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.

Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil (1974): A Second Look

“Eh, you’ve seen one exorcist flick, you’ve seen ‘em all,” scoffs the B&S Movies surfer.

Oh, how wrong you are, you wee demon-possession babe in the woods.

There’s nothing in the post-William Friedkin horror oeuvre that will prepare you for this German rip-off. . . . Not Assonitis’s Beyond the Door. Not de Ossorio’s Demon Witch Child. Not Bosch’s Exorcismo. Not Gariazzo’s The Eerie Midnight Horror Show. Not Mickey “Mario Bava” Lion’s The House of Exorcism. Not Cascio’s The Return of the Exorcist.

Strap on the barf bags!

None of these Italian and Spanish demon-possession soirées compare to the silver screen sleaze that is Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil. And you thought the Germans crossed the boundaries of bad taste with their Hammer Studios witch hunt rip-off, Mark of the Devil (1970)? And you thought The Eerie Midnight Horror Show threw Friedkin’s class and style out the window? Not even Tony Curtis’s pimple-on-the-neck-turns-into-an-Indian-demon-shaman buffoonery of The Manitou (1978) is up to the challenge of this X-Rated demon romp.

“I want to take communion, but not in my mouth, but down in my ‘hoo-hoo,’ you dirty nun ‘boinker,’” Magpie caresses her “triangle of death” before a priest. “When are you going to ‘screw’ your housekeeper,” she rants to Father Ed in an un-synced dub that makes Italian Giallos look in-sync.

Welcome to the X-Rated adventures of Linda Does Berlin, aka Satan’s Full-Frontal Lesbians School for Girls.

Our story beings with a Godspell-cum-Rocky Horror Show cast reject, aka a prostitute, walking down the street on a pleasant Ash Wednesday evening who launches into scenery-chewing hysterics at the discovery of an old man, Joseph Winter, crucified Jesus-style on the gate of her apartment building and . . .

Jump Cut! We’re in a record store with hot German chicks so we can meet ol’ Joe’s niece, Magdalena, who’s off to a party at her boarding school. . . . Now, if you know your Eurotrash cinema, you know the entire student body—even the headmistress and the instructors—at all-female boarding schools are red-herring “lesbians” because, well, all of the girls in Eurotrash-boarding schools are lesbians and up to some nefarious, bitchy deeds to torture the naïve innocent girl who just had a rich uncle kick-the-bucket, aka Joseph Winter.

. . . And cue the swarm of buzzing-house-flies SFX so people know shits-about-to-go-down. Ol’ Uncle Joe is sitting up in the morgue and, for whatever reason, this inspires Maggie to spaz n’ spider-arch and spew some rabies-foam and ruin the Lesbian School for Girls party. But that’s just plot piffle: We got ourselves two red-herring lesbians on the stairs giving us a “triangle of death” rub and a full-frontal rack at the 15-minute mark. What does this have to do with the plot? Nothing, it’s the ubiquitous and unnecessary “de Ossorio” lesbo-scene—so the director has a fantasy to jerk to after the day’s wrap.

Uh-oh. The eerie synth-music backing the buzzing flies . . . here we go. And Magpie is a-kung-fu fighting and trashing a kitchen and wants the school’s headmistress “inside of her.” Yes! Magpie’s gone full-frontal at 20 minutes with some invisible demon sex and Satan is going for some back-door action.

More buzzing flies . . . Mags has another episode and climbs a concrete wall like a spider monkey and takes a nap on top of ol’ Joe’s grave. Do we get a Carrie-style hand pop through the dirt? A Phantasm dwarf? It’s a dream sequence, right? Nope, she really did run away from the school to sleep on ol’ Joe’s grave. And on the way to take a cat nap on Uncle Joe’s grave, Mags hitched a ride and, big surprise, it’s time for the obligatory you-owe-me-for-the-ride rape gag so she can “wishbone” his legs . . . and rape him! Dick Hurtz, indeed.

Meanwhile, lamps and paintings are flying around on wires in the school’s attic. Why? Who cares! We have another full-frontal “triangle of death” rubbing alert at 31 minutes and Magpie’s off on another rabies-Tourette’s rant that puts Ms. Blair to shame.

Okay, I’m getting bored . . . cue the buzzing flies SFX. Now ol’ Magpie is on a McCambridge-PMS magnum opus to a priest and tearing through bibles like Jon-Milk Thor through a phone book. Will Mags kiss the priest and blow ‘em up like a water bottle (it’s a Jon-Mikl Thor thing)? Nope.

Now we’re in Exorcist II: The Heretic territory—even though that hasn’t been released yet to rip off—with the ol’ psychobabble-and-attach-the-electrodes-to-her-head-scene. Is it epilepsy? Tourette’s? Schizophrenia? Split Personality Disorder? Manic Depression? Why is no one listening to the priest? Eh, who cares? What’s up with the staircase lesbians? Are they drugging Magpie to steal Uncle Joe’s inheritance? Nope. Toss that red herring back in the water and just wait for a Paul Naschy-styled, out-of-left-field dues ex machina to appear.

So . . . the electrode-brain-scan hocus pocus tell us Mags needs some time in the county to ride horses and bicycles in a plaid mini-skirt and go-go boots to, you know, pad the film’s short running time. (This clever music video created with the film’s filler scenes—set to Cat Stevens’s “Morning Has Broken”—sums it up nicely.)

There are those flies, again. . . . Yes! Magpie’s going topless and picking up strange men in bars via pressing her nips into a windowpane. . . . Now, if I may interject for a moment: If ever the time comes when I see a woman pressing her ta-tas onto a windowpane and “wants me to give it to her now,” I just naturally assume the chick must have a demon rattling around inside of her—and I get the hell out of there . . . but this dude. . . . Yes! Full-frontal alert at 55 minutes and Magpie’s pitting two rapists against each other and one stabs the other . . . what the hell? She’s vanished into thin air.

La, la, la . . . more romantic bike rides in the countryside . . . friggin’ horses . . . a Table Tennis match with a romantic piano interlude? Okay, wait. Hold on! We may have a full-frontal moment here. . . . Nope. More horseback riding? What happened to the Table Tennis sex scene? Oh, wait! Naked piano playing and autoerotic asphyxia in the parlor. . . . Nope.

Now the cops arrested a burglar at ol’ Uncle Joe’s apartment whose babbling about the “man in black” who killed ol’ Joe. Why? Who? We’ll never know because “Joe” gave creepy-red herring-trench coat-burglar guy a push over a Hitchcockian-Vertigo stair railing at the police station. What does this have to do with the plot? It’s another red-herring tosser for the river.

Okay, so doctor dude at the psycho-chateau can clearly see Magpie is completely unhinged—devil possession de damned. Naturally, he jumps into the sack. I guess he didn’t hear the buzzing flies nesting in her Devil’s Triangle south of the 41st parallel.

Finally! We get to the Mercedes McCambridge-demon-voice-bed-flip-out scene of the movie so we can learn who in the hell this demon is and what this full-frontal lesbians excuse of a mess has to do with Magpie’s uncle and this red-herring burglar.

Welcome to the plot twist: Uncle Joe was frequenting prostitutes and his wife murdered him. So ol’ Uncle Joe, and Auntie Winter’s suicide soul, are inside our Magpie fighting each other and . . . okay, enough of that plot piffle. We have another full-frontal invisible demon rape scene at 1:15 with only seven minutes to go . . . well, whadda ya know . . . ol’ Joe, you sly-pedophile.

Are you following? Uncle Joe is the horny devil, doggy-style rapist. And all of Magpie’s mouthin’ foam moments—that was Auntie Winter. You got that? At least I think that’s what’s going on with this Euro-demon tomfoolery. . . .

Okay, so for a little back story to clear up this mess:

In the beginning of the film, during the initial investigation of Uncle Joe’s Ash Wednesday crucifixion, the headmistress of Magpie’s prep school told the detectives “how excited” Mags would be when it came time for one of her “visits” with Uncle Joe. Where do we file this uncle-niece incest insinuation? Is it a dues ex machina, red-herring, or MacGuffin incest? Someone please cue the random, Paul Naschy errant knight and out-of-left-field zombie attack. Will Mags use her demon-soul to resurrect the dead to attack the psycho-retreat? Nope.

And the flies are back so Magpie can set fire to the psycho-farmhouse and swing an axe and . . . one “Our Father Who Art in Heaven” later and . . . Magpie is spitting up a gummy fishing worm that turns into a baby garden snake. What the hell? Ladies and gentlemen: We have our Ruggero Deodato-denying-he-sliced-up-a-live-turtle-during-Cannibal Holocaust moment! Horny doctor dude just head-stomped a live snake! Call PETA. Alert the ASPCA!

Huh? We can’t file charges. The snake-evidence just vanished into thin air.

“There are things between heaven and hell,” so says horny doctor dude.

Yes, and there are things between one’s ass cheeks and the toilet.

***

For an alternate, less unhinged perspective on Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil, you can check out Sam’s take on it. Also be sure to read his reviews of the film that started the whole ‘70s Euro-demon enchilada, The Exorcist, and its sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic. And where did all of this demon possession hocus pocus originate? Check out Brunello Rondi’s (Black Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle) Il Demonio (1963; The Demon) starring Daliah Lavi. Her spider walk exorcism scene (without wires) says it all; you won’t sleep for a week after watching it.

You want another totally inappropriate, blatant rip-off of The Exorcist? Then check out 1975’s The Return of the Exorcist.

Author’s Note: This review was previously posted on November 16, 2019, as part of our “Pure Terror Month” commemoration for Mill Creek’s Pure Terror Box set (full list of reviews).

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

Satan’s Slaves (1982) (2017): A Second Look

It’s time for more cheap n’ scary—yet creative—fun with another Indonesian horror film with its roots nourished in the horror films of the West—with Muslim and Hindi religious beliefs substituted for the usual Christianity-based horror themes. However, while American horror films are mostly blood and gore for the sake of blood and gore, Indonesian horror films carry a deeper religious message regarding the folly of abandoning one’s longstanding traditions and beliefs.

How accurate are the various, bargain-DVD imprints marketing Satan’s Slaves as an Indonesian version of Don Coscarelli’s cult horror hit, Phantasm?

If you go into this expecting an Asian-inspired Angus Scrimm-cum-Leàk crypt keeper guiding an army of dwarfs and flying cutlery guarding a dimensional portal with a Lady in Lavender sidekick, you’ll be disappointed. There are, however, moments of visual déjà vu with the film’s teen protagonist riding a motorcycle through a cemetery and there’s a fortune teller that knows more than she’s telling, and . . . that’s about it.

The more expansive similarities are of the narrative persuasion: Phantasm’s Mike and Satan’s Slaves Tommy are both teenagers dealing with the death of a parent and the resulting fears regarding death and dealing with loss and abandonment issues that leave them tangled in a psychological web.

As with its American antecedent, a teenager, Tommy, and his sister (instead of a “Jody”) deal with the death of their mother; their affluent-materialistic family, unable to cope with the loss, completely abandoned their already lackadaisical religious beliefs. As result, Tommy delves into black magic and searches for solace with Darminah, a fortune teller he recognized attending his mother’s funeral. Once Daraminah works her way into the family’s good graces as the family’s maid, Tommy’s friends and family members suffer violent, Omen-styled deaths and the Salem’s Lot-reminiscent shrouded ghosts and reanimated zombie-vampires appear.

Is this Indonesian horror entry worth the watch? It depends on a horror buff’s opinion.

Did Bach Ke Zara (2008) deliver on its reputation as Indonesian remake of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981)? What are your feelings about Mystics in Bali (1981; The Leàk), its Taiwanese remake, The Witch with the Flying Head (1982; Fei tou mo nu), and the Chinese-inversion, The Corpse Master (1986; Jiang shi shao ye)—all which are rooted in the 1967 Russian film, Viy, based on the Nikolai Gogol tale?

While this Mill Creek reissue of Satan’s Slaves—as part of their Pure Terror 50 Movie Pack—is a minor curiosity for U.S audiences, it was a major, influential hit in its homeland and Japan. Sources place the domestic release of the film at 1980, but it seems to be more likely released in 1982; international distribution outside of the Pacific Rim countries didn’t occur until 1987.

Satan's Slave 2017
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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.

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!

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!

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.

PURE TERROR MONTH: Night of the Blood Beast (1958)

It’s hard to believe this forgotten—and to be honest, not very good—62-minute Roger Corman quickie shot in 1958 for a mere $68,000 over the course of seven days wound up in WGA arbitration, but it did: Writer Martin Varno disputed the writing credit given to Roger’s brother, Gene. Even harder to believe: Harold Jacob Smith, who worked on the film’s rewrites/dialogue doctoring, won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Defiant Ones (1958). But, hey, look at what happened to James Cameron (Galaxy of Terror) and Ron Howard (Grand Theft Auto). (By the way: Don’t forget to read my “October 2019 Scarecrow Challenge” review of Ice Cream Man starring Ron’s brother, Clint.)

Damn this 27th galaxy to hell!

Starting out as a screenplay “Creature from Galaxy 27” and influenced by the Howard Hawks box-office smash, The Thing from Another World (1951), Night of the Blood Beast tells the story of the return of the first deep space astronaut—implanted with an alien embryo. Although astronaut John Corcoran’s body seems “dead,” it maintains a blood pressure and harbors strange, alien seahorse-like cells his blood stream that grow into a lizard-like fetus. Then the film goes off into a weird, homosexual subtext with the alien and Corcoran “protecting” each other.

Ah, a human male as a walking alien-baby incubator? I’ve seen this before. Well, besides the homosexual subtext, it does sound familiar, doesn’t it? Well, doesn’t it Dan O’Bannon?

Sadly, while Night of the Blood Beast is clearly an Alien antecedent, the film—because of its low-budget quality further stymied by the amateurish acting of TV series bit-players—goes unmentioned alongside the more formidable Alien precursors of Forbidden Planet, It! The Terror of Beyond Space, Queen of Blood, and, especially, Mario Bava’s Planet of Vampires. Well, doesn’t it, Dan O’ Bannon?

During its initial success, literary critics noted Alien’s similarities to the Agatha Christie tale, And Then There Were None (1939), and the short stories “Discord in Scarlet” and “The Black Destroyer” in A.E van Vogt’s collection, The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950), which could have possibly influenced Martin Varno’s storytelling. It certainly did influence—although he flat out denied it—O’ Bannon’s storytelling: so much so that 20th Century Fox settled with van Vogt out of court.

Speaking of familiar: B&S readers are familiar with Corman’s house of recycling: Stunt footage from Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto turned up in several of his ‘70s hicksploitation films . . . and how many times did we see Battle Beyond the Stars SFX shots reused? Thus, you’ve seen Night of the Blood Beast’s alien costume before: In Teenage Caveman (1958), which wrapped two weeks before Blood Beast began shooting. Some film reviewers describe it as “a bear crossed with a moldy parrot”—and they’re right! Is the costume as bad as Richard “Jaws” Kiel’s The Solarite—with the light bulb eyes—in Phantom Planet (1961)? Yep. And since when does an alien, only by monitoring Earth’s radio broadcasts, develop a dialect worthy of a Royal Shakespearean Company actor? Book this parrot for the CBS Evening News. He should be holding a skull and crying out for Desdemona. “The parrot is ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille!”

If you need more fun-filled, Roger Corman sci-fi tomfoolery, check out Night of the Blood Beast’s John Baer in Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) and Ed Nelson in Attack of the Crab Monster (1957).

If you want to go deep into the Alien cottage “homage” industry with B&S Movies, then surf on over to Ten Movies that Rip-off Alien and A Whole Bunch of Alien Rip-offs All at Once.

It freaks me out that I’ve seen all these movies. I don’t know if that makes me cool or just a very sad excuse for a human being.

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his rock ‘n’ roll biographies, along with horror and sci-fi novellas, on Facebook.