B Movie Night

B-Movie Night: Love Goddess of the Cannibals

Softcore with soft fruit.

On a sultry Caribbean island, sexy and psychopathic Papaya has a mission, and she will seduce and kill whoever she needs to to save her village. The film opens with the Love Goddess lounging and sashaying along a pristine beach before going into a thatch hut to make love to a drugged up, bearded blonde guy. There’s an air of threat, as two scowling men watch Papaya from the treeline, but she’s the one who draws blood. Choosing a third option when giving head, she eschews spit or swallow and goes for bite, rend and tear. Her accomplices burn down the hut when she’s done snacking.

Enter holidaying reporter Sara and her some-time lover Vincent, a geologist doing a survey before a nuclear power station is built. They’re about to have sex when they discover the crispy dead guy in Vincent’s hotel room. As the local Police start a half hearted investigation into the murder, Papaya pops up again to distract the couple and take them to her village- the proposed site of the nuclear plant.

After a bizarre wander to the wrong side of town, Sara and Vincent get tricked into participating in the Ceremony of the Circular Stone, a blood and drug fuelled orgy performed to an incongruous electric guitar soundtrack. They wake up in another village and Papaya’s plot is revealed. Now, what little plot there was is tossed aside except as an excuse for more simulated sex and nudity, topped off by a bit of lesbianism on the beach after Sara undergoes an unconvincing conversion to the Love Goddess’s cause. Then the story goes full circle and the seduction of another man involved in the power plant begins.

The story may have been flimsy, but there was more to it than I expected, and the acting only suffered a few wooden moments. And there’s a fair amount of nudity- mostly Papaya and Sara, but there’s the occasional glance of man-bits and a whole room full of skin in the orgy scene. The one thing that did seem to be missing was cannibalism, with only Papaya’s sausage snack and a bit of fresh heart before the orgy. Not that I’m disappointed by this, though.

Buy Love Goddess of the Caribbean from amazon uk.

B-Movie Night: Zombie Flesh Eaters

Classic ’70s Italian softcore ‘n gore and a one time “video nasty”.

When an apparently abandoned yacht drifts into New York harbour, the Police who board it are attacked by a gruesome, decaying man locked in one of the cabins. After tearing out the throat of one of the cops, the bald monster is taken down, eventually, by multiple shots from his partner.

The daughter of the boat’s owner goes looking for answers and, after teaming up with a reporter, heads off to the uncharted island which was the last placed mentioned in the ship’s log. For the last leg of the journey they hitch a lift on a boat with an ethnologist and his girlfriend and the four find themselves on an island overrun by reanimated corpses. Why the zombies exist is never worked out, even though one slightly crazy doctor has been researching them since the outbreak started. But, really, we don’t need to know, it’s all about the gore.

It wouldn’t be an Italian film without a bit of skin on show, including a topless scuba diving scene which segues into a classic confrontation- zombie vs shark. I think the shark wins- it makes off with the zombie’s arm, after all- but what happens to a fish that eats zombie bits?

I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a zombie classic, but it is one of the more inventive entries into the genre, with gruesome makeup and some brutal battles. And, of course, a shark fighting a zombie.

Buy Zombie Flesh Eaters from Amazon uk.

B-Movie Night: The Cabin In The Woods

I really enjoyed this film, but if I tell you some of the reasons why I liked it I’ll spoiler it for you.

The Cabin In The Woods is about a trip to a cabin. In some woods. Five friends- a jock, a stoner, a geek, a bimbo and a chaste good girl, take a trip to the holiday cabin the jock’s cousin has just bought. Despite meeting a creepy stranger on the road to the forest, they’re soon enjoying the lake, discovering one way mirrors in the bedroom and finding creepy secrets in the basement.

Obviously, it all starts to go horribly wrong from here on. I just can’t tell you how or why.

If you enjoyed The Evil Dead or any slasher movies then you’ll find loats of nods and in-jokes in a very clever homage/pastiche/reimagining combo.

B-Movie Night: Gator

Burt Reynolds returns as Gator MCKlusky in the sequel to White Lightning.

Fresh out of jail (again) Gator McKlusky is press-ganged into helping the Governor and the Feds clean up Dunston County because the kingpin of Dunston crime is an old schoolfriend called Bama McCall. After giving the authorities the run-around in his jet boat, McKlusky reluctantly agrees to dig up the dirt on McCall just to keep his family from being harrassed.

McCall’s not a very convincing crimelord, and his chief henchmen- camp and creepy Smiler and big, dumb Bones- don’t help his image much. But he runs protection rackets, drugs and underage prostitutes and, it’s eventually revealed, has the local mayor in his pocket. With the help of a local reporter with great ambitions, and despite the presence of bumbling Fed Greenfield, Gator finds the secret ledgers that incriminate his old friend. Which is when McCall turns murderous.

The tone of this film feels wrong, with the violence of the last fifteen minutes or so being completely out of place. Where White Lightning managed an air of seedy threat, too much of this movie felt like a jape, an attempt to make bit of box office revenue riding on the success of the first film without putting in much effort. The jet boat chase is the big set piece of the film, but it comes at the start of the movie when it doesn’t feel like there’s anything at stake.

Overall, a disappointing follow up to a piece of Southern Fried noir.

Buy Gator from Amazon UK.

B-Movie Night: Machete Maidens Unleashed

Machete Maidens Unleashed is currently only available in Region 1 format, so you’ll need a machine you can hack to read it.

This dvd was a birthday present to myself. It’s by the same director as Not Quite Hollywood, which covered Australian exploitation cinema, and follows a similar formula. Talking heads recount tales from the set cut between clips from the films they’re referring to, all put together in a roughly chronological history of the industry.

Where Ozsploitation grew out of Australian culture and found an eager audience outside the country, the Philippine version documented in this film (Flipsploitation?) was driven by American producers looking for cheap content. A lot of this documentary could just be a chapter in the Roger Corman story (Corman’s World is on my to-view list), as he was king of the Yankee producers for a long time from the sixties through to the seventies. He tries, though his tongue could be deep in his cheek, to claim films like The Big Doll House were all about female empowerment. Whilst some of the actresses involved echo the sentiment, the argument is undermined a bit by clips from the feminist opuses. For all the grand claims made for the art of Flipsploitation, there is always John Landis ready to play the amiable nay-sayer.

Most of the contributors have horror stories about conditions- on set and off- to spice their recollections. Stunt performers were cheap and could just be set on fire or thrown through windows (real glass, the Philippine movie makers hadn’t heard of sugar glass). More impressively, the Marcos regime was eager to let the army act as extras, lending scope to battle scenes far beyond the usually tiny budget. Though sometimes the helicopters were late on set because they’d been off firing live rounds at rebels. Apocalypse Now is most famous for using Marcos’ military for its grand action scenes, but the realism was added to many less well known films as well.

The dvd is packed with extra features, including extended interviews, a selection of trailers (from which I will be adding films to my to-view list) and commentary, so I’ll keep coming back to it whenever I want a bit of exploitation movie inspiration.

B-Movie Night: Magnum Cop/Emergency Squad 1

The last two films from the Big Guns Collection. I watched these two back to back, so some of the details may have merged together.

In Magnum Cop we’re introduced to a former cop turned private detective who’s skirting the edge of bankruptcy until he receives a large cheque and a request to hunt down the missing daughter of an Austrian banker. Finding the girl is easy enough- she has fallen in with a religious cult and started sending pornographic images to her father just to annoy him- but holding onto her and getting her back to Vienna proves trickier. When gratuitous nudity doesn’t sway him, she fakes a seizure and does a runner when he’s getting medicine- only to be kidnapped in the street wearing nothing more than a bedsheet.

The action moves to Vienna and the plot thickens as the banker calls off the search. Our hero, between seducing his Austrian associate’s secretary, starts investigating a schoolgirl’s death, gets involved with a stripper played by Joan Collins and uncovers a teen sex ring. All of which, eventually, ties in to his original job.

The tone is at odds with the sleazy subject matter, with the Italian hero and his Austrian counterpart both playing the buffoon at odd moments. This detracts from any efforts to build tension and rather undercuts the accelerating body count and the nastiness of the final twist reveal. If you can get past that, this is an interesting little thriller with a bit of nudity and less violence than you’d expect.

Emergency Squad is an altogether more dour film. An Interpol agent whose wife was gunned down by bank robbers finds similarities between a wages snatch and the robbery she was killed in. Out for revenge, he begins a relentless pursuit of the gang responsible for both crimes. This quickly becomes a long chase to the sea and the gang’s boat to freedom.

One by one, the gang are killed- mostly due to in-fighting- until it’s just the leader and the Interpol agent on a dock. The ending is all too obvious- it would have been neat to see the cliche undercut- and you do spend too long wondering why the Interpol man’s even being allowed to lead an investigation he has such personal investment in.

B-Movie Night: Violent Professionals/Long Arm of the Godfather

Two films from the Big Guns Collection.

I watched Violent Professionals over a couple of sittings because a glitch on the disc about a third of the way through kept making it freeze. That, and trying to write at the same time, meant I didn’t put as much effort into following it as I should have.

A highly strung and very violent cop is suspended when he wants to investigate the murder of his boss. Adrift, he tries to work his way into the organisation responsible for the killing. This involves, amongst other things, taking over the pimping of a prostitute, stealing a vintage Rolls Royce and seducing a woman he meets in a bar who lives in a palatial squat. All of this gets the attention of the group’s semi-legitimate head man and a job as a getaway driver. Beyond that, my attention wandered. The gang were revolutionaries- rich kids funding their rebellion with robberies when they could just take the money from their own bank accounts- or they were a front for the violent clean up of the criminal classes. I’m still not sure.

However, Violent Professionals does deliver a few good car chases. Not the staid, choreographed kind delivered by Hollywood, but far rougher and more realistic. One of them even manages, though it probably wasn’t conscious, to one up the classic driving through cardboard boxes cliche by setting them on fire.

Long Arm of the Godfather opens with the hijacking of an army lorry full of guns. After the hijack, low-level thug Vincenzo steals the load from his boss Don Carmelo. Thinking he’s left the old man dead, he sets out to find a buyer for the weapons. Of course, nothing’s ever that simple, and the Don is merely badly battered rather than rotting in his destroyed Citroen. Vincenzo heads south, to set up a deal with some Arabs, and he persuades his prostitute girlfriend to join him- because he needs to pawn some of her jewellery when finances are tight. The Don is rarely more than a step and a half behind, however.

The advantage in the game of cat and mouse swings back and forth between Don Carmelo and Vincenzo, and the body count of the collateral damage keeps growing. Finally the deal is done, but the Don is far closer than Vincenzo thinks, and the showdown is inevitable.

With the exception of Vincenzo’s girlfriend, there are no characters in this film you can really feel for. You switch allegiance back and forth from the vain, striving bastard Vincenzo to the nasty, vindictive Don (described as a “Mustache Pete” in the sleeve notes) all the way through. You want the youngster to get away with his audacious plan, until it’s obvious how delusional and selfish he is. Then you want the old guard to keep their place, until you see them in action. And so it goes, round and round, so that the ending- which isn’t good for either of them- is the most satisfying one possible.

B-Movie Night: 25th Reich

Iron Sky’s less talented little brother.

This film promises Nazi UFOs and storm troop mecha, so how could I resist. It also has a nice sharp style to its opening titles. Sadly, it doesn’t deliver.

After an initial shot of Elefant tanks and a Haunebu style saucer craft being ominous in 1944, we’re taken back to 1943 and a completely different film. Five US service men (marines? I’m not sure it’s made clear) are sent into the Australian outback to hunt down a pair of escaped pumas- the mascots of the US Pacific fleet. Except that they’re also carrying an odd piece of technology, and the mission is not really about the big cats. Dodgy special effects, bad acting, time travel and illogical story twists follow.

The promised mecha and flying saucers finally materialise in the last fifteen minutes or so, and they’re badly rendered and disappointing. And then it’s revealed that this is just part one and there’s a sequel due. Despite everything, I have a horrible feeling I will be watching it.

Buy 25th Reich at Amazon.co.uk.

B Movie Night- One Eyed Monster

9 3/4 inches of terror!

This is a creature feature with its tongue, and other body parts, firmly in its cheek. A porn film crew heads up to the mountains for a shoot, and gets snowed in. But that’s not their real problem, because after porn veteran Ron Jeremy pops outside for a little pre-scene inspiration a specific part of his body is taken over by an alien entity intent on breeding. One by one, the cast and crew fall victim to the dismembered (not so) little Ron.

The film’s played fairly straight, despite some deliberately dumb lines. There’s occasional wooden acting, but not too much, and the physical effects are carefully deployed whilst looking quite good. About the only complaint would be that this 18 certificate film didn’t deliver much gore or- given the premise- nudity or naughtiness.

A silly film, and it knows it, this is entertaining stuff.

Buy One Eyed Monster from Amazon.

B Movie Night- Iron Sky

No matter how gorgeous it looks, Iron Sky is pure B Movie. It got its stunning digital effects through crowd sourcing and took its time getting them right. Visually it’s absolutely worth it.

It’s in the story department where the B Movie label best applies, because it’s quite, quite crazy. Nazis escaped to the moon at the end of World War 2 and have been building an empire on the dark side ever since. Discovered by two hapless astronauts, who are only there as a re-election stunt for Sarah Palin, they decide to bring forward their plans to re-conquer the Earth. But only after they’ve been down to the surface to steal a few Apple computers to run their larger space ships.

The plot is so full of holes that it resembles a doily, but it’s presented with so many crazy-silly ideas and played with such earnest silliness that you really don’t care. The political satire is delicately applied with a shovel and there’s a Dr. Strangelove steal and an amusing nod to that bit of Downfall absolutely everyone has seen. There’s some dodgy racial politics- the USA couldn’t find a qualified black astronaut? They had to send a male model instead?- and the leading lady seems to become increasingly naive for the first three quarters of the movie before having a revelation after watching a silent film. They could have done with a few more drafts of the script before filming, but that may have taken the edge off the charm.

Shortly after watching Iron Sky I watched Cargo, which could be thought of as Iron Sky’s more serious cousin. This Swiss sci-fi takes place on battered and claustrophobic space ships after Earth has been abandoned. Supposedly shipping equipment to an automated space station due to be the waypoint in the search for new worlds, newbie crew member Dr Laura Portmann begins to suspect sabotage or stowaways but finds something completely different. The big reveal is quite obvious from early on, but it’s the way the film gets there that counts.

Is there a European sci-fi film boom going on? Are there any others I should watch?

B Movie Night- Yo Yo Girl Cop

The Japanese, they do things differently.

Someone is blowing up teenagers, or convincing them to blow themselves up. It probably has something to do with one particular school and a mysterious website calle Enola Gay. The Police need to send someone into the school undercover to find out just what is going on before the countdown timer on Enola Gay reaches zero.

Obviously, whoever goes into the school has to blend in. So it’s lucky that a grumpy one-legged Police inspector has just taken delivery of a teenage girl who has been trained since birth in fighting and surviving. Convinced to help, she is given her mother’s old cover name, a combat yo-yo* and a three day deadline to thwart Romeo- the website’s webmaster/mystery leader- and save her mother from prison in the USA.

I reckon YYGC is mocking a particular type of Japanese film or TV show we just don’t see very often in the West. It felt like there were a lot of nods to things I didn’t recognise and that it would hold together a lot better if I recognised the tropes it was messing with or could fill in the leaps the story took. Or perhaps it would be just as confusing to someone steeped in Japanese culture.

Not that I didn’t enjoy this film. It keeps you hooked, even if it’s only because you really, really want it to make sense somewhere along the line. By the end the plot is foiled, Romeo (or someone) has been defeated, “K” has come to terms with her mother’s past and their shared destiny and a fledgling lesbian romance has been rescued. I’m just not completely sure how.

Buy Yo Yo Girl Cop from Amazon.

*It’s never really explained how it is a combat yo-yo, it just is. Built into its design is a super secret symbol for the Police task force she is now a member of.

Albert Pyun- the B-Movie maker’s B-Movie maker

There are already a few Albert Pyun flicks lined up for B Movie Night reviews, and I’ll be adding more as I find them.  He has made a lot of low-to-no budget and straight-to-video flicks of varying levels of quality and coherence.  io9 has an interview with him.

[The decision to make post-apocalyptic films] was the direct result of the fact that locations that weren’t in ruins were more expensive. Locations that were in ruins or demolished or some kind of big forest fire had happened, were much easier to get. And they didn’t care as much how you left it. So that was mainly the reason why a lot of us gravitated towards that genre.

via Incredibly Strange and Ridiculously Cheap: Albert Pyun’s 30-Year Career in B-Movies.

B Movie Night- The Kidnapping of the President 1

A mid-budget thriller with a fair thriller plot, I’m not sure what this one’s doing on the Rare Cult Cinema dvd.  It could be the presence of William Shatner as the lead.

The President is in Canada for a meeting about oil and energy independence, but a notorious South American terrorist has other ideas.  Shatner is Jerry O’Connor, a senior Secret Service operative brought in to run the protection detail when his superior has a heart attack on Air Force One.  O’Connor is a lot more cautious than the President, but even his vigilance isn’t enough to prevent the very public snatching of the leader of the free world.

The means of holding the President is a bit ludicrous- he’s locked inside a booby trapped armoured truck which is parked up on a plaza in plain view whilst the terrorist negotiates the ransom from a hotel room and his accomplice is in the crowd with her finger on the trigger.  Action is minimal, and tension isn’t as high as it could be, but it proceeds smoothly to the final showdown.  This isn’t a top tier thriller, but it is competent and diverting.  And Shatner manages something more than the mannered, faltering delivery you’re used to from him.

B Movie Night: Big Guns

Tony Arzenta is an ice cool mob hitman, but he wants to retire so he can see his son grow up. Of course, his bosses have a very different idea of what retirement should involve. When it’s his wife and child who die instead of him, the only option is vengeance.

This is low key Italian revenge thriller from the early 70s. The colours are muted, until we get into the mob bigshots’ offices and apartments, which are almost always done out in dubious and over the top reds and blacks. The plot proceeds steadily from set piece to set piece, with bursts of violence and a couple of good car chases.

Compared to previous B-movies, it’s easy to think of this as a “real” film. There’s obviously a budget, and the actors are recognisable, even if only from other Euro-mob films of the period. The dubbing isn’t even that bad.

Big Guns is from thr Big Guns Collection, which came from the States but is region free.

B Movie Night- Deathrow Gameshow

The Running Man meets Police Squad.

Deathrow Gameshow is the camp shadow of Arnie’s murder-as-television-show action movie. Set in (then) present day Los Angeles its satire on the cheapening effect of celebrity culture quickly veers off into gurning performances and Zucker/Abrahams style sight puns.

Chuck Toedan is the host of Live Or Die, the gameshow where death row inmates get the chance to win a stay of execution- or on screen death. Shallow and sociopathic, Toedan is finally beginning to feel the strain. So, when he- and secretly buxom morality campaigner Gloria Sternvirgin- are trapped in his office by a mafia hitman it’s all too much for him, and he has to do what he does best one last time before getting out.

This is a silly little film, which can’t decide just what it wants to be- OTT satire or just a goofy farce with an odd premise. It would have benefited from further work on the script, and a bigger budget, but as it stands it’s a clunky but entertaining little piece.

This is another film from the region 1 Rare Cult Cinema DVD I got recently.

B Movie Night- Almost Hollywood

A low budget film with a bit of T&A about low budget films full of T&A.

Straight to Video films specialises in softcore skinflicks “erotic thrillers”, all of which seem to be filmed on the same bedroom set. But when the producer is thrown out by his wife for playing casting couch with one of his starlets, his life falls apart. The starlet is slaughtered on-set and her replacement is making ridiculous demands.

Sadly, the film has production values at the same level- possibly lower- as the films it mocks. The acting (and/or the script) is wooden, the jokes flat and the tension in the supposed thriller is non-existent.

There are boobs, I guess.

Not a great film, then, but it is only one of twelve films on the Rare Cult Cinema DVD and, at the price you can get the collection, it’s not a great waste of money. (The disc is Region 1, so make sure you have a player that can read it.)

B Movie Night: Surf Nazis Must Die

Troma are probably the most famous of the studios producing the 80’s version of B movies- trashy, sometimes inventive and often gory low budget exploitation flicks. The Toxic Avenger is their best known movie, but Surf Nazis Must Die is a close second.

It’s “the future”, and California is a state in chaos after a huge earthquake (but not such chaos that little old ladies and other folk don’t wander blithely around to have their bags snatched). The beaches belong to the gangs, and biggest and baddest of the gangs are the Surf Nazis. As their leader, “Aydolf”, gets pretentions of greatness (as great as surfers with swastikas on their wetsuits can get, anyway), the other gangs try to fight back. However, it’s not until they piss off the wrong little old lady that the Nazis meet their match.

The film flips between looking just as cheap as you’d expect and weird, arty cutting. Of course, the cuts tend to get pretentious around the point that a more expensive action scene would be required. Most of the budget went into a couple of practical effects and the surprisingly good surfing footage. It certainly wasn’t spent on the actors or any extras- the gangs which are supposedly so terrifying have three members each, apart from the Nazis, who are so powerful because they have a roster of eight. They did manage to find a few suitably decrepit buildings for the post apocalypse, though, so sometimes you can suspend disbelief for a little while.

Despite all of the above, I enjoyed Surf Nazis. There’s an ambition there, hamstrung by a budget which wouldn’t cover the coffee on a bigger production.

Plus, I’d really like a van with shark’s teeth (but not the swastikas) painted on it.

B Movie Night: The Return of the Living Dead 2

If you put a TV series into your LoveFilm list they’ll be very careful to make sure you get the disks in the correct order.  I believe this extends to chronological delivery of multiple series, not just box sets.  However, this careful management doesn’t apply to films and their sequels, which is how I came to see Return of the Living Dead 2 before the first film.  I doubt anything from the first movie’s been spoilt for me, but it would have been better to get that one first.

This is a very eighties film.  It’s not just the hair and the outfits.  Maybe it was a particular film stock which got used a lot during the decade, or perhaps the way it’s lit, but there is something about the texture of the image on screen that’s reminiscent of other low to mid budget films from the time.  I don’t know enough about the technical aspects of film stock etc. to be able to describe it more accurately.

I’m not giving any major plot points away by telling you that the story starts when containers of a super-secret gas fall off the back of an Army lorry.  One of them is found by a bunch of kids, who crack it open and….. well, you’ve seen the film title.  The dead are nigh on indestructable and display more sentience than the average zombie- they’re sympathetic enough, and many of the living so flat and annoying, that you can’t help but root for them some, if not all, of the time.

The film is played as comedy with gruesome effects, but the humour is too broad and tends toward bad slapstick, which lets it down a lot.  If they could just have resisted the temptation to ham it up- and had the characters do more intelligent stuff than just whining, running around and then whining some more- they could have had something creepy, with genuine scares and laughs.  Such a wasted opportunity.

Sadly, this was an unfunny, un-scary movie not redeemed by some quite good undead makeup and practical effects.  Just in case I haven’t put you off, you can buy Return of the Living Dead part 2 from Amazon

[B Movie Night is going to be an occasional series reviewing trashy, cheap, off-the-wall and downright bizarre movies.  I’m not going to seek out trash to make fun of- though there’s bound to be a fair amount of that- or expecting to unearth forgotten gems, just have some fun and tell you about the silly films I’m watching.]