Xie ying wu (1981)

The bloody parrot of this film’s title is a legen of a bird that was born on the devil king’s birthday when all of the lesser demons gave him their blood, creatin a bird that grants three wishes to whomever discovers it. Those wishes, however, have a tendence to go poorly. One exampe is Guo Fan, a government worker who has lost a treasure and begs the bird for their return. The prize does come back at the cost of his son’s life. He then monkey’s paw wishes for the son back, so his wife kills him and commits suicide.

The treasure disappears again and that’s when fighters from around the world learn that if they find the parrot, they will become rich. Swordsman Yeh Ting Feng (Pai Piao) an constable Tieh Han (Tony Liu) start hunting for the truth, which ends up with Tieh killled and Yeh carrying his coffin like some Shaw Brothers Django. There’s also a Parrot Brothel where Pei-yu (Jenny Liang) works. There’s a whole hall of mirrors for her to show off her curves in.

If you liked the gross-out side of Shaw Brothers — HexBlack MagicHuman Lanterns — then this is what you’re looking for. It also has plenty of sleaze and Wuxia moments to make one strange cocktail. Director Hua Shan has so many cards to deal you, from nudity to martial arts battles, sword fights, maggot eating, autopsies and demonic possesion to just name a few. Who are we to deny the man who made Infra-Man?

I mean, this is a movie where a woman sews a man’s face onto a Frisbee and uses it as a weapon.

If that doesn’t make you watch this, is there any hope?

As a warning, this movie makes no sense whatsoever and I’m not advising you to engage in mind altering substances — you may not even need them — but if you can’t get high and watch a movie that combines Bava colors with kung fu and obscene levels of puking, then what are you living for?

Deadly Blessing (1981)

Alright, I’ll admit it, while I don’t like Wes Craven, I liked this movie.

The Hittites are a religious community who “make the Amish look like swingers,” and even when people like Jim Schmidt escape it, they keep getting pulled back in. His wife Martha (Maren Jensen) is pregnant and he soon needs help from midwife Louisa Stohler (Lois Nettleton) and her daughter Faith (Lisa Hartman) but is killed by tractor before that can happen.

Also, William Gluntz (Michael Berryman) keeps calling Faith an incubus.

Martha’s friends Lana Marcus (Sharon Stone) and Vicky Anderson (Susan Buckner) come to comfort her when they should be trying to get her out of this crazy place. William gets stabbed and killed, Martha gets called an incubus by other Hittites, her husband’s brother John (Jeff East) ends up getting smitten with Vicky, Jim’s body gets dug up, blood gets in the milk and Martha has a dream where people put a spider into her mouth. Yeah — it’s a wild one.

I wish I’d not been spoiled by the end of this movie and I will not spoil it for you. It’s so incredible that even if I hadn’t liked what I watched — and how did I forget to mention Ernest Borgnine being in another religious horror movie after he supposedly never would be after The Devil’s Rain! — I would have to like the whole thing just because the ending is so perfectly unexpected. I mean, who the killer is…that’s wild. The ending after that? Producer imposed upon magic.

Also — Craven ripped himself off later with that snake in the bathtub scene.

You can watch this on Tubi.

CANNON MONTH 2: Nightmare (1981)

EDITOR’S NOTE: As I close out the second Cannon Month, I’m looking into the films released by 21st Century. That would include this video nasty, which was first on the site on October 25, 2018Nightmare is one of the 72 films that violated the British Obscene Publications Act of 1959. In fact, its distributor was sentenced to 18 months in prison for refusing to edit the film. It also brags that Tom Savini created the film’s effects, a credit denied by the FX artist.

After mutilating and murdering a family, George Tatum has been jailed for years. Now, he has been given the opportunity to be reprogrammed and returned to society. That said — he still has nightmares of his childhood and a trip to a Times Square peep show unlock flashbacks that make him a killer all over again.

En route to Florida — where his ex-wife, daughters and son live, George follows a woman home and kills her. Meanwhile, his doctors have no clue that he’s left the city.

Imagine his wife’s surprise when she starts getting all manner of threats over the phone. All she wants to do is carry on with her new boyfriend, Bob. She has enough to deal with, as her son C.J. is the worst of all horror movie kids. He often plays pranks that go way past the line of good taste, like covering himself in ketchup and pretending to be dead. So when the kid says that a man is following him, everyone thinks he’s just up to his normal young serial killer in training mischief.

After killing some of C.J.’s fellow students, George breaks into their house and kills the babysitter while mom is at a party. But C.J. calmly and cooly deals with it — he shoots his father with a revolver while dad has a flashback of catching his dad engaging in BDSM games with his mistress before he decided to kill them both with an axe.

The movie closes with C.J. sitting in a police car, mugging for the camera, while his mother returns to see her ex-husband’s body being removed from the house. How does C.J. know the camera is there? Has he learned how to break the fourth wall? Will he soon be able to hear his own theme song, much like Michael Myers? And when I’m asking questions, isn’t the full title, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, way better than just Nightmare?

Director Romano Scavolini started his career in porn, which might explain the incredibly casual nudity in the film and its devotion to giving the viewer exactly what they want from a slasher. It knows exactly why you’re here and gives you what you need. He stated about the film that he wanted to tell a story that has roots in reality and not just fantasy. A story of no hope, because mankind is at the mercy of its own demons. And, perhaps most importantly, a story where a young boy is unable to deal with the fact that his parents might just happen to be down with BDSM.

According to Matthew Edwards’ Twisted Visions: Interviews with Cult Horror Filmmakers, Scavolini claimed that prior to receiving distribution through 21st Century Film Corporation, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures had both wanted to buy the film, but only if the gore was cut down. Scavonli refused, feeling that “the strongest scenes had to remain uncut because the film should be a scandalous event.” Yeah, I’m gonna call bullshit.

This is a scummy, down and dirty affair. C.J. is an annoying kid, but who can blame him, He has the worst parents possible — one’s a serial killer and the other would rather party on down with Bob than deal with the wretched fruits of her ex-husband’s loins. Remember thiose 20/20 exposes on how horrible slasher movies were? This is one that lives up to those warnings.

CANNON MONTH 2: Honky Tonk Freeway (1981)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Honky Tonk Freeway was not produced by Cannon. It was, however, released on video in Germany by Cannon Screen Entertainment.

Honky Tonk Freeway was one of the most expensive box office bombs in history, losing Thorn EMI between $11 million and $22 million dollars. Before this movie, they had purchased the Associated British Picture Corporation and their facilities at Elstree Studios. By 1986, they would sell their film production and distribution side known as Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, Thorn EMI Video) ABC Cinemas to businessman Alan Bond. Bond, who would sell it to Cannon a week later.

A year after that, Cannon sold most of the film library to Weintraub Entertainment Group and their stake in Thorn EMI video — which is what we know as HBO/Cannon Video — to HBO.

British producer Don Boyd had the idea for this movie and he was going with what he thought the U.S. was like versus what it really was all about. Along with writer Ed Clinton, they traveled America for nine months, then came back and wrote the script. John Schlesinger (Midnight CowboyMarathon Man) was hired as director and there was no limit placed on the budget, which would come back to haunt the production.

The movie takes place in Ticlaw, Florida where mayor and religious leader Kirby T. Calo (William Devane) owns a hotel and tiny wildlife safari park with a star elephant known as Bubbles. The state is building a highway and won’t give the town an off-ramp, so the entire city paints itself pink.

The rest of the movie is a rambling episodic story of the many people coming to town, like Eugene and Osvaldo (George Dzundza and Joe Grifasi); copy machine repairman and aspiring children’s book author Duane Hansen (Beau Bridges); a waitress named Carmen Odessa Shelby (Beverly D’Angelo), who is carrying her deceased mother’s ashes to Florida; Snapper and his messed up family of his wife Ericka and kids Delia and Little Billy (Howard Hesseman, Teri Garr, Jenn Thompson and Peter Billingsley); Sisters Mary Magdalene and Mary Clarise (Deborah Ruse and Geraldine Page); an elderly couple (Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy; is this a prequel to Coccoon?); a county singer named T.J. Tupus (Paul Jabara) with a rhino and David Rasche, Daniel Stern, Jeffrey Combs and tons of other character actors all show up too.

Two thousand extras and artists in Mount Dora, Florida were paid around $35 per day to appear in the film, as well as paint their entire town pink. All of the main street businesses were paid $100 a day to allow filming outside their stores. It’s one of those big movies they don’t seem to make anymore outside of CGI superhero stuff.

And then the movie was released, it disappeared.

EMI had sold the ancillary rights to German investors in need of a tax loss to try and make back all the money they lost making it. When the movie’s distributors learned about that, they were no longer financially motivated to distribute it.

So one week and done.

This movie is like Nashville if Robert Altman wasn’t any good. At least it has a waterskiing elephant.

CANNON MONTH 2: The Evil Dead (1981)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was on the site for the first time on June 5, 2021 and has been revised for Cannon Month. The Evil Dead was not produced by Cannon but was released on video by HBO/Cannon Video.

Yeah, I have no idea how we haven’t covered this yet.

Actually, we try to avoid movies that everyone has seen and said things about, because I often worry, “What else can I add to the conversation?”

In truth, I’d seen Evil Dead II before the original and preferred the comic take on the same story. And Army of Darkness takes that goofiness, mixes in some peplum and Harryhausen and gets even cooler. I’ve ever seen — and been coated with gore during — the stage play.

What can I say about this movie that’s new and different? Do you want me to say something like, “It’s a less claymation version of Equinox?” Because, yes, I absolutely believe that to be true but I’m still pretty amazed by what Sam Raimi and his skeleton crew were able to get out of this movie.

How great is it that Raimi’s career started here, mounting a camera to a board and running through the woods chasing people to try and get the perfect shot? Evil Dead is infused with a heavy metal energy and blows through 85 minutes like a band blasting as many songs as it can in one set so it can rock your face off.

Where the later movies lose their edge slightly — there’s no way Ash is getting killed — everyone in this movie is fair game. It feels dangerous and unhinged, as only the best horror movies can be.

To generate funds to produce the film, Raimi approached lawyer Phil Gillis and showed him his proof of concept film. Within the Woods. Gillis may not have been impressed by the short film, but he offered Raimi legal advice on how to produce the movie by getting funds from individual investors. Raimi didn’t raise as much as he wanted, but still had $375,000 to make this movie.

Much like the original short, Raimi was going to shoot in his hometown of Royal Oak, Michigan, but instead chose Morristown, Tennessee. The crew found a cabin literally in the woods and all stayed there — 13 crew members! — and it was incredibly tense.

It’s amazing that this quality of movie emerged, as there were so many accidents and misadventures, like the entire cast and crew getting lost in the woods during the first day of shooting and a horrifying incident when Betsy Baker, who played Linda, lost her eyelashes when her makeup was removed.

Bruce Campbell claimed that filming was “twelve weeks of mirthless exercise in agony.” An example of this is after he fell and injured his leg, Raimi would poke him in the leg with a stick. Over and over again.

After a successful Detroit premiere — complete with William Castle ballyhoo-like wind noises in the lobby and ambulances parked outside — Raimi got the film picked up by Irvin Shapiro, who was one of the founders of the Cannes Film Festival. That’s where Steven King saw the movie, gave the quote that appeared on every poster and VHS cover — “most ferociously original film of the year” — and New Line picked up the movie for simultaneous theater and VHS rental. Raimi achieved something few directors do: he was able to pay back everyone who loaned him money.

Today, we take The Evil Dead for granted. But in 1982, it was a burst of splatterpunk insanity, coming not from Italy — where it was released as La Casa — but from right in the Rust Belt. Fangoria got on board by 1982 and then the film just took over. They’re still making sequels today — Evil Dead Rise is next — but we should pause, reflect and remember where this all got started. Evil Dead did more than gross people out; it inspired so many to make disgusting movies all their own.

CANNON MONTH 2: Graduation Day (1981)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site  on July 5, 2018Graduation Day was not produced by Cannon but was theatrically distributed by Cannon Releasing Corporation.

By 1981, all manner of slasher had been slashed. From dates on the calendar to holidays to high school, college, probably every trade schools, if you could kill someone someplace on some special day, there was a great chance that cinemas, drive-in and video stores had documented evidence of the murders. But a track team getting offed? What a twist!

At one of their track meets, star runner Laura Ramstead collapses at the finish line, pushed too hard by her coach and dying of exhaustion. Soon, her sister Anne is on leave from the Navy, back home with the mother and stepfather she desperately wanted to leave behind.

Meanwhile, a killer is wiping out the track team one by one, complete with giallo-like black gloves and a stopwatch. With each kill, he or she uses bright lipstick to cross another member off of the team’s photo. If Anne has gloves just like the killer, is it all a coincidence? Hmm?

There are all manner of people of interest, from Kevin, Laura’s boyfriend, to Dolores (Linnea Quigley!) the team’s bad girl and Principal Gugilone (Michael Pataki, who is in almost every movie that we watch), who has a stopwatch and plenty of knives in his desk drawer. And oh yeah, Coach Michaels (Christopher George, Gates of Hell/City of the Living DeadDay of the AnimalsMortuaryPieces, pretty much every movie that I watch that doesn’t have Michael Pataki in it, so this is a rare crossover), who isn’t allowed to coach any longer, despite the fact that it was a blood clot that really killed Laura.

Hey look! There’s Vanna White as a school bully! And more dead bodies! Soon, Kevin and Coach Michaels get into a huge argument over who the killer is, but the cops get there and shoot the wrong guy. Yep, it’s Kevin and he has Laura’s corpse all made up in her graduation cap and gown. He also has a sweet Vampirella poster on his wall.

A fight ensues and Anne ends up pushing Kevin into spikes — but not before body after body is revealed. That night, he comes back to kill her — an undead version of him at least — but it’s all a dream. It’s just her asshole stepfather, which makes it even easier to leave the town behind forever.

I ended up liking this one way more than I thought that I would. It has some elements of style, plenty of gore and lots of ridiculous moments, like a bed of spikes killing a high jumper. Plus, there’s a heavy metal concert with the band Felony, a roller disco scene and a combination football/knife murder weapon. Truly, something for every member of the family to enjoy. Director Herb Freed also gave us Tomboy and Haunts.

88 FILMS BLU RAY RELEASE: Martial Club (1981)

Released in the U.S. as Instructors of DeathMartial Club is from director Lau Kar Leung (The 36th Chamber of ShaolinThe 8 Diagram Pole Fighter) and stars Gordon Liu as Wong Fei Hung, the legendary hero who was also the inspiration for the movies Drunken Master and Once Upon a Time in China.

His father, Wong Kei Ying runs one well-respected kung fu school while the Chan school also provides a good example to aspiring martial artists. Wang Yin-Lin (Te-Lo Mai), a student from the Chan school, has a friendly rivalry with Wong Kei Yung that is tested when a third school — one not as clean-cut — brings a guest martial artist in and convinces them that the good schools are evil and, as they say, hijinks ensue. And seeing as how Master Shan Hsiung is played by Lung-Wei Wang, there is bound to be a big fight between the leads.

The American tagline was “

88 Films blu ray release of Martial Club offers an HD transfer from the original negative, as well as commentary by Asian cinema expert Frank Djeng and actor/martial Artist Michael Worth. There’s another supplemental commentary with Djeng, a grindhouse presentation of the U.S. Instructors of Death version of the movie, interviews with Robert Ma, Johnny Wang, producer Larence Wong, stuntmen Hung Sun-Nam and Tony Tam, a Hong Kong trailer, the Instructors of Death trailer and a reversible sleeve featuring original Hong Kong poster artwork and new art by R.P. “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien. There’s also a limited edition collector’s book with behind the scenes photos and writing by Barry Forshaw. You can get this blu ray from MVD.

La momia nacional (1981)

I saw an article on Film Butcher that said that The National Mummy was part of the trend of destape (uncover) films as Franco and the Catholic Church’s power over the cultural morals of Spain declined. That’s funny, as the poster they shared has the mummy being unwrapped.

Released the same year as the zombie movie in mummy bandages Dawn of the Mummy, this José Ramón Larraz-directed film is a sexy comedy. Unlike so many movies in his career, Larraz worked from a script by someone else, as this was written by Juan José Alonso Millán (he also wrote Marta, one of my favorite movies).

Saturnino (Francisco Algora) is a young and wealthy archaeologist. While relaxing in his mansion, he receives a visit from his teacher — and hombre lobo por la noche — Don Felipe (Quique Camoiras, a prop comedian who often used larger objects to make his diminutive size even smaller), who brings along his daughter Ana Mari (Azucena Hernández, who was also in El retorno del Hombre Lobo in 1981) and a mummy that he has found in the Upper Nile.

Much like every mummy movie ever, no one pays attention to the curse. In this case, her bandages are to remain on, but when they loosen up, she comes to life and begins killing every man she can through violent sex.

As if having a werewolf and a mummy in the film was not enough, there’s also a very Nosferantu-like vampire named Dr. Vilaseca (Carlos Lucena) who has an entire army of ladies of the evening who only come out at night. And oh yes — there’s also an axe murderer loose in the house.

This is a goofball film, the kind of movie where a picnic descends into hijinks when a maid gets her arm cut off and numerous people try and help her while the protagonist tries to feel up the professor’s daughter after she faints. Where Cupid can descend from a brothel ceiling and attempt to take charge of lovemaking. And where the touch of a female vampire hooker can turn a man into a beast. It’s dumb but knows how to be fun.

Madame Olga’s Pupils (1981)

Also known as Sex Academy in the UK, this José Ramón Larraz directed and written film is al about the titular Madame Olga (Helga Liné, The Killer of Dolls) who may or may not be related to the Olga with the House of Shame, but she does have a high class bordello in London.

Over 77 minutes, Larraz packs in the prurient scenes, as well as a story about how one of Olga’s girls named Tina (Eva Lyberton) ends up dying after an encounter with a millionaire. Usualy Olga just maes things like this disappear but a friend of the dead girl named Rafael (Jorge Gonce) starts asking too many questions.

Olga deals with it by giving him a job scouting new girls but he soon falls for both Lavinia (Marie Harper, the 1983 Fanny HillThe Urge to KillEmmanuelle in Soho) and her mother Betty (Lynn Endersson). Of course, he also makes time to Olga while he’s at it.

It looks very sumptuous — of course, Larraz directed it — but the artist was meant for so much more.

La poliziotta a New York (1981)

The third of the trilogy that includes La Polizia fa Carriera (Confessions of a Lady Cop) and La Poliziotta Della Squadra del Buon Costume (A Policewoman on the Porno Squad), this Michele Massimo Tarantini (The Sword of the BarbariansMassacre in Dinosaur Valley) film has one major reason to watch it: the always wonderful Edwige Fenech as Gianna Amicucci.

With a story by Fenech’s one-time husband Luciano Martino and Francesco Milizia along with a screenplay by Alberto Silvestri, this commedia sexy all’italiana beings Gianna and Alvaro (Alvaro Vitali) to America to aid FBI agent Maccarone (Renzo Montagnani) and his case against pizza shop owner and suspected crime boss Big John (Aldo Maccione). It turns out that Gianna looks just like his girlfriend and Alvaro looks like his bodyguard, which is the kind of coincidence that only happens in Italian sex comedies. However, Big John’s rival Turk (Giacomo Rizzo) has declared a gang war and also falls for Gianna.

This movie is sexy in the way that Benny Hill used to make shows and is literally chaste by today’s standards. It’s also problematic in the way it deals with race and homosexuality, but if you expect 1981 Italian sexploitation movie to be totally woke, I have no idea how to explain what Italian sexploitation is to you.