Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Monsters, Mystics, and South of the Border Satanism

Some notes on some of things I watched over the New Year's break...

Creature of Destruction, AIP's TV wing shipped out some its catalog to Texan auteur Larry Buchanan to remake in color for broadcast. He applied his Naugahyde touch to some of AIP's more stolid fare, turning them into lumbering, garrishly colored monstrosities with hilarious attempts at creature suits on two dollars and change.

The source for this particular entry was the leaden The She Creature, so it's only expected the Buchanan version turns out like a community theater production of the material. By a community theater whose members seem to hate each other no less.

The original's only selling point was the the monster suit which suggested the heroine's primoridial self was a busty, bewigged, walking lobster. The remake's attempt is a sad wet suit kitbash that looks nothing so much as what would have happened had Kermit the Frog's lily pad been next to Chernobyl.

Island of Lost Souls, Paramount's 1932 take on The Island of Doctor Moreau. A terrific film, and all the more to regret the Hayes Code pushing the studio out of the horror game, feeling that if they couldn't make horror films that were actually horrifying they weren't going to bother at all.

The film feels shockingly modern now due in no small part to Charles Laughton's performance as Moreau. From the openly sadistic pleasure he gets in torturing his creations to not being coy in the least about starting a breeding program, either by mating the hapless hero to his comely panther woman or pawing off the hero's fiance on his "half men". Nasty, brutal, and gorgeous in shimmering black and white.

Dracula A.D. 1972, The cultural zeitgest explodes in the late sixties and the gothic horror market collapses, and Hammer reacts and adapts with all the adroitness of your Grandparents trying to talk to you about Hip Hop.

Set in a "swinging London" that already feels five years out of date a certain "Johnny Alucard" ressurects the Tall One and the latest version of Peter Cushing Van Helsing must stop them both. More sad than hilariously bad, Sir Christopher Lee lacks even the energy to look bored and the actor playing Alucard is just awful enough to be tiresome instead of entertaining.

Caroline Munro appears briefly, dancing in fringed hot pants to distract, and the incredibly misguided party scene is one for the Oh Honey No hall of shame. But watching a studio flounder at an attempt to be groovy and with it isn't a a stone cold gas at all, can you dig?

Mystics in Bali, now this is one of the main reasons I'm attracted to that amorphous concept called "b-movies", following it down that rabbit hole leads to watching films you wouldn't think even could exist, let alone ones you've heard of.

From Indonesia's turn of the eighties film boom comes a story of a an unwary westerner trying to learn the ways of the local black magic practitioners. That's just enough plot for some amazingly gross home made effects and some jaw dropping sequences out of Balinese folklore. Such as the Penanggalan, a sort of vampire that consists if a woman's head floating through the air, dangling her entrails underneath no less.

The wonderful Mondo Macabro put this out in a very nice edition with a terrific documentary about the Indonesian exploitation industry attached.

The Brainiac, Delightfully delirious Mexican madness. A baron executed for witchcraft swears vengeance at the stake and returns 300 years later to destroy the last descendants of his original inquisitors.

All of this could be a standard riff on Black Sunday but it's the Baron's monstrous form that earns it a place among the great bad movie monsters like The Giant Claw. When the Baron is about the strike he assumes a form that looks remarkably like Sesame Street's Count Von Count having gone to seed as a homeless, heroin addicted Vietnam vet. With lobster claws for hands.

Then, not content to settle for just that, his method of attack is to flick his long, flexible tongue at the back of victim's head and suck their brains out. Much recommended, now who is going to finally do a subtitled copy of Ship of Monsters?

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