Monday, October 31, 2011

Godmonster of Indian Flats

For Halloween, I knew I had to review a film absolutely guaranteed to send chills up and  down your eager spines. Unfortunately for you and your spines, I got lazy, as did director Fredric Hobbs. Well, maybe Hobbs wasn’t exactly lazy when he made Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)- stoned out of his everlovin’ gourd is more likely. what else could possibly explain a film that alternates being about the dangers of racism and mutant sheep?
Yes, your eyes do not deceive. Our tale begins out west, when dangerous gas seeps out of an abandoned mine and begins to affect a young shepherd’s flock. A ewe gives birth to a decidedly misshapen lamb. This homely creature catches the interest of Professor Clemens, the local college-educated type who just happens to be investigating this precise phenomenon, and is only too happy to open his laboratory to the wee ungulate. 

Now, you would think that a freaky sheep would be enough to carry the plot, but for the next hour or so, the movie violently disagrees. In fact, most of the story deals with a jaunty developer attempting to buy real estate in the small, wild-west obsessed town outside the mine. The conflict? The developer is black, and eeeeeeveryone else is white. Really white. And really racist. Instead of just saying “no, we’re not gonna sell you our land”, they frame him for a crime. When that doesn’t work to their satisfaction, they actually round up a lynching posse. Yeeee-ha!

This stand-off just happens to disrupt the sheep creature who has been incubating in prof Clemens’ lab. (Bet you’d almost forgot about our monster!) The beast escapes and goes on a wild tear through the countryside. The rampaging ruminant terrifies a pack of picnicking children and somehow manages to blow up a gas station before being lassoed by a crowd of cowboys. But really, the fun is just beginning; the endgame here is genuinely explosive.

To be honest, much of Godmonster can be pretty hard to sit through. The problem is, it feels like two very different movies smashed together at high speed. Is the damn thing a meditation on the destructive nature of prejudice, or is it about a marauding sheep monster? These seem like two subjects which should not be sandwiched together. 
Needless to say, the best parts of the film involve the sheep. (What exactly makes it a “godmonster” is never really explained). It’s just plain hilarious to look at. Dopey-eyed and hunchbacked, it shambles around on two stumpy little legs. One of its forelegs is particularly long. In fact it looks quite a bit like a horse’s...nevermind. Basically, this is one non-threatening, goofy ass monster.

Our wooly friend shows his true colors shortly after he escapes from the lab. Mariposa, local hippie chick and Clemens’  helper, catches up with the beast and...dances with it. Yes, that’s right. Together they shuffle and sway and twirl about a sunlit canyon. Really, that’s about as menacing as a fluffy little kitten snuggling in a basket of warm laundry.

So, to sum up: When the sheep is on screen, you will laugh. When just about everything else is going on, you will probably be confused and bored to the point of looking for ripe scabs to pick. Still, if you find yourself in need of some truly lanolin-soaked horror this Halloween, there’s pretty much just one flick you can pick. That reliable ol’ hunk o’ mutton, Godmonster of Indian Flats. Because sometimes, you just have to spell “boo” with a couple of As. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Touch of Her Flesh

For eons, movie makers have struggled with the eternal question: how the hell do I get the audience to pay attention to the opening credits? Well, in The Touch of Her Flesh (1967), director Michael Findlay (alias Julian Marsh)  solves that problem pretty neatly by projecting the credits directly onto the bodies of nude women. You won’t be able to tear your eyes away from the spectacle. Er, is that a mole dotting that “i”?

The plot begins with Richard, weapons expert and distinctly unloveable loser, leaving for a convention. His pouty wife Claudia stays behind. She lolls on the couch, ever in danger of smearing her perfect eyeliner on a pillow. After Richard’s been gone about 2 and half minutes, Claudia’s boyfriend shows up, itching to dance the horizontal mambo. The two engage in some serious softcore petting, and all seems well...until Richard realizes he’s forgotten his speech.

Naturally, he catches them in the act. Overcome with horror, Richard flees the scene and is struck by a car, leaving him minus an eye and temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. He’s depressed, as anyone would be in the situation. But then, most people wouldn’t swear a vendetta against womankind in general. That’s exactly what Richard does however, and sets his murderous sights on a hapless go-go girl, a sinuous stripper, a desperate hooker, and finally Claudia and her bosom-buddy Janet.

All this sounds pretty exciting, and for a few very brief moments, it is. The methods of murder are all pretty far out. Most sexploitation films don’t come equipped with a buzzsaw. However, if you’re looking for graphic violence, don’t expect to find it here. Death is pretty much indicated by falling over and going “Aaaarggh!” It must be said that by and large, the boobs in this film are lovely to behold. Only Janet has a wonky pair, and she’s supposed to be an artist’s model, oy. The unlucky go go dancer who is offed by a rose with poisoned thorns wins the tit trophy, in my opinion. Big yet perky, they wobble to and fro like...what was I talking about again? Oh yeah. 

Probably my favorite part of the film would have to be the moment Richard decides he’s going to kill off chicks who use their bodies for personal gain; that is to say, all women. He goes on a fantastic misogynistic rant full of pantingly lurid sexual metaphors. It feels like it lasts for an hour! The whole thing is played over scenes of decidedly hallucinogenic nudity. (Is that flower stuck where I think it is?)  For this brief segment, the film approaches art.

The biggest problem with the Touch of Her Flesh is that by and large, it’s pretty damn dull. In my opinion, there’s only one sin a sexploitation film can commit, and that’s being boring. Touch needs to get to confession on the double. Breasts and crossbows alone cannot save a film. What did keep me watching? The clothes. The hair. The makeup. Yes, if you’re like me and love to perv on vintage styles, this film will do more than satisfy. The stripper’s kicky fringed thong! The prostitute’s intriguing stripey stockings! And best of all, Claudia’s absolutely to die for leopard print ankle boots. If I had those, I could perish happily at the hands of a one-eyed dude called Dick. Say, wait a minute, one eyed dick? I do believe there may be a joke in there...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Night of the Bloody Apes

There are some titles destined to grab hold of ones imagination. Night of the Bloody Apes (1972) is a pretty standout example. Of course, it’s a bit misleading. Those of you picturing a marauding group of gore-soaked orangutans may come away disappointed. In fact, there’s only one ape, and he’s more of a man-made monster, really. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Our plot begins with lovely Lucy, a female lucha libre wrestler. During a match she accidentally cracks her opponent’s skull open. Tough move. Being the sweet luchadora next door type, she’s real broken up about all this. The comatose wrestler is carted off to the hospital, where lurks Dr. Krallman, a madder-than-mad scientist.

Krallman’s son Julio is dying of leukemia. While this would make any parent desperate, most wouldn’t react by stealing a gorilla from the zoo. Yes, Krallman’s master plan is to give Julio the gorilla’s heart, thus curing him of cancer...well, it probably made perfect sense at the time. Unfortunately, it turns out that gorilla hearts are too powerful for the human system to handle, and Julio is transformed into a murderous man-beast! Not having much else to do, Julio splits and goes out on a killing spree.

Most of the movie is devoted to Julio escaping, being captured by dad and obsequious lackey Goyo, and escaping again. Lucy shows up to wrestle once in a while, but spends most of her time being irrelevant to the plot and taking showers. By the time Dr. Krallman has concocted a baffling, psuedoscientific plan to put Julio right again, things may already be...too late.
So what’s the gore score? Pretty darn good. Upping the quotient is the fact that actual footage of open heart surgery is used during the transplant scene. It’s hard to get more realistic than that! Julio’s killing sprees give us plenty of variety. Strangling, clawing, stabbing, scalping, decapitation...the kid does it all! Probably the best bit is when Julio is lurching down a street, only to turn casually and pop out a guy’s eyeball. Ouch.

That’s all well and good, but what about sex? Those of you who like their blood with a healthy side order of boobs will not be disappointed. Most of the T&A on display is all thanks to Julio. The cheeky man-beast has a habit of violently disrobing his female victims. “Screaming” and “Jiggling” are two words that apply to most of the female characters in this movie
There are a lot of little things to love about Apes. My own personal point of adoration is the fact that Julio is always clad in his pajama bottoms. Sort of takes away from that aura of menace, doesn’t it? It certainly makes him unique. I can’t think of any other monsters that go out to kill in their comfy sleepwear. 
The dubbing is another draw here. For one thing, the translation from Spanish is hopelessly awkward. If the idea of English syntax taking a brutal pounding appeals to you (you pervert), this is a movie you will not want to miss. The voice work is about what you’d expect. Hearing Dr. Krallman say “Prepare the gorilla” with all the gravitas of a trained Shakespearean is a genuine delight. So lets recap, shall we? Mad doctors. Cringing henchmen. Female Mexican wrestlers. An ape-man in his jammies. People, if I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me up.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Incredible Melting Man

The Incredible Melting Man (1977) is one gooey flick. And I’m telling you right now, this is pretty much the central thesis of my review. So, if you have anywhere you really need to be, a dentist appointment or whatever, feel free to run along. Those of you with more time on your hands, stick with me. Things are about to get messy!
The plot here is pretty classic sci-fi/horror fare. Astronaut Steve West is tragically irradiated when his ship gets too close to some stock footage of a solar flare. He survives, but with some serious melting issues and an insatiable hunger for human flesh. Upon discovering his condition, Steve attacks and munches on a chubby nurse whose uniform fits her like the casing on a sausage. Freshly energized, Steve escapes to go on a rampage of oozin’ and eatin’. It’s up to Dr. Ted Nelson and General Perry to catch the melting menace before the local populace catches on. Unfortunately for them, Steve is doing some pretty efficient population control.

All this sounds like fun, so here’s a rough question. Is the movie any good? The best I can come up with is, well, sorta. The acting doesn’t help. It’s either overdone to the point of panicked hysteria, or simply doesn’t exist. For instance, General Perry is outacted by random household appliances. Though to be fair, the interior decor in the film is so strikingly horrible that this may not entirely be his fault. The pacing is another issue here. Scenes that should be suspenseful are dragged out until they become as turgid and slow as melting man ooze running uphill. 

The worst offender in the category is the scene in which Steve is stalking around the home of Dr. Nelson while his wife sits inside and knits. And knits. And knits. For what feels like an hour. The tension is unbearable. Will she drop a stitch? Stab herself with a needle? God, I can hardly stand to watch. 
So then, what is good? The effects. Don’t go expecting too much gore; the film is more vile than violent. There are some chewed on corpses to look at, though. And the head. Oh, the head. Early in his rampage, Steve attacks a dopey fisherman and decapitates him through sheer brute strength (Because that’s how radiation works in movies. It makes you strong, sticky, and starving.) The head gets dropped in the river, where it blissfully floats downstream until it goes over a waterfall and cracks open on some rocks. Sheer poetry.

But the best thing about the film is the melting, as the title would indeed indicate. As Steve decomposes further, bits begin to get left behind. In the end, his face is little more than a slime covered skull. There are some genuine “how did they do that?” moments, and that’s what really makes the film worth watching. Makeup artist Rick Baker certainly did a lot on a budget that can’t have been too impressive. So now, the big question: should you watch The Incredible Melting Man? I would say yes. If you’ve got the time for gallons of slime, that is. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Emanuelle in America

What does an international snuff film ring have in common with an aristocratic Venetian orgy, a sex club for wealthy woman, and a randy horse named Pedro? Well, if you’re watching Emanuelle in America (1976), the answer is the utterly delicious Laura Gemser. Naturally, Gemser plays the titular Emanuelle, a fashion photographer and intrepid investigative journalist.
The film can at first seem a bit complicated plot-wise, so it’s best to view it as a series of vignettes. In the first segment of the film, Emanuelle joins the harem of a wealthy man with the intent of exposing his depravity. Never without her hidden camera, she happily snaps away, when she’s not engaging in a little girl on girl action in the pool....or the sauna. The rich cat insists on calling all his girls by their astrological signs. Groovy!

        And yes, this is where Pedro the horse comes in. On of the chicks is totally obsessed with the rather diminutive stallion, and gives him a horsey handjob while everyone looks on in utter delight. Yes, it’s that kinda flick, people. At the house, Emanuelle meets a guest, a Venetian noble who whisks her away to his castle in Italia. His attempts to engage her in a threesome with his slightly less than attractive wife fail, but he does throw one hell of an orgy. 

At the party, Emanuelle learns of a club that supplies rich women with buff mustachioed sex slaves. Naturally, she just has to check in and take a few pictures for the questionable newspaper that employs her. It is on this pleasure island that Emanuelle see her first snuff film, and goes on a true investigative binge. The film continues along in a frolic of sex and violence, until it reaches a frankly baffling conclusion. No, I’m not going to spoil it for you. 

Now, down to the nitty gritty. What about the sex? It ranges from softcore simulation to, wow, that’s a blowjob. Those of you who find hairless crotches distasteful will be truly delighted by the amount of bush on display. As for the violence, the death and torture look plenty real, which is about the highest compliment you can pay a faux snuff film. Horse handjob: not faked at all, as much as we all wish it were. (that’s excepting you truly stellar perverts out there). And then there’s the toothsome Laura Gemser, reason enough to watch anything.
However, one thing that really bears mentioning is the music. It never fails to impress me that back in the day, even a film featuring blatant bestiality wound up with a fully realized and dynamic score. So, thank you Nico Fidenco for providing us with these quality tunes. And double thanks to Joe D’Amato for directing this little slice of exploitation heaven. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Five Minutes to Live

In the 60s, Elvis was churning out a whole mess of movies. Formulaic light musicals, mainly. Now, I’m not here to review one, so why would I bring it up? Because our flick of the moment happens to star another popular singer of the day: the one and only Johnny Cash. Yes, that’s right, while Elvis was wiggling his hips and kissin’ his cousins, Johnny was starring in a mean spirited, low budget crime picture called Five Minutes to Live (1961). 
Johnny Cash plays Johnny Cabot, a psychotic criminal who gets himself involved in a rather unusual bank heist. He’s tasked with taking the wife of a suburban bank’s vice president hostage in her own home. His partner Fred is in charge of squeezing the ransom money out of her husband. If he doesn’t pay up, Johnny’s only too happy to kill the unlucky housewife. 
A bit of a convoluted way to rob a bank, but you have to admit it’s original. Really though, you can take or leave the plot. It’s not important. You’re here to see Johnny Cash. And what you really want to know is, can he act? Yes, as it turns out. He steals the whole damn movie. Every move he makes is imbued with a smoldering menace that insures you won’t be able to take your eyes off him. 

And what fun he has! He berates the harried housefrau for her slovenly appearance, and forces her to change into a marabou accented negligee. At gun point, of course. And naturally he has to do a little redecorating, in the form of smashing all her most beloved knick knacks. As much fun as the makeover antics are, the real highlight comes when he croons the title song to her, lackadaisically strumming along on the guitar he conveniently brought. All in all, there are worse ways to be informed that you only have “five minutes to live.”

Unfortunately for all of us, Johnny’s reign of capricious terror can’t last forever. The plot gets thick as coagulated blood when little Bobby (a very young Ronnie Howard!) comes home from school for lunch. Naturally, though he’s a cold blooded killer, Johnny has a weakness for children. With this massive monkey wrench in the works, will the heist be pulled off? Hell, I’m not going to tell you. You’ll just have to watch it yourself, and believe me, you’ll be glad you did. If you’re still not convinced, keep in mind that the film was called “Door to Door Maniac” when it was rereleased a few years later. If that’s not a title for the ages, I don’t know what is.
And after all, it’s not like you’re going to see Elvis using Ron Howard as a human shield in a police shootout.