Instead of a luchador, 1967’s Rocambole Las Mujeres Amplas pits the superhero* against a mad scientist who has turned several women ugly and will only make them beautiful again if they do his bidding. I’m not a megalomaniacal mastermind, but that’s a pretty unique plot.
Director Emilio Gómez Muriel made seventy-seven movies, incuding La Ladrona, Blue Demon: Destructor of Spies, the Neutron movies and Sangre en El Ring.
Gilda Mirós, who is one of the women brought into this plot, also went up against El Santo in Santo el Enmascarado de Plata contra Invasión de Los Marcianos and Blue Demon in Blue Demon y Las Invasoras. Regina Torné would get involved in a similar plot, with her beauty destroyed and only an evil scientist played by John Carradine — trust me, if a doctor played by John Carradine offers to help you, you’re in a bad way — in La Señora Muerte, which is awesome.
So why does Rocambole not look anything like he has in any movie ever? I blame Bat-Mania. I mean, just look at the poster for the sequel to this one, Rocambole contra La Secta del Escorpion.
*Rocambole is a French superhero who started as a master thief and then went to the India where he gained mystic powers and a group of adventurers who he leads from the shadows, like, well, The Shadow. According to Cool French Comics, Rocambole bridges the gap between “old-fashioned gothic novel to modern heroic fiction, in the sense that it created and virtually defined all the archetypes of modern super-heroes and super-villains.”
Gappa: The Triphibian Monster, originally released in the U.S. as Monster from a Prehistoric Planet, is pretty much Gorgo with monsters taken from Japanese legend. That’s totally fine with me, because this movie is absolutely gorgeous.
It’s crazy that this was the only giant monster movie that the Nikkatsu studio made. After this, it’s all Roman Porno and pinky violence.
An expedition from Tokyo heads to Obelisk Island — you know, just like Skull Island — where the president of Playmate Magazine, Mr. Funazu, wants to make a resort. The natives welcome them warmly until the forbidden zone is breached and the expedition takes a gappa egg with them. They plead that the egg’s parents will do anything to get it and you know how humans act in Japanese kaiju films. That means that before you know it, we have two giant bird/turtle/lizard monsters going wild all over Japan to get their baby back.
This is a movie that could never be made today, because all of the natives of Obelisk Island are basically Japanese actors painted in blackface. Plus, the actions of the civilized people cause the Gappas to ignite a volcano and destroy every single villager except Saki, a young boy painted brown.
Speaking of racism, there was an urban legend that Nikkatsu’s international English translation had the line, “The monsters are attacking Tokyo. Fortunately they are attacking the Negro section of town.” This is not true.
Akira Watanabe left Toho to work on the special effects for this movie. He’s known for finishing the designs of Baragon and King Ghidora. There must not have been any bad blood, because he came back to be the art director for movies like King Kong Escapes, Son of Godzilla and Prophecies of Nostradamus.
Happy holidays, everyone. To help celebrate, this is the first of two very horrifying holiday options for you to watch. Despite Santa being in the title of this movie, he only briefly appears, but that isn’t why we watched this movie. No, we’re here because this is another film in the career of Herschell Gordon Lewis that we had to check off.
Yes, parents that dropped their kids off at the theater for an all-day matinee in 1967 probably had no idea that just a few years earlier, the man they are trusting with the psyches of their children made Blood Feast.
So how did this even happen? Well, producer J. Edwin Baker was also a spook-show performer known as Dr. Silkini — his act was The Asylum of Horrors — and he hired Lewis to make a movie for his friend magician Roy Huston.
Huston plays Merlin, making this the second baffling holiday movie* I’ve seen where Santa joins forces with King Arthur’s closest confidant. I have no idea why this is a thing, to be perfectly honest.
The film starts with Santa Claus chilling out on the day after Christmas by reading some Mother Goose, which puts him to sleep. This section is tacked on, of course, to the original film so that they could get more money out of it. It’s also so shoddily made that we can audibly hear Lewis yell cut.
As for the movie itself, Old King Cole calls Merlin, a rag doll who is legally never referred to as Raggedy Anne (or Annabelle, for that matter), Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty, Mother Goose and a ghost who they originally called Casper before an audio edit saved the production from a lawsuit onto the stage for singing, something resembling dancing and the kind of magic tricks that you could have bought from a mail order store to bore your friends with.
Do you remember — if you’re a jerk like me — how much you hated up with people school assemblies? This is just like being stuck at one of those, with Lewis just plopping his cameras down and shooting whatever happened on stage.
There’s so much hand work and goofy acting tics and a witch that gets set on fire and not Raggedy Ann is just horrifying and the real magic trick is that somehow the hour running time of this feels like a hundred years. But hey, it’s Christmas and I have pledged to watch everything the Godfather of Gore ever did, so if you’re going to hit the highs of She-Devils on Wheels and Two Thousand Maniacs!then you’re going to suffer the valleys on the journey.
*The other is, of course, the Mexican mind melter known as Santa Claus.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This review originally ran on August 8, 2020, as we watched the Savage Cinema box set.
William Grefe came right out of the Florida swamps and demanded that you watch his films. He was second unit on I Eat Your Skin before unleashing films like Mako: The Jaws of Death, Death Curse of Tartu and Stanley, a movie in which a young man menaces Alex Rocco and Marcia Knight with snakes.
Rod Tillman (Steve Alaimo, whose life took him from being in the Redcoats, whose song “Mashed Potatoes” hit #75 on the Hot 100, hosting Dick Clark’s Where the ActionIs and even owning TK Records, who dabbled in the Miami bass scene) is a stock car racer out of cash. He sells everything he owns and enters Swinger’s Paradise where he does nothing if not swing. Actually, that’s where he meets Satan’s Angels, a biker gang who needs a getaway driver for a con they have in mind.
The cops try and get Rod on their side too, but he’s all into Linda, who claims she doesn’t do the crimes for the financial prize, but for the kicks. It all ends up in a lighthouse shootout between the cops, the bikers and our hero, who is caught between both sides.
Featuring real-life members of the Hell’s Angels and a Tampa garage rock band known as The Birdwatchers — you know, for the kids — this movie is probably amongst the best on this set. It also has, I can assure you, motorcycles in it.
You can either watch this on YouTube or see the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version on Tubi.
Known in Italy as 4…3…2…1…Morte, this Primo Zeglio-directed science fiction movie is based on the German book series Perry Rhodan by K.H. Scheer and Walter Ernsting.
Looking for radioactive material that can be more powerful than uranium, Major Perry Rhodan (Lang Jeffries, The Junkman, Spies Strike Silently) leads the four-man crew of the Stardust on a moon mission. There, he attempts to help Commander Thora (Essy Persson, Cry of the Banshee) save a scientist named Crest (John Karlsen, The Church). Of course, there’s a traitor, a crime lord, some robots and plenty of shenanigans.
“Okay, kid. I want you to make me a film under 80-minutes for $18,000 bucks,” cigar chomps the film executive planting his wing-tips on his desk. “And I got this ratty gorilla suit at an auction . . . they lost the gorilla head, so use this alien mask that I think is left over from 20 Million Miles to Earth . . . and use these reels of NASA stock footage . . . oh, and I can’t afford any lights, so shoot all the night time scenes day-for-night. And you’re using John Agar in the lead.”
“Who’s John Agar?” snivels the fresh-out-of-film-school grad.
“A washed up drunk who boinked Shirley Temple. He comes cheap.”
“Well, sir. Thank you for the opportunity—.”
“Believe me, kid. If I could get Larry Buchanan to shoot this, I would. Now, let’s go to work.”
. . . And so starts this go-go swingin’ adventure: A NASA rocket sent into space filled with test animals flies through a radiation cloud and crashes into the wilds of Cielo, Texas, so a mutated-gorilla monster can munch on a bunch of 18-going-on-30 teenagers in a wooded area known as “Satan’s Hollow.” (Speaking of a “Satan’s Hollow,” check this out.)
“Hey, gang,” head cool kid Chris Jordan calls out. “Let’s go have a swingin’ dance party in the woods! You know, our own ‘private blast’ where that mysterious object crashed!”
“Yeah, and we can do some off-screen shimmy-shammin’ so the Klingon-headed-gorilla space monster can chew us up,” squeals Judy.
“Shit. Let’s go to work, Ben,” says Sheriff Clint Crawford (John Agar) to Deputy Ben Whitfield (Bill Thurman). “It looks like we’re stuck in a movie that’s worse than Robot Monster. Hell, even The Giant Gila Monster.”
“Yeah,” whisky bottle swigs John Agar. “At this rate, we’ll be co-starring in Ed Wood pictures. Damn shame I won’t live long enough to star in an ‘80s SOV stinker. Heck, I would have been great as the detective in Blood Cult.”
“Nah, I’ll do just fine, John. I won’t end up in SOV crap like Spine. Respected directors like Louis Malle, Steven Speilberg, and Lawrence Kasdan will cast me, and I’ll work with Steve McQueen,” chest puffs Bill. “Now go stuff that mannequin with explosives so the dumb space gorilla eats it and we can get the hell out of here and have a beer,” bug neck-smacks Bill Thurman. “And besides, John, don’t you remember? You do that interview in 1986. So it’s not that you died, it’s just that you’ll be so washed up, that the director, Christopher Lewis, wouldn’t want you.”
“Hey, wait a sec . . . Lewis? Loretta’s kid. Yeah, didn’t I bang Loretta Young?”
“Yeah, right, Johnny boy,” says Bill with a back pat. “She married Clark Gable. What would she want with a pug like you? Now, let’s go kill us a space gorilla.”
John Agar was on top of the world. He starred alongside John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima, Fort Apache, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. He was the toast of tinsel town with his five-year marriage to Shirley Temple. . . . Then the marriage failed and his drinking got worse and he became a stock player for Larry Buchanan at AIP Studios in the low-budget frolics The Mole People and The Brain from Planet Arous.
Me: I always cherish Mr. Agar in my late dad’s John Wayne flicks and I’ll always remember John in the Alien precursor and the UHF double-billed, Journey to the Seventh Planet (alongside The Demon Planet, aka Planet of Vampires).
“I don’t resent being identified with B-science fiction movies at all,” Agar reflected in a 1986 interview chronicled at Monster Shack. “Why should I? Even though they were not considered top of the line, for those people that like sci-fi, I guess they were fun. My whole feeling about working as an actor is, if I give anybody any enjoyment, I’m doing my job, and that’s what counts.”
You did, John Agar. You most certainly did. You are at the center of this writer’s Venn Diagram-Borromean Rings of my “Bad Sci-Fi Battle of Evermore.”
In addition to satisfying my John Agar fix, Night Fright also quenches my Bill Thurman completest-compulsions—and gives me an opportunity to talk about Hollywood fringe-obscurity, Brenda Venus.
Brenda Venus, who stars as Sue, grew up to sprout “white nipples” so Eric Swann (Martin Mull) could boink her on the audio mixing console in FM (1978). Oh, you’ve seen Brenda around. She was in Fred Williamson’s blaxploitation spaghetti western, Joshua (1976) and Jack Hill’s Foxy Brown (1974). She starred with Clint Eastwood in The Eiger Sanction (?!) and she endured the wrath of Ankar Moor in Deathsport (1978). Brenda’s Wikipedia is well worth the visit and it directs you to her very cool, official website.
As for Bill Thurman: It’s like shootin’ fish in a Larry Buchanan-AIP barrel. Bill was in everything calculated inside the UHF Venn Diagram of my youth and went on to become the “go-to actor” when you needed a backwoods sheriff or redneck.
He was Sheriff Brad Crenshaw in Zontar, the Thing from Venus.
And get a load of the ‘80s VHS and ‘90s digital-platform repacks of Night Fright: they really are better than the movie. And don’t be fooled by its alternate titlings and confuse it with 1958’s Night of the Blood Beast, which is also available on the Mill Creek Pure Terror 50 Box Set (and my condolences to whomever reviews that stinker. Wait. What? I’m the “whomever” reviewing it? Crap!).
So, yeah, Night Fright sucks. But it’s also one of my cherished UHF snowy memories. Thanks, Mill Creek!
Obviously, the entire week that we spent on Italian Westerns should let you know how much I love Django. Now, after double digits of rip-offs and remakes in his native Italy, the man once played by Franco Nero (and Jamie Foxx, Anthony Steffen, Glenn Saxson, George Eastman, James Philbrook, Franco Franchi, Tomas Milian, Ivan Rassimov, Gianni Garko, Terence Hill, Jack Betts, Brad Harris and certainly several more that I’m neglecting to remember) has made his way to Turkey.
He’s also brought along another Italian character, this time the antihero Killing, known in Turkey as Kilink. Here, he’s merely called the Death Rider, but we all know who he is. Who else would cut the hand of one of his own men off, then feed it to a dog, and still have everyone like him?
I have no idea how a remix like this happened, but I’m glad that it did. Also, the Turkish film industry made plenty of ripoffs of Ringo, including Kanunsuz Kahraman – Ringo Kid, which rips off 7 Men from Now and uses the music from Winchester 1965/1966. Of course, it stars Cüneyt Arkin.
Kilink in Istanbul takes the Italian photo comic supervillain Killing and places him into mortal combat with the Turkish version — well, one of many — of Superman, here known as Flying Man.
Kilink (Yildirim Gencer) was dead, but maybe he was just resting, because his lover has brought him back to life to take over the world or die trying and get resurrected and try again. He kills a professor to get his formula and the professor’s son goes all Billy Batson, meets a wizard and yells “Shazam!” to switch into a superhero who has Batman’s mask, the Phantom’s tights and the rest of Superman’s clothes. What, did you expect him to shout “Kimota!”?
To the sound of John Barry’s James Bond theme, Killing kills with no hint of conscience and also is as suave as can be. This is the first of many films with this character and they will take him all over fiction, battling not only Superman one more time, but everyone from Mandrake the Magician to Frankenstein’s Monster and Django. Sadly, these films were incredibly disposable and not many of them survive.
Kilink — KIlling — is an Italian anti-hero in the mold of Diabolik co-opted by the Turkish copyright smashing machine, which also has its grimy hands on Superman in the sequel to KilinkIstanbul’da. You may ask, why have I put these films on the site completely out of order? That’s because it won’t matter. They make little to no sense as it is in the very best of ways and should be experienced as singularly wonderful works of strange art. Just watch them in any order — alphabetical, chronological or, like me, as you find them.
Superman located our skeleton-suited villain’s secret base, the place where he has hidden away his fiancee and her father. Superman has a fiancee? Well, Superman also has the same origin as Captain Marvel, the mask of Batman, the striped underwear of the Lee Falk Phantom and a weightlifter belt.
The end of this movie has been lost, so it is shown as still photos with narration. More movies should embrace this kind of ridiculous storytelling, as we learn that Kilink has fallen to his doom, because Turkish Superman doesn’t have the same “nobody dies” rules as Clark Kent. Don’t worry. He literally laughs it off in the next movie, Kilink: Soy ve Öldür.
This was written by Çetin Inanç, who would go on to make even more baffling and wonderful movies. It stars Irfan Atasoy, who was also in Maskeli Seytan and Spy Smasher and Süheyl Egriboz, who would later appear in Vashi Kan.
You have to love that the look of these Turkish superheroes were literally three decades or more behind the times, not even realizing that Eurospy and Batmania had changed the look of the movie serial.
With a name like Woman Despiser, you know that you’re entering the world of the giallo. But you’re not coming into it from Italy or Germany or even England, the home of Edgar Wallace, but instead, Turkey. The amazing thing is that this film comes from 1967, before Argento reinvented the form, so it really is closer to an Umberto Lenzi-style giallo or a German krimi.
A masked killer is murdering women one at a time, using the first letter of their first name and the initial letter of the district that he is in. He also wears different monster masks and has zombie hands and, well, there’s no nice way to say it — he assaults the women after he’s killed them.
I was shocked by that — and how Westernized the women were — which is way more than I expected from a late 60’s Turkish movie. There aren’t many on-screen kills, but the one — where we see the knife spray a young woman’s blood out of her throat — is memorable enough.
So yeah — miniskirts were all the rage here in 1967, as was the rock and roll. And murder, it seems. It’s hard to find a 100% original genre film out of this country, but darn it if writer and director İlhan Engin didn’t pull it off. It’s no The Girl Who Knew Too Much, but it’s not the worst black glove killer movie I’ve ever seen.