Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Listomania!: William's Jumping January 2012 Viewings

Urgent telegram from VJ Headquarters reads: “Oh crap! –stop- It’s the 1st. –stop-.”  Damn, how did February sneak up on us like this?  Well, it did and somehow January flew away. Probably the plethora of movies I watched helped it in doing that as I took in 32 movies during the 31 days in the first month of the year.  That broke down to 25 DVD viewings, 4 streaming movies, 3 VHS movies and 0 theatrical screenings (a first).  One of my New Year’s Movie Resolutions has been to watch more stuff I haven’t seen before instead of revisits.  It is a conscious attempt to whittle down that ever growing collection of films on the dreaded “to be watched” list (hard with Tom shipping me tons of glorious DVD-Rs).  I guess I’m off to a good start as 27 of the 32 screenings were features I had never seen before. Below are a five of the new titles that stuck with me the most, for better or worse.

SH! THE OCTOPUS (1937) - Detectives Kelly (Hugh Herbert) and Dempsey (Allen Jenkins) inadvertently find themselves on the trail of criminal The Octopus when they rescue Vesta Vernoff (Marcia Ralston) in the middle of a rain storm. The trio end up at a lighthouse and are soon joined by 5 other folks drawn to this location. One of them The Octopus, who is hoping to get the formula to some sort of death ray. Oh, and there is also a real octopus that is snatching folks at random. I got the Warner Bros. Mystery set recently on my friend Marty's recommendation with the explicit instructions to watch this feature first because it is really out there and that is no lie. Running just under an hour, this is essentially a slapstick comedy to showcase Herbert's comedic talents, but there is so much oddball stuff going on here. You have a Captain Hook, who has a hook hand (naturally) and a fear of clocks; two loony cops who shoot at everything; an underdeveloped romance; inadvertent drug addiction; deep sea diving; and even an octopus that switches off lights with its tentacles. Believe it or not, it all makes sense in the end. One of the best things was a character transformation done via old school in-camera trickery that comes off incredibly well.  You can check it out here (obviously don’t click if you don’t want film spoilers):

ANGEL OF DESTRUCTION (1994) - Singer/stripper Delilah (Jessica Mark) is stalked by a creepy ex-mercenary (Jimmy Broome), who likes to leave severed fingers in her dressing room. Justifiably spooked, she hires private eye Brit Alwood (Charlie Spradling) for protection but that ends rather quickly when the psycho shows up in Brit's office minutes after the hiring and kills her. So it is up to Jo Alwood (Maria Ford), Brit's stepsister, to take on the job and stop this killer. Not only that, but she has to deal with sleazy mafia type and former adversary Sonny Luso (Bob McFarland), Delilah's funder who is upset she is too racy and wants her to be more "like Peggy Lee" (what!?!). 

I can't believe how long this B-movie masterpiece has eluded me. I don't want to oversell it, but this is about as perfect an exploitation film as you can get with director Charles Philip Moore (DEMON WIND) cramming in everything he could. Essentially a riff on 1992's popular THE BODYGUARD (and a remake of Moore's earlier BLACKBELT [1992], a BODYGUARD rip-off with Don "The Dragon" Wilson that went into production when news of Costner's vehicle hit and beat it to release by 6 months), the film ups the violence and nudity to insane levels. If a fight isn't happening on screen, most likely one of Delilah's nudity filled shows is. Moore reaches the pinnacle during a nighttime assassination attempt where Ford thwarts the goons with her kickboxing skills while clad only in a g-string. You read that right – naked kickboxing!  It is the type of thing you would expect from a HK production (ESCAPE FROM BROTHEL did it in 1992), but not readily seen in US stuff. The bloody shootouts (done in not-so-glorious slo-mo) also echo the HK style at the time. The production tried to get the Philippines to stand in for Hawaii but it doesn't work.

VICE RAID (1960) - Syndicate crime boss Malone (Brad Dexter) wants to get do-gooder vice cop Whitey Brandon (Richard Coogan) out of his hair so he sets up a rather intricate plot of framing him. Malone gets "model" Carol Hudson (Mamie Van Doren) to come into town and falsely claim that Brandon tried to extort her during a bust. Thankfully, the department is prone to believing the testimony of floozies over their most decorated cop and Brandon is fired. So he sets out to get his revenge and receives an unlikely ally in Carol after her teenage sister is raped by one of Malone's hoods. This was actually my first Van Doren film and I rather enjoyed it. She is definitely a looker and you can bet the soundtrack fills with swooning jazz when she enters the picture. She is also pretty decent as an actress. Also of note is Juli Reding, who has one scene early on as a "model" who is more than proud to show her magazine work to Brandon ("Close it up or you might catch cold.") Coogan, looking a bit like Robert Stack, is good in the lead, if a little stiff. Director Edward L. Cahn definitely won't be accused of doing anything inventive during the proceedings, although there is a nice dummy fall during the final shootout. It is currently streaming on Netflix.

THE POSSESSION OF NURSE SHERRI (1978) – Hard to believe we’ve been blogging for almost 2 years on bad movies and this is our first Al Adamson mention.  Al gives us his take of THE EXORCIST. A cult leader has a heart attack in the desert while performing a ritual to raise a follower from the dead and subsequently dies on the operating table at a local hospital. No big deal, he'll just turn into a glowing green blob and possess Nurse Sherri (Jill Jacobson) to get revenge on the doctors who he feels killed him. This is bad news for Sherri's lovelife as her boyfriend Peter (Geoffrey Land) was one of the docs. Peter notices the changes in Sherri and it seems only a blinded former NFL player with knowledge of voodoo (!) who is a patient can offer the way for two nurses (Marilyn Joi and Mary Kay Pass) to help release Sheri from this transcendental terror. If you are familiar with Adamson's work, you'll know what to expect here as this has lots of static shots that go on too long and flat acting. There is also one of the funniest and most random car chases when a drunken follower confronts Peter – who is oddly not intrigued by this man's story, despite knowing his girl is now possessed – in a parking garage. They then burst out onto the city streets and end up in the desert within minutes.  The poor follower survives having the roof of his car ripped off and leaps out just before it drives off a cliff and explodes (the film’s highlight).  The Shock-o-rama DVD offers an alternate version of the film title simply NURSE SHERRI and it is actually really interesting. It removes all of the drunken follower bits (including the car chase) from the POSSESSION version and replaces them with nude scenes.

BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (1970) – It is even harder to believe that this is our first Andy Milligan mention on the blog.  Maybe we are still somewhat sane?  Here awful auteur Andy attempts to do the story of Sweeney Todd...with a budget of $50.  Ooof!  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (John Miranda) lets you know his business right away as he cuts a man's throat in the first three minutes (he pulls a towel over the victim's face and the guy reacts as if he is being pulled back, despite his attacker letting go at one point). Sweeney pockets the valuables and the rest goes into the meat pies of Mrs. Lovett (Jane Hilary). Things get complicated when good girl shop worker Johanna (Annabella Wood) wonders where her boyfriend disappeared to.

Good God!  Only Andy Milligan could drag down the exploitation material found in the Todd story. You know what the other adaptations of that Penny Dreadful were missing? How about looooong scenes of people talking and talking and talking. To be fair, there is about a minute of pretty good stuff in here, mostly coming from some meat cleaver attacks. Milligan recreates the 19th century about as well as I can waltz and I'm pretty sure one scene has a shot of a modern era heater in the back and light switches. Miranda's Sweeney looks like a cross between Abraham Lincoln and Bowzer from Sha Na Na, but he is, surprisingly, a decent actor. The rest of the cast is there, local theater English accents and all (believe it or not, he actually shot in England). Look for "fortnight" to be said twice within the first ten minutes.  This was only my second Milligan feature (I lost my Milligan virginity to the similar THE GHASTLY ONES) and I’m not sure if I want to go back for more.  

3 Reactions:

  1. Once again you've given me reason to finally pull the trigger on a few titles that have been on my radar. I'm a sucker for any kind of naked (lady) fighting, so it's time to track down a copy of ANGEL OF DESTRUCTION.

  2. You have to see Milligan´s CARNAGE and MONSTROSITY. Two masterpieces of incompetence!!.
    Great blog!.

  3. Oh man, I did see MONSTROSITY and it was rooooough! I have a VHS of CARNAGE sitting here that I need to watch at some point.


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