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Tuesday, October 06, 2015


The title characters: On the prowl and not entering as contestants in "spooky biker night" at the Manhole Bar.

When I finally got around to seeing this serial murder/cannibalism "classic" after years of hearing about it,  I was  frankly surprised at what it turned out to be. You know Herschell Gordon Lewis' seminal gore shocker BLOOD FEAST (1963), right? Well imagine BLOOD FEAST if it had been created by and for kids, and then you pretty much have THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS.

Cheap and very silly, THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS offers up the title characters and takes us with them as they ride around on their motorcycles in search of nubile and innocent women to butcher, thus providing the ripoff-artist undertaker (Ray Dennis) with business and allowing his accomplices a two-pronged benefit: one gets to practice his insane amateur surgical skills while the other aids him, and the parts gruesomely pilfered from their victims become the day's special at the pair's greasy spoon diner.

Miss Lamb, that is...

As a feeble detective investigates the murders (which include his secretary/lover and an aggressively horny blonde who seeks to fill the secretary's position), all of it is played for juvenile laughs and brought in at a mercifully short sixty-three minutes.

Yes, folks, this is a comedy...

No bullshit, while watching this all I could think of was the godawful, borderline-public-access-level 1970's kiddie show THE HORRIBLE HOUSE OF FRIGHTENSTEIN, only if it had segments of meaty gore and medical school surgery training film footage. The movie was quite clearly influenced by BLOOD FEAST, but I have to say THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS included a few cinematic elements that its predecessor completely lacked, such as pacing, decent editing, genuine attempts at acting by all who were in front of the camera, semi-successful humor and the common decency of being a film one can actually sit through without being bored nigh unto a torpor. Even with all the bad taste and (marginal) gore on display, THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS is a surprisingly cheerful and tongue-in-cheek effort that would be acceptable to most parents as a grand guignol for under-tens who can take it and be in on the gag. Utterly frivolous but worth a look, provided you don't have to pay for it (I got it on a triple-feature "Cannibal Classics" disc along with THE SEVERED ARM and I EAT YOUR SKIN, so I'd say it was worth the five bucks for a three-in-one).

Poster for the theatrical release.

Monday, October 05, 2015


I wanted all three of these fucks dead less than ten minutes into the film's running time.

While eating lunch with some of my geekier co-workers during my days at DC Comics, I asked if any of them were psyched for the then-upcoming giant monster flick CLOVERFIELD and they all expressed interest, particularly one who was into it because of its handheld camera POV, something that reminded him of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. He then expounded on how BLAIR WITCH was the scariest film he'd ever seen, a sentiment echoed by the guy sitting across from them. I listened to them go off on it for a few minutes before I made a statement I've iterated many times since the summer of 1999: "Okay, I sat through THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and I must have missed something. That film wasn't scary in the least. In fact, I have to say I think it's one of the worst movies I ever saw."

The lads looked at me, completely gobsmacked. They then launched into all of the standard defenses brought into play when anyone has the temerity to deride BLAIR WITCH, including my obvious inability to appreciate a low-budget film (bullshit), its innovative camerawork (???), its "totally original" concept (also bullshit; records of an ill-fated expedition and the recounting of what went wrong is a convention of horror fiction dating at least back to the days of the pulps), and my alleged inability to enjoy a horror film that doesn't contain graphic gore and violence or titties (again, bullshit; my all-time favorite horror movies include ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) and ISLAND OR LOST SOULS (1933), both notably lacking any of the aforementioned holy trinity). And as my brain began to boil at their ill-informed comments regarding me as a film fan — hoo-BOY, if only they knew — they unleashed the expected final volley in their film's defenses, namely its months of brilliant internet promotion, an aspect that they claim was an integral part of the film's "artistic triumph."

Needless to say, I called bullshit on that.

I didn't bother to lay down my credentials as a majorly-immerseded movie goon and instead countered with the observation that if the film depended on one having seen the internet stuff, what about those who hadn't seen the promos and tie-ins? If your film, an entertainment piece that people are going to pay money to see, relies on material not found in the core work to bolster it in terms of both content and creep factor, then the damned thing's a failure from the get-go. That stopped the defenders in their tracks, their mouths literally hanging open and croaking feeble attempts at rebuttal, but Yer Bunche soldiered on fearlessly and laid down the law on that bit of amateur hour horseshit that would have been rejected as a script for that weak-assed TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE, and would barely have passed muster in even the most pretentious of film schools. Yeah, this misbegotten "film" gets me going like few others, and I've seen the infamous MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE and SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY, but at least those films manage to be entertaining precisely because of how appallingly terrible they are.

For those of you fortunate enough not to have had the time it takes to sit through this crap irretrievably stolen from your too-brief life, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is a faked footage feature — perhaps the defining entry in that sub-genre — based around a video purportedly found after three filmmakers set off into the woods of some ass-end part of Maryland in search of answers regarding local legends of Elly Kedward, a woman put to death in 1785 in the Blair township, and the subsequent supernatural phenomena and murders locally attributed to her malevolent ghost. The three filmmakers display a staggering level of outright stupidity — to say nothing of their ability to be utterly unlikable and annoying — and in no time I found myself rooting for their immediate deaths, hopefully from being torn apart by PCP-crazed badgers. Sadly they didn't meet their demise at the teeth and claws of hopped-up mustelids but they do eventually snuff it, one of them memorably facing into the corner of an abandoned house and looking like he's in the middle of taking a wicked leak.

Exactly the kind of thing one would expect to find on SCTV's MONSTER CHILLER HORROR THEATER.

The "scary" things that happen include them kicking their map into a nearby river, getting lost in the forest where there may or may not be a ghost, the sound of branches snapping at night, their fear and paranoia over being lost wearing their nerves thin and rendering them that much more irritating, strange scarecrow-like constructs (that are barely of interest, much less terrifying in any way), and shitloads of leaves and twigs as far as the eye can see. There's absolutely zero suspense and the filmgoer ends up with bubkes when the movie ends.

During the summer when THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT came out, people stood on long lines to see "the scariest film in years," braving the unforgiving NYC heat and humidity for hours, but a bunch of my pals and I were fortunate enough to get our hands on a legitimate reviewer's VHS tape of the flick — one of the perks of having connections in the media — so we prepared to enjoy it in the air-conditioned comfort of my pal John's apartment over in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill area. We cracked some beers and watched as the story unfolded, remaining silent throughout, and when the final image faded and the credits began to roll there was a brief pause before my friend Cat irately exclaimed, "THAT'S IT???" She then launched into a tirade the like of which I've seldom seen, and I wish I could have gotten it on tape for posterity. When Cat gets her Irish up, all bets are off and her well-reasoned lambasting of the flick was both profane and hilarious, as though she had channeled the spirit of some long-dead film critic, its spectral anger roused by the affront to entertainment that we had just endured. And in order to make up for the travesty we had just witnessed a number of us went to the local multiplex and saw DEEP BLUE SEA, the movie about super-smart sharks who go on a bloody rampage at a marine research facility, and it was immeasurably more entertaining than THE BULLSHIT PROJECT.

And don't ask me how, but THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, which cost $22,000 to make, went on to a worldwide gross of a reported $248,000,000, over 11,000 times what was spent to unleash it upon an unsuspecting planet. And even now, nearly some sixteen years after its release — or should I say "escape?"— it's considered a landmark in horror cinema and a work of unrelenting terror. Proof of this head-scratching state of affairs can be found on the Internet Movie Database's user comments section on the film , a forum that contains over 3211 (!!!) viewers' two cents worth, the overwhelming majority of which is glowingly favorable. Did those people see the same film I did? I've done a lot of camping in my time and I just don't find anything in this movie scary. I swear I don't. Well, at least we got a couple of porn versions out of the deal, the best of which was 2000's THE BARE BITCH PROJECT.

Hardcore fucking, wall-to-wall nekkid chicks, shaved pussies... Now, THAT'S entertainment!

Poster from the theatrical release.

Sunday, October 04, 2015


Giving new meaning to the term "sausage fest."

THE GREEN INFERNO, directed by Eli Roth of CABIN FEVER and HOSTEL renown/infamy, was recently unleashed upon the nation's movie screens and its charnel house excesses are shocking the living shit out of today's movie audiences that are used to far more genteel fare. But what the average theatergoer at the local multiplex may not realize is that Roth's film is an homage to the even more extreme sights found in the cinematic abattoir that is the Italian cannibal genre. Italian cinema has never shied away from ultra-graphic violence and gore, and the ne plus ultra of the form were viscera-drenched cheapies shot in South American locations, featuring "savage" natives coming into direct and anthropophagous conflict with representatives of western society. The white people who have the grievous misfortune of running afoul of said cannibalistic tribesmen invariably find themselves stranded in the middle of some tropical hellhole with no communications with the outside world, no hope of rescue, and pretty much no way out, so in a story with horrible inevitability built in, the narrative is actually beside the point and the true point of the whole thing is the gruesome, sadistic violence and liberal lashings of body parts being devoured in lingering closeup.

When fans refer to genre entries as "gut-munchers," they sure ain't kidding.

I first encountered MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY (originally released in its native Italy as CANNIBAL FEROX) during an excursion to Times square when I was sixteen. That was back in the bygone days when it was the birthright of kids in the Tri-State area to head into the Times Square/42nd Street area of Manhattan and have their innocence irrevocably stripped from them by the lurid sight of the Deuce's cornucopia of porn and exploitation movie theaters. Those temples of corruption featured garish marquees and posters that left little (or nothing) to the imagination while attempting to get patrons to part with their hard-earned cash, and the deal was often sealed due to the endless loop video displays that greeted passersby near the box office. It was while strolling by one such theater that I read a red-lettered marquee announcing "BANNED IN 36 COUNTRIES! MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY!!!"and saw the ultra-gory trailer on one of the aforementioned video displays, so I was of course quite intrigued, but I was with a large group that was under the supervision of responsible adults, thus seeing the film right then and there was simply not in the cards. I put the film out of my mind and forgot all about it for the next six years, until a fellow student at my university brought it up as an exploitation landmark that my filmic education was in no way complete without me having experienced it. In no time I tracked down the film on a well-worn VHS copy at a dodgy video rental joint in Portchester and finally bore witness to what was at the time the most unabashedly gory and disgusting film that I had yet seen.

One of the film's more subdued moments.

The "plot" of MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY is merely a flimsy excuse to get its white protagonists into the rain forest for graphic slaughter, and I've described it to the curious thusly: "An anthropology student and a few companions travel to the rain forest so she can prove her theory that cannibalism performed by the native tribesmen is a myth. Hoo-BOY, is she ever proven wrong!!!" Two of the white people, a drug dealer and his lover, incur the wrath of the natives by torturing and killing some of the locals, in one memorable case gouging out one man's eyeball and castrating him in front of his whole village while the dealer's on a coke-fueled rampage, and in no time all of the party are captured and subjected to tortures that, well, make them die slowly. Disembowelment, a woman hung from meathooks by her bare breasts, the top of a head being cut open so the locals could feast upon the fresh brains,

and, the bit that forever relegated the movie to grindhouse immortality/infamy, the drug dealer (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, billed here as John Morghen) has his penis hacked off with a machete and immediately eaten right in front of him, after which the wound is cauterized so he can survive to be subjected to yet more torture. Wholesome family entertainment at its best!

Kiss that dick goodbye!

The plot's barely extant and there's little or no character development, so it's painfully obvious that the filmmakers' sole intent was to craft the most visually repellent and viscerally disgusting movie humanly possible, a task at which they succeeded in no uncertain terms. MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY is about as joyless, mean-spirited, and downright unpleasant as it gets, complete with the totally unnecessary and offensive inclusion of actual animal cruelty footage of the type that was too often shoehorned into productions of this type in misguided attempts to "liven up" material that was already well past over the the top. It's a movie that's absolutely not for the squeamish, but I recommend it as my preferred choice of film to cite as a prime example of its grubby little niche on the horror family tree. It's also an ideal movie with which to test the limits of one's friends' tolerance for extreme gore. Excessive even thirty-four years after first being vomited up onto the screen, it's a safe bet that the average cinema civilian is in no way ready to weather the flick's nauseating spectacle, but it's the perfect shameless gross-out show with which to break in the innocent. That said, proceed at your own risk.

My prized autographed photo of Giovanni Lombardo Radice during his cinematic triumph.

Poster for the American theatrical release.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2015-Day 3: RUN! BITCH RUN! (2009)

When one's faith offers zero protection from the evils of the world.

Allow me to cut straight to the chase: if you're looking for an ultra-sleazy rape-revenge movie where a particularly nasty rapist deservedly gets a three-foot machete stuffed straight up his ass, this film is a must-see!

The rape-revenge movie is in no way a feel-good genre and is responsible for many of the nastiest moments in film over the past four decades, including such "you will need a shower after sitting through this one" classics as LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1979), MOTHER'S DAY (1980), MS. .45 (1981), and SAVAGE STREETS (1984), each plumbing the narrative depths of one of the worst things that can happen to a human being, dragging the viewer along for the horror in question, and finally allowing a catharsis of vengeance that does not necessarily grant the story's protagonist anything resembling peace of mind. These films are definitely an acquired taste and are understandably reviled by most women, but those women who do champion the genre for its too-close-to-home horror are a tough breed and it is to them that I recommend RUN! BITCH RUN! without reservation.

With RUN! BITCH RUN! director/co-screenwriter Joseph Guzman has crafted a welcome throwback to the sleazy grindhouse thrills of yore, and the movie wears its influence like a badge of honor. One of the things that made grindhouse movies from back in the days so much fun was that they knew their audience very much enjoyed being shocked by all manner of sleazery, preferably spiced with copious amounts of nudity, graphic violence, gore, and creative use of profanity, all of which Guzman remembered and shaped into a sometimes knowingly tongue-in-cheek entry into the genre (well, about as tongue-in-cheek as a rape-revenge movie can get, anyway). The movie is a classic cautionary tale (AND HOW!!!) involving two Catholic schoolgirls (pay attention, fellow parochial school uniform fans) who travel from town to town selling bibles to benefit their school. Ultra-pious and virginal Catherine (Cheryl Lyone) does not approve of partner Rebecca's (Christina DeRosa) healthy teenage sexuality (and very kind lack of anything resembling modesty in front of the camera) but puts up with it because Rebecca's basically a nice girl, but when the pair enter a remote backwater town and pick the exceedingly wrong house at which to attempt to peddle their wares, their fates are sealed.

American squalor: (L-R) skanky and psychotic crackhead/lesbo/whore Marla (Ivet Corea), seated Alpha male/pimp/drug dealer/recreational rapist Lobo (Peter Tahoe), and stuttering Omega wolf/alky/nun porn addict Clint (Johnny Wincher, seen here in the midst of molesting Christina DeRosa as the ill-fated Rebecca).

The poor girls unknowingly walk into the squalid home of Lobo (Peter Tahoe), a creepy drug dealer/pimp, and his pals Clint (Johnny Wincher) and Marla (Ivet Corea), the former being the wimpy and stuttering Omega to Lobo's Alpha wolf, while the latter is easily the most balls-out hostile and psycho dyke crackhead to come down the pike in quite some time. Once in the hands of this pack of human filth it's only a matter of time until something really, really bad happens, and while veterans of this genre may think they've seen some pretty vile and sadistic treatment handed out to unfortunate innocents in any of this film's antecedents, this flick tops several of those flicks by virtue of its motivation-optional psychos. All three of the creeps are in serious need of immediate death applied with extreme prejudice, but Marla reeeeeally takes the cake, and you know she's gotta be horrific if she's worse than her two male companions...

Highlights include:
  • Damned near every woman in the movie "breaking out the twins," thankfully a half hour before things get evil, so such visual splendor could be enjoyed. Extra points go to a just-out-of-the-shower and utterly full-frontally nekkid Christina DeRosa, who compounds the generous display of her lush Eye-Talian nudity by slipping into her Catholic school uniform. Oh, yeeeeeaaah...
  • The full-on, in-your-face vileness of Lobo and his housemates. These guys are the most loathsome pack of human vermin seen onscreen since Krug and company in the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and if you've seen that one you know how strong a statement that is. Lobo's a complete turd, what with his apparent allergy to shirts and his affectation of an oily Jim Morrison-esque "stud" persona; the guy's favorite activity is "find 'em and fuck 'em," a twisted version of Hide & Seek in which, well, the name tells you all you need to know, and the worst part of it is that he genuinely considers it a game and that the forcible taking of a girl's virginity is a "special honor" that his victims will cherish because he's just so awesome. Oh, and he adds to the indignity by howling like a wolf during said violation.
  • As previously noted, skanky crackhead/lesbo/'ho Marla is a real piece of work who, among other moments of sheer class, slashes the throat of a hapless John who makes the mistake of calling her a whore (she considers herself "a companion" who is given money as a gift), sits on a toilet seat and masturbates with a toilet plunger handle, forces poor "bad" girl Rebecca to go down on her at to-the-head gunpoint (Rebecca may be randy, but a lesbian she is not), after which she forces the girls to play Russian Roulette with her, a situation that turns out badly for Rebecca...
  • Following the expected and awful results of a game of "find 'em and fuck 'em," a left-for-dead and majorly shell-shocked Catherine is found and hospitalized, eventually getting herself together enough to go on a single-minded hunt for Lobo and his piss-poor gang after stealing a nurse's outfit since she was found unconscious and naked in the middle of a remote road. Decked out in what would otherwise have been gear familiar from a million pinup fantasies, only this time ironically adorned with the rosary of the god who did not protect her despite her staunch belief and purity, Catherine proves utterly merciless (if a tad zombified) in her vengeance, shooting Clint in the chest at point blank range with a shotgun as he takes a dump at a bargain basement titty bar, engaging in a vicious catfight with Marla that leads to the crackhead skank's welcome beheading, and gloriously dropping Marla's bloody noggin into bed with Lobo as he's in the process of consensually fucking a nurse who scores him drugs from the local hospital (it's the kindly nurse who tended to Catherine when she was found and admitted). A startled Lobo swiftly regains his composure and tries to explain to Catherine that she has no reason to be mad, in fact she should be thanking him (!!!), but our avenging angel ain't having it and promptly shoves her three-foot machete straight up his naked ass.
The film ends on a singularly downbeat note when Catherine drives away and ponders what she's just done, realizing that she's essentially sunken to the level of her tormentors (Hey! They had it coming, ferfucksake!), eventually pulling her station wagon over and committing pump-action suicide. THE END.

Like I said, a feel-good genre this ain't. But while RUN! BITCH RUN! ends up a total downer, it comes from out of nowhere to represent as one of the better entries in its grubby little niche. Definitely not a date movie and certainly not recommended for those unmoved by the frisson (Ooh! High-falutin' film-fuck word!) of seeing a hideously wronged individual hand out hard-earned retribution, this one is best ventured into by hardened grindhouse veterans, exploitation-fan feminists, and those who simply want to see that magic moment when anus meets a good length of very sharp steel. It's the perfect second bill for a double-feature with Disney's THE COUNTRY BEARS!

Package art from the home video release.

Friday, October 02, 2015


When lycanthropy strikes the upper class.

Wealthy and world-renowned botanist Dr. Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) heads to Tibet in search of the rare Marifasa Lupina Lumina, an ultra-rare flower than only blooms by moonlight, and ends up on the wrong end of an attack by a werewolf. Surviving the mauling and returning to London, Glendon attempts to cultivate specimens of the plant and in the process neglects his wife, Lisa (Valerie Hobson), who has recently been reunited with a close male childhood friend (Lester Matthews) who clearly still loves her. But things take a turn for the weirder when another famed botanist, Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland), arrives and shows an odd interest in the Marifasa. Dropping mysterious hints at having met Glendon before, "in the dark," it soon becomes apparent that Yogami is the werewolf that attacked Glendon and that he was in Tibet in search of the flower, which happens to be the only known cure for the curse of lycanthropy. As the marital tension escalates and Yogami's lust for the flower intensifies, the full moon arrives and the unbelieving Glendon transforms into a slavering (though well-dressed) monster. Murders ensue, Glendon and Yogami have a final encounter, and it all culminates in the sort of tragedy one expects in a werewolf tale.

An often forgotten entry in the Universal monster cycle, THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON was the first major studio film about a werewolf and differs quite a bit from the lycanthropic tropes that would be codified six years later in THE WOLF MAN. For one thing, the werewolf appears to be able to think rationally, though admittedly with an accent of animalistic savagery, and he even takes the time to dress himself with an overcoat, scarf, and hat before embarking on his lethal nocturnal excursions. The film's London setting also distances it from the more "old country" feel of most werewolf yarns, and that populating of the story with characters seemingly lifted from the broad British comedies of the era creates a jarring tonal dissonance in relation to what's ostensibly a horror narrative. Upper crust stereotypes collide with Una O'Connor-style over-the-top lower-class biddies, and both archetypes feel like they'd be more at home in a musical hall comedy sketch.

But the aspect that most separates THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON from other lycanthropy stories and especially from films of its era is its in-your-face homosexual subtext. Written by gay playwright and screenwriter John Colton, the script uses the lycanthropy angle as an expressive metaphor for then-forbidden homosexuality within stereotypically stuffy British society. Glendon and Yogami are bonded by their shared "affliction" and they share many exchanges that resemble secrets being shared between lovers who must stay out of the societal spotlight. Glendon's disintegrating marriage also serves to represent the misery of a gay man stuck in an "acceptable" but visibly-uncomfortable relationship, while his wife seeks happiness with a man with whom she has a concrete and fulfilling emotional (and therefore sexual) bond.

Yogami meets his well-deserved fate.

Reportedly a box office flop when it came out, possibly due to its marked similarities to DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1931), THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON is worth a look for its historical significance and its position as a homosexual allegory. It's not as great or as seminal as most of the other films in the classic Universal horror cycle and it lacks the dark fairy tale atmosphere of its brethren, but it works well enough as a simple and entertaining monster story. That said, the werewolf genre would have to wait until THE WOLF MAN for its defining myth, but we'll get to that soon enough...

Poster for the original theatrical release.

Thursday, October 01, 2015


The titular creation (Gary Conway) and Dr. Frankenstein (Whit Bissell), out cruisin' for a new face.

Once a perennial on the local horror showcases during the pre-cable days, I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN was one of the required-viewing flicks for budding monster kids and it stood out in our memories for a number of good reasons. At the time, the late 1950's were less than twenty years previous, so stories in that setting did not seem as remote as horror outings taking place in "the old country" or some other place far removed from the experience of a young audience in the latter half of the 20th century, so marrying horror tropes to the era that gave us the sociological double-threat of rock 'n' roll and juvenile delinquency was a natural fit. Studios cranked out numerous films featuring teenagers pitting their hot rod-driving selves against all manner of monsters and aliens when not dancing to ersatz rock music, and sometimes the monsters themselves were teenagers gone horribly awry. The prime example of the form would be I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957), a film that greatly benefited from a good script, an intriguing doomed protagonist, and imaginative direction for an effort of its ilk, and its success guaranteed a followup. What resulted was I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN, a film that sadly paled in comparison to its predecessor.

The latest descendant of the Frankenstein lineage (Whit Bissell) relocates to the United States from England (and possesses zero trace of a British accent), where he espouses his theories on creating perfect human specimens via cobbling together sundry body parts from the dead and reanimating them to his skeptical academic peers. Undeterred by his colleagues' scorn and aided by a blackmailed assistant (Robert Karlton), Dr. Frankenstein takes note of an horrific car crash that happens near his lab and makes off with the one relatively-intact body that was hurled from the collision. The body's hands and one if its legs are damaged, along with the head being mangled into a state reminiscent of a Picasso portrait gene-spliced with a dropped plate of over-cooked lasagna (though the brain is somehow undamaged), so the doctor and his assistant dig up the other victims of the crash and cherry-pick suitable replacement parts, disposing of leftovers by throwing them into the lab's handy alligator pit. When all is said and done, the resulting patchwork teenager (Gary Conway, who would later star in TV's LAND OF THE GIANTS) possesses the fit physique of the garden variety high school jock but something has to be done about that putrid punim...

Our monster. There are some things that Clearasil simply wasn't designed to deal with.

As his cobbled-together body heals and develops a pretty good level of dexterity, Dr. Frankenstein coaches the monster on speech — he proves to be relatively erudite — and orders him to stay within the confines of the lab, as his hideous visage would lead to the immediate soiling of underwear throughout the neighborhood. But while all of this is going on, the not-so-good doc finds time to become engaged to his secretary, Margaret (Phyllis Coates, the first Lois Lane on the classic ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN teevee series, seen here as a blonde), whom he puts to work keeping the outside world at bay as he gets down to some serious mad science. Unfortunately for his soon-to-be bride, the doctor's obsessive and imperious nature boils over into mistrust and physical abuse when she playfully threatens to snoop and find out just what the doc's secret project is. After the doc slaps her around for her insubordination, Margaret gains access to the lab and sees the creature, big as life and twice as ugly. Fully comprehending the horror that her man has wrought, Margaret fearfully keeps her discovery to herself, but the restless monster sneaks out of the lab and goes for a stroll around the neighborhood, where he does some ill-advised peeping on a hot blonde. Upon seeing ol' lasagna face, the terrified woman's screams motivate the monster to murder and attract her neighbors, who witness the creature fleeing the scene of the crime.

A heaping helping of bizarre voyeurism...

...with a side order of violent death.

Having learned his lesson about not being seen, the monster returns home and the doctor manages to get rid of the investigating authorities who are canvasing the area. When the detectives depart, Margaret reveals her knowledge of the monster but promises to keep quiet in order to protect her future hubby, but the doctor decides that she knows too much. In short order, Margaret is trapped in the lab and murdered by the monster, after which she's fed to the handy alligator.

With Margaret out of the way, Dr. Frankenstein continues grooming his creature for presentation to his scientific peers, but something still has to be done about the sorry state of the monster's gruesome head. The doc and the monster drive to the local lover's lane, where they scout for a young lad of suitable handsomeness. Settling on a young swain who's necking with his girl in a convertible, the monster, with empty birdcage in hand, attacks and tears off the innocent lad's head. (Which we unfortunately do not get to see; the action cuts away as the deed is taking place but there is zero doubt as to what's going down.)

The monster engages in some grand theft noggin.

The ill-gotten fruits of the monster's labors.

The new face and hair are successfully transplanted onto the monster, and it is at that point that the narrative fizzles out like a weak fart. Once the monster can successfully pass for a normal teenager, who fucking cares anymore? But the story must conclude, so Dr. Frankenstein announces his intention to go back to England and eventually unveil his creation to the scientific community, but first he intends to dismantle the monster for easy shipping and eventual reassembly. Needless to say, the now-normal monster isn't down with that, so he chucks the doctor into the alligator pit while the doc's long-suffering assistant calls the cops. It all ends feebly as the monster accidentally electrocutes himself on some lab equipment and the sequence is un-spectacularly presented in incongruous color. THE END.

Rushed into production and released a mere four months after its vastly superior predecessor, the classic I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN took the first film's teen angle but left out pretty much everything else that made WEREWOLF a solidly entertaining hit. I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN barely manages to hold the audience's attention with an admittedly lurid ambiance, some brief scenes of severed body parts during a lab scene, the played-straight lunacy of the alligator as waste disposal system, the monster's indelible visage, and the memorable headhunting sequence, but those are but brief moments sprinkled throughout what is swiftly revealed to be a turgid time-waster. I hope the teenage boys of the late-1950's who took their dates to see this weak sauce at least managed to wrangle a cheap feel or a handjob out of the deal.

I saw I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF at age six and it left a huge impression on me, with its impact remaining undiminished with each subsequent viewing over the next four decades. I know I saw I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN at a tender age as well but I remembered nothing about it other than the monster, the 'gator pit, and the bit where the monster rips that boy's head off (which my young imagination made far worse than it actually was), but the rest of the film was a huge blank spot in my usually comprehensive memory. Having seen it again for the first time over forty years, I now understand why I'd forgotten it. The monster has gone on to become iconic but the movie itself is a sad disappointment that is recommended solely to completists who want to be able to brag about having seen every old school shocker. Concrete proof that nostalgia is not necessarily to be trusted, your viewing time is better spent on something more worthy.

 Poster for the U.K. release.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2015-Introduction

Hey, dear and loyal Vaulties!

October, the month that culminates in the most excellent day that is Halloween, is about to kick off, so you regulars know that means it's time once again for my annual month-long journey through the dark annals of horror cinema (and occasionally television).

Scary stories have been around as long as there have been storytellers, and a sizable segment of this planet's sentients eat up spine-chilling tales like a rapacious werewolf devours the tender flesh of an unlucky woodland wanderer, so it comes as no surprise that the horror genre has been a staple of global entertainment and has grown and thrived as the means to enthrall audiences with narratives that evolved along with us. Horror as a motion picture genre goes back to the dawn of the movies and it's been over a century since the first moving images silently flickered across the screen in the darkness as the public absorbed the wondrous diversions that unspooled. While comedies, dramas, romances, and adventure narratives held moviegoers riveted, darker, more sinister material also lurked in the indoor twilight and filmmakers were quick to realize that such chillers were a rich lode to be mined. From there the genre grew like Topsy and filled the silver screen with hordes of shambling revenants, thirsting nosferatu, eldritch demoniacal entities conjured through the wielding of forbidden rites, unrestful spectres, blasphemous man-made creatures, other-worldly wigglies that the mere sight of which drives the most stalwart of men to states of gibbering madness, medical nightmares in which our own bodies become our enemies or the healers who are supposed to grant us their aid turn their skills to dire pursuits, seemingly indestructible wielders of kitchen implements and power tools who stalk remote back-woods to prey upon randy youths, primordial throwbacks that defied extinction to terrorize swimwear-clad nubile young maidens, and even that most seemingly-mundane of threats, the unhinged murderer who walks among us and blends in while committing atrocities that would make veteran homicide detectives blanch and fall to their hands and knees while voiding the contents of their stomachs. All of those and more can be found in a richly-fetid cornucopia that often slyly reflects the needs and climate of the given era of production and examines areas of the human condition that may otherwise be un-broachable if not cloaked in shadow.

But enough of all that flowery film school yakkety-blah-blah-blah. If you've bothered to read this far, it's plain that you care about scary movies and are here to see what baleful chronicles of fright Yer Bunche will dredge up from the celluloid depths for the year of two-thousand and fifteen. As in previous yearss, there is no real rhyme or reason behind my choices, though there will be the occasional thematic overlap and comparison/contrast of certain sub-groups within the genre. I will also take pains to point out that stories that are ostensibly viewed as examples of other flavors — comedy, science-fiction, "thrillers," and non-supernatural drama — can quite easily be revealed as horror to the very core, and that horror can function equally well as art or junk food for the imagination.

So sharpen your axe, dust off the Necronomicon, apply fresh lipstick to grandma's mummified corpse, and make sure your homemade shroud of supple human skin is properly secured to your febrile pate. 'Tis once again the month of All Hallows' Eve and we are nothing if not prepared...

Thursday, August 27, 2015


I just received my NYC ID card and it is without question the worst ID photo I have ever taken. They made me take off my glasses and as a result the puffiness of my recent eye infection is in full evidence. I look like sepia Uncle Fester. Feh.

The horror... The horror...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I just finished reading EMPOWERED Volume 9 and it did not disappoint. Over a year-and-a-half between volumes is a looooong wait for a series as entertaining as this, but I'm perfectly happy to endure for a work of this quality.

Following her illegal adventure to Object 524 with Sistah Spooky, who lost an arm in the process, Emp finds herself tried by a jury of her assholish superpowered peers and sentenced to...No, that would be telling! 

Let it suffice to say that Emp's mettle is sorely tested in this installment and she reveals herself to be a more formidable super-presence than she ever would have imagined. It's engaging, funny, and even moving, so what's not to love? Adam Warren knocks it out of the ark yet again, in both the story and art departments, thus insuring EMPOWERED remains my favorite currently-running comics series. My only complaint is that regular characters Thugboy and Ninjette only appear briefly, but that deficiency is directly addressed and is promised to be remedied in the next volume. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION (though admittedly not for all tastes).

Thursday, August 20, 2015


 For many of my age/generation, Yvonne Craig's portrayal of Batgirl in the 1960's classic hit TV series BATMAN can be directly pointed to as one of the moments in which they first felt confusing stirring in their private regions, and that kind of impact is powerful indeed. Batgirl was lithe, sexy, brave, glamorous, and possessed of a game sense of humor and joy in fighting crime that the Caped Crusaders lacked (thanks to their intentional and over-the-top whitebread squareness), so she was pretty much destined to own a considerable piece of real estate in the hearts and minds of her fans.

Craig in costume as Batgirl.

Craig got her start as a ballet dancer and her training in that art was evident in her every graceful movement, captivating the eye and leading one to marvel at the seeming effortlessness of her physicality. And while boys across the nation tuned in to drool over her luscious figure clad in shiny purple spandex (or whatever the stretchy stuff was called back in the days), girls also avidly watched and thrilled to Batgirl's exploits, with many going so far as to emulate her ballet-influenced high-kick fighting moves on the playground. What a lot of people didn't realize back then was that girls also needed superheroes and that female examples of such were quite rare. Fortunately, the 1960's were an era of change across the social and cultural landscape, so the likes of Honey West, Cathy Gale, Cinnamon Carter, and Emma Peel burst forth on the TV screen to engage in wild adventures and kick unprecedented truckloads of ass alongside their male colleagues and did so with a distinctly feminine flavor. And though she took the stage toward the end of the decade, it is perhaps Batgirl who stands out most prominently as the all-ages icon of distaff heroism for the era, with only Emma Peel giving giving her any real competition in the pop culture immortality/name-recognition department.

Craig as the cheeky Maude Waverly, in added footage shot for ONE SPY TOO MANY (1966), the theatrical version of the two-part installment from THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., "The Alexander the Greater Affair" (1965).

That said, Craig's presence in 1960's pop culture was not limited to Batgirl. Among numerous other projects, she starred opposite Elvis Presley in two features, IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD'S FAIR (1963) and KISSIN' COUSINS (1964), my favorite of the many idiotic Elvis flicks, but it was her portrayal of the dangerously insane Marta in STAR TREK's "Whom Gods Destroy" (1969) that may be her most remembered part not involving a cape, cowl, and bitchin' motorcycle.

As Marta in STAR TREK's "Whom Gods Destroy" (1969).

One of '60's TREK's infamous "green chicks," Marta was light years away from Batgirl's fun sunniness, possessed as she was of outright criminal insanity. Marta fairly radiated raw sexuality and serpentine madness, and it was that "adult" sensibility coming from the woman who brought Batgirl to life that forever branded the character into two generations of young minds.

Yvonne Craig met her fate after a two-year battle with breast cancer that metastasized in her liver, perhaps the cruelest possible demise for an artist who excelled in roles requiring terpsichorean fluidity and expressiveness. Thankfully, Craig's beauty, youth, and lissomeness were captured forever on film and will live on to entertain, thrill, and enthrall audiences for as long as home entertainment survives. Rest well, Yvonne Craig, and know that your influence is undying.