El Caballero del Dragón (The Knight of the Dragon) is the kind of movie that had to have slipped into reality as some kind of prank by the cosmic trickster. I mean, did you know that Harvey Keitel, Klaus Kinski, Fernando Rey and Spanish New Wave singer Miguel Bosé starred in a movie in which a knight tries to battle a dragon and ends up finding a UFO?
“He was a visitor from another world, an alien in medieval times. So they called him a Knight, and his spaceship, a Dragon.” I mean, the tagline for this movie spoils the idea, but that’s how it goes.
Also — Kinski is pretty much John Dee speaking to angels while the man who will one day clean the brains out of Vincent Vega’s car attacks a spaceship with a sword.
You can watch this on YouTube and tell me if it really exists. I’m still kind of amazed that it took me so long to find this. And we love Star Knight so much, we reviewed it twice; the first time was back in November as part of our 50-film review blowout of Mill Creek’s Sci-Fi Invasion box set. And we love Mill Creek for it.
Hopefully you joined us — and enjoyed — our “Fast and Furious Week” tribute during the first week of August as we honored the Universal franchise, along with its ripoffs and knockoffs, and the obscure and off-beat, rubber-burning drive-in epics from the ’50s through the ’80s that influenced the those films.
And guess what?
That 40-plus film blowout still wasn’t enough . . . as one car flick skidded into another, then another . . . and before we knew it, we had another 40-plus reviews. So, to get you ready for our second “Fast and Furious Week” to run from Sunday, December 6, to Saturday, December 12, we’re rollin’ out Elvis’s car racing trilogy.
Facts are facts: Elvis flicks served us heaping helpings of cheesy camp starring “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” in a wide array of professions. He was a convict, a boxer, a cowboy, a riverboat captain, a helicopter pilot, and a cowboy — who always found the time to sway his hips and sing his latest hits for a bevy of skintight, carpi-panted ladies. And road racing, be it stock cars, Grand Prix or road rally racers, was a hot sport in the ’60s. So why not place Elvis in a flame retardant suit, strap on a helmet, and slip him into a cockpit?
Viva Las Vegas (1964)
The best and most popular of Elvis’s race excursions was his role as Lucky Jackson. He’s a down-and-out waiter and aspiring racer who dreams, schemes, and parties with Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret) as he gathers up the cash to buy a new engine for his cherished Elva Mk VI Maserati so he can enter the First Annual Las Vegas Grand Prix. His man competition is mean ol’ Count Elmo Mancini and his Ferrari 250 GT. And Yep. That’s good ‘ol Uncle Charlie (William Demarest) from the iconic ’60s TV series My Three Sons as Ann’s pop.
And get this: the music and dance scenes were choreographed by David Winters . . . yes, the very same David Winters who gave us — wow, it’s not even a Star Wars dropping — the Battlestar Galatica pile that is 1988’s Space Mutiny.
Only on B&S About Movies, baby.
Poor Elvis. Col. Tom Parker never let The King rest. But in Col. Tom’s defense: he was a master at keeping Elvis in the spotlight while he was overseas serving in the military. After Viva Las Vegas, we got seven more films within a two year period: Kissin’ Cousins, Roustabout, Girl Happy, Tickle Me, Harum Scarum, Frankie and Johnny, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style.
This time out, El is Mike McCoy, a band leader moonlighting as a race car driver who must decide between breaking up with Cynthia Foxhugh (Shelley Fabares) or lose her father’s sponsorship for the big race. This time, El’s trades out his Elva Mk VI for a Cobra 427. And keep your eyes peeled for the eye pleasing ski n’ snow bunnies that are Diane McBain — who’s determined to steal Mike from Cindy — and crushed on by his band’s female drummer, played Deborah Walley.
MGM went all out for El’s third and final race flick, casting NASCAR stars Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Tiny Lund, and Cale Yarbrough in cameos — to help us forget we’re watching a film comprised of stock footage with El process-shot onto the race track. This time out, El is Steve Grayson, a stock racer who only has eyes for IRS Agent Susan Jacks (Nancy Sinatra) and sees his career going up in smoke thanks to bad bookkeeping courtesy of his manager’s gambling addiction. And keep your eyes open for Bill Bixby and ’60s drive-in warhorse Ross Hagan in support roles.
“We gotta win this race, Elvis!”
We’ll see you bright and early, 9 AM, on Monday, December 6th as we roll out a week of over 40 more road rippin’ and rubber burnin’ flicks, as well as a “Drive-In Friday” tribute to Drag Racing documentaries.
Griffin, a young boy in 14th century Cumbria is celebrated by the villagers because he is able to see visions that have protected them from the black death. But now, as other towns die around them, they are asking him to help dig a hole to the other side of the world. But what they find is a whole new Earth they never expected!
While melting and casting copper ore to build a gigantic cross to ask for God’s protection, the villagers make a hole that leads them to a ladder to 20th century New Zealand, which is the last place that you’d expect in a movie that has been set up to be an adventure in the past.
Much like The Wizard of Oz, the film stock changes to color as our adventurers find their way to our time, but despite being joined by the brave Connor, Griffin’s visions grow more grim.
Director Vincent Ward would go on to write Alien 3 and direct What Dreams May Come.
This is a really interesting, if off, taking on a medieval adventure. I’m interested to see what others think of this one, which you can watch on Tubi.
Barry Prima was one of the biggest stars of Indonesian cinema, appearing in several Jaka Sembung movies which were adaptions of a comic book, including Jaka Sembung (The Warrior), Si Buta Lawan Jaka Sembung (The Warrior Against Blind Swordsman), Bajing Ireng Dan Jaka Sembung (Jaka Sembung vs. the Ninja), Jaka Sembung Dan Bergola Ijo (Jaka Sembung and Bergola Ijo) and Jaka Sembung Dan Dewi Samudra (Jaka Sembung and the Ocean Goddess).
Also known as The Devil’s Sword, this is based on another comic and has a sequel as well, which is called Mandala Dari Sungai Ular (Mandala from the Snake River).
Once upon a time, as they say, an old man found a meteorite and forged it into a sword. Then he hid it until the time was right for its use. That time seems like right now, because the Crocodile Queen is kidnapping all the men of the village and turning them into her sex slaves, while still allowing them to steal women of their own.
Our hero floats around on a rock and has laser beams that can come out of his hands.
Our villainess is the only person in this whole country willing to admit that she gets horny.
Our monsters are goopy, gory and awesome.
And the sets? You’ll want to live within them.
For some reason, my week of sword and sorcery has had plenty of crocodile-themed enemies in it. I hope the universe isn’t trying to tell me something.
Have movies ever been as good before or since this one?
Nope. They haven’t.
The first of three Columbia Sinbad films, all boast the genius of Ray Harryhausen and his Dynamation stop-motion magic.
As we meet Sinbad and his crew, they’re helping a magician escape a towering cyclops. Things don’t get any easier — or less exciting — for them for the next 88 minutes.
Our hero (Kerwin Matthews) has the goal of marrying Princess Parisa (Kathryn Crosby) to bring peace between her father’s kingdom of Chandra and his homeland of Baghdad. But during the festivities, the sorcerer Sinbad saved portends of dark times to come and a war between Baghdad and Chandra. Unless he returns to Colossa, all is doomed. No one listens, so he shrinks Parisa, which means that Sinbad must go to Colossa to find the egg of a Roc, the only thing that can restore her.
What follows is an adventure packed with a dragon, a mutinous crew of criminals, a sword battle with a skeleton and a second and even more vicious cyclops.
Director Nathan Juran had already worked with Harryhausen on 20 Million Miles to Earth. The creature in that movie, the Ymir, had its model reused to create the cyclops in this film.
This is the kind of movie that’s ideal for a lazy and rainy Saturday. It’s filled with imagination and moves so quickly that you nearly want to watch it again the moment it wraps up.
For some reason, I’ve decided to see how Sinbad is treated all over the world, which means that I’ve now gone to Russia to watch Sadko, which was exported to the U.S. by Roger Corman in 1962. Ten minutes were cut, the movie was dubbed into English — the script adaptor was a young Francis Ford Coppola — and Sadko was renamed Sinbad. So perhaps I’m not watching Sinbad at all.
Actually, I’m not. I’m watching a Russian opera and here I thought this was going to have stop-motion creatures battling people. Instead, I’m watching the story of Sadko seeking the sweet bird of happiness, which is not a metaphor.
That said, this movie has some ingenuity, as the land of the Ocean King is obviously not underwater but all tricked out with in-camera special effects. I mean, there’s a moment where our hero rides a seahorse to escape.
While this doesn’t have the Harryhausen effects that the Sinbad title — American kids were fooled into seeing a Russian film in the midst of the Cuban Missle Crisis, so if there’s ever anyone as carny as Corman, you let me know — but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a spectacle.
Known in Italy as Sangraal, la spada di fuoco (Sangraal, the Sword of Fire), this is the first of two barbarian movies that Michele Massimo Tarantini made. For a director better known for his commedia sexy all’italiana films, this is pretty decent. By that, I mean that you have to have an affinity for Italian sword and sorcery. If you haven’t figured out that I do, well, now you do.
This also has the alternate name, Barbarian Master, which is a very metal movie name.
Sangraal (Pietro Torrisi, who started his career in peblum movies like The Ten Gladiators and ended it in sword and sorcery movies like Gunan, King of the Barbarians) is Sangraal, whose father’s kingdom has been decimated by the evil warlord Nantuk (Mario Novelli, Warriors of the Year 2072, Amok Train, Eyes Behind the Stars). He leads his people to a new land which is ruled by Belem (Luciano Rossi, whose career hits all of the Italian trends, from westerns like Django to the Eurospy Killer 77, Alive or Dead to giallo sich as Death Carries a Cane and Death Smiles at a Murderer and poliziotteschi, war films and exploitation in Salon Kitty).
Nantuk has become a king, yet the Goddess of Fire and Death* (Xiomara Rodriguez) demands more. Sangraal must die or Nantuk will lose everything. So he does what any madman usually does and crucifies our hero — hello, Conan the Barbarian — and forcing him to watch everyone in the village be killed**, including the Goddess personally murdering his wife. He’s saved by the archer Li Wo Twan (Haruhiko Yamanouchi, the only actor I know who has been in both Joe D’Amato and Wes Anderson movies) and Belem’s daughter Ati (Yvonne Fraschetti, Demons 2).
This movie actually has something to say about love, loss and grief, as a wizard tells Sangraal that he must give up on the memory of his dead wife and keep on living if he wants to defeat Nantuk, who is devoted to killing him. Then again, as you deal with these issues in your life, I doubt you will ever battle an evil king. That said, perhaps you’ll find something in this to help you.
You have to give it to the servants of Nantuk. When Sangraal challenges our antagonist to a duel to the death by the traditional rules — with no interference — they refuse to help, even when their leader demands they kill our hero. And then, they just let Ati go at the end.
This movie has taught me that goddesses can be killed, if you have a magic crystal crossbow.
Also — and perhaps most importantly — Sabrina Siani (who is pretty much the queen of these movies, thanks to appearances in The Throne of Fire, Ator the Fighting Eagle and, most importantly, her turn as Ocron in Conquest) is in this as the Goddess of Gold and Life.
This is why I watch movies, to be battered into happiness by Italian barbarians battling half-naked and fully naked evil beings.
If there’s a 12 step group for people who watch too many Joe D’Amato movies, well I should be the counselor, helping talk people off the ledge after they think they need to watch Erotic Nights of the Living Dead or Eleven Days, Eleven Nights or…hell, I can’t do it. For all people heap scorn on the movies of the man born Aristide Massaccesi, I find myself falling in love more and more with each movie.
There are four Ator movies and honestly, none of them need to be seen in order. The first, Ator the Fighting Eagle starts with our hero asking his father if he can marry his sister, at which point most people get grossed out and fans of Italian sleaze say, “Oh yes, this is a D’Amato movie.” Throw in a spider cult, Sabrina Siani as a thief and Black Emanuelle herself, Laura Gemser, as well as a script by Michele Soavi, and you have paradise on VHS tape.
The second Ator epic — well, stretching the use of the word there, even I get that — is Ator 2 – L’invincibileOrion, which was released in the U.S. as The Blade Master and Cave Dwellers. It features modern technology — a hang glider and a nuke — within its sword and sorcery plot. Rushed to theaters to take advantage of Conan the Destroyer, it feels like more Yor Hunter from the Future than a trip to Cimmeria.
The third — and I’d argue best — Ator film is Iron Warrior. Directed by Alfonso Brescia, this is an MTV music video arthouse version of a peblum movie and it makes me mental every single time I watch it, screaming at the TV in absolute maniacal joy. It’s like after all the Star Wars ripoffs Brescia made, he had to bless us with something from another universe. He’d follow this up with the equally astounding — and scummy as it gets — The Beast In Space.
D’Amato hated what Brescia’s did, so he starts this one off by killing Ator and introducing us to his son. Obviously, Miles O’Keefe isn’t back.
This one has nearly as many titles as Aristide had names: Ator III: The Hobgoblin, Hobgoblin, Quest for the Mighty Sword and Troll 3.
That’s because the costumes from Troll 2 — created by Laura Gemser, who is in this as an evil princess — got recycled and reused in this movie. D’Amato proves that he’s a genius by having whoever is inside those costumes speak.
Let me see if I can summarize this thing. Ator gets killed by the gods because he doesn’t want to give up his magic sword, which he uses to challenge criminals to battles to the death. The only goddess who speaks for him, Dehamira (Margaret Lenzey), is imprisoned inside a ring of fire until a man can save her.
That takes eighteen years, because Ator the son’s mother gave the sorcerer Grindl (the dude wearing the troll costume) her son to raise and the sword to hide. She then asked him for a suicide drink, but he gave her some Spanish Fly and got to gnome her Biblically in the back of his cave before releasing her to be a prostitute and get abused until her son eventually comes and saves her because this is a Joe D’Amato movie and women are there to be rescued, destroy men and be destroyed by men.
This movie is filled with crowd-pleasing moments and seeing as how I watched it by myself, I loved it. Ator (Eric Allan Kramer, Thor in the TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns and Little John in Robin Hood: Men In Tights) looks like Giant Jeff Daniels and his fighting skills are, at best, clumsy. But he battles a siamese twin robot that shoots sparks, a goopy fire breathing lizard man who he slices to pieces and oh yeah, totally murks that troll/ghome who turned out his mom.
This is the kind of movie where Donald O’Brien and Laura Gemser play brother and sister and nobody says, “How?” You’ll be too busy saying, “Is that Marisa Mell?” and “I can’t believe D’Amato stole the cantina scene!” and “What the hell is going on with this synth soundtrack?”
Here’s even more confusion: D’Amato’s The Crawlers was also released as Troll 3. Then again, it was also called Creepers (it has nothing to Phenomena) and Contamination .7, yet has no connection with Contamination.
Only Joe D’Amato could make two sequels to a movie that has nothing to do with the movie that inspired it and raise the stakes by having nothing to do with the original film or the sequel times two.
Known elsewhere as Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis, this is the film debut of Reg Park as Hercules, or Ercole as he’s referred to in the Italian title (Ercole alla Conquista di Atlantide).
Directed by Vittorio Cottafavi, this had a complete retitle, re-edit and rescore* — as well as a title design by Filmation — before playing in America.
Strange things are happening in Greece, but Hercules — now married to Deianira with a son named Hylas — is content and comfortable with his family life. However, his son feels the call to adventure that his father once did.
That means that Androcles must take matters into his own hands, drug Hercules and take him on his ship as Hylas stows away. After refusing to take part in heroics, Hercules finally consents and battles a god named Proteus and rescues a princess of Atlantis.
But man, Atlantis is messed up. They plan on murdering the princess to keep the fog that hides them from the rest of the world. They also have this weird ritual where children are taken from their parents and forced to touch a stone made from the blood of Uranus that either transforms them into blonde-haired superhumans or makes them mutants that are cast into the pit. With an army of these Aryan-looking demigods, Queen Antinea (Fay Spain, who somehow has shown up in both this movie and William Gréfe’s The Naked Zoo) plans on conquering the universe.
The only way to stop all of this? Hercules has to tear the top of a cave off and blow up Atlantis real good. Of course, none of this has anything to do with the real myth of Hercules, but such is Italian cinema.
I read that Hercules exemplifies the characteristics of sprezzatura, or studied carelessness, or even the ability to do something extremely well without showing that it took any effort. That’s an intriguing way to look at him, especially as until midway through this, he really wants nothing to do with anything, but by the end, he’s willing to die for the men he has journeyed with and his son, who has found his way to the pit filled with the castoffs of Atlantis’ Faustian bargain with the gods.
You can download this from the Internet Archive or watch it on YouTube. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 version is also available on Tubi.
Barry Mahon was shot down over Germany and escaped — and was recaptured — at Stalag Luft III before being freed by Patton’s 3rd Army. Once he got back to the U.S., he became the personal pilot and later the manager for Errol Flynn. Then, he learned how to use computers to predict the future box office for films, which does not explain how he made movies like Cuban Rebel Girls, Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico, The Wonderful Land of Oz and Santa’s Christmas Elf (Named Calvin).
Have you ever gone to an amusement park and they put on plays for the kids that are too worn out or too young for the rides? Yeah, this is like watching one of those for over an hour, with special effects that live up to neither of those two words. This is what I do with my free time. I sit and watch these movies and laugh like a maniac, then tell an uncaring and oh so cold world why they should be as passionate about total junk as I am.
Depending on how lucky — or unlucky — you were, you would have seen either Thumbelina or this movie within perhaps the most maniacal film ever made, 1972’s Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny. Why? What does Jack or Thumbelina have to do with the holidays? More to the point, what does a bunny? Perhaps even more pressing is this question: What is an ice cream bunny?
This was a movie for kids, which leads to so many more questions. Why does it have hip 1970’s slang? Why is it set in the present instead of the past, like every other version of this story? Why is Jack’s family more like Cinderella’s? Why does the giant sing the same song at least three — or a billion, it seems — times?
They used to let kids go to all day matinees of movies exactly like this, which some parents must have thought was some kind of reward. Imagine working hard all week at school and being gifted the magical wonder of this movie, which probably made no sense fifty years ago and even less today.
That said, I’ve thought about this movie way more than I will any film that will be released in 2020. Barry Mahon is kind of that way, equally fraught with wonder and madness, pain and pleasure. I’m brave enough to attempt to watch everything he ever made, so if you’re stupid as well, I hope you’ll join me.