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The Horror of…The Spiral Staircase (1946)

October 28th, 2014 · 1 Comment

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE has always seemed much older than it actually is to me. I think that’s because my first viewing of it was on a particularly blanched-out VHS tape and because although it was made in the mid-forties it takes place about thirty years earlier. The irony is that this seasoned flick resembles and predicts, in various ways, many a beloved blood-soaked horror movie that hadn’t been born yet. Please grab a candle and follow me. Let’s investigate some of this groovy granny’s many instances of cinematic precognition!

Our movie opens with a bunch of folks watching another movie. This is clever because it creates a subconscious pecking order that insinuates that what we’re watching is more real than what they are watching. It’s almost meta, I’d say, and reminds me of other films that springboard from movies like HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE, ANGUISH and SCREAM 2.

Hey, the killer is hiding in the closet and it’s all BLACK CHRISTMAS-like! And here comes an intimate POV shot of the victim preparing for bed a’ la HALLOWEEN! We’re also privy to a patch of voyeuristic eyeball images that predate PEEPING TOM and PSYCHO. Shortly we’ll find out that our murderer only kills a specific type (those who have an “affliction” of some sort) and that’s kinda SILENCE OF THE LAMBS-ish and ahead of its time too.

Our sweet heroine is Helen (DOROTHY McGUIRE) and like so many future horror protagonists, she has not quite discovered her own power and (literally in this case) voice yet. She’s a humble outsider and she’s got a traumatic past that made her that way. We the audience know that there is more to Helen than she realizes and only the most wretched would not route for her. Helen is a nice name especially when you imagine it whispered by TONY TODD.

Here’s a rainy wooded stalking scene! Yay for rainy woods and let me cite FRIDAY THE 13th for frequently understanding the primordial power of them. The lurker is a giallo shadow puppet. He disappears into a tree like Freddy Krueger and all his slicker is missing is a hook to complete the I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER look that’s all the rage this fall.

Oh no, dropped keys! Laurie Strode can tell you how important keys are. I like that this key is a big old classic cartoon key like in HELL NIGHT.

Helen has a paranoid fantasy about her well-grounded love interest Dr. Parry (CAT PEOPLE’s KENT SMITH). In it, the two rejoice on their dreamy wedding day but when the time comes to exchange vows, Helen blows it while a critical crowd looks down their collective noses. Very CARRIE and very “They’re all going to laugh at you!” as the words “Say I do.” repeat over and over.

BLACK CHRISTMAS’s secret boozer Mrs. Mac has got nothing on SPIRAL’s Mrs. Oates who swipes hooch and drinks herself into a coma state. ELSA LANCHESTER who just ten years earlier played both Mary Shelly and the monster’s mate in “THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN” portrays Mrs. Oates.

Secretary Blanch (RHONDA FLEMING) knows when to ditch a bad scene. When she goes into the basement (!) to grab a suitcase she bumps into her final fate instead. As in the original FRIDAY THE 13th (when the series was still in the whodunit? mode) Blanch sees her attacker and we don’t. She’s scarred at first, recognizes her assailer and remarks, “Oh, it’s you! You scared the life out of me!” before she is horrifically slain. Aw, this bit also brings back fond memories of the weight-lifting kill from HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME. It’s such a relief to be on friendly terms with your murderer.

Speaking of HBTM (not to mention many a giallo), check out these fashionable tight black murder gloves! So hip it hurts.

Sneaky shoes = DRESSED TO KILL.

As in many a slasher, in the end, it all comes down to a cat and mouse showdown between our honorable heroine and the emotionally vacant killer (whose identity I’m not revealing). In this suspense-filled scene Helen is oh so very close to getting much needed aid from a visiting constable. He’s so close and yet so far and the chance for rescue is frustratingly missed! This reminds me so much of my favorite moment in THE FUNHOUSE when Amy can see her parents just outside the window but her calls for help and recognition cannot be heard. Helen of course cannot scream at all. It’s so sad and tragic, like not being able to connect to a hand-wringing Aunty Em in a crystal ball.

If you haven’t seen this movie, I can’t bare to ruin any more than I already have. If you want to find out if our pal Helen survives, you’ll just have to WATCH IT. My lips are sealed.

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Tags: General Horror · The Horror of...

Happy Birthday Bad Ronald!

October 23rd, 2014 · 2 Comments

First off, allow me to thank our good pal Amanda of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM for being so kind as to alert me to BAD RONALD’s birthday. Please take a moment to jump on over to her pad’s tribute HERE.

It’s hard to believe that it was four decades ago on this very date (October 23rd) that the made-for-television classic BAD RONALD premiered. I have no idea exactly when I first encountered RONALD, it seems like it was always part of my family’s boob tube mythology. “The one with the guy in the wall” it was called until it materialized in the TV GUIDE and then we’d call it BAD RONALD for a while as we planned our viewing and then afterwards, at some point, it would always regress back to “The one with the guy in the wall” again. That literal alias actually came in handy years later when I worked in a video store because every once in a while a customer would inquire about “The one with the guy in the wall” and I’d have a pretty good guess as to what they were talking about. Eventually the Internet came around and spray-painted BAD RONALD’s tag all over cyberspace but for many years, like so many TV movies, this gem was as elusive as an oily eel. Not that there was ever any risk that BAD RONALD would disappear entirely, if you didn’t bump into it on late night TV or at the rare video store that stocked it, you could always count on someone (provided they were of a certain age) bringing it up whenever the conversation turned to freaky movies that camp out in the corners of your head.

In case any of you have been living in a bathroom that has been repurposed into well-camouflaged secret living quarters for the past forty years, I’ll draw a quick sketch of the plot. BAD RONALD concerns a young social pariah named Ronald Wilby who is played by the ever-sincere SCOTT JACOBY. Besides enduring the cruel rejection of his classmates, Ronald lives with the knowledge that when his parents divorced, his father made a deal with his mother to break off all ties in exchange for never having to pay child support (ouch). One day while fleeing a hater pool party, Ronald bumps into a shrewy twerp on a bike who makes the mistake of blasting his mom which causes him to go berserk. He grabs her by the freckled face and pushes her down to the ground and …oops, how come cinder blocks are never around when you need them and only show up at the wrong time to kill folks you only meant to stun? So annoying.

Rather than simply tip toeing away from the scene of the accident and forgetting about the whole mess with a toasted cheese sandwich like a normal person, Ronald does the dumbest thing ever and buries the body in a shallow grave condemning himself as the responsible party. After hearing of this gaff, Ronald’s sweet mother (KIM HUNTER) tsks-tsks his rookie mistake and comes up with an awesome plan to get him off the hook. With some help from the tool kit he just received for his birthday (finally a fortuitous break!), the two devise the ultimate secret fort by transforming a bathroom door into a wall and creating an undetectable living space in the heart of the house. When the police come looking for Ronald, Ma just says he split the scene! All’s well that ends well until mother goes to the hospital for a routine operation, kicks the bucket and eventually a new family lead by the one and only DABNEY COLEMAN moves in. Things get sticky when the increasingly unstable Ronald becomes obsessed with one of the new family’s daughters (CINDY EILBACHER, who you may recognize from CROWHAVEN FARM) though who can blame him, he has a lot of free time on his hands and this all takes place before the invention of the Playstation.

I’m going to be honest with y’all, BAD RONALD is creepy, tense and builds up to a fantastic climax but as a budding recluse, I never solely took it in for thrills, a part of me has always been attracted to it as a hermitic fantasy. I mean who needs Walden’s Pond when you’ve got art supplies, a working sink and apparently an endless stash of chocolate bars? I feel the same way about its unofficial sister flick THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (which also boasts an indelible outsider performance from JACOBY) in which, secret orphan Rynn Jacobs (JODIE FOSTER) hides away from the world drinking tea and reading books all day in hippie garb with a hamster named Gordon.

Rynn and Ronald may be ostensibly presented (at least as a selling point) as threats to normalcy but the engine in each flick is run by the fuel of the viewer routing for their success in protecting a small space to call their own and the right to decline participation in the nonsense of the world (see also: SHIRLEY JACKSON’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE and any album by THE SMITHS). In our current “If you don’t see me, I don’t exist” culture, it’s nearly a verboten idea but I think there’s something admirable about creating your own universe and carving out a sense of self autonomous from the observations and opinions of others.

It’s very likely I’m missing the whole tragic point of BAD RONALD and happily so. In any case the guy got loads of time to concentrate on his art (and his make-believe kingdom Atranta) rather than his rent and we can all agree there are worse fates than that. (According to the sequel that exists only in my head, Ronald, once discovered, is given a year or so of prison time, some therapy of sorts, a book deal and the level of notoriety to sell his artwork at exorbitant prices. He takes all of his millions, buys a mansion and then ends up living in just one small bathroom of the manor with the door nailed shut anyway- because that’s just who he is.)

There are TV movies and then there are TV movies and BAD RONALD is certainly up there with the very best of the best. Oh, and here’s another wonderful thing: If you buy a BAD RONALD DVD you will get a free bonus Kindertrauma blurb at no extra cost! It’s true! They actually quoted yours truly and slapped it right there on the back of the DVD for the world to see. That probably doesn’t seem like a big deal but to me it’s an honor to be shrink wrapped with a lifelong favorite. It’s also proof that even the twitchiest shut-ins don’t mind a little acknowledgment of their existence every once in a while. Now I’m hungry for a chocolate bar. Happy Birthday Prince Norbert! I’ll see you in Atranta.

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Tags: General Horror · Holidays

Ten Hulu Horrors for Halloween

October 10th, 2014 · 2 Comments

If you have a computer you can watch horror movies any damn time you please and for free! Well, actually you will pay in patience as you endure some dumb commercials periodically but you should know by now how to tune such things out and hide inside your happy place until they are over. Some of these are obvious and some of these have nothing to do with the holiday and some of these might not look their best but they’re all mostly good and they all have the power to get you in the Halloween spirit if you let them.

THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED (1969)

This one would be easy to pass by on Hulu as it is presented by the eternally lovely ELVIRA, who might admit to you herself, doesn’t always present the finest of films. Anyway, ELVIRA’s not here, I am (I can hear those disappointed groans telepathically) and I’m here to say this movie is tippity tops. In this rare Spanish film shot in English, LILLI PALMER stars as a head mistress at a boarding school that is not a fan of her cherished son messing with the female students. Naturally folks start getting killed but you’ll never guess the twists including one that still shocks me to this very day. Director Narciso Ibanez Serrador truly delivers on the atmosphere and even though it’s going to take me a while to memorize his name, I simply have to because he also directed the kindertrauma classic WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (Not to mention the opening segment of 6 FILMS TO KEEP YOU AWAKE- which I’m itching to watch again soon). Many a year ago, I had the hardest time finding this movie and had to send out for a very crappy bootleg so please honor my previous struggle by watching it for free!

THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981)

I’m not sure if this is LUCIO FULCI’s greatest movie but I’m leaning toward it being my favorite of his. It’s got all the surreal bizarreness and grubby goriness of his best flicks but in addition to that, it’s soooo much fun and leaves you feeling fresh as a daisy rather than vaguely off kilter and therefore offers itself to more casual viewing. Let’s just say that if THE SHINING made the horrible mistake of having a baby with CATHY’S CURSE, the resulting offspring wailing for instant institutionalization would be something like this. That’s not a dig. THBTC is wildly silly, awkwardly dubbed and mad as a million hatters for sure and yet, it’s so damn beautiful in its cool gothic greyness. There’s nothing quite like it, except maybe GHOSTHOUSE (1988) which was filmed in the same creepy abode. Too bad that’s not on Hulu, what a great double feature that would make.

HOUSE ON SORRORITY ROW (1983)

Do me a favor and jump back in time to this review HERE. It will tell you all you need to know about my undying appreciation of this superior slasher.

SPELLBINDER (1988)

Did you just get back from reading my ancient HOUSE ON SORRORITY ROW review? Don’t take off your hat just yet. I don’t mean to be a taskmaster but do you think you could click HERE and save me the trouble of reiterating why SPELLBINDER had to take out a restraining order against me? You’re a peach.

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)

I know this Halloween set classic is a no-brainer and I don’t mean to insult you by including it here but just in case there may be anyone out there who has yet to accept Angela’s invite, I just have to say do so now and plan to do so forever. It seems impossible that a movie can be as hilarious as this is and still provide plenty of creeps but no matter how many times I return, I can count on being a little freaked out. I’m not even talking about the famous lipstick in boob bit- I’m referring to the overall claustrophobic, rats-in-a maze mood it conjures up so well. People tend to dismiss movies that are this much fun as frivolous guilty pleasures but I don’t think a few chuckles erase the fact that there’s something legitimately scary going on here too. The build up to the supernatural shenanigans is so expertly done that the pay off is pure gold and I say if your Halloween doesn’t include a little BAUHAUS, well you’re doing it wrong.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990)

This seems like another too obvious choice except please note I’m specifically talking about the remake (GEORGE ROMERO’s classic is available on Hulu too though, if you are so inclined). I caught this one in the cinema back in the day and I was thoroughly impressed and was then taken aback to learn it had received mostly negative reviews. Looking back I should not have been surprised as it was bound to catch flack for being a remake alone. That’s so sad because a color redo was inevitable and TOM SAVINI‘s modernized telling does a great job of respecting its predecessor while still bringing something fresh to the table. Our old pal Barbara, who was rightfully suffering severe shock in the original and largely dazed, is suddenly wide-awake and ready to throw down. Actress PATRICIA TALLMAN portrays Barbara in a way that she’s not magically infallible to serve the story but authentically grounded and convincingly capable. Personally, I’ll never forget the opening confrontation that includes the premiere dead dude getting stabbed by one of those wire flower corsages meant for a grave and then continuing to stalk with it dangling off of him. I thought that was one clever way to announce that the film would be adding some new flourishes all its own. If you are a purist who has been avoiding watching this baby due to your loyalty to the original…stop.

COLD PREY (2006)

Dear COLD PREY, if anyone ever tries to tell you that you are not perfect please cram a pick axe in their face for me. Every year my love for you grows stronger and stronger and I just want thank you for being you (while still hitting every beloved slasher trope I crave). You are everything I ever wanted. You have a fiercely charismatic lead with believable bonds to those around her, a horrifically menacing maniac who somehow inspires slivers of sympathy, true nail-gnawing suspense and perhaps most importantly, folks getting drunk in an abandoned ski lodge (which is my idea of heaven on Earth). You seem to really care about me too because you spawned an equal sequel and a third prequel that I did not think was anywhere near as bad as some pretended it was. There is no reason why I should have to wait until winter to visit you, no reason at all. Never change. Eskimo kisses.

THE CHILDREN (1980)

Once upon a time I thought THE CHILDREN was a terrible movie simply because it was not as good as the one I imagined in my head after being bombarded by its TV spots as a wee lad. Now I realize that it’s still pretty terrible but wonderfully so. One would think that having a bus load of kids drive through a nuclear cloud to become zombie-like killers would be enough but somebody involved also had the brilliant idea of having the kids’ nails turn black and the tykes kill by way of radioactive hugs (while being immune to shotgun blasts and stoppable only after their hands are lopped off). That’s just so crazy that it just might work! Or maybe not- but the fun is in the fact that they carried on anyway. Another bonus is learning that Harry Manfredini is nearly as lazy as myself and recycled much of his score from the same year’s FRIDAY THE 13TH. Bonkers though it may be, there are some surprisingly striking images that appear now and then and sense be damned, an eerie vibe impervious to reason.

INFERNO (1980)

ARGENTO does a lot of crappy stuff (mostly lately) and he does a lot of interesting stuff (mostly everything) and he even does some stone cold, indisputable genius stuff (mostly between 1975 and 1985). INFERNO falls into that last category. In fact INFERNO was the first movie of his I ever saw followed by CREEPERS (aka Phenomena) and then SUSPIRIA if you can imagine such a thing. Anyway INFERNO haunted me for so long after I saw it. I could not stop thinking of the underwater scene in which Rose (Irene Miracle) plunges into a hole in the floor to collect some fallen keys. It’s so mesmerizing and I seriously think ARGENTO might be a witch himself and this is a perfect spell. The whole movie is exquisite with perhaps the momentary exception of a late in the flick skeleton of death costume that doesn’t quit work. Just talking about INFERNO makes me feel like I’m walking backward into a semi-dream state. My suggestion is to never question what this movie is telling you, just nod and follow it wherever it leads you.

THE HOLE (2009)

Aw, good ol’ JOE DANTE sure knows how to make a movie. This PG-13 flick is about three young folks who face their fears and it’s got just the right balance of fun and frights to make it perfect for Halloween viewing. Read my full review over HERE so that I can be finished this list and get to carving a pumpkin or something.

Extra 10 Bonus: On Hulu you’ll also find such fine nuggets as: THE EVIL DEAD (1981), THE PROWLER (1981), INTRUDER (1989), C.H.U.D. (1984) FROM BEYOND (1986), FRANKENHOOKER (1990), BASKETCASE 2 (1990), LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974), HORROR EXPRESS (1972) GINGER SNAPS (2001) and so much more- go explore!

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Tags: General Horror

Curtains (1983)

August 15th, 2014 · 3 Comments

Do you remember that Chris Rock joke where he took folks to task for bragging, “I take care of my kids” by countering, “You’re supposed to take care of your kids”? That’s been playing in my head every time I see a review talking about how swell CURTAINS (1983) looks now that it’s been rescued from the VHS (or sloppy ECHO BRIDGE 4 pack) gutter and hosed down for DVD and Blu-Ray. I mean, it’s supposed to look better, right? How could it not? Of course, that was simply the shruggy shawl I had to wear to keep myself warm while I waited for MY COPY to get its slothy molasses ass to my goddamn door and no CURTAINS, don’t bother with excuses and no you can’t have a drink, put your feet up or decompress from your apparently epic journey from the warehouse, shut up and get in my TV!!! Geez, nice of you to drop by. Remember me? The guy you curled up next to when you were feeling all dejected all those years ago on late night cable long before half the viewers you’ve been bonking lately were even born? Wow, for a cult film that barely hobbled its way to the screen due to behind the scenes production problems, you’re really feeling good about yourself lately, aren’t you? I see now you’re considered a classic. How nice for you.

All right, I admit it, now that I have watched my lackadaisical, blowing on its nails, unapologetically tardy copy of CURTAINS, the universe is back in order and I can see exactly what all of the hubbub is about. It’s like this, you can own a worthwhile piece of art but if it’s on the floor covered in dust in a dark room you’re never going to be able to appreciate it fully. Sometimes all a painting needs is for somebody to dust it off, put it in a complimentary frame and hang it in a well-lit space and then voila- it’s a revelation. That’s basically what SYNAPSE FILMS has done with this release. In my book, the laurels still belong to the artist(s) rather than the presenter but SYNAPSE deserves praise for making sure that the incredibly patient fans of this film were not disappointed (and by disappointed I mean storming SYNAPSE headquarters with pitchforks.) CURTAINS’ unique voice is yesterday’s news to its fans but you gotta give respect to this company for handing it a bullhorn and turning up the mic.

Yes, it turns out that CURTAINS, more than your average film, opens up like a flower when it’s getting the sunlight it deserves. That’s because it derives much of its power from its visuals, in a way you’d never know if you’ve only seen what I think we can now refer to as ‘the mud version.’ Who knew CURTAINS was not supposed to be drenched in mud? It’s actually supposed to be drenched in snow, startling white oppressive snow and rain, somber, grey disquieting rain but nope, not mud.

When a movie relies so heavily on its mise-en-scene to cast its moody spell, it deserves if not requires the simple leg up of a decent picture. I’m not going to throw out my VHS copy anytime soon but only because it makes a fine paperweight and I believe it might come in handy squashing the fly I’m currently at war with, otherwise… we’re through. Oh and how about seeing something in its proper ratio rather than all squashed up? CURTAINS does this clever signature scene transition business that involves an actual curtain on screen being pushed aside to provide a sort of wipe. On VHS, it barely registers and only sort of works and now it’s all kinds of lovely awesome and high-five worthy glorious.

Then there’s the infamous ice skating scene which could quite easily be yanked right out the movie and stand successfully on its own as one of the best horror shorts ever made. It’s really incredible. If there was indeed a sensibility clash between the film’s director and producer, I’m on team whoever is responsible for the skating scene.

Our story is about a bunch of young pretty actresses competing with each other for a part once promised to a slightly more mature (you’re welcome SAMANTHA EGGAR) woman who is not happy with being shoved aside. You’d be resentful too if you placed yourself in a mental institution to research a role only to find out that you’ve been unwittingly complicit in your own putting out to pasture. The skating scene, besides being one of the sharpest and most lyrical stalk and slash set pieces ever put to film, works as a perfect little snow globe encapsulating the movies’ themes concerning the specter of aging and the fleeting solace of youth and beauty. You know, that old conveyer belt towards impending death that we call existence.

Christie (LESLEH DONALDSON) goes out on the ice to listen to some tunes, rejoice in her physical talents and hopefully get her mind off of the fact that she attempted to up her chances of winning a coveted role by sleeping with an egomaniacal ice-eyed director (JOHN VERNON) the previous evening. When her music suddenly dies she checks the batteries in her tape player and they fall into the snow and that’s when Christie spies the most curious thing- a doll hand! She pulls the pouty toy out of the ice and it’s as if she’s staring back at her youth. Who might abandon this glaring international symbol of childhood innocence out here in the cold unforgiving world? Maybe she’s lost more than her batteries.

As Christie becomes mesmerized with the quickly growing creepy plaything, she is blinded to what is sinisterly sliding on blades up beside her. Dressed head to toe in black wearing an ugly old hag mask with scraggily withered hair and wielding a harvesting sickle, here comes death! Oh sure, this is a slasher/mystery and we’re supposed to desire to identify who is behind the mask and what their motivations are but frankly, it doesn’t matter, this bit works as a simple, undiluted representation of horror. It’s so pure it could be a mural on a cave.

CURTAINS gets a lot of grief for being disjointed and smudgy in places and in some ways the new DVD can enhance its dueling identities. You end up with this melodramatic yet melancholy base layer with blindsiding splotches of vibrant color almost hovering over it, never fully blending in. But to me, that’s awesome in a contrasting collage type way and the best of both worlds, really. There are plenty of hanging threads and jagged edges and pieces that don’t quit fit, simple scars of the rough terrain this movie that was nearly abandoned was fated to endure. What’s left standing though is this one of a kind strangely enthralling peculiarity whose major crime is wanting to be smart and artsy and taken seriously until the time came that it changed its mind and wanted to be flashy and frightening too. So sue it. Personally, I can only take off my hat and bow before the spirited audacity of attempting an air of sophistication while featuring a decapitated head in a toilet.

Speaking of flashy and frightening, thanks to this new presentation, the famous murder on skates scene may have found some fresh competition itself in the most memorable moment department. Suddenly now with lines sharpened, its neon lights injected with color and its shadow pools deepened the climactic prop room chase now appears like an understudy poised to grab the spotlight. Nah, maybe not. The ice skating scene always wins.

One last thing though, I have to point out that no matter if it’s on VHS, Beta, laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray or whatever they come up with next, the cast of CURTAINS has always been phenomenal in any format and a gargantuan reason this film has its loyal fan base. JOHN VERNON and SAMANTHA EGGAR are amazing together and it’s a crime against theater that they never, to my knowledge did “WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLF?” And then there’s LESLEH DONALDSON who lights up whatever film she’s in even if it’s a killer rat movie. But I have to say after my most recent viewing of CURTAINS I realize now, without a shadow of a doubt, that LYNNE GRIFFIN really OWNS this movie. She’s fantastic. She starts out all quirky and self effacing and then there’s this scene where she looses her patience and shows this whole other side to herself and she kills it. I’m telling you, LYNNE stole a scene right out from under VERNON’s nose and then, by gosh, she went and swiped one away from EGGAR too and folks that can’t be easy!

If you never liked this movie this is your chance to like it, if you liked this movie this is your chance to love it and it you loved this movie, chances are you already own this revamped game-changer version and very likely got a chance to check it out long before me. How nice for you.

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Tags: General Horror

Rain of Fire aka The Chosen aka Holocaust 2000 (1977)

April 30th, 2014 · 10 Comments

There’s nothing like scrounging through a used DVD bin. Thank God there are still a few places in my vicinity where I can do that. Buying off of the Internet may be convenient and all, but it kills the thrill of the hunt and robs fate of its chance to shove something in your face that you didn’t know you wanted. Synchronicity and serendipity teamed up to insure that RAIN OF FIRE and I should collide. Recently while flipping through some movies at a favorite haunt, I knocked a bunch of DVDs on the ground and there it was just staring up at me. It was ugly and I wondered if it was in the wrong section. It was dressed like a public domain reject. It had the worst cover art ever sporting a shame faced KIRK DOUGLAS standing in front of a wall of fire. So much for love at first sight.

Luckily curiosity got the better of me and I investigated the back of the case. I was shocked to see LION’S GATE had put out this dreadful looking package and then I thought about it for a second and remembered that they have no idea what they are doing. Hold up now! Turns out RAIN OF FIRE was directed by ALBERTO DeMARTINO, the loon that brought us THE TEMPTER and the music was done by our pal ENNIO MORRICONE! The synopsis even mentions something about the devil. This is an apocalyptic Italian Satan flick! At $2.99, pathetic packaging or not, I was sold.

Some folks may complain that RAIN (aka HOLOCAUST 2000 aka THE CHOSEN aka LUCIFER’S CURSE) is a brazen OMEN rip-off, but to me that’s nothing to complain about. Truth told it doesn’t resemble THE OMEN so much as it does OMEN 3: THE FINAL CONFLICT, which is kinda impressive considering that in 1977 that sequel hadn’t been made yet. I guess RAIN saw where THE OMEN series was heading and decided to cut it off at the pass. Between you and me, I found it to be more entertaining than OMEN 3 (though it’s still nowhere near as good as OMENS 1&2) though maybe I should watch that one again just to be sure. Eh, on second thought, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just say any and all end of the world movies involving the devil are welcome here.

DOUGLAS plays a rich business dude who wants to build a nuclear power plant and his son SIMON WARD couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the plan because he is secretly the antichrist and doesn’t mind destroying the entire world if the opportunity should arise. This movie is not quite as wacky as our beloved THE VISITOR (what is?) but it is certainly cut from the same nutso Italian cloth and features quite a few of its own inexplicable, psychedelic sanity lapses. What really gives it a lead over OMEN 3 though is the fact that at one point some guy gets the top of his head sliced off by a helicopter propeller a’la DAWN OF THE DEAD which by the way, was still a year away. Guess which movie I think handles the effect better? Hint: my answer is absolute horror fan sacrilege.

Another big plus to this movie is DOUGLAS and his impossible chin. This is far down on the list of roles he’ll be remembered for but the guy has unquestionable presence and brings a certain ‘70s disaster-vibe to the table. I appreciate the novelty of having an older male lead even as I question the choice to have him run about buck-naked in so many scenes. Hey, it was the seventies. The ending probably could have used some retooling, as anything besides the total annihilation of mankind is a let down for such a flick but I was never bored which is more than I can say for my experience with OMEN 3 (there I go again).

What can I say? This movie has a lovely glass insane asylum where everybody is fond of taupe and beige where one guy gets his head smashed into hamburger, a bit where medical professionals are fine with fulfilling DOUGLAS’ instructions to pretend to give his pregnant gal pal (AGOSTINA BELLI) a routine check-up while actually performing an unwanted abortion and it has a nifty, giant seven-headed dragon monster that symbolizes a nuclear power plant. And it’s all wrapped in this swell “Save the Earth” wrapper that GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER would totally approve of.

One thing is for sure, RAIN deserves something more than being completely forgotten. If punch-drunk, THE VISITOR can be reappraised and applauded for its idiosyncrasies, I don’t see why RAIN OF FIRE can’t be to. If you like cleft chins, Italian rip-offs, the satanic seventies or all of the above, pray to the antichrist that this flick falls into your life. And take a lesson from me; never judge a movie by its DVD cover.

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Tags: General Horror

The Medusa Touch (1978)

March 10th, 2014 · 9 Comments

Wowsy. I was at the local thrift shop and I found this VHS tape called THE MEDUSA TOUCH (1978) and when I picked it up, its weight felt like a brick in my hand. It cost 45 cents because the thrift shop is crazy. It looked kind of boring because it had RICHARD BURTON’s face on the cover but it just felt so at home in my mitt that I had to make it mine. Hey, it turns out I really liked this movie. It wasn’t boring in the least and I’m even going to apply an “unsung classic” scratch-and-stiff sticker upon it! Why, this movie is a thriller that thrills and it’s also witty and thought provoking and all that classy stuff! If you dig the more somber, headier side of horror like say, THE WICKER MAN, THE CHANGELING or THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, this is going to float your boat. You should watch it in your library with a brown-colored alcoholic beverage of your choice. If you have a fireplace, light it with your mind.

Our story begins on a wonderful note with RICHARD BURTON getting his head bashed in by an unseen assailant. A French detective (LINO VENTURA) stops by to inspect the aftermath and is astonished to find BURTON is still alive! He is rushed to the hospital and the investigators are left to wonder whom on Earth would ever want to bash RICHARD BURTON’s skull in and how on Earth is he still alive after having his head smashed in so brutally? While BURTON chills out in a PATRICK (1978) style coma, the detective snoops around and pieces together his life story, which means we get a full RICHARD BURTON movie even though he is in a coma all thanks to the glorious power of flashback-flavored storytelling. The biggest blabbermouth at the clothesline is THE OMEN’s LEE REMICK who portrays BURTON’s long-suffering psychiatrist. She tells the detective how BURTON would go on and on about how he could make terrible accidents occur just by thinking about them and how she assumed he was a fruit cake until the evidence that he wasn’t a fruit cake was too in her face to ignore.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I wouldn’t watch that movie even if it meant saving the lives of thousands of strangers.” If so, then this movie is even more perfect for you. It starts out being about this narcissistic dude with a God complex but then as we travel forward we go through the same conversion as the characters as they come to believe and fear his claims. Ultimately, we realize that this guy isn’t simply representing unhinged folks with freaky telekinetic powers but mankind itself and its douche-y attraction to destruction and evil. I mean I’m a fairly nice person but if I could blow up stuff with my mind, let’s face it, the entire world would be charred to a crisp by now.

There’s a satisfying twist that you may see coming but not so early on that it will piss you off, a hearty dose of pitch black humor and finally you’re left with a disturbing chill. In fact, this movie is probably more disturbing in our post 9/11 world than it was back in 1978. Or maybe that’s just me. Watching a plane crash into a building is not what it used to be. Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait around for a used copy to knock on your door like I did; it looks like THE MEDUSA TOUCH was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray! It’s so good I may have to shove out a little more than 45 cents for an upgrade!

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Tags: General Horror

Twice Dead (1988)

February 20th, 2014 · No Comments

I don’t know why I listen to my brain so much. It’s often wrong and it hasn’t exactly proven itself an ally in the past. If I could fire my brain I would because it’s shady and pretends to know stuff it doesn’t. Or maybe it’s just confused? Here is an example of my brain feeding me false information that I was eventually able to disprove thanks to one second of research. Once upon a time I bought a DVD of THE EVIL (1978) because THE EVIL is my friend. It was a double-feature type affair that also sported TWICE DEAD (1988). But my brain told me I didn’t care about that one because I saw it before and found it unlikable. In fact, it brought back sorry memories of a creepy summer indoors breathing stale air and watching pale movies during the day and not knowing anything or anyone.

Then the other day I was fondling my THE EVIL DVD like a miser and I happened to read the back of the case because sometimes I accidentally read things when I’m bored. Hey, what now? I had never seen this TWICE DEAD before! What was I thinking of? It wasn’t easy but I was able to track down the title I had confused it with. REST IN PIECES (1987)! Why did my brain think these two were the same movie when they are not? It’s the guy on the cover art! In both cases he’s all dead-looking and smashing out of something. It was REST IN PIECES that gave me a bumper vibe strong enough to last decades. Oh sorry, poor innocent TWICE DEAD, my goof. Oh, hooray, I thought, now I have a new eighties horror flick to watch! It’s like finding a 20-dollar bill in an old coat!

Fast forward and I really liked TWICE DEAD. It’s a totally different thing than that other movie (REST IN PIECES) that I wanted to forget about (and now secretly want to see again in order to torture myself). TWICE is about a nice, down on their luck family who inherits a haunted house but can’t worry too much about their ghost because a laughable band of punk rockers want the house too and are the more pressing issue. This is kind of like HOUSE (1986) smashed up with THE NEW KIDS (1985) but it’s also like KILLER PARTY (1986) because it cannot decide what kind of movie it wants to be and yet is somehow entertaining anyway. The implausibility factor is excessively high, so much so that I’m grateful that I didn’t see this movie at a younger age when I might have cared. Lately I believe reality has already ruined reality and it shouldn’t be allowed to ruin movies too.

What helps make TWICE DEAD’s unfocused storytelling so forgivable is its fetching cast. NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3’s BROOKE “Andale!” BUNDY is ma, THE ROOKIESSAM MELVILLE is dad and the brother and sister are portrayed by THE BRAIN’s amiable TOM BRESNAHAN and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS’ adorable JILL WHITLOW. Never underestimate the power of the WHITLOW. Her charming presence makes me even more confused about this film’s relatively low profile. I’m going to blame that cover art again. No matter how fancy and 3-D you make the smashing glass, a goofy guy with a moustache jumping out of a mirror is never going to sell a film. Why not exploit the awesomely cheesed-out punker thugs instead or the ominous mansion? Ah, don’t listen to me. What does my brain know?

TWICE DEAD was written and directed by BERT L. DRAGIN who pulled the same duties for the also slippery to categorize SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE (1987). I remember being disappointed by that one because it wasn’t the clear-cut horror flick its box art suggested. Maybe I’ll give it another chance now that I’m less likely to mind the blurring of the line. However, if the cast isn’t as likable as the one in TWICE, it could be a bumpy bus ride. Anyway, this DVD of mine with THE EVIL and TWICE DEAD double feature on it? I now like it twice as much as I did before. I wonder what other falsely accused ‘80s flicks are hiding in my shelves.

NOTE: I’m even going to forgive TWICE DEAD its deplorable cat murder which is not an easy thing for me to do…

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Tags: General Horror

The Horror Of:: Mazes & Monsters (1982)

February 12th, 2014 · 6 Comments

The other day 2 Warps To Neptune posted a TV GUIDE ad for 1982’s MAZES AND MONSTERS and reminded me that I’ve been sitting on a cheap-o DVD of that TV movie for years. It was finally time to revisit it again as I hadn’t seen it since the night it first aired. All I could remember was being really excited about it before it came on and really disappointed afterward because there was only one monster in it. The fact that the teleplay, based on Rona Jaffe’s novel of the same name, was not exactly a glowing endorsement of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS (my favorite game at the time) never occurred to me back then.

MAZES involves a group of college friends who get thoroughly immersed in a role playing game. One (played by a young TOM HANKS) gets so into it that he looses his mind forever just like those poor kids who ate LCD-laced Halloween candy in the ‘70s and are screaming their heads off in an insane asylum to this very day. (Oh how those poor nonexistent kids haunt me, they must have nonexistent arthritis by now). This movie is all about stoking fears and why shouldn’t have folks been afraid of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS? It promotes community, cooperation and using one’s imagination and so it is obviously the work of Satan. Man, Satan not only has the finest tunes, he has the finest games and movies too! Why am I not a Satanist again? Anyway it’s easy to forgive MAZES’ hokey paranoia now and there’s plenty of fine horror goodness to be found within its paper mache walls, so let’s take a look inside…

THE CAST

Check out this bounty! TOMHE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONEHANKS, WENDY CREWSON of SKULLDUGGERY & THE GOOD SON notoriety, DAVID WALLACE who set the world on fire with THE BABYSITTER (1980), mega-hit HUMONGOUS and the double GEORGE infused MORTUARY, CHRISVAMPMAKEPEACE, scowly SATAN’S SCOOL FOR GIRLS star LLOYD “one take” BOCHNER, ANNE FRANCIS who stole your heart in FORBIDDEN PLANET, MURRAY HAMILTON who double dunked in JAWS and JAWS 2, VERA MILES who owned PSYCHO and PSYCHO II like a monkey owns a banana, SUSAN STRASBERG who single handedly prevented my suicide with THE MANITOU and apparently CHRIS HIGGINS the king of FRIDAY THE13TH: THE SERIES as well, though I can’t find him without his beard, try as I might. That my friends is what we call an embarrassment of riches.

THE GORVIL MONSTER

Look at this crazy rubber suit monster with glowing eyes. It’s not scary…except it kind of is. It’s so fake looking and so alarmingly out of place that it somehow becomes freaky. It reminds me of when CHRISTOPHER WALKEN sees all those folks wearing insect masks while on the bus in COMMUNION. In both cases the creatures only exist within the mind of the character seeing them and so who cares if the effect is sorta iffy. The point is, these guys are going coconuts like an OSMOND and therefore can hallucinate whatever they please! Hey, the special effects in my figments of insanity are sub par too; that doesn’t make them any less disturbing!

1982 HALLOWEEN PARTY!

Halloween parties in movies are always a plus. How cool are these kids that they have both a ROAD WARRIOR (released May 21) poster and a BLADE RUNNER (released June 25) poster hanging on their dorm room walls? And just consider that both of those classic movies had only been released months earlier that same year. (MAZES & MONSTERS premiered on Dec. 28).

1982 MOVIE THEATERS!

Get ready to drool all over your keyboard! If you are electrocuted, don’t sue. At the start of the picture MAKEPEACE is driving around some town called New York and he speeds by a movie theater playing CREEPSHOW (Nov. 12)!

And then later when HANKS has taken a turn for the deranged he hits the streets to stumble into a marque boasting a showing of my beloved THE SLAYER (October)!

Then like a shameless seductress, HANKS saunters by a movie palace playing AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION (Sept. 24). Wha? All of my needs have been met.

THE TWIN TOWERS

I guess Rona Jaffe thought as long as she was throwing DUNGEONS & DRAGONS under the donkey cart she might as well cast aspersions on TOLKIEN too.(Hey, writing a novel in a couple of days ain’t easy! What was she supposed to do, make up her own mythology?) Turns out the M&M game features two castle towers and so when HANKS’ character is having a psychotic breakdown that could have been prevented by any educated adult treating the actual source of the problem rather than blaming a game, he heads to the World Trade Center. He’s under the delusion that he can fly just like all of those poor kids who ate LCD-laced Halloween candy. Seeing the interior of the trade center, the size, the multitude of people rushing about on their daily business, is haunting. Because you know, an actual REAL horror took place there, a horror that incidentally cannot be blamed on either LCD-laced Halloween candy or role playing games. And really isn’t that the chattering mob’s big cowardly secret? That by focusing on benign phantoms they can avoid the uglier, more troublesome problems of the world?

M&M is not too impressive but it’s pretty awesome anyway. It’s mind blowing how stupid and alarmist it is until you remember that people act the same way today only about different stuff. So maybe we can learn something here. The next time somebody blames a video game or a pop star or a violent movie or a different lifestyle or whatever the scapegoat de jour is, for the decline of morality, tell them they look like a Gorvil and that the zipper on their rubber suit is showing.

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Tags: General Horror · Great Moments In Kindertrauma History · Telenasties

Five Underrated Stephen King Flicks by Unk

February 6th, 2014 · 3 Comments

NEEDFUL THINGS (1993)

I was less than smitten with this one when I watched it upon its video release way back in the olden days. I found it sorta lame, tired and dull. Now that I’m sorta lame tired and dull myself, I totally get it! Thanks for being patient NEEDFUL THINGS! Young folk don’t like to hear it but there really are some things that you can’t fully appreciate until you’ve got some miles on you. A few broken dreams under your belt might be required to empathize with the desperate actions of the townsfolk of Castle Rock. Scares are scarce but there’s plenty of pitch-black social commentary in this Faustian consumer nightmare and what a perfect cast. You couldn’t possibly do better than MAX VAN SYDOW as the devilish Leland Gaunt and if you’re not of fan of ED HARRIS our friendship is over. Who among us can resist the fascinatingly unhinged savoir-faire of AMANDA PLUMMER? Who?

Observant viewers will catch a creepy glimpse of LISA BLOUNT (R.I.P.) of PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987). It seems her role was severely cut from the theatrical version of the film (She makes a bigger dent in the three hour long TV edit apparently) but she still makes a brief, strangely haunting appearance in a crowd scene toward the end. I have to bow down to the BLOUNT, she etched a permanent scar on my brain with her memorable role in DEAD AND BURIED (1981). Truth told this particular KING tale would have been better served as a miniseries in the first place, where each character might have gotten a fairer shake but it’s still a nice if short visit and if you’re in the right state of mind, it’s funny as hell.

DOLORES CLAIBORNE (1995)

KATHY BATES was soooo good in MISERY that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had to give her an Oscar or else they’d look like total jackasses. But then a couple years later when BATES did DOLORES CLAIBORNE they were all like “Back for seconds so soon, are we Kathy? You might want to slow it down on the STEPHEN KING material, if you want another one of these gold dudes.” Here’s the thing though, the truth that nobody can bear to hear without losing their mind to madness…BATES’s performance in DOLORES CLAIBORNE is ten times better than her performance in MISERY. Sorry, it’s just so true and somebody had to say it. I apologize if I just made you spit coffee on your laptop screen. It’s a much more complicated and challenging role and she’s so seamless and smooth in it. I guess the difference is DOLORES makes you feel sad and guilty and real empathy for those who struggle silently in this world and that’s no competition for the crowd-pleasing condescension that MISERY allows. (I love me some MISERY but let’s be real.).

And what the hell Academy? You didn’t think maybe you should nominate JUDY PARFITT for best supporting actress for her role as Vera Donavan? Are you insane? She only travels from steely witch to sympathetic confidant to heartbreaking crone throughout the course of the film. Oh, I see, you had to give that award to MIRA SORVINO. That makes a lot of sense. What a joke. I don’t know how Academy voters are able to look themselves in the mirror without ripping their own eyes out in a shame rage induced by the realization of what unscrupulous frauds they are. That’s right, I call shenanigans!

Oh and TAYLOR HACKFORD’s direction! Holy crap! It’s so beautifully expressive and so painterly and emotionally vivid. And the way he orchestrates the different time periods with opposing film stocks and visualizes the character’s mental states with finely tempered doses of MAGRITTE-inspired surrealism. I mean, c’mon people! O.K. I admit the inquest scene is a total wet noodle that robs the conclusion of the bite it deserves but too late- I already love the movie.

SALEM’S LOT (2004)

This one isn’t so much underrated, as it is vehemently hated. People who don’t dig it REALLY don’t dig it. I don’t get the furor. It’s certainly not as scary as TOBE HOOPER’s original stab and it pales to the experience of reading the mesmerizing novel but it’s hardly the worst adaptation. Maybe I’m just a sucker for getting lost in a miniseries. I love the town, the ominous Marsten house and the coldness of it all. Plus RUTGER HAUER! Maybe I’m wrong. That’s fine by me. I can be wrong and happily watch this again.

THE NIGHT FLIER (1997)

I know we were just talking about this one but it’s worth repeating, THE NIGHT FLIER is one under the radar gem of a flick. It’s like this great mysterious adventure and then when it gets down to business and (literally) opens its jaws, it’s some kind of wonderfully scary. I know it doesn’t look good. It is.

MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)

It’s KING’s directorial debut! It can’t possibly be as terrible as its reputation would have us believe? Right? As someone who just recently watched it, I can tell you- yeah, it is pretty crummy…but therein lies the fun. It’s a trash-tastic B-movie salute to ‘50s drive-in flicks and maybe even a mechanical parody of THE BIRDS. Let’s just call it a mess with a middle section that makes even me yawn but what a hilarious hoot in places too. So much of what made it a dud when it came out in the ‘80s makes it a gloriously delicious time capsule stuffed with abysmal head scratchy dialogue today. For all of its faults, I can’t resist the AC/DC score and the hilarious performance by THE SIMPSONSYEARDLEY SMITH. Isn’t that enough? Would folks rag on this so much if somebody else directed it? I doubt it. All you need to enjoy this is a sense of humor and maybe more alcohol than your doctor would approve of. In any case, this flick represents one of my favorite things about the author. No matter his success, he never gets so highfaluting that he forgets the low brow sparks that got his imagination roaring in the first place. When we talk of STEPHEN KING and horror movies, “Who made who?” is a valid question.

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Tags: General Horror · Where is the Love? Five Underrated Flicks

The Horror of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

January 30th, 2014 · 6 Comments

BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY is a horror fan’s friend. Don’t you remember that scary space vampire? All right, maybe he wasn’t that scary but his influence on the usually unflappable Col. Deering (ERIN GRAY of JASON GOES TO HELL) sure was. Wilma got wacky.

And remember when our pal JAMIE LEE CURTIS needed a break from being chased by an unstoppable killing machine in HALLOWEEN and being chased by an unstoppable killing machine in HALLOWEEN 2 and so she stopped by Buck’s neck of the universe to get chased by an unstoppable killing machine in space? While wearing pajamas? Even in space, orange is the new black!

No folks, you can’t escape from horror, not even in the 25th century! Let’s look at some other instances where horror acted like peanut butter and Buck (THE STEPDAUGHTER’s GIL GERARD) acted like chocolate and they both smooshed together in mutual space flavored deliciousness!

Awakening, Part 1 & 2

Yikes, mutants! Mutants are not the living dead but they sure seem to have graduated from the same charm school. Watch them try to kill Buck in a foggy graveyard of all places!

Planet of the Slave Girls, Part 1 & 2

This one has got both JACK PALANCE of ALONE IN THE DARK and WITHOUT WARNING and RODDY McDOWALL of LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE and FRIGHT NIGHT!

Vegas in Space

Hooray it’s RICHARD LYNCH of BAD DREAMS and THE PREMONITION and PAMELA SUSAN SHOOP of HALLOWEEN II!

The Plot to Kill a City: Parts 1 & 2

Geez Buck, what’s with all of these two parters? Well, this one doesn’t have any horror people in it. Wait! Ack! It’s ANTHONY JAMES the evil chauffer from BURNT OFFERINGS behind that mask! Oh, I must go cry in a corner now.

Return of the fighting 69th

The hits keep coming! This episode features ROBERT QUARRY of COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE and its sequel, DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN, MADHOUSE and SUGAR HILL!

Unchained Woman

This is that famous JAMIE LEE CURTIS episode that I already mentioned but wait that’s not all! Look! It’s dear TARA BUCKMAN who not only played a chummy sidekick of horror royalty ADRIENNE BARBEAU in THE CANNONBALL RUN but made her own permanent slash on the genre in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT!

Planet of the Amazon Women

It’s pretty ANN DUSENBERRY of that LIES (1985) flick I love so much and look there’s JAY “Dr. Shrinker” ROBINSON who was in BRAM STOKER’s DRACULA and THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER among others! This episode also famously contains one of the few times in television that a grilled cheese sandwich was used in a threat…

Cosmic Wiz Kid

It’s that pesky GARY COLEMAN episode. In an obvious attempt to infuriate me, nobody ever cast GARY COLEMAN in a horror film. Jokes on them, for if they had, that movie would be seen, loved and owned by every single human that is not an imbecile. I’m not bothered, I’m undaunted, we’ll just have to go the proximity route; Willis did TWICE DEAD, Kimberly was in EXCORCIST 2 and good old Dudley is in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 5. Oh, and Adelaide was totally in MORTUARY ACADEMY. If unsatisfied please consider the HELLO LARRY crossover episodes which featured KIM “I wanted a Vanilla twist” RICHARDS and the legendary DONNA WILKES (ANGEL, GROTESQUE, BLOOD SONG).

Escape From Wedded Bliss

In this episode nemesis Princess Ardala’s right hand man Kane gets a facelift. He is now portrayed by MICHAEL ANSARA (THE MANITOU, IT’S ALIVE) rather than HENRY SILVA (1979”s THIRST).

Cruise Ship to the Stars

Here’s a good one! FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART 4’s KIMBERLY BECK is a “transmute” which means she transforms into an entirely different person whenever she’s having a bad day. LEIGH McCLOWSKY, star of DARO ARGENTO’s INFERNO tries to exploit her talents in order to off GALIXINA’s DOROTHY STRATTEN!

This LOVE BOAT -inspired gem gets additional points because the background extras are either in bathing suits or disco dancing, Twiki meets a robo- girlfriend and Wilma is forced to wear a MARCIA WALLACE wig.

Space Vampire

Still a better love story than TWILIGHT!Har-har, I always wanted to say that. Now I feel cheap- and yet somehow closer to my fellow man. This episode is a stone cold classic. And really, you can view it as a vampire vs. werewolf tale because look who guest stars in it! Why, it’s THE HOWLING’S CHRISTOPHER STONE wearing a moustache that puts the space vampire’s unibrow to shame! Take that, evil Volvron!

Happy Birthday Buck

Every 534th birthday party should have PETER MacLEAN of SQUIRM, MORGAN BRITTANY of SUNDOWN: THE VAMPIRE IN RETREAT and THE INITIATION OF SARAH and TAMARACleopatra JonesDOBSON on the guest list.

A Blast For Buck

I’m glad somebody is having a good time. Geez, Buck what the hell are you doing having a clip show in your first season? Bee deep Bee Deep Bee deep indeed.

Ardala Returns

Wow, that Ardala sure can’t take a hint. Now she’s just looking desperate. She’s gone and made clones of Buck! Did Kane really just ask “ What could she be doing with three Buck Rogers for almost an hour and a half?” Maybe I’ll just ignore that and point out that feline henchman “Tigerman” is now played by wrestling legend HARD BOILED HAGGERTY who’s also in the classic TV movie CURSE OF THE BLACK WIDOW (1977) and DEATHSPORT (1978).

Twiki is Missing

This is a favorite because it features underrated scream queen ANNE-MARIE MARTIN of THE BOOGENS, PROM NIGHT and a tiny smidge of a scene in HALLOWEEN II fame. She plays a space angel with CARRIE-esque telekinetic powers.

Did you know our ANNE -MARIE was once married to MICHAEL CRICHTON and that JURASSIC PARK is dedicated to her? She’s also really into horses and owns a MAGRITTE. All right, she’s my new hero and I’m not just saying that because she got 31 million dollars in the divorce settlement.

Olympiad

I hate to break it to Vladimir Putin but if this episode is any indication, the future of the Olympics looks super gay. Here we get JUDITH CHAPMAN who was in 1991’s DEAD SPACE, DAY OF THE ANIMALS & THE MANITOU’s PAUL MANTEE, PAUL COUFOS of 976 EVIL 2, FOOD OF THE GODS 2 and CHOPPING MALL and BARNEY Mc FADDEN of SALEM’S LOT.

A Dream of Jennifer

Buck meets a gal who looks exactly like the girl he left behind and she’s played by beautiful ANNE LOCKHART. Did you know LOCKHART was JOHN CARPENTER’s first pick to play Laurie Strode in HALLOWEEN? It’s true. I don’t make stuff up. It’s hard now to imagine anybody else besides CURTIS playing Laurie but I totally get where CARPENTER was coming from and it’s not too hard to imagine lil’ DANIELLE HARRIS staring at this photo mournfully in PART 4

You’ll also find in this episode, PAUL KOSLO of XTRO II, OMEGA MAN and ROBO JOX, JESSIE LAWRENCE FERGUSON of JC’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS and the coolest person who ever walked on the face of the Earth, MARY WORONOV (SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT- ROCK & ROLL HIGH SCHOOL and many more.) Let me also state that WORONOV is a gifted writer and painter and an all around national treasure.

Space Rockers

I hate when people do this but I’m doing it anyway: Best. Episode. Ever. I’m sorry, but Just look at that title “space Rockers” and let it ferment in your brain. Now try to comprehend that this baby also features two of the sexiest people in entertainment, RICHARDNIGHT TRAIN TO TERRORMOLL and JUDYHELLHOLELANDERS! Youch! This rocket ride is so hot it should come with a cold meteor shower!

Buck’s Duel to the Death

Oh no, things are getting serious now; Buck must fight “the Traybor”! The Traybor is half robot, shoots lightening and is played by WILLIAM SMITH of INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS and MANIAC COP who everybody knows can beat up anyone even without the help of lightening. HEIDI BOHAY of 1982’s SUPERSTITION is not going to be of much help!

Flight of the War Witch

Now it’s time for a very special two hour-long season ender. Buck gets lost in a wormhole, meets a nasty space witch named Zarina (Thanks for almost-everything JULIE NEWMAR) and somehow poor Princess Ardala (PAMELA HEMSLEY) finds a new dimension to humiliate herself in. If you want horror stars you got em! How’s about PSYCHO & PSYCHO II’s VERA MILES and living legend SID HAIG (SPIDER BABY, HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES)?

All right, now it’s time to bid farewell! I was going to do season two as well but that’s just crazy. Maybe some other time, how does never work for you? There is a very creepy Satyr episode in season 2, I can tell you that much. But right now I’m beat and I’m bushed. In fact, I feel like I could sleep for a couple hundred years! Maybe a little “disco inferno” will wake me up…

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Tags: General Horror · Kindertrauma in Space