Archive for the Popcorn of the Damned Category

Popcorn of the Damned: EURO-FANTASTICO DOUBLE FEATURE

Posted in 2010, Aliens, European Horror, Popcorn of the Damned with tags , , , , , , , on August 10, 2010 by knifefighter

POPCORN OF THE DAMNED: Review of “Euro-Fantastico Double-Feature” DVD
by Craig Shaw Gardner

Tired of endless Hollywood remakes of films that were far better the first time around?  Seen one too many shuffling zombie horde?  Looking for a movie that isn’t about a dozen ways of torturing people that no one could possibly care about (either the people or the torture)?  The good stuff is out there, hidden behind the Raisenets and the Jujubees, even if you have to dig to the bottom of the box.

This is Popcorn of the Damned!

Now for the first kernel:

Recently, VCI entertainment released a disc called the “Euro-Fantastico Double Feature”– a pair of early 60s German thrillers, both dubbed in English and filmed in glorious black and white.  At this time, Germany was one the film capitols of Europe, producing never-ending thrillers blending mystery and the fantastic, including the later Dr. Mabuse thrillers and a seemingly never-ending series of films derived from the books of Edgar Wallace (called “krimis”) which featured all sorts of great pulpy goodness — secret societies, hidden torture chambers, bad guys wearing hoods, etc.

One of the Euro-Fantastico films on this double disc is firmly in this tradition.  THE BLACK COBRA (1965) incorporates a hideously deformed monster, hidden rooms, the illegal drug trade (including Klaus Kinski as an addict!), somebody’s private zoo, copious comedy relief, all capped by a wrestling scene!  And even with all that, the movie’s not particularly good.  It throws so much crap at you during its 95 minute running time it never has a chance to get boring, but it’s directed (by one Rudolf Zehetgruber) with a particular lack of style.  It ends up as a diverting enough way to kill time, but I don’t think it’s worth a second viewing.

(If you want to see a couple of solid krimis, btw, full of atmosphere, crackerjack plots and the requisite hidden rooms, I would direct you to either THE COLLEGE GIRL MURDERS (1967) or DEAD EYES OF LONDON (1939 with Bela Lugosi and remade in German in 1961), both readily available on Amazon.)

The co-feature on this disc is another matter entirely. This 1964 flick is a paranoid, cold war, science fiction thriller with echoes of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, called NO SURVIVORS PLEASE.

The film (co-directed by Hans Albin and Peter Berneis) seems fairly lightweight at first, with a swinging sixties plot taking place around futuristic European architecture.  And then very bad things start to happen. Back in the fifties and sixties, movies would often advertise they were “ripped from today’s headlines!” — and that’s particularly true in the case of SURVIVORS.  The first signs of stock footage in the film reminded me of low budget films everywhere (BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY (1949), anyone?) But then the documentary footage, through clever editing, is integrated into the lives of our characters with chilling  results.

This is the kind of movie where I see a possible plot direction and say “they’ll never go there.”  And then they do.  Without giving away any of the plot, SURVIVORS turns out to be a great, horrific cautionary tale, easily worth the price of the disc.  And another piece of popcorn of the damned!

EURO-FANTASTICO DOUBLE FEATURE.  VCI 8573.  187 MINUTES, FULL FRAME.  NTSC, ALL REGION.

© Copyright 2010 by Craig Shaw Gardner

CRAIG SHAW GARDNER TO WRITE NEW MOVIE COLUMN!

Posted in 2010, B-Movies, Popcorn of the Damned with tags , , , on August 7, 2010 by knifefighter

Coming next Tuesday, we’ve got a new addition to the Cinema Knife Fight team. It’s CRAIG SHAW GARDNER.

Craig is the author of numerous short stories, novels, and movie novelizations, including BATMAN (the Tim Burton movie) and THE LOST BOYS.

Here’s a little about Craig from his website, over at Craigshawgardner.com:

Craig Shaw Gardner was born and raised in Rochester, New York, home of the Eastman Kodak Company, the Rochester Red Wings, red hots and white hots, and a whole bunch of snow. He attended Boston University in 1967, and graduated with a B.S. degree in Broadcasting and Film. On the strength of this degree and the recession of 1971, he immediately got a job as a shipper/receiver for a men’s suit manufacturer. Other jobs Craig has held include working in hospital public relations, running a stat camera, and managing a pair of bookstores in Harvard Square (in Cambridge, Mass.): The Million Year Picnic and the late, lamented Science Fantasy Bookstore.

Craig sold his first short story in 1977, and began writing full time in 1987. While most of his early novels are humorous fantasy, the majority of his short stories have been sold to original horror anthologies such as SHADOWS, MIDNIGHT, DOOM CITY and other cheerful names. His novelization of BATMAN spent something like 13 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, changing his name on book covers to “New York Times Best-selling Author Craig Shaw Gardner” forevermore. His last few books have wandered over into the “epic fantasy” realm; the last three have been written under the pseudonym “Peter Garrison,” which will show up right next to Craig Shaw Gardner on those bookshelves.

Most recently, Craig moderated a movie panel at the convention Necon, which featured CKF writers L.L. Soares, Michael Arruda and John Harvey, as well as novelist Phillip Nutman (who will also be doing some writing for us soon).

Craig’s new column is called POPCORN OF THE DAMNED and will focus on “old, peculiar and forgotten films showing up on DVD.”

Welcome aboard, Craig!