bijou reviews – B

Bamboo Saucer
aka Collision Course. Directed by Frank Telford.

Here’s a very precise plot description of BAMBOO SAUCER (1968) taken from IMDB.com user DCorr123: “A team of American scientists, under the leadership of a military man, go to Red China to investigate the report of a downed flying saucer. They encounter a similar Russian team with the same object. The two are forced into an uncomfortable alliance to avoid the Chinese army. They find the saucer in the ruins of a church; the local villagers hate the government for killing the priest. They work together to figure out how the saucer works. In the end, as most of the expedition dies fighting off Chinese troops, three of them make their escape in the saucer. In keeping with the “lets end the cold war” spirit of the film, they agree to take the saucer to a neutral site, Switzerland. The script and the acting are rather wooden but the movie makes an honest attempt at believable science fiction.”

The film stars Dan Duryea in his last theatrical credit. Though in the decline of his thirty-year long career, it is all too easy to forget Mr. Duryea started out working with the likes of Fritz Lang, Howard Howards and Anthony Mann, some of the greatest directors in the narrative medium’s history.

And then there’s the venerable Bernard Fox, who has the notable distinction of appearing in not one but two different versions of the Titanic tragedy when rendered and they’re the two very best: A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and Cameron’s TITANC!

Behind the scenes talent is no less impressive. For example, noted Hollywood efx legend John Fulton. The man used to be a para professional in a law firm with truck accident lawyers. He didn’t last long. Apparently after being dispatched to the scene of a horrific big rig accident to take photographs and record information from the police and medical reports, he decided the job was not for him. Fortunately for us movie buffs he left the legal field of truck accidents and turned to film. John Fulton is the guy who played the part of God and helped Moses part the Red Sea blue screen waters in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, no less — is credited in part with the storyline. Producer Jerry Fairbanks made his debut producing the highly-influential POPULAR SCIENCE film shorts based on the print mag of the namesake, which is why this flick may have such a dry approach to the subject matter.

In effect, BAMBOO SAUCER resembles a low-budget version of ICE STATION ZEBRA, but with a downed flying saucer substituting for the missing satellites. Otherwise, it has many of the same Cold War tensions. — Notes by Traverse Walton.

What Other Critics Say:

“The UFO: it looks pretty cool on both the outside and inside. The blue glowing effect is effective at making this low budget UFO look better than it might otherwise. Also the ship reacting with the characters is a very nice touch. John P. Fulton and Glen Robinson provided the film’s special effects.” — SCIFILM

Barn of the Blood Llama
Starring Kirk Hunter. Special cameo by Clive Barker. Directed by Kevin L. West .

At long last, one of “the “truly good bad movies” (Skip Griffith, SALT FOR SLUGS) BARN OF THE BLOOD LLAMA (1999) is reviewed!

The storyline is heavily influenced by those great old 70’s era drive-in classics such as BLOOD FREAK, complete with bad dubbing into English! The wild, multi-shifting production formats give it a feel Oliver Stone only dreamed of achieving in NATURAL BORN KILLERS.

It’s a deconstructed horror flick that feels like a Burroughsian filmic cut-up, as if the drive-in projectionist had somehow threaded up the wrong reels of several different movies and yet you’re so content with the retro bliss of it all, you don’t mind at all. The electric cowboy acid soundtrack rendered by some mighty finely talented Austin music locals is also very powerful in raw, hum-along energy.

Grab a bag of pork rinds and barricade yourself behind your favorite monitor with rock star Bock, his Bunuel shapeshifting bevy of white trash beauties, the in-bred Woolgrow Brothers, and all the other outrageous psycho-mutant crackers whose constant idiocy leave you to philosophically muse aloud: what’s truly more frightening — blood-sucking llamas or brain dead humans?

So wake up, ignorant rednecks everywhere, and prepare yourselves before it is Too Late: it’s all out war between genetically-enhanced killer llamas and genetically-challenged human beings in a rural siege for survival! With cameos by sf/fantasy writer C.K. McFarland and Clive Barker. — Notes by Hal E. Luah.

What Other Critics Say:

“They make the weirdest movies in Texas. Much like Monty Python… a fine video party tape, even if you’re not from Texas. P-Factor: blood; heads roll; psycho doctor; kung fu; rabid killer llamas; mad lab; explosion; dung-gun fu; p-star Barker.” — Michael Weldon, PSYCHOTRONIC

“This home grown messterpiece hails from Austin, Texas and is the brain damaged love child of filmmaker Kevin West. Shot on over a half a dozen different kinds of film stock and dubbed in

english, BARN OF THE BLOOD LLAMA is one those rare examples of planned ineptitude that is actually funny and entertaining. The bizarre, almost undescribable plot revolves around a wacky bunch of characters that include; a washed up rock star hitchhiker, cheap fast food tramps, inbred moronic crippled Texas hillbillies, a bestiality lovin’ animal doctor, a dyke- like bowling team, a pretty young heroine and of course, blood thirsty cud spitting llamas. Are you ready to run out and rent this damn thing yet?” — SECRET SCROLL DIGEST

“This movie gave me a headache, blurred my vision, and confused me to the brink of sobbing. I loved every minute. Viva la BLOOD LLAMA! 5 (out of 5).” — Brother Fistula, BROTHERHOOD REVIEWS

“The most insane, strange, unfollowable, gibberatic piece of film that I’ve EVER heard of, let alone seen… despite this, the movie has changed my entire perspective of reality. Wow. Just to make sure you know, I’m giving this movie a 5 (out of 5).” — Brother Ferox, BROTHERHOOD REVIEWS

“This movie rules… I love this movie. David Lynch couldn’t follow the plot. My hat is off to the men and women who have made this… 5 (out of 5) all the way.” — Brother Ragnarok, BROTHERHOOD REVIEWS

Beat Girl

David Farrar, Noël…
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Directed by Edmond T. Gréville.

Banned for many years in its native England, BEAT GIRL (1960) is an interesting example of the exploitation movie turning mainstream. That is, it has the elements of classic ‘exploitation’ films– a good girl gone bad, moralizing, implied venality, violence, etc.

Yet, despite its relatively low budget, the production values and intellectual energy are far above those of the average ‘sploiter. BEAT GIRL is a stylishly shot, carefully crafted depiction of the emerging youth rebellion in

Britain, subverting middle class mores and values, yet clear on the dangers towards which that path leads.

The film stars Adam Faith, a big deal rock star back then, and also the absolutely luscious Bardoesque Gillian Hills, who would later appear in BLOW UP. To class the fare up a bit, Christopher Lee plays the sleazy strip club owner (oh, yeah, did we mention that BEAT GIRL’s ‘mom’ was once a French stripper, and that Beat herself gets down to her undies in public to get back at Mom and Dad?) and we also get an early appearance by Oliver Reed.

Final note: the film’s composer, John Barry, would later pen the James Bond theme! — Notes by J.L. Bate.

What Other Critics Say:

“Terrific British juvenile delinquent trash, filmed with a grimy, tough-as-nails energy that puts comparable U.S. teen angst flicks to shame. This rebellious gem perfectly captures the swinging Beat milieu. Without question, one of the coolest, dingiest flicks ever made about the London scene.” — Steve Puchalski, SHOCK CINEMA

“A hot British teen movie with beatniks, strippers, murder, and music.”– PSYCHOTRONIC

Like this flick? See also: GROUPIE GIRL; THE WILD, WILD WORLD OF JAYNE MANSFIELD.

Big Switch, The

Starring Sebastian Breaks & Virginia Wetherell. Written & Directed by Pete Walker.

British director Pete Walker is most notably remembered for his output of shock sleaze epics in the 1970’s with such luridly terrific titles as HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, DIE SCREAMING MARRIANE, SCHIZO and HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN. But this earlier work made before Walker delved into horror as modus operandi is very amusing in a wry, Austin Powers kind of way. In fact, THE BIG SWITCH (1969) is the serious flick that the later Mike Meyers movies are so deftly parodying (though one could argue the director is accomplishing the same task herein, albeit not as on-the-nose).

Our ‘hero’ is one John Carter — not the Warlord of Mars but the Studgod of London — who is played with a condescending sneer for each easy “chickie” he beds by the insufferably snide Sebastian Breaks. There is no woman who can resist his cheapjack cockiness and handsomely cruel features. When we first meet John, in fact, he’s cruising a late-night disco in search of a quick one before heading home for the evening. When the cocktail waitress offers to introduce him to a newbie whose just “made the scene” in a hot mini-dress, Carter glares at her and sneers, “You must be joking!”

That’s Carter’s philosophy in a nutshell. To him, everything is a joke. The hippies, the psychedelic lights, the music… all just a pretext to bed some younger quim, in his lingo. He’s only there to take and not give. In this sense, he’s like the British cousin of Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, especially as portrayed by Ralph Meeker in the classic KISS ME DEADLY — self-interested, narcissistic and a careless ‘user’ of people for his own gain and amusement.

Instead of running a private eye racket, Carter takes pantily-clad pictures of models for products and producers willing to ‘push’ the edge to sell their wares. It’s a scummy way to make a living and Carter knows it. He doesn’t pretend it’s art; rather, he shamelessly calls it as it is, a way to pay his slimy lifestyle’s large bills (it ain’t cheap being a cad in an imported sportscar, evidently).

Soon enough, however, Carter finds himself in a jam he can’t sleaze his way out of with lies and hush money. Caught up in a web of murder in which he’s a natural suspect (“You must be joking!”), Carter is forced to play along at his own game of exploitative photography when blackmailers hold him and a party girl at gunpoint. They’re but helpless albeit naked pawns for dirty pictures to be used in an later low-life extortion scheme. The particulars aren’t important; rather, the sense of overwhelming dread that hangs over the picture is what makes it ‘work’ for its duration.

If you’re into anti-heroes and film noir, you owe it to yourself to take THE BIG SWITCH for a

test drive. Complete with fast women, psycho villains, sadistic beatings ala RESERVOIR DOGS in long, squeamish takes, and choice European locales, THE BIG SWITCH is a welcome ‘switch’ from the overly slick noirs of today.

Underproduced in comparison to modern fare, it nonetheless succeeds because it defies the formula in the short run while always staying true to it in the long. There is nothing new in the plot or characters, in short, but like the later THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, this flick gives a ‘kitchen sink’ realism feel to what would otherwise be standard material. In the process, THE BIG SWITCH entertains even if it occasionally plods.

While Walker would go one to the aforementioned horror projects for better renowned as a cult director, it’s also worth noting he was the director for the incomplete Sex Pistols documentary entitled A STAR IS DEAD. Aptly if pre cognitively titled, the flick was abandoned after the Pistols broke up and with the o.d. of Sid Vicious, still sitting on Malcolm McLaren’s shelf somewhere..? — Notes by Sir Eaton Hogge.

What Other Critics Say:

“His films often featured sadistic authority figures, such as priests or judges, punishing anyone (usually young women) who doesn’t conform to their strict personal moral codes. He has denied there being any political subtext to his films. However, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD was dedicated to ‘…those who are disturbed by today’s lax moral codes and who eagerly await the return of corporal and capital punishment,’ suggesting Walker isn’t entirely unsympathetic towards his villains.” — WIKIPEDIA

Like this flick? See also: GROUPIE GIRL; THE WILD, WILD WORLD OF JAYNE MANSFIELD.

Bigfoot Man or Beast?

Starring Grover Krantz. Directed by Lawrence Crowley.

When one peers back into the crystal ball of the early 70’s cinema, the results are so staggering for sheer quantity and quality of output as opposed to today’s less than visionary efforts it makes one wonder if there is indeed any future in a medium now over a century old (save for admittedly well-off profiteers).

Thankfully, there are flix like BIGFOOT MANY OR BEAST? (1971) to remind you that in every so-called “golden era,” there are still a plethora of lesser nuggets that pan out to be nothing more than shiny pieces of fool’s gold. And if ever a metaphor applied, then BIGFOOT MAN OR BEAST? is a literal motherload of golden pyrite.

The “cast” (excuse the pun) of BIGFOOT MAN OR BEAST? is perhaps the most impressive ever assembled for a Bigfoot doc. There are not only the resident experts on hand like John Green, Rene Dahinden and Dr. Grover Krantz, but also bona fide rare clips of mythic figures who actually encountered Bigfoot and lived to tell about it.

These are not just tales from the dark side of the trailer, they’re also priceless and in many cases the only footage of key Sasquatch “Early Encountees,” many of whom literally introduced the term “Bigfoot” and “Sasquatch” to the American public in the 1950’s in such sensational men’s mags as ARGOSY, not to mention headlines shared with flying saucer sightings. See and hear the folks who told the tales of abduction that made later R. Crumb parody comix like Female Sasquatch possible!

There’s a lot to like and dislike in BIGFOOT MAN OR BEAST? That is of course it’s enduring charm. But if you are ‘into’ Squatch or just want to see a prime example of the kind of flick you used to rush to see as a child of the 70’s, then this is a ‘must see’ for fond memories recalled.

For me, the entire experience was worthwhile for the opening logo of the “American National Enterprises” opening, in which an Eagle swoops down into a menacing close-up as the stirring music plays beneath — no wimpy white letters on black b.g. here!

Like that opening, BIGFOOT MAN OR BEAST? is never really serious at being skeptical (note the issue in the title is not whether or not the critter is real, but whether or not it is a man, per se, or a beast, both of which exist). But why on earth would you want to watch a Squatch flick from this era that wasn’t wholeheartedly “True”? 😉 — Notes by Harry Derriere.

What Other Critics Say:

“This was a great film if it was 20 years ago and about four in the morning and you had a hand rolled cigarette and a couple of glasses of wine and it came on the only station broadcasting all night in your area… They’d play the star spangled banner, show some Air Force jets flying through the Grand Canyon and then suddenly a major network tv station shut off and you got a test pattern and a a four hour high pitched beep… By all means, watch this film if it

ever comes on TV, but not if you’re sober.” — Mike Donovan, IMDB.com

“Robert Morgan baby! Looks like Loomis from HALLOWEEN… he cries along with his hippie entourage… for the most part its groovy guys in groovy clothes looking for Bigfoot.” — CHESNEY’S SILLY BIGFOOT COLLECTION

“A great nostalgia trip to the 70’s, especially if, like me, you have a fondness for 70’s paranormal programs… [shot in] Bigfoot country (in the shadow of pre-volcano-blasted Mount St. Helens). I just love it, it takes me back to my 70’s childhood, when Bigfoot, UFO’s and other topics were really getting a foothold into popular culture.” — MacReady, IMDB.com

Like this flick? See also: CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE; MYSTERIOUS MONSTERS; SASQUATCH THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT


Black Cat Mansion

aka Borei Kaibyo Yashiki. Starring Toshio Hosokawa, Yuriko Ejima & Keinosuke Wada. Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa.

Americans may not recognize the name, but Nobuo Nakagawa is one of the most revered directors in Japan, and has been for decades… for far more than his work on tv’s ULTRAMAN and PLAYGIRL episodes. Patrick Macias (in TOKYOSCOPE) is convinced that his “influence on the development of Japanese horror films is so enormous it’s scary.”

He was at the helm for, arguably, the finest rendition of Yotsua Kaidan, 1959’s THE GHOST OF YOTSUA, about which Patrick Macias notes that “Nakagawa has taken the traditional Yotsua Kaidan and the Japanese horror film, with its origins in kabuki and silent film, into a new cinematic realm. From here on out, anything was possible,” and his films “always seemed to have an extra touch of class.”

BLACK CAT MANSION (1958), aka Mansion of the Ghost Cat, stands as more or less a

warm-up to his two feature-length masterpieces, the aforementioned YOTSUA KAIDAN and JIGOKU aka Hell. The story concerns a murderous samurai’s victim getting revenge against the dead sumarai’s descendents, in this case a young Doctor and his wife.

BLACK CAT MANSION is meticulously-paced, hideously well-shot, flawlessly-crafted; it is short on gore, yet creepy, and long on a beautiful depiction of dark ‘old-world’ forces infiltrating contemporary society. The past doesn’t die until put properly to rest and, until in a sense, the stake is driven through its heart, the ghosts and curses and evil perpetrated by prior generations haunts and hurts and kills even the most blameless, innocent and promising.

The film’s structure is told with a framing device, in black and white, set in modern times, and acted in a naturalistic manner, and the much longer mid-section, in color, set in a traditional ‘samurai’ past, and acted in a more kabuki style. BLACK CAT MANSION gains power via the juxtaposition of a depiction of the ills of cruel tradition carried to vile extremes and the very modern technique of the depiction, as Nakagawa experiments with the use of color, lighting, and and sometimes jolting camera work.

Some of BLACK CAT’s imagery is so weird it feels lifted from CHINESE GHOST STORY rather than a flick over 40 years old! Particularly frightening and memorably creepy is the flick’s black cat demon herself, whose lupine-like transformation into marauding, shaggy beast reminds far more of a Western werewolf than something Asian. Hence the flick’s true, enduring universality despite being specific to one culture: BLACK CAT MANSION truly transcends the limits because it tells its sad, rather Poe-like tale of haunted generations straightforwardly but with unexpectedly shocking intensity. — Notes by Sam U. Rye.

What Other Critics Say:

“One of many Japanese ‘ghost cat’ films… remarkable for its sinuous camera movements and creepy episodes.” — Roger Keightley, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FANTASTIC FILM & T.V.

“A lush mood poem whose visual beauty is more haunting than the ghosts who traverse it… Nakagawa’s radical construction of a world of sharp angles, painful overhead crane shots, and lurking emptiness open up new possibilities technical and aesthetic for each genre he transformed.” — THE CENTER FOR JAPANESE STUDIES

Bog

Gloria Dehaven; Al…
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Starring Gloria DeHaven & Aldo Ray. Directed by Don Keeslar.

Where cine swamp monsters are concerned, there is the Good (CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE), the Bad (SWAMP THING), and the Ugly (SWAMP OF THE LOST MONSTER). And then there’s BOG (1976), a flick so obscure that only true swamp monster compleatists even know of its existance. In this case, obscurity may well be deserved for all but the most non-discriminating fans.

What is it about such a flick that begs the question upon viewing: “What the hell were they thinking?” It’s actually more like two flix that have been spliced together, one pretty good and one, well, that drags the bottom of the murky bog itself and only rarely comes up with a solid moment of genuine entertainment.

The cast is impressive in depth of star names. First, there’s Aldo Ray, cult actor par excellence, teamed with Gloria DeHaven in not one but two roles ala Peter Sellers! Strangely and at once sadly, she’s good in both performances. Topping off the ‘all-star’ cast includes Marshall Thompson and Leo Gordon. Wow, in a genre where typically only one old has-been is trotted out to make the flick saleable, having four seasoned thesps is truly a luxury.

Alas, the director is unable to bring it into any kind of narrative cohesion, so most of the talent is wasted. From the results at

hand, this was the probable state of their minds while waiting for the next take on the set of this boggy nightmare. Sure, there’s a plot, by why put you through it, as you’ve seen it before and much better and more understandably presented? If you find any of BOG a narrative surprise, please seek immediate treatment, as you may have undetected brain damage.

In the end, only die-hard lovers of swamp monster flix can truly appreciate the sublime qualities of an otherwise endless effort like BOG. Like a fine Cajun dish that’s been so watered down it no longer tastes even like food, BOG uses all the familiar ingredients but still bakes a turd. As a video party tape, you and your monster lovin’ buddies may find new lows of communal amusement. — Notes by Jack Morax.

What Other Critics Say:

“Creature from the Blechh Lagoon.” — VIDEO CHEESE

“Aldo Ray looks like he wonders what the hell happened to his career.” — THE BAD MOVIE REPORT

Like this flick? See also: CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE; MYSTERIOUS MONSTERS; SASQUATCH THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT

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