Archive for November, 2013


Quick show of hands : are you pro-life or pro-choice? Maybe you’re somewhere in between, or haven’t even thought about it that much?

Honestly, I don’t care. Well, I mean, I do, since I definitely have a strong view on the subject myself (one which you can probably infer based on the obvious leftist leanings exhibited in many of my reviews), but for our purposes today, it really doesn’t matter, because no-budget auteur Nick Millard’s 1987 shot-on-video opus Doctor Bloodbath (as it’s billed on the VHS box even though the opening credits state the movie’s title as being Butcher Knife — not that the credits here actually have anything to do with the later proceedings, since they’re just cribbed from Criminally Insane) is, as our headline states, sure to be a work of  “art” that nobody wants to be associated with, whatever their leanings on the issue of reproductive rights may be.

That’s because it’s bad. In fact, it’s really bad. But it’s also insanely, addictively watchable. Seriously. Once just ain’t enough to fully absorb the depraved, sub-amateur grandeur of all that’s on display here. You need to sit through it about three or four times in a row — at least — to take it all in. Good thing it’s only 57 minutes long.

Where to begin? Well, as with most ’80s Millard (here billed as “Nick Phillips,” one of several pseudonyms he’s employed at various points in his career for reasons only he himself apparently knows) fare, the vast majority of this was shot in his Pacifica, California residence-at-the-time. The film’s only recognizable “stars” (a term always used extremely loosely in one of Nick’s productions) are his wife, his mother, and his friend Albert Eskinazi. Footage from the director’s previous efforts (Satan’s Black Wedding being the primary “lender” in this case) is liberally interspersed to pad the already-thin runtime. And the gore effects employed are enough to make the average Ed Wood flick look like a big-budget blockbuster by comparison.

Where Doctor Bloodbath deviates most from standard Millard offerings , though, is in the fact that there’s a little less time spent with Nick’s Sony betacam pointed at people sitting on couches, scooping out ice cream, pacing around tables, or digging holes in the back yard. In other words, some shit actually happens in this one.


To wit : a number of young(ish) ladies get murdered. The aforementioned Albert Eskinazi plays the titular doctor here, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. He spends his free time hacking up the women who have come to his clinic to terminate their pregnancies, for reasons that are never defined. Is he getting revenge on them in the name of their unborn fetuses? If so, why does he even provide abortion services in the first place? Is he an anal-retentive completist who feels he’s left a job half-done by only “killing” one of the parties involved in an abortion? If so, wouldn’t he need to kill himself at some point to finish his grim task once and for all? Or is he just plain nuts and that’s all there is to it?

My money is on the latter. Anyway, the red Karo syrup flows pretty freely for a time, and then we’re handed a couple of diversionary sub-plots — 1. the cops are investigating the case, and even though the murderer uses different weapons and no connection between the victims appears to have been established in the course of their detective work, they somehow instinctively know all these crimes are the work of a lone madman; and 2. Doc Bloodbath’s wife (played by Nick’s real-life spouse, Irmi Millard — his mom is on hand as the clinic nurse/maid, in case you were wondering) , who’s having an affair with a broke Polish poet, find herself knocked up by her paramour (who she then refers to as a no-good Polack) and turns to her husband for his medical expertise in ending her pregnancy. Here’s the end result —


But the medical inaccuracies don’t end with using plastic dolls as stand-ins for fetuses, as the good Doctor is seen on several occasions employing a water-filled turkey baster as his primary tool of the trade! In other words, this is not a movie being shown in any OB/GYN -related college courses. Anyway — there’s definitely some  pure time-wasting on display here, most notably in the form of numerous close-ups of the killer’s eyeballs and even more numerous shots of him sitting around nervously twiddling this thumbs, but all in all things move along at a pretty brisk (compared to, say, the Death Nurse flicks) pace, and before you know it our “hero” has killed his wife, killed their maid/nurse (cue the Satan’s Black Wedding footage), has called the cops to turn himself in, and is sitting in a cell in the bughouse. The end.

I’ll sit through any Nick Millard movie you care to send my way (and thanks to the loyal reader who dropped this into my inbox, it’s much appreciated!),  but strangely enough this one wasn’t even a chore. That’s because Doctor Bloodbath represent the director in (again, I use this term very loosely) top form. This is Cinema Du Millard refined to its purest essence — a laughably cheap and haphazard production with no goal apart from killing an hour’s worth of videotape that somehow exudes both heartfelt earnestness and a commitment to craft in spite an agonizingly clear lack of any resources or ability. This movie probably wants to be more than it is but honestly doesn’t even have the slightest clue as to how to go about doing so. You can call that delusional, confused, hopeless, or all of the above, but fuck it — I choose to call it genius.


Somewhere in here there’s probably some attempt at commentary on the subject of abortion itself, I suppose, but it’s hard to divine what that might be, or where it’s hidden. “Why don’t we make a cheap slasher flick tomorrow afternoon about an abortion doctor” seems to be the extent to which the repercussions of the issue were even considered, and as a result Doctor Bloodbath ends up being able to successfully alienate both the broadly-defined “pro-life” and “pro-choice” camps with an equal amount of ease — assuming anyone were foolish enough to take it seriously, which is frankly impossible.

All of which means, of course, that this is something you need to see immediately. If you can. It’s not available on DVD as of yet, but here’s to hoping that Jesus Teran at Slasher Video or some other generous soul sees fit to change that in the very near future. This is the pinnacle of Nick Millard’s “slasher phase,”  and desperately deserves — nay, needs — to be seen by a wider audience.

Would a “special edition” that comes packaged with a cheap plastic doll and a turkey baster be too much to ask for?

My thoughts on the “Doctor Who” 50th anniversary special, “The Day Of The Doctor,” for Through The Shattered Lens website.

Through the Shattered Lens



First off, a couple of disclaimers : this is one of those reviews that’s going to pre-suppose a fair amount of knowledge about the BBC’s Doctor Who  from the outset, so if you’re not at the very least a casual viewer of the show, you’re going to feel pretty lost right from the word go. So, ya know — newbies beware. Secondly, it’s well-nigh impossible, at this point, to discuss The Day Of The Doctor without indulging in some pretty serious “spoiler talk,” so if you’re part of the legion of “spoiler police” that apparently have nothing better to do than troll around the internet looking to play seagull (fly in, make a lot of noise, shit all over everything, and fly back out) with any review that gives away any plot points whatsoever, now would be a good time fuck directly off. Major “spoilers” do, in fact,  abound…

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You have to hand it to Nick Millard : long after the point where you or I would have retired our Sony Betacams and looked for work selling power tools, cleaning offices overnight, or digging ditches, he kept on making direct-to-video horror flicks. Heck, I’m friends with him on facebook and I can tell you for a fact that he’s still at it to this day. Whether or not the projects he’s currently working on will ever see the light of day only time, I suppose, will tell, but I’ll say this much — I’d never bet against Nick. Sheer determination has kept him in the game this long, and will probably keep him in it for some time to come, provided his health co-operates (which thankfully, so far, seems to be the case).

So yeah — Nick’s not done making movies (at least in his mind and/or on paper), but his 1980s straight-to-video (and shot on video) numbers will probably always be what he’s best remembered for, and it pleases me no end to see something of a small-scale revival going on in terms of fan interest in those flicks. Jesus Teran over at Slasher Video has enjoyed some modest success and garnered rave critical reviews for his DVD releases of Millard’s Death Nurse films, and with 2013 marking the 25th anniversary of  yet another production shot for the most part in Nick’s former Pacifica, California condo, namely 1987’s Cemetery Sisters, giving that film the full Slasher treatment in celebration of its silver jubilee seemed a no-brainer.


I guess there’s not much point in deluding ourselves — “no-brainer” is a fairly apt description of the film itself, as well, but as with all Millard projects, it’s brainlessness pursued with a kind of earnest integrity and heart that sets Cemetery Sisters apart from much of the ’80s SOV pack. Sure, the primary goal here seems to be filling up 60 minutes of videotape at minimal (if any) cost, but if Nick’s gonna kill an hour of our lives so he can make his mortgage for the next couple of months, at least he’s gonna do it his way.

Our story here revolves around two sisters, Joan and Leslie (played by real-life sisters — wait for it — Joan and Leslie Simon), who grew up in a family-owned mortuary and now, as adults,  long to open a funeral parlor of their own. And what the hell — they’ve already got their first set of customers lined up because the two have been serially marrying lonely middle-aged guys, convincing them to take out hefty insurance policies, and then bumping them off for their cash (bilking the system by means of murder also being the central plot conceit employed in the Death Nurse series). It takes real dedication to resort to killing in order to start up a business working with the deceased, it seems to me, so give our two deadly dames credit for getting some practice in ahead of time prior to their hoped-for grand opening.


Apart from the Simon siblings, the cast here is primarily composed of Millard (unpaid, I’m guessing) mainstays like Albert Eskinazi, Nick’s wife Irmi, and yes, the writer/director himself even makes an appearance, so we’re in pretty familiar territory all the way around here — in fact, be on the lookout for the same rehashed clips from Criminally Insane that were used to pad out  the runtime in both Death Nurse  movies being employed for the same ends here (although they’re presented as dreams rather than flashbacks, thus ensuring that their inclusion makes even less actual sense here). Yup, folks , we’ve seen this all before — and I do mean that literally.

Still, there’s no denying that Cemetery Sisters entertains even as it kills more brain cells than a fifth of cheap bourbon downed in a single sitting, and Jesus has, as we’ve come to expect, pulled out all the stops as far as assembling a genuinely comprehensive package goes — the full-frame picture and mono sound are both culled from Millard’s personal master videotape copy, and while it all looks and sounds as crummy as it deserves to, it’s not gonna get any better than this, so sit back and enjoy. On the extras front, we’ve got a full-length commentary with Nick and Irmi moderated by Teran, a short video production from the mind of Millard called Death Sisters that treads more or less the exact same ground as the feature itself, an on-camera interview with the Millards, a gallery of production stills, the original trailer (as well as trailers for a handful of other Slasher titles), a couple  of nifty little hidden “easter eggs” that are worth searching out, and a slide-show-style gallery featuring the art of up-and-coming horror illustrator Jazmin Martinez, who also provides the all-new cover artwork for this release.

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You definitely get the abiding sense that Nick Millard knows he wasn’t making Citizen Kane with this or any of his productions, but he still takes a certain amount of professional pride in knowing that he did the best he could with what he had. And why not? It beats punching a time clock and people are still paying good money to add his films to their DVD shelves, so the man has plenty to be proud of. His cinematic legacy may not be one of enduring quality,  and to those not “on the same page” with what he’s tried to do it may not even be a particularly interesting one, but shit — it is a legacy (of something, at any rate), and that right there is a lot more than many of us will ever leave behind.

Here’s to hoping that he’s very far from finished.


If at first you don’t succeed — well, okay, it’s probably not fair to say that videocam horror auteur Chester Novell Turner didn’t “succeed” with 1984’s Black Devil Doll From Hell — he more than likely did, in fact, achieve whatever modest goals he set for himself with that release. Just don’t ask me what those goals were. He surely didn’t make anything like a good, or even competent, flick. Nor did he realize much of a financial profit — in fact, to hear him tell it, he’s pretty damn certain that the fly-by-night distro outfit that handled the —ahem! — “wide” release of his little opus on VHS ripped him off. So what was he aiming for? Just to get the damn thing made and get it out there?

I guess that must be it, and ya know what? I can’t fault him for that in the least. It’s more than most of us, myself included, will probably ever achieve. So in 1987 he had himself a pretty simple a simple idea — why not do it all again?

The end result of his decision to break out the Sony Betacam one more time is Tales From The Quadead Zone, a movie every bit as memorable-for-all-the-wrong reasons as his first effort, although also remarkably different.

To the extent, I suppose, that two no-budget, SOV, little-actual-talent-in-evidence,  homemade horror flicks can even be said to be all that different from each other at all. Especially when they feature the same “actors” and each appear to have been made over the course of a few days, tops.


As you can see from the photo above, Chet’s old lady at the time, Shirley L. Jones, is back in the nearest thing to a “starring” role a production like this is gonna have, this time playing an unnamed single mother to a dead invisible boy named Bobby, who brings unusual books to his momma for her to read to him. Where he gets these things is anybody’s guess, but at the start of this little opus he hands her a heavy hardcover tome called, wouldn’t ya know it, Tales From The Quadead Zone, and she proceeds to relate two of the purportedly macabre tales from its pages to her precious little deceased angel.

The first story, entitled “Food For?,” concerns the trials and tribulations of a too-big-for-its-own- good poor family, who never have enough to eat and decide to get creative in terms of how they reduce the number of mouths to feed at their crowded table. I know, I know, I was thinking cannibalism was sure to be the end result here, as well, but it’s certainly never mentioned with any sort of specificity (hell, nor is it even really implied), all we know for sure is that, at journey’s end, some family members are dead, either at the hands of their own kin or in the state “gas chair” (huh?), while others are, as the image below details, “living high off the hog in the witness protection program.” The entire segment is, on paper at least, a yawner, but the rank sub-amateurism of the various performances, as well as the worse-than-shoddy production values, keeps things more entertaining than they really have any right to be.


Next up is a little number called “The Brothers” (one of whom is played by Tuner’s own brother, Keefe), a heartwarming yarn about two siblings who have apparently hated each other’s guts since, we’re told, birth (how exactly does that happen?), and that intense and abiding hatred doesn’t simply end with the death of one of them, as the one that’s still alive steals the body of the one who isn’t from a funeral home and uses it to undertake a bizarre occult ritual that — shit, I dunno, summons forth some sort of evil clown spirit. Or something.

The tale of invisible Bobby and his doting mom bookends the “action” here and serves as its own (I guess) morality play entitled “Unseen Vision,” which ultimately sees the devil in Miss Jones (sorry, couldn’t resist) finally put her asshole boyfriend out of his (excuse me, her) misery before taking her own life. Yeah, I know, these things don’t stand up to much — or even any — sort of logical scrutiny, but what the heck? You’re either on the Chester Turner wavelength at this point or you’re not.


On the whole, Turner seems to have found at least something of a more accessible premise here than a 70-minute feature about an evil ventriloquist dummy fucking the living shit out of a sexually repressed holy roller, and his decision to tone down the sexual content in favor of upping the blood and gore (or should that be ketchup and gore?) is honestly a welcome one, not least because (sorry, Shirley) it’s a relief not to have to see Jones naked again. And his increased comfort level with the camera makes a welcome change, as well, as a good number of the shots in this flick are actually (and, yeah, unbelievably) reasonably well-composed. Chester said that his goal with Tales From The Quadead Zone was to emulate the style of his two idols, Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling, and while he certainly doesn’t come anywhere near to doing that, all in all this is a somewhat more passable production than was his first venture into videography. It’s still garbage, sure, but it’s at least garbage that seems to have some sort of idea about how to proceed within the scope of its own (extreme, to be sure) limitations.


Anyway, as I’m sure you’ve no doubt guessed by now, Tales From The Quadead Zone is the second disc in Massacre Video’s newly-released The Films Of Chester Novell Turner double-DVD boxed set. There are fewer extras on hand this time around — stills gallery, reversible cover with cool original VHS cover art and text on the “B” side, a somewhat more listless feature-length commentary track from Turner and Jones, and trailers for other Massacre titles — and while the image has been sourced, again, from Turner’s master tape, rest easy when I say it still really does look and sound like utter shit. It wouldn’t be right if it didn’t. Sure, the package as a whole isn’t stellar by any means — hell, how could it be? — but it still probably represents a more comprehensive release than fans of this movie (assuming there are any) could ever have realistically hoped for.

Black Devil

After Tales From The Quadead Zone, Chester Turner decided to call it a day as far as backyard horror- movie-making was concerned. He started up a small construction company in Chicago and still pursues that trade to this day. Where the rumors that he died in a car crash in 1996 came from I have no idea — and neither does he. But evidently his cinematic pipe  dream became too much of a hassle to continue pursuing. Determined not to get hustled out of his rightful due a second time, Turner opted to “distribute” his second feature entirely on his own — specifically employing the selling-it-outta-the-trunk-of-his-car-to-video-rental-shops method he originally had going with  Devil Doll before inking his lousy deal with Hollywood Home Video. As a result, his “market penetration” consisted of a couple hundred stores in Illinois and Alabama (I figure he must have had family there), making Quadead the far more rarely-seen of his two — uhhmmm — epics. The fact that we’re even getting a proper DVD release of this at all is pretty goddamn miraculous.

Still, to say this flick is an acquired taste is putting things mildly. It is what it is and Turner appears to have made it merely because — well, why not? He had the time, he had friends and family, and he had the gumption. He even shows brief flashes of something vaguely resembling ability this second time out. If that’s enough for you , as it apparently is for me given that I have to admit I had a lot of fun with this one, then you know the drill — grab this before it’s gone, which will probably be pretty damn soon.

black devil doll from hell vhs front & back2

Okay, who are we kidding — writer/director/no-budget visionary Chester Novell Turner’s direct-to-video 1984 feature Black Devil Doll From Hell is a reprehensible, misogynistic, mean-spirited, thoroughly incompetent,  less-than-amateur pile of shit with absolutely no redeeming social, artistic, or even entertainment value whatsoever. All I’m asking is — what’s so wrong with that?

If we’re going to be completely honest with (and about) ourselves, we have to admit that we all have occasions where pure, unadulterated rotten-ness for its own sake is, for whatever reason, sort of appealing to us as viewers. If not, then we’re not the sort of people who enjoy reading (or, in my case. writing for) a blog like this one. Sure, I wander pretty far afield into things like mainstream movies and comics and what have you, but the name of this site is still Trash Film Guru, goddamnit, and anyone who checks in here at the very least infrequently does so more or less hoping to find reviews of films exactly like this one. Or at least sort of like this one, because frankly there are no other films — not even 2007’s indie production Black Devil Doll, which isn’t so much a “remake” per se as an altogether different flick extrapolated from the idea at the core of this one  — that are exactly like Turner’s ultra-sleazy little number here.


The “plot,” as it were, is a pretty simple one — uptight church-going woman Helen Black (played by Shirley L. Jones, Turner’s girlfriend at the time) buys a black, dreadlock-adorned ventriloquist’s dummy at a shoddy antique/second-hand shop and takes it home, whereupon it promptly comes to life and proceeds to rape her relentlessly. Somewhere mid-sexual assault, though, Helen actually starts enjoying what this ( literally) pencil-dicked evil puppet is doing to her, and before you know it, she’s in the throes of passion and begging  for more and more of that good  hard rammin’  morning, noon, and night.  One thing you can definitely say about a lover made of wood — while he may not be much in the conversation department (his idea of foreplay being limited to shouting sweet nothings like “wake up, bitch!”), he never goes limp.

He’s a possessed devil doll from hell, though, remember — so he’s obviously schtuppin’ the living shit out of poor Helen in order to steal her immortal soul. Or something like that.


Is it all as deliberately offensive as it sounds, playing up every negative racial and sexual stereotype imaginable with no apparent concern, much less conscience? Why, yes, it is — but it’s also blatantly obvious that Turner himself isn’t taking things very seriously, so there’s not much point in us doing so, either. And just when things threaten to get well and truly boring, he throws in little touches like having the devil doll go down on our hapless leading lady with a red-painted popsicle stick tongue. Comparisons to straight-up low-grade porno aren’t entirely out of place here, but as there’s no actual (as far as we know — or at least hope) penetration going on, Turner and his old lady (and his brother, who was pretty much the only other member of what can loosely be described as a “film crew” here) stay (barely) in “hard-R rated” territory here.

And truth be told, even the cheapest, sleaziest, let’s-get-this-in-the-can-and-get-the-fuck-outta-here-before-we-have-to-prove-these-girls-are-18 SOV porn boasts higher production values than Black Devil Doll From Hell. Turner claims he spent something like six thousand bucks making this thing, but it’s hard to see where that money actually went.

Tell you what, though — this movie has been something of a “holy grail” for connoisseurs of largely-forgotten shot-on-video ’80s horror for a long time now, with copies of the VHS release from the late, un-lamented Hollywood Home Video going for big bucks on eBay — until quite recently, that is.

So what changed? Glad you asked!


Underground label Massacre Video — the folks responsible for last year’s DVD release of Wally Koz’ (or should that be Koz’s?) 555 —   bucked the prevailing “wisdom” that Turner died some years ago in a car crash and actually tracked the guy down and secured DVD rights to both this film and his 1987 follow-up effort, Tales From The Quadead Zone, and the end result is a two-disc DVD boxed set called, just like the title of this review (I’m feeling lazy tonight, sue me) The Films Of Chester Novell Turner. So, yeah, a juicy little urban legend has met an untimely demise, but hey, at least these films are finally available again, and furthermore are being presented complete and unedited for the first time since before Turner cut his distro deal with HHV and was selling homemade copies from the trunk of his car to local Chicago-area mom n’ pop rental shops (Massacre’s DVD features both the full-length cut culled from Turner’s own master tape (don’t worry, it still looks like shit) and the pared-down, half-assed-metal-music added- in “mass” distribution version).

On the extras front, there’s a full-length (and pretty interesting) commentary track featuring both Turner and Jones (neither of whose recollections are entirely clear, but are at least always entertaining to listen to), a new “making-of” mini-documentary called Return To The Quadead Zone (only included, bizarrely enough, on the Devil Doll disc and not the Quadead disc itself — go figure), a stills gallery, and the requisite trailers for other currently-available and/or forthcoming Massacre titles. Oh, and the cover is completely reversible, with the new Massacre version on one side and the original VHS artwork and blurbs on the other (as pictured in the photo atop this very review). Really cool. All in all, a pretty impressive package for a movie whose most (and perhaps only) enduring “quality” is  how  well and truly unimpressive  it is.

Black Devil

If you don’t know that you’re getting into with Black Devil Doll From Hell, then I certainly can’t recommend watching it — but hey, this is such an absolute obscurity that chances are the only folks who have heard of it will know exactly what they’re getting into. If that describes you (and it certainly does me), then this set should probably shoot to the top of your “must-buy” list right now.

This is the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the barrel. I can’t say I “like” it here, but shit — visiting every now and then sure is interesting. Just don’t spend too much time dwelling on why you feel so fucking comfortable here.

My thoughts on “Thor : The Dark World” for Through The Shattered Lens website.

Through the Shattered Lens


The way I work, I generally try to avoid giving up too much by way of “spoilers” when it comes to reviewing movies that are still playing simply because I’m never sure how much anybody out there who might be reading this stuff wants to know about any given flick before they’ve actually seen it. Call it common courtesy, I guess, if you’re feeling generous, or weak-kneed fear of the always-on-the-alert hordes of internet “spoiler police” if you’re not, but nevertheless, it’s something I try to adhere to, however tough the going may get.

And Thor : The Dark World makes it very tough indeed. The simple fact is, you just can’t heap all the criticism on this film that it so richly deserves without giving away numerous  key plot points, so here’s what I’m gonna do instead : for those of you who want a meticulously-detailed, blow-by-blow analysis of…

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