Thursday, November 30, 2017

Trailers From Hell - I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957)



Hopefully one day we will get a digital release of this great little film. At that point we can all stop watching those crappy versions ripped from the old VHS. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Boston Blackie Films


Long time readers of this blog will know that I have a fascination for the various mystery movie series of the 1930s and 1940s. It started out as a love for the Charlie Chan films and grew almost out of control as I stumbled across The Saint, The Falcon, The Crime Doctor, etc. This love is pretty indiscriminate and even the weakest entry in the weakest series can bring me great joy and entertainment for it's 60 to 70 minute run time. It's rare I get to sit down and plow through one of these series with any real plan. I'd really like to go through them continuously in chronological order over the course of a week or two but it can be difficult just to locate many of these films. In general I just catch them as they are broadcast on Turner Classic Movies and therefore I have the suspicion that there are some I'll just never see. Occasionally it turns out that I'll have the DVR grab an entry in one of these series, watch the first 10 minutes and realize I've already seen it. Of course, sometimes having seen it already doesn't mean I won't rewatch it. As I say, I have a great love of these movies.

I caught up with a Boston Blackie entry the other night (CONFESSIONS OF BOSTON BLACKIE) and while it is far from one of the best of the run of these fun little movies it had enough to rate it midrange as far as movies in general  are concerned and, in fact, mid-range for the Boston Blackie series. For the uninformed, Boston Blackie is an ex-thief who, although reformed, is always suspected whenever a robbery or, indeed, any criminal activity happens anywhere in the city. Blackie uses his knowledge of the criminal mind and methodology to help the police solve these crimes and keep himself out of prison. Although the first Boston Blackie film was produced in 1918 (!) it's always Chester Morris' performance as the character in the much later Columbia film series that defines what most fans think of when they hear the name. Morris starred as Blackie in 14 movies from 1941 to 1949 and was only dethroned as 'most recent' by Kent Taylor for a 58 episode television series in 1951. One year versus eight means Chester Morris remains the longest running Boston Blackie - he even played the character for five years on the radio! 


Morris is an odd actor to choose for such a role as he looks like he would be more comfortable playing a thug rather than some kind of reformed criminal / good guy. In fact it's very easy to imagine him starring next to someone like Jimmy Cagney or Edward G. Robinson and roughing up people who aren't paying their protection money on time. But it's just this bit of slightly off casting that makes the Boston Blackie films work as well as they do. Even the weaker films in the series are fun just to watch Morris lie, cheat and charm his way to the solution of the mystery.

Since there is no DVD set of the Columbia set I don't know if I'll ever see them all. I'll just keep hoping they continue to turn up on TCM and that I can eventually work my way through all 14. Also, I need to read the original Jack Boyle short stories to see what the character was like on the page before he became linked forever with Chester Morris.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Justice League Covers of My Youth















I had read friend's copies of Justice League comics before but this is the run of issues that as a kid I bought with my own money. I've been a huge fan every since! Looking back it's amazing just how many character were introduced to me in these comics - The New Gods, The Justice Society, Martian Manhunter as well as appearances by Firestorm, Black Lightening and the story in which Green Arrow leaves the team. I need to re-read this stuff. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Video Watchdog #66 - Spanish Horror Issue!


A recent upheaval in my living arrangements (I had a flood!) caused me to have to restructure my grand piles of stuff. Part of this required my repackaging sections of my collection including my near complete run of the mighty Video Watchdog magazine. The demise of that venerable periodical was the cause of much unhappiness for me (and many others) but this was the first time in years I had set down to take stock of the back issues for more than a specific bit of research for a podcast or commentary. So much information, so many interviews and so many well informed reviews! Damn, how I miss VW.

At one point, while placing the 'zines in numerical order, I spotted the cover of issue 66 from the year 2000 and was shocked by the image. That's El Hombre Lobo, Paul Naschy his own bad self glaring out at me. Or it's the other fella put in the werewolf makeup for FURY OF THE WOLFMAN (1972). Either way, it's a Naschy cover and beneath his picture is promised coverage LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974) and other Spanish Horror films! How have I not dragged this issue out before? It's clearly perfect as a resource and reference when discussing Naschy and the Golden Age of Spanish Horror. What an oversight on my part.

So I read back through the magazine and was thrilled to find that Richard Harland Smith penned a long look at both cuts of FURY OF THE WOLFMAN, THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK (1975), THE VAMPIRES' NIGHT ORGY (1972) and CANNIBAL MAN (1971) while editor Tim Lucas contributed reviews of DR. JEKYLL AND THE WEREWOLF (1972), the aforementioned LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE and THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE (1972). Shane M. Dallmann adds a fantastic look at three Naschy classics - CURSE OF THE DEVIL (1973), BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (1973) and NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST (1975) a.k.a. THE WEREWOLF & THE YETI. Dallmann examines alternate versions of the latter two films and really does an amazing job of digging into their history on video.

 

Even without all this Spanish Horror coverage the issue would be worth getting for the excellent interview with director Jorge Grau. He's the man responsible for the finest European zombie film ever (yeah, I said it) LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE a.k.a. THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974) as well as the Erezabet Bathroy tale THE LEGEND OF BLOOD CASTLE (1973). This lengthy, career spanning talk is wonderful for fans of the genre and paints Grau as a careful, smart filmmaker capable of true brilliance which is a position I agree with wholeheartedly.

Topping off this wealth of Spanish genre coverage is Tim Lucas' review of Paul Naschy's autobiography Memoirs of a Wolfman. Lucas praises the book as well worth seeking out but cautions readers that the book is very often a bitter look at his life and career. He describes it as 'an illuminating account of Naschy's self-expression through the fantastic cinema' and an 'intensive and compelling read'. I wonder if it was this review that pushed me to find and purchase Memoirs of a Wolfman? It's very possible this is one of the first steps down the road that lead to the Naschycast! Glad I found Video Watchdog #66 again. 


Print Edition of VW #66 LINK 

Digital Edition LINK 


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!







Have a good Turkey Day and try not to fight with any lawn chairs! 


Monday, November 20, 2017

Jerry Goldsmith Scores for Science Fiction Classics

While editing the most recent episode of The Bloody Pit I was reminded of how much I love the soundtrack music composed by the great Jerry Goldsmith. In the show I mentioned his amazing PLANET OF THE APES (1968) score and his award winning music for THE OMEN (1976) but he wrote so many incredible pieces of music I forgot about his work on ALIEN (1979). I really don't think that film would have had it's massive cinema altering influence without his score. Goldsmith was so talented that I often find that his music was the only thing I liked about some movies. The man was a genius!









Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Bloody Pit #61 - Road Tripping With Maddox!


This might be the episode of the show recorded in the strangest fashion. This past summer Mark Maddox and I attended G-Fest in Chicago. Because Mark totes his work to such events this required a road trip in which hours of time would be spent in each other's company. The fear that we might visit violence upon each other meant that I thought it might be a good idea to record what occurred in the car just in case the police became involved. Luckily, all went smoothly, probably because I kept feeding Mark donuts laced with Xanex. Don't tell him! 

So, if you've ever wondered what it might be like to be trapped in a moving car with me and Mark this podcast will answer your questions. (Why anyone would be curious about this is beyond me.) Showing just how strange we are, the topic of conversation ranges from the music of Akira Ifakube, 1960's Irwin Allen television series, Dean Martin, Dr. Phibes, Day of the Triffids and our puzzlement about the MPAA's film rating standards. I include a few music cues from the shows and movies we discuss to add some texture beyond just hearing the car beep and the GPS tell us about traffic problems. And, near the end, you will hear Mark admit that the two of agree on so many things that the episode might not be very interesting to listeners who want us to yell at each other. I'll leave that judgment up to you. 

The show can be reached at thebloodypit@gmail.com or over on the podcast's FaceBook page. If you have any comments or questions please drop us a line. We'll be glad to hear from you. Thank you for downloading an listening. 





Thursday, November 16, 2017

What I Watched In October


BLADE RUNNER 2049 is one of my favorite movies of the year. Of course, I'm pretty clearly the target audience for it as I've loved the original for more than thirty years and have watched various versions of that 1982 film more than 50 times. Strangely, I must admit, I might like this sequel better than the first film. I'm not sure if that is because, having been so familiar with the earlier movie, it's much easier to let this film wash over me and tell it's story without skewed expectations for what it will be but it's likely. For me, BR2049 feels like a perfect tonal and thematic continuation of the original, shifting the larger question asked from 'What is Human' to 'Do memories make us Human'. It even asks the question of what it means to know our past is a lie but to have nothing else to hold on to give us a sense of self. And it does all this within the context of a mystery tied to both the past and an uncertain future.

When I learned this new film was two and half hours long I feared it would feel protracted or thin. While the film played I was even trying to decide which segments might be removed to cut the running time down with out messing up the story. But, by the end, each piece I thought might be choppable proved itself to be necessary to the film and it's absence would detract from the whole in some important way. This is not a film that will please most people just as the 1982 film was rejected at the time and is still merely a cult item. Both Blade Runner movies ask its audience to consider big questions about the nature of humanity, artificial human intelligence and the possibility of a soul. These are not the kinds of things a mass audience was ever going to embrace. Much like the first film I'm just so happy this new one exists as it reaffirms my faith the Hollywood can occasionally produce intelligent, cerebral science fiction that can cause a deeper conversation than rating it's degree of 'coolness'.


I've come to the realization that if Matthew Vaughn makes a film I'm going to probably love it. Because KINGSMEN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE is a sequel I fully expected it to be the least of his six films as director but it was just as unexpectedly brilliant and outrageous as the first film. It's only crimes were a lack of freshness that is somewhat unavoidable in a follow up and the pretty silly resurrection of a key character offed in the original. Both crimes are forgiven! I had a goofy smile plastered on my face for the duration of this funny, dirty, hyperkinetic spy adventure. These movies are exactly the kind of film Bond fans dreamed up in their kinkiest, most over the top imaginings. If you liked the first film you'll get a lot of joy out of this one too. 


What do you get when you cross the comedy GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) with the film noir D.O.A. (1949)? HAPPY DEATH DAY! In this comedic horror film we meet a college student suffering through a birthday so bad that it ends in her being brutally murdered. The twist is that she keeps reliving this crappy day over and over with each new variation ending in her demise no matter what she does to prevent it. She goes from puzzled to disbelieving to angry to disheartened to defiant as she attempts to discover who the masked person is that hates her enough to hunt her down repeatedly. This isn't a great movie but it is very well done, quite funny and very well played by Jessica Rothe in the lead role. She is onscreen for 95% of the running time and has to make us believe that this spoiled, unlikable sorority girl can become a better person as she travels through her painful adventure. She does an admirable job and I liked the eventual answer to the mystery as well. This is a fun horror film! 

The List 

THE WITCH'S CURSE (1962) - 6 (Maciste in Scotland and Hell) 
ONE DARK NIGHT (1982)- 6 (rewatch of a better print) 
SWEET HOME (2015) - 6 (Spanish horror film) 
KISS OF THE TARANTULA (1976)- 5 (not bad low budget shocker) 
THE HOWLING (1981) - 9 (rewatch) 
ONE MYSTERIOUS NIGHT (1944) - 5 (OK Boston Blackie film) 
KINGSMEN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (2017) - 8
THE MUTILATOR (1984) - 3 (low budget slasher) 
SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE (2011) - 3 (lame supernatural horror) 
HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945)- 6 (rewatch) 
BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017) - 9 
MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (1960) - 8 (rewatch) 
SON OF DRACULA (1943) - 6 (rewatch) 
BODY BAGS (1993) - 7 (rewatch) 
THE WITCH (2016)- 8 (rewatch) 
THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984) - 8 (rewatch) 
THE MARK OF THE WEREWOLF (1968) - 6 (rewatch of the Spanish version) 
THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND (1936)- 6 (rewatch)
THE CURSE (1987)- 3 
CURSE OF THE DEVIL (1973)- 6 (rewatch) 
HACK-O-LANTERN (1988) - 3 (terrible slasher/satanist tale) 
HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017) - 7 
RED CLOVER (2012) - 4 (Leprechaun monster horror tale) 
MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970)- 6 (rewatch)
HALLOWEEN (1978)- 10 (rewatch) 
DRACULA'S DAUGHTER (1936) - 7 (rewatch)
MIDNIGHT OFFERINGS (1981) - 6 (TV movie about high school witches) 
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982) - 8 (rewatch) 


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

John Carpenter's THE THING (1982) (imaginary) Toy Line



I'm not sure how I missed this amazing parody until now but this is hysterical! It really had me fooled for a couple of minutes simply because Universal screwed up the release of this film so badly I could easily imagine them creating a toy line. After all, there were toys for the similarly R rated and grotesque ALIEN (1979) so why not for this? Well done. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

NIGHT OF THE HUNTED (1980)


A young man is driving in the French countryside at night when he spots a beautiful woman (Brigitte Lahaie), dressed only in a nightgown, standing in the road. She tells the driver her name is Elisabeth but seems confused and frightened. She insists someone is pursuing her but can't say whom. She begs the fellow to take her with him, so he places her in his car and somehow misses seeing a nude redheaded woman just off the road calling out to Elisabeth for help. He carries the girl to his flat in Paris and after questioning her learns that she seems incapable of retaining memories for any length of time. He tells her his name is Robert but she even has trouble remembering that only a few minutes later. She asks him to please not leave her alone because she knows she'll forget him as soon as he isn't there to remind her of what she has experienced. Magnetically drawn to each other, the pair makes love in a tender scene, during which Robert tells Elisabeth to watch his face so she'll always remember this time together. But the next morning after Robert goes to work, Dr. Francis breaks into the flat and convinces Elisabeth to return with him to his high-rise clinic where he is treating dozens of people with her memory deficiency. Once in the clinic she finds the redheaded girl from the night before and learns that they can remember each other's names but little else about their relationship. The two friends attempt another escape and manage to contact Robert but are quickly recaptured. A frantic and lovesick Robert locates the clinic and is told by Dr. Francis that his patients are suffering from a disease that slowly robs them of all their mental functions. The doctor has been trying to treat them but has had no success. He explains that, ultimately, all the afflicted become like the walking dead with no cognitive abilities. But Robert refuses to believe him and is determined to rescue his beloved.


The films of Jean Rollin are unusual in ways that many find off-putting. They usually meander around colorfully surreal or absurd images and morbid situations for long stretches so that it becomes unclear where the (sometimes thin) narrative is going. They always have a dreamlike tone that can drive some viewers mad with the desire to hit the fast forward (or stop) button. But for those who share Rollin's sensibilities, these films are gorgeous and evocative pieces that seem lifted out of a fascinating other world. The stories are a mixture of quaint old pulp conventions and wild sexual excitement that, at its best, blends into something no one else in cinema really tries. There are points of similarity between Rollin and Jess Franco, but where Franco seems more interested in pumping out as many films as possible, I feel Rollin has a stronger body of work. Rollin always seems to have a central idea around which he's gathering images in the same way a poet will collage words. He layers quiet, moody shots of beautiful, melancholy women walking through gorgeous locations with horrific images of bloody violence in what seems to be an effort to get beyond the shock of the juxtaposition and question the feelings that are provoked. Since the violence is often linked with sexuality there is a reoccurring idea in his films that sex is both the beginning and ending of life. Indeed, in The Night of the Hunted sex is the only thing the poor afflicted souls can experience and remember.


This isn't the sex-equals-death concept of so many American slasher films but a more European view of sex as a transformative and healing act even when it's linked with danger. Rollin's parade of undead creatures are almost always beautiful but tortured. Unhappy in life they are just as unfulfilled in death —but are now robbed of the choices life afforded. Joy is always in the past for Rollin's characters and tears are their only response. In Night of the Hunted the diseased people aren't zombies or vampires but are rendered "dead" all the same. Their tragedy is made all the more touching by its gradual, degenerative nature putting me in mind of the victims of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.


The Night of the Hunted (La Nuit Des Traquées) is often cited as one of Rollin's weakest films but I don't feel that way. It's famous for its small budget and two-week shooting schedule, but even though its extremely low budget is occasionally evident I think the director stages his story well enough to hide most of its financial shortcomings. The performances are not exceptional by any means but get the job done effectively and the frequent nudity is a plus that distracts me from a few of the more wooden actors. In all honesty, the film could be much worse than it is and I would still champion it simply because of its inspired final shot. The image of two defeated and desolate characters walking away from the camera into the distance becomes the antithesis of riding off into the sunset. It's a haunting and deeply effecting image that stays with me for weeks after every viewing. As cheaply produced as this film is, I enjoy it a great deal more than some of Rollin's more expensive works, with The Demoniacs being my perfect example of more being much less. I wouldn't start a newcomer to Rollin's movies here since it lacks his usual vampires and phantasms, but it might be a good second feature to try.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Trailer - BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT (2018)



I've been a big fan of this alternate history Batman story since it was published in 1989. Here's hoping the animated version is as entertaining as the book. 

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

DRACULA'S DAUGHTER (1936) Poster Art and Lobby Cards










Sunday, November 05, 2017

Brief Thoughts - THE DEVIL'S HONEY (1986)


It's not often I sit down with the intention of watching a sleazy movie. I know that seems odd considering my love for European Trash cinema but it's true. Although sleazy elements may be a part of a lot of the films I watch and enjoy I don't seek out movies just because they are known as sleazy in their approach to their subject matter. In my younger days I did seek out cinema that catered to the more sordid side of things but over time I've pretty much seen everything I wanted so the thrill of simple shock has worn off.

Or at least I thought so.


Last night I watched Lucio Fulci's 1986 feature THE DEVIL'S HONEY. I knew it was known for it's sexually sleazy story but had kept myself as unaware of details as possible so I could absorb the film without interference from expectations. My first surprise was to learn that the lovely Corinne Cléry appears as Bret Halsey's wife. I have a thing for that lovely lady dating back to YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE (1983) so the prospect of ample nudity from her was enticing and on that front this film certainly delivers! Miss Cléry spends a great deal of her small amount of screen time nude or in various states of undress but the same is true of the actual female lead actor Blanca Marsillach. In fact, here is so much nudity in the film that by the end I should have been inured to the sight of female beauty but both of these ladies are so gorgeous I remained in awe of them.

That I never became accustomed to the nudity in the film is a testament not just to the physical beauty of the women onscreen but to the fascinating themes being explored in the story. I won't go into detail so as to allow curious viewers to see the film as I did but the sadomasochistic relationship at the heart of things is explored in absorbing ways. The wants and needs of a person in such a relationship are so complicated and confused that even knowing your own mind seems difficult. I'm not sure the story's physiological complexity justifies such a sleazy, exploitative movie but I know I couldn't take my eyes off it wondering what might happen next. That is the most shocking thing this film showed me- that I can still be entranced by something so seedy and dark. Fulci continues to surprise me decades after his death.


Saturday, November 04, 2017

Walt Simonson Thor Art

Caught THOR: RAGNAROK the other night and loved every awesome minute of it! It may well be the single funniest Marvel movie yet and every element works wonderfully. I was impressed that many ideas from Walt Simonson's legendary run on the comic book were woven into this big screen tale and only wish that Beta Ray Bill could have been included - but he'd need his own film, really.










There was even a mention of Thor being turned into a frog! Amazing.