Thursday, June 26, 2014

Video Cheese/Oddball Film Report: THE GOLDEN GOOSE (1964)

NOTE: This piece was originally written for www.jabootu.net's Video Cheese. It has been published here instead by the kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.


THE GOLDEN GOOSE (1964 - color)
   "A young man finds a Golden Goose and saves the kingdom, and gets the sexy Princess as a lovely parting gift."



   This was my first German kiddie film. If it serves as any indication, the European stuff isn't as psycho as the Mexican brands. That's not to say they can't have their weird moments, certainly, but at no time during this feature did I find myself questioning reality!

   (Since seeing this film, I have seen the German version of PUSS N BOOTS from 1967. It made for a fascinating comparison to the same decade's Mexican take. Had one never seen the Mexican version, I suppose the German one would be kinda weird, but only mildly so. It has nothing on the scarring terror of the Mexican film! If anything, the German take was fairly fun after my little trip south of the border....)

   Really, this plays more like a longer, live-action version of one of Jay Ward's Fractured Fairytales. Only instead of Edward Everett Horton, our narrator sounds more like Joan Alexander. Although obviously filmed on sets (as I just seem to expect from a kiddie flick for some reason), the production looks fairly lavish. The sets tend to be sparsely decorated (especially the higher up we go the royal ladder) but there are a larger number of sets than one might expect to find in such a production. Its no Snow White and the Three Stooges, but I'd say it looks more expensive than Abbott and Costello's Jack and the Beanstalk.



   Anyway, the first part of our story concerns three brothers. Klaus is the hard-working optimistic one, Karl is the stupid and arrogant one, and (rats, I already forgot his name, I'll just call him Peter) the always-expecting-hard-luck case. 

   Karl goes to chop some wood, but doesn't know how (or so I thought at first, we'll learn later the indestructible trees are part of the story). An old woman gathering sticks wanders up to Karl and asks for a bite of his pancake and drink of his wine. Karl seems unphazed by the fact that this old woman knows both his name and the contents of his pouch, but as the narrator notes "Karl is so very stupid!"



   Karl sends the woman on her way without anything to eat or drink and she exits via a dissolve. This alerts us to the fact that she's supernatural in some way, looking for the kind soul who is worthy of the titular object. 

   Characters like these confuse me. How long have they been doing this routine before the hero shows up? Do they get weekends off? Once they reward somebody with the precious gift they had guarded up to that point, what happens? Has it all been a magical form of community service? Do they move onto another kingdom and see who they can give away a new treasure to? At least Shazam's job was pretty straight forward, he only had to wait for one guy to show up and he knew who that would be long before they got there (and on the televised version, Mentor travelled the country with Billy Batson acting as a, well, mentor). What purpose do these magical gift-givers serve after they've bestowed their wares upon the tale's hero?



   Anyway, Karl is not IT, and neither is Peter. When Peter runs across the old woman, he at least notices her disappear before him. Not that this changes him in any way. This leaves shoe-maker Klaus as our hero. 

   Per tradition, the brothers live in poverty but limp along on Klaus' responsible nature (like Eddie Haskell and Wally Cleaver. No. More like Brian and Joe Hackett). In a sad sequence, they start to break apart and burn their last chair (sad because I can sort of relate, having had to burn a chair to stay warm during one of our recent freakishly cold winters. I also had to burn the joists from the attic stairs. I must not be pure in heart enough, because I never got a Golden Goose for my troubles).



   The King's soldiers are wandering through town spreading word of a new proclamation. The Princess has been moody lately and hasn't laughed in the longest time, and the King is canvassing for a young man to make her laugh. Should he achieve this effect, the lad will receive the Princess for a bride and inherit half the kingdom! That's a pretty sweet deal, given that the Princess looks a bit like Janet Leigh. (I'd be game, just let me grab my copy of Buck Privates Come Home and I'll be off to make the Princess laugh!) Klaus thinks the whole thing a tad silly, but his brothers decide to take the challenge, knowing there's a big cash reward involved.



   As the brothers head off to the castle, they send Klaus out to gather wood. I think we all know where this is going. Klaus has been given only a piece of stale bread and some water before he heads out to the same tree the others failed to make a dent in. Klaus too fails to make a mark on the tree, but his intellect makes him pause and consider this event. The narrator even chimes in, letting us know how how Klaus believes this to be a test. (Doesn't his knowing he's being tested make it sort of like cheating?) 

   The old woman wanders over, makes her request, and Klaus is happy to share what he has with her. And would you look at that, Klaus' stores have been magically replaced with a pancake (or whatever uncooked tortilla the Germans are calling a pancake) and wine! (Are they trying to imply the woman's being is angelic in some fashion? Turning water into wine seems a bit on the nose (though it seems Klaus has actually read his Bible and is acting in the manner Christ instructed us, so maybe there's supposed to be something to this).



   Klaus also spends his time examining and making a temporary repair to the old woman's basket for hauling sticks. She thanks him, and lets him know that he will now have success in chopping down the tree. Exit Mysterious Supernatural Old Woman. 

   Klaus takes a few swings at the base of the tree, but before he can make much of a cavity the whole tree topples over, roots and all. Sitting in the middle of the hole where the tree was based, Klaus finds the Golden Goose. (In general, this print -a Something Weird Video VHS- has great color. According to the note on the back, it comes from a 16mm print. It's an impressive one! Sharp and without faded color, very minimal wear, this is what you want from a video distributor who specializes in oddball older movies. Later on, we can see the bird has been painted gold. In this first scene though, it looks like just a normal white bird. Now this could be because the print has a light spot, and/or because my loaner television set is a tad too bright (being one of those models where you can't adjust anything without a remote, which is missing). If that be the case, I don't want to take an unfair shot at the film, but I was amused by characters awed by the golden color of what seemed to be a perfectly normal white goose.)



  Klaus is impressed with his Golden Goose, and who wouldn't be? The characters here keep talking about the bird as if it were an inanimate object made of solid gold rather than a living creature that's colored gold, something I was never really able to follow. 
   Anyway, along comes village girl Lisa, who is understandably impressed with the goose. She strokes the bird, then finds her hand glued to the goose's wing. Somehow Klaus is still able to set the bird down at will, but everyone else becomes glued to each other after contact with the bird. Next up is Lisa's sister Gretel, who is able to pull away after touching the bird, but the sisters soon find their skirts welded together. For some reason, Klaus continues to sing merrily as more and more people become captives of The Golden Goose. It gets sorta creepy pretty fast.


   You have to feel for Lisa, who will spend the rest of the flick with her right hand stuck to the goose. Gretel, on the other hand, should be able to get free by removing her dress. (Actually, I'm sure she would find the dress stuck to her skin, but this very idea is overlooked completely). Klaus, as noted, can escape at will, making him look a tad sadistic as he sings and laughs as another victim falls into place. The girls are the daughters of the local tavern keeper, and have to get home soon, goose or no goose. Klaus decides the magic sticky goose will make the Princess laugh and hopes to herd the girls over to the castle after they check in at the tavern.



  At the tavern, there is trouble. Prince Troublemaker(!) and his band of roughnecks are in town and they're terrorizing the old man. They're even loudly making plans to siege the castle and make off with the Princess. Klaus and the girls overhear this before they enter the tavern. Klaus' plan is to make a production of the Golden Goose, showing his 'wealth' and calling for unlimited drinks for his new friends, the Troublemakers. The tavern owner catches on pretty quickly for one of these things, despite his constant eyeing of the bird. 

   Long story short, Troublemaker and his stooges get staggering drunk and are lead into the wine cellar to sleep it off. The miscreants locked inside, we turn our attention to the kids being stuck together by "a very mean goose." In a scene I don't think we'd see in an American kiddie flick, Klaus, Lisa, and Gretel are allowed to sleep in the same room without much production over the issue. Yeah, they're stuck together, but shouldn't the Father of the girls issue a token "what are we going to do, you can't all sleep in the same place" kind of line?



   After he's sure the girls are asleep, the Father comes into the room and tries to pluck a feather from the Goose (he'd earlier speculated what economic fortune such a feather would fetch). As you'd expect, he gets stuck too. He pulls free at first, but finds his hand glued in Gretel's. 

   We'll, we're wasting time, let's get on over to the castle. Karl and Peter are on their way too. When we meet the Princess, we can see why she isn't laughing. She's being entertained by a troupe in black tights and wearing animal masks (I'd make a Mummenschanz joke, but I'm not that clever). Despite their act being little more than wandering around in their costumes, the King finds this frightfully funny. I just find it sort of frightening. 

   The Princess, we see, isn't in a funk or anything, she just doesn't have much reason to laugh. It's the old poor-rich-girl-who-has-never-tasted-life-outside-her-pampered-existence ploy that we've seen in every Disney movie since The Little Mermaid. Some may recall the Animaics spoof of Disney's Pocahontas which included the song "The Same Old Heroine." Lest ye mock Disney unfairly, The Golden Goose reminds us that theme goes back quite a ways.



   The Princess is bored, and spends much of her time with Wiserthan (yes, 'wiser than') the King's accountant/adviser and the Princess' tutor. He's a bit of a drip, and might have been played in a more entertaining American version by Hans Conried or Jim Backus (or Buster Keaton had AIP been producing). Wiserthan presents the Princess with a Royal Seesaw (we called them teeter-totters where I was raised), then prompts her to take a seat on one end while he takes the other and shows her how much fun it is. 

   To the film's credit (?), Princess isn't one of those sleepwalking zombie-types you might expect from the setup. She's got full control of her emotions, she just doesn't find anything funny. Laugh out loud funny, at any rate. She smiles quite a bit, and here takes evident pleasure in trapping Wiserthan above the ground by refusing to teeter (or totter, whichever, she's just sitting there).



   Klaus and his goose are forming quite a train of people on the trip to the castle. He may have planned it this way to make things funnier, since he stops before a trio of musicians (who are lounging about in the woods having lunch) and the Father (still clad in his night-shirt) lures them over to see the goose and become trapped. Happily, no one else panics at being supernaturally glued to a metallic water fowl, and all greet the situation with giggles and cheer. 

   Meanwhile, Karl and Peter try to entertain the Princess with predictable results. When Klaus and his company enter the castle, the Princess indeed starts laughing. It's amusing, I suppose, but I didn't think it a laugh riot. She acts like she's watching a Bob Hope movie!



   But wait, there's still a pretty good chunk of movie left! Princess wants to marry Klaus, and the townsfolk connected to his goose are in favor of it too. The King and Wiserthan try to go back on their published agreement, but Prince Troublemaker is headed toward the castle. The King now decrees that whomever protects the castle and the King's massive chest of gold shall be given Princess to bride. The idea is to haul the giant treasure chest into the upper room of the castle, and Karl and Peter and the guards rush outside to move the item, despite that fact it is too big for the door. 

   Since Klaus is the only one about with a brain, he sets a plan in motion involving hanging a pulley directly over the over-sized window to the King's court. Despite the obviousness of what he's doing, much is made of the crowd (even Wiserthan) not understanding what the boy is up to. The Royal Seesaw is employed to raise the chest in order to get the rope around it, just so you know that item wasn't scripted without reason. I know that had you on the edge of your seats.



   The chest in place, now we get to the big action finale as Troublemaker and his four or five henchmen storm the castle and Klaus takes up a sword and fights them off better than the King's soldiers are able to. (Who knew shoemakers had such good combat training?) 

   The kingdom safe again, the King grants Klaus permission to marry Princess. Karl and Peter even get something out of it all, since their brother is now loaded. Everybody is now freed from the grip of the gluey goose (its magic and all) and there's a little hoedown in the palace. The goose is roaming around free during this scene, so let's hope Ray Rayner isn't in attendance! (And yes, I know there won't be a gigantic number of readers who get that joke, but I find it funny.)



   As the gang has a square-dance type affair, we see Father has found a woman of his own and his daughters have spontaneously hooked up with Karl and Peter! Lisa tries to get Peter to kiss her, but he chickens out. Karl, meanwhile, laughs and smacks Gretel on the caboose as they dance! Klaus and Princess are, of course, the most handsome couple in the room. 

   Pan over to the goose, which flips a page in a book to note that we've reached ENDE. Good night, boys and girls!



   One last note, the tape includes about a dozen trailers for other wacky kiddie flicks, including Little Red Riding Hood, The Wonderful Land of Oz (which looks just terrible, by the way, although it features a mini-skirted army of young women....), and Sleeping Beauty. One film I would like very much to acquire now is The Secret of Magic Island (which looks to be a science-fiction spy movie of sorts populated by cute little animals in place of actors!). You gotta love the 60s!

Monday, June 23, 2014

RARRR!


Movies I'd Like To Make: GRAVE-ROBBERS FROM OUTER SPACE


   For all it's faults, and they are numerous, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE remains a sort of triumph for Ed Wood. It's epic in scope, has a beginning, middle, and end, and he got it made. True, he never saw any money from it, but the film has achieved cult status in the decades following his death in the late 1970's. 


   It's sort of hard for a man who loves genre pictures not to have a grudging admiration for Wood. While the guy was hopelessly inept and in over his head every step of his career, such as it was, he had a tenacity that made him singular. Amid the seas of hack and bottom-line B producers, Wood alone seemed to love what he was doing to a point where one can see the excitement behind the camera show through. You get that "Hey, I'm making a movie!" vibe from all his films, no matter how dreary they may be. It isn't talent, but it is infectious. 


   Wood can be considered something of an underdog, the Preston Tucker of Hollywood, if you will. That may be the major reason he still has fans, despite the quality, or lack thereof, of his work. I had the thought of paying tribute to the troubled man via a good remake of his most famous film.


   PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is a mess, there's no denying that, but it has a few promising elements. Basically, I'd like to take the bones of the film and make from them the picture Ed thought he was making. Take the basic premise, clean it up a little, and shoot it on good sets with strong actors working from a well-written script. Not to get too carried away, I'd keep it black and white, with much the look and feel of a 50's Universal picture. I'd even wish to use the same musical score, which is rather stronger than one might think.


   Why the GRAVE-ROBBERS FROM OUTER SPACE title? Because that was Wood's original title, and I have to admit it has a nice ring to it.


   So who knows, a decently-budgeted film about Martians reviving the dead could really work. Had they been better constructed and shot, the bleak and dark graveyard sets of the original film would've had a certain punch to them. Tackling the script with the intention of turning it into something that makes a degree of sense would certainly be a challenge!


   I think it might be interesting to see what the film looked like in Ed's mind...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Video Cheese roundup

NOTE: These reviews were for a feature of www.jabootu.net called Video Cheese, and are presented here by the kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg. These reviews were fairly shot, so they've been lumped together here:


THE MEDUSA TOUCH (1978 - color)
    "Who tried to kill the man who kills with his mind?"

   I've not seen a lot of Richard Burton's work. In high school I saw The Taming of the Shrew, and more recently I've seen some of his war movies, like Raid on Rommel. I know Burton, as most do, as a fine actor from the British Stage. Whatever problems The Medusa Touch has, none of them can be blamed on Dick. 

   The film is populated by fine performances, and the technical end of the production is expertly done. No, the problem lies within the script. Half the time I was thinking "this is pretty good" while the other half found my thoughts more in line with "I can see why Ken put this flick on Burton's 'bad' list." The film has a few really good moments, but the picture itself never rises to 'good' territory. The best it manages is 'interesting.'

   Burton plays Morlar, an anti-establishment writer who believes he has telekinetically caused the deaths of many people during his life. He is found bludgeoned to death in his apartment, but later begins to breath again. Morlar is rushed to the hospital, where we discover that his brain is incredibly active even if his body requires machines to keep it alive. 

   A French detective working with the Yard on an exchange program attempts to uncover the identity of the attempted murderer. Morlar isn't expected to survive. 

   We learn Morlar's backstory as the detective questions Morlar's beauteous lady psychiatrist. Morlar seems to have some power that causes people to die when he dislikes them. His parents were run over by the family car, his unfaithful wife and her lover were killed in a crash, a judge who passes a verdict he dislikes (Morlar was briefly a lawyer) was terrified by Morlar's fixed gaze, later suffering a heart attack with his features said to be locked in an expression of fear. 

   Morlar was beginning to become sickened, more than before that is, with the Establishment and decided to focus his powers of destruction on what he felt would be a dark blessing on humanity. There's to be a celebration at a large Catholic church to repair the cracking foundation of the historical marvel. The place will be stuffed with royalty and celebrities. He intends to further weaken the foundation and bring the building down "on their undeserving heads!" 

   Someone believed he could do it, and tried to kill him before he could follow through. And, after seeing him 'will' down a jet-liner, they had cause to....



   Well, of course his brain is still active so he's been building his mental energies. The climax of the picture is pretty good. Our detective hero tries to convince the church leaders to move the celebration, seeing the structure beginning to stagger. Too much preparation has been made, and it's assumed the building is in no danger of collapsing anyway. 

   Convincing his colleagues, the detective attempts to move everybody out with a bomb scare. Before everyone can get clear, though, Morlar's brain starts going crazy and the structure begins to fall apart. Our hero races to the hospital to disconnect Morlar from the machines. He does, but too much damage has occurred and the church building falls to pieces.

   Then Morlar's brain becomes active again. Morlar has indicated that his next target will be an atomic plant which is the scene of a protest. The movie ends as Morlar's brain activity begins soaring.

   Again, this could have been something if handled right. The theme here is certainly good for a dramatic story. The premise would have made a decent Quatermass film, I think. In the end, though, it becomes yet another tiresome poke at the Catholic church. Yawn.  

   Still, the performances here are quite good. As an actors' showcase, it isn't bad. Likewise the effects work is well done and I liked the climax. Sadly, though, the best assessment I can give the film is "Not Terrible."  For a more, well, American, take on the subject, see George Pal's much less degrading The Power. That one includes my favorite Richard, Carlson, in a supporting role.


GOODNIGHT, SWEET MARILYN (1988 - color)
   "The Many Rapes of Norma Jean Baker."

   Marilyn Monroe remains one of the most beloved movie stars in the world, holding her own against such powerhouses as John Wayne and Elvis Presley. As seems to be the habit, Monroe died in suspect circumstances that have given rise to countless conspiracy theories. Here are the facts as we know them.

   In 1962 the troubled starlet had been less and less reliable about getting to work. Her latest picture, Something's Gotta Give with co-star Dean Martin, was cancelled as her temperamental behavior caused seemingly endless delays which caused the budget to expand. 

   This lead to the memorable moment at the President's televised birthday celebration in which Marilyn sighed her way through "Happy Birthday to You." She was introduced multiple times before she was due to hit the stage, setting up the gag of the MC finally introducing "the late Miss Marilyn Monroe." 

   Having just reached a birthday when most actresses end their careers and still stunning as ever, friends saw Marilyn's spirits start to pick up from her recent bouts of depression. Monroe was ready to put her recent escapades behind her and start fresh. If memory serves, she even had a few scripts lined up.

  The actress was found dead one morning, lying naked in bed, her hand grasping her Princess telephone. She had made a few calls the previous night, sounding delirious and detached. The cause of death was determined to be an overdose of prescription drugs, sleeping pills I believe. 

   Almost at once the rumors began to fly. Some blamed an unknown assailant, some blamed the Secret Service, while others felt poor little Norma Jean had just reached the end of her rope. Lunacy ran in her family and, compounded with all the hard knocks she'd taken on her road to stardom, some felt her glamorous but empty life at the top had to get to her eventually. 

   The confused details of her death remain the subject of much speculation to this day.

   Larry Buchanan is a sick jerk. 

   In Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn, Buchanan lovingly details the endless sexual and mental abuses the actress is said to have endured on her road to the top. I guess I was expecting a less depressing film, more along the lines of a police procedural. 

   Buchanan had earlier directed another film about the actress, Goodbye, Norma Jean. Those used to the TV monster movies Buchanan made in the 60s will be shocked to learn that our current subject actually looks like a real movie. Technically speaking, the film is quite well made. I was a little taken aback to see the copyright tag read 1988, however, as I spent the entire movie thinking it had been made about ten years earlier!

   Basically, the film details the final hours of Marilyn's life, as related to us by her bodyguard "Mesquite." We see a pair of Secret Service agents (one female, I think to help put Monroe at ease once the interrogation begins) fish Monroe's near-dead body from the swimming pool. 

   They revive and dry off the movie star (and do a great job, her hair is perfect in the next scene), then take her to her bed. They give her an injection, then question her to see if she knows anything that might jeopardize national security, as she has announced plans to tell all in a television interview. (This is the first I've heard of such a program, how about you?) 

   This leads to some flashbacks showing how small town girl Norma Jean Baker (no relation) vowed to become a movie star, went to Hollywood, and defied the notions of every casting director to become the most famous actress in the world. And, sucking any inspirational overtones from that theme is that she gets raped every ten minutes or so. 

   This is, after all, the tragic story of a tragic figure. In the end, even after she became the dream girl of every American male with red blood in his veins, we are left with the idea that she never got a break in her life. That is, until Mesquite released her with the fatal overdose the pair had planned should she ever go off the deep end. Had this not be handled in such a sleazy manner, it might have had some substance. 

   Mesquite also tells us of how somebody found Marilyn and tried to rush her to the hospital, only to have her die along the way. So they turn back and pose Monroe's body in the position it was later found! Frankly, the conspiracy theories on display here are so muddled, I have no idea what Buchanan is trying to say!

   Playing Marilyn Monroe are two actresses. First-timer Paula Lane plays the weirdly beefy (and aged, she looks a good ten years older than she should) end-of-her-life Marilyn. Young Norma Jean is played by Playboy Playmate Misty Rowe, who looks rather more like Fay Emerson than Marilyn Monroe (but, it must be noted, looks absolutely fetching in her period undies -and sometimes less- in the scenes where she's not being violently raped). 

   Wisely, Buchanan has Rowe handle the bulk of the movie, since she's a much better actress than Lane. She jumps back and forth between perky-happy and broken-sad expertly, and handles everything in between with visible talent. One wonders why she never went very far in the business. 

   In an odd cameo, Misty Rowe at one point shares a scene, and exchanges a couple of lines, with Phyllis Coates. Coates had been a fairly busy B actress in the early 50s, most famous as being television's first Lois Lane on The Adventures of Superman. I always thought she to be the best looking of the Lanes, but she was eventually replaced by Noel Neil, who had earlier played Lois in a pair of serials.

   Far more grimy than needed, but a technically solid production. Those who like to eyeball vintage cars will find the flashbacks (parts of them, anyway) a real treat.

ALIEN PREDATOR (1985 - color)
   "Not one to watch over dinner, but better than you'd expect."

   When I popped into my VCR an 80s horror flick shot in Spain and boasting heavy gore, I didn't expect I'd actually run across a pretty good movie! Like The Deadly Spawn, Alien Predator proves to be a shockingly decent monster movie for something sold almost entirely on the fact that it's dripping with blood. 

   It shares some elements with the under-rated Mutant, though it's not quite that good (although the pair would make a dandy double bill). I was quite shocked. This film is genuinely scary, and, even more difficult, genuinely funny! (Not every joke hits the mark, but a surprisingly high number of them do.) One can easily imagine that this film was one of the inspirations for Slither.

  Three college kids are travelling through Europe in a motor-home. There's handsome Michael, prankster/loudmouth Damen, and perky gal Samantha. (The quite sexy Samantha looked familiar to me during the film and I knew I'd seen her before. She's played by Lynn-Holly Johnson, who played the jail-bait figure skater in For Your Eyes Only who tried to bed Roger Moore. Seeing 007 not want to have sex with an eager lass makes the scene stick in one's memory!) 

   Despite being stock characters, the trio is strongly etched and the actors come across as quite natural. They run into a dead bull on a lonely country road before arriving in an isolated town.

  The bull comes from an earlier scene where the animal gets sick and then (thankfully off-screen) its stomach blows out. (The use of sickening sound effects is another of the movie's strengths.) There follows a scene in which two wild dogs are feeding on the remains. The mass of flesh begins to move and the dogs back away. Seeming to think it safe, the larger of the two dogs moves in to investigate. He's grabbed by something and pulled inside the carcase after a rough struggle. The sequence is nicely edited and sets up a good mystery (although when solved, we find a dog the size shown would have a better chance of escaping).

  The trio finds the townsfolk are acting rather strange... and I'm not sure how much more to get into, as I'd hate to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it. I will say that the title is misleading, though not altogether inaccurate. 

   The film isn't a masterpiece or anything, but it holds together much better than I ever expected. Just be sure you have a strong constitution for some scenes, such as the one described above with the dogs and the dead bull. (For what it's worth, the opening sequence is probably the roughest in the picture. Most of the picture relies more heavily on atmosphere than outright gore.)

   I really liked the film. (The picture is so obscure, though, I don't know how likely a pristine DVD release will ever be -on the other hand, several equally obscure treasures HAVE been released....) 

   One thing though, when will American students learn it's a bad idea to travel across the back roads of Europe?

IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD (1982 - color)
   "Clips from various oddball movies are hosted by comedy stars of the early 80s."

   This movie had a huge impact on my youth, as it was the only way I was able to see so many of the movies that provide clips for this entertaining quasi documentary. 

   Although the idea seems to be one of showing clips from "bad" movies, its more an assortment of scenes from all over the spectrum. We get snippets from War of the Worlds, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Deadly Mantis, House on Haunted Hill, From Hell It Came, and on down to Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glenn, or Glenda?, and the Starman movies. 

   The clips are divided into themes (Gorillas, Aliens, Troubled Teens, etc.) each introduced and/or hosted by a different performer. Though the clips could stand on their own, and were certainly what drew me to the film, we get host segments and occasional voice-over from Dan Akroyd, John Candy, Gilda Radner, and Cheech and Chong. 

   Candy is probably the funniest (with Akroyd right behind) as he hosts segments devoted to Ed Wood and Special Effects, while the least amusing is Cheech and Chong. That may have more to do with me than the picture, though, as I've never understood the draw of Cheech and Chong (though I will grant that in their era, when such pothead humor was new and different, they had their fans). Losing much of their effect on me is when the stoned duo offer their thoughts on various anti-drug movies (which, while crude, I've never been comfortable poking fun at. I hold to the notion that illegal narcotics are, in fact, a scourge and an enemy to be fought by good citizens. You can imagine how warmly I'm apt to respond to C & C).

    The assortment of clips we see are nicely edited, and there's some glimpses of some real gems in there. (There are even a number of flicks represented here I have yet to see, whereas I think I've seen every film used in the similar clip flick Invasion Earth, The Aliens Are Here!). Nearly 100 movies find snippets from themselves on display here. Helpfully, the end credits include a seemingly endless string of movie titles, even for films from which we see only a few seconds of footage (or even when the clips come from public domain trailers). It's a great show for genre movie fans.

   Sadly, It Came From Hollywood (and Invasion Earth, The Aliens Are Here! as long as I'm mentioning it) has fallen into legal complications that prevent any release on newer home entertainment formats. The various owners of the many clips each want their piece of the action, creating a pool from which, if everybody drinks, no one has their thirst quenched. 

   Paramount Pictures (who released the original film) readied a DVD release, but was never able to follow through. If any disks got pressed, and escaped the factory, I imagine they would draw a pretty penny. 

   The Paramount home video from the 80s (as well as the laserdisc) has become a highly sought-after collector's item, fetching big bucks on Ebay. Most copies command between $50 and $80, well over $100 if the tape is in mint condition, making it one of the harder titles to acquire. 

   Happily, Paramount pressed some very nice tapes for the rental market, meaning that if you can hunt down a copy it will likely play like new if in moderately good condition.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Space-mates



Pix from Godzilla movies. Just because.

 GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS -1954-56
 ditto
 GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER -1955-59
 KING KONG VS GODZILLA, 1962-63
KING KONG VS GODZILLA, 1962-63

ditto

MOTHRA, 1962


GODZILLA VS THE THING, 1964
ditto

GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER, 1964-65

MONSTER ZERO, 1965-70
GODZILLA VERSUS THE SEA MONSTER, 1966-67

ditto

DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, 1968-69

GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER, 1971-72

ditto
ditto, good detail of the back of the suit

ditto
GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND, 1972-78

GODZILLA VS MEGALON, 1973-76
GODZILLA VS THE COSMIC MONSTER, 1974-76

THE TERROR OF GODZILLA, 1975-78
ditto

ditto

GODZILLA VS THE THING, 1964, still considered the best entry by many fans

Friday, June 6, 2014

Oddball Film Report: HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS (1970 - as VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET, 1972)

Note: This review was written for the Video Cheese series on www.jabootu.net, but has been publisher here by the very kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.


HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS (1970) as VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET (1972 - color)
"A vampire plague is breaking out in the streets of 1970's Hollywood. In a completely different movie, a spaceship of the future gets knocked off course and lands on a prehistoric planet."

   For a while now, I've wanted Ken Begg of www.jabootu.net to review HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS,  an even more troubled than usual Al Adamson epic. Looks like it's up to me, however, as this, the TV version of that film, found it's way onto the Video Cheese list.

   I wanted Ken to handle this particular film because I'm not able to watch a movie and operate a computer at the same time, given the computer belongs to my folks who live next door! Still, I can always take notes and carry them with me. I scribbled (in very tiny lettering) two full sheets of paper making notes for this review. A 70-odd minute movie took me nearly three hours to watch, there were so many things I had to write down!

   The 1960's saw a nice number of space movies in response to the race for the moon. These ranged in quality, but I've always had a soft spot for pulpy drive-in space operas like THE WIZARD OF MARS, which lent it's effects sequences to several similar films, including today's subject. In fact, this film even shares WIZARD's star, Mr. John Carradine! (In THE WIZARD OF MARS, Mr. Carradine plays a mental projection of hundreds of Martians living in suspended animation. Amusingly, much of his speech was re-worked into the climax of THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE, a film which heavily leaned on rocket footage from THE WIZARD OF MARS!)

(As a side note, seeing as THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE is in public domain, I wrote VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF TEENAGE CAVEWOMEN to feature said spaceship footage. This idea was dropped in favor of a toy rocket with a sparkler in it's tail. The result was 100 times more impressive than Adamson's try at a similar effect in this movie!)

   Al Adamson is noted (without over-much fondness) for his drive-in movies that usually started as one kind of film and got constantly re-worked until they finally hit screens as something completely different. As example, a film might begin life as a biker flick, get changed to a psycho-thriller, and then finally reach screens as a monster movie. To call an Adamson film confusing is to sell the man short. It's more like trying to watch a movie on TV and being unaware the channels are switching at random moments and you're seeing bits and pieces of three or four different features. 

   On occasion, though, he would do something comparatively right. His imported Filipino "BLOOD" movies were so popular, he and partner Sam Sherman made a domestic copy titled BRAIN OF BLOOD. Seemingly the same project from start to finish, the film actually does a nice job of capturing the feel of one of those imports.

   Our current subject was not so lucky. These back-stories can get a bit confusing, but as I understand it, here's what happened: Adamson picked up a black and white Filipino caveman movie about warring tribes who lived in a land filled with stock footage dinosaurs from ONE MILLION B.C., as well as numerous other critters. Unfortunately, it was at a time when color movies were in vogue (because they could be constantly re-issued on the drive-in circuit, and television was voracious for color movies to sell people on buying color sets), so Al couldn't find a home for his well-mounted epic.

   His solution was to tint the film various colors (green for outdoor scenes, red for cave scenes, etc), but it still wouldn't sell. Figuring the footage was too good to waste (and not letting his investment go to waste either), he decided to make a new movie and use the Filipino footage for effects sequences. (Yes, but they were still black and white scenes, you say, so he'd still have to make a black and white movie...right?)

   Adamson's new film would be a space opera. The Filipino footage, tinted various colors, would be scenes of the surface of an alien planet*, it's atmosphere responsible for distorting the color spectrum! He dubbed this process SPECTRUM-X and he was off and running! (You can sort of see where this might work, as a similar -though much more involved- process had been used to good effect on THE ANGRY RED PLANET a few years earlier). Enlisting the aid of actors Robert Dix and Vicki Volante, and landing John Carradine as his star, Adamson put together an inept space opera that could make Carradine feel better about having to do films like THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES. Indeed, THE WIZARD OF MARS looked like DESTINATION MOON after this!

(* Actually, wouldn't it be reasonable to do a reverse THE WIZARD OF OZ and have a color film with black and white scenes in the middle? It seems easier for me to buy an atmospheric shift that would remove color from the spectrum entirely, more so than a constantly shifting spectrum that shades everything in a small handful of alternating colors.)

   Adamson still had problems with audiences getting the color shift thing. Other films might have used a single color tint and audiences would have went with it (see, for example, LOST CONTINENT or MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, although said films came from an era when black and white was the norm). Spectrum-X, though, was constantly shifting back and forth between hues of blue, green, pink, and yellow with little rhyme or reason. (Even accepting the premise that the atmosphere causes occasional shifts in the color spectrum, this would have been better implied had the colors occasionally changed during a shot. Instead, the color only changes when the camera angle changes, which is more disorienting than it needs to be!) He brought back Robert Dix and Vicki Volanti to include a scene which better spelled out the concept, but the tinkering still wasn't over.

   The picture eventually hit screens as HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS, playing double bill with Adamson's DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN. But this wasn't the straight space opera version, as Adamson wasn't done just yet....

   Needing to expand the film a little more, maybe to play off of the vampire angle of the co-feature, a prolog was added which completely undermined the rest of the film, depicting an outbreak of vampirism across the Earth. Now, I thought this footage to have been added for the TV version of the film, VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET. However, I dug up a still from the 1970 release which depicts this scene. As I understand things, though, the VAMPIRE title wasn't used until the film went to TV. It also played theaters under a half dozen or so alternate titles!

   Man, just talking about Adamson films is confusing!

   Our film begins with the trademark Independent International credits sequence, kicking things off with II's cinder block-like studio logo. These credits play over an image of a traditional, Dracula-type vampire. We soon see why. For our film (in it's current form) begins with an outbreak of vampire transformations. Random people are changing into vampires, the result a plague of sorts, brought to earth millions of years earlier by solar winds or something. This is really hard to follow, despite our being given narration from a vampire who tries to spell it all out. He sounds like someone in a spookshow trying to play a traditional supernatural vampire, not the more science-zombie-like creatures we see before us. In fact, despite the space origin of the plague, I guess the vampires are of a more traditional sort.

   The vampire narrator claims to have followers who live for "hideous torments" as we cut to bad rock music coming from a car speaker! Inside is a young couple necking (no pun intended) when the girl suddenly bears some pretty goofy fangs and attacks her lover. Several normal people will suddenly change into vampires and pack-hunt anyone still human who stumbles across their path. One vampire even wears a cape! (One of these guys is Mr. Adamson himself, I understand.)

   The narration continues. We're told the outbreak, or the vampirism itself, is connected to some atmospheric disturbance which changes the visible color spectrum to single colors like blue, yellow, green, and "blood red." Uh huh. They even tint the footage for a few seconds to give us a taste. Then we go right back to regular photography, so... is the outbreak over? I guess not, as the vampire swarms get larger. 

   We're told earth is doomed unless mankind can find a way to counter-act the plague, the secret of which lies on the planet from where the whole thing started, I guess millions of years ago... Supposedly, a brilliant scientist, Dr. Rynning, has set off on a top-secret mission to the planet in question. This seems problematic, because these street scenes are very clearly 1970 or so Hollywood. At that point, lunar flight was the best that we could do. (I guess it still is, really.)

   Okay, forget everything we've seen up till now, because we'll never reference it again! It's time to move onto our actual story, which is set in the future some years, judging from the control center and uniforms which call to mind THE TIME TRAVELERS... (It also looks to've been filmed closer to 1966 or so.)

   The XB-13 has just been launched, her mission to explore "Spectra, the unknown solar system!" That's a pretty tall order for a single ship! It is established that men are living on other planets, but no word as to how far out they might be. (I mean, are men living on Mars, or do they mean planets in other systems?) Spectra is a new system recently discovered by Dr. Rynning, a rather grumpy scientist played by John Carradine, who's probably letting his bitterness show through a little. This is quite a come down from John Ford movies, after all!

   At ground control, a pair of technicians (played by Robert Dix and Vicki Volante*) keep contact with the XB-13. The master shot of the control room, although not the most expensive set ever constructed, must be lifted from another film (and while I don't recall this exact shot, THE TIME TRAVELERS is a likely candidate -and indeed it is, as I confirmed when I recently re-watched the film. Neat flick, and I highly recommend THE TIME TRAVELERS, as well as the similar WORLD WITHOUT END, if you get a chance to see either). The footage is repeated, and when we can see the faces of our technicians, they're in new footage of the actors sitting before a black sheet. The only prop in the background is another guy dressed as a technician who occasionally pops up behind Robert Dix. The black sheet is too close to the camera, too, as we can see the folds in the fabric, highlighted by the actors' lighting! It's like a grade school production of The Time Tunnel!

(* Dix and Volante were Adamson stock players, although Dix enjoyed a pretty healthy career in real movies too. The son of Richard Dix, Robert seems to've taken over from Mickey Rooney, having been married five times to date! In fact, his most recent wife joined him only last year!)

   Also weird is that Dix and Volante don't seem to've shot their scenes the same day, despite sitting right next to each other. The camera will jump back and forth between them, and the sheet behind them will change slightly with the transition. More amusingly, in one scene we can see what looks like cigarette smoke wafting over Dix, and the only place it could come from is Volante. However, we cut to her and the air is completely clear! Maybe his computer console is overheating!

   At any rate, ground control loses contact with the XB-13 and there's a panic to re-establish contact before the ship is lost in deep space. The ship was "entering sector 49" at it's last position. Okay, I'm not sure just how that works, but I'll let that one slide given what happens in a few minutes...

   We cut aboard the XB-13 and find it to be a typically spacious sound stage affair. I'm actually willing to buy that spacecraft in the future will be spacious and have artificial gravity, but the prop guy undercuts any seriousness we might give this set-up by hanging a grade-school star-chart on the cabin wall!

   The crew is coming out of a stupor after being rocked by an off-screen meteor storm or something. Getting their bearings, we're introduced to our heroes. Dr. Rynning, of course, is the learned older scientist -although he's fairly testy for his breed. The studly young Commander is Steve. The happy-go-lucky comic relief guy is Willy. Bob is the Other Guy, the one who does most of the work. The Girl is Linda.
   Contact with ground control restored and everyone still alive, the XB-13's computer plays back the events prior to the blackout. This means the screen shows actual filmed footage which is, weirdly enough, edited like some really cheap 60's movie.... Anyway, it's no wonder the ship was taken by surprise, given everyone was just lounging around gabbing about food when the ship was suddenly hit by a cosmic flare (or some such). This is that familiar (to fans of 60's drive-in movies) shot of the red lightning bolt hitting the hull of the WIZARD OF MARS rocket-ship. In fact, they use a rather confusingly-edited clump of scenes from WIZARD to indicate they've been thrown off course.

   The XB-13 must find it's location quickly, and the ship launches a satellite to "triangulate" it's position. First, I'm not sure what markers they'll use to fix their position, given they're in completely unexplored space (49 sectors into it, in fact -although I suppose they charted the space they've already flown through, so I guess they could fix a point based on recently charted star fields). More problematic is that they launch "a satellite" to do this. Assuming the ship itself is a part of this process, don't they still need a third body in order to triangulate? I'll admit, I'm not a cartographer by trade, but I thought that's what "triangulate" meant, to use three points to establish a location. Am I wrong?

   During this, we spot Rynning holding his chest and having trouble breathing. Linda also notices this and queries him about it, but the elder scientist denies any problem. Rynning does make contact with ground control and lists a number of faults in the ship as result of the incident with the flare. The fresh air is cut off and they're breathing recirculated air for one thing (isn't that what real astronauts do anyway?), and they've had a gas leak. Also the heating system has been damaged. They'll have to land for repairs, which means, I guess, they'll need exterior gravity and can't make their repairs in space. Not sure that really makes sense, but okay.

   It's going to be tricky setting down, and ground control (back on earth, remember) launches a satellite to aid the XB-13.... This device apparently enhances the range of the XB-13's instruments or something, as it allows them to sight a planet 3-4 days away from their current position. I have no clue what's going on here. Earth launches a satellite and it's suddenly right outside the XB-13, which is 49 sectors into an unexplored solar system, presumably a fair distance from Earth... How did it get where it is so quickly? That kind of speed would leave the Enterprise E in the dust!

   As if that weren't crazy enough (and it is), we get an effects blemish too, when the satellite shows up on the XB-13's viewscreen and the poor matte job allows it to ghost across the rest of the control board! Okay, this isn't the worst effect like this I've ever seen, but it just adds to the goofiness of the whole affair. They're stealing stock footage, and they don't even bother to steal the good stuff!

   Anyway, a planet sighted (and how far away is if it'll take 3-4 days to reach it when the satellite took less than a minute to zip across solar systems? I'm probably giving the film too much credit, but I'll chalk that up to the ship being damaged), the XB-13 will land for repairs there "if the ship holds out that long." (I'd also be curious, if the time frame for the trip is due to the damage done to the ship, how exactly they figured the duration of the trip.)


   On the trip, I notice they don't seem to be all that worse for wear, what with the heat being out and all! Rynning even looks too warm! (And he's seen clutching his chest again.) Again, the crew mostly just lounges while the ship goes about it's way. Given what happened the last time, I think I'd be a little more on my toes if I were them! THIS is the crack crew Rynning chose?

    (One detail I do like is that they're seen smoking cigarettes. Nice to see space ship construction has advanced to the point where open flames can be used even when the ship has experienced a gas leak! I'd assume they did a complete check of the ship before anyone struck a flint, but these guys are chowder-heads, we'll see, so maybe not.)

   A planet is finally sighted (although I'd think they'd have it on instruments all this time, so I'm not sure why they get excited) and the XB-13 moves in. In another bit of movie magic, the (stock footage) planet appears to be Earth, as I can quite clearly make out Florida and Cuba along the coast we're shown! Then, due to footage from THE WIZARD OF MARS, they're suddenly coming in over the red planet! The stock shots continue and we see the scene from THE WIZARD OF MARS where the ship soars down over a nicely alien landscape (one which will in no way match the upcoming location footage at the oft-filmed Vasquez Rocks, which, for what it's worth, will blend nicely with the Filipino locations).

   Now we get the shot that made me actively hate this film the first time I saw it. Now, I'm well-documented in my preference for even chintzy practical effects over computer animation. That's largely because the practical effects, no matter how crude, seem less lazy, and certainly come across as more charming. It was this film where I fully learned just how much contempt a movie can have for it's audience, for we're treated to the most blatantly cheap effect I've ever seen in my cinematic travels (which, take my word for it, is saying something). We've all heard of plastic models hanging from strings shot in somebody's back yard? Well, that's EXACTLY what we get! 
This actually looks a lot better than it does in the film...
   With no suitable landing scene available from THE WIZARD OF MARS, Adamson had to improvise. So what we see is a model rocket (although I'll admit it matches the stock footage ship fairly well) hanging from a string, coming to rest on a rock. It even slumps over when the string is slacked! We'll get a couple of shots that demonstrate this was shot near Bronson Canyon, as a distinctive hillside juts up majestically in the background. This looks like nothing so much as the footage a little kid obsessed with monster movies would take with his 8mm camera in the back yard. In fact, it looks like his first take. The one he would discard because he could do better! Really, words can't describe it!

   As is to be expected, the planet is very similar to earth, save for a peculiar atmospheric effect that casts all light in the same color. "The atmosphere! It's Red!" Still, the instruments indicate planet is "identical to Earth, except for that red haze." Now, the rocket landed in full color, but I guess we're supposed to ignore that. When we cut outside, we see everything bathed in pink. So much for the "blood red" we were told about earlier. As noted, the color of the scene will change every so often without warning. Despite that, this will be the only time any of our astronauts mention the color thing.

   So, as expected for a pulp science fiction movie, our heroes won't need space suits. Given the conditions are so Earth-like out there, Rynning suggests the group take along their "communicators." At first, I thought he meant handi-talkie radios, but he means some kind of small device which allows the removal of a language barrier with potential natives! Okay, even allowing that the planet has similar gravity and everything, what makes Rynning think the planet has human life? He'll be proven right, of course, but really, why would he think that? Also, I thought the first order of business was to repair the ship, not exploration. I'll grant they'd want to check the area before they break out their tools, but they're prepping for extended exploration, not maintenance!

   In a bold effects scene, a construction ladder is lowered into the camera's field of vision to show the rocket's outer hatch being opened. The surrounding terrain in no way matches the 'miniature' set where the rocket landed in full color...

   About to disembark, Rynning gets word from ground control that he can't join the away team. That chest-clutching earlier was due to a very mild heart attack. He can't leave the ship for risk of a full-scale coronary, which visibly depresses the great scientist (nice to see Carradine get a little acting moment, though. It elevates the scene far above the rest of the film). His younger, healthier expedition members disembark into a green-tinted world. (The color will continue to shift constantly, but I didn't feel compelled to note each shift. Hard as this may seem to believe, I do have a life! Also, it's not like the characters in the movie ever notice or react to this, so why bother?)

   Outside, the crew discovers the planet is teaming with stock footage dinosaurs. Naturally, we get a replay of the alligator/dimetrodon vs giant lizard battle from ONE MILLION B.C. which by this time had been seen in countless other films (TWO LOST WORLDS, TEENAGE CAVEMAN, VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS, etc, etc, etc). In a way, it's comforting, since the footage has the feel of being like an old friend who stops by every so often. It also features production value rather higher than the footage Adamson shot, so it helps in that respect too!

   I know some people have a bit of a bug about using lizards as dinosaurs, seeing as they don't resemble traditional dinosaurs. When done right, though, they certainly convey the idea of being prehistoric monsters. Here, the creatures are inhabitants of an alien planet filled with mutations, so they have that going for them in aiding suspension of disbelief. Really, the only time this effect really falls apart is when a character points to a giant iguana and calls it a Tyrannosaurus (as happened in KING DINOSAUR). As generic dinosaurs, I can buy the giant lizard thing. When well-shot and edited, the effect works, and doesn't look quite as cheap as it sounds (see ONE MILLION B.C. and the 1960 THE LOST WORLD for beautiful examples -although the latter film does have Professor Challenger clutching a gecko and calling it a baby tyrannosaurus.....).

   Our heroes don't seem as awed by the sight of living dinosaurs as you'd expect. Rynning (in communication via radio) is told about the creatures, and he's convinced the planet once housed intelligent life. I have no clue what he's basing this assertion on. Maybe if they'd showed a dial picking up electronic signals and had Rynning deduce that there's machinery buried on the planet.... But no, he just seems to know things he shouldn't have any reason to. Still, he needs some sort of proof of this, so he orders samples taken.

   Despite the dinosaurs lurking all about (well, in a valley below, but c'mon), Linda hangs back as the men wander over to another location. I thought they were setting up the obligatory menace Linda must be rescued from, -be that abduction by cave-men, attack by a carnivorous plant, or the sudden appearance of a dinosaur- but she later rejoins the group without incident. Isn't it lazier to forget the clich├ęs than it is to rely on them? Audiences go into films like this expecting to see certain things, after all. If I watch a spy movie, for example, I expect to see some exotic enemy base/headquarters get blown up at the end of the movie. In a movie like this, when a character falls away from the group for no logical reason, I assume they're going to be menaced by something!

   The men have their backs to Linda, all but begging some dinosaur to grab her, as they look out over the prehistoric valley. Willy notes the only thing missing from the scene are cavemen. Then they see some cavemen. (Isn't that kind of lazy scripting?) It's here we get our first indication of how weird the Filipino movie was. We do indeed see a group of cavemen, and they're at war with the horrible snake-men!

   At first glance, the snake-men don't look like anything so much a guys dressed in leopard skins, wearing make-up that calls to mind a burlesque minstrel skit about the Japs that might have been produced in 1942. They hiss, though, so they have that going for them. Upon a closer look, we see they have snakes growing out of their shoulders! Kill the snake and the otherwise human snake-men  go down. Okay, this isn't spelled out, and I'm sure I'm wasting my time even mentioning this, but I think the idea is that these are a tribe of cavemen who have had their bodies taken over by the parasitic snakes growing out of their shoulders.... Or else, this is just a really weird movie.

   At any rate, the cavemen manage to fight back the snake-men with fire. Back in the American movie, our heroes spot a pretty cavegirl being chased by snake-men who don't remotely match the monsters we saw in the Filipino footage (but I guess we're not to notice this, since they ARE making the same hissing sound). The astronauts jump in and shoot the snake men. The cavegirl runs from her rescuers, but they manage to catch her. Being told about the snake-men, Rynning determines them to be mutations. This convinces him that the planet was once advanced and came to blows in an atomic war which threw the planet into another stone age. The creatures seen by the crew are mutations created by the after-effects of said war. Seeing as he's on an alien planet, I again can't say why he's drawing this conclusion. Isn't it possible they're on a planet that just happens to house some strange, dare I say unearthly, creatures?

   Now we get one of the film's attempts at logic, which falls apart because it's stupid and undermined by something we see elsewhere in the film (and, oh yeah, is completely illogical!). Rynning orders the cavegirl be given a "communicator" to Linda's protest. Rynning nonchalantly tells her they'll be "merely rearranging (the cavegirl's) brainwaves electromagnetically" to allow her to understand and speak English!

   First off, I'm not sure how "rearranging her brainwaves" is going to give her a command of the English language... She'd still need to hear the language in order to know it, right? The thing is, we earlier heard the cavemen speaking English! And we'll later hear them speak a lot more without aid of "communicators." What's more, these "communicators" must be implanted surgically! So the crew performs a quick field surgery and implants the device in the cavegirl's head, being talked through the operation via radio by Rynning!

   Well, the girl, Mylee, offers us a little backstory now that she can speak English like everyone else already does on this alien world. She tries to run away at first because she's afraid that the earthlings are members of the Tubatan tribe, although when we see the Tubatan, there's no way she could make this mistake! The men manage to calm her down and get the full story.

   The set-up is this: there's a peaceful, perfectly human tribe called the Toogani, to which Mylee belongs. Recently, the Toogani have been targeted by the literally bloodthirsty Tubatan, fanged vampire cavemen! (This, I guess, is the slender thread trying to tie the prolog to the rest of the movie. The idea being that these caveman-vampires were the originators a disease currently spreading across earth. If this is the case, it's proof positive that Adamson watched his own movie, but never listened to the dialog! This falls apart hard by the time the movie is over!)

   In the flashback, we are introduced to Leelah, another cavegirl with a knack for fighting vampires. Since she might be confused with Mylee (okay, not really, since they're played by different actresses who don't favor each other in films shot years apart -but my first impression was that it was supposed to be the same character!), we'll note that Mylee wears white, Leelah black. Anyway, the Filipino film had some occasionally good production value, and some pretty nifty fight scenes. Leelah takes out one vampire by shooting it in the head with an arrow! She then beats up another one with her bow!

   Yep, it's pretty clearly established here that the Toogani speak English!

   Anyway, the Toogani are swarmed by Tubatan and Leelah is carried off. We also establish Takee, a traitorous caveman who has thrown in his lot with the Tubatan. Considering the only thing that makes him look different from the Tubatan is his lack of fangs, it took me a fair piece of the movie to figure this angle out! Also confusing is that there's at least two girls who look like Leelah if you're not paying attention (or even if you are, it turns out), and then there's a Tubatan woman dressed the same way except she's got fangs!

   Emerging from flashback, we see Willy and Mylee are falling for each other. He gives her a medal he got "from the War." What war he means is a mystery since they didn't do a very good job of establishing when all this is taking place. Given they establish that men are living on other planets, one would think this were all set millions of years in the future (hundreds at the very least), and yes, this completely ignores the vampire prolog, which doesn't belong here anyway.

   On the other hand, maybe they figured there would be a flurry of scientific advancement in the next few years. Willy seems young, so they might not have meant WW2 or Korea. Nam? Is he a veteran of some future conflict? I guess we don't deserve to know, because we never will....

   Back on Earth, we check back in with Dix and Volante, who it turns out are married. This is obviously newer footage as both actors look a couple of years older. Dix has come home a little later, as Volante is already in bed. They discuss the situation of the XB-13 and her crew in the Spectra system, spelling out the shifting color tint thing. The following lines are tossed around: "dangerous chromatic radiation" "extremely dangerous" "can change from one color to another at any time" "the most dangerous color is red!"

    Feeling the situation hasn't been adequately explained, Dix decides to demonstrate, saying he "brought home this chromatic radiation gun to show you what's happening in space."  He then aims the gun at his wife and showers her in a series of colors, including red! I thought that was "extremely dangerous" but I guess we missed the part where Dix took out a life-insurance policy on his wife, and then left a chemical on her toothbrush that caused her short-term memory to fail.....

   They finish the scene with Dix starting to remove his uniform while noting he's looking for relaxation "in any color." In this TV print, we zip back to Spectra. In the theatrical version, HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS, however, we're subjected to a long and boring sex scene between the two (shot in such a way their faces are barely visible...).

   Sex is apparently a lot more complicated in the future, as this involves an electronic device being wired to their heads. Dix flips a switch and a nonsensical array of electronic equipment across the room starts flashing lights and making 'science' noises. One attachment to this machine is a big siren light from a squad car or a fire engine! It's purpose is a mystery. I guess they figured that in the future, for the weird sex types, all this would replace such mundane items as lava lamps, candles, and black lights. In other films, we've been told sex in the future will be enhanced by controls that let you turn off the gravity in any room. I guess the basics are doomed to obscurity....

   Cutting back to the Filipino movie, we find we are still in Mylee's flashback! This has to break some sort of narrative rule, you'd think. We see a young Toogani warrior get ambushed by Tubatan outside the cave where his people are held up. For the village to survive, they will need to enlist the aid of the warrior Rameer, who is currently on an away mission. The tribe elder (dubbed by Paul Frees!) sends young Suki to slip through the Tubatan lines and recall Rameer and his men. Mylee (this time a Filipino actress) decided to also seek out Rameer, in case Suki didn't get through. The runners head off in different directions, drawing the Tubatan away from the cave.

   We discover the Tubatan chasing after Mylee when she slipped out in the night are the same Tubatan Willy and the others saved her from the next day (which is double odd, because they were snake-men when they were shot)! Mylee reports the village desperately needs "fire water" to defeat the Tubatan. Although amusing to think the master plan is to get the Tubatan drunk and thus defeat them, our Earth-men quickly deduce the Fire Water is crude oil located in a near-bye cave. (So, was Mylee seeking Rameer, or the fire-water? Does the script even care? I can answer that! No.) The men pass this new information to Rynning, wondering if this discovery can be used in the currently-broken cooling unit.

   I thought for sure it was the heating unit that was broken earlier in the movie! On the other hand, this better explains why the crew has never changed out of their short sleeves in the three to four days it took them to reach the planet. Still, they could have been clearer about this. This is like my air conditioner going out and saying I'm having a problem with my heater. The two things don't jibe in the least! Just the same, Rynning reports the ship has the right equipment to distill the crude into oil that can be used in the cooling unit, thus allowing them to depart the planet. I thought they had other problems, which have never been attended to (unless this is how Rynning is staying busy while the others are out exploring), but I guess now the cooling unit is the whole deal!

   Mylee leads our heroes toward the cave, which happily seems to be only a few yards away! First, though, Mylee catches sight of Rameer and his men crossing a river to reach the same cave (if this was Rameer's ultimate destination, he's taken the long way around to it). Since the Earth-gang can't in any way meet with the Filipino cavemen, they look on from a distance as Rameer and his men come under attack by hideous lobster-men! Given they have exposed human shoulders and their pincers are obviously gloves, I can't be sure if these are supposed to be actual lobster monsters or men wearing lobster-like armor. Given the sequence of events, I guess they're inhuman monsters, but the sequence came to an end before I decided this was so.... Despite this minor set-back, Rameer's company crosses the river.

   With Rameer on this side of the river and headed for the cave, Mylee runs off to meet him. Before going, she tells the Earth men to wait for her. Since they can't actually interact with the other movie, the men (and Linda) settle down and relax. (These are the most easy-going astronauts in the history of film!)

   As Rameer approaches the cave, Filipino Mylee and Suki suddenly appear (together) from out of nowhere and tell Rameer about the Tubatan. Rameer (also dubbed by Paul Frees, although that's weird since the film was obviously shot in English....) orders his men to procure some Fire Water before returning to the village and mopping up the remaining Tubatan*. Despite this cave being familiar to the Toogani, the warriors are taken by surprise by the native bat-men! These creatures (also showing exposed human flesh) fly about very awkwardly on visible strings! They provide a brief menace, but are fairly easy to eradicate.

(*Yeah, that's another problem with that pointless prolog about the vampires, which implied the plague had spread from a source planet millions of years away. The Tubatan are but a single tribe, their number roughly two dozen. Now, I suppose there are others like them on this planet, but it's pretty obvious that in millions of years the rest of the human -and lobster/snake/bat-man- population of Spectra hasn't been wiped out by vampires. In fact, the Tubatan seem a relatively recent development! The prolog made it seem as if the earth had about a month before it was populated only by vampires! The film would still have problems, but I think the biggest one could be cured if only that ridiculous prolog were dropped!)

   Although no Fire Water has been visibly collected, Rameer returns to the village. The bat-men cleared out, I guess, Mylee shows the Earth men the cave (seems her priorities might lay with her countrymen on the verge of extinction, but I guess you can't properly time the moments you should extend a helping hand). Handily, the cave is within walking distance to the ship, and Bob is sent back to retrieve some containers to hold the oil. Although he must avoid some stock footage dinosaurs, he quickly returns with a pair of jerry cans! Seems rather prosaic, doesn't it? Oh well, it doesn't look like they paid the prop guy enough for him to care. This will be even more apparent in a few minutes!

   With Steve and Linda on the oil situation, Bob and Willy take Mylee back to her people in time for the climax. The firearm-equipped astronauts are going to offer any help they can, and you have to imagine that's a lot in a world using torches and stone axes. The guys have been carrying rifles and sidearms all this time, and could conceivably wipe out the Tubatan in a few seconds if they tried. I really didn't notice this earlier, as I'd expect such weapons to be included in any serious exploration party. At the time this kind of film was being made, space exploration was still largely a military operation. Preparing for every situation, most of us might take for granted that they'd have guns on board any space ship large enough to light upon another planet. It'd be like carrying a cigarette lighter with you everywhere even if you don't smoke, it's just common sense.

   Given the Army surplus nature of the props, I'd guess these to be .45 clip pistols and M-1 carbine rifles. Carbines would be a logical choice, for they are compact and reliable. I say I guess, because when watching the film I just took it for granted. Only now, in writing this review, did it occur to me that some people might find firearms on a spaceship strange (considering we live in a world where pilots on commercial airliners don't even keep a pistol in their cockpits anymore). I honestly didn't inspect the weapons to check what kind they were. At any rate, these weapons would be like atom bombs to a society this primitive, so Bob and Willy could save a lot of needless bloodshed if they would just pick up the pace a little!

   On their way back to the ship with the jerry cans full of oil (okay, they're obviously still empty, lighter to tote around that way...), Steve and Linda happen across a half-buried "container of some sort" that excites Dr. Rynning. This artifact is quite obviously an undisguised ammo box, the sort of thing any kid might have bought from his local Army surplus store and used to house his baseball cards! In fact, I'd be amazed if the prop guy didn't just borrow the device from his own kid's bedroom! Talk about chutzpa! And think about the fact that Steve has been using the very type of ammunition the box was made to hold! THIS is an alien artifact? Moreover, an alien artifact Steve notes is made of the extremely exotic metal known as... steel!

   In carrying this unimaginable object back to Dr. Rynning, Steve and Linda are almost trampled by a stock footage dinosaur/monitor lizard. After this incident, the two get weirdly introspective and come to terms with the likelihood they'll never be leaving this prehistoric planet. Where did this notion come from? There hasn't been any indication the ship wouldn't be able to be repaired. Well, they suddenly required refined oil to make the cooling unit work properly, but that detail came out of nowhere. Was there a script at all? Or did these people just shoot some generic space opera scenes that would be patched together at a later date?

   Anyway, Steve and Linda return to the ship. In taking the bizarre, unearthly metal container from Steve, Rynning accidentally flashes the information printed on the side of the box! That's right! Not only did they blatantly use a dime-a-dozen surplus ammo box for a movie prop, they didn't even bother to paint over the lettering stenciled onto the side of the box before it left the factory!!! At least the ammo box that mysteriously turns up as a spinning gizmo in FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND was painted pink in a vain attempt to hide it's origins!

   The scene gets better too. Thanks to his chem-lab set-up of beakers, Rynning states the oil will be refined in "a few hours." Wow! That's a good set-up, considering it looks like something borrowed from a local high school!

   At the Tubatan camp, there's unease about Rameer's forthcoming assault. Takee and the Tubatan leader (both voiced by Paul Frees*) have a falling out in the face of the coming slaughter. Rameer must be Spectra's Rambo, because he has the enemy sweating. For reasons I can't remember fully, because there was so much else going on (for one thing, I was dumbfounded by that ammo box), Takee slays the Tubatan leader. Just in time, Rameer and his men arrive and the big fight scene is underway!

(*Frees seems to've voiced all the important male characters, as he had done in the past in dubbing Japanese monster movies and the like. Weird, really, that such a professional would get this job, given Adamson clearly didn't care about anything else in the picture having an iota of polish. And why is the dialog dubbed, anyway? The actors are clearly speaking English! And they're not saying anything to contradict the newer footage, as if Adamson even cared!)

   Takee tries to make off with Leelah (who I'm guessing in the earlier version of the film was identified as being Rameer's woman), but Rameer rescues her and the two men engage in a good old-fashioned fight scene! Bob and Willy and Mylee arrive on the scene (although peripherally for obvious reasons) and help out by shooting a couple of Tubatan that try to attack them. Ultimately, the Toogani win the day, without ever bringing the Fire Water into play! This item is glossed over entirely, in fact.

   Willy let's Bob know that, now that the battle is over, he's going to say goodbye to Mylee. As he starts to walk off, though, Willy gets dizzy for a second or two. Fine once it passes, he overlooks the feeling. (Sure, I suppose I might do this too, but Willy is a trained astronaut and soldier. Seems he'd take a sudden attack on his senses a little more seriously.)

   Back in the Filipino movie, Rameer and Takee are still in their big fight scene, which is pretty good stuff. The Filipinos had a real knack of combat scenes, and they tended to be more realistic the smaller scale they were. Here, two guys roll around and look like they're actually hurting each other. Rameer finishes the sequence when he gets Takee face-down on the ground. Stepping on Takee's hands so his opponent can't get any leverage, Rameer grabs his enemy's chin and pulls upward with all his might. Takee's neck snapped, the war is over.

   Willy and Mylee say their goodbyes, but Mylee wants Willy to stay with her. He can't, however, and offers to take her home to her people before leaving. He gets dizzy again, but it passes. Meanwhile, one last Tubatan shows up and spears Bob. Willy manages to shoot the native, but gets weaker until he faints. Rynning, having discovered the truth about the planet, orders Bob and Willy to "return immediately" but gets no answer from them. Steve heads out to find them, and Mylee leads him to Willy.

   Back aboard the rocket, Rynning insists on leaving ASAP. (Meanwhile, I notice his desk has a stack of huge books resting on it. Wouldn't such records be on microfilm so as to reduce weight? On the other hand, maybe conventional fuel is only used to operate the cooling unit!!??) After their brief stay on the planet, everybody's white blood cell count is down. This is due to a "deadly virus" in the air, and Rynning predicts the natives won't survive much longer. The Toogani are doomed, but the crew of the XB-13 (save the late Bob, and with his seat open, why not bring back Mylee?) will be fine because the "virus can't live in earth's atmosphere."

   That's right, as if it hadn't been undercut enough, this completely negates the vampire plague prolog!

   As Mylee mournfully looks on, the XB-13 prepares to leave. The ladder is pulled back up and we see the full-color back yard rocket model again! Moreover, this is the exact same view ground control has on it's main viewscreen! What's more, seconds later the screen shows a completely different stock shot rocket taking off. But wait, it gets better. We cut to the scene a third time a see yet another stock footage rocket! And, although we saw the ship taking off when it was the previous shot, now it's seen starting up and lifting off all over again!

   Anyway, our heroes are on their way back to Earth, where the deadly virus that has nothing to do with vampires will never survive. The Spectra planet is doomed, however (man, the planet has suffered through atomic war, rise of mutation, a complete collapse of civilization, dinosaurs, and now a deadly virus that will kill everyone off*! The planet can't get a break!), and Rynning remarks that we may destroy Earth the same way someday. (Of course, it's established that we have colonies on other planets so we'll stand a better chance of surviving as a race than do the Spectrans.)

(*They don't bother to say if this eventual extinction is within a few years or a few generations. Ignoring the "millions of years" line from the completely pointless and crippled prolog, let's then say this planet has only been in such shape for 20 to 100 years. That would play more into Rynning's conclusion.)

   So Mylee's people are saved from the Tubatan just to be wiped out by a virus? And poor Mylee! This has been a really rough day for her! Her countrymen have been hunted and eaten by Tubatan, she was operated on, fell in love with a man who had to leave her (again, why not take Mylee with? Not to make light of Bob's death, but they have an extra seat now, and the ship was quite roomy to begin with. Not to mention fast! Rynning could evacuate all of the Toogani within a month since it only takes four days to reach Spectra, presumably four minutes if the ship is in proper working order!), and now the pretty young girl is doomed to die from dizzy spells.

   I'm an optimist, though, so even though this is where the movie ends, I'm thinking Willy will arrange a return to the planet to save Mylee and her people. Rynning is such a smartypants, I'm sure he'll be able to develop a vaccine before the XB-13 returns to Earth.

   As for that vampire thing in the beginning, maybe that was just an old movie Dix and Volante were watching before they left for work, and Dix was showing off for his wife by doing his vampire voice-over gag. Believe me, that's the most logical explanation there will ever be!

   Anyway, that was VAMPIRE MEN OF THE LOST PLANET/HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS. Here's an excellent example of why Ed Wood remains a favored 'bad' director. While he had no talent, Ed obviously cared about what he was doing (maybe not much, but he did care). Adamson just didn't care. He was a business man, and his only concern was the bottom line. Fantastic as it seems, though, he must have known what he was doing. II made a mint off of films like this. Terrible as they were, they were drive-in standards!


   The film has also been issued on VHS and DVD multiple times....