Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971)

Poster for Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971)Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971)
by #AlAdamson

w/ #JohnCarradine #KentTaylor #TommyKirk #ReginaCarrol

A mad doctor creates a fiend with an electronic brain.

“Human Zombies Rise From Their Coffins As Living Corpses”

#Horror #SciFi
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

What can I say about Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971)? It’s the third (or is it the fourth?) version of Al Adamson’s first feature film (not counting the movie he co-directed with his father).

According to Sam Sherman, it started life as something called Echo of Terror, which was a pretty good low budget crime film. Unfortunately, Al Adamson couldn’t find any distributor willing to take it. So, he added in some music and go-go dancing and changed the name to Psycho a Go Go (1965), which did find some limited distribution.

This is the first version of the movie that I ever saw – and I liked it. I wrote about it on a previous Friday:

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Psycho a Go Go (1965)

Still, it wasn’t a huge success. So, Adamson (and Sherman) got the idea to add some more footage into the movie and make it more of a horror film. They also hired famous actor John Carradine to appear in it. This would make the movie more marketable. They managed to sell it to television, where Sherman claims it played quite a bit in syndication. This version of the movie was called The Fiend with the Electronic Brain (1967) and I wrote about it on another Friday:

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Fiend with the Electronic Brain (1967)

Still not satisfied, Adamson and Sherman added even more horror footage to the movie – this time featuring zombies of a sort – plus some new scenes with character actors Tommy Kirk and Kent Taylor. And some scenes featuring Adamson’s wife, Regina Carrol. I believe that they were going for the drive-in market with this one, and they pretty much got it. Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971) played top and bottom halves of drive-in bills for years. 

Sherman admits that the best version of the movie is probably the original version that never saw the light of day. It just wasn’t marketable, and at the end of the day, this was a business. So, even though he had to compromise his artistic vision, Al Adamson was okay with “ruining” his movie to create these other films.

Ruining is my word, but Sherman has used it in the past to describe what he did to other movies by adding new footage, so I don’t think he would mind me using it here.

Basically, I think I agree with Sherman. Psycho a Go Go (1965) is my favourite version of this film. I can enjoy the added scenes with Carradine, and I’m always glad to see Regina Carrol, but basically the movie worked best as a low budget crime film. The added horror stuff is fine, but it doesn’t really belong. 

Of course, I haven’t seen the Echo of Terror version, which may have been the very first version (if it in fact exists). But I actually LIKE the songs performed by Tacey Robbins – and the go go dancing – so I think I’m going to assume that Psycho a Go Go is the most satisfying version of the movie. 

Still, Blood of Ghastly Horror (1971) is about as #NotQuiteClassicCinema as any movie can be. It was made for drive-ins, and it certainly deserves a chance to  improve – or ruin – your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: New Year’s Evil (1980)

poster for New Year's Evil (1980)New Year’s Evil (1980) by #EmmettAlston

w/ #RozKelly #KipNiven

On New Year’s Eve, a psycho vows to kill one person as midnight strikes in each time zone.

“This New Year’s, you’re invited to a killer party…”

#Horror #Slasher
#NotQuiteClassicCinema

#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

 

Looking at my previous blog post about New Year’s Evil (1980), I see that I predicted that I would be watching it again this year, as December 31 was, in fact, a Friday. I had forgotten all about that prediction, and was quite shocked to discover that New Year’s Eve 2021 fell on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. I considered watching some other movie that’s set on New Year’s Eve, but truth be told I felt like watching New Year’s Evil (1980) again.

So I did.

Instead of writing a whole new post about it, which would feel a little weird, I will simply invite anyone who is interested to take a look at last year’s post. I think it still stands as an accurate representation of my thoughts and feelings about the much maligned piece of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that is New Year’s Evil (1980). Enjoy!

Read: Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: New Year’s Evil (1980) from 2021!

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Satan’s Playground (2006)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover for Satan's Playground (2006)Satan’s Playground (2006) by #DanteTomaselli

w/ #FelissaRose #DannyLopes #EllenSandweiss #EdwinNeal

A family gets lost in the Pine Barrens and becomes the prey of the Jersey Devil. Not to mention some crazy backwoods family with a creepy door knocker…

“Enter If You Dare”

#Horror
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

Satan’s Playground (2006) is one of those curious movies that I could remember watching some years back – and I could remember a fair bit of detail about it – but I simply never felt like watching again. So why had a kept it in my collection? I must have, at the time, felt like I would want to watch it again in the future. But even since starting this #TrashOrTerrorTuesday thing, I keep looking at it and thinking “not this week.” 

So, I guess that’s reason enough to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

The first thing that a person might notice about Satan’s Playground is that it’s got an interesting cast. It stars Felissa Rose, who rose to fame as Angela in Sleepaway Camp (1983). She only appeared in a handful of things over the next 20 years, but starting in 2003 she’s amassed almost 150 credits in ultra low budget horror films. 

Ellen Sandweiss plays Felissa’s sister in Satan’s Playground. Her name is not as well known, but she played Cheryl in The Evil Dead (1981). Satan’s Playground was apparently her first movie appearance after that. 

Edwin Neal, who plays a member of a crazy backwoods family in Satan’s Playground, is best known for playing a member of a crazy backwoods family in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). He’s also in another one of my favourites, Future-Kill (1985) – not to mention over 70 other movies, TV shows, and video games.

It becomes clear when watching Satan’s Playground, that writer/director Dante Tomaselli is hugely influenced by both The Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There are stylistic flourishes that seem to evoke Sam Raimi, like a POV camera racing through the woods and a loud, rhythmic banging sound as the characters approach a decrepit looking house in the woods. 

The crazy backwoods family terrorizing (and killing) people seems like a definite nod to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but like I said in one of my recent #TrashOrTerrorTuesday posts, there are so many ripoffs of that movie out there that it’s almost pointless to mention it. In this case, however, the casting of Edwin Neal seems to make it particularly obvious.

Perhaps the weirdest thing about Satan’s Playground is that if feels like two different ideas fused together. On the one hand, it’s a monster movie about The Jersey Devil attacking people in the woods. This is actually the more underdeveloped side, as we don’t spend a lot of time on it – but it is introduced first. The second idea is, of course, the victims running afoul of the crazy backwoods family in the woods. There is also some nonsense about Satan worshipping cult members in robes, but we only get a few glimpses of them. It may be that they are worshipping The Jersey Devil, in fact. 

So what’s the verdict?

Satan’s Playground is Trash – with a dash of mild Terror on the side. It does actually feature some good cinematography and some creepy atmosphere. There are a few decent moments of horror and gore. However, like many other movies, the problem is the script. Characters make bone-headed decisions, and very little that happens in the movie makes sense. For example…

A family’s car gets stuck on a deserted country road. The father says that he will go and get help. He wanders off into the woods (rather than following the road) in broad daylight. The rest of his family waits in the car until it is pitch dark. I’m guessing that it must be hours later, and the father has not returned. So, his wife decides to go looking for him (or for help), and she wanders into the same woods. Next we see the father arrive at the decrepit house in the woods. Minutes later, the wife arrives at the same house. Huh? How did she manage to catch up with him? Or, how did it take him so long to get there?

This could have been fixed in editing by showing the father arrive at the house first, then cutting to the car hours later. We would just assume that much time has passed. By showing him arrive at the house, and then immediately showing the wife arriving at the house, we are convinced that very little time has passed (although the filmmakers might want us to think otherwise, I’m not sure).

There are many other WTF moments in Satan’s Playground. And even though it does have some decent qualities, I don’t think I need to watch it more than twice in this lifetime. Much like other movies I’ve put to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test, I’d rather watch the films that influenced it, than this one. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

Poster for Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) by #TheodoreGershuny

w/#PatrickONeal #MaryWoronov #JohnCarradine

A man inherits an old mansion which once was a mental home and is soon stalked by an ax murderer.

“The mansion… the madness… the maniac… no escape.”

#Xmas #Horror
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

I used to walk over to Jumbo Video with my friends (or sometimes alone) in the middle of the night. It was the first video store we had that was open 24 hours – and that seemed unreasonably cool to us. Sometimes you’d go to a late movie and then walk home and you’d realize that you were in the mood to watch two more movies and order pizza – but it was already after midnight! In the old days you’d be stuck watching whatever was on TV or – if you were lucky enough to have any – whatever VHS tapes you had in your collection. But truth be told, we didn’t really have collections yet.

VHS and Beta tapes were super expensive to buy – when they were available at all – and previously viewed movies hadn’t really been invented yet.

So, we rented movies whenever we could.

As I may have mentioned before, Jumbo Video had a horror castle – which was a room full of more horror films than anyone ever knew existed – and we always spent a lot of time wandering around inside of it. If we had rented a movie every day it would have still taken us years to see all of these obscure gems. And there were new ones being added all the time. Put simply, this castle was a horror junkie’s paradise.

VHS box for Christmas Evil (1980)I remember a little mini section of Christmas horror films on one of the shelves. This was before I had seen any of them, and my friends and I wold look at the boxes and laugh. Yes, we would laugh at the idea of Christmas being the subject of a scary movie. Halloween made sense to us. Friday the 13th made sense to us. Even Prom Night made sense, as we were all a little bit afraid of school dances. But titles like Christmas Evil (1980), Black Christmas (1974), and Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984) just seemed a little silly to us.

We knew about Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), and how it had been pulled from the theatres due to some moral outrage – but we had not seen the movie yet. We could, however, see its influence as there were similar titles on the shelf, like Silent Night, Evil Night (which it turns out was a retitling of Black Christmas), and Silent Night, Bloody Night – which it turns out was made twelve years before the notorious Santa Claus slasher film.

VHS box for Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)I eventually saw Silent Night, Deadly Night and I liked it. Then I saw Black Christmas (1974) and loved it. After that I watched every Christmas related horror film that I could get my hands on. This led me to eventually, pick up an old beat up VHS copy of Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) and I thought it was pretty good. It had Mary Woronov in it, who I knew from Eating Raoul (1982) and a few other films.

Honestly, I think I found Silent Night, Bloody Night a tad confusing the first time I saw it. It probably didn’t help that it was a bad film print which had been cropped and transferred to a cheapo VHS tape (which had likely been somewhat abused before I bought it). The image was dark and fuzzy, and the sound was slightly muffled. Still, there was something I liked about the movie, so I kept it in my collection.

It grew on me over the years, as I watched it a few more times. Then I picked up a nice widescreen DVD that was almost in good shape – and it was like a whole new movie to me. I felt like I appreciated it more than I ever had before. Maybe I had simply finally seen it enough times, or maybe that widescreen image made all the difference. Whatever the case, I can now honestly say that I love this movie. And watching it last friday – on Christmas Eve – really confirmed that for me.

Don’t get me wrong. Black Christmas (1974) is still the greatest Xmas horror film of all time, in my opinion. And Christmas Evil (1980) is also very special to me – but that’s another story.

Silent Night, Bloody Night actually has some things in common with Black Christmas (1974). It’s kind of a proto-slasher film. I have to wonder if the filmmakers were influenced by some of the great giallos that had come before it. It has a great location/setting (the mansion that used to be a mental institution). It has some really great horror atmosphere, as only the movies of the early 1970s seem to have. It has suspense, and a sense of dread. And it has John Carradine instead of John Saxon – both genre legends whose films run the gamut from masterpieces to trash. 

Other interesting facts:

Mary Woronov was one of Andy Warhol’s superstars – and there are at least two others in Silent Night, Bloody Night: Ondine & Candy Darling. Woronov was also apparently married to the director, Theodore Gershuny, at one time. 

Lloyd Kaufman, legendary filmmaker and co-founder of Troma, was an associate producer of Silent Night, Bloody Night – or Ass Prod as I once called him on Twitter, to which he responded: “yes I was “ass producer!”… I still an “Ass Producer” check out @Return2NukeEm vol1″ – but I digress.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that could bring the merry good times to any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn – particularly one that falls on or around Xmas Eve. I know that I will continue to enjoy it for many years to come.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: FleshEater (1988)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover for FleshEater (1988)FleshEater (1988) by #SWilliamHinzman AKA #BillHinzman

College students on an overnight hayride (is that a thing?) come across a group of man-eating zombies and must fight for their lives while trying to escape.

“He lived, he died, he’s back, and he’s hungry!”

#Horror #Zombie
#NightOfTheLivingDead offshoot (or should I say ripoff?)
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

For those who don’t know, Bill Hinzman was the first zombie seen in the very first modern zombie movie  – George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). He’s the one who attacks Barbara and Johnny in the graveyard at the very beginning of the film. Hinzman worked with Romero on many of his earliest films, including industrial films and the recently rediscovered The Amusement Park (1975). Hinzman usually worked as a cinematographer, photographer, grip, and other behind the scenes jobs. But he also acted in a number of different films, usually in tiny roles such as “Drunk Guy in Bar” or “Mustachioed Archer in Tree”.

Apparently, Hintzman went to a science fiction convention sometime in the 1980s to visit a couple of friends who were appearing there. As he walked through the crowded room he discovered that people were recognizing him from his famous Night of the Living Dead appearance. They were excited to meet him, and perhaps even wanted his autograph. This made Hinzman think “Hmmm, maybe I should do something about this…”

So, Hinzman decided to more or less reprise his role as a zombie in a new movie called FleshEater (1988). He looks pretty much the same as he did in Night of the Living Dead, but a bit older. Oddly enough, he always seemed older than he really must have been in Night of the Living Dead  – perhaps in an attempt to be a more credible dead guy. In FleshEater he is finally the right age for the part.

FleshEater (1988) is clearly an offshoot (or should I say ripoff) of Night of the Living Dead. There are scenes and moments that are virtually remakes of the original film. Normally this would be a major turnoff, but because it’s Bill Hinzman doing it, he kind of gets a pass.

The acting is pretty amateurish in FleshEater, and most of the performers never did anything before or since. Vincent D. Survinski seems to reprise his role as Vince, a Posse Gunman from the original Night of the Living Dead. A few others had appeared in previous Romero, Hinzman, or John A. Russo films.

The script is pretty bad, and lacks a clear story or any kind of character development. In fact, there aren’t really any main characters, as the films drifts from one unlikely scenario to the next. A couple of the characters recur throughout the film, but we don’t really focus on them.

What FleshEater does have going for it is some pretty fun and imaginative low budget gore effects – and some surprisingly over-the-top sleaze, including a full frontal shower scene that leads to a fully naked zombie. This could be a throwback to the naked zombie in Night of the Living Dead, although that was more tasteful and implied. One can’t help but wonder if it was an attempt to recreate the magic of Linnea Quigley’s turn as Trash in The Return of the Living Dead (1985), which had made a major splash just a couple of years before Hinzman started making FleshEater

So what’s the verdict?

FleshEater (1988) is Trash – but it’s the fun kind of Trash. It’s no The Return of the Living Dead, which is a masterpiece of campy comedy and a clever satire of zombie movies. Hinzman’s style seems a tad closer to Al Adamson than George Romero or Dan O’Bannon – but those who know me, know that I love Al Adamson. 

Put another way. I can’t call FleshEater Terror, because I can’t imagine anyone ever being the least bit scared by it. It generates more laughter than suspense – and probably only for those with a taste for the trashier side of cinema. Viewers looking for a serious descendent of Night of the Living Dead will undoubtedly be disappointed. Those looking a slick and hilarious good time like The Return of the Living Dead will probably also be disappointed. Those, however, who can appreciate flawed oddities like Al Adamson’s The Fiend with the Electronic Brain (1967) or Ted V. Mikels’ The Astro-Zombies (1968), might find some undiscovered treasure in Bill Hinzman’s film. I, for one, was completely won over by the end (the first 20 minutes were a bit touch and go, however).

Incidentally, the Shriek Show DVD that I have includes some nice extras, which somehow seems to elevate to entire experience. Needless to say, I will be keeping FleshEater (1988) in my permanent collection.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Love Me Deadly (1972)

Poster for Love Me Deadly (1972)Love Me Deadly (1972) by #JacquesLacerte

w/ #MaryCharlotteWilcox #LyleWaggoner

“WARNING! This Is The Strangest, Most Un-natural Union Ever Consummated Between The Living & The Dead!”

“A Hunger from Beyond the Grave!”

#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn
#Horror

#NotQuiteClassicCinema

I had a memory of watching Love Me Deadly (1972) many years ago, but I think I may have been confusing it with another movie called DeadMate AKA Graverobbers (1988). I remember renting the VHS tape, and running into a friend of mine as I walked out of the store.

“Hey, what movie did you get?” he asked me.

I was a bit reluctant to tell him, because he’s not a horror fan, and he tends to be a little judgmental about movies that are, shall we say, less than respectable. So, I probably said something like, “Oh, well, I just picked up this weird looking thing out of the bargain bin. I don’t know anything about it, but it looked kind of interesting.”, and then I showed him the box.

VHS cover of DeadMate (1988)He stared at the cover, then flipped it over and read the back.

I braced myself and awaited his judgmental wrath.

“That does look interesting…” he said.

I was shocked. No insulting comment about my taste in movies? This one actually looks INTERESTING to him? I grabbed the box back and took another look at it.

“Love after death is the ultimate nightmare!” the headline on the back screamed.

“Yes, it does…” I said.

DeadMate is a movie about necrophilia. The description on the back made that pretty clear. I saw it as a potentially sleazy trashterpiece. My friend, I imagine, saw it as a unique and unusual subject for a movie. I don’t remember much about that movie now, but I think it was about a man who marries a woman who discovers that he’s into sex with corpses.

When I saw Love Me Deadly (1972) getting a high quality Blu-ray release from Code Red, I imaged that it was DeadMate under a different title. A closer inspection revealed that Love Me Deadly is about a WOMAN who’s into necrophilia, and she marries a guy who (I presumed) would uncover the horror. Similar, but different from my memories of DeadMate. And this movie starred Lyle Waggoner as the unfortunate husband!

Lyle Waggoner, for those who don’t know, is best known for The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978) and Wonder Woman (1975-1979) – two my my favourite childhood TV shows.

I decided to take a chance and buy Love Me Deadly.

If anything, I would say that it’s a better movie that DeadMate (although my memories of Deadmate are a bit hazy). As questionable and sleazy as the subject matter might be, it actually comes off as a classy, artistic movie. I would call it art-house exploitation. It’s very moody, and has a great musical score that adds to that feeling.  It’s definitely fairly unique (DeadMate notwithstanding) . There simply aren’t a lot of movies about necrophilia.

One other movie that does come to mind is Kissed (1996), the Canadian art-house picture by  and starring Molly Parker. it was based on a story by Barbara Gowdy, which in turn was probably inspired by the real life case of Karen Greenlee (who in 1979 was working as an embalmer and stole a corpse to use for her own pleasure). As I watched Love Me Deadly, I wondered if Barbara Gowdy or  had ever seen this movie. There are so many parallels.

But then again, the makers of Love Me Deadly  may have been inspired by Karen Greenlee as well.

What else can I say about Love Me Deadly? There is some, but not a lot of, of overt horror action. There is some full frontal nudity by both men and women – but not, I don’t think, Lyle Waggoner. He is naked at times, but I think mainly from behind (I may have missed something, so don’t quote me on that). Mary Charlotte Wilcox does appear totally naked.

Mary Charlotte Wilcox is a Canadian actress who appeared in movies like Willie Dynamite (1974), which I talked about on a previous friday, and Psychic Killer (1975). She was also on one of my all time favourite shows SCTV AKA SCTC Network 90 AKA SCTV Channel (?) – I just knew it as SCTV (1976-1984).

Basically, Love Me Deadly is a weird drama about necrophilia. I liked it quite a bit, but it’s probably not for everyone.

I’ve heard that Anna Biller, art-house auteur of The Love Witch (2016), has some appreciation for it. And there is a bit of a stylistic relationship between her movie and Love Me Deadly. They would actually make a good double bill, I think.

Love Me Deadly (1972) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that is simultaneously sleazy and classy. If nothing else, it is a fairly unusual movie that may not be for everyone, but if it sounds intriguing to you, you should definitely give a shot on your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: The Last House in the Woods (2006)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover for The Last House in the Woods (2006)The Last House in the Woods (2006)
by #GabrieleAlbanesi

An Italian gorefest about a young couple being held captive by a sadistic backwoods family. A woman escapes a group of bullies seeking to rape her and takes refuge with a seemingly kind couple who have a dark secret hidden in their quiet, secluded house.

“There are some lines that must never be crossed… beyond them all is The Last House in the Woods”

#Horror #Slasher
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

The Last House in the Woods (2006) features some pretty decent gore, and there are several scenes of horror and suspense. The problem, it seems to me, is with the script. The story is basically ridiculous. And most of the characters are pretty unsympathetic. Even the two most sympathetic characters behave questionably from time to time.

The movie is Italian, and I have a great love of Italian cinema – Italian horror in particular. But I found this one, right off the top, to be irritating me with bad dubbing . So, I actually switched to Italian with subtitles (which I probably should have been on to begin with, but the DVD defaulted to English). That helped a bit, but I still found myself scratching my head at times, wondering what the characters were thinking.

I won’t try to itemize all of the WTF moments in this movie, but one thing that seems to get mentioned by other reviewers is this: there is a gang of asshole rapists in this movie. They menace the two main characters in a random attack at the side of the highway.  Later in the movie, the three rapists return to the area and – for reasons that I can’t understand – they decide to look for trouble in the woods. They stumble onto the house or horrors in which our two main characters are being tortured and terrorized.

The movie seems to recast them as “heroes” at this point. The rapists decide to attack the other bad guys and rescue the very girl they had been attempting rape a few hours ago. I honestly wasn’t sure who I was rooting for. As luck would have it (SPOILER ALERT), pretty much everyone dies so either way it all works out.

So what’s the verdict?

The Last House in the Woods (2006) is Trash. Some may be sufficiently entertained by the gore gags and scenes of horror to call it a mild Terror. I must have felt that way myself 15 years ago when I first watched this thing. I kept it in my collection, after all. But looking at it again now, it just makes me want to watch the better movies that probably inspired it. For example, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). A messed up family living in the woods, using unfortunate travellers as a source of food? There’s even a creepy dinner table scene, and a deformed looking guy wielding a chainsaw, so you do the math.

Of course, so many films have ripped off – I mean, been influenced by – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre over the years that it’s almost pointless to mention it, but… 

The gang of rapists could be a nod to Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972) – as the title (The Last House in the Woods) seems to imply. But their role in this movie is so head scratchingly strange that I’m not sure.

There’s also a  tumour-popping moment that conjures up memories of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive AKA Braindead – which I consider to be a masterpiece. 

I would watch any of these three films – as well as many, many classic Italian horror films – over The Last House in the Woods again. It’s not a complete waste of an evening, but I think twice in a lifetime is enough for me. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Astro-Zombies (1968)

poster for The Astro-Zombies (1968)#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn…………………  .. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. ….. …..  The Astro-Zombies (1968) by #TedVMikels

w/ #WendellCorey #JohnCarradine #TomPace  #JoanPatrick #TuraSatana

“SEE Astro Space Lab”
“SEE Brutal Mutants Menace Beautiful Girls”
“SEE Crazed Corpse Stealers”
“SEE Berserk Human Transplants”

#Horror #SciFi
#NotQuiteClassicCinema

As I may have mentioned in a previous post about The Doll Squad (1973):

I first read about filmmaker Ted V. Mikels in a book called Incredibly Strange Films, published by RE/Search in 1986. I was writing a major paper for a film studies class and had chosen to do a semiotic analysis of Women In Prison films. A fellow student told me that there was a chapter on those movies in Incredibly Strange Films, so I went out and bought a copy at one of the better bookstores in town. There wasn’t a ton of information on Women In Prison films, but the book was fascinating and I read it from cover to cover.

There was a chapter about Ted V. Mikels, and he seemed like a fascinating guy. One of the films that appeared to be a centrepiece (or a cornerstone?) of his filmography was The Astro-Zombies (1968). In my quest to see all of the movies that the book talked about (including all of Ted V. Mikels films), The Astro-Zombies was one of the first that I was able to get a hold of at my favourite video store. I remember watching it, and thinking that it was one of the cheapest looking sci-fi horror films that I had ever seen.

Of course, I had seen The Creeping Terror (1964) as a child, so nothing could ever really equal THAT, but that’s another story…

I think I may have been slightly disappointed in The Astro-Zombies the first time that I watched it. The poster, and the pictures, had made it look like a crazy, over-the-top sci-fi horror experience – and I was pretty excited to find a copy on VHS. I also knew that Tura Satana was in it – and she was practically a legend for starring in  Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) (a film, that I might add, I had not seen yet either, and was very desperately wanting to, because Russ Meyer was another filmmaker featured in Incredibly Strange Films,). In short, I think my expectations might have been running a little high when I popped The Astro-Zombies into the VCR.

Those ancient B-movie nights are all a little bit hazy to me now, but I think I felt that the film suffered from a bit of a split personality. One the one hand, it had some pretty entertaining horror action: crazy, weird outer-space-man zombies that attacked and killed beautiful women for no apparent reason. On the other hand, it had some pretty long, dull scenes of pseudo-science, and jargon-laden dialogue meant to explain what the hell was going on (I think). Or maybe it was that it seemed like a 1960s soap opera of espionage-related weirdness, crossed with some horror sci-fi action – I can’t really remember. It felt a bit like two different movies fused together, and I wasn’t sure what I thought about it.

I do recall thinking that Tura Satana was superb as one of the villains, but that perhaps there wasn’t enough of her in this film. And as much as I could appreciate the legendary horror star John Carradine, there was too much of him doing science, and not enough of Tura Satana slapping people around. Still, she was worth the price of the rental alone.

Tura Satana featured on a lobby card for The Astro Zombies (1968)

Of course, as the years have gone by, and I have learned to appreciate stranger and stranger films, I can now look at a movie like The Astro-Zombies with completely different eyes. As I may have said, when discussing another Ted V. Mikels film called Mission Killfast: I have a very high tolerance – and in fact an appreciation – for movies that most people would dismiss as “bad”. I also see low budget independent films differently now, having been involved in the making of several of them over the years. The simple act of getting a film done and released is something that I now see as admirable in it’s own way. And if the film is watchable – or even pretty good – then it’s even more laudable. 

Having said that, I happen to like Ted V. Mikels’ style of cinematic schlock, and I admire his ability to get things done. And I think he, himself, is a fascinating character and I love to listen to him talk about his movies (but perhaps I’m getting a bit off track). All of this is my way of leading up to saying that I enjoyed The Astro-Zombies much more last #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn than I did all those years ago. Having seen a few movies that were originally two (or more) different films fused together, I can now say that The Astro-Zombies is much more coherent than that. And I actually enjoyed the long scenes of scientific nonsense, and the espionage story (which involves Tura Santana). It all worked for me in ways that my younger self might have never imagined. 

And, of course, it’s never looked and sounded better than it does on the Kino Lorber Blu-ray, so that’s something to celebrate.

One weird fact to make note of: the film was co-written and executive-produced by Wayne Rogers, who most of us remember as Capt. ‘Trapper John’ McIntyre on M*A*S*H (1972-1975). Sadly, he does not play a role in this movie.

The Astro-Zombies (1968) is truly a classic of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. It may not be for everyone, but if you know what Ted V. Mikels’ films are like, then you already have a pretty good idea of whether nor not this film is for you. I will certainly look forward to enjoying it again on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Dr. Cyclops (1940)

Poster for Dr. Cyclops (1940)#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn……………… Dr. Cyclops (1940) Dr. Cyclops (1940) Dr. Cyclops Dr. Dr. Cyclops (1940) by by #ErnestBSchoedsack w/#AlbertDekker

“Diabolical dictator…devastating discoverer of the most frightening invention in the history of civilized man! He reduces men and women, as normal as you, to the size of dolls…and holds their 14 inches of quivering humanity within his dreaded grasp. Never before such a picture. Never before such thrills….”

#Horror #SciFi
#NotQuiteClassicCinema

Dr. Cyclops (1940) is another movie that I probably saw on Not Quite Classic Theatre when I was young. It was a show, or rather a time slot during which the TV station would air old B-movies – particularly black and white monster movies from the 1940s and ’50s. I remember watching Dr. Cyclops on TV back around that time. I can’t say for sure it was on Not Quite Classic Theatre – but I think it’s very likely. 

I don’t remember it as being one of my favourites from the era (either my era of watching Not Quite Classic Theatre or the 1940s). As a result, I never bothered to watch it again over the years. Last friday, I decided that it was time to remind myself what this film was all about.

According the IMDb, Dr. Cyclops was the first science fiction film to be shot in three-color Technicolor. Cool. It also featured some pretty state of the art special effects. The director, Ernest B. Schoedsack, had worked as a director (uncredited) on King Kong (1933) – which was one of my favourites as a child – as well as Son of Kong (1933). So he was no stranger to movies about large monsters menacing tiny people. Some of the techniques that had been used to make King Kong so impressive can be seen in Dr. Cyclops.

When watching Dr. Cyclops, one can’t help but think of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) – another #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic from my childhood. The Incredible Shrinking Man is probably the superior film, but credit must be given to Dr. Cyclops for pre-dating it by 17 years. 

Albert Dekker stars as Dr Cyclops, or rather, Dr. Thorkel. He is a somewhat mad scientist was has figured out a way to shrink animals – and people – down to about 14 inches. Dekker was in over hundred movies and TV shows during his lifetime, but he is most remembered for Dr. Cyclops.

In all honestly, Dr. Cyclops is nowhere near as good as King Kong, or The Incredible Shrinking Man or even Tod Browning’s The Devil Doll (1936), which deals with similar ideas. Still, it’s a pretty fun example of  #NotQuiteClassicCinema  that has a few brilliant moments in it. The scene in which Dr Thorkel holds a 14 inch  Dr. Bulfinch in his hand is one of my favourites. 

Those who enjoy movies about large animals or people menacing small animals or people should consider adding Dr. Cyclops (1940) to their next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Dark Ride (2006)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…


DVD cover for Dark Ride (2006)Dark Ride
(2006) by #CraigSinger

w/#JamieLynnSigler #PatrickRenna

Six friends on a road trip to New Orleans stop at a closed amusement park funhouse unaware that the former resident psychopath (who murdered two girls there back in the 1980s) has coincidentally just escaped from a mental institution and returned to his old stomping grounds.

“The Last Ride You’ll Ever Take…”

#Horror #Slasher
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

Dark Ride (2006) is part of the After Dark HorrorFest “8 Films To Die For” series. I tried to see all of them when they first came out. Some I purchased in order to do so. I found the films to be a bit of a mixed bag back in the day. Some were great, but others were… forgettable. Dark Ride was somewhere in between, and I think I kept it because I have a soft spot for horror set at carnivals. Fifteen years later, it’s still sitting on my shelf – but should it be?

So, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

It becomes clear, pretty fast, that Dark Ride is a pastiche of older, better horror films. It’s practically an unauthorized remake of Tobe Hooper’s “Hey let’s spend the night in…” The Funhouse (1981). It has a healthy dose of Halloween (1978), as it features a psychopath who murdered in the past escaping from a mental institution and returning to the scene of his crime. It also includes a “picking up a strange hitchhiker” subplot that almost seems to mirror the famous sequence in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

The hitchhiker in Dark Ride is a hot blonde neo-hippie type – and she makes a crazy speech while riding in the van which seems to unsettle some of the main characters. It’s played more for humour, here – and the whole scene seems ridiculous as one of the main characters fantasizes about picking a hot female hitchhiker right before it happens. And, as luck would have it, this hot hitchhiker actually wants to have sex with the very guy who fantasized about it. 

The escape of the psychopath seems totally unrelated to the events of the movie. It’s not like Michael Myers biding his time until Halloween, or Mrs Voorhees returning to Camp Crystal Lake when they are about to re-open it. This killer simply escapes on this night because a couple of asshole orderlies decide to taunt him with some raw meat. He’s a vegetarian, you see.

It’s just bad luck that a van full of typical slasher victims decides to “spend the night” in this old, abandoned “dark ride” to “save money on the motel room.” And where are they coming from anyway? They’re on their way to New Orleans, and they leave during daylight hours. It’s pitch dark when they get to the amusement park in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Not to mention that we’ve had a long montage sequence implying hours of driving. The film was shot in Los Angeles, so I guess that explains everything.

So what’s the verdict?

Dark Ride (2006) is Trash. Yes, it’s beautifully shot, and has some absolutely wonderful creepy atmosphere. An old abandoned dark ride (or funhouse) does seem like a perfect locale for a horror film. And I suppose it has some decent slasher kills, and some gore. But the script is so bad, and everything that happens is so unbelievable, that it makes the whole experience seem pointless. I didn’t care about any of the characters, and the familiar moments just made me want to watch the far superior movies that this one seems to be paying homage to (or ripping off). 

The Funhouse (1981) may not be the greatest of the golden age slasher films, but I’d watch it any day over Dark Ride. Guess which one is staying in my collection…