Archive for the Meals for Monsters Category

Meals for Monsters Dines with THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964)

Posted in 1960s Horror, 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Based on a Classic Novel, Classic Films, Jenny Orosel Columns, Meals for Monsters, Vampires, Vincent Price with tags , , , , on May 22, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

0862_2d9a_500This year, on May 27th, Vincent Price would have been 102 years old.  This year also marks a decade since his passing. Price had a rare talent for adding a touch of class to even the most lowly, trashy films.  Because of this, and his superior acting chops, he was in constant demand for decades, and graced us with over a hundred film roles.  It’s a great icebreaker among other horror film fans to play the “What’s Your Favorite Vincent Price Film?” game.  However, whatever answer they give is wrong…unless they name THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964).

LAST MAN ON EARTH was the first adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic vampire novel, I am Legend, and is definitely the most loyal to the source material, even more so than the recent version that bares its name.  For those unfamiliar with the story, a plague has ravaged the planet.  It quickly kills the infected, who then return to life as something else.  They stumble mindlessly yet relentlessly, as zombies, but cannot stand the light or garlic, and can be killed by a wooden stake through the heart.  The disease was brutal and heavily contagious.  In fact, almost everyone on the planet has fallen to the sickness.  Everyone, it seems, but Price’s Robert Morgan.  A scientist who once studied the plague, after watching both his wife and young daughter die, has become a shell of a man, hunting down and killing the other beings by day, and at night, hoping that somewhere out in the world is another person, that he really isn’t the last man left on Earth.

I’m trying to come up with something negative to say about THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, but I can’t.  That said, I can understand why some people aren’t so enamored.  The flick is very claustrophobic; a large chunk of it consists of Price alone onscreen, or with a zombie.  Among the parts where he is interacting with others is an extended flashback sequence, where we get to watch with Price as his daughter and wife succumb.  These are not your typical horror movie “why our hero needs revenge” scenes.  No, they’re heartbreakingly real.  Opposite his usual role as the wacked mad scientist with sinister, but exuberant, glee, in LAST MAN, Price reminded audiences that he was a true artist, capable of subtlety and nuance.  And, although some horror fans might be scared away from this film, I would recommend this for a dinner and a movie in, and toast the life of one of the great ones, if not the greatest.

Throughout LAST MAN, Morgan drinks coffee.  Quite a bit of coffee.  He offers coffee to his wife and friends, his recent acquaintances.  But now and then he needed a sip of the hard stuff to get him through the emotional turmoil until the next day started.  Combining those, I offer up a mug of:

LAST COFFEE ON EARTH

drink

Ingredients:

1 mug of good coffee
1 shot Irish whiskey
1/4 tsp lemon extract
Splash of cream

Directions:

Mix that up and enjoy one or two before dinner.

With dinner, I suggest a nice glass of wine.  Not just because it would taste good with the main dish, but because Price himself was a connoisseur and even recorded an LP extolling its virtues.  I had to acknowledge that when coming up with a dinner.  Yet, I couldn’t ignore the vast amounts of garlic used in the movie (wreaths of bulbs were always on Morgan’s door).  The raspberries?  They just taste good.  So, for a dinner with LAST MAN, please enjoy:

RASPBERRY GARLIC  COQ AU VIN

dinner

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (halved through the center)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 shallot
10 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 bottle white wine
2 heaping tbsp raspberry preserves
2 tbsp butter
Minced chives (optional)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a pan.  Salt and pepper the chicken.  Sauté until browned and cooked through.  Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.

In remaining oil, sauté the shallot and garlic until just barely browned, about a minute or so.  Pour in the bottle of wine, and let reduce by about 3/4.  Add the preserves and stir in as it melts down.  Adjust the salt and pepper after this step.  Stir in the butter.  Once butter is melted, return chicken to pan and heat through.  Serve over rice and sprinkle with chives.

I had a similar dilemma when figuring out a dessert.  Price, not only was he a wine lover, but a gourmet as well, having authored numerous cookbooks.  One of his after-dinner specialties was the “Ice Box Cake” and its many variations (Ice Box Cake being a fancy term for an ice cream cake).  Yet I couldn’t ignore making it relevant to the film, and the one scene that stuck in my mind was the flashback to Morgan’s daughter’s birthday party.  Her last birthday party, and perhaps even the last birthday party celebrated by humans.  In that scene, Morgan is discussing this new plague, but is interrupted by his daughter wanting him to come eat some cake.  What kind of ice box cake would be fitting for a little girl’s birthday party?  Ice cream cupcakes!

ICE BOX CUPCAKES

dessert

Ingredients:

1 dozen cupcakes, freshly baked, either by box mix or scratch
1 or 2 pints ice cream, softened (amount depends on what kind of ice cream used
Frosting
(NOTE: flavors of all the above are your choice, just make sure they are flavors that blend well together)

Directions:

Prepare cupcakes as directed by the instructions.  After they’ve cooled, take a spoon and scoop about an inch worth of cake from the center.  Fill with softened ice cream and refreeze.  Once the ice cream is hardened again, frost and decorate.

(NOTE–the density of the ice cream used will determine how many pints are needed.  Lighter ice creams like Dryers get compacted as they are melted and refrozen.  On the other hand, things like gelatos start out pretty dense don’t change much in the process.  Both have tasty, tasty endings, so both will work equally as well.)

I have to amend my earlier comment about THE LAST MAN ON EARTH being the only acceptable answer to “What was Vincent Price’s best film role.” WHALES OF AUGUST (1987) would also be okay, as long as we’re including non-starring roles and non-horror movies.  He was simply brilliant in that as well.  So pop one or the other in the DVD player, raise a glass (or mug) and wish a posthumous happy birthday to one of the best things to ever happen to horror films.  Happy Birthday, Mr. Price!

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

last man on earth 

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Meals for Monsters: VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (1970)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2013, Adult Fairy Tales, Coming of Age Movies, Foreign Films, Jenny Orosel Columns, Meals for Monsters, Vampires with tags , , , , on April 10, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (1970)
Review and recipes by Jenny Orosel

VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS silverferox design (1) copy

You know that magic moment when you’ve discovered a hidden gem of a movie?  That moment when you see something totally different and you cannot wait to introduce your friends, your family, and random strangers on the Internet to something totally unique and unknown?  And then the feeling following when you realize, you’re not the first to discover it, not the second or third, but the nine hundred, fifty seven thousandth.  That happened with me and VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (1970).  It turns out this is a classic unbeknownst to me, a film that influenced many that came after it (including being the inspiration for 1983’s IN THE COMPANY OF WOLVES), is currently playing on Criterion’s Hulu channel, and is taught in many college courses from Women’s Studies to Eastern European History.  I feel like my eyes have been opened, much like Valerie’s (albeit, to a much less profound degree).

For those who haven’t experienced it yet, VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS is a fairy tale from Czechoslovakia.  Not one of your Disney fables, but as they were in the Grimm days.  Thirteen-year-old Valerie is awakened from an afternoon nap when a thief steals her beloved earrings, the lone gift left by her long lost mother.  No worries, as they are returned the next day.  Only, now she begins menstruating, and when she puts the earrings back on, she can see the world as it really is.  Her suitor is now an eagle, the travelling missionary is a weasel, and her small village is overrun with vampires, from the local priest to her friend’s new husband, to her own grandmother.  The priest wants to corrupt her innocence, her grandmother wants to steal her youth, the eagle is hiding a dangerous secret, and nothing but evil seems to come from the missionary.  Can Valerie survive with her body and soul intact, or will she become yet another ‘monster’ herself?

Yes, a lot of the imagery in VALERIE is heavy-handed.  Weasels, vampires, demons…these were hardly unique in the seventies, and are even less so now.  But that hardly matters in VALERIE’s world.  The imagery is so stunning that it more than makes up for the lack of originality in the symbols.  ‘Lyrical’ is the best word I can come up with to describe the pacing.  Valerie moves through the week with such a gentle ease, despite the madness surrounding her.  And it’s hard to believe that Jaroslava Schallerova, the actress who portrayed Valerie, was only 13 herself when she made this flick.  She carries the movie, being in nearly every shot, without faltering, with a performance more nuanced than what most performers three times her age are capable of.  The only downside has nothing to do with the movie itself, but rather the DVD.  The subtitles are seriously lacking in the region 1 release from Facets Video.  It’s not quite at the “All your base are belong to us” level, but there are moments when it gets closer than it should.  From what I understand, the region 2 disc from Redemption, is much better, and I can only assume that Criterion’s streaming version is tightened and some of the grammatical issues have been fixed.

Coming up with a drink for this one was a little tricky.  In the past year, the Czech Republic put major restrictions on hard alcohol.  However, beer is more popular than ever over there.  So what would be a good beer drink to honor Valerie’s transition from childhood innocence to adulthood?  I present to you the:

BEER FLOAT

drink

Ingredients:
Fruit flavored ale
Chocolate ice cream

Directions: Feel free to adapt this to taste.  I used an apricot ale.  Strawberry ice cream was attempted, but the flavor was too light to stand up to the chocolate.

Kolaches, like VALERIE, are little bits of Eastern European deliciousness that I’ve only recently discovered. They can be made with sweet fillings or, as I used them here, with savory meat for a meal.  But they do need a vegetable side.  Boiled cabbage is a popular Czech side, but that’s not something I wanted to put people (or myself) through.  So I did the next best thing:

KOLACHES WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS

dinner

Ingredients for the Kolaches:
1 roll refrigerated French bread dough
½ Polska Kielbasa, diced
8 mushrooms, diced
½ onion, diced

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375.  Sauté the sausage, mushrooms and onion until the veggies are cooked through.  Divide the bread dough into 8 equal parts.  Flatten each piece into a disc and put onto a greased cookie sheet.  Divide the filling evenly onto the center of the discs and press down with the palm of your hand.

Ingredients (for the Brussels sprouts):
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered (depending on the size)
Other ½ of the onion, diced.
6 slices of bacon, cut into strips.

Directions: Toss the ingredients together and put on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake both of these, at the same time, for 25 minutes.

One of the most popular Czech desserts is a pastry called a Trdelnik.  It’s an elaborate bit of sugary goodness that takes multiple risings, and has to be baked over an open fire on a spit.  As delicious as they are, it’s too much work and too much of an expense, involving equipment that you’ll maybe use once or twice again.  Instead, I took the traditional flavors of the Trdelnik and put them into a bread pudding:

MOCK TRDELNIK

dessert

Ingredients:
1 small loaf cinnamon bread, cubed
4 eggs
¾ cup milk
¼ cup sugar
1 can tart cherries (NOT pie filling, but the kind that are packed in water), drained.

Directions: Beat the eggs, milk and sugar.  Fold in the bread and cherries.  Pour into buttered baking dish (this can be done ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until ready to bake).  Bake in an oven preheated to 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until done.  Can be served hot, room temperature, or cold, but best served with whipped cream.

I’ve seen my share of Female Puberty Horrors in my day. From CARRIE to GINGER SNAPS to countless others in between, the transformation from girl to woman has been done so many times as lycanthropic transformation, the emergence of witchly powers, as a sign that the demons within her has emerged with her menstrual blood.  It’s a welcome change in VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS that, it’s not the girl who is evil, but the world around her.  The added bonus is that it’s a fantastic movie that, although muddled at times, is both fascinating and gorgeous to watch.  If you’re in the same boat I was and have never seen it, do so now, and hopefully you’ll enjoy the dinner as well.

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

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Meals for Monsters Feeds THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1980s Horror, 2013, Bad Acting, Evil Spirits, Jenny Orosel Columns, Just Plain Bad, Meals for Monsters, Occult, Reanimated Corpses, Zombies with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989)
Movie Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

The Laughing Dead 1989 online

There are horror movie fans who can appreciate a good scare, a well-crafted look at the darkness of the human soul, perfectly paced suspense. This one is not for those fans. No, this time I present a Meals for Monsters for those of us who love garbage. Yes, you, with the TROLL 2 T-shirt, the well-worn VHS of WEASELS RIP MY FLESH, the ones who have every line of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE memorized. For those of you eagerly searching, hoping that there might be one movie left out there even worse than the ones you’ve seen before. Whatever the worst one is that you’ve seen, here is one to top them all: THE LAUGHING DEAD (1989).

A priest leads a group to explore some Aztec ruins. The cast of characters include some obnoxious New Agers, an obnoxious runaway, a couple of obnoxious frat-boy-style tourists, and an obnoxious former nun kicked out when she gave birth to a now-obnoxious teenager. Oh, and that teenager is the secret love-child of said priest in question. Luckily, the former nun kept the parentage quiet so, while she was defrocked and defamed, he happily got to keep his post (something which embittered her to no end). Did I mention the priest was no prize either? They get to the ruins and come to find that an evil doctor is trying to bring the evil Death God to life, and in the process, raises a bunch of the dead. Cue battle for the fate of humanity.

How painful is this to watch? Let me count the ways: poor performances, poor dialogue, poor pacing. Not a single character is remotely likeable, so there’s no one to root for. And by the time they’re killed off, you’ve got such a ‘blah’ feeling about the movie as a whole, it’s hard to bring yourself to cheer. What makes it even more painful is that the director should have known how to make a halfway decent fright flick. THE LAUGHING DEAD was directed by horror writer and one-time Horror Writers Association president S.P. Somtow. So it’s not like this was directed by a sixteen year old who’d never crafted a story before. And the majority of actors aren’t professional…actors, that is. They’re writers, which makes for some interesting trivia (Tim Powers, Bruce Barlow, Gregory Frost, Wendy Webb, Ed Bryant and Forrest J. Ackerman all show their faces), but let’s face it: unless you’ve seen them around or at conventions, you’ll have no idea who’s who, especially the ones in zombie attire. Playing “spot the writer” isn’t as much fun when you wouldn’t recognize them in front of you.

There are a few things you can do when encountering a movie this painfully bad. You could block it from memory and pretend you never witnessed it. You could dedicate a small portion of your life warning others to stay as far away as possible. Or you can have a party with your other bad film fan friends and share your pain. And what better way than throwing an Endurance Party? You all gather around to watch the flick, and each person who groans, curses at the screen, or runs screaming from the room is eliminated. The last person holding in their pain wins.

Alcohol would definitely help make THE LAUGHING DEAD more enjoyable to watch. But, during an Endurance Party, that is the last thing you want to do. But what if your friends refuse to watch without some adult beverage refreshment? I recommend the Faketail. They’ll think they’re getting a good, strong drink, but they’ll be left sober enough to experience every painful frame:

THE FAKETAIL

drink

Ingredients:
Cherry Juice
Apple Juice
Gin

Directions:

Pour one part cherry juice and one part apple juice. Gently float one tablespoon of gin on top of the drink. The drink will smell like an alcoholic beverage, and for the first few sips, taste like one.

*****

I pondered making an authentic Aztec meal. After all, the movie is based on the Aztecs, right? Plantains were a staple in ancient Aztec cultures. Then I started thinking about how well-researched and historically correct the Aztec references are in THE LAUGHING DEAD, and adjusted my recipe to the movie’s level of authenticity. I present to you:

MEAT BANANA SPLITS (aka Stuffed Baked Plantains)
(Serves 3, adjust the recipe depending on how many people are in attendance.)

dinner

Ingredients:
3 green plantains
3 tbsps. Butter
1 ½ pounds various meats (I used 1/2lb taco meat, 1/2lb chicken sausage and 1/2lb pulled pork)
Salsa
Cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a slit in each plantain, through the peel, about halfway through. Stuff 1 tablespoon butter into each slit. Bake for an hour, or until the plantains soften.

Peel the plantains. Half the plantains lengthwise, using the slit as a guide. Arrange on a plate with three scoops of meat. Place the cheese directly onto the meat and top with salsa. Add a vegetable or salad for a side if you feel the need to make it a somewhat rounded meal. Otherwise, enjoy!

*****

After enduring the entirety of THE LAUGHING DEAD, a reward is definitely in order. I leave it to you whether or not the ‘drop-outs’ at your party deserve cake. Not just any cake, but…

BLEEDING CAKE

dessert

Ingredients:
1 box lemon cake mix (plus ingredients as directed on the box)
1 jar cherry jam
1 package unflavored gelatin
1 tub vanilla frosting

Directions:

Bake the cake in a 13” x 9” pan, as directed on the package. Cool in pan for an hour. Meanwhile, melt the jam down over medium heat. When it just begins to bubble, dissolve the gelatin package into the jam. Heat and stir until completely dissolved.

Using the back of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake of varying deepness. Spread the melted jam over the top of the cake, making sure to fill the holes. Refrigerate for an hour or until set. Spread the frosting over the cake until you can no longer see the jam layer. Can be made up to two days in advance.

I’m not normally one to advocate putting your friends through pain. But, as many other bad flick fans can attest, there’s a certain thrill at finding one that’s even worse than any you’d ever experienced. And that is one thing I can give THE LAUGHING DEAD, and one thing that makes me sad. I think I might have truly found the worst of the worst, and it’s going to be a long haul trying to top this one. And, in a sick, masochistic way, I look forward to the challenge.

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

Meals for Monsters Presents: THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2013, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Carnival Chills, Cult Movies, Drive-in Movies, Gypsy Curses, Hypnotic Horror, Jenny Orosel Columns, Just Plain Weird, Meals for Monsters, Ray Dennis Steckler, Zombies with tags , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964)
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

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It could be argued that the best part of THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES (1964) is the title. It wouldn’t be hard to argue that, because it is a bad movie. Ninety five percent of this movie is plain awful. But that five percent that isn’t is such pure awesomeness that it makes up for the rest and does make it a fun flick for a movie night.

The title sums up only a portion of INCREDIBLY STRAGE CREATURES. The movie opens with a carnival fortune teller turning a drunk into one of those mixed-up zombies after he spurns her advances. Flash-forward to three not-so-young young people (can’t any low-budget directors find anyone under the age of thirty to play a teenager?) looking for kicks at the local carnival. Jerry and his friends go in for a psychic reading with Madame Estrella from the prologue. She is not appreciative of their silly manner, especially the obnoxious Jerry. So she enlists the help of her sister, a stripper, in bewitching the juvenile delinquent. Soon he abandons his buddy and his girlfriend and only wants to watch Carmelita take it off. She, Madame Estrella and her henchman Ortega turn Jerry into a hypnotized assassin. Can they be stopped before Jerry goes full-blown into mixed-up-zombiness?

I’ve seen some great movies made on a near nonexistent budget. This is not one of them. The acting is horrible (the director cast himself in the lead, presumably to save a few bucks). The story seemed like an afterthought and the pacing was lousy (after the prologue there was barely any reference to the mixed-up zombies until near the end). The tagline for INREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES was “The First Monster Musical”. Reading that, I was expecting…well, a musical. Not so here. Instead, we had a movie with song and dance numbers by the strippers and showgirls thrown in whenever they couldn’t think of anything else to do with that time slot. And I use the term “dance” loosely; it was more like walking around in sync.

So why am I recommending INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES?  Because it’s fun. It’s so far from being politically correct (Estrella and Ortega are a mishmash of the worst stereotypes for Hispanic, Gypsy and Jewish combined) that you feel almost naughty just for watching it. Plus, there are parts of the flick that just straight up look awesome. The dream sequences alone were stunning (it’s worth mentioning that, in the midst of this film involving mostly non-professionals, cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond went on to win a cinematography Oscar for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)).

When coming up with cocktails for these movies, I try to avoid really bad puns. But I don’t always try very hard. Hence, I bring you the:

MIXED-UP ZOMBIEdrink

Ingredients:
1 shot rum
1 shot peach schnapps
1 shot apple schnapps
8 ounces fruit punch

Directions: Take the four ingredients and, well, mix them up.

Seeing as most of the movie takes place at a carnival, it would be fitting to make carnival food. My personal favorite is the corn dog. However, if you don’t have a deep fryer big enough to make Paula Deen weep, it can get very messy very fast. And baked corn dogs resemble their carnival counterparts the way a pug resembles a guard dog. So instead I bring you the best of the corn dog flavors, but in a less messy vehicle:

CORN DOG CAKE dinner

Ingredients:
1 package corn bread mix
½ cup milk
4 hot dogs, cubed
2 miniature pickles, cubed

Directions:Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. In a bowl, mix the first three ingredients, then fold in the last two. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs (mine took 22 minutes). Invert onto a plate, slice and serve with mustard/ketchup sauce and a salad (so you can claim something resembling nutritious for dinner).

MUSTARD/KETCHUP SAUCE:
Ingredients:
¼ cup mustard
3 tbsp. ketchup
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Directions: Combine in saucepan and heat on low until warmed and mixed well together. Serve over Corn Dog Cake

Candy apples come with similar problems to corn dogs. To get that good, hard, bright red cinnamon exterior you need to deal with melted sugar at insanely high and precise temperatures. Ten degrees too hot or too cold can completely ruin it. Then there’s the problem of spillage—on kitchen equipment, it’s a bitch to clean off and spilled on flesh is really not something you ever want to experience. So, again like dinner, dessert captures all the flavors of the candy apple, but in a much easier way:

CANDY APPLE PIE

dessert

Ingredients:
1 pre-made refrigerated 2 part pie crust
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced.
½ cup sugar
3 tbsps. cornstarch
1 2oz bottle Red Hot cake decorations (or equivalent bulk candy)
1/3 cup butter, cut in cubes

Directions: Preheat oven to 425. Place first crust layer inside a 9 inch pie plate. Mix the apples, sugar, cornstarch and candies in a bowl. Pour into the crust, and scatter the butter cubes around the filling. Top with second crust dough, seal the edges and do NOT forget to poke air holes in the top crust (yes, this was learned the hard way). Put the pie plate on a cookie sheet to catch any drips or overflow. Bake 50 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or the souls of your enemies.

The director, Ray Dennis Steckler, is responsible for some of the greatest titles in drive-in history: RAT PFINK A BOO BOO (1966), THE MAD LOVE LIFE OF A HOT VAMPIRE (1971) and THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID ROW SLASHER. Whether these movies live up to the promise of those titles has been debated by film fans worldwide. But after giving THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES a try, I suggest exploring some of his other titles. I’m willing to bet you’ll have more fun than an evening of toenail clipping. And, if you need help enjoying them, go ahead and add an extra shot or two to your Mixed-Up Zombie.

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

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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Meals for Monsters: APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX (2001)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2012, Classic Films, Cult Movies, Jenny Orosel Columns, Meals for Monsters, War Movies with tags , , , , , , on November 27, 2012 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX (2001)
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

The first time I saw APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) was in high school.  I went to a friend’s house while it was playing, and I saw the last half hour.  Needless to say, I was bewildered but intrigued.  Once I finally saw the whole thing and had some context for the ending, it became one of my favorite films.  Then in 2001, a recut version aptly titled APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX was released to theaters.  I went to a late showing on opening night.  It was a full house, the air conditioning was busted, and I was seated next to someone with serious digestive issues.  Still, those three hours were some of the best I have ever spent inside a movie house.

For those of you who reside under a rock, APOCALYPSE NOW is Francis Ford Coppola’s epic adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel, “Heart of Darkness.”  In Coppola’s version, Captain Willard is in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.  He is sent with four sailors down the Nung River to assassinate a Colonel Kurtz.  Once one of the best and brightest of the army, Kurtz has gone rogue and rumored to be building his own nation of primitive warriors. The farther Willard and his men travel, the farther they sink into both the darkness of war and of the human psyche.  By the time Willard has found his prey, nothing good or innocent has survived, and he must answer the question, “Was it worth it?”

The REDUX  version adds almost an hour of footage.  There are amusing scenes, talky scenes, and considerably more sex.  While this contributes little to the basic plot, it makes the characters more real.  In the original, they were barely more than archetypes.  In the recut, they have complex personalities and resemble true people.  Their added humanity makes the ultimate ending much more powerful.

And what says “the heart of darkness” better than a light, fruity drink?

Actually, the inspiration for this cocktail is twofold: first is the delicious limeade served at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.  Secondly, I was surprised to learn how much vodka is produced in Vietnam.  Hence:

NUNG RIVER WATER

Ingredients:
6 oz limeade
6 oz coconut juice
1 shot vodka

Directions:
Pour all three ingredients into a tumbler.  Mix well.  If you can’t find Vietnamese vodka, any brand will do.

****

Pho, a traditional beef soup, is one of the most popular street foods in Vietnam.  It takes extra time to prepare, but is worth it to build a more complex flavor and, ultimately, a better meal.  Sounds familiar…

PHO

Ingredients:
Two pounds beef soup bones
3 onions, peeled and halved
1 head garlic, halved
6 inches of ginger root, halved
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp peppercorns
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp cloves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
Either 3 tubs concentrated beef stock and 14 cups water OR 3 quarts beef broth and 2 cups water
1/3 cup fish sauce
1 to 1 ½ pounds boneless beef ribs
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pkg rice noodles

OPTIONAL: sliced jalapenos, basil leaves, limes, bean sprouts, cilantro

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450.  Toss the first four ingredients in the oil and put on a rimmed baking sheet.  Cook for 30 minutes.  Put in a very large pot.

Toast the peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and coriander for three minutes in a dry sauté pan.  Add to pot.

Pour in the liquid.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and let simmer for 2 and a half hours.  Strain the liquid well.

(All this can be done the night before and put in the refrigerator.  In fact, if you do so, you can skim off the fat once it’s cooled and solidified on the top.  If you don’t have the time to make this ahead of time, not a problem.  Just skim off as much fat as you can).

Freeze the meat for three hours.  It will be slightly hardened, but not totally frozen.  This makes it easier to slice.  Cut the meat as thin as you can.

Bring the broth to a rapid boil.  In the meantime, bring a pot of water to boil for the noodles.  Only cook them 10 to 60 seconds, depending on the width of the noodles.  You want them floppy but not cooked all the way through.

When the broth is boiling, stir in the sliced meat and onions.  The beef, if sliced thin enough, will cook almost immediately.  Put the noodles into bowls and top with the soup.

Depending on your tastes, garnish with basil leaves, cilantro, lime, bean sprouts or jalapeno slices.

****

Not only are meringue cookies popular in Vietnam, but they came to mind with one of the longer additions to the REDUX cut—the “French Plantation” sequence.   And, as long as you’ve got limes left over from dinner:

LIME MERINGUE COOKIES

Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1 ¼ cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Zest from 2 limes.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 and grease a cookie sheet.

Whip the egg whites on high for about 3 minutes, or until good and foamy (I would definitely recommend using either a hand or stand mixer, as your wrist will be in serious pain by the time you are done).

Slowly add the sugar while mixing, and continue mixing for another three minutes.

Fold in the remaining ingredients until just combined.

Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet (they will spread, so leave room between cookies) and bake for 12 minutes.

****

APOCALYPSE NOW  is one of the few times I liked the movie better than the book.  Granted, it’s been over a decade since I last read it.  The main thing I remember is how dry Conrad’s writing was.  The movie, on the other hand, has fascinating characters, amazing visuals, and a pace that doesn’t leave you bored (quite a feat for a three hour plus film).  If you have never seen it, stop reading this column and go rent it.  If you have, hopefully these recipes will bring new life to this classic.

© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel

Meals for Monsters: ZOLTAN, THE HOUND OF DRACULA (1978)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 70s Horror, Animals Attack, B-Movies, Based on a True Story, Campy Movies, Dracula, Jenny Orosel Columns, Meals for Monsters, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2012 by knifefighter

Meals for Monsters: ZOLTAN, THE HOUND OF DRACULA (AKA DRACULA’S DOG)
Movie Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel
Dracula has a long and glorious history in filmdom.  He’s been a hideous, long-nailed ghoul.  He’s been a gorgeous, sexy beast.  Hell, he’s even been a woman.  You may think you know everything there is to know about that creature of the night.  But, did you know he had a dog?

ZOLTAN, THE HOUND OF DRACULA (1978) opens with Russian soldiers detonating a field.  In doing so, they unearth a crypt.  One of the tombs inside is marked “Dracula”.  A curious soldier, careful not to disturb that one, decides to explore the one next to it.  Inside is a corpse wrapped in cloth and a wooden stake sticking out.  Now, if you unearthed something buried next to Dracula with a stake in it, what would be the wisest course of action?  Removing the stake isn’t the best choice, but it was what that soldier did.  Zoltan, Dracula’s hound (actually, it was a Doberman, but that’s one of the many details conveniently ignored in this flick) springs to life and kills said soldier.  Then he opens another tomb, awakening Veidt, Dracula’s servant, and the two set out on a quest to find a new master.  That master?  Dracula’s last surviving heir, Michael Drake.  Drake is off camping with his family, their two dogs and litter of puppies.  Will Zoltan and Veidt be able to transform Drake into a vampire, and thus have their master back?  Or will Drake and his family survive their lineage?

The best way to approach ZOLTAN is to not think too hard.  If you do, you’ll wonder how Drake can be the last of the line if he has two kids.  You’ll wonder why they thought it was a good idea to take a box full of newborn puppies out into the woods.  You’ll wonder why Zoltan and Veidt travelled halfway across the world from Russia to California for a master when they could have just opened Dracula’s tomb.  There’s a lot to ZOLTAN that doesn’t make sense.  But it is a fun, almost silly vampire flick with plenty of Karo syrup gore.  And it has vampire puppies!  Puppies!  Horror has never been so cute.

“Sic ’em, Zoltan!”

ZOLTAN is truly a movie for the masses.  Fans of cheesy monster flicks have plenty to enjoy, and people not into horror have cute puppies to look at.  Sure, they’re bloodsucking and evil, but they’re puppies.

In honor of the first victim, that poor (albeit dumb) Russian soldier, I designed this cocktail:

BLOODY RUSSIAN


Ingredients:
5 oz vodka
3 oz pomegranate juice
Serve over ice.  Garnish with pomegranate seeds if available.

****

When dealing with hellish canines, hot dogs is a pun so obvious that, as much as I tried, I couldn’t resist.  So, to enjoy with your movie you can nosh on:

DEVIL DOGS (serves three)


Ingredients:
6 hot dogs
1 jalapeno pepper (or three Serrano chilies, if you want something spicier)
6 slices of regular cut bacon (avoid the thick cut, tasty as it is)
Buns and your favorite condiments

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450.  Slice the chile pepper into long strips, removing the seeds and white membranes.  Slice the hot dogs lengthwise, only cutting halfway in.  Insert strips of the peppers from end to end.  Wrap a piece of bacon around the dog, securing with a toothpick at each end.  Bake on top of a rack for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.  It should go without saying, but remove the toothpicks before consuming.  Place the dogs in the buns, topped with your preferred condiment, and serve with French fries, onion rings, or the souls of your enemies.

****

Wooden stakes are convenient to have when dealing with vampires.  Unfortunately, they’re not very tasty.  For dessert, have a plate of these cookies on the table, and maybe it’ll be enough to fake out the vampires (as long as you’re dealing with gullible ones):

CINNAMON STAKES


Ingredients:
1 stick butter, softened.
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup flour

Directions:
Mix the butter and sugar and vanilla together until blended.  Add flour, and mix slowly (as to not send flour shooting out across the kitchen).  Wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a cookie sheet.  Remove dough from fridge and plastic wrap.  Roll out to about ¼ inch thick.  Slice into long wedges.  Bake for 8 minutes, or just until the edges start to brown.  Cool on wire rack.

****

Interesting fact: a dog that looks an awful lot like Zoltan appears in a painting of the great Manos in MANOS: HANDS OF FATE (1966). Just a coincidence?

ZOLTAN was directed by the great Albert Band, the auteur behind I BURY THE LIVING (1958) and GHOULIES II (1988).  He knows how to give the audience a good time.  And it’s hard not to have a good time while watching vampire puppies.  So sit back, relax with a tasty meal, and watch your pets go nuts every time the dogs start barking on screen.

© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel

DRACULA’S DOG was an alternate title used for Zoltan: The Hound of Dracula.