Category Archives: TV and Film

The Night of a Thousand Cats

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I’m not a cat person. In fact, I’m slightly allergic to them. Cats are somehow able to sense this. When I come into a house with cats, they come to me. They brush up against my pant leg guaranteeing that I’m going to take a part of them home with me. Disgusting creatures. I don’t know that I could live in a house with even one cat, forget about the house we have in our film today. Get ready to meet an eccentric millionaire playboy who happens to be a serial killer with a house full of felines in 1972’s The Night of a Thousand Cats.

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Our story centers on a millionaire named Hugo (Hugo Stiglitz) with a taste for expensive things and beautiful women. He likes flying around in his personal helicopter and picking up ladies to bring back to his home, an ancient monastery. He’s even got a hulking bald mute named Dorgo (Gerardo Zepeda) for a butler. As the film opens we see him bring his latest beauty back to his place, only to strangle her with her own scarf before pickling her head in jar, and grinding the rest of her into a meal for his massive collection of felines. All this gruesomeness happens off screen, but we do see him tossing the meat to the kitties like a softball pitcher.

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Soon, Hugo begins scouting for a new lady. His procedure seems to be to fly around in his helicopter looking for pools with ladies sunbathing. The woman he zeros in on this time is even married and has a daughter, but that doesn’t seem to deter him. A few other murders happen as Hugo begins an affair with the woman. However, when he decides it’s time to turn her into cat chow, the cats end up turning on their master.

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The Night of a Thousand Cats comes to us from Mexico and is sometimes known as Blood Feast in this country. Various versions exist, including one released stateside in 1974 clocking in at 93 minutes. The version I saw, however, was a paltry 63 minutes. Still, I found this bizarre film to be quite entertaining. It gives off a strange American Psycho sort of vibe, but, well, with more cats. Truthfully, the cats really don’t factor into the story all that much. They’re just an interesting novelty, really, when it comes to creating an unusual way for the killer to dispose of his victims.

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It’s a little bit hard to properly evaluate the lead performance of Hugo Stiglitz (who also served as a producer on the film) since the dialogue is dubbed. He doesn’t come across as terribly menacing, but there is something about him. His demeanor and the monotone nature of the dubbed dialogue combine to give the character a coldness that makes for a strangely appealing villain.  I also was weirdly entertained by Gerardo Zepeda as Dorgo. His performance here seems to indicate he may have studied at the Tor Johnson school of acting. You can’t out-Tor Tor, but he puts in a good effort.

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Though the premise of this one is extremely goofy, it does manage a few creepy moments. Though, the creep factor comes more from Hugo’s methods for romancing the ladies than from the horror aspects of the film. After all, this is a guy who flies around in his helicopter, hovering over pools in the backyards of fancy houses. You’d think that racket would’n’t last long, but strangely it charms many of the bikini-clad residents of the city. Creepiest, though, is a handful of moments involving the young daughter of one of Hugo’s conquests. The first time Hugo flies his chopper into their yard, it’s the young girl who spots him and waves. Shots of the little girl are intercut with scenes of the hungry cats. I can only deduce that Hugo is thinking how girl might make a nice snack for his pets? There’s another sequence later where he takes the girl for a little ride in his helicopter without mommy’s knowledge. It’s a little bit too skeezy for a what is, for the most part, a fairly silly little movie.

There are a few slow moment to film when it just seems to meander for a bit. However, the final payoff, when our killer finally gets what’s coming to him, is satisfying, though very predictable. Ultimately, the film is a little too goofy to be scary, but still made for a freaky fun experience…even to someone allergic to cats.

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The Island of Dr. Moreau

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There are certain stories that filmmakers seem to return to over and over again. One such story is HG Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. There have been a number of film adaptations of the 1896 novel, most notably the 1932 film Island of Lost Souls and the notorious 1996 version starring Marlon Brando. However, twenty-one years before the troubled production that made Brando’s version of Moreau the stuff of movie legend, there was another production. This time Burt Lancaster takes a shot at the classic role in 1977’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.

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After being adrift in a lifeboat for seventeen days, a ship’s engineer named Andrew Braddock (Michael York) washes ashore on a mysterious island. There he finds the compound of a scientist named Dr. Moreau (Lancaster). Braddock also meets Moreau’s associate Montgomery (Nigel Davenport) and a gorgeous young woman named Maria (Barbara Carrera), who, of course, starts to get a bit cozy with the island’s newest arrival. As Braddock begins to discover some of the other inhabitants of the island, who have animal-like features, he soon learns that Moreau is engaged is creating animal/human hybrids.

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Some of the beasts live in a sort of community watched over one creature known as the Sayer of the Law (Richard Basehart). They live under a strict set of rules, the “law,” laid out by Moreau. If they break it, they are taken back to the House of Pain. All of this starts to trouble Braddock who plots to escape the island with Maria in tow. However, he soon finds himself a part of Moreau’s experiments as the beasts begin to rise up to overthrow their creator.

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Of the three versions of this story that I’ve seen, this one is probably the flattest. It’s very by-the-book compared to the brilliant Island of the Lost Souls and the train-wreck that is the ‘96 version. It kind of feels like the filmmakers were just marking off a checklist when it comes to the key aspects of the story, but never really taking time to put any real power behind what they were doing. It’s a shame since the Moreau story can be quite visceral.

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A number of the story elements the might add some raw energy to the proceedings are underutilized or left out. The House of Pain, for example, is one of the aspects of the story that is the most important when it comes to sympathizing with the plight of Moreau’s creations. It is what makes for some of the most disturbing moments of Island of Lost Souls. In this film, however, it is mentioned repeatedly, yet never seen. That miscalculation alone is enough to derail the proceedings. The Maria character is also handled poorly. In other versions of the story she is one of the human/animal hybirds…Moreau’s greatest creation. Here she’s just the local hot chick, raised on the Island by Moreau all these years. This version does, however, do something that I don’t recall from the incarnations…Moreau injecting Braddock with a serum to turn him into one of the man beasts.

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The film certainly has a capable cast, and they get the job done, however, the performances don’t move much beyond that. Michael York is really the only one who seems to be putting a bit more effort into things, especially in the sequence toward the end of the film where he tries to maintain his humanity as he gradually becomes more animal-like. Burt Lancaster is a fine choice to play Moreau, but he pretty much just delivers his lines and that’s that. He’s certainly not as colorful or sinister as Charles Laughton is in the ‘32 film, and he comes nowhere near the bat guano that Brando gives us in the ‘96 film. Barbara Carrera is certainly alluring and beautiful, but lacks the (pun intended) animal magnetism that panther woman Kathleen Burke gave us forty-five years earlier. Sayer of the Law Richard Basehart is also a pale shadow of Bela Lugosi’s brief but haunting performance in Island of Lost Souls. In general it just feels like the cast isn’t putting in a whole lot of effort here.

As for the makeup effects, there are some interesting things here. However, though we are nine years after the fact, the makeup doesn’t seem to have advanced much past what we got in Planet of the Apes. That’s not to say it’s bad, but when you consider that this is coming the same year as the Star Wars cantina scene, it feels a wee bit behind the curve.

Though I’ve been pretty down on the film, this Island of Lost Souls was still relatively entertaining.  What we are given is fine, but nothing really seems make much of an effort to excel.  I guess you could say, though, that this film has the misfortune of landing squarely in the middle of two other versions of the same story that just stand out more. One that is a chilling example of 1930’s horror and the other the poster child for 90’s movies run amok.

Note: Island of Lost Souls was recently released on DVD and BluRay by Olive Films.  Big thanks to them for giving us a chance to look at the film.

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This article is from Forgotten Films. Click the title to hop over there.

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It seems like as long as there have been horror movies, there have been horror movie parodies. From Abbott and Costello, to Mel Brooks, to Scary Movie…several horror comedies have become fan favorites. Today, though we’re going to look at a horror parody from the 1982 that quickly faded into obscurity. Coming just a few years off the heels of Airplane! it clearly attempts to copy the Zucker Abrahams Zucker approach. You know Psycho…but get ready for Wacko.

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We begin 13 years ago when a teenage girl is killed by the pumpkin-head lawnmower killer on the night of the Halloween Pumpkin Prom. Plus, this happens in full view of her four year old sister, Mary, and some of her friends. Then we jump to the present. Mary (Julia Duffy) is now a 17 year old high school student looking forward to the Pumpkin Prom, largely because she and her boyfriend Norman (Scott McGinnis) plan on doin’ it for the first time after the prom. All their classmates are looking forward to the evening’s activities, too, including Bambi (Elizabeth Daily) and Tony Schlongini, aka “the Schlong” (Andrew Dice Clay…credited without the Dice).

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There is trouble in town, though. A mental patient escapes a local nut house, leaving a dead nurse in the wake. Leaping into action is Detective Dick Harbinger (Joe Don Baker) who has been trying to track down the lawnmower killer for the past thirteen years. Thinking the escapee is the lawnmower killer, and determined to finally nab the maniac this time, he starts snooping around the school. Of course, that night at the prom, the pumpkin-headed maniac shows up once again, and the bodies start piling up.

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Wacko is a movie that doesn’t let any opportunity to take a jab at another horror movie slip by. Unfortunately, many of the gags don’t land well. We are almost constantly reminded that it’s HALLOWEEN, it’s also PROM NIGHT, and it’s the THIRTEENTH anniversary of the first lawnmower killer attacks. There’s more, though. May’s boyfriend is Norman…as in Norman Bates. He even has a sequence involving “mother.” Then there’s Mary’s younger brother, Damien, complete with the numbers 666 on his forehead. We also have a scene where Andrew Dice Clay’s head spins around before he spits pea soup. Oh, and the science teacher at the school is Dr. Moreau. Speaking of the school, it’s called Alfred Hitchcock High, their mascot is the “Birds,” and they are due to play a football games against their rivals from DePalma High School, the “Knives.” The whole Hitchcock High thing also means we get to hear the Alfred Hitchcock Presents theme ad nauseum. Some of these gags come across as slightly amusing at first, but most are so on the nose that they just induce extreme eye rolling on the part of the viewer.

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The film is not without some funny moments. I found that most of the jokes that worked were those that were in that Airplane! or Naked Gun style. I know it shows me for being a bit of a simple-minded idiot, but so help me I find it funny when Norman gets a door prize at the prom and it is, of course, an actual door. Still, there are many other attempts at these sort of jokes that, though funny ideas, are just not executed well. It just goes to show the nuance that the ZAZ team brought to their films. Others have tried to duplicate it but rarely succeeded. It doesn’t help matters that there are also some truly nasty jokes peppered throughout the film that are a bit hard to get past. The film opens with the first occurrence of a running gag where Mary’s father (George Kennedy) has a habit of climbing a ladder to spy in her window and see her in various stages of undress. That’s supposed to be funny? A sequence where Andrew Dice Clay’s erection causes a fancy dinner table to capsize was also not high on my list of things I needed to see before I die.

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Though the material is hit or miss, heavy on the miss part, I did enjoy the cast. Joe Don Baker is always a treat and here he puts in an appropriately scuzzy performance as cop who probably has changed out of the one suit he owns in about ten years. There’s a weird scene with Baker as a clown that struck me as bizarrely funny.  I could’ve done without the scene where he locks lips with Elizabeth Daily in the back of the driver’s ed car, though. Speaking of Daily, she’s as adorable as ever here. Julia Duffy (later of Newhart fame) is also enjoyable, though she does have a scene or two where she inexplicably switches into valley girl mode despite that not being a character trait for most of the film. Even Andrew Dice Clay has a few nice moments, essentially doing his riff on the Fonz. I felt bad for George Kennedy and Stella Stevens, as his wife, though. Both are saddled with some of the film’s worst moments.

Though Wacko is a film I can’t recommend, I did get a certain level of enjoyment out of watching it. Simply being able to locate this all-but-lost 80’s oddity was a treat in itself. Truthfully, though, despite an interesting cast, the film is no great shakes. It has some promising comedic ideas, it’s just they’re executed with the nuance of a sledgehammer.

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The Psychotronic Man

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I grew up in the Chicagoland area, so I’ve always had a certain curiosity about movies filmed in and around the windy city. In the mid 80’s there were tons of films being made there. Heck, the John Hughes stuff alone was enough to make you think that the mecca of the teenage world in the 80’s was Chicago. Just a few years before those films, though, there wasn’t a lot of film production going on in the city. Our film today, though, was a small independent movie made in Chicago, and without permits. It’s a film that never got much of a release, but eventually lent its name to the well-known Psychotronic Film Society. Get ready for 1980’s The Psychotronic Man.

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The film centers on a barber named Rocky Foscoe (Peter Spelson who also wrote and produced the film). One night he leaves his shop and takes a drive out into a more rural area While he naps by the side of the road, he has a dream of his car floating in mid-air. He wakes up later at home, feeling a bit like he’s having a hangover. Rocky relates this strange story to his doctor, but he can’t figure out what’s going on. A few days later, Rocky returns to the spot on the road and encounters and old man who tells him that strange things have been happening there lately. While talking to the man, Rocky has some sort of attack. Next thing we know, the old geezer is dead, embedded into the wall.

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A short time later, the old man is discovered and the cops are now on the case. Meanwhile, as the news gets out, the doctor begins to suspect that Rocky may be behind the murder, since this happened on the same stretch or road Rocky told him about earlier. When Rocky visits later, the doctor ends up a bloody mess on the pavement beneath his office. It seems that Rocky has somehow developed “psychotronic” powers which he can’t control. As the number of victims gradually increases, the cops start to close in, resulting in a wild chase across the city.

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The Psychotronic Man is cheaply made, no question, but it has a real style to it that I found irresistible. There were two individuals who were clearly the driving forces behind this film, there names are all over the credits multiple times…Jack M Sell who directed, edited, and was DP, and star/writer/producer Peter Spelson. I gotta give these two guys a lot of credit. We’re not just talking about two yahoos with a camera here. There is some real creativity behind what they are doing here. The camera work especially features a number of examples of unique angles and framing. Given that the story itself is a bit thin, the amount of visual storytelling added to the mix really enhances the final film.

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As for Spelson the actor, he does an admirable job in the lead role. He’s not the greatest actor ever, but there is something very genuine about him. He’s supposed to be an average, hard-working guy thrown into a horrific situation he doesn’t understand and can’t control…and Spelson embodies that with very little effort. Plus, being a native of the Chicago area, myself, he looks and sounds like many many people I encountered during my childhood years in that city, right at the time this movie would’ve been made.

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The final third of the film is almost entirely devoted to a big police chase and the final showdown between the cops and Rocky. I suppose it is valid to say that the sequence maybe goes on a bit too long, and yet I still found it very entertaining. The sequence moves at a good pace and is well-edited.  It was maybe made even more interesting given the knowledge that the sequence was all filmed without permits. The cop cars are all fake, and yet are zooming down the road with lights flashing and sirens wailing. Regular folks out for a drive were pulling over and getting out of the way, not knowing that it was just a movie and not a legit emergency. There are a few moments where the cars are careening through intersections at high speed…again, without permits having been filed or streets having been closed. A part of me says, “man that was really unsafe,” while another part of me admires the tenacity of these filmmakers.

The Psychotronic Man is lacking a bit when it comes to scares. While it has a few horror moments, it’s probably more of a thriller with a slight horror element. Still, I found myself getting quite caught up in this intriguing little pet project. It may not be the slickest film ever made, but it has a lot more creativity and passion behind it than many bigger budget movies.

Go to Source – Forgotten Films

Horrors of the Black Museum

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As someone who came to maturity as a film fan in the 80’s, I always associate actor Michael Gough with one role in particular…Alfred in Tim Burton’s Batman. Of course, he has had many other film roles…over 150, in fact. He especially made his mark with horror films, joining the ranks of other British horror stalwarts like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Today he gets involved in some particularly nasty stuff in 1959’s Horrors of the Black Museum.

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Gough plays Edmond Bancroft, a reporter/novelist who specializes in tales of murder. He’s especially obsessed with the items kept in Scotland Yard’s notorious black museum, so much so that he has created his own, superior, version in his own home. Now this all seems a bit suspicious considering that some rather grisly murders have been happening lately. The film opens with a young lady speared through the eye sockets with pins that pop out of a pair of binoculars.

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Soon the film makes no secret about the fact that Bancroft is behind the murders, partially to create more sensational material for him to write about. Various people soon start to catch on to Bancroft, like his doctor and the lady who owns the antique store where he buys the items he modifies into weapons. Of course, Bancroft takes steps to eliminate these individuals with the help of his loyal assistant, Rick (Graham Curnow). However, Rick soon puts the whole operation in jeopardy when he starts to fall for a lovely young lady.

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Horrors of the Black Museum is a very simple little horror tale that surprised me with how engrossing it was. There is not a whole lot of effort put into hiding who the murderer is. It becomes pretty clear just a few minutes in that Bancroft is behind things. Where the film really grabs you is with its bizarre murder methods. Beyond the trick binoculars mentioned earlier, we also have a makeshift guillotine, death by ice tongs, electric shock, and a corpse stripped clean to the bone courtesy of a vat of acid. Keep in mind, also, this is only 1959. Though all this is portrayed in a way that is certainly tame by today’s standards, I’m sure it was quite horrific 60 years ago. The film also has a unique twist that bring a Jekyll and Hyde element into the story which was very unexpected.

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The film’s success doesn’t just rest on the nasty murders, though. The strength of Michael Gough’s performance cannot be understated. The actor shifts between several different tones in his performance as Bancroft that does a very effective job of painting a portrait of a rather unstable individual. By the time we reach the film’s climax, a very exciting sequence set at a carnival, Gough is completely unhinged. Ultimately, Gough makes Bancroft a character we can’t helped but be charmed by and repulsed by all at the same time.

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The film flies by at a brisk pace and never really has any dead moments. It was released in “Hypnovision,” whatever that was. Ultimately, though, the film is a polished little horror film with some legitimate shocks and great lead performance. With films like this, Michael Gough, certainly earns a place alongside the likes of Lee, Cushing, and Price in the annals of horror movie history.

Go to Source – Forgotten Films

Forgotten Filmcast Episode 97: Tourist Trap

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It’s time for our first Halloween episode of 2017. This time, Todd is joined by Matthew Stewart from Simplistic Reviews to discuss the 1979 slasher film Tourist Trap.

Download the Show:
Your Listen

Show Notes:
Simplistic Reviews

Films Discussed:
Tourist Trap
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

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