Posts Tagged ‘vhs’

357 Magnum US World Video VHS

The review I slapped up the other day for visionary director Nick Millard’s Gunblast got more hits than my little site here has seen in months — just over 800, if you must know — so I figured, hey, why not go back to the well (assuming it isn’t already dry) and see if we can keep the admittedly low-rent “momentum” we’ve got going around here stoked to its current less-than-fever-pitch by talking some more Millard?

Hmmm — let’s see — we’ve already covered Death Nurse and Death Nurse 2 — ditto for Criminally Insane and Criminally Insane 2 — Satan’s Black Wedding, maybe? Nope, did that awhile back, as well — and Cemetery Sisters — and Doctor Bloodbath — and The Terrorists

Hey, wait! What about 1977’s .357 Magnum? That’s previously-uncharted (at least around here) territory — let’s give that one a go, shall we?

3571

 

True, this one predates Nick’s second — or maybe third, depending on how you look at things — act as an SOV auteur by a good few years, and it runs a little long by his standards clocking in at a whopping 71 minutes, but nearly all the essential elements of a distinctly Millard-ian viewing experience are present and accounted for here, apart from a plethora of recycled footage from earlier films in the director’s CV.

Roll call : opening scene in the “jungles” of “Angola” that has nothing to do with the rest of the film and features entirely different characters;   bizarre introduction to our supposed “leading man,” CIA “black ops” agent Johnny Hightower (regular Millard “rep company” member Marland Proctor, here working under the name Marland T. Stewart) nursing some sort of hand wound in a hospital; stock footage of Hong Kong with San Francisco’s Chinatown standing in for it (and, a bit later, for Tokyo) when the actual “action” starts (with the flow of automobile traffic reversed to make things look, ya know, “realistic”); weird scenes of a bearded dude walking around with a — you guessed it — .357 Magnum; Johnny leaving the hospital and going to Tuscon, where he mashes his face between a pair of boobs (Kathryn Hayes’ boobs, to be specific), and receives an assignment to kill “Clay” (the bearded dude) because he apparently offed a couple of undercover agents in the aforementioned exotic Far East locales that we are supposed to believe look just like Chinatown; Johnny hiring a drunk named Steve (James Whitworth) to “help” with the “mission” ; John and Steve shooting quarters and plates with their — I’m picking up a theme here — .357 Magnums; the house from Criminally Insane turns up for a second (and so does Crazy Fat Ethel, Priscilla Alden, herself); then we cut to the townhouse/condo from the Death Nurse flicks and Cemetery Sisters, where some dudes in stocking masks are breaking in and there’s a shoot-out with some fake blood and that’s really about it.

One nifty little quirk worth mentioning — Millard tore a page from the Doris Wishman playbook here and obviously shot this thing without any sound, so we almost never see anyone’s mouth at all. Even during scenes — and there are plenty of ’em — where people are just sitting around talking. Seriously, whole conversations go by — with plenty of weird close-ups on foreheads, eyes, eyebrows, chins — but you’ll never see a mouth. The post-production sound dubbing makes for some seriously bizarre and ill-timed insertions of musical cues and sound effects, as well. And yet, paradoxically, you never get the sense that anyone here, most notably the director himself (billed under his occasionally-used “Jan Anders” pseudonym) isn’t giving it their all. It’s just that their “all” can only result in the most feeble and half-assed of efforts by most conventional standards. We talk about low-budget cinema a lot around these parts, but I’m not even sure this movie had a budget. It just had a guy with a camera, some film (probably short ends), and a dream.

3573

Chuckle all you want, but there’s a certain nobility in that. Like all Millard works, .357 Magnum doesn’t just disregard any and all rules of conventional filmmaking, it refuses to even acknowledge their very existence. It’s art that operates on an entirely different level of reality than our own, and therefore can’t be judged by any pre-set standards. It’s not a “bad” film — nor is it a “good” one — it is simply a film that got made in the only way its director knew how and for reasons that only he could possibly understand. It’s every bit as beyond our criticism as it is beyond our comprehension.

hqdefault

I would defend the films of Nick Millard to my dying breath if I had to, but guess what? His work does that for me already. It is a hermetically-sealed universe unto itself the likes of which other, more well-regarded and accomplished, directors have spent decades of their lives, not to mention untold millions of dollars, trying to create. It is what it is and no one else  has ever been able to come close to even imitating, let alone achieving, it. The intellectually lazy might just call it “hopelessly amateur” and leave it at that. The equally-lazy but somewhat more generous might label it “outsider art” and pat themselves on the back for giving Millard a back-handed compliment. I call it — and I have countless times already in previous reviews — pure genius. And goddamnit,  I’m right. But then, I suppose I would say that.

Gunblast VHS008

It’s been awhile since I reviewed a movie that you, dear reader, probably have no chance of ever seeing — and it’s probably been even longer since I reviewed one of  Nick Millard’s SOV masterpieces — so why not kill two birds with one stone and take a look at 1986’s Gunblast (also released internationally under the title Mac 10), which is just over 60 minutes or pure, unfiltered, near-pathologically lackadaisical ennui from the man who is the one and only master of said rarified sub-genre, and that you can only find (if you’re truly lucky) on VHS from the late,  and in no way lamented, Mogul Video.

Yup, not only has no one ever attempted to sort out whatever rights issues might be holding this up to release it on DVD, but nobody’s even bothered to make a rip of it from their old videotape to slap  up on YouTube. I guess they figure either no one would be interested in watching it, no one would be able to stay awake all the way through it, or both.

I’m here to tell you that, of course, “they” are absolutely wrong At least when it comes to the “no one would be interested in watching it” part. That’s because Gunblast, while admittedly not something that will be palatable to everyone’s tastes, is nevertheless a work of absolute — if accidental — genius, and is a very worthy entry indeed in Millard’s action-free “action” movie trilogy that began with .357 Magum in 1977,  took a long break before continuing here and, finally, wound up (or down, depending on how you look at things) with 1988’s The Terrorists.

Please understand — if you actually like action, you might not enjoy Gunblast very much. If you like boobs, however, you probably will. Especially if you like watching guys mash their faces up between ’em. In fact, our ostensible “hero” in this one, ex-con Roy Grant (played by Millard regular Marland Proctor, here billed as Lloyd Allan for reasons I can’t pretend to know anything about), sticks his head between “heroine” Maria Schneider (Christina Cardan)’s ta-tas a lot. Hell, he does it twice in a row, and for a good five minutes or so each time.  He’s got good reason for that, though, of course  — not only are her boobs pretty nice, but more or less the same exact scene is playing out consecutively.

Gunblast5

Confused yet? Allow me to at least attempt to clarify. Upon release from the big house, our guy Roy holes up in a seedy motel, where he watches TV, reads Playboy magazines, chain smokes,  eats beans and wieners from a can — you know the drill. In typical Millard time-killing fashion, this is all shown in excruciating detail. Then he goes to a porn theater and watches an extended clip of Uschi Digard doing what she does best — licking her own breasts — that’s taken right from the director’s own softcore number Fancy Lady (those familiar with Millard’s ouevre will know that re-using scenes from previous flicks is one of his tried-and-true staples). Then he gets a knock at the door — a door that appears, by the way, to be stained with what I hope is chocolate syrup — and it’s the aforementioned Ms. Schneider, who offers Roy (this is a direct quote) “50% of a half-million dollars” if he’ll her rip off her ex-boyfriend for his heroin and money at the Mexican border. He says no. Then he rubs his face between her tits for, like, ever and changes his mind says yes.

Just in case you didn’t get all that, though, Millard stages the whole thing again, more or less verbatim — in another room.

I know that pulling double-duty as a writer and director can be tough, but here’s the thing : I honestly don’t think Millard forgot that he’d already shot that entire scene. And I don’t even think he figured it was so damn good that he should just do it a second time, in a (slightly) different location. As anyone who’s seen either of his Death Nurse or Criminally Insane flicks can tell you, the regular rules of having an actual reason for doing something just don’t apply to our guy Nick. He’s so far beyond that. He just did the whole thing twice in a row because he felt like it and because he could. I ask you, friends, is there any more noble an artistic impulse than that?

Okay, yeah, having 60 minutes of camcorder tape to burn through and only about 30 minutes of actual story might just have a little something to do with it, as well —but let’s not harp on trivialities like that.

Gunblast4

So, where does the rest of the time go? So many wonderful places it’s hard to fathom. We’re treated to, in no particular order : more re-used footage from old Millard skin flicks; guns that fire, no kidding, a hundred-plus rounds per minute; characters having one-sided conversations with walls when the actor they’re supposed to be talking to isn’t there to shoot that particular scene; the same actors (including Millard regulars like Albert Eskinazi and Ray Myles) turning up later in the movie and playing obviously the same characters they were earlier, but with different names; the weirdest and most annoying doorbell you’ve ever heard in your life; and transcendent lines like “Hey man, you fucked my woman last night. I’m going to kill you.”

What’s that, you say? The plot? You want to know about the fucking plot even after that laundry-list of other-worldly awesomeness? What are you, a square? Things go south. Off the rails. Down the toilet. Up shit creek. Oh, and tits up. Of course. But you knew that already.

The beauty of it is, though, that it absolutely, positively, unequivocally doesn’t matter. You don’t watch Nick Millard movies for the story. You don’t watch them for the acting. You don’t watch them for the characterization. You don’t watch them for the action. And you don’t even watch them for the boobs-to-face mash-ups. You watch them because nobody else ever made movies the way he did and no one else ever will because no one else would a)want to; or b)know how to. There’s no mistaking Millard’s work for that of anyone else just as there’s no way Millard could possibly make a film the way anyone else makes them. He operates by his own set of quite-likely-not-of-this-dimension rules. Things like shot composition, logically sound dialogue, sensibly-placed musical cues, or coherent storylines are beneath his notice. His mind is just plain moving too fast to even consider such banalities. He’s working at 1000 MPH to come up with films that — irony of all ironies — move at a truly glacial pace. He can barely fill up an hour’s worth of tape — and has to recycle 25% or more of the material we see from his other movies to do it — but it feels like six. Or seven. Or more.

Gunblast Danish VHS

You can call that crap if you want. Many people certainly have. But do any of them know the sort of genius it takes to pull something like that off? No way. Not in the million years it feels like Gunblast drags on for could Millard’s critics ever come up with anything remotely like it. I have a feeling that time will be much kinder to Nick Millard than it will to the rest of us, so take your cheap shots while you can — one day his work will be studied, celebrated, maybe even spoken of in hushed and reverent tones. His films may, in fact, pretty much all be the same — but his overall body of work is well and truly singular.

 

_1_mr_no_legs_poster_01

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.

_shotguns

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.

mr-no-legs

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.

166284.1020.A

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?

vlcsnap-000027

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.

craftycarolbloodrageviewing4

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.

Bloodrage2

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.

scum-of-the-earth-movie-poster-1974-1020204770

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.

ian012741

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.

scum-of-the-earth-01

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.

My_Friends_Need_Killing

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.

my friends need killing ad mat

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.

my friends need killing vhs front & back

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.

596843_2012121916030112643

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.

download

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?

Meatcleaver_Massacre_1977

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.

meatcleaver massacre vhs front & back

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.

meatcleaver massacre

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.