Archive for Monsters

CKF Monstrous Question: MONSTER MOVIE MUSICALS (Part 3 of 3)

Posted in 2012, LL Soares Reviews, Mad Doctors!, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Monsters, Monstrous Question, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on August 19, 2012 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION:  Monster Movie Musicals
With Michael Arruda, Nick Cato, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh
Part 3 of 3



MICHAEL ARRUDA:  And now here is our final answer to this month’s MONSTROUS QUESTION: Which horror or sci-fi movie would you like turned into a musical?


MARK ONSPAUGH:  Here’s mine:


Music by Bernard Herrmann & Howard Shore

Lyrics by Forrest J. Ackerman & Sir Elton John

At the annual meeting of the Society of Mad Scientists and Doctors, chaos and hilarity ensue when several doctors collaborate on building Eliza (the “perfect” girl) and they all fall for her, to the chagrin of their creations and hunchbacked assistants.

The big, lavish and deranged production that will have you tapping your misshapen appendages to these hit numbers:

Andre Delambre sings “If I Were a Fly on the Wall” and “Kiss Me, Don’t Swat Me”

Andre Delambre sings “If I Were a Fly on the Wall.”

Victor Frankenstein sings “He’s Got Her Heart, but I’ve Got Her Pancreas”

Teenage Frankenstein & Werewolf sing “Pubescent and Present” and “A-C-N-E”

Anton Phibes & Peyton Westlake sing “I Like Your Face” and “Ow, Ow, Ow”

Dr. Phibes accompanies the singers on the organ.

Alexander Thorkel sings “Call Me ‘Mister Big'” and “Got a Big Crush on My Little Girl”

Fritz, Igor and Renfield sing “I Got a Hunch He’s Falling in Love” and “Yes, Master”

Eliza sings “Parts of Me Love Him, Parts of Me Love Someone Else” and “(Screams)”

Gerald Deemer & Andre Delambre sing “Web of Lies” and “She Says Two Legs is Enough”

Victor Frankenstein sings “He’s Got Her Heart, but I’ve Got Her Pancreas.”

The entire company sings, “Got Me in Stitches,” “My Love Went to Pieces at the Buffet,”  “Candlelight, Good – Torch Light, Bad” and “I Can’t Stay Mad Playing Doctor with You”

Held over, one week at Big Boy Dinner Theater in Oxide, Nevada and Stuckey’s Roadside Praline Emporium and Theater-in-the-Swamp in Mustyodor, Georgia


 MICHAEL ARRUDA:  There you have it.  Thanks everyone for joining us for this month’s MONSTROUS QUESTION.  We’ll see you next time, here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT!



Answer © Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh


CKF Monstrous Question: MONSTER MOVIE MUSICALS (Part 2 of 3)

Posted in 2012, Monstrous Question, Musicals, Paul McMahon Columns with tags , , , , on August 18, 2012 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION:  Monster Movie Musicals
With Michael Arruda, Nick Cato, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh
Part 2 of 3

“Doe, a deer, a female deer. Ray, a pocket full of sun!”

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  We continue with another answer to this month’s Monstrous Question:  Which horror or sci-fi movie would you like turned into a musical? 

PAUL MCMAHON: I wrote a treatment for an entire musical.  I may have taken this too far.

ARRUDA:  Nah!  Go for it!

PAUL MCMAHON:  Okay, here goes!

“Get on stage! It’s time for your song!”


A full-blown major Broadway Musical, featuring the same makeup technology that made CATS such a financial success!

Summary/ Musical Numbers

ACT I, Scene 1

-In darkness, a voice-over calls an SOS, the Lady Vain is going down. Curtains open on Edward Prendick, who is rescued in a lifeboat and believed dead, but is revived.

Prendick Lives!…..Performers:Prendick, Montgomery and M’ling

-Noise from Montgomery’s cages are driving the sailors mad. When Prendick interferes on Montgomery’s behalf, he is cast out with Montgomery at The Island of Screams

Begone, You Beast…..Performers: Ship’s Captain, Montgomery, Prendick, M’ling and Men’s Ensemble

-Montgomery tells Prendick of the island as they approach the compound. In the forest, strange hidden things watch them.

The Brilliant Dr. Moreau….. Performers: Montgomery and Prendick

-In the laboratory, Dr. Moreau experiments on a puma.

What Makes A Man?…..Performed by Dr. Moreau

-Prendick, alerted by the creature’s cries, flees into the forest and discovers a group of hog-like people. He runs and is chased by something he can’t see.

Monsters, Creatures, Inhuman Beasts!….. Performed by Prendick

-Back at the compound, Prendick questions Montgomery who deflects and avoids all questions, being half drunk.

What Is This Place?….. Performers: Prendick and Montgomery

ACT I, Scene 2

The next morning.

– Prendick enters the laboratory and discovers Puma-Man, covered in bandages. He offers water, but Moreau appears, slapping the cup away and calling for Montgomery.

Can I Help You?….. Prendick, Puma-Man, Moreau

-Prendick believes Moreau is turning humans into animals and vows not to be next.

It Will Never Be Me….. Prendick

-Prendick is captured by men who resemble animals. They inform him of the island’s laws, which includes a daily worship of Moreau.

The Law….. Sayer of the Law, Ape-Man, Hyena-Man, Animal Ensemble

-Moreau arrives and Prendick escapes. Prendick decides to drown himself, but is interrupted by Moreau, who explains that the creatures used to be animals and assures him that the pain he inflicts is insignificant to the final outcome.

Not The Man You Think Me….. Prendick, Moreau, Animal Ensemble

**There will be a fifteen minute intermission.**


The Sayer of the Law also likes to sing a few tunes!


A week later

-Montgomery and Prendick discover a half-eaten rabbit, which breaks The Law. They alert Moreau, who calls an assembly and accuses Leopard-Man, who flees.

The Law Is Broken….. Performers: Montgomery, Moreau, Sayer of the Law, Leopard-Man and Animal Ensemble

-Prendick corners the Leopard-Man, who insists Moreau will perform more agonizing experiments on him. With Moreau closing in, Leopard-Man attacks and Prendick shoots him dead. With his last breath, Leopard-Man thanks him.

Not The Man You Think Him….. Performers: Prendick, Leopard-Man, Moreau and Montgomery

-Prendick confides to Montgomery’s manservant, M’ling, his belief that Leopard-Man acted with Hyena-Man, who chased him through the forest his first week. Moreau overhears and dismisses Prendick’s ideas, calling him a fool.

He Did Not Act Alone….. Performers: Prendick, M’ling and Moreau

ACT II, Scene 2

A week later

-In the lab the mostly finished Puma-Man escapes and is chased through the forest by Moreau. Prendick arrives in time to witness as the two kill each other.

Dr. Moreau practices for his big singing debut!

I Gave You Everything/ You Gave Me Nothing….. Performers: Moreau, Puma-Man and Prendick

-Prendick tries to convince Montgomery to leave the island, but the beasts attack, led by Hyena-Man. Montgomery appeases them by giving over his whiskey, but they kill him anyway. Prendick escapes, knocking over a lamp that sets the compound ablaze.

The Law Is Dead….. Performers: Prendick, Montgomery, M’ling, Sayer of the Law, Hyena-Man, and Animal Ensemble

-In the aftermath of the fire, Prendick learns Montgomery has destroyed every boat and radio on the island. He discovers a frightened M’ling following him to warn him that the animals are coming. M’ling kills Hyena-Man and is mortally wounded.

Am I The Man I Think Me?….. Performers: Prendick, M’ling, Hyena-Man and Animal Ensemble

ACT II, Scene 3

A week later

-Prendick survives in a lean-to on the beach. Animals approach and retreat, returning to their natural state. A boat drifts ashore with two bodies in it, one of them the Ship Captain that marooned him in Act I Scene 1. He waves to the animals along the shore as he leaves, and only M’ling waves back.

What Luck, What Fortune…..Performed by Prendick

-Prendick, back in London, tells his story and is laughed at and scorned. He feigns amnesia to keep from being committed, and vows seclusion for the rest of his life.

What Makes A Man? (reprise)….. Performers: Prendick and  Human Ensemble



MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Thanks, Paul, for that very detailed treatment.  Join us next time for Part 3, the final installment to this month’s MONSTROUS QUESTION, when MARK ONSPAUGH gives his take on the monster movie musical!

 —END Part 2—

 Answer © Copyright 2012 by Paul McMahon

CKF Monstrous Question: MONSTER MOVIE MUSICALS! (Part 1 of 3)

Posted in 2012, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monsters, Monstrous Question, Musicals, Nick Cato Reviews with tags , , , , , , on August 17, 2012 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION:  Monster Movie Musicals
With Michael Arruda, Nick Cato, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh

Figaro! Figaro!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:   Welcome everyone to this month’s MONSTROUS QUESTION column.  This month’s question comes courtesy of Mark Onspaugh.

Take it away, Mark.

MARK: Thanks, Michael.  I just saw that Paul Williams is clean and sober and back to making music (I had thought he was dead) —anyway, you may remember he was behind the music of Brian de Palma’s great riff on PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974).

I thought it might be fun for people to pick horror or sci-fi movies to be turned into musicals, maybe name a song or two and (if they want) performers and/or composer/lyricist.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  So, there you have it.  Today’s Monstrous Question:  Which horror or sci-fi movie would you like turned into a musical?

NICK CATO:  Perhaps to alleviate some tension and add even more controversy, the forthcoming THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3: FINAL SEQUENCE should add some musical numbers, including updated versions of ‘STUCK ON YOU’ from the now defunct Seattle punk band The Briefs, ‘RIP IT OUT’ by Ace Frehley, and the conga-line classic ‘HOT HOT HOT’ by Buster Poindexter.

Singing in the shower with the HUMAN CENTIPEDE!


MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I’m going with three classics.

First, John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978).  It would feature the following songs:

-“My Sister Just Bopped Her Boyfriend For the Last Time”

-“The Boogeyman Boogie.”

-“Stroke Me Laurie Strode”

-“Is There A Man Behind that Mask?”

-“Let’s Do What We’re Not Supposed To Do (The Babysitters’ Ballad)”

More singing in the shower – this time with NORMAN BATES!

Alfred Hitchcok’s PSYCHO (1960),and believe it or not, the musical version would be darker than the movie!  Here are some of the songs:

-Who’s That Lurking Outside My Shower Curtain?

-A Boy’s Best Friend Is His Mother (a love song)

-Am I a Man or a Mother?

-I’ll Carry You to Any Fruit Cellar

-Blood, Mother, Blood!

-Gotta Clean This Shower: The Body Wrap Rap

“I’m so nervous about signing for the first time!”

And last but not least, the original FRANKENSTEIN (1931).

Featuring such show stoppers as Henry Frankenstein’s:

It’s Alive!

-Now I Know What It Feels Like to be God!

-Put That Torch Away Fritz Before the Monster Grabs You

Fritz solos such as:

-Don’t Blame Me for Grabbing the Wrong Brain I Can’t Read!


-No One Ever Told Me Abnormal Was Bad

Songs by the Monster, including:

-Little Girl, Why Are You Crying?

-Why Is Everybody Always Screaming At Me?

-Invite Me to the Wedding – I’d Like to Kill the Bride

And other soon to be classics like:

-My Little Maria’s Dead, and Someone’s Gonna Pay!

-Waltzing to the Windmill

And the mega-dance number,

-Don’t Do It Fritz, Don’t Drop that Jar!

Join us next time for more answers to the Monstrous Question, and you won’t want to miss it, as Paul McMahon writes an entire treatment to a musical based on THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU!


Answers © Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and Nick Cato

Transmissions to Earth: ZONTAR: THE THING FROM VENUS (1966)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 60s Movies, Aliens, Based on a True Story, Campy Movies, Cult Movies, Larry Buchanan Movies, LL Soares Reviews, Monsters, Outer Space, Science Fiction, Trasmissions to Earth, TV-Movies with tags , , , , , , on July 26, 2012 by knifefighter

Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Welcome to the world of low-budget schlockmeister Larry Buchanan. Nick Cato recently reviewed one of his theatrical films, THE LOCH NESS HORROR (1981), for his “Suburban Grindhouse Memories” column, but that was just a warm-up for ZONTAR: THE THING FROM VENUS (1966), one of several TV-movies that Buchanan made in the 60s, ZONTAR has gone on to become a notorious cult movie.

In fact, it was inevitable that I would review this movie here, since the name of this column, “Transmissions to Earth,” was originally inspired by ZONTAR (you’ll see why in a minute).

A remake of Roger Corman’s IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956), with several scenes that are almost duplicates (but with different actors, of course), ZONTAR has no mention of the previous movie in its credits, in fact crediting the script to Buchanan and Hillman Taylor. So I’ll mention here that IT CONQUERED THE WORLD was written by Lou Rusoff and Charles B. Griffith.

ZONTAR begins in a NASA installation that looks like it’s made of cardboard, with doors that don’t shut properly, and oversized 50s computers that flash a lot of lights and beep a lot. Is this an Ed Wood production? Nope, but Buchanan is certainly in the same class as Mr. Wood. The men (and one woman) in the installation are overseeing the launching of a rocket bearing a “laser-satellite,” one of the first to be shot into space. Dr. Curt Taylor (John Agar) is in charge of the operation, and as they begin the countdown, his close friend and fellow scientist Keith Ritchie (Anthony Huston) arrives to beg him to stop the launch. Keith is certain that aliens are watching Earth and are concerned about mankind reaching for the stars. It seems that they don’t think we’re ready yet to leave our planet, and there might be dire circumstances if we put that satellite into Earth’s orbit. How he knows all this is anyone’s guess. Curt, despite being Keith’s friend, thinks that his friend is delusional (“How do we even know there’s any other life on other planets?”) and refuses to stop anything. Not only because he knows the powers that be would be furious if anything went wrong with the launch, but also because Dr. Taylor himself doesn’t believe anything that Keith is saying.

If this appears on your television screen – be very afraid!!

When next we see them, Keith and Curt are sitting at a dinner table with their wives at Keith’s house. There is a portrait of Keith’s wife, Martha, on the wall with no eyes! (Even the little details in a Larry Buchanan movie are strange). The two couples have been friends for a long time, and Keith admits that maybe he overreacted before when he tried to stop the launch. When Curt asks what changed his mind, Keith says that he has a secret he can’t hide anymore. He has to tell someone. And he brings Curt into his living room, where, behind a curtain, is a computer/radio device that looks like three air conditioners stacked one on top of another. Keith says this is how he communicates with someone on another world. He claims he has been “in communications for two months now, without the use of a satellite.” He plays some weird noises and Curt laughs at him. Keith says it is the voice of a being on Venus that has sent a transmission to Earth. Somehow, he is able to understand it via “hyperspace hypnotism.”

When Curt asks if this alien being has a name, Keith says “Although his name is untranslatable through any known Earth language, it would sound something like…Zontar.”

Meanwhile, the satellite that was launched months ago disappears. The scientists cannot locate it and are concerned that it has malfunctioned. Then, an hour later it reappears, and resumes its orbit. When the scientists try to bring it back to earth to examine what went wrong, the object takes control of itself and disappears again from the radar. This time, it has flown down to Earth on its own power. What is happening here?

Keith knows. He says that Zontar “diverted the satellite for a vehicle” so that it could get to Earth.

When Zontar lands on Earth, everything stops running, from all machines and power sources, to cars, trains..and even clocks. However, if you’re “in” with Zontar, as Keith is, your stuff works just fine. He’s the only one with a running car for awhile.

The first order of business for Zontar’s domination of Earth is the unleashing of the injectapods. These are ugly bat-like creatures (actually more like giant bugs) that Zontar grows on his body and then they separate on command. Their job is to bite someone, injecting them with some weird metal spike which takes control of their mind. The first thing a controlled human does is dispose of the body, since injectapods die after biting someone. The person they bite then becomes “a part of Zontar.”

We learn that Zontar (now holed up in a deep cave over a hot spring, which is supposed to “approximate the conditions on Venus”) can only grow eight injectapods at a time. The first batch are for the General, the Mayor, the Sheriff and Curt, and the men’s wives (it makes things go easier!). Keith and Zontar figure, with these people under their control, they can control the town.

Not sure where else to go, Curt and Anne go back to Keith’s house, where they resume their dinner party. When Keith goes on about how Zontar has come in peace to save us from ourselves, we get some good dialogue from the ladies:

Anne: Keith, you talk as if this “thing” is a personal friend of yours.

Martha: Oh yeah, they’re real chums.”

General Matt Young (Neil Fletcher) is the first to be bitten by an injectapod. He later shows up at the NASA installation, claiming that those damned communists have caused the power outage, and he declares Martial Law.

There are two soldiers who provide comic relief. They guard the installation, until the General tells them to round up some guys and go on a march into the woods (we have no idea why).  When one of the soldiers sees an injectapod flying around, he says, “I saw a funny-looking boid.”

Meanwhile, Sheriff Brad Crenshaw (Bill Thursman) is evacuating the town. When the newspaper editor refuses to leave, the Sheriff shoots him. (“We don’t need newspapers anymore, anyway!”) Curt witnesses this and gets in a scuffle with Crenshaw, who strangely lets him get away (no doubt because he knows an injectapod will be attacking him soon).

When Curt’s wife, Anne, is bitten and controlled, she lets an injectapod loose in their living room and leaves. Curt fights the thing off and kills it with a fireplace poker (a close-up shows up that the injectapods are just silly-looking puppets!). When she returns, he pretends to be controlled, then shoots her when she gets close. How horrible! Can’t he even try to remove the metal spike in the back of her neck and see if that works before he kills his own dear wife?

Showing no sign of grief about Anne, Curt then goes back to Keith’s place (again). With all of the cars not running, Curt sure does a lot of walking in this movie!

Curt: Okay, I believe you now. And I also believe you are an accessory to murder!

Keith: Is that the way you greet an old friend?

It turns out Zontar’s mission isn’t so peaceful after all. He’s actually part of an advanced race that can only live if they can control other creatures with their parasitic injectapods. All of the creatures they controlled on Venus have died out. In order to survive, they have to find new species to infect and control.

When I saw this movie as a kid, I remember John Agar was my favorite character, and it’s true that this is one of Agar’s more memorable roles. But watching it again now, my favorite character is easily Pat Delaney as Martha Ritchie, Keith’s wife. Throughout the movie, she continually mocks Keith and ridicules what he says about the great Zontar. For some reason, Zontar does not try to silence her (I guess because she’s a woman, and in the 60s women weren’t seen as much of a threat). She is also the only one with guts enough to face the monster from Venus. She steals Keith’s gun and takes one of their working cars to the caves to confront the creature who has manipulated her husband.

Martha (talking to Zontar on the radio unit): I hate your living guts…and I’m going to kill you.

When she gets there, Zontar looks like a guy wrapped in a black garbage bag, or covered in papier mache, with lots of fake eyeballs glued to him and giant, cloth wings.

Martha: So that’s what you look like, Zontar. You’re slimey. Horrible!”

Behold ZONTAR – the true face of horror!!

When Keith hears Zontar kill Martha over the radio, only then does he come to his senses and agree to help Curt get rid of the menace. Curt and Keith then head to the caves to save the Earth from the evil Zontar!

As you can see, this movie is incredibly silly and doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense. But that’s precisely why it has become such a cult favorite over the years. If you get a chance to see this one, check it out. It might just be Larry Buchanan’s crowning achievement as a bad filmmaker.


© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

The DVD version of Zontar comes with another Larry Buchanan feature, THE EYE CREATURES!


Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2010, 70s Horror, B-Movies, Deformed Freaks!, Drive-in Movies, In the Spooklight, Mad Doctors!, Medical Experiments!, Michael Arruda Reviews, Twisted with tags , , , , , , , on July 13, 2012 by knifefighter

The following IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column originally ran in the HWA NEWSLETTER in July 2010.  Look for it and all 115 IN THE SPOOKLIGHT columns in the IN THE SPOOKLIGHT EBook due out from NECON EBooks later this year!

By Michael Arruda


Are two heads really better than one?

Not when one head belongs to an insane murderer, as is the case in THE INCREDIBLE 2- HEADED TRANSPLANT (1971), a lurid little film which for some strange reason I happen to like a lot.

Bruce Dern, one of my all-time favorite film crazies, is cast against type as Dr. Roger Girard, a scientist who has devised a method to create two-headed beings.  Why?  I have no idea, and the movie doesn’t really give us a reason either.

I wish they had.  It would have made things really interesting.  I mean, think of the things you could do with two heads:  read twice as fast, eat your meal and dessert at the same time, drive while texting, and kiss your wife while flirting with the blonde at the next table.

When an insane killer named Cass (Albert Cole) breaks into Roger’s home, attacking his wife Linda (Pat Priest – Marilyn from TV’s THE MUNSTERS!) and murdering the gardener, Roger and his assistant fight back, and the assistant shoots Cass.  Before the killer dies, they attach his head to the hulking body of Danny (John Bloom), the simple-minded son of the slain gardener.  Nice going!

What is it with mad scientists in the movies?  Why do they always settle for less?  If you were on the verge of some amazing medical breakthrough, wouldn’t you want only the best materials for your experiment?  In this case, these guys have been planning for months to construct a two-headed person, and they choose for one of the heads a murderer?  Don’t you think they could do a little bit better?

Our two-headed friend eventually breaks loose from the lab and goes on a murderous rampage, as the movie becomes a straightforward “monster on the loose” story during its third act.

If you can get through the horrible theme song—a song so bad it makes you wonder what racy photos the songwriter and singer had of the director—you’ll be rewarded with a deliciously lurid movie that will tickle your horror movie funny bone.

Bruce Dern is always worth watching, even in movies as bad as this.  And John Bloom who played the giant Danny actually went on to appear in many genre films.  He played the Frankenstein Monster in another infamously bad low-budget shocker, DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (1971), and he also appeared in HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS (1987) and STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991).  He passed away in 1999.

And hey, Casey Kasem plays the hero in the film!  That’s right, the Casey Kasem, of America’s Top 40 fame, and the voice of Shaggy from the SCOOBY DOO cartoons.

He has two heads, but only half a brain!

The screenplay by James Gordon White and John Lawrence never rises above standard low-budget 1970s horror fare, but that’s part of the fun.  Believe it or not, these same two guys also wrote the screenplay for THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972) (starring Ray Milland and Rosie Grier!)

Director Anthony M. Lanza does an adequate job with the material, but his idea of a scary scene is the 2-headed monster fighting chain wielding biker dudes.  This is the type of movie best watched at the Drive-In Theater.  You can go for the same effect by watching it at home late at night on a hot summer evening with the windows open.

The special effects are pretty bad.  You’ll laugh at the long shots of the obviously fake rubber head bouncing up and down on John Bloom’s shoulder.  It looks like something out of a Monty Python sketch.

THE INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT isn’t really all that incredible, unless you interpret “incredible” to mean unbelievable.  But it is an entertaining little piece of 70s horror cinema, and it’s a nice reminder of what low-budget horror movies were like back then.


© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda


Posted in 2012, 70s Horror, Blaxploitation, Crime Films, Devil Movies, Drive-in Movies, Gore!, Grindhouse, Monsters, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , , , on May 17, 2012 by knifefighter

Special 50th Column: “My Grindhouse Wish”
by Nick Cato

Since I’ve spent 99% of this column’s space talking about the experiences I’ve had at my local theaters, I figured I’d take this special 50th installment of SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES to reveal the top ten grindhouse films (that I’ve seen either on TV or video) that I WISH I could’ve seen at a seedy theater or drive-in upon their INITIAL release.  While I enjoyed the following films for a variety of reasons, I’m sure each one of them would’ve been enhanced, surrounded by wise-cracking theater patrons during a scratchy, poorly-focused screening.

10) I think I was about 10 years old the first time I saw DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973) on late night television.  After a surprising opening, the film drags for a good fifteen minutes, then slowly builds to a finale that (at the time) was quite intense.  This underrated gem about lunatics running the asylum is currently being remade, but there’s just no way they’re going to capture the gritty, desolate tone of this low-budget shocker.

9) SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED is an extremely low budget 1974 Yeti thriller that goes in a direction few first-time viewers will see coming.  I saw this on TV for the first time around 1979 and couldn’t get enough.  I’d love to have seen an audience’s reaction to the twist ending.

8) Released in the summer of 1972, I’d love to have been at a rural drive-in when NIGHT OF THE LEPUS first screened.  This incredibly goofy film about giant rabbits attacking Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, and STAR TREK’s DeForest Kelly must be seen to be believed, and must’ve had the crowds in stitches.  What makes it so good is how serious the filmmakers took the whole thing…

7) Every cult film fan has a favorite Russ Meyer film.  Mine is SUPERVIXEN (1975), which is basically a sexy road trip chase film with a little MANIAC COP thrown in.  But what blew me away was the dazzling editing during an early sequence split between a gas station and an apartment: every film maker should watch this at least once.  There’s a good chance you’ll get dizzy trying to keep up with all the angles and shots.  It’s also genuinely hysterical.

6) There must’ve been something seriously dangerous in the air during the early 70s.  Case in point is 1972’s BLOOD FREAK, about a dope-smoking guy who eats turkey from an experimental turkey farm and is turned into a turkey-headed monster who needs the blood of other drug addicts to survive.  Oh…and it also has a pro-Jesus message and stars Steve Hawkes, who had starred in a few Spanish TARZAN films (got all that?).  I can’t even begin to think what theater-goers must’ve thought of this, but thanks to the lunatics at Something Weird Video, adventurous cinephiles can obtain a deluxe DVD edition loaded with extras.  I’ve watched it too many times to admit…

5) In the late 90s I found a used VHS copy of 1975’s THE BLACK GESTAPO, a film I had never heard of despite being a life-long fan of blaxploitation cinema.  But unlike other films in this subgenre, THE BLACK GESTAPO was just downright nasty and mean-spirited throughout its entire running time: tired of their women being raped by white guys, a group of black men band together and start taking their streets back.  There’s plenty of action, classic dialogue, and violence (including a bathtub castration sequence that pre-dates I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE by four years) to keep any trash-film fan’s interest.  I’d hate to have been the only white guy at a screening of this, but then again it could’ve been a real blast!

4) While the idea behind THE CORPSE GRINDERS (1971) sounds better on paper than it translated to film, this early offering from director Ted V. Mikels is a real piece of cinematic insanity: a floundering pet food company—in an attempt to save money—begin to dig up corpses and grind them into cat food.  In turn, cats start going crazy and attack their owners.  A couple of moronic cops get on the case.  The corpse-grinding machine was made out of a refrigerator box and looks beyond cheesy, yet somehow certain scenes in the graveyard have fantastic atmosphere.  The cat attacks are unconvincing, the acting is horrendous, and I would’ve given anything to have seen this with a group of like-minded film freaks…

3) Since my initial Saturday afternoon TV viewing of SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS (1975), I’ve been hooked: a Satanist (who is also a janitor at a local high school) kidnaps four cheerleaders who get lost on a road trip.  He’s looking to sacrifice one of them in a ritual, but is killed by the Devil when he tries to rape one of them.  A shady couple (the wife played by Yvonne DeCarlo of THE MUNSTERS fame) then attempt to finish the janitor’s job, only to discover one of the cheerleaders is actually a closet witch.  In many ways this is the ULTIMATE 70s exploitation film: cheerleaders, backwoods Satanists, and four of the best looking actresses ever to grace a low budget feature add up to a true guilty pleasure.  This slice of 70s sinema ends with the cheerleaders using their newfound powers to help their football team win!  When I finally found a VHS copy of this sometime in the early 80s, I was surprised to see such a low nudity level (something most grindhouse films rely on), but the sheer nuttiness of this offering from director Greydon (BLACK SHAMPOO) Clark works well, despite its lack of skin.

2) When my family purchased our first VCR in 1983, I immediately ran to our local video store and rented 1963’s BLOOD FEAST, a film I had been reading about in FANGORIA Magazine since their fourth issue.  In the middle of watching it, my dad came home from work and freaked out.  He had seen this at a theater in Georgia a few weeks before he went to Korea with the army.  He told me people—some soldiers—actually passed out during a few of the gore scenes and most of the theater was empty by the time it ended.  NO ONE had seen anything like this at that time, and it was amazing to have first-hand proof that the accounts I had read in FANGORIA were true.  I can’t even imagine what it must’ve been like to be in a theater when something so different and ground-breaking was unleashed for the first time.  And being my old man was there, perhaps my love for this stuff was somehow passed through him to me at the time?

1) Despite the ground-breaking nature of BLOOD FEAST, I thought long and hard about what the A-#1 grindhouse film I wish I could’ve seen in a theater should be.  It might seem a bit typical, but I can think of no better film than NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968).  I remember reading an article from film critic Roger Ebert where he recalled his first viewing: a young child sat next to him, hiding his eyes and shaking in total terror, causing Ebert to write, “What kind of a parent drops their kids off at something called NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD?”  I first saw it on late night TV when I was about seven years old, and it’s the main film responsible for my love of the horror genre.  George Romero’s low-budget classic reinvented the zombie film, and, from all accounts that I’ve read, was one of the scariest experiences since 1960’s PSYCHO for many theater-goers.  What more could any fan of grindhouse cinema ask for?

SO there you have it, folks: ten films I wish I could’ve seen in a theater from the “golden age” of the grindhouse film.  Now it’s time for me to stop dreaming and begin searching my fading celluloid memory for the 51st column.  See ‘ya in two weeks!

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato


Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Fun Stuff!, Gore!, Hillbillies, Joss Whedon, Monsters, Supernatural, Surprises!, Twist Endings, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A cabin in the middle of the woods. MICHAEL ARRUDA has just arrived, to find L.L. SOARES sitting in front the fire, reading a collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories)

MA: Nice to see you’re so comfortable. It took me forever to find this place.

LS: I know, I’ve been here for three days now. Did you get lost or something?

MA: This place isn’t on any map or GPS that I know of. How did you get here anyway?

LS: I borrowed THE FLY’s teleportation machine.

MA: That explains why you didn’t need a map.  Whoa!  You borrowed THE FLY’s teleportation machine?

LS:  Clean that wax out of your ears, son, that’s what I said.

MA:  That didn’t work out so well for Seth Brundle.  There weren’t any flies in there with you, were there?

LS:  No.  But there was this tarantula, and a scorpion.  Is that bad?

MA:  Aren’t you worried that you’ve somehow all been jumbled together, and that now you might be sharing some of their DNA?

LS (burps):  Not really.

MA:  Are you telling me that you—?

LS:  Yep.  They’re just delicious when you add some of Stubbs’ barbecue sauce.  Anyway, do you want me to start the review while you’re getting settled?

MA: Sure.  Man, you must have a stomach made of iron.

LS: This week’s movie is THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, and it’s the first movie directed by Drew Goddard, who mainly was a writer before this. He wrote CLOVERFIELD (2008), a movie we both liked a lot.

MA:  Yep, CLOVERFIELD was one of my favorite horror movies of the last decade.

LS:  CABIN is also written by Joss Whedon, who created shows like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL two shows that Goddard also wrote for. And Whedon will be directing THE AVENGERS movie next month, too!

MA:   Goddard co-wrote the screenplay with Whedon.  In addition to writing CLOVERFIELD, Goddard also wrote several episodes of the TV show LOST, and I thought there were parts of this movie that reminded me of LOST.

LS:  THE CABIN IN THE WOODS starts out kind of strangely, as we see a group of scientists taking a lunch break before they go back to work. These are Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and they seem to be in charge of some strange experiment.

MA:  Strange is the operative word here.  The movie opens and I’m thinking, what an odd way to get this one started, but it caught my attention, and so I guess it worked!

LS:  Then the story shifts to five college kids who decide to take a weekend “off the grid,” kicking back at a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere, which belongs to one of the kids’ cousin. They include  Jules (Anna Hutchison), a sexy, flirty co-ed who just dyed her hair blonde; her roommate Dana (Kristen Connolly), a slightly less outgoing, innocent-seeming redhead; Jules’ boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth—yes, THOR himself), a jock;  Curt’s friend Holden (Jesse Williams) who Jules and Curt are trying to fix up with Dana; and fifth wheel, Marty (Fran Kranz) who is smart and a smart aleck and he smokes a lot of weed, and I wasn’t really sure why he was going along with them, but he’s a welcome addition to the group, as far as I’m concerned.

MA: Yeah, he’s the most fun— and refreshing— character in the movie.

LS:  They take an RV out to the country, where they come upon your typical, cliché’ redneck gas station owner, Mordecai (Tim De Zarn) who sets the creepy mood, and you just know these kids are in for some trouble.

MA:  This is the scene where I almost groaned out loud.  I’ve seen so many scenes like this one; it’s almost painful to sit through any more, so when this movie took this scene and did something completely different with it later, it was that much more refreshing.

(There is a knock at the cabin door.  MA opens door to find a redneck gas station owner at the door, and behind him his redneck son, behind him another old man, and on and on the line goes.)

REDNECK MAN:  This is no place for strangers!

REDNECK SON:  My advice to you is to turn around and go back to where you came from.

OLD MAN:  Turn back before ye perish!

EVEN OLDER MAN: You’ll be sorrrrry!

SKELETON IN OVERALLS: Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

MA:  I think I’m going to throw up.  (Slams door in their faces.)

LS: Yeah, I’m sick to death of those guys, too. Get a life! And get some teeth!

Anyway, like I was saying, you know these kids are headed for trouble. The thing is, what kind of trouble is something a little bit different than what we usually see in these kinds of movies. You might go in expecting yet another retread of THE EVIL DEAD or something along the lines of Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER, but instead, we get something different than we’re expecting. This ties in to the fact that there are two smart, creative guys at the helm of this one, and they’re determined not to give us something we’ve seen before.

During a game of Truth or Dare, the kids find a doorway into a basement. When they go down to explore, they find lots of very strange artifacts, which will somehow decide their fate, depending on which one they choose. Dana picks up a diary of a girl who lived in the cabin back in 1908, and it’s rather disturbing. Meanwhile, outside, some strange figures start shuffling around, holding some vicious-looking weapons.

Beyond that, I don’t want to say too much, except that the kids in the cabin, the creatures stalking them, and the scientists back at the underground lab are closely linked, and that there really is a reason why all this is going on. A very cool reason. And I figured it out by the half-way mark, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of this movie at all.

Not only is the directing and writing very good here, the acting isn’t too bad, either. I really enjoyed the interaction between Jenkins and Whitford as the scientists, who also involve their fellow employees in their activities. These are two good actors who turn in good performances.

MA:  I agree.  I thought veterans Richard Jenkins (who was in LET ME IN (2010), and received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in THE VISITOR (2007), not too shabby), Bradley Whitford (who most people will recognize from TV’s THE WEST WING) were excellent and lent credibility to the proceedings.  They definitely help make the unbelievable seem believable.  Credit here also goes to the writing, which gives them plenty of lively lines to deliver.

LS:  The kids aren’t too bad, either. Hutchison as Jules is very sexy and Hemsworth is a muscular alpha male as Curt.

MA:  Yes, no doubt about it, Hutchison is hot.  The scene where she makes out with a stuffed wolf’s head in a game of truth or dare is worth the price of admission all by itself!

And I liked Hemsworth as Curt too.  Most jocks in these films are jerks.  Hemsworth makes Curt pretty likeable.

LS:  I wasn’t as impressed with Jesse Williams as Holden – he was okay, but nothing special. The two best performances here, however, are Kristen Connolly as the “virginal” Dana, who gets tough when she has to, and Kranz (who Whedon fans will recognize as Topher from the short-lived but really good series DOLLHOUSE). He pretty much steals every scene he’s in, and was my favorite character.

MA:  I agree with you wholeheartedly here.

LS:  Wholeheartedly?  That reminds me!  (Suddenly there is a bloody heart on LS’ plate next to a bottle of barbecue sauce.) Thanks, I didn’t want it to spoil.

MA: Where did that come from? That’s not yours, is it?

LS: Of course not! Mine isn’t this big. I had it in my pocket for a snack. And right about now, when you’re just about to go into a long rant, is as good a time as any for the munchies.

MA:  Long rant? I’ll save those for when I don’t like something!  Anyway, as I was saying, the two leads are excellent.   Kranz nearly steals the movie as Marty, a character who’s stoned most of the time.  Yet, this turns out to help him later in the story.  Hmm, a subtle plug for medical marijuana, perhaps?  (laughs) Kranz is funny, likeable, and best of all, refreshing.  He provides the film with its best moments.

LS: He was great on DOLLHOUSE, too. I’d love to see Kranz become a star because of his performance here.

MA: Kristen Connolly is also excellent as Dana.  She enjoys the best of both worlds in this movie, as she’s pretty hot herself, and yet she’s strong, capable, and more than holds her own when the going gets rough.  She’s also smart.

LS: Yeah, she is pretty hot, too. Gotta love a redhead. And I liked her character a lot.

MA: Nice job by both these actors. There’s also a surprise cameo appearance at the end that’s been generating some excitement.

LS: Yeah, except I didn’t find it very exciting. The person who shows up isn’t that big a deal, since he/she has been in these kinds of movies before. It certainly wasn’t as big a deal as Bill Murray’s appearance in ZOMBIELAND (2009). I don’t even know why we’re keeping it a secret.
MA: Yeah, I didn’t think it was a big deal, either.

LS:  The movie has its fair share of scares and laughs, and knows how to balance the two of them effectively. And the fact that there are some genuine surprises here means that CABIN is a movie you can really enjoy. It’s smarter than the usual Hollywood horror flick, and I enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I give it three and a half knives!

What did you think of it, Michael?

MA:  I enjoyed it too, but I didn’t love it.

LS:  Of course you didn’t.  (starts eating the heart)

MA:  THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is definitely different.  As advertised, it offers a refreshing take on the usual tale of young people trapped in a haunted cabin in the middle of nowhere.  For that, I commend the filmmakers, and I really did like this movie.

It’s just that, I’m not sure that I bought it all.  What was going on behind the scenes, in those scenes with Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, bordered a bit too much on fantasy for my tastes.  Now, I know you won’t like this comparison, but some of the stuff was reminiscent of MEN IN BLACK, only better.  MEN IN BLACK was science fiction and it was pure comedic fluff, while THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is horror and never strays down the road to goofiness.  That being said, I still had a hard time accepting some of the things that happen in this movie once the explanations start rolling in.

LS: MEN IN BLACK? Did you really need to go there?

MA: Sorry, but I think I did.

(There is a knock on the door, and when MA opens it, there is a brutish BIG ZOMBIE standing in the doorway)

BIG ZOMBIE (to LS): You gonna eat that heart?

LS (talks with his mouth full): Way ahead of you. And I’m not sharing!


(BIG ZOMBIE growls and skulks away)

MA: I actually bought into THE HUNGER GAMES more.  That was a movie that I thought I was not going to believe, but that one, with its combination of strong acting, writing, and directing, convinced me that those deadly games were in fact real.  THE HUNGER GAMES had more of an edge, I think, than THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, which as much as I liked it, would have been better served had it had a jagged edge of its own.

But I really enjoyed THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.  I enjoyed it a lot.  It’s a really creative flick, and it would be difficult not to like this movie.

I said earlier it reminded me a bit of LOST, in that you have a group of characters stuck in a situation that they at first think they know about and have a handle on, but soon they realize there is so much more going on, and it’s way more complicated than what they first thought.  At one point, one of the characters remarks that they’re like puppets, manipulated by outside forces, which reminded me of the survivors on LOST when they were dealing with “the Others” early in that show.

LS: Yes, I see what you mean about the LOST comparison, although I thought the ending of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS was more satisfying than the ending of LOST.

MA: And like CLOVERFIELD, which was also written by Drew Goddard, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS has well-written characters and fun, lively dialogue.

I thought the special effects were also very good.  I liked the monsters and creatures in this one and thought they looked genuinely scary for the most part. They were credible.

LS: I wish we’d gotten to see more of them!

MA: Not so credible is the plot.  Ultimately, did I really buy all that was happening?  And the answer to that question is no, I didn’t.  Because while the film never breaks out into a full-fledged spoof/comedy— it does get the humor right, and it’s smart in that the dark elements of the movie remain dark— it’s difficult to take the proceedings all that seriously once you learn the secret of what’s ultimately going on.

I liked THE CABIN IN THE WOODS for what it was— a wild, over the top, creative horror movie, but had it somehow been more believable, I would have loved it.

I give it three knives.

LS: Yeah, I liked this one a bit more than you did. But at least we can agree that it’s a lot of fun and that the folks out there should check this movie out.

MA:  Yes, it’s definitely worth checking out!

(There’s another knock at the door)

MA: I wonder who it is now.

(Outside the door, lots of REDNECKS and ZOMBIES are playing outside on the front lawn)

LS: What’s going on here?

REDNECK MAN: What does it look like?

REDNECK SON: We’re havin’ a picnic.

OLD MAN: Yeah, and we brought all the fixins’

EVEN OLDER MAN: We even brought the grill!

SKELETON IN OVERALLS: I can’t wait to eat. I’m starvin’ right to death.

REDNECK MAN: Yep, my great great grandpa needs to put some meat on those bones.

MA: That’s all well and good, but it looks like you’ve forgotten the most important part.  The food!  There’s no meat on the grill.

LS: Yeah, what are we supposed to be eating?

REDNECK MAN: Well, you’re not going to be eatin’ anything.

BIG ZOMBIE: We’re gonna be eatin’ you!

(CLOSE-UP of a LITTLE BOY ZOMBIE licking his lips)

MA (to camera): Gotta go!

(MA and LS run away in fast motion as the ZOMBIES and REDNECKS look on in bewilderment)


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

Michael Arruda gives THE CABIN IN THE WOODS ~ three knives!

LL Soares gives THE CABIN IN THE WOODS ~three and a half knives.