Short Takes: O

Oasis of the Zombies (1982)

Director: Jesús Franco (as AM Frank)
Screenwriter: Jesús Franco (as AL Mariaux) (story: Ramón Llidó)
Alternative titles: La Tumba de los Muertos Vivientes

Some college students go into the desert looking for some Nazi treasure. Unfortunately, it is protected by zombies.

This is a slow-burner that has its moments. But it’s hard not to watch it without wishing you were watching Shock Waves. The film is edited with very shot cuts to obscure the fact that they didn’t have much of a special effects budget.

Starring Manuel Gélin, France Lomay (Swedish Boarding School Girls), Jeff Montgomery, Eric Saint-Just, and Caroline Audret.

Oasis of the Zombies is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

3 October 2021

Oblivion (1994)

Producers: Vlad Paunescu and Oana Paunescu
Director: Sam Irvin
Screenwriter: Peter David (story: John Rheaume and Greg Suddeth & Mark Goldstein)

In the old west with lots of high tech, the alien crime leader kills the town sheriff and attempts to take over the town. The sheriff’s “cowardly” son comes back to town for the funeral and this brings on the final confrontation.

I can’t say exactly why but this is an outstanding film. Everything just works. The mix of old west and high technology makes it work as a curious kind of cyberpunk. And the acting is always perfect. It is also directed by a man who knows how to shoot comedy.

Starring Richard Joseph Paul (Under the Boardwalk), Jimmie F Skaggs (Puppet Master), Jackie Swanson (Oblivion 2: Backlash), George Takei (Star Trek), Carel Struycken (The Addams Family), and Andrew Divoff (Interceptor). Isaac Hayes (Escape from New York) has a small role.

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

20 March 2021

Oblivion 2: Backlash (1996)

Producers: Vlad Paunescu and Oana Paunescu
Director: Sam Irvin
Screenwriter: Peter David (story: John Rheaume and Greg Suddeth & Mark Goldstein)

After the events in the first film (helpfully summarized at the beginning), a bounty hunter arrives in Oblivion looking for a spy. Everyone, including him, thinks that the outlaw Lash is who he wants. But it turns out that it is a respected member of the Oblivion community.

This film was made back-to-back with Oblivion in Romania. So it isn’t surprising that this one is every bit as good as the original. It’s too bad it wasn’t made as a TV series because it would have been great.

Starring Maxwell Caulfield (Grease 2). And the original cast is back: Richard Joseph Paul (Quick Change), Musetta Vander (Project Metalbeast), Julie Newmar (Batman), Jackie Swanson (Cheers), George Takei (Star Trek), Carel Struycken (Twin Peaks), Andrew Divoff (Interceptor), and Isaac Hayes (Escape from New York).

Oblivion 2: Backlash is copyrighted. It is available on DVD. Strangely, it hasn’t been released with the first film.

9 May 2021

October Moon (2005)

Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Jason Paul Collum

A closeted gay man becoming increasingly obsessed with his gay boss. When his fiance and mother find out, he goes over the edge.

The second half of this film works really well. The first half hasn’t aged especially well. It’s amazing what 15 years have done for gay acceptance. Personally, I think the film could be beautifully re-edited to take out 40 of the first 70 minutes. Still: an excellent film with really good acting!

Starring Jerod Howard and Sean Michael Lambrecht (November Son). With Tina Ona Paukstelis (5 Dark Souls), Jeff Dylan Graham (Fell), and Brinke Stevens (Teacher Shortage). Judith O’Dea (Night of the Living Dead) has a small part as well.

October Moon is under copyright. You can get it on DVD with Collum and Howard commentary, featurette, and a couple other things. You can also get it along with November Son with old and new interviews on DVD and Blu-ray.

13 October 2020

The Oily Maniac (1976)

Producer: Run Run Shaw
Director: Meng-Hua Ho
Screenwriter: Lam Chua (as Tsai Lan)
Alternative titles: You Gui Zi

A young man who must walk with crutches due to Polio learns a little black magic that allows him to turn into an invincible oil monster. He uses it to get vengeance on the bad people around him.

This film has some strong misogynistic elements that take away from an otherwise fun romp. It’s got a great and varied score. The combination of Hong Kong action with the oil monster is great. And the villains are deliciously evil. But much of it plays like an incel recruitment video.

Starring Danny Lee (as Hsiu-Hsien Li) (The Killer). Featuring Lily Li (The Young Master), Ping Chen (The Vengeful Beauty), Hsieh Wang (Infra-Man), and Feng Ku (The Flying Guillotine).

The Oily Maniac is under copyright. I don’t know of it ever being released on disc for Region A/1. But you can watch it on Amazon Prime.

24 January 2021

The Old Dark House (1963)

Producer/Director: William Castle
Screenwriter: Robert Dillon (novel: JB Priestley)

A man comes to an out-of-the-way mansion to deliver a car only to find out his client just died. He is convinced to stay the night with a strange family. When family members start being murdered, he fears he will be next.

People can’t seem to get past the James Whale original. But they should. This is a perfectly enjoyable comedy with cool art direction and a great cast.

Starring Tom Poston (Newhart). Featuring Robert Morley (Theatre of Blood), Janette Scott (The Day of the Triffids), Joyce Grenfell (The Million Pound Note), Mervyn Johns (The Captive Heart), Fenella Fielding (Carry on Screaming!), Peter Bull (Dr Strangelove), and Danny Green (The Ladykillers).

The Old Dark House is under copyright. It is available on DVD. You can also get the William Castle Film Collection, along with 13 Frightened Girls13 GhostsHomicidal, and Mr Sardonicus.

Omega Doom (1996)

Producers: Gary Schmoeller and Tom Karnowski
Director: Albert Pyun
Screenwriters: lbert Pyun and Ed Naha
Our discussion: The Post-Apocalyptic Yojimbo

After a nuclear apocalypse, a small number of good robots are caught in the middle of two warring gangs of robots. Omega Doom comes to town and doesn’t like how the “little” robots are being treated so he sets out to destroy both gangs.

This is Yojimbo in the future with robots. Rutger Hauer (Blind Fury) gives one of his stronger performances channeling Toshiro Mifune. But the plot does meander a bit. It’s hard not to like though.

With Anna Katarina (The Blood of Heroes), Shannon Whirry (Mike Hammer, Private Eye), Norbert Weisser (The Learning Curve), and Tina Cote (Heatseeker).

Omega Doom is under copyright. It is available on DVD. It is more commonly available with Blind Fury on DVD. Or you can get it with Johnny Mnemonic and Universal Soldier: The Return on 3 DVD discs but it appears the films are cropped to 1.33:1.

22 August 2020

The Omen (1976)

Producer: Harvey Bernhard
Director: Richard Donner
Screenwriter: David Seltzer

In Rome, a woman’s newborn dies while another “woman” dies after delivering hers. So the priest there (known to the father but not the mother) switches the babies. They raise the child but eventually learn that he is the antichrist who must be destroyed. They fail, of course. How else do the sequels happen?

This is really good. It has a slow-pace and mounting sense of dread. But along with that comes some very impressive set pieces like the fall, hanging, and decapitation. And to be honest, the film works especially well because you do want permission to murder Damien.

Starring Gregory Peck (Moby Dick), Lee Remick (Anatomy of a Murder), David Warner (Waxwork), Billie Whitelaw (The Krays), and Patrick Troughton (Doctor Who). Harvey Spencer Stephens plays Damien.

The Omen is under copyright. It is available on DVD as a two-disc collector’s edition. It is also on Blu-ray with a great extras collection. It is available in a lot of other forms — most important being the SHOUT! Factory Blu-ray, which includes the four original films and the 2006 version.

23 March 2021

The Omega Man (1971)

Producer: Walter Seltzer
Director: Boris Sagal
Screenwriters: John William Corrington & Joyce H Corrington (because of some bad typesetting, the first writer is often listed as “John William”; novel: Richard Matheson)

If you are looking for I Am Legend, you will not find it here. A couple of soap opera writers took Matheson’s idea and ran with it. And it’s a damned fun film! It’s more or less Charlton Heston vs The Family — this was made at peak Manson-mania. But if you like violence, spectacle, and Rosalind Cash, you can’t go wrong. And who among us has not wanted to shoot up Los Angeles with a machine gun? Anthony Zerbe is great as the main bad guy.

Shockingly, a very nice widescreen print is available for free on Archive.org. For less than $15, you can get it on both DVD and Blu-ray. There aren’t much in terms of features, but more than we psychotronic fans have come to expect.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Producers: Elizabeth Avellán & Carlos Gallardo & Robert Rodriguez
Director/Screenwriter: Robert Rodriguez
Alternative titles: Desperado 2

An effeminate, psychopathic CIA agent hires El Mariachi to kill a general staging a coup but only after the current president is killed. Meanwhile, a drug lord wants the coup to be successful and El Mariachi to be dead.

Unlike the other two films (El Mariachi, Desperado), this fill is epic. And the main character isn’t El Mariachi. It isn’t very reality-based. It plays very much like a comic book. And as such, it is a lot of fun.

Starring Johnny Depp (Ed Wood), Antonio Banderas (Evita), Rubén Blades (The Milagro Beanfield War), Mickey Rourke (Angel Heart), Eva Mendes (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans), Danny Trejo (Machete), and Cheech Marin (Up in Smoke). Salma Hayek (Everly) gets second billing but she’s hardly in it.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. It is also available in other releases.

14 March 2021

One Spy Too Many (1966)

Producer: David Victor
Director: Joseph Sargent
Screenwriter: Dean Hargrove

This is a fun little film — especially if you love 1960s cool-spy sexism. It was constructed out of two episodes of the television show The Man from UNCLE. They cut some stuff out and then added lots of flirting between Napoleon Solo and “Control.” The result is an hour and a half of mindless fun.

The bad guy, Alexander, steals a secret weapon that causes enemy troops to give up. It’s bad because, of course, as long as America had the weapon, it would never use it. Kind of like the atomic bomb. Meanwhile, Alexander’s wife, Tracey, is trying to track him down so she can serve him divorce papers. It’s the best thing in the film! But rest assured, Napoleon saves the world by keeping the secret weapon in American hands.

Featuring Robert Vaughn (The Magnificent Seven) as Napoleon, David McCallum (The Great Escape) as Illya Kuryakin, Dorothy Provine (That Darn Cat!) as Tracey Alexander, Rip Torn (The Larry Sanders Show) as Alexander, Leo G Carroll (over a barrel in Tarantula), Yvonne Craig (Batgirl in the old Batman series) as “Control,” and James Hong (Balls of Fury).

The film is copyrighted. You can get it on a DVD-R as part of The Man From UNCLE: The 8 Movies Collection.

One-Armed Swordsman (1967)

Producer: Runme Shaw
Director: Chang Cheh
Screenwriter: Chang Cheuh & Ni Kuang
Alternative titles: Du Bei Dao

A great student of sword-fighting is forced to leave school because of bullying. But before the bullies will let him go, they fight. As a result, he unfairly loses his right arm. A farm girl nurses him back to health but he must return to protect his former master when he hears of a plot.

This film is a lot of fun. And sweet in its way. It also has that effortless Hong Kong style of filming where the action is more dance than fight.

Starring Wang Yu (Return of the Chinese Boxer), Chiao Chiao (Blood of the Dragon), Pan Yin-Tze (The Bone Crushing Kid), and Huang Chung-Shun (The Way of the Dragon).

One-Armed Swordsman is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

24 February 2021

Open 24 Hours (2018)

Producer: Shibani Kapur and RP Khemanand
Director/Screenwriter: Padraig Reynolds

A young woman is fresh out of prison for setting her boyfriend on fire. (He deserved it!) She just got a job working graveyard at a gas station. The problem is she has hallucinations of the violent past despite being on antipsychotics. And when her incarcerated boyfriend shows up, she doesn’t know if it’s real or not.

This is a really good film with fine performances, beautiful visuals, and outstanding gore effects. Don’t overthink it. The plot is actually fairly straightforward.

Starring Vanessa Grasse (It Came from the Desert). With Brendan Fletcher (Rampage), Emily Tennant (Way of the Wicked), and Cole Vigue.

Open 24 Hours is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray both with director commentary, making-of featurette, and an alternate ending.

25 February 2021

Open House (1987)

Producer: Sandy Cobe
Director: Jag Mundhra
Screenwriters: David M Evans

A serial killer targets agents at their open houses. He calls into a radio psychologist to vent about how real estate agents are causing houses to be expensive. Eventually, the psychologist’s girlfriend, who is an agent, is targetted.

There is a wonderful gore here. And some interesting kill ideas. But too much of the film is focused on a subplot about a corrupt real estate agent. I guess we are supposed to wonder if he is the real killer.

Starring Joseph Bottoms (The Dove) and Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing).

Open House is copyrighted. I’ve only been able to find it on VHS.

Orgy of the Dead (1965)

Producer/Director: AC Stephen (Stephen C Apostolof)
Screenwriters: Ed Wood

A writer and his girlfriend are driving to a cemetery when they crash their car. They find themselves in the “twilight time” where the female inhabitants perform erotic dances for the leader.

This is great, especially for a “sex” film. Basically, it’s just an excuse to show a bunch of topless dancers. But Wood’s context works really well. And it’s beautifully shot. I really like it and I’m not that into fetish films. (Note: it would probably get an R-rating today.)

Starring Criswell (Plan 9 from Outer Space), Fawn Silver (Terror in the Jungle), Pat Barrington, and William Bates.

Orgy of the Dead may be in the public domain; it is available on Archive.org. It is available on DVD with some miscellaneous Stephen C Apostolo stuff and on Blu-ray in a 2K transfer with an audio commentary by Rudolph Grey and Frank Henenlotter.

The Osterman Weekend (1983)

Producers: Peter S Davis and William N Panzer
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Screenwriter: Alan Sharp (novel: Robert Ludlum)

The CIA convinces a liberal TV journalist that his three college buddies are KGB agents. The agency has him use their yearly weekend meeting to “turn” one of them. Of course, all is not as it appears and things get violent.

This film is interesting but it’s hard to like. The plot doesn’t make much sense — especially in retrospect. And most of it is shot inside and it just isn’t much fun to watch. Just the same, it’s wonderful to see the cast and the story does drag you along even if it is ultimately for nothing. This was Peckinpah’s last feature film. There is a good documentary about the making of it, Alpha to Omega: Exposing The Osterman Weekend, which you can find around the internet.

Starring Rutger Hauer (Blind Fury), John Hurt (1984), Meg Foster (They Live), Craig T Nelson (Coach), Chris Sarandon (The Princess Bride), and Dennis Hopper (The American Friend).

The Osterman Weekend is under copyright. Anchor Bay released it with the documentary and a commentary by a group of Peckinpah scholars. You can find it on DVD.

31 August 2021

The Others (2001)

Producers: Fernando Bovaira & José Luis Cuerda & Sunmin Park
Director/Screenwriter: Alejandro Amenábar

Right after World War II, a woman and her two children find their servants have run away. She places an ad for new servants and three arrive to take jobs. But it becomes increasingly clear that the house is haunted. Or there’s a conspiracy. Or something else altogether.

It’s rare to find a haunted house film that works so well — especially recently. The Woman in Black is the only one that comes to mind. The Others is of that quality. Everything works in this film. It’s scary and heartbreaking.

Starring Nicole Kidman (To Die For), Fionnula Flanagan (Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure), Alakina Mann, James Bentley, Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Eric Sykes (Sykes), and Elaine Cassidy (Disco Pigs).

The Others is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with modest but interesting extras.

29 November 2020

Ouija Blood Ritual (2020)

Producers: Jason Coffman and Jay Sorensen
Director/Screenwriter: Dustin Mills
Our discussion: Ouija Blood Ritual: Blu-ray Review

Three friends produce a web series debunking urban legends like Bloody Mary. But when they do this with Closet Man, they summon a malevolent force.

This is an exceptional micro-budget film that uses the found-footage style in a really effective way. The whole thing was shot on a phone yet it looks great. And the acting is strong.

Starring Kayla Elizabeth, Rob Grant, and director Dustin Mills.

Ouija Blood Ritual is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with modest but good extras.

16 April 2021

Our Man in Jamaica (1965)

Producers: Ernst Ritter von Theumer and Antonio del Amo
Director: Ernst Ritter von Theumer (as as Richard Jackson)
Screenwriters: Kurt Vogelmann & Antonio del Amo
Other titles: Operation Jamaica, A 001, Operazione Giamaica

Agent 009 has disappeared in Jamaica and Agent 001 is sent to find him. This Spaghetti Spy film is a clear rip-off of Dr No. What’s surprising, however, is that I like it more. Despite Sean Connery’s incessant grinning at the camera, the early Bond pictures don’t have much of a sense of humor to them. That generally isn’t true of the knock-offs, which are quite aware of how silly they are. That’s true here from the first frame where Agent 001 wakes up with a massive hangover.

Other than some questionable day-for-night, this is a well-rendered film. It features some balletic fight scenes and impressive stunt work by Brad Harris (Goliath Against the Giants). The cast spans Italy, America, Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Spain. Featuring Larry Pennell (Bubba Ho-Tep), Margitta Scherr, Wolfgang Kieling (Torn Curtain), and Barbara Valentin (Horrors of Spider Island).

Note: the trailer refers to “Secret Agent Gary” even though there is no such character. It also makes reference to the Dominican Civil War, which happened right before the film was released. There is no mention of it in the film as I recall.

Our Man in Jamaica is copyrighted. However, it is only available on VHS. This is especially a shame given that it is shot in 2.35:1. I’ve only seen it in 4:3 and I can hardly imagine how good it would have looked on the big screen. You can find copies prepared for television floating about.

Outcast (2010)

Producers: John McDonnell & Brendan McCarthy & Eddie Dick
Director: Colm McCarthy
Screenwriters: Colm McCarthy & Tom McCarthy

A witch and her son move into a new place hiding from a killer bent on killing them. The son has a psychic link to the girl next door and they start up a relationship despite the mother discouraging it for some unstated reason.

This is an extremely stylish but hard-to-follow horror film. It takes forever to explain as much as it does. Overall, I’m kind of fond of it but I was annoyed through the first half that it didn’t provide enough information to relate the various threads.

Starring Niall Bruton, Hanna Stanbridge (Let Us Prey), Kate Dickie (Red Road), and James Nesbitt (Jekyll).

Outcast is under copyright. It is available on DVD.

2 March 2021

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Producer: Lamar Trotti
Director: William A. Wellman
Screenwriter: Lamar Trotti (novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark)

It is a classic now and loved by critics at the time, but generally not a well-received film. It’s no wonder. It’s as bleak as any post-apocalyptic film you are likely to see. It’s right up there with Threads (1984). A posse goes after a group that may have killed a respected member of the community. It’s kind of shocking to see that major studios once made such thoughtful films.

Featuring Henry Fonda (Once Upon a Time in the West), Dana Andrews (Curse of the Demon), Harry Morgan (Dragnet), Anthony Quinn (Zorba the Greek), William Eythe (The House on 92nd Street), Mary Beth Hughes (Inner Sanctum), Jane Darwell (The Grapes of Wrath), Chris-Pin Martin (The Cisco Kid), and Victor Kilian (Unknown World).

The film is copyrighted until 2040. You can often find it online. A restored print is available on DVD and an even better version with extras on Blu-ray.

Ozone (1995)

Producer/Director: JR Bookwalter
Screenwriters: David A Wagner and JR Bookwalter

Ozone is a new drug on the street that turns people into zombies. Eddie is a get-the-job-done kind of cop who becomes infected while trying to catch a dealer. Now he must catch the bad guys before it is too late. Or is it already?

This film is a gore tour de force. The effects are impressive and the plot moves along nicely.

Starring James Black (Galaxy of the Dinosaurs) with Tom Hoover (Polymorph) and Bill Morrison (Robot Ninja).

Ozone is under copyright. It is available on a good DVD.

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