The same Richard Franklin that made Psycho II and Cloak and Dagger made Patrick, Fantasm and this movie and this fact makes me beyond happy. All of these movies are so far apart and different from one another and I just love that they all came from the same director.
While making Patrick, Franklin gave Everett De Roche a copy of Rear Window as an example of how he wanted the script typed. De Roche loved what he read and wanted to make a similar movie but within a moving vehicle, so the dup worked on the first draft while Franklin was producing The Blue Lagoon.
Franklin wanted Sean Connery, but the budget couldn’t handle that, despite the $1.75 million cost making it the most expensive movie yet made in Australia. No matter — Stacy Keach is beyond great in this. However, casting Jamie Lee Curtis to appease Avco Embassy led to politics between actors’ equity groups and nearly shut down the movie.
Patrick Quid (Keach) is driving the lonely highways of Australia, delivering large quantities of pork, and forbidden to pick up the many hitchhikers he sees along the road. And there’s also the matter of a killer (Grant Page, Stunt Rock) on the same roads that the police haven’t been able to catch. Before the end of the film, Patrick will be suspected of these killings more than once.
Quid has his own suspicions, as a green van and its driver have gotten in his way more than once and even attacked the dingo that Quid keeps for company for the long drives. His suspicions are shared by a hitchhiker he finally decides to pick up, Pamela Rushworth (Curtis), the daughter of an American politician.
This movie failed in Australia and the U.S., but it found the right audience to make it a cult classic. I’d not watched it — saving it for just the right time — and I was floored by it.
1981 was a great, great time to be alive and excited about horror movies.
On the other side of the world, Australian folk horror was taking root, at least with this film, which starts with 16-year-old Alison playing with a spirit board and we all know just how well that works out in film. It doesn’t work out in minutes, not hours or days, as Alison’s dead father begins to warns her that ‘s she in trouble and that she shouldn’t go home for her birthday through possessing one of her friends, who is then killed dead when a bookcase falls on her.
Years later, Alison and her boyfriend visit her family, who instantly keep them apart and Alison begins having vivid nightmares. The plan is to keep slowly drugging and gaslighting them both, ending with the spirit of a demon named Mirna being moved from Alison’s grandmother into her body, as has been the tradition for two hundred years.
Director and writer Ian Coughlan also made Stones of Death and Cubbyhouse, another movie about devil worship that supposedly has a connection to this movie. I’ve heard that it’s near unwatchable and has Joshua Leonard from The Blair Witch, so I leave it up to some other brave soul to watch it. Who am I kidding — I’ll probably update this post sooner or later with my findings.
As part of the All the Haunts Be Ours box set from Severin, this modern folk horror will finally be seen by a larger audience. It may not be the fastest moving story, it may not have all the gore of the slasher yeat of 1981, but it has a definite dark mood that makes it unlike anything you’ve seen before, even if you know exactly where it leads. You can also watch it on Tubi.
8. CRAFT NIGHT: Cast your eyes upon the screen, whence a witch’s spell is surely seen.
Detective Wong King Sun is investigating the horrific and violent death of a little girl at the hands of her father, who claims that he was under the influence of a wizard. This takes the detective all the way to Thailand to learn more and, as happens in films such as this, to be cursed by a powerful magician named Magusu, who was supposedly played by an infamous Malay sorcerer. That’s what the credits say and who are we to deny the words of Shaw Brothers or any exploitation studio when you get right down to it?
Wong King Sun decides to fight black magic, he needs a white magic monk. What follows is an entire movie of one-upmanship battles over whose magic is strongest, including a gut-churning moment when the evil magician grabs that pause that refreshes. Except that we’re not talking about Coca-Cola. This dude likes to sip from a big urn filled with unborn children and blood.
If that last sentence made you wince, turn back now. Bewitched is a ride through absolute chaos. It’s gorgeous, it’s frenetic and it’s also unafraid to try and make you throw up throughout its running time. And if this one seems like it’s going to be too much, its sequel, The Boxer’s Omen, goes even further. Director Chih-Hung also made the equally blood and madness-filled Corpse Mania.
We all know that old Chinese chestnut of advice, right? Don’t take the virginity of village women, ghost them and then just move on or you’ll be covered in body hair, unable to get it up and eventually hammering a spike into your daughter’s head so that she stops being possessed and attempting to kill you.
“The moral of the story is to admonish people against casual sex and to be on guard against witchcraft.” That’s what the end says. As for me, I’m all about movies with neon colors, glittery bats that come to animated life and actual black magic rituals being used to entertain audiences.
William Malone wanted to be a director and decided that a horror movie was the way to go. After all, he’d made monster masks at a factory so he could make the monster himself. And by that, I mean spend three months making an H.R. Giger clone. Then he sold his car, mortgaged his house and somehow got Rick Springfield to be in this, but he dropped out the night before shooting started, which feels like a total kayfabe story.
This might seem like a slasher, but then you learn that the killer is drinking spinal fluid and this woman just shows up and says, “Oh, I worked at the lab where we made a creature named the Syngenor that lives off spine juice. And in case you wonder, the name means SYNthesized GENetic ORgansism.”
Yes, the very same Syngenor that Re-Animator villain David Gale goes absolutely full-on bonkers within. That’s why when this movie was released to DVD, it got the new title Scared to Death: Syngenor.
Malone would move on to make Creature, House on Haunted Hill, feardotcom and Parasomnia. If we let him make another movie, I really worry what the title will be. I have no idea who let him make a film again after feardotcom because not even my steady diet of Franco and Mattei could get me through that movie.
Roger Spottiswoode directed everything from Terror Train, Under Fire and Shoot to Kill to Turner & Hooch, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, The Sixth Day and Tomorrow Never Dies. This movie originally had John Frankenheimer* as the director, but he was replaced by Buzz Kulik, the director of Bad Ronald. The script was written by an uncredited W.D. Richter (Jeffrey Alan Fiskin has the credit) and was based on the book Free Fall: A Novel by J.D. Reed.
After getting the finished film, the producers felt like it needed a stunt and some editing, so editor-director Roger Spottiswoode came in. However, Spottiswoode claimed that without new sequences, the movie would fail. He brought in Ron Shelton, a former baseball player who would later write and direct Bull Durham. Together, they’d reshoot 70% of the movie, according to “Ghostwriters” in the March/April 1983 issue of Film Comment.
It seems like two movies got made: Kulik’s is a post-Vietnam movie in which Cooper is angered that he gains more fame as a thief than he did as a soldier, while the Spottiswoode movie is a chase film.
What do you do when you have a troubled production? You William Castle things. Universal offered a million dollars for any information that would lead to the capture and arrest of the real D.B. Cooper, totally missing the message that Cooper was the hero of their film and no one who saw him that way in the movie would want to see him in jail. No one ever claimed the prize.
So who is Cooper, the man who anonymously hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft between Portland and Seattle, got a ransom of $200,000, then jumped out and disappeared, with his crime being the only unsolved air piracy in commercial aviation history? Treat Williams, who plays an army man named Jim Meade trying to impress his wife, played by Kathryn Harrold.
He won’t get away easy, as Sgt. Bill Gruen (Robert Duvall), his old military boss, is now an insurance investigator. Another man from the war past, Remson (Paul Gleason), is also after him, as he recalls discussing highjacking with Meade.
The new Kino Lorber blu ray of The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper has a commentary track with writer Jeffrey Alan Fiskin and film historian Daniel Kremer, 3 TV commercials and a trailer. I remember the commercials for this playing on TV all the time, so I’m excited that I finally own a copy.
*Frankenheimer was fired after one scene was shot, telling the Los Angeles Times that this movie was “…probably my worst-ever experience. A key member in the chain of command had been lying to both management and myself with the result that we all thought we were making a different movie”
Writer, director and actor Joel M. Reed wowed us on the ’80s home video fringes with his 1976 drive-in ditty Bloodsucking Freaks. Do read B&S bossman Sam Panico’s review, as he waxes nostalgic over the lost bricks-and-mortar era of video stores that afforded us, the jock-bullied, wee horror and metal lovin’ pups of its discovery — and of today’s feature film.
“Who is this whack job?” we pondered as we searched the video racks for other Joel M. Reed product.
Courtesy of the pulpy monster mags we got at the corner smoke shop or, if on a family excursion to the mall, Waldenbooks, we learned (Googling is no fun) Reed made his debut with two sexploitation flicks: Sex by Advertisement (1968) and Career Bed (1969). (Eh, buying online is no fun; mail-order catalogin’ from the back of monster rags for VHS-greys is the way to go.) Then Reed changed it up with an action flick — as only Joel M. Reed can make one — with a “Rambo” that has herpes (?) in Wit’s End, (1971). Of course, with Sly-Namexploitation in full swing in the ’80s, it was repacked as The G.I. Executioner.
So, this is the part of the film review and Reed career examination where we drop CBS-TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond into the discussion . . . because Marie Barone, aka Doris Roberts, stars . . . alongside Harve Presnell (Fargo, Saving Private Ryan; “Mr. Parker” in NBC-TV’s The Pretender) in Reed’s twist on the Amicus anthology format with Blood Bath (1975).
And that’s Joel M. Reed’s six-film career as a writer and director — a “tribute week” in one fell swoop of a review. Prior to his April 2020 passing, Reed appeared as himself (he has 15 other character-acting credits) in uber-fan Eric Eichelberger’s retro-SOV’er Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre (2020).
Now, before we get into the movie at hand . . . let’s clear up the title confusion, as there are two movies with the title/alternate title of Gamma 693: First, there’s Joel M. Reed’s sixth and final film released onto video in 1981. Then there’s the other one starring Linda Blair and Troy Donahue from 1989 — which served as the lone directing credit by Jack A. Sunseri. Oh, you know Jack: he gave us the cheesy “puffbox” timewaster, The Dead Pit (1989) — that’s not to be confused with The Pit (1981). No, we’re talking about the one with the blinking zombie eyes on the VHS Box (You Tube clip of the box in action).
Now, I’ve personally never sought out The Chilling starring Linda and Troy. In fact, I don’t ever recall seeing it on the store shelves, even though it came out as a theatrical in 1989 and hit U.S. video shelves in 1992. It’s said The Chilling played on USA Network’s “Up All Night” and “Night Flight” weekend programming blocks, but not to my knowledge. Is Jack A. Sunseri’s flick a homage or loose faux-sequel to Reed’s film, we wonder. Alas, it’s an analogy quandary I shall delve into not, as The Chilling is so awful in its inept Return of the Living Dead (1985) ripoffery. Let’s just say Sunseri attempted to hornswoggle us Joel M. Reed freaks into renting a Sunseri boondoggle, and just leave it at that.
To add to the bad analog Intel: It is also said that Reed’s Gamma 693, aka Night of the Zombies, also carries the title alternate of The Chilling. Not only have the B&S worker bees not been able to locate any theatrical one-sheets with the Gamma 693 title, we were unable to locate any VHS or DVD reissue slipcovers with The Chilling title. So, let’s just say The Chilling alternate title is an Intel cut-n-paste snafu resulting from Sunseri’s film coping the Gamma 693 title at some point during its own video shelf life. And it wasn’t it enough to piggyback on Reed’s works; Sunseri swinehumped Wes Craven’s superior cryogenic horror, Chiller (1985), which starred Michael Beck (The Warriors, Battletruck) and Jill Schoelen (Thunder Alley) that aired as a first-run TV movie on the USA Network.
If you’re in a NaziZom* binge-mood: Other films you can check out are They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1964) and its fellow Nazi scientist-cum-world-conquest villains in She Demons (1958), The Flesh Eaters (1964), and Flesh Feast (1970). To a lesser extent, there’s the Nazi we-never-see ghosts of Death Ship (1980). Then there’s the later NaziZomsploitation sub-genres homages Outpost (2007), with its own sequels War of the Dead (2011) and Bunker of the Dead (2015; in a found footage format), and the Finland-made dark comedy of Dead Snow (2009), which has its own sequel-verse. No, while it’s cool: not Iron Sky (2012), for that has no zoms, but Nazi UFOs on the moon, even though the dark side of the moon is a cold bitch.
Now that you are a well-informed, frozen-Nazi zombie consuming streamer, on with today’s feature presentation.
As with John Howard’s Spine, Reed’s flick is also a porn-connected produced horror flick — thus, the shot-on-video production values. It was shot in the Munich, Bavaria, Germany home and on the property of noted ’70s porn purveyor, Shaun Costello. (It had pick-ups done on the sly in the wooded environs of New York’s Central Park and a “Euro-looking area” of Greenwich Village.)
Now, come on. Don’t be shy and lie, because I’m not.
When I aged-into my behind-the-taboo-green-curtain years, I rented a VHS copy of Costello’s infamous Girl Scout Cookies (1976). So, yes . . . our 420-plus credits leading actor here, Jamie Gillis, is, in fact, a porn actor who occasionally moonlighted in low-budget “mainstream” flicks, but is best known for his work in Deep Throat II (1987). As if we forgot there was already an official Deep Throat Part II in 1974 to the 1972 film. See, even porn films do the alternate-title hornswoggle.
In addition to Girl Scout Cookies — and if you’re a ’70s proto-slasher fan — Shaun Costello, after achieving success with a series of adult film short, aka loops, made his feature film debut as a writer and director with the X-rated Forced Entry (1973). Remade in 1976 as The Last Victim, the film was marketed on the grindhouse and drive-in circuits until the early ’80s, courtesy of Tanya Roberts, later of Charlie’s Angels fame, starring.
When Dawn of the Dead (1978) inspired a Euro-zom craze that soon engulfed home video shelves, Reed’s NaziZomsploitation romp appeared on VHS in 1983 under its better known title: Night of the Zombies. If you were a fan of Eliva’s Mistress of the Dark syndicated movie blocks, you may have seen it on television under that title. Maybe you caught it — as did I — at your local twin cinema in 1981 as Hell of the Living Dead, which has nothing to do with the 1980 Bruno Mattei film of the same name. To add to the confusion: Reed’s zom-romp also carries the home video title of Night of the Zombies II, as an ersatz-sequel to Bruno Mattei’s film, which itself is also known as Night of the Zombies. Later ’90s DVD reissues carry the title of Night of the Zombies: Battalion of the Living Dead.
Just wow. That’s way to much market effort for a film that doesn’t deserve the lipstick-on-a-pig marketing effort.
Where’s Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake (1981) and Jess Franco’s Oasis of the Zombies (1982) when we need ’em. Hell, where’s the Dana Andrews-starring frozen Nazi-heads flick The Frozen Dead (1966). I can’t believe I just said that. Yes, those three dopey zom romps — and Mattei’s for the matter — are far better than this Joel M. Reed mess that isn’t the least bit zombie goo-messy, it’ “twist ending” be damned. And, worst of all is that it takes us 40 minutes to get to the blue guacamole-smeared zombies — and that’s if you can see ’em through the worst night-photography ever committed to film.
Then there’s the government lamenting and spy-drivel pontificating — via stammering “actor” ad-lib. Then there’s the “set design” of government offices that don’t look like government office that look like the filmmakers guerilla-shot their way into a hotel conference room and got out before hotel security kicked them out: Pentagon and Fort Detrick, my ass. Then there’s the obvious, medical lab-borrowed skeletons — that are supposed to be what’s left of the zombies after melting — and the melting effects are questionable — that have a visible, linear mark across their caps. Remember Billy Eye Harper’s plastic-bone rotted remains in Rocktober Blood? Plastic skull is as plastic skull does, Forrest.
So, how did we get here: Upon the death of two scientists in the Bavarian Alps investigating the activities of a WW II U.S. Army Chemical Corps unit engaged top-secret chemical warfare with something called “Gamma 693,” the U.S. government sends Nick Monroe (our porn star Jamie Gillis), a not-James Bond CIA agent to investigate the deaths. During his investigation, Monroe learns of the rumors of a regiment of Nazi zombies roaming the countryside and uncovers a Nazi plot for world domination with an undead army. Without the chemical agent — designed as a healing agent for the war wounded — the Nazi ranks will age and decompose. So there’s only one thing left to do to stop the rot: eat human flesh. And since these are intelligent zoms: they tell their food that they don’t want to, but must.
Is there a creepy atmosphere? Is the plot a bit whacked? Is the soundtrack queasy-inducing? Sure. But it’s all too little too late. If only Eli Roth (re) made this, it would be so much better, for the story is there. So I’ll just take my VHS copy of Ken Weiderhorn’s Shock Waves to my movie room and call it a night.
If you’re a first-timer to Joel M. Reed’s Alpine snow-zoms, you may pass, as well. Then again, you may like it. Just as I enjoyed Weiderhorn’s Carribean aqua-zoms and others hate it. Everyone’s tolerance for B-movie cheapness and nostalgia miles for the past, may vary. Like Steel Town wrestler Shirley Doe says, “Films are funny that way.”
You can watch Reed’s contribution to the NaziZomsploitation genre on You Tube HERE (the Prism Video-version as Night of the Zombies II — with a trailer for Shock Waves!) and HERE (as Die Nacht Der Zombies).
Oh, call it what you will, you ol’ ’80s “Midnight Movie” and VHS-renting road dogs: Mondo Cannibale, CannibalWorld, Cannibals, White Cannibal Queen, A Woman for the Cannibals, or Barbarian Goddess. All we known is that, once again, Jess Franco, casts himself as the patron saint of the video nasty, as he sticks his hands into the boiling native vats and fucks up a genre. While shooting, this soon-to-be U.K.-banned ditty was titled Rio Salvaje, aka Wild River, probably as an ersatz sequel to Umberto Lenzi’s 1972 progenitor, Man from Deep River. As if we’d be duped by a Franco joint.
White Cannibal Queen
On the plus side: Franco gives us the always welcomed Al Cliver (The Beyond) and Sabrina Siani (Conquest and The Throne of Fire). According to Franco, he did this movie and fellow cannibal romp Devil Hunter (1980) for the money and had no idea why anyone would enjoy these films. (Is it just me, or does Franco have a lot of those type of films in his career? He said the same thing about his NaziZom rip, Zombie Lake.) Franco also went on record that Sabrina Siani was the worst actress he ever worked with and that her only good quality was her “delectable derrière.”
Whatever, Jess. Pedophilic Pig.
However, to Franco’s credit, he does change it up a bit: Instead of looking for the usual lost tribes or oil, or whatever vegetable or mineral MacGuffin we need to steal from a peaceful native tribe to make a better life for the white man, our civilized man — with one arm, who lost it during the first expedition — returns to the jungle where he lost his family to rescue his now teenage daughter — who’s become the blonde white cannibal queen of the tribe.
Now, don’t let Jess Franco bamboozle you with Cannibal Terror, aka Terreur Cannibale (1981). While Franco penned the script, it’s actually a way-too-late French entry into the genre directed by Alaine Deruelle, and not a repack of White Cannibal Queen, aka Mondo Cannibale. But it does raid that Franco film for stock footage. As result, we see Sabrina Siani, the White Cannibal Queen, while not starring in the film, appearing in a bar scene (oops); several shots of the dancing cannibals from Franco’s film are redux, here; a background actor (said to have a distinctive, Mick Jagger-type face) appears in three roles, here: as two cannibals, a border guard, and a third cannibal eating Al Cliver’s wife; the guitar player at the bar, here, found Al Cliver after he had his arm cut off in White Cannibal Queen (oops).
White Cannibal Queen and Cannibal Terror also share actors Olivier Mathot and Antonio Mayans, both whom have starring roles, as well as porn actress Pamela Stanford, who has a major role in Cannibal Terror, but a support role in White Cannibal Queen by way of stock pillaging. The leading woman change up is Silvia Solar from Umberto Lenzi’s Eyeball(1975).
As far as the “plot” goes in the French remake/ripoff: Two criminals take their kidnapping victim to their partner’s jungle hideaway. The local cannibal tribe hunts them down one by one.
And don’t let Jess Franco hornswoggle you with Devil Hunter (1980), aka, Sexo Canibal, The Man Hunter, and Mandingo Manhunter, for he is director Clifford Brown and writer Julius Valery, incognito; his second wife, Lina Romay, co-directed, while his first wife, Nicole Guettard, edited.
And since Devil Hunter was shot back-to-back with White Cannibal Queen, Al Cliver returns in the leading hero role. And Antonio Mayans, from it’s-not-Franco’s-film-but-it-is Cannibal Terror, returns as Cliver’s co-star. The change up, here, is that Ursula Buchfellner, a German model who became Playboy magazine’s “Playmate of the Month” in October 1979, stars as our resident damsel-in-distress. Did you see the Euro-adult comedies Popcorn and Icecream (1979), Cola, Candy, Chololate (1979), and Hot Dogs in Ibiza (1979), and Jess Franco’s women-in-prison romp Hellhole Women, aka Sadomania (1981)? Well, now you know four more Ursula Buchfellner’s films than most (normal) people. Do you feel blessed by B&S?
As far as the “plot” goes, well, it’s pretty much a retread of Cannibal Terror: After the kidnapping by white bandits of a top model/actress (Buchfellner) on a jungle shoot/location scouting trip, an ex-Vietnam vet (Cliver) and his mercenary pal (Mayans) head into the deep jungle of the island nation to rescue her, not only from the kidnappers, but from cannibals who worship a “Devil God.” And (snickering) the “God” is a tall African dude with ping-pong eyes falling out of his head.
And get this: Jess Franco claims the makers of Predator stole their idea from this movie.
Whatever, Mr. Franco. Ye who commits celluloid theft, himself.
Needless to say: All of the stock footage padding from White Cannibal Queen and Cannibal Terror, along with the expected Franco-sleaze, and awful dubbing, is back — to lesser . . . and lesser effect. Wow, Jess, thanks for making White Cannibal Queen look even better than it’s allowed to be. But it does “splatter” nicely to make the U.K.’s “Video Nasties” list, which is the whole reason we’re reviewing this film this week for our “Video Nasties Week.”
So, there you go. Now you’re an educated Euro-cannibal flick consumer in-the-know that Cannibal Terror and Devil Hunter aren’t alternate titles to White Cannibal Queen, but three distinct — as distinct as a Franco joint can be — separate films . . . that are different, but the same. Sorta. Kinda. Oh, Franco!
But you know Franco: He’s a magnificent, maniacal bastard and we love him for it. What would our youth have been without Franco flicks and Venom tunes?
We did a whole week of cannibal films with our “Mangiati Vivi Week” tribute back in February 2018. You can also learn more about the genre with our review of the documentary Me Me Lai Bites Back (2021). And there’s more “nasties” to be found with our “Section 1,” “Section 2,” and “Section 3” explorations.
You can purchase White Cannibal Queen from Blue Underground or watch it as a free-with-ads-stream on Tubi.
Do you want to watch a boring underwater Nazi zombie movie? Then, by all means, watch Zombie Lake. All others skip it and slosh on over to Ken Wiederhorn’s far superior Shock Waves (1977). How this test in zom-tedium ended up as one of the 82 films on the U.K.’s “Section 3” Video Nasties list is dumbfounding.
It all started with Jesús Franco. Then the testosterone started splashin’ around between Franco and the producers. Enter Jean Rollin — with less than a week before production was to begin. Yes, Jean Rollin, the director who never met a film he couldn’t thrust into boredom. Yes, Mr. Rollin (and Mr. Franco, for that matter): I do need more than just nudity and triangle-of-death shots to move me. Yes: I need my zombies to have more than green paint smeared on their puss. Another problem: Two editors worked on the film: one for the French and International version and one for the Spanish version. Yes, a film where Jess Franco quits and Jean Rollin signs on . . . well, you’ve been warned. Needless to say: the poster’s great, but the plot is a mess.
Mind you: A bulk of this film takes place twenty years after the end of World War II, so 1965 — but it looks like forty years later, aka 1985. Anyway: A group of nubile ladies take a (skinny) dip in the village’s small lake — a lake referred to by the locals as “the lake of the damned.” And it’s know as such because it was used for witchcraft ceremonies. And the “lake” swallows them whole. So, with fresh human blood in their bellies and energized, the green-faced and grey-uniformed zom troopers take their revenge on the town. The revenge stems — we come to learn — from a WW II Nazi soldier and a local French girl falling in love and having a child. The villagers, members of the French resistance, murdered the soldier’s platoon and dumped their bodies into the lake. And the “witchcraft” of the lake kicks in. We think.
Of course, the town mayor is behind the murders of the soldiers and a cover up is in order — that errant on-the-road all-girls basketball team traveling through France who decide to take a restful (skinny) dip in that same small town lake, be damned. Of course, the fact that the lake offers us the scuzziest, most uninviting swim in the history of Zagat’s Euroguides is of no consequence to none of the young ladies that happen up on Lake COVID. Are the ladies “hypnotized” and drawn by unseen forces, aka the witches, to feed the zombie? Uh, this is a Jess Franco-rejected-Jean Rollin production. Don’t ask questions.
I can’t help but think Jess Franco penned this as a homage to Amando de Ossorio’s second entry in his “Blind Dead” series: Return of the Blind Dead (1973), as that film also had a town mayor more concerned with his town’s annual festival and his personal reputation than the rise and return of the Templars. Of course, de Ossorio got his pinch off Roger Vadim’s And Die of Pleasure (1960). In addition to the story pillaging, there’s the stock footage pinching: Zombie Lake‘s WW II war footage comes from Jess Franco’s Nazisploitation romp The Depraved Third Reich, aka Convoy of Girls, aka East of Berlin (1978)*. Now, was that the original intent: for Franco to pinch Franco? Or did Rollin pinch Franco on his own? Who cares, a pinch is a pinch is a rip and this movie sucks scuzzy, quaint French pond scum.
When it comes to “bad” Euro zombie films, I err to the side of Bruno Mattei with his New Guinea laboratory romp Hell of the Living Dead (1980) and Andrea Bianchi’s cursed mansion romp Burial Ground (1981). While Zombie Lake is not an ’80s SOV film, boy, oh, boy it certainly plays like one — and makes ’80s SOVs look good. At least SOV’ers are first time filmmakers figuring it out as they go along with camcorders. But when you’re Jean Rollin and at the game since the late 1950s with hundreds of films on your resume . . . this should be so much better. There’s just no excuse. At least I only paid a buck on the 5-5-5 home video store plan. Euro-audiences paid the full theatrical freight. I’d be Solo: A Star WarsStory-pissed.
As for Jess Franco: He and the producer behind Zombie Lake, Eurocine, made nice and did the Nazi Zoms thing again — only ditching the lake for the desert in Oasis of the Zombies. Did he fair any better? Oh, hell no. But that doesn’t mean we don’t dig it, for B&S reviewed it twice: Roger Braden and Sam the Boss offer their takes. As for my bottom line: Zombie Lake just isn’t all that nasty. Now, if the U.K. had a “Video Boring” list, those tea-taxin’ Red Coats would be onto something.
To quote Sam in his review of Burial Ground: “This movie is a real piece of shit. But you know, it’s an entertaining piece of shit. It’s the kind of film you can say, ‘But yeah, did you see Burial Ground? That one is totally insane.'”
Sadly, the same can not be said for Zombie Lake.
You can get Zombie Lake from Diabolik DVD. It’s also on the Euro Shock Collection issued by Imagine Entertainment (2001), as well as Arrow Films (2004), and Kino reissued it as a Blu-ray (2013). But you know us: we found you a freebie on You Tube.
Stay with us all this week, as we still have two and a half more days of U.K. video nasties from their three “Section” lists to review.
Director and co-writer Andrzej Żuławski’s only English language film, Possession is the only section 2 video nasty that has a lead actress, Isabelle Adjani, who won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival.
I often think, “Man, it would be awesome to act in a movie or be part of one,” but at no moment during this movie did I wish that I could be on the other side of the lens. Written during the painful divorce of Zulawski with actress Malgorzata Braunek, this is the very definition of a rough watch.
So what the hell is going on here? Is Anna going insane? Is Mark (Sam Neill) unable to escape their breakup? Are they both dealing with things their own way, and by that, I mean Mark replacing his wife with a subservient drone of a woman (also Adjani) while Anna grows her own Mark in a jar? Is this all happening in a dream? Or are all the dead bodies, grocery throwing freakouts and electric knife mutual self-mutilation sessions really happening? Is it really about Zulawski divorcing himself from Poland? Or maybe as it was made in a still-divided Berlin, is it hopeful about the destruction and rebirth that will come from the tearing down of the Wall?
Zulawski went into this movie wanting to kill himself, as his wife had left him (the scene where the child is left alone for hours and the husband comes home to discover his son naked and covered in jelly is autobiographical) while the strains that Adjani put herself through left her in the throes of massive depression and suicidal thoughts, which the director confirms that she acted upon but survived.
Neill would later say, “I call it the most extreme film I’ve ever made, in every possible respect, and he asked of us things I wouldn’t and couldn’t go to now. And I think I only just escaped that film with my sanity barely intact.”
Mark is a spy home from the cold, yet he returns to a wife who no longer wants to be part of this relationship. She can’t tell him why – it’s not a new lover – but she doesn’t want him any longer. He wants out of the espionage life, even if his handlers seemingly refuse to allow him that choice. Yet she does have a lover – Heinrich – who is not only cucking Mark but easily bests him in a punchup. He in turn attacks his soon-to-be ex-wife and then they take turns attacking one another and themselves with the aforementioned carving knife.
Anna also has a second apartment and another life, a tentacled creature that lives with her, and a room full of destroyed body parts, which soon include the detective that Mark has hired to follow her and that detective’s lover.
Before long, the love that exists – or doesn’t – between the married couple consumes everyone, sometimes in fire, sometimes in bullets, sometimes in knife wounds, sometimes just one another on the kitchen floor.
That tentacle thing – credit goes to Carlo Rambaldi. You know, I just saw A Lizard In a Woman’s Skin at a crowded drive-in and even horror-hardened viewers audibly gasped when his creation of still alive dogs torn apart flashed across the screen. Between that, Alien, Deep Red, A Bay of Blood and so many more, I find it rather life-affirming that the same man who created so many nightmarish visions also had a hand in creating E. T.
At one point, Mark says, “You know, when I’m away from you, I think of you as a monster or a woman possessed, and then I see you again and all this disappears.” This is the most real moment inside a film filled with a cavalcade of fantastic imagery. Tearing apart the life you once had for the promise of something new that may not be as good or may take a tremendous amount of emotional work is the most frightening thing I’ve ever done in my life. Possession gave me flashbacks to those moments where the world felt like it was ending every day, where I felt like a monster and when the only person you could confide in became the person you could never speak to again.
Man, Possession is not an easy watch. Just warning anyone of that going in. But hey – movies should not be just wallpaper. They should attack you. They should change your consciousness. They should take your psyche like a rock tumbler and slam you against the walls over and over until you emerge better.
A new 4K scan of this film will make its U.S. debut during Fantastic Fest on Saturday, September 25, completing the circle of this film from being critically savaged to embraced. It will also play the Beyond Fest, as well as opens theatrically and digitally exclusively at Metrograph October 1 In theaters, then nationwide on October 15.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eric Wrazen is a Technical Director and Sound Designer for live theatre, specializing in the genre of horror, and is the Technical Director the Festival de la Bête Noire – a horror theatre festival held every February in Montreal, Canada. You can see Eric as an occasional host and performer on Bête Noire’s Screaming Sunday Variety Hour on Facebook live. An avid movie and music fanatic since an early age, this is Eric’s first foray into movie reviewing.
It’s kind of difficult to review a film like Scanners without restating the common points that have been reviewed and discussed ad nauseum for decades within the horror community.
Its Cronenberg. It’s a classic. It’s a fun, yet flawed film. It starts (and kinda also ends) with an exploding head.
If there is one single aspect of Scanners that got it on the BBFC’s Sh*t list, it was that exploding head scene… which, incidentally, happens within the first 5 minutes of the movie! Scanners was most likely the fastest movie added to the list of nasty films as the reviewer probably only had to see the first 5 minutes before declaring “Blimey! EE’s gone and blown up dat mates ‘Ed, he did!” (Yes, in my mind, the BBFC reviewer has a Liverpool accent) and putting Scanners in the reject pile.
For the fact-focused crowd, Scanners was released in theatres in 1981. Directed by David Cronenberg and featuring some acting talents that SF, action, and horror fans will easily recognise: Michael Ironside as the baddie Darrel Revok, Patrick McGoohan as Dr. Paul Ruth, as well as lesser knowns Stephen Lack as our clueless Scanner hero Cameron Vale, and Jennifer O’Neill as Kim Obrist, another scanner who, is like the leader of a commune of hippie scanners, or something. Fun fact: the exploding head guy was played by Louise Del Grande, who is very familiar to old-timey Canadians, because he was the lead in a really popular “Murder She Wrote-style” mystery show that aired on CBC (Canada’s public TV broadcaster) for years. The show was called “Seeing Things” and Del Grande played… get this…. a crime-solving psychic!
The Scanners production itself was a troubled one. The movie was funded via a Canadian government tax incentive program (as were all of Cronenberg’s early films) and the catch was the film had to be in the can by a specific date in order to get the funding… which resulted in a rushed start to filming – before the final script was even done – which I feel adds to the unhinged and somewhat disjointed flow of Scanners.
Historical side note: Scanners was the first Cronenberg movie I saw in the theatre when it released in 1981! It’s one of the pivotal movies that got me hooked on bizarre, weird sh*t, and I will always love it for that reason. This was my first re-watch of Scanners in 40 years! (PS – f*ck, I am old).
More useless information: It was filmed in and around Montreal, Canada (my hometown) in locations like a water treatment plant that was 10 minutes from my boyhood home, and “2020 University” – the very groovy 70’s shopping mall featured in the opening scene.
The film itself is a fun ride if you are willing to accept some glaring flaws, such as: over AND under acting by the entire cast; continuity errors, obvious lack of basic understanding of how computers work, and an evil organization so badly run that the head of security is in cahoots with the guy trying to destroy the company, who is incidentally the son of the company’s head of R&D.
Regardless, Scanners is a fun film to watch. I viewed the old MGM DVD release and now I’m seriously considering getting the Criterion release to enjoy all the extras.