SON OF KAIJI DAY MARATHON: Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

The eleventh Godzilla movie was one that never felt right to me watching it on TV as a kid. It always looked dingy, dirty and cheap. Seeing the new Criterion re-release of this movie is a revelation, as the original Japanese version is a wild, out of control environmental message film with animated moments and musical numbers that battles within itself, somehow unrealizing that it is a big rubber suit monster movie.

Yoshimitsu Banno, who directed this, also made Prophecies of Nostradamus for Toho, which is another movie that should just be schlock and has moments that aspire to become outsider art.

Not all would agree that this movie is wonderful. Tomoyuki Tanaka*, one of Godzilla’s creators, demoted Banno and went so far as to claim that the director ruined the King of Monsters.

Hedorah is a microscopic alien that grows larger by eating Earth’s pollution and soon grows into a poisonous, acid-secreting sea monster. Or Smog Monster, if we believe one of the American titles.

Much like the motorcycle death scene in the aforementioned Nostradamus film, a party is thrown on Mt. Fuji to celebrate the last day of life before Japan. Thousands have died and so many more will as Hedorah and Godzilla fight again, with the pollution-eating beast doing more gore-drenched damage to the big green lizard than anyone before — he takes his eye and burns his hand to the point we see bone — before drowning him in sludge.

Godzilla returns, flying backward in an astounding scene that’s nearly hilarious, but then things get beyond serious when Godzilla repeatedly burns his enemy, tearing away at him bit by bit before returning to the ocean, staring back one last time to remind humans that Hedorah was all their fault.

This was released in the U.S. by American-International Pictures and teamed with The Thing With Two Heads before playing repeatedly on TV. I know that I saw it multiple times and never thought much of it until now.

Lucio Fulci would have loved this one, because not only does Godzilla nearly lose an eye, but he also tears Hedorah’s eyes right out of his body.

I mean, there’s no other kaiju movie inspired by Rachel Carson. For me, this movie is a success because it’s just so wild that this arose from a major franchise. Here’s to experimentation, with films that have Bond-like openings, wild musical numbers and extended sequences of a giant monster pulling junk out of another one.

*Tanaka banned Banno from ever working on another Godzilla film for as long as Tanaka lived. That said, after Tanaka’s death, Banno acquired Godzilla’s film rights and had planned to produce an IMAX short film entitled Godzilla 3-D to the Max. When funding fell through, he worked with Legendary Pictures on behalf of Toho and was an executive producer of 2014’s Godzilla.

REPOST: Santa’s Christmas Elf Named Calvin (1971)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Back in December of last year, December 25 to be completely exact, we posted this Barry Mahon Christmas movie. Enjoy!

Oh Barry Mahon.

While the rest of the world thrills to Tom Cruise cussing out castmembers concerning COVID-19, Mahon’s real-life story offers movie maniacs the kind f thrills that we breathlessly devour and share with one another. After volunteering for the British air force before America officially entered World War II, Mahon earned the British Distinguished Flying Cross and escaped from a concentration camp twice after being shot down, then became the personal pilot and manager of Errol Flynn before going into making his own movies.

And oh his movies.

Barry’s oeuvre is a madcap mix of ripped from the headlines fearmonger films like Rocket Attack U.S.A. and Cuban Rebel Girls along with horror like The Dead One and Sex Killer, then some nudie cuties like Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico and The Diary of Knockers McCalla and finally, improbably, kids movies like The Wonderful Land of OzJack and the Beanstalk and the Thumbelina movie that is part of perhaps the most berserk holiday movie of all time, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. Oh yeah — and he also made Musical Mutiny, a movie that I have yet to come to grips with*.

I hesitate to even call this a movie because it was made with all the motion of, well, a slide show. Instead, it’s a series of still images with a narrator speaking every single part. It is the very epitome of low budget, with puppets and people shot in only the murkiest of lighting.

If you ever watched Rodolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and wondered why everyone treated the hero so poorly — and why he would not only forgive them but blame himself for so much of their horrific and abusive behavior — then get ready. Calvin gets brutalized throughout this movie with even the narrator continually reminding us of how ugly he is.

*Some people, if given a time machine, would go back to meet famous people or kill Hitler. I would just go to Dania, Florida and spend the day at Pirates World.

You can watch this on YouTube.

 

Zaat (1971)

No matter what title you know this movie by — Blood Waters of Dr. Z, Hydra, Attack of the Swamp Creatures or this one — this movie lives and breathes (well, gills kind of breath water) Jacksonville, Florida. That’s where its co-writer, director and producer Don Barton came from and that’s where this was film, using real locations like Rainbow Springs, Green Cove Springs and Marineland.

It mostly played Jacksonville drive-ins and some southern states before our friends at Aquarius Releasing got a copy and played it in New York City for all of a day, with former employee Ron Harvey telling Fangoria, “One of the all-time worst releases was Blood Waters of Dr. Z. We played it on 42nd Street, where it lasted until about 4:00 on a Friday afternoon before the theater pulled the picture! It had done like S200 business all day long.”

Capitol Productions re-released the movie in 1983 and two years later, it was re-released again as Attack of the Swamp Creatues with new cast and crew names.

Zaat is the tale of scientist Dr. Kurt Leopold (Marshall Grauer, in his one and done role), who takes his formula ZaAT and transforms human beings into sea creatures, starting with recreating himself as a catfish human. Yes, a catfish. He’s now played by Wade Popwell, who also only made this film, and is a creature that occasionally still wears athletic shoes despite being a merman.

He also makes catfish that can walk and starts poisoning the town’s water, forcing a cop and a scientist to engage in the kind of relationship that you may have seen in a movie called Jaws as they try to stop the world from being zaat-ed.

There’s also a government organization called INPIT, which sends two of their scientists to track down Leopold and bring him in, except they mostly are concerned with the welfare of some kids playing folk music.

That said, unlike nearly every amphibian on the loose movie I’ve ever seen — like Creature from the Black Lagoon and its sequels*, SlithisHumanoids from the DeepEncounters in the DeepDemon of Paradise — this one has the creature pretty much end the film in triumph, wiping out nearly every human and even transforming the female scientist into a willing slave. Also worth noting is that one of the scientists is bit by a snake and in a moment of reverse-Cannibal Holocaust, it was totally real. As he was wading through the water, that little snake just swam up and took a chunk out of his arm.

That said, he does not have his own fan club like Slithis. I carry my card in my wallet so that Slithis knows where I live and that he should let me live.

*Revenge of the Creature was also shot at Marineland, but it’s an incalculable number of times better than this film. I also own a limited edition blu ray of Zaat because, well, I like junk.

B-Movie Blast: The Young Graduates (1971)

Sam, the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer and Mix Master of Movie Themed Drink for B&S About Movies, is scary-psychic when it comes to my writing assignments. I don’t recall Dennis Christopher and Bruno Kirby ever popping up in conversation . . . Sam, how do you do it? It’s like my head is a Magic 8-Ball and you give it a shake. . . . It’s like Christmas!

Anyway . . . this why I love Mill Creek box sets — in this case, their B-Movie Blast 50-Film Pack — as it gives me a chance to see a movie that I never heard of, or seen. Yes . . . even with the Den and the Kirb in the house, so I don’t know how this one slipped by me. Sure, I’ve seen my fair share of ’70s soft-sexploitation flicks and T&A coming-of-age romps (but beware of advertising department scams) but this one . . . I don’t recall ever seeing The Young Graduates on a home video self. And, based on the college chick (What, high school?) showing off some strappy-sandals leg, along with the dune buggies, cycles, and rails . . . and that Crown International logo, well, what’s not to likey, here?

Now, you know how we are about particular actors ’round the B&S About Movie cubicles, right? In this case, for moi, I was into this lost drive-in ditty from the get, as it features early starring roles for two of my favorite actors: Dennis Christopher (Fade to Black and the really cool 10-Speed romp Breaking Away) and Bruno Kirby (How is Almost Summer not on a Mill Creek set? But, you know Bruno best from City Slickers and Good Morning, Vietnam). See? All actors have to start somewhere — and sometimes it has to be a Crown International flick.

Will you just look at Dennis! He’s just a kid, for gosh sakes! Yep, 16!, and he went on to appear nearly 40 movies and made-for-TV flicks since this debut (he was also in the proto-slasher Blood and Lace that same year). And Quentin? Well, he obviously knows both of Dennis’s 1971 debuts from his video clerkin’ days, so the Q recruited Dennis as Leonide Moguy in Django Unchained. Oh, and Dennis is such a stoner dude that his name is “Pan,” and not a more stone name there be. (Hey, “Pan” . . . Panico! Sam, your new “stoner name’ will be Pan-Pan and I’ll be Jo-Jo. Now, that’s a retro-’70s stoner flick right there: Pan Pan and Jo Jo. (WTF, R.D? Get a grip!)

Anyway, while Bruno was a bit older, at 22, he was still able to play “young,” as a high schooler seven years later — at 29 — in, again, one of my favorite of his films, Almost Summer. But I’ll always also remember Bruno for The Harrad Experiment (which, in spite of the title, is not a horror film, but a coming-of-age drama led by James Whitmore and Tippi Hedren . . . with a babe-in-the-woods Don Johnson). Then there’s Bruno’s oft-aired HBO favorite, Baby Blue Marine with Jan-Michael Vincent (that also needs a Mill Creek bow).

Oops. I digress with the Charmin squeezin’ over the actors I dig.

This is loaded with mini-dressed dancing chicks, hippes in flower-power vans, wah-wah psychedelic guitars, and drag-racing rails, hippie chicks, doobies and roach clips, squares in suits and ties who want to be engineers, and those teens who just want to dropout and ride their motor scooters.

Rompin’ through this Partridge Family-cum-Easy Rider-lite world is the requisite sort-of-bad girl, Mindy, who’s like an early version of a romantically confused, can’t-make-her-mind Rachel Green with her endless I-hate-Ross-I-love-Ross insanity. Here, Mindy’s dilemma is between her decent, educated boyfriend Bill or her hunky married-but-he’s-so-hot teacher.

Oops. She’s hot for teacher and the rabbit just hopped in: Mindy’s pregnant. And how does she deal? Well, she runs away with her bestie, Sandy, on motorbike ride to Big Sur, California.

Now, while this sounds like another T&A romp of the Crown variety, it’s not. Surprisingly, for a Crown flick, this ended up being a sensitive exploration of coming-of-age-teens in the ’70s that’s actually well-written. As it should be, since it was scribed by Harvard-educated screenwriter Robert Anderson, who earned two Oscar nods for “Best Screenplay” with The Nun’s Story (1959) and I Never Sang for My Father (1970). Steve McQueen and war flick fans (Hey, there, Pops!), well, you know Anderson best for The Sand Pebbles (1966), again, nominated for an Oscar. And you have to feel a bit bad for Dennis and Bruno, as I am sure, being cast in a film written by a three-time Oscar-nominated writer, they had high hopes for this film . . . then Crown International had to come up with that dopey, exploitative theatrical one-sheet.

And that’s the tale of the three-time Oscar nominated screenwriter appearing on a Mill Creek box set.

Only in the B&S Movie-verse.

You can get this from Mill Creek on their B-Movie Blast 50-Film Pack, but we found a copy on You Tube and and extended teaser on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

REPOST: Wild Riders (1971)

Editor’s Note: This review ran on August 2, 2020, as part of, you guessed it, a Mill Creek blowout with their Savage Cinema set. We’re bringing it back for its inclusion on Mill Creek’s B-Movie Blast pack.

Mill Creek box sets? Yeah, they’re kind of our jam. Just look at the work we’ve put into their Chilling ClassicsPure Terror and Explosive Cinema sets. I grabbed this set used for $2.50, but your mileage may vary. It goes anywhere from $10-150 on Amazon and $10-25 on eBay. It’s worth it — there are plenty of movies that fit the theme quite well.

Up first is Richard Kanter’s (Thar She Blows!Sensual Encounters of Every KindFantasy In Blue) 1971 grimy biker film Wild Riders. It’s all about Pete and Stick (Arell Blanton, whose IMDB list is full of cop roles and, yep, a very young Alex Rocco), two scumbags who get thrown out of their gang. So they do what any of us wouldn’t do — they take over a house and assault the two girls who are there.

 

One of them, Rona, is played by Elizabeth Knowles, who may be better known as Lisa Grant. That’s the name she used for Executive Wives and Behind the Green Door, one of the movies that introduced porno chic. The other girl, Laure, is played by Sherry Bain, who was in The Hard Ride and Ride the Hot Wind.

It’s another movie to cross off my Letterboxd Crown International list. If you’ve learned anything from this site, it’s that I am nothing if not a completist. If you end up thinking, “Is that Peter Fonda?” Well, no. But Arell Blanton is happy that you noticed him trying.

Capulina Contra Los Vampiros (1971)

Do you hate comic relief in horror movies?

How about an entire movie of it?

This movie stars Gaspar Henaine, better known as Capulina, who often partnered with Marco Antonio Campos as the double act Viruta and Capulina. His nickname, El Rey del Humorismo Blanco (The King of White Humor) is because he’s known for clean and innocent humor.

Shockingly, I kinda dug this ridiculous movie that looks like it was shot with an eye to the TV Batman, packed with sound effects and no small amount of silliness.

Count Dracula lives with several female vampires, which seems like a pretty good deal for him, but then a spear accidentally drops on him and he dies. For one hundred and fifty years, strong men are brought int o save him, but they all fail and are killed. Capulina comes in as a handyman and book, he bumps into the spear and Dracula is back among the living.

Rossy Mendoza shows up in this as Pampa, who is the Count’s main wife. She was known as Mexico’s Smallest Waist and The Body. She’s in the same category as Lyn May, Princess Lea and Angelica Chain, as they are all burlesque performers who became famous for their appearances in Mexican exploitation movies. You may recognize her from Santo vs. the KidnappersNight of San Juan: Santo in Black Gold and La Laamada del Sexo, which from the description reads like a giallo, a fact made positive by the knowledge that George Hilton is in it.

This movie somehow is family friendly and filled with the most fetching vampire women this side of Hammer. Mexico, you’ve done it again.

You can watch this on Tubi.

The Incredible Invasion (1971)

Boris Karloff’s last film, this Mexican/American combo platter is really something else. Much like Isle of the Snake People, Fear Chamber and House of Evil, the main action was filmed by Juan Ibáñez while Jack Hill took care of the American footage and anything Karloff appears in.

The story takes place in Gudenberg, as Professor John Mayer (Karloff) has invented a laser weapon that runs on nuclear power. As he tests it, he nearly shoots down a UFO, which leads to aliens coming to our planet to shut down his plans.

That’s what they claim the plot is, but man, this has some twists and turns and veers off into some strange places. Which, you know, is just how I like it.

Karloff has an assistant, Dr. Isabel Reed, which is pretty woke for 1890 to have a female mad scientist. She’s played by Maura Monti, the Mexican Batwoman and she just might be in love with their Igor, who is named Thomas (Yerye Beirute, who was made for roles like these and as the big heavy in movies like Ladrones de Cadaveres). Sure, he just happens to be a sex murderer and an alien gets in his brain and all his victims suddenly become radioactive and this run-on sentence should explain just how convoluted this movie is.

Somehow, Christa Linder (Night of 1000 Cats) figures into this as Karloff’s niece and the eighty-year-old horror hero — never far from oxygen and frequently sitting — gets possessed by aliens who finally make him blow up his entire house just to prove a point that man is not ready for nuclear power.

I watched this whole thing and really was baffled by every single minute, which is often how I judge a movie that I love. Bring on the nonsense!

La Controfigura (1971)

Giovanni (Jean Sorel, Perversion Story) is shot in an underground car-park by a mysterious man and as he dies, he flashes back on his life — including jealousy, adultery and worse — in this 1971 giallo known here as The Double.

While vacationing in Morocco with his stunning girlfriend Lucia (Ewa Aulin, CandyDeath Smiles On a MurdererDeath Laid an Egg), Giovanni grows jealous of an American named Eddie (Sergio DoriaCave of the Sharks). In retaliation, he forces himself on Lucia’s mother Nora (Lucia Bose, The Legend of Blood Castle) and then becomes obsessed all over again that she’s also in love with Eddie. To top all of that off, he soon finds the American’s body in her apartment, so he disposes of the body to protect her. But if she wasn’t in the country when it happened, who killed the man?

Oh yeah, and between being caught in a mother-daughter triangle with Lucia and Nora, there’s also the gorgeous — and face-painted in one scene — Marilù Tolo to deal with.

Romolo Guerrieri also directed another giallo I really enjoyed, The Sweet Body of Deborah, and his artistic sensibilities elevate this film as well, starting with the Sunset Boulevard conceit of the main character getting killed off before we discover anything about him. And even more interesting is the fact that the more we learn of him, the less we like Giovanni.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Marta (1971)

Marisa Mell is the female George Eastman. No, she doesn’t act like a wide eyed gigantic maniac in every movie. It’s just that no matter what movie she appears in, just her name being in the credits guarantees that I will watch the film.

Also known as …dopo di che, uccide il maschio e lo divora (…After That, It Kills the Male and Devours It), which is one of the best titles ever.

A wealthy landowner  named Don Miguel (Stephen Boyd, who was in Ben-Hur) is haunted by his dead mother and missing wife, who may have been murdered, when he meets a gorgeous runaway named Marta (Mell), who may have killed the man who she was running from.

I haven’t seen any of José Antonio Nieves Conde’s films before, but this movie makes me want to watch every single one of them.

The strange thing is that this movie pretty much became true in a way, as Boyd and Mell fell in love, as they made this and The Great Swindle one on top of the other*. Despite Boyd not wanting anything to do with Mell at first — was the man made of stone? — he eventually fell for her and they married in a gypsy ceremony near Madrid, cutting their wrists and sealing their blood. The couple was so possessed buy the mystical and sexual desire they felt for one another than they even went to have it exorcized in another ritual.

Boyd had to run from her, as the relationship physically and mentally exhausted him. As for Mell, she’d tell the Akron Beacon Journal that “We both believe in reincarnation, and we realized we’ve already been lovers in three different lifetimes, and in each one I made him suffer terribly.”

In the same year that all this happened, Mell was also dating Pier Luigi Torri, an aristocratic nightclub owner who fled the country after a cocaine scandal. Arrested in London after it was discovered he had a $300 million dollar gold mine and had also scammed a bank, he somehow escaped his jail cell and ran from the police across rooftops, escaping to America for 18 months. Evidentally, Mell dated Diabolik in art and in life.

So let’s talk about the Mell relationship in the film instead of reality. She has come to live with Miguel, who collects insects and has two servants who keep things tidy. She enters his life by claiming that she is on the run for a self-defense murder. Miguel decides to protect her from the police because she looks like his wife Pilar (also played by Mell) who has left him or was killed. He’s also tormented by the death of his sainted mother while she may not be who she says that she is.

Oh yeah — and now Marta is acting as Pillar to throw the police off the scent of the man who she either wants to marry or destroy.

Marta is a gothic-style giallo but is also dreamlike throughout. There’s a continual obsession with placing Mell in front of mirrors. And for someone who was rarely used outside of her sex appeal in films, she absolutely haunting here. Somehow, Spain put this movie forward for Oscar consideration and if I ran those popcorn fart boring awards, I would have given this every single award.

Sure, this movie rips off Hitchcock, but it also wallows in sin, which is what I demand from the giallo that I come to adore. Somehow, someway, this aired on broadcast TV as part of Avco Embassy’s Nightmare Theater package, along with A Bell from Hell, Death Smiles on a Murderer, Maniac MansionNight of the SorcerersFury of the Wolfman, Hatchet for the HoneymoonHorror Rises from the TombDear Dead DelilahDoomwatchWitches MountainMummy’s Revenge and The Witch. Man, how did any of those air on regular TV?

*Credit to the Stephen Boyd Fan Page and Marisa Mell: Her Life and Her Work for this information.

Senza via d’uscita (1971)

Translated as No Way Out, this movie is also known as Devil’s RansomLa MachinationTerroriThe VictimsDiabolicalThe Devil and His Diabolical Mistress and Photos of a Decent Woman. 

While this was sold to me as a giallo, it feels closer to a krimini film, as the genre had not yet fully begun to ape — bird? cat? — Argento yet.

Gilbert Mardeau (Philippe Leroy) is a bank courier stuck in a loveless marriage with Michele (Marisa Mell, so obviously this is science fiction because Marisa Mell is literally the entire reason why I have suffered through some movies). He has a woman on the side (Lea Massari, who no offense, but is a major step down) and a problem: someone has kidnapped his son and wants big money or he’ll never see him alive again.

Piero Sciumé only directed one more and this is it. It’s definitely not a straight-up black gloved, knife wielding killer movie, but the end has some nice psychedelic visuals, Mell is actually really solid as the mother driven to do unspeakable things and setting it in Stockholm is an interesting change of pace.

Obviously, for giallo completists only, but if you read this far, look in the mirror and realize that yes, you are one.