Posts Tagged ‘vhs’

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Truth, my friends, is always stranger than fiction. Case in point : the movie under our metaphorical microscope today, 1979’s Mr. No Legs (also released under the slightly more verbose title of The Amazing Mr. No Legs), a rather standard issue cops-vs.-the mob “thriller” that just happens to feature a tough-guy “enforcer” type who’s a paraplegic,  was the one and only feature film directorial effort for one Ricou Browning, the guy who probably had the single weirdest/most-varied career in Hollywood history.

Who was he, you rightly ask? Browning was a former champion swimmer who went on to co-ordinate underwater stunt work for TV shows like Flipper (which is where he presumably met this flick’s screenwriter, Jack Cowden, since he’s the guy who created that series) and several of the James Bond films, and oh — along the way he also found time to “star” as the guy in the rubber suit himself in Creature From The Black Lagoon and its various and sundry sequels. You just can’t make a path that convoluted up.

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I gotta be honest, though — out of the water, our guy Ricou struggles a bit. It’s not that the Tampa, Florida-filmed Mr. No Legs doesn’t have a nifty premise — obviously, it does — it’s just that it’s criminally under-utilized. Oh, sure, our titular legless one, a low-level thug named Lou (played  by one Ted Vollrath), has a kick-ass wheelchair fitted with a couple of shotguns for arms, and yeah, he’s allowed one memorable scene where he gets to show off some Crippled Masters-style martial arts (after getting out of the hot tub he’s sharing with his “mob moll”-type squeeze), but he’s really just a side character in his own movie, with most of the (decidedly slow-burn) action here cnetering on a ticking-time-bomb cop named Andy (portrayed with minimal zeal and effort by Ron Slinker,  who really should have waited about a decade to show up for work so Mel Gibson could show him how it was done in the first Lethal Weapon flick), who’s pissed off because his sister was accidentally killed by her semi-connected dope-pusher boyfriend that she was in the process of walking out on before meeting her demise in the least-convincingly-staged domestic violence scene in movie history (she literally falls backwards limply and next thing you know we see that her head has smashed through a TV that wasn’t even in the path of her fall). Said boyfriend is then disposed of by Lou and his sidekick who also administer a lethal does of heroin into the dead woman’s corpse in order to make it look like she OD’d on her old man’s junk.

All of this is done at the behest of local mob boss D’Angelo (Lloyd Bochner, who always seemed to get saddled with similar parts), but Lou is tired of the lack of respect his paymaster is giving him and sets about trying to assume control of “the operation” himself — which would make for a pretty decent little subplot, I suppose, if Browning and Cowden decided to pay much attention to it.  Instead, though,  we’re saddled with what amounts to a pretty dull police procedural as Andy and his new partner, the straight-laced Chuck (Richard Jaeckel,  of Dirty Dozen fame), under the watchful eye of their captain (B-movie legend John Agar),  endeavor to find out who offed bright,promising kid sister and her junk-slingin’ woulda-been-ex-had-she-lived. That investigation will eventually put them on a collision course with Lou and D’Angelo, of course, since they’re both higher up on the drug biz “food chain,” but damn if it’s not a bit of a drag getting from Point A to Point B in this one, even if the line is a fairly straight one.

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There are definitely some nice period touches here and there — Andy sitting in a cocktail lounge and enjoying the mellow sounds of “that million-selling record group, the fantastic Mercy” (think of Tony Orlando and Dawn only with just one chick and a dude singer with a weight problem) definitely being one of them, as is the “love” scene a minute later at the pad of Andy’s “exotic foreign girlfriend,” who’s evidently earned enough money as a hostess at the club to buy a fucking mansion covered in thick shag carpet — but they’re few and far between, as is any actual action.

Still, the all-time classic exploitation “hook” here can’t be denied, despite the film’s slow-as-molasses pace and Browning’s uninspired, “point-and-shoot” directorial “style,” and the promise of actually being able to see Mr. No Legs do his thing was enough to keep this armchair critic reasonably involved in the proceedings. The pay-offs for the investment of my time and attention may have been few and far between, to be sure, but they were generally worth it, since Vollrath manages, as you’d expect, to steal every scene he’s in.

I just can’t for the life of me figure out why they didn’t try to work him into the script more — after all, he’s the guy you’re paying to see, and his shit attitude, constant sneering, and seeming embrace of his handicap show that the filmmakers were determined to broaden his character beyond the usual “freak show” appeal. Why they don’t go “all the way” and turn the movie over to him entirely is mystery lost to time, I guess, but it’s definitely a wasted opportunity.

Mr. No Legs is, to date, only available on VHS for those “old school”-types who like to have a physical copy of the movie they’re watching, but if you’re cool with doing things electronically, you can check it out at the YouTube link below. It coulda/woulda/shoulda been so much more awesome than it is, but it’s nice to see Vollrath get at least a few scenes to prove that you don’t need legs when you’ve got balls.

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What is it about hookers. anyway?

Seriously, friends — have you ever heard of a serial killer who preys on flight attendants, teachers, day care providers, or female accountants? I sure never have, nor have I seen a movie about such an individual, but the minute prostitutes come into play, the knives come out. You’d think that any guy with an ounce of respect would be grateful for the services these ladies provide, but apparently that’s not the case since, as film after film —not to mention too many tragic real life instances — have shown us, there’s probably no more dangerous profession than the world’s oldest.

If you’re like me, you’re probably tired of all the belly-aching we hear about how the police are “heroes” because they have such a hazardous job. How many times have we seen cop shows on TV where some detective’s wife is crying about how “she never knows if her husband is going to come home from work alive”? As if the wife of a 7/11 cashier or cab driver or coal miner or oil rig worker — jobs that numerous surveys have shown are all, statistically speaking, much more hazardous than police work — doesn’t feel exactly the same way. Needless to say, a prostitute’s husband, boyfriend, wife, or girlfriend has even more cause to be fearful about the safety of their loved one, don’t they?

I’m not saying we should dismiss the risks that the police face or not be grateful for the public service that cops (at least the good ones) provide — I’m just saying that it’s well past  time that hookers got a little bit of respect, too, don’t you think?

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One creep who’d probably disagree with me is Richie (played by Ian Scott), the murderous protagonist in director/producer Joseph Zito (here working under the not-even-clever pseudonym of Joseph Bigwood)’s 1979 feature Bloodrage (also released onto VHS — but never, to date, DVD — under the title of Never Pick Up A Stranger, which was actually the fucking tag line on this film’s theatrical release poster), a small-town kid who’s obviously got some serious issues when it comes to cutting the apron strings. He’s taken a liking to a country hooker (who works out of her home, no less) named Beverly (Judith-Marie Bergan), but when she threatens to tell his mommy that he showed up at her door looking for some action but without the means to pay, he does what these guys all do in flicks like this — namely,  kills her.

And that’s about it for actual blood in Bloodrage. Oh, sure, Richie high-tails it to New York City, where he lands a room at a fleabag Times Square (or, as he amusingly refers to it in a phone call home to mommy, “theater district”) flophouse, a less-than-prestigious gig at the Yoo-Hoo bottling plant, and befriends a washed-out alcoholic neighbor named Candice (Rita Ebenhart) — hell, for a minute there it even looks like he might have met a young lady who could be actual girlfriend material until he learns she’s just a free-lovin’ hippie chick with an old man who doesn’t mind sharing — and his hooker-killing ways continue, but the first murder we get here is really the only reasonably gory one, the rest being your typical strangulation jobs.

Richie’s evidently a pro at cleaning up evidence, though. When a detective from back home named Ryan (portrayed by James Johnson — like a lot of movie cops he apparently has no first name, but in this case that’s just karma doing it’s thing since Richie’s got no last name), who was sweet on Beverly, comes calling  and finds no sign of her,  he decides to take some vacation time, head for the Big Apple (does anyone still call it that, by the way?), and see if he can’t track her down and make an honest woman of her.

Curiously, local law enforcement (particularly one Sergeant Malone, played by the always-awesome Lawrence Tierney) actually seems more than amenable toward helping this off-duty interloper from upstate, even though he is, for all intents and purposes, just some guy who’s looking for a hooker who may not even be in the city since he actually has no evidence of where she went at all, much less whether or not she’s even alive or dead. Funny, but I always thought that if a fellow officer from another jurisdiction altogether were to show up at a major metropolitan precinct house and tell the guys there that he was looking for a girl he was in love with, that he wasn’t even sure she might be in their town, and that oh, by the way, she was also a hooker, he’d probably get laughed all the way back to BF Egypt. But I guess that’s not the way it works.

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Anyway, while Ryan’s out doing his flat-footing, Richie finds time to take up voyeurism as a hobby — no surprise there — and is generally in the process of becoming a more and more lecherous, misogynistic creep by the day. New York will do that to a guy. And when some unsolved hooker murders start piling up on the desk at the station, and Ryan coincidentally happens to see ” a kid from back home” on the street one day, it’s not long before he puts two and two together and our enterprising young killer’s days turn out to be numbered.

The whole of Bloodrage takes just over 80 minutes and never really delivers anything you’d call unexpected — hell, the chain of serendipitous events that lead to Richie’s demise are downright waaaaaayyyyyy too convenient — but Zito, who would go on to direct comparatively bigger-budget works like The ProwlerFriday The 13th : The Final ChapterMissing In Action, and Red Scorpion, among others — has a definite feel for the gutter, and his flick has an appropriately sleazy, grimy vibe throughout.  I doubt very seriously that he  ever went to the trouble of actually getting any filming permits, and the guerrilla-level production values and “get it in one take and let’s get out of here” ethos he employs serve his story well, even if they were more a function of necessity than choice.

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The unpolished acting works, too, giving things a reasonably authentic flavor, with Scott especially hitting all the right notes as Richie. This is a guy who would creep you out if you even bothered to pay attention to him, but is so non-descript and unassuming that you probably wouldn’t. You can already hear his neighbors being interviewed on the news saying “I guess I’m kinda surprised he’d do something like this, he just seemed like one of those guy who was sort of — I dunno, there, ya know? Ya never had much reason to pay attention to him one way or another.” How many times have we heard a variation on those very words from somebody talking about a real life psycho?

Okay, fair enough, none of this adds up to the most ringing endorsement for Bloodrage, and admittedly it does drag in parts, as well —but it is what it is, and for what it is it ain’t half bad. As mentioned previously it has yet to see the light of day on DVD, much less Blu-Ray, but you can watch it in all its low-grade less-than-glory via the YouTube link below and decide for yourself. If these kinds of things are your kind of thing, you probably won’t be disappointed.

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If you’ve purchased or rented any Grindhouse Releasing title in the past decade or so,  you’ve no doubt seen the trailer for southern-fried exploitation vet S.F. Brownrigg’s tantalizingly sleazy 1974 effort, Scum Of The Earth (not to be confused with Herschell Gordon Lewis’ seminal “roughie” of the same name), and hoped against hope that one of these days it would finally be getting a proper DVD release. Last I heard, Bob Murawski is still planning on getting an extras-laden special edition out at some point, but in the meantime you can still view the film itself courtesy of a fairly high-quality VHS rip from its 1980s Magnum Video issuing that I’ve linked to at the bottom of this review.

Hold your horses, though, because first I want you to fully understand the incomparable awesomeness of this “Holy Grail” of the hicksploitation genre.

Alternately billed as Poor White Trash Part II for reasons that seem iffy at best — the original Poor White Trash  having come out all the way back in 1957 and being much more widely known (to the extent that it was even known at all) by its “proper” title of Bayou — Brownrigg’s complete lack of taste or subtlety oozes through every celluloid pore of this astonishingly over the top take on life, as its poster says, “below Tobacco Road,” and the end result is enough to make even the proudest resident of Dixie either blush, howl with anger, or who knows — maybe both.

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On, then, to the story particulars : newlywed couple Paul and Helen Fraser, honeymooning (for reasons I can’t fathom) in the woods have their new life together cut violently short when Paul, going to his truck for some smokes, meets his end courtesy of the head of an unseen madman’s axe. Helen (Norma Moore), understandably panicked, quickly decides to make a beeline for what passes around these parts for “civilization,” only to encounter “assistance” from swamp hick Odie Pickett (Gene Ross, who is obviously lovin’ every minute of it when he’s on screen, and is even credited with “additional dialogue” in the credits), who promises to take her back to his shack where she can phone the law, even though, by his own admission, he doesn’t like “having no truck” with them.

Of course, in reality he has no phone, but he does have a bizarre, inbred bunch o’ kinfolk, all of whom have their own amusingly one-dimensional backstory : there’s his pregnant child bride, Emmy (Ann Stafford), whose father traded her off to Odie at age 12 in order to pay off a debt; his country hooker daughter, Sarah (Camilla Carr), and his idiot man-child son, Bo (Charlie Dell), aand the whole lot of ’em  have their sights set on their new house guest for entirely different reasons.  Needless to say, Odie has absolutely zero intention of ever letting her leave, under any circumstances, so they’re all going to get their chance to sink their hooks into her or die trying.

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Cue every single backwoods hick stereotype you can think of : incest, possum eating, tobacco chewing, moonshine swilling, domestic abuse — it’s all here, in gloriously gut-wrenching detail. No stone is left unturned when it comes to making rural southerners look like complete imbeciles utterly devoid of either class or conscience. And yeah — it’s every bit as awesome as it sounds.

Suspense is pretty hard to come by here (unusual given that Brownrigg would also give us one of the more under-appreciated B-horror efforts of its time, the superb Don’t Go In The Basement), and “story” takes a back seat to unfurling an ever-growing laundry-list of corn-pone atrocities, but none of that really matters since it’s not what you’re watching this for, anyway. The tagline to trash-horror classic Pieces comes to mind here since, like that reviled-for-all-the-best-reasons flick, Scum Of The Earth is, indeed, “exactly what you think it is!” And honestly — who would want it any other way?

But I’ve taken up enough of your evening (or day, as the case may be) with my interminable blathering already already. It’s high time you clicked the link below and experienced the utterly depraved majesty of this one for yourself.

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Enemies are no fun. They can really cramp your style, not to mention fuck your life up immeasurably. I like to think I really don’t have any, and if that’s just me being delusional, well — it’s a delusion I’m happy to live with. But let’s not kid ourselves — even your worst enemies, assuming you have any, lack the power to get under your skin the way your friends do.

Friends are people who, by definition, know too damn much about us. They know our weak spots. They know our secrets. They know how to hit us where it hurts. Especially friends we’ve been through some tough times with. Sure, maybe they helped us through those rocky patches, but shit — we’re well beyond that these days, and the fact that they knew us then will always be a threat to us in the now. So yeah — friends just plain can’t be trusted.

Just ask Vietnam vet Gene Kline (Greg Mullavey), a guy doing his best to put together a “regular” life back home after participating in a My Lai-style massacre and spending some time in a psychiatric ward when he got back home. His friends pushed him to do things he can’t live with. They egged him on. They prodded him. Cajoled him. Forced his hand. And worst of all, they all got away with it. Time to see what can be done about that.

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Director Paul Leder’s 1976 gutter-level “psycho vet” flick My Friends Need Killing is further proof — as if any were really needed — that the independent exploitationers did a far superior job detailing the psychological struggles of newly-returned ‘Nam grunts than Hollywood could ever dream of. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take movies like this one, Deathdream, and Combat Shock over “serious,” over-wrought fare like PlatoonThe Deer Hunter, or In Country any day. This is way more visceral, immediate, and authentic, even if its revenge theme is over the top by its very nature. Leder — who had a varied B-movie career that included such semi-classics as I Dismember Mama  and A*P*E — isn’t about to let you look away here, he’s all about drawing you in and not letting you go. You wanted this war, asshole? The chickens have come home to roost — time to deal with the consequences.

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At the heart of  My Friends Need Killing lies a superbly unhinged and thoroughly satisfying performance from Mullavey. You literally feel like he’s capable of doing anything, and guess what? He is. The powerlessness of his long-suffering wife, Laura (Meredith MacRae) is also palpable and adds yet another frisson of way-too-close-to-home realism to the proceedings. And rather than detracting from the atmosphere being created, the staid, unimaginative, straight-forward production “values” that Leder was stuck with because he had next to no fucking money only enhance the unbearable nature of watching Gene’s tenuous mental state come undone as he ditches his hastily-assembled cookie-cutter life in order to mete out vigilante justice on the guys who were responsible for breaking his mind.

Simply put, this flick is all about pulling no punches, and its quasi-documentary feel makes the impact of the numerous body blows it lands hurt like a motherfucker.

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Sure, the soundtrack music is more than a bit unpolished and incongruous, but that only adds yet another layer of psychosis to the grim, unrelenting, and remorseless cinematic black hole that that Leder is literally pushing us further and further down into. And his “point-and-shoot” camera work and obviously rushed takes serve as a bludgeon wielded by the hands of a craftsman who knows that “style” would only dull his message even if he could afford it. No time for that nonsense here — he’s too busy kneecapping you and taking your wallet to pretend that he’s doing anything else.

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Shit, even the cut-rate gore effects don’t diminish the “shock and awe” of this film’s brutal kill scenes —on the contrary,  they enhance the overall ethos of a movie being made with no time, no resources, and no agenda apart from shoving your face into society’s toilet bowl. It’s almost as if there was a need or compulsion to make My Friends Need Killing more than there was any actual desire to, since nothing on offer here seems to indicate that Leder and his cohorts had much of an idea as to how to go about their business :  they just let the camera roll, shot from the hip, and kept on firing away. We’ve extolled the virtues of “want-to”  filmmaking over “can-do” filmmaking time and time again on this site, but “need-to” filmmaking like this takes things to another level entirely. Heck, you could make a pretty solid argument that too much “skill” would only muddy the waters with a production as visceral as this one.

Yeah — it’s fairly safe to say that I was straight-up blown away by the raw power of Leder’s no-budget, no-frills opus here, and I’m willing to wager that you will be, too. Fortunately, even though it’s never received an official DVD (much less Blu-Ray) release, and VHS copies are hard to come by, a truly generous soul who goes by the moniker Jack Fistos of  has uploaded it onto YouTube in its full 73-minute cut. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Just don’t try this with any of your friends at home,  right?

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Did you know that horror icon Christopher Lee appeared in a cut-rate 1977 production known, variously, as Meatcleaver MassacreMorakEvil Force, and, best of all, Hollywood Meat Cleaver Massacre?

If not, you’re in good company, because when this flick came out, apparently nobody was more surprised to see his name atop the credits than Mr. Lee himself! He’s only in there for a couple of minutes, mind you, as our story’s Rod Serling-esque presenter, giving a little canned lecture about the history of summoning occult spirits, both good and bad, to do one’s bidding. It’s pretty innocuous stuff, set in a suitably book-lined study, and could just as well serve as the front-end narration for any of literally hundreds of different supernatural-themed horror flicks.

In fact, it apparently was shot for one of these “hundreds” of other films altogether, but when that project never materialized, its producers simply sold the footage of Britain’s favorite Count Dracula to the one-and-done producers of this bizarre little fiasco who cooked up a quick little script that at least had some tenuous relation to  the type of shit that Lee was talking about and rolled with it.  Lord Summerisle apparently wasn’t too pleased about “starring” in a film he’d never even heard of, much less actually participated in, and initiated legal proceedings to have his material excised from it and his name dropped from all related advertising, but he gave the idea up because, well, the cat was already out of the bag and it would have involved a lot of time and hassle. Can’t say I blame him for that, especially since he didn’t exactly need any of the extra cash that suing these guys would possibly have netted him, and so it goes that some variation of “Christopher Lee presents” hangs over the various titles of this cheapie to this day.

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Definitely a product of its time, Meatcleaver Massacre (we’ll go with the default title its listed under on the IMDB as its “official” moniker) draws upon Manson Family-style “hippie cult murders” and the slaughter of the family of Dr. Jefrrey MacDonald as laid out in the best-selling book Fatal Vision as its primary sources of exploitation/inspiration, throws in a heavy dose of wanna-be psychedlia, and ends up, well, not making a whole lot of sense. Which is no crime around these parts, to be sure.

After Lee’s  intro, we’re introduced to a professor of occult studies (does any university actually have an “occult studies” department?) based in that noted hotbed of all things academic, Hollywood, named Cantrell (I might be wrong about this but I don’t think he’s ever given an actual first name — he’s played by James Habif, though, if that matters to you) who publicly embarrasses a loud-mouthed kid named Mason Harrue (Larry Justin) who won’t shut up during one of his lectures. Mason takes it pretty hard and sneaks into the prof’s home with a group of his friends while the family is sleeping with the intention of “putting a scare into them.” Things go bad, though — as they always seem to — and Mrs. Cantrell and the kiddies are killed, with the professor himself ending up in a coma.

So, yeah, you can probably tell by now that there’s no actual “meatcleaver massacre” here to speak of. In fact, no one even brandishes a meat cleaver. But that’s all beside the point, What does happen is that a comatose Cantrell manages to mentally summon forth an ancient Gaelic demon spirit known as Morok to take revenge upon all the ruffians who butchered his family, and sure enough, they all end up dying — sometimes in strange ways, like the kid who gets killed by a film projector.

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Several of the revenge-murders are presented in a rather surreal and even dreamlike fashion by only-time director Evan Lee (no relation, obviously, to Chris), but beyond that this is pretty standard ’70s supernatural fare, with nothing particularly to recommend for it apart from its rather aggressively languid (there’s a contradiction for you) pacing. In fact, rather than wondering what’s going to happen next, it’s not uncommon for viewers of Meatcleaver Massacre to wonder if anything’s going to happen at all.

Curiously, though, I didn’t find myself bored with the flick, even though I probably should have been. Maybe it’s the hammy over-acting that kept me glued, or the trance-like state the film accidentally induces due to its sheer lethargy, or perhaps I’m just a sucker for fly-by-night productions with shoddy (if any) ethics, but I kinda liked this thing, even though there’s no real reason to. You can catch it used on VHS for cheap (it’s never been released on DVD), or watch in its entirety on YouTube courtesy of a rather prolific poster named horrorfan185 , at the link below and see whether or not you agree with me.

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It’s been awhile since we ventured north of the border for one of our “International Weirdness” entries here at TFG, but I think we’re making up for lost time here because this one’s a real doozy. The other day, a kind-hearted reader of this blog (who, by the way, has my eternal thanks) dropped in my email inbox a Canadian post-apocalyptic shot on video obscurity from 1985 called Survival 1990, alternately known as Survival Earth, along with an a one-line email that simply read “This you’ve got to see.”

How right he was, my friends,  how right he was. Details on this flick’s production are scant, but here’s what I’ve been able to come up with following about an hour of legwork on the internet : it was financed by an outfit called Emmeritus Productions, the brainchild of Hamilton, Ontario local TV presenter Lionel Shenken, was shown once on (non-CBC) Canadian television, and recouped its (infinitesimal, I assure you) production costs in advance by dint of Shenkel having an international VHS distro deal in place before shooting even began. Apparently it never made it onto home video here in the US, and barely got much of an outing on its home soil (that aforementioned distro deal obviously wasn’t so great), with the end result being that what few people have seen it probably caught it via its European issuing on short-lived British label Visual Entertainment.

How badly does it suck? Let us count the ways : even though it’s got “1990” in the title, the movie actually takes place in 1996; despite the fact that stock footage of an atomic explosion plays at the beginning, we’re told about an hour in that the “end of the world” was actually brought on by an economic collapse that forced “the army” (which army, precisely, they never tell us) to disband; a group of marauding forest-dwellers called “vandals” are, we’re informed, devolving back into animals (apparently the radiation from a financial meltdown can have that sort of effect); the flick’s “mutants” aren’t actually mutants at all, just people with no memory of what life used to be like before the shit hit the fan — the list is, literally, endless.

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Our principal players in this harrowing tale of survival in a world gone mad are John (Jeff Holec) a former high school teacher, and his “mutant” (as in amnesiac) girlfriend, Miranda (Nancy Cser), who are joined in their forest shelter (in reality a crumbling set of three partial walls with no fucking roof) by Simon (Craig Williams), a former army dude who ingratiates himself to his new hosts by — no, I’m not kidding — killing their pet dog and serving it up for dinner.

Anyway, there’s apparently more to John than meets the eye — his dad is a research scientist who has a plan to save humanity through cloning, but don’t worry : that’s just dropped in about halfway into the 80-minute “story” here and never really picked up on. Kinda like the talk about cannibals having taken over all the major cities. Director Peter McCubbin and his co-screenwriters (Gina Mandelli and a double-duty-pulling Williams)  have a real fondness for throwing out little tidbits of information that have no actual bearing on the proceedings whatsoever.

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And that’s probably a good thing, since the proceedings themselves are pretty half-assed. McCubbin stages the occasional limp fist-fight and “action” sequence involving our “heroes” in battle with the vandals (one of whom, as you’ll see below, looks a bit like Charlie Manson with a weight problem, complete with carved forehead and everything) — oh, and I guess there’s a grenade explosion or two thrown into the works — but by and large Survival 1990 is composed of one interminable conversation with no real point to it after another. I swear to God, there’s more happening on your average Seinfeld episode, and we all know that was a show about, in its own words, nothing at all. This is just nothing at all after the end of the world — and we don’t even get a consistent explanation about how the world ended.

If you’re one of those folks who thinks a little bit of T and A can solve any problem, you’ll be glad to know that Miranda engages in a brief bit of skinny-dipping (evidently you can show a bit more on Canadian TV than you can here in the US), but honestly, it’s  no more enticing than anything else on offer here. It seems McCubbin suffers from a very acute case of being  violently allergic to anything interesting.

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All of which makes Survival 1990 quite possibly the most pointless thing ever committed to videotape, and probably worth seeing for that reason alone. I mean, this kind of utter utter nothingness doesn’t just happen by accident, right? Somewhere along the line some real skill had to be involved. It takes a special kind of creativity to come up with anything this aggressively absent of merit — I think.

Or I don’t. Or — shit, I dunno. You’re probably — okay, certainly — better off if you never see this thing. Any activity you care to mention is a more productive use of 80 minutes of your life than watching Survival 1990. Go watch the flagpole rust. Go watch your toenails grow. It doesn’t matter. This is the biggest waste of time ever. Period. Without exception.

I, of course,  plan on watching it again later tonight. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

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This probably isn’t the time or place to launch into an in-depth analysis of the motivations and warped psychology behind more or less every single flick ever made by New York’s king of the celluloid gutter, Andy Milligan (and besides, Jimmy McDonough has already done that in his superb biography of Milligan, The Ghastly One — easily one of the most compelling and essential film books ever written by anyone) — suffice to say that it’s a safe bet most regular readers of this site (not that such a beast has ever actually been found in the wild, but I keep writing this shit, so I assume there’s an audience out there somewhere) are already Milligan “fans” to one degree or another and are well-aware of the fact that, to be gentle about it, the guy had issues. He had issues with women. He had issues with men. He had issues with sex. And,  most glaringly obviously of all, he had issues with himself.

In much the same way that devotees of Hitchcock take their greatest pleasure in piecing together clues about the director’s own personal psychology when watching his films, the small but devoted legion of Milligan admirers (if that’s the term we’re even looking for here) aren’t watching his bargain-basement, shot-on-16mm-short-ends costume dramas so much for their stories as for what those stories are telling us about Andy himself. And while it’s never what you’d call a “pleasant” experience to spend 60 to 90 minutes wallowing in his plain-as-day, deeply-rooted sexual psychosis, it’s always, at the very least, an interesting one.

Still, once in a blue moon Andy would get a wild hair up his ass (which is probably a lot less painful than what he usually had up there) and try, for some reason known only to him at the time, to crank out a flick that might have some sort of appeal beyond his usual audience of rock-bottom 42nd Street heroin junkies, transvestite hookers, slowly-expiring derelicts, and low-rent hustlers. I know, I know — what a sellout, right?

Such an endeavor is 1974’s Blood, a decidedly “toned-down” affair by Milligan standards, but one that nevertheless can’t quite seem to find its way to being even a “normal” piece of ultra-low-budget drive-in fare despite its director’s best attempts to “just say no” to the more nagging voices in the back of his always-festering mind.

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Here’s the deal : the mad-doctor son of a werewolf (Allan Berendt) is living in wedded less-than-bliss with the daughter of none other than Count Dracula himself (Milligan stalwart Hope Stansbury) and trying to work out a cure to both their conditions (lycanthropy and vampirism apparently being inherited genetic traits) from their home in rural 1930s  Britain (by way, of course, Milligan being Milligan, of Staten Island). But being this is no ordinary couple, it’s no ordinary home, either — the garden is full of mutant man-eating plants, and their domestic staff appear to double as unwitting guinea pigs in their evil bosses’ schemes.  Oh, And bloodthirsty rabid bats are, for some reason, plaguing the nearby town.

Okay, look, the plot doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense, but it’s noteworthy for Milligan “scholars” to see how firmly sublimated his usual psycho-sexual obsessions are in this one, and how he’s substituted genuinely effective Gothic atmospherics in their usual place in his story’s foreground. This is probably among the most atmospheric of the director’s works, and even though it’s more or less all shot in the same house (namely, his), it feels less claustrophobic, even downright suffocating, than his standard fare tends to.

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The good news is that it still feels like a movie that absolutely couldn’t have been made by anybody else other than Andy, even though he’s doing his best to tone down his act here. Sure, the cellar-dwelling production values have a lot to do with that (IMDB lists the budget for this one at $25,000, but that seems exponentially generous), but I think there’s more to it than that — simply put, you just know a Milligan flick when you see one, and even with the primordial soup of his psychopathia sexualis locked away in a strong box, something still oozes and slithers out. It may not be announcing itself as loudly as usual, but it’s still fucking there, informing everything he does, like a stain that won’t wash out.

Sadly, despite the recent (and most welcome) uptick in interest for all things Milligan, Blood remains unavailable on DVD for whatever reasons(s), and copies of the VHS release are notoriously difficult to come by. Fortunately for us all, a kind and generous soul has uploaded the entire thing onto YouTube, and I’ve included a link above so that you too, dear reader, can enjoy this hard-to-come by slice of slightly-more-ready-for-prime-time Milligan “goodness.” It may not be his finest hour, but it’s interesting to see just how stubbornly inaccessible even his most purportedly accessible work is.

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So here it is — the “lost” and “forgotten” second feature film (not counting numerous hard-core porn flicks he made under various pseudonyms) from legendary (a term I don’t use lightly) cult auteur Roger Watkins, the brains (and heart) behind one of my personal favorite movies of all time, Last House On Dead End Street (the very first film I reviewed on this site lo, those many years ago — okay, enough parentheses for a little while here).

Needless to say, die-hard Watkins worshiper that I am, this is a flick I’ve always wanted to see even though a)Watkins himself disowned it completely and slapped — or, more likely, had slapped , but we’ll get to all that in a minute— the pseudonym of “Bernard Travis” in place of his name for his director’s credit; and b)pretty much everyone else who’s ever seen it has said that it completely sucks, as well.

Still — this is the guy who gave us the most gutter-level, unflinching, uncompromising, and downright nihilisitc piece of no-budget (literally — not a single dollar was spent on the production of LHODES) exploitation cinema ever produced — how bad could it be?

The answer, as it turns out, is pretty fucking bad.

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A brief understanding of the behind-the-scenes dictates placed on Watkins is probably in order if we’re to fully comprehend what a celluloid abortion this thing is, and while exact details are sketchy at best, according to the late, great Mr. Watkins’ own recollections, his leading lady in this film, one Marion Joyce, was actually married to the guy who financed this effort, and while she quite obviously couldn’t act, her old man was convinced otherwise and hired Watkins to film what essentially amounted to a feature-length demo reel, complete with script (written by Watkins in collaboration with his friend and former film professor Paul Jensen and Joyce herself) in order to display her dubious “talents” for various potentially interested parties (assuming there were any).

So, yeah — this thing probably shouldn’t have gone any further than a storage box in the loving (but apparently quite annoying) couple’s basement. But then nobody would see it. And nobody would ever know of Ms. Joyce’s abilities (or lack thereof).

And so — well, shit, here’s where things get a bit confusing. Bernard Travis was more than just a pseudonym, it turns out —  or, ore accurately, it wasn’t a pseudonym at all, it was the name of this film’s financier/producer, a guy who apparently owned a chain of movie theaters in New York state. And he also, somehow, got his hands on the rights to LHODES — as a matter of fact, he’s the guy who’s responsible for cutting that film down from its original three-plus-hour length to the 77-minute version that’s been released on VHS and DVD. How legal all this was is anybody’s guess, but I’m thinking the answer is “not very” given that Watkins was able to establish and assert copyright ownership over the film for which he’s best known prior to its seminal DVD  release from Barrel Entertainment (and watch out, by the way, apparently Vinegar Syndrome will be re-issuing it later this year in a more complete cut under its alternate title of The Funhouse, along with tons of new extras — how good life can be sometimes, my friends, how good life can be!).

Of course, by 2005 when Watkins emerged from the shadows of history (rather than the mind) to claim directorship of both these films,  Mr. Travis had committed suicide, so there probably wasn’t much chance of a protracted court fight over who actually “owned” what here.

Watkins, of course, is gone himself now, and so we’ll never know why he didn’t try to claim any sort of legal ownership over Shadows Of The Mind, as well — unless the answer is a very simple, and understandable, he just didn’t want the damn thing.

Anyway, back to the late Mr. Travis. With both this flick and LHODES in his possession, he was able to cut numerous cheap deals with numerous even cheaper fly-by-night VHS distribution outfits both here and abroad (as you can see from the images included with this review) for the two films, and while neither enjoyed any sort of widespread release, both were put out, in small numbers at any rate, here, there, and everywhere. I couldn’t tell you exactly when this movie was shot, but most VHS releases are dated 1980, so we’ll just go with that as the closest thing to an official “street date” we’re ever likely to have here.

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So that’s our history lesson out of the way. On to the plot particulars of Shadows Of The Mind itself : Poor Elise (Joyce) was an eyewitness to the drowning deaths of her father and stepmother as a child, and has been a thoroughly traumatized — and institutionalized — basket case ever since. You can’t stay in the loony bin forever, though (funny, they told me the same thing), and so the day comes when her therapist, Dr. Land (Erik Rolfe) decides she’s perfectly fit and ready to go home — to the cold, empty, abandoned, desolate estate that where she lost her marbles in the first place. Sound psychology at work, I guess,

And so we’re treated to a good 30 minutes or so of Elise not doing much but listlessly and aimlessly wandering the grounds of her old (and now, I guess, new) homestead until her creepy, estranged step-brother , Leland (played with a certain degree of relish by G.E. Barrymore — no relation, I’m assuming, to any or all members  of the celebrated cinematic Barrymore dynasty — in the closest thing this snoozer has to a competent performance) shows up and weird things start happening — like, ya know, people dying.

At this point Shadows Of The Mind at least begins to approximate something interesting, but trust me when I say that you’ve seen this same story done before and seen it done much better. I desperately wanted to like the proceedings just out of sheer loyalty to Watkins and his small but undeniably powerful legacy, but try as I might, anything resembling actual interest in what was happening on-screen just never materialized, despite some moody and evocative location work (like LHODES this was shot in Watkins’ home environs of upstate New York, and has a bleak, early-November vibe to it) and some reasonably well-executed (sorry for the shit pun) kill scenes.

For his part, Watkins at least eschews the kind of point-and-shoot dullness that you or I might resort to with a script this garbled and lame, but he’s certainly not giving things anywhere near his all. The cast go through their motions with, apart from Barrymore, apparently little to no actual idea of what they’re doing, and when the truncated (and probably largely falsified) end credits roll, it feels more like a relief than anything else.

Still, as with all things, don’t take my word for it — a generous cult film aficionado has gone to the trouble of posting this movie in its roughly-80-minute entirety on You Tube(apologies for the German — I think — subtitles, but beggars can’t be choosers), and I offer a link to it here to sate the ravenous appetites of  the curious, masochistic, or both :

So yeah. This is Roger Watkins’ “lost” and “forgotten” second feature film. And it’s fair to say that it was both lost and forgotten for very good reason.

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Okay, so it’s 2013 — for a few more weeks, at any rate — and we don’t seem to be hearing all that much about the so-called “War On Terrorism” anymore. Thank God. I mean, I guess technically we’re still “fighting” it — Dick Cheney assured us that it would never end “in our lifetimes” and we all know he’d never lie — but seriously, it doesn’t seem to be dominating the headlines like it once did.

There could be a million reasons for this, I suppose — we’re told that Osama Bin Laden’s dead, we’re purportedly winding down “operations” in Iraq and Afghanistan, even the right-wingers finally seem to be sick of Big Brother looking at our emails, tapping our phone lines, and busting us for no reason (not that they minded any of that shit when a Republican was in the White House) — but more than anything, I think the main reason we’re getting nothing but radio silence from the front lines (wherever they might be) of this “war” is because, quite frankly, the American public just got fucking bored with the whole thing. Okay, this “war” — like the one on drugs — will never end, will get more pointless the longer we fight it, etc. We get that. So just go do your thing, Pentagon, CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.,  and shut up about it. We all know you’ll get every single goddamn dollar you supposedly “need” to keep it going, just please don’t remind us how much of our money you’re wasting for no apparent purpose apart from keeping the Daddy Warbuckses who own the military-industrial-intelligence apparatus fat and happy.

I think we’ve achieved a type of silent consensus on the whole thing — we all know it was nothing but a hustle from the get-go, but we’ll keep feeding the hucksters who sold us this faulty bill of goods as long as they keep it all off the front pages and don’t rub our faces in it. We’ll keep on being suckers as long as we don’t have to face the fact that we’re suckers.

Or, hell, maybe you’re one of the six or seven people left who believe that “they hate us for our freedom” and “they could smuggle a ‘dirty bomb’ into America and destroy one of our major cities at any time.” In which case, please contact me ASAP about a terrific deal on a bridge I’ve got for sale. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Really. I promise.

Still, if the military juggernaut and it’s cowed and subservient stenographers in the media ever want to get folks interested in their “War On Terrorism” again, I might offer a humble suggestion — put Nick Millard in charge. The end result might not be much different, but at least it would be wort paying attention to again, if only to see the whole sow-mo train wreck for what it is clearly.

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Fair enough, Nick’s better known for his shot-on-video, straight-to-VHS horror fare (all shot in his former Pacifica, California residence) like Doctor BloodbathCemetery Sisters, and the Death Nurse movies (all of which have been reviewed on these virtual “pages” previously), but when he brought his singular style of no-budget idiosyncratic visionary aueteurship to the action genre in flicks like .357 Magnum and Gunblast, the results were equally perplexing — and equally awesome. Case in point : 1980’s The Terrorists, the subject of our little treatise today.

Hopelessly dated by the time anyone got to see it being that it sat on the shelf until 1988 when it was released on VHS by a less-than-small-time outfit called World Vision Home Video, this one’s capable of fooling you for a moment — it’s shot on actual 16mm film rather than videotape, and on location in Munich, no less! — the semi-professional trappings won’t fool you for long : this is still pure Millard all the way, with its over-riding goal being nothing more (or less) than killing 60 minutes of runtime, getting outta Dodge, and hopefully making a few bucks in the process.

It might suck, sure, but at least it’s more honest in its intentions than any ten Hollywood mega-blockbusters combined, which essentially exist to serve no other purpose than to part you from your money but have the temerity to insult your intelligence by claiming to be about something — anything — other than precisely that. “We’re here to give you a new perspective on the world!” “We’re here to enlighten and entertain you at the same time!” “We’re here to make you ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at our magnificent CGI wizardy!” “We’re here to give you a cinematic experience you’ll never forget!”

No, studio big-shots, you’re not. You’re here to spoon-feed us dull, conformist, inoffensive product in order to fleece as many of us as possible out of our hard-earned dollars while forcing as few of us as possible to actually think. At least Nick Millard has enough integrity to not even try to sell us the illusion that he’s after anything other than that. That kind of honesty might be brought on more by necessity than choice, sure, given the budgets Nick’s always had to work with, but nevertheless, it still counts for something in my book.

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Anyway, the drill here goes as follows : Military (which branch is never stated, nor does it matter) Investigator James Luke (Marland Proctor, who “starred” in all of Millard’s “action” movies) is on the hunt for the the killer of a Congressman’s son in Munich , where he’s joined in his “efforts” by German “shoot first, ask questions later” cop Paul Steger (Hans Grabinger). Their sleuthing eventually (as “eventually” as you can get in a hour-long flick, at any rate) leads Luke to fall in love with a local news reporter (Nick’s wife, Irmi Millard), and for our intrepid heroes to come face-to-face with a terrorist mastermind known only as The Professor (fellow Millard regular Albert Eskinazi), who had a dastardly plan to assassinate Jimmy Carter (who was president when this thing was made, but long gone from office by the time it was released) when he hits town in a few days!

The already-scant length of the proceedings is padded with numerous pointless gunfights featuring pistols that evidently hold about 40 rounds in each magazine and a ten-minute striptease scene that was probably shot for other film altogether, but what the fuck — it all leads from Point A to Point B easily enough, the good guys win, the “intrigue” falls as flat as you’d expect given Nick had to get every scene done in one take and spend no money while doing so, and afterwards we can all get on with our lives.

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So, yeah, like I said — put Nick Millard in charge of the “War On Terrorism” now. It may not be any more interesting, it may not be any more successful, and it may not have any more of an actual point, but on the plus side it won’t cost anything and it’ll all be over with fairly quickly.

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Some cinematic shit is just too beyond perfect for words, and I would humbly submit that one-and-done (as far as I know) director Jag Mundhra’s straight-to-video, shot-on-grainy-16mm 1988 schlockfest Halloween Night, also released under the more creatively lame title of Hack O’ Lantern, fits that description to the proverbial “T.” I mean, honestl, I don’t even know where to begin here, and those who know me know that I’m seldom — or, as they may see it, far too seldom — at a loss for words. So I’m just gonna do the best I can here to relay the full onslaught of uber-cheesy awesomeness that this film represents and let you, dear reader, take it from there.

Sound like a plan? Good.

First off, the plot — there isn’t one. A talent of Mundhra’s stature doesn’t need to chain himself down to anything so prosaic or limiting, so he just goes with the flow, baby. A perpetually-Walkman’ed teen named Tommy Drindel is going to get himself the Satanic equivalent of a Bar Mitzvah on Halloween night (hence, ya know, the name) courtesy of his grandpa, the local coven leader. I guess. But that doesn’t really matter because our “setup” consists of a performance by a hair metal act called D.C. La Croix, who exhibit the kind of half-assed occult powers that the outfit known as Sorcery in Stunt Rock could only dream of. For instance, they have an axe-shaped guitar that can fire lasers that turn cymbals into shrunken heads.

Then we get lots of completely gratuitous nudity, mostly from the various female members of Tommy’s on-screen family, although every chick in the flick (barring a very few exceptions) is called upon to bare her hooters at least once. Then it’s party time!

Graveyard sex ensues. Weightlifting (?) ensues. Somebody’s ass gets branded with a pentagram. The absolute worst stand-up “comic” you’ve ever seen “entertains” the “crowd” (yes, all those quote-marks are there for a reason). Another hair metal act, this one billing itself as The Mercenaries, is showcased preforming two purportedly “satanic” musical numbers in their entirety. There’s a bunch more nudity. People wear the lamest, most half-assed Halloween costumes ever. More nudity, often of the full-frontal variety. Some death and dismemberment for reasons no one even bothers to try to explain.

Clearly, there’s a  lot going on here, but one thing that’s not happening is any sort of plot progression whatsoever. Random, haphazard shit just takes place in front of the camera. Actual stories are nothing but a crutch, anyway, and Halloween Night can’t slow down long enough to make allowances for such cinematic conservatism. It’s got a job to do, after all.

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Just don’t ask me what that job is. I’ve got a feeling it doesn’t much matter, anyway. Mundhra just found himself a couple of L.A.-area locations he figured would do the trick, some non-descript “actors” (the only one you might even vaguely recognize being Hy Pyke, who had a bit part in Blade Runner and is on hand here as grandpa, head-honcho of the devil worshipers) who’d do anything (or, as is often the case here, nothing) for a buck (assuming they got paid at all, which is a debatable proposition at best) , yelled “roll camera!” and just — shit, I dunno, filmed some blood and boobs and heavy metal and stuff.

You only think you need more from a film than that. But you don’t.

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I’m not sure if there’s a cautionary tale to be found embedded under all the low-grade (but decidedly high-octane) murder, mayhem, and mammaries here about the “evils” of getting sucked into the netherworld of Satanic heavy metal music or not — I’m leaning towards not, because that would presuppose that Mundhra had some kind of point he was trying to get across, and near as I can fathom that was an idea that never even occurred to him — but if so, that would almost make the proceedings even more entertaining than they already are, if such a thing is even possible. There’s some sort — I think, at any rate — of an attempt to introduce a bit of mystery into the madness by trying (and failing) to keep us guessing as to the identity of the rubber-devil-masked party-goer who’s killing folks, but you’ll have gleaned the answer to that wants-to-be-a-puzzle-but-ain’t within, oh,  two minutes, so don’t even worry about it.

In fact, don’t worry about anything. Just sit, back in the glow of the absolute and total pointlessness and incompetence on display, and do the only thing any right-thinking individual can do when confronted with such a genuinely other-worldly spectacle — enjoy every singe fucking minute of it. Being that this has never been released on DVD, here’s a link to the full film on YouTube,  courtesy of a true humanitarian who preserved it there for posterity. Get busy!