Woodyanders

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Reviews

Monsters: The Vampire Hunter
(1988)
Episode 4, Season 1

Passable vampire story
Famous vampire hunter Ernest Chariot (a fine and credible performance by Robert Lansing) must save his young protégé Jack Avery (a likeable portrayal by Jack Koenig) from being transformed into a bloodsucker by vengeful old adversary Charles Poole (smoothly played by John Bolger).

Director Michael Gornick relates the predictable, but still fairly engrossing story at a steady pace, presents a rich Gothic Victorian atmosphere, and stages the thrilling big confrontation between Chariot and Poole with aplomb. Moreover, the lovely Page Hannah makes for a highly appealing and enticing damsel in distress. Alas, Edithe Swensen's strictly serviceable script doesn't offer any fresh twists and ends on a rather frustrating inconclusive note. A decent show that could have been better.

Monsters: New York Honey
(1988)
Episode 3, Season 1

Sometimes catching a buzz can be dangerous
Smarmy married jerk Jay Blake (a nicely annoying portrayal by Lewis J. Stadlen) forces flaky beekeeper Dr. Homer Jimmerman (nicely played to the quirky hilt by MacIntyre Dixon) into marketing his delicious honey. Moreover, Jay becomes smitten with Jimmerman's enigmatic, but alluring female assistant Desiree (a spot on seductive performance by fetching blonde Andrea Thompson).

Director Gerald Cotts relates the enjoyably kooky story at a steady pace as well as maintains a pleasing tongue-in-cheek tone throughout. The witty script by Henry Jacobs provides a neat message on how such basic human vices as greed and lust can lead a man to his own untimely demise. The surprise ending has quite a sharp sting to it, too. A funny show.

The Wild Angels
(1966)

A biker exploitation classic with something grim, but relevant to say
A gang of rowdy nonconformist bikers led by the surly Heavenly Blues (a super cool and smooth portrayal by Peter Fonda) run afoul of both the police and the locals in a small California town.

Director Roger Corman and writer Charles B. Griffith present a stark and unflinching presentation of the outsider's deep-seated need for freedom along with a harsh depiction of how rebellion against the repressive status quo and everything it represents amounts to one big nihilistic nothing without something meaningful to fall back on, with the increasing sense of futility and frustration felt by Blues over the eventual realization of his own dead-end lifestyle hammering this powerfully bleak point home at the startling downbeat ending.

Moreover, it's acted with zest by a game cast: Bruce Dern as the easygoing Loser, Nancy Sinatra as Blues' conflicted motorcycle mama Mike, Diane Ladd as Loser's fed-up girlfriend Gayish, Buck Taylor as the brutish Dear John, Norman Alden as the scruffy Medic, Michael J. Pollard as the doltish Pygmy, Joan Shawlee as the uninhibited Momma Monahan, and Marc Cavell as the crude Frankenstein. Dick Miller has a neat bit as an irate oil rig worker. This film certainly delivers the satisfying sleazy goods as well: We've got excessive beer swilling and pot smoking, rough'n'ready fights, at least two rapes, and a funeral that degenerates into a wild anything-goes orgy/party. Richard Moore's expressive cinematography makes excellent use of the widescreen format. The groovy score by Mike Curb and Davie Allan hits the right-on funky-grinding spot. An on the money drive-in blast.

Monsters: Holly's House
(1988)
Episode 2, Season 1

Holly isn't a nice dolly
Holly, the large animatronic doll star of a popular children's show, comes to malevolent life. Or does she?

Director Theodore Gershuny keeps the enjoyable and engrossing story moving at a constant pace, ably crafts an intriguing enigmatic atmosphere, and further spices things up with a few inspired moments of dark humor (Holly at one point throws an absolutely hysterical hissy fit on the set of her show). The clever script by Jon Connolly and David Loucka provides a neat glimpse into the drama and pressure to be found behind-the-scenes of a television show. Marilyn Jones contributes a solid and appealing portrayal of troubled puppeteer Kathy; she receives sturdy support from Perry Lang as noncommittal boyfriend Lenny, Pamela Dean Kelly as a concerned co-star, and Neil Smith as a nice guy director. The doll looks genuinely creepy. The ending is a bit vague, but still chilling. A worthwhile show.

Monsters: The Feverman
(1988)
Episode 1, Season 1

A cure that comes at a terrible price
Timothy Mason (a fine and touching performance by John C. Vennema) brings his sickly daughter to cynical booze-sodden local faith healer Boyle (an excellent portrayal by David McCallum), who's well known for his special ability to cure fevers. However, skeptical doctor James Burke (nicely played by Patrick Garner) is determined to expose Boyle as a fake.

Director Michael Gornick relates the novel and compelling story at a steady pace, offers a flavorsome period atmosphere, and milks a good deal of tension from the claustrophobic basement setting. The uniformly fine acting from the able cast keeps things humming: Vennema astutely nails the desperation of his character, McCallum has a ball conveying the acid nature of a bitter and besotted wretch whose healing powers come at a heavy price, and Abby Lewis lends sound support as Boyle's kindly old lady assistant. The fever creature looks genuinely creepy and grotesque. The downbeat ending hits the satisfying spot, too. A solid start for this TV series.

Stephen Thrower on 'The Sadist of Notre Dame'
(2018)

Another nice and illuminating interview with Stephen Thrower
Film historian and well-versed Jess Franco expert Stephen Thrower provides another intelligent and informative discussion on the Franco film "The Sadist of Notre Dame," which was actually the third incarnation of a particular Franco flick. Thrower explains that an earlier version of this movie was done as "Exorcism" that in turn was eventually followed by a hardcore version called "Sexorism." Thrower also notes that Franco was pretty depressed at the time he made the picture, reveals that Franco reportedly wound up playing the lead because someone else dropped out at the last minute, and points out which scenes where shot in either Paris, France or Lisbon, Portugal. Worth a watch for Franco fans.

Wildflower
(2000)

Superior erotic thriller
The squabbling children of a recently deceased wealthy man gather together at a remote cabin to figure out who exactly will collect the bulk of the man's substantial inheritance. Complications ensue when luscious hitchhiker Nichol (a nicely sultry portrayal by stunning brunette C.C. Costigan) gets tossed into the already volatile mix.

Director David Michael Latt keeps the gripping and complex story moving along at a steady pace, makes good use out of the claustrophobic main location, and ably crafts a seething hothouse atmosphere rife with toxic greed and unbridled lust. Angel Orona's clever script offers an interesting bunch of well-drawn characters along with several dandy twists and turns (however, one particular twist at the very end proves to be pretty far-fetched).

The sound acting by the capable cast keeps this movie humming: Kim Little as the sneaky Audrey, Chris Hoffman as pathetic drunken gambler Dennis, Dean Stapleton as sleazy and selfish jerk Ethan, Kristina Estlund as Ethan's troubled pregnant wife Jackie, and Tamie Sheffield as ditsy buxom blonde stripper Zooey. Moreover, the sex scenes are fairly explicit and often scorching hot. It certainly doesn't hurt that the ladies featured herein are all quite attractive and desirable, with the delectable Mrs. Costigan rating as a definite stand-out as an extremely tempting and calculating bisexual predator. Both Bryon Werner's stylish cinematography and William Richter's moody score are up to par. The surprise bummer ending packs a startling punch. A nifty little B-flick.

Con Air
(1997)

Super fun and ridiculous 90's blockbuster actionfest
Noble Army ranger and reformed parolee Cameron Poe (Nicholas Cage is extremely likeable full-blown macho man mode) finds himself stuck on a plane with a bunch of dangerous criminals led by the notorious Cyrus the Virus (adroitly played with lick-smacking evil gusto by John Malkovich).

Director Simon West keeps the delightfully outrageous story hurtling along at a breathless breakneck pace, maintains an engaging tongue-in-cheek tone throughout, and stages the wild and exciting action set pieces with tremendous go-for-broke brawny brio. Scott Rosenberg's witty script boasts a lot of snappy one-liners along with a wickedly funny sense of self-mocking sardonic humor.

This film further benefits from a colorful and entertaining array of deliciously detestable villains: Ving Rhames as black militant Diamond Dog, Steve Buscemi as flaky and philosophical psycho Garland Greene, Nick Chinlund as the surly Billy Bedlam, M.C Gainey as easygoing good ol' boy pilot Swamp Thing, and Dave Chappelle as wisecracking lackey Pinball. Moreover, there are sound contributions from John Cusack as eccentric smartaleck US Marshalls agent Vince Larkin, Colm Meaney as bullheaded DEA agent Duncan Malloy, Mykelti Williamson as Poe's affable buddy Baby-O, Rachel Ticotin as sassy guard Sally Bishop, and Steve Eastin as sarcastic guard Falzon. The roaring and rattling score by Mark Mancina and Trevor Rabin does the rousing trick. David Tattersall's glossy widescreen cinematography likewise hits the impressive polished spot. However, it's this movie's giddy willingness to go totally over the top and then some that makes it such a gloriously gonzo blast to behold.

In the Heat of the Night
(1967)

Murder and racial tension down south
Well-educated and assured urban black detective Virgil Tibbs (superbly played with smooth conviction by Sidney Poiter) helps stubborn and biased police chief Gillespie (an outstanding performance by Rod Steiger) investigate a murder in a small Southern town.

Director Norman Jewison ably crafts a suffocating hothouse atmosphere seething with anger and hatred that's both vivid and palpable in equal measure; one could cut all the fierce racial tension and animosity hanging in the air like an ugly dark cloud with a knife. Moreover, Jewison also presents a flavorsome evocation of the downhome rural setting, generates plenty of suspense, and keeps the gripping story moving along at a constant pace. Stirling Silliphant's intelligent and incisive script presents two exceptionally complex main characters (in a nice touch, Tibbs's arrogance proves to be just as much of a crutch as the other characters' bigotry), astutely captures a tumultuous world in an uneasy state of transition, and even offers some fascinating insights into the early days of thorough forensic investigation.

Poiter and Steiger both do sterling work in their roles, with Steiger's explosive intensity and Poiter's laid-back calm making for a neat and enjoyable contrast throughout. In addition, there are fine supporting contributions from Warren Oates as bumbling oaf deputy Sam Wood, Lee Grant as distraught widow Mrs. Colbert, Larry Gates as powerful rich jerk Endicott, William Schallert as the sensible Mayor Schubert, Anthony James as goony diner counterman Ralph, Scott Wilson as the desperate Harvey Oberst, and Quentin Dean as shameless underage tramp Delores. Both Haskell Wexler's sharp cinematography and the soulful score by Quincy Jones hit a direct bull's eye. Spot-on groovy theme song sung by Ray Charles, too. Essential viewing.

Una Magnum Special per Tony Saitta
(1976)

The Italians should have made more movies in Canada
Hard-nosed cop Captain Tony Saitta (a forceful and persuasive performance by Stuart Whitman) uses brutish methods to find the person responsible for fatally poisoning his sister Louise (a brief, but memorable appearance by the striking Carole Laure) at a party.

Director Albert De Martino keeps the gripping story hurtling along at a constant pace, maintains a tough gritty tone throughout, adds a wickedly amusing sense of self-mocking humor for good measure, and stages the exciting action set pieces with rip-snorting go-for-it muscular aplomb (a fight sequence between Saitta and several transvestites is simply priceless while a protracted car chase positively cooks with primo unleaded gas). The compact script by Vincenzo Mannino and Gianfranco Clerici offers an inspired and enjoyable blend of elements from the crime noir, cop action, and mystery thriller genres. The fine acting by the tip-top cast rates as another significant asset: John Saxon as Saitta's rugged partner Sgt. Ned Matthews, Martin Landau as the shady Dr. George Tracer, Jean LeClerc as Louise's concerned boyfriend Fred, Tisa Farrow as fragile blind gal Julie Foster, Gayle Hunnicutt as the snarky Margie Cohn, Jean Marchand as the suspicious Terrence, and Anthony Forrest as Tracer's twerpy son Robert. Anthony Ford's sharp and lively cinematography provides an impressive polished look. Armando Trovajoli's groovy score hits the right-on funky-grinding spot. A real crackerjack winner.

El sádico de Notre-Dame
(1979)

Jess Franco on the prowl in Paris
Deranged and defrocked former priest Mathis Vogel (a creepy and convincing portrayal by Jess Franco, who also wrote and directed) gets released from an asylum and subsequently embarks on a grisly killing spree in which he brutally murders any women he perceives to be sinful harlots in the seedier areas of Paris, France.

Franco relates the engrossingly sordid story at a gradual pace, ably crafts and maintains an appropriately seamy tone, takes some pointed stabs at religious hypocrisy and fanaticism, makes nice use of various grimy locations, and delivers a satisfying smattering of tasty female nudity along with some hot lesbian lovemaking and a pleasingly protracted group orgy set piece. Moreover, Franco astutely nails the anguish of his tormented character. Franco regulars Lina Romay and Monica Swinn are both also on hand to bare their lovely bodies. Kudos are also in order for Raymond Heil's stark cinematography and Daniel White's funky-wonky avant-garde jazz score. Recommended viewing for Franco fans.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
(2019)

Finally an American Godzilla film that gets it right
Director/co-writer Michael Dougherty totally hits it out of the ballpark with this simply spectacular edition to the long running Godzilla series: Not only does Dougherty keep the engrossing and exciting story hurtling along at a breathless brisk pace despite the lengthy two hour-plus running time, but he also stages the thrilling and fantastic monster fights with rip-roaring gusto, maintains a refreshingly serious tone throughout, and keeps the human drama stuff on an even keel from start to finish. Moreover, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and especially King Ghidorah all look amazingly lifelike and certainly deliver the rousing mondo destructo and go-for-the-throat thingo-to-thingo goods something fierce. The cast is quite solid as well: Kyle Chandler makes for an engaging human hero, Vera Farmiga likewise does well as a conflicted scientist who has given up on the human race, and Millie Bobbi Brown elicits sympathy as the daughter caught between these two, plus there are sturdy contributions from Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford (pretty amusing as the token wisecracking comic relief guy), Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance (spot-on ruthless as the eco-terrorist human villain), Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, and O'Shea Jackson Jr. Popping up in nifty bits are David Strathairn, Joe Morton, and CCH Pounder. Bear McCreary's spirited score hits the stirring spot. The special effects are truly incredible and Lawrence Sher's striking widescreen cinematography provides a wondrous wealth of breathtaking visuals. But this is really the Big G and company's show. And boy do they ever come through like the champion monsters that they all are.

The New Kids
(1985)

An on the money thriller
Abby (an appealing portrayal by the insanely foxy Lori Loughlin) and her brother Loren (a solid and likeable performance by the handsome Shannon Presby) move to a small town in Florida to help their Uncle Charlie (nicely played by Eddie Jones) out with his amusement park after both of their parents are killed in an automobile accident. Complications ensue when Abby spurns the unwanted advances of dangerously unstable local white trash scumbag Eddie Dutra (James Spader in peak slimy and hateful form).

Director Sean S. Cunningham, working from a tight script by Stephen Gyllenhaal, relates the engrossing story at a snappy pace, presents a flavorsome evocation of the downhome rural setting, maintains a gritty take-no-prisoners tone throughout (yep, even a cute little bunny rabbit gets it), delivers several startling moments of raw, brutal, and ugly violence, generates a good deal of tension, and stages the rousing climax with considerable skill and brio. The members of Dutra's crew are a memorably vile and despicable bunch, with John Philbin as the skeevy Gideon rating as a particular revolting stand-out. Moreover, Eric Stoltz does well as the amiable Mark, Paige Price looks quite yummy as busty blonde babe Karen, and Tom Atkins has a regrettably small role as hard-nosed army officer 'Mac' MacWilliams. Steven Poster's sharp cinematography provides a pleasing polished look. Lalo Schifrin's shivery score hits the spine-tingling spot. A cool little flick.

Earthquake
(1974)

Very entertaining piece of 70's all-star disaster rubbish
The big one hits Los Angeles, thereby leveling the city and rendering various folks helpless as they are subjected to the fickle nature of mother nature -- and some rather nasty fellow humans, too.

Director Mark Robson keeps the enjoyable and engrossing story moving along at a constant pace, maintains a grimly serious tone throughout, and stages the earthquake and subsequent aftershock set pieces with aplomb. The pulpy script by George Fox and Mario Puzo not only boasts the usual fun array of trashy subplots and colorful characters, but also offers a brutally honest depiction of how crisis situations bring out both the best and worst in people as well as isn't afraid to cruelly bump off several major characters.

The ace cast of familiar faces helps a lot: Charlton Heston cuts an appropriately stalwart figure as rugged architect Graff, Ava Gardner snarks it up nicely as Graff's shrewish booze hag wife Remy, George Kennedy delivers a winningly robust performance as tough cop Slade, Genevieve Bujold keeps her dignity as Graff's sassy mistress Denise, Victoria Principal looks super foxy and rocks a deliciously hideous Afro hairdo as the sassy Rosa, and Marjoe Gortner contributes a genuinely creepy turn as deranged psycho National Guardsman Jody, plus there are sturdy contributions from Lorne Greene as Graff's hearty boss Royce (who also is somehow Remy's dad, too!), Richard Roundtree as smooth dude daredevil Miles, Barry Sullivan as pragmatic seismologist Stockle, Lloyd Nolan as the harried Dr. Vance, Gabriel Dell as Miles's loyal partner Sal, and Scott Hylands as a no-nonsense dam caretaker. Walter Matthau has a hilarious cameo as a loudmouth drunk at a bar (and wears a snazzy big red pimp hat to boot).

The special effects are pretty spectacular and hold up well; the striking matte paintings by Albert Whitlock are especially impressive. Kudos are also in order for Philip H. Lathrop's crisp widescreen cinematography and the stirring'n'sweeping orchestral score by John Williams. In addition, there are a slew of total howlers to be relished herein: Cows clearly stapled into a miniature truck that overturns, obviously empty crumbling buildings, a stunt man decked out in a wig and a dress who already has glass embedded in his face before he turns towards the camera, and, best of all, even a brief, but hysterical shot of fake cartoon blood flying right at the lens when an elevator full of screaming people smashes into the ground. A complete schlocky hoot.

Straight Time: He Wrote It for Criminals
(1978)

Fascinating portrait of a unique individual
This 24-minute documentary provides an interesting and illuminating portrait of ex-con turned writer Edward Bunker, whose gritty novel "No Beast So Fierce" was adapted into the film "Straight Time" starring Dustin Hoffman as a character based on Bunker. Bunker talks about how his parents divorced when he was only four years old and being made a ward of the state, which led to him falling into a life of crime and becoming the youngest convict to be incarcerated at San Quentin at age seventeen. Moreover, we also see Bunker working as a technical consultant on the set of "Straight Time" and see a clip of Bunker playing a small part in the movie. In addition, we also see former bank robber John Carlen serving as a consultant for the bank robbery set piece and writer Joseph Wambaugh points out that Bunker's writing is at its weakest dealing with square people due to all the time that Bunker spent in prison. Worth a watch.

The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant
(1971)

Fun piece of 70's drive-in horror trash
Obsessed scientist Dr. Roger Girard (a surprisingly sincere and subdued performance by Bruce Dern) grafts the head of vicious psychotic criminal Cass (robustly overplayed with cackling fiendish glee by Albert Cole) onto the hulking body of dim-witted handyman Danny (a sympathetic portrayal by John Bloom). The two-headed man escapes from Girard's lab and goes on a rampage.

Director Anthony M. Lanza, working from a goofy script by John Lawrence and James Gordon White, keeps the enjoyably inane story moving along at a zippy pace, treats the ridiculous premise with admirable seriousness (we even get a few touching moments of pathos amidst all the carnage), and stages the monster attack scenes as well as the rousing cave-in climax with flair. Moreover, the earnest acting by the committed cast keeps this movie humming: Pat Priest as Girard's neglected wife Linda (as a yummy extra treat, the comely Mrs. Priest is seen wearing a bikini at one point), Casey Kasem as concerned colleague Ken, Barry Kroeger as loyal assistant Max, Larry Vincent as Danny's stern dad Vincent, Jack Lester as a hard-nosed sheriff, and Gary Kent as a rough'n'tumble biker. John Barber's funky-grinding score hits the right-on groovy spot. A real schlocky hoot and a half.

The Detective
(1968)

Frank Sinatra excels in this sturdy crime thriller
Hard-bitten detective Joe Leland (superbly played with battered grace and conviction by Frank Sinatra) uncovers a cesspool of vice and corruption while investigating the brutal murder of a gay man.

Director Gordon Douglas, working from a caustic script by Abby Mann, relates the intricate and intriguing story at a constant pace, maintains a tough gritty tone throughout, and presents a vivid portrait of urban blight and decay in which compromise constitutes as an everyday part of being a police officer and having integrity comes at a bitter price. Sinatra holds the picture together with his believably world-weary portrayal of a decent, yet conflicted man who finds out the hard way that you just can't fight city hall.

Moreover, there are excellent contributions from Lee Remick as Leland's sweet, but unfaithful nymphomaniac wife Karen, Jack Klugman as token honest cop Dave Schoenstein, Horace McMahon as crusty superior Farrell, Ralph Meeker as crooked slime Curran, Lloyd Bochner as smug shrink Dr. Roberts, Jacqueline Bisset as classy widow Norma MacIver, Al Freeman Jr. as eager novice detective Robbie, Robert Duvall as brutish homophobe Nestor, and William Windom as closeted homosexual Colin. Tom Atkins makes his film debut in a small role as antsy rookie Harmon. Only Tony Musante's histrionic turn as the unhinged Felix leaves something to be desired. Kudos are also in order for Joseph F. Biroc's crisp widescreen cinematography and Jerry Goldsmith's spare bluesy score. Notable for its frank and fairly sympathetic (if now quite dated and stereotypical) depiction of homosexuality, fiercely cynical mood, and surprising downbeat ending, this gutsy movie packs a strong punch.

Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?
(1971)

Guess I'm in the minority on this one
Count Dracula (a deliciously overripe performance by Des Roberts) changes his name to Count Adrian and opens a strange nightclub called Dracula's Dungeon. Count Adrian sets his sights on making the lovely Angelica (an appealing portrayal by the extremely fetching Claudia Siefried) his latest vampire bride by giving her three bites to the neck.

Writer/director Laurence Merrick relates the intriguing oddball story at a hypnotically gradual pace, maintains a creepy somber mood throughout, and tosses in several inspired bizarre moments that include a voodoo ritual in which a guy eats a lizard, a protracted battle of wills between two sparring vampires, and surprise special appearances by both an ape and a tiger. Moreover, Merrick warrants extra praise for concluding things on a pleasing dark'n'downbeat nihilistic note. Worth a watch for fans of outre fright fare.

The Lost World
(1960)

Very silly, but still entertaining fantasy adventure romp
Irascible professor George Edward Challenger (well played with hearty aplomb by Claude Rains) leads an expedition made up of various scientists and adventurers to a remote plateau in order to prove that dinosaurs still indeed do exist.

Director/co-writer Itwin Allen treats the inane, but still enjoyable story with utmost seriousness, thereby ensuring that this goofy flick delivers a wondrous wealth of campy laughs. Among the kitschy delights to be relished herein are Jill St. John as the token helpless simpering female member of the group who brings a poodle with her and dresses to the nines in pink tights and matching boots, laughably obvious real-life lizards sporting plastic horns being unconvincingly palmed off as dinosaurs, a hot and helpful native babe (stunning brunette Vitina Marcus) who somehow has clear skin and nicely washed hair despite the fact that she lives in the jungle, an annoying comic relief sniveling coward (a supremely obnoxious portrayal by Jay Novell) who alas doesn't get bumped off until towards the end of the picture, and a fight between two lizards that nowadays would have animal rights activists screaming in moral outrage at the apparent grotesque mistreatment of the poor beasts as they both wind up tumbling off a cliff to their deaths. Michael Rennie, David Hedison, Fernando Lamas, and Richard Haydn all deserve mad props for keeping straight faces throughout. A total schlocky hoot and a half.

Dracula (The Dirty Old Man)
(1969)

Delightfully smutty soft-core horror comedy trash
Newspaper reporter Mike Waters (dorky Billy Whitton) falls under the evil spell of Count Dracula (goofy looking Vince Kelley, who's dubbed to sound like a Borst belt comedian!), who transforms Waters into an obedient werewolf lackey named Irving Jackalman and makes Jackalman go out to abduct young female victims that Dracula needs for their blood.

Man, I just don't get the hate for this one: We've got an uproariously cornball sense of blithely shameless lowbrow humor, the werewolf looks like he's wearing a cheap dimestore Halloween mask, loads of sidesplitting jokey dubbed-in dialogue that includes a simply priceless (and redundant) opening monologue, hilariously hokey (markedly less than) special effects (gotta love the obvious rubbery vampire bat on a wire!), lots of tasty bare distaff skin, and even some hot rapey werewolf action. A real dippy hoot.

The Astro-Zombies
(1968)

A total schlocky hoot
Mad scientist Dr. De Marco (a typically zesty slice of pure ham by the ubiquitous John Carradine) creates a deadly robot zombie that escapes from his lab and embarks on a murderous rampage. Meanwhile, both the CIA and an international spy ring are closing in on De Marco.

Boy, does this awesomely atrocious clunker possess all the right wrong stuff to rate highly as a real four-star stinkeroonie: We've got haphazard (mis)direction by Ted V. Mikels (who also co-wrote the inane script with Wayne Rogers of TV's "M.A.S.H." fame), an absurd and convoluted story that meanders along at a plodding pace, cheesy bits of gore (the blood looks like red paint!), a gloriously ludicrous premise that's played ridiculously straight, hokey (far from) special effects, and clumsily staged action scenes. Moreover, this film further benefits from a colorful array of enjoyably wacky characters: The super sexy Tura Satana as the lovely, but lethal Satana, Rafael Campo as her excitable partner Juan, Wendell Corey as cranky CIA head honcho Holman, William Bagdad as De Marco's bumbling assistant Franchot, and Vincent Barbi as sleazy thug Tiros. Look for Mikels as the guy pounding the bongo drums in the nightclub scene with the body-painted go-go dancer struttin' her sizzling stuff on stage. Good cruddy Grade Z fun.

Scarecrow Behind-the-Scenes
(2003)

Fun making of doc
This 18-minute behind the scenes documentary provides a pretty enjoyable and energetic glimpse into the making of the low-budget indie horror romp "Scarecrow." Director/co-writer Emmanuel Itier talks about how he grew up watching Troma movies and reveals that such directors as Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, George Romero, and John Carpenter were huge influences on him. The luscious Tiffany Shepis discusses how she started out acting in films for Troma and openly admits that she loves B-horror flicks. Tim Young points out that his character of Lester is a persecuted loner who's been a victim all of his life. Moreover, we also learn that all the special effects were done practically, Todd Rex both played and designed the scarecrow, and the whole movie was shot in just eight days. In addition, Itier in particular comes across as a really funny and lively guy who describes himself as "a complete lunatic wired by his own madness." Worth a watch for fans of the film.

Sie tötete in Ekstase
(1971)

Don't mess with Soledad Miranda!
Dr. Johnson (a sympathetic performance by Fred Williams) commits suicide in the wake of his experiments on human embryos being deemed immoral and inhumane by four prominent members of the medical community. His grieving and embittered wife (a mesmerizing portrayal by ravishing brunette beauty Soledad Miranda) decides to exact a harsh revenge on the four physicians she blames for her husband's death.

Writer/director Jess Franco relates the absorbing story at a deliberate pace, maintains a dark and despairing tone throughout, with our driven protagonist becoming more increasingly unhinged with each person she kills; and, naturally, delivers a handy helping of tasty female nudity along with several deliciously depraved moments of deviant sexuality. The doctor victims are a memorably hateful bunch: Paul Muller as the shifty Dr. Franklin Houston, Howard Vernon as the uptight Professor Jonathan Walker, Ewa Stromberg as icy lesbian Dr. Crawford, and Franco himself as the smarmy Dr. Donen. Manuel Merino's dynamic and restless cinematography makes thrilling use of lively zoom-ins and constant pans. The funky-grinding score by Manfred Hubler, Bruno Nicolai, and Sigi Scwab hits the right-on groovy swinging spot. Best of all, this film is an excellent vehicle for Soledad Miranda, whose striking pulchritude and captivating screen presence are positively breathtaking to behold. Better still, Miranda is always nude when she murders folks and zeros in on her marks in a calculating manner, so the vengeance featured herein rates as both hot and cold in equal measure.

Dominique
(1979)

Pretty good, but a bit on the sluggish side
Emotionally fragile rich lady Dominique (a fine and affecting performance by Jean Simmons) commits suicide. Her husband David (a solid portrayal by Cliff Robertson) inherits all her money. However, David soon starts to believe that Dominque's unrestful spirit has returned from beyond the grave to haunt and torment him.

While director Michael Anderson does a sound job of creating and sustaining an intriguingly spooky and enigmatic atmosphere, the engrossing, yet fairly predictable story unfolds at way too slow a pace and hence makes the film overall feel more than a little padded. Fortunately, the ace cast keeps this movie watchable: Jenny Agutter as David's sweet half sister Ann, Simon Ward as duplicitous chauffeur Tony, Judy Geeson as the skeptical Marjorie, and Michael Jayston as the conniving Arnold. Moreover, there are nice bits by Ron Moody as an eminently expendable corrupt doctor and David Tomlinson as a very formal lawyer. Both Ted Moore's polished cinematography and David Whitaker's elegant orchestral score are up to speed. While the execution could have used some more punch, the dark double twist ending goes a long way in compensating for the film's flaws. So to sum up, this movie has its issues, but overall sizes up as a perfectly decent little thriller all the same.

Scarecrow
(2002)

It's got a killer scarecrow who does ninja flips and cracks corny one-liners. Need I say more?
Anyone expecting a work of art needn't bother with this one. However, if gloriously ridiculous low-budget straight-to-video camp horror trash that's well aware of the fact that it's complete schlock flies your proverbial kite, then this deliciously cheesy hoot will have you soaring with joy straight into the stratosphere. The scenes with the scarecrow (the agile and athletic Todd Rex) bumping off various folks in assorted gruesome ways while cracking dopey one-liners ala Freddy Kreuger and doing backflips, cartwheels, and somersaults like some well-trained ninja are an absolute gut-busting riot to behold. Moreover, director/co-writer Emmanuel Itier keeps the enjoyably inane story moving along at a brisk pace, offers a strong evocation of an oppressive small backwater town atmosphere, and delivers lots of nice bits of outrageous gore. Scream queen Tiffany Shepis contributes a solid performance as token nice gal Judy. Tim Young likewise does well as pathetic persecuted misfit Lester while Richard Elfman really hams it up as abusive drunken lout Hewitt (Elfman also plays the puzzled sheriff with a good deal of more restraint). A fun piece of Grade B horror junk.

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