Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966) w/ Barbara Steele

Barbara Steele was in a lot of horror films. I knew her name long before I’d ever seen her in anything, because I had an old Famous Monsters magazine which featured pictures from Black Sunday (1960). The movie looked scary, and I really wanted to see it. Unfortunately, this was years before home video became a thing, and there was simply no way to see an old movie unless it happened to come on TV late one night. Even after I was able to rent movies on Beta, Black Sunday was not one of the titles available at my local video stores. I finally bought a VHS copy years later, which was put out by Something Weird Video (?!). I guess there was no mainstream distributor for that movie at that time.

Meanwhile, I had read a few horror movie review books, and I knew that Barbara Steele was in a lot of other horror movies. Many of them had been made in Europe, and had similar sounding titles and descriptions. Many of them had been released under several different titles, in fact – perhaps trying to sound like their more successful brothers and sisters. The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962) was also known as The Terror of Dr. Hichcock, The Frightening Secret of Dr. Hichcock, Raptus (?!) and The Terrible Secret of Dr. Hichcock.

The Ghost (1963) was retitled to The Spectre, Le Spectre du professeur Hichcock, and Lo spettro de Dr. Hichcock.

Castle of Blood (1964), which was sometimes called Danse Macabre, is a similar title to Nightmare Castle (1965), which was also known as The Night of the Doomed and The Faceless Monster.

One day I bought a cheap VHS tape in a bargain bin, because it had Barbara Steele’s name on it. I had never heard of the movie, but it had Hitchcock in the title. It turned out to be a movie that was better known under another title. It’s been so long now that I’ve forgotten which movie it was (and I lost that tape years ago).

After that experience I would always ask myself, upon coming across an unfamiliar Barbara Steele movie, have I already seen this movie? Do I in fact own this movie? Is this just a retitling of another, more famous, movie? It got to be very confusing, and I passed up more than a few VHS tapes and DVDs over the years.

Recently I came across a very nice Blu-ray edition of Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966), starring Barbara Steele, and I immediately asked myself the questions. I managed to figure out that the movie was also known as The She Beast, and that seemed really familiar to me. I could picture the old VHS box in my mind, and I was convinced that it was very similar to a movie called The Faceless Monster.

There’s also an unrelated movie called She Freak (1967), which might have been adding to my confusion. I wrote about that one not too long ago on another Friday night

VHS box for She FreakVHS box for She Beast starring Barbara SteeleDVD box for The Faceless Monster starring Barbara SteeleAnd then there was the description of the plot…

The She Beast: “The wife falls into a mountain lake and her life force reactivates a hideous old witch…”

This sounds a lot like the description of another Barbara Steel movie called An Angel for Satan (1966): “Steele is a beautiful tourist at a mountain village where she’s possessed by a vengeful spirit formerly housed in a statue found at the bottom of a lake.”

How many mountain-lake-evil-spirit-possession movies can there be?

I was convinced that I had probably seen Revenge of the Blood Beast before – and that I may even own a copy on VHS or DVD – but I was certain that I did not have the Blu-ray. So, I decided to pick it up (since it was on sale).

I was shocked to discover, last Friday night, that I had never seen Revenge of the Blood Beast under any title. Even more shocking, given the fact that this one tends to get more negative reviews than many other Barbara Steele movies, is that fact that I quite enjoyed it.

I had been afraid that it would be a somewhat confusing, mostly boring, lesser example of a Euro-horror film. It was more like a good old fashioned B monster movie. The kind of movie that I used to watch on Not Quite Classic Theatre all those years ago. It actually shares a lot of similar traits with one of my favourites B-movies from that era, Monster on the Campus (1958), which I wrote about just a few weeks ago. Both are about normal people transforming into murderous monsters when exposed to the right waterborne stimulus (in one case, a prehistoric fish, in the other, a dead witch at the bottom of a lake).

Revenge of the Blood Beast has a sense of humour, and moves along quite quickly. It’s never particularly confusing, and I was never bored. It rates lower on the IMDB than many of the other Barbara Steele movies. Black Sunday gets a 7.2, The Ghost rates 6.2, Castle of Blood scores 6.8, etc.  Revenge of the Blood Beast only manages a 4.6. This would normally suggest a sub-par viewing experience, but I couldn’t have been more delighted. Perhaps my expectations had been sufficiently lowered by that 4.6 – and the bad reviews I had read, but I’ll never know for sure. 

Revenge of the Blood Beast (1966) is a fine example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that may not be the best of Barbara Steele’s oeuvre, but it’s an entertaining B-movie monster movie that I’m glad to have (finally!) seen. I will definitely be watching it again on a future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Miner’s Massacre (2002)

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 box art for Miner's Massacre (2002)Miner’s Massacre AKA  Curse of the Forty-Niner (2002) by #JohnCarlBuechler

w/#KarenBlack #JohnPhillipLaw #RichardLynch #VernonWells #MartinKove #JeffConaway

A group of friends take gold from an old mine and awaken a long dead miner Hell Bent on protecting his treasure.

“They Axed For It!”

#Horror #Slasher
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

A friend of mine worked for a website reviewing DVDs. Apparently, he did it to get a bunch of free DVDs mailed out to him on a regular basis. He told me I should get in on it, but somehow I never did. One of the movies he received and reviewed was Miner’s Massacre (2002). – and he told me about it one day.

“Is it worth watching?” I asked him.

“Oh, yeah!” he said with a glint in his eye.

I got the impression that he thought it was a bad movie, but a “so-bad-it’s-good” bad movie. He knew I liked that sort of thing, so I guess he figured that he was giving me a hot tip. He didn’t lend me his DVD, oddly enough. But I guess at that point we were only seeing each other once in while – if we happened to bump into each other at a party or event. He may not have wanted to risk losing his precious copy (for which he’d paid nothing).

A couple of years later I found a copy of Miner’s Massacre in a bargain bin somewhere and, recalling my friend’s ringing endorsement, I bought it. I guess I must have enjoyed it enough to put it onto my movie shelf – where it has remained collecting dust ever since. Honestly, I couldn’t remember a thing about it. So, I decided that it was time to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

It’s basically an old school slasher film directed by John Carl Buechler, who made Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) and about 17 other movies. He is more known for his special effects work. Miner’s Massacre is inferior in every way to any Friday the 13th movie. It tries to create a supernatural killer, like Jason, but doesn’t do as good a job setting him up and making him scary. He seems more campy and ridiculous most of the time. We also see him right away, so we know he’s the killer. There’s no mystery, like even the original Friday the 13th had. That would be okay if he was scary like Michael Myers, but he’s not. 

There’s an amazing cast of well known supporting actors in Miner’s Massacre. Unfortunately, they are all wasted. It’s pretty evident that they are there just to provide some names that can be used to promote the movie. many of them just have one scene – some of which are completely unnecessary and do nothing to move the story forward. 

So what’s the verdict?

Miner’s Massacre (2002) is Trash. It doesn’t work as a serious slasher film. It’s not scary or suspenseful. It also isn’t quite bad enough to be “so-bad-it’s-good”. The ridiculous misuse of the famous actors could almost qualify it, but not quite. It does have a tiny bit of sleaze in it, but not enough to make it worth sitting through. Perhaps those who’ve seen fewer bad movies than I have may be amused enough to declare it “so-bad-it’s-good”. Maybe I even did myself when I first saw it almost 20 years ago. But now, it just seems bad.

For a much, much better miner’s massacre, stick to My Bloody Valentine (1981) – or even My Bloody Valentine (2009), which has a much higher sleaze factor and is in 3D! They are both well worth repeat viewings – and are much better slasher films than Miner’s Massacre (2002). 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Touch of Death (1988)

I never saw Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death (1988) back the day. I’m not even sure if I’d ever heard of it. I was a fan of films like Zombi (1979) and City of the Living Dead (1980) AKA The Gates of Hell (as I first knew it), which I rented on Beta pretty early on in my video store days. Later I made of point of buying any Fulci movies that I came across on VHS. I also tracked down and watched a few obscure titles online, once that became possible. Still, Touch of Death remained unknown to me – and unseen.

Raro Vdeo Blu-ray of Touch of Death (1988)Recently, I came across a Raro Vdeo Blu-ray of Touch of Death, and I was quite amazed that it was a Fulci film that I did not know. The back of the box claimed that it was from 1972, which made it even more amazing that I’d never heard of it – as that had been a pretty good year for Fulci (Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) is one of my all time favourites). Needless to say, I immediately bought it.

It turns out that Touch of Death is not from 1972,  but from 1988 – and it was made for the direct-to-home-video market. I was a bit disappointed to discover this, but it was still a Lucio Fulci film that I’d never seen, so I had to watch it sooner or later. So why not on Friday night? After all, what says “home drive-in” more than a direct-to-video piece o’ crap my friends and I might have watched on an old VCR back in 1988?

I know it’s generally believed that Fulci peaked and did his best work between about 1979 and 1982. After that point, it’s often said that Fulci went downhill, and made some downright bad movies – or at least some mediocre ones. I definitely saw a couple that I could take or leave from those years. I fully expected Touch of Death to be a prime example of this side of Fulci.

Much to my surprise, I loved this lost Fulci film. It’s a very dark comedy of sorts, and is at times hilarious. There are a few over-the-top gore gags, which fans of Fulci will appreciate (as those moments  are often not there in his later work). There is also a bit of tasteless sleaze, which is often a welcome addition to a Fulci masterpiece (The New York Ripper (1982) being a primo example).

Don’t get me wrong. Touch of Death is not as extreme, or as good, as Fulci’s best movies. Some might dismiss it as a lesser work. I, on the other hand, found it to be a delightful surprise, and am very glad the I bought it. I would speculate that Fulci had a good time making this film and, as a result, I had a good time watching it.

The movie stars Brett Halsey, who was “one of Hollywood’s busiest and handsomest actors of the mid-to-late ’50s and early ’60s” according to his bio on the IMDb. This might explain why he was the perfect choice to play Lester Parson, a middle aged gigolo who seduces and murders a variety of rich widows in Touch of Death. He guest starred on just about every TV show from my childhood – including The Love Boat (1977-1987) and Fantasy Island (1977-1984), which I was just talking about it my last post

His victims include Zora Kerova, who was in Fulci’s The New York Ripper, as well as Cannibal Ferox (1981) and Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper (1980), and Sacha Darwin, who was in Fulci’s final film as a director, Voices from Beyond (1994).

Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death (1988) is a lost gem of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that should be seen by all hardcore fans of Fulci’s work. It may not be his best, but it’s an entertaining late-period film that deserves to be better known. I for one will be happy to see it again on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Zombie Island Massacre (1984)

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…

Poster for Zombie Island Massacre (1984)Zombie Island Massacre (1984) by #JohnCarter

w/#RitaJenrette

Music by #HarryManfredini

Tourists watch a voodoo ritual then find themselves stranded & under attack by unseen foes. One by one they meet violent ends.

“HAVE A FUN-FILLED VACATION!…”

#Horror #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Zombie Island Massacre (1984) rated poorly in all my horror review books. For some reason, I bought a VHS copy anyway – and I liked it. Or rather, I liked it well enough to put the tape in my permanent collection. I watched it a couple of times over the years, when I was working on a zombie project of some sort (like my play The Inner City Dead for instance) and was in need of inspiration.

The truth is, however, that Zombie Island Massacre (1984) isn’t actually much of a zombie film. In spite of that fact, I always chose to hang onto the tape. Now it’s been quite a few years since I worked on a zombie project – or watched the movie – so I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

A bunch of tourists take a boat to a strange Caribbean island, and then a bus to remote location where they watch an actual voodoo ritual. In fact, they watch a corpse being turned into a zombie. Later, their bus driver vanishes and their bus refuses to start. They have to try to walk to safety, while seemingly being attacked by zombies, or some other unseen foe.

I don’t like spoilers, so I’ll stop right there. Suffice it to say that a zombie apocalypse never quite occurs. In some ways, Zombie Island Massacre has more in common with a slasher film than a zombie film – but even that isn’t quite the right label for it.

So what’s the verdict?

I actually like Zombie Island Massacre. It feels like a made for TV movie of the 1970s, or maybe an episode of The Love Boat (1977-1987) gone very wrong. Several couples on a romantic vacation (at least part of which is on a boat), actors that seem like they could be guest stars on an old ensemble show, and a plot that actually moves along and goes somewhere – it feels more like TV than, say, an Italian zombie movie. 

Having said that, Zombie Island Massacre does feature a descent amount of nudity, most of which is care of Rita Jenrette, who was a Playboy playmate. She was also married to a U.S. Congressman, and was involved in some sort of sex scandal. So, she was a person of interest when producers cast her in this movie – and she gave them a darn good performance, too. Incidentally, she once appeared on Fantasy Island (1977-1984), which was kind of like the companion show of The Love Boat.

There is some violence in Zombie Island Massacre, and people do die. There are even some beheadings, but it’s all fairly tame compared to the average Fulci or Romero film. 

Still, I like the TV movie feel – and I used to watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island every Saturday night – so I enjoy spending 90 odd minutes at this non-zombie Zombie Island Massacre. I would say it’s a mild to moderate Terror (for some actual suspense and shocks). I would also say it is mildly but pleasantly Trash-y (for providing some quality gratuitous nudity, and a bit of gore).  It currently only rates a 3.1 on the IMDb, but I would rate it at least a 5.3. 

It’s no trashterpiece, but it’s a more than acceptable time passer on a rainy afternoon, and I will be keeping the VHS tape on my shelf…

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Drive in Massacre (1976)

The first time I saw Drive in Massacre (1976), I hated it. I had seen the VHS box on the shelves of my local video store, and it had been calling to me to rent it for quite some time. I loved slasher films, and I loved old fashioned gore films (hello Herschell Gordon Lewis), so this film seemed likely to be something that I might enjoy. However…

It was very short, according to the running time on the box, which may have been one reason that I hesitated and passed it over a few times. I’ve always liked to feel like I’m getting a good deal. A two hour movie would cost the same to rent as a 90 minute movie. Same with a three hour movie, or a two movie set (which was rare, but it happened occasionally). Drive in Massacre was only 78 minutes (it was actually less than that, but I can’t remember how much less). Why would I pay the same amount of money to rent a 78 minute movie when I could have so much more?

The answer eventually became “because I want to see this one.” So, one night, when it was late and I was tired, I decided that a 78 minute movie might be just about right.

VHS tape for Drive in Massacre (1976)I say that it was actually less than 78 minutes. That’s because 78 minutes is the running time of the uncut version of Drive in Massacre. The VHS tape that I rented turned out to be a censored version of the movie. There was no gore whatsoever. And if you’ve ever seen Drive in Massacre, you know that aside from the gore there isn’t too much to recommend it. At least not to a young, unsophisticated viewer who has yet to develop a taste for the truly trashtastic limits of Not Quite Classic Cinema.

All I can recall about that edited cut of Drive in Massacre is that is was boring. Nothing happened (on screen). And it was ridiculously short, which offended me on principle in those days, but in this case might have been a welcome mercy. I was so angry that I had wasted $1.99 and my time on this movie that I actually wrote a message on the back on the box before returning it to the store: “Very bad – don’t rent,” or something very close to that. This was the only time that I ever dared to do something like that. I’m not sure if the store ever noticed, or tried to erase it, but they never asked me about it. Maybe they knew that tape deserved it.

Some years later, I bought a cheapo DVD set called Drive-In Classics, and was intrigued (and perhaps a bit disturbed) to see that Drive in Massacre was included in the set. I watched it, prepared to be just as bored and annoyed as the first time, but was pleasantly surprised to see that this copy of the movie contained some pretty over-the-top gore. And perhaps for this reason – or perhaps because my expectations had simply been lowered so far that nothing could have been bad enough to meet them – I found the movie much more enjoyable the second time.

Fast forward a lot of years, and I decided that I had to revisit this movie of dubious quality and decide once and for all if Drive in Massacre is a horrible waste of time, or a rare gem of cinematic wonder.

Two cops in Blood Feast (1963)

Two cops in Blood Feast (1963)

The first thing that struck me about Drive in Massacre is that it bears some resemblance to the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Nowhere near as good, of course, but I had to wonder if the filmmakers had perhaps been going for that. Just like in H.G.L.’s Blood Feast (1963), there are a series of gory murders, and two male cops investigate. And by investigate, I mean they do a lot of talking – to each other. This is something that always amused me about Blood Feast. We see a murder, and then we see two cops sitting around the police station talking about it. I’m sure it was due to budgetary concerns, but I always wondered why they didn’t get out there and DO something.

The two cops in Drive in Massacre (1976)

Are these two cops played by the same actor?!

The two cops in Drive in Massacre (1976)

Unbelievably, these actors are not even related.

The cops in Drive in Massacre are played by John F. Goff and Bruce Kimball and I swear to the Godfather of Gore that they look exactly alike! I thought for a minute that they were being played by the same actor! They are both overweight, dark haired, and they could be brothers. If they weren’t together in the same shot, I couldn’t tell which one was which. Hell, I couldn’t tell them apart when they WERE in the same shot. I’m not sure what kind of casting genius was at work here – maybe they both auditioned for the part of the cop, and the director couldn’t decide which one he liked better, so he cast them both. I think more likely they were the biggest names that the producers could convince to be in the movie, so they went with them even though they look a bit too much alike (a bit?!).

My friend Séan and I talked about this kind of casting phenomenon in our discussion of Canadian horror film Rituals (1977). To apply our thoughts to this movie, why not cast one cop with dark hair and one with blond or grey hair? Or one fat cop and one thin cop? Or one tall cop and one short cop? Or one man and one woman? There are endless possibilities that could have made these two characters easier to tell apart.

Having said this, as a connoisseur of the finer things in life (like Not Quite Classic Cinema), I actually LIKED the fact that Drive in Massacre made this strange casting choice. It added to my enjoyment of the movie.

The director, Stu Segall, had a long career in Hollywood. He made a few bad movies  – I mean, Not Quite Classic Cinema classics, like Saddle Tramp Women (1972) — which is featured in Drive in Massacre, by the way. Other titles include Harvey Swings (1970), The Suckers (1972), and C.B. Hustlers (1976). He also made some golden age adult movies like Teenage Sex Therapy (1976), Spirit of Seventy Sex (1976), Teeny Buns (1978) and the X-rated classic Insatiable (1980), starring Marilyn Chambers.

As a director, Segall did more porn than non-porn, to be honest. But starting in about the mid-1980s, he produced a whole bunch of respectable TV shows and movies – starting with the classic Hunter (1984-1988). Other shows include Silk Stalkings (1991-1999), Pensacola: Wings of Gold (1997-2000), and 18 Wheels of Justice (2000-2001). His last credit was a show that only lasted for 4 episodes called Saints & Sinners in 2007. What an amazing career!

Drive in Massacre (1976) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema for those with an appreciation for Herschell Gordon Lewis, and a tolerance for sub-par imitations of Herschell Gordon Lewis. At only 78 minutes, with its gore scenes intact, it’s pretty easy to sit through. Without the gore scenes, it might be a bit of an endurance test. But if, like me, you take pleasure from campy details like two cops who look suspiciously alike, then you will find yourself amused throughout the movie. And let’s face it, any movie called Drive in Massacre will always be a welcome sight on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Zombie High (1987)

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…

VHS box for Zombie High (1987)Zombie High (1987) by #RonLink

w/ #VirginiaMadsen #RichardCox #SherilynFenn

A coed uncovers a plot of secret surgeries on students’ brains.

“The incredible story of a hard-working student and the warped way of life that made her go wacky.”

#Horror #Comedy

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

I first saw Zombie High (1987) back in the ’80s. It’s reputation, thanks to critics, was not good – but I enjoyed it anyway. It was kind of a throwback to old 1950s movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), or maybe Invaders from Mars (1953). Unfortunately, it was called Zombie High at a time when audiences had just been thrilled by The Return of the Living Dead (1985). In terms of horror comedy, that pays homage to an older movie (or two), it simply doesn’t get any better than that. Not to mention the insane, over-the-top zombie action (and gore) that was as hilarious as it was impressive in The Return of the Living Dead

Zombie High has none of that. No zombies, no over-the-top gore – nothing. You could say that Zombie High is very understated. I’m not even sure if I knew it was a comedy the first time I saw it. Looking at it now, it’s obvious that there is a sense of humour at work just below the surface – but it’s incredibly subtle. It’s not the kind of movie with clear jokes that pay off with big laughs. I smiled and chuckled a few times, but Zombie High is so straight-faced that some scenes actually work as serious drama (or 1950s horror/sci-fi).

This was director Ron Link’s only feature film. He was apparently more of a theatre director (and actor), and worked on several plays by Tom Eyen, who was known for campy parodies like Women Behind Bars (1975) – which Link directed. This may give us some clue as to where Link was coming from when he made Zombie High. Unfortunately, that campy style didn’t totally come through in the movie.

The cast includes Sherilyn Fenn, before she became a star on Twin Peaks (1989-1991), and Virginia Madsen, who was, at the time, almost a superstar. She had been in some high profile movies with a lot of potential, some of which failed to pan out, like Dune (1984). Zombie High would have done nothing to help her, I’m sure. She did eventually achieve some of the success she deserved with Candyman (1992), and has since done a lot of other good stuff. 

I bought a VHS copy of Zombie High sometime in the ’90s, and watched it at least a couple of times. When I wrote my own high school zombie comedy musical  I Was A Teenage Zombie, I looked at Zombie High as something that might inspire me. As much as I enjoyed it, I was always left with the feeling that it wasn’t quite all that it needed to be. Still, I hung onto to it, as if one day it might finally age just enough to be truly great. So, after not seeing it for a good fifteen years, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

So what’s the verdict?

Zombie High (1987) is a very, very mild terror. And what I mean by that, is that it has moments that work, and is oddly likeable in a very understated way – but it’s not really scary. it’s not serious enough to ever be scary. it’s also not funny enough to work as a comedy, although it might occasionally elicit a smile. I can’t call it trash, because it’s not trashy enough to be trash. It’s so tasteful it’s almost strange. It has none of the campy blood, gore and nudity of movies like The Return of the Living Dead and Return to Horror High (1987). It’s also just a little too good (at least in terms of its cast and production values) to be called trash in a Garden of the Dead sort of way. It’s actually a decent little movie, that could be an acceptable time passer for the right person (such as teenage and twenty-something me). Having now seen it about four times over the years, I can probably retire it from my collection. But someone who’s never seen it may find enough ’80s amusements within its reasonable 93 minute running time to warrant adding it to theirs. As long as they don’t let the title fool them into expecting a spectacle of zombie carnage – and they manage keep their expectations reasonably low. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Revenge of the Dead (1983)

I remember going to Adi’s Video to rent movies on Beta back in the early 1980s. Hard to believe now, but Adi’s was the largest chain of video stores in Winnipeg. This was years before Blockbuster, Jumbo and Rogers came to town. Adi, as far as I know, was a just a local guy who started a business that grew and grew as more people bought VCRs. Sadly, he was wiped out by the corporate chains years before the internet and streaming services started to kill the whole concept of video stores (although, oddly enough, they’ve never completely gone away – and some local mom-and-pop stores have actually outlasted Blockbuster and those other assholes).

VHS box for The Witching (1972)Adi’s is where my family bought our first VCR, as I may have mentioned a while back. It’s also where I rented most of the tapes I watched in those early years. They had a pretty good selection of unusual stuff, which was great for a guy like me. While other people were putting their name on a waiting list to be able to get hold of Risky Business (1983) starring Tom Cruise, I was renting movies like The Witching (1972), Zombie (1979) and Revenge of the Dead (1983) – which in retrospect must have been pretty brand new.

VHS box of Revenge of the Dead (1983)I rented Revenge of the Dead with my brother, and what attracted us to it was the cover art on the Beta box (just look at it! If that didn’t scream rent me to every young horror fan in the store, then there was something wrong with the universe) and the title, of course. Revenge of the Dead – this sounded (and looked) like an unauthorized sequel to Dawn of the Dead (1978) – and what could be better than that?

As it turns out, Revenge of the Dead was not like Dawn of the Dead at all. Or Zombie for that matter, which was in fact a sequel of sorts to Dawn of the Dead. We didn’t know it at the time, but Revenge of the Dead was originally titled Zeder, and was not really a zombie movie as we had come to know them. It’s more of a weird, creepy mystery about a writer who (thanks to a used typewriter ribbon) stumbles onto a story about a scientist who had discovered places in the world, called K-Zones, where the dead could be brought back to life.

Oh, that old chestnut, you might say! But at first it seemed to hold some promise to my brother and me. After all, if the dead could be brought back to life in a K-Zone, that could lead to a zombie apocalypse, couldn’t it? SPOILER ALERT:  It doesn’t.

My brother and I were greatly disappointed that there were no George Romero, or Lucio Fulci, style zombies ripping people apart in impressive displays of blood and gore. No, there was really nothing like that. What did we get instead? Plot and dialogue – perhaps even some character development. We were very unhappy about that. In fact, we felt completely ripped off by Adi’s, the people who made the film, and the people who made the box cover art (it’s the best part of the movie!). Revenge of the Dead was on my list of most hated films for a few years. However…

I never forgot about it. Something about the weird story, the K-Zones and the typewriter ribbon kept coming back to haunt my memories. As an adult, I actually found myself wanting to track it down and watch it again. Why?!! my twelve year old self might have screamed. Maybe it’s nostalgia for an almost forgotten experience, maybe it’s because I’ve never seen another movie quite like it (at least the way I remembered it) – I simply had to find out what that crazy old movie was all about.

Zeder, or Revenge of the Dead, was almost certainly retitled by greedy distributors who wanted to cash in on the lucrative zombie genre. They are the ones I should have been mad at – not the filmmakers. Pupi Avati wrote and directed the film. He’s had a long career, and has made over fifty movies and TV shows (so far), but is probably best remembered for The House with Laughing Windows (1976). Knowing more about him now, it’s no surprise that Revenge of the Dead was not just another typical zombie movie. And as much as I love that kind of movie, I can now say that Revenge of the Dead is actually much more interesting than that. It’s creepy, atmospheric, intriguing and unusual – if you accept it on it’s own terms. When I was a kid, I wanted to see more of a Fulci styled gore-fest and was disappointed. It’s much better than I realized back then.

Probably due to it’s misleading promotional campaign, Zeder, or Revenge of the Dead, doesn’t seem to get talked about very often. It’s #NotQuiteClassicCinema that could have achieved more respect if it had been given a fair chance. But regardless of how respected it was, or how much money it made back in the day, it would still be a perfect addition to any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn – provided that the audience isn’t full of screaming kids expecting to see a non-stop spectacle of blood and gore.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Paranoid (2000)

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…

Poster art for Paranoid (2000)Paranoid (2000) by #JohnDuigan

w/ #JessicaAlba #IainGlen #JeanneTripplehorn

A fashion model is abandoned at a party in the country, where she’s drugged, abused on video and chained to a bed.

“Forbidden Passions Can Be Deadly”

#Crime #Horror #Thriller

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

It sounds like a good time, but Paranoid (2000) is an odd movie. It starts off by generating some genuine suspense and a general feeling of dread. I certainly felt afraid for the main character, Chloe, played by Jessica Alba, as she seemed to be getting herself deeper and deeper into a very creepy situation. But at some point in the middle of the film, it flatlines and becomes a strange waiting game. Chloe (and the audience) is left waiting for the bad guys to make up their mind about what they’re going to do with her. The movie almost becomes more of a quirky crime comedy, featuring oddball characters that could almost be sympathetic – if they didn’t all seem to be doing something a little bit shifty.

So what’s the verdict?

Paranoid (2000) is a mild Terror (primarily for the first half hour) that suddenly suffers a strange tonal shift into indie-movie Trash. There is some nudity (although not featuring Jessica Alba), almost no violence – and no gore. So while it might be trash, it’s not the fun kind. It does have a few entertaining moments, so it’s not a total write-off – but having sat through it twice in twenty years (or so), I think I can now pass Paranoid on to some other sucker who thinks it looks intriguing.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Screaming Skull (1958)

When I was a kid, I saw a TV special about true ghost stories. One of the true stories was about a skull that kept “drilling itself” up out of the ground and screaming in the middle of the night. This story scared the crap out of me. Later I bought an old paperback called something like The Screaming Skull: True Stories of the Unexplained. I seem to recall that the story in the book was a little different than the one I’d seen on TV, but still creepy.

There is a also a short story called The Screaming Skull by F. Marion Crawford. It was written in 1911, and is about an old sea captain who inherits a house from a doctor friend. Again, not the same story as the one I had originally seen on TV – and presumably not a true story.

I can’t find that old TV show anywhere, although there was another show called The Classic Ghosts which had an episode titled The Screaming Skull. Coincidentally, it’s going to be shown in a few days (on October 7, 2021) by the The UCLA Film & Television Archive. It’s a one time live event and it’s free. As cool as that is, however, it’s still not the true screaming skull story that I remember seeing as a kid.

Lobby card for The Screaming Skull (1958)I had no idea that screaming skulls were so popular. Even AIP got into the act when they made The Screaming Skull (1958). When I first discovered that it existed, I hoped that it would be a dramatization of the same story that had scared the crap out of me on TV when I was a kid. it was not. However, I could believe that the story of the movie was inspired by the same “true story” that the TV show had presented. This is, of course, assuming that there was a “true story” about a screaming skull – and that the TV show hadn’t simply made it up in the 1970s.

I don’t know what the truth is, but I suppose it’s rather beside the point. The Screaming Skull is a black and white horror film from exactly the same era as the other black and white horror films I had first fallen love with on Not Quite Classic Theatre. It’s not about a giant monster or an oversized bug, but it’s still exactly the kind of movie I might have watched back then.

1958 saw the release of several classic #NotQuiteClassic movies, including The Fly (1958), Fiend Without a Face (1958), The Blob (1958), It! the Terror from Beyond Space (1958), and one of my personal favourites, Monster on the Campus (1958). It was a good year for bad movies. And I mean good bad movies, which are basically good movies to me.

Lobby card for The Screaming Skull (1958)The Screaming Skull is not the best of those movies, but it has a lot of the elements that I really appreciated. Creepy atmosphere, a pseudo gothic location, a screaming skull –

To be honest, I’m not sure that the skull actually screams in this movie. The lead actress, Peggy Webber, screams when she sees the skull. Or rather, her character, Jenni Whitlock, does. Jenni has recently married Eric Whitlock, whose first wife died under mysterious circumstances. Jenni has a history of mental illness, and she starts seeing (and hearing?) the screaming skull. In some ways, it’s almost like a forerunner of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971). Is she really seeing this skull? Or is her mental illness coming back?

The Screaming Skull is also like a few other movies which I don’t want to to name because I feel that it might spoil some of the fun if I did. Suffice it to say, it’s a familiar type of story, used by other, perhaps better (or at least better reviewed), movies that came before it. One obvious, non-spoiler comparison might be to the films of William Castle. Not so much in terms of the story, but the gimmicky feel of the ad campaign.

“FREE!! We guarantee to bury you without charge if you die of fright during SCREAMING SKULL!” the posters screamed. I doubt very much if anyone was that terrified while watching The Screaming Skull, but it does have some moments of legitimate suspense.

The film isn’t unlike something that William Castle might have made, in that it feels a bit like a B-movie version of Alfred Hitchcock. Nowhere near as good, of course, but still a lot of fun. And at 68 minutes, it’s pretty easy to take.

The Screaming Skull (1958) may not be the “lost” TV episode of my childhood, but it’s a worthy entry in the surprisingly crowded screaming skull sub-genre (whatever that is). It’s #NotQuiteClassicCinema that seems tailor-made for the second or third part of an all night triple feature on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: The Forsaken (2001)

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 Forsaken (2001)

The Forsaken (2001) by #JSCardone

w/ #KerrSmith #BrendanFehr #IzabellaMiko #JohnathonSchaech #PhinaOruche #CarrieSnodgress
 
A young man hired to drive a car cross-country picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a vampire hunter.
 
“The night… has an appetite.”
 
#Horror #Vampires
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Somewhere along the way I picked up a DVD copy of The Forsaken (2001), knowing nothing about it. I recall being pleasantly surprised by it, so I added it to my personal library. Fast forward a few years, and I couldn’t remember anything about it. So, I figured I might as well put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by it. The review on the front of the box compares it to The Lost Boys (1987), and that’s not a completely ridiculous thing to say, as it involves a gang of vampires and a relatively cool soundtrack. It even features a couple of songs by Nickelback before they took the world by storm (I know that some will say this is a minus, not a plus, but I will make no such judgment).

The cast features Brendan Fehr, who is from Winnipeg (my home town), where he appeared is a movie called Hand (1998). I should probably be featuring that one on #TrashOrTerrorTuesday, as it is undeniably trash (and not the good kind) – but unfortunately (I mean very, very fortunately) I do not own a copy. But seriously, if I did own a copy (and I might actually buy it for a decent price – what’s wrong with me?) I would probably have to feature it on #MadeInManitobaMonday. But I digress…

The Forsaken is a much better movie than Hand. It’s not as good as The Lost Boys, but who would expect it to be? The cast is solid – and that includes former Winnipegger Brendan Fehr. I should mention that Fehr has appeared in other movies I like, including Disturbing Behavior (1998), Christina’s House (2000), and Silent Night (2012). Most would probably know him from Final Destination (2000) and Roswell (1999-2002).

In The Forsaken, Fehr plays a vampire hunter who is searching for the vampire who once bit him (to stop himself from turning). He believes it might be one of the gang that he encounters with Kerr Smith’s character, Sean – who is trying to deliver an expensive car across the country and attend his sister’s wedding. Much violent action ensues…

So what’s the verdict?

The Forsaken (2001) is a moderate Terror. It has great action, some legitimate suspense, and a few moments that could be described as scary. There is fair bit of nudity – and some sexy vampire antics – as well, which perhaps adds a touch of Trash to the mix (but this is the good kind of Trash). All in all, I enjoyed The Forsaken quite a bit (for the second time), and I will be keeping the DVD in my collection.