Archive for the Low Budget Movies Category

Transmissions to Earth: THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 70s Horror, B-Movies, Bad Situations, Disease!, Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Monsters, Mutants!, Science Fiction, Trasmissions to Earth, Unfortunate Astronauts with tags , , , , , , , on June 13, 2013 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH Presents:

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THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977)
Review by L.L. Soares

Incredible Melting Man (1977)In this business I come upon a lot of bad movies. But what makes them “so bad they’re good” or just plain bad? Sometimes it’s pretty easy to answer that.

But I’m still not sure which one THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977)  is.

Sure it has some funny aspects about it. But it’s also pretty much a waste of time, and has a storyline so thin, it could slip between your fingers.

It’s actually amazing that this one was made in 1977. It has the look and feel of a bad 1950s sci-fi film.

As we begin, three astronauts are passing through the rings of Saturn! Pretty cool. This must be in the far future, right? Well, not really, when we get back to Earth, it still looks an awful lot like 1977. Who knew we’d perfect faster-than- light interplanetary space travel so quickly?

As they pass through the rings, something goes wrong. This is when we see stock footage of sunspots close up, in negative. It’s supposed to be the astronauts “seeing the sun through the rings of Saturn,” and they’ll use it a few more times in the movie.  Two of the astronauts die soon after. The third one, Steve West (Alex Rebar) survives, but is horribly disfigured.

We have no clue how he gets back to Earth, but he does, and it’s kept under wraps (how do you keep the return of an astronaut secret, anyway?). Astronaut West is also “under wraps” literally as he’s wrapped up in bandages. When we see him after his return home, he’s bandaged and strapped to a bed in an undisclosed hospital. All of a sudden he just gets up, breaks the straps, and runs away, chasing an overweight nurse through the hallways.

Suddenly, Steve West is on the loose. But he’s not the same guy anymore. Now he’s the INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, whose skin is constantly oozing off his body. His face looks like a skull covered with dripping wax. Oh, and he’s radioactive! So you don’t want him to touch you. He goes around killing people, and we’re told he needs new cells to survive, but it’s not clear how he gets those cells. Is he eating people or what? One guy has his head torn off and thrown into a waterfall, another person is ripped apart – if Steve is eating people for their cells, then he sure does love to play with his food!. We never actually know what’s he’s doing to his victims, but they end up a bloody mess.

Meanwhile, everywhere he goes, he leaves dripping oozy flesh in his wake. You would think someone like this would be easy to track down, but no way! Doctor Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning) is ordered to go find Steve and bring him back to the army hospital by General Michael Perry (Myron Healey), but Nelson spends most of the time goofing off. At one point he’s home making a sandwich for his wife. Pretty awful tracking job, Dr. Nelson! He tells his associate Dr. Loring (Lisle Wilson) that his wife has had three miscarriages about this same stage in her pregnancy and she’s nervous something will go wrong again. This is about the time Nelson realizes that Steve West, who he is supposed to recapture for the government, is radioactive, and he’s worried that this might affect his wife (one of the few real dramatic aspects of the script, although it’s soon forgotten). Maybe that’s why he doesn’t seem to try very hard to find West.

Incredible-Melting-Man-LC-2-kleinWhen Dr. Nelson has no luck finding West, General Perry comes to town, demanding results. Meanwhile, the monster who used to be Steve West continues on his rampage until there’s a big showdown in some kind of power plant.

There’s not much of a plot, as you can tell. It basically amounts to 1) man comes back from space as some kind of monster, 2) government guys try to track him down when he goes on a killing spree, and 3) big showdown where the monster is killed.  Pretty-by-the numbers, and not very compelling.

The acting is so-so for the most part, but no one stands out here as a Shakespearean actor! Burr DeBenning (also in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: DREAM CHILD, 1989, and lots of TV shows like MATLOCK and FALCOLN CREST), as Dr. Ted Nelson, seems to love standing around, wasting time, and I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be funny, but he is. He comes off as completely incompetent. Myron Healey is convincing as General Perry, in a “TV general” kind of way. Healey had a long career as a cowboy or a military man in the movies and on TV, and was actually in tons of westerns in the 1950s and 60s, as well as such other horror/sci-fi classics as VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE (1962) and THE UNEARTHLY (1957) , and the TV-movie V (1983), and was also Colonel Wright in one of the best episodes of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER, “Mr. R.I.N.G.” (from 1975). Local Sheriff Neil Blake (Michael Alldredge, who was also in THE ENTITY, 1982, and V, 1983) is okay as the frustrated cop who wants answers – that the government just isn’t giving him. Ann Sweeny is likable enough as Ted Nelson’s wife, Judy, and Alex Rebar is serviceable as Steve West/the Melting Man, since all he has to do is put on crazy makeup and run around causing trouble.

There’s also a great (but short) scene where a photographer tries to coerce a model to take off her top on the beach, until the monster shows up. The model is played by genre legend Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith. Future movie director Jonathan Demme also has a cameo as a character named Matt Winters, another one of the monster’s victims.

Probably the biggest star in this one is the makeup artist, the legendary Rick Baker, in one of his earlier jobs. The Melting Man is not one of his best creations, but it certainly looks too good for this movie! It’s amazing what Baker would do with a bigger budget and real equipment (see AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, just four years later in 1981).

Rick Baker's makeup effects for the monster might be the ONLY reason to see THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN!

Rick Baker’s makeup effects for the monster might be the ONLY reason to see THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN!

Star Alex Rebar (the Melting Man) had roles on TV shows like THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and MURDER, SHE WROTE. He was also one of the (9!) writers of the Italian exorcism classic, BEYOND THE DOOR (1974), and his first acting job was in a movie called MICROSCOPIC LIQUID SUBWAY TO OBLIVION (1970), which I would love to see, just for the title alone.

Director William Sachs also gave us GALAXINA (1980)  and SPOOKY HOUSE (2002).

Not bad enough to be good, and not good at all, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN is for fans of bad cinema only- who don’t mind wasting 90 minutes of their lives – or Rick Baker completists.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

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UPSTREAM COLOR (2013)

Posted in 2013, Art Movies, Bizarro Movies, Enigmatic Films, Experimental Films, Independent Cinema, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Mind Experiments!, Something Different, Weird Movies with tags , , , , on April 16, 2013 by knifefighter

UPSTREAM COLOR
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

upstream_color_xlgBack in 2004, director Shane Carruth made his debut feature, PRIMER. It was a little indie film about four guys trying to start their own computer company in a garage, and mysterious storage lockers, and time travel. The movie is told in such a way that you only figure it out a little at a time, but it was a terrific first film, and it made Carruth a director to look for. Unfortunately, it took him until 2013 to release his second film, UPSTREAM COLOR, and it is in very limited release in just a few cities. I hope it’s not as long a wait for his next one.

For some reason, I just like the title itself. UPSTREAM COLOR. Just a really cool name for a movie. So what is it actually about? Well, that’s a little tougher to explain. But I’ll try.

Carruth has a talent for enigmatic films that you need to really think about. In this vein, he’s a lot like David Lynch or David Cronenberg, although Carruth’s films are nothing like theirs. How much you’ll enjoy UPSTREAM COLOR depends on how strongly you feel you have to have all the answers, and how open you are to new experiences.

UPSTREAM COLOR begins with some kids drinking some weird concoction made from little grubs harvested from plants by a mysterious guy. Is he some kind of mad scientist, or something else entirely? When the kids drink the liquid, they are able to read each other’s minds – or it looks that way. When one kid tries to hit another, the other one is able to know exactly how to deflect the blow. Two other kids close their eyes and do the exact same hand movements in synch. What exactly are these grubs?

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The guy then kidnaps a woman at a bar named Kris (Amy Seimetz, who is actually quite striking in some scenes), using a Taser. He makes her ingest one of the grub/worms and then brings her back to a house where he proceeds to brainwash her. He convinces her that ice water is most wonderful reward she can get, simply by telling her it is so. He tells her she cannot look into his face, because it is made of the same material that makes up the sun, and it is too bright to look at. He makes her copy out long passages from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”  and fold the papers into links to a giant paper chain. He also gets her to take out a loan on her house and withdraw all of her money from the bank and give it to him.

At one point, when she’s in bed, she sees worms running under her skin, and tries to remove them with a kitchen knife.

We are then introduced to another odd gentleman, called simply The Sampler (Andrew Sensenig) in the credits. He performs an odd operation on Kris involving her and a small pig, the grafting of some of the pig’s flesh onto Kris’s body, and what looks like a blood transfusion between them. The Sampler also runs a pig farm, presumably stocked with pigs that have been used in similar operations. The Sampler gets his name because when he isn’t tending to his pig farm, he is wandering around the woods with a microphone and a synthesizer, recording all kinds of strange noises and sampling them to play back later.

After her bank account is drained, Kris gets away and tries to adjust to normal life again, but it’s hard to go back. She loses her job, and her personality becomes almost robotic. It is then that she meets Jeff (director Carruth) on a commuter train and they begin having conversations that eventually lead to a romantic relationship. And then she begins to realize that maybe Jeff has experienced a similar abduction in his past, because he has the same kind of knife marks on his leg that she does…

So what do Thoreau, pigs and the ingesting of strange worms have to do with each other? You’ll have to see UPSTREAM COLOR for yourself, and it may take some work to figure it out. UPSTREAM COLOR is the kind of movie that does not provide ready answers, but that’s okay. There are so many movies that try to explain every little detail of what’s going on, that it’s a relief sometimes to find a movie like this, that refuses to make it easy. I’m still not one hundred percent sure about every aspect of the movie, but I do know that I found the film to be very compelling, and I’m sure I’ll see it again at some point.

Kris (Amy Seimetz) undergoes a strange abduction in Shane Carruth's UPSTREAM COLOR.

Kris (Amy Seimetz) experiences a strange abduction in Shane Carruth’s UPSTREAM COLOR.

The direction by Carruth (who also wrote the script) is quite good, as is the cinematography (which, it turns out, is also by Carruth). It’s a visually interesting film, with minimal dialogue in its first half, and yet it might just captivate you from the moment it begins. Just go in expecting something completely different, and you won’t be disappointed. This is not like the typical Hollywood film. It’s another animal entirely.

And for that reason, because it plays by its own rules, I give UPSTREAM COLOR three and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives UPSTREAM COLOR ~three and a half knives.

Transmissions to Earth: DJANGO (1966)

Posted in 2012, 60s Movies, Action Movies, Classic Films, Exploitation Films, Italian Cinema, Killers, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Spaghetti Westerns, Trasmissions to Earth, Westerns with tags , , , , , , on December 27, 2012 by knifefighter

 

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Transmissions to Earth Presents:

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DJANGO (1966)
Review by L.L. Soares

In honor of Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, DJANGO UNCHAINED, which opened on Christmas Day, I thought I would see the movie that inspired him – at least in part – the original 1966 spaghetti western called, simply, DJANGO, starring Franco Nero.

When we first see the titular anti-hero, Django is on a hill, dragging a coffin behind him with ropes. He looks down upon a group of Mexican bandits tying up a prostiute named Maria (Loredana Nusciak) and flogging her. Suddenly, a group of soldiers arrive, shooting the bandits and setting the woman free – or so we think. Instead, they form a cross from pieces of wood, intent on burning her for her sins. Django comes to her rescue and she is saved a second time.

Django drags around a coffin wherever he goes.

Django drags around a coffin wherever he goes.

Going into town, they find it pretty much deserted, except for a whorehouse/saloon run by Nathaniel (Angel Alvarez). Their clientele includes the soldiers, led by Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo), and the Mexican bandits, led by General Hugo (Jose Bodalo), the exact two groups who had taken turns persecuting Maria earlier.

Django makes the whorehouse his office, dragging that coffin of his into the middle of the room, to the consternation of Nathaniel and his girls, who are terrified about how Major Jackson will respond. When we are introduced to the Major, he is using bandits as target practice (they’re forced to run up a hill and he shoots them in the back as they flee). Jackson takes some of his men into town to look at the stranger who shot some of his soldiers, which leads to  Django revealing just what’s in that coffin of his. Let’s just say Major Jackson enters the saloon with an entourage and leaves all by himself.

Django has a special treat for his enemies in the coffin he drags around everywhere.

Django has a special treat for his enemies in the coffin he drags around everywhere.

While Django and Nathaniel are digging graves for all the men Django has killed, the bandits show up again. It turns out that General Hugo knows Django from past skirmishes and they are old friends. Django reveals to the General why he came to town – to steal some gold from a military fort just inside the Mexican border. Hugo is game, and they follow Major Jackson back to the fort, where they attack (after hiding in the covered wagon Nathaniel normally uses to bring prostitutes to the soldiers) and abscond with a big bag of gold dust.

Afterwards, Hugo double-crosses Django, cheating him out of his cut of the gold in the name of “La Revolucion” Hugo is planning, to take over the Mexican government. He expects Django to make a sacrifice for the cause, but the mysterious stranger has no intention of leaving empty-handed, especially when it was his plan that got them the gold.

After tricking the bandits out of their gold, Django tries to get away, but accidentally loses the gold (now stuffed in his coffin) to a patch of quicksand. The bandits catch up and crush Django’s hands, leaving him for dead, before riding off into an ambush of Major Jackson’s men, who shoot the bandits dead.

The film ends with a lethal showdown in a cemetery with Django, with a gun but crushed hands, against Major Jackson and a group of his men, culminating in a satisfying conclusion.

DJANGO was a big hit upon its initial release and spawned lots of imitators, and some sequels. It’s clear that Franco Nero’s character is patterened after the “Man with No Name” that Clint Eastwood played in the spaghetti westerns he did for director Sergio Leone.  Django is a man of few works, with a face full of stubble, like Eastwood’s mercenary, but Nero also has piercing blue eyes beneath his beat-up cowboy hat. Directed by Sergio Corbucci, DJANGO isn’t as epic as Leone’s best work, and he clearly doesn’t have anywhere near the budget of Leone’s films, but Corbucci makes up for it in in interesting locations and a strong atmosphere of foreboding.

DJANGO doesn’t have much to distinguish it from the tons of other Italian westerns of the time, but Nero is terrific as the lead character. And that coffin he drags around is an interesting gimmick. Also, Major Jackson’s men go around wearing red bags over their heads, looking an awful lot like a variation on the Klu Klux Klan (the fact that Jackson is clearly a racist just emphasizes this).

It’s not 100% clear what Major Jackson is up to. He leads a group of soldiers, but they seem to be outside of the law and murder the locals with impunity. At one point, Jackson mentions that he fought for the South in the recent Civil War (which isn’t referred to by name), while Django fought for the North. All the more reason for them to be enemies. But since the film was made in Italy, it seems to be a little vague about the details of the war and the specifics of geography.

While it’s not a great movie, DJANGO has some great moments, including a scene where bandits cut off the ear of one of Major Jackson’s cronies, a preacher named Brother Jonathan (Gino Pernice), and that final showdown in the graveyard. And Franco Nero dominates every scene he’s in, and it’s not hard to see how he became an international star.

Charismatic actor Franco Nero became a star for his portrayal of DJANGO.

Charismatic actor Franco Nero became a star for his portrayal of DJANGO.

DJANGO may have “inspired” Tarantino’s new one, but aside from the titles (and names of the title characters) and the fact that they’re both westerns, there’s not a lot in common between DJANGO and DJANGO UNCHAINED. Tarantino has stated that he really likes this movie, however, and he uses some of Luis Bacalov’s score for DJANGO in DJANGO UNCHAINED, including the memorable title song which appears in both films. The original film is worth checking out, however, especially if you’re a big fan of Italian westerns of the 1970s.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

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Meals for Monsters (Christmas Edition): SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1972)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 70s Horror, B-Movies, Evil Santas, Family Secrets, Grindhouse Goodies, HOLIDAY CHEER, Jenny Orosel Columns, Low Budget Movies, Meals for Monsters, Psycho killer with tags , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2012 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1972)
Special Christmas Review and recipes by Jenny Orosel

SilentNightBloodyNight1974USposterThere are a ton of Christmas horror movies to liven up the season. For every disgustingly sweet animated special with singing toys and perky reindeer, there is a psychopath in a Santa suit screaming about “garbage day,” or a homicidal, wise-cracking snowman. But a truly scary horror film, those are harder to come by. Recently, though, I discovered SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1972), and it saved my sanity from the season’s twentieth bad cover of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”.

Something happened in the Butler mansion on Christmas Eve, 1935. Little is known, other than the mansion had been converted into an asylum in order to provide treatment for Wilfred Butler’s teenage daughter. Neither of them survived, and the asylum was shut down. Fast forward three decades and Butler’s grandson is trying to sell the old house. The city’s elite want it destroyed. And people connected to the house are dying at the hands of a masked killer. Who is it, why are they massacring the town one by one, and what does it have to do with that fateful Christmas Eve?

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT could have easily been a horrible movie. Let’s face it, a psychotic killer and a mental hospital setting are hardly original. Yet somehow writer/director Theodore Gershuny manages to make it as realistic as it can be, consistently suspenseful, and rather unpredictable. The performances were pretty good as well, especially from genre favorites John Carradine and Mary Woronov. There wasn’t much of a budget, but BLOODY NIGHT didn’t need it. The scares came from the great pacing not fancy special effects, so I rarely noticed. It might be that I expected so little going into it but I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had with BLOODY NIGHT.  So much fun, in fact, that I made it the Christmas Meals for Monsters column.

The Christmas Eve of 1935 included a huge feast with champagne flowing freely. In honor of one of the stars, I’ve named the cocktail:

THE GINGER WORONOV:

drink1 part ginger ale
4 parts sparkling wine
1 splash bitters
serve cold

You can’t have a feast–especially a Christmas Eve feast–without a roast. The traditional beef rib roast or Chateaubriand can get pricey VERY fast, and would hardly fit the budget of BLOODY NIGHT. An eye of round is a relatively inexpensive beef roast, and can still be delicious if done right.

CHRISTMAS EVE ROAST BEEF:

dinner3-pound eye of round roast
1 bunch fresh sage
1 bunch fresh tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Soak the herbs in water while the oven heats. When the oven is ready, put the herbs in the roasting pan underneath the rack. Salt and pepper to taste. Put the roast in the hot oven for a half hour. Turn off the oven but DO NOT open the door. Leave the roast in the oven for an hour and a half. This will make it medium doneness. If you prefer your beef more cooked through, increase the initial cooking time. Serve sliced thin.

The Christmas Eve scene included a cameo by Candy Darling, one of my favorite “superstars” from Andy Warhol’s stable of actors. Her role was small and added very little to the overall plot, but she was memorable and a nice little addition to the flick. As a nod to her and her inclusion:

CHRISTMAS CANDY DARLING (aka Peppermint Bark)

dessert1 pound dark chocolate (NOT chips)
1 pound white chocolate (not chips, either)
6 candy canes

Smash the unwrapped candy canes until well pulverized. Line a 9×9 square cake pan with wax paper. In the microwave, heat the dark chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring in between each, until completely melted (you will be tempted to heat it for longer increments. DON’T DO IT! Trust me.) Pour melted chocolate into the pan, spread evenly, and refrigerate until solid. Heat the white chocolate in the same manner. Pour over the cooled dark chocolate and, before setting in the fridge, sprinkle evenly with the candy cane pieces. Once the candy has hardened, break apart into wedges. Will stay good for weeks, as long as it isn’t stored on a radiator.

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT is in the public domain and easy to get a hold of. Getting a hold of a decent copy, though, is much more difficult. The copy I watched was from Alpha Video and, while grainy, was not unwatchable. And there’s something fun about it, amid the Martha Stewart level of neatness and precision abounding during the holidays, to watch something with flaws and scratches. So relax, let your hair down, and blow off all that holiday season steam with some good, old-fashioned lunatics.

© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel

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Cinema Knife Fight/New Filmmakers Edition – CURSE OF THE REVENANT (2011)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Indie Horror, Low Budget Movies, New Filmmmakers, Possession, Supernatural with tags , , , , , , , on November 9, 2012 by knifefighter

Cinema Knife Fight: New Filmmakers Edition
CURSE OF THE REVENANT by Jess Solis (2011)
Review by L.L. Soares and Michael Arruda

(THE SCENE: A pathway in the middle of the woods. L.L. SOARES is waiting there, wearing a hoodie.)

LS: Hello everyone. Welcome to a new series we’re doing here at Cinema Knife Fight, where Michael and I review films by new filmmakers. We won’t be doing this a lot – maybe once a month at the most – so if you’re a filmmaker and want to send us something, please query us first. We don’t have time to review a lot of films from new filmmakers, so spots are limited. But we wanted to start this new feature to give attention to movies that much otherwise fall between the cracks.

The first person to send us his movie was Jess Solis, who directed, co-wrote (and stars in) the film CURSE OF THE REVENANT (2011).

(MICHAEL ARRUDA suddenly appears from behind a tree)

MA: There you are. I was wondering why you told me to meet you here, in the middle of the woods.

LS: I thought we’d go on a little hike and review CURSE OF THE REVENANT.

MA: Okay.  Why don’t you start the review?

LS: Sure.

CURSE OF THE REVENANT begins with a bearded guy with long hair walking around. We’re told in narration cards (like a silent movie) that the man’s name is Ivan (played by Jess Solis)  and he has lost his wife and child in an unexplained tragedy. Feeling abandoned by God, “Ivan the Sorrowful” is forced to wander the earth. And that’s just what he does! Ivan walks and walks, and we gets lots of shots of trees and paths in the woods. At one point, Ivan pulls up the hood on his hoodie and looks an awful lot like your typical horror movie Satanist.

MA:  I love silent movies, and so I was excited when this one opened up in the style of a silent movie.  However, as you just said, “Ivan the Sorrowful” walks and walks and walks.  For the first ten minutes of this movie, that’s all good old Ivan does.  Literally.

Not the way to hook your audience, sorry to say!

LS:  The camera work is fuzzy in a way that tries to look otherworldly, but I didn’t care for it.

MA:  Neither did I.  It was actually quite irritating.

LS:  The lack of dialogue in this early section was also a minus. In something like THE CALL OF CTHULHU (2005), which tries to emulate classic silent films, this kind of stuff works with ease, partly because director Andrew Leman had such a damn good story to work with. Unfortunately, at first, CURSE OF THE REVENANT doesn’t seem to have much of a story.

MA: How right you are!  The story seems to be hidden among those trees.

LS: As Ivan walks around, we are told several times that “Evil Lurks.” Something is stalking him in the woods. Ivan finds a house (“a place to sleep”) but it’s too dark to see very well. He goes inside and huddles in a corner, trying to sleep. The next day, he wakes up and goes to the beach to and stares at the water in the glare of the sunlight.

Then he goes walking in the woods again, until he comes upon a cave, and we can tell from Ivan’s body language that some unseen force (the aforementioned “lurking evil,” no doubt)  takes possession of him there. He now sees everything in negative (whenever we are looking from his point of view) and there are finally voices on the soundtrack—mostly strange voices—but one clearly says “I am your master now.”

Ivan’s wandering takes him to a clearing where he watches a group of four men gather together. It looks like a rest stop. It is here, about the 24-minute mark, that things finally become somewhat normal. There’s dialogue on the soundtrack now, and the characters talk to each other (no more narration cards). Two guys, Peter (Andy Solis) and Mark (Matt Caster), are waiting for someone. Two other guys show up, one of them says he is “Mr. Ramirez, but you can call me Richard,” (an allusion to the real-life Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker killer? I don’t think so…). Richard (Frank Torres) and his “disciple” Isaiah (T.J. Gaeta) explain that they are about to go on a “Christian hike” through the woods. Peter and Mark aren’t very enthusiastic, and seem like they were forced to go along with this.

At one point, Richard separates from the others to go to the bathroom in the woods.  As the guys talk, we notice that Ivan is behind a tree, watching them.

When Richard returns, the screen turns black and we hear him talk about how the others strangely disappeared. We don’t see what happens to them. There’s a dream sequence where Peter walks into an ornate, but empty, church, while Richard wanders around the woods, looking for the others. There are a few more times where the screen goes black and Richard wakes up after sleeping on the ground. He is covered in blood and disoriented. He stumbles through the woods, and at one point sees Ivan in the distance, moving toward him.

Something awful happens off-screen. Richard screams. The screen is black.

Three years later, we see Peter in his house, locking all the doors and looking nervous. He’s waiting for someone or something. Has this all been a dream? Did Peter somehow escape the horror in the woods? Is he still being stalked by Ivan? The answers might surprise you. The operative word being “might.”

MA:  Then again, they might not.

LS:  While I can appreciate the filmmakers’ ambition to try something different, the camera effects didn’t work for me for the most part. The fuzzy film work in the beginning, the occasional use of negative, the way the screen goes black sometimes, none of it really added much to the proceedings to me. If anything, I felt disappointed when something major was about to happen, and the screen would go black instead of showing us what was going on. This might have saved the filmmakers money, but it leaves the viewer dissatisfied.

MA:  Very dissatisfied.

LS:  At around 75 minutes, I thought a lot of the film could have been edited down. Scenes of people walking around in the woods go on way too long, for example.

MA:  I’ll say.  I thought I was watching someone’s home movies, and I have to be honest here, I kept thinking, what is the filmmaker thinking here?  What’s the point of so much screen time spent simply walking?  Where’s the story?

LS:  Not everything in the story is coherent, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Having a dream-like quality to your film can be a good thing, but it doesn’t really work here.

The script doesn’t amount to a lot, and the soundtrack is made up of mostly public domain music, including some annoying organ music in some scenes.

There were some positives, however. The scene where the four hikers first meet is pretty good; it’s the first time you feel like you’re watching real people, and I wish we could have gotten more of their time together. In fact, I wish most of the movie had been about them. There’s also a sequence toward the end called “Exorcism at the Sea” where Ivan confronts his demons, which has a couple of good images, including momentary use of color that is much too fleeting (the film is completely in black and white otherwise).

I think CURSE OF THE REVENANT would have been much more effective as a short film, maybe 20 minutes or so. It doesn’t really succeed as a feature, and there’s just too much unnecessary footage, and scenes that don’t really move the story forward. I would have been curious to see it trimmed down, to see if it worked better. In its current form, I wasn’t very excited about CURSE by the time the end credits rolled.

MA:  I’ve largely held my tongue here.  Look, I know this is a new film in search of promotion, and so I don’t want to badmouth it.  I’d almost prefer a private email between me and the filmmaker to say these things, but then again, the film was submitted to us to review.  When I review a movie, I approach it from the standpoint of a critical viewer, not a fellow fiction writer giving mentoring advice.  And so, from that standpoint, I have to say the things that come to my mind as a critical viewer.  In other words, if the film is out there for people to see, and they have to spend money to see it, then our job as critics is to tell people the truth about the film as we see it.

So, here’s the deal for me.  The first ten minutes of this movie featured— literally—nothing more than a guy walking in the woods.  It goes without saying, that the film didn’t hook me, which means I checked out long before anything else happened.  As a result, I just couldn’t get into this movie.

And I found the rest of the film confusing and not very satisfying.

I’d completely re-work the beginning.  One minute tops for that guy walking in the woods, and then get on with the story, and flesh it out a helluva lot more.

That’s my two cents.  As it stands, I can’t recommend this movie.

LS:  Not exactly the most promising start for this new column. But I sincerely hope that Jess impresses us more with his next film.

And I’m curious to see what film we review next time.

-END-

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

CURSE OF THE REVENANT
Produced and Directed by Jess Solis
Script by Jess Solis, Frank Torres and Andy Solis (Story by Jess Solis)
Cast: Jess Solis, Frank Torres, Matt Caster, Andy Solis, T.J. Gaeta
Running time: approximately one hour and 15 minutes

You can see CURSE OF THE REVENANT for yourself,  now available on “Amazon Instant Video.”

*****

NOTE: IF YOU ARE AN UP-AND -COMING FILMMAKER AND WANT TO HAVE US REVIEW YOUR MOVIE HERE, PLEASE CHECK OUT OUR RULES FIRST. THANKS.

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN (1957)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 2012, Aliens, American Internatonal Pictures, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Low Budget Movies, Monsters, Science Fiction with tags , , , , , , , on November 8, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN (1957)

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.

American International Pictures, providers of fine drive-in fare for more than 25 years.  Formed in 1954 by James Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff (sounds like a mad scientist, doesn’t he?), AIP produced movies on the cheap, movies that would appeal to the teenagers flocking to the outdoor theaters.  The company was infamous for developing a poster and then having somebody (who worked cheaply) to write a script around the ad campaign.  Surprisingly, this worked out well for everyone concerned.  The producers made money, the kids were happy to see babes and monsters and hot rods in between make out sessions, and the films were so much fun it’s hard to complain about their lack of budget or home-made special effects.  Whether it was THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (1954, and the first AIP feature) or Roger Corman’s Poe Cycle of films or I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN (1957), these movies were fun.  Also in 1957, came a new, completely crazy sci-fi film INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, directed by Edward L. Cahn (IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, 1958, VOODOO WOMAN, 1957, DRAGSTRIP GIRL, 1957 and ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU, 1957. 1957 was a big year for Cahn!).

Our story begins with a book entitled ‘A True Story of a Flying Saucer.’  A male hand turns the pages, showing the economically created credits while music plays that sounds suspiciously like Loony Toons accompaniment.  Instantly, we meet, via voice-over, our hero, Artie Burns (Lyn Osborn, Cadet Happy on the SPACE PATROL show) who talks about his hometown, Hicksburg, where there isn’t much for the young people to do except suck face in cars at lover’s lane.  Joe, Artie ‘s partner, played by Frank Gorshin (the Riddler on the 1960s BATMAN TV series), is a jive talking hustler looking for a woman to pick up.  They live together in a boarding house, but after striking out with a diner waitress, Joe decides to find some action somewhere else.  Instead, he spots a UFO landing in a nearby field!  He rushes back to the boarding house to let his partner in on what he’s seen.

Meanwhile, Johnny (Steve Terrell of TEA AND SYMPATHY and RUNAWAY DAUGHTERS – both 1956) hangs out with his buddies, waiting to pick up his girl Gloria (played by Gloria Castillo of REFORM SCHOOL GIRL, 1957 and TEENAGE MONSTER, 1958).  They plan to elope later that night, but first they stop at Lover’s Point for a few beers and some nik-nik.  After their tryst, they run over a little man with a huge head, killing it, but its hand (with an eye on the back of it) crawls away, grows sharp nails, and punctures the teens’ tires!  They run to Old Man Larkin’s house to call the cops, but the old man is missing.  They barge on in to his place and use his phone, but the police don’t believe their reports of little green men.  “It’s Saturday Night,” the policeman says.  “It’s official.”

Johnny and Joan’s plans to elope get sidetracked by the INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN!

Meanwhile, the UFO is being investigated by the military—well, two men from the military, who don’t seem to do much other than stand around and worry.  Colonel Ambrose and Lt. Wilkins call in the engineers!

Driving back to the field, Joe finds the hand-less corpse of the big brained saucer man.  After he takes a snort of bourbon, he packs the creature into his car.  He calls his partner and tells him to clean everything out of the refrigerator.  “What I’m bringing home is perishable!”

Old Man Larkin returns and he thinks the kids are drunk.  “You tell yer friends not to park on my property, or they’ll get a backside full a’ rock salt!”  So, Johnny and Jean tromp back to the car to fix the flat and discover the creature’s body is gone.  Joe is attacked by several of the little bastards, who stab him with hypodermic fingers dripping with liquid.

Johnny and Jean find one of the saucer men using a little jack-hammer on the bumper of their car.  They decide to just walk back to town.  They’re stopped by the police, who take their statements.  The stupid kids tell the truth, but they are given a drunk test and locked up, instead.    “In my day, we were content with pink elephants,” the sensitive officer says.  That’s what happens when you report little green men traipsing about the countryside.

The Saucer Men ATTACK!

In the meantime, the military is getting nowhere trying to contact the space men . . . probably because they’re all out of the UFO bashing up teenager’s cars and shooting up The Riddler with happy juice.   They accidentally blow the ship to pieces.  Yep, that’s our best defense at work.

Jean’s father is the city attorney, who picks her up at the jail.  But, boy, he doesn’t like Johnny or his slick ways.  The kids are accused of running over Joe, and the coppers have the body to prove it.  That’s why they were jack hammering Johnny’s car, to frame the kids for murder!  Smart little monsters.  Joe is dead from alcohol poisoning, and he is not a little green man.  The cops go to the boarding house to speak to his “friend.”  Whenever someone talks about Artie, Joe’s “roommate,” they say it as though in “quotation marks.”  Hmm . . .

The kids steal Jean’s father’s car and head for the field again to prove their innocence.  The woods are crawling with the big-headed creatures.  And the military just leaves the wreckage of the UFO in the field!  And that hand is still crawling around!

The kids go back to town and fetch Artie, telling him how his “roommate” has been killed.  The saucer men skulk around the bushes of the woods, one finally attacking Old Man Larkin’s prize bull with injections of alcohol from its fingers, but the inebriated bull has other ideas, goring the creature right in its bugged out eyeballs!  The bull bucks and stabs at an obvious dummy, flinging the stuffed saucer man all over a field.

Jean’s father’s car has a huge spotlight on it, which she claims she uses as a mirror.  Lucky for them, because when the saucer men are caught in the bright lights, they blow up real good.  Finally, a way to kill the little jerks!  It’s up to all the amorous teens at Lover’s Point and their hot rods to rid the town of Hicksburg of the interstellar menace!

Frank Gorshin takes a break from tormenting Batman as the Riddler to face off with horrifying aliens in INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN!

If all this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you saw the TV remake, THE EYE CREATURES (1965) directed by the hack Larry Buchanan.  It follows the plot point by point, copies dialogue word for word, but misses any of the fun from the original.  Even the creatures pale in comparison, burlap sack covered people with hundreds of ping pong eyes sewn on.  Really.  I’d much rather watch the midgets with giant veiny heads, bugged out eyes, sharp teeth, and long hands that have magical liquor in their fingers.  Now, that is a party monster!

INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN is, by no means, a good film.  It is, however, a lot of fun if you’re in the right frame of mind . . . like the constant frame of my mind.  And certainly yours, dear reader.  With funny hipster dialogue, crazy situations, bad acting, and the silliest looking monsters in ages, it is a lot of fun.  I bet the teens in 1957 ate it up, cheering on the brave, cool kid heroes and hissing at the stupid adults who just won’t listen to them.

I give INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN three little green men out of four.

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl

Transmissions to Earth: FIEND (1980)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Horror, 2012, Bad Acting, Drive-in Movies, Evil Spirits, Grindhouse Goodies, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Reanimated Corpses, Trasmissions to Earth with tags , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2012 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH:
FIEND (1980)
By L.L. Soares

About a year ago, Nick Cato reviewed this one from memory for his “Suburban Grindhouse Memories” column, and it sounded interesting to me, so I figured I’d check it out. A big part of why was the “monster” —Dan Leifert in zombie makeup—which I’d seen stills of all over the place, but had never actually seen the movie (or even knew what it was called). Despite the fact that Nick didn’t remember it being very good, I have to admit, I really enjoyed this one more than I expected to.

Made by low-budget Baltimore filmmaker Don Dohler, FIEND (1980) is one of those movies that defies logic, and will have you laughing your ass off at certain scenes. The scenes that work are actually pretty good, the ones that don’t are just plain funny. But, despite its lack of funds, it’s a decent little flick, tells a coherent story, and features some entertaining acting, especially from Leifert as the pompous violin teacher (and part-time reanimated corpse) Eric Longfellow.

It begins with a spirit of some kind—it glows bright red and is hard to make out—entering a graveyard at night. How’s that for a spooky beginning! The spirit flies around until it stops at the grave of someone named Dorian and then it plunges down into the ground. Not long afterwards, the corpse rises from its resting place—an ugly deteriorating zombie. The spirit has reanimated him! Soon afterwards, he strangles  a young woman, and his hands glow red. After she dies, he no longer looks like a walking corpse—he looks like a normal man! He wanders into a neighborhood where his distant cousin is selling a house (I guess they’re not there). He pulls up the “For Sale” sign and makes the place his home. So that’s how a zombie gets a place to live!

The soul energy that revives him only lasts so long, so Mr. Longfellow (as the creature now calls himself) has to strangle more women now and then to keep himself fresh.  We’ve seen creatures like this in dozens of other horror movies, but somehow it works pretty well here. Every time he kills someone, he glows red (it’s a cheapo effect that gets used a lot). Somehow, in between murders, he is able to open his own music school and is considered a respectable member of society. How? Where did he get the money to fund a school (much less handle the expenses of a house—like gas and electricity—where he’s obviously a squatter). It doesn’t matter. He even has a faithful employee named Dennis Frye (the great George Stover, veteran of several of John Waters’ movies and probably a local hero in Baltimore—Stover also produced the movie). Frye is clearly afraid of his boss and is always saying “Yes, sir, yes sir,” when Longfellow verbally abuses him.

The “creepy red glow” – a cheapo effect that gets used a lot in FIEND.

Longfellow has a good cover, so no one finds him suspicious. No one, that is, except his next-door neighbor Gary Kender (Richard Nelson). Kender first starts complaining to his wife Marsha (Elaine White, one of the better actors in this movie) because Longfellow has students come to his home for violin lessons, and the noise is irritating him, but he eventually learns that that’s the least of the troubles Mr. Longfellow has brought to town. The murders of young women seem to be happening closer and closer to where they live, and when a little girl in the neighborhood named Kristy Michaels (played by Dohler’s daughter, Kim) is found murdered in the woods behind their houses, her neck broken, Kender starts to notice the weird comings and goings of Mr. Longfellow. When he finds out that Longfellow told the police he didn’t hear anything because he was listening to music with his employee Frye on headphones (how do two people listen on headphones to reel-t0-reel tape player?), he really thinks there’s something up.

Gary goes over to Longfellow’s house to ask him questions. He learns that Longfellow doesn’t live in the upper part of the house, but down in the basement, where it’s darker and damp. When Kender asks him why he lives like this, Longfellow says he likes it that way. When Longfellow goes to get them some wine, Gary snoops around and finds a room hidden behind a black curtain, where Longfellow has skulls and books on black magic! That’s a sure sign this guy is up to no good!

Kender does some investigating on Longfellow’s background and finds out some odd things about him. Meanwhile, a kid in the neighborhood named Scotty (Dohler’s son Greg) follows Longfellow through the woods and sees him meet Frye in a secluded place and kill him. Scotty runs to tell Kender, but Marsha at first tells the boy he’s sleeping and to come back later. When Gary finds out the boy had come by, he is eager to know what Scotty saw, so he goes to his house. Scotty is reluctant to tell his story at first, but then he spills the beans, and Kender is even more sure that Longfellow is the local serial killer.

Mr. Longfellow decides to silence his employee Dennis Frye (George Stover) for good, in FIEND.

Armed with all the facts he has dug up, Kender is about to call the police, when he notices his wife is gone. Longfellow called her up and asked her to bring over some aspirin, because he had a horrible headache. She tells him she doesn’t have anything at first, then decides the neighborly thing to do is to help the guy out, so she goes over. Longfellow told her over the phone that he would leave the door open for her, since he’s in too much pain to come over himself.

Marsha goes into the house, but Longfellow is nowhere to be found. Anyone with half a brain would have just left the bottle on a table and gone home, but she wanders around the house calling out Longfellow’s name. Eventually she goes down into the basement, and you know she’s in trouble then!

Kender figures out where Marsha went and goes over to save her. Which leads to the big showdown between Kender and Longfellow. Will the damsel be saved? Will good prevail over evil? You’ll have to see the movie to find out.

FIEND is actually a pretty enjoyable flick, if you’re into this kind of low-budget drive-in fare. Director Don Dohler also made other goofy horror flicks like THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978), NIGHTBEAST (1982), THE GALAXY INVADER (1985) and BLOOD MASSACRE (1991). His movies are exactly the kind of stuff you’d find in abundance at Mom and Pop video stores in the 80s.

The cast may not be made up of the best actors in the world, but I enjoyed the performances. Richard Nelson is kind of stiff at times as Gary Kender, but as the movie progresses, he gets better in the role, and makes a decent hero. Elaine White is actually very likable as his wife, Marsha. George Stover, not the best actor you’ll ever see in a movie, is actually pretty entertaining as the milquetoast employee Frye, and Don Leifert is terrific as Eric Longfellow, who acts like a pompous ass when he’s not out strangling people. I thought Leifert’s performance was pretty funny at times, and FIEND seems like one of those grindhouse gems you find once in a while after wading through a lot of garbage.

This one is only for fans of low-budget, trashy movies. But if you’re into this kind of stuff, I think you’ll have a fun time with FIEND. If this one isn’t a cult movie yet, it should be.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

The DVD box cover for FIEND.