Archive for the American Horror Category
1965/ Director: Robert Gaffney/ Writers: R.H.W. Dillard, George Garrett
Cast: Marilyn Hanold, James Karen, Lou Cutell, Nancy Marshall, David Kerman, Robert Reilly, Bruce Glover
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster takes place on sunny Puerto Rico instead of Japan and is a fine example of a great bad movie that is worth watching more than once. It is really not a terribly made film in some respects. The film editing is not bad and there is a good music score (one song by the Distant Cousins may have been the inspiration for the riff from one of my favorite Thrill Kill Kult songs, Babylon Drifter) and the space ship interiors are far from the worst on record.
The story is about secret, cyborg astronaut Frank Saunders (Robert Riley) whose rocket is shot out of the sky by space aliens who think it is an attacking missile. When the aliens discover that Frank has survived the attack they g down to Earth themselves to finish off the potential witness that may jeopardize their mission; acquiring a breeding stock of nubile young earth girls, most in bikinis. Frank (as in Frankenstein) is also searched for by human scientists Adam Steele (played by James Karen, most famous for his roles in Return of the Living Dead, and even recently as the CEO in The Pursuit of Happyness) and cry baby Karen Grant (Nancy Marshall). Of course during the crash of his spaceship poor Frank has half his face burnt off and his circuitry all screwed up, so sometimes he over reacts and kills people with his bare hands or machetes. Eventually frank winds up trying to rescue the earth girls from the aliens with Dr Steele and there meets the “space monster” Mull and they have a less than epic battle that destroys the space ship and nasty aliens.
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The performances of Marylin Hanold and Lou Cutell as the alien princess and her henchman offer up some of the best moments in the film. Lou Cutell’s nodding and sleazy grins are nearly as classic as his poorly done bald wig make up. Actor Bruce Glover (Crispin Glover’s father and one of the gay hitmen in Diamonds are Forever who kept try to bump off 007) appears briefly as an alien. The movie was voted as one of the 100 worst of all time (what more of a recommendation do you need) though, as I said, is hardly a total flop in all technical departments. You may have a fun time watching all the stock military footage and checking out the swinging gogo pool parties, until they are crashed by ray gun totting aliens who wear space suits that look very much like NASA training gear. It is really a good example of how a chessy camp classic can earn a persistent cult following, and for good reason. It is my definition of a “feel good” movie. It was fun to watch the unintended laughs and guffaws and one of those films that can be enjoyed alone for “research” or a movie party flick.
The movie opens up with young Steven Andrews (McQueen) putting the moves on the classic “I’m not that kind of girl” tease Jane Martin (Aneta Corsaut) up on the local lover’s lane. While Steven assures her his intentions are honorable and she in not just another girl a meteorite (The movie’s working title was The Meteorite Monster and The Molten Meteorite) crashes to earth over the nearby hills. An old man played by veteran actor Olin Howland , in his last role, finds the smoldering space rocks and stars poking at it with a stick and soon has his arm covered with a flesh consuming “blob”. Steven and Jane rush him into to town, to Doc Hallen, who in turn, along with his nurse, are consumed and soon the havoc in on. Of course Steven and his teenage friends must contend with the local adults and police who all think kids are up to no good (especially when the said high school student, like McQueen, is actually 28 years old!).
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People begin disappearing though we really only see about four people get eaten, or adsorbed if you will. This is my one real complaint about the film. At one point Lt. Dave (Earl Rowe) estimates maybe forty people have died during the night. The movie would have been more exhilarating if we had seen some of these deaths. Luckily the acting, dialog, nicely photographed scenes and cool looking monster help things move along without the visible death scenes. After lots of futile attempts at convincing parents and cops the truth is revealed when the patrons of the local theater, who were there to see a horror movie of course, come screaming out onto the streets with the ever growing blob on their tails. Steven and Jane seek shelter in a diner after grabbing Jane’s doofy little brother who in one of the best scenes in the movies hurls his “empty” cap pistol at the creature. The blob surrounds the diner and seeks out the five people inside the diner while the rest of the town stands about fifty feet away and watches in horror. I never understood as a kid why the blob did not just turn on the crowd and absorb all of them. Well, the weakness (all old movie monsters had one special weakness that the hero had to discover by the last ten or fifteen minutes of the movie) is soon discovered… C02 fire extinguishers. The blob is frozen and sent to the North Pole, never to be heard from again until Larry Hagman revived it in his more comical version Beware the Blob in 1972, with stoned hippies like Robert Walker, rather than hot rodding 28 year old teenagers, on the menu.
The movie is very well made and while it is a B-movie it is not what I would call a bad movie, either in a good sense or bad. The catchy title song was co-written by Burt Bacharach and was a hit song on the radio at the time. A link to a Blob site is given below and this is a true cult classic. A remake was made in with Kevin Dillon in 1988 where the Blob is the product of yet another secret government/military agency with nothing but security and profit on its always evil agenda. Well, I like the space Blob myself and all the mystery it brought with it. The film just looks rich and nice and one can see that McQueen is a real talent in his first film role. Not to be missed.
The camera work is simply horrendous. I have seen few films with worse photography. I cannot even use the word cinematography here. It is way too white and lacks any contrast. It looks like more quality documentary footage from the 1930’s. There are some odd “experimental” camera angles where obviously the camera man simply climbed up into a tree and shot down through the leaves. The acting is notably bad but it could have been worse had the actors actually had to speak their lines. I do want to make a note of one memorable thespian and that is one Jack King who plays a fat grand dad who yells out the name Bobby a million and a half times. In one scene he falls into a small creek with his shirt open and blubber bouncing as he flees the monster. It is a very strange scene and even the stranger when you realize that this guy went on become a porn star in Sweden. A couple Swedish sex romps he is credited with “starring” in are Big Fat Man and Fat Peter Horn. I have not seen these and I am not encouraging anyone out to track these things down.
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Now of course the feature attraction of the film is Terror itself. If you have ever read about this film and seen the remarks about this monster I can assure you they are understatements at best. Words alone can describe this thing though walking carpet seems to come close enough. It is obviously a patch work of thick fabrics tossed over about four or five stage hands to make up the body and one man for the neck and head. It looks more than a little like those Chinese dragons you see on Chinese New Year where you can see the guy’s feet even. There are some sort of plastic tubes dangling from the top of its head that gives it a Whoopie Goldberg appearance.
The thing is so slow that someone in a wheelchair could easily escape it but it devours groups at a time because there either stand there and stare it with mouth agape (as I was before the TV screen) or they are always preoccupied with making out in a car or on a blanket somewhere. Some people have the courage to fight the beast, such a folk singer at a “hootenanny” who tries to kill it with his guitar. Then there is a group of the worst trained Army soldiers ever to wear the uniform who bunch up together and decide that they need to shoot the beast from point blank range rather than from, lets say, twenty yards away. I am sure bullets travel that far. Then when the Terror attacks they do what any highly trained group of US combat personnel do: they bunch up more and then fall to the ground in a heap and let the thing slowly creep over them.
Info on the new docu-drama Creep about Vic Savage:
I liked the film (as I like almost all of the films here at The Uranium Café with a couple exceptions) for a few reasons. I love Beverly Garland. She adds something special to any role she played in during her time as a scream queen during the late 50’s and early 60’s. She can act better than most of the gals in this category. She usually played the roles straight and had no problem hamming it up in situations that a bit ludicrous (such as facing off against the celery stalk from Venus in Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World). The film also has Lon Chaney Jr. in one of his most memorable roles as a sleazy, one armed, alcoholic gator hating swamper who tries to slime himself all over Miss Garland in his swamp shack. The film also features some of the early work of make-up maestro Dick Smith. Smith is known for his work on films like The Exorcist and Taxi Driver but he did not start off at the top. This should be kept in mind as you stare in amazement at the final result of the cobalt treatment fusing man and alligator into one‘horrifying’ monstrosity. The cinematography by 1929 Oscar winner Karl Strauss in the film is exceptional for the genre with high contrasting black and whites that gives it a film noir quality at times. Director Roy Del Ruth did not usually work in the horror sci-fi area and did well enough with a story that could, in the final analysis, only end up a fine cheese classic.
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Garland plays Jane Marvin, a woman with a secret past trapped in her repressed memories. The wonders of modern psychology in the form of hypnosis unravel these secrets little by little. Her true identity is that of Joyce Hatton. Joyce was dumped on a train while on the way to her honeymoon by her husband Paul Webster (Richard Crane) after he receives a mysterious telegram. Could the telegram be connected to Paul’s miraculous recovery from devastating injuries he received in a plane crash during the war? Does my stating the matter in the form of question give the answer away? Joyce finally traces Paul’s possible location to a plantation style manor in the Louisiana bayous where Dr. Mark Sinclair has been conducting tissue and limb regeneration research using reptiles, alligators, humans and radiation. In these 50’s and 60’s horror/sci-films radiation was at the root of almost all evils. The house is also occupied by Paul’s protective mother, a bunch of studly guys in tight white t-shirts that keep the patients in line and drunken, bitter handy man Manon (Chaney). Manon simply hates gators and the one thing he hates more is gator people. There are great scenes of laboratories with lots of dials and lights, swamps and snakes and Paul as the result of Manon’s drunken revenge: the Alligator Man. The make up for the creature really is not as bad as most people make it to be. It does not reek of Smith’s later genius either but I sort of liked it. I sort of wish we had seen more of it to be honest and that it was a little more evil. Good guy Paul wrestling with the gator’s carnivorous instincts. But like many films from the period we are treated more to long winded dialogs and scientific theories than to actual monsters. However The Alligator People is a film that I would watch again because I sort of like those melodramatic dialogs and scientific musings on the benefits and evils of radiation.
1953/Directors: Ron Ormond and Herbert Tevos/Writer: Herbert Tevos
Cast: Jackie Coogan, Allan Nixon, Richard Travis, Lyle Talbot, Paula Hill, Robert Knapp, Tandra Quinn, Dolores Fuller
I will agree somewhat with what one reviewer said about Mesa of Lost Women in that it seems to be more fun to read about it and the myths and legends surrounding it than it is to actually watch. Even seasoned cheese lovers seem to have a hard time with this film. I as well have a hard time with it though I have seen it a few times. The film is pretty short, only about 70 minutes, so considering you watch it in two parts it is not that much time out of your life really. The part of this movie, for me, that really makes the experience difficult is the infamously bad film score, but more on that in a moment. The film is often said to look like something Ed Wood Jr. would have created but I am not sure. I have long felt Wood was cast as the worst film director f all time and when a bad film (and Mesa of Lost Women is a bad film) comes along it sometimes is said to look like something Ed Wood Jr. would have done. I have long felt that Wood was a better film maker than the film world in general gives him credit for. But that may be a topic for a special post some other day. Mesa of Lost W omen however does have some connections to Ed Wood Jr. in an indirect way and those tenuous connections have led to speculation that Wood was involved with the project in some way or that he and Ron Ormond worked together. Maybe we can have a quick look at some of those before moving on.
First is the narration by Lyle Talbot. It is not the way the narration is read that is a problem but what the narration has to say or to pontificate to be more precise that has made it noteworthy. In fact I am posting the introduction later in the post for the reader to study and analyze at their leisure. Talbot would work with Wood in a few projects such as Glen or Glenda, Jailbait and Plan 9 from Outer Space. The narration does have a feel that one could call Woodesque but the famous Wood Criswell narrations and monologues were still years down the road. The film also has a brief but credited appearance by Wood’s gal-pal and film regular Dolores Fuller. She appears fleetingly at the end of the film where she surveys the desert landscape from some boulders and in the process adds a question mark the film’s ending. ¡®Is this really the end?’ Sort of thing. The most apparent connection is the already mentioned film score by Hoyt S. Curtain that would reappear one year later in Ed Wood’s Jail Bait, where it was really inappropriate and annoying. The film score consist of a Spanish style guitar played by someone who cannot Spanish guitar strumming two or three chords over and over. Occasionally the score is punctuated by a couple dissonant piano chords that pushes the score from the realm of the tedious into the irritating. And it not just that the Spanish sounding music is horrendous but it played constantly even over scenes that would worked with no score at all. People sitting around a campfire talking do not need repetitive guitar chords and clangy (at best) piano poundings to make the scene work better. Well Ed Wood Jr. liked the scored and lifted it literally from Mesa to his Jail Bait film which is basically a teenage delinquent film about a girl gang that terrorizes middle class America. I read earlier a site stating that while Ed Wood Jr. did not actually work on the film his influence can be seen and felt but I need to make clear that MOLW came out in 1953, the same year that Wood’s first film Glen or Glenda came out. It is hard to image Wood being any sort of influence after only one film released the same year as the film he was supposed to actually have influenced. Well lets move past these heated issue that may never be resolved and look at who is actually credited with creating this camp classic.
The directing credits are split between Herbert Tevos and Ron Ormond. We visited Ron Ormand’s The Monster and the Stripper here at the Caf¨¦ and soon to come will be Please Don’t Touch Me and his piece of evangelical religious propaganda If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do?. Not much on the net about Herbert Tevos and at IMDB he is only mentioned as co-writer and co-director of this one film. This is the man’s legacy in life. Seems to be different accounts as to how and why Ormond too over the project and what parts are his as far as the script and finished shots go. Not much on the net about Herbert Tevos and at IMDB he is only mentioned as co-writer and co-director of this one film. This is the man’s legacy in life. Seems to be different accounts as to how and why Ormond too over the project and what parts are his as far as the script and finished shots go. What seems to be clear is that project started off as Tevos’s alone and depending on who you read the project was canceled because he was too difficult to work with or that it all simply fell apart financially and artistically. Tevos seems to have vanished from the face of the earth and gave up on the project her called Tarantula and Howco Productions pulled in Ron Ormond to finish the script and shooting. There seems to be no way to tell where on man’s vision ends and the other begins but the final result is one of the most infamous z-movies of all time.
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The story is a bit convoluted but essentially it is a mad doctor tale. The said mad scientist is Dr. Aranya and is played by Uncle Fester himself Jackie Coogan. He sports a mangled eye ball which he has no problem showing off by taking off his eyes glasses when talking to people. He has a vision that involves insects (hexapods the narrator calls them) ruling the world and in his laboratory hidden in the caves of the Zarpa Mesa in the middle of the Muerto Desert in Mexico. If you do not know basic Spanish and have no clue what Aranya and Muerto mean have no fear for the narrator and actors will fill you in with free Spanish lessons. The doctor’s experiments have so far yielded a race of supposedly super spider-woman like Tarantella (Tandra Quinn) but I am not sure exactly what super powers they actually have other than doing odd dances for drunken patrons in cantinas at night. The experiments with men have not turned out so well. We are reminded how male insects are usually puny and weak and so the male results of his crossbreeding experiments have continuously produced nothing but dwarves (like Angelo Rossitto of various Al Adamson films fame). Later in the film the dwarve’s faces pop out at us suddenly in instances of strangely inappropriate editing. Doctor’s Aranya’s experiments have drawn the attention of Mr. Masterson (Harmon Stevens) who must have read about them in the latest scientific journals and then looked up his address for the secret caves of the Lost Mesa in the local phone book. Masterson is at first intrigues and curious abut the doctor’s experiments (or else why risk the Desert of Death just to meet the guy). He has no issues with his experiments producing subservient spider women who can’t dance or grinning dwarves but he draws the line when he sees a giant spider wearing a halter top. Tarentella injects him with something that drives him insane but he still manages to escape and winds up at the local Muerto Desert insane asylum.
Now I am leaving out a crucial element to the deeper understanding of the plots twists and turns. The story we are discussing now is being told as a flash back. Or maybe it is a flashback within a flashback or two simultaneous flashbacks, one by pilot Grant Phillips (Robert Knapp) and one is, possibly, a peek into the mind of Pepe the simple Mexican jeep driver. We are introduced to Grant and his girl friend Doreen (Paula Hill) at the films beginning by narrator Lyle Talbot as he ruminates over the place of the puny bipeds known as mankind vs. those of the hexapods (insects I guess though spiders, which the film is sort of about, have eight legs so shouldn’t he be talking about octapods?) in the scheme of the Universe. They are wandering around getting their brains friend in the sun but luckily an oil surveying team spots them and takes them back to camp where all the flashbacks begin. This takes us back to our synopsis where Doreen and her rich husband Jan Van Croft (Nico Lek) are being entertained at the same by the recently escaped from the loony bin Dr. Masterson (who is very well dressed, extremely polite and packing some heat) and the uncoordinated Tarantella as she does the dance of the spider woman or something. But no matter how coordinated she is the music score was never meant to dance to so I’ll cut her some slack. Masterson will not and he shoots her in cold blood and then kidnaps Doreen and Jan and they head to Jan’s waiting plane which is piloted by our hero Grant.
Also among the gang is George the male nurse (George Barrows) and manservant Wu (Samuel Wu) who can only speak in short aphorisms and sayings that sound like samples from a Confucius primer. After a failed hijacking from the dingy Masterson (any could have cold cocked this space cadet and taken the gun from him at anytime) the plane is forced to land on top of the Lost Mesa of Zarpa of course. Soon Doreen is seeing giant spiders puppets (well, one giant spider puppet actually) that look just like the one in Cat-Women of the Moon, released the same year and as far as I know had no involvement by ed Wood Jr.. George feels the need to roam around alone on top of the Mesa even after Doreen has seen huge spiders and soon is killed off. All the time extreme close-ups of a grinning Angelo Rossitto keep cropping up at the oddest moments. When a valuable comb is lost by Doreen in all the confusion Jan Van Croft keeps really pissed off and demands it be fund. Poor Wu walks off mumbling ancient proverbs into the night and suddenly Doreen realizes that while she loved Jan for his money she suddenly has lost interest in one split moment and falls for Grant who is dirt poor because he probably would never make a fuss over a lost comb like that. Wu we find out is actually working for Aranya and he reports the situation to the doctor who repays his services by having his spider girls maul him to death. Eventually of course Grant, Doreen and Masterson wind up in Aranya’s laboratory for the final scenes of everyone calling Aranya insane and he gloat a little before his inevitable demise at the hands of the good guys. As it happens the drug Tarantella gave Masterson wears off just at this moment and he throws together a couple batches of bubbly liquids laying on the table in just the right proportions to make a liquid time bomb. No, seriously. And everyone just stands and looks and waits to be blown up but Masterson tells Grant and Doreen to run for it and no one stops them or runs themselves and so soon the lab blows up. We are back to the oil camp with grant ranting abut the need to get some oil cans and blow up the Mesa. Of course no believes him. His brain is cooked. No one but Pepe or course, but he is just a jeep driver and, well, a poor, superstitious Mexican guy.
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