Cameron Mitchell Madness!!!

The late, great Cameron Mitchell (1918 – 1994) was a veteran character actor, with well over 200 acting credits to his name! Westerns, comedies, sword & sandal epics, war pictures, TV shows – the man truly did it all. Cameron is beloved to horror fans for appearing in the 1964 Mario Bava giallo classic “Blood & Black Lace” and for starring in the controversial 1978 shocker “The Toolbox Murders.”

Over the years Cameron appeared in numerous cheaply produced “B” movies. This edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT features three of the very best of those efforts. Best of all, all three of these fantastic fucked up flicks are widely available on dvd, and can be easily found for CHEAP. Several “budget” dvd companies have released these flicks on dvd, either by themselves or included in one of those “horror collection” box sets.

 

In honor of Cameron Mitchell (RIP) – let the bloodshed begin!!!

 

THE DEMON (1979)

THE DEMON is a very strange South African (!) slasher flick about a demonic masked killer who sports a glove with tiny knives for finger nails and enjoys slowly asphyxiating his victims with plastic bags. This one starts out with the violent abduction of a young girl. Her distraught parents call in psychic detective Cameron Mitchell to investigate. Cameron hams it up big time, and sweats, slobbers, and stammers his way through a very over the top performance as a psychic sheet sniffer. After checking out the girl’s bedroom (check out the groovy Patrick Duffy & David Soul posters!) he provides the family with child-like drawings of “the demon” and helpfully explains that “he is less than a man and more of a man…much more.”

We then meet our “final girl,” a young nursery school teacher (Jennifer Holmes) named Mary who keeps getting the feeling she’s being followed. Mary shares a house with her disco bunny cousin Jo. Jo is dating a swinger in tight pants by the name of Dean, and the film is ruthlessly padded with scenes of their 70’s styled romance. The demon kills time by waiting outside of “Boobs Disco” and is rewarded with a freshly ejected drunken skank to assault. He chases her down with his deadly glove and has a wild run in with a gaggle of bikers and pimps along the way! Just when you thought things couldn’t get any weirder, a little kid discovers a skeleton with a blonde wig up in a tree, the father of the kidnapped girl tracks down the demon and gets snuffed for his efforts, and Cameron has an explosive final encounter with the missing girl’s mother!

The film then lets you catch your breath and slowly settles into the third act, where the killer finally begins the assault on Mary and her friends. Prank phone calls, a broken key inside a doorknob, and a sudden blackout all lead into a lengthy game of cat & mouse where the demon stalks Mary in the darkness. Hats off to director Percival Ruebens for the infinitely wise decision to keep his leading lady topless for a good five minutes or more during the climax!

This often overlooked old school horror flick is in many ways a “prototype” slasher flick. It features a lot of the classic slasher ingredients that would later be featured in classic 80’s slasher flicks. It borrows heavily from John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and lifts its lethal glove from Mario Bava’s “Blood & Black Lace.” (which also starred Cameron Mitchell) This flick also comes off as terminally confused. “The demon” is never really defined or explained, much like “the shape” in “Halloween.” In some scenes he appears to have super human strength, but by the end of the film the supernatural elements are forgotten. It appears that this one started off as more of a fantasy and was then changed, perhaps in the middle of production, to become more of a clone of Carpenter’s film. It feels like two films being spliced together.

Despite these flaws this one is certainly worth a look for hardcore fans of obscure 70’s horror. The plot is anything but routine, and is full of wild twists and turns that will keep the viewer entertained. It doesn’t deliver a lot of chills, but it provides more than enough tacky 70’s atmosphere, cheap laughs, and jaw dropping WEIRDNESS to keep me satisfied. Cameron Mitchell steals the whole movie. It’s well worth tracking down a copy just to watch him chew up the scenery. “What we’re dealing with here is an aberration of the species – hallucinating evil!”

 

NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985)

This unbearably wacky anthology horror film features God (Ferdy Mayne!) & Satan (Lu Cifer) riding in a train full of break dancing, lip syncing retards. The train is destined to crash at dawn, killing everyone on board. (no big loss really) God & Satan pass the time before the crash bickering with each other and reviewing the “cases” of the recently deceased before passing judgment on them.

The first tale is a condensed version of an unfinished horror film entitled “Scream Your Head Off,” which was written by Phillip Yordan and directed by John Carr. John Phillip Law (“Diabolik”) stars as Harry Billings, your average joe with a thirst for cars, women, and booze. Harry accidentally kills his wife in a car crash on their wedding night and winds up in a sanitarium, about to enter a new world of terror. The evil sanitarium is run by the demented doctors Fuller & Brewer and their psychotic henchman Otto, played by none other than Richard “Bull” Moll of “Night Court” fame! The doctors run a black market business where they abduct young girls, torture them, and then dismember them so they can sell the limbs to medical schools around the world.

Harry is brainwashed with electroshock therapy, hypnosis, and mind altering drugs until he becomes an unwilling accomplice to their crimes. Harry combs the local bars and churches looking for whores to abduct. Harry also becomes the lover of Dr. Fuller, who eventually decides to double cross Dr. Billings and have him lobotomized. Harry finally wakes up from his drug induced stupor and leaves Fuller in the demented hands of her former partner in crime.

The second story is an abbreviated version of the offbeat 1983 horror flick “Death Wish Club,” which was also done by Yordan & Carr. A millionaire picks up a slut at a carnival and gets her a career in porn. A young medical student sees one of her fuck flicks and falls in love with her. He quickly winds up shacking up with the slut, which pisses her sugar daddy off to no end. The two young lovers are then kidnapped after a brutal bout of hotel room kung fu fighting and forced to join a bizarre “club” that likes to play Russian roulette styled games. A giant poisonous insect flies around the group before escaping through a window and killing a person outside. An electrocution machine fries a Jimi Hendrix lookalike until his eyeballs melt(Excuse me while I smoke!). Finally, a giant construction wrecking ball crushes a woman inside a sleeping bag.

The final and most lengthy tale of terror is a punched up version of the 1980 occult horror film “Cataclysm,” which was written by Yordan and directed by Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan, & Greg Tallas. This one is an unholy brew of atheists (Richard Moll, making a second appearance), Nazis, “Omen” styled religious fanatics, cloven footed demons, and an Anti-Christ itching to rule the world. Cameron Mitchell stars as an overworked and bitter cop trying to solve the mystery of “Olivier,” an eternally young looking Satanist and former Nazi who has sold his soul to the true God – Satan in exchange for eternal life. Olivier tries to recruit the controversial author of the best selling book “God Is Dead” into his infernal army, and winds up having to fight the author’s devout Catholic wife in a battle to the death.

Incredibly all five of the aforementioned directors get a credit for NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR. Phillip Yordan wrote the wrap around story, which attempts to link the footage together. As you can imagine, all three stories suffer a great deal from the massive amounts of editing required to splice them all together into one feature length film. “Death Wish Club” gets it the worst. The story is so badly butchered, all continuity and characterization goes right out the window. “Cataclysm” loses most of its plot, but in exchange gets a couple of freshly added scenes with very cheap looking clay monsters. “Scream Your Head Off” is the gem of the trio. That unfinished film had the potential to be very cool, and the gory footage from it that’s used here gives “Night Train To Terror” a big boost. Too bad that one was never completed.

The end result is considerably more than a little…uneven. The first two stories fly by at a lightning pace, but “Cataclysm” drags on at over 40 minutes long. Most of the splatter can be found in the first half of the film, which features a fair amount of hacked limbs, severed heads, and rupturing facial wounds. The use of gratuitous nudity and hysterically cheap looking clay animation is always appreciated. The wrap around story is ridiculous (why would God & Satan ride a train that crashes?) and the production value of the new footage is pretty much abysmal. There’s also an incredibly annoying theme song which is maddeningly repeated throughout the movie.

It would all be more than enough to spell sheer disaster if the film wasn’t so damn entertaining. There’s no reason why this should work, but it does. It doesn’t make any sense, but it doesn’t matter. This one defies all logic and demands to be appreciated for the bizarre work of art that it is! A brain damaged masterpiece of schlock cinema. Fans of flicks that are “so bad they’re good” should consider this a must see!

 

 

MEMORIAL VALLEY MASSACRE (1988)

Cameron Mitchell takes the money and runs with a brief appearance as the sleazy owner of Memorial Valley Campground, a dumpy campsite that opens to the public while still unfinished and under construction. Cameron’s determined to cash in on the Memorial Day weekend, and isn’t concerned with the rash of mysterious accidents that have recently plagued the park. Not even finding a dead guard dog in the water supply is enough to change his mind. Cameron leaves his fresh faced college boy son in charge and is never seen again. (He must have been due on the set of “Space Mutiny!”) Sonny boy immediately ruffles the feathers of the tough talking manager of the campground, played by John Kerry – sadly b-movie actor John Kerry, not Senator John Kerry.

A haggard collection of idiot campers decide to rough it and set up shop in the woods for the weekend. The campers include beefy bearded bikers and their raunchy road mommas, cock teasing wet t-shirt sporting skanks and their sexually frustrated speed metal blasting boyfriends, and an unspeakably ugly family of slobs complete with an obese yet impish and possibly gay son with a penchant for motorized mischief. The legendary b-movie actor William Smith also shows up and turns in a great performance as a gravelly voiced alcoholic former General who never leaves his RV. Call it clever scripting if you wish, but I personally think William wasn’t getting paid enough to do much more than sit around and pound booze. His voice sounds like he was swallowing hot coals and gargling toxic waste before every take.

After some unbearably wacky footage of campers dropping their pots & pans, we discover that the person responsible for the recent acts of sabotage is actually a CAVEMAN! Yes indeed, a genuine throwback. Raised alone in a “micro eco-system,” this savage stalks the woods of Memorial Valley attacking anyone or anything that disturbs the peace. Sadly, this “killer caveman” looks more like a lanky bucktoothed teenager in a Tina Turner wig and black socks. Even more hilarity is provided by the tubby Chris Farley in training man-child who steals everything in sight and tears up the woods on his sweet ass ATV. When these two titans collide the sparks really start to fly!

Speaking of sparks, how this “primitive” would know how to ignite a gas tank is never explained. But at least it allows William Smith to leave the picture with a bang. The caveman also possesses the inexplicable ability to sabotage cars and radios, and can even drive a bulldozer! He easily snuffs several of the campers before the final incredible plot twist is revealed – the caveman is really the long lost son of the grouchy campground manager! After the father & son reunion turns deadly the nerdy neanderthal returns to the woods defeated and alone and the camp is closed for good, or at least until the sequel – which the complete and total failure of this film mercifully spared us.

Writer/director Robert C. Hughes is responsible for this one. He also helmed the far superior 1987 “hicks in the sticks” picture “Hunter’s Blood” with Clu Gulager. Hughes could always be counted on for beautiful outdoor photography and knowing how to keep a picture moving. MEMORIAL VALLEY MASSACRE isn’t nearly as tense or atmospheric as “Hunter’s Blood,” but it probably wasn’t meant to be. This one is a lot more lighthearted, and goes pretty easy on the splatter for a slasher flick. As a result, it works more as a unintentional comedy than a straight horror film.

This ultra low budget horror epic is a real pisser. A product of the gloriously cheesy 80’s for sure, with the sort of bad acting, big hair, and annoying keyboard music you’ve come to expect and love. If you’re looking for a fun horror flick to watch while killing a few brain cells this one will do nicely.

 

CHUCK U FARLEY!!! KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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