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.

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 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 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.

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 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

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

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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

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

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)

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 Go in the Woods is copyrighted. Vinegar Syndrome has released a fantastic Blu-ray of the film that is well worth having. Code Red also offers a worthy DVD.

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

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.

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