Short Takes: M

Macabre (1980)

Producers: Gianni Minervini and Antonio Avati
Director: Lamberto Bava
Screenwriters: Pupi Avati & Roberto Gandus & Lamberto Bava & Antonio Avati
Alternative titles: Macabro, Frozen Terror

A married woman gets into a car crash that decapitates her lover. A year later, she is divorced and out of a mental hospital. She moves back into old “fling” apartment. But she seems to be masturbating while calling out to the lover. And there is something in her freezer.

This is a very strange horror film. But it pulls you through even as you know what will happen next. The end is kind of silly but effective all the same.

Starring Bernice Stegers (Xtro), Stanko Molnar, and Veronica Zinny.

Macabre is under copyright. It is available on DVD.

11 December 2020

Mad Max (1979)

Producer: Byron Kennedy
Director: George Miller
Screenwriters: James McCausland & George Miller

Bad bikers make life terrible for the people in a dystopian future. Max is one of the cops charged with fighting them. But when they kill his wife and son, it gets personal.

This is an excellent example of what you can do with a small amount of money. It’s exciting throughout and the plot is more inventive than you’d expect. It spawned a number of good sequels.

Starring Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon), Joanne Samuel (Queen of the Road), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Mad Max: Fury Road), Steve Bisley (Red Hill), Roger Ward, and Geoff Parry.

Mad Max is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Better to get the SHOUT! Factory Blu-ray. It’s also available in many collections.

15 April 2021

Mad Max 2 (1981)

Producer: Byron Kennedy
Director: George Miller
Screenwriters: James McCausland & George Miller
Alternative titles: The Road Warrior

The film takes place in a far more dystopian world than in the first film — similar to A Boy and His Dog. Max is roaming, looking for food and gasoline. He helps a group of settlers barricaded in an oil refinery. You know: because he’s still a Good Guy (even though he’s also an asshole).

This film had ten times the budget of the first film and it shows. The action is bigger and the film just looks a lot better. It’s all very badass with few of the softer elements of the first film.

Starring Mel Gibson (Payback), Bruce Spence (The Matrix Revolutions), Michael Preston (Wild Fire), Vernon Wells (Trouble Is My Business), and Virginia Hey (Farscape).

Mad Max 2 is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with commentary track by Miller. It’s also available in various collections.

15 April 2021

Madhouse (1974)

Producers: Milton Subotsky & Max Rosenberg (Amicus Productions)
Director: Jim Clark
Screenwriters: Greg Morrison and en Levison (based on th novel Devilday by Angus Hall)

Vincent Price plays an actor famous for this “Dr Death” movies. After the release the fifth film, he announced his wedding engagement. But later that night, a man dressed as Dr Death decapitates his fiance, sending poor Price to the loony bin. Years later, released, Priced is hired to reprise the role of Dr Death for a BBC television series. And Dr Death starts killing people again. The plot isn’t hard to guess. And the denouement makes roughly as much sense as that time I killed my wife because she sang out of key in the shower.

Still, it’s a lot of fun. Horror heavyweights Peter Cushing (the Christopher Lee of Frankenstein and, yes, Star Wars) and Robert Quarry (Dr Phibes Rises Again). Ellis Dale and Catherine Willmer do a wonderful job playing the kind of caring parents we all wish we had. This film makes a great double feature with Theatre of Blood.

Madhouse is available as a single DVD with a commentary track by Film Historian David Del Valle. (Also available in multi-format and Blu-ray.) You can also get it paired with Theatre of Blood.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

Producers: Mariela Besuievsky & Gerardo Herrero and Amy Gilliam and Grégoire Melin & Sébastien Delloye
Director: Terry Gilliam
Screenwriters: Terry Gilliam & Tony Grisoni

Toby, a film director is shooting a big-budget commercial near where he shot a student film about Don Quixote a decade earlier. Things aren’t going well, so he re-acquaints himself with the people he worked with on it only to learn that the man who played Don Quixote now thinks he is the character. He mistakes Toby for Sancho and the two are drawn into a number of adventures together.

This film is a real gem for lovers of the original novels. And thankfully, they removed the time travel aspect of the film (I was afraid it was going to be another Time Bandits). It may require multiple viewings to figure out if you aren’t very familiar with the source material. But it’s some of Gilliam’s best work.

Starring Adam Driver (The Force Awakens), Jonathan Pryce (Ronin), Joana Ribeiro, Stellan Skarsgård (The Hunt for Red October), Olga Kurylenko (Johnny English Strikes Again), and Óscar Jaenada (Cantinflas).

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray without much in terms of extras.

27 March 2021

Mandao of the Dead (2018)

Producer: Gina Gomez Dunn
Director/Screenwriter: Scott Dunn

A young man must use astral-projection to reverse the murder of a man his older nephew is stalking. And then he must do it again to save the nephew. And there is a vampire.

The plot’s pretty silly but the characters, dialog, and acting are first-rate in this very funny low-budget gem. This is from the group that made Schlep. The sequel Mandao Returns should be released soon.

Featuring Sean McBride, David Gallegos (2-Headed Shark Attack), Scott Dunn, Gina Gomez Dunn, Marisa Hood, Sean Liang, and Alexandre Chen.

Mandao of the Dead is under copyright. It’s available on Amazon Prime.

1 May 2020

Mania (1960)

Producers: Robert S Baker & Monty Berman
Director: John Gilling
Screenwriter: John Gilling and Leon Griffiths (story: John Gilling)
Alternative titles: The Flesh and the Fiends

Two grave robbers figure that it’s easier and more profitable to just kill people. The head of the local medical school doesn’t much care. One of his students falls in love with a local prostitute. And eventually it all falls apart.

This is a strong film. The story’s kind of scattered but it all moves along and is engaging throughout. None of it is scary though. There are a few different versions of this. I’ve seen the 95-minute version that features a shocking amount of nudity for a mainstream film of that time. It tells the true story of Burke and Hare.

Starring Peter Cushing (The Evil of Frankenstein), Donald Pleasence (Halloween), John Cairney (The Devil-Ship Pirates), Billie Whitelaw (Hot Fuzz), and June Laverick (The Son of Robin Hood).

Mania may be under copyright but there is a good print of it on Archive.org. There are various other ways to get it. There is an Alpha Video DVD. Also, it is on DVD or Blu-ray via KL Studio with a 2K transfer, Tim Lucas commentary, and the shorter American version.

Maniac Cop (1988)

Producer/Screenwriter: Larry Cohen
Director: William Lustig

A cop is running around New York at night killing non-criminals and it is bumming out the police commissioner and captain. They find a cop to blame but the killings continue so the wronged cop must hunt the villain down.

This is a hell of a lot of fun from the man who brought you It’s Alive. It’s a solid cop film that pushes against much of the Dirty Harry nonsense that was so common at the time, even as it uses most of the same tropes. And, of course, it’s also kind of a horror film. Finally, it features an unusual story structure.

Starring Tom Atkins (Escape from New York), Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead), Laurene Landon (Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold), William Smith (Invasion of the Bee Girls), Sheree North (The Lieutenant Wore Skirts), and Robert Z’Dar (Return to Frogtown). Richard Roundtree (Shaft) and Sam Raimi have small roles.

Maniac Cop is under copyright. It is available on DVD with significant features including a director++ commentary track. The Blu-ray is cheaper but doesn’t have the commentary track for some reason. It’s been released in a lot of other forms. Strangely, I haven’t found a release with all or even two of the series films together.

4 January 2021

Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

Producer/Screenwriter: Larry Cohen
Director: William Lustig

Starting right where the first one ended, the two surviving characters are quickly killed and replaced with even more attractive cops. But now the Maniac Cop is helping criminals in a cunning plan to… Well, the film is almost over before it’s explained.

This one really is better than the first. The plot is more interesting and it looks fantastic. But Bruce Campbell is hardly in it. Laurene Landon lives a bit longer.

Starring Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), Robert Davi (Swamp Shark), Michael Lerner (Yonkers Joe), Leo Rossi (Mafioso: The Father, the Son), and Robert Z’Dar (Easter Sunday).

Maniac Cop 2 is under copyright. There is a very expensive DVD available as is a more reasonable Blu-ray.

6 January 2021

El Mariachi (1992)

Producers: Robert Rodriguez and Carlos Gallardo
Director/Screenwriter: Robert Rodriguez

An itinerant musician is mistaken for a criminal who uses a guitar case to hold his guns. But when the enemies attack, the musician turns out to be more than a match.

Rodriguez’s first feature film is a tour de force that is constantly exciting without feeling forced. It’s also the first of his Mexico Trilogy with the remaining films starring Antonio Banderas, which are good but lack the original’s effortless charm.

Starring Carlos Gallardo (Dead Hooker in a Trunk). With Consuelo Gómez, Reinol Martinez, and Peter Marquardt.

El Mariachi is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with great extras including a commentary by Rodriguez, which is one of the best I’ve ever heard. There is a standalone Blu-ray, but I don’t own it and it looks suspect. If you want it on Blu-ray, you can get it with Desperado with all the usual extras. You can get the trilogy on DVD. I haven’t found it on Blu-ray. There is a Blu-ray that also comes with Machete, but it’s a French import and I can’t speak to its quality.

Martin (1978)

Producer: Richard P Rubinstein
Director/Screenwriter: George Romero

Martin is a modern, non-magical vampire. That basically means that he drugs women, rapes them, and then drinks their blood — leaving them dead. And now he’s moved in with his Catholic uncle who is going to save his soul and then kill him.

This is a gripping but very odd horror film. Basically, it’s just a serial killer film with a vampire pretext and many coming of age aspects. Rather than narration, we get Martin calling into a radio show to talk about his life. It’s great fun.

Starring John Amplas (Midnight) and Lincoln Maazel. Also: Christine Forrest (Monkey Shines), Elyane Nadeau, and special effects make-up legend Tom Savini.

Martin is available in a reasonable print at Archive.org. It is available on an expensive DVD with commentary by Romero. There is also what looks like a Japanese import all-region Blu-ray. There is a less-expensive (but still expensive) DVD but it is cropped.

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Producers: Tim Burton and Larry Franco
Director: Tim Burton
Screenwriter: Jonathan Gems

Martians contact Earth for a friendly visit. But it is quickly clear that they just want to kill all humans. They are defeated only thanks to an underrated country-western singer.

This is a wonderfully clever film with enough stars for a couple dozen films. For some reason, people preferred Independence Day to this film, which is shocking given how much more believable Mars Attacks! is.

Starring Jack Nicholson (Five Easy Pieces) in two roles. There are too many others to mention, but of particular note are Lukas Haas (Witness) and Sylvia Sidney (Beetlejuice). Pam Grier (Sheba, Baby) also stands out.

Mars Attacks! is (of course) under copyright. You can get it on DVD and Blu-ray. No extras to speak of.

Matewan (1987)

Producers: Peggy Rajski and Maggie Renzi
Director/Screenwriter: John Sayles

In 1920 West Virginia, a union organizer comes to help the striking coal miners as thugs from the Baldwin–Felts Detective Agency do everything (including murder) to break them. It all ends in a showdown that is a lot better than any telling of Tombstone.

Is this low-budget Sayles epic psychotronic? I think so. The payoff when the bad guys get their due is stronger than it is in Witchfinder General.

Starring Chris Cooper (American Beauty) and Mary McDonnell (Sneakers). Featuring: James Earl Jones (Conan the Barbarian), David Strathairn (Dolores Claiborne), Bob Gunton (The Shawshank Redemption), and many others.

Matewan is mostly copyrighted but there is a nice widescreen version on Archive.org with Spanish subtitles. It is available on an expensive, barebones DVD. It has never been released on Blu-ray.

The Matrix (1999)

Producer: Joel Silver
Directors/Screenwriters: The Wachowskis

A hacker is looking for a man named Morpheus who will tell him what The Matrix is. Eventually, they get together and he learns that he has been living inside a computer simulation. What’s more, he is the man who will lead the humans to crush their machine oppressors.

This film hasn’t aged as well as it might have but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun. It’s really stylish with beautiful action sequences. It’s also filled with a great collection of characters that are mostly killed off.

Starring Keanu Reeves (John Wick), Laurence Fishburne (King of New York), Carrie-Anne Moss (Red Planet), and Hugo Weaving (V for Vendetta).

The Matrix is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s available in many other forms — most notably Ultimate Matrix if you are a freak for the films. It’s much more economical to get 4 Film Favorites.

3 March 2021

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Producer: Joel Silver
Directors/Screenwriters: The Wachowskis

It is months after the events in the first film and Neo is a well-known Matrix badass. But the machines are tunneling toward Zion and Neo much reach the Source before it is too late.

This film does everything that was in the first movie but more extreme. The problem is that the plot is not very good, there are a whole but of new, less interesting characters, and the action sequences are over-long. There’s probably a good hour in this almost two-and-a-half hour film. This is a great example of professionalism in the service of nothing. It also makes the first film worse because you realize that there was nothing under the surface.

Starring Keanu Reeves (Point Break), Carrie-Anne Moss (Fido), Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Got to Do with It), and Hugo Weaving (Proof). Lambert Wilson (Flawless) is the best thing in this film.

The Matrix Reloaded is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s the cheapest to get the 4 Film Favorites on DVD. Or if you’re a total freak, get the Ultimate Matrix.

4 March 2021

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Producer: Joel Silver
Directors/Screenwriters: The Wachowskis

Taking up right after the previous film, Neo is trapped in a train station inside the Matrix. He gets out but must again go on a trip — this time to the Machine City to fight Smith (the Anti-Neo).

Of this two-hour special effects extravaganza, perhaps a half-hour is good. We spend a ridiculous amount of time with characters we don’t care about in Zion fighting the machines. We also spend a bunch of time in the spaceships. Basically, if we are in the Matrix, we aren’t having fun. Seriously: just watch Speed Racer.

Starring Keanu Reeves (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Hugo Weaving (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), Carrie-Anne Moss (Memento), and Laurence Fishburne (Deep Cover). Bruce Spence (Mad Max 2) has a notable role.

The Matrix Revolutions is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. You are better to get the 4 Film Favorites on DVD. Or for the real freaks, get the Ultimate Matrix (which I own, of course).

4 March 2021

Mausoleum (1983)

Producers: Robert Barich and Robert Madero
Director: Michael Dugan
Screenwriters: Robert Barich & Robert Madero

A woman is possessed by the same demon who took over and eventually killed her mother. She kills people in wonderfully inventive ways before her therapist rids her of the demon.

This film just kind of floats there with little dramatic momentum. But there’s a fair amount of nudity and some excellent deaths. And I found the flashbacks particularly compelling.

Starring Bobbie Bresee (Evil Spawn). With Marjoe Gortner (Starcrash), Norman Burton (The Gumball Rally), and LaWanda Page (Sanford and Son).

Mausoleum is under copyright. You can get it on a cropped DVD. It’s much better to get on Blu-ray in widescreen with minor extras.

9 December 2020

Maximum Impact (1992)

Producer/Director: JR Bookwalter
Screenwriters: Thomas Brown and JR Bookwalter (story: Bookwalter and Brown)

When Jerry goes to an insurance meeting in the big city, he learns that his employer is involved in some bad stuff. After witnessing a woman take part in a snuff film, he rescues her. And when Jerry’s wife is murdered, it’s payback time!

This film is far better than it should be. It actually works as an action film despite being made for pocket-change. The plot is rough around the edges but if you go with it, you’ll like it.

Starring Ken Jarosz (Zombie Cop) and Christine Morrison (Galaxy of the Dinosaurs). With James Black (Ozone), Scott Emerman, Bill Morrison (Robot Ninja), and Jo Norcia (Kingdom of the Vampire).

Maximum Impact is under copyright. It is available on DVD along with Zombie Cop.

May (2002)

Producers: Marius Balchunas and Scott Sturgeon
Director/Screenwriter: Lucky McKee

A young woman is obsessed with the beautiful body parts of people she knows. When she finds that no one really loves her, she kills people to get their body parts and assemble the perfect doll/friend.

This is an outstanding film. Long before the gore starts, it’s horrifying. McKee has a great ability to extract the creepy from disturbed characters.

Starring Angela Bettis (The Woman). With Jeremy Sisto (Suicide Kings) and Anna Faris (The House Bunny).

May is under copyright. It is available on DVD, which has at least a director commentary.

28 February 2021

Me and My Mates vs the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

Producers: Daniel Sanguineti & Christian Doran
Director/Screenwriter: Declan Shrubb

Three telecom workers, one’s daughter, and two of her friends are locked inside their work building during a zombie outbreak. One attempts to reconnect the 3G to contact the army while the others fight off the zombies with one shotgun and two paintball guns.

This is an often funny zombie film. It’s also very “politically incorrect” and Australian. The gore is excellent. My favorite part is when the main character runs over a zombie with a lawnmower.

Starring Alex Williamson, Greg Fleet, Adele Vuko, Matt Popp, Andy Trieu, and Jim Jefferies.

Me and My Mates vs the Zombie Apocalypse is under copyright. It is available on DVD with director commentary and some featurettes.

25 January 2021

Mega Scorpions (2003)

Producers: JR Bookwalter and Jennifer Kessler
Director: JR Bookwalter
Screenwriters: “Gene Yarbrough” (C Courtney Joyner) and “Lance Randas” (JR Bookwalter)

Toxic waste illegally dumped causes the scorpions to grow big. This effects an entire town but especially the halfway house for drug addicts, some of whom think they are seeing things that aren’t there — but are.

This was the last film that Bookwalter directed and it makes me wonder why he wasn’t dragged into TV. He does a great job with a small budget. This film is better than most of what you see on Syfy.

Starring Nicolas Read, Marcella Laasch (The Kids Who Saved Summer), Sewell Whitney (Diane), Sarah Megan White (Camp Utopia), John Henry Richardson (Haunting Desires), Stephen O’Mahoney (Dead & Rotting), Trent Haaga (The Ghouls), Lilith Stabs (Bad Movie Police), and Brinke Stevens (The Naked Monster). Ariauna Albright (Polymorph) has a small part.

Mega Scorpions is under copyright. Unfortunately, it’s never been released on disc. It is available on Amazon Prime. You can usually find it on other streaming systems.

11 July 2020

Mermaids of Tiburon (1962)

Producer/Director/Screenwriter: John Lamb
Alternative titles: The Aqua Sex

Large luminescent pearls are found off the coast of Mexico near the island of Tiburón. An earnest scientist and a villainous criminal go to look for them only to find a group of mermaids who are not keen to give them up.

John Lamb was a successful underwater cinematographer and it shows in this film. It’s clear that he’s more interested in making a nature documentary than this one. But he does a good job with the other scenes as well. Apparently, when the original release didn’t garner any attention, he shot some more footage of topless women with bar feet and sometimes flippers. This is somewhat jarring but it is apparently meant to suggest that only some of the mermaids have tails. I don’t know. It would be nice one day to see the original version, but it’s really hard to find.

Starring stuntman George Robotham, Timothy Carey (The Killing), and Jose Gonzales-Gonzales. Diane Webber (Sinthia: The Devil’s Doll) plays the lead mermaid.

Mermaids of Tiburon is under copyright (or at least the later “nude version” is). The nude version is available on DVD with Yambaó.

26 March 2021

Mesa of Lost Women (1953)

Producers: G William Perkins and Melvin Gordon
Director: Herbert Tevos and Ron Ormond
Screenwriter: Herbert Tevos

An evil scientist living in the desert has created spider women (and a really big spider). He sort of zombifies a scientist who wouldn’t work on his fiendish plot. And the zombified scientist kidnaps some people and takes them to the evil scientist.

This is a delightfully kooky 1950s science fiction film. It shares a lot with the lesser Ed Wood films. But the giant spider is pretty cool!

Jackie Coogan (The Addams Family) stars as the evil scientist but it isn’t much of a part and he isn’t even in the film that much. It also features Robert Knapp, Paula Hill, and George Barrows (Robot Monster). Lyle Talbot (Jail Bait) does the narration. Dolores Fuller (Glen or Glenda) is an extra here.

Mesa of Lost Women seems to be in the public domain and it is available on Archive.org. It is available on DVD.

17 February 2021

Messiah of Evil (1973)

Producer: Gloria Katz
Director: Willard Huyck
Screenwriters: Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz
Alternative titles: Dead People

A woman goes searching for her father in a seaside town that has been taken over by cannibal walking-dead types. But they move fast!

Katz and Huyck were married and the whole thing was a joint venture. They also wrote American Graffiti, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Howard the Duck. Not surprisingly, the film is well-written and filled with lots of great ideas and moments. The direction and editing are weak but it’s still a really good film that you should check out.

Starring Marianna Hill (High Plains Drifter) and Michael Greer (Fortune and Men’s Eyes). With Anitra Ford (Invasion of the Bee Girls), Joy Bang (Night of the Cobra Woman), and Elisha Cook Jr (Shane).

Messiah of Evil should be under copyright but there is a wonderful widescreen print of it on Archive. There are a lot of bad copies available on disc, so be careful. The way to get it is with the Code Red DVD or Blu-ray, which come with a commentary with Katz and Huyck and lots of interviews. But these discs are really expensive! There is also a widescreen print available with Bloody Wednesday.

11 July 2020

Midnight Movie (2008)

Producers: Kacy Andrews & Liam Finn & Jacques Thelemaque
Director: Jack Messitt
Screenwriters: Mark Garbett and Jack Messitt (story: Sean Hood)

The writer, director, and star of an early 1970s horror film very similar to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre loses his mind. He’s shown it as therapy at a mental hospital and all 70 people there disappear after what looks like an attack. Now 5 years later, it is being shown as a midnight movie and we learn what happened to those people as it all happens again.

Although the genre of “evil film” is overdone, Midnight Movie is really quite good. It features characters strong enough to care when they start dying. And the plot keeps you on your toes. It’s also very interesting visually. You probably won’t want to move Heaven and Earth to see it but if you get a chance, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Starring Rebekah Brandes (Bellflower), Daniel Bonjour (Beast Beneath), Stan Ellsworth, Mandell Maughan, and Jon Briddell (11/11/11).

Midnight Movie is under copyright. It is available on the Killer Cut DVD with director commentary, interviews, deleted scenes, and a bunch more. You can get pretty much the same thing on Blu-ray without the commentary. If you just want the film, you can get Horror Triple Feature: Vol 2 Blu-ray, which also includes Scar and Terror Trap.

26 December 2020

The Mighty Ducks (1992)

Producers: Jordan Kerner and Jon Avnet
Director: Stephen Herek
Screenwriter: Steven Brill
Alternative titles: D1: The Mighty Ducks, Champions

A sleazy lawyer must do community service after a drunk-driving incident. Slowly, he turns a group of tween misfits into a great hockey team.

Although this film is almost comic in its devotion to the structure of the sports film, it’s still pretty fun.

Starring Emilio Estevez (Rated X), Heidi Kling (D3: The Mighty Ducks), MC Gainey (Happy, Texas), and Joss Ackland (How About You).

The Mighty Ducks is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. All three of the films is available on DVD.

2 April 2021

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Producers: Clint Eastwood and Albert S Ruddy & Tom Rosenberg & Paul Haggis
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenwriter: Paul Haggis (stories: FX Toole)

A young female boxer wears down an old crotchety manager until he agrees to train her. She rockets to the top of women’s boxing but tragedy awaits.

Although I think much of the praise for this film is overblown, it tells an incredibly effecting story. It has no nuance but that works if you watch it like you would a Greek myth. Because that’s what it is. By the end, everyone is sobbing — especially the men.

Starring Hilary Swank (The Homesman), Clint Eastwood (High Plains Drifter), Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder), Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), and Brían F O’Byrne (Easy). Margo Martindale (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) is outstanding as the worst mother ever. And professional boxer Lucia Rijker plays “The Blue Bear” — the main heavy.

Million Dollar Baby is under copyright. It is available on DVD with a few extras and Blu-ray with a commentary and half-hour documentary. It is also available in some collections.

22 February 2021

The Milpitas Monster (1976)

Director: Robert L Burrill
Screenwriter: David E Boston (Story by Robert L Burrill and David R Kottas)
Our discussion: The Film Made by a High School

A monster evolves from the overflowing garbage in Milpitas. A bunch of high school students set out to destroy it.

This film has far more production value than it has any right to. It falls down in terms of its script, which doesn’t hang together especially well. But it’s hard not to appreciate the film just based on its production story.

Starring Douglas A Hagdohl, Scot A Henderson, and Scott Parker. It also features celebrities from the Bay Area at that time including Bob Wilkins.

The Milpitas Monster is under copyright. You can watch it on Amazon Prime. You can get it on DVD from the director.

16 August 2020

Monster a Go-Go (1965)

Producers: Sheldon S Seymour (Herschell Gordon Lewis) and Bill Rebane
Director: Bill Rebane
Screenwriters: Jeff Smith & Dok Stanford & Bill Rebane (additional dialog: Sheldon Seymour)
Alternative titles: Terror at Half Day

On his return to Earth, an astronaut disappears. But the dead bodies start piling up. We soon learn that a radiation drug he was given has turned him into a monster.

This film is a mess and unless you are a researcher, I wouldn’t spend the time to watch it. Rebane had to abandon the film he was making. Lewis needed a second feature for a distribution deal. So he bought the footage and added roughly 20 minutes of new footage and put together something that only a freak could love. And that might be you!

Starring Phil Morton, June Travis (Over the Goal), and Henry Hite.

Monster a Go-Go appears to be under copyright. It is available on DVD in as good a quality as you could hope with an interview and commentary track with Bill Rebane. There are other ways to buy it but this is the only version anyone who’s seriously interested in it should get.

5 December 2020

The Monster Club (1981)

Producer: Milton Subotsky
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Screenwriters: Edward & Valerie Abraham (novel: Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes)

A very hungry vampire sucks a pint out of horror writer Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes. The vampire is so grateful that he takes Ronald to The Monster Club where he listens to music and is told three horror stories.

This is a much-hated anthology film but I can’t figure out way. The music is actually pretty good. There’s a wonderful striper segment. And the stories are (in order): poignant, funny, and something that would make a great feature.

Starring Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill), John Carradine (Stagecoach), James Laurenson, Barbara Kellerman (Satan’s Slave), Richard Johnson (Zombie), Donald Pleasence (Halloween), and Stuart Whitman (Night of the Lepus).

The Monster Club is under copyright. It is available on DVD. Or you can get a region-free Blu-ray import.

5 February 2021

Monster From a Prehistoric Planet (1967)

Producers: Hideo Koi
Director: Haruyasu Noguchi
Screenwriters: Iwao Yamazaki & Ryuzo Nakaishi[
Alternative titles: Gappa the Triphibian Monster, Daikyojû Gappa, 大巨獣ガッパ

A group of scientists and reporters for Playmate Magazine go to a remote island looking for animals for a resort the magazine is opening. There, they find a beaked dinosaur baby, which they take back to Japan to display. It’s parents soon come to Japan looking for their child with the usual results.

Although this is kind of a rip-off of Gorgo, which is a rip-off of King Kong, I really like this film. The monsters are weird. The miniature sets are awesome. And the romantic subplot is needlessly complicated and stupid (I mean that in a good way). Also: you get to see Japanese people in blackface!

Starring Tamio Kawaji (Story of a Prostitute), Yôko Yamamoto (New a Man’s Crest: Birth of a Young Boss), Yuji Kodaka (Tattooed Life), Kokan Katsura, and Keisuke Inoue.

Monster From a Prehistoric Planet may be under copyright but a horribly cropped version and a wonderful (slightly cut — for the better) widescreen version on Archive.org. It is available on DVD, but it is to 4:3. If you want it, get it on DVD or Blu-ray from Media Blasters, which includes both the Japanese and English versions in widescreen.

5 February 2021

Monster From the Ocean Floor (1954)

Producer: Roger Corman
Director: Wyott Ordung
Screenwriter: Bill Danch

A young American woman vacationing in Mexico finds love and a monster! SEE her scared by a one-person submarine! WATCH her react to an off-screen octopus! THRILL TO her battle with a shark!

Really: thrill to her battle with a shark! This is clearly in the ocean and that shark is clearly in the frame with her. Some of it is the result of a long lens, but not all of it. It’s very impressive. This is also the first film Roger Corman produced. Wyott Ordung is best known for writing the screenplay for Robot Monster.

Starring Anne Kimbell (Girls at Sea). Featuring Stuart Wade (Teenage Monster), Dick Pinner, and director Ordung as the nice Mexican man. Jonathan Haze (The Little Shop of Horrors) has a small part.

Monster From the Ocean Floor is under copyright. It is available alone on DVD with no extras. You can also get it with Serpent Island. It comes with a Corman interview and deleted scenes.

Monster Movie (2008)

Directors: Mark and John Polonia
Alternative titles: Dinosaur Activity

A group of four friends go on vacation for a week only to find the area overrun with dinosaurs. They struggle to escape the area.

Somehow, the Polonia brothers manage to make even the most absurd ideas work with a combination of good cheer and relentlessness. We don’t see many dinosaurs here and most of what we do see is pretty cheesy. But as usual, they make effective use of sound editing and off-screen action. This was the last film made by John Polonia who died of a heart aneurism at 39.

Starring Brian Berry (Razorteeth), Todd Carpenter (Amityville Death House), Ken Van Sant (Sharkenstein), and the Polonia brothers.

Monster Movie is under copyright. It has been released on DVD but doesn’t seem to be available. You can watch it on Amazon Prime.

18 July 2020

The Monster of Phantom Lake (2006)

Producers: Christopher R Mihm and Josh Craig
Director: Christopher R Mihm

A couple of guys from a local business dump nuclear waste into a lake. A crazy hermit who lives nearby falls into the lake and turns into a monster that torments two scientists and a group of teens who are camping.

This was the first film by Mihm — parodying 1950s teen exploitation films, most obviously The Horror of Party Beach. It’s hard not to compare Mihm to Larry Blamire (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra). But they are quite different. Mihm is much more serious about creating (loving) parodies and almost all the comedy comes as a result of that. I find this one particularly funny — also quite sweet.

Starring Deanne McDonald, Josh Craig (Cave Women on Mars), and Leigha Horton. With Lindsey Holmes, Rachel Grubb (Queen of Snakes), Brad Tracy, and Justen Overlander (Terror from Beneath the Earth).

The Monster of Phantom Lake is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Amazon Prime. There is also a filmed version of the theatrical musical based on it.

22 August 2020

Moonshine Mountain (1964)

Producer/Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenwriter: Charles Glore

A TV folksinger goes to rural Carolina to get back in touch with his roots. Things start out contentious. Eventually, however, he is accepted by the locals who share his love of music. Little do the people know that their local sheriff is a serial murderer and rapist.

This is a very typical Lewis film: mostly long-shots with exaggerated acting and a flimsy plot. Also typically Lewis: oddly compelling. It was made shortly after Two Thousand Maniacs! with many of the same people. The music is surprisingly good — especially Glore’s guitar playing.

Starring Charles Glore, Gordon Oas-Heim (Color Me Blood Red), and Jeffrey Allen (Two Thousand Maniacs!).

Moonshine Mountain is under copyright. It’s available on a mostly complete DVD. You can watch a badly cut version on Amazon Prime. You can get it with Two Thousand Manicas! It is also included on the Arrow Video “Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast” on Blu-ray/DVD and Blu-ray.

12 December 2020

Moose: The Movie (2015)

Producer: Chad Carpenter
Director: G Logan Dellinger
Screenwriters: Darin Carpenter and Chad Carpenter
Alternative titles: Moose

Two idiots let the Moose-man free and it wanders around the countryside ripping people’s heads and limbs off. But there’s a new forest ranger in town and he most definitely might be up to the job of stopping it!

This is one of the sillier films I’ve seen in the last decade. I didn’t find it especially funny but it does have its moments. And it’s very sweet.

Starring Zack Lanphier (Sudsy Slim Rides Again), Chantel Grover, Dave Nufer, and Tom Gammill.

Moose: The Movie is under copyright. It is available on Amazon Prime.

16 October 2020

Mother Krampus (2017)

Producers: Scott Jeffrey & Rebecca J Matthews and Tara MacGowran
Director: James Klass
Screenwriter: Scott Jeffrey
Alternative titles: 12 Deaths of Christmas

A witch is abducting, torturing, and killing children. She appears to be getting revenge for a bit of vigilante justice 25 years earlier.

It’s hard to completely grok this story, but it’s easy enough to follow the main plot and appreciate the ending. It also features some scary and ghoulish moments.

Starring Claire-Maria Fox (Tooth Fairy), Tony Manders (The Mermaid’s Curse), Tara MacGowran (The Dawning), and Faye Goodwin (Mandy the Doll).

Mother Krampus is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

11 February 2021

Mother of Tears (2007)

Producers: Dario Argento and Claudio Argento
Director: Dario Argento
Screenwriters: Dario Argento, Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch (story: Dario Argento)

A box is dug up outside a church and inside are relics of the Three Mothers: evil witches who control the Earth. Opening the box brings havoc to the world in the form of the last living witch, Mater Lachrymarum, and her minions. The only thing that can stop her is a young art student who, unknown to herself, has special powers.

This is the third film in The Three Mothers trilogy — made 30 years after Suspiria and 27 years after Inferno. It has a bad reputation — probably because it has a rather different look than the first two films. But of the three, it is probably the most intense. It’s well worth watching.

Starring Asia Argento (B Monkey). Featuring Cristian Solimeno, Moran Atias (The Next Three Days), Adam James (Johnny English Strikes Again), and Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein).

Mother of Tears is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with a making-of documentary and interview. It has been released a couple of times on Blu-ray but never as Region A/1.

30 May 2020

Motorpsycho! (1965)

Producer/Director: Russ Meyer
Screenwriters: WE Sprague and Russ Meyer (Story: Russ Meyer, James Griffith, and Hal Hopper)

Three psychos on motorcycles rape and kill before vengeance is meted out by the veterinarian husband of a gang-rape survivor and the widow of a man recently murdered. Fun times!

This is the male-psychopath equivalent of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! This one has a bit more to say about the world and more characters to like.

Starring Haji (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) and Alex Rocco (The Godfather). With Steve Oliver (The Naked Zoo), Holle K Winters, Timothy Scott (Fried Green Tomatoes), director Coleman Francis (The Beast of Yucca Flats), and Russ Meyer himself as a wonderfully vile sheriff.

Motorpsycho! appears to be copyrighted. It is available on DVD but I can’t speak to its quality.

The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978)

Producer: Luciano Martino
Director: Sergio Martino
Screenwriters: Cesare Frugoni and Sergio Martino
Alternative titles: Slave of the Cannibal God, Prisoner of the Cannibal God, La Montagna del Dio Cannibale

A woman goes looking for her lost scientist husband in the jungle of New Guinea. With her, she brings a guide with a past and a brother without a soul. They battle spiders, snakes, and eventually a very messed up tribe of cannibals.

This is a well-crafted film, but it suffers from mostly unlikable characters. It kills off the best character halfway through. It’s also difficult to watch what looks like real acts of animal cruelty (eg, slowly gutting a lizard, roasting a crab in a fire).

You get to see Ursula Andress’ boobs a couple of times, but they really don’t compare to Akushula Selayah’s. There is also a fairly explicit scene of a woman masturbating. I’d say this film was erotic if it weren’t for other things like a man anally raping a hog and the feeling of creepiness that comes across even when people simply kiss.

Starring Ursula Andress (Dr No), Stacy Keach (The Killer Inside Me), Antonio Marsina, and Claudio Cassinelli (Hands of Steel).

The Mountain of the Cannibal God may be under copyright but it is available for free on Archive.org. It is available on Blue Underground and Reel Vault (MOD) DVDs. It is also available on Blu-ray with both cut and uncut versions. If you can play Region B/2 Blu-ray discs, there is a 2K transfer with the best extras you’ll find (still not great). There are many other versions around. Be careful about aspect ration and length. All the ones listed here should offer an uncut widescreen version.

5 August 2020

Mr Sardonicus (1961)

Producer/Director: William Castle
Screenwriter: Ray Russell

A young man is not allowed to marry the love of his life who is forced to marry an older rich man. Years later, he is a brilliant doctor and he gets a letter from her begging him to come. She is married to a deformed psychopath who forces the doctor to heal him or she will be surgically deformed.

The make-up effects leave something to be desired but otherwise, this is a great film with a rewarding ending.

Featuring Ronald Lewis (Robbery Under Arms), Audrey Dalton (The Monster That Challenged the World), Oscar Homolka (Sabotage), and Guy Rolfe (Dolls).

Mr Sardonicus is available on DVD with a short documentary. It is available on Blu-ray along with Homicidal. If you are a fan, get the William Castle Film Collection, along with 13 Frightened Girls, 13 GhostsHomicidal, and The Old Dark House. It has no extras, but few Castle releases do.

11 May 2020

Ms 45 (1981)

Producer: Navaron Films
Director: Abel Ferrara
Screenwriter: Nicholas St John
Alternative titles: Ms .45, Ms. 45, Angel of Vengeance

A young woman is raped on the street only to come home to an intruder who rapes her. But she fights back and kills the second rapist. She dismembers him and deposits his body parts at different places in the city. At one point, a creepy guy follows her under the pretense that she “forgot” her bag and she kills him. Then she starts hunting men.

This is a fantastic film. It’s not really a revenge story. And many of the men don’t exactly deserve it. But it’s still rewarding. And some of the murders will make you squeal with joy!

Starring Zoë Lund (Bad Lieutenant). It features photographer Editta Sherman as the nosy neighbor. There are a bunch of people who really haven’t been in other stuff and that’s interesting because they are great: Albert Sinkys, Darlene Stuto, Helen McGara, and Nike Zachmanoglou. Director Abel Ferrara plays the first rapist.

Ms 45 is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with about 40 minutes of interviews and a booklet.

8 September 2020

The Mummy (1932)

Producer: Carl Laemmle Jr
Director: Karl Freund
Screenwriter: John L Balderston

A cursed mummy is released from his tomb. But rather than killing everyone, he works to bring back his dead girlfriend. Eventually, he gets around to killing people, even his reincarnated girlfriend.

This classic Universal horror is as good as Frankenstein and Dracula. The mummy is a very sympathetic character and its unusual ending is both sad and appropriate. If you’ve seen other mummy films, this one shows you how it ought to be done.

Starring Boris Karloff (The Black Cat) and Zita Johann (The Sin of Nora Moran). With David Manners (Dracula), Arthur Byron (20,000 Years in Sing Sing), and Edward Van Sloan (Frankenstein).

I assume The Mummy is under copyright. It is available on DVD with decent extras and on Blu-ray with even more. You can also get The Mummy: Complete Legacy Collection, which has all the extras of the Blu-ray along with The Mummy’s Hand, The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Ghost, The Mummy’s Curse, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.

15 February 2020

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

Producers: Sean Daniel and James Jacks & Stephen Sommers and Bob Ducsay
Director: Rob Cohen
Screenwriters: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar

The son of the O’Connells from The Mummy (1999) finds the mummified remains of an ancient Chinese warlord. Bad people bring him back to life and the O’Connells along with an immortal Chinese woman must put the mummy back in the box (so to speak).

This film is pretty much nonstop action — a lot like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which came out two years earlier. There’s not much to it but it’s fun enough.

No one really stars in this. It features Brendan Fraser (George of the Jungle), Jet Li (Romeo Must Die), Maria Bello (A History of Violence), Luke Ford (The Black Balloon), Isabella Leong (Spider Lilies), and John Hannah (Four Weddings and a Funeral).

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with deleted scenes and a relatively interesting director commentary. There is also a Blu-ray with even more features. But if you like the series, just get The Mummy Ultimate Collection with the trilogy and The Scorpion King.

18 March 2020

Murder Party (2007)

Producers: Skei Saulnier & Chris Sharp
Director/Screenwriter: Jeremy Saulnier

A parking cop finds an invitation to a Halloween “murder party,” so he decides to go. But it turns out, it is a bunch of students who are going to create art based on his murder, which they are going to accomplish that night.

This is a really good horror-comedy — a very quirky gore-fest. The filmmakers don’t think much of the New York art world!

Starring Chris Sharp, Sandy Barnett, Macon Blair (Blue Ruin), Paul Goldblatt, William Lacey, Stacy Rock, Skei Saulnier, Bill Tangradi (Desolate), and Beau Sia (Slam).

Murder Party is under copyright. It is available on DVD with commentary and other extras.

14 February 2021

Murdercycle (1999)

Producer: Kirk Edward Hansen
Director: Tom Callaway
Screenwriters: Neal Marshall Stevens (as Benjamin Carr) & “Daniel Elliot”

An object from space crashes into the Earth. It combines with a motorcyclist and goes around killing people at a special military outpost. A combined team of Marines and CIA agents are sent to deal with the situation.

This film is fine in terms of production value. The actors are pretty good but they really struggle with the awkward dialog. But the big problem is that the story unfolds in a mechanical way that isn’t terribly engaging. It’s nothing to seek out but if you do happen to see it, you may be impressed with its overall look.

Starring Charles Wesley (3 Days Gone), Cassandra Ellis, Michael Vachetti, David AR White (God’s Not Dead), and Robert Staccardo. Robert Donavan (Trancers 6) has a small role.

Murdercycle is under copyright. It is available on DVD with no extras.

20 March 2021

Mutant Aliens (2001)

Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Bill Plympton

Earl the astronaut is sent into space but then double-crossed by the head of the Department of Space, left to die. But Earl survives and comes back to Earth in 20 years with some adorable and deadly space aliens with a mind toward vengeance.

This animated feature is very much in Plympton’s style with his wild and often coarse sense of humor. And the narrative is unusual in that Earl’s central aim is subverted without him ever learning “valuable lessons.” But the bad guy does get his due.

The film is voiced mostly by people with little if any acting experience outside this film. Many of them work for Plympton in other capacities.

Mutant Aliens is under copyright. You can get it on DVD with a feature-length documentary.

18 March 2020

Mute (2018)

Producer: Stuart Fenegan and Ted Sarandos
Director: Duncan Jones
Screenwriter: Michael Robert Johnson & Duncan Jones (story: Duncan Jones)
Alternative titles: Moon II

In a cyberpunk future, the girlfriend of a mute man goes missing. He enters the underbelly of society fighting with organized crime and pedophiles looking for her.

This film exists in the same universe as Jones’ fantastic Moon. This film doesn’t have its purity of plot but it’s still exceptional.

Starring Alexander Skarsgård (War on Everyone), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Justin Theroux (The Legend of Lucy Keyes), and Seyneb Saleh.

Mute is under copyright. Currently, it seems only to be available on Netflix.

10 February 2021

My Alien Girlfriend (2019)

Producers: Sean King & Taylor King and Chad Johnson
Director: Sean King
Screenwriters: Sean King & Taylor King

A successful geek is about to be married to a woman who is clearly wrong for him. She goes to a bachelorette party while he stays home. But a space alien crashes in his backyard who takes the form of a famous movie actress. He is now trying to get her home before his fiancé finds out.

This is a very sweet film with a well-structured plot and lots of laughs performed by an excellent (but strangely unknown) cast. It’s the perfect film for guys who like this kind of film. I watched it with two female nerds and they probably liked it more than I did, but I don’t think they laughed as much.

Starring Ken Breese, Max Reeves, and Abigail Stanton. Featuring Morgan Makana and Taylor King.

My Alien Girlfriend is under copyright. It is available on Amazon Prime.

10 February 2021

My Dead Girlfriend (2006)

Producer: Anne-Marie Frigon
Director: Brett Kelly
Screenwriter: John Muggleton

A guy accidentally kills his girlfriend. But she was into the occult and cast a spell bringing her back to life. Can a living man and a dead woman have a fulfilling relationship? No. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a happy ending for this couple.

Brett Kelly does his usual with a pocket-change budget. This one really stands out with a very funny script by John Muggleton and a fantastic score by Howard Sonnenburg.

The film stars Brett Kelly (who you’ll know from other Brett Kelly films) and Caitlin Delaney (popular production manager and coordinator in Canadian television). Featuring: Jody Haucke (Rise of the Black Bat), Anastasia Kimmett (Kingdom of the Vampire 2007), Jason Daley (production assistant in Canadian television), and Ella Rose Swinimer. The creepy friend who lives with his mother is the writer, John Muggleton.

My Dead Girlfriend is copyrighted. Tempe released it on DVD and it’s on Amazon Prime.

My Name Is Bruce (2007)

Producers: Mike Richardson and Bruce Campbell
Director: Bruce Campbell
Screenwriter: Mark Verheiden

A teenager unleashes the god Guan Di who seeks revenge on a former mining town for the deaths of Chinese miners. Who does he turn to for help? His favorite movie star: Bruce Campbell. But when Campbell finds out this isn’t a joke, he does the only reasonable thing: he runs away.

This is a very silly love letter to Bruce Campbell fans everywhere. People who aren’t familiar with his oeuvre will miss out on half the fun. But it’s still a very fun little film. Kids will probably love it although most parents wouldn’t like all the sex jokes and scary moments. Parents suck!

The film stars Bruce Campbell as Bruce Campbell (Or is it “Cambell”?) from Evil Dead, Bubba Ho-Tep, and The Man With the Screaming Brain. Ted Raimi plays three different roles with his own brilliant style of over-the-top acting.

Ellen Sandweiss (The Evil Dead) plays Cheryl. (Get it?) Tim Quill (the Blacksmith in Army of Darkness) is the gay gun store owner who says, “My money’d have been on that blacksmith from Army of Darkness. Now that’s one stud.” Dan Hicks (Evil Dead 2) is his lover. The McCain Brothers, a musical duo, play the singing mayor and sheriff.

The director of the film Bruce Campbell is starring in is Michael Kallio, the director of a lot of great low-budget horror shorts (Ash vs Evil Dead: Aunt Linda’s Bake Off) and features (Hatred of a Minute). The guy with the video camera is Kurt Rauf who is a cinematographer and was part of the crew for the first two Evil Dead films.

The film is copyrighted, although you can find it online. It is available as an excellent DVD and Blu-ray.

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenwriters: Don Mullaly & Carl Erickson (story: Charles S Belden)

Wax sculptor Ivan Igor is thought dead in a fire that destroyed his museum. But 12 years later, he re-emerges handicapped but alive with a new museum. All is not as it appears, however, and plucky reporter Florence Dempsey searches to uncover the mystery.

I like this film more than the Vincent Price classic House of Wax. The plot is the same but the various subplots are great. And at this late date, the two-color Technicolor gives the film an other-worldly feel that improves it.

The film stars Lionel Atwill (To Be or Not to Be) and Glenda Farrell (Little Caesar). Featuring Fay Wray (Doctor X), Frank McHugh (All Through the Night), and Gavin Gordon (The Bat).

Mystery of the Wax Museum is still under copyright. It is available along with House of Wax on DVD for a reasonable price. No features to speak of. It’s also available alone on DVD using a process that turns it into full-color.

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