Archive for June, 2011

Givin’ The Devil His Due!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 by Brain Hammer

Gory greetings! This edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT features a terrible trio of 70’s horror clas-sicks that prominently feature Old Scratch himself – THE DEVIL! Any friend of the Devil is a friend of mine, and these diabolical delights are all personal favorites. Consider these Brain Hammer tested, and Satan approved.

Open wide the gates of Hell, and LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

 

DEVIL TIMES FIVE (1974)

Three flabby and balding business associates and their skanky looking trophy wives plan a snowy weekend getaway at an isolated mountain resort house. The owner of the house and leader of the paunchy pack is Poppa Doc – the beefy and bullying owner of a successful chain of hospitals and sanitariums. Also along for the ride is Poppa Doc’s whore of a wife Lovely, his daughter Julie, her smart assed husband Rick, and long time employee and doormat Harvey who also brings along his boozing and frigid wife Ruth. Things are tense from the start as Lovely immediately attempts to seduce the cabin’s rabbit loving retarded caretaker, and then gets into a nasty cat fight with Julie.

Meanwhile, a bus crashes nearby allowing the escape of five very disturbed children that were being transported to a mental health facility. The kids hike through the snowy woods for a while until they finally discover Poppa Doc’s house. Their badly injured bus driver follows them into the basement of the house and the creepy children proceed to brutally beat him to death with hammers and chains! After disposing of his body and cutting the phone lines the precocious psychopaths go upstairs and make their presence known. The eternally drunken Ruth discovers the gang huddled on the living room floor.

The kids include a narcissistic cross dresser (played by the soon to be teen idol Leif Garrett!), a cute little black kid who loves to play soldier, an myopic albino dressed as a nun (actually played by a woman in her late twenties – HOT!), a sullen and silent female pyromaniac, and a pint sized moppet with a fish fixation who takes an immediate liking to Poppa Doc’s piranha collection! The grown ups think the kids are a bit odd, or perhaps just shaken up from the accident. Little do they know that the murderous youngsters are secretly stockpiling weapons and silently setting bizarre booby traps. The fun begins with the hanging of the retarded caretaker, and then one by one the adults also fall victim to the devilish deviants.

“Devil Times Five” (aka “The Horrible House On The Hill”) suffered from an incredibly difficult production. The original director quit after only filming about 38 minutes worth of footage – all of which with no coverage for editing! A new director and co-writer were brought in, and several new scenes were shot to pad out the film’s running time. These new scenes mostly consisted of endless (and pointless) arguments between the adult characters and extended shots of the kids trekking through the woods. Leif Garrett had already cut his hair short for another role and was forced to wear a very cheap looking wig in the re shoot scenes. The short lived bus driver was actually played by three different actors! It’s amazing that this low budget film could even be finished under these conditions, much less manage to be a decent horror flick.

I enjoy this one immensely! Despite some glaring continuity and pacing issues this one manages to be a very entertaining and offbeat 70’s horror flick. The highlight has to be the incredibly drawn out and brutal beating that the bus driver receives from the lads. This nearly six minute sepia toned slaughter sequence is extremely unnerving. It reminds me a bit of the clas-sick opening of Lucio Fulci’s “The Beyond.” There’s also lots of bloody mayhem to enjoy, with immolations, hangings, hatchet hijinx, bear traps, and a bathtub full of piranha!

Code Red released an excellent special edition dvd of DEVIL TIMES FIVE that includes an alternate opening sequence, a stills gallery, and the theatrical trailer. There’s also an excellent 22 minute collection of candid interviews with several of the actors and crew, and a full length commentary track that also dishes out the dirt on all the behind the scenes drama. Fans of wacky and obscure 70’s horror flicks should really appreciate this one.

 

 

THE DEVIL’S RAIN (1975)

This one opens on a dark and stormy night. Mrs. Preston (Ida Lupino) and her son Mark (the one & only William Shatner!) are waiting for Father to return. When he does, he quickly melts into a pile of goo. Before he dies he implores his family to “give Corbis what he wants.” Mrs. Preston explains to Mark that “what Corbis whats” is a mysterious book that the Preston family has secretly possessed for three centuries, and is then violently abducted by unseen forces.

Mark heads into the deserted town of Redstone for a showdown with the diabolical Corbis (Ernest Borgnine) – a Satanist who leads a coven and holds black masses inside the long abandoned town chapel. Sadly for Martin, his faith in God is not as strong as Corbis’ faith in Satan and he falls victim to the cult’s diabolical madness.

Meanwhile, Mark’s brother Tom (the poor man’s Charles Bronson himself – Tom Skerritt) and his wife Julie are helping Dr. Sam Richards (Eddie Albert) – an expert in the supernatural, conduct a bizarre public experiment with ESP. Julie has psychic powers and while hooked up to a machine receives visions of the morbid happenings in Redstone. Then Tom receives word that his family has turned up missing. Tom, Julie, and Dr. Richards investigate and despite the warnings of Sheriff Keenan Wynn (Piranha!), they go to Redstone looking for answers. What they find is horror beyond comprehension.

When the Devil’s Rain is unleashed the unfortunate Satanists slowly melt into something resembling soggy pizzas. The original theatrical trailer promised “absolutely the most incredible, unforgettable ending of any motion picture, ever!” It’s hard to argue with that claim, as it’s not often you see a flick that ends with repeated shots of John Travolta’s face being reduced to a bubbling technicolor puddle.

This 1975 effort from director William Fruet is infamous for featuring the late high priest & founder of the Church Of Satan – Anton Szandor LaVey. LaVey was credited as a technical advisor and briefly appears in the film. His lovely wife, the high priestess Diana LaVey also appears in a small role. Their participation ensured a genuine Satanic atmosphere. The biggest influence Anton had on the film was overseeing the set design, which included the creation of a Satanic altar and heavy use of the infernal trapazoid. Anton had a fascination with trapazoids, and believed they possessed profound magical significance. There’s also plenty of authentic Satanic chanting and some fantastic organ playing from Anton as well. Unlike a lot of the more respected 70’s occult themed horror flicks, this one is accurate in portraying the theatrical aspects of Satanism.

A lot of people seem to regard this as a “so bad it’s good” sort of flick, but I think it’s a superior 70’s Satanic epic. The special effects makeup is very impressive, and the acting across the board is excellent. Even Shatner manages to avoid chewing up too much of the scenery! Dark Sky Films released a very nice dvd of THE DEVIL’S RAIN that includes goodies like a commentary track with the director, vintage newsreel footage of LaVey’s black wedding, and a stills gallery. Essential purchase.

 

 

DEVIL DOG: THE HOUND OF HELL (1978)

A cult of Satanists lead by the incredibly sexy looking Martine Beswick of “Dr.No” fame buy a champion breeding German Shepard for use in one of their bizarre rituals. They summon the dark lord “Caninus” and the evil spirit then rapes the dog to create a litter of evil puppies! The cult then sets their sights on the Barry family, your typical bunch of white bread suburbanites. First they kill the Barry’s beloved dog with their black car. Then they send in secret weapon, R.G. Armstrong (Evilspeak!) as an undercover fruit and vegetable salesman who gives the grieving Barry children one of the Satanic pups.

The Barry family’s Hispanic housekeeper Maria is immediately distrustful of the adorable yet ominous looking pup. As a devout Catholic she can somehow sense the evil presence in the house and begs Mike Barry (played by Richard Crenna of “First Blood” fame!) to get rid of the little devil doggie. He quickly dismisses her as an idiot. The possessed pup also grows tired of the maid’s bullshit and when left alone in the house with her he uses his evil puppy powers to set her on fire!

We then flash forward a year and find little Bonnie Barry (Kim Richards!!!) celebrating her thirteenth birthday. Last year she wanted a doll house, this year she wants her ears pierced. The evil puppy has also grown up and is now a full grown devil dog. The devil dog uses its bizarre powers to hypnotize Mike and in a daze he comes very close to sticking his hand into lawnmower blades. The evil canine possesses the children and turns them into sassy back talkers that rig their school elections. Then Mrs. Barry has a carnal confrontation with the demon dog that unleashes her inner whore. She quickly has an affair with the next door neighbor and rubs it her husbands face. Then the devil dog pays the neighbor a visit and drowns him in his pool. Mike discovers his neighbor dead, and then walks in on his wife and kids in the middle of a Satanic ritual in the attic!

Shocked, Mike turns to the family doctor who quickly dismisses him as an idiot. Mike then stumbles upon the conveniently located neighborhood magic shop. The helpful proprietor tells Mike to hold a mirror up to his sleeping daughter’s face so he can see her “true form.” Mike does this, and in a very cool scene it is revealed that his sweet looking daughter is really a prune faced hell hag! Mike then travels to Ecuador (!) to learn the secrets of the hell beast from a medicine man. The mystic carves a magical symbol on Mike’s wrist that he claims will send the beast back to hell. Mike returns home armed with this secret weapon and has an unbelievable final confrontation with the hell hound. But will Mike’s pure soul be enough to stop the infernal beast…and what happened to the rest of the devil dog litter?

This fantastic made for tv horror flick debuted on Halloween night, 1978. Imagine the shock and horror a generation of trick or treaters must have experienced while tuning into this one on that fateful evening. Even by 70’s standards this occult themed flick is incredibly cheesy. The showdown between Richard Crenna and the rear projected horn and afro sporting hell hound is a real pisser. It’s also fairly lurid stuff for a tv movie. A cult of dog raping satanists, devil dogs that possess children, portraits of the dark one etched in blood. Great stuff.

I rank this one right up there with other 70’s made for tv clas-sicks like “Salem’s Lot” and “Gargoyles.” The fine fiends at Shriek Show must agree with me, as they were wise enough to unleash a beautiful looking TWO DISC dvd release of DEVIL DOG: THE HOUND OF HELL that includes a second disc full of bonus features. The highlight is the epic “To The Devil, A Dog” featurette, which includes in depth interviews with stars Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, which runs nearly as long as the movie itself! Own this or suck forever!

 

HAIL SATAN!!! KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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Don’t Get Caught Alive!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 19, 2011 by Brain Hammer

Gory greetings! This latest bloodthisty batch of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT is a terrible trio of hardcore horror favorites from 1980 that are often mislabeled as zombie flicks, despite the fact that there are no living dead in any of them. Prepare yourself for a infectious, living nightmare!

 

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

 

NIGHTMARE CITY (1980)

International superstar Hugo Stiglitz (“Night of 1,000 Cats”) stars as Dean Miller, a reporter who suffers from nightmares. Miller is given an assignment to interview a top scientist who will be arriving at a nearby airport. Shortly after Miller and his cameraman arrive at the airport an unmarked C-130 Hercules makes an emergency landing. The situation quickly becomes tense when the plane’s crew doesn’t respond to radio communication. Airport security surrounds the plane until the doors finally open and out stumbles the dazed looking scientist. The esteemed man of science suddenly stabs the first person who gets close to him and then a small army of oatmeal faced ass kickers with voracious appetites for bloodshed storm out of the plane and begin an all out assault on everything that lives! Massive carnage ensues with multiple dismemberments, machine gun misfires, and throat slittings.

It appears that a radiation leak has transformed thousands of men into monsters who desperately need blood to restore their own mutating plasma. The hordes of flesh eating, blood drinking ghouls quickly take over the airport and then begin swarming into the city. Dean tries to take the incredible story to the public but is shut down by fascist Army officials General Murchison (Mel “Eaten Alive” Ferrer) and Major Holmes (Francisco “The Tempter” Rabal) who want to keep it under wraps. The unsuspecting public eventually gets an eyeful of the maniacs in action when they crash the live taping of an aerobics program and start gouging as many eyes and ripping as many breasts apart as possible!

Dean manages to escape to the nearby hospital where his wife Anna (Laura “Terror” Trotter) works as a doctor. It doesn’t take very long for the ghouls to make their way to the hospital, and they immediately interrupt open heart surgery – which leads to some jaw dropping moments with scalpel throwing surgeons and intravenous blood drinking lunatics! Dean and Anna fight their way out of the hospital, hide inside a gas station which they promptly have to set on fire to escape, and then shoot their way into an amusement park for a deadly ride on a ferris wheel that leads to the incredible mind fuck ending where the “Nightmare” part of the title finally comes into play.

The key to enjoying this flick is to turn off your brain and never take things too seriously. This flick is about as stupid as an Italian horror flick can get, but it certainly delivers the goods for indiscriminating horror fans looking for a bloody good time. The special effects work from Giuseppe Farranti is somewhat laughable, but it never skimps on the splatter. This one might hold the record for the most scenes of eye gouging and breast mutilation! “Nightmare City” is often mistaken for a zombie flick but there are no living dead in this movie. The ghouls here are not lumbering reanimated corpses, but are instead fast moving living and breathing maniacs with oatmeal all over their faces. And as you might expect from an Umberto Lenzi effort, there’s no shortage of gunfire and gratuitous nudity.

Anchor Bay/Blue Underground released a beautiful dvd of NIGHTMARE CITY that was transferred from the original vault materials and presented completely uncut and uncensored. It includes a few nifty bonus features including the theatrical trailer, an Umberto Lenzi bio, and best of all “Tales Of The Contaminated City” – an all new interview with Umberto Lenzi where he offers his unique perspective on the film. Lenzi complains that Stiglitz was a “wooden” leading man forced upon him by the producers and even ponders the influence “Nightmare City” may have had on the Tom Hanks AIDS epic “Philadelphia!” Hilarious stuff that will make you appreciate the film even more. Highly recommended.

 

 

BLOODEATERS (1980)

“Bloodeaters” starts with a bang as a pair of trigger happy federal agents make their way through a forest and then proceed to blow a nasty hole in the throat of a bathing beauty who was sponging off her bare breasts! The murderous feds are on the trail of a pack of marijuana growers as a part of “Operation Torpedo,” and have been instructed to shoot first and ask questions later. A couple of the weed farmers get the drop on the agents and pay them back with stabbing and strangulation.

The hippies’ nice dreams of a 2 million dollar weed harvest go up in smoke, and after much arguing amongst themselves they decide to cut and run. They make plans for one final harvest, snatching as much smoke as they can in a couple of days and leaving the rest for the rabbits before more feds can catch up to them. Miles away, the pair of ruthless government officials in charge of Operation Torpedo – Briggs and Phillips (John “Martin/Martinez” Amplas!) decide to take the law into their own hands and have the forest sprayed with a very dangerous experimental pesticide called “Dromax.” Briggs hires a greasy alcoholic crop duster who burns more fuel than the plane to do the job, which he promptly does with predictably disastrous results.

The Dromax covers the hippies in the fields as they harvest their crops and makes them violently ill. Only two of the hippies manage to escape the field untouched. Incredibly, they bark orders at their friends to hurry up and get ready to leave despite the fact they’ve obviously been poisoned and are puking blood everywhere! The greasy alcoholic crop duster was also poisoned with Dromax and winds up having a bloody showdown with his rancid hag of a wife. The unfortunate side effect of Dromax is that it turns people and animals into bloodthirsty savages. The two hippies that didn’t get sprayed with Dromax quickly realize this when their former friends finally decide to turn on them and attack them with hatchets!

Here’s where things get interesting. The young unsprayed couple only runs a few feet away before the dude can’t run anymore because of the hatchet wound on his shoulder (?). Then they stop at a stream for a drink of water (?!?) before cowering in some bushes, just waiting to be discovered. Oh yeah, and the girl has to cover the dude’s mouth while they hide so he won’t scream like fucking idiot because of the tiny scratch on his shoulder. You can’t put a price on comedy like this. This stuff is fucking priceless. It doesn’t take long for the bloodeaters to find them and put them out of their misery. Then the butchers of the damned hack up an annoying camping couple and make their children orphans in the process. As their mommy and daddy are being slaughtered, Amy and her retarded brother Jimmy get a taste of nature during a tender piano laden montage of Jimmy playing with frogs and snakes.

As all of this carnage is taking place the forest department’s field manager Tom Cole (played by the film’s late writer/director Charles McCrann) decides to invite his brother Jay up for a bachelor’s fishing weekend. Tom’s incredibly shrill and annoying wife Polly promptly invites herself along for the trip and the three of them happily head off into the woods completely oblivious to what has been happening. It doesn’t take long for Tom, Polly, and Jay to stumble upon Amy and Jimmy. They assume that the kids’ parents are probably out frantically looking for them and offer to drive the kids back to town. Along the way Jay does his best to make the little retard smile with his best Chinaman impressions and Polish jokes. Shortly afterward the bloodeaters show up and bash his head in with a rock (no big loss really).

Tom, Polly, and the kids are forced to run for their lives. In desperation they seek shelter in the shack of a miserable old coot who lives alone deep in the woods. The rifle toting old timer is immediately suspicious of Tom because he works for the government, and when the prowling pot farming lunatics show up bearing torches things quickly turn deadly. Somehow, Tom and the others manage to run away and escape into the night. When dawn finally breaks and the worse seems to be behind them, Briggs and Phillips show up to offer them a ride to safety. At first the agents pretend to help the frantic survivors. Then they reveal their deadly desire to cover up the mess that they made and drive back into the forest of fear for a final bloodbath. They thought they were just killing some weeds!

I’m a big fan of this 1980 low budget horror classic that is often dismissed as a cheap Romero knock off. The alternate title “Toxic Zombies” doesn’t do much to clarify things either. Just like the other flicks in this batch of PICKS, there are no living dead in this movie. The “bloodeaters” are living, breathing humans that have been turned into sick and vicious cannibal killers after being exposed to experimental pesticide.

There’s no gory gut munching on display, but there’s more then a little bit of bloody mayhem as the butchers wield their deadly hatchets and machetes. There’s also a lot of unpleasant extended shots of flies crawling around on bloody wounds. It’s all more than enough to have the film deemed as “sick and nauseous” by some, and “Bloodeaters” was even temporarily banned in the UK as a “video nasty.” Old school fans of USA Network (myself included!) might remember seeing this one a few times back in the day when it was featured on “Commander USA’s Groovy Movies.”

Sadly, this film has slipped into semi-obscurity and is perhaps best known today because the writer/director/and star Charles McCrann lost his life in the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. It’s a shame that this one doesn’t get mentioned more often, as it is a rather kick ass old school horror flick. I would love to see a proper dvd release of this film, it deserves a much larger audience.

 

 

THE CHILDREN (1980)

An accidental leak at a nuclear power plant causes a thick orange mist to form in the air. A school bus with five cute little kiddies on board has the misfortune of driving through the poison cloud as they pass by the plant. The town sheriff later finds the empty bus still running on the side of the road with no one inside. He then spends the rest of the picture setting up a roadblock with his dimwitted redneck buddies and slowly driving around the countryside, occasionally stopping along the way to ask the pot smoking, weight lifting, fowl poaching townsfolk if they’ve seen or heard anything unusual.

The missing bus driver’s charred remains are later discovered in the town cemetery and they resemble an overdone eggplant parmesan. The caustic radioactive cloud has transformed the children of Ravensback into pint sized atomic predators with deadly black fingernails! Their slightest touch causes flesh to spectacularly sizzle and burn away. The warm embrace of the pale faced children ensures a violent demise, and they happily greet their worried parents with open arms.

The mutant children are also impervious to pain and seemingly indestructible. The Sheriff quickly discovers that bullets won’t stop them and in a moment of inspiration grabs a conveniently located replica samurai sword and hacks off one the little brat’s hands – killing it instantly! Armed with the sword and a hatchet, the sheriff and one of the surviving fathers then head into a barn where the children have congregated for an incredible final flesh ripping showdown with the toxic tots.

I first saw this flick as a wee Brain Hammer and loved it. Watching it again many years later, it doesn’t really hold up that well. The acting is horrible, the budget is clearly microscopic, and there are more than a few boring stretches where nothing happens. Despite those flaws, “The Children” is still a damn entertaining flick that I enjoy immensely. The multiple scenes where the creepy looking kids hug their parents and turn them into barbecue are classics. The splashy dismemberments are always shown in loving detail, and are sure to please gore hounds. Not to mention the sheer hilarity of watching grown men blasting a shotgun at children and hacking off their limbs with a samurai sword!

The script has a few interesting attempts at characterization, and largely portrays the older generation as being self absorbed idiots that pollute the world and ignore their children. Then the children turn into monsters and turn on their parents. The twist ending can be seen a mile away, but never fails to crack me up with repeat viewings. This film is well made, despite it’s obviously modest origins. The score from Harry Manfredini is fantastic and would later be recycled into another little known horror flick Harry worked on that year – “Friday The 13th!”

This clas-sick genre flick used to go for a fortune on ebay until the good folks at Troma put the ruthless profiteers out of business by releasing a dvd of THE CHILDREN that includes a wealth of bonus features. There’s a commentary track with the producer/co-writer Carlton J Albright, several featurettes with the cast, crew, and fans, an introduction from Lloyd Kaufman, and the usual nonsense you’ve come to love and expect from a Troma dvd release. The print quality leaves a lot to be desired (it sometimes looks like someone wiped their ass with the frames!) but otherwise this is a top notch release, and a must have.

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

 

 

The Dead Shall Rise!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 19, 2011 by Brain Hammer

Your old pal Brain Hammer is back from the grave and ready to party! This latest batch of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT are a terrible trio of cult clas-sick Italian zombie flicks from 1980. The undead will feast!

 

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)

A gifted psychic named Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) dies from sheer fright during a séance after receiving a morbid vision of a priest named Father Thomas hanging himself in the cemetery of a cursed town called Dunwhich. Dunwhich is built upon “the ruins of the original Salem” which also hide one of the seven gates of Hell. As foretold in the book of Enoch, the suicidal preacher hanging himself causes the unfaithful servant to go straight to Hell and for the next three days the moon will turn red and the cities’ dead will walk the earth. Horrendous, awful things begin happening in Dunwhich that will shatter your imagination.

For starters, Mary isn’t really dead and was buried alive. Luckily for Mary, the pathologist played by none other than Lucio Fulci himself didn’t bother giving her an autopsy! Mary is saved from an agonizing death inside her partially buried coffin after a hard boiled reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George – RIP) slowly realizes that Mary is screaming at the top of her lungs inside the casket and does the only logical thing – he grabs a fucking pick axe and slams it right into the part of the coffin where Mary’s face would be! After saving Mary’s life Peter hesitatingly agrees to join her on the quest to find the mysterious town of Dunwhich. According to the prophecies of Enoch, if the portals of Hell aren’t closed by All Saints Day no dead body will ever be able to rest in peace again and the dead will rise up all over the earth and take over the world. Peter and Mary have to destroy Father Thomas’ body to close the gates of hell and save humanity.

Meanwhile, the horror in Dunwhich reaches a fevered pitch as the dead priest wanders the town looking for victims. Staring into the eyes of the evil priest is enough to cause one unfortunate girl (Daniela Dora) to cry tears of blood and then puke up her internal organs, much to shock and disgust of her soon to be brain dead boyfriend (future director Michelle Soavi!). The plague of the dead also manifests itself in the form of sudden earthquakes that cause massive property damage to the local watering hole, angry cat scratching that rips the flesh of a neurotic woman named Sandra (Janet Agren) with incest issues, and undead grandmothers that chomp off a mortician’s fingers.

The town’s madness begins to infect its dimwitted citizens as well. A jealous father takes out his rage and confusion on the town pervert – Bob (the one and only Giovanni Lombardo Radice!) and puts a power drill through his brain. Once Peter and Mary finally make their way to the cursed city they are welcomed by maggots that fall like rain. Peter and Mary brush off the maggots and then team up with Sandra and her shrink Gerry (Carlo De Mejo) before heading into the decrepit catacombs underneath the priest’s grave site for a fiery final showdown with the possessed priest.

This is my favorite Lucio Fulci film, and one of my all time favorite films too. I’ve been a big fan since witnessing the film’s ability to shock and horrify firsthand. I was introduced to this one via a 1990 rental of the Paragon “Gates Of Hell” vhs that caused several of my friends (and their little sisters) to leave the room disgusted. Since then, I’ve watched this one more times than I can count. I think “City Of The Living Dead” is a perfect film, and Fulci’s true masterpiece. This is also my favorite of the many genius works that Lucio Fulci and writer Dardano Sacchetti worked on together. A lot of people prefer “The Beyond,” but I think “City Of The Living Dead” has a much more blasphemous and hallucinogenic vibe. It’s also a considerably more stylish film than “The Beyond” and possesses a truly morbid atmosphere that few other horror flicks can come close to matching.

The late great Christopher George turns in another one of his trademark winning performances. Chris was on a fucking tear in the early 80’s, appearing in one classic genre flick after another before his untimely death in 1983. He also starred in the classic 1980 vigilante flick “The Exterminator” and the following year appeared in both “Enter The Ninja” and “Graduation Day.” Who knows how many more amazing films Christopher would have starred in if only given the chance? The mind boggles. It’s great that Christopher and Lucio were able to work together, even if they didn’t get along and Christopher supposedly filled Fulci’s pipe full of maggots!

Fulci’s favorite leading lady, Catriona MacColl (“The Beyond,” “House By The Cemetery”) and his favorite female victim – Daniela Dora (“The New York Ripper,” “House By The Cemetery”) both star here and both contribute greatly to the film’s success. Catriona does a remarkable job in the role of Mary. Her scene inside the coffin when she wakes up buried alive is fantastic. Daniela steals the entire movie and instantly ensured a place in the annals of horror history for participating in what has to be one of the most insanely sickening death scenes ever captured on film. Daniela proved her “guts” by having the nerve to swallow actual sheep entrails and regurgitate them on camera at Fulci’s command! This is only one of the memorable moments of “City Of The Living Dead,” but the iconic image of Daniela crying tears of blood and then slowly puking up her innards is what immediately comes to a horror fan’s mind when you hear the title.

The living dead mostly take a back seat to the buckets of blood and maggots, but there should be more than enough gut barfing and brain ripping to keep gorehounds happy. The splatter effects from Gino De Rossi (“Zombi II,” “Cannibal Ferox”) are about as top notch as they come. But for some random and completely hysterical reason, whenever the frequently repeated closeup shot of the brain ripping is shown the hand doing the ripping clearly belongs to a black man with hairy knuckles! This makes the climax to the aforementioned gut barfing scene unintentionally hilarious as clearly it’s not Daniela’s hand ripping out Michelle Soavi’s brain. The zombies we do get to see look fantastic, as they were created by the legendary Rosario Prestopino (“Zombi II,” “Burial Ground)”. “City Of The Living Dead” is a film with GUTS, and a lot of them.

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD should be considered mandatory viewing for all horror fans. Sharp eyed Italian horror buffs will get a kick out of seeing so many familiar faces. (Watch out for Perry Pirkanen of “Cannibal Ferox/Holocaust” legend in a small yet pivotal role as a perverted gravedigger!) I really can’t say enough good things about this one. “City Of The Living Dead” is a horror clas-sick. Anchor Bay and Blue Underground have both released “City Of The Living Dead” on dvd. The dvd features the theatrical trailer and radio spots. BUY IT!!!

 

 

HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)

“Hell Of The Living Dead” begins with some distinctly inept and Aryan First World scientific types cooking up a demented plan to make the Third World savages eat their dead instead of starving to death. “Operation Sweet Death” is suddenly unleashed upon the population of New Guinea after an accident at one of the evil government chemical plants releases the infectious lethal virus that unexpectedly causes it’s victims to instantly return from the dead as bloodthirsty zombies.

A SWAT team on vacation in New Guinea after recently eliminating some pesky Earth conscious terrorists stumble upon the zombies and waste a lot bullets blowing holes in them before finally discovering the value of a head shot. The crack commandos team up with a sexy female reporter with a knack for nude anthropology and her headstrong and tender tummied cameraman, and try to escape the jungle with their lives and limbs intact. The survivors seek refuge inside a large mysterious mansion and discover both the origins of “Operation Sweet Death” and a horrific horde of the creeping dead waiting to devour their living flesh.

I’d be lying if I called this movie anything but fucking garbage, but it’s some highly entertaining fucking garbage. “Hell Of The Living Dead” was one of many Italian made zombie movies made in the early 80’s to cash in on the incredible success of George Romero’s “Zombi” and Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi II.” The dreaded duo of co-writers and directors Bruno Mattei (“Rats: Night Of Terror”) and Claudio Fragasso (“Monster Dog”) were at the helm of this notorious horror howler that was released countless times under multiple titles including “Virus,” “Zombie Creeping Flesh,” and “Night Of The Zombies.” “Hell Of The Living Dead” runs an incredible 103 minutes, and is ruthlessly padded with stock jungle documentary footage that includes endless shots of birds and monkeys in action and is peppered with pungent shots of rotting skeletons and bloated naked corpses.

On the plus side, if you can somehow get past the sheer overwhelming length of the film and survive the countless reels of alternately tedious or nauseating stock jungle footage you will find a very amusing rip off of Romero’s “Zombi.” Goblin’s fantastic score for “Zombi,” as well as cues from their “Contamination” score are lifted and recycled here, most likely without their permission. Hearing the score to “Zombi,” and watching a bunch of blue jumpsuit sporting SWAT unit members running around with machine guns battling zombies – it’s pretty much impossible not to compare this movie to Romero’s far superior undead effort.

What originality there is mostly comes in the form of the impressively gory and over the top scenes of zombie carnage and the sheer unintentional hilarity of the storyline, dialog and dubbing. “Hell Of The Living Dead” has a well established reputation for being one of the very worst Italian horror flicks of all time. It’s hard for me to hate any old school zombie flick with this many repeated scenes of zombies gorging on guts, zombie children getting the machine gun treatment they deserve, rotting priests with pearly white teeth, and a dead grandma with rats in her gaping abdominal cavity! Special attention must also be given to leading lady Margit Evelyn Newton, who looks fantastic while running around the jungle naked and while getting hers in the film’s eye popping climax.

Both Anchor Bay and (more recently) Blue Underground have released HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD on dvd (same disc, different packaging). The film is presented completely uncut and uncensored and the dvd also includes the theatrical trailer, poster & still gallery, and “Hell Rats Of The Living Dead” – a brief interview with Bruno Mattei. “Hell Of The Living Dead” is never going to considered one of the all time greats, but the massive amounts of gore, gunfire, and Goblin should make this sick flick a big winner for Italian horror fans with a taste for cheese, sleaze and cheap laughs.

 

 

ZOMBI HOLOCAUST (1980)

The legendary Ian McCulloch (“Zombi II,” “Contamination”) stars as a NYC detective named Peter Chandler. Peter teams up with the beautiful and brilliant Dr. Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli) to investigate a bizarre series of cadaver mutilations occurring at a hospital. Corpses begin turning up with freshly removed limbs and internal organs. The deviant butcher is revealed to be a native of the primitive island of Kito named Turin. Crazed with blood lust, Turin refuses to be captured and jumps out of a window to his death (watch out for the mannequin arm that snaps off and flies away and then magically reappears!).

Coincidentally enough, Lori is an expert in anthropology who grew up in Kito as a child. Peter convinces her to return to the remote island on the Archipelago along with himself, detective George Harper (Peter O’ Neil) and George’s annoying reporter girlfriend Susan (Sherry Buchanan). Lori assures Peter that “all primitive people practiced cannibalism – without exception,” yet Peter is convinced that the answers to the mysterious mutilations will be found in Kito. Peter contacts a world famous surgeon named Dr. Obrero (Donald O’ Brien) who heals the natives in the small islands near Kito. Dr. Obrero warns the group that the natives of Kito are the most savage that he has ever encountered and that they reject any attempts of being civilized. He then offers the group a boat to Kito and his dimwitted assistant Molotto (Dakkar, who played a similar role in “Zombi II”) as a captain/guide.

Shortly after arriving at Kito, the group is welcomed to the jungle by the fierce cannibal tribe. The cannibals quickly make a hot lunch out the trio of natives that were working as guides. Then the following day the cannibals capture George and Susan. George has his eyes gouged out shortly before losing his limbs, and Susan is apparently scalped, as one of the cannibals is later found wearing her bloody hair as a wig. Peter and Lori are then saved from imminent devourment by the inexplicable appearance of the walking dead! The rotting zombies scare off the cannibals, which gives Peter, Lori, and Molotto enough time to escape and run away.

They meet up with Dr. Obrero at a nearby chapel and Dr. Obrero again offers them a helping hand, this time in the form of a small motor boat located just up the beach. After a wild battle on the beach where he reduces a zombie’s face to pulp with an outboard motor, Peter begins to smell a rat and starts to suspect that Dr. Obrero might be hiding a secret even more sinister than the cannibals or the zombies. His suspicions quickly lead himself and Lori back into danger, and it isn’t long before Peter gets an up close and personal look at Dr. Obrero’s brain transplant experiments and Lori is captured by the cannibal tribe, stripped nude, and treated as a golden goddess by an Ace Frehley lookalike in a bizarre mating ritual.

Once the four idiots make their way to Kito the flick plays out in similar fashion to cannibal clas-sicks like “Cannibal Holocaust” and “Emmanuelle And The Last Cannibals.” Then the zombies finally show up and the shit really hits the fan as the film wraps itself up and begins shamelessly ripping off Fulci’s “Zombi II.” The ending of the film, which takes place in a burning primitive hospital is a direct lift from Fulci’s film.

On the plus side, the splatter in this flick is simply outrageous. There’s a very juicy neck slitting that I particularly enjoy. The scenes of Dr. Butcher in action hacking away at Sherry Buchanan’s brain and vocal chords are also especially pukeworthy. The unbeatable combination of cannibals, zombies, and primitive brain surgery ensures that no flesh will be spared and guarantees a good time for gorehounds.

Marino Girolami’s “Zombi Holocaust” is one of my favorite zombie flicks. It’s an undisputed grindhouse classic that was marketed to perfection in the States under the title “Dr. Butcher M.D.” The immortal tag line “He is a depraved sadistic rapist, a bloodthirsty homicidal killer – and he makes house calls!” is one of the greatest of all time. That description of the film is completely inaccurate of course, but they don’t call them exploitation flicks for nothing. The marketing of the film and the opening scenes that take place in NYC set this up as more of a simple slasher flick and that works at keeping the unsuspecting first time viewer off guard. “Zombi Holocaust” can best be described as a brutal combination of the always popular cannibal and zombie sub genres.

Shriek Show released an excellent dvd of ZOMBI HOLOCAUST that includes an uncut anamorphic wide screen transfer, still and poster gallery, trailers, talent bios, an interview with special effects maestro Maurizio Trani, and bonus scenes from Roy Frumke’s unfinished film “Tales That’ll Rip Your Heart Out” that were originally added to the US theatrical version. There’s also some fantastic liner notes from writer Chris Poggiali and nifty reversible cover art. Good gory fun!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD AND GUTS FLOWING!!!