Monday, March 19, 2018

Honourable mention: Deadtime Tales 2

Sometimes I despair at covering a given vehicle under the moniker ‘honourable mention’ as sometimes there is nothing honourable about it whatsoever.

Let’s take Deadtime Tales 2… to be honest let’s take the 2.5-hour anthology and bury it in a shallow grave. Rather than a collection of random but original shorts stitched together or a carefully crafted collection of interlocking short stories in visual form, this is four full length films cut down and bunged into one ungodly mess.

bite time
The vampire section comes first and it is nothing we haven’t seen before on TMtV, being the poor feature Cryptz, which was directed by Danny Draven and released in 2002. It was poor then. It wasn’t improved by editing it down to just 45 minutes. So, we are ‘treated’ again to the story of vampire strippers in the ‘hood. (Actually, whilst not brilliant, the full film had a degree of B movie credibility and a couple of neat ideas – cutting it down hasn’t helped the credibility any).

As things stand there isn’t an IMDb page that I can find for Deadtime Tales 2.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Danger Mouse: From Duck to Dawn – review

Directors: Robert Cullen & Simon Hall

First aired: 2016 (episodes)

Contains spoilers

So before we had the show Count Duckula the character had appeared in four episodes of the series Danger Mouse as a villain. When Danger Mouse was rebooted as a series in 2015 it seemed sensible that Duckula (Rasmus Hardiker) would be repurposed for that show.

Cut forward and this compilation DVD was released featuring the villainous vampire duck on the cover. And yet, of eight episodes only two featured Duckula (his portrait and a statue appeaed in others as background eye candy). Two… Two measly episodes. The character has been in more than that… I feel as though I need a mouse super-spy to come along and work out why we’ve been diddled.

Not that the other episodes were bad, mind you. This reboot is very well done with Alexander Armstrong taking over the reigns as the titular Danger Mouse and Kevin Eldon as Penfold, the series stayed very true to the original with some nice twists – I rather liked the idea of Arkwright Asylum. As for Duckula… well he is villainous once again (and just as inept) and likely he is a different incarnation to the vegetarian vampire duck of his own series (the resurrection ritual was botched to create his less villainous persona).

shadow of the vampire
Duckula is still obsessed with being famous. In the episode From Duck to Dawn we get a mission to Transylvania, where Duckula is broadcasting a hypnotic show that turns the viewers, literally, into vegetables. We get a crap bat carrot, a bar called the Slaughtered Llama and an appearance by a werewolf. In the episode The Duckula Show, tired of being the second rate villain that he is, Duckula kidnaps the Danger Mouse show writers (shown to be monkeys) and uses them to alter the fabric of the show’s reality.

with the radish Renfield
It is all good stuff… But dagnabbit I wanted more Duckula than that. Be that as it may, we have to live with what we have and I am certainly not down marking the DVD set for its lack of Duckula. All in all I think this was an excellent reboot, great fun episodes… but needing more Duckula (fans of Danger Mouse will be well served, to be fair). 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Honourable Mention: The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers

I am absolutely torn on this one. Part of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, this was an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm’s The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was. It has a bit of an all star cast and my reason for including it are two-fold – one reason might be a ‘Vamp or Not?’ for something that is essentially a fleeting visitation and the other is, at best, of genre interest.

After Shelley Duval introduces the show, the story is narrated by Vincent Price and follows the adventures of Martin (Peter MacNicol, Dracula – Dead and Loving It). Martin feels the odd one out in his Transylvanian village as he does not (and never has) felt fear, unlike his superstitious father (Jeff Corey) and brother (Gary Springer). When the sexton (Jack Riley, The Night Dracula Saved the World) dresses as a ghost to try and scare Martin in the church belfry, Martin nonchalantly pushes the trespasser down the stairs, injuring him, and his father sends him away with a little money and orders never to tell anyone who his family is.

Christopher Lee as King Vladimir V
Ten miles later and Martin has reached the kingdom of King Vladimir V (Christopher Lee), he sees a note directing him to the inn as the King has a problem of a haunted castle. The King is indeed there and it is revealed that he is the son of Vladimir the Impaler, also known as Vladimir Ţepeş AKA Bad Vlad. If someone can spend three nights in the castle then they would break the curse, win the treasure, win the hand of the Princess Amanda (Dana Hill) and rule as King. Martin accepts the challenge – but not for the prizes, rather to see if he can feel a shiver. Amanda falls for Martin, though he thinks she works at the inn. So, our genre interest moment is the fact that Christopher Lee plays Vlad Ţepeş’ son (though the numbering is wrong, of course, and Vlad was never a king).

The night that interests us is the second night. Having just been missed by (and been oblivious to) a falling axe and a razor-sharp pendulum, Martin is sat by the fire when a disembodied phantom head (Gary Schwartz, The Nightmare Before Christmas) rises from the flames. The first thing I noticed was the fangs! His body follows and interacts with the head but Martin feels no fear. When he puts his head back on his shoulders he becomes corporeal and Martin teaches him how to scream menacingly. More spectres appear (none with fangs), become corporeal and, after failing to scare Martin, they all end up bowling (using bones as pins and a skull as a ball).

Martin and Attila
Was he a vampire? The fangs suggested so, and he was monstrous in visage, so perhaps he was a vampiric ghost – or perhaps he was just a ghost and the fangs were an affectation? Honestly, I just really wanted to feature the episode so I’ll leave it to you to decide whether you think the fangs were enough to qualify? The episode also features Frank Zappa as Attila the hunchback and David Warner as the innkeeper and it is a fun little way to spend just under an hour.

The imdb page is here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Petrified – review

Director: Charles Band

Release date: 2006

Contains spoilers

Sometimes you just need some nonsense… I was going to say cheesy sleazy nonsense but this one added in some sleaze (we’ll get to it) but then really pulled back from it. Did I mention it’s a Charles band film… and it is pure B.

Just to be clear, by the way… this is a mummy movie… and an alien movie… but it is also a vampire movie given the mechanics that Band throws in and rightly has a place here.

So, it starts with the illegal sale of an antiquity. There is a big old crate and one of the bad guys, Buzz York (Roark Critchlow, Vampyre Nation), brings a small case. The antiquarian (Darrow Igus) buying the stuff seems delighted but bad guy Reggie (Nick Stellate) double crosses him and shoots him in the back. He turns on Buzz, who grabs the case and runs. Before Reggie and his moll can go after Buzz the crate explodes outwards with green light and two arms break through. A mummy (Christopher Bergschneider) emerges and his red fiery eyes turns the two crooks to stone.

old red eyes is back
Ok… so, Buzz has a ridiculous name but he is not a baddie really – he is actually undercover FBI. Also, the mummy’s eyes are only red when he turns you to stone and otherwise they are black and he has a mouthful of fang like teeth. As the film progresses it is apparent that Buzz knows the mummy was the desiccated remains of an alien who crash landed (he was the co-pilot, the small case contains the hand of the pilot – which somehow also comes to life and crawls around trying to strangle folks). It is confirmed that it is the blood that resurrected the mummy and it is suggested he might need to take blood to survive.

Roark Critchlow as Buzz
Buzz – not yet knowing the mummy is revived – gets to a nearby private clinic, lets himself in and phones for extraction (which will take an hour). He meets a woman who claims to be the doctor, Helen Noel (Jessica Lancaster), but is soon revealed to be the sister of one of the patients, Suze (Kimberly Dawn Guerrero), and wants to rescue her as she thinks the clinic is ropey. The clinic treats nymphomaniacs (which is where the film veers off to sleaze and then spectacularly fails to deliver) and she is right; the real doctor, Horatio Von Gelder (Ozman Sirgood), is not trying to cure the girls but actually trying to find a youth serum using the elevated pheromones of the nymphomaniacs. He’s succeeded too, making 61 year old Cory (Dana Lastrilla) young again – and still horny. This is all padding around a very thin film.

As thin as it is, and poor, and short (70 mins) and rubbish – there is something amusingly B about the movie. The filmmakers have thrown the kitchen sink at this… if they can crowbar it in they will do. How Buzz knows the mummy has to maintain eye contact to turn you to stone and thus covers his face when attacked in that way, is unknown. Perhaps they’ve resurrected one before? The film ain’t saying. Eventually they work out that salt will kill the creature, when all else fails, and when it dies the final victim un-petrifies (though what happened to the others isn’t revealed).

Rubbish – but amusing. 3.5 out of 10 reflects me walking the line of knowing how terribly pants this was and yet somehow still thinking it was worth the effort of watching it.

The imdb page is here.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Night Invasion – review

Director: WаngJun*

Release date: 2016*

Contains spoilers

*these are taken from the Amazon Video data. Note that this is often inaccurate but I couldn’t readily track down an IMDb page or a corresponding entry in the Hong Kong movie database.

The great thing about Amazon Video is that Amazon are dredging through some obscure movies from around the globe. The problem with Amazon Video is much the same as some of these films are really dredged up from somewhere where they should have remained and rotted into obscurity.

ghost kid
This film begins with us being told that some people die but linger as we see scenes of a road accident. We cut to a man (I assume meant to be the storyteller, perhaps even the movie director) and as he speaks he plays with the on-screen credits, which was a nice 4th wall manipulation. He switches a light off and we see the shape of a young boy in the dark, the shape vanishes when the lights go back on. Eventually he is by the man and screams.

in the kitchen cupboard
A car is parked and the girl in the back, NuoNuo, seems asleep. She awakens and tries to pay the unresponsive driver. A second girl approaches the car and NuoNuo gets out and they go to a house. They have found the house on the internet and the rent seems impressively cheap. The landlady lets them in but, out of sight of the girls, is constantly pushing a kyonsi out of sight (back in a kitchen cupboard for instance). We note that the creature is referred to as zombie but is a kyonsi.

holding their breath
The landlady gets them to sign a contract (she refers to it as a death contract), tells them not to go to the sealed room and then leaves. The boyfriends come over but, very soon, the door to the house has vanished and the kyonsi is pursuing them. There is a twist at the end but little other plot. Whilst the kyonsi does little that is vampiric it does hop and they do cover their mouths to hide from it (kyonsi follow breath rather than see). At one point they disguise themselves as kyonsi (which breaks the internal logic if the kyonsi is hunting by smelling their breath rather than sight).

dressed like Irma Vep
We got a moment where they end up fighting whilst wearing costumes and the girls look like they are dressed as Irma Vep. The problem with this is part limited setting (they are stuck in a house), part poor direction and confused story (which might have had much to do with the subtitles) and blooming awful acting generally – more melodrama than method. A poor film with a couple of clever moments, 2.5 out of 10.

At the time of review I could not find an IMDb page.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Honourable Mention: The Magic Sword

The Magic Sword was a 1962 fantasy movie directed by Bert I. Gordon and stars Gary Lockwood as George (or Sir George, as he later claims) who is the ward of 400-years old Sorceress Sybil (Estelle Winwood). She found him after his royal parents died when he was a baby and has raised him. Now that he is twenty she despairs as he isn’t learning a trade (magic, one assumes) and spends his time mooning over the local Princess, Helene (Anne Helm).

Now when I say mooning over, he’s never met her but voyeuristically watches her in a magic pool (as she takes a skinny dip in the palace pond), which is a little more creepy than romantic. Anyway, a wicked sorcerer, Lodac (Basil Rathbone, Queen of Blood & Madhouse), kidnaps her and intends to feed her to his dragon. Sybil tries to get George to forget her but he manages to trap his foster mother and take magic armour, a magic sword, a magic steed and 6 brave knights (who were petrified as statues) and vows to defy Lodac’s seven curses to rescue her.

wooing Mignonette
Now, I’ve interpreted one part of this as vampiric and it is only a fleeting visitation, but it goes a little like this. Also travelling with George is double-crossing knight Sir Branton (Liam Sullivan). Branton goes to a mill to meet Lodac but is followed by Sir Dennis of France (Jacques Gallo). A woman, Mignonette (Danielle De Metz), comes along, singing Frère Jacques and completely distracting the (horny) French Cavalier. He immediately tries to woo her and, as he does, we see her eyes flash green.

hag attack
Suddenly she is not Mignonette but she is a hag (and credited as such on IMDb). We see two teeth like fangs and she goes (successfully) to bite his neck. Of course the hag is a vampire form in folklore (more often an energy vampire) and it does look like she has fangs. Perhaps the mode of attack was inspired by the fact that (as the hag) she is played by Maila Nurmi (Plan 9 from Outer Space) – famous, of course, as Vampira.

cross glows
Luckily, for Dennis, George arrives and holds his magic shield aloft. The (St. George’s) cross glows in her presence and causes her to cower and vanish. She does appear later in the film, very briefly, tricking Sir Branton by taking the form of Helene and then organising Lodac’s household. However her presence in the film is limited and it is only with Dennis that we see the vampire like activity. So, a fleeting visitation, and if you think I might be reading a little in to this, I do believe part of the original movie advertising said, “SEE the Green Fire Demons! SEE the 25-Foot Tall Ogre! SEE the Beautiful Vampire Woman! SEE the Boiling Crater of Death!

The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Living and the Undead: Slaying Vampires, Exterminating Zombies – review

Author: Gregory A Waller

First published: 1986

The Blurb: With a legacy stretching back into legend and folklore, the vampire in all its guises haunts the film and fiction of the twentieth century and remains the most enduring of all the monstrous threats that roam the landscapes of horror. In the Living and the Undead, Gregory A. Waller shows why this creature continues to fascinate us and why every generation reshapes the story of the violent confrontation between the living and the undead to fit new times.

Examining a broad range of novels, stories, plays, films, and made-for-television movies, Waller focuses upon a series of interrelated texts: Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897); several film adaptations of Stoker's novel; F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922); Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (1954); Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot (1975); Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979); and George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1979). All of these works, Waller argues, speak to our understanding and fear of evil and chaos, of desire and egotism, of slavish dependence and masterful control. This paperback edition of The Living and the Undead features a new preface in which Waller positions his analysis in relation to the explosion of vampire and zombie films, fiction, and criticism in the past twenty-five years.

The review: When I ordered this volume I didn’t realise it was an older volume (my edition is the first paperback edition published in 2010 but, other than preface, it is the same edition as released in 1986) and there are a couple of moments in this book where we have moved our understanding on, such as the authorship of Varney the Vampire is now generally understood to be Rymer (with no contention). However, this isn’t a criticism because, at the time of authorship, there was a contention.

Be that as it may such moments were few and far between and this is a very enjoyable and informative look at the genre through a narrow focus but that focus works very well indeed. There are a couple of points of factual error in the book (Matheson did write the screenplay for the Last Man on Earth - but then distanced himself from the film and had the credit placed under a pseudonym) but these again were few and far between.

What might confuse genre fans is the move through to zombies (by way of I am Legend) and the works of Romero at the end of the book. This is absolutely logical as Romero did say plenty of times that the book was a major inspirational factor for Night of the Living Dead and Pirie, in the book the Vampire Cinema, does refer to them as vampires (note the word zombie is not used in the film, they are referred to as ghouls). Whilst I believe that Romero’s opus signalled the birth of a separate and self-contained genre the logical movement through stacks up (and of course leads to later genre crossover). What is a shame is that the author didn’t also consider Day of the Dead, which was released the year before original publication.

A good reference work and plenty of food for thought. 8 out of 10.