Archive for the Evil Doctors! Category

Transmissions to Earth: BAD DREAMS (1988)

Posted in 1980s Movies, 2013, 80s Horror, Cult Leaders, Evil Doctors!, Ghosts!, Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Madness, Religious Cults, Slasher Movies, Trasmissions to Earth with tags , , , , on May 2, 2013 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH presents:

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BAD DREAMS (1988)
Movie review by L.L. Soares

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Like a lot of horror films from the 1980s, 1988’s BAD DREAMS feels like a missed opportunity. The first film by director Andrew Fleming (who went on to give us THE CRAFT, 1996, the Steve Coogan vehicle HAMLET 2, 2008, and episodes of TV shows like ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and FRANKLIN & BASH), it’s kind of a take on cults like the Manson Family and Jonestown. You would think with a name like BAD DREAMS it might venture a bit into Freddy Krueger territory, especially since Wes Craven’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) had been a horror movie hit just a few years before and was still fresh on everyone’s minds. But strangely, the title is misleading, since the killer here does not kill people in their dreams.

The leader of this particular cult is simply called Harris, and is played by the great Richard Lynch, who was in tons of movies since the 1970s, including such memorable ones as SCARECROW (1973), Larry Cohen’s classic GOD TOLD ME TO (1976), and his last appearance, in a small flashback as Reverend Hawthorne in Rob Zombie’s latest film THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013). (Sadly, Mr. Lynch died in 2012.)

We see Harris gathering his faithful in an old house on a hill, baptizing each member with gasoline before setting the house on fire. This is kind of (painfully) ironic, since actor Lynch really had set himself on fire in Central Park in 1967 during a bad LSD trip, and, after he became scarred during the accident, he was many directors’ go-to-guy to play various villains in horror films and in TV shows.

But back to the movie. Everyone in the cult dies in the fire, except for Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin, the striking actress who was also Edie Segewick in Oliver Stone’s THE DOORS, 1991, and whose first movie was A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS, 1987, strangely enough) who gets saved from the flaming house, but spends the next 13 years in a coma.  When she wakes up, it’s a media circus. Not only is it a big deal she woke up after such a long time, but everyone wants to know what happened inside the cult house the night it exploded in flames. Unfortunately, poor Cynthia doesn’t remember anything about that night.

Her doctor, Dr. Berrisford (character actor Harris Yulin, who has been in over 100 movies including SCARFACE, 1983 and TRAINING DAY, 2001), tells Cynthia that she should see a psychitatrist, because after such a long coma, not only does she need physical therapy to get her motor skills back, she also needs to “heal her mind” and learn how to cope with life 13 years later (she was just a teenager when that fateful fire happened). So Cynthia is turned over to Dr.Berrisford’s assistant, Dr. Alex Karmen (Bruce Abbott, who you might remember as Dan in the Stuart Gordon classic RE-ANIMATOR, 1985), and becomes part of his group therapy sessions. Of course, this being the 80s, the therapy group is made up of various quirky oddballs, some of which are clearly meant to be funny – and aren’t. These include wisecracking Ralph (Dean Cameron, also in SUMMER SCHOOL, 1987, ROCKULA, 1990, where he also played a character named Ralph, and lots of TV shows, including ALF, 1989 – 1990); shy Lana (Elizabeth Daily, who was also in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, 2005 and has done tons of voices for cartoons); a tough-talking lady reporter who’s always smoking; a middle-aged couple that is obviously having an affair; and an annoying teenage black girl named Gilda (Damita Jo Freeman) who keeps saying cryptic things that make you wonder if she has a direct line to Harris. Sometimes, these people seem a little too over-the-top (it’s not like this movie was striving for realism, sadly).

At first, Cynthia only remembers the peace and love platitudes that cult leader Harris laid on them back in the day, but then she slowly remembers how the man eventually lost his mind and set fire to all his followers, and suddenly, she’s traumatized all over again. Even more traumatic is the fact that Harris keeps popping up when Cynthia least expects it (as she remembers him, and later as a burned-up version), first showing up in a crowded elevator (this makes her go bonkers), and then slowly killing off every member of the therapy group (by drowning, tossing one person out of a window, and throwing the middle-aged lovebirds into a giant fan). Cynthia tries to tell Dr. Karmen and anyone else who will listen that Harris is doing all these things, but no one believes her. There’s also a cop, Detective Wasserman (Sy Richardson, who might be best known as Lite in the cult classic, REPO MAN, 1984) who is very suspicious of Cynthia’s cult member past and is sure she is somehow responsible for the deaths.

Cult leader Harris appears to Cynthia both as she remembered him alive, and as this burned up version post-fire.

Cult leader Harris appears to Cynthia both as she remembered him alive, and as this burned up version post-fire.

The twist ending in this one is very disappointing, and doesn’t make a lot of sense, considering past events. But hell, at least it doesn’t end with Cynthia waking up from her coma at the end, and it being all a “bad dream” – which I was dreading from the get-go, considering the title. When we do get to the surprise revelation (which I won’t spoil here), we find out that this is a movie is kind of a letdown. If only they had just delved more into Harris and his cult, and given it more resonance, this could have been the beginning of a franchise of its own. But no such luck. Instead, things get wrapped up in a tidy (and completely underwhelming) bow by the end.

Rubin is good here as Cynthia. Abbott is a little stilted sometimes, but has a few good scenes as Dr. Karmen (especially a great scene where he imagines running over Dr. Berrisford with his car!) and Lynch is perfectly cast as the Jim Jones/Manson-esque Harris (but he needed more screen time!). The direction by first timer Fleming is okay, but nothing amazing, and the screenplay by Fleming and Steve E. de Souza (based on a story by Fleming, Michael Dick, P.J. Pettiette and Yuri Zeltser) has some good ideas, but never fully delivers on them (and imagine, it took all those guys to come up with this one!)

Not one of the 80s best horror films by any stretch, BAD DREAMS at least has some good moments. But man, it could have been so much better!

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

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Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Watches WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2013, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Detectives, Evil Doctors!, Just Plain Fun, Mexican Horror, Mummies, Secret Codes, William Carl Articles, Wrestlers with tags , , , , , , on March 28, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964)

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Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

K. Gordon Murray imported a second Luchadoras (Lady Wrestler) movie directed by Rene Cordona one year after the initial series entry, DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963).  Once again, kiddie matinee audiences were treated to the adventures of a tag team of female wrestlers—Mexican Gloria Venus and the American Golden Rub—against an assortment of hissable villains and monsters.  They are once again played, respectively, by Lorena Velazquez and Elizabeth Campbell, each looking as gorgeous as in the first movie.  Their boyfriends, the pair of bumbling Mexican detectives, are also back as the WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (aka ROCK ‘N ROLL WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY) flutters across our disbelieving eyeballs.  My goodness, but this one is even weirder and crazier than the first.  And that’s sayin‘ something!  On to the story!

Oh!  According to the credits, the cast includes the Milagros India Ballet!

We start off with a bang, as a bloody man is tossed onto a city street from a speeding car.  The headlines shout (in Spanish) “Black Dragon Gang Kills Archeologist!”  A second body is tossed from a car, this time in the desert.  “Black Dragon Strikes Again!  Dr. Van Dyne Disappears!”  Yet another scientist is tortured by a Fu Manchu/Yellow Menace-type.  Another scientist is chased from his home by a carful of thugs.  He drives to the coliseum where a wrestling match is taking place between two tag-teams, Gloria Venus and Golden Rubi (whose hair has turned brunette since last time!) and two rather butch, um, ladies.  If the wrestling footage looks familiar, it’s because it was lifted from the first movie.  The wrestling gals are cheered on by their detective boyfriends in the audience.  We aren’t even five minutes into the feature, folks.

The girls go to their dressing room and discover a man lurking in the shadows, Dr. Mike Sorba, who wants to talk to Mike the Detective, Gloria Venus’s fiancé.  He informs the detective that the Black Dragon is making threats against him and the detective’s uncle.  The older scientists have discovered something, and the Black Dragon is killing and torturing all the scientists who have a certain codex.  Now, only Dr. Sorba and the uncle remain.  Well, until Sorba is suddenly killed in the locker room by a poison dart.

The mysterious Black Dragon.

The mysterious Black Dragon.

The thugs head back to Fu Man…I mean…the Black Dragon and his evil sisters.  He tells his henchmen to go after the last scientist remaining, Detective Mike’s Uncle, Dr. Tracey (from THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO?).

The group, two detectives and two lady wrestlers, drive to the uncle’s house, where Dr. Tracey tells his nephew about the codex.  The Black Dragon has half and Uncle Tracey decides to give the two wrestlers and his nephew each a third of the half he has.  A pretty blond girl has become Dr. Tracey’s ward, Charlotte.  Within minutes, Charlotte is kidnapped by hoodlums while Dr. Tracey sneaks off to get his half of the codex.

Dr. Tracey digs the codex from between bricks in an abandoned house and splits it into thirds as planned.  He disburses them in the girls’ lockers and a post office box.  Meanwhile, The Black Dragon uses a flashy machine and injections to brainwash Charlotte to hate the ones she once loved, and she’ll do exactly as he orders.  His sisters are impressed (although one speaks with a Natasha Badinov Russian accent; who knows why?).  Under the Black Dragon’s influence, Charlotte returns to the scientist’s house.  First, the foursome split up, following clues to find the thirds of the codex.

So far, no one has explained the what or why of the codex.  Everyone just wants it badly.  And the Black Dragon has bugged the house, so he has sent his thugs to intercept the heroes before they find the hiding places.  Golden Rubi and her boyfriend are captured. Luckily, Gloria Venus and her detective follow and everybody brawls.  The thugs get away with that part of the codex.  The Black Dragon decides to set his judo-expert sisters against the two wrestling broads.

All sorts of shenanigans occur until our heroes have one part of the codex and the Black Dragon has all the rest.  Black Dragon bets all his parts against the one in a tag-team match between his sisters and our gal wrasslers, and it’ll be held in public in the coliseum.  Seems a lot easier than just calling the police and arresting the gang.  Yeah, right…

They must have waited a few days and advertised, because the place is packed for the judo vs. wrestling match.  I swear, during the crowd noises, I heard someone shout, “Andelay!  Andelay!”  And we get the pleasure of watching four women in tight clothing beat the crap out of each other for a good eight minutes.  Hey, there are certainly worse ways to spend eight minutes.

Of course, Gloria Venus and Golden Rubi win the match.  The Black Dragon gives away the codex (well, he’s a bad guy with honor, don’t ya’ know), and just as he was going to be arrested, his sisters judo chop their way through the cops and break him loose.  The Dragon hatches a plan to follow the good guys to wherever the codex leads them and get…whatever the hell is the goal.  Coherency isn’t given a second glance in this flick.

Our heroines snap into action.

Our heroines snap into action.

The codex leads the group (and The Black Dragon and his henchmen) to Tezomoc’s Burial Ground, a witch doctor who can change his shape, just like the moldy mummy in DEATH CURSE OF TARTU (1966).  As the professor reads the translated codex, we get to watch a flashback to Aztec times that shows a maiden who was to be sacrificed to the gods and the witch doctor who saved her by carrying her away.  The lovers were found and returned to the temple where the man, Tezomoc, was buried alive and required to maintain a vigil over his lover’s burial ground and the gold breastplate placed over her chest.  And, yeah, the tomb is cursed if the breastplate leaves the grounds.

The tomb is easy to find (did no one ever spot the ninety foot pyramid above it?), and the group fumbles around in the dark for what seems like three and a half hours.  Finally, they find the temple.  As they are about to read the breastplate, a tomb opens and Tezomoc pops out like a dusty Kate Moss.  It’s extremely skinny, bony, and hideous.  Bullets can’t stop it, and it moans, stretching its mouth open so wide it looks like its cheeks could split.  It also turns into a bat, which is really hard to wrestle.  “Look, Loretta, he’s a vampire now!”  Who’s Loretta?

Will our heroes translate the breastplate and send the mummy back to the land of the dead?  Or will the Black Dragon and his minions find it first and get the treasure?  Is there ever any doubt?

K. Gordon Murray’s dubbing techniques for his Mexican imports lend a tone of the surreal to the proceedings.  Being one of the first to dub movies into English from another language, he hired a sound technician from Disney, Manny Fernandez and a bilingual writer, Ruby Guberman, to change the words coming out of the characters mouths.  Instead of trying to make a literal translation, the team attempted to match the lip movements as closely as possible, which resulted in pretty good synchronization, but truly bizarre phrasings.  An example from tonight’s film: “Now, just as the Dragon heard this, and what motives he has have yet to be explained, he hunted down all the others and he tortured them without pity to get them to reveal who had been designated to guard the records.”  Whew!  What a mouthful.

WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY isn’t as much fun as its predecessor, DOCTOR OF DOOM.  We don’t even get to the Aztec Mummy until the seventy minute mark, and then, despite the title, the mummy is on the side of good.  The pacing is all over the place, too.  Sometimes, this movie flies by at a lightning pace, and at other times the characters get so bored they stop all forward plot motion and play cards.  I am not kidding.  And where in the world was the Milagros India Ballet?

Beware Tezomoc, the AZTEC MUMMY!

Beware Tezomoc, the AZTEC MUMMY!

Still, we get lots of wrestling, beautiful women, fun gadgets, the Yellow Menace, judo-chopping twin sisters with different accents, crummy dubbing, and a creepy mummy.  It’s still worth a gander, even if it doesn’t rise to the heights of silliness of the first movie.

I give WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY two and a half breastplates out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

In the Spooklight: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)

Posted in 1950s Horror, 2010, Christopher Lee films, Classic Films, Evil Doctors!, Frankenstein Movies, Hammer Films, Horror, In the Spooklight, Michael Arruda Reviews, Peter Cushing Films, Reanimated Corpses with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by knifefighter

This is a reprint of my 100th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column, which originally appeared in the HWA Newsletter in December 2010.  It’s on THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, one of my all-time favorites, and one of a handful of movies that influenced me at a young age and got me into this horror business in the first place.  Hope you enjoy it.  And don’t forget, my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT collection – 115 reviews in all— is now available as an EBook at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Thanks for reading.

—Michael Arruda

 IN THE SPOOKLIGHT

By

Michael Arruda

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Welcome to the 100th IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column.  Woo hoo!  It’s been a fun ride.  Thanks for coming along.

In honor of the occasion, let’s look at THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), Hammer Films’ first horror hit.

To make their Frankenstein movie different from the Universal 1931 original starring Boris Karloff, Hammer Films decided to concentrate more on the doctor rather than on the monster.  Enter Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein.

Hammer Films’ signing of Peter Cushing to play Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was a major coup for the tiny studio which made low-budget movies.  In the 1950s, Peter Cushing had become the most popular actor on British television.  To British audiences, he was a household name.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was Cushing’s first shot at being the lead actor in a theatrical movie, and he doesn’t disappoint.  In fact, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN belongs to Peter Cushing.  He dominates this movie and carries it on his shoulders.  He’s in nearly every scene.

Cushing succeeded in creating a character who was the perfect shade of gray, a villain who was also a hero.  He’s so convincing in this dual persona that we want to see Victor Frankenstein succeed in his quest to create life, even though he murders a few people along the way.

Peter Cushing went on to become an international superstar.  He delivered countless fine performances over the years until his death from cancer in 1994.  Yet, his performance as Victor Frankenstein in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is arguably his best.

Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein

Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein

Like the 1931 version of FRANKENSTEIN before it, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, while based on the book by Mary Shelley, is not overly faithful to the novel and takes lots of liberties with the story.

Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) enlists the aid of his former tutor Paul (Robert Urquhart) to conduct his experiments, to “create the most complex thing known to man- man himself!”  Victor wants his creation to be “born with a lifetime of knowledge” and so he invites the brilliant Professor Bernstein (Paul Hardtmuth) to his house for dinner.  After dinner, Victor promptly murders him.  Later, when Paul confronts Victor and says he’s going to stop him from using the brain, Victor replies with one of the better lines from the movie, “Why?  He has no further use for it.”

Lightning strikes and starts the lab equipment, while Victor is out of the laboratory, and the Creature (Christopher Lee, also in his starring role debut) is brought to life without Victor present, saving him from an “It’s alive!” moment.

Victor opens the door to the laboratory and finds the Creature standing in the doorway alive.  In the film’s most memorable scene, the Creature rips off the mask of bandages covering his face, and the camera tracks into a violent grotesque close-up of the Creature’s hideous face.  It’s a most horrific make-up job by Phil Leakey, and it’s unique to Frankenstein movies, since in all six of the Hammer Frankenstein sequels to follow, this Creature, so chillingly portrayed by Christopher Lee, never appears again.

Christopher Lee as Frankenstein's Creature

Christopher Lee as Frankenstein’s Creature

Lee’s Creature is a murderous beast, and he quickly escapes from the laboratory.  Victor and Paul chase him into the woods, where Paul shoots him in the head, killing him.  Or so he thinks.  Victor promptly digs up the body and brings it back to life again.

Victor performs multiple brain surgeries to improve the Creature, but eventually things get out of hand, as Paul goes to the police just as the Creature escapes again.  The film has a dark conclusion which I won’t give away here.

Over the years, Christopher Lee has been criticized for his portrayal of the Creature in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Sure, Lee’s Creature is not the Karloff monster.   However, the Creature, who appears fleetingly here and there, has an almost Michael Myers quality in this movie, a killer who creeps in the shadows, here one moment, gone the next.

Lee is scary in the role.  His Creature is an insane unpredictable being.  As the Creature, Lee doesn’t speak a word, and he hardly makes a sound, using pantomime skills to bring the character to life.  His performance has always reminded me of a silent film performance, a la Lon Chaney Sr.  Lee captures the almost childlike persona of a new creation born into the world for the first time, albeit a child that’s a homicidal maniac.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN has a great music score by James Bernard.  It’s haunting, ghastly, and memorable.

Director Terence Fisher, arguably Hammer’s best director, is at the helm here.  As he did in all his best movies, Fisher created some truly memorable scenes in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  The Creature’s first appearance is classic, one of the most memorable scenes of its kind.  The scene when Victor murders Professor Bernstein features a great stunt where Victor pushes the Professor off a second floor balcony to his death, and we actually see the stunt double hit the floor head first with a neck breaking thud.  It’s a jarring scene.  And this is 1957.

There are lots of other neat touches as well.  When Victor’s fiancée Elizabeth (Hazel Court) peers into the acid vat in which Victor has been disposing unwanted bodies and body parts, she covers her nose- a great little touch.

Jimmy Sangster’s screenplay is one of his best.  Probably the best written scene is the one where Victor tries to convince Paul how well he has trained his Creature by having the Creature stand, walk, and sit down.  Paul is unimpressed, saying “Is this your perfect physical being, this animal?  Why don’t you ask it a question of advanced physics?  It’s got a brain with a lifetime of knowledge behind it, it should find it simple!”  It’s also a great scene for Christopher Lee, as it’s one of the few times he invokes sympathy for the Creature.

But THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN sinks or swims with Peter Cushing.  Rarely has an actor delivered such a powerful performance in a horror movie.  Cushing is flawless here.  He draws you into Frankenstein’s madness and convinces you he’s right.

If I could give you one gift this holiday season, it would be to watch THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Rediscover it today, more than 50 years after it was made.  It’s time this movie received its due as one of the best ever, which isn’t news to those who saw it in 1957. After all, it was the biggest money maker in Britain that year.

One of its original lobby cards reads “THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN will haunt you forever.”

It will.

—END—

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda

Screaming Streaming! Presents: THE MANSTER (1959)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 2012, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Deformed Freaks!, Evil Doctors!, Mad Doctors!, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monsters, Scientific Experiments, Screaming Streaming with tags , , , , , , , on November 2, 2012 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Movie Review:  THE MANSTER (1959)
By Michael Arruda

One of my favorite things about streaming video is the wide selection of older titles readily available.  I’m having fun catching up with movies I’ve never seen before and obscure oddball gems I haven’t seen in ages.

Today’s feature falls into the latter category, although I hesitate to call it a gem.  It isn’t.

It’s THE MANSTER (1959), a film that’s been on my mind since Craig Shaw Gardner mentioned it this past summer after reading my review of THE INCREDIBLE TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT (1971).  He pointed out that along with TRANSPLANT and THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972) it made up the full complement of two-headed men monster movies.

I hadn’t seen THE MANSTER in years, so I was happy when it turned up on my streaming video menu.

THE MANSTER takes place in Japan and opens with a weird ape-like creature on the loose, the result of an experiment gone wrong by a certain Dr. Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura). Suzuki promptly destroys his creature, but like all good mad scientists, vows to try again.

Enter American reporter Larry Stanford  (Peter Dyneley), about to conduct his final interview before returning home to the States to spend some much needed time with his wife Linda (Jane Hylton).  His last interview subject—unfortunately for him— is Dr. Suzuki.

Dr. Suzuki privately tells his female assistant Tara (Terri Zimmern) that the reporter is perfect for their next experiment.  And so, while Larry is interviewing Suzuki about his work— some crazed notion about harnessing rays from outer space which, when aimed at animal life, cause changes in evolution, resulting in a new species of life— yeah, doc, whatever—Suzuki slips Larry a drug in his drink which knocks him out.

When Larry awakens, he has an aching shoulder, and soon things grow much worse.  His personality changes, he’s suddenly ignoring both his job and his wife, and he’s spending his evenings enjoying the Japanese night life, getting drunk and hooking up with other women.  And, oh that pain in his shoulder keeps getting worse!  It leads to the best image in the movie, when Larry looks at his shoulder and sees a monstrous eye sticking out of it gazing up at him.

“Someone’s watching me! I just know it!”

Eventually, Larry sprouts a new head (I guess this is that new species Suzuki was so excited about!) and soon afterwards Larry becomes a homicidal two-headed maniac, killing people left and right.  Ultimately, the head grows into an entire body and splits apart from Larry, making it easier for the police to chase the monster and leave Larry alone, conveniently enabling his wife to rescue him from all this madness.

The significance of THE MANSTER is that it featured a two-headed man monster long before its two-head cousins from the 1970s, THE INCREDIBLE TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT (1971) and THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972).  Other than this, the movie is just okay.

The acting is pretty good.  Peter Dyneley isn’t bad as American reporter Larry Stanford.  He has a “Lon Chaney Jr.” thing going, as there’s something about his look in this movie which reminds me of Chaney.   Dyneley plays Larry as more than just a wise-cracking American reporter.  He gives him a sincerity not often found in these roles.  Dyneley would go on to provide many of the voices for the popular 1960s TV show THUNDERBIRDS, which featured some pretty cool puppetry.

“So what do you think of this movie?”
“Be quiet, I’m sleeping.”

Dyneley’s real-life wife, Jane Hylton, appeared in many movies with him, and she’s on hand here as his wife Linda.  She’s pretty awful, unfortunately.

Tetsu Nakamura fares much better as Dr. Suzuki.  Nakamura makes for a very smooth mad scientist and gets to deliver lines Bela Lugosi would have been at home saying.  Nakamura appeared in a decent amount of Japanese monster movies, including THE MYSTERIANS (1957) and MOTHRA (1961).

Directors George P. Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane include the one memorable scene of the eye emerging from Larry’s shoulder, but other than this, there isn’t much to remember about THE MANSTER.

The two-headed “Manster” is pretty fake looking, but doesn’t look any worse than the 1970s incarnations.  Dr. Suzuki keeps mutants imprisoned in his lab, the results of previous experiments gone wrong.  These mutants are kinda creepy, but ultimately they’re a disappointment, as the make-up job on them is pretty bad.

Director Breakston also received story credit, and as monster stories go, it’s a pretty good one, but the screenplay by William J. Sheldon is not so good, as most of the dialogue in this one is plain awful.

I first saw THE MANSTER as a teenager on late night TV, and I remember liking it a lot.  I’d seen it a couple of times since, but not in a while.  Admittedly, the movie doesn’t hold up as well as I remember it.

Sure, the two main players, Dyneley and Nakamura, turn in professional performances and make their characters believable, but they’re surrounded by lesser performances.  The fright scenes are few and far between, and I guess that was my biggest disappointment seeing this movie again.  The Manster scenes really weren’t all that exciting, nor were they campy enough to make me laugh out loud.  And the murder scenes were rather lame as well.  I remember this one having more of an edge to it.

When you come right down to it, THE MANSTER is really just a mediocre B monster movie.  While it does contain a novel concept, really, at the end of the day, there’s nothing that makes it head and shoulders above the rest.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (2008)

Posted in 2012, Cult Movies, Dystopian Futures, Evil Doctors!, Gore!, Musicals, Peter Dudar Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by knifefighter

REPO!  The Genetic Opera (2008)
A Review By Peter N. Dudar

This review has been a long time coming…

I first read about REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (2008) in an issue of Rue Morgue Magazine.  I paid particular attention to it as the movie featured actor Bill Moseley (Chop Top from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE II, 1986, and more recently, Otis from Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, 2003, and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, 2005) who happens to be one of my big-screen favorites, but the film came and went here in Maine pretty quickly and I never got to see it.  I hadn’t heard much fanfare about it from friends online, so I let it slip quietly past my radar.

Jump-cut to much earlier this year, when my wife finally talked me into signing up for Netflix streaming video.  It was a cold, late-winter night when I saw the title REPO! on the queue, and finally gave it a chance.  I’m very glad I did.  This film is beautifully fun and grotesque!

I know what you’re thinking…a rock opera?  It immediately brings forth visions of late 70s Andrew Lloyd Weber schlock like JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR or HAIR.  Or perhaps you’re familiar with REPO! already and thinking about the cult blockbuster THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.   But the fact is that this really does pass for an opera, and one deep-rooted in gore, violence, and the macabre.

REPO! opens in comic book box-panels (a nifty visual narrator for the film), informing us of the dystopian world we are about to enter, where GeneCo has saved the world from an epidemic of organ failures.  Only, GeneCo’s founder, Rottissimo “Rotti” Largo (Paul Sorvino, GOODFELLAS, 1990) has developed a terrible clause in his business ventures that those who fail to make payments on their transplants are subject to having those transplants repossessed.  This notion creates a moralistic fiber that doesn’t seem all that far-fetched in our own world, where cars, homes, and personal belongings are stripped away without hesitation in our dwindling economy.  We’re also introduced to the character of Grave-Robber (Terrance Zdunich, who served as writer, composer, producer, and assistant director on this project, over a ten-year labor of love to bring REPO! to life), who aids in setting the stage for the story we are about to witness.

REPO! concerns seventeen-year-old Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega, THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL, 2012)—who suffers a rare blood disease handed down from her late mother—and her father, Nathan Wallace (Anthony Head, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 1997), the Repo Man, who works directly for Rotti Largo to repossess the organs and parts of those who cannot pay their bills.  Nathan is in a precarious situation…he doesn’t want his daughter to know of the terrible, murderous acts he’s responsible for, all the while doing everything he possibly can to protect his sick daughter and keep her safe.  Through song and dialogue, their conflicted relationship is brought out, and the sadness for both characters is extremely palpable.  It feels like the terrible deeds Nathan is doing are totally justified, and that is a very important element to the story.

Meanwhile, Rotti Largo is dying, and his offspring are fighting over who is to take control of GeneCo once the old man is gone.  Luigi Largo (Bill Moseley…see above) believes HE should be the one to take control.  Luigi is a homicidally violent psychopath who feels very strongly that he is the glue that will hold the Largo family together after Rotti passes.  His brother Pavi (Nivek Ogre of the industrial band Skinny Puppy, and actor in movies such as THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL, 2012), an absolute freak who finds fashion in wearing the skins of other people to conceal his own face, believes that HE should take over GeneCo, as he understands the fashion of the day is the latest surgical trend.  Their sister Amber Sweet, (an unrecognizable Paris Hilton, HOUSE OF WAX, 2005), IS addicted to plastic surgery, and is caught in the middle of this power struggle.  The problem is that Rotti already knows that he cannot leave the future of GeneCo in the hands of his progeny.

As REPO! progresses, we see that young Shilo is being torn apart by her ill-fated blood disease and the life of seclusion her father is forcing upon her.  So she ventures out to visit her mother’s grave to find comfort, and instead learns of the terrible secret of the Grave-Robber.  Apparently, the Grave-Robber is digging up past GeneCo subjects and extracting a chemical called Zydrate from their brains.  Zydrate is a euphoric chemical that dulls the senses so that those who are addicted to surgery can have a drug to take the edge off.  And, of course, Amber Sweet is addicted to surgery, and happens to be one of the Grave-Digger’s best customers.  This part of the film happens to be one of my favorites, as Grave-Digger encapsulates in song the terrible pathos of Amber Sweet and those others that keep him busy in his morbid business.

Through more of the comic book-panel box narrative, we learn about what actually happened to Shilo’s mother…how she was originally in love with Rotti Largo, and how Nathan Wallace won her love away from him.  We see just how much the dying Rotti Largo is still in control over Nathan, and how all the while he is scheming to turn Shilo against her dad by offering a cure for her disease, so that one day she might take control of the empire he has built with GeneCo.  And we see the conflict that is going to create among Rotti’s insane children.

We’re also introduced to Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman, a world-renowned soprano who has performed for millions worldwide), who is under contract with GeneCo after they fitted her with a new pair of eyes.  Blind Mag was friends with Shilo’s mother, and was unaware that Shilo made it through childbirth.  As Rotti’s plan to lure Shilo away from her father unfolds, Blind Mag pays a visit to her and Nathan, and tries to stop the inevitable tragedy that is currently shaping up.

At the heart of REPO! is the tragedy that is constantly evolving for poor Shilo.  We have a young girl that wants to live disease-free, and is being torn apart by her love for her father and her desire to be healthy and normal.  And we’re constantly at the mercy of a film with first-rate storytelling, beautifully memorable music, and the empathy we feel for the relationship between father and daughter.

REPO! never falters in delivering some grueling scenes of violence and gore, but it also delivers some first-rate performances (particularly from Sorvino, Brightman, and believe-it-or-not, Paris Hilton), breathtaking cinematography, and an absolutely brilliant soundtrack from writers Zdunich and Darren Smith—all beautifully directed by Darren Lynn Bousman.  As a fan of horror films and lover of musicals, I have to give REPO!  The Genetic Opera four knives.  I highly recommend this film, and hope you will add it to your Halloween movie marathon.

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar

Peter Dudar gives REPO! The Genetic Opera ~four knives.