Venom (1981)

directed by piers haggard
morison film group/venom productions limited
based on the novel by alan scholefield

You know, sometimes I decide to watch a movie just because the totality of its promotional efforts entices me. That was definitely the case with this offering, as its poster makes promises and presents plaudits that one figures can’t possibly be true, and the cast includes not only our old friend Oliver Reed but Klaus Kinski. “Oh, man,” I enthused, “I can’t wait to watch that one!” Well, somewhat to my disappointment, Venom is but an above-average thriller that isn’t even spoiled by the fact that as far as scary screen monsters go, your average snake – or even the DEADLY MAMBA – isn’t all that threatening. (This is the second Oliver Reed movie I’ve watched that features a snake, though, which has to count for something.) Frankly, the plot is a bit nonsensical; this international fugitive just happens to have connections in the house of a wealthy banker whose asthmatic kid just happened to order a new imported snake, and …

It did fairly well at the box office.

why did i watch this movie?

Venom! A deadly snake! Oliver Reed! Oliver Reed and a deadly snake! Klaus Kinski! Oliver Reed, Klaus Kinski, and a deadly snake! Venom!

I didn’t realize this when I picked it out, but Haggard is the same director responsible for The Blood on Satan’s Claw, a fact which also would’ve weighed heavily in its favor.

should you watch this movie?

Sad to say, Oliver Reed doesn’t have much of a substantial role to play here, so the film lacks for his usual je ne sais quoi. For what seems as though it should be a fairly middle-of-the-road affair, however, it’s actually pretty interesting.

highlight and low point

Susan George has a pretty overwrought death scene as well.

rating from outer space: B+

Dracula’s Dog aka Zoltan, Hound of Dracula aka El perro de Satán (1977)

directed by albert band
vic cinema productions

So, “Dracula” as the world knows him doesn’t really appear in this movie – but an “Igor Dracula” does, along with one last descendant, a modern family man named “Michael Drake.” The story, such as it is, is a cockamamie concoction about a canine that I. Dracula long ago enlisted for some reason or another, along with its former owner – this picture’s Renfield, essentially – a quasi-vampire that can wander around in the daylight to do his bidding. Here, having been revived and in need of a master, these servants want to deliver M. Drake to his legacy. (Did you know that if you remove the stake from the heart of a vampire or near-vampire in its coffin, it comes back to, uh, “life”? I didn’t.) I cannot possibly convince you how preposterous this film is. I would like to point out, however, that relying on dogs to be your lead actors is not the world’s greatest idea.


why did i watch this movie?

A “Dracula” flick without Dracula, but with his … dog …

should you watch this movie?

It will certainly make you laugh – though it’s debatable what kind of laughter it will provoke – but unless you really want to see how NOT to make a movie, it’s not worth it.

highlight and low point

I did mention that this pic relies on dogs to carry a lot of the action, right? Zoltan himself dismantles the roof of a cabin at one point while his comrades compromise the walls. The overdubbed dog noises are also pretty special – barking, howling, growling, you name it. Nothing, however, tops the experience of repeated shots of loyal servant “Smit” staring idiotically into the camera while a voiceover intones “ZOLTAN.”
The family RV interlude comes close, though.

rating from outer space: n⁄a

adorable vampire puppy!

King Kong (1933)

directed by merian c. cooper & ernest B. Schoedsack
an rko radio picture

I don’t think I’d ever considered this a “horror film” before, but viewing it now, I suppose I can’t think of a more apt genre to which one might consign it. And since the first time I saw it was at a grand old Theater near the house in which I grew up, on the BIG screen, it would have been impossible for me to note the parallels to, say, Jurassic Park, which was around 15 years in the future, or to be reminded of Aguirre: The Wrath of God, because I wouldn’t have seen that for at least a good 20 years. Sure, the big monkey isn’t terribly convincing nowadays, through jaded modern eyes, but it doesn’t strike me as much worse than most CGI, although reminding me of Rankin/Bass productions isn’t necessarily a positive. Given when it was made, it’s pretty astounding, if unintentionally funny at times. It also had me musing about pre-Hays Code Hollywood, for whatever that’s worth – so if nothing else, it was certainly thought-provoking.

why did i watch this movie?

This baby is no. 5 in Johnny Ramone‘s top 10.

should you watch this movie?

I haven’t seen the 2005 version helmed by Peter Jackson, but of course I’ve seen the 1976 Dino De Laurentiis extravaganza … and I avidly saw last year’s largely unnecessary Kong: Skull Island, which I did not until this moment realize was a “reboot.” Uh … how many have YOU seen.

highlight and low point

Carl Denham’s identification of the Stegosaurus the crew encounters on Skull Mountain’s island: “Something from the dinosaur family.” As the crowd awaits the unveiling of Denham’s spectacle, a remark: “Better be worth it after all the ballyhoo.”

(Two tickets cost TWENTY dollars – almost $400 now.) The big ape dies, you know, which isn’t too cool.

rating from outer space: B

The Wolf Man (1941)

directed by George waggner
universal pictures company inc.

Not only is this movie not frightening in the least, this reviewer has no idea how or why it has been lauded through the decades as even a competent endeavor, much less an estimable one. Did I say “not frightening”? It’s completely ridiculous, helped in no way by the laughable attempt at dramatics presented by Lon Chaney, Jr. Let me emphasize the generational suffix; this is not the lauded “Man of a Thousand Faces,” it’s his son, who benefits from this picture’s dime-store makeup disguising his general inability to act naturally. Also not helping: the entire film is very obviously shot on the studio lot. Additionally, it’s dismaying to be treated to no shots of Larry Talbot’s transformations. (Those scenes take place in the various sequels.) A “B” picture through and through, presented such that even the underlying existential crisis isn’t at all provocative.

why did i watch this movie?

The Wolf Man is number eight in Johnny Ramone’s top 10.

should you watch this movie?

When we were small children, my older brother and I played with this ancient “Monster” Old Maid set

Milton Bradley, 1964

and I always gravitated toward the Wolf Man card.

(This one)

(Not this one)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you feel similar nostalgic twinges, I wonder. Maybe you’re a budding film historian. Or a Ramones fan.

highlight and low point

The sets are admittedly impressive. Indeed, it’s hard for me to conceive of how much work and preparation went into this two-month shoot, especially when the script itself is so slipshod. For a running time of barely an hour and 10 minutes, certain lines of dialogue are repeated an astonishing number of times. Endearing touches include some of the el cheapo effects and sly, sardonic details bordering on the self-referential, such as this one:

(click to enlarge)

rating from outer space: D+

Spasms aka Death Bite (1983)

DIRECTED BY WILLIAM FRUET
CINEQUITY CORPORATION/CANADIAN FILM DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
serpent’s theme composed & performed by tangerine dream

For those unfamiliar with the Oliver Reed performance model, particularly in a lurid monster-shouter such as this, picture a brawny, English roughneck version of Wm. Shatner … who happens to be out of his goddamn mind. Reed brings such an intense and palpably amok sense of hyperreality to affairs of the silver screen that I daresay it can buoy even the flimsiest of vessels. (I understand some folks feel much the same about Nicolas Cage.) So pairing that factor with this story about a giant friggin’ serpent that may be a servant of Hell sounds truly special. Unfortunately, this mediocre B-movie can’t deliver on that promise, mainly because as ludicrous as things get, the production team never really casts off the ropes. They also rush through the falling action here, shrugging aside some fanciful notions, haphazardly tossing in unexplained phenomena, and entirely dispensing with an actual conclusion. The supposedly monstrous serpent is good for a laugh when finally shown in its full … glory.

WHY DID I WATCH THIS MOVIE?

I would have watched it regardless, given its astounding nomenclature, but with O. Reed heading the cast there was no question.

SHOUlD YOU WATCH THIS MOVIE?

If you wish to see killings happening, in B&W, through the vision of a man with a telepathic link to a giant snake (instead of, say, that of Laura Mars), sure. As noted, however, this film does not live up to its potential. The credit “Based on the novel by Michael Maryk & Brent Monahan” certainly must lend one some hope, though. 

HIGHLIGHT AND LOW POINT

(To the police chief) “I woulda thought you’d seen everything by now.”

(The chief) “Hm. Monsters from Hell is something new.”

RATING FROM OUTER SPACE: C−

The Boogens (1981)

directed by james l. conway
taft international pictures

Boy howdy, what a terrible name for a movie. That didn’t prevent me from enjoying, say, The Babadook, however, so I took the plunge and watched this classic ’80s silliness. You know the drill: two young couples, some questionable activity (in this case, reopening an old silver mine), funny dog, mysterious character creeping around, forgotten lore that possibly holds key information, and so forth. Oh, and – of course – a ridiculous creature. And lemmy tell ya, you’d have to walk a good mile to find a more ridiculous creature than the poorly named ridiculous creature that gives this movie its lousy title. (At one point, I believe I discerned that part of the creature was a vacuum cleaner hose.) One interesting thing about this flick, though, is that all of the thespians are fully invested, providing much better acting than the script probably warranted. Lightweight and enjoyable fare from early in the Reagan Era.

why did i watch this movie?

The cast list is headed by Rebecca Balding, who of course played “Carol David” on Soap, and since I watched that other movie she was in, I felt obliged.

should you watch this movie?

It would be a good fit for a themed horror nite or festival at some friendly neighborhood venue.

highlight and low point

The second female lead is played by “Sgt. Doreau” from Sledge Hammer! but to be completely honest, the funny dog (one of two Bichon Frises) has the best role in the film, and does a terrific job with it. The utterly fake mine interiors are also splendid. The hilarious terrifying title creature(s), however, cannot be topped. (Allegedly, only one was made; once it’s revealed, one surmises this is possibly because it was constructed of whatever was lying around and no additional materials were on hand.)

rating from outer space: B−

He TRIED to warn them

Wildling (2018)

directed by fritz bÖhm
maven pictures/film i vÄst/filmgate films

This goofy little B-movie is a good example of what kinds of films this site’s proprietor often prefers. (Why is a different subject.) By rights, it SHOULD be hampered by various difficulties, not the least of which is its ridiculous story, and among which are occasionally lax production values, unconvincing acting and the overall feeling that it’s a made-for-TV affair. Nonetheless, it mostly succeeds, even if it doesn’t quite fulfill any variety of promises suggested when it shifts into the present tense. Coincidences and improbabilities propel the plot, highlighted by the irrepressible Brad Dourif emoting another weirdo and basically causing all the trouble. I didn’t even mention the stirring title anthem that you will probably immediately identify, as I did, as being written and performed by Linda Perry. So what, exactly, works here then, one may well be wondering. Call it pathos; within the outlandish framework resides the tale of a girl searching for family.

why did i watch this movie?

The plot concerns a young girl kept locked in her room ostensibly for her own protection … AND WOULD YOU BELIEVE –

should you watch this movie?

You know, it can be hard to differentiate these days what type of film one is watching, what with VOD being its own estimable category or genre. I mean, it’s not really the equivalent of a movie being “straight to video” BITD. That being said, when you’re in the mood for a streaming original or whatever, you may as well opt for this one.

highlight and low point

The part of the story that concerns the girl’s journey into normal society is interesting and handled differently than one may expect, but after a certain transformative point it becomes kind of mawkish, and then the budget makeup and/or FX department(s) take/s over. The film often feels oddly restrained throughout, and somewhat surreal. And I’ve mentioned Brad Dourif.

rating from outer space: C+