Christopher George Tribute!!!

This latest edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT is my tribute to the late, great Hollywood leading man Christopher George. His incredibly prolific acting career started with playing a Warlock on an episode of “Bewitched!” From there, Christopher would go on to appear in numerous feature films including classics such as “El Dorado,” “Chisum,” and “Midway,” and several popular television shows including “Wonder Woman,”  “Fantasy Island,” and “The Love Boat!”

Hardcore horror fans should immediately recognize Christopher George from the number of legendary horror and exploitation flicks that he appeared in from the late 70’s right up until his untimely death from a heart attack in 1983. After yet another late-night viewing of “Day Of The Animals,” I decided the time was right to throw the spotlight on several of those awesome Christopher George flicks.

In honor of the one & only Christopher George…LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

GRIZZLY (1976)

A giant grizzly bear chomps on campers at Yellowstone National Park. Men, women, and children alike lose life and limb as the grizzly’s mighty paws rip them to shreds. The one and only Christopher George (“The Exterminator,” “Enter The Ninja”) stars as the head ranger who investigates the vicious maulings and constantly butts heads with the park’s money grubbing director along the way. Chris teams up with redneck helicopter pilot Andrew Prine (“Barn Of The Naked Dead”) and a wacked out bear loving fur sporting naturalist played by the late Richard Jaekel (“Born Innocent”). It takes all three of these genre legends AND a bazooka to finally bring the beast down in an explosive final confrontation.

This one is often described as “Jaws with claws!” There’s no denying the obvious influence that Steven Spielberg’s classic thriller “Jaws” had on this picture. The monster on the loose, the trio of male leads pursuing the beast, the greedy and unscrupulous authority figure that refuses to close the park – all of these are direct lifts. But what people who regard “Grizzly” as a cheap knock off always fail to acknowledge is the film’s incredible wilderness cinematography, which is easily more beautiful and colorful than anything on display in “Jaws.” “Grizzly” is simply an amazing picture to look at. It’s also incredibly tense and gory for a film with a PG rating! The bloody scenes of the grizzly paws in action are over the top and sometimes hilarious. On the other hand, whenever the footage of the real bear is used the film becomes ultra tense and menacing.

The posters promised “18 feet of towering fury!” and few people left the theaters disappointed. “Grizzly” was a smash hit, with box office profits of over 39 million. It was the single most most profitable independent release of 1976. In typical Hollywood scumbag fashion the distributors attempted to keep the massive profits to themselves and leave William Girdler and producers/co-writers David Sheldon and Harvey Flaxman out in the cold. It took lawsuits and miles of red tape before Girdler & co. could finally reap the rewards.

Shriek Show rewarded fans of GRIZZLY with a fantastic two disc special edition release! The film has been beautifully restored and includes a commentary track with David Sheldon and actress Joan McCall, who played Christopher George’s love interest in the film. The second disc features a slew of bonus features including an extended behind the scenes featurette, trailers, radio spots and more. It’s exactly the type of amazing dvd release an all time great genre flick deserves.

 

 

DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977)

William Girdler goes back to the woods for a follow up to his monster hit “Grizzly.” This time Christopher George not only has his hands full with bears, he also has to tangle with homicidal birds, snakes, and mountain lions! The depletion of the ozone layer causes all animals above the altitude of 5000 feet to go berserk and attack humans. Unfortunately, this phenomena coincides with the arrival of a large group of city slicker campers going for a guided weekend hike in the mountains!

Chris plays the rugged survivalist and tour guide. His latest group of paying campers include a reporter played by his wife Lynda Day George (“Pieces,” “Mortuary”), Michael Ansara as a sensitive Native American, a shy scientist played by fellow “Grizzly” alumni Richard Jaekel, Ruth Romain (“The Baby”) as a shrill Jewish divorcée who brings along her estranged son, and Leslie Nielson (“Prom Night”) as a wisecracking advertising executive with a pronounced mean streak and a penchant for annoying nicknames.

As the haggard collection of crabby campers argue and bicker their way through the mountains they are picked off one by one by prowling predators. For centuries the animals were hunted for bounty, food, and fun. Now it is their turn. Constant attacks from wolves, snakes, dogs, hawks, owls, and bears whittle down the group’s numbers. In the midst of the chaos the survivors turn on each other, and men turn into savages with ferocity that rivals that of the animals! Anyone who survives the day of the animals will never be the same.

Leslie Nielson steals the fucking show as the loud mouthed bigot who goes crazy, kills pretty boy Andrew Stevens with a stick, tries to rape Andrew’s chick, and then unsuccessfully attempts to wrestle a grizzly bear to the death! Truly a performance to be proud of! It was actually the same bear used in “Grizzly.” Once Leslie leaves the picture it never really recovers, although the climax still packs quite a wallop. Another William Girdler trademark was his knack for putting children in incredibly violent scenes. “Day Of The Animals” is no exception, as children are repeatedly exposed to the brutality of death in nature. I admire William for his willingness to potentially offend an audience for the sake of creating nail biting tension.

Much like “Grizzly,” “Day Of The Animals” is a beautiful looking picture. This is my personal favorite of Girdler’s films. The cast is top notch, a real ensemble that works together perfectly. There’s a fair amount of characterization which adds considerably to the impact of the film. Best of all this flick is chock full of scene after scene of animal attack insanity! The plot device of EVERY animal above 5000 feet going mad allows for a wide assortment of shocking scenes. Once the action begins, it never lets up. This one is a blast from start to finish, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of repeat viewings over the years.

Shriek Show released a dvd of DAY OF THE ANIMALS that includes two different transfers of the film. Sadly, both of them look like monkey poop. On the plus side, there’s a wealth of bonus features including a commentary track with Lynda Day George, a behind the scenes featurette, trailers and more.

 

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!!!

 

THE EXTERMINATOR (1980)

This flick opens with a bang right in the middle of a burning jungle in Vietnam. A trio of GI’s including our hero John Eastland (Robert Ginty – RIP) and his best pal Michael Jefferson are taken prisoner by the Vietcong, who proceed to tie them up and interrogate them. One of the unlucky soldiers is decapitated before Jefferson can get free and proceed to blow the shit out of everybody in a merciless slow motion bloodbath. John and Mike fight their way to a helicopter which carries them both to safety.

We then flash forward about a dozen years or so and find the two vets working together in the same NYC warehouse. John discovers a pack of street thugs stealing beer one afternoon and a violent confrontation ensues. Mike shows up and the two pals manage to run the punks off. This leads to a retaliatory beat down and flesh ripping attack that leaves Mike in a hospital bed, paralyzed for life. John uses his trusty flamethrower to get information and quickly tracks down the punks that crippled his friend. After a dramatic confrontation that includes the classic line “That nigger was my best friend, you motherfucker!” John fills the scumbags full of lead and leaves one of them still alive to have his face eaten off by rats!

Not content to stop there, John soon unleashes an onslaught of violent fury against the entire NYC underworld. No pimp, pervert, or pusher is safe. THE EXTERMINATOR is best known for his trademark flamethrower, but he also takes the time to make his own homemade mercury filled bullets, and really knows his way around an industrial meat grinder too! I always get a chuckle out of seeing a fully clothed mafioso going into the meat grinder and nothing but fresh ground hamburger coming out of it! No pesky clothing or shoe pieces to worry about!

The late great Christopher George (“Pieces,” “Enter The Ninja”) plays the hard boiled cop trying to track down the exterminator down. Chris takes up a lot of the running time slowly investigating the case and romancing his doctor-girlfriend, played by Samantha Eggar (“The Brood”). The scenes with these two are pretty much worthless. The vigilante quickly becomes a hero to the public but is considered a dangerous menace by the mayor, who fears more for his re-election attempt than he does the publics safety. As the body count rises John also becomes a target for the C.I.A., who consider him to be a threat to national security.

The legendary James Glickenhaus wrote and directed this classic exploitation flick which is chock full of nasty violence and SLEAZE including child prostitution, sex slaves, torture, mutilation, and disfigurement! The perverted sequences featuring the “chicken shack” are unreal. It makes you wonder where in the hell this stuff was filmed! There’s an especially gory decapitation during the violent opening sequence that ranks as one of the best I’ve ever seen. Not realistic by any means, but exceptionally cool looking! This flick is a little uneven in terms of pacing, but more than makes up for it with grit and grue.

Like any exploitation flick, this has to be seen in all of its full uncut glory to be appreciated. When the more extreme moments of splatter are scissored there’s not a lot left here to be enjoyed. This film was heavily edited to earn an “R” rating. Tango Entertainment recently released the digitally remastered unrated director’s cut on dvd. That’s the only version worth seeing. Fans of violent genre flicks influenced by “Death Wish” and “Taxi Driver” will eat this up.

 

GRADUATION DAY (1981)

A gifted high school track star named Paula drops dead after an especially grueling 30 second 100 meter dash. Her overbearing coach George Michaels (Christopher George of “Pieces” & “Enter The Ninja” legend!) assumes most of the blame for pushing the girl too hard and is eventually fired. Paula’s tragic accidental death inspires a psychopath to go on a killing rampage. A lunatic in a fencing outfit hacks their way through the remaining Midvalle High track team members and makes them run for their lives. Armed with a stopwatch, the killer always times the brutal murders and tries to kill in 30 seconds or less.

The less than prime suspects include the crabby coach, the switchblade wielding high school principal, Blondie – the principal’s secretary who is up to her garter belt in work, Virgil Frye (“Revenge Of The Ninja”) as the dimwitted and disgruntled campus security officer, the disgusting yet inexplicably popular horny old music teacher who suffers a little blackmail from the eternally topless and destined to be slaughtered Linnea Quigley, and Paula’s butch older sister Laura (Patch Mackenzie) – who has just returned home from the Marines for Paula’s funeral. Laura will be receiving Paula’s diploma at the upcoming Graduation Day ceremonies, if the quickly diminishing study body lasts that long. Graduating from high school has never been so deadly!

The co-writer and director Herb Freed was convinced that the secret to a successful slasher flick somehow related to the timing of the murder sequences. He thought that it had something to do with how quickly the lethal events took place, or how much time elapsed between the murder scenes. Interesting theory. But I have to question the overwhelming amount of ANNOYING MUSIC that was contained in Herb’s equation for success. GRADUATION DAY opens with a lengthy opening montage of young athletes in action that reeks of stale disco cheese. Then there’s a down home good ol’ whiteboy soul jam called “Graduation Day Blues” highlighted by the harmonica playing skills of the boyfriend of the dead girl. It hurts, but not nearly as bad as the unholy seven and half minutes dedicated to the band “Felony” and their wretched turd of a song called “Gangster Rock!” Despite the fact that this flick came out in 1981, Felony is painted up like KISS and have a particularly horrid disco-rock hybrid sound. The singer of the band is fucking terrible, and listening to seven monotonous minutes of the same verse and chorus is sheer torture. The music is far more brutal than the gore in this one.

Not to say that the killings are weak in “Graduation Day.” It delivers the goods when it comes to creative deaths. I love the football and pole vault impalements. There are also multiple beheadings, skewerings, and stabbings to enjoy. The shoddy gore effects are somewhat laughable, but there’s no shortage of blood. The acting is hit or miss but not nearly as bad as you might expect. Patch Mackenzie does a good job with a rather limited role and I love Christopher George as the asshole coach. Any flick with Christopher George is Brain Hammer approved. Christopher was even nice enough to get his sexy young niece Vanna White a small role in the film. The killer turns in a great performance too. I can’t say much more to avoid spoilers, but the final scene when the killer’s identity and motivations are revealed is excellent, as is the extended fight the killer has with the ass kicking heroine.

GRADUATION DAY came out during the peak of the slasher genre and managed to carve up some decent box office with nearly $24 million! It has gone on to become something of a cult clas-sick, and a favorite of 80′s slasher enthusiasts. Troma released a very nice dvd of “Graduation Day” that includes a short interview with Linnea Quigley and a slew of the usual nonsense you have come to love and expect from a Troma dvd release including multiple trailers for other Troma films and an annoying intro from Lloyd Kaufman.

 

ENTER THE NINJA (1981)

“Enter The Ninja” features international superstar Franco Nero as “Cole,” an American soldier who trains in Japan to become a ninja after his tour of duty is finished. After successfully completing his ninja training Cole travels to the Phillippeans to visit an old army buddy of his – Frank Landers, and his lovely wife Mary Ann. After arriving at the Landers’ plantation Cole is shocked to find his once proud and vibrant friend to be a mere shell of his former self.

Frank is now losing a battle with the bottle and is also battling a ruthless land developer named Mr.Venarius (Christopher George!) who is determined to purchase the plantation. Frank is reduced to a drunken, frequently napping leader of a cockfighting ring (genuine cockfighting footage is used throughout, sure to delight animal lovers!) and in desperation asked his old pal Cole to visit, hoping he could help even the odds against Venarius.

At first Cole and Frank have a few laughs fighting off the multitude of thugs hired by Venarius in an effort to strong arm into Frank into selling his land. But all is not well in the Landers household as Frank is still neglecting his hot piece of ass wife in favor of heavy boozing. In frustration she turns to Cole and he obligingly offers her a ninja mustache ride! Just as the tension in the house is about to reach its breaking point the shit really hits the fan when Venarius finally wises up and hires a ninja of his own to deal with the Landers and Cole.

Sho Kusugi makes his memorable debut as the black ninja, this time going by the character name Hasegawa. The evil Hasegawa has a blast setting the plantation on fire and randomly kicking workers in the face as they run around screaming. (GREAT SCENE!) He then snuffs Frank and takes Mary Ann hostage. This sets up the final showdown between the white and black ninjas. Hasegawa and Cole are enemies with a rivalry that goes back to their ninja training in Japan. With the blood of his best friend on his hands, Cole agrees to a final battle to the death with Hasegawa.

This flick marked Sho Kusugi’s debut in a big budget, internationally released action film. Sho also choreographed the numerous ninja fight scenes which are quite impressive. This typically cheesy Golan Globus production was written by Sharon Stone’s brother – martial arts expert Mike Stone, and was directed by none other than the infamous Menahem Golan himself. More than a few people have poked fun at Franco Nero for his performance in this flick but I think he plays the part very convincingly. His charisma is undeniable and he looks great in his fight scenes. Franco had no martial arts training, so the part of the white ninja was actually played by writer Mike Stone, who did a phenomenal job.

My favorite part of this flick is the appearance of legendary actor Will Hare as Franco’s wisecracking comic relief sidekick “Dollars.” Horror fans should remember Will for his incredible performance as the deranged Grandpa in “Silent Night Deadly Night” who warns little Billy about the dangers of Santy Claus. Will is excellent here too, stealing every scene he is in with his non stop chatter and constant attempts to sell everyone around him porn. Only the coolest ninjas have porno peddling street hustlers as sidekicks!

Fans of the late great Christopher George will love his over the top performance as the scenery chewing Mr.Venarius. Old Chris was on a fucking tear in the early Eighties appearing in one clas-sick genre flick after another. Chris had just finished “Graduation Day” before working on this film and went on to star in “Pieces” the following year! His incredible death scene in “Enter The Ninja” is the stuff of legend and frequently turns up in highlight reels of “the worst scenes ever.”

Despite being a fairly inept production, “Enter The Ninja” became an instant success and helped kick start the “ninja craze” of the early Eighties. Numerous imitations rushed into production as well, and Golan Globus would release a far superior follow up film – “Revenge Of The Ninja,” just a few years later. “Enter The Ninja” is one of the most unintentionally hilarious flicks I’ve ever seen. It’s full of hideous dubbing, jaw droppingly bad performances, and lots of failed attempts at cornball humor. This one is impossible to take seriously, but it never fails to entertain. From start to finish this flick is action packed and a lot of fun. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but it’s a real pisser. WINK!

Sadly there’s been no proper dvd release as of yet. The UK dvd releases are all cut by about 4-5 minutes and this flick has never been released on dvd in the States. I cherish my dvd-r copy of the old school MGM/UA vhs which is 100% uncut with all the glorious neck snapping and cockfighting intact. I demand a special edition two-disc dvd of ENTER THE NINJA with a Franco Nero commentary track and an extensive behind the scenes documentary!

 

PIECES (1982)

Boston 1942. A blossoming young pervert named Timmy Reston sits alone in his bedroom putting together a jigsaw puzzle featuring a nude pin up girl. His emotionally unstable mother walks in and catches him red handed. Infuriated, she asks him where the filth came from and slaps around the little brat while demanding answers. She warns the boy that he will end up like his father and proceeds to slam a picture of the man into a mirror. This violent act appears to have a profound effect on the boy. Mrs. Reston sends her son off in search of a plastic bag so she can junk all of his toys. Timmy returns with an axe instead and repeatedly slams it into mommy’s skull! Then the pint sized psychopath removes mommy’s head with a saw! After shutting his mother up for good Timmy goes back to work on his blood splattered puzzle.

A friend of the family becomes concerned when she can’t reach Mrs. Reston and shows up with police. When the cops break in they discover a gruesome sight in the bedroom – enough blood on the floor to ensure that something had been butchered. Then they find Mrs. Reston’s severed head in a closet. Little Timmy is found cowering in another closet, covered in blood and whimpering about a big man that hurt his mommy. We are told that Mr. Reston is overseas in the Air Force and that the murderous little bastard Timmy will be sent to live with an Aunt who lives nearby.

After the opening credits we flash forward forty years to find an unseen killer (who is obviously Timmy Reston all grown up) on the prowl at a large New England university. A bizarre skateboarding accident involving a large pane of glass reminds the madman of his mother smashing the mirror with his father’s picture forty years before and inspires him to go on a brutal killing spree. The unseen slasher stalks after the sexy young students so he can remove their limbs with a chainsaw and use the pieces to create a human version of his prized pin up puzzle! His first victim is a tasty young co-ed that he decapitates with a chainsaw in broad daylight.

Hard boiled police detectives Lt. Bracken (Christopher George of “Grizzly” & “Enter The Ninja” fame!) and Sgt. Holden (Leslie Nielson lookalike Frank Bana, who also appeared in “Return Of The Evil Dead”) are sent in to investigate the murder. They start with the Dean, who seems more concerned about bad publicity than the murder itself. The Dean (Edmund “Don’t Open Til Christmas” Purdom) turns the detectives on to the head of the anatomy department and closet campus queen – Professor Brown. (Jack Taylor, who appeared in numerous Spanish horror epics including “Ghost Galleon” & “Night Of The Sorcerors”) Professor Brown seems to think it might be one of the boys, but Sgt. Holden assures him that at this point the investigation consists of buying clothes without labels and trying them on for size.

Shortly afterwards we are introduced to the campus stud Kendall James. (Ian Sera, who also appeared in “Pod People”) A blonde hardbody sends Kendall an invitation to fuck in the campus swimming pool later. Kendall accepts the invitation of course, but the killer beats him to the pool room and proceeds to net the girl like a large fish and then shear away her limbs with his trusty saw. This time the madman takes the girls’ torso as a souvenir. The temperamental and sneering campus gardener WillArd (unforgettably portrayed by Paul “BLUTO” Smith!) stumbles upon the bloody crime scene and has a wild run in with the cops that ends with Sgt. Holden threatening to BLOW his brains out!

The detectives question Kendall and his nerdy best friend “Goggles” and wind up believing that Kendall had nothing to do with the murder. Lt. Brown even decides to turn to Kendall for help with the investigation. He also arranges for an undercover police officer named Mary Riggs (played by Christopher George’s wife – Lynda Day George, who also starred in “Mortuary” and “Day Of The Animals”) to join the campus faculty as the new female tennis coach.

Meanwhile, the killer decides he needs a pair of arms and decides to relieve a pretty young dance major of hers inside an elevator. Kendall hears her screams of torment and barks out orders to the police officers on the scene. The sight of the limbless girl in the elevator is enough to make a seasoned police officer puke his guts up, but Kendall immediately seizes control of the situation and tells the guy to go call an ambulance! The girl initially survives the attack but dies in the hospital from the massive shock and loss of blood before she can identify the killer. Mary searches for clues and stumbles upon the fucking Kung Fu Professor (Bruce Li!) who attacks her because of something he ate. Bad chop suey maybe.

The mad butcher then sets his sights on the legs of Susie Billings, a sexy young tennis player. The ever resourceful killer sabotages the campus P.A. System so it continuously plays canned intermission music. This makes a perfect cover up for the sound of his chainsaw. While Mary, Kendall, and WillArd are fumbling around with the music the lousy bastard kills her. It’s all enough to make Mary unleash a devastating display of sheer frustration! BASTARD!!!

Lt. Brown turns to Kendall yet again for help and sends him to the record vault with Sgt. Holden to pour over files looking for any reference to the campus staff. Mary goes to a suspects house for an evening for a cup of coffee and a few questions and winds up getting a lot closer to the killer than she bargained for. Just as Mary is drugged and her lovely feet are about to become the final addition to the murderer’s supreme creation, Kendall unearths a clue that reveals the killer’s true identity. Kendall and the cops have to race to stop the killer before he can finish his human jigsaw puzzle. This all culminates with an unbelievable mind blowing genital crushing grand finale that must be seen to be believed!

I have seen this flick more times over the years than I could possibly count. I make everyone I know watch this movie. Whenever I talk to people about horror flicks I always have to mention PIECES. This flick is absolutely hilarious, and manages to get a little funnier every time I watch it. It plays out like a really gory and outrageous version of an Italian Giallo. The unseen, black gloved killer is pure Dario Argento. The soundtrack from Carlo Maria Cordio (aka CAM) is atmospheric and excellent, even if it borrows heavily from Goblin’s score for “Zombi.” ”Pieces” was written by the terrible trio of director Juan Piquer Simon, producer Dick Randall (“Slaughter High”), and the infamous Joe D’Amato. (“Antropophagus”) No wonder this slasher flick is so full of brutal violence and perverse sexual overtones. There’s some tasty nudity to enjoy and even a little something for the ladies when Simon slips in a full frontal shot of Ian Sera. IT STINKS!

There’s more sidesplitting dialog in this howler than any other I can think of. From the cross eyed girl with the HUGE tits that dreamily coos how “the most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed at the same time,” to WillArd proudly proclaiming  he “ain’t getting’ paid by the hour,” to Christopher George imploring his partner to “take some uppers, anything, just get me a lead!” The dubbing and dialog definitely make this work an unintentional comedy.

“Pieces” also works as a slasher flick. Big time. The graphic violence is very nasty and convincing. In the gruesome scene where the killer chainsaws into the abdomen of a girl in the shower a real pig carcass was used which makes the scene very effectively disgusting. From start to finish this flick takes no prisoners. This gory little gem definitely lives up to its’ immortal tag line: “You don’t have to go to Texas to have a chainsaw massacre!”

Several “budget” dvd companies have released PIECES. The fine folks at Grindhouse Releasing released an amazing 2-disc special edition dvd release, which is loaded with bonus features and should be considered a must-have for hardcore fans of the film. Either way, it can easily be found for cheap – so there is no excuse for not owning this clas-sick 80’s splatterpiece. This is a fucking must see!

 

MORTUARY (1983)

Good looking Mary Beth McDonough (best known to old farts as Erin from “The Waltons”) stars as a dimwitted teenage girl named Christie who mourns the mysterious death of her father by wondering around at night in her skimpy nightgown. It appears that ever since her Daddy got a bonk on the noggin from an unseen assailant and drowned in the backyard pool that Christie has become a chronic sleepwalker. Christie on the other hand is convinced that her mother (Lynda Day George) is trying to drive her insane. Things get even more complicated for the already terminally confused Christie when a lunatic in a black death shroud begins stalking after her with a knife.

In desperation, Christie turns to her blonde doofus boyfriend Greg (a blonde doofus who also starred in “Humongous”) for help. The wacky kids laugh in the face of death and crank up some disco, which causes Christie to exclaim “Hey Boogyman – Let’s Boogie!” Greg keeps himself busy after school stealing tires from a warehouse, stumbling upon a séance being led by non other than Christopher George, and looking for his missing (dead) best friend. The search ends at the roller disco. Need I say more? Needless to say, hilarity and roller-padding ensue. Watch out for the token comic relief fat guy.

Christopher George plays an angry asshole mortician and funeral home owner named Hank Andrews. Hank also owns the warehouse that Greg and his buddy like to steal tires from, and heads up a coven of witches that apparently includes Christie’s mom. Hank’s son Paul (a fresh faced and already completely insane Bill Paxton!) is a fruity little weirdo who also happens to have a big crush on Christie. Greg thinks Paul is a creep, but Christie has a soft spot for the harmless loser who prances and skips with delight after talking to her. Christie and Greg try to find out what her mother and Hank are really up to, and as the title might have already clued you in – it all ends with a deadly confrontation inside a mortuary…where NO ONE rests in peace!

Christopher George AND Bill Paxton in the same movie?!? Playing a psycho father and son duo no less? This is Brain Hammer approved in a BIG way! Christopher turns in another great, angry and irritable performance. One of the many highlights of the film is Christopher snarling “Get out of here before I embalm you!” at his blonde pretty boy co-star. Speaking of co-stars, Bill Paxton completely steals the show here. His performance is…unique, to say the least. This film is perhaps best known for the short yet sweet moment where Bill shows off his new classical music record and then SKIPS through a graveyard on a quest to put some flowers on his mommy’s grave. It’s such a bizarre little moment in slasher history.

That’s about the only slasher history MORTUARY makes. The rest of the film is somewhat predictable and is hampered by a thin body count. There’s also a bit too much disco in this one for my tastes. Flicks like “Mortuary” and “Prom Night” were probably cutting edge at the time for featuring hot and happening sounds, but now they come off as painfully dated. The “who done it” aspect of the film isn’t exactly riveting either. The cast consists of about six people, and one of them is clearly insane. But somehow I doubt anyone would watch this one for the mystery. Perverts will be happy to know that Mary Beth McDonough gets naked in this movie and has a fuck scene on a bear skin rug. This is a must see flick if you ever had fantasies about plowing Erin Walton’s bean field.

Oddly enough, the trailer and cover art for “Mortuary” are a bit more interesting than the film itself. The trailer for the film included no footage at all from the movie, and instead featured Michael Berryman of “The Hills Have Eyes” legend as a creepy looking gravedigger who gets pulled into a fresh grave by undead hands. The madness was accompanied by one of the all time great ominous voice over narrations:

Before your funeral…Before you are buried…before you are covered with the last shovelful of dirt…Be sure you are REALLY dead!”

Sadly, MORTUARY has never had a dvd release in the states. The title is now permanently confused with the unrelated Tobe Hooper film of the same name which sucked. A while ago there was a dvd release of the Wings Hauser zombie epic “Mutant” that included the trailer for “Mortuary.” This gave me hope that the film would finally get a dvd release, but it never happened. Someone should really put a out a special edition dvd of this one. It would make a fitting tribute to the last film that Christopher George completed before his untimely death. Get Bill Paxton to do the commentary track and you’ve got a winner!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: