bijou reviews – N

Night of the Bloody Transplant
Starring Dick Grimm & Cal Seeley.

Directed by David W. Hanson.

Shot in Michael Moore’s home town of Flint, Michigan, NIGHT OF THE BLOODY TRANSPLANT (1970) is a real ‘hamateur’ effort in every hilarious sense of the word. With local non-actors given to broadsides and mugging, and staging that seems more like ‘stay on your mark’ rather than ‘move and hit your mark,’ it is a real product and by-product of its era.

Starring ‘Dick Grimm’ (and your Johnson would be pretty sour too if you’d just read it this inane script), NIGHT OF THE BLOODY TRANSPLANT aka THE TRANSPLANT is the old mad scientist cadaver caper story, only juiced up with modern variations like folks working in their basements rather than gothic castles. Presumably this is to lessen the attention drawn to the deviant scientist’s experiments, but in actuality, it lends itself pretty well to the non-budget for obvious reasons (“hey, we can just shoot in my basement, gang!”).

The real star is not the ‘shock medical footage’ that is cheesily grafted into the film in one long, ultimately clinical sequence — very obviously purchased from a training film company for surgical students — but the depressed, gray-washed urban landscapes of Flint, Michigan. 

If you think it looked bad in Moore’s seminal films like ROGER AND ME, wait’ll you see the way director David W. Hanson makes the Detroit wannabe city look. It’s nothing but lurid, paint-peeling motels with waiting prostitutes, fleabag bars with black narrow entry doors, and seedy, flag-draped used car dealerships. No beauty shots of nature, no scenic views of waterfront property, and certainly no slow dissolves into the gorgeous sunset.

All are shot monotone in color, like some sequence out of SKY CAPTAIN & THE WORLD OF TOMORROW. But whereas SKY CAPTAIN’s look was carefully created using c.g.i. for maximum desaturation of image, here you get the ‘real raw deal’ goods minus any computer enhancement.
Like TAXI DRIVER captures New York’s underside, so NIGHT OF THE BLOODY TRANSPLANT renders Flint as one hellish place to survive, missing organs or not. — Notes by Doctor Butcher, M.D. (Medical Deviant).

What Critics Say:

“Amateur film about a doctor who performs an illegal heart transplant only to have his drunken brother botch it. Film features actual open-heart surgery footage, as well as scenes of body painting and performance art.” — Keath, IMDB

”There is an extended dancing stripper scene… Edits are well done. Frequently one scene blends to another. Example: A bloody bathtub cuts to a floor being painted by a nearly nude performance artist.

Yes there are some killings by a paranoid psychotic and evil doings by the surgeon… do not confuse this movie with the well loved NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES, which also deals with heart transplants and shows real life footage of surgery.” — horrorbargainbin, IMDB 

”In a strange way, it’s highly watchable. Check out the 60’s hairstyles, clothing and music as well as the semi-nudity and cheap gore. There is also a stripper, body painting and performance art… For all my drug-crazed sensibilities I actually liked this dog.”– CRITICAL CONDITION

”Another discovery in lost Z-grade material!” — Jason Atwood, IMDB

Like this flick? See also: ATOM AGE VAMPIRE; BARN OF THE BLOOD LLAMA; CREATURE OF THE WALKING DEAD

Night of the Demon

Miracle Pictures

Directed by James C. Wasson.

In the sub-genre of monster flicks known as Cine du Sasquatch, NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1980) is a true rarity — an example of the “savage bigfoot” flick.

Only tantalizing glimpses of such savagery had been cinematically hinted at in such pioneering efforts as THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE and SASQUATCH: THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT. Whereas those efforts primarily used the creature’s offscreen menace to create scares (smart given their cheese-o-rama costumes), this flick shows you the monster full on and in ‘monster slow mo’ ala that nadir of bad 70’s t.v. making THE SIX

MILLION DOLLAR MAN (six mil sounds like a steal in the era of Enron, but that’s another type of horror movie).

Despite or because of its American origins, NIGHT OF THE DEMON was banned in the U.K., W. Germany and Norway. In England under the rule of Thatcher, it gained notoriety as one of an elite group deemed so verboten Brits could not (and presumably can still not) own, rent or view them. That’s right, under their version of Reagan in drag, it became a thought crime to view certain movies and video stores (mostly independent ones, natch) were routinely raided and their owners carted off to the stony lonesome for renting the so-branded “video nasties.” The banning put NIGHT OF THE DEMON right alongside such fare as ANDY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN and H.G. Lewis’ BLOOD FEAST, a mark of dubious distinction which it does not betray upon viewing.

It’s very easy to see why Thatcher had her knickers in a wad where NIGHT OF THE DEMON is concerned. Not since TAXI DRIVER or ROLLING THUNDER (both non-coincidentally written by a young Paul Schrader) had cinema seen such a bloodbath finale. Think of it as THE WILD BUNCH ending but with a bunch of college students so idiotic you wonder aloud what accredited university accepted them for study — Slaughter U., perhaps?

Many, many reviews of NIGHT OF THE DEMON fault the production values and acting. These are fair in one sense compared to a Hollywood multi-million spectacular (one assumes with some assurance at least this was not the budget for this independently shot effort). But by indie horror flick standards, NIGHT OF THE DEMON is remarkably well-shot and well-lit, with clear care put into the lighting set-ups to make maximum use of what is a clearly strained budget. In this sense, it stylistically resembles many of Dario Argento’s earliest flicks,

which use color gels and lighting pools as much if not more of the film’s character than the characters themselves.

The acting is pretty dreadful. Hate to say it, but that’s what it gives it that nightmarish quality on top of the nightmarish quality. It’s as if you are stuck in the middle of out-takes from WAITING FOR GUFFMAN in a fevered trance, unable to wake up, as the imagery is slowly transformed into a series of bloody bigfoot attacks, each upping the ante of sheer shock from the previous, culminating in the now infamous ending.

It’s this power to shock that is what is enduringly refreshing about NIGHT OF THE DEMON. Not in the bloody FRIDAY THE 13TH manner, but more akin to the aforementioned works. The hyper-stylization of the violence becomes so, so… ‘kabuki’-ized (for want of a better word)… that it becomes a kind of meditation on screen violence itself. No joke, it is this sly, subversive quality that makes NIGHT OF THE DEMON’s kinship

not HARRY & THE HENDERSONS, but Grand Guignol itself. By at once going for the jugular and allowing it to overly bleed, a strange, horrific laughter is produced in most viewers not so squeamish they find the entire effort too disturbing to endure.

Like THE EVIL DEAD and other cult flicks, NIGHT OF THE DEMON wants — demands — the viewer subsume his impulse to “look away” and/or stop watching altogether. In this sense, it succeeds no matter the budget or lack thereof, no matter the stars or no-names, because it refuses to conform to the very conventions you expect from such an effort, constantly subverting and assaulting the

said expectations like a sack of wet ‘Squatch shit tossed smack dab in your deviant face. It’s as if the flickmaker is daring you to sneer and condescend to the material, because — if you’re honest and watch it all the way through — you’ll have to admit that despite the childish storyline, NIGHT OF THE DEMON conjures demons aplenty by simple invocation of telling a scary story well around a raging campfire of horror.

WARNING! Reviewed is the uncut version, so to speak, of this hard-to-find cult classic. Viewers and addicts of this flick know of the hilarious “Bigfoot ripping off a stoner motorcyclist’s cock” sequence is one of the flick’s high ‘lowlights.’ Alas, it was also the first sequence to be trimmed from the flick when it was first released in some video formats due to the British controversy. Joking aside, NIGHT OF THE DEMON is an ultra-violent movie and not recommended for anyone save Bigfoot enthusiasts and cine-sadists. — Notes by Ben Tramer.

What Critics Say:

“Purchase worthy… rare.” — PSYCHOTIC EPISODES

“Beg(s) for late night wasted viewing.” — LIGHTS FADE, UK

“Best and bloodiest Bigfoot movie ever made.”– BURIED HORROR MOVIE REVIEWS

“A surprisingly creepy and bizarre film.”– DR. GEOFF’S HORROR HOUSE

Like this flick? See also: CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE; MANBEAST; SNOWBEAST; SASQUATCH, THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT

Nightmare Castle

aka Amanti d’oltretomba aka The Faceless Monster aka Lovers Beyond the Tomb aka Night of the Doomed aka Orgasmo. Starring Barbara Steele, Paul Müller, Helga Liné & Laurence Clift. Directed by Mario Caiano.

As a journeyman script writer, I had the pleasure once to meet Dan Curtis of DARK SHADOWS fame. I was more than flattered to be there at all, especially being considered as worthy as a screenwriter to Mr. Curtis when I knew and he both that past writers he’s worked with (such as Richard Matheson) were galaxies beyond my fledgling abilities. A simple courtesy extended from one pro to a hopeful one means a lot when you’re starting out, so naturally, I was impressed. Equally memorable for me, however, was that none other than Barbara Steele was also present during our first meeting!

It was uncanny how her distinctive eyes are in real life. In the meeting, I kept noticing how you could always feel her luminous orbs glowing in your direction. You’d sneak a peak to flatter yourself that she’s actually looking, but then those dark, bottomless irises reveal nothing. Her own reaction remains inscrutable and mysterious. Now that’s a star in the best sense of

the word, and tells you why she worked with Fellini in none other than 8 1/2! And hey, memory never failing on this detail, I will truly never forget how resplendent she appeared as she reclined comfortably on her luxurious sofa. I felt like I was in the room with a true-life Queen… of the Cine Damned, at least!

Besides flattering myself with this recollection at having the pleasure of such great company (however briefly), the main reason I belabor such trivia is to prove a point from personal as well as cinematic experience: while Ms. Steele may be in many otherwise uninteresting pictures through no fault of her own, when they’re showing pictures of Ms. Steele, the screen is always alive with her brooding presence.

In fact, we fans of Barbara Steele always wondered why the producers of her various cult flix never used her

more throughout their epics. Instead, the prevailing pattern was to have her be a witch/cheating wife/etc. who is burned/killed and then returns to exact revenge as a witch/temptress/etc. This sounds like a lot of screen time for Ms. Steele, but invariably, it meant she was killed off in the opening scenes and you had to wait until the final reel or two to see her finally resurrected and bring “life” back to the flick at hand.

NIGHTMARE CASTLE (1965) is happily at least a minor exception to the above rule of abbreviated screen time and with a Peter Sellers-esque twist: this time, Steele plays both an evil raven-haired wife tortured to death for infidelity

by her psychotically jealous husband and then later a morose, blonde version of the same character who is slowly being possessed by the dead Bad Barbara. It actually plays a lot like BEWITCHED when Samantha has it out with her wicked twin sister (talk about male fantasies!), as the sedate blonde wig job gives way to wild-eyed Barbara’s magnificent black mane, all akimbo like she just got through… killing some bloke, heh heh.

On it’s own two feet, NIGHTMARE CASTLE is formulaic, but like most efforts in the era, it enjoys incredibly good production design, well-lit sets and in this case Ennio Morricone doing the score. For

the uninitiated, be advised: there is a strong flavor of sadism and lingering voyeurism to these efforts. They are of course tame by HBO standards of today or the razor blade “Stuck in the Middle (with You)” sequence from RESEVOIR DOGS, and yet, at the same time, curiously they remain more intense in that they are artistically rendered in long takes and with an unflinching sense of taboo-breaking peeping tom’ ism. This is so unlike the visual bombardment via computer effects and fast cutting one receives today in all movies that it truly

makes the horror more intense in these older efforts.

This is because the human characters are not reduced a priori by an idiotic “concept” wagging the cinedog. Result, ala PSYCHO, is that the suffering and horror the characters undergo is more psychologically disturbing because there is no “c.g.i.” release valve. Nor is there any secure knowledge the horror will cut away in less than a second, as today’s horror flix do to maintain their PG-13 or R rating. Nope, they were laboring under no such restraints, so as a result, they are

actually much more unsettling even by today’s jaded standards.

Fans who may be wondering how Ms. Steele has been doing as of late need not worry. Her latest credit as associate producer is none other than the current mega-hit QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY. As Barbara Steele’s amazing career demonstrates: the “eyes” have it! 😉 — Notes by Dr. Tarr.

What Critics Say:

“While certainly not up to the level of Steele’s work with the masterful Mario Bava, this is a worthwhile effort. NIGHTMARE CASTLE finds its greatest success in showing the beautiful

horror icon in as many extreme situations and personas as possible.” — T.V. GUIDE.com
“Starts off with cinematic guns ablazin!!… Steele and her lover are chained to a lab wall, and given a slow, grimy, painful death via horrible surgical instruments. These scenes, disturbing as hell, remind one of crime scene photos of Lizzie Borden or Jack The Ripper.” — Glenn Andreiev, IMBD.com

“Represents at the height of what is now regarded as the golden age of Italian horror cinema… charming English dubbing. Although I’d like to see the Italian version of the film, it’s hard to believe that an exchange like the following could be improved in any other language, unless, perhaps, it were translated by computer:
MURIEL: I’m going to rid you of your vulgar ways and replace them with others much more subtle and refined. 
DAVID: I don’t understand you. 
MURIEL: It doesn’t matter.
I look forward to seeing it several more times.” — Chris Fujiwara, IMAGES

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