Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Attack of the Crab Monsters, Trash Talking Crustaceans

1957's "Attack of the Crab Monsters" may be considered one of the original B Movies.  Large creatures, imaginative but inexpensive f/x, a damsel in peril, scientists wishing to communicate with a creature, and a love triangle are ingredients in this Roger Corman concoction.  Some really cheesy one-liners and a menacing musical score effectively elevate this work to B Movie classic level.  Pamela Duncan and Richard Garland play scientists who battle giant crabs and fall in love.  Russell Johnson (the professor in "Gilligan's Island) plays Hank, a technician guessed it....tinkers with a radio to find some reception.
The plot:  After a scientific expedition mysteriously disappears from a newly discovered Pacific atoll, a second team is sent in to figure out what happened to them.  This new team gets off to a rocky (....or crabby) start when a seaman falls into the surf.  When this unfortunate sailor is pulled back into the rowboat, his head is no longer attached to his body (see picture below).  No one is too concerned about this tragic event, reminiscent of those Star Trek crew members who beam down to a planet with Kirk and Spock only to get eaten or vaporized.  One of the lead scientists does muse that "I hope that man's death is not an omen of things to come."  Nah!  Who would think that?  Soon our team learns that earthquakes plague the island and no animal life is present except for crabs.
As the scientists begin to explore the island strange discoveries are made.  Marty (Duncan) sees strange happenings when she dives off shore, and the other scientists find a mysterious pit infested with crabs.  After all of them retire for the evening, both Marty and another scientist hear the voice of the lead scientist from the first expedition.  This disembodied voice beckons them to the crab pit, which then swallows the scientist after Marty faints.  Dale comes to Marty's rescue and the two begin to fall in love.....much to the displeasure of the radio technician (Johnson).  When more of the expedition are lured to the pit they too are consumed by it.  The remaining scientists are then victimized by the disembodied voices, which beckon them to the pit.  When Marty, Dale, the professor, and Marianne (just kidding, she isn't in this movie) head over there, they are met by giant talking crabs.  These crabs want the rest of them.  The scientists fight back and blow the claw off the crab leader, only to be taunted by this grouchy (or crabby) crustacean, "I can grow a new claw in a day, but can you grow new lives when I take them from you."
Marty, Dale, and the professor then devise a bold plan to steam these crabs.  The three head to the pit one more time for a final showdown.  Of course, these intellectual crustaceans (...I love that word) are waiting.  Will Dale end up with Marty before she ends up a crab (is this Roger Corman's metaphor for all of our romantic relationships)?  Will the professor ever learn to fix a radio, or is he destined for loneliness on a deserted island?  "Attack of the Crab Monsters" is required viewing for anyone seeking to create a B Movie.  100% enjoyable for a Saturday night with your spouse as you curl up on a comfortable sofa and sip an ambitious Pinot Noir.  Your homework assignment today is to use the word "crustacean" four times over the next hour.  Have fun!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Helldriver, What's Eating Dad?

....actualy, mom is!  More on that in a moment. The two goriest movies I have ever seen are "Dead Alive" (directed by Peter Jackson) and 2010's "Helldriver." This Japanese zombie-apocalypse flick stars Yumiko Hara as Kika, a teen-aged ninja who is tasked with saving her country.  Also prevalent in this film is biting social commentary regarding the deadly consequences of the politics of (so-called) good intentions.  As our governments are increasingly working against us, and everything we value, "Helldriver" explores how far they would go to imprison us in miserable circumstances.
The plot: Returning from school, Kika walks in on her mom and uncle eating her dad.  Never realizing her mother was a psychopathic cannibal, Kika is distraught, and her mom is still hungry.  As her mom attempts to eat her, a meteorite propels through mom's torso.  Now missing her heart, she rips out Kika's and places it in the hole in her torso.  The ash from the meteorite causes millions in Japan to become cannibalistic zombies, which have antler shaped appendages growing out of their heads.  As carnage spreads, southern Japan walls off the north to prevent the spread.  Kika wakes up a year later in a government hospital with an artificial heart and the ability to kill these fiends.  The voters of Japan are their own worst enemies as the families of the infected lobby for basic human rights for their unfortunate loved ones.  A bill to consider the infected dead does not pass parliament.  The citizenry chant "protect the infected, support human rights." The nationalistic south unleashes Kika into the north to kill the infected.
Kika, now armed with a cool weapon (half chainsaw, half Samurai sword) picks up some partners and they saw through the infected.  Kika's mom is the "head" of the infected and a final showdown between the two is inevitable.  As Kika attempts to save her country, the politicians and clergy in the north insist the infected are humans and must be valued.  Uninfected citizens are forced to live three families to a dwelling as society falls apart, all in the name of a humane and happy Japan.
    As Kika and her friends cut through the infected hordes, her mother gains strength and awaits her daughter's return.  The two will have an incredible showdown complete with chainsaws, zombies, nukes, flying heads, and attitude.  Ask yourself this, does your government value intelligence, lawfulness, family, and individualism...or do they value social deviance, collectivism, criminals, and voting blocs?  The real monsters in this film may not be the zombies, but the elected bureaucrats.  The carnage is intense, so consider yourself warned.  This film is available on DVD and Netflix.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ninja's Creed, Gail Kim as The Terminator

The most popular entry in this blog is "Bounty Hunters" (Feb. 15) featuring Trish Stratus.  So today, we revisit the WWE and discuss 2009's "Ninja's Creed" (aka "Royal Kill") starring Gail Kim.  This film will remind you of "The Terminator" until the final 20 minutes, when it resembles a Brian DePalma film.  In this work, Kim plays Nadia, a very bad a** assassin, armed with pistols, swords, knives, bombs, a miniskirt, and leather boots.  If the dichotomy between the aforementioned movie styles raises your suspicions, Gail Kim as Nadia should convince you to see this DVD.
The plot:  The evil Skanji Empire is on the verge of pushing the Samarza Empire into extinction.  These two Himalayan empires just can't coexist.  The Samarza pray a lot in Christian churches so when they ask for assistance from the U.N. and the United States, they are ignored.  The Skanji send Nadia to wipe out the entire royal family of their rivals, and she cuts through them like a knife (or sword) through butter.  But wait, the seventh child of the last king is sent to the U.S. to be raised by Eric Roberts.  Just before the king dies he dispatches Adam (Alexander Wraith) to Washington, DC to protect this child (now a teenager named Jan, played by Lalaine).  He gets there moments ahead of Nadia.  Nadia is able to filet Eric Roberts, but Adam escapes with Jan.  Jan is confused, as most teen-aged girls are, and runs away from Adam.  Nadia and Adam pursue her to an abandoned building.
Before taking on Adam, Nadia has to dispose of five cops, and she does as if they were Madison Rayne and company.  Fans of WWE will recognize some of Gail Kim's patented moves in this battle.  This sets up a very cerebral final confrontation at the National Cathedral.  As Adam and Nadia set for a deciding sword fight, she whispers to him, "The line between good and evil is so blurred."  This is an important statement in order to understand the conclusion of this film.
Gail Kim is obviously this movie's star attraction.  As Pat Morita (...yes, he is in this, too) tells Adam, she is not satisfied with merely killing, she wants to enjoy it.  Will the slogan "Can't we just get along?" spread from L.A. to the Himalayas?  Will Maryse or Kelly Kelly come to Jan and Adam's rescue?  Explosions, gunfights, sword fights, and Gail Kim......what more can we ask for? Well, how about a sequel in which Trish Stratus plays a bounty hunter pursuing Gail Kim's Nadia, the evil assassin? Yes, I think that would be a reasonable request.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Aberration, Mutant Lizards invade Minnesota

Like many of you, I have been craving a mutant lizard story.  So today we will look at a film from New Zealand, 1997's "Aberration." This movie stars Pamela Gidley (winner of a "Most Beautiful Girl in the World" contest), Simon Bossell, and scores of hungry, mutated geckos.  Like all great B Movies, this work succeeds as a love story, as well.  When our geeky, biologist hero meets the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, only in B Movies does he have a chance with her.  As we all know, these women come with strings attached, and in this case, the strings are a pursuing Russian mobster and hungry amphibians.  Is she still worth it?  Of course, especially if you are a geeky scientist who doesn't talk to humans much.
The plot: Amy (Gidley) arrives at a remote cabin in the wilds of Minnesota, hoping to start a new life with a new identity.  She is running away from Uri, a Russian mobster.  Her only companions are her cat and goldfish (future lizard cuisine).  Because she is so beautiful and has absconded with the mob's loot, Uri is on her trail.  Marshall (Bossell) meets up with her and can't stop drooling.  At first, she has no interest in him, but his charm and innocence, matched with his carnal attraction to her beauty and mystery, spark increasing sexual tension as the plot progresses.  And progress it does!  Marshall is studying the disappearing species in the region, and while assisting Amy in getting rid of mystery pests in her cabin, the two come face to face with an army of weirdly evolved geckos.  They have big teeth and can grow to three feet in just a few hours.
At first they try to escape but Amy's only neighbor has become a nest for these things.  Then the snow falls and they are trapped in her cabin with these vermin.  As the heating system fails, the lizards realize, to paraphrase the tagline from "The Thing," man is indeed the warmest place to hide.  Amy is a perfect gal for Marshall.  When she teaches him to shoot a rifle, her only instructions are "Pump, point, pull...just like the chick in Terminator."  As Amy and Marshall put up a heroic fight, destroying creatures and their eggs, they realize the entire place is infested with them.  Uh oh.....Uri arrives (see above picture).  Unlike love-starved, flawed B Movie characters, Russian mobsters who care only about the bottom line, are not as well equipped to deal with mutated monsters.  As Uri menaces our heroes, the things move in, and they are hungry and seeking warm places to nest their eggs.
Will the geek, or the geckos, end up with the most beautiful girl in the world?  Will Uri's talent for killing schmucks in the big city translate into the ability to kill hordes of hungry amphibians?  The conclusion is filled with explosions, gore, and a very frightening final scene.  Gidley, as Amy, is terrific and her increasing attraction to Marshall is sweet.  For romance, horror, guns, explosions, gore, and mobsters...."Aberration" should satisfy you.  Unfortunately, Pamela Gidley (who like me, is originally from Massachusetts) seems to be out of acting.  With all the bad actors who have endured, it is too bad Gidley has not.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Savage Island, Women Behind Bars Exploitation

From the late 1960s through the mid 1980s, the "women behind bars" sub-genre flourished.  Sexploitation is a more relevant description of these  movies than Exploitation, and Pam Grier and Linda Blair led the way in delivering these guilty pleasures to us.  Of the almost hundred films I've featured on this blog, it is shocking that 1985's "Savage Island" will be the first of this sub-genre.  Though the popularity of these movies has waned, some have been made under the guise of "critically acclaimed films" (e.g. Kate Beckinsale in "Brokedown Palace").  So today, here is the incredibly raunchy entry of "Savage Island."
The plot:  Linda Blair is Daly, the head of a ring of jewel thieves who will invade a South American island rich in emeralds.  The island is run by tyrants who have beautiful women convicts as slave labor.  These women are dressed in rags that fall off a lot, and are beaten and raped by guards continuously.  Daly's team goes in after they are able to plant Maria (Christina Lai, pictured below) into the prison, so she can act as the "inside man" during the invasion.  The team will invade the prison and steal the emeralds.  Fortunately for our beautiful captives, Daly has a heart, and freeing the women becomes a goal, as well.  As Maria is savagely introduced to the prison, she befriends Muriel (Ajita Wilson) and together they plot to steal the jewels and escape when the invasion comes.
Don't be fooled, most of the film chronicles beautiful damsels in peril, with whips, rape, and torture.  Muriel is able to save Maria from the advances of some of the more masculine female prisoners which results in her being strung up in the tropical heat (see below picture). With Muriel temporarily out of the picture, Maria is preyed upon (use your imagination) by evil guards.  The invasion comes, and Muriel, Maria, and the other prisoners are able to exact bloody revenge on prison personnel, including the warden.  After a bloody revolt, the girls, and Daly's gang must then survive the jungle (which include snakes, prison patrols, and some very blood-thirsty leeches).    
The action is fast and furious.  Cat-fights, shower scenes, gunfights, nudity, jungle carnage, and beautiful women are plentiful in this flick.  Will Maria and Murial surive the jungle and be successfully reintroduced to civilization?  Will a Brubaker type warden reform the South American penal system?  The ending won't disappoint.  Revenge and vengeance are major themes of the makers of "Savage Island."  Lai and Wilson steal the show, as Linda Blair appears in the first and last scene only....though heavily armed in each one.  If you have had your fill of over-rated superhero movies, treat yourself to some good deserve it!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ms. 45, All Men are Evil

The late 1970s and early 1980s were a weird time in New York City.  The Son of Sam was spreading his carnage, and George Steinbrenner turned the New York Yankees into a soap opera as he kept firing Billy Martin.  The movie "Death Wish" starring Charles Bronson gave people hope about tackling crime.  Also during this time, "I Spit on Your Grave" began the rape/revenge genre in film.  This brings us to 1981's "Ms. 45," an incredibly violent film starring Zoe Lund (1962-1999).  When not acting, Lund served as an advocate for the use of heroine....ironically, she died of drug related causes in Paris at the age of 37.
The plot:  Lund portrays Thana, a timid and mute seamstress in New York's garment district.  On her stroll home one evening, a thug pulls her into an alley and rapes her.  Without the ability to call for help, she scampers back home only to walk in on a burglar who rapes her at gunpoint.  As she endures the second rape, she reaches for a crystal apple (perhaps symbolic of Eve's fall from grace), and conks the thug in the head and finishes him off with an iron.  She now has a gun (.45 caliber) and a new attitude.  No longer meek, she cuts up her 2nd rapist and places him in garbage bags in her refrigerator.  She disposes a piece of him each day on her way to work, finding different trash cans on her walk.
Armed with a .45, Thana is slightly more confident.  One day a creep follows her and chases her into an alley and she deposits a round between his eyes.  Easy...and slightly enjoyable to our newly created homicidal maniac.  Each killing brings her more and more out of her shell.  She, one night, dolls herself up with make-up and a risque wardrobe and hits Central Park and mows down five would be rapists in just a few seconds.  This movie turns into an orgy of carnage as she also offs a Saudi Arabian prince and his driver on her way home.  The New York Post starts reporting on these mass killings beside the news of the latest Billy Martin firing as Yankee manager.  As she finishes disposing of the remains of her second rapist, she feeds the last few pieces of him to a neighbor's dog. An incredibly violent conclusion approaches which see, a now sexed up, Thana heading to a Halloween party as the date of her boss who constantly sexually harasses her (can you guess his fate?).  Oh yes, her costume?  A nun.
This movie is violent and drips of symbolism.  The final scenes have her dressed as a nun, and her intended final victim, dressed as Dracula.  In all, she kills 18 times, all captured in these reels.  This film reminds us more of "Death Wish" than "I Spit on Your Grave" but both influenced this work.  Director Abel Ferrara keeps this a stylish work, and masterfully creates a character that starts out as a victim in waiting, to a horrific predator.  See "Ms. 45" but be warned......your weekly quota for motion picture violence will be filled in these 80 minutes.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Death Curse of Tartu, Babs vs. The Witch Doctor

Thanks to our friends at Something Weird Video, our entry for today is 1966's "The Death Curse of Tartu."  This flick, released on DVD as a companion to "Sting of Death" (reviewed here on February 27th), features bikini clad babes dancing to Neil Sedaka music (as does "Sting"), swamp horror (as does "Sting"), damsels in danger (as does "Sting") and is set in the Everglades.  Babette Sherrill (Babs) stars as Julie  She's beautiful, and looks more like she is in a Pantene commercial than a horror movie.  Even though she trudges through jungle, swamps, caves, and tombs, she is clad in a slightly tight white skirt, leather boots, leather belt, and a nice blouse, her performance works so well in this B Movie venue.  After all, you ladies, when facing shocking horror in a swamp, we cannot overstate the importance of proper accessorizing.
   The plot:  200 years ago the evil witch doctor Tartu swore something on his death bed we all have sworn when realizing our own mortality.  Anyone who disturbs his grave (tomb) would be horribly killed.  Though we can all empathize with his sentiments, this magic man also vowed that he would return as a wild animal in order to exact his vengeance.  When an archaeological team decides to search for his tomb, the carnage starts as he becomes either a shark, crocodile, snake, tiger, or himself.  Ed is the head archaeologist and his main squeeze Julie is joining him for the ride....I guess her Elle magazine gig never materialized.  Also joining the expedition are four of his students which include two bikini clad gals and their amorous classmates.  Soon after entering the swamp, each couple takes the opportunity to make-out for an extended period of time, giving Tartu enough opportunity to change into one of those aforementioned creatures and pick them off one by one.
  The deaths are slow and horrible, and the coeds scream a lot as they are chased through the Everglades.  The first two to be killed by Tartu are Tommy and Joann. After their make-out session they decide to play "I'm Tarzan, You Jane" (really!) and dive into the river.  Tartu, now a shark then feasts on them.   Ed and the Breck girl, and a surviving coed then plot to take the fight to Tartu.  They conspire to find the tomb and destroy Tartu's corpse.  Babs, smarter than she looks (...or perhaps Ed is stupider than he looks) finds the tomb and the game is on.
Director William Grefe prioritizes scenes in which our female stars are being chased through the Everglades, either in bikini or other attractive get-ups.  Of course, this all culminates in a final confrontation between Tartu and the Breck girl which includes ax, spear, crocodile, and quicksand.  Will Ed, our annoying and stupid leading man be able to rescue Julie before Tartu turns her into bait for swamp creatures?  As was "Sting of Death," this is a fun movie which un-apologetically exploits the allure of it's female leads.  If you can't go to Florida for vacation this year, see these two movies (included on the same DVD) instead.        

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Zombie Hunter, Mad Max meets the Zombie Apocalypse

"Zombie Hunter" (2013) is proof that a fine zombie movie can still be made.  In a sub-genre that, of late, seems to be producing more dull flicks than anything remotely scary, this film has style, moodiness, and interesting characters.  Australian actor Martin Copping (Battle Ground) plays Hunter, a Mad Max type anti-hero with a bloody past, complete with a souped up black Chevy capable of going 150 mph.  Throw in Danny Trejo (Machete) as a hardened preacher and a couple of babes, and we have a terrific B Movie.
 The plot:  A year after an illegal drug called "natas" (Satan backwards) reduces the planet's population to zombies, Hunter is doing what all of us would be doing if we thought we were the only human left a hot rod over 150 mph through a desert.  As with all movies where someone thinks he is the last human, he is wrong.  After crashing his car, he is taken in, and nursed back to health, by a small commune led by a hardened and philosophical preacher named Father Jesus (Trejo).  Also in the commune is a stripper named Fast Lane Debby (Jade Regier), a wholesome gal named Alison (Clare Niederpruem), a geeky 15 year old, a mechanic, and an obnoxious fat guy.  With nothing else up his sleeve, and a heavy crush on Alison, Hunter joins them.  Fr. Jesus advises Hunter that they plan to leave the compound before a horde of eaters invades, and race to an airfield, commandeer a plane, and fly to some uninhabited islands off the coast.
These plans are never as easy as they should be...especially, as we all know, during a zombie apocalypse.  To get to the airfield, this ragtag group must travel through Dahmer.  The residents of Dahmer feasted on eaters, and now have become maniacal mutants.  Fortunately for our team, Hunter is bad-a**, and he is of the philosophy of  "Nothing puts a smile on my face like a mid-day massacre."  He partakes in these massacres of eaters and mutants using firearms, blades, chainsaws, and motor vehicles.  Fr. Jesus sums up Hunter the best, "Anyone that can survive Hell, they gotta be one ruthless, mean, son of a b****."
Of course their trek through Dahmer isn't without gory incident.  Our group must survive a chainsaw-wielding mutant cannibal with a sick sense of humor.  With Alison and Hunter bonding so well, will Fast Lane Debby (the stripper) find her niche in the post-apocalyptic wasteland?  With most of the world's population eaten or turned, is Fr. Jesus now one of the top five candidates to be the next Pope?  The acting is terrific and appropriately moody for this end-of-the-world saga. See "Zombie Hunter" and have a ball with the Noah-like character of Fr. Trejo and avoid the weird "Noah" movie that just graced our movie theaters.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Tournament, Guns, Grenades, and Redemption

My favorite Kelly Hu (Hawaii Five-O & Stiletto) work is 2009's "The Tournament." A gory, loud, violent shoot-em-up flick, "The Tournament" ultimately delivers a very divine message which we all can heed as Easter approaches.  Hu plays Lai Lai Zhen, a viscous Chinese assassin who by fate (...or divine intervention?) is thrown together with a priest, played by Robert Carlyle, who is battling the bottle and just lost his church.  Both these characters are given the opportunity for redemption, through a sick tournament.
 The plot:  Every seven years a tournament takes place in which 30 of the world's most deadly assassins compete for $10 million.  They converge on a city, this year it is Middlesbrough in Great Britain, and must be the final assassin standing after 24 hours.  Each player has a tracking device implanted in them and are also given a tracker so they can hunt each other down.  As the tournament begins, Zhen quickly gets the ball rolling (or shall we say, the gun firing?) by offing an opponent who sneaks into her hotel room in most gory fashion.  In the next scene, a French assassin cuts out the tracker from his own gut, and throws it into a coffee pot in a diner.  Father MacAvoy (Carlyle) then inadvertently swallows the tracker and is now hunted by the remaining assassins.  MacAvoy is pathetic.  Unable to refrain from liquor and mocked by his parishioners, whom he has let down, he finds his way to his old church and prays that God will save him, and restore his heart which is gone.  Not immediately realized by our fallen priest, God is about to answer his prayers.  Just as he prays for "hope," Zhen appears, ready to dispose of him.
Other assassins arrive, and Zhen ends up saving MacAvoy's life and takes pity on him.  Zhen now is faced with surviving this tournament and keeping the priest alive.  Throughout the rest of the movie, MacAvoy sees Zhen's beauty and implores her to pursue a virtuous life, while Zhen implores MacAvoy to stop drinking and save himself.  This irony is not lost on our protagonists, as MacAvoy muses that it is funny to receive health advice from an assassin.  To complicate matters for our unlikely duo, the reigning champion, Joshua played by Ving Rhames (Dawn of the Dead & Piranha 3D) begins pursuing them.  Zhen was tasked to kill Joshua's pregnant wife a few years back, and now she is the object of his revenge.  Is redemption possible for these two, even after the depths they have explored?  Ultimately, this is what "The Tournament" is all about.
 Of course the final showdown is exciting, and contains a few plot twists.  Hu, Carlyle, and Rhames are all fantastic, especially playing hopeless beings who are given a chance to reassess where they are going in life.  The final scene has MacAvoy delivering a sermon, and words of advice that we can all benefit from.  Even in the carnage and violence of B Movies, uplifting and wholesome messages can appear.  To quote the swamp thing from the movie "The Swamp Thing," "There is beauty in the swamp if you look in the right places."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Island of the Fishmen, Barbara Bach and Sea Monsters!

In 1979 Sergio Martino directed Barbara Bach and Claudio Cassinelli in "The Big Alligator River" (reviewed in this blog on March 13th).  Also in 1979, this trio teamed up for "Island of the Fishmen."  I have always been partial to movies with sea creatures, and movies with Barbara Bach, so both these Italian flicks are perfect for this blog.  "Alligator" featured an evil land developer and a big toothy alligator, and "Fishmen" features mad scientists and humanoid sea creatures.  Add in some voodoo, an ominous volcano, the lost continent of Atlantis, and Joseph Cotten (Baron Blood) and we have the makings of a perfect B Movie.
The plot: Claude (Cassinelli) is a prison doctor who is aboard a lifeboat, with several violent convicts, after his prison ship sinks.  Close to death from starvation and thirst, their boat is attacked by humanoid sea creatures who claw to death most of the prisoners.  The survivors (Claude and a few Devil's Island refugees) then wash up on a mysterious island which is displaying an alarming amount of volcanic activity.  Once on the island, the convicts begin to meet horrible fates at the hands of the monsters, and are spooked to find numerous signs of voodoo.  Claude almost perishes when a viper lunges at him, but a mysterious gal on horseback, named Amanda (Bach), blows the serpent in half.  Amanda then warns our survivors to get back to the beach and leave the island any way they can, or die.
 Captivated by her beauty, the trio follow Amanda to a luxurious compound where they meet Edmund (Richard Johnson) who initially wants the men gone, but when he finds out that Claude is a doctor, he changes his mind.  Amanda is a mysterious figure to Claude.  Initially all we know about her is that she likes to shoot, ride horseback, and take baths (see above picture).  Claude and Amanda begin making goo-goo eyes at each other and Edmund has to remind her not to get too attached to someone who will be dead soon.  The drama heightens as the remaining convicts are picked off by the creatures and Amanda is spied rendezvousing with these beasts, who seem to adore her.  As the volcanic activity increases, Edmund reveals to Claude the secret of these creatures, and it is a hideous one.
   This is a good-looking cast and the relationship between Amanda and Claude intensifies as the movie progresses.  Throw in Joseph Cotten as a deranged biologist who turns humans into gilled slave laborers (see picture above), and a subplot about a voodoo revolt and Atlantis, and this movie is a guaranteed winner.  Will Amanda's relationship with her adoring sea creatures free her from Edmund's bondage?  Will the sea creatures approve of Claude as her new main-squeeze?  Will Joseph Cotten be allowed to continue his experiments?  Well acted, and neat sea monsters make "Island of the Fishmen" a must see.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Deadly Embrace, A Poor Man's Body Heat

As William Hurt found out in "Body Heat," and Craig Wasson found out in "Body Double," being just some poor schmuck can have dire consequences.  These two films from the early 1980s heavily influenced the low budget, but spirited, 1989 movie, "Deadly Embrace." B Movie fans will love the cast; Jan-Michael Vincent as a plotting husband, Linnea Quigley ("Beach Babes From Beyond" and "Nightmare Sisters") as the girl in danger, Michelle Bauer ("Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers" and "Bimbo Penitentiary") as a nympho-spirit, and Ty Randolph (who played the body double in "Body Double") all do heroic jobs.
The plot: Stewart (Vincent), a sleazy real estate developer, hires a young schmuck named Chris (Ken Abraham) to "help out" his wife while he works late and travels.  Chris is given a bungalow to live in for the summer and immediately is lusted after by Charlotte (Randolph), the wife.  That's no great tragedy as Stewart is in a torrid affair with his bimbo secretary (see picture below) and scheming to divorce Charlotte because "...she just doesn't do it for me anymore." Charlotte does everything she can to seduce young Chris, including enlisting his aid in applying suntan lotion to those hard to reach areas on her back and legs (see above picture).  Chris better be careful, as his girlfriend is an aspiring actress, Michelle (Quigley).  Charlotte's seduction is successful and Chris and her spend a most torrid night together.  Unfortunately for Charlotte, who clandestinely videotapes her trysts, Chris is still committed to Michelle...again, "committed" is such a relative term in our youth.
Charlotte, married to an unloving husband and in the midst of being rejected by the capable, but thick, pool-boy, hatches a plan bordering on criminal insanity.  Knowing Chris has invited Michelle to spend the night in the bungalow, Charlotte thinks up a murder plot that involves showing Michelle the aforementioned video before putting a bullet through her skull.  What would a B Movie be without some measure of criminal insanity?  As the naive Michelle visits, she is lured by Charlotte's charm and hospitality.  The sad, but plotting wife puts her plan into action as Michelle and Chris "celebrate" their night together.  Not knowing Charlotte is watching and video-taping the entire endeavor, the dumb schmuck (Chris) may not be able to shield the naive Michelle from a most gruesome and humiliating fate.(see picture below).
Will Michelle's acting career end with her performance with Chris on some Bulgarian snuff cable channel?  Will Chris pay the ultimate price for being such a schmuck?  Will Charlotte's homicidal plans extend to Chris and her husband?  Oh yes, I have failed to mention Michelle Bauer as the nympho-spirit, but rest assured, she is a very prevalent plot device in this work.  B Movie limitations may have prevented "Deadly Embrace" from being as stylish as "Body Heat" and "Body Double," but the makers of this flick never sacrificed eroticism.  Fans of two of the most famous scream queens ever (Quigley and Bauer) will not be disappointed by "Deadly Embrace."  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Super Tanker, Anti-Matter, Nukes, and Bigger Boats

One of my favorite actresses is the lead singer from Auradrone, Jon Mack (see picture below).  Whenever she is in a movie, I just have to watch it.  Ms. Mack never mails in a performance or merely recites lines, but delivers her character as very human and caring.  After seeing "Mongolian Death Worm," her performance as an overburdened and under supplied doctor in a field hospital outside Ulan Bator inspired me to write a check to the Doctors' w/o Borders charity.  Watching her as Carla, in "Mandrake," showed what kind of person our organizations need to hire to be successful.  In 2011's "Super Tanker" (a techno-scifi thriller), her character (Morgan) ensures that that this film's plot would not be lost in complicated technology.
The plot: 40 years ago, a meteorite crashed in northern Alaska.  Fortunately, the cold kept the thing dormant, because it was made of ICE-10.  What is ICE-10?  Kinda like anti-matter, if loose in our atmosphere, it would cause a chain reaction that could destroy Earth ( snide comments here).  Robert Jordan (Ben Cross, fresh from his role as Sarek in "Star Trek"), the former Director of Science and Technology for the CIA is summoned by the military after a portion of ICE-10 is activated in northern Alberta.  Fearing this thing could keep reacting and cause more hi-jinx, he comes up with a plot to put the stuff on a super big crude carrier, sail it over the Mariana Trench, and sink it...thus neutralizing it.  When the ICE-10 starts reacting aboard this ship, navy ships, helicopters, and, cruise ships are annihilated.  
  Jordan then calls in a team of nuclear experts featuring Adam (Callum Blue), Morgan (Mack) and Jackie (Jacky Woo).  This team met with tragedy in Azerbaijan, as Morgan had to watch her brother die in a nuclear accident.  This horrible experience ended her marriage with Adam, the team leader.  Now it is two years later, and this reassembled team must work together to neutralize the ICE-10 aboard this cavernous ship.  Oh yes....the military is hostile to their presence and the President is eager to cover-up what is really going on.  I gotta say, every time Ms. Mack delivered a line, whether it was "We will have to figure out how to modulate the field through network interface" or "Sometimes not good enough is the best you can do," I was applauding.
Ben Cross delivers a serious performance.  In one scene he delivers a press conference which we'd like to see from our leaders, that has us all cheering.  Knowing that the President will probably "get him" for being honest, Cross' character is motivated by truth.  Callum Blue is terrific as the haunted Adam, and realizes that getting his life back together may also help earn Morgan back.  While it would have been easy for this movie to remain at a very technical level, the performances by Mack, Callum, and Woo ensure to a great extent, this is also a movie about human beings.  Will this trio save the Earth?  Will Ben Cross ever work again after being put on the President's enemies list?  If "The Deadliest Catch" ever becomes monotonous, will they steal some of the plot devices of "Super Tanker"?  See "Super Tanker" and do yourselves a big favor, listen to some "Auradrone" music and find them performing in 2014.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Infection, Icky Green Ooze from Japan

What happens when the portion of the Hippocratic Oath, which says " no harm," is replaced by "..we'll do what we can,"?  When a calling to an almost divine profession turns into a bureaucratic endeavor in which we expect funding and eight hour shifts, a horror story ensues.  In a dark and isolated Japanese hospital, staffed with inexperienced nurses and doctors of questionable ability, running short of basic medical supplies, and decisions of life and death are based on funding and convenience, 2004's "Infection" (aka "Kansen") answers that question.
 The plot: An ambulance radios our unfortunate hospital because they have a 45 year old patient showing icky symptoms.  The hospital answers them to go somewhere else.  Unable to reach another hospital quick enough, the ambulance delivers the infected subject, anyway.  The doctors and nurses look upon this new patient in complete disgust, as his muscles and organs are liquefying into a green ooze.  The patient smiles at his attending staff, nonetheless, perhaps symbolizing our trust in doctors...however human they may be.  Displaying no effort to help this man, a senior doctor declares they should examine and research this case, as that is where funding and fame comes from in today's medical profession.  Unfortunately for most of the hospital staff, the patient deteriorates into a green ooze that travels through the ventilation system, dropping on unsuspecting nurses and doctors, hence infecting them.
   In another sub plot, a patient, dying quickly, with horrible burns over 90% of his body is being attended to by another portion of the hospital staff.  Through incompetence, the burn victim goes into cardiac arrest and the team attempts to save his life.  When the doctor barks out an order to inject him with the wrong drug, an inexperienced nurse complies.  The death of this patient is horrific to this staff, once they realize their mistake, because it could end their medical careers.  The scared doctors and nurses concoct a plan to cover up their malpractice and falsify the death report.  Even dead, wouldn't you know, our burned character finds ways to haunt the staff in this dark setting.
This horror story has plenty for you gore-hounds. Some scenes will make us cover our eyes, and push our bowl of popcorn away.  As horrific as the images are on the screen, the symbolism is so deep, a second viewing of "Infection" may be necessary.  The good looking doctors and nurses, clad in white, symbolizes the purity and idealism that should permeate the medical profession.  The green ooze (...coincidentally the color of modern day scrubs) symbolizes the fate of what will happen to the medical profession if the aforementioned idealism is eschewed.  Scary and icky, "Infection" will scare you, especially if a visit to the hospital is in your near future. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Trollhunter, Government Cover-Up in Norway

When I was a lad, our schools taught us of the brilliance of our "Founding Fathers." Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, and Patrick Henry were admired in school for their fanatical pursuits of freedom. These great men warned us that government was a necessary evil, and if not checked....would eliminate our liberties.  Today, these same public (government run) schools teach that these heroes were really selfish, racist (what?), nut-jobs and that government protects us from these sorts.  So when I find a movie, like 2010's "Trollhunter," I am ecstatic that Americans are not the only ones suspicious of government.  In the midst of a terrific monster movie, we learn that even Norwegians may feel that their government may be working against the people.
The plot:  A film crew from a college in Volda starts out trying to expose poachers.  Johanna Morck (who played the sweet but unfortunate nurse in "Cold Prey 2") plays Johanna the sound-gal and Glenn Erland Tosterud plays Thomas, the narrator (see picture above).  They believe they have identified a poacher and begin following a mysterious hunter named Hans (see picture below).  Hans is a loner and as we find out, contracted by the secret service in Norway to eliminate trolls (which the government denies the existence of) that wander from their reservations.  The government does not believe that Norwegians can handle the truth, so a massive cover-up ensues....much to the eventual misfortune of our attractive film crew.
Hans, embittered by the dirty job he is entrusted to is initially hostile to the film crew...and then something happens.  He eventually sees in them their pristine desire for truth.  Hans (Otto Jespersen), unhappy that the government won't pay overtime or night bonuses, allows Johanna and Thomas to tag along and film.  Before that, he asks them if they believe in God, because if they do....well...trolls, of course, eat Christians. They lie and say they don't.  The film crew is able to document several troll kills, all with horrific drama.  As scary as the trolls are, the government bureaucrats are portrayed as even more menacing...and end up being a bigger threat to our heroes than the trolls.  Eventually Hans brings them up north where they will track down the much feared mountain troll (yes, there are various types of trolls).  Massive power lines have been erected up there to keep these trolls "fenced in." 
The addition of power lines into the plot is not a frivolous one.  Power lines ruining the very scenic nature views of Norway is a point of contention between the government and citizens who want Norway to stay beautiful and picturesque.  Will the government allow our film crew to survive?  Will Hans ever get the overtime he deserves, or will the Norwegian government permit him to access internal dispute mechanisms to file the necessary grievances ( maybe you can tell I work for the government)?  Finally, will the troll community (who can't step into the sunlight) ever be able to step into the figurative sunlight?  This is a terrific movie with great creature effects.  As outlandish as the plot sounds, trolls trouncing through Norway, this movie keeps a sense of realism to it which will chill all of us who believe the government is not necessarily here to help us.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Ghastly Ones, RIP Mike Vraney

With the recent death of Mike Vraney (at the age of 56), founder of Something Weird Video (SWV), today's selection is one of my favorite movies re-released by that company.  SWV made it possible for all of us B Movie enthusiasts to find DVDs of classic exploitation films of the fifties, sixties, and seventies.  1968's "The Ghastly Ones" is one such work.  Directed by Andy Milligan ("Bloodthirsty Butchers" & "Legacy of Horror"), this film is heavy on gore and doesn't risk character development if there is an opportunity for dismemberment, instead.
The plot:  Three attractive couples are summoned to Crenshaw Island (near New York City).  The three wives are sisters, Victoria being the eldest.  Victoria and Richard (see above) are the most interesting couple.  These two love having sex, even though Richard is concealing a homosexual relationship with his own brother.  You gotta like this plot device; the three couples are being summoned to the secluded island estate for the reading of a will.  The will states that the three sisters will split the fortune if they spend three nights in this house while enjoying sexual harmony....and they get right to work.  Mr. Crenshaw (now deceased) put the aforementioned clause in the will after revealing that his wife (the mother of this trio) was frigid and domineering.  A final matrimonial jab, I guess we can say.
  Adding to the drama are three lunatic servants, highlighted by the creepy Colin (see above picture) who captures small animals and eats them raw (anti-social behavior, even in 1968).  As happy as Victoria is to see her sisters again, she reveals to Richard, "I want more than my share....I'll do anything to get what I want."  So when the carnage begins, we have plenty of suspects.  In the midst of the aforementioned sexual harmony, we are treated to hatchet jobs, pitchforks in the neck, serving dish carnage (see picture below), decapitations, and a disembowelment or two.  With their husbands assuming room temperature first, the nymphomaniac sisters must band together to survive.
Which sister will survive to claim the Crenshaw fortune?  This is a fast moving and gory movie.  The opening scene draws us right in as two trespassing lovers are torn apart on the island.  Fans of the Exploitation genre will love this work, and many other Andy Milligan films.  Before your next family reunion, see "The Ghastly Ones."