#53 – Dark Tentacles

(1999, Jap, 63 min) Dir Hiroya Hino. Cast Yukie Inoue.

I don’t know about you but if – all those years ago, back in more innocent times – if then someone had suggested to me the erotic potential of tentacles I would probably have smiled and nodded whilst backing away from them slowly. Of course now that the internet has opened our eyes to these things actually being things it’s harder to think of anything uncomfortable or unpalatable that hasn’t been exploited by some deranged pioneer or another, all of which is a long-winded way of saying that here is Dark Tentacles, should you want it. It’s the age-old story – an anonymous woman (let’s call her AW) is chosen by some sort of grotesque and many tentacled pan-dimensional fiend to bear its terrible spawn. Apart from a brief prologue showing AW looking in shop windows while the dread beast monologues its plan, the whole thing takes place in her apartment where said hell creature does its gross tentacle thing. It doesn’t go straight to it though – there’s 63 minutes to fill here people! No, there’s a slow and agonising preamble involving AW held down and tortured by the slippy limbs with lots of close-ups of her agonised features and vulnerable regions. It all goes downhill from there when the pixels come out… The whole thing ends with poor AW swollen with the pan-dimensional fiends offspring. It looks like it was shot on a camcorder in someone’s actual apartment which makes it worse in a couple of different ways and though the creature itself is well realised I’d probably have preferred that it hadn’t been. Easily avoidable.

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#52 – Death to the Devil!

(1970, GB, 95 min) Dir Harold Andsley. Cast Leon Greene, Maria Pershy, Wilfrid Brambell.

The popularity of Dennis Wheatley transferred itself to the screen in the sixties and seventies via official channels, usually with Christopher Lee in the likes of The Devil Rides Out and To The Devil a Daughter. But really all you needed to ape his style was a country estate and an erudite tweed wearing man, right? Well here’s Death to the Devil! to try to prove this the case – indistinguishable from Wheatley or your money back! Okay so we don’t have Christopher Lee but we have Leon Greene – he was in The Devil Rides Out, wasn’t he? There you go. What about the infamous ‘Black’ Abbey as a location? No, it doesn’t exist, but we can make it up in the publicity and get the actors to say they saw strange things when they were filming. A floating old monk at the window or something, I don’t know… Okay, what next? Ah yes – a lovely lady, preferably in peril! How’s about Maria Pershy? She’s a right looker and European too so she’ll not mind being tied up in a slinky nighty. That’ll get the lads in if you get it up on the poster! Brilliant! And we’ll get Wilfrid Brambell in for some laughs too. Yeah, and we’ll get old Ron Beadle to shoot it. I know he don’t see too well these days but he’s cheap and he brings his own lights. Okay, what else do we need? That’s right – a script! Oh well, it seems we’ve run out of time. I guess we’ll do without!

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#51 – Fifty Ways to Kill Your Lover

(1980, Can, 95 min) Dir Jack Angelo. Cast Rudy Picken, Sally Oscar, Oliver ‘Bee’ Betjeman, Jim Billy.

A comedy slasher movie – of all the things – that takes place in the novel surroundings of a spoof folk festival, kind of like A Mighty Wind and Friday the 13th had a child. Sam Deal (Picken) is at the New Grass Folk Festival playing his first stage gig when the body of Joan Baez style folker Alma Wurlitzer is found during his sound check. Alma fan Sam turns detective, mingling with the hoi polloi and the general attendees in search of clues while the body count rises – all hushed up by the festivals unscrupulous runners. The best part of the film is identifying the various folkish musicians being pastiched – Simon and Garfunkel (obviously), Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and so on. Art Garfunkel (the real one) even turns up for a cameo as a weird candy floss salesman! Of course the culprit eventually turns out to be the dastardly Bob Dylan analogue who has been driven mad with fame (it’s changed him, man) and is now trying to bump off everyone who accuses him of selling out. The finale finds him trying to make his getaway, piloting his private helicopter whilst clogged up to the gills on cocaine and crashing into a mountain. Well played by a cast of unknown Canadians but shot on a minimal budget – the festival looks sparsely attended for a start and the less said about the helicopter crash the better. But still, it only adds to the charm of this little film that could.

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#50 – Cincuenta Ojos De Augusto Welles, Las (Fifty Eyes of Augusto Welles, The)

(1996, Sp, 101 min) Dir Alex Camino. Cast José Molina, Francisco Vivo, Ángela Merlo.

Young Pablo is moving out into the country with his sickly mother, back the village where she grew up. Her family, especially her aunt, are a superstitious lot who close the curtains when it gets dark “to stop the eyes looking in”. It’s the summer and having no friends he takes to exploring the countryside, especially the nearby forests and hills. When he’s up overlooking the village he finds the remains of an old stone building. “It looks old, doesn’t it?” The voice startles him – it’s another young boy crouched unseen beside the building. “It’s not that old actually,” he says, “It only burned down twenty years ago.” Pablo asks how the boy knows this. “It was my school,” replies the boy, “And I was in it when it burned.” Pablo keeps his friendship with the boy a secret and find out what he is so afraid of – in the night something big wanders through the woods, thrashing aside the trees and calling out for the boy like the nightmare of a stern father. There is an eerie scene when they are all alone having escaped whatever it is that’s trying to find them. They look up and open their eyes at long last they find themselves surrounded by eyes looking at them from the darkness of the surrounding trees. “There he is!” cries a chorus of young boy’s voices. These are the fifty eyes of the title, the eyes of his dead classmates. A fantastic fairy tale of a film that delves into the darkness of Spain’s recent past through the eyes of its children.

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#49 – Enfer de Sophie, L’ (Hell of Sophie, The)

(1968, Fr, 90 min) Dir Alain Andere. Cast Edith Scob, Delphine Seyrig, Alida Valli.

Poor Edith Scob. She’s Sophie, a down on her luck waitress in a grey winter’s Paris who has just lost her last job. But what luck – as she wearily trudges her way through the puddles home there appears the fantastically glamorous Delphine Seyrig (in Daughters of Darkness mode) in a big white limo to offer her a job serving the ball she is throwing in her massive country residence that weekend. And what a job offer it is –a huge sack of francs foo one night’s work!? Of course it’s too good to be true but what’s poor Edith to do but say yes? At least the slinky Delphine is pleased to hear of her acceptance, her sleepy cat grin just visible as her window goes up. At the appointed time a car arrives at her sad garret to whisk her off to the house of the party, the lamps that line the endless drive being lit as she arrives. Without a moment to think about it she’s dressed in her uniform and out among the party already under way. She can’t help but notice the way that the masked guests look at her though, as though they are appraising her… As the night wears on her suspicions grow but surely nothing diabolical could be afoot? Before you know it the film has devolved into Satanically fuelled class war with the well off trying to tuck into the help. Great fun and beautifully shot – every frame could be cut out and hung on the wall.

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#48 – Will O The Wisp

(1973, GB, 105 min) Dir Eric Conway Bryce. Cast Mark Eden, Virginia Wetherell, Patrick Magee.

A decent entry in the ‘rural horror’ genre from a Hammer stable on the wane. Madge and Patrick move to a nice little house in the country, all ivy up the walls, roses in the garden and vast spooky mist-shrouded marshes behind the garage. It’s the marshes that keeps Madge awake at night with the blue plumes of the titular spectral light that dance outside the bedroom window. Of course Patrick hasn’t a trouble sleeping at all but soon enough notices how strangely his wife is behaving and how tickled the locals are at their living by the marshes. “How’s the light, friend?” they ask in their unfriendly way, laughing around their rotting gums, “Keeping you up at night?” Then one night in the local tavern, at the end of his tether at the actions of his distracted wife, he is taken in the confidence of a local historian with huge sideburns who tells him all about the house’s prior owner, the so-called ‘Black Judge’ of the local court, who sentenced more men to hang than any other in the country. He points with his pipe to the portrait in the corner of a foul faced and beetle browed man. He died one night, says the man, when he wandered alone into the marshes. What is it that lies in this dark and sinister marsh and will it claim his Madge as well? Sturdily shot by perennial also-ran Bryce (also on the wane at this point in his career), it’s the shoestring budget and wooden actors that drag the film down but it’s spooky fun regardless.

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#47 – Hell on the Prairie

(1984, US, 100 min) Dir Steve Miner. Cast Tom Atkins, Dorothy Fielding , Jason Lively, Amanda Fox.

AKA Death Wagon. Mitchell Thomas (Atkins) has taken his family on holiday to rural Kansas so that they can experience the land that their forefathers crossed in hardship to make a new life in the west. Of course none of the rest of his family actually want to be there – his brattish adolescent son and daughter (Lively and Fox) spend the whole time fighting and his wife (Fielding) doesn’t take her nose out of any of the suitcase of books that she’s brought with her. The others are so preoccupied with everything that’s not the countryside that it’s him alone who notices the covered wagon in the distance, the one that appears to be getting closer no matter where it is they go. The first half is goofy but unsettling but the second half turns into a completely different film as the wagon arrives just as they arrive in the middle of nowhere and it’s inhabitants are revealed to be crazed murderers. It’s all cat and mouse chase stuff from then on out. The film never reveals where these crazed murderers have come from either – are they modern-day lunatics who have taken to travelling about in an antiquated vehicle or are they the spectres of some Donner Party types, come to wreck misguided vengeance? Either way there’s no real metaphorical value in them being pioneers – I mean something something Reagan’s America? Who cares though – they do their job well enough.

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