Short Takes: V

V/H/S (2012)

Producers: Gary Binkow, Brad Miska, and Roxanne Benjamin
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence
Screenwriters: Simon Barrett, David Bruckner, Nicholas Tecosky, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, and Chad Villella

A group of criminals are hired to steal a video tape. While searching for it, they find other tapes with horrors on them.

The conceit of this short film series limits what they can do. But the stories are all well rendered and interesting. I most liked the first short Amateur Night, which has a horrifying sweetness to it. But it’s all good.

Starring Hannah Fierman (Siren), Sophia Takal (Hellaware), Kate Lyn Sheil (The Sacrament), and Jason Yachanin (Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead). Cartoonist Frank Stack has a small role in the film.

V/H/S is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with a bunch of extras.

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

Producer: Charles H. Schneer
Director: Jim O’Connolly
Screenwriter: William Bast
Our Review: The Valley of Gwangi

A cowgirl is looking for a way to improve her wild west show. This leads to the discovery of dinosaurs and love. But first, a T-Rex must be captured and killed.

Basically, this is just a western version of King Kong. But the tone is so different between the western and dinosaur plots and it stands as one of the stranger Ray Harryhausen films. Fun effects though!

Starring James Franciscus (Beneath the Planet of the Apes) and Gila Golan (Our Man Flint). With Curtis Arden, Laurence Naismith (Village of the Damned), and Richard Carlson (Creature from the Black Lagoon).

The Valley of Gwangi is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Warner Archive with almost nothing for extras.

Valley of the Zombies (1946)

Director: Philip Ford
Screenwriters: Dorrell and Stuart McGowan (story: Royal K Cole and Sherman L Lowe)

An insane man thought to have died shows up “alive” four years later thanks to some voodoo from the “Valley of the Zombies.” And he needs blood. And he keeps embalming his victims like a serial killer with OCD.

This film is similar to Mystery of the Wax Museum in that it is nominally horror but with a lot of humorous banter between the two protagonists. It’s fun and short.

Starring Robert Livingston (The Lone Ranger Rides Again), Lorna Gray (Captain America), and Ian Keith (It Came from Beneath the Sea).

Valley of the Zombies is under copyright but there is a reasonable copy on Archive. I don’t think it’s been released on disc.

13 August 2020

Vampire Circus (1972)

Producer: Wilbur Stark
Director: Robert Young
Screenwriter: Judson Kinberg

A town has been plagued by disease and death since they killed a vampire 15 years before. And now a circus comes to town with unbelievable acts like a panther that turns into a human. But they are really there to resurrect the slain vampire!

Although the plot of this is too complicated for me and there are times when the action stops, it’s a wonderfully vivid and fun film. The best of Hammer is better but rarely as colorful.

Starring Adrienne Corri (The Tell-Tale Heart), John Moulder-Brown (The House That Screamed), Lynne Frederick (The Amazing Mr Blunden), among many others.

Vampire Circus should be under copyright. There is a decent cropped copy on Archive.org. It is available on DVD. There is a Blu-ray/DVD combo with some extras, mostly not directly related to the film. And it is on various Hammer collections.

18 December 2020

Vampires (1998)

Producer: Sandy King
Director: John Carpenter
Screenwriter: Don Jakoby (novel: John Steakley)

A group of vampire hunters is ambushed during a party by a “master” vampire. Only two members escape who, along with a prostitute who has been infected and a Catholic priest, go hunting.

I really liked this when I saw it in the theater. And there is much to love. But the two vampire hunters are the very definition of toxic masculinity. The other characters help a lot. And it’s overall a fun film.

Starring James Woods (Videodrome), Daniel Baldwin (Anonymous Rex), Sheryl Lee (The Blood Oranges), Tim Guinee (Sweet Land), Thomas Ian Griffith (Behind Enemy Lines), and Maximilian Schell (Counterpoint).

Vampires is under copyright. It is available on one of those Superbit DVDs. Or you can get it on Blu-ray with a fairly uninspired commentary by Carpenter and some other things.

17 September 2020

Vampyres (1974)

Producer: Brian Smedley-Aston
Director: José Ramón Larraz
Screenwriter: D Daubeney

A young couple camps near what looks like an abandoned castle. But the wife notices two women coming and going. The women get men to come with them to the castle where they have sex and then feast on their blood. The young couple gets drawn in.

This film features far more nudity and sex than we normally see in films but I wouldn’t call it softcore porn (but it’s close). And this is mixed in with a good amount of gore. The two together make for some of the most erotic things I’ve ever seen on film (which may not speak well of me). The whole thing is shockingly good.

Starring Marianne Morris, Murray Brown (Dracula), Sally Faulkner (Prey), Brian Deacon (A Zed & Two Noughts), and Anulka Dziubinska.

Vampyres is under copyright. You can get it on DVD and Blu-ray with a couple of extras including a director commentary. Or you can get Blood Hunger: The Films Of Jose Larraz, which also includes Whirlpool and The Coming of Sin and a ton of extras.

30 July 2020

The VelociPastor (2018)

Producers: Brandon Taylor & Jesse Gouldsbury & Brendan Steere
Director/Screenwriter: Brendan Steere

A grieving pastor is injured on a trip to China. Now when he gets angry, he turns into a dinosaur. His hooker friend convinces him to use it for good. Meanwhile, a group of Christians are trying to make life horrible so people will come to God.

This is a super low-budget production with basic dinosaur effects — when it uses them at all. It embraces its lack of resources and is quite funny at times. The acting is also good.

Starring Greg Cohan, Alyssa Kempinski, Daniel Steere, and Jiechang Yang.

The VelociPastor is under copyright. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also see it on Amazon Prime.

19 January 2021

The Velvet Vampire (1971)

Producer: Charles S Swartz
Director: Stephanie Rothman
Screenwriters: Maurice Jules and Stephanie Rothman & Charles S Swartz

This is one of Stephanie Rothman’s greatest films — produced and co-written with her husband, Charles Swartz. Rothman was one of the few female exploitation filmmakers in the 1960s. Sadly, Hollywood never took her seriously. She tried to break into TV directing but there were no offers, even though her work is great.

The Velvet Vampire was on the cutting edge of the “lesbian vampire” films, even though it would be more accurate to call this a “bisexual vampire” film. It’s visually stunning even though, if you look hard, you can see how this film was made on a budget. It starts with a wonderful scene of an attempted rape of the title character. You can imagine what happens. But it is impressive throughout. Starring Celeste Yarnall (Beast of Blood) in the title role plus Michael Blodgett (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) and Sherry E DeBoer (as Sherry Miles).

This film is not in the public domain. You can find it around, though. But you are best to buy the Vampires, Mummies and Monsters Collection — Roger Corman Cult Classics. The individual DVDs of The Velvet Vampire are not good. This one comes with an okay commentary with Celeste Yarnall. And you get Lady Frankenstein (1971), Time Walker (1982), and Grotesque (1988).

Videodrome (1983)

Producer: Claude Héroux
Director/Screenwriter: David Cronenberg

James Woods is the executive of a small UHF station who is looking for the next new thing. He finds it in Videodrome — a video series that consists of nothing but torture porn. He soon learns that his contact with it is killing him and allowing others to control (program) him. This is probably Cronenberg’s masterpiece. It’s a surreal journey into madness or things to come. Or maybe just Facebook.

It is best to get the Criterion Collection version on DVD or Blu-ray. Earlier releases did not use the full-length of widescreen televisions.

The Video Dead (1987)

Producer/Director/Screenwriter: Robert Scott

A television is accidentally delivered to a suburban house instead of a paranormal research facility. The television only plays one channel and it only plays one film, “Zombie Blood Nightmare.” The problem is that the zombies come through the television and do zombie things.

This film is like a combination of Videodrome and Night of the Living Dead. And it is one of the most creative zombie pictures I’ve ever seen. I love it.

Starring two young actors not seen in any other features: Roxanna Augesen and Rocky Duvall. Also: Jennifer Miro of The Nuns, Victoria Bastel, Cliff Watts, and Sam David McClelland.

The Video Dead is copyrighted. It is available along with TerrorVision (1986) on DVD and Blu-ray with all the extras you expect from Shout! Factory.

The Viking War (2019)

Producers: Scott Jeffrey & Louisa Warren
Directors: Louisa Warren & Suzy Spade
Screenwriter: Suzy Spade

A group called The Berserkers are killing everyone in Saxon villages. But the son of the Berserkers doesn’t like the violence and is in love with a young Saxon woman. So he revolts.

This a pretty clever use of a “running around the woods” film. It uses the outsides of some buildings, a small set, and some great drone shots to add substantial production value. The acting is also good. The only downside is that the fight scenes are weak, even though they are short and edited to conceal this.

Starring Josh Lewindon, Darcie Lincoln (Son of God), and Peter Cosgrove (Evil Souls).

The Viking War is under copyright. It is available on DVD with good video but the only extra is a trailer.

13 February 2021

Violent Saturday (1955)

Producer: Buddy Adler
Director: Richard Fleischer
Screenwriter: Sydney Boehm (novel: William L Heath)

One man has a cheating wife. Another man’s son is embarrassed by him. And four men have come to town to rob a bank. They all collide and get their problems resolved (though not the way most of them expect).

This is a really well structured story with a great cast. It also have some very funny moments.

Starring Victor Mature (Samson and Delilah), Richard Egan (The 300 Spartans), Virginia Leith (The Brain That Wouldn’t Die), Stephen McNally (Diplomatic Courier), Margaret Hayes (Blackboard Jungle), Tommy Noonan (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), and Sylvia Sidney (Mars Attacks!). Lee Marvin (Point Blank) plays a thug and Ernest Borgnine (The Wild Bunch) plays an Amish man.

Violent Saturday is under copyright. It is available on DVD and a very expensive Blu-ray. There is also a Spanish all-region Blu-ray import.

12 February 2021

Visit to a Small Planet (1960)

Producer: Hal B Wallis
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenwriters: Edmund Beloin & Henry Garson (play: Gore Vidal)

A humanphile space alien takes an extended stay and falls in love. Ultimately, he finds that being human is a pain and returns home.

The satire of the original play is mostly removed in the name of providing a vehicle for Jerry Lewis’ unique brand of acting.

Featuring: Joan Blackman (Blue Hawaii), Earl Holliman (Forbidden Planet), Fred Clark (The Unsuspected), John Williams (To Catch a Thief), and Barbara Bostock (Girls on the Loose).

Visit to a Small Planet is copyrighted. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray with audio commentary by film historian James L Neibaur.

Voodoo Island (1957)

Producer: Howard W Koch
Director: Reginald Le Borg
Screenwriter: Richard H Landau

Michael Weldon would have you believe this is a bad film. I think it’s quite effective. An investor is building a hotel on Voodoo Island and sends an investigator to make sure nothing supernatural is happening. But sure enough, he finds that people are being turned into zombies and there are plants that eat humans.

Voodoo Island stars Boris Karloff who gets to says, “The public loves to be scared!” Featuring: Beverly Tyler (The Fireball), Murvyn Vye (Road to Bali), and Elisha Cook Jr (Shane). Adam West has a small role as a radio operator; this was his first feature film.

The film is in the public domain and available on Archive.org. It is available on DVD along with The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake. There is a single-movie disc with it but it is DVD-R.

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