Tagged: Horror Movie

The Man from Deep River

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Video Nasty #7 of 72

Year of Release: 1972
Directed by:  Umberto Lenzi
Run Time: 93 minutes
Alternate Titles:  Original Title: Il paese del sesso selvaggio (Translated literally as The Country’s Wild Sex), also released as Deep River Savages, Sacrifice!, and Mondo Cannibale
UK Censorship Status: Released with 3 mins 45 secs of animal cruelty cuts in 2003

One interesting thing about going through this list chronologically is that early on you get a lot of films that kick started a lot of genres that most critics despise and most normal people stay far away from. Blood Feast was the first real gore film, Bay of Blood laid the groundwork for the slasher genre, and Love Camp 7 was the first of many nazisploitation films.  It’s almost like a crash course in the history of exploitation film making.  Now we’re up to our second Italian film and the one that’s often considered to be the first of what might really be the very bottom of the barrel in terms of cheap shocks on celluloid, the Italian cannibal film.  Oh joy…

John Bradley (the dashing Ivan Rassimov, who starred in a lot of these things)  is a British photographer sent into the jungles of Thailand to take pictures of rain forest wildlife.  When the film starts out, he’s watching a kickboxing match while his dates gets more and more annoyed and eventually gets up and leaves, which doesn’t seem to bother our man of the hour much.  It does appear to bother a random Thai man, however, who meets up with Bradley in a bar and pulls a knife on him. Bradley is something of a super stud and twists the man’s arm, stabbing him in the stomach before making a hasty retreat.
Now in any normal film this would be treated with some level of importance, plot wise, but director Umberto Lenzi oddly makes the decision to never have this event either mentioned again or even have it have any impact on anything! Bradley just goes on his merry way, calmly hiring a guide to take him into the jungles.  Huh.  Guess that was just to kill screen time then….
Long story short, the guide gets killed and Bradley ends up getting captured by a jungle dwelling tribe who tie him up in a big net in a tree so the kids can hit him with sticks.
Bradley’s savior comes in the form of Marayå (the gorgeous and perpetually naked Me Me Lai, who also starred in a lot of these things) the chief’s daughter who instantly becomes fascinated with our square jawed hero.
This seems like Bradley’s key to getting back to civilization, but does he really want to do that? Certainly not after a pack of bizarre rituals are performed on him to make him a tribal warrior and his eventual marriage to Marayå. And what of  those dudes from that cannibal tribe that had their tongues cut out early on? Oh, I’m sure we won’t see any more of them around….

I’m going to throw this right out there: I am not a big fan of these movies. At all. In fact, a viewing of Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox was what really put me off trying to get through this list the first time (although I’ll sit through it again eventually for the sake of this quest).  They’re just zero fun.  I mean, I love cheap junk as much as the next person but cannibal films just don’t sit well with me. Part of it is how blatantly racist they are, feeding off of white people’s fears of brown people and anywhere that isn’t a big modern city.  Man from Deep River isn’t as bad in that respect since at least one tribe is depicted as actually human, just backwards with a lot of weird rituals, instead of faceless and totally monstrous. The shady cannibal tribe fits the bill nicely, but they’re hardly in the actual film at all, making what seems like token appearances at the beginning and end.
In fact,  most of this film is actually a pretty harmless and even a bit dull rip-off of A Man Called Horse, with most of the gore also oddly missing (later cannibal films would rectify this little oversight 100 times over).
What really bothers me though, and what really sucks pretty much all the fun out of this and the entire genre, is the real animal slaughter that happens onscreen.  I’ve stated before that I consider murdering animals purely for shock value to be pretty vile and sadly, this really became a staple of the Italian cannibal film, starting here.  You don’t need to fucking do that, prop animals would work just as well and you really can’t help but project your hatred at the director for making the decision to include it.  And to include it over and over and over again.
And you can’t throw ” it was for realism” around either, because these films are fake as shit otherwise.  It’s just abhorrent.  Not only that but it distracts from the rest of the film because you’re still reeling from it when the movie proper starts again. It doesn’t really shock me, it just makes me sick and makes me wish I were doing anything other than sitting through the fucking film.
Sadly before this is over, there’s about four or five of these things on here, two of which I’ve already seen. Uck.  Oh well, I shall soldier on.  I’ll probably just need some beer and some Bugs Bunny cartoons after….

Watch the trailer here (It features some brief glimpses of the film’s rampant animal cruelty, but you can tell pretty easily what the main selling point was…)

Random things

  • This movie isn’t very entertaining, but that torture contraption they put Bradley in (featured on the poster and in the trailer) is at least good for a laugh.
  • From a critical stand point the only real thing you can look deeper into here is the village burning scene, which has obvious parallels to Vietnam.
  • Remembering back to a documentary on the Cannibal Ferox disc, there’s a story about the main star of that movie not wanting to shoot a pig and Lenzi getting mad, grabbing the gun away from him and doing it himself, causing the actor to storm off set. What a real piece of shit.

Next time: The Cannibal Man (Which is oddly not a jungle cannibal film)

The Last House on the Left

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Video Nasty #6 of 72

Year of Release: 1972
Directed by: Wes Craven
Run Time: 84 minutes (Edited down from an original 91)
Budget: $87,000
Alternate Titles:  Had working titles of Krug & Company, Night of Vengeance, and Sex Crime of the Century.  Also briefly saw release in US theaters as Grim Company
UK Censorship Status: Refused a video certificate and passed with 31 secs cut in 2002. Released uncut on 17 March 2008

Of all the trash on the Video Nasties list, three titles in particular stand out for the controversy they caused when they were first released, which was so great that it led to these films still being talked about today, regardless of their quality or even watchability. We’ll get to the other two in due time, but the first one to rise above the general stew of pond scum and sort of enter the mainstream (partially via a mediocre remake in 2009)  just so happens to be the directorial debut of famous horror director Wes Craven, as well as an early film for producer Sean S. Cunningham!
Now Craven and I have a kind of rocky relationship.  When the man is good (The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream) he’s damn good.  But when he’s bad (Swamp Thing, The Hills Have Eyes Part II, Cursed) the results usually end up being pretty yawn inducing.  The man’s strengths really lie in knowing what buttons to push at the right times, jump starting horror related phenomenons once or twice a  decade and then riding the wave of popularity and money to produce mediocrity until he can find the next big thing.  (Although this strategy seems to have failed him recently because who the fuck really knows where the horror genre has been headed since about 1999).
This plan of action really started here.  The impetuous for the creation of Last House on the Left was  a desire to produce something so shocking and out there that people would to have to pay attention to it. It would rise above the grindhouse murk simply by being nastier than anything that was out at the time.  Originally conceived as a pornographic rape revenge fantasy full of hardcore sex and graphic violence, an idea that was actually agreed upon by the cast many of which came from the world of  porn, both Craven and Cunningham quickly chickened out and toned the script down considerably.  Well, probably not chickened out so much as came to their damn senses. The world wasn’t really wasn’t ready for graphic  full on rape scenes depicted onscreen at the time (I Spit on Your Grave was still five years away) and who knows what would have happened if they had made their film as is.  As it stood Last House was just the right amount of nasty to create a massive amount of controversy while still raking in the ticket sales to the tune of over 3 million dollars.  Not bad for what’s basically a low-budget rip off of Ingmar Bergman’s Virgin Spring

We begin our film, after a bit of an odd introduction by a friendly postman who also seems like a bit of a dirty old man, by joining one of our main protagonists in a shower (of course).  Mari Collingwood is getting ready for a night on the town with her best friend Phyllis. Phyllis is obviously a kind of bad influence that comes from a less stable home than Mari (the two are shown sharing a bottle of something of Phyllis’s that probably ain’t Pepsi and talking about S-E-X).  Even though Mari’s parents have grave doubts about her friend as well as the concert they’re going to, they let her go because she’s a big girl and there’s not much they can really do about it.
Then we are introduced to our friendly neighborhood scumbags.  We have the leader, Krug (Alexander Hess, one of the few actors in this to have something of a career afterwards) and his dorky wimp of a son Junior. Junior is the only one of these scuzballs that you’ll feel bad for by the way. He might be yellow as a pee stained lemon but his dad did get him hooked on heroin she could control him!  Joining this duo is switch blade wielding Weasel (played by pornographic mainstay Fred Lincoln in his only mainstream role) and his girl, the sadistic Sadie (Jeramie Rain, who would later marry and divorce Richard Dreyfuss).
One thing that makes this movie really work is that before the awful really happens, we get to know both families on equal footing. It’s not just some random psychos that come out of nowhere, we get to learn their dynamics and pecking order pretty well. Probably even better than we do Mari’s family, who actually kind of get short shrift!
They also tend to be more interesting characters as well, as Mari and Phyllis are presented as pretty typical teenagers, which was kind of the point, I think. It was supposed to give you a “this could happen to anybody” vibe.  Or maybe Craven didn’t quite know how to write for typical teenage girls, I don’t know.
The girls end up cruising for weed after the concert and stumble onto the group’s hideout where they’re crashing after escaping from jail. (The news report the girls listen to takes special care to mention that Sadie kicked a dog to death during the breakout!)  Before you can say “drugs are bad” the girls are locked in the trunk of the group’s car and taken out to the woods to be mentally and physically abused by everyone except Junior, who really just wants his next fix.
This is, of course, where the movie first starts to earn its notoriety.  Shits hard to watch, man.  This is a kind of horrific that hadn’t been seen in (American) cinema’s yet.  This wasn’t Frankenstein’s monster menacing villagers or Dracula seducing young virgins, this was something very close to reality.  This is awful shit that really happens and now it was shoved right in the face of anyone that dared to buy a ticket.  It was a remarkably daring thing to do, and it ushered in a new era in horror film making, for better or worse.

The first half of the movie is basically a grim exercise in how far you could go on film before both girls are finally murdered and the scumbags head off to find a place to spend the night at what, irony of ironies, turns out to be Mari’s parent’s house.  This starts the second half, which almost feels like a totally different film.  Now instead of a nasty rape/torture film, we get an action packed home invasion movie with Mari’s parents taking out each bad guy one by one, ending with what’s possibly the first use of a chainsaw as a weapon in a horror movie!  Man, this film is full of firsts, isn’t it?  We also get the death of poor Junior, who always did what his dad told him, even to the bitter end…

Last House on the Left is a grimy and uncomfortable film, but it’s really not half as bad as its reputation makes it out to be. For one, the horror of the girl’s situation is undermined by a couple of comic relief cops that feel like they’ve been dropped in from a Dukes of Hazzard type TV show!  I’m not quite sure what the rather lengthy scenes featuring these characters is supposed to serve but they get almost as much screen time as anybody else! There’s a scene in the middle where they’re trying to hitch a ride on a chicken truck that feels like it goes on forever (although it’s notable because their incompetence gets the girls murdered!)
There’s also the matter of the rather inappropriate soundtrack, featuring some soothing acoustic guitar during a rape scene and a goofy country song (performed by the guy that plays Krug!) that plays when the bad guys are heading off to do nasty things to two innocent girls!   I get that it might be to contrast things by playing inappropriate music during heavy scenes but Craven wasn’t a good enough filmmaker yet to pull this off, and it just ends up being weird.
Still, even with its flaws Last House ends up being quite a nasty little film and a good representation of where America was at the time. This wasn’t the optimistic hopeful hippy filled world of the 1960’s, this was the 70’s and things had changed dramatically. Kennedy was dead and villages were being burned in Vietnam, a war that seemed like it was never going to end. Two years before, four college kid were murdered by National Guardsmen at Kent State University.  The ugliness onscreen mirrored the ugliness of the real world, which might be why the film struck such a nerve. We were staring our own brutality right in its ugly face.

Watch the trailer here

Random Things

  • The kid that gets his balloon popped by Krug is Wes Craven’s own son Johnathan.
  • It’s been awhile since I’ve watched Virgin Spring (Quite a few years since my obsession with Bergman) but I can still remember the rape scene in that movie like I saw it yesterday, it’s that disturbing. The major rape scene in Last House is almost a carbon copy of that one!
  • The film’s tagline has also strangely endured. “Just keep telling yourself, “It’s only a movie! It’s only a movie!'” was taken and used for quite a few films over the years and still gets parodied every so often.
  • I hope my write up did this film justice. You could publish a whole book about the making and marketing of this thing as well as the controversy its stirred up since its release.  In fact, people have!
  • It’s interesting to compare this to Bay of Blood, which has more death but the killings happen quickly to characters that are unpleasant anyways.  Last House lingers on the lengthy demise of two people that really didn’t deserve it, and is much harder to watch, even if the Craven was no Bava (and he never would be).

Next Time: The Man from Deep River

Twitch of the Death Nerve

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Video Nasty #5 of 72

Year of Release: 1971
Directed by: Mario Bava
Run Time: 84 minutes
Alternate Titles:  Originally titled Reazione a catena (Chain Reaction), also released as A Bay of Blood, Blood Bath, Bloodbath Bay of Death, The Antecedent, Ecology of a Crime, Last House on the Left Part II, and New House on the Left. Since this might be the most re-titled film in history, I’ve probably missed quite a few.
UK Censorship Status: Released with 43 secs cut in 1994. Re-released uncut in 2010.

Although he’s a pretty well known figure among hardcore horror movie nerds, Mario Bava isn’t quite as well known with anybody else.  In fact, when I was trying to find a decent download of this movie, I mentioned his name to my wife and she just kind of shrugged her shoulders.  So if you haven’t seen Black Sabbath, or Kill, Baby, Kill or even Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (good lord) then all you really need to know is that Bava was a very stylish director that worked in a variety of “low” genres. Everything from science fiction to sword and sandal flicks.  There was a lot of junky Italian movies that came out in the 70’s and 80’s, it was kind of the heyday for that kind of thing there, but you can always pick Bava’s work out because it’s well, decent. I mean, not usually great story-wise but visually it’s usually pretty boss. Lots of stylized camera work and neat use of color and lighting. The other really interesting thing about Bava is that even though he’s not quite as good as the great Dario Argento, his work might just be more influential.  This film, for instance, pretty much kick started the whole freaking slasher genre!  That’s a pretty tall order for something that was pretty much totally critically dismissed on its original release. But then the critics never seemed to like this type of movie anyways….

Bava’s style is clearly evident in the opening scenes where we get long lingering moody shots of the bay where the entire film is set.  There’s an air of melancholy and loneliness that’s very well established even before we get to the sad old lady in the wheelchair, sadly staring out through the rain soaked window.  It’s kind of beautiful, in a depressing way….and then someone puts a noose around the old lady’s neck and hangs her from the ceiling. Then the man that did that gets brutally stabbed by somebody and left bleeding on the floor.  This opening, with it’s one two punch of brutality that’s also a sick joke, pretty much let’s you know two things: this is going to be quite a bit different from Bava’s other work and he ain’t going to hold anything back so you’d better buckle your seat belts.
Getting into the plot of the movie proper is a bit tricky because it’s an incredibly muddled story. Even reading a synopsis of it after I just watched the movie doesn’t really help much.  The basics of it go as follows, as best as I can sort out: The old bitch that died in the opening owned the bay (of blood?) and was strangled by her husband, who was in turn slaughtered by someone else. A real estate agent and his mistress plot to take the bay from the husband, who they have no idea is dead.
Also involved in this is the old woman’s daughter and her husband, who travel to the bay and are essentially after the same thing. They also have no idea the old man has kicked the bucket.  They met up with a kooky fortune teller and her unpleasant bug collecting husband where from they learn that the old lady had an illegitimate son named Simon that makes a living as a fisherman of sorts.  The couple plans to murder Simon to make sure that the land will be theirs.
Got all that? To make matters even more clear and well structured, there’s a bunch of random teenagers that wander into the movie and a couple of kids that the real estate agent left behind to go gallivanting off in search of ill gotten money.
Now have you got all that? I sure hope so, because I’m still a bit lost….

It’s really the confusing story and the fact that so many characters just kind of wander in and out of the narrative that keeps this movie from really achieving classic status.  That’s kind of sad because otherwise this thing is fucking great.  If you’re looking for brutal onscreen murder, this is one you need to watch.  I’ve seen a lot of nasty movies in my time and even I was shocked by not just the sheer amount of fatalities, but the sheer visceral nature of a lot of them as well. On top of that, most of them are just really creative and cool!  The gore films that came before this one on this list, like Blood Feast and The Ghastly Ones, had grue that was cheap and incredibly fake looking.  This might have been one of the first films to try and make its gore as realistic as possible, which it admirably succeeds at, even by today’s standards! Check out that head chop late in the film or the infamous hatchet to the face! No wonder this thing was so influential!  There’s even a couple of scenes that the Friday the 13th films outright stole, including a  buxom woman skinny dipping and a rather awesome spear thrust through a couple of copulating teenagers.  I guess they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Gore aside, what really sets this film apart is that it’s both a more stylish film than it’s many rip-offs and a smarter one as well.  A lot of critics have dismissed the film as unintelligent but if you’re paying attention, there’s a lot of very clever and subtle things you can catch.  Like a bug pinned to a board that’s strikingly similar to a character’s death later on or a bell tolling before another one bites it (Get it? For whom the bell tolls?)  It’s just so damn cool, even when you’re scratching your head over the impenetrable story.
Death Nerve (or one of its many many other titles) is also a film that actually has an underlying message that gets spelled out in what might seem like a bit of throwaway dialogue early on.  That message is that humans are essentially animals that will do anything to survive and/or get what they want. They’ll think no more of ending another person’s life for their own gains than shoving a bug in a jar of ether.  It sets a remarkably cynical and morbid tone, but in the end it all finishes up with a sick, and quite funny, joke that all of a sudden makes you look at what came before in a different light. Were we supposed to be finding all of this violence and unpleasantness amusing? The director and writers obviously did!  How remarkable…

Death Nerve ends up being a film that has a lot of flaws but it somehow ends up being better than the sum of its parts. Isn’t it weird when that happens?

Watch the trailer here (And get a sample of that groovy score!)

Random Things

  • Oh man, that jazzy score! Italian horror pretty much set the standard for horror movie music for decades to come and it’s in full force here.
  • I liked this one a lot but sometimes it feels like you’re watching a template for future movies rather than an actual movie itself.  Which is kind of an odd feeling…
  • Horror movie legend Sir Christopher Lee, a Bava fan at the time, reportedly walked out of a screening of this film in disgust.  I wonder what he thinks of it now?
  • This film would make a great double feature with 1960’s Peeping Tom, another film that’s hugely influential to the slasher genre, but also a much more coherent experience.
  • I don’t think I’ve seen a film before where every single fucking character is a scumbag out for their own ends and they all get what they deserve! Bava deserves some kind of award for that, for sure.

Next Time: The rather notorious Last House on the Left

Night of the Bloody Apes

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Video Nasty #4 of 72

Year of Release: 1969 (English language version released in 1972 with additional scenes)
Directed by: René Cardona (Additional scenes by Jerald Intrator)
Budget: Who the Hell knows?
Run Time: 81 minutes
Alternate Titles: Originally titled La Horripilante bestia humana (“The Horrible Man-Beast”), also released as Horror y sexo (“Horror and Sex”) and Gomar—The Human Gorilla
UK Censorship Status: Released with approximately 3 mins of pre-cuts in 1999. Re-released uncut in 2002.

Generally when I write these reviews, I try and give my thoughts on the movie right after I’ve seen it, so it’s all fresh in my head. But honestly, after this one was over I sat for a good hour trying to think of what the Hell I was going to say.  I can’t fill much space by recounting the plot,  because there really is none. Basically,  a scientist tries to help his dying son by giving him a gorilla’s heart which of course turns him into a horrible man-beast that just wants to kill the men and rip the women’s clothing off. There’s a detective that’s trying to solve the murders and a whole lotta Mexican wrestling footage that doesn’t have anything to do with anything!  That’s about it.
I will say this, though: This movie is fucking nuts.  But that’s pretty much par for the course with Mexican horror films. Unlike similar films from other countries, Mexico’s low budget genre films weren’t really concerned with things like “logic” or even making any damn sense at all.  And if you think their horror movies are bad, you should check out their kid’s films! Total unadulterated insanity in its purest form.  What makes Night of the Bloody Apes (there’s really only one ape-man) interesting is that it’s actually two different types of low budget film in one. One the one hand it’s a juvenile and really silly monster movie that’s obviously influenced by the American poverty row films of the 1940’s, complete with a mad science lab in the basement of a suburban home and a guy in a cheap ape suit. But then it’s also (thanks to some inserted footage) a sleazy grindhouse movie complete with implied rape, lots and lots of boobs, and a whole heck of a lotta cheap as shit gore! And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. There’s face squishin’s, head rippin’s and eye poppin’s a plenty as our lovable ape-man goes on several rampages over the course of the film.  There’s even some real (!) heart surgery footage thrown in there for good measure! Aye carumba!
This feeling of being two totally different movies (which I guess it kind of is) really makes this one hard to wrap your head around.  It probably doesn’t help that the dubbing is some of the worst ever recorded, a result of the voice actors having to read literally translated Spanish word for word.  And thus we get gems like

“…it’s more probable that of late more and more you’ve been watching on your television many of those pictures of terror!”

And a closing bit of dialogue that makes it seem like our heroes are just kind of shrugging off the events of the entire film!
So even with the excessive blood and nudity (and even the heart surgery) the film still remains too goofy to really be all that offensive.  I mean there’s a scene where the man-beast slowly walks through his house still wearing his pajamas while scare chords blare on the soundtrack.  In the early scenes where they steal the gorilla from the zoo, the close ups are stock footage of an orangutan but when it’s shot with a dart, it turns into a man in a cheap gorilla suit!  So I’m not sure why this of all things was put into the UK censorship board’s cross-hairs. It reportedly had something to do with the video cover, which featured a pair of bloody surgeon’s hands, which means that they’re just as dumb as this film is.

Conclusion: A must watch for fans of nutso low budget trash!

Watch the trailer here (Just a warning, it does feature quite a bit of the surgery footage!)

Random Things

  • The graphic inserted footage was filmed by the guy that did the exact same thing for another one of my favorite bits of Mexican grindhouse madness, The Curious Dr. Humpp. Although the extra stuff inserted into that masterpiece was of a decidedly more pornographic bent!
  • The color palette for this film sure does include a lot of red and green, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.
  • Is there such a thing as too many gratuitous shower scenes? I think this movie has like three in a very short space of time!
  • Oddly, this is actually a remake of the original director’s earlier film Las Luchadoras contra el medico asesino (The Wrestling Women vs. the Murderous Doctor). I guess he felt like he didn’t say everything he wanted to with the original?
  • I’m still a bit disappointed that there was no female wrestler vs. ape-man action happening onscreen. I mean, why set it up that’s how she makes her money if you’re not going to go anywhere with it? Film, I am disappoint.

Next Time:  We enter the 70’s proper with Twitch of the Death Nerve

The Ghastly Ones

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Video Nasty #2 of 72

Year of Release: 1968
Directed by: Andy Milligan
Budget: $13,000 (estimated)
Run Time: 81 minutes
Alternate Titles: Released in the UK as Blood Rites, also re-released in the US as Blood Orgy
UK Censorship Status: No UK re-release

[Bell rings, kids take their seats]
Alright now, alright! Calm the Hell down! You crazy kids. Before we rip into today’s movie like a steak at a barbecue, we should probably take a look a look at the chef who cooked it. Well, sort of cooked it. Okay, took a bloody raw hunk of meat, threw it on a platter, and called it a steak. He went by the name of Andy Milligan. Now please open your textbooks to page 666 and read along with me…

Andrew Jackson Milligan Jr. was born an army brat on February 12, 1929 in St. Paul, Minnesota. His father was a captain and his mother was a neurotic booze bag who was both physically and mentally abusive to both her children and her husband, fostering a vile hatred of women in the young man that he would carry with him for the rest of his life.
After graduating high school and serving a stint in the army, he dabbled in acting on stage and ran a dress shop before getting involved in the off-Broadway theater movement of the 1950’s, where he got his first directing experience as well as sharpening his dressmaking skills enough that he actually owned and operated his own clothing boutique for awhile (if you can’t tell, along with everything else Milligan was, he was also very very gay).
In the early 1960’s, Milligan got into film making with a 30 minute short titled Vapors, set in a gay bath house. This film caught the eye of several exploitation film producers, which got his almost 30 year career up and running.
Milligan’s early films (most of which are now lost) were basically soft core porn but after purchasing a Victorian era mansion on Staten Island, he started making horror movies. Today’s subject was his very first one.

I give you a bit about the history of Milligan for two reasons. One: His life is incredibly interesting to read about, and two: because it really helps to kind of understand his films a little bit better.
See, while Herschell Gordon Lewis was the kind of guy that I’d love to sit down and have a beer with and talk about film, Milligan is the kind of guy that I would cross the street to get away from. By all accounts, he was a very unpleasant person to be around. This bit from Wikipedia is a pretty good example of the kind of guy he was:

“Milligan had a reputation throughout his life of being extremely demanding and bad-tempered, often provoking fights or arguments with actors, film producers and financiers as well as strangers he would meet on the street. He would be abusive and frequently shout and yell at actors working on his films or plays for not getting the work done fast enough and even physically assault actors and actresses often by slapping them across their faces and laughing if the women he slapped would break down and cry. A non-smoker and non-drinker, Milligan was said to throw fits and tantrums in public and private if people around him smoke, drank, or used drugs.”

Milligan basically hated the world and everyone in it, but especially women. He even did things like get married to a stripper and then spend the night celebrating at local gay bars, probably just to hurt her. His only real friends were just as messed up as he was, including one that was involved with an abortion clinic bomber!
But see, the thing about Milligan’s movies is that even though they’re obviously the products of someone not quite right in the head and they should be depressing and impossible to watch, they’re just so stupid and poorly made that they become laugh riots instead.
Because Milligan wasn’t just a bad director, Milligan was possibly one of the worst directors of all time…

A good indication of what you’re getting into when you plug this movie into your eye holes is the pre-credits sequence, which has nothing to do with anything else and is kind of like it’s own little short film. Basically a couple of dorks wander around an island until they find a house. “Look, a house!” Exclaims the dorky young man before the camera cuts away and we never get a good look at the house.
Eventually the young man wanders away because he “Wants to explore the island.” But not the house, the house has nothing to do with anything. In fact nothing in this movie has anything to do with anything. After struggling with some bushes, the stupid young man is set upon by somebody and his eyeball is stabbed out. Hilariously, said eyeball balloons to about tennis ball sized once it’s out!  Then the young woman is also hacked apart by the machete wielding maniac as well. Open credits.
Here in about 6 minutes, you basically learn all you need to know about Milligan’s entire oeuvre. Basically, that the man did not know what in the Hell he was doing but through sheer force of will he was going to get his goddamn movies made, goddamnit! He didn’t know where to put the camera, he didn’t know how to move the camera, he didn’t know how to pace anything, he didn’t know how to light anything, and he sure as shooting didn’t know to edit anything.
This total incompetence at achieving even the most basic aspects of film making is really what makes Milligan’s films so unique and makes him still a popular cult figure in the bad movie world. His film’s aren’t just awful, they’re Andy Milligan awful! You can’t really mistake them for anybody else’s.

Getting back to the movie proper, three sisters all receive letters from their late father’s lawyer. Before we even meet the lawyer, we get to spend a lot of time with the sisters and their husbands in what Milligan obviously thought was an accurate representation of happily married life. Of course, Milligan was never actually happily married once in his entire life, so these scenes come off as rather strange bits of idle chatter, that of course have nothing to do with anything. However we do get in a bit of mild nudity, which probably pleased the 42nd Street crowd at the time. Hooray, I guess.
Eventually, and that’s a big “eventually” we get to meet the lawyer who for some odd reason has a head painted with goofy grey make up with random bits of hair stuck on his face! I guess that’s supposed to indicate that he’s old? I don’t know.
The lawyer reads off a statement from the old bastard which basically states that his daughters need to spend three nights in the father’s old house on an island, alone except for the humble servants that still live there (who the Hell’s been paying them all this time?). In three days time the lawyer will come back to the island and read the will and an old trunk in the attic will be opened, for some reason. (the trunk never actually gets opened.)
The servants consist of two older women and a mentally handicapped hunchback named Colin who I guess was supposed to be the murderer in the opening.
Curiously, even though everyone else is decked out in hand-made Milligan-style Victorian type period wear (another trademark), Colin is sporting what looks like a blazer and jeans! Besides killing people who wander onto the island, the hunchback’s extracurricular activities appear to include getting beaten senseless by one of the housekeepers and killing and eating small animals with his bare hands. Such befalls the fate of one poor rabbit when Colin slinks off while everyone else is walking to the house. (Don’t feel bad for poor Mr. Bun-Bun though, he was obviously stuffed.)
Colin is, of course a pretty typical and pretty obvious red herring in what should be a pretty typical Ten Little Indians rip-off, which it would be if it were made by someone else. But we’re in Andy Milligan-Land after all, so nothing here is typical at all….

When I said that Milligan didn’t know how to do jack shit that involved movie-making, I really meant it. His camera-style is disarming even if you’re expecting something amateurish and terrible. A lot of the movie is shot through close-ups of the actor’s faces, even when there’s other things happening that we should be able to see. My favourite bit is a scene where two people are talking and one is completely off-screen, except for his nose! At one point he actually leans in to get into frame! And it got left in the actual movie! Amazing.
He also does this thing where when something bad is happening, he spins the camera around and around, for no good reason at all. Maybe to get the audience dizzy and disoriented? Maybe he thought it just looked cool? I have no idea.
Then there’s the gore that is sandwiched in-between the endless scenes of characters idly chatting about nothing to kill run-time. I’ll give Lewis his due, even though his blood and entrails looked cheap, they have nothing on Milligan’s red paint and Papier-mâché skin. I’ve never attempted to make a film before in my life even I could make better looking grue than that!
In fact, I think I could probably make a better film than Milligan as well but I doubt it would be half as entertaining and I doubt that anybody would want to sit and write about almost 60 years later. Maybe I should get rid of my conscience and start slapping people around…

Andy Milligan died of AIDS at the age of 62 in 1989. He was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Los Angeles since he was flat broke at the time and none of his skeezy friends could afford to buy him a burial plot or even have his body cremated. It seems like a fitting end for someone who lived such a dirty life and left behind such a bizarre legacy.

[Bell rings]
Hey, hey hey! I dismiss you, not the bell! Sit your asses down! Okay, Jimmy! Would you like to tell the principal what you just said! That’s what I thought! Damn kids…

Watch the trailer (which features most of the gore scenes!) here

Random Things

  • There is a mild rape scene in this movie. It was either dictated by the producers or put in at Milligan’s own insistence as another show of his gigantic hatred of women but it comes out of nowhere between two people who seemed to be on good terms before and is never mentioned again!
  • In his non-fiction book Danse Macabre, Stephen King calls this film “The work of morons with cameras.” He was wrong though. It was mostly the work of one moron with probably one very cheap camera.
  • I actually own a copy of this one:  Something Weird Video’s fantastic double feature disc that also contains Milligan’s previously lost Seeds of Sin. It’s a great package that’s pretty much essential if you’re a Milligan fan or addicted to 42nd Street trash like I am.

Next Time: Love Camp 7

Satan’s Slave (1976)

Satansslave
AKA Evil Heritage

Gorehouse Greats #9

So what would you do if your dad one day just up and went “Hey, I’ve got a brother I’ve never told you about and he lives in the ass end of British nowheresville! Let us all go visit him and we will have a jolly good time!”
You would probably look at him sideways and maybe suggest that he ease up on the homemade wine, right? Not 20 year old Catherine York (B-movie horror regular Candace Gendenning). Not only does she take off for the week of her birthday, she leaves behind her boyfriend, John (Michael Craze, who was also in Terror).  Yeah, this is going to end real well!
Everything actually goes fine until they arrive just outside their uncle’s expensive looking mansion and both dad and mom burn to death when their car mysteriously hits a tree!  We are then properly introduced to the group of lovely fun people who we’ll get to spend most of the film’s running time with.  There’s uncle Alexander York (played by Michael Gough who’s been in damn near everything), cousin Stephen York (who we saw earlier in the film raping and murdering a random American girl), and the unrelated Frances who functions a some sort of secretary to Alexander and soon to be former lover of Stephen.
If you’ve seen a British Satan worship film from the 1970’s you pretty much know what’s going to happen, that is almost everybody is going to die a horrible painful death for your amusement.  Thus, Satan’s Slave offers absolutely no surprises at all. So what does it offer?

In my write-up of Terror, I noted that director Norman J. Warren started off doing nudie movies until he found success with this film and moved in a horror-centric direction.  As a result, Satan’s Slave is kind of situated halfway between two genres: sexploitation and grisly horror. Quite honestly, it’s a kind of uncomfortable mix. If you’ve seen stuff like David F. Friedman’s The Defilers (1965) or any seedy exploitation from the 60’s and 70’s, you know the kind of uncomfortable I’m talking about.  For example, Satan’s Slave includes a male on female sexual assault (the woman is killed after), a priest who orders a woman stripped nude and whipped (she’s then burned to death), and several scenes where random nude women are sacrificed to Satan.  It’s that grimy mix of nudity, sex, and violence that really made this film a success when it was released and not any skill on the part of its director. Because frankly without all of this rather nasty, and mostly female directed, depravity the movie would be pretty freaking hard to sit through. Mostly because it’s. so. sloooooow.  The story inches along like a snail stuck on flypaper until the next bit of skin, “shocking” plot twist, or cruel bout of violence. This is also something I noted with Warren’s Terror: Blood and boobs are pretty much all that makes these films worth watching.  That kind of thing can be fun if you’re in the right mood, and aren’t too bothered by women literally being treated like meat, but it can also be very boring.  Satan’s Slave ends up being about 30% icky fun and about 70% “dear lord is this thing over yet?”
So while Warren still has a cult following with freaks like me that love this kind of thing, after watching two of his films, I’m just not that big of a fan.  I need a bit more to keep me from falling asleep, you know? I want to go to the carnival and ride the rides, man! I want to eat cotton candy until I get sick and ogle the bearded lady.  Staring at the dude biting the head off the chicken all night isn’t really my style.
On the other hand, that fingernail file to the eyeball was pretty bitchin’. Sigh.

Rating: C-

Random Things

  • We get another kind of neat opening credits thing with this one.  Every single drawing on display would make a really killer t-shirt.
  • I think there’s like 4 pairs of boobs that get shown in the first 10 minutes of screen time. Not even kidding.
  • Sadly, my small collection of David F. Friedman movies are stuck back in The States. Who wants to mail my copy of She Freak back to me?
  • It’s weird that, thanks to this DVD set, that you can find this movie for about 5 bucks at Wal-Mart. Is this the kind of thing your average Joe Lunchpail puts on his TV set when there’s not football to watch? Cause that would be pretty cool if it were true.

Terror (1978)

TR5

Gorehouse Greats #8

Even though I haven’t seen any of his films besides this one, director Norman J. Warren is actually kind of a big deal in the British b-movie world.  This is from Wikipedia:
“Along with Peter Walker, Warren’s films are sometimes dubbed ‘New Wave’ British horror, on the basis that they upped the ante in terms of explicitness, were set in modern-day 1970s Britain and centered around young protagonists of ages between 20 and 30, distinguishing them from the period piece horrors of Hammer Films that had appeared before.”
He started off directing sex films and branched out into horror with Satan’s Slave in 1976, a movie that is also on this set, and now has something of a cult following.  That’s kind of cool, really.  I can dig it.  I wish my life was half as interesting…

We start off with a kind of a neat trippy opening title sequence which, much like the film’s maddeningly vague title, tells you absolutely nothing about what the movie is going to be about.  Then we cut to a woman running through a field while a bunch of villagers give chase.  A couple of them set up a rather large bear trap which she of course steps into. It turns out that she’s a witch and they’re going to burn her at the stake! Where’s Barbara Steele when you need her?  Actually this feels a lot like a Barbara Steele witch movie but with Andy Milligan style cheapness and incompetence.  Just when things are starting to get interesting and the evil witch is getting burned at the stake, an end title card comes up! Turns out that this was just a movie within a movie and the cast and crew sit around and cackle at how silly it is.  Notably, the poor production values in this ‘fake’ movie are about on par with what’s in the actual film.
It also turns out that the director of the film based it around real life events that stretch way back into his family history.  Turns out his family is cursed, or something. It’s kind of vague.  Not only is the plot needlessly thin, it seems like nobody involved in the making of this thing seemed to care about it at all! See, this ancient witch is supposed to be trying to destroy this dude’s family but it’s random people that keep getting murdered.  At one point this cop just kind of wanders into the film and gets offed!
So the plot doesn’t matter a pill and a half but what about the characters?  Nope. We don’t get enough information about them to really give a shit either. They’re just meat for the mill.  Some of them, like the crazy ex-film star that lives at the boarding house don’t even contribute to anything! So what does this movie have to fill it’s run time and validate it’s existence?  Well, one thing really: Graphic death scenes.  Since there’s nothing to really link anything together in any way that would define any normal film, Terror is really just one nasty blood soaked scene after another.  I think it’s ironic that a set called “Gorehouse Greats” would take 8 movies to really give us some gore, but it’s on par with the exploitation experience.
But let’s get to those deaths shall we? My favorite is probably the creepy dude at the strip club that gets his neck cut with piano wire, tumbles over a railing, and gets impaled on a gate! And then he’s found all ground up in a garbage truck the next morning! Truly there’s no kill like overkill.
There’s also the dude that gets his head cut off by a falling window pane and the camera just kind of lingers on the scene like it’s a fine oil painting or something.
Even the stabbings are surprisingly graphic. It’s easy to see why a film like this would be envelope pushing in a country, and at a time, where Hammer Horror was a big deal and the censors were constantly looking over everybody’s shoulders.  There’s even full frontal nudity in the strip club scene! Courtesy of a short haired androgynous looking woman who plays with a whip! Yowza!
To cut right to the point, Terror is pure unadulterated trash.  It’s a dumb poorly made movie that steals from just about everywhere it can, primarily from Dario Argento’s Suspiria, but it delivers exactly what you’d want: blood and nudity.  If you’re looking for anything else, I’d stay far far away.
Oh yeah, and Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew turns up in a rare non-Star Wars bit part as a mechanic. Terror came out the same year as The Star Wars Holiday Special! Talk about a two-fer of junk!

Rating: C+

Random Things

  • No, this isn’t The Terror, that Jack Nicholson/ Boris Karloff movie that Roger Corman made while the sets from another one of his movies was being torn down.  Did you know that was one of the first “classic” b-movies I ever saw? Well now you do.
  • There’s a scene where a girl is attacked by a flying car and I swear it looks like Harry Potter has a grudge against her. It’s pretty fucking funny.
  • There’s another part where a dude gets attacked by a pile of discarded film, which I can honestly say I have never seen before. I’ve seen people get attacked by bed sheets, a stupid looking lamp, and a goddamn exploding coke machine and now I’ve got another one to add to the list.  Sigh.
  • According to IMDB the film stock that was used in that scene was actually damaged prints of Saturday Night Fever! Oh the humanity!
  • If you look quick backstage at the strip club, somebody has written “Sham 69” on a mirror with lipstick. The scabby punk inside me did a backflip into a pile of used heroin needles when I spied that, let me tell you…