Monday, 29 April 2019

Telephone Time: The Vestris (Arthur Hiller, 1958)

In which we journey, like an ailing John Sheridan and a concerned Ood Elder, to peel back and peer beyond The Veil...

The list of television anthology series is quite a long one, even if one restricts oneself to those whose remit is to dabble in the arena of the unearthly or the bizarre.  Famous examples abound, such as Tales of Tomorrow (1951-1953), Rod Serling's legendary The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and the more sci-fi oriented The Outer Limits (1963-1965) - not to mention HBO's long-running EC Comics-inspired ghoulishly cackling Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996).  From 1961 to 1963 watchers of US network NBC would witness horror legend Boris Karloff hosting tales of suspense and the supernatural in Thriller, but little did these enraptured viewers know that the erstwhile Mr Pratt was not a novice in the art of introducing a selection of eerie vignettes - as he had, three years earlier, filmed a very similar series entitled The Veil wherein he would also perform the duties of host and occasional guest star.  But their ignorance of this occurrence can be forgiven, because by the caprice of fate The Veil had - like its title suggests - remained shrouded in mystery, unseen and forgotten.  Falling victim to behind the scenes strife and the collapse of a financing deal, not enough episodes were completed before production was forced to shut down to sell to any network or put into syndication run.  Therefore Karloff's The Veil dwelt in darkness, save for a selection episodes that were edited together into a trilogy of portmanteau TV movies (Jack the Ripper, Destination Nightmare and the eponymous The Veil respectively) until its rediscovery in the 1990s and subsequent (long delayed) release to the public on DVD.

The series itself started as something of a spin-off: the 'pilot episode' (entitled 'The Vestris') was actually produced as the twenty-fifth episode of the third season of Telephone Time (produced, like The Veil, by Hal Roach Studios and a shining example of 1950s US television's wanton display of corporate sponsorship - with its opening intro of "The Bell Telephone System presents..." - like other shows of the era such as The Philco Television Playhouse, The Alcoa Hour and General Electric Theater all proudly wearing their sucking of the corporate schlong of The Man proudly on their sleeves).  The episode was introduced, as usual, by 'Dr Research' himself Professor Frank Baxter (also the host/narrator of 1956's Our Mr Sun and the US airings of the groundbreaking 1961 15-part Shakespeareathon An Age of Kings), who informs the viewer that the story was "first written down by a distinguished American of the 19th century", the Glasgow-born writer, diplomat, politician, Spiritualist and social reformer Robert Dale Owen.

The episode unfolds upon the titular barque Vestris, embarking upon an Atlantic voyage from "Plymouth, Ingerland" in Dr Baxter's words (PLYMOUTH: 1828!) to Boston in the spring of the eighteen-twenties.  The crew of mostly British and Irish expatriate actors - including Torin Thatcher (soon to be a star of such genre classics as the Nathan Juran-helmed twin spin The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad [1958] and Jack the Giant Killer [1962]) as skipper Robert Norrich - lend a feeling of verisimilitude to proceedings talking place on a Culver City soundstage.  An exception is the captain's wife, Mary Norrich.  Played by New Orleans actress Rita Lynn, Mrs Norrich's accent seems to be in roughly the same mid-Atlantic position as the ship - which, coupled with some oddly out of place archaisms in the dialogue ("'Tis nothing!" for example) for the 1820s, gives the impression of an Amish theatre troupe mounting a performance.  Still, co-star Tommy Duggan would later even the scales by putting on a pretty dreadful American accent as the unfortunate Senator Alcott in the 1971 Doctor Who story 'The Mind of Evil' in which he dies wearing a frankly horrible dressing gown - so perhaps Ms Lynn wins out in the end.

Mrs Norrich is suffering from a melancholy mal de mer during the voyage, haunted by voices from the lonely sea ("Even in my dreams, i hear them...") that make her certain that some disaster is looming on the horizon.  Her Cassandra-like utterings dismissed by her husband as the idle fancies of a mind bored by "the monotony of seeing nothing but water" and that she should gain her "sea mind" along with her sea legs, Mrs Norrich is pushed further into embarking upon a voyage to Freak-Out City when she retreats to her cabin only to be confronted by a silent spectral harbinger (Karloff the Uncanny himself).  Collapsing in fright, some deck hands rush to her aid and her husband enters to find his wife sprawled exhausted on the floor and surrounded by seamen.  Finding no sign of the tall and thin mysterious stranger of whom she speaks ("His face was like that of death!"), Cap'n Norrich grows more convinced of his wife's bourgeoning hysteria until he notices the words Turn North West have been scrawled upon a chalk slate by some unknown hand - prompting a search for a stowaway on board.

Mary's nights of sleep continue to be plagued by signs and portents, as voices urge her to convey the message that the ship should stab northwestwards, driving her to wander the ship's fog-shrouded deck at night in her nightgown like a ghost and pleading with her husband to change course.  "There's something at work here, some power beyond our understanding!" she argues when Norrich refuses to take the ship into the Arctic ice floes, before giving in to a spouse Guided by Voices and serving as Manos the hands of fate much the the chagrin of his increasingly restless and mutinous crew.  The ship eventually chances upon the stranded survivors of the iceberg-wrecked Morning Star - "We were on that ice for a week," says Robbins, "God knows how you found us - it was a miracle!" - and one of the rescued mariners happens to be the sunken ship's surgeon Dr Pierre, played by Boris Karloff, who pays a visit to the bedside of the now delirious Mrs Norrich, bedridden with intestinal fever.  Lucky Pierre (ahem) was there.  "I knew you would come!" she cries upon beholding the visage of the man she had beheld as a phantom, who reciprocates his life being saved by administering to the stricken psychic.

A slight but intriguing tale of interwoven destinies and ominous omens that prove to be blessings in disguise, 'The Vestris' is a worthwhile half hour of vintage 1950s television that i'm glad finally emerged from the oubliette of the forgotten to be enjoyed.  Hello, sailor.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Re-Penetrator (Doug Sakmann, 2004) [NSFW]

Gettin' carnal amidst the charnel

I suppose i've come to terms over the years with the fact that i have something of an obsessive personality (and i'm not talking about the embarrassing time that a woman asked me to stop PMing her multiple times a week on Facebook, as she was having more conversations with me than with her family or boyfriend - though i guess i have just embarrassed myself by remembering and mentioning that fact).  I suppose a large majority of cult and genre fans are, to some extent - the addiction to collecting, cataloguing, making lists and so on.  We all, perhaps, have fandoms and obsessions that we don't really admit to others: a particular one of mine for the past couple of years has been perusing the oeuvre of Joanna Angel (is that a euphemism?  I guess).

The multi-talented performer/writer/director/producer first caught my eye when i saw a film entitled Evil Head (a naughty affectionate lampooning of horror classic The Evil Dead) a few years ago.  The realm of the pornographic parody has, in recent years, been mostly dominated (that's not a euphemism) by the superhero genre, but here i was discovering a very sexy goth/punk actress making sexy parodies of horror movies.  Obviously, i was in love at first sight intrigued.

Parodying Stuart Gordon's goretastic 1985 filmic adaptation of HP Lovecraft's Re-Animator, Re-Penetrator is a 22 minute (pretty much an ideal length for the intent of it's content, really) short by Doug Sakmann (writing, directing, editing and supplying the [quite good] blood and gore effects under the nom de porn of The Evil Carrot) featuring in its two-hander (now there's a double meaning for you) cast Tommy Pistol taking Jeffrey Combs' manic performance as Dr Herbert West to the ne plus ultra as 'Dr Hubert Breast and Joanna Angel as 'Corpse Girl'.  Lit with appropriately crepuscular green gels that make the endeavour seem like an X-rated Mario Bava film, Dr Breast beavers away (well, not yet, he's working at the beginning...) in his mortuary/laboratory filled with steaming and bubbling beakers of yer average mad scientist kind of set-up and pulls away the sheet from his morgue slab to reveal the naked form of the Corpse Girl, dressed - of course, as i suppose most dead people are - in nothing but a pair of stripper heels.  I would pause here to muse whether it's mentally healthy or not to find a naked woman attractive even when she's playing dead and made up with autopsy stitches, but i didn't want to overly worry myself.*

"Prometheus brought the gift of life - fire to man" mugs the manic doctor, showing his knowledge of both Classical mythology and the Shelleyan source of Lovecraft's story.  "But I - I will bring the world a much greater gift: immmmmortality!", followed by a 'nyah-ha-ha-haaa!' cackle that would make Skeletor jealous.  Preparing his resurrection serum (the same lurid luminescent green as in Re-Animator, or even Dr Alec Holland's bio-regeneration formula from Swamp Thing), Dr Breast forgoes and ordinary hypodermic for a large artificial insemination syringe - injecting the potion straight up the subject's cervical canal.

"Unlike the other failures before you, who only craved the brain," the alchemical coot croons to his creation, "you - with the help of this serum- you, my darling, will crave sex!"

And he's not wrong, you know.  No sooner is the dearly departed doxy sitting up and breathing than she is treating the Maker to an eager spot of thanatological fellatio, consisting of Ms Angel obviously holding a mouthful of Kensington Gore (is that what we still call movie blood?  All my reference books are out of date) and spitting it over the shaft during the act.  Which i found quite effective.  I mean, what is life in the end but flesh and blood and sex and death?  And here we have it all - not least when we progress through the positions (ooh - from behind with some throat holding: there's nice.  Though logistically you probably can't choke-fuck a corpse) and end up with some cunnilingus on the delectable corpus de-lick-ti that ends up with her shuddering out the words "I'm gonna cum all over your face!" and then some very effective gore effects as she spurts gouts of vaginal blood over the lapping lab rat.  Why not play along at home during your partner's time of the month, dear readers?

It all ends - as everything does - when the spent scientist finds himself being continually pawed at by his unsated opus until she mounts him again even more hungrily, biting and clawing at him as rides him in the cowgirl position, blood and guts and sweat and other bodily fluids flying.  It's how i want to go, for sure. 

I guess that even in the hellish environment of a charnel house, it's heaven when an Angel is present.

(*And besides - if i can continue to cope with the fact that i once had a conversation in the University bar that consisted of someone asking me if i discovered the body of an attractive woman "and she was still warm", would i consider necrophilia to be okay - then i can cope with anything.  The man who was emitting these opinions went on to be jailed for taking a weapon into the drama studio one day and holding everyone to ransom.  I state this simply as a matter of historical record, rather than drawing a specific correlation between events.)

Saturday, 30 March 2019

The Mad Monster (Sam Newfield, 1942)

"It was more than a fever - his eyes were the eyes of a wild beast!  He was possessed by a demon!"
When in the early 1940s Universal Pictures added another star horror character to their unhallowed echelons with Lon Chaney essaying the lycanthropic Lawrence Talbot of Llanwelly aka The Wolf Man (George Waggner, 1941) who would become a regular in the roster of monster mash team-ups over the ensuing decade, it was no surprise that other studios smelled the wolfsbane-scented buck and decided to get in on the act: Twentieth Century Fox came out with the John Brahms-helmed The Undying Monster in 1942, followed by Columbia Pictures with their unofficial 'Dracula meets the Wolf Man' offering of Lew Landers' Return of the Vampire in 1943.  So it was no surprise whatsoever that the lower end Poverty Row studios would also get bandwagonesque - Monogram would concoct their own 'man into semi-animal' effort in 1943 with Bela Lugosi seeming simian in William "One-Shot" Beaudine's so-awful-its-great The Ape Man, but their fellow low-rent outfit Producer's Releasing Corporation beat them to the punch a year earlier with their own tale of lupine lunacy: The Mad Monster.

Starring Mancunian-born B-movie veteran and rent-a-mad scientist George Zucco (for my money, by far the best of the three Professors Moriarty in the Basil Rathbone series of Sherlock Holmes films - being elegantly menacing as the Napoleon of crime in 1939's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes [Alfred L. Werker]) as the unhinged Dr Lorenzo Cameron - perhaps the second most evil person who ever concocted a bizarre plan that went awry and caused havoc to go by that surname ("Bit of politics there, ladies and gentlemen" - Ben Elton).  Seemingly being more interested in bondage than Brexit, though (and quite sensible too), this Cameron's "secret work" entails tying up a large muscular man with leather straps in his basement dungeon - sorry, laboratory - and he has a whip to hand.  I'm not saying that this lends itself quite easily to a Queer Theory reading, but come on.
The aforesaid object of his attentions is the slow-witted and lumbering gardener Petro, portrayed by future Western star and three-times Frankenstein's Monster Glenn Strange - making this role a sort-of pre-emptive Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man with both classic creatures incarnated in one body.  Cameron has cloistered himself in a remote mansion (complete with underground recreational facility, easily accessible via secret passage - reasonable rates) surrounded by swampland - akin to the "forsaken jungle hell" to which Bela Lugosi's Dr Eric Vornoff was exiled in Ed Wood's 1955 Bride of the Monster - in order to prove his theory that injecting a human with the blood of a wolf can transform the subject into a wolf-man.  Perhaps it was a radioactive wolf.

Anyway, the unhinged egghead has carried out his experiment using lupine life force combined with a unique catalytic agent of his own invention in order to create the first of his projected army of werewolves ("snarling, ferocious, lusting for the kill!") out of patriotic wartime duty - his aim is to combat the Nazis - " a savage horde who fight with fanatical fury" - by unloosing millions of "these animal men" (These Animal Men released Wheelers, Dealers and Christine Keelers in 1993, a split release along with S*M*A*S*H of the gloriously-titled single 'Lady Love Your Cunt' fame: pop factoid).  His dreams of conquest with an invincible animal army that could "sweep everything before it" have led to ridicule from his peers an exile from the hallowed groves of academe, but he has shown the will and fortitude to suck seed succeed, turning "harmless, good-natured" Petro into a ludicrous looking loup garou in optical effects by Gene Stone and make-up by Harry Ross that are hardly the equal of the efforts of John P Fulton and Jack Pierce at Universal.

Preparing to wreak his revenge by using his newborn lycan slave to destroy the trio of academics who had him thrown off the faculty, Cameron has a test run of sending Wolf!Petro out on a merciless mission dead set on destruction, wherein he sallies forth into the swampland - a moribund marsh in which the local yokels (including a cackling, pipe-smoking old woman reminiscent of Elspeth Dudgeon's "We got no pepper and salt!" turn as a gypsy hag in Bride of Frankenstein) as having a devil mist that smells of evil - to crawl through a log cabin's window into the bedroom of a small child and leave the torn corpse of this slaughtered lamb in his wake.

"Its dominant urge is to kill and destroy even when unprovoked - a human characteristic translated into animal instinct - animals only kill for food or in self-defence" philosophises crazy Cameron, clearly pleased with his work.

Also residing in the quagmire-bound not so des res is Cameron's daughter, the lovely Lenora (Anne Nagel, who had starred alongside the legit Lon Chaney in Man Made Monster [George Waggner, 1941]), who misses the bright lights of the big city and pines for her plucky investigative reporter boyfriend Tom (Johnny Downs) who has been drawn into this web of mayhem and intrigue by investigating first the death of the Cajun child (and i find it impossible after typing that not to hear it in the voice of Eric Roberts saying "the Asian child" in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie) and then Professor Blaine - the first of Cameron's academic enemies to face the fury of the wolfman.  Lonesome Lenora also has the added problem of the docile Petro following her around with puppy-dog (as opposed to his nocturnal alpha wolf) eyes, ensuring the Strange gives us a bargain two Lon Chaney performances for the price of one, so reminiscent is it of Chaney's celebrated performance as Lennie in Lewis Milestone's 1939 version of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

Petro is also giving Dr Cameron and his plans some trouble, as he not only begins to go through the metamorphosis without being injected with the formula, Mr Hyde-style, but also fails in his mission to wipe out the second designated victim Dr Fitzgerald - leaving Cameron convinced that the merely wounded Fitzgerald will regain consciousness and tell all.  What with not only his inquisitive prospective son in law snooping around the place, but the stock mob of pitchfork-bearing townsfolk roaming the area and out for blood, the demented doc euthanises his enemy in a panic whilst the inquisitive Lenora accidentally unleashes the transformed Petro from the dungeon and the manse catches fire after being struck by a bolt of lightning (a very on the nose 1940s metaphor for Cameron's comeuppance after "meddling in the realm of Gaaahhhd").  As hammy Cam wrestles with his canid creation and the flaming rafters of the roof tumble down around them, Lenora and Tom escape the inferno into the mire to watch the fall of the house of Cameron.  And then possibly go on to start a Cam fam of their own.

Monster madness indeed.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Un Chien Andalou (Luis Bunuel, 1929)

So, is this a surrealist classic, or truly an Andalusian dog of a film?

This is yet another film that i became aware of at a young age, when it was obliquely referred to by Alan Frank in Horror Films (Hamlyn, 1977) - a tome that was bought for me second hand when i was bedridden with mumps - as the film that closed the first, silent, period of the genre and fantasy cinema but that it was "obscurity... taken by some critics to be the same as profundity".  Therefore, since the age of ten or so, i have always been in something of a dichotomous dilemma over whether or not i ever wanted to see it.  On the one hand, the brief synopses i'd read that went in any way to describing the content of the film - a short series of vignettes containing surrealistic, bizarre and horrific imagery - sounded great; on the other, Mr Frank's and others' opining that it was some kind of 'artsy-fartsy' experiment masquerading as a genre piece was always hovering like a sneering bit of reverse snobbery at the back of my cranium.

Of course, by the time i was a university student, the latter description would actually increase its appeal - me having grown into an artsy-fartsy type myself - and it was no coincidence (or perhaps it was, as it's a damn great record in its own right) that one of my favourite albums since secondary school was the Pixies' Doolittle containing the magnificent slab of noise 'Debaser' with its chorus quoting the title of Un Chien Andalou.  And it would be at a gig by the then newly-reformed Pixies (i can still remember my excitement: who thought that would ever happen?  I'd discovered them shortly after their implosion [my entry level 'album' was their post-mortem compilation Death to the Pixies] and so never dared to dream i'd ever see them live - but there we were in Glasgow's SECC on the 4th of October 2009, when before the band took to the stage the lights dimmed and the 16 monochrome minutes of Un Chien Andalou were projected upon the backdrop wall.  Along time after i'd first read about it, here it was unspooling before me when i was already in a state of anticipation and excitement, and having to shush and wave away the friends around me who were impatient for some rock action.

Written by Salvador Dali and directed by Luis Bunuel (of future Viridiana [1961], The Exterminating Angel [1962] and Belle de Jour [1967] fame), this dog certainly has a fine pedigree.  It opens boldly with one of its most infamous images: a man (a self-insertion cameo by Bunuel himself) calmly sharpening a straight razor before walking out onto a nighttime balcony to watch the full moon - then approaching a young woman (Simone Mareuil - who would later end her life by setting fire to herself in the middle of a town square ["Immolation's what you need, if you wanna be a Record Breaker", as Roy Castle certainly never sang]) before - as a thin wisp of cloud moves across the lunar eye in the sky - slicing her eyeball (actually the eye of a dead calf in extreme close-up, its fur bleached to register as human flesh tone in black and white); the bifurcated orb oozing it's horrid glue.  This scenario was culled fro a discussion between Bunuel and Dali that was the inspiration for the movie: Bunuel having had a dream in which he saw a cloud slicing the moon "like a razor blade slicing an eye".  This determination to chronicle personal nightmares and dreamscapes on film results in the entire piece's ambiguity and random jumps of dream logic akin to August Strindberg's reality-warping plays A Dream Play (1902) and The Ghost Sonata (1908).

What follows is a series of vignettes connected by the strange flow and flux of REM sleep: a young woman (Mareuil) encountering a man (Pierre Batcheff - who would also go on to commit suicide subsequently: in his case a barbiturate overdose) dressed in a nun's habit who is run over whilst cycling in the street.  Taking the box that he is wearing around his neck, she returns home to her apartment and opens it to find his nun's wimple and habit enfolded inside before laying them out upon her bed.  Then the man appears in her room, staring at his own hand from which ants are erupting from a wound in his palm (a future suicide experiencing... formicide?).

Later, when the girl rejects his advances and backs into the corner of the room wielding a tennis racquet to keep him at bay, the man picks up a pair of ropes and proceeds across the room towards her dragging behind him two grand pianos, each containing the rotting corpse of a donkey.  This iconic image was a snook being cocked by Bunuel and Dali towards Spanish author Juan Ramon Jimenez, who had authored a children's book entitled Platero and I about a small boy's relationship with a donkey (no, not in a Clerks II "donkey show" kind of way), which they both apparetly had an enmity towards.  Though i don't think that the man who originated the quote "If they give you lined paper, write the other way" can be all bad.

After further digressions including dissolves from the reclining young woman's armpit hair to a sea anemone (oxters to oysters, perhaps?), murder by doppelganger, a smile quite literally being wiped from the man's face (to by replaced by armpit hair - how Freudian for a fetish to be revealed through filmmaking) and a mysterious and ominous death's head moth, we get the caption "Au Printemps..." to find that in the spring these scar-caused lovers have shed their skin and been blown away on the changing winds to wind up buried in the sand of the beach at Le Havre.  Which is a thing that can happen.

That is textbook enigmatic.

In summary: i agree with Black Francis rather than Alan Frank.  A surrealistic pillow indeed.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Unearthly Stranger (John Krish, 1963)

"I expect to die - to killed by... something you and I know is here.  Invisible... it moving, unseen, amongst us all each moment of the day and night.  There were times when you thought i was insane, but listen to this tape i beg you - so that you know what it is that you must fight."

Black and white Britain of late 1963 was a good place to find the alien.  Whilst the November of that year spawned a monster in the shape of 'An Unearthly Child', begetting the 55 years and still rising reign of BBC television's Doctor Who, two months earlier - on the big screen, but not in colour - the cinemas had bore witness to an Unearthly Stranger.

Also known as Beyond the Stars, and in Mexico under the title Mujeres de lo Desconocido (Strange Women or Women of the Unknown), the film was distributed by Nat Cohen and Stuart Levy's Anglo-Amalgamated in the UK and James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff's American International Pictures (home at the time to horror mavens Roger Corman and Herman Cohen) in the US.  Filmed at Buckinghamshire's Beaconsfield Film Studios by production company Independent Artists, the film was produced by Julian Wintle - who would go on within the next two years to take over from John Bryce (who had earlier inherited the mantle from Leonard White) as producer of ABC TV's spy-fi telefantasy classic The Avengers.  The cast list also includes Avengers alumni, including Philip Stone (Dr Richard Tredding, co-GP of original Avenger Dr David Keel in the show's earliest episodes, and who would also go on to portray the spectral Mr Grady in Stanley Kubrick's monumental 1980 horror The Shining), Patrick Newell (Mother in the sixth and final Tara King season, as well as Colonel Faraday in the 1976 Doctor Who story 'The Android Invasion') and Warren Mitchell (just about to make the first of his four Avengers appearances in 'The Golden Fleece', which would air in December of 1963), as well as featuring Jean Marsh (three-time Doctor Who guest star - including as doomed companion to the First Doctor Sara Kingdom - as well as memorable childhood-scarring turns as Mombi and Queen Bavmorda in Return to Oz [Walter Murch, 1985] and Willow [Ron Howard, 1988] respectively).

Filmed in atmospheric black and white, the movie begins in media res with the protagonist, Dr Mark Davidson (John Neville, who would go on to go head to head with Jack the Ripper as Sherlock Holmes in James Hill's 1965 A Study in Terror as well as starring as the eponymous Baron Munchausen for Terry Gilliam in 1988 and forming part of the vast conspiracy faced by The X-Files' Mulder and Scully as The Well-Manicured Man) running for his life through the darkened streets of London pursued by some unseen force.  His invisible pursuer effectively conveyed utilising only sound, Davidson holes up in his nighttime-deserted workplace - the Royal Institute for Space Research (doubtless an offshoot of Professor Bernard Quatermass' British Rocket Group) where you begins to record his testament of the things that he has seen (and the horrors unseen of which he has become aware) on his desktop dictaphone, taking us via his terrified reminiscences into the main body of the story.

In flashback we see how Davidson gained his position at the Space Institute after the sudden and mysterious death of his predecessor Professor Munro (Mitchell), whose inexplicable demise is simultaneously being investigated and covered up by Major Clarke (Newell, in a strangely mercurial performance) - to the extent of Munro's corpse being 'disappeared' before Davidson and his coworker Professor Lancaster (Stone) can take a look at it, his unoccupied coffin being weighted with bricks before the funeral.  The project being worked on by the late Munro, and now Davidson and his colleagues, is an audacious plan to circumvent the vast time scales involved in physically traversing the vast interstellar distances by devising a method for a human being to mentally project him or herself through space to another world (shades of Ian Curteis and John Croydon's 1966 The Projected Man, or the Guild Navigators' "travelling without moving" in Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune), and it begins to emerge that otherworldly interests are vested in killing this project at birth before mankind can spread out into the cosmos.

At the same time, Davidson has returned home from time away in Switzerland with a new bride, Julie (Gabriella Licudi, who would later play Beryl Stapleton in the BBC two-part adaptation of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' starring the inestimable Peter Cushing as Holmes), whom he met in strange circumstances.  Taking an interest in meeting his friend's new spouse, Lancaster at first puts her strange air down to her adjustment to life in Britain but notices some strange things about her.  Her lack of blinking extends to sleeping at night with her eyes wide open, which unnerves her husband, and Lancaster takes particular note when he walks into the Davidsons' kitchen to see her lifting a red-hot casserole out of the oven with her bare hands without registering the slightest pain or discomfort.  Julie is, of course, an alien in a very different sense from being Swiss and is the agent who has been assigned to Davidson with orders to prevent his work from proceeding up to and including killing him in the same way that Munro was dealt with (aneurysm via some kind of ray projection - literally exploding his brain).  The alien plan is somewhat complicated by the fact that even as her husband slowly begins to realise her unearthly origins, she has begun to have genuine feelings for him.  Going against her orders, Julie confesses both her true identity and her love for Mark shortly before she vanishes - leaving only her clothing behind like Nessarobe Thropp's shoes.

This is where we catch up with the opening events of the movie, as Davidson is pursued through the twilit avenues of Westminster by the unseen and malevolent alien force that took Julie, and dictates the preceding events in his office.  At this point he is surprised by his loyal secretary Miss Ballard (Marsh), who reveals that she is his pursuer ("We have been here for twenty years") and fully intends to carry out Julie's disobeyed orders be killing him.  Their subsequent life-or-death struggle results in Miss Ballard plummeting from a high window to the streets below, only to also vanish leaving only her apparel by the time Davidson descends to street level, where he is surrounded by the accusing glares of a crowd of eerie non-blinking women - the strange women from the unknown of the Mexican title.

An unusual and unique take on the well-worn theme of alien invasion so beloved of the b-cinema of the 1950s and 1960s, Unearthly Stranger benefits from effective direction and a steadily building atmosphere of paranoia seeping into the gentility of middle class '60s Britain, as well as strong performances from John Neville and Gabriella Licudi in particular.  A neat subversion the hackneyed pulp SF trope of astronauts landing on a "planet of the women": for they are the ones who have come here...

Friday, 8 February 2019

Star Wars - The Force Awakens: A XXX Parody (Dick Bush [?], 2016) [NSFW]

Not safe for work, in a galaxy far, far away...

When Star Wars finally returned (like the proverbial Jedi) to the silver screen in 2015 after a long decade of fandom splitting over the merits and demerits of the prequel trilogy (largely not a fan, i have to admit.  E'en when the prequels were announced back in the early to mid 1990s, my young self thought "Well, that's fine, doing I to III but i want to know what happens next after Episode VI!" - and i stand by that.  And, though much shade and invective has been thrown the way of The Phantom Menace, for me the follow-up [or follow-through, rather, it being filmic faeces in my opinion] Attack of the Clones was a far, far worse cinematic sin) there was bound to be a divided reaction.  For everyone hailing Episode VII as the Second Coming of the Holy Trilogy, restoring the sense of wonder and pure joi de vivre of the first (now, trilogically speaking, second - but you know what i mean) three movies, there were others condemning it as a bland and hollow replay of the 1977 original with little new  content.  I fell somewhere between these two extreme poles of opinion with all the sane people who don't bother recording Youtube videos of themselves ranting in a Bobo Fett mask about how LUCASFILM have KILLED STAR WARS and SOMETHING ANGRY and INCOHERENT about SJWs and RAPE of CHILDHOOD!1!!1!

But mainly, i thought, "This could be sexier".  Thankfully, there are like minded geniuses out there more motivated than me who can actually bring such stuff into existence, and lo, but a year later we had a Porn Parody of Episode VII.  I've long thought that the subgenre of the porn parody is a fascinating area.  Most of them, naturally, are made by people with a genuine love of the subject matter being sexily spoofed and so as well as the carnal content there is more often than not a joy to be had with the knowing winks (checks spelling: yep, that's what i meant to type...) and references.  Filmmakers like Joanna Angel of Burning Angel (whose oeuvre i certainly intent to explore more fully after having tentatively probed it - oo er!) and Dick Bush of Digital Playground - a company whose frequent abbreviation to 'DP' can sometimes cause at least momentary confusion when discussion pornography - and Brazzers certainly manage to do it very well. I even know someone who actually edits out the sex scenes from such films and watches them with his family purely as spoof versions of movies and TV shows.  I found that nigh-on incomprehensible at first, but it does actually work surprisingly well.  Oh, by the way, I am working under the assumption that TFA: XXX is the handiwork of Mr Bush - there's no directorial credit either on the film itself or on IMDB, but it certainly seems like him.

Starring the trousers-meltingly gorgeous Italian-born Stella Cox as Rey - and no slight at all upon the charms and talents of Daisy Ridley, but Ms Cox is possibly the sexiest space babe since Caroline Munro's Stella Starr in Luigi Cozzi's 1978 cash-in classic Starcrash - this 26-minute video vignette begins with our voluptuous vixen infiltrating the First Orders dreaded Death Star III Starkiller Base in order to rescue Finn (uncast and unseen in this short) from the clutches of Kylo Ren and to find the Force deep inside of her" (Hmmm...).  We are informed of all this via the classic Star Wars yellow text scroll, accompanied by a musical score that manages to just about skirt the copyright of John Williams' cues.  We encounter Rey (clad in an at least cosplay-accurate version of her costume) as she jiggles down a corridor staff in hand - by which i mean her actual fighting staff, we'll get to what you're probably thinking in a moment - her bountiful breasts bouncing beautifully.  She then has to get past a bulkhead door, the usual fast-moving "ssshhhh-kkk!" Star Wars door here represented by a pretty slow-moving corrugated garage door.  If it had been this that Harrison Ford had his on-set accident with, i think his leg would have been fine to be honest.

After a brief blaster fight with a group of stormtroopers (with pretty decent digital effects), Rey finds herself facing the black-clad Solo Junior himself, Kylo Ren.  I don't know who the performer is, as he goes uncredited, but he's very good.  The voice is pretty much spot on, even if the costume's mask might look slightly shoddier than his subordinate troopers, and he manages to convey a comically OTT version (which only takes a bit of slight exaggeration to be fair) of Adam Driver's mardy Darksider.  After Rey is swiftly incapacitated by Kylo's canon trademark "knock out with a wave of the hand" date rape ability, she awakens in leather restraints (Mmm) and trussed up in what looks suspiciously like medical stirrups - lending the already implicit/explicit (delete as per headcanon) rape threat of the original Kylo/Rey interrogation scene a distinct gynaecological edge.  When his attempted (mental, rather than physical) probing of our heroine fails to get him anywhere, the Dark Lord of the Strop flounces out in a gargantuan huff, leaving orers for the stormtrooper guard to carry on guarding (insert Sid James "Hyah hyah hyah!" dirty laugh here) but not to engage with the prisoner.  In The Force Awakens of course the guard is played by James Bond 007 himself, Daniel Craig, in a cameo - here we get veteran swordsman (lightsabre-man may be more appropriate here, i suppose) Danny D, adding to his CV which already contains mucky homages including portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, Victor Frankenstein and the titular (no, not in a Jodie Whittaker kind of way) Time Lord the Doctor of Doctor Who.  Unlike EoN Productions' Dan, our man Dan gets his head well and truly  turned by the ravishing Rey in order to follow more detailed instructions than simply releasing her from her restraints.  Not that it should take the powers of a binding universal energy field to compel anybody to follow the lovely Stella's commands.

As the tumescent trooper (who's character isn't given a name: let's go with a Finn/FN-2187 stle D-AN4L, that seems appropriate) fondles Rey's boobage at her beck and call, we have the comical sight of Kylo Ren, seen through the window of the cell behind out stars, taking out his petulant pent-up fury on another henchman by beating a guard to the ground and repeatedly kicking him when he's down.  It's all perfectly in-character and very funny, while Rey continues issuing Force-powered orders such as "Now, take your helmet off, and go down and lick my pussy", "You will express pleasure as you feel it" and "You will let me suck your cock" - none of which, from Ms Cox, should need any sort of cosmic compulsion to utterly obey.  Still, obviously there's no other option for him but to let her slurp upon his schlong - who needs telling twice to let top totty take it in their hungry mouths?  This then, quite naturally, leads to some pretty deep fucking, her legs slung up on his shoulder as he grips her by the throat (choke-fucking, rather than Force-choking: an ability that i find myself wishing the player characters on MMPORGs like  KOTOR [if you can understand the acronyms, congratulations: you're  a fan] had) whilst performing a deep probe.  Who needs probe droids?

A slight adjustment to cross the perineum (a run that i'd certainly make in less than twelve parsecs) and Danny has switched from the light side to the backside, before turning her over to thoroughly plough her anal furrow from behind.  The lass clearly likes it in her Jakku jacksie, taking D-AN4L's considerable length with her arms pinned behind her back and gasping "I can feel the Force!  Oh my God, i can feel it!"  I knew that the Force could be found by searching inside oneself, but i didn't know that its precise location was up the rectal fundament. It certainly seems that he's found her F-spot, anyway.  We then get another brief session of pussy fucking, as she playfully dons his stormtrooper helmet whilst taking his helmet, before the lucky sod gets the privilege of sliding his shaft between her chesticles for a titwank after which be blows his midichlorians all over her tits, stomach and pudendum.  Only imperial stormtroopers are so precise.

Rey readjusts her costume as she leaves, leaving the dazed trooper behind as she continues her quest to locate her friend.  Kylo Ren returns to find his hapless yet satisfied guard unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for his prisoner escaping and so Force-throws him into the wall (achieved by the low-tech but effective method of Danny hurling himself backwards into the bulkhead.  The magic of acting), and proceeds to have another tantrum, slashing the walls furiously with his cross-bladed lightsabre - during which another trooper executes a perfect "NOPE!" gif-worthy manouvre of walking in, seeing what's occurring, and promptly turning on his heel to walk straight back out.  Very wise.

All in all, a fun mix of science fantasy, fucking and frollicking that should entertain any geeky genre fan with an equal penchant for pr0n.  So i liked it anyway: and whilst i'm certainly not a sequel trilogy h8er by any means, at 26 minutes this certainly doesn't outstay its welcome.  I should get round to seeing Star Wars: Underworld at some point to see how this kind of thing works over a longer runtime.  Can't be as long and exhausting as the Hobbit trilogy, after all.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Leena Meets Frankenstein (Scotty Fox, 1993)

The following review may contain NSFW content that your mother won't like you reading.  I say "may" - it definitely will.

Being of the horror, fantasy and SF bent from an early age (Wait.  Reads that back.  Yeah), in my teens in the mid to late '90s some of my designs for life and ideals for living were Stephen Jones' very useful and worthwhile tomes such as The Illustrated Vampire Movie Guide and The Illustrated Werewolf Movie Guide (i never did get round to getting the Frankenstein edition for some reason... ah, well) - thoroughly well researched books with a plethora of stills, lobby cards and posters that were cornucopiae (i don't even know if that makes sense as a plural, but i'm going with it) of knowledge about some pretty damn obscure movies.  Even by my standards.  One of the things that my hormonal young self really enjoyed about these books was that Jones fulfilled his remit to the letter, covering any and all films that contained even the faintest whiff of supernatural elements.  Including pornography.

So my eyes were opened to a strange and eerie twilit world that covered everything from softcore Jean Rollin-directed Sapphic stuff like Rape of the Vampire and Lips of Blood to niche fetish flicks such as Wolfen Tickle (which apparently consists of Japanese porn star and bondage queen Saki St Jermaine being tied up and... tickled by a man dressed as a lycanthrope.  For an hour.  "In Furry Color".  Well, i'm intrigued, even two decades on) to early examples of the porn parody subgenre such as Dracula Sucks and Leena Meets Frankenstein.  What part of me could possibly resist the very concept of a take-off of Charles T Barton's 1948 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein that switched out the vintage vaudevillians performing their routines for pneumatic nymphettes performing in a rather different way?  Certainly not the part of me that became slightly tumescent just at the very thought that such a film could exist.  I mean, the only thing that could possibly make that monster mash more seminal would be the addition of the actual fluid itself!

Our welcome to this Gothic pleasuredome begins with the stock trope of a car breaking down in the vicinity of an Old Dark House - a familiar scene-opener from everything from James Whale's 1932 classic The Old Dark House to Leon Klimovsky's 1971 lycanthrope on female vampire action Werewolf Shadow to Jim Sharman's 1975 camptastic fun fest The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  This broken-down passion wagon contains our pair (or, rather two pairs) of damsels soon to get out of dis dress Leena (credited "as Herself") and Nicole London, who quickly set the tone for the movie as they head for the mysterious castle with such deathless bons mots as the following:

"I could really do with a bite."
"Who knows, maybe they'll be really nice and have us for dinner!"

Yup.  But then, what does one really want from a film whose credits include" Boom Operator: Mike Shadowe"?  I mean, i think that's pretty funny.  I have been drinking, though.

After our stranded starlets have been bid velcome welcome by the pseudonymous 'Count Alucard' (played by Mike Horner in Lugosi-style whiteface and cape, and a widow's peak that gives Ray Reardon a run for his money), they are informed that sadly the telephones are out of service, prompting a frustrated "seems like everything is DEAD around here!" from leading lady Leena.  It's good to note, though, that the hoary (whorey?  Nah.) old 'Alucard' nom de mordre is sussed out straight away by the sexy stoaters, and without the need to write it down and use a mirror or anything: "Alucard?  Isn't that 'Dracula' backwards?"  The Count looks crestfallen to be rumbled.  I suppose it had worked for him for years by this point.

It's worth noting at this point that the movie, so far, has all been filmed in black and white, giving it the air of a '50s b-movie at least, if not the classic '30s Universal look that the director may have been reaching for.  Well, i say 'filmed', but being an early 1990s US porn movie, it's shot on NTSC videotape, which never looks too great.  It's passable in monochrome, but the film's gag of switching to full colour for the sex scenes mean that, oddly, they're probably the most skippable bits of the film if one wants to avoid feeling like glaucoma is setting in.  And i was always told that watching porn could make you go blind...

We're then introduced to the agitated Mr Larry Abbott (another genre stalwart familiar from '90s video grot: Tony Tedeschi), who tries to warn the ladies away from not only the clutches of the Count but to stay away from him too with baleful wolfbane full moon mutterings.  Yep, this our stand in Wolf Man.  Quite why they didn't go all out and call him Larry Talbot i have no idea, unless Universal's copyright was still in effect.  Clearly Bram Stoker's wasn't.  Anyway, i suppose his new surname is a nice nod to Bud Abbott.  Larry quickly succumbs to his penchant for carnivorous lunar activities and transforms (could they really not afford to make up his neck as well as his face?  Or at least hide the obvious strap that holds the chin-fur to his face?  No?  Ah, well), but is discovered and becalmed by gypsy girl Annette (Tina Tyler) who's dressed in a dirndl (i approve) in a nice callback to Lon Chaney's Larry's dalliance with Elena Verdugo's Ilonka in 1944's House of Frankenstein.  Annette manages to calm the slavering beast by tickling his belly like a dog ("Now turn back into a man - i don't want to have to take another flea bath!").  She seems quite happy with Larry's lupine labia lapping when he goes face first into the fish, though.

There follows an awkward dinner/banquet scene wherein Leena and Nicole are introduced to the Count's alluring vampire brides Paige Carlson, Brittany O' Connell and Madison Stone (as head bride - in oh so many ways - Betty, with her amazing tongue piercings), and the conversation is somewhat strained by gags involving a play on 'steak'/'stake' and "No need to get cross".  This leads us to the Bacchanalian spectacle of the uninhibited Leena romping with all three vamp ladies, which is nice.  Dracula also takes the time to explain that he doesn't own the castle outright:

"It is a timeshare situation.  Dr Jekyll gets it every other week..  Jekyll is very tidy, but inevitably Hyde shows up and trashes the place!"  Having shared University accommodation with an overly rowdy drunk, i can but empathise with Ol' Nosferatu himself on this point.  We then get a scene straight out of the old Warner Bros cartoon shorts - both the famous Bugs vs Daffy "Wabbit season!"  "Duck season!" scene from Rabbit Fire as well as the Bunny's encounter with Count Bloodcount in Transylvania-65000 come to mind - as Drac's attempts to show off his power of shapeshifting into various animal forms are confused by Leena's rapid fire demands of "Bat!  No, wolf!  No, bat!  No, wolf!" and he finds himself transformed into a small puppy.  Which at least leads to the line "Dracula is currently drinking out of the toilet".  How many films can say that?

We then get the arrival onto our mis en scene of amateur vampire slayer Steve Van Helsing (Randy Spears), a somewhat bumbling yet enthusiastic vanquisher of the powers of darkness on his very first case.  He's also a complete himbo (is that still a word?) and very easily confused, replying to Nicole's "We've got a thing to take care of" with "But my father destroyed the Thing three years ago!"

Steve is here to foil the Count's plan to summon the totality of all of the Dark Forces to decimate the world, and this bumbling scion of the Van Helsing clan isn't happy about it: "Vampires, werewolves, zombies, Elvis impersonators, talk show hosts!"  Truly a litany of evil.  Steve knows that, in addition to keeping a captive Wolf Man, Drac also has the Frankenstein Monster (John Dough, in what can only be described as a very cheap approximation of the classic Kaloff flat head 'n' neck bolts look) prisoner, chained in a dungeon.  To distract him, Steve dresses Nicole as the Bride, complete with frosted hair, a small facial scar and an extremely diaphanous gown.  Which, obviously does the trick.  Leena in turn, takes it upon herself to distract the Count until sunrise, like Ellen/Lucy in Nosferatu.  Only with more explicit sex, including such desperately romantic dialogue as "Bite my clit!" and "Pound me, Count!"  (Dracula is wearing white boxer shorts decorated with red hearts, by the way.  Not very Goth chic.)

The satiated vampire of course disintegrates when Leena opens the bedroom curtains and lets the sunlight come streaming into his life, then turns to the camera with a "Whoops!"  I mean, it's a classic method of dispatching the Un-Dead, of course.  And Peter Cushing never did it wearing only a thong.  And so we come to an end with the girls continuing their vacation, and asking Steve if he wishes to tag along.

"Sure.  Where you going?"
"Some place lush and warm and tropical," enthuses Leena.  "I've never been there, but i've heard it's nice/, have you ever heard of... the Black Lagoon?"

Cue look to camera.  END.

So, there we are.  Can i, in all honesty, recommend this movie to anyone?  Well, it's obviously not a cinematic classic or anything but it's the kind of film where you know exactly what you're getting and it does it reasonably well.  Look, do you like monster movies?  Do you like porn?  There you go then.  Sorted.

(Blow)Job's a good 'un.