With my long discussions of films taking forever to research and write, I thought the site could use the equivalent of The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film — one paragraph overviews of films. Eventually, I will put this in a database or at least subdivide it. For now, this will do.
The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)
Producers: Ronald S Dunas and Louis M Heyward
Director/Screenwriter: Robert Fuest
Screenwriters: William Goldstein and James Whiton
A brilliant scientist and organist Dr Phibes (Vincent Price) sets about killing everyone on the surgical team that “killed” his wife. The murders are wonderfully creative. Joseph Cotten plays the lead surgeon with his typical charisma. Virginia North plays Phibes silent helper. A funny revenge film. Opinion is divided, but I prefer the follow-up Dr Phibes Rises Again.
The film is copyrighted. It is commercially available in many forms included as a double feature with Rises Again. But I recommend getting Vincent Price: MGM Scream Legends Collection, which also includes: Tales of Terror, Twice Told Tales, Theater of Blood (one of my all time favorites), Madhouse, and Witchfinder General.
Producers: KM Yeung and Paul Leder
Director: Paul Leder
Screenwriters: Paul Leder & Reuben A Leder
Our Review: A*P*E: Meta-Film of a Fine Vintage
Before King Kong (1976) could even be released, Paul Leder had a parody released. What it lacks in thrills, it makes up for in charm and chutzpah. From the poster: “Defy the JAWS of a Giant Shark; demolish an Ocean Liner; vanquish Monster Reptile.” Got all the 1970s blockbusters? Well, in case you were confused, “Not to be confused with KING KONG.” (Which just so happens won’t be in theaters for a few months, so what do you say?) A wonderfully fun film — especially if you hate Dino DeLaurentis! (And who doesn’t?)
You can see this film for free on Archive.org, but under its re-released title, Attack Of The Giant Horny Gorilla. True psychotronistas may want to get the DVD or Blu-ray, which are in 3D and include commentary tracks by filmmaker Chris Alexander.
Alabama’s Ghost (1973)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Fredric Hobbs
Our Review: Alabama’s Ghost
Alabama happens upon the equipment of the vaudeville magician Carter the Great. So Alabama goes to Carter’s still-living wife and takes over Carter’s act. But it turns out that she is really a vampire. And there is a whole group of vampires (including Hitler’s favorite scientist) who are going to use Alabama to take over the world. Meanwhile, Alabama is being haunted by the ghost of Carter the Great. You’ve got to see this to believe it — psychotronic nirvana!
This film has never been released on DVD. It was once released on VHS, but as I write this, the only copy available is selling for almost $2,500. I lucked upon a bootleg some time ago, so look out for it. A bad copy has been on YouTube since Sep 2015. You never know if it will be taken down. I know there is some discussion of its inclusion on Archive.org if it can be shown to be in the public domain. (I’m pretty certain it is.) Then we just have to acquire a decent print.
Producer: Wayne Crawford
Director: Harry Kerwin
Screenwriters: Wayne Crawford and Harry Kerwin
This is an obvious Jaws rip-off. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. In fact, the barracuda attacks are really effective. Whereas Jaws depended on the viewer mostly imagining the attacks, those in Barracuda are visceral. Otherwise, the plot is about the shady government doing shady things and the “deep state” being a rabbit hole of unknown depth. It’s quite a gripping little film, even if it tries to do too much. It would have been better to focus on the barracuda.
Barracuda features a number of notables from the independent film world. It stars Wayne Crawford, who also co-wrote, co-produced, and directed the underwater sequences of this film. He is probably best known as the co-writer and co-producer of Valley Girl. Although William Kerwin (2000 Maniacs) is listed low on the credits, he probably gets more screen time than Crawford. As usual, he’s great. Jason Evers, just as he did in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, plays an insane doctor. The film also features Cliff Emmich (Payday) and Roberta Leighton.
Barracuda is copyrighted although you can often find it around the internet. It is available as Drive-in Double Feature along with Island Fury (An unfinished Texas Chainsaw Massacre knock-off with new footage bookmarking it). The film has not been released in accordance with its quality.
The Bat (1959)
Producer: CJ Tevlin
Director/Screenwriter: Crane Wilbur (based on the play by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood — based upon Rinehart’s novel The Circular Staircase)
Agnes Moorehead rents a house that contains a bunch of money. Vincent Price wants it. But more important, so does The Bat — a serial killer considerably less silly than Batman. This is mostly just a play on film. It’s a bit spooky but that’s it. Still, it’s well made. The plot is a bit too complex. And the ending is random. But it’s a fun one. Our Gang cutie Darla Hood has a supporting role. The original novel was shot two times before: The Circular Staircase (1915) and The Bat (1926). Not to be mistaken for The Spiral Staircase (1946).
It is in the public domain.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
Producer: Arthur P Jacobs
Director: Lee Thompson
Screenwriters: John William Corrington & Joyce William Corrington (story: Paul Dehn)
This is the last of the original Planet of the Apes series. And it’s a solid outing. Caesar tries to form a utopia while Aldo acts as a demagogue to undermine him. It all depends upon Caesar being such an engaging character: he’s the early 1970s idealist heading for a reckoning with reality. It’s sad but ultimately heartening.
The film stars Roddy McDowall, the star of all the Apes films other than my favorite, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Also featuring: Claude Akins (The Night Strangler), Austin Stoker (Horror High), Paul Williams (Phantom of the Paradise), Natalie Trundy (Escape From the Planet of the Apes), Severn Darden, and Lew Ayres (All Quiet on the Western Front).
The film will be under copyrighted until 2068 because corporations wouldn’t make any films at all if they couldn’t continue getting revenue for a century. Anyway, you can get the film on DVD and Blu-ray. Better is to get Planet of the Apes: The Legacy Collection. It has some extras and is generally cheaper than the single-film discs.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Producer: Arthur P Jacobs
Director: Ted Post
Screenwriter: Paul Dehn (story: Paul Dehn and Mort Abrahams; characters: Pierre Boulle)
This film set the standard for the sequels, perhaps even besting the original. It’s the only sequel that seems like it was written for the big screen (no offense to the others). The story is quite amazing with a full underground New York City and mutant humans worshipping the bomb. And Taylor gets to fulfill his cynical destiny at the end.
Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Linda Harrison reprise their roles. This is the only one of the films that doesn’t star Roddy McDowall (who was directing a film at the time).
Featuring: James Franciscus (Jonathan Livingston Seagull), James Gregory (Barney Miller), David Watson, Maurice Evans, Paul Richards, Victor Buono (Batman), and Natalie Trundy (Escape From the Planet of the Apes).
Producer: Joseph T Naar
Director: William Crain
Screenwriter: Joan Torres and Raymond Koenig
I know what you think: a black Dracula. Yet it is so different — more a metaphysical romance than a horror film. While Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song said “Fuck you!” to the white world, Blackula said, “We are noble; you are savages.” It’s a remarkable and compelling film. William Marshall in the title role is irresistible. Vonetta McGee adds an unusual strength to the “girl in peril” trope. The sweetest, most edifying horror film ever made.
Blood Feast (1963)
Producer: David F Friedman
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenwriter: Allison Louise Downe
Our Review: Blood Feast
Generally considered the first splatter film, it’s downright charming despite all the blood. There is virtually no onscreen violence. The gore is as good as anything today. Stand-out performances by William Kerwin as Detective Pete Thornton and Mal Arnold as Fuad Ramses. The combination of a campy production with realistic gore is irresistible. A must see!
Archive.org has a lovely copy available for free. This would seem to indicate it is in the public domain. However, according to my calculations, it should be copyrighted until 2019. Regardless, I recommend getting Something Weird’s Blood Trilogy Blu-Ray, which also includes Two Thousand Maniacs and Color Me Blood Red. Or you could get Arrow Video’s Blood Feast on Blu-Ray and DVD, which includes a nice print of Scum of the Earth!
A Boy and His Dog (1983)
Producer: Alvy Moore
Director/Screenwriter: LQ Jones (based on Harlan Ellison’s novel)
In the year 2024, a boy and his psychic dog wander around a desolate post-nuclear world. Apparently, humans have changed because men don’t bond with women; they just find them and rape them. But other than this, it’s a jaunty film. The dialog between boy and dog is wonderful. Thankfully, a different kind of woman shows up and things get weird. If you like black comedies, you should like this one.
The boy is played by a young Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame. It also stars Susanne Benton (That Cold Day in the Park), Jason Robards (Once Upon a Time in the West), and Tim McIntire (American Hot Wax) as the voice of Blood, the dog.
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)
Producer: Rex Carlton
Director: Joseph Green
Screenwriters: Joseph Green based on a story by Rex Carlton and Joseph Green
This is a classic. Everyone knows the image of the decapitated head of Virginia Leith (On the Threshold of Space). After his fiancee (Leith) is decapitated in an auto accident, Dr Bill Cortner keeps the head alive while he searches for a proper body (at a strip club and a girlie photo shoot) to attach it to. Far from being grateful, his fiancee mocks and berates him for his efforts. A surprisingly effective outing on an Ed Wood budget!
Featuring Jason Evers (Barracuda) as Dr Bill Cortner. Anthony La Penna plays Cortner’s assistant. He was a very successful voice actor from the 1950s through the 1970s. He even voiced the English version of the priest in Rashomon. Adele Lamont plays the victim. Eddie Carmel (50,000 BC (Before Clothing)), “The Jewish Giant,” played the monster.
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is in the public domain. Archive.org has a great copy of it. It is high definition and in the original aspect ration of 1.66:1 and original 82-minute length. Shout! Factory has an excellent Blu-ray version with a high-quality print and plenty of extras.
Bride of the Gorilla (1951)
Producers: Jack Broder (Realart Pictures Inc) and Edward Leven
Director/Screenwriter: Curt Siodmak
Raymond Burr kills his boss in order to steal his wife. Unfortunately, a local witch puts a curse on him that causes him to become… Well, you know. Barbara Payton had a scandalous love life. Warner Bros apparently punished her by making her star in this B picture. Her career never recovered; she made 5 more films and quit. From there she fell into drugs and even got arrested for prostitution. She died at 39. And she does not look happy in the film. On the other hand, Lon Chaney Jr makes any film happier — he shines here. Siodmak was a major writer of the 20th century — especially in science fiction. He directed a handful of films — competently. This is an enjoyable, if bizarre, film.
It is in the public domain.
Buffalo Rider (1978)
Producer: Dick Robinson
Directors: Dick Robinson and John Fabian
Screenwriter: Mollie Gregory
Our Review: Buffalo Rider
This is a remarkable film in the tradition of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams. Part revenge comedy and part nature documentary, it was the basis for the “Guy on a Buffalo” videos.
Buffalo Rider is available on Archive.org with a so-so quality copy. It isn’t available on disc.
Canadian Bacon (1995)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Michael Moore
Don’t listen to the haters; this is a great comedy — a searing satire of American politics in the 1990s. What’s sad (or great) is that it is as relevant 25 years later as it was then. The American president tries to improve his favorability rating by going to war with Canada. Don’t be surprised if it comes to pass.
The film has a great cast: John Candy (1941), Alan Alda (Sweet Liberty), Rip Torn (Payday), Kevin Pollak (The Whole Nine Yards), Rhea Perlman (Cheers), Kevin J O’Connor (Lord of Illusions), Bill Nunn (Do the Right Thing), GD Spradlin (Ed Wood), and many more.
The film is under copyright. You can get it on DVD without any extras. It doesn’t appear to be available on Blu-ray.
Castle of Blood (1964)
Producers: Franco Belotti & Walter Zarghetta
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Screenwriters: Giovanni Grimaldi and Sergio Corbucci — claims to be “From Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Dance Macabre'” but it doesn’t exist
Aditional titles: Danza Macabra
A fine little “haunted house” film where a writer, Alan Foster (Georges Rivière), makes a bet with Lord Blackwood that the writer will survive a night in the lord’s castle in Providence. There he meets a beautiful but dead Barbara Steele (The Pit and the Pendulum) and eventually what seems like the entire beau monde of the spirit world. But everything is not as it seems. Well, except that it’s a horror film and he loses his bet — in a most gruesome manner.
This film is not available on Archive.org but you can usually find it on YouTube or DailyMotion. You’re better of getting the anamorphic DVD that includes an extra 5 minutes that wasn’t suitable for fragile American eyes. But note, those 5 minutes are in French with English subtitles. (That bit of lunacy alone probably makes it worth getting!)
Cat People (1942)
Producer: Val Lewton
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Screenwriters: DeWitt Bodeen (short story: Val Lewton)
A sexy allegory of the dangers of sex, Cat People represented a new kind of horror film. It’s so beautifully rendered that it is easy to dismiss it as an old art film. Don’t! It’s very suspenseful and scary.
It features Simone Simon (Girls’ Dormitory), Kent Smith (The Spiral Staircase), Tom Conway (I Walked with a Zombie), Jane Randolph (The Falcon’s Brother), Alan Napier (Batman), and Oliver Reed (ha ha).
Cat People is still in the public domain. (Only 20 more years! Maybe.) It is available on various disc collections. There is a Criterion Collection version with a number of nice extras like an old interview with director Jacques Tourneur and a commentary track with historian Gregory Mank.
Chained for Life (1952)
Producer: George Moskov
Director: Harry L Fraser
Screenwriter: Nat Tanchuck
This is an odd one. Basically, it is a vehicle for Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins. The story isn’t much to speak of — a murder trial that answers the burning question, “What do you do if one conjoined twin murders someone?” Answer: nothing. But the Hilton’s are exceptional musicians and the film is padded with a number of great vaudeville acts.
The film is in the public domain although the print on Archive.org is not very good. You can often find better prints on YouTube and similar sites. There is a DVD version of it, but I haven’t seen it. I wouldn’t expect much.
The Choppers (1961)
Producer/Screenwriter: Arch Hall Sr
Director: Leigh Jason
An Early Arch Hall Sr (Eegah) film about a gang of car choppers. It works surprisingly well. It even has nice reversals for modern viewers. The smartest character is the secretary, Liz (Marianne Gaba). A fair amount of the humor works. And there is no “good” kid who manages to escape accountability.
Christmas Evil (1980)
Producer: Burt Kleiner and Pete Kameron
Director/Screenwriter: Lewis Jackson
Other titles: You Better Watch Out
Fascinating story of a man obsessed with Christmas who decides to become Santa Claus. And to settle a few scores. See: Santa steal toys for good girls and boys! Watch: Santa cut a man’s throat with a Christmas star! Experience: Santa’s dexterity as he uses a toy soldier to gouge out an annoying man’s eye! Regardless what you are thinking, you’re wrong. You must experience this film! This was Lewis Jackson’s last film. I’d love to see more! Brandon Maggart puts in an energetic and strangely believable performance. It is supposedly John Waters favorite Christmas film, but he evidences very little knowledge of it on the commentary he does with Jackson. However, he did understand the importance of fetish to it — something that Jackson seemed quite ignorant to.
Film is under copyright and you should buy it because Lewis Jackson should be rewarded. Get the Vinegar Syndrome version.
Color Me Blood Red (1965)
Producer: David F Friedman
DirectorScreenwriter: Herschell Gordon Lewis
This is the third of the Friedman/Lewis “Blood Trilogy.” It tends to be pushed to the side in discussions. Blood Feast was the first, Two Thousand Manics was the best, and Color Me Blood Red was also produced. I don’t see it that way. I think Color holds up the best.
It’s the story of a painter (Gordon Oas-Heim) who is criticized for his dull colors. He finds that blood provides the perfect red he’s been looking for. But after a while, he finds he needs more blood than he can provide, so… Critics stop complaining about his colors.
There is a scene that is one for the ages. The artist goes to one of his stored bodies and replenishes his red paint by squeezing the intestines. You can go your whole life without seeing anything that great.
I recommend getting Something Weird’s Blood Trilogy Blu-Ray, which also includes Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs. It is usually roughly the price of any of the films singularly. Something Weird offers it as a single DVD, but as I write this, it is only 22¢ cheaper than the whole trilogy. If you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to buy a Blu-ray player?
The Comedy of Terrors (1963)
Producer: Anthony Carras
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Screenwriter: Richard Matheson
This is one of the best AIP films. It’s more comedy than horror. But how can you go wrong with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff? You can’t. Price pays a drunkard who is an undertaker who decides to kill people in order to get clients. Lorre is his unwilling accomplice. I never get tired of it!
The film has an amazing supporting cast: Joyce Jameson (Tales of Terror), Basil Rathbone (The Hound of the Baskervilles), Joe E Brown (Some Like It Hot), and Orangey the Cat (Breakfast at Tiffany’s).
The Comedy of Terrors is copyrighted. But other than requiring that people pay for it, the owners have not been kind to the film. Currently, it is only available as a very expensive DVD combined with The Raven (1963) — not a bad double feature but not a great DVD, even if it were cheap. Generally, you can find it online if you look.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
Producer: Arthur P Jacobs
Director: J Lee Thompson
Screenwriter: Paul Dehn (characters: Pierre Boulle)
With Cornelius dead, Roddy McDowall is back as his son, Caesar. Ricardo Montalbán is also back as Armando, the kindly circus owner who saved Caesar in Escape From the Planet of the Apes.
When Armando is taken into police custody, Caesar is forced to become an ape slave. But seeing all the injustice committed against apes, he organizes them into a rebellion. This was my favorite of the series when I was a kid.
The film features Don Murray (Bus Stop), Natalie Trundy, Hari Rhodes (Shock Corridor), and Severn Darden (Battle of the Planet of the Apes).
Crazy Mama (1975)
Producer: Julie Corman
Director: Jonathan Demme
Screenwriters: Robert Thom (screenplay) and Frances Doel (story)
This is an early wacky comedy by the director of Melvin and Howard and Something Wild. Melba runs a hair salon with her mother. But when her landlord clears her out for being three months behind on her rent, she goes on a cross-country crime spree. Also along is her pregnant daughter.
The film stars Cloris Leachman (Phyllis). It features Ann Sothern (Private Secretary), Stuart Whitman (Night of the Lepus), Linda Purl (Visiting Hours), Donny Most (Happy Days), and Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island).
The film is copyrighted. You can find it on sharing sites. It is available as a DVD along with The Lady in Red (1979). (This is called “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics,” which annoys me. There are too many collections with this name where the films included have virtually nothing to do with him.)
Cruise Into Terror (1978)
Producers: Aaron Spelling and Douglas S Cramer
Director: Bruce Kessler
Screenwriter: Michael Braverman
This TV movie is part The Love Boat (1977 – 1986), part The Sentinel (1977), and part The Exorcist (1973). It actually has a clever plot that builds nicely towards its denouement. Can you count the Deadly Sins? It would make a good drinking game. And in the end it blowed up real good.
Cruise Into Terror has a fantastic cast: Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica), John Forsythe (The Trouble With Harry), Lee Meriwether (Batman: The Movie), Frank Converse (Movin’ On), Lynda Day George (Mission: Impossible), Ray Milland (Dial M for Murder), Christopher George (The Rat Patrol), Jo Ann Harris (Rape Squad), Stella Stevens (The Nutty Professor), and Hugh O’Brian (Rocketship X-M). Every one of them guest starred on The Love Boat. So did about half the remaining cast.
The film is apparently in the public domain and available on Archive.org, but in a bad copy. You can find better versions online (There is currently a nice one on Dailymotion.) It has been released on DVD but doesn’t seem to be in print. You can find it on sites like iOffer.
Dark Star (1974)
Producer/Director: John Carpenter
Screenwriters: John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon
This is John Carpenter’s very silly debut. And it is a delight. A small crew is in a spaceship far from Earth. They are destroying unstable planetoids so that humans can colonize the planetary systems at some later time. But everything goes wrong. The best part of it is the beachball alien.
The film features Dan O’Bannon (director of The Return of the Living Dead) and Nick Castle (Halloween).
Dead Ringers (1988)
Producers: David Cronenberg and Marc Boyman
Director: David Cronenberg
Screenwriters: David Cronenberg and Norman Snider (based on Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland)
This film is as creepy as anything Cronenberg has ever done. It is mostly based on real-life gynecologists Stewart and Cyril Marcus who were twins who died together. It is definitely influenced by Peter Greenaway’s own creepy twins film A Zed & Two Noughts. But this film is much more focused on the body horror aspect of the twins’ dysfunction. It’s riveting from beginning to end — one of Cronenberg’s very best.
Jeremy Irons (Die Hard with a Vengeance) is great at differentiating the twins, although there are times when it isn’t certain which is which (and that’s the point). Geneviève Bujold (Coma) is the romantic (Is that the right word?!) lead. Also featured: Heidi von Palleske (Shepherd), Barbara Gordon (“Deathday Cake” episode of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil), and Stephen Lack (Scanners).
Devil Doll (1964)
Producer/Director: Lindsay Shonteff
Screenwriters: Ronald Kinnoch (as George Barclay) and Charles F Vetter (as Lance Z Hargreaves) from a story by Frederick E Smith
This is a really good film with a great denouement. Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed on it in one of their episodes and I quickly started thinking, “Would you guys shut up! I’m trying to watch a film here!” It’s that good: it overwhelms the incessant chatter of the folks on the show. So you really should check it out.
It features Bryant Haliday (Horror on Snape Island), William Sylvester (2001: A Space Odyssey), and Yvonne Romain.
The film is under copyright. You can usually find it online, however. If you want it on disc, it is available on DVD with a couple of minor extras.
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys
Director: Terence Fisher
Screenwriter: Richard Matheson based on The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley
Other titles: The Devil’s Bride
A rather low-budget Hammer film that still manages to work via great acting and campy charm. For some reason that is never explained, Christopher Lee knows way too much about Satanism. This comes in handy when his young friend becomes involved with a bunch of Satanists. Watch for the totally absurd ending. Matheson can not have been happy with this script. And after he made such a fuss over The Last Man on Earth. Featuring Charles Gray (Diamonds Are Forever) and Leon Greene (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum).
This film is not in the public domain, but you can normally find it on YouTube or DailyMotion. It isn’t exactly a Hammer classic. There don’t seem to be any North American format DVD or Blu-ray releases. And even the other versions are expensive, even though they don’t seem to have any extras. Plus I can’t speak to their quality.
Diary of a Madman (1963)
Producer: Robert E Kent
Director: Reginald Le Borg
Screenwriter: Robert E Kent (stories by Guy de Maupassant)
After Simon Cordier dies, his diary is read. It explains that all the bad things he did were the result of the evil horla — a being that drove him insane. Or maybe the horla was just something he perceived because he had gone insane.
It has the feel of the Corman Poe films. It’s well-rendered with good acting. And it works.
Diary of a Madman stars Vincent Price, who you may have seen in a few dozen films. It features Nancy Kovack (Jason and the Argonauts), Chris Warfield (Incident in an Alley), Elaine Devry (The Boy Who Cried Werewolf), Ian Wolfe (pretty much every movie and television show), and Stephen Roberts.
The film is under copyright. It is available on an expensive DVD with just a trailer for company. It doesn’t seem to be available on Blu-Ray.
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)
Producer: Norman T. Herman
Director: John Hough
Screenwriter: Leigh Chapman and Antonio Santean (novel: Richard Unekis)
This is a surprisingly good chase film. I have my problems with the ending, but it doesn’t much matter. It follows two car-obsessed friends as they steal money to fix their car in order to become racers. They pick up Mary along the way. The title is good but meaningless.
Featuring Peter Fonda (Easy Rider), Susan George (Straw Dogs), Adam Roarke (Hells Angels on Wheels), and Vic Morrow (Twilight Zone: The Movie).
The film is copyrighted. You can get Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry alone on disc, but it is very expensive. Better to get it with Race With The Devil on DVD or Blu-ray. All versions come with director commentary.
Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)
Producer: Jon Davison
Director: Samuel Fuller
Screenwriter: Samuel Fuller and Curtis Hanson (novel: Romain Gary)
Four friends go into the woods and what follows is the iron law of early-80s films. The whole thing turns into a revenge film toward the end. And it has a chilling bit with a kidnapped baby (whose mother is killed spectacularly). Brian Albright noted it is, “Incredible cheap, but self-conscious enough to lightly mock genre conventions.”
You aren’t likely to know anyone in this film. Mary Gail Artz plays Ingrid, the woman who is taking manic pleasure killing the savage at the end of the film. She has gone on to be a highly successful casting director. Her first job was casting Holloween II. The sheriff in the film is played by Ken Carter. It’s the only movie was has ever in, but he was a legendary disc jockey in Texas.
Of most interest is director James Bryan who made a ton of low budget films from the early 1970s through the 1980s. Like a lot of exploitation filmmakers, he directed a lot of sexploitation — often combined with action. He seems to have made a lot of softcore porn (as Morris Deal) on video once moving back to Utah.
Don’t Look in the Basement (1988)
Producer/Director: SF Brownrigg
Screenwriter: Tim Pope
Other titles: The Forgotten
The other title is more appropriate, but I think this film got more distribution under Don’t Look in the Basement. A young nurse comes to a psychiatric hospital right after its head was accidentally killed by a patient. Things are not as they seem, however. And the ending is spectacular (and sad if you care to think about it).
It stars Rosie Holotik (Horror High) and William Bill McGhee (Curse of the Swamp Creature).
It appears to be in the public domain and is available on Archive in so-so condition. You can find it streaming various other places. It’s hard to know what to say about disc copies. I have a few and they are all bad. There is a Blu-ray version that also comes with Don’t Open the Door (1975). At least one reviewer says the copy is good. Be careful!
Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)
Producers: James H Nicholson and Samuel Z Arkoff
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenwriters: Elwood Ullman and Robert Kaufman (story: James Hartford)
Vincent Price is an evil scientist who creates super-model robots who will seduce the wealthy men of the world in an effort to rule the world. Bwahaha! It’s a very silly film, but Price is wonderful. There’s also a great parody of The Pit and the Pendulum (1961).
Featuring: Susan Hart (City in the Sea), Frankie Avalon (Beach Blanket Bingo), Dwayne Hickman (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis), Fred Clark (Auntie Mame), and Jack Mullaney.
Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is copyrighted. You are best off getting it on DVD along with Dr Goldfoot & the Girl Bombs. But you can also get it alone. You can get it with a commentary track with David Del Valle and David DeCoteau on Blu-ray.
Dr Goldfoot & the Girl Bombs (1966)
Producers: Fulvio Lucisano and Louis M Heyward
Director: Mario Bava
Screenwriters: Louis M Heyward and Robert Kaufman (story: James Hartford)
The sequel AIP was so hopeful about they made it in Italy! Well, that makes a certain amount of sense given that the original did so well in Italy. This film was a bomb and widely criticized. But it’s fun enough.
Price is back — this time with super-model robots that explode.
Featuring Fabian (because sometimes your film isn’t even good enough for Frankie Avalon), Laura Antonelli (Malicious), Franco Franchi (Dream of Zorro), and Ciccio Ingrassia (Amarcord).
Dr Goldfoot & the Girl Bombs is copyrighted. You are best off getting it on DVD along with Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. You can get it with a commentary track with David Del Valle and David DeCoteau on Blu-ray.
Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972)
Producer: Louis M Heyward
Director: Robert Fuest
Screenwriters: Robert Fuest and Robert Blees
Freed up from the constraint previously applied of having to make sense, this film focuses on what we all love: the revenge murders. And it doesn’t disappoint. Some may like the original better. It is a more finely crafted screenplay. But ultimately, all that plot seems to get in the way of the good stuff. Valli Kemp takes over as Phibe’s assistant. Robert Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire) does a good job as Price’s foil.
The film is copyrighted. It is best found on Vincent Price: MGM Scream Legends Collection.
El Topo (1970)
Producer: [None listed]
Director/Screenwriter: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Our Review: El Topo
Widely considered the first “midnight movie,” this is a good example of how there is often little difference between art and psychotronic film. Basically, it’s just where they play. El Topo is a hippy western. It presents gun-fighting as philosophy. Plus there is a whole lot of blood! And deformities, incest, and bigots! Plus: El Topo is a total badass! It’s a wonderful film that you can totally over-think. But don’t over-think it. Just enjoy.
The film is in the public domain as Archive.org has a decent copy of it. I recommend getting it on disc. It’s a film that stands up to multiple viewings and the free copy isn’t great. It’s available on DVD with basically no extras. The Blu-ray includes a commentary track by Jodorowsky.
Enter the Devil (1972)
Producer: Michael F Cusack
Director: Frank Q Dobbs
Screenwriters: Frank Q Dobbs & David S Cass
In rural Texas, there is some odd religious group killing people. It is deliberately plotted, but you will stick around just to figure out what the hell is going on. (It has a great plot twist.) This is a little-seen gem — even for psychotronic fans. It features Joshua Bryant, Irene Kelly, and David S Cass.
Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971)
Producer: Arthur P Jacobs
Director: Don Taylor
Screenwriter: Paul Dehn (characters: Pierre Boulle)
Much of this installment of the series is quite funny — but always with a subtext that things are going to go very wrong. And they do.
Cornelius and Zira escape from their time right before Charlton Heston blows up the planet. They land on modern Earth and become a cause célèbre before the humans decide the apes will cause the end of humanity’s dominance. This, of course, leads to the end of humanity’s dominance in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972).
The film is a lot of fun but taking the story to modern Earth gives it a distinct made-for-television feel. This is true for the remaining films.
It features Roddy McDowall (That Darn Cat!), Kim Hunter (“The Evil of Adelaide Winters”), Bradford Dillman (Sudden Impact), Natalie Trundy (Battle for the Planet of the Apes), William Windom (“They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar“), M Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple), Ricardo Montalbán (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).
Fantasy Mission Force (1983)
Producer: Hsiao Yin Shen (as Shen Hsiao-Yin)
Director: Yen-Ping Chu (as Chu Yen Ping)
Screenwriter: Hsin Wei
This bizarre action-comedy features a number of laugh-out-loud moments but its silliness is relentless. During World War II, some generals are kidnapped by the Japanese military. After deciding that various heroes will not do (including Rocky Balboa), they send in Yu Wang (Master of the Flying Guillotine) who assembles a team of misfits including Brigitte Lin (Police Story) and Jackie Chan (Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow). As usual for Word War II films, it includes a haunted house sequence with Chinese hopping vampires.
There is a free print of Fantasy Mission Force on Archive.org but it is cropped and of so-so quality (and I think it is copyrighted). No one has released this on disc with reasonable quality. But you can certainly get a better copy than the horrible ones online. Use your judgment.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
Producer: Russ and Eve Meyer
Director: Russ Meyer
Screenwriter:Jack Moran (screenplay) and Russ Meyer (story)
This is Russ Meyer’s masterpiece. It manages to combine most of Meyer’s kinky obsessions with a great script and a beautifully rendered film. It tells the story of three chesty go-go dancers out looking to cause trouble and steal a bunch of cash. The beta woman is kind of sympathetic owing to her obvious lesbianism and attraction to the alpha woman (who knows and uses it against her). Lots of fighting, scheming, racing, and murdering. It’s a psychotronic essential. You can’t help but love it.
The film features Tura Satana (The Astro-Zombies), Haji (Motorpsycho!), and Lori Williams as the go-go dancers. Susan Bernard plays Linda, the “good girl.” She would go on to pose in Playboy where she is thought to be the first Jewish Playmate of the Month in December 1966. It also features Paul Trinka (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea series) and Stuart Lancaster (Godmonster of Indian Flats).
The film is apparently in the public domain and Archive.org has a decent copy of it. It is currently only available in one expensive DVD with virtually no digital extras (it has a booklet and a couple of other things).
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Arch Oboler
According to Michael Weldon, this was the first post-apocalyptic film. It involves five people who have survived the catastrophe of a new kind of nuclear weapon that wipes out most animal life on Earth. The five don’t get along well. The oldest dies and is replaced by a baby. A very bleak vision of the future for 1951!
The film features a number of notables: William Edward Phipps (Invaders from Mars), Susan Douglas Rubes (Lost Boundaries), James Anderson (To Kill a Mockingbird), Charles Lampkin (Cornbread, Earl and Me ), and Earl Lee (The Christmas Carol).
The Fly (1958)
Producer/Director: Kurt Neumann
Screenwriter: James Clavell (Story: George Langelaan)
A scientist builds a matter transporter. Unfortunately, a fly is trapped inside with and he becomes half man and half fly. This is a classic despite or because of its silliness. David Cronenberg has said it annoyed him as a child that the fly head was as large as a man’s. I was always bothered by all the microscopic animals everywhere. Why wasn’t part of him a bacterium? Regardless, lots of fun! This film was parodied in Matinee (1993).
Featuring David Hedison (Son of Robin Hood), Patricia Owens (Mystery Junction), Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill), Herbert Marshall (Foreign Correspondent), Kathleen Freeman (Hogan’s Heroes), Betty Lou Gerson (101 Dalmatians), Charles Herbert (13 Ghosts), and Torben Meyer (Casablanca).
The film is annoyingly under copyright. You can get it on DVD in a number of ways: alone on DVD or Blu-ray, with Return of the Fly (1959), and with The Fly (1986). It’s also available in with lots of extras on DVD or Blu-ray along with The Fly (1986) and The Fly II (1989).
The Fly (1986)
Producer: Stuart Cornfeld
Director: David Cronenberg
Screenwriters: Charles Edward Pogue and David Cronenberg (Story: George Langelaan)
Cronenberg’s film has the same premise: transporter and fly. But that’s about where it ends. The rest is a richly rendered film with well-developed characters. It’s also very creepy body horror. If you haven’t seen it, you must.
Featuring Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park), Geena Davis (Earth Girls Are Easy), John Getz (Blood Simple), Leslie Carlson (Videodrome), and heavy-weight boxer George Chuvalo.
For Y’ur Height Only (1981)
Producer: Peter M Caballes
Director: Eddie Nicart
Screenwriter: Cora Caballes
Alternative titles: For Your Height Only
Martial arts expert and dwarf Weng Weng stars as Agent 00 in this Filipino James Bond knock-off or parody — depending upon how you look at it. This was the second Agent 00 film, the first being Agent 00 made 8 years earlier. The film is incredibly silly but the action sequences are well choreographed, featuring stunts particularly appropriate for a man less than 3 feet tall. If you like seeing men kicked in the groin, this is the film for you!
For Y’ur Height Only is copyrighted, but it isn’t hard to find cropped for TV versions online. It is available on DVD with Bruce Le’s (Not Bruce Lee’s) Challenge Of The Tiger in widescreen presentations of both films.
Frankenstein: The True Story (1973)
Producer: Hunt Stromberg Jr
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenwriters: Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy (novel: Mary Shelley)
This is a great rendering of the novel that manages modernize the concepts without losing the essential nature of it. Unlike most filmed versions, it isn’t about a thuggish monster. The creature is intelligent as in the novel. But there is one problem: he’s alive but his flesh continues to rot and so he turns ugly and people hate him. The film even manages to include the creation of a female and the final death in the Arctic. I highly recommend this one!
The film has an amazing cast. Here are just a few: Michael Sarrazin (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?), Leonard Whiting (Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet), Jane Seymour (Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman), James Mason (North by Northwest), and so many more.
Galaxy of the Dinosaur (1992)
Producer: JR Bookwalter
Director: JR Bookwalter (as Lance Randas)
Screenwriters: Thomas Brown (story) and Jon Killough (screenplay)
This film started by getting the rights to the animated dinosaur footage from Planet of Dinosaurs (1977). Then a screenplay was made to integrate that footage into. The result is a silly, but shockingly compelling, little film. The cuts from the filmed animations to the low-quality video are jarring, but it’s part of the appeal of this film. And it has a great parody ending; it will make you see that this is how the original should have ended. Shot and edited for $2,500.
The film is copyrighted but it is available all over. I recommend getting Bad Movie Police: Crimewave! It includes 5 of the films that JR Bookwalter made for Cinema Home Video. They also include video skits about the Bad Movie Police arresting directors like Bookwalter. Personally, I find them far more embarrassing than any of the “bad movies.” But they don’t spoil the movies. All the films have commentary tracks with Bookwalter and others involved.
Gamera, the Giant Monster (1965)
Producer: Hidemasa Nagata
Director: Noriaki Yuasa
Screenwriter: Fumi Takahashi (idea: Yonejiro Saito)
Godzilla — but with a turtle — that flies like a saucer. Gamera is a raging monster. But not when it comes to kids. And even the adults in the film can’t bring themselves to kill it. I mean, who doesn’t like turtles?
Featuring Eiji Funakoshi (Blind Beast), Harumi Kiritachi, Junichirô Yamashiko, Michiko Sugata, Yoshirô Kitahara, and Yoshiro Uchida as the kid. Bokuzen Hidari (Seven Samurai) also has a small role.
Gamera, the Giant Monster seems to be in the public domain. A decent print is available on Archive.org. It is available on DVD with a great commentary by August Ragone. It is also available on Blu-ray along with the three subsequent films.
‘Gator Bait (1974)
Producers/Directors: Ferd & Beverly Sebastion
Screenwriter: Beverly Sebastion
This is a weird but effective revenge film. It has some problems with clunky editing. And it makes out just about everyone in Louisiana to be awful. But it works — and has a great ending, “My pa is dead.”
Desiree is a badass poacher who takes care of her younger siblings deep in the swamplands. A local deputy and his friend want to rape her but end up setting a pose against her — eventually killing her younger sister. So Desiree takes revenge.
Featuring Claudia Jennings (Fast Company), Bill Thurman (Creature from Black Lake), Janit Baldwin (Prime Cut), Sam Gilman, Douglas Dirkson, and Clyde Ventura.
The film is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with basically no extras.
The Giant Gila Monster (1959)
Producers: Ken Curtis
Director: Ray Kellogg
Screenwriters: Jay Simms (story: Ray Kellogg)
This is a charming teen monster movie with hot rods and pop songs. Kellogg does his usual good job on low budgets. And Don Sullivan sings his own songs. Truthfully, the film doesn’t even need the monster. But with it, it is filled with 1950s fun.
Don Sullivan never had much of a career in music or film but 1959 was a big year when he also starred in The Rebel Set and Teenage Zombies. It seems strange because he’s pretty good. Also in the film were comedic singer Shug Fisher and stuntman Fred Graham.
The Giant Gila Monster is apparently in the public domain with a good print on Archive.org. It is available on DVD along with another Kellogg classic The Killer Shrews.
The Gig (1985)
Producer: Norman I Cohen
Director/Screenwriter: Frank D Gilroy
This is a sweet film about what happens when a group of amateurs who get together to play Dixieland jazz gets a professional gig. It suffers a bit for a myth I hate about great musicians being born. But the film isn’t really about music; it’s about dreams.
The film stars Wayne Rogers (M*A*S*H) and Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles). It features: Joe Silver (Shivers), Jay Thomas (Mr. Holland’s Opus), Andrew Duncan (Slap Shot), Daniel Nalbach, Stan Lachow with one amazing scene, actual coronet player Warren Vaché (who was also music director of the film), and theater actor Jerry Matz as the (literally) unbelievably bad clarinetist.
The Gig is one of those films that just doesn’t get any love. It was released on VHS long ago. It has never been released on disc so far as I know. You can probably find it online somewhere.
The Girl, the Body, and the Pill (1967)
Producer: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenwriter: Allison Louise Downe
A film of earnest teenage sex and hypocritical adult sex. Allison Louise Downe’s script is much more complicated than a usual Herschell Gordon Lewis film. And it includes some genuinely impressive bits. And ultimately, it is pretty sweet — offering lots of good family values. With Pamela Rhae as the sexy sex-ed teacher who appears to be younger than most of her students. She spends half the film in short-shorts. Also starring Bill Rogers (A Taste of Blood) and Ray Sager (The Wizard of Gore ). Watch out for cinematographer/cameraman Roy Collodi in the role of Pike and his final shots with an extreme widescreen lens that makes him look positively demented.
This film is really hard to find. It’s the only major Herschell Gordon Lewis film that hasn’t been released on DVD. Occasionally, you can find it used on VHS. I’ve never seen it online. But it’s worth searching out!
Glen or Glenda (1953)
Producer: George Weiss
Director/Screenwriter: Edward D Wood, Jr
Other titles: I Changed My Sex
This is Ed Wood’s masterpiece. But admittedly, it isn’t for everyone. It’s docutainment — not that much different than Orson Welles’ F for Fake. But it is also highly didactic — a Wood trademark. Regardless, it’s also wonderfully creative and surreal. When you consider how taboo transsexuality is today, the film is all the more impressive. Its anti-gay elements add to its poignancy by showing Wood’s own bigotry.
Most people have a problem with is its highly unusual structure. Glen or Glenda asks that you sit back and go with the film. If you do, you’ll be surprised just how engaging — even heartwarming — it is. It’s also notable for sexual rarities that Wood would explore in many of his later novels: fetish, bondage, and nonconsensual sex. It features standard Wood players Bela Lugosi, Lyle Talbot, and Timothy Farrell. The title role is played by Wood himself under the name Daniel Davis.
It is in the public domain.
Godmonster of Indian Flats (1974)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Fredric Hobbs
There is a standard story here. Christopher Brooks (Alabama’s Ghost) comes to a Nevada town to buy the mining rights, but the crazy patrician mayor (Stuart Lancaster) won’t sell because he wants to keep the town as it was — up to keeping the town prostitute in business because her grandmother was years before. This would be more than enough for an enjoyable film. But there is also a mutant sheep monster. After Alabama’s Ghost this film leaves no doubt that there is no justice in Hollywood — otherwise, Brooks would be a star.
You can find this film on YouTube from time to time. Otherwise, Something Weird Video has released it on DVD and Blu-ray with some racy (softcore porn) shorts. The print is really good.
Grave of the Vampire (1974)
Producer: Daniel Cady
Director: John Hayes
Screenwriters: David Chase (screenplay) and John Hayes (treatment)
This is a curious vampire film. It is mainly about what happens when a vampire rapes a woman. Answer: she gives birth to an undead halfbreed boy that she has to feed with her own blood. I have no idea what happens after weening because the film jumps ahead two decades when the son, James Eastman, is an adult with a mission: to find and kill dad, thus avenging his recently dead mother. But it is more than a little weird. There is some voice over about how it was hard to find his father, but he has at last found him teaching night courses at college. Does he just kill his father? No! He waits around for his father to force him to fight. (It’s a bit like Hamlet.) Still, lots of interesting things happen.
It stars Kitty Vallacher as the most devoted mother ever. It also stars William Smith as the son and Michael Pataki as the father. Fun fact: the actor who plays the son was five years older than the actor who played the father.
Guru, the Mad Monk (1970)
Producer: MA Isaacs
Director: Andy Milligan
Screenwriter: Andy Milligan (story idea by MA Izak Maipix Co)
Other titles: Garu, the Mad Monk
This is a minor Andy Milligan outing, which means: fantastic. Milligan was the ultimate idiosyncratic filmmaker and a true auteur. Many people dismiss this film, but it’s really engaging. Sure, the effects are weak. But they still work on me. It tells the story of Guru who seems to have two personalities: one good and the other evil. The evil one is in charge. There is a romantic subplot. But mostly, we just watch Guru torture and kill and wait for him to die.
Guru was played by Neil Flanagan who was a Milligan regular, starring in six of his films. Gerald Jacuzzo was in seven of Milligan films, even co-writing The Filthy Five. It also features Paul Lieber.
Guru, the Mad Monk is available on Archive.org in a pretty good print. It is available on streaming sites. However, all of these copies are cropped down to 1.33:1 (it was originally 1.85:1) with a 55 minute run time (compared to the original 62 minutes). The disc print seems to be the full 62 minutes, although it is still cropped. It is also available as The Andy Milligan Grindhouse Experience Triple Feature along with The Ghastly Ones and The Body Beneath.
Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
Producers: Donald G Jackson and Randall Frakes
Directors: RJ Kizer and Donald G Jackson
Screenwriter: Randall Frakes (story: Donald G Jackson and Randall Frakes)
This is one of the silliest films ever made. If you don’t over-think it (or think at all) it’s quite fun and funny. Although a pubescent boy’s fantasy, the film is also somewhat feminist. A truly odd combination. Like I said: don’t think about it.
After a nuclear war, most humans are infertile. But serial impregnator Sam Hell is pressed into service by a group of women who seem now to control the military. With two of them, he goes off to save a bunch of fertile women who have been captured by the frog people.
Featuring Roddy Piper (They Live), Sandahl Bergman (She), Cec Verrell (Silk), William Smith (Invasion of the Bee Girls), Nicholas Worth (Don’t Answer the Phone!), and Rory Calhoun (Hotel Hell).
Horror High (1974)
Producer: Jamieson Film Company
Director: Larry N Stouffer
Screenwriter: JD Feigelson (as Jake Fowler)
Other titles: Twisted Brain
This is a brilliant lost gem. It puts anything that Herschell Gordon Lewis ever did to shame. Made on a budget of just $16,000, the producers wring every bit of value out of their money. Basically, it is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde but set in a modern high school as a revenge tragedy. The script, editing, and direction are all very strong. What’s more, even the worst acting is competent. It stars Pat Cardi in his last acting role as nerd-turned-monster Vernon. In the female lead is Rosie Holotik (Don’t Look in the Basement). And playing a very Columbo-like detective is Austin Stoker (Assault on Precinct 13).
Horror High is copyrighted but can usually be found on YouTube and similar sites. If you want it on DVD, you may already have it. It is on a lot of compilations. One example: Cult Terror Cinema.
Horrors of Spider Island (1965)
Producers: Gaston Hakim & Wolf C Hartwig†
Director/Screenwriter: Fritz Böttger (as Jaime Nolan)†
Other titles: Ein Toter hing im Netz (1960); It’s Hot in Paradise (1962); Hot in Paradise; Girls of Spider Island; and Spider’s Web
Our Review: Horrors of Spider Island and the Sex-Horror Genre
Is it a monster movie? Or is it a girlie movie? Well, it’s both! This German cheapie was cut as a girl-fight movie in 1962 as It’s Hot in Paradise and then again as a monster movie in 1965 as Horrors of Spider Island. It’s the second film that is better known, probably because it was used for Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable film. A dance troupe on its way to Singapore crash lands and only eight sexy women and their manager (Alexander D’Arcy) survives. But he turns into a monster soon and there is more than enough time for the women to get into fights in their pajamas. The film features Rainer Brandt and Barbara Valentin. Helga Franck would probably have gone on to a good career but fell from a window to her death at the age of 30.
The film is not copyrighted and a decent copy is available at Archive.org. Something Weird has released it on DVD. It comes with no features to speak of (at least ones related to the film). But the print is beautifully restored and presented in its original 1.85 : 1 aspect ratio.
† All of the credit information is based on hearsay. The posters provide no details and the prints only list Jaime Nolan as the director.
Humanoids From Atlantis (1992)
Producer/Director: JR Bookwalter
Screenwriter:Lloyd Turner (story: JR Bookwalter)
JR Bookwalter’s films can be roughly divided into two categories. There are films that he took some time with, which are excellent. This even includes microbudget films like Kingdom of the Vampire (1991). And then there are the films he shot and edited over a weekend. Somehow, these films always have an irresistible charm despite often being, well, rough.
Bookwalter seems genuinely confused as to why people like Humanoids From Atlantis. And I suspect it wouldn’t have much of a cult following if it weren’t for his other films of this type. But the ending of this film acts as a kind of coda for them all. It feels right even if it was just a hack to end a failed production.
A young filmmaker gets a contract to make an environmental film about the local lake. In the process, he discovers that some monster from Atlantis is living there. How did it get from the Atlantic Ocean to a small lake in Ohio? If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.
The film stars James L Edwards (Galaxy of the Dinosaurs), Christine Morrison (Chickboxer), and Sandra Wurzer. They are all ghastly. But that isn’t their faults. They’ve been fine in other films. Bookwalter was clearly rushing through this one. The film succeeds despite this.
Humanoids From Atlantis is copyrighted. I recommend getting it on DVD as part of Bad Movie Police: Crimewave! That comes with all the “Let’s put on a show!” films that Bookwalter made from 1991 through 1992.
I, Monster (1971)
Producers: Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky
Director: Stephen Weeks
Screenwriter: Milton Subotsky
An Amicus production of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde but with different names probably because Hammer brought out the excellent Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde at the same time. It features an excellent ending with impressive use of fire.
It stars Christopher Lee (The Curse of Frankenstein) and Peter Cushing (The House That Dripped Blood). Also featuring: Mike Raven (Disciple of Death), Richard Hurndall (The Five Doctors), George Merritt, Kenneth J Warren, Susan Jameson, and Marjie Lawrence.
The film is copyrighted, but it is available on Archive.org as part of an internet show, Monster Movie Night, with poor quality. It is available on DVD with a mediocre widescreen print that is not anamorphic. There are a few extras: trailer, photo gallery, press book. The word is that the PAL DVD offers a much better print.
I Am Omega (2007)
Producer: David Michael Latt
Director: Griff Furst
Screenwriter: Geoff Meed
Sure, The Asylum just wanted to beat Warner Bros to the punch with its Will Smith vehicle that is even further from Richard Matheson’s novel. But to me, that’s all the more reason to like it. The film is every bit as good as I Am Legend, with roughly a hundredth of the budget. But it’s more fun to watch Last Man on Earth. Otherwise, I’d watch any of the other three that were available. Mark Dacascos is appealing and Jennifer Lee Wiggins makes an excellent “woman in peril.”
Clearly, you are going to have to pay for this one — although you may already have through Netflix or Amazon Prime. You can get it on DVD or Blu-ray. I can’t say much about them as I don’t like the film enough to buy it. (So I watched it through Amazon Prime.)
I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Producers: Joseph Zbeda and Meir Zarchi
Director/Screenwriter: Meir Zarchi
Other titles: Day of the Woman
This is a great but hard film. It features a brutal 30-minute rape sequence. As a result, no distributor would take it. It was finally distributed in 1980, where it was universally panned by idiotic “critics” like Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. But in more recent years it has been seen for the feminist statement it is. In fact, I see it in mythic terms. Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) goes through a passion, takes vengeance, and sails off as a demigod.
But in a literal sense, I Spit on Your Grave is a simple revenge story. Hills is a writer who rents a house for the summer to write her first book. Four guys brutally rape (and intend to kill) her. She gets revenge on them in some impressive ways. For most people, I doubt that the revenge part of the film makes up for the rape sequence. That is very hard to get through. Really. I know this was made in 1978, but trust me: it is as realistic today as it was then. This is not a fun film. So beware.
The only notable person in this film is Camille Keaton. She is Buster Keaton’s grandniece. She did little acting after Grave other than starring in a sequel of sorts, Savage Vengance (1993). At that point, she married producer Sidney Luft. Since 2010 she started showing up more in film.
The film is not in the public domain but you can usually find it on far-flung video hosting sites. Be careful buying this film on disc. The Millennium Edition DVD is exceptional. It includes commentary tracks by director Meir Zarchi as well as film lover Joe Bob Briggs. Plus a lot more. But there is no corresponding Blu-ray. It is available on Blu-ray, but I don’t know anything about it. What’s more, you have to watch to make sure you don’t buy the remake or its two sequels. Or the (now) upcoming sequel by Zarchi with Keaton.
In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
Producer: Sandy King
Director: John Carpenter
Screenwriter: Michael De Luca
The apocalypse is coming and HP Lovecraft sent it. The story follows John Trent (Sam Neill) who goes searching for a missing horror novelist only to become convinced that he is a character in one of the novels. This film is captivating from beginning to end. Julie Carmen (Gloria) is excellent as the editor who helps Trent in his search. This is probably Carpenter’s best film. It rewards multiple viewings.
The film is under copyright and well protected. Commercial copies look fine. The best release is the Shout! Factory Blu-ray.
Invaders From Mars (1953)
Producer: Edward L Alperson
Director: William Cameron Menzies
Screenwriter: Richard Blake
It’s hard not to love these “People are turning into Commies, I mean, Martians!” films from the 1950s. And Invaders From Mars is one of the most charming and effective because it is essentially a children’s film — perfect for the nerdy tween of 1951. It holds up remarkably well even now. I always enjoy revisiting it.
I’ve never been particularly fond of the “It was a dream! Oh no, it’s real!” ending. The longer UK release fixed this, although probably not for my reasons.
The film features Jimmy Hunt (Rusty’s Birthday), Helena Carter (The Fighting O’Flynn), and Arthur Franz (Monster on the Campus). William Edward Phipps (Five) also has a small role.
Invaders From Mars is in the public domain. Archive.org has a couple of low-quality copies. They have a reasonably good copy of the UK release. You can also find it on video sharing sites. An expensive DVD that includes both the US and UK versions is also available.
Invaders from Mars (1986)
Producers: Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenwriters: Dan O’Bannon & Don Jakoby (based on the original)
This is a loving remake with standout performances by Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces) and Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). The story is pretty much identical to the original. Overall, it comes off as hipper but without the creepy Cold War feel. I generally like it better, but both films are excellent.
The film also features Karen Black’s son Hunter Carson (Paris, Texas), Timothy Bottoms (Johnny Got His Gun), Laraine Newman (Coneheads), Bud Cort (Harold and Maude), James Karen (The Return of the Living Dead), and Jimmy Hunt, the star of the original.
The film is copyrighted. Sometimes it is available on stream services like Amazon Prime. Shout! Factory has released the film on Blu-ray with a director’s commentary. There is also a DVD, which is currently more expensive.
Producer: Warren Beatty
Director/Screenwriter: Elaine May
Our Review: Ishtar Is a Funny Movie — Why Haven’t You Watched it?
Ishtar tells the story of two loser song-writers who band together to become the successes of their dreams. Eventually, their agent offers them a gig in Ishtar. Being broke, they jump at the idea. In Ishtar, they become pawns of both the CIA and the local revolutionaries. Much follows that really doesn’t matter.
It is sublimely silly. It’s strange watching it now how enjoyable it is given that at the time of its release, it was taken as given that Ishtar was a bad a film. Ultimately what sunk it was that the budget was $50 million — an unheard of price tag for a comedy. And film critics know about as much about art and entertainment as they do brain surgery.
Paul Williams created a half dozen parody songs the film. May’s screenplay is efficient and funny. The acting is exceptional. It’s sad that so many people didn’t get to see it because film critics don’t think comedies should be expensive. First thing we do: kill all critics.
The film is available as a Blu-ray — but with no extras. Generally, DVD copies are more expensive. The documentary Waiting for Ishtar is worth checking out. Ishtar is a genuinely great film and a wonderful subject with which to torture the millions of people who hate it despite never having bothered to watch it.
It’s Alive (1969)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Larry Buchanan
This is a made-for-television horror film — mostly serious with the exception of the silly monster from Buchanan’s earlier Creature of Destruction.
A man keeps a dinosaur monster in a cave. To feed it, he traps people and feeds them to the monster. It’s basically a mad scientist dark house horror film except without the scientist and the dark house.
Featuring: Tommy Kirk (Old Yeller), Shirley Bonne, and Bill Thurman (‘Gator Bait).
The film appears to be out of copyright; it’s available on Archive.org. It has been available on DVD, but currently isn’t.
Jail Bait (1954)
Producer/Director: Edward D Wood, Jr
Screenwriters: Alex Gordon and Edward D Wood, Jr
Other titles: Hidden Face
Son of a famous surgeon rebels by leading a life of crime. He gets in big trouble. He dies, but otherwise, it all works out. It stars familiar Ed Wood people like Dolores Fuller, Lyle Talbot, and Timothy Farrell as the heavy. This was silent film star Herbert Rawlinson’s last film and future cinematic Hercules Steve Reeves’ first feature film. Word is, Wood shot 17 takes of Reeves trying to shave. I don’t know if that is true, but years later, Reeves said that Wood was a very kind director. This is the film to show anyone claiming Wood was a bad director. It’s a competent and enjoyable B feature.
It is in the public domain.
The Killer (1989)
Producer: Tsui Hark
Director/Screenwriter: John Woo
Other titles: ????
This is probably John Woo’s greatest film. An assassin accidentally blinds a beautiful nightclub singer. He falls in love with her and takes a job to get the money to pay for her needed surgery. There is also a cop who is on the trail of the assassin. This results in a hilarious scene where the two men are fighting at her apartment while trying to avoid her knowing — a scene that is lovingly ripped off at the beginning of Kill Bill: Volume 1. Otherwise, it’s a great example of Woo’s skill as an action director. Chow Yun-fat and Danny Lee are in fine form. Sally Yeh is featured in pretty much her last film role.
There are two notable releases of the film. The first is by Criterion Collection. It has the advantage of being based on the original Chinese print. It also has a commentary track by John Woo. But his English is so bad that there is little content to it. Woo repeats himself endlessly, but it does have a few interesting bits. Its primary problem is that it is out of print and normally sells for upwards of twice its original price of $39.95. A more recent release by Dragon Dynasty is a better choice. You can get it for less than $10 for a Blu-ray and DVD combo. It doesn’t have a commentary track, but it does have good deleted scenes. The copy is based on the American release, however — and is not of the highest quality. It includes an optional English-dubbed audio track.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
Producer: Edward, Stephen & Charles Chiodo
Director: Stephen Chiodo
Screenwriters: Charles & Stephen Chiodo
This is the Looney Tunes of horror. A UFO in the form of a circus tent lands on Earth. Inside are clowns who go on a killing spree, putting their victims in cottoncandy-like sacks. Apparently, they just stopped by to eat. It has a couple of horror moments, but mostly, this is just played for laughs. And it pays off.
The film is a practical special effects tour de force. It even uses some very effective forced perspective. In addition to that, the screenplay is great — or the editor made it so. A very creative outing from top to bottom. It’s craazzy!
Featuring: Grant Cramer (Hardbodies), Suzanne Snyder (Weird Science), John Allen Nelson (Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell), and John Vernon (Animal House) playing Dean Wormer reincarnated as a cop.
La Jetée (1962)
Producer: Anatole Dauman
Director/Screenwriter: Chris Marker
Length: 28 minutes
Best known as the basis for 12 Monkeys, La Jetée is a film told in static shots with narration, sound effects, and music. As with 12 Monkeys, it tells the story of a man living in a post-apocalyptic world who takes part in time travel experiments to fix the present. The denouement is clever, but hardly the point of the film.
Jean Négroni does the narration. The film features Davos Hanich, Hélène Chatelain, and Jacques Ledoux.
La Jetée seems to be in the public domain in French, and it is available at Archive.org. There has never been a time when I haven’t been able to find it on a popular sharing site. It is available on disc along with Chris Marker’s feature-length documentary, Sans Soleil. You’d think it would come with 12 Monkeys but Terry Gilliam seems oddly defensive about the film (which is odd given that 12 Monkeys is one of the greatest films ever).
King Kung Fu (1976)
Producers: Bob Walterscheid
Director: Lance Hayes
Screensriters: Lance & Pat Hayes (Pat mention on poster, not credits later added)
A very silly parody of King Kong and the Kung Fu television series. Even without the over-the-top direction, it would be a funny movie. It has an excellent script. The whole thing came out of Wichita State University and is professionally, if idiosyncratically, produced. It features the first film appearance of porn actor Lois Ayres while still a young teen. There are also a number of people who went on to have Wichita area film careers.
The film is under copyright. Unfortunately, the only DVD release I know of it is a DVD-R. Still, it is of sufficient quality, even if it is so badly cropped that some jokes are missing. (OLD HAGS stands for “Outraged Ladies Dedicated to Hiding Animals’ Great Shame.”) It’s definitely worth ten bucks. And it’s the kind of film you will want to share!
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
Producer: Robert L Lippert
Director: Sidney Salkow
Screenwriters: Richard Matheson and William F Leicester
Other titles: L’ultimo Uomo Della Terra
Our Review: The Last Man on Earth
This is the first and best screen version of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. The world has turned into vampires and Vincent Price is the only one left alive. So he spends his life trying to wipe them out. This film was highly influential on Night of the Living Dead. It gave me nightmares for years when I was a kid.
The film is in the public domain and Archive.org has an excellent copy of it. Beware: most DVD copies are dreadful. I recommend House on Haunted Hill w/ Bonus Last Man on Earth Disc IN COLOR. The color on Last isn’t very good, but the original is the best copy I’ve ever seen.
The Long Hair of Death (1964)
Producer: F Testa Gay
Director: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony Dawson)
Screenwriter: story: Ernesto Gastaldi (as Julian Berry); screenplay: Tonino Valerii (as Robert Bohr)
Other titles: I Lunghi Capelli Della Morte
The Long Hair of Death is a Spaghetti Gothic Horror film: Barbara Steele (Castle of Blood — same director) along with a bunch of Italians. It is set in the late 15th century. Steele plays a woman wrongly convicted of murder and burned alive. When her surviving daughter is forced to marry the real murderer she rises from the grave to stop it and take vengeance. It is a surprisingly cool film.
The film also features Halina Zalewska (Giant of the Evil Island), George Ardisson (Hercules in the Haunted World), Umberto Raho (Last Man on Earth), and Giuliano Raffaelli (Fistful of Diamonds).
It is available from free on Archive.org and other places. All the copies I’ve seen have been bad, but it doesn’t hurt that much because it does add to the gothic feel of the film. Still, if you want to see it right, you should pony up a few bucks for the Raro Video Blu-ray, which is excellent and includes a few good extras.
Producers: Milton Subotsky & Max Rosenberg (Amicus Productions)
Director: Jim Clark
Screenwriters: Greg Morrison and en Levison (based on th novel Devilday by Angus Hall)
Vincent Price plays an actor famous for this “Dr Death” movies. After the release the fifth film, he announced his wedding engagement. But later that night, a man dressed as Dr Death decapitates his fiance, sending poor Price to the loony bin. Years later, released, Priced is hired to reprise the role of Dr Death for a BBC television series. And Dr Death starts killing people again. The plot isn’t hard to guess. And the denouement makes roughly as much sense as that time I killed my wife because she sang out of key in the shower.
Still, it’s a lot of fun. Horror heavyweights Peter Cushing (the Christopher Lee of Frankenstein and, yes, Star Wars) and Robert Quarry (Dr Phibes Rises Again). Ellis Dale and Catherine Willmer do a wonderful job playing the kind of caring parents we all wish we had. This film makes a great double feature with Theatre of Blood.
The Naked Kiss (1964)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Samuel Fuller
This is one of Samuel Fuller’s best-known films. A prostitute lands in a small town on the run from her old pimp. She tries to go straight but ends up with a murder rap. It highlights the hypocrisy of American life but the happy ending does seem a bit forced. When you are weak in America, happy endings come hard.
Starring Constance Towers fresh off Shock Corridor. Featuring: Anthony Eisley (The Wasp Woman), Michael Dante (Willard), Virginia Grey (Unknown Island), and Patsy Kelly (Rosemary’s Baby).
The Neanderthal Man (1953)
Producers/Screenwriters: Aubrey Wisberg & Jack Pollexfen
Director: Ewald André Dupont
Fairly standard but well-made 1950s B mad scientist film. Directed by German expressionist director. Well lit with well-framed shots. Good acting. Some rather unfortunate special make-up effects — although they do give the film a certain charm.
This film should be in the public domain. But somehow Paramount managed to renew its copyright. So you will have to buy it — generally on a collection.
The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935)
Producers: George W Stout, Bennett S Cohen, Ashton Dearholt, and Edgar Rice Burroughs
Director: JEdward Kull
Screenwriter: Chas F Royal (characters: Edgar Rice Burroughs)
Come for the inexplicable lions and zebras in the jungle, but stay for the racism! It is notable that this representation of Tarzan is in keeping with the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels where Tarzan is a sophisticated man who just happens to have been raised by apes. He speaks proper English and travels undercover from Africa to Guatemala. The New Adventures of Tarzan was a four-hour long, 12-part serial. This is the 70-minute feature film made from it that somehow manages to still be padded.
There’s an interesting bit of trivia about the production. Producer (and star) Ashton Dearholt fell in love with the leading lady causing his wife to leave him. Burroughs dumped his own wife then ran off with Dearholt’s wife.
Featuring Olympic shot put medalist Herman Brix (Sahara), Ula Holt, Ashton Dearholt, and Frank Baker.
The New Adventures of Tarzan is in the public domain and available everywhere, including Archive.org. The entire 4-hour serial is available on DVD for those interested, but you can usually find it online.
Night of the Comet (1984)
Producers: Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford
Director/Screenwriter: Thom Eberhardt
Thom Eberhardt is more of a comedy writer and director and this works wonderfully in this campy gem. A comet passes by the Earth and turns all those outside into zombies. The plot circles around two sisters, one of whom — Reggie, played by Catherine Mary Stewart (The Last Starfighter) — is every 1980s nerd boy’s fantasy. It’s funny, sweet, and surprisingly scary at times.
Also stars: Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran (Star Trek: Voyager), and Mary Woronov (Silent Night, Bloody Night).
Night of the Comet is under copyright. It can be found on sites like DailyMotion as well as on Netflix and Amazon Prime. There is an excellent Blu-ray/DVD version with lots of extras including three commentary tracks.
Night of the Ghouls (1959)
Producer/Director/Writer: Ed Wood
Alternate titles: Revenge of the Dead
This is a surprisingly effective film that combines the crime and horror genres. A con artist medium bilks customers and convinces the locals that his house is haunted. But it turns out it really is! It’s a sequel to Bride of the Monster — and much better. Well worth a look!
Night of the Ghouls features Kenne Duncan (The Astounding She-Monster) as Dr Acula — get it?! Also: Valda Hansen, Johnny Carpenter (Outlaw Treasure), and Wood regulars Paul Marco, Tor Johnson, Duke Moore, and Criswell.
There is some question about the copyright status of Night of the Ghouls. But there shouldn’t be because of a number of issues, not the least of which is that the film was distributed in 1960 — admittedly in a minor way. There is a good print with Spanish subtitles on Archive.org. Wade Williams claims to hold the copyright on the film as he has released a good, but overpriced, DVD with no extras to speak of.
The Night Strangler (1973)
Producer/Director: Dan Curtis
Screenwriter: Richard Matheson (story: Jeff Rice)
Carl Kolchak is back in this follow-up to The Night Stalker (1972). It led to my favorite television show as a kid, Kolchak: The Night Stalker. In this film, Kolchak is in Seattle chasing down a man who is killing women in order to prolong his life. It’s a pretty good story, but mostly it is just fun to hang out with a guy who “looks like he just came from a road company performance of The Front Page.”
Featuring Darren McGavin (A Christmas Story), Jo Ann Pflug (Catlow), Simon Oakland (Psycho), Wally Cox (Underdog), Al Lewis (The Munsters), John Carradine (House of Dracula), Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz), Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man).
The Night Strangler is under copyright but I’ve never had difficulty finding it online. It is available on disc along with The Night Stalker.
The Omega Man (1971)
Producer: Walter Seltzer
Director: Boris Sagal
Screenwriters: John William Corrington & Joyce H Corrington (because of some bad typesetting, the first writer is often listed as “John William”; novel: Richard Matheson)
If you are looking for I Am Legend, you will not find it here. A couple of soap opera writers took Matheson’s idea and ran with it. And it’s a damned fun film! It’s more or less Charlton Heston vs The Family — this was made at peak Manson-mania. But if you like violence, spectacle, and Rosalind Cash, you can’t go wrong. And who among us has not wanted to shoot up Los Angeles with a machine gun? Anthony Zerbe is great as the main bad guy.
Shockingly, a very nice widescreen print is available for free on Archive.org. For less than $15, you can get it on both DVD and Blu-ray. There aren’t much in terms of features, but more than we psychotronic fans have come to expect.
One Spy Too Many (1966)
Producers: David Victor
Directors: Joseph Sargent
Screenwriter: Dean Hargrove
This is a fun little film — especially if you love 1960s cool-spy sexism. It was constructed out of two episodes of the television show The Man from UNCLE. They cut some stuff out and then added lots of flirting between Napoleon Solo and “Control.” The result is an hour and a half of mindless fun.
The bad guy, Alexander, steals a secret weapon that causes enemy troops to give up. It’s bad because, of course, as long as America had the weapon, it would never use it. Kind of like the atomic bomb. Meanwhile, Alexander’s wife, Tracey, is trying to track him down so she can serve him divorce papers. It’s the best thing in the film! But rest assured, Napoleon saves the world by keeping the secret weapon in American hands.
Featuring Robert Vaughn (The Magnificent Seven) as Napoleon, David McCallum (The Great Escape) as Illya Kuryakin, Dorothy Provine (That Darn Cat!) as Tracey Alexander, Rip Torn (The Larry Sanders Show) as Alexander, Leo G Carroll (over a barrel in Tarantula), Yvonne Craig (Batgirl in the old Batman series) as “Control,” and James Hong (Balls of Fury).
The film is copyrighted. You can get it on a DVD-R as part of The Man From UNCLE: The 8 Movies Collection.
Our Man in Jamaica (1965)
Producer: Ernst Ritter von Theumer and Antonio del Amo
Director: Ernst Ritter von Theumer (as as Richard Jackson)
Screenwriters: Kurt Vogelmann & Antonio del Amo
Other titles: Operation Jamaica, A 001, Operazione Giamaica
Agent 009 has disappeared in Jamaica and Agent 001 is sent to find him. This Spaghetti Spy film is a clear rip-off of Dr No. What’s surprising, however, is that I like it more. Despite Sean Connery’s incessant grinning at the camera, the early Bond pictures don’t have much of a sense of humor to them. That generally isn’t true of the knock-offs, which are quite aware of how silly they are. That’s true here from the first frame where Agent 001 wakes up with a massive hangover.
Other than some questionable day-for-night, this is a well-rendered film. It features some balletic fight scenes and impressive stunt work by Brad Harris (Goliath Against the Giants). The cast spans Italy, America, Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Spain. Featuring Larry Pennell (Bubba Ho-Tep), Margitta Scherr, Wolfgang Kieling (Torn Curtain), and Barbara Valentin (Horrors of Spider Island).
Note: the trailer refers to “Secret Agent Gary” even though there is no such character. It also makes reference to the Dominican Civil War, which happened right before the film was released. There is no mention of it in the film as I recall.
Our Man in Jamaica is copyrighted. However, it is only available on VHS. This is especially a shame given that it is shot in 2.35:1. I’ve only seen it in 4:3 and I can hardly imagine how good it would have looked on the big screen. You can find copies prepared for television floating about.
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
Producer: Lamar Trotti
Director: William A. Wellman
Screenwriter: Lamar Trotti (novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark)
It is a classic now and loved by critics at the time, but generally not a well-received film. It’s no wonder. It’s as bleak as any post-apocalyptic film you are likely to see. It’s right up there with Threads (1984). A posse goes after a group that may have killed a respected member of the community. It’s kind of shocking to see that major studios once made such thoughtful films.
Featuring Henry Fonda (Once Upon a Time in the West), Dana Andrews (Curse of the Demon), Harry Morgan (Dragnet), Anthony Quinn (Zorba the Greek), William Eythe (The House on 92nd Street), Mary Beth Hughes (Inner Sanctum), Jane Darwell (The Grapes of Wrath), Chris-Pin Martin (The Cisco Kid), and Victor Kilian (Unknown World).
Phase IV (1974)
Producer: Paul B Radin
Director: Saul Bass
Screenwriter: Mayo Simon
This is a great film in the tradition of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and The Andromeda Strain (1971). An astronomical event causes ants to start behaving oddly. This is nothing like Them! (1954). Phase IV is a thinker’s film, even though it has surprisingly effective action and horror sequences. After you watch it, look online for the alternative ending.
Like many psychotronics, Phase IV got that MST3K treatment in its first season (when it was good). But this is another case where the film triumphs over the riffing. If you get desperate, you can always find the film online in this form. Otherwise, it is copyrighted. It’s available on DVD and Blu-ray, but without any extras or the longer ending.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Producer: Arthur P Jacobs
Director: Franklin J Schaffner
Screenwriters: Michael Wilson and Rod Serling (novel: Pierre Boulle)
The film that brought us the sequel! But it’s hard to be mad at a film so bold it hid Kim Hunter’s face! Also: it’s such a fun film. And so were all the sequels!
The plot’s pretty straightforward: humans travel to another planet where apes rule over humans. And, of course, it has its famous surprise ending.
It features an amazing cast: Charlton Heston (In the Mouth of Madness), Roddy McDowall (Killer Shark), Kim Hunter (Anything Can Happen), Maurice Evans (Rosemary’s Baby), James Whitmore (Them!), James Daly (“Requiem for Methuselah”), Woodrow Parfrey (Charley Varrick), Linda Harrison, and Lou Wagner.
Planet of the Apes is copyright and you are unlikely to find it online in the usual places. You can get the film as a single disc, but I recommend getting “Planet of the Apes: The Legacy Collection” on DVD or Blu-ray. It includes all five films along with the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes.
Producers: Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenwriters: Steven Spielberg and Michael Grais & Mark Victor
A little girl communicates with dead people via a television. Eventually, she is kidnapped to the other side. Luckily, Zelda Rubinstein comes to the rescue. A very good horror fill with lots of clever social critique. It’s not one of my favorite Tobe Hooper films but it is good. Did Steven Spielberg direct this? It’s too filled with Hooper’s obsessions and sensibilities. Like Spielberg would ever put in daddy reading Reagan: The Man the President. But you don’t have to get Hooper’s little jabs at society to enjoy this well-made little horror film. Starring JoBeth Williams and man who the government never helped out when he was on food stamps and welfare, Craig T Nelson. Also starring the psychotronic hero James Karen.
It is copyrighted. I have it on an old DVD and it’s okay. The video quality could be better. I would assume the 2008 Blu-ray is better.
Producers: Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Roy Lee
Director: Gil Kenan
Screenwriters: David Lindsay-Abaire
Don’t listen to the haters; this is a good film. The problem is that it isn’t nearly as good as the original and isn’t as good as most of the films listed here. But I wouldn’t avoid it. Just the same, don’t seek it out. All the interesting subtext of the original is gone. And a week after watching it, you will probably remember the original better. Starring Sam Rockwell and Jared Harris.
The Psychotronic Man (1980)
Producer: Peter Spelson
Director: Jack M Sell
Screenwriters: Peter Spelson & Jack M Sell
Our Review: The Film That Named a Genre
This is an underrated gem. It shows the dark side of having superpowers. And producer/co-writer Peter Spelson in the title role has a fragility that is really compelling. The film is edited at a slow burn, so give it time. At first, it’s just the story of a drunk. But you don’t have too long for some cool stuff. See the film that named a genre!
The Psychotronic Man is copyrighted. But you can find it everywhere. It’s usually on YouTube. And most streaming services offer it. You can also get a reasonable print on DVD. The problem with all of these copies is that they have a 4:3 aspect ration, whereas the actual film was 2.35:1. The release cut was also 10 minutes longer. Both these cuts were doubtless made for TV. I’d really like to see the film in its original form one day.
Producer: John Dunning
Director/Screenwriter: David Cronenberg
This is the film! After Shivers, you could still believe that Cronenberg was a regular director. But with Rabid it was clear that he was truly twisted.
A woman gets a skin-graft after an accident. But it turns her into a kind of vampire. But not one of those wimpy ones who can live off rat blood. She needs the real thing. And as usual in a Cronenberg film, things just get worse.
The film stars Marilyn Chambers of Behind the Green Door fame. It features: Joe Silver (Shivers), Frank Moore (The Third Walker), Susan Roman, and Howard Ryshpan. Director Allan Moyle (Pump Up the Volume) has a cameo.
The film is copyrighted. There is a “Roger Corman” DVD release with commentary by Cronenberg. (I hate the use of Corman’s name to sell the films of better directors.) There is also an amazingly packed Blu-ray version.
The Raven (1963)
Producer/Director: Roger Corman
Screenwriter: Richard Matheson
Our Review: Roger Corman Poe Cycle
The Raven is one of my favorite horror comedies. It has nothing to do with the poem, of course. But it’s hard not to have fun hanging out for an hour and a half with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Hazel Court (The Curse of Frankenstein). It isn’t quite up to the best of the other Poe Cycle films (eg, The Masque of the Red Death), but it’s still good. Jack Nicholson plays Lorre’s son. (Sure. Why not?)
This film is in the public domain and Archive.org has a fabulous copy. I can’t recommend any discs. There is a Blu-ray that looks good, but it has Region B/2 encoding. The Vincent Price Collection 2 is probably worth checking out.
Robot Monster (1953)
Producer/Director: Phil Tucker
Screenwriter: Wyott Ordung
Our review: Everybody Loves Robot Monster
What is there to say? Robot Monster is one of the greatest films ever made and Ro-Man is the greatest monster ever created. People who hate it almost always haven’t seen it and base their opinion on clips of Ro-Man wandering around. But the film is delightful and always interesting.
It features George Nader (Congo Crossing) and the gorilla in countless films, George Barrows.
Scream Blacula Scream (1973)
Producer: Joseph T Naar
Director: Bob Kelljan
Screenwriters: Joan Torres & Raymond Koenig and Maurice Jules (story: Joan Torres & Raymond Koenig)
Blacula is brought back to life by the privileged son of a recently deceased voodoo priestess. The new voodoo priestess tries to cure Blacula but fails, turning against him instead.
This is more of a traditional vampire story than the original. Generally, I think it is better. They make a great double feature!
William Marshall (Pee-wee’s Playhouse) is back in the title role. This is Richard Lawson’s (Bogard) first credited role. Also featuring: Pam Grier (Black Mama White Mama), Don Mitchell (Ironside), Michael Conrad (Hill Street Blues), Janee Michelle (The House on Skull Mountain), Barbara Rhoades (The Shakiest Gun in the West), Bernie Hamilton (Starsky and Hutch), and Craig T Nelson (Poltergeist).
Scum of the Earth! (1963)
Producer: David F Friedman
Director/Screenwriter: Herschell Gordon Lewis
This is the film shot just days after Blood Feast. It’s an underappreciated gem. The story revolves around a pornography ring and traps young women and even a photographer into doing work they wouldn’t normally. As Samuel L Jackson would say, they are the weak. Much of the film is hard to watch with off-camera rape and murder. But it builds to a heartwarming ending where even the weak find redemption. Generally considered the first Roughie.
Mal Arnold, who played a 60 year-old just the week before, plays a teenager here. William Kerwin is his usual fabulous self as Harmon the blackmailed photographer, and Lewis’ wife, Allison Louise Downe, plays the principal female (she’s not as good an actor as she is a writer).
If Blood Feast is in the public domain, then certainly Scum of the Earth! is. Regardless, no one has uploaded it to Archive.org. You can usually find it on YouTube or DailyMotion. The only version of this film by itself is a DVD-R — not recommended. It is usually paired with other films: Blood Feast, The Defilers, and Night Tide.
Sherman’s March (1985)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Ross McElwee
Ross McElwee is about to start filming his documentary on Sherman’s march to the sea. But his girlfriend dumps him. His family tells him he should find a nice southern girl. So he decides to make a documentary about finding a nice southern girl instead. The result was this revolutionary two and a half hour documentary in which a man speculates about romance and meaning without ever concluding anything. It’s spellbinding.
Sherman’s March is copyrighted. You can usually find it and its follow-up, Time Indefinite, online for free. It is available with a short director’s interview on DVD.
Producer: Ivan Reitman
Director/Screenwriter: David Cronenberg
Other titles: The Parasite Murders, They Came from Within, Frissons
This was Cronenberg’s first commercial feature. And what a debut! A crazy scientist decides that humans are too cultured and intellectual so he creates a parasite that turns them into sex zombies. I know: when I put it that way it sounds like a crazy 1950s mad scientist film. But it’s not. The scientist dies in the first scene. It is all wonderfully believable. And creepy in the way that only Cronenberg is — with great action and effects.
It features Paul Hampton (Hit!), Joe Silver (Rabid), Lynn Lowry (Model Hunger), Allan Kolman (A Man, a Woman and a Bank), and Barbara Steele (The Pit and the Pendulum).
The film is copyrighted, but it isn’t hard to find good prints online. And it is generally available on Amazon Prime. I can’t find it on DVD or Blu-ray for US players, but it is available for other regions. Maybe it is time to buy a multi-region player?
Shock Corridor (1963)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Samuel Fuller
I’m a big fan of Samuel Fuller. He was perhaps the best independent filmmaker from the 1960s into the 1980s. He is best known for this film, however. It’s about a reporter who gets committed to a mental hospital in order to solve a murder that has taken place there. In the process, he meets a number of colorful inmates. It features Fuller’s usual humanitarian take on the subject. But mostly, it is simply great filmmaking.
Featuring Peter Breck (The Crawling Hand), Constance Towers (The Naked Kiss), Gene Evans (The Steel Helmet), James Best (The Killer Shrews), and Hari Rhodes (Detroit 9000).
Shock Corridor does not appear to be in the public domain. However, any psychotronic fan should really own it. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray and DVD versions are excellent. But they are a tad weak on extras.
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)
Producer: Jeffrey Konvitz and Ami Artzi
Director: Theodore Gershuny
Screenwriters: Theodore Gershuny and Jeffrey Konvitz & Ira Teller
Other titles: Night of the Full Dark Moon; Death House
This is one of the first films that Lloyd Kaufman had anything to do with. Given that he is (1) the biggest son of a bitch in the low budget industry and (2) most praised for having no managerial involvement with Zombiegeddon, you can make up your own mind as to how this affects your view of Silent Night, Bloody Night. Overall, this is a pretty engaging slasher film. And I’m not just saying that because Patrick O’Neal gets hacked to death at the 29-minute mark even though he is supposedly the star. But if you doubt me, I recommend you skip to the 29-minute mark and then I dare you to tell me that isn’t a damned cool double-murder.
The male star of the film is James Patterson (In the Heat of the Night). He went from Tony-award-winning actor, to Silent Night, Bloody Night star, to death by cancer at only 40. Actors: beware your choices! (That’s wrong of me. His death was tragic.) Other notables: John Carradine, Walter Abel (First Offenders), Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul), and other Andy Warhol “Superstars.”
Son of Kong (1933)
Producer/Director: Ernest B Schoedsack
Screenwriter: Ruth Rose
This is a silly film. But it does answer a big question that remains at the end of King Kong: is anyone going to hold Carl Denham responsible for the mess he’s created? And the answer is: yes! Son of Kong starts with him hiding out from people who want to sue him. And when he learns that he will be indicted the next day, he and the captain from the first film head out to sea. Unfortunately, they just can’t resist Skull Island. It’s all played for laughs — kind of like Beethoven but with a giant gorilla. And it’s also filled with huge amounts of 1933-era racism!
The film also has an economic-political bent. Right before arriving at Skull Island, the crew mutiny. They get rid of the officers and create a worker-run ship. It’s probably most remarkable in that the film doesn’t make the crew look bad. There’s really no judgment one way or the other.
The film features a number of actors from King Kong such as Robert Armstrong, Frank Reicher, and Victor Wong. Also of note is Helen Mack, who had a remarkable career spanning silent films, radio, and into television. She is mostly known as a writer.
Spawn of the Slithis (1978)
Producer: Paul Fabian and Stephen Traxler
Director/Screenwriter: Stephen Traxler
Other titles: Slithis
This is wonderful: an old-fashioned 1950s monster movie made in 1978! Nuclear waste leaks into a Wisconsin lagoon and combines with organic material to create radioactive mud called “slithis.” And from it comes what looks very much like the disheveled brother of Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954). A high school teacher and his scientist friend search for the monster aided by the teacher’s wife and an able scuba diver. The monster turns out to be very hard to kill.
The film is pretty well acted for being made up of unknowns. It features Alan Blanchard, Dennis Falt, JC Claire, Judy Motulsky, and Win Condict as the monster.
Spawn of the Slithis is copyrighted but not well-protected and so can be often be found on YouTube and the like. It is available as a DVD with just its trailer as the only extra. Currently, it is really expensive. You might want to consider getting the VHS, which is also expensive.
Spider Baby (1967)
Producer: Paul Monka & Gil Lasky
Director/Screenwriter: Jack Hill
Other titles: The Maddest Story Ever Told
This is Jack Hill’s masterpiece — which is saying something. A horror comedy that is consistently funny, it tells the story of three children (Sid Haig, Jill Banner, and Beverly Washburn) who have a unique disease that causes them to regress as they age. They partake in cannibalism, murder, and general oddness. Cared for by their chauffeur (Lon Chaney Jr) after the death of their father, the rest of the family have come to take them away. And that won’t do! Ultimately, this is one of the sweetest films you’ll ever see. It is also deeply disturbing.
It also features Carol Ohmart (House on Haunted Hill) and Mantan Moreland (the Sidney Toler Charlie Chan films). Jill Banner died in a car crash when she was only 35. Marlon Brando apparently said that she was the love of his life. They were a couple when she died.
The film is in the public domain and there is an excellent print on Archive.org. The older DVDs don’t have video quality notably better than the Archive.org copy. But the director’s cut has a lot of notable extras. You are better off with the Arrow Video Blu-ray/DVD version, which has a bunch of extras. I assume it has an excellent quality transfer (given that it was released 3 years after the Academy Film Archive created a number of high-quality prints).
Spontaneous Combustion (1990)
Producer: Jim Rogers
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenwriters: Tobe Hooper and Howard Goldberg
This is widely considered one of Tobe Hooper’s worst films. But it’s strange in that even people who don’t like it admit that it is entertaining. I’m not clear on what a science fiction film like this is supposed to be other than entertaining. I really like it.
In the 1950s, a young couple takes part in a nuclear test. When the woman soon gives birth to a boy all seems well. Then they catch fire and die. Jump forward about 30 years and the baby is grown and his past comes together as his life unravels.
Featuring Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Cynthia Bain, Jon Cypher (The Kid and the Killers), William Prince (The Gauntlet), Melinda Dillon (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), and Dey Young (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School).
Spontaneous Combustion is copyrighted but if you can find any Hooper film online, it is this one. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray, but in a form that is typical of neglected films. There is also an all region Blu-ray.
Producer/Director/Writer: David Cronenberg
This was David Cronenberg’s first feature film: a 60-minute black-and-white MOS with voice over. It claims to be an educational film about people who are turned into psychics. They are encouraged to experiment sexually to increase their psychic powers. It’s sort of the ur-Scanners and definitely foreshadows most of Cronenberg’s career. It’s gorgeous to look at and disturbing to watch. You know: a David Cronenberg film!
Stereo features a number of actors who you might know from later Cronenberg films. The main one is Jack Messinger. But the acting is really not the point of the film.
The film is copyrighted although you can often find it online. But the good news is that you may already own it. For example, it is on the Criterion Collect Scanners — which you really should own! The Blue Underground release of Fast Company includes Stereo and Crimes of the Future. You could also get David Cronenberg’s Early Works, which includes those two along with his first two short films Transfer and From the Drain.
Producers: Deboragh Gabler and Ailsa Orr
Director: Tony Mitchell
Screenwriter: Edward Canfor-Dumas
The kind of disaster film that terrified me as a kid because it’s based on something that could happen (but probably won’t). Yellowstone becomes a supervolcano — spewing ash into the stratosphere, blocking sunlight and freezing the northern hemisphere. It’s pretty good. The whole thing would be better if there were more disaster, though.
Featuring Michael Riley (This Is Wonderland), Gary Lewis (Outlander), Shaun Johnston (The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting), Adrian Holmes, Rebecca Jenkins (Wilby Wonderful), and Susan Duerden.
Supervolcano is copyrighted, but not hard to find online. It isn’t currently available on disc with US encoding.
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)
Producer: Melvin Van Peebles & Jerry Gross
Director/Screenwriter: Melvin Van Peebles
“Rated X by an all-white jury.” Also, well, there are still parts of this film that might make you uncomfortable. But this is an incredible film. It’s a simple “man on the run” story. But it is filled with so much grit and directorial brilliance that it is hard not to love. If you’re white, check your privilege and don’t pretend you know anything after watching it. It’s a fun film that tips many of the tropes of this genre on their heads. Watch Melvin Van Peebles eat a live lizard!
Film is under copyright and well protected. Generally, the commercial releases are of mediocre quality. Thankfully, the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray is available. It’s wonderful. There is also a combo package with Blu-ray and DVD. The two are usually the same price, so why not? Don’t mistakenly purchase the DVD-only version; it isn’t from Vinegar Syndrome. As I write this, both the Blu-ray and combo packages are less expensive. Don’t get tricked into buying a lesser copy for more!
Producer/Director: Mick Jackson
Screenwriter: Barry Hines
This is probably the most frightening film I’ve ever seen. It is an accurate rendering of life after nuclear war. Sure, it’s been done a lot. But no film (at least up to that time) showed its true horror. And the wonderful thing is that you can’t dismiss it afterward. Freddy Krueger absolutely won’t show up in your dreams. But we may all face life after nuclear war. Everyone should see this film at least once.
Featuring Paul Vaughan as the narrator and Karen Meagher, Reece Dinsdale (I.D.), David Brierly, Rita May (Trollied), Nicholas Lane, Jane Hazlegrove (Without Motive), and Phil Rose.
Theatre of Blood (1973)
Producers: Gustave Berne & Sam Jaffe and John Kohn & Stanley Mann
Director: Douglas Hickox
Screenwriters: Anthony Greville-Bell (based on idea by Mann and Kohn)
Other titles: Theater of Blood
Revenge doesn’t get any better. Vincent Price plays a “vigorous” Shakespearean actor who kills all his critics using scenes from the plays. Price delights in the many parts he gets to play. Diana Rigg plays his devoted daughter. The cast is filled out with many of the shining lights of British character actors. Of particular note is Coral Browne who gets a wonderfully grisly death. Robert Morley wins the prize for the most disgusting death. I don’t see how this film can be better. I watch it at least once a month to cheer myself up. (No living writer doesn’t occasionally need to watch a bunch of critics murdered!)
Theatre of Blood is copyrighted. The commercial copies have always been of good quality. Recently, Arrow Video put out a 1080p Blu-ray that features a commentary by the cast of The League of Gentlemen. Truthfully, this film deserves a proper academic commentary with all the literary allusions and details about the actors. But this is the best treatment the film has yet received. There is a very cheap DVD, although I haven’t checked it. The ultimate way to get it, I still think, is the MGM Midnight Movies double feature of Theatre of Blood & Madhouse.
They Live (1988)
Producer: Larry Franco
Director: John Carpenter
Screenwriters: “Frank Armitage” (John Carpenter) (screenplay) and Ray Nelson (story)
They Live is not Carpenter’s best, but it is probably his most fun. And political. But don’t forget that it’s a comedy. There is a hidden reality: alien creatures are plundering our planet but it is hidden by a broadcast signal. Nada is a drifter who believes in America — only to be converted when he sees reality via special sunglasses.
The film stars professional wrestler Roddy Piper (Hell Comes to Frogtown). With Keith David (The Thing), Meg Foster (The Osterman Weekend), Raymond St Jacques (Change of Mind), and Sy Richardson (Repo Man).
The film is copyrighted. You can find it on free video sharing sites if you don’t mind a bunch of commercials. You can get it on Blu-ray with lots of nice extras. Or you can get it on DVD without anything much.
They Might Be Giants (1971)
Producer: John Foreman
Director: Anthony Harvey
Screenwriter: James Goldman
This is one of my very favorite movies. Part Sherlock Holmes, part Don Quixote. An esteemed judge goes crazy after his wife dies and believes he is Holmes. His brother tries to get him committed and introduces him to Dr Mildred Watson. Slowly, Holmes pulls Watson into his mad world. The film is as crazy as the character.
It features George C Scott ( Dr Strangelove) and Joanne Woodward (The Fugitive Kind). It also includes Jack Gilford (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), Lester Rawlins, Al Lewis (The Munsters), Rue McClanahan (How to Succeed With Girls), Oliver Clark (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), and Kitty Winn (The Panic in Needle Park).
They Might Be Giants is copyrighted although you can usually find it online because it isn’t popular. It is available on DVD. However, it is the edited version that doesn’t include the scene where the crazies riot at the supermarket. However, I’m not sure if this is a bad cut. The riot doesn’t necessarily work with the tone of that part of the film. Maybe someday a proper release will include both versions.
The Thing (1982)
Producers: David Foster & Lawrence Turman
Director: John Carpenter
Screenwriter: Bill Lancaster based on the novel Who Goes There? by John W Campbell Jr
This is one of John Carpenter’s best films. It has a great, engaging story, wonderful special effects by Rob Bottin and his crew, a great cast, and a fantastic ending. More or less a remake of the excellent The Thing from Another World (1951), it tells the story of a group working in Antarctica that is invaded by a malignant space alien that can take any form it wants. Things get paranoid fast.
The cast is fantastic: Kurt Russell (Escape From New York), Keith David (Platoon), David Clennon (Matinee), Thomas Waites (…And Justice for All), Donald Moffat (On the Nickle) and many more.
The film is not, of course, in the public domain. And you aren’t likely to find it on a video site. It is, however, on a number of compilation DVDs including John Carpenter: Master of Fear 4 Film Collection, which includes Prince of Darkness but sadly not In the Mouth of Madness. (Because why would anyone want the Apocalypse Trilogy in a single package?) There are, unsurprisingly, no DVD extras on this. The Blu-ray Edition and the DVD Collector’s Edition have many features and look great. The Blu-ray is better, however.
The Thing from Another World (1951)
Producers: Howard Hawks
Director: Christian Nyby
Screenwriter: Charles Lederer based on the novel Who Goes There? by John W Campbell Jr
The army go to check out a flying saucer that landed in northern Alaska. Once there, they find a plant-based created with ill-intent that can take on any shape. It’s not as exciting as the 1982 The Thing. And it is saturated with that 1950s can-do Yankee spirit. And instead of the ambiguous ending of the novel, it ends with a typical veiled anti-communist message. Even still, it’s quite an engaging film. It features James Arness (Gunsmoke) and a number of other good television actors.
There is a great print of the original (long) cut on Archive.org. A colorized version around, but it’s the typical “everything is pastels” type and the film is really better in black and white. There are DVD and Blu-ray versions, but I don’t see too much reason to buy them given the Archive.org copy is so good. But I haven’t seen them, and if you have a high-def television, you may want to check out the Blu-ray version. Neither copy offers much in the way of extras.
This Island Earth (1955)
Producer: William Alland
Director: Joseph Newman
Screenwriters: Franklin Coen and Edward G O’Callaghan (based on the novel by Raymond F Jones)
One of the most thoughtful science fiction films of the 1950s, This Island Earth provides an intelligent script, good acting, and state-of-the-art special effects. Not really psychotronic at the time, it definitely is now.
Todd and the Book of Pure Evil (2010)
Creators: Anthony Leo, Charles Picco, & Craig David Wallace
Producers: too many
Directors: various, especially James Genn, James Dunnison, and Craig David Wallace
Screenwriters: various, especially Craig David Wallace and Charles Picco
Our review Evil Comes From Canada
“Kicking evil in the nuts — with very mixed results.” This is a hilarious television show (26 episodes) and a final animated film that pulls it all together. Almost every episode is the same: a student has a problem, the Book of Pure Evil appears and solves their problem like the monkey’s paw. The four principal characters act kind of like The Three Investigators who track down the Satanists who run the town. Each episode ends with gallons of blood spilled. It’s very funny. Chris Leavins plays the creepy but fragile guidance counselor and Jason Mewes (Jay of the Kevin Smith films) plays the stoner janitor with a deep secret. This is pure fun. Great party entertainment.
You can find free episodes here and there like on DailyMotion. Or you can rent the final film on Amazon. You can rent episodes (season 1 and season 2) on Amazon. They are also available on DVD: season 1 and season 2. The final film (The End of the End) is sadly only available as a Blu-ray at roughly $35. It has nice extras, but it is deceptive. Everything in on the Blu-ray. Then there is a DVD version of the film. And then there is a CD of music. I’m glad to have it, but I felt decived — especially since the film was financed through GoFundMe. Someday, I assume they will put out a box set. As it is now, the whole show will cost about $55.
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
Producer/Director: Dan Curtis
Screenwriters: Richard Matheson and William F Nolan
Karen Black stars in filmed versions of three Richard Matheson short stories — two written by William F Nolan. If this isn’t enough of a horror orgasm for you, they were all produced and directed by Dan “Dark Shadows” Curtis. And it does not disappoint. Each one is a winner with a nice twist. And Black is superb. The last one is what everyone remembers: about an African warrior doll that comes to life, based extremely closely on the story “Prey.” When I watched it at 11-years-old, I was so terrified, I didn’t even notice the revenge joke. If you haven’t seen it, you must; if you have, you should watch it again.
It is available for free in an acceptable print on Archive.org. For psychotronistas, I recommend getting the Special Edition on DVD or Blu-ray. They come with a great transfer and lots of great extras.
Tune in Tomorrow (1990)
Producer:John Fiedler and Mark Tarlov
Director: Jon Amiel
Screenwriter: William Boyd (novel: Mario Vargas Llosa)
This is one of my favorite comedies. And it was clearly a prestige project. I assume that a new studio head killed it or something. I saw it by chance in the theater and the crowd loved it. It has sublime art direction by Chris Seagers and a wonderful score by Wynton Marsalis. You should really check this one out. It’s a good one to watch with your grandparents. This or The Human Centipede.
A young man falls in love with his bohemian aunt. It all revolves around a radio station in 1950s Louisiana.
Starring Keanu Reeves (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Barbara Hershey (The Last Temptation of Christ), and Peter Falk (The Cheap Detective) as the crazy soap opera writer Pedro Carmichael. Featuring Bill McCutcheon (Santa Claus Conquers the Martians), Patricia Clarkson (Good Night, and Good Luck), Richard Portnow (Good Morning, Vietnam), and many more great character actors.
Turbo Kid (2015)
Producers: Anne-Marie Gélinas & Ant Timpson & Benoit Beaulieu & Tim Riley
Directors/Screenwriters: Anouk Whissell & François Simard & Yoann-Karl Whissell
Our Review: Turbo Kid: Gory Post-Apocalyptic Nostalgia
“Mad Max on a BMX!” A post-apocalyptic action-comedy centering around a teen (Munro Chambers) who scavenges for water, food, and cool gadgets from the 1980s before life went to hell. He is joined by Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) and Frederic (Aaron Jeffery), an arm-wrestling cowboy Kiwi. They join forces to defeat Michael Ironside, who is particularly badass in this film. It’s a lot like eating a whole quart of Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche — yes, it isn’t exactly edifying but it’s so good! If you must hide away while watching it, we understand.
Turbo Kid seem always to be available on Netflix and Amazon Prime, so check there. There is a 3-disc Blu-ray Collector’s Edition for those who really like it. It is available on DVD. Be careful about region. Currently, the NTSC version is very expensive.
Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
Producer: David F Friedman
Director/Screenwriter: Herschell Gordon Lewis
After the success of Blood Feast, Friedman and Lewis decided to do it again — but well. In some ways, they improved it and in other ways, they hurt it. The film is notable for starting the “Yankees trapped by Southern psychopaths” subgenre of horror. And the story is good with fine acting and much production value. Where the film falls down is in the gore department. There’s very little of it and what is there doesn’t compare to Blood Feast. But don’t let that dissuade you from this fine film.
The combination of friendly southern hospitality with homicidal intent will keep you glued to the screen. Connie Mason is much better in this film than in Blood Feast — perhaps owing to maturity or help by her co-star and husband William Kerwin. Jeffrey Allen as the mayor is wonderful. The original title of the film was “10,000 Maniacs,” but they didn’t have enough extras. Regardless, the band took its name from this film (Natalie Merchant is reportedly a big movie fan).
Two Thousand Maniacs! was copyrighted after a law change and will likely be “protected” for long after I’m dead. I recommend getting Something Weird’s Blood Trilogy Blu-Ray, which also includes Blood Feast and Color Me Blood Red. You could also get Something Weird’s DVD, but the Arrow Video Blu-ray is better (though more expensive).
The Velvet Vampire (1971)
Producer: Charles S Swartz
Director: Stephanie Rothman
Screenwriters: Maurice Jules and Stephanie Rothman & Charles S Swartz
This is one of Stephanie Rothman’s greatest films — produced and co-written with her husband, Charles Swartz. Rothman was one of the few female exploitation filmmakers in the 1960s. Sadly, Hollywood never took her seriously. She tried to break into TV directing but there were no offers, even though her work is great.
The Velvet Vampire was on the cutting edge of the “lesbian vampire” films, even though it would be more accurate to call this a “bisexual vampire” film. It’s visually stunning even though, if you look hard, you can see how this film was made on a budget. It starts with a wonderful scene of an attempted rape of the title character. You can imagine what happens. But it is impressive throughout. Starring Celeste Yarnall (Beast of Blood) in the title role plus Michael Blodgett (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) and Sherry E DeBoer (as Sherry Miles).
This film is not in the public domain. You can find it around, though. But you are best to buy the Vampires, Mummies and Monsters Collection — Roger Corman Cult Classics. The individual DVDs of The Velvet Vampire are not good. This one comes with an okay commentary with Celeste Yarnall. And you get Lady Frankenstein (1971), Time Walker (1982), and Grotesque (1988).
Producer: Claude Héroux
Director/Screenwriter: David Cronenberg
James Woods is the executive of a small UHF station who is looking for the next new thing. He finds it in Videodrome — a video series that consists of nothing but torture porn. He soon learns that his contact with it is killing him and allowing others to control (program) him. This is probably Cronenberg’s masterpiece. It’s a surreal journey into madness or things to come. Or maybe just Facebook.
It is best to get the Criterion Collection version on DVD or Blu-ray. Earlier releases did not use the full-length of widescreen televisions.
Visit to a Small Planet (1960)
Producer: Hal B Wallis
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenwriters: Edmund Beloin & Henry Garson (play: Gore Vidal)
A humanphile space alien takes an extended stay and falls in love. Ultimately, he finds that being human is a pain and returns home.
The satire of the original play is mostly removed in the name of providing a vehicle for Jerry Lewis’ unique brand of acting.
Featuring: Joan Blackman (Blue Hawaii), Earl Holliman (Forbidden Planet), Fred Clark (The Unsuspected), John Williams (To Catch a Thief), and Barbara Bostock (Girls on the Loose).
Voodoo Island (1957)
Producer: Howard W Koch
Director: Reginald Le Borg
Screenwriter: Richard H Landau
Michael Weldon would have you believe this is a bad film. I think it’s quite effective. An investor is building a hotel on Voodoo Island and sends an investigator to make sure nothing supernatural is happening. But sure enough, he finds that people are being turned into zombies and there are plants that eat humans.
Voodoo Island stars Boris Karloff who gets to says, “The public loves to be scared!” Featuring: Beverly Tyler (The Fireball), Murvyn Vye (Road to Bali), and Elisha Cook Jr (Shane). Adam West has a small role as a radio operator; this was his first feature film.
The Werewolf of Washington (1973)
Producer: Nina Schulman
Director/Screenwriter: Milton Moses Ginsberg
Dean Stockwell is the US president’s assistant press secretary. He is bitten by a werewolf while still working in Hungary. While at the White House, people start dying and no one will believe that it is him. This film is a hilarious takedown of the Nixon White House. But even without knowing that, the film is quite funny. It’s never particularly scary, however. It features notable actors like Thayer David (Dark Shadows), Clifton James (Live and Let Die), Biff McGuire (Serpico), and especially Michael Dunn (The Wild Wild West).
This film is in the public domain. Unfortunately, these copies are terrible. What’s more, many commercial DVDs of the film are nothing more than public domain copies. Beware! (I’ll try to locate a copy I feel is worth recommending.) Check YouTube. As I write this, there is an acceptable copy there. I have yet to see a copy that wasn’t cropped to 4:3.
Producer: Mort Briskin
Director: Daniel Mann
Screenwriter: Gilbert Ralston based on Stephen Gilbert’s Ratman’s Notebooks.
Willard is a wonderful film, even if I don’t like the ending. You probably know it — it was a big hit. Willard is a social outcast so he makes friends with rats — especially two: Socrates and Ben. But Willard goes a little crazy after his mother dies. This leads up to the most spectacular moment where he confronts his awful boss and has his rat friends kill him. Unfortunately, Willard turns on the rats — killing the rest that are at home. But Ben knows and so you know what happens next.
The film featured some great actors. Ernest Borgnine as the horrible boss. Elsa Lanchester (Bride of Frankenstein) as Willard’s mother. And Bruce Davison as Willard.
The film is not in the public domain, but you can normally find it on YouTube or DailyMotion. But you owe it to yourself to get the Shout! Factory Blu-ray/DVD edition which has a very good print along with a great transfer and a commentary with Bruce Davison.
White Dog (1982)
Producer: Jon Davison
Director: Samuel Fuller
Screenwriter: Samuel Fuller and Curtis Hanson (novel: Romain Gary)
This is Samuel Fuller’s last American film. It received rave reviews but Paramount was too cowardly to give it a proper release in the US. It is a hard-hitting film, even today.
A young actor hits a dog with her car and adopts it only to find that it is a “white dog” — one trained to attack black people. Rather than kill the dog, she takes it to some animal trainers to have the racism trained out of it. This is an intense and heartbreaking film.
It starts Kristy McNichol (Family), Paul Winfield (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), and Burl Ives (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer). Dick Miller (Matinee) has a small role. Ennio Morricone composed the score.
The film is copyrighted. It was never released on VHS — thus is how controversial it was. Criterion Collection finally released it on DVD in 2008 with some cool extras included an interview with a dog trainer. It hasn’t been released on Blu-ray in the US.
Without a Clue (1988)
Producer: Jamieson Film Company
Director: Thom Eberhardt
Screenwriters: Gary Murphy & Larry Strawther
This is a standard, moderate budget film starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. So why is it here? Because of the reviews. The critics saw that this was written by a couple of TV comedy writers and they came in eager to hate it. It produced exactly the kind of reverse-engineered reviews that I hate. If you decide to hate Citizen Kane (or just its director), you can — just ask Pauline Kael. So I’m naturally protective of such films.
It’s a reverse Sherlock Holmes story. And it’s silly as can be. It’s a great kids film. That may explain why I still watch it. And it is a constant reminder that if critics hate something it can’t be all bad. Also starring: Jeffrey Jones (Ed Wood), Lysette Anthony (Krull), Nigel Davenport (Phase IV), Paul Freeman (Hot Fuzz), and Peter Cook (Bedazzled).
Without a Clue is a studio film, so it will be under copyright, well, as long as I’m alive. It is so dismissed that you can find on YouTube and similar sites. If you want to buy it, you can get it on DVD along with The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) for very little money. There is also a wide-screen Blu-ray/DVD. Watch out for other versions because pan and scan is common.