GOREHOUSE GREATS: Terrified! (1963)

I’m echoing what nearly every article about this movie says, if only because it’s true. The first two minutes of this movie are better than anything that will follow.

We start in a ghost town, where a laughing hooded figure buries a young boy alive. When the kid asks, “Who are you?” the reply is chilling: “You know me, Joey!” and then laughter, as the boy’s shocked face is shown and we see gigantic eyes fill the screen.

Seriously, if that’s all Terrified! was, people would still be talking about it and not just manaics like me.

The titles are so classy — just check out the whole opening at Art of the Title — that even the Crown International Pictures title card comes up as part of the animation and not just thrown out at the start of the movie.

Lew Landers’ last movie — he made The Raven at Universal before a long career that went from film to television — Terrified! is all about a college psychology student studying just how much terror a man can take. Once a killer starts hunting him, he gets first-hand knowledge.

Denver Pyle — years before he was Uncle Jessie — is in this as a lawman. Speaking of lawmen, Ben Frank, who was Inspector Lt. Mankiewicz in Death Wish 2, is in this. So is Barbara Luddy, who was one of the Disney players from 1955 to 1973, with her voice showing up as Lady in Lady and the Tramp, Merryweather in Sleeping Beauty and Rover in One Hundred and One Dalmatians. And oh wow — Robert Towers is here too, someday to be in Masters of the Universe as the strange-looking Skeletor minion Karg!

It’s not horrible, but man, that opening makes you hope for so much more.

Repost: They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968)… or The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Dustin Fallon from Horror and Sons for this entry. He’s always been a big promoter of our site and has been instrumental when it comes to getting writers for our Mill Creek box set review projects. Dustin wrote this back on November 3, 2019, as part of our Mill Creek Pure Terror Month tribute of reviews. Well, in addition to that 50-film box set, this crazy film is also part of Mill Creek’s Gorehouse Greats 12-pack. This is a great review of seriously goofy film. No way we can re-review it any better than Dustin’s take.

They Saved Hitler’s Brain is a 1968 film directed by David Bradley, who also directed 2 well-known films starring Burt Lancaster, “Peer Gynt” and “Julius Caesar”.

You know what? Strike that last sentence.

The Madmen of Mandoras is a 1963 film from director David Bradley, who also directed 2 well-known films starring Burt Lancaster, “Peer Gynt” and “Julius Caesar”. They Saved Hitler’s Brain is really just the same damned movie, re-titled for television distribution in 1968 and featuring new footage shot specifically for its broadcast re-release.

The new footage, which is essentially an entirely new opening for the film, is a bunch of muddled nonsense that attempts to expand upon the original film’s plot, but in truth adds nothing of value or importance to the film, and actually slows down the film’s pacing. The film opens with a scientist who has been working on a secret government project to create a serum for the deadly chemical weapon known as “G-gas” (which the government fears may be used as a weapon by hostile countries) being blown to bits when he triggers a bomb connected to his car. A government agent, who looks suspiciously like Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley, is assigned to the case.

The opening moments of The Madmen of Mandoras are edited into this new footage through the use of some rather abrupt and jarring transitions, with the difference in film quality immediately apparent. These scenes highlight a military briefing on the lethal “G-Gas”, where it is stated that the antidote must remain well guarded, as its falling into the wrong hands could have dire consequences for the entire world. Of course, this just means that a scientist working on the antidote is soon captured by agents of the surviving Third Reich!

They Saved Hitler’s Brain attempts to add some additional action to its runtime by meshing footage from the original film with the newly created scenes so that it appears that Eckersley and his new female partner are trying to thwart the abduction. However, both agents fail to do so and are killed for their efforts, saving viewers the nightmare of dealing with them any longer. This, in essence, wraps up the “Hilter’s Brain” portion of this review, as well as the newly created portions of the film. Now, forget they ever happened because they are total shit!

As for the real film, The Madmen of Mandoras….

Near the end of WWII, Nazi scientists discover a means of preserving the life of Adolph Hitler into perpetuity, allowing the man to continue his plans for world domination for years to come. Well, at least his severed head is preserved, severed from his body and placed into a small glass tank filled with various “life-sustaining” fluids. A decoy of the Fuhrer is left behind to deceive the Allied forces into believing that the madman had been killed and his plans for domination thwarted. The surviving officers of the Reich, with Hitler’s head in tow, flee to the fictional South American island nation of Mandoras, where they secretly plan their next steps.

Years pass and with the creation of the G-gas weapon, the Nazis have found the key to their resurgence. The only thing standing in their way is the antidote, which counters the gas’s effects, should it ever be released. As such, Nazi agents are sent to America with orders to abduct a certain Professor John Coleman, one of the scientists working on the serum. However, the government of Mandoras is not without knowledge of the Nazi’s schemes and have sent their own agent to prevent the plan from succeeding.

The Mandorian (Is that the correct terminology for the natives of this tiny fictional country?) agent fails and Coleman is taken despite his interference. Also captured are Coleman’s youngest daughter, Suzanne, and her boyfriend, David. The next intended target is Coleman’s son-in-law, Phil Day, who works for US intelligence. Granted, they weren’t intelligent enough to predict an incident such as this, or Coleman would have had some sort of security detail. The Mandorian agent prevents Phil and his wife’s abduction, but is shot and killed in the process. However, as this is a movie, the man is able to disclose the entire elaborate conspiracy to Phil before he expires.

Phil and his wife, Kathy, soon board a flight to Mandoras. Upon landing, the couple are “greeted” by the island nation’s police force, which in this case is just Creature From the Black Lagoon co-star Nestor Paiva and his seemingly slow-witted assistant. The couple are treated as “special guests” of the nation, even though no one should have known that they were visiting, and are shown to the island’s finest hotel. Okay, so it’s the only hotel.

Not long after settling into the hotel room, the Days’ are shocked to find a man sneaking into their room, despite their still being in it at the time. After a brief scuffle, the man is introduced as “Camino”, the twin brother of the Mandorian agent killed in America. Camino discloses that he, like his late brother, are working to stop the Nazi resurgence. He warns the couple that many nefarious eyes are now watching them and that danger can wait around any corner.

Essentially ignoring this warning, Phil and Kathy head out to a small local bar. There, they find Suzanne dancing away to the brass band that is playing. Suzanne informs her sister that the men that kidnapped her were quite friendly, which really doesn’t seem like the actions and behavior of a group known for their acts of genocide. Suzanne is also not aware of David’s whereabouts, but she also doesn’t seem overly concerned either. The good nature of the Nazis is proven untrue when a failed attempt on Phil’s life leaves another man dead and a dancer with a bullet in her side. After the dust has settled, Phil notices that Kathy and Suzanne are no longer in the bar. Making matters worse, Phil is arrested before he can even begin to search for the women.

Phil is escorted to the Mandoras’ presidential palace, which the Nazis have overtaken to use as their new base of operations. Phil is placed into a jail cell, where not only Kathy and Suzanne await, but Professor Coleman as well. David resurfaces, revealing himself to be a Nazi officer who has been involved in the plot for quite some time, brutally bitch-slapping Suzanne when she confronts him. However, the incarceration proves to be brief when Paiva and the nation’s president appear to release the captives, disclosing that they’ve secretly been fighting against the Nazi insurgence.

Hitler’s severed head finally makes its grand entrance, leading his forces as they prepare their bombers for a worldwide G-gas attack. This plan doesn’t get very far though, as Phil, Camino, and the rest of the men launch an all-out assault on the small, single-engine plane that is actually shown. I did mention that this was a low-budget film, right? You won’t be seeing much more than stock footage of bombers. Here, you’ll just get a Cessna.

As one might expect, the heroes win, preventing the world from falling into the hands of the Third Reich. What you might not expect, especially from a film of this age, is the grisly closing image of Hitler’s disembodied head, here portrayed by a wax mold, gruesomely melted away by flames. While it is quite evident that the head is indeed wax, it’s still fairly gnarly watching the wax melt away like layers of skin and flesh from the skull-shaped creation. In fact, the scene was deemed disturbing enough to viewers that it had to be (marginally) edited down for the television re-issue.

The Madmen of Mandoras, or They Saved Hitler’s Brain, or whatever you choose to call it is a fun slice of pro-American/anti-Nazi propaganda* layered in a healthy dose of 1940’s/50’s era comics “pulp”, and sprinkled with a pinch of early 60’s pop culture sensibility. It doesn’t require a lot of thought and generally moves at a steady pace, although the footage added to the television re-release does make the first half of the film drag noticeably. The film feels more than a little dated by today’s standards, but still provides some solid entertainment for a rainy weekend afternoon or one of those nights when you’re just not sure why you are even still awake.

* Check out our review of the documentary Fascism on a Thread: The Strange Story of Nazi Exploitation Cinema.

REPOST: The Skydivers (1963)

Editor’s Note: This review ran back on March 12, 2020, as part of our Explosive Cinema 12-Film Pack blowout. Now, we are having a B-Movie Blast as part of that Mill Creek 50-Film Pack of reviews (Amazon).

I came here to see Jimmy Bryant and the Night Jumpers do the “Tobacco Worm” and the “Stratosphere Boogie” . . . and eat popcorn . . . and drink coffee. Lots of coffee. (They’re sort of a redneck, twaggy bluegrass version of Booker T. and the M.G’s; please telll me that you know the iconic instrumental “Green Onions” and get that reference. Don’t make me feel like the old dude that I am.)

“Yeah, I call B.S on the pseudo-intellectual B&S About Movies writer,” you say. “You never heard of them or the movie, R.D, until Sam bought the Mill Creek “Explosive Cinema” 12-pack.”

Sorry, ye mighty Internet Warrior. You’d be wrong.

Because of my longstanding love of rock ‘n’ roll and movies; slumming, collecting, and working in the vintage vinyl marketplace, doing road work, and working on the radio, I thrive, THRIVE on rock ‘n’ roll movie oddities and obscurities. If a flick has even the slightest cameo by a rock band in it, I’ve tracked down that movie and seen it. Even more so with today’s public domain catchall disc sets. Back before the digital realm, I taped ’em off UHF-TV and have shelves of 6-hour mode recorded VHS tapes packed with these flicks.

Skydivers

The Skydivers is the second of three films written and directed by Coleman Francis, primarily a TV and Drive-In flick bit actor who appeared on episodes of Dragnet who turned up in Russ Meyers’s Motorpsycho! and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and had a somewhat larger part in the juvenile deliquent rock ‘n’ roll flick, 1959’s T-Bird Gang, which is just one of the many made in the backwash of 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause and Blackboard Jungle. (Now I am really missing the old AMC Network’s “American Pop” film series. Tears.) While I have never seen the riffed version, MST3K took The Skydivers to task in the ’80s; perhaps you’ve seen that version.

Skydivers is not, however, a rock ‘n’ roll or juvenile deliquent flick: it’s a bargain basement film noir of the Double Indemity (1944) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) variety. It does not, however, qualify as “explosive cinema” and it is as out-of-place alongside Tony Tulleners’s Scorpion (1986) on the Mill Creek “Explosive Cinema” set as it is seeing me sitting in front of a plate of sushi or inside a Starbucks. So don’t be fooled by the movie’s tagline: “The first feature length motion picture showing the daredevils of the sky who free fall from heights of 20,000 feet with only a ripcord between life and death!” (Insert yawn, here.) “Thrill jumping guys, thrill seeking girls, and daring death with every leap,” indeed.

Anyway, Anthony Cardoza . . . wait, where do I know that name from . . . holy B&S About Movies, BatSam! Tony starred in Ed Wood’s Night of the Ghouls and directed Alvy Moore (The Witchmaker) from TV’s Green Acres in Smokey and the Hotwire Gang. He’s produced, as Sam has called out, “interesting films” (aka, turkeys), such as The Beast of Yucca Flats (directed by Coleman Francis) and Bigfoot. (Coleman’s other directing efffort was 1966’s Night Train to Mundo Five, produced by, you guessed it. . . .)

Anyway, Tony-boy is the producer behind this vanity project as part of a unhappily married couple who owns a decrepit airfield-skydiving school in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. Of course, Harry is the loser-dickhead who dragged his wife Beth (don’t be confused; actress Kevin Casey, in her only role, is a “she”) out into the desert—and he’s the one who’s restless and cheats on her. And the woman, Suzy, he’s cheating with is a femme fatale (Marcia Knight, Mako: The Jaws of Death) who’s had enough, so she seduces another guy to kill him. But wait, the wife is restless as well and she’s having an affair with her husband’s army buddy.

And they plot against each other. And they jump out of planes. And they sit in coffee houses and listen to a couple tunes from Jimmy Bryant and the Night Jumpers—who are the only reason to check out this mess.

And they’re the only reason I know this movie exists. And now: you know it exists. Email your disdain to the fine folks at Eide’s Entertainment in Pittsburgh for carrying that cursed copy of the Mill Creek “Explosive Cinema” set and selling it to Sam (we love you, guys!).

You can watch TV-taped VHS rips on You Tube without the riffing, but I think you’ll need the MST3K riffed version to make it thought.

That, and a nice, strong pot of coffee. Stratosphere Boogie, babydoll!

B-MOVIE BLAST: Escape from Hell Island (1963)

Captain James (Mark Stevens, who also directed this) is a Key West charter boat captain who is helping refugees get off Hell Island, which in this case would be Cuba. Beyond losing his license when one of them dies, he also hooks up with a married woman whose husband wants to kill him.

This is pretty much Hemmingway’s To Have or Have Not and even mentions Hemmingway numerous times and shows off his favorite bar, Sloppy Joe’s, which was in Key West. I’m shocked that polydactyl cats, boxing, cigars and more Hemmingway mentions were not made.

Nothing really happens here, to be honest. My ability to deal with bad movies is pretty legendary and this tested even my ability to be bored. Just imagine.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Le Gladiatrici (1963)

With the Italian title meaning The Female Gladiators, this film was released here as Thor and the Amazon Women. It’s actually a sequel to Taur the Mighty, but I think you’ll be fine with just watching it without seeing that movie.

It comes from Antonio Leonviola, the man who made Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops and Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules.

A civilization of women warriors, lorded over by the evil Black Queen (Janine Hendry, Taur the Mighty) has been decimating the men of their country. Soon, they come up against Tamar (Susy Andersen, Black Sabbath), who is the daughter of a great warrior who teams with Thor (Joe Robinson, who was Taur in that aforementioned movie and I guess may be that character again. Perhaps not. Is it more confusing if Tamar is the daughter of Taur and Robinson is just playing a whole different role? Ah man…), Ubaratutu (Harry Baird, The Four of the Apocalypse) and her younger brother Homolke.

Nera the Black Queen like two things: her cat and gladiator battles between captive women. She must be Italian, because this is one of the prized tropes of my ancestral forebearers. One of the captives, Ghebel (Carla Foscari, Mole Men Against the Sons of Hercules), tells the evil leader about Thor, a strongman who prophecy claims will end the Black One’s evil kingdom. Tamar ends up getting kidnapped and turned into one of the gladiators.

Luckily, the captain of the guard opposes the queen is ready to help our heroes. She tries to lead an uprising but is killed and the Queen orders Tamar and Ghebel to fight to the death. Just then, the rest of our heroes attack. Tamar ends up winning the battle and kills both Ghebel and the Black Queen, deposing her rule and putting her brother on the throne, which seems kind of backward to have a little boy leading everyone when Tamar has more than proved herself.

That’s right. A movie about a female empowered society that does all it can to prove to you that a female empowered society is the worst idea ever. What I’m saying is that if you expect a movie that proves the superiority of female leadership, look elsewhere than a 1963 peblum movie.

By the way Thor and Ubaratutu look at one another, I think Tamar would have been better off keeping Nera in power. If you must watch this, you can find it on Tubi.

Las Luchadoras Contra El Médico Asesino (1963)

You know, Rene Cardona could have made a million of these wrestling horror movies, K. Gordon Murray could have brought them all to the United States and I would still watch every single one of them over and over again.

Cardona had made this under the Las Luchadoras title* and Murray changed it to Doctor of Doom, re-editing and dubbing it for American audiences.

An evil doctor has an army of gangsters and a man-ape named Gomar (Gerardo Zepeda) that wears a bulletproof vest, but come on, he’s battling the wrestling women and is always going to come up short.

This was an American-International Pictures film that was sold to television, so if you were a kid in the 60’s and 70’s, there’s a great chance you saw it and were incredibly lucky.

The biggest mistake that the mad scientist makes is kidnapping and using the sister of pro wrestler Gloria Venus (Lorena Velazquez), who brings her tag partner Golden Rubi (Elizabeth Campbell) and the police to destroy his schemes.

You know who loved this movie? Rene Cardona, as he spun Lorena Velazque’s character off to star in Las Luchadoras Contra La Momia and Las Lobas Del Ring. Then he remade it with more skin and gore as the even more amazing Night of the Bloody Apes, a film that made the Section 1 video nasties list nearly a decade after it was made, which in my mind is a wonderful accomplishment.

*There’s also another version named Rock ‘n’ Roll Wrestling Women Vs. the Aztec Ape that has a rock ‘n roll soundtrack.

Black Sabbath (1963)

Known in Italy as I tre volti della paura (The Three Faces of Fear), Mario Bava’s seminal film plays differently in other countries of the world. Here in the United States, American-International Pictures suggested changes to Bava during filming so that the film would play better in America, where it underperformed. Those changes include replacing the original dialogue, changing Roberto Nicolosi’s score to music by Les Baxter and censoring much of the film’s violence. The first story, “The Telephone,” was changed the most, as it was given a supernatural element missing from the Italian version and all references to prostitution and lesbianism were exorcised.

Bava wanted to create a story about how terror can strike in different time periods and looked to books for inspiration. The first tale, “The Telephone,” is based on F.G. Snyder’s story and has Bava trying to match the lurid covers of giallo detective books. The whole name giallo had no been codified yet, so this is a take between The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Blood and Black Lace.

In that story, a French call girl named Rosy (Michèle Mercier) returns home to receive a series of strange phone calls from her pimp Frank, who has just escaped from prison. A prison that she sent him to, no less.

Rosy calls her ex-girlfriend Mary (Lydia Alfonsi) as she is sure that she is the only person who can help her. She gives her a large knife and while Rosy sleeps, Mary writes to confess that she was the one who made the calls, hoping that she could bring their relationship back. As she finishes, Frank (Milo Quesada)really does break in and kills her. Realizing he murdered the wrong woman, he moves to Rosy’s bed, but the knife does end up saving her.

In “The Wurdulak,” Vladimir Durfe (Mark Damon) is a young nobleman who finds a headless corpse with a knife in its heart. Taking the blade, he leaves for a small cottage where a man tells him that the knife belongs to his missing father Gorca (Boris Karloff, who also hosts the movie), who has gone to fight the wurdulak.

Now, however, the old man has become what he was fighting and even transforms their son into another undead creature that demands to feed on humans, predating Salem’s Lot. One by one, the family becomes these creatures, leaving only Vladimir and his love, Sdenka (Susy Andersen).

That story was loosely based on The Family of the Vourdalak by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, along with the story “The Wurdulak” from the anthology I vampiri tra noi, Guy de Maupassant’s “Fear” and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Finally, “The Drop of Water” was based a Chekov story and “Dalle tre alle tre e mezzo” (“Between Three and Three-thirty”) from an anthology book called Storie di fantasmi (Ghost Stories). Nurse Helen Chester (Jacqueline Pierreux) is called by the maid (Milly Monti) of an elderly medium to prepare her body for burial. She can’t help but steal a ring from the dead woman, which leads to bussing flies, drips of water and even the dead woman coming back for her.

Even the color of this film is different between the American and Italian versions. It may seem crazy to us today, but AIP recut, re-edited and recolored a Mario Bava movie. This would be seen as ridiculous today, but in 1963, horror films were hardly seen as art.

There were additional scenes filmed with Boris Karloff introducing the segments, just like he did on the TV sho Thriller, but AIP decided they were unnecessary and cut them. Karloff went on record saying that these introductions were some of the most fun he’d ever had on a film set, which led to him praising Bava to his contemporaries Christopher Lee and Vincent Price. Plans were made to make an adaption of The Dunwich Horror called Scarlet Friday with Karloff and Lee, but after the failure of Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, AIP gave up on Bava.

The Lost World of Sinbad (1963)

Mika Mifune once said, “I heard from my father that he was offered the role of Obi Wan Kenobi, but he was concerned about how the film would look and that it would cheapen the image of samurai, on which George Lucas had based a lot of the character and fighting style. At the time, sci-fi movies still looked quite cheap as the effects were not advanced and he had a lot of samurai pride. So then, there was talk about him taking the Darth Vader role as his face would be covered, but in the end he turned that down too.”

Mifune did not, however, turn down the role of Sukezaemon Naya in Daitōzoku, which means The Great Bandit. It was later released in the U.S. as Samurai Pirate and, finally for the purposes of this article, The Lost World of Sinbad*.

Sukezaemon (Mifune) is a pirate who has been shipwrecked in one of the weirdest corners of the world. He must help restore the king to life and defeat an evil premier by joining with some rebels and a wizard to battles a witch, pirates, the imperial guard and free the kingdom from slavery. Yeah, Lucas watched plenty of Mifune’s movies.

*It played double bills with War of the Zombies, which is a crazy pair.

WILLIAM GREFE WEEK: The Checkered Flag (1963)

This was William Gréfe’s first script and when the original director got sick, it also became the first movie he’d direct. Shot on weekends, as Gréfe was working a full-time job as a firefighter, this is the tale of a rookie race driver named Bill Garrison being conned into murdering Rutherford, an older and richer rival, thanks to the machinations of an evil wife.

Consider this: there’s plenty of stock footage of races and several musical numbers with the ending kind of, sort of taken from Freaks. It’s not the best car racing movie you’ve ever seen and probably may vie for the worst, but at least it’s the start of Gréfe’s career as one of Florida’s top exploitation directors.

“Miami” Joe Morrison, who plays the young driver, would go on to be in Sting of Death and Racing Fever, while Evelyn King, who played the conniving Bo Rutherford, went on to be in a lost movie called Scream, Evelyn, Scream! As for Rutherford, he was played by Charles G. Martin, who shows up in plenty of Florida productions, such as Flipper and Gentle Ben.

You can watch this on YouTube.

The Black Report (1963)

This is the second Yasuzô Masumura movie I’ve watched this week, a director whose work that until now I’d never explored.

The next case of Akira Kido (Ken Utsui) will determine whether or not he has earned a promotion. In this film, unlike American movies, the case within court is all that matters.

With elements of noir, this movie shows the inside of a Japanese court room, where catching the murderer is only part of the tale. The rest is actually getting them convicted.

I love getting Arrow blu rays because I’m so often exposed to films that I would never otherwise watch. Japanese courtroom drama was not on my radar until I watched this.

You can get this blu ray from Diabolik DVD. It comes complete with another Masumura film, Black Test Car.

DISCLAIMER: This film was sent to us by Arrow Video.