capsule of the period, though seeing Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen sends a chill down the spine (Spungen died in 1978 from a stab wound to the stomach. Sid was charged with the crime but died from a drug overdose before he could be tried. The Hotel Chelsea, where it happened, has been closed since 2011, but is scheduled to re-open this year).

Besides the feature (on separate Blu Ray and DVD discs), they have also added a feature length documentary on the making of the feature, with new interviews with people who were involved with the original production, as well as Sex Pistol Historian Mick O’Shea, and Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure.

A 12-page booklet by John Holmstrom, founding editor of PUNK magazine.

A photo Gallery

Reversible Cover Artwork

A collectible two-sided poster (I am going to need more wall space)

The original Theatrical Trailer.

 

In a press release, MVD Entertainment Group’s Eric D. Wilkinson , in charge of the MVD Rewind Collection , explains, “I’m a dedicated collector of movies on disc, with over 8,000 plus discs in my collection and I want collectors to know that the MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray + DVD sets are being overseen by a collector and I will do my best to create the kind of releases you will look forward to adding to your collection every month.”

Should MVD REWIND  can continue the quality of these two-disc sets, the company  will be the Criterion of B Movies and Obscure Titles to watch out for.

Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

For more tomatoes merchandising go to
https://killertomatoes.com/

 

The Master of Disguise from ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES  .

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BAT PUSSY(Blu ray) AGFA/SOMETHING WEIRD

BAT PUSSY (1970?) (AGFA/SOMETHING WEIRD BLU RAY) Color 50 minutes plus second feature ROBOT LOVE SLAVES (54 Minutes ,1971, color) $21.99 S.R.P http://www.diabolikdvd.com/product/bat-pussy-agfa-blu-ray/

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Many years ago, I recall a book on the newsstand called HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN PORNOGRAPHIC MOVIE. It was a how to do it yourself instruction book about editing, sound, camerawork- a basic how to make film book, only about x rated filmmaking.

Watching BAT PUSSY, I felt that the nameless creators of this film had the book on hand, but were missing several pages. This may have been the first porn parody of Batman, though it is far from a good one.

Anyone who tells you that Ed Wood was the world’s worst filmmaker needs to apologize after they see this film.

That is not to say the film is without interest. Quite the contrary. You stare but cannot look away. It is perhaps the most unsexy sex film ever made, and certainly one of the weirdest.

 

It is as if two characters from a local production of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF decided to carry on their haranguing from the stage to the bedroom. Only here, they are not George and Martha, but Buddy (who looks like an out of shape Bo Hopkins) and Sam (a freckled redhead with a bouffant that would make the B -52’s envious).

batpussy7

(reading? Nahh,just lookin’ at the pictures! )

 

Buddy is reading SCREW (the issue is from 1970, so that is a possible date for when this film was shot over the course of an afternoon.) as Sam lays upon their bed. Buddy decides that they should try some of the stuff he sees in the paper, and so they go at it. Poorly. Buddy is someone for whom Viagra would come in handy some twenty odd years later. No matter what, his Little Buddy refuses to awaken.

BatPussy1973BudSam

 (The Burton & Taylor of BAT PUSSY )

 

The un-erotic oral and fingering sex session leads to a lot of swearing and insults to and about each other. You wonder for whom was this film meant to appeal? Just when we feel that we are trapped in a cell of Hell forever with these two, we cut to another location (it’s almost a shock that we escape, however briefly.).

 

crop

A nightie clad woman lays in a dingy cellar that a scrawled BAT PUSSY HEADQUARTERS on ruled line paper identifies as -well, Bat Pussy’s headquarters! The bored woman senses sex is happening elsewhere and decides she must get there. Every expense is spared on this one take wonder, and on the table in front of her is a paper cup, a can of soda, and some furniture polish spray left upon the table. That’s as far as they go with set dressing.

 

She gets up and whips off her nightie (getting it caught around her head while trying to pull it up) and finds a makeshift costume, transforming herself into BAT PUSSY!

Quick, to the Hopper Ball!

What?

 

Yep, she climbs aboard one of those big rubber bouncy balls with a handle and bounces her way across the screen, along a highway, into a field by a creek (stopping to pee. All that bouncing you know) and into a park where she stops long enough to sock a guy harassing a woman. Then back to her original sojourn. The two in the park are never identified but must have been just friends of whomever shot this flick. Most of this journey is shot in long shot so we feel and experience how slow it is to bounce to an event rather than running or even walking.

highway

 

Finally, Bat Pussy shows up at Buddy and Sam’s , where she is quickly grabbed, undressed, and becomes part of a most unerotic ménage à trois. Finally, it seems Bat Pussy gets bored (or angry at Buddy getting her name wrong, calling her Bat WOMAN), grabs her clothes and leaves. The end. That’s it.

 

 

Did they run out of film? Did they just get tired of each other’s company? Did they have to get the Hopper Ball back to the kids? Who knows? All you will know is that you have experienced something quite weird. Tommy Wiseau all that this film is missing.

 

It is fitting then that SOMETHING WEIRD is the company that “saved” this film from disappearing. Back in the 1990s, Mike Vraney bought a bunch of 16mm films that were abandoned and rediscovered in a Memphis Tennessee theatre, among them was the film that Mike himself christened “Bat Pussy”. There were no title cards, no way to identify who the performers or “filmmakers” were.

 

“Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent” to quote Ed Wood. That at present is not possible, though the good people at Something Weird certainly tried, along with many others. No one has stepped forward to acknowledge of their involvement in BAT PUSSY.

 

It is thought that this was made for an indie porn theater for local consumption. Seeing how much the distributors made on these films, the local theater owner must have decided that he wanted 100% of the profits.

old new

So, what if the boom mike drops into the shot? No one is coming to see these films for their technical quality. It’s for the trench coat crowd. Look it’s in color and has sound. Yes, the colors were ugly and yes, the sound is dialogue that sounds like Angry trolls possessed by Don Rickles with Tourette’s are talking. It was cheap and ran long enough to live up to the claim it was a feature.

 

It is thought to have been made in Arkansas, due to the accents as well as an Arkansas Razorback tattoo on Buddy’s unattractive posterior. We are told (via the commentary track, more on that later) that this was just a blur in the old prints but thanks (?) to hi-def, we can see this and other little details that once viewed cannot be erased from your mind.

CENSORED

 

 

Back to the restoration (sorry, this film plays tricks with your sense of continuity). The film was from a 16mm print, which may] and almost certainly the only copy still in existence. Like most 16mm films shown constantly, it had wear and tear upon it as well as faded color.

 

Enter American Genre Film Archives (and hopefully not riding in on their own hopper balls). Along with Lisa Petrucci and Tim Lewis of Something Weird, the film was scanned to a 2K  1080p transfer in 1.33:1 ratio. The images are more likely the sharpest that they have been in 40 plus years.

 

That of course is not saying much. No one would confuse the camera work here with that of Geoffrey Unsworth and the “director” is no Kubrick. Set the camera and let it run, and the locked off camera makes me wonder if Buddy, Sam, or Bat Pussy herself were the person who pushed the button and let the camera run, and dashed into the scene, letting the machine run until the film ran out.

AGFA has sharpened the image, but left a lot of the blemishes and scratches to retain its grindhouse feel. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track does nothing to make the dialogue any clearer and indeed subtitles would have been helpful, though it is interesting to try and understand some of what is mumbled. Does Buddy say he is going to “fuck someone in the nose “?

 

Like most SOMETHING WEIRD releases, this disc has a collection of interesting and eclectic extras:

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A theater intro about a minute long warns that the film about to be presented is sexual in nature and if you cannot deal with such things to leave the building. Was that made for legal reasons at the time? Or had someone possibly wandered into the theater thinking this was legitimate Batman tie in feature? I kept waiting for William Castle to warn of Emergo, which would be of a completely different nature in a film like this.

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A running audio commentary by is supplied by Something Weird’s Lisa Petrucci and Tim Lewis, Bleeding Skull’s (http://bleedingskull.com) Annie Choi, and AGFA’s Joe Ziemba (also from Bleeding Skull) and Sebastian del Castillo. The team are enthusiastic and laugh along at the nonsense on screen, which would probably be the reaction if you popped it on for other like-minded fans of schlock to view at a party. They also supply as much info as they can on the project, especially on its discovery and rebirth into video and now Blu Ray.

 

THE SHOPLIFTER (Highway Safety Foundation,1964,20 minutes, color) is supposed to be a warning to store workers, but is a how to as well to become a shoplifter!

 

DATING DO’s & DON’T’s (Coronet,1949,13 minutes, color) is one of those sincere but laughably date films that were brought out for high schoolers when teacher needed to rest.

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A TRIP TO THE STOREFRONT THEATER (no info ,1970s,2 minutes) has a happy couple go the said theatre and see a guy in a werewolf mask have sex with some bored woman, the couple leaving after viewing this, smiling! Is there a lycanthropic fetish?

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CRIME SMUT TRAILERS: a collection of Black & White and color “cumming attractions “from such wonders as THE BLACK ALLEY CATS (1973) and 7 others. A lot of unattractive men ogle and sometimes grind upon some women who probably thought that this was a good career move when they did these flicks.

ROBOT LOVE SLAVE

Speaking of unattractive men pawing prettier young women, we are given another full-length feature, ROBOT LOVE SLAVES (also known as TOO MUCH LOVING, no releasing company info ,1971 ,54 minutes). A soft-core film that at one point had hard core inserts (some of which only remain in its trailer, not on this disc), it is another film where attractive women are once again paired with gangly and just plain ugly guys. I am sure that they looked like the trench coated crowd who went to these films but if these guys were the only choices for the females in real life, the race would quickly go into extinction.

ROBOT
Clark (uncredited) is a geeky, glasses wearing looking nerd (though that could also describe yours truly!) who’s wife (also uncredited) nags her husband for attention (a theme for the two features- Nagging Sex Flicks!).

 

DRINK HIM IN
Clark has been busy in the basement creating naked robot female love slaves, beating WESTWORLD (HBO,2016) by a few years. These robots exist for one purpose, pleasure, be it with Clark, his neighbor Harry, Harry’s wife (Candy Samples, who probably is best known as Chief Nellie in FLESH GORDON, Mammoth Films,1974. This may have been one of if not her first film, having begun nude modeling at age 40 sometime in 1968-69), and finally Clark’s wife.

I assume that the filmmakers felt that no one would admit to seeing this film, as they seem to use some famous songs in instrumental versions.I mean,who would admit they went to such a film in the theater ?

The print of this is from a well worn 16 mm copy, with scratches and splices, but it does add to the grind-house feel.

BatPussyDVD

(Something Weird’s DVD-1 )
The final cool extra is a booklet by Mike McCarthy called “I Saved Bat Pussy”.

Having worked in a film storage house, I saw first hand how easily films could be mislabeled and lost ,so I have great  respect for Lisa Petrucci and team continuing the work of Mike Vraney .

 

Lately, SOMETHING WEIRD has been experiencing an odd sort of censorship. Credit card companies for months were refusing to deal with the company, due to S.W. carrying pornographic films! This, from credit card companies that make fortunes due to letting people download porn in hotel rooms, buy in adult stores, etc. It seems that they were targeting an independent company for no good reason, as their argument does survive even a cursory scrutiny.

 

 

By removing one or two titles from their site, Credit Card companies are grateful to once again make money on both purchasers and Something Weird.

 

 

Amazon has decided that the title  BAT PUSSY is too pornographic for their consumers (while carrying kindle porn like “After The Ball Game: Annie Plays With Coaches Bat”-look it up) so it is great that companies like DIABOLIK have stepped up to carry the film.

Diabolik-logo-new

 

Show your support of these indie companies that support films beyond the mainstream.

 

AGFA & SOMETHING WEIRD have also released (so far )THE ZODIAC KILLER (reviewed by SCARLET https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/the-zodiac-killer-agfa-something-wierd-blu-ray-released-july-252017-another-son-of-sam-34-95/ https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/the-zodiac-killer-agfa-something-wierd-blu-ray-released-july-252017-another-son-of-sam-34-95/ ) , and the Ed Wood written THE VIOLENT YEARS (https://www.amazon.com/Violent-Years-Blu-ray-Jean-Moorhead/dp/B073ZWJWQ8/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1512571396&sr=1-1&keywords=VIOLENT+YEARS+blu+ray ).

 

AGFA has also released the long-neglected EFFECTS, created by several people, including Tom Savini, who worked with George Romero. (https://www.amazon.com/Effects-Blu-ray-Tom-Savini/dp/B06ZYRPZH8/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1502209114&sr=1-1&keywords=effects+blu+ray )

Keep up the great work, AGFA ( https://www.americangenrefilm.com/ ) and SOMETHING WEIRD (https://www.somethingweird.com/).

 

RIDE THE HIPPITY HOP!
Kevin G Shinnick

YOU NEED A BELT WITH

By the way, if you want to read more, there is even a Wikipedia page about the film. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat_Pussy

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THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST (Republic 1945)(Blu Ray & DVD from Olive Films)

THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST (Republic, June 1945) B&W 59 minutes (OLIVE FILMS Blu-Ray https://olivefilms.com/product/the-vampires-ghost/ $24.95. Also available on DVD $19.95)

 

Back in 2013, SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE ‘s print edition had an in-depth review of the Republic horror films (SCARLET #9, Feb. 2013). In that over view, one of the film’s covered was the neglected gem, THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST.

Republic saw the success of the RKO horrors, and decided to get into lucrative monster market. Their films were always entertaining (THE LADY & THE MONSTER, Republic ,1944, is probably best known, due to it starring Erich Von Stroheim) but never received the respect and love that RKO or Universal’s horrors have gotten.

Luckily, Olive Films is hoping to remedy that with their release of various Republic titles. They have already released a magnificent THE QUIET MAN (Republic ,1952 https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/the-quiet-man-olive-films-signature-blu-ray/ ) and MACBETH ( Republic 1948/1950 https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/orson-welles-macbetholive-films-blu-ray/ ),and are also releasing their overlooked features like SABOTAGE (Republic ,1939 https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/sabotage-1939/ ) and now THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST .

 

Set somewhere in Africa in a fictional village of Bakunda, a voice over narrator intones: “Africa, the dark land where Voodoo drums beat in the night…Africa… where men have not forgotten the evil they learnt in the dawn of time… I always come back to Africa… but even here there is no rest for me. The path of time is curved here like a sickle…I cannot die…I cannot rest. I cannot rest. I cannot rest…”

Right away, you can see the influence of Val Lewton films like “I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (RKO,1943), that also open with a voiceover.

The narrator is Webb Fallon (played with a weary sadness by actor John Abbott, the English character actor, who worked with the likes of Olivier on stage, and is perhaps best known as Ayelborne in the Star Trek episodeErrand Of Mercy “(Paramount, season one episode 26, March 1967).

 

As his story above unfolds, we see a map of Africa, then a drawing of the village that fades into the “actual city” of Bakunda (what looks like a cleverly disguised Spanish village set from countless Republic westerns). The camera prowls through the streets, until we come upon a door, wherein a hand enters the frame and opens the door.
There we see a sleeping native woman, who awakes in horror. Fade to black.

The town of Bakunda is the latest village to suffer a mysterious death, with each victim having been partially drained of their blood. Father Gilchrist (Grant Withers, who often played villains or police officers for Republic, Monogram or PRC) suspects that another village has reverted to voodoo, and may be responsible for the killings.


Roy (Charles Gordon,for whom it seems this was his largest role of his ten-year career), greets his fiancé Julie Vance (Peggy Stewart, born in 1923, is still working, having appeared in  THAT’S MY BOY (Columbia ,2012) as Grandma Delores) who has just returned from Johannesburg, South Africa. Thomas Vance (Emmett Vogan, who appeared in over 500 films and television shows in his career, including appearing as the Coroner in THE MUMMY’S GHOST, Universal ,1944) invites them all to his home.


They discuss how the murders are affecting the natives, who are fearful, and abandoning the fields (so, not so concerned about their safety as how they affect production??). Roy decides to visit Webb Fallon, who owns the local dive bar. Fallon has a knowledge of the rituals and superstitions that often surpasses those of the natives themselves.

 

 


We jump to the club and witness a sensual dance by Lisa (Adele Mara, a former dancer/singer for Xavier Cugat who in 1946 appeared in Republic’s horror film THE CATMAN OF PARIS). Fallon is winning at the crap tables in the club, which angers gruff Captain Jim Barrett (Roy Barcroft, whom Leonard Maltin once described accurately as “Republic’s number one bad guy”). Roy shows up to invite Fallon over to Vance’s to discuss the murders, but Barrett and his crew accuse Fallon of cheating, and a fight breaks out. Roy is knocked down quickly, but Fallon does a lot of damage himself with single punches. When Barrett is about to stab the unconscious Roy, Fallon grabs the Captain’s wrist and stares intently at him, at which point the Captain drops his weapon.

 

Roy and Fallon go to Fallon’s room to clean up, and Fallon shouts at Roy when he touches a small wooden box. Upon it, we read “E.R. WEBB FALLON 1588”. Fallon says it was a gift given to his ancestor after whom he was named by a grateful Queen Elizabeth.

Fallon and Roy go to Vance’s and are chatting after a meal. Father Gilchrist at one point puts his hand upon Fallon’s shoulder, and Fallon collapses into a chair claiming it to be a bout of malaria. They decide though to go out to visit the village which may be causing the trouble. Simon Peter (Martin Wilkins, who appeared in RKO’s 1943 classic I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE), Vance’s servant, notices that when serving Fallon some coffee, that Fallon has no reflection in the mirror, notices too, and the mirror shatters. When the others question what could have caused that, Simon Peter declares Evil.

 


Has any other vampire smoked so much ?

They set out at dawn to explore the area near the village they suspect the trouble is coming from. Roy sets off a gun trap, which seems to miss Roy and Fallon, but hits one of the bearers, Tara, in the arm (Zack Williams). When they encamp for the evening, Taba tells Simon Peter that he was behind Fallon and wonders how Fallon did not get shot. Simon Peter checks out Fallon’s tent, and sees that the bullet did indeed pass through him, but left no blood.

“Vampire!”, intones Taba. Simon Peter says the one way to stop the vampire is a spear dipped in molten silver ,which they quickly make (where did they get all that silver? Is the cutlery gone ?).They are attacked by the evil villagers (with bones through their noses.at least one of whom appears to be a white actor in dark makeup!) ,and Simon Peter is hit . He, however, hurls the spear into Fallon, who is impaled in the chest as he turns. Roy brings Fallon to his tent, and removes the spear. There is no blood on the tip of the weapon, and Roy realizes the truth. Fallon tells Roy how he was cursed 400 years ago for causing the death of a young woman, which cursed him as one of the undead.

(white actor in dark makeup ? )

He hypnotizes Roy, and keeps him from being able to tell what he knows. Fallon wishes Julie to join him in his undead eternity. Will Roy be able to break the curse and save Julie?

 

The film is a remarkably subtle one from Republic (the bar fight is short, and battle scenes are kept to a minimum). Mood is key to the film, and director Lesley Selander does a superb job with ensuring that. A fine example is when later in the film Fallon stalks and kills Captain Barrett, his shadow falls upon the stunned sailor, the shadowy hands reaching for the victim’s neck. Selander was mostly a director of westerns but rose to the occasion when the story required. He also directed Republic’s THE CATMAN OF PARIS, and handled sensitive stories like RETURN FROM THE SEA (A.A.,1954), as well as 54 episodes of the long running television series LASSIE (Lassie Television/Columbia 1955-1974).

 

He was blessed with a strong screenplay by Leigh Brackett (based upon her story) and John K Butler. Butler spent most of his career writing westerns for films and later for television, with an occasional foray into mystery (THE PHANTOM SPEAKS, Republic,1945). His work was efficient but nothing memorable. Most of the credit must therefore go to Brackett.

Brackett began as a science fiction writer (‘Martin Quest”, Feb 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction) and indeed was the first woman nominated for a Hugo Award (started in 1953, Brackett was nominated in 1956, though she didn’t win).

 


She also wrote crime fiction, starting with “No Good for A Corpse” (Coward McCann, Hardcover,1944) as well as western novels. Her “No Good for A Corpse” brought her to the attention of Howard Hawks, who wanted “this guy Brackett” to work with William Faulkner and Jules Furthman for THE BIG SLEEP (W.B. 1946). She later wrote other screenplays for Hawks, like RIO BRAVO (W.B.,1959, again with Furthman). She is best known for having submitted the original draft for the STAR WARS sequel, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Fox ,1980) before she passed away from cancer in March ,1978.

 

THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST was her first credited screenplay, and I wonder if Butler was assigned to work with her to show her how to write an efficient (and budget conscious screenplay). If so, the pair succeeded superbly.

Rather than following the rules of most vampire films of the era, they had a few of their own (the silver tipped spear). Some feel that John William Polidori’s 1819 story “The Vampyre” (The New Monthly Magazine, April 1,1819) was the inspiration. Polidori wrote his tale that same summer at Lake Geneva, wherein a telling of ghost tales led to this story and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (Lackington Hughes, 1818). The original story featured Lord Ruthven and was set in England and Greece. It also had a vampire able to walk about in daylight, and moonlight could heal Ruthven.

 

The cast, for the most part, does a superb job. Outstanding, of course, is John Abbott. He brings a wonderful world weariness to his role. When he wins at the dice table, he looks at the wad of money that he has won, and tosses it to a drunken sailor. The only thing that seems to move him is the idea of Julie joining him as an eternal companion.

Personally, I would have gone with Lisa. Mara bring a vitality and energy to her role, and indeed a sensuality. By her looks and body language, you feel that she is in love with Fallon.

Barcroft, Withers, and Vogan are all solid performers who make their characters interesting. Speaking of interesting, Zack Williams, and especially Martin Wilkins, despite being a native porter and servant respectively, play their roles strongly and without playing the commonplace quivering stereotypes that were the norm of the period. Indeed, they are the first to question Fallon and discover his secret and try to destroy him. At the end, the character of Simon Peter does indeed do that (with the aid of the priest and a cross).


The two romantic leads are good looking but to be honest not much beyond that. Poor Roy as portrayed by Charles Gordon, is sort of the Jonathan Harker of the tale. The titular romantic lead who does get the girl at the end, but is knocked down immediately in the bar fight, is as even he acknowledges saved twice by the vampire and spends most of the film under Fallon’s control. Peggy Stewart’s Julie is -the girlfriend. Perhaps due to the short running time, her character development was sacrificed for pacing.

 

 

(Anyone remember which other film used this statue? I cannot recall)

 

 

When the film came out, it was dismissed by the critics of the time (see Variety Wednesday June 6,1945- “script, setting and camerawork just so-so.” On the same page, co -screenwriter’s John K. Butler’s THE PHANTOM SPEAKS, also from Republic, is much more favorably reviewed.). This is more than likely because of the common feeling that horror films weren’t worth serious study. https://archive.org/stream/variety158-1945-06#page/n11/mode/1up

 


Olive Films has done a superlative job of restoring this neglected gem to a lustrous presentation. A 1080p transfer 1:33:1 aspect ratio shows the images in extremely sharp black and white, with varying levels of gray. The audio is a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track. No effects have been added to move sound around speakers, but it is crisp and clear with dialogue, music, and effects track coming across clearly.

The optional English subtitles are white and are easy to read, following the dialogue and describing audio cues clearly.

No other extras are added, but again, that such a rarity has gotten such a superlative transfer makes this a must have for collectors of classic horror that they need to add to their collections.

Recommended.

-Kevin G Shinnick

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THE ZODIAC KILLER (AGFA /SOMETHING WEIRD Blu-ray released July 25,2017) ANOTHER SON OF SAM $34.95

THE ZODIAC KILLER (Prudential Pictures ,1971) (AGFA /SOMETHING WEIRD Blu-ray released July 25,2017) Color 86 minutes /plus bonus feature ANOTHER SON OF SAM color 67 minutes $34.95

https://www.amazon.com/Zodiac-Killer-Blu-ray-DVD-Reed/dp/B06Y1C49BD/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1491924197&sr=1-2&keywords=zodiac+killer

 

Back in the early 1980s, I worked in a film storage company . While many television suppliers would keep their 16mm prints with us for broadcast, and studios would have their 35mm theatrical prints (mostly weekend children matinees ,like MAGIC OF LASSIE (Int. Picture Show Co, 1978) ,a large majority of our films sat in boxes and rotting film cans.

 

Located in a pier in Edgewater NJ , our storage facility had the original negative of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (Fox,1939) as well as NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (Ed Wood ,filmed in 1957, no known release). How these two California produced films negatives ended up in our facility is a mystery. Both were in containers with only lab numbers,without identifying titles.

 

Shipping errors, mislabeling, human mistakes, hundreds of titles ended up misplaced in storage facilities around the country. Some prints were not returned at all ,and ended up remaining in movie theatres, in the hands of private collectors , or buried in cement .

 

 

Add to that film rot (deterioration ) and color shifts (prints turning pink) – it is little wonder that so many films vanish .

 

While major studios have started to preserve their heritage , the independent film, those made outside the system ,or taken by smaller distributors with either shady practices or /and firms that went belly up, a lot of film prints and original elements lay unclaimed in various film labs due to unpaid services or forgotten . Corruption of the film stock had many turn to jelly or dust ,others tossed due to storage fees unpaid.

 

 

Luckily ,in 1990 the late Mike Vraney began the painstaking and time consuming task of finding films in horror and sexploitation ,among the many genres, that he found ,saved from literal oblivion, and released onto the home video market .His hard work turned grind-house filmmakers like Herschell Gordon Lewis and Doris Wishman into cult figures .

 

The incredibly friendly Mike and his lovely wife Lisa Petrucci ,equally friendly as well as his business partner and who wrote up many of the synopses and designed the various covers, were always welcome dealers at various conventions across the country.

 

When he passed , Lisa continued the company , and has kept the legacy of SOMETHING WEIRD alive (check out https://www.somethingweird.com/ ) and now has teamed up with newcomer AGFA ( The American Genre Film Archive ) to restore and release some titles in her catalog onto Blu Ray .

AGFA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit located founded in 2009 in Austin, Texas. AGFA exists to preserve the legacy of genre movies through collection, conservation, and distribution. (Want to donate? http://americangenrefilm.com/about )

 

After a successful Kickstarter campaign ,they are releasing THE ZODIAC KILLER . This is promised to be the first of dozens of titles that AGFA and SOMETHING WEIRD plan to release .

THE ZODIAC KILLER is an incredibly unique film . Created by Tom Hanson who was not involved in film making prior (owning a chain of successful Pizza Man Restaurants) ,his idea was not to make money or for any artistic ambition. Tom felt that his cinematic effort would be a huge aid in helping to capture the Zodiac Killer .

 

The infamous Zodiac Killer claimed his first known victims on December 20,1968 and his last known one on October 11,1969. There are other suspected deaths that are suspected to be the victims of the unknown assassin (he was never apprehended) that go back to 1963 and up to 1970 . The infamous executioner was self named due to a series of taunting and cryptic letters which they sent to the police and newspapers(that continued until April 24,1978) , signed with an enigmatic sketch that resembles a cross hair of a rifle.

 

Hanson thought that if he made a film about the events , the Zodiac Killer would be drawn to see the film ,at which point the filmmaker and friends would perform a citizen arrest!!

 

The plan was the following. Tom Hanson rented out the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco and premiered the movie on April 7, 1971 (the killer had written his Los Angeles Times letter just three-and-a-half weeks earlier). They thought that his ego would draw him moth-like to a flame to see how his story was portrayed.

Somehow ,he got Kawasaki to donate a motorcycle for a prize giveaway.Entrants would fill out questionnaires with the statement “I think the Zodiac Kills because …” and see if an of the entries matched the handwriting of the Zodiac.

To that end, they constructed elaborate and inane traps with which to apprehend their subject ,including a fake ice cream freezer which had an accomplice of Hanson’s within supposedly ready to leap out at the appropriate moment . He must have consulted Wile E Coyote ‘s beloved Acme products, as the person within the box nearly passed out due to insufficient air holes!

Hanson feels that the had indeed captured the mad man at one of the screenings,but had to let them go due to lack of evidence .

The film was also later handled by an unscrupulous distributor and so Tom Hanson ,needing to make money again, stepped away from the maverick world of indie film making. The film was reportedly shot for $13,000,an incredibly small sum to shoot a film even back in 1970.

 

What we are left with is this incredible document of the time .

 

The motion picture you are about to see was conceived in June 1970. Its goal is not to win commercial awards but to create an “awareness of a present danger”. Zodiac is based on known facts. If some of the scenes, dialogue, and letters seem strange and unreal, remember — they happened. My life was threatened on Oct. 28, 1970 by Zodiac. His victims have received no warnings. They were unsuspecting people like you…
Paul Avery. Reporter
San Francisco Chronicle

 

That is the opening credit to give the film it’s bona fides. Paul Avery was a real life police reporter for the San Francisco Examiner who was drawn into the investigation when he received a Halloween card with the cryptic symbol with the warning”you are doomed” . Avery was later heavily involved with covering the Patty Hearst kidnapping .

 

Having his name associated with the film was meant to lift it up from mere exploitation. The result ,however,while sincere ,is brought down by bad acting and inept technical aspects. That does not mean that the film is without merits.

For one thing, the killings are pretty brutal and sudden . The film also has a dark sense of evil lurking everywhere ,with the killer having the last words :”I’ll be seeing you”.

While claiming to be the true life events of the serial murders, certain facts are played with and a lot of characters who are not involved with the events were invented for the story line .

 

The film is in the end, in spite of all its good (?) intentions , an exploitation film (not that there’s anything wrong with that!!).

 

SOMETHING WEIRD had released THE ZODIAC KILLER prior with two other films on DVD , THE SEX KILLER (Barry Mahon,1967 ,about a Times Square psycho ) and ZERO IN & SCREAM (Lee Frost,1971,a man kills women who reject him in Hollywood). That release is now out of print .

 

This new Blu Ray is a 4K scan 1080p HD transfer from the surviving16mm blow up elements (it was shot in 16mm to be transferred to 35 for theatrical release). The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2 channel track . While the picture quality and sound is improved ,AGFA is taking great pride in not altering or punching up sounds or pictures ,to give the closest presentation to the original release (take that George “let me C.G.I. the soul of it it “Lucas) . Therefore, flaws in the 48 year old film elements remain (some hazing common in 16mm blow ups,and a hair in the gate when it was printed. The sound too isn’t played to jump around your sound system.

 

Other extras on this AGFA/SOMETHING WEIRD release are

 

A brand new commentary track with several of the surviving creative team like Director /Producer Tom Hanson ,Producer Manny Nedwick and several of the AGFA team .

 

A four minute film interview with Nedwick and Hanson have the two discuss how the film came together is material covered in the audio track but it is interesting to put faces to the voices .

 

Finally, a second feature fills out the extras. Whether you think this is a bonus or not depends how much you enjoy ANOTHER SON OF SAM (1977). This film was given a new 2K scan from a 35 mm print.

This film’s most interesting moments are the long list of serial killers going back to Jack The Ripper. I mean it goes on for quite a while. QUITE A WHILE . Almost as if they are trying to delay the start of the movie as long as possible. It finally runs out of murderers to name(though I kept expecting another title to pop up during the course of the film ,reading : “Oh we forgot to mention…”)and we take a leisurely journey down a river, to a couple’s boat house ,and then to a night club where a singer named Johnny Charro,portraying himself , in full lounge lizard attire ,sings “I Never Said Goodbye” ,a tune that rates with “The Words Get Stuck In My Throat”from WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (Toho,1966) as most responsible for killing nightclubs. Johnny ,by the way ,is still with us and performing .http://www.johnnycharro.com/about.htm

 

“L-l-l-ladies….Johnny Charro”

Finally, just when we think we are watching someone’s vacation films , we cut to a local mental institution . Our killer named Harvey (not a killer bunny) breaks free of his restraints (I wonder if Rob Zombie saw this to inspire his Halloween remakes ?) after receiving electro shock and a sedative (did he hear Johnny Charro??) . A quick flashback implies that Harvey was sexually abused by his mom, causing him to go off on a murder spree.

Somehow ,we try to follow a group of college girls ,whose lives meet up with the killer, and swat teams are called in, and a lot of running around happens ,a few odd freeze frames happen while the sound continues , and mother is called in to confront her son at a police stand off, where he is killed by multiple gun shots (with some of the most obvious blood packs ever used on screen).

The end.

Really.

I watched it twice just to make sure that I didn’t miss something. If anything it seemed more confusing the second time around. Were it not for the sync sound in certain scenes ,I might have thought it was made by Hal Warren of MANOS THE HANDS OF FATE ( Emerson ,1966 ) infamy. It was that level of ineptness. Warren ,however ,had an excuse as he had never made a film before (or after).

ANOTHER SON OF SAM (shot under the title HOSTAGES) was written,produced ,and directed by stunt man Dave A Adams ,who also handled the stunt co ordination .Adams had at least been on film sets before (TRUCKER’S WOMEN ,1975 ,which was released regionally,then on Paragon Video,before Troma picked it up), but you would never know it. Filmed in Charlotte,North Carolina , the film seemed to have been shot in 1975 before finally getting a nominal theatrical in 1977.

 

It is just 67 minutes but it seems ten times longer .This is a film that is crying out for a Rifftrax treatment.

 

 

ANOTHER SON OF SAM is at least much clearer than the old Neon Video VHS copy that was around for years at video stores. That said, poor sound work cannot be improved and this film suffers from a lot of that (though with some of the dialogue,maybe that is a blessing. “No,you can’t come into the shower with me,Henry!”may sound like something sexy is about to happen but the character is talking to a stuffed plush animal!!).

Kudos to AGFA and SOMETHING WEIRD for saving these film obscurities , though your enjoyment will depend upon your enjoyment of
SERIAL KILLER FILMS
1970s EXPLOITATION CINEMA

I assume that if you have read this far, then this Blu Ray /DVD combo is needed for your collection.

This Is Not The End (well actually it is ).

-Kevin G Shinnick

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Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker

Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker
Roberto Curti Price: $45.00 40 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
376pp. softcover (7 x 10)McFarland  2017                                                http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-1-4766-6970-0

Like many American film fans, my knowledge of director Ricardo Freda was mostly limited to his
Horror films I Vampiri /THE DEVIL’S COMMANDMENT (Titanus,1957),Caltiki il mostro immortale /CALTIKI,THE IMMORTAL MONSTER(Lux,1959),L’orrible segreto del Dr. Hichcock /THE HORRIBLE DOCTOR HITCHCOCK(Panda,1962) and Lo specttro /THE GHOST (Panda,1963).

• However, Freda had a career in cinema that lasted from 1937 (Lasciate ogni speranza /LEAVE ALL HOPE ,Juventus Film) until 1994 (La fille de d’Artagnan /REVENGE OF THE MUSKETEERS ,Canal+ )starting and ending his career as a writer.

• Writer Roberto Curti of Cortona Italy has done a remarkable job tracking down an amazing amount of information on Freda’s life and career.His love for the subject comes though with his very detailed synopses of these rarely seen (outside of certain countries), providing the history behind many of them, production facts, and their success or failure in various territories as well as changes made to them .

Curti uses Freda’s memoir Divoratori di celluloide (Emme Edizioni (1981),164 pages)as a starting point ,but also researching though film magazines and newspapers from several countries, as well as tracking down and watching the titles from the director’s long career. Curti points out that the director could often be petty and recall incidents that might not always match the facts.Curti’s interviews and research sometimes contradicts what Freda put into his book.

• Still ,the Egyptian born Italian director lived La Dolce Vita, being an extravagant personal spender and gambler as well as womanizer. It is ironic that he despised films like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (Riama,1960) as well as the entire neo-realist movement of films like Ladri di biciclette/THE BICYCLE THIEF(Ente Nazionale,1948).

He was more a storyteller who felt that film should be escapist,and take us out of reality. Not only did he have those skills, he was also able to make limited budgets look richer than they were, due to his understanding of film editing and camera placement ,as well as working with innovators like the great Mario Bava. Indeed, the short tempered Freda walked off the set of a I Vampiri ,leavinng it to be  finished by Bava. We see throughout the book that Freda had a habit of walking off set, much to the detriment of his films and career.  I Vampiri has an important place in Italian horror films ,as it was the country’s first true sound horror film (the first Italian horror film may have been Il monstro di Frankenstein(1920) a now sadly lost silent picture).

Freda had prior to I Vampiri had done a lot of regional comedies ( he cared little for the comics in many of his films ,but put in many physical gags inspired by the likes of Buster Keaton ,historical dramas and swashbucklers . Indeed ,his love of classic novels and adventure tales seemed to have merged into Caccia all’umo /LES MISERABLES( Lux,1952) ,making it more of an action thriller!

His swashbucklers seemed to have broken new ground in storytelling in Italy, being more inspired by American filmmakers than the home grown artisans. His love of tracking shots to get a lot of detail within a long take was developed during this period .Having reviewed the Italian historical drama La cena delle beffe / THE JESTER’s SUPPER* (Società Italiana Cines,1942 ,not by Freda, but by a contemporary),I would love to see more these  rarely motion pictures                (see review at https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/the-jesters-supper-dvd/ ) .

Freda also was one of the first to leap into the sword and sandal films ,even telling an earlier version of the tale of SPARTACUS(Spartaco(API,1953),released in the U.S. by RKO as SINS OF ROME ). He hopped from genre to genre with various budgets and varying success. Comedy (at which he seemed to have a lot of success),drama ,spy thrillers ,Krimi( he faced off and WON against the antagonistic Klaus Kinski) ,swashbucklers,historicals, and of course horror.

His indifference to some parts of the movies he made show with some sloppy work (in ROGER LA HONTE( Comptoir Francais du Film Production ,1966,one of his later films with a decent budget, he allows a major stunt to show clearly that a “woman” passenger is actually a stunt man since his trousers are clearly visible ),as well as his indifference to actors (he was notorious for using doubles when actors gave him any grief). Yet in staging ,he often surpassed the budget with strong imagery and tracking shots that convey a lot of information .Plus several actors who worked with him praised the director .

Curti’s book makes me want to revisit several of Freda’s films and seek out some of his rarities. Curti has done what any film researcher should do, and that is evaluate and place into historical context the work of the subject.

McFarland is to be commended once again for putting out such a detailed volume about a filmmaker not as well known as perhaps he should be. Each film has b&w illustrations of the film posters or on set photographs, The graphics are sharp and easy to see.

This is a MUST HAVE for lovers of film, especially for those who love Euro-Cinema.

Highly Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

                  "Acquista il libro o ti farò del male ..."

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