Short Takes: T

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

Producers: Bryan Singer and Jeff Rice
Director: Adam Robitel
Screenwriters: Adam Robitel and Gavin Heffernan

Three documentary filmmakers come to stay with a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and her daughter. But the woman’s behavior becomes more and more supernatural. Eventually, they find a link to a serial killer who went missing years before.

This is a wonderful little found-footage film with great effects and acting. I was literally on the edge of my seat through most of it. The middle section, when you don’t know what’s going on, is the most effective. Watch it with someone you can grab.

Starring Jill Larson (The Living Wake), Anne Ramsay (Mad About You), Michelle Ang (For Izzy), Ryan Cutrona (Shark Attack 3), and Anne Bedian (Delta State).

The Taking of Deborah Logan is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

17 September 2020

A Talking Cat!?! (2013)

Producers: Marco Colombo and Kathy Logan
Director: David DeCoteau (as Mary Crawford)
Screenwriter: Andrew Helm

A cat solves all the problems faced by two families. The shy boy gets the girl — or at least goes swimming. The ambitious girl gets an investor. And homemade cheese puffs are enjoyed by all!

This film is something of a punch line for a lot of people. Yet it’s adorable — just a sweet story about a bunch of sweet people. I wish I had kids so I could make them watch it.

Two cinematic icons star in this film. First, there is Johnny Whitaker, Jody on Family Affair. Balancing him out is Kristine DeBell who started her career as the title character in the pornographic musical Alice in Wonderland (1976). Both of them ground the film by oozing middle-age parenting. The cat’s voice is performed by Eric Roberts (Star 80).

A Talking Cat!?! is copyrighted. It is available on DVD.

A Talking Pony!?! (2013)

Producers: Marco Colombo and Kathy Logan
Director: David DeCoteau (as Mary Crawford)
Screenwriter: Andrew Helm (as Sebastian Dinwiddie)*

* I can’t say for sure that Sebastian Dinwiddie is Andrew Helm. However, Lou Costello plays the character Sebastian Dinwiddie (note the “i” and “l” change) in the film The Naughty Nineties. It’s clearly not a real name.

A family’s ranch is being foreclosed on and so they have to sell it to a businessman from the city who wants to build a mall, which seems odd given it would be, you know, way out in the forest. There’s a talking horse but actually, he doesn’t have anything to do with saving the family.

This film is arguably better than A Talking Cat!?! But it has four 5-minute long girl-horse montages that are just bizarre. Still: cute film and perfect for those who love horses.

Johnny Whitaker (Family Affair) and Kristine DeBell (Alice in Wonderland) are back. Jason Faunt from the original Witchouse is also along for the ride.

A Talking Pony!?! is copyrighted. It isn’t available on disc, but you can see it on Amazon Prime — at least as I write this.

Tammy and the T-Rex (1994)

Producer: Diane Raffill
Director: Stewart Raffill
Screenwriter: Stewart Raffill and Gary Brockette

A guy gets murdered (kinda) by gal’s evil ex-boyfriend. Mad scientist puts guy’s brain in his T-Rex robot. T-Rex/guy kills bad people and rekindles relationship with gal.

This film is unrelentingly silly and works brilliantly. I think this film inspired Man with the Screaming Brain.

Starring Denise Richards (Starship Troopers), Theo Forsett, Terry Kiser (Weekend at Bernie’s), J Jay Saunders, and Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious). George Buck Flower has a supporting role.

Tammy and the T-Rex is under copyright. It is available on a combo Blu-ray/DVD with a good selection of extras.

30 July 2021

Teenage Zombies (1959)

Producer/Director: Jerry Warren
Screenwriter: Jerry Warren (as Jaques Lecotier)

Some kids decide to check out the little known island in the middle of the local lake only to get captured by the evil female doctor who is doing research to control humans for a mysterious client in The East.

This film is a lot better than most. In particular, the script does a good job of cross cutting and there are few dead spots. It does, however, lack anything that’s really cool. So it probably isn’t worth seeking out.

Starring Don Sullivan (The Giant Gila Monster), Katherine Victor (The Wild World of Batwoman), and Steve Conte. Cinematographer Brianne Murphy plays the girl with short hair and short-shorts.

Teenage Zombies may be in the public domain; there is a decent print on Archive.org. It is available on DVD and a bunch of collections.

20 February 2021

Terminal Island (1973)

Producer: Charles S Swartz
Director: Stephanie Rothman
Screenwriters: Jim Barnett and Charles S Swartz & Stephanie Rothman

The Supreme Court outlaws the death penalty so California sets up Terminal Island where they put all the people they would have killed. A young woman is left on the island and is soon embroiled in a civil war between the main warlord and a small group that seems more like a group of flower children than murderers. (I know, I know: Charles Manson.)

An exploitation film that features a great cast and surprisingly impressive action sequences. There is no hint of it being a “running around the woods” film, even though it largely is. Another great one from Rothman and Swartz!

Starring Don Marshall (Land of the Giants), Phyllis Davis (Sweet Sugar), Ena Hartman (Dan August), Marta Kristen (Lost in Space), and Barbara Leigh (Junior Bonner). Tom Selleck (Magnum PI) has a supporting role and two unfortunate speeches.

Terminal Island is copyrighted. It is available on a 4:3 cropped DVD. It’s also available on DVD with Shattered Silence.

22 November 2020

The Terminator (1984)

Producer: Gale Anne Hurd
Director: James Cameron
Screenwriters: James Cameron with Gale Anne Hurd (With?! Fucking Cameron!)

A robot from the future comes back to the past to kill the soon-to-be mother the rebel human leader. But a human has also been sent back to protect her. Will the robot manage to change the past and make his existence one of those paradoxes sci-fi people love? No. But it will set up a number of sequels and video series.

What’s not to like? The principal actors are great, there’s a cool monster, and even some romance. It has great effects including in the flashback scenes. The eye scene is parodied brilliantly in Lady Terminator.

Starring Linda Hamilton (Children of the Corn), Michael Biehn (Aliens), and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Total Recall). Featuring Paul Winfield (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), Lance Henriksen (Millennium), and Earl Boen (Terminator 2: Judgment Day). Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood) has a small role as the gun shop owner.

The Terminator is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. But it’s available in a bunch of other formats. There aren’t many extras on any version.

3 March 2021

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Producer/Director: James Cameron
Screenwriters: James Cameron & William Wisher

Since they failed to kill his mother before he was born, Skynet sends a new souped-up terminator to kill him as a young man. The humans send an old-fashioned terminator to protect him. They team up with Sarah Connor to stop Skynet from ever becoming a reality. But you know there will be more films, right?

This is an excellent film but I’m particularly fond of the director’s cut. Cameron’s films tend to have a lot of heart, which is cut out for the releases.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (Kindergarten Cop), Edward Furlong (Pet Sematary Two), Linda Hamilton (Dante’s Peak), and Robert Patrick (From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money).

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray as well as other forms.

5 March 2021

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Producers: Hal Lieberman & Colin Wilson and Mario F Kassar & Andrew G Vajna & Joel B Michaels
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Screenwriters: John Brancato & Michael Ferris (story: John Brancato & Michael Ferris and Tedi Sarafian)

John Connor has buried his mother and lived into adulthood. So Skynet sends an even more souped-up terminator to kill him and the humans send the same old terminator (looking a bit worse for wear).

This by-the-numbers sequel works well enough but after the second film, it was a disappointment. It lacks for style and some of the stuff toward the end seems absurd. It’s very professional just not terribly interesting.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (Conan the Barbarian), Kristanna Loken (BloodRayne), Nick Stahl (Mirrors 2), and Claire Danes (The Rainmaker).

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s available in lots of other forms too.

5 March 2021

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Producers: James Cameron & David Ellison
Director: Tim Miller
Screenwriters: David Goyer & Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray (story: James Cameron & Charles Eglee & Josh Friedman & David Goyer & Justin Rhodes)

After the events in the second film, John Connor is killed by a terminator. In the present day, a terminator comes for a young Mexican woman. She is protected by a machine-enhanced woman from the future. They hook up with Sarah Connor and eventually the terminator that killed John.

Probably not as good as the first two films, it’s way better than the third. The female-focus of the plot is most welcome and it pushes back against the idea that women are just wombs that spit out heroes.

Starring Natalia Reyes (Birds of Passage), Mackenzie Davis (Breathe In), Linda Hamilton (Beauty and the Beast), and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Red Heat).

Terminator: Dark Fate is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

5 March 2021

Terror From Beneath the Earth (2009)

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

Two children disappear and their father is concerned. The authorities go searching in a cave where they find that nuclear waste has caused the formation of a kind of bat-human hybrid.

Another Mihm parody of low-budget 1950s films. Of all that I’m seen, I suspect this one would be the funniest with a group. It is filled with ridiculous amounts of explaining and soaring heights of earnestness. And the monster is awesome!

Starring Justen Overlander (House of Ghosts), Michael Cook (It Came from Another World!), Daniel Sjerven (Cave Women on Mars), and Stephanie Mihm (Queen of Snakes).

Terror From Beneath the Earth is under copyright. It is available on Amazon Prime.

24 August 2020

Terror of Dracula (2012)

Producer: Bill Bossert
Director: Anthony DP Mann
Screenwriters: ADP Mann & Bill Bossert

The usual story: Dracula moves to England and starts biting women.

The film pretends to be a lost Dracula picture that was overshadowed by films by “Hammer, Amicus, and [Jesús] Franco.” It’s a cheeky and fun conceit — especially given it was clearly shot on video. It sets up the film, which would be ponderous if all those involved took it too seriously.

It’s a slow film with a lot of mood, provided mostly through the acting and deliberate pacing. I doubt I’ll watch it again but it’s rather good for a low-budget film made up of what I assume are actors working in local theater and industrial filmmaking. They are generally too good to be amateurs, but you never know.

Starring Terry Wade (Sherlock Holmes And The Shadow Watchers), Denise Wedge, Matt Davis (Phantom of the Opera), Andrea Hiltz (A Christmas Carol), and the director as the title character. It also features Dick Miller but not that Dick Miller.

Torror of Dracula is copyrighted. It is available on DVD with two versions of the trailer.

24 May 2020

Terror Trap (2010)

Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Dan Garcia

A couple on vacation have a car accident. The local sheriff takes them to a local motel because their car can’t be towed until the morning. That night, the husband sees a woman being murdered. It turns out the place is a trap where people are killed on film for the enjoyment of paying customers.

This film plays around the edges of torture porn but never goes fully into it. It’s very well-made and I liked it far more than I expected. The ending has a series of epilogues that muddle the rest of the film.

Starring David James Elliott (Knights of Bloodsteel) and Heather Marie Marsden (Shark Hunter). With Jeff Fahey (The Lawnmower Man), Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs), and Andrew Sensenig (Sorrow).

Terror Trap is copyrighted. It is available on DVD. You can also get it on the Blu-ray Triple Feature Horror Vol 2 along with Scar and Midnight Movie.

29 November 2020

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Producer/Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenwriters: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper

Because of reports of graverobbing, a young woman and her brother along with friends visit the gravesite of their grandfather. On their way back, they become the victims of a family of cannibals.

This is a shockingly effective film. The first time through, it’s terrifying. The second time, it’s darkly funny. After that, it’s hard not to see it as a brilliantly constructed art film. Take your pick.

Starring Marilyn Burns (Eaten Alive), Paul A Partain (Race With the Devil), Edwin Neal (Future-Kill), and Gunnar Hansen (Hatred of a Minute).

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is copyrighted. It is available in many forms. You can get it on DVD or as the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition as DVD or Blu-ray.

19 March 2020

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Producers: Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
Director: Tobe Hooper
Screenwriter: LM Kit Carson
Other titles: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2

Over a decade after the events in the film, the uncle of Sally and Franklin is still looking for the villains. He hooks up with a DJ who has a recording of two guys who were attacked and killed by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. Together, they try to destroy the family — or at least to survive.

This is the darkest of comedies. It’s also an indictment of slasher films of the time. As such, it doesn’t work as well as entertainment as it does as art. Still, it’s must viewing. And it shows, in the sweetest way possible, that even cannibals fall in love.

Starring Caroline Williams (Tales of Poe), Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider), Bill Moseley (The Church), and Jim Siedow (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre).

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is under copyright. It is available as an MGM DVD with a number of extras. There are substantially more on the SHOUT Factory Blu-ray release.

27 September 2020

ThanksKilling (2009)

Producers/Screenwriters: Kevin Stewart & Jordan Downey
Director: Jordan Downey

An American Indian was offended by a Pilgrim, so he created an evil turkey that would come and slaughter the white man every 505 years. And now it is back, killing a group of teens with a gun, an ax, and its beak.

There are a lot of these “puppet slasher” films around but they rarely fail to amuse me. This one is quite funny with a better-than-average puppet and solid gore. Produced for $3,500, it was followed by ThanksKilling 3.

Starring Lindsey Anderson, Lance Predmore, Ryan E Francis, Aaron Ringhiser-Carlson, Natasha Cordova, “General Bastard,” and Chuck Lamb. Porn (?) actor Wanda Lust has a small part at the beginning. Writer/producer Kevin Stewart plays Ali’s sex partner.

ThanksKilling is under copyright. You can get it on DVD with commentary track, bloopers, and photo gallery. Or you can get it for about the same price with the sequel. It’s the two standard DVD releases in separate cases inside a box, so that’s probably the way to go.

23 January 2021

Theatre of Blood (1973)

Producers: Gustave Berne & Sam Jaffe and John Kohn & Stanley Mann
Director: Douglas Hickox
Screenwriters: Anthony Greville-Bell (based on idea by Mann and Kohn)
Other titles: Theater of Blood

Revenge doesn’t get any better. Vincent Price plays a “vigorous” Shakespearean actor who kills all his critics using scenes from the plays. Price delights in the many parts he gets to play. Diana Rigg plays his devoted daughter. The cast is filled out with many of the shining lights of British character actors. Of particular note is Coral Browne who gets a wonderfully grisly death. Robert Morley wins the prize for the most disgusting death. I don’t see how this film can be better. I watch it at least once a month to cheer myself up. (No living writer doesn’t occasionally need to watch a bunch of critics murdered!)

Theatre of Blood is copyrighted. The commercial copies have always been of good quality. Recently, Arrow Video put out a 1080p Blu-ray that features a commentary by the cast of The League of Gentlemen. Truthfully, this film deserves a proper academic commentary with all the literary allusions and details about the actors. But this is the best treatment the film has yet received. There is a very cheap DVD, although I haven’t checked it. The ultimate way to get it, I still think, is the MGM Midnight Movies double feature of Theatre of Blood & Madhouse.

They Live (1988)

Producer: Larry Franco
Director: John Carpenter
Screenwriters: “Frank Armitage” (John Carpenter) (screenplay) and Ray Nelson (story)

They Live is not Carpenter’s best, but it is probably his most fun. And political. But don’t forget that it’s a comedy. There is a hidden reality: alien creatures are plundering our planet but it is hidden by a broadcast signal. Nada is a drifter who believes in America — only to be converted when he sees reality via special sunglasses.

The film stars professional wrestler Roddy Piper (Hell Comes to Frogtown). With Keith David (The Thing), Meg Foster (The Osterman Weekend), Raymond St Jacques (Change of Mind), and Sy Richardson (Repo Man).

The film is copyrighted. You can find it on free video sharing sites if you don’t mind a bunch of commercials. You can get it on Blu-ray with lots of nice extras. Or you can get it on DVD without anything much.

They Might Be Giants (1971)

Producer: John Foreman
Director: Anthony Harvey
Screenwriter: James Goldman

This is one of my very favorite movies. Part Sherlock Holmes, part Don Quixote. An esteemed judge goes crazy after his wife dies and believes he is Holmes. His brother tries to get him committed and introduces him to Dr Mildred Watson. Slowly, Holmes pulls Watson into his mad world. The film is as crazy as the character.

It features George C Scott (Dr Strangelove) and Joanne Woodward (The Fugitive Kind). It also includes Jack Gilford (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), Lester Rawlins, Al Lewis (The Munsters), Rue McClanahan (How to Succeed With Girls), Oliver Clark (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), and Kitty Winn (The Panic in Needle Park).

They Might Be Giants is copyrighted although you can usually find it online because it isn’t popular. It is available on DVD. However, it is the edited version that doesn’t include the scene where the crazies riot at the supermarket. However, I’m not sure if this is a bad cut. The riot doesn’t necessarily work with the tone of that part of the film. Maybe someday a proper release will include both versions.

They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968)

Producers: Carl Edwards and Steve Bennett
Director: David Bradley
Screenwriter: Richard Miles (story: Steve Bennett)
Other titles: The Madmen of Mandoras
Our discussion: They Saved Hitler’s Brain vs The Madmen of Mandoras

At the end of World War II, Hitler’s head was saved and smuggled to South America. His Nazi followers kidnap an American scientist who has the antidote for a nerve gas they want to use to rule the world!

The original (1963) 74-minute long The Madmen of Mandoras is actually pretty good. It kind of rambles and Hitler’s head is more silly than threatening. But it’s a pretty good time. They shot roughly 18 extra minutes to make Hitler’s Brain. That would be fine but it doesn’t integrate well. The style is different and it just doesn’t look as good. Despite the better title, I’d avoid it and watch Mandoras instead.

Starring Walter Stocker and Audrey Caire (Joe).

They Saved Hitler’s Brain is under copyright. It is available on DVD. You can find it in many different forms and collections. You should have no problem finding either version of the film online for free.

16 August 2020

Threads (1984)

Producer/Director: Mick Jackson
Screenwriter: Barry Hines

This is probably the most frightening film I’ve ever seen. It is an accurate rendering of life after nuclear war. Sure, it’s been done a lot. But no film (at least up to that time) showed its true horror. And the wonderful thing is that you can’t dismiss it afterward. Freddy Krueger absolutely won’t show up in your dreams. But we may all face life after nuclear war. Everyone should see this film at least once.

Featuring Paul Vaughan as the narrator and Karen Meagher, Reece Dinsdale (I.D.), David Brierly, Rita May (Trollied), Nicholas Lane, Jane Hazlegrove (Without Motive), and Phil Rose.

Threads is available in reasonable condition on Archive.org. It is available on an all-region DVD with lots of extras. The same version (but not all-region) is available on Blu-ray.

Thunder Force (2021)

Producers: Marc Platt & Adam Siegel and Ben Falcone & Melissa McCarthy
Director: Ben Falcone

The world has been infested by psychopaths with superpowers. So a young scientist creates a way to give normal people these powers. But it accidentally gets administered to a good but slightly unstable woman.

This is a relatively amusing superhero parody with a solid cast.

Starring Melissa McCarthy (Ghostbusters), Octavia Spencer (Ma), Jason Bateman (Arrested Development), and Taylor Mosby.

Thunder Force is copyrighted. It is currently only available on Netflix.

13 April 2021

Time Lapse (2014)

Producers: BP Cooper and Rick Montgomery
Director: Bradley King
Screenwriters: Bradley King & BP Cooper

Three young roommates discover their neighbor has died and left behind a machine that takes a picture each night that shows what will happen in 24 hours. They use it to make money gambling but soon find themselves in trouble with local criminals and eventually each other.

This film is effectively a one-room shoot. Despite that, it looks great. It suffers from an over-complicated plot that needs to be explained with dialog. And ultimately, the characters are revealed to be less stable and intelligent than they first appeared to be. It also has the usual time-travel problems. But it’s still an impressive film and I’d like to see more from Cooper and King.

Starring Danielle Panabaker (The Ward), Matt O’Leary (Fat Kid Rules the World), and George Finn. Featuring Amin Joseph (Call Me King), Sharon Maughan, and Jason Spisak (Locker 13).

Time Lapse is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with two commentaries with King and Cooper, a featurette, and a few minutes of deleted scenes. If you can play non-US discs, you can find much more reasonably priced releases.

24 May 2021

Time Walker (1982)

Producers: Dimitri Villard and Jason Williams
Director: Tom Kennedy
Screenwriters: Tom Friedman and Karen Levitt (Story: Jason Williams and Tom Kennedy)

As we all know, the pyramids were built by ancient aliens. One of them was placed in a sarcophagus, which is apparently fine because they are cool with chilling for thousands of years. Even when it is dug out by archaeologists, there’s no problem. But then some kid has to go steal its jewelry and the mummy alien has to go a-hunting.

This is a fun little science fiction horror film complete with a greedy college administrator and occasionally cool make-up effects.

Starring Ben Murphy (Alias Smith and Jones) and Nina Axelrod (Motel Hell). Also featuring: James Karen (The Return of the Living Dead), Kevin Brophy (Lucan), Robert Random (Village of the Giants), and Austin Stoker (Horror High).

Time Walker is copyrighted. The only place I know you can get it on DVD is as Vampires, Mummies, and Monsters Collection — Roger Corman Cult Classics. It comes along with two great films — Lady Frankenstein (1971) and The Velvet Vampire (1971) — and Grotesque (1988). You can also get it on a ridiculously-priced Blu-ray.

The Tingler (1959)

Producer/Director: William Castle
Screenwriter: Robb White

Scream! Scream for your lives! At least that’s what Dr Warren Chapin claims. You see, there is a centipede-like creature called a Tingler that is attached to your spine. The Tingler grows stronger the more you are afraid. And the only way to fight it is to scream! Oh, and there’s a murder and a Tingler escapes a dead body.

Not as charming as House on Haunted Hill, Castle pulls out all the stops in this ridiculous teen horror classic. As with all Castle’s films, you don’t expect it to make sense; you just expect to enjoy the ride.

The Tingler is available in a cropped (1:1.33) form on Archive.org. It is also available as a solid print with some minor extras on a Sony DVD. There is a Shout! Factory Blu-ray with interviews and a commentary with Steve Haberman.

The Thing (1982)

Producers: David Foster & Lawrence Turman
Director: John Carpenter
Screenwriter: Bill Lancaster based on the novel Who Goes There? by John W Campbell Jr

This is one of John Carpenter’s best films. It has a great, engaging story, wonderful special effects by Rob Bottin and his crew, a great cast, and a fantastic ending. More or less a remake of the excellent The Thing from Another World (1951), it tells the story of a group working in Antarctica that is invaded by a malignant space alien that can take any form it wants. Things get paranoid fast.

The cast is fantastic: Kurt Russell (Escape From New York), Keith David (Platoon), David Clennon (Matinee), Thomas Waites (…And Justice for All), and Donald Moffat (On the Nickle).

The film is not, of course, in the public domain. And you aren’t likely to find it on a video site. It is, however, on a number of compilation DVDs including John Carpenter: Master of Fear 4 Film Collection, which includes Prince of Darkness but sadly not In the Mouth of Madness. (Because why would anyone want the Apocalypse Trilogy in a single package?) There are, unsurprisingly, no DVD extras on this. The Blu-ray Edition and the DVD Collector’s Edition have many features and look great. The Blu-ray is better, however.

The Thing from Another World (1951)

Producers: Howard Hawks
Director: Christian Nyby
Screenwriter: Charles Lederer based on the novel Who Goes There? by John W Campbell Jr

An army crew goes to check out a flying saucer that landed in northern Alaska. Once there, they find a plant-based creature with ill-intent that feeds on blood.

It’s not as exciting as the 1982 The Thing. And it is saturated with that 1950s can-do Yankee spirit and typical anti-intellectualism. Instead of the ambiguous ending of the novel, it ends with a typical veiled anti-communist message. Even still, it’s quite an engaging film — I was shocked how much I liked it when I saw it as a teen.

It features Kenneth Tobey (It Came from Beneath the Sea), Margaret Sheridan (One Minute to Zero), and Robert Cornthwaite (The War of the Worlds). James Arness (Gunsmoke) plays The Thing. Legendary voice actor (The Bullwinkle Show) has an uncredited role as one of the many doctors.

There is a great print of the original (long) cut on Archive.org. A colorized version is around, but it’s the typical “everything is pastels” type and the film is really better in black and white. There are DVD and Blu-ray versions, but I don’t see too much reason to buy them given the Archive.org copy is so good. But I haven’t seen them, and if you have a high-def television, you may want to check out the Blu-ray version. Neither copy offers much in the way of extras.

This Island Earth (1955)

Producer: William Alland
Director: Joseph Newman
Screenwriters: Franklin Coen and Edward G O’Callaghan (based on the novel by Raymond F Jones)

One of the most thoughtful science fiction films of the 1950s, This Island Earth provides an intelligent script, good acting, and state-of-the-art special effects. Not really psychotronic at the time, it definitely is now.

This Island Earth is under copyright. For fans, there is a DVD.

Todd and the Book of Pure Evil (2010)

Creators: Anthony Leo, Charles Picco, & Craig David Wallace
Producers: too many
Directors: various, especially James Genn, James Dunnison, and Craig David Wallace
Screenwriters: various, especially Craig David Wallace and Charles Picco
Our review: Evil Comes From Canada

“Kicking evil in the nuts — with very mixed results.” This is a hilarious television show (26 episodes) and a final animated film that pulls it all together. Almost every episode is the same: a student has a problem, the Book of Pure Evil appears and solves their problem like the monkey’s paw. The four principal characters act kind of like The Three Investigators who track down the Satanists who run the town. Each episode ends with gallons of blood spilled. It’s very funny. Chris Leavins plays the creepy but fragile guidance counselor and Jason Mewes (Jay of the Kevin Smith films) plays the stoner janitor with a deep secret. This is pure fun. Great party entertainment.

You can find free episodes here and there like on DailyMotion. Or you can rent the final film on Amazon. You can rent episodes (season 1 and season 2) on Amazon. They are also available on DVD: season 1 and season 2. The final film (The End of the End) is sadly only available as a Blu-ray at roughly $35. It has nice extras, but it is deceptive. Everything is on the Blu-ray. Then there is a DVD version of the film. And then there is a CD of music. I’m glad to have it, but I felt deceived — especially since the film was financed through GoFundMe. Someday, I assume they will put out a box set. As it is now, the whole show will cost about $55.

Tomb of the Pistolero (1964)

Producer: Arturo Marcos
Director/Screenwriter: Amando de Ossorio
Alternative titles: La Tumba del Pistolero, Grave of the Gunfighter

A recent law school graduate rides into an old west town looking to find out what happened to his brother. No one will tell him and he makes lots of enemies and gets into lots of fights. He suspects his brother may not really be dead after all.

This Euro-western is efficient and beautifully shot. It also features some fine performances and an interestingly complex plot. It’s enjoyable.

Starring George Martin (Red Blood, Yellow Gold), Mercedes Alonso (Gunfighters of Casa Grande), Jack Taylor (The Ninth Gate), Silvia Solar (Crimson: The Color Of Blood), Luis Induni (Dead Men Don’t Count), and Joaquín Pamplona.

Tomb of the Pistolero is copyrighted. I haven’t found it on disc but you can find it floating around the internet.

6 September 2021

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

Director/Screenwriter: Amando de Ossorio
Alternative titles: La Noche del Terror Ciego, The Blind Dead, Mark of the Devil, Part 4: Tombs of the Blind Dead

The Knights Templar are blinded and burned alive. Skip ahead 500 years. A young couple and a friend are traveling together when one of the women runs away in a fit of jealousy (although it isn’t clear exactly who she’s jealous of). Zombie knights on zombie horses attack and kill her. The other two young people try to determine what happened to her and also come face to face with the zombies.

This is a remarkably good film. The zombies are the best I’ve seen. And they are presented in slow motion with unusual sound effects. It all works really well! It resulted in three sequels.

Starring Lone Fleming (It Happened at Nightmare Inn), César Burner, and María Elena Arpón.

Tombs of the Blind Dead should be under copyright. There is, however, a terrible print on Archive from an Elvira episode. It is available on DVD. You can get the whole series on DVD as well.

24 August 2021

El Topo (1970)

Director/Screenwriter: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Our Review: El Topo

Widely considered the first “midnight movie,” this is a good example of how there is often little difference between art and psychotronic film. Basically, it’s just where they play. El Topo is a hippy western. It presents gun-fighting as philosophy. Plus there is a whole lot of blood! And deformities, incest, and bigots! Plus: El Topo is a total badass! It’s a wonderful film that you can totally over-think. But don’t over-think it. Just enjoy.

The film is in the public domain as Archive.org has a decent copy of it. I recommend getting it on disc. It’s a film that stands up to multiple viewings and the free copy isn’t great. It’s available on DVD with basically no extras. The Blu-ray includes a commentary track by Jodorowsky.

The Toxic Avenger (1984)

Producers: Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz
Director: Michael Herz (poster claims Kaufman is co-director)
Screenwriter: (story: Lloyd Kaufman)

An awkward janitor at a health club is abused by people there who chase him causing him to accidentally fall into a vat of toxic waste thus becoming the Toxic Avenger. He fights crime, settles scores, and finds love.

This was the first film Troma made that used its now familiar formula of disgust and bad jokes. And it is definitely better than what they usually produce. It’s kind of like Killer Nerd but with far more drama and far less misogyny.

Starring Mitch Cohen, Andree Maranda, and Mark Torgl. Marisa Tomei (Slums of Beverly Hills) was an extra in the film.

The Toxic Avenger is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with a bunch of extras including commentaries with Kaufman and Torgl. You can also get The Complete Toxic Avenger on 7 DVDs, which includes the 4 films and the complete Toxic Crusaders animated TV series. Or you can get The Toxic Avenger Collection on 4 Blu-ray discs with just the 4 films. Note that the list price of both these collection are roughly $50, so don’t let Amazon screw you. You can get it directly from Troma.

16 July 2020

Toxic Zombies (1980)

Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Charles McCrann
Alternative titles: Bloodeaters, Bloodeaters: Butchers of the Damned, The Dromax Derangement, and Forest of Fear

A small group is growing cannabis illegally on federal land. So the FBI sprays the area with an experimental herbicide that turns the pilot and the group into zombies. Meanwhile, an unaware FBI agent is camping with his wife and friend. They must fight off the zombies as well as two FBI agents who want to hide what they’ve done.

This is a super low-budget film that manages to tell a fairly complex story effectively. The climax works better than most zombie films you’ll see today. And the gore was good enough to get it prosecuted in the UK as a video nasty. This was the only film McCrann ever made. He worked as a lawyer in the World Trade Center and was killed during the 9/11 attack.

Starring Charles McCrann, Beverly Shapiro, Judy Brown, and Dennis Helfend. John Amplas (Martin) plays an FBI agent.

Toxic Zombies is under copyright. You can get it on DVD but the quality probably isn’t very good. Better to get the Massacre Video Blu-ray, which provides a 4K transfer of original 35 mm prints.

6 June 2021

Trancers (1984)

Producer/Director: Charles Band
Screenwriters: Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo
Alternative titles: Future Cops

In the future, people can travel back in time to take over the bodies of their ancestors. Uber-bad guy Whistler has gone back to the 1980s to pre-kill all the members of Council, which will apparently destroy the future. So they send uber-good guy Jack Deth to take him out.

Now that I’ve written down the premise, it’s clearly a rip-off of The Terminator. But it doesn’t feel that way. For one thing, it’s kind of a film noir parody with shades of Alphaville. I don’t know how any film fan doesn’t enjoy this.

Starring Tim Thomerson (Dollman), Helen Hunt (As Good as It Gets), Michael Stefani, Art LaFleur (Running Time), singer Telma Hopkins (Gimme a Break!), and Biff Manard (The Incredible Genie).

Trancers is copyrighted. It is available on DVD in 4:3 aspect ratio. The Blu-ray has a bunch of extras. You can also get the first five films on DVD with few extras.

21 May 2021

Trancers II (1991)

Producer/Director: Charles Band
Screenwriter: Jackson Barr (story: Charles Band and Jackson Barr)

Six years after the first film, Jack and Lena are happy. But wouldn’t you know it: Whistler’s brother is now trying to destroy the future from the 1990s. And in the future, they sent Jack’s wife back right before she died so now he has two wives. Otherwise, kind of the same plot.

This film looks better than the first one. But the love triangle and the “soap opera” elements are really annoying. Otherwise, it’s pretty fun.

Starring Tim Thomerson (Dollman), Richard Lynch (Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge), Helen Hunt (Mad About You), Biff Manard (The Incredible Genie), Jeffrey Combs (Beyond Re-Animator), Megan Ward (Encino Man), Alyson Croft, and Barbara Crampton (Chopping Mall).

Trancers II is copyrighted. It is available on DVD. It is also available on Blu-ray in widescreen with a commentary with Band and two of the actors. and some minor things. Or you could get that really expensive five film set on DVD with pathetic extras.

21 May 2021

Trick or Treats (1982)

Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Gary Graver

A rich guy’s wife gets him committed so she can steal his money. It’s never quite clear whether he’s crazy or not. But several years later, he’s crazy as a loon, escapes custody, and goes seeking revenge. The only problem is: the people he wants to kill aren’t around and he largely doesn’t notice.

It’s easy to dismiss this film as just a rip-off of Halloween (1978). But it’s more than that — or at least different. There’s much humor and even the killer has a dorky charm to him. I was never bored.

Starring Jacqueline Giroux (The Beast and the Vixens) and Peter Jason (They Live). With Carrie Snodgress (Pale Rider), David Carradine (Kill Bill: Vol 2), Steve Railsback (The Stunt Man), Jillian Kesner (The Student Body), and Chris Graver.

Trick or Treats is probably copyrighted, but there is a terrible television print (with commercials) on Archive.org. It doesn’t currently seem to be available on DVD or Blu-ray. It is available on Amazon Prime.

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

Producer/Director: Dan Curtis
Screenwriters: Richard Matheson and William F Nolan

Karen Black stars in filmed versions of three Richard Matheson short stories — two written by William F Nolan. If this isn’t enough of a horror orgasm for you, they were all produced and directed by Dan “Dark Shadows” Curtis. And it does not disappoint. Each one is a winner with a nice twist. And Black is superb.

The last one is what everyone remembers: about an African warrior doll that comes to life, based extremely closely on the story “Prey.” When I watched it at 11-years-old, I was so terrified, I didn’t even notice the revenge joke. If you haven’t seen it, you must; if you have, you should watch it again.

It is available for free in an acceptable print on Archive.org. For psychotronistas, I recommend getting the Special Edition on DVD or Blu-ray. They come with a great transfer and lots of great extras.

Trouble in Mind (1985)

Producer: David Blocker
Director/Screenwriters: Alan Rudolph

In a future noir city that looks remarkably like mid-80s Seattle, an ex-cop gets out of prison for a murder he definitely committed. He rapes his ex-girlfriend and falls in love with a naïve young woman who is married to a local thug. Eventually, the ex-cop helps the young couple and gets on with this life.

Alan Rudolph makes weird films about unbelievable characters acting in ways that people never do. That’s the case here. The film is well made and nice to look at. And it’s interesting enough. But Rudolph would make better films if he would accept that he isn’t much of a writer.

Featuring Kris Kristofferson (Convoy), Keith Carradine (The Moderns), Lori Singer (Warlock), Geneviève Bujold (The Trojan Women), and Divine (Pink Flamingos) who really stands out here.

Trouble in Mind is copyrighted. It is available on a surprisingly poor release by SHOUT! Factory on DVD.

1 May 2021

Trucks (1997)

Director: Chris Thomson
Screenwriter: Brian Taggert (story: Stephen King)

Trucks suddenly drive themselves with bad intent — sometimes at each other but mostly at humans. People at a small-town truck stop find themselves trapped as a number of trucks circle them like sharks around a lifeboat. Can they escape?

This is a surprisingly well-done film. But it’s also a little weird. The trucks adjust their rear-view minors and it just seems silly. But there are a number of things in the film that are played for laughs — most brilliantly the postman who is attacked by a Tonka Truck.

Starring Timothy Busfield (thirtysomething), Brenda Bakke (Terminal Voyage), Jay Brazeau (Double Jeopardy), Roman Podhora (Final Destination 5), and Victor Cowie (Lost in the Barrens).

Trucks is under copyright. It is available on DVD.

23 August 2020

Truth Seekers (2020)

Creators/Writers: Nick Frost & Simon Pegg & Nat Saunders & James Serafinowicz
Producer: Richard Webb
Director: Jim Field Smith

A brilliant data technician and failed paranormal investigator teams up with a co-worker and a woman being haunted by ghosts. They soon get on the trail of a conspiracy spanning life and death.

This is a funny British internet series with strong horror elements. It takes a while to really get going, but the script and cast are interesting from the start. It’s four-hours well spent.

Starring Nick Frost (The World’s End), Samson Kayo, Emma D’Arcy, Susan Wokoma (Crazyhead), Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), and Simon Pegg (Spaced).

Truth Seekers is copyrighted. It is available on Amazon Prime.

26 November 2020

Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)

Producers: Albert Klychak, Rosanne Millike, Morgan Jurgenson, and Deepak Nayar
Director: Eli Craig
Screenwriters: Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson

Two good ol’ boys get mistaken for psychopaths by a group of college students. It doesn’t go well. Don’t judge people!

This is the horror equivalent of a farce: fast and brilliant comedy. And it is a much-needed parody of the “southern hick” slasher films like Two Thousand Maniacs! and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. And it’s as gory as anyone could want!

Starring Tyler Labine (Reaper), Alan Tudyk (Firefly), and Katrina Bowden (30 Rock). Jesse Moss (Whistler) is great as the heavy. Also featuring: Philip Granger (Woodland), Brandon Jay McLaren (Ransom), Chelan Simmons, and Christie Laing.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with some minor featurettes and a commentary by the director with Labine and Tudyk. It’s also on most streaming services including Amazon.

Tune in Tomorrow (1990)

Producers: John Fiedler and Mark Tarlov
Director: Jon Amiel
Screenwriter: William Boyd (novel: Mario Vargas Llosa)

This is one of my favorite comedies. And it was clearly a prestige project. I assume that a new studio head killed it or something. I saw it by chance in the theater and the crowd loved it. It has sublime art direction by Chris Seagers and a wonderful score by Wynton Marsalis. You should really check this one out. It’s a good one to watch with your grandparents. This or The Human Centipede.

A young man falls in love with his bohemian aunt. It all revolves around a radio station in 1950s Louisiana.

Starring Keanu Reeves (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Barbara Hershey (The Last Temptation of Christ), and Peter Falk (The Cheap Detective) as the crazy soap opera writer Pedro Carmichael. Featuring Bill McCutcheon (Santa Claus Conquers the Martians), Patricia Clarkson (Good Night, and Good Luck), Richard Portnow (Good Morning, Vietnam), and many more great character actors.

Tune in Tomorrow is copyrighted. But it is all over the internet. It’s available on DVD, but it is currently very expensive. It is also available along with Pressure Point.

Turbo Kid (2015)

Producers: Anne-Marie Gélinas & Ant Timpson & Benoit Beaulieu & Tim Riley
Directors/Screenwriters: Anouk Whissell & François Simard & Yoann-Karl Whissell
Our Review: Turbo Kid: Gory Post-Apocalyptic Nostalgia

“Mad Max on a BMX!” A post-apocalyptic action-comedy centering around a teen (Munro Chambers) who scavenges for water, food, and cool gadgets from the 1980s before life went to hell. He is joined by Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) and Frederic (Aaron Jeffery), an arm-wrestling cowboy Kiwi. They join forces to defeat Michael Ironside, who is particularly badass in this film. It’s a lot like eating a whole quart of Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche — yes, it isn’t exactly edifying but it’s so good! If you must hide away while watching it, we understand.

Turbo Kid seem always to be available on Netflix and Amazon Prime, so check there. There is a 3-disc Blu-ray Collector’s Edition for those who really like it. It is available on DVD. Be careful about region. Currently, the NTSC version is very expensive.

Twice-Told Tales (1963)

Producer: Robert E Kent
Director: Sidney Salkow
Screenwriter: Robert E Kent (novel: Nathaniel Hawthorne)

This film features three horror shorts. In the first, a man finds that his lover, dead 38 years, is perfectly preserved. The second features a young woman held captive by making her burn anything she touches. And the third is based on The House of the Seven Gables, but much simplified with a romantic subplot.

This is similar to Tales of Terror but is generally more romantic and pleasant. So more of a “chick flick” and generally less fun. But still, very entertaining.

Starring Vincent Price (Theatre of Blood). With Sebastian Cabot (Family Affair), Joyce Taylor, Richard Denning (Creature from the Black Lagoon), and Beverly Garland (Swamp Women).

Twice-Told Tales may be in the public domain. There is a good copy on Archive.org. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with a Richard Harland Smith and Perry Martin commentary.

15 December 2020

Twilight Vamps (2010)

Producer: Dan Golden (as Sam Silver)
Director/Screenwriter: Fred Olen Ray (as Nicholas Medina)

Smoking hot female vampires open a strip club where they feast on hunky men after they have sex. One man is so good at sexing that they don’t kill him. But then the police arrest him for the murders.

This is one of the five softcore porn films Ray made in 2010. It’s probably better because there is also dancing. If you want a softcore film, this is definitely one.

Starring Frankie Cullen (Bikini Jones and the Temple of Eros), Brandin Rackley (Bikini Frankenstein), and Christine Nguyen (Bikini Girls from the Lost Planet).

Twilight Vamps is under copyright. It is available on Blu-ray with Bikini Frankenstein with the trailers and a double-sided trading card.

26 January 2021

Twins of Evil (1971)

Producers: Harry Fine and Michael Style
Director: John Hough
Screenwriter: Tudor Gates

There is evil in a small town in 17th century England. So they are burning alive all the pretty young women. Twin nieces of the main burner arrive. They are not happy about being there. One is Good and falls in love with the hero and the other is Evil and runs off to the local vampire.

This is a pretty sexy vampire film but mostly, it’s too complicated and kind of annoying. It features the typical Hammer advantages: great sets and wonderful acting. But it’s typical of their less-successful later films. Why did they think large numbers of people would want to see this?

Starring Mary & Madeleine Collinson (Some Like It Sexy), David Warbeck (The Beyond), Damien Thomas (The Message), and Peter Cushing (The Hound of the Baskervilles).

Twins of Evil is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

5 January 2021

Two Sentence Horror Stories (2019-2021)

Creator: Vera Miao
Directors: Vera Miao (4), Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia (3), Natalia Iyudin (2), Tayarisha Poe (2), Kimani Ray Smith (2), Bola Ogun (2), and 7 others
Screenwriters: Vera Miao (6), Leon Hendrix III (3), Sehaj Sethi (3), Stephanie Adams-Santos (3), CS McMullen (2), Pornsak Pichetshote (2), Melody Cooper (2), and 6 others.

This is a collection of 19 horror films of roughly 20 minutes in length (one is a “double” episode). Overall, they are very good. Stylistically and tonally, they are very similar so they are best viewed in isolation.

The cast is made up of excellent experienced actors that aren’t well know.

Two Sentence Horror Stories is under copyright. It doesn’t appear to be on disc. You can watch it on Netflix

26 February 2021

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)

Producer: David F Friedman
Director/Screenwriter: Herschell Gordon Lewis

After the success of Blood Feast, Friedman and Lewis decided to do it again — but well. In some ways, they improved it and in other ways, they hurt it. The film is notable for starting the “Yankees trapped by Southern psychopaths” subgenre of horror. And the story is good with fine acting and much production value. Where the film falls down is in the gore department. There’s very little of it and what is there doesn’t compare to Blood Feast. But don’t let that dissuade you from this fine film.

The combination of friendly southern hospitality with homicidal intent will keep you glued to the screen. Connie Mason is much better in this film than in Blood Feast — perhaps owing to maturity or help by her co-star and husband William Kerwin. Jeffrey Allen as the mayor is wonderful. The original title of the film was “10,000 Maniacs,” but they didn’t have enough extras. Regardless, the band took its name from this film (Natalie Merchant is reportedly a big movie fan).

Two Thousand Maniacs! was copyrighted after a law change and will likely be “protected” long after I’m dead. I recommend getting Something Weird’s Blood Trilogy Blu-Ray, which also includes Blood Feast and Color Me Blood Red. You could also get Something Weird’s DVD, but the Arrow Video Blu-ray is better (though more expensive).

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