Friday, 5 April 2013

Motor Psycho (1965)

Russ Meyer plays it straight.

A beautiful woman is sunbathing before going off to seek the attention of her husband who is fishing. He seems more interested in his fish and it's not long before she's attracting attention of her own from three young biker punks. Her husband comes to rescue her but loses the battle and the gang take what they want from the woman.

A veterinarian called Cory Maddox (Alex Rocco) and his wife Gail (Holle K. Winters) drive into town but she attracts attention from the same gang. Cory returns before anything happens to her and pushed the leader, Brahmin (Steve Oliver) off his bike. Later Cory gets called to a pregnant horse and while he's away the gang go into his house and wreak their revenge, When he returns an ambulance is already there. The helpful Sheriff (Russ Meyer) claims she'll be fine and they haven't done "nothin' a woman ain't built for".

We cut to Ruby (Haji) and Harry (Coleman Francis) in their truck. They are arguing when they get a flat tyre. Ruby goes for a walk to the sound of saxophones while Harry fixes the tyre but three bikers come along. They accidentally shoot Harry dead when he tries to grab the gun from them then shoot Ruby when she runs. The punks scupper their bikes and steal Harry's truck (having fixed the tyre I presume).

Cory turns up and we find Ruby is just grazed not dead, He puts a bandage on her and they set off together.
The bikers come truckers head down a road marked 'Caution' yet still find a gas station open. They hear a siren and leave the station, going back the way they came and passing Corey and Ruby who turn and give chase. The boys stop the truck and get out their weapons. They shoot out Cory's tyre and shoot at Ruby and Cory but leave them stranded and head to an abandoned mine.

Cory is bitten by a snake and forces Ruby to cut it open and suck out the poison in a sequence which is more graphic than the earlier rape scenes it mimics. There's almost a match on action edit (first Ruby spits out blood then we cut to the gang and see Brahmin spit out some water. Slick (Thomas Scott) decides to leave the group and Brahmin shoots him in the back as he walks away. Dante (Joseph Cellini) affirms his allegiance to Brahmin.

Brahmin and Dante run out of gas and abandon their truck and go to lie in wait for Cory. He and Ruby however, are sharing stories as he recovers from the snake bite. Dante manages to escape from Brahmin and attempts to steal Cory's truck. Ruby catches Dante so he pleads with her, then threatens her, then pleads again. Ruby seduces him and while Dante takes advantage Ruby stabs him. Cory remains feverish.

By morning Cory has recovered and Ruby explains what happened last night before they continue on. (Having fixed the tyre I assume). Brahmin shoots Ruby again and they hide in the entrance to the mine where there is plenty of dynamite. Brahmin displays symptoms of  post traumatic stress disorder after his turn in Vietnam. Cory throws some lit dynamite towards Brahmin who, in the midst of his psychosis, doesn't see it on his advance and gets caught in the blast. Cory takes Ruby away. To hospital I'm sure.

So what went right? It has violence and curvaceous women but it's gritty and not camp. There are very few women, and none that strong in character. This is about male violence and the male gaze. Almost all of the women have flesh on display but none gratuitously like normal Meyer movies. In this movie only the victims are objects of desire with flesh on display. Jessica keeps fully dressed and covered while trying to seduce Cory, even if the outfit does display her body. The male gang are horrible, making their way raping and killing. The scene where Dante forces Gail to dance with him before Brahmin rapes her while Slick telephones his mother is truly disturbing. While this film is one of the first to feature a disturbed Vietnam veteran it's Dante and Slick whose motivations you question. Only when Slick leaves is there a threat of violence against them. What kept them there before that?

There's not a lot of fun in this film. It's harsh but mercifully short. It still could have had a couple of scenes less but the overall juxtaposition of light and dark themes throughout keep it going. The happy couple fishing to the brutal assault, Jessica seducing Cory to Gail's rape, Harry offering Ruby to the gang before grabbing the gun to save her, the Sheriff to Cory, Cory forcing Ruby to suck out the snake venom to previous scenes of violence, spitting out venom to spitting out water, Ruby with Cory to Ruby with Dante etc. Lots of contrasts

A good film but not the Meyer I look forward to. Bring on something camp and fun.

Maru's Score 5/10

Motor Psycho (1965) on IMDb

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

50's Throwback Comedy Gets Serious!

We start in space where three astronauts are enjoying the view of the sun through the rings of Saturn. Some solar flare activity and suddenly we're in a hospital with the only survivor - Steve (Alex Rebar), Dr. Loring (Lisle Wilson) and a nurse (Bonnie Inch). Steve wakes up and takes off his bandages to see his wounds, goes a little wobbly and chases a nurse. She runs down a very cool looking corridor before bursting through a balsa wood and sugar glass door.

Next thing we know she is dead and now Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning), a friend of Steve's, is on the case. He tells Loringthat  his wife, Judy (Ann Sweeny), is pregnant but has had two miscarriages before. He concludes that Steve is degenerating and needs human tissue to survive, and so has a need to eat people!

Sure enough Steve has decided to hide in the woods where he beheads a fisherman and tosses the head into a river where, in another great sequence, it drifts downstream to a waterfall, bursting open as it hits rocks at the bottom.

Nelson has gone home to complain about stuff to his wife. We see some children smoking before going off to play in the woods. As the young girl counts for hide and seek the two boys run off back into town, leaving her there. When she finishes and can't find them she cries out she doesn't want to play any more then comes across Steve. She runs back to the town crying out about Frankenstein while Steve stays there and has flashbacks about his Saturn trip. Elsewhere Ted finds Steve's ear.

A model (Cheryl 'Rainbeaux' Smith) is being photographed by a man in a nice cardigan (Don Walters) and starts complaining at being asked to remove her top.

"Look don't call me 'Baby' ok? I really don't like to be called 'Baby'".
"Ok Honey, sorry, what would you like me to call you, Honey? Doll?"

He carries on calling her Baby and grabs her top while clearly not photographing her but she pulls back and stumbles onto the beheaded fisherman's body. Ted turns up with General Perry (Myron Healy) to investigate. Steve is now wandering around in the sunset having more flashbacks.

Ted calls home and has a really cheery conversation with his wife. She invites General Perry and Dr. Loring to dinner. Perry accepts before she reveals her mother and partner are coming too. The older couple, Helen and Harold, stop on their way to steal some fruit and become the next victims of monstrous Steve. Judy fears for them as they are late. She discusses Steve with Ted but Perry overhears and castigates Ted for speaking about the subject even with his wife.

Judy tells them they should be out searching  for such a dangerous man, what do they expect? That he'll come knock on their door? So they go off in search once again. Steve is hiding out - in a graveyard. Well of course. He soon finds his way to the Nelson residence though, where Judy is knitting. We hear breaking glass. Judy finds the cat has broken a milk bottle. The Sheriff (Micheal Alldredge) finds Helen and Harold and informs the Nelsons. Steve still waits outside. Ted gives Judy a sedative and heads off again leaving General Perry to guard her. He meets the Sheriff who has realised Ted and Parry know what's going on. Ted tells him it's confidential but the Sheriff carries on.

"If I tell you, you can't tell anyone. Not even your wife."
(sadly) "You know I'm not married Ted".

Steve meanwhile has decided to go in and have a quick bite, of General Perry! Ted decides to check on Judy. Steve makes a sharp exit.  He's in someone else's house in no time, killing the returning man but the girl  fights him off with a carving knife.

Steve heads off towards a power plant with Ted and the Sheriff in pursuit. They climb a lot of steps. The Sheriff shoots Steve, but bullets pass through him. Steve kills the Sheriff but attracts two security guards. Steve attacks Ted but ultimately saves him from falling to his death. The security guards shoot Ted while he's trying to defend Steve and in a rage Steve kills them. He then finds a quiet corner to melt into nothing.

A radio broadcast tells of a new mission to Saturn.

This was conceived as a comedy by William Sachs who wrote and directed it. The title references 'The Incredible Shrinking Man' (1957) and the story 'First Man Into Space' (1959) with the accident in space creating a monster and 'The Quatermass Experiment' (1955) where an astronaut turns into an alien organism.  Much of the humour was cut out by the producers in post-production though, considering a straight horror movie to be more profitable. General opinion seems to disagree and it is not highly regarded at all. Some  funny lines remain but I wonder what was cut. When Nelson tells Loring about his wife's miscarriages he seems to be hinting at an emptiness and wanting in his life. He continues to talk about Steve, his friend, could he really be letting his sick friend fill the void left without children? This seems a long shot.

Our young girl screams 'Frankenstein' referring to the monster (Steve) but unlike the creature from Shelley's tale, Steve did not save the child and really does mean people harm. While Steve's victims remain mostly comedic, the Nurse, The Fisherman and The Old Couple, the situation becomes very serious. Even the Fisherman's body appears to grip Sandra's ankle in it's lifeless hand.

Only the final couple have any severity about them and while the man dies off screen Nell's run to the kitchen and frantic blocking of the door has real tension. She then waits with the carving knife as he circles the house in true horror fashion before coming through the window.

The sequence at the end  has Steve throwing Ted off of the building but a clinging Ted brings out memories in Steve who redeems himself by saving Ted. Ted tries to save Steve but dies in the attempt, is this because of his actions or due to Steve haing become his 'ward'? Does Steve then react from anger? Instinct? Vengeance? Also Ted had mentioned that as Steve melts, he gets stronger - yet he curls up and dies at the end? I presume there were answers which got lost with the comedy.

I would have preferred for once not to see Cheryl Smith topless and would have preferred Sandra to have fought for her rights more. I would have preferred Ted to be a little happier sometimes and less one dimensional. Rick Baker's make up was excellent and there are some good sequences scattered through the film. Cheryl Smith scores any film extra points too although overall it could have been shorter.

Maru's Score 5/10

The Incredible Melting Man (1977) on IMDb

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Two Undercover Angels (1969)

Comic capers, Swinging Sixties, disguises, camp creature feature confusion.

Where do you start with this 1969 Jesus 'Jess' Franco effort? The beginning?

We start at the end of a fashion show where the final turn is a wedding dress. Lida (Maria Antonia Redondo) goes off to change and is requested to see her ex partner, Mr. Radeck by her boss. After the title sequence with a very cool score by Jerry Van Rooyen she is attacked by what looks like a were-wolf in the middle of the day.

Next we enter the world of Napolean Bolivard (Franco himself) and see works of art and an unconscious girl tied to a chair. Back to Lida and the werewolf man Morpho (Michel Lemoine) and he is still attacking her but in a wooden loft and being photographed by a man in an eye-patch. Back downstairs a masked woman steals a painting of Lida by mysterious artist Mr. Thriller, leaving behind a lipstick kiss, so clearly no DNA testing then. After Bolivard reports the crime to Inspector Tanner (Marcelo Arroita-Jauregui) we visit the office of Red Lips, detectives called Diana (Janine Reynaud) and Regina (Rosanna Yanni) who solve crimes, but don't like too many clothes. What they do wear is very stylish though!

After Bolivard gets his come-uppance for losing the painting and telling the police from the man in the patch Regina goes to visit Radeck (Adrian Hoven) and they discuss terms over finding Lida and hands over the painting she stole. Back at the 'office' Diana has realised that Lida is just one of 8 cases all of which seem similar. Morpho's long scratch marks have been at every scene. A man enters their house

He claims to be Vittorio Freda and is there to look at their house. Regina then heads to the gallery to see more work from Mr. Thriller. She wants to buy his work and to meet the artist. She is told this is impossible.She seduces Albert the gallery director and invites him to their bungalow. She gets him drunk and he signs a form saying she can buy Lot 12 at the auction. He is about to reveal Mr. Thriller's true identity while Diana is tape recording the conversation but Albert is murdered with a poison dart. Diana and Regina give chase but to no avail. They return to find the body is gone, but the sound of an Italian voice is left on Diana's recording.

We cut to a young lady performing a dance where she cuts off her own bodystocking with a knife in a club, where she is watched by the man in the eye-patch. After the dance she approaches him and addresses him as Mr. Thriller. She offers to dance for him and they leave together. She is next seen entering the room we last saw Lida and is set upon by Morpho while Mr. Thriller takes photographs.

Regina goes to collect her item, a statue and meets Francis McClune (Chris Howland) from Interpol. When Vittorio Freda claims to have bought the same piece she manipulates McClune into ensuring she has it. She takes it home and Diana decides they should look for they're Italian playboy in The Flamingo. Here we are treated to another routine which I shall not detail here.

After the dance Regina arrives at the club and Regina waits for her. Regina meets an old friend. She leaves her to see Mr. Thriller who has lost interest in the dancer now. Regina leaves with Mr. Thriller but as Morpho grabs her she is rescued by Diana and her friend from the club. Diana has sent details of the case to Insp. Tanner but Thriller has vanished. Regina decides to take a holiday when some flowers arrive for them.

Diana realises the flowers are ticking and disposes of them into the swimming pool before they explode. Whilst composing themselves they are then shot at and as they escape Regina agrees to go away.

The girls go on holiday but Diana brings the statue they bought at the gallery. Whilst sunbathing Vittorio Fredo arrives again and ingratiates himself with Regina. Meanwhile Insp. Tanner and Francis McClune check into the hotel. At dinner Mr. Thriller arrives too. Morpho breaks into their apartment and goes for the statue before turning to Diana who is sleeping. McClune chases him away. Regina brings Fredo back where Diana and her torture him with feathers and alcohol until he tells them he works for Thriller and wants the statue. When they investigate the statue they find a real girl is inside. They deliver both the girl and Fredo to Insp. Tanner. Regina tells Radeck she has found Lida and wants the balance of her pay. They agree to meet that night. Diana goes to see Radeck but finds Mr. Thriller. He removes his disguise and he is Mr. Radeck! He claims he has always wanted her for his work, Diana pulls a gun on Radeck.

Morpho overpowers her though. Regina has dinner with McClune and tells him the whole story. They realise Thriller is Radeck but Tanner tries to arrest Regina. She escapes to find Radeck and the two policemen follow.  As Morpho moves in on Diana so Radeck can produce his ultimate' art of fright' Regina shoots both Morpho and Radeck. The girls leave a note for the police before leaving.

I straight away thought of Joseph Losey's 'Modesty Blaise' when I started watching it but the 'art of fright' Radeck mentions at the end, painting people from photographs of their death, reminds me of Powell's 'Peeping Tom'! There are lots of James Bond jokes plus the essential sixties go-go girls. And nudity. Franco is a master of Exploitation and while this is not his usual fare there are still elements. It's very sexy, very silly and yet still very clever, the kind of film I enjoy.

Maru's Score 7/10

Sadist Erotica (1969) on IMDb


After Dusk They Come (2009)

Alien v Predator with a twist!

Also known as 'The Forgotten Ones'.

Not a lot of people seem to like this movie, or video should I say. Jorg Ihle directed this piece which at it's end they decided was not good enough and promptly re-made it just one year later allowing this to go straight to DVD. Oddly the user's reviews on IMDB show the remake to be even less popular than this original version!

We begin on the Greater Antilles Islands in 1922, where a group of people are being harassed by an unseen force, they are murdered and mutilated and our one survivor gets trapped in a clearing but gets her knife stuck in some bamboo. After the credits we meet our heroes, first Liz (Jewel Staite) to the strains of 'One Of These Days I'm Gonna Change My Life' then her once wayward boyfriend Peter (Justin Baldoni), his friend Jake (Kellan Lutz), Jake's ex Lauren (Nikki Griffin) and her current beau Ira (Marc Bacher). This unlikely group have borrowed a boat to make a three day trip to a party.

We now get treated to a party montage on the boat with everyone having a good time despite displaying their petty jealousies and squabbles. Jake still wants Lauren and resents Ira while Peter is still getting calls from Cyndi despite trying to stay loyal with Liz, who becomes sure they are lost and tells Peter, but being who he is he asserts control. When questioned as to who is ringing him he doesn't tell Liz, but throws his 'phone overboard.  At this point Liz suspects he may be cheating. Again.  Lauren assures her she should be planning a wedding.

People have complained that the acting in this film is poor but I found I couldn't stand anyone but Liz almost immediately and this made the latter parts of the film quite pleasant. So the boat is wrecked and they all arrive perfectly well on an island. Many of their important belongings wash up with them too, although Liz is upset at her new hairdryer being ruined. The radio still works so they contact Mo, the boat's owner to collect them. He claims there's land at their co-ordinates but will come anyway.

Liz has a run in with a creature when she tries to rescue the raft, although whatever it is remains unseen. Peter is unmoved by her claims. She goes off and bizarrely a farting noise has been added to her toilet scene. Very unnecessary. I assume at this point they had given up on the film. Whilst gone Peter reveals his reason for secrecy and proposes to Liz with a message in the sand and a ring made from grass. He claims this was his plan all along and has lost the original ring in the accident. Liz is very pleased.

They awake to find Peter missing and a trail of blood leading to the forest. After Jake threatens Ira with a gun to stop him going for help, our intrepid four go into the forest in search. Whilst in the forest Lauren becomes convinced they're being stalked. Correctly, I may add. Monkey/ wolf type figures with dreadlocks move about in the darkness of the forest and soon Lauren walks into a trap. Jake tries to rescue her before she is taken and Ira goes after her. Liz and Jake stumble across the camp we saw in the opening sequence and discovery a diary telling us about 'The Forgotten Ones' which leads to a flashback full of exposition. Sadly Jake just can't keep quiet and gets taken, only to be returned just seconds later rather badly mutilated. Liz goes off into the forest but can't escape, cut to: Peter, who is fine except for a piece of bamboo stuck in his leg. He takes it out and wanders off only to be caught again.

Liz awakens next to Peter, but this time he is dead and proves it when a bug crawls out of his mouth. Ira is there too, but not for long. Liz however gets up and runs away. They chase but an unexpected run in with some goo means the creatures can't smell her and when close up we can see they are blind or nearly blind at least. Our girl Liz makes it to the beach but finds the raft is gone. Nothing left to do but goo up like Arnie in Predator and go back in to rescue the cat. Newt. I mean the raft.

Everything goes well until she's in the lair and then some rats go and spoil it all. She gets a nick on the ankle and the smell of blood gets 'the forgotten ones' attention. Nice trick with some shotgun shells and a flare gun and we're on the run again. Liz hides in a hollowed out tree trunk which totally confuses her attacker but he gets his own back and steals her trousers. So now she's facing a show down with her foe in just vest top and panties. Eventually we reach the clearing we saw in the opening sequence where a large knife has been left in some bamboo. Can Liz do what our previous heroine could not and free the knife to slay the beast?

Well to be honest, yes she can, beheading the beast and when found by the rest of the group the dead creature's partner is a little upset but the elder grants her respect and they all leave. Liz makes it back to the beach where the boat's owner is trying to contact the group on the radio. She destroys the radio and heads out to sea in the raft.

So why don't people like it? Mostly it seems to be the acting, the fact it rips off Predator, the fact it rips off Alien and the fact things don't make sense. I, however, like Alien and the final sequence where she faces the final battle dressed in her most vulnerable attire is straight from that film. This isn't Alien though, it's Predator but with our hero being a girl, and what stronger filmic image to use when supplanting Arnie for a female than that of Lt. Ellen Ripley? Like Ripley she had to be believable, not a musclebound type but someone we can identify with. So that for me works, even if the forgotten ones do look a bit like Predators too. Why not pay homage to these great films? Why not ask "what if Predator faced a woman?"

It is a shame Peter's role wasn't sorted out. He needed to be written as the guy really making the change in his life and showing us the ring (or Jake) before we left harbour then we'd know where he stood. Either that or with no ring and no intention of marrying Liz and showing the island performance as a sham. Ira isn't really a believable partner for Lauren either and Jake risking his life to go after her when trapped shows more depth than any other time. This film is all about the ending though so relationship development has suffered in favour of party montage and then the whole female Predator thing. It is also true that after Peter had been taken from the beach we really didn't need to see him again until the cave. It seems a little self defeating to smash up the radio at the end too, surely Liz not helping her chances of being rescued from what they call a raft but I would call dinghy at best and not taking the beast's head as proof of what happened was just careless. Oh, and the dusk doesn't seem to bother them at all.

I think the moral of this story is that sometimes we have to go through terrible times to find our strengths and independence so that we may grow and find ourselves a better place in life. I could be wrong though, there's no guarantee Liz ended up anywhere better or got rescued at all.

I like the film and would watch it again and again with friends. Not one to watch with a partner but a lot of fun and like seeing some great other movies but without having to think too much. Also bonus points for Jewel Staite. With a budget of $4m and a nice trip to Costa Rica for all involved I'm sure they had a great time filming it too, just a shame about the foley editing in post-production.

Maru's score: 7/10

The Forgotten Ones (2009) on IMDb