SLASHER MONTH: Three on a Meathook (1972)

While the slasher genre really starts in 1978 (or 1979, when Halloween really took off), there are movies before that are nascent starting points. This was William Girdler’s second film after Asylum of Satan, made with money from his trust fund. It’s based on Ed Gein, as are PsychoDerangedThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre and many, many, many more.

Filmed in and around Louisville, Kentucky, the home of the director (whose also wrote and performed much of this film’s score), this is the tale of Billy Townsend (James Carroll Pickett), who seems like such a nice boy. He helps four girls who have gone to the lake for vacation when their car breaks down. But Billy has secrets and a father (Charles Kissinger, who also appears in Girdler’s films AbbyGrizzlyThe ManitouAsylum of Satan and Sheba, Baby) who loves his son so much that he’ll help him get out of any trouble.

This has one of the best titles ever, as well as a great tagline — “WARNING: Not For The Bloody Mary For Lunch Bunch!” — and, as stated before, the notion of being an early slasher. It’s worth checking out to see where the form got its start. When I was a kid, this film’s cover freaked me out, as did the implications of its title. The actual film itself seems laid back and very 70’s, including an anti-Vietnam speech delivered directly to the camera.

You have to love a movie that is willing to totally forget any forward progress by having its antagonist decide to head downtown, watch some bands, see The Graduate and ponder life instead of continually killing people. You never see Michael Myers decide to take a break and grab a beer, you know?

SLASHER MONTH: Amsterdamned (1988)

Dutch director Dick Maas started his career directing the videos for Golden Earring, including “Twilight Zone” and “When the Lady Smiles,” which was controversial as it showed a man about to assault a nun. He moved into feature films, including the comedic Flodder and The Lift. He’s also known for the American version of The Lift, which was called Down, and the absolutely deranged holiday movie Sint.

This film is at the crossroads of giallo and slasher, using the canals of Amsterdam instead of Venice to create a place where the killer can appear at seemingly any time and place to murder at will.

The film starts with a bravura scene of violence, as a prostitute is murdered and then her body, hung above a bridge, literally rains blood on to a boat full of tourists.

What keeps it from being giallo and pushes it toward slasher is the fact that its protagonist is not a stranger in a strange land, but instead Eric Visser, a detective struggling to be a single father while solving cases around Holland’s capital.

And what pushes it even further into slasher territory is the film’s propensity to deliver on the gore, from decapitated heads to bloody kills. The antagonist is so brutal that one of the witnesses refers to him as a monster that came out  of the water.

That said, where it does flirt with the giallo are the sheer number of red herrings that this movie throws at you, which makes sense, as Holland’s fishing industry continually lands plenty of them from the nutrient-rich coastal waters of the North Sea.

You can watch this on Shudder and Tubi.

Kiliç Aslan (1975)

If you’re going to get into Cüneyt Arkin and you worry, “Will my fragile sensibilities be able to handle sub-VHS prints and an absolute lack of English and therefore no safety net for the absolute phantasmagorical leap into madness that I’m about to take,” permit The Sword and the Claw — or Lionman — to be your gateway drug.

King Suleiman may have conquered the Christians, but he’s a kind man who has spared the women and children. This pleases Princess Maria, who of course gives him a one night all expenses paid guided tour of her spoils of war before Commander Antoine (Yildirim Gencer, who is in Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder) blackmails her into becoming his wife, then kills the King, but not before Suleiman wipes out nearly hundreds of people. Antoine cuts the hands off of his enemy and then hunts down the King’s wife, who gives birth all by herself in the woods, and servant Rhestim, who promptly loses the baby to some lions.

Antoine rules the land along with his son Altar (Cemil Sahbaz, who was Captain Kirk in Turist Ömer Uzay Yolu’nda, the Turkish take on Roddenberry’s space Western), placing his wife into the dungeon to die. Anyone who can’t pay taxes is crucified and killed, in that order, while Rhestim and his daughters have been starting an army. And the son of the King? Well, he was raised by lions to become a 38-year-old Cüneyt Arkin, a maniac ready to trampoline jump and claw his way into your face, if not your heart.

Of course, one of Rhestim’s daughters wants to get in with the rich and powerful, revealing that the Lionman and the King’s son have the same birthmark, one that can only come from the long-dead king. She narcs on her own sister and when our hero saves her, nearly losing his hands to acid.

This would end the fighting of almost any hero. This isn’t any hero. Now that he gets metallic lion claws, he’s ready to kill everyone — and seriously, I mean everyone and then some — to get his revenge.

Imagine, if you will, that this is the most restrained Cüneyt Arkin movie I’ve seen. Like I said, you should take your first steps into this world slowly. Do not dive headfirst into a shallow pool filled with only whiskey like I did. Take small sips, my friend, before you gulp deeply on films where hundreds of ninjas drive cars through brick walls for no reason at all.

The Sword and the Claw is the kind of movie that I could only dream of as a teenager, hopped up on Lemonheads and too many games of Bad Dudes, wishing of a film where people bounce off the walls and kill with aplomb. It feels like the kind of sub-Conan comic book, something even crazier than Warlord or Kull or even Claw the Unconquered.

You can watch this on Tubi. Please do.

Kilink: Soy Ve Öldür (1967)

Killing — or Kilink — is the star of an Italian photo comic who was created in 1966 in the wake of the popularity of Diabolik. He’s a ruthless criminal who wears a skeletal suit — designed by Carlo Rambaldi! — and he kills other crooks for their stolen goods and can imitate anyone. If you ever see the covers to his comics, he’s often killing half-naked women.

Translating as Kilink: Strip and Kill, this is the third in a very long series of these films and it puts our protagonist into a Yojimbo situation as he plays two gangs against one another. If you saw the last movie — Kilink Uçan Adama Karsi (Kilink vs. Flying Man) — our bad man fell off a building and died, but here he’s back on his feet and doing perfectly fine moments later. How does he do it? He just laughs, stands up and walks it off.

This feels very Eurospy, except I’ve never seen a spy hero just shove a woman off a balcony before. Beyond fighting Superman, Mandrake and Django, the skull masked one would also battle Frankenstein’s Monster. Truly, a man for all seasons.

You can watch this on YouTube.

 

Lake of Dracula (1971)

The second part of the Bloodthirsty trilogy — three unrelated Toho-produced vampire movies all directed by Michio Yamamoto — Lake of Dracula shares the Hammer-inspired look of the other two films, looking as gorgeous as only Technicolor-hued skies can make happen. It transplants the gothic feel of British horror squarely into teh Far East with style.

When she was five, Akiko had a nightmare of losing her dog inside a crumbling mansion until she watched a vampire (Shin Kishida, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla) drain the blood of a woman. Now an adult, she finds herself back in the grip of that very same vampire, as he arrives in a white coffin, fully prepared to finally claim her.

He starts by taking her friend Kusaku and sister Natsuko as his thralls. As Doctor Takashi Saki has become involved in the case, he saves her as her sister expires in the sunlight of a beach, begging for her corpse to be burned so that she may never return. However, they take her to the morgue where she rises again from the dead, now a full vampire ready to help her new master take her sister once and for all.

If you watched this in Japan, the vampires all disintegrate at the end of this movie. When it was edited for American television, they just fade away.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime or buy the entire Bloodthirsty Trilogy from Arrow Video.

Hannah Queen of the Vampires (1973)

Also known as La Tumba de la Isla Maldita (The Tomb of the Cursed Island); Young Hanna, Queen Of The Vampires; Crypt of the Living Dead and Vampire Woman, this Spanish film was originally directed by Julio Salvador with new footage added by Ray Denton (DeathmasterPsycho Killer).

Andrew Prine (Simon King of the Witches) stars as Chris Bolton, a man who has traveled with his sister Mary (Patty Shepherd, The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman) to attempt to remove his father’s body from where he died. It turns out that there was a heavy sarcophagus that he found inside a hidden tomb but now his body lies smashed under it. The townspeople refused to help, as inside that coffin lies Hannah (Teresa Gimpera, Lucky the Intrepid) and they don’t want her ever coming back.

The 70’s were filled with female vampires of all shapes and sizes, from the Hammer lesbian-tinged vampires of The Vampire Lovers, the Satanic Twins of Evil, Jean Rollins’ sexual starved bloodsuckers, Daughters of Darkness, the fairy tale world of Lemora, Lina Romay as Jess Franco’s Female Vampire and the future vampires of Thirst. Every one of these films makes me happy despite the darkness and gloom of these days.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Countess Dracula (1971)

Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy (Ingrid Pitt!) discovers that her sex drive and youth come back when she bathes in the blood of virgins. Luckily, she has her long-time lover Captain Dobi (Nigel Green) and her maid Julie to steal away local girls so that she may bathe in their blood, which really does wonders for the skin.

This is a late Hammer entry by Peter Sasdy, who we celebrate around here for his diverse output. He made everything from Taste the Blood of Dracula and Hands of the Ripper to Nothing but the NightWelcome to Blood City, I Don’t Want to Be Born and The Lonely Lady.

Based on Countess Erzsebet Báthory, this film sees Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy bring her own looks back at the expense of Captain Dobi’s manhood and the lives of many young women.

In order to marry young Lieutenant Imre Toth, she even imprisons her own daughter Ilona (Lesley-Anne Down!) and impersonates her. But like all good things, this can’t last, as even virgin sacrifices only serve to de-age Countess Dracula for less and less time. The drugs work, but they have a shelf life too.

Pitt was proud of her performance in this film — the role was originally to be played by Diana Rigg — but quite displeased that she’d be dubbed.

If you like your vampires curvaceous and cuckolding, this is definitely the movie for you. Between this and The Vampire Lovers, established Pitt as the vampire woman of the early 70’s. You can understand that despite all her wanton ways exactly why Dobi keeps doing more and more for her.

You can check this out on Shudder and Amazon Prime.

The Beast Within (1982)

Man, talk about a movie that is out to assault its audience. The poster for this says, “The shocking nature of the subject matter prohibits revealing the frightening transformation that occurs in this film.”

They aren’t kidding.

This is one of those legendary HBO movies that kids breathlessly described in my grade school classes, daring one another to watch and others claiming that it was so frightening that they kept seeing the monster from the movie in their windows.

Yeah. I can see why.

Directed by future Howling sequel maker Philippe Mora, written by Tom Holland and based on Edward Levy’s 1981 novel, Eli (Ronny Cox, RoboCop) and Caroline MacCleary (Bibi Besch, MeteorWho’s That Girl) get stuck out on an abandoned road just as some kind of inhuman monster tries to break free. It escapes, brutalizes Caroline and gets shot.

Seventeen years later, whatever it was has a son. And he’s slowly growing sicker.

Before you can debate a woman’s right to choose, their son Michael is eating and murdering everyone he can get close to. That’s because he’s now possessed by Billy Connors, the man who is really his father, a cannibal who has left behind an entire mass grave of gnawed up bones.

This movie is basically an excuse for that aforementioned transformation scene, which is amongst the most pus-ridden and disgusting moments of filmmaking the world has ever seen. In short, it’s awesome and worth watching the rest of this movie just to witness its power.

There are also some awesome foreign titles for this movie. In France, it’s known as Les Entrailles de l’enfer (The Entrails of Hell), while in Germany it’s called  The Angel Face: Three Nights of Horror.

A great cast of supporting players has been assembled, including R.G. Armstrong (Pruneface from Dick Tracy), Don Gordon (The Towering Inferno), L.Q. Jones (yes, the director of A Boy and His Dog) and a young Meshach “Hollywood” Taylor as a deputy. Paul Clemens, who plays the monstrous child of the MacCleary’s, was also in the Sybil Danning movie They’re Playing With Fire.

I can say one more nice thing: the poster for this movie is beyond great. It’s still striking and makes me want to watch this movie again nearly forty years after it was designed.

Valkoinen Peura (1952)

I don’t think we’ve ever covered a Finnish movie before, much less one with a werereindeer, which I didn’t even think was something. You learn something new every day and movies help you do it.

At the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, this movie won Best Fairy Tale film from a Jean Cocteau-led jury. I also didn’t even know there was a Best Fair Tale award.

This is probably the only movie out there based on pre-Christian Finnish mythology and Sami shamanism, so enjoy it. Mirjami Kuosmanen — director Erik Blomberg’s wife who sadly died young from a brain hemorrhage — plays Pirita, a bride who misses her husband Aslak while he away herding reindeer.

She wants to ignite passion in her life and keep her husband home, so she visits a shaman. In turn, he turns Pirita — who was born of a witch — into a shapeshifting vampiric white reindeer. All she had to do was sacrifice the first thing she saw when she returned home, which ends up being the baby deer that her husband has brought her as a gift.

Now, she is irresistible to all men, men who she lures as the reindeer into the woods and then drains them of their blood.

The White Reindeer is the kind of magical movie that slowly finds its way into your mind and then takes a place inside it.

They Call Me Hallelujah (1971)

Whether you know it as Guns for Dollars, Deep WestHeads I Kill You, Tails You’re Dead! They Call Me Hallalujah or the title we chose, this Giuliano Carnimeo-directed (The Case of the Bloody Iris, the Sartana films) movie is a comedic take on the Italian Western that is worth a look.

Interestingly enough, Giuliano started his directing career on a movie we covered last week, the Jayne Mansfield-starring Panic Button, working alongside George Sherman.

1860’s Mexico serves as the stage and jewels are the McGuffin as General Ramirez (Robert Camardiel, Sorrow from Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!) wants them to finance his revolution, Hallelujah (George Hilton!) wants the money for getting them and all manner of others want them, including a nun (Agata Flori) and a Russian nobleman named Grand Duke Alexey Wissayolovich Kropotki (Charles Southwood, who was Sabbath opposite Hilton in Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin) and various bandits and bad men.

Most of the fun here is the interplay between Hallelujah and Kropotki, as well as the main double crosses to see who gets the baubles that everyone is willing to kill and die over.

If you’re looking for a serious Western, this isn’t it. It has sewing machine/machine gun and bazooka/ukelele combo weapons, Russian dancing and corkscrews being used to remove bullets. This is a film more influenced by the Trinity films and Eurospy world than Leone, so if you can handle that, by all means, enjoy! I sure did.

You can watch this on Tubi.