Thursday, April 30, 2009

THIS WEEK'S THEME OVER AT OUR SISTER AUDIO BLOG IS THE HORROR OF THE SWAMP! Join us over at BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA for an audio sampling of songs celebrating the spookiness of the Louisiana bayou . . . and the vengeful spectres, shambling man-things, voodoo priestesses and murderous mayhem which a swamp is aptly suited to swallow up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Paul Roland - Gabrielle

Join us over at our sister blog BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA where we're focusing this week on the music of Paul Roland.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DROP WHATEVER YOU'RE DOING AND GO LOOK AT SUSAN BOYLE ON YOUTUBE! Click here. The most phenomenal, stunning performance I've ever seen. I'm unable to post the video on this blog so I can only urge you in the strongest possible way (and I've never done this before) to run -- not walk -- over to youtube and treat yourself to the phenomenon that is 47 year old unemployed Susan Boyle. You owe it to yourself!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

WACKY AND SILLY. DELIRIOUSLY IMPROBABLE & KITSCHY. Just a few of the ways I would describe NEUTRON VS. THE DEATH ROBOTS. This is the dubbed US version of the original Mexican wrestler/monster "lucha libre" film entitled "Los Autómatas de la muerte" from 1962. Perhaps it's just me and my extreme brain damaged state but I'm a sucker for those Mexican wrestlers battling monsters; films epitomized by the iconic El Santo (The Man in the Silver Mask). The immense love the Mexican populace held for El Santo is something that cannot be adequately understood by the rest of us. Suffice it to say that El Santo was a national institution and his countless movies combining masked wrestling bouts with monsters, aliens and robots are something that has to be experienced to be appreciated. Santo was the undisputed king and no other masked wrestler could approach his success; not occasional partner Blue Demon, not Las Luchadoras (the Wrestling Women). . .and CERTAINLY not Neutron. However, this third Neutron film is just as much fun, I think, as any of the others in this strange genre. But Neutron is, in one respect, a standout and unlike every other Mexican wrestling film star -- INCLUDING El Santo.
All the other "lucha libre" films starring El Santo and his ilk had one thing in common; a fact pointed out to me by Pete Tombs in his indispensable book on weird world cinema "MONDO MACABRO". El Santo and the rest wore masks but were never like Batman, for instance, in that they had no "secret identities". El Santo never changed out of his mask; in fact he slept in it and had dinner wearing it. Batman swung home, doffed his cowl and became playboy Bruce Wayne. Santo was ALWAYS Santo. When he was on the trail of vampire women, pummeling someone in the wrestling ring or driving his Jaguar to the supermarket. . .Santo was Santo and that was it. He was a pro wrestler who also happened to battle monsters. Neutron, however, was different in that he apparently was the only "masked wrestler" in the lucha libre films who wasn't actually a wrestler; he was an actor named Wolf Ruvinskis who might be cut but had never been a wrestler in his life. This fact can be divined by watching his fight scenes. Therefore, it really isn't correct to lump this film in with all those Santo and other Mexican wrestler movies since Neutron is really just a superhero and not a wrestler. A running theme in NEUTRON VS. THE DEATH ROBOTS is that the police (and everyone else) is trying to guess the "secret identity" of Neutron; the candidates are three losers who are all trying to date the same nightclub singer (and, for lack of another candidate, the heroine of the film).
But enough about these three guys and the goil because nobody REALLY cares about them, right. All we care about is Neutron and his arch enema. . .er, enemy Dr. Carrot. . . um, I mean, Dr. Caronte. It seems that Neutron has battled Dr. Caronte in the previous movie (which I've not seen). Dr. Caronte and his diminutive demonic dwarf assistant Nick (whose voice is dubbed into English sounding EXACTLY like Saddam Hussein in the South Park movie!) are trying to build a neutron bomb to go boom. For an evil genius out to destroy the world, Caronte is awful motherly to Nick. When he's not threatening to kill Nick for bungling a mission, Dr. Caronte constantly holds the dwarf's hand as they cross a room and helpfully lifts Nick up onto tables as if he was Shirley Temple! Caronte (who is garbed in a white wrestler mask, white surgeon's smock, white Aquaman gloves and white leotards!) has moidered three scientists, removed their brains, combined them into one big blob of a brain (Donovan's???) and is now controlling their thoughts inside a big tank (hey, it IS Donovan's Brain territory, innit?) in order to get their "secret formulae" for building a neutron bomb. But there are some pieces missing and Caronte goes after another scientist to pull his plan together. Oh, just in case you were planning on building your OWN neutron bomb, here are the formulae the brains provided: "XR2 combined with MP5, NN8 with 2 parts ZQ, and KH2 in proportion with MWA & XA8." OK, go get started!
The mad Dr. Caronte has also built a bunch of "death robots" to do his bidding and kidnap various and sundry victims. These guys really shouldn't be called "death robots", though, since that leads one to picture them as metallic robots which they are not. They are really more like Frankenstein's monster combined with zombies. Oddly, Dr. Caronte's method of "cooking up" his death robots is actually quite reminiscent of 1910's Thomas Edison production of "FRANKENSTEIN" in which the monster is "formed" inside an oven. Dr. Caronte has a series of easy bake ovens along his lab wall in which he essentially bakes a zombie. Not all the time, though, is the evil doctor successful. One of his death robots fails to form inside the "oven" and resembles a pile of cow flop. I hesitate to call them "ovens", though, since it appears to be very cold in there like a deep freeze; Caronte and Nick are seen to wipe the viewing windows on the "oven" door because they appear to be frosted over. The three brain combo in Caronte's tank is nicely nourished by fresh blood. This allows the death robots to have a little fun on the side by killing and draining victims to provide for the constant changes of fresh blood required by the tri-brain. Marks on the victims' necks lead the cops to suspect a vampire is on the loose. You or I would encourage this misconception to throw the police of our trail, wouldn't we? Especially since everyone believes Dr. Caronte to be dead from the previous film. He was supposed to have been blown up by a bomb, I believe. Sadly, this would-be strategy is blown when Caronte's "calling card" is left by each corpse! For an evil genius, Dr. Caronte ain't too bright! From the dialogue we hear in this film, it appears Caronte went to some trouble to make it appear he was dead; a badly damaged corpse is found that everyone believes is Dr. Caronte. Then, the first thing he does in THIS movie is to loudly proclaim he's alive after all by leaving his calling card by the victims! Neutron and the police COULD have spent the entire film running around looking for non-existent vampires while Caronte would have been left unmolested to complete his nefarious plan. Dr. Caronte: evil genius or twit? You decide.
Dr. Caronte also ups the mischief quotient by having one of his "death robots" masquerade as Neutron himself in order to get the police to chase after the real Neutron and try to arrest him. Who woulda thought one of these creatures was buff enough under his sackcloth to sling on a black mask with lightning bolts on it and be mistaken for the great Neutron?!? This is just one of the deliriously daffy doings that populate this marvelous mess of a movie. Another oddity about this movie is that, despite the fact that it's only an hour and 9 minutes long, it has about 5 musical numbers in it. The typical Santo film has a few actually wrestling matches interspersed throughout but, since Neutron ain't a real wrestler, I guess the filmmakers decided we'd better throw in 4 or 5 songs performed mostly by the nightclub singer heroine but also by a male group I like to call the Mexican Mills Brothers. So many songs intertwining in an already short film might test the patience of the lucha libre lover but the songs are actually all quite short and didn't make me want to throw a shoe at my telly. So that's something, right?!?
The special effects. . . .well. Dr. Caronte's lab set is a two story affair which actually looks pretty good as these movies go. It's got all (or most) of the typical Kenneth Strickfaden-inspired blinking paraphernalia and realistic-looking stone walls. The three brains Caronte's has liberated from the skulls of his three professorial victims looks appropriately yucky; in fact, I believe they might be real brains -- obtained from the local morgue maybe or perhaps they're calf's brains from the local deli?!? Anyway you slice 'em, they're effective as all getout and I liked 'em. The death robots really only have makeup on their heads and this consistes of a mostly featureless mass of muck where their faces should be and a shaggy Beatles moptop wig. The English dubbing, of course, is totally silly and makes the entire film even wackier, I suspect. All this goes toward providing us with a bizarrely silly movie which is quite entertaining. And God knows, it's much better than Forrest Gump! I must, in all fairness, call attention to the fact that the film is actually quite nicely shot by cinematographer Fernando Colín (who also lensed several Santo flicks as well as a few Nostradamus movies starring German Robles. NEUTRON AND THE DEATH ROBOTS has many interestingly composed shots quite nicely lit as well. All in all, the movie proved to be a pleasant surprise to me the first time I saw it and I think it's well worth your time if you're at all interested in Mexican genre cinema and lucha libre films in particular.

Friday, April 03, 2009

BIJO TO EKITAININGEN from Toho Studios in Japan is known as THE H-MAN here in its English-dubbed version. Famed director Ishiro Honda and producer Tomoyuki Tanaka are the same pair who unleashed GOJIRA (aka GODZILLA) and RODAN upon the unsuspecting world. This time, however, Honda and Tanaka take a detour from their nuclear bomb-created giant stomping monsters and give it a neat little twist. But not TOO far a detour . . . the film opens with a mushroom cloud! Instead of the H-bomb causing giant Tokyo-stomping lizards, this time it has spawned radioactive blob-like creatures that consume human flesh and bone.
The first scene in THE H-MAN finds a gangster waiting inside a car for his partner in crime to show up with the swag. It's night and pouring with rain. This is an important part of the film since it is almost always raining; Honda is combining his H-bomb monster movie with the film noir genre and it works for the most part. As the second criminal emerges from underneath a sidewalk grating, he attempts to put the swag into the trunk of the car (alright. . .BOOT for my UK friends) but he is interrupted by something we can't see attacking his legs. The crook pulls out a gun and starts firing down at the unseen thing while his partner panics and drives of in the car. The first crook, still screaming, runs out into oncoming traffic right into another car. However, when the panicked driver gets out of the car to see whom he's hit, there is nothing on lying on the rain-soaked street but empty clothing. Of course, our crook has been gobbled up and dissolved by our friendly neighbourhood H-Man blob. Or blobs. There appear to be more than one.
Apparently all this has been caused by the ever-present Pacific H-Bomb testing. A ghost ship turns up containing no one on board except more empty clothes. Men who board the ship are attacked by the blob monsters. The police go to the home of the girlfriend of the crook who sped away in the car (played by Yumi Shirakawa: veteran of other Toho productions including RODAN and SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN). The girlfriend is a nightclub singer named Chikako Arai whom the police question but she knows nothing. The police, the singer and a scientist all team up to try to get to the bottom of this blobby madness. The blob creatures can really get around; they flow like water, climb up over windowsills, scale walls and ceiling and even can travel through the rainwashed storm drains at will. Half the time the appear as flowing blobby liquid while the other half of the time they form themselves into a green-glowing humanoid shape right before they engulf an unsuspecting victim. In fact, all this rain in the movie causes the blob creatures to swarm and multiply inside the Tokyo sewer system. In an echo of THEM!, the police venture down into the sewers and eventually battle the blobs with a sort of "greek fire" flamethrower which burns on water. Unfortunately (but de riguer for any Toho monster movie) the entire city is set on fire as a result. Oops.
1958 saw the release of BIJO TO EKITAININGEN; the funny thing is that the same year saw the release of the classic drive-in monster movie THE BLOB as well -- a film which THE H-MAN shares a blobby monster in common. The funny part is that THE H-MAN (according to ole imdb) was released on May 28, 1958 while THE BLOB with Steve McQueen came out September 12th. Hmmmm. Regardless, Honda's decision to combine the Japanese monster movie with film noir works quite well. The only problem is that Honda allows the film noir elements to lapse a good deal in the middle of the picture. Whenever Honda employs the rainy nights and the trenchcoated villains, he is very successful. Sadly, these scenes are interspersed with fairly ordinary "talking in offices" scenes which have really no atmosphere to speak of. A few shadows of venetian blinds on the walls would've worked wonders. As for the "Japanese monster movie" portion of the film, these work extremely well. The blob creature special effects are every bit as nicely done as the American BLOB movie; the only difference being THE BLOB that attacks Steve McQueen is more rounded and solid while the H-MAN blob creatures are more liquid. As more film unspools, we are treated to more graphic depictions of the blob's victims as we see the poor guy engulfed and dissolving to nothing. Very effective! It is also a nice change of pace that Honda has chosen to get us away from the Godzillas and Rodans stomping Tokyo towards a more subtle and creepy creature that silently attacks from a dark corner. Director Honda would make a similar change-of-pace Toho monster movie to even greater success when he made MATANGO in 1963. Phil Hardy, in his Overlook Film Encyclopedia of Science Fiction states: "The plot appears merely as an excuse to string together extraordinary scenes of hallucinatory images as bodies liquify, enclosed within gelatinous blobs. Such scenes, together with the film noir aspects of the gangster plot, make this Honda's most sensual film..." He's got a point there as the blob creatures are more tactile and subtle threat than Godzilla's big foot squashing a car dealership. Hardy calls THE H-MAN "...one of Honda's best movies". It certainly is up there, probably, but it's definitely not his best; that honour surely goes to 1963's eerily effective MATANGO!
1958 was a huge year for horror movies. Just a cursory glance over the list of films released the same year as THE H-MAN not only includes THE BLOB but also features many other timeless wonders. Just look at this list: Hammer's epoch-shaking HORROR OF DRACULA and THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Mexico's El Vampiro sequel EL ATAUD DEL VAMPIRO aka THE VAMPIRE'S COFFIN as well as LA MOMIA AZTECA CONTRA EL ROBOTO HUMANO aka THE ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY, BELL BOOK AND CANDLE, THE FLY, Richard E. Cunha's schlockfests GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN and FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER, I BURY THE LIVING, I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, Hammer clone BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE, IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (which would later "inspire" Ridley Scott's ALIEN), THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, the quiet little Francis Lederer starrer THE RETURN OF DRACULA (sort of a cross between SON OF DRACULA and Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT), the Quatermass-like Lewtonesque TROLLENBERG TERROR aka THE CRAWLING EYE, the cheezy ATTACK OF THE 50 FT. WOMAN (Harry!......Harryyyyyy!!!), John Agar's delirious BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS, Toho's VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE, Karloff's FRANKENSTEIN 1970, I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN, Jack Arnold's SPACE CHILDREN and MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS, and WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST! Surely THE H-MAN is in some mighty fine company and a welcome addition to the monster rogue's gallery. This little known film is a nice change of pace from the usual Japanese Toho productions and, if for no other reason, is a worthwhile look for any fan of Ishiro Honda's monster movies.
LIAO ZHAI YAN TAN aka EROTIC GHOST STORY is a Hong Kong film which takes the "adult" Category III rating and runs with it! Willy nilly! This is the story of a trio of Chinese "fox spirits" who have meditated for a thousand years in order to shed their animal natures and take permanent human form and immortality. The final month of the 1000 years they spend in a Chinese village where the female population worships the god of "sex and fertility" Wu Tang. That's right, they're all members of the Wu Tang Clan; now you know where that's from. Wu Tang is a randy sorta fellow who will basically mount anything that moves. Unfortunately for our three fox spirit sisters, they must banish all lust from their thoughts and remain pure for this final month before they can achieve their goal of permanent humanity. It surely must come as no surprise to you that that Wu Tang decides to do his level best to deflower all three of the fox spirit ladies before the month is out.

The film opens as one of the fox spirits is accosted in a restaurant by a couple of sexist thugs who accuse her of stealing their pork buns -- they point to her ample cleavage as evidence of the pork buns. (Hey, Noel Coward didn't write this stuff, you know). She promptly beats the crap out of them with her umbrella. Another sister is accosted by a gang of thugs in the forest who want to "gang-appreciate" her. The fox spirit plays along encouragingly and even calls for several other women who suddenly appear from out of the woods. Each thug has a willing woman and they all commence boffing; however they soon realize that the women are not what they appear as they suddenly morph into rotting corpses. The third fox spirit wanders around a temple to the "god of sex and fertility" Wu Tang; she has lustful thoughts. Outside a wise old magician (Chia Ling Ha) stops her and warns her that she cannot have lust in her heart or she will never gain humanity. The foxes meet up later that night at their abode and toss and turn in bed unable to banish their lustful thoughts. So unable to banish them, in fact, that two of them engage in a nude girl-on-girl lesbian romp in the indoor pool/fountain. This is the first of many scenes which give the Category III film fans their money's worth. The next day a gang of toughs are beating up a mild mannered young scholar named Wu Ming (Lap-Man Sin). Wu Ming is such a milquetoast he apologizes profusely for barely touching the hand of one of the sisters as she hands him a cup of tea. Now, I'm sure I'm not providing any spoilers here when I tell you that Wu Ming is actually the horny Wu Tang in disguise and he beds each of the three fox sisters in short order. Ultimately the sisters discover that their lustful activities are turning them back into foxes: the special effects department five them hairy cleavage at one point and they see themselves in a mirror with (charmingly pantomime) fox heads. The ladies decide (a little too late, I'd say) to send Wu Ming away. He agrees to go but not before they eat some fruit -- which they do. In a scene lifted from THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, all the fruit and pits Wu Ming eats are vomited up by next-door neighbour Mrs. Wang. Wu Ming takes his leave and the three sisters, realizing Wu Ming is really Wu Tang, magically attack him from afar. This ticks off the old devil who causes huge black clouds and lightning to roll in as he morphs into his real scary visage -- or visages since he has three faces on his gnarly head -- as he goes to confront the three fox spirits. This leads to a knockdown drag-out magical battle between them. Disappointingly, the fox spirits fail and succumb to Wu Tang's magical allure and end up shedding all their clothes yet again. It takes the deux ex machina appearance of the old wise magician to destroy Wu Tang (who is revealed to be a demon in disguise). I for one would've preferred for the three sisters to have kicked Wu Tang's bony butt on their own. . .but there you are.

EROTIC GHOST STORY was apparently made in 1987 but not released in Hong Kong until 1990. Director Ngai Kai Lam (who was also a cinematographer) populates the film with all the feminine pulchritude he can muster; which happens to be quite a lot since the film stars the breastacular Amy Yip (star of the influential 1991 "SEX AND ZEN"). Much ink has been spilled in the Hong Kong press over the years as to whether Amy Yip's substantial bust was natural or augmented by "the lights of perverted science" -- i.e. implants. Well, you'll get a good chance to examine the evidence in this film since Ms. Yip (and her two other fox spirits sisters (Hitomi Kudô and So Man) spend a great deal of the movie sans their kit -- in fact, they are full frontal a good deal of the running time. Now, far be it from me to turn up my nose at the unclothed female form but around about the one hour mark (or probably even before) it all gets a little bit tiresome and we're ready for some magical action to start. Thankfully, right about that time the plot kicks in once again and we get to see the fox spirits' confrontation with the demon. As special effects go, some of them (specifically Wu Tang's werewolf-like transformation scene utilizing prosthetics and air bladders) are of the quality of a direct-to-video zombie movie from 1981; but this actually lends a bit of charm to the film. Other sfx are more successful: the black clouds rolling in and the fight between the sisters and Wu Tang are rather nicely done if not spectacularly ground-breaking. Sadly for me, the print of the film I screened is dubbed into English and not subtitled; therefore the dopey English voices are a distraction. However we're not talking Kurosawa here so it doesn't really matter that much as to the enjoyment of the picture. My said enjoyment of the film is muted, of course, since it's main raison d'etre is to watch Amy Yip and co. frolicking stark naked. This is all well and good but, as I said, it tends to go on too long; the entire middle of the film consists almost entirely of simulated soft core sex scenes. Thus the film, even at 90 minutes, goes on too long; especially if you're a hetero female who doesn't find the exposed charms of Amy Yip all that riveting. Granted, all this sex is integral to the plot of the film -- after all, the whole point is that the three fox spirits have to remain chaste for a month and Wu Tang has to make them fail at this objective. However, this huge chunk in the middle of the film could've been cut down from 45 minutes to 15 without any loss to the storyline. Of course, the raincoat crowd would've been disappointed (EROTIC GHOST STORY was a huuuuuuuuuge hit when it came out in 1990) but I would've enjoyed more ghostly magical scenes delving into the Chinese folklore and myths concerning fox spirits and Wu Tang etc. I must be getting old. Anyway, for a dopey risque Chinese ghost movie nudie cutie, EROTIC GHOST STORY has enough to keep anyone interested in this genre of Chinese ghost films interested. After all, there's always the fast forward button.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

LURGI STRIKES THE CERPTS STUDIO! I must apologize for my absence in The Land of Cerpts and Honey as well as our sister blog Bathed In The Light From Andromeda; this occurrence owes itself to the fact that the dreaded disease Lurgi has infiltrated the Cerpts Studios for almost ALL of March. This has led to a vast curtailing of blogging activity -- as you may well have noticed. However, I (and my dedicated staff) have nearly all managed to purge the Lurgi from our systems which means that there SHOULD be more frequent content ahead.
I would also like to take special note of the long-delayed new audio postings on BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA. Because of the long absence, I have decided to give you all a special treat: the Master of Menace himself Vincent Price is holding court over at our sister blog so grab a broomstick and fly on over!