Category: 1963


Blood Feast

I’m always a sucker for this film

Really Awful Movies

Gore. For many, the raison d’etre of the genre. A good horror flick need not have it and many do not. Knuckle-whitening suspense, taut pacing, superb atmosphere, nuanced characterization and expert plotting can all contribute to a successful horror film. 1963’s Blood Feast features none of the above. But it does have gore; lots and lots and lots of juicy, squishy, stomach-churning gore! And we like gore. Thus we like Blood Feast!

Blood Feast, the first of the infamous “Blood Trilogy” writer and director Herschell Gordon Lewis made with producer David F. Freidman, is credited as the first ever gore/splatter film, and it changed the course of what a horror film could do/show. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to the individual (I fall squarely on the side of the latter), but Blood Feast’s importance to horror is undeniable. Like Elvis, the film broke down…

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Now here’s a classic film, we should see more of: 1960’s The Playgirls and the Vampire, is an early Italian exploitation/horror gem that is notable mainly for showing several attractive young Italian women running in terror through a castle in their see-through nighties. Blogger B2 claims it was the first Italian horror film to mix horror and nudity. More was definitely to come! Maybe bold for its time a half-century ago, its formula has been aped ad nauseum ever since:

You can watch the whole thing here, courtesy of AMC.

Not much to say about the film itself that has not already been said: it’s not a good film, it plods along at a dull pace, and but is interesting nevertheless for being an early horror film, and if you can get into it; it can be a lot of fun for its short run time of 76 minutes.  What I find most interesting here is its context.

Playgirls is an interesting example of a trend mentioned by Danny Shipka–of why early Italian horror films were (arguably) slow to develop:

The Italian population, still reeling from the atrocities of World War II, were unprepared to be taken [back to a] place of horror and despair in their exploitation films.

Here's your Velvet Elvis of Playgirl Maria Giovannini. No, I didn't create this.

Here’s your Velvet Elvis of Playgirl Maria Giovannini. No, I didn’t create this, but there’s more here.

Indeed, looking over the bios of the entire cast, crew, and producers of this film shows–if IMDB is complete, a bigger if for foreign films of this vintage and obscurity–that only one actor was active in the Italian film industry during the war (Alfredo Rizzo, would have been in his late 30s when the war started, and he only made two films during the war). Others–if they were old enough at the time to be employed, only became active in the film industry after the war. Obviously, the war displaced most of the Italian economy and social life, including its famous film industry, and we might assume that the cast and crew of Playgirls were doing other things–like surviving–during the war.

Given the ages of most cast members, it’s reasonable to assume that the war was a childhood experience and memory for most of the them–the “Playgirls” for which we have birth year information (Maria Giovannini, later a well known star of Italian soaps in the late-1950s, and Lyla Rocco) were between 2 and 6 years old at the outbreak of the war.

Lyla Rocco, c. 1953. She later married popular Italian actor Alberto Lupo, and helped him recover from a stroke in 1976 for him to return to television in 1978.

Lyla Rocco, c. 1953. She later married popular Italian actor Alberto Lupo, and helped him recover from a stroke in 1976 for him to return to television in 1978.

Playgirls was directed by the late Piero Regnoli–who was 21 at the start of World War II, and who only passed away in 2001. Regnoli was better known as a screenwriter, who wrote more than 100 screenplays between the 1950s and the early 1990s, the most notable of which were I, Vampiri (1956), directed by Mario Bava–whose centenary is this year–and the Lucio Fulci classic Demonia (1990).

Fun fact: Regnoli’s daughter is the world-class skiing champion, Daniela Ceccarelli,  who earned a gold medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Lastly, looking at the filmographies of the cast and crew, we see that subsets of the Playgirls cast also are seen in the following films:

The two leading men of Playgirls–vampire Walter Brandi, and the aforementioned Alfredo Rizzo–also appeared together in Bloody Pit of Horror (1965) and Terror, Creature from the Grave (with Barbara Steele), also from ’65:

hawk-of-the-caribbean-movie-poster-1963-1020360989Regnoli wrote and directed the financially troubled Caribbean Hawk (1963), which featured Brandi as a pirate; while Brandi and Marisa Quattrini were both in the better known 1960 Italian horror film featuring a group of dancers entering a vampire’s castle, The Vampire and the Ballerina:

So, in sum, spend some time with Playgirls, and then jump off from there to other work this cast and crew of done–together or separately–since, which is what I’ll be researching and writing about here for the foreseeable future!

Clearly, this film needs a to reach a wider audience.

MOVIES & MANIA

LoveGoddessesofBloodIslandCGsupe-1

‘Was it a dream or reality… for one man on an island of terror?’

Love Goddesses of Blood Island (also known as Six She’s and a He and Kiss Me Bloody is a 1963 cheesecake gore horror film executive produced and directed by Richard S. Flink [as Gordon H. Heaver]. Flink’s only other known credit is as the producer of half-man, half-jellyfish monster movie Sting of Death (1965). The film was scripted by William Kerwin (actor in Blood Feast; Playgirl Killer; Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things and co-writer of Sting of Death). It stars Launa Hodges, Bill Rogers (A Taste of Blood; Flesh Feast), Carol Wintress, Dawn Meredith, Liz Burton, Laura Wood, Ingrid Albert.

Love-Goddesses-of-Blood-Island-0-11-56-290

Something Weird Video chanced upon a 28 minute, condensed version of Love Goddesses of Blood Island when they acquired the rights to William Grefe’s Sting Of Death. They released…

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At this point, we’ve eliminated half of the films we started with, and have arrived at our Sweet 16! But before we get to that story, I have to go over this story–how Match-Up 4 shook out.

This Story 

Match-up 4 had about half the votes of 3, which is fine, and here’s how it all went down:

Hi-Brow vs. Low-Brow Horror

The Birds (1963)–3 votes (60%)
Night of the Lepus (1972)–2 votes (40%)

Come All Ye Witchfinders!

Witchfinder General (1968)–3 votes (60%)
Mark of the Devil (1970)–2 votes (40%)

Possessions ‘R Us

The Exorcist (1973)–3 votes (60%)
The Devil Rides Out (1968)–2 votes (40%)

Exploitations’ Best Leading Ladies

Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! (1965)–3 votes (60%)
Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS (1975)–2 votes (40%)

That Story

So, with these we have our Sweet 16.  This week we’ll work through these eight matches, so we can get at a Final Four next time out:

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951):

vs.

Black Sunday (1960)

Grizzly (1976)

vs.

Carnival of Souls (1962)

The Thing (1982)

vs.

The Birds (1963)

Them! (1954)

vs.

Witchfinder General (1968)

Christine (1983)

vs.

I Drink Your Blood (1970)

ThanksKilling (2009)

vs.

The Exorcist (1973)

Blacula (1972)

vs.

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Toxic Avenger (1984)

vs.

She-Devils on Wheels (1968)

Happy Voting, see you at the Elite Eight next week!

I’m a little late this week–I was out of town for a bit last week.  Here’s how Match-Up 3 fared:

1960s Horror Pioneers

  • Carnival of Souls (1962)–6 votes (67%)
  • Blood Feast (1963)–3 votes (33%)

John Carpenter Bake-Off!

I really expected this result to be the opposite of what we got here:

  • The Thing (1982)–6 votes (60%)
  • The Fog (1980)–4 votes (40%)

Contemporary Zero-Budget Nightmares

  • Thankskilling (2009)–3 votes (60%)
  • Birdemic (2010)–2 votes (40%)

Blaxploitation Still Rules

To many, Shaft is the King of Blaxploitation, but Blacula seems to be the prince of campy blaxploitation.  Camp wins every time.

  • Blacula (1972)–9 votes (82%)
  • Shaft (1971)–2 votes (18%)

These results bring us to here, and as you can see, we have one more set of four matches to go to bring us to a Sweet 16–some of those will be blow-outs, while others could be more interesting.  So, for this week:

High-Brow vs. Low-Brow Horror

Come All Ye Witchfinders!

Possessions ‘R Us!

Strong Leading Ladies

Same rules as always–a week to vote in the above polls, and we’ll see where we’re at in another week!

It’s that time of the week again! Time for results and new contests to find some of the more popular B-movies, as voted on by my 7 loyal followers.  First, a wrap-up of last week’s contest:

Battle of the Crazy 70s Cult Leaders!

  • I Drink Your Blood (1970)–6 votes (67%)
  • Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1973)–2 votes (33%)

A Troma Classic v. Vengeful Christmas Trees

  • The Toxic Avenger (1984)–8 votes (89%)
  • Treevenge (2008)–1 votes (11%)

Horror: 1960s v. 1970s

  • Black Sunday (1963)–7 votes (78%)
  • The Abominable Dr. Phbes–2 votes (22%)

Sci-Fi: 1950s v. 1960s

  • Them (1954)–5 votes (56%)
  • Godzilla vs. The Thing (1964)–4 votes (44%)

Now that we have two sets of results, we need to start charting who’s advancing on from the original 32 films into a Sweet 16. For those following along at home, here’s where we’re at–and you can start to see what upcoming match-ups will be.   And now, on with the countdown!

This week, four more matches, notable for how very different each match-up is, but all these films are worth a re-watch.  Here are the matches for this week:

1960s Horror Pioneers

These represent some groundbreaking horror film making whose styles and tropes remain with us, even after half a century. Both are top faves of mine: Carnival of Souls (1962) vs. Blood Feast (1963). The latter is Herschell Gordon Lewis’s second entry into our little contest, after She-Devils on Wheels won its first contest handily.

John Carpenter Bake-Off!

Every rightly-brought-up fan loves John Carpenter, but which of his films are his best?  Here, we must make a hard choice: The Fog (1980) vs. The Thing (1982)!

Contemporary Zero-Budget Nightmares

I love zero-budgets (z-movies) almost as much as the classics, and we are indeed in a new golden age for this end of the swamp.  I’ll unilaterally give an honorable mention to Bong of the Dead (2011), but for this week make your choice between these two new classics:

Blaxploitation Still Rules

Love me some classic blaxploitation! For whatever reason, this is a genre that I cannot tire of.  Two more faves, though I really wanted to get Dolemite or Bucktown in for this year–these might be a good match-up for next year’s edition of the Grindhouse Brackets. But for this year, puzzle me this: Blacula (1972) or Shaft (1971)?

Next week, we’ll finish up the initial contests where each of the 32 starters has an initial shot at advancement–after next week things will start getting interesting as winners take on other winners.

 

 

 

Link Dump, Early April

I don’t do this as often as I would like, but here are some more cool exploitation/B-movie/old horror movie posts I’ve enjoyed lately.   I enjoy reading other posts on films that I might like to cover in this blog, and calling out some quality posts on this end of the cinema pool seems a good way to keep interest going in these sorts of films. Also, I’ve recently discovered the “re-blog” feature here in WordPress, so fellow WP users who do fine posts will find their stuff re-blogged in my “Quick Takes” section at left.

First things first: Starburst informs us that the first three seasons of Airwolf–the only ones that matter are now on DVD! I loved this show back in the day, no Saturday night was complete without the family gathered around the tube watching more mid-80s Cold War hijinx ensue from a super-chopper run by some shadowy secret organization.  I had forgotten that star Jan-Michael Vincent, whose alcoholism got the better of his career, was also in Lassie and the Danger Island segment of “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.”

Secondly, Midnight Cinephile takes on the incredibly odd Troma flick, Video Demons Do Psychotown (1989). Bottom line:

Essentially a murder mystery, combined with a haunted house story, combined with a tale of psychics and witches, combined with a slasher film, topped off with some possession undertones and a general sense of strangeness.

Looks like the good folks at Troma put this flick on YouTube in its entirety a while back when they did the same for a hundred-plus of their back catalog:

Thirdly, having just watched Witchfinder General (1968) not so long ago, I was very keen to see Church of Splatterday Saints review Mark of the Devil (1970), which cashes in on the success of the Vincent Price classic, but with more gory violence.  As much as I enjoyed Witchfinder, I think I expected more explicit violence from it–Mark of the Devil fills that niche nicely.

Also, check out this recent interview with Michael Armstrong, who directed Mark of the Devil:

Fourthly, the “animals-on-the-loose” ripoff of Jaws entry goes to Dogs (1976) (H/T Outpost Zeta), with David McCallum.

Fifthly, Horror-Movies.ca has a nice list of seven underrated apocalypse movies that you should check out. I love this list because some unexpected stuff–way outside conventional horror fare shows up. Click through to see the rationale for including these, but here are the trailers–I’ll be (re-) watching these soon.  While you’re at it, check out the first half of a profile of the great Mario Bava here.

The 1992 version of the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" video game

The 1992 version of the “Plan 9 From Outer Space” video game

Fifthly, Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) will again be adapted as a video game. The first adaptation was about 20 years ago for Atari ST and Amiga.  I believe Plan 9 was the only one of Ed Wood’s movie to be adapted into both a video game and a porn flick (and oddly, within about a year of one another!)

Plan 9: The Porn! (1993)

Plan 9: The Porn! (1993)

Sixthly, Horrorpedia takes on a couple fun and schlocky flicks: Kiss of the Vampirethe 1963 version of Hammer’s Christopher Lee-less Dracula sequel and Fred Olen Ray’s Star Slammer (1989), featuring reclycled footage from two other must-sees: The Deadly Spawn (1983) and Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). Any re-uses of these gems must be epic.

Lastly, 3S Horror reviews another Troma masterpiece, Lust For Freedom (1987).  Pretty standard 80s women-in-prison fare, with a couple decent one-liners:

I’ve been knocked down and insulted. I’m hot and dirty. I’m calling it a day.

Cops were dying all over the place and all I could do was act like a woman. I knew my days as a cop were over.

I saw your girlfriend french kissing a donkey on the reservation.

More linkage coming in mid-April!

Here, Mrs. I Love Terrible Movies and I put together a fun little 32-team bracket featuring bad guys/monsters/villains of horror and exploitation films I’ve seen in the past year or so.  In case you forgot who’s who, I’ve embedded the film trailers below.

Tweet me or comment on this post by a week from today (1 April) for your faves to advance to the Sweet 16.

Yeah, yeah, I know this is going to finish up well after “March Madness” will–sue me.

Klaatu vs. Gill-Man

From Outer Space … A Warning and an Ultimatum

Clawing Monster From A Lost Age strikes from the Amazon’s forbidden depths!

Asa Vajda vs. Dr. Phibes

The Undead Demons of Hell Terrorize the World in an Orgy of Stark Horror!

There are two sides to Dr. Phibes…..both of them EVIL!

Jaws Ripoff-a-Thon!

They’re waiting to slither you!

18 Feet of Man-Eating Terror!

The Man vs. Fuad Ramses

She Escaped Death. Now It Wants Her Back!

A Weird, Grisly Ancient Rite Horrendously Brought To Life In Blood Color!

 John Carpenter Face Off!

Man is The Warmest Place to Hide

It is night. It is cold. It is coming.

Birds vs. Lepuses

…And remember, the next scream you hear could be your own!

How many eyes does horror have? How many times will terror strike?

Mothra vs. Them!

SEE the armies of the world destroyed! SEE the BIRTH of the world’s most terrifying monster! SEE the war of the GIANTS!

A horror horde of crawl-and-crush giants clawing out of the earth from mile-deep catacombs!

Jeff Morrow Slapfest!

PLANET ROBBER TRAMPLES EARTH…STEALING ENERGY FOR OTHER WORLDS!

Flying beast out of prehistoric skies!

Cars vs. Houses!

Body by Plymouth. Soul by Satan.

Houses Don’t Have Memories

Battle of the Nihlistic Cult Leaders!

Let it be known, sons and daughters, that Satan was an acid head.

You’re Invited To Orville’s “Coming-Out” Party…It’ll Be A Scream…YOURS!!!

Recent Zero-Budgets!

Why did the eagles and vultures attack?

Gobble, Gobble, Motherfucker!

The Devil You Say?

The beauty of woman, the demon of darkness, the unholy union of “The Devil’s Bride”

Somewhere between science and superstition, there is another world. The world of darkness.

Vampire Madness!

His bite was outta sight!

It will cost you sweat and tears, and perhaps… a little blood.

Badass Bitches!

The most dreaded Nazi of them all!

Russ Meyer’s ode to the violence in women

Treevenge vs. Troma

The first Super-Hero… from New Jersey!

Badass Biker Babes!

They’re Looking for a Few Good Men.

See! Female Hellcats Ruling Their Men With Tire-Irons As Their Instruments Of Passion!

PosterAfter Cinema Catharsis mentioned The Flesh Eaters (1964) as an October 2013 quick pick, I knew I had to check it out.  It’s a nice early period gore flick that stands the test of time as a decent thriller.  Originally released in 1964, even though it was made in 1960-61, it was one of the follow-ups to box office smash The Blob (1958).  The behind-the-scenes lore of The Flesh Eaters also seems pretty well documented, and recapitulating some of that story seems like a nice way to celebrate its 50th anniversary: The Flesh Eaters’s premiere was 50 years ago yesterday.

First though, the film:

Arnold Drake wrote the screenplay for The Flesh Eaters

Arnold Drake wrote the screenplay for The Flesh Eaters

It would seem the most detailed, first-hand account of the making of this film comes from its screenwriter, Arnold Drake, who gave a lengthy interview in Tom Weaver’s book, Eye on Science Fiction: 20 Interviews with Classic SF and Horror Filmmakers, published in 2003.  Drake was most renowned as a comic book writer–as a dyed-in-the-wool DC guy I am most fond of his creating “Deadman.”  Arnold passed away in 2007 at the age of 83.

A couple fun stories from the interview are worth paraphrasing: first, the film was funded in part with $70,000 acquired from producer-director Jack Curtis’s wife won on a rigged game show, High Low, in 1957.  It would appear that this would have been Curtis’s first wife, whom Drake named as “Terry,” not his later wife, Paulette Rubinstein, whom Curtis married in 1964.  The fact that the show was rigged in advance was a tightly kept secret by the Curtises for a number of years, even from Drake.

On a side note: Rubinstein apparently did some of the voice dubbing for early Godzilla films, including Godzilla vs. The Thing, which IMDB fails to mention.  Also, Jack and Paulette’s daughter, Liane Curtis starred in 16 Candles, Critters, and more recently in a one-off in season one of Sons of Anarchy.  

Barbara Wilkin, was little more than a pretty face in The Flesh Eaters, according to Drake.

Barbara Wilkin was little more than a pretty face,  according to Drake.  She apparently called it a career in 1968, and left film and television after only a decade.

Anyway, the second interesting tidbit from this interview was the story about how Frank Sinatra almost got into the movie–or not.  After they had cast Barbara Wilkin the fimmakers found an unnamed woman whom Drake says was much more attractive than Wilkin who had no acting experience, but she said her boyfriend would put up whatever funds were necessary to finish the film.

Following the money, Drake and Curtis meet the boyfriend–someone named “Chester”–in Chicago, where he was putting them up in a swanky hotel right on Lake Michigan.  After pitching the film–and emphasizing and re-emphasizing that this was a low budget film–Chester was convinced and announced “Frankie owes me, from way back,” and said it was settled–he’d call Sinatra and convince him to be in this picture, and the two filmmakers would be hearing from Chester’s people. This caused, as one would imagine, a huge panic: Sinatra was obviously a huge star, and this was not the movie for him or his entourage.  A full union crew would be needed for an A-lister like him, coming at the cost of an extra half-million dollars or more.  A few days afterwards they heard from Chester’s accountant who said: “We’ve decided not to go with this venture.”  No kidding.  They never heard from the beautiful wannabe actress again.  In any case, Wilkin did a fine job, though Drake wasn’t terribly impressed with her.

This film also forced the hand of the great George Romero and the titling of his best known film, Night of the Living Dead (1968).  Originally, Romero wanted his film to be called Night of the Flesh Eaters, but a lawyer contacted him to change his film’s name, presumably on behalf of Vulcan Productions, Curtis and Drake’s production company that made The Flesh Eaters.  At any rate, to avoid a lawsuit, Romero changed the name of his classic to Night of the Living Dead, according to Joe Kane’s book on the making of Romero’s film.

The legacy of The Flesh Eaters tends to be overshadowed, mainly by Hershell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast, which came out the year prior to Flesh Eaters–both experimented with being more gory depictions of violence, but Blood Feast was obviously more violent by an order of magnitude.  Also, Blood Feast was a color picture, which made the severed tongues and disembowlings all the more realistic.  Flesh Eaters seems to me to be among the last of the American “monster on the loose” pictures that were a staple of drive-ins of the previous decade, and it seems a fitting end as film straddles that mainly tame and harmless genre and the increasingly graphic horror of the 1960s and 1970s.

It’s time for another good-sized roundup of good movie reviews from the tweeps.  Love how you folks are keeping exploitation and B-movies in circulation.

With a good-sized H/T to Cultural Gutter, I saw this interesting post on TV criticism vs. TV recapping, among other things.  I liked it because it gives voice to what I’m trying to give birth to on this blog, in the context of exploitation and B-Movies, instead of scripted television dramas:

. . .  carving out a niche for long-form pieces that look beyond the pluses and minuses of a single episode to examine its greater potential and its place in the culture . . .

I’ve been trying to figure ways to take my movie blog that you’re reading now beyond recapping and reviewing individual films, which does seem to me to be the dominant mode of the cinema blogosphere.  Giving as much as I can about the backstory of a film’s making, information sometimes captured in book-length pieces, or trapped in the academic community seems one good way to get there.  Another seems to be the looking into period press, much of which is is not online, to give some idea of how these films I cover were received as they came out seems like a fruitful avenue.  I’ve some other ideas too, which are not ready for prime time yet, but suffice it to say I was glad to see the idea of moving beyond single-film perspectives in the above post.

This last one reminds me of a side-project I just might get going, doing a “movie-of-the-day” about Jaws-rip-offs of various kinds of animals attacking people. If this furlough keeps going, you never know what can happen!

  • Over at Forgotten Films we get some good posts on a variety of fun flicks, a couple of which should be seen annually, I think: Blackenstein (1973) was part of the early-to-mid 1970s blaxploitation series remaking classic horror icons, other examples being the William Marshall vehicles Blacula and Abby (remaking The Exorcist). FF also talks Grizzly (1976), another of the aforementioned Jaws rips; The Awakening (1980) a snoozer in which yet another ancient Egyptian queen comes back to life, this time with no thanks to Charlton Heston’s and Stephanie Zimbalist’s overwrought acting.  Lastly, we get one of two takes this week of my own guilty pleasure, Zombie Lake (1981), about zombie Nazis.  Or Nazis, who happen to be zombies.  Or whatever.  Also, check out Midnight Triple Feature’s separate review of Zombie Lake.

Starring Barbara Steele, who I recently saw in Piranha 18 years after this one, still messing shit up, this time, and yet again, with the wildlife eating people!

Car

Co-starring Sandor Elès, whose death anniversary was a month or so ago.

  • Lost Highway was three fun ones this time: Pieces (1983), a self-explanatory classic slasher ripoff of the irreplaceable Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974); Night Tide (1961) in which young Dennis Hopper falls in love with a woman who may or may not be a mermaid; and Journey to the Seventh Planet (1961), classic B-sci-fi about visiting Uranus.  My tweeps are pretty monster/slasher horror-focused, so seeing some good old fashioned sci-fi/horror here in the bunch is nice and refreshing.
  • The positively essential Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) gets a new review, courtesy of Church of Splatter-Day Saints, not only did this flick introduce the facehugging monster that Alien gets all the credit foe later, but this film helped revive Universal Studios’ flagging fortunes by introducing new possibilities for monster movies when the genre had all but run its course in the mid-1950s.

Lastly, I’ll conclude this post with a fun link over to The Hollywood Reporter and their interviews with all concerned with the making of Evil Dead 2.  “We were like ‘Jackass’ with a plot”!  Enjoy!