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ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
A prime example of engaging in that “willing suspension
of disbelief.” I hate to use the word “silly” because of the onomatopoeic reflex, but silly ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
VAMPIRE HUNTER is. Young Honest Abe in the MATRIX of history, make-believe colored with noble allegory and a truly surprising
amount of martial artistry… But it is pretty damn entertaining on its own level, offering up some ludicrously cool scenes:
Joshua Speed driving a horse-drawn carriage through a ballroom window into a bloodletting fray, peeling perfectly to a halt
to ram a targeted bad-girl vamp; a vampire vixen getting shot in the face with a silver crucifix; the attempt at a Bond-worthy
fight/chase across the top of a speeding locomotive, while traveling across a burning bridge, even… Loads of gore and
gratuitous slo-mo, but for some reason it’s sorely lacking the scale of T&A one might hope to expect in an historical
vampire action/horror picture.Featuring talent the likes of Benjamin Walker
(as Lincoln, looking like an only slightly less-drawn Liam Neeson), Dominic Cooper and Rufus Sewell it’s definitely
not catering to star power (cheers to Jimmi Simpson of Liam McPoyle fame however as Speed), but all hold up to the story.
Which is, after all, about ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER.
are so many zombie flicks out there that it can be hard at times to keep ‘em all straight. I’d never heard of
After Death, or director “Clyde Anderson,” but with the subtitle of
Zombi 4, and of course a plotline containing loads of voodoo, zombies, and flesh-eating,
it sounded like Fragasso was attempting to follow in the footsteps of Fulci’s classic Zombi 2. And that’s gotta make any zombie movie fan more than a little curious.
one begins with an underground ritual, as in a subterranean candle-lit grotto a black priest of voodoo invokes forces that
cause the earth to swallow up the sacrificial offering of his wife. At that moment an armed group of whites storms the temple
bent on putting a halt to the priest’s black magic rituals, which they believe responsible for the ‘mysterious
disease’ that’s causing ghoulish behavior amongst the natives. The priest only rants on about opening the gates
of Hell and how the dead shall devour the living, until one of the invaders guns him down in near hysteria.
that the priest’s wife, now transformed into a toothy long-nailed apparition like something out of Demons, comes literally flying up through the floor to attack the posse. The lucky ones are dashed to the wall
or to the floor; one unlucky soldier has his eye gouged out and his face torn off before being hurled down the trapdoor to
Hell. Seeing as how the demoness is impervious to bullets the rest of the party flees through the underground tunnels, but
are hunted down one by one and have their blood splashed across the walls.
in the jungle a husband and wife are rushing their young daughter through the jungle to safety. They hope – they’re
being pursued by muddy-faced beings in raggedy black cloaks, one of whom makes their intentions clear by ripping the throat
out of the father. At this the mother gives her daughter a protective tribal amulet and sends her running away through the
jungle before picking up a log and bashing the zombie’s head in. Other hungry ghouls quickly converge upon her, ripping
her screaming throat out as she’s pulled to the ground.
later the girl, Jenny (Candice Daly), now an attractive blonde resembling a young Linda Hamilton, is in the company of a group
of mercenaries speedboating toward an island vacation. Boat trouble forces them to land upon a different, more foreboding
island, and while hiking through the foliage Tommy (Don Wilson) spies a mysterious figure dressed in tattered clothing. He
gives chase through the mist-shrouded rain forest and, upon beating the living crap out of the stranger, is surprised to find
the half-rotten face of a ghoul. Which promptly rises up and takes a bite out of his neck. When the rest of the group catches
up to him Tommy is in bad shape and the mysterious figure is nowhere to be seen.
on the group comes to what looks like a deserted village, and enters a hospital looking for help for their friend. Aside from
medical supplies and an unexpected stash of arms (including M-16s and grenades) they also find a crescent circle of lighted
candles, an arrangement Jenny recognizes as “The Circle of Satan.” Still wearing the amulet her mother gave her
twenty years ago, which she had earlier referred to as a key that keeps the doors of Hell locked, Jenny now removes it and
places it in the center of the circle to prevent the dead from rising. “Bullshit!” spits the paunchy, gap-toothed,
greasy-haired leader of the mercenaries, Rod (Nick Nicholson), blowing out the candles.
the very same island another group of explorers, Valerie, David, and Chuck, have been searching for a particular site. Coming
across the overgrown remains of the grotto they light torches and proceed inside toward the heart of the temple and another
“Circle of Satan.” They also find “The Book of the Dead,” and in an attempt to discover what some
obscure diary recorded as happening on that spot all those years ago, against Valerie’s better instincts the book is
opened and Chuck begins reading. And here open the gates of hell, as a throng of rotting shrouded zombies appear and attack.
Valerie and David are torn apart, but Chuck (Chuck Peyton) manages to make his escape
across the island zombies are rising from their graves, and at the hospital a tender moment between Rod and Louise (she and
Jenny’s presence amongst a band of ‘hardened’ mercenaries is never fully explained) is interrupted by one
of the hungry beasts. Fortunately Chuck comes running up just in time to pass along the information that the only way to kill
the creatures is a shot to the head, and many such shots follow as a wave of zombies begins storming the hospital. Inside
Jenny relights “The Circle of Satan,” but the candles soon go out and she’s too busy fighting off the newly
undead Tommy to take additional precautions. With much gunfire and flame the zombies are temporarily repelled, but not before
Louise is bitten and takes Rod out in turn.
the bodies are burned Jenny tells the survivors the story of how, twenty years ago, her father’s research toward the
prevention of death was instrumental in angering the voodoo priest and spreading the zombie plague across the island. So,
Not long afterward the zombified Rod manages to lure his former teammate Mad (Jim Moss)
out of the building and bite him; brought back inside Mad soon dies, and as did Rod he comes back from the dead, picks up
an M-16, and starts blasting away. He nails his buddy Dan (Jim Gaines), and mortally wounded the soldier tells Chuck and Jenny
to make a run for it as he holds back the invading horde of zombies. As the couple runs for safety Dan drags himself across
the floor toward a crate of grenades and fixes a surprise for his undead buddies.
through crowds of hungry ghouls, Chuck and Jenny finally return to the grotto. Hoping to close the gates of hell for good
Jenny picks up “The Book of the Dead” and begins to read, ushering closer the film’s dreadful climax . .
None too original, no, but fairly entertaining nonetheless; a jungle (The Philippines in
this case) full of cannibalistic zombies and humans with automatic weapons is always good fare. True, the native zombies’
garments often resemble hooded pajama suits and running shoes, making them look a little too much like basketball-playing
ninjas to be truly frightening, but they do have their moments. As do the resurrected members of the mercenary team –
zombies with machine guns! The gore factor isn’t too high, and as always the explanation as to why zombies exist in
the first place is a little convoluted, but the latter is par for the course and the former, well let’s just say it’s
no Zombi 2.
appropriate soundtrack by Al Festa, sprightly but atmospheric Italian keyboard music that at times switches over to a techno
tribal style, contrasts with a truly bad 80’s European metal song that flares up every now and again, but I guess it
all goes toward contributing to that foreign film experience. As do the Dutch subtitles, which can’t of course be turned
off on a dupe but don’t distract too badly from the film’s action. In fact they can actually be humorous at some
points: “Klootzak!” say the subtitles as a woman screams “Bastard!” at a zombie before cracking its
skull with a tree branch.
quality, print-wise, is every bit as good as you might expect from a copy you received from a friend. And probably better
than that of the archaic cult horror VHS tape you might find in the back of the rental shop. But as always, for those perfectionists
who want the most pristine print available Video Search of Miami’s sister company Oasis Video Miami offers factory-sealed
DVD pre-records at www.oasisvideomiami.com.
* * *
#81034: $25.00 + $4.00 shipping from Video Search of Miami – www.vsom.com – P.O. Box 16-1917, Miami, FL, 33116
AGAINST THE DARK
Directed by Richard Crudo
you want about Steven Seagal, there’s still an unmitigated joy to be found in watching him kill his way through everybody
in the world. Marked for Death and Under
Siege will always be classics, even if the bloated straight-to-video filmography that came later wasn’t always up
to snuff. Here in Against the Dark Seagal goes into Wesley Snipes/Vin Diesel sci-fi/horror
mode and fights the all time bane of mankind, the vampire. Just without the big budget. Rated R, “For bloody violence/gore,
some language and brief nudity”; how good is that? Well, it really should have had strong language and extensive nudity,
but we’ll see how it stacks up just the same.
And, unfortunately, it’s just a bunch of silliness as people run around in a blacked-out hospital hoping not
to get eaten by “the infected” while at the same time trying to escape the locked-down institution before the
whole area is firebombed. (Sound familiar?)
It’s the future, see, and a disease that turns ordinary people into blood-drinking cannibals has ravaged the
world. With no vaccines and no immunities, all of society becomes a post-war plague state. Groups of ex-military hunters take
the I Am Legend approach, seeking out and killing the infected. Others just try
to survive, barricading themselves inside fortified buildings.
Against the Dark concerns one faction of each, as a group of survivors creeps
around the enormous medical complex while a set of fearless vampire killers are in the area looking for living people while
dispatching the undead. The survivors alternately gain and lose members as they meet up with other uninfected individuals
and hunters and get picked off by the vampires. Which is curious, because there have been people hiding out in the hospital
for weeks when it’s absolutely crawling with blood-suckers. There’s one around every corner, it seems.
Meanwhile there’s the military outpost some distance away, just waiting to “sterilize” the area by
fire, even as the hunters attempt to protect and guide the survivors while they try to find their way to the hospital’s
only exit, “the security door.”
But for the most part Against the Dark’s things that go bump in the
night become more of a nuisance than anything else. The special effects are not outstanding; there’s a lot of cheap
white makeup and repetitive shots of gaping bloody maws and savages fighting over bloody Hamburger Helper. There are also
severed body parts, cannibalism, exploding guts (that one was pretty cool) and the like. As the vampires can be killed just
like anybody else, with guns and knives, there’s a lot of wild hacking and slashing and bodies going down in dark corridors.
There are some gruesome moments, such as when the survivors come across the cannibals’ larder and find a number
of their dead comrades hanging upside down from hooks, their guts hanging out. The pygmy sharpening its teeth with a file,
the little girl ‘taste tester,’ and the scene swiped from Zombie where
a bunch of ghouls sit around eating a naked woman. But most of the film relies on cheap thrills that get cheaper by the dozen
as you see the same thing over and over again ad nauseam.
The film definitely suffers from perpetual shadow syndrome; most of the damage is lost in the defenestration of chiaroscuro
as detail is constantly traded for a murky anti-atmosphere. All of the redundant scenes in the constant darkness is evidently
meant to create a nightmarish sensation of claustrophobic terror, but more often than not only add to the increasing boredom;
the routine becomes as tiresome as bad black metal.
Here in Against the Dark Seagal has a head like an angry pumpkin. Or a sun-burnt
basketball. Most of the movie finds him strutting about in a leather trench coat carrying a churrascaria blade and mouthing Seagalisms such as, “We’re not here to decide who’s right or
wrong. We’re here to decide who lives and dies.” And, “Well the thing of it is, you know, we kinda have
to do what we do. We hunt and we kill. And then we move on.” Or to the question, “Who the fuck are you and what
do you want?” he answers, “I’m the motherfucker that’s gonna do you what you been doing everybody
else.” (Evidently he’s too worn out from slaying the craft services table to compose a proper sentence or lay
out much more than one line at a time.) Or simply, “My name is Tao” (cue bad heavy metal movie music). It is kind
of funny though to put this on 1.5x speed and watch him waddle around quick-like, throwing people around like penguins.
Bonuses include more trailers than anything else, but there is a nine
minute short, “Fighting the Shadows: Behind the Scenes of Against the Dark.”
Aside from promoting a particularly bad looking Seagal we find that the horrible lighting was absolutely intentional; they
used “single source lighting,” which was meant to texture the sets but instead just dampened everything down into
a muddied puddle of film.
This really should have kicked a lot more ass than it did. I can’t believe I watched the fucker twice.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
(Anthropophagus, Trap Them and Kill Them,
House of Anal Perversions) and Laura Gemser (the Emanuelle series) are both well known on the foreign sleaze film circuit. And when a film such as The Alcove is billed as featuring “A deranged new world of voyeurism, drugs, pornography, lesbian seduction,
unholy nuns and more,” you know it’s got my attention. Even if that’s all just part of the distributor’s
hype, this edition is unrated, uncut and unedited (“For the first time ever in America!”) so you know we can expect some wild and
inappropriate scenes herein. (Warning: SPOILER.)
We begin with a bit of Sapphic tension taking place in the manor of a military gentleman, as his wife Alexandra (Lilli
Carati) unsuccessfully tries to bed her handmaiden Velma (Annie Belle). But Velma demurs, despite their apparently long-standing
and intimate companionship, too nervous about getting caught by the man of the house. And rightly so, as hubby Elio Silvestri
(Al Cliver) returns from his foreign travels not moments later.
Elio comes bearing gifts, including a native dildo and…an Abyssinian princess named Zerbal (Laura Gemser). Zerbal
was given to Elio by a tribal chief whose life he supposedly saved during some unnamed campaign, and although the dark and
shapely foreigner is intended as a companion and servant for Alexandra, the lady is less than enthused: “Good lord,
a negro woman!” she gasps. “Hello. Go and get yourself fucked,” says Zerbal when coaxed by Elio to show
off her newly-learned English language skills.
Reluctantly Alexandra agrees to keep the princess on as a housekeeper, but from an interaction Zerbal has with the
master of the house a short time later it’s clear that she has other ambitions. Namely, sexual ones.
In no time at all husband and wife are getting it on in a softcore roll in the hay while Velma sits alone on the stairs,
crying over what may signal the end of her affair with her mistress. But maybe not; the very next day Zerbal spies the two
ladies kissing and fondling each other while Elio gets drunk and plays at writing his book. When Zerbal walks in on Elio and
Alexandra making the beast with two backs a short time later, her eyes linger over Alexandra’s bush until she’s
ordered to fetch more champagne.
When Elio must leave town to tend to business and family matters it doesn’t take long for Velma and Alexandra
to change into evening dress and lingerie and curl up on the couch together for some champagne and sexplay. Zerbal watches
for a time, then goes outside and pitches a rock through the lounge window.
Upon his return Elio’s response to this bizarre and hostile act is to request an apology from Zerbal before presenting
her formally to Alexandra to do with as she will. Zerbal shows her acceptance of this change of ownership by licking and undressing
Alexandra, a ritual that pleases Velma not at all. (Her unfriendly demeanor toward Zerbal has made itself clear already: “You
should keep your tongue in your head, you low person!” she shouted at the fallen princess earlier.) Despite her initial
abhorrence however Alexandra quickly warms up to Zerbal, which only causes Velma’s animosity to grow. Relegated to the
full-time position of Elio’s secretary, she’s out of the limelight as Alexandra’s primary companion and
into the green light of mounting jealousy.
On the night Elio’s son Furio (Robert Caruso) comes home for a visit,
Alexandra slips away from the dinner table to coax Zerbal into bed. Later when Elio drunkenly stumbles upstairs he finds the
bedroom door locked, and taking a peek through a crack in the door he sees the women making love. When Velma comes upstairs
and joins him she catches an eyeful as well, and in the uncomfortably awkward moments that follow Elio makes her give him
a teary-eyed handjob.
The next day Furio continues his so-far-unsuccessful attempts to bed Velma by stepping it up and asking her to marry
him. And then going down on her in a fruit orchard. Without receiving a definite answer Furio returns to the navy, and Elio
goes to pay his respects to a war widow (who shamelessly tries to seduce him). Zerbal and Alexandra jump into each others’
arms straightaway, leaving Velma crying all alone once again.
Soon Alexandra’s lining up rails for herself and Zerbal, using a little cocaine to fuel their sex romps. When
Velma refuses Alexandra’s command to bring them more champagne a nasty argument ensues, ending in Lady Alex’s
promise to have Velma sacked. But when Elio returns he’s in too good a mood to fire anyone; although he apparently passed
on the widow’s attempt to bed him, he did purchase from her some of her late husband’s film equipment and several
of the dead man’s films.
The movies all turn out to be vintage pornography, some of it quite hardcore, and the three ladies assembled for the
screening are all actively fingering each other in the dark when Elio shuts off the projector and announces, “We can
do better than that!”
A day or two later Elio follows up on this notion; his bank is squeezing him and finances are tight, so his plan is
to shoot some stag films using the subjects at hand and sell these on the private market. But Alexandra and Zerbal immediately
balk at the idea, the latter wanting nothing to do with filthy pornography despite the demonstrated easiness of her virtue.
But soon Zerbal, who has become increasingly empowered by practically having the run of the household, decides that she will
deign to participate on the condition that she be allowed to dictate the film’s storyline. One which will involve the
rape and enslavement of a princess, as she implies is what happened to her. And this time a white woman is to be the victim.
The Mysteries of the Inquisition finds Velma a prisoner in a convent run
by a delusional Mother Superior, played by Alexandra. Accused of practicing witchcraft, Velma’s character is to be sexually
and sadistically tortured by the Church in a lurid and blasphemous scene intended to gain a confession by punishment. However
when she is tied up and the camera starts rolling, Velma finds that the scenario is much different than the script she agreed
to. Molested by Alexandra and raped by the skulking groundskeeper, Pepe, Velma passes out.
Upon awakening Velma dresses and removes the reel of film from the camera before bicycling away through the country.
As she does so Zerbal is turning the tables on Alexandra, slapping her in the face and defying the once-proud woman’s
orders. Zerbal tells her former mistress that, “I possess you. You are mine. You are my whore. You are my bitch in heat.
You are my slave.” And Alexandra submits entirely. In bed a short time later Zerbal demands three things from Alexandra.
First she wants her to kill Velma. Then she wants all of the household jewels, knowing full well that as they belonged to
Elio’s first wife, Furio’s blood mother, they actually belong to the boy. And finally she wants Elio to be her
Alexandra spills all of this to Elio, who quickly puts the kibosh on these plans. He will however play along with the
slave angle for a while, but only on the condition that he be allowed back into Alexandra’s bed. But just as Elio is
being ceremonially presented to Zerbal, Velma shows up to make quite a scene. She’s got Furio in tow, who’s been
told the whole story, and when Zerbal demands to be given the sex film Furio throws it into one of the many flaming bowls
of oil the group was using to light their little ritual. There’s a fiery explosion which catches Zerbal directly, sending
her and her diaphanous gown up in flames (in one of the most bogus death-by-fire scenes ever). Nobody makes a move to help
her, and that’s The End.
And that’s that. Somehow, despite all of the bush and a moment or two or actual porn, this picture seems rather
tame. And by that I mean boring. Maybe due to the pacing, maybe due to the redundant nature of the scenes, there just doesn’t
really seem to be a lot going on here except for a bunch of wealthy degenerates acting in unilateral dysfunction. The acting
is rather flat, the sex is uninspired, and the film doesn’t even make great use of the (apparently) European settings
in which it takes place. Maybe titillating if you caught it during your high school years back in the Eighties, but at the
moment it’s just not too impressive.
Bonus features include a trailer and a brief ‘featurette’, Talking
Dirty with Joe D’Amato that “has suffered some tape degradation.” And with his ultra-thick accent it’s
not only the tape quality that makes this segment difficult to understand. (And will somebody please unplug that fucking phone!)
The director talks about, I think, Caravaggio, Laura Gemser and other actors, the Emmanuelle
films, and this and that. And again, that’s that.
Kinski’s filmography is as varied and erratic as the man himself; from a twitchy hunchbacked gunfighter in Leone’s
For A Few Dollars More to the arch vampire in Herzog’s Nosferatu, Klaus has played ‘em all. I’d never heard of this one however, 1974’s Le Amanti Del Mostro (AKA Lover of the Monster, or The Hand That Feeds the Dead), in which Kinski “becomes obsessed with his experiments in the reanimation
of the dead.”
the late 19th century, and Professor Alex Nijinsky (Kinski) and his beautiful wife Agniezka (Katia Christine) are
traveling by horse and carriage to the villa left her by her late father, Professor Ivan Rassimov. Their marriage is faltering,
due largely in part to Alex’s fits of jealousy, and the couple hopes that the remote and scenic country location will
provide them with a much-needed second chance at marital bliss. They still have quite a way to go however; the pair will be
sleeping at opposite ends of the mansion. One other kink in Nijinsky’s hopes for getting back in the good graces of
the little lady is their neighbor Dr. Igor Walensky, who right away comes sniffing around the villa displaying a clear interest
in curvaceous blonde Agniezka.
left to his own devices in his wife’s home and hometown, Alex spends a good deal of time finding solace in spirits and
Professor Rassimov’s library. It seems the late Professor had some rather unorthodox scientific views, particularly
regarding “the mystery that exists between life and death.” A former doctor himself, it doesn’t take Alex
long to find his way into the Professor’s cellar laboratory and begin recreating the old man’s experiments with
restoring the Professor’s “machine,” an elaborate system of coils, beakers, and archaic batteries, Alex
has the opportunity to test the device when the family dog Sasha is found dead. But instead of some miraculous scientific
breakthrough, the gory process (involving evisceration and electrocution) is an utter failure. In the course of the experiment
Alex does however receive a severe shock from the machine, a shock which is to alter his personality substantially. Or at
least simply unleash a dormant portion of his already frustrated personality . . .
the outskirts of the village an unseen presence attacks a farmer and his family, brutalizing man and wife and murdering their
child. Shortly thereafter Alex finds himself wandering the forest, working his way home in a frenzied and unkempt condition.
following day the town’s police force, along with a sizeable hunting party of angry citizens, are combing the countryside
for the “vagabond” suspected of killing the child. Alex is also roaming the woods once again, in the same dangerously
delirious condition he was the day before, when he comes across a pair of lovers in a clearing. Striking the man down Alex
pursues the woman through the shrubbery, and when the search party finds her she’s been stripped, violated, and murdered.
Alex flees the scene in a manic state, a feral combination of panic and exhaustion, just as a random hobo happens to be passing
by and is seen by the posse. Chased through the woods the vagabond is caught and laid into, and by the time the police take
charge he has already been beaten to death by the mob.
at the villa Alex senses that he is losing himself, and one night approaches his wife in her bedroom hoping for a final heart-to-heart
reconciliation. There is still too great an emotional distance between them however, as she continues to hold against him
a particular unspoken offense related to his “absurd jealousy.” Rebuffed, Alex leaves the bedchamber and returns
to the laboratory, haunted by imaginary laughter.
Alex is stalking the village, and peeping through a window as a sexy young harlot undresses for a fat old letch. As they roll
about on the bed Alex enters, breaking the man’s neck and leaving the girl bloody and ravaged. Afterward he returns
to the woods, lovelorn and persecuted by memories both real and imagined. When he reaches the villa Alex is confronted by
Agniezka’s head servant Boris, who recognizes Alex for the killer he is and draws a knife, determined to prevent any
harm from befalling his mistress. Alex fells him with a single blow, then descends into the cellar much like a vampire returning
to his crypt at dawn.
the discovery of the most recent victims another posse is formed to search for the “mad man” on the loose. But
instead they find another hobo who, still covered in the blood of a stolen chicken, makes a more convenient target (“He’s
got the face of a criminal!”). Taken before the magistrate the man pleads innocence, but for lack of a better suspect
is jailed anyway.
meanwhile lies in an exhausted state resembling a coma. And who should be attending to him during his days of unconsciousness
but the good Doctor Walensky, who obviously takes a greater interest in his patient’s wife than the patient himself.
When Alex begins to recover and, despite his wife’s ministrations, realizes that nothing will change between them, he
lets her go, telling her that she can now consider herself free. The camera soars up and away from their table setting on
the lawn, and into the court where they are watching the hobo’s trial. As there have been no murders committed during
the five days Alex lay in bed, a time period coincidentally matching that spent by the hobo in jail, the tramp is found guilty
by the court and sentenced to hang. Returning to the villa Alex attempts to drink away his own guilt under the suspicious
eyes of Agniezka and Dr. Walensky, and equally shaken by their obvious closeness and their veiled accusations he soon stumbles
down to the basement to fall into a trembling fit of auditory hallucination.
his eternal love to Agniezka Dr. Walensky takes his leave, only to hear her begin screaming almost immediately. Alex is stalking
his wife through the mansion, and breaking into her bedroom he approaches the terrified woman and begins tearing off her clothing.
As Alex throws her to the bed and begins ravishing her Walensky beats his fists bloody trying to break into the villa and
save her, but once locked down the mansion is like a fortress (or, as Agniezka had said earlier, like a prison). As Igor sobs
outside, Alex rapes Agniezka so violently that she dies in his arms. As the fit passes and his sanity returns, Alex realizes
what he has done and, cradling her lifeless body, begins looking for a way to remedy the situation . . .
this point I was hoping that Alex would haul her down to the cellar and hook her up to the machine for an ending somewhere
along the lines of Re-Animator and Pet Sematary.
Instead Garrone moves in another direction, one equally dramatic and grief-stricken but aimed much more along the lines of
desperate redemption than sci-fi/horror. Effective and unexpected, this more classical finale may not please the gorehounds
in the audience (who will also no doubt be disappointed to see that, aside from the experiment with the dog, there’s
very little blood or explicit violence in the picture) but will certainly meet with the approval of most.
the mad scientist theme, rich coloration, and period settings, Le Amanti Del Mostro
resembles a Hammer picture, but with a much more tragic and violently lusty end. The dark and brooding interiors well match
Alex’s mindset as his newly unleashed homicidal frustration grows, and the lupine howls that occasionally spring to
life on the soundtrack also serve to accentuate the deepening feral state into which Alex finds himself descending. Kinski’s
Jekyll & Hyde performance is remarkable, as with a minimum of makeup he transforms from the urbane and sharply-dressed
Professor Nijinsky into a glassy-eyed, slack-jawed fiend whose rapacious bloodlust has an entire village terrified. A timeless
tale of frustrated romance, given an extra edge as it is by Kinski’s always watchable performance and the violent mad
scientist twist, Le Amanti Del Mostro is a most gratifying watch for fans of Klaus,
Italian cinema, and classic horror alike.
film is given a region-free widescreen presentation, in Italian with English subtitles that can be turned on and off. These
subtitles are clear and easily visible, but are sometimes a bit confused in their grammar and spelling (and in one point there’s
a rather important mistake replacing Rassimov’s name with Walensky’s). The DVD transfer, apparently by CVR for
Melbourne’s Shoarma Digital, is a bit shaky as well, flickering and rolling at times as would a videocassette. Nothing
to ruin the viewing experience certainly, but it is noticeable.
features include an extensive Klaus Kinski photo gallery, containing posters, stills, and archival images from all eras of
Kinski’s career, accompanied by a sombre piano score. There’s also an interview taped from television recording
his appearance on the German talk show Na Sowas! After some outtakes displaying
Kinski’s volatile on-set behavior (during filming of Kommando Leopard) he
comes onstage to go off on his own tangents and toy with the rather ridiculous host for asking roundabout questions. But instead
of an outburst or brawl it all ends on a note more along the lines of his statement, “I’m thinking right now that
I’ll be going back to the hotel and drink a Pilsner beer.” Go Klaus!
* * *
$19.95 from Luminous Film & Video Wurks – www.lfvw.com – P.O. Box 289, Hampton Bays, NY, 11946
Directed by Sky Ryan
The title says it all: moving pictures from a dive bar in Portland, Oregon. For those of you who have never spent
time in a dive, it’s a place where drunks go to get more drunk. It’s not pretty, it’s not smart, it’s
not glamorous and it’s not exciting. It is what it is.
In this case it’s a slice of an evening with various barflies who take their stools to tell pieces of their drunken
stories, or in some cases just ramble on about whatever’s floating across their brain at any given moment. Some of the
not-so-colorful characters we meet are would-be disenfranchised heiress Rayma, pool playing poet and ex-con Mason, job hunter
Jessie, drunken driver Brenda, Texas Stan, Patricia the flasher, Cowboy the Squarehead Indian, old man Jim, Carmen, medicated
Arthur, Lori the flasher, unlucky Richard, smoking Susan, afro Nate and Megan, rockin’ John, stand up drug addict Kim
(another flasher), Disco Tony (who delivers a mini-rant against “dog eaters” to the tune of a Red Hot Chili Peppers
song playing on the jukebox in the background), and even Raymond the owner gets in on some of the the action. Throughout the
evening(s) the film encompasses we’re treated to spilled beer, pool, dirty dancing, dice, a minor brawl and of course
the dreaded last call. All of that and some drunken old lady titty, too. Bet you weren’t expecting that now, were you?
And there you have it. Pretty simple and rather low-lived fare. But the simplicity of the project is its strength;
this isn’t some trust-fund baby’s ‘Oh look, here’s the winter I worked at a real live dive bar with
real live drunks!’ (I hope…) And it isn’t some melodramatic liberal documentary about alcoholism, instead
being refreshingly non-judgmental as well as unpretentious. It may not be an award winner, but it does what so many other
films fail to do: delivers what it promises. And what’s more, it manages to be rather inspirational; I dare you to watch
it and NOT want to go get hammered at the local. Cheers.
Bright ‘n bawdy big top music blares as the opening credits roll; the
circus is comin’ to town, but not having enough coin for the sideshow a gang of dead-end kids heads over to old Doc
Adrian’s place and chucks rocks through his winders instead. Bernard Adrian, M.D. (Boris Karloff), rides up on his bicycle
and nabs the brats in the act (“Gee look, he’s got Willy!”), but he’s got such important work to get
to that he just goes ahead and lets ‘em go.
As Adrian gets back to his research, over in town people are talking about
what a queer old duck the Doc is, always performing those unnatural experiments of his on stray dogs and such. And they’re
beginning to get a mite riled . . . What they don’t know is what fuels Adrian’s passion, and that’s the
fact that after his inability to treat the crippling disease that killed his wife and daughter ten years ago he’s devoted
his life to finding some sort of miracle cure. Aside from wanting to aid all of humanity, Adrian is particularly keen to help
his young wheelchair-bound neighbor Francis Clifford to walk. About the same age as his own daughter would have been, Adrian
has adopted Francis after a fashion and she remains the most loyal of his few supporters in the small town.
That evening most of the town turns out for the carnival’s grand opening.
Except for the Doc of course, who stays at home working on his dog experiments. After the show one of the star animal attractions,
the mighty gorilla, mauls his abusive handler and escapes from his cage. The fallen man’s cigar ignites the straw spread
about the tents and cages, and soon the entire circus is in chaos. Amidst the flames and confusion the ape makes away into
the countryside, while the injured trainer is taken to Adrian’s place for treatment. As he tries to patch up the panicked
monkey wrangler Doctor Adrian has an odd sort of epiphany, and he kills the man by draining his spinal fluid.
Outside, the town is all a-flutter over the calamitous notion that a killer
ape is loose in their midst. (“It gives a body the creeps to think of that critter roamin’ around!”) As
Sheriff Halliday organizes a sizeable posse, Adrian visits Francis and gives her the first dose of his new “serum.”
The treatment begins to work immediately, allowing Francis to actually feel her legs for the first time. But sadly, during
a fit of Nobel Prize-worthy hubris, Adrian allows the vial of serum to roll off of the table and shatter upon the floor along
with his lofty aspirations.
Meanwhile the big ape is still rampaging throughout the ranch-style homesteads
on the outskirts of town, murdering one member of the search party before coming upon Adrian’s place. Seeing his former
trainer’s brocade jacket through the Doc’s kitchen window, the gorilla goes apeshit and smashes his way into the
house. The ape commences to tear the place up until Adrian manages to toss some incapacitating chemical into the beast’s
face and stab it to death with a large surgical blade. Adrian’s aged housekeeper Jane stumbles upon Doc and the monstrous
carcass, but is warned by her employer that she is to tell nobody what she has seen. Some time later, amazingly she sees the
very same ape sneaking out of the Doctor’s laboratory in the middle of the night . . .
The search for the killer ape continues, as does the spread of feeling in
Francis’ legs. With this increased feeling comes an increased sensitivity to pain, something that concerns her grease-monkey
boyfriend Danny enough to confront Adrian about. But Doctor knows best, and Adrian talks his way past the young man and goes
inside to administer a new batch of serum. And despite her growing pain, Francis is now able to actually move her toes.
Concerned over the recent deaths, the local coroner has called in an official
from “up north” to consult with him regarding the state of the cadavers. The spinal punctures on each body cause
Doctor McNulty, from the prestigious Robinson Foundation, to confront Doctor Adrian, and it comes to light that Adrian is
the very same M.D. expelled from the Foundation twenty-five years ago for using spinal fluid to conduct unauthorized experiments
on paralysis. McNulty wants to report Adrian as a hack and a menace, but after feeling “a definite muscular reflex”
in Francis’ legs he becomes convinced that Adrian’s experiments have merit. He even invites the old man back into
the folds of the Foundation, but as Adrian hasn’t finished his work just yet he resolves to stay on in the small town
for a while.
That night the gorilla again leaves the Doctor’s house, but is shot
in the process by one of the brats lurking around in the shrubbery with a .22 rifle. The gorilla retreats, and the boys excitedly
run back to the Sheriff to report about their big game hunting. Halliday heads straight over to Adrian’s to check it
out, and tells the old man that it’s mighty peculiar how the ape seems to have taken such a fancy to his place. When
the Doc explains that the circus trainer’s torn coat must be what’s attracting the animal, the Sheriff posts a
number of men around the place to keep an eye out for the beast. The next day there’s a Helen Keller moment as Adrian
prods Francis into moving her legs again, but as she’s still in pain and not up doing the foxtrot yet the Doc knows
he’s going to have to find some more spinal fluid soon.
Come nighttime the posse reassembles around Adrian’s place. Having
conferred with a carnie and having Adrian’s theory on the ape’s attraction to the handler’s clothing confirmed,
Halliday is certain the ape will return to the scene. As the men separate and spread out, one of them is nabbed by the gorilla.
He manages to stab the ape and drive it away, and quickly alerts the rest of the posse. Staggaring back to Adrian’s
place the ape is spotted by Francis, who frantically starts wheeling toward the Doc’s place herself in order to warn
him. Her cries bring the posse running, and one of them shoots the ape down right at Adrian’s doorstep. The men move
in, but closer examination reveals that the monkey suit really is just a costume. Inside, “It’s the Doc!”
Seeing her benefactor laying there dying, Francis stands up from her wheelchair and, with Adrian’s encouragement, takes
several tentative steps toward him. With his last breath Adrian says, “There . . . you see?!”
In a brief epilogue, Francis is shown walking almost comfortably now, having
burned her wheelchair with the resolution never to use it again.
Maybe not an all-time classic, but an enjoyable mad science/monkey movie
nonetheless. Plenty of good lines about monkeys (“I’ll ape you when I get home!” “Them dogs o’
mine have been sniffin’ ape for days. Made ‘em foolish, I guess.”), a killer ape, and Boris Karloff, all
thrown into a B&W big-top-in-a-small-town setting. Perhaps not as over-the-top as it could have been, but none too shabby
for 1940. ‘Got Willy?’
AVERE VENT'ANNI (TO BE TWENTY)
Directed by Fernando Di Leo
A quick word of warning here, this review will include spoilers for both versions of the film appearing in this special edition
release. Not only is this essential in differentiating between the director’s original Italian version and the watered-down
release that reached U.S.
theaters, but the endings really make the films and an explanation is necessary as to assure that the American version (or
any censored Italian version) will be strongly avoided.
Hot freewheeling Euro-hippies Lia (Lilli Carati) and Tina (Gloria Guida) meet while skinny-dipping in the ocean after
a seaside love-in. “I’m young, beautiful and pissed off!” says dark-haired Tina by way of introduction.
“I too am young, beautiful and a little pissed off,” replies blond Lia. And on this youthfully ignorant note of
rebellion a friendship is born. (But not consummated, if you know what I mean…)
Our two pieces of young stuff set off hitchhiking, but despite the bra-less cleavage and slit mini-dresses on display
the girls have some trouble landing a ride. After a couple odd encounters they finally make it to Rome,
whereupon they figure they’ve got it made. Armed with big tits, foul mouths and an utter contempt for capitalist morality
Tina and Lia gleefully rip off a series of local merchants on the way to their destination, Nazariota’s commune.
Here they hope to score free room and board, along with some beatnik Roman boys. But there’s no free ride awaiting
them at Nazariota’s; living in the city costs money, and if the chicks can’t pay rent they’ll have to make
it up some other way. When the broads start in with their mantra of “We’re young, beautiful, and…”
upon hearing that they might have to go to work, completely unfazed the tubby old guru simply replies, “Get pissed off
in the kitchen.” Even the possibility of getting laid is looking sparse – all the guys are too stoned to ball,
and are decidedly unwashed in any case.
Nazariota aims to fix this however; if the broads are broke and unwilling to work, the least they can do is fuck for
their room and board, screwing visitors to the flophouse in an effort Naz hopes will keep the half-assed commune stocked with
ready labor. The brief softcore orgy that follows is as unsatisfying as everything the girls have experienced at the commune
thus far, and left feeling empty in the aftermath Lia suggests that she and Tina get it on…
Afterwards there’s a bit of music video as the girls dance through the streets to the strains of an oddly traditional-sounding
Italian pop song in a commercial for freedom and sexuality.
Back at the commune an independent film crew has dropped by to shoot a documentary on “absolute freedom.”
Filming the girls and the stories of their lives up to this point, we find that they’re largely as empty and unpleasant
as they are now. Three “feminist actresses” then recite the work of Valerie Solanas, even as Tina finally bags
the stoned-out hippie hunk she set her sights on earlier.
Deciding they don’t want to screw Nazariota’s hippie deadbeats any longer, the girls are sent out selling
encyclopedias. After we’re treated to a couple of sexual misadventures in this field the commune is raided and the lot
of them carted off to jail in a contrived bust meant to crack down on revolutionary activity. The following interrogations
are largely jokeworthy, brutality traded for hippie bullshit, and Tina and Lia end up getting kicked out of town as shiftless
On their way out of the region the girls stop at a country diner for a quick bite. Unfazed by their recent humiliation
the young lasses are in high spirits, shaking their short-shorts to the jukebox and making a bit of a scene in the middle
of a family-style restaurant populated only by men. Some of the patrons are aroused by the young girls’ antics, but
others are put off by the brazen display. Regardless, all eyes are fixed on the “two little bitches,” and when
the girls appear to enjoy each other’s company more than that of their admirers (despite a noteworthy Italian version
of the chicken dance) the party becomes downright hostile.
nearly auctioned off to the highest bidder, the girls break away and storm out of the café, walking back to the main highway
along a small country road. As twilight darkens their way the girls become apprehensive, and with good reason – they
suddenly find themselves being chased by several carloads of men from the restaurant. The chase is a brief one, and led deeper
into the woods the women are beaten and stripped. But instead of being raped, Tina is savagely penetrated with a tree branch
and Lia has her skull cracked with another. “Teasing…” one of the men says as the group walks away. As they
leave one of the men kicks the girls’ tape player on, and sappy pop music plays into the credits.
That was the real
version of the film; in the American issue, To be Twenty, a violently cautionary
tale of the perils facing the free love generation has been turned into a worthless T & A hippie-fest. Instead of meeting
at the dissolution of a sordid love-in, in this one Tina (the blonde one) and Linda (the brunette one) are already girlfriends
on the road. Early on they meet a more active and revolutionary Nazariota, now going by the name of “Shining Ray,”
but spurn his offer to join his corps of “Sapper” activists for a ride to a country diner…the same one from
the end of Avere Vent’Anni. Events transpire much as they had in the original,
with the exception of the ending; instead of being brutalized and murdered in the woods, one of the killers jumps out of a
car just in time to warn the group that the police are on their way, breaking up the little rape party and allowing the girls
to go on their merry way.
And with the original film’s shocking climax defused so early on, one is left with little else. The broads make
it to Rome, have the same disappointing experiences with the commune, play the
same liberated woman games, and basically skip gaily through the picture without a care in the world. (Quite the opposite
of the original, where it was this very attitude that inspired their horrible fate.)
There is of course the hippie music video/dance party through the streets of Rome,
and encyclopedia sales are the girls’ own bright idea, intended to fund their further adventures. Another notable difference
is that while this is supposed to be a film about the children of the free love era, in the American version most of the references
to lesbianism are removed in favor of over-extending the straight love scenes. The girls expand their life stories a bit more
in front of the documentary filmmakers, there’s a bit more background on the conspiracy to bust the commune, and the
interrogation is somewhat more interesting – this time the young ladies are let off scot-free with barely a warning.
With this they trot off to Bali, hustling the entire way, with the credits rolling over a shot of their
hitchhiking asses cocked toward traffic.
All in all the U.S. release is a kinder, gentler, more
meaningless picture; the dirty hippie contingent probably loved it. (Well, except for the creepy clown’s ranting about
astral death: “Let’s all commit suicide…”) Whereas this version is an empty-headed hippy-dippy version
of life on the bum, the original Italian version expresses a much stronger sense of disapproval, one that’s so savage
it borders on the fascistic. The director makes his statement crystal clear from the beginning; hippies, and hippie chicks
in particular, are loose worthless creatures who deserve everything they get. Not only is this evident in the violent climax,
but throughout the film everyone treats and speaks to the girls much more harshly than they do in the American version. The
original moral remains the most apt however; the girls try to cash in on the free love era and fail, as did so many of their
real life models.
Originally released in 1978, Avere Vent’Anni is here presented in region-free
widescreen. The two-disc set features optional English subtitles for the Italian version and includes special features such
as brief interviews with director Di Leo (on censorship of the film), Ray Lovelock (Tina’s hippie lover; “I’m
sorry – I really don’t remember”), biographies of the starlets (of the two Lilli Carati’s is much
more interesting, covering her descent into drugs and hardcore pornography), and a pair of photo galleries.
Directed by Oxide and Danny Pang and Pisuth Praesang-Iam
A cargo truck
speeds through the night along a country road, carrying a consignment of antique artifacts. The jostling of the uneven road
causes the packing crates to shift, dislodging a great wooden drum. And a malevolent female spirit whose appearance startles
the truck’s comic book-reading passenger so badly that he leaps from the bed of the moving vehicle.
Arriving at its
destination the truck is unloaded, but when inventory is taken by the client, young Ms. Jieb, it turns out that the drum is
an extra item and not part of the original order. A call is placed to Jieb’s mentor Mr. Anaka, who with a bit of research
determines that the instrument was made by Master Jangwang-Cheum, a pre-war music teacher.
Flashback to Bangkok, 1917.
The last request of dying Pad is that Master Cheum take care of his young daughter Paga. Cheum promises to do so, and to look
after her as if she were his own child. He is as good as his word, and at Cheum’s schoolhouse, idyllically situated
on one of Thailand’s lush waterways, Paga learns the
dances for which Cheum’s school is renowned, growing into a fine-looking young woman in the process. Along the way Paga
befriends Cheum’s apprentice Gnod, a disfigured and out-of-favor artisan who has also wound up under Cheum’s care,
and unknowingly enthralls the scarred outsider.
dance troupe has the honor of performing at the royal theater, Paga’s elegance catches the eye of Fond, a musician so
impressed by her beauty and Cheum’s talent that he asks for and is granted acceptance to Master Cheum’s academy.
And into Paga’s closer company.
Back in real time
Jieb is emailing friends when a power outage hits. Eerie shadows and misty shapes drift through the house and for a moment
Jieb finds herself in a flashback she never really experienced. Again consulting Mr. Anaka, Jieb hears more of the story of
Paga and Fond.
Paga alone seems
to recognize Gnod’s talent as a craftsman, and seeing some of his carvings harmlessly asks if he can make more figures
for sale. Gnod is only too happy to oblige the object of his infatuation, but becomes upset when Fond’s name is mentioned.
And with some good reason – Fond and Paga have been spending an increasing amount of time together, and when the two
become engaged Gnod openly expresses his resentment. Gnod finally declares his affection for his “sister” but
is soundly rejected and, in the process, scarred even more deeply. One night a short while after the wedding he catches up
to Paga as she walks home alone along a jungle trail, demanding that she return a bracelet he made for her as a gift some
time ago. Paga is as gracious as she can be, but, “After that night no one ever saw Paga and Gnod again.”
can’t be certain, Jieb and Anaka feel that the mysterious drum is somehow tied in with Paga’s disappearance; Anaka’s
suggestion is that she get rid of the object right away. It may be too late for this however, as Jieb is suffering an increasing
number of nightmares and flashes back to Paga’s time. Even her husband Vin is affected, becoming bewitched by Paga’s
apparition and nearly drowning in the river just outside their home. When Jieb pulls him from the water, all Vin can manage
to do is stammer, “Dance…and then drum. Dance…and then drum.”
As the apparition
grows more forceful Jieb takes steps to destroy the drum, in the process releasing part of the grisly secret kept for nearly
a century. For better, or for worse…
the end?” cries one of the office girls sharing drinks at a club with her two girlfriends. The trio is swapping ghost
stories, and after some brief discussion over the last one the next girl takes her turn.
Pin is a night
worker at a hospital, and as such has access to certain facilities. Such as the morgue. As he begins what appears to be a
nightly ritual over the dead body of an attractive woman, the story of another woman begins to unfold.
Having a bit of
man trouble, Pan asks the advice of her middle-aged neighbor, a mama-san who’s been around the block more than once.
Upon her advice Pan tries a love potion called “Ply Essence,” not knowing it’s little more than blood drained
from the throats of dead women by our mortician. Applying the ointment at
a club Pan sets out to entrance her “favorite,” a fashionable young man named Chai, and after brushing up against
him with the Essence he’s all hers. There is a drawback however; the spirit of the woman from whom the Ply Essence was
drawn begins appearing around the edges of Chai’s life, making him deathly ill. So ill in fact that he’s hospitalized
with a malady the doctor’s can’t identify. Not even a Buddhist exorcism can save him, and after an alarmingly
short span of time Chai dies vomiting up green bile.
With her favorite
out of commission Pan quickly sets her sights on another man, even as Pin goes to work on another corpse. She beds her new
favorite quickly enough, but as he trots out into the rainy night to fetch her an after-sex Slurpee she loses him to a sudden
Or does she? A
static-laced call comes through to her the next day, saying he’ll see her that night…
just call it ‘Horror Sex on a Horrific Night,’” suggests one of the bar girls before launching into the
This one begins
with a hanging – of a woman from a rafter high up in the air in an otherwise empty room. Detective Nop (Thailand’s
answer to Keanu Reeves) is sure that this is a murder case; with nothing to climb to her gallows on, and signs that she struggled
while in the noose, Nop believes she was strangled elsewhere and her body moved to make her death look like a suicide. The
coroner agrees, as the condition of the corpse isn’t entirely consistent with that of a suicide. Sleuthing around Nop
learns that the woman, Gunya, had been married to an older man named Vinai. The marriage was a troubled one to say the least,
with Gunya often appearing upset and badly bruised. When questioned Vinai is considerably less than forthcoming on the matter,
and even an old boyfriend of Gunya’s, Tongin, believes she must have committed suicide.
Returning to the
scene of the crime Nop discovers a hidden letter, by now too badly damaged to read. Increasingly desperate for answers he
turns this over to forensics and with the coroner retrieves the body to have a second autopsy conducted. New evidence is found
that definitely links Vinai to her death, and Nop arrives at Vinai’s apartment just as he is packing up to leave. In
the violent struggle that follows Vinai is accidentally killed; just afterward Nop receives a call from the coroner confirming
that Vinai couldn’t possibly have killed Gunya – he’s a cripple, partially paralyzed from the waist down
since an accident six months ago. The coroner has also deciphered the letter, which implicates Tongin in Gunya’s death.
Nop sets out with a vengeance and kills Tongin in cold blood, at the same time experiencing a flashback which puts the entire
scenario into a different perspective.
With the subsequent
publicity it comes to light that Tongin was involved in large scale corruption through his construction business, and in fact
on the night Gunya died was at an underworld meeting all night long. Returning to the crime scene yet again, Nop sees things
clearly for the first time…
This last story
really moves the ladies in the bar. But even as the bar closes and the tab is paid it becomes evident that our storytellers
are not all they appear to be…
know if Panik House is a new distributor or not, but either way they’ve made a good move with the release of this DVD.
With the exotic foreign locales and set design, and the sinister otherworldly ambiance of these ghost stories, Bangkok Haunted reminds me somewhat of Mataku, albeit with a much creepier
and unrated edge. The transition of the spirits can be a little bewildering at times as the viewer sometimes must guess who
is possessing whom, but the gorgeous Thai women are a plus and the cinematography is excellent, even in the film’s darker
settings. Even the CGI effects are good, both subtle and effective as are the makeup and gore effects.
and long-running, this is a 3-course meal in supernatural intrigue ideal for a cold dark night, a piping hot bowl of soto
ayam and, of course, a warm soul…
Uncut, this 2001
trilogy runs just over 2 hours (130 minutes) in a widescreen region-free presentation. Special features include a “Behind
the Scenes” featurette, essays on Thai cinema by Art Black, and poster & still galleries. Comes with a great insert
card and a large sticker of the cover/poster.
The first I’d heard of The Beast was in Tohill & Tombs’
Immoral Tales. What drew my attention were two photographs accompanying the essay:
one featured a Marie-Antoinette-looking fox running through the forest in only a corset and blonde wig. The other depicted
a naked woman straddling an ape-like animal, milking its sizeable dong. How could one help but be intrigued? The book doesn’t
confirm this release’s promotional claim that The Beast was banned for 25
years, but does provide information supporting director Borowczyk’s status as a cult/art/porn director whose films are
rather difficult to find. So kudos to the true fetishists at Cult Epics, who not only dragged this rarity out of some forgotten
vault but went the extra mile and, instead of cheaply transferring some shit pirate copy of a cut-up release to DVD, properly
mastered and released the film as a limited edition 3-disc set.
Disc one contains the director’s cut of The Beast… (WARNING:
The neighing of
a horse accompanies the opening credits, in subtle white type against a black field that leads into a quote from Voltaire,
giving the picture a misleadingly classy introduction; the film opens at the stables, on a horse’s gigantic erection
being guided into the quivering genitalia of his equine partner. Nostrils flaring, teeth buried in the mane of his filly,
the horse rams his way to completion and pulls out with a gush of semen, all caught in the same colorfully close-up manner
in which human hardcore is filmed.
mating is scruffy Mathurin (Pierre Benedetti), who is actually the son of the Earl de l’Esperance. He’s soon called
in for grooming by his father Pierre (Guy Trejan), in preparation for his upcoming marriage to American blueblood Lucy Broadhurst
(Lisbeth Hummel), who even now is on her way to the chateau with her Aunt Virginia (Elisabeth Kaza).
After a brief
stop in the forest that allows Lucy to run around in her leopardskin coat taking Polaroids, the Broadhursts arrive to find
the mating session still underway. Lucy gets a snapshot of that as well. Lucy and Virginia have arrived during Mathurin’s
baptism, which oddly enough is taking place behind a closed bathroom door as Father Pederast officiates from outside. (Pederast
is not the character’s actual name, but the pair of young boys he drags around to paw and kiss makes this moniker more
In the meantime
the ladies are received by Pierre’s
uncle, the wheelchair-bound Duke Rammondelo de Balo (Dalio). Charmed by Countess Romilda de l’Esperance’s writings
of two-hundred years ago regarding the ghosts haunting the family chateau, Lucy asks Rammondelo if these legends hold any
truth. He has never seen the ghosts himself, he says, but he does produce the Countess’ antique scrapbook, which aside
from containing pressed leaves and maps of the grounds holds bizarre drawings of a mythical animal. Rammondelo next shows
them the Countess’ corset, handsomely displayed after having been retrieved from a forest pond ages ago. The ravaged
item still bears the claw marks with which it was found.
on the part of the family is far from over however; Pierre is in the process of blackmailing Rammondelo into having his brother
Cardinal Joseph de Balo perform the marriage ceremony, using the knowledge that the Duke murdered his Duchess by poison years
ago. The Broadhursts insist upon the Cardinal conducting the nuptial mass, and Pierre
desperately needs Lucy’s dowry to help maintain the crumbling l’Esperance estate. But for some reason the Vatican
is refusing to take Rammondelo’s calls…
has been masturbating to the photograph of horse coitus when she is interrupted by a call down to dinner. It’s a meal
that does not go at all well; not only does the Earl learn that the will of Lucy’s father puts a timeline on the marriage
that ends in 48 hours, but Mathurin, always shy around the ladies but now beginning to get cold feet despite the impassioned
correspondence he’s been conducting with Lucy, gets drunk and has to be hauled away from the table.
That night Lucy
dreams, of history and of Countess Romilda de l’Esperance (Sirpa Lane).
Playing her harpsichord as she watches an ewe and lamb graze outside her window, when the lamb wanders away from its tether
the Countess chases after the tiny creature into the forest. But by the time she finds it in the dark woods the baby animal
has already been torn apart by the Beast.
That night the
rest of the chateau sleeps in their clothes, ready and waiting for the arrival of the Cardinal that Pierre
keeps promising as imminent. But as he goes to hound Rammondelo yet again about summoning his brother, Pierre
hears the Duke on the phone actually warning the Cardinal away from the estate. Pierre
seizes Rammondelo and physically drags him away from the phone by his wheelchair, then in a fit of frustration and anger pulls
out a straight razor and murders the Duke.
continues, as the Countess flees from the sight of the great Beast devouring the lamb’s organs. To the strains of Baroque
music the Beast, who looks like a cross between a bear, an ape, and a giant sloth, chases the woman through the woods, her
clothing being progressively shorn away by rough branches and the grasping claws of the monster. Soon the Countess is down
to only socks and corset, and watching her desperate struggles causes the Beast’s muzzle-like member to swell. In the
frenzy of activity that follows the Countess tries helplessly to climb a tree and ends up giving the Beast a footjob, his
massive prick discharging its seed between her socks. The Countess somehow manages to run away just as she’s about to
be violated, leaving the Beast to copulate her blonde wig.
Aroused by her
dream Lucy seeks out the sleeping Mathurin and begins to undress him, but his fitful slumber disturbs her and she returns
to her room. Wetting down her nightgown the sweet strawberry blonde goes back to bed and masturbates with the rose sent to
her earlier by her betrothed. As she does so her fantasy about the Countess picks up again. This time the Beast has caught
her and violated her from behind, much to the Countess’ delight. This scenario sends Lucy into a fit of ecstasy, tearing
her gauzy nightgown apart as she writhes her way to a climax. Feverishly she again visits Mathurin’s bedroom, but again
is driven away by his violently troubled night fits.
In the forest
the Countess, though bloodied by the Beast’s sizeable attentions, is ready for more; taking the Beast’s cock between
her breasts she coaxes yet another mighty load from it. The Countess continues, with such intensity that the hearty Beast
is overcome, literally killed by the kindness of her appetites.
This time when
Lucy goes to Mathurin she finds that he too has passed away, coming to rest upon the floor atop her leopardskin jacket. Her
cries awaken the entire household. Mathurin is laid out in the drawing room and the priest summoned to perform last rites,
but before he can do so Aunt Victoria seems to come under some sort of spell
and begins to attack his dead body. Tearing open his clothing she exposes an unusually hairy torso, and when she pulls apart
the cast he’s had wrapped over his hand the assembly sees a coarse hairy talon. Rolling the corpse over Victoria
continues to rip Mathurin’s clothing apart, bringing to light a small penile tail protruding from the bushy patch at
the base of his spine. “The Beast – the Beast!”
flies into a panic, and Victoria flees the chateau with Lucy just as the Cardinal
at last arrives from Rome. Greatly displeased with the sight that awaits him,
the Cardinal offers up some choice words on bestiality.
In the woods the
Countess buries her Beast in leaves at the stump of an unmarked pillar, as her corset curls up like a dying flower within
a forest pond.
colorful, and given a decidedly unrated widescreen presentation, The Beast is viewable
in both English and French, with or without subtitles. It is captured with all of the grandeur befitting a fable of epic tragedy,
albeit one of the romantic, pornographic, bestiality-laden type. As you might have guessed by now, every aspect of the film
is steeped in eroticism – from the latent nature of the fairy tale itself to small touches such as the Hans Bellmer-style
bestiality sketch found hidden on the back of a framed sample of calligraphy (and the copy of Voltaire’s The Maid of Orleans that Lucy finds, complete with pornographic etchings). Snails crawling throughout the picture
add an appreciably surreal lost-world touch.
explicitly referenced before is how stunningly beautiful the women are in the film, and how often they are seen naked. Particularly
striking is the Earl’s daughter Clarisse, a pale sinewy girl in Bo Derek braids who spends all of her time banging the
black butler Ifany. (He ‘tupping the Earl’s white ewe,’ so to speak.) Disc one comes with the special feature
of a theatrical trailer (the Beast chasing after the countess, genitals carefully blocked out) and an erotic photo gallery.
Disc two, Beast Bis, contains more stills, along with a biography and interview with director Borowczyk. Also included is
the ‘making of’ feature Beast Bis, all timing out to nearly two hours.
is a brief one, touching upon the Polish filmmaker’s studies of the arts before taking up his profession in France,
accompanied by old photographs, report cards, sketches, sculpture, paintings and the like. The interview, or “meeting,”
with Borowczyk is chiefly an opportunity for the elderly director to spout poetry and expound upon the symbolism and psychology
of his picture. All of which is conducted with the tone and pace of a lecture, making it rather dry to all but students of
foreign films. It does provide a bit of background to the documentary however, namely that it was all captured on ‘hidden
camera’ (this taking place back in ’75, mind you) and then tucked away and forgotten for 25 years.
of La Bete” is the result. Borowczyk establishing shots and taking distance and light readings; the cast and crew lounging
between takes; still photography; set preparation; measurements; discussion; cat wrangling; lots of toast-eating; hair and
wardrobe; still photography; more cat wrangling; waiting, waiting, and more waiting. And, oh yes, the director walking around
with his fly undone. Pretty much all of the normal activity you’d expect to see on a film set, all shown in silent faded
color. While perhaps impressive insofar as it’s something of an historical artistic document, this will probably only
be considered essential for true fans of Borowczyk’s work.
Disc three contains
the “rare rediscovered” widescreen version of the complete film, containing four additional minutes of footage
removed from the director’s cut. It also contains shots of the film’s lobby cards.
And then there’s
the 52-page booklet Beast Bis. Full of color photos suitable for framing this handsomely-printed
work contains quotes from myth and legend, a rather fancy essay on Borowczyk’s cinema of bestiality by Bernard Privat,
and several other fancified critical essays on the aspects of the film’s primitive but romantic drama. Ernest Martin’s
piece from History of Freaks from Antiquity to the Present Day is a nice one, as
is Remy de Gourmont’s excerpt on snail intercourse from The Physics of Love,
and Jean-Paul Sarre contributes some grim sexual psychology as well (“Female desire find(s) its ultimate expression
in the orgasm that is produced by the death of a rutting animal.”) Also included is another interview with Borowczyk,
a rather high-minded treatment of the bestiality fable (“I know everything”) conducted by Sarre and Anatole Dauman,
a critical synopsis by Chris Marker, and some commentary by the actors. Again, nice photographs.
All in all this
is quite the package: a fine and unusual film well presented and accompanied by a wide range of documentation. Very well put
together, and very much worth your money.
from Cult Epics – www.cultepics.com – 3129 Griffith Park Blvd., Los Angeles, CA,
BETTIE PAGE - DARK ANGEL
Directed by Nico B
First of all, let’s get a couple of things out of the way here: number one, this is a fetish film. Despite the
claim that Dark Angel attempts to recreate Bettie Page’s “last three
years as a pin-up queen,” biography and historical reenactment take a backseat to B&D here. And that being said,
number two is that JESUS TITTY-FUCKING CHRIST BUT THIS IS A BORING GOD-DAMNED FILM! Read on!
1955 – Bettie’s posing on the beach for Bunny Yeager. Now she’s back in New York,
filming “Whip Dance” with Irving Klaw (Dukey Flyswatter). Now she’s acting out an excruciating audition
scene with her boyfriend Marvin. Now she’s in high heels and spurs for “Dominant Betty in Black Corselet (sic),”
spanking and tying a much sexier bondage model. Now she’s at some Italian joint hearing a good review of her feature
Teaserama. Now she’s etting jilted by Howard Hughes (damn that crazy rich
peepin’ tom bastard and his fake ‘screen tests!’).
Sound jumpy? It
is – the entire excuse for a storyline is crafted around recreating the bondage sessions, shot in sparse (cheap) vintage
black & white settings in an attempt to mimic “Klaw’s original style.” Anyway, back to the ‘action!’
request I ever had to fulfill was to wear a black leather pony girl outfit.” (And although you can already tell I’m
pretty skeptical of the whole production, this is a pretty good scene, stills from which would make for great posters.) After
“Dressaging the Pony Girl” Bettie receives a scathing review of her last legitimate stage performance, and oh
no, goes walking through the park in the rain, alone. Back in Klaw’s studio she’s starring in “Fighting
Girls” (a slightly classier and much sexier version of today’s Brawlin’ Broads), and from there Bettie and
a model girlfriend meet up with a couple of Camera Club photographers in a sleazy motel room, get drunk, photographed and,
most likely, molested.
Bettie in leopard
skin bikini and ball gag for “Jungle Girl Tied to the Trees.” Bettie getting a summons from the FBI in relation
to obscenity charges against Klaw; Klaw in court being denounced by a Nazi-esque prosecutor and being forced to cease production;
Bettie walking around alone some more through the windy streets of New York; Bettie getting a threatening Black Dahlia-style
letter; Bettie going back to Miami to marry her boyfriend Armand; Bettie walking around alone on the beach at night and happening
across a Baptist church wherein a choir is practicing, and having a tearful episode when she realizes how wasted her life
has been. The End.
Well, except for
a few brief paragraphs summing up the lives of the players: Irving, well, he’s dead; his sister spared a few films and
stills from the flames of censorship and used them to keep the legacy of Bettie Page alive; and Bettie herself went on to
have several failed marriages, a fit of religious fanaticism, a nervous breakdown, and a ten-year ‘hospitalization’
before, we’re told, coming to live “happily in California.”
As the credits
role, Richards strips down completely and models with a live leopard who alternates between looking bored and looking like
he’d really like to eat her.
So there you have it – absolutely the kind of film catering to the same pseudo-rockabilly dicks who beg their
fat girlfriends to dress like Bettie. (A notion the film’s tepid rockabilly score does nothing to diminish.) I’d
never been a huge Bettie Page fan – yeah her photos were sexy, but I hardly saw the cult appeal. Was it her ‘mysterious
disappearance’ that made her so alluring? Were there even more extreme photos/film reels made after her association
with Klaw ended? Dope? Snuff?! Donkeys?!? There was some dark and seedy potential here (The
Bondage Lady Vanishes?), and with the title of the film and all I’d really hoped “Nico B” would expand
upon the “Dark Angel” angle and carry the picture over into James Ellroy/pulp noir territory to answer or at least
plausibly fabricate Bettie’s darker side and/or last days; Bettie’s vanishing point is easily as intriguing as
any of her on-screen appearances.
But no, instead
BPDA contents itself with a masturbatory softcore ambiance that only diminishes
what little legend there is to the model. There’s no doubt that bondage was far more kinky and taboo fifty years ago
than it is today, but there have to have been some juicier moments to the life of a bondage icon than we’re presented
here; all we get is a portrait of the pathetic failure of a bland young woman’s life, adorned only by the very episodes
that sullied it. Not much intrigue or allure there, especially as the film completely neglects to dramatically detail Page’s
Francis Farmer routine. (Which would have made for another, better, film in and of itself.)
In between the
above-mentioned exploitation the film does briefly spell out Bettie’s frustrated aspirations of becoming a ‘real’
actress and the rigid oppression Klaw suffered as a result of his work, but these important events are mere snapshots compared
to the massive focus onPage’s pin-up career.
Paige Richards does bear fair resemblance to Page in face and body, but she still can’t act for shit. There is
something of a goofy charm to her scenes, but far from being adorable this act really puts the cheese in cheesecake as during
her sessions she doesn’t quite manage to become the sexpot she strives to be. Outside of the bondage reels her acting
is clumsy and trite, something the flat script does little to enhance with its high school-level artistry. Here’s a
Bettie enters the office of Irving Klaw’s Movie Star News. “Hello Irving.”
“Good afternoon, Bettie. How was your trip?”
“It was fabulous, but you know I always miss New York.”
“Well, you’re too late today, so you’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
“How was your week?”
“Weeks are better when I put out pictures of you.”
“Stop joshin’ me! See you tomorrow!” End scene. (Scorching!)
Worse yet is the scene in the church – far from sobbing in remorse for a life ill-lived, Bettie appears to be
crying over the record number of clichés used in a single scene (“Gotta have a MONTAGE!”). Hey! It smells hackneyed
Yet another of the film’s many detractors is the narration, conducted in an affected god-awful accent. While
it may help propel what little storyline there is, it’s absolutely painful to listen to. And with the film’s promotional
materials playing up Bettie’s ‘mysterious disappearance,’ who exactly are we supposed to believe is reading
the script? Her ghost? Her granddaughter? The big fat shut-in she most likely became?
All in all it’s a pretty horrendously pretentious effort (hiring a “bondage consultant”) over a subject
that, really, merits little attention in the first place. A long-gone bondage model – only fetishists and fans will
care; those like myself looking for a good story, or simply some true sleaze, will be left without a crap to give.
The film is presented in widescreen, and “Special Features” include a “Bondage, Fighting & Nudity”
menu consisting of expansions upon the bondage session scenes (all of which are eminently fast-forwardable), a bonus “Nude
Shoot” of Richards, some “Original Music Recordings” (fruity music played by bored studio musicians, conducted
by Zack Ryan), the original version of a dream sequence, “Just As I Am” performed by the Legendary Clara Ward
Singers, and an extensive photo gallery of Richards. Plus trailers for this film and the Italian sex farce Frivolous Lola.
This sampling of giallo from director Paolo Cavara draws the viewer in right away with a nude full body massage. This becomes
increasingly erotic, until the blind masseur’s work is interrupted by a call from the husband of his client, Mrs. Zuni.
The argument he starts over the phone continues at home, where he slaps her around and tells her, “You are a dirty slut.
That is all that you are.” Mrs. Zuni denies his accusation, despite that fact that he has a photograph to prove it,
and he storms out leaving the dirty slut, I mean his wife, alone. That night someone sneaks into her bedroom and rams a lengthy
poisoned needle into the back of her neck. Paralyzed, the woman is rolled over and the rubber-gloved figure caresses her briefly
before taking a large blade and slicing her down the middle.
Commissioner Tellini (Giancarlo Giannini) is on the scene, questioning Mr. Zani. Zani admits he and his wife were separated
but denies any knowledge of her extra-marital affairs, something one half of the adulterous photograph the police have found
seems to contradict. He also denies having seen her any time within the past ten days. As the detectives continue their investigation
Mr. Zani does the same, using the other half of the photo and the help of sleazy private eye “Speedy” to discover
the identity of the man who cuckolded him.
at the killer’s rather girlishly appointed home, another poison needle is prepared for tonight’s victim. This
one, a redhead like Mrs. Zani, is a boutique owner who gets it in her shop. Later as the Polizia investigate, it turns out
that designer clothing wasn’t all the victim was selling; large quantities of cocaine are also found on the premises.
this murder the killer’s fiendish modus operendi becomes more clearly defined: once the poisoned acupuncture needle
has been inserted, “The victim remains completely aware but frozen. Aware of the killer, but unable to resist.”
And aware of the horrible fact that they’re essentially being gutted alive.
evening as Tellini leaves headquarters he’s held up in his car at gunpoint by Zuni. Who, despite the gun he holds, proclaims
his innocence and tells Tellini he needs his help. Then, curiously, he exits the vehicle and runs away into the night.
time later Tellini pays a visit to an acquaintance of the boutique owner, an entomologist who demonstrates how “the
deadly black wasp” attacks and paralyzes a tarantula, then eats it alive in a display very similar to the behavior of
the killer. When Tellini discovers that one spider’s case is lined with cocaine the professor tries to attack him with
a tarantula before being arrested.
at his home, it’s Sunday morning and Tellini is in bed with his wife. As they enjoy their time together, someone takes
pictures of their lovemaking. This photographer is contacted by a quietly observant redheaded woman we’ve seen crossing
the screen from time to time, and given instructions regardng delivery of certain photos. Outside the photographer’s
studio however Zani is waiting for him, having been tipped off by Speedy, and when the photographer emerges a wild foot chase
takes place. This leads to a violent rooftop confrontation in which Zani falls to his death and Tellini, called to the scene
by the two-timing Speedy, picks up the chase. This one however ends abruptly, when the photographer is struck and killed by
Speedy’s Alfa Romeo. In the meantime another unidentified person cleans out the phhotographer’s studio before
the police arrive.
thereafter, posing as the photographer, Tellini makes contact with blackmail victim Franca Valentino. When she finds out he’s
a police officer Franca begs off questioning until the following day, but in the meantime the killer, who is already waiting
for her, makes his move.
long afterward Tellini, along with the rest of the department, is watching the single reel of film found at the photographer’s
studio: the footage of he and his girlfriend having sex. (“Seems like the investigation is going deeper,” one
of his colleagues observes.) The fact that his private life is being invaded, coupled with his increasing difficulty handling
the case and its growing count of gruesome murders, and especially the fact that he was unable to save Franca’s life,
spurs Tellini’s decision to resign. Before he gets the chance however an “accident” with a truck loaded
with pipe nearly does him in, causing Tellini to reconsider leaving the force.
at the health spa seen at the film’s beginning, we see that the influential red-headed woman, Miss Laura, is the owner,
and at the moment is fielding the concerns of her pretty receptionist Jenny. It’s Laura who’s been masterminding
the scheme to blackmail her wealthy clients, and with the murders and increasing police interest Jenny wants out. Laura lets
her go, but not without a slap in the face and a stern word of caution. Jenny is soon seen in the still unidentified killer’s
home, giving thanks for the hospitality before she undresses for bed. And promptly gets a needle in the neck and a knife in
the belly. Her body is found the next morning, in a garbage bag on the street.
soon arrives at the spa to question Laura and her employees. They’re an odd lot, seemingly none above suspicion, but
when Tellini sees the masseur’s egg-white eyes he excuses him from questioning. Coming back around to Miss Laura, the
woman claims to know the identity of the killer, but wants to make a deal for immunity with Tellini and promises that in another
day she’ll have concrete proof for him. That night however she places an urgent call to the detective, summoning him
to the spa to retrieve some crucial evidence. When he arrives Tellini finds the place seemingly deserted – except for
a nude and bloody body. A curious object lies on the floor next to the corpse, and as Tellini rushes to the phone to place
a call to his wife, the killer, lurking outside Tellini’s apartment, enters . . .
a plethora of action scenes, the story’s cohesive sense of suspense is confounded by numerous subplots and curious behavior
on the parts of both characters and scriptwriter. Characters’ confused actions and reactions often seem to make little
sense, while some plot developments seem thrown in purely for the sake of random (and not always sensible) intrigue. (What’s
with the cocaine connection?) The sporadic pace at which this roundabout behavior takes place further counteracts the tension
a murder mystery should generate. (Giannini’s perpetual hangdog expression seems to reflect the perplexing situation.)
While the killer’s background and motives are laid out by the film’s completion, as they stem from problems that
took place outside of the timeframe of the film being brought to light at the end as they are makes them seem almost incidental.
As does the method of execution the killer prefers. Unfortunately gore is fairly nonexistant, except for a splash of theatrical
blood here and there, although as in many cases the beautiful women and nudity do provide fairly adequate visual compensation.
film is nicely shot however, and the varied camerawork quite emphatic. While the lens moves generally moves leisurely at a
level angle, it can and does break out in violent motion in the appropriate places. The soundtrack, by Ennio Morricone, moves
from suspenseful to softcore as needed.
The Black Belly of the Tarantula (which also stars Barbara Bach, Claudine Auger, Rossella
Falk, Silvano Tranquilli, Stefania Sandrelli, and Barbara Bouchet) plays in either Italian or Spanish with English subtitles
(that can be turned on and off), and is presented in a full-screen NTSC Region 0 format. The DVD comes complete with a nude
Barbara Bouchet gallery, one that actually involves some camera movement rather than consisting of a static slide show presentation,
and a Feature Gallery presented in the same fashion.
$24.95 from Luminous Film & Video Wurks – www.lfvw.com – P.O. Box 289, Hampton Bays, NY, 11946
BLIND BEAST VS. KILLER DWARF
Directed by Teruo Ishii
Based on the title alone this sounds like a freak-fest of epic proportions – one helmed by no less than “The Godfather
of Pinky Violence,” “cult director” Teruo Ishii himself. Granted you may not recognize the name straight
away, but the pinky violence genre has a lot to offer so this is most promising. Plus, it’s got a dwarf.
Macabre artwork by Gea backs the opening credits, and then we move through a dark and stormy night to find famed cabaret
chanteuse Ranko Mizuki chastising a blind man for caressing a sculpture for which she was the model. She goes onstage, and
afterwards another of her admirers experiences a bit of the local nightlife outside. Which, aside from hookers and transvestites
includes a dwarf – carrying a bundle from which falls a human hand. Engrossed, our patron, Mr. Monzo Kobayashi, a “writer
of cheap detective fiction,” follows the little man into the night, eventually losing him near a temple.
The following day Kobayashi tries again without luck to pick up the dwarf’s trail. He does meet up with a former
neighbor, Miss Yurie Yamano, who asks for an introduction to Monzo’s ‘famous detective friend’ Kokoro Akechi.
Yurie wants his help in finding her missing stepdaughter Michiko, but hopes fall when Michiko’s hand is found being
used as a prop at a haunted house. Hopes fall further still when Michiko’s other hand is delivered to the Yamano family
household in a gift box. The viewer immediately suspects the dwarf, who was seen lurking and cackling around the site of the
haunted house, but it is soon revealed that Yurie and the dwarf are somehow cohorts, Yurie finding herself in the unfortunate
position of accomplice and sexual servant.
evening Ms. Mizuki had been lured to some strange location by another anonymous fan, and after being led through a funhouse
revolving mirror-door she found herself in a grotto of poorly-crafted artificial body parts. Kept literally in the dark for
some time, it now becomes apparent that her abductor is none other than the “blind beast” from before. He begs
the singer to marry him, and when she is less than consenting he stalks her through his shoddily surreal art gallery until
he catches her and strips her, at which point the two fight each other to the point of exhaustion.
Soon however they
seem to have reached a perverted equilibrium, as she drinks wine and lets it drip down her nude body into the eager mouth
of the beast. All of a sudden she’s a big fan of his: “This is a whole new world that people with sight will never
know.” Okay. Ranko continues with her inner monologue as the blind beast squirms between her legs, and when finished
he gives her a beating. Eventually the cozy scene reaches a violent climax, in what now resembles some sort of Barbarella
chamber of death, and another ‘art’ form is added to the beast’s grisly gallery.
Returning to the
living, in questioning Akechi Kobayashi learns a bit about the Yamano family’s sexual intrigue. At the same time the
dwarf confides in his brother, experiencing an unhappy flashback to the cruelties of circus life. Meanwhile, a group of boys
spies a cluster of balloons drifting over a field, and chasing after them the youngsters find that they carry a human leg.
There is a pair of incidents involving human arms, and the beast finds work at a spa as a masseur, allowing him to get bolder
with his Bucket of Blood sculptures of society women.
Akechi is well
on the case now, tracking down bribed chauffeurs, housekeepers, even the dwarf’s brother, a mannequin-maker named Yasukawa.
The dwarf lives next door to him, and Akechi and Kobayashi break into his apartment just as the dwarf is getting started on
another session with Yurie. A ridiculous (and ridiculously lighted) rooftop chase follows, with the predictable results calling
to mind the demise of The Sinful Dwarf.
With the dwarf out of the way, it is now time for private detective Akechi’s big scene. In Yasukawa’s workshop,
wearing his finest mauve silk brocade, Akechi not only ties the dwarf and the blind beast together, but unveils the disappearance
of Michiko, her body, and the tainted family politics that led to the girl’s demise and the subsequent cover-up of her
murder. Or the murder of the woman believed to be Michiko Yamano… As tangled as it is, it’s somewhat difficult
to care very much at this point given the ridiculous plot twists that are supposed to substitute for the sexually violent
groundwork of what was billed as a “disturbing masterpiece.” Even given the tacked-on horror-show end scenes;
as “the greatest art critic” Tetsuzo Tange says of the beast’s final work, “This is not art!”
And I’m comfortable saying that he speaks for the rest of us.
Filmed in digital video, Blind Beast… has the claustrophobically cheap
look expected of shot-on-video productions. As do the tepid acting and ‘action’ sequences, this does little to
help the production, which on the whole is really fairly boring for such a sensationalistic title. A shame, really, because
the story, based on the work of Edogawa Rampo, has a violent freakshow private eye quality that in its singularity could have
made for an incredible feature. Instead it plays out weakly, like an Agatha Christie tale or the extended chapter of some
Japanese soap opera (albeit a rather offbeat one), coming off as arty and pretentious in its failed attempt to combine classic
pulp detective work with the traditional Japanese fondness for deviancy.
Special features consist of segments such as “Behind-the-Scenes: The Making of Blood Beast vs. Killer Dwarf,”
trailers, “Geaphiles: A Gallery of Conceptual Art Illustrations by New York’s Underground Artist Gea,” poster
and still galleries, production notes and bios, those of director Ishii and his inspiration Rampo being particularly impressive.
Also not to be neglected is “Obituary for a Killer Dwarf,” that of Japanese wrestling legend Little Frankie.
the peak of the French Revolution, Thomas d’Apcher is setting down the story of the Beast of Gevaudan, just before being
hauled from his castle and executed by the mob. His version is the only true telling of the tale, as the actual facts of the
infamous case have been lost in the political intrigue of history.
Around the year 1765 Sir Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), Naturalist and Taxidermist to King Louis and the Royal
Gardens under the Count de Buffon, arrives in the province of Gevaudan with his blood brother Mani, an Iroquois priest from
the Mohawk tribe. Immediately they establish themselves as competent do-gooders, beating back a group of peasants who were
pummeling a healer and his gypsy-looking daughter under the accusation of witchcraft.
Moving on they come to the castle of the Marquis d’Apcher, and before long it is made clear that they welcome
emissaries of the King sent to destroy the infamous Beast of Gevaudan, a monstrous creature that has been terrorizing the
countryside for over a year. Once this is accomplished Fronsac is to make life studies of the thing and have the corpse sent
back to Paris for display. The Beast’s savagery and cunning are mythical, as it eats whomever it pleases and eludes
all attempts to capture or destroy it. Few in fact have ever seen it and lived, but those who have, and the marks the Beast
leaves on its victims, paint a formidable picture of a great wolf-like creature. The local Captain, Duhamel, is most inefficient;
not only have he and his men allowed the Beast to roam the countryside for this long, but aside from extorting the peasants
the soldiers have also managed to kill more of them than wolves with their traps.
Period piece scenes of court life, hunting parties, royal pageantry, brothels and churches bring the region to wild
life, along with some fantastic woodland scenery of anthropomorphic tree limbs and legendary ruins such as the Templar stronghold
in which 25 heretics were burned alive in the chapel. A great number of characters are introduced, and a greater number encountered,
in settings ranging from dining room romances to savage hand-to-hand combat scenes with a biker-style wolf clan that allows
Mani to demonstrate his formidable fighting skills; the point where the two gypsy-looking wolf clan women, dressed up like
Perry Farrell, step up to fight him is a truly electrifying one.
In keeping with the legendary nature of the Beast, it continues to evade the many hunters sent to track and destroy
it. Come winter, the Beast’s reign of terror reaches its third year with no end in sight. It isn’t until fresh
attacks at Mont Mouchet that advances are made; upon the discovery of one child’s body Fronsac pulls a steel fang from
the throat of the corpse, which along with the size of the wounds leads him to state with certainty that the animal they are
looking for is no wolf. The mystery surrounding the creature deepens when the dead boy’s sister, rescued by and then
roused from her shock by Mani and his native remedies, says that she saw a man with the Beast that killed her brother.
Captain Duhamel is summarily dismissed, replaced by Monsieur Antoine de Beauterne, the King’s Master-at-Arms.
He is to be the only authorized hunter in the diocese, and all those not directly under his command are no longer needed.
Although effectively made unnecessary, Fronsac continues to puzzle over the case. Especially when Beauterne shoots a common
wolf and instructs Fronsac to manufacture a Beast out of it; the thing is to be shipped to Paris immediately as proof of
the King’s wide-ranging sovereign power. This Fronsac does most unhappily, by candlelight, his actions shadowed as they
have been since his arrival.
A true libertine, Fronsac’s love interests begin to play a larger part in the story as well. Enchanted by the
lovely young Marianne de Morangias (Emilie Dequenne), Fronsac has been courting her while at the same time visiting the mystical,
and somewhat dangerous, courtesan Sylvia (Monica Belluci). When Marianne discovers that Fronsac has not been entirely devout
in his attentions to her, she makes it clear that she wants nothing more to do with him. In this she is supported in full
by her sinister one-armed brother Jean-Francois (Vincent Cassel), a marksman who lost his limb while hunting in Africa.
Seemingly defeated on all fronts, Fronsac returns to Paris. There he is
first subjected to the charade of seeing “The Beast” put on display, and the masquerade continues as he is introduced
to Monsieur Mercier, Special Counsel to His Majesty, in charge of Affairs of the Interior. It was Mercier who sent Beauterne
to Gevaudan, to ‘simplify’ the matter of the Beast. Mercier tells Fronsac that this is an affair of State, and
what matters most is that no more will anyone hear about the Beast. Fronsac understands exactly what is going on, but as Mercier
says, “It is better to lie than to let lies be spread.”
Mercier does gift Fronsac with a souvenir, a limited edition printing of the story of the Beast. No longer offered
for sale, the book is a condemnation of the King disguised as fiction, with the Beast serving as allegory. At the same time
Mercier offers Fronsac the mixed blessing of an excursion to Africa; Senegal,
to be exact. Although always interested in visiting the Dark Continent, it now appears that the Naturalist
is to be swept out of the way.
As he prepares for his journey, Fronsac is visited in Paris by Thomas (Jeremie
Renier), the son of the Marquis, with whom he and Mani struck up a friendship while in Gevaudan. The young Marquis not only
tells Fronsac that the Beast is still very active, but also comes bearing a note from Marianne; Sylvia had visited the young
noblewoman on behalf of the knight, and by all appearances Fronsac has been forgiven. With all of this new information Fronsac
has no choice but to defy the King and return to Gevaudan. What follows, “Cannot be found in history books.”
Upon his arrival in the province, Fronsac immediately seeks out the home of Jeanne and Pierre Roulier. This is where
Marianne is hiding out from her family, whose overprotective attentions she can no longer stand. Their reunion is a joyful
one, but even as one of their hosts goes to the wine cellar the Beast creeps down behind him and savages the man madly. Crashing
up through the flooring, we get the first real look at the Beast: a huge, bony, almost dinosaur-like monstrosity with patchwork
skin resembling a mummy’s, studded with teeth and spines. Fronsac bravely confronts the Beast, but he is no match for
the creature; as it approaches Marianne however, jaws right in front of her face, a shadowy figure on a hilltop blows a tiny
flute and summons the Beast away from its rampage.
Fronsac is anything but deterred; he now fully believes he is hunting a man. “The Beast is only an instrument,”
he says, “A weapon in the hands of a sick mind.” Referring to the book he received from Mercier, Fronsac hints
that a conspiracy may be at work. Especially with the high-profile nature of the slayings. The Beast’s nature may be
occult, but its activities are most public. And, with a bit of small arms practice, Fronsac, Mani and Thomas set out as a
hunting party to do away with the legend once and for all.
At the same time holes in the plot begin to fill in, as we see the old healer and his wild-eyed daughter taking part
in an arena match where someone unleashes the Beast upon a pack of fighting dogs.
At camp one evening Mani can sense that the Beast is in the forest nearby, and that the wolves will help them on their
quest to fight the evil influence that has caused the deaths of a countless number of their innocent brothers. “Tonight,”
he says, “We will dance the dance of blood.” Mani calls upon the spirits of the forest, and before long the wolves
do indeed hound the Beast into the mossy grotto at Mont Mouchet where the hunting party has made camp. All recognize one another,
and within moments Mani has not only challenged the Beast but managed to capture it within a falling cage trap. But only momentarily
however, as the Beast breaks free and tears away, taking Thomas with it by the arm. A shot from Fronsac releases the boy,
and Mani unleashes the flyswatter, a swinging log from which dozens of sharpened stakes project. This knocks the Beast down,
bleeding, but it rights itself immediately and tears right through the gate Fronsac sends crashing down in another attempt
to trap it.
As Fronsac tends to Thomas, Mani continues the hunt. Following the Beast’s blood trail, Mani comes to a torch-lit
cave in which stand a number of wooden figures of roughly human shape, all crowned with animal skulls. Mani watches and listens
as the healer tucks the Beast away, speaking soothingly to it all the while. Suddenly he realizes that he’s surrounded,
by the clan of claw-wielding outlaws he fought earlier. Another fierce bout of combat ensues, tomahawk versus claws, and although
wounded Mani is approaching victory until he stalls for a moment when coming face-to-face with the healer’s daughter.
In that second someone shoots him in the back; from the ground Mani twists around until he can see his assassin, a figure
wearing a wolf mask and holding a pistol.
Hoisted into the air by his triumphant enemies, the wounded Iroquois is tortured to death before being hauled away
and thrown over a cliffside. At the bottom of which Fronsac finds his mutilated corpse some time later. As the knight cleans
his brother’s body in preparation for the afterlife, he pulls from it a silver slug – exactly the type used by
Jean-Francois to ‘sign his shots.’
Examining the maps he’s been keeping all along, Fronsac pinpoints an area in the center of the attacks, a hunting
domain, and immediately sets off in that direction. Dressed in war paint and carrying a bow and arrow, he comes upon a house
where the healer’s daughter is entertaining a drunken gathering of the wolf clan. With flaming arrows Fronsac sets the
stable on fire to create a diversion, managing to pick off a few of the men as they rush about trying to extinguish the blaze.
Under cover of this chaos Fronsac breaks into the house, violently dispatching anyone he comes across. In one room he finds
a printing press, along with stacks of the banned book on the Beast. Another room is practically an altar, the candlelit walls
covered in Latin inscriptions, with human and animal skeletons, tribal artifacts, and other specimens on prominent display.
Guided by his flickering torch Fronsac finds a stairwell and descends into the maze of cages and kennels in which Mani
met his end. And, in one cage, he finds the Beast itself. Needing however to return and cremate Mani’s body at dawn,
Fronsac leaves the place, his vengeance as yet unfulfilled. As he watches his brother’s body burn, Fronsac is approached
by Father Henri Sardis, the priest of St. Alban’s Church, a constant presence in the province. Sardis
indicates that the knight should leave the area at once, and Fronsac, taking this as an explicit example of guilt and collusion,
warns the priest away in no uncertain terms.
Later, as he collects Mani’s ashes, Fronsac is apprehended for arrest by soldiers under Administrator Pierre-Jean
Laffont, who carry out their duty by knocking him cold and dragging him away to the dungeon. In his cell Fronsac receives
a visitor, Sylvia, who asks him about the Beast. Not sure why she should be interested, Fronsac gives his opinion: “A
trained animal, covered in armor.” Sylvia instructs the jailor (a fine cameo by Cemetery
Man’s Francois Hadji-Lazaro) to bring the knight something to eat, and as he does so she tells him a story.
“Two years ago, a confidential letter from Sardis was given to the
Pope. It announced the creation of a secret society whose goal, let’s say, was to spread and defend the word of the
church by all possible means. The Brotherhood. The Beast is a warning to the King,” she continues, “‘Respect
the power of God or risk the apocalypse.’ The members call themselves the Wolves of God.” The courtesan goes on
to say that Sardis is out of control (“Sardis
works for himself. Enlightenment has driven him mad”) before being asked who it is that she really works for. “Those
who employ me also pay me to keep that information silent,” she says. “And you know enough already.” This
last is said as Fronsac, choking, collapses in agony onto the dungeon floor. He is buried a short time later, much to the
distress of Marianne.
There’s still a half hour or so to go, but with the mounting violence and growing evidence of conspiracy I think
you can see where the film is headed. Multiple characters are fleshed out in full, with more than a few surprises. (There
are hints of both The Unknown and Mata Hari.)
There will be restitution, poetic justice might be had in parts, and true love just might triumph after all. Even the full
story of the Beast’s true nature is given before our narrator is led to his end as a mournful closure to the story’s
Directed by Christophe Gans, who may be more well known in the States for the atmospheric but unrewarding (except for
the Japanimation/video game-style finale) Silent Hill, Brotherhood of the Wolf is a rather incredible film. A truly visceral fairy tale saga, the film abounds with violently
kinetic cinematography placed against dramatic scenery. There is even a gory poetry of sorts in parts, such as the scenic
segue from a nude mauled female corpse lying in a leaf-strewn pond, Ophelia style, to a royal chamber where harpsichord plays
and artwork is examined. The movie colorfully and capably blends a number of unusual atmospheric elements into a tapestry
of visual wonder that, even at the director’s cut length of nearly two-and-a-half hours, never really becomes tiresome.
True, it has been remarked that the martial arts-style fighting scenes are a little out of place in 18th
Century France, and a number of these encounters seem rather similar in their acrobatic stunt fighting. And the final battle
royale does have more than a little bit of the superhero/videogame element to it. But on a realistic note, our heroes can’t
exactly break out the automatic firearms when surrounded by the enemy, now can they?
As mentioned above, the scenery is simply amazing throughout, as is the truly excellent stage setting and background
artwork found in the variety of settings. At times this is purely natural, and at others manufactured to provide a literally
hallucinatory visual experience. Also on the artistic side are Fronsac’s fine, simply-colored illustrations, which he
uses not only to document his travels but also to impress his women.
The creature FX, by Jim Henson’s Creatures Shop, are also excellent; you really can’t tell what the Beast
is until the very end, but throughout it proves itself scary as hell. A number of the creature’s action scenes do have
a CGI tinge to them, which ties into the fact that in places the action seems to have been shot against a green screen rather
than in situ, but that is not uncommon.
Ripe with witchcraft, warfare and women (a nude
Monica Belluci is always worth the price of admission; unless that’s a body double…), Brotherhood of the Wolf has everything a cinematographic fable needs. A truly proud, beautiful and moving film,
this is the kind of picture for which large screens are made.
Fetch yourself a jug of sake and a hamperful of steamed pork buns, and get ready for Bunman: The Untold Story. Also known by a variety of other titles (although most commonly
referred to as Untold Story, there are a number of Human Meat Pie/Dumpling/Pork
Bun variants), this 1993 Category III Hong Kong “True Crime” flick is at the grisly gristly peak of its genre.
Beginning at the tail end of a late-night mah jong game in Hong Kong, 1978, a pair of gambling
buddies get into a heated argument over gaming debts, loans, and accusations of counterfeit bills. The confrontation becomes
physical, and after being threatened with a beating the host shoves the player toward the door. “Go now, you scumbag,
how dare you beat me!” Then he makes the disrespectful error of turning his back on his enraged acquaintance, who picks
up a folding chair and makes good his promise, then follows through by bouncing his head off the wall until blood splatters.
A few handy gallons of kerosene wake the man up, just in time to see his assailant striking a match and letting it fall. The
attacker glowers in manic triumph at the flaming man’s agonized writhings before making good his escape, and as the
opening credits roll the gambler puts a Bic lighter to his identification card, adopts a crew cut and large spectacles, and
obtains himself a new identity and passport.
Macau, 1986: As their ma digs for clams, a couple of brats are running up and down the
beach when they come across a large reeking bundle. “Mom, it stinks.” “It stinks, what is it?” the
matron asks, and opens it up to find a pile of severed limbs wrapped in an old Union Jack. Soon the seaside is full of cops,
led by the film’s producer Danny (“Officer”) Lee Sau-Yin. (Here with the arrival of the ‘wacky’
and mismatched police force begins the film’s major weak point, a running sub-plot of poor slapstick typical of many
HK dramas. It’s used in this case perhaps as an attempt to lighten the emotional load of murder, rape, and cannibalism
yet to come.) The Chief is a disinterested cop but a devoted womanizer, and lets his bumbling officers do most of the legwork
while he chases the skirts. One member of the team is Ah Bo (Emily Kwan Bo-Wai), a less-than-voluptuous tomboy who must constantly
prove herself to be as strong and capable as her male colleagues yet as appealingly feminine as the bimbos her boss is always
dragging around. Although their goofy interplay will be constant throughout the picture, fortunately it doesn’t manage
to defuse the horrible power of The Untold Story.
While the police argue about whose job it is to collect the decomposing body parts, the
viewer is reacquainted with homicidal immigrant Wong Chi Hang (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, who won a Hong Kong Film Award for
this performance). In a scene of oddly photogenic foreshadowing, he is found butchering a pig with an immense cleaver out
on his restaurant’s mosaic-tiled patio. Mr. Wong certainly knows his craft, and he has those pork parts dancing violently.
Now the acting owner of the small but prosperous Pat Sin barbecue shop, Wong took over after the previous owner, Cheng Lam,
and his family suddenly left for parts untold (as of yet . . .). After suspiciously confiscating and shredding a letter addressed
to Lam, Wong hires a new cleaver jockey, Ah Man, and runs off to take care of some secretive business.
Paying a visit to Solicitor Fong (who, judging from the set, happens to occupy the office
of Carlos Rui L. Ferreira?), Wong attempts to have the deed to the Pat Sin restaurant officially signed over to him. It seems
the owners who sold him the business conveniently went “on vacation” after the transaction, not even bothering
to properly sign over the deed or inform the local authorities. But the attorney won’t conduct such shady business,
despite Wong’s desperate attempts at bribery, and Wong is forced to storm out unsatisfied. “Shit, you are so stupid!”
Back at Police HQ the team is more interested in dog track results than in identifying
the owner of the rotten hands they’ve found, so progress is slow. Eventually Ah Bo pries fingerprints from the rubbery
digits, and the identity of the human flotsam arrives at about the same time as does a letter from China. According to this
letter, a certain Cheng Li hasn’t heard from his brother Cheng Lam for quite some time, and he is growing concerned
. . .
Wong has some concerns himself, especially regarding his hired help. At a serious mah jong
bout the night before, Ah Man spied Wong’s crafty tilework as he palmed several valuable playing pieces. The cheating
fiend cleaned house, and as he closed up shop Man made the mistake of mentioning that he saw Wong’s cheating. Wong defended
himself vehemently, stating that his opponents lost because they were foolish and deserved to lose their money. But when he
later overhears Ah Man gossiping to waitress Pearl about his actions he decides to fix the wiseguy for good. That night as
Man cleans the restaurant Wong confronts him – with a steel needle in the eye. In his spasms Ah Man makes a mess of
the shop, spilling chopsticks and plastic chairs everywhere until Wong beats him into submission with a heavy ladle and convinces
him to give up the ghost. Ah Man’s hands are still clenched in a death grip around his killer’s ankles, so Wong
drags him over to the counter, reaches for his cleaver, and gets to work.
After hacking off the offending hands Wong lays Man out on a butcher’s block and
gets busy. Man is gutted and his organs put on the stove to boil, then his body is flipped over and carved away until all
that remains is a pile of bloody bones. And several heaping bowlfuls of pale ground flesh. Wong breaks out the Heftys and
fills them with Man’s bones, chucking them into the dumpster outside. Then he washes his hands by peeing on them (?)
and re-enters the restaurant for an all-night baking session: rack upon rack of fresh dumplings are made, filled with barbecue
sauce and ground Man.
The following day the new “pork” buns are a huge hit. Patrons can’t get
enough of them: “It’s very delicious! I can’t stop eating it!” When the police show up at Pat Sin
in order to check up on the whereabouts of Cheng Lam, cordial host Wong sits them all down for complimentary tea and freshly
baked barbecue buns. Wong answers all of their questions, telling them that he purchased the shop from Lam for $180,000, and
sends the cops away with several boxes of buns. To Pearl he sends a savage glare for her being just a little too helpful in
telling the police about more of Cheng Li’s unanswered letters to Lam. When the investigators return to the office they
literally pig out on long pig, licking their fingers and rolling their eyes in blissful cannibalistic ignorance. Officer Lee
interrupts the feast to check up on the gang’s progress, and as he’s suspicious of Wong’s claims he orders
the officers to look into the legitimacy of the shop’s sale. His underlings try to stall him by offering him some of
the delicious buns, but he wisely declines, saying, “I don’t eat barbecue pork buns. I wonder what filling is
That evening the steel shutters come down hard at Pat Sin. Pearl is exceedingly nervous
as she tells Mr. Wong that she wants to quit so that she can pay a visit to her “sick mother.” Wong generously
doles out her salary, casually asking her what she’s told the police. Pearl denies saying anything and grows even more
uneasy, but becomes calmer when Wong finishes forking over the cash and asks if she can come by early the next day to work
one last morning shift. He even holds the door open for her on her way out. But just as she is about to leave Wong grabs her
by the throat and drags her back inside: “Bitch, how dare you disclose my secret! You are nosy!” Wong tears off
her clothing, gagging her with her own panties and tying her hands with her brassiere before kicking her naked ass all around
the shop. He then proceeds to beat and molest her, unable to attain full satisfaction until he rapes her with a fistful of
chopsticks. Some time later Wong watches a garbage truck carry away Pearl’s remains before slamming shut the shop’s
metal door in a violent echo of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
As the police proceed with some unusually thorough canvassing they discover that Cheng
Lam has another brother, Cheng Poon, currently imprisoned in Macau. It also seems that all of Lam’s children left school
suddenly without notification. This curdling of the plot leads officers back to the Pat Sin to search through the Cheng family’s
upstairs living quarters, where they question Wong intently about the family’s whereabouts. As his answers this time
around are none too consistent, the officers leave with the decision to keep a constant eye on Mr. Wong. Especially after
learning that he is an illegal immigrant . . .
Hot and bothered now, Wong kicks his remaining patrons out of the restaurant and closes
shop early, going upstairs to drink and stare at Cheng family photos. Roused by the sound of a passing garbage truck he runs
down to throw the family’s passports into the dumpster before hailing a taxi and being driven away. The watching Bo
chases after the garbage and seizes the evidence, while Lee and the boys tail Wong to the local shipping port. Caught at the
gate Wong puts up a fighting ten yard dash before being tackled, severely beaten, and arrested.
In custody Wong is defiant and uncooperative, even when faced with photographic evidence.
After another beating, during which officers bruise their knuckles so severely they’re forced to resort to kicking their
suspect, Wong claims to have his confession ready. Instead he seizes the opportunity to bolt into the hallway, tearing off
his shirt and displaying his bruised torso as he shouts claims of police brutality to the phalanx of reporters that have assembled
inside the station. “The cops beated me! They want to frame me!” The resulting bad press causes Lee to take another
approach, and he has Wong placed in the same prison at which Cheng Poon is incarcerated. (Making sure of course that the guards
and Poon are all well aware that this is the man suspected of doing away with Cheng Lam’s family.)
Under Poon’s direction the prisoners treat Wong much worse than even the police did.
Struck and kicked by a gang of a dozen inmates, bashed against metal bunks and cell bars, Wong is even given a swirlie while
Poon pisses on his head. Quivering and vomiting, and strung up by the toilet’s pull-chain, Wong is finally given a brief
reprieve when Poon is returned to his cell. Hardened bastard that he is, the next day Wong utilizes a folk remedy for his
pain and chugs down a cupful of urine. “Are you insane?” another inmate asks. “You know nothing,”
Wong tells him. “Urine cures inner injury.” That night Wong is again placed in Poon’s custody to receive
even more inner injury. Bunman gets the Full Metal Jacket treatment this time,
pounded into a gibbering bloody mess with soap bars wrapped in socks as Poon attempts to force a confession from him. Wong
remains silent however, and in order to keep his story untold he rises early the next morning and attempts to saw open his
wrists on the jagged edge of a rusty piss bucket. When asked by another convict what he is doing Wong only glares at him with
feral determination as he lifts his bloody arm to his mouth and tears at the veins with his teeth.
This suicide attempt is foiled by a call to the guards and Wong is taken to the prison
hospital. Simply another circle of Hell, there he is pummeled by police while still in his hospital bed until investigators
from Hong Kong arrive to examine his case. They inform Officer Lee that Wong’s real name is Chan Chi Leung, and that
he is wanted in connection with the 1978 mah jong murder. Wong makes another desperate lunge for freedom by holding a nurse
hostage at syringe-point, but is quickly overpowered and handcuffed to his cot for another thrashing. The nurse even gets
in on the punishment this time around, giving Wong subcutaneous injections of water to cause painful swellings that prevent
him from sleeping or even lying down comfortably. On top of all of this, a doctor administers stimulants to keep Wong awake
and exhausted during a marathon session of interrogation and abuse. Finally, after days of torment, Wong cracks, croaking
out an admission of guilt. “Yes, I killed them . . . he didn’t pay me $183,000 . . . I chopped them, bastard .
The camera moves in on Wong’s mad and swollen face before flashing back to a picture
of Cheng’s family. It hangs in an apartment full of life, with children running around or watching TV while their mother
tries to administer medicine to a sick one. Downstairs Wong is triumphantly shouting his familiar winning cheer, much to the
dismay of his mah jong partners. Several of them leave in disgust, and accusing Wong of being a swindler shop-owner Cheng
declares that he won’t pay him. Wong tells Cheng that he will take his shop for compensation, and over a face-off between
a broken bottle and a meat cleaver he promises Cheng that, “If you don’t pay me, I will kill your whole family!”
Which he does, first braining Poppa Cheng with a bottle before slapping the wife into submission and holding the sick child
hostage as she fetches him ropes and wine.
When the entire brood is tied up Wong systematically stabs and slashes them all to death
with the broken bottle and the iconic cleaver. In a painfully protracted sequence he deliberately chases down the small children
who try to crawl away from him, splashing their blood all about the house. There are so many victims that Wong loses track
of them at one point, counting off family members and then hunkering down to find and dispatch the last terrified little girl.
Even mother-in-law Chan Lai Chun is to be done in, her “nosy” behavior of calling her family rousing Wong from
his bloody slumber amidst the corpses some time later. He picks her up at her own modest apartment under the pretense of taking
her to visit her family, then leads her into the abattoir and flips on the flourescent lights so that she can view the gruesome
display before meeting her own demise at the blade of his cleaver. Without wasting any time Wong gets to work breaking down
the bodies, cursing when some of the larger bones dent his trusty blade.
When Wong only admits to the officers of discarding the bones of his victims the detectives
ask what he did with the rest of the bodies. With a twitchy smile Wongs says, “It’s used to make those buns.”
This sets off an orgy of vomiting by the officers, who remember only too well how much they enjoyed those soft steaming BBQ
treats as they ate his evidence. Thus distracted the officers fail to notice Wong collecting the pull tab from Lee’s
Coke can, haphazardly left on a nearby tray. Late that night Wong finally escapes, this time by successfully slashing his
veins and bleeding to death before he can be brought to trial.
Yeah it’s grim, and definitely not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. But
it’s also a startling and well-crafted thriller. The Asian Fritz Haarman gets away with his crimes for so long and is
then subjected to such prolonged torture that throughout the film the viewer is kept on an edge between revulsion and anticipation
as the carnal drama plays out. The scenes of violence are sudden, unusual, and shocking, especially by Hollywood standards,
and although he escapes judgement and punishment by a court of law Wong is clearly and deliberately made to suffer for his
crimes. Wong Chau-Sang truly shines as the greedy sweating killer, exuding an inhuman and remorseless demeanor as he goes
about the most heinous of misdeeds. To top it all off, the colorful motifs of mah jong and Chinese barbecue add a great deal
of, um, flavor to what can only be called an exotic video experience. So the next time you find yourself recovering from a
hangover at a Dim Sum palace, bright Suffering Bastard in hand, consider The Untold
Story when those little baskets of steamed pork buns make their way toward your table . . .
* * * *
BUSTY STAG COLLECTION
42nd Street Pete's 8mm Madness Part IV
Lots of bush in
this one; it’s an “all natural” celebration of mid-century skin captured on all-but-forgotten loops of celluloid
sleaze. Fix yourself a cocktail and get ready to catch an eyeful of swinging young starlets the likes of Misty Simone, Susie
Reed, Rita Merrill, Vicky Heart, Monica Ross, Lupe Lopez, Tina Britt, Audrey Glenn, Mary Jo Janson and more, all hosted by
your man about downtown, 42nd
Street Pete. Pete provides a bit of background on the times, gives us the titles of these 50-foot
stag loops, and of course takes care to point out particularly toothsome ‘actresses.’ Some of the 8mm Madness
included is as follows:
In Naked With a Gun a nekkid blond is reading The Fall of the House of Usher in her boudoir when she hears a strange noise. Pulling out a nightgown and an enormous
revolver she goes to investigate, and finding only a ventriloquist’s dummy she takes it to bed with her.
After Hours features a redhead undressing for…a night of reading alone
by the fireplace, Lillian Parker is a dark-haired goddess who strips down to allow
us to revel in her considerable assets, while Honey Bee is a, “Short-haired
hottie with a pair of tits that’ll knock your socks off.”
In Teach Me to Strip a pair of young ladies take in a tutorial on that very
act, but after changing outfits and a little bit of bump and grind they fail to take the plunge and get it on. Sexercises is another “instructional video” in which one girl can only get her roommate to participate
by stripping down to her panties (although again there’s no full contact).
Captured in a shadowy black & white setting, Lolita is a dusky half-naked
beauty who exudes an enchanting allure that must have been considered taboo back in the Fifties. She models some sexy outfits
and dances a little for us, strips, takes a bath, the works. Then, like all good girls of the forgotten era, she goes to bed
A Date for Donna provides us with the opposite of the classic striptease
as Donna takes a leisurely bath and gets dressed from the skin up for her date. Lots of beaver action here people, and Donna
just gets hotter and hotter as the short plays out.
Virginia Belle and her 44Ds lounge around delightfully, dark-haired Italian
cutie Carla Samenko is another big-bosomed pin-up, and Anne Reese & Penny Singleton are a pair of burlesque broads who have a grand old time stripping, drinking
and taking a bubble bath together.
Penny is what
Pete calls a BBW, a “Big Beautiful Woman”; and with those ginormous 44Ds she is practically all tit. The naked
cavegirl go-go dance she performs is a little scary though, as she flails her arms about trying to keep her balance as her
boobs threaten to launch themselves into orbit. In Lillian Parker Part 2 the model
further showcases her slender figure and bounteous rack (along with what might be considered a rarity for the time, a very
nicely trimmed bush).
Barbara North: Nudist; flower arranger, sunbather and cigarette smoker.
The Indiscreet Nudist rubs on some tanning lotion and favors us with a number of
poses and swim strokes. In Anyone for Swinging a blond trots out after a breakfast
of cereal and coffee to do some shopping in what looks like downtown L.A. Her
purchases? Well, after a little nude sunbathing we find we don’t really care.
In the 400-foot opus Breast Orgy one lucky cat from the swinging era gets
the mammarian massage from the likes of Candy Samples, Uschi Digart, and a host of other ladies with large upper portfolios.
All at once. Hell, they practically shine the guy’s shoes with those things. Look out, here comes the Smucker’s!
The Girls of Bita Pye (yuk-yuk!) is a kinky softcore sex romp wherein a
couple of ‘naughty’ sorority sisters take revenge on a fellow Pye who got them barred from the Junior Prom –
which somehow ends up with all of them naked.
The collection winds up with a plug for the other volumes in the Secret Key Motion Pictures library (“The Erotica
Film Label of Camp Motion Pictures…a subsidiary of Alternative Cinema, L.L.C.”), all of which appear to be of
considerably harder core fare.
Interestingly enough, a couple of these loops showcased
the hot pastime of reading, something besides sex people actually did at home for fun in the Fifties and Sixties. Anyway,
at about three hours long this is a lot of fairly classy tits & ass action. Almost too long to spend watching what are
essentially nudist reels, actually; and who really wants classy pornography anymore anyhow? Pete’s commentary is useful
as far as putting it all into perspective, but his Times Square delivery, as essential as it may be, does tend to interrupt
the flesh parade and add a note of sour to the milk and honey on display throughout. But with a standard retail price of $14.98
you’re definitely getting your money’s worth, and some of the ladies now forever transferred to DVD are undeniably
eye-catching. If you’re still kidding yourself that you’re not a perv and a pornography collector but still want
to have some 2D skin on your shelf, g’head and check this on out.
CANNIBAL FEROX (AKA MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY, AKA WOMAN FROM DEEP RIVER)
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Here’s a seriously special edition:
a remastered “ultrabit” anamorphic widescreen edition of the anthropophagic cult classic Cannibal Ferox. Packed in a heavy metal silkscreened box, this Region 2 DVD comes complete with a handsomely packaged
set of German postcard reproductions from the release of Die Rache der Kannibalen.
I’d forgotten exactly how cruel and unusual this picture was – and it all started out so innocently… (WARNING:
Well, perhaps not so innocently at first, as we find some junkie stumbling out of the hospital and looking for a fix
from his buddy Mike. What he finds instead are a couple of mob guys tossing Mike’s pad; when junkie-boy can’t
tell them where his friend Mike went with their hundred grand, the little weasel gets wasted.
Now on to the innocent part; grad student Gloria Davis, her brother Rudy, and their slutty blonde friend Pat are tooling
about the Amazon jungle in a jeep, looking for material to support Gloria’s anthropology thesis that cannibalism is
just a myth perpetrated to justify the exploitation of primitive cultures. Stopping at Turamazonas “world famous”
MonkeyIsland resort, the group asks for directions to the village
of Manioca. After Pat screws the local police sergeant for a shower the gang steers
the jeep onto a barge and sails down the Amazon toward their destination. Along the way Gloria expounds upon the theory behind
her PHD dissertation, and what she hopes to learn from the Indio people of the
village. She’s hardly prepared for the rigors of jungle life however, as even the native superstition of eating live
butterflies to avoid bad luck makes her sick to her stomach.
Upon reaching shore our intrepid heroes are quickly run off the road by a jaywalking iguana. Taking the opportunity
for a whiskey break they become slightly more acquainted with the “poison paradise” in which they find themselves,
and quickly decide it’s best to be on the road again as soon as possibly. And just as quickly they manage to bog their
vehicle down and blow the jeep’s engine. Forced to carry what they can and hoof it through the jungle, they come across
one of many weird scenes that await them in the green hell – a scarred native devouring live palm grubs. As they pass
on the jungle behind them comes quietly alive with natives, all silently watching the caucasians’ progress.
The next morning their bait tapir is taken by an anaconda in a grisly scene that starts the day on an ominous note.
Awakened by this natural alarm the group carries on through the jungle, only to come across a pair of dead natives apparently
mauled by a primitive but very lethal booby trap. As they stand staring in shock what should come stumbling out of the jungle
but another pair of white men, one of whom is badly wounded. The other one strongly suggests they all get the hell out of
there, seeing as how they were just attacked by cannibals.
Making their way to a clearing by the river’s edge one of the new guys introduces himself as Mike Logan and his
injured buddy as Joe, “a born loser.” They’ve come to the Amazon for emeralds and cocaine, but had been
captured by cannibals and forced to watch as their Portuguese guide died a most horrible death. Miraculously the two managed
to make their escape before winding up as supper guests like their guide. That night Pat screws Mike; after all, he’s
In the morning it is discovered that Gloria has wandered off. The group splits up to look for her, and in the process
Rudy and Joe stumble upon the village of Manioca.
Despite Joe’s warning’s Rudy is intent upon investigating, and the pair find the village all but deserted. Only
a handful of old men remain – along with the dead bodies of a couple natives and the butchered body of the guide, still
tied to the pillar in the center of the village and now rotting and crawling with grubs. Meanwhile Mike and Pat come across
a leopard killing a monkey before finding Gloria alive and unharmed at the bottom of a tiger trap, caught there with a live
piglet. After dispatching the pig with a little too much gusto Mike helps “Twat” out of the pit and the group
reconvenes in the village.
By now Gloria has seen enough, and the decision is made to wrap up the party and head back home to civilization. But
as soon as they’ve made up their minds Joe falls ill with fever, and the group is now stuck in the village until he
recuperates or dies. Mike and Pat pass the time by screwing and taking cocaine, and get so revved up they kill a young Indio
girl. Her brother, however, manages to escape…
That night as the Indio butcher a giant tortoise alive, Joe comes out of
his jungle sickness just long enough to tell Rudy and Gloria the truth about their little expedition. It was he and Mike who
burned the drug dealers in New York, and having fled to South America
they hoped to make the best of their situation by prospecting for emeralds. But when their quest for the stones bears no fruit
the coked-up white men begin torturing and murdering the natives for the legendary emeralds. It was the body of their guide
that was found in the village, but Mike was the one who carved him up. When they come down a bit the crazy Americans decided
to beat it, and it was their hostage and a pursuing warrior that our group found in the jungle.
Knowing full well how pissed the Indios must be, the impetus to leave becomes all the stronger. Pat and Mike are one
step ahead however, having already split with the group’s cash, medicine and equipment. Joe dies soon after that, and
as Rudy and Gloria head out to try their luck on their own they’re visited with the curse of the rotting papaya (no
kidding); and with that the tribe’s warriors return to the village, and the Americans watch in horror as Joe’s
body is promptly torn apart and devoured. Attempting to run away into the jungle Rudy and Gloria are promptly captured and
brought back to the village, to be reunited with Mike and Pat who have also been caught and held prisoner.
And now the fun begins. All but Mike are submerged in a bamboo cage and left for the leeches while Mike is tied to
the ceremonial pillar. Without much ceremony at all Mike’s trousers are pulled down and he’s viciously castrated,
the presiding warrior holding the tiny trophy aloft before eating it raw. The wound is cauterized, and the entire group is
taken to another settlement upriver. While trying to escape Rudy is nearly devoured alive by piranhas, and is put out of his
misery with a curare dart. The survivors are again imprisoned, and again the natives feast on live jungle critter (this time
By morning Mike has managed to dig his way out of his holding pit. Killing a couple of Indios and leaving Pat and Gloria
to the mercy of the rest, Mike runs off into the jungle. He’s quickly recaptured, even as search plane flies unseeing
overhead, chartered by his girlfriend who’s been interrogated by both the police and the mob as to the whereabouts of
her missing lover. For his crimes Mike’s hand is crudely amputated, and for whatever reason Gloria has a pair of giant
fishhooks punched through her breasts and is hung up to die. Mike’s demise takes a more colorful Faces of Death / Hannibal-style form: locked into a primitive tabletop
bearing a hole just large enough for the top of his head, Mike’s skullcap is hacked off without ceremony and the natives
dig into his open brains as if his head were a candy dish.
That night a young Indio takes pity on Gloria, cutting her free and leading
her away from the village. Unfortunately some distance into the jungle he’s killed by another mancatcher, leaving Gloria
all alone in the middle of the jungle.
Some time later, purely by chance, a pair of American trappers hears a woman’s screams coming out of the jungle
as they sail down the river with a load of howler monkeys. Following her cries they find the urbane New Yorker completely
transformed, crawling half-naked through the mud, bloodied and covered with sores.
Several months later Gloria is back to civilization, quietly accepting her doctorate for the study Cannibalism: End of a Myth.
Top notch – ‘nuff said. And it’s all delivered in a crisp, clear, cinematic full-screen presentation
that spares the viewer no detail.
Speaking of which,
aside from the brutality of the storyline and the treatment of the characters, one element of note here is the degree of animal
cruelty in the film. Aside from the natives’ regular practice of butchering and eating live animals, and the multiple
documentary-style scenes of other animals doing the same, even the group’s scapegoat tapir is shown being slung out
of the jeep and dragged along the ground at one point. Not that this kind of fare will ward away your hardened gorehound,
but needless to say liberals and vegetarians need not apply. But as with other gruesome jungle classics such as Slave of the Cannibal God (which makes a most excellent double-feature with Cannibal
Ferox), this only makes for a harsher and more cringe-worthy viewing experience. It’s truly heinous, atrocious and
cruel, and that’s what makes it a gore classic.
Special features include German, Italian and American trailers (“The following feature is one of the most violent
films ever made. There are at least two dozen scenes of barbaric torture and sadistic cruelty graphically shown. If the presentation
of disgusting and repulsive subject matter upsets you, please do not view this film.”), an Umberto Lenzi filmography
and trailers for Sazuma offerings Divided Into Zero and Subconscious Cruelty.
uncut 25th Anniversary Edition” of Combat Shock includes both
the 1986 theatrical version of the film as well as the “Never-before-seen Director’s Cut” from 1984 entitled
American Nightmares. It’s the latter film we’ll be looking at: “This
version of American Nightmares you are about to watch is from the absolute first
16mm answer print. It has never been shown except for a few festivals in Europe. This is the version made before being acquired by Troma Inc. The titles are the original
titles as are all the shots, special effects and music. Nothing has been altered or changed.” Plus, it’s eight
minutes longer than the theatrical version.
The sound of the elevated train opens the film on a perfect New York
note, just before lead character Frankie Dunlan (Rick Giovinazzo, who also scored the film) flashes back via nightmare to
one of his horrible Vietnam experiences. He’s alone
in the shit, staggering through the swamp, passing mutilated corpses, being pursued by the Viet Cong. Suddenly coming across
a lone VC woman he guns her down, only to be chased and captured by the rest of her hunting party.
And then Frankie wakes up to an even more disturbing scenario: a dank and dirty one-bedroom apartment, next to his
pregnant wife Cathy (Veronica Stork), to the unholy wailing of his infant child. A child who’s obviously been born with
some kind of defect; the kid is a waxen little monstrosity that looks like every breath will be its last. And then the arguments
start. The cupboards are bare, Frankie’s unemployed, and the family is about to be evicted.
Tossing the eviction notice into the trash, and denying his wife’s pleas to call his father for money, Frankie
sets out to look for work. Balding but with greasy long hair, in unwashed clothes and mismatched socks, Frankie is quite the
prospect. So it’s no surprise that he takes the ‘scenic’ route, walking slowly through damaged and empty
streets. Not empty enough however: a gang of clownish hoods (one of whom wears a kamikaze headband and white plastic chains)
catches up with Frankie and the leader, Paco, vigorously demands that he pay back the money he’s borrowed. Frankie takes
a roughing-up, and certain threats are made against his family if he doesn’t pay up by the next day.
And then Frankie gets mugged. Well, almost; it’s just his dirtbag junkie buddy Mike desperately trying to scare
up some cash to support his $100 a day habit. The two shoot the shit for a bit before Mike sets his sights on another target.
Frankie tells him that that’s not the way to do things, and that if he comes into any money he’ll pass some along,
but Mike is clearly junk sick and he leaves Frankie in the dust.
While Cathy scrapes together some gruel for their sickly child, Frankie continues his meandering, walking along railroad
tracks and past screams coming from nearby apartments. His experiences in Vietnam
are always with him however: he was a prisoner of war for three years, and even while in his cage his torture was compounded
by unpleasant memories.
Mike meanwhile pays a visit to the abandoned building where Paco conducts his business. He first tries to trade some
costume jewelry for a fix, and then his stolen police-issue revolver, but Paco’s not buying. Eventually however Mike’s
whining gets to him and Paco gives him a bag just to get rid of him. Literally. “Did you give him the shit?” Paco
asks one of his henchmen. “Yeah, you bet.”
Frankie eventually finds his way to the New York State Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Office. And of course
he has to wait in line. Outside. As Frankie waits (and appears to pass on a pick-up offered by a hot slutty motorcycle mama),
Mike scrounges around through dilapidated shooting galleries looking for a rig to shoot up with. Finding no good needles Mike,
in a scene that could have come straight from Burroughs, digs a hole in his arm with a dirty broken coat hanger and just rubs
the junk in.
Finally getting his turn, Frankie is ushered in to visit his caseworker. The guy’s office looks more like a dorm
room than a place of work, what with the Frank Zappa and Dawn of the Dead posters,
and the pills he’s popping don’t seem to help. He’s got nothing for Frankie. “Tell me some good news,”
Frankie pleads. Pause. “It’s one-thirty,” the man says.
Flashbacks of torture in the P.O.W. camp follow, as do scenes from the hospital where Frankie was kept for another
three years following his release from captivity. Between the two it becomes apparent that there’s some discrepancy
regarding a wartime massacre in which Frankie was involved…
In another part of the world, Mike’s a goner. “The shit” Paco gave him was apparently a hot shot,
and Mike’s body lies still in the shooting gallery. When Mike’s good friend Jerry comes across his corpse he simply
steals Mikes dirty bindle of bad dope and scurries away.
Back in his present, out of sheer desperation Frankie calls his estranged father. In the conversation that follows
it comes out that Frankie had been reported killed in action in Saigon, and when he got back to the states and out of the
hospital, due to the bad blood between him and his father, he never bothered to get back in touch. But his father has nothing
to give him; he’s lost his business, his savings, and even his health. He doesn’t even want to revisit the past
now, and the sorry old man hangs up on his son.
Back at the shooting gallery some random woman wanders through and comes across Mike’s lifeless body. Searching
him she finds his gun and box of cartridges and, with a wary look around, slips them into her handbag and steals away.
Frankie’s trials continue as he has an unpleasant run-in with a pimp and his stable. And yet another flashback.
Completely at a loss at this point, when he sees the woman from the shooting gallery he decides to take action. Following
her around a corner he pops her in the face and steals her purse. But as he’s running away who should appear on the
scene but Paco and his crew. They run after him, and a lengthy and colorful chase ensues. And with Frankie’s luck they
of course catch up with him. Frankie takes a brutal beating, during which the gun falls out of the handbag. And as the gang
goes through the purse, funding the bullets but no gun, Frankie picks up the weapon.
“Right at that moment I knew what had to be done,” runs his inner monologue. “It was all coming back
to me. A revelation had hit me like a bullet. I felt a tremendous power surging through my veins. I’d now become God.”
That being said, the rest of the film is a complete bloodbath, coming down to perhaps the most desperate and depressing
finale ever. Sour milk and all.
Very well crafted for a ‘feel bad’ movie, American Nightmares
is definitely not a date film. That is unless your date is some depressed German woman (or man). And speaking of Germans and
depression, the version of Combat Shock on this disc features commentary by the
director and Jorg Buttgereit, the sick fuck genius behind Nekromantik.
With its harshly accurate portrayal of poverty and grief, American Nightmares
is a painfully realistic film that’s every bit as depressing, and relevant as it was 25 years ago. Not to mention the
issue of veterans’ problems, which is a situation that won’t be going away any time soon.
Everything about Frankie’s life screams squalor and misery. From the dripping sink to the broken toilet to the
black & white television with no picture to the stains on the walls to the nagging wife who never leaves the apartment.
Not to mention to child-creature who simply won’t stop crying. And then there’s the broken shoelace…
Perhaps one of the hardest aspects to accept is that at heart Frankie is not a bad guy. The scene in which he sits
down with an aspiring underage hooker and makes her laugh is proof of that. He’s just suffered as much as he can take,
and he simply breaks.
The shots of Staten Island are universally grim, what with the cracked sidewalks, boarded-up
buildings, and graffiti everywhere. The city scenery perfectly matches the film’s mood; there’s a certain poetry
here, but it’s not a pretty meter.
It’s a definitively fucked-up piece of cinema, and the worst part of it is that it isn’t far-fetched at
all. The package comes with some excellent liner notes by Steven Puchalski who sums it all up better than I can, but if you’re
in the mood to feel bad this is just the ticket.
The second disc is jam-packed with bonus features. First up is Post Traumatic:
An American Nightmare by Evan Husney. “This thirty minute documentary features interviews with Giovinazzo’s
key contemporaries discussing the continued impact and influence of Combat Shock
twenty-five years later.” Said contemporaries include directors Jim VanBebber, William Lustig and John McNaughton, along
with various film festival directors and fanzine editors. All of whom remain suitably impressed with the disturbing realism
of the film, not to mention how well it has held up over time.
Also included are a number of brief interviews: Buddy Giovinazzo, at home, with Lloyd Kaufman at the 2006 Tromanale
in Berlin, and with Jorg Buttgereit at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival. (The audio
on this last interview is particularly bad, something that the Troma Team acknowledges and apologizes for.)
Six short films of Buddy G’s from the Eighties are also presented, the first being Mr. Robbie, featuring Joe Spinell in what was apparently his last film. In this short he plays the titular Mr.
Robbie, a drunken kiddie TV talk show host who moonlights as a killer of abusive parents as a result of his own troubled childhood.
Jonathan of the Night is a vampire tale of bloodsuckers feeding through the coke
parties of the Eighties; there are a trio of music videos for Buddy and Rick G’s band Circus 2000 A.D. (“Leave
This World,” “Planet T.T.,” “Something in the Water”), a really rather decent Eighties punk-pop/alt-rock
combo in the Devo/Talking Heads vein; Subconscious Realities concerns a druggie’s
experimentation with a rare hallucinogen and the wild effects that follow; in The Lobotomy
a violent sex fiend gets the procedure and trips out into virtual retardation; and Christmas
Album is “A happy Christmas Greeting to all young couples,” as well as a warning about getting your hubby
a Satanic record for the holidays.
Hellscapes is a brief look at how the landscape of Staten Island has changed
since the filming of Combat Shock (not all that much, apparently), and there’s
a “Tromasterpiece Trailer” as well as the original theatrical trailer for the film, along with “Tromatic
Extras” (trailers for other Troma releases such as Last Horror Film and Story of a Junkie).
enjoyable junkie noir flick, Confessions of an Opium Eater takes Thomas De Quincey’s
early 19th century account of addiction and jumps it ahead a hundred years in a two-fisted dragon-chasing treatment
worthy of the most lurid pulp adventure magazines of the Twenties.
narrator, Vincent Price (who better?), is Gilbert De Quincey, a worldly-wise opium addict sailing aboard a junk loaded with
human cargo. Bound for the auction blocks of San Francisco’s Chinatown the Asian beauties are unloaded into a rowboat
and hauled to a rough beachhead, only to have their party attacked by a gang of hatchet-wielding Tongs. The Yankee slavers
give battle and both factions fight it out over the prized girls along the cliffs and beaches of this impromptu port, with
many a sound thrashing being delivered. (One poor salty son-of-the-sea is even kicked in the head by a lone horse inexplicably
roaming the cliffside, in order that his screaming dummy might be hurled to the sand below.) A Model-T full of Chinese reinforcements
pulls up and unloads a few tommyguns at the last of the American dogs, and at another, safer, port De Quincey goes ashore
to continue his narration.
a man can for one day realize his true self, he will have found for always his place in the scheme of things,” De Quincey
quotes, and promptly delves into the depths of Chinatown to begin searching out his place in the scheme of this picture. Upon
paying a visit to Ching Foon’s antique shop (and comparing matching Moon Servant dragon tattoos) De Quincey gets a few
leads on some of Chinatown’s underworld activities. Following these he heads out to call upon the enigmatic Ruby Lo,
and meeting her at the hour of the goat and exchanging a bit of sweet talk (“Somehow I think you wear more faces than
there are stars in the gutter after a rain.” “It’s been a long time since I see myself in gutter.”),
De Quincey is instructed to set out on an errand for the mysterious and elusive Ling Tang. It seems the Tongs have stolen
the prize girl from Tang’s last shipment, jeopardizing their lucrative “picture bride” industry, and as
De Quincey comes highly recommended for a roundeye he is tasked with retrieving the woman.
advantage of a minor Tong war in the streets (although for the moment none of the gangsters are actually in sight, hatchets
and gunshots simply come flying out of nowhere) De Quincey utilizes a bit of secret-agentry and uses a dragon kite to loop
a coil of rope around a balcony’s projecting corner ornament and climb up to the second-story offices of the Chinatown Gazette. The Gazette’s editor, George Wah, was recently
murdered in relation to his opposition to the auctions, and after an easy break-in De Quincey quickly finds some dangerous
clues in the dead man’s office. (But not before a bit more philosophical pondering: “Naked we are born, and naked
we leave the world. It is only the cursed, the eternal fugitives, who go all their days separate from their fellows. Naked
in the spirit from first to last. Such lonely cast was I.”) A hidden room is discovered, and in it the much sought-after
bride-to-be whom Wah had been hiding from the villainous clutches of Ling Tang. But as De Quincey tries to comfort the girl
the dreaded Tongs make their appearance and attack, chasing De Quincey and the girl through a series of hidden passageways
and down into the sewers beneath Chinatown. In a valiant display of derring-do De Quincey whips off his belt and uses the
heavy buckle to beat back the hatchets of the gangsters, but before long he is overwhelmed and the Tongs carry the girl away.
Quincey quickly recovers and goes searching after her, only to be hit over the head from behind. Waking up he now finds himself
hanging on a meathook in front of an ominous group of figures wearing ceremonial robes and Chinese zodiac masks. Fortunately
one of these happens to be Ching Foon, and after the bandying about of a bit more Chinese philosophy De Quincey learns that
Foon had been working with Wah to stop the female auctions. Ching Foon and company disappear back into the labyrinth as De
Quincey lets himself down and continues deeper underground on his own, eventually coming upon a room full of caged women.
These, he is told by a midget “sing-song girl,” are the “bad wives” who have disappointed their husbands.
Rather than be killed outright, they have been left here to starve to death so that their ghosts will not haunt their murderers.
De Quincey releases the women, and in return is led down underground alleyways, through the brides’ bathhouse, past
fierce Tong guards (thanks to the distraction of a catfight and a bit of slapstick), and, finally, through the ancient Chinese
secret of a lavatory’s hidden door, he finds himself inside of a covert opium den.
buying a pipeful and settling back on a bunk, De Quincey enters a haunted carnival dream trip filled with devilish masks,
crawling hands, reptiles, laughing skulls, dragons, spiders, screaming faces, undersea creatures, jungle beasts, and Tong
assassins, all distorted in warped funhouse mirror-vision. Upon awakening from this nightmare De Quincey finds himself in
yet another, surrounded by several looming Tongs, and in slow motion he rears himself for a bunk-leaping chase that ends with
a jump out of a window and a rooftop getaway. Still in a bit of an opium haze De Quincey wanders through the butchery of a
pig in a restaurant kitchen and into ever-more obscure and statue-laden passageways as haunted house sound effects blare and
Tong warriors continue to give chase.
De Quincey yields to his overwhelmed senses, falling from a balcony and spinning down into blackness. He awakens in dire circumstances
yet again, this time tied up in the treasure chamber of Ruby Lo. Ruby now displays her more megalomaniacal side, ranting about
power and destiny before making goo-goo eyes at and then cold-cocking De Quincey once more. The next thing he knows, De Quincey
is caged up with the miniature sing-song girl and told by a cackling Chinese that he’ll be meeting his doom as soon
as the auction closes. These proceedings are viewed through a peephole, as within the auction gallery Asian beauties are uncaged
and displayed one by one for the assemblage of select buyers. As they are made to dance for their prospective customers bids
for the women, made with heads of opium, quickly begin to mount. While this is taking place De Quincey manages to grab his
jailor by the topknot and demand the keys to the cage, but in the commotion that follows a lever is tripped that sends him
swinging away on a series of gear-driven pulleys. When at last his cage finally slows to a stop, Sing-Song appears and releases
De Quincey to lead him through another series of concealed passages and back into Ruby Lo’s chambers.
they find another one of the slave girls, and after untying her the three of them lay a giant fuse of gunpowder and firecrackers
leading away from Ruby’s immense store of fireworks. Back in the auction room a disturbance begins when it is discovered
that one of the girls is hiding a bald head, and with the violent accusations of fraud being shouted only the rare appearance
of the ancient and revered Ling Tang can restore order. The masked elder uses a bit of philosophical doubletalk to soothe
the agitated bidders, and after a bit of grumbling the auction continues. Next on the block is the highly contested Prize
Girl, and before the bidding can even begin another Chinese elder offers fifteen bundles of opium for the woman. This high
price is readily accepted, but as the old man leads the girl away it is discovered that his opium is counterfeit. The uproar
this causes is increased with the lighting of De Quincey’s fuse, and in the chaos that follows the old man’s disguise
comes off and it can be seen that he is actually George Wah, alive and well. He, De Quincey, and the women join together and
fight their way out through hordes of Tong enforcers, managing to escape just before the slave den goes up in flames.
in the street their struggle still isn’t over, as the group is again subjected to the fury of the irate Chinese mob.
As De Quincey and Sing-Song hold the gangsters back, Wah leads the prize girl down a manhole and into the sewer system. Struck
from behind De Quincey falls through the manhole and splashes into the waterway below, as Sing-Song herself is felled by a
hatchet in the back. Down in the water De Quincey is attacked by Ling Tang, who once unmasked proves to be none other than
Ruby Lo. She is pulled into the water with De Quincey, and the two of them cling to each other as they are swept away out
of reach, down into the dark regions of an underground river.
strife and agony was dissolving. As she grasped me closer the nightmare of shame was over. And she, whatever she had been,
was now only a woman in my arms. Pledged to an unknown journey, all passions spent, all evil behind us. Was it a dream of
the poppy, or was it at last reality? As once again I put out to sea, were these the widening waters of death, or the gates
full o’ tasty schlock this is, brimming with action, intrigue, and the mysteries of the Orient! Not only is Confessions of an Opium Eater action-packed in a fine old black & white gangster/swashbuckler fashion, but
it’s also frequently unintentionally comedic in its many obscure turns of plot, character, and stereotype (but in a
good way). Hatchet-wielding Tongs, opium nightmares, the mysterious Chinatown underground, and midget sing-song girls . .
. what’s not to like? On top of the twisting of the plot the scenery itself is loaded with ornate banners, masks, and
statuary, all making for a most appealing viewing. The soundtrack is a rich one as well, laden with little theremin quivers
and overly dramatic orchestral flares, not to mention bizarre and nearly random sound effects like bats who make seagull sounds
as they fly by, birds who yowl like cats, and the opportune ringing of gongs. Oriental quotes blended with early 20th
century lingo even provide for colorful dialogue. And the ending, with Price and his woman sailing down into eternity, does
make the finale of Dr. Phibes Rises Again climb to mind. Again, all told this is
a thoroughly enjoyable flick, and one that makes for either an ideal Halloween double bill with The Mask or a good video to pop in during a brunch of Midori and dim-sum.
demented anti-fairy tale of 16th century Hungarian Countess Erzebet Bathory (Julie Delpy, the alluring prostitute
from the most excellent KILLING ZOE, who also directs), who through ill-starred love, the curse of an ancient hag, and the
unfortunate attentions of a masochistic suitor descends into madness and begins to bleed virgins dry in an attempt to resuscitate
her youthful looks. The archaic language of the script makes it all sound a bit stilted, but the gorgeous iron maiden and
scenes of dogs feeding on the discarded provide some touch of old world horror to the psychodrama. Courtly intrigue, lesbian
witchery, accusations of demonism, a tiredly scheming William Hurt… It’s a little starched and staged, a play
act carrying with it the taint of unlaundered finery which is not inappropriate in context; but in its efforts to develop
the mindscape of the Countess in an era of insanity the filmmakers shy away from the full scope of Bathory’s bloodletting
(laid out in greater detail in Valentine Penrose’s fine THE BLOODY COUNTESS) and focus on her damaged mental state,
doing so in a way that doesn’t completely develop the extent of her sickness and giving the subject a flatter affect
than the Countess’ vicious narcissism demands. Still, the gravity of the film, the period piece costumes, and Erzebet’s
gruesome demise are not without a certain gothic allure, one that may well have some lighting candles and providing their
own morbid soundtrack.
CRADLE OF FEAR
Directed by Alex Chandon
god this film is depraved. It’s cruel, overly sexual, graphically violent…in short, it’s fucking great!
I completely missed out on Cradle of Fear when it was released in 2000, and had
even forgotten I’d ever added it to my Netflix queue until it arrived. Now I’m sorry that I put it off for so
long, but it was indeed worth the wait.
The narrative framework is especially interesting here, utilizing the perspective of three different characters and
their relationship to each other as well as to the four separate horror stories that are presented herein. (Not unlike the
Mid-Century Vault of Horror/Tales from the
Crypt ECs, or the Creepy and Eerie
horror mags that followed.) You’ve got mad hypnotist and child-eater Kemper (David McEwen), locked away at Fenham Asylum
after committing countless sacrificial murders; unhinged Inspector Neilson (Edmund Dehn), the detective who apprehended Kemper
and who still suffers from both the memory of the case and the killer’s malevolent mind games; and finally the “Satanic
disciple” of Kemper’s, the silent killer known only as “The Man” (Dani Filth, of Cradle of Filth).
Between them they’re involved in every one of the many murders that play out onscreen, with each new death drawing these
characters a step closer to one another.
A figure clad in black strides down a darkened alleyway. Two thugs approach and beat the man into submission, but as
they go through their victim’s pockets The Man rises and dispatches them both in the bloodiest possible ways. Roll opening
credits over a shifting window of horrific scenes.
At the site of a double homicide crime scene investigators are photographing the mutilated bodies of two women. Inspector
Neilson arrives, looking haggard, and after a cursory examination he cups the left breast of the woman on the bed. It’s
not immediately clear whether he’s looking for insight into the case of whether he’s just a necro-letch, but either
way one of the photographers finds his behavior more than a little odd.
The camera focuses on the corpse’s face, transposing it via flashback onto the face of the still-living girl.
Mel (Emily Bouffante) is at a fetish club where some black metal band is playing, and she locks eyes with The Man from across
the floor. After some rails in the bathroom with her girlfriend Nikki (Melissa Forte), Mel takes The Man back to her flat.
Painted red, the apartment is filled with odd pieces of art and occult emblems. Mel kittenishly fixes them each a glass of
chilled vodka and pills, then begins a striptease that ends up in bed.
The Man joins her, and the easy one-night stand turns into a stroboscopic and violently Satanic sexual assault. As
soon as she can get loose Mel races for the shower, followed by The Man’s mocking laughter. She clearly feels mortally
unclean, as she scrubs herself raw and sinks down into the tub, hugging her knees in pure post-traumatic stress. She is as
shocked as the audience when blood begins to pour out from between her legs. Going to the toilet Mel vomits, and the evil
hangover pursues her into the next day as, stumbling through the city streets, everyone she sees seems diabolic or horribly
By the time she reaches Nikki’s apartment Mel is on the verge of a breakdown. “That fucker spiked me,”
she tells her friend. “I feel awful…I’ve been seeing, like, really horrible faces all day. Really contorted,
demonic fucking faces.” And the worst part is, “that fucker” just bailed out on her when he was done with
her, disappearing without a word. Nikki calms her down, and after a couple vodkas and a sleeping pill Mel crashes out in Nikki’s
Mel wakes up in the middle of the night, after nightmares in which she relives the bad trip of the day. Feeling ill
she puts a hand to her stomach, only to feel, then see, something moving about inside of her. She wakes up Nikki, who misunderstands
her friend’s late-night request to “Touch me” and slides a hand down into Mel’s panties. Whereupon
something promptly bites off two of her fingers.
Long spider-like claws begin to emerge from Mel’s belly, and in a panic the girl grabs a pair of scissors and
stabs herself repeatedly in the stomach. But what’s inside of her is determined to come out, and it won’t stop
At police headquarters Neilson is ranting about the lack of results in the murder investigation. Summoned before his
commander, Chief Inspector Roper (Barry Lee-Thomas), Neilson is asked about the matter of “touching the dead bodies.”
“Yes sir. It’s something I have to do,” the inspector says. By way of explanation he goes on to say that
he’s only making sure that the victims are truly dead, then spins a Poe-like tale of a ten-year-old victim of Kemper’s
who was mistaken for dead and woke up in a morgue meat locker, only to die in terror ten hours later.
Meanwhile in his cell at the Asylum the Manson-like Kemper is conducting a private Satanic ritual involving blood,
moonlight and a demonic token. Attaching a message to a hook and line, Kemper’s instructions are hauled away into the
darkness by his acolyte The Man.
The second tale finds a pair of criminally-minded lasses looking to rip off an old man for his stash of bank notes.
Under the cover of night the girls jimmy open his door and help themselves to a poke around the house. Sophie (Rebecca Eden),
the dark-haired girl, and Emma (Emma Rice), with platinum hair, even have a laugh or two as they trip around the darkened
Emma at last finds a cake tin of cash under the old man’s bed, just as the geezer wakes up in a feeble panic
and desperately latches on to her. Sophie beats him down with a weighted candlestick, but it quickly looks like she’s
killed him in her enthusiasm. The ladies seem to get over the trifling matter of murder as they examine their loot, but the
old guy isn’t finished yet. He throws himself off of the bed and onto Sophie, bleeding down into her face as he chokes
her and pounds her head against the floor. Emma finds a knife and cuts him down, and Sophie finishes the job by bashing his
skull in with a heavy statuette.
The bloodied girls share a bath in order to wash themselves of the spatter, during which time one of them mentions
that she may have told her sister about the robbery plan. With one murder under their garters already another one doesn’t
seem so out of the question, and a violent betrayal of loyalties soon takes place. But some things just won’t stay dead…
Reviewing the case files Inspector Neilson begins to make some connections; the bodies turning up so rapidly all belong
to people who are somehow related to members of the legal team that put Kemper away. And at the site of the most recent killings
investigators have even found a demonic pin badge with Kemper’s bloody fingerprint on it.
In an interview with Roper, Neilson explains how Kemper
would hypnotize children onstage as part of his act, at the same time implanting subconscious directives into their minds.
These implants could then be activated by phone at a later time to lure the children right to him. “He used children,”
Neilson says, “In sick depraved rituals, trying to emulate his father, infamous Thirties Satanist Anthony Crowley.”
Kemper eventually resorted to cannibalism to get rid of the bodies, but as he killed more quickly than he could eat the smell
of decomposing corpses alerted neighbors who called the police.
A pair of yuppies tool the downtown streets at night in
their convertible, getting so high snorting coke that when they mow down a wino in the street it only causes them a moment
of anxiety over the car’s grill. Back home in bed, we see that Nick (Louie Brownsell) is missing a leg, something Natalie
(Eileen Daly) finds incredibly sexy. But even after she gives him a stump job Nick still can’t get it up, as ever since
an accident took his leg he can’t quite feel like a whole man.
Frustrated, Nick goes to see Dr. Sinha (who shares a surgeon’s
practice with Dr. H. West) in an attempt to get a new leg. Dr. Sinha doesn’t have a spare, but does mention that if
Nick were to provide one he might be able to put something together.
To this end Nick pays a visit to his old partner in crime
Thomas, a scumbag who lives alone in a shitbox apartment filled with books, nudie pics and bizarre accessories. Under the
guise of a criminal job offer Nick talks his way inside, and without ceremony tells his former accomplice, “I want your
fucking leg!” Just before blowing Thomas’ brains out with a pistol. Nick hacks off the guy’s leg above the
knee, packs it into an ice-filled suitcase and goes to see Sinha.
Natalie is surprised the next day when she comes home from
the shops and finds a girl bent over Nick in bed. She’s even more surprised to see a new leg sprouting from Nick’s
thigh; the girl is a nurse attending him after the impromptu surgery.
Nick is still tormented however, suffering from nightmares
and limb spasms. Things seem to improve once he embarks on a program of therapy, and before too long he’s almost a new
man. To celebrate he takes Nat out for a night on the town, but the leg soon begins to act with a mind of its own, crashing
down on the accelerator and sending the car hurtling through traffic. After many near misses the convertible is eventually
broadsided by tanker truck and sent spinning down an alleyway.
When Nick recovers he looks around for Natalie, but she’s
no longer in the car. Instead she’s become a part of the mangled wreckage of the accident scene. When the police arrive
they find her dead, hanging in a gruesome position. But what they find inside the car is far more disturbing…
And then The Man comes around.
Kemper has been removed from his cell, which is now being
tossed by the wardens of the asylum. As the serial killer sits in another cell, hooded with an almost Lecter-style mask over
his eyes to prevent him from hypnotizing the staff, a bag of writings is found underneath his toilet. Among them is a list
of names related to his trial, including that of Inspector Neilson’s son Richard.
Richard (Stuart Laing) works at FreeSurf, a dotcom specializing
in hunting down illegal websites. He is currently on notice for “accessing disturbing material” himself, and his
boss Pringle (Mark Rossi) is determined to be a real prick about it. He even lets Richard know he’s only got a week
to submit his “report,” just as the guy is chatting up lovely office girl Penny (Belinda Harding) for a date that
Richard goes back to surfing the Internet for the hardcore
and the underground. Passing up sites such as Kinky Cadaver and Ape Rape, he comes across a banner for The Sick Room, “The
Ultimate in Snuff Reality: You are the Murderer…” Apparent sick fuck that he is, Richard is utterly absorbed as
he watches a woman being beaten and hacked with a machete. But before he can really get off Richard is shut out of the site
over a “Multiple User Violation.”
That evening, following drinks and dinner at the Indian Ocean restaurant, Richard takes
Penny home…after which she doesn’t return to the office. Three days later Penny’s co-worker Mary (Anna Haig)
drops round Penny’s to check up on her, and when Penny comes to the door Mary can see that she’s been beaten so
badly she looks disfigured. Penny just asks what Richard’s been saying about her before vowing that she’ll never
go back to that office, never.
Back at home Richard is growing increasingly frustrated
by his inability to get back into The Sick Room. The site keeps changing its URL, and despite Richard’s best efforts
he simply cannot find it again. At work Richard redoubles his search efforts, his obsession making him short-tempered and
eccentric. When Pringle tells him to remove one of the partition walls that Richard has used to build a little fort out of
his cubicle, Richard’s response is to tell him to fuck off in several ways. In doing so Richard hits upon the idea of
substituting the word for part of the site address – and it works. The Sick Room opens up again, only to get shut back
down immediately when Pringle pulls the plug on him. “You are so fired,” Pringle tells Richard, before getting
a headbutt to the face for his trouble.
Now unimpaired by employment Richard spends days at a time
trying to regain access. Bills pile up unopened but Richard doesn’t mind, because after many sleepless nights in front
of the monitor he once again stumbles upon the proper access code. And, for $1,550.00, he directs masked assailants to enter
a victim’s cell and slash his arm open with a knife. A hammer blow to the face follows, and Richard’s next directive
is to have the man’s leg cut off with a chainsaw. But at that point his credit limit expires, and it is Richard who
gets cut off instead.
Richard is now in the depths of depression, having done
nothing for weeks but look for access to torture porn only to be denied the ultimate satisfaction in the end. Almost a vegetable
at this point, his furnishings are repossessed and he is evicted from his home. Wandering the streets Richard finds an Internet
café and once again embarks on the desperate search for The Sick Room. When the café closes Richard sleeps in a box outside,
entering the café first thing in the morning. Upon reading his email Richard finds an anonymous message in which “A
friend” provides him with a street address at which he can learn more.
Without hesitation Richard steals a map and takes a train
deep into the country. He locates the cottage mentioned in the email, and there he finds exactly what he’s been looking
Inspector Neilson has had it at this point, and he heads
straight to Fenham Asylum on a mission to kill Kemper once and for all. At gunpoint he forces a doctor to let him into Kemper’s
cell, where the two men start their showdown. But then The Man appears as well. As you might imagine, a gruesome splatterfest
ensues, one in which there are numerous surprises before the film ends.
Ah, bloody good fun, that! Sex, vomit, dismemberment, boobs,
torture, decapitation, Satanic sacrifice, drugs, more boobs, mutilation, snuff, eye-gouging, and even a demon seed. What more
do you want from a flick? Oh yeah, and the intriguing interweaving of the multiple storylines was handled capably as well.
This is a pure piece of video nasty if there ever was one. Kudos to the effects team: special make-up effects by Tristan
Versluis, special creatures and prosthetics by Creature FX (Cliff Wallace and Alan Hedgcock), and additional make-up and masks
by Duncan Jarman and Dom Hailstone. The giant white worm crawling out of a mother’s ear was a particularly nice touch.
It’s definitely not for squeamish liberals or the politically correct however; the animal sacrifice is particularly
gruesome, as is what the killer does immediately afterward.
The art direction and props are very well done, providing colorful accoutrements to the wild stories being played out.
In addition to the bizarre settings already described, the Edvard Munch reproductions in the dwarf’s flat were also
The film features music by Cradle of Filth, Jezebel, The Dark Poets, Intense, Quicksilver, Lungworm and others. Special
features include a video for Cradle of Fear as well as “Some Making of Cradle
of Fear,” along with a preview trailer and stills gallery.
Highly recommended for fans of tits and gore.
And that means you if you’ve read this far.
first appeared to be a 2008 Japanese rip-off of Herman Yau Lai-To’sexcellent 1993 Hong Kong Category III film Bunman: The Untold Story.
Hence the interest. However instead of a ghoulish true crime epic about a criminal grinding up the flesh of his enemies and
baking them into best-selling ‘pork’ buns, here you get a disassociated (albeit kinky) mess that plays upon goofy
stereotypes and largely bad black humor. With a little bit of sploosh video thrown in for good measure. Oh yeah: SPOILER ALERT!
Tougen Dumpling Restaurant is legendary for its dumplings. Literally: the secret recipe is guarded fanatically, and
other chefs actually beg the owner, Ms. Lin (Mihiro), to be taken on as apprentices. Unfortunately people who hang around
the restaurant have a bad habit of disappearing. So it is that an investigative reporter (Miho Funatsu), a food columnist
(Chihiro Koganezaki) and a pair of hapless detectives (Katsuya Naruse & Yusuke Iwaka) are all drawn to the dumpling house
and the intrigue provided by its unsavory reputation and namesake treats. Because, you see, rumor has it that the secret ingredient
With all of the strange goings-on, in a rather roundabout way Ms. Lin begins to wonder if maybe she’s been killing
people and stuffing their ground flesh into dumplings after all. But in fact it’s her shit-nuts chef Mr. Chin (Sakae
Yamazaki), the self-appointed “Guardian of Tougen,” who’s butchering the locals. And he’s not doing
it for the meat (“Human flesh is very dirty!”), he’s simply looking to protect the honor of the lovely Ms.
Lin and the reputation of Tougen Dumpling Restaurant.
The real secret to the famous dumpling recipe lies within Ms. Lin herself. Seriously: the secret taught to her by her
depraved mentor, the sexually degenerate Master Hoi (Kesuke), is that to really make dumplings “The Tougen way!”
she must insert each morsel inside of her before frying. In one particularly unusual scene we see the nude Ms. Lin preparing
her delights, and the viewer is treated to a shot of picture-perfect dumplings popping out of her in a row, each lining up
perfectly in a serving dish with a tiny wet splat.
But there are still plenty of nosy people snooping around, and Mr. Chin takes care of most of them with extreme prejudice.
The escalation of violence ends with an embarrassing downturn however as Mr. Chin, driven to distraction by Lin’s beauty
and culinary artistry, asks Mr. Lin in a high-pitched baby’s voice, “Will you have sex with me? Pretty please?”
This said as he toddles across the floor toward her, pants around his ankles. But when he tries to rape the unwilling woman
and can’t get a hard-on, Chin bites through the veins in his wrists and bleeds to death right there on the kitchen floor.
In the final scenes it’s difficult to tell whether in addition to her own secret recipe it is Ms. Lin’s
love of her would-be hero Detective Goro Nojima that makes her latest batch of dumplings particularly successful, or if it
has something to do with the bloody uniform of Mr. Chin seen in the trash can.
As might be expected, the whole feature provides something of an uneven viewing experience. With Ms. Lin’s delusional
state of mind guiding the storyline the narrative is unnecessarily disjointed (‘I must be the killer! I can’t
be the killer!’), and the scenario is made more unstable and melodramatic by her feeble hallucinatory state. Granted,
the filmmakers are trying to duplicate a fragile mind affected by horrifying events, but the cartoonish farce that results
doesn’t quite measure up.
Interludes of lousy slapstick are shuffled between scenes of frog chopping and sexual violence (if you’re the
kind of person who gets off watching a young woman’s breasts smeared with salad oil, eggs, flour and ketchup, you’re
in for a treat), which makes it all a little unpredictable. And as it turns out that only one person initially disappeared
in the vicinity of one tiny little restaurant, it seems like a lot of attention is suddenly being paid to an area that really
isn’t the center of the cannibalistic conspiracy that some might expect.
The women are all gorgeous and Lin takes her clothes off a number of times, which is a plus. But on the minus side,
for a film about murder and suspected cannibalism the special effects are sorely lacking: most of the violence is out of frame,
and there are lots of rubbery body shop parts here. The producers took the same road with the soundtrack, as you’ll
hear swiped portions of soundtracks from Friday the 13th, The Exorcist, and the James Bond franchise.
Sorely missing are any bonus features, particularly a menu segment that might provide a recipe for the best-selling
sex dumplings. Countless shots of the steamy little packages being scarfed down by the plateful do give one an appetite, despite
the overtones of cannibalism and in utero food preparation.
Two points for perversion, but not with a very high recommendation.
GP Museum Soft /
CUT THROATS NINE
Directed by Joaquin Luis Romero Marchent
I’d first heard of Cut Throats Nine in an interview with a member from the
great band of the same name, who was relating how the film’s violence was so overwhelming as to be inspirational. And
with both Psychotronic (quoted on the box cover as saying this is “Possibly
the most violent Eurowestern ever made”) and the DVD shell itself lauding the film’s uniqueness (“Easily
the most mean-spirited, hateful, gory spaghetti Western ever made”) Cut Throats
Nine definitely sounded like a picture not to be missed.
all begins in a snowy mountain region, as a group of Union soldiers escorts a chain gang of seven prisoners from the Golden
Sand Mine along the 400-mile trail to Fort Green. Between them the prisoners have been convicted of multiple counts of robbery,
rape, arson, and murder, and are now being carried to the Fort to finish off their life sentences as members of a prison workforce.
The journey has barely begun however when the convoy is waylaid by a clan of gold-hungry mountain men. Enraged at finding
only prisoners, the highwaymen murder all but one of the soldiers and send the wagon’s driverless horses running blindly
along the uncertain terrain. After the calamitous wreck the lone remaining soldier, Sergeant Brown, directs the prisoners
to continue the journey on foot, still chained together at the ankles.
so begins an arduous trek through unforgiving mountain wilderness, as in the face of cold, hunger, and exhaustion Brown attempts
to guard himself and his daughter Kathy (Emma Cohen) against the rapacious spite of his bloodthirsty charges. All of whom
are just waiting for a chance at his throat and his child. (Who has the misfortune of being along for the ride after an as-yet-unknown
member of the chain gang murdered her mother in Golden Sand.) Under such conditions the men and horses soon begin dying off;
first Slim “The Snake” is strangled to death, put out of his misery because his broken leg was a burden on the
gang, and not much later one of the horses is put down for a similar reason. When Brown commands the men to carry Slim’s
body, they resolve the dilemma of the added cargo by burning it.
When their meager provisions run out the group sustains themselves with wild dog, and it
is during one of these banquets that the convicts discover that their chains are made of gold. Literally – to hide the
bounty from potential thieves and the prisoners themselves, a fortune in the mine’s gold has been pounded out and disguised
as chain link. This introduces a new dynamic to the situation, as the chain gang, emboldened by the notion that Brown needs
them to haul the bullion to Fort Green, stops dead and refuses to be treated as pack animals any further. Brown quickly puts
a stop to this rebellion by shooting one of them in the eye, and knowing he could easily do the same again the group begrudgingly
trudges on. But having witnessed the murder, and the subsequent hacking off of the dead man’s foot to remove his shackles,
Kathy comes to realize that there’s little difference between her father and the men he’s guarding.
As the weather worsens Brown and his daughter begin to falter, weakened by the cold and
strain. All the while the convicts watch them closely, biding their time until their moment arrives. Which it does when the
chain gang, moving ahead, are the first to reach an isolated cabin located in the middle of nowhere. From inside the prisoners
peer through the windows to watch as Brown, under the burden of having to carry his daughter for the past few miles, staggers
and collapses in the snow. After being allowed to chill down a little further the pair are brought inside, and Brown is finally
given the beating the convicts have been waiting to deliver throughout the film. Then it’s the girl’s turn, and
despite some token intervention from convict Dean Marlowe Kathy is assaulted and brutally gang-raped.
The following day the chain gang enacts an even more horrible vengeance upon the lawman
before hauling Kathy, still in shock, along with them to their new destination. The group now hopes to reach Caldwell’s
place, an inn and farm near Fort Green that they trust will not be overrun by soldiers. As the men trek on Marlowe surreptitiously
strangles John “Weasel” McFarland from behind for his instigation of Kathy’s rape, and while gang leader
Thomas Lorne nearly kills Marlowe on the spot, he realizes that with their numbers dwindling they will need every man alive
to haul the precious cargo to freedom.
Lorne soon comes to regret this move when he hands Brown’s pistol over to Marlowe
so that the more capable man can bring down some wild game; after shooting some supper Marlowe takes charge of the group by
refusing to hand over the firearm. This arouses much resentment in the remaining men, particularly in Gil Ferro, “Il
Comanchero,” who vows to kill Marlowe the first chance he gets.
As they near their destination convict Ray Brewster slips away from the party, stealing
their provisions and setting off on a route of his own that won’t pass so closely by the soldier-ridden Fort. Armed
with a bottle of whiskey and a heavy length of gold chain, he stumbles through the wilderness in a state of delirium until
a vision of Sergeant Brown’s revenant overwhelms him. Incapacitated, Brewster is easily apprehended by the same murderous
mountain men from before, who upon seeing his gold force him to lead them after the rest of the escapees. Brewster murders
them all the first chance he gets, but he takes a bullet as well and dies in the snow next to the coveted gold.
Shortly thereafter the surviving convicts reach Caldwell’s. A group of Union soldiers
from Fort Green sits drinking and gambling nearby as Marlowe and Lorne re-arm themselves and Il Comanchero makes a thinly-veiled
reference to Caldwell about an old score that needs settling. After the group has eaten and been drinking for some time Caldwell
urges the soldiers to take action, but when faced with the convicts’ equal firepower the drunken soldiers quickly give
up and get drunker. Hours later, after the soldiers have been driven out to the barn and tied up, Il Comanchero confronts
Caldwell about the false accusation of thievery that put him on the chain gang so long ago. After saying his piece the convict
guts Caldwell with his machete, then hangs him up on a meathook to drip dry.
Later, as the soldiers sleep it off, Kathy tries to rouse them and cut them loose but is
caught in the act by Lorne. A violent struggle breaks out among the convicts, during which the killer of Kathy’s mother
is revealed in a gory flashback shortly before the film’s explosive climax.
a rousing idea, taking a period piece and turning it into a splatter film, which is what Marchent and co. have done here.
With elements taken from the genres of the Western, the chain gang picture, the murder mystery, the survival tale, and of
course the splatter film, Cut Throats Nine is a melting pot of influences. And
one that boils up with mixed results; the use of explicit (and redundant) gore to enhance what wants to be a classic tale
of criminals and lawmen battling the elements and each other for a fortune in gold is a solid notion, but the gradual pace
of the picture, which never really builds up into the Wild Bunch-style body count
one might hope for, greatly defuses the tension the filmmakers are attempting to generate. While tragedy and struggle abound
here, and many of the characters reach fitting, or at least violently gory, ends, instead of being a suspenseful action-packed
unfolding of plot the film’s scattered progression instead mirrors the trials and tribulations of the journey and the
characters, making it an arduous ordeal in itself. Enhancing this feeling is the frequent use of an awkward freeze-frame flashback
technique, which attempts to fill in some blanks in the background of the characters but with its often inessential focus
ends up slowing down rather than elaborating upon the story.
Another flaw in the presentation is the lack of charisma present in the actors. All except
for Kathy are crude two-dimensional portraits of base but colorless humanity, and her behavior is so alternatingly helpless
and curious that when she does take action it comes as an unexpected and almost inappropriate surprise. Granted the dubbing
from the original Spanish may have knocked the pathos down a rung or two, but it doesn’t take very long to reach a point
in the picture where you’re simply waiting for the next character to be killed off. And waiting, and waiting . . .
But after all of that has been said, Cut Throats
Nine is still a picture deserving of attention. Its sadism might not be of legendary proportion, but it does break any
number of molds and in the process makes for an unusual picture that emphasizes the violence and hardship of a bygone era.
And it does so in a gratuitously bloody fashion, in the kind of way that would surprise the hell out of you if you walked
in on the movie halfway through and, expecting some standard pseudo-Western outing, were suddenly confronted with a close-up
of charcoal-grilled face. It may not have the fastest plot in the West, but it does score points for originality.
the dramatic natural scenery, shot in the “Pirineous of Huesca,” is fittingly more imposing than majestic (interiors
were shot in Madrid). And the multiple scenes of violence and bloodshed are quite gruesome indeed, including disembowelment,
burning, gunshots to the face and head, dismemberment, and the like.
Special features of the DVD include filmogrpahies (“Talent Files”) of actors Robert
Hundar (AKA Roberto Hundari, who played Marlowe) and Emma Cohen (AKA Emmanuela Beltran Rahola), a publicity gallery of stills
and posters, and trailers for both the American and German releases.
* * *
$24.95 from Luminous Film & Video Wurks – www.lfvw.com – P.O. Box 289, Hampton Bays, NY, 11946