Category Archives: Movies with Nudity

A Wedding (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Guests at wedding party.

Muffin (Amy Stryker) marries Dino (Desi Arnaz Jr.) at a wedding ceremony that is non-eventful. However, during the reception afterwards, held at the mansion of Dino’s family, the Correllis, everything begins to go wrong including having the family’s elderly matriarch, Nettie (Lillian Gish) promptly die just as the guests arrive. Snooks (Paul Dooley) and Tulip (Carol Burnett) are the parents of the bride, while Buffy (Mia Farrow) is Muffin’s jealous older sister. During the party Buffy lets Dino know that she’s pregnant with his baby, which sends the family into an uproar once word gets out. Meanwhile Mack (Pat McCormick), the cousin of the groom, makes it known that he’s ‘madly in-love’ with Tulip and wishes to have an affair with her. Tulip at first resists, but then devises a scheme where the two can meet in 2-weeks, at a location in Tallahassee, Florida under the ruse that Tulip will be going to visit her sister who lives there.

While director Robert Altman made some great movies and revolutionized movie-making with his over-lapping conversations technique, he did also produce a few duds. Most of them came during the 70’s when he was given too much free rein to make whatever he wanted in however way he wanted to do it, which culminated in a lot of over-indulgence. This one though, which came right in the middle of his down cycle, is one of his better efforts The idea came as an accident as he was tired of being hounded by a reporter asking, while he was still working on finishing up on 3 Women, what his next project would-be and he joked that he was set to ‘film a wedding’, which at the time had come into vogue for people to shoot the weddings of their family members in a home movie style. Later that night, after speaking with the reporter, he partook in a drinking session with the crew of 3 Women, where they discussed the possibilities of making a movie about a wedding where ‘everything would go wrong’ and by the end of the night he had already come-up with an outline for his script.

This film though, like with all of Altman’s movies, does come with its share of detractors. Gene Siskel in particular did not like the characters, who I admit are a cliche of the nouveau riche and too easy a satirical target. He also complained that there was no one likable, which is true, though films where one person in a large group somehow manages to rise-above-the-fray and being morally virtuous when all the rest aren’t, is unrealistic and having an amoral climate such as here where everyone gets dragged down to the same level as everyone else makes more sense.

The edginess of the comedy is dated as well as what was considered ‘pushing-the-envelope’ at the time, like introducing the characters who are secretly gay, smoke marijuana on the sly, have had multiple sex partners, or (gasp) had sex outside of marriage, is no longer even remotely the scandal, even amongst the most conservative, as it once was, so to enjoy the film one must put themselves in that time period to totally appreciate it. With that said, it still works beautifully. It’s amazing, when considering the massive amount of characters and intersecting story-lines, how well it flows and it’s never confusing, nor do you ever lose track of any of the characters, or their issues, even if they’ve not been shown for a while. The humor gets exaggerated just enough for comic effect, but always within the realms of reality, which is what I really enjoyed about it, is that this could easily remind people of their own real-life weddings, and wedding parties, that they’ve been through.

The cast is splendid and perfectly game to the script’s demands with many of them allowed to freely ad-lib. Howard Duff probably gets the most laughs as the chain-drinking doctor of a dubious quality and Viveca Lindfors as a caterer who becomes ill, takes a pill, and then breaks-out into a loud song during the reception. Burnett is superb as a middle-aged housewife looking for more excitement in her life while also juggling the difficulties of raising a promiscuous daughter and Paul Dooley is quite enjoyable as her brash, and never shy to speak-his-mind husband. I also got a kick out of Amy Stryker, who was cast on-the-spot simply because she wore braces and resembles a young Burnett in many ways and was therefore perfect to play her daughter. Though the ultimate scene stealer is Mia Farrow, who although well into her 30’s at the time, looks amazingly still adolescent-like and pulls off the part of a young daughter quite convincingly. She utters very few words, but makes up for it with her shocking topless scene (she looks great) and the bit where she openly tries to count everyone she has slept with to the stunned silence of the others, including her parents, in the room.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 12, 1978

Runtime: 2 Hours 5 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Altman

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD

Melvin and Howard (1980)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Melvin meets Howard Hughes.

The film is based on the true story of Melvin Dummar (Paul Le Mat), who on one night in December, 1967 came upon what he thought was a homeless man (Jason Robards) on the side of the road of a lonely desert highway after he parked his pick-up in order to take a pee. He gives the man, who is banged-up from a motorcycle stunt gone wrong, but who refuses medical attention, a lift and they have a long conversation as he takes the man to the Desert Springs Hotel in Las Vegas. During the trip he admits to being Howard Hughes, who at the time was one of the richest men in the world. Melvin does not believe him initially and goes about his life working odd jobs including that of being a milk man. He lives with his wife Lynda (Mary Steenburgen) and daughter Darcy (Elizabeth Cheshire) in a rundown mobile home, but Lynda leaves him and becomes a stripper. Melvin marries another woman named Bonnie (Pamela Reed), but his financial troubles continue until he receives an envelope stating that he’s been given $156 million from Hughes in his final will and testament. Melvin thinks his struggles are finally over, but they’re just beginning as he must go to court and defend himself from those who feel that the document was a forgery.

The star of this film is Jonathan Demme’s superb direction. He first directed while working under Roger Corman and doing a couple of cheap exploitation/drive-in flicks before branching out on his own with the quirky Citizens Band that had plenty of potential, but didn’t quite gel. This one clicks from beginning to end and helped greatly by the Academy Award winning script by Bo Goldman. I really enjoyed the dry, offbeat humor with the funniest moment being inside the little white chapel when Melvin decides to marry Lynda a second time after she gets pregnant. The scene where Lynda almost gives an elderly man (played by Herbie Faye in his final film appearance), who was acting as a witness to the proceedings, a heart attack when she kisses him after the wedding is over, s hilarious as is Melvin and Lynda working as witnesses to other weddings that go on there and being kissed, sometimes quite sensuously, by the other brides and grooms. The film also shows a good understanding of working class people, showing their struggles in life without ever demeaning them. The on-location shooting in both Utah and Nevada where many of the real-life events happened gives it a nice, gritty feel and look.

While I’ve complained about Paul Le Mat’s acting in some of my other reviews his performance here is perfect in a role he was born to play. He looks very much like the real Melvin Dummar, who can be seen briefly standing behind the counter at a bus terminal, and even more ironically is that now, in the year 2022 with his gray beard and hair that he sports as seen in pics from his twitter account, exactly like Howard Hughes in this film. Steenburgen, who netted the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, is a lot of fun particularly when she strips off her clothes and walks around fully nude in a public bar in a scene that had to be shot 9 different times as she was so nervous doing it. Dabney Coleman, in a small bit near the end, is quite good as the cynical judge, but I was disappointed that Gloria Grahame is given only one word of dialogue. Supposedly she had more lines, but her scenes got cut, but why bother to bring in a famous Academy Award winning actress if you’re not really going to use her?

My complaint comes mainly with the TV game show that Melvin and Lynda enter that works as a talent contest and called ‘Easy Street’. It was meant to be a hybrid of the ‘Gong Show’ and ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ where a contestant does some sort of act showcasing their talents and if the audience is pleased with it the contestant wins a prize by choosing what’s behind one of three doors. The problem here is that it’s made too look too easy as Lynda’s tap dancing should’ve gotten her booed off of the stage instead of cheered. Having them get lucky and win a big prize, $10,000, negates the hardship theme. It doesn’t propel the plot either as Melvin quickly misspends the money and they end up in the exact same situation there were in before with Lynda walking out on him, for a second time, which comes-off as redundant. The satirical elements of the game show isn’t played-up enough and the segment is more surreal than amusing.

I also felt the opening sequence where Melvin picks-up Howard should’ve been saved until the end. In the real-life event there was speculation that Melvin was a part of the ruse as his second wife Bonnie had worked for a magazine called ‘Millionaire’ that had access to Hughes memos and signature and some had felt that she had used this inside knowledge to forge the will, which was rife with spelling errors and other discrepancies. The film though doesn’t bring any of this up and acts like Melvin is totally innocent where as adding in some nuance where the viewer isn’t completely sure if Melvin is complicit could’ve added some interesting intrigue and then having the scene where he picks-up Howard, showing that he was telling the truth after all, be the surprise reveal instead of giving it all away right at the start. The title is also misleading. Makes it seem like it’s going to be some sort of buddy movie when really Howard is in it only at the start and then pretty much disappears.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 19, 1980

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jonathan Demme

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

Rapists at Dawn (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen boys assault women.

Rubiales (Manuel de Benito), Quinto (Daniel Medran), Rafi (Bernard Seray), Cana (Cesar Sanchez) and Cana’s pregnant sister Lagarta (Alicia Orozco) roam the streets of Barcelona, Spain looking for young women to assault. The boys live on the poor side of town and are from abusive home lives with little future except working boring, low paying jobs. Feeling that society has ‘discarded’ them they they take out their hostilities on the pretty women that they meet. They pick their victims at random usually as they spot them getting out of their cars and go walking into their schools many times while in front of the victim’s family member who’ve just dropped them off. They then take the women to an isolated area and proceed to gang rape them while Lagarta acts as the look-out. The police are aware of the crimes, but seem helpless to do much about it. When they catch the boys in the act and try to arrest them the boys manage to escape making them confident that they can’t be stopped.

While films like I Spit on Your Grave and Irreversible get all the attention as being the ‘last word’ in rape movies, this one, if it was better known and more attainable, would trump those. The rapes here are graphic, prolonged and quite violent. Some will complain that it’s exploitative while others will argue that if you’re going to show rape for the violent crime that it truly is then it must be captured in all of its unpleasantness and toning it down for the sake of good taste does a disservice. Personally I found the brutal nature to be effective as I came away feeling really sorry for the victims, as it’s captured in such a real way you can barely see the acting and instead start to consider it more like a graphic documentary.

This movie also handles the aftermath in an interesting way by examining the debilitating effect the crime has on the victim psychologically and how they become like a different person. They’re outgoing and well-adjusted beforehand and then afterwards depressed, angry, and even ashamed. They turn sullen and anti-social to both their friends and family making it seem like they’ll never be the same again. The film also analyzes what happens when one of the women becomes pregnant, something that I don’t remember being touched upon in other rape films, and how the mother of the victim insist, due to religious reasons, that she keep the baby and not abort it, making her seem as cruel as the gang.

The thuggish boys are portrayed in an intriguing multi-dimensional way too. While they’re cocky when out and about they recoil and become like victims themselves when at home and dealing with their abusive fathers. I did like too that in their own twisted way they have ‘limits’ or  a ‘code of morality’ albeit a very weird one. A great example of this is when Lagarta becomes shocked when the boys continue to penetrate one of the victims even after she has clearly died. Normally Lagarta had no problem seeing them violently molest the women, but when one of them actually gets killed during the attack and the boys continue the assault it’s only then that she feels things have ‘gone too far’.

It’s hard to say what genre to put this one into. It’s not really a horror film as none of the women become Rambo-like by packing a big gun and going on a revenge tour against their assailants, which although emotionally satisfying isn’t realistic If anything it brings out how there are no easy answers, which makes it even more horrifying, but still thought provoking.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: May 3, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Ignacio Iquino

Studio: Ignacio Ferres Iquino

Available: DVD-R

Hysterical (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Ghostly witch haunts lighthouse.

While Casper (Bill Hudson) has had success writing racy novels he longs to author something of a serious quality and thus uproots out of New York and drives across the country to Oregon where he takes-up residence in a town called Hellview. It is there that he rents a lighthouse as he feels it’s secluded locale will give him the quiet that he needs to complete his book. However, he’s unaware that the place is haunted by Venetia (Julie Newmar) a woman who committed suicide at the lighthouse 100 years earlier. She now sees this as an opportunity to resurrect Captain Howdy (Richard Kiel) a man she was in-love with, but who she killed when he threatened to dump her and return to his wife. As Casper notices more and more bizarre occurrences happening at his place he requests the services of Dr. Paul Batton (Mark Hudson) and his assistant Fritz (Brett Hudson) to aid him in solving the supernatural mystery.

This was the one and only film to feature the Hudson Brothers, which were a famous teen idol band who rose to fame in 1974 when they were a summer replacement series for the ‘Sonny and Cher Show’ only to get enough good ratings that they were offered their own Saturday morning show ‘The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show’ during the 1974-75 season. The brothers came from humble beginnings born in Portland, Oregon and raised by a single parent mom after their father announced one day, when they were quite small, that he was ‘going out to get some cigarettes’, but then never returned. They formed their band when there were still just kids and first called themselves the My Sirs and then The New Yorkers followed by Everyday Hudson and then just Hudson. Their biggest success came during the mid-70’s where they had a couple of top 40 Billboard hits including ‘So You Are a Star’ and ‘Rendezvous’  though by the end of the decade their fame had significantly faded and their final studio album ‘Damn Those Kids’, which was released in 1980, failed to sell at all.

The fact that these guys were no longer a big act makes is surprising that they would’ve been given the funding to make this film, which was shot in the fall of 1981 as they were clearly on a career decline. The script is credited as being written by the three brothers with help from Jeffrey Ganz who got brought in as a ‘comedy consultant’. The humor derives almost exclusively  as a collection of gags that poke fun of famous scenes from popular horror movies of the day. Unfortunately none of it is funny and results in coming-off as quite cheap and cheesy. It’s also not clear what age group they were going with here as the band, during the 70’s, was quite popular with children and the film does have a lot of silly, cartoon-like bits that they would enjoy, but it’s also laced with stuff more attuned to older adolescence and even one moment that features a topless woman. The special effects are corny and having the victims of Captain Howdy turn into zombies the second they’re killed isn’t very inspired. Since they become zombies after getting axed to death you’d think they’d have obvious flesh wounds and missing limbs, but here they don’t just faces that become pale white and regurgitating the phrase ‘What difference does it make?’ and that’s it.

The film’s only cool moment is when the zombies do a rap song and dance, which is amusing, making me believe this would’ve worked better as a horror musical like Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was surprised too that the brothers never break-out into their old rock routine especially since it’s built into the script that the zombies respond well to music. The brothers don’t even do the film’s opening and closing song, which is instead sung by a female performer named Harriet Schock.

The cast is filled with a lot of familiar character actors, with some of them, like Bud Cort as a lispy mad scientist, doing okay. It’s funny seeing Murray Hamilton playing a mayor who’s reluctant to close the beaches since that’s the exact same role he played in Jaws, but this irony quickly wears thin. Robert Donner, doing a send-up of Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th, where he proclaims “You’re doomed” to everyone he meets gets old real fast. Other actors like Keenan Wynn, who was related to the Hudson family through marriage and appeared here in a small and insignificant role as a favor, gets completely wasted.

Today this film sits in absolute obscurity and deservedly so. The Hudson Brothers themselves, though all still living, are relics of the past as well. Lead singer Bill is probably better known as being married to Goldie Hawn and the father of actors Kate and Oliver Hudson.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: December 22, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 27 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Chris Bearde

Studio: Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD-R

A Tiger’s Tale (1987)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Falling for girlfriend’s mother.

Bubber (C. Thomas Howell) is a high school student who’s dating Shirley (Kelly Preston) yet becomes more interested in Rose (Ann-Margaret) Shirley’s mother. The problem is Rose is an alcoholic and scared of snakes, which Bubber has as a pet and tigers, which Bubber also has as a pet. Despite all this the two slowly hit-it-off while keeping it a secret from the increasingly suspicious Shirley. Eventually she catches them in the act when she sees the two running naked at a drive-in where they tried to make love outside, but got attacked by fire ants. To get revenge Shirley pricks a hole in Rose’s diaphragm, so that she gets pregnant with Bubber’s baby. Bubber though intends to move-in with Rose to help her raise it, but Rose considers an abortion.

It’s impossible to say where this movie goes wrong mainly because it never gets going in the first place. It’s based off of the novel ‘Love and Other Natural Disasters’ by Allen Hannay III, who was paid $80,000 to have the rights to it sold to Vincent Pictures, which was owned and run by Peter Douglas, the third son of Kirk Douglas and brother of Michael. Peter then converted it into a screenplay, but without having read the book I couldn’t help but feel that something got lost in the transition. This is a big problem when novels get turned into movies as films don’t have as much depth to the story and characters as books typically do, which is why most people who enjoyed the story in book form usually end up disappointed when they see it as a movie. The elements are there for something potentially interesting, but Douglas, who also directed, doesn’t have the ability to put it altogether, which is probably a good reason why he’s never written, or directed any movie since.

I liked the setting, filmed in Waller County, Texas, but it doesn’t give the viewer enough feel of the region. Just showing the exterior of the homes and the drive-in isn’t enough. We need to see the town that they live-in in order to understand the characters and learn what makes them tick and the environments they are brought up in can have a lot to do with that, but when that environment gets captured in an ambiguous way, like here, it doesn’t help.

The story seems to want to tap into the themes of The Graduate, but that was a brilliant film and if you can’t top that, or at least equal it, then it’s best not to even try. Ann-Margaret is supposed to be an alcoholic, but we only see her with a drink in her hand at the start and then the rest of the time she seems quite sober. I also didn’t like the way she see-saws between being vampish at one moment and then a mature adult who gets real preachy with Bubber the next. It’s like someone with a split personality who isn’t fleshed-out and the same can be said for Howell’s character too.

There was potential for some funny bits like when Rose goes over to Bubber’s house and tells him she’s really frightened of snakes and then gets undressed and into bed with him. The camera then pans down to show a snake slithering under the covers and I thought this was the beginning of a really hilarious moment, but then the film cuts away. Later on Rose is shown to be comfortable in the presence of Bubber’s snake, but we never witness her transition, which was a missed opportunity for character development.  The scene where Rose and Bubber going running naked at the drive-in is dumb too because apparently only Shirley notices them even though with the screaming that the two were making it would’ve made anyone at the drive-in look-up and not just her.

Even the reliable Charles Durning gets wasted and becomes as dull as the rest. In fact the only thing that  I did enjoy was the tiger. I must commend Howell for being willing to get into a cage with it and stick his hand inside it’s mouth, but I was confused why the tiger is playful one second and then proceeds to try and attack Howell the next. Also, why would Howell want to get back into the animal’s cage later after he almost got his leg bite-off before? Even with that in mind I still felt the tiger was cool, the scene where he kills and eats a pooch of some customers that were just passing through is amusing in a dark sort of way and when he’s eventually set free is the only memorable moment in what is otherwise a misfire.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: August 22, 1987

Runtime: 1 Hour 37 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Peter Douglas

Studio: Vincent Pictures

Available: DVD-R (dvdlady.com)

The Sunday Woman (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Murdered by phallic object.

Based on the novel of the same name by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini, the story centers on the investigation of the murder of Mr. Garrone (Claudio Gora). Garrone is found bludgeoned to death inside his apartment by a giant penis statue. Garrone was a well known architect and a lecherous ladies man who couldn’t help but make unseemly passes at every woman he came by. Commissioner Santamaria (Marcello Mastroianni) is put in charge of the case, which has many suspects. Two of the biggest ones are Anna Carla (Jacqueline Bisset) and her platonic male friend Massimo (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Anna had written a note, found by her hired help the next day, stating her desire to ‘eliminate’ Garrone. Anna, who’s quite wealthy, insists that it was all a innocent misunderstanding and Massimo backs her up, but Massimo, who has an alibi, is reluctant to divulge it because it would require him to admit that he’s gay and at Lello (Aldo Reggiani) his lovers’ house. Santamaria begins looking into other potential suspects as does Lello who wishes to get his boyfriend cleared, but the deeper Santamaria gets into the case the more he connects with Anna and despite their age difference they begin to have a romantic relationship all while she remains at the top of his suspect list.

The film, on the technical end, is well done. Director Luigi Comencini nicely captures the visual beauty of the Italian landscape and the posh older homes of Turin a city in northwest Italy where it was filmed. The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone has a nice bounce that keeps the film moving along even while not a lot is happening. There’s an array of suspects and enough red herrings to keep it intriguing and impossible to guess who’s the true culprit.

The story has its share of offbeat moments though it’s disappointing that the funniest character, Garrone, ends up getting killed as he was amusingly sleazy enough to have kept things consistently comical. While the death by giant penis statue, if memory serves me correctly, had already been used in A Clockwork Orange, it’s still a novel idea and it’s funny how Santamaria visualizes each suspect he meets bashing Garrone over the head with it as he interviews them. Traveling to the shop where the statues are made and being surrounded with hundreds of them is certainly good for a chuckle, but outside of this there wasn’t all that much that stood out, or made this any better than any other murder mystery. The ingredients are good enough to keep sufficient interest, but nothing the makes it really memorable.

I was most disappointed that Bisset wasn’t in it more. She’s fabulous, as she is in most of her movies, and though I suspect that her voice, where she speaks fluent Italian, is dubbed, I still felt she gives a spectacular performance. Mastroianni on the other hand looks tired and worn-out and like his peak years of being a international sex symbol had passed. Yet when he’s together with Bisset it clicks and Jacqueline’s superior acting camouflages their extreme age difference making them seem more like a perfect couple than it should. The two should’ve investigated the case together and become a team, as every second Bisset is not seen it flatlines. Had the two shared the screen this might’ve been special, but ultimately it misses-the-mark and never fully gels.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 16, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 45 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Luigi Comencini

Studio: Fox-Lira

Available: DVD-R (dvdlady.com) (Italian w/English subtitles), Amazon Video (English subtitles)

The Candy Snatchers (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen is buried alive.

Jessie (Tiffany Bolling), her brother Alan (Brad David) and their mutual friend Eddy (Vince Martorano) kidnap 16 year-old Candy (Susan Sennett) on her way home from school and then bury her alive inside a coffin that is connected with a pipe for air. They then call what they think is her father Avery (Ben Piazza), who’s a jeweler, and demand he deliver them jewelry in exchange for her safe return. The problem is that Avery is only her stepfather and has been looking for a way out of his hapless marriage to Candy’s alcoholic mother (Dolores Dorn) for some time. Candy’s set to inherit quite a bit of money once she turns 21, but in the event of her death Avery will receive half of that, so her early demise is something he relishes and therefore he refuses to pay the ransom. To further the complications a toddler named Sean (Christopher Trueblood) secretly sees the three bury Candy and tries his best to get her out and find her help.

This is the rare horror movie where it’s the writing that makes it interesting. Most horror films rely on atmosphere, scares, and gore to make it work, but here it’s the constantly winding scenario that keeps it intriguing. Writer/director Guerdon Trueblood had a background in writing scripts for TV-shows, such as ‘Adam-12′, before he broke into movies and his ability to come-up with clever and unexpected twists is fully evident and if anything it never gets boring.

The story was inspired by the real-life case that occurred on December 17, 1968 when Barbara Jane Mackle, the 20 year-old daughter of a wealthy real estate magnate, was kidnapped by a couple near Duluth, Georgia, who put her inside a fiberglass coffin that had an air pump, a battery powered lamp, and some food and water. They then buried the coffin in a shallow grave and held her for a $500,000 ransom. While there are many differences to the real-life event and the movie the one similarity is that there were unforeseen complications in retrieving the ransom money. The two were eventually caught and Barbara was found alive and freed. She went on to write a book about her experience that was made into a TV-movie entitled ’83 Hours Til Dawn’. Her kidnapper, Gary Steven Krist; also wrote a book about it ‘Life: The Man who Kidnapped Barbara Jane Mackle’.

While the plot is captivating the characters and their backgrounds are quite poor. I did enjoy the casting of Martarano, who got the part because he was a college buddy of  Trueblood’s and who looks like the spitting image of Ernest Borgnine and could’ve easily been either his son, or younger brother. A backstory though to their motives was needed. When did they come-up with this plan and who in the group though it up? Why did they choose this young lady to kidnap as there were hundreds of other kids of rich folks to apprehend, so why this one? Their nervous looking reactions and expressions doesn’t help the tension either because they come-off looking like amateurs in way-over-their-heads that are just waiting to screw-up versus cunning, cold-blooded killers who are a legitimate threat.

I will give actress Susan Sennett, who later went on to marry musician Graham Nash, credit for allowing herself to be put into a tiny box and then allowing dirt to be thrown over it, but her Candy character is too much of a sweet and innocent caricature. She should’ve been well aware that her step father didn’t love her and might not pay the ransom and alluded this to her captors. It’s also hard to believe that living in such a broken-home environment that she’d be so prim and proper. Most teens that come from a bad home-life become rebellious, angry and sometimes even anti-social, which is what she should’ve been more like.

Ben Piazza, who was married to Dolores Dorn in real-life, which is probably why he got the part, is completely miscast. He’s a competent character actor in his other roles, but here he looks too young and with his constantly pouty expression more like a spoiled rich kid straight out of college than a jaded, middle-aged adult. The part should’ve been played by someone looking well into his 50’s with a receding hairline, wrinkled, worn face that could visually give-off the impression of a man run over by the rat race and suburban life and searching for any way out.

Spoiler Alert!

Christopher Trueblood, who was the real-life son of the director, gives an amazing performance when you factor in that he was only 2 when it was shot. However, his inability to say anything, or show any emotion is problem, which keeps the viewer from fully being able to bond with him. The abusive things that his mother, played by Bonnie Boland, says to him is unsettling and the fact that he witnesses a rape is disturbing. I presume that his reaction shots were edited in later and he wasn’t really in the room when the sexual assault was played-out, but still having a kid see that, as the movie implies that his character does, would be very traumatic and make most kids scream and cry, which this one doesn’t. There’s also the issue that his parents both have brown hair while he’s a blonde making it look like he’s not really their kid.

The constantly shifting script goes a bit overboard to the point that it writes itself, no pun intended, into a hole with a ending twist that while being offbeat isn’t very satisfying. The majority of the characters are unlikable and the few that are sympathetic are seen too little. It’s basically a mean movie for the sake of meanness with no other point, or message to it. The ending is a bit confusing as well as we hear a gunshot go off, but don’t know what that represents. If it’s meant to intimate that the kid killed his mother then that’s something we need to see especially since she was such a nasty lady witnessing her going down would’ve been a dark payoff.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 16, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Guerdon Trueblood

Studio: General Film Corporation

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

The Grapes of Death (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Zombies created by pesticide.

The film opens with a shot of immigrants spraying grapes with a pesticide in a vineyard owned and run by Michel (Michel Herval). One of the men (Francois Pasal) complains of a pain on the side of his neck, but Michel insists he keep working and quit complaining. The film then cuts to two women riding inside a train car, one of them is Elisabeth (Marie-Georges Pascal) who’s the fiancee to Michel and coming to visit him. Once the train stops the man from the vineyards complaining of the pain walks onboard and proceeds to kill Brigitte (Evelyne Thomas) who was inside the train bathroom. He then takes a seat in the train car that Elisabeth is in, but once she notices the growing tumor on the side of his neck and then the dead body of her friend she runs screaming off the train. She then finds herself all alone in deserted town where everyone has the same type of tumors growing on their faces and all seem intent on trying to kill her.

This was the first mainstream horror film directed by Jean Rollin and credited as being the first gore film ever to be made in France. Rollin had made several experimental vampire flicks in the early part of the decade, but they had failed to catch-on and lost him a lot of money, which forced him into directing porn movies under the pseudonym of Michel Gentil. By the late 70’s he had made enough money with those that he was ready to jump back into doing another feature film, which for a zombie story is unique as the zombie’s here are fully conscious and well aware of what’s happening to them and kill out of a sense of rage. The film is also, for a horror movie, very quiet lacking the traditional pounding music score and instead has extended moments of near silence especially during the town scenes, which helps accentuate the creepiness.

Rollin hired an Italian production company to do the special effects, which are quite impressive. Normally I’m on here complaining how fake the effects look in most other low budget horrors, but here I was amazed with how realistic they were. The scene where a woman gets stabbed with a pitchfork while lying on a table and then continues to breath with it still in her really looks like the blades went right through her body. Another scene dealing with the decapitation of a nude woman (Mirella Rancelot) and then having one of the zombies carry the head around is one of the most graphic of its type. I did have some issues with the tumor make-up. On the train car where Elisabeth watches it grow on the side of the man’s head was cool, but on the people in the town it starts to look like smeared pizza and I wanted to see a shot of someone that had it all over their face instead just on a little part of it.

While Rollin stated that he admired the acting of his leading lady I felt she was the weakest link. Her fearful expressions and screams are great, but her performance otherwise is one-note. Part of what made Night of the Living Dead so great was the contrasting personalities of the main characters and I felt there needed to be that here. Having the two men (Felix Marten, Serge Marquand) enter near the end of the second act to help Elisabeth fight of the zombies is a great addition, but I had wished they came in sooner. I also didn’t like the way Elisabeth conveniently finds a gun inside the car she has just stolen, which she is able to use in the nick-of-time to shoot the zombies, but what are the odds? The gun should’ve been introduced earlier, perhaps as something she brought along with her at the beginning for her trip, and not just thrown-in haphazardly.

The twist at the end is not satisfying leaving the viewer feeling down and depressed when it’s over when a robust showdown was needed. I felt too that the reason for why the people were turning into zombies, which was the pesticide, should’ve been kept a mystery until the very end. Instead of opening it with the men spraying we should’ve seen the townsfolk going about their day in a normal fashion, which would’ve made a striking contrast to when Elisabeth gets there and they’re all crazy. Maybe a shot of a man spraying in the background behind the people talking could’ve been done as a little hint, or clue, but as it gets done here it’s too obvious when a subtle approach was needed.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 5, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 25 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jean Rollin

Studio: Rush Productions

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

Bloodlust (1976)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Deaf mute craves blood.

A deaf mute, who goes by the nickname Mosquito, (Werner Pochath) works as an accountant during the day, but at night he goes back to his lonely apartment, which is painted all black, and plays with his collection of dolls. He secretly longs for an attractive neighbor girl (Birgit Zamulo), but due to his physical limitations is unable to have a relationship with her. Living with these frustrations as well as the traumatic memories of his father beating him, which directly lead to his loss of hearing and speech, compels him to break into mortuaries at night and drink the blood from the corpses in their coffins. This creates a panic around town about a so-called vampire on-the-loose. When the neighbor girls ends up dying in a tragic accident it drives Mosquito to even darker depths as he then begins killing people and sucking their blood.

While this film has gained a small cult following it really doesn’t seem like all that much to get excited about. It was written and directed by Marijan Vajda, who’s better known as a documentary filmmaker, which is exactly what this comes-off like as the story flounders and the camera more interested in following Mosquito around and seeing what he’ll do versus propelling the plot. The characters are cardboard caricatures with Mosquito’s office co-workers behaving more like cruel adolescents and the neighbor girl seeming like she’s 4 instead of 19. Her accident, where she slips off a roof of a building, should’ve only caused an injury, since it was only 2-stories up instead of an instant death. A far better demise, which would’ve fit-in with its blood theme, would’ve had her perish in a car accident and Mosquito come to seemingly save her, but then when he arrives he instead sucks at the blood from her injuries.

The inside of Mosquito’s apartment doesn’t have enough dolls in it and to make it creepier the room should’ve been lined with shelves of dolls stretching from the ceiling to the floor. The abuse sequence gets equally underplayed as the actor playing the father is clearly softening his kicks at the victim and if anything looks like two guys playfully roughhousing. When Mosquito stabs one of the corpses in the mortuary the body deflates like a tire being slashed and not that a body made of bones. Sucking blood from dead bodies is suspect as well because if they’re put inside a coffin that usually means they’ve been embalmed and the blood drained-out.

Spoiler Alert!

I kept expecting some sort of shocking, horrifying climax to make sitting through the rest of it worth it, but nothing much happens. He does kill two people, a couple sitting in their car making-out, but they die too quickly and not enough blood to look realistic. He also retrieves the dead body of the neighbor girl out of her grave, but then proceeds to basically just kiss and fondle her a bit and that’s it. Even the arrest scene isn’t interesting as the police merely walk-in into Mosquito’s office and put the hand-cuffs on him while he sits at his desk instead of having a big, long chase that could’ve at least given it some excitement.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: November 5, 1976

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Marijan Vajda

Studio: Monarex

Available: DVD (Region 2), Amazon Video 

Torso (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Strangler stalks college students.

Jane (Suzy Kendall) is a British student attending college in Italy where a rash of grisly murders amongst the female coeds is keeping everybody on edge. The killer’s modus operandi is a red and black scarf that he uses to strangle his victims. Jane’s friend Dani (Tina Aumont) fears that the maniac may be Stefano (Roberto Bisacco) a young man who’s been harassing her for a date and won’t seem to take ‘no’ for an answer. To get away from the terror Jane and her girlfriends decide to go to a villa in the countryside, but find that the killer strikes again, in their home, and with Jane hobbled with a sprained ankle, she’s unable to get away and must use her creative wits to escape.

Horror director Eli Roth has hailed this as being his favorite giallo and a major influence to his Hostel movies, but in retrospect it doesn’t have all that much to distinguish it. Despite its lurid title the emphasis is more on the mystery featuring a cast of lonely men who seem to lack quality social skills to go out with women and instead long for them from afar while also harboring dark violent sexual fantasies of what they’d like to do to them if they could, making this more than anything a forerunner to what’s become known as incels (involuntary celibate) today.

Director Sergio Martino captures Perugia, Italy and its many old and scary looking buildings nicely. The build-up to the murders where the victims find themselves alone in a dark,desolate area of the city, or in one instance an isolated forest, are some of the film’s best moments and could’ve been played-up more.

The deaths themselves though are uninteresting. The average time for a person to die from strangulation is 3 minutes and up to 7 to 14 seconds before they’ll pass-out, but the victim here falls over dead after the flimsy scarf is put around her neck for only 3-seconds, which all looks quite fake. The female victims never, ever fight back and just stand, or lie still and scream loudly, but do nothing else. Police will usually look for scratches on suspects as a sign that the victim fought for their life and there will be defensive wounds on the victim’s arms and hands too, so for the victims here not to attempt any physical defense looks rather pathetic. Some may say that back in this era it was considered more ‘tasteful’ to have the killing get over with quickly and watching someone try to fight-off the attacker would be prolonging it too much, but I wondered if this was also an attempt to feed-in to the male fantasy where once a man decides to make his move the females are virtually ‘helpless’ and must just passively accept their fate.

The special effects are threadbare as well. The close-ups of the knife cutting into the victim’s body has a lighter tone of skin color than the full-shots of the victim making it quite obvious that the close-ups are that of a mannequin. The scene where a car’s bumper crushes a man’s skull against a wall looks realistic enough, but then a few seconds later it cuts back to a shot of the victim and his skull is perfectly intact with only some blood running out of his nose even though the previous shot made it look like his head had been busted in half.

Spoiler Alert!

The third act in which Suzy Kendall sleeps through the murders of her friends downstairs and then awakens to find herself alone in the house with the killer still present is the only time it actually gets intense. Having her quietly observe him cutting-up her friend’s limbs is genuinely horrifying and watching her try to come-up with creative ways to escape is intriguing, but then having a male doctor swoop-in and fight-off the killer for her was disappointing as this was her story and she needed to be the one to find a way to take down the killer herself.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: January 4, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sergio Martino

Studio: Interfilm

Available: DVD, Fandor, Tubi