Posts Tagged ‘intervision’

Even among connoisseurs of “this sort of thing,” director Donald M. (not to be confused with Donald S. of The Forest and Schoolgirls In Chains fame) Jones’ low-rent straight-to-video slasher Muderlust has something of a checkered reputation for being nastier than the norm. Shot in California in 1985 for next to nothing, it was released straight to VHS in 1987 and quickly managed to raise a few eyebrows — among the few who were paying attention — for its downright gleeful misogyny, which reminded one youthful viewer (okay, me) of, say, what you’d end up with if Maniac didn’t take itself very seriously. But does that make this film less disturbing than others of its ilk — or more?

I gotta admit, having recently watched it for the first time since I was a teenager thanks to its recent addition to Amazon Prime’s streaming line-up (although Severin Films’ “cult” Intervision label has also recently released it on DVD paired with another Jones quickie, the almost-unfathomably bizarre Project Nightmare), I still don’t know the answer to that question. On the one hand, “star” Eli Rich is so clearly hamming it up as uber-woman-hating killer Steve Belmont that you can’t take much of anything on offer here too seriously, but on the other, if you have a conscience, then shit — shouldn’t this stuff bug you at least a little bit?

The character of Steve is clearly based on notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, a smooth-talking creep who pulled off a fairly successful pose as an upstanding member of society for many years until his nocturnal proclivities finally landed him in hot water. Steve’s not provided with anything by way of motivation of anything here — no troubled past, no fucked-up home life, nothing of the sort — so don’t bother looking for “reasons why” : he just hates women and kills ’em whenever he can. He’s not averse to fucking ’em, too, of course, but he doesn’t necessarily seem to need to in order to get his rocks off — it’s their dispatching and disposal that really turns his crank, and he’s gotten so prolific about it that his Mojave Desert dumping ground gets discovered by the authorities in fairly short order here. Not that he has any intention of stopping, mind you. He’s gotten a taste for it, and he seems to enjoy taunting both the cops and the community at large with his brazen what-by-all-rights-should-be recklessness.

The damn thing is, though, Steve’s such a fuck-up that he really oughtta get caught. He doesn’t seem to care about holding onto his shit security guard gig (and doesn’t for long once he starts threatening to kill a female customer right under the nose of his boss), he lives in a dump, he’s constantly borrowing money off his effete cousin, Neil (played by Dennis Gannon), he’s in heavy debt to his landlord (curiously referred to in producer/screenwriter James Lane’s script as his “realtor”), and he drinks like a fish. How this guy manages to get through the day without getting killed himself, much less being the one doing the killing, is downright dumbfounding. With extra emphasis on the “dumb.”

Still, they love him down at the church. Despite having no background in any relevant field, being a half-assed Sunday school teacher, and even being accused of molesting one of his students (a charge that Steve is, believe it or not, innocent of), he’s chosen by the church fathers to run their new so-called “Youth Crisis Center,” thanks in no small part to some very glowing recommendations from his quasi-love interest, Cheryl (Rochelle Taylor), and her mother, who are both completely fooled by his painfully transparent charm. Yessir, things are definitely looking up for ol’ Steve — until, in a rather delicious moment of irony, his extracurricular habits end up scuttling his plans to use the center as a means to find, sorry to use the term, fresh meat. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no direct connection made between Steve and the ever-growing pile of dead female bodies (yet), but the moneyed interests bankrolling the new outreach venture decide that it might be better to start helping young people out after they’re all done getting killed, and that’s when our “hero” well and truly loses his shit — okay, fair enough, that’s when he loses it even more.

It’s probably a heck of a reach to say that losing out on his dream job causes Steve to get sloppy, ‘cuz let’s face it,  he’s been damn sloppy from the outset, but he certainly cans all that “nice guy” pretext and starts letting it all hang out, and once he does that, it’s only a matter of time. Again, if you can see the “humor” in watching a madman murder women just because, well, they’re women, then you’re gonna be in much better shape here as events careen toward their one and only inevitable conclusion, but even then you might be forgiven for feeling that Murderlust‘s admittedly fleeting “je ne sais quoi” has already fled. Rich naturally radiates a kind of dime-store lothario sleaze for the first 3/4 or so of this flick, but he’s markedly less convincing in “out of control psycho” mode, and there’s a very distinct sense in the film’s final act that everybody’s running out the clock as surely as the clock is running out for our protagonist. As a result, Jones’ little opus essentially flips the switch from “guilty pleasure” to “just plain guilty” without even bothering to pass “go” and collect its $200.

Which may not be too far off the mark from the actual budget of this production, come to think of it. Shot in just a few locations, with a clearly amateur cast, and displaying nothing like an actual sense of style, this is straight-up, no-frills, point-and-shoot stuff that has no other choice than to feel hopelessly dated at this point because, hey, a moldy relic is all it could ever afford to become. And yet the modern world had probably already left this one pretty far behind even as it was being made — I doubt, for instance, that you could still beat a child molestation rap by simply telling the girl’s father that his daughter is a filthy little liar, as Steve does here (albeit politely, of course) in 1985. Probably not even in 1958. So if this really is the “throwback to another time” that many view it as, trust me when I say it’s a throwback to a time that (hopefully, at any rate) never even existed.

And maybe that’s the one nearest thing to a “redeeming quality” that Murderlust has to offer. There’s certainly no blood or guts here to make the gorehounds happy. There’s very little nudity apart from the quick bit provided by the always-game-to-get-naked-for-a-paycheck Ashley St. Jon. And there’s no particular indication from Jones that he has any concerns as a filmmaker apart from getting this thing in the can on time and under its obviously ultra- low budget. As a result, then — and an entirely accidental result, at that — what we have here is a flick that is completely divorced from actual, demonstrable reality, yet just as completely devoid of both the resources and the talent it would take to sell you on a false one. It can’t be bothered to attempt to suspend your disbelief, and so takes the easy (and only available) road, settling instead for admitting it’s total bullshit from the start. That’s not what you’d call a recipe for cinematic success by any stretch, but it’s been more than enough to ensure that this film has remained a morbid curiosity for three decades now, and will probably continue to be seen as such for many more to come. After all, not only do they not make ’em like this anymore — truth be told, they never really did.


Here’s the thing about so-called “hybrid” films : just because they’re usually interesting (in one form or another) doesn’t always mean they’re good. Sometimes they’re just weird mash-ups.

Submitted as evidence for the prosecution : In The Land Of The Cannibals, the second cannibal flick directed by the late Italian sleaze-master Bruno Mattei in 2003 that, like it gorier and more untamed counterpart, Mondo Cannibal (reviewed on these very digital “pages” yesterday) a) was shot on video; b) was made in the Philippines; and c) stars Claudio Morales  —this time playing a “guide” for a group of special forces-type commandos who are searching for a US senator’s  “hottie” daughter ( played by Cindy Jelic Matic, here credited simply as Cindy Matic) whose plane went down in the “Amazon jungle” rather than a morally-compromised TV pseudo-journalist.

So, yeah, I guess you get this point already — this one’s PredatorRamboCommandoMissing In Action – style jungle-based paramilitary action flick meets Cannibal HolocaustCannibal Ferox.


Also like its decidedly more savage counterpart, this one is plagued with horrifically bad dubbing, bone-headed dialogue translations, and shabby production values and special effects. So, ya know, it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

It doesn’t have anything more than that going for it, though, you’ve been warned. Consider it a public service from me to you, my dear reader.


Obviously, if you’re looking for anything that has even the merest whiff of authenticity or competence about it, you’ve come to the wrong place, but if all you want is 90 minutes of shamelessly cheesy fun, you could certainly do worse. Is it as much fun as watching Mattei try to ape Deodato on a fraction of the budget and with less than a fraction of his filmmaking skills? Well, no, it’s not, but as mentioned at the outset here, even bad genre “hybrids” are at least, if nothing else, interesting, and this one’s both interesting and hopelessly corny, so who are any of us to complain about that?


Last but not least when it comes to our little ongoing “count the similarities” game, In The Land Of The Cannibals — which also went out to various international home video markets under the titles of Nella Terra Dei CannibaliLand Of Death, and Cannibal Holocaust 3 : Cannibal Vs. Commando (the most dubious name for it of all given that Mondo Cannibal was hardly a “legit” sequel/prequel to Cannibal Holocaust despite being shamelessly labeled  as Cannibal Holocaust 2 in some territories) — has also just been unleashed on the world on DVD from Severin Films’ InterVision Pircture Corp. label and features a nicely-cleaned-up full-frame transfer, adequate two-channel stereo sound, and no extras apart from the trailer.

Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way — after all, why should InterVision be expected to do anything different with either of these releases when Mattei didn’t bother to do anything too terribly original when he made them? This one’s certainly best viewed together with Mondo Cannibal in one sitting since it’s basically only of interest as a cinematic curiosity done in conjunction with a “bigger” (relatively speaking, you understand) project, but that’s okay — if your ambitions as a viewer are as limited as our guy Bruno’s were as a director (and I freely admit mine sometimes are), there are a lot worse ways to spend about 90 minutes of your time.


It’s often been remarked that the cannibal movie is the only wholly original subgenre of Italian exploitation cinema — lord knows they didn’t invent the western, the Star Wars knock-off, the Alien knock-off, the Road Warrior knock-off, etc. , even if they trafficked pretty heavily in all of them — and while that’s probably true, it doesn’t mean that many, or even most, Italian cannibal films were all that original in and of themselves once the template of “what these things are like” had been set.

In fact, by the time 2003 rolled around and rip-off artist extraordinaire Bruno Mattei — the guy who gave us such uber-sleazy semi-classics as Hell Of The Living Dead and Rats : Night Of Terror, here working under the pseudonym of “Vincent Dawn” — made his way to the Philippines to direct two ultra-low-budget shot-on-video numbers that would be among the last entrants in the cannibal oeuvre, there hadn’t been anything “new” about these sorts of flicks for a couple of decades. Still, the more (in)famous of this pair of cheapies, Mondo Cannibal, is such a blatant riff on Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 seminal work Cannibal Holocaust that it was released (on video, naturally — to my knowledge no theater has ever screened either this film, or its “companion” piece, In The Land Of The Cannibals) in some markets as either Cannibal Holocaust : The Beginning or the only-slightly-more-verbose Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Beginning (depending on which country you found it in, you may also have seen it under the title of Mondo Cannibale or Cannibal World).

Just how derivative is it, you ask? Consider : the plot centers around an ethically compromised (to put it very kindly) crew of documentarians/journalists who purportedly travel to “the Amazon jungle” to show the world that no matter how far we like to think we’ve come, there still exist “savages” who eat the flesh of other humans. Along the way, in order to “prove” their “man is still an animal” thesis, they engage in behavior so reprehensible (mostly in terms of staging scenes for maximum dramatic impact) that it puts even the cannibals themselves to shame and the end result is a film that proves that “civilized” man is more cruel, shameless, and outright sleazy than his more “uncivilized” brethren could ever dream of being.


If all that isn’t enough to give you a distinct sense of deja vu, then consider that among  the atrocities they either witness and/or concoct we have  a diseased woman being torn apart while her unborn fetus is violently ripped from her (Mattei actually opens the film with this), setting fire to the huts of the cannibal village in order to provoke a panic, and the above-pictured scene where they find a dead girl tied to a bamboo pole (okay, so she’s not actually impaled on it, but still — it’s pretty clear where they got the idea from). Does it all seem familiar enough for ya yet?

Basically, the whole modus operandi Mattie appears to be employing here is to check as many boxes off the list of things Deodato did first, minus the flat-out ubiquitous animal cruelty, which certainly wouldn’t fly in the 21st century (though there’s still one scene here where — oh, never mind, if you’re gonna watch this thing, you’re gonna watch it regardless, right?). And, I suppose, to do it all for a lot less money and in a lot less time.

Does that mean Mondo Cannibal isn’t fun to watch? Actually, that’s not what I’m saying at all — it’s so nakedly derivative that is really is quite an enjoyable romp (at least if you’re a sick fucker like me), and its shortcomings in terms of production values are well worth a laugh. whether they come in the form of bad dubbing, inexplicably weird dialogue translations (such as when former “star” reporter Grace Forsyte (Helena Wagner) offers former “star” photojournalist Bob Manson (Claudio Morales) — who certainly lives up to his character’s  last name in terms of harboring a twisted persona — not a million bucks, but “a million quails at a buck a head”), or half-assed translations such as the one pictured below that introduces a flashback sequence and should read “some months before” :



In all honesty, though, I’d be lying if I said this flick was good for much beyond that. Wagner — who quickly exited the movie business after this — is certainly easy on the eyes and has a bit of natural “leading lady” charisma about her, but most of what comes out of her month — err, mouth — is so weirdly discombobulated that its hard to tell whether or not she can carry a film. Likewise, Morales and the other members of his “squad” are saddled with such a bunch of nonsense for lines that one can’t accurately judge whether or not they’re capable of anything like “quality” work, either — although in the aforementioned abortion-and-dismemberment scene, he does look like he might be getting ready to shoot a load off in his pants, so that’s at least —- I dunno, memorable, I guess, even if for all the wrong reasons.


Still, if all you’re in the mood for is wretched sleaze with no morally redeeming qualities whatsoever — and who isn’t sometimes? — you’ll be pleased to know that Severin Films have just released Mondo Cannibal (as well as its “sister” production, which we’ll take a look at tomorrow) on DVD under their on-again/off-again InterVision Picture Corp. label. Extras are pretty well non-existent (just the trailer), but the full-frame picture and two-channel stereo sound are perfectly acceptable, all things considered , especially since something this shameless doesn’t really deserve any sort of “deluxe” treatment. If you’re capable of locking your conscience away in a strong box for about 90 minutes and just going with the (blood red) flow, odds are you’ll have a pretty good time with this one — and then hopefully feel appropriately guilty for at least a few minutes afterwards.

Here’s the difference between the people you know and the people I know — the people you know are talking about The Hunger Games; the people I know are talking about The Burning Moon.

Oh, sure, German writer-director-gore FX man Olaf Ittenbach’s shot-on-video splatterfest originally came out on VHS back in 1997, and was actually lensed even a bit earlier than that by most accounts, but it never made it into anything like widespread — or even less-than-widespread — US release, and internationally-issued copies of it on tape and bootleg DVD were a prize possession for the few hard-core gore-hounds fortunate enough to track them down.  The rest of us were just plain SOL when it came to this SOV, and its well-nigh-impossible-to-findness (I just made up the longest compound word ever, yay for me!) caused this flick to develop a reputation as something of a “Holy Grail” of the grotesque.  Electronic word-of-mouth had it that this was the one movie so shocking, so repulsive, and so unhinged that it had the power to disturb and unsettle even the most jaded of horror fans. You only thought you’d seen it all until you saw this, the grapevine assured us.

Well, now thanks to Intervision Picture Corp. (the Severin sub-label that’s given us such long-lost, no-budget, bottom-barrel-dwellers as Sledge Hammer and Things in recent months), The Burning Moon is finally available on DVD (presented full-frame with stereo sound and a 47-minute “making-of” featurette) and the rest of us — hell, most of us — can finally see what all the consistent, if admittedly low-level, hype was about.

The “plot” — and to be honest I wasn’t even sure that this movie had one, all I’d ever heard about was how gory it was — centers on a 20-something, antisocial, drug-addicted loser, played by Ittenbach himself, who still lives at home and gets stuck babysitting his kid sister one night. To lull the little shit to sleep so he can get back to shooting up smack or whatever other delinquent crap he’s into, he tells her a couple of bedtime stories — but, unabashed creep that he is, he decides to scare the kid half to death by telling her two truly twisted tales that give our guy Olaf the chance to show off all his homemade splatter-effects wizardry.Our first drug-fueled fable, “Julia’s Love,” centers around a fun-loving single gal who meets the guy of her dreams, only he turns out to be an escaped killer/mental patient who has a really different idea of a good time. She figures out who he is pretty quickly, but by then it’s too late as their one date has convinced him that his best course of action is to brutally murder her entire family and then take her for his wife. And really, what girl could resist a charmer who whispers sweet nothing like “I want you to take all of my love juice” in her ear? Needless to say, the “story” here is pretty minimal and is essentially just a threadbare line for Ittenbach to drape his gallery of ghoulishness over.

Next up we’ve got a little number called “The Purity,” about a village priest/closet devil-worshiper who gets his rocks off raping and killing in order to achieve some kind of “next level” of Satanic power or something. The locals blame his crimes on a bachelor farmer that none of them like, the priest decides to kill himself, aforementioned locals hire out some thug to kill aforementioned bachelor farmer, and aforementioned bachelor farmer rises from the dead to take his revenge by dragging the guy who killed him, and the folks who paid him to do so, down to Hell with him.It’s in this last ten-or-so-minute sequence set in Hell where, I think , The Burning Moon really earns its reputation. Up to that point, truth be told, I was feeling more than just a little bit underwhelmed by the whole thing, and there really wasn’t much to distinguish “The Purity” from “Julia’s Love” apart from some inverted crucifixes and other garden-variety Satanic imagery that’s always popular with the kids. Oh, sure, on the whole the flick was gory in the way other SOV features like Video Violence and 555 were, albeit without either’s emphasis on pesky details like a narrative that made any sense, but there wasn’t much to differentiate it from its blood-soaked contemporaries apart from its complete and utter lack of anything even remotely resembling a sense of humor about itself (you know those Germans — they take everything they do so seriously) . Frankly, I was starting to feel I’d been had and that maybe this movie’s rarity alone was the source of most of its legend — after all, everything’s pretty cool, unknown, and mysterious until you actually see it, right?

But I have to give Ittenbach credit — he really pulls out all the stops for his big finale. The assembled stills accompanying this review, any of which could be captioned “Oy!!!!!!!!!!!That’s GOTTA hurt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” are testament to the unfettered dime-store brutality that he unleashes on us in this majestic crescendo of explicitly-detailed, unforgiving violence; this budget-free symphony of psychotic and sadistic destruction. Ittenbach proves himself, with his soaring finale, to be Don Dohler without a conscience — a guy making a movie just to show off the cool shit he can come up with in his garage, but rather than the nifty space alien costumes and laser-beam guns that Baltimore’s backyard Spielberg went for, he’s into showing us bodies ripped to pieces, eyeballs gouged out, intestines squirming on every corner of the screen, and organs ripped from their still-writhing hosts.  None of it makes much sense, but then, that’s not what we’re here for, is it? We’re here to see a movie that well and truly delivers the gore-soaked goods, and even though The Burning Moon waits until the very end to do so, it comes through in spades. This really is everything that your mother had ever warned you about — if the old bat could ever imagine anything so truly vile, shocking, and remorseless.

Is it possible to recommenda ny film, particularly a low-budget “true-crime” biopic, on the strength of one performance alone? In the case if 1993’s The Secret Life : Jeffrey Dahmer, I believe the answer to that question is a resounding “YES!”

But first off, you might be wondering what this movie is doing in our annual horror round-up in the first place, a query to which all I can answer is “if the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer dont’ constitute a horror story, then honestly, what does????”

Plus, this shoestring production has the aesthetic vibe, not to mention the overall production values, of many of the lowest-budget examples of guerrilla filmmaking that we’ve examined on this blog numerous times in the past. The whole thing has the distinct air of moviemaking on the fly, and that’s something we here at TFG always have respect for.

First off, though, just a little bit of history : while the crimes of Milwaukee’s most infamous cannibal killer have been the fodder for many a made-for-TV movie-of-the-week and too many of those “true crime case files to mention,” as well as a (surprisingly) small handful of straight-to-video releases, this was the first to go into production, and actually began filming pretty much right after the judge’s gavel came down  with its verdict of “guilty as sin” on ol’ Jeff. As such, director David R. Bowen did his best to keep most of the actual filming (in and around the immediate Hollywood vicinity) as hush-hush as possible so as not to enrage local “concerned citizens” groups.

Once the film was in the can, Bowen and writer/star/all-around actual driving force behind the project Carl Crew (more on him in a minute) went around and pitched it to every major, and minor, studio and distribution house in LA, only to find no takers since the material was still considered to be just a little too “hot,” if you will, at the time.

At the end of the day, then, this thing landed on home video, and wasn’t even the first Dahmer biopic to do so, since so much time and effort had been put into trying to get some kind, any kind, of theatrical release for it. And so a project that actually jumped the gun on its competitors (and how twisted is it to even be talking about the idea of “competition” when it comes to getting a movie about Jeffrey fucking Dahmer released first? Such is the world we live in) ended up being a little bit late to the party, so to speak, in terms of scoring an actual release. So it goes, my friends, so it goes.

And now, as promised, back to Carl Crew. A struggling actor who actually came up with this idea on his own in order to showcase his talents, Crew was the guy who actually wrote the screenplay for this flick and even secured much of the financing and hired much of the cast and crew (he was apparently the one who made the decision to bring Bowen on board as director, for instance). And while that might make this whole thing sound like some kind of cheap vanity project, let’s be honest here — you don’t put a vanity project together for yourself based on the life of America’s most notorious cannibal, do you?

Rather, I think Crew’s aim here was a lot more modest — to simply show that he could play any type of character, do a serviceable job, and use it as a springboard to land some more work. Call it a vanity project with middling aims, if you will.

Of course, choosing to do a Dahmer biopic carries some serious risk, in that you might find yourself being perceived as perpetrating a ghoulish cash-in on human tragedy, but I think Crew was smart enough to know that there’s no such thing as bad publicity and that this flick would at the very least get noticed and create some controversy, thus ensuring that at least a handful of  curious souls would seek it out.

Mission accomplished on that front, at least partially. For a few days there The Secret Life : Jeffrey Dahmer was the subject of a mini-shitstorm of controversy, with the likes of Mary and Geraldo raking Crew and Bowen over the coals on their talk shows. But it was a controversy quickly forgotten, and so was the movie itself, which pretty much just languished on VHS rental shelves. And that’s a bit of a shame, really, because not only does this movie have a pleasingly low-rent vibe (that is, admittedly, not for all tastes), but it features a damn fine central performance from Mr. Crew that is unsettling, realistic, multi-faceted, and at the end of the day maybe even a little bit sympathetic.

None of which is to say that you feel sorry for Dahmer or anything by the time this thing is over — anything but, the guy’s a first-class whackjob and a desperate psychopath. But Crew does enough to make you understand the mindset that this guy was coming from, without in any way condoning his actions, that you walk away, dare I say it, knowing more about what must have been going on in Dahmer’s mind than you did before the film started playing.

That sort of delicate razor’s edge between giving you insight into a warped mind and making you feel pity for said warped mind is one that more seasoned and experienced actors sometimes have a tough time with. Just ask Steve Railsback, a terrific actor with a very bright future ahead of him who found his career forever derailed when he delivered what was judged to be “too sympathetic” a performance as Charles Manson in the Helter Skelter TV miniseries.

Crew manages to thread the needle pretty carefully, yet apparently effortlessly, here, and turns in a performance that neither condemns nor condones Dahmer’s actions, but humanizes the character while still making the things he did seem every bit as inhuman as they were. It’s pretty astonishing, really, and it’s definitely a shame that Crew’s career never picked up much (okay, never picked up at all) after this, because he really pulls off a tricky job splendidly here.

The Secret Life : Jeffrey Dahmer has just been released on DVD from the relaunched InterVision Pictures label, an offshoot of Severin Films that they’re using to distribute some of their more ultra-low-budget, unconventional, VHS-throwback-type fare. The full-frame transfer looks pretty good, the stereo soundtrack is perfectly serviceable, and extra include the trailer for the film and an informative, if somewhat dry, commentary from Bowen and Crew that sheds some pretty decent insight onto the project (like about the filming problems they ran into because the LA riots were going on!), but neither guy seems particularly comfortable talking to the faceless, formless public out there in DVD-land. But that’s not really a big deal. On the whole they both have plenty to be proud of here, especially Crew, who more than proved he deserved a shot at the big-time with this film.

It’s a shot he’s still waiting for, I’m sorry to report — in fact, I’m sure he’s given up any such aspirations. But like I said, he deserved it, which is more than you can say for, I dunno, Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Adam Sandler, Justin Timberlake, Tyler Lautner —  the list of no-talent Hollywood A-listers is absolutely endless. But once in awhile an enterprising young actor or actress with some real talent does their best to get their foot in the door by having the guts to do something that gets they hope will get noticed.

It’s just a shame that in this case no one in the Hollywood hierarchy was paying attention.