Monthly Archives: December 2019

Recent Additions: Dec 2019

Psychotronic Review

Another month, another dozen or so films. And this month, I’ve waded into some new territory — for good and ill.

As you may recall, I decided to do these posts so that people could see the new things that were happening here. But it turns out that other things have been happening on the blog.

I discovered an old Ed Wood short film, “Final Curtain.” It is interesting and shows some important things about him as a filmmaker. I also noticed what no one else did: Jenny Stevens is Ed Wood. Can it be that I’m one of the few people who actually takes Wood seriously?

Rather than wait any longer to write my grand discussion of his career, I wrote, Every JR Bookwalter Film Ranked. Bookwalter linked to it on his Facebook page and sent a huge amount of traffic over. He wrote, “To me, they’re all redheaded stepchildren, but feel free to take a stab at ranking if you dare!” My whole point of writing it was to get him to admit that Robot Ninja was better than Chickboxer

Now onto the new additions to our Short Takes.

New Films

  • The 13th Floor (1988): a sweet revenge-horror coming-of-age film about a young woman and her gangster father. It’s one of an increasing number of films that I’ve only managed to see via a terrible print. The days of the VHS were great because stores were desperate for content so everything was released. Now lots of films, like this one have never been released on disc. Note: there are a couple of other films with the same name.
  • The Addams Family (1964-1966): the television series based on the cartoon. When I was a kid, I preferred The Munsters. But over time, I’ve come to appreciate The Addams Family more. I bought the whole series recently and I wasn’t disappointed. Carolyn Jones and John Astin are wonderful.
  • Avenging Force: The Scarab (2010): a no-budget super-hero movie. It’s kind of amazing what Brett Kelly manages to do here. It’s pretty dorky and not close to my favorite of his films. But it is something to behold. You might want to wait until it is available on Amazon Prime, however.
  • A Bucket of Blood (1959): this is the perfect film to introduce your friends to Dick Miller. And Corman does an excellent job with the material. It’s surprising that he didn’t do more comedy because he was rather good at it. It’s available for free on
  • Dead Man (1995): another example of how art and psychotronic film so often overlap. It isn’t a traditional narrative but it’s constantly engaging and generally very funny. There is a copy on so you really have no excuse for not seeing it.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn (1996): most people think this is the best of the three films. I think it’s the weakest. It’s very silly yet the first have of the film is done very seriously. People are used to it but it doesn’t work as well as it does in the later films.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999): this one never takes itself seriously. It’s a lot of goofy fun. And I really like Robert Patrick. I don’t think he gets enough credit.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (2000): probably the best of the three, Michael Parks steals the show. It’s fun to imagine that this is what really happened to Ambrose Bierce.
  • Ghoul School (1990): despite all the problems this film clearly had, it’s quite a lot of fun. And I love the gore! Bookwalter and company may not have had a lot of money but they stepped up brilliantly. Of course, this is exactly my kind of film.
  • Going Hog Wild (1988): a series of mud-wrestling matches. I’d hoped that it would be more. It’s not exactly my kind of thing but I’m sure there is a good audience for it. See my blog post about it.
  • Scanners (1981): this was probably the first Cronenberg film I saw. And it holds up really well. A lot of things really come together in it. He managed to take the ideas of Stereo and put them into a solid thriller.
  • Singam II (2013): my first Indian action film. Although not technically Bollywood, it’s still Bollywood. I’m looking forward to watching more of these. It’s quite remarkable.
  • The Valley of Gwangi (1969): who knew that Ray Harryhausen made a western? Even apart from the animation, this film is pretty good. I prefer The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, but this one is still good.

Summing Up

It was a good month for films. I’m still trying to get the films in my personal library done but I didn’t make much progress this month. It’s more fun to add new stuff. But slowly I’ll get there.

I already have another blog post scheduled for next week. So I think that’s going to continue to happen. There’s always plenty to write about. It’s just a question of having the time.

Every JR Bookwalter Film Ranked

JR Bookwalter

Before we get started, I want to be clear about my motivations. I want to know what JR Bookwalter thinks of his films. One that has long fascinated me is just how negative he is about his own work. And in one case, this is very bad.

For decades (Really!) Bookwalter has been slandering his second feature film, Robot Ninja. In the commentary for Chickboxer, he said it was better than Robot Ninja.

Now, I have a soft-spot for Chickboxer, but let’s be real: it’s a weak film. I think it shows that Scott Plummer could be a good director — but he should stay away from action. As it is, it doesn’t compare well to Brett Kelly’s Avenging Force: The Scarab.

Robot Ninja Changes Everything

With the recent (Last!) Tempe release of a restored version of Robot Ninja, it seems that Bookwalter finally gives it the respect that fans long have. And I get it: there were always problems with the film. But it’s not like the new release suddenly made the film a gory masterpiece. It was always that! (Just ask Burt Ward!)

I have something of an obsession with micro-budget films. So it isn’t surprising that I would shine the glorious light of my film-analysis brilliance on Bookwalter. In fact, I’ve written a rather long article about The Dead Next Door that has been sitting around waiting for some final research.

But Bookwalter is hardly alone. I’m just as big a fan of Michael Kallio. And there are many others that I won’t name because I don’t want to insult him. There is something really special about films that cost little money. It allows filmmakers to fly their freak flag. And sure, Bookwalter never reached the heights of George Barry, but there’s much to delight in.

JR Bookwalter’s Films Ranked

In the following list, I have made no effort to be quantitative. These are just my gut reactions to the narrative feature films he’s directed. And certainly, I would probably change the exact order on any given day.

What I think I can say is that I consider 7 of these films to be quite good. Two of them are marginal but very watchable. And the last four, well, I love them, but they’re weak. And I say that knowing that two of these are considered by many to be classics.

Am I being unfair? Absolutely! And I’ll discuss that below.

  1. Ozone (1995): the film JR Bookwalter was born to make. It has some of his best make-up effects combined with a solid script. Also, it stars James Black, and he really is irresistible as a leading man.
  2. Kingdom of the Vampire (1990): a coming-of-age vampire picture. Matthew Jason Walsh is perfectly mopey as the protagonist Cherie Patry is wonderfully theatrical as his mother. That dynamic is what makes it work.
  3. Witchouse II: Blood Coven (2000): this is a solid film no matter how you look at it. And it gives Ariauna Albright a chance to really shine.
  4. Polymorph (1996): a great combination of horror/sci-fi and crime. The effects may not have aged well but the conflicts between the characters work as well as ever. Really: it’s up there with Night of the Living Dead in that regard.
  5. Robot Ninja (1989): in a world of almost weekly vanilla superhero films, this one stands out. It is amazingly gory and violent while also being campy in the extreme. My big problem with the modern comic-book film is that somehow Hollywood takes them seriously. Who could take this kind of thing seriously? And what about that great Terminator homage with him repairing his arm?! I still have trouble watching that.
  6. The Dead Next Door (1989): I’ll admit that I may rate this low because I’ve seen it way too many times. Of course, it doesn’t help that Bookwalter has released it with two different soundtracks and in two different aspect ratios. I still love the film. And it’s very funny.
  7. Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (2001): the position of this is one that would be different on a different day. In its way, it’s as good as the second one. I really enjoy it. I’m just not as keen on the look of the film. Really good writing and acting, regardless.
  8. Mega Scorpions (2003): I’m still shocked at how well this film turned out. I think it shows just what a professional Bookwalter is because it also seems like he really isn’t that inspired. But it works and it annoys me that it isn’t available on disc.
  9. Maximum Impact (1992): probably the best of the six-pack films. It works remarkably well, even though I had to watch it a couple of times before I could remember the plot. Films like this highlight the fact that Bookwalter’s true love is horror.
  10. The Sandman (1995): I told you I was just going for the gut. There’s lots to like about it but tonally, it’s a mess. All the geeky humor goes away after the first half. And the ending doesn’t help. I know I’m being unfair and I know a lot of people love this film. So make your own list!
  11. Galaxy of the Dinosaurs (1992): this is one of the best examples of idiosyncratic art ever made. And I understand: this was just David DeCoteau trying to make some money. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to him that the rich filmed animation of Planet of the Dinosaurs would never merge with the original video being shot. But the combination is something to behold. And Jon Killough did a great job integrating the whole thing. Whoever came up with the ending deserves a prize!
  12. Humanoids From Atlantis (1992): it was all a fake! No it wasn’t! I don’t know. This is such a silly film that it is basically impossible not to like. It is Bookwalter’s ultimate “Let’s put on a show!” film.
  13. Zombie Cop (1991): not a bad film. I just don’t connect with it. Truthfully, I think a big part of it is the choice of locations. It just looks so much like the suburbs that it is hard to take any more seriously than Humanoids From Atlantis. But it doesn’t have the charm.

JR Bookwalter’s Career in Sum

There you go. What’s interesting is that I enjoy watching all of these films. I haven’t thought about Bookwalter’s career before. It’s remarkable when you consider that the budget of all 13 films combined is only that of one normal low-budget film.

It’s a reminder of what we’d get if instead of every $100 million movie, 100 filmmakers were given a million each.

My hope is that JR Bookwalter will put out his own ranking, if for no other reason than to make up for fans having to listen to him slander Robot Ninja for such a long time.

Image taken from JR Bookwalter’s YouTube channel under Fair Use.

Going Hog Wild

Going Hog Wild (1988)

My journey to psychotronic film starts with horror. Many years ago, I wanted to revisit the great terror of my childhood, The Last Man on Earth. So I went to Movie Madness in Portland and found that it was in the Psychotronic section. That got me interested in this genre.

But the truth is that I’m not that interested in most kinds of psychotronic films. Horror is really my main love. But my wish to understand the scope of psychotronic film often finds me watching films that I wouldn’t normally. Such is the case with Going Hog Wild.

About Going Hog Wild

Made in 1988 for the huge porn video market, it offers a distinctly old-fashioned approach to sexual titillation. There is no sex in it and virtually no nudity. Instead, it offers mud (oil, chocolate) wrestling and some striptease: distinctly campy softcore porn.

I had expected Going Hog Wild to have some narrative that justified the wrestling matches, but that’s not the case. Instead, it’s a very low-budget version of a professional wrestling pay-per-view match, including the announcer and a scantly-clad man displaying the round number cards.

Behind the Scenes

One could see this all as a parody of wrestling. Of course, the same could be said of the WWE. I see it as simply a kind of good-natured fetish porn. The producers/directors are at least nominally women. I assume they are pseudonyms, but I if I had to guess, I’d say the woman who plays the ring announcer (“Deborah Winger”) was one of them.

The marketing for the film revolves around Layla LaShell, a 350-pound porn actress. She does have a great deal of charisma. Twenty-eight minutes of the 89-minute runtime is devoted to her and her opponent Headlights (“Audry W”).

It’s hard not to notice an implicit edge of fat-shaming to the whole film. But LaShell and Headlights are so self-assured that the whole thing comes off as almost an ad for Fat Pride.

Notables from the regular porn world include Tammy White and Nikki King, who are paired in the first fight.

Who Is This Film For?

Obviously, Going Hog Wild is meant for a specialized audience. It isn’t me. If it had offered a narrative, I might have loved it. But that’s not what this film is about. You really have to just find women wrestling in viscous fluids interesting.

Or maybe need to be into wrestling. Regardless, I know there are people out there who would love Going Hog Wild. And even for people like me, it has a certain appeal. A fair amount of work went into it. And parts of it are quite funny.

I’m glad to have it. Now I have a counter-example when someone complains after I’ve forced them to watch Chickboxer. Of course, they might enjoy Going Hog Wild more. And that’s valid, even if Chickboxer has actual sex in it.[1]

[1] When I first watched Chickboxer, I missed that scene they tacked on at the end. I just turned off the film after as Suscinski and Edwards walk away. It really is better that way.

Imagine taken from Phantom Pain Films under Fair Use.

Ed Wood and “Final Curtain”

Ed Wood in Final Curtain
Ed Wood in “Final Curtain”

In 1957, Ed Wood wrote, produced, and directed a 22-minute film intended to be a television pilot, “Final Curtain” for a show apparently called Portraits of Terror. It was lost for many years but was rediscovered and presented at Slamdance in 2012. It isn’t close to Wood’s best work, but it does illustrate many of his idiosyncrasies.

Plot of “Final Curtain”

The story is shockingly simple. An actor who plays “the vampire” in a play wanders around the theater after everyone is gone. He is searching for something but he can’t say what it is.

As he wanders, he is frightened by various ghostly things (mostly off-screen) including the manikin of a female vampire (played by ” Jenny Stevens”).

Finally, the actor finds what he is looking for: a coffin (which looks nothing at all like a coffin). He gets in it and closes the lid.


The actor is played by Duke Moore, who you probably know as Lt John Harper from Plan 9 From Outer Space — the guy who scratches his face with the barrel of his gun. The whole film is shot MOS, so Moore doesn’t have any dialog.

The voice-over is performed by another Plan 9 alumnus, Dudley Manlove. It’s rather good and certainly preferable to Wood’s narration, which takes his already ponderous dialog and elevates it to silly heights.

Who Is Jenny Stevens?

While watching “Final Curtain,” I was pleased to see that the female vampire manikin was Ed Wood in drag. But surprisingly, no one I could find online seemed to have notice this.

IMDb claims that “Jenny” is the same “Jeannie Stevens” who played The Black Ghost in Night of the Ghouls. And indeed, this is true. That was Ed Wood too. The site claims, “According to Paul Marco, Wood could not get Jeannie Stevens to film these scenes, so he wore the costume and acted as a replacement.” But this is not true.

“Final Curtain” was made before Night of the Ghouls. And footage from it is used, including that with “Jenny.” (Typically, the costume doesn’t match that of The Black Ghost.)

I have little doubt that Wood told Marco this story of the mysterious Ms Stevens. It’s even possible it was true for “Final Curtain.” But Wood hardly needed an excuse to dress as a woman. And what is he wearing there? Why, I think that’s angora!

What’s Wrong With Ed Wood

I’m a fan of Ed Wood. I find the award of “Worst Director of All Time” to be offensive — not least because I’m sure the people who voted for that hadn’t seen his work. Jail Bait is a perfectly good crime drama. And Glen or Glenda is nothing short of genius.

But there are things that prevented him from ever finding the kind of success he deserved. Some — like his idiosyncrasies — are also what made him great. Others were not laudable.

Every Idea Is Golden

Wood never let a limited idea get in the way of finishing a project. I know seeing things through to the end is considered an admirable quality. I personally disagree. I think it means you spend a lot of time on projects that aren’t worth pursuing at the expense of projects that are.

This led to Wood publishing upwards of a hundred novels and countless shorter pieces. It also led to “Final Curtain.” The idea really isn’t very good: a man wanders around looking for something only to learn it was a coffin and by extension, his death.

That might all be fine if Wood had an interesting story to tell throughout the journey. But he doesn’t. It’s 20 minutes of padding leading up to a mediocre denouement.

Ponderous Narration

The other major problem with Ed Wood is his tendency to over-dramatize. His narration asks us to be far more vested than we could possibly be. In Plan 9, he describes a chilling idea: that humans could be on the verge of a device that would be far more destructive than even the nuclear bomb.

Yet this is not what his narration tells us we should be worried about. Apparently, the destruction of the universe is nothing compared to space aliens creating a couple of zombies.

Meanwhile, when talking about the important issue of gender dysphoria, Wood uses matter-of-fact narration.

In “Final Curtain” we are told over and over that all this is very important. And maybe if the ending paid-off more, it would work. But it doesn’t. Instead, we walk away with the thought that a silly man must have made this film.

Ed Wood’s Positives

There has been little written about “Final Curtain.” I believe this is because most people assume Wood was talentless and they see this film as just another example. But there are things to like here.

Setting a Mood

Wood does set a mood and maintains it longer than lesser men would even attempt. This is the flip-side of his commitment to projects that are unworthy. He is committed to what he does.

Love it or hate it, there is not a hint of the irony that has destroyed so much modern cinema. Wood’s wholesomeness is a welcome antidote to this — a sign of his bravery in contrast to much modern cowardice.

A Film From Nothing

Another remarkable thing about “Final Curtain” is that Wood manages to tell a story with virtually nothing. I don’t know the story of this film, but I wouldn’t doubt the entire thing was shot in one night when he had access to this theater.

There’s no coffin? No problem! There’s a big cabinet that could conceivably be a coffin. Nothing to look at during 90% of the film? No problem! Add some overwrought narration.


You have to hand it him. Ed Wood made movies when working with almost nothing. “Final Curtain” is a good example of this. Not that fans needed to be reminded.


Ed Wood really is an important filmmaker and his work is worth checking out. Most of his films are available for free:

The other films can generally be found elsewhere on the web. Necromania, which is a hardcore film, can be found of porn sites.

Recent Additions: Nov 2019

Psychotronic Review

I fear this site seems static to the normal visitor. But this is not true. I’m constantly adding things. The problem is that most of what I’m adding are capsule reviews in the Short Takes section of the site.

So I figured maybe I should create posts to talk about what I’m adding.

New Films

  • 12 Monkeys (1995): one of the best films ever made. I don’t think that’s hyperbolic. It’s Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece — propelled beyond Brail because of David & Janet Peoples’ fantastic script.
  • Addams Family Values (1993): this Barry Sonnenfeld film (plus the original) holds up remarkably well with a good script and great acting. I still watch it from time to time even though you really can’t beat the original series.
  • Army of Darkness (1992): I like this film a lot but I don’t think it is that good. The middle is kind of a mess. And it bugs me that Ash drinks boiling water to kill the creature inside himself. How does that make sense? But mostly, it’s just way too silly for the beginning and ending. It does, however, set up Ash vs Evil Dead, which is a hell of a lot of fun.
  • The Blair Witch Project (1999): everyone I know talks smack about this film. I get that they are all embarrassed that they were wrong and I was right when it came out: it wasn’t actual found footage; it was just a clever storytelling device. But that’s no reason to pretend it isn’t a great film.
  • Blind Fury (1989): Zatoichi in America. I’m not sure you can go wrong with a blind Vietnam vet who’s a badass with a sword. Who knows why the film wasn’t a hit except that it comes off a bit too much like a television movie. It’s loads of fun regardless.
  • Bloody Mallory (2002): I love this film but I’m not sure others will. It’s pretty wacky with a crack team of demon hunters headed by Mallory with her knuckles tattooed with “FUCK EVIL.” It’s also very woke with strong cis and trans women. YouTube skeptics would love its anti-religious bent but not the fact that the filmmakers clearly like women.
  • Cast a Deadly Spell (1991): this is Raymond Chandler meets Terry Pratchett. It’s also very self-conscience and meta. They kind of blew the sequel by casting Dennis Hopper. This one is perfect with Fred Ward.
  • Christmas Evil (1980): it’s hard to believe this film is so little seen. It’s about a meek guy who is obsessed with Christmas and decides to become Santa — giving out toys to the good and vengeance to the bad. Essential Christmas viewing if you can get everyone to stop watching football or drag racing or whatever.
  • Dolls (1987): killer dolls, kinda. It’s a dark house film where all the bad people are cleverly killed by dolls and the good people live happily ever after. I use it as a lift-me-up when I’m feeling down.
  • Grave of the Vampire (1974): a halfbreed seeks vengeance against the vampire who raped his mother. This is an odd one with some nice touches like feeding the halfbreed blood out of a bottle.

Bootlegger’s Drive-in Saturday Night

I have Grave of the Vampire on a great DVD collection called Bootlegger’s Drive-in Saturday Night. Each of the discs contained two films. That one came with The Werewolf of Washington. It also has previews, intermission, and a reminder to replace the speaker before you drive away. You can get it and the other editions on

There are a lot of notable actors in these films: Lynn Bari, Antony Carbone, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr, Jackie Coogan, Sid Haig, Dennis Hopper, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Dorothy Malone, Dick Miller, Jack Nicholson, Carol Ohmart, Basil Rathbone, Robert Reed, Steve Reeves, William Shatner, William Smith, Dean Stockwell, Rod Taylor, Mamie Van Doren, and Yvette Vickers.

So check them out! It’s a lot of fun to watch them all together with the filler material. And some of the films are great!

Summing Up

As you can probably tell with the titles I’ve added to Short Takes, I’m going through my personal collection. As a result, I tend to be a bit more keen on these than I am other films.

But as always: there are no bad films only limited viewers.