bijou reviews – A

2020: Texas Gladiators

aka One Eye Force aka Anno 2020 – I Gladiatori del Futuro. Starring Al Cliver, Al Yamanouchi & Directed by Joe D’Amato & George Eastman.

In retrospect, some great old ‘lost’ flix from the 1980’s video boom craze seem truly prescient in these ‘daze’ of Middle Eastern wars and rumors of wars. 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS (1982) is a case in point. Whereas all the trappings are straight out of the Mad Max series, the politics are decidedly more ‘on the head’ than Miller’s more apolitical conclusions.

For example, whereas the Max series focuses on society’s collapse as a pretext for what amounts to a grand post-apocalyptic spaghetti western, 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS goes right for the pulsating throat, squarely laying blame for the world’s unrest on an evil oil cartel. Said cartel is run as the world’s only de facto militaristic government hell-bent on subverting all who stand in the way of its New World Order mission to wed state, oil and religion into one evil entity. People are starving, the only way anyone can get real money is with payday loans, IF you are lucky enough to have a job, working for the oil cartel of course. For those folks, and there are a lot, who have no jobs, well you are out of luck. The stand off finally comes to a head.

Naturally, this bein’ Tejas of ‘don’t mess with’ fame, many of the common, God fearin’ folks who haven’t sold their souls for future Hummers are holding out in the last remaining oil refinery, determined to stop the spread of the Energy Barons. But when the Evil Warlord launches all-out war on them rather than negotiate peace for their survival, what are the defenders to do but make an Alamo-styled stand against him and his overwhelming forces?

Like I said, it’s not dated, but timely. Not that you’re likely to add 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS to your collection simply because it confirms your worst suspicions about W (though that’s as good as any reason we can imagine). No, more likely, you will want it simply for the audacious ‘we know it’s going to video so why bother?’ attitude, which this flick has by the, er, crude gallons. On the other hand, the movie poster of this movie might actually be worth something in another twenty plus years. Never discount the passsion and dedication of movie memorabilia collectors whether they are selling or buying vintage and original movie posters. Who knows, 2020: Texas Gladiators or for that fact, any of the movies on this post could generate a cult following that could escalate to the original movie posters becoming a desirable collectable. There are always stories of someone whose grandfather or great great aunt stored some long forgotten movie memorabilia in the attic, only for it to be discovered to be worth hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars when is it appraised. Well perhaps I’m just pulling at imaginary straws, but you never know!

But even with all the non-stop action, and strange blendings of spice melange, you can’t help but escape the feeling that for once, the folks behind the camera were actually venting a bit at what they saw even two decades ago now as the American hegemony over All Things Oil.

Though wildly implausable and ridiculous in an entertaining fashion, 2020: TEXAS

GLADIATORS proves ala THEY LIVE you can have subversive subtext aplenty as long as the action never abates for it. — Notes by Jack Morax.

What Other Critics Say:

“One not-bad Italian post-apoc flick if you are used to this genre… good production design with brilliant and imaginative use of colors and excellent

action scenes… worthwhile addition to your post-apoc library… see it with a beer and plenty of nachos.” — Mike Martinez, KULT MOVIE MAXIMUS

“Kung Fu in the Wild West. Yeehaw. And I do believe I saw FOUR — count em, four — Eyetalian mushmelons there on the saloon girls… 85 dead bodies. Two breasts — and it’s my theory that you DO see em. One bar fight. Stair-rolling. Sword-hacking. Head-butting. Necklace-rippin. Crucifixion.Tomahawk to the head. Dagger to the chest. Multiple gun battles. Salty-mouth torture.Kung Fu. Russian roulette Fu. Harley-Davidson Fu.” — Joe Bob Briggs, JOE BOB BRIGGS.com
“Body count: 91. Breasts: 9. Explosions: 9. Ominous thunderstorms: 0. Actors who’ve appeared on STAR TREK: 0″ — Nathan Shumate, COLD FUSION

”One of those movies that never ceases to amuse me! I had a hell of a fun time watching this film. The nonstop action keeps this film moving at a steady, energetic pattern.” — David Choi, IMDB

”A band of renegades battle with an oppressive empire over the last source of precious energy.” — MOVIES UNLIMITED
“Trouble erupts when a megalomaniacal Neo-Nazi dictator and his cruel minions attack the heavily fortified refinery and begin trying to convert the hapless workers to his insane idea of the New Order.” — POST APOCALYPTIC

MEDIA
“Naff but entertaining futuristic action adventure. Better than most of it’s kind… Good trashy fun.” — CUTLASS VIDEO
“It’s so confusing that every time you watch it, it’s like the first time, and you’ll pick up new things. As I said before, it’s very incoherent, but if you love Italian post-nuke flicks like I do, then I recommend you give it a try. 3.5 out of 4.” — Blake, FULCI METAL JACKET

“Sabrina Seggiani is best known for her contributions in the Italian ‘peplum,’ or heroic fantasy, film genre. Sabrina has such a cuteness about her, that it is almost painful to see her in these sleazy exploitation pictures. However, in her own way, Seggiani brings class and a reason to watch the films she graces.” — THE EUROPEAN FILM EXPLOITS

Then there is the wacky review by “unknown” making it’s way across the internet that includes a way too strong focus on the overabundance of sports equipment in the film – including basket balls, lacrosse equipment and junior golf clubs. We purposely left that one out.

When reading hundreds of reviews each day, we’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur of review writing styles, and some writers actually suck at it. It’s our pet peeve – many reviewers probably could use the help of a good article writing service – could help them avoid the nasty comments that come from posting idiotic syntax or diction issues. Just our opinion.


8th Man

aka Tobor the 8th Man. Produced by Gene Prinz. 8th Man created by Jiro Kuwata and Kazumasa Hirai.

This early entry into American syndicated ‘toon animation was a clever combination of manga meets U.S. ‘know how,’ with a resulting smashing success of what was otherwise a theretofore unknown quantity in America. But wherever 8th MAN debuted (aka Tobor), the audience of appreciative tykes was sure to grow.

8th MAN was the brainchild of yank producer Gene Prinz and writer Rueben Guberman. With over 56 produced episodes and the kiddies left clamoring for more, it was no wonder that the first Golden Age of anime was just around the corner and that 8th MAN was striking a genuine chord with its space-crazed fans.
According to the producer, wherever the series popped up, the Neilsen numbers were always the same: they owned the slot 8th MAN occupied no matter the competition. That meant a lot of advertising dollars on the side for that number one ad slot, too, which the producers wisely kept a share of for just such market realities.

But for those not in the know about 8th MAN (and given how rare these episodes are to find, it is no wonder!), it should be noted that though obscure by today’s standards, 8th MAN was the pathway paver for such later genre mega-efforts as ROBOCOP.
No joke, the basic set-up is identical, except herein our former police officer’s brain is installed into the “8th Man” project, which is basically a super robot with our deceased hero’s brain and face. Again, the similarities are beyond coincidence, but still, that’s just one of 8th MAN’s charms: it was an inspiration for a whole generation of soon-to-be loyal manga readers.

The three episodes contained in this reviewed assembly include: “Baron Stormy,” which showcases the supernatural powers of Baron Stormy aka The Weather Wizard against 8th Man’s cybernetic advantages; “Attack of the Horrible Honey Bees,” an amazing take-off of the classic giant ant flick THEM!; and “Pounce the Robot Tiger,” with Dr. Spectra and his robot tiger taking on 8th Man.

Two curious side notes about 8th MAN. One is that it is entirely possible that one contributing factor to 8th Man’s obscurity is his unique way of charging up before having a super adventure. If you’re not familiar, 8th Man must literally smoke a “special blend” before his powers expire. One can imagine the PC and right wing parents freaking at just the thought were this in popular syndication on, say, NICKLOADED’ON, or whatnot. 😉
The other intriguing but admittedly unverified tidbit is that Ralph Bakshi may have done the opening animation sequence, which was — unlike the rest of the series — made in America. Supposedly Bakshi did it while still living in New Jersey very early in his career, and years before he went on to doing FRITZ THE CAT and WIZARDS. True or not, the opening was clearly done by a different studio, as the figures, style and animation fluidity all spell American budget.– Notes by B.D. Black. 

What Other Critics Say:

”The original Japanese name for 8th Man in his human form was Detective Yokota. (Special

Agent Brady was his American Name). After he was rebuilt his new identity was Private Detective Hachiro Azuma. The original name for Chief Fumblethumbs was Chief Inspector Tanaka.”– 60’s ANIME

”Created by artist Jiro Kuwata and scriptwriter Kazumasa Hirai as a Japanese comic strip in April 1963 and adapted for a TV cartoon show. Originally produced

by TCJ Animation Center in Japan, the series was dubbed and produced… by Gene Prinz and his staff at Copri Films International in Miami. In addition to the production and dubbing on 8th MAN, this team is also responsible for the English dubbing on PRINCE PLANET, JOHNNY SOCKO & HIS FLYING ROBOT, and THE AMAZING THREE series.” — THE TOON TRACKER 

”A classic cartoon with great start/stop animatiom (the way cartoons used to be made). Fascinating plots between good and evil and the obsession of using power to generate one’s selfish ways.” — EXCELSIS.com

Like this flick? See also: SPACE ANGEL

AckerMania

starring Forrest J. Ackerman. With Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen and many others.

In an under appreciated documentary that largely focuses on Hollywood’s glam “Sci-Fi” and Horror Golden Eras, ACKERMANIA wisely has venerable FAMOUS MONSTERS editor and frequent B-movie cameo actor Forry Ackerman take center stage. A natural born raconteur, he hosts this fun “Forr-ay” into what made the classic horror & sci-fi flicks work as popular art-ertainment and thus enduring for future generations, even though the films chronicled were largely made within the confines of the Holly-weird system. 

Forry’s inside insight is great, as are the endless clips from a wide array of fantafilms across the century of cinematic time! It’s like taking a trip in a cine-time machine with Forry at the controls, careening vividly from one anecdote about the day and age when or the person who embodied such respect by his peers. 

By dividing each genre of the dark spectrum into epochs and genres, Forry gives you a fang-tastic trip through Hollyweird celluloid from the dawn ’til modern era but without the textbook dryness you’d expect from Cine 101. Instead, hookin’ up with Forry & the gang is fun — they’re definitely “Old Ghoul” but still way cool. — Notes by Dr. Ackula. 

What Other Critics Say:

“Forrest J. Ackerman is the son of Science Fiction.”– Hugo Gernsback, publisher of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES

”If Forrest J Ackerman had not existed it would have been necessary to invent him.” — Anthony Boucher, editor of FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION

”Our mentor.” — John Landis, Joe Dante & Rick Baker

”[Forry is] peculiarly ridiculous.” — HPLovecraft

”Forry is a hero in his own time.” — Steven Spielberg, director of LA 2017

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Fiona Fullerton, M…
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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Starring Michael Crawford, Sir Ralph Richardson, Dudley Moore, Fiona Fullerton, Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. Directed by William Sterling.

It’s very unfortunate that this British adaptation of Carroll’s novel isn’t better known stateside. For while it has its share of detractors, we think the approach director William Sterling took is imaginative and impressive. Given how many versions render the tale as cinema enema and flush away the essentially disturbing surrealism inherent in the material.

While ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (1972) was clearly shot on a small stage and a limited budget, the care and cleverness which the talented crew and cast achieve with their enthusiasm and creativity really makes this much better than its critical reputation.

And what a cast — Fiona Fullerton, who would later go on to cult infamy as a “Bond” girl in A VIEW TO A KILL; Peter Sellers as the March Hare; Sir Ralph Richardson in an inspired turn as the houka-smokin’ Caterpillar; Dudley Moore as Dormouse; Spike Milligan as Gryphon and Michael Crawford as one of the truly best White Rabbit performances. And there’s another Bond connection, as well: the score is by John Barry!

Lacking the cloying cuteness and sanitizing Disney-type versions render, ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND probably isn’t the version your English teacher screened in class. Nevertheless, it is truly enchanting and unexpectedly faithful to the surreal tone of the book many screen adaptations omit as ‘too adult.’ — Notes by R.U. Holden

What Other Critics Say:

“Carroll’s nonsense ditties are made to work quite effectively… Fiona Fullerton makes for

a intelligent, nicely self-possessed Alice.” — THE SF, HORROR & FANTASY FILM REVIEW

“[The] sets, such as a forest of mushrooms, an endless corridor, a beach adorned with precariously leaning boulders shaped like dour faces, a glade of drooping, obviously fake willows, and a wood of frightening, impossibly twisted trees, are lovely, suffusing the tale the director is telling with a strange sense of dreamlike otherworldliness… attractive details, a truly impressive cast, and a skilled composer.” — MOVIERAPTURE.com

“Alice is not a child but a beautiful teenager on the verge of womanhood… attempts to explore the psychological sub-texts of the original novel in a way that the Disney version, for example, did not. The story has a deeper significance than that of merely an entertaining children’s story. Alice’s bizarre adventures are symbolic of the process of discovery of oneself.” — James Hitchcock, IMDB

“Teenage Fiona Fullerton was an ideal Alice for the film, bringing beauty, warmth and a soft, winsome quality to the neurotic (and difficult) character. The film’s cinematic distinction is its extraordinarily beautiful photography by Geoffrey Unsworth, B.S.C. (2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY; CABARET), whose graceful images and fluid, balletic camera movements create a dream-like atmosphere. The haunting orchestral score by John Barry finds the contrasting emotional mood underlying the cool cerebral surface. The film debuted in America at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, was greeted with condescension by critics, and vanished into undeserved obscurity. Its value as a sincere and true reproduction of Carroll has not gone entirely unappreciated.” — Doctor Mabuse, IMDB

The Amphibian Man
Vladimir Korenev, …
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Amphibian Man
aka Chelovek-Amfibiya. Directed by Vladimir Chebotaryov & Gennadi Kazansky.

A young man, it is found, will not survive on land. It is determined that, in an aquatic environment, he could. His father, a scientist, constructs a lab under the sea. Here, the AMPHIBIAN MAN (1962) thrives. His father warns him to stay away from the city coastlines of Mexico. The young man cannot resist. He sees and falls in love with a beautiful woman. But she lubs the land. Amphibian Man’s problems start, predictably enough, when he leaves the water to try to be with his love. For one, an evil scientist tries to knock off our young hero.

Sounds like a bucket of sap and cheese, right? But this isn’t. The flick achieves some remarkable moments of beauty, especially in the lush, even gorgeous underwater scenes. The characters are not your typical stereotypes; they have been conceived with a depth rarely

found in genre films and, well, in a way, this simply isn’t a genre film in the sense that we usually mean.

Once you get beyond the jarring dubbing, AMPHIBIAN MAN has genuine emotional depth. Provided you are open to the concept, you may even be moved. Unlike grotesque American bastardizations such as Patrick Duffy in THE MAN FROM ATLANTIS, this

Soviet era flick uses expressionism ala Douglas Sirk to tell it’s “fish in the water” variation storyline. Many folks consider this film, based on the novel “Chelovek-Amfibiya” by Alexander Beliaev (a pioneer of Russian SF), to be among the highlights of their Science Fiction film experiences.

Bit of movie trivia: the heirs of Edgar Rice Burroughs sued to keep the French release from using title ‘Tarzan des Mers.’ Understandably, they never bothered with Patrick Duffy. — Notes by JR & Barkeep.

What Other Critics Say:

“The dark side of SPLASH.”– John Stanley, CREATURE FEATURES

“Excellent camera work and beautiful actors.” — Andreas Thenhaus, IMDB

“Well-developed and multi-dimensional.” — Dave Sindelar, SCIFILM

Like this flick? See also: PLANET OF STORMS; CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS; VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE

Ark of the Sun God

aka Hunters of the Golden Cobra. Starring David Warbeck. Directed by Anthony M. Dawson.

If you dig “Anthony M. Dawson” aka Antonio Margheriti (7 DEATHS IN THE CAT’S EYES), then by all means add this RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK ‘riff-off’ to your collection. Though not his best flick, it is one of the best of his latter years, filled with good production values, exciting boat chases on the open sea, etc.

The plot concerns a hired expert safecrack artiste to infiltrate a secret temple, steal a precious artifact containing mystical powers, and get the hell out of Instanbul (where the cult is HQ’d) alive with object intact. Played by cult icon David Warbeck, the proceedings definitely feel more “thespian-friendly” than most of Margheriti’s ouevre (or is that ‘paella’?).

In case you don’t know, Warbeck was a real trouper in a lot of truly great Italian and other Euro shockers of the era. His best known credits are Fulci’s THE BEYOND (aka SEVEN DOORS OF DEATH) and SPACE ISLAND, the latter a TREASURE ISLAND redo set in the stars and also directed by Dawson, but he also appeared in over 35 features including BLACKSNAKE!, TROG, and LASSITER. A final notable appearance was in RAZOR BLADE SMILE before Mr. Warbeck sadly passed away from cancer much too young.

With better than average production values, Margheriti races his characters around the globe (or at least lots of scenic Turkish countryside!) in search of, well… the Ark (of the Sun God instead of… get it?). And with Warbeck still in good physical shape, his prescence makes the outing much more fun than the usual “who the hell was that blue-eyed guy with the last name something like, uh, Tellenorino again?” post-credit crawl at three a.m. when you’re likely to be watching this opus.

Okay, so it’s intellectually on a sub-par with most of Margheriti’s flix, at least it moves, baby! And with B movies, that always counts for more than the cover box art. — Notes by Justin Thyme.
  
What Other Critics Say:

“The ever likable David Warbeck headlines in this highly enjoyable RAIDERS FROM THE LOST ARK inspired yarn…

action inevitably ensues with a plethora of high speed car chases (which utilise some cool looking Gerry Anderson style model work), fist fights, shoot outs and James Bond style intrigue together with a healthy dose of humour.” HaemovoreRex, IMDB

”An exercise in squeezing the most out of about the thirty-five drachmas this one cost to make. Antonio tried hard, busting out the miniatures that you rarely see in car chase scenes and pushing columns over in that dang tomb… in the old days you could probably rent it on VHS… a whole generation may be deprived of David Warbeck babbling on about counterbalances and shaving kits (don’t even ask).” — MONSTER HUNTER.com
“I was pleasantly surprised to see that the film stars Italian horror film legend David Warbeck… little attempt is made to disguise the James Bond connection… a fun little bit of hokum.” — OMEGA CHANNEL

Like this flick? See also: 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS

Arousers, The

aka A Kiss for Eddie aka Sweet Kill. Starring Tab Hunter, Cherie Latimer & Angus Scrimm. Written & Directed by Curtis Hanson.

Before directing such studio hits as L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and BEDROOM EYES, Curtis Hanson cut his teeth on this sexy psychothriller potboiler. Simultaneously, star Tab Hunter was beginning a descent careerwise every bit as lurid as the character Eddie he portrays perhaps too convincingly: Eddie is a raging male time bomb set to detonate any time any female within libidinous range happens to disrobe in front of him, even if only flirtatiously.

Compared to today’s watered down erotic ‘d2D’ (direct-2-DVD), THE AROUSERS feels positively “pre-code” in its savage depiction of violence towards naked women and use of weird ly neglected urban locales to induce paranoia (think Abel Ferrara). Instead of the horrid MTV-cuts and useless exposition with talking heads, you are witness to what is more akin to an Americanized ode to PEEPING TOM. You know, cinema. ;)

It is really strange to contemplate whilst you watch THE AROUSERS a bygone time in which such flicks as this were not only weekly change of fare, but often double-billed with a flick even more exploitative of conventional ‘taboos’ as a fun co-feature of debauchery. 

While the internet makes such creations readily available today, there was a time when seeing movies like THE AROUSERS meant “taking a chance” in actually viewing it in a seedy downtown theater. Jostling with the bums and the psychos leering and lurking behind and all around you in the pitch black as your co-watchers and doing your best to ignore the reeking scent of sins committed too long ago to be cleaned is a lost skill to the generation weaned only on mall and multiplex movies.

THE AROUSERS is loaded with a potent brew of beautiful women, a creepily effective psycho turn by Tab Hunter in one of his last good pre-camp roles, and some

great location photography of Venice, CA, back when it had yet to be ‘gentrified’ by Starbucks and company. Thrill to the colorful characters and unique Venice arches which remind of a colorized TOUCH OF EVIL, an obvious cinematic reference (one of many).

Hunter plays a stud muffin who picks up chicks faster than Warren Beatty but cannot make love to them, so he… kills them! Wow, good thing they didn’t have www.thearousers.com dating back then… Eddie would be IM’ming his way to serial killer hall of infamy status! Angus Scrimm (the Tall Man from the PHANTASM flix) has an early role. — Notes by Morty Fied. 

What Other Critics Say:

”Hunter’s performance is terrific as the man who is unable to make love to women.”– Oliver-50, IMDB

”[Hunter] is gradually revealed as a pantie-collector, foot fetishist, and the type who wanks by the bedside of a callgirl dressed up as his dead mom. … stark titles and moodily shot interiors.” — TIME OUT, UK
“THE AROUSERS is tawdry… a fairly solid creepshow that emphasizes suspense over sleaze.” — Paul Gaita, WORLDLY REMAINS

”Hunter gives a convincing performance as a lonely gym teacher whose sexual impotence causes him to kill the women he tries to seduce.” — ROTTEN TOMATOES.com

Ashanti

Starring Michael Caine, Beverly Johnson, Peter Ustinov, Omar Sharif, Rex Harrison and William Holden. Directed by Richard Fleischer.

Of ASHANTI (1979), Michael Caine in his autobiography calls it the worst flick he ever made, bar none. But I’d nominate THE SWARM over this mildly amusing adventure tale if pressed by Mr. Caine; at least this all-star ensemble piece keeps a logical if predictable narrative going from start to finish.
Speaking of storylines, ASHANTI is the tale of slavery and redemption. I stress the redemptive aspects because otherwise, virtually all tales of human exploitation become too oppressive to “enjoy” as even simple adventures. There’s not much

amusement watching for entertainment what one can see on any street corner unless you’re a real sadist.
And if you think that sentiment hard? Wait until you go along with Michael Caine in a fine performance (despite his assessment of the flick) as a man whose African wife is taken by Arab slave traders who has to track her down before she’s sold to “dee highest beeder!”
Stereotypes do not abound, they are the central motif to all that is rousing about ASHANTI. From scene-stealin’ William Holden (who hasn’t been this grizzled since THE WILD BUNCH) as a chopper merc-for-hire to Peter Ustinov as the Arabic slave trader in question, ASHANTI is truly star driven. And that’s not even mentioning Omar Shariff and Rex Harrison!
That this is basically an umpteenth retelling of THE SEARCHERS in slavery shackles isn’t relevent. What makes it work is the professionalism on display from all involved. From

Richard Fleischer, who took you 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA on what was truly a FANTASTIC VOYAGE, to the actors mentioned, to the authentic on-location cinematography which is quite good,and to the sets and production design, ASHANTI is never less than entertaining and “cast of 1,000’s” in feel.
It reminds you, in fact, that in the Golden Era of the 70’s, even what Michael Caine would call the “worst” flick he ever made is still better than, say, 70% of what you’d see tonight at the local multi-simplex. At least in ASHANTI you know each scene will having meaning, advance the story and produce some dramatic tension; that’s a huge accomplishment compared to today’s standard drek.
The subject matter and timeliness of cultures clashing are equally fascinating. You can pretend it is but an adventure melodrama if you wish, but remember: for untold thousands of human beings each year, these clashes mean life or death, and all too often the latter. — Notes by Otto Potts.

What Other Critics Say:
“Breathtaking adventure of a man who resolutely takes on a treacherous journey in order to find his beautiful wife, who has been kidnapped by ruthless slave traders.” — VIDEOLOG
“After a week of shooting in Africa, the cast was sent back to England while the director, leading lady and art director were removed. ASHANTI was never properly released.” — CAINE IS CAINE
“ASHANTI was the worst, most wretched film I ever made.” — Micahel Caine, WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
“I found every moment of this film interesting and thought provoking… I watched the horrors

that the captives endured it reminded me of the horrors that African captives endured over the centuries.” — chemiche, IMDB.com
“Camp, as only late 70s ‘action’ movies can be, this is mindless but mildly entertaining fun… Truly all-star.” — CITIZEN CAINE
“An all-stops-out action finale. Breathtakingly photographed by Aldo Tonti, ASHANTI is for the most part on the dramatic level of THE PERILS OF PAULINE — which isn’t to say that it’s not fun to watch.” — Hal Erickson, ALL MOVIE GUIDE

Atom Age Vampire

Alberto Lupo, Susa…
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aka Seddok, l’erede di Satana; Atom Age Dracula & Seddok, Son Of Satan. Directed by Anton Giulio Majano.

Though it enjoys a small cult following because of t.v. showings many decades ago, probably the reason most folks have ever seen or have an interest in seeing ATOM AGE VAMPIRE today is the “toss-up” credit Mario Bava has on it, which has been listed as everything from d.p. to producer to simply a credit added to the flick to exploit Bava’s mega-successful BLACK SUNDAY released in the same year. One release company even mistakenly lists his credit as “Mario Flava,” which certainly goes well with Chianti and an Italian horror flick (but sadly is factually incorrect).

ATOM AGE VAMPIRE bears only a superficial resemblance to later Bava classics, so whatever influence Bava may or may not have had on the cinematography or direction, it would be nearly impossible to completely decipher. That said, the moody, black & white ‘look’ is very characteristic of the dark, shadow-filled sets mixed with high-contrast key lighting favored by the Italian horror maestro. Later he would add lurid color to the palette in such hits as BLACK SABBATH, but even here (if indeed his touch is authentic and not an imitator), his basic approach is

delineated (if not possibly copied).

The story line? A mad doctor type, only with a slight variation: he’s a lounge lizard-y, Playboy tough guy, too! Brains meet brawn in one studly package. A hopeless fool for love, he dedicates himself to restoring the destroyed beauty of his newfound soul mate, even though this means the deaths of many innocents in order for the evil Doc to harvest their neck glands. Alas, the poor love-struck obsessive-compulsive Man of Science pays the ultimate price for his reckless experiments, eventually transforming himself into a monster. Like we said, the basic mad doctor plot, only with a swinging, jazzy martini-and-olives score done by great Armando Trovajoli, to liven it up and make it less predictable.

As screen shockers go, this one falls between the early Giallo thrillers in tone and execution and THE FLY in terms of s-f credibility (and remind of it with the retro-cool, swirling mist pressure chamber our Atom Age vampboy uses to transform) — in other words, none at all (but with pseudo-science babble to make it sound “believable” to the uncritical and those making ou

t in the backseat). Basically ATOM AGE VAMPIRE’s plot provides lots of excuses for the Mad Doctor ala Hyde to go berserker and throttle the gray matter out of anyone who stands in his way; in this sense, the flick is always at the least sublimely entertaining. It also has ample cheesecake designed to shock the censors into giving it an adult rating (and thereby insuring better box office), and the aforementioned cinematography and jazz score are big plusses, too.

It’s not a breakthrough in vampire cinema, but it is a fine footnote. ATOM AGE VAMPIRE’s variant ‘stab’ at “scientific vampirism” loosely pre-figures THE HUNGER’s themes rather than the traditional, Gothic-bound ones Stoker created and that have been rendered impotent through overuse to shock (sadly ironic given the Count’s original Romantic nature he winds up needing Viagara!). So in some senses, ATOM AGE VAMPIRE has an odd but compelling place in Film Nosferatu because it doesn’t adhere to any traditional conventions of the vampire flick genres. — Notes by Dr. Ackula.

What Other Critics Say:

“A late-night viewing favorite.” – Michael Weldon, PSYCHOTRONIC

“Worthwhile watching and entertaining.” – HORROR MOVIE REPERTOIRE

“Interesting little flick, and one that is deserving of a nice Saturday afternoon screening… a fun little shocker, with enough sleaze to please.” – HORROR-WOOD

“Rendu à moitié, tout s’embourbe et le récit prend de plus en plus une allure de polar très ordinaire, avec un personnage de détective tout droit sorti d’une mauvaise imitation d’un roman de Mickey Spillane.” – ASTRONE F MAGAZINE

“An interesting little Italian hybrid effort that combines a bit of Franju’s LES YEUX SANS VISAGE, a bit of the Jekyll/Hyde theme and even rehashes a bit of the Freda/Bava masterpiece (and genesis of Italian horror), I VAMPIRI.” – Christopher Dietrich, DVD DRIVE-IN

Attack of the Mushroom People

Toho Pack Box Set – The Mysterians, …
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aka Matango. Starring Akira Kubo & Kumi Mizuno. Directed by Inoshiro Honda.

What a strange introduction to the very concept of mushrooms being anything other than something you pick off pizzas until a whole generation was indoctrinated with countless late night t.v. runs of ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE (1963). While their older hippie bros n’ sisters would be turned on and tuning out in the streets by the time this was syndicated directly to television in America, their younger siblings were home frying on midnight screenings of this deranged Honda classic.

The way to think of MUSHROOM PEOPLE is as a drug parable. So you can relax and snicker away at the title, as it is clearly the subtext of the story and not unintentional nor campy. And yet, despite the heavyhanded nature of Honda’s seeming sermonizing, it must be admitted that all great tales of horror generate in the most base of human desires and emotions, such as greed, lust, envy, and arrogance. All of these and many more “less than admirable” qualities of “the everyman” are on display in this grimy, exhausting but ultimately rewarding chiller. It would be worth it if for no other reason than the amazingly psychedelic set designs and widescreen compositions, which are as lovingly and hauntingly evoked as anything Honda ever did. Along with original version of GODZILLA (not the Raymond Burr edition), this is Honda’s “adult” masterpiece.

If you think SURVIVOR would be hellish to live, watch MUSHROOM PEOPLE late at

night after you’ve had a few too many (of whatever). The plot concerns a whining, spoiled bunch of rich party types from Tokyo who get lost on a “three hour tour” and wind up stranded on the proverbial deserted island. Or is it? And actually, you might say “desserted” island, as it turns out the ocean rock is covered with edible mushrooms. Only… they seem to have a strange, undesirable effect when eaten (beyond the initally stuporific high). Despite rationality, one by one the surivors fall prey to eating the mysterious, deadly mushrooms despite their better instincts and…

Well, if you’ve seen the ending, you’ll enjoy seeing it again to confirm it wasn’t all just “how you remembered it from seeing it once as a kid.” If you never have seen MUSHROOM PEOPLE, you’re in for a treat, as Honda was in no mood for happy endings and deals one nasty sour note after another.

Again, if you’re properly smashed and feeling cynical, the subtext of this Honda gem — that you’re as much on a deserted island whether you’re on the Mushroom Island or in downtown Tokyo — is a real existential kick in the tenderloins. Based on the novel by H.P. Lovecraft’s admitted influence English novelist William Hope Hodgkins. — Notes by Steve Martin.

What Other Critics Say:

“Exceptional Japanese sci-fi/horror achieves a chilling atmosphere. A must for genre fans.” — REEL.com

“Intelligent script, beautiful sets and incredible acting… the real horror is humanity falling apart at the seams.” — Mark Engle, CULT CUTS

“Young people who drifted desert island eat strange mashroom (sic) and they are metamorphosed (sic) into monsters… 5 of 5 Stars.” — FJMOVIE.com

“A lysergic-drenched, doom-laden allegory… don’t let its superficially humble B-movie aspirations fool you, as there’s more than a spore of a good idea here” — Jasper Sharp, MIDNIGHT EYE

“No Godzilla, but plenty of very large fungi walking around to molest a shipwrecked group of tourists.” — BURIED.com

“Cheeze-O-Rific!” — Brad Spencer’s VERY BIG LIST OF CHEEZY MOVIES

“One of my all-time favorite titles… succeeds in creating an ominous mood of unease.” — CULT SIRENS

“[Producer Tomoyuki] Tanaka produced more than 200 films and is best known as the creator of Godzilla, the towering embodiment of post-World War II anxiety.” — INFOPLEASE.com”

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