Number 1: Don't Deliver Us from Evil (1971)
Full Review Here.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Imagine a standard Old Dark House/Inheritance Reading set-up, in a decrepit mansion that may be haunted by a spirit hell-bent on familial revenge. Imagine that the list of inheritors is composed of a short oversexed blonde in thrall to the spirit's lust-inducing powers on one hand, and a Hawt School Marm with her zoot suit-wearing lipstick-lesbian lover on the other. Now imagine a brother-and-sister ghostbusting team just happens to arrive hours before the will is read, and that the spirit's sexy powers awaken the woman's incestuous lust in hopes of preventing her from revealing the truth. Imagine the housekeeping staff is made up entirely of a lesbian witch coven, all stern unsmiling servants by day and Laugh-In Go-Go Dancers of Satan by night. Finally, imagine the evil spirit in question is not just a spirit, but a Lesbian Vampire Queen whom the head housekeeper wants to resurrect so she can get some 500-year-old lovin'.
Now--imagine that such a movie ACTUALLY EXISTS, was directed by the man responsible for Deep Throat 2 and Inside Little Oral Annie, and boasts an all-German cast who deliver their English lines entirely through phonetics!
I swear--sometimes a guy just hits the Trash Movie JACKPOT.
Vampire Ecstasy (aka The Devil's Plaything) hits the ground running and never slows down. We open with with a naked woman chained to a stake under the main titles--always a good start--and then quickly switch to a witchy ceremony with the aforementioned coven, all in diaphanous gowns and metal circlet headresses. As pseudo-Arabic music plays in the background, the witches drop their diaphanes to reveal Leia Slave-Girl Bikinis and Goldie Hawn-body paint, circa 1969. It's all so beautiful, the lesbo-fondling just before the director's credit really isn't necessary--but I'm still glad it's there.
Helga (Swedish porn starlet Marie Forså) is just disembarking. Passenger fashions and other clues let us know we're in the present day, which makes Helga's lack of suspicion at the Renaissance Faire coach and driver sent to pick her up all the more endearing.
Turns out Helga is one of the last two living descendants of the owners of the castle on the moors, and has come to hear the reading of her late aunt's will. As the coach bears her further and further from civilization--or at least the train station--she seems to go back in time as well; once she arrives at the castle and is met by three weird sisters in black sack dresses and schoolmarm buns, she might as well be in medieval Bohemia.
Not long after that the OTHER cousin arrives at the castle (on foot, strangely): dark-haired and shy-looking Monika (the aptly named Ulrike Butz) accompanied by her lesbian lover, who we know is a lesbian because of her 1940s Gangster-style pin-stripe suit and fedora. The two are welcomed--though such is hardly the right word--by head housekeeper Wanda Krock (the amazing Nadia Henkowa), one of the sternest, most menacing Teutonic housekeepers it's ever been my pleasure to meet. Refusing to let the hot girlfriends sleep in the same room, Frau Krock isolates them and instructs them to wait until their late aunt's will can reveal who will be the mistress of the manor.
Julia (Anke Syring) and Peter (Nico Wolf) stranded and in need of shelter. As luck would have it, Julia is studying the local folklore and superstitions of the area for a book she's writing, and just HAPPENS to know that the original owner of the castle, Baroness Dania, was a vampire and a witch burned at the stake many centuries ago. Oh, and also that Dania cursed the descendants of her killers from her pyre (like you do), promising to be resurrected through their bloodline to wreak her evil vengeance on their souls.
Now, having deftly maneuvered all his pieces into place, Director Joe Sarno decides to celebrate a job well-done in the traditional way: with a NAKED SATANIC GO-GO DANCE OUTTA NOWHERE!
I just have to stop here for a moment and sing the geeky praises of Nadia Henkowa as the inestimable Frau Krock. I've seen a lot of Sexy Germanic Ice Queens in my time, but Frau Krock is really in a class by herself for sternness, authoritarian snappishness, and general icy menace. Simply put, Frau Krock is AWESOME. She's a woman who would just as soon snap your neck as say hello, and you can sense it in every twitch of her well-developed sneering muscles.
Not only that, but when it comes to the Devil's Go-Go Party, she's got a bod that won't quit and she's not at all afraid to use it. In the celebratory coven dance Frau Krock takes a leading role, as groovy and watery in the joints as any Laugh-In dancer ever was--except she does it with the same stern, icy poker face, as if this were not a dance of joy, but merely a necessary task to be accomplished with maximum mirthless efficiency. The juxtaposition of that face and that pumping paint-covered naked bod is startling, and affecting in a deep emotional way IYKWIMAITYD.
It doesn't take long for the coven's black magic to have its effect on the overnight guests--and since this coven specializes in black magic of the SEXY variety, it yields supernaturally Sexy Results. Helga and Peter are both plagued with ultra-realistic fuck-dreams, leading Helga to to sleepwalk, both in her diaphanous nightgown and out of it. (Zang.) Meanwhile Peter merely gasps and writhes on his bed while Julia watches over him, obviously more affected by the sight than mere sisterly affection will allow. Overcome with the sexy, Julia starts feeling herself up and playing pet-the-kitty while watching her brother's happy dream. Whether this is the coven's spell at work or Julia's own filthiness at play is left for the audience to judge. Still, worried that something wicked just might make her come, Julia adorns herself and her brother with crosses made of garlic, just to be safe.
Suffering from an uncontrollable case of all-consuming horniness, Helga goes to Frau Krock and begs her to "make the throbbing stop!" This is all part of Krock's eeevil plan, of course, as she explains to the panting Eurobabe:
"Some spells make you seethe with unfulfilled desires--make your juices flow, hot and burning...your fingers want in, the flames of Hell set your nipples afire and open your womb to the will of her priestesses!"I wonder if they offer correspondence courses?
Krock promises Helga she'll take the Sexy away if the girl will rob Peter of his garlic cross, since Pete has taken a fancy to Helga, and furthermore he and Julia are descendants of the knight who turned the Baroness over to the Inquisition all those years ago; hence Krock wants Peter to mate with the Baroness's true descendant Monika in order to complete her promised resurrection and revenge. Of course the monkey wrench in all this is Julia, who plays the incestuous, brother-humping Van Helsing to Frau Krock's awesome Germanic Renfield. Are you with me so far?
From here on out it's just one sexy horror after another. Pushed on by forces in her crotch she can no longer control, Helga seduces Monika's lesbian lover in a hay loft before delivering her to the coven in the basement, where the girl is hypnotized and made to squat over a gigantic conical candle while another coven member has sex with a hogtied muscleman on the altar. All this under Frau Krock's stern, emotionless eye, naturally. Later Helga succeeds in taking Peter's garlic away, Monika is possessed by the spirit of Baroness Dania and has a long sex scene with Peter while Helga humps a waist-high candle in the background, and Frau Krock offers Julia all the Luscious Pete that she can eat if she'll join the coven and stop being such a square already.
Oh, and some of the candles in the coven room are shaped like penises--though not the ones being used as happy-funtime-playtoys, oddly.
Vampire Ecstasy is 100% out-of-control sexy vampire goodness from start to finish, with enough devil-worship, deviance, and go-go dancing to fill three such films. The principals are all attractive and frequently naked--Forså in particular does well as the out-of-control innocent Helga--and the bit players in the coven are at least as sexy as any of the stars. And as if the crazy plotting were not enough, the thick German or Scandinavian accents from everyone involved adds another level of madcap unreality--seriously, I'd be shocked if anybody onscreen actually understood a syllable of English; more than once I had to turn the subtitles on just to translate what's meant to be my mother tongue.
Sarno's background in porn is more than apparent here, and while even the uncut version Vampire Ecstasy (accept no subtitutes!) is definitely softcore, it's the kind of softcore that stops *just* short of the line. Lesbianism, incest, bondage, blood--there's something here for just about every pervy taste this side of Slave of the Cannibal God. (And in the name of God and the ASPCA, please stay on *this* side of Slave of the Cannibal God!) However, Sarno's artistic aspirations are in evidence as well, as the director gets many truly beautiful shots and shows off an occasional flair for interesting composition, particularly in the vampire seduction and garlic-cross standoff scenes.
But the real revelation here is Frau Krock, one of my new favorite villainesses of all time. Nadia Henkowa just OWNS the movie; the screen is barely big enough to contain her. Her evil exchanges with her victims and her devilish tempting of Julia are standouts, as are her amazing dance numbers. Stern-beyond-sternness, dominating, and strangely sexy, Henkowa adds a full half-thumb through sheer force of personality.
NEEDED the bonus. For audacity, frenetic pacing, blood-sex-magic and wall-to-wall MADNESS, Vampire Ecstasy easily grabs the coveted 3+ thumb rating. Stuff your boxers with garlic and see this one NOW.
Monday, January 26, 2009
It's a time-honored truth that a man will do almost anything for a woman he loves. He will go to war, risking death and dismemberment just to appear brave in her eyes. He will make himself a fool in the world's opinion, just to see her smile. He will travel great distances, climb insurmountable peaks and traverse impassable rivers in hope of the reward of her kiss. He will risk everything--financial security, personal ruin, even eternal damnation--for one night by his beloved's side. Whether because of genetic programming or something more romantic, spiritual and mysterious, a man will do just about anything for love.
He will even watch a zany Italian comedy like Mariano Laurenti's near-mirthless 1972 effort, Ubalda, All Naked and Warm.
Fortunately, in this case, love-object Edwige Fenech is NOT a tease.
It's not for nothing that foreign-language comedies rarely make the leap across the pond to widespread acclaim in the US. Comedy is hard, and it's even harder to translate. Just think of how many of your favorite jokes depend on an in-depth knowledge of cultural customs and attitudes (and the consequences of their transgression) in order to work; think of all the punchlines that draw laughter because one word sounds so very like another, unspoken word, or because a character inadvertently repeats a bit of bawdy slang. Little wonder that many of the comedies that *do* make the leap rely instead on pratfalls and fart jokes.
NoShame Films did the best they could with this lovingly put-together DVD. An info-blurb at the beginning of the movie asserts that "Given the linguistic peculiarity of the dialog, the English subtitles have been adapted to preserve the irony" and verbal playfulness of the original. I applaud the effort, but again, some things apparently just don't translate well. Either that, or the Italian sense of humor is far broader and more juvenile than I would have preferred to think.
As with most comedies of the OMG ZANY variety, Ubalda establishes a basic frame in the beginning and then hangs as many crazy set-pieces on it as possible throughout the remaining reels. Sometime in the Middle Ages, rural farmer and all-around goofball Olimpio (big-nosed, rubber-faced comic Pippo Franco) has been away to war, and is now returning to his village of "Watch-the-Hole" where his improbably gorgeous wife Fiamma (Karin Schubert) is waiting for him. Worried about her fidelity, Olimpio has fitted his wife with a chastity belt, which he obviously just can't wait to get home and unlock.
We meet Olimpio on the road to Watch-the-Hole and suffer through a few sight gags (His visor keeps falling down when he tries to get a drink! When he gets the water at last, it sprays out of his body like a Tom & Jerry cartoon!) before he meets up with and tries to rob a traveling monk, Il Frate Manesco (Pino Ferrara). The holy man gets the better of him easily, then invites the starving soldier to dinner, giving the ugly Franco a chance to brag about his romantic conquests. A sampling of the hilarity:
Monk: Have women always fallen for you?
Olimpio: They died for me!
Monk: For your charm?
Olimpio: No, I had an infectious disease!
The soldier and holy man travel together for a while, giving Olimpio the chance to attempt hilarious rape on a village girl (this is the cultural thing I'm talking about--rape as humor! Then again, the girl is not exactly unwilling, which I guess is part of the joke), from which the horny friar rescues her and then "cancels her sins with his holy body." Laffin' yet?
Eventually Olimpio makes it back to Watch-the-Hole, and nobody cares, least of all his wife. Fiamma and her many lovers have found the holes in Olimpio's security measures IYKWIMAITYD, leading to a scene in which the oblivious husband bathes while Fiamma empties the house of a half-dozen men she has stowed in trunks, barrels, closets, and even under the marriage bed. (As a reward for sitting through this "comedy," we do get to watch Schubert bathe and prance around fully nude, showing off a frankly yummy bod--so that's something, anyway.)
Olimpio's troubles mount when Fiamma informs him that she's taken a two-week vow of chastity to St. Fertility in exchange for his safe return from the war. Upset, Olimpio details his hardships: "Six months of abstinence! I didn't even get a goat!" Much more humor is wrung out of Olimpio's attempts to get Fiamma to forget her oath, including the old 'he slips his hand under her dress and gets it snapped in a mousetrap' gag. ("You could at least add a little cheese!" Olimpio quips, in a joke I hope is less disgusting in Italian than in English.)
Oderisi (Umberto D'Orsi), has similar problems. His heart-stoppingly gorgeous bride Ubalda (Edwige Fenech, absolutely ROCKING the period costumes and braided auburn wig) goes into a faint every time he wants to make love, a malady he's sure has nothing to do with his being an old, fat, disgusting slob. Insanely jealous of the strapping young mill workers he employs, Oderisi has likewise fitted his wife with Iron Panties, which are just as effective as Olimpio's at keeping Ubalda from banging every man-jack in the tri-village area. When Olimpio and a super-gay notary drop by the mill to settle a boundary dispute, the soldier falls head-over-cock for the miller's wife and sets about devising ways to get his hands on her huge tracts of land.
Enough cannot be said about the absolute gob-smacking gorgeousness of Edwige Fenech in this movie. She's really the person for whom the term OMG SMOKIN' HAWT ZANG! was invented. Add the aforementioned period gowns and luscious auburn glory, and it's no wonder the mill workers all start humping the flour sacks uncontrollably whenever she's around; by God, you'd do the same. And perhaps out of compassion and pity for the viewer, Edwige is not at all reticent about dropping her dirndl for the camera. I don't know if she's naked more often than not in the movie, but the percentages have GOT to be close.
And thank God for that, because otherwise the movie would be unbearable. As you could predict, the rest of the runtime involves Olimpio trying to get past Oderisi and into Ubalda's metallic lingerie, which he almost manages once by posing as a gay painter commissioned by the local Duke to do her nude portrait. (Of course the plan fails due to Olimpio's ZANY inability to keep his fake moustache on.) We get more silliness with the monk, who also hates Oderisi and tries to help Olimpio with his plan (when he's not with the local barmaid, absolving her sins like a mad jackrabbit). There's more scheming from Fiamma and her lovers (leading to an out-of-place and kind of disturbing near-death scene for Olimpio--brained by a morningstar, he falls against a wall and slides down, leaving a trail of blood on the plaster), and a final agreement between the horny, feuding neighbors that involves swapping keys and making the best of things.
a frequently nude Fenech all but cancels those concerns out. An early dream sequence in which Edwige runs in slow motion through a field wearing nothing but her chastity belt, stockings, and an impossibly ornate veil is worth sitting through the movie twice for. Later scenes where she strips and poses for the "painter" are so goddamn beautiful they ought to be on loops in museums. Whenever Edwige is on screen, the badness of everything before it just melts away, leaving you in a wonderful, brightly-colored happy place. (And Karin Schubert is no slouch, either.) But unfortunately Edwige can't be onscreen *all* the time, and whenever she's not, the Deep Hurting starts again.
To be fair, there are a few lines that are almost funny. For instance, Olimpio's theology discussion with the monk gave me a small smile. ("Are you at peace with God?" "Yes--well, we say hi, but we don't really talk.") Also, a late scene the crazed blacksmith/chastity belt inventor shows Olimpio and then Oderisi his Panties of Penile Destruction led to a joke that actually evinced a small chuckle. ("Did that scare you?" "Does noise weigh?" "No." "Then I shitted myself!")
I'm glad I watched Ubalda, All Naked and Warm, and I would definitely watch it again--with one hand firmly on the remote control, ready to fast-forward, pause, and rewind as necessary. Splitting the difference between painful lost-in-translation comedy and transcendent nude gorgeosity from Edwige, I'll settle on giving Ubalda a 1.5 thumb rating. (Your mileage will vary depending on the ratio of your tolerance for beyond-dumb humor to your devotion to all things Edwige.) And remember: before you give your chastity belt key to a neighbor, make sure the one he gives YOU actually works.
Note: the NoShame DVD includes an interview with an older but still smokin' Edwige Fenech, who talks briefly and interestingly about her fortunate ability to switch between comedies and gialli at the height of her career. She also talks about her relationship with Federico Fellini and her just-missing being cast in Amacord, and though she claims to have no regrets about her career, you can almost see her thinking "What if." Finally she sings Quentin Tarantino's praises for a while, a bit over-exuberantly, but no doubt she's sincere.
Also included is a collection of trailers for other comedies starring Fenech, including an amazing one for The Sexy Schoolteacher Comes Back with a funked-up version of "Fuer Elise" for the score. I'm guessing the comedy in these films translates just as poorly, but again there's plenty of naked Edwige, so I'll probably be looking for copies anyway. :)
Thursday, January 22, 2009
As you might well imagine, the quest of a trash movie fanatic is frought with danger. For every nugget of 70s Eurotrash gold you unearth in a 50-movie budget pack, you're likely to suffer through a dozen or more movies so terrible that even laughing at them is impossible. For every candy-colored goretastic brain-burner from the 80s you stumble upon, you trip over that many more shot-on-video disasters with all the technical skill and enjoyment potential of a public-access broadcast of the local school board meeting. Sometimes you spend weeks and many dollars slogging through pile after pile of cinematic excretia, until the very hope of actually enjoying a movie again starts to look like an impossible dream.
But then the magic happens: you come across a thing of such gleeful, over-the-top batshittery that it bypasses your brain's logic- and taste-containing crenelations and strikes deep into the movie-watching pleasure centers, flooding your system with trash-movie endorphins and reminding you why you put in all that time in the first place.
So thank you, Executioner, Part II. Thank you for reminding me what it's all about.
By 1984 the heyday of the grindhouse phenomenon may have been well past, but thank God nobody told director James Bryan (Don't Go in the Woods, Lady Streetfighter) before he turned out this gritty, low-budget, and completely INSANE paean to vigilante justice. From its hamfisted stabs at social relevance ,to its earnest but clubfooted acting, to its sometimes shocking displays of slimy deviance, The Executioner, Part II is a movie that succeeds by getting everything WRONG. If you can't understand the zen truth cocooned in that little exploitation koan, well then, this is not the movie for you.
The Punisher and First Blood: in a 1980s Los Angeles where crime is rampant and hobo-patterned red bandannas are ubiquitous, the people cower in their homes, praying for a savior. Police lieutenant Roger O'Malley (Christopher "I'm trying to be tough guy like my dad AGAIN" Mitchum) spends his days hanging out with musclebound mechanic war-buddy Mike (Antoine John Mottet), to whom Roger owes his life since Mike pulled his ass out of the fire in 'Nam. As a small business owner, Mike is paying protection to crime lord Mr. Cassalis (Dan Bradley, maybe? imdb is unclear), an incredibly oily character known to local hookers as "The Tattoo Man," since he gets off by cutting his sexual partners with a knife and burning them with cigarettes. Meanwhile O'Malley's daughter Laura has become hooked on the drugs (probably because her old man's never around) and her dealer Pete wants to turn her out as a prostitute in exchange for keeping the supply end up.
Against this seedy background, a vigilante dressed in black stalks the night. Actually he stalks broad daylight too, rescuing women from rooftop bandanna-gang rape by cutting the punks' throats with broken bottles and sticking grenades down their pant legs! Dubbed "The Executioner" by gadfly German-American reporter Celia Amherst (Renee Harmon, the model on which Ariana Huffington must have based her entire personality), the vigilante is bringing the crime rate down in LA through outright terrorism, much to the dismay of Mr. Cassalis and his pet Police Commissioner (a never-been-more-blustery Aldo Ray). While Celia sings the Executioner's praises on television and urges the police to leave him alone and let him keep blowing punks up, O'Malley is assigned by his corrupt boss to bring the Executioner in, dead or alive. But when Mike starts displaying increasingly erratic behavior, the lieutenant wonders if his old friend has found a novel way of dealing with his absolutely monstrous case of PTSD.
The Executioner, Part II is *not* a sequel; The Executioner, Part I does not exist. The best anyone can figure, the filmmakers and production company hoped to capitalize on the success of another movie, likely 1980's similarly themed The Exterminator. Why they didn't just go all out and call it Dambo 2: Mike's Revenge is beyond me, but the point is moot. (It's not really a spoiler to reveal Mike as the titular vigilante--while the director does try to inject a little detective mystery into the proceedings at the beginning of the movie, that effort is quickly abandoned once Mike starts having his incredibly over-the-top flashbacks to Nam.)
The joy in this movie lies more in its individual parts than in the overarching whole. For instance, early on Mike and Roger are having a beer at the garage when they notice a gang of thieves stripping down Mike's Executionermobile outside. The leader of the gang is a smartly dressed thug rocking the blond hair/black beard look, dressed in tight jeans, a white button-up shirt knotted at the navel, a black leatherette vest and the required red neckerchief. (Only in the early 80s could THIS guy be the gang leader; the lowest Shark or Jet would laugh him out of the rumble for his fashion sense.)
The Vets run the gang off after a lengthy and moderately exciting brawl, and you'd think that'd be the end of it--but no, the Necker-Chief returns later--alone--to rob the garage, this time putting up a good fight against Mike before getting his head slammed in a car door and giving Mike the goods on Mr. Cassalis. Not enough yet? Well, your favorite gangsta and mine returns yet again later for a final confrontation with Mike in the abandoned building where the gang has its HQ. I don't know who played this role, but he lights up the screen every time he appears, so kudos.
Laura O'Malley's unfortunate addiction to weed and coke. Laura is not what you'd call "classically beautiful"--in fact, she looks more like Roger's overweight sister than his frail little girl. Despite this, Pete the Pusher finds her irresistible and just can't wait to add her to his stable of hookers, after which he plans to offer her as payment of his own debt to Cassalis. When he learns that Laura is a virgin, you can almost see the dollar signs in his eyes.
A lot of odd details flesh out the characters and add to the overall strangeness of the movie. For instance, Pete has a predeliction for Jimmy Buffet-style shirts and 60s doo-wop, and his apartment looks less like a drug den than like the set of Three's Company. He enlists the help of two of his hookers to break Laura into the business (he can't do it himself since he wants to preserve her valuable virginity for his boss), crooning to them, "Girls, meet my new CHICKAY!" However, when they find out Laura is a virgin, the whores rebel and hold Pete down while she makes her escape. His cries of "Get back here! You're letting my virgin get away!" while rolling around with the two call girls could be the end of a John Ritter sketch, the way it's staged. And his bedroom, adorned with a movie poster for Hot Teenage Assets, samurai swords, and a Black-and-Decker drill on the bedpost (?!) just amps up the weird.
Reporter Celia Amherst is another strange character--despite frilly, flower-print grandma dresses and her almost impenetrable German accent, she gets a lot of on-mike interview time for the LA Television station. She gets almost as much attention from Roger, who puts on the moves while she pumps him for information at a local bar. (The entertainment at said bar is a single dancer in a sequined top and white spandex pants, accompanied by a tinny piano--I guess the Weimar vibe makes Celia feel at home.) Celia also seems irresistible to one of Cassalis's goons, who late in the movie ties her down, pumps her full of smack, and molests her as she trips.
over-the-top flashbacks and near-verbatim "back-from-Nam" Rambo speech late in the film are highlights. But the real standout here is Mr. Cassalis, the Tattoo Man. The actor here is so slimy and imposing, so brimming with asshole confidence, I totally buy him as the type of guy who would get off on burning whores with cigarettes. His wife, self-described as the Tatoo Man's "Pussy-Wussy," is another cipher.
However, my FAVORITE character in the whole movie has to be Laura's friend and fellow dope-addict, Kitty. Blonde, giggly, irrepressible, and gloriously stoned throughout, Kitty is a bright spot whenever she's onscreen. She's introduced while smoking pot with Laura at Roger's apartment. "I wish this were coke," she snickers, toking a joint. "Oh, heavenly coke!" Then she proceeds to sing the praises of the hustling-for-drugs lifestyle, using peer pressure to convince Laura it's okay. "Kitty, I don't think I can go through with it!" Laura demurs. Kitty sympathizes: "Yeah, that's what I said at first. But as soon as the first sleazeball comes along and slips you a $20, it's a breeze!"
This last sentiment is part of the aforementioned hamfisted social relevance portion of the show: the message is, apparently, that once you're on drugs your life is hopeless and bereft of value. Early on Pete tells Laura she should go ahead and be a whore herself out: "Dope, sex--you already screwed yourself anyhow!" Kitty echoes this thought later on, in her typically mirthful style: "Listen, Laura's on drugs, like the rest of us! Once you're on drugs, just SCREW the rest!" It's actually a rather bleak point of view, meant to bolster the film's other argument: that in a world full of drug addicts and Tattoo Men, the Executioner's methods are really the way to go.
I fully understand that BATSHIT CRAZEE is not a high recommendation for everyone, but if it is for you, then The Executioner, Part II has everything that you want. Sure, it's inept and poorly put-together, but it's also as strangely gleeful and enthusiastic as Kitty on a coke-binge. Works for me! I give The Executioner, Part II a satisfied 2.5 thumbs. Check it out. And just say no to drugs.
Unless Kitty's with you. Then, what the hell--go for it.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Greetings my fellow readers! It is I, The Duke, back from the gutter, and this time I’ve brought something back with me! I know it has been a while since I last regaled you with my acumen on all things cinematically awesome, but I swear the results will be worth the wailing and gnashing of teeth that my absence no doubt caused you all.
The holiday season saw me taking my annual trip to Roma for Saturnalia, and as typical during this festive time, I consumed way too much food, and had my way with way too much young flesh. Let us start from the beginning: A rather long train ride, during which I could only amuse myself by counting the gypsy dung carts that I saw passing by the window outside, and suddenly I was in the outskirts of Rome, in a little village called Nomentano. This year the festival was being held in the church Corpus Domini, a fitting name given what was about to take place.
As luck would have it, I had been elected Saturnalicius princeps due to a rather large donation that I had sent the Vatican earlier in the year, a gift consisting of several man-eating boars reared in Sardinia, a gilded cross depicting a nude Jesu, and 52 coupons to Taco Bueno for $1 off a taco with purchase of a large soft drink. This meant, of course, that I would preside over the festival and generally bear the brunt of all the fornication, something that I welcomed with much satisfaction.
Donning a loose toga, I reclined on a silken couch and watched the merry-making. Such sights I beheld! A Moor, who bore a striking resemblance to a rotten tree trunk, presented a staged version of Hamlet using only trained monkeys. A troupe of nymphs from Moldavia took the stage only to disrobe and begin fondling each other, which went on for 5 solid hours until someone thought to ask them how much longer the show was, much to their surprise and embarrassment. Seems they weren’t part of the show at all and instead had thought the central stage open to public lounging. The list goes on and on.
A week later, I awoke facedown in a gutter, nude except for a crown of thorns on my head. I vomited, righted myself, looked around for my clothes, only to instead pick up a half-empty goblet of wine. Suddenly, the monkey-trainer was at my side, one of his leashed charges ambled over to me. “Josephus wants you to have something, sir”, the Moor mumbled. I glanced down to see what the monkey proffered to me, and it was…
Satanico Pandemonium. The name rolls off the tongue like a hot Jujube. As most of you are well aware, my dedication to all things nunsploitation knows no bounds and so it was with bated breath that I put this one in the royal DVD player. I was greeted by a never-ending cavalcade of depravity, a movie that enters the exclusive company of Alucarda and School of the Holy Beast.
Our movie tells the story of one Sister Maria, a hot young nubile nun who blissfully wiles away the day, picking flowers, never knowing the hidden sexual desires hovering barely beneath her tanned flesh. Whilst out picking flowers one fine summer day, Sister Maria is rudely interrupted by a nude man. As with anyone who suddenly finds themselves staring at naked Mexican genitals, she flees in a blind panic. Coming upon a shepherd boy named Marcello, she relaxes, but not for long as the Mexican dude shows up again, only this time with clothes, offering Maria an apple (see where they are going here?)
Thinking back on his throbbing Latino member, Sister Maria flees in terror, back to the convent. Seems Mr. Handsome Latin-dude is none other than the Prince of Darkness Himself. His Infernal Majesty has nothing on his normally busy schedule, so he decides that today he’s going to corrupt a sexy young nun. Note to Self: Upon reaching life goal of becoming The Devil, put this at the top of your to-do list!
Life in the convent is just how you usually see 16th century convents depicted, i.e. – lots of nuns singing in chorus, lots of nuns eating with wooden spoons, lots of nuns doing nun things. This particular convent has two dark-skinned servant nuns, who are treated as outcasts by everyone but the kind Sister Maria. Finding one of them crying, she consoles her. Sister Outcast is suicidal, it seems, but Maria assures her that if she is steadfast and loves God, then all will be well. At this point I’m wondering why they don’t start making out, and am disappointed when this fails to happen. Luckily, my patience was about to pay off!
Maria heads to her room, which is perfect for cloistering. Doing just that, she begins to pray, only she can’t stop thinking about Mr. Juan Long Dong who so fabulously introduced her to cock earlier in the day. Deciding, rightly so, that the only cure is self-flagellation, Sister Maria employs the use of a spiked belt and a whip. Baring herself to the waist (ahh, yes!), Maria wraps a leather belt, studded with spikes, around her midsection, then begins to whip her back via the tried and true over-the-shoulder method, commonly employed by priests and nuns alike.
The servant nuns interrupt this personal time with news of a sick cow. Sister Maria heads to the barn, where she quickly concocts an herbal remedy for the hapless bovine. Satan beams himself directly into the barnyard, eating another apple, as is his custom. Tossing the half-eaten apple at Maria, he teleports out again. Maria spies the apple and flees back to her room in horror. Upon entering the room she strips to the waist again, revealing that she’s still wearing The Punishment Belt™. She doesn’t notice, however, the nun hiding behind the door!
Turns out this nun is in love with Sister Maria (as we all are, by this time), and proceeds to confess her love. Not being able to contain herself, she jumps Maria’s bones, furiously kissing her on the mouth and teats. Suddenly, this sex-starved Sister is replaced by Naked Gypsy Satan! The Son of Darkness sure does love teleportation. He finally reveals himself as Satan (as if we weren’t already aware, come on, he’s eating apples for Christ’s sake, the Devil’s Own Fruit!) and tells Sister Maria that should she ever want or need him, then she has but to speak his name and he’ll come a’runnin’ (or in his case, teleporting into her shower, bed, etc).
This visitation causes Maria to slide off into the precipice of darkness. Suddenly, the paintings in the hallways take on new meanings, revealing devil faces and such. She has dark thoughts, naughty thoughts that won’t go away even with the employment of The Punishment Belt™ or the liberal use of a Sham-Wow™. This is evidenced by her accosting of poor Marcello, the shepherd boy. Maria finds him sitting on a riverbank as the sheep graze nearby. Sitting down next to him, she wastes no time in revealing too much leg, before finally jumping on Marcello and kissing him. Obviously fearing eternal damnation (and, perhaps, hairy Mexican vagina), he flees in terror.
Sister Maria is conflicted by the thoughts she’s having, and contemplates suicide via scissors after having a vision of snakes inhabiting her drinking cup at the evening meal. The Mother Superior tries to help, offering Maria solace, but she’s having none of it. The Naked Gypsy Devil’s pull is too much to resist! Not content with molesting under-aged shepherd boys, Maria goes prowling the convent at night. Entering the kitchen, she sees the suicidal servant nun about to hang herself by climbing upon the kitchen table and stringing a rope through the rafters. Instead of just watching like anyone would, Sister Maria goes the extra mile by rushing into the kitchen and shoving the girl off the table, then satisfactorily watching her swing!
Performing assisted suicide is just the beginning of this night’s activities for Sister Maria, however. Next she sets off to young Marcello’s house, to finish what she started earlier. Marcello lives with his elderly grandmother, who welcomes Sister Maria into the house. While the old lady nods off in the living room, Maria sneaks into sleeping Marcello’s bed, naked, and begins to sex him up. Horrified beyond belief to be this close to a naked woman, Marcello struggles mightily, until Maria gives up, grabs a nearby knife, and stabs him repeatedly!
Now, my dear readers, what follows are one of the greatest mind-fuck scenes ever. We see Maria stab Marcello (with the most obvious use of a stunt knife in the history of film), she stands up, covered in blood, looks at the bed with a horrified look, the camera pans over and… it’s Marcello’s aged grandmother in the bed, dead! WTF?! The confusion is further compounded by the fact that, during their initial struggle, Marcello grabbed the necklace from around Sister Maria’s neck, clutching it in his dead hand. Only, when the camera pans back, his body is nowhere to be seen! Sister Maria sets the house on fire and flees.
Not having any other real use, the convent also doubles as dead body storage. Marcello and his grandmother are both brought to the convent, I guess to await burial. Sister Maria uses this opportunity to sneak down and pry the necklace from Marcello’s lifeless hand. Somehow both Marcello and his grandmother were killed by Maria, yet Maria was making out with Marcello AND the grandmother? I re-watched this scene 3 times and still couldn’t figure out what the director intended. Ahh well, suffice it to say that Maria’s secret was safe, though just for the moment, as Mother Superior sees Maria fleeing the makeshift morgue.
Maria goes to her room, and the Mother Superior follows, confronting her. Sister Maria decides there’s no going back, so she promptly denounces God, which causes the Head Nun to turn her back and begin praying for Maria’s immortal soul. Maria realizes through some buried instinct that since she’s the instrument of Satan on earth that she can do anything she damn well pleases. Muttering a quick prayer to the Devil, she conjures an Infernal Strangling Rope™ out of thin air, and proceeds to strangle the Mother Superior with it!
She wraps the body in a sheet and drags it down into the crypts, hiding it in a handy tomb. A funeral is had for the grandmother and dear Marcello, which causes Maria to have 2nd thoughts as to her current life situation. She flashes back to taking communion and what that meant (obviously, it means she’s a cannibal), and this causes her to begin to repent her sins to God.
Suddenly, Naked Gypsy Devil ports straight in, dressed to the nines. Using his smarmy Mexican good-looks, he purrs to Maria that she now has a choice. He points down the hill, and we see a procession of nuns, bearing flaming crosses and torches. He informs Maria that they’ve found out about the Mother Superior’s death, and know that Maria did it, and they are coming to hand her over to the Spanish Inquisition (which she obviously didn’t expect, since NO ONE EXPECTS THE… eh, you know the rest).
He fills her mind with visions of what they’ll do to her, visions that resemble quite well the last party that the Vicar threw in my honor. We see them pouring boiling liquid down her throat, we see them using a yard rake on her tits, plucking her eyes out, and generally giving her what we call The Satanic Make-Over™. His Infernal Majesty informs her that he can make it all go away, that he can give her the world, if she will just accept him.
At first she rejects him, but as the torch-bearing nuns get nearer, she reconsiders and cries out that she’ll accept Lucifer’s bargain. Suddenly, the burning crosses turn to crosses covered with flowers, as the Sisters crest the rise and inform Sister Maria that she’s the new Mother Superior! She will lead them into a new realm of nunnery.
Heading back to the convent, with Satan in tow, Maria opens the door to… the Best Little Convent in Mexico! Debauchery is in full swing. The director gives us a nice panoramic shot of the corruption. A naked, singing nun stands in the doorway, strumming a guitar whilst displaying her cultivated bush. Other nuns dance in a drunken circle around a large table. One nun, naked, holds another in her lap, also naked. The mind struggles to take all of this in. Satan turns to Maria and says, “You should go to the window and address your people, they are waiting to hear from their new Mother Superior.”
Maria walks over to the window, opens it, and sees a crowd of sheep. I’m sure there’s a deep meaning here, about how the Devil corrupts and we follow blindly like sheep, but I just chose to nod sagaciously and to get back to watching the naked nuns. Suddenly, all of the nuns, naked or otherwise, rise up and stab poor Sister Maria to death! Before we can wonder why, a quick star-wipe takes us to Maria, lying dead upon her bed. The convent is back to normal and we learn from some passing nuns that Sister Maria has died in her sleep due to the plague! The End!
Now, I’m sure we can all agree that the use of the “Oh, it was all just a dream!” ending is typically NOT something we can accept, but I feel in this case it works. I’m sure the plot of this movie can be explained away by some existential mental meanderings: Naked Gypsy Devil represents the plague, the evil plague corrupts young life, nuns like debauchery and playing the guitar whilst naked, etc. However, I choose to believe that the plague was the means, not the end, that the Devil used it as his instrument to deflower the minds of young, sex-starved nuns, before they succumbed to the ravages of The Great Mortality.
The final shot of the film shows The Devil following yet another young nun while she goes about gathering flowers, or perhaps she’s off to paw a shepherd boy. The cycle continues.
Satanico Pandemonium has been made semi-famous by Quentin Tarantino’s evangelizing of it, and he even named Salma Hayek’s character in From Dusk Till Dawn after the film’s title. I’m glad he approves, and makes me wish he’d throw caution to the wind and make a big budget nunsploit film. Make it happen, Quentin! I, for one, loved it, and as I said earlier, rank it right behind Alucarda and School of the Holy Beast in terms of nun defilement. I highly recommend to all my readers that you should hunt down a copy and your earliest convenience.
Three enthusiastic Thumb’s Up!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Hey, remember the 80s? Remember the over-moussed hair, the bright primary-colored clothes, and the bloopy synth music? The salad days of MTV and Miami Vice? Remember Olivia Newton-John? Remember Men at Work?
Good. Keep those images in your mind.
Now add a healthy dose of mad science, a dollop of pre-code horror comics'* carnage and general disdain for logic, a dash of homoeroticism, and a villain straight out of Mad Max's The Wall, and you're almost in the brainspace to appreciate this New Zealand-produced mad movie from 1984, David Blyth's frankly mindfuckling Death Warmed Up.
*of the sort provided gratis daily by the inestimable Karswell over at MMMMMovies buddy site, The Horrors of It All! Check 'em out!
After some brightly colored collage-style credits, we open on young Michael Tucker (Michael Hurst) running like mad through a forest in full daylight. Dressed only in an AC/DC-approved school uniform, Mike seems dazzled by the sunlight falling through the branches of the trees as he keeps the knees pumping high, as if some fearful beast doth close behind him tread. Where has he been? What's he running from? These questions remain tantalizingly unanswered: within seconds the pastoral paradise gives way to a metropolitan cityscape, but Michael doesn't slow down for an instant--he sprints down the urban avenues right up the stairs of a local hospital, where the nurses seem to know him and don't think it at all odd that the sweaty schoolboy has burst in as if crossing the finish line at the Sydney Olympics.
After a short elevator ride Mike finds his way to the neurosurgery department, where his father, Professor Tucker (David Weatherley) is having a heated discussion with colleague Dr. Archer Howell (the wonderfully evil Gary Day). It appears some vaguely defined experiments of Howell's cross Tucker's ethical lines, something to do with immortality through brain surgery (?). The frank exchange of views gives way to fisticuffs, as Dr. Howell throws his puny partner against the wall and threatens bodily harm if the funding is cut off. When Howell sees Michael spying on them, the horrified youngster flees the scene.
Not fast enough, though, as a couple of dimly lit corridors over Dr. Howell catches up with him. Noticing the young man is sweaty and out of breath, the doctor--in the most menacing voice possible--suggests that Mike take a quick shower in the surgeons' locker room to "freshen up." Having just witnessed this same man roughing up his dear old dad, Micheal readily agrees!
It's here that we get our first dose of homoeroticism in the flick (if you don't count the hospital's extremely phallic edifice--which I do), as the fit young man takes a very gratuitous, red-lit shower, throwing his head back and opening his mouth for the gentle spray in the way Linnea Quigley and others have made a career of. This boy *really* enjoys his showers--so much so that he doesn't notice the wicked Dr. Howell sneaking up on him with a syringe the size of a billy-club, which he uses to PENETRATE Mike's taut buttocks and pump them full of his mysterious SCIENCE JUICE. Gripping Michael firmly from behind, the doctor drags him off into the shadows. Doubtless for a perfectly innocent purpose.
Anyone who remembers the early days of MTV should get a warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia from Blyth's visual style here--impossibly bright colors, glowing red and blue gels, and copious Venetian blind-shadows are the order of the day. The periodic synthesizer stings out of nowhere only add to the feeling that any moment Simon Le Bon and Murray Head are going to step out from behind a pillar and get the party started right. (Unfortunately, this NEVER happens.)
Later that evening Ma and Pa Tucker are undressing after a formal evening out, watching a news report on Dr. Howell's research. "He's MAD!" the professor exclaims, obviously still reeling from his office ass-whupping. Mrs. Tucker, clad in what looks like a cross between an old-fashioned slip and a Merry Widow, pulls herself away from her floor-to-ceiling closet full of shoes long enough to comfort her husband with some hot MILF action.
Meanwhile Dr. Howell is driving his obviously altered new friend back home after whatever sordid tryst followed the fade-to-black. He deposits Mike at Chez Tucker then scarpers, an evil gleam in his eye. Mike stumbles across the front lawn, cradling a shotgun.
Of course Michael creeps upstairs, interrupts his parents' first sex in years, and proceeds to go all DeFeo on them in one of the films' many excellent gore scenes. Dad gets several squibs and stark splatter, and Mom even gets a shotgun blast to the gut, right in front of her precious shoe-stash. Not sated with murdering his parents, Mike blasts the table lamp on his way out--it's always the innocents who get hurt.
Seven years later Michael is released from the world's smallest padded cell and put back out in the world, his hair gone bleached-blond from the trauma. In the intervening years Dr. Howell has taken his work to the corporate sector, founding TransCranial Applications Incorporated and purchasing a private island where he is governor and god. We get some pretty good mad science action here, as Dr. Howell performs graphic brain surgery on a hapless patient while nurses with dead eyes and mesh surgical masks stand by to assist. If you look at the expressionless cadre of medical women here and start singing "Addicted to Love," well, I won't stop you.
Blaming the Doctor's butt-juice injection for his parents' deaths, Michael rounds up his girlfriend and two other mates and sets out for revenge. The first part of the revenge plan involves getting to the island on one of the rustiest ferries imaginable. While Mike and his Olivia Newton-John-channeling girlfriend Sandy (Margaret Umbers) talk to the captain, their friends Lucas and Jeannie decide to have sex on the hood of their car. When they see a couple of Mad Max rejects getting an eyefull they retire to the relative privacy of the backseat of the same car, where Jeannie shucks out of her top and gives us some female nudity, for a change.
It's here that the movie takes its *really* hard left turn, as a hunchbacked mutant in a Devo-esque jumpsuit interrupts the lovers in flagrante de Pinto. Moments later Lucas retaliates by pissing on the baddies' van, leading to some harsh threats from their leader Spider (David Letch, subscribing to the Bob Geldof/Jess Franco's Faceless school of "shaved eyebrows == MORE EVIL" thought). A ferry brawl ensues, followed by a Mad Max-ish car chase on the mainland. Our protagonists ditch the bad guys in an actual ditch, and our story can get on its way.
Or so you would think. After an odd scene where Dr. Howell and a henchman stop into a local convenience store to buy pineapples from an incredibly offensive Indian ethnic stereotype (obviously a Kiwi "comic" in brown-face), we join Mike and his mates at a beach where they've stopped for a picnic. If you're hoping for hott bathing suit shots here, you won't be disappointed:
near oral-sex from his girlfriend, Mike decides it's time to get his friends moving to some WWII tunnels he wants to explore on the island, for some reason. Meanwhile, the good Dr. Howell is performing more surgery on the mutant from the ferry, who is suffering some rather nasty side-effects from the TransCranial Application he received. Unfortunately for him, he didn't read the the fine print that read "WARNING: May Cause Drowsiness, Retardation, Spontaneous Scoliosis, and ASPLODING HEAD SYNDROME." Of course some side-effects there's no getting to the other side of.
In the tunnels under the island, the baddies catch up with our heroes again, this time on motorcycles! There's a long chase through the tunnels--and I mean LONG, several minutes too long, really--and Jeannie is clubbed by a passing cyclist just before they escape. Enraged, Lucas goes back in, grabs a length of pipe, and succeeds in impaling one of the bikers on it--though it magically changes to a piece of rebar once it pierces the mutant's back. Versitile material, that.
Spider takes his mortally wounded friend to Dr. Howell, and the doc expresses his unconcern by shoving Spider's eyebrowless face right into his friend's exposed intestines! Harsh, but fair. A bit put out over this, Spider retaliates by going down to the basement of the clinic and releasing a roomful of slavering mutants to wreak havoc through the hospital.
It's not long before the clinic and most of the island is in flames, and Mike finds himself face-to-face with his nemesis and ready to get some answers about Howell's motivations. No dice--Howell is a mad scientist of the pre-code horror comics mode, doing these horrible things because he's EEEVIL, and he CAN. As to what he hopes to accomplish--apparently it's destruction for destruction's sake:
"I had a vision! There are HUNDREDS out there who've undergone the process...it's only a matter of hours before they all start to melt down! But there are others out there who HAVEN'T EVEN STARTED!"
No arguing with that logic. When Mike gets the upper hand with a carelessly unsecured scalpel the size of a butcher knife, the Doc plays his trump card: "You must realize that I must survive if this is to be stopped! Only I can make you well again!"
Unimpressed, Mike gets very stabby indeed on the good doctor, pinning him against the wall and THRUSTING his PENETRATING BLADE into Howell's EXPOSED FLESH, AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN, until THE FLUIDS HIT THE FLOOR AND...say, is it hot in here?
It all leads to a non-confrontation with spider and a bleakish non-ending that makes about as much sense as a set of Ronnie James Dio lyrics, but fortunately is just as much fun.
I had a blast with Death Warmed Up, but I should warn viewers that it's not without its problems. A lot of the driving and chase scenes seem to take place in real time, which slows the movie down considerably, especially against the frantic pace of many of the other scenes. The acting and dialogue are as over the top as comic book speech bubbles, which can be good or bad depending on your point of view. There are a few really out-of-nowhere video wipes that pull you right out of the film, and at least one scene where the actors are upstaged by a boom mike. But for someone like me, that's just gravy on the chips, baby.
That said, the gore is good and goopy, the plot is wilder than it needed to be (in a good way) and the wacky homoerotic undertones (in addition to the MASSIVE SYRINGES and PIPE IMPALEMENT, the guards at the clinic use MAGNIFICENT CATTLE PRODS to keep the inmates in line) and Mad Max/80s Music Video sensibilities all push the scales in the movie's favor. If you're looking for Oscar bait, look away--but if you're looking for FUN, you could do a lot worse.
A bit of an oddity and a TOTAL product of its times, Death Warmed Up is worth at least one viewing by Mad Movie fans, and thus gets an easy 2 Thumbs Up. Grab a few beers, fix up a plate of Vegemite sandwiches, put your legwarmers up on the table, and enjoy.