2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 14: Graveyard Disturbance (1987)

14. SPOILED ALERT!: Watch something with grotesque eating in it. Or at least some expired food. Yuck.

I have a complicated relationship with Lamberto Bava. And by that, I mean that for every Demons, there’s a Devilfish. But then I realize that I kind of like Blastfighter, love Macabre and even kind of dig Delirium. I always give him another chance and I feel like someday, I won’t feel like Lamberto is going to let me down every time I see his signature on a film.

In July of 1986, Lamberto was hired to create five TV movies under the title Brivido Giallo (Yellow Thrill). Of course, none of these were giallo and only four got made: Until DeathThe OgreDinner with a Vampire and this film.

Originally titled Dentro il cimitero (Inside the Cemetery), this spoof of Italian horror is about five twnetysomething teenagers who make a bet with an entire town — which is literally referred to as the kind of place from An American Werewolf In London — to see if they can survive one evening inside a series of catacombs. Not only are there zombies and vampires in there, there’s also death itself.

It all starts off with plenty of promise, as our gang of young punks has the most 80s van ever, complete with an image from Heavy Metal, U2 and Madonna. After the crew shoplifts, they go on the run and straight into supernatural trouble.

The person they’re stealing from? Lamberto. Which is only fair, as he uses this movie to rip off everything from — sorry, spoof or pay homage to — Carnival of Souls and Phenomena to his father’s Black Sunday and any number of zombie movies.

So where does the eating come in? Well, there’s one great scene in here where an entire family of multiple eyed creatures all dine on rotten food. This moment had to have inspired Pan’s Labyrinth, if only for Guillermo del Toro to try to make something good out of, well, another movie where Lamberto lets me down.

The Ultraman (1979)

Originally airing on Tokyo Broadcasting System from April 4, 1979 to March 26, 1980,  the fifty episodes of The Ultraman are the eighth story of Ultraman and take place four years after Ultraman Leo’s adventures.

The first animated version of Tsuburaya’s iconic superhero, The Ultraman was one of the earliest cartoons from Sunrise, which is better known for the other cartoon they released the same year as this, Mobile Suit Gundam.

At some point in the 21st century, the Earth Defense Forces form the Science Guard Agency led by Captain Akiyama. Their goal is to solve the strange glowing objects in the form of letters from an unknown language that are appearing in the sky. Earth Defense Forces member Choichiro Hikari is making his way back to Earth to join the team when he encounters and bonds with Ultraman Joneus.

Beyond the monsters, the bad guys are the Heller Empire, a renegade faction of Ultra People who have learned how to use the Ultra Mind for evil.

If you’ve seen this before in America, it may be because it was condensed into two movies, 1981’s The Adventures of Ultraman and 1983’s Ultraman II: The Further Adventures of Ultraman. The fourteenth episode also aired on New York superstation WOR as part of their Japan Tonight! seven-hour event which was hosted by noted Japanese actor Telly Savalas. I kid, I kid.

Sponsored by Bandai, the episode was introduced by Japanese actress/author/talk show host Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, who told American audiences that Ultraman was “very, very popular in Japan. He’s like your Superman.” Plenty of geeks like me knew all about Ultraman, as the show aired in syndication here from 1966 until the mid 80s.

Now you can get the entire series — all in one gorgeous package — from Mill Creek. I love that they’ve been putting so much love into these releases. They also look incredible all sitting on one shelf.

You can buy this set from:

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 13: Alison’s Birthday (1981)

13. THE RUBY ANNIVERSARY: Watch something that came out in 1981. The redder the better, right Ben?

How many movies have I seen from 1981? I mean, has there ever been a better year for movies? PossessionScannersEvil DeadEscape from New YorkHeavy MetalDead and BuriedJust Before DawnThe House by the CemeteryEyes of a StrangerAn American Werewolf In LondonButcher, Baker, Nightmare MakerHell Night, Mystics In Bali, even Carnival Magic. Ahh — also Dark Night of the ScarecrowPiranha 2AbsurdDemonoid, MadhouseMy Bloody ValentineThe Monster ClubShock TreatmentNight SchoolThe BeyondThe Other HellHappy Birthday to MeThe ProwlerThe FunhouseBurial GroundOne from the HeartDon’t Go Into the WoodsEvilspeakFear No EvilThe HowlingThe BeyondKnightridersLadies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous StainsRaiders of the Lost ArkHalloween II Friday the 13th Part 2Porky’sThe Road WarriorExcaliburBody HeatCannonball RunStripesThe BurningBlow OutThiefMs. 45Mommie DearestCannibal FeroxGalaxy of TerrorNighthawksInseminoidGhost StoryThe Pit Christiane F.RoarPennies from HeavenSharky’s MachineBloody MoonEnter the NinjaThe Incredible Shrinking WomanThe FanThe NestingThe Black CatNight of the WerewolfFirecrackerMad FoxesThe Man Who Saw TomorrowCentrespreadYears of the BeastHome Sweet HomeDead Kids and man, so many more.

1981 was a great, great time to be alive and excited about horror movies.

On the other side of the world, Australian folk horror was taking root, at least with this film, which starts with 16-year-old Alison playing with a spirit board and we all know just how well that works out in film. It doesn’t work out in minutes, not hours or days, as Alison’s dead father begins to warns her that ‘s she in trouble and that she shouldn’t go home for her birthday through possessing one of her friends, who is then killed dead when a bookcase falls on her.

Years later, Alison and her boyfriend visit her family, who instantly keep them apart and Alison begins having vivid nightmares. The plan is to keep slowly drugging and gaslighting them both, ending with the spirit of a demon named Mirna being moved from Alison’s grandmother into her body, as has been the tradition for two hundred years.

Director and writer Ian Coughlan also made Stones of Death and Cubbyhouse, another movie about devil worship that supposedly has a connection to this movie. I’ve heard that it’s near unwatchable and has Joshua Leonard from The Blair Witch, so I leave it up to some other brave soul to watch it. Who am I kidding — I’ll probably update this post sooner or later with my findings.

As part of the All the Haunts Be Ours box set from Severin, this modern folk horror will finally be seen by a larger audience. It may not be the fastest moving story, it may not have all the gore of the slasher yeat of 1981, but it has a definite dark mood that makes it unlike anything you’ve seen before, even if you know exactly where it leads. You can also watch it on Tubi.

Ultraman 80 (1980)

Mill Creek has been putting out some truly astounding Ultraman collections as of late and man, they look incredible on the shelf. Their latest set is Ultraman 80, the ninth show in the series and the last Ultraman show for 16 years.

After the 1979-80 animated series The Ultraman, Ultraman 80 returns to the Showa continuity, taking place after 5 years after Ultraman Leo. Takeshi Yamato, the new science teacher, is living a double life as a member of the elite UGM (Utility Government Members), an earth defense organization. He’s also the 50 meter tall Ultraman 80.

Well, at least for the first 13 episodes, when he joins the UGM full-time. Over the fifty episodes, the team fights kaiju including Crescent, Gikogilar, Zandrias, Alien Bam, Devilon, Robo-Fo, Delusion Ultraseven and so many more.

While not as well-known as other Ultraman shows, there are some interesting ideas here, such as the previously mentioned Delusion Ultraseven, which is created when a young child is attacked by a biker gang and uses his Ultraseven toy and plenty of rage to create an evil form of the hero that Ultraman 80 must fight.

There’s even a great ending when the UGM forces our hero and the alien princess who joins the team to stay out of the final battle, just to prove that humanity can defend its own planet. And while the gimmick of a kid creating or finding a new monster every show may get a little repetitive, you’re really coming here to see Ultraman 80 beat up all manner of kaiju, right?

Mil Creek has really put together a great looking set, complete with an episode guide that helps you learn who each monster is. I’m always amazed that I can now own full series of Ultraman, as I was so hungry for new episodes as a kid. The world really is an amazing place and this set is pretty great, too.

You can buy this set from:

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 6: The Fishmen and Their Queen (1995)

6. IT CAME FROM THE SEA: Some kind of threat from below the brine.

Sergio Martino can do no wrong. Seriously, even when he’s combining footage from Island of the Fishmen AKA Screamers and 2019: After the Fall of New York into one TV movie, I can’t be anything but entertained.

Two teenagers are stuck in the hell that is the end of all things, with radioactive waste everywhere and barely a chance to survive against the horse-riding, masked and completely berserk (and great) Exterminator Warriors. When an old man named Socrates and his magic dog Lampo take them to the island of the fish people — who are ruled by a stunning queen (Ramona Badescu, who also sang the movie’s theme song) — everything seems like it’s about to get better,

Man, I love the scene where one of the kids waves to one of the mer-men and they wave back in an action that was meant in anger in the original film.

Well, it turns out that the queen has enslaved the fishmen and is trying to destroy a masked dwarf that the kids save along with Selva the jungle girl, whose sister — and rightful queen of the island — has been turned into a wooden statue. That means that our heroes must set free the fishmen and save the transformed ruler.

This movie makes less sense than any other late-period Martino movie and I’m counting Uppercut Man and American Tiger in that. This is as dumb as it gets, ending with a spaceship leaving Earth for no reason other than there was no crane that lowered a god in either of the two movies strip-mined to make this one.

Speaking of American Tiger AKA American Rickshaw, the first time I went to Scarecrow, I wanted to see just how deep their library was. Even before Cauldron Films released the film on blu ray, Scarecrow had it on VHS. That made me believe in them.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Scream, Pretty Peggy (1973)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie originally ran on our site on March 8, 2018. We’re sharing it again as Kino Lorber has released it on blu ray and we’re beyond happy that more made for TV movies are coming out on home video and want people to buy and support the companies that are putting them out. This new release has a revised 2K master, commentary by Troy Howarth, a TV commercial and new art by Vince Evans.

The ABC Movie of the Week for November 24, 1973, Scream, Pretty Peggy was directed by Gordon Hessler, who was behind films as diverse as The Oblong Box, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park and Sho Kosugi’s introduction to the U.S., Pray For Death. It was written by Jimmy Sangster (who directed Hammer’s Lust for a Vampire and wrote The Curse of Frankenstein, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? and many more), so this film has a much better pedigree than you’d expect.

Peggy is a college student who wants to be an artist, so she applies for a job at the home of noted sculptor Jeffrey Elliott (Ted Bessell, TV’s That Girl) and his mother (Bette Davis!). Peggy is also one of the most annoyingly chipper heroines ever.

Let me give you some advice, in case you are a young girl and looking for a housekeeping job and find yourself in a 1970’s TV movie. If the house you’re working in has an Old Hollywood actress in it, run (refer back to my past rules of always avoiding Old Hollywood actors and actresses). And if you find out that there’s a room that you aren’t allowed to go into, don’t try and go into that room. Just get away as fast as you can.

Peggy is too dumb to do that. No, she finds all of Jeffrey’s crazy demon sculptures. And she meets George Thornton, whose daughter used to work in the house. And she runs afoul of Mrs. Bette Davis and you simply do not do that.

Turns out that Jessica, Jeffrey’s sister, is living in that room above the garage that Peggy isn’t allowed into. Again, get out. Now.

No, Peggy decides she wants to make a new friend. And what if that friend is really Jeffrey, who killed his sister and has split his personality with her inside his head?  Oh Peggy. You brought this on yourself.

Scream, Pretty Peggy is a fine little slice of 70’s TV movie thrills. Any time you have Ms. Davis deigning to be in a TV movie, you’re going to get something good. But seriously, I wish these girls would wise up. There are better things to do in this world than live in a house of maniacs!

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: The Victim (1972)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally watched this made for TV movie on April 3, 2018. We’re bringing it back because Kino Lorber has released it on blu ray — making us go wild because we’ve dreamed of a day when TV movies were commercially available — and we want you to get a copy for your collection.  Their release has a commentary track by the awesome Amanda Reyes, art by Vince Evans and a new 2K master.

If you ever wonder why I love my wife so much, I was watching this movie and she walked into the room, sat on the couch and excitedly remarked, “That’s Eileen Heckart!” Yes, Becca loves The Bad Seed. And she isn’t shy about it.

Director Herschel Daugherty’s directorial efforts run the gamut of TV’s classics, from Star Trek to Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThriller and The Six Million Dollar Man. He was even the dialogue director for Mildred Pierce!

Kate Wainwright (Elizabeth Montogomery, who you may know from Bewitched, but around here we celebrate her for her role in The Legend of Lizzie Borden) is coming to visit her sister, but unbeknownst to her, her sister is already dead. She has to deal with the increasingly crazy attention of her sister’s maid, Mrs. Hawkes (Heckart) as well as power outages and an increasingly more frightening storm. We soon learn that her sister already fired the maid and is planning on divorcing her husband, Ben.

While we see the sister get murdered at the beginning of the film, we never see the killer. What we do see is Kate go increasingly more and more afraid and Montgomery turns in an awesome performance.

The McKnight Malmar story this was based on was first filmed for a 1962 episode of Boris Karloff’s Thriller entitled The Storm, which was also directed by Herschel Daugherty. The Victim was rewritten by Merwin Gerard and doesn’t stick as close to the original story.
The ending of this movie might frustrate you. Or maybe you might enjoy it, as it never really lets up on the creep factor.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: The Screaming Woman (1972)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally reviewed this movie on January 1, 2021. Now Kino Lorber is releasing it on blu ray, complete with a new 2K master, commentary by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani and great new art by Vince Evans. I’m beyond excited to see more TV movies make their way to blu ray. Thanks Kino Lorber!

Jack Smight did some great directing, with his films No Way to Treat a LadyAirport 1975 and Damnation Alley being favorites of the B&S About Movies household. Here, he’s working from a short story by Ray Bradbury* and delivers a quick and suspenseful reminder that in 1972, TV movies could really get under your skin.

Olivia De Havilland plays Laura Wynant, a wealthy former mental patient who has gone to the country to continue healing. That’d be easier if she didn’t keep hearing the pleas of a woman who has been buried alive on her property. Arthritis has robbed her hands of the ability to save the woman and as she brings others in to help her, her family starts to think that she is losing her control over her sanity again.

Beyond scoring De Havilland, Joseph Cotten and Walter Pidgeon show up.

This is a movie that builds and builds its suspense and doesn’t let up. I may have said it before this week — and certainly will again — but they don’t make them like this anymore.

*Merwin Gerard wrote the screenplay. I’m a big fan of another TV movie he wrote, The Invasion of Carol Enders.

Blue Murder (1985)

It’s “films” such as Blue Murder that give our beloved SOV ’80s a bad reputation because, as with the lesson in apoc-tedium that is Survival: 1990, this inert John Carpenter knock off is just another mismarketed Canadian TV movie, a chunk of celluloid with the unmitigated, analog gall to dovetail its fast-forwarding poo-stank alongside our cherished, rightful SOV classics of Boarding House* (1982), Blődaren (1983), Copperhead (1983), Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984), Sledgehammer* (1983), Truth or Dare (1985), and Spine (1986).

Two covers, twice the Underoos stinkeroos.

You’ve been caveated, dear reader, for there is nothing worse than a shot-on-video Canadian TV movie masquerading as a legitimate “made for the home video market” slasher of the superior Christopher Lewis Blood Cult (1985) variety. So let’s unpack this loaded baby diaper. And don’t let the emptor hit you in the ass on the way out when you see this grindhouse aka’ing in the VHS marketplace as The Porn Murders. And if you’re wondering what the “Blue Murder” title means, well, Google “blue movies” to find that bit of marketing brilliance.

Don’t be Trans World Entertainment duped: The Clown Murders is another stinkeroo from 1976 reissued in the video ’80s (not) starring John Candy, as directed by Martyn Burke of The Last Chase fame.

Now, you’d think with a movie with a killer adorned in a dime store, plastic-elastic Clown mask hacking up porn filmmakers and actresses — leaving them with a clown-mask calling card on their faces — we’d end up with some serious shower-after-watching sleaze n’ gore. Well, we could have — if the “Roger Corman of Canadian,” William Fruet of Death Weekend (1976) fame, was at the bow of the U.S.S Argento. Or Shaun Costello of Forced Entry (1973) fame was second mate. Or Jim Sotos of that film’s remake The Last Victim (1975) was swabbin’ the decks, ye matey. Maybe if real-life porn makers Justin Simonds and John Howard of Spine fame were in the galley.

Be we digress, again.

So, to solve the crimes, the old “hard-nose homicide cop” and “intrepid crime reporter” trope (neither are hard-nosed nor intrepid, natch) spools from the master to slave sprocket as we see our killer clown fire a gun . . . then cut to the body falling to the floor. And this goes on for eight more bloodless killings — nary a boob in sight via POV Italian black-leather gloved hands clutching a silencer. Remember how Billy Eye Harper killed all of those people in Rocktober Blood (1984) — off camera? Yeah, it’s like that. Only there’s no Sorcery tunes aka’in as Head Mistress rockers to ease the boredom.

“Sexy, slick and bloodthristy — with an amazing surprise ending.”
— CVN Communications copywriter hornswogglin’

Oh, speaking of music: There’s an opening credits-glam rock theme, “Blue Murder,” but it’s not by the band of the same name Carmine Appice put together with John Sykes of Whitesnake and Tony Franklin of the Firm because, well, Carmine was too busy with King Kobra tunes masquerading as Damien-written tunes for Black Roses (1988) rockers. There’s another sappy-as-sentimental-ass love song “Madly in Like with You,” that’s not by Girlschool — and both songs should have been ditched for Kim McAuliffe and company’s “Screaming Blue Murder” and “Don’t Call it Love.”

“Okay, R.D. Enough with the ’80s heavy metal memories. Get back to the movie.”

Okay, well, the real band in the movie is known as One Life to Live. And don’t bother, as we already researched those never-was Cannuck non-rockers and there’s nary a QWERTY-character of web-Intel. But we do know that they’re not one of “Canada’s Top 20 Greatest Bands” . . . but Nickelback and Bare Naked Ladies? Oh, Canada, what the hell. Thank god Four Non-Blondes aren’t from the Great White North . . . but April Wine, is.

Hey, maybe if our killer dressed like a kitchen worker and had a beef with Entenmann’s and killed pastry chefs and left Jelly Roll calling cards. Then add in a couple Girlschool tunes — and (real life) porn actresses in schoolgirl outfits instead of friggin’ one-piece bathing suits with feather boas — and we’d be onto a sticky-sweet something.

I know, back to the movie . . . with the only online clip available . . . from Turkish TV. Yes, this made it across the ocean into Turkey.

So, eh . . . “The Porno Killer” is on the loose and attempts to harangue Dan Blake, our resourceful crime reporter, into covering his exploits . . . or more will die. So Dan consults with Lt. Rossey, his homoerotic-implied buddy-boy (e.g., the sitting-on-the-toilet-while-I-take-bubble-bath conversation) to sift through the so-not-giallo red herrings of mobster-cum-porn producers battling for each other’s 3/4-inch tape territory and corrupt cops on-the-porn take. Then there’s the one-eyed henchman and houseboys in the mansions and on the yachts of the porn producers. And don’t forget the Catholic Priest with a psychology degree explaining why someone would don a clown mask and hot-wire bombs to beds and wine bottles. (No joke: there’s bomb-wired libations.) There’s not even one of the 24th letters of the alphabet here, let alone three; but there’s a whole lot of Zzzzzz that take us to that “amazing” twist ending. . . .

Alas, the only “twist” we care about: Is the Jamie Spears starring here — in his only acting role as our intrepid reporter Dan Blake — really the father of Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears? The Magic 8-Balls of the web say, “YES” — but there’s nothing amid the web-myriad of Spears digital ephemera that states that fact. And I’m looking at both Jamie-stills and I’m not seeing the resemblance between the actor and the dad. If it is Brit’s pop — eh, is it — no wonder this was his only movie and he leeched off his daughters, aka he’s awful at acting. Really awful. And wouldn’t it have been funnier — and this film needed a dash of comedy, if anything — if the football jersey Danny-boy perpetually wears throughout the film was number “69” (yuk-yuk) instead of 66? Ah, but “66” is the numeric code for spooning . . . which makes Danny’s downward stare and Lt. Rossey’s leg hike in the tub even more distributing . . . jokes about sexually denied spherical objects in one of the three primary colors between violet and green, be damned.

“Oops, I’m lookin’ again.”

The name of Charles Wiener — considering the material — is no joke: he’s a real person who, after this writing and directing debut — wrote a Canadian not-Police Academy ripoff Recruits (1986) that only has the presence of Jon-Mikl Thor (Zombie Nightmare) to recommend it, as well as writing and directing the-Police Academy-set-inside-a-fire station-ripoff Fireballs (1989). Did you see Wiener’s Animal House-cum-Porky’s inversion, Screwball Hotel (1988)? Neither did we . . . DOH! We did? But if you’re a martial arts completionist and need a Canadian not-starring Jean-Claude Van Damme rip, there’s Wiener’s third and final directing effort, Dragon Hunt (1990), for your shelf. (No, I will not review the dogger that is Dragon Hunt, for I’ve choked down enough wieners for one day.)

Hmmmm. This sounds like another B&S About Movies gauntlet drop. But Sam never answered the Robert Clouse Gymkata (1985) challenge, so my Dragon Hunt throw down to complete the Wiener catalogin’ at B&S is for naught.

Okay, time for a nice cup of Green Tea and a slice of Entenmann’s Pound Cake, hold the crappy-ass Van Hagar not-a-pastry ode. Excuse me, could you pass a spoon? You’re lookin’ mighty fine in that numero “66” jersey, big fella.

Fork me, R.D. out.

* We are on the case with the well-deserved Boarding House and Sledgehammer for our “SOV Week,” so search for it. Use the search box, you lazy sod.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)

Fourteen years after When a Stranger Calls, this TV movie brings back Cheryl Wilson, Carol Kane and Charles Durning as Mrs. Schifrin, Jill Johnson and John Clifford, as well as director Fred Walton.

The opening of this movie is great. Julia Jenz (Jill Schoelen, an unsung scream queen) is babysitting when she hears a knock on the door. Smart enough to not let anyone in, she tells the man on the other side of the door that she can call a tow truck for him but won’t let him in. When she does try to call, the lines are cut and as she begins lying to the mysterious voice, she realizes that someone is coming in and out of the house. It’s too late — the children she was watching have been abducted.

Five years later and Julia is still traumatized, with whoever stole the children continuing to break into her apartment. She’s helped by counselor Jill Johnson, but the constant abuse causes her to try and kill herself with a self-inflicted head wound. Julia and John Clifford decide to figure out who the stalker is, a man who can throw his voice and has special makeup and clothing that allows him to blend into the walls of Julia’s apartment.

You can watch this on Tubi.