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!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Listomania!: Will's August 2011 viewings

Hey, I’m totally going to steal…uh, I mean, contribute to Tom’s Listomania idea.  Just to give some old favorites and new exposures some love, even if it isn’t 1,500 words.  Here are some flicks I watched in August (the good ones are in no particular order as they all rocked).  Let’s get the rough stuff out of the way first with the “Why? Why? WHY???” award going to…

JOHN CARPENTER’S THE WARD (2010) – John Carpenter is my favorite director and I think his period of films from 1974 to 1988 is pretty much unrivaled in modern genre filmmaking.  So, naturally, it began to sting when his efforts started to slide.  His last theatrical feature, GHOSTS OF MARS (2001), was a decade ago and the only thing done in between were two terrible episodes of MASTERS OF HORROR and lots of interviews where he basically said, “Just give me my fuckin’ paycheck while you remake my films.”  Well, this is the end of the line with Carpenter doing a work-for-hire gig on this thoroughly unexceptional film. Inexplicably set in the 1960s (there is no reason for it to be), the film focuses on Kristen (Amber Heard), who is sentenced to the titular location after trying to burn down a house.  Also in this ward are four other girls with various mental issues.  Oh, and there is a ghost with long black hair (straight out of a 90s Japanese horror flick) out to kill them all.  I can’t begin to tell you how average this film is.  One the plus side, it is well shot and all the female leads are good.  However, had Carpenter's name not been on the credits, you would never know he had made this.  It could have been swapped with any AfterDark or FrightFest title and you couldn’t tell the difference.  It is like Carpenter has been taken over by someone else.  A great man from Carpenter’s past once asked, “If I was an imitation, a perfect imitation, how would you know it was really me?”  One way would be to have any hints of style or mood that Carpenter is known for, none of which is on display here.  How sad is it that the man who made HALLOWEEN is now aping the pulse-flattening work of kids today and I have to endure it TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!  On the plus side, he still hasn't reached the depths Argento has plummeted to.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s move onto the good stuff.

PSYCHO II (1983) – Can you believe my mom took my friend and me to see this when I was just 8-years-old? Thanks mom!  Despite the protests of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is released from a mental institution after 23 years and moves back to managing his motel. Along the way he picks up a roommate in Mary (Meg Tilly), but things start to get ugly real fast. Norman starts getting calls from his "mother" and she is leaving threatening notes telling him to "get that slut out of his house." I honestly can't think of a better crafted horror sequel than this. Writer Tom Holland creates an incredible mystery that not only is thrilling, but carries on the logical progression of time between the two films. Even more astonishing is he is able to also create a modern "body count" picture within these confines, effectively letting Universal have the best of both worlds. Director Richard Franklin actually befriended Hitchcock in the 1970s, so he knows better than to try and copy any of the first film's memorable moments. He is a master of suspense though and this movie has some great set ups (including one that is still ripped off today) and a classic finale. This is helped greatly by an excellent Jerry Goldsmith score and ace camerawork by Dean Cundy.  The cast is perfect all around with Perkins doing an exceptional job as the still-crazy-after-all-these-years Norman.

TROLLHUNTER (2010) - Three college-age journalist kids secretly follow a guy named Hans (Otto Jespersen), who they believe is illegally poaching bears in the Norwegian mountains after some tourists are killed. The title tells you what he is really after. Yes, trolls are real and Hans it he only guy in the country employed by TSS (Troll Security Service) to keep the monsters in check if they leave their designated homes. Watched this last night and really enjoyed it. As much as I can't stand "found footage" shaky-cam stuff, this did a really clever spin on it with the story and pulls it off amazingly. Seriously, the troll effects are stunning and director André Øvredal films each sighting in a unique way that gives the best impact. This was all accomplished on a budget of $3 million, embarrassing Hollywood and even folks like SyFy for their "we can't do anything decent for that amount" low standards. One of the more interesting aspects is when Hans complains about his job and the bureaucracy of TSS to the camera crew. The film also has some really funny dark comedy bits. The end is a bit of a letdown, but you know it is coming since this opens with the standard "we found this mystery footage" crawl. Sadly, the director has quickly sold his soul and is now working on a big budget Hollywood remake.  Why?

THE LAST OF THE KNUCKLEMEN (1979) – This Aussie flick is an adaptation of a play that focuses on a group of several men working at a isolated mining company. They are all burnouts or misfits who sit around to drink, play cards and gamble away their little savings. Self-appointed leader is Pansy (Michael Preston, who is probably sitting and waiting for Mick Jagger bio pic to be greenlit) who is constantly butting heads with everyone, most notably knuckleman Tarzan (Gerard Kennedy). A knuckleman is pretty much a foreman who also has license to whoop anybody's ass if they get out of line. Intrigue arrives when young Tom (Peter Hehir) comes on the job and he may or may not be the infamous "Karate Bandit." This is really good stuff and one of the more unique examples of Ozploitation male bonding I've seen. The writing is very sharp and director Tim Burstall showcases some glorious deserted locations. The acting is great from everyone, but if the film belongs to anyone it is Kennedy as the gruff but likable physical enforcer. He is the last of the hardmen and delivers his lines with the appropriate vigor ("5 minutes after you walk down that road, I won't even remember you were alive, Pansy. That's how much I care about you!"). Also with Michael Caton, Michael Duffield, Steve Bisley (of MAD MAX and THE CHAIN REACTION), and Steve Rackman (Donk from the CROCODILE DUNDEE films).

DEAD MOUTAINEER’S HOTEL (1979) – Tom reviewed this one earlier here and I agree with everything he said.  This is definitely some moody sci-fi stuff and easily the best film I’ve seen from Estonia.  Okay, it’s the only film I’ve seen from there.  I think.  The mystery is suitably compelling and the location is really stunning (think a Motel 8 version of The Overlook from THE SHINING).  I really liked the lead actor Uldis Pucitis as he reminded me of Jerry Cotton actor George Nader.  There is also a really good electronic score and this haunting song by Sven Grünberg.  Definitely the best Estonian synthesizer rock I’ve heard…you know the rest.

Finally, the winner of the “I would have hated this in 1996, but enjoyed it now” award goes to:

HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1996) - Before Roger Corman sold his soul to SyFy for a buck and an executive producer credit, he sold it to Showtime a decade earlier with their "Roger Corman presents" series. This involved throwing some of his new New Concorde flicks on the cable channel as exclusive premieres. Also involved were remakes of some Corman-produced classics including PIRANHA, NOT OF THIS EARTH (again), A BUCKET OF BLOOD (with Anthony Michael Hall!), THE WASP WOMAN, and this. Fisherman Wade Parker (Robert Carradine) finds being a single father of a 16-year-old (Danielle Weeks) hellbent on dating environmentalist Matt (Robert Walker) isn't the worst thing in the world when genetically mutated monsters start attacking folks. After his daughter is snatched, Wade must team up with Matt and scientist Dr. Drake (Emma Samms, a long way from DYNASTY) to stop the beasts.

I was hoping this would be different enough from the original that I could pretend it was the never-delivered HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP 2: THE NEXT GENERATION. Alas, I can't do that because Corman manages to outcheap himself by reusing lots of footage from the original (the carnival climax from the first film is shown almost in its entirety). Had I seen this when it originally aired, I would have hated it. Even watching it now it is only so-so due to its general cheapness (get a load at the bar set; and it appears they only made two monster suits). But it is amazing what godawful SyFy and Asylum flicks will do to your B-movie sensibilities. The HUMANOIDS remake is gory and features nudity (strangely, the US DVD cuts all of this out), so I am somewhat satisfied. And the cast actually gives a damn. Well, with one small exception. Walker, previously seen in CLUELESS (1995), gives one of the worst performances I've seen in a while. Seriously, this kid is awful with his constant shouting of nearly every line. Director Jeff Yonis cut his teeth in the Corman factory on one of the many BLOODFIST sequels and keeps the action moving fast enough. Look for Clint Howard, an unrecognizable Season Hubley and Bert Remsen in small supporting roles.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Listomania!: Thomas' August 2011

We watch a ridiculous amount of movies here at VJ. Most of these films never get a write up in these pages, so we thought it would be fun to post the Top 10 most noteworthy hits and misses of our month of video mainlining. The coulda-beens that we decided not to bother with giving full reviews for one reason or another.

ROAD HOUSE 2 (2006): We all know Aussies make awesome movies in Oz, but take them to Hollywood and Sampson loses his hair, or just goes completely batshit crazy like that one dude who made that Christ movie. I know what you're thinkin', "it's a DTV sequel to ROAD HOUSE, and you thought this would be good, why?" C'mon, now, you got Richard Norton (with what appears to be someone else's face) and more importantly, William Ragsdale cast as a bouncer! Yes! A bouncer, actually the head bouncer! A few amusing moments, but this is one rough HOUSE, desperately trying to be an Isaac Florentine film, but epic failing by fudging all the fight scenes with rapid edits of close-ups of body parts. Almost feels like watching porn in fast forward. So yeah, director Scott Ziehl (also responsible for the Sci-Fi Channel's '91 non-remake EARTH VS. THE SPIDER), can now be added to the Aussie Wiki under "Exception to the Rule".

MOONRUNNERS (1975): It's amazing that this template for "The Dukes of Hazard" has still yet to see the light of day on DVD. Is Waylon Jennings' estate holding out or something? The plot has a couple of shine-runnin' cousins, Grady (James Mitchum) and Bobby Lee (Kiel Martin), helpin' out their bible-thumpin' Uncle Jesse when the owner of the Boar's Nest decides that their friendly rivalry should take a mean turn. This really has everything that you could want from a '70s back-woods car-chase flick, 'ceptun mebbey sum nekkid wimmuns and o' course the good ol' General Lee.

THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB (1966): My obsession with Aussie cinema has gotten to the point where I'm starting to do some serious digging. So maybe my idea of buried treasure ain't for everyone, but for my money this '60s classic (that is reviled by the hoity-toity), is well worth the price of admission. After arriving in Oz, Italian immigrant Nino (Walter Chiari) finds that his cousin has disappeared leaving a mountain of debt in his wake. So Nino does what all good Italian's do, rolls up his sleeves and dives in head first. Getting a job in landscaping and learning the way to King's Bloody Cross and the subtle etiquette of Australian drinking rituals. Dated, sure, but some of it is flat-out hilarious. More than a little un-PC, and that's half of it's charm, if you ask me. And in case you ever wondered, yes, the Pope is a deigo.

MALCOLM (1986): If RAINMAN had Colin Friels, John Hargreaves and was about armed robbery, model trains and robots, it would have been a damn sight better in my humble opinion. This was a sleeper hit in the US back in the day, and it's easy to see why. Since it's an Aussie film, it sidesteps a lot of the Hollywood trappings and creates a rather safe, quirky comedy about a mentally handicapped man (Friels) who is obsessed with building machinery, from model trains to a car that splits in half. To solve his money issues, he takes some advice from a neighbor and rents a room in his house... to an ex-con (Hargreaves) who is looking for another score. Pretty tame stuff compared to our usual fixes here at VJ, but hey, it's Aussie, so it's good!

HEATWAVE (1979): It's amazing what Aussies are capable of before being assimilated by the Hollywood machine. Phillip Noyce. Yes, he is Australian. Sure, he's now running top Hollywood celebs around a green screen, but there was a time, yes, even before the 1989 Zatoichi reworking, BLIND FURY (which, for the record, I really like), that Noyce made some really interesting movies down under. Actually, a lot of movies down under. This is more of a drama than a thriller, but flat-out refuses to explain the mystery as would a Hollywood film and lets the audience piece it together, right down to the end credits. Sort of a SILKWOOD kinda thing, but not really. An architect (Richard Moir) involved in building a new super-modern apartment complex for the wealthy gets involved with an activist (Judy Davis) who is fighting to save the tenants from being forcibly evicted from their homes that stand in the way of this new building. When a tabloid journalist who is helping to spearhead the rebellion disappears, things start to get ugly. The use of Sydney during a brutal Christmas heatwave is brilliant in and of itself. The movie is flawed and Davis is a bit too shrill to be believable as anyone's love interest, but it's still worth checking out, if for no other reason than to see how un-Hollywood Noyce was at one time.

THE FALLING (1987): I remember not liking this much back in the day under the rather misleading title ALIEN PREDATOR. Still not the best movie ever, but widescreen and uncut makes it strangely compelling. Three friends (Dennis Christopher, Martin Hewitt and Lynn-Holly Johnson) go on a Winnebago trip through Spain only to find themselves broken down in a strange little town that is the site of an extra-terrestrial experiment that goes surprisingly well and is quite safe. You buyin' that? No, of couse not. The scientist in control of the experiment lets it loose to infest itself in people's heads turing them into zombie-like psychos who eventually succumb to the parasite when it explodes from their faces in a big, chunky mess. Yep, that's the complelling part. Well, that and I remember Lynn-Holly Johnson being kind of attractive back in the day and now that my youth is behind me and I'm just a middle-age perve, damn, she's fucking hot! *ahem* Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah... expect some typical '80s teen hijinx and Johnson, sadly, stays extremely over-dressed throughout the film, but I dunno, for some reason, like a lot of crap from the '80s, I enjoyed it a lot more in retrospect.

The only on-screen bit of
nastiness in the entire film
YOU WILL DIE AT MIDNIGHT (1986): Nobody does. Mediocre giallo and far, far from Lame-berto's best, but then again, miles from his worst. Even uncut, it's teetering on PG-13 fare and the twist ending is not in the least bit interesting. A cop (Leonardo Treviglio) in the middle of a traditional Italian discussion of matrimony, attempts to kill his wife for cheating on him, he stops short and walks out, only to have an unseen assassin walk in behind him and stab his wife to death with an ice pick. After going into hiding, the detective on the case (a bearded Gianni Garko), spends an awful lot of time stressing about finding his pipe while his offices are being relocated. Oh, and he checks into the murders which are starting to pile up. But those can wait. Where did that pipe get to? Gianpaolo Saccarola pops up and stretches his thespian legs as a none-too-bright suspect in the slaying of a librarian. The murders are barely on screen and the rest of the film can't prop itself up, but some folks on the IMDb think this is a keeper, so what the hell do I know?

THE LAST OF THE KNUCKLEMEN (1979): Damn near got testosterone poisoning from this Aussie classic. Great cast, played with so much gritty machismo that you can almost smell the stale sweat and warm beer. A fistful of men work the mines in the middle of the Aussie wasteland, living in a tin shack and occasionally throwing down cash in arranged fights. Based on a play, but don't let that stop you, this sweaty drama (yeah, I said it, it's a drama) from the legendary Tim Burstall (who amazingly never embarrassed himself in Hollywood) boasts a great cast including Gerard Kennedy, Mike Preston and Steve Bisley, gritty dialogue and tons of great moments that would never, ever be handled in the same fashion in Hollywood.

END PLAY (1976): They don't make this type of murder-thriller any more, not even in Oz. No opportunity for CG effects I guess. Damn, I'm turning into a cranky old man. Tim Burstall goes all in with this nifty thriller that draws inspiration from Hitchcock's seedier works (why are Aussies always the best at that sort of thing?) and, at the time, modernized parlor-room murder thrillers like SLEUTH (1972). Though there is no comic relief to be found here, this is a vicious little pug. I can't say too much about this as not knowing what is going to happen next is key, but John Waters (no, not that one) and George Mallaby star as unusually close step-brothers who are somehow involved with murdered hitchhikers in a rural town. Excellent acting and neat little twists overshadow the fact that modern cinema nerds will probably be able to piece together the twist before it is revealed, but getting there is pretty damned entertaining.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DR. WATSON, PART ONE: ACQUAINTANCE (1979): First of a series of 11 Russian TV movies that ran from 1979 to 1986. In addition to the fact that they may be the best straight forward adaptations of the stories (if not totally verbatim), the casting is quite good with Vasili Livanov turning in a fine performance as Sherlock Holmes, but Vitali Solomin damn near stealing the show as what is unequivocally the best reading of the Doctor Watson character. None of this wallflower-with-whiskers characterization here. Watson is a sharp ex-military man who may not reach the heights of deductive reasoning as Holmes, but is no bumbling half-wit. In addition to great casting, the sets appear to be lived-in and worn, adding a sense of reality that is rarely seen in Holmes adaptations which invariably present Victorian England as a very clean, freshly pained environment. Add an excellent score (who knew Russians were good at music?) and interesting, occasional, use of hand-held cameras and you have something that completely blows away the incredibly overrated Jeremy Brett piffle.

DAMNATUS: THE ENEMY WITHIN (2008): Hmmmm… maybe there is a reason Games Workshop doesn't want this movie seen. Haven't had this much fun since Albert Pyun's ADRENALIN. Well meaning Huan Vu (who brought us the far more entertaining and only slightly less convoluted Lovecraft adaptation, THE COLOR), clearly worked his ass off making this low-budget, SOV action-horror effort set in the Warhammer 40K universe. Boasting a relentlessly complicated plotline that can be easily stripped down to the simple fact that it is an underground bug-hunt. A group of marines (really? The ALIENS cliche, in this day and age?) are recruited to trudge through some sub-terranean passages in pursuit of some heretics who are trying to summon a massive demon that will threaten all life as we know it. I really hate to beat Vu up about it because he does accomplish a lot on what is obviously very little resources. Even at it's worst, for an amateur German effort, it's head and shoulders above Timo Rose and Andreas Bethman, but even at a scant 80 minutes (10 of which is credits), it is a long, slow slog. I don't know much about Warhammer 40K, but what I have seen had power armor and space orcs and stuff. None of that is here, but there are lots of long winded speeches in the vein of TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE, which is the modern excuse to pad out the running time and replace the action that the SOV filmmaker can't afford. The tons of W40K details that are packed in here will appeal to people whose idea of a fun Saturday night is sitting around discussing the intricacies of the W40K timeline, but for everyone else it's like washing back a handful of Sominex with a bottle of Nyquil.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Non-fiction Fix: Hal Needham's STUNTMAN!

Thanks to a visit from Hurricane Irene, we didn't have power for 4 days. To a Video Junkie, that is pure hell and like being forced against your will into rehab. To ease the pain, I opened up one of these strange contraptions called books. Yes, we actually read books from time to time, although it seems we never stray too far from our comfort zone and stick to books about movies (with the occasional horror novel here or there).

Anyway, what better way to pass the time than to read the autobiography of famed stuntman/director Hal Needham.  As we mention in our review of DEATH CAR ON THE FREEWAY (1979), we are fans of the man and his contributions to motion picture history. Needham is quite the raconteur and the books 296-pages fly by rather quickly.  He starts by talking about his early life growing up in Arkansas, where his step-father was a sharecropper during the Great Depression.  It is truly a different world that most of us could never fathom (outhouses, yuck!).  After that he jumps into his family moving to the big city, him getting a job as a tree trimmer (which helped him greatly in Hollywood) and his eventual joining of the military as a Airborne Ranger.  All of his stories are fun reads and told in a very frank and funny manner.

Of course, the majority of the book is built around his move to Hollywood and the career choice that would eventually make him famous.  Needham details the first film he worked on (THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS) and how he got his first big break on the TV show HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, where his tree climbing abilities got him the job of doubling star Richard Boone.  He also mentions working on a show called RIVERBOAT starring Darren McGavin, where he first encountered a young actor by the name of Burt Reynolds. This led to a great relationships both professionally and personally (Needham even lived in Burt's guest house for years after a divorce).  There are tons of great stories about working with the likes of Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and Burt.  And lots of great behind-the-scenes anecdotes about how the business works (and doesn't work).  For example, there is a totally insane story about Needham going over to Europe to be the stunt coordinator on THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN (1969) and having to flee the country when the pesky Russians actually invade Czechoslovakia in real life.  There is even a wild story about his real-life encounter with the Skid Row Slasher.

The book does a have a few problems though, most significantly in its lack of details about Needham's directing career.  He is apt to emphasize his hits more than his misses.  MEGAFORCE, his biggest bomb, gets only one mention, while the aforementioned DEATH CAR ON THE FREEWAY and everything post-MEGAFORCE get no mentions at all.  I guess he was not "man enough" to talk about MEGAFORCE for its fans (sorry Tom).  He also jumps all over the place in terms of periods of his life.  Also, there are some sections on his NASCAR history where I started to tune out as that really isn't my thing.  Of course, these are only minor quibbles.  If you are looking for a lively read about a time in Hollywood when real people actually drove cars during stunts (his wreck planning for John Wayne's McQ is terrifying), this is definitely a must-read.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Lovecraft Legacy: THE COLOR (2010)

If you've never visited Craig Mullins' stellar Lovecraft blog, now is the time to do it! Lots of info on Lovecraft projects of all kinds including regular updates on what projects Guillermo Del Toro is incredibly excited about and will subsequently abandon. It is also home to a VJ review of the latest adaptation of "The Colour Out of Space", Huan Vu's DIE FARBE!

Full Review of DIE FARBE on Unfilmable.Com

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cinemasochism: THE FOX AFFAIR (1978)

I had never heard of THE FOX AFFAIR until a few years ago when I got a package full of old Box Office magazines.  The bible for film exhibitors, Box Office was seen by nearly every theater owner so getting your filmed noticed was top priority. And if your little production company had the cash, you could easily get your film on the cover.  This led to some great colorful spreads featuring low budget films like THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (1975), Earl Owensby’s DARK SUNDAY (1976), X-rated INSIDE JENNIFER WELLES (1977) and nearly every Crown International release.  So seeing the New York lensed indie like THE FOX AFFAIR on the cover wasn’t unusual, but the eye-catching art was certainly intriguing.  Girl in white dress? Check.  Kung-fu fight? Check.  Helicopter? Check.  Guy with gun? Check. Exploding car? Check.  Parking meter?  Uh, check. And, believe it or not, the parking meter is the most central thing to the plot in that collage.

THE FOX AFFAIR centers on two stylin', profilin', limousine riding, helicopter flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a guns (whoo!) named Rogers (Robert Bosco) and Anders (Yuri Alexis). The film opens with them ripping off a “business” partner in Hong Kong (I kid you not: they use stock footage of HK and then film them outside a shop in Chinatown in NYC to try and create continuity).  Our boys fly back into New York and return to their main vocation, which seems to be procuring nubile young girls for rich old German horndog Wolfgang Van Boren (Steve Lincoln).  They test the goods by looking at the girls undress via a two-way mirror in a boutique the guys might own (it is never clear in the film).  In return for their services, Van Boren will give them a great stock tip and they will make bundles of money. Shit, these guys are living the life.

Trouble enters when a hitman from Hong Kong arrives to settle the score our dodgy duo thought they left 8,000 miles away.  They know he means business because he leaves behind a note that says, “Hong Kong boss man does not be take for fool.” HA!  If they can procure $2,000,000, they should be able to buy their way out of this mess. Making matters worse, Van Boren wants to get his freak on again. Enter Felicity Fox (Kathryn Dodd).  She is a homely parking meter maid who is giving our boys a ticket outside the boutique.  Rogers senses her potential and soon begins wining and dining her in the high life.  She proves to be a keeper because not only is she sexy, this police academy trained parking attendant knows kung fu and fights off the Hong Kong assassin (who screams, “Next time you are dead” when he runs out of the apartment in defeat).  Of course, they have groomed her for Van Boren and that totally bums Rogers out as he starts falling in love with her (after literally two scenes). In the meantime, our two guys hatch a plot to extort Van Boren by telling his younger (and freakier) wife about his affairs.  Not that is matters as she loves playing horsey with the gardener and chef.  Anyway, their price is $2,000,000! Why you clever bastards.  What they don’t count on is Felicity getting wind of their plan (via their two-way mirror) and spoiling it for everyone.

So how could a film feature all the cool stuff I described on the poster earlier and still suck?  Yes, everything on that poster is in the film so it isn’t false advertising. But it is a case of mind manipulation because viewers will no doubt cook up 500 billion better scenarios for the items feature.  Take the helicopter for example.  In the context of the poster, I’m expecting a helicopter chase.  Hell, if I may be so bold, I might even expect a thrown grenade from the helicopter is the reason that car is blowing up.  Nope, we just get one scene of a helicopter landing and these lead guys getting out. Damn it!  I’m always curious how these types of films get made. Producer-director Fereidun G. Jorjani has a name that screams out money laundering and he was one-and-done when it came to feature films.  He would later make the documentary THE STORY OF ISLAM, which I’m sure has more action than this.  He does get one thing right in that he features some nudity in this film (even if Rogers and Felicity’s big love scene is botched by darker-than-dark photography).  That is about the only highlight.  Actually, I take that back.  There is one weird bit in a spa where our guys hang out with a bunch of naked chicks and some bodybuilder.  The muscleman’s dialogue about his workouts while a girl feels his bicep is the film’s highlight

Guy: “Feel it. You have to push tight, you have to push tight. That’s it. You got it, push tight on that muscle.  It’s getting bigger all of the time.  You know how I got this muscle bigger?”
Girl: “Tell me.”
Guy: “Eating a lot of high protein foods.  I ate three chickens last night.”
Girl: “Very impressive.”

Yup, that is the highpoint of the film for me.  The rest is lots and lots of talking with occasional visits to a pumping disco (which looks like the inside of a steak house) every few scenes.  Damn, now I totally want '70s steak with disco music.

THE FOX AFFAIR was originally available on VHS from Saturn Video. I never picked it up, but was still able to see it on VHS. How so? Well because the Code Red DVD release of it (on a double feature with DELIVER US FROM EVIL) is obviously taken off a VHS tape. How do I know?  Because several times throughout the film the image jitters from side to side and I recognize that as a VHS problem.  Ah, good ol’ Code Red. Regardless, I’m actually thankful they put this out as I was able to pick it up cheap and finally confirm that sometimes the things left unknown are better that way.

Box Office review, May 1978: 

Monday, August 22, 2011


What happened to Spain? There was a time where Spain turned out some superb genre cinema. Sure there was the post-Franco cinematic revolution of the ’70s where the likes of Jose Larraz, Jorge Grau and some guy named Jacinto Molina were gleefully trampling the dictator’s censorship laws, while crafting great films on a bankroll smaller than John Travolta’s coke money. We also entered a period of re-invention in the ‘90s. While Hollywood eagerly started their downward descent of self-cannibalization, the Spanish film industry picked up the slack with Jaume Balagueró and Alex de la Iglacia breaking into the international market with films that proudly declared that Generissimo Francisco Franco was still dead. For some reason this forward momentum encountered the same disease that it seems all film industries the world over succumb to. “The Hollywood Syndrome.”

The Hollywood Syndrome occurs when a film industry has a some breakaway hits that go global and provide an influx of cash. What to do? Well, that’s obvious, we need to get more projects just like the hits rolling immediately! The problem is, we need some guidance on how to make these profitable movies and who better to look to in such cases than the Americans. Just like McDonald’s proves on a daily basis, just because it makes money, doesn’t mean it’s any good. And so the industry gets watered down with cheap clichés and a lack of originality that made the films that started it all so successful in the first place.

One of the more promising things that we’ve been hearing about coming out of Spain in recent years is the VALDEMAR INHERITANCE films. Generating all the excitement is the fact that it is, as it turns out (very) loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shunned House. Just as loosely as Lucio Fulci’s HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981), but without the atmosphere, the shocks, the creativity, and really everything else that makes it a classic horror film.

The first film, released in 2010, sets up a reasonably intriguing, though somewhat well-used premise. An antiques/real-estate appraiser by the name of Orquicia was sent to the old Valdemar estate to check it out and evaluate the contents. The Valdemar estate is one of Spain’s only Victorian mansions and the estate agent figures it could be worth a fortune in antiques alone. Problem is, Orquicia hasn’t been heard from since he was dispatched some weeks ago. Hey, maybe he ran off with all of the contents and is now lounging on a beach somewhere. Certain that this could be the case (obviously nothing bad ever happens to people who visit presumably uninhabited Victorian mansions), the agent dispatches another appraiser, Louisa (Silvia Abascal), to go check it out.

Louisa, heads out to the mansion and pokes around in the dark and dusty dwelling until she finds a room that seems just a bit strange. In this room is a gurney with a plastic sheet over it. Of course, she pulls the sheet back only to find Orquicia’s mangled corpse and something shambling towards her. She is then “rescued” only to find herself locked in a room by some odd, bug-collecting persons. Now the agents boss (who rides around with a Cthulhu-head cane) decides to hire someone to find the two appraisers. After the appraiser gets himself chewed a new asshole by his Luis Cypher-wannbe boss Maximilian (Eusebio Poncela), he decides that he and his secretary should go too! But what is the deal with this house, anyway? Cue flashback to the origins on the Valdemar family.

This flashback is quite literally the entirety of the film. We learn that Lasaro Valdemar (Daniele Liotti) and his wife, Leonor (Laia Marull), are charlatans who bilk rich idiots out of their family money by providing phony séances and photographing them. Though writer-director José Luis Alemán ensures that you have some sympathy for them when things get ugly, by having them use their ill-gotten gains to pay for the welfare of orphaned children. No, that sound you heard wasn’t a Lurker at the Threshhold, that was just me groaning. After being imprisoned when he refused to be blackmailed by a seedy journalist threatening to expose him, the only person who can save him is Alistair Crowley (Francisco Maestre) who concocts a scheme to get him out of the slams on the condition that Lasaro will perform a real séance with him for his special guests (who include Lizzy Borden, Bram Stoker, etc). Things don’t go quite as planned, the end.

Yes, I said “the end”. No, really. That’s it. But what happened to Louisa? What about the other appraiser? The estate agent and his secretary? Sorry, you got nothin’ for ya. Or if you saw it on video, you get a quick 20 second preview of the next film complete with CG Chthulhu and a year-long wait for the next film.

No wonder it didn’t get released here. Audiences would have rioted. The opening set up was decent (though completely unoriginal), but the flashback (aka the entire movie), was decent at best. Ham-handed, uninspired and over-long at worst. It felt like someone got wrapped up in their own ego and didn’t realize the flashback needed to be just that; a flashback. A film can set up a sequel, but it needs to have some sort of self-contained story arc within itself instead of just being half of a film, and an overly dry one at that. There’s a little bit of CG monster action at the end, but other than that don’t expect a single drop of anything horror (other than Louisa’s discovery of Orquicia’s corpse in the beginning) and it’s nothing we haven’t seen a thousand times before and a thousand times better. Adding insult to injury, Spain’s patriarch of the horror film, Paul Naschy, is confined to an almost wordless role as the Valdemar butler. Naschy could have easy been cast as Crowley and brought a great sinister presence to the role instead of Maestre, who’s obvious, one-note performance doesn’t do anything to help carry the rather flat story.

The sequel (or rather, the second half of the movie), THE FORBIDDEN SHADOW, was released a year later in 2011 and manages to correct a couple of the glaring issues with the first half, but introduces many more. Now all of the subplots are interwoven which makes them feel less uninspired than they really are. The main thrust of the plot is that all of the characters are kidnapped by the strange bug-collecting guy (who now, no longer does that), Damaso (José Luis Torrijo) and the caretaker, Santiago (Santi Prego). This happens straight away, after the opening sequence in which a bicycling Howard Philips Lovecraft (Luis Zahera) warns Lazaro about the dangers of Lazaro’s new favorite obsession, the Necronomicon. While Lovecraft often wrote that merely seeing one page could turn a lesser man’s brain inside out, Lazaro has been pouring over it for weeks and seems no less the worse for wear, complete with every strand of his immaculately blow-dried coiffeur in place. The only thing that gives a clue to the unimaginable madness within Valdemar are the cuffs of his shirt which are worn and dirty. This causes Jervas (Paul Naschy again desperately trying to rise above the table scraps he’s been handed) to beg for his return to sanity to no avail.

As you would expect, Lovecraft is the life of the party.

Back in the present day, everyone gets kidnapped and wake up in a “torture room” wearing festival masks (for no apparent reason), they panic and argue and you might get the impression you SAW this movie before. Before you get all excited the “torture room” is well lit with a comfy bed and not a speck of the old red-stuff to be found. But no matter, we’re going to run off head-long into more clichés! Yay, clichés! Drawing “inspiration” from other films such as THE DESCENT (2005) and (of all things) TOURIST TRAP (1979), the film plays out without actually employing any shocks or even conjuring any sense of dread. No miasma of terror, not even a spooky. Hell, there aren't even any gristly demises! That’s right, even though we have a cast of cookie-cutter characters, with one really uninspired exception, none of them are killed off or driven mad or really do anything except bicker with each other and try to escape their captors. And if you are looking for something more than TV-show acting chops, you are out of luck on that front too. The only moment that really does work is a scene where the deranged Santiago is wracked with distraught over the decapitation of one of his mannequins, who he believes to be a real woman. These little snatches of actual goodness are few and far between with most of the plot-points being not only ridiculously far fetched (how exactly do you abduct six hundred and sixty-six people from the same patch of woods without raising a single eyebrow?), but many are so predictable that you'll know exactly what is going to happen 20-30 minutes before the filmmakers jump out from behind the sofa and yell “surprise!”

At first I was a little peeved that Lovecraft’s name is proudly displayed in the credits and in the promotion while Alemán instead decides to pilfer from other sources. Lovecraft’s work is rich with material that can be translated to film, there is no need to ineptly ape SAW (2004) or anything else for that matter. On the other hand, we have seen some very entertaining films in the past that use Lovecraft as a mere springboard for some inspired lunacy. The aforementioned HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is a great example. It really doesn't have a whole lot to do with Lovecraft at all, but if you had to quantify the one thing that makes Lovecraft Lovecraftian, it would be atmosphere and HOUSE has it by the gallon. Even if it only has the barest of Lovecrafts trappings. Unfortunately for us, Alemán manages to conjure some up some chiaroscuro, but makes sure that it is well used for dialogue scenes and little else. The underground caverns are also remarkably well lit. It must have taken days to set up the lighting and... oh, wait, they're CGI. Never mind.

In addition to being blandly presented, the paltry few scenes that are supposed to have shocks are done without any subtlety or style. The zombie-like creature that was summoned during the séance in the beginning (or in the first film) is shown well lit and openly and for so long that the viewer has plenty of time to notice the flaws in the make-up (seriously, with all their abundant use of cheap CG, you’d think they could have made it look like something other than a guy in a mask). On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s no spoiler to say that Cthulhu makes an appearance at the end (it is featured predominantly in the trailers, posters, and press material), and the way he (it?) is presented, it looks more fit for a video game than anything else. Like the zombie/demon creature, the over-exposure and the constant head-shots with the monster roaring spittle into the camera cheapens the whole effect and left me pining for the subtlety of THE CALL OF CTHULHU (2005) which pulled off, not only the whole Lovecraft thing, but summoned the great elder god from his eternal resting place beneath the sea with stunning results for a fraction of the budget and far fewer resources. As if that wasn’t enough, there are some moments in the end which might get a snicker or two out of the audience. If the fact that Cthulhu’s scale in relation to a human seems to slide drastically from shot to shot doesn’t get you, maybe the completely laughable botched human sacrifice scene will. Not that you won’t see that plot twist (like the rest) coming from miles away.

Just like everyone else, I am sucker when it comes to director’s cuts and extended versions of movies; more is better, right? I love seeing the stuff that the studio cut out of movies to bring down the running time so they can squeeze an extra screening into theater bookings, or an extended cut of some film that some philistine producers butchered to try to make the movie they wanted. This is a completely different animal. This is essentially a three hour movie that really should have been cut down to say, 120 minutes at most. The story arc starts in one place, wanders almost randomly around, forgetting to focus on the Lovecraft that brought them to the dance, gets sidetracked with ideas that probably should have been left out in the screenwriting process and finally ends up in some serious Eldritch fromage that would have been hokey if it had been in a video game. Matter of fact, the Xbox "Call of Cthulhu" video game offered up far more fleshcrawling Lovecraftian entertainment than this could ever hope to. The blasé delivery and numerous pointless subplots make this something that obsessive completists will want to check out, but otherwise is proof that like Franco, Spanish horror is still dead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The "Never Got Made" Files #67: BLOODY PULP (1982)

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."
– L.P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between (1953)

1982 might not seem that long ago.  But in Hollywood-years, 1982 might as well be a billion light years ago.  Back then, the film business hadn’t yet succumbed to the kind of distribution hegemony we see today, where something with a $10 million dollar budget is considered low-budget and major studios have an “independent film” label.  Nowhere was this more apparent than in the horror genre.  The slasher era was just beginning, and the horror genre had yet to fall into the abyss littered with sequels, remakes and remakes of sequels where it resides today. John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978) had become the most successful independent movie of all-time and a quick glance at any random Variety “Top 50 Box Office” listings shows independent productions such as SCARED TO DEATH (1981) and DEMON RAGE (1982) trying to following suit.  Ambitious and independent filmmakers, simply put, actually stood a chance when it came to getting a production both off the ground and into theaters.

Perhaps the biggest boost these self-reliant filmmakers got came from the early issues of Fangoria.  Entering into its fourth year in 1982, the growing horror film magazine certainly wasn’t above promoting the little guy, as evidenced by issues where they threw Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE (1979) or William Lustig’s MANIAC (1980) on the cover. Co-editors “Uncle” Bob Martin and David Everitt recognized not only the diversity within the genre, but championed the belief that the finest filmmakers started at ground level and outside of the studio system. This is mostly evident in the feature story about “The Grisly Independents” that adorned the cover of issue #17.  Penned by Martin, the article profiled three independent horror films in various states of production – monster madness THE DEADLY SPAWN, sorority slasher PRANKS (aka THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD) and horror anthology BLOODY PULP.

The original article (click to enlarge):

No doubt I read this piece back as a 7-year-old kid and, like a lot of readers, promptly forgot about it.  After all, of the three films profiled, BLOODY PULP seemed the furthest from completion (interestingly, both THE DEADLY SPAWN and THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD have seen DVD releases from Synapse Films in the ensuing years). The film didn’t register again on my brainwaves until earlier this year when poster Dave Jay asked about the film on the AV Maniacs message board.  Oh yeah, I remember that movie; the one with the black zombie that reminded me of SUGAR HILL (1974).  Being somewhat obsessed with films that never got made, I dug out my weathered issue of the magazine and read the one-page write up on the film.

As Mr. Jay mentioned in his post, there is absolutely zero information online about this film. Type it into Google and the only mention you will get is the aforementioned thread. Literally the only ink spilled on the film appears to be this nearly 30-year-old article.  That, my misguided brain said, is not acceptable.  Thankfully, the four filmmakers mentioned in the piece (Thomas Doran, Frank Farel, Brendan Faulkner and Paul Levine) had rather unique names and – with the help of Bill Picard, the Internet’s Greatest Detective – I was able to get in touch with BLOODY PULP co-creator Thomas Doran.  After probably saying to himself, “Who the hell is this weirdo asking about an unfinished film from 1982,” Doran responded to my initial email.  Genial and beyond helpful, Doran was not only willing to discuss the project, but he was also in touch with fellow co-creator Frank Farel.  Farel turned out to be as equally accommodating and both men agreed to share the story behind the story; the journey toward and the non-making of BLOODY PULP.

Like most filmmakers, Doran and Farel started their obsessions at a young age and horror figured in prominently into their youthful endeavors.

Video Junkie: Were you horror fans (movies, EC comics, etc.) growing up?

Thomas Doran: Yes, horror fan going back to the 50's. HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL for example, with Emergo, was great, 13 GHOSTS, BRIDES OF DRACULA, and all of those days in the theater. We literally lived in the theaters in those days. Not just horror of course, but there was always something good to see. Devoured Famous Monsters and Screen Thrills, et all.

Frank Farel: We were all what I can only call fanatical horror fans -- myself, seriously, from the age of 11 or 12 when I got a hold of the Boris Karloff memorial issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland. Movies and TV (Universal, Hammer & AIP classics, The Outer Limits, etc.), fiction (Lovecraft, Poe, Bradbury, Bloch, so many others), comics (EC & Warren) -- I eagerly absorbed it all. That's continued to this day.

VJ: What sort of background did you have in film-making leading up to BLOODY PULP?

TD: Been making films since I was 11. The typical kid takes on horror, superhero films. The usual thing every kid gets into when they start to make films so young. All 8mm (pre super 8); and then moved into 16mm when I was 16 and tried to make an Errol Flynn/Republic serial hybrid feature! What was I thinking? Never finished, but lots of film I still have - and frankly a couple of remarkable stunts - even for 16 and 17 year olds. Did some other things in high school, but drifted more into art and music in the 70's. Brendan brought me back into film in the 70's.

FF: I got my first super 8 camera as a Christmas gift when I was twelve. Instantly went out and made a vampire film. I was fortunate enough to attend a high school that offered a "Cinematography" class, which I took for two years, making two award-winning comedy shorts. I met Brendan Faulkner, then Tom Doran, through a summer school film class I at the State University at Purchase, New York.

It was during this time in the SUNY system under the tutelage of Roy Frumkes (DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD; STREET TRASH) that Farel and Faulkner learned an important lesson about the film business.  And, inadvertently, they received confirmation that their filmmaking was commercially acceptable as segments of a film they directed ended up opening the Italian import ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST, which distributor Aquarius Releasing ushered into theaters in 1981 under the more well-known moniker DOCTOR BUTCHER, M.D. (1980).

VJ: Can you tell me how your footage made it into the U.S. release of DOCTOR. BUTCHER, M.D.?

FF: Brendan and I had directed uncompleted stories for another unfinished horror anthology, TALES THAT WILL TEAR YOUR HEART OUT. Footage from both our sequences in TALES eventually showed up, much to our surprise, in the title sequences for the Italian zombie horror DOCTOR. BUTCHER, M.D.

TD: I was [partially] responsible for Aquarius getting a hold of the footage from Frumkes. I went to them to try and get funding for a project Frank and I were pitching. TALES came up in the conversation - they were mainly interested because of Wes Craven having directed an episode. There was talk of them finishing the film, and I put them in touch with Roy - with the proviso that I get to direct an episode. He laughed - it never happened, but they obviously got a hold of some of the footage and used it - strangely, neither Frank nor Brendan, who directed the used footage, received screen credit.

FF: To supplement what Tom already said -- yes, Roy Frumkes sold the TALES footage to Aquarius Releasing honcho Terry Levine without the knowledge of Brendan Faulkner, myself or anyone else (including investors) connected to the production. Aquarius changed the title ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST to DOCTOR BUTCHER, M.D. because the original title was too similar to CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which had then recently been in theaters. This was some time after Terry had mulled over financing the completion of TALES -- and Roy informed me he didn't want to do business with Levine because he didn't trust him. I assume this changed when a cash offer for a couple of minutes of footage was made.

Frumkes, to our disbelief, gave himself sole screen credit - though all footage used was created entirely by Brendan and myself. We found out retroactively and, needless to say, were not pleased - though I must say it was kinda cool having my "big screen debut" with footage I'd directed at the age of 19. I remember seeing it in one of the 42nd Street grindhouses.

Knowing that their work was up to snuff for the discerning crowds on America’s most infamous movie-going street, the filmmakers set about on starting their own feature.  As part of a filmmaking collective, the four men decided to attempt an anthology.  Long a favorite format of horror fans due to classics ranging from DEAD OF NIGHT (1945) to Amicus’ TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972), the anthology would provide the best route for all four filmmakers to showcase their talents.  Interestingly, independent horror mainstay George A. Romero was filming an anthology, CREEPSHOW (1982), at the same time as our fledgling filmmakers, proving they had their finger on the pulse of the genre.

VJ: How did the BLOODY PULP idea come about?

FF: The earliest framework for this anthology concept went under the title FREAK SHOW, with an introduction and bridging sequences at a carnival sideshow. With the change to BLOODY PULP I wrote a surrounding story involving a trio of criminals fleeing a robbery, finding refuge in a decrepit book store filled with crumbling old pulp magazines where the oddball owner provides intros to the various stories.

VJ: What was the budget on this feature?

TD: I have no memory of that to be honest. The one episode filmed was around $5,000 up till the point it ended - though that would have gone up of course just for that episode. It wasn't really budgeted - at some level, when films are so cheap, you film with whatever scraps of coin you come up with. If you thought about it too hard, nothing would have gotten done, ever.

Voodoo priestess & her zombie
FF: I don't think there ever was a real budget on paper. We were shooting the first episode "Double Cross" with financing supplied by its original director [Paul Levine], who also owned some camera equipment. Costs were usually pretty contained.

VJ: In the Fangoria profile piece, it is mentioned that “Double Cross” was put on hold. Did this segment ever get finished?

TD: Never finished.

FF: "Double Cross" was halted when we parted ways with its original director, but our intentions were to continue with the project. Several sequences having already been shot, it was briefly decided that I would complete this episode. I even did a rewrite of the script with that in mind.

VJ: Where were the finished portions filmed?

TD: We filmed at a state park in upstate New York (for the scenes involving a Caribbean island of all things); where we transported, by rented truck, the "ruins" of an ancient stone temple that I designed and built - in order to film in the middle of a very long night. A very dark night too. We also filmed at an airport in Connecticut. We filmed with a 1947 seaplane in Montrose or Buchanan, New York for scenes, again, of one of the characters escape, with a corpse, from the temple scene. Filmed at a funeral home in Port Chester, New York.

Farel filming at the funeral home
FF: As mentioned by Tom, we did some scenes at a large funeral home in Port Chester, New York where a mortician (and film-making enthusiast) friend of ours allowed us to film. He and his family also lived there. Perfect location for what we were doing. Lovely interiors and access to the embalming chambers.

VJ: If you can recall, what were the titles of the two other segments?

TD: I can't remember either. Brendan or Frank might possibly know.

FF: I don't remember the titles either. Brendan's, I believe, involved a secret society composed of ghouls.

Faulkner zombie art for
his unfilmed segment
VJ: Did either of these segments or the wrap-around get started filming?

TD: No, all written, some story-boarded; production design, etc., but no filming.

FF: As Tom said, nothing but portions of "Double Cross" made it before the cameras

VJ: Any interesting anecdotes about the film (casting, filming or reactions from folks who saw some of it)?

TD: The ruins of the ancient "stone" temple caught on fire in the middle of the night - but that was probably the only really exciting thing that happened of any interest. On one other occasion, one of the actors, determined NOT to run into the whirling rear blade of the sea plane (a smart idea), instead ran into the wing, knocking him senseless. But we have that on film at least.

FF: The burning of the ancient temple is also my own major memory of the production. An all night shoot at Bear Mountain State Park, miles off the main road in the middle of nowhere with deafening gas generators for power. I don't even recall us getting permission to shoot. As dawn rolled around the "stone pillars" (spray-painted aluminum foil over flimsy frames. Surprisingly good illusion!) caught fire and burned to the ground before the night's filming was completed.

BLOODY PULP "Double Cross" storyboards

VJ: What kept BLOODY PULP from being finished?

TD: The answer, most simply put, was the usual - money, and some on-set kookiness that often bedevils films. On micro-budget films, that can be deadly as there's little fallback room. We were shooting on film, so, costs were not so low - even on the cheap, if you know what I mean.

Ultimately, the “temporary hold” that the filmmakers put on the project turned into a permanent one.  As mentioned in the article, Doran, Farel and Faulkner went to work as film doctors on another New York film named BLOODSHED (ultimately re-titled and released by Troma as IGOR AND THE LUNATICS).  The trio would re-team one more time for producer Michael Lee on TWISTED SOULS, which eventually came out as SPOOKIES.

VJ: Did the work on BLOODY PULP lead to the job for TWISTED SOULS/SPOOKIES?

TD: No, not at all. Initially Brendan and I went to work on a film called BLOODSHED (IGOR AND THE LUNATICS once Troma got a hold of it); we were consultants at first, then did some writing, lighting, and directing of the film - we also ended up acting in it. It consumed a lot of time - but was fun. Met a lot of great folks. It's a really nice memory. This happened concurrently with BLOODY PULP.

What we did after that was make a very elaborate show-reel for a feature we wanted to do called HELLSPAWN. It was very ambitious - lots of effects work, floor effects and optical; set pieces; demon monster suits, even sword fights for God's sake; special make-up effects, and more; all to attract potential backers. That footage was seen by the backer who in the end got us all involved in TWISTED SOULS - but that was in no way related to HELLSPAWN conceptually - which was a much better script to be sure. We didn't have a lot of control over the story elements of TWISTED SOULS - story concepts and set pieces were essentially dictated to us by the financial backer - and we tried to turn that into something interesting, but it ended up as something not very original at all. We tried, tied hands and all, but we would have made a far nicer film if we had been allowed to do HELLSPAWN.

FF: As Tom more or less relates, what really kept us from completing BLOODY PULP was that other projects came along. Most filmmakers are generally writing and pushing several projects at once and are usually ready, out of necessity, to jump ship for the most promising opportunity. And yes, HELLSPAWN would have been a much better movie than SPOOKIES.

For anyone wondering exactly how BLOODY PULP might have looked, they can turn their attention to SPOOKIES. As mentioned in the article, Doran’s proposed segment (“Deadlier Than the Male”) dealt with a woman who was literally a man-eater.  Unable to resist such a delicious concept, Doran carried over portions of his PULP story into the monster heavy TWISTED SOULS.

VJ: Did the man-eater story work its way into TWISTED SOULS/SPOOKIES (the spider woman)?

TD: The Spider Woman in TWISTED SOULS was a direct offshoot from BLOODY PULP. The design was initially the same as well, but got changed during TWISTED SOULS - and frankly, not necessarily for the better. But a lot of people seem to like it.

Spider minion artwork
by Simon Deitch:

Spider minion artwork
by Thomas Doran:

In the end, BLOODY PULP was a movie not to be.  Post-shutdown, the Doran-Farel-Faulkner trio remained active in film with the aforementioned BLOODSHED (aka IGOR AND THE LUNATICS) and TWISTED SOULS (aka SPOOKIES). Doran has remained busy using his considerable artistic talents to do storyboards and design props.  He has also worked steadily in industrial videos and recently completed the rock band documentary MOTHER OF MERCY, IS THIS THE END OF DOUBLESPEAK? (2011).  He is also actively developing a new horror film based on the Sawney Bean story and more info on that can be found here.  Farel would go on to be the Associate Producer on the cult classic STREET TRASH (1987) and currently is a writer-producer-director at Soundview Broadcasting.  And a few years after TWISTED SOULS, Faulkner would also direct the feature THE KILLER DEAD (aka NON-VEGETARIAN ZOMBIES FROM OUTER SPACE), which is currently unreleased.  Despite continued careers in the entertainment industry, the BLOODY PULP still sits in Doran and Farel’s minds.

VJ: Ever have any thoughts of tackling the material again?  Or releasing what you did film?

TD: I actually, in a moment of madness, suggested to Frank and Brendan that we should do an anthology film and use the same title - it's a decent title actually for that type of film - but not necessarily to use any of the original concepts. Certainly not any of the original 1981 footage (after all neither Frank, Brendan or myself directed any of “Double Cross”) - but we didn't give it any really serious consideration.

FF: As Tom says, no thoughts of trying to do anything with the old material, though the title really does deserve a movie.

*Special note: All of the still images from the BLOODY PULP shoot were shot by Thomas Sciacca.  Also, several years after this post, The Dissolve did a detailed breakdown on the making of SPOOKIES, which is definitely recommended and can be read at this link.