Sunday, June 29, 2014


The power of the masses serves as a metaphor in this North Korean Godzilla ripoff produced by Kim Jong-Il and directed by the guy Kim Jong-Il kidnapped, and yes, I just said Kim Jong-Il kidnapped someone to make a Godzilla movie because that's a plot that would be better than the plot in Pulgasari.

Here's the lowdown: A man fashions a small reptilian talisman out of rice and gives it to his daughter because that's a gift that keeps on giving, and a drop of her blood brings it to life because of course it does. After enjoying a light snack of sewing needles, the creature grows and grows. Then it battles an evil king wearing a small table for a hat.

Featuring suspect mustaches, dodgy forced perspective, obvious rear projection, 1980s headbands, anti-capitalist propaganda, and a guy in a rubber monster suit with soulless, unblinking yellow eyes, Pulgasari isn't as awful as I'd hoped, but it sure isn't great. There are sword fights, stick fights, extravagant headwear, and feudal missiles. Someone hurls food into a hunger striking prisoner's jail cell window, horses are cooked, piles of swords are eaten, and people are crushed by rolling logs and unconvincing boulders. An army kidnaps the woman who controls Pulgasari, forces it to climb into an enormous cage it just happens to have handy that no one seemed to have noticed before, and then sets the cage on fire which just makes the beast angry, and you can tell he's angry because he's bathed in the glow from a red light. Then the army digs an enormous hole to trap Pulgasari and hires a priestess to do an exorcism dance for some reason that has to be seen to be believed. Hey, let's watch that right now!

I don't know how you feel about that, but that clip fills the void where my heart should be with something that approximates what I can only assume is the opposite of unhappiness. Pulgasari is boring, over-long, and takes just about almost nearly forever to get to the giant monster part, but I would begrudgingly recommend it if you like stuff that sucks, but just so you can tell your friends you watched a Godzilla ripoff produced by Kim Jong-Il and directed by the guy he kidnapped.

Hey, that trailer almost makes Pulgasari look exciting.

It isn't.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

House Of Ghosts

Dinner party guests are snowed in, and a medium uses a machine to contact the dead in this modern, extremely low budget black-and-white horror story that pays homage to gimmicky director William Castle. I'll discuss that in a minute. Since I have you here, I'm first going to tell you about my trip to Pittsburgh.

Oh, stop complaining. You'll be fine.

I hopped in the Volvo 1800 and drove to Pittsburgh for Monster Bash, which is a monster movie horror convention. Until very recently, I never attended horror conventions. I'm not certain why, I just never got around to it, I suppose. Now I'm a big fan.

While I was kind of hoping to hang out and chat with The Creature From The Black Lagoon, he wasn't there. This is just a statue.

I was also hoping to be able to chat with Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Wolfman. They couldn't make it, either. I took a photo of statues of them as well. While this was a major disappointment, I had to settle for talking with the director of Spider Baby, Jack Hill. It was fun talking to this legendary director, and by "fun" I mean "awkward and brief, and then I ran away". I'm not very good at talking to people. I'm better at talking to monsters.

There were several tables set up featuring the cast from Night Of The Living Dead, but unfortunately, there were no zombies signing autographs. Oh well. However, I did have a conversation with the sheriff from Night Of The Living Dead. It was fun talking to a human who was in a film, and by "fun" I really mean "awkward and brief, and then I ran away".

I somehow managed to make a little conversation with the director of House Of Ghosts. It was also awkward and brief, and then I ran away. Just before I fled I bought his film House Of Ghosts, and he gave me a free Fear Shield, which is to shield my eyes from the intense horror on screen. It was nice, but I think I can handle a little horror. I've seen it before. More on the movie after we look at some of my trip photos first.

Oh, stop complaining. You'll be fine. My photos aren't inane pictures of people doing inane vacation-y stuff because those kinds of pictures suck. I take pictures of eerie things that make people uneasy. Sometimes there are pictures of my dinner, but usually my dinner is eerie, too. It's fine.

Anyway, if you've never been to a monster movie convention, I highly recommend you go. Bear in mind though, admission is a little steep, and as I learned, many of the monsters from the films don't actually appear.

After the convention I headed over to The Center For PostNatural History, which is a museum dedicated to organisms which were altered through selective breeding or genetic engineering. It was dark, creepy, foreboding, and pretty darn awesome. Here is a picture of a flask filled with sea monkeys.

I then headed over to St Anthony's Chapel, which is a church that holds 5000 saintly relics. Solemn, silent, and heavy with the aroma of candle wax, St. Anthony's is a meditative place. There were life-sized, carved wooden statues of the Stations Of The Cross, and many reliquaries containing bones and other saintly body parts. They would not allow photography in the chapel, so here's a picture I pulled from Wikipedia of a box containing a veiled skull.

I ventured over to the Mattress Factory, which is a complex of Victorian row houses that have been converted to hold art installations in the Mexican War Streets area of Northside. One of the buildings is by artist Chiraru Shiota, who cocooned 3 floors of rooms in black yarn.

It was nearly dinner time, so I went to Double Wide Grill, where I had the vegetarian TV dinner. I had the Coconut Tofu, the Barbecued Seitan, the beans and rice, and fries. It was pretty darn good.

Ok, so my dinner isn't that eerie. Whatever.

Back to the movie. Filmed on a budget of $3000, House Of Ghosts has wooden acting, stilted dialogue, and unsteady camera movement. There's also rubber masks, rubber claws, rubber spiders, theremin, Mellotron, a levitating dog, and subliminal messages. I found House Of Ghosts to be funny, charming, well-done for the budget, and in the very much in the spirit of William Castle's films.

Atomic Brain Invasion

A bunch of 30-year old teenagers battle creatures from outer space in this funny, clever, low-budget horror film parodying sci-fi films of the fifties. After a lengthy, ponytailed narrator's intro, something from outer space crashes to Earth and kills a secondary character wearing a poodle skirt. Another character gets doused in green and purple slime, and the thing that crashed to Earth turns out to be a tinfoil wrapped spaceship that plays Love Me Tender, I suppose. Elvis shows up for some reason, and people carry around an atomic bomb that looks like a painted volleyball. Then people rip open their skulls revealing their tiny brains on stalks.

Atomic Brain Invasion has a clever, screwball script, and funny dialogue. I could have done without the awkward musical numbers, but that's ok I guess.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Weird World Of LSD

Everyday people cope with the horrors of mind-altering drugs and voiceover narration in this less-than-convincing drug scare film. A kid that looks a little like Jerry Mathers has a bum trip, hallucinates a cartoon chicken, and gets a bloody nose. Some dude makes a drug deal at the Golden Arches where people walk slowly and deliberately, then someone juggles cats. A chick puts the make on a mannequin, then a guy eats a disappointing cracker. Two women have some sort of argument, then a bosomy bar patron cuts her own blouse off with scissors and does a tabletop striptease in a desperate attempt to keep people watching this film. Someone else has a bad trip involving unconvincing monsters and meat cleavers, then there's some random drag-strip action and a Hawaiian dance routine. The Weird World Of LSD would probably drive most people to try the hallucinogenic drug just to relieve the boredom of actually watching it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Birth Of The Living Dead

The creation of the classic horror film Night Of The Living Dead is examined in this well-made documentary. Using black, white & red comic book-style graphics, interviews with George Romero, schoolchildren, and various film historians, and clips from the seminal film, Birth Of The Living Dead is funny, entertaining, and informative. Did you know the zombies in the film were eating actual organs? I didn't either. I often wondered if they might be, but I assumed they used some sort of phony organ substitute. Did Tofurky exist back then? Probably not. I guess people will do just about anything to appear in a movie, even eating offal outside an abandoned farmhouse. Anyway, I was charmed by both Romero and the children from a Bronx Literacy Through Film program, as Romero recounted the sad-but-true story of how a typo caused his film to lapse into the public domain, and the refreshingly candid viewpoints of the kids viewing Night Of The Living Dead for the first time in a classroom setting. Night Of The Living Dead still has the ability to shock and horrify four decades after its run in grindhouse theaters and drive-ins during the late-1960s, not only through the suspense and gore featured onscreen, but the subtextual parallel with the era's social upheavals, race riots and war protests.

Frankenstein's Army

World War II Russian soldiers stumble upon Dr. Frankenstein's zombie-creating laboratory in this shaky-cam found-footage horror film. I enjoyed the art direction, creature design, and locations. but I hated how everything jumped out at you like a haunted attraction. Frankenstein's Army was stagey, and the action moved from one set piece to another. Overall I was disappointed, but the film did have some interesting ideas.

Just so everyone is clear on the subject, the novelty of found footage as a plot device is over. Utilizing a random bit of film to forward the story jumped the shark a while ago, and its usage should be curtailed from now on.

Please update your records accordingly.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tim's Vermeer

Featuring high definition images of Vermeer's masterpieces, Tim's Vermeer examines the obsessive and painstaking efforts Penn & Teller's inventor friend Tim Jenison would go to in unravelling the mysteries of how the Dutch artist created his photorealistic, jewel-like paintings in this remarkable documentary. Using his video and electronics background, Jenison theorizes that Vermeer used a camera obscura, mirrors, and other optical technology to paint his canvasses. With seemingly unlimited time, money, patience, and resources, Jenison decides the best way to go about the quixotic undertaking of reverse-engineering Vermeer's secrets would be to reinvent Vermeer's paint, grind his own 17th century-style optical lenses, build Dutch Golden Age furniture, recreate the room Vermeer painted in, and copy the master's painting The Music Room...all by hand and with little-to-no experience in any of those disciplines. The result is amazing, and only solidifies what the world has already known for 3 centuries, that Vermeer was one of the greatest artistic geniuses who ever lived.

I saw the painting The Girl With A Pearl Earring last year when it was briefly on display in Atlanta's High Museum. It was a thrill to see this incredible piece of art up close, and by "up close" I really mean "from about 15 feet away, with dozens of other people, from behind a barrier, while it was being protected by bulletproof glass and an armed guard". Still, the painting had an otherworldly glow about it, and the colors were brilliant. Photos do not do it justice. If you get a chance to see one of Vermeer's paintings, do that. If you don't, see the film Tim's Vermeer.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The She Beast

Torch-wielding villagers drag a hideously deformed woman out of a cave, nail her to a tumbrel, and dunk her in a lake. She then throws a curse on everybody, and threatens to return in a screechy, vague manner.

If I was capable of human emotion, I would feel bad for the She Beast. Sure, she's no Victoria's Secret model, but I don't think she deserves being dunked in a lake. I'm not entirely certain what she did that was worthy of having an angry mob wave crucifixes at her, and I don't think it was mentioned. Those dumb peasants probably think she turned someone into a newt. Regardless, torch-wielding villagers really tick me off. If I had a nickel for every time some angry mob protested outside my penthouse waving torches and screaming about how awful I am, I'd have 35 cents. Since it happens so often, I went ahead and created a "First Amendment Zone" where they can protest all they'd like. It's three blocks away, down a dark alley near some dumpsters that smell like hot garbage, vomit, and parmesan cheese, and in the opposite direction from the Chinese restaurant I frequent that has the potstickers I like so much. That way I don't have to see them and their stupid cardboard banners asking for "safe working conditions" and "living wages". Seriously, torch-wielding villagers shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Just because I have horns, a tail, and carry a pitchfork, some of the more superstitious out there think I'm some sort of bad guy. Whatever. Those protesters should consider themselves lucky I no longer dump hot garbage, vomit, and parmesan cheese on them from the gargoyles I installed on the top of the building, and by "I no longer dump hot garbage, vomit, and parmesan cheese on them" I mean they're too far away to reach now in the court-ordered "First Amendment Zone".

Anyway, back to the movie. Hundreds of years later, Barbara Steele drinks some tea and garlic in the She Beast's village, and an old guy in a swing warns them about an outbreak of sorcery, which is something people should be worried about. After some decadent, capitalistic voyeurism and a missing distributor cap, Barbara Steele's Volkswagen crashes into a lake. Then someone pulls The She Beast out of the lake instead of Barbara Steele, which seems somewhat unlikely because Barbara Steele resembles a Victoria's Secret model and the She Beast looks like a 200-pound melting candle.

Summing up, The She Beast drags when the She Beast or Barbara Steele aren't on screen, even though the She Beast and Barbara Steele's acting abilities are pretty much on par with one another. While I wouldn't go so far to recommend it, I wouldn't stop you from watching it either.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

End Of The World

Christopher Lee stars in this sci-fi film where a scientist discovers strange signals that foretell great calamities on Earth.

Spoiler Alert: The title of this film gives away the ending of the film. Seriously. You know, usually in older films whenever there is some sort of cosmic catastrophe befalling the Earth, the Earth escapes unharmed. Not so in this film. I don't know about you, but I always find it refreshing when the Earth is completely destroyed. It's a nice change of pace.

Anyway, after Christopher Lee sees a short order cook get scalded by an exploding coffeemaker and then abruptly flings himself out a neon-sign covered window, a whole bunch of science-y stuff happens and some folks get roughed up by a bunch of nuns. Then Christopher Lee says that disease is spreading from the Earth throughout the Universe which seems very likely. Then the Earth explodes.

You're going to find this very hard to believe, but plate tectonics are not caused by the dissipation of heat from the Earth's mantle. It's powered by arts & crafts, specifically glitter. Lurking at the planet's core is the stuff teenagers glue to poster board to advertise their car wash.

The Earth is filled with shiny glitter, ready to explode in a disco fury from any number of extraterrestrial attacks. In layman's terms, the Earth is a glitter-filled pinata, and somewhere in the universe E.T. is holding the stick. Doomsday is imminent, and the soundtrack of our demise is by K-Tel.

Yes, the power that causes earthquakes, creates mountain ranges, and slides continents across the surface of the planet is fueled by glitter and KC & The Sunshine Band.

And I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest the theory that sequins might also play a role.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Legacy Of Blood

John Carradine kicks the bucket and leaves $135 million dollars in his will. If his kids or servants can survive a week in his house, they inherit the money. You just know how that's going to play out.

It's great to know trailers were full of spoilers way back in 1971.

Anyway, some people play some unconvincing pool, then someone chases a pekingese while wearing a slip. After an ax murder, some people throw some unconvincing darts. Someone serves a tin foil wrapped severed head instead of a Honeybaked Ham for dinner, someone gets a subtexty spanking, Igor has a mini meltdown about his back welts, and two people are unconvincingly electrocuted in a twin bed. Then someone shows off their Nazi meat lamp made out of a human skull, which is totally fine, I guess. I'm not entirely sure, but I think I once saw a punk band named Nazi Meat Lamp in the mid-eighties, but that was a long time ago and my memory isn't what it used to be, which is probably because I possibly saw a punk band named Nazi Meat Lamp in the mid-eighties.

The Long Hair Of Death

A long haired woman is burned in a wooden labyrinth for being a witch. This creates a huge bonfire, which honestly seems like a waste of resources for just one witch. Since pretty much everybody was called a witch a million years ago, if you're going to burn down a whole forest of trees you might as well toss all the witches on the bonfire at once to save some time. I don't know an awful lot about history or witches or bonfires, but I would have to assume that people in the 15th century probably could have gotten a lot more accomplished if they weren't so busy worrying about who was or wasn't a witch and burning everybody at the stake. I'm pretty sure people back then were like, "Hey, let's not invent space flight or moveable type or electric incandescence or supermarkets. Let's mow down a forest, carve some stakes, and accuse everyone in the village of being a witch. It's a good idea. We could have just invented the internet and googled who in the village is a witch, but we don't have time for that now, we have to harvest mud."

Anyway, the witch casts a curse on somebody, then someone throws Barbara Steele over a waterfall. I'm not sure why. Then someone says, "As each day passes, she grows more and more witchlike". I'm not sure what that even means, and it was very unexpected.

So, The Long Hair Of Death is pretty boring, but it does have its moments. There's one part where a guy talks to a skeleton in an open stone casket in a secret underground crypt, and the skeleton looks like it begins to breathe, but it was only because its clothes were full of rats. And there was another part where lightning strikes the grave of the burned witch, and it splits open revealing her skeleton. It begins to come back to life and skin begins to reappear on it. It was actually pretty sweet. Unfortunately, there's also a bunch of political intrigue, some romantic shenanigans, and Barbara Steele and some dude lift a 6-inch thick stone coffin lid with one hand.

Godzilla Raids Again

A kaiju that's not Godzilla but looks and sounds suspiciously like Godzilla battles another kaiju and destroys parts of Japan in this wholly original, not-quite Godzilla film. Unlike other Godzilla films, two guys in rubber suits and sometimes a hand puppet wrestle amidst miniature boats, planes, and tanks. Things explode, and people run in terror. They knock over miniature buildings amidst voiceover narration and stock footage.

Wait a second, that sounds nearly exactly like almost every other Godzilla movie.

It's a little slow moving when not-exactly-Godzilla isn't onscreen, but that's they way Godzilla movies are. There are a few great shots of not-exactly-Godzilla in close-up as things blow up around him. But unfortunately, Godzilla can't be onscreen continuously in a Godzilla movie because that would be awesome, and actual people have to read lines and do things, which is a drag. Seriously, who does Godzilla think he is, Robert Redford?

Why hasn't someone written a quality script for Godzilla where he courageously battles the sea for two and a half hours in an obvious ploy for a Best Actor Oscar? Maybe it's difficult for casting directors to see Godzilla in a role that explores the relationship between man and nature where ultimately man finds himself, when A) Godzilla isn't a man, B) Godzilla is best in an urban setting, and C) Godzilla wouldn't fit on a boat. Anyway, putting Godzilla on a boat would be a sure way to garner a Best Actor nomination, and maybe even a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Godzilla makes fire all the time. Big whoop, Hanks.

Old Dracula

Unsuccessfully riding the coattails of Young Frankenstein, David Niven is miscast as Dracula in this cringeworthy horror-comedy. Old Drac isn't as young as he used to be, which makes sense, and in order to awaken his mostly-dead wife Vampira he invites tourists to visit his castle. After drugging these Playboy Playmate tourists, he withdraws blood from them in his odd dormitory style guest-room. Giving his wife the blood, her race changes from white to black. That's totally fine and hardly offensive at all. Dracula then pursues them back to London to get more blood to change her back because apparently being black in the 70s isn't OK and needs to be fixed. Again, that's totally fine and hardly offensive at all. Dracula takes a walk past some grindhouse theaters while the cameraman has trouble keeping the camera from shaking, and one of the theaters is playing a film titled Snow White And The Seven Perverts. Dracula stops a mugger, someone places their phony vampire teeth on top of a urinal, then everyone disco dances.

Old Dracula is just awful; with voiceover narration, creaky jokes, a runaway airport shuttle bus, a coffin with a retractable glass lid, lots of silk negligees, beakers of blood, unconvincing airplane turbulence, a quilted folding travel coffin, several camera shadows, and mostly-clothed Playmates given very little to do.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage

The legendary and impossibly egoless progressive rock band is profiled in this well made documentary. Featuring vintage concert clips, some less-than-flattering silk robes, and charming interviews with the members' parents, Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage is funny, bittersweet, and informative. Interestingly enough, Cleveland classic rock radio station WMMS played an pivotal role in getting Rush signed to American record label Mercury, and that part of their history is highlighted in the film. Tireless, unassuming, and prone to reading literature or watching TV in their hotel rooms after gigs, Rush played 200 concerts a year in the Seventies.

After years of outcry, they were finally inducted in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2013 after being eligible since 1998.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Horror Of The Zombies

High fashion models scurry about a haunted ship for some reason in this atmospheric horror film. I don't know an awful lot about high fashion models, but I never really considered them the type of people who would willingly climb aboard a mysterious, rotting ghost ship with raggedy sails. Is one of the job requirements for becoming a high fashion model understanding parapsychology and the seaworthiness of spectral galleons?

I'm still not sure, however, Lovey Howell was definitely the weak link in that power trio. Anyway, I'm not sure how much 16th century Knights Templar skeletons couldn't really weigh that much, cowls and all, so they should be pretty easy to escape from.

The Woman Who Came Back

A woman comes back in this witchcrafty drama. Actually, if you want to get technical, two women come back briefly, but to call this film "Technically, Two Women Come Back Briefly" would be a slightly worse title than The Woman Who Came Back, and it would be difficult to fit that on a marquee. Anyway, a woman leaves town by bus, and she strikes up an awkward conversation with a 300-year old witch who claims to be her distant relative. Then the bus plunges over a cliff. The not-300-year old woman who suspiciously is the sole survivor of the bus crash comes back to town, and the suspicious, superstitious townspeople think she's a witch. Then a doctor says, "A body just doesn't disappear into thin air". I don't know an awful lot about witches or water, but I'm pretty sure the bus plunged into a lake and not thin air. I could be wrong, though.

Then she gets a present of a recently dead box of flowers, and someone says, "I don't understand why someone would drink tea". To liven things up, the woman goes to the county fair, then she kills a bowl full of goldfish with rat poison. I don't know a lot about witchcraft, but that just sounds like she's a garden variety poisoner to me, and not a witch. Does anyone have a duck I can borrow? Maybe we should watch that Monty Python clip again just to be sure.

Then an old man and a dog roll down a flight of stairs. I'm not entirely sure, but it might be witchcraft.

Frozen Alive

A man experiments with suspended animation while his drunk wife staggers around with a loaded gun in this not-very-scientific romantic drama. After a dry set-up, some scientific lectures and chain-smoking, the drunk wife throws newspapers everywhere while a masked singer croons. Then there's a bunch of romance and alcoholism. Naturally, tragedy ensues when you've got a toddling chick spilling martinis everywhere who refuses to put down a loaded weapon. Complain all you want, but it's not a spoiler if you knew she was going to shoot herself all along anyway. Unfortunately, accidentally shooting herself in the heart doesn't make this movie very interesting, even when there's test tubes, beakers, buttons, pseudoscience-y knob-twiddling, and boom shadows.

Circus Of Fear

After a daring daytime robbery involving a boat, carabiners, and pantyhose, someone decides to hide the loot in a circus' winter quarters where Christopher Lee is a masked lion tamer, well, because that seems as good a place as any. Sooner than you can say, "Hey, carnies are getting bumped off with throwing knives", carnies get bumped off with throwing knives, and Christopher Lee wears that mask for almost the entire movie. Klaus Kinski sort of interviews for a circus job, and it's pretty much the worst job interview of all time, and no one seems to notice that it's Klaus Kinski interviewing for a circus job. I mean seriously, who would give that guy a job in the circus when he's has a bad track record with exotic animals?

Anyway, there's a hint of high-flying circus excitement, a bit of carny circus intrigue, and several camera shadows.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Crypt Of The Living Dead

A dude travels to a village to find out why his father was crushed beneath the tomb of a 700-year old vampire with perfect eye makeup in this Spanish horror film. He recruits the local villagers to help lift the tomb off his father's corpse, and removes the lid of the coffin, revealing a female vampire. She hangs out in her crypt and opens her eyes in a threatening manner for the length of the movie.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's a boom in the shot, too.

I was going to completely write this movie off as a boring drag, but the ending was kind of kick ass, which I won't spoil.

Oops, spoiler alert, but I spoiled it a little. Don't worry, it gets better, and I promise I won't spoil it.

The Murder Mansion

People get lost in the fog and find themselves at a dark, foreboding mansion in this slow-moving horror film. The Murder Mansion is sort of like a humorless Murder By Death. Hey, let's watch a clip from Murder By Death!

There are quite a few similarities. People drive cars in the fog. There's a mystery, and people end of murdered in a foreboding house. Hey, let's watch another clip from Murder By Death!

The Murder Mansion did have a cool moment when a guy was walking past the cemetery wielding a scythe. I think it's time for another clip from Murder By Death!

The first death doesn't happen until about an hour into The Murder Mansion, and it wasn't very interesting. There's a lot of subtext and an undead chauffeur. But it certainly is no Murder By Death. Here's a clip, but I guarantee you'll nearly die of boredom and just replay the Murder By Death clips.