Gamera vs. Viras (1968)

This film was released in the U.S. as Destroy All Planets, which may have been a ploy to make people think it was Destroy All Monsters, perhaps the greatest of all Toho monster battles.

This time, Gamera is defending our planet from aliens. He starts off by destroying one of their ships, but not before an entire planet declares that he is their enemy.

The aliens come back to Earth and learn Gamera’s one weakness: he loves children. They kidnap some kids and force him to do their bidding, but before long, he’s broken loose and is battling all of the aliens at once, who have combined their form into the menace known as Viras.

Daiei was in financial trouble, so this movie suffers from a smaller budget than previous films. But this is where the idea of Gamera protecting kids from aliens and monsters began. Yet it’s also the first of the series to use flashbacks from past films to pad the running time. This will get much, much worse as Gamera would battle on.

There was also an agreement with AIP that an American kid had to be in the movie. They couldn’t find any kids that could speak Japanese, so the studio cast Carl Craig, whose father was an army soldier stationed in Japan, despite Carl having no acting experience.

You can watch this on Tubi and Vudu. You can also download it on the Internet Archive.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968)

Directed by Charles Jarrott (Condorman), written by Ian McLellan Hunter (he won the Oscar for Roman Holiday, which was really written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo; Hunter was later blacklisted as well) and produced by Dan Curtis, this made for ABC TV movie originally aired on January 7, 1968 as part of ABC’s Wide World of Mystery.

Rod Serling wrote the original draft of the script, with Jason Robards set to star. The actor was unhappy with the script and there was a technician’s strike in London, so eventually, Robards just walked away and Jack Palance took over the role.

Palance — born Volodymyr Palahniuk — had the tough guy edge to be a perfect Hyde. His Jekyll is what really makes this role, that he can be two totally opposite sides so well. Credit also goes to Dick Smith, who not only created satyr-like makeup for Hyde, but subtly fixed Palance’s nose so that he appears more handsome as Jekyll.

Denholm Elliott — later to be Marcus Brody in the Indiana Jones movies — shows up, as does Torin Thatcher, Billie Whitelaw (Mrs. Baylock from The Omen!) and Welsh entertainer “Two Ton” Tessie O’Shea.

If you watch the later scenes in this movie, you’ll notice that Palance is only using his right arm. that’s because he broke his left during a stunt gone wrong.

Dark Shadows viewers will pick up on the fact that most of the music in this comes directly from the show. When Jekyll goes to the bar for the first time, listen for “Quentin’s Theme.”

You can watch this on Tubi.

Terror In the Jungle (1968)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post originally ran way back in November 2019 as part of our Pure Terror month. If there’s one thing Mill Creek Entertainment knows, it’s being green and recycling. If you’re a fan of their sets like I am, you soon realize that you often have the same movie multiple times on multiple sets. After I got the Explosive Cinema set at Eide’s Entertainment, I knew that my OCD would demand that I review this entire set, too. So here’s Terror In the Jungle, a movie that I love.

I kind of wish that I was alive in 1968 just so I could have been part of this movie. Seriously, I’ve never seen a film that so quicky changes its tone and central theme so quickly, abandoning characters that its taken time to set up for an entirely new situation. And then we get the airplane, with swinging bands playing on it and people going bonkers before it crashes? I want to live in this insane world.

After we meet all these folks — bound for Rio — we better not get too used to them. Except for little Henry Clayton Jr., who is taking his stuffed lion to live with his mother after his parents split up. There’s also Mrs. Sherman, who may or may not have killed her husband, but has a suitcase full of money and is given to insane crying jags. And there’s an exotic dancer on board as well! And some nuns, traveling with one of their dead sisters in a coffin! And then there’s a band! And a rich dude that talks about cannibals!

Everybody is having so much fun that the band plays their big hit and Marian, the exotic dancer, shows off and even the nuns enjoy it. However, the movie soon turns into sheer insanity, as the plane begins to crash. Money spills all over the plane, a nun gets pulled out of an open door and half the cast abruptly dies. Seriously, somehow this went from “Soft Lips” to dudes getting their foreheads split in half and a gory death with a birdcage. I have no idea what brought on this narrative shift.

Then, to top all this off, every single other person we met is eaten by alligators.

You read that right.

The entire cast is dead.

Everyone except Henry, who is now floating down a reptile filled river in the coffin of a dead nun.

What the actual hell is going on here?

The natives — yes, the cannibals that were discussed on the plane that call themselves the Jivaros — find Henry and thanks to his blonde hair and the magic of 1968’s worst special effects, he has a halo. The leader of the tribe declares that he is a god, except that one of them thinks he has to die. So he chases Henry into the jungle and the kid’s stuffed lion transforms into a real lion and eats the dude.

So wait — is Henry really a god?

This is a movie that starts with the declaration that “This picturd was filmed on location in the Jivaros Regions of the Amazon Jungle. Without the assistance and encouragement of the Government of Peru it would not have been possible.”

It’s also the kind of movie that randomly has Fawn Silver be Marian, the exotic dancer. If you don’t know who she is, she’s Criswell’s assistant in Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead.

It also has three directors — Tom De’Simone directed the plane sequence, Andrew Janzack the jungle parts and the temple close was directed by Alex Graton. That may explain the strange narrative leaps that this makes.

Let’s break down each director.

Tom De’Simone went on to become adult film director Lancer Brooks, as well as creating some of my favorite films, like Hell NightReform School Girls and Chatterbox. Andrew Janzack never directed another movie, but was the cinematographer for The Undertaker and His Pals.

Alex Graton would finally direct another movie eleven years later, a romantic comedy entitled Only Once In a Lifetime that has Claudio Brook — yes, the same Claudio Brook who was in Luis Buneul’s The Exterminating Angel — in it.

I love IMDB because it has comments directly from De’Simone in the review. I’ll share it below for your enjoyment:

“OK, now it’s my turn to weigh in on this disaster. I’m the director who’s credited with this fiasco but in my defense I have to explain that there were three directors on this film and we all suffered under a producer with no experience, no taste, no sense and worst of all, NO MONEY.

I was fresh out of film school working as an editor when I was introduced to him when he was looking for a director. I convinced him I could handle a feature having already won two awards at film festivals for two shorts I had done. This was the biggest mistake in my life. Once on, for a mere $50 a day, I realized what I had gotten into. He hired a bunch of non-SAG actors who actually PAID HIM to be in his movie. None had any experience in front of a camera and all the characters were his creation. I was stuck in that plane mock-up for two weeks with these desperate souls trying to create something from nothing. The script was only half written when we started and he said he would finish it when we got to the jungle. When we completed the plane interiors, including the now famous “crash” scene, the rough cut was 83 minutes long and we hadn’t even reached the jungle part of the story.

I told him we had to make some serious trims, both for time and for performances. He refused to cut anything. He was so in love with the crap we had he actually once said he believed that the actress playing the stewardess would win an Oscar for her scream scene in the fire. I knew I was doomed. We argued over and over about what I felt should be dropped, trimmed and eliminated until I had it. I walked from the production and that wonderful salary. Undaunted, he went to Peru and used the cameraman as the replacement director. Down there they wrote the second half of the script and shot it as he wrote it.

Back in LA they now had a bigger disaster, naturally. The film was way too long, badly shot, badly acted and unwatchable. He and this second director fought, as did I, and he then walked away as well. Now the producer was over a barrel. He had sunk what little money he borrowed and still believed he had a hit on his hands if he could just get it finished. He hired a third guy to come in and fix the problem. This genius hired a bunch of extras, put bad wigs on them and went to Griffith Park in LA and shot more crap that was even more laughable than what they got in Peru. After that the producer shopped around for stock footage of native ceremonies and came up with some god-awful crap from a 40’s schlock film and cut it in . . . the final disaster is what’s on screen. I’ve lived in shame my entire career because for some reason I always get the credit for making this turkey. I was one of three victims! The entire debacle was the brain child of the producer and none of us had a chance in hell to make it any better than it was doomed to be from the start.

And that’s the truth.”

In case you haven’t realized it yet, I love this movie. Like, beyond love. I’m going to bother everyone I know to tell them just how great it is and then laugh when they look at me and wonder why I enjoy this blast of craziness so much. Beware!

I kind of wish that I was alive in 1968 just so I could have been part of this movie. Seriously, I’ve never seen a film that so quicky changes its tone and central theme so quickly, abandoning characters that its taken time to set up for an entirely new situation. And then we get the airplane, with swinging bands playing on it and people going bonkers before it crashes? I want to live in this insane world.

After we meet all these folks — bound for Rio — we better not get too used to them. Except for little Henry Clayton Jr., who is taking his stuffed lion to live with his mother after his parents split up. There’s also Mrs. Sherman, who may or may not have killed her husband, but has a suitcase full of money and is given to insane crying jags. And there’s an exotic dancer on board as well! And some nuns, traveling with one of their dead sisters in a coffin! And then there’s a band! And a rich dude that talks about cannibals!

Everybody is having so much fun that the band plays their big hit and Marian, the exotic dancer, shows off and even the nuns enjoy it. However, the movie soon turns into sheer insanity, as the plane begins to crash. Money spills all over the plane, a nun gets pulled out of an open door and half the cast abruptly dies. Seriously, somehow this went from “Soft Lips” to dudes getting their foreheads split in half and a gory death with a birdcage. I have no idea what brought on this narrative shift.

Then, to top all this off, every single other person we met is eaten by alligators.

You read that right.

The entire cast is dead.

Everyone except Henry, who is now floating down a reptile filled river in the coffin of a dead nun.

What the actual hell is going on here?

The natives — yes, the cannibals that were discussed on the plane that call themselves the Jivaros — find Henry and thanks to his blonde hair and the magic of 1968’s worst special effects, he has a halo. The leader of the tribe declares that he is a god, except that one of them thinks he has to die. So he chases Henry into the jungle and the kid’s stuffed lion transforms into a real lion and eats the dude.

So wait — is Henry really a god?

This is a movie that starts with the declaration that “This picturd was filmed on location in the Jivaros Regions of the Amazon Jungle. Without the assistance and encouragement of the Government of Peru it would not have been possible.”

It’s also the kind of movie that randomly has Fawn Silver be Marian, the exotic dancer. If you don’t know who she is, she’s Criswell’s assistant in Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead.

It also has three directors — Tom De’Simone directed the plane sequence, Andrew Janzack the jungle parts and the temple close was directed by Alex Graton. That may explain the strange narrative leaps that this makes.

Let’s break down each director.

Tom De’Simone went on to become adult film director Lancer Brooks, as well as creating some of my favorite films, like Hell NightReform School Girls and Chatterbox. Andrew Janzack never directed another movie, but was the cinematographer for The Undertaker and His Pals.

Alex Graton would finally direct another movie eleven years later, a romantic comedy entitled Only Once In a Lifetime that has Claudio Brook — yes, the same Claudio Brook who was in Luis Buneul’s The Exterminating Angel — in it.

I love IMDB because it has comments directly from De’Simone in the review. I’ll share it below for your enjoyment:

“OK, now it’s my turn to weigh in on this disaster. I’m the director who’s credited with this fiasco but in my defense I have to explain that there were three directors on this film and we all suffered under a producer with no experience, no taste, no sense and worst of all, NO MONEY.

“I was fresh out of film school working as an editor when I was introduced to him when he was looking for a director. I convinced him I could handle a feature having already won two awards at film festivals for two shorts I had done. This was the biggest mistake in my life. Once on, for a mere $50 a day, I realized what I had gotten into. He hired a bunch of non-SAG actors who actually PAID HIM to be in his movie. None had any experience in front of a camera and all the characters were his creation. I was stuck in that plane mock-up for two weeks with these desperate souls trying to create something from nothing. The script was only half written when we started and he said he would finish it when we got to the jungle. When we completed the plane interiors, including the now famous “crash” scene, the rough cut was 83 minutes long and we hadn’t even reached the jungle part of the story.

“I told him we had to make some serious trims, both for time and for performances. He refused to cut anything. He was so in love with the crap we had he actually once said he believed that the actress playing the stewardess would win an Oscar for her scream scene in the fire. I knew I was doomed. We argued over and over about what I felt should be dropped, trimmed and eliminated until I had it. I walked from the production and that wonderful salary. Undaunted, he went to Peru and used the cameraman as the replacement director. Down there they wrote the second half of the script and shot it as he wrote it.

“Back in LA they now had a bigger disaster, naturally. The film was way too long, badly shot, badly acted and unwatchable. He and this second director fought, as did I, and he then walked away as well. Now the producer was over a barrel. He had sunk what little money he borrowed and still believed he had a hit on his hands if he could just get it finished. He hired a third guy to come in and fix the problem. This genius hired a bunch of extras, put bad wigs on them and went to Griffith Park in LA and shot more crap that was even more laughable than what they got in Peru. After that the producer shopped around for stock footage of native ceremonies and came up with some god-awful crap from a 40’s schlock film and cut it in . . . the final disaster is what’s on screen. I’ve lived in shame my entire career because for some reason I always get the credit for making this turkey. I was one of three victims! The entire debacle was the brain child of the producer and none of us had a chance in hell to make it any better than it was doomed to be from the start.

And that’s the truth.”

In case you haven’t realized it yet, I love this movie. Like, beyond love. I’m going to bother everyone I know to tell them just how great it is and then laugh when they look at me and wonder why I enjoy this blast of craziness so much. Beware!

Spider Baby (1968)

Man, Jack Hill rules. SorceressSwitchblade SistersCoffyThe Big Doll House? That’s why Tarantino referred to him as “the Howard Hawks of exploitation.”

Of all his movies, I love Spider Baby most of all. It’s the most perfect of all films, packed with menace, sweetness and madness all in equal measure. Who else would let Lon Chaney Jr. sing the theme song to their movie other than Hill?

This $65,000 movie — shot in The Smith estate house that was originally occupied by Judge David Patterson Hatch, who wrote books on the occult after he retired — pretty much disappeared upon release and numerous title changes didn’t help it find an audience. Yeah, titles like The Liver Eaters, Attack of the Liver Eaters, Cannibal Orgy and The Maddest Story Ever Told didn’t work.

But it found the right people when it was all over. People like Johnny Legend, who made sure that this movie wouldn’t die.

Spider Baby is all about the Merrye family. The end of the family, that is, as the last three children all live in a mansion that’s falling apart and are protected by their chauffeur Bruno (Chaney, absolutely perfect). They all suffer from a disease called Merrye Syndrome that only impacts members of their family, hence the name, and causes them to regress down the evolutionary ladder as they grow older.

Two relatives visit with their lawyer to try and get whatever money is left, but the kids have lost all control and Bruno can no longer stop them from doing what they do best: kill, baby, kill.

Virginia (Jill Banner, The Stranger Returns) is known as Spider Baby because she loves trapping people in makeshift webs, climbing around the house and eating bugs when she isn’t murdering delivery people like Mantan Moreland (who is also in Lucky Ghost and nearly replaced Shemp in the Three Stooges).

Ralph (Sid Haig!) loves the ladies and has completely lost his mind. He can barely communicate now and uses the dumb waiter to silently get around the mansion.

Finally, Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn, Old Yeller) may look normal, but she’s just as demented as her siblings.

Meanwhile, Clara, Martha and Ned have regressed even further and live in the basement, where they must constantly be fed human bodies. And oh yeah — the skeleton of the children’s father gets kissed good night by Virginia before bed every single evening.

Of course, the arrival of new people can only mean one thing: everyone must die in a dynamite explosion. That’s how these things go.

Carol Ohmart from The House on Haunted Hill plays one of those interlopers as does Quinn Redeker, the only person I know that wrote the story for The Deer Hunter and appeared in a movie with the Three Stooges.

Sid Haig avoided Lon Chaney Jr. for the first two days of filming because he had no idea how to interact with him. One day, he was needed for a scene and the future Captain Spaulding went to the former Larry Talbot’s trailer. He knocked on the door and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Chaney. You’re needed on set.” Chaney told Haig, without skipping a beat, “Stop that. I’m not Mr. Chaney. I’m Lon. You’re Sid. Let’s leave it at that.”

Haig also related that in the scene where Chaney discusses the toy, the crew broke down into tears and gave him a standing ovation. He deserved it.

This movie makes me incredibly emotional. Maybe it’s the fact that the children are doomed to never fit in. Perhaps it’s because Chaney realized that he’d never have — or even had — a role this good. Or maybe I just really torn up by movies.

Spider Baby is available for free download on The Internet Archive and you can stream it for free on Tubi and Amazon Prime

The Astro-Zombies (1968)

Ted V. Mikels had the body of a Greek god with a giant handlebar mustache, lived in a castle in the Nevada desert populated with live-in women (his Castle wives) and made astoundingly crazy movies. He was a magician, acrobat and fire eater before he started making movies and once he began filming them, he left this planet with pieces of insanity such as Girl In Gold BootsThe Black KlansmanThe Corpse GrindersBlood Orgy of the She-DevilsThe Doll Squad and many, many more.

Dr. DeMarco (the ever-job hungry John Carradine) gets fired by the space agency. Not NASA. The space agency. So he does what any of us do when we get downsized. No, he doesn’t develop a case of the shakes and contemplate how to kill himself so his wife can take advantage of his life insurance because he’s failed yet again.

He makes superhuman monsters from the body parts of innocent murder victims that can be controlled by flashlights to the side of the head.

That said, those undead, well, astro zombies get loose and the CIA and an international gang of spies all get mixed up.

This is Wendell Corey’s last film, an ignominious close if I ever saw one.

Wayne Rodgers, who would become a star on M*A*S*H* co-wrote and co-produced this movie, the last time he’d work with Mikels.

But come on. You’re watching this for Tura Satana. Seriously, of all the women to walk the millions of years on this Earth, there could be only one Tura, the women who studied martial arts so that she could go back and get revenge on the men who assaulted her as a child, like a living and breathing version of They Call Her One Eye.

“I made a vow to myself that I would someday, somehow get even with all of them. They never knew who I was until I told them,” said the goddess herself.

She also survived being shot, breaking her back in a car wreck and a wedding proposal from Elvis Presley. Seriously, my love for Tura Satana knows no boundaries.

She’s why I watched this movie.

As Glenn Danzig once sang in the song “Astro Zombies” — which more people know than probably this movie — “With just a touch of my burning hand, I’m gonna live my life to destroy your world. Prime directive, exterminate the whole fuckin’ race!” The Misfits were the perfect band to convey the junky charms of this film.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime. The Rifftrax version is available on Tubi.

The Sweet Body of Deborah (1968)

Il Dolce Corpo di Deborah, or The Sweet Body of Deborah, is a gorgeous film that embodies the fashionable side of the giallo. It’s directed by Romolo Guerrieri (Johnny Yuma) from a script by Ernesto Gastaldi (Hands of Steel2019: After the Fall of New YorkThe Case of the Bloody IrisThe Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh — obviously this man knew what he was doing with a resume like that) and producer Luciano Martino (who, in addition to helping write The Whip and the Body and Delirium, was engaged to Edwige Fenech at one point).

Adding to this pedigree — the cast. Carroll Baker is a giallo queen if there ever was one, thanks to appearances in So Sweet…So PeverseOrgasmoA Quiet Place to Kill and Baba Yaga (a comic book adaption with George Eastman in it, so it’s amazing that I’ve never written about it here). And Jean Sorel, who was in the proto-giallo Perversion Story for Fulci, appears here as well. Finally, to make every fan of the black-gloved psychosexual realm pleased, George Hilton (who once played Sartana, as well as appearing in Luciano’s brother Sergio’s films, such as All the Colors of the Dark and The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) is here as a voyeur.

Oh yes. We have a winner, dear reader.

Deborah (Baker) and Marcel (Sorel) have returned home from their honeymoon, just in time for them to learn that Marcel’s past lover, Susan, has killed herself. The mood transforms from frolic and fun to fright, as a man from the past named Phillip (Luigi Pistilli, Iguana With the Tongue of FireA Bay of Blood).

Marcel — and Deborah — both start to receive threats related to Susan’s death. But is she really dead? And who is Robert (Hilton) and why is he perving all over our girl?

While this isn’t the best giallo you’ve ever seen, you get to see Baker in — and out — of some insane fashions. There’s a bonkers outdoor twister scene set to some cool jazz and a nightclub with pop art all over the walls, including Batman and several sculptures of Cybermen from Dr. Who. The whole mood and tone is perfect.

Ah man. If only all films were this sumptuous. And sounded this great, thanks to a score by Nora Orlandi. You may know her from the song “Dies Irae”, which was in The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 2.

There’s also an amazing knife fight scene in the dark and a great ending. What else do you want?

War of the Insects AKA Genocide (1968)

Also known as Konchu Daisenso (which translates to Insect War), this Japanese apocalyptic film was directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu, who often found himself as an assistant director to Akira Kurosawa (on 1952’s The Idiot), Keisuke Kinoshita (Carmen Come Home) and Masaki Kobayashi (1956’s The Thick-Walled Room). He would use the name Norman Cooper here.

It’s written by Susumu Takaku, who would later write 92 episodes of the anime Mazinger Z, the Fist of the North Star anime movie and numerous Sentai shows.

The Shochiku Company was considered a prestige studio, not one that was part of the kaiju and science fiction crazes of the 50’s and 60’s in Japan. But here we are, with one of the few films that the studio made within these genres.

Somewhere in the Anan Archipelago, Akiyama Joji is making time with Annabelle, who is not his full-time woman, when an American jet carrying a nuke goes horribly off-course above. Charly, one of the crew, has a flashback to World War II thanks to an insect. He begs for drugs as a release from his pain, begging not to go back into the war. This is 1968, not today when PTSD is common knowledge. Suddenly, the plane flies into a swarm of insects and explodes, with several parachutes escaping the wreckage.

Charly is played by Arthur “Chico” Lourant, who made his way to Japan via the Korean War before staying there as an actor, with roles in Gamera vs. Jiger and Prophecies of Nostradamus, which was released in the U.S. as The Last Days of Planet Earth.

The hydrogen bomb on board is missing and now Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon must find it. At the same time, Joji’s wife Akiyama must deal with her adulterous husband and the unwanted attentions of her boss Kudo. And hey — there’s Charly, who seems to be the only survivor. The rest? Dead in a cave and covered with insect bites.

Joji has found a watch whole looking for insects for Dr. Nagumo. This is the only fact that the military needs to put the blame for the two deaths on him, as the watch is government issue. Yukari begs the doctor to speak for her husband, just as we learn that insects are destroying India.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nagumo meets the only other witness to the accident, Joji’s lover Annabelle, who knows way more about the insects on the island than maybe even this scientist. That’s because she’s at once a scarlet woman, a lover of nature, an enemy to capitalism and, yes, a mad scientist.

This is a film with no real heroes and constant inhumanity to man, so you take the good where you can get it, you know?

“I don’t care whether I live in a free society of a Communist one. I just want to breed vast numbers of insects that drive people mad and scatter them all over the world.” Oh Annabelle!

Kathy Horan, who plays this role, shows up as a stock American in plenty of Japanese films of this era, including The Green Slime and the astoundingly great King Kong Escapes.

Meanwhile, Charly dies and it’s revealed that the insects have laid their eggs inside him. As he expires, they all chant “Genocide! Genocide!” This movie has become pure drug-filled post-nuke madness. What follows is even more buggy, as they say: the good doctor allows himself to be injected with insect venom so he can connect with their hive mind and learn their plan for dominating the world. Seriously, do not dose yourself before this scene.

Nobody really gets out of this alive and if you think Japanese directors are going to allow the Americans to not look like amoral scientists who will quickly nuke their small island from orbit, perhaps you don’t understand that, well, we already did that twice to them.

Seriously, this is one demented film.:

You can watch the Cinematic Titanic version of this movie on Tubi. The Criterion Collection released this film on a compilation set titled When Horror Came to Shochiku along with Goku Bodysnatcher from HellThe Living Skeleton (which it played double features with in the U.S.) and The X From Outerspace. You can buy it on their site.

Ape Week: Planet of the Apes (1968)

La Planete des Singes is where Planet of the Apes gets its start. It’s the story of three humans who travel from Earth to the star Betelgeuse, where apes are the dominant species. So many of the ideas that appear in the movies come from this book, save the shock ending that all surprise endings yearn to emulate.

Let me tell you — Planet of the Apes is beyond Star Wars for some folks. How many other franchises have had so many sequels, two reboots, a TV series and a cartoon?

Boulle’s literary agent, Allain Bernheim, sold the novel to film producer Arthur P. Jacobs, who once said, “I wish King Kong hadn’t been made so I could make it.” Luckily, he had just the ape project to sell him.

Jacobs spent over three years trying to convince someone to make the movie. The screenplay, from Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, went a long way toward making that happen. He added themes from the Cold War and added the aforementioned twist ending. But with production costs at $10 million — $70 million today — no studio wanted to make it.

Jacobs and associate producer Mort Abrahams kept at it and once they got Charlton Heston on board, things started to get rolling. Heston brought director Franklin J. Schaffner (PattonThe Boys From Brazil) on board and for a screen test.

This screen test featured Heston, Edward G. Robinson appeared as Dr. Zaius and two then-unknown Fox contract actors — James Brolin and Linda Harrison — who played Cornelius and Zira.

It worked and convinced 20th Century Fox to make the film for $5.8 million, which paid off — the film made $22 million.

Astronauts Taylor (Heston), Landon and Dodge awake from hypersleep as their ship crashes into an unknown planet. A malfunction has already claimed the life of their crewmate Stewart. As they leave their spacecraft, Taylor notices that they are 2,000 years in the future and on a planet that appears to be a wasteland.

Soon, they’ve been attacked by not only primitive humans but militant apes. Dodge is killed, Taylor is injured and Landon is knocked out. Animal psychologist Zira (Kim Hunter) and surgeon Galen (Wright King, Invasion of the Bee Girls) save Taylor and place him with Nova (Linda Harrison, who for some time renamed herself Augusta Summerland thanks to her spiritual advisor), a gorgeous primitive human.

The apes live in a caste system, with gorillas serving as the muscle, orangutans handling religion and government and chimpanzees being involved in medicine and science. Humans are seen as nothing more than animals to be herded and hunted.

This all changes for Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira when they learn that Taylor can speak. After all, how else would we get such classic lines like “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”

Of course, a visit to the Forbidden Zone — a trope that would come back in nearly every post-apocalyptic film ever — we learn that this isn’t another planet. It’s Earth. It’s also the best ending to probably any movie ever made.

Two months after this came out, they were already talking sequel. Stay tuned all week — we’ll be covering every single film in the series.

Want to learn more? Check out the official Planet of the Apes site.

50 Flix: Once Upon a Time In the West (1968)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This is the second film in Raven Mack’s series. You can learn more about this work of art here or support the work of the artist at his Patreon.

Once Upon a Time in the West is a spaghetti western epic, the first big film done by Sergio Leone after his trilogy with Clint Eastwood featuring the man with no name, each of which ended up being a bigger box office success than the one before it. The film was a big budget Paramount Pictures fever dream about the American mythology of the west, and is an absolute beauty from a cinematographic perspective. It got released in December of 1968, a month after Richard Nixon got elected in a somewhat unsettled Presidential election cycle.

1968 was a time of plenty unrest in America, with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy getting assassinated that year, and riots spawning multiple times, both in African-American communities as well as among liberal college campus set. The Democratic Convention in Chicago was a huge mess, where thousands of activists showed up to disrupt the proceedings of status quo with antiwar protests. Police ran roughshod with tear gas and clubs, all of it on TV for the whole nation to see. Incumbent Lyndon Johnson had already pulled out of running after losing early primaries and with RFK in the race, long before it got to the convention. Hubert Humphrey came out of the convention as the nominee.

Richard Nixon’s launch into political success (he lost to JFK in 1960, so this was his second run at the big seat) was not without its own opposition, as the more racist South, who around this time were being rejected by the Democratic Party that had previously housed Southern Dixiecrats after the Civil War, wanted a pro-segregationist politician. The American Independent Party was founded via funding by Bill and Eileen Shearer, who positioned former Alabama governor George Wallace as an unflinching voice for law and order segregation. The whole thing has snippets and tinges of 2016-2020 politics, but even worse, which is a good reminder for this constant End Times vision we all seem to be instilled with in this great digital age of fear and self-loathing. Wallace actually won five deep south states in the election, with Nixon taking most everywhere else in the south and west, with Humphrey getting most of the northeast and notably Texas. Obviously, as history showed us in the years that followed, Nixon was absolutely not a unifying force with a grand vision for a better America, but instead a political bully who ended up being his own worst enemy. But when you have an outright racist like Wallace, and a status quo baby steps towards progressive visions establishment candidate like Humphrey, Richard Milhouse Nixon was the centrist, by default.

It’s also really strange to think about what’s historically painted as such a cataclysmic time in American history, with people literally setting shit on fire in the street demanding a better country. And the Democratic Party could only trot out a tired “old politics” safe bet (which sounds awfully familiar), and the Republicans brought out a longtime political snake who pretty much ran on blaming LBJ for Vietnam and civil unrest and everything else. That, combined with Wallace siphoning off the outright racists, allowed Nixon to win in an election more like that Three Stooges bit where two of them step backwards leaving Curly up front than any other.

In terms of my family, when this film dropped, my mom would’ve been 12, and my dad would’ve just turned 13 a couple days before. It was just his birthday this past Thanksgiving, and I miss him more now than ever, likely because familial relations are all fucked up, and I’m very alone in this world in terms of family, so I can romanticize my father (who died at 46, but would’ve turned 64 if he was still alive) and pretend he would’ve been a wonderful part of my life, instead of likely having fallen down all the wrong rabbitholes on a secondhand iPhone 6, and texting me links to youtube videos that were gonna wake me up to the reality going on. I am thankful for strained family relations so that I don’t have to tolerate proud pro-Trump voices who think they are incredibly smart for seeing through the Democrat’s bullshit. I also don’t understand that binary, because I could give a fuck less about the Democrats. Yeah, they’re hypocrites and the established portions of that party are likely corrupt as fuck. But you take that counter example away and have Trump standing there by himself without the comparison, and what you have is corrupt as fuck hypocrite.

Anyways, it’s good to look back briefly at a previous election and realize it’s always been fucked to one extent or another. The things we are experiencing in today’s America really aren’t that much of an anomaly. And it makes sense to go back to a western from that tumultuous 1968 year, because the American Dream, which has always been a myth and mythologized to a certain extent, was definitely kept alive by how we collectively imagined the old west. Early America was English colonies, where the fine English carved out the beginnings of a new world, and sent poor non-English people out into the Appalachian wilderness to settle and further colonize this already inhabited land. Once Thomas Jefferson (who lived in a nice house on the mountain overlooking my basement apartment I can barely afford) completed the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon, doubling America’s claims to land in size, and the concept of Manifest Destiny was ingrained in our consciousness, the settler-colonist mindset spread further west until it hit the Pacific, with the notion that America was creating a New World, better than the old one, like a chance to redo what Europe had done, but bigger and better, acting as if it was all new and people didn’t already live here. “Go west, young man,” was the phrase attributed to newspaperman Horace Greeley, about how you could build a new life for yourself, even if you didn’t have a great one yet, because there was unlimited wealth to be found. Gold rushes, and speculation, and the expansion of the U.S. railroad system all fed this, sending poorer eastern whites west, in the hopes of becoming rich as fuck.

That is the foundational essence of the western genre, which reflects this mythologization of the American west during this period, and it’s the underlying theme of this particular Sergio Leone written and directed film as well. This Irish dude, McBain, has landed just outside a place called Flagstone, on a chunk of land he bought and named Sweetwater, as it was the only source of water in the area. McBain had secretly been planning on building a station, and making a brand new town out here in the desert, just by having the foresight to get the land and figure out where the railroad was gonna get built.

The film opens with magical imagery, as three dudes have congregated at a station, presumably to do some dastardly shit, as they’re bullying the station manager. One of those three is that crooked eyeball dude Jack Elam who played in a ton of old movies, and was an amazing character actor. He’s even in the credits in the opening of Once Upon a Time in the West, but very little time passes before our antihero, the ghostly harmonica playing Charles Bronson, simply called “Harmonica”, shoots Elam and his compadres dead. That establishes our first character in the drama triangle.

The second is quickly established in elder Henry Fonda, who is part of a bad crew of dudes (some real bad hombres, as Trump would say) who end up murdering not only McBain and his teen children, not only the sweet teen daughter softly singing “Danny Boy” a few moments earlier, but even the young maybe 8-year-old child who was far too young to be murdered openly, even by old west standards where you lived by the gun for the most part. But Fonda’s character, called Frank, was named out loud by one of his fellow gunmen, so he had to shoot the boy so the boy didn’t talk about who killed his family. This obviously establishes Fonda as the hard evil on our drama triangle.

And finally Jason Robards wanders into a saloon, recruiting some sucker to shoot his hand shackles loose, and has a tense interaction with both Harmonica as well as McBain’s whore wife from New Orleans (she really is a sex worker, so I’m not projecting here), before wandering off as the third part of our drama triangle, all of which get involved with the widow McBain to one extent or another, with varying levels of mutual consent.

It should be made abundantly clear that the pacing of a Sergio Leone movie is absolutely amazing – a morphine dream of a slow boil, so unlike today’s marathon explosions and CGI-induced sensory shock and awes. So many close-ups on various white faces that have become dirt and sand and sweat and blood-stained to various degrees of non-whitening. There’s a long sequence of a sweaty ass Elam sitting in a squeaky chair fiddling with a fly on his face, slow thick drama like southern humidity.

The unwhitening is both an actual phenomenon and digital cultural posturing seen in actual life. I remember on a Greyhound layover one time, getting drunk with two dudes from California outside the Oklahoma City bus station, from a bottle of vodka stashed in the trash can, and both dudes were belligerently white, but their faces were that deep brown leathered, crackled broke ass for two generations, half that time stuck outside white faces. That same shade as seen on the face of the mother in that famous Dorothea Lange photo, of dust bowl family fleeing west. I think about those types of whitefaces a lot when I contemplate my internal philosophies of dirtgods juxtaposed with shinefaces. Shinefaces are always clean, perfectly manicured, no scars or cracks or deep brown effects of public poverty on their faces. Smooth silky handshakes, smooth silky clothes, and smooth silky faces. The wretched of the Earth white are not the equals to the fine whites, which is also why I get tripped out by poor people supporting Trump so nihilistically. I used to live across the road from a dude who was a shitty HVAC repair dude who worked on farms both days in the weekend, often times driving animals to the slaughterhouse at night too. He worked seven days a week, every week, and still ain’t have shit, yet had a Trump sign out front of his house. How does a guy like that, who can’t get ahead no matter how much he works, get behind a guy that literally had a gold-plated home? I don’t get it.

And then the other side of that unwhitening is what we see as a response to white fragility and guilt in digital culture, where every white person tries to distance themselves from the most oppressive versions of American whiteness, by being part Jewish or from a poor rural family, fetishizing Appalachian identity, even though that was the settler-colonizers who pushed the American Dream deeper into this continent, albeit less silky, less smooth handshakes and outfits. But just like Jason Robards or Henry Fonda, flashing blazing blue eyes behind that dirt-crusted face, it’s easy to still see what’s up.

As Harmonica and Jason Robards (called Cheyenne) are linked up as allies finally in this drama triangle, and realize McBain’s plans, and that Frank is a hired gun who’s come around to help some shithead on his own Trump-like train, complete with gaudy garnish galore, get ahold of McBain’s land and build the town at Sweetwater, they decide to work together to foil the plans, basically just to be dicks to be honest, but being dicks to the biggest dicks, so good, in relation, I guess using the same binary I said was stupid before with regards to two-party politics. The drama triangle at least gives us the illusion of more than one alternative, that sometimes even work together against the worst evil. We could use a drama triangle in American politics more, although I guess that’s also what George Wallace was in 1968. Fuck, are we just entirely doomed always?

But as Harmonica and Cheyenne talk, Cheyenne says the potential Sweetwater train town could be worth “thousands of thousands”. Harmonica answers, “They call that millions.” An unimaginable wealth, just there for the cultivating, if you’re willing to do the dirty work to make it happen. That old west mythology, of manifest destiny, which is also still the American Dream as it is written in the brochures, but not seen as often as maybe it once was.

I’d like to tangent here about the rich dude who had his own train, because THIS MOTHERFUCKER HAD HIS OWN TRAIN! Like, he was just riding around out west in this gilded ass fancy car, walking on crutches because he had polio or something, hiring these evil bastards to kill whoever he needed killed in order to make his destiny manifest, namely increasing his already exorbitant wealth even more. He was Trump, or Jeff Bezos, or Bloomberg, or whoever you feel best putting that role with your own personal biases, as the already wealthy asshole who is using his powerful wealth to make it even larger and more powerful. Of course, those who live by hired guns often die when they get turned on, and that’s exactly what happens to rich polio dude with his own fucking train, left to die in a mud puddle, ironically in a rare desert water source. Frank killed him.

This all leads up to the final showdown (as all westerns do), as the railroad is getting built closer and closer, and Cheyenne’s men are building the station to seal in McBain’s vision before the other bastards can steal the plan, and Harmonica Charles Bronson is just sitting there whittling a piece of wood. All this shit going on, and he’s just whittling with a knife. I briefly tried woodcarving, and found it highly enjoyable, but my 21st century mind is too ingrained with productivity and there being an end result to any effort made. I mean, fuck, this long ass pontification of a 1968 western is perfect example – I couldn’t just watch a bunch of old ass movies, one per year. I had to make a project of it, to share, and feel like I’ve produced something worthwhile instead of just slothing about on my secondhand Ikea futon couch in the purple Christmas lights watching an old Bronson flick. So woodcarving didn’t work out long term because I didn’t accomplish anything with it, other than whittling on some chunks of wood. Maybe I should give up all these stupid projects and just carve on some chunks of wood more. WHAT’S THE POINT OF ANY OF THIS SHIT?

Frank shows up finally, and Cheyenne is in the house with McBain’s widow (who I think would’ve slept with all three men in our triangle, except Harmonica was the hard good in the triangle, so didn’t reciprocate the advances). Harmonica lines up against Frank, and we get the flashbacks that show the childhood Harmonica being forced to stand with I guess his brother or father on his shoulders, in a noose, and a younger Frank (along with his bully buddies) is there, tormenting the young Harmonica, by putting a harmonica in his mouth as he struggled to stand upright to save his family member’s life for another few moments, before inevitably falling to the ground, thus being complicit in the death of his loved one. Frank’s just laughing in the flashback, but as we come back to current time, with bastardly Frank slumped to the ground, Harmonica pulls his namesake instrument out of his pocket and stuffs it into Frank’s mouth, coming full circle.

After that, Frank is dead, and Bronson splits, with no real point in life any more. Not everybody is bound to achieve great dreams of wealth and a wonderful destiny being manifested. Some of us are controlled by vengeance, and after he got his, he ain’t even need his harmonica no more. He just grabbed his satchel, and split. Cheyenne did too, catching up briefly to Harmonica, but he got clipped in the earlier shootout, so was dying too. Hard evil was shot dead, and indeterminate kinda evil but kinda good also got shot but bled slow. And hard good just disappeared into the distance, while the town got built and other people got rich and progress happened.

We ran out of land to head west on, but there’s still speculation galore. Our entire stock market is built on that. The rise of cryptocurrency is essentially that old west speculation, just in an even larger abstract realm, but it’s same damn shit as always. These imaginary entities get built, and fortunes get made, and a lot of people get fucked, and the only thing that undoes one of these super-evil super-wealthy assholes is them crossing the wrong person, who doesn’t give a fuck to be bought out, and just wants to gain revenge somehow, and plays that out slowly and quietly and with great attention to every nefarious detail. Within the grand abstraction of whiteness, the hardest evil point of that triangle always hopefully get undone by a vengeful spirit somewhere else on that confusing non-binary triangle. That’s our infamous antihero – too fucked up to actually succeed according to civilized standards, but amazingly beautiful in their ability to briefly light a better path for us all with their bridge arsonry.n

Brides of Blood (1968)

Brides of Blood is the second in a series of four horror films produced by Eddie Romero and Kane W. Lynn which are known as the Blood Island series, which also includes Terror Is a Man, The Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Beast of Blood. It’s also known as Island of Living Horror and was also re-released with Count Dracula’s Great Love, with that movie being retitled Cemetery Girls and Brides of Blood being renamed Grave Desires.

Much like all of these Filipino horror films, it’s completely bonkers.

The tropics are the place for three Americans to find, well, complete insanity.

Dr. Paul Henderson, a nuclear scientist investigating nuclear bomb tests, is played by Kent Taylor. He was once a major star, playing the title role in fifty-right Boston Blackie movies. His name is also half of the inspiration for Superman’s alter ego (the other star being Clark Gable).

He’s married to the gorgeous but always ready to cuckold Carla, who is Beverly Powers, who was once the highest paid exotic dancer in the world before becoming an actress and starring with Elvis in SpeedwayKissin’ Cousins and Viva Las Vegas. She also pretty much played herself in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. After all that acting, she went on to become a minister with The Living Ministry in Maui,
Hawaii.

Then there’s Jim Farrell, a young Peace Corps members played by John Ashley, who was an AIP star, appearing in Dragstrip Girl and singing his song “Let Yourself Go Go Go” in Zero Hour! He was an AIP beach movie regular, showing up in Beach PartyMuscle Beach PartyBikini BeachBeach Blanket Bingo and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.

After living in Oklahoma for a while, Ashley actually ended up producing these movies with Hemisphere Pictures, living in the Philippines for part of the year and helping to create these little bits of madness.

Our protagonists soon learn that Blood Island is cursed. It’s now a place that has been irradiated by nuclear fallout from those bomb tests, with vines that attack people and butterflies that bite. There’s also a beast in the jungle that tears women apart to get off, because hey, why not?

Carla learns that the beast is one of the villagers, Esteban, but it comes at the price of her own life. She’s an early “sex and people who want sex must be destroyed” casualty decades before made this type of destruction de rigeur.

Between carnivorous trees eating Carla’s remains and the movie ending in a huge orgy, this is probably unlike any other movie you’ve seen before. You can pretty much say that about every single film from this studio.

The pressbook for the movie suggested that all female theatergoers would get the chance to become a Bride of Blood and get a free engagement ring. There was even the idea fo giving away fake marriage certificates, but legal concerns stopped that from happening.

Severin put this out as part of their Blood Island box set, which is sadly sold out. However, you can get the individual blu ray or watch it on Amazon Prime.