Category Archives: Horror

#237 – Blood Wild

(1983, Aust, 85 min) Dir Chuck Mallory. Cast Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel.

Between his spooky debut Hannah Blet and his posting to Hollywood, Chuck Mallory found the time to produce Blood Wild, a turn into Mad Max territory, apparently made just to see if he could. Unlike Mad Max, Blood Wild is set in the present day and owes just as much to Deliverance and Duel in it’s premse – Bisley and Samuel (not accidentally both MM veterans) are JB and Shanny, a big city couple travelling to Darwin where JB has a new job. There is tension between the two, Shanny not masking how aggrieved she is at having to move so far away. Her displeasure only increases when she finds out JB’s plan – his scheme is to travel in a straight line through the vast desert expanse of the interior. Before you can say ’bad idea’ locals are offended and they are forced to drive through the night to the next town for accommodation. From out of the dark, while JB snores beside her, Shanny spots a pair of faraway headlights. Her heart in her chest she watches as they get closer and closer still and before she knows it this mystery car has shot past mere inches from them, waking JB. “What was that?” he splutters but when Shanny points out the window there are no tail lights ahead, only darkness. So far so Deliverance/Duel but by the time the third act wheels around JB and Shanny are racing for their lives against some very real enemies in the form of a racing gang who have gone ‘Blood Wild’ in the desert and are hungry for sport. The creeping dread of the first two-thirds are as effective as you would expect from the director of Hannah Blet and the end shows he has as much talent for unrestrained action as he does for controlled suspense.

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#234 – Flesh of the Air, The

(1923, GB, 32 min, b/w) Dir B. Richard Crisp. Cast Ivy Bean MacTashman, B. Richard Crisp.

Another of B Richard Crisp’s lost ‘Meat Films’. It’s a short one too, with a simple story – a wandering lady (Ivy Bean MacTashman) grown hungry on the moors pulls from her skirts a shotgun and with it plucks a passing duck from the air. Plucked and gutted it is soon cooked on a rough fire and eaten with gusto. Then, from the gloom about from the setting sun, steps the self proclaimed Keeper of the Flesh of the Air (Crisp himself, in another of his homemade and apparently foul smelling suits fashioned from real meat). After that your guess is as good as mine – as mentioned the film itself is lost and indeed there appears to be no record of it ever having been screened either, the scant particulars of the film having been provided by the director during what appears to have been his sole interview recorded mere days before his death. An intriguing mystery of a film as much of his oeuvre is with even his devotion to the subject of meat being a grey area – some reckon it to have been a fetish for him but others see each his films to be anti-meat propaganda. The only thing we can be certain of is that we’ll never really know for sure.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#233 – Evenings of the Dead (Soirées du Morte, Les)

(1976, Fr/It, 118 min) Dir Alain Andere. Cast Sylvia Maria, Niels Arestrup, Maria Rohm, Orson Welles.

For his first film since 1968’s Extase de l’Obscurité Alain Andere teamed up with Sylvia Maria, then white-hot following her performance in Louis Blanc’s absurd, offensive and inexplicably popular Prostituée de l’Amour as the titular ‘Prostitute of Love’. She and Arestrup are a pair of heroin addicts bobbing on the poverty line in Paris – nonpersons, basically, who can be kidnapped by Maria Rohm and her band of henchmen who travel around the city in an old ambulance collecting such types. They are conveyed to a vast country estate presided over by Orson Welles’ Count Puce (mostly confined to a big chair or a litter), the head of a group of parasitic entities from beyond space who drain the life force from their victims. But first, sport – they, along with another half-dozen victims, are released onto the estate and are hunted down one by one. To the keen-eyed this is basically the same film as his last one but with the Marxist subtext amplified and as subtle as a brick. To those who can stomach their metaphors broad and can live with Maria’s inept acting (she appears cross-eyed and stoned throughout) there’s plenty to enjoy with typically stunning photography and some fantastically gruesome death scenes both sides of the class divide.

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#231 – Sobek: City of Death

(1978, GB/Mex, 91 min) Dir René Cardona Jr. Cast Hugo Stiglitz, Susan George, Fiona Lewis, Robert Guzman.

On the Nile, southwest of Memphis in Egypt, there once was the city Shedet, established in 4,000 BC by the worshipers of the crocodile god Sobek (and later renamed Crocodilopolis by the Greeks). This city and it’s worshippers have long faded into history but, to fast forward about 6,000 years and swing about 6,500 miles west, it is found being re-established by a death-cult of crocodile worshippers southwest of the modern-day city of Memphis, Tennessee. It’s discoverer is Michael Chad, a rough and tumble swamp explorer played by Hugo Stiglitz, who takes it upon himself to stop these reptile revering maniacs, rescue the local virgins they have kidnapped to sacrifice and kill the monstrous beast that they worship as the living incarnation of the foul Sobek. Stiglitz, an old hand at nonsense such as this, takes it all in his stride, as equally unfazed by the beasts he must battle (and the effects by which they are rendered) as he is by the women flinging themselves at him.

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#229 – Astonishing Transparent Man, The

(1958, GB, 99 min) Dir Henry Phillips Breech. Cast Peter Cushing, Alison Lucy, Alex C Bream.

When Albert Meeler (Cushing, with typical gravitas) is accidentally subjected to a large dose of ‘X Radiation’ in the lab he works he soon finds himself see through. That’s right, he has become transparent but not invisible – apparently someone then owned the rights to the story of a man inflicted with invisibility. If you’re so desperate to make a film about a man who has become invisible to go to these semantic lengths then you must need to bring something new to the table. In this instance Albert is totally pleased to have become invisible (sorry, transparent) and instead of railing against his separation from society the rest of the film follows his attempts to leave civilisation behind. Of course he finds himself thwarted at every turn – how can he drive himself to the middle of nowhere where he can live an ascetic life when a car that is apparently driving itself draws so much attention? How can he buy food or even steal it when it appears to everyone else that loaves of bread and that are floating clean through the air? Unable to overcome such logistics for long the films end finds Albert still among society, using his transparency to survive on the detritus of the visible. Basically a feature length Twilight Zone episode, it’s an amusing tale with a bittersweet end.

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#228 – Vacances de Morts Vivants, Les (Holiday of the Living Dead, The)

(2011, Fr, 108 min) Dir Jack Vitesse. Cast Swann Nambotin, Frédéric Pierrot, Géraldine Pailhas.

French zombie comedy set on the French Riviera. Pascal’s travels with his family to the town of Piabo for the summer. Piebo, a former sleepy fishing village on a remote spit of land, is now a vacation complex that lines the coast, an island of luxury that looms over the modest houses of it’s year-round residents. Young Pascal, a shy and quiet young man, doesn’t want to join the resort’s youth groups for enforced fun so he pretends to his parents that he’s participating but instead amuses himself by exploring the many nooks and crannies of the complex – the backroom staircases for example, or the labyrinth of air conditioning passageways. As he amuses himself however he begins to see things that suggest to him that all is not well at the heart of Piebo – a chef who has been tethered to an armchair where he froths at the mouth and writhes with an almost supernatural strength, a family of tourists with a strange illness marched into one of the walk in freezers where there are imprisoned. Something is going on and the owners of the Piabo Hotel don’t want anyone to panic. How can Pascal let anyone know without giving up his lie? When will people be roused from their relaxations to notice those among them who have been reduced to brain-dead cannibals? A lively, subversive comedy blessed with some great locations from Jack Vitesse, the one time enfant terrible of the cinéma du look (see Homme du sous-terre, Les) who seems to have developed an affinity for plot in the intervening years.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#225 – Meat Palace

(1921, GB, 41 min, b/w) Dir B. Richard Crisp. Cast Conrad Hoot, Phillidia Fitzhibbert, Ivy Bean MacTashman, B. Richard Crisp.

A delicious Scots oddity, the fever dream of the unnamed, destitute and moor-stranded lead (a bearded, shambling Hoot) who is led by moonlight to the titular edifice (constructed, as suggested, of food flesh) by a beautiful pair of diaphanously gowned and supernaturally glowing women (Fitzhibbert and Bean MacTashman). Therein our anonymous bum hero finds himself at the service of The High Lord Meat and Creamy (the director Crisp himself, encased in what was apparently a self-made and fantastically pungent ‘Beef Suit’) whose whims begin at the curious and before long descend into the downright wrong. All this is gleaned from the script – of which a half-dozen scribbled pages remain – a roll of mostly fogged-out photographs from the set and the recollections of esteemed film critic Maxim Puccini who was, at the time, a fourteen year gaffer’s hand. The recollection of the set’s “thick creamy stench” apparently put him off dairy for the rest of his life. The result is a grab-bag of suggestion and little in the way of fact – the ‘downright wrong’ of Lord Meat’s whimsy, for example, is frustratingly unknown. It seems to have found little favour with audiences of the time and it’s last recorded exhibition seems to have been in 1926, when it was screened to a visibly discomfited Lord Evelyn French-Parstley, the keeper of the King’s Exceptionals, at the Royal Estate of Bip, West Scotland. Now presumed lost and much sought after by aficionados of Crisp and his ‘Meat Films’.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#222 – Man-Ant, The

(1947, US, 73 min, b/w) Dir Ray McCarey. Cast George Brent, Boris Karloff, Anna Lee.

Due to be Val Lewton’s next film for RKO following Beldlam with pre-production completed by him and his regular collaborator Mark Robson, it was picked up by B director McCarey (with this his last picture before his death the following year) following Lewton’s dismissal from the studio. While not up to the standard of Lewton’s other RKO productions such as Cat People or I Walked With a Zombie it’s still a fun addition to the studio’s repetoir of the fantastic. Brent plays one Professor Radley Hammond whose courtship of Dolores Pearson (Lee) brings the ire of her father, the well-regarded but undeniably mad scientist Dr Lawrence Pearson (Karloff). Dr Pearson reacts to the news of their engagement in the manner one would expect of an unhinged man of science – he slips the prospective groom one of his experimental formulas in his celebratory drink which shrinks the unfortunate man down to the size of, you guessed it, an ant. Cue lots of fantastically huge props and a great chase scene involving the fleeing miniature man and an enraged household cat. Good fun, like I say, though one can’t help but wonder what the finished product would have been like had Lewton and Robson been able to complete it themselves – surely a great more vim would have been instilled into proceedings, especially in a baggy first half.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#221 – Wichita

(1987, US, 104 min) Dir Gary Schmaltzer. Cast Tom Hanks.

Before he was stranded alone on an island in Castaway a pre-America’s Everyman/modern day Jimmy Stewart Tom Hanks was stranded alone in a new house in Wichita, a film probably best remembered for its TV ad campaign – a dark screen with someone whispering, with increasing urgency, “Wichita! Wichita!! Wichita!!!” followed by a shot of Hanks’ terrified face. Here he is Jim Grady, loving husband and father, whose family are moving to a new house in – yes, you guessed it – Wichita, Kansas. While his wife stays in New York with the kids packing up their things he’s in the new place overseeing the repairs. As the film starts he’s waving goodbye to the workmen leaving him in the house with just the family dog for company. He cracks open a beer and heats a tin of beans for dinner with the sun going down outside the window, talking away to Jake the dog the whole time in a terrifically funny and sustained one-sided conversation. That’s when the noises start and the light hearted banter ends. Is it an intruder? Are there supernatural secrets to this old house? The film keeps the viewers guessing an admirably long time. It’s a bit of an oddity for Hanks, sandwiched as it was between Dragnet and Big, though it nonetheless shows his serious acting chops being fleshed out in anticipation of later dramatic fare and in fact a late scene in the film in which he breaks down to a police officer is eerily prescient of the final scene in 2013’s Captain Philips.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#220 – Night Driving

(1978, US, 111 min) Dir Jack Blackstaff. Cast Omar Sharif.

Northern Irish director Blackstaff elected to follow the Death Wish bandwagon jumping of Anvil Strikes! with Night Driving, seemingly designed by the producers to race the same year’s Convoy to theatres. Apparently uninterested in the plot of their film however, so long as it had trucks and CB lingo in it, they were presented with this supernatural number, surely the strangest entry in Omar Sharif’s CV and atypical of Blackstaff’s usual work. Sharif plays a cross-country trucker by the name of Joe Waylon and as the name might suggest the subject of his nationality and race are never mentioned – so far as the film’s concerned Sharif’s just another red-blooded American trucker and I’m not sure this is progressive or of Blackstaff couldn’t be bothered with a rewrite. Anyway – he’s pulling an all-nighter to get to the west coast through the Nevada hills when he’s cut off by another truck, all black and driving hell for leather with no lights on. In no time it’s vanished into the dark. Joe pulls in at the next stop and is greeted icily when he mentions this reckless driver. Perturbed, he carries on only to find that wherever he goes it seems he can see the black truck always up ahead and just out of reach. He races on, ever faster, trying to catch it. A deeply odd film that’s a strange blend of the existential road movie like of Two Lane Blacktop or Vanishing Point and the supernatural. Despite the potential for ridiculousness (and a generous frame of mind helps when watching) a committed performance from Sharif makes a little go a long way.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms