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The Student Teachers

1970s B-movie/drive-in programmer, pretty good
In the 1970s, with the expansion of producer Roger Corman's New World Pictures, Corman set out to establish a cycle of successful films, focusing on nurses. There were the Candy Stripe Nurses, Night Call Nurses, and, of course, The Student Nurses. Corman was so successful with this series of low-budget sex-and-drama-with-a-little-politics films that he set out to create another series, sort of a spin-off of the The Student Nurses. This was to be the Teachers series.

The Student Teachers, a sometimes funny and somewhat dated film, was intended to parody, among other things: gangster films (with drug dealers like in French Connection) and sex-education films (like we used to see in health class). There is plenty of nudity, a few love scenes, dopey hippie characters, tough African-American characters, nice student-teachers who teach at a local high school, and Corman regular Dick Miller as a sexist, foul-mouthed physical education teacher (he's funny but turns real nasty).

Some of the film segments (most of them, actually) are extraneous and somewhat pointless; there are more plot lines here than in most Robert Altman films. The actresses are pretty, though, especially the blond character who has an artist boyfriend. Corman perfected his formula of success with the Teachers series, and Jonathan Kaplan shows a flair for editing and good camera work that he would later expand upon in Project X and Bad Girls. Kaplan seems to have fun with The Student Teachers, especially with the student sex films the characters watch and the dim-witted hippie character.

I saw this film on video, under the ridiculously misleading title "College Co-eds". The film is not about college (it's high school) and there are no co-eds to speak of. Still, it was fun to watch, and certainly is an interesting time capsule, a trip back to when things were simpler, people embraced the liberal lifestyle, and drive-ins still rocked. I wish I had been alive in 1974 to have seen this one in the back of a Dodge Dart, snuggling up to a girl with bell-bottoms and feathered hair.

I'm nostalgic, and I wasn't even there.

Private Duty Nurses

Armitage does the "Nurses" series (caution-spoilers)
George Armitage, director of the cult favorite "Miami Blues" and the writer of the less-than-cult-favorite "Gas-s-s-s" made this one for Roger Corman (a few years after AIP's infamous butchering of the release print of "Gas-s-s-s"). "Private Duty Nurses" is a particularly cheap-looking entry in the "Nurses" series which New World Pictures produced in the early 1970's. And, as with the other "Nurses" entries, the film is essentially an excuse to show actresses in several different levels of undress. So much for Film as Art...

"Private Duty Nurses" begins with the three main characters, the female nurses (two white, one black), looking for an apartment. They get hit on by their new sleazy landlord. After work, the nurses end up at a crummy bar where even crummier rock music is played (the lead singer looks like a cross between Pete Townshend and Steve Perry). One of the nurses is astounded by the sight of a water bed (a novelty in 1971) and we get the first taste of nudity. Back at the hospital, one of the nurses meets a patient, a strange Vietnam veteran who races motorcycles. They become romantically involved. The black nurse becomes involved with a doctor working in the ghetto; he tells her about racism within the profession, making her see things in a more politically-motivated light.

Yes, the "Nurses" films all had their political slant, per order of Corman. It seems he liked to appeal to his youthful audience with more than just cheesecake; at least he tried adding nutritional value to these films, however obvious and awkward such attempts are (especially when analyzing these films at home on DVD). As with the other "Nurses" films, "Private Duty Nurses" is episodic and filled with unnecessary montages set to music, present mostly to fill up the running time. There are extended love making scenes (enter more gratuitous nudity, although it is tame by today's standards).

There is drama: The Vietnam vet is hurt in a motorcycle competition and needs to be operated on. The Pete Townshend-Steve Perry look-alike sings more songs. There is an ugly rape scene, the point of which is only to give the movie some action. There's a shoot-out which reveals one of the male characters as a drug smuggler. All of the plot details seem arbitrary, however, since Armitage seems to have made it all up as he went along.

One thing of special note is that little care seems to have been taken in the digital transfer of the sound and picture. Not that such refurbishing would help the film that much, but it would be nice to see "Private" get the same treatment New Horizons has given the other "Nurses" films.

"Private Duty Nurses" is not all that enjoyable. It takes itself too seriously, and the bits of humor Armitage does throw in (as he did with "Night Call Nurses") get lost amid the heavy-handed moments of melodrama. Does the motorcyclist survive surgery after his accident? Who cares..."Private Duty Nurses" certainly doesn't.

As with most of the "Nurses" films, this one is a minor diversion without any real substance. Sure, the main characters are likable enough but Armitage doesn't give them much to play off of as far as a plotline or believable dialogue.

I sometimes wish I had been alive during the heyday of the drive-in, where I could have seen this film along with four others of its type for a buck and a half. Nowadays, it costs four dollars just to see one!

Night Call Nurses

silly, nonsensical but an interesting time capsule piece
Sure, "Night Call Nurses" is essentially a relic of the typical product thrust upon drive-in theatres in the 1970s. There isn't much of a plot, just a whole lot of nonsense about three nurses and their exploits. There is a lot of nudity, a little humor, some slasher-film elements and a truck driver who does psychedelic drugs. Pretty ridiculous stuff overall, but not without some amusing parts. (I was scratching my head, however, with the "human machine" segment; it was interesting yet pointless).

"Night Call Nurses" was merely one entry in the New World Films "Nurses" cycle which included "Candy Stripe Nurses" and the original "Student Nurses." While those films had a more coherent plot than this one, it is difficult to criticize this one for being so episodic and meandering because the film delivers what it promises: nude women. There are plenty here, no complaints in that category.

And George Armitage, who went on to make the cult classic "Miami Blues," infused some wit and social commentary into the script which are also present in his own foray as writer-director into the "Nurses" cycle, "Private Duty Nurses."

The music is all pseudo-rock and gutter-guitar blues.

Overall, "Night Call Nurses" is a mindless time-waster, but as far as time-wasting goes you could do far worse.

Beast of Blood

Actually, this is the second sequel in the "Blood Island" series (caution: spoilers)
"Beast of Blood" is the third of the Blood Island-Eddie Romero series, all of which starred terrible actor John Ashley. Although, with these films, it is better just to ignore the acting and enjoy the exploitation elements.

There's some gore, a cheap but neat-looking monster and a little bit of skin too. (Celeste Yarnall ain't much of an actress, but she is photogenic.) The plot is nonexistent, something about the Monster of Blood Island's head being saved for experiments. It is extremely silly, but it's also imaginative. The monster's head and body are severed, but the monster manages to control his body to escape and kill anyway. Did Stuart Gordon see this before making "Re-Animator"?

My biggest complaint here is that the film shoots its wad at the beginning. The first scene of the film is kind of confusing: John Ashley is on a ship leaving Blood Island when the monster, a stowaway, breaks loose and starts killing the crew. Ashley and the monster duke it out until both end up shipwrecked back on Blood Island. After that, the film really drags until the above experiments on the monster occur. As with the other Blood Island films, there are a lot of filler scenes that supposedly develop the characters but are actually there to eat up the film's running time.

Still, there is some fun to be had in "Beast of Blood," but I wouldn't recommend it to serious horror film fans. This is for bad movie fans only, and even then they might be disappointed.

It's still better than Final Destination 2, though.

Brides of Blood

Scary? Sorry not really. Silly? Yes, very... (contains spoilers)
I saw "Brides of Blood" recently on its new pristine DVD release, and I was struck by several facts. First, the film has a ridiculous plot about a nuclear-fall-out-created monster (called "The Evil One") killing screaming native girls on the vaguely tropical Blood Island. Kent Taylor, a regular in Al Adamson films, is the so-called star, playing a scientist who is trying to solve the series of murders alongside John Ashley (dependable for bad acting). The monster is ludicrous, obviously some poor Filipino actor under a bunch of brown foam rubber. Maybe the other viewers commenting here thought the film was scary because of the heavy sinister breathing sounds that the monster makes before a kill. Okay, it's a little creepy, but it sure ain't all-out scary. At least I wasn't scared. In fact, through most of it I couldn't stop laughing. Not that it was supposed to be funny, but the film is so dated, poorly acted, and low budget that it has a certain naive charm.

The native girls have their tops ripped off before being raped and torn apart by "The Evil One." Why the monster attacks the sacrificial native girls is never explained.

The nudity in "Brides of Blood" is tame by today's standards. It is surprising, however, to see nudity in a film from 1968. Granted, the DVD is the unrated version (with a little goofy gore) but directors Eddie Romero and Gerardo DeLeon were certainly on to something with this film. Nudity and gore, while not new to films in 1968, were just being widely incorporated into movies at that time. This exploitation film, perhaps a classic in bad drive-in movie history, helped set the trend for the next decade of horror films. While "Brides of Blood" is hilarious in its attempts at horror (wait 'til you see Beverly Hills' freak-out scenes), the film is also an interesting piece of exploitation movie history.

Other highlights include the weird native dancing, the virtually incoherent assemblage of scenes of "character development" and the red tint of the film that is used every time the monster attacks. Also, Beverly Hills has her clothes ripped off by the monster but we only see her bare back. Beverly Hills (Powers) is now an ordained minister in Hawaii. Go figure.

Der Fall X701

What Der heck is this? (caution: spoilers)
I saw this one on a 4-film DVD set under the title "Frozen Alive." CAUTION: SPOLIERS This is a slow-moving melodrama masquerading as a horror film. A scientist's wife is cheating on him while he is conducting experiments, placing animals in suspended animation. The scientist decides to experiment on himself (his assistant pouts: "No! There's too much risk!")but he persists. While undergoing suspension, the annoying wife dies from a gunshot with the scientist the key suspect. The scientist isn't the only one in suspension as the audience becomes enraptured in disbelief. This amazing West German/England production is cheap and kinda seedy, and pretty dull. I ultimately shrugged at the end. Films like this are "programmers," films made merely to fill the needs of film promoters and distributers, likely used to fit into a double or triple-bill horror film package. While I've seen worse films (sometimes I think perhaps too many), this one is not at the bottom. Still, "Frozen Alive" is a film that should have appeared on "Mystery Science Theater 3000," a missed opportunity. I'm still not sure exactly what kind of film this is supposed to be.


Saw this as "The Big Twist"
I saw this a few weeks back on HBO and was: a) suprised I hadn't heard of it before, with such a strong cast and all. b) thoroughly entertained. The dialogue and performances were great. c) wondering how it managed to get two other titles...

The late John Ritter works well with Dave Foley, both skilled comedic actors who seem very relaxed and into the material.

Richard Kind plays a typical type of character for him, but he's good (that's why he plays this type).

I am a Stephen Rea fan (he has made some mediocre films bearable) and thought his performance here was particularly good. He's playing all dopey and whatnot...well, I won't give much of the plot away, but the title "The Big Twist" seems appropriate.

"Sink or Swim"! What kind of title is that?! It's like saying "Swimming with Sharks Part Two!" "Hacks" is more appropriate, and as mentioned before, I like the title "The Big Twist." So, why change the name so many times? Was the idea to sell the film like some sort of retitled Independent International picture, giving it a new title to trick people into seeing the same film more than once?

Darned if I know. I do know this is a good film, not great (it should have been longer) but it is good. All the other performances are sharp, the director is in control, and the dialogue simply crackles.

Recommended (especially to writers)...


check the double bill: "Monstrosity" is worse
I saw this on a DVD double-bill with Andy Milligan's "Monstrosity". I see where people say "Graverobbers" (a.k.a "Dead Mate") is the worst movie ever. I dunno, I kinda think "Manos: Hands of Fate" is worse, but this merely a matter of semantics; both are awful bad. But, the other film on this DVD, "Monstrosity" is certainly worse than "Graverobbers". Both films were well-pared. Both are tasteless, cheap exploitation films, and surprisingly, "Graverobbers" has the higher production values of the two. The director of "Graverobbers" had once worked with "Monstrosity" creator Andy Milligan. Imagine, both incredibleminds and their films on one disc!

The thing is, as tasteless as "Graverobbers" is, it is still more entertaining (again, semantics) than "Monstrosity". At least I was (sort of) rooting for the heroine in "Graverobbers", and well, the production values in that film were better. "Monstrosity" cannot escape its bargain-basement production values, its hideous, altering tone, and the most grating lead performance (by Haal Borske) in my long term memory.

But, that's not to say "Graverobbers" is any good. It's low-grade direct to video nonsense that is about as useful as J. Lo's nipple-tweeker. Of course, at least that guy has a skill.

The makers of "Graverobbers" display no skill that I can descern. Granted, some parts were funny (a category "Monstrosity" fails in, unintentional laughs aside), but I think even there I give "Graverobbers" too much credit.

Forget any of the praise. Just avoid that double-feature DVD disc, because the side effects of watching both films on the same day will leave you sticking your tongue in a power outlet because you can't take another minute of the pain...

Unless you enjoy the bottom-of-the-barrel bad movies...

Killing Spree

shoddy, one of the worst of 80's gore flicks
Caution---some spoilers and other bad movie details (if you're reading this, you've probably already seen it and are equally appalled).

I remember, back in the mid-80's, reading about this film in FANGORIA and the long-defunct publication SLAUGHTERHOUSE. If I recall correctly, "Killing Spree" was being touted as an 8-millimeter film, not 16-millimeter. Anywho, the "hype" behind this super-cheapie made it look fairly inept but successfully gory.

Oh, but how my memory comes back to haunt me...

I just saw "Killing Spree" for the first time a few days ago, and my gosh, I seriously disliked the film. I had hoped for something that was at least fun...I had always figured "Killing Spree" would be cheesy stuff, but man, are the gore effects bad! This is no offense to the effects artists who may still be employed in the industry...the film's budget takes the biggest blame for the effects' limitations. As has been said in past comments (to not be overly repetitious), the sound, dialogue, acting and lighting are all cruddy.

I could write better stuff than this while in a coma.

My major complaint is that the gore sucks! How anyone can enjoy this film on that level is beyond me because (as I say, darn my memory) the pictures advertising the film made the effects look so much better than they are. The main problem is the execution of said effects; a screwdriver would not pierce a skull like that, c'mon! And, a sledge through the face!? Sorry, not buying it, not unless that puppy was sharpened first.

Asbestos Felt...gimme a break! I see where he performed the "rap" featured in the end title, a double threat, actor and rapper!

Tim Ritter, what's up? Is this the best you could come up with? I don't mean to make this a personal issue, but there are so many better ways this story could have been done on the same budget and with the same over-actors. You could have had Asbestos imagine all of the murders he commits, and have him wake up next to his wife at the end, together and happily ever could have given a little more motivation for some of the murders, such as the ultra-silly (not good) scene on the beach, where our favorite home insulation-actor drowns another actor (as unconvincing as such a thing gets) and storms off, all obviously shot without sound (less expensive) because everyone in the scene is strangely could have had Asbestos shrug after he realizes he had killed all those people for naught, wink at the camera and say "Hey, it's our little secret" (I know these suggestions are terrible, but) Anything would have been better than punishing us with the worst zombie-ressurection sequence I've seen since Liza Minnelli made her comeback (okay, cheap joke, but you get the idea.)

Man, oh man, I cannot understand why this film had so much hype behind it while it was being made. Perhaps it had something to do with the final dedication at the end of the film to Herschell Gordon Lewis...yes, I agree, he is the Godfather of Gore and all, but he still made more entertaining gore films than this and the effects in Lewis's films (dare I say?) were more realistic.

"Killing Spree" was very disappointing. I expected it to be entertainingly, self-consciously bad. Instead, it was totally-incompetent, with subpar gore, and acting and dialogue that cause the brain to question its own purpose. This is not entertaining, just numbing.

Jupiter, must be proud...


Warning----spoilers, but with an Andy Milligan film, who cares?

Okay, I'm no expert on Milligan films. I am an avid watcher of bad films, and Milligan's "Bloodthirsty Butchers" definitely fits into that category, with bad acting and sound, grainy hand-held photography (by Milligan) and a plot that rips on Sweeney Todd in all the right (or should I say, wrong) ways. There is a slant on violence to women, which I personally do not like watching but Milligan seems to revel in. It is interesting that even as far back as the late 1960's, this auteur from Minnesota (if I remember correct) was working out his sexual frustrations in such an "in your face" way that you can't help but to say, "Man, this guy really hates women."

This unfortunate misogynistic tone carried through to "Monstrosity" a fitting title for, to paraphrase the latter comment, possibly the worst movie ever. (Having seen so many terrible films, however, this is an issue of contention with me. Let's not forget "Manos: Hands of Fate".)

But, I'll get to "Monstrosity". The "plot" (wait, I can't believe I just used this word to imply that "Monstrosity" has a structure)...the plot is about revenge. A dumb (thirty year old actor playing a) teenager avenges his girlfriend is attacked, raped, and then killed in the hospital by sadistic "punks" (who look about as scary as the ones in William Lustig's "Vigilante" (hint-not too scary). The death of the girlfriend is stretched out so much (in a scene where one of the punks pulls her innards from her sliced stomach)that I began to wonder, 'Is the director getting his kick out of watching this poor woman go through all of this?' We, in the audience, sure aren't enjoying it. Well, I giggled a little during the gutting scene, but not because it was meant to be funny, it is because the scene is so overplayed, the gore so cheap and hokey, and the music so nauseating that I stopped taking the depressingly misogynistic first fifteen minutes seriously.

But wait, it gets worse! The dumb teen, and his two ridiculously excitable buddies, decides to build a Golem to avenge his girlfriend's murder. That's right, a Golem! (oh, man, I'm laughing already). No knowledge of science necessary in building this Golem, just a claustrophobic shed stocked with pseudo-lab equipment like something out of "Bride of the Monster". (No, I'm sorry, that equipment actually was more realistic.)Suddenly, "Monstrosity" turns into a stupid, not funny comedy in which the three build the "Golem" and try programming him to kill (by using action movie posters, a humorous idea in a sea of guffaws.) I will take a minute to comment on the acting: So bad that you will get whiplash shaking your head over and over, thinking, 'Who are these people and how did anyone think they were good actors?'

The women are, uniformly, better actors than the male leads, but Milligan makes the female characters vain, dumb, vile, and unlikable. Granted, the male characters are not any more likable, but geez, Milligan could have atleast given the better actors (the women) more to do than constantly complain.

And, as for Franky, the "Golem"...un-freakin'-believable! What were the filmmakers thinking? Okay, I saw the cover of the DVD, which lets you know right away the monster looks ludicrous, but nothing, I repeat, NOTHING will prepare you for the full onslaught of Franky. The orange wig, the Halloween-style "crazy teeth", the "bear" foot and claw (which is obviously a glove), and a gored right eye that looks like a fried egg with a bloody embryo. Milligan, probably due to budget (budget! this movie had a budget?) constraints, tries to make the best of one of the worst monsters ever by playing it for laughs. However, since the film isn't intentionally funny, these scenes of attempted humor are painful, forehead-smacking moments of your life that you will never get back. Not that I particularly cared, since I kept watching...

I suppose that's why I decided to comment on this masterpiece in bad moviedom. I couldn't stop watching the film, despite all its negatives...I was repulsed and drawn to "Monstrosity" all at the same time. What is it about bad films that causes my judgment in taste to lapse?

Anyway, Franky is essentially a baby-man (with the bear parts) who is also a methodical avenger. (Milligan, attempting to be more "commercial", alludes to Troma's "Toxic Avenger" in several ways, from Franky's attack scenes to using the same public-domain classical music which "Toxic" employs as a theme.) Franky's relationship with a crackhead punk girl goes nowhere (except when it figures into the finale, Franky's final nihilistic destruction spree). Franky's "creators" go power-mad and want Franky to continue "thrill-killing" for them. (There is very little explaination given for the character motivations in this film, so not much of the plotlines make logical sense.) Franky is (kind of) the only likable character in "Monstrosity", but the actor (Milligan regular Haal Borske) is so grating, so oblivious to his bad acting (and flubbed lines) that I couldn't find any way to relate to the "golem".

Man, oh man, I wish I could see a documentary on the production of "Monstrosity". Wow, imagine seeing the creative decisions of Andy Milligan in action..."no, not a blue wig, an orange one"..."just do the dialogue, don't worry about acting"...and maybe even an Ed Wood-inspired "That was great, print it." Did they shoot "Monstrosity" in 35mm? I'll bet they did, sparing no expense to ensure the film its "glossy", zoom lense glory. And, Haal Borske, what is your acting method? Talk like Red Skelton in a bad skit and read your lines off cue cards? Did Milligan do a second take of any scene in "Monstrosity?" Probably not unless the film broke...

I will finish my comment by stating that "Monstrosity" is definitely one of the worst films ever, no arguement there. Andy Milligan made many bad films (some people hate them with a passion), but this is jaw-droppingly, disorientatingly bad! The final "twist" ending is a desperate attempt at some sort of sense being made of the proceeding 90 minutes, but forget it, the "twist" doesn't work. The whole film doesn't work, but I suppose that is "Monstrosity"'s twisted "charm" (for lack of a better word). The viewer will not care about who lives and dies, whether Franky keeps the girl or not, or about what Milligan's message really is (because he muddles the ending so annoyingly). "MONSTROSITY" is BAD! BAD! DUMB! BAD! MISOGYNISTIC! BAD!

All right, I feel clean again...but I will surely never be the same...

Hellraiser: Bloodline

oh boy, is this movie bad...Alan Smithee strikes again
I was one of the unfortunate few filmgoers who saw Hellraiser: Bloodline in the movie theater, and what a disappointment. The plotline has its possibilities, telling the tale of Pinhead and his cynobites and the magic box as they move through the ages, from Medieval times and through the Romantic and Restoration periods, the twentieth century, and into the future (where the film beings on a chintzy-computer animated spaceship).But, the film doesn't live up to its imaginative promise, proving to be thick in stupidity, delivering stiff performances, cheap special effects and costumes, and one of the worst scenes of a character wandering around in the dark (I know that some security gaurds are not so bright, but cmon! This guy would be confounded by a stop sign).

The ending is fact, in the theater I saw the film in, it looked as if the film had broken during the climax and the theater had done a terrible job splicing the rest of the footage together. God, this movie is bad ! This is a shame, because the second and third Hellraisers were fairly smart, imaginative little gothic-gore horror tales that I thought were about the best scary movies of the 1980s and 90s. This, however, is about as bad as a movie can get; Ed Wood, are you reincarnated as the director (who is hiding behind the Hollywood-screwup pseudonym Alan Smithee)?

Hellraiser: Bloodline was so bad that the audience I saw it with was heckling the film throughout, some people called out, "This movie sucks!", "Don't go in there, you idiot!", and one person turned to me and said "I wonder if I could go and get my money back."

Aside from Independence Day, this is the absolute worst film I have paid to see in a theater. Needless to say, I haven't watched the two Hellraiser sequels made since then, and I probably won't. Why bother? And, if I were Clive Barker, I would have removed my name from this film just as the director had; it would have been a smart move. Barker is a talent; this film is far beneath him.

What an insult to anyone's intelligence!!!

A Doll's House

excellent version, although perhaps a little static
Yes, Clair Bloom, Anthony Hopkins, and Denholm Elliot are great, as is Sir Ralph Richardson as Dr. Rank. This first-rate acting, extended from Ibsen's wonderful realist play, is what holds our eyes on the screen. The play has been abridged for the movie, but having read the play, I wouldn't say I felt that I missed the deleted material.

The snow outside emphasizes how cold it gets inside, with Nora (Bloom) realizing that her fairy-tale marriage to Torvald (Hopkins) is a sham, that Torvald only wants his wife to be his little "squirrel" and not meddle in their family affairs. Nora will not take it anymore; she is an intelligent woman with influence, and cannot be confined to one house, one man, or one way of life. She becomes free, and Torvald is left wondering how he had ever been such a fool to think she would be with him forever.

Denholm Elliot drips with sleaze as Korgstad, Nora and Torvald's nemesis, and Richardson conveighs the appropriate frailty and senality as Dr. Rank.

One complaint: the film is static. There is almost no action set outside of the house (and the building) which, I suppose, gives us an effective claustrophobic feeling. The audience feels as trapped as Nora and Torvald do. But, film is a visual media, and this is essentially just a filmed play. The director does move his camera around a little, giving us close-ups, master-shots, composition of objects in the foreground/background, ect. But, the average viewer may fall asleep, just because the play is all talk. There is not much movement by the characters; there is nothing going on outside of their insulated lives. The movie does not open us up to the world outside of the Helmer household; it tells us that what matters is what is going on inside. Okay, I guess the static quality of the film works, but this is not a wholly cinematic film, it is more a play on film.

Maybe in the future, other directors will work to open up the play, and give us viewers other things to chew over besides the great acting and dialogue.

After Dark, My Sweet

Jim Thompson noir, true to his style
While watching the exquisitely photographed film After Dark, My Sweet, one has to admire Jason Patrick's heartbroken voiceover. His narration is a combination of punch-drunkenness, paranoia, and a surrendering to fate. Like in many noirs, Collie knows there is no way to escape one's destiny; the only thing to do is ride it out and see what happens.

After Dark, My Sweet is one of those little gems, a film that came out just as independent cinema was experiencing an upswing in popularity. And, although the film was no huge hit when it was released, After Dark, My Sweet was at the beginning of a new trend: the neo-noir film. John Diehl would later impress us with Last Seduction and Red Rock West, but while those noirs had the style of the older genre, After Dark...has the dialogue and attitude of old; the words coming out of Patrick's mouth are clearly classic Jim Thompson. That sort of dementia, a kind of poetry, is hard to fake. James Foley has translated the novel to screen without losing the feel. When Collie is flashing-back to his boxing days, our heart races with him. When Collie recalls all of his past regrets and his own self-loathing, the sound of his voice and the words he is speaking are haunting and haunted. Jason Patric's performance is his best; he is pathetic yet endearing, stupid but savvy. A tough role to pull off, but he does it in true shaggy-dog ease. Rachel Ward and Bruce Dern(always the crazy one) play good backup, especially Ward with her 1940's-era fast-speak witty banter, straight out of Barbara Stanwick movies. But, this is Patrick's (and Thompson's) show.

Bravo to James Foley for this top-notch adaption of Jim Thompson's nightmarish reality, one that is desperate and life-threatening and sometimes all too real.

Stage to Thunder Rock

typical B-Western
I saw this film quite a few years back on one of the cable movie channels, and thought of it because I saw another film recently that also starred Barry Sullivan, The Gangster. In this film, Sullivan was trying to get some reward money for a prisoner.

I looked the film up at a film reference website, and saw that this type of film was a dime-a-dozen when it came out in 1964...I guess that's why I can't remember much else about it...

Baba Yaga

Saw this as "Kiss Me, Kill me"; a weird movie either way
some comments here have complimented the film for having style. The film is loaded with atmosphere, and the camerawork and editing are great. What I didn't care for was some of the acting (Carroll Baker is dissapointingly stiff, and clothed), the ridiculous plot (yes, the film is hallucinatory, but it still makes little sense) and most of all, the music! It Sucked! okay, some of it was okay, but the jazz music reminded me too much of Jess Franco's work, and the rest of the background music is junky and uninspired. So, what's up with all the praise on Imdb for the music? I guess its hard to account for taste.

A few things of note: The copy I saw, while containing a certain amount of nudity, was cut. The running time is supposed to be 91 minutes, but the print is only 81 minutes long. Also, the director listed in the credits isn't the director listed on the DVD box, or in most reference books (it is listed as Umberto Lenzi's film). Baker's character is named Baba Yaga, which is laugh-inducing the second that she is introduced in the film (who thought that was a good idea?) All in all, "Kiss Me, Kill Me" reminded me of a few of those Jess Franco movies made in the late 1960's, and not just with the jazz music.

And, like Franco's films, this one is definitely entertaining. There's always something going on to keep your eyes entertained,if not your brain. You know, they don't make Euro-trash like they used to.

Igor and the Lunatics

the cast changes about half-way through the film
This film is stupid, insulting, and without continuity. IGOR became infamous as a film that, midway through, uses a whole different set of actors to portray the characters, without an explaination as to why! Most of the actors don't even look the same.

With a film as bad as IGOR, though, probably nobody would notice the difference. This is among the worst that Troma has ever released, although as the other comments here have said, there are also some laughs.

But, is it worth it?

The Swinging Cheerleaders

Swingin' women in a swingin' film
Perhaps Tarantino has started the trend of justifying the legitimate place for trash-films in serious movie history. Jack Hill is definitely a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, an obvious maverick who managed to squeeze as many entertaining moments as he could out of his tight budgets (the fact that Roger Corman fired him more than once shows that Hill was a handful, but never seemed to let up). SWITCHBLADE SISTERS is a hoot, as is FOXY BROWN and THE BIG BIRD CAGE. This film, THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS, while not as good as other Hill films, has some of the touches that made his previous films successful.

The cast is great. Hill was good at finding attractive women to embody his screen characters, and the knockouts here include Colleen Camp and Cheryl (Rainbeaux) Smith. The plot is some silliness about a female reporter infiltrating the cheerleadering squad at Mesa University to get the scoop. Her boyfriend turns out to be a real jerk, and the eventual outcome is a confrontation with the snooty Camp and some pretty ridiculous bad guys.

The film copies some of Corman's nurses movies (political conscious, making sure the token African-American character is there.)Yet, the film also seems to be parodying these more serious-minded New World pictures. SWINGING CHEERLEADERS is fun, and a reminder of what drive-in films were like (most exploitation films nowadays are not this fun).

Jack Hill---the man, the movies...

Blood of Dracula's Castle

D'ARCY and RAYMOND, CARRADINE looking like death
Anyone looking for a fittingly horrendous Al Adamson film, look no further. While this film is not the usual paste-up job that Adamson specialized in, BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE is pure bad cinema, which is Adamson's true field.

D'Arcy and Raymond play Mr. and Mrs. Dracula, looking stiff and embarrassed (who can blame them?) The Draculas feed on the blood of the young women they have chained in their dungeon (including Adamson regular Vicki Volante). Carradine plays the Dracula's butler, a wasted opportunity for this horror screen legend to do his Dracula bit (get the pun?) A psycho shows up at the castle, and a stupid couple stay there.

BLOOD is boring, with only a few laughs produced from the bad acting and flimsy-looking props. Adamson made more hilarious films than this (like DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN), and it was unintentional (of course). Adamson, however, deserves the credit to having gotten anything on film for the tight budgets he was given.

Still, BLOOD is bad, and more mediocre than entertaining.

Imitation of Christ

Warhol, A Major Religious Artist? Not here...
Recently, I saw a documentary on Bravo about Andy Warhol. After he died, there were vast amounts of works that were left behind. Some of these pieces focused on Christ and Christianity, and the more archivists delved, the more they found (such as the silkscreens of Jesus), many done in his "photocopy"-style (my quotes). The documentary pondered as to whether or not Warhol had indeed been a major religious artist (say, on the par with Michaelangello).

I was fascinated, so when I saw "Imitation of Christ" showing recently at a revival, I had to see it. I knew what to basically expect (improvisation, drug use, rambling non-narrative, all in true filmic Warhol fashion). What I didn't expect was to be led into the most endurance-testing 85 minutes possible. The thing is, not all 85 minutes are bad (unlike what some people may say). Sure, its pretty much about what you'd think (essentially, addicts living their lives, portrayed by amateur actors). But, if nothing else, this is an interesting time capsule, although about the only thing the film has to to do with religion is that Nico (in a great, non-acting part) reads from some text related to religion. Taylor Meade shows up for awhile, too, pretty much just being real flaky and ridiculous (I haven't seen him in other films, but is this really the same guy who was an underground film sensation?)

Okay. This film is not the Sisteen Chapel. Warhol was no Michaelangello...but, then again Michaelangello was no Warhol. Whether or not Warhol was a major religious artist is still debatable, but what I can say is that "Imitation of Christ" is too slow to recommend, while being interesting none the less. I had only seen a few of Warhol's shorter films (such as Factory footage he shot of Velvet Underground), but I can definitely see why Andy stopped making films. He probably was as bored as you can get watching some of "Imitation of Christ". It's provocative, but that's about it.

Ultimately, Warhol's "transgressors" deserved better.

Out of Love

The box says Nikki Tyler had appeared on "The Tonight Show"

I picked this one up at my local video store, and saw that Tyler had been on "The Tonight Show". I watched the video, thinking, "What the hell did her and Jay talk about?" Maybe they talked about exactly what Nikki does here, but I doubt it. At least, not explicitly.

I didn't really like "Out of Love" as a film. It's basically about Nikki and her husband, and how they try to keep their marriage going. Nikki has sex with two lesbian friends (perhaps the best scene), and her husband has sex with two other women, and also paints a couple while they go at it. Sure, I knew what to expect, but I've seen better plots, and for my money, I want a half-way entertaining film. Gynecologically, this one is on the nose. But, as an overall film, not so good.

Nikki is very pretty, though, as are many of her female costars. So, for the sex part, you could probably do worse than "Out of Love". But, you could also do better ("Tittilation" comes to mind).

Roger Dodger

best Campbell Scott performance, some silly scenes
I saw this film at a screening at a local film festival a few weeks back, and there were some very good things about it. Campbell Scott (who I think is one of the dullest actors working) actually gives a fairly animated performance playing Roger. Roger is an extremely shallow businessman who writes for advertisers (he lies for a living).

Roger's view of women is especially cynical, wherein he sees the extinction of man created by modern feminism. However much Roger professes to be a ladies-man and an expert in female psychology, he can't maintain his relationships (Isabella Roussellini is great in her role as a strong, no-b.s. ex-girlfriend of Roger's). Roger's character is oblivious to his own ignorance.

Roger's nephew shows up at his office one day, and right away Roger feels as if there are some things he can teach the teenager. Roger decides to take his virginal nephew on a journey across New York City, in search of a woman who will deflower the nephew. Yet, Roger's nephew has other ideas about women and love, which immediately conflict with what Roger feels is the truth. Eventually, Roger finds that his own life is a dead-end, and that maybe he could learn more things from his nephew.

THe writer-director has done a good job in sketching out his characterizations of Roger and the nephew. Many of the dialogues sound crisp, and although Roger may seem like a total idiot sometimes, we begin to realize that he has merely over-intellectualized everything in life.

One thing that almost ruined the movie was the scenes between the two male leads and Elizabeth Berkley and Jennifer Beals. Maybe its me, but I found these scenes to be stupid, trite, and badly acted (Berkley and Beals are two of the worst actresses of recent memory, and they do not redeem themselves here). Their part of the film was poorly conceived, and it is a credit to the director and the rest of the cast that this lapse into poor filmmaking is only momentary. Still, if I was making this movie, I would have gone back, cut Berkley and Beals out of the film, and thought up anything that would have played better to go in its place (almost anything in this sequence's place would've been better). I also disliked how the film ended: (For those of you who haven't seen it, I won't spoil it, but I would have to say that I thought the nephew was smarter than he ends up being).

Still, "Roger Dodger" is an entertaining little movie, and there are plenty of laughs from the dialogue to keep a viewer occupied. I can see this film popping up on IFC sometime soon, although probably without much fanfare.

One thing of note: The advertising I saw for the film said that it was filmed in and around New York after September 11 of last year. Although this is interesting, and perhaps the actors and crew felt spiritually lifted by participating, the film does not reflect or imply anything connected with the tragic event. So why make a big deal about this fact? Plenty of films have been working around New York since last Spetember. Are the advertisers simply exploiting the event for some easy publicity? Are the ad men for the film as cynical as Roger is?

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