The translation of the German title to this film — Under the Spell of the Uncanny — is way cooler than The Zombie Walks and The Hand of Power**, the other titles for this Edgar Wallace adaption. No matter — this movie looks cool as hell, a Blood and Black Lace influenced pre-giallo with a delightful skull-faced killer named The Laughing Corpse* who even has his very own poison filled scorpion ring.
There’s one bonkers scene that would never be in a movie made in 2020, where the hero repeatedly tries to look up the skirt of a gorgeous librarian, who is played by Ewa Strömberg. She of course would catch the eye of noted pervert Jess Franco, who would cast her in Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed In Ecstasy.
As for the movie itself, Scotland Yard’s Inspector Higgins takes on a case that starts with a man laughing from the inside of his own coffin and gets even stranger with the deaths of nearly everyone who know that man, all from the scorpion ring of that dashing masked killer.
The credits for this really shout mod while the heroes shout old school, but you know, I pretty much loved all of it. I haven’t really explored the Wallace adaptions, but the last two I’ve watched her been more than entertaining.
This is one of the few giallo I’ve seen where the killer uses a machine gun. Also, there’s a guy with green skin and no one makes a single mention of it, so 1968 Germany was way woke early.
*The voice of The Laughing Skull came directly from director Alfred Vohrer.
**That’s the title of the book that this was based on.
A Hyena In the Bank Vault might have the best looking fashions I’ve ever seen in a giallo. Oh man, glitter eyeshadow, furs, striped suits, insane patterns — I’m in love.
Four thieves — Klaus from Germany, Albert (Sandro Pizzochero, So Sweet, So Dead), from France, Juan from Spain and Carina from Tangiers — have met up in what they think is an isolated castle to split up some diamonds. That said, their dead boss’s wife Anna is throwing a party. Complicating matters further, all five keys must be used at the same time to open the vault, so everyone has to keep getting along, even when Albert’s new girlfriend Jeanine annoys everyone. And when people start getting killed, how will anyone get their reward?
Cesare Canevari is probably better known for his scummy side, with movies like A Man for Emmanuelle, Killing of the Flesh and The Gestapo’s Last Orgy on his resume.
I kind of love these kinds of pre-Argento giallo that haven’t started aping his style and instead are all over the place in influence. This is the kind of movie that I wished had showed up in Vinegar Syndrome’s last Forgotten Gialli set, because I want more people to see it. It’s got the brightest colors, the furriest upholstery, the most theatrical makeup and a soundtrack that swings. It is, well, everything.
1968 saw the release of Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters, but just seven months later, director Kuroda Yoshiyuki (Daimajin, several Zatoichi films) made this sequel, which takes the main ideas of presenting Japan’s native monsters, perhaps finds some inspiration from the manga GeGeGe no Kitaro and the story of Momotaro, take a strong shot of national Japanese pride and remembers that no one cares about the humans in the story. We’re here to see monsters. And oh man, are we gonna get them!
In the Babylonian city of Ur, the body of the great monster Daimon lies amongst the ruins. That is, until some treasure hunters rouse him from his dark sleep, which leads to him flying to Japan, vampirically taking over the body of samurai Lord Hyogo Isobe.
As Isobe, Daimon goes wild, burning all the religious altars, killing the family dog and even rousing a kappa — a “river child” turtle creature who loves to wrestle — from his slumber in the river. Hurt in combat with the much stronger Daimon, the kappa begins his quest to unite the yokai and stop the foul beast.
Soon, the kappa meets Kasa-obake (a one-legged umbrella with eyes), Futakuchi-onna (a two-mouthed cursed woman), Rokurokubi (a long-necked woman who often appears in the more adult kaiden stories), Nuppeppo (a clay creature who resembles a blob of meat) and Abura-sumashi (a wise ghost of a human who once stole oil). They tell him that according to coloring books and field guides, no such yokai exists.
Meanwhile, Daimon has stopped his attempted exorcism and responded by killing the parents of several children. As his men hunt for the surviving kids, they hide in the yokai shrine. Soon, the monsters realize the kappa was telling the truth and join him in battle, which ends up involving nearly every single monster from across Japan.
Takashi Miike remade this movie in 2005 as The Great Yokai War, which also features Kitaro creator Mizuki in a cameo.
Seriously, this movie took a bad day and made anything seem possible. This is pure joy on film.
Daiei could produce a masterpiece like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon while still putting out movies that featured Gamera, Zatoichi, Daimajin and the Yokai Monsters, who are based on the monsters of Japanese folklore. They may be evil creatures who cause great misfortune and harm or — quite the opposite — could also be beings that bring good fortune to those who meet them.
Much like the aforementioned films like Gamera and Daimajin, this is a tokusatsu film that uses practical effects, including actors in costumes, puppets and animation to tell the story.
That story is really about a rich landowner, who wants to tear down a local shrine to build a brothel. He cheaps out and after telling the stories of the yokai, neglects to pay for the ceremony to keep them out. They soon go wild in the town, partying down as they arrive with sake.
Known in Japan as Yokai Hyaku Monogatari, this was directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda, who made six of the Zatoichi movies. It suffers the sin of some Godzilla movies, in that we don’t really care about the humans. We just want the monsters. And we’ve been promised a hundred of them!
The following film, Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare, came out the same year and realizes this issue and instead fills nearly every moment of the movie with monster after monster. This is good. That movie is great.
Hopefully you joined us — and enjoyed — our “Fast and Furious Week” tribute during the first week of August as we honored the Universal franchise, along with its ripoffs and knockoffs, and the obscure and off-beat, rubber-burning drive-in epics from the ’50s through the ’80s that influenced the those films.
And guess what?
That 40-plus film blowout still wasn’t enough . . . as one car flick skidded into another, then another . . . and before we knew it, we had another 40-plus reviews. So, to get you ready for our second “Fast and Furious Week” to run from Sunday, December 6, to Saturday, December 12, we’re rollin’ out Elvis’s car racing trilogy.
Facts are facts: Elvis flicks served us heaping helpings of cheesy camp starring “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” in a wide array of professions. He was a convict, a boxer, a cowboy, a riverboat captain, a helicopter pilot, and a cowboy — who always found the time to sway his hips and sing his latest hits for a bevy of skintight, carpi-panted ladies. And road racing, be it stock cars, Grand Prix or road rally racers, was a hot sport in the ’60s. So why not place Elvis in a flame retardant suit, strap on a helmet, and slip him into a cockpit?
Viva Las Vegas (1964)
The best and most popular of Elvis’s race excursions was his role as Lucky Jackson. He’s a down-and-out waiter and aspiring racer who dreams, schemes, and parties with Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret) as he gathers up the cash to buy a new engine for his cherished Elva Mk VI Maserati so he can enter the First Annual Las Vegas Grand Prix. His man competition is mean ol’ Count Elmo Mancini and his Ferrari 250 GT. And Yep. That’s good ‘ol Uncle Charlie (William Demarest) from the iconic ’60s TV series My Three Sons as Ann’s pop.
And get this: the music and dance scenes were choreographed by David Winters . . . yes, the very same David Winters who gave us — wow, it’s not even a Star Wars dropping — the Battlestar Galatica pile that is 1988’s Space Mutiny.
Only on B&S About Movies, baby.
Poor Elvis. Col. Tom Parker never let The King rest. But in Col. Tom’s defense: he was a master at keeping Elvis in the spotlight while he was overseas serving in the military. After Viva Las Vegas, we got seven more films within a two year period: Kissin’ Cousins, Roustabout, Girl Happy, Tickle Me, Harum Scarum, Frankie and Johnny, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style.
This time out, El is Mike McCoy, a band leader moonlighting as a race car driver who must decide between breaking up with Cynthia Foxhugh (Shelley Fabares) or lose her father’s sponsorship for the big race. This time, El’s trades out his Elva Mk VI for a Cobra 427. And keep your eyes peeled for the eye pleasing ski n’ snow bunnies that are Diane McBain — who’s determined to steal Mike from Cindy — and crushed on by his band’s female drummer, played Deborah Walley.
MGM went all out for El’s third and final race flick, casting NASCAR stars Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Tiny Lund, and Cale Yarbrough in cameos — to help us forget we’re watching a film comprised of stock footage with El process-shot onto the race track. This time out, El is Steve Grayson, a stock racer who only has eyes for IRS Agent Susan Jacks (Nancy Sinatra) and sees his career going up in smoke thanks to bad bookkeeping courtesy of his manager’s gambling addiction. And keep your eyes open for Bill Bixby and ’60s drive-in warhorse Ross Hagan in support roles.
“We gotta win this race, Elvis!”
We’ll see you bright and early, 9 AM, on Monday, December 6th as we roll out a week of over 40 more road rippin’ and rubber burnin’ flicks, as well as a “Drive-In Friday” tribute to Drag Racing documentaries.
The films that William Grefé made in Florida feel sweaty and messy and filled with menace, just like the Sunshine State itself, the kind of place that could give you both the Happiest Place on Earth and bands like Deicide and, well, Creed.
This time around, Grefé is telling us the story of a group of three drug pushers who are no longer content to kidnap people and assault women. No, they’re in for the big score, killing their Cuban drug suppliers, an act that puts them on a one-way ticket to the kind of horrible end that can only be found in a regional drive-in movie.
Daisy (Jeremy Slate, The Born Losers, True Grit), Acid (John Davis Chandle, who is also in Grefé’s Mako: The Jaws of Death and Whiskey Mountain, as well as playing the lead bad guy in Adventures In Babysitting) and Dum Dum (Willie Pastrano, who Grefé hired for The Wild Rebels and The Naked Zoo) are absolute scumbags that spend the majority of this movie doing horrible things and talking as much as they can to pad things out.
Look for William Kerwin — who you may know from Herschell Gordon Lewis movies — shows up as an FBI agent.
This movie can be found on the new Arrow Video He Came from the Swamp set that you can grab from Diabolik DVD.
Look, if you’re going to do the work to make unliving body parts into unstoppable killers, do not make them stoppable by giving them the weakness of having a flashlight shined into their brains.
Ah, who cares! We should all dream for a life like Ted V. Mikels, who lived in a literal castle in Las Vegas, partying hard with his Castle Girls. The craziest of lives — in fact, many of his films — seem downright boring compared to his real life.
Working alongside Wayne M. Rogers — yes, the guy from M*A*S*H* — Mikels made this Cold War opus that also features John Carradine (who made 10% of the film’s budget) and an army led by Tura Satana, which is one I would definitely serve in.
Carradine plays Dr. DeMarco, who is using his Astro-Zombies to get revenge against everyone who called him mad by, well, being absolutely mad.
Shot on short ends at Peter Falk’s house, this film was often said to be amongst the worst ever made by critics. Well, it reached one impressionable youth in Lodi, New Jersey. Glenn Danzig’s band The Misfits would introduce this movie to their fans with the song of the same name, featuring the lyrics, “With just a touch of my burning hand / I’m gonna live my life to to destroy your world / Prime directive, exterminate / The whole fuckin’ race.”
Dude, Richard Rush has sure made some disparate movies. There’s Thunder Alley, Hells Angels on Wheels and The Stunt Man, then there’s Air America and Color of Night. But he also made this, which reminds me that if I was alive in 1968, I would have died young.
Jenny (Susan Strasberg) is a deaf girl looking for her brother Steve, who left behind a note that said, “Jess Saes: God is alive and well and living in a sugar cube.” That leads her to Haight-Ashbury and the band Mumblin’ Jim, led by Stoney (Jack Nicholson).
Henry Jaglom, who wrote My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles, is an artist that does the band’s posters. When they go to see him, he’s so messed up on 2,5-Dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine that he thinks everyone is the living dead and threatens them with a saw. But that’s where Jenny sees some of her brother’s art and learns that he’s become a traveling preacher known as The Seeker. Dave (Dean Stockwell), who left the band, offers to help them find him, but everyone nearly dies in the junkyard when the gang — look for John “Bud” Cardos — attack.
The Seeker shows up and yep, he’s Bruce Dern. He reveals that Jenny was beaten so badly by their mother that she had a stroke and went deaf. He wants to be clean from drugs when they meet. Meanwhile, his sister is caught between Stoney and Dave.
This movie ends as all hippy films must, in death and fire, as Stoney sets his shrine ablaze and Dave saves a tripping Jenny from a car coming right at her by sacrificing himself, remarking that he hopes death will be a good trip as he dies.
Dick Clark produced this and like a true square, he wanted the drug message to show how wrong it was to get hooked. Ah, I’m being mean.
Let’s be nice — the stunts and special effects are by Gary Kent, whose adventures make up the documentary Danger God. The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Seeds and The Storybook made most of the music in this and the concert scenes are worth watching the entire film. Plus, Garry Marshall plays an undercover cop!
So Sam came up with a “Spaghetti Westerns Week” (running from Sunday, August 16 to Saturday, August 22) . . . and me, with my Klaus Kinski-mania . . . well, it’s time for another “Drive-In Friday” salute to Klaus as we follow up our June “Drive In-Friday” tribute to the five-film oeuvre of Kinski with Werner Herzog.
Klaus made his first jump into the Western-pasta pot in 1965 as Juan Wild, the hunchback member of El Indio’s (Gian Maria Volonte) in Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More. Kinski then appeared in A Bullet for the General (1967; also starring Gian Maria Volonte), and Man, Pride & Vengeance (1967; starring Franco Nero).
As with Kinski’s oeuvre in other genres: I’ve seen some of Kinski’s westerns (the ones featured tonight), but not all of them (and probably never will), but seen most of them courtesy of the long since gone VHS grey market purveyor VSOM: Video Search of Miami, which excelled in making overseas films available in the U.S.
So let’s pop those RC Colas and ride, meho!The riches of the lands South of the Border await us!
Movie 1: The Ruthless Four (1968)
Known in its homeland as Ognuno per sé (aka, Everyone for Himself) — and in West Germany as Das Gold von Sam Cooper (aka, The Gold from Sam Cooper) — Kinski co-stars with Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Van Heflin (1942’s Johnny Eager), who wowed then little tykes (like myself) roasting under the black & white’s cathode ray glow of Pittsburgh’s WIIC Channel 11 with his roles in the iconic westerns Shane (1953), 3:10 to Yuma (1957), and Gunman’s Walk (1958).
By the turn of the ’60s, Heflin’s star — along with his Gunman’s Walk co-star, Tab Hunter (1988’s Grotesque with Linda Blair) — had fallen, but there was a huge market for American actors in Italian cinema. So Heflin made his first film there, Tempest (1959) and, along with Tab, was billed under Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth in They Came to Cordura (1959).
The title — and alternate titles — of this one pretty much says it all: Four men embark on a suicide mission for a fortune in gold from a mine owned by Nevada prospector Sam Cooper (Van Heflin). Always the heavy, Kinski is one of the greedy four, Brent the Blonde, a faux-preacher with blood on his hands . . . and one more body means nothing to him.
Up next for Kinski: 1968’s If You Meet Sartana . . . Pray for Your Death. He also worked on the sequel, I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (1969). (Sartana was, of course, Gianni Garko, that ‘ol space scoundrel Dirk Laramie from Star Odyssey.)
You can watch The Ruthless Four on You Tube. There’s also a stream on TubiTV.
Movie 2: They Were Called Graveyard, aka Twice a Judas (1968)
Antonio Sabato (Escape from the Bronx and War of the Robots) stars in this film noir-inspired Spaghetti Western as Luke Barrett, a cowboy who regains consciousness with bullet-grazed head wound in the middle of the desert . . . next to a dead man — and a lone rifle with the word “Dingus” carved in its stock. Sabato gathers clues along the way to discover that a hired gunman is out to get him . . . and that he himself was a gun hired to kill Dingus. Yep: You guessed it: Kinski is Dingus and he’s out for blood.
Kinski also worked on Sergio Corbucci’s pasta-western, The Great Silence in the same year.
You can watch They Were Called Graveyard on You Tube.
After working with Antonio Margheriti (1966’s Lightning Bolt) on the western And God Said to Cain (1970), Klaus Kinski received top-billing in this desert noir that Quentin Tarantino* ranked as his 16th personal “Top 20 favorite Spaghetti Westerns.”
Kinksi stars as Dan Hogan, an ex-Ku Klux Klan member leading a gang of bank robbers on the run with $100,000 in gold bars. Hogan’s dark past comes back to haunt him in the form of John Webb (Paolo Casella, who also co-starred with Kinski in the 1970 western, The Beast, and the next film on tonight’s program: 1975’s The Return of Shanghai Joe), a stranger who killed the gang’s guide into Mexico and wants half of their gold for safe passage. And all of their blood. So he really wants all of the gold.
Klaus also starred in the westerns Adios Compañeros, Black Killer, Coffin Full of Dollars, His Name was King, and Vengeance Is a Dish Served Cold that same year. Next up for Kinski: 1972’s A Noose is Waiting for You Trinity.
You can watch Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dying on You Tube.
The film noir-influence of Kinski’s previous pasta-westerns takes a turn into the then hot Kung-Fu genre — courtesy of Japanese-born martial artist Chen Lee (aka, Cheen Lie, playing a Chinese man here). As result of its martial arts plot, this also appeared on several ’70s Drive-In double and triple-bills, alongside more traditional Asian-action imports, as The Dragon Strikes Back (to trick you into thinking you’re seeing a Bruce Lee movie).
In the first film, 1973’s (My Name is) Shanghai Joe (aka, The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe), Kinski was Scalper Jack. In the sequel, Kinski is his usual, sinister self as new character, Pat Barnes: a town boss whose stranglehold over a dusty, desert town runs afoul of Shanghai Joe (actually an uncover U.S. Federal Marshal), who’s assisted by a smooth-talking traveling medicine show man he saved from Barnes’s bully boys.
Ferdinando Baldi is a decent Italian Western director. I enjoyed what he did with Tony Anthony across several movies, including the wild 3D movies Comin’ At Ya! and The Treasure of the Four Crowns. Here, he’s throwing his hat into the Django ring to make another movie that kind of, sort of has something to do with the seminal Western hero.
That said, this is a semi-official, legitimate follow-up, as it was originally intended to star Franco Nero and it was co-written by Django co-writer Franco Rossett.
Django is wounded while his wife is killed as the gold transport that he has been hired to watch over is assaulted by David Barry (Horst Frank, The Cat o’ Nine Tails), a man who he thought was his friend.
Our hero has a great plan by pretending to be dead and becoming the hangman of the town. He saves all of the victims of Barry and organizes them as a gang of dead men, but Garcia, one of the first men he saved, screws it all up when he kills Django’s army of bad guys and goes for the gold himself.
Even when Django is lured to the graveyard where his empty grave is and forced to dig it back up so Barry and his men can kill him, I thought that this was it. Then I forgot what was inside Django’s coffin — that machine gun.
Eagle-eyed B&S About Movies readers will have already spotted George Eastman in this film, his third Django movie that he made within the first two years of his acting career.
Following the success of the Bud Spencer and Terence Hill films in the mid 70’s, this was re-released with a comedic soundtrack. And in France, it was redubbed as a Trinity film. I have no idea how they made this funny, because it’s a pretty dark film.
If you listen to the soundtrack and wonder, “Where have I heard this before?” that’s because the song “Last Man Standing” was sampled by Danger Mouse for the Gnarls Barkley song “Crazy.”