Film / TV

Blood Sucking Freaks: Entertaining, but as sick as they come

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Blood Sucking Freaks directed by Joel M. Reed

A film that seemingly has no other goal than shocking and offending its audience, Blood Sucking Freaks (the lack of a hyphen is annoying) must be deemed a complete success. From first scene to last, this is a picture that gleefully parades its repugnant, gross-out set pieces and depraved characters for the viewer's questionable delectation. Initially appearing in 1976 under the title The Incredible Torture Show (a better, more apropos appellation, I feel; Blood Sucking Freaks suggests that a vampire type of story will be unreeling, which this film most certainly is not), it was later renamed by those wackos at Troma, which released the film on VHS and DVD with the memorable admonition "Warning: This film contains scenes of freaks sucking blood." Something of a legendary bad-taste cul... Read More

Beyond the Door: A mash-up of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist

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Beyond the Door directed by Ovidio Assonitis

“I am waiting for you inside the guts of this whore!”

A somewhat effective mash-up of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, Ovidio Assonitis' Beyond the Door (1974) yet has little of the class and sophistication of the first or terrifying shocks of the latter. Released a year after The Exorcist kicked box-office tuchus (garnering $89 million; the No. 1 highest earner of 1973, if the book Box Office Hits is to be trusted), the film suffers from an aura of déjà vu, but still has much to offer to the dedicated horror fan.

In it, Juliet Mills (daughter of John, older sister of Hayley, but perhaps best known to American viewers as Phoebe Figalilly from the early '70s sitcom Nanny and the Professor) plays Jessica Barrett, a wife and mother of two. She lives in Sa... Read More

Of Unknown Origin: Rat attack

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Of Unknown Origin directed by George P. Cosmatos

Speaking as a native New Yorker, I would hazard a guess that the two things my fellow residents here fear the most, when it comes to their apartment or dwelling place, are (a) bedbugs and (b) rodents. Those bloodsucking little insects were on the wane for many decades, but have unfortunately made a comeback in recent years, and while not disease carriers, are notoriously difficult and expensive to eliminate. As for the latter, well, the sight of a scurrying mouse in the house is surely enough to startle even the toughest of Big Apple dwellers. But the thought of a rat — the larger-size rodent that most New Yorkers only see on the subway tracks underground — getting INSIDE one's residence is one that is certain to engender nightmares. This fear was only made worse a little while ago, with the online emergence of a video showing how easily the whiskered horrors can clim... Read More

The Strangler Of Blackmoor Castle: Sehe Es Wegen Karin

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The Strangler Of Blackmoor Castle directed by Harald Reinl

It was back in mid-June 1967 when I — and millions of other baby-boomer boys, I have a feeling — first developed a crush on beautiful, redheaded Karin Dor. With the opening of the fifth James Bond blowout, You Only Live Twice, Dor, already a long-established actress in her native Germany (although few of us realized it at the time), was revealed to an international audience ... one that could scarcely fail to be impressed by her turn as Helga Brandt, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent No. 11, whose demise in Ernst Stavro Blofeld's piranha pool is one of the series' most memorable moments. Over the intervening 47 (!) years, this viewer has endeavored to see a lot more of Dor, but with only scant success. Her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz (1969), playing the brunette widow of a Cuban revolutionary, was easy enough to see, but other than that, I had to w... Read More

Madhouse: Mary, Mary, quite contrary

It's Shocktober! Sandy will post a horror movie review every day this month!

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Madhouse directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis

Not to be confused with the 1974 Vincent Price/Peter Cushing movie entitled Madhouse (a fun, underrated film, by the way) and certainly not with the 1990 John Larroquette/Kirstie Alley comedy sporting that same name, the 1981 Italian horror outing called Madhouse is another story entirely. I say that the film IS Italian, although the average viewer might never realize it. Despite being an Italian production, with an Italian crew and composer, the picture was shot in English, features an American cast, and was filmed in Savannah, Georgia, although the filmmakers could certainly have included more of that city's picturesque charm, had they chosen to do so.

In this film (perhaps inspired by Brian De Palma's 1973 classic Sisters Read More

Indestructible Man: 300,000 volts of fun

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Indestructible Man directed by Jack Pollexfen

Oh, what a wacky film experience I had over the weekend: the 1956 Lon Chaney, Jr. outing Indestructible Man! This movie was originally shown as part of a double feature for the kiddies back when, paired with one of my favorite sci-fi shlock adventures ever, World Without End, for one truly mind-boggling afternoon at the movies. In the film in question, Chaney plays a criminal named Butcher Benton, who, after a botched robbery, has been sentenced to the gas chamber. He is indeed put to death, but soon after, his body is sold to a scientist (Robert Shayne, who most viewers will remember from his role of Inspector Henderson on TV's Adventures of Superman, and whose work I recently enjoyed in the 1953 film The Neanderthal Man) who is doing experiments regarding a cancer cure. Read More

The Curse of Sleeping Beauty: A vaguely diverting waste of time

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The Curse of Sleeping Beauty directed by Pearry Teo

Is this a good movie? No. Is it a fairly entertaining way of filling in a rainy afternoon? Sure.

There are actually a lot of things about The Curse of Sleeping Beauty I enjoyed: it has a unique visual style that's a sort of fantasy/steampunk mash-up, and a story that's half-horror, half-fairy tale (with a dash of ghost story thrown in for good measure). The acting ain't bad, and though the twist is pretty obvious, I felt satisfied at having correctly guessed what it would be.

And look at that cover art on the DVD! Gorgeous.

Thomas is your standard beefcake artist haunted by strange dreams of a creepy house and a beautiful slumbering girl. Diagnosed with sleep paralysis, he's isolated and anti-social, with little understanding of what his dreams could mean.

Then he finds out he's the beneficiary of an ... Read More

Mad About Men: Miranda returns for another fish-out-of-water adventure

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Mad About Men directed by Ralph Thomas

When we last saw the mermaid Miranda, in the 1948 British fantasy film that bears her name, she was sitting on a rock in the middle of the ocean, bearing on her lap an infant merbaby, the sight of which was apparently meant to stun and amuse the viewer. Although the charming Miranda had almost caused the breakup of no fewer than three relationships in that film, she had not been intimate with any of the men involved (and really, how COULD she be?), and so ... just whose baby was this? In hindsight, the baby was apparently hers as the result of a previous underwater fling, casting a whole new light on just why the frisky mermaid wanted one above-water adventure before becoming a mermom herself. Or perhaps she was merely merbabysitting in that final scene?

I suppose that we will never know for sure, as the... Read More

Miranda: An absolutely charming fish-out-of-water tale

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Miranda directed by Ken Annakin

Back in the early '60s, when I was a very young lad, there were two television programs that held a great fascination for my young mind. One was the part live/part animated kiddie show Diver Dan, which featured the undersea adventures of the titular hero, and showcased one very beautiful blonde mermaid, called Miss Minerva. The other program was one that I have a feeling not too many remember, for the simple reason that it only lasted 13 episodes in the fall of '63. That show was simply called Glynis, and featured the exploits of its star, Welsh actress Glynis Johns, playing a kooky mystery writer. As a child, I was fascinated by this lovely heroine, with her cracked and husky voice (Glynis' voice has always been as distinctive, in its own way, as that of Jean Arthur, Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn), and my liking of her only increased over the decades, as I got to see... Read More

The Return of Doctor X: Citizen Quesne

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The Return of Doctor X directed by Vincent Sherman

As a result of his breakthrough role as Duke Mantee in the 1936 gem The Petrified Forest, Humphrey Bogart made no fewer than 25 films for Warner Brothers over the course of the next four years: five in 1936, seven (!) in 1937, six in 1938 and another whopping seven in 1939! Talk about paying your dues! For the most part, Bogart was second or even third billed — and even lower — in these films, typically playing gangsters but also some very unlikely roles, and these from the man who, just a few years later still, would be the highest paid actor in Hollywood. But of all the unusual roles that the great Bogart ever essayed, it is the part of Marshall Quesne (pronounced "Kane") in The Return of Doctor X that just might be his strangest. Bogart would go on to claim that this film, along with 1938's Swing Your Lady, was his absolute wor... Read More

Return of the Fly: “The Thriller-Chiller That Will Really Bug You”…

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Return of the Fly directed by Edward Bernds

Sometimes, it's just NOT a good idea to continue on with your father's business. Take Philippe Delambre, for instance, in the 1959 sequel to the previous year's The Fly, the perhaps inevitably titled Return of the Fly. When we last saw Delambre, he was a little boy living near Montreal, aggrieved over his scientist father's death, a man who had been turned into a humanoid with the head of a giant fly, AND a little insect with the head of a man! When the sequel picks up, it is a good 10 years later at least, and Delambre is a young adult, attending his mother's funeral in the pouring rain along with his uncle, Francois (Vincent Price, the only actor returning from the original, and who, that same year, starred in one of this viewer's all-time favorite horror films, The Ti... Read More

The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues: More dangerous than your average sea cucumber

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The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues directed by Dan Milner

Although I really do try to keep an objective mind when it comes to my cinematic adventures, I must confess that The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues (1955) already had one strike against it, personally speaking, as I sat down to peruse it recently. I mean, how dare this picture rip off the title of one of my favorite films of all time, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)? The fact that the esteemed Maltin's Movie Guide gives Phantom its lowest BOMB rating did not bother me overmuch (the editors there are a notoriously grumpy bunch as regards genre fare), but an attempt to overtly copy one of the greatest monster movies ever made ... not forgivable! Anyway, as it turns out, despite the negative word of mouth and blatant title riffing of a beloved classic (actually, that title is almo... Read More

The Beast of Hollow Mountain: Bring the tequila

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The Beast of Hollow Mountain directed by Edward Nassour & Ismael Rodriguez

King Kong creator Willis O'Brien had a great idea for a film in the mid-'50s: a hybrid Western and giant monster outing that would showcase the best of both genres. Working from O'Brien's story line, the film was ultimately made, with a script by Robert Hill (who would go on to pen such wonders as She Gods of Shark Reef and Sex Kittens Go to College), a co-production between the U.S. and Mexico, and the result, the 1956 wonder entitled The Beast of Hollow Mountain, has been pleasing generations of viewers ever since. Unfortunately, O'Brien himself, for some strange reason, did NOT work on the special FX for this film, as he had done on The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933), Son of Kong (also 1933), and Mighty Joe Young (1949; the film for which O'Brien won an O... Read More

Reptilicus: Blood and tundra

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Reptilicus directed by Sidney Pink

I never got to see the 1961 monster outing Reptilicus when I was a child, and so have nothing in the way of nostalgic attachment as regards the film. Thus, when I watched the movie for the first time a few nights back, it was with the cold, hard objectivity of an aging baby-boomer adult. The result was an entertaining evening, but one that would have been infinitely more enjoyable had I been watching within the pleasant aura of a fondly remembered youth. Reptilicus is today perhaps best known as the only giant monster movie to have ever come out of Denmark, of all places. As it turns out, the picture is decidedly inferior to the giant monster movies that had been all the rage ever since the U.S. released the granddaddy of all such films, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (one of this viewer's all-time faves) in 1953, and Japan released the seminal Gojira... Read More

Sandy’s 2016 Film Year in Review

Anyone who knows me well could tell you that I don't see a lot of new films. As a matter of fact, of the 143 films that I saw in 2016, only four were new, and 139 were old. Thus, my annual Top 10 Best and Worst lists are necessarily different than most. With me, any film that I saw for the first time in 2016 was eligible for either list. If the film made me laugh, or think, or tear up, or sit suspensefully on the edge of my seat, or amazed me with something that I had not seen before, it had a good shot at being considered. On the other hand, for me, boredom is the worst thing that any film can be guilty of; I don't care if a film is cheaply made, but please do not torture me with tedium. Anyway, with no further ado, my Top 10 Best and Worst Lists of 2016. The films are listed in the order that I saw them...


1) Our Relations (1936): One of Laurel & Hardy's most hilarious films, in which the boys meet their long-los... Read More

Night Train Murders: Stunning horror, and the darkest Christmas movie ever made

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Night Train Murders directed by Aldo Lado

Since watching Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972) more than 30 years ago, I have abided by my promise to never see this film again, it being truly one of the most repugnant that I've ever sat through. And yet, I didn't as much mind Aldo Lado's homage/remake/pastiche of three years later, Night Train Murders. As in the original, the film deals with the brutal rape and murder (inadvertent, in the Italian picture) of a pair of college girls by a trio of brutish thugs (in the latter film, one of the trio is an upper-class woman with sexually depraved tendencies) and the retribution taken on them by the father of one of the girls.

Lado's film starts out with a lighthearted, almost comical tone, which shades gradually into one of unease and finally sickening horror. His pictu... Read More

Deep Red: Gulp down some deep-red Chianti and prepare to be stunned

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Deep Red directed by Dario Argento

Following his so-called Animal Trilogy — 1970’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and 1971's The Cat O'Nine Tails and Four Flies on Gray Velvet — and immediately before creating what turned out to be his most popular picture as of this date, 1977's Suspiria, Italian director Dario Argento released, in March 1975, one of his most critically acclaimed films, Deep Red (or, as it is more sonorously known in Italian, Profondo Rosso). All these decades later, the picture is still considered, by fans and critics alike, to not only be one of the most impressive in Argento's still-growing oeuvre, but one of the finest gialli ever made; the excellent reference book DVD Delirium even goes so far as to call it "one of the highlights of Italian cinema as a whole." And now that I have finally caught up with the fil... Read More

Horrors of Malformed Men: Butoh on the Noto

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Horrors of Malformed Men directed by Teruo Ishii

Based on the 1926 novel The Strange Tale of Panorama Island by Edogawa Rampo — the so-called Edgar Allan Poe of Japan — as well as at least two Rampo short stories, "The Human Chair" (1925) and "The Walker in the Attic" (also 1925), and also conflating Rampo's most famous detective character, Kogoro Akechi, the 1969 film Horrors of Malformed Men obviously has a lot of ground to cover. The picture was co-written by its director, genre favorite Teruo Ishii, an old fan of Rampo's work in boys' detective magazines in the 1920s, and so shocked and scandalized viewers upon its initial release that it has been a sort of taboo product ever since; indeed, the film has never been made available for home viewing in Japan! I suppose that given its central theme of willful and calculated human mutations, coming a scant 25 years after the atomic ... Read More

The Skin I Live In: Holy Toledo!

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The Skin I Live In directed by Pedro Almodovar

I am probably not the best person to comment on a film by the hugely popular Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. Of the man's 20 or so films to date, I had only seen precisely one — his seventh, 1988's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and that many years ago. But that film had struck me as being wildly funny and entertaining, I recall, so it was with great enthusiasm that I popped Almodovar's 18th offering, The Skin I Live In, into my DVD player the other night. Originally presented in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2011 under its Spanish appellation La Piel Que Habito, the picture, as it turns out, is just remarkable; one of those films that makes you want to start checking out/checking off all the other items in its creator's oeuvre. Very much a modern-day horror classic, the film takes a healthy dose of Alfred... Read More

Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism: Dor jam

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Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism directed by Harald Reinl

I have written elsewhere about my longtime love for redheaded Italian actress Lucianna Paluzzi, who captivated this viewer back in 1965 by dint of her portrayal of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent Fiona Volpe in the James Bond outing Thunderball. Two years later, another redheaded S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent also caught my fancy: Helga Brandt, Agent No. 11, in the Bond blowout You Only Live Twice. Brought to indelible life by German actress Karin Dor, she remains, 45 years later, one of the sexiest of the Bond "bad girls," and her death in archvillain Blofeld's piranha pool is a 007 classic. Well, despite admiring Dor's performance in this film dozens of times over the years, I have been hard pressed to see her in anything else, other than Alfred Hitchcock's 1969 film Topaz, in which she plays Juanita de Cordoba, the widow of a Cuban revolutionary ... and a ... Read More

Blood Is the Color of Night: Filipino Sumisipsip Sa Leeg

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The Blood Drinkers (Blood Is the Color of Night) directed by Gerardo de Leon

Though he had started his career as a medical doctor, Gerardo de Leon went on to become not only a movie director, but the most awarded director in the history of the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (seven awards, in all). He helmed film projects in many different genres, but this viewer had, until recently, only been familiar with three of his pictures, all in the horror category. His 1959 effort Terror Is a Man, generally cited as being the first Filipino horror film, was an excellently done reworking of H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, while the two films he directed with Eddie Romero in 1968, Read More

Zinda Laash (The Living Corpse): Lahore horror

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Zinda Laash  (aka The Living Corpse aka Dracula in Pakistan) directed by Khwaja Sarfraz

For proof positive that the fearsome vampire scourge continues into modern times and is truly international in scope, one need look no further than the 1967 Pakistani film Zinda Laash, otherwise known as The Living Corpse (and, less imaginatively, Dracula in Pakistan). Infamous for having received the first "X" rating for a Lollywood film (and no, that is NOT a typo; apparently, that is the accepted name for the Lahore film industry), as well as for giving one poor woman a heart attack (!) during an early screening, the film is nevertheless little known today, a state of affairs that this great-looking DVD from Mondo Macabro will hopefully correct. Though based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, ... Read More

Beyond the Darkness: Sado-Massaccesim

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Beyond the Darkness directed by Aristide Massaccesi (Joe D'Amato)

Hooo, boy, is this a sick one! Jaded fans of Euro horror, lovers of the outrageous, and gorehounds in general might find their mouths opening in awe and their eyes widening in shock as they get deeper into the Italian cult item Beyond the Darkness (1979). Conflating as it does elements of voodoo, necrophilia and deep, deep psychosis, and mixing in some truly stomach-churning blood-and-guts scenes along with multiple bizarre sequences, the film is one guaranteed to impress the viewer — one way or the other. The even better news here is that the film has been very well put together by a group of genuine pros. Despite the repugnant visuals and decidedly outré subject matter, this IS a quality film, and hardly the shlock experience you might be expecting. I generally try not to include spoilers in these mini-reviews, but feel I must do so here, as... Read More

Frankenstein 1970: “Torch, scorch, unforch…”

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Frankenstein 1970 directed by Howard W. Koch

Horror icon Boris Karloff, during the mid-1950s, significantly slowed down his prodigious output of the '30s and '40s. After 1953, fans would have to wait a full four years before his next horror picture, Voodoo Island, was released, and that one is generally acknowledged as one of Boris' few stinkers. The British actor seemed to rebound a bit in 1958, however, with the releases of Frankenstein 1970 — a shlocky yet entertaining picture — and the very-well-done British film Grip of the Strangler. Frankenstein 1970 was the fifth Frankenstein film that Karloff had participated in, following the classic original in 1931, the eternal glory that is 1935's Bride of Frankenstein, 1939's excellent Son of Frankenstein and 1944's House of Frankenstein, but — no surprise — the film in question is any... Read More

Crypt of the Vampire: It’s no Blood-Spattered Bride, but still good enough

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Crypt of the Vampire directed by Camillo Mastrocinque

Everyone knows how wonderful the late great Christopher Lee could be at playing the monstous heavy — not for nothing is he known to his fans as Mr. Tall, Dark and Gruesome! — but many forget that he could be equally adept at portraying "the good guy." Thus, fans are often pleasantly taken aback when they see the 1968 Hammer film The Devil Rides Out for the first time, in which Lee plays the Duc de Richleau, a combater of Satanists in 1920s England (though this film is weak tea compared to Dennis Wheatley's 1934 source novel). For further proof of Lee's ability to portray a defender of right and light, viewers may be interested to seek out Camillo Mastrocinque's Italian Gothic horror film Crypt of the Vampire (1964), which can also be seen under the title Terror in t... Read More