TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SUGAR HILL (1974)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

SUGAR HILL (1974)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

70’s Blaxsploitation flick from producer Samuel Z. Arkoff and the legendary American International Pictures isn’t one of the best of that era, but certainly isn’t among the worst. Sugar Hill tells the supernatural story of Diana Hill (Marki Bey) who is known to everyone as Sugar. Sugar’s boyfriend, Langston (Larry D. Johnson) is murdered by gangsters and the distraught woman turns to voodoo to exact revenge. Soon the men of crime boss Morgan (Robert Quarry) start to fall, as Sugar and her army of zombies hunt them down one by one and gruesomely murder them.

Flick is the one directorial effort from prolific producer and writer Paul Maslansky from a script by Tim Kelly. It’s directed a bit by-the-numbers and has a somewhat slow pace even for a 90 minute film. Sugar Hill does benefit now from it’s nostalgic charm, but that doesn’t totally get us past that some of the acting is a bit too bad to enjoy at times and the dialogue a bit too badly written to really laugh at. Don Pedro Colley’s Baron Samedi, for example, is almost comical, despite the film’s dead serious tone. There are some amusingly cheesy SPFX…especially the make-up on the zombies…and a few spooky moments, too, such as when they first rise. If that doesn’t add some entertainment to it, there are always some of gangster Morgan’s outfits to provide nostalgia and chuckles. It is also of interest to see how racist, misogynist and sexist a movie could be in that era without raising a ruckus, as in today’s politically correct times. Not to mention, as well, how much PG rated films got away with before the ratings system became more conservative in the 80s. Lastly, this story of a woman who uses voodoo to avenge her lover’s murder has it’s heroine become so gleeful at slaughtering the mobsters who beat her fiancé to death, that sometimes it’s hard to root for her. Sure the bad guys deserve it, but she is now just as bloodthirsty, or more so, than the men she stalks and kills. It’s a thin line, but sometimes it’s hard to get behind someone who’d work perfectly as the villain in another movie. Then again, Sugar Hill is not a morality play, but simple exploitation entertainment.

Overall, this is an amusing example of a distinct era of filmmaking, but not quite one of the best, though there are those that might argue that. Sugar Hill is certainly worth seeking out by those interested in Blaxsploitation cinema and does have it’s entertainment value. Also stars Richard Lawson, who appeared as “Willis” in Scream Blacula Scream, as Det. Valentine and Zara Cully as voodoo priestess Mama Maitresse.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) sexy, vengeful Sugars.

 

 

 

 

bars
Advertisements

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ONE DARK NIGHT (1983)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

ONE DARK NIGHT (1983)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

One Dark Night is a rare PG rated 80s horror featuring 80s movie icon E. G. Daily (billed as Elizabeth Dailey) and legendary “Batman” Adam West. The story finds pretty high school student Julie (Meg Tilly) wanting to join an elite club and having to spend the night in a mausoleum to do it. “The Sisters” (Daily, Leslie Speights and Robin Evans) plan to scare her, but that is the least of her troubles. The corpse of Raymar, who studied the occult, has recently been laid to rest there, but the man suspected of “psychic vampirism” may not be quite at rest at all.

Flick is directed by Tom (Friday the 13th part VI: Jason Lives) McLoughlin from a script by he and Michael Hawes. With it’s kid friendly rating this is obviously a fairly tame flick, though PG films did get away with a lot more back in the day. No better example of this than a face melting that comes later in the film. It can be atmospheric and has some spooky moments and the material is played straight, even by West. Legendary FX man Tom Burman made the legion of corpses levitated by our undead villain and filming is said to have taken place in an actual mausoleum which terrified a then 19 year-old Meg Tilly*. On the downside, it is a bit slow moving and takes till it’s last twenty minutes or so for burial chambers to start popping open and Raymar and his army of corpses to make their appearance. The 80s nostalgia helps and watching Adam West pretentiously roll his eyes to the term “psychic vampirism” is worth watching for alone.

Not a great movie, but it is fun at times, especially in a nostalgic sense. It’s very tame, considering most flicks were gore heavy at the time, and there is none of the sex that was also a staple of 80s horror. Meg Tilly makes a fine enough heroine, before The Big Chill and Psycho II got her more mainstream attention later that year, and Raymar is effective even if entirely made of rubber and plastic. It is refreshing that someone made something other than a slasher at this point in the 80s and being suffocated under a pile of corpses is a creepy way to go.

*according to Wikipedia

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 Raymars (out of 4).

 

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) is a busboy at The Yellow Door, a coffee shop for beatniks and bohemian artists…what we would call a Starbucks today…and wants to be revered like many of the artistic types that frequent there, especially in the eyes of pretty co-worker Carla (Barboura Morris). In a series of unfortunate events, Walter kills his landlady’s cat Frankie and hides the body in some clay that he intended to use in a sculpture. He brings the cat to the shop and everyone becomes infatuated with it, especially Carla. Now Walter has discovered a way into Carla’s heart and it will only take some clay and a few corpses to do it.

Horror/comedy is directed and produced by Roger Corman from a script by Charles B. Griffith, who also wrote the original Little Shop of Horrors. It’s not the first collaboration between Corman and leading man Miller, but it is one of their most famous and one of Miller’s few leading roles. It also unleashed a slew of cameos by Miller playing characters named Walter Paisley in the films of up and coming Corman alumni years later. The flick is a comedy of errors with Walter making his first kills by accident, but as his “sculptures”, are getting him the attention he wants, he soon starts killing his subjects to be immortalized in clay. Obviously, things will get out of hand for the bumbling Walter.The satire may not click today as it specifically targets the beatnik culture of the 50s, but one may still appreciate the dark humor of Walter’s newfound art and the art crowd’s overwhelming reaction to it. It’s not a long movie at only 66 minutes and the jazz infused score by Fred Katz is quite nostalgic. On a production level, the film was shot in true Corman style for AIP on a budget of only $50,000 and in 5 days on the sets from another movie.

There is a small cast. Miller is likable and sympathetic as Walter. He’s abused by his boss Leonard (Antony Carbone) and ignored by those he wants attention from. Even when he starts to kill for his newfound hobby, he remains more tragic than unlikable, only becoming downright creepy in the last act. Barboura Morris is pretty and charming as Carla. She’s sweet and seems to always like Walter, though he doesn’t see it. Carbone is slimy as Leonard, who is benefiting financially from the art community’s new prodigy. Even when he discovers Walter’s gruesome secret, he chooses to profit until guilt finally overcomes him. The film also has a small role from 70s game show host and TV icon Bert Convy as an ill-fated undercover cop.

This early Corman production may be dated at this point, but it is still fun and it made Dick Miller a movie fan household name. Miller rarely had lead roles and this one would earn him a long career of character parts and cameos that lasted for sixty years. A perfect example of early Corman thriftiness and one of Dick Miller’s most famous roles.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) sculptures surprisingly titled “dead cat”.

 

Farewell and RIP Dick Miller (1928-2019)

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HÄXAN (1922)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

HÄXAN (1922)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Häxan is a 1922 Swiss silent film whose title means “Witch”. It’s part documentary and part dramatic recreation of tales of witchcraft, the demonic and the inquisition that arose from the fear of such, around the Middle Ages. Told in seven segments, it starts out with some facts about early claims of witches, devils and demons and then delves into recreations of some tales of witchcraft and Satanism and then the fear-filled and cruel reaction from the clergy of the time. The documentary then tries, in it’s last part, to give modern…modern at the time, as this film is now almost 100 years old…explanations for what is perceived as the signs of witchcraft, such as psychological and physical ailments.

The film is directed by Benjamin Christensen from his own script. Häxan covers a lot of folklore tales about witches cavorting with The Devil and his minions, demonic seduction and corruption and in doing so, provides some very startling and spooky imagery. The representations of witches flying through the air on brooms, being seduced by demons and even giving birth to monsters, is quite bold for a film of this era and quite well rendered for a film almost a century old. Some of what we see is quite brazen, such as demons frantically churning butter while watching the sexual acts between witch and devil. Their swift up and down arm movements obviously simulating…well, you get the idea. The scenes of torture and interrogation are quite effective, as well and one feels sorry for those under the clergy’s scrutiny or accused of evil acts. The film is loaded with atmosphere and some extremely Gothic imagery, one of the first films of it’s kind to represent such subject matter so graphically. Christensen’s visual eye is quite stunning and filled with Halloween-esque images, especially when portraying the scenes of the witches partying with the demonic in the woods. There are a variety of demonic creatures, uniquely designed and rendered and involved in acts that must have been considered quite daring for the early 1920s…and it was daring as the film was banned here in the United States at the time.

This is a pioneer horror film that was one of the first to portray witchcraft and satanic activity in such detail. Benjamin Christensen gives a history of suspected witchcraft and then treats us to some wildly vivid representation of the tales and folklore that terrified the middle ages. We get stunning visuals of nude maidens sleepwalking into the arms of their demonic seducers, witches flying on their trademarked brooms and even a tongue flickering Satan himself (Christensen) corrupting nuns in their own convent. It’s a stunning achievement and at almost a century old, a work that hasn’t lost any of it’s potency and a film every true horror fan should see.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 witches brooms (out of 4).

 

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MAUSOLEUM (1983)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

MAUSOLEUM (1983)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Early 80s horror finds young Susan (Julie Christy Murray) running from her mother’s funeral and finding her way to a creepy mausoleum. There she becomes possessed by a demon which remains dormant until she becomes an adult. Years later, with Susan (Bobbie Bresee) now grown up and married, the demon emerges when men get aggressive with her and, as a result, are gruesomely murdered, as is anyone who stands in her way. Can her husband Oliver (a somewhat restrained Marjoe Gortner) and her psychiatrist Dr. Andrews (Norman Burton) free her of the demonic curse which has plagued her family for generations?

Gory flick is directed sadly with a very by-the-numbers style by Michael Dugan from a story and script by Katherine Rosenwink, Robert Barich and Robert Madero. Despite all the supernatural hi-jinx, the flick is very slow paced and doesn’t nearly use it’s B-movie premise to the fullest. It is saved somewhat by some cool monster make-up by John Carl Buechler, some very graphic and abundant gore and some generous nudity from the shapely Ms. Bresee, who was a former Playboy Bunny. There are some wonderfully cheesy visual effects to go with the terrible dialogue and entertainingly bad acting and some always welcome added 80s nostalgia. It’s amusing for all the wrong reasons and there is nothing wrong with that. Hard to hate a movie featuring a female demon equipped with two creature heads as boobs.

Not a great movie by any lengths, but it is a fun one. The acting and dialogue is terrible and the directing is disappointingly pedestrian. The flick needed a director, like Jim Wynorski, who could milk the premise more, but it does have a cool monster, a lot of graphic gore and plentiful nudity from it’s beautiful leading lady. Not a classic, but a cult favorite that mixed with your favorite brews can be part of any cheesy 80s horror night.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 Marjoe Gortners (out of 4) in one of his less restrained moments.

 

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE UNNAMABLE (1988)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

THE UNNAMABLE (1988)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

80s horror is based on an H.P. Lovecraft story and finds some college students relating the tale of an old house and the creature that supposedly is imprisoned inside…a story we are treated to in an opening flashback. As college students in 80s horror movies were wont to do, they find reason to enter the old house only to discover the legend is gruesomely true.

Late 80s horror is directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette from his Lovecraft based script. Lovecraft’s story is used as a starting point to which the flick then turns into a more formula 80s slasher with the creature of the title stalking and killing the coeds within the old house, one by one. There are some bloody kills and it is fun, though it never gets really scary. The creature itself is well rendered in prosthetics and make-up and the gore is also well done and quite abundant. The characters are typical 80s horror types with a few characters from the original story as part of the group, such as Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson). Today the film has a bit of a following and while it could have been better, as we continually wonder why they don’t just simply leave the house, it is still bloody and fun. Add in some 80s nostalgia and that it does deliver on the boobs and blood and it is certainly an entertaining enough watch.

The cast, including leads Stephenson and Charles Klausmeyer, are all suitable enough, though no awards will be given out. Katrin Alexandre performs an imposing creature with Alexandra Durrell and Laura Albert making suitable eye candy as Tanya and Wendy.

Maybe not a great flick, but a fun one with some nice gore and a cool monster. It is just as much a creature flick as it is a routine slasher, though one that’s not particularly scary. It’s based on a classic H.P. Lovecraft story and tries hard to provide some atmosphere. While it has it’s flaws, it succeeds in being a good time, especially if 80s flicks are your thing.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 Unnamable’s.

 

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SCARECROWS (1988)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

SCARECROWS (1988)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

80s horror has a group of heavily armed thieves robbing a military base and hijacking a plane to escape. One of their number betrays them and parachutes out with their cash. The group lands in pursuit, along with the hostage pilot (David Campbell) and his daughter (Victoria Christian) and trace the traitor (B.J. Turner) to a deserted farmhouse. Lost money and traitorous partners become the least of their worries as the farm is home to an evil presence and it uses the ominous scarecrows that guard the cornfield to gruesomely slaughter anyone who trespasses.

Flick is a somewhat lesser known 80s slasher, but one that has earned a bit of a following all these years later. It’s directed a bit by-the-numbers by William Wesley from a script by he and Richard Jefferies. It’s not all that scary, but it has some spooky visuals and when the scarecrows begin to hunt crook and captive alike, there is some very effective and abundant gore. Obviously having our thieves carry the latest technology and weaponry was taking a cue from Aliens, but it doesn’t help against something so supernatural and so there is little question that most of this gang isn’t going to make it out to count their money. Wesley doesn’t built much tension or suspense and the acting from the cast isn’t going to win any awards. In it’s favor, the action is plentiful once it gets going and there is some nice 80s nostalgia, too. It could have been a little more atmospheric considering it’s setting, but at least the scarecrows are effective villains.

Overall, Scarecrows is not a great movie, but not a bad one either. The film is never very suspenseful or scary and the acting won’t impress from any of it’s cast. The titular title characters are effective and their carnage is quite gruesome and abundant. A middle grade horror when all is said and done, but one that time has been kind to in terms of fan appreciation. Also stars, as our remaining gang of thieves, Ted Vernon as Corbin, Michael David Simms as Curry, Kristina Sanborn as Roxanne and Robert Vidan as Jack.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 scarecrows.

 

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SILENT MADNESS (1984)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

SILENT MADNESS (1984)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Part of the 80s 3D revival, Silent Madness has an error at a mental hospital releasing psychopathic killer Howard Johns (actor and stuntman Solly Marx) back onto the streets instead of inmate John Howard. Johns returns to the scene of his original slaughter, a college sorority and begins killing again. Pretty Dr. Joan Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery) refuses to be part of the cover-up and heads to the sorority house to stop him. This all occurs conveniently while the girls are leaving on holiday, so no one notices when his victims start to go missing and everyone thinks Gilmore is the crazy one.

Lesser known 80s slasher is directed by Simon Nuchtern from a script by Bob Zimmerman and Bill Milling, who also co-produced with Nuchtern. The result is a very tame slasher with a good deal of it’s kills happening off-screen and those we see, being rather underwhelming. You can count on one hand the times the film throws something at the screen to take advantage of the 3D and one wonders why they even bothered except to take advantage of a current craze. Belinda Montgomery does make for a perky and pretty heroine. She’s both final girl and damsel in distress and, of course, no one believes her that Johns is on the loose, including the lazy town sheriff (Sydney Lassick) and the sorority house mother (Viveca Lindfors). There is little suspense or scares and the ending big reveal isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, as the slasher craze was running out of gas at this point. Even Solly Marx’s silent killer (hence the title?) is kind of dull. Most of the usual 80s slasher tropes are present, so there is that, though not very effectively used by the by-the-numbers direction of Nuchtern. One curiosity is that some of the shots look like they are attempting a Suspiria/Argento look here and there, but even that is handled lamely.

Overall, this was a very pedestrian slasher and one that seemed to be made solely to take advantage of the 3D and slasher crazes of the era. It has the feel of a lazy production and only veterans Belinda Montgomery and Viveca Lindfors put any real effort into their performances. There is very little blood, much less gore and the kills are unimaginative and lame. If you are an 80s completest, it’s worth a look, but definitely a lesser known slasher for good reason. Also stars 80s scream queen Elizabeth Kaitan as a skateboarding babe who winds up one of Johns’ earlier victims.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 mistakenly released psychopaths.

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE SOLDIER (1982)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

THE SOLDIER (1982)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

James Glickenhaus’s follow-up to The Exterminator finds a special black ops operative code-named “The Soldier” (Ken Wahl) called into duty when rogue KGB plant a nuclear weapon in a Saudi oil field. Their objective is to force Israel off the West Bank, or they will destroy half the world’s oil supply. Aided by an Israeli agent (Alberta Watson), The Soldier’s objective is to stop them at any cost.

James Glickenhaus writes and directs what basically is a grind-house version of a James Bond movie. As such, we just wish it was a bit better, even if it does try hard. There is plenty of action, but Glickenhaus hasn’t completely honed his craft yet and there are some moments of sloppy filmmaking that hold it back. Where Bond has style and class, this film has graphic violence and the subtly of a sledge hammer. That would be fine if it didn’t get more and more ludicrous as it goes along, yet is taken a bit too serious to have a fun time with it. It’s also disappointing that it’s climax is almost action-less and The Soldier himself is barely involved with the proceedings, while his team takes desperate…and ridiculously far-fetched…measures. As for the globe trotting locations, they are used so poorly the whole thing could have been filmed here in the US and no one would have noticed the difference. There is still some amusement, like a ski chase that begs the question, if you all had guns why didn’t you pull them out to begin with and a U.S. President (William Prince) who seems a little too trigger happy to go to war with our Israeli allies. There is also a cool soundtrack by 80s soundtrack specialists Tangerine Dream and a brief appearance by Klaus Kinski as a double crossing agent. As for Wahl, he tries hard but just doesn’t have the charisma for a big screen leading man…not that any of the other cast members should win any awards, for their work, either. A sad disappointment as this could have been a lot of fun had Glickenhaus just went with the absurdity of it all.

Overall, while a grind-house James Bond flick sounds like a blast, Glickenhaus drops the ball with a ludicrous script taken way too seriously. He also has a few sloppy moments, probably by trying to accomplish too much on a small budget and it’s climax is more silly than spectacular. Despite some globe trotting locations, they are used so poorly the whole thing could have been film here in the US and no one would have noticed the difference. Glickenhaus would make up for it with his underrated Shakedown six years later.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 bullets.

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE CHURCH (1989)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

THE CHURCH (1989)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Italian horror tells the story of a church that was built over the mass grave of devil worshipers, slaughtered by a squad of knights in medieval times…the era, not the restaurant. In modern day, new church librarian Evan (Tomas Arana) discovers the catacombs beneath the church floor and opens the seal. It unleashes the evil trapped below and locks everyone inside with it. Now possessions, demon manifestations and all sorts of demonic hi-jinx ensue as valiant Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie) tires to stop it.

This is a stylish, if not a tad silly, horror flick from Dario Argento protégé, Michele Soavi. The director and co-writer (along with Argento and Franco Ferrini) acted and worked behind the camera for both Argento and Fulci and at least visually, he learned well. The Church is never really scary and at times there are some unintentional chuckles, but design-wise there is some very creepy stuff here and some startling imagery. Soavi does give it some atmosphere, that is occasionally undone by the bad dialogue and sub-par acting, but also doesn’t skimp on the blood and isn’t afraid to show us some very disturbing sights. We have Evan pulling out his own heart, a man attacked by a fish creature in the holy water basin and a goat-headed demon having it’s way with pretty heroine Lisa (Barbara Cupisti). It’s an entertaining flick, though one probably must have a taste for Italian horror to really appreciate it. These spooky shenanigans are supposedly based on a book, The Treasure of Father Abbot Thomas by M.R. James, though after reading the synopsis, it doesn’t sound like there is much of a resemblance to the source material here.

There is no point discussing the acting to any degree, as no one here is going to win any awards. Hugh Quarsie is a noble enough hero as Father Gus, Tomas Arana is creepy as a possessed Evan and Barbara Cupisti is a cute and quite nubile heroine, who shows some alluring skin during her demon nookie sequence. There is also a small role by a very young Asia Argento as Lotte, the daughter of the church caretaker (Roberto Corbiletto).

Overall, this is creepy fun. It has some very effective imagery and atmosphere that helps even things out with the less than stellar dialogue and acting. There is some gore to go along with it’s demonic manifestations and director Soavi keeps things moving, so we don’t have much time to ponder too many questions. An entertaining Italian horror from the director of Cemetery Man.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 candles which are like everywhere in this movie.

bars