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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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Andy Milligan Double Feature (Alpha DVD) Body Beneath/Guru

Andy Milligan Double Feature: The Body Beneath (1969)74 min. / Guru, The Mad Monk (1970) 56 min. Color. $7.98 single disc DVD.Region “0”

https://www.oldies.com/product-view/8028D.html

Andy Milligan (Feb 12,1929- June 3,1991) was an interesting eccentric.
An avante garde theatre director. Born in the Midwest, his early life was troubled by an abusive alcoholic mother.

After serving four years in the Navy, he was discharged and move to NYC to run a dress shop. During that period, he became involved in the genesis of the original Off Off Broadway theatre movement at Café Cino and La Mama. He got involved with directing, writing, and even designing and creating the costumes for his productions. Some of them were so quickly put together that the costumes practically fell apart as actors exited the small stages.

It was a time of great freedom and creativity, though very little financial reward.

To make a bit of extra money, he did appear in some early television as an actor, though how many he appeared in is not quite clear (Imdb lists 4 shows, but not what he played in them).

The greater though secretive freedoms of homosexuality in New York City also allowed him to explore that aspect of his life.

Andy Milligan  

This led him into creating a 30-minute short called VAPORS (1965). Milligan assumed a lot of alias but seemed to have done almost everything but act to get this film made. It plays like a one act by writer Hope Stansbury (a member of his film family before and behind the camera). It is a sad tale of sex and a failure to connect with others (though only a male male kiss is shown, and a character opening his robe walking towards the camera is shown. In most prints, there is a black line across the nudity.) .

Like most of his films, the film deals with rejects, degeneracy, and a palpable gloom. VAPORS is probably one of his most thoughtful film and shows the direction that he could have gone.

Milligan moved to Staten Island to a large house where he would shoot a large portion of his NYC area made projects. As always, he handled almost every job, probably including the catering. His budgets were never very large, but his ambitions were.

Sadly, for him, he got involved with distributors who took advantage of him, so that he rarely saw any real money for his projects.

He ran a hotel in Staten Island (which probably provided some of his funding) as well as running a theater on West 39th Street for several years, from 1979 until he left NYC in 1985.

His move to California only produced three more films as well as briefly running a dress shop and another theatre company. Nearly penniless, ill health took him in 1991.

Since the early day of video, Milligan’s films have been offered on tape. The transfer was often taken from prints that were dupes. Milligan shot often on 16mm, with his films blown up to 35mm. The duplicates seem to have been reductions from 35mm to 16mm again, meaning the films had been through several transfers.

Framing was off, and grain was often a major problem, as well as color shifts and sound warbling. Mind you, these may have existed in the originals, but so many of his film negatives have disappeared (indeed many of his films have vanished as well, again due to shady distributors).

Having worked in a film storage house, it is amazing how films can be mislabeled and put within the wrong film cans. Perhaps one day we will find a cache of his original prints as well as his lost films and be better able to judge his works.

 

As I was researching this piece, I discovered that someone had posted a print of one of his “lost “sexploitation films, COMPASS ROSE (1967) https://youtu.be/00AS-GaLe78 . I reached out to playwright Robert Patrick, and identified the opening bedroom set as being one for a Landford Wilson play at Caffe Cino ! Just a little more info on this never released film .

 

That said, now to this Alpha DVD double feature. The prints are worn, and the sound has a bit of warble in places. That said, they are in better condition than copies of these films that I have seen in the past. The scratches on the film also increase the grindhouse feel of the theatres in which these films were unspooled.

GURU, THE MAD MONK was released September 1970. The film was shot for an incredibly small $11,000. PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) was produced for only $10,000, but that was a modern-day project. GURU was an ambitious period piece, which required several costumed characters, as well as furniture, props and locations that would suggest the time.

 

The main part of the filming took place around and in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church ,346 W 20th St in NYC. The Church, established in 1832 on land donated by, among others, Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit From St. Nicholas/The Night Before Christmas”.

 

The Church, which is still a major part of the Chelsea Community to this day, has dedicated outreach programs, food banks, and permit a lot of performances upon the property.

Nothing, I think, was quite like the craziness of GURU THE MAD MONK. One wonders what the director did to convince them to film this hysterical historical within these sacred walls?

The film was obviously shot with haste, with some shots carefully composed (a nice travelling shot is quite impressive within the Church) as well as many obvious one take blunders that remain in the final print (an actress stumbles upon her line, a character steps upon the train of Guru, a loud rip being heard. Nothing is made of this, so it appears to be unintentional. A light switch is quite visible in one shot in this medieval tale, as well as the title card for the screenplay is misspelled!

Some of the costumes are quite good, some, like the dress of the leading lady, are an obvious 1960s sun dress with alterations. The makeup is never blended, with one character playing an older man wearing obvious white and blue make up, while poor Igor, the hunchback, suffers most from non-blended applications to his face.

Producer M.A. Issacs ( whose initial form the first letters of Maipix Organization in what seems there only attempt at producing, the film later being released by Nova International Productions)seems to have suggested the story to Milligan, perhaps inspired by Hammer’s RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK (Fox, 1966).

Milligan upgraded his equipment on this project to 35mm, which may explain why this film is a bit slicker looking than a lot of his earlier projects. However, it is also more expensive film stock, so even using short ends (left over unexposed film sold back to the labs from other productions), it increased the costs on his already tiny budget. Milligan, later in life, felt that this was his worst film. While it is not a classic, it is certainly far from his worst.

Set upon the fictitious island of Mortavia during the Middle Ages, a young woman named Nadja (Judith Israel, her only film credit) is imprisoned upon a false charge of having killed her baby.

Everything seems to center around the Lost Souls Church of Mortavia, which seems to contain the prison as well as the Church wherein sentencing is carried out.

Carl (a very monotonic Paul Lieber, who went on to a long successful career on television and on stage in L.A., winning 5 Dramalogue Awards and an L.A. Weekly Award for his performances), her jailer, is smitten with her, and seeks to save her.

He appeals to FATHER (not a mad monk as the title suggests) Guru, the religious leader. Guru is played by actor Neil Flanagan, who also appeared in Milligan’s SEEDS (Aquarian,1968,) and TORTURE DUNGEON (Constitution,1970, an earlier “period” film that was shot on 16mm with a $15,000 budget).

Flanagan was a staple of the Village theater scene, winning an Obie in 1967 for his starring role as an aging drag queen in Lanford Wilson’s hit ‘THE MADNESS OF LADY BRIGHT” and a second Obie in 1976 for his contributions to over 10 years of Off Off-Broadway Theatre. He died from AIDS in 1986 at age 52. He relishes his plummy role in this film and plays it to the hilt.

 

Guru makes a deal with Carl to save the girl, but it involves Carl having to help finance the Lost Souls Church by a bit of body snatching. In exchange, Guru will keep Nadja hidden until his three-month morbid indenture is over.

Carl is sent to see Olga (Jacqueline Webb) who will provide a potion to make it appear that Nadja is dead (a la Juliet in Romeo & Juliet). Olga also requires a price, which is to supply human blood from the executed for her experiments. Carl reluctantly agrees, and Olga seals the deal by pricking his palm with a needle. It is almost laughable when he lifts his hand, for it is drenched in blood!

 


We see various accused brought before Guru within the Church, wherein he gives them a blessing and then brands them before they are dragged away. Igor (Jack Spencer) the deformed hunchback, stirs the fire and hands over the torture instrument. When Nadja is brought before him, he slips the drug into some sacrificial wine, and gives it to the young woman.

The medicinal works and Nadja is buried, only to be dug up by Carl, and hidden within the church. Carl is really not too observant, as both the mad mon…er.. Priest and Olga have plans for the young woman . Guru and Olga are, it seems bumping uglies, and enjoying torturing and killing others from Milligan’s stock company. Olga, it seems, doesn’t want the blood for experiments, but for herself, as, it is revealed, that she is a vampire! One thing about a Milligan film, is sometimes things can appear out of nowhere.

Next up on the disc is THE BODY BENEATH. In 1968, Milligan had gone to England after making a multi picture deal with producer Leslie Elliot. Eliot had been involved with producing the MGM film THE LIQUIDATORS (1965) but  he also ran the privateThe Compton Cinema), and ,having released some of Milligan‘s earlier work in the U.K.,  he may have been on the lookout for inexpensive product that he would own.


Their first production was NIGHTBIRDS (Cinemedia, released in 1970). The dark kitchen sink drama barely got a release and vanished for years. Thanks to Nicolas Winding Refn (director of NEON DEMON, Broad Green 2016) and the BFI, the film was been restored and released to DVD in England in 2013, where it has been getting mixed reviews but better than one often associates with Milligan’s work.

Refn is obsessed with Milligan’s work, buying up prints from various sources, including those in the private collection of author Jimmy McDonough, who wrote the must have biography of the director, THE GHASTLY ONE (Chicago Review Press,1st Edition, October 1,2001). For more on the fascination by the one director for the other, read
https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/jun/14/obsession-andy-milligan-cult-movies .

For some reason, Leslie Eliot dissolved the partnership during the making of one of the remaining films (no doubt the director’s caustic personality) , and Milligan was forced to deal once again with William Mishkin.

Mishkin and his Constellation Films were known mostly for cheap nudies and sexploitation films. He was willing to help distribute films by Milligan because even if they just played the NYC grind circuit he could make his money back. Unfortunately, distributors could and would sublease titles out to other regional distributors, so filmmakers would be at the mercy of the original distributors for a full accounting. Neglect by the distributors is also how many of these and other films were lost (it is said that Mishkin’s son destroyed the films rather than pay for film storage fees). Is it any wonder after a lifetime of mistreatment that Milligan’s negative world view seeped so heavily into his work?

 

It is doubtful that Milligan ever saw more than what he spent on making his films, and, like poor Ed Wood, did not retain the rights to his own work. Mishkin had backs Milligan’s sexploiter THE PROMISCUOUS SEX (1967, “Made in Greenwich Village! “  for about $10,000, returning a profit over 13 times its budget), and so he was willing to back the four remaining British films, if they were exploitive.

The results were BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (released January 1970,on a whopping $18,000 budget, with certain scenes filmed when Milligan returned to the U.S.),THE RATS ARE COMING, THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE (released in May,1972, again an $18,000 budget ,with some footage shot in Staten Island to complete /pad the film after Milligan returned to the U.S. in 1970), THE MAN WITH TWO HEADS (released June 1972,shot on a “massive” $20,000 budget) ,and the film we are reviewing here THE BODY BENEATH (released September, 1970,again with a budget of $20,000 estimated).

THE BODY BENEATH is one of Milligan’s most uniformly acted production. There are less overly over the top histronics, though still many plummy performances. Like all his British films, this was shot with his 16mm Auricon camera. These cameras were popular with journalists as they were a single system machine that recorded sound DIRECTLY to the optical track, thus eliminating the need for a separate audio recorder. A major liability was the camera were parallax view, meaning you were not looking directly through the lens, but what you saw from your viewfinder was slightly off from what was really being filmed.

In a wide shot, this is not normally a problem, but Milligan’s style were tight shots to cover perhaps how little set decoration there was in the scene, giving the framing an often claustrophic effect. Plus, one of the characters might be barely in the shot due to the framing problem combined with the parallel view. Retakes, alas, would cost too much.

     Auricon 16mm camera rig used by reporter Tony Hamilton not Milligan

The film begins with Anna Ford (Susan Clark,NOT the Canadian actress of the same name who played Mary Kelly in MURDER BY DECREE ,Avco,1979. This British actress seemed to have done mostly minor roles, with this being her largest part.) going to place flowers at her mother’s grave just as the graveyard is about to close. Never a good thing, as Barbra (Judith O’Dea) found out in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD(Continental,1968).

Moments after the caretaker alerts her to the closure, Anna finds herself surrounded by several bluish tinged blonde women. “Hellloooo” says one with an almost childlike quality. This is a bit chilling, but the print has very warbly sound at this point (though I don’t know if any other print that I have seen is any better, so it may have been in the original recording and Milligan never bothered to redub it later.).

 


Just a side note: the original poster declared that the film was “filmed in the graveyards of England”. This was probably to make ticket buyers assume they were going to see a Hammer or Amicus Film. The one thing these films shared was filming in Highgate Cemetery, which was also used in Hammer’s TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970) and AmicusTALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE(1973).

 

      Highgate today and as it appears in TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA

 

 

Back to this film. Graham Ford (Colin Gordon.I think IMDB is mistaking him for another actor with the same name so I cannot tell what his credits are.) is awaiting his wife’s return when he is visited by the Reverend Alexander Ford (Gavin Reed,who had small roles in films like CARRY ON LOVING,Rank ,1969, relished his leading role here ) and his wife, Alicia (Susan Heard,who played a maid in Milligan’s NIGHTBIRDS as well as various crew roles on his other  U.K. films .).

 

                                          IMDB : not the same actor who appeared in this film !


Gavin Reed is delightful, making Milligan’s overwrought writing roll easily off his tongue as if he is in an Oscar Wilde play (who is referenced during their exchange), giving the part some much needed wit. His talk of the family genealogy reminds one of Ernest Thesiger in THE OLD DARK HOUSE (Universal, 1932). Graham we discover is Canadian and finds that the Reverend and his wife are freshly arrived from Ireland to re-open All Souls Church (a satellite of the LOST Souls church from GURU?) and he has a lease on Carfax Abbey (a clue for all you Dracula fans) next door. To put a point on it, Graham says that it is right next to Highgate Cemetery. In real life Carfax is near Whitby, nearly 264 miles from London.

 

Anna comes home but reacts startled by seeing the Reverend. We abruptly cut to another couple, Susan Ford (Jackie Skavellis,who also appeared in Milligan’s THE RATS ARE COMING….) and her boyfriend Paul (Richmond Ross,his only listed film credit). We find out that Susan is pregnant and that she is going to Carfax to meet a relative who recently contacted her, namely the Reverend.

We are introduced to one final relative, Candace Ford (Emma Jones,in her only major role). As she is about to leave her home, her maid answers the door a hunchback, Spool (Berwick Kaler ,who appeared in all of Milligan’s British films, and who since 1981 has appeared as The Grand Dame in York Theatre’s Royal!He has little recollection of his three day’s work on this, other than Milligan wanting him to stoop more) hands her flowers. When she turns, one of the blue faced woman is behind her. She sends the maid to deliver the flowers and steal some blood from Candace by pricking her finger.

Gavin Reed discusses with Berwick Kaler how to stoop lower

 

      Berwick today,in a costume that Milligan would have loved!

The basic plot unfolds that the Ford family line have been vampires, but they need to replenish. Thus, the gathering of the family to restore the bloodline with Susan popping out vampire babies while the other relatives supplying blood.

There is a lot of shaky camera work that is meant to add style but instead induces motion sickness, and many scenes are very ill lit. Gore is low in this film, though a second maid Jessie (Felicity Sentence,who played First Girl in NIGHTBIRDS) ends up with knitting needles to the eyes and dragged off by Spool, while the Reverend seems to need leeches applied to him to keep his blood pressure down, and poor Spool, perhaps the most sympathetic character, is cruelly crucified by the Reverend.

At the end of the film, there is a vampire gathering that shows that Milligan had seen several of Roger Corman’s films, particularly aping the Vaseline smeared lens that Corman employed for his dream sequences. While giving the scene an arty effect, it also perhaps helped hide the improvisational nature of the costumes, which often look they were made from grandma’s sofa!

      Hazel Court  hazy in Masque Of The Red Death

 Milligan’s attempt 

No one ever addresses why many of the vampires are blue skinned, while the Reverend is not (a question, though, that also comes be questioned about the superior RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, A.I.P.1971, wherein his brides look the worse for wear while he looks handsome, at least until he attacks).

I thought having a vampire as a priest was a unique idea, which allowed Milligan to express his feelings about religion through the character. However, it was pointed out to me that the title character in VARNEY THE VAMPIRE by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest (serialized beginning in 1845) posed as a monk (but was he mad??)at one point and he told his story to a sympathetic priest, before he hurled himself into a volcano . Varney’s subtitle would have fit a Milligan film by the way,  FEAST OF BLOOD.

Neil, are you wearing Grandma ‘s curtains? ” ” No, Ma….”

Andy Milligan’s films , unlike Ed Wood’s , are hard for many to take. One cannot certainly warm up to them as one does with Wood.

Wood, no matter how inept his films, had a certain positiveness to them, a definite “Let Me Entertain You” sincerity, no matter how many wobbly cardboard headstones one saw on display.


Milligan was a more complex individual, dealing with a lot of anger issues, a rage against the world, that he used his theatre work and his films to lash out at what he perceived a cruel world. From all he endured in his life, one is not surprised, but his cruel streak still emerges.

A few of his films have some animal torture which simply pure sadism is (THE RATS ARE COMING had Milligan himself mutilating a poor mouse in the Staten Island shot footage, as well as his killing a pigeon in NIGHTBIRDS) that cannot be condoned.

 

Luckily none of that is in these two films (just the poor abused actors!).

I cannot say that I find his films entertaining, but that said, they are hypnotically fascinating. Had he more money, a proper crew and support, one wonders what he might have accomplished? Maybe it would have tamed the anger in him. Perhaps he would have eased from the horror films into more films like NIGHTBIRDS and VAPORS, which seem to be where his heart truly was.


What we are left with is a collection of odd films that seem to become more and more a time capsule of what grindhouse truly was.

This ALPHA dual feature could have been called the Andy Milligan Deliver Us from Religion Co bill, and it is nice to get the two films on one affordable disc to recreate the original theatre release from Nova.

If you are curious about grindhouse, microbudget, or seeing what all the cult buzz is about Andy Milligan, then definitely pick up this release.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

 

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THE SLAYER,1982 (Arrow Blu Ray/DVD combo release)

THE SLAYER (Arrow U.S. DVD/Blu Ray Combo) $39.98 s.r.p. Color .1982. https://vinegarsyndrome.com/shop/the-slayer-arrow-films/

Back in 1985, while I was managing a video store, horror films were among the biggest rentals.

The major studios had started putting out more and more of their product, so indies had to think of new ways to make their titles stand out.

One of the ways was the larger sized video boxes. Continental Video (1984-87), one of the smaller companies, released 63 titles during their short existence, and quite a few were interesting titles for cult and horror fans, among them TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER (Hammer ,1976), DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (Gemini-Maron,1971) and THE RETURN OF THE ALIENS /aka THE DEADLY SPAWN (Filmline, 1983).

Their large boxes with often garish colors stood out on the shelves. The company also began to release double features (edited for time though not for gore or nudity to fit on one tape) and a lower price point to appeal to store owners.

One of them was SWEET SUGAR (Dimension 1972)/ESCAPE FROM WOMEN’S PRISON (aka HELL HOLE, Phillipines,1978), a woman in prison co-feature.

The other was THE SLAYER (21st Century Film Corp.,1982) and Fred Olen Ray’s SCALPS (21st Century Film Corp.,1983). Both had been edited down to 75 minutes each from 90 minutes and 82 minutes respectively.

Even in their edited forms, these two films were better than a lot of the indie horror stuff that was filling the shelves at the time.

Fred Olen Ray got the rights back to his third feature, and released a beautiful uncut blu ray of the movie through his company Retromedia. Now, thanks to Arrow U.S., we can give a proper evaluation to THE SLAYER.

Kay (Sara Kendall) is a surrealistic artist who has suffered from bizarre nightmares since childhood. Her husband (Alan McRae), a doctor, decides that she needs to get away, and so they go to a remote island, along with Kay’s brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and his wife Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook). They are flown to the remote place by Marsh (Michael Holmes). Kay is disturbed to see that on the island that the house in which they are staying and an abandoned theatre both are featured in her dreams and her subsequent paintings. The others dismiss it as just an odd co-incidence.

As they are settling in, Marsh tells them that a storm is coming, and that they should all leave.

Of course, they decide to stay, and one by one, they are picked off in gruesome fashion.

The brief synopsis I gave I am sure does not sound that original, and indeed, it isn’t if you have ever seen a horror film involving a group of isolated people.

What makes this film stand above so many other films of the era is its execution (pun intended).

The film’s main characters, for one, are not just a bunch of horny teens but married couples with jobs (Eric even shoots television commercials). The actors are also better than many of the screaming teens featured in so many of the flood of Friday The 13th rip offs that invaded theatres and home video at the time (lead Sarah Kendall we are told on the commentary track had been a stage actress, and after a small role in THE KARATE KID PART TWO (Columbia,1986) she seems to have done no further film work. I cannot seem to find any stage credits for her, nor is she to be confused with an Australian comedienne with the same name.).

The film also has a slicker, more European style than other horror films made in the U.S., which we find out on one of the commentary tracks was intentional.

The film also has a dream demon that comes into our dimension while Kay sleeps, two years before Wes Craven’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (New Line,1984).

Indeed, the effects are still quite impressive, especially the final creature suit (this is not a spoiler, as it is featured on almost all artwork or video release covers previously, as well as in beautiful cover art on this new ARROW U.S. Blu Ray/DVD combo pack).

For one thing, the original theatrical release was a shoddy cheap print run, and the colors were quite muddy as well as quite dark imagery. On the Continental release, this was the print used for their full frame (and, as noted, edited) vhs edition.

Now, ARROW has gone all out and given this little sleeper (see what I did there?) the treatment that makes the film look better than it even did on its original release. (note: review is based upon BLU RAY screener.)

They have given us a REGION FREE High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation from a 4K scan of the original negative.

The 1:85:1 composition truly shows off the marvelous cinematography by Karen Grossman (who handled similar duties on 18 episodes of MONSTERS (Laurel Productions,1988-90), with rich colors, as well as being able to see information previously hard to discern in older prints.

The Mono audio sound is crisp and clear. There was no punching up the tracks nor was there need to.

As to extras:
The original theatrical trailer.

The optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing are excellent in their descriptive quality and match the dialogue perfectly.

There are two running audio commentaries:

The first features a fact filled track moderated by Ewan Cant (Arrow disc producer and knowledgeable horror fan) along with writer /director J.S. Cardone (this was his first effort, but he has continued in the genre with productions such as the vampire flick, THE FORSAKEN (Screen Gems,2001)), actress Carol Kottenbrook (later to marry the director,  now a producer in her own right) and executive in charge of production Eric Weston (producer/ director of EVILSPEAK, The Moreno Co.,1981). The discussion is lively, and their recollections of the production are for the most part positive and informative about shooting in Georgia, casting, and a great deal about the effects done live on set.

The second commentary track is from a group known as the Hysteria Continues podcast. I had never heard of them before, but they are a group of U.K. friends who are quite knowledgeable about genre films, especially slasher movies.

They comment about how they first discovered this movie, about the whole Video Nasty nonsense thanks to nutcase Mary Whitehouse, and that this was one of the 72 films outright banned in 1983, but was never prosecuted, and later reissued with 14 seconds cut of a pitchfork murder.

They are as of this week up to their 150 podcasts https://player.fm/series/the-hysteria-continues# if you would like to check them out.

There is an isolated selection of the score and an audio interview Michael Felsher (Red Shirt Pictures documentaries) with composer Robert Folk (a Julliard graduate, best known for the POLICE ACADEMY (Warner Brothers,1984) theme. Their discussion about how the score was constructed was very interesting and quite unique.

Not enough extras? How about these new documentaries:

Nightmare Island: The Making of THE SLAYER “- this a nearly hour long featurette that covers some of the info from the first audio commentary, but also builds and adds to it, with new interviews with Cardone,Kottenbrook,Weston ,as well director of photography Karen Grossman , camera operator Arledge Armenaki (HOWLING V,Vestron,1989) effects wizard Robert Short (who had begun on ALLIGATOR ,Group 1,1980 makeup effects and is active still on special effects for major films like THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. ,W.B.,2015) and the man in the creature costume, Carl Kraines .

Return to Tybee: The Locations of THE SLAYER” – a return to the locations used in the film on Tybee Island, Georgia, including the original house which many of the crew thought was haunted.

The Tybee Post Theater Experience”– the theater used in the film held a recent screening and the locals react and have a Q & A with Ewan Cant and Arledge Armenaki.

-A slide show picture Gallery.

The first Pressing only will have a collector’s booklet featuring a film overview by Lee Gambin (horror historian, author of Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film; Midnight Marquee Press, Inc. October 8, 2012).

A Reversible sleeve featuring a beautiful cover by Justin Osbourn.

This is a must have for fans of horror films of the 1980s and kudos to ARROW U.S. for their amazing dedication to this film that is deserving of rediscovery.

-Highly Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

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BLINDMAN – ABKCO dvd review

blindman-movie-poster-1972-1020377327BLINDMAN (Il Cieco ,Italy, November 15,1971 /U.S. release by 20th Century Fox Jan.15,1972)-color -105 minutes-release by ABKCO -$12.99-release date November 4,2016

https://www.amazon.com/Blindman-Ringo-Starr/dp/B01LXU311M/ref=pd_sbs_74_img_0/166-8333352-5114628?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=HTM8B2YSKEX4QFHXZ38R

“I want my fifty women.”

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The Spaghetti Western reigned from about 1964 until sometimes into the mid-1970s. While there had been, westerns filmed in Europe before and after that time, Sergio Leone’s Per un pugno di dollari/Por un puñado de dólares/Für eine Handvoll Dollar, best known as A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (released in Italy in September 12,1964, released in the U.S by United Artists) was the first international success of the Euro Western. Many of these films were produced multi-nationally via German, Yugoslavian, Spain, the U.S., even Israel, along with Italian producers.blindman-2

 

Usually in the Spaghetti Western, the definition of bad guys and the good guys, unlike the classic American films, became blurred. The level of violence also escalated. As the westerns went along, they also developed interesting eccentricities and characterizations. Also, a dark sense of humor permeated a lot of them. DJANGO (1966 Euro International) and the coffin exemplified these.
However, by the 1970s, Kung Fu films became the rage, and the westerns slowly rode off into the cinematic sunset. Before they did, they left us with BLINDMAN (ABKCO FILMS, released in 1971 in Italy,1972 U.S. via 20th Century Fox).

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BLINDMAN was a bit more violent than many of the westerns and had a great deal more nudity. The original American release was pared down to 84 minutes in some areas. I saw it upon its original release, due to the casting of Ringo Star as a Mexican Bandito(!)and seeing this new release from ABKCO, I do not recall the film being as explicit .westward_the_women

Many of the Spaghetti Westerns had inspirations in other films, and BLINDMAN seems inspired by WESTWARD THE WOMEN(MGM,1951). In WESTWARD, Robert Taylor (WATERLOO BRIDGE, MGM 1940) is consigned to deliver 140 (not 200 as the poster declares) mail order brides to California. Indian attacks, renegades, even natural disasters, dwindle the numbers. The film was a huge hit when it came out, though it is not well remembered today.

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Tony Anthony an American born actor who had a good career in Italian Westerns, and later help bring about the 3D revival with his film COMIN’ AT YA (U.S. release Filmways ,1981), stars as the title character and who also wrote the screenplay for BLINDMAN, however, seemed to have been at least partially inspired by it. For good measure, he mixed into the blend a bit of the legend of the blind masseuse/ swordsman, Zatoichi. First filmed in 1962 as THE TALE OF ZATOICHI ( Dalei Studios ),the long running series had already had 22 entries by the time BLINDMAN was into production.

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The Blindman (he seems to have no other name), it seems, was contracted to bring fifty women to some miners in Texas. However, his partners double cross him and bring the women to Mexico. Blindman thus needs to hunt down his associates, who often end up dead, as he tries to regain his female consignment and honor his contract.

Blindman sets up the film by establishing that he is indeed blind ,but no less deadly, when he blows up a character named Skunk(an unbilled Renato Romano, DEATH LAID AN EGG / La morteha fatto l’uovo,Italy 1968) and an unnamed compatriot and woman companion after Skunk lets Blindman know his cargo is now in Mexico with Domingo(American born Lloyd Batista,who had appeared in Tony Anthony ‘s THE STRANGER/Lo straniero di silenzio,Italy 1968 ),his brother Candy(Ringo Starr* )and their sister called Sweet Mama(Magda Konopka,WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH,WB 1970) and their gang.

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The bandits shower down the kidnapped women while Sweet Mama and Dominic discuss if Candy might want one of the captives. However, Candy is sweet (sorry about pun) on Pilar (Agneta Eckemyr, later to appear in ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD (Disney, Dec 20,1974)). The women are being offered to a General (Raf Baldassare, who appeared in Mario Bava’s ERIK THE CONQUEROR/Gli Invasari, Italy 1961) and his drunken battalion.

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However, even more double crosses happen and El General is captured for ransom. More betrayals occur and more characters end up dead (including Ringo!), and The Blindman is at times caught and tortured.blindman12

The actors seem to be having a good time in their various roles. The women, however, to be blunt, are for the most part, sex objects, and spend a great deal of time being naked and pawed by the various cast members. Konopka, hints at a sick sadistic pleasure of watching this, and that she is closer to her brother Dominic that would be considered acceptable.cropped

The at times surreal western was directed by Ferdinando Baldi was a very busy in the 1960s through 1980s, jumping genres but most comfortable in the oater genre. He later would direct the two 3-D films that Anthony would write and star in. The film was lensed in Almeria, Spain, a desert like stretch that was used in numerous westerns as well as films like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (Columbia ,1962) and HOW I WON THE WAR (U.A. ,1967). In fact, Ringo had visited John Lennon on location there while Lennon was filming HOW I WON

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Music by Stelvio Cipriati, who had scored THE STRANGER RETURNS (Italy,1967) and is still scoring films today, does a Ennio Morricone -like score with a lot of jangly sounds and odd vocals. Ringo did not contribute to the soundtrack, though on the flipside of his song single “Back Off Boogaloo”, he wrote and performs a song called ‘Blindman” that sounds inspired by Cipriati’s score https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5EXfCMyibw

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Allen Klein, the head of ABKCO Films, was the former manager whom Paul McCartney blames for his exit from The Beatles. Ringo obviously had no ill will to Klein, and took the supporting role. Being the most famous name in the film, his prominence in ads and trailers was expanded. Ringo acquits himself quite well in the atypical bad guy role. (See trailer : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5454Qe6uoaM )ringo-starr-and-allen-klein-holding-gun-spain-july-1971

     Ringo & Klein(holding gun) clowning on set.

The DVD transfer shows off cinematographer Riccardo Pallottini (CASTLE OF BLOOD/ Danza macabra, Italy,1964) sharp images, thanks to a HD transfer from an original 35mm negative. The film is also available as a digital download, though no word of any planned BLU RAY release (if they do ,perhaps a commentary by Anthony, or even Ringo?). Sound quality is a 5.1 transfer with no noticeable pops or hiss. The only extra on the DVD is a trailer.mpw-20184

BLINDMAN was one of those films that had been available on the gray market in variable quality prints. In fact, SCARLET reader John Crummett informed us when BLINDMAN was first announced for DVD that some time ago he had attended a screening of GET MEAN**(Italy ,1975, U.S. release through Cinemation)  at the Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood and director Tony Anthony himself doubted there would ever be an ever be an official release due to all the bootlegs. ( You can see how bad a typical bootleg looked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l95IUUNnpjg )

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I am glad that Tony Anthony was wrong about that, and that the film is finally available in a good quality print. One small note about the ABKCO website- they really don’t sell their DVDs very well, concentrating more on their musical releases. The most important thing, though, is you can finally get BLINDMAN in a high-quality release.

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Recommended for Italian Western Fans, as well as Beatles completists.
Kevin G Shinnick

*-Was Ringo’s name CANDY a reference to his first non-Beatles film, CANDY (A.B.C/Cinerama ,1968)?candy1968

**-GET MEAN, also directed by Baldi with performances from Baldassare and Battista, is available on BLU RAY from BLUE UNDERGROUND.blu-bd-8005_l

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Prince of The Night / NOSFERATU IN VENICE

PRINCE OF THE NIGHT (NOSFERATU IN VENICE,1988) (93min 21 seconds) Color. Klaus Kinksi, Donald Pleasance Christopher Plummer Released by: One 7 Movies $14.99

prince of the night

https://www.amazon.com/Prince-Night-Klaus-Kinski/dp/B00KT5P9XE/184-6920398-9658701?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

This is a release that somehow slipped by me but I felt will be of interest to vampire fans. PRINCE OF THE NIGHT is a retitling of
NOSFERATU OF VENICE (aka VAMPIRE OF VENICE, Scena Films ,1988), the quasi “sequel” to Werner Herzog’s NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE (Werner Herzog Filmproduktion/Gaumont/Fox 1979) itself a remake of the silent classic NOSFERATU (Prana- Films GMBH,1922, U.S. release June 1929).

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I say quasi as the film had a lot of production problems, a great deal of them generated by star Klaus Kinski himself. Three directors walked off the production or were paid off before producer Augusto Caminito took over the directorial reins. The film was also helped along by uncredited input by Luigi Cozzi (STAR CRASH, 1978 ,New World) . However, it didn’t end there, as Kinski bullied crew members and performers alike, forcing many to quit or be fired. Kinski even took a turn, shooting hours of footage that barely made it into the final edit. Kinski also refused to reprise the makeup from the previous film, so now the vampire resembles-well Klaus Kinski!

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To say that the final film is an incoherent mess is an understatement, with ideas brought up then dropped, seemingly important characters disappear from the narrative as new characters’ pop up (due to the firing policy of the star). Nosferatu walks about in daylight (though to be fair, in the original novel DRACULA the vampire walked about in a straw hat in daylight!) and only has to rest about once every month.

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Still, the film does have moments of interest. The photography by Tonino Nardi is quite good, with a sense of the dreamlike captured perfectly. The image near the opening of Professor Paris Catalano (Christopher Plummer) standing at the forward bow of a small boat made the film seem to cover several centuries in one image (set modern day, though with the ancient city and Plummer wearing a cape it harkened earlier history). A flashback to the plague swept city reinforces this. The feeling of decay is buttressed by the filming within several dilapidated buildings that still harken back to days of splendor and glory.

 

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Kinski at moments has a kind of quiet sadness about his character, for we discover that his really wants to end his existence. *

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     (“Who is this long haired imposter ?” )

The plot, such as it is, has Professor Catalano (Plummer) come to Venice at the request of Princess Heiletta Canins (Barbara De Rossi, HEARTS & ARMOUR, Vides Cinematografica Italy /WB (U.S.)1983). She feels that Nosferatu is buried within the family cellar crypt. The Professor does not believe her as he feels the Vampire fled the city when the plague broke out 200 years before. A Medium (Clara Colosimo, NOVECENTO/1900, 1976) is summoned and sooner than you can say SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (AIP,1973), Nosferatu (Kinski) is back and nibbling into a neck.

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Donald Pleasance shows up for a paycheck as a cowardly Priest but adds little to the storyline. Meanwhile, our nominal hero, the Professor, confronts the vampire, only to have his hands get burnt when Kinski stares at the metal cross that he is holding, superheating. What does the Professor do? Regroup. Nope, he packs up and leaves!! Perhaps Plummer was saving his strength to play Van Helsing 12 years later in DRACULA 2000 (Miramax,2000).

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Late into the film we are introduced to the character of Maria (Anne Knecht*), supposedly Heiletta’s sister. There is some mumbo jumbo about reincarnation and the vampire only being able to be destroyed by a consenting virgin, but in the end it all just fizzles out. The film ends with a group of hunters (whom we saw at the beginning of the film) intoning “It’s bad luck to kill a bat. ” Not this one, it’s a vampire!”

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Err- um-WHAT???

There is an interesting film in there but every time it starts to come to the fore the movie beats it back and starts on another idea (the first film with Attention Deficiency Disorder?).

vampireinvenpost09

The music is “inspired” by Vangelis, meaning a lot of droning electronics.
As to the DVD, the image is quite clear and sharp, though sound at time has a bit of warble like a damaged vhs tape (particularly during the opening and closing titles). You can listen to the dialogue in either Italian or English. It appears certain actors spoke one language or the other and so you hear their voice in one dub but not the other.

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I.M.D.B lists the running time as 97 minutes, while this print runs a little over 93. Nothing appears to be missing, though.09

The rarity of this title makes it worth seeking out, though, like Dario Argento’s DRACULA 3D (Enrique Cerezo Producciones Cinematográficas S.A., 2012, U.S. IFC 2014) ,the inanities definitely distract from the better moments.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

*- (His actions off camera should have led to the mercurial actor being arrested as he violently sexually assaulted two of the actresses.)

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**- . Knect it seems she was cast at the demand of Kinski after another actress quit/was fired. She was actually just the girlfriend of another actor visiting the set, and not an actress at all. No matter, she was cast. She is quite lovely to look at and spends the final part of the film nude so she has that in her favor.

nosferatu-in-veniceprincenight

 

 

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VAMPIRES (1988)

VAMPIRES (1988)- released May 10,2016 by FILM CHEST-DVD -80 minutes-color -$17.98.

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http://www.amazon.com/Vampires-Duane-Jones/dp/B01DMV2ZUG/ref=sr_1_3?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1462900471&sr=1-3&keywords=duane+jones

‘Wouldn’t you like to live forever? Are you sure? You see, I thought so too. Until I began-to live- forever.” That opening line sets up the soul weary vampire’s angst for the film VAMPIRES (1988) starring Duane Jones (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Continental,1968) fame. Sadly, things go quickly downhill from there.

vampires

The obscure film is set at a prestigious art school in New England that has seen better days and restorations are underway. Supernatural forces are unleashed and students start to disappear.

Two young students after making love (providing required nudity) experience a supernatural vortex, which, due to the sound, makes them seem to be pulled into the toilet, as a deep voice intones “iiiiitttt woooorrrkkks”!

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Dr. Harmon (Duane Jones, looking very dapper in his mustache and Billy Dee Williams style clothes) drives foreign student Ione (Orly Benyar, NINJA ACADEMY) to the school, and tells her ominously should she need anything to call him.

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It is good advice as more and more fellow classmates vanish, she takes it upon herself to investigate. The head mistress, Madeline Abadon (Jackie James) explains that the school has been in the Abadon family for centuries ad was nearly destroyed by fire some time back. The students are warned never to go down into the basement. Of course you know that is where everyone seems to head.Fright House_aging

The film seems to be influenced by Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA (International Classics,1977) with its art school setting and stylish photography (courtesy of the great Ernest Dickerson, who lensed several of Spike Lee’s classics, as well as being a director in his own right on such projects as TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT (Universal,1995). This film is not listed on his IMDB credits. Some of the film was also lensed by Larry Revene (spelled as Revine in the credits) who toiled on such films as DOOM ASYLUM (1987, Academy).

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This is an indeed a true rarity, not even mentioned in the majority of film reference books. It seems to have been originally shot as a film called NEGATIVES in 1988 starring Debbie Rochon and Duane Jones. The film was nearing completion when the crew discovered that their checks had bounced and so walked off. The director, Len Anthony, somehow cobbled footage together to make the film into a part of an obscure horror anthology FRIGHT HOUSE (release on video in 1989 by Studio Entertainment Films). That film has Al Lewis (“Grandpa” of Munster’s fame!) as a Captain Levi in a sinister tale of summoning demons. The second part is called “Abadon”, and is I assume an edited version of VAMPIRES. FRIGHT HOUSE is listed as running at 110 minutes. Debbie Rochon is no where to be seen in any of the existing variations.

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(FRIGHT HOUSE ,not currently available.Al Lewis)

 

Mr. Anthony seemed to feel he could get more mileage out of his work, and so seems to have cobbled together the film VAMPIRES. That title is a bit misleading, as there are no traditional fanged vampires at work are vampiric in that they drain life force from their victims due to some obscure machine that has caused Duane Jones and Jackie James to become immortals, a reason that is never made clear.

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The acting, except for Duane Jones, is risible at best. The scene in the acting class nearly had me howling with laughter, as I felt that an acting class was just what was needed by all involved. Jones rises above the material and one wishes that he had been cast in projects more challenging of his notable talent. His scenes make this movie worth watching. It is a shame that this marvelous actor passed away July 22,1988 at age 51 shortly after completing his footage. He would also appear posthumously in Academy Entertainment’s vampire film TO DIE FOR (1989).

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The film obviously had footage missing though the sound remained. To replace the gap, shots of tarot cards are shown as the sound plays out. The print used appears to be from a video tape master, and thus looks more like VHS tape quality. Perhaps though, that is fitting, as this would have been one of those films that lined local mom and pop video store shelves.

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     (mummies?what mummies? lost in the edit?)

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The soundtrack is very 80s, so expect to hear a lot of synth music. Also, some sub-par imitation TEARS FOR FEARS songs. Supposedly there was to have been a soundtrack to FRIGHT HOUSE, which advertised a lot on MTV and VH1 upon that video’s release. One wonders were that album ever released? Also beware of some very frightening 80s fashions.frighthousead (1)

One wishes that someone had tracked down the mysterious Mr. Len Anthony to discuss the history of how one unfinished movie became two. His commentary would probably be a film class for indie filmmakers on the struggles of movie making and getting your product released. As it is, this is a bare bones DVD release, with no extras.

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Still kudos to FILM CHEST MEDIA for saving this rare Duane Jones film. Now maybe they can search the film vaults for another 80s obscurity that I worked on that was ever released called MIDNIGHT RENDEVOUS ……

-Kevin G Shinnick

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  (an out of print DVD of Len Anthony’s FRIGHT HOUSE and an action film MURDEROUS INTENT )

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