Some Weird Sin

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Now here’s something you don’t see every day: a Belgian horror film. The Devil’s Nightmare aka Vampire Playgirls concerns seven tourists staying at a creepy Gothic castle. First off, you sickies will want to know that two of them are gorgeous lesbians…

 

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Anyway, just as they’re getting settled in, they’re joined by scrumptious redhead Erika Blanc (Kill Baby Kill, The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave) who turns out to be a succubus and proceeds to kill off each tourist in the manner of the Seven Deadly Sins…That is, when she’s not trying to seduce the handsome young priest staying there. The man must have superhuman willpower to resist such a seductive bombshell beauty as Erika, even for a second. I’ve always had a great affection for this movie…probably because I was at the height of pubescent hormonal frenzy when I first saw it on Commander USA’S Groovie Movies

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I Wanna Go To The Carnival

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Ray Dennis Steckler made a lot of oddball cult classics in the 60’s but this one is his epic masterpiece…filmed for the exorbitant sum of $38,000. The plot? Shiftless slacker Jerry (Steckler himself), his girlfriend Angela (Sharon Walsh) and roommate Harold (Atlas King, a Greek immigrant who didn’t speak English) decide to go to the local carnival and have their fortunes told. They visit Madame Estrella (Brett O’Hara, who spent most of her career as Susan Hayward’s stand-in) who, unbeknownst to our intrepid trio, has a small army of zombies in the back room…and she thinks that Jerry would make a nice addition to her collection. Sure, the zombies are gnarly-looking, but wait til you clap eyes upon her assistant Ortega (Jack Brady)…Either they did a makeup job on him that would make Tom Savini envious…or he could’ve been the next Rondo Hatton…

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Soon Madame Estrella uses a hypno-wheel (a variation on the gadget they used to sell out of comic books, along with x-ray spex and trick chewing gum) to mesmerize Jerry and turn him into her personal killing machine, which she commands to kill several of the other performers in the area. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the movie is a musical, full of bizarre, elaborate production numbers that provide relief from the terror every few minutes. Like any other Steckler movie, rule numero uno is don’t try to figure it out logically…just go with it, man. So, what sets this movie apart from Steckler’s other work…and typical B-movies in general? It was shot by Lazlo Kovacs, Joseph V. Mascelli and Vilmos Zsigmond, three of the greatest cinematographers of all time…when they were just off the boat. So the movie looks beautiful…and their talents really add to the dizzying, surreal feel of the film…The whole thing is like the weirdest dream you’ve ever had…the kind that either sends you to a shrink or makes you lay off spicy foods before bed…

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Sweet Young Thing

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Writer/Director Frederick R. Friedel only made two movies…but they’re both exploitation classics. The first, Axe (originally titled Lisa Lisa and also shown under the titles Virgin Sacrifice and California Axe Massacre) follows the exploits of two sadistic criminals (played by Jack Canon and Ray Greene) and their reluctant cohort (Friedel himself) who decide to lam out at a farmhouse occupied by a paralyzed, catatonic grandpa and his dutiful, quiet, withdrawn granddaughter Lisa (Leslie Lee). The hoods make themselves at home…but soon learn that Lisa has alot more going on upstairs than meets the eye, and is no one to be trifled with. Axe is more than you’d expect too, with moments of lyrical beauty and strangeness that leavens the brutality of this twisted little thriller…

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Friedel’s second picture, Kidnapped Coed aka Kidnap Lover, is similar in plot to Axe (beautiful damsel in distress) and has outbursts of bloody violence…but at its core is a bit lighter and less disturbing. Jack Canon from Axe returns to play another thug, who kidnaps a teenage heiress (Leslie Rivers) for ransom. At first it’s a frightening situation…but gradually the kidnapper and the heiress form an unlikely bond and the film almost becomes a romantic comedy. I love the way Friedel plays with the cliches of exploitation cinema, almost in a nouvelle vague kind of way. He’s a true auteur and it’s a shame that he didn’t continue making films…

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Out Of Limits

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Starcrash is the most outlandish of all the Star Wars ripoffs. And it’s Italian. Italian sci fi is always off-the-wall. Caroline Munro (Maniac, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter) is Stella Star, basically a distaff Han solo. Marjoe Gortner (Food Of The Gods) is the Luke Skywalker-like Akton, the man with the magic hands. Joe Spinell (Maniac, Taxi Driver, Cruising) is the Vaderesque Count Zartharn. Did I mention that there’s a cowboy robot? Don’t try to make too much sense of the script… Starcrash is what you’d get if you gave a 12 year old sci fi geek $350,000 and said “Make the most awesome sci fi movie ever.” Director Luigi Cozzi is a sci fi fiend himself, and the film is jam packed with homages to his favorites: Invaders From Mars, old Flash Gordon serials…there’s even some Harryhausen style stop-motion animation. Just sit back and revel in its gorgeous psychedelic colors and campy, comic booky dialogue. Starcrash is an absolute blast…

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Who Wants To Live Forever?

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Here it is, folks: The Citizen Kane of Star Wars ripoffs. Produced by Roger Corman and scripted by future indie film director extraordinaire John Sayles, Battle Beyond The Stars is the story of Shad (John Boy Walton himself, Richard Thomas) a peaceful farmboy who must assemble a crack team of intergalactic mercenaries to save his planet (Akir) from ruthless conqueror Sador (John Saxon). The team he eventually assembles consists of the laid back earthling Cowboy (George Peppard) angry reptile Cayman, gonzo Saint Exmin (the bodacious, badass Sybil Danning) Five clones named Nestor, and the haunted, hunted Gelt (the late Robert Vaughn).  Vaughn is basically reprising his role from The Magnificent Seven, which was a huge influence on not only this film but Star Wars as well. Being the most expensive film Corman ever produced, the special effects are alot better than usual and the film looks great. And it’s so much fun, with a witty script and plenty of outer space action. It’s one of my all-time favorite space operas…

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He’s Bad He’s Mean He’s A Lovin’ Machine

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Black Shampoo is, of course, ostensibly a blaxploitation ripoff of Hal Ashby’s Shampoo… but other than centering on a straight hairdresser who beds every woman he meets, there’s not much else in common. It was directed by Greydon Clark, who also directed Satan’s Cheerleaders and acted in Al Adamson movies. John Daniels is Mr. Johnathan, whose salon is being leaned on by the mob (yep, you pretty much can’t have a blaxploitation flick without mobsters) who refuses to be intimidated. Besides the requisite sex and action violence there’s the usual politically incorrect humor, all the outrageous ingredients that make for a classic blaxploitation flick…

 

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Here Comes The Sun

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What we’ve got here is a novel sci-fi twist on the age-old werewolf mythos…Robert Clarke (who also produced and directed) stars as a scientist exposed to radiation, who instead of a wolfman, becomes a humanoid lizard, and during broad daylight, not moonlight. He’s truly hideous and pretty scary…and the movie is alot of fun, as most 50’s/60’s sci-fi is. Oh, and astute viewers will recognize that some of the theme music was also used in Night Of The Living Dead

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