VCI 4K UHD RELEASE: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally on the site on August 14, 2018. It’s back — with edits and new writing — because VCI has released the fiftieth anniversary 4K UHD release of this movie. You can get it on UHD, blu ray or DVD from MVD by clicking the line for each format.

Each edition has the following extras: a new introduction and Q&A with Alan Ormsby; a ninety-minute documentary Dreaming of Death: Bob Clark’s Horror Films; a commentary track with Alan Ormsby, Jane Daly and Anya Cronin; a Q&A filmed at. the Los Angeles Grindhouse Festival; an interview with Ken Goch; photo and poster gallery; two music videos by The Deadthings “Dead Girls Don’t Say No” and “Cemetery Mary;” liner notes by Patrick McCabe; the original trailer; radio spots and a slipcover for the initial release. 

The same Bob Clark that did Porky’s did A Christmas Story and also made Black Christmas and Deathdream. He even produced the film Moonrunners, which inspired TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard. He also made Turk 182! (if you had HBO back in the day, you saw it), Rhinestone and the Baby Geniuses series. Yep. Bob Clark pretty much did it all. And here’s one more completely great thing he created.

Alan (Alan Ormsby, who would go on to write DeathdreamDerangedMy Bodyguard and direct Popcorn) leads a group of actors who have all gone to an island together for a night of shenanigans. Sure, the island is a cemetery for criminals. And of course, he’s going to do a seance to raise the dead. And while the whole thing is a joke, Alan is genuinely upset that the dead aren’t walking the swamp.

They do find a corpse — Orville — and Alan uses it to continually harass his actors. And the ritual really did work, as the dead begin killing everyone off one by one.

The shift from comedy to drama to horror in this film is startling. The cast is amateur, but the terror feels real. The dread and doom at the end, as the zombies board a boat as the lights of Miami are in the background and atonal music plays are as perfect as film can be.

Clark shot this movie at the same time as Deathdream, using some of the same cast. A surprising moment in the film is that while there are two gay men — and they stereotypically lisp — they play an integral role in the film. That’s pretty incredible for 1972.

MILL CREEK NIGHTMARE WORLDS: The Doomsday Machine (1972)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally on the site on March 3, 2020.

You have to admire a movie that was originally filmed five years earlier under the titles Armageddon 1975 and Doomsday Plus Seven before the money stopped rolling in. The rights got sold, a new ending was filmed with totally different actors and plenty of padding got thrown in to make this — along with NASA stock footage and special effects taken from other movies.

Hell, the Astra, the main ship in this, changes its look every few minutes.

Original director Herbert J. Leder also made Fiend Without a Face. The fixed up footage came from Lee Sholem, who directed more than 1,300 episodes of television, as well as the movie Superman and the Mole Men.

Ruta Lee, who was one of the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, stars in this. She’s joined by Mala Powers (who ran the estate of acting teacher Michael Chekov after his death), Grant Williams (The Incredible Shrinking Man), Henry Wilcoxon (the bishop in Caddyshack), former Tarzan Denny Miller, M*A*S*H* star Mike Farrell and Bobby Van, who hosted eight-year-old Sam’s favorite game show, Make Me Laugh.

You think the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey didn’t make sense? At least it didn’t abruptly end after wiping out most of the cast off-screen and Venusians try to explain the entire movie away via a voice-over.

THANKSGIVING TERROR: Blood Freak (1972)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because the expectations are so low. All you need to do is show up, eat food and fall asleep watching football, which is way less pressure than Christmas. While you lounge, here are some movies to watch and upset your entire family and start the holidays off right.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a ghostwriter of personal memoirs for Story Terrace London and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

In 2004, I stumbled across a copy of Blood Freak released as a special edition on the Something Weird Video label. I knew nothing about the film before I watched it. 90 minutes later, as the credits rolled, I held up the packaging to the heavens and proclaimed, “Every film I ever watch from this moment forward will be compared to Blood Freak.” Is it good? That depends on your point of view. Do I love it? Absolutely. It is, in this writer’s humble opinion, the best “worst” movie ever made. Not because it’s slow or boring. But because it’s a film that defies all logic. Made equal parts enthusiasm and technical ineptitude in Florida by nudist director Brad F. Grinter on a $25,000 budget, and star Steve Hawkes, it’s positively dripping with WTF moments. Blood Freak exists in a genre all its own somewhere in the center of a “Cult Movie” Venn Diagram featuring Sting of Death, Blood Feast, Reefer Madness, and the collective Christian works of Kirk Cameron.

The plot involves a biker named Herschell (in a nod to fellow Florida filmmaker H.G. Lewis) played by the box-bodied, pompadoured Hawkes himself. Herschell has just finished his service in Vietnam and needs to figure out the rest of his life. After assisting a girl on the Florida turnpike named Angel with her car trouble, she invites him home. There, we find Angel’s polar-opposite younger sister Ann toking up and sniffing poppers with her friends. Ann likes Herschell, who rejects her for an evening at Bible study with Angel and her elderly friend who just happens to need “a husky guy” to help out on his poultry farm. To mellow him out, Ann gives Herschell a laced joint by the pool, causing him to become addicted after one dose. The two quickly fall in stoner love.

Herschell gets a job at the old man’s turkey farm (where the sounds of real turkeys are augmented by human voices gobbling and whistling on the soundtrack) and agrees to eat some experimental samples injected with chemicals. The combination of the spiked weed and the spiked turkey causes him to pass out. He awakens a while later to discover he has transformed into a giant turkey monster. Well, more like a guy with a papier-mâché turkey head and feather scarf, but you get the idea. He’s a mutant game bird dependent on the blood of drug addicts. When he’s not out killing junkies and drinking their blood with his toothy beak, he goes home to Ann and gobbles softly to her about his plight. In response she ponders, “Gosh, Herschell, you sure are ugly. I love you. But if we stay together, what will the children look like?” Then they make sweet, sweet turkey love.

If it sounds insane, it is. It is the only film I’ve ever seen where the director periodically interrupts the proceedings to explain what the hell is going on. It doesn’t help but it sure is entertaining to watch Grinter glance down at his script every few seconds.

Fortunately, Herschell wakes up to discover the entire episode was all a hallucination. It turns out our hero was already addicted to pain killers from injuries sustained in Vietnam. Angel, Ann and the poultry farmer get him the help he needs and he and Ann walk off happily ever after.

Just prior to the conclusion, director Brad Grinter pays his audience one last visit to warn us of the dangers of chemicals in our food. All while chain-smoking and coughing. The message couldn’t be clearer. Grinter knows he’s a hypocrite. It’s an apt description given that he taught filmmaking at the same time he made a literal turkey of a movie comprising underlit, out-of-focus shots. Me? I love turkey. I searched for many years to find a gem worthy of the “Best of the Worst” title. Blood Freak is the reigning Gobbler.

Trivia: Blood Freak is filled with a lot of big cat imagery. Actor Steve Hawkes was rescued by a lion from a fire while shooting a Tarzan film in Europe. He spent the rest of his life rescuing big cats. Steve was the original Tiger King. 

To find out more about his life, which is worthy of a film on its own, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Sipek

CAULDRON FILMS BLU RAY RELEASE: Crimes of the Black Cat (1972)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally on the site on February 21, 2020.

Cauldron Films has released it on blu ray along with several featurettes, such as Remembering Sergio Pastore – Interview with Sara Pastore and Sergio Pastore – Un Ammirevole Indipendente. There are two commentary tracks — one by Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson and the other by the Fragments of Fear podcast — as well as a trailer and image gallery. You can get it from MVD.

Italy and Denmark unite for a film made in the wake of Dario Argento’s landmark The Bird With the Crystal Plumage. Just look — there are crimes right in the title and some vaguely associated animal name! Actually, a black cat does kill some people in this, so the name makes sense.

Originally titled Sette Scialli di Seta Gialla (Seven Shawls of Yellow Silk), this movie was written and directed by Sergio Pastore.

Several fashion models are killed by a murderer — think Blood and Black Lace — by a black cat that has been alerted to them by gifted shawls laced with chemicals. Such a strange way to kill someone, but hey — we’re in the psychosexual world of the giallo, so why worry?

Paola, the first victim, had been dating Peter Oliver (Anthony Steffen, who was Django in Django the Bastard and also shows up in Play Motel and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave), a blind composer who believes that he’s heard the killer. He and his butler (Umberto Raho, Enter the Devil) are on the case, tracking the cat down to its owner, who is killed before she can reveal who has been taking care of her cat.

Much like the aforementioned — and superior — Bava film, Francoise (Sylva Koscina, Steve Reeves’ love interest in Hercules and Hercules Unchained; she’s also in So Sweet, So Dead and Bava’s Lisa and the Devil) was killing the models to cover up another killing. That’s because Paola was sleeping with her husband and certainly had to pay.

So yeah. The movie is a Bava remix with a lead character taken from another giallo, Argento’s The Cat O’Nine Tails. And the killer’s method comes from Bela Lugosi and The Devil Bat. Don’t let all that copy and pasting get in the way of your enjoyment of this movie. It’s still fun — the fashions are inordinately loud, the zooms are wild and the music is out of control. There’s a vicious shower kill than leaves nothing to the imagination. And it’s still better than anything out there today.

MILL CREEK NIGHTMARE WORLDS: Piranha (1972)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

Not to be confused with the killer fish movie, Piranha (1972) the Venezuelan adventure-thriller sometimes known as Piranha, Piranha, or Caribe, stars William Smith and Peter Brown, who previously worked together in the mid-sixties western TV series Laredo. 

With a plot reminiscent of The Most Dangerous Game and the later rape-revenge films, Piranha concerns wildlife photographers Art Greene (Tom Simcox) and Terry Greene (Ahna Capri) are traveling through the Amazon region with their American tour guide Jim Pendrake (Peter Brown), when they encounter Caribe (William Smith), a homicidal lunatic who enjoys stalking and hunting human prey. It’s made clear early on in the film that Terry is not a fan of guns. First, she insists they not bring one into the jungle, then she is horrified when Caribe kills animals for no reason. Of course, after Caribe violates her and starts picking members of their party off, she changes her tune. By the film’s conclusion, Terry has had enough of Caribe’s macho bullshit and offs him with…you guessed it…a gun. 

I’m not sure if the message is pro-gun or pro-feminist. More than likely, it was neither. The script by Richard Finder (just isn’t that deep as evidenced by the incredibly long motorcycle chase comprises almost one entire act. Script notwithstanding, it’s an entertaining movie and as fine an example of ‘70s “guy cinema” I’ve ever seen. A manly film with manly men doing manly things. They wear matching (and not matching) denim and shirts open to the navel accented with neckerchiefs. Remember those? A stylish way to wick moisture from the muscly necks of guys doing stuff to make them sweat in humid, emerald green jungle environments. They also double as a headband. You might need a shower and a shot of whiskey when it’s over. I know I did. 

The Brides Wore Blood (1972)

The poster to this movie is all it took to get me, but then I discovered that hardly anyone has watched this, that it was shot in Jacksonville, Florida for nearly no money and it goes all out occult weirdness in the midst of sunlight sleaze. All of this and more, please.

A psychic tells a young blonde named Yvonne (Dolores Heiser) that she needs a new life and should move to Florida, which brings her into the world of the DeLorca family. They have a curse upon them as once there was a ritual to conjure evil spirits that got interrupted, so now each male son becomes a vampire, which kills the mother upon the second birth.

The family has a plan: Madame von Kirst explains to them if they lure four girls — remember the young lady I discussed above? — to their house and do a new ritual, they can escape the pox upon their clan. There are also three other girls — Laura (Jan Sherman), Vickie (Rita Ballard) and Dana (Delores Starling) — as well as a hunchback and a wild sunlit home, which seems like not the place for vampires to live, but hey, I’m not a cursed vampiric madman, so what do I really know?

The occult influence on this film comes directly from all of Anton LaVey’s appearances in men’s magazines, focusing on his use of nude women as altars. Obviously, I am scandalized by all of this.

You can watch this on Tubi.

 

MILL CREEK NIGHTMARE WORLDS: Terror at Red Wolf Inn (1972)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on June 19, 2019.

Whatever you call it — Terror House, Terror at Red Wolf Inn or Folks at Red Wolf Inn — this 1972 horror comedy is one strange film. It makes a nice double or triple feature companion for a few other movies from the early 70’s like The Baby and Messiah of Evil. They’re horror, sure, but they also all feel like they’ve come from some other planet, somewhere beyond the walls of our normal plane of existence.

Regina (Linda Gillen) is a young college student with no money, friends or plans as the rest of her class leaves for spring break. That said — her luck is about to change, as she gets a letter informing her that she’s won a free vacation to the Red Wolf Inn.

She even has a plane ready for her and a handsome young man named Baby John Smith to pick her up when she arrives. Their ride to the inn is wild, as he races the police, but instead of reacting with fear, she enjoys the ride.

Once they arrive, Regina meets the owners of the inn, Henry (Arthur Space, who played veterinarian Doc Weaver on TV’s Lassie) and Evelyn (Mary Jackson, Sister Felice in Airport and Emily Baldwin on TV’s The Waltons), who are also Baby John’s grandparents. Plus, there are two other contest winners, Pamela (Janet Wood, Angels Hard as They Come) and Edwina (Margaret Avery, who years later woud be nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work as Shug Avery in The Color Purple; she’s also in the made for TV movie Something Evil that Steven Spielberg directed before Jaws).

That night, everyone sits down to an extravagant meal where they’re encouraged to indulge themselves. The next morning, Pamela has gone, but her dress has stayed behind.

Baby John and Regina’s feelings for one another are noticed by everyone in the house. This leads to my favorite scene in the movie, where they share a moment on the beach, flirting with one another before they embrace and kiss. Then, Baby John catches a small shark and loses his mind, smashing it over and over again before punching it, all the while screaming “Shark!” before confessing that he loves Regina. It’s incredibly disconcerting, like the way that beings from another dimension would act thinking that they were fitting in with humanity.

Before you know it, it’s time for another party, this time celebrating Edwina’s last night. After everyone goes to bed, the Smiths go to her room, knock her out with chloroform and then slices her to ribbons inside the refrigerated meat locker. After Regina worries that Edwina left without saying goodbye, she tries to run away, but even the police are members of the Smith family.

A prisoner inside the Red Wolf Inn, she soon discovers that she’s been eating human flesh the entire time there. She tries to run one more time, but is caught and finally admits that she’s in love with Baby John. Despite the fact that she believes that his grandparents want to kill and eat her, she thinks that they’ll come to accept her. There’s a test later that night where they try to get her to eat human flesh, now that she knows what she’s been devouring, but she runs away.

Baby John is smitten, but will he save the woman he’s fallen for? Will he eventually eat her too? Or is there an even stranger ending poised to blow your mind?

If you want to know every single thing there is to know about this film, I heartily recommend the zine Drive-in Asylum. In issue eight, there’s an interview with Linda Gillen that goes in-depth into every facet of the film and its production, as well as a great article by Terry Thome that dissects the film’s mixture of romance, horror and comedy. In fact, if you check out the Drive-In Asylum etsy store, you’ll find everything from signed VHS copies of the film, promotional photos and even a cookbook inspired by the film! I’m proud to say that I illustrated this unique souvenir of this film, which as a real honor (and I even have one signed by Linda).

BONUS: We spent two full episodes of our podcast discussing this movie with Bill from Drive-In Asylum, which will give you even more insight into the sheer craziness at the heart of this film.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: The Valachi Papers (1972)

Joseph Valachi was an informant in the early 1960s who was the first to acknowledge that organized crime existed. Based on The Valachi Papers by Peter Maas — Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach stopped Maas from publishing his edition of Valachi’s original memoirs, but did allow him to publish a third-person account based upon interviews he had conducted with Valachi — this has Charles Bronson as the protagonist, a man who suddenly finds himself fingered as a snitch when he was keeping omerta. He finally decides that if he’s going to get killed for being a rat, he better just be one and hope to get out of this alive.

A prisoner in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, he’s given the kiss of death by his boss Vito Genovese (Lino Ventura) and becomes paranoid, killing anyone who comes near him after he’s nearly murdered in the shower. Then the film shows the life of crime that Valachi has lived, including his marriage — Jill Ireland plays his wife, of course — and all the people killed along the way.

Dino de Laurentiis had to convince Charles Bronson to take the role, as Bronson turned it down at least twice. He took it when he found out the character got to age from his late teens to early 60s. This movie was pushed up after The Godfather was such a big hit, a movie that Bronson referred to as “The Godfather? that was the shittiest movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

Director Terrence Young may be best known for his Bond movies, but he also did this and Wait Until Dark, two films far removed from the spy genre. He keeps things moving and sometimes the violence is stylized as black and white photos that are discussed or tightly wound moments where blood and gunfire can erupt at any time.

The Kino Lorber blu ray release of. The Valachi Papers has commentary by Bronson expert Paul Talbot, trailers from Germany and the U.S., a TV ad and a radio commercial. You can get this from Kino Lorber.

THE IMPORTANT CINEMA CLUB’S SUPER SCARY MOVIE CHALLENGE DAY 31: Frankenstein 80 (1972)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on October 23, 2018 and you can also read Bill Van Ryn’s amazing breakdown that was posted on November 9, 2019. Vinegar Syndrome, Arrow, Cauldron, Severin — I beg you — release this movie.

31. A Horror Film You Love, But Don’t Think Enough People Watch

Dr. Otto Frankenstein works in his lab all day and to the normal daytime world, he seems like an ordinary doctor. But at night, he works on perfecting his own form of life, Mosiac, putting together this inhuman human from several dead bodies. Then, once completed, Mosiac repays him by killing him and we still have an hour left.

Directed by Mario Mancini (who was the cinematographer for Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks and The Girl in Room 2A), this is a film featuring real surgical footage, nonsensical dialogue and a total lack of plot. Suffice to say I loved it.

Mosiac spends the rest of the movie replacing his constantly failing organs, which means that he must murder and murder and murder some more. Have you ever wondered, “What if someone used a giant leg bone to kill someone?” this would be the movie that answers your inquest.

Also, in whatever nameless city in some unknown country that this is supposed to be set in, possibly Germany, the women in the night have no issues with a gigantic monster in a leather Nazi-esque outfit picking them up with merely a few grunts. No money discussion — he kills them way before they tell him how much a half and half costs.

This movie was inspired by Italian horror, sex and gore comics, like Oltretomba. If you’re offended by the blood and guts and books of this film, consider this a stern warning: avoid these comics at all costs if you have. any morals. They take it even further. And then further. And then some.

There’s a new blu ray of this that’s been released — the film is in public domain — that finally fixes the rough prints that are out there right now. It’s nearly impossible to find, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop looking. For all the foibles of this film, it has a certain something. It’s a sex roughie about a monster like Frankenstein, made by filmmakers who do not in any way care just how sleazy they’re getting.

You can watch an absolutely battered version of this movie on Tubi.

As a bonus, here’s some artwork that I did of the film.

THE IMPORTANT CINEMA CLUB’S SUPER SCARY MOVIE CHALLENGE DAY 20: The Blood Spattered Bride (1972)

20. A Horror Film That Features Testicular Trauma.

La novia ensangrentada is based on Carmilla, that tale of forbidden Sapphic vampire love. Released as a double feature in the U.S. with I Dismember Mama, it even had a special trailer that had an audience member losing their marbles.

Susan (Maribel Martín) is so newlywed that she shows up on her honeymoon still wearing her gown. She’s being followed by Mircala Karstein (Alexandra Bastedo) and has waking terrors, imagining a man has come into her room to assault her. When she visits her the house where her husband (Simón Andreu) was raised, she finds paintings of all the men, but no women save Karstein, who murdered her husband on their wedding night after he forced her to commit unspeakable acts.

As her dreams are taken over by Karstein, her husband finds a woman buried on the beach. She’s still alive — well, she’s undead — and she’s Karstein in human form, seducing Susan in dreams of deadly daggers and in waking caresses. By the end, he must destroy them while they sleep intertwined in a coffin and then fulfill the wish of her thrall to shoot her in the head.

Sure, it’s a lot like The Vampire Lovers and Daughters of Darkness, but those movies don’t have their protagonist’s sexual awakening come complete with remembering that her husband uses her for sex whenever he wants it without pleasure for her, so she blows another man’s balls clean off with a shotgun.

“The good ones are those who are content to dream what the wicked actually practice.”

You can watch this on Tubi.