Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vamps, Yetis, and Haunted Woods.

Castle of the Walking Dead, Germany decides it wants to jump on the sixties Gothic revival bandwagon, but does so by way of trying to imitate Mario Bava trying to make a Hammer film. It works quite well though, setting the film in that odd neverland where it's both the 17th and the late 19th century, the women pair very sixties beehives with their Regency gowns, and there isn't a forest or empty street not festooned with glowing, diffused colored lights from places where no light source could naturally be. Sir Christopher Lee is on hand to be genuinely good as a villain and collect a paycheck, and everyone else acquits themselves amiably in this chiller.

Female Vampire, Jess Franco's movies seem to exist outside Outsider Art. While things like The Room or Manos: The Hands of Fate exhibit a sense that someone involved had a basic idea of what narrative film making should look like, even if none of that ended up on screen. But Franco operates out of his own universe. The comely and willing to do apparently anything Lina Romay plays a mute vampire Countess who drains the "life force" from her victims. She wanders around doing this while a heavily eye lined gentlemen stares pensively into the horizon. Eventually the two meet, he dies, and she thrashes around in a bathtub full of Hawaiian Punch and dies of grief. That this does not make me not want to watch a Franco film ever again speaks to his odd appeal. It's pretty much like some exotic candy from an ethnic grocery store that tastes horrid and yet you buy it every time you go.

Holocaust 2000, The Italian Rip Off Machine sets its eyes on The Omen. Loads of fun for all the wrong reasons. From seeing Kirk Douglas' frank disbelief he's in this film to some truly mad reinterpretations of The Omen's key beats. Douglas plays an industrialist trying to build a new super Nuclear Fusion plant somewhere in the Middle East when dark portents and mysterious accidents began to befall the project and anyone who tries to stop it. His fears are compounded when he begins to believe his new, much younger wife may be carrying the Antichrist. Completely oblivious to his grown, creepy, waxy skinned son Angel who does everything but pedal a tricycle furiously around the house. A text book example of Italian Exploitation's charms, primarily in the tradition of having quite a few interesting ideas and ambitions and not quite pulling them off in ways that don't end in hysterical laughter on the audience's part.

Not Quite Hollywood, an invaluable documentary on the colorful and cheerfully vulgar history of Australian exploitation cinema. The interview subjects are candid, the films clips shown are amazing in every sense of the word, and nearly everyone onscreen takes a moment to say something snotty about Picnic at Hanging Rock , a film I like very much, but do enjoy now picturing as the snobby rich kid with good grades the rest of the class can't stand.

Salon Kitty, Tinto Brass' revel in art smut has enough eye poppingly beautiful women doing jaw dropping things to make it a fun revel in bad taste for about the first 90 minutes. However, as it has nothing more to say than Nazism Is Bad and People In Power Are Often Hypocrites it really doesn't justify running over two hours. Still, as a movie of a kind that will never be made again it's a good choice for the more adventurous viewer.

Shriek of the Mutilated, I'm still not certain this wasn't an elaborate practical joke pulled on me. Nominally about a group of college students who go to an isolated lodge somewhere in upstate New York in search of a legendary Yeti that decimated an ill fated search party seven years before. In tone and execution it is nothing so much as what would have happened if John Waters had directed the Scooby Doo movie. At that phrase half of you recoiled in horror, and the other half went immediately in search of this. Both are the correct responses.

The Warrior and The Sorceress, There's no need to make a parody of the Sword and Sorcery genre when it was perfectly capable of sending itself up with good natured brio. This is gloriously fun, with David Carradine playing the title role in yet another riff on Yojimbo set on a totally not Tatooine planet in some grim post apocalyptic future. Our hero wanders into a village that is in such dire straights its women have no clothes. Two rival warlords are constantly squabbling over the one village well and Carradine sets to playing them against each other. Well worth tracking down, and some of the best acting comes from one warlord's nearly immobile, ruff wearing lizard puppet sidekick.

Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century, Oh Italy I miss your great rip off factories that once ran noon to midnight pumping out helplessly cheap, often insane copies of whatever was making the most money in the states. This carbon monoxide copy of the '76 King Kong is an oddly cheery affair with a Yeti with huge Keane painting eyes befriending a blond and her mute little brother. Amazingly it does not end with the Yeti taking a tumble of an Italian standing in for Toronto (!) landmark but rather suggests they were hoping for a sequel. My viewing companion perfectly nailed this as "The Wonderful World of Disney's Mighty Peking Man."