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Reviews

Il figlio dello sceicco
(1962)

Obscure Gordon Scott feature
This film is rarely listed in reference books or Movie guides, but is an excellent example of the sword and sandal genre & an interesting entry in Scott's filmography.

Even the IMDb does not list this title in an English version, but a dubbed and anglicized version is in circulation, if you hunt around long enough.

For those of you who are interested in seeing this film, a copy is available @ Movieflix.com (membership required), although the print available (listed on the site as "Son of the Sheik", with no mention of Gordon Scott as its star) is smeary, with poor sound and super-imposed foreign subtitles.

Its availability on MOVIEFLIX is a slightly better option than never seeing it, but not much.

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
(2000)

Stretches the Limits of PG-13 Rating!
This picture is a crass and obnoxious misfire from Murphy, primarily due to it's unbelievably undeserved PG-13 rating. Laced with profanity, sexual innuendo and bathroom humor, you have to wonder if anyone from the ratings board was awake when this film was screened. If they think this type of fare is appropriate for young teenagers, they must live on another planet. Of course, if it had been rated "R", perhaps my opinion would be different: Murphy is often at his funniest when he's profane & irreverant, but that's for my adult sensibilities, not for those of pre-pubescent or (just barely) post-pubescent sensibilities. Murphy should know better (and has shown better judgement with the "Dr. DoLittle" pics) than to pander this kind of junk to kids.

All that notwithstanding, Murphy again essays multiple roles (under tons of Makeup) as nearly every member of the Klump family. Murphy has already worn more makeup than Boris Karloff ever did in his whole lifetime, so he must enjoy it. Tech credits are good as Murphy appears with Murphy, Murphy and Murphy in umpteen scenes, proving that split screen has been adequately exceeded with digital replacement.

Half-witted plot has professor Klump developing a youth serum, while dealing with the personal inner demons of his "Buddy Love" personna (see first movie for more details). Klump, constantly embarrased by subliminal impulses from his "Buddy" personna, isolates & extracts the Buddy Love DNA, which later spills onto the laboratory pet dog, resulting in an incomprehensible reincarnation of Buddy in human form (but with latent doggy traits). Buddy is intent on stealing the youth formula. and a race ensues to see who can complete the deal, with several dilemmas thrown in along the way. Looks like the sreenwriters swiped a few ideas from early Star Trek episodes (see "The Enemy Within").

Never mind what happens next. Change the channel. And definitely avoid the "Uncensored Director's Cut"; it just makes a bad movie worse.

Coriolano eroe senza patria
(1964)

They don't show these on TV anymore....
"Coriolanus, Hero Without A Country" boasts former Tarzan, Gordon Scott, in the titular role of a soldier and "Man of War", who, thanks to the machinations of traitorous politicians within the Roman Senate, abandons his post as a Roman defender and join forces with an opposing faction in order to expose his (and Rome's) enemies.

Pic is far from the best example of Italian-made peplums, so popular in the early 60's. Although there are plenty of costumed extras employed to give battle scenes some sense of scale, the scenes detailing the plot-driven political intrigue plod along at a lethargic pace and are difficult to sit through.

Scott, a frequent star in these types of films, gets little opportunity to show off his physique (as he so often did, playing Goliath or Samson or Tarzan), herein confined to a Centurion's raiment throughout. The rest of the Italian cast is non-descript, with little but the familiar dubbing voices to listen for.

The most commonly available print, from Sinister Cinema, suffers from extremely faded color and poor contrast (AND WILL SOON BE DISCONTINUED FROM THEIR CATALOG)and should be avoided.

Subspecies: The Awakening
(1998)

Another Full Moon Sequel to a sequel (ad infinitum)!
"Subspecies IV: Bloodstorm" is yet another Charles Band production that unfortunately fails to deliver the goods. Journeyman director Ted Nicoleau fails to generate any suspense, let alone interest, in this uninvolving variation on well-worn Vampire themes, despite the advantage of authentic "Old-World" locations and morbidly Gothic set designs.

Vampire King Radu Vladislas (Hove) survives (albeit, without much explanation) being staked and burned to a crisp (at the conclusion of part three, which forms the opening scene of this latest episode), and renews the search for Michelle, his fledgling vampiric initiate (Duff), who's been placed in a hospital with hopes of kicking her blood addiction. Her Doctor is a vampire, too, who seems to keep his bloodlust somewhat in check.

Radu journeys to Budapest in search of Michelle and moves in with his former protege, Ash (Morris), whose exploits were recounted in the equally boring Full Moon release, "Vampire Journals". Ash is put out with the Master's intrusion and begins plotting to eliminate his uninvited houseguest. This sets up a three way battle for possession of the Bloodstone (the vampire doc wants it, too), an arcane artifact that dispenses an elixir good for vampires., with Michelle played as a pawn between the 3 bloodsucking protaganists.

There's plenty of bloodletting, but little atmosphere or even shocks. Pic is decidedly unscary and fails to deliver even a modicum of thrills. One wonders what some of the great Italian directors from the 60's (Bava, Freda) could have done with this material. Certainly, they would have established a creepier mood, a must for effective vampire flicks.

One bright spot is that the film looks & plays infinitely better than much of the Grade Z junk that Band usually releases. Small praise, but at least it's something.

Joko invoca Dio... e muori
(1968)

Standard Spaghetti - O(ater)!
"Vengeance", an Arlington International Pictures release, now getting a second life via a new Image DVD, is a routine Spaghetti western revolving around an outlaw's quest for revenge against gang members who've betrayed him and killed his partner.

Rocco (star Richard Harrison, veteran of many an Italian Peplum and Western) is one of the gold thieves left holding an empty bag. Arriving too late to avert the death of his young partner, Richie (who is drawn & quartered in the film's prologue), Rocco systematically criss-crosses the countryside, looking to kill each of his 5 ex-trail buddies and get back his share of the gold. He's followed most of the way by a bounty hunter hired to retrieve the stolen gold, but who takes to acting as Rocco's guardian angel whenever the odds are stacked against Rocco's favor.

Harrison is appropriately laconic (much like Clint Eastwood as the famed "Man with No Name") in pursuit of his single-minded purpose. The rest of the Italian and Spanish cast capably perform their stock roles with a minimum of distraction. Much of the cast mouth their dialogue in English, which makes for less atrocious dubbing than usual for this type of fare.

DVD is letterboxed and print shows some minor wear & tear, but overall, it looks to be in decent shape. Definitely worth a viewing for fans of the genre.

Combat Shock
(1984)

Stark urban nightmare!
"Combat Shock' differs from most Troma releases it that it is not "intentionally" cheap and idiotic (a la "A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell" to name but one, of many). Filmed amidst the squalor of inner city slums, and admittedly mounted with an ultra-low budget, this initial film of Director Buddy Giovinazzo is a stark portrait of urban poverty and hopelessness that is both repellent and somehow, captivating, despite the amateurish thesping & technical execution.

Definitely not a film for everyone, this picture paints a bleak portrait of a veteran GI and former POW, Frankie Dunlan (played by Rick Giovinazzo, brother of the Director), whose memories of his experiences in Viet-Nam have left him functionally deficient upon his return to civilian life. Incapable of holding a job, but saddled with the responsibilities of supporting a wife and deformed child ( a side effect of his Agent-Orange exposure), Frankie awakens each day to a dead-end future, with no perceivable way out. He eventually comes to grips with his hopeless situation in a stark and shocking climax.

This film will never win any acting awards, but the overall milieu is realistically captured and the final effect is powerful, albeit depressing in the extreme.

Worth viewing (particularly via the Troma DVD, released in '98), despite the production drawbacks. And kudos to Troma for being the (only) apparent distribution firm willing to release this film. Troma also recently rescued Dario Argento's "The Stendahl Syndrome" from distribution limbo, so despite Lloyd Kaufman's (Troma topliner and tacit "official" spokesman)outright pandering to the video market's lowest (and I mean lowest) common denominator, he proves that, at least once in a while, he has some genuine "Taste".

Die Screaming Marianne
(1971)

Not much to recommend here!
Pic is routine in all respects and a real timewaster! Marketed as a horror film, it's nothing more than a boring tale of a dysfunctional family trying to lay their mitts on a numbered Swiss Bank account containing incriminating documents, along with a sizeable amount of cash. Poor Marianne is about to inherit this stash on her 21st birthday, but her father and sister want to grab it from her. Nothing horrific (nor even interesting) here.

The cast is decidedly drab and unattractive (even toplined Susan George is unflatteringly photographed)and performances are strictly of the stock variety. Potentially interesting Portuguese scenery is also wasted by the pedestrian set-ups employed by helmer Pete Walker.

Director Walker made a few mildly interesting films ("House of Whipcord", "Frightmare") along with a goodly amount of dreck. Thankfully he retired in '82, saving viewers from further boredom.

The Astounding She-Monster
(1957)

Luminescent Lunacy!
It's amazing to me how films this poor continue to have a commercial life, but the recent DVD release of this Bomb just proves that some people will watch anything (like me, unfortunately)!

Produced on the cheap (maybe a couple of week's worth of a kid's school lunch money), pic features a mysterious, glowing Alien female (Shirley Kilpatrick) whose radioactive touch brings instant death. Miss Astounding gets mixed up with some kidnappers (led by Kenne Duncan) and their victims on a secluded mountain range and gradually picks them off one by one until vanquished by a stalwart geologist (Robert Clarke). Ridiculous denouement suggests that our title monster was sent to Earth as an Emissary of peace. You could have fooled me.

Production values are strictly from hunger and the film has the amateurish look of a home movie. Poorly edited and with horrible sound, it's a chore to sit through. Although music is credited to an individual, the soundtrack sounds more like a collection of poorly matched library music cues.

This flick started the downward spiral of Clarke's movie career, which reached it's nadir with a string of films with world class hack Jerry Warren. Warren no doubt used this production as inspiration for his "ouerve". Movies of this type have garnered a reputation for being "So Bad, they're good!". This one's just plain bad.

The Beast of Yucca Flats
(1961)

Hilariously bad! But then, you knew that!
Ridiculous "non-movie" has little, if anything, going for it and survives as a curiosity piece only. Had to have played in the 4:00 AM slot at the "Dusk-to-Dawn" Drive-In show (if it played anywhere at all), and you know what everyone was doing by that time. So, who has seen it, apart from video junkies, like yours truly?

Tor Johnson (former wrestler known as "The Swedish Angel", whose thespic claim to fame was playing a mindless character named Lobo in films such as "Bride of the Monster","The Unearthly" and "Revenge of the Dead", plus other, equally witless parts) stumbles through this mess as "The Beast", a gentle Soviet scientist turned into a savage killer by exposure to an atomic blast. Suffice it to say, an actor he ain't. Then again, neither is anyone else in the cast. In fact, there isn't a professional of any type (unless "buffoon" is a profession) connected with this turkey. Best thing about the flick is it's less than an hour long (although it seems a lot longer).

Print available on DVD (from the "Wade Williams" collection) is excellent,though - crisp, clean; looks like new!! Rent or buy for your next slumber party.

Le tre spade di Zorro
(1963)

Lower rung Zorro!
"The Three Swords of Zorro" has resurfaced recently from well deserved obscurity, thanks to a public domain DVD release. The DVD itself sets new standards for "Low-tech" as it looks as though it was recorded from an EP VHS playback, with pathetic sound recording.

Guy Stockwell (brother of Dean) portrays the title character, orphaned son of the original Zorro (Dad's been rotting in jail for the last 15 years, and doesn't know that his abandoned son has taken up the mantle of "Defender of the oppressed"). Zorro defends the local peasantry from the evil governor's oppression, re-discovers his real father is jail and frees him and sends the corrupt Governor and his cronies to the hoosegow in the film's brief running time. He get's the girl, too!

One of the many European action flicks to flood theatres and American TV in the early 60's, "The Three Swords of Zorro" pales in comparison to more the more mainstream Zorro outings produced before and after. Tyrone Power, Antonio Banderas (and even Guy Williams) fared much better than poor Stockwell in establishing the legendary status of this famed fictional hero of Old California.

Good for a few laughs!

The Killer Eye
(1999)

Moronic, Non-movie!
"The Killer Eye", yet another pathetic, amateurish time-waster produced by Full Moon Pictures, easily lands at the bottle of their overflowing barrel of BAD MOVIES. The best way to describe it is "hopeless". Running a scant 67 minutes, it is still padded by at least a half hour.

The "plot" has something to do with experiments in the 8th dimension, which result in a teenager's eyeball expanding into the 5' tall title creature. The oversize Orb spends the rest of the movie's running time scurrying along the heat ducts of an apartment building, searching for energy and a little sex on the side.

Only redeeming feature is the title sequence, which is rather inventive and alluring. Too bad the rest of the movie is junk!

Funny Man
(1994)

Half-witted, half-jester, half-demon!
A British record producer wins the ancestral home of a mysterious white suited stranger (Christopher Lee) in a high stakes card game. When he visits the old mansion with his family, he (along with a busload of oddballs who arrive shortly thereafter) are beset by a demonic jester, who systematically eliminates them in a variety of brutal (but apparently edited) setpieces.

The film is nearly incomprehensible and poorly mounted. The cockney accents employed by much of the cast leaves many of their lines unintelligible for all but native Brits. The title character seems to be an ill-fated stab at creating a "Freddy Krueger" type protaganist, but the results leave much to be desired.

Christopher Lee appears in yet another pointless cameo role. It's curious as to why he would lend his talents to this poorly conceived material. Once a leading man in horror films, Lee rarely pops up for more than 5 minutes in most of his appearances in the 90's. Apart from the opening card game scene, his contributions amount to hardly much more than a few insert shots that do nothing to advance what little plot there is. If you're a fan, however, stick around for the credits to hear him singing a portion of the "Funny Man" theme song.

Il ratto delle sabine
(1961)

Early Italian Love Nest
Roger Moore (of "The Saint" and 007 fame) toplines this all but forgotten Sword and Sandal excursion, assaying the role of Romulus, the founder of Rome. As King, his mission is to find women for his ragtag (and nearly 100% male) congregation of Roman "citizens".

So what does he do? He sets his sites on a vestal virgin from nearly Sabinia, along with as many unattached women he can round up. Successful in corraling an army of lasses, he presides over their pairing off with his host of horny men (this is where the raping starts, I guess, although most of the captured women seem happy with the prospect of hitting the sack in no time flat with their new mates).

But the men of Sabinia, deprived of their wenches, mount an attack against Rome to rescue the damsels, leading to a conflagration of swordplay as the film winds it's way towards conclusion.

Yet another poorly dubbed Italian Peblum, one of hundreds produced in the late 50's and early 60's in the wake of the success of "Hercules" starring Steve Reeves. This one is mostly bereft of action, replaced instead with much wooing and pseudo lovemaking. Several of the ladies appear quite fetching, however, as their bosoms heave with desire in their low cut frocks.

Not much to recommend it, other than the guilty pleasure of watching a future James Bond, in his salad days, slumming about the Italian countryside.

Psychomania
(1973)

Another Dog!
Screen this one along with "Werewolves on Wheels" for a truly ludicrous double bill of mind numbing proportions.

A motorcycle gang, led by rich snot Nicky Henson, commit suicide and return as "The Living Dead" (which, "wittily", is also the name of their gang), thanks to the magical powers invoked by Sanders "Frog cult". The gang then spends the better part of the film's running time playing chicken with various and sundry motorists and pedestrians, a pastime that they plan on pursuing for all eternity (which proves that they were Brain-Dead before becoming Un-Dead).

The gang gets there comeuppance at the end when a frog cult ritual turns them to stone, a condition already afflicting unlucky viewers.

The film makes no sense. I thought, perhaps, I should look at it again to see if I missed something, but common sense prevailed.

Maciste nelle miniere del re Salomone
(1964)

Muscleman to the Rescue!
"Maciste in King Solomon's Mines", as this film is known (although just barely) in the states, is another in the long line of sword and sandal "epics" churned out in Italy in the wake of the hugely successful Hercules films starring Steve Reeves.

Toplined by Reg Park (whose claim to fame is that he's brawnier than most of the other so-called "musclemen" who played Hercules, Goliath, Maciste, etc. - it certainly isn't his acting, which is atrocious and seemingly dubbed by himself or some equally erudite ex-high school football hero), it's the story of a mythic hero of the people, summoned to the jungle city of Zimba to free the oppressed masses, who have been enslaved by the evil Queen Fazira to dig gold (and more gold) from the legendary mines of King Solomon.

Once Maciste arrives in the city, he is overpowered by Fazira's personal guard and bewitched with a magical ankle bracelet, which causes him to lose his free will, relegating him to servitude in the mines. Soon (but not soon enough), he is freed from his mind-numbing paralysis and exacts his revenge upon Fazira & her minions & co-conspirators, frees the slaves and installs his friend as the new ruler in an energetic finale.

Having accomplished a job, well done, he walks off into the veldt, awaiting his next adventure.

I admit I like this stuff (I grew up watching hundreds of such "gladiator" pictures, or peblums, as they are also known)), but this opus is not one of the best examples of the genre. Filmed in South Africa, the film makes little use of the scenery other than to pad the running time with a variety of nature shots. It's for "early 60's" nostalgia buffs & die-hard fans of the genre.

These types of films are virtually unshown on TV today (except for an occasional airing on the TNT network). The version I saw, obtained from a PD video company, has severely washed-out color and is not nearly worth the investment.

Resurrection
(1999)

Serial Killer, Part 135
"Resurrection" is another in a long line of "police procedurals", this time involving the search for a serial-killing biblical fanatic who has concocted a psychotic plan to resurrect Christ. This picture shares a number of similarities with "Se7en", in terms of plot construction but particularly in the way the grotesque aftermath of each murder is lovingly photographed (by the way, the killer is collecting body parts - an arm here, a leg there).

There are several interesting plot twists. The rest of the time is spent exploring the usual cop-movie cliches: the lead detective's a moody loner; his partner is severely injured: the captain wants to take him off the case, etc., ad nauseum.

Amazingly, the somnambulant star, Christopher Lambert, continues to work steadily, receiving role after role even though it has been proven on more than one occasion that he hasn't a clue when it comes to giving a performance. Unfortunately, he doesn't deviate from his prior track record in this film, either.

Hopefully, Mulcahy's latest film, "Talos, The Mummy" will actually get a release, instead of going direct-to-video, as this picture did.

Tian can di que
(1979)

Psychotronic Kung Fu!
"The Crippled Masters" qualifies as one of the weirdest entries in the Kung Fu genre, which was so popular in urban grindhouses in the early to mid-70's. Despite the 1984 copyright date, this curiosity obviously was filmed at least 10 years earlier & no doubt played a rat infested, inner city theater or two.

No actors or technicians are credited on the New Line print in circulation, but longtime fans will obviously spot some genre vets in supporting roles. The actually crippled "stars" (an armless man and his near-legless partner)probably made this one picture & then faded into obscurity.

A secret Kung Fu society banishes one of its members, but not before cutting of the poor unfortunate fellow's arms. Soon, the individual who presided over this cruel punishment is, himself, banished, suffering an acid bath that nearly disintegrates his legs. Improbably, they end up as partners under the tutelage of an ancient, alcoholic-looking "master" who teaches them kung fu, to help them to exact revenge on the leader of the secret society who ordered their mutilations.

Also figuring into the plot is the search for the "8 Jade Horses", statuettes that imbue "one who understands" with great kung fu powers. Each side wants them, including a "government" investigator sent to find them. This sets the stage for several interminable and amateurish "chop-socky" set pieces as the film lunges and kicks towards its conclusion.

As usual, the dubbing of this Hong Kong production is atrocious and the sound effects accompanying the various blows sound like those of a poorly produced video game. The chief interest of this film is it's sheer "political incorrectness", as it exploits the humiliations experienced by the poor unfortunate cripples cast in the lead roles.

Sadistically sick, but in a cheesy sort of way, it's a definite guilty pleasure. Best viewed with a cold six pack handy!

Gods and Monsters
(1998)

Fictionalized last days of a Forgotten Hollywood Director!
Ian McKellen gives an exceptional performance as forgotten film director James Whale in the SHOWTIME production "Gods & Monsters". Whale, the eccentric auteur of the original "Frankenstein" and its sequel "Bride of Frankenstein" along with several other pictures from Universal Studio's Golden Age, committed suicide in the late 50's, having spent much of his last 20 years in quiet obscurity. This film fictionalizes his last days and speculates on the whys and wherefores of his demise.

McKellen's Whale is now a far cry from the creative force that dominated the Universal lot in the early 30's. Alone, friendless (except for his dutiful housekeeper, played by Lynn Redgrave)& suffering from the effects of a stroke and depression, he longs to end it all and concocts an elaborate scheme to incite his lawn man (Brendan Fraser) "to kill him" to put him out of his misery.

The performances by all are uniformly excellent. Whale's openly gay lifestyle (perhaps the real reason for his near total ostracism from the Hollywood mainstream of the late 30's and 40's)is "prominently thrust" to the forefront throughout & McKellen exploits the "Queenish" elements of his portrayal with perfection.

While fictional,the plot line and character interaction remains believable and plausible; a sad & lonely end to a life of great promise.

An added bonus are the nostalgic flashbacks of Whale at his creative zenith, directing the now classic "Bride of Frankenstein". The parallels of the misbegotten monster's poor fortunes and those of Whale in his later life seem intertwined, as if Whale was predicting his own lonely future.

Well made all around and well deserving of its many accolades and awards.

Night of Terror
(1933)

Musty, Old, Dark House "Thriller"
Bela Lugosi once again dons a turban (easily his favorite movie headgear) for a cliched turn as Degar, sinister Hindu servant of a well-to-do but overly disfuntional family, in "Night Of Terror", a seldom seen, quasi-horror thriller from Columbia studios. Although top-billed, Lugosi is mired in an undistinctive supporting role, which calls for him to skulk around, look mysteriously sinister and discover a freshly murdered corpse every 10 minutes or so. Still, he provides the ONLY reason to watch this movie.

A maniac killer on the loose is blamed for a series of murders, but it's pretty obvious that one of the family members is the true fiend, plotting to control a family inheritance. Spooky elements are sprinkled throughout; secret passages, a seance, a suspended animation experiment that requires a man to be buried alive, not to mention frequent cutaways to the hunchbacked lunatic who's constantly lurking about the estate. None of it adds up to much.

Wallace Ford plays a smart aleck reporter, a role he would repeat with slight variations throughout his career. "Comedy relief" is provided by a black chauffeur, who jumps and stutters at every shadow - tired, overly familiar stuff, to be sure!

The ending is ridiculously hokey, as the lunatic killer threatens the audience with death if they reveal the ending of this film to anyone. Not much of a threat when you're too embarrassed to tell anyone you watched this flick in the first place.

The Black Camel
(1931)

Chintzy Chan!
The Charlie Chan series has been constantly aired on local TV & cable channels over the last 30 years, but this entry is rarely screened, perhaps due to a mild epithet or several ethnic slurs contained in the dialogue. In any event, it is one of the most amateurish productions of the entire series, which says a lot considering over half of the episodes were produced by Poverty-stricken Monogram Studios; this one's a Fox Production.

Chan (Warner Oland)gets to stay in his homebase in Hawaii instead of venturing to the mainland and is involved with an investigation of an actress slain in the midst of a film being made on the island. Turns out that this crime has ties to an unsolved murder in Hollywood three years earlier. Suffice it to say that Chan solves both crimes in pedestrian fashion, with little of the charm and wit prevalent in other entries.

Chief reason for tuning in is the presence of Bela Lugosi as Tarneverro, a phony fortune teller who fancies himself as a detective of sorts. Bela had few opportunities to play straight roles & it's interesting to watch him attempt something other than a wacked out mad doctor. Lugosi's "Dracula" co-star, Dwight Frye, also pops up, as a butler for the slain actress. Even Robert Young ("Marcus Welby") has a small part.

Poorly staged and exceedingly awkward in places, "The Black Camel" survives as a curio, at best. For Chan completists only!

Dangerous Mission
(1954)

Grade C on a Generous bell curve!
"Dangerous Mission" probably occupied the bottom half of double bills, back when they had such things. The mission referred to in the title: find a missing witness (Piper Laurie) to a gangland murder. The cops want to put her in protective custody; the hoods want to shut her up (accidently on purpose).

The first half of the picture tries to suggest that the unidentified hitman is actually leading man Victor Mature, but it's pretty easy to spot the fact that he's actually our hero. No, the villain in this piece is an unctuous Vincent Price, a "dangerous gunman from NYC". Having yet to perfect his evil leer, employed with ease in his many later horror pictures, Vinnie is still pretty smarmy in a greasy sort of way.

Mature always seems to be reading his lines from well-placed cue cards and never works up too much of a sweat while he's tailing (in more ways the one) our wayward witness. He soon saves the day, rescuing our damsel from the clutches of the killer as well as saving her from a fall into a glacial crevasse. Price gets his in the end, thanks to his own misguided ineptitude!

An avalanche & forest fire are thrown in to pad the running time, but little tension or suspense is generated during the thankfully short running time. The film is poorly edited (via "a chainsaw", according to Leonard Maltin)& the performances are uniformly trite (led by William Bendix' customary wooden performance in a supporting role).

If it's on past 11:00 PM, don't bother! You'll never stay awake.

First Man Into Space
(1959)

Lack of oxygen in Upper Atmosphere!
Marshall Thompson (pre - "Daktari") as Commander Chuck Prescott, toplines this modest sci-fier in earnest fashion as he agonizes over the impulsive behavior of his test pilot brother, a hotshot determined to be the "First Man Into Space". Seems brother Chuck just can't follow orders, as he exceeds the safe-altitude limit of his aircraft and is forced to abandon his mission some 300 miles up, only to find himself in the midst of a "hurricane' of meteor dust.

This mysterious meteoric material coats our spaceman with an impervious crust that leaves him looking like a petrified victim from the last days of Pompeii. Not to mention the fact that he also has an insatiable craving for blood (human, animal; any blood will do).

Space happy Chuck manages to shamble from his crash site all the way back to the aerospace lab, commandeering the odd truck & car along the way, taking a few breaks for some throat slashing & blood drinking. You see, he told his brother he would bring back all the "dope" from his test mission, so he's duty bound to get back to the base & make his report.

Having filled in the brass on what happened, Chuck keels over, dead. End of movie. Final tally: 6 or 8 people and 15 or so cows dead, authorities and service types scratching their heads in bewilderment.

The cast is pretty stiff, giving the entire film a pseudo-documentary feel. Italian love interest Marla Landi gets to talk "some Macaroni" (that's Italian, you know)and wring her hands in distress. Everyone else just looks like their in some other kind of distress.

All in all, pretty quaint, but still better than most direct-to-video sci-fi junk produced these days. Worth a look!

Uncle Sam
(1996)

One more from the Direct-to-Video slag heap!
"Hopeless" is the best way to describe this timewaster directed by William Lustig ("Maniac", "Maniac Cop 1, 2, 3"). It's a story about a soldier named Sam, shot down & presumed killed during the Desert Storm Conflict. Some years later, his body & those of his comrades are discovered in wreckage previously buried in a sandstorm. Funny thing is, Sam's not dead, or he's dead but not really dead (although he sure looks it); maybe he's undead! Who cares!

As a vengeful zombie of sorts, Sam shambles around just enough over the course of the next 90 minutes to kill his fair share of the cast.

The cast includes Robert Forster (who probably wishes this dud wasn't on his resume after his success in "Jackie Brown") & Bo Hopkins, who both phone in their pointless cameo roles. Co-stars Isaac Hayes.

Screenwriter Larry Cohen has written & directed some rather inventive films in the past but you'd never guess that given his lackluster effort here. This kind of junk is what has driven horror films to their lowest ebb in decades.

Avoid at all costs!

House of the Black Death
(1965)

Career U-Turns for Chaney, Carradine!
"House of the Black Death", an obscure B & W horror pic from the mid-60's, marked Lon Chaney's entrance into the world of Grade Z schlock, a domain already inhabited by his co-star, John Carradine. Unfortunately, both stars would continue a downward career spiral from this point on, making numerous low-grade bombs along the way.

The story here involves dueling warlocks, battling for control of the Desard family in the village of Wydeburne, wherever that is. Chaney's Belial is on the outside, looking in, lusting for his brother Andre's (Carradine)fortune. Belial employs his coven of witches to bedevil the opposing members of the Desard family in his quest for power. Spells are cast, demons and Werewolves are invoked (although mostly off-screen) but the end result is viewer boredom, thanks to an incoherently talky script and stilted performances.

As originally filmed, this picture was obviously an unreleasable mess. Hence, the producers invited noted hack Jerry Warren ("Face of the Screaming Werewolf", "Teenage Zombies", "Incredible Petrified World", plus many more truly awful movies) to try to piece things together. Warren dragged in his longtime "star" Katherine Victor, for a few insert shots and dropped in some dancing girl segments, all to little avail. The movie remained unreleasable and received few, if any, playdates under an assortment of titles.

Don't look for it on TV: your only chance to view this disaster is probably by ordering a copy from a PD video dealer. Take my advice, save your money!

La noche de Walpurgis
(1971)

Naschy gnashes while viewer snoozes!
"The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman" wastes lots of great Gothic elements in plodding through it's (too long) running time. The ideas are there, but thoroughly unrealized by Director Leon Klimovsky, as one boring scene follows another, generating little or no tension or interest. Scenes from this flick look great as stills; when moving, they leave a lot to be desired.

Paul Naschy's acting talents never advanced beyond "high school play status" in any of his filmic endeavors. He reacts to most of the outlandish goings-on with his usual impassiveness, as though his scenes were for blocking purposes only. When his character, Waldemar Daninsky, transforms into the werewolf of the title, Naschy employs body slams, punches and arm-swipes as though he were on the undercard of a poorly rehearsed wrestling match. The climatic battle between Vampiress and Werewolf is underwhelming in its embarrassing lack of action. Naschy's slavering drool, however, provides one of the few highlights.

The soundtrack plays like one of those "Halloween Sounds" tapes offered every season, littered with ghostly wails, shrieks, and assorted bumps. That, along with some haunting (but oft-repeated) musical motifs, offer some pleasant diversion. Unfortunately, the werewolf's growls sound like a guy with serious indigestion and leave alot to be desired.

Definitely a reminiscense for those who fell in love with drive-in & grindhouse fodder in the 60's & 70's. Given the relatively short life span of homo sapiens, why waste valuable hours of your lifetime on this dreck?

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