TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957)

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

1957 was a busy year for producer/director Roger Corman and this is another of his cult classics. This flick finds a group of scientists and navy men going to a deserted island to study the effects of H-bomb test fallout. One of the side effects of the nuclear dusting is some of the crabs have mutated to giants the size of Cadillacs and with the power to absorb the minds of their human food. Can this group survive as the colossal crabs decimate their number and steal their brains?

Giant mutated crabs would have been enough for most filmmakers during the 50s nuclear age cinema, but Corman had to give them the ability to absorb and use peoples minds, too. The sheer audacity of it alone may explain why this was a big hit for the producer. This was another movie Corman directed from a script by frequent collaborator Charles B. Griffith and once again he takes his subject matter seriously even though our main attractions are giant talking, brain sucking crabs. Corman gives this one a fairly fast pace, it is legitimately spooky at times and has a healthy does of intensity. The serious tone from both director and his cast…including future “Professor” from Gilliagan’s Island, Russell Johnson…helps the audience take our crustacean bad guys more seriously. As for the creatures, they actually don’t look that bad considering this is a low budget film and Corman keeps them hidden till the last act. As silly as the plot may sound, this is actually a decent horror flick despite the outrageous plot elements and Corman’s thrifty style makes good use of minimal sets and outdoor locations. There is also a bit of a charming cheese factor, but it’s a lot better than one might think and about the best a talking giant crab movie may ever get. One of Corman’s better low budget black and white efforts.

I was very amused by this one upon the revisit. It wasn’t as silly as it could have been and Corman took his audacious plot and ran with it. By the time we meet our villains they have been given enough of a threat factor to make them work, despite they are talking paper mache crabs. A fun and surprisingly effective atom age monster movie from Roger Corman.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 crabs pre-atomic mutation.

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956)

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

I recently began reading Roger Corman’s autobiography How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime and it made me want to revisit some of his earliest films that I first saw on TV’s Chiller Theater and Creature Features as a kid.

One of Corman’s earliest flicks as a producer and director, this thriller tells the story of an alien invader from Venus, who isn’t particularly happy that earth has started sending satellites into space. It comes here to invade using bat-like creatures to take over people’s minds and with the help of bitter earth scientist, Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef) who believes earth needs ‘saving’ by this higher intelligence. Standing in the way of this nefarious plot is scientist Dr. Paul Nelson (Peter Graves) along with some feisty heroines and the usual soldiers and military types that populated films of this era.

Corman directs with a serious hand, from the script by Lou Rusoff and frequent Corman collaborator Charles B. Griffith, despite that his creature looks like a combination of cucumber and crustacean. He shot it in about two weeks on a budget far lower than the average Hollywood flick of the time and the production looks better than one might expect due to Corman thriftiness. While the creature FX are cheesy and the dialogue equally so, it ads charm to a fun movie, all the more amusing for taking itself so seriously despite it’s outlandish plot and monster. Corman gets good work out of his cast, which also includes frequent Corman actress Beverly Garland (Swamp Woman, Not of This Earth) and Sally Fraser, who was in such cult classics as Earth vs. the Spider and War Of The Colossal Beast. The film, due to it’s small budget, does focus more on character drama than creature hi-jinx, but it’s atmospheric and keeps one interested till the military finally take on the alien dictator in true 50s creature feature fashion. There is also a very effective mood building score by Ronald Stein who composed for many a Corman classic. If you love the sci-fi flicks of this decade, this is one of the classics and an early example of the low budget entertainment that made Roger Corman one of the most successful producers of all time and an underrated director.

I had a fun time watching this again. It’s judged due to it’s cheesy creature, but the monster has become iconic, representing the creature features of the 50s and the film is better than it is given credit for. It obviously influenced future alien invader flicks, just look at Without Warning’s flying creature weapons as a perfect example and as usual with a Corman production, features future stars like Van Cleef and Graves. Corman is now a legend for making these kind of inexpensive but profitable features and who cares if it’s title monster looks like it could hide in a salad bar or seafood buffet. A fun example of what made the 50s era monster flicks so endearing. Also features frequent Corman actor, the legendary, Dick Miller as a soldier.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 alien vegetable/crustacean hybrids with a taste for megalomania.

 

 

 

 

 

it conquered the world

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CODE OF SILENCE (1985)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

CODE OF SILENCE (1985)

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

In terms of overall quality, Code of Silence is probably the best movie Chuck Norris ever made. It may not be as fun as Lone Wolf McQuade, or as over the top as Invasion U.S.A., but it is the closest to a mainstream movie he was ever in, till his extended cameo in Expendables 2.

Code of Silence is a simple story of honest Chicago cop Eddie Cusack (Norris) who is not only stuck in the middle of a war between Columbian and Italian mob families, but is the only cop willing to speak out against a corrupt and incompetent fellow officer (Ralph Foody) who gunned down an unarmed teen. This makes Cusack an outsider to criminal and cop alike and forces him to go it alone to rescue a kidnapped mafioso’s daughter (Molly Hagan).

The script by Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack and Mike Gray may not be anything new plot-wise, but this action/thriller is fast paced and well directed by Andrew Davis, who would go on to direct Steven Seagal’s best flick, Under Siege and the Harrison Ford hit, The Fugitive. Davis also gets a good performance out of the often wooden Norris and makes good use of the Chicago locations. The flick has a nice supporting cast including vets Henry Silva (Alligator), Dennis Farina, Bert Remsen and The Dark Knight’s Ron Dean and the action scenes are well-staged and entertaining. A bar fight scene in particular stands out as classic Chuck Norris, with our hero taking on…well, everybody. All in all, it’s a solid action/thriller and proved Norris could make the move into A-list flicks with the right projects, but…

…Despite being a box office success and a moderate critical hit as well, Chuck chose to enter a multi-picture deal with schlock-meister Cannon Films (probably the $17 million for 10 movies was key) and sank any chance of further mainstream theatrical success (none of his future films with Cannon would top or equal Code’s $20 million gross). Had Norris not been lured into staying with Cannon, he might have had a more mainstream action movie career like Arnold and Sly. As for Code of Silence, I saw this fun flick in a theater back in 1985 and it remains one of my favorite Chuck Norris movies along with Lone Wolf McQuade, Silent Rage and The Octagon.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA-EASTER EDITION: NIGHT OF THE LEPUS (1972)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

Nightoflepus

NIGHT OF THE LEPUS (1972)

Night Of The Lepus tells the chuckle inducing story of hormone experiments intended to curb an out of control rabbit population in the Southwest. This ‘solution’ causes not only an increase in size, but heightened aggression and a taste for flesh. Way to go science!

Only in the 70s (ok, maybe the 50s, too) could you have a horror movie about giant carnivorous rabbits. And what makes Lepus so much of a hoot, is just how dead serious this flick is. From the direction by William F. Claxton to the performances by it’s veteran cast, including Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh and a mustache sporting DeForest Kelley, Lepus really tries to present itself as a serious horror flick and that makes it all the more fun. From the slow motion scenes of real rabbits running through miniature sets to the close-ups of obviously fake, blood-soaked prosthetic rabbit claws and teeth, Lepus goes the whole way in trying to convince us to be scared of these adorably vicious giant bunnies. Epic fail! There’s even a guy in a rabbit suit jumping on the helpless victims. Seriously, how can you not love that! Whether they’re growling like mountain lions or chewing up the locals, Lepus is a deliriously fun ‘so bad it’s good’ treat. And there’s even a few scenes of decent gore to properly represent the rabbit induced carnage. If that’s not enough to convince you, hold on to your Easter baskets for the military v.s. monster rabbit showdown at the climax.

A sheer camp delight that has been a favorite since watching it on T.V. as a kid in the 70s! Viewed in the right mindset and with the right beverage, this is a great bit of schlocky 70s entertainment. Rated purely as delightfully entertaining cheese!

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 giant mutant carnivorous bunnies

lepus rating

**************************************************

HAPPY EASTER from MONSTERZERO NJ

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK (1993)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK (1993)

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

High school misfit Johnny Dingle (Andrew Lowery) has been head over heels for Missy McCloud (Traci Lind) since grade school. He finally gets the courage to try to get her to go to the prom with him, but needs to get her attention. He decides to fake a robbery at the convenience store where she works and once he saves the day, he’ll be her hero for life. Unknown to Johnny, an actual robber enters the place instead of his bud, Eddie (Danny Zorn) and Johnny’s heroics turn tragic as he is shot and killed by the thief. That won’t stop Johnny, though, as he rises from the grave to continue to woo Missy and…it actually works. But can he make it to the prom before decomposing, or will he have to resort to the only thing that will slow his disintegration down…human flesh.

Back in the day, I had a huge crush on Traci Lind, but even her charms can’t save this terrible and predominantly unfunny comedy. Directed clumsily by Bob Balaban from an already bad script by Dean Lorey (who wrote the worst of the Friday The 13th films, Jason Goes To Hell), the film’s attempts at humor fall flat and it’s attempts at being titillating are more uncomfortable than sexy. There are also some really convoluted side plots, such as a doctor’s efforts to make a youth serum from Johnny’s zombie blood and the fact that there is little or no reaction to the fact that Johnny is a zombie by any of the living characters makes no sense and fumbles some prime laugh material in the process. No one seems to care he’s a zombie, until he snacks on a classmate and it is also the thing that finally gets Missy’s attention and attraction…what? It’s a badly written mess with substandard acting from some veteran performers and no chemistry between it’s leads. Lowery is pretty dull as our hero and even the pretty and spunky Lind has her appeal neutered by the dumb script and lame direction…and she can be very sexy as Fright Night II and some of her non-genre roles prove. It’s an all around failure that bombed at the box office at the time it was released in 1993.

So, despite the presence of an 80s cult classic cutie and even the amusement of watching the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing a redneck school bully, this film is practically unwatchable. The script is badly written and misuses a scenario that could have been very funny, while the director just didn’t know what to do with the material. It kills the charms of an actress that had girl next door sex appeal to spare and chose a zero, presence-wise, as it’s leading man. A flick that tried to be 80s at a time when the 80s were definitely over. An undead bore.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 eighties hotties that deserved a better movie.

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CAN’T BUY ME LOVE (1987)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

CAN’T BUY ME LOVE (1987)

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

Flick is now renown as an 80s teen comedy classic and upon a revisit, it still has it’s charm and plenty of 80s nostalgia.

Story finds nerdy Ronald Miller (Patrick Dempsey) hopelessly infatuated with high school cheer-leading captain Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson). Ronald has saved up over $1,000 for a new telescope, but when opportunity arises and Cindy needs to replace one of her mother’s (Sharon Farrell) expensive dresses she’s ruined, Ronald uses the money to “rent” Cindy for one month. Ronald believes that if Cindy pretends to like him, he’ll become popular…and he does. What he doesn’t foresee, is a real affection forming between the two that Ronald’s new popular status may cause him to overlook.

It’s hard to deny this teen romantic comedy written by Michael Swerdlick and directed by Steve Rash is cliché as they come, but it is loaded with charm and has a sweet center that is kind of irresistible. Film is basically a teenage high school version of Pretty Woman with a young man “renting” a pretty popular girl instead of a prostitute. There are all the expected lessons, such as being cool isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, being yourself is the most important thing and true love can conquer all. There is nothing original about it, but it has a charming cast, some funny moments and some very sweet and romantic moments too…not to forget the traditional corny speech by the hero when he finally figures it all out. Add to it all those 80s styles and music and you have a really fun movie that has gotten even more enjoyable with the nostalgia element thrown in by the passing of time.

As for that charming cast, they go a long way to helping make this flick click. Dempsey plays the quintessential nerd here who transforms into a slick Lothario and then finally back to himself, though now with a bit more confidence from his experiences. The actor plays the transformation and growth well and is very likable until the moments where he acts like a jerk, but we are willing to forgive him when the time comes. It’s not hard to understand Ronald’s obsession with pretty and spunky Amanda Peterson bringing the role to life. Her Cindy is not the stereotypical popular girl, she is smart, girl-next-door pretty and seems to not be totally on board with her peers’ high school elite behavior. Peterson makes her really endearing and despite being the ‘popular girl’ we feel sorry for her when Ron’s over-inflated ego cause him to be a jerk to her. Peterson has charm and charisma and she and Dempsey have some nice chemistry together.

This is a favorite. I liked it back in the day and I still love it now. It’s cliché but charming and even more fun with all the 80s nostalgia thrown in. Also stars familiar 80s faces Tina (Teen Witch) Caspary, Courtney (Children Of The Corn) Gains, Darcy (Friday The 13th Part 6) DeMoss and a young Seth Green as Ronald’s obnoxious little brother.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 80s riding mowers.

Farewell and RIP Amanda Peterson 1971-2015

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE HOUSE ON SKULL MOUNTAIN (1974)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

THE HOUSE ON SKULL MOUNTAIN (1974)

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

Blaxploitation haunted house flick has elderly Pauline Christophe (Mary J. Todd McKenzie) on her deathbed requesting her priest mail four letters for her. Pauline dies soon after and the letters summon four distant relatives (Janee Michelle, Mike Evans, Xerona Clayton and Victor French) to her home for the funeral and will reading. But Pauline was a practitioner of voodoo and while her four relatives stay at the house, strange things begin to happen. Soon they start to mysteriously die one by one with evidence that voodoo is involved. Who or what is causing these deaths and has some evil force been awakened in The House On Skull Mountain?!

Flick is directed a bit by-the-numbers by Ron Honthaner from a script by Mildred Pares, but still can be spooky 70s fun. The voodoo element sets it apart a bit from most routine haunted house flicks and it’s too bad they didn’t use it with a bit more intensity till the last act. The film is rather tame with a PG rating and they could have had  some more fun with the horror elements, which come off a bit subdued till the finale. Still there are visions of skulls, snakes and hooded figures and the house does actually sit on a mountain that looks like a skull. The SPFX are all delightfully cheesy…this was the 70s…and there is some atmospheric cinematography by Monroe Askins. The cast are all fairly wooden and while there seems to be some kind of interracial romantic interest brewing between Victor French’s Andrew and Janee Michelle’s Lorena, it fizzles out because of the fact that they, ultimately, are cousins. So why was it included at all? There is some corny dialogue to go along with the colorful costumes and charming old house and Honthaner does manage a few spooky scenes.

Overall, this is an enjoyable blaxploitation flick with some nice 70s nostalgia. It’s a bit tame and moderately paced, but there are a few spooky moments and the voodoo element adds a bit of a refreshing touch, even if it is a bit too subdued for it’s own good. The cast are all amusingly wooden and we get hints of an interracial romance between our leads that never materializes, though the tension is there for the entire film. Worth a look if you are a fan of 70s horror, blaxploitation flicks, or both.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 skulls.

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)

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

Tales From The Darkside started out as a horror anthology series produced by the legendary George A. Romero, that ran four seasons from October 1983 till July of 1988. In 1990 a movie version was released presenting a trio of terrifying tales tied together by a wraparound story. In the opening segment we see a young boy (Matthew Lawrence) being held in a cell by a witch (Deborah Harry). She plans to cook the kid as the main course for a dinner party and he tries to stall her by reading her stories from a book she left for him in his cell…Tales From he Darkside! As Timmy reads to prolong his fate, three tales of terror unfold!

All three stories and the wraparound are directed by John Harrison, a frequent Romero collaborator, though the script is by Romero and Michael McDowell and based on various works.

The first story is the lesser of the three and is based on a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Lot 249 involves betrayal, revenge, murder and an ancient Egyptian mummy. When student Bellingham (Steve Buscemi) is cheated out of a deserved scholarship, he uses the mummy to exact revenge on those responsible, Lee and Susan (Robert Sedgwick and Julianne Moore). The plot for retribution works out fine till Susan’s brother Andy (Christian Slater) tries to turn the tables on Bellingham for some revenge of his own. This segment is kind of ho-hum and comes to a predictable conclusion, but is still somewhat entertaining, has a good cast and is quite gory.

Second story is called The Cat From Hell and is based on a story by Stephen King. The tale finds pharmaceutical billionaire Drogan (William Hickey) hiring a hit man named Halston (David Johansen) to exterminate a black cat that Drogan claims has killed the rest of the members of his household. What ensues is a cat and mouse game…pun intended…throughout the dark mansion with predator hunting predator. It’s a fun episode, especially thanks to a lively and over-the-top performance from Johansen and has some really good gore. While the ending isn’t unexpected, it’s gruesome fun. Probably the best episode overall.

Final tale is a tragic love story called Lover’s Vow. Down on his luck artist Preston (James Remar) witnesses the savage murder of a local bartender by a creature resembling the local building gargoyles. He promises the creature, in return for his life, that he will never speak of it to anyone. On that same night Preston meets the beautiful Carola (Rae Dawn Chong) whom he falls in love with. The two wed and have children, but on one fateful night, Preston reveals his chilling tale to his loving wife…and with horrifying results. Story is the most serious of the bunch which otherwise have a bit of humor mixed in with the chills and as with the others, some nice gore. It too, is also a bit predictable, but works in spite of that.

We then return to the wraparound where Timmy is not going into the oven without a fight. Will he be freed or fried?…you’ll have to watch to find out!

Overall this is a fun anthology, though not a true classic. There is some nice nostalgia here too, as well as, some entertaining moments across the board. Harrison directs well and it is a fun horror flick in the spirit of Romero and King’s Creepshow from years earlier. Nothing overly special, but a solid good time. Did fairly well upon it’s release in 1990, but not enough to inspire a second go around.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 books of spooky stories.

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE EXORCIST III (1990)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

THE EXORCIST III (1990)

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

This review is for the original theatrical cut.

Third film in this series is written and directed by original film/book writer William Peter Blatty after being passed on by both The Exorcist director William Friedkin and then John Carpenter. This film is based on Blatty’s book Legion and follows Detective William Kinderman (George C. Scott) who is investigating a series of murders he reluctantly starts to believe are being committed by a serial killer who has been dead for seventeen years. The trail, however leads to Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), a good friend of Lt. Kinderman who himself died while performing an exorcism around the same time the Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif) met his demise. As Kinderman delves deeper in this mystery, his beliefs are shaken as he may indeed be facing a sinister force with a horrifying agenda.

Blatty’s only other directorial effort is the bizarre 1980 The Ninth Configuration and his minimal experience does show at times with some of the pacing and scene staging being a bit off at points during the film. He also does manage, though, some very spooky and disturbing sequences, especially during the film’s creepy second half. It’s a vast improvement over John Boorman’s 1977 Exorcist II: The Heretic, which is generally regarded as an epic fail and the idea of a demon using a serial killer’s soul to exact revenge on the priest who once evicted it, is chillingly original. Blatty’s initial exorcism-less cut was met with poor test screenings forcing the studio to ask him to add an exorcism to the proceedings and the sequence’s exorcist Father Morning (Nicol Williamson) was also added to the film. After a bit of a slow build, Blatty’s thriller starts to really click in the second half and we get the spooky and sometimes outright disturbing flick we came to see, whether it was the studio mandated changes or not.

What really makes this work, too, is George C. Scott’s giving his all in a portrayal of a policeman finding out that there are indeed things that go bump in the night and the closer he gets to the truth, the more bump they go and the more bodies fall. A veteran actor, Scott always treated every film with the same respect and the Oscar nominated actor…he actually won for Patton, but refused the award…plays the material straight and with intensity. Brad Dourif is absolutely chilling as the Gemini Killer, whose spirit taunts Kinderman while inhabiting Father Karras’ body and as Karras, a returning Jason Miller gives us a tortured soul forced to co-inhabit a body with a man who is everything the priest stands against. Nicol Williamson is also good in his post-production added role as exorcist Father Morning and the rest of the supporting cast, including odd cameos from Fabio and Patrick Ewing as angels, also add solid support.

The Exorcist is a horror masterpiece and making one sequel was a risk that backfired badly. Blatty originally wanted this third film titled Legion, much like the book it’s based on and there was no exorcism in the original cut. The studio demanded it be more directly linked to the classic film by titling it The Exorcist III and then after audiences didn’t get what they came for, had the filmmaker/writer add one to the story. It still works despite studio tinkering and a director who was a bit of a novice taking the reigns. It’s not perfect, but is still, at times, a spooky and chilling film with some top notch performances.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 nasty murder weapons.

 

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WINTERBEAST (1992)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

winterbeast-v2

bars

WINTERBEAST (1992)

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

Winterbeast is a perfect example of just how entertaining a bad movie can be. Flick’s convoluted plot has a snowy mountaintop community being beset by creatures that are actually demons that the Native Americans that once lived on the land have tried to keep at bay. A demon spirit is trying to enter this world through a portal in this area and his stop motion animated minions are gruesomely paving the way. The only thing that stands in it’s path are a couple of local forest rangers (Tim R. Morgan and Mike Magri)…at least I think that’s it.

Written and directed by Christopher Thies, this is a sometimes incoherent flick that is one weird scene after another with this hodgepodge plot about ancient Native American totem poles and demonic creatures the lay siege to a mountain community. The acting is delightfully terrible, the dialogue is amusingly awful and the stop-motion animated creatures and gore are delightfully cheesy. It’s also a bizarre little movie filled with WTF moments, such as the disturbing dance sequence featuring weird local lodge owner, Dave Sheldon (Bob Harlow) in plaid suit and clown mask, no less and a topless cutie being slammed against the side of a house by a stop motion totem pole creature, for no apparent reason…and let’s not forget the giant chicken monster. The editing is choppy and one wonders if director Thies was even on set as there seems to be little in the way of actual direction…though with this hopelessly amateur cast, would it have mattered?

I liked this film a lot, but, of course, for all the wrong reasons. The narrative is barely coherent, some scenes are completely random, the plot is loopy and there are some hilarious WTF sequences. There is a host of cheesy stop-motion animated creatures, some equally cheesy gore and some of the worst acting and dialogue you’ll ever hope to see. It’s also a lot of fun and a perfect example of why so bad can be so good. It made a real fun double feature with Don Dohler’s Alien Factor here in MonsterZero NJ’s lair, if ‘so bad, it’s good’ is your thing!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 scenes that made me giggle!

winterbeast-rating

bars