Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

El Hombre Mofo: Paul Naschy, Supporting Player

There is no doubt Paul Naschy had an incredible screen presence.  Hell, we wouldn’t have this amazing blogathon going on if he didn’t.  We all know him for his versatile lead performances, so today we’re going to examine a few of his smaller, supporting roles.  No doubt the filmmakers on these projects were well aware of the man’s charisma and reputation.  As a testament to his professionalism, he brought an undeniable quality to every role he took, be it large or small.

THE KILLER IS ONE OF THE THIRTEEN (1973) is a Spanish murder-mystery with some obvious Italian giallo influence right down to the black gloved killer and that “killer” title.  Widow Lisa Mandel (Patty Shepard) has assembled 12 friends of her late husband Carlos on the anniversary of his mysterious plane crash death.  Mrs. Mandel believes that one of the guests drugged him before his flight causing him to fall asleep at the controls and she plans to uncover the culprit over the long weekend at her isolated country home.  This is a pretty routine thriller that is very talk heavy with the first murder not happening until an hour into the picture.  Senor Naschy has a small role as the Mandel’s chauffer.  I firmly believe director Javier Aguirre, who previously directed Naschy in COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE (1972), cast him with the intention of exploiting audiences’ perception of the man as a horror star to offer one of many red herrings.  Naschy gets a “and the special participation” opening credit and has roughly 4 scenes (including a love scene and fight scene).  Unfortunately, poor Paul ends up on the wrong end of a wrench to the skull. 

Nearly three decades later and we have Naschy cast in another small but important role in a Spanish horror-thriller.  SCHOOL KILLER (2001) is your standard horror slasher film with a group of kids heading to an abandoned school to spend the night while looking for some ghost hunting thrills.  The school was the site of a massacre 27 years ago and it was perpetrated by the strictest of security guards (Naschy).  The bulk of Mr. Naschy’s performance is during an extended flashback to the massacre roughly 50 minutes into the film.  Director Carlos Gil obviously had a sense of respect for Naschy and his horror history to cast him in such a pivotal role.  Just a few years shy of 70 when this was made, Naschy gives the role his all, proving he still has the acting chops to be a sinister villain.  Naturally his performance is the highlight of this so-so film. 

ROTTWEILER (2004) appeared a few years later and was one of the few films Naschy made for an American director.  Co-financed by Filmax and filmed in Spain, the film centers on a young prisoner who is forced into a sadistic game of cat-n-mouse across the country with the robotic titular beast.  Behind all of this is slime ball Kufard (Naschy), whose authoritarian demeanor has no qualms separating young lovers so he can get his kicks.  Director Brian Yuzna delivers quite possibly the world’s most convoluted killer cyborg-dog picture, but he gets points for casting Naschy in the juicy supporting role.  Yuzna stated in interviews that he was a fan of the actor’s work, so it is nice to see him get the attention.  Naschy is once again appropriately menacing in his role and, despite having only two scenes, gives the best performance of the film.  Wait, I take that back.  The scared, soon-to-be-rottweiler-lunch rooster in one of the film’s funniest scenes should get that nod.    

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Though it may seem otherwise, we are here to praise Caesar, not to bury him. Even the most cunning of cinematic minds have their off days. Look at Dario Argento’s career post 1987! Goddamn, did he fall down and hit his head, hard, damaging the no-doubt chemically enhanced area of his cerebrum that held his unique talent? Until Argento donates his brain to science, we may never know. Nashy, fortunately, never fell off the same ladder. Just a stepstool.

Arguably, Paul Naschy’s career really didn’t hit its stride until 1972 with COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE and DR. JEKYLL VS. THE WOLFMAN. After making the classic THE MARK OF THE WOLFMAN (1968), Naschy seemed to stumble a bit before getting the mofo mojo back (uuummmm, just what the hell were they smoking when they made ASSIGNMENT TERROR, exactly?). One of those stumblings is a film that had potential but missed the mark in exactly the same way the lead character misses the trapeze, plummeting to a future filled with whiskey and hookers. Damn, if he was American, he could have played the blues for a living!

In the moral void of the early ‘70s Picadilly Circus, an unseen person picks up a hooker, following her back to her room. While climbing the stairs a little girl says hello to the woman. Once in the room, the hooker slowly strips in total silence. One piece of clothing at a time. Suddenly a knife flashes in a gloved hand and we see the knife penetrate flesh. The hooker lies dead, a bloody stain across her torso. As the person leaves the room, slowly walking down the squeaking stairs, the little girl watches the person leave.

Sittin' on a hooker's couch drinkin' Vat 69...
The kind of class usually reserved for

a Billy Dee Williams commercial.
This is going to be great! Hitchcock-esque use of silence, a great bit of suspense focusing on the killer’s feet walking slowly down the squeaking stairs towards the child. Set in a sleazy, dangerous vision of London as nothing but a thriving nest of seedy sex shows, prostitutes who throw themselves at the nearest cripple, booze-filled dives populated by knife-wielding thugs, SEVEN CORPSES sets itself up for success. Then we are introduced to Peter Dockerman, and it’s all down hill from there. Peter is an ex-circus performer who had a career-ending accident (shown as a shot of an empty trapeze and a second shot of Naschy rolling around in tights holding his knee). Now a bitter drunk, living off of his wife’s prostitution money and getting into bar brawls, he has become the police’s prime suspect in a spate of Jack the Ripper slayings.
The next night Peter’s wife is the prostitute killed and the cops are dead sure he is their man. Why? Because “it is our job to suspect everyone!” Commissioner Campbell authoritatively states. Okaaay... so then by that token, it could be a high-ranking police official! I mean, not that anyone would try that old ploy! Ha! Ha. Heh. Oh boy, this is going to be a long ride. The killer taunts the police with letters and body parts and we get more slow, nudity-free, strip-scenes almost fetishisticly followed by a stabbing. We actually get one of these every couple of minutes and at times seems more like a cheesy burlesque than a horror movie. Meanwhile the Commissioner enjoys many leisurely, calm, rational discussions with the local psyche professor about who this killer might be. The commish decides that the killer must be smooth and handsome so as to lure in his victims (dude, they’re fucking prostitutes! I don't know, but I’m pretty sure all you need is cash) the killer could be someone like… like the professor! Ha! Who would think such a thing? Yeah, you know... long ride.

Plenty more attempts at throwing around herrings of a variety of colors is tried here including one where a doped-up college kid stabs his girlfriend who tried to break up with him after the prof had a chat with her. There are no witnesses so the cops hypothesize that maybe the professor did it. The commissioner shoots this idea down because he “would have to be a gymnast” to get to the murder scene unseen! A gymnast you say? The plot thins…

You’d think that alternating between stripping, killing, taunting and hypothesizing, you’d have a pretty entertaining flick. Naschy plays his character with almost pitiable earnestness and there really isn’t much in the way of bright rays shining through the murk that is his life. Director José Luis Madrid, who later went on to direct Naschy in the more successful THE CRIMES OF PETOIT (1973) has all the trappings of a gritty, nasty, sleazy updating of the truly fascinating crimes of Jack the Ripper. One of the big problems is that all known prints of the movie are the “clothed” version which makes the many ridiculously long stripping scenes somewhat anti-climactic. Another is lack of locations. It’s all squalid, empty rooms or pitch black night. The opening scenes that establish the sleazy sex trade locations are long forgotten long before the second reel unwinds.

Even though Madrid is dead on target to receive the pass, he really doesn’t run with the ball, he kind of just stands there and waits for the defensive tackle to sack the living shit out of him. Largely focusing on talking heads making ridiculous hypotheses in small rooms, the film has so few characters in it, it’s pretty easy to figure out that one of the two characters other than Nashy is going to be the killer. The only thing left for Madrid to do is to try to bounce your suspicion back and forth between the two for about an hour plus. It’s really a shame as there is so much potential here. Madrid knows true crime, he knows Hitchcock, he’s got Paul Naschy, but he has no idea how to bring it all together. That said, if anyone finds the longer un-clothed version, I’d be more than happy to let you send me a copy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

El Hombre Mofo: THE CRIMES OF PETIOT (1972)

Welcome to another Video Junkie theme week!  This time we’ve decided to take the easy road and hop onto the Naschy Blogathon bandwagon coordinated by the Vicar of VHS at the great MAD MAD MAD MAD MOVIES blog.  Being huge Naschy fans ourselves, it seems like a perfect fit and we look as forward to writing about the man as much as reading others thoughts.  While best know for his record-setting Waldemar Danisky werewolf series (standing tall at 12 entries; take that THE HOWLING sequels), Naschy was a true cinematic chameleon and hit every genre imaginable. Here at Video Junkie we are looking to highlight his less well-known titles during this week.  And please be forewarned that our reviews will contain SPOILERS.

In terms of productivity, Naschy’s best year was 1972 with the actor completing seven features that year. Take that, Tom Cruise!  He also showed an incredible versatility as he portrayed a suave Dracula (COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE); a mystic guru (VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES); a lovelorn hunchback (HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE); a royal maniac and his descendant (HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB); and a guy caught up in the good and bad side of criminal situations (THE BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL, THE CRIMES OF PETIOT and RED LIGHT).  In addition to starring, Naschy had a hand in the screenplays of all of these features.

THE CRIMES OF PETIOT (LOS CRIMENES DE PETIOT) is set in Berlin, Germany and opens with a young man procuring the services of a working lady. He takes her to a run down building, but their session is quickly interrupted by a man in a black trench coat, black hat and black hood with only eyeholes.  This mysterious maniac shoots the young man dead and places a skull & bones pin on his corpse.  After a small chase, the killer chloroforms the girl and carries her to his lair.  When the girl awakens, she finds herself chained up and the masked man in front of her. Her abductor plays a strange tape that admonishes one Madeline (not this girl’s name) for her past sins and states he is her executioner coming to get her.  With that, the killer aims his Luger pistol and shoots her dead.  

We then meet our main characters – antique dealer Boris Villowa (Naschy) and his journalist girlfriend Vera (Patricia Loran).  She is covering the series of murders of young couples with the same modus operandi – the young man is always shot once in the head and the girl kidnapped only to be killed at a later unknown location – and Boris takes an interest in her subject.  Together with fellow journalist Heinrich Weiss (Fernando Marin), Vera and Boris theorize on the killer and his/her motives.  When Boris leaves on a business trip, they concoct a plan with other journalist Conrad Freund (Ramon Lillo) to trap the killer in a park by posing as romantic couples.  The idea fails miserably as nearly everyone gets cold-cocked, a female from the group is kidnapped and they arouse the suspicion of Inspector Muller (Vicente Haro).

"Say I look like John Belushi one more time..."
Muller, like all cliché cinematic cops, immediately suspects the killer must be one of these folks and puts everyone under surveillance.  Shortly afterward, the cops receive an audio tape and snuff film of the first murder.  Through background checks, Conrad sets of the biggest red flags as he was a member of the Hitler youth at age 14 and his father was a German SS officer.  The fact that he went missing and the cops found a gun hidden in his fireplace also help point the finger in his direction.  Boris also feels Conrad is the top suspect and dissention begins to form in the group with everyone suspecting everyone else.

Vera and Heinrich search Boris’ private office and find a mysterious key with an address on it.  They head to the isolated location and find Conrad sitting in room with Boris dead on a table, his throat sliced. They try to escape but Heinrich is shot dead as he exits the room. Vera runs about the house to escape Conrad and backtracks to the room he was sitting it.  Strangely, he is still seated in his chair and Boris’ body is gone.  She turns to escape and runs right into Boris. Ah, yes, he was the killer all along and explains his motives in the best SCOOBY DOO ending.  His real name is Macel Decidre Petiot and it seems during World War II that the 9-year-old Marcel saw his family executed by the Nazis in France after his father’s duplicitous lover Madeline turned them in.  Petiot feels he can’t be blamed for his crimes because they made him like this (“crime is like a handful of dust, impossible to contain” he eloquently puts it).  Just in the nick of time, the cops who have been exploring the tunnels under the Petiot house arrive and shoot him dead, giving Vera one hell of a scoop.

In terms of Naschy’s filmography, PETIOT is a minor film and certainly doesn’t rank among his best.  Re-teaming with 7 MURDERS FOR SCOTLAND YARD (1971) director/co-writer Jose Luis Madrid, Naschy finds himself in a film that is big on ideas but poor in terms of execution.  Like the aforementioned SCOTLAND (which was partially shot in London), this does benefit from some location filming. Unfortunately, the location footage (in both films) merely consists of the main principals walking around famous locations in the city, the result of a shoot that probably was a weekend vacation. Madrid also seems incapable of building any suspense.  The killer’s outfit immediately evokes a giallo feel and, most notably, Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964), but the comparison stops there as Madrid has no intention of being stylish.  Also, it doesn’t help that if one knows Naschy’s stocky frame that the “mysterious” killer’s identity is reveal right away. You couldn’t throw a body double swerve at us, Luis?  The final location, an expansive creepy house, is quite atmospheric but improperly handled as well.  One could drive themselves crazy thinking what Naschy collaborators (and more assured directors) Carlos Aured or Leon Klimovsky could have done with this material.

And it is really a shame because the material is definitely thought-provoking stuff.  Despite being known for his lycanthropic leanings, Naschy focuses on the real “monster in man” here.  A student of the macabre both real and fake, Naschy draws inspiration from not only 20th century Nazis but two real-life serial killers, one contemporary and one preceding.  The “hooded killer preying on couples and leaving his calling card/communications” aspects come directly from The Zodiac Killer, the notorious serial killer who stalked Northern California.  It was a sensational case at the time and there is no doubt Naschy was aware of it.  In addition, Naschy also draws inspiration from 1940s French serial killer Marcel Petiot.  Hell, that is even where he got the character’s name and I’m sure the filmmakers had no qualms cashing in on his exploits.  The real Petiot was a rather sadistic murder-for-profit bastard who would offer escape routes during WWII for a price, only to inject his customers with cyanide after taking their cash.  When discovered, he had 21 bodies laying about his home.  Mixing those two stories results in the psychological portrait on display in THE CRIMES OF PETIOT, which shows that ultimately man is still the scariest monster.  As Boris tells Vera when he is perusing her collection of true crime books, “It looks like you’ve taken your investigation very seriously.”  It looks like you did too, Mr. Naschy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Heinous for the Holidays: THANKSKILLING (2009)

Chances are you’ve stumbled across some of the ridiculously hyperbolic promo material for this backyard horror spoof and chances are you said to yourself “Maybe I’ll check tha – hey, JONAH HEX!” Not to worry, you haven’t missed out on anything like this since you missed the last Todd Sheets effort.

Shot on video by a group of friends in Ohio for the resale value of a used Doge Neon, this is not the worst SOV attempt I've ever seen, but then again, it sure ain't the best.

Opening with a tacked on prologue that looks like it was shot after distributor’s balked at the lack of nudity (and rightfully so), in 1621 after the first Harvest Dinner a topless puritan (ungracefully aging porn star Wanda Lust) is presumably attacked by a rubber turkey head who says “nice tits bitch!” before we see an axe that presumably is wielded by said turkey and presumably ends her life. Presumably, because all of this is static shots edited together and the kill is not only off screen, but doesn't even have the requisite blood-splash on a sign post. Man, you guys aren’t even going to deliver some blood in the opening kill? You are going to have to do some serious catching up to recover from that fiasco, because you know what comes next, right?

One of these things is not like the other...

Flash forward to a modern day college campus. Our main characters, who are apparently the only people who go to school here, meet up on the college steps. Obligatory fat-guy (who of course smells bad and eats constantly) Billy 'The Hick' (Aaron Ringhiser-Carlson) runs down the steps and rips his shirt open Hulk Hogan-style shouting “Thanksgiving break! Yes!” This, as he explains to Johnny 'The Jock' (Lance Predmore), is merely an excuse to get the local hoochie Ali (Natasha Cordova) “to show her big ol’ titties”. Ummmm… I think Billy has been hittin’ the holiday beverages a bit early as Ali is obviously a card-carrying member of The Committee. You know, the Itty Bitty… oh never mind.

Accompanied by Kristen 'The Good Girl' (Lindsey Anderson) and Darren 'The Nerd' (aka The Weird Guy, Ryan E. Francis), the group sets out to make the rounds dropping everyone off at home for Turkey Day. Along the way Darren, who seems to have a man-crush on Johnny, divulges that he is going to get “buck wild” and “have sex with someone in this car!” Dude, there’s only two chicks, one isn’t sleeping with anyone and the other is hot for the jock, and it’s a jeep.

Meanwhile, a white-trash dude who desperately wants to be mistaken for The Motor City Madman, named Oscar (General Bastard), is out in the sticks when his dog Lassie manages to find the one spot in the forest to piss on that would return the killer turkey to life. As luck would have it at this very same moment the jeep blows a radiator hose (which is later fixed without any parts or tools) and the kids are forced to camp for the night since none of them have cell phone reception. Seriously, I’ve been to Ohio, I know how empty some of those roads can be, but a) this is supposed to be New England and b) it’s freakin’ Thanksgiving. You should be so lucky to have no traffic whatsoever, not to mention a complete lack of snow or even cold weather. Anyway, once they realize they are stuck for the night, they also realize they have tents and beer! Sweet! Then of course comes the realization that they are in Crawberg, the site of the Crawberg Pilgrim Massacre. Cue animated backstory. Ok, more like static cartoon drawings, but whatever.

While the alleged college students argue about the legitimacy of the tale of the killer turkey who was summoned by an Indian necromancer to get vengeance on the white man, the killer turkey hitches a ride. One of the genuinely amusing conceits of the movie is that average joes perceive the turkey as a midget, not an unplucked holiday fowl. After a driver decides to add “cornhole” to his holiday menu, the killer turkey backs out of the deal and shoots the driver in the head with a shotgun for a little CGI splatter. Jumping behind the wheel, the turkey takes off to intercept each of the kids at their parent’s houses. I’m not sure why he would do that as he had just terrorized them at their campsite and could have killed them all in one fell swoop! Seems a little bird-brained to me (ok, ok, stop throwing those croutons).

First the turkey kills off Jonny’s mom and dad (mostly off screen) leaving Johnny to cry about missing the pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. Then he’s off to Ali’s house where he catches her taking it doggy-style (fully clothed) with some random dude. After slashing the dude’s throat with his beak, he tags in on Ali’s ass… or yellow pillow! C’mon guys, do you think nobody can tell the difference between a chick’s ass and a pillow? Hell, I guess we know who the target audience is now. Its details like this that pop up constantly where the “filmmakers” show that they just don’t care. “We’re making a stupid movie! Who gives a shit?” Clearly not you.

When the kids get to the scene of the crime they find an extra-small, gravy-flavored condom and Billy is pissed because he thought he had a shot with the local slut, “we gotta find a way to kill this cock-blockin’ turkey!” he rants. So it’s off to Kristen’s house to get to her father’s collection of antique books that will contain the ritual for killing the bird. Unfortunately they arrive after the turkey, in one of the films few inspired moments, kills the sheriff father and uses his face as a Leatherface-style mask to take the father’s place and lure the kids to their deaths. While the kids look through books, the fat guy eats French fries and complains about being hungry. Yep, director/producer/writer Jordan Downey sets the bar high.

Soon they discover that in order to kill the turkey, they need to remove the talisman it’s wearing, chant a prayer for sacrifice, then kill it. From here it’s a game of hunt and peck as the turkey kills off the kids one by one as they try to figure out how to dispose of it once and for all. In one of the other few inspired moments, Darren laments over his fallen fat comrade initiating a music-montage flashback of their friendship, sharing ice-cream and skipping through fields. It’s a bit too obviously inspired by identical moments from the animated TV show “South Park”, plus it’s over-long and could have used a punch-line at the end, but it beats the hell out of the lame attempts at comedy in CANNIBAL CAMPOUT (1988). Then again, there are the other jokes, like the turkey’s head poping out of a guy’s chest proclaiming “gobble, gobble, motherfucker!” and of course the tacked on epilogue where a family is sitting down to thanksgiving dinner and the roasted bird jumps up and says “do I smell sequel BIOOOOOOOTCH!?” Ummm, no, I just smell a half-baked turkey.

Don’t let Downey fool you with the “extreme” marketing, this ain’t even in the same ballpark with zero-budget gorefests like VIOLENT SHIT (1989) which was made for almost half of the budget of THANKSKILLING. I’d love to give this flick major props for the ol’ indy spirit, but the bungled comedy, barely adequate gore, bad CGI, limp acting AND lame wannabe early ‘90s Freddy lines don’t give us a lot to be thankful for. Some folks have made the claim that they feel this is the successor (or sucfailor) to Troma’s legacy, but I don’t think that comparison does either of them any justice. Sure the comedy is forced and fowl-mouthed, and yes, a modern Troma staple of having unattractive people naked is represented by the opening scene, but there’s not much else that bears comparing, good or bad. If you are a teenager and like movies made by hipsters who are intentionally making a crap movie, and are desperately looking for someone to give you your one-liners this Holiday season, I guess you’ll get a kick out of it. Poultry-seasoned veterans beware.