Monday, February 27, 2012

For the Love of Bad Cinema

Double Bills, Don't Get Much Better Than This

We all like good movies, that's pretty obvious, but the thing I like about my fellow Studd fans, is that along with the great films, the great actors and the great directors, we've still got room in our hearts to also find the fun in some of the cheapest, cheesiest films ever made.

And with that in mind, here's some trailers for some of my very favorite bad movies....

Two of the greatest outlaws of the American west vs two of the worst monsters of Europe. What could possibly be better than that?

Okay, I'll admit that Jessie James vs Frankenstein s Daughter is a little weak even by bad movie standards, but Billy the Kid vs Dracula is great fun, directed by Twilight Zone regular William Beaudine, and with a bouncy scenery chewing performance by the great character actor John Carradine.

Started in 1967 and finished in 1970, Equinox, is a very silly story of possession and demonic attack, featuring the very odd casting of future WKRP, Herb Tarlek, Frank Bonner and famed fantasy writer Fritz Leiber.

Being shot years apart the film is disjointed to say the least, but the earnest performances and the badly executed and yet creepy premise makes for a fun little popcorn feature.

Speaking of truly bad movies, 1980's Caveman, starring Ringo Starr, reaches a pinnacle of bad that few films have ever met. With overplayed support by Shelly Long and Dennis Quaid, Ringo and his wife Barbara Bach mug their way through every prehistoric cliche and oversized poop joke that have ever been put to page by a hack Hollywood writer. It's awfulness is so extreme that getting through the entire film without several very large stiff drinks says something about either the viewers constitution or personal grooming, I'm not sure which.

And yet, because of it's very baddness, I actually have some affection for what is easily one of the very worst movies ever put out by a major film studio.

Which brings me to, The Apple.

To be honest, I've never been a huge fan of the "Rock Opera", oh sure I enjoy Jesus Christ Superstar, but really as an artform, the rock opera never really took off.

And The Apple is a perfect example of the very worst of the genre.

Bad music, pretentious, but incomprehensible storytelling, high school level acting, terrible singing, all mixed together with every 70's excess imaginable, the Apple, will make even the most casual of viewers want to go out and punch a hippie

 Cashing in on the box office success of Saturday Night Fever, Jeff Goldblum, Debra Winger and Donna Summer, have a much more lighthearted time at a popular Los Angeles Disco, where oddly most of the customers talk with New Jersey accents. Really stupid humor mixed with a huge dose of disco at it's most popular moment make for a film that isn't quite awful, but will hurt your eyes after awhile.

And finally, there's Myra Brekenridge, starring Rachel Welch, as Rex Reed after gender reasignment surgery, and featuring leering performances from numerous Hollywood stars, but most especially John Huston and a partially mummified Mae West.

Offensive in so many ways I can't even begin, including a rape played for laughs, and shot in that irritating self-important early 1970's, "I want to by Kubrick, but I'm just not that good" school of film making, Myra Brekenridge is enough to make some people give up watching movies altogether, but if you've got the stomach, it's worth watching just to be able to say that you have.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rock Show Animations

Below are a couple of animated films from the 1970's based on popular songs of the era.

These two are definitely worth a look...

Pink Floyd - One of These Days

Cat Stevens - Teaser & the Firecat / Moonshadow

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Lost Children of Hamelin

It is 100 years since our children left.
        - 1st entry in the Public Records of the city of Hamelin (1384)

The Pied Piper, Stained Glass Window, located at Baylor University

Located along the banks of Germany’s, Weser River, the city of Hamelin was originally founded sometime in the middle of the 9th century as a monastery where cloistered monks farmed, made beer and contemplated the eternal face of God.

Goethe & Wolf, Der Rattenfanger

Over the centuries a settlement grew around the friars, and Hamelin emerged as an active trading point along the river expanding by the 12th century into a successful medieval town. Even now, the pretty Saxony city stands proudly along both banks of the deep, winding river. A short distance east of Hamelin, the remains of the Coppenbrugge forest covers a few small acres, giving only a sense of the huge expanses of trees that once blanketed the area, dark and hot, a place of hidden groves and long forgotten secrets.

Medieval print featuring the Piper

Yet, Hamelin’s secret is not forgotten, can’t be forgotten, that terrible truth of 1284 which moved to legend, then fairy tale myth, the children went away.

Kate Greenaway - The Pied Piper

The rats weren’t there.

An amended horror they first appear in 1559.

But he is.

Right from the start.

He is there.

Another beautiful Kate Greenaway drawing of the Pied Piper of Hamelin

Smashed almost 400 years ago the piece of stained glass produced some 50 years after the event is where our modern world first sees him. The bright man playing his happy tune and the children, all dressed in white walking behind, dancing, laughing, following.

In a prayer book from 1384 the Pipers story is first written down, translated his story reads

In the year 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul
On 26 June
130 children born in Hamelin were seduced
By a piper, dressed in all kinds of colors
And lost at the place of execution near the koppen.

What happened to the children isn’t known.

If they died or were killed, if they were taken away or if Browning was right and they went on to be the founders of Transylvania, we will never know.

We only know they were gone.

Who was the Piper?

Religious leader, magician, monster, again we will never know.

Perhaps the Piper is a member of what Alan Moore describes as "The Blazing World", that dark place between fact and fiction where magic might be real, and the mundane fades into the shadow of fantasy? The reality of what happened to the children of Hamelin and who or even what the Piper was, has been so supplanted by the myth that the legend is now the truth.

Somewhere in the limbo of time, the lost children of Hamelin walk in the mist, following along on their eternal dance to the Pipers tune, never to be found.

Friday, February 24, 2012

1973 - Movie Ad Madness

Okay gang, I scanned the rest of the movie ads I wanted to share with all of you.

Below is a grab bag from various Colorado papers including, The Gazette Telegraph, The Colorado Springs Sun and the Rocky Mountain News, all  from the Winter of 1973.

Have fun,

Forbidden Love, 1970's Style

The 4 Marx Brother or Charles Bronson, an easy decision

American history as it should have been

Love, Poetry and Death in Mexico

Tamara Dobson kicks monumental ass in Cleopatra Jones

Cold Turkey, with Dick Van Dyke and Bob Newhart is a
wonderfully mean spirited comedy from Norman Lear

A great time at the Drive-In

Try to find this kind of variety at the movies these days

Any one of these is worth the price of admission

Franco Nero and Jack Palance having Spaghetti Western fun

Pat Boone saves a young Erik Estrada from  the gangster life

Dracula AD 1972, Hammers best B-Picture

I hadn't even known that Cosby and Culp had made a movie

Here's the first in a series of great looking "Creature Features"

A Roger Corman / Edgar Allan Poe double feature

Here's a great looking "Marathon of Fright"

And from the very next week, another "Marathon of Fright"

The version Shakespeare kept to himself

The Pied Piper is a forgotten semi-horror gem that I'll be writing more about very soon

Years before the musical version of Little Shop of Horrors,the Corman classic was already being parodied

The disaster film cycle begins

Is this movie about a sled?

John Huston is a great time as Noah in an otherwise stunningly dull version of Genesis

What!!! Pam Grier is only on the "second" bill??

Maybe it's me, but there's something so smutty and yet innocent about 70's "dirty" movie title

Charles Bronson taking up half the page, because he's Bronson Dammit

See what I mean, obvious, and bad double entendres, but you can't help but like them

The fact that these movies played at the Drive-In really sort of amazes the 21st century sensibilities, doesn't it!

Nothing like a Hammer double feature to make a good night at the movies

Two of my very favorite examples of 1970's Science Fiction from
before Star Wars came along and mucked it all up

Thursday, February 23, 2012

1970 - The Blood On Satan's Claw

One bright, warm afternoon, in the days when Cromwell’s Roundheads ruled the green rolling pastures of England young Ralph Grower was on the farm of Mistress Banham, working the dark, rich soil, when his plough turned over something that looked not so much like a human, and yet not so much like a beast, the only obvious thing about the remains was that whatever they were from was something dark and terrible.

Not just another dead vole, The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

Horrified by his discovery, Ralph runs off to inform the authorities of his horrible discovery. As he runs toward the farmhouse a happy piping tune from composer Marc Wilkinson begins to play and the opening credits roll for Tigon Pictures deceptively jolly film of lust, murder, possession and the Devil in rural England, The Blood On Satan’s Claw (1970). Directed by Piers Haggard, who would go on a few years later to direct the seminal British television series, Pennies From Heaven, The Blood on Satan’s Claw is a horror film that happily embraces some of the most obviously glaring clich├ęs of life during the Interregnum and reworks them in ways that are unexpected and that work to move “Satan’s Claw” from the standard evening’s horror fair to something just a bit above the crowd.

Title Card for The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

Established in 1966 by Toney Tenser, the producer of Roman Polanski’s classic film, Repulsion, Tigon British Film Productions was created as both a direct rival to the British powerhouse Hammer Pictures and as a place for the creation for a British audience of low budget fare in the same vein as Samuel Arkoff and James Nicholson’s American International Pictures.  Over the 10 years Tigon was in existence they made a series of movies from the lowest budget horror films, such as the Frankie Avalon vehicle The Haunted House of Horror, to decent budgeted mainstream westerns like, Raquel Welch’s, Hannie Caulder and adaptation of popular family tales like Black Beauty.  Still despite some excellent films in their catalog, the one film that Tigon is the most famous for is 1968’s The Witchfinder General.

Vincent Price as Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder  General, Tigon (1968)

As so-called witch hunter, Matthew Hopkins, Vincent Price is the very portrait of restrained evil. As he and his associate travel the countryside filling their pockets while leaving scores of innocent people hanging from trees or in the fire. Although listed as a horror film, The Witchfinder General takes place very much in the real world, where people are consigned to the fire by  ignorance, superstition and the evil of small men, where the only devil to be found is in the heart. The Blood On Satan’s Claw shares the same 17th century rural village setting, but is in most ways the opposite side of Witchfinders coin.

An idyllic country setting, with the Devil lurking around the corner, The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1973) 

Making his way to Mistress Banham’s (Avice Landon) home, Ralph (Barry Andrews) attempts to convince the newly appointed local magistrate (Patrick Wymark), who is visiting of what he’s seen, but being a man of the Enlightenment, the judge is highly skeptical of Ralph’s claim of having found a demons corpse, but after some prodding by the younger man, he agrees to accompany Ralph back to his field so that he can see for himself if Ralph has seen something more than a dead animal rotting in the field.

Barry Andrews and Patrick Wymark, The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

Now of course as anyone who has ever seen a horror film can tell you, when the two men arrive back at the field, they find nothing but dirt in the hole where Ralph had found the corpse, leading the Judge to kindly try to convince Ralph that all he saw was some kind of dead animal that gave him a fright and while he was gone, scavengers had come and carried what was left to the woods.

As the men begin to leave the pair stumble upon the Reverend Fallowfield (Anthony Ainley), the local religious proctor, a decent enough but distracted sort, with an interest in the natural sciences. Asking if the reverend had seen anything, the Reverend tells the duo that the only thing he’d seen of interest so far in his walk was a tiny snake crawling through the field.

The Reverend Fallowfield finds a serpent in the fields, The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

The two village leaders return to the town while Ralph returns to his field, placated that he probably saw nothing, but deep down, still knowing that he did.

Back at Mistress Banham’s home her nephew Peter (Simon Williams) has arrived with his new finance, a pretty young girl from the lower classes. Scandalized, Banham at first rejects her, but after some cajoling from her nephew and the Judge she decides to give the girl a (small) chance.

A sudden change, The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)
But with-in days the girl falls ill having some kind of metal breakdown, where one moment she is calm and innocent and the next acting like an out of control wanton. When her affliction doesn’t go away, the girl is sent off in bonds to a asylum. But it is only as she is taken away that Peter notices that her right hand has somehow changed into some kind of animal claw.

The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

If this isn’t odd enough, suddenly the local children are spending all together too much time in the woods, dancing around and playing, all under the direction of the young, beautiful and undoubtedly wicked Angel Blake (Linda Hayden), who has stopped playing children’s games and has begun to preach to her new found congregation about the pleasures of the flesh, and the power of the dark.

Linda Hayden as Angel Blake, The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

Soon several children are murdered by Angel’s band, and after each is killed a small patch of hairy skin that was growing somewhere on their bodies is cut off and collected as the coven attempt to bring a demon back to life by regrowing it a piece at a time on the bodies of the innocent.

The Devil Returns One Piece At A Time, The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

As Angel and her band of followers progress on their wicked plan they soon abandon any pretense of being normal and Angel herself goes through a physical change that leaves the beautiful girl with a huge unibrow across her face and not a pair of tweezers to be found.

Satan Wears a Uni-Brow, The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

In an attempt to bring the local parson over to their side, Angel creeps into the home of the Reverand Fallowfield one night and attempts to seduce the shy religious leader, but showing what is surprising strength of character for what had seemed such a shallow little man, Fallowfall flatly rejects Angel’s seduction attempt and swears that he will do whatever he can to stop her.

Fallowfall and Angel, The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

With the Reverend now aware of the evil in his village, and with the help of the now convinced Judge, a hunt begins to find the Angel and her coven and to save the town before the beast that they are building can come to life.

Angel Pretending Innocence, Accuses the Good Reverend of Trying to Rape Her,
The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

The Blood On Satan’s Claw is a uncomfortable movie in some ways because it takes our modern conventions and throws them on their ear. Unlike the Witchfinder General where the authorities are corrupt men gaining wealth and power at the expense of innocent victims, here the judges and religious leaders are heroic figures doing whatever they can to stamp out a real and visceral evil that threatens the lives and more importantly the souls of every person that it comes into contact with.

Linda Hayden as Angel Blake, The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon (1970)

Angel and her followers are dammed and there is nothing to be done to save them, the only thing left to do is to protect whoever is left and to kill Angel and all of her followers.

It’s an unusual position to take in a modern horror film, but director and screenwriter, Piers Haggard manages to completely pull the viewer in, and making a film that convincingly gives the “other” side of the argument on witch burning.

The Blood On Satan's Claw, Tigon 1970

Creepy, effective and disturbing not only in its story, but also in how it brings the viewer along for the story, The Blood On Satan’s Claw remains to this day one of the best British horror films I've ever seen., and one that you should see too.