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Strike of the Tortured Angels

Posted by JoshSamford On August - 10 - 2011
Review submitted by Prof. Aglaophotis

Strike of the Tortured Angels (1982)
Director: Roy Rosenberg
Writers: Dick O’Nell and Gary Capra Jr.
Starring: Susan Lee, Stella Jone, Laura Sode-Matteson and George Bill

The Plot: Our story takes place in Hong Kong where a group of delinquent young girls are being driven away to a Women’s Rehabilitation center. Many of the girls are beaten by the other inmates and put to work by the unfair guards. However, one girl named Susan passively fights back against these troubles with her stoic but rigid personality as she tries to escape. Julie, the toughest of the new girls, wants to escape the school and finds companionship in Susan’s personality and motivations. Susan wants to get even with a cheating Doctor Qua who is slowly ruining her family’s life: he drives Susan’s older sister to suicide by knocking her up, abandoning her and stealing money from the family fortune in the process. Susan will do what she can to stop him from ruining her family any further so the two girls escape with a third on their quest to stop the doctor, but not without facing various perils.

The Review
Try thinking of the worst excuse of a Skin Flick, then think of a bad idea for a Women in Prison film and fill it with uninteresting characters. Now combine them, set them in China and imagine what you’d get. You’d get a dull, stupid, barely arousing movie that gives up on being either of those genres and falls into completely different movie genres like Crime, Revenge and Drama. That’s right: Tortured Angels is the bait and switch of Exploitation films. What starts out as a sexy and silly nonsense riddled Women in Prison movie becomes a boring and unappealing Drama/Revenge film.

What sucks about the movie is how hard its humor and combined sleaziness falls. The movie starts out with Susan and the rehabilitation assistant Mr. Lee mud wrestling and tearing at each other’s clothes over the opening credits. From there, the movie keeps up with the zany sex appeal as the transported girls are forced to strip down and wear short shorts and tank tops, some of which they lose completely in the goofiest (but most exciting) hazing sequence I’ve ever watched.

Throughout this, we get to know our main characters, Susan, Ginger and the rough and ready Julie. Julie is one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in a movie of this caliber because… and I’m not making this up… she’s played by an Asian woman in blackface. She dons a curly dark haired afro to boot and has the funniest facial expressions for some of the most serious of scenes. Ginger on the other hand is the “weird girl” of the trio; she sort of reminds me of the cute nameless girl belonging to Satahn’s cult from the movie Snuff, the girl in the mini-skirt who would laugh every time someone fired a gun. Ginger spends most of the movie caring for a piglet and carrying it around even when the trio are busy warding off horny bikers and robbing people. What’s even funnier is how the piglet is just as badly dubbed as the actors: they give the piglet the oink of an adult pig!

For the first twenty minutes, the movie is somewhat entertaining as the girls try to find some way out of the rehab center. But then we start learning about Susan’s back story. That’s when the movie stops being fun and entertaining. The reason why Susan gets sent to the reform school is about as sympathetic as a drive-by shooting; I’m still not sure how in the Hell she blames the doctor for what she did, especially since he wasn’t involved. Julie’s strange desire to die of illness despite facing the cure several times makes her character hard to sympathize with.

The cinematography is a little awkward at times due to its mixed themes. It’s decent for the most part with a few good shots like the reflection of the cheating doctor in his mirrored sunglasses or a close-up of broken glass separating the scenes from Susan’s ailing father and the cheating doctor. Throughout the movie though the camera will focus on the bare legs of any young girl in the scene as if this really were a Skin Flick. Which is weird because this movie has practically no nudity in it. Girls get undressed and shower in one scene while one girl gets stripped naked during the hazing scene; we get one shot of a bare tush, but that’s it. That’s not a good thing in an Exploitation film!!

At no point does the soundtrack sound authentic. It’s hard to say where every song comes from, but it changes in style, composition and age constantly. One minute it will sound like an action movie, then a horror movie and then a 60’s jazz scene. I can recognize a bit from the Jean Michel Jaree song Oxygen (about three minutes in) and I can name one movie soundtrack this flick does rip off: The Burning! That’s right, the same average ‘80’s slasher that, for years, you couldn’t get uncut is featured in Tortured Angels via song. Be it the fake attack scenes or the main theme song, Tortured Angels plays them both during its many campy scenes. Because of the ripped off soundtrack though, many scenes will sound too action-packed, dramatic or intense for their own good. One of the best songs in the movie is used for a stripping scene and a car chase right out of Mitchell and it makes both scenes feel more intense than they really are.

Because this is movie was originally shot in the Chinese language (I’m guessing Mandarin), it’s kind of awkward how most of the characters have English names; sort of like how Ghost Head took place in Japan but everyone was renamed and the script was made to sound like it was San Francisco. However, at one point, someone shouts for Susan, but it’s not the dub actor speaking, it’s the actual actor. Still, the dubbing is pretty funny. Every now and again, the dub actors will throw in an English accent for random characters. Then there’s the dumpy doctor Susan wishes to take her revenge on who has the funniest voice in the whole movie. Not only does Dr. Qua have a British accent, but the actor sounds like he’s mumbling the whole time; if only this was What’s Up, Tiger Lilly?!

I’ll admit, the movie tries to spice things up a bit through the bad dubbing and strange costume changes. At one point, Susan shows up to talk to her sister dressed up in some kind of modern Native American garb as if she were a Tekken character. There’s even a great scene where the trio strip three random school girls and key their bikes. These moments are all short lived and pale in comparison to the squelching drama story though.

The last five minutes of the movie has some hilarity to it. One character responds to a shotgun blast to the gut by rolling their big wide eyes in the back of their head and forming their mouth in a perfect O shape and standing perfectly still once shot. Also, the copy of this movie I have is hardcoded in Danish, so there are many Danish subtitles throughout the film. However, it should be noted that the abrupt ending of the film is presented with a Power Point-like THE END screen, or in this case, simply END. The word END is subtitled in Danish as well… and the word for END in Danish is spelled S.L.U.T. (though pronounced differently). So, by the end, the movie insults the audience with the power of unintentional hilarity.

The Conclusion
As a Drama/Revenge Film, Tortured Angels is mediocre at best; it’s livened only with a few fun characters and random PG-13 sexual themes. This isn’t like Raw Force where there’s a laugh to be had every minute or bare bodies at every other. Its inconsistent silliness is so broken it barely makes the movie enjoyable. It’s silly and serious, but not never enough of either makes it worth watching.

Severed Arm, The

Posted by JoshSamford On July - 28 - 2011
Review contributed by Prof. Aglaophotis

The Severed Arm (1973)
Director: Thomas S. Alderman
Writers: Thomas S. Alderman, Larry Alexander, Kelly Estill, Darrel Presnell and Marc B. Ray
Starring: Deborah Walley, Paul Carr, David G. Cannon and Marvin Kaplan

The Plot: Jeff Ashton just received a rather bizarre gift in the mail: a severed arm! The message immediately reminds him of what happened five years ago, when he and his five middle aged buddies went on a mining vacation in order to dig for some rock samples. Thanks to one of the bumbling fellows though, the trip resulted in disaster as the shaft caved in with the six men inside with little water and hardly any food. After two weeks pass, the men can no longer continue without sustenance and they slowly resort to cannibalism. They sever the right arm of their friend Ted, only for a rescue team to come to their aide seconds after the deed was done. So all five men swore to secrecy, never to let anyone know what they did and claim the amputation was a result of the cave-in… but Ted said he’d never forget it, even after being hospitalized and institutionalized later. Jeff gathers his old pals together to remind them of the secret and how the truth would affect their long progressing careers. As the reunion finishes however, one of Jeff’s pals, Dr. Sanders, gets attacked, resulting in his right arm getting amputated. Jeff and his detective friend Mark now have little time to protect the others while trying to find Ted’s location and stop the traumatized mad man.

The Review
There are many sad things that can happen in a good Horror movie. The Severed Arm might not be original to begin with, as the premise sounds mysteriously familiar, but it has a good twist to it amidst various mediocre aspects. On the technical side, the production was clearly a few thousand dollars short of being passable.

Night shots are barely visible and the direction of the camera isn’t always set straight. The darkness obscures a lot of the action that is key to the scene’s atmosphere, thus the film’s lucidity is based on natural and in-room light, but even then it doesn’t work. There’s an attack scene where a man falls down a stair case, but the scene is so dark and the camera focuses so little on the event, and the victim’s screaming, that it almost looks like the guy tripped over the cameraman.

As a matter of fact, every death scene in the movie is awkwardly shot. Every time someone gets attacked, the camera always focuses on the actor’s face and the murder weapon at awkward angles; maybe this is to induce panic, but it just made the scenes look silly. Perhaps the best death scene in the whole movie is ruined because the scene is too dark. Another surprising death scene in an elevator is also botched by wretched camera angles and quick cuts. Although the lighting and direction is not entirely the attack scene’s fault: the worst of the death scenes has to be the one where a character is attacked, faints and the scene cuts away practically to the next day.

Yet, the movie makes-up for its technical flaws in its writing and some of its acting. The dialogue between Jeff and Mark is competent and direct enough to really hook me into their situation, and both characters are acted pretty well. For awhile I was actually buying the trouble these men had gotten themselves into, how they were going to handle it and the problems they faced along the way. Then of course there was the comic relief character, late night radio DJ, ‘Mad Man’ Herman. Played by comedic Brooklyn actor Marvin Kaplan, every one of Herman’s lines made my eyes roll so often I thought they’d fall out. He’s not painfully unfunny, (I mean I’ve heard worse in Horror movies) and the character is played pretty well, he’s just not funny at all despite the movie playing him up to be funny.

I was surprised to hear the familiar strains of the late Phillan Bishop here, the same musician who gave us the creepy scores to Messiah of Evil and Kiss of the Tarantula. His work here isn’t too bad, but it’s not the best the man has done (that would be either one of the two aforementioned movies). There are some creepy tracks in the beginning of the movie like when the arm gets shipped out, the cave flashback or any scene with Ted stalking our main characters. Unfortunately, the rest of the music sounds like someone playing through the BGM mode of a cruddy Sega Genesis game! It doesn’t get too embarrassing until thirty minutes in: there’s a driving scene that is followed by such an indescribably goofy electronic score that I can’t even begin to say how inappropriate the song is in this movie. It felt like the director didn’t care what kind of music accompanied the filler scenes.

And yet, despite these mixed factors, the twist and finale weren’t half bad at all. Now it might be easy to guess if you’re into Murder Mysteries, but of the films of that genre I’ve seen this twist actually took me by surprise a little. If anything I feel there should’ve been a buzzsaw; no, I won’t elucidate on that, you’ll just have to see the movie yourself to see what I mean.

If there’s anything else I can question about the movie, it’s the scene with the dog. There’s a moment near the end of the movie where Jeff is chasing after Ted up a sandy hillside and a dog runs in front of him completely out of nowhere! It would’ve made more sense if you could see the extra calling their dog off the set as a crew man pulled them off camera. Also, I think someone should’ve told the extras to snap it up a bit; during the flashback, Ted’s family sees their one-armed father/husband getting wheeled into an ambulance and their collective reaction is more dead than the starving spelunkers who amputated him!

The Conclusion
Overall, The Severed Arm isn’t too bad of a Horror movie. It’s impossible to call it a Murder Mystery, because we’re familiar with who the killer is, we just don’t know when he’ll strike. Yet, The Severed Arm feels like a Murder Mystery: intelligent and squeaky clean, perhaps too much so. Regardless, it won’t hurt to watch it.

Demon, The

Posted by JoshSamford On May - 14 - 2011

Review originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis

The Demon (1981)
Director: Percival Rubens
Writers: Percival Rubens
Starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell and Craig Gardner

The Plot: This tale begins when a prowler breaks into the isolated Parker house, tying Mrs. Joan Parker up with a plastic bag over her head and running off with her fourteen year old daughter Emily. The father comes home in time to save his wife, but the prowler has his way with the daughter in the nearby forest. After days go by and the search for Emily fails, the Parkers hire retired Marine Colonel turned psychic Bill Carson who can identify the killer and find their daughter by using his telepathic powers. In the meantime, our bulky leather strapping killer picks up a ride, asphyxiates the driver and attempts to rape and murder unsuspecting young women. It seems the killer is trying to kill a sassy young kindergarten instructor named Mary, who lives with her cousin Jo who is trying to hook up with a flashy rich boy named Dean Turner. Col. Carson reveals two particular aspects about the killer: 1) he has a deadly obsession with random young women and 2) his faceless visage suggests that he is not human or is at least possessed by something evil. Knowing this and how every attempt to stop him fails with fatal results, will Mary have a chance to evade the killer once he comes for her?

The Review
When looking through obscure Slasher movies, you’ll often come across some generic titles to surprisingly entertaining Horror movies. There’s a genuine sense of reward you get when you pick up movies like Stage Fright, The Prowler, House on Sorority Row or even Joe D’Amato’s Horrible and find some creepy atmosphere or gut wrenching death scenes that make you wonder why they’re often ignored. Then there are the titles that sound generic but have no payoff to them. The ones that make you feel like an idiot after having watched it. The Demon is one of them.

I should be honest with you, dear reader, this movie doesn’t feature an actual demon; much like how the tag line to The Prey does not feature an axe wielding monster but instead a mutant beatnik played by the bad guy from Battle for Endor.

The easiest assessment would be the fact that our killer is simply possessed by a demon which is why he kills, but that information is hardly lucid in the movie itself. It is hard to say whether the killer is really a demon since there are times where we can clearly see the man’s face and hair, as well as times where he suddenly no longer wears a white Halloween (or Alice, Sweet Alice) mask and instead has white face paint on. ‘But why are you looking into this,’ you may be asking. ‘Why analyze the title and its connection to the movie?’ Why? Because that’s the only interesting thing about this movie. The Demon is a confusing, lagging, poorly shot crap-fest of an ‘80’s Slasher movie. The only demonic specification the poor chump carries is his propensity to grunt and growl and his nearly obscure distaste for midnight radio evangelists. I actually had a hard time re-watching this for a review. The structure of this failed ‘80’s Slasher Film is so broken that not even a modern day remake would fix it. This is one of those movies that you can clearly envision as a person, throwing its hands up in the air, shaking its head and failure and admitting “I just don’t know.”

We essentially follow three stories here one consisting of a brutally strong, strangulating, serial death-rapist, his plucky soon-to-be next victim’s cousin Jo and Cameron Mitchell. Rarely do these stories connect or represent any real conflict. Most of the Cameron Mitchell sections just consists of Cameron being a mysterious, but ineffective psychic as he occasionally sees the killer and how Mr. Parker wants to hunt the killer down. The Mary sections just consist of the build up to her young cousin Jo (rather than Mary), her life style and how it will be ruined once the killer finally attacks her.

The director seemed to have little idea how to make either story connect effectively, thus creating tension and conflict or make us care about any of the characters involved. Granted, some of the characters are well acted: Jennifer Holmes certainly breathes some life into the character, but despite all the screen credit she’s given, she’s given little screen time or dialogue compared to her heart struck cousin. Cameron Mitchell is pretty decent in the movie, too; he pulls the struggling psychic role off pretty well as he telepathically tries to track the killer by getting into his persona. However, it would’ve been better if he was the main character in the story and if he actually confronted the killer at one point. It would’ve felt more like a Halloween rip-off if he did, but at least HIS plot would’ve tied in with the the killer and even Mary’s plot! Plus, it’s kind of funny how he switches from being facetious to serious when he’s first introduced to the bereaved Parkers; maybe that explains why his story arc ends so abruptly and why a secondary character steals the best line in the movie.

The movie is so wildly obsessed with Mary’s cousin Jo and her relationship with Dean that the segments involving them get old fast; we spend several minutes watching these lame-brains getting to know each other through wine drinking, boat rowing and photo shootings. Ordinarily, I’d say these two characters are the build-up and the character development found in any good Horror movie. Unfortunately, these characters aren’t interesting! Sure, Dean has a back story and he’s acted fairly well, but he’s no different than Robert Taylor from the French in Action TV series (in kidding, they practically have the same back story… and why I remember that series so well I don’t know*)!! By the time the movie focuses on Jennifer Holmes’ character, there’s a very brief sense of fear and dread, but not enough to really care whether she makes it out all right.

The movie is flawed on a technical basis, too. The music consists of a relentless string quartet that goes to unbearably high pitches during the jump scares. There are rare moments where the soundtrack works, mostly in the Cameron Mitchell scenes or when Mary finally confronts the killer in the end. The lighting in the movie is quite horrible as the only real good lighting is natural light; some shots in the film were far too dark to notice any details. I kept adjusting the screen to the brightest notch on the gamut during nighttime and day-for-night scenes and I still had to squint in order to see anything. You may notice there’s very little shots of intensity or murder in the shots I picked. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to see a few shots that looked decent like close-ups of the killers claw-gloves, but because the lighting is so murky in the indoor scenes I couldn’t get a good enough shot without editing it. There are some continuity errors here and there, but nothing out-right hilarious, just confusing. There are moments where the killer is supposed to be wearing a plaster Last House on Dead End Street Mask but it’ll change to white face paint. There’s one scene near the end where Dean and Jo are in bed to which Jo says Dean has to leave, but the next scene shows them frolicking in the pool. Like I said, the continuity isn’t good, but it’s not hilariously bad, either.

Probably the biggest goof in the whole movie is when someone who has all ready been in contact with the police finds the killer and several other people know about this. So when the person gets inevitably killed by the killer… why doesn’t anyone take the initiative to get the police involved?? Seriously, the character finds the killer’s location, the killer offs him, dumps his body right where he’s staying and it’s found the next morning… What the Hell, are the police in South Africa really that dense?! After that character’s body is found, the killer stays there, too! The people who knew about the character’s going there could have easily sent more police there!! Why’d it take so long for someone in the movie to find Emily’s body? Was it just an excuse for the director to use that classic skeleton wearing a wig effect?

I will be a little fair to this movie, though: it’s not THE worst ‘80’s Slasher I’ve seen; it is ONE OF the worst ‘80’s Slasher movies out there, but it’s slightly better than The Prey. Unlike The Prey, The Demon has a few moments of intensity, mainly when Mr. Parker hunts the killer down and when Mary defends herself from the killer. In fact, the last five minutes of this movie are the most intense as Mary and the killer play a game of cat and mouse and the final scene itself is surprisingly inventive. The Demon also has its share of T&A which, again, makes it better than The Prey; Compared to another ‘80’s Slasher directed by and starring people involved in the Adult Film industry about horny young adults in the woods that featured no nudity whatsoever, The Demon certainly has the upper hand.

The Conclusion
I won’t kid you, though, The Demon is not an obscure movie tracking down, not even for Cameron Mitchell fans. I honestly can’t re-watch this movie without taking a break halfway through. I’m sure it had potential somewhere and somehow, but it certainly didn’t go very far and in short deserves to stay there.

Stinger: “Did your Extra Sensory Perception prepare you for THIS?”

*: Oh, wait, I know why I remember French in Action so well: Valérie Allain! Yuum!

Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Posted by JoshSamford On December - 24 - 2010
Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
Director: Roy Ward Baker & Chang Cheh
Writers: Don Houghton
Starring: Peter Cushing, David Chiang and Julie Ege

The Plot: Our little tale begins in 1904 Transylvania where a man named Kha plans on asking Count Dracula to grant him his powers. Kha is a Chinese warlord who is keeper of the Seven Golden Vampires and hopping zombies of Ping Kwei in the Szechwan province of China; once Kha obtains this power, the age-old Golden Vampires will wake up and continue their reign of havoc on small villages in China. However, Count Dracula alters the proposition slightly by taking over Kha’s soul and controlling his body, thus continuing his halted reign of vampiric terror in China. In the meantime, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) lectures about the legend of the seven golden vampires in the Chung King university and how there are only six of them left thanks to a dead villager (Okay, so they’re the Six Golden Vampires, but the S.G.V. acronym still works), but 99% of the audience leaves the room. The one remaining student who believes him is Hsi Ching, a villager who has lived with the terror of the S.G.V. and believes that by teaming up with Van Helsing, Helsing’s son, a local (busty) Scandinavian aristocrat and the student’s seven martial artist siblings, they can all finally put an end to the Golden Vampire’s reign.
The Review
It seems to be mankind’s natural desire to seek out two-for-one deals and in movies its no exception. When one combines martial arts mayhem with ghostly Eastern vampires, it’s easy to see why: Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires is an exciting and entertaining Action movie with its own Horror theme that it ultimately stands out as fun Kung Fu/Martial Arts film. As an Action-Horror film it’s unintentionally hilarious and as a Martial Arts movie it’s The pace of the movie is well laid out and it has an credible feeling to it as the fights are easy to follow and the exposition never too long.

Typical of a Hammer movie, the cinematography is great: the movie is very well shot and it’s easy to tell what’s going on through most of the movie. The lighting wasn’t the best though as it seemed a little too bright and cheery in the brief introduction scene with Dracula and Kha; yes all of the scenes were very clear, crisp and the coloring effects in later scenes were rather effective, but I don’t expect turquoise to be thematic for someone as evil as Dracula (nor did I expect Dracula to wear lipstick). Also the prop/effects weren’t the best either as rubber bats were swung on strings in Drac’s castle and the Chinese hopping zombies were often replaced with bobble-headed dummies whenever they were shot at.

The vampires themselves look totally goofy in their semi-mummified state with long hair wearing flashy clothes and bearing gold face masks that enable at least one of their eyes to bulge out. Really, the design of these vampires is outright silly; it’s one thing to have golden vampires say perhaps with golden skeletons making their fangs gold,* but it’s another matter to have aged vampires that wear golden masks, golden bat medallions and flashy garbs. Nevertheless, all of the negative aspects here do make for a very funny experience and rich colorization combined with sharp cinematography lights up the screen even when there’s no action.

I have to say that the soundtrack to this movie is pretty funny at times. It’s an orchestrated score that sounds very typical to an Asian Action film, but some times it overdoes certain sounds to the point where you expect someone to slip on a banana peel during a fight. It’s hard to describe, but imagine a trombone player so used to using their instrument for comedic musical stingers being hired to do a serious Action score. Seriously, just listen to the opening credit sequence and try not to laugh.

The acting and dialogue was pretty decent and mainly consisted of English lines with very little dubbing; the only dubbed moments in the movie consisted of action grunts that never matched the actor’s expressions. It’s hard not to point out Cushing’s performance in these movies, but he’s always got great screen presence. Julie Ege was kind of fun too, but she didn’t have a big enough role in the movie. David Chiang plays a very likable martial arts master and is the film’s primary bad ass until the end. Watching his fighting style in action is a lot of fun especially when he ends up driving a fist or finger into someone’s body. Honestly I was hoping Hsi Ching would fist fight Dracula in the film’s climax, but no such luck.

It’s interesting how the movie takes into consideration the regional difference between European and Asian vampires in context to the film; it makes Ching and Helsing’s struggle to fight the Golden Vampires seem the more tasking. It’s a little too hollow how some of the romantic interest characters develop, mostly in the relationship between Mei-Kwei and Helsing’s complaining son Leyland. It seemed to make more sense for Hing and Von Buren to hook up, but Leyland and Mei-Kwei feels more like on-the-spot attraction and protection. That… and the character of Leyland sucks.

Most of the action is well directed thanks to late Kung Fu director Chang Cheh, who directed Heaven and Hell as well as Two Champions of Shaolin. The action itself was pretty well choreographed and is really the true gold of the movie. There are a few moments where the choreographing shows like when a one of the brothers misses a great opportunity at striking a vampire’s back and instead sweeps for his legs, just the vampire notices he’s about to be attacked.Such little flops do little to wear down the action sequences. There’s tons of hacking and slashing in the movie and the way its shot quickly but lucidly makes the sequences mesmerizing and exciting. The movie ends just under 90 minutes, yet the pace of the film makes the experience feel shorter.

This is a movie where you’ll watch at least forty armed mobsters get slaughtered by the eight siblings with their own various weapons and techniques. The brothers and sister’s fighting techniques are pretty cool, especially the twins Hisu Sung and San as they fought literally bracing their free arms and slicing anyone within their perimeter. Sadly, a lot of the fighting brothers are forgotten about near the end as most of them face rather predictable fates. Even the dispatching of the vampires is toned down near the end when a bunch of villagers mob up on a vampire and they just beat him to death! In all honesty, the only action scene in the movie that really sucks is the climax.

Now this being a vampire movie, it’s bound to have a weird take on the rules of dispatching vampires. As I mentioned earlier, I liked the difference between Eastern and Western vampires’ weaknesses but it always bugs me when most of the rules of vampire hunting are evident except for the one that involves saving those cursed by Head-Vampires. I understand the purposeful mystique given in the movie as a European vampire hunter tries to find a connection to Asian and European vampires, but the rules of normal people getting affected by older vampires getting ignored here just made for a weak part in the script. Besides, I didn’t watch Monster Squad and Lost Boys as a kid for no reason, dang it!

Oh crap! I almost forgot! This movie has some nudity in it, too! Yep, the vampires don’t like tops on their ladies. Why they like them on Julie Ege though… I don’t know… except maybe she didn’t have it in her contract.

The Conclusion
If you ever wanted to see a Kung Fu flick with vampires and zombies sword fighting each other and Peter Cushing, then this is your movie. It will make a great Christmas gift and is one of the best kinds of Action movies to play during a party… that and maybe Raw Force.

* Although nowadays that sort of design would make them look like alternative rap artists.

Cosmos 2000: War of the Planets

Posted by JoshSamford On November - 22 - 2010

Written for Varied Celluloid by Prof. Aglaophotis!

The Plot: Taking place in the future of space travel and computer technology, a spaceship and its crew are following the orders of the recently built super computer known as Wiz. However, after sending the ship on a false collision course, Captain Alex Hamilton (John Richardson) of the MK31 space cruiser disapproves of taking orders from a machine. Despite his disapproval, his Commander keeps him on board the MK31, thinking he’s too valuable to their space endeavors. After fixing an old satellite, Hamilton’s crew are attacked by two unmanned UFOs who send them spiraling into outer space. Once the MK31 is stabilized, the crew find themselves being drawn towards a mysterious planet where the UFOs came from. What will the MK31 crew discover once they land? Furthermore, what is in store for the Earth once they discover the magnitude of the situation they’re about to face?

The Review
Think about all of the silly American Sci-Fi movies you or any MST3K host ever joked about that came from the 1960’s: all of the cheesy sets, science jargon that even a kindergartner could call-out, bad special effects and goofy costumes. Now apply all of those to an Italian Sci-Fi production. No commentary could protect you from the horror that is the low budget Italian Sci-Fi movie. Now I do love me some Italian Sci-Fi movies such as Barbarella and Star Crash, but those were some genuinely fun and silly movies with a lot of style. Cosmos is The Creeping Terror of Italian Sci-Fi films: it’s poor in everything but plot.
Part of what makes this movie hard to watch is the amount of stock footage in it. Whenever there’s a big explosion or exterior shot, they show a scene of a volcano erupting or exterior shots of buildings and space imagery. I’m not too sure if I can even comment on the spaceship footage: sometimes it looks a little authentic because they have tiny still images of specific characters flying by it for exterior space shots. Then there are other times where the ship won’t be doing anything congruous with what’s going on.

The editing deserves a particular mention because it always manages to disorient the Hell out of the pace and setting. One minute, during a briefing, the scene will just cut to the mission at hand and that mission will cut to a shot of the ship flying through space, all the while the music begins and ends throughout the cuts. Halfway through the movie the editing gets worse. The crew returns to the ship after learning some pretty important information about the planet they’ve landed on and how they intend on acting about it, but then we see the crew relaxing in the psychedelic love-making room to which they relax in for what appears to be ten minutes. There’s a sub plot about one of the alien space fighters crash-landing on Earth in the Arctic that’s unimportant because it gets resolved almost immediately after the main threat is finished. Some of the plot points just happen out of no where, for no reason at all, too. Characters will be murdered by unknown means aboard the ship and their fellow crew members won’t elucidate on it or make any lead-up to it; to them it just… happened.

It’s hard to identify with the characters in this movie. I know that doesn’t seem like an important aspect, but it’s impossible to identify with them because most of them are hard to identify in general. We have Capt. Hamilton, Oko (the woman with the big cleavage), Meela (Hamilton’s poetry reading squeeze), Max (the black guy), the bearded Marseille (who spends most of the movie eating peanuts [huh?]) and Charles Borromel. Every other crew member, regardless of name, just kind of blends in with each other. Most of this is due to the fact that everyone wears the same dopey red cap and skin tight uniform, but it’s also due to the fact that when they die, no one seems to make a big deal about it.

The outer space scenes in this movie are hilarious. Early in the movie when the crew are repairing the satellite, the actors are gliding around via string in front of a still-shot of stars that never moves. There’s even a huge laminated photograph of their ship in the background of the satellite! It doesn’t stop there at all, though. Not only do the astronaut hats look stupid, but all of the uniforms are skin-tight (especially around the chest… probably intended for the ladies). Upon landing on the nameless planet, the crew encounters a few killer robots (or really, one) and the robot’s limbs are clearly the leggings and forearms to a suit of armor. Then again, the robots in this movie are unintentionally charming because they all look like giant versions of old wind-up toy robots.

Most of the alien planet sets consist of either cave entrances, gravel or slag heaps. The movie never tries to pull our leg or use any forced perception shots though, it’s all just wide shot sets of characters running around a quarry in what looks to be the dead of night. Judging by the looks of the planet they land on, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the outdoor sets were shot in a parking lot. Hell, I think the only good effects are of the silver, half naked alien elves encountered on the planet. Then again, between the alien’s appearance and the rocky setting they live in, I thought the crew had landed on the Shikima Realm from La Blue Girl… and honestly, I think some horny muscle-bound elven dudes and tentacle monsters would’ve made this movie a bit more enjoyable.

There isn’t a moment in the movie where the music sounds original, it all sounds like it was lifted from every Sci-Fi movie/Science Documentary soundtrack from the 1960’s. There are some tracks that actually work, however. In the opening, sometime after the credits, we get plenty of shots of the Wiz super computer (as well as some NASA stock footage) and the music playing is this ambient metallic clashing that makes the computer system and its surroundings appear archaic; for awhile it made me think of Koyaanisqatsi. None of this lasts until the end credits though, especially when this weird lyrical piece pops up when a character is about to go into space. It reminded me of the weird edits I heard in the 3D VHS release of Robot Monster. They even use a Bach song several times in the movie, as if this is Phantom of the Opera… or The Unearthly, or SS Girls, or Sho’s level in Battle Arena Toshinden or any given media that uses that song!!

There are a few moments in the movie that are surprisingly well done, though, and by ‘well done’ I mean attention grabbing. One in particular is the part where the MK31 first encounters the alien space fighters and when headquarters finds that the press has leaked information about the alien ships to the public. The panic and urgency in the scene is actually a little intense, forgiving the fact they never tell us how the press found out about it. It was certainly a lot more gripping and coherent than the the first encounter with the Natal in the opening to Battle in Outer Space (but then again, Battle in Outer Space was pretty cool).
The acting is okay for the most part. John Richardson is pretty good in the movie as the rogue captain who mistrusts the orders of the Wiz super computer, but really it just comes down to him flashing his good looks. He barely even gets into a fist fight! What little fist fighting there is was left to late stuntman/actor Aldo Canti who is actually kind of cool in the movie, but his character just doesn’t get enough to do. As I mentioned earlier, Charles Borromel – the Actor who played Kronos in Cave Dwellers and the Police Captain in Horrible – is in this movie and it’s interesting to note that this may be one of the better roles I’ve seen him in so far. His character starts off pretty standard, but near the end of the movie he actually starts to show some really good physical acting that is a little convincing.

Still, I have to give credit to the plot. The villain in Cosmos is something you generally don’t see in movies any more… or comic books, or novels, or even video games. I know this was made back in the seventies, probably as a belated cash-in on the popularity of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the thought put into the story and its antagonist shows a little care regardless of the shoe string budget. It could’ve been a tad bit better I guess, especially in the guy’s motivations and reasoning, but for what it is, I appreciated it.

What gets to me the most about the movie though is how inconsistent the ending is. At first it’s all happy, but then one of our heroes dies and it gets depressing. Then the movie tries to lighten things up by saying one of our heroes is now a proud father… and then it gets depressing again out of nowhere. The depressing plot inconveniences seem really out of place and the first one is completely incongruous to the whole story, mostly because there was nothing about the antagonist that would’ve caused that stuff to happen! If it weren’t for the evil voice that shows up during that twist, I would’ve just assumed the movie turned into a pre-Pandorum in the end.

The Conclusion
Seeing how I’m a huge nerd, a part of me really wants to like this movie: it’s got a plot about space-borne robots, aliens, super computers, a despondent theme and an actor from Cave Dwellers. Unfortunately, the movie is so poorly shot, edited and acted it makes for a borderline miserable viewing experience. The goofy, skin-tight space uniforms, crappy special effects, stock footage, the half naked silver space elves and the clunky giant robots in shining armor just barely make this a movie worth watching for sheer hilarity, but there’s just not enough of either. On the lighter side, it’s not really the worst Sci-Fi movie about space exploration I’ve seen; I think MST3K covered a vast majority of the more wretched ones like Fire Maidens From Outer Space and 12 to The Moon… but it still hurts.




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.