TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WAVELENGTH (1983)

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WAVELENGTH (1983)

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Wavelength is a cool and unique little sci-fi thriller that sadly has faded into obscurity and never gotten a proper DVD, much less Blu-Ray release. It’s atmospheric soundtrack by Tangerine Dream is easier to come by than the movie and hopefully someday this entertaining little flick gets it’s proper due!

The film tells the story of down-on-his-luck guitarist Bobby (Robert Carradine), who lives in the Hollywood Hills near an abandoned military facility. Bobby’s dog starts acting strangely, barking in the direction of the government owned building and his new artist girlfriend Iris (Cherie Currie), claims to be getting some sort of voices in her head emanating from that very structure. Bobby decides to take Iris and check the old building out with the help of a neighbor (Keenan Wynn) who worked on it’s construction back in the 40s. Once inside, Bobby and Iris discover, to their horror, that not only is the place filled with personal, but there are three alien visitors being held inside. Apprehended by the military, Bobby is imprisoned and Iris is used to communicate with the extraterrestrial beings. As much prisoners as the innocent alien travelers, Bobby and Iris plan a daring rescue and escape that makes them and their alien companions, fugitives from a military determined to cover-up their mistakes.

Written and directed by Mark Gray, this low budget film isn’t perfect, but it is a little movie that could and succeeds far more than it fails…and it’s failures are small. What makes the story work, years before the similar Starman or The X-Files made them popular, is that it takes two ordinary people we can identify with and thrusts them into a situation in which they’re up against a government conspiracy that the very knowledge of, makes their lives forfeit. The military are totally the bad guys here as they shot down and now have imprisoned these innocent travelers and their ignorant paranoia and fear keeps the conspiracy going. They plan to eventually make sure Bobby and Iris never see daylight again for what they’ve seen…and they have no intention of ever letting the alien beings go, either. Once they escape, we are there rooting for them to get away, every step. Gray works in subtlety here. He gets some nice tension and suspense simply because we feel for the couple and the aliens and are angry at the ignorant jack-booted mentality of their military captors. He never beats us over the head with any aspect of the story and everything from the action to the FX are all simple and subtle and it’s the emotions from within his tale that make the biggest impact. Never trying to make his small film more than it is, is it’s greatest strength and helps it overcome some of it’s flaws. Those flaws being some weak dialog, some cliche’ characters and a few instances of having a boom appear in his shots. Other than that, this is a quiet, but very effective little sci-fi thriller that never seems to have gotten the attention it deserves. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a darn good movie that proves you don’t need a massive budget to do entertaining and thought-provoking science fiction… and The X-Files wasn’t the first to present this type of situation of alien visitation and sinister cover-ups.

The cast is most noteworthy for having ex-Runaway Cherie Currie as one of it’s leads. Currie seems a bit wooden early on, but as the story gets more intense and requires more of her, she seems to rise to the occasion a bit and does fine enough. The same can be said of Carradine as the guitarist trying to get his career going. A veteran actor already at this point, he doesn’t seem quite comfortable in the role at times, but overall is fine, as his Bobby takes a backseat to Iris as the story progresses. Keenan Wynn does his crotchety old man routine that he can do in his sleep and the rest of the cast are adequate as assorted scientists and villainous military types.

I really like this movie. Sure, it’s pretty low budget and there are no event level scenes or FX, but It’s not that kind of movie. It’s a small and subtle movie about intergalactic travelers who arrive at this planet only to be treated horribly by the inhabitants and two innocent humans who make the mistake of getting in the middle of it. Together they bond to escape the same fate from the same ignorant enemy. It’s the type of story we’ve seen before and have seen many times again, but there is something about the quiet but atmospheric style with which Mark Grey tells his story that makes it work on an emotional level. No better example than a scene where our fugitives take shelter in a church. It’s an effecting scene with minimal dialog. A very enjoyable low budget film that needs a proper release.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 alien visitor occupied containment tubes.

wavelength rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE DARK (1979)

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THE DARK (1979)

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I’ll start out by saying that The Dark is not a very good movie, but not only does it hold nostalgia for me, as I saw it at the awesome Fox theater in Hackensack (which was across the street from my beloved Oritani) in 1979, but is also a curiosity because, at some point during the film’s making, it appears that movie’s villain changed his origins from some sort of zombie to a space monster…

The simple story has L.A. being stalked by some sort of unnatural fiend (John Bloom) who is tearing off people’s heads. It is being pursued not only by a hard-nosed cop (Richard Jaeckal), but by the writer, father (William Devane) of it’s first victim and an ambitious reporter (Cathy Lee Crosby) who sees this story as her big break. But this creature eludes capture and continues it’s nightly rampages. What is it? And can it be stopped?

Well, the answer to that question might be easier if the filmmakers could decided on what it’s creature actually is. Opening narration and the fact that the monster shoots lasers from it’s eyes (obviously added in post) to decapitate it’s victims has us believing it is a space monster, yet examinations of skin tissue and much of the film’s dialog seem to indicate it is a zombie. The creature also wears human clothes, kinda looks like a zombie and there is a supernatural element as we get blowing wind before it appears and it uses some sort of supernatural power to warn off a psychic (Jacquelyn Hyde) whom is aiding the police. It is only in the last act where there is dialog suggesting that it might be otherworldly and the climactic battle with the L.A. police is filled with explosions as the creature blasts them with it’s laser eyes. But these are things that could have been done with minimal re-shoots. I have read elsewhere that there was indeed a last minute change in the film’s critter due to failed screenings, but never anything official from someone involved in the production. Either way, this flick directed by John ‘Bud’ Cardos from a script by Stanford Whitmore is not very good. There is very little monster action till the last 10 minutes or so and most of the film is boring drama concerning Devane’s writer and his relationship with Crosby’s reporter…or the efforts of the bumbling cops to track down “The Mangler”. There is no suspense and the atmosphere is minimal with only one gory decapitation to interest the gore-hounds and overall, the movie is just plain dull and silly. Simply not much here to recommend other than some 70s nostalgia and watching a decent cast wallow in this mediocre movie.

For a bad B-Movie, this flick has a decent cast of 70s character actors. Devane’s writer is aloof and he plays most of his scenes walking around in a stupor wearing sunglasses. His character and Cathy Lee Crosby’s over ambitious reporter have a romance that adds nothing to the story and neither character makes much of an impact till the last 15 minutes or so, despite being the leads. Jaekel is sound as the cop in-over- his-head who has no idea what he is really dealing with…and in his defense, we’re still not that sure either, despite the end narration telling us the Earth has just had it’s first alien encounter. We also get veteran character actor Keenan Wynn and legendary DJ Casey Kasem as a news mogul and forensics expert respectively. Decent cast caught in a really bad flick.

So, there is not much to recommend about this lame sci-fi/horror with an identity problem. Whether it be a zombie or alien, the film is slow moving and uneventful, for the most part, and the apparent post-production changes in it’s title villain certainly doesn’t help. There is some personal nostalgia for me having seen it in a theater at a time when B-Movies like this could be seen on the big screen, but other than that, I really can’t say too much in the positive about this turkey. Not even bad enough to be funny.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 laser firing zombie/alien things.

dark rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER and LASERBLAST

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I know I have covered these two ‘so bad it’s good’ 70s flicks before but, they do make a great pair with their bad acting, awful dialog and delightfully charming stop motion animation FX work by the late, great David Allen and SPFX make-up and prosthetics from Steve Neill. With a few brews, these two cult classics can be a lot of fun even without being mocked by the MST3K gang!

 

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THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977)

I’ll start out by saying this isn’t a good movie in the conventional sense, but I love monster movies, especially the old fashioned stop motion animation ones and, as you may know by now, I do love a ‘so bad it’s good’ flick. So I cut this movie a lot of slack. Plus, it does have a bit of personal nostalgia for me as I saw it at the Showboat Cinema in Edgewater N.J. when it first came out in 1977.

Low budget sci-fi/horror begins as a meteor crashes into a California mountain lake by a remote rural town. The lake temperature rises and a long dormant plesiosaur egg hatches and 6 months later we have a giant prehistoric monster on the loose feeding on the local livestock and any inhabitants who get near the water. It’s now up to Sheriff Steven Hanson (Richard Cardella who also co-wrote) to try to find a way to stop the rampaging beast who is making a meal out of locals and tourists alike.

The Crater Lake Monster has a good B-movie plot that is wasted by the totally amateurish handling of the production by director and co-writer William R. Stromberg. If the lame attempts at suspense aren’t enough, the weak dialog, awful acting and ridiculous attempts at comic relief by two good ole boys who rent boats (Mark Siegel and Glen Roberts), put the nail in coffin of this flick’s potential as a serious B-movie horror treat and catapults it into ‘so bad it’s good’ territory…though it’s on thin ice there, too. *Cardella claims the withdrawal of funds and hiring of a terrible editor by Crown International Pictures was the cause of the film’s ruin, but neither of these reasons explain how sub-par everything, other than David Allen’s cool stop motion animated dinosaur, is done. The title creature is a fine bit of FX from the under appreciated Allen, but doesn’t have quite enough screen time to make up for the film’s flaws and even it’s climactic battle with a snow plow is far too short to live up to it’s entertainment potential.

But there is definitely some fun to be had at the incompetent film-making here and there is definitely some 70s nostalgia to enjoy, but how much you enjoy it depends on just how tolerant you are of a bad movie like this. I enjoy them for what they are and I like this flick for all it’s badness and there is a cool beastie. With a couple of brews this can be a good time, if that’s your thing. It definitely is mine. In an era of senseless remakes, this is a title screaming to be turned into a better movie by more talented hands, but they sadly don’t make movies like this anymore, at least not with the kind of charm flicks like this had. And despite all Crater Lake‘s flaws, it still has it’s heart in the right place and plenty of charm. And that goes a long way with a movie geek like me. A guilty pleasure for sure but, a fun one.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: The full size creature head was made by Steve Neill, another unsung hero of movie make-up and prosthetic FX.

*as per Wikipedia

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) guilty pleasure plesiosaurs!

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Laserblast

LASERBLAST (1978)

Laserblast is a low budget sci-fi thriller from Charles Band that actually could have been a decent B-movie had it been in more competent hands instead of becoming one of MST3K’s funniest episodes. Even still, it is a guilty pleasure of mine and carries the nostalgia of being one of the flicks seen at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, NJ.

Laserblast opens as an alien outlaw is being pursued on Earth across a desert. After a brief firefight, the reptilian space cops (some cool stop motion FX from the late David Allen with the outlaw’s and alien possessed Billy’s make-up FX by Steve Neill) blast the alien bad guy, but in an effort to avoid detection, are forced to flee and the alien’s weapon is left behind. Enter troubled teen Billy (Kim Milford) who, aside from his girlfriend (70s exploitation queen, Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith), is picked on by almost everyone in town including, the pot smoking cops. Obviously fate puts the alien weapon in Billy’s hands and now he has the power to get back at those who abuse him. With the alien weapon transforming him into something unearthly, can Billy be stopped?

Laserblast is sadly directed in a pedestrian manner by Michael Rae…from a script by Frank Ray Perilli and Franne Schacht…and a little energy would have helped a lot as even Billy’s climactic rampage (if blowing up a few cars and a mailbox is a rampage) is very by-the-numbers and lacks any suspense. Rae’s idea of dramatic intensity is to show the same explosion over and over in slow motion from multiple camera angles and have star Milford overact when under alien influence. And speaking of the acting, the performances range from bland to bad with even cameos from vets Keenan Wynn and Roddy McDowall being obvious paycheck grabs.The casting is also odd in the case of Milford who is too good looking and well built to be believable as the ‘picked on kid’ especially, when nerd legend Eddie Deezen (his first flick), is cast as one of the bullies. Love to ask the casting director what the inspiration was for that casting, aside from booze. But the cast isn’t totally to blame as the laughably bad dialog from the weak script isn’t going to help anyone’s performance especially, when the director doesn’t seem to be giving much inspiration. At least David Allen provides some good stop motion effects and FX model making legend Greg Jein gave us a cool alien spacecraft for such a low budget flick, that and things are blown up quite frequently.

Despite all it’s flaws, I still think there is a ‘so bad it’s good’ charm here and a lot of entertainment can be had from the epic fail of it all. And as stated before, the film does have the previously stated nostalgia element for me personally. So I would recommend it to those who love to have a good bad movie along with their six pack or simply enjoy laughing at a cheesy 70s low budget Sci-Fi flick that aims high and fails in entertaining fashion.

-MonsterZero NJ

 Rated a ‘so bad it’s good’ 3 (out of 4) stop motion alien cops.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE DEVIL’S RAIN (1975)

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THE DEVIL’S RAIN (1975)

As a horror movie fan and an all around movie geek, I try to give even some really bad movies a break if there is something to entertain within it. Some movies are delightfully bad and I have no problem giving them credit even if they are entertaining for the wrong reasons. But occasionally a movie comes along that should have been ripe for a fun time and yet just doesn’t live up to it’s potential either as a solid flick or as campy fun…and sadly, The Devil’s Rain is one of them.

The story has the Preston family being hunted…for centuries apparently…by a cult of Satanists and their leader Corbis (Ernest Borgnine), to regain a book that is in the family’s possession that will grant the cultists great power. When the mother and father are taken, son Mark (William Shatner) goes to confront Corbis and win his parent’s freedom. When Mark fails and becomes one of Corbis’ soulless servants, his brother Tom (Tom Skerritt) comes looking for his family and must find a way to destroy Corbis and his followers by releasing the souls that Corbis has imprisoned.

This Robert Fuest directed horror was universally panned when it came out and while I don’t think it’s quite as terrible as it was accused of being, it is a rather dull flick despite a heavy dose of horror trappings. Fuest tells his tale filled with Satanic ceremonies, sinister visuals, psychic phenomena and plentiful make-up FX, with a very slow pace and fails to really instill any menace in what should be a story filled with dread. The cinematography by Alex Phillips Jr. is quite good and makes good use of the desert locations and the spooky sets, but fails to give the film the atmosphere it needs to chill us. The movie has a very good cast with Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, Keenan Wynn and a young John Travolta joining Skerritt, Shatner and Borgnine, but only Ernest Borgnine really seems to get the material, giving his Jonathan Corbis some nice over the top villainy. The rest of the cast seem to perform by-the-numbers, not that the script…written by three people no less…gave the characters or story much development to work with. The dark humor and sinister sense of fun that Fuest brought his Dr. Phibes films starring Vincent Price, is sadly missing. This film could have used a bit of those movies’ morbid sense of humor, especially when things get borderline silly in the last act. The production value on the film is fine and it’s make-up effects by Ellis Burman Jr. are top notch for the time…especially during it’s climactic meltdown…but there is just very little life in a movie that’s plot was well suited for some over the top horror fun…and with people turning into human rams and scenes of dozens of melting cultists, you’d think the director would have had a good time with it.

Still, the film has developed a bit of a following and the fact that Satanist Anton LaVey is listed as a consultant adds to it’s infamy, but bottom-line, the film simply doesn’t live up to it’s potential and is an oddity and a curiosity at best. Oddly the very last scene has the kind of creepiness the rest of the film desperately needed, but it’s far too late. Even the film’s marketing failed, as it used it’s climax as the focal point of it’s advertising, so anyone going in to the movie already knew how it was going to end.

If you’re a horror completest or just a fan of bad movies like I am, it’s worth a look, but this could have been a lot of fun had the filmmakers and cast chose to have fun with the material. And by that I don’t mean make a joke or comedy of it, just perform the scenes with some gusto instead of this almost funeral-like deadpan. You know there is a problem when Shatner isn’t being theatrical. At least veteran actor Borgnine enjoyed himself and Skerritt had Alien and Shatner the return of Star Trek to keep their careers afloat while, sadly Fuest all but disappeared from feature film-making. In a time of endless remakes, this flick is one that could use a redo by someone who gets material like this, like Eli Roth or Alexandre Aja, and make it the fun horror blast it could have been. It has it’s fans, so I guess that’s something.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 horny goat Borgnines.

devils rain rating

 
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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: LASERBLAST (1978)

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Laserblast

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LASERBLAST (1978)

Laserblast is a low budget sci-fi thriller from Charles Band that actually could have been a decent B-movie had it been in more competent hands instead of becoming one of MST3K’s funniest episodes. Even still, it is a guilty pleasure of mine and carries the nostalgia of being one of the flicks seen at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, NJ.

Laserblast opens as an alien outlaw is being pursued on Earth across a desert. After a brief firefight, the reptilian space cops (some cool stop motion FX from the late David Allen) blast the alien bad guy, but in an effort to avoid detection, are forced to flee and the alien’s weapon is left behind. Enter troubled teen Billy (Kim Milford) who, aside from his girlfriend (70s exploitation queen, Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith), is picked on by almost everyone in town including, the pot smoking cops. Obviously fate puts the alien weapon in Billy’s hands and now he has the power to get back at those who abuse him. With the alien weapon transforming him into something unearthly, can Billy be stopped?

Laserblast is sadly directed in a pedestrian manner by Michael Rae and a little energy would have helped a lot as even Billy’s climactic rampage (if blowing up a few cars and a mailbox is a rampage) is very by the numbers and lacks any suspense. Rae’s idea of dramatic intensity is to show the same explosion over and over in slow motion from multiple camera angles and have star Milford overact when under alien influence. And speaking of the acting, the performances range from bland to bad with even cameos from vets Keenan Wynn and Roddy McDowall being obvious paycheck grabs. The casting is also odd in the case of Milford who is too good looking and well built to be believable as the picked on kid especially, when nerd legend Eddie Deezen (his first flick), is cast as one of the bullies. Love to ask the casting director what the inspiration was for that casting aside from booze. But the cast isn’t totally to blame as the laughably bad dialog from the weak script isn’t going to help anyone’s performance especially, when the director doesn’t seem to be giving much inspiration. At least David Allen provides some good effects for such a low budget flick and things are blown up quite frequently.

Despite all it’s flaws, I still think there is a ‘so bad it’s good’ charm here and a lot of entertainment can be had from the epic fail of it all. And as stated before, the film does have the previously stated nostalgia element for me personally. So, I would recommend it to those who love to have a good bad movie along with their six pack or simply enjoy laughing at a cheesy 70s low budget sci-fi flick that aims high and fails in entertaining fashion.

-MonsterZeroNJ

 A ‘so bad it’s good’ 3 stop motion alien cops.

laserblast rating

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