Here is the Easter Episode that I did, covering the films the Severin Films release of HORROR EXPRESS and Synapse Films release of INTRUDER! I had a lot of fun watching these films, especially the new print of HORROR EXPRESS because it looked so damn beautiful!
Downloadable link: http://www.mediafire.com/?8fkagq59je8gelo
The 6th episode is titled the EASTER EPISODE, only because this was the episode that I recorded and intended it to be aired on Easter Sunday. The episode has nothing to do with that silly holiday, but instead has to do with HORROR FILMS! That’s right, folks, I reviewed the new Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack release of HORROR EXPRESS put out by Severin Films. Hear what I have to say about the quality of the release, as well as the film itself. I also talk about the new Synapse release of INTRUDER, a slasher film that stars not only one Raimi, but two Raimi’s! Both Ted and Sam Raimi are in this film and the boys formerly of KNB EFX did the make-up and special effects. Here is the link to download the show. One can also tune in to COREOFDESTRUCTIONRADIO.COM to hear the show on Sundays. (more…)
I have seen so many craptastic versions of HORROR EXPRESS being played on television transferred from the worst prints imaginable and only to find copies of this film on dvd in the bargain bin at a supermarket or at the local video of even poorer quality. As a naive youngster, I just thought the film got a shoddy treatment because it was a stinker or because the film sucked. Now, having seen it as a semi-mature adult many years later, I had no idea how incredibly fantastic and incredible this film was, and is! (more…)
When I popped in Nightmares and started watching it, I was expecting a standard slasher film that was going to offer nothing new in terms of violence, blood, and the usual frights and scares that films from this genre are usually known to offer. But then I looked the film up and realized it was categorized in the Australian exploitation category known as Ozploitation. After viewing Mark Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood, of which Nightmares is mentioned quite a few times in, I knew that I was going to be in for something quite a bit different and possibly far uniquer than most of the American slasher films I have seen in my time.
I was right, but also wrong. The film is definitely unique but I am not sure if always for the right reasons. Australian director John Lamond takes a bizarre approach to directing this fully-restored print of the very graphic giallo-like thriller that Nightmares comprises of. The film blends aspects of the American slasher genre with many core components of the Italian giallo genre in one mind-blowing perverse oddity. I throw perverse in the mix because there is a fair bit of nudity and sexual situations throughout the film.
Nightmares a.k.a. Stage Fright starts off in peculiar manner, one of which that totally baffled me at first viewing. I actually had to go back and watch the first fifteen minutes several times before I understood the first few flashback scenes made sense. In the beginning of the film we go back to January of 1963 and are privy to a young girl whom wakes up in the middle of the night, probably due to a bad nightmare (hence the title), and opens to the door to her mother’s bedroom and catches her in the act of lovemaking with a man. We are not shown the two copulating individuals faces or told who they are. I assumed they were the girl’s mother and father, but maybe that is not so. Then we move forward to a month later where the little girl (I am assuming the same little girl) is getting in to a car with her mother and a man, presumably her father, saying goodbye to his wife and daughter. The mother is about to drive off and the little girl wakes up in the back seat wrapped in a blanket.
The mother says, “I thought you were asleep.” The father tells his wife that he will see her in a couple of days once he can get away. At this point I am kind of confused as to whom the lovemaking individuals were, if the two girls that were shown on screen were the same girls, and if the man saying goodbye is the woman’s husband. The car with the girl and mother drive off and the next scene the woman (I think its the same woman whom I believe is the mother of the girl who had the nightmare, saw her mom and (possibly) father having sex in the film’s first scene) is driving the car while a man and groping and rubbing her inner thigh and crotch. Sadly, we are shown a view of the scene from the chest down and don’t get to see the hornballs’ faces. The girl wakes up, yells at the man (whom I now believe is not her father or anyone else’s) to leave her mother alone (ok, it is, in fact, the girl’s mother) and grabs her mom, causing her to lose control of the car and not notice a vehicle parked in the middle of the road (appearing to be empty) and crashes into it. At first viewing, I thought the parked car was the one with the little girl and her mother because the prior scene did not show them having driven away yet and I was not sure if the two scenes with the little girl were in fact the same girl. The beginning scenes of this film really confused the hell out of me and after watching those scenes more than several times I concluded that the young child was the same character in every scene she was in and that the mother was cheating on her husband with one or more men and that the young daughter did not approve of this infidelity. Sometimes giallos can be so confusing to me if I don’t pay very close attention. I can recall how many times I have had to re-watch specific scenes or portions of these films more than one time.
Another part of giallos that are part of their style that sometimes bewilder me are the incessant flashbacks and confusing plot-lines. Nightmares was one of those such films that initially confused me so much that I was almost debating on whether to attempt to sort the film out and even write up a review of it. I finally decided that I was going to watch the damn movie until the beginning sequence of events made sense…or until I could kid myself into believing it made sense.
Now, the somewhat confusing introductory scenes of Nightmares have concluded. The viewer learns through statements made by the man that was messing around with the little girl’s mother (the result of the accident was that the mother flew threw the windshield and with the help of her daughter moving her body her neck was slashed upon the jagged broken windshield glass) that the little girl caused the accident and killed her mother by dragging her neck across the glass. This fact was conveyed to us through some barely audible off-screen comments by what appeared to doctors or medical officials. More utter confusion.
We fast-forward to present times and what looks to be this messed-up child grown-up is none other than actress Jenny Neumann portraying Helen Selleck. Neumann is best known for her role in another slasher film, notably more popular and well-known than this film, Hell Night. Now, as an adult, Helen is trying out for a role in a theater production. She gets the part but when told of the good news she is less than thrilled. I guess that may be because she has traumatic flashbacks and nightmares frequently, some of which occur while she is awake, and also seems to talk to herself most of the time and in another voice. I think that this is what schizophrenics’ exhibit. I think a schizophrenic wrote the story because I found confusion clouded this story just as much as fog masks the city of London regularly.
The rest of the film is full of point-of-view shots as cast members and crew of the production of the theater play are killed off in bloody and gory fashion one-by-one. Many of which are murdered during sex or in the process of having just had sex. The slasher book of rules citing that fornicating and sex go hand in hand with getting carved up by a sharp knife or tool definitely apply here in this film. I would say this film threw that rule into effect the same year that the American slasher film Friday the 13th did in their but can’t say for sure if anyone really copied this rule from one or the other. Hell, Anthony Perkins slashed up the beautiful Janet Leigh in Hitchcock’s Psycho during the infamous shower scene which is one of the earliest examples of sexuality and slaughter going in hand-in-hand (along with Powell’s Peeping Tom which some argue is the first true slasher film of the genre even though both came out in the same year so who’s to say?). Contrary to what I have written, overall I really did enjoy this Ozploitation slasher-giallo flick.
Part of the enjoyment was due to quirky lines of dialogue that had me cracking up at their absurdity. For instance, when Helen has a flashback of some victims whom were recently murdered from the set of the play, she starts cackling and crying at the same time, of which I was not sure if it was more laughter or crying that I heard when all of a sudden a fellow cast member slaps her hard in the face as all the cast and crew stare at her in disbelief. Helen instantly blurts out,
“You bitch! You fucking bitch! I can do whatever I want, you hear?! You can’t stop me!” and runs off.
The girl that slaps her simply replies, “She’s mad…”.
There were quite a few scenes such as this one that only would elicit a reaction of laughter more than anything else. I found myself laughing more often than not and having quite a fun time doing so. The director within the film, actor Max Phipps, was a total douchebag and gave one of the better performances within the film. He played George D’alberg, director of the play, and was relentless as the know-it-all judge of talent even though the eminent critic, Bennett Collingswood portrayed by John Michael Howson, considered his work to be a pile of crap. The film centers around the crew squabbling with each other and Helen (Neumann) and Terry Besanko falling for each other romantically.
The film has many cool sequences and an excellent soundtrack courtesy of composer Brian May, known as one of the best film music composers in the history of Australian Cinema. May, whom has created the music for Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Road Games, and Patrick, composes another soundtrack that gives the listener chills as it perfectly matches the insanity of the flashbacks throughout the film and the atmosphere-heavy sequences during artful murders filled with nudity and creative edits most notably familiar in Italian giallos. Several times I was reminded of one of my favorite Italian directors, Dario Argento, and his earlier work with directing giallos. Several scenes depicted within the film in which the murderer raises shards of glass instead of the usual butcher knife are so reminiscent of Argento’s style. The weapon, in this case piece of glass, is raised- catching the moonlight and shining artfully in the night, just before striking down into the victim and causing a stream of blood to run down the poor soul’s skin. This occurs several times within the film and it never gets old with me. It is standard giallo slashing. I love it.
Nightmares incorporates all the familiar elements of slasher films and the style of giallo, just sometimes in a confusing manner and fashion. I think the style of the film really pushes this movie into being unique among a plethora of movies coming out that same year. Maybe it has something to do with being an Australian film made by an Australian director and their styles being somewhat unique and different than both Italian directors of giallo films and American directors of slasher films- or maybe not. I do know that the film was overall entertaining, easily predictable once the opening sequences conclude, and only somewhat annoying that every murder is show POV and, at times, with little to zero light. Why couldn’t the director throw in some more lights during some of the night scenes? It would have made the movie much easier to view and not take too much from the overall atmosphere of the picture. Besides those minor points, I was thoroughly entertained with Nightmares. It is not the best slasher-giallo-Ozploitation film out there, but it certainly is better than a fair amount of them. I felt that it was a fair entry to the slasher genre from our friends down under.
Severin Films have brought to dvd one of the strangest films that I have ever seen for quite some time. Bizarre does not even begin to explain the twisted subject matter contained within this Hollywood production. In fact, I can honestly say that never have I seen a film rated PG that has left such a disturbing and confused feeling within me.
The Baby, directed by Ted Post (Magnum Force, Hang Em High), is a psychological horror film starring Anjanette Comer as Ann Gentry, a social worker in L.A. County whom is assigned to investigate the case of the Wadsworth family and their son, known only as “Baby”. A social worker investigating a family is run-of-the-mill for families on financial support that receive a check every month except in the case of the Wadsworth family: Mrs. Wadsworth (former ’50s starlet Ruth Roman), Germaine (Marianna Hill), and Alba (Susanne Zenor). The Wadsworth daughters prance around the home, dressed in very sexy, skimpy outfits and are the kind of daughters that know they have attractive bodies and and killer racks to boot.
So far, this family just seemed quirky to me, that was until “Baby” was introduced. Baby is a grown man, probably in his mid-20’s, whom is dressed as if he was 2 or 3 years old and is in a giant wooden crib. The young man cannot talk, walk, or possesses any other high-functioning traits. The interesting thing about the plot to this film is the manner in which director Post and writer Abe Polsky (The Rebel Rousers) present the story and the facts at hand to the viewers. Baby and his quasi-twisted family are presented as just being a little bit off, and as more of the story unfolds subtle characteristics and personalities are slowly oozed out into the plot of the film. Viewers are not only learning more and more about the family and its dynamics, but also about all the characters in the film. Social worker Ann is, or was, also married. Ann seems reluctant to talk about her past and her private life. I was intrigued and curious to learn more about Ann and the rest of the Wadsworth family and the story feeds the viewers a little bit at a time, keeping one glued to the screen to find out what exactly will happen next. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed the film so damn much!
From the synopsis of the film, I was hooked. As more facts about the characters are divulged, my interest in the story was piqued even more. Just as a little kid walking down the street is lured with candy into getting into the van with the “nice” stranger, I was lured into watching more of the movie and finding out its ending. Except, I was not going to meet an untimely demise by Chester the Molester in his big, black, dark van. I was, instead, going to be privy to one of the most interesting and creepy endings to a horror film that was not filled with a plethora of gore, blood, guts and nudity or violence. Instead, The Baby is a very intelligently crafted psychological thriller of the better variety and execution.
I said there was no nudity or gore/violence in the film, but there is definitely a great deal of sexuality. The two sisters definitely have an unhealthy desire and sex drive, especially considering one likes to go into Baby’s crib, undress, and sleep with him. Yeah, there is some possible incest going on as well. How fucked up is that? Viewers are led to believe she is screwing the fully-developed, mentally under-developed young man. If that is not enough, the baby is caught in another scene groping and sucking on his babysitter’s bare breast (which viewers are not shown) but the scene is carefully edited so no nipple is present. The film continues to plod along, crossing more and more boundaries that society has set for itself. Take into consideration that this film came out in 1973 from a major Hollywood studio with a solid cast and budget. I can see why Post was reluctant to direct this film’s unique story initially.
I should say that there is some blood in the film, near the end, and a small bit of violence throughout the film. Probably one of the more shocking films in the movie is a scene where Baby is being punished and is getting shocked with a cattle prod by one of his sisters for punishment. What is he being punished for, you ask? No, not crapping in his diaper but for attempting to walk, talk, and communicate. Yeah, the family does not want Baby to develop any normal child developmental skills.
Another outstanding component to the film was the soundtrack. Gerald Fried (The Killing, Paths of Glory) wrote the original music to the film. I loved it! It had a creepy yet epic film quality to it. The soundtrack just sounded big and extravagant at times, as though Bernard Hermann or John Williams had written it, but then always slides back down to a dark subtlety. It had that big-deal sound to it, as though the world had discovered a solution to A.I.D.S. or cancer, but always went back to a dark, submissive style and dark ending. The sound had a very edgy and dark quality to it, a tinge of terror thrown into each piece of music. The violins in the soundtrack worked to achieve a doom-like stir within the viewer.
Baby, played by David Mooney, really got into his role and really did an amazing job throughout the whole film. I had no trouble at all of being convinced to Baby’s authenticity as an infant trapped in a young man’s body. The story is creepy, well-written, and the acting within the film is top-notch. Mrs. Wadsworth reminded me of the performance Bette Davis gave as the evil Baby Jane Hudson who locked up her physically handicapped sister up in her house both night and day. In the end, this film seems like a tale of good vs. evil. Or is it?
Severin Films have fully restored the original film negative and presented this dvd in a widescreen format (1.66.1) and the sound is presented in Dolby Digital mono. Special Features within the dvd include Tales from the Crib: An Audio Interview with Director Ted Post, as well as Baby Talk: an Audio Interview with the star David Mooney. I highly recommend pickup up the Severin release of The Baby, as it is a must-have in one’s collection.
I am very unsure how to start my review for Intervision’s latest new-found unheard of ’80s slasher flick that could well have been forgotten amongst the shuffle of all the other far superior slasher films of the ’80s, such as Friday the 13th, Maniac, Prom Night,
Terror Train, The Burning, the later entries in the Halloween series since the first Halloween was made in the late-70’s, Pieces, The New York Ripper, Sleepaway Camp, Silent Night, Deadly Night, and so on and so forth. I mean, there are a ton of freaking slasher films out there, more than ten films made a year-every year! This was a thriving genre in the ’80s and I am sure that if I really did some research I would find well over a dozen slasher films made in ever year starting with the 1970’s up until present day. I am sure a bunch may be direct-to-video low-budget schlockers, some even may just be tiny independent flicks some buddies got together to make out in the backwoods of their local forest preserve or wooded backyard, but nonetheless, a slasher film would have been made and could be added to the numbers of mainstream and studio versions on the list to back me up and prove my point.
Slasher films are fun. Slasher films are violent. Slasher films tend to have nudity, when it be slight or gratuitous, and have raunchy sexual innuendos and humor littered throughout the film. Slasher films also tend to host a pretty intensive body count and the victims usually die in a creatively gory fashion. All these aforementioned attributes to the slasher genre are what I love about the genre. I am guaranteed a body count in a slasher film and characters will be killed off, usually in a bloody fashion. If there are some tits and ass thrown in- even better. Oh, the director wants some fabulous bush tossed in for a totally nude-efying experience, I am down with that as well (but that is just this critic’s personal preference).
Now I recently reviewed The Dorm That Dripped Blood (a.k.a. Pranks) (1982), which I felt was a pretty decent entry into the slasher genre and was very entertaining, primarily because of the creative kills and gore, but also because of the uniquely creepy score created for the film. I am finding out that the soundtrack to a slasher film, in terms of original music written for the movie, whether it be orchestrated or done on a Casio keyboard that one can pick up at Radio Shack or the local Target, the music must go along with the movie to create tension and intrigue while viewers wait for the slasher to strike again.
Now we come to Sledgehammer, a direct-to-video/shot-on-tape slasher film from 1983 that contains a ridiculous story, almost supernatural in nature, that the director does not even attempt to explain to audience members and you know what- it doesn’t even matter because the film is so quirky in every way, from the scenes created to the shoddy production values and how the director uses key elements in sound, lightening, and camera techniques to create a starkly original and unorthodox slasher film. The back of the dvd case states that this is “the first shot-on-tape slasher movie for the home video market as well as one of the rarest genre films of all!” This claim may be true.
Sledgehammer starts out with some polarized shots set to a very effective and eerie synth-heavy soundtrack as the credits roll on, actors faces scrolling by as their names pop up underneath. Serious and somber looks grace their faces. I thought this was very unique for such a low-budget film and set the tone nicely. Random shots of a person walking down some stairs, turning open a door know, possibly a sledgehammer in hand, and then a polar shot of the lovely red and white house which to me looked like a farmhouse but that just may be because of the traditional farmhouse paint job. Our farmhouse, without knowing from already listening to the commentary, I would say is located somewhere out West, maybe California or Montana, out in the hills. This standard, classic red-painted farmhouse is indeed important and integral to the plot of the film, or just really a nice farmhouse, because the director keeps the farmhouse in a very long, steady shot…then slowly zooms in for a closer shot of this nicely painted red and white-trimmed farmhouse. In fact, while watching this movie, one will notice there are a great deal of slow, zooming shots and pans accompanied by that terrific and splendid heavy bass synth soundtrack blasting its way through your eardrums and giving one an massive aural orgasm and censorial overload. The director of photography could be zooming in on an ant picking at a scrap or crumb on the ground, but a slow zoom followed with heavy synth that intensifies as the shot slowly explodes onto the screen fully makes the shot seem that there is some sort of impending doom looming over the horizon.
-Our next shot is now inside the house with a mother wearing a translucent nightgown yelling at her 10-year old son as a raging alcoholic on the last of nerves would telling him to shut his mouth as she throws him in a closet and bolts the lock shouting at him to not say another word this evening and repeatedly yelling at him to shut-up. She wins mother of the year, right? Get ready for the heavy synth music as it slowly builds up speed, camera slowly zooming in on that locked closet door, until our next shot goes back to the mother while she gets some action from a man, one that seems to be having an affair with this married mother of one. She goes down on the guy, and from out of nowhere, or just the locked closet, the shadow of a large man wielding a sledgehammer appears and bashes in the fornicator’s head in. This scene is the first gory shot in the film, done pretty nicely showing the head cave in with some gore, and then a close-up of the mother as she gives the camera a look of shock, terror, and a last plea for mercy.
Jump to ten years later and we have a classic slasher plot: a bunch of partying young adults, both good-looking males and females- head up to this red-and-white painted house (it surprisingly looks exactly as it did ten years ago) for some fun. We are not told whose house it is, how they rented or came to be using it, or really anything else…but who cares? It is a slasher film and I just want to get to the sex and violence. Well, there is both in Sledgehammer, but not as much sex and nudity as I would have liked to have seen. There are some brief glimpses of a breast of one woman and an ass shot of one man (careful, at first you may think its a woman’s butt before the shot opens up!), but mostly just ridiculous lines of dialogue delivered during partying scenes consisting of cast members drinking cans of Budweiser and crushing them on their foreheads or shaking the cans up and spraying the beer all over everyone and everyone yelling and cheering on because wasting booze and getting all sweaty and wet with alcohol is what fun is all about.
The film has a ridiculous amount of charm, mainly due to its off-beat lines of dialogue and humor, intentional or not. At times, I just think the director, David A. Prior, let the cast get ripped on booze and just say whatever the hell was on their minds. The scene where the camera is just set in front of the van with the cast unloading all the gear was a pretty long shot, with characters popping in and out of frame, simply unloading all the crap for the trip. It probably was really all their clothes, food, and booze for the film and cast or crew. As the commentary points out, there is one “vag grab” which only consists of having a “vag” (that is short for vagina, kiddies) and one to “grab” it. Usually this is done by a male grabbing a female’s vag, but I guess in this day and age women may engage in the practice as well.
With more partying and stuffing food into faces while young adults scream, clap, and cheer incessantly- this occurs at their dinner- and then breaking into a food fight with condiments, cake, potato salad, and whatever else was on the table flying all over and being smashed onto all cast, the film is only complemented with scenes that occur for no other reason than just occurring and pointless dialogue and banter between characters. Each female is paired up with a male, creating some sort of couples’ dynamics for the film in which the guys can’t talk shit about the girls and the girls can gossip and talk to each other about how their relationships are going. At no point did I really become attached to or care about any characters in the film. The characters don’t really develop in this movie. I did not mind, though. I was too busy marveling at the unique overall style of this shot-on-tape, slow-mo, bass-synthesizing bonanza of blood and bizarrely shot masterpiece. Well, maybe not a masterpiece but definitely a film to be added to anyone whom allots a particular section on their shelf for slasher films.
As Rick (Ted Prior, Raw Nerve) tells the young goofballs the story of Sledgehammer (replete a flashback from about thirty-minutes ago in case one forgot what happened) with only a candle to light his face, as well as the others’ faces (in a shot that pans the circle of actors and actresses while the cameraman holds a lit candle in front of the lens), the story unfolds and a mock-seance is performed. In a shot just prior to this, a sledgehammer just randomly pops up, resting in a room’s corner. This sledgehammer pops up randomly throughout the film. The reason for this is never explained, but who cares, right? (I will be saying this periodically throughout the review because so much occurs in the film for no apparent reason whatsoever).
The creepiest aspect to Sledgehammer, besides the incredible soundtrack and music within the film is the murderer’s mask he wears. The killer, played by Doug Matley, who goes around killing the young adults within the film with a sledgehammer all the while wearing this bizarre mask. It really is like half a mask and sort of transparent and very hard to describe. I wish I could get a replica of the Sledgehammer mask. Maybe one will be made if the popularity of Sledgehammer rises. The boy in the beginning of the film is portrayed by Justin Greer. Sadly, he has not been in any other films. His claim to fame is being locked in a closet and staring out a window of a house. The awesome synth-bass of the film was created by Philip G. Slate and sadly this was the only film he made music for.
David A. Prior, director and writer of Sledgehammer, went on to make more low-budget B-grade, some even Z-grade horror, sci-fi, and action flicks. Although I have never seen any of the films he made (I only heard of Killer Workout), I hear his talents as a director for unique use of a film’s music in it and slow-mo shots and pans as were evident in Sledgehammer did not get used in future films or lead to him making it into bigger budgets and more mainstream fair. Prior also did not make any more slasher horror films besides these horror/sci-fi flicks: Killer Workout (1987), Night Wars (1988)-which was more Sci-fi, Night Trap (1993), Mutant Species (1995)-again more Sci-fi than horror, Zombie Wars (2008) and Night Claws (2011). Killer Workout is the only horror film of the aforementioned films that is a slasher film. The rest of Prior’s work are Z-grade action flicks that probably are not on the level of Charles Bronson or Chuck Norris flicks from the ’80s. There is no Death Wish or Missing in Action caliber of awesome ’80s/’90s action/war flicks. I guess one can toss Stallone and the Rambo flicks in there, too. While were at it, Schwarzenegger can smash his way in, as well. I can tell by the titles and plot summaries that the rest of Prior’s flicks definitely will be fun views on a B-movie level.
Most of the cast and crew in Sledgehammer have not been in another movies, or anything else of any significance besides former Playgirl model Ted Prior (also the director’s brother) who has starred in a great number of films directed by his brother, as well as the epic Surf Nazis Must Die (1987) from Troma Entertainment and the earlier mentioned Killer Workout (1987). I found it mildly interesting, if not downright hilarious, that the character Joni (Linda McGill) was also in the video Shape-Up for Sensational Sex, credited as the “girl on table”. I think credited as a “fluffer” in a porn film would have been prestigious than just a “girl on table”. I mean, what does this “girl on table” do? Does she take or receive? Does she moan? Is she just a piece of eye-candy? Is she clothed or nude? Hmmm…the possibilities are endless as to what she can be doing!
Another actor in the film, John Eastman playing “John” in Sledgehammer, also appeared in direct-to-video’s Dollman (1991), as well as being what appears to be a very proud member of the USMC, judging by the pics in his IMDb credit. A personal quote from John: “When one Marine stands for a just cause, people take notice. When two Marines stand united for a just cause, America takes notice. When the Marines stand united for a just cause the WORLD better take notice!“ The extent of John Eastman acting in any other projects involving a military character or hero involved his voice being used in the 2005 video game Vietcong 2.
Actor Ray Lawrence, whom only had a small part as the drive of the van in the film was also in the cult-hit Suburbia (1983) as a Citizen Against Crime portraying a man with a shotgun. I loved that film and just thought I would mention Lawrence’s part in that film. The only other actor in Sledgehammer that has been in a significant amount of films or television besides Ted Prior has been Luci-Lynn Norris (whom is not even credited to a character in Sledgehammer) whom has been in tons of television shows, although uncredited in quite a few of them. Most notable of those television shows was Dallas (1981-1986) and The Twilight Zone (1985-1986).
The cast and crew of Sledgehammer was, for many, their first involvement in a film’s production and for some, their only involvement in a film’s production. I think for a crew’s first slasher film, they could have done far worst. At any rate, in some film buff’s eyes, Sledgehammer is notable entry into the slasher film genre of the ’80s, will probably be likely to gain a cult-following after Intervision’s release onto dvd, and for this cinephile’s purposes, will be a great addition to my horror film collection and one that will be a chronicle of why there, to this day, are so many avid collector’s of VHS Horror and Sci-fi tapes. WIth the advent of Blu-ray discs and high-definition, there still is a loyal cult following of VHS enthusiasts. Hell, just check out the fanzine Lunchmeat (one that I have been trying to keep up with buying) as well as the fellas at Bleeding Skull and Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson (author of Destroy All Movies!!!).
The special features on the DVD release of Sledgehammer from Intervision include:
an audio commentary with director David A. Prior
an audio commentary with Bleeding Skull creators Joseph A. Ziemba and Dan Budnik
Hammertime: Featurette with Destroy All Movies!!! Author Zack Carlson
SledgehammerLand: Featurette with CineFamily Programmers Hadrian Belove and Tom Fitzgerald
Interview with director David A. Prior
Sledgehammer is one of those films that you either love, hate, or love to hate. To me, it is an important entry in the slasher genre because it was the first slasher movie to be shot on videotape and be distributed for the home video market. The film has so many quirks and nuances within it, always offering a new piece to the puzzle of a z-grade slasher flick and continually popping questions into my head such as, “What the hell was the director thinking in this scene?” The film is not by any means a “great film” but it is one worth watching, whether to make fun of or laugh at, but is one that is entertainment in every sense of the word and one that I recommend watching.
Jess Franco (Vampyros Lesbos, Bloody Moon), a filmmaker that NEVER ceases to amaze me how he can go the polar opposite in his style and brand of filmmaking-going from artistic and perverted sleaze to lack of art-filled boredom with nothing more than a glimpse of pointless nudity and zero unique shots. Oh, and the best part about the lost print of Jess Franco’s The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff is that the quality is less than average, at times extremely hazy and fuzzy, lacking a very interesting story, camera angles, shots, and little more than slightly-entertaining plot and story. Suffice to say, this print of Franco’s Dr. Orloff film could have stayed hidden.
Intervision, a brand new exploitation film company recently introduced to readers of SHU-IZMZ originating out of Thailand less than two years ago from industry veteran Larry Gold, Sr. whom was the founder and CEO (Gold, Sr. has recently passed away and Severin Films has picked up the distribution and marketing for Intervision during the merge).
According to Gold, Sr., the long-thought lost The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff was a 40-year long search. Gold goes on to say about the film, and I quote, “It’s classic Jess with a story right in his wheelhouse, featuring his most infamous villain, that luckily for Intervision received a botched release back in that most halcyon year of 1973. I would have released it myself back then, but Jess and I sadly weren’t speaking at that time due to a long-forgotten row we had trumped up over a poker game gone astray. So he took Sinister Eyes to a competitor of mine, who promptly butchered its distribution, losing the negative in the process.”
After reading the press release, I was expecting to see a piece of Franco’s work that would be unparalleled to any film of Franco’s I had ever seen up until that point—Boy was I wrong. I watched Franco’s Sinister Eyes after I had seen and reviewed Franco’s Paula-Paula, which I HATED. I was not surprised as Franco is getting pretty old now and I am really shocked after hearing each interview that he is still writing and directing films to this day, but he still tends to surprise with a decent, if not pretty good film, now and then. Unfortunately, The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff was not that film.
Dr. Orloff is a character in a series of films most of which were directed by Jess Franco, which include The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff (1973), The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962), The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966) and I don’t think Dr. Orloff’s Invisible Monster aka Orloff and the Invisible Monster (1971)(dir. Pierre Chevalier) belongs in the series because Franco did not direct it, but Dr. Orloff is a character in the movie so I am just going to throw that one in there for good measure. Some of the Franco box sets I found online were bundled with a few other Franco films which going by their titles and film synopsis’ were not Dr. Orloff films. I can’t recall having seen any other Orloff films but judging by how terrible the one film I saw was, I may have just threw that memory of that Orloff film deep down into my subconscious.
As far as I can tell, The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff is about Melissa Comfort (Montserrat Prous, Diary of a Nymphomaniac), a heiress who is having these awful nightmares involving the violent death of her father. She has been paralyzed since birth and spends a majority of the movie sitting in a large bed in her pajamas, screaming at all hours of the night from her violent nightmares and royally pissing off her Aunt- Lady Flora Comfort (Kali Hansa) and step-sister Martha Comfort (Loreta Tovar). The two are pretty hot actresses that I was hoping would have some sensational scenes of gratuitous nudity, but I was sadly disappointed. A Jess Franco film that is void of a fair amount of nudity, such as Sinister Eyes, AND a compelling plot and storyline, is a bad Franco film indeed. There was one tiny bathtub scene where some nudity was present, but other than that, it was pretty damn tame.
Lady Flora Comfort decides to enlist the help of eminent psychiatrist Dr. Orloff (William Burger, Keoma, Five Dolls For An August Moon) to deal with Melissa’s repeated nightmares, many of which involve Melissa killing her father, who just happens to be played by Jess Franco in a small cameo. The scenes of Dr. Orloff, involving quite ridiculous close-ups of an average pair of eyeballs, had me cracking up at first, but then totally annoyed. Once Melissa is taken outdoors with the help of her faithful servant, a creepy, tall Mathews (Jose Manuel Martin) and meets a concerned neighbor, Sweet Davey Brown, who was played quite effectively by Robert Woods and added some quite needed comic relief and interesting scenes of dialogue now and then. As Melissa’s nightmares increase, more vividly each night, her manservant Mathews snoops around and figures out that Melissa’s aunt and stepsister are plotting against her. Melissa also thinks that she is responsible for her father’s murder as viewers are privy to countless dream sequences, some scenes which look like dream sequences but were just scenes filmed with massive amounts of fog present. In one scene, Mathews takes Melissa away in a car to save her from her conniving sisters, we learn that the dreams are not dreams but her subconscious state under hypnotism performing heinous acts of murder by the “sinister” Dr. Orloff. I read one critic describing this film as “bland“. I agree and will say that a common cure for a bland film is throwing tons of nudity and violence into the film. After all, a film which revolves around three beautiful actresses, two of which whom portray slutty and seductress-like characters, should be naked at least a few points during the film and should have some bloody scenes and gore in them. There are murders going on! We want to see the murders taking place, along with the blood and gore and just throw in some tits and ass for exploitation”s sake.
It is rare that I review a Jess Franco film that is lacking nudity, but it is even rarer that I am reviewing a Jess Franco film that is also lacking weird camera angles, artful shots, and some sort of spice to liven things up. The film needs a swift kick in the balls and a vat of hot sauce dumped all over it and having Lina Romay (Erotic Kill) in a morsel of a scene as Sweet Davey Brown’s girlfriend? That is blasphemous. Her character should have been someone a bit more unknown in the world of cult and exploitation films. The only part of the film that was somewhat entertaining and showed some vibrant acting was when Sweet Davey Brown and Inspector Crosby (Edmund Purdom, Pieces) interacted, Brown trying to get Inspector Crosby to further investigate the Comfort residence. I found this earnest interest in Brown to be somewhat dumbfounding, as he barely knew his neighbor and only met Melissa once, not even realizing she was wheelchair-bound and then once realizing this, further insulted her by insisting he teach her how to swim. What a great guy!
As more and more family members and people around Melissa continue to die off, she is worried that she will be next. The audience is never really astounded by the fact that people are being murdered and it is nothing of an Agatha Christie who-dunnit muder mystery, but viewers are not completely let in on who is killing who as each murder occurs…at least not until the 2nd half of the film.
The most annoying aspect about this print from Intervision was the fact that it was horribly cropped on the sides, cutting off some of the credits and probably a good amount of the film as well. The picture looks like one is viewing it inside a steam room at the gym at times, even when the fog is not being used for an “eerie effect”. I give props to Intervision for finding a print of the Franco film for purist fans but I really think this was one of the more boring films to have been made by Franco, but it definitely was not his worst. I think that title, of the Franco films that I have seen, goes to the most recent of his films, Paula-Paula. That film utterly annoyed me to no end. To make Sinister Eyes a better film would involve moving the story along at a swifter pace, adding some blood and gore to the murders and actually showing the murders in much more graphic detail, and heap on the nudity. Fill the screen with wonderful ’70s bush in a most exploitative manner. I think William Berger could have at least tried to be more menacing as Dr. Orloff. He was boring as hell. There was zero menace to him and his portrayal of Dr. Orloff. If I understood Spanish (the movie is in Spanish with English subtitles that at one point turn off for some utter confusion not that there was not already confusion in the film), I may have harped on the actual performances of the actors and actresses, but I can’t tell whether foreign performances are delivering their dialogue well or not.
The film only runs about 76 min. so it is a short ordeal to withstand and, as I am finding out more and more, the interviews with Jess Franco following the film are the usually the most interesting, as was the only extra feature on the disc, The Sinister Origins of Dr. Orloff: Interview with Director Jess Franco. I really wish there were English subtitles accompanying this interview because Franco’s accent can be quite heavy at times and almost incomprehensible. Aside from that, I am just happy that a company is trying to find rare and obscure prints of lost or forgotten films, mostly exploitative in nature, and putting them on dvd and giving them a release for fans and cinephiles alike to watch and enjoy. As bad as these forgotten exploitation flicks can be, I appreciate them for not being remakes and being in good, ol’ fashioned 2-D.
Yesterday, Severin Films announced “an agreement with the estate of Larry Gold, Sr. to handle all future production and marketing for Intervision Picture Corporation (the link can be clicked but as of this post the website is under construction). The arrangement commences with the 5/10 release of 1983’s Sledgehammer, notorious as the first shot-on-tape slasher thriller for the then-exploding home video market. Gold, a pioneer of ’70s film distribution and ’80s genre VHS, died in March following a massive coronary at his home in Thailand. Severin’s Evan Husney will supervise all production and marketing for the label. Intervision product will continue to be distributed in the United States by CAV Distributing Corporation.”
Over here at SHU-IZMZ, we just started getting screeners for review from Intervision, starting with Jess Franco’s Paula Paula (reviewed here) and his 1973 rarity Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff (soon to be reviewed). I am happy to be able to say that we just received a screener of Sledgehammer for review which “marks the return of Los Angeles’ Cinefamily ‘Homemade Horror‘ series and will be screened on street-date at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse.” (Gee, wonder if Zack Carlson had anything to do with programming that gem!).
A couple of future releases from Intervision include the 1989 ‘Canuxploitation‘ oddity Things and 1993’s The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer. For those that do not know what ‘Canuxploitation‘ is, it is exploitation films from Canada. Some of these B-films include The Gate, The Changeling, The Brood, Terror Train, Ski School, etc.. Check out this website for reviews and more titles of Canuxploitation films: Canuxploitation.com.
“Either by way of budget constraints or warped vision,” says Intervision marketing director Evan Husney, “each release will represent a piece of cinematic underbelly from a universe all its own. Buried in obscurity and ripe for reintroduction, the films in Intervision’s new cult canon assure top-shelf bizarro derangement, gonzo action, transcendental fever dreams and beyond.”
“From the days of plastic clamshell VHS through the rise of Blu-ray, Intervision has been dedicated to everything fascinating and extraordinary about obscure genre works,” says Carl Daft, co-founder and CEO of Severin Films. “We are proud to carry on this commitment to rare and unique genre films under the Intervision banner.”
Here are just a few links to some Severin films that we have reviewed in the past over here at SHU-IZMZ: Loose Screws: Screwballs 2, In the Folds of Flesh, The Sister of Ursula, Macumba Sexual, Malabimab a.k.a. The Malicious Whore, Stone, and The Psychic.
In conjunction to the Devolved’s extended theatrical run in Los Angeles (starting March 4th), Severin Films today announced a series of special East coast screenings for its latest teen comedy, Unhinged.
Other dates are still To Be Announced, but as of this writing, these dates are official –
Monday, March 7th – Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY (time TBA)
Tuesday, March 8th – reRun Theater, Brooklyn, N.Y. (10 P.M.)
Wednesday, March 9th – E Street Cinema, Washington D.C. (8 P.M.)
Thursday, March 10th – Coolidge Corner Theater, Boston, MA (7:30 P.M.)
Severin’s John Cregan (Devolved’s writer/director) is going to be traveling with Devolved as a host of the screenings and he will be bringing with him a shitload of schwag and cool giveaways for those in attendance! I hope there are better giveaways than the hilarious Birdemic hangers! Here is what director John Cregan had to say about Devolved:
“Before we started marketing the film to the public at large, I felt like we owed it to our faithful fans to pause by way of some explanation” says Severin co-founder/Devolved Writer-Director John Cregan.
“Because Devolved is A) a brand new film, B) a teen comedy and C) a comedy that aims for laugh-out-loud jokes as opposed to wry festivalesque humor, I realized that it might instill a modicum of confusion in the core Severin audience. Put Devolved up alongside Santa Sangre, Hardware, and The Sinful Dwarf…it could be the source of some mild disorientation.”
Check out the TRAILER for Devolved right here:
In anticipation of the mildly entertaining, extremely amusing cult smash-hit Birdemic, fans on the West Coast can see the film at The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX and Cinefamily in Los Angeles, CA simultaneously on February 25th . However, LA fans are treated to an appearance by director Nguyen, stars Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore who will be in attendance signing copies of the film.
Remember, Nguyen is a Master of the Romantic Thrillers! I met this guy in Chicago at the Music Box Theater for the Midwest Premiere of Birdemic and he was nice as hell. He let me and my friends get some photos with him and I even got a free hanger signed by him. As far as his movie goes, it is going to be a cult classic just for its ridiculous absurdity and hilarious special effects, cheap budget, ultra-atrocious acting, and ridiculous plot.
I have waited quite awhile to see this film. I do not exactly know why I wanted to see it so badly, considering I have a great distaste and fear towards dwarves, little people, midgets….whatever the hell they are called. I guess for someone who is well over 6 feet tall, it makes sense that my fears are of things that are tiny. Ever since I heard that Severin Films was releasing The Sinful Dwarf and thus making it readily available for rental and/or purchase, I knew that I was going to like this film, no matter how much press talked about how evil and sinister this film was. Well, let me tell you-IT IS EVIL AND SINISTER! But shouldn’t it be?
The Sinful Dwarf, directed by Vidal Raski and written by William Mayo from a story by Harlan Asquith, is the story of Olaf the Dwarf (Torben Bille) and his mother Lila Lash (Clara Keller) who run a boarding house and a white slavery ring unbeknownst to the boarders. The white slaves are given heroin to keep them docile and drugged up so they won’t resist and try to escape, always craving the heroin. The women are stripped of their clothes and left to lay on mattresses on the floor in a room in the attic of the building where they wait for men to pay to have sex and whatever else they want with the enslaved girls.
When a young couple who are hard up for money rent a room there, Olaf and his alcoholic mother Lila decide that when the time was right the beautiful Mary (Anne Sparrow), wife of Peter (Tony Eades), would make a lovely addition to their sex slaves. I found it very humorous and ironic that they bought their heroin from a toyshop owner who smuggled them in stuffed animals, which the vile little dwarf Olaf always played with, sometimes crudely engaging the toys in sexual acts for his own pleasure. The drug dealer/toys shop owner’s name was Santa Clause (Werner Hedman), or at least that is what he went by.
The film as a whole is perverted, dark, twisted, and at times, sadistic. The film had lots of character, though. I think the director wanted you to see just how sick and depraved, pathetic even, Olaf and his mom Lila, truly were. I thought the film was well-shot, flawlessly zooming in on Olaf as he became sexually excited, spittle drooling from the corners of his lips, salivating at the thought of molesting and abusing the women he saw as, quite possibly, larger and living versions of the toys he used in such a depraved manner. To Olaf, the women were just mere objects to be enjoyed by himself and to earn he and his mother an income, having had there theater burned and ruined. Olaf’s mother seemed to be a has-been showgirl, with Olaf playing accompanying piano and Lila dancing and singing, one gets a sense that had things turned out more positive for the two, maybe they would not be kidnapping young women and whoring them out to even more decrepit men.
One does not even feel pity for poor, old Olaf, stumbling to and fro with his tiny cane to help him balance his imperfect and miniature physique. I wanted to smash the vile little gimp into a mass of blood and crushed bones, but that just may be my prejudice for the little people projecting out from my inner recesses of my subconscious. I will say that I was very surprised but happy with the ending.
The sex-slaves were played by Jeanette Marsden, Lisbeth Olsen, and Jane Cutter and the extent of their acting went as far as mumbling, moaning, and uttering semi-coherent warblings while laying or sitting around naked through-out the whole film. The scenes involving Olaf’s customers coming to have sex with the slaves was fairly graphic and lengthy. The scenes could not have been more humiliating or degrading for any woman to have watched or even participated as an actress in.
Hailed as “The mother of all dwarfsploitation films“, how could one disagree with this statement? Has anyone seen any other films exploiting dwarfs? Probably not. The film is probably near the top for sleaziest and anyone who enjoys this film will probably tell you its just one of their guilty pleasures. I, for one, think most pleasures are guilt-free, or should be! I highly recommend this film and if that smears my reputation a bit, whatever that reputation may be— Tough shit!