Pale Rider (1985)
Producer/Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenwriters: Michael Butler & Dennis Shryack
The local mining company is trying to chase the small-scale gold miners out of town. In one incident, they kill a girl’s dog. So she prays for help. As a result, a dead preacher (and gunman) comes to help them.
This is basically a boring remake of Shane with a very vague ghost element and lots of religious nonsense. It’s also at least a quarter too long. It was very popular in its day and even now, people love Eastwood in this role (the only one he ever plays). Even the final showdown is as anticlimactic as it is expected. But it is a more polished production than Eastwood was capable of earlier in his career.
Starring Michael Moriarty (The Winds of Kitty Hawk), Clint Eastwood (Every Which Way But Loose), Carrie Snodgress (Trick or Treats), and Richard Dysart (LA Law). Chris Penn (Reservoir Dogs) and Richard Kiel (Eegah) have small roles.
13 June 2021
Directors: Tim Pilleri and Jim Zaguroli
Screenwriter: Tim Pilleri
A man who wears a pan over his head kills culinary students with various kitchen items. A group of students run by a custard teacher tries to destroy him before time runs out.
This slasher parody is genuinely funny with over-the-top horror effects. I don’t know why we haven’t seen more of Tim Pilleri.
Starring G Larry Butler (Frankenstein vs the Creature from Blood Cove), Talia Tabin, Tina Molina, Les Jennings, Craig Frank, and Kato Kaelin.
Panman is under copyright. It doesn’t appear to be on disc, but it is available on Amazon Prime.
4 April 2020
Producer: Anthony Hinds
Director: Freddie Francis
Screenwriter: Jimmy Sangster
Young adults struggle with the loss of their parents and the subsequent suicide of their older brother. Then the older brother shows up. But it’s a con. And then things get really weird.
Yet another strong one from Hammer Films. It has a solid script, looks great, and presents their usually amazing acting.
Starring Janette Scott (The Day of the Triffids), Oliver Reed (The Three Musketeers), and Alexander Davion (The Plague of the Zombies). Featuring Sheila Burrell (Cold Comfort Farm) and Maurice Denham (Countess Dracula).
15 May 2020
Paranormal Investigation Agency (2017)
Producers: Eddie Johnson, Matt Brassfield, Matt Brassfield, Eric Stebbins, Scott Woll, and Michael Nelson
Director/Screenwriter: Chris Seaver
A paranormal unit within the FBI banishes evil spirits but can’t manage to stop many clients from getting killed. They are joined by an actor doing research for a new role.
Two decades of work has made Chris Seaver a notably stronger writer and more interesting director. But this film is still largely a parade of cliched male boasts and posturing with a healthy dose of sexual violence that is played for laughs. It’s clear if he could get past giggling at the very mention of sex, he could make something with broad appeal. But the film looks great and the acting is solid.
Paranormal Investigation Agency is under copyright. It is available on DVD.
12 August 2020
The Paris Express (1952)
Producer: Raymond Stross
Director: Harold French
Screenwriter: Harold French (novel: Georges Simenon)
Alternative Titles: The Man Who Watched Trains Go By
The accountant finds that his boss is absconding with all the money and leaving the business to crumble. A scuffle ensues leading to the apparent death of the boss. So the accountant takes his place and flees with the money.
A well-scripted film noir with excellent acting. The main character is fascinating. We don’t see enough unusual characters like this in film.
10 November 2020
Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979)
Producers: Myrl A Schreibman and Robert S Fiveson
Director: Robert S Fiveson
Screenwriter: Ron Smith and Bob Sullivan (story: Bob Sullivan; screenplay adapted: Myrl A Schreibman and Robert S Fiveson)
Seemingly simpleminded people live in what looks like a pleasant but authoritarian community until they are ready to go to the utopia known as America. But two curious residents begin to have doubts about what they are told and when one of them escapes, it threatens the whole operation and a lot of powerful people.
This is an absolutely fantastic film. The first half sets up a very interesting mystery and the second half pays it off. Of course, I love these post-Watergate paranoia films. But despite (or because of) its low budget, it’s a lot better than films it is often compared to like Coma and Logan’s Run. The producers sued DreamWorks for copyright infringement over The Island (2005) — and won.
Parts: The Clonus Horror is under copyright. It is available on DVD with a commentary by Fiveson.
27 July 2020
Producer: Martin Fink
Director: Daryl Duke
Screenwriter: Don Carpenter
The story of a second-tier country music star on the road. There isn’t much of a plot other than that. Various things happen to the main character — none good. He’s a rudderless man with a rudderless life.
This film seems psychotronic, but I’m not sure it is. All the characters are so unlikeable. Just the same: it has sex and violence. I’m not sure that makes up for it likely making you a better but sadder person.
Payday is under copyright. You can get it on DVD. Maybe now that Rip Torn is dead, it will be released on Blu-ray, but it isn’t yet.
Penance Lane (2020)
Producers: Tyler Mane, Renae Geerlings, Michael Leavy, Steven Della Salla, and Jason Leavy
Director: Péter Engert
Screenwriters: Munier Sharrieff
Some thieves store millions of dollars in an abandoned house but something inside attacks them. Five years later, an ex-con gets a job remodeling the same house. And things start to happen. Yet he stays.
This is a serviceable film. There are a number of effective moments and the plot is unique through the first half. It gets predictable at the end.
20 October 2020
The Perfect Host (2010)
An injured bank robber on the run bluffs his way into a house with a very nice man. He thinks he has control of the situation but he’s quite wrong.
This is another of those films with an absolutely fabulous hour that struggles with the end. It’s still really good. But you are best to avoid thinking too much about its ridiculously convenient plot.
8 January 2020
Peter Rottentail (2004)
Producers/Directors: Mark & John Polonia
Screenwriter: John Oak Dalton (story: John Polonia)
A failed children’s party magician uses a magic potion to call forth Peter Rottentail. It only causes him to be hunted by it and the magician finally kills himself. Many years later, two stoners inadvertently bring Peter Rottentail to life. He kills lots of people but is most interested in the two boys at the last party.
Peter Rottentail is under copyright. It is available on DVD.
29 July 2020
Producer: DA Coscarelli
Director/Screenwriter: Don Coscarelli
All is not well at the local cemetery. The Tall Man seems to be stealing the bodies and turning them into little henchmen dressed as monks. And there are silver balls that attach themselves to people and then drill into them.
Much of it is like a horror version of My Side of the Mountain — filled as it is with lots of cool tricks your older brother either taught you or should have. It’s also incredibly effective horror that doesn’t waste much time on explanations. The soundtrack dates it, however.
Phantasm is under copyright. You can get it alone on DVD in an over-priced, underwhelming edition. Or you can get it in a 4K Blu-ray with awesome extras. Or you could get the whole 5-film series on DVD with quite respectable extras for such a great price that you have no excuse for not owning it. (The one downside is the spindle; once you get the DVDs off it, you might want to store them elsewhere.)
The Phantom Empire (1988)
Producer/Director: Fred Olen Ray
Screenwriter: Fred Olen Ray & TL Lankford
A small group explores caves where deadly mutants hold huge stores of diamonds. They spend a lot of time running back and forth. Eventually, they encounter a busty space alien who wants to enslave them.
Supposedly, this film went from idea to edit in three weeks. And it’s easy to see some results of this: the script lacks focus and has lots of fat. At the same time, it features some of the most compelling characters in Ray’s films. It’s much more fun than Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold and Dinosaur Island.
Starring Ross Hagen (Angels’ Wild Women), Susan Stokey (The Power), Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator), Dawn Wildsmith (Surf Nazis Must Die), Michelle Bauer (Bikini Car Wash Academy), and Sybil Danning (They’re Playing with Fire).
17 January 2021
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Producer: Edward R Pressman
Director/Screenwriter: Brian De Palma
A great composer has his opera based on Faust stolen. Then he’s framed for a crime and sent away to prison for life. All his teeth are replaced with steel ones. But he escapes from jail and starts haunting the new club, Paradise, founded by his tormentor. And from there it’s kind of a cross between Faust and Phantom of the Opera.
When this film was first released, it was panned by almost all critics. Now, almost all critics love it. Funny that. The film is perfectly enjoyable. It’s just another example of critics not liking it because it wasn’t a different film. The songs in the film were written by Paul Williams.
18 May 2020
Phase IV (1974)
Producer: Paul B Radin
Director: Saul Bass
Screenwriter: Mayo Simon
An astronomical event causes ants to start behaving oddly. At first, it just seems are trying to kill everyone. But soon it becomes clear that they are up to something bigger.
This is a great film in the tradition of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and The Andromeda Strain (1971). This is nothing like Them! (1954). Phase IV is a thinker’s film, even though it has surprisingly effective action and horror sequences. After you watch it, look online for the alternative ending.
Like many psychotronics, Phase IV got that MST3K treatment in its first season (when it was good). But this is another case where the film triumphs over the riffing. If you get desperate, you can always find the film online in this form. Otherwise, it is copyrighted. It’s available on DVD and Blu-ray, but without any extras or the longer ending.
Producer/Director: Dario Argento
Screenwriters: Dario Argento & Franco Ferrini
Alternative titles: Creepers
A young woman goes to a boarding school in Switzerland where a serial killer is on the loose. She uses her special ability to communicate with insects to find the killer.
I love this film! It’s at it’s best when Connelly and Pleasence are together. But the story is generally engaging, it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at, and it has a great soundtrack. The film originally got bad reviews and even the most positive recent ones tend to be apologia. Obviously: don’t listen to them. See the film. It’s a lot of fun!
13 January 2021
Producers: Dick Randall and Stephen Minasian
Director: J Piquer Simon
Screenwriters: Dick Randall and Roberto Loyola (as John Shadow)
Alternative titles: Mil Gritos Tiene la Noche, The Night Has 1000 Screams
A mother finds her young song doing a pornographic jigsaw puzzle and she freaks out and tries to burn it. So her son kills her with an ax and cuts up her body — evading prosecution by pretending it was someone else. Forty years later, he is working at a college, killing women and taking body parts to create his own human jigsaw puzzle.
This film is a lot like Blood Feast. For one thing, body parts are collected. But more important, the film makes little sense and includes a bunch of continuity errors. The police mostly just hang out waiting for clues to land on them. But the kills themselves are spectacular — some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen. It’s worth watching just for them!
14 June 2021
Producer: Kim Soon-Mo
Director/Screenwriter: Kim Ki-duk
A loan shark’s enforcer cripples delinquent borrowers, getting the money from insurance policies taken out on them. But one day a woman shows up who claims to be his mother who abandoned him as a baby. After accepting her, he becomes a better person. But all is not as it appears.
This is a South Korean drama with horror elements. It is very disturbing. It won’t necessarily appeal to horror fans, but if you are okay with art films with a high creep factor, you’ll probably like it. For what it intends to be, it’s probably a perfect film.
Starring Jung-Jin Lee (Hae-jeok, Disco King) and Min-soo Jo (Venus Talk).
Pietà is under copyright. It’s available in European region (B/2) discs. You can get it on Blu-ray as region A/1. It has features, but they may not be in English, given A/1 is used in Asia.
31 January 2020
Producer: Jon Davison
Director: Joe Dante
Screenwriter: John Sayles
Two young people sneak into an abandoned military research facility. They find a pool and go swimming, like you do. And they are attacked and killed by piranha. An investigator shows up and inadvertently releases the piranhas into the wide world and the game is on!
This is a wonderfully cheeky monster movie. You can appreciate it straight or as a knowing send-up of the genre. The attacks are a lot like what we saw in Barracuda.
Starring Heather Menzies (Logan’s Run), Bradford Dillman (Bug), Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood), Keenan Wynn (Hijack), and Barbara Steele (The Silent Scream). Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul) has a small humorous role.
18 April 2021
Producer: Forest King
Director: Jim Wynorski
Screenwriter: Mike MacLean
A huge snake has slithered out of hiding on a Hawaiian island. A professor tries to smuggle one of its eggs off the island. Meanwhile, a film crew is taken hostage but all of them soon have to fight against the snake.
This is a surprisingly entertaining little film. Much of it is quite funny and the script dabbles in all the usual idiocy of low-budget monster movies like over-long and detailed exposition. It also features a lot of good special effects.
Piranhaconda is copyrighted. It has been released internationally but never on disc in America. It is available on Amazon Prime.
3 June 2021
A Pistol for Ringo (1965)
Producers: Luciano Ercoli and Alberto Pugliese
Director/Screenwriter: Duccio Tessari
Alternative Titles: Una pistola per Ringo
Ringo is an extremely congenial psychopath who has a habit of killing men “in self-defense.” While in jail awaiting trial for the last four he killed, he is sent undercover to join a gang that has taken hostages at a local ranch.
This is one of the earliest Spaghetti Westerns — and one of the best. It is gritty without being pretentious. It’s also really funny.
Starring Montgomery Wood (Day of Anger). With Fernando Sancho (The Son of Captain Blood), Hally Hammond, Nieves Navarro (Death Walks at Midnight), Antonio Casas (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), and George Martin (Three Supermen of the West).
A Pistol for Ringo is under copyright. It’s widely available on disc outside the US. Here, it is mostly available on Blu-ray along with The Return of Ringo. Both films come with a large number of extras.
13 May 2020
The Pit (1981)
Producer: Bennet Fode
Director: Lew Lehman
Screenwriter: Ian A. Stuart
Alternative Titles: Teddy
An awkward 12-year-old boy can’t make friends except with his maybe living teddy bear. He has discovered a hole where beasts live (they look like hairy Sleestaks). So he tricks everyone who has been mean to him into the hole where they are eaten.
This is a unique film. It starts very serious, has an explicitly comedic middle, and then becomes a whole different movie without the main character. It has its moments but I don’t much know what to make of it.
1 October 2020
The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Producer/Director: Roger Corman
Screenwriter: Richard Matheson
Our Review: Roger Corman Poe Cycle
The son of a torturer for the Spanish Inquisition believes he is being haunted by his dead wife. Eventually he goes crazy and tries to kill everyone.
The second of Corman’s Poe cycle, this film is as good as ever. It maintains a bleak atmosphere throughout with a nice twist and a wonderfully fun ending.
This is one of Vincent Price’s best films where he effectively plays two different parts. The rest of the cast is fabulous: John Kerr (South Pacific), Luana Anders (Dementia 13), Antony Carbone (Creature from the Haunted Sea), and Barbara Steele (Castle of Blood).
The Pit and the Pendulum is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with a commentary by Corman and a prologue shot to pad the film up to 2 hours of television time starring Anders. It hasn’t been released on Blu-ray in the US.
Pizza Man (1991)
Producer: Gary W Goldstein
Director/Screenwriter: JF Lawton
More: The Comedies of JF Lawton
Elmo is a pizza delivery man — perhaps the pizza delivery man. And in an effort to get the $15.23 for an extra-large sausage and anchovy pizza, he uncovers an international conspiracy of the highest order.
This is a very funny film from the people who brought you Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. The political references may be a little out of date but the conceit of the hard-boiled pizza delivery man should carry you through.
Pizza Man is under copyright. It is available on DVD.
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Ed Wood
Aliens come to Earth to destroy us before we destroy the universe. They attack by reanimating the dead. But they are super-lazy about it, only managing to do a few.
This is Wood’s most expensive film. And it has some interesting things to say. But not having Lugosi around makes it stilted. It’s still better than any sequel to Iron Man.
Starring Gregory Walcott (Texas Lady), Maila Nurmi, Tor Johnson (Bride of the Monster), and Bela Lugosi (Dracula).
Plan 9 From Outer Space may be in the public domain. You can get it on DVD with Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion, which is great. There’s also a DVD with a “commentary” by Mike Nelson. Do me a favor and don’t give him any money.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Producer: Arthur P Jacobs
Director: Franklin J Schaffner
Screenwriters: Michael Wilson and Rod Serling (novel: Pierre Boulle)
The film that brought us the sequel! But it’s hard to be mad at a film so bold it hid Kim Hunter’s face! Also: it’s such a fun film. And so were all the sequels!
The plot’s pretty straightforward: humans travel to another planet where apes rule over humans. And, of course, it has its famous surprise ending.
It features an amazing cast: Charlton Heston (In the Mouth of Madness), Roddy McDowall (Killer Shark), Kim Hunter (Anything Can Happen), Maurice Evans (Rosemary’s Baby), James Whitmore (Them!), James Daly (“Requiem for Methuselah”), Woodrow Parfrey (Charley Varrick), Linda Harrison, and Lou Wagner.
Planet of the Apes is copyright and you are unlikely to find it online in the usual places. You can get the film as a single disc, but I recommend getting “Planet of the Apes: The Legacy Collection” on DVD or Blu-ray. It includes all five films along with the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes.
Platoon of the Dead (2009)
Producers: Joe Sherlock and John Bowker
Director/Screenwriter: John Bowker
Humanity is at war with the undead. Three soldiers survive an engagement and must make their way back home. They stop in a house where they find three women. They all must work together to survive until they are rescued. But not everyone there is a friend.
This is a really good micro-budget film! Even though most of it takes place inside a single house, it seems much more expensive. And the story is solid.
4 June 2020
The Playgirls and the Vampire (1960)
Producer: Tiziano Longo
Director/Screenwriter: Piero Regnoli
Alternative titles: L’Ultima Preda del Vampiro
A dancing troupe’s bus is stopped because a bridge has washed out. They hear of a nearby castle, which the locals tell them to stay away from. But they think it would be fun to go there. Once there, they get stuck by the weather. And then one of the dancers dies from an “accident.”
Based on the title, you might think this is a comedy, but it’s not. And the plot is a good deal too complex for a film. Yet it’s pretty fun with a couple of good vampires and beautiful ladies dancing in their underwear. There’s also one brief pair of naked breasts.
Starring Lyla Rocco, Walter Brandi (Slaughter of the Vampires), Maria Giovannini, and Alfredo Rizzo.
20 June 2021
Poison Sweethearts (2008)
Producers/Directors: The Campbell Brothers
Screenwriters: Andrew Campbell and Jared Bullis
This film presents a number of stories about women driven to violence against the asshole men around them. The whole thing is framed within the context of old “education” films that we saw growing up in primary school.
This is a very arty film. The connecting material was shot on Super-8 and it looks great. The high point is “The Wife.” Some of the stories drag a bit for me. And I’d like to see more violence and gore. But it’s a fun movie regardless.
6 June 2020
Producers: Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenwriters: Steven Spielberg and Michael Grais & Mark Victor
A little girl communicates with dead people via a television. Eventually, she is kidnapped to the other side. Luckily, Zelda Rubinstein comes to the rescue.
This is a very good horror fill with lots of clever social critique. It’s not one of my favorite Tobe Hooper films but it is good. Did Steven Spielberg direct this? It’s too filled with Hooper’s obsessions and sensibilities. Like Spielberg would ever put in daddy reading Reagan: The Man the President. But you don’t have to get Hooper’s little jabs at society to enjoy this well-made little horror film.
Starring JoBeth Williams and man who the government never helped out when he was on food stamps and welfare, Craig T Nelson. Also starring the psychotronic icon James Karen.
It is copyrighted. I have it on an old DVD and it’s okay. The video quality could be better. I would assume the 2008 Blu-ray is better.
Producers: Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Roy Lee
Director: Gil Kenan
Screenwriters: David Lindsay-Abaire
Don’t listen to the haters; this is a good film. The problem is that it isn’t nearly as good as the original and isn’t as good as most of the films listed here. But I wouldn’t avoid it. Just the same, don’t seek it out. All the interesting subtext of the original is gone. And a week after watching it, you will probably remember the original better.
Starring Sam Rockwell and Jared Harris.
Producer/Director: JR Bookwalter
Screenwriter: James L Edwards (story: JR Bookwalter)
In a remote area, a group of criminals is doing a drug deal. Things get complicated when some researchers show up. Then space alien goop starts taking over people. Who will get out alive?!
This is a great film with more personal conflict than any of Bookwalter’s other films. It’s also filled with excellent performances.
Polymorph in under copyright. It is available on a Tempe DVD with a fair number of extras.
Producers: Jeffrey Coghlan and Ambrose Roche
Director: Bruce McDonald
Screenwriter: Tony Burgess
A DJ and his crew at a small-town radio station in Canada get reports of rioting and eventually murders and other violent acts. A strange kind of virus has hit the town that is causing people to turn murderous and suicidal. Eventually, it arrives inside the station.
If you like the idea of The Crazies but not how it is rendered, this is the film for you. It all takes place in one location and feels a lot like Let Us Prey. The last part of the film gets pretty weird but this is one you definitely want to check out.
9 October 2020
Producer: Tevin Adelman
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Screenwriter: Gerald Olson
A struggling actor gets a job as the mascot for Pooka, a children’s toy that randomly repeats sentences said near it in a “good” or “bad” voice. His life seems to be going well but Pooka starts doing things — bad things. But sometimes it seems like they are just dreams. Things get worse until they get worse some more.
This is a strange film that manages to keep your attention even while not making any sense. It all comes together. This is part of the Hulu series Into the Dark.
Pooka! is under copyright. It seems only to be available on Hulu.
20 January 2021
Producers: James Harris, Mark Lane, Robert Jones, and Wayne Marc Godfrey
Director/Screenwriter: Matthew Holness
A man comes back to where he grew up to dispose of his creepy man-spider puppet, which is haunting him. There he interacts with his uncle who seems to have abused him when he was young. And the puppet can’t seem to be gotten rid of.
This is an art horror film. It is creepy throughout and scary at times. The first half is slow but the film comes together at the end brilliantly. But it isn’t your usual psychotronic.
20 November 2020
Prehistoric Women (1950)
Producer: Albert J Cohen
Director: Gregg C Tallas
Screenwriters: Sam X Abarbanel and Gregg C Tallas
The women of a prehistoric tribe get tired of carrying dead animals and run off together to form their own tribe. But despite thriving, we know why “the young ones dance so restlessly in the light of the full moon.” Luckily, men from a more enlightened tribe show up to reduce the restlessness. If you know what I mean. Girls will be girls!
This is such a thin pretense to show-off nubile women and have them wrestle with each other that it’s hard not to laugh along with it. That’s especially true with the ridiculously unnecessary narration. But as long as you don’t get any strange ideas about paleolithic tribes, I guess it is fine. But this is an accurate portrayal of the discoveries of the secrets of fire and shaving. (That was a joke.)
Note: this film is a whole lot sexier when the women are kicking the butts of the men. After they become compliant, it’s very, well, 1950.
Starring Laurette Luez (African Treasure) and Allan Nixon (Pickup). With Joan Shawlee (Buck Privates Come Home), Judy Landon, Mara Lynn (Sky High), and Johann Petursson.
Producer: Gavin Polone
Director: Michael Katleman
Screenwriters: John Brancato & Michael Ferris
A TV news crew goes to Burundi during a civil war to capture a giant killer crocodile. Once there they struggle to protect themselves from the animal and the military.
Genre mashups tend not to please anyone and horror fans will be deeply disappointed with this. But if you go in focused on the civil war story, it works pretty well. And there are some great horror moments like when the main bad guy’s head explodes as the croc bites down on it.
23 September 2021
Prince of Space (1959)
Producer: Walter Manley
Director: Eijirô Wakabayashi
Screenwriter: Shin Morita
Some bad-guy space aliens come to Earth with what is not an altogether bad deal (admit that the aliens are the rulers but live a happy life). A shoeshine boy protects the humans as Prince of Space.
This film is widely mocked and yet, I find it charming and fun. It’s made for kids, but on that level it works really well. It’s everything it intends to be. What’s not to like?
Starring Tatsuo Umemiya (Graveyard of Honor) and Jôji Oka.
21 February 2021
Princess of Thieves (2001)
Producer: Craig McNeil
Director: Peter Hewitt
Screenwriter: Robin Lerner
Robin Hood and Maid Marian have a daughter, Gwyn. Marian dies and Gwyn grows to be a young woman who is good with a bow and a sword and wants to get in on the fight. She goes against her father’s wishes and ends up getting him arrested. Now she must help free him.
This film is probably perfect for a tween girl. And as these kinds of films go, it’s very good. But it’s probably a pass for most adults. It was an episode of The Wonderful World of Disney.
Starring Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Del Synnott (Murphy’s Law), Stuart Wilson (The Mask of Zorro), and Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange).
16 February 2021
The Private Eyes (1980)
Producers: Lang Elliott & Wanda Dell
Director: Lang Elliott
Screenwriters: Tim Conway & John Myhers
Two American PIs get called to the manor of a recently murdered Lord and Lady — apparently by the Lord after he died. They are incompetent and run around while all the staff members are killed off one by one.
This is a very silly film with some surprisingly funny bits like the “time gun” and the pointedly bad poetry of the murderer. This was at least one of the most successful films from New World while Corman was in charge — more indication that his reputation is based more on PR than evidence.
19 July 2021
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
Producer/Director: Billy Wilder
Screenwriters: Billy Wilder and IAL Diamond
Sherlock Holmes helps a woman find her husband who it turns out is dead. But in the meantime, he falls in love with her but she isn’t quite what she seems to be.
It’s frustrating that this wonderful film had about an hour cut out of it — all of which appears to have been destroyed. But it’s still really engaging. And it’s nice to see a slightly more human side of a character I’ve come to find awfully annoying on the screen.
4 August 2021
Private Parts (1972)
Producer: Gene Corman
Director: Paul Bartel
Screenwriters: Philip Kearney and Les Rendelstein
A young woman, Cheryl, leaves her current roommate to live in her creepy aunt’s rundown inner-city hotel filled with colorful characters — one of whom is homicidal. Will Cheryl make it out alive? Well, after what she did to the rat, she shouldn’t!
This is a great comedy horror film. If you get a chance to watch it, you should! (Don’t mistake this for the Howard Stern biopic.)
Starring Ayn Ruymen (The McLean Stevenson Show), Lucille Benson (Silver Streak), Stanley Livingston (My Three Sons), and Laurie Main. By the director of Eating Raoul and Lust in the Dust.
Private Parts is copyrighted. You can get it on DVD without much in the way of extras.
Prom Night (1980)
Producer: Peter R Simpson
Director: Paul Lynch
Screenwriter: William Gray (story: Robert Guza Jr)
Four tweens bully a younger tween, which leads to her accidental death. Instead of explaining they sneak away and don’t mention it again. Six years later (to the day), the four attend their high school prom. And someone kills them one at a time. There are half a dozen decent suspects.
This came out right at the same time as Friday the 13th. It’s almost a hybrid of it and Black Christmas — better characters, slower, more believable. The script or the edit seems to me just a bit off. But it’s still quite entertaining with a clever plot.
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun), Casey Stevens, Anne-Marie Martin (The Boogens), Michael Tough, and Antoinette Bower (Die Sister, Die). Robert Silverman (Scanners) plays the creepy janitor.
Prom Night is under copyright. There are older DVD releases from Anchor Bay and Echo Bridge that you should avoid. In 2014, Synapse Films released DVD and Blu-ray editions with a restored print in 2K, commentary with the writer and the director, a long making-of featurette, 23 minutes of out-takes, 11 minutes of extra footage from the TV release, and more.
21 September 2020
The Psychic (1977)
Producer: Franco Cuccu
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenwriters: Lucio Fulci & Roberto Gianviti & Dardano Sacchetti
Alternative Titles: Sette Note in Nero, Seven Notes in Black
A woman has a vision of a murder. This causes her to uncover a body in her husband’s old house leading to his arrest. As she tries to prove her husband’s innocence, she slowly comes to see that her vision is not of the past but of the future.
This is a very clever film — a mystery that pulls you in and ultimately pays off. It’s one of many great ones by Fulci that isn’t widely viewed. Check it out!
Starring Jennifer O’Neill (Scanners), Marc Porel (Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man), Gabriele Ferzetti (Le Amiche), Gianni Garko (If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death), and Ida Galli (Django Shoots First).
The Psychic is under copyright. It is available on DVD with the claim that it is the full-length version, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Better to get it on Blu-ray with the proper runtime and a smattering of extras.
11 August 2021
Producer: Andrew Donally
Director: Don Sharp
Screenwriters: Arnaud d’Usseau and Julian Halevy (Julian Zimet)
Alternative Titles: The Death Wheelers
Oh the disaffected youth of today — or the early 1970s! A biker gang in England rides around scaring motorists. But their leader, Tom, just can’t help wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps. And that means dying and coming back to life. Maybe that’s why his gang is called “The Living Dead.” (That, or the writers were George Romero fans.) Soon, all the gang members kill themselves and come back — all except the one who Tom really cares about.
People call this a horror film, but there’s little horror in it. Sure, there are some occult aspects but that’s about it. Mostly, it’s a biker film. And the motorcycle sequences are beautiful. The cast is really good. And the movie moves along.
My only complaint is that when Tom drives out of the grave on his bike, it isn’t nearly as cool as it should be. It reminds me of the disappointing scene in The Italian Job when the cars jump from one roof to another. But that’s a minor complaint (for both films).
The film stars Nicky Henson (No 1 of the Secret Service) and Mary Larkin (Some Kind of Hero). Also in the gang: Ann Michelle (Vigin Witch), Roy Holder (The Land That Time Forgot), Denis Gilmore, Miles Greenwood, and stuntman Peter Whitting. Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge in the early Harry Potter films), Patrick Holt (Evidence for Hire), and Dr Who regulars in the late-60s and early-70s Alan Bennion and John Levene. And finally, the folks at Tom’s place Beryl Reid (No Sex Please: We’re British) and George Sanders (All About Eve).
The Psychotronic Man (1980)
Producer: Peter Spelson
Director: Jack M Sell
Screenwriters: Peter Spelson & Jack M Sell
Our Review: The Film That Named a Genre
This is an underrated gem. It shows the dark side of having superpowers. And producer/co-writer Peter Spelson in the title role has a fragility that is really compelling. The film is edited at a slow burn, so give it time. At first, it’s just the story of a drunk. But you don’t have too long for some cool stuff. See the film that named a genre!
The Psychotronic Man is copyrighted. But you can find it everywhere. It’s usually on YouTube. And most streaming services offer it. You can also get a reasonable print on DVD. The problem with all of these copies is that they have a 4:3 aspect ration, whereas the actual film was 2.35:1. The release cut was also 10 minutes longer. Both these cuts were doubtless made for TV. I’d really like to see the film in its original form one day.
Producer: Si Rose
Director: Hollingsworth Morse
Screenwriters: John Fenton Murray & Si Rose
This is the feature film of the popular kids’ show. And it is almost indistinguishable from the show given that it was made at the same time and included almost the exact same cast and crew. I remember seeing it in the theater when I was six-years-old. I can’t say I enjoy it today. But there is no doubt but that it’s great. The art direction is stunning. Much of the dialog pays tribute to the hipster talk of the late 60s. And even the songs (by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel) are good.
In addition to the standard players like Jack Wild (Oliver!) the film stars singer Cass Elliot and Martha Raye (Give Me a Sailor).
Pufnstuf is copyrighted. You can get it on DVD though.
Producers: Howard Smith and Richard C Weinman
Director: Stan Winston
Screenwriters: Mark Patrick Carducci with Gary Gerani (story: Mark Patrick Carducci and Stan Winston & Richard C Weinman; poem: Ed Justice)
Some teens come to a poor rural area and accidentally kill Ed Harley’s son. So Harley goes to a local witch to get vengeance. She brings Pumpkinhead to life, but when Harley see’s what it is doing to the kids, he tries to stop it.
This is the first of only two features made by special effects titan Stan Winston. It’s pretty good with a lot of effort going to developing the main character. And the creature is impressive. A lot of the scenes are very dark and I suspect it looked a lot better projected than it does on video.
Pumpkinhead is under copyright. It is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and a later 4K transfer on Blu-ray — all with commentary by Gerani and Woodruff moderated by Scott Spiegel, some featurettes, and other things.
6 November 2020
Puppet Master (1989)
Producer: Hope Perello
Director: David Schmoeller
Screenwriter: David Schmoeller (story: Charles Band and Kenneth J Hall)
Four psychics are called to the Bodega Bay Inn where they search for the secret of life but mostly end up getting murdered by puppets.
This is the one that started it all. It’s a solid film that manages to be serious despite what I consider adorable puppets. David Allen, who directed Puppet Master II, did a fantastic job on the animation.
Puppet Master is under copyright. You can get it alone on Blu-ray. Or you can get the first 3 films on Blu-ray. But you are probably best getting The Puppet Master Collection on DVD. It includes the first 9 films. All of them are cropped except for the first one, which is presented in widescreen.
Puppet Master II (1990)
Producers: David DeCoteau and John Schouweiler
Director: Dave Allen
Screenwriter: David Pabian (story: Charles Band)
Right after the events of the first film, the puppets resurrect Toulon. Some new parapsychologists show up to figure out what happened before. And Toulon creates a puppet body for himself and tries to do the same with one of the parapsychologists who he thinks is the reincarnation of his dead wife.
Killer puppets, right? What’s not to like? It’s not my favorite of the series but it is fun. And I love the epilogue.
Starring Elizabeth Maclellan, Collin Bernsen, Steve Welles, and my first crush, Nita Talbot (That Funny Feeling).
Puppet Master II is under copyright. You can get it on DVD. If you don’t care about it being cropped, you can get with 8 other films as The Puppet Master Collection. Or you can get 12 films total with Puppet Master & Killjoy: Complete Collection.
19 March 2020
Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991)
Producers: John Schouweiler and David DeCoteau
Director: David DeCoteau
Screenwriter: C Courtney Joyner
Toulon is a puppeteer in Berlin at the beginning of World War II where he performs plays that make fun of Adolf Hitler for delighted children. A Nazi informant discovers that the puppets’ are alive and turns Toulon in. This leads to Toulon’s wife being murdered and sets up a pretty awesome revenge film.
This is kind of a “Puppet Master Begins” film, except that it will go even further back in Retro Puppet Master. We do learn the beginnings of Leech Woman, by far the most disgusting of the crew.
Puppet Master 4 (1993)
Producer: Charles Band
Director: Jeff Burr
Screenwriters: Todd Henschell, Steven E Carr, Jo Duffy, and Douglas Aarniokoski & Keith Payson
An AI researcher hosts some friends who find André Toulon’s puppets from the previous movies. But the Egyptian god Sutekh sends some of his own puppets to kill him. Major puppet-on-puppet action ensues.
It’s hard not to like any of the Puppet Master films and this one is no exception. I find the ending kind of weak but it’s still fun. And the evil puppets seem a lot like the figure in the final story in Trilogy of Terror.
Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994)
Producer: Charles Band
Director: Jeff Burr
Screenwriters: Steven E Carr, Jo Duffy, Todd Henschell, and Douglas Aarniokoski & Keith Payson
Rick is arrested for the murders in Puppet Master 4. The corporate AI guy bails him out and decides to go and get him some “secret of life” via the puppets while Rick tries to protect the puppets. The underworld god tries to stop them all and is finally defeated.
This was the last Puppet Master film except for the 9 films that followed it to date. It’s a bit more scattered than the previous outing but it works well enough.
Starring Gordon Currie (Blood and Donuts), Chandra West (White Noise), Ian Ogilvy (Death Becomes Her), and Guy Rolfe (Dolls). With Teresa Hill, Nicholas Guest, Willard E Pugh (RoboCop 2), Diane McBain (Thunder Alley), and Duane Whitaker (Pulp Fiction).
19 March 2020
Producer: Luciano Martino
Director: Duccio Tessari
Screenwriters: Bruno Di Geronimo & Duccio Tessari & Ernesto Gastaldi (story: Roberto Infascelli)
Alternative Titles: L’Uomo Senza Memoria, The Man Without a Memory
A man finds himself in London with no memory of who he is. But there are shadowy figures who are keen to help him remember. He eventually learns that he was part of a million-dollar heroin deal. But now he must remember his past to save himself and his wife.
This is a pretty good little suspense thriller. It’s supposed to be a giallo, but this only really becomes apparent in the last ten minutes, which are awesome! I could do without the romance but it all works with a plot that develops well.
Starring Senta Berger (Bang! Bang! You’re Dead!), Luc Merenda (Gambling City), Umberto Orsini (Goodbye Emmanuelle), Bruno Corazzari (Secrets of a Call Girl), and Anita Strindberg (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail).
Puzzle is under copyright. It is available on Blu-ray.
22 June 2021