Fight for Your Life (1977)

The racist language used by William Sanderson — yes the guy from TV’s Newhart — as he attacks a black family is probably why this movie ended up as a section 1 video nasty. I first discovered this movie thanks to Cinema Sewer, which is where I learned of many a disreputable film.

Sanderson plays Kane, a hate-fuelled racist who somehow has found it in his heart to break out with an Asian man and a Mexican fellow, so there’s that. They break into the home of kindly Ted Turner (Robert Judd, who was Scratch in the non-Britney Crossroads) and proceed to use every racist term in the book when they aren’t beating down the black family.

Director Robert A. Edelson refused to do a commentary track when this was re-released by Blue Underground but he was kind enough (I guess) to an interview in Steven Thrower’s Nightmare USA in which he re-watched the film with his maid Dorothy. So…yeah. He only made one other movie, The Filthiest Show in Town.

Much like how the old Mom and Dad theatrical showings used to divide up audiences, the marketing of this film had black and white versions, including the title Staying Alive that was just for black audiences and unique trailers for each race. There’s also a trailer that’s just a still photo with no sound at all for thirty seconds, then the title and rating. Wild.

Many of the video nasties seem quaint today, as you ask yourself, “Why did they ban this?” This is the kind of virulent piece of hate that wouldn’t even get near a screen these days. Sure, it ends up with the catharsis of seeing the criminals pay for all of the verbal and physical terror that they unleash, but man…getting there is none of the fun.

Flesh for Frankenstein AKA Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (1973)

Joe Dallesandro is one of those nexus points for so many movies and parts of culture that I love. Born to a Navy man and a mother who was serving fifteen years in a federal pen for auto theft by the time he was five, Joe went from foster homes to knocking out his high school principal and stealing cars just like his mom. He got shot in the leg and when his dad took him to the hospital, the cops arrested the fifteen-year-old and sent him to the Catskills, specifically the Camp Cass Rehabilitation Center. He escaped within a few months and made it back to New York City where he went from nude modeling to being the star of Warhol’s films.

After roles in Lonesome Cowboys, Trash, Heat and Warhol’s two monster films, Joe decided to stay in Europe where he made all sorts of movies in all the sorts of genres that I love. Yeah, there’s the American The Gardener, as well as Serge Gainsbourg’s Je t’aime moi non plusSavage Three, Killer NunMadnessLe Marge with Sylvia Kristel and many more. He even shows up somehow in Theodore Rex. Yes, the same man whose bulge is on the front of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers and the cover of The Smiths’ first album was in a movie about dinosaur cops.

Anyways, this is the movie that Joe, who never once gave it away, came to Italy to make with Paul Morrissey.

Baron von Frankenstein (Udo Kier) has made his sister Katrin his wife, yet ignores her as he works to create the perfect human being, going through corpses to men and women to craft his Serbian ideal. You know, when he isn’t literally having sex with the body parts of dead women while shouting, “To know death, Otto, you have to fuck life… in the gall bladder!”

He wants Nicholas (Dallesandro) to be the body for his creature, but he escapes and makes his way to the castle, where he begins to satisfy the Baroness. Once she reveals the fact that she only cares about herself, she betrays him and in return is given what she really wants: The opportunity to have sex with the Baron’s creation, who responds by loving her to death. Another even more graphic scene happens when lab assistant Otto literally screws the guts out of the female monster (Dalila Di Lazzaro, Phenomena) causing the angry Dr. Frankenstein to kill him.

I kind of dig that the end of this film echoes both A Bay of Blood and Manson’s quote about “These children that come at you with knives — they are your children” by having the Frankenstein children holding scalpels that they will either use to help or to hurt. The movie doesn’t tell you what happens next.

That A Bay of Blood comparison is easier to make when you realize that one of the kids is played by one of the adorable and murderous kids from that movie, Nicoletta Elmi. In the 70s, if you wanted a frightening Italian red-headed child, you went with Nicoletta, who also appeared in Baron BloodWho Saw Her Die?Deep Red and many more. She also played the red-head usher in Demons when she grew up.

Despite his name being on this film, Andy Warhol’s contributions were minimal. He may have visited the set once and looked at the editing for a brief moment. Perhaps a more involved talent was Antonio Margheriti — Anthony Dawson — who claimed to have directed some of the film. He may have just been there so that the film could claim to be Italian, as it would need a director from the country to obtain Italian nationality for the producers.

The Beast In Heat (1977)

I have no idea who this section 1 video nasty was made for. It presents a world in which all of Europe feels stretched across ten city blocks, where German soldiers have Southern redneck accents and Dr. Ellen Kratsch (Macha Magall, Private House of the SSThe Daughter of Emanuelle) believes that her creation — the titular beast (Salvatore Baccaro, who used the amazing stage name of Boris Lugosi in Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks; his IMDB acting roles are often things like “Neanderthal Man” and “Neanderthal Prisoner” and “Lupo cattivo” which means “Bad Wolf”) — can help her move upward in the German army hierarchy by assaulting female prisoners one at a time and being dosed on large quantities of Germanic Spanish Fly.

I’m not saying it’s a good plan. It’s a plan. It’s just…I have no idea how it’s scaled for success.

Also known as SS Hell Camp, SS Experiment Part 2 and Horrifying Experiments of SS Last Days, this is a movie that knows that it doesn’t have much to offer the world in terms of art, so it piles on the mayhem, like people’s fingernails being ripped clean off and a monster that seems to subsist on a diet of pubic hair.

Director Luigi Batzella started his career directing The Devil’s Wedding Night alongside one of our site’s patron saints, Joe D’Amato. He also made Nude for SatanKaput Lager – Gli ultimi giorni delle SS (Achtung! The Desert Tigers) and Strategia per una missione di morte. He directed this movie under the name Ivan Kathansky, which suggests the menace of Russia telling us of the doings of the last war, I guess.

Using war scenes cut from Batzella’s 1970 film Quando suona la campana (When the Bell Tolls), the lone American on hand is Brad Harris as the priest who everyone wants to either make love to or kill, but he’s too busy trying to ask God what to do. I mean, your enemies do stuff like throw babies in the air and machine-gun them as well as place rats on a woman’s stomach and then have a metal chamber heated so the rats eat through their victim. But by all means, ask God what the right thing is to do.

Unlike most of the video nasties that concentrate on sadistic sex, this one didn’t upset me because it’s just so patently ridiculous, so clumsily made and, well, so driven to entertain you by any means possible and necessary.

You can get this from Severin and it comes complete with the great documentary Fascism On A Thread – The Strange Story of Nazisploitation Cinema and an interview about this genre with Stephen Thrower, who is always beyond insightful.

The Black Room (1982)

Elly Kenner was born in Israel and went from working in the advertising industry and movies to creating documentaries about healing, channeling and mysticism.

Norman Thaddeus Vaine wrote the Herman’s Hermits film Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, as well as Lola — which has a romance between a forty-something porn writing Charles Bronson and a teen-something Susan George in which seems like the most male fantasy movie of all time* — and directed Shadow of the Hawk and Frightmare.

Together, they would make The Black Room, a movie made at the very start of the AIDS crisis and the end of the free loving 70s. The world was about to get very different. And this movie is about to get very weird.

Larry (Jimmy Stathis) has decided that married life is dragging him down, so he rents a room somewhere in the Hollywood Hills from brother and sister Bridget (Cassandra Gava, who was the sorceress who made love to Arnold in Conan the Barbarian) and Jason (Stephen Knight, Necromancy).

Jason has a rare blood disorder which means that he must constantly get blood transfusions, but perhaps he’s something more than human. After all, he and his sister have been capturing Larry’s partners and using them for their blood. And oh yeah, they’re watching him couple with them, too.

Much like the need for blood, Larry has a need to be with other women. And he loves telling his wife Robin (Clara Perryman) his fantasies while they’re in bed together and she goes along with the game until she learns that this is more than a fantasy. And now, once she discovers the secret apartment that her husband has, she rents out her own place within the mansion.

Now, she’s not getting just the stories. She’s living them with Jason. Of course, when her husband discovers what’s happening, he’s enraged that she’s giving herself to others and demands that they both stop. But can you stop taking drugs and live a normal life when you’ve had the rush of kink and secrets?

But now, Jason and Bridget are exacting their own penalty on the couple by taking their children. And even if they can die, the twosome keep returning to the dead, because as Robin wonders, “Can people like that ever die?”

Is this a furniture movie? Just look at the black room itself: black velvet curtains, wax candles burning and that table that looks like it’s glowing? Sexy, right? Well, one thing is for sure: this is a section 3 video nasty, a movie that lingers on scenes of needles and track marks and blood.

The thing is, in the hopes of getting back to the sexual life they had before kids and suburbia, our protagonists must be unwilling accessories to the murders of prostitutes, all blood for the veins of someone whose own source has become contaminated. You know, I kind of would prefer this film if it never was supernatural and was just creepy, with a brother and sister who sleep with one another suddenly dating a married couple who they drag deeper and deeper into hell.

Two more reasons to love this: an impossibly. young Linnea Quigley as the couple’s babysitter and an incredibly youthful Christopher McDonald — yes, Shooter McGavin — as the college student who watches Larry take his woman while he writes about it for his doctoral thesis because, yes, the 70s.

The copy that I found is as dark and beat up as it gets. And you know, I might love that this is how I’m watching this instead of a pristine blu ray botique reissue because I’m seeing something that so many have watched over and over, battering the original until what ended up online was the last  media itself’s last gasp.

In Nightmare USA — thanks to Hidden Films for bringing this up — Vane revealed that The Black Room was based on his real life, as he cheated on his wife in his own black room with Penthouse centerfolds that he met while working at that publication. Wow, huh?

*It’s totally based on Vane’s life, as he married 16 year-old model Sarah Caldwell in the mid-1960s when he was 38.

Wrong Way (1972)

Made under the title Bad Scene, the British cuts to this movie took out fifteen minutes of footage, taking the film’s total down to under an hour. I can completely imagine what they cut, as this movie  has multiple assault scenes that last so long that they become an actual assault on the viewer.

Two girls named Nancy and Kathy (Laurel Canyon and Candy Sweet) are on their way home when their car breaks down, which leads to them getting attacked by drug-addled hippies, soon followed by a Satanic cult who also abuses them and then plans on killing them. That’s it, that’s the movie. Some movies push past the actual act of sexual violence and concentrate on the revenge or the escape, but this one and done by director Ray Williams.

So once the cult kidnaps them, you’d think that the cops would find them or get invovled, right? No because now we move to another story where a female heroin addict is kidnapped, assaulted and sent to Mexico before the cops forget Nancy and Kathy and rescue her.

There’s a biker named Crabs because he has crabs. This is utter garbage and not in the right way. I have no idea who thought they could release this movie in the UK in the early 80s and it kind of makes every other movie in the section 3 video nasty category look positively classy and well-made by comparison. Horrible.

Grimms Märchen von lüsternen Pärchen (1969)

Also known as The New Adventures of Snow White, this sex farce is part of the career downward trajectory of Rolf Thiele, who had once been a mainstream director, but increasingly found himself making lower-budget sex comedies. It’s all about Snow White (Marie Liljedahl, who was Eugenie in Eugenie…The Story of Her Journey into Perversion), Cinderella (Eva Rueber-Staier, who was General Gogol’s assistant Rublevitch in the films The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy) and Sleeping Beauty having a series of adult adventures.

There’s also a dude in a bear suit.

As for the evil queen, she’s played by Ingrid van Bergen, who famously shot her lover dead in 1977 and was released five years later to continue being a star. She also was in the Edgar Wallace adaption The Avenger and The Vampire Happening.

A section 3 video nasty, this is a pretty tame film other than the scene where one of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters literally slices her heel off to fit it into the glass slipper. Wow. That even took me a second to get over. Well done, silly sex comedy from 1969.

Human Experiments (1979)

Rachel Foster (Linda Haynes) is a country singer making her way through the United States who gets caught in the clutches of bar owner Mat Tibbs (Aldo Ray, paging Bill Van Ryn). As she hurries to escape, she wrecks her car and walks into a murder scene that she gets blamed for by Tibbs’ brother, the town’s Sherriff (Jackie Coogan).

If this was any other decade than the 70s, this would be the story of her escape. But nope, the 70s were nothing if not relentlessly downbeat. And scummy. Which is kind of what you expect when a movie ends up being a section 2 video nasty. Geoffrey Lewis excels at playing Dr. Kline, the villain of all the many villains in this film.

Director Gregory Goodell moved on to make TV movies after this which makes perfect sense. Sadly, Haynes quit acting and didn’t resurface until Quentin Tarantino started looking for her.

You can get this from Ronin Flix.

The Evil (1978)

Psychiatrist C.J. Arnold (Richard Crenna) has bought an abandoned Civil War mansion that was built over hot sulfur pits, which seems like it may instantly be an issue beyond the fact that, you know, the house is totally haunted. But sure, why not turn it into a place where drug addicts can cold turkey sweat out all the stuff in their systems.

His wife Dr. Caroline Arnold (Joanna Pettet, who had lunch with Sharon Tate the afternoon of her death) is able to sense that there’s something wrong, so she heads to the basement and unleashes it because, well, we wouldn’t have a movie otherwise.

And what a movie we have, with people spontaneously combusting, dogs suicidally knocking Cassie Yates (Rolling Thunder, Sarah Curtis on Dynasty) off a balcony, people sawing off their own hands, Mandy Pepperidge being abducted by some kind of ghostly entity, bodies coming back from the dead, said entities ripping clothes off of women, Andrew Prine drowning in quicksand and Victor Buono as the devil.

Shot at the Montezuma Castle in Las Vegas, New Mexico — a one-time health spa and retreat that became a Jesuit college that had fallen into decay — The Evil is yet another dependable movie by Gus Trikonis. Between this, Nashville GirlThe SidehackersMoonshine County ExpressShe’s Dressed to Kill and Take This Job and Shove It, his name guarantees that I’ll be totally entertained.

The Evil is a section 3 video nasty and totally earns it. You can watch this on Tubi.

Royal Jelly (2021)

Sean Riley is the the principal of Benndale Elementary School in George County, Mississippi by day, but by night, he wrote and directed this movie all about a school outcast who becomes a human bee groomed to be the next queen of the hive. This is his second full-length movie after 2017’s Fighting Belle, in which a Southern belle left at the altar becomes a boxer.

This is a movie rich in bees and the honey they help produce, as nearly all the main character’s names are the names of wildflowers which bees pollinate and the term royal jelly refers to the secretion produced by glands of the hypopharynx in nurse honey bees. This is fed to all the lavrae as they grow, but mostly saved for the future queen bee as she rests in her cell within the hive.

The film’s heroine is Aster, who is that most rare of combinations — so rare I’ve never heard it it before — known as the goth beekeeper. That means that nobody likes her at school at all and she’s treated worse at home thanks to her new stepmother and stepsister, who have taken her father’s attention away from her.

Luckily — or perhaps not for the victims in this film — a new teacher comes to the school that loves bees just as much as her. And she takes in our protagonist after her stepsister and friends crush all of her hives.

This is a horror movie, so this isn’t about an older teacher grooming a sensitive young girl to the Sapphic delights of the world. That would be an Italian movie from 1978 or somesuch. This is a direct-to-streaming video in which someone grows fairy wings and fangs as they become a human bee and get their stinging revenge.

So yeah. It’s Carrie with bees and no revenge for the heroine. And it’s not the best bee movie even. That would maybe be Invasion of the Bee Girls. It’s also not anywhere as good as Phenomena, but very few movies are. There is a good idea here, but there’s not the budget or the follow-through to make it anything better than what it is. Some bees make delicious honey, others just sting you, but the pain eventualluy goes away.

Royal Jelly is available on demand from Uncork’d Entertainment. Visit the film’s official Facebook page to learn more.

Death Drop Gorgeous (2020)

Written and directed by Christopher Dalpe, Brandon Perras (who also played Tony Two Fingers, as well as doing the cinematography and editing) and Michael J. Ahern (who was Detective O’Hara), Death Drop Gorgeous presents a slasher world that we haven’t seen, well, nearly ever in the form: a campy, gay-positive glitter, makeup neon and booze-soaked — not to mention incredibly hilarious — murder saga.

Dwayne (Wayne Gonsalves) has just had a bad breakup, which brings him back home to Rhode Island and a place on the couch in the apartment of his friend Brian (Christopher Dalpe). As he pieces his life back together, he keeps moving somewhat backward, even getting his old bartending gig back, working at The Aut Haus alongside Tragedi (Complete Destruction), Janet Fitness (Matthew Pidge) and, perhaps most importantly, Gloria Hole (Michael McAdam), an aging drag queen who doesn’t draw in the young customers.

Unbeknownst to our hero, several club patrons and employees have already been killed and drained of their blood by a social hookup app using serial killer named The Vampire, with owner Tony Two Fingers paying off the cops to stay open. But when Brian goes missing — last seen getting into a cab driven by Linnea Quigley alongside Gloria — Dwayne starts keeping his eyes open.

I’ve never seen a movie where a man is killed with a meat grinder at a glory hole, directly followed by a scene with someone eating sausages, so this is quite obviously groundbreaking stuff. It’s even more amazing when you consider that most of the cast were non-actors and the movie was filmed almost exclusively in Providence on weekends over the course of a year and a half.

The film wouldn’t work if it was all comedy, so the slasher/giallo parts all work just as well if not better. That’s a testament to the work on screen.

I’ve always believed that determining that if a movie is a giallo or a slasher means answering a few questions: Do we care more about who the killer is than the killings themselves? Is there good music? And is there plenty of fashion? The answer to all of those questions is yes and I find it happily wonderful that the best two giallo-esque movies of the past decade — and the ones not slavishly bound to the conventions of the genre so much that they become pastiche — would be this film and Knife + Heart, two LGBTQ-positive films in a genre best known for gorgeous and fashionable women being killed in, well, gorgeous and fashionable ways.

That’s not to say that this movie is all Bava lighting and dubbed dialogue. It’s a movie onto itself, filled with high energy, hilarious dialogue and a creative team whose lack of experience surprised me, because unlike the majority of direct to streaming films that come to us, this feels like the kind of movie that I’d rush to the theater — well, you know, in any other timeline — to see.

That said, Death Drop Gorgeous will be released in select theatres and is also available on demand from Dark Star Pictures. If you want to know more, check out the official Facebook page.