Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion Recap!

Every November we tackle a Mill Creek box of fifty movies. We started with the Chilling Classics set in 2018 and also did the Pure Terror one last year. You can grab the Sci-Fi Invasion set for $11 on Amazon, which is a great price for a ton of strange films.

As a matter of fact, whenever a “theme week” gobsmacks us and we need a gaggle of films to review — such as our recent “Fast and Furious Week” — a Mill Creek 12-pack never lets us down, as is the case with the Savage Cinema set. And, back in March, we were so giddy with glee that we finally got our own copy of 9 Deaths of the Ninja courtesy of the Explosive Cinema 12-pack, we paid it forward to Mill Creek and reviewed all of the films in the pack.

Here’s the list of 50 films we reviewed on the set. Many thanks to Eric Wrazen, Sean Mitus, Dustin Fallon of Horror and Sons, Robert Freese of Videoscope Magazine, JH Rood, Paul Andolina of Wrestling with Film, Jennifer Upton of Womany.com (she also writes for Horror and Sons), Bill Van Ryn of Drive-In Asylum, Phil Bailey, Cat Waller, Herbert P. Caine, and Andy Turner helping out with the reviews.

You can also see the list on Letterboxd.

Sam and I are exhausted. We go sleep now.

You can learn more about Mill Creek’s box sets and other releases at MillCreekEnt.com.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: The Wasp Woman (1959)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally posted this review on January 11, 2020.

Produced and directed by Roger Corman, this movie was originally a double feature with Beast from Haunted Cave. When it was released to TV two years later, a new prologue was added by director Jack Hill to add to its running time.

The musical score from this film may seem familiar, because it’s the same music from Corman’s A Bucket of Blood. It was written by Fred Katz, who sold Corman the same score was used for a total of seven films, including The Little Shop of Horrors and Creature from the Haunted Sea.

Janice Starlin is the founder and owner of a large cosmetics company,  (Susan Cabot). She starts losing money when the public begins to see that she is aging, so her scientists reverse the aging process by using the royal jelly of the queen wasp. It doesn’t work fast enough, so she breaks into her own company’s lab and injects herself multiple times.

So she gets twenty years younger over the weekend, but occasionally transforms into a wasp woman who kills people. At the end, when acid is thrown in her face, that scene was more real than it should have been. Someone had filled the breakaway bottle with water and it was so heavy that when hit her, she thought that her teeth had been knocked out. To make matters worse, the fake smoke used to simulate the acid also choked her. So after she fell through the window, she found herself unable to breathe. To save herself, she tore off her makeup as well as a good chunk of skin around her neck.

Things didn’t get much better in life for Susan Cabot. This was her last film and at the end of her life, she suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. The psychologist that she was seeing felt that she was so troubled that he could no longer see her and her home was filled with trash and rotting food.

After her mental health continued to worsen, Cabot’s 25-year-old son, Timothy Scott Roman, beat her to death with a weightlifting bar. While he would initially claim that a man in a ninja mask was the killer — thinking that no one would believe her struggles with mental illness — the truth was that she woke him screaming and attacked him with both a scalpel and the barbell. His defense attorneys claimed his aggressive reaction to his mother’s attack was due to the drugs he took to counteract his dwarfism and pituitary gland problems.

Prosecutors changed the charge to voluntary manslaughter at the end of the trial, as no evidence had been presented to support the premeditation required for a murder conviction. Roman, who had already spent two-and-a-half years in jail, was sentenced to three years’ probation.

Corman remade this with director Jim Wynorski for his Roger Corman Presents series on Showtime.

You can watch this on Tubi and Amazon Prime. You can also watch it with the Cinematic Titanic crew riffing on it on Tubi.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe (1990)

Editor’s Note: This review previous ran on May 14, 2020.

Writer and director Damian Lee also did Ski School, which I assume preps you for making science fiction action movies starring two of Arnold’s pals, Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Sven-Ole Thorsen. Plus, best of all — no, actually best doesn’t apply here — Jim Belushi shows up.

Abraxas (Ventura) and Secundus (Thorsen) are Space Cops called Finders who live for thousands of years and use an Answer Box to scan and communicate in the field. It’s also a weapon, as if a subject doesn’t contain the Anti-Life Equation, they are disintegrated.

If you just read that and got angry that Jack Kirby’s concepts were ripped off for this movie, good news. For me, at least. Because I thought I was going crazy.

Secundus goes bad, because he wants to live forever and needs to figure out that Anti-Life Equation to do so. His plan? Knock up the first woman he finds by rubbing his hand over her belly. That woman is Sonia Murray (Marjorie Bransfield, who was married to Belushi at the time, so that explains that) and she has a baby named Tommy in seconds. But Tommy is going to grow up to be the Culminator and solve that equation. Abraxas is supposed to kill the child and the mother, but he’s too nice and let’s her live. Her parents get mad that she had a baby and toss her out into the streets, except that you know, she somehow got pregnant and had the child in the very same day.

Five years later, Tommy is a mute child with superpowers. Well, his one power is the ability to make bullies piss their pants. So I guess that’s a power. And his principal at school is Jim Belushi, who brings back his role of Rick Latimer because we all demanded that. You know, I give Jim a lot of guff and the dude voted for Obama and has a pop-up cannabis shop, so maybe he’s not as bad as I’ve been led to believe.

What is bad is Abraxas, a movie that is kinda sorta The Terminator with no time travel. You can watch it for free on Amazon Prime and Tubi. Or, if you need some help, the Rifftrax version is also on Amazon Prime and Tubi, too.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: ROTOR (1987)

A little Terminator, some Judge Dredd, some RoboCop throw them all together and you get ROTOR, which really means Robotic Officer of the Tactical Operations Research/Reserve Unit. Far from defunind the police, this future cop is the dream of Captain J.B. Coldyron, a scientist who runs the police robotics lab. He also manages a ranch, because, well, I have no idea how he can afford that on a police scientist salary, but here we are in the said future.

Anyways, Earl G. Buglar, Coldyron’s commander in the police department, has been stealing money for the ROTOR project and now has to have something to show to corrupt senator Donald D. Douglas — who sounds like a Stan Lee character name — before election time. Seeing as how all J.B. has to show for himself is a goofball prototype and a ripoff of Johnny 5*.

That’s when ROTOR gets activated and goes on the loose, killing off fiancees and stalking their women. J.B. finds the woman who made the chassis of this killing machine and together, they try to stop him. You know what his weakness is? Loud noises. So how does he fire his gun or use his car’s siren?

This movie pretty much has a Mad Max ripoff poster going for it and not much else. Seriously, even for someone like me that can smile through the worst Italian cinema has to offer can find little joy within this movie, especially when one of the robotic advancements is a TOMY toy made five years before this movie.

*That robot is named Willard and was played by APD2, a robot purchased in 1986 by the police department of Addision, Texas. Other than the IMDB notice that APD2 led the Christmas parade that year, there’s no mention anywhere of him on the web, a curious thing when you think that a police department had an actual robot in its employ and no one talks about it. Also, Texas is the first state to use a bomb carrying robot to kill a criminal. On July 8, 2016, that robot ended a standoff with a heavily armed suspect following the shooting of several Dallas police officers at a protest march.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: The Giant of Marathon (1959)

Directed by Jacques Tourneur (Cat PeopleI Walked With a Zombie, Night of the Demon), this film also has a credit for Mario Bava as directing it. That’s because a few days before it was due to play theaters, major scenes had to be reshot when the editor discovered that several extras were smoking cigarettes on camera*.

Our hero is Phillipides, who if you want something visual and it’s not too abysmal…just kidding. He’s played by Steve Reeves.

In between battles between our hero and the Persians, there’s an attempt to marry him off to Charis (Daniela Rocca, who became famous from the movie Divorce Italian Style, which was written by the same writer as this film, Ennio De Concini; she also fell hard for that movie’s director Pietro Germi and attempted suicide after he turned her down), but his heart is set on Andromeda (Mylène Demongeot).

While this has little of his style, the fact that Bava got the film done in time won him some major favor from Galatea Film, who rewarded him by giving him the chance to make his own project and direct it. That ended up being Black Sunday.

*Bruno Vailati also directed some scenes. He’s listed as the AD, but in Demongeot’s biography, she claimed that Tourneur left most of the directing to his assistant.

You can watch this Metro-Goldwyn Mayer release on Amazon Prime and YouTube. There’s also a Film Crew riff version on Tubi.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: The Bat (1959)

The 1959 version of The Bat is the fourth version* of the story, all based on the 1908 novel The Circular Staircase. This played a double bill with the Hammer version of The Mummy.

Agnes Moorehead plays Cornelia Van Gorder, a mystery author who gets involved with a bank president and his physical (Vincent Price) who are trying to scam $1 million dollars ($8.9 million adjusted for inflation) when a forest fire breaks out.

Meanwhile, a giallo-esque masked villain named The Bat is tearing out the tender throats of young women with his steel claws. He learns of the scam and terrorizes an entire house full of women, among them Darla Hood. Yes, the very same Darla from Our Gang in her last role.

Crane Wilbur, who directed this, started his career as an actor. He was also a screenwriter and wrote House of Wax.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi or download it from the Internet Archive.

*The other versions are the 1926 silent film The Bat, as well as the 1930 movie The Bat Returns and a 1920 stage play.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion:The Girl from Rio (1969)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phil Bailey is a long time photographer and film writer, who doesn’t actually hate everything, but has no fear of being a contrarian.  Follow at Twitter at @stroke_midnight or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/philbaileyphoto

Sumuru, the femme villain bent on world domination, originally created for a BBC radio serial by Fu Manchu creator and author Sax Rohmer. If there is a Sax Rohmer story, then producer Harry Alan Towers must be lurking somewhere nearby. Towers produced a series of Fu Manchu films with Christopher Lee starring as the Chinese scientist bent on world domination and decided to take on Rohmer’s lesser known creation with James Bond girl Shirley Eaton in the lead with The Million Eyes of Sumuru in 1967 and followed it up two years later with The Girl from Rio.

The Girl from Rio was directed by Eurocult legend Jess Franco, sandwiched between his two Fu Manchu films The Blood of Fu Manchu and The Castle of Fu Manchu. This is nowhere as gonzo as his most famous/notorious films, it still boasts some great style and a bevy of beautiful women is all manner of undressed and barely dressed. Shirley Eaton, the blonde who was killed by being painted gold in Goldfinger is Sumuru who doesn’t really do much other than lounge around and look beautiful so Eaton is perfectly cast, but the real stars of the movie are Jess Franco regulars Maria Rohm and Beni Cardoso who just fit better with Franco’s vision (that vision being long legs and bare midriffs) and you can just feel Franco’s energy perk up when they are on screen, especially the impossibly leggy Cardoso as Sumuru’s head torturer/dominatrix Yana Yuma who basically steals the movie.

If you’re waiting fora recap of the plot, forget it, because that’s basically what the director did. Rio suffers from the common ailment of Eurocult films of having simultaneously too much and too little plot, It has so many plot threads that are so underdeveloped you can’t really keep it straight, despite all of the on-screen expository telephone calls. It has something to do with a mobster and a British Lord both vying to plunder Sumuru’s island fortress: Femina. Sumuru’s island fortress comes complete with a torture chamber and an all girl army decked out in pleather halter tops, capes, and go-go boots. There’s a lot of talking, a lot of scantily clad women, just enough nudity to keep the plot moving forward. The whole affair plays out like a super sexy, R rated The Man from U.N.C.L.E episode, which makes sense as the title is an obvious play on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. tv series.

The Girl from Rio is a trashy if slight Eurocult delight that has loads of stylish eye candy. The trippy Italian comic feel to the scenes on Femina almost make up for how odd and disjointed the rest of the movie is. Structurally the movie is a bit of a mess, obviously stitched together from multiple chunks of footage that never quite convinces you that all of these people are in the same story. All faults aside, the campy, fetishistic delights that Jess Franco indulges in during the Femina sequences are well worth the 90 minutes and make the whole affair worthwhile, if just barely.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Evil Brain from Outer Space (1965)

Editor’s Note: This review previously ran on November 15, 2019, as part of our Mill Creek Pure Terror Month tribute.

About the Author: Paul Andolina is one of my favorite people to talk movies with. If you like his stuff, check out his site Wrestling with Film

Evil Brain from Outer Space is a science fiction film from 1965. It happens to be a couple of the Japanese Super Giant films that have been hacked up and spliced together to make one English dubbed film. It’s an odd movie about a group of aliens who send one of their own to earth to stop the brain of the evil mutant Balazar from destroying humanity. 

Special effects films and television shows are big in Japan and they have been since Godzilla roared onto screens. The Super Giant series from the late 50’s is a bunch of stand-alone films that are about the deeds of a man named Giant of Steel or as he is known in EBfOS Star Man. Star Man is a superhero basically and he wears some pretty nifty lycra outfits, he looks like a luchador that forgot his mask at home.

Evil Brain sees Star Man coming to earth to stop a few evil doctor/scientists who are in league with the evil extraterrestrial brain of Balazar. There is a hawk that hangs out with one of these doctors and a one-legged man who serves the other. There are some pretty awesome mutants who fight Star Man in this film as well. One looks like a chupacabra from the black lagoon and has strange tendril-like fingers and makes some weird noises, if I had seen this a child I would have been scared of him immediately. I actually said out loud, “WTF is that?” while watching the movie. He is by far my favorite part of the film. The other mutant is a long-haired demon lady who doesn’t quite know how to put on her lipstick. She jumps around and scratches the air while making demonic cat noises. There are also some generic henchmen mutants as well.

I would love to see the Super Giant serials in Japanese with English subtitles but I’m not sure they can live up to the insanity that is this film. It seems longer than it is because there is too much jibber-jabber. Honestly would love to see Star Man just mess up some mutants and forgo the plot altogether. If you like psychotronic films this is definitely the one for you. I have no idea what they were thinking when they pieced this bad boy together. I’d like to believe there was some acid involved and a whole lotta pot. It is in black and white but it still is a lot of fun. 

If you have any interest in the Tokasatsu trend in Japan and want to see an earlier effort you can’t get much better than Evil Brain from Outer Space.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: The Manster (1959)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cat A. Waller has this bio on his website and who am I to dispute it?

“My full name is Rock Benjamin Armstrong. Seriously. I hate my real name so please call me “Arby (R.B.? Arby? Get it?), “Cat” or “Cat A. Waller” if you’d rather be formal. I live in Santa Monica, California, where I was born on March 12th. I’m a Pisces, not that that’s a big deal or anything. I wear glasses. I’m a huge media freak, pretty much a geek even. I was a roadie for a local new wave band way back when, used to write for The New Monkees TV show, and I once worked in The Beverly Center (a rather upscale mall in Los Angeles). I love beatniks and armchair psychology and that’s just about all there is to it.”

Larry Stanford is an American reporter stationed in Japan. His latest assignment? Interviewing some Japanese scientist guy named Dr. Robert Suzuki, who has a laboratory in a volcanic mountain and is working on…  um…  some sciency new evolutionary people-mutato-re-creationing experiment (real 50’s mad scientist stuff, right?) using his own home made drugs and cosmic rays or something. He has tried before but only ended up turning his brother into some kind of hairy ass killer ape thing and his wife into a scary freak with a big head who can’t talk (he keeps her in a cage). His brother tears apart a couple of Japanese chicks taking a relaxing dip in a natural spa in a cave in the mountain so the doctor sprays his brother with some steam (seriously), shoots him with a pistol, and tosses the body in a lava pit hidden behind a big metal door. Larry doesn’t know about any of this though.

When Larry first meets him Dr. Suzuki seems like a nice enough guy, and being a gracious host he gives Larry a drink. As it turns out it’s a glass of doped up booze. Larry passes out so the Doc injects some science juice into Larry’s right shoulder. Later, when Larry awakes we’re off and running. 

The science juice brings about changes in Larry. At first all he wants to do is get drunk and cheat on his wife. His poor Li’l Wifey-Poo is back in The States, waiting for his return. “Yeah yeah yeah, I’ll get home when I get there!”, he says, being all grouchy when he and the wife are sharing a phone call, “Lotsa work, Honey. I’m swamped here!”. More drinking and cheating commence. Then his right hand starts cramping up and we get a rousing blast of Theremin music. OOOOH WEEEE OOOOH OOOOOOOH!

A couple of nights later Larry spends some drinky and cheaty funtime with Tara, an Asian dame with absolute total babeosity who’s escorting Larry around Tokyo, keeping tabs on him, and secretly reporting the progress of the experiment back to Dr. Suzuki. When he and Tara get back to Larry’s place who’s waiting for him? You guessed it pal! Larry’s wife! Insert DUH DUH DAAAH music here!

It turns out Wifey flew to Japan to surprise Larry, accompanied by one of Larry’s old guy pals. When they see the condition Larry’s in, and who he happens to be in that condition with, Larry’s wife is understandably frazzled. She begs him to fly back to The States with them but Larry ain’t having none of that noise. He’s busy having a big pile of kicks and he’s not going anywhere soon. Except out the door. He’s up for more drinky and cheaty funtime with Tara.

This brings up some questions: Is Larry a dick because of the drug? Is he a dick because of the drinking? Is it a combination of the two? Or has he always been a dick but the movie didn’t tell us about that?

And, does his drinking affect the drug? Or is it part of the experiment? Dr. Suzuki doesn’t seem concerned about Larry kicking back the happy sauce so who knows? 

Aw, it’s just a B-movie so whatever, right? What’s the dif?

Anyway, Larry keeps on keeping on with that reprobate behavior like only a good white 50’s American misogynist can. Then, one night his right hand grows hair! Yeah! Like werewolf movie style or Robin Williams or something! Thick black back of the hand hair! 

What’s next? An eye grows out of his shoulder! He murders people and grows a second head! All of this leads to another body growing out of Larry’s body and separating into its own fully formed shape! And it lives!

Then it comes to a conclusion (screw spoilers!) and there’s one of those speeches about the duality of man and all that basic science fiction rhetoric that we’ve all heard a couple of zillion times before. 

End Credits and we Fade To Black.

Did I like it? Hell yes! I love this kind of thing! Of course I was drinking at the time and oohing and aahing and laughing pretty hard.

Would you like it? If you happen to be into crappy movies of this ilk I’d say yes. Being a drinker wouldn’t hurt either.

Where can you find it? It’s in public domain so not all that hard to find. YouTube has it all over the place.

If you’d like more info Google this sucker and read all about it.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Night of the Blood Beast (1958)

Editor’s Note: This review previously ran as part of our Mill Creek Pure Terror tribute month on November, 25 2019.

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.