Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976)

Poster for Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976)Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976) by #DonEdmonds
w/#DyanneThorne #UschiDigard #ColleenBrennan

In the vast deserts of the Middle East, the lascivious tigress, Ilsa, joins the sex-trafficking ring of a maniacal sheikh who enjoys importing helpless female slaves for his perverse amusement.
“Ilsa’s back! More fierce than ever! …With brutal fury she enslaved an empire and shocked the world!”
#Horror #Exploitation
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

I remember perusing the shelves of the Action section at Movie Village one night many years ago. I was looking for something fresh and exciting; something I’d never seen before; something that looked outrageously entertaining. I started at “A” and by the time I got to “I” I was feeling discouraged. It seemed like there was nothing there that was going to jump off the shelf and scream “rent me!” I was starting to think it was time to abort and head back over to the Horror section…

That’s when I saw them… four VHS tapes with eye catching artwork and titles that were like nothing else in the store: Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975),  Ilsa the Tigress of Siberia (1977), Ilsa, the Wicked Warden (1977), and Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976).VHS boxes for Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976) and other Ilsa movies

I remember picking them up one by one, turning them over and back again. I couldn’t decide what I was looking at. Were these Adult titles that had somehow been slipped into the regular action section? No, it didn’t quite seem likely. They talk as much about violence and cruelty as sex.

“Dyanne Thorne is a female James Bond… DEDICATED TO EVIL” says Oui Magazine.

“If you thought Dirty Harry was a mean mother, you haven’t met Ilsa.”

I loved James Bond and Dirty Harry… but somehow these descriptions didn’t seem to fit with what I seeing on the boxes.

A store employee came by and saw me looking at the boxes. “Rent Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks,” he told me. 

“Yeah?” I said, taking another look at that box.

“It’s the best one,” he explained. “They’re not really great movies, but Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks is so extreme, you won’t believe your eyes.”

“Yeah?” I flipped the box over and looked at the back again.

“When you watch it,” he predicted, “you will feel things… things that will shock you… things that will thrill you… things that will make you feel ashamed.”

I dropped Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks into the basket with the six other movies I was going to rent (7 for 7 Days for $7.77). And so it became the first Ilsa movie that I ever saw.

For a long time it was the only one I ever saw, as I felt like I’d been told not to bother with the others. But I eventually watched them all. In fact, I picked up copies and put them into my personal library. They seemed, to me, to be a weird offshoot of the Women In Prison genre, which was one of particular interest to me. I may have mentioned something about it a while back… I will undoubtedly eventually discuss it in more detail, but for now… that’s another story.

I’m not sure if I ultimately agree that Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks is the best movie of the bunch, but it certainly is a contender. And because it’s the first one I ever saw, it’s a special movie to me.

Watching it again now, it’s surprising how good a movie it is. I know, many people would not use a word like “good” to describe any Ilsa movie. But as a connoisseur of “bad” movies, I can say that this one is much better made than many. And the Movie Village employee was basically right about it all those years ago. It is pretty shocking, and nasty, and cruel. And depending on how much of a good time you have watching it, you may well feel ashamed afterwards. I’d like to give that guy credit, but I honestly can’t remember his name. I’m not sure if I ever knew it, actually…

Aside from Dyanne Thorne, who is a legend, there are many other famous (or infamous) actresses in this movie, who might often be associated with exploitation films and adult cinema, such as Uschi Digard, Colleen Brennan, Haji (best known for her work with Russ Meyer), and Marilyn Joi, Su Ling only appeared in three things in her career, and one of them was Russ Meyer’s Up! (1976)

If that isn’t enough, cult film character actor George ‘Buck’ Flower is also in this movie.

But, as always, Dyanne Thorne is the main attraction. She’s in top form in this movie, and she has a couple of scenes that might leave some viewers wondering, how is it that she never appeared in a Russ Meyer movie?

I’d love to go into the finer points of the plot and all of the crazy things that happen in this movie, but it’s time for me to watch the next celluloid atrocity in my queue so I’ll just say this:

Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976) is a legendary #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic. It’s an exploitation masterpiece with the sleaze dial turned up to eleven. If you haven’t seen it, you probably want to, and I say go for it. It’s not for everyone, but it certainly won’t be like anything else you’ve ever seen (except maybe the other Ilsa films). It’s a rare movie that can actually deliver all of the shocks, the thrills, and even the feelings of shame that anyone could ever hope for on #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash or Terror Tuesday: Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive (1992)

Poster for Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive (1992) Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive (1992) by #JohnPatterson

w/ #PattyDuke #DavidSoul #FrancesBay

Residents of new homes experience strange phenomena and find out that their houses are built on a former cemetery.

Based on a #TrueStory !

#Horror
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

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…

Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive (1992) is a made-for-TV horror film – but not from the golden era of the ’70s and early ’80s. As one might expect, it’s not as good as many of those older films, but it’s not as bad as some of the junk that’s been pumped out more recently, either.  It was probably very influenced by Poltergeist (1982), and – likewise – it’s nowhere near as good as that, but…

I’m going to keep this short. Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive (1992) is a mild Terror. Keep your expectations low and you might find it to be an acceptable way to pass and hour and half on some lonely afternoon. But if you’re looking for a top notch ghost story, stick with Poltergeist (1982), or The Changeling (1980).

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Hunchback of the Morgue (1973)

Poster for Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) by #JavierAguirre
w/#PaulNaschy #RosannaYanni #VíctorBarrera

A hunchback working in a morgue falls in love with a sick woman. He goes berserk when she dies and seeks help from a scientist to bring her back from the dead.

Beware The Hunchback! A freak of nature whose crimes go beyond your wildest terrors!

#Horror #SciFi
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

I remember renting Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) on VHS back in the late ’80s or early ’90s – mainly because I thought it looked insane. I don’t think I was disappointed. This was before I’d seen movies like Bloodsucking Freaks (1976), so my bar for insanity may have been somewhat lower (or should I say higher…?) I had never heard of Paul Naschy at that point – or maybe only in passing. I was really just beginning to explore the video fringes, looking for the weirdest, most wanton and wonderful cinema ever produced… So this was probably a seminal viewing experience for me.

Having grown up watching movies like Halloween (1978), Terror Train (1980) and The Amityville Horror (1979), I was somewhat amazed and possibly even freaked out by the grungier, grimier cinema that I started to discover. I may have mentioned this when I talked about another film I saw back then called Scream Bloody Murder (1972). Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) is by no means the grungiest horror film out there, but it seemed, at the time, to be a little bit grungier than usual to me.

I liked it, but it didn’t seem like a movie I would watch over and over again like Halloween. Although, I think I saw it one more time a few years later when a friend of mine brought it over and said “Have you ever seen this?”

I’m not sure…” I answered. In reality, I was pretty sure that I had, but he can be funny about that and refuse to watch movies with me if he thinks I’ve already seen them. “If I have,” I continued, “I don’t remember much about it.” This part was true. The movie was a bit of a blur to me, and I was curious to take another look at it. So we watched it, and I think we both enjoyed it, too.

VHS tape of Human Beasts (1980)As the years went by, I read about Paul Naschy in various books and started to watch other films that he starred in – or sometimes directed. I’ve even picked up a few and added them to my collection. I bought a VHS tape called Human Beasts (1980) – which didn’t have much information on it all. It turned out to be a Paul Naschy movie called El carnaval de las bestias or Cannibal Killers – Human Beast and it was a truly mind-blowing viewing experience –  but that’s another story…

For some reason, I had never picked up a copy of Hunchback of the Morgue – until quite recently when I found a reasonably priced copy of the The Paul Naschy Collection II on Blu-ray. The very first movie in the box is Hunchback of the Morgue, and I was excited to see it again for the first time in almost 20 years…

In some ways, it reminded me of a Jean Rollin film. I’m sure that hardcore Rollin experts would cry blasphemy and punch me in the nose, but to my fairly new-to-Roillin’s-oeuvre eyes, there were some definite similarities: the gothic European atmosphere, the tragic love story involving a monster, the hypnotic pacing, the almost art-house-movie-crossed-with-exploitation-movie feel – the list goes on and on.

I think that Rollin at his best is better than this – or at least more (more artsy, more exploitative, more hypnotic – MORE). But Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) is a pretty darn satisfying viewing experience for anyone with a taste for that kind of surrealistic horror cinema. I appreciated it more now than ever before, and I’m glad to finally have it in my collection.

For those who don’t know, Paul Naschy’s real name was Jacinto Molina Alvarez, and he’s been called the king of Spanish horror. He said that Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), which he saw when he was 11, was the movie that really inspired him and perhaps started him down the path toward playing those classic monsters in his own films. He was an athlete, and was at one time the lightweight champion weightlifter of Spain. This, I’m sure, helped him later on when playing monsters with superhuman strength. One look at Naschy and you could believe it.

I’m still a relative beginner when it comes to exploring Naschy’s oeuvre. He acted in over a hundred movies, wrote 52 and directed 23. That’s a lot of #NotQuiteClassicCinema to explore – and I’ve got a long way to go before I can say I’ve seen it all. If you’re also new to Naschy’s work, and you’re looking for a good place to start, why not consider adding Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) to your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Creatures the World Forgot (1971)

Poster for Creatures the World Forgot (1971)Creatures the World Forgot (1971) by #DonChaffey
w/ #JulieEge #TonyBonner #RobinJohn

See prehistoric love rites! See primitive chieftains duel in naked fury! See the young lovers sacrificed! See staked girl menaced by giant python! See…Creatures the World Forgot.”

They don’t make them like this anymore … not in a million years!”

#HammerHorror #Adventure #Horror #SciFi
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Creatures the World Forgot (1971) is a movie that I’d never seen before last Friday. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I suppose I had visions of One Million Years B.C. (1966) crossed with King Kong, or some other giant monster movie. It does have the word Creatures in the title, after all. Sadly, I think the creatures in this movie are simply primitive human beings. 

I suppose what Creatures the World Forgot really reminded me of was Quest for Fire (1981). Released ten years before that one, Creatures the World Forgot is a sort of precursor to it, I suppose; an early ancestor, perhaps. But it is by far the weaker of the two movies. 

When I was young, Quest for Fire was a real water fountain movie around my school. A lot of the older kids were talking about, saying it was amazing. This made me want to see it, of course, but it was restricted – no one under 18 allowed. Everyone I knew who was talking about it was under 13, so I’m not sure how they saw it (snuck in, I suppose). Some of the same people saw Scanners (1981) as well, so they were apparently accomplished sneaker-inners, or habitual liars. 

The other thing that happened around then was that Iron Maiden released a song called “Quest for Fire” – and I’m pretty sure the DJ on the radio said “If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize this…” and then dropped the needle on what I thought was a pretty awesome piece of heavy metal. I taped it off the radio as soon as I could, and listened to it over and over again. I bought the record and listened to it even more. I loved that song (and that whole album) and it made me really want to see Quest for Fire badly!

I eventually saw it, on Pay TV, I think. You were able to steal it in those days if you really knew what you were doing. Maybe I rented it on Beta, I can’t remember. In any case, it was a pretty cool movie that lived up to its reputation. One of the reasons it was such a notorious movie among 11 to13-year-old boys was that it featured some pretty graphic nudity and sex. There was action and violence, too. But I think the sex made it particularly exciting in that same way as a stolen copy of Playboy or that other water fountain movie of my youth, Porky’s (1981).

It should be noted, for those who are too young to remember or even fathom this, there was no internet back then. You could not access endless amounts of hard core pornography with a simple google search. In fact, you couldn’t even rent it or buy it in my hometown. Not in the early 1980s. It was considered obscene, and was therefore illegal. The first real Adult Video Stores didn’t appear until the 1990s, and they had a few problems staying open. In the 1980s “Adult” sections of video stores, you could rent movies like Angel of H.E.A.T. (1983) and Black Emmanualle 2 (1976), which were basically R-rated movies – not porn. But we, as teenagers, could not even rent those movies – unless someone’s older brother did it for us, but that’s another story…

Quest for Fire was great! And I watched it a few times over the years. I should mention that it currently rates a 7.3 on the IMDb, and 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. So it’s both a sleazy good time and a classy piece of art-house cinema.

Creatures the World Forgot is no Quest for Fire. It rates a 4.4 on the IMDb and doesn’t even register on Rotten Tomatoes. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but from my point of view, it’s nowhere near as good a movie as Quest for Fire

That’s not to say that Creatures the World Forgot is a complete waste of time. It has some entertainment value, and a few moments of laugh-out-loud campiness. Someone commented that it’s hard to follow, and I would have to agree with that. The story jumps forward months and years at a time. And keep in mind that there is no real dialogue to help you understand what is going on – just prehistoric grunting.

The skilled director of Quest for Fire makes this work. He manages to tell a coherent and compelling story. I don’t want to insult Don Chaffey’s directing skills. I’m sure he was a talented guy. In fact, he did a lot of television, including some classic shows like The Prisoner (1967-68), The Avengers (1961-69) and Charlie’s Angels (1976-81) – so the man deserves some respect.  But Creatures the World Forgot is clearly not his best work. 

Creatures the World Forgot (1971) is a Hammer Film, and it might be my least favourite one so far. They are usually a reliable source of high quality, highly entertaining movies. Creatures the World Forgot is just okay. It’s #NotQuiteClassicCinema that perhaps has earned it’s non-reputation. Still, it’s an acceptable time waster, and might serve as an interesting curtain raiser for Quest for Fire – at least for those who are curious enough to want to compare them. I may watch it again on some desperate #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn – but it won’t be my first choice of Hammer films, or prehistoric exploitation pictures…

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969)

Poster for Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) by #AlAdamson

w/#JohnCarradine #PaulaRaymond #AlexanderDArcy #RobertDix

“HORROR BEYOND BELIEF LIES WAITING FOR ALL WHO DARE ENTER THE VAMPIRE’S DUNGEON!”

“…YOU’LL NEVER GET OUT!”

#Horror
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

By now it should be fairly obvious that I’m a fan of Al Adamson. As one of my Twitter buddies once said, “You’re either a fan, or you’re not.” And I think it’s fair to say that there are plenty of people in this world who are not. They may want to avoid Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) like the plague. Even I, as a fan of Al Adamson, have my doubts about whether this one is all that great. Al intended it to be a comedy, and as people like L.A. Morse have observed, (and I paraphrase greatly here):

“Bad movies can be hilarious and fun – but bad comedies are just bad.”

Indeed. If a comedy is funny, how can it be bad? So the term “bad comedy”, pretty much implies unfunny movie. “Bad horror film,” on the other hand, can mean get ready to laugh your ass off. At least that’s what it seemed to mean to my friends and me when we were teenagers. As an adult, I seem to have developed a way of enjoying bad movies without laughing –  but that’s another story…

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve watched Blood of Dracula’s Castle at least four times in my life. LIke all of Al Adamson’s work, it has it’s rewards. I just don’t think it’s his best work. 

One of the things that always surprises me about Blood of Dracula’s Castle, is the fact that John Carradine is in it but he doesn’t play Dracula. You’d think I’d remember that after seeing the film multiple times, but John Carradine is such a natural choice to play Dracula  – in fact, he did that twice before this (House of Dracula (1945), and House of Frankenstein (1944)) – that I always just assume that he did it for Al Adamson, too. But alas, no…

Alexander D’Arcy plays the famous vampire in this movie, and he’s kind of a charming, likeable version of the count. His wife, the Countess, is played by Paula Raymond, who has about 90 credits as an actress – including appearances on many famous TV shows. Carradine plays George, their Butler.

Blood of Dracula’s Castle is a pretty silly movie. It’s not much of a comedy, although it does provide a few laughs here and there (I’m not sure how intentional they were). It features attractive women chained to the wall in the dungeon, but it manages to be fairly light on the sleaze. It’s also pretty tame in the violence department. In spite of this, there was an alternate TV version of the movie created with new footage directed by . Not sure why they couldn’t just air the original version. It may simply be that they needed to stretch out the running time a bit. There’s really nothing too offensive in it (which may be one reason that it’s less fun that many of Al’s other movies).

Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) is most definitely #NotQuiteClassicCinema. If I’d seen it as a kid, on Not Quite Classic Theatre, I’m sure I would have thought it was the worst movie I’d ever seen. Many of the films they showed back then were really quite good. This one is not. But still, there’s a certain charm to it. And I’d like to think that it would have inspired me, the way so many of those movies did back then, by making me think “Hey, I could do better than this…”. Perhaps I would have scribbled down a bunch of ideas for my own weird, modern day Dracula story. Who knows?

As it is, it’s always seemed like a perfect second or third feature in an all night bad movie marathon. It’s unlikely to be the highlight of the night, but it just might provide some welcome relief between the edgier, more intense entries in your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Suburban Nightmare (2004)

Poster for Suburban Nightmare (2004)Suburban Nightmare (2004) by #JonKeeyes
story by #DebbieRochon

w/ #BrandyLittle #TrentHaaga

A married couple take great pleasure in torturing and murdering neighbors in their basement.

“Charles and Deborah would love to HAVE YOU for dinner!”

#Horror
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

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…

Suburban Nightmare (2004) is an ultra-low budget SOV indie movie. It features good performances (especially from the two leads) and an interesting script which feels like it could have been a play. Unfortunately, it never reaches the heights of excitement that would make for a really good horror film – or a very funny dark comedy. It reminded me a bit of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (circling back to the play comparison again)  – but nowhere near as compelling or effective. 

So what’s the verdict?

Suburban Nightmare (2004) is Trash. Not quite trashy enough to be good Trash. But somewhat interesting for those who are interested in ultra-low-budget filmmaking. There were a few points where the film seemed to be teasing us with the promise of trashy good times, but they never quite happened. And as for Terror… I don’t think so…

Having accepted two dinner invitations from these suburban psychopaths, I think I will be answering the next one with a polite “no”.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Curse of the Undead (1959)

Poster for Curse of the Undead (1959)Curse of the Undead (1959) by #EdwardDein

w/ #EricFleming #MichaelPate #KathleenCrowley #JohnHoyt

“The countryside terrorized! The young and beautiful drained of life! Even the strongest man, destroyed by the unholy…”

“HIS BODY IS AN EMPTY SHELL THAT HOSTS A LUSTFUL FIEND!”

#Horror #Western
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

I had never heard of Curse of the Undead (1959) before. It’s yet another strange Western (I seem to be watching quite a few of those lately). It’s really a cross between a pretty straight ahead Western (unscrupulous cattle baron tries to force farmers off of their land) and a pretty straight ahead early Vampire story (young females are developing a life-threatening illness which leaves two strange looking puncture wounds on their neck). 

For the most part, these two ideas are kept fairly separate from each other. Curse of the Undead opens with a scene that feels like it could be right out of Dracula (1931), as family members (and other townspeople) gather around the bed of a young woman and try to figure out what on Earth could be wrong with her. It’s clearly a period piece, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that you were in the Wild West. 

The next scene is so typical of any number of Westerns from the 1940s or ’50s, that if you tuned in at precisely that moment, you would never suspect that you were watching a Horror film with vampires in it.

And the movie continues on like that, bouncing back and forth between gothic Vampire tale and gunslinging Western melodrama. You could almost spilt it into two different movies – almost, but not quite. Fortunately for me, I happen to enjoy both Westerns and Vampire movies. I can imagine that some people might prefer it if it stuck to one genre or the other. And with a name like Curse of the Undead, I suppose it should probably be vampires…

I’m okay with the weird mash-up, but I do wonder if there might have been a way to integrate the two genres a little bit more seamlessly – so that you always know that you are watching a Vampire Western (as opposed to bouncing back and forth). But on the other hand, the strange cinematic whiplash was half the fun.

I’d like to spend more time musing about this unusual movie, but like a vampire on the open prairie as dawn is about to break, I have to cut this journey short. Suffice it to say that Curse of the Undead (1959) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that I will have to explore more thoroughly the next time it rises from the grave on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.