The Ultraman (1979)

Originally airing on Tokyo Broadcasting System from April 4, 1979 to March 26, 1980,  the fifty episodes of The Ultraman are the eighth story of Ultraman and take place four years after Ultraman Leo’s adventures.

The first animated version of Tsuburaya’s iconic superhero, The Ultraman was one of the earliest cartoons from Sunrise, which is better known for the other cartoon they released the same year as this, Mobile Suit Gundam.

At some point in the 21st century, the Earth Defense Forces form the Science Guard Agency led by Captain Akiyama. Their goal is to solve the strange glowing objects in the form of letters from an unknown language that are appearing in the sky. Earth Defense Forces member Choichiro Hikari is making his way back to Earth to join the team when he encounters and bonds with Ultraman Joneus.

Beyond the monsters, the bad guys are the Heller Empire, a renegade faction of Ultra People who have learned how to use the Ultra Mind for evil.

If you’ve seen this before in America, it may be because it was condensed into two movies, 1981’s The Adventures of Ultraman and 1983’s Ultraman II: The Further Adventures of Ultraman. The fourteenth episode also aired on New York superstation WOR as part of their Japan Tonight! seven-hour event which was hosted by noted Japanese actor Telly Savalas. I kid, I kid.

Sponsored by Bandai, the episode was introduced by Japanese actress/author/talk show host Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, who told American audiences that Ultraman was “very, very popular in Japan. He’s like your Superman.” Plenty of geeks like me knew all about Ultraman, as the show aired in syndication here from 1966 until the mid 80s.

Now you can get the entire series — all in one gorgeous package — from Mill Creek. I love that they’ve been putting so much love into these releases. They also look incredible all sitting on one shelf.

You can buy this set from:

Delirium (1979)

Okay, so it goes without saying, but we’ll say it, anyway: This isn’t Lamberto Bava’s 1987 film of the same name — at least not in the celluloid confusing lands of the alternate-title U.S. In other parts of the world, that film was known as Le foto di Gioia, aka The Photos of Giola, starring the heart-melting Serena Grandi (Antropophagus), Dame Daria Nicolodi (Shock), and George “Big Ape” Eastman (who we’ve “Explored“).

No, this Delirium is the U.K. “Section 2” Video Nasty that served as the feature film debut by producer, writer and director Peter Maris, he who later gave us the cheesy-fun The Road Warrior rip Land of Doom (1985), and the god awful (sorry, Pete, it just is), one-two punch CGI’d ripoff of not only Independence Day, but Species, with the oft-Mill Creek box set-programmed Alien Species (1996). Maris, however, unlike most auteurs whom appeared on “Video Nasty” and bloody “SOV” lists, carved himself a rather prolific, low-budget resume of directing a film roughly once a year, for a total of fifteen films until 2007. As a producer, he also gave us four more: True Blood (1989), Ballistic (1995), the Christian apoc-rocker Raging Angels (1995)(!), and a pretty good neo-cable-noir with The Murder in China Basin (1999).

Okay, so back to the “Video Nasty” that is Delirium.

Ah, the VHS I remember. It feels like home. It also aka’d as the cooly-titled Psycho Puppet throughout Europe.

Charlie is your garden variety, Giallo-influnced-by-way-of-John Carpenter-psycho trapped in graphic foreshadowing of the Micheal Douglas-vehicle The Star Chamber (1983). In that film, Douglas becomes part of a secret society of judges who hire hitmen to assassinate criminals who slip through the system. Perhaps your nostalgia miles may recall the James Glickenhaus* written and directed The Exterminator (1980), with Robert Ginty’s war vet barbecue’in criminals with a flame thrower. However, as with The Star Chamber, Peter Mavis, was — brilliantly — first.

In a Mavis low-fi world, we have a secret society of community leaders who’ve formed a “vigilante counsel.” Taking the law into their own hands, the committee’s kangaroo court convicts in absentia and murders the convicted. To run their court — and handle the “assassinations” — they hire Charlie: an ex-solider. At first, Chuck mops the streets with efficiency and plausible deniability on part of the counsel. However, as any emotionally damaged Vietnam vet (of the celluloid variety) should: Chuck freaks out and just friggin’ kills everyone — including squeezing in the butchering of innocent, young women: for he side hustles between “assignments” with his serial killer gig.

Delirium — as result of its foreshadowing two, better known, more popular movies, and its crazed, hybrid-amalgamating Dario Argento with the later action-thrills of John Carpenter (see his earlier Assault on Precinct 13 vs. Halloween) — is an oddly-styled, usual film that, again, also foreshadows Sylvester Stallone’s own, later Giallo-action hybrids in Cobra, and his less-successful attempt with D-Tox.

However, unlike the films we’ve mentioned in comparison: Delirium is absolutely brutal in its misogyny (and Stallone had women hanging as hogtied-meat slabs in D-Tox). This movie — not Mavis, mind you — hates women: even more so than Joe Spinell’s head-scalping Frank Zito in William Lustig’s — again, more popular, better known; but Mavis was first — Maniac (1980). Look at the cover: this movie lives up to the “video nasty” de plume and then some, as it decides jamming a pitchfork through a woman’s throat (Pastor Estus Pirkle jammed sharpened bamboo rods into kid’s ear canals, so what not) and nail-gunning women to doors is the way to go — then justifies it all with the ol’ “Vietnam flashback” gag (the Gooks made me do it). The vet-flashback gag didn’t work in the earlier (I can’t not believe Peter Mavis wasn’t influenced by it), porn-industry backed The Last Victim/Forced Entry from 1973/1975. Only Mavis’s film is the more skillful of the two. (I keep flashing back — or is that forward — to Will MacMillan’s serial-killer oddball Cards of Death (1986); however cool that SOV’er is, Mavis made the better-quality film).

So, if you have a hankering for a “heavy metal” experience of an uber-weird n’ scuzzy amalgamate of John Carpenter Halloween and Sean. S Cunningham’s Friday the 13th — with a soupçon of Death Wish — load ‘er up. And while Cunningham is credited as being more bloody than Carpenter, Mavis out-bloodies Cunningham — by several gallons of Karo n’ food coloring — in this splatter-cum-cop flick.

Two thumbs up and five stars — as far as I am concerned. But what do I know: I’m the guy that likes Cards of Death.

You can watch Delirium on You Tube, courtesy of the Video Nasties portal.

* Glickenhaus produced Maniac Cop, Frankenhooker, and the Basket Case franchise. He made his writing and directing debut with Christploitation’er, The Astrologer, aka Suicide Cult.

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

FANTASTIC FEST: The Visitor (1979)

EDITOR’S NOTE: During Fantastic Fest, one of my favorite films of all time is getting shown as it should be, on the big screen — The Visitor — which we originally wrote about on September 1, 2017. It will be presented in conjunction with the launch of Mondo’s new book Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive, from author Lars Nilsen and editor Kier-La Janisse. Warped & Faded tells the story of the Wild West days of the Weird Wednesday film series and the American Genre Film Archive in the words of the people who were there. You can pre-order the book from Mondo HERE!

In 2013, when the Alamo Drafthouse presented the uncut version of this film for the first time in the United States, they referred to it as an “unforgettable assault on reality.” Those words best describe what is otherwise an indescribable film.

But I’m going to try.

Maybe a recipe will help.

Take Chariots of the Gods, and some of Rosemary’s Mary, then a little bit of The Omen, throw it in a blender and then pour the whole thing down the sink.

No? Maybe a synopsis.

We start in Heaven, or somewhere very much like it, where Franco Nero (the original Django) is one of those space gods that Erich von Däniken wrote about. He tells the bald children who surround him that there was once a war between two aliens, one good and one bad. The bad one — who is either called Sateen or Zathaar — was defeated, but not before he slept with a whole bunch of Earthwomen. Cue the Book of Enoch in the Lost Books of the Bible. Or cue the Scientology myth of Lord Xenu. Or Xemu, because he has two different spellings, too.

Only one child is left — a young girl — and a vast conspiracy wants her mother to have another child — a brother this time — so they can mate. The Christ figure sends John Huston — yes, the director of The Maltese Falcon and The African Queen — and the bald children to a rooftop somewhere in Atlanta to stop this plot. To do that, the children become adult bad men and dance around a lot while Huston walks up and down the stairs to triumphant music. If you think I’m making that last sentence up, you’ve never been blessed with this movie.

Meanwhile, Lance Henriksen (Near DarkAliens) is Ted Turner, pretty much. His name is Raymond Armstead and he owns the Atlanta Rebels basketball team that plays at the Omni and is dating Barbara (Joanne Nail, Switchblade Sisters), who of course is the woman who has the seed of the gods inside her. Her daughter Katy is 8 years old and already using her powers to help the Rebels win their games. But that isn’t all the help Raymond is getting. The rich, powerful and ultra-secretive Zathaar cult control the world and are helping his team become winners. All he has to do is marry Barbara, knock her up and let their kids fuck. Hopefully, they have a boy, or Raymond is gonna have to get in the saddle all over again.

Raymond can’t even do that right and the leader of the bad guys, Mel Ferrer(The Antichrist and Eaten Alive!) is upset and ready to quit on Raymond. Barbara doesn’t want more kids and certainly doesn’t want another child. But who can blame her? Her daughter is one creepy little girl. Her daughter knows all about the conspiracy and begs her mom to get married so she can have a brother (and this is where, in person, I’d throw in “…to have sex with” but I’d use the f word). How creepy is Katy? Well, she kills a bunch of boys with her mental powers because they make fun of her while she ice skates. And then she accidentally shoots her mother at a birthday party. Yep, it’s as if The Bad Seed met Carrie!

Then, as all 70’s occult movies must, the stars of Hollywood’s golden age make appearances!

Glenn Ford, the actor, plays a cop that Katy curses out and uses hawks to make wreck his car!

Shelley Winters plays Barbara’s nurse who once had one of the space babies and killed it, but can’t bring herself to kill Katy! According to interviews, Winters really smacked around Paige Conner, the actress who played Katy!

Sam Peckinpah, the director (!), plays an abortionist who removes one of the space babies from Barbara after the conspiracy pays a bunch of things to artificially inseminate her. Turns out Peckinpah had trouble remembering his lines, which is why we never learn that he’s Barabara’s ex-husband! Then is he Katy’s dad? Who knows! His voice is even Peckinpah’s! They had to ADR all of his dialogue.

In response to the abortion, Katy shoves her mom through a fish tank. She also decides to throw her down the stairs, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?-style. And by throw her down the steps, I mean do it over and over and over again.

Meanwhile, John Huston is still going up and down the stairs. Finally, they HAVE HAD ENOUGH (I like to emphasize that so you get the gist) and sent their John Woo-ian flock of doves to fight the hawks. And meanwhile, Mel Ferrer and all his men show up dead with black marks on their bodies.

And Katy? Well, as Huston tells us, kids can never be evil. She gets her head shaved and goes to space to meet Instellar Jesus Christ. The title comes up as insane music blares.

Writer/director/insane man Michael J. Paradise (Giulio Paradisi) also was in Fellini’s 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita. What inspired him to this level of cinematic goofiness? He was helped along by Ovidio G. Assonitis, whose resume includes writing Beyond the DoorMadhouse and Forever Emmanuelle before becoming the major stockholder and CEO of Cannon Pictures in 1990. That may explain some. But not all.

I know I often write things like “I don’t have the words to describe this” when I do these reviews — especially after I write a few hundred words all about said subject. But this is one time that that statement is not pure hyperbole. Just watch the trailer and be prepared to lose your grasp on normalcy!

The Visitor defies the logic of good and bad film. It can only be graded on the is it an absolute film, ala Fulci or Jodorowsky. It is something to be experienced. You can watch this movie on Tubi.

Human Experiments (1979)

Rachel Foster (Linda Haynes) is a country singer making her way through the United States who gets caught in the clutches of bar owner Mat Tibbs (Aldo Ray, paging Bill Van Ryn). As she hurries to escape, she wrecks her car and walks into a murder scene that she gets blamed for by Tibbs’ brother, the town’s Sherriff (Jackie Coogan).

If this was any other decade than the 70s, this would be the story of her escape. But nope, the 70s were nothing if not relentlessly downbeat. And scummy. Which is kind of what you expect when a movie ends up being a section 2 video nasty. Geoffrey Lewis excels at playing Dr. Kline, the villain of all the many villains in this film.

Director Gregory Goodell moved on to make TV movies after this which makes perfect sense. Sadly, Haynes quit acting and didn’t resurface until Quentin Tarantino started looking for her.

You can get this from Ronin Flix.

Giallo Napoletano (1979)

Look, when one of the titles for your movie is Atrocious Tales of Love and Death, I get a little excited. But as soon as I saw Marcello Mastroianni, I realized that I was going to hate this movie. He plays a mandolin player, which is totally not the giallo I want, but I can be a small man and tell you that seeing Ornella Muti’s name in the credits kept me watching. I think watching her in Flash Gordon repeatedly on HBO kickstarted me into puberty much sooner than I was ready for.

French model and actress Capucine is in this as well, which makes me happy, as she also did Jaguar Lives! in 1979 before taking a three-year break and showing up in American TV like Murder, She Wrote and Hart to Hart. Luckily for junk film lovers like me, she also found the time to be in Lamberto Bava’s Delirium: Portrait of Gloria, a movie that is surely beneath her.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this is a Sergio Corbucci film. I mean, the man who made Django? Oddly, I can totally accept him making fun movies with Terrence Hill like Super Fuzz but not this.

Maybe I expect too much. I mean, this is certainly a fine film for people that want a comedy. Me, I wanted the kind of kick I only get from black gloves and the flash of the blade. Oh well!

The Killer Nun (1979)

In 1977, a middle-aged nun named Cécile Bombeek committed a series of murders in a Belgium geriatric hospital and inspired this piece of Italian scuzzy filmmaking.

It is a nun’s vocation to suffer, so when Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg) returns to ministering to the elderly after surviving a brain tumor, she begins to worry that she will become sick all over again. Only Sister Mathieu — who is in love with her fellow bride of Christ — believes her. And even when Gertrude murders Mathieu’s grandfather, she keeps covering for her and even getting her the drugs she needs to keep up her life of sleeping with random men in the city and reading horrifying accounts of the sacrifices of martyred saints to the kindly old folks dying in her care.

Some of those old people still like to get it on and much like teenagers at a sleepaway camp that let a young boy die, they pay the price for getting some. Also, another little old lady literally gets mutilated and no werewolves of London are even close by.

So who is the killer? And can one achieve the same ecstatic state as a saint by taking heroin or going cold turkey from it? And how angry do you think this movie made Catholics? And how does Joe Dallesandro keep showing up in so many movies and genres that I adore?

A section 2 video nasty, I kept from watching this for some time, sure that I would need it on some depressing day to break through the bleakness of life. Now, the fact that I pick movies where nuns have crisises of faith and murder old people may say more about me than I’d like to admit.

You can watch this on Tubi.

 

Bloodline (1979)

You may have realized, by now, that I love when great actors get caught up in making bad movies. Olivier in The Jazz Singer? Elizabeth Taylor in The Flintstones? Bruce Willis, Al Pacino and Robert Deniro in everything after 1995?

Amazingly, Audrey Hepburn avoided making a horrible movie until very late in her career as she essayed the lead in this Sidney Sheldon adaption. Sure, Jacqueline Bisset was to play the lead, but the much younger role of Elizabeth Roffe in the novel was rewritten to accomodate the star. Also, John Frankenheimer was originally set to direct, but left the project to work on Prophecy — imagine something being so bad you’d rather make that movie — and being replaced by James Bond director Terence Young.

When Sam Roffe, President of Roffe & Sons Pharmaceuticals, dies in a climbing accident, the entire company goes to his ingenue daughter Elizabeth, which is strange as Hepburn was fifty when this came out. Everyone on the board is a suspect, including the man that Elizabeth has just married, Rhys Williams (Ben Gazzara). There’s even a Man in Black!

This sets off a chase across Europe with a murderous snuff movie making maniac killing to the sounds of Ennio Morricone, just like any number of giallo we’ve enjoyed. Except this movie has people like James Mason and Omar Sharif in it and cost $12 million to make in 1979, which would be around $43 million today.

Supposedly Hepburn was in the throes of her second divorce and needed money, so she couldn’t walk once she realized that she was in a movie where a race car driver burns alive using real footage, so this is kind of snuff within snuff. She honored her contract and made $1 million plus a percentage of the gross, so she made a million dollars.

John Travolto… da un insolito destino (1979)

John Travolta…By an Unusual Fate* is the translation of this title, but you may also have heard it called The Face with Two Left Feet. It was written and directed by Neri Parenti, whose main claim to fame is making cinepanettoni, which are comedy films that are screened during the Christmas season.

He was joined by Massimo Franciosa (SpasmoThe Four Days of Naples) and Giovanni Simonelli, who in addition to directing the “Fulci presents” movie Hansel e Gretel wrote Special Mission Lady ChaplinAny Gun Can PlayHave a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will PaySeven Dead in the Cat’s EyeThe Ark of the Sun GodJungle Raiders and Cat in the Brain.

And on what a tale these men are ready to spin, as a hotel worker named Gianni uses his Travolta-esque face to woo a disco queen played by Ilona Staller, the woman who one day soon would become not only adult star Cicciolina, but also a member of Italian Parliament and an international woman of interest.

Another sex symbol, Sonia Viviani, appears in this as well. She was thought to look like Princess Caroline of Monaco, which lead to appearances in the foreign editions of Playboy and Penthouse as well as roles in Nightmare CityThe Blood Stained ShadowThe Return of the Exorcist, Bruno Mattei’s Women’s Camp 119 and Luigi Cozzi’s The Adventures of Hercules.

Not many people — well, Jesus and Bruce Lee — get their own exploitation category. Somehow, a few years into his career, John Travolta joined that group of very special people. Even the disco in this movie is called John’s Fever.

Those that love Italian movie music will be overjoyed to discover that the song “Baby I Love You” is by Italian disco pioneer Giancarlo Meo with Claudio Simonetti from Goblin under the name Easy Going, which was named after a gay disco. They had a song called “Fear,” which was about a man wanting to commit a crime so people would stop thinking he was a homosexual, as well as songs called “Little Fairy” and “Gay Time Latin Lover.”

The cover of their first album was an actual photo of the Easy Going club dancefloor.

There’s also a song called “Go Away” by Linda Lee, who is also Rossana Barbieri and appears on the soundtracks of ZombiInferno and The Psychic.

*This is a reference to the film Swept Away. Not the Madonna remake, FYI. It also has the title The Lonely Destiny of John Travolto.

Xiao Hun Yu (1979)

Return of the Dead is a Shaw Brothers horror anthology in which three patients in a mental hospital — hey it worked for Asylum — tell their stories.

In the first story, a family who owns a bean curd farm get an amulet with three monkeys that can give any wish. Yes, The Monkey’s Paw works in every langauge. In the second story, a dead woman comes back from her watery grave to lure her lover into the world of the dead. In the final tale, a young rickshaw driver gives a ride to a beautiful woman who looks exactly like a rich woman who has recently died after a night of pleasure with her new husband. She pays for the trip with her pearl necklace. The next time he gives her a ride, she tells him of a casino where he can become rich. He only has to sell his rickshaw. Once her does — and becomes rich — the police arrest him for taking the necklace from the grave of the deceased woman. And the money he won? It’s all fake.

Director Li Han Hsiang made plenty of soft core films for Shaw Brothers, often in the form of supernatural anthology horror like this movie and The Ghost Story. This was the third movie he made in 1979 and he would make up to five in a busy year. Unlike later movies from this studio, this is light on gore but heavy on nudity, almost an erotic ghost story.

The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)

Amos Tucker (Tim Conway) and Theodore Ogelvie (Don Knotts) have gone straight and try to start over when they get robbed and then blamed for a series of thefts that were actually committed by the very men who stole their money.

Trying to stay on the right side of the law leads them to the United States Cavalry at Fort Concho and as part of Jack Elam’s plan to rob a train. Luckily, they have army intelligence operative Jeff Reed (Tim Mattheson) to help them. All ends well and they end up right where the last movie finished, as they go to Russell Donovan’s farm to try and get some work.

Your enjoyment of this movie is directly in proportion to how much you enjoy the antics of Conway and Knotts.

How similar were Disney’s 70s films? They had to put a sticker on the posters for this movie ensuring audiences that it was a new movie.