Vultures (1984)

produced, written and directed by paul leder
star world productions inC.

An almost interesting exercise in what I imagine an Agatha Christie novel to be like – I must have read at least one, right? – this forgotten flick mainly suffers from an poorly established cast of thousands and a tendency to drag things out for way too long. This is particularly noticeable as it nears its ending but detours a few times before relenting and taking the exit. If they hadn’t been so damned serious here, they had the grounds for a terrific farce, at least, though I suppose that’s been done to death (sorry) as well. At a certain point, if only for just a bit, the mystery almost takes control, but it gets a little lost in the confusing welter of names and faces. The red herrings and the detective’s shaggy-dog pursuit wear on you after a while as well. But you probably won’t see the twist coming, exactly, even once you’ve noticed that something’s clearly awry.

why did i watch this movie?

Paul Leder directed I Dismember Mama, and that coerced me to try another one. Not sure why THIS one, though. (Neither can I recall where I found it.)


should you watch this movie?

Little information about this production exists. It’s often not unlike a madeforTV affair and it may have had more than one videocassette release. But I’m grasping at straws, really. Scant information is offered here. (Article contains spoilers.)

highlight and low point

Some (sorry to say) washed-up Hollywood also-rans pop in here, and Aldo Ray‘s appearance tops that list, as it’s barely a cameo. Yvonne De Carlo has a more substantial role. And why neglect Kipp Whitman. This film may possibly remind you of 1970s television.

rating from outer space: C+

Come to Daddy (2019)

directed by ant timpson
nowhere/new zealand film commission/scythia/firefly films/blinder films

What seemingly begins as a relationship experiment – with hints vaguely reminiscent of the discomfort underpinning Creep – abandons that tack fairly quickly as it heads into somewhat more traditional territory. In this story of a man uncertainly meeting up with his long-lost father, it shouldn’t take one too long to spot the first plot twist as it approaches, and since the second one is closely allied, its revelation should follow appropriately at its heels. Afterward, the oddball is mingled with the ordinary, but the whole affair remains captivating throughout, never quite succumbing to becoming predictable. Near the end, there’s a chance for it to toss in a devastating conclusion, but this production is content with an enigmatic and cinematic finish. Once the effect wears off, as usual, if you give any of the happenings a second’s thought the whole construct collapses … so, as usual, you shouldn’t do that. This feature’s a font of black humor, indeed, so dark and quirky you may well miss some of it.

why did i watch this movie?

Intriguing trailer and strong buzz.

 
should you watch this movie?

It works for a lot of different reasons, and probes emotions and their attachments on many different levels.

highlight and low point

I don’t recall having seen Elijah Wood act before, though The Faculty is on his CV, so I must’ve, and Timpson was a producer of but otherwise uninvolved in 2015’s rhapsodic Deathgasm, so I didn’t have any preconceived notions about either of them. The direction was splendid and Wood’s performance is almost as profound, after taking a bit to establish itself. Some of the supporting cast tends toward excessively broad caricature at times, or is perhaps a bit too self-consciously outré.

rating from outer space: a−

Die, Monster, Die! aka Monster of Terror (1965)

directed by daniel haller
american international pictures/alta vista film productions

For the first half-hour or so, this sumptuously appointed fable seems as though it’s going to be a vastly rewarding romp through B-movie silliness, complete with Boris Karloff adding plenty of dramatic intrigue. Unfortunately, it soon descends into choppy pointlessness, though the inane and repetitious dialogue might bolster things for a while if you’re in the right mood. The story kinda feels cobbled together as it goes along, and even the requisite expository scenes don’t much help to clarify matters. A few startling moments crop up here and there, though only the first earns its reaction, and it goes nowhere. Based on “The Colour Out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft, though how or why Arkham, MA, is transplanted to England is a question best left to others.

why did i watch this movie?

I found it under the title “Monster of Terror,” which … I mean, what more do you need? The presence of Boris Karloff and some glowing (pun definitely intended) nostalgia offered by commenters sealed the deal.

should you watch this movie?

I will table that question until I’ve watched a couple other filmed interpretations of the classic story.

highlight and low point

Boris Karloff’s clearly dissembling patriarch and his myopic assistant Merwyn are a hoot, and our hero Reinhart’s difficulties with the locals in Arkham set the picture up rather nicely. By far the best effects are achieved when Stephen and Susan are creeping downstairs in the dark guided by one lighted candle … which brightly illumines absolutely everything in the vicinity, and looks suspiciously like a spotlight trained right on them. Again, there are a few genuinely unsettling moments, but they’re wasted  – along with the lavish set dressing – by a flimsy screenplay.

rating from outer space: C−

And Soon The Darkness (1970)

directed by robert fuest
associated british productions ltd.

The sort of very British suspense film wherein almost nothing is revealed straightaway until very far along in the programme, where events suggest the audience’s guesswork is the main impetus, the most effective thing this production had going for it was that its tale of English ladies touring the French countryside exhibited no translation. Hence, the viewer was not to be informed of what the natives were saying, rendering that viewer as helpless – and perhaps as clueless – as the protagonist. Unless said viewer were to possess some command of the French language, that is, in which case he or she likely deduced where this case of mysterious identities and shifting suspicions would conclude. Pacing presented the major problem – though establishing a setting and a mood is important, those factors probably didn’t need quite so much development, especially in the interminably plodding final third. I mean, here’s the plot: A girl goes missing.

why did i watch this movie?

A while back I was scanning blurbs for ’70s flicks and saw this one described as an atmospheric something something with a chilling blah blah blah, and I was persuaded.


should you watch this movie?

I did not find it particularly noteworthy.


highlight and low point

I’ll tip my cap to the almost completely pointless diversion in the middle of this muddle, where the lead encounters a deaf war veteran in a farmyard of sorts, to no apparent purpose. It was also intriguing that for a movie contrived around birds on a bicycle trip, neither young lady seemed particularly adept at riding. The ongoing attempts to cast doubt as to the perpetrator’s identity eventually approached crisis proportions. A potent moment: when the whereabouts of the missing companion were revealed.

rating from outer space: C+

Skinner (1993)

directed by ivan nagy
cinequanon pictures international/5 kidd productions

Hey, betcha can’t guess the pathology of this movie’s title character …

Get this: he skins people! Like, no way, right!? Now, with that out of the way, it’s time to admit that despite some obvious shortcomings, this is a strangely effective independent horror, with a cast that includes Ted Raimi, Ricki Lake and Traci Lords. Right, it’s very ’90s – that’s one of the shortcomings. But there’s very little of significance to gripe about here, even if some of the picture’s more potentially symbolic fascinations go more or less unexamined. The ending really could’ve used a better (and less derivative) concept, and like execution, but after the title character has finally shown his inner self, so to speak, that’s forgivable. I cannot stress enough, however, that even were you initially unaware, you’d immediately be able to peg the era of release.


why did i watch this movie?

As a longtime scourer of budget bins of all stripes and a onetime video-store regular, I felt as though I’d neglected this title too often. And Ted Raimi, of course.

should you watch this movie?

After some thought, I’d have to classify this picture as being of the sort you’d likely find fairly interesting and enjoyable should you happen across it, but not one worth any arduous journey to experience.

highlight and low point

Ricki Lake is delightful, per usual, and David Warshofsky’s bootleg rendition of post-1987 Anthony Michael Hall amused me for no particular reason, as did the fact that his character is named “Geoff Tate.” (It’s irrelevant whether that was intentional.) The explicit scene where a prostitute is flayed is technically astounding. Traci Lords plays a character who for no
pertinent reason is perpetually underdressed. SHOCKING, I know.

rating from outer space: B

Bits & Pieces (1985)

directed by leland thomas
created and written by michael koby
trans world entertainment/the celluloid conspiracy

We may have discovered a new unintentional comedy champion. For a while, said unintentional comedy is confined mainly to the ridiculous attempt at portraying the schizoid tendencies of our deranged Maniac killer, and oh yes, those responsible for this film obviously saw that one. Then romance blossoms! With a particularly unwarranted and superficially crafted meet cute that sees our unlikely love connection detour on a date to the beach to the jacuzzi to the fireplace in what could be a Time Life infomercial … while a citywide manhunt is going on, mind you, with bodies of nubile bleach-blondes piling up. Patently amateurish in most aspects, that sense of dizzy irresponsibility saves this picture from total ignominity. Credit must be granted for skirting several of many possible cliché endings.

why did i watch this movie?

Maybe it reminded me of this. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I did, as it made for a nice mother-themed double feature with our antecedent selection (which, by the way, was often teamed with La novia ensangrentada in a dubious double feature of its own).

should you watch this movie?

An unattributed factoid on this picture’s IMDb page claims it was written in five days and shot in 10, and I’d be inclined to believe those were concurrent spans. Plus, it features naturalistic dialogue:


Rosie
: “Tanya! The psycho! She’s dead! Murdered!”

Rosie’s mom: “Let’s call the police.”

highlight and low point

I would be remiss not to mention the original songs that highlight some key moments here, such as one of the male strip club scenes and the aforementioned romantic interlude. Unfortunately, these incredible numbers receive no attribution in the credits of this production. You should be dismayed.

rating from outer space: D

I Dismember Mama aka Poor Albert and Little Annie aka Crazed (1972)

directed by paul leder
romal films

Although much more of a serious psychodrama than I had expected, this eerie picture contains in the early going some pretty grating moments; later events become tinged with some sobering unease. There’s even a kind of bitter, defeatist humor on the part of the lead detective character, although I suppose that may be projection on my part. At a certain point, this venture nearly goes off the rails completely, and had it done so, it would probably now be much more well known than it remains. But as a friend of mine once admonished, “Notorious is not the same as famous, Billy.” And had the inscrutable relationship that’s established between a twentysomething guy and a nine- or 10-year-old girl proceeded much differently, that discernment would be starkly pronounced. All in all, an effectively unsettling little flick about an institutionalized individual who breaks out and heads home to see his dear mother. Wisely, very little is ultimately explained; those questions, and the perplexing motives, lend an enigmatic nature to the murk.

why did i watch this movie?

Naturally, I found the title provocative. Plus, it was Mother’s Day weekend.

should you watch this movie?

I must warn you, no maternal figures are discerped in the course of this film.

highlight and low point

So, seriously, another one of Leder’s movies (The Eleventh Commandment) bears the following tagline:
“A murderous psycho breaks out of a mental hospital and goes after his uncle.” Now, I wouldn’t want to suggest that this filmmaker is content to revisit old territory – gosh, no – but in 1994 he also produced a sequel to Mama called Killing Obsession. We will of course be screening that one in good time, though I
don’t have high hopes for its credibility.

rating from outer space: B