Repost: Terror in the Jungle (1968)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Mill Creek will make you love this movie. Resistance is futile. This post originally ran in November 2019 as part of our Pure Terror month. And it came back as part of the Explosive Cinema set. So here’s Terror In the Jungle, a movie that we love, as part of the B-Movie Blast 50-film pack.

I kind of wish that I was alive in 1968 just so I could have been part of this movie. Seriously, I’ve never seen a film that so quicky changes its tone and central theme so quickly, abandoning characters that its taken time to set up for an entirely new situation. And then we get the airplane, with swinging bands playing on it and people going bonkers before it crashes? I want to live in this insane world.

After we meet all these folks — bound for Rio — we better not get too used to them. Except for little Henry Clayton Jr., who is taking his stuffed lion to live with his mother after his parents split up. There’s also Mrs. Sherman, who may or may not have killed her husband, but has a suitcase full of money and is given to insane crying jags. And there’s an exotic dancer on board as well! And some nuns, traveling with one of their dead sisters in a coffin! And then there’s a band! And a rich dude that talks about cannibals!

Everybody is having so much fun that the band plays their big hit and Marian, the exotic dancer, shows off and even the nuns enjoy it. However, the movie soon turns into sheer insanity, as the plane begins to crash. Money spills all over the plane, a nun gets pulled out of an open door and half the cast abruptly dies. Seriously, somehow this went from “Soft Lips” to dudes getting their foreheads split in half and a gory death with a birdcage. I have no idea what brought on this narrative shift.

Then, to top all this off, every single other person we met is eaten by alligators.

You read that right.

The entire cast is dead.

Everyone except Henry, who is now floating down a reptile filled river in the coffin of a dead nun.

What the actual hell is going on here?

The natives — yes, the cannibals that were discussed on the plane that call themselves the Jivaros — find Henry and thanks to his blonde hair and the magic of 1968’s worst special effects, he has a halo. The leader of the tribe declares that he is a god, except that one of them thinks he has to die. So he chases Henry into the jungle and the kid’s stuffed lion transforms into a real lion and eats the dude.

So wait — is Henry really a god?

This is a movie that starts with the declaration that “This picturd was filmed on location in the Jivaros Regions of the Amazon Jungle. Without the assistance and encouragement of the Government of Peru it would not have been possible.”

It’s also the kind of movie that randomly has Fawn Silver be Marian, the exotic dancer. If you don’t know who she is, she’s Criswell’s assistant in Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead.

It also has three directors — Tom De’Simone directed the plane sequence, Andrew Janzack the jungle parts and the temple close was directed by Alex Graton. That may explain the strange narrative leaps that this makes.

Let’s break down each director.

Tom De’Simone went on to become adult film director Lancer Brooks, as well as creating some of my favorite films, like Hell NightReform School Girls and Chatterbox. Andrew Janzack never directed another movie, but was the cinematographer for The Undertaker and His Pals.

Alex Graton would finally direct another movie eleven years later, a romantic comedy entitled Only Once In a Lifetime that has Claudio Brook — yes, the same Claudio Brook who was in Luis Buneul’s The Exterminating Angel — in it.

I love IMDB because it has comments directly from De’Simone in the review. I’ll share it below for your enjoyment:

“OK, now it’s my turn to weigh in on this disaster. I’m the director who’s credited with this fiasco but in my defense I have to explain that there were three directors on this film and we all suffered under a producer with no experience, no taste, no sense and worst of all, NO MONEY.

I was fresh out of film school working as an editor when I was introduced to him when he was looking for a director. I convinced him I could handle a feature having already won two awards at film festivals for two shorts I had done. This was the biggest mistake in my life. Once on, for a mere $50 a day, I realized what I had gotten into. He hired a bunch of non-SAG actors who actually PAID HIM to be in his movie. None had any experience in front of a camera and all the characters were his creation. I was stuck in that plane mock-up for two weeks with these desperate souls trying to create something from nothing. The script was only half written when we started and he said he would finish it when we got to the jungle. When we completed the plane interiors, including the now famous “crash” scene, the rough cut was 83 minutes long and we hadn’t even reached the jungle part of the story.

I told him we had to make some serious trims, both for time and for performances. He refused to cut anything. He was so in love with the crap we had he actually once said he believed that the actress playing the stewardess would win an Oscar for her scream scene in the fire. I knew I was doomed. We argued over and over about what I felt should be dropped, trimmed and eliminated until I had it. I walked from the production and that wonderful salary. Undaunted, he went to Peru and used the cameraman as the replacement director. Down there they wrote the second half of the script and shot it as he wrote it.

Back in LA they now had a bigger disaster, naturally. The film was way too long, badly shot, badly acted and unwatchable. He and this second director fought, as did I, and he then walked away as well. Now the producer was over a barrel. He had sunk what little money he borrowed and still believed he had a hit on his hands if he could just get it finished. He hired a third guy to come in and fix the problem. This genius hired a bunch of extras, put bad wigs on them and went to Griffith Park in LA and shot more crap that was even more laughable than what they got in Peru. After that the producer shopped around for stock footage of native ceremonies and came up with some god-awful crap from a 40’s schlock film and cut it in . . . the final disaster is what’s on screen. I’ve lived in shame my entire career because for some reason I always get the credit for making this turkey. I was one of three victims! The entire debacle was the brain child of the producer and none of us had a chance in hell to make it any better than it was doomed to be from the start.

And that’s the truth.”

In case you haven’t realized it yet, I love this movie. Like, beyond love. I’m going to bother everyone I know to tell them just how great it is and then laugh when they look at me and wonder why I enjoy this blast of craziness so much. Beware!

You can watch the full movie on You Tube.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Beyond the Moon (1954)

When it comes to Mill Creek box sets, I have a feeling there are flicks that are hard passes; ones that even the awesome guest writing staff of B&S About Movies will skip over, assuming Beyond the Moon is just an old, craggy cardboardian TV knockoff (as it usually is in public domaindom) of the more popular Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers theatrical serials.

Me? I see beyond the corrugated knockoff as I gravitate to the blackholian fact that Beyond the Moon is a “John” Hollingsworth Morse production. Now that name may not mean anything to the younger, average n’ casual Mill Creek consumer, but to grill scrapers and grease pit scrubbers like myself, and Chief Cook, Bottlewasher, and Masters of Vodka Ceremonies like Sam, Beyond the Moon is a “Facebook Care” moment.

Imagine the “heart” is a John Hollingsworth Morse DVD.

Hollingsworth Morse is one of those old Hollywood guys, like Stanley Donen (who went from 1954’s Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly . . . to Saturn 3 with Kirk Douglas!) that ended up working in then “hot” space opera realm after kickin’ out the TV westerns Sky King and, more importantly, The Lone Ranger. Morse would eventually become a prolific film and television director responsible for an eclectic variety of U.S. television series from the 1950s through 1980s, with the still-in-reruns favorites of Adam-12 and McHale’s Navy, as well as your childhood favs of The Dukes of Hazzard and The Fall Guy.

Oh, and Morse helmed Lassie. Now, come on, youngin’. You must have heard about the show with Timmy and his collie? It’s Seinfeldian (sorry, Samuel) friggin’ iconic and led to the now lost, ’70s pop culture lexicon of “What’s wrong boy, Timmy fell down a well?” anytime anyone had a “dumb” moment.

Oh, and did you know that Morse did a crazed Filipino horror flick — his only foray into feature films — with Tom Selleck (yes, youngins: that old, craggy guy with a mustache on TV’s Blue Bloods that you now watch in reruns on ION and WGN) known as Daughters of Satan. Yeah. That’s right. Only in the B&S About Movies Universe: from border collies rescuing boys in wells to three Filipino witches cursed by a medieval-era Spanish oil painting.

Cashing in on Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon: Buzz Corey and the Space Patrol, Commander Cody, and Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.

So, to set up who TV’s Rocky Jones is: Remember when Glen Larson produced his television Star Wars knockoff of Battlestar Galactica? Well, it’s like that: this was Roland Reed Productions’ TV response to Buzz and Flash, and Republic’s movie serial knockoff of Buzz and Flash: Commander Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe.

The fifteen episodes of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger ran from February to November 1954 for two television seasons. Much in the same fashion that the later, and somewhat similar, Space: 1999 and Battlestar Galactica were cut into domestic television and foreign theatricals films, Rocky Jones was cut into eleven, one hour eighteen minute-long movies that aired as domestic first runs up through 1956. Those films are:

Beyond the Moon
Gypsy Moon
Silver Needle in the Sky
Crash of the Moons
Robot of Regalio
The Magnetic Moon
The Cold Sun
Renegade Satellite
Menace in Space
Forbidden Moon
Blast Off

The then groundbreaking film-recording of the show — as opposed to airing live as did most television shows of the era — not only allowed for these films to be cut (and preserved on DVDs in the digital age), but also permitted the production of then “superior” special effects and sets that, if the viewer considers the “time” and just rolls with the adventures of The Space Rangers — Earth-based space policemen patrolling the United Worlds of the Solar System in their Orbit Jet XV-2s and Silver Moon XV-3s — you’ll have a lot of fun watching what a young George Lucas watched — then referenced when he created his own, iconic space opera.

These Rocky Jones telefilms continued to air in U.S. UHF-TV syndication until the late ’60s — until Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek (and his failed TV movie pilot for Genesis II) rendered the Space Rangers’ adventures obsolete.

Hopefully, you won’t think of Rocky Jones as “obsolete” and you won’t skip over the inclusion of Beyond the Moon on this Mill Creek box set (since Beyond the Moon was the first of the Rocky Jones films, it’s the one that most-oft appears on public domain sets) and you’ll “pop an emoji” for the ’50s sci-fi insights of John Hollingsworth Morse.


Last December, we had a month-long Star Wars blow out to commemorate the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, with reviews of a pre-and-post Star Warsian films. You can catch up on those reviews with our “Exploring: Before Star Wars” and “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurettes that feature a links library. And the exploration goes deeper with R.D Francis’s retrospective of Italy’s Star Wars-inspired film industry and the inspirations of George Lucas with the Medium article: “In Space No One Can Hear the Pasta Over-Boiling: Alfonso Brescia and the ’80s Italian Spacesploitation Invasion.”

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

RADIO WEEK REWIND: Don’t Answer the Phone (1980)

If any movie has earned being on the video nasty list — this one is on the Section 3 group of films, which couldn’t be prosecuted for obscenity but were liable to be seized and confiscated under a less obscene charge — it’s this movie.

This is the scummiest movie I’ve ever seen outside of films like Waterpower and Bloodsucking Freaks. Every single character is a horrible person, even the protagonists. It feels like you could take a Silkwood shower after this and it wouldn’t be enough. You’d still feel dirty.

Former paratrooper and powerlifter — who would later become a born-again Christian — Nicholas Worth plays Kirk Smith, who is also a veteran and bodybuilder. He has talent — well, when it comes to the lighting and composition of his pornographic photos, which have the ability to offend everyone, even scumbags like, well, everyone else in this movie. When he’s not grunting and lifting weights, he’s calling the talk show of Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Lawrence, who is also in SchizoidOver the Top and The Lords of Salem). When he gets on the air, he speaks in fake accents and complains that he has migraines and blackouts.

Dr. Gale on the air. While there is no radio station thanked in the end credits, it’s obvious this isn’t a set build and the film was shot in an unused production studio inside a real Los Angeles radio station. Bonus.

All of that would be fine if he wasn’t stalking and killing women right and left, not unlike the Hillside Stranglers of real life. That makes sense, as this movie was shot under the working title of The Hollywood Strangler. None of this was shot with permits, either.

It gets worse. He not only kills women, he has, well, intimate relations with their dead bodies before conducting religious ceremonies, trying to talk with his dead father and crying

Two detectives — Hatcher (Ben Frank, Death Wish 2) and McCabe (James Westmoreland, who was in Stacey and was married to Kim Darby; also in The Undertaker and His Pals) — are on the case, but it feels like they’re just as horrible as anyone else in this movie, overworked and on the edge.

There’s also a porn dealer named Sam Gluckman, played by Chuck Mitchell, who would one day be Porky himself from Porky’s, a role that is packed with more class than this movie. The sheer amount of salaciousness and scum in his scenes nearly fills the scene with bile.

Dr. Gale and McCabe quickly go from love to hate. Neither actor liked one another much, so Lawrence — who played Gale — ate a bunch of onions and Westmoreland — who was McCabe — didn’t shave on the day that their tender and romantic scene was shot.

Of course, it ends with Smith attacking Dr. Gale and McCabe saving her, shooting the strangler many, many times before he falls into a swimming pool, upon which the hero — such as this movie is — says, “Adios, creep!”

Director Robert Hammer is a one and done wonder. Sure, he made documentaries on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Steve Miller Band, but that’s it. Otherwise, he became a CFO for several companies.

It was written by Michael Castle, who acted in films like Galaxina and Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It. It’s the only movie he ever wrote, working from the novel Nightline by Michael Curtis.

Keep an eye out for April 1978 Playboy Playmate of the Month Pamela Jean Bryant as Sue Ellen. She’s also in all manner of late 70’s and early 80’s films that probably only I care about like H.O.T.S. and Lunch Wagon. Dale Kalberg, who was in scumtastic flicks like Mistress of the Apes and SexWorld, is another victim. And Susanne Severeid, who was a former model, plays yet another prostitute who ends up in Kirk Smith’s list of crimes. Interestingly enough, her husband was a WWII Dutch resistance fighter who was hired by the Simon Weisenthal Center to hunt Dr. Josef Mengele in real life.

Gail Jensen is another victim in this movie. She also performed the song “Sweater Girl” from the movie of the same name, as well as two songs on the Maniac Cop soundtrack. It gets crazier — she wrote “The Unknown Stuntman,” the theme from Lee Majors’ TV series The Fall Guy, along with being married to David Carradine, who she starred alingside in Future Zone.

If you don’t have the Pure Terror box set, you can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.

Despite my warnings of the sleaze quotient of this movie, you should know that I loved early single moment of it. I’m ashamed, but isn’t that part of the fun of lurid movies like this? If you’re of a similar mind — let’s say you’re a maniac — you will probably feel the same way.

* This review originally ran on November 27 as part of our Mill Creek Pure Terror box set of reviews. If you missed any of those 50 films, you can catch up with our Pure Terror Recap.

Terror in the Jungle (1968)*

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post originally ran way back in November 2019 as part of our Pure Terror month. If there’s one thing Mill Creek Entertainment knows, it’s being green and recycling. If you’re a fan of their sets like I am, you soon realize that you often have the same movie multiple times on multiple sets. After I got the Explosive Cinema set at Eide’s Entertainment, I knew that my OCD would demand that I review this entire set, too. So here’s Terror In the Jungle, a movie that I love.

I kind of wish that I was alive in 1968 just so I could have been part of this movie. Seriously, I’ve never seen a film that so quicky changes its tone and central theme so quickly, abandoning characters that its taken time to set up for an entirely new situation. And then we get the airplane, with swinging bands playing on it and people going bonkers before it crashes? I want to live in this insane world.

After we meet all these folks — bound for Rio — we better not get too used to them. Except for little Henry Clayton Jr., who is taking his stuffed lion to live with his mother after his parents split up. There’s also Mrs. Sherman, who may or may not have killed her husband, but has a suitcase full of money and is given to insane crying jags. And there’s an exotic dancer on board as well! And some nuns, traveling with one of their dead sisters in a coffin! And then there’s a band! And a rich dude that talks about cannibals!

Everybody is having so much fun that the band plays their big hit and Marian, the exotic dancer, shows off and even the nuns enjoy it. However, the movie soon turns into sheer insanity, as the plane begins to crash. Money spills all over the plane, a nun gets pulled out of an open door and half the cast abruptly dies. Seriously, somehow this went from “Soft Lips” to dudes getting their foreheads split in half and a gory death with a birdcage. I have no idea what brought on this narrative shift.

Then, to top all this off, every single other person we met is eaten by alligators.

You read that right.

The entire cast is dead.

Everyone except Henry, who is now floating down a reptile filled river in the coffin of a dead nun.

What the actual hell is going on here?

The natives — yes, the cannibals that were discussed on the plane that call themselves the Jivaros — find Henry and thanks to his blonde hair and the magic of 1968’s worst special effects, he has a halo. The leader of the tribe declares that he is a god, except that one of them thinks he has to die. So he chases Henry into the jungle and the kid’s stuffed lion transforms into a real lion and eats the dude.

So wait — is Henry really a god?

This is a movie that starts with the declaration that “This picturd was filmed on location in the Jivaros Regions of the Amazon Jungle. Without the assistance and encouragement of the Government of Peru it would not have been possible.”

It’s also the kind of movie that randomly has Fawn Silver be Marian, the exotic dancer. If you don’t know who she is, she’s Criswell’s assistant in Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead.

It also has three directors — Tom De’Simone directed the plane sequence, Andrew Janzack the jungle parts and the temple close was directed by Alex Graton. That may explain the strange narrative leaps that this makes.

Let’s break down each director.

Tom De’Simone went on to become adult film director Lancer Brooks, as well as creating some of my favorite films, like Hell NightReform School Girls and Chatterbox. Andrew Janzack never directed another movie, but was the cinematographer for The Undertaker and His Pals.

Alex Graton would finally direct another movie eleven years later, a romantic comedy entitled Only Once In a Lifetime that has Claudio Brook — yes, the same Claudio Brook who was in Luis Buneul’s The Exterminating Angel — in it.

I love IMDB because it has comments directly from De’Simone in the review. I’ll share it below for your enjoyment:

“OK, now it’s my turn to weigh in on this disaster. I’m the director who’s credited with this fiasco but in my defense I have to explain that there were three directors on this film and we all suffered under a producer with no experience, no taste, no sense and worst of all, NO MONEY.

I was fresh out of film school working as an editor when I was introduced to him when he was looking for a director. I convinced him I could handle a feature having already won two awards at film festivals for two shorts I had done. This was the biggest mistake in my life. Once on, for a mere $50 a day, I realized what I had gotten into. He hired a bunch of non-SAG actors who actually PAID HIM to be in his movie. None had any experience in front of a camera and all the characters were his creation. I was stuck in that plane mock-up for two weeks with these desperate souls trying to create something from nothing. The script was only half written when we started and he said he would finish it when we got to the jungle. When we completed the plane interiors, including the now famous “crash” scene, the rough cut was 83 minutes long and we hadn’t even reached the jungle part of the story.

I told him we had to make some serious trims, both for time and for performances. He refused to cut anything. He was so in love with the crap we had he actually once said he believed that the actress playing the stewardess would win an Oscar for her scream scene in the fire. I knew I was doomed. We argued over and over about what I felt should be dropped, trimmed and eliminated until I had it. I walked from the production and that wonderful salary. Undaunted, he went to Peru and used the cameraman as the replacement director. Down there they wrote the second half of the script and shot it as he wrote it.

Back in LA they now had a bigger disaster, naturally. The film was way too long, badly shot, badly acted and unwatchable. He and this second director fought, as did I, and he then walked away as well. Now the producer was over a barrel. He had sunk what little money he borrowed and still believed he had a hit on his hands if he could just get it finished. He hired a third guy to come in and fix the problem. This genius hired a bunch of extras, put bad wigs on them and went to Griffith Park in LA and shot more crap that was even more laughable than what they got in Peru. After that the producer shopped around for stock footage of native ceremonies and came up with some god-awful crap from a 40’s schlock film and cut it in . . . the final disaster is what’s on screen. I’ve lived in shame my entire career because for some reason I always get the credit for making this turkey. I was one of three victims! The entire debacle was the brain child of the producer and none of us had a chance in hell to make it any better than it was doomed to be from the start.

And that’s the truth.”

In case you haven’t realized it yet, I love this movie. Like, beyond love. I’m going to bother everyone I know to tell them just how great it is and then laugh when they look at me and wonder why I enjoy this blast of craziness so much. Beware!

You can watch the full movie on You Tube.

MILL CREEK PURE TERROR RECAP!

Thanks to everyone who took the time to write or read the PURE TERROR MONTH.

Like all Mill Creek box sets, this one is packed with all manner of crazy films, from 1930’s black and white pre-Code detective movies to foreign insanity.

First off, thanks to all of the amazing writers who brought an entirely different point of view to the site this month. R. D Francis went nuts on all of these films, covering so many before some people even selected their first movie. Bill Van Ryn was amazing, bringing his great info and opinions to many films, saving my ass when a few people missed their deadlines. Dustin Fallon kicked ass on his site Horror and Sons in October and then did so much to help publicize our month of PURE TERROR. I also want to thank Craig Edwards, Jennifer Upton, Robert Freese, John S. Berry, Robert Constant, Paul Andolina, Roger Braden and Melody Vena for their great writing.

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Here are the films we covered. If you missed any, go back and check them out. We’ve also created a list of all of these movies on Letterboxd.

If you want to be part of this next time, keep checking the site. We’ll be picking another Mill Creek set to tackle soon. If you’d ever like to write anything else, just ask!

millcreek

Want your own PURE TERROR set? You can get it on Amazon. Plus, Mill Creek Entertainment has plenty of other great movies on their site and streaming service, Movie Spree!

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PURE TERROR MONTH: Bloody Pit of Horror (1965)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Constant says, “I was born and raised in Hollywood, CA.  Went to live in Spain when I was 23 and stayed 10 years, managing an art gallery.  Came back to LA in 1992 and worked at an animation studio as a PA for awhile then worked buying and selling vintage clothes.  In 1996 I landed a gig as an assistant costume designer for an indie film and fucking loved it!  My first day on set I felt right at home.  I went on to do costume design/styling on indie/low budget films until 2005.  I worked with Fred Olen Ray, Jim Wynorski, Roger Corman, Playboy Channel Mystique films.  In 2005 I became a makeup artist and worked on House, Ugly Betty, Brothers & Sisters, Brooklyn 99 and day-checked on a lot of shows.  I did display design for the Hollywood Casino chain for a few years and in 2016 I moved to Chicago and now work as a server in a restaurant…a whole new branch of show business!  It’s my retirement job and I like it.  But I am really interested in writing about film and would like to do more and improve my skills.  

This is a simple enough horror film, but it has several elements that make it stand out. It is charming and camp, with some strong horror at the end. It was made in 1965 by director Domenico Massimo Pupillo, credited as Max Hunter, and produced by Francesco Merli and Ralph Zucker, who also played Dermot the photographer. The director is well known for another gothic horror film, Terror Creatures from the Grave, which is mostly fun for Barbara Steele and Luciano Pigozzi, the creepy servant. Two of the actors in Bloody Pit of Horror are in Terror Creatures: Walter Bigari/Walter Brandi (Walter Brandt) who plays Rick and Alfredo Rizzo (Alfred Rice) who plays Daniel Parks. I warn you that all the names of the Italian cast and crew were anglicized which makes attribution difficult, but I love that kind of research. 

The exteriors of the film were shot at Balsorano Castle in Abruzzo, a beautiful place. The interiors were shot at the Palazzo Borghese in Artena. Even with the obvious low budget it is pretty spectacular looking. It was filmed in “Psychovision”. 

The film opens as a flashback to the days of The Crimson Executioner, a nobleman who was a violent sadist with sociopathic mania regarding superiority and moral and physical righteousness. We see him condemned to death by some unspecified tribunal and put into a sort of Iron Maiden, but male shaped so an Iron Madman. The door is slammed shut and we hear his screams. 

The modern-day film opens as a commedia sexy all’italiana. Producer Daniel Parks arrives at an old castle with his crew of models, cameraman and Rick, the writer. They are there to shoot “girly show” book cover art for pulp fiction novels. The doors are locked so they break in and wander around looking for locations inside. They are quickly apprehended by a muscled servant man with tight clothes and a forbidding demeanor. Producer Parks claims ignorance that anyone inhabited the castle and wheedles to be taken to the owner to do some business about renting the space for a day. This finally occurs and after a lot of chafing and arguing the owner, having seen the face of Parks’ secretary Edith, changes his mind and allows them to shoot but forbids access to certain parts of the house. 

Now we have the cheesecake and I like it a lot. Very cute mid-century Italian flirtiness. The four models, billed as the Cover Girls get ready for the shoot. Femi Benussi plays Annie and it was her first film role. She went on to become a big star of the Commedia Sexy sub-genre and also played Lucia in Strip Nude for Your Killer. Moa-Tahi plays Kinojo. A beautiful and exotic actress, her death scene in this film is a great piece of low budget artifice, as she is caught in a huge and very nicely constructed spider web and the spider which bites her is a great piece of practical effects. I love to see what can be done with no money. The other two girls are cute and sassy. They go through several scenes of the photo shoot, all charming and very campy. But Suzy, one of the models, and Raul, another male of the party, go into the forbidden areas and start making out. They are caught by the owner of the castle and all hell begins to break loose. 

I am not going to detail the film any more because I want people to see it. I will say that the owner of the castle clearly has come to identify with the Crimson Executioner and has the same psycho feelings of great moral and physical godlike qualities. He is played by none other than Mickey Hargitay, in his first film role. He is an exceptional physical actor. He is all too often thought of as a “musclehead” as I read from one reviewer, but bodybuilding was a sport he came to after he had already been part of a famous acrobatic team as a young boy, a championship speed skater and a football player. In the final scenes in the torture chamber, as he cavorts around finishing off the hapless members of the poor photo shoot, he is so graceful and has a fierce presence. It made me think of rock star videos such as Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” except much more powerful. Some critics have called the film homoerotic, due no doubt to the Crimson Executioner’s obsession with physical perfection. But at several points in the film he exhibits disgust for mere mortal love and lust. I think this film is a study in narcissism and its relation to extreme sociopathy. 

PURE TERROR MONTH: Guru the Mad Monk (1970)

The Middle Ages were hard times for mad monks. Father Guru (Neal Flanagan) is a corrupt chaplain in the 15th Century, employed in a bizarre prison complex. Assigned to deliver the last rites to condemned prisoners, Guru also carries out punishments like heating up an iron cross and then searing the flesh of sinners while they kneel before him. When prison guard Carl’s girlfriend Nadja (Judith Israel) is locked up, accused of murdering her newborn baby, Carl (Paul Lieber) appeals to Guru to save his girlfriend from execution. In return, Guru enlists Carl’s help to acquire corpses to sell to medical schools for profit. Carl also finds himself indebted to Guru’s secret mistress, Olga (Jacquelin Webb), who gives him the drugs necessary to fake Nadja’s death.  Olga demands that Carl allow her some alone time with all the recently deceased corpses at the prison so that she may drain their blood for use in her ‘experiments’. What she really meant to say was “meals”, since she is a vampire.

Are you still following this?

Guru, who not only likes to date vampires but also has two-person conversations with himself in the mirror, is resentful over the fact that the mother church refuses to send more money to his parish. When Nadja is revived, they hide her in a tower chamber, where she spends her days looking out the window and noticing that people keep coming to the church and never leaving. Sometimes Guru kills them for Olga, and sometimes Olga kills them herself, but Guru has a knack for picking the right ones, especially when they say things like “Nobody knows I came here.” Nadja can’t wait to tell someone about it, bored in her tower chamber while Carl is on a long body-collecting journey for Guru. She also befriends Guru’s hunchback assistant, Igor, who is clearly so in love that he can hardly speak around her.  He has a memorable freakout moment when she shows him the slightest bit of interest and cheerfully asks him questions about himself. 

I’ve always thought of Andy Milligan as the John Waters of horror movies. Although he lacked recurring stars as outrageous as Divine, Edith Massey and Jean Hill, his films are driven by a similar manic energy. Not as earnest as Ed Wood’s cinematic output, Milligan movies usually don’t aspire to be better than they are, they just want to wallow in despicable behavior for an hour and then move on to the next feature. 

Guru the Mad Monk is one of the better examples of the way Milligan’s films take the more ridiculous aspects of the plot for granted. The plot goes on and on with daytime drama involving true love, religious convictions, and the abuse of power, with very little regard given to the fact that one of the characters is a fucking vampire. We are just supposed to accept that she’s a vampire, with no explanation given other than a throwaway line when Guru makes reference to when she was “bitten by that animal!” I kinda want the movie to be about that, ya know? But instead, you just have to go with it, because the movie charges full speed ahead right past it. Don’t worry, it runs just short of a full hour, so it won’t waste too much of your time.

Like Waters, Milligan has a way with dialogue that has to be heard to be believed. I won’t accuse the actors of delivering bad performances with stilted delivery, because actually they are rather convincing in these hopelessly bullshit roles. There’s nothing at all going for this movie without the performances, and I was not disappointed by these actors. Judith Israel is particularly good, channeling Mia Farrow from her hairstyle right down to her crisp, accented diction. 

A period picture is an ambitious concept for an ultra low budget film, and “Guru” has Milligan’s usual Halloween costume look to it. It’s supposed to be the Middle Ages, yet the women all wear modern cosmetics and the lead actress has lovely hair that probably took her Middle Ages hairdresser about an hour to shape for her. I wonder if they came to her tower to do her hair right there. Don’t let your guard down or you may catch yourself thinking this is one of the best ways to spend an hour of your life.

PURE TERROR MONTH: It Happened at the Nightmare Inn (1973)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Van Ryn is the man behind the website Groovy Doom and the zine Drive-In Asylum. I appreciate him coming in at the last second and helping finish up PURE TERROR MONTH.

Originally released in 1973, Spanish horror thriller It Happened At Nightmare Inn (originally titled A Candle For The Devil) was a late night TV staple in the late 70s, but it did play US theaters at some point as a co-feature with Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (which was retitled Things From The Grave for this run). 

In a Spanish village, sisters Veronica (Esperanze Roy) and Marta (Aurora Bautista) run an old school inn that shelters tourists, also offering a restaurant patronized by both locals and visitors. The sisters both have a serious issue with what they consider to be declining morals, and their topic of conversation is a current guest named May (Loreta Tovar). When they are drawn to the roof by the sound of a ruckus, they realize May is sunbathing topless on the roof and drawing catcalls from men on a neighboring balcony. Marta angrily confronts her and orders her to leave, throwing a robe over her “shamelessness”. When Marta shoves May in front herself, she falls down the stairs and plunges into a stained glass window, which pierces her in all the wrong places, killing her instantly. Veronica is horrified and wants to call the police, but Marta sees it as “providence” and hides the body. Moments after, May’s sister Laura (Judy Geeson) shows up to rendezvous with her sister, and the sisters tell her May left; they are forced to give Laura a room to avoid suspicion, though, and Laura starts investigating the whereabouts of her sister. 

With her religious mania seemingly justified, Marta figures it’s OK for her to start killing anybody she perceives as a sinner. When Helen Miller (Lone Fleming) shows up in short-shorts looking like Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island, it’s a sure thing that she’s next. In one of the movie’s most bizarre moments, she comes home drunk and rather foolishly makes lesbian advances on Marta to upset her, not realizing she’s cornering a psychopathic woman who thinks she has the moral high ground to murder people without remorse. 

It Happened At Nightmare Inn was directed by Eugenio Martin, just one year after he did Horror Express, and it’s got that same claustrophobic sound design, with seemingly all of the dialogue and sound effects added in post-production. There’s something compelling about its villains, trapped by the religious indoctrination of their parents — Marta constantly makes references to how shocked their parents would be to see women behaving like “hussies”, but her own motivations seem to be more closely related to being spurned in her youth. 

There isn’t much mystery to be had in this film, since we know from the beginning who the murderer is, and the only real suspense is Judy Geeson’s insistence on hanging around to become knife-bait. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was really invested in seeing someone finally put Marta in her place. Martin short-circuits this tension, though, with an ending that tells you what happened without ever giving you what you really want to see. This is a small price to pay, though, for a film as atmospheric and unusual as It Happened At Nightmare Inn. The version on the Pure Terror box set is the public domain print, but Scorpion put out a blu ray that was highly recommended by George Reis of DVD Drive-In.

PURE TERROR MONTH: Don’t Answer the Phone (1980)

If any movie has earned being on the video nasty list — this one is on the Section 3 group of films, which couldn’t be prosecuted for obscenity but were liable to be seized and confiscated under a less obscene charge — it’s this movie.

This is the scummiest movie I’ve ever seen outside of films like Waterpower and Bloodsucking Freaks. Every single character is a horrible person, even the protagonists. It feels like you could take a Silkwood shower after this and it wouldn’t be enough. You’d still feel dirty.

Former paratrooper and powerlifter — who would later become a born-again Christian — Nicholas Worth plays Kirk Smith, who is also a veteran and bodybuilder. He has talent — well, when it comes to the lighting and composition of his pornographic photos, which have the ability to offend everyone, even scumbags like, well, everyone else in this movie. When he’s not grunting and lifting weights, he’s calling the talk show of Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Lawrence, who is also in SchizoidOver the Top and The Lords of Salem). When he gets on the air, he speaks in fake accents and complains that he has migraines and blackouts.

All of that would be fine if he wasn’t stalking and killing women right and left, not unlike the Hillside Stranglers of real life. That makes sense, as this movie was shot under the working title of The Hollywood Strangler. None of this was shot with permits, either.

It gets worse. He not only kills women, he has, well, intimate relations with their dead bodies before conducting religious ceremonies, trying to talk with his dead father and crying.

Two detectives — Hatcher (Ben Frank, Death Wish 2) and McCabe (James Westmoreland, who was in Stacey and was married to Kim Darby) — are on the case, but it feels like they’re just as horrible as anyone else in this movie, overworked and on the edge.

There’s also a porn dealer named Sam Gluckman, played by Chuck Mitchell, who would one day by Porky himself from Porky’s, a role that is packed with more class than this movie. The sheer amount of salaciousness and scum in his scenes nearly fills the scene with bile.

Dr. Gale and McCabe quickly go from love to hate. Neither actor liked one another much, so Lawrence — who played Gale — ate a bunch of onions and Westmoreland — who was McCabe — didn’t shave on the day that their tender and romantic scene was shot.

Of course, it ends with Smith attacking Dr. Gale and McCabe saving her, shooting the strangler many, many times before he falls into a swimming pool, upon which the hero — such as this movie is — says, “Adios, creep!”

Director Robert Hammer is a one and done wonder. Sure, he made documentaries on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Steve Miller Band, but that’s it. Otherwise, he became a CFO for several companies.

It was written by Michael Castle, who acted in films like Galaxina and Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It. It’s the only movie he ever wrote, working from the novel Nightline by Michael Curtis.

Keep an eye out for April 1978 Playboy Playmate of the Month Pamela Jean Bryant as Sue Ellen. She’s also in all manner of late 70’s and early 80’s films that probably only I care about like H.O.T.S. and Lunch Wagon. Dale Kalberg, who was in scumtastic flicks like Mistress of the Apes and SexWorld, is another victim. And Susanne Severeid, who was a former model, plays yet another prostitute who ends up in Kirk Smith’s list of crimes. Interestingly enough, her husband was a WWII Dutch resistance fighter who was hired by the Simon Weisenthal Center to hunt Dr. Josef Mengele in real life.

Gail Jensen is another victim in this movie. She also performed the song “Sweater Girl” from the movie of the same name, as well as two songs on the Maniac Cop soundtrack. It gets crazier — she wrote “The Unknown Stuntman,” the theme from Lee Majors’ TV series The Fall Guy, along with being married to David Carradine, who she starred alingside in Future Zone.

If you don’t have the Pure Terror box set, you can get this from Vinegar Syndrome.

Despite my warnings of the sleaze quotient of this movie, you should know that I loved early single moment of it. I’m ashamed, but isn’t that part of the fun of lurid movies like this? If you’re of a similar mind — let’s say you’re a maniac — you will probably feel the same way.

PURE TERROR MONTH: Mutant (1984)

Mark Rosman started his directing career with The House On Sorority Row before working with Hillary Duff on Lizzie McGuire and directing two of her films, A Cinderella Story and The Perfect Man. He was the original director of this film, before his vision clashed with producer Edward L. Montoro.

Yes, Edward L. Montoro, the man behind Film Ventures International, the same guy who brought you movies like Grizzly and Day of the Animals before taking a million dollars out of the company and disappearing forever.

Mutant is one of the reasons why Film Ventures International was failing, which is why Montiro bounced forever. No one even knows if he’s still alive.

Taking over the directing duties of this film would be John “Bud” Cardos, who broke in to Hollywood as a result of his father and uncle managing the Graumann’s Egyptian and Chinese theaters. He started as a child actor in Hal Roach’s 1940’s Our Gang shorts,  was a rodeo rider and a bird handler on The Birds before he began appearing in biker and exploitation films like Hells Angels on WheelsPsych-Out and Satan’s Sadists before directing his own films like Kingdom of the SpidersThe Day Time Ended and The Dark. Ironically, he was also a last-minute replacement on that movie, taking over for Tobe Hooper.

He’s kept working in Hollywood, even appearing in credits as a driver on films like Memento. You can see him in the recently reviewed Danger God.

When brothers Josh (Wings Hauser, looking and acting bonkers throughout) and Mike (Lee Montgomery, the full-grown star of Ben who is also in the made-for-TV blast The Midnight Hour) are run off the road by local rednecks — it’s Josh’s fault — and forced to spend the night in a small town.

Bo Hopkins — who has been in so much of our redneck favorites like White Lightning and What Comes Around, where he played lookalike Jerry Reed’s brother — plays the local sheriff.

Cary Guffey, the child actor from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is also here, but unlike most movies that keep the kids safe, Mutant truly does not care. The scene where he’s taken over by mutated children is pretty harrowing and I’m glad I saw it as an adult.

Jennifer Warren, who played the wife of Paul Newman in Slap Shot, gets a special appearance credit. Man, Mutant looks like such a stain on her resume, considering other films she was in like Sam’s Song and Ice Castles. 

Somehow, this movie has a score that was recorded by the National Philharmonic Orchestra. It was composed by Richard Band, the brother of Charles Band.

It’s pretty interesting to me that the fortunes of Montoro’s company rested on this film, which is probably why directors were replaced and the title was changed from Night Shadows.

To be perfectly blunt, this movie is a mess. It never even gets its footing before it starts killing off characters left and right, unsure if it wants to be a redneck movie or a zombie film. That’s OK. I kind of like it just the same.

You can watch this movie on Amazon Prime and Tubi, if you don’t have the PURE TERROR box set. There’s also a Code Red blu ray that you can get from Ronin Flix.