Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Voodoo Island (1957)

Poster for Voodoo Island (1957)Voodoo Island (1957) by #ReginaldLeBorg

w/#BorisKarloff #BeverlyTyler

A SPINE-CHILLING HORROR HIT!!

SEE! Men Turned Into Zombies!
SEE! Woman-Eating Cobra Plants!
SEE! Strange Voodoo Rituals!
SEE! The Bridge Of Death!

#Horror
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

Voodoo Island (1957) is not one of Boris Karloff’s best – or best known – movies. On the other hand, it’s not his worst, either. Karloff plays a bit of an Amazing Randi type; a guy named Phillip Knight who debunks hoaxes. He’s hired by a businessman who’s planning to build a new resort on an island that is rumoured to be a hotbed of voodoo and other supernatural activities. Karloff agrees to check then place out – but says “When I take hold of something, I don’t let go.” Continue reading

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: 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: I Drink Your Blood (1970)

I remember finding a shitty-looking black and white photocopied looking clamshell VHS box of I Drink Your Blood (1970) on the shelf of my favourite video store many years ago. I had never heard of the movie, which made it interesting, and the shitty-looking box somehow made me all the more curious about it. It looked like the owners of the video store had made the box themselves – and probably the movie, too. It just looked like an ordinary blank VHS tape with a sticker slapped on it. The sticker just had the title of the move on it – not a fancy designed looking version of it, but simple looking text probably done on a typewriter.

Black and white add for I Drink Your Blood (1970)I figured that I Drink Your Blood (1970) must be some kind of special movie for somebody to have gone to all this trouble. Maybe it was so extreme that no official company would release it. I immediately took it up to the front to rent it

The guy behind the counter looked at it and said, “I’m not sure if this version is uncut or not. Let me know.”

“Okay, ” I said – but had no idea how to even tell if the movie was uncut of not. I had never seen it before. I’d never read about. I didn’t know what was supposed to be in it. How could I tell if something was missing?

I suppose if it had been really obvious, like someone is in the middle of saying something: “Alright man, I’m gonna take this axe and -” – when suddenly there’s an ugly looking cut in the film, and then we’re watching some dude’s horrified looking face as he says ” Whoa, man, why’d you go and do that?! You didn’t have to chop him thirty-seven times!”

Maybe then I would have thought that something had been cut out of the movie. As it was, I just didn’t know. I enjoyed the  movie, however.

A few years later, a friend invited to a bad movie night with some of his other friends. He asked me to bring some crazy movies. So I went to an independent store that had a lot of crazy movies in it. I mean rare bootleg tapes with cheapass photocopied covers, a lot like the one that I had rented years ago. And lo and behold, they had a copy of I Drink Your Blood. This box stated very clearly “Uncut Version – Never Before Seen!” So I rented it, along with a copy of other crazy looking movies, and took them to the all-night-movie-watching event.

Unfortunately, those guys already had so many movies that they wanted to watch, that they never even considered looking at anything that I brought with me. And I had to return the tapes the next day, so I didn’t even get a chance to watch them on my own. I had wasted my money that day, and the store went out of business shortly after that. I never did see the uncut version of I Drink Your Blood.

Now, thanks to Grindhouse Releasing, I own the super-deluxe Blu-ray of I Drink Your Blood, and it contains two different cuts of the movie; the uncut X-rated version, and the director’s cut. The director’s cut is actually a longer version of the movie – but not because there’s more gore and violence. It contains more story. Honestly, I’m not sure which version of the movie is better, so I am thrilled to have them both in my collection.

I Drink Your Blood was one of the first films to be heavily influenced by Night of the Living Dead (1968). Instead of zombies, I Drink Your Blood features people infected with rabies. The effect is similar, but almost more like the fast moving zombies of the distant future (such as in Dawn of the Dead (2004)). 

The villains in I Drink Your Blood, and the first ones to become rabid maniacs, are a group of satanic hippies. This might sound like a ridiculous and campy idea (satanic hippies?!) but at the time the movie was made, some people were actually afraid of hippies. Their music, their fashions, their use of drugs, their rejection of normal society – this all seemed strange and dangerous to “respectable” people. They just didn’t understand hippies, so it wasn’t a big leap to imagine that hippies might worship Satan, or be part of a cult.

And let’s not forget that Charles Manson and his murderous crew were basically hippies gone wrong. And they had just committed their crimes the year before I Drink Your Blood was released. Hippies were definitely ripe for exploitation by the horror genre at that moment.

I Drink Your Blood features Lynn Lowry in one of her earliest film roles. She may have made Lloyd Kaufman’s The Battle of Love’s Return first, but it came out after, so I’m not sure. In any case, she was pretty much unknown when she made I Drink Your Blood. Her part was small, and her character was basically mute, but she really stands out from the rest of the cast. That’s not to suggest that the other actors are bad. I actually think that many of them are quite good, but Lynn Lowry somehow makes the strongest impression. She has a lot of screen presence, and manages to draw focus in every scene that she is in. It’s no surprise that she would go on to legendary cult status, thanks to films like The Crazies (1973), Score (1973) Shivers (1975), Cat People (1982) – and this one, of course.

Lynn Lowry dropped out of film and TV acting for about ten years in the mid 1990s, but since 2005 she has appeared in more than a hundred movies – many of them independent horror and other other genre films. Here’s hoping she makes another hundred.

I Drink Your Blood (1970) is legendary #NotQuiteClassicCinema that every fan should see at least once. I’ve already seen it three or four times, and I will look forward to many more. It will always be a welcome sight on a #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…

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: Undead or Alive (2007)

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 Undead or AliveUndead or Alive (2007) by #GlasgowPhillips

w/ #ChrisKattan #ChrisCoppola #NaviRawat

Two misfits rob a corrupt sheriff as a plague of zombies begins to sweep the country.

“Guns don’t kill people. Zombies kill people.”

“A Zombie Western Comedy … no really!”

#Comedy #Horror #Western

 

Undead or Alive (2007) is another example of a movie (like last week’s Cult (2007)), which has been sitting on my shelf for about a decade – and which I certainly did watch before putting it there – that I basically have no specific memories of, in terms of plot and content. I recalled it being a zombie western, but other than that – nothing. So, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

Right off the top, they seem to be blaming the zombie plague on Geronimo – who they claim put some kind of curse on white people. Later in the movie, they even refer to the zombies as Geronimonsters. This didn’t quite sit right with me. I have undoubtedly written my fair share of politically incorrect humour in my time, and maybe I’m just getting old and cranky, but I felt that Geronimo deserved a better (albeit fictional) legacy than this.

I must have bought Undead or Alive during the time that I was thoroughly immersing myself in Westerns. I was writing my own epic Western play (an exploration of the history of Western Canada, in fact), and I wanted to soak up as much old west atmosphere as I possibly could. I was also watching a lot of zombie movies because, well, I like zombies – and we were in the midst of a huge zombie resurgence at that time (post Dawn of the Dead (2004)  – which was released, coincidentally, while I was in rehearsal with my brand new  zombie musical – but that’s another story).

Undead or Alive probably intrigued me because it was a combination of two of my current obsessions, Westerns and  zombies, and in theory it’s a brilliant idea. In reality, Undead or Alive just made me want to re-watch Blazing Saddles (1974) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985) – both far superior movies. I feel that Undead or Alive was lifting ideas from The Return of the Living Dead (like shooting zombies in the head doesn’t seem to work), but it was nowhere near as funny. The zombies in Undead or Alive were not that different from regular Western bad guys. They keep on riding horses, shooting guns, and having conversations. This is not what I generally look for in a zombie movie.

Undead or Alive is by no means a terrible movie. It’s well made, with decent action and gore. Unfortunately, the script is not as clever as it needs to be. The movie really aims for comedy much more than horror, and the comedy just isn’t good enough. A person looking for an effective satire of Western conventions would be far better off watching Blazing Saddles, Cat Ballou (1965), or Destry Rides Again (1939).

So what’s the verdict?

Undead or Alive (2007) is neither Trash nor Terror. It simply isn’t good enough, or bad enough, to be one or the other. It’s just floating somewhere in the middle, not particularly interesting enough to be worth multiple viewings. Having watched it twice in ten years, I don’t think I’ll need to be doing that again. It might be an acceptable time passer for those who haven’t already seen it. But I doubt that anyone will love it as much as I love Blazing Saddles (1974) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985). And in the future, I will be watching those movies instead of this one.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Garden of the Dead (1972)

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 Garden of the Dead (1972)Garden of the Dead (1972) by #JohnHayes

Formaldehyde sniffing prisoners are killed during a breakout. After burial, the inmates return from the dead to exact revenge on the prison guards who killed them.

“filmed in DEAD color”

#Horror #SciFi #Zombies

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Some friends and I rented Garden of the Dead (1972) back in high school. The poster, which was featured on the VHS box, looked so damn amazing that we were convinced that we were about to watch the greatest zombie movie since Dawn of the Dead (1978). A mere fifteen minutes into the movie, everyone in the room wanted to stop the tape and move on to something else. I, already a completist at such a young age, argued for continuing to watch “in case it gets better.” My friends allowed it to keep playing until about 30 minutes in and then they ejected that tape as fast they could and smashed it into a million pieces (okay, I may be exaggerating slightly – but they wanted to smash it, believe me).

Garden of the Dead was, without a doubt, the cheapest and shoddiest looking movie that any of us had ever seen at that point in our lives. For years it was legendary among our gang. We would reference it from time to time, whenever we needed a measuring stick for badness. “Oh it’s bad, but it’s not Garden of the Dead bad,” would be something we might have said. Even so, I always felt a little guilty about not finishing the movie…

More than ten years later, a friend who worked for a video distribution company gave me a bag of DVDs that he thought I might appreciate. They were mostly “bad” movies, he said, but perhaps they were “bad” in an enjoyable way. I was surprised and intrigued to see that Garden of the Dead was one of them.

Watching it again, as an adult (and finishing it for the first time), I was surprised by how much better it was than I remembered. It no longer looked as cheap and shoddy to me – as I had seen much cheaper and shoddier movies by that point in my life. It wasn’t exactly good, but it seemed on par with many of the drive-in type movies that I enjoy to watch on a Friday night. So, much to my surprise, I put the Garden of the Dead DVD onto my shelf where it has remained for almost twenty years now. I was a bit nervous that one of my high school friends would see it there and accuse me of betraying the old gang, but… I was prepared to tell them that it was better than we had thought. Still, I never got around to watching it again. So, I figured it was time to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

The front gate of the "prison" in Garden of the Dead (1972)

The front gate of the “prison” in Garden of the Dead (1972)

Garden of the Dead is bad. I think my expectations were so low when I first re-watched it as an adult, that I was pleasantly surprised by it. It’s still not as cheap and shoddy as it had seemed back in high school, but it’s pretty cheap and shoddy. The “prison” consists of a few old shacks in the middle of a desert-like area, surrounded by a fence made out of barb wire and plywood. It would not effectively keep anyone from leaving.

The warden wears a suit, as if he’s attending a board meeting in a corporate head office, but he’s in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of prisoners and guards. Why would he bother to dress up?

The prisoners get high by sniffing formaldehyde (not sure if that’s a thing), and I guess that’s why they return from the dead (they’re pre-embalmed?).The movie clocks in, mercifully, at just under an hour. If we had known that back in high school, maybe we would have kept watching – but I doubt it.

So what’s the verdict?

Garden of the Dead (1972) is Trash. It has a few moments of inadvertent humour, which might make it watchable for die hard aficionados of bad movies. I don’t think that there are any moments of legitimate terror or suspense. And it’s not really trashy enough to be a truly fun watch.

Oddly enough, the DVD is introduced by Son of Ghoul (a horror host), and he says that it’s the kind of movie that makes you want to smash the TV after watching it. Not a bad description – and if that makes you want to watch Garden of the Dead, then you probably should. I, having already seen it three (well, two and half) times in my life, will not be joining you.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Burial Ground (1981)

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 comes…

VHS box cover of Burial Ground (1981)Burial Ground (1981) by Andrea Bianchi

An archaeology professor discovers an ancient crypt which contains living dead corpses.

The scariest thing I remember from this is the creepy 25 year old kid…

“They craved flesh with a hunger!”

#Zombies #Horror

#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Aside from the very creepy child, who looks like he’s 40 but was apparently played by a 25-year-old actor named Peter Bark, or Pietro Barzocchini, the only thing I remembered about this movie was that the zombies made use of tools and ladders, etc., which I had thought was a bit ridiculous. 

I first purchased the VHS tape during the dark days when zombies were all but extinct. The last great entries in the genre had been Day of the Dead (1985) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985). The great zombie resurrection wouldn’t occur until Dawn of the Dead (2004) and 28 Days Later… (2002) wowed audiences. Things were pretty bad for zombie fans in the 1990s. Films like I Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain (1998) and The Dead Hate the Living! (2000) tried to get things going again, but weren’t quite good enough. So, when I watched Burial Ground for the first time roundabout 1995, I was so starved for good zombie action that I was willing to overlook all of its flaws. Watching it again now, after more than fifteen years of superior zombie films and TV shows, those flaws seem a little more apparent. 

The plot of Burial Ground is paper thin, and the characters are as well. I suppose that the raison d’être of this film was crazy zombie action, gore – and a healthy dose of sleaze. Judged solely on those merits, it’s not too bad (or maybe so bad it’s good). The main reason to watch this movie, as far as I’m concerned, is still the creepy adult kid – who has a very creepy relationship with his mother, which leads to what is probably the most infamous moment of the movie (I hate SPOILERS, so I don’t want to say too much about it. Let’s just say it involves the mother trying to breastfeed her 40 year old child after he’s been zombified). 

Burial Ground (1981), featuring a mother and her "child", played by 25 year old Pietro Barzocchini.

So what’s the verdict? Is this movie #Trash or #Terror? 

I would much rather watch movies like Zombie (1979) and City of the Living Dead (1980) on any day of the week. But still, Burial Ground is a movie that truly must be seen to be believed (as the VHS box claims). So, I would have to conclude that it is a very mild #Terror. I’m sure there are people who love it more than I do, but… Having revisited it for the first time in 15 years, I’m not sure that I will have to watch it again any time soon. Fans of Italian zombie films who haven’t ever seen it, should probably do so at least once.