The Beast and the Magic Sword (1983)

The tenth adventure of Count Waldemar Daninsky — played as always by Paul Naschy — this Spanish/ Japanese co-production was never theatrically shown in any country other than its native Spain. It was never dubbed in English, never released on VHS or even DVD. Now, Mondo Macabro comes to the rescue with a gorgeous blu ray release of a movie that defies any logic and makes me fall in love with werewolf movies all over again.

What do you need to know? Well, Waldemar Daninsky goes to Japan in the hopes of being cured of his lycanthropy. You may wonder, “Why is this movie in the past instead of modern times like most of the other Paul Naschy werewolf movies?”

Stop asking questions and buckle up.

For the first time, you will learn how the Daninsky curse began, way back in the 10th century. Yes, a witch busts in and screams, “All the seventh-born sons will be transformed into beasts! The Daninskys will be a race of murderers! Hated and persecuted FOREVER!” before taking a wolf skull and biting the baby Daninsky through his pregnant mother’s stomach. Centuries later, that baby has grown up and searched the world looking for a cure before coming to Japan.

There, in the studios of Toshiro Mifune, he will battle a samurai played by Japanese actor Shigeru Amachi, as well as a tiger, a witch, ninja and ghost samurai.

How could something this magical happen? Well, Naschy was paid by some Japanese investors to make a series of documentaries on the history of Spain. They also paid for two films — Human Beasts and this movie.

I wish they had given him enough yen to make twenty of these movies.

You can get this directly from Mondo Macabro. Do so now. ASAP.

This first-ever U.S. release is awesome, with a brand new 4K restoration from the original negative, an archival intro by Naschy, a documentary about his werewolf films, new audio commentary by Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn of The Naschycast and a New interview with Gavin Baddeley, author of the book The Frightfest Guide to Werewolf Movies.

If the mail fails at any point, you can also download this from the Internet Archive.

Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1983)

Jim McCullough Sr. produced Where the Red Fern Grows and Creature from Black Lake before he started directing his own movies like Charge of the Model T’sThe Aurora Encounter and Video Massacre. He also acted in The Love Bug and Teenage Monster years before all of that.

Initially a regional movie that plated Louisiana and Mississippi under the titles Mountaintop Motel and Horrors at Mountaintop Motel, it was picked up by New World three years later and retitled before playing in New York City and coming out on home video.

Evelyn has been recently released from a psychiatric institution and loses her mind all over again when she catches her daughter Lorie doing a witchcraft ritual. So she does what any of us would do and kills her daughter. She gets away with it. And then she runs a motel called, you guessed it, the Mountaintop Motel.

That’s when the victims show up, like wanna-be record producer Al, two girls he’s trying to do the horizontal lambada with, some newlyweds and a preacher named Reverend Bill McWiley (Bill Thurman, ‘Gator Bait). Much like Shakespeare, just about everyone dies.

The folks at Vinegar Syndrome have sought fit to rescue this movie from the moldy fate of hiding around on the shelves of the few remaining mom and pop video stores in the country by doing a 2K scan from the original 35mm film and putting this out on blu ray. They really are doing the Lord’s work.

You can also watch it on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Eyes of Fire (1983)

Released by Vestron Video in 1987, this movie — also known as Cry Blue Sky — is a forgotten piece of folk horror. It’s also pretty much the same movie as The Witch, minus any arthouse aspirations. Instead of a man whose pride casts his family out of their village, this movie is about a reverend accused of adultery and polygamy.

Reverend Will Smythe (Dennis Lipscomb, Under Siege) and his follows leave their town behind to live in a valley haunted by an ancient evil. A rugged woodsman named Marion Dalton (Guy Boyd, Body Double) is along for the ride because he has his eye on Smythe’s lusty wife Eloise. Hijinks, as they say, ensue. And by hijinks, I mean, whatever is in the woods begins to haunt and kill everyone.

Rob Paulsen, who plays Jewell Buchanan, would go on to be a voice actor. Perhaps you’ve heard him as Raphael and Donatello, two of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or as Pinky from Pinky and the Brain. He’s also in the movies Stewardess SchoolWarlock and Body Double. He’s also the voice that says, “Cheers was filmed in front of a live audience.” In all, he’s been in 1,000+ commercials and been the voice of 250+ cartoon characters.

Director Avery Crounse started his career as a photographer and only made two other films: The Invisible Kid and Sister Island, both of which starred Karen Black.

Eyes of Fire is a strange and wonderful film, a kind of Western horror that sadly is not available either on DVD or blu ray in the U.S. That’s pretty amazing, as we live in a world where nearly every film is available in physical and streaming form. I’d assume once Vestron begins releasing blu rays again — their collector’s series has put out Maximum OverdriveBeyond Re-AnimatorDagonGothicClass of 1999Slaughter High, the three Warlock films, The Unholy, the Wishmaster collection, The GateLair of the White WormParentsChopping MallC.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, the two Waxwork movies, Return of the Living Dead 3 and Blood Diner — this might finally appear.

For more movies that haven’t been released on DVD, check out our article “Ten movies that were never even released on DVD.”

Suffer, Little Children (1983)

A beyond low budget film made by a drama school and directed by the former owner of the Brixton Academy, Alan Briggs, this movie is strange beyond strange. Basically shot on VHS yet proclaiming that it’s based on true events, it comes off as both amateur hour and endearingly earnest. It’s a combination that more than pays off.

Elizabeth shows up at a children’s school with a note that says she’d be better off being there. That’s because she’s possessed — not to skate, but by Satan. Soon, zombies are rising from the dead and the other children are under her control.

This sounds like so many movies that I love, like Cathy’s Curse, but this movie makes it even better by having blaring heavy metal play every time Satan’s powers are used and VHS static between each and every transition.

It’s the last fifteen minutes of the movie that make it great, with the evil kids decimating the adults until Jesus Christ himself shows up to take care of business, complete with video game drones, boops and beeps.

No, I didn’t believe it either.

You have to love a movie that has its child actors writing about it on IMDB.

You can get this — of course — from Intervision and Severin.

According to Severin, “Suffer, Little Children is a reconstruction of the events, which took place at 45 Kingston Road, New Malden, Surrey, England in August 1984. None of these events were reported in the press and now the house is scheduled for demolition in the immediate future.”

You basically want this in your life right now.

Star Wars Droppings: Space Raiders (1983)

Space Raiders AKA Star Child was directed by Howard R. Cohen (Saturday the 14thSaturday the 14th Strikes Back and the scripts for Unholy RollersDeathstalkerStrykerBarbarian Queen and The Young Nurses) and produced by Roger Corman as part of his new Millennium’s films, where he also produced Love Letters, Screwballs and Suburbia.

If you think you’ve seen the spaceships and special effects and heard the James Horner music before, it’s all taken from two other Corman films, Battle Beyond the Stars and Humanoids from the Deep

Captain C.F. “Hawk” Hawkens (Vince Edwards, TV’s Ben Casey) is a space pirate who was once in the Space Service, hired to steal a freighter from The Company. A ten-year-old boy named Peter (David Mendenhall, Over the Top) stows away with the pirates and goes on adventures with them.

Luca Bercovici, the director of Rockula and Ghoulies, appears in this film as Ace. Dick Miller shows up and that’s always a welcome thing. And hey that’s William Boyett — Sergeant William MacDonald from Adam-12.

Not content to rip off only Star Wars, the end of this movie 100% comes from Shane. So there’s that. I’ve never understood why people loved putting annoying kids into science fiction films in the hopes that kids would find someone to identify with, when all we wanted was to be the adults. Oh well.

You can watch this for free on Amazon Prime.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

There was a time where Disney did not care at all whether or not they gave nightmares to kids. Or so it seemed. They were concentrating on films with more mature themes in an attempt to break free from their stereotype as an animation and family film studio.

Yet when this film was being made, it was really two movies. On one hand were writer Ray Bradbury and director Jack Clayton, who were trying to stay faithful to the novel. And on the other was Disney, who wanted a more accessible and family-friendly film.

Bradbury wrote the screenplay in 1958 as a directorial vehicle for Gene Kelly before rewriting it as a novel. In 1977, he and Clayton produced a completed script before the project went into six years of stops and starts.

That’s why it’s so sad that Bradbury and Clayton lost their friendship after Bradbury discovered that Clayton had hired writer John Mortimer to do an uncredited rewrite at the studio’s urging. And after disastrous test screenings, Disney fired Clayton and the film’s editor before throwing out the original score. They spent $5 million and even more time basically remaking the film.

Disney added a new director, Leo Dyer, and a new spoken beginning that was narrated by Arthur Hill. There was also a long CGI sequence — one of the first-ever filmed — of Mr. Dark’s circus train pulling in to Green Town. The sequence was incredibly complex —  the smoke from the locomotive would form ropes and tents, tree limbs would make a Ferris wheel and a spider web would become a wheel of fortune. There was also a scene where Mr. Dark would send a hand into the house to attack the two main characters, but this scene was seen as fake by Disney execs who replaced it with a scene that had hundreds of real tarantulas.

Everything that was right about the project pretty much went away, from the original themes of Bradbury’s novel to the darkness of the original cut and the very human relationships that director Clayton loved. In its place was that new narration and a new ending.

What remains is still stranger and better than nearly any kids movie — and hey, let’s throw in just about any movie — that you will see this year.

So what’s it all about? Well, it’s about autumn. It’s about a small town called Green Town. And it’s about two kids, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, who find themselves at odds with Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival.

Mr. Dark’s (Jonathan Pryce) goal is to give the people of the town exactly what they’ve always wanted and take their souls in the process. The scene where he takes years off of the life of Will’s father (Jason Robards, great as always) has more resonance every year that I watch this movie.

Plus, you get great acting from Diane Lane and Royal Dano, and an appearance from noted little person actor Angelo Rossitto, who has been in more movies that I’ve watched than nearly any other actor.

They’re planning on remaking this movie, but you know how that goes. Luckily, you have this dark reminder of what could have been, way back when Disney was trying to be something more than a kid-friendly movie house.

Mortuary (1983)

Hikmet (or Howard) Avedis studied at the University of Southern California and won the George Cukor Award, which totally prepared him for a lifetime of working in exploitation fare. With titles like The StepmotherThe Teacher (consider it the grindhouse version of The Graduate), The Specialist (where Adam West fights against the water company), the Connie Stevens’ classic Scorchy and the utterly baffling sex comedy/giallo They’re Playing With Fire, Avedis may not have made Oscar-worthy pictures, but he certainly knew how to entertain. He also wrote this movie along with his wife Marlene Schmidt, who also acted in this movie (as she did in nearly every movie he made).

Known internationally as Embalmed and Hall of Death, this film has shown up on a few of the top ten slasher lists that we’re putting together for later this month. It’s a great example of what happens when a slasher strays from the form somewhat and you get the idea that this movie is kind of like a carny haunted house, ready to scare you at every turn.

Wealthy psychiatrist Dr. Parson has died and only his daughter Christie (Mary Elizabeth McDonough, Erin Walton from The Waltons and one of the stars of the abysmal Funland, a movie we’ll be getting to before too long) believes that there was foul play. The official word is that he drowned and that’s good enough for her mother Eve (Lynda Day George!), who doesn’t believe the dream her daughter had where dad was bludgeoned with a baseball bat. Oh yeah — she also sleepwalks all the time.

But let’s forget about all that. Let’s get to the mortuary, where Christie’s boyfriend Greg Stevens (David Wallace, who was also in Humongous) is stealing tires with his friend Josh. After all, if Hank Andrews (Christopher George, never far from his wife, in one of his last roles) isn’t going to pay Josh fairly, they may as well take what they want.

While they’re in the midst of this larceny, an occult ritual just happens to happen, with Hank leading a bevy of gorgeous women in what is called a seance. Josh is unfazed, as he claims that this kind of thing happens all the time. He goes off to get the tires and gets stabbed for his efforts. Greg can only watch as someone drives off in his van.

Greg and Christie search everywhere for Josh, including the local roller skating rink because it’s 1983. There’s some insanely great roller skating footage here, if you like that kind of thing. You know that I do.

As Christie drives to her family’s mansion the next day, a car starts to follow her. Soon after her arrival, a hooded figure begins to follow her around the pool where her father died. Her mother claims its all a dream.

The next day, Greg tells Christie that her mother was one of the women in the ritual he watched. That makes sense to her, because now Eve and Hank are shacking up and her dad’s corpse is barely cold. If things couldn’t get weirder for our heroes, Paul (Bill Paxton, who shows up in so many great films of this era), the son of Hank, begins getting hoy and heavy for his soon-to-be stepsister. He’s even weirder than his dad, but that’s probably because his mom killed herself. 

Greg and Christie try to hook up, but her entire house goes wild, with lights flashing on and off, music playing by itself and even the film seeming to stop and start. It’s a great sequence and really sets up the gaslighting — or supernatural attacks — that Christie is forced to endure.

Greg and Christie decide to follow her mother, who heads right to the mortuary. Stranger and stranger? It gets even more so, as a cloaked figure who looks like Paul attacks Christie that night and in a shot that looks similar to Suspiria, almost pulls her out of a glass window.

While Eve again says it was all a dream, she does have one oddball theory: Paul used to be a patient of her dead husband and he was obsessed with Christie, talking about her the entire time. This is soon followed by Paul, clad in a latex mask, appearing and stabbing Eve in her bed. He attacks Christie and brings her to the mortuary, claiming that he intends to embalm her alive.

Hank arrives to stop him and we get the villain moment where he explains his actions: he had to punish everyone, like Eve for telling Christie he was insane and Dr. Parson for putting him in jail. He then goes one step further by stabbing his father just in time for Greg to try to save her. A battle leads to Greg getting locked in the embalming chamber while Paul arranges all the bodies of his victims for a wedding ceremony.

You know how weddings go — you spend much the time conducting a symphony. Paul does exactly that while we see all of his victims, including his mother who was in a coma and not dead. What follows is a battle between Paul and his scalpel and Greg with an axe, ending with Christie sleepwalking her way into killing the villain with one hack of the axe into his back. Our heroes embrace, just in time for Paul’s mom to awaken from her coma and attack them with a knife, probably because she saw the end of Carrie and knew this needed one more jump scare.

We’ve talked about Gary Graver and his work for Orson Welles, in the adult film industry and within films like Texas LightningSorceress and Trick or Treats, amongst other films. His cinematography makes this movie a cut above ordinary slasher fare.

You can get this from Ronin Flix.

The House On Sorority Row (1983)

This film was inspired by the 1955 French film Les Diaboliques and was originally titled  Screamer and Seven Sisters by its writer and director Mark Rosman. It also has the alternate title House of Evil, but none of those are as evocative and interesting as The House On Sorority Road.

Vincent Perronio, who often works with John Waters, was the film’s production designer. It was shot in Pikesville, Maryland and used the University of Maryland for its establishing shots. The crew used a house that was being foreclosed on for shooting and discovered two squatters living there, who were hired to be video assistants on the film.

The movie opens with a flashback sequence that was requested by its distributor, Film Ventures. It was shot in black and white, then tinted blue. We see a baby being delivered via c-section, but the mother is told that the child died.

Fast forward to today, as seven sorority sisters are drinking up at their own small graduation party. Katey (Kathryn McNeil, Monkey Shines), Vicki (Eileen Davidson, who went from acting on soap operas to appearing in the real-life soap opera The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), Liz, Jeanie (Pittsburgh’s own Robin Meloy Goldsby, who is now a piano player in Germany), Diane (Harley Jane Kozak, Parenthood) Morgan  and Stevie want to spend a few more weeks in their sorority house before heading out into the real world, but their house mother Mrs. Slater isn’t having any of their shenanigans. 

Seriously, Mrs. Slater is a real pip. For example, when Vicki is batter dipping the corn dog on a water bed with her boyfriend, Slater bursts in and stabs the bed with her walking cane. So that leads to the girls playing a prank — making the old woman jump into the swimming pool to get her cane at gunpoint. There’s a stumble, the gun goes off and the old woman dies. The seven sisters all decide to hide her body in the pool until after their big blowout.

Of course, that’s when the killer shows up, who is Slater’s deformed son Eric. Turns out that doctor from the beginning had given her an illegal fertility drug that led to him turning out like this. So the doctor drugs Katey — our final girl — and tries to kill Eric to cover up his crimes, but Eric easily dispatches him. This leads to a showdown between a clown-costumed maniac — who has even decapitated one of the other girls and left her head in the toilet — and Katey which ends inconclusively.

Film Ventures also asked for the ending, where Katherine is discovered floating dead in the pool, dead at the hands of Eric. They felt like that the ending was too downbeat, so that’s why we got the ending we did, where Katey stabs Eric but his eyes open right before the final credits.

This is a movie filled with not just plenty of murder, but lots of party scenes too. The Washington, DC-based power pop band 4 Out of 5 Doctors shows up to play five of their songs. If you’ve ever seen The Boogeyman, they’re in that too.

Ronin Flix was selling a limited edition blu ray of this film earlier this year, but it’s currently sold out. It’s definitely worth a watch, as it predates films like I Know What You Did Last Summer where the teenagers are as much victimizers as victims.

You can watch this for free on Popcorn Flix or with Rifftrax commentary on Tubi.

The Prodigal Planet (1983)

Remember our friend David? Well, he didn’t die at the end of Image of the Beast. No, he’s back and ready to battle the forces of UNITE one more time. He’s rescued by Connie, an Antichrist agent pretending to be a double agent for the Believers’ Underground, who hopes that David can lead them to the hidden base of the Believers. Meanwhile, Armageddon and the Second Coming are on the way and everyone’s going to die and pay for their sins.

This might be my favorite of the four films in this series, as now we’ve entered pure post-apoc territory, with leukemia and facial lesion-having mutants called the Doomsday People wandering the wasteland wearing monks robes, David playing matador with helicopters and a character who does a child’s voice that is not unlike Christian icon Lil’ Markie (trust me, it’s best if I don’t link you to him, let him be the nightmare that only I live).

We also learn that Mark gave up on God after his brother tried to race a train and his car got hit by it. So there’s that.

This movie is packed with sermons, songs that bleed over the dialogue and long explanations of Biblical prophecy. In short, everything you’ve come to expect and more from this series. It also has David watch some ICBMs decimate the forces of UNITE and say, “It’s hard to believe God could use something that hideous for good, but he’s done it before.”

Turner also shows back up and he’s brought his maps of the End Times that we’ve all come to know, love and paint on to our own walls. I have no idea how we’re going to sell this house now that I’ve made the guest room into a mural with the different signs of Armageddon, but that’s our real estate agent’s problem.

Connie has to be the best character in this film, as she suddenly breaks into a mall and loots it for clothes a full year before Night of the Comet and then busts out some insane disco dancing moves for no reason at all. Also, everyone continually mentions how gorgeous she is in this movie. I don’t want to be rude, but she’s the most attractive woman I’ve ever seen in an Armageddon Christian movie and that’s no compliment.

In Marilyn Manson’s book The Long Road Out of Hell, he says “I was thoroughly terrified by the idea of the end of the world and the Antichrist. So I became obsessed with it, watching movies like A Thief in the Night, which described very graphically people getting their heads cut off because they hadn’t received 666 tattoos on their forehead.” Therefore, this movie had the exact opposite effect that everyone wanted it to have, at least for one very special boy.

Finally, Jerry, who has been the porn mustached bad guy of all of these films, sits crying on the floor as nukes go off all around him. B-roll footage plays and the world finally, mercifully, ends.

You can watch this for free on Amazon Prime or Archive.org. There’s even an official website if you want to learn more. Please want to learn more.

Survival Zone (1983)

In the Survival Zone . . . death is a way of life.

Indeed, Mr. Tagline writer. Indeed.

Times were tough for ex-Star Trek and Stanley Kubrick actors . . . so bad that Gary Lockwood (1962’s The Magic Sword and 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit rip, Bad Georgia Road) traveled to South Africa (doubling for the “arid landscapes of 1988 Texas”) to star in a boring, post-nuke talk-fest pastiche of Death Wish and Mad Max. (And that “pitch” is really pushing the filmmaking meaning of the word in this pseudo-western romp.)

As with Def Con 4 and Battletruck, Survival Zone’s post-apoc ambitions sorely suffer from its lack of budget. So there’s no footage of devastated cities. No landscapes of burnt out buildings. No radiation-poisoned zombies. No futuristic hardware or soldiers. No Plisskens, Trashs, or Strykers for heroes. No desperately needed George Eastman-styled villains (Warriors of the Wasteland). There’s not even a Paco Querak to class up the nuclear mayhem.

What we do get is lots of talking and talking . . . and talking . . . with an annoying mix of American and South African accents (in Texas?) spouting dialog as they bitch about kite tails and how the world ended. What we do get are “pockets of low radiation levels” that allows Gary’s family—a hard-ass wife, a bitchy-whiny daughter (who suddenly changes from shorts to jeans while riding a horse), a bratty young son (who vanishes from the film without explanation), and a cantankerous uncle (all who make the stupidest of stupid decisions and you have no sympathy for)—to happily farm their homestead in peace. Then the post-apoc shite hits the fan when a band of marauding Indians—in the form of the apoc genre’s requisite leather-clad punk rock-biker rapists—lay siege. How “bad-ass” are these guys? The lead bad guy has the word “Bigman” emblazoned on his jacket and has a severed doll head fixed to the top of his motorcycle helmet.

Whooo. I’m so scared, Bigman. Let Ankar Moor throw your ass into the Deathsport arena and see how you do. You’d piss out your leather chaps playing Battle Ball in Ground Rules, dickwad.

So if you absolutely must be a post-apocalypse completest and watch every last piece of VHS flotsam and jetsam in Snake Plissken’s wake, then proceed at your own peril . . . it’s on You Tube. You’ve been warned, my fellow apoc-rats: For when it comes to our low-budget, post-nuked rip-off future, stay the hell out of South Africa and head for the Philippines, then Italy, then Australia, in that order.

Director Percival Rubens punched out 12 films in his not-so-illustrious career and gained minor video-store street cred with the popular (and now very, very rare and sought after) VHS rental and Cameron Mitchell starrer, The Demon. If you’re a horror buff completest, then check out that amalgamated mess of a film where John Carpenter’s Halloween meets A Nightmare on Elm Street.

If you absolutely must have a Texas-set post-apoc flick in your collection, pass on Survival Zone and get yourself a copy of the George Eastman (2019: After the Fall of New York) penned and Joe D’Amato (Endgame) directed 2020: Texas Gladiators.

Not to be confused with . . .
Or with . . .

Ack! I wrote reviews on The Survivalist and Survival 1990? The things I do for B&S About Movies!

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.