bijou reviews – V

Vampire Hookers

aka Cementary Girls; Ladies of the Night; Night of the Bloodsuckers; Sensuous Vampires; Twice Bitten & Vampire Hookers of Horror. Starring John Carradine, Trey Wilson & Lenka Novak. Directed by Cirio Santiago.

Most folks consider the decline of actor John Carradine’s career about on par with Bela Lugosi’s and Karloff’s, but it’s all relative, of course. That is, not only did Carradine make a relatively good amount of money starring in grade C flix such as VAMPIRE HOOKERS (1979), he also helped sustain and create a ‘relative’ lineage of his namesake children, all accomplished in their own right by now.

Acting dynasties are hard to sustain, and flix like VAMPIRE HOOKERS helped Mr. Carradine achieve and realize his own modest success in this light. And unlike so many of his later efforts, he seems in this outing to have a bit more of the old ‘espirit de corps’ flowing through him. Maybe it’s the shakespeare he gets to quote, or maybe the fact that he’s lit with the utmost care and professionalism. Whatever, something made the old Carradine peek out through the vampire’s cloak in this modest but genuinely entertaining camp effort.

They “don’t make ’em like this anymore,” some would say. They’d be right to the extent that unlike 99% of the dreck shot on video and dumped to market, VAMPIRE HOOKERS is amazingly well photographed, produced and cheerfully albeit painfully under-acted for the most part. In other words, watchable as long as you like 70’s drive-in fare.

The plot has a couple of wacky U.S. sailors deciding to “score” with Phillipino prostitutes as part of their first deployment overseas. Alas, they’re too idiotic to realize they’ve managed to hook up with the only three vampire hookers in all of Manila, but hey, it is fun watching them be seduced, particularly in the infamous seven minute orgy sequence. Shot from on high (God’s p.o.v.?), looking down on a bed filled with one lucky sailor and three horny vampire seductresses, and shot in hazy slow motion, it feels like an out-take from some abandoned Brian DePalma movie, all titillation and very little pay-off. Still, with its Murph and the Magi-Tones soundtacky blaring, it’s hard to argue this wasn’t one of the highlights of 1979 Phillipino drive-in cinema in retrospect. 😉

On a serious note, director Santiago’s father had built the first studio in Manilla years before with many creature comforts for all the tech folks, as well as the actors. He even had a bottled water cooler installed which only makes sense when you consider the heat and questionable local drinking water. Anyway, even with the lack of a decent budget, VAMPIRE HOOKERS has a great look: the equipment was all at hand, the lights were professional, film stocks great, and care was put into the technical aspects (well, save the writing, but that’s another… story?).

There is a lot to like about VAMPIRE HOOKERS for all the shortcomings, which include some pretty boring scenes here and there designed to pad it for length. Still, even these scenes offer something of a very unique look at a foreign land, involving as they do cultural interactions between the locals and the curious Navy men and male bonding rituals such as drinking and whoring.

But for our money, the end credits song (“They’re the vampire hookers/And blood is not all they suck!”) is about as cheerfully annoying as any drive-in song ever made. Yes, we know it’s a bold assertation, but look: if you can listen to the end credit tune only three times and then not find yourself singing it later in the day? We’ll send you some free Bijou bucks you can use on your very next order. It’s that insidious, as is VAMPIRE HOOKERS, which for all its drawbacks, clearly warns you what to expect in the title. No Carradine-ist or vampire flick fan will want to be missing this rarity from their collection. — Notes by Count Chocula.
  
What Critics Say:

”VAMPIRE HOOKERS, of course, is a classic. You guys know how much VAMPIRE HOOKERS made, compared to what it cost? Remember the poster? ‘They tease, they squeeze, they’re ready to please.'” — Joe Bobb Briggs, JOE BOBB’S DRIVE-IN

”The erotic undertones of this vampire chiller are guaranteed to warm the coldest heart.” — VAMPYRES ONLINE

“This movie has all of my favorites in it, vampires and hookers, you can’t go wrong with that combination. John Carradine stars as the poetic head of the vampires in this cool film shot in the Phillipines… will make you think twice before flashing your cash at a nice peice of ass on the streets.” — The Cryptkeeper, BURIED.com 

”When he’s not quoting Shakespeare, Carradine has lines like ‘We’d love to have you for dinner’ to a visitor (played by David Hasselhoff look-alike Bruce Fairbairn) who is seduced by his three whore vampire babes. Lotsa softcore sex.” — E-SPLATTER 

”The girls all have tan-lines even though Suzy (the youngest) claims she has not seen the sun in over a century.” — VAMPIRE MOVIES UK

” A cult classic of course!” — CULT MOVIES ONLINE

Vampyres

aka Daughters of Darkness. With Marianne Morris & Anulka Dziubinska. Directed by José Ramón Larraz.

Vampyres
Marianne Morris, A…
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Over the years, VAMPYRES (1974) — aka VAMPYRES: DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS and even

DAUGHTERS OF DRACULA in the ’80 re-issue — has sustained quite a following amongst its admirers. Fortunately, the anticipation is amply rewarded upon viewing the flick itself. While it is hard to say you “love” a movie so dark and forboding as VAMPYRES, respect for its ability to shock and horrify make it a definite “must see” for anyone who has ever seriously rented one of the countless knock-off, shot-on-video “erotic” lesbian vampiress flix and wondered why anyone bothers with the genre besides the obvious marketing advantages.

As director Jose Ramon Larraz proves, sex and horror are even more potent when both are presented with carnality; it’s as if Romero’s zombies came back from the grave, but instead of flesh, they craved non-stop sex. The two vampiresses basically lay traps for unsuspecting men, literally screw them until they’re neath death, and then partake of them one last time in a blood orgy feast H. G. Lewis would find illuminating. It is not gore-ific ala a Lewis picture, but the intensity of the screen action — the frantic, beast-like humping; the eerie blood hunger scenes in which the beautiful vampiresses feed on dying lovers — makes it feel as if you’ve been witness to far more screen violence than is actually present. In short, though at times blatantly

bloody ala a Hammer flick of the early 70’s, VAMPYRES is actually more shocking for the lyrical interludes between the brief bloodletting than for any onscreen gore.

To fully appreciate VAMPYRES, it is well to keep in mind it was shot in three weeks and on a budget that was just one notch above the average adult film of the day in production costs — 40,000 pounds (this was the EMMANUEL era and porn was still shot and released on 35mm in theaters to take advantage of the DEEP THROAT-inspired boom in ‘adult’ entertainment). VAMPYRES benefits from this experienced crew who had churned out many softcore European sex flicks prior to lensing this cult classic.

Not unlike David Cronenberg (who would get his legit start when a porn producer hired him to do a “straight” flick with lots of sex), Larraz proves more than adequate for proving what an illusion of terror he can both create and sustain. All the more impressive again when one considers the lack of time and money; the flick looks gorgeous and benefits from the handsome location photography of creepy old castles and the like.    — Notes by Jonathan Harker’s Smarter Brother Floyd. 
  
What Critics Say:

”Only the undead wouldn’t get worked up by this film.” — WORLDLY REMAINS “The ultimate erotic vampire movie.” — Michael Weldon, PSYCHOTRONIC

“Regarded by many people as one of the great English horror films… an erotic nightmare, heightened, compulsive and more than a shade terrifying.” — IMMORAL TALES

”The female vampires are presented as simultaneously objects of terror and intoxicatingly desirable… sex and other bloodthirsty activities are depicted with exhuberant explicitness achieving a hallucinatory eroticism… genuinely succeeds in conveying the ambiguities of amour fou — of loving, and being loved, to death.” — AURUM HORROR FILM ENCYCLOPEDIA

The Van

Starring Jason Altman, Ani Delara, Colin Malone and Nick Daley. Music by Flesh Resonance. Directed by Aaron Burk, Tyler Burk and Brad Paulson.

Time to definitely get in the van, man. You know the one I’m talking about? The one that was supposedly possessed by its former now deceased owner, that freeway serial

killer? Yeah, that one. Well, it turns out that like a bad twenty dollar bill, this mean-spirited machine just keeps getting passed from one unlucky new owner to the next. But does anyone ever own the van, or is it the other way around..?
THE VAN plays on a lot of modern urban and suburban fears to good, low budget effect: shitty used cars that are as dependable as a George Bush FEMA plan; scary stalkers that want nothing but to reduce your life into their own sordid side show drama; horrid “day” jobs that lead nowhere slowly save you faster to your all-too-soon graveyard stay; the dread of being the social outcast in a city of millions… whew, it’ s like a zeitgeist check on all the paranoia currently infecting America.

Not that such sentiments are rare to horror cinema. Horror always works best historically speaking in times of great national stress, so the theory goes, and offers an acceptable societal catharsis to the lurking, present dangers that are all too real outside the cinema’s range. But what happens when the cinema begins to reflect the surrounding decay in reality to the point where redemption itself seems a hellish long shot?

You’re riding shotgun with the devil himself in THE VAN, that’s what! And what better casting choice to play the demented sociopath and Old Nick stand-in than “Sleazy” Colin Malone? Infamous for his porn review show COLIN’S SLEAZY FRIENDS and a handful (so to speak!) of adult DVD releases, here Malone shows that despite the outrageous comedy of his cable t.v. offerings, he can not only act, but steals the flick in terms of low vibe charisma. Yes, Colin can not only act, but can also drive and conclude a scene; not an easy task on a low budget flick even for a pro.

Malone’s serial killer character and THE VIRGIN SPRING-type twists of fate he encounters are the definite highlight of THE VAN, but there’s more than just the cool exterior paint job on this baby. Other stories chronicle how the evil van takes possession of a dimunitive dishwasher and turns him into a devil-may-careless, machete-hacking woman killer. And yet another concerns a boyfriend who just won’t take “no” for an answer, especially if its his ex-girlfriend whose screaming it at the top of her lungs as he tries to impale her with a knife.

While it never transcends much beyond its solid B-movie aspirations, THE VAN nevertheless holds up as both an entertaining look at modern xenophobia and as a fun ride into mobile Scaresville. — Notes by Gore Vital.

What Critics Say: 

“A must-see!.” — CULTCUTS

“Easily one of my new favorites in independent films. Imagine mixing CHRISTINE with THE CAR.” — HACKER’S SOURCE

“A fun and horrific ride..” — BURIED.com

“Smart, sexy, scary. One hell of a ride.” — WTTV

Voyage to the End of the Universe

aka Ikarie XB-1. Starring Frantisek Smolík. Score by Zdenek Liska. Directed by Jindrich Polák.

In many ways, VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE (1963) is like a Socialist version of 2001. Much more so, in fact, than SOLARIS, the Russian epic that is so often compared to Kubrick’s classic.

It is interesting to speculate upon a possible influence of both the flick itself and the writings of Stanislav Lem (the Polish SF author upon whom works this flick was based) on both Arthur C. Clarke and Kubrick. While surely unintentional, Kubrick’s early name for his later epic was JOURNEY BEYOND THE STARS, which even appeared in trade papers as a working title.
The plot elements that are similar in a superficial but noteworthy way involve a space ship crew encountering an alien life form in the depths of space and having to struggle with the fundamental questions of existence and meaning in the face of the “first

encounter” of the third kind, and how it transforms and indeed drives some crew members mad (ala HAL’s similar destiny in 2001). Too, like A SPACE ODYSSEY, VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE is as much concerned with cultural as well as scientific advances rather than action sequences only (though they’re there, too) and special effects (though the effects work is impressive for the day).

These are truly only modestly interesting parallels, and it is not like VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE needs to prop upon Kubrick’s picture to succeed nor vice versa. Indeed, VOYAGE won Best SF Feature at the prestigious Trieste SF Awards the same year Chris Marker won there with “La Jetee” for Best SF Short. Rather, it is to indicate how relatively obscure it remains despite its rather daunting pedigree, the latter of which upon viewing decades later is much deserved.
There is a case to be made for this being an influence on STAR TREK as much as Kubrick and Clarke, but again, it may just be because so many of these ideas were so very

topical during the Space Race. In those heady days, it was not a matter of if but when mankind would “conquer” the universe; there was never a budget shortfall nor deficient equipment, but rather only a hostile universe that spat endless meteor storms and black holes at you. It’s kind of comforting to know nothing can go wrong with your space

ship in space, and that may be the hidden “will fulfillment” fantasy herein: cruising into the depths of the universe is as easy as strapping into a monster-sized space Cadillac with retro fins and turning the retro-ignition key. Whew, it’s enough to make you nostalgic for Tang (“The Drink of the Astronauts”), isn’t it?

From a technical point of view alone, it is easy to appreciate the vast sets and grand sense of scale VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE brings to the screen. The stark, high contrast look shot in glorious black and white is as good as it gets, and reminds of the moody film noirs of the 40’s more than the usual brightly-lit American SF flix of the era.
The set design is impressively futuristic-looking to this day, and yet definitely a by-product of the era’s hopeless but touching optimism towards space exploration, where tragedy was ever present but somehow – and maybe this is why the film remains so relevant today – that only made the heroes’ quest that much more human and believable. In outer space, after all, we are all just a pressurized spacesuit rip away from sharing an equally grim fate.    — Notes by Dr. Heywood Floyd..  

What Critics Say: 

“A superior Czechoslovakian science fiction film with excellent special effects.” — Michael Weldon, PSYCHOTRONIC GUIDE

“Yet another good example from East Europe is the Czechoslovakian ‘Ikarie XB1’ (loosely based on another Lem story, ‘The Magellan Cloud’), which is an intelligent and truly well-made film… featuring equal or even better special effects and sets than… American counterparts.” — EUROPEAN CINEMA

“Mega-rare Czech science fiction tale. A giant spaceship carrying a colony to a new habitat in deep space faces numerous problems including encounters with alien vehicles.” — TROPIC TWILIGHT VIDEO

“Czech production has meritorious values… Emphasis is on problems aboard the craft, encounters with an alien ship and its dead crew, and an adventure in a space nebula… director and cast work hard to pull it off.” — CREATURE FEATURES MOVIE GUIDE

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
Basil Rathbone, Fa…
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aka Prehistoric Planet. Starring Basil Rathbone & Faith Domergue. Directed by Pavel Klushantsev & Curtis Harrington.

I have always admired Roger Corman’s ability to take, say, a Soviet SF flick that was incomprehensibly unreleasable in the United States and — by hiring young, eager talent such as Curtis Harrington who did 3 days on this patch job — releasing an equally incomprehensible but “Americanized” version that perfectly fit the staid parameters of U.S. distibution.

It’s kind of like a cultural Cliffs Notes ability he had, way before Saban and any Power Rangers, to transcend one national release limitation into a successful release in his own country. No doubt, whether he made art, money or both, Corman also made it

“make sense” to what he rightly or wrongly perceived as the “average American.”

Even more than any other use of the classic Soviet era SF footage by Corman in other efforts (see PLANET OF BLOOD), VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET (1965) largely keeps most of the original source flick (PLANET OF STORMS) intact, inserting some shots of Faith Domergue communicating with Soviet female counterpart Masha in the original but largely keeping the plot of PLANET OF STORMS intact, especially post-landing on Venus.

What’s interesting is to compare the way Corman took PLANETA BURG aka PLANET OF STORMS and “Corman’ized” it by watching them back-to-back. Here’s where you really get to see the contrast of how the Soviets viewed the intended audience’s intelligence level versus the “dumbing down” but “entertaining up” done by Corman to address the perceived American market.

In one sense, Corman’s genius was that he was way ahead of what Hollywood would eventually become — a giant factory of B-Movie product made on A+++ level budgets. Maybe that’s why they’re finally remaking his earliest efforst such as THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS now to such overwhelming succe$$? — Notes by R.U. Holden.

What Critics Say:

“A mess but strangely entertaining… I still enjoyed it much more than Brian De Palma’s dull

Hollywood ‘blockbuster’ MISSION TO MARS!” — Infofreak, IMDB.com

“When the man sized dinosaurs attack it will bring up memories of Sid and Marty Krofft… no wonder we won the Cold War.” — BAD MOVIE PLANET.com

“The coolest thing about this movie is Robot John…one of my favorite movie robots If you want to a have good laugh or just spend a lazy Saturday afternoon in front of the TV, it’s quite entertaining… great B movie fun.” — Gerry Carpenter, SCI-FILM.org

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