El Hombre y El Monstruo (1959)

If I’ve learned anything from watching Mexican films, it’s that you should never make a deal with el diablo.

If you’re like Samuel Magno (Enrique Rambal, The Exterminating Angel), you finally get your dream of being a concert pianist to come true. Then every time you play Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, you turn into a monster.

Directed by Rafael Baledón, who acted from 1938 to 1994 as well as directing La Muñeca Perversa, Muñecas Peligrosas and Orlak, El Infierno de Frankenstein, this is 78-minutes of Mexican gothic horror, with the curse only stopped by the protagonist’s demanding mother.

It’s literally FaustDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Werewolf all in one movie, with special effects on par with El Baron del Terror. If you aren’t rushing to find this movie right now, what’s wrong with you?

Kaitei Kara Kita Onna (1959)

While on a beach vacation, a young man falls in love with a beautiful woman who tells him that she lives by herself in the sea. That story is backed up by the village’s fishermen, who believe that she is the female partner of a shark that they had killed several years ago, now back for revenge.

This was directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara, who is best known for the film Anarctica, which was remade in America as Eight Below.

Oddly enough, Hisako Tsukuba, who plays the myserious sharkwoman, would do more than appear in several more Japanese films like The Golden Bat. That’s right, after changing her name to Chako van Leeuwen, she would produce Piranha, getting her name in the credits as a producer or executive producer for every sequel and remake. Maybe she really did know something about murder in the ocean.

I’d say that this is in many ways similar to Night Tide and The Witch Who Came from the Sea, but seen through Japanese eyes. It’d be fascinating to watch all three of these movies in a row.

The Blood Sword of the 99th Virgin (1959)

On my second tour of Japan, someone in Tokyo told me, “You sound like you’re from Osaka,” and I took it as a compliment. Then my friend told me, “That’s like someone in New York City saying you sound like your accent is from West Virginia.”

Magatani Morihei’s Kyujukyu-honme no Kimusume is set in the remote mountains of Iwate Prefecture, which in the same way my particular dialect of Japanese sounds so, well, Appalachian, this section of the country is pretty much the Ozarks.

Which brings us to another fact about Japan: they can be the most polite and racist people at the same time. While we were in Osaka, a truck with bullhorns was driving around giving political speeches about keeping Japan Japanese, not directed at gaijin Americans like us per se, but more Asian races like Koreans.

Iwate is the second largest prefecture in Japan, but also one of the least inhabited, being mostly mountains and those that live in the hills are seen as primitive people and discriminated against even by others in Iwate, much less the rest of Japan.

In this film, some of those locals have spent their lives making swords. Sadly, one of these swords is cursed and in order to appease their ancestor, they must continually kill virgins with it and bathe the blade in their blood.

There’s also the matter of the Fire Festival, which is a Shinto tradition. One of the most famous is in the Hokuriku Shinetsu region, which takes place every January 15. Villages carry torches to burn down a shrine, while the unlucky males of ages 25 and 42 defend the shrine or sing and chant respectively. The Fire Festival dispels evil and ensures happy relationships. The pro wrestling group Zero1 has also run a Fire Festival tournament from July to August every year, with the winner being given a ceremonial sword.

Well, the locals just won’t celebrate their festival properly. When hikers start getting attacked, the cops get involved, including Bunta Sugawara, years before he would be in the Battles Without Honor or Humanity series. Yoko Mihara, star of so many “pinky violence” films and movies with astounding titles like Girl Divers at Spook MansionBlackmail Is My LifeNude Actress Murder Case: Five Criminals and the infamous School of the Holy Beast, also appears.

The past of Japan — virgin killing rituals, witches and all — comes up hard against cops in helicopters with sniper rifles. This was a pretty controversial movie due to how it portrayed the mountain folk — it was never banned — so I was happy to see it.

The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)

The follow-up to Hot Rod Gang, this American-International Pictures film was released as a double feature with Diary of a High School Bride, which like all AIP movies has an astounding title.

Much like the late era beach party films, this one is tired of the genre — AIP had so many car-related movies released in a short period — and pokes fun at its conventions.

The Hot Rod Gang gets kicked out of their clubhouse, so they move into an old deserted mansion. As part of the grand opening of their new place, they have a Halloween party where everyone shows up as their favorite monster, except a real monster sneaks in and starts dancing with the girls.

Tommy Ivo, who appears in this, was a legitimate drag racer and several of the cars were his. The real monster is Paul Blaisdell, who recycled two of his effects, which come from the films The Astounding She-Creature and Invasion of the Saucer Men. As for the ghost, it doesn’t show up until forty minutes into this movie.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Roadracers (1959)

An American-International Pictures release along with Daddy-ORoadracers is all about Rob Wilson (Joel Lawrence, who mostly worked in TV), who has a racing accident that causes his father to disown him to the point that his rich pop sponsors a rival racer, which doesn’t seem like good parenting at all to me.

Liz Renay was originally going to be in this movie, which would have been more exciting than what ended up on the film, which is more about depression and alcoholism. Then again, the title Roadracers is way more exciting than Drunken Depressed Rich Kid, right?

The tagline for this was “Actually filmed at the American Grand Prix.” So yes, it was filmed on a track, in case you were wondering.

Skip Ward, who would one day be in the Andy Sidaris movies Do or DieHard Hunted and Fit to Kill, shows up. So does Sally Fraser from War of the Colossal Beast and It Conquered the World.

This was remade by Robert Rodriguez as part of the Showtime Rebel Highway series, but it was an entirely new story made with the title and under the Roger Corman banner. David Arquette, Salma Hayek and William Sadler are in that one, which was originally to be directed by Wes Craven.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Hercules Unchained (1959)

In Italy, this movie is known as Ercole e la Regina di Lidia (Hercules and the Queen of Lydia) and it’s loosely based upon various Greek myths and the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, as envisioned by co-writers Ennio De Concini and Pietro Francisci, who also directed. It’s also the second — and last — Hercules movie with Steve Reeves in the lead.

Hercules has been brought in to settle the battle over who should rule Thebes between brothers Eteocles and Polynices. However, a magic spring looks so refreshing and Hercules is hypnotized by a harem girl and becomes the kept man of Queen Omphale of Lydia (Sylvia Lopez, who sadly died the same year this movie was made), who plans on sleeping with our hero until she gets bored and turns him into a statue.

Luckily, Ulysses is on hand to help him get his memory back, just in time to decimate three wild tigers in order to rescue his wife beloved Iole (Sylvia Koscina). Then, our hero realizes that he should just let the two brothers kill one another.

Wrestling fans will be happy to see Primo Carnera (he was also a boxer and known as the Ambling Alp) show up as Antaeus.

Mario Bava served as special effects supervisor on this film (he was the cinematographer for Hercules and Hercules Conquers Atlantis; he would then direct the incredible Hercules In the Haunted World), which you can definitely see in the foggy dream sequences.

While Reeves would leave the series to Reg Park, the two Hercules files he was in would be successful all over the world.

You can watch this on Tubi with Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing or check out the original on YouTube.

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: 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 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.