L’osceno desiderio(1978)

Obscene Desire is the story of Amanda (Marisa Mell, a goddess if there ever were one and someone who immediately changes any movie from maybe to definitely; my favorite of her films are MartaDanger: Diabolik and Perversion Story, a film in which she has one of the greatest outfits not only in the history of Italian film but perhaps all movies ever), an American woman ready to marry the rich Andrea (Chris Avram, Enter the Devil) and move into his huge mansion.

Within the walls of that gothic expanse lies something evil, something that has possessed Amanda’s soon-to-be husband to indulge in black magic and ritual murder. In fact, the only way that he can keep his soul from being taken by his domicile is to keep killing prostitutes.

This movie should teach you to never trust a gardener (Victor Israel) and that the Italian film industry would keep on making Rosemary’s Baby ripoffs ten years after that movie was unleashed. Or The Exorcist five years later. Or The Omen two years later.

Look, I’m a simple man. Marisa Mell with short dark hair, not unlike Mariska Hargitay, possessed by the devil and writhing on a bed and revealing that her tongue is superhumanly long. Do I even care that this movie has no real story and really goes nowhere?

No, not at all.

What were we talking about?

Laura Trotter (Dr. Anna Miller from Nightmare City) and Paola Maiolini (Cuginetta, amore mio!) are also in the cast for this film directed by Giulio Petroni (Death Rides a Horse) and written by Joaquín Domínguez and Piero Regnoli (the director of The Playgirls and the Vampire and writer of 117 movies including DemoniaVoices from BeyondBurial Ground and Patrick Still Lives).

Cruise Into Terror (1978)

Originally airing on February 3, 1978 on ABC, this movie has quite the cast: Dirk Benedict (who would appear on the network’s Battlestar Galactica the same year), Frank Converse (who was also in 1981’s Rankin-Bass movie, which was distributed by Aquarius Releasing, The Bushido Blade opposite an all-star cast that included Sonny Chiba, James Earl Jones, Mako, Toshiro Mifune and Laura Gemser), John Forsythe (Dynasty), Christopher George (Enter the Ninja), Lynda Day George (Pieces), Lee Meriwether (The Catwoman after Earth Kitt), Ray Milland (X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes), Hugh O’Brian (Ten Little Indians), Stella Stevens (The Manitou)Roger E. Mosley (Magnum P.I.) and Marshall Thompson (First Man Into Space).

It has what you expect on a cruise to terror: a ship brings aboard a sunken Egyptian sarcophagus that contains the son of Satan. Directed by Bruce Kessler and written by Michael Braverman, who created the show Life Goes On, this movie has Milland as an archaeologist who believes the Egyptians discovered America and Forsythe playing a religious man with a wife he’s disengaging from, leaving her all alone as he struggles with his faith.

That said, it’s also a TV movie and has a coffin that breathes, so there’s that. It also has “Dies Irae” on the soundtrack two years before The Shining.

Supaidāman (1978)

At the end of the 70s, Marvel and Toei made a three-year licensing agreement. Each could use the other’s properties in any way they wanted.

Marvel would use the main robots from two of Toei’s anime, Wakusei Robo Danguard Ace and Chōdenji Robo Combattler V, as part of the Mattel licensed Shogun Warriors comic book and, sadly, not much else. That’s right, Marvel could have had a Kamen Rider comic.

Toei was inspired by Captain America to make Battle Fever J* and also made animated movies of Tomb of Dracula and Frankenstein.

And, of course, their version of Spider-Man.

Across 41 episodes and one movie made for the Toei Manga Matsuri, this story took the costume of Spider-Man and then went absolutely insane.

Motorcycle racer Takuya Yamashiro sees the Marveller — a UFO — fall to Earth just as his father Dr. Hiroshi Yamashiro — a space archaeologist! — investigates. He’s killed by Professor Monster and his evil Iron Cross Army, who were being opposed by the alien Garia, the last surviving warrior of Planet Spider. He injects Takuya with his blood and gives him a car named the Spider Machine GP-7 as well as a bracelet that allows him to control the ship and the robot form — Leopardon — to protect Earth.

Obviously, this series is a blast. Of course Spider-Man needs a car and a giant robot and is bothered by cold. I might even prefer it to nearly every other live-action version of the character.

*The popularity of this show and Battle Fever J led to a new interest in sentai shows, which of course how we got Power Rangers here. Toei’s next two sentai series, Denshi Sentai Denziman  and Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan featured Marvel Comics Group in the credits yet had no characters from the company.

Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978)

Despite its high ratings, the CBS Amazing Spider-Man series only lasted 13 episodes. There are a lot of reasons why it didn’t last — Marvel Comics publisher and co-creator of the character Stan Lee fought with producer Daniel R. Goodman (even telling Marvel house magazine Pizzazz that the show was “too juvenile”), it was expensive to make, it didn’t get the demographics that the network wanted and they no longer wanted to be the superhero network.

Columbia Pictures helped recoup those costs by releasing two movies in UK, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, taking the “Deadly Dust” episodes — season 1, episodes 1 and 2 — and turning them into a feature-length movie.

Upset that their professor has brought a small amount of plutonium onto campus, three students decide to steal it and build a bomb in order to protest the dangers of nuclear power. They didn’t figure on international businessmen and arms dealer Mr. White (Robert Alda) taking their bomb and trying to detonate it in Los Angeles as an attempt to kill the President of the United States.

Meanwhile, Captain Barbera (Michael Pataki!) suspects Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammond) of the crime. He’s also pursued by Rita Conway (Chip Fields), a reporter who wants an interview with his alter ego, Spider-Man.

The great thing about the UK — well, maybe not great — is that nunchucks are illegal, so they get censored from every movie. Like this one. It played on U.S. broadcast TV but couldn’t play UK theaters.

Dr. Strange (1978)

Stan Lee said of his experience with the 70s live action Marvel films, particularly Dr. Strange, “I probably had the most input into that one. I’ve become good friends with the writer/producer Phil DeGuere. I was pleased with Dr. Strange and The Incredible Hulk. I think that Dr. Strange would have done much better than it did in the ratings, except that it aired opposite Roots. Those are the only experiences I’ve had with live action television. Dr. Strange and The Incredible Hulk were fine. Captain America was a bit of a disappointment, and Spider-Man was a total nightmare.”

Director and writer DeGuere was crushed when this series wasn’t picked up and all we got was the TV movie, but he ended up creating Simon and Simon, so he did alright.

Morgan Le Fay (Jessica Walter, who was in Play Misty for Me and Arrested Development and this is not anywhere near those) possesses Clea (Eddie Benton, Prom NightThe Boogens) and has her shove Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme Thomas Lindmer (John Mills) off a bridge. He survives and Clea ends up being cared for by Dr. Stephen Strange (Peter Hooten, 2020 Texas GladiatorsJust a Damned Soldier and most importantly, Night Killer), who has magical powers inherited from his father, which leads Lindmer and his friend Wong (Clyde Kusatsu) to meet Strange and teach him the path that he really should be on. I mean, why help people deal with mental illness when you can battle the demon Balzaroth (Ted Cassidy, who wasn’t just Lurch, he was also the voice of Galactus on the first Fantastic Four cartoon and the narrator of the original opening to The Incredible Hulk).

Le Fay and Clea are both interested in Strange, which leads the Nameless One to threaten Le Fay with old age if she doesn’t destroy the young magic user. She sends the shadow form of Asmodeus — a Ghost Rider villain — to capture Lindmer and lure Strange into her trap. She attempts to seduce him and fails. Then, Strange accepts the responsibility of being the new Sorcerer Supreme.

After all that — and despite being abandoned by the Nameless One and becoming wrinkled and aged, Le Fay is on TV as a self-help star, teasing the series that was never made.

This is a pretty slow moving movie, but as a kid, I loved it, because I just wanted more comic book stuff on TV. It would have been nice to see where the TV show would have gone.

Here’s a strange trivia question: Who is the first Marvel supervillain to be adapted to live action?

Yes, the villainess of this movie, Morgan LeFay. The Arthurian villainess was one of Spider-Woman’s main enemies and somehow, she beat every other villain to the screen.

Sure, she acts a bit more like Umar, the daughter of Dormammu, but there you go.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 7: Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang (1978)

Mordecai Richler, the author who wrote the book that this Canadian kid movie is based on, sounds like the kind of name someone would get when they go to WWE or a robber baron or both.

Speaking of pro wrestling, the bad guy in this, the Hooded Fang, was once a grappler but now he runs a prison for children. Children that he hates.

Look, Canada doesn’t care if you’re a child, they’re going to destroy your brain with their demented movies.

Our hero, Jacob Two-Two, is “two plus two plus two years old, has two brothers and two sisters, and has to say everything twice just to be heard; odd numbers aren’t his thing.” Jacob doesn’t fit in at home, even adults make fun of the fact that he says things twice and soon he ends up in that aforementioned jail as when you have a lawyer named Mr. Loser, you know what to expect.

So the judge sends our protagonist to the medium house and Emma and Noah.m his siblings, show up as lawyers that strike fear into the judge’s heart. It’s too late to appeal, so they give Jacob a jewel tracking device and if he sees any children hurt in prison, he is to contact them.

Somehow, Master Fish and Mistress Fowl seem similar to the people that watched as Jacob was railroaded in a store, so Canadian kids get to learn that conspiracy is real way early. All the kids in the jail are gray and the Hooded Fang despises them all, because one kid was all it took to defeat his gimmick, taking him from frightening to funny.

Then there’s Mister Fox, who steals the jewel and has the mission to ruin toy stores. How did Canadian kids not live in mortal fear all the time? And Hooded Fang keeps trying to make Jacob afraid of him, even threatening to feed him to sharks, a fate that Emma and Noah believe has already happened.

Look, Alex Karras actually was a wrestler once. Sure, we know him as a Detroit Lion, as Mongo in Blazing Saddles and Ma’am’s husband on Webster (and in real life). But after getting suspended for betting — NFL players were not paid well at all in the early days — and went back to pro wrestling, a sport he tried before playing pro football. To get the most out of his name from football, he was booked into a feud with Dick the Bruiser, who got heat on the angle by going into Karras’ bar, the Lindell AC Bar, started badmouthing Karras and then fought nearly the entire bar, including several cops. This would not be the only time that the Bruiser caused a riot, as he turned an appearance at Madison Square Garden — teaming with the even more volatile Dr. Jerry Graham against Antonino Rocca and Édouard Carpentier — into a riot that injured 300 fans and took sixty cops to stop. It’s one of the reasons why kids under the age of 16 could not attend the Garden wrestling shows until way into the late 70s.

Richler said, “I think it was a very bad job, very very bad job.” It was remade in 1999 with Gary Busey as the Hooded Fang, Mark McKinney from The Kids In the Hall as Mr. Fish, Miranda Richardson as Miss Fowl and Ice-T as the judge. People hated that version way more than the first movie. There was also a 2003-2006 cartoon series.

The 1978 version was directed and written by Theodore J. Flicker, who also made The President’s Analyst and the TV movie Playmates.

88 FILMS BLU RAY RELEASE: Shaolin Mantis (1978)

Wei Fung (David Chiang, King BoxerThe Boxer from Shantung) has been given an assignment from the Emperor himself: work his way into the Tien Clan rebels, gain evidence of their connection to a series of enemies and report back. If he fails, his entire family will be punished. Complicating the mission is the fact that he’s already fallen for one of his enemies, Tien Chi-Chi (Huang Hsin-Hsiu), the granddaughter of the rebel leader.

The rebels have already learned that Wei-Fung is a spy, yet Chi-Chi has already fallen for him. Her grandfather Tien (Lau Kar Wing, the choreographer of so many movies, including Master of the Flying Guillotine) doesn’t want to break her heart, so if she can gain Wei-Fung’s hand in marriage — and he pledges to never leave — he may live. However, if he doesn’t come back with the list of spies, his entire family will be decapitated. And what does the praying mantis have to do with an entire new style?

Unlike so many Shaw Brothers martial arts movies, the fighting is part of the story instead of the entire tale. It naturally comes out of the human drama within the movie, making Shaolin Mantis a movie worth discovering. It also has a shock ending that made me love this film.

88 Films U.S. blu ray release of Shaolin Mantis has a high definition 1080p presentation of the movie with both English and Mandarin audio, along with newly translated English subtitles. There are two audio commentaries, one with Asian cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema as well as one with Frank Djeng. There’s a feature on the film with David West, an interview with actor John Cheung, the Hong Kong trailer and the U.S. trailer for its western title, The Deadly Mantis. You can get it from MVD and Diabolik DVD.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Frauengefängnis (1976)

Any time you don’t see a poster in a Jess Franco month post, realize that I share these on Facebook and I’d like people to be able to see them. Seeing as how this is also called Wicked Women and Women Without Innocence, you can imagine that there was no poster that really was safe for posting.

Margarita (Lina Romat) is the only witness of a murder so brutal — it was in the midst of a romantic thruple situation — that it’s given her shock and amnesia, sending her to a psychiatric clinic where another masked man — or is the same one? — assauts her and kills another woman. He promises to return to murder her, so she better get those memories back in a hurry.

If you think you’ve seen bad doctors before, well, these ones just scream at Lina and one of the female doctors decides to take a bath with her, which doesn’t seem like the kind of bedside manner that gets taught in college. I don’t know, maybe the Jess Franco universe has very different rules than our own.

So in short: women in prison but in a sanitarium with diamond smuggling and giallo.

How many Jess Franco movies concern diamond smuggling? All of them, sometimes.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Convoi de filles (1978)

German officer Erich von Strasse (Jean-Marie Lemaire) was wounded in battle but has come back to Berlin to be awarded the Iron Cross before heading to the Russian Front. A woman that he loved before he became a hero, Ronata (Brigitte Parmentier), has been forced to work in a brothel and her father sent to a concentration camp after they’ve been discovered hiding a Jewish woman. Now confronted by the evil of the Third Reich first-hand, Erich decides to save her.

Also known as East of Berlin and Convoy of Girls, this was supposedly directed by a mix of Pierre Chevalier and Jess Franco, but I must tell you, the fact that this has scenes in a house of ill repute and there’s no zoom shots into female anatomy, thirty-eight-minute lesbian love scenes or people being whipped or electrified says to me that either Jess did some pick up shots or had nothing to do with this.

Franco had to be saying, “Look, Monica Swinn and Pamela Stanford are right there, can they just kiss tongue or something?”

Eurocine movies really had no concern for who directed their movies or where footage comes from, as this one features cribbed scenes from Heroes Without GloryHitler’s Last TrainCaptive Women 4 and Nathalie: Escape from Hell. Nearly all of those movies — and this one — were also inserted into another Franco World War II movie, Night of the Eagles.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Every generation gets the Invasion of the Body Snatchers they deserve.

The fifties got the McCarthy referencing pod people.

The nineties got alienation and a bleak final scene.

And I guess the 2000s got The Invasion.

But the seventies?

The pre-millennial tension and end of the world coming soon seventies got director Phillip Kaufman’s blast of pure dread, working with talents like cinematographer Michael Chapman (who ran the camera on The Godfather and Jaws before creating the look of movies like Raging BullThe Fugitive and directing All the Right Moves and The Clan of the Cave Bear) and sound designer Ben Burtt, the man who gave Star Wars all its well-remembered noises. As for the effects, as many of them as possible were done in camera.

A species has made its way to Earth and one of the first people to notice is Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams), who wakes to find her husband Dr. Geoffrey Howell (Art Hindle) is no longer the man that she’s spent so many days and nights with. The species — do I have to spoil it for you — takes over humans and assimilates them.

A co-worker, Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) wants to introduce Elizabeth to self-help author Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy) as a way of helping her handle this strange situation, but on the way, a man runs through the street screaming, “They’re coming! You’ll be next!” before being chased by a crowd and killed by a car.

That mystery man is Kevin McCarthy, the star of the original film, who one supposes has been running through America since the end of the last film. Even before the movie was finished, McCarthy told Kaufman that this movie was better than the one he was in. You can also see original director Don Siegel as a taxi driver later in the film.

The seventies were the me decade. So David believes that people behaving so different is their response to stress while Elizabeth just thinks this is how she’s being told her relationship is over. The truth is so much weirder as people begin to find partially formed doppelgangers of themselves and their friends.

By the end of the film, children are being taken for duplication, strange priests (Robert Duvall) swing as the world ends, dogs appear with human heads, women disintegrate in their lovers’ arms — the film takes the basic ideas of the original and makes them as horrifyingly real and unreal as they can be at the very same time.

Plus, there’s Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright, who between this and Alien really was on the forefront of late 20th century science fiction movies.

While Pauline Kael said that this “may be the best film of its kind ever made” and Variety wrote that it “validates the entire concept of remake,” Roger Ebert derided Kael’s love for the remake. But over time, this has become the example of a sequel that’s beyond the original in so many ways.

The true terror of this movie is the ending, which upset me utterly as a child. I’d never seen a movie end this way. Only Kaufman, writer W.D. Richter and Donald Sutherland knew how the film was going to end, so when Sutherland screams at Veronica Cartwright, her reaction is genuine. The hopeful ending that was scripted was never shot, because Kaufman knew that if the studio had the option, they’d pick that, just like they did with the first version of this story.

I’m so excited to have Invasion of the Body Snatchers in my library. It’s a movie that transcends era and genre and one I recommend that you view now if you haven’t and even if you have.

Kino Lorber’s re-release of Invasion of the Body Snatchers includes everything you need to fully savor this film, including a newly restored HD master from a 4K Scan of the original camera negative approved and color graded by director Philip Kaufman, who also provides a commentary track. There’s another track from author and film historian Steve Haberman, as well as interviews with Brooke Adams, W.D. Richter, composer Denny Zeitlin, Art Hindle, Jack Finney expert Jack Seabrook and featurettes such as Re-Visitors from Outer Space, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the PodPractical Magic: The Special Effects PodThe Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod and The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography PodThere are also TV and radio spots and the trailer. 

You can get this movie on blu ray or 4K UHD from Kino Lorber.