Tag Archives: Movies

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 Money (1976)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kidnapping kids for ransom.

Roland (Graham Beckel) is an out-of-work slacker who’s always looking for the easy-way-out. He’s dating Lucy (Regina Baff) who babysits for Richard (Laurence Luckinbill) and his wife Ellen (Elizabeth Richards). Despite living in a posh neighborhood Richard is having problems of his own. His business isn’t doing well and he needs a loan, but his wife, who does have a large sum stashed away, refuses to give him any financial assistance. When Roland goes with Lucy to look after Richard’s kids (played by the real-life children of the director) he comes up with the idea of kidnapping them for ransom as he mistakenly presumes Richard must be ‘loaded’. Once Richard realizes that his kids have been taken he instructs his wife not to call the police and instead convinces her to take out the money she has in savings to pay for the ransom. Richard though uses this money for the loan while offering Roland only a small portion of it. Roland refuses the offer and the two bicker while the kids remain locked inside a car outside in a parking lot with the temperature nearing a 100 degrees.

The mark of a talented director isn’t how good they are when given a big studio contract and all the money they need, but instead what they can do when on a shoestring budget. Make no mistake this thing on a technical level struggles, but much can be blamed on the extremely poor transfer that’s streaming on Amazon Prime where they apparently found a very grainy video print and made no attempt to clean it up. The result is faded, scratchy, and at certain points even shaky similar to back in the 70’s (if you’re old enough to remember) when a teacher would show a movie in school and film would begin to jump and the image onscreen would get blurry. Fortunately the shaking bit here is only temporary, but Amazon should’ve had better standards before they offer a film up for streaming. Granted it’s nice to see a hard-to-find obscure flick, but at least some effort should’ve been given to restoring it.

Anyways, if you can get past all of this, it does have its share of intriguing elements. I loved the way it captures the Jersey boardwalk scene of the era and juxtaposes between the rich and poor and how both sides seem to be desperate in their own unique ways. There’s no ‘good guy’ here. Everyone is screwed-up and filled with human foibles.  The amusement comes with seeing just how corrupt they can become without totally falling over-the-edge.

Beckel is excellent. This was only is third feature film appearance after debuting in The Paper Chase yet he comes into his own here and exudes the perfect caricature of a down-and-out, irritable young man who wants no part of the system and only looking for ways to cheat it. Luckinbill isn’t as strong and the ultimate confrontation between the two doesn’t work though you do get to see Danny DeVito in an early role as a bartender as well as George Hearn, who later became a big Broadway star in the play ‘Sweeney Todd’, as a bank manager. A young Josh Mostel, who later reunited with the director in the film Stoogemaniahas a really amusing bit as a wheel-of-fortune arcade operator who inadvertently lets down his guard and gets taken advantage of by Beckel.

Spoiler Alert!

What I didn’t like was the ending. The whole film, up until that point, was filled with a lot of delicious twists, but once it gets to the finale it had no idea where to go and falls completely flat. Granted having the kids die in a car from heat stroke would be way too severe for a playful dark comedy, but ultimately there’s no cause and effect. Intriguing ideas get entered in, but then quickly forgotten. At the end everything goes back to normal like everything we watched didn’t have an impact on any of the characters. In a good story the characters are expected to grow and change during the course of a movie and I really didn’t see that here especially with Richard.

Having Beckel act like he had now ‘made it’ simply because he’s got $10,000 in his pocket from the kidnapping was unrealistic. Even if you add in the gold watch and fancy car, which Richard also gives him, it would still not be enough to retire on especially with the way Beckel spends it. I was expecting to see him back in a desperate situation as he was clearly not going to be living high-on-the-hog for that long and having the movie stop while he’s ‘living-it-up’ is a cop-out. It’s also not clear if his girlfriend Lucy was in on the kidnapping plot, or not. During the movie it’s made to seem like she was a victim too as she’s found in the home tied-up, but then at the end she meets Beckel at the fancy hotel he’s staying-at. If she was in cahoots with him the whole time that should’ve, at the conclusion, been better confirmed as just having her show up at the hotel doesn’t mean she was a part of the plan and may have just went there because he told her that’s where he was staying.

Alternate Title: Atlantic City Jackpot

Released: June 10, 1976

Runtime: 1 Hour 28 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Chuck Workman

Studio: Independent-International Pictures

Available: Epix, Amazon Video

The Exorcist: Italian Style (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Mayor’s family becomes possessed.

Mimmo Baldi plays a 10-year-old boy named Luigi who comes upon a small amulet lost in a field while playing soccer with his friends. He puts it into his pocket and then begins to behave in unusual ways including assaulting a young woman he meets while walking home. His father is Pasquale (Lino Banfi) who’s the mayor of the town and running for reelection. He and the rest of the family notice the increasingly odd behavior of their son and decide to call-in a doctor (Gigi Bonos), but when he’s unable to do anything they get desperate and ask for the services of a local demon hunter known as L’Esorciccio (Ciccio Ingrassia) who’s reputed to have an ability to exorcise demons, but in reality is a fraud. When he tries to do a fake exorcism on the child nothing initially happens, but when the amulet falls out-of the child’s pocket and onto the ground the child is considered ‘cured’. However, his older sister Barbara (Barbara Nascimben) then retrieves it and soon begins acting in the same dangerous way. Their father wants to keep this issue as far away from the press as he can for fear it will hurt his reelection chances only for him to eventually come into procession of the amulet himself where his wild and shocking behavior gets put on full display for everyone.

While this film has been seen in a better light in recent years it was considered when it first came-out as ‘the worst movie of all-time’ by the Italian public and lambasted as such even decades later. Ciccio Ingrassia, who was a much beloved comedian, who had been starring in comedy films for the past two decades, became shaken by the response and harsh criticism and vowing he’d never direct another movie again and while he did continue to star in them through the 90’s he kept  to his promise and never directed any others.

It’s hard to say where the film, which is clever at times, went wrong for the moviegoers as the comedy is there if you’re patient. I’ll admit the special effects are scant and not too impressive. The film tries to emulate the classic one of which this is a parody by putting-in most of what that one was known for into this story though it does compromise on some of it. For instance during the exorcism the bed that the girl is on begins to levitate, but the projectile vomit is not done. They do have her spit something at them, but in parody it’s always good to go overboard and the film missed a prime opportunity to do something visually hilarious like drowning the exorcist and his assistant in a mound of green muck that flies out of her mouth, or something to that effect. The swivel head doesn’t get done either, at least not with the girl victim, but instead it’s saved for later when the father becomes possessed, but the effects here look cheap and not believable.

In some ways this is a smart movie as it doesn’t just depend on a barrage of gags to keep it going, but instead creates an actual character driven story where they react to the craziness going on with a befuddled amusement, which to me was the best element. Banfi is very funny as the conniving husband/father who’s convinced that these satanic events are just something that his political opponent (Tano Cimarosa) is behind, so that he’ll lose the election. Ingrassia has his moments too and there were some parts that had me laughing-out-loud though the sped-up running, where the son chases the father around their yard looks cartoonish and should’ve been avoided. The soundtrack is also a problem as it’s blaring and doesn’t give-off a creepy vibe. Even if it’s just parody when it involves a famous horror movie it’s good to at least play along and give a spooky facade to it, which with the music selected here doesn’t do that.

Spoiler Alert!

The wrap-up where seemingly everyone in the town, while attending a public event, becomes possessed, at least for a few minutes, as they randomly pick-up the amulet that gets passed around from one person to another becomes dizzying and silly. Having the story center on the family characters was when it worked and that’s where it should’ve stayed. While certain segments could’ve been played-u more there’s enough here to be enjoyed as long as you accept it as a simple comedy done on a shoestring.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 11, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 39 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Ciccio Ingrassia

Studio: Dear International

Available: DVD-R (dvdlady.com)

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

Horror High (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bullied teen gets revenge.

Vernon Potts (Pat Cardi) is a geeky teen tormented by the jocks and teachers and who’s only solace is his pet guinea pig that he keeps in a cage at his school’s science lab. However, the cat owned by the school’s janitor Mr. Griggs (Jeff Alexander) keeps trying to get its paws on the rodent and Vernon is forced to constantly have to scare it away, which annoys Griggs as he sees this as harassing his pet. One night Vernon comes to the lab to find that the cat has gotten into the cage and injured the guinea pig while also toppling over a bottle of lab formula. While Vernon is removing the cat Griggs enters and attacks Vernon for what he thinks was intentionally injuring his pet. He also forces Vernon to ingest the spilled liquid, which turns him into a homicidal monster where he then proceeds to kill all those that have wronged him.

Up front this should’ve been a movie that got a bad rating. The film stock, even after blu-ray restoration, is quite grainy and faded with the technical aspects being not much better than a home movie. The script by J.D. Fiegelson, whose best known work is the creepy TV-movie ‘Dark Night of the Scarecrow’, is awkward mix of Willard and ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ that has all the predictable cliches and adds nothing new to the mix. However, I still found myself strangely captivated and never bored even during the slow spots.

Part of why it works is that it’s reenactment of student life is quite accurate. Many movies have attempted to show the high school experience, but many either underplay, or overplay it and rarely get it just right, but this is one hits-the-bullseye. Virtually the entire thing gets filmed inside the school with only a few short scenes done outside of it. Normally I’d consider this problematic as it makes the characters one-dimensional since we only see them in one type of setting, but here it clicks. I’m not sure if the lack of variety for the settings was intentional, or because of economic restraints as this was clearly done on a shoestring, but like with Heathers, it symbolizes how with teens the high school is their entire world and what happens outside of is ignored and not considered important.

The special effects are surprisingly gory and this film initially suffered an X-rating because of it. While there are a few jump cuts particularly with Vernon’s attack on Griggs, the killings look overall realistic and quite bloody though it seemed strange to have classes continue with students attending them like everything is normal even as the murders of the faculty mount and become more grizzly. Today classes would be halted, grief counselors sent in, as students immediately removed by their panicked parents. The only thing on the effects end that isn’t impressive is when Vernon turns into the monster where we never see his face, which remains shadowy and may seem like a cop-out to some, but in some way makes it scarier because the viewer is required to use their imagination to fill-in how he may look when in the monster form.

The type of victims are unique too as it isn’t just spoiled, good-looking teens that get offed like in so many other slashers. Here, it’s older teachers as in the case of Mrs. Grindstaff, which is played by Joye Hash, who was apparently only in her early 40’s at the time, but looks much more like she was in her 60’s and even pushing 70. Muscular Dallas Cowboys great John Niland, who plays the gym coach and also another of the victims, also goes against type, as very rarely are big, tough guys a part of the body count and he gets just as frightened and just as severely hacked-up, as if he were a blonde, bikini-clad young women.

Pat Cardi, who was a famous child actor on TV-shows during the 60’s including in the classic episode of The Fugitive’ series entitled ‘In a Plain Brown Wrapper’ which was one of the first shows ever in TV history to advocate for gun safety, is excellent and looking effectively scrawny. This marked his very last acting performance to date as he left the business and went on to create MovieFone an app that lists movie information and showtimes. Austin Stoker also gives an energetic performance as the police investigator and it’s great seeing an African American playing a prominent role in what was otherwise an all white cast. The men who made-up his police staff were players from the Dallas Cowboys squad including future hall of famer Craig Morton.

While the film doesn’t offer anything new it does successfully deliver-the-goods on a horror level, which will most likely be enjoyed by gorehounds into B-slashers.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 20, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 25 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Larry N. Stouffer

Studio: Crown International Pictures

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

Evil Town (1987)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Old people kidnap travelers.

Chris and Julie (James Keach, Michele Marsh) along with another couple (Robert Walker Jr., Doria Cook-Nelson) are traveling through rural California from Los Angeles when they begin to have car trouble and stop-off at a rundown gas station in a small town. Earl (E.J. Andre), the old man who runs the station, inspects the vehicle and tells them it’s a water pump issue that will take at least a day to repair. Since it’s late at night he and his wife Mildred (Lurene Tuttle) offer them their spares room to sleep over in, but the couples decide they’d rather camp-out. However, they become harassed by unknown peepers, so when that car is found to have even more issues the next day and forced to spend yet another night there, they agree to stay at the elderly couple’s home. It is here that they get fed a poison that knocks them-out and they are then taken to a nearby hospital run by Dr. Schaeffer (Dean Jagger) who needs bodies of young people in order to conduct his experiments on the aging process.

This film is a great example of how funding is so crucial to a production and once it runs out there isn’t much else to do. Filming began under the working title ‘God Bless Grandma and Grandpa’ in the fall of 1973 in Mendocino, California and was directed by the talented Curtis Hanson, but money ran out before they could shoot the ending. In 1977 a different production company bought the unfinished footage and tried to market it as a movie under the title Dr. Shagetz, but with no real ending it failed to catch-on and the entire thing fell into obscurity. Then in 1984 another independent studio bought the lost footage and attempted to again redistribute it, but this time by adding in new footage, which they hoped to edit around the old footage in an effort to make it seem like a complete movie and then ultimately released to select theaters on June 2, 1987.

Unfortunately by the time they were ready to shoot the new stuff many of the elderly actors from the original were already dead, or to old at that point to perform. The four younger stars who made-up the two couples had no interest going back to finish shooting a movie the had long ago forgot about. This resulted in new actors getting hired to play both the roles of the protagonists and the bad-guys and while it’s edited in a way to make it seem like the new stars are interacting with the old ones from the lost footage it’s quite clear that they really aren’t and whole thing ultimately comes-off as two bad movies compressed into one really lousy one.

The story idea I liked and has definite similarities with Homebodies that also featured old people as the killers. There are a few good moments like having the actions scenes done in slow-motion and Keach forced to fight-off the old people who attack him by jumping on him one after the other. The scene where he gets surrounded by a group of chanting old folks while trapped in an old, nonoperational car isn’t bad either, but the pacing is slow and takes too long to get going.  The added footage is highly exploitative and basically consists of Playboy Playmate Lynda Wiesmeier running around topless in the night as she tries to avoid two killers.

Jagger, who was clearly at the tail-end of his long career, which at one point featured winning an Academy Award in 1949 for best supporting actor, gives an interesting performance. His shiny bald head along with the shaded glasses he wears gives him a creepy look and the odd speech pattern that he uses here make him seem genuinely menacing. Had the story stayed focused solely on him and had the original production been better funded and retained the first director this thing might’ve had a chance and even cult potential, but the way it is now it’s just a sad curio showing what might’ve been.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: June 2, 1987

Runtime: 1 Hour 22 Minutes

Director: Curtis Hanson (70’s footage), Mardi Rustam (80’s footage)

Rated R

Studio: Trans World Entertainment

Available: Blu-ray

Deadly Games (1989)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kid versus Santa Claus.

Thomas (Alain Lalanne) is a 10-year-old who’s a wiz with computers and technology. Not only has he set various booby traps throughout the large mansion that he lives in with his mother (Brigitte Fossey), but he can fix cars and even drive them. Despite being super smart he still believes in Santa Claus while his friend Pilou (Stephane Legros) tries to convince him that he isn’t real. Thomas goes on the computer in an attempt to communicate with Santa, but instead gets a vagrant (Patrick Floersheim) on the other end pretending to be the jolly red fellow. He gets Thomas to give out his address and also reveal that his mother is a rich corporate CEO. The vagrant goes to his mother’s company and gets a job as a Santa, but is soon fired by her when he slaps a child. In revenge the vagrant, still in his Santa costume, goes to Thomas’ house where he plans to kill him, but Thomas uses his technical ingenuity to set a trap.

The film is an unusual hybrid between playful children’s comedy, a holiday film, and a slasher horror, which only could’ve been made in France where filmmakers aren’t under a repressive studio system that forces all scripts to conform to a cookie-cutter formula and here allows them to deviate between genres. Many have labeled this the original Home Alone and in-fact writer/director Rene Manzor threatened to sue John Hughes, who had directed the other one, insisting that he had essentially remade his film without permission. There are though quite a few differences between the movies to the extent that I didn’t think it was an unauthorized remake at all. If anything it reminded me more of another French classic Le Joutabout a rich kid living in a big place with a wide assortment of toys. This is also the best of the killer Santa movies as You Better Watch Out and Silent Night, Deadly Night took themselves too seriously while this one has a playful edge that manages to be both amusing and tense.

The kid certainly has an engaging quality and his love for his elderly grandfather (Louis Ducreux) is quite endearing, but he’s also just a bit too smart. I was okay with him being keen on the gadgetry, but having him get underneath a car and able to not only fix it, but also drive it was going too far. I wasn’t sure that a 10-year-old could reach the pedals with his feet and still be able to see over the dashboard. Part of what makes horror movies intense is having a victim appear vulnerable, but right away with the kid being so incredibly ingenious it makes the odds stacked against the killer and thus their cat-and-mouse game not as intriguing. I also really couldn’t stand the kid’s mullet haircut.

The home is over-the-top as well. It gets referred to as a mansion, but really seems more like a castle that’s bigger than anything I’ve seen anyone else, even the billionaires and celebrities, reside in. It doesn’t even seem like a real place, but instead, in certain shots, a miniature model and at other points a painting. All the secret rooms gets a bit dizzying including the hidden one that can be entered via an old refrigerator (are they really expecting us to believe that a 10-year-old kid, no matter how smart he is, could build that?). Another moment has Thomas getting trapped inside a life sized maze, but who the hell would take the time and effort to build a maze in their very own home, which again ends up getting too creative for its own good and negates the tension instead of enhancing it.

The Santa character is a boring. Usually horror movies make an effort to give the psycho, whether it’s through flashback or dialogue, some sort-of backstory, but here this guy pops-up without any idea of who he is, where he’s from, or why he’s so crazy. There’s also a few segments where he gets caught in a trap, like when he falls through a trap door and stuck in a net, but no shot showing how he got out of the predicament. Seeing how he gets himself out should’ve been shown each time (it’s shown in a few scenarios, but not all) in order to make the plot seem more reality based and less cartoonish.

Overall, despite the over-direction, it’s still a fun, wild ride that could be enjoyed by the whole family. It does get a bit intense at times, but the quick-thinking kid always seems to be pretty much in-control. Outside of the pet dog getting stabbed none of the other killings are seen and only the feet of the dead bodies are captured on camera to represent their demise, which should make it palatable for most kids to sit through without having nightmares afterwards.

Alternate Titles: 36.15 code Pere Noel, Game Over

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 18, 1989

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Rene Manzor

Studio: Deal

Available: DVD-R (dvdlady.com)

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