Short Takes: D

Danny Johnson Saves the World (2015)

Producers: Christopher R Mihm and Stephanie Mihm
Director/Screenwriter: Christopher R Mihm

A grandfather tells the story of when he was a kid and how he saved the world from an invasion of brain-washing puppets.

This is probably Mihm’s most charming film with a mostly child cast with supporting parts by puppets. It’s still filled with the usual 1950s B-movie parody elements like over-explaining and ridiculous timing. There are also some great stop-motion animation by Norman Yeend.

Starring Elliott Mihm, James Norgard (House of Ghosts), Iola Warneke, and Jack Warneke. Christopher Mihm voices and controls Steve. Michael G Kaiser again plays the “monster.”

Danny Johnson Saves the World is under copyright. It is available on Amazon Prime.

The Dark and the Wicked (2020)

Producers: Bryan Bertino & Adrienne Biddle & Sonny Mallhi & Kevin Matusow
Director/Screenwriter: Bryan Bertino

A daughter and son come back to the family farm to help their mother with their dying father. But the mother is acting strangely and finally kills herself. There is something evil at the farm that is hunting for souls.

This is an exceptional horror film with thick atmosphere and a good number of jumps. It doesn’t explain everything but from my perspective it explains just enough (I don’t like over-explained plots). You might need a drink after it’s over.

Starring Marin Ireland (28 Hotel Rooms), Michael Abbott Jr (An Innocent Kiss), Xander Berkeley (Omega Syndrome), and Ella Ballentine (The Monster).

The Dark and the Wicked is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with just an interview with the two stars.

11 March 2021

Dark City (1998)

Producers: Andrew Mason and Alex Proyas
Director: Alex Proyas
Screenwriters: Alex Proyas and Lem Dobbs and David S Goyer (story: Alex Proyas)

A man wakes up with no memory and is quickly on the run from a group of mysterious men. Slowly, he pieces his life together and tries to make his way to his childhood home, which he believes will provide answers. It does, but not the ones he expects.

This is a brilliant science-fiction noir that was clearly an influence on The Matrix. It bears repeated viewings.

Starring Rufus Sewell (A Knight’s Tale), William Hurt (Body Heat), Jennifer Connelly (Requiem for a Dream), and Kiefer Sutherland (Flatliners). It has an amazing secondary cast too, featuring Richard O’Brien (Elvira’s Haunted Hills), Bruce Spence (The Matrix Revolutions), Colin Friels (Darkman), Melissa George (30 Days of Night), and Ian Richardson (Brazil).

Dark City is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with a couple of interesting extras. Or you could get it with the 10-minute longer director’s cut on Blu-ray with more but different extras. It’s also available with other films but I’d get one of single versions.

9 March 2020

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).

Dark Star is copyrighted but you can often find it online. It is available on Blu-ray and DVD. Both have a good amount of extras — other versions do not.

The Darkness (2016)

Producers: Jason Blum, Bianca Martino, and Matthew Kaplan
Director: Greg McLean
Screenwriters: Greg McLean, Shayne Armstrong & SP Krause

A kid picks up Native American stones from Grand Canyon bringing evil into his house. A portal into the underworld is opened and all is lost unless the stones are returned.

This is about as close to a remake of Poltergeist (1982) as you can get without a lawsuit. But this works pretty well.

Starring: Kevin Bacon (Sleepers) and Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black). Featuring: David Mazouz (Gotham), Lucy Fry (Vampire Academy), Alma Martinez, and Ilza Rosario.

The Darkness is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with a very different (and unfortunate) alternative ending.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Producer: Richard P Rubinstein
Director/Screenwriter: George Romero
Alternative titles: Zombi, Zombie

Survivors of the zombie outbreak take over a shopping mall fighting the zombies there as well as a gang of bikers.

This is a classic. But it’s been copied so much that watching it now is more just for nostalgia. It’s kind of long but what’s an extra half-hour when you are hanging out with old friends?

Starring Ken Foree (The Devil’s Rejects), Gaylen Ross, David Emge, and Scott Reiniger.

Dawn of the Dead is under copyright. Anchor Bay released it on DVD and Blu-ray with a bunch of extras. But these are really expensive now. Or you can get the Arrow DVD for even more. There are a ton of versions including the “director’s cut,” which is even longer!

31 July 2020

Day of Anger (1967)

Producers: Alfonso Sansone and Henryk Chrosicki
Director: Tonino Valerii
Screenwriters: Ernesto Gastaldi, Tonino Valerii, and Renzo Genta (novel: Rolf Becker)
Alternative Titles: I Giorni Dell’ira

A sanitation worker in the old west hooks up with a gunslinger who teaches him the ropes. But when he has learned the trade, the two men can no longer trust each other, and conflict arises.

This is a solid Spaghetti Western but ultimately more serious than I usually want to engage with. The two leads are excellent.

Starring Lee Van Cleef (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) and Giuliano Gemma (A Pistol for Ringo). With Walter Rilla (The Scarlet Pimpernel).

Days of Anger is under copyright. It is available on DVD as well as a Blu-ray with some interviews and deleted scenes.

15 May 2020

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005)

Producer: James Dudelson
Directors: James Dudelson and Ana Clavell
Screenwriter: Ana Clavell

The army creates a virus that turns people into zombies. They think they’ve wiped it out, but a vile shows up four decades later at a mental hospital. The virus gets out and starts turning everyone into zombies.

This film has seen more hatred than any other I can remember. And it’s all because of its name. It has nothing to do with George Romero or Day of the Dead (1985). But the title is entirely in keeping with what exploitation filmmakers do. Romero doesn’t need to be protected. And the fact is, this is a really good zombie film!

Starring Laurie Baranyay, Stan Klimecko, John F Henry II (Trickster), Justin Ipock, and Julian Thomas.

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with filmmakers’ commentary and a featurette.

Day the World Ended (1955)

Producer/Director: Roger Corman
Screenwriter: Lou Rusoff

After nuclear war, two small groups make their way to a survivalist’s home where they should all learn to get along but don’t. Plus they have to deal with nuclear monsters who ogle the women folk.

This is more or less Five (1951) but much less bleak and with monsters. As usual, Corman shows that he can make a one-room feature better than anyone. But this one does suffer from excessive exposition, which probably played better when everyone thought they would die in a nuclear war.

Starring Richard Denning (Creature from the Black Lagoon), Lori Nelson (Revenge of the Creature), Paul Birch (The Beast with a Million Eyes), Adele Jergens (Black Arrow), and Mike Connors (Mannix).

Day the World Ended is under copyright. It is available on DVD with The She-Creature, another AIP release written by Lou Rusoff.

1 May 2020

Dead & Rotting (2002)

Producer: Trent Haaga
Director: David P Barton
Screenwriters: Douglas Snauffer and David P Barton (story: Barton)

Three friends abuse the cat familiar (in human form) of a witch. The witch fights back. Rather than let the battle end there, the guys continue with a game that will lead to three deaths.

This is the only film directed by special make-up artist David Barton. It has some cool effects but is mostly absent gore. It’s an enjoyable film but I can see why he didn’t direct again. The film saw the combined forces of Charles Band’s Full Moon Pictures and JR Bookwalter’s Tempe Entertainment.

Starring Stephen O’Mahoney (Mega Scorpions), Tom Hoover (Polymorph), Trent Haaga (Killjoy’s Psycho Circus), Barbara Katz-Norrod (Her Name Was Christa), and Debbie Rochon (Witchouse 3: Demon Fire).

Dead & Rotting is under copyright. It is available on a Tempe DVD with their usual excellent selection of extras.

25 February 2020

Dead Alive (1992)

Producer: Jim Booth
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenwriters: Stephen Sinclair, Fran Walsh, and Peter Jackson (story: Stephen Sinclair)
Alternative Titles: Braindead

A rat-monkey from Skull Island turns people into zombies. When Lionel’s mother is infected, he tries to hold things together. But they fly out of control.

I miss the days when Peter Jackson made live-action films instead of his later animated films. (No offensive. His King Kong is one of my very favorite films.) The effects in this film are fantastic. And it’s very funny in a sick way.

Starring Tim Balme (Jack Brown Genius) and Diana Peñalver. Featuring: Elizabeth Moody (Undercover Gang), Ian Watkin, Brenda Kendall, and Stuart Devenie (Meet the Feebles).

Dead Alive is copyrighted. It is available on a bare DVD. Strangely, that’s about it.

Dead End (2003)

Producers: James Huth & Gabriella Stollenwerk
Directors/Screenwriters: Jean-Baptiste Andrea & Fabrice Canepa

A family on the road to spend Christmas with relatives has a near-crash. They find themselves on a deserted road where they come upon a young woman with a dead baby. One by one, everyone dies and is taken away in a mysterious hearse.

This is a very effective horror film even if it’s pretty clear what is going on from the start. One nice thing is that the characters are fairly likeable so you aren’t cheering for their deaths. It features a fine cast.

Starring Alexandra Holden (Wishcraft), Ray Wise (Suburban Gothic), Lin Shaye (Insidious), Mick Cain (White Wolves III: Cry of the White Wolf), and Amber Smith (Tell Me No Lies). Steve Valentine (Crossing Jordan) also has a small role.

Dead End is under copyright. It is available on DVD.

30 December 2020

Dead Man (1995)

Producer: Demetra J MacBride
Director: Jim Jarmusch

William Blake (the name is important) comes to an Old West town with the promise of an accountant job only to learn that the job has been given away. His life quickly goes downhill and he finds himself wanted for murder and hunted by three killers. Don’t think you know where this film is going.

This is Jim Jarmusch at his most oblique and wonderful. It is beautiful and filled with a large collection of colorful characters. Just relax and enjoy the ride.

Starring Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Gary Farmer (Smoke Signals). It has too many notable actors in minor roles to list. But of particular note are Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear) and John Hurt (The Hit).

The film is under copyright but there is a low-resolution copy on Archive.org. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Criterion with lots of extras but no director commentary because, of course, Jarmusch is above such things.

The Dead Next Door (1989)

Producer/Director/Screenwriter: JR Bookwalter

A virus is causing people to turn into zombies. We follow along with the Zombie Squad as they fight a cult that protects zombies because they think it is God’s will.

The most expensive Super-8 film ever made! Okay, that’s not a big deal — especially considering how much money was wasted on things like redoing all the audio. But this is probably the film Bookwalter will be remembered for, even though I don’t think it is one of his best films. But it’s still a lot of fun!

Most of the people in this film were from the theater and industrial films. For example, Pete Ferry, who stands out in the film, is apparently very successful in industrial films in the midwest. Most of the others have gone on to work with Bookwalter in other films. Notable actors: Bogdan Pecic, Robert Kokai, and Jolie Jackunas.

The Dead Next Door is under copyright. Anchor Bay released a solid DVD back in 2005. But you are better to get the 2017 Tempe Digital release, which has both the Blu-ray and DVD in addition to a huge number of extras.

Dead of Night (1977)

Producer: Robert Singer
Director: Dan Curtis
Screenwriter: Richard Matheson (stories: Richard Matheson and Jack Finney)

And anthology film: a young man restores an old car that takes him back in time; a woman thinks she is being attacked by a vampire but her husband has doubts; a mother whose son drowns uses the dark arts to bring him back with the usual results.

This is a so-so anthology. The first one is kind of annoying with excessive narration. The second one is better but the twist is stale and was even at the time. But the last one is really good. Unsurprisingly, Curtis shot it again for Trilogy of Terror II.

Starring Ed Begley Jr (She-Devil); Patrick Macnee (Incident at Victoria Falls) and Elisha Cook Jr (House on Haunted Hill); Joan Hackett (Support Your Local Sheriff!) and Lee H Montgomery (Ben).

Dead of Night is under copyright. It is available on DVD with some deleted material and the 1969 TV pilot.

23 June 2021

The Dead Pit (1989)

Producer: Gimel Everett
Director: Brett Leonard
Screenwriters: Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett

The most brilliant doctor at a mental hospital goes insane and experiments on and kills many patients. He’s killed but 20 years later, a woman shows up at the hospital who seems to be possessed by him. Soon, the doctor and his victims are risen from the dead.

This is a pretty typical horror film of the period but it’s more effective than you might imagine. In particular, the zombies look great and they are smart and fast.

The film stars Cheryl Lawson (J Edgar). She’s had a good career as stunt double. It is interesting to watch her here because even though she is very much presented as a sex object, she’s clearly an athletic woman. According to Michael Weldon, the topless scene was done by porn actor Shanna McCullough. Also featuring Jeremy Slate (True Grit), Stephen Gregory Foster, and Danny Gochnauer.

The Dead Pit is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with some interviews.

18 November 2020

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).

The film is copyrighted. There are two very different versions on disc, both good. There’s an earlier DVD release. And also a Shout! Factor Blu-ray release.

Dead Snow (2009)

Producer: Tomas Evjen
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Screenwriters: Tommy Wirkola and Stig Frode Henriksen

Young people vacation at a cabin. They learn about a bunch of Nazis who were slaughtered at the end of World War II. The kids find some old Nazi treasure and then the Nazi zombies show up. You know the only thing worse than a zombie is a Nazi zombie.

This is a fun zombie film with great attention paid to intestines. It suffers from tonal inconsistencies — jumping from serious to joke horror. It’s two halves of the perfect zombie picture. But it has so many spectacular scenes that it is well worth watching the whole film.

Starring Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Røsten, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Jenny Skavlan, Ane Dahl Torp, and Ørjan Gamst.

Dead Snow is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Both have lots of extras including an English dub that isn’t too bad.

Dead Snow: Red vs Dead (2014)

Producers: Terje Strømstad and Kjetil Omberg
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Screenwriters: Tommy Wirkola, Vegar Hoel, and Stig Frode Henriksen
Our Review: Dead Snow: Red vs Dead

Starting at the very end of the original Dead Snow, this film follows Martin as he raises an army of Soviet zombies to take on the Nazi zombies. But first, he must escape from the police who believe that he murdered all his friends. (To be fair, he did kill his girlfriend.)

Unlike the original that switched between comedy and drama, this one is flat-out comedy. It’s wonderfully silly. But I find it more realistic than the original. Having a zombie arm attached to a living human is much more believable than someone voluntarily sawing off their own arm. But maybe that’s just me.

Vegar Hoel, Ørjan Gamst, and Charlotte Frogner reprise their roles from the first film and Stig Frode Henriksen is back in a different (better) role. Featuring: Kristoffer Joner, Amrita Acharia, Derek Mears, and Bjarte Tjøstheim. It also features three North American actors Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas as the Zombie Squad.

Dead Snow: Red vs Dead is copyrighted. It’s available on a solid DVD and Blu-ray.

The Dead Want Women (2012)

Producer/Director: Charles Band
Screenwriter: Kent Roudebush (story: Charles Band) Producer/Director: Charles Band
Alternative titles: Haunted Hollywood

In 1927, when a starlet learns her contract has been cut, she kills herself and her sex entourage. In the present, two young real estate agents think they have found a buyer for the starlet’s old house, but it is just a trick by the ghosts who still haunt the place.

This is a weird one. Most of it is quite serious and it is done with a fair amount of style. But it also features a 3-minute (very tame) softcore porn scene. And much of the later material is played for laughs. It also features a lot of padding. But I did mostly enjoy it. There’s no doubt a great film in this material.

Starring Jessica Morris (Reel Evil), Eric Roberts (It Wants Blood!), Ariana Madix, Jean Louise O’Sullivan (The Bates Haunting), Nihilist Gelo (Zombies vs Strippers), Robert Zachar (Dragon Fighter), and Circus-Szalewski (The Rockville Slayer). Porn actor Jeanie Marie Sullivan is the blond flapper who is naked throughout the film.

The Dead Want Women is under copyright. It is available on DVD. It’s also available on DVD as Haunted Hollywood.

28 July 2021

Deadly Playthings (2019)

Producer: Ron Bonk
Director: Mark Polonia
Screenwriter: Alan Wyoming

A little girl gets a hand-me-down doll that has a demon inside it. As a result, the family goes to pieces until they get the help of a psychic who used to own the doll.

The supernatural aspects of this film work fine. But the core of it is really the parents fighting and it doesn’t work well for me. The writing and even the acting is fine. The emotional level of the two actors don’t match, however. Otherwise, it’s an evil doll film and that’s nice. Also, the denouement is clever — especially for a micro-budget.

Starring Lilace Guignard, Titus Himmelberger (Outpost Earth), Gloria Giugnard, and Sarah Duterte. Mark Polonia has a small role as a real estate agent.

Deadly Playthings is under copyright. It is available on DVD.

17 July 2020

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

Producer/Director/Screenwriter: George Barry
Our discussion: Death Bed: The Bed That Eats Review and Analysis

A demon is trapped inside a bed because of a love affair gone wrong. Ever since then, the bed’s been eating people who use it. It’s now in an abandoned house and various people are consumed by it before, through the help of an artist trapped in his own painting, it is destroyed.

This is an amazing art-horror-fetish-comedy film that’s pretty much unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Barry is an idiosyncratic genius who thought he was making a standard horror film. It’s must viewing for anyone interested in the wild and wonderful in film.

Starring Demene Hall, William Russ (Boy Meets World), composer Julie Ritter, and Linda Bond.

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is under copyright although there is a very nice print of it on Archive.org. In truth, the film was widely pirated before it was ever released. I really think everyone owes it to George Barry to purchase the film. It is available on DVD with a 5-minute interview with Barry. It is also available on a 2013 Blu-ray with more interviews and a commentary track with writer Stephen Thrower and Barry.

15 August 2020

Death Proof (2007)

Producers: Elizabeth Avellán & Robert Rodriguez & Erica Steinberg & Quentin Tarantino
Director/Screenwriter: Quentin Tarantino

A man with a stunt vehicle uses it to kill 5 young women. He gets away with it and 14 months later, he goes after three more young women in a different state with a very different result.

Overall, this is a fine film and very much worth watching. But it suffers from Tarantino having too much power. The whole thing gets sidetracked for a half hour of dialog scenes when it should be rushing for the end. But it has some amazing effects (like a woman’s leg being cut off) and a great car chase at the end.

Starring Kurt Russell (The Thing), Rosario Dawson (This Revolution), Vanessa Ferlito (All Mistakes Buried), Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms (The Drowning), and Michael Parks (From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money). The film also stars stunt-artist Zoë Bell. Tarantino has a small role.

Death Proof is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with decent but underwhelming extras.

14 March 2021

Death Ship (1980)

Producers: Derek Gibson and Harold Greenberg
Director: Alvin Rakoff
Screenwriter: John Robins (story: Jack Hill and David P Lewis)

A cruise ship is attacked by a Nazi ghost ship. The few survivors board this ship but it tortures and kills them. And the ghost of the Nazi captain takes over the living captain, which doesn’t actually make him much less likable.

This film has moments of brilliance but is kind of a slog. For me, that’s partly due to the death ship being kind of boring to look at. Overall, it feels very made-for-television, even though it most clearly is not. It has a great poster, though! And there have got to be people who love this film.

Starring Richard Crenna (The Flamingo Kid), George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Nick Mancuso (Rapid Fire), Sally Ann Howes (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), and Kate Reid (Atlantic City).

Death Ship may be in the public domain; it is available on Archive.org. Strangely, it is available on both DVD and Blu-ray — neither with any extras to speak of.

20 June 2020

Def by Temptation (1990)

Producer/Director/Screenwriter: James Bond III

A succubus is in town having sex and killing men. But she apparently needs a virgin or something. So she calls to a seminary student. Will his actor friend or secret agent acquaintance be able to save him or will he have to depend upon his own faith?!

The screenplay of this film is full of problems. But the film is still pretty good. It has some amazingly good sequences. And the acting is really good. The film rips off a bit of Videodrome but it’s done well. It’s also nice to see a film with an entirely Black cast. It’s too bad James Bond III hasn’t directed another film.

Starring Kadeem Hardison (Drive), Cynthia Bond, Bill Nunn (The Legend of 1900), Samuel L Jackson (Snakes on a Plane), and singer Melba Moore.

Def by Temptation is copyrighted. It is available on DVD. It is also available on a combo Blu-ray/DVD with some extras.

20 May 2021

Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973)

Producer: Franco Gaudenzi
Director: Joe D’Amato
Screenwriters: Joe D’Amato & R Scandariato and C Bernabei (story: Joe D’Amato)

A woman is taken in by a rich couple after she survives a carriage accident. A doctor brought to help her finds that she is undead and sets out to find the secret of life. And the husband falls in love with her. The jealous wife imprisons her in the Edgar Allan Poe style. Then it really gets going.

This is a seriously twisted film in many ways including domestic abuse and incest in the first minute. It’s quite interesting but it doesn’t have the style that earlier Italian horror films did.

Starring Ewa Aulin (Deadly Sweet), Sergio Doria, Angela Bo, and Klaus Kinski (Prince Of The Night).

Death Smiles on a Murderer should be under copyright, but Archive has a good print of it. It is available on an all-region DVD and an Arrow Video Blu-ray with a bunch of extras.

18 May 2020

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Producers: Taylor Hackford and Charles Mulvehill
Director: Taylor Hackford
Screenwriters: Tony Gilroy (novel: Stephen King)

A journalist comes home when her mother is accused of the murder of the mother’s employer. They have a troubled relationship because of the daughter’s belief that her mother killed her father. The details of the complicated past slowly come together.

This is an outstanding film. It is one of the rare films that can justifiably be called a psychological thriller. And it has one moment of actual horror that has never left me.

Starring Kathy Bates (Misery), Jennifer Jason Leigh (eXistenZ), David Strathairn (Matewan), Judy Parfitt (Girl with a Pearl Earring), and Christopher Plummer (Remember).

Dolores Claiborne is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

18 August 2021

Demolition Man (1993)

Producers: Joel Silver, Michael Levy, and Howard Kazanjian
Director: Marco Brambilla
Screenwriters: Daniel Waters and Robert Reneau and Peter M Lenkov (story: Peter M Lenkov and Robert Reneau)

John Spartan gets put in cryo-prison for accidentally killing a group of bus riders. But when a psychopath from his own time escapes from cryo-prison into the “idyllic” future, Spartan must be thawed out to combat him.

I have great reservations about even referring to this film as psychotronic. And the second half of it is pretty bad. But the first half (thanks to many of the ideas from Daniel Waters) is great. And the line about Schwarzenegger is very funny given it was long before he became governor and had that gone better, I could well imagine a Constitutional amendment.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot), Wesley Snipes (New Jack City), and Sandra Bullock (Miss Congeniality). With Nigel Hawthorne (The Madness of King George), Benjamin Bratt (The Great Raid), Denis Leary (Double Whammy), Bill Cobbs (That Thing You Do!), and Bob Gunton (The Shawshank Redemption). Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo) has a funny uncredited role.

Demolition Man is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. They include a commentary with Brambilla and Silver.

28 February 2020

Demon Seed (1977)

Producer: Herb Jaffe
Director: Donald Cammell
Screenwriters: Robert Jaffe and Roger O Hirson (novel: Dean Koontz)

A thinking computer doesn’t like being stuck inside a box and devises a way to impregnate a woman and give life to its child.

Much of the first have of this film is very frightening. The second half becomes more like The Andromeda Strain. Despite the tagline “Julie Christie Carries the Demon Seed. Fear For Her” the film makes no effort to mine the obvious body horror here. Still, it’s really well made and holds up despite a lot of computer graphics.

Starring Julie Christie (McCabe & Mrs Miller), Fritz Weaver (Creepshow), and Gerrit Graham (TerrorVision).

Demon Seed is under copyright. It’s available on DVD and Blu-ray with nothing by a trailer.

6 April 2020

Demon Slayer (2004)

Producers: Diana Derycz-Kessler and Sarah Esberg
Director: James Cotten
Screenwriters: Tristan Thai & James Cotten (based on: Michael B Druxman)

Five teen-offenders are forced to spend three days at an abandoned mental hospital to clean it up so it can become a community center. It turns out that before it was a hospital, it was a Satanic brothel. Scary things appear and then demons start possessing people.

This is kind of the horror-equivalent of The Breakfast Club. It uses a surprising amount of time developing characters. And most of the horror is pretty effective. It gleefully jumps in and out of camp. Overall, a pretty fun film.

A number of people involved in this film have gone on to successful careers, most notably Cotten (as a producer) and the actor who plays the priest, Robert Eaton (as a writer). It stars Michelle Acuna (Bounty), Howard Williams Jr, Adam Huss (Is It Just Me?), Hanna Lee, Monique Deville, and Joaquín Garrido (Like Water for Chocolate).

Demon Slayer is under copyright. It has apparently been released as a region 1 DVD, but I can’t find it on Amazon. They only offer a region 2 DVD. You can, however, watch it on Shout! Factory TV.

13 March 2020

Demon With the Atomic Brain (2017)

Producers: Christopher R Mihm and Stephanie Mihm
Director: Christopher R Mihm

A system designed to allow people to move from one reality to another goes on overload (because Pluto is out of range) and will destroy the universe in 72 hours. Three people hop from reality to reality trying to shut the machine down.

Even after a couple of viewings, I’m not sure what was going on in this film. And I suspect that is intentional because these kinds of science fiction films, for all their over-explaining, usually don’t make much sense. It’s fun to watch them jump from reality to reality.

Starring Amanda Tietz, Jeremy Frandrup, Tyler Haines (Guns of the Apocalypse), James Norgard (House of Ghosts), and Mark Haider (The Giant Spider).

Demon With the Atomic Brain is under copyright. It is available on Amazon Prime.

1 September 2020

Demonia (1990)

Producer: Ettore Spagnuolo
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenwriters: Piero Regnoli & Lucio Fulci

A young archaeologist has a vision of nuns being crucified. Soon after, she is invited on a dig in southern Italy where she is drawn to the site of this event. She even uncovers the bodies. Soon people start dying and she shows signs of being possessed.

This is a minor Fulci gem. It even features a cool bit of eye torture. The scene where the guy gets torn apart is shockingly unconvincing but the internal organs are good. Still, any of the Gates of Hell films are better.

Starring Meg Register, Brett Halsey (Return Of The Fly), Lino Salemme, Michael Aronin (Girl in 3D), and Al Cliver (Zombie).

Demonia is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with some interviews and a commentary with a Fulci biographer.

16 June 2021

Demonic Toys (1992)

Producer: Anne Kelly
Director: Peter Manoogian
Screenwriter: David S Goyer

A cop, two gun runners, a chicken delivery boy, and a security guard are trapped in a toy warehouse with a demon who has brought the toys to life. Some manage to survive thanks to helpful editing.

This is a solid version of the killer toys subgenre. It’s helped along by a strong cast which helps to paper over a thin plot.

Starring Bentley Mitchum (Lethal Orbit), Tracy Scoggins (Babylon 5: The Lost Tales), Daniel Cerny (Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest), Ellen Dunning (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark), and Pete Schrum (Terminator 2: Judgment Day).

Demonic Toys is under copyright. You can get it on DVD or Blu-ray.

18 July 2021

Demons (1985)

Producer: Dario Argento
Director: Lamberto Bava
Screenwriters: Dario Argento & Lamberto Bava & Dardano Sacchetti & Franco Ferrini (story: Dardano Sacchetti)

People go to a free showing of a movie where the characters turn into demons. Then people in the audience start turning into demons just like in the movie. Everyone tries to escape but the demons get out first.

This was apparently a big hit. It’s easy to see why. It’s got a great soundtrack and it’s all just an excuse for one gore gag after another. I think of it as “Suspiria for Teens.” If you like it, check out Midnight Movie.

Starring Natasha Hovey, Urbano Barberini (Opera), and Bobby Rhodes (The Last Hunter).

Demons should be under copyright but there is a nice print of it on Archive.org (in Italian). It is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

27 February 2021

Deranged (1974)

Producer: Tom Karr
Directors: Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby
Screenwriter: Alan Ormsby

This is a relatively true telling of the story of serial killer Ed Gein. A middle age man’s mother dies and he doesn’t deal well with it. After a year, he digs her up and repairs her body. Then he digs up others. Then he starts killing. Say what you will about serial killers: they are self-actualized!

It’s a bit hard to grok the tone of the movie at first. It’s genuinely funny. And scary. And touching. Thinking about it, there probably was no other way to deal with the story of Ed Gein.

The film is also beautifully shot. There are many long, inventive takes. And it is all done in a postmodern style with a newsman reporting on the story as it is happening.

Alan Ormsby would go on to write the screenplay for Cat People (1982). I believe this was Tom Savini’s first film. He did the preserved corpses.

Starring Roberts Blossom (Escape from Alcatraz). Featuring Marian Waldman (Black Christmas), Cosette Lee (Change of Mind), Leslie Carlson (Videodrome), and Micki Moore (The Vindicator).

Deranged is copyrighted. It is available with commentary by Ormsby and other goodies on Blu-ray. It is available on DVD along with Motel Hell (1980).

Destination: Outer Space (2010)

Producers: Christopher R Mihm, Stephanie Mihm, and Josh Craig
Director: Christopher R Mihm
Screenwriter: Christopher R Mihm (story: Christopher R Mihm and Josh Craig)

The alcoholic son of the couple from It Came From Another World! goes into space to test a new rocket. It works but he gets thrown far out of the solar system and must find his way home with the sorta help of a robot.

This is perhaps the most explicitly comedic of Mihm’s films. There are jokes involving Star Wars and Star Trek but even more than that, it has a lot of tradition (sometimes silent) comedic sequences. Very fun film!

Starring Josh Craig (The Monster of Phantom Lake), Stephanie Mihm (Queen of Snakes), Catherine Hansen (House of Ghosts), M Scott Taulman, and Michael G Kaiser (Terror from Beneath the Earth).

Destination: Outer Space is under copyright. It is available on DVD.

10 October 2020

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.

Devil Girl from Mars (1954)

Producers: Edward J Danziger & Harry Lee Danziger (as The Danzigers)
Director: Terence Fisher
Screenwriter: James Eastwood (play: John C Maher and James Eastwood)

An escaped murderer, a fashion model, and two guys looking for a meteor come together with the owners and staff at a remote lodge. Then a spaceship from Mars lands. The female leader explains she has come looking for men because they’ve pretty much killed all the men on Mars.

This is a hell of a good silly sci-fi film with an excellent sense of humor. It’s one of my favorites. At various times it seems like real drama will break-out but it stops before it gets out of hand.

Starring Hugh McDermott (First Men in the Moon), Patricia Laffan (Quo Vadis), Hazel Court (The Raven), Adrienne Corri (The Tell-Tale Heart), Peter Reynolds (The Delavine Affair), Joseph Tomelty (Timeslip), Sophie Stewart (The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel), and John Laurie (Treasure Island).

Devil Girl from Mars may be in the public domain; there is an excellent copy on Archive.org. It is available on DVD. It is also available in other packages.

18 February 2021

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.

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Producers: Agustín Almodóvar & Bertha Navarro
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Screenwriters: Guillermo del Toro & Antonio Trashorras & David Muñoz
Other titles: El Espinazo del Diablo

A boy is dropped off at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. He begins seeing a ghost roaming around the place. Meanwhile, the caretaker is abusing the boys and looking for gold that soldiers have hidden there. The two storylines converge.

This is a great film filled with humanity despite its creepy atmosphere. Although it focuses on the boys it is never cloying. It’s the kind of film you want to watch a few times.

Starring Fernando Tielve (Unmade Beds), Íñigo Garcés, Federico Luppi (Martín), Marisa Paredes (Savages), Eduardo Noriega (Lolita’s Club), and Irene Visedo (The Lost Steps).

The Devil’s Backbone is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with decent extras. There is now a Criterion Collection version on DVD and Blu-ray with slightly better extras and a 2K print.

28 April 2021

Devil’s Express (1976)

Producer: Steve Madoff & Niki Patton
Director: Barry Rosen
Screenwriters: Barry Rosen & Niki Patton
Alternative titles: Subway to Hell, Gang Wars

An evil Chinese spirit, trapped for thousands of years, is released by a greedy New Yorker. After killing people in the New York subway system (it doesn’t like the light), it is killed but a badass karate instructor thus saving the world.

This film features some fine moments including a great final fight. Overall, it’s pretty fun. But the script wanders around and is boring throughout much of it.

Starring Warhawk Tanzania (Black Force), Wilfredo Roldan, and Larry Fleischman (Dog’s Life).

Devil’s Express is under copyright. It is available on DVD. It’s better to get the Code Red Blu-ray with a 2K scan.

4 July 2021

Devil’s Trail (2017)

Producer: Eric Widing
Director: Henrique Couto
Screenwriter: Jeremy Biltz

Two videographers go into the woods to make a survival video for the folks. They come upon three naked witches who tell them not to go but they proceed. As they get lost someone or something seems to be stalking them.

The two principals are very appealing and make this found footage film easy to get into. The ending features two tacked-on “clever” codas that spoil the rest of the film. But it’s overall pretty fun.

Starring John Bradley Hambrick (Ouija Room) and Henrique Couto (A Bulldog for Christmas).

Devil’s Trail is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Amazon Prime.

7 February 2021

The Devil’s Widow (1970)

Producers: Alan Ladd Jr and Stanley Mann
Director: Roddy McDowall
Screenwriter: William Spier
Alternate Titles: Tam Lin

This is the film that Roddy McDowall passed up Beneath the Planet of the Apes to direct. It barely got released. It was savaged by critics — thought to be too arty for a horror film. But today, the film looks pretty good. It’s a shame McDowall never directed another film.

An older woman surrounds herself with young people and uses witchcraft to stay young. Her boy-toy wants out, but she’s having none of it.

Starring Ian McShane (Deadwood) and Ava Gardner (On the Beach). Featuring: Stephanie Beacham (Dracula AD 1972), Richard Wattis (The Abominable Snowman), Cyril Cusack (Fahrenheit 451), and David Whitman.

The Devil’s Widow is copyrighted. You can get it on DVD or Blu-ray.

The Devils (1971)

Producers: Ken Russell & Robert H Solo
Director: Ken Russell
Screenwriter: Ken Russell (play: John Whiting; novel: Aldous Huxley)

In 17-century France, a nun is in love with a priest who doesn’t even know she exists. She says the priest had sex with her. Because of national politics, a witch-hunter is sent to look into it all. And suddenly, all the other nuns say the same thing. And things look very bad for the priest.

This is a visually stunning film with great lead performances. It’s also kind of a drag. There are lots more fun films about witch trials. This one is largely true.

Starring Oliver Reed (The Brood) and Vanessa Redgrave (Julia). With Dudley Sutton (Dean Spanley), Max Adrian (The Music Lovers), Gemma Jones (Bridget Jones’s Diary), and Michael Gothard (Lifeforce).

The Devils is copyrighted. It is available on DVD. If you have an all-region player, there are other versions.

8 March 2021

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Producer/Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Screenwriter: Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jérôme Géronimi (novel: Boileau-Narcejac)

The mistress of an abusive husband convinces his wife to join her in murdering him. The plot goes well but then his body vanishes and people begin to see him around town.

This is an excellent suspense film that holds you until the end. It’s slightly annoying at first that the main character is so reluctant to kill her husband who is wonderfully unlikable. Note that the film is in French.

Starring Véra Clouzot (The Wages of Fear) and Simone Signoret (Casque d’Or). With Paul Meurisse (The Black Monocle).

Les Diaboliques is under copyright. Criterion Collection has released it on DVD and Blu-ray with various interviews and some commentary.

28 July 2020

Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse (2016)

Producers: Etta Devine and Gabriel Diani and Chad Meserve
Directors/Screenwriters: Gabriel Diani & Etta Devine

Diani and Devine are a comedy duo trying to get work in Hollywood. It isn’t going well. They aren’t even certain how they’ll pay next month’s rent. Then they luck out: an apocalypse happens and they are forced to hit the road.

Another great comedy from this remarkable duo. Is it an allegory for seeking success in Hollywood? The cannibals make me think so. But who cares?! It’s a ton of fun from start to finish.

Starring Etta Devine and Gabriel Diani (The Selling). It has a large cast but of particular note are Jonathan Silverman (Weekend at Bernie’s) and Janet Varney (The Legend of Korra).

Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse is under copyright. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to have been released on disc. It is available on Amazon Prime.

19 October 2020

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.

Dinosaur Island (1994)

Producers/Directors: Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray
Screenwriters: Bob Sheridan & Christopher Wooden (story: Bob Sheridan)

An airplane is transporting three army deserters to jail. It crashes and the survivors make it to an island filled with dinosaurs and women in bikinis. The men help the women avoid starvation and dinosaurs. And they introduce them to sex.

This film features some fun stop-motion animation. Otherwise, the screenplay doesn’t really hang together and some of the female cast is weak. It also features two underwhelming softcore sex scenes. It’s what you expect from Wynorski and Ray — perfect for remembering what it was like to be a 15-year-old virgin. Gary Graver lit and shot the film.

Starring Richard Gabai (Bikini Drive-In), Antonia Dorian (The Bare Wench Project), Tom Shell, Griffin Drew (Dinosaur Valley Girls), Peter Spellos (Sexual Roulette), Michelle Bauer (Bikini Car Wash Academy), and Ross Hagen (Angels’ Wild Women).

Dinosaur Island is under copyright. You can get it on DVD with a commentary with the directors and a good deleted scene.

16 January 2021

Dinosaur Island (2014)

Producers: Jason Moody and Matt Drummond & Megan Williams
Director: Matt Drummond
Screenwriter: Matt Drummond (story: Matt Drummond and Megan Williams)
Alternative title: Journey to Dinosaur Island

A little boy finds a crystal belonging to his grandmother. The crystal causes him to wake up on an island filled with dinosaurs. He meets a slightly older girl who has has been there a couple of years and is generally happy because she’s studying the dinosaurs. Together they try to survive and find a way home.

This film features great looking creatures and two charming young people. The story is pretty good (the tribe that captures them is unfortunate, however). But the script is filled with far too much dialog. Still, it’s meant for tweens and I suspect that most of them will like this.

Starring Darius Williams, Kate Rasmussen, Juliette Palmer-Frederick, and Albert Allu.

Dinosaur Island is copyrighted. It is available on DVD.

25 April 2021

Dirty Harry (1971)

Producer/Director: Don Siegel
Screenwriters: Harry Julian Fink & RM Fink and Dean Riesner (story: Harry Julian Fink & RM Fink)

A serial killer is on the loose in San Francisco. He kidnaps a teen girl and threatens to kill her if he isn’t paid a bunch of money. Inspector Callahan manages to capture him but he is let go because of an unlawful arrest. So the serial killer kidnaps a bus of kids.

As a movie, this is fine but hardly great. It’s been wildly overrated. I believe its appeal was its reactionary politics. And those are ridiculous when you consider that there is no way Callahan’s search and arrest were unlawful. (The torturing to get the location of the teen was, however.) Other than Callahan’s catchphrase, he has no personality. If you are interested in this kind of film, I suggest Night Moves.

Starring Clint Eastwood (High Plains Drifter), Andrew Robinson (Hellraiser), Harry Guardino (Houseboat), Reni Santoni (Bad Boys), and John Vernon (Animal House).

Dirty Harry is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. If you are a fan, you can get the whole series on DVD and Blu-ray.

13 June 2021

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.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Producer: Bernard Williams
Director: Frank Oz
Screenwriters: Dale Launer and Stanley Shapiro & Paul Henning

Two con artists are annoying each other by working the same town. So they make a bet to see which one can get $50,000 from a rich American woman. The loser must leave town.

This is a solid comedy although I don’t think some of the more extreme moments have aged well. But it’s still quite enjoyable.

Starring Michael Caine (The Italian Job), Steve Martin (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid), Glenne Headly (The Amateurs), and Anton Rodgers (Murder Most English).

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is copyrighted. It’s available on DVD and Blu-ray and a bunch of other forms.

2 April 2021

Django (1966)

Producer/Director: Sergio Corbucci
Screenwriters: Sergio Corbucci & Bruno Corbucci

A lone gunman gets between a group of American racists and Mexican revolutionaries to destroy both and avenge the murder of his true love.

This is one of the best spaghetti westerns. Not as artful as Leone’s work, but more accessible and enjoyable.

Starring Franco Nero (Django Strikes Again), Loredana Nusciak, Eduardo Fajardo (The Exterminators of the Year 3000), José Bódalo (Companeros), and Ángel Álvarez (The Executioner).

Django is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with minor features.

Djinn (2013)

Producers: Tim Smythe and Daniela Tully
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenwriter: David Tully

A young American Muslim couple relocates to the UAE to move past the death of their child. Once there, the woman is attacked by a djinn because of a past sin.

This is really just a traditional ghost story but with Arabian folklore. It’s a fitting last film for Tobe Hooper. Don’t listen to the reviews. This is a very effective film.

Starring Razane Jammal (Flying Blind), Khalid Laith (The Hamburg Cell), and Aiysha Hart.

Djinn is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray — apparently without much in terms of extras.

26 September 2020

DOA (1950)

Producer: Leo C Popkin
Director: Rudolph Maté
Screenwriters: Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene

A man walks into an LA police department office to report that he has been murdered. He then tells his story of how he was poisoned with a “luminous toxin.” There is no cure so he used his few remaining days to find out who killed him and why.

This is a classic noir with a cast of unlikable characters — except for the main character’s long-suffering girlfriend. Other than the dark and grimy look of the film, this all works because of its excellent screenplay. It’s been remade at least twice as Color Me Dead (1969) and DOA (1988).

Starring Edmond O’Brien (The Killers), Pamela Britton (Blondie), William Ching (Terror in the Haunted House), Beverly Garland (Stark Fear), Laurette Luez (Prehistoric Women), and Luther Adler (Crashout). Neville Brand (Riot in Cell Block 11) has a small role as well.

DOA is in the public domain. There are many copies floating around the internet; Archive has a very good one. There are a ton of versions on DVD. Be careful of them as you should be of DVDs of any film in the public domain. There is a supposedly restored version, but I don’t know anything more about it.

30 April 2021

DOA (1988)

Producer: Ian Sander & Laura Ziskin
Director: Rocky Morton & Annabel Jankel
Screenwriter: Charles Edward Pogue (story: Charles Edward Pogue and Russell Rouse & Clarence Greene)

A man staggers into a police station to report his own murder. He tells his story of being a college English professor who was poisoned and the murders surrounding it.

Although this isn’t quite up to the original film, it’s still quite good. It’s stylishly directed with an impeccable blending of tone. It also fixes some of the problems in the film (like the vacation set-up) even as it introduces its own (like the unnecessary love scene). It’s as good a remake of a cinema classic as you will find.

Starring Dennis Quaid (The Big Easy), Meg Ryan (French Kiss), Daniel Stern (Diner), Charlotte Rampling (Zardoz), and Jane Kaczmarek (The Heavenly Kid).

DOA is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with separate commentaries with each of the directors.

30 April 2021

Doctor X (1932)

Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenwriter: Robert Tasker & Earl Baldwin (play: Howard W Comstock & Allen C Miller)

A cannibal serial killer is on the loose and he is one of the teachers at the local medical school. The head of the school tries to find out who it is while his daughter tangles with an intrepid reporter trying to get the story.

This is made by much the same people who would make Mystery of the Wax Museum the next year. It has much of the same charm with perhaps even better horror. Check this one out!

Starring Lionel Atwill (The Vampire Bat), Lee Tracy (The Nuisance), Fay Wray (King Kong), and Preston Foster (Annie Oakley).

Doctor X is still under copyright but there’s a pretty good copy on Archive.org (although it’s very buggy and if you download it, there is no sound). It is available on a DVD with the non-sequel The Return of Doctor X — both with a commentary track.

15 January 2021

Doll Factory (2014)

Producer: Carlos M Tovar
Director/Screenwriter: Stephen Wolfe

A group of bored teens break into the creepy old doll factory to try out “an old witchcraft book” their mother found in the closest. They succeed in waking the evil spirit Yegor, who animates the dolls and sends them out in search of souls.

This is a genuinely funny horror-comedy with delicious gore. The teens are mostly developed as horrible people so it’s fun to watch them die. It also features sympathetic stereotypes like the (rationally) scared black guy and the virgin nerd. This is a fun romp.

This production is typical of these low-budget gems in featuring solid acting by a group working the margins of Hollywood: Nicole Elliott, Justin Herman, Andy Palmer (also executive producer), and Boo Gay.

Doll Factory is under copyright. It is available on DVD with a half-hour “making of” and an audio commentary with Wolfe, Herman, and Palmer. It’s also available through Prime Video.

13 May 2020

Dollman (1991)

Producer: Cathy Gesualdo
Director: Albert Pyun
Screenwriter: Chris Roghair (story: Charles Band)

Badass but disliked cop Brick Bardo inadvertently flies thousands of light-years chasing a villain only to end up on Earth where he is a tiny person — maybe a foot in height (kind of like The Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders”). He protects a young mother from a violent street gang while fixing his spaceship.

Parts of this are clearly meant to be funny — and they are! I’m not sure if I was supposed to see the tsunami of cliches as part of its send-up of the genre, but I found that even funnier. The film is so well-made that I suspect many people enjoy it straight. Pyun again shows what an excellent visual sense he has.

Starring Tim Thomerson (Trancers), Jackie Earle Haley (The Bad News Bears), Kamala Lopez (Born in East LA), and Frank Collison (Dr Quinn Medicine Woman).

Dollman is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray — both in 4:3 aspect ratio. There is also a Full Moon DVD in 4:3. Better to get their Blu-ray in 16:9 with minor extras.

29 November 2020

Dolls (1987)

Producer: Brian Yuzna
Director: Stuart Gordon
Screenwriter: Ed Naha

A horrible father and step-mother get stranded in the country with their adorable daughter. They go to a nearby old dark house where a nice old couple lives; he is a doll maker. Soon, a very nice man shows up with two awful young hitchhikers. All the bad people are killed by dolls and the good people live happily ever after.

This Charles Band presentation was clearly the basis for his later Puppet Master films. But I like this one more than any of those admirable films. In fact, I’m planning to show it this Christmas — probably along with Christmas Evil.

Starring Stephen Lee (Kid Safe: The Video), Carrie Lorraine, and Guy Rolfe (Mr Sardonicus). Featuring Ian Patrick Williams (The Extendables), Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (Re-Animator), Hilary Mason (Don’t Look Now), Bunty Bailey (A-Ha: Take on Me), and Cassie Stuart (Hidden City).

Dolls is copyrighted. It is available as an MGM DVD and a typically good Shout! Factory Blu-ray.

Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

Producers: Roberto Gomez & Suzette Gomez
Director: James Bryan
Screenwriter: Garth Eliassen
Alternative title: Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone!

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, “Incredibly 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 he 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 Go in the Woods is copyrighted. Vinegar Syndrome has released a fantastic Blu-ray/DVD combo of the film.

Don’t Go in the Woods (2010)

Producers: Ken Christmas & Erika Hampson
Director: Vincent D’Onofrio
Screenwriters: Joe Vinciguerra & Sam Bisbee (story: Vincent D’Onofrio)

The hardass leader forces his bandmates to go to the woods to write some songs so they can get a record contract. But they all brought drugs and then girls show up and he is not happy. Then people start being killed with a sledgehammer.

This film features a lot of rather good music — mostly as part of the action. It’s really well made on almost every level. I like that they are trying to do something new. And the make-up effects are dynamite. But the story’s kind of tired. And I’m not fond of the cheeky ending. Ultimately, it turns into a less-interesting Starry Eyes (2014). It gets worse with repeated views because the filmmakers aren’t fair with the viewer and ultimately the story makes no sense at all. But it’s better than most “running around the woods” horror films.

Starring Matt Sbeglia, Cassandra Lee Walker, Casey Smith, Soomin Lee, Kate O’Malley, Jorgen Jorgensen, and Nick Thorp.

Don’t Go in the Woods is under copyright. It is available on DVD with two featurettes.

30 January 2021

Don’t Look in the Basement (1973)

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!

Don’t Look in the Cellar (2008)

Producers: David Sterling and Ted Chalmers
Director: Dennis Devine
Screenwriters: Carlos Perez and Dennis Devine

A group of junior college students uses a closed mental hospital to celebrate Halloween and research the true story of why it was closed. But it turns out some of the inmates never left. Once they are locked in, there’s only one way out: through the cellar.

I only bought this disc because I was amused at the shamelessness of the title. But it turns out to be a surprisingly good film with lots of interesting characters and a solid plot. There’s lots of blood but basically no gore. This film is widely hated by people who have useless opinions.

Starring Randal Malone (Dahmer vs Gacy). With a pretty large cast for this kind of film, including Shevaun Kastl, Tara Shayne, Juliette Angeli, and Jed Rowen.

Don’t Look in the Cellar is under copyright. You can get it on DVD with just the trailer.

Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

Producer: Renato Jaboni
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenwriters: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, and Gianfranco Clerici (story: Fulci and Gianviti)
Alternative titles: Non si Sevizia un Paperino

Boys in a small Italian town are being murdered. The town is turning on itself. And the police are mostly using the murders to abuse the marginalized population. Luckily, a reporter and a recovering drug addict are on the case.

This is an intense mystery with lots of twists and turns. The murders are suspenseful. And there’s just a lot going on with the main characters and the police and the townspeople. It’s an exceptional film.

Starring Barbara Bouchet (The Scarlet and the Black) and Tomas Milian (Sonny and Jed). Featuring Florinda Bolkan (The Last House on the Beach), Irene Papas (Antigone), and Marc Porel (Big Guns).

Don’t Torture a Duckling is under copyright. You can get it on DVD. On Blu-ray it comes with a number of extras including interviews, video essays, and a commentary track with Troy Howarth.

12 July 2020

The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982)

Producer: Jeffrey Obrow
Directors: Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter
Screenwriters: Stephen Carpenter & Jeffrey Obrow & Stacey Giachino
Alternative titles: Pranks, Death Dorm

Some college students stay behind during Christmas break to clean out a building set for demolition. But someone is going around murdering them. They think it is the homeless man but of course it isn’t. It’s just a kid who really wants to get laid.

This is a pretty typical slasher. But it works well and features good acting. My main complaint is that they needed another $10,000 for their lighting budget. But the film shows potential and the crew went on to make some better films like The Power. And Stephen Carpenter went on to write many things including the very funny The Man.

Starring Laurie Lapinski, Stephen Sachs, David Snow, Pamela Holland, Dennis Ely, Woody Roll, and Daphne Zuniga (The Fly II).

The Dorm That Dripped Blood is under copyright. There is a DVD as Pranks. There is a Blu-ray/DVD combo with a commentary featuring the directors and some other stuff.

8 August 2021

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.

Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)

Producer: Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg
Director: Freddie Francis
Screenwriters: Milton Subotsky

Five men sharing a train car listen to a strange man’s tarot card predictions of their futures. These lead to five stories that all end in their deaths: werewolf, creeping vines, voodoo, disembodied hand, and vampire.

This was the first of the Amicus anthology films. Michael Weldon claims it is probably the best. I disagree. But it’s quite good even though the vines story is probably not meant to be funny.

Starring Peter Cushing (And Now the Screaming Starts!), Neil McCallum (The Siege of Pinchgut), Alan Freeman, Roy Castle (Dr Who and The Daleks), Christopher Lee (Curse of the Crimson Altar), and Donald Sutherland (Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

Dr Terror’s House of Horrors is copyrighted but there is a nice print of it inside some “creature features” kind of show. There is a widescreen print on DVD and a ridiculously expensive Blu-ray neither with much in terms of extras.

11 June 2021

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Producers: Robert Tapert & Grant Curtis
Director: Sam Raimi
Screenwriters: Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi

A young woman loan officer at a bank denies an older gypsy woman an extension on her mortgage. So the gypsy curses here and the young woman begins to be tormented by a demon and faces death.

The opening of this film is great. And it has much to recommend it overall. Parts of it remind me of Tobe Hooper. But its tone is all over the place, which you may or may not like.

Starring Alison Lohman (Flicka), Justin Long (Tusk), Lorna Raver (The Caller), and Dileep Rao (Inception).

Drag Me to Hell is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

19 April 2021

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

Producers: James H Nicholson & Samuel Z Arkoff
Director: Daniel Haller
Screenwriters: Curtis Lee Hanson and Henry Rosenbaum and Ronald Silkosky (story: HP Lovecraft)

A worshipper manipulates and drugs a woman to sacrifice her and use a stolen copy of the Necronomicon in an effort to bring a return of The Old Ones.

This is an odd one! Pretty slow-moving but compelling. And the slowness contrasts with the very strange lead performance. The whole thing comes off very much as one of the Poe Cycle films — but on acid.

Starring Dean Stockwell (The Werewolf of Washington), Sandra Dee (Gidget), Ed Begley (The Unsinkable Molly Brown), and Sam Jaffe (The Day the Earth Stood Still).

The Dunwich Horror is under copyright. It is available on DVD. SHOUT! Factory released a Blu-ray with Murders in the Rue Morgue.

22 September 2021

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