Official Traumatizer :: January Q. Irontail

iron tail

Not content with their stranglehold on Christmas programming, doll-mation kingpins RANKIN & BASS followed their usual holiday recipe when they concocted HERE COMES PETER COTTON TAIL:

  • One past-his-prime entertainer as the narrator (DANNY KAYE as Seymour Sassafras)
  • One flawed protagonist who must overcome insurmountable obstacles in order to save the holiday (CASEY KASSEM as Peter Cottontail) and a coterie of anthropomorphic animals and/or inanimate objects to assist said protagonist in his quest
  • One disfigured and/or misunderstood villain who wants to prevent children from enjoying the holiday (VINCENT PRICE as Irontail)
  • A quantity-over-quality quota of songs to move the action along

When all the elements come together, R & B can really knock it out of the park with an instant classic like RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER or SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN. As discussed in these very pages before, following the formula doesn’t always ensure fireworks, and R&B delivered a real dud with HERE COMES PETER COTTONTAIL.

Thankfully, VINCENT PRICE makes the most of a mediocre script as January Q. Irontail, resident bad ass and hindquarter amputee of April Valley. Perpetually embittered after losing his original tail to a child’s roller skate, Irontail mounts a vicious campaign against Peter Cottontail in his bid to be the chief Easter Bunny. Aside from having a metal tail that clanks every time he wiggles it, the sharply dressed Irontail gets around on his trusty bat Montresor, and is best friends with the ghouls that populate Halloween town. Sadly, R&B chose to devote more screen time to the boring Peter Cottontail, his French caterpillar sidekick, and a shrill Easter bonnet named Bonnie.

The Blob

 

Please add 1988’s THE BLOB on to the short list of worthy horror remakes. It easily makes the cut and, in many ways, surpasses the original. It effortlessly grafts the popular slasher elements of its day with ALIENS-inspired, pulse-pounding sci-fi set pieces while bending over backwards to salute 1950’s era paranoia, and small town sentimentality. No small feat considering it has to work against its highly mocked and innately silly title.

   Director CHUCK RUSSELL (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS) juggles a multitude of various characters and story lines with ease. Our introductions to the residents of Arborville, a town that has seen better days, are short, sweet and effective. By the time THE BLOB gets rolling, the viewer is highly invested. High on the list of folks to cheer for is cheerleader Meg Penny (the worship-able SHAWNEE SMITH), her clean-cut date Paul Taylor (DONAVAN LEITCH) and sourpuss Snake Plisken-in-training Brian Flagg (KEVIN DILLON). Don’t get too attached to football hero Paul, RUSSELL derives much electricity from the inevitable attraction of rogue outsider Brian and apple pie Meg.

 The amorphous creature of the title is a giant step forward from its previous incarnation. It owes much of its new sheen and flexibility to ROB BOTTIN‘s innovative concepts from JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING. There seems little it can’t do. Sometimes appearing as almost globs of uncooked meat, it sprouts tentacles and appendages at will and can shrink to fit into a drain pipe or expand to uproot an entire street. Most of the effects are still highly impressive though some opticals are charmingly dated. Sure there are giant leaps in plausibility throughout, but the film has earned so much goodwill by these points that one would have to be a real curmudgeon to care.
A scene snagged from the original classic, set in a movie theater showing the mid-eighties appropriate “GARDEN TOOL MASSACRE” is a strobe lit bonanza of popcorn-flying pandemonium and purple hued transforming gelatinous goo. It’s here that our hero Meg really shines. Taking it upon herself to retrieve her younger brother, the plucky do-gooder decides she’ll do some transforming herself, and takes on the form of a suburban Ellen Ripley complete with a dank, waterlogged, maternal-warrior venture through the blob occupied bowels of the sewer. 

  By this point our rebel without a comb Brian is learning just how updated the title creature has become. No longer an alien creature from outer space as in the original, this abomination is man made. The meteor the creature sprung from is actually more of a crashed satellite, complete with American flag insignia. He not only overhears that it is a germ warfare experiment that’s gone out of control, but that his entire town is expendable in the eyes of the government. Suddenly he’s not so different from all those people he’s been so dead set on distancing himself from. He returns to the town to fetch the girl he once left behind and the community he abandoned.

There are way too many clever in-jokes to list, and tiny asides from the beginning of the picture pay off handsomely later on. The final solution is not only clever, but results in a rather beautiful to behold snow globe inspired climactic scene. With all its gruesome effects, firecracker explosions and gun riddled chase scenes, THE BLOB truly has heart. Once divided, the town does come together to defeat their mutual foe, and it’s all very full circle and fuzzy. The final tag on sequel baiting scene is one of my favorites of all time. So when are those Hollywood dumdums going to get around to re-making SON OF BLOB?indelible scenes

  • The whole buying a condom at Mr. Penny (ART LAFLUER)’s pharmacy bit is great and has a hilarious pay-off
  • The BLOB’s attack on the homeless guy and the resulting doctor’s office invasion
  • Scott (RICKY PAULL GOLDIN)’s parked car make out session ends in a squirming, head deflating, blobby mess
  • I don’t pretend to understand the logistics of the drainpipe scene, but I love it anyway
  • CANDY CLARK(CAT’S EYE) meets her date the Sheriff in an unfortunate (for both of them) telephone booth crushing scene
  • All scenes with lil’ Kevin Penny and his Pal Eddie sneaking off to the slasher flick and the dialogue that ensues are hilarious. (Tough luck only one makes it out alive!) Favorite line: “I’m sorry, I’ll never see a movie again!” or maybe it’s this line from the in-movie flick GARDEN TOOL MASSACRE (upon seeing a hockey-masked man wielding a hedge trimmer) “Wait, Hockey season ended months ago!”
  • Reverend Meeker (DEL CLOSE who was actually in BEWARE THE BLOB! aka SON OF BLOB) will be back! (God willing!)
  •  

  

Kinder-news:: The Crying Boy Painting

In our ongoing effort to bring you the hottest news that’s two decades old, we here at Kindertrauma felt it was our responsibility to alert our fair readers about the dreaded curse of the crying boy painting. If you already own this piece of art, then chances are you may be reading this post from a pile of smoldering ashes. In 1985, a fire fighter from Yorkshire told the British tabloid THE SUN that he and his co-workers were beginning to get freaked out by a phenomena they could not explain. On repeat occasions, they had witnessed homes completely destroyed by fire, save for this lone mass-produced painting. After the story was published, THE SUN was flooded with letters from readers who had experienced the same thing. It was decided that the painting was cursed and the newspaper orchestrated mass bonfires. Some say even the warehouse that the newspaper had used to store the retrieved, waiting to be destroyed paintings, burned to the ground. More and more unsubstantiated rumors encircled the paintings. Some said if you saved the picture from harm, it would bring you fortune or if you hung it next to a crying girl painting it would defuse its evil power. There are several different versions of the work as painter BRUNO AMADIO (AKA BRUNO BRAGOLIN)’s entire oeuvre consists of images of waifish street children with tear-stained cheeks. Eventually the originally quoted fireman claimed he was misquoted and that the entire frenzy was the result of a slow news day for THE SUN. Whether the painting is actually cursed or simply strangely fireproof is a still a mystery. All I know is, you won’t find this painting hanging on my wall, I’ll stick to the less CHARLIE MCGEElike large eyed kitties and puppies produced by American artist MARGARET KEANE.

The Funhouse

 

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is a hard act to follow. Although there are some legitimate duds in TOBE HOOPER’s resume (SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION), most of his output gets unfairly shirked when compared to his early masterpiece. 1981’s THE FUNHOUSE in particular gets short changed. Often lumped in with the cash-in slashers of the same year, it’s actually an exuberant collision between classic monster tropes and the splatter body horror of its day. Dismissing the winking (literally) homages to HALLOWEEN and PSYCHO in the films opening sequence as brain-dead wheel spinning, most audiences where blind to the originality that was to proceed.
ELIZABETH BERRIDGE plays Amy Harper, a young woman on the verge of adulthood. She’s leaving behind the childish ways of her youth represented by an obnoxious younger sibling (SHAWN CARSON). With the aid of a small lie, she plans to attend an ominous visiting carnival against her parents’ approval. What she’s really toying with is the idea of losing her virginity, not exactly a novel concept in the realm of ’80’s horror geared toward teen audiences, but the price Amy pays for opening her Pandora’s box is.
Although the likable enough Amy is clearly our final girl from the get go, the way she is represented is unusual. Her first scene is a nude one and we are shown early on a harsh glimpse at her caged anger when a prank is played. Next we are shown an unflattering Polaroid that her brother has taken of her mid-scowl while the audio from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN plays in the background, declaring simply “She IS the Bride of Frankenstein!” Amy is smugly dishonest and although coy about the possibility of sex, she’s not exactly nixing the idea either. This is a far cry from the stalwart Girl Scouts and lovable tomboys we’re used to. Amy is not the golden girl, she’s not a pillar of truth, she skates gray areas that are in fact, closer to real human behavior.
Upon arriving with her friends and a suitable beau to the traveling show, Amy is accosted by an old crone who repeatedly warns, “God is watching.” (Would any good horror movie be complete with out the aged doomsayer?) The night is alive with excitement and every other scene explodes with the colors of a smashed gumball machine. Amy is feeling freedom and perhaps the power to fulfill her wishes. She is at the high point of her life, too young to give a shit, but old enough to have real adult fun.
Having an excellent time walking the line of innocent amusement and irresistible attraction to life’s grittier side, Amy and her friends decide to stay over night within the titular funhouse. This not only gives them a chance to get down to that sex business, but to also witness prostitution, premature ejaculation and murder. They also make the mistake of swiping some cash from the till and discovering the secret inhabitant of the ride, the yin to Amy’s yang. If Amy is “the Bride,” than he is her groom. He’s even wearing a FRANKENSTEIN mask in case there’s any confusion. Unfortunately his fantasy horror mask hides an even more horrifying reality. He is a physically deformed representative of adolescent sexuality, a hideous monster that can’t be easily controlled.
Once the cat is out of the bag, there is no turning back for Amy or any of her friends. There is no returning to the innocence of youth. This is beautifully illustrated when her parents come to fetch her younger brother who has also been up to curiosity inspired mischief on the fairground. Watching from an upper fan enclosed portal, Amy screams for their aid to no avail. She might as well be screaming through Alice’s looking glass from another dimension. Her parents extract her brother from the nightmare and exit oblivious. Apparently her sibling’s youth makes him savable and eligible for protection.
More subtly than in most slasher films, Amy’s pals fall and die according to their now unusable usual survival techniques. Buzz’s muscular heroics are a no go. Liz’s attempts to use her beauty are a failure, and Richie, a tricky prankster, is off-ed by a regrettable misread of information (and an axe). Did they get off easy next to Amy?
Amy does indeed survive the night, but the victory is hollow and she appears more damaged than relieved. It’s not moxie, but dumb luck that allows her to live. She does not turn into LINDA HAMILTON at any point of the film. She escapes the machinery of life’s funhouse simply because the monster was just slightly a bigger loser than she…

Obviously death would never be the outcome for our Amy in THE FUNHOUSE. Instead she is awoken into the world that HOOPER has been rubbing our noses in ever since we arrived on the scene. Rather than spooking us with images of murder and mayhem, we have been treated to body mutation, both human and animal, and mounds of aging twisted flesh, the real horror of mortality and age. Happy clown faces, images of childhood crack, peal and mockingly laugh. This ride has been going on forever. Something wicked does indeed, this way come… 

As Amy leaves the funhouse she passes the old hag who repeats, “God is watching.” This God, rather than inflict moral punishment on Amy for discovering her sexuality, has something else in mind. He’s going to take away her youth and shove her on life’s conveyer belt toward old age and death. Amy’s discovery of sex puts her in the same boat as the fleshy strippers that “wiggle” for the crowds and the aged bloated psychic (SYLVIA MILES). What Amy is really discovering about her body and this mortal coil, is that there’s nowhere to go but down.
      

The Devil’s Daughter

 

 Following the highly suspicious gun death of her estranged mother, Diane Shaw (BELINDA MONTGOMERY) is practically adopted graveside by purported family friend Lilith Malone (SHELLEY WINTERS) who I-N-S-I-S-T-S Diane move in with her and her mute man servant (DARK SHADOWS’ JONATHAN FRID) immediately. Back at the house, Lilith makes a production number out of presenting Diane with a cheap looking ring once owned by her late mother. Perhaps blinded by her grief, Diane fails to notice the ominous portrait of Satan hanging above the mantel. She does realize that Lilith and her middle-aged posse of eccentric pals, who include the legendary ABE VIGODA and the handsome Southern woman who was the manager of the Susan B. Anthony Hotel for Women on BOSOM BUDDIES, have an off-putting interest in her. As soon as Diane gets her hands on her inheritance from the executor of her mother’s estate (JOSEPH COTTON), she hightails it out of Lilith’s house, takes on a roommate and moves into a horse-themed bachelorette pad downstairs from the curly-haired dreamboat Steve (ROBERT FOXWORTH). Although relations between Diane and Lilith have grown strained, dopey Diane agrees to return to Lilth’s place for a swinging party in her honor. After executing one of the most awkward interpretative dances ever to be captured on the small screen, Diane learns the horrible truth that her late mother got her freak on one drunken night with the Prince of Darkness, and that she is Satan’s little girl. Determined to lead a normal life, well as normal as one can for being THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER, Diane severs all ties with Lilith and fast tracks her courtship with the aforementioned Steve by accepting his proposal of matrimony. Naturally, wedding protocol dictates an appearance by the Father of the Bride, and being the big softie that he is, Satan shows up to give his little girl away. Exhibiting all of the subtlety of a monster truck jam, SHELLEY WINTERS owns this sub-par, supernatural TV movie by bulldozing over anyone with the misfortune of sharing screen time with her.

  • The brief cameo by DIANE LADD as Diane’s mother and Satan’s concubine
  • Diane shakes her tail feather and jiggles it, just a little bit, for the daffy devil worshippers
  • The tragic death of Diane’s roommate at the hooves of an overexcited horse
  • Steve’s super dreamy eyes shining like a crazy demonic diamond for Diane at the altar