Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man (1973): with TAG-TEAM Partner, Tenebrous Kate

You know, my loyal parishioners, the Vicar loves you. And because of his love, he wants you to be happy in this season of joy and consumerism. But what do you give the mostly anonymous Internet throngs who have everything available at the click of a mouse? What can you offer that will rise from the pile of hand-knitted scarves and kitchen appliances and say "Here I am--a gift worthy of your discerning taste."

I spent a lot of time thinking about what to get you for Christmas, and if I may say so, I think I NAILED it. What could be a better gift than an appreciation of a Mad Movie containing not only Dracula and the Wolf Man, but also two of the greatest masked wrestlers ever to come out of Mexico? "Nothing," you might say, and ordinarily you'd be right--but I've bettered the unbetterable here by not only giving you the childlike joy of 1973's Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man, but giving it to you with the added wit and wisdom of Tenebrous Kate, Grand Ruler of the Tenebrous Empire! Recently the two of us got together in our robes and state and marvelled at the wonderful world we live in, where masked wrestlers and classic monsters go together like nutmeg and egg nog.

Read on!

TK: To get you latecomers to the party all caught up, the Vicar and I have just finished watching "El Santo y Blue Demon contra Dracula y el Hombre Lobo." It tells the heart-warming tale of the Cristaldi family and their generations-long fight against Dracula and his right hand lycanthrope, Rufus Rex. The Cristaldis quickly lose their patriarch to a Satanic ceremony which resurrects Dracula and Rufus, but the industrious Lina Cristaldi brings in her boyfriend El Santo and his best pal Blue Demon to help investigate the case and thwart Dracula's plans to get revenge on her family and then turn the entire world into his supernatural army.


TK: I loved the way each of the three in-ring fights seemed to be Pants versus Underpants.

VV: I did not notice till you mentioned it, but you are correct! The forces of good go for the long trousers without fail.

TK: It's like shirts versus skins, but… pantsier.

VV: I'm only guessing here, but perhaps Santo y Blue Demon need the pants to make sure their GIGANTIC BALLS don't flop out.

TK: You're probably right. Those guys are almost TOO rad. I mean, El Santo can wear vests that look like they're made from Midcentury bathroom flooring and still be AWESOME.

VV: Indeed, he's not afraid to rock the home-knitted sweater. Though I must say, Blue Demon also had it goin' on with the purple lace-up number near the end.

TK: That is a true statement of fact. It's a rare man who can be iconoclastic enough to look like a gimp-masked pirate and STILL be the one on the dolin'-out end of the beatings.

VV: Truth be told, I was much more impressed with Blue Demon's ass-beatin' skills than those of the IDOL OF MEEELIONS.

TK: I think Blue Demon has a certain brashness about him that's endearing.

VV: True. His small stature is misleading, but his profundo basso voice tells the true tale. He'll also scale a tree like a monkey at the drop of a cape.

TK: And kick the crap out of Hippies! I admire that in a man.

VV: I confess, I kinda need a "Renato El Hippie" t-shirt.

TK: Seriously. I wanna know Renato's backstory. His appearance was sort of a spoiler though--you could tell he'd lose that match to Blue Demon due to his lack of mask and pants.

VV: The announcer kept trying to talk up Renato’s consummate athletic skills, yet all I saw was the print of his ass on the mat.

TK: True, true. I mean, I'm no wrestling afficionada, but from a purely fashion POV, there was just no way he was gonna win.
One of the cool things I observed in this movie was that luchadores aren’t just good at rasslin'-- they're also chess players!


VV: That shows they're intellectuals. It takes more than brawn to take down aliens and lycanthropes and shit.

TK: I wonder if Mexican chess has different rules.

VV: Maybe if the Bishop has a lucha mask, he can move wherever he wants.

TK: Or the knight can take a flying leap off the turnbuckle!

VV: That would be rad. Everything's better in Mexico.

TK: Seriously. I imagine there to be a lot more bandoliers and shouting and tequila. And Dia de los Muertos collectibles everywhere.


VV: I can't help thinking Santo did pretty well for himself with his girlfriend Lina. Not only is she quite the cutie in her miniskirts and her soulful eyes, but she knows how to drive a forklift.

TK: Absolutely! THAT is an effective girlfriend right there. "My skirt is shorter than my belt, but I will totally drive this heavy machinery into you if you mess with my MAN!"

VV: Not only that, she was far stealthier than Blue Demon.

TK: Yes. Blue Demon had more enthusiasm than skills when it came to surveillance.

VV: Well put.

TK: Mask =/= invisibility

VV: I love how Eric the Ugly Satanist TOTALLY made him as soon as his little blue head popped up in window-view.

TK: "Don't look now, Wolfman, but there's totally a luchador in the tree out there."

VV: "But they're not even in season!"

TK: Much like Lina was a great girlfriend, Eric was a very effective hunchback henchman!

VV: Eric was kind of awesome, actually.

TK: He suffered from greediness, but man-oh-man--when Dracula or Rufus Rex asked for something, he was ON that shit.


VV: How about that opening scene between the 2nd and 3rd falls where he offers a malediction to Satan? You didn't have to wonder who the evil mother fucker in this one was for a MINUTE.

TK: Totally. His characterization was very consistent. I dug the flame-spitting Chupacabra heads he installed in the cave, BTW. He didn't have to do that, but he did, because he knew it'd make Drac and Rufus feel at home.

VV: Those things were LEGIT. I wonder how many crew members were immolated in making that scene.

TK: Doesn't matter--it was worth it.

VV: I agree--the movie wouldn't have worked without them.

TK: One of the things I always wonder about the Mexican Wrestler movies is who the audience is supposed to be. They operate on Kid Logic, and yet early in the film, Dr. Cristaldi suffers a very grisly death in order to bring about the resurrection of Dracula and Rufus Rex.

VV: I can only assume no adult in Mexico ever loses his childlike joy, probably thanks to Santo and Blue Demon.

TK: Mexico really is a wonderland, isn't it? * sigh *


VV: I was thinking about the scene after Eric wins "Spot the Demon," when he leads Blue Demon and Santo to the warehouse. Blue Demon and Santo are totally inconspicuous in their red convertible.

TK: Hey, that's how masked wrestlers operate! In any decision between Subtlety and Showing Class, Showing Class will ALWAYS win. That's why there are so few masked wrestlers left in the wild.

VV: Maybe they weren't as conspicuous as we think. Perhaps in Mexico City on a Saturday night, you'd see dozens of luchadores rolling around in their low riders. Nothing unusual about it!

TK: Stop--you're making me want to move to Mexico now!

VV: So we've talked a bit about Los Enmascarados, but what about their opponents?


TK: Oh! You mean Dracula and el Disco Lobo?

VV: The name is RUFUS REX, which is the total winner of "Most Awesome Werewolf Name EVER."

TK: Seriously. He was like--"yeah, my name is Rufus Rex, I'm not making up a nom de guerre; in fact, I'm donning this AMAZING YELLOW SATIN LACE-UP BLOUSE in order to make myself even MORE excellent! And if you fuck with me I will werewolfize your ass!"

VV: I hate to correct you, but he was completely resurrected ALREADY WEARING the lace-up satin blouse. Not to mention the say-something leather belt.

TK: The leather belt was the finishing move. Maybe that was, like, a medieval rasslin’ award?

VV: He was the heavyweight champion of the Aztec Empire.

TK: Kinda like the Dracula medal. What do you think Dracula's medal means? In this movie, it looked a little like a chicken...

VV: I love how Dracula ALWAYS starts out as a skeleton, and then as he's reconstituted, his wardrobe is also automagically resurrected. In this one he even had white gloves and a cane.

TK: You're right! And it's not covered in blood or anything. That's pretty amazing stuff.

VV: Dracula, it has to be said, was a major disappointment to me in this one. I mean, he LOOKED all super suave.

TK: Yeah, he was kind of a managerial Dracula.--just sending other people out to do his legwork. Good thing he had effective co-baddies!

VV: I counted THREE TIMES he was just about to bite someone, and got interrupted/distracted/startled and never got back to it. How long does it take, dude? CHOMP, you're DONE.

TK: Yeah, but... he still dressed the girl vamps well, in those red diaphanous gowns. That counts for something. He's... kind of a Mr. Blackwell of the supernatural world that way.


VV: When he was marching down the hall with the aforementioned Novias de Dracula, I couldn't help thinking of the Imperial Guard.

TK: See, I saw some Naschy similarities there.

VV: That wouldn't be the only Naschy tie-in.

TK: Though I must say, Naschy would've PWN3D these supernatural baddies, like, fourteen times over the course of the movie.

VV: Oh, it would have been no contest. The LEAP ATTACK off the top rope would have had any of these guys cryin’ home to mama!

TK: There would have been no neck unbitten, no boob ungroped, had the Naschinator been present.



TK: Also... another bit of a quibble but...
That dagger that's so pivotal to the plot--the one that's only effective against evil...
Presumably it still has... oh... I dunno...
even over good people.

VV: Well, of course they totally ripped off the dagger from Naschy as well. But yeah, Dracula sends Eric to get it from Santo because it "has no power over him." No wonder Eric decided he'd rather Drac be his bitch than vice versa.

TK: No joke, man. Dracula is like one of those store managers who would always make you go alphabetize the videos while he sat in the back room eating a sandwich and reading "Maxim." Only... wearing a tuxedo.

VV: I was EXTREMELY disappointed that the fight of the movie's title did NOT take place in an actual wrestling ring. I wanted a tag-team match with millions watching on TV.

TK: Indeed. Although it did take place somewhere with more strategically-placed spikes. I think that was kind of critical to the whole outcome of the film.

VV: What was that place they were in, anyway? I mean, Drac's castle is in Transylvania, presumably; and Eric found Rufus a SWEET apartment. So it's just a rental, I guess. With caves and spiky death pits.

TK: Speaking of Rufus' apartment--I like the fact that he showed he was sensitive by having what looked like portraits of the Bronte sisters on his wall.

VV: The Brontes were HAWT. That's what passed for bikini posters 400 years ago, when he and Drac were killed the first time. Talking of which, I was impressed that Rufus adjusted to modern technology so easily. You'd expect him to be all "WHAT the fuck? Where are the horses? How does this light work? What's that evil magical talking box?”


TK: No joke! Although it did look like he was talking into a Hitachi Magic Wand at one point...

VV: You mean the rotary-base phone? I totally had one of those.

TK: Did it... you know... help when it rang?

VV: Well, one time I did slip and fall on it... but that was a total accident.

TK: All seven times.

VV: No matter what the insurance company said. After the second time I started lubing it up as a preventative measure. Better safe than sorry.

TK: I'm never phoning you again.
Hey, speaking of Gendered Issues--did you notice that all the chicks became vampires and all the men became werewolves?


VV: You're right that the girls all became vamps-- there were no were bitches, but I did see some male vamps in their subterranean army at the end. IN FACT, one who I like to call "Mullet Vamp" really caught my eye. I noticed him because his plumage was so distinctive,
and also because he got thrown into the Spiky Death Pit.
And then a few minutes later was fighting again, in a different colored shirt.
Unless he had a twin.

TK: I also noticed that different werewolves were further along than others in their development. Some guys were all wolfed the fuck out, while others just kinda didn't shave.

VV: In fact, even Rufus's hairiness seemed to wax and wane. At first he was all wolfy, but then in the final battle, he was pretty much wearing a luchador mask, only made out of hair. No neck make up, no hand shading, nuthin’.

TK: Wow—you’re right! Maybe he got seduced into the modern ways of waxing?

VV: That's possible. He was definitely a quick study.

TK: Also, hanging out with those glossy, hairless luchadores must have made him feel inadequate. They are big bucket-necked hunks of manhood, after all.

VV: Indeed.


TK: I mean, El Santo has a black velvet painting of himself in his locker room!

VV: And I think the term "barrel-chested" is woefully inadequate to describe the barrelly-ness of their chests.

TK: Tank-like physique?

VV: It made me read lots into their trademark "knowing looks," which would have been full of subtext anyway.

TK: Although, in all fairness, Blue Demon is NOT a cockblocker. He lets Lina and Santo have plenty of alone time.

VV: Blue Demon is the consummate wingman.

TK: He's all like "oh no--I have STUFF to do--you go to the bank together." * WINKWINK*

VV: I really like Blue Demon better than Santo, truth be told.

TK: I think Blue Demon is more willing to let his imperfections show. He's more like you and I. If... you and I were stout rasslin’ Mexicans with shiny masks and giant red convertibles.

VV: To be fair, though, Blue Demon didn't lose a SINGLE FALL in his match, whereas El Angel Blanco made Santo shit a squealin' worm in their second fall.

TK: El Santo is more like a Jesus figure, I think.

VV: So if you and I were luchadores with convertibles, what would our handles be?

TK: Hmmm... La Loba Infernal! GirlKaiser works for me too, since Dr. Wagner is already taken.

VV: I would be "El Penguino Volidor "

TK: “The Violating Penguin...?”

VV: "The Flying Penguin.”

TK: Oh, see, that's thought-provoking too!

VV: Though the other works too. I thought you were "Dr. Satan somethingorother”

TK: Oh... “Dr. Satan-Molesto.” That's... a nickname I earned the Honest Way. By groping women while wearing a mad scientist outfit.

VV: See, you've already got your gimmick! How about finishing moves?

TK: How do you say "explosive fist" in Spanish?

VV: "puno de explosivo"

TK: Yes. That. How about the Violat--I mean FLYING Penguin?

VV: Mine would be the Amazing Ass Bomb.

TK: Does that have anything to do with the rotary phone?

VV: My lawyer says it's best not to comment on that

TK: I... have a feeling it's A Very Effective Move, then...!

VV: Yes, but it's high-risk. I could also give them the Deep Dive Penetrator maneuver. But that's been banned in 35 states.

TK: Oh boy.

VV: So Rufus actually gives Blue Demon a pretty good fight there at the end-- I admired his skill.

TK: And his blouse.

VV: Though he didn't seem to get the power boost I would have expected when he wolfed out. It seemed the same fight, only hairier.

TK: True! He was just a guy with really fast growing facial hair. Who lost the power of speech. Which is really a net loss of powers.

VV: In the scene right after his resurrection, Rufus was swaying at the shoulders quite a bit too
I couldn't tell if he was trying to look beastly, or if the actor was drunk.

TK: Pullin' a Joseph Cotton, as they call it in the biz.

VV: I wanted to say, though, that I was surprised by how decent the horror elements in this movie were. Despite Dracula's net uselessness, he did look the part, and there were a few scenes where he was directing people through hypnosis that were atmospherically lit and effective.

TK: I think that's really a realistic portrayal of a vampire. In my experience with real-life vampires, it's a lot more about the swagger than about the supernatural stuff.
It's like:
Neck-biting--Oh shit I got distracted.

VV: Fighting luchadores--I have People for that.

TK: Totally. That's how vampires roll.

VV: Also, the resurrection sequence was unterrible. You had the flame spouting gargoyles, the upside-down old man getting stuck like a pig, and the steaming skeletons, all aces. Also Eric praying to Satan most emphatically.

TK: I am ALL ABOUT the "reconstituted from skeletal remains" scene.

VV: Although...did you notice that Dracula's skeleton had its scapulas in the front?

TK: Maybe that's how vampires are built--don’t judge.

VV: It would explain his uselessness in a fight.

TK: "I can't help--my arms are rooted to my sides."


VV: Well, since one of the main Mexican wrestling moves seems to be "Throw myself head-first into my opponent's chest," I think he could have made it work. The scene where they've captured dozens of innocents to make their army and are going all bondage-scenario on them in the dungeon--that was pretty cool too. It's hard to go wrong with a girl tied down to a stone altar. Which is probably the only way Dracula could actually get the business done, come to think of it...

TK: The basement of the Vicarage is a fantasy of iron chains and big rock altars--that's what you're trying to tell me?

VV: Again, my lawyer is giving me the "shush" sign
But yes.

TK: It's ok. I will promise to only tell the internet.

VV: Did you notice the whole BDSM vibe going on throughout the flick?

TK: YES! With all the WHIPPING and DOMINATING in the ring, and how everybody who gets captured is chained up somehow.

VV: And then Blue Demon is CHAINED to the wall and he has to walk the Balance Beam of Pain while all tied up.

TK: Yes, there were indeed some Special Needs moments, proving, once again, my theory that EVERYTHING IS SEX.

VV: Like I say, those knowing looks between Santo and Blue Demon... there's more than rasslin' strategy going on there. Of course it seems that Bondage is big in many of these lucha flicks.

TK: True. And yet the women are uber-chaste! Nary a boobie to be seen anywhere, alas.

VV: How did they capture those dozens of innocents anyway? I can only assume it was Eric's doing.


TK: Seriously. Eric and the Uncharacteristically Trusting Mobsters he managed to hire.
"Who are we working for?”
"Can’t tell."

VV: "I want to meet your boss."
"No you don't."

TK: Man, I need to find help like that for the Empire.

VV: "Go to the library and bring back any stacked, shy-looking bookish chicks you find."

TK: Yeah, I don't want any of that "why?" shit. Just "I will trade you X bars of gold for Y reprehensibly immoral action."

VV: It's the beauty of Capitalism.
But back to our luchadores!
I got the impression Santo was a bit of an egotist. I mean, granted, he is THE IDOL OF MEELIONS.

TK: Kind of like Jesus.

VV: Expound on this Christ/Santo parallel that you’ve mentioned a couple of times. You've intrigued me.

TK: They were both Mexic--no that's not it

VV: OH! I know--El Angel Blanco made Santo SUBMIT with a move called the "Crucifixion."

TK: I'm pretty sure Santo must be related to God somehow. I mean, look at his name. And his fucking COOLNESS. I'm pretty sure he can turn water into wine with the sheer force of his AWESOME. And on the DVD box, his name is in the biggest font.

VV: His name is all over the credits.
"Produced by El Producer and SANTO"
"With the participation of the Government of Mexico and SANTO"
“Written by Escritorio Bueno while SANTO was watching"

TK: And that means Lina is like Mary Magdalene.
Who can also drive a forklift.
This is some serious DaVinci Code shit up in here!

VV: If Mary Magdalene could drive a forklift, the Pieta would look WAY different. In fact, she'd have totally sprung JC from Golgotha. You could easily fit the prongs of the lift under the crossbar of the cross, and Bob's your Uncle.

TK: There wouldn't BE a Pieta because El Santo would throw Pontius Pilate into a submission hold and then just take a jetpack up to heaven and continue kicking ASS.
Our Bible is much cooler.

VV: Seriously.
What about the other Cristaldi girls?

TK: Hmmm... the granddaughter had a funky haircut.
Very new wave, with its three tiers.


VV: Plus, she didn't seem too torn up that her mom was dead at the end.
Or maybe she didn't know yet.
Actually, Lina asks Santo "What will we tell her when she wakes up?"
And they say "That it was all a dream!"
"Yeah, it was all a dream. Plus, your mom's dead."

TK: "You didn't really see werewolves, but you'll need therapy for the REST OF YOUR LIFE because of your vivid dreams that your mom was a vampire."

VV: That scene where she meets her living-dead grandpa and mom in the mansion was actually almost creepy. Reminded me a bit of “Black Sabbath,” the Karloff sequence.

TK: Yes, it was a bit of a heavy sequence, right? The whole involvement of the little girl was very strange and almost superfluous. Why was she there other than to create that awkwardness at the end?! The movie would've worked even if Lina was the only other Cristaldi.

VV: Well, Santo needed someone to save after the little girl nonsensically wandered out onto the Balance Beam of Pain.

TK: Ahhhh...! See, that makes sense.

VV: Then he got to go all Errol Flynn on Rufus and Drac. He didn't even fucking NEED the dagger.

TK: Just his own two meaty paws!

VV: And an assist from Blue Demon.

TK: Blue Demon is like St. Peter. He is the rock on which the church of El Santo was built.

More, more, MORE images of Santo, Blue Demon, Dracula and Rufus Rex live over on Flickr!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Patrick Still Lives (1980): or, You Can't Hide Your Flyin' Eyes

Way back in August of 2007 I reviewed a little-known, little watched movie from 1978 called Patrick, in which a comatose pervert with telekinetic powers goes for the poltergusto with his beautiful young nurse--a course of (in)action that obviously can end only in tragedy. While it had a winning premise and a few appealing scenes, Patrick was stifled by pacing problems and a lack of willingness to "GO THERE." I wrote at the time, "[Patrick] just doesn't go far enough off the deep end to be really enjoyable...If it had been tighter, this might have been a pretty good thriller; if more inept, perhaps a so-bad-it's-good nugget of joy. As it is, unfortunately, it just comes off as mediocre."

Well, leave it to the Italians to pick up the slack and do the shit RIGHT. Directed by Italian TV specialist Mario Landi, 1980's Patrick Still Lives (Patrick Vive Ancora) throws caution to the winds, jumps in with both feet, and cranks the insanity setting up to twenty. Absolutely bursting with blood, boobs, and J&B, this sequel* takes its original movie's premise, throws in a healthy dose of mad science, revenge tragedy and alcoholic perversity, and then hits "puree." The result is, in a word, delicious.

*It should be pointed out that Patrick Still Lives is a sequel to patrick in the same way that Fulci's Zombi is a sequel to Romero's Dawn of the Dead (and hence was originally released as Zombi 2)--70s Italian film companies were not at all above appropriating/remaking/revising foreign product for domestic audiences--though not the the same extent as the Turks. You can see why they'd want to cash in on something like Dawn of the Dead, but the motivation for ripping off an obscure psi-killer movie hardly anyone saw is still a little obscure. Just chalk it up to one of history's fortunate foibles and enjoy.

The movie opens with Professor Herschell (a wonderfully weird and menacing Sacha Pitoëff) stranded on the side of the road with car trouble, while his Peter Tork-lookalike son Patrick (Italian pop-star sensation Gianni Dei) fiddles around under the hood. Tragedy is quick to strike (and I mean QUICK--as in, less than 15 seconds into the movie's runtime) when the driver of a passing car throws a bottle out the window, which hits Patrick in the face, knocking him straight into a coma! There follows some effectively creepy surgery POV shots, with Herschell looming over his unresponsive son, and then we get the credits and some kinda cool low-rent Goblin-imation music courtesy Berto Pisano that's also HEAVY on the theremin--that's a plus, kids.

This is How Science Looks

Years later, a motley group of strangers has been summoned to Dr. Hershell's asylum/clinic/bed-and-breakfast resort for a free vacation/therapy weekend. In attendance are Member of Parliament Lyndon Cough (Franco Silva) and his nymphomaniac Eurobabe wife Sheryl (Carmen Russo), Stella Randolph (Mariangela Giordano) and her may-or-may-not-be lover Peter Suniak (played to total helmet-haired, fur-chested, porn-stache Eurosleaze perfection by John Benedy), and "fortunate son" diplomat-spawn David Davis (Paolo Giusti). Dr. Herschell's freshly hired assistant Lydia Grant (the SMOKIN' HAWT Andrea Belfiore) and dog-loving housekeeper Meg (Anna Veneziano) round out the cast.

The movie wastes no time establishing that, with the possible exceptions of David and Lydia, most of the weekend guests are fairly horrible people bringing more baggage than what's contained in their suitcases. The obviously alcoholic Mr. Cough is being blackmailed by some unknown political adversary, leading to friction with Sheryl (though not of the sort she'd like--despite her penchant for walking around with her nipples poking out the top of her bra, she can't get her performance-challenged spouse to give her a parliamentary seeing-to). The also-alcoholic Stella reveals quickly that she used to be a high-priced call girl, and spills the beans on Suniak's past as a drug dealer over an uncomfortable welcoming dinner. After a glass tumbler explodes in Lydia's hand at the same dinner (leading Dr. Herschell to scold, "Ms. Grant, in the future check the crystal PERSONALLY!"), spooky-chick Meg warns David to leave the clinic before something terrible happens. Of course the hunky Mr. Davis, smitten as he is with Lydia, won't listen.

The mystery of the asploding glass is soon solved when, having seen his guests settled in for the night, Dr. Herschell moseys down to his underground lab to visit his comatose son Patrick, who thanks to Daddy's mad-scientastic ways has been imbued with murderous telekinetic powers. (How Dr. H was able to accomplish this is unclear, though it obviously has something to do with the impressive bank of buzzing machinery and trio of horribly scarred, green-lit and naked coma patients he keeps behind glass just across from Patrick's room.) Turns out Dr. Herschell has spent the last several years narrowing down his list of bottle-throwing suspects, settling at last upon the group of possible coma-causers now bickering and getting drunk in his guest rooms. Under Daddy's direction, Patrick sets about taking revenge on those who might be responsible for his affliction in the most awesome and insane ways possible.

"Daddy is a tiger, and widdle Patty is a Lion Tamer! Awww, come on, son, this used to be your favorite game!"

First to go down is Lyndon Cough, who even if he didn't toss the bottle that put Patrick under still deserves what he gets for taking an early morning swim in the type of skimpy black speedo that no sixty-year-old man should ever wear, I don't care HOW Italian he is. Once mercifully underwater, Lyndon is attacked by a pool full of dry ice and BOILED ALIVE! His Oscar-Meyered body is found the next morning by Stella, who graciously gets her tits out for the occasion. Dr. Herschell determines that Cough died of ACUTE ALCOHOLISM, which apparently is known by Italian physicians to cause spontaneous being-boiled-alive-itis. This leads him to deliver the second-most quotable line in the movie: "It's clear that Mr. Cough's death was due to a fatality!" You know, Doc, I think you may have NAILED it there!

Meanwhile, Lydia is assigned to watch over Patrick while the doctor does his mad-doctory thing, and before long the horny terror is putting the telekinetic moves on her, asploding more glasses in her hand, typing messages like "I am waiting for you" on her office IBM Selectic, and hiking her skirt up with the power of his mind. (Note to self--subscribe to Pazzia Scienza Mensili STAT.)

Back at another distinctly Malabimbesque dinner scene, Stella comes in drunk and starts shit with the grieving widow Cough, leading to an energetic cat fight that coincidentally features a thinly veiled pussy. Embarassed by his friend's behavior, Suniak escorts Stella back to her room and pours all her J&B down the sink. When she tries to assuage him with sex, he replies archly, "I usually bang women, not whiskey bottles!" Stella shoots back that "The drugs have turned you into a faggot!" She shouldn't oughta said it, though, as Suniak blasts her with the all-time discussion ender prize-winner: "DIE ALONE, WHORE!"

Really, what can you say in response to that?

Patrick is just as surprised as you are, folks.

Things get sleazier and crazier at an alarming pace from here on out. Davis gets some disturbing messages from his inexplicable hobby-deck of tarot cards, Stella tries her seduction powers out on him only to get the shit slapped out of her repeatedly by the up-until-now hero of the piece, and Davis pays for his hooker-beatin' ways when Patrick forces him to hang himself over a well by a conveniently-placed steel hook through the neck!

Just when you think things couldn't get sleazier or more perverse, Stella goes down to the kitchen for a midnight snack and finds a flayed rabbit/dog/squirrel or something in the fridge--for no reason that's immediately apparent--and when Patrick finally gets around to doling out his telekinetic vengeance on the drunken former working girl...well, let's just say you might think twice before ordering the rotisserie chicken next time you're at the deli.

This movie just doesn't let up once it gets rolling, either. Patrick uses his psi-powers to summon Lydia to his room, plays Strip Nude for Your Paralytic, and engages her in hands-off psychic sex in a lengthy, awesome scene. Meanwhile Suniak and the Widow Cough try to escape, but the multi-tasking coma-god uses carbon monoxide and power-windows to make short work of them. It seems justice has been served, albeit with collateral damage (a medical technician is electocuted for no reason, and the presumably innocent Meg goes for a nude stroll and gets eaten by her dogs Jezebel-style), but when Papa Herschell informs his son that Lydia is also on the bottle-chucking shortlist, Patrick must decide whether to stick with the plan or make a last-minute revision to the scheme. No points for guessing which he goes for.

Coma Chameleons

Patrick Still Lives is a movie so insane, it could really be the poster child for "Only in Italian Exploitation" category. Gore, nudity, perversity and wild plot-developments galore, the movie just keeps giving and giving it to you until the climactic non-ending wraps everything up in one sleaze-dripping package.

As if that weren't enough, the disc from Media Blasters/Shriek Show also offers an interview with producer Gabriele Crisanti (who also produced sleaze epics Malabimba the Malicious Whore, Satan's Baby Doll, Mondo Cane 3, and Burial Ground) who has a lot of interesting things to say about the production--for instance, that Stella's sleazetastic death scene was not scripted, but conceived on-set after the writer had a bitter argument with the actress. (FWIW, that TOTALLY makes sense.) There's also an interview with aging pop star and total man-of-leisure Gianni Dei, who despite his high-billing and massive immobile screentime admits that he doesn't even remember the movie.

So if you're a lover of Italian Sleaze, Gore, and Sexploitation films, Patrick Still Lives is really more than you could even ask for. An improvement on the original in every way, this one gets 3 thumbs for sheer audacity. See this one. You won't believe your floating green eyes.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mondo Topless (1966): or, It's Exactly What You Think It Is

If at any point in your life you've wondered whether you could EVER get tired of watching naked Amazon beauties shaking their bodacious ta-tas in your face in the most shamless, joyful way possible, Russ Meyer's Mondo Topless will solve that little mystery for you. Possibly the most absolutely pure distillation of an eccentric director's visual obsessions ever committed to film, this movie offers a solid hour of gigantic bouncing boobs in just about every configuration, all expertly filmed in Meyer's trademark crisp, primary color style, without any consideration of such things as "plot," "character," or anything else that might dilute the filmmaker's glorious, neurotic vision. If you make it to the end credits and find yourself still thinking "Go baby GO!", then congratulations: you're an insatiable perv.

As the name implies, Mondo Topless is patterned after the infamous "Mondo" documentary films that were all the rage in the 60s and 70s. However, whereas the 1962 genre-creator Mondo Cane and its many imitators focused on real-life scenes of animal cruelty, grevious human injury, and strange (often gruesome) cultural practices from the far-flung corners of the globe to shock and titillate audiences, Meyer instead turns his lens on the world of topless dancers. (At the time of filming, topless dancing was still considered largely underground and shockingly perverse by most Americans, restricted in the public mind at least to hellholes of cultural depravity like San Francisco and New York City.) The result is something more than the nudie-cutie drive-in and grindhouse reels that had been the repressed US's main expression of naked-lady fetishism up to that point--it comes across as part documentary, part satire, and all a 100% unfiltered glimpse into Meyer's personal psychosexual fixations.

Translated: free-spirited girls with absolutely colossal breasts shakin' 'em like Polaroids to an endless surf-guitar soundtrack. That's the show, folks. Interested?

Of course you are.

These are the jokes, folks.

Like I said earlier, there's really no plot to speak of here. The whole thing is presented in documentary style, with some of the most hypertensive narration you could imagine laid over a one-hour montage of boob-shaking Meyer girls. Narrator and Meyer-comrade John Furlong (who also provided the spectacular opening narration for Meyer's masterpiece Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) waxes all Fruedian poetic at top volume, reeling off a series of some of the most groan-worthy double-entendres possible. Here are a few of the gems we get along our Grand Tetons Travelogue:

"This is San Francisco calling! ...With its BULGING PEAKS and DEEP CANYONS, Wide-eyed tourists and vacationeers are still dragged to [the city's] CAPACIOUS BOSOM!"

Furlong gets even more worked up when he moves from double-entendres to straight-out single entendres:


"Darlene Gray--England's answer to THE BIGGEST AND THE BEST!"

"Greta Thornwald, the Nordic Nymph, whose pulchritude is unrivaled by any showgirl in Denmark!"



Shake 'em, don't break 'em,
it took your momma 9 months to make 'em.

Merely reading those lines can't do the narration justice. There were times when I was seriously worried for Furlong's blood-pressure levels--like the go-go club customers in FPKK!, he often sounds more pissed off than titillated, ready to pop a vital blood vessel at any given moment. Furlong's voice-work is so over the top that many have pointed to it as evidence of Meyer's sly satirical wit--however, I'm not at all sure it wasn't meant to be taken seriously.

"BUT ENOUGH OF THIS PALAVER!" (As Furlong screams early on.) What about the girls? Well, they run the gamut from "cute and vivacious" to "kind of scary looking" to "weathered but with great knockers" to "OMFG HOW DOES SHE WALK?" The prize-winner in the latter category is definitely the aforementioned Darlene Gray, who talks about the hardships of having to buy a plus-size dress and then take in the waist to her more modest sub-boobular proportions.

During the lengthy dance sequences, the girls all respond to interview questions about life as a topless dancer, the difference between "topless" and "exotic" dancing (answer: exotic is more about sensuality, topless more about "fun"--i.e., shakin' your money-makers), and their typically free-wheeling attitudes about sex. Probably the most entertaining of these interview segments are those with Sin Lenee and Babette Bardot. Linee is probably the most svelte and least-endowed of the dancers here, and is presented as a kind of flower-child free spirit, always wearing a long strand of love-beads while she moves to the music. For instance, she talks about how she loves being out "in a bunch of green" (the color), and later muses in a far-out voice "Almost any type of music makes me feel sex. Also, color makes me feel sex."

A typical (and awesome) Meyer-ian shot

Bardot, on the other hand, is all Euro-sex kitten, and has some strong opinions on the subject of seduction. "I don't believe a woman should tease a man unless she's going to give him something," she opines early on, and later makes fun of the roundabout seduction techniques of American males. "If he wants sex, he should SAY he wants it! Not say, 'Oh, would you like to see my stamp collection.' Unless he really wants to show his stamp collection, which is nice, but if he wants sex, he should say it!" That's the kind of wisdom we're getting here.

Other than that it's all surf-guitar and Furlong, who narrates a few European dance numbers from Belgium, Paris, and Denmark (which are obviously NOT photographed in Europe, but rather on the same draped studio set--two of the models, supposedly nations apart, even sport the same leather belt) and some other strange sequences, such as Babette's opening nude drive through San Francisco, an underwater photography sequence, and a delineation of what it takes to be a successful topless dancer:

"A body well above the average in physical beauty, unblemished by an uneven suntan! A bustline that is firm and youthful! The topless dancer's face as well must bear an equal burden with the body, encouraging sensuous and provocative expression, supplementing her physically exciting figure!"

Buxotic: It's like Quixotic, only it's not windmills you're tilting at, IYKWIM...

Made immediately after Faster Pussycat! Kill Kill! and two years before his next big success Vixen!, Mondo Topless may very well be the closest Meyer ever came to filming what was actually going on in his vibrantly twisted imagination. Despite all the flesh on display throughout, there is no actual sex anywhere in the movie--in fact, save for a few street scenes and Furlong's maniacal voice, no male figures of any description appear at all. It's all just rock music, smiling faces, and big bouncing breasts.

Meyer, who despite his title as "King of the Nudies" was on the record as being disgusted by hardcore and graphic simulated sex scenes (in his later movies he did film some of these, but reportedly always for financial rather than artistic reasons), preferred the joyful, innocently sexual pin-up mystique to just about anything else, and it shows here--all the girls in Mondo Topless seem to be having a blast, rocking out to the surf-guitar and reveling in their feminine beauty. For Meyer, it must have been a little slice of heaven.

For viewers used to plot and character and "stuff making sense," Mondo Topless may prove a bit wearing. Even with its scant 1-hour runtime, I found myself fast-forwarding through some of the less-inspired dance numbers. But as a cultural artifact and a document of a fascinatingly twisted filmmaker's not-so-secret obsessions, Mondo Topless is aces. 2.5 thumbs from your friendly Vicar.

Talk to me, baby!

Yes, they're reel.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Count Dracula's Great Love (1974): or, Naschy Sez Suck It

Over the course of his long, storied, and continuing career, Paul Naschy has done his best to portray as many of the Classic Monsters as possible. He's put in memorable turns as The Devil, a Warlock, a Hunchback, a Zombie, Mr. Hyde, The Mummy, Jack the Ripper, and of course the Wolf Man in one of the most memorable and entertaining werewolf sagas in cinematic history. He was even a sort of pseudo-Frankenstein's monster in Crimson--if he could work in an invisible alien Gillman ghost somehow, I think he will have hit for the cycle. And of course he also gave it a go as the King of the Undead in this 1974 effort, Count Dracula's Great Love (aka Cemetery Girls).

The result is a film that even I, a hardened Naschy-phile if ever there was one, have to admit is problematic. There's a lot here that had me cheering and grinning like and eedjit--an inventive if convoluted twist on the vampire mythology, some hugely entertaining vampire-seduction and monster-battle scenes, and a level of beautiful bare flesh that's pleasingly high, even for the Mighty Molina. But the movie suffers from pacing problems all the way through, and somewhere toward the end gets bogged down in ponderous voice-over and energy-challenged plotting from which it never fully recovers. The final product, while still worthy of your 90 minutes, has to be ranked as one of Naschy's lesser efforts by even his most fervent worshipers.

Even a lesser Naschy effort has its pleasures, however, and Count Dracula's Great Love is no exception. We open with two workmen delivering a large box to the basement of the "Klinik de Cargos," an abandoned sanitarium near the infamous Borgo Pass that is about to be reopened by the mysterious Dr. Wendell Marlow. The two men prove themselves as unscrupulous as such characters always are, and quickly open the crate to discover a coffin with a fanged female skeleton inside! (You can tell it's female from the luxurious head of hair.) Not long afterward a mysterious caped figure attacks, ripping the throat out of one would-be robber and burying an axe in the other's head, sending him rolling down the stairs--an image repeated in slow-mo, again and again, under the opening credits. I don't know why Dracula is axing people, but the effect is actually quite good, as you can see.

Wave your freakin' garlic at THAT, tough guy!"

Next we join a stagecoach making a bumpy trans-sylvanian trip. Inside is a veritable who's who of Naschyfilm collaborators: Vic Winner (Horror Rises from the Tomb, Vengeance of the Zombies, Hunchback of the Morgue) as Imre, Rosanna Yanni (Frankenstein's Bloody Terror, Hunchback of the Morgue) as tall sensuous sex-kitten Senta, and Mirta Miller (Dr. Jekyll and the Wolf Man, Vengeance of the Zombies) as nervous comic relief Elke. Also along are Naschy Newbies Ingrid Garbo as Imre's beautiful and not-quite-virginal girlfriend Marlene, and Haydée Politoff as the totally virginal good-girl Karen.

Imre spends his time regaling the girls with a brief summary of Stoker's novel, as well as the intriguing backstory of the nearby sanitarium's previous owner, who was something of a mad phlebotomist. I forget where these travelers are headed and why they're all going there together, but it becomes a moot point when a wheel goes flying off the stagecoach bringing their trek to a halt. In the aftermath the stagecoach driver (who is hilariously dubbed with a Gunsmoke's Festus-style accent--he may be in Transylvania, but he's still driving a stagecoach!) gets kicked in the head by one of the horses after they're spooked by that famous sampled wolf howl. The horses escape and run off into the woods, stranding our heroes. (If you see the animals still harnessed to the coach in the very next scene, ignore it--it's an optical illusion.)

Of course at that point there's nothing to be done except for Imre to lead his four emissaries of bonneted hotness up to the sanitarium, in the hopes that the new owner will lend a hand. Of course Dr. Marlow is at home, and he is none other than Paul Naschy himself. He opens the door dressed in a smart suit and bearing a candelabra, and wastes no time extending his hospitality to the women IYKWIM. Despite being quite alone in the mansion, Paul is the picture of suave sophistication, and invites them all to stay with him for a few days until the next supply wagon comes through.

The mouth says "Welcome," but the smirk says "I'll be taking charge of the women now, thank you."

Once in their bedroom and sporting some thoroughly modern nightgowns, Senta and Elke start the expected slumber party girl-talk. Elke claims not to be interested in Marlow because "I like my men slimmer." "Not me," Senta asserts. "I like my men STRONG. Did you see his shoulders?" Elke tut-tuts her friend's sluttiness. "You'd flirt with a broom if it had pants!" As if that were a bad thing.

Over the next few nights strange things begin to happen around the mansion. Dr. Marlow never seems to be around during the day (he claims to be out "hunting"), and never sits down to dine with the group. Not ones to let such things bother them too much, the girls set about being as awesomely slutty as possible. Imre and Marlene get it on quite energetically every chance they get, and the other girls (with the exception of Karen) get naked at the drop of a bonnet as well--even skinny-dipping in the sanatorium's pool in one memorable scene. Karen keeps her kit on but does get a couple of nice spotlights herself, as when she opens the door to a mysterious room only to have a stage hand launch a black cat at her, or later when the now-vampirized worker attacks her in the middle of a storm! Paul comes to the rescue and sends the vampire scurrying, but tells the rest of the group Karen simply fainted. It's almost as if he's got something to hide...

"So the guy says, 'I haven't had a bite in days!'..."

Left to their own devices during the daytime, the girls start snooping, and soon Senta discovers the Book of the Film and lets us in on Paul's interesting but over-complicated re-imagining of the Dracula mythos:

"...Dracula is immortal--he is a sadistic beast, and what's more, a devil that follows Man wherever he may go. It's possible for us to destroy his carnal existence; the devilish perversity that exists in Dracula will reincarnate itself. Once more, terror and death for all of us, and for all humanity!... I'm also afraid that his cruel daughter Rodna will return in the same way..from her ashes will generate a new Dracula. Therefore, each generation will know a Dracula in a completely new form, a thousand times more perverse than the ones before!"

While the whole "Rodna" thing is a definite WTF here, I have to admit I like the idea of the constantly reincarnated Dracula, coming back in a new form to terrorize each successive generation. However, for some reason this mythology was not enough for Paul--he had to inject some romance into the Dracula characterization as well, and so added a few more clauses to the vampire rules: Rodna can only be resurrected by the blood of a "true virgin" who falls in love with Dracula "in the normal way," i.e. of her own free will; therefore, for the whole bat-phoenix thing to take place, Drac has to get a pure girl to fall for him and then sacrifice her for his own eventual resurrection. With me so far?

Yes, it's a twist on the famous Daninsky werewolf lore: just as a werewolf can only truly be killed by a woman who loves him, Dracula can only be reincarnated if he kills a woman who loves him--with the added caveat that she has to be a virgin. (Lucky for Waldemar this isn't a requirement for HIS release.) Presumably this is Marlow's motivation for hosting the four Eurohotties at his abode--surely ONE of them will succumb to his undead sexiness, and then he can raise his daughter, burn her to ashes, and get himself a new skinsuit. What could be simpler, right?

Am I the only one here with a Vampire Bulge?

While the audience is still scratching its collective head over the ins and outs of the movie's vampire mythology, things heat up a little when Imre is attacked and bitten in the hallway by Dracula's vampire henchman, thus removing the one male hero possibility from the mix. Quickly thereafter Imre visits Marlene's room again, leading to a reprise of their earlier sex scene but this time with bloody, sexy results. (A shot with the amorous vampire drawing his lips down Marlene's bare breasts, leaving a trail of blood, is a standout.)

Unfazed by the disappearance of their friends, the rest of the girls go for a walk in the woods at dusk the next day, and Senta gets her foot caught in one of Marlow's traps. (That's an allegory, kids.) Back at the manor house Paul cleans Senta's wound, his stoic suaveness broken by crazy-eyed bloodlust. He's not the only one lusting, as it turns out, and soon he and Senta are making sweet Carpathian love in her room. (That's one way to keep your legs elevated, I guess.) Of course it turns out Senta is *not* the true virgin Paul was looking for, and so it's back to the drawing board for Drac. While all this happens, Marlene comes to Elke in trademark slo-mo vampvision, giving us a nice near-lesbonic biting scene.

Frustrated by his failure to bang a virgin, Dracula goes in search of his last best hope, Karen. Unfortunately the turned and insatiable Imre is also looking for her, and Paul has to come to his would-be victim's rescue, fighting off a vampire you'd think he could just command to leave her alone. I can't argue with the logic too much, though, as the scene climaxes with Paul picking up the rogue vamp and BODYSLAMMING HIM OUT A SECOND STORY WINDOW! Definitely one of the top defenestrations in cinema history. I had to stand up and cheer.

Paul in all his Dracular glory

From this point on the movie really seems to lose the thread. Far from the thousand-times more perverse incarnation Van Helsing's book warned about, Paul's Count is clearly a gentleman and a romantic, as evidenced by one scene in which he frees a fluffy bunny from one of his snares. (Awwwww....) This doesn't stop him from making a meal of a cowboy-voiced villager who gets caught in one of his hunting traps, however. He also really seems to have trouble keeping his minions in line, and we get a few more scenes of Dracula battling his own feral vampire slaves in defense of Karen, who has of course fallen hard for the count, just like in the plan. Meanwhile the Vampire Women ravage the countryside in atmospheric slow-mo, scything one innocent bystander in a barn before performing an amazing 2-story leap to the window of a village girl, whom they kidnap and take back to the manor for Rodna's coming-out party. (The slide-whistle sound-effect here is the only thing that spoils an otherwise terrific attack scene.)

The ceremony in the manor basement is another nonsensical yet still-cool set-piece. At various times we get the Brides of Naschy whipping the village virgin to bloody nudity and then licking the still-oozing wounds, lots of red velvet and candelabra action, and an amazing sequence where Dracula puts a dagger all the way through Karen's neck without harming her! I don't know what black magic book they're using, but I'm definitely checking with my local library.

Things unravel at the end, as Vamp-Senta gets jealous of Karen the Virgin and tries to screw up the ceremony, leading to Pauline Penetration that is NOT of the sort she was hoping for. The entire climax of the film is narrated through very clumsy voice-over while the actors mope around in dumb show--even Paul seems somnambulent here. Karen finally agrees to be Dracula's bride and we get some nice now-you-see-him, now-you-don't mirror makeout shots (I think this is almost a Naschy trademark by now), after which Paul disposes of his remaining brides in a scene that Anne Rice may have blatantly ripped off years later. When Karen gets cold feet, however, Dracula is finally brought down, staked by the only person in the world manly enough to accomplish such a feat.

If it was up yer butt you'd know it.

In the end, Count Dracula's Great Love is a movie made up of many great parts that sadly fail to come together into something truly spectacular. The leaden pace and clumsy voice-over hurt it, although a patient viewer will be rewarded with some of the cool set-pieces described above. Javier Aguirre, who also directed the excellent Hunchback of the Morgue, manages a few atmospheric shots in the sanatorium's catacombs, but the terrible day-for-night scenes don't do the flick any favors. And the print on the BCI/Eclipse DVD, while likely the best they could do, is still in terrible shape--the wear shows worst on the "sexy" scenes that were excised inserted for export, but excised for its original showing in its native Spain--the washed out colors and blurred edges almost keep you from concentrating on the boobs. Almost.

Paul looks fantastic in full Dracular gear, of course, but much as it pains me to second-guess Jacinto, I can't help wondering how much more awesome it would have been had he played the King of the Vampires as more Alaric de Marnac and less Waldemar Daninsky. A viciously evil blood-drinking Paul rampaging remorselessly through the countryside--you have to admit, that would be SWEET.

As for this movie, it's not the best Naschy I've ever seen, but even lesser Naschy is worth the fantastique fan's time, imo. 2.25 thumbs for the parts that are greater than their sum, the ample Euroflesh on display, and Paul in his red-lined cape and widow's peak intoning "My friend Satan is with us!" Which is the kind of line that would improve ANY movie. It's like horror MSG.

"Look deep into my eyes..."

"You are getting very..."



Nota Bene: BCI/Eclipse's recent pressing of the flick as part of its "Welcome to the Grindhouse" double-fature series (along with "Vampire Hookers") inexplicably uses the less awesome and entirely misleading title "Cemetery Girls"--not only does that say nothing about Dracula, there isn't even a cemetery set to be found anywhere in the flick! Not only that, but once you pop the DVD in, the disc menus all say "Count Dracula's Great Love," as do the opening credits. I'm not sure what the reasons were for this executive decision, but I hope they were good ones.


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