Also known as Wild
For Kicks, this seamy flick provides an interesting
glimpse of Great Britain's take on the juvenile counter-culture
that provided fodder for some of the very best American
youth exploitation films. A trifle grittier in some ways
that its Yankee counterparts, it has much to recommend it
to cult film camp followers. In addition to the requisite
strippers, beatniks and too cool music, there's Christopher
Lee as a sleazy club owner and British rocker Adam Faith.
And watch the dance floor for Oliver Reed as a moodily twitching
Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)
ought to run a still from this flick alongside his definition
for "cult." Movies don't get any "cultier." Herman Cohen
produced and William Beaudine directed this poverty-row
"comedy," which features Martin and Lewis impersonators
Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo menaced in a threadbare
jungle setting. It's both heartening and sad to see Bela
give his typical full-throttle performance amid such shabby
The shape and
history of popular music would be very different were
it not for Louis Jordan. Hailed by many as a father of
rock and roll, and unquestionably one of the most influential
figures in all of jazz, Jordan is captured on film at
the peak of his popularity in this, his first starring
feature. The plot is a trifle and budget nowhere in evidence
-- but who cares? Jordan dominated the Rhythm and Blues
charts for more than a decade and the hits recounted here
clearly demonstrate his appeal -- from the rollicking
title tune to the hip history lesson "In the Land
of the Buffalo Nickel."
might argue that serial king Kirk Alyn was far more agreeable
as Quality Comics' determined air ace Blackhawk than he
was in his two turns as Superman. There is little doubt
that Alyn cuts a heroic comic figure as the black-clad
leader of a clandestine squadron of freedom fighters.
Produced by the dean of 'get it done,' Sam Katzman, it
was co-directed by B film stalwarts Spencer (Atomic
Submarine) Bennet and Fred (Earth Vs. the Flying
Saucers) Sears. Though breathlessly paced, the acting
and obvious miniature work leave something to be desired,
but as the halcyon days of the great serials dragged to
a close, it's heartening to realize that such energy was
invested in bringing one of comics' undeniably inspired
creations to the screen. Admirably, producers gave screen
credit to comic artist Reed Crandall, pre-eminent draftsman
of the Golden Age.
Bride of the Gorilla (1951)
incessantly talky jungle melodrama serves up more chatter
than a barrel of starving monkeys. Poor Raymond Burr (as
a Brazilian plantation overseer!) is surprisingly credible
as the loutish killer who believes he's turning into a
gorilla. Paul Cavanaugh barely survives the opening credits
and Tom Conway seems humbled by another thankless role
as a jaded physician. Sarong-wrapped Barbara Payton is
the principle attraction, but her formidable feminine
allure is stretched thin. Director Curt Siodmak delivered
another lifeless Amazonian shocker some years later --
Curucu, Beast of the Amazon.
For Caesar (1950)
lost in the scramble to reappraise the screwball comedies
of the 30s and 40s, this winning concoction makes its
long overdue "official" video debut. Richard
Whorf directs an engaging cast, fronted by Ronald Colman
as super-brain Beauregard Bottomly. Colman's character
seeks to topple the industrial empire of magnate Vincent
Price (in one his very best performances) by winning every
cent of the prize money offered by the game show Price
sponsors. The grab bag cast of stand outs includes Celeste
Holm, Art Linkletter and Mel Blanc as the voice of Caesar.
Watch for Robert "Sun Demon" Clarke in
a cameo as an actor on a drive-in screen.
Edgar G. Ulmer:
King of the Bs
The publicity sums this set up as "All Day Entertainment's
ongoing DVD celebration of the films of legendary indie
pioneer Edgar G. Ulmer." Thus far, two volumes showcasing
the director's films have been issued. This edition compiles
both. Disc one features Strange Woman, a weird
period piece starring Hedy Lamarr as a Scarlett O'Hara-like
schemer who manipulates and destroys the men in her orbit.
The story is run-of-the-mill, and the film's chief virtues
are Ulmer's canny exploitation of shadow and atmosphere.
Also included is a strange, noirish, semi-musical called
Moon Over Harlem, which Ulmer himself once likened
to Porgy and Bess. (And if Edgar G. Ulmer's take
on Porgy and Bess doesn't intrigue you ... )
Disc two is the
conspicuous standout, as it features one of Ulmer's --
in fact, one of B-moviedom's -- true masterpieces, Bluebeard.
Rarely has so much been accomplished with so little. (And
never has a film been heralded so much for being unheralded.
Let the unheralding cease. Consider the film hereby heralded!)
Ulmer actually turns the film's absurdly obvious artificiality
to its advantage, creating an unsettling, otherworldly,
decidedly non-Hollywood work, tilting the camera, letting
deep shadows do the work of 20 set designers. And John
Carradine, who was born to play this homicidal puppetmaster,
employs every decibel of his bravado to maximum effect.
(Is it ever NOT fun to watch John Carradine?) The package
includes never-before-seen color footage of the "puppet
opera" sequence and a terrific reproduction of the original
Bluebeard pressbook. This is a must-have.
Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958)
this one under acquired tastes. This Czech production
with the self-evident title is certainly innovative, but
the result is a film so odd to look at, so European in
its approach, that more jaded sci fi afianadoes will have
great difficulty sitting through it. Director Karel Zeman
combines live-action, miniatures and glass paintings resembling
19th-century engravings; a process he dubbed "Mystimation."
run out of nice ways to say something is bad. So putting
it bluntly, considering the budget, cast and locations,
this film is exactly what you might expect from a family
production filmed entirely in suburban Maryland. Cult-movie
mascot George Stover leads an amateur cast seeking to
capture a crash-landed alien creature. In fairness,
the film succeeds as an homage to the drive-in flicks
of the past, but intrinsically it ain't much.
Golden Mistress (1954)
real curio for the die-hard cult-movie fan. John Agar
stars as a world-weary seaman-of-fortune hired by beautiful
Rosemarie Bowe (real-life Mrs. Robert Stack) to recover
a mysterious lost treasure. It seems her dad was done
in by a voodoo curse before revealing its whereabouts.
Garishly Technicolored Haitian locations with honest-to-goodness
Haitian actors highlight the film, directed by character
actor Abner Biberman (aka Joel Judge).
The Great Rupert (1950)
George Pal's innovative "puppetoons" are the
feature attraction of this fuzzy, family yarn. Rupert,
the animated squirrel for whom the film is named, inadvertantly
rescues a vaudeville troop from depair. The casting is
offbeat to say the least: Jimmy Durante, Terry Moore (Mighty
Joe Young), Tom Drake and Queenie Smith are the featured
players. Director Irving Pichel also helmed Pal's trend-setting
you know it -- the one Corman film that hasn't been seen
a million times is the one that truly deserves to be seen.
William Shatner is actually very good as a rabble-rousing,
southern hate-monger. Written by Charles Beaumont, it
features a shining supporting cast, Leo Gordon and Robert
Emhardt among them. Corman claims it was his only film
to be reviewed positively -- and the only one to lose
Island of Fire (1989)
Jackie Chan's effort to achieve stateside mega-stardom
continues, more of the expert action films that made him
the world's number one box office draw are becoming available.
Though not ostensibly a Chan film, his charm helps leaven
what might otherwise have been another turgid prison flick.
Jackie's buddies Samo Hung (who directed) and Andy Lau
take center stage, navigating a tenuous plot that plays
like a Hong Kong Cool Hand Luke. To no one's surprise,
the fights and stunts are peerless, the sentiment heavy
and the comedy strained but winning.
A Kiss Before Dying (1956)
video release of this slick, somewhat soapy but nevertheless
engrossing psycho-drama is loads of fun for B movie cast
watchers. Robert Wagner at his smarmy best is the star,
but the supporting cast is sparked by a terrific assortment
of cult film notables: Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon),
George Macready (The Alligator People), Robert
Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire) and most conspicuously,
Virginia Leith in the female lead. Leith's brief flirtation
with stardom (she's billed ahead of Joanne Woodward) ended
in a tangle of tubes and electrodes when she tackled the
title role in The Brain That Wouldn't Die. The
peppy pacing is the work of noted Outer Limits
director Gerd Oswald.
Krakatoa, East of Java (1969)
every devotee of film archania knows by this time, Krakatoa
is actually WEST of Java. Big deal. The greater question
is why we would review this legitimate "A" film
just now making it's video debut -- because it was directed
by Bernard Kowalski, who also gave us Night of the
Blood Beast and the unforgettable Attack of the
Giant Leeches. Krakatoa on the other hand is
most forgettable. Maximilian Schell leads a dreary cast
through a plodding story that exists only as a prelude
to some terrific volcano and tidal wave footage.
meandering story of a manipulative swamp vixen who comes
between two Cajun fisherman. Top-heavy Nan Peterson (of
Hideous Sun Demon fame) is the bayou babe who's
made a hobby of homewrecking. Several surprisingly suggestive
scenes place this one in the same league with sleaze pics
such as Shanty Tramp and Poor White Trash.
With Peter Coe, Harry Lauter and Betty Lynn (Barney's
gal, Thelma Lou on the The Andy Griffith Show.)
of Lost Women (1953)
one has a lot to recommend it to schlock lovers, from
the flamenco guitar soundtrack to Jackie Coogan's pre-Fester
hamming as the evil Dr. Arana, giddily turning spiders
into women (or is it women into spiders?) You owe it to
yourself to sit through this one, at least once! As a
bonus, the ubiquitous spider puppet that saw screen time
in Missile to the Moon, Women of the Prehistoric Planet
and others, is once more pressd into service. Set aside
your notions of logic, coherence and plot -- this is entertainment!
From director Ron Ormond, who also gave us Untamed
Mistress and The Monster and the Stripper.
Saint's Double Trouble (1940)
big screen's peerless cad, George Sanders, had little
regard for his work as B filmdoms' smoothest sleuth, The
Saint. When author Leslie Charteris disapproved of RKO's
handling of the character, the studio simply rechristened
the lucrative gumshoe The Falcon. Sanders was hustled
through yet another series of grade B programmers before
bequeathing the role to brother Tom Conway. Sander's disdain
notwithstanding, The Saint films are being released at
last on video as a series of double features and Double
Trouble is among RKO's better cut-rate thrillers.
Sanders is in fine smarmy form playing both The Saint
and an evil doppelganger called The Dutchman. Of no little
curiosity value is the presence of Bela Lugosi, wasted
as a second string henchman.
Teenagers From Outer Space (1959)
directed and writen by Tom Graeff, this one's talky, cheap,
poorly acted and terrific fun. The plot, such as there
is, chronicles the exploits of a grouchy alien band that
plans to use earth as the breeding
ground for the gigantic lobsters on which they subsist.
One renegade alien played by David Love decides to spare
the earth this ordeal, and foils the efforts of his otherworldly
cohorts. Not for a moment is any of this believable. The
monsters themselves are simply the silhouettes of actual
lobsters, unconvincingly enlarged. Tacky and decidedly