Monday, July 20, 2020

scared stiff.

Last night I decided to rewatch the classic Buster Crabbe starrer The Alien Dead, partly because I'm a sucker for Fred Olen Ray but mostly because I've always loved the cover still from The Evil Dead publicity shoot and try to watch all the films that have ever used it.*




Unfortunately I didn't have my glasses on so I accidentally picked this up instead and by the time I'd popped the cassette in (yup, I can be old school as the kids say sometimes) and sat down I really couldn't be arsed getting up and going thru' the whole thing again.

That'll teach me.

Alien Zone (AKA House of The Dead, Zone of the Dead, Last Stop on 13th St. 1978).
Dir: Sharron Miller.
Cast: John Ericson, Ivor Francis, Judith Novgrod, Bernard Fox, Charles Aidman, Burr DeBenning and Richard Gates.


“After they’re dead, I get them. That’s my work.”


Welcome to Stillwater Minnesota on a wet Wednesday night where successful plumber Jeff Talmudge (Ex-Playgirl Man of the Month and creator of the Sony mobile phone, Ericson) is busy laying pipe of a totally different kind before attending the plumbers convention held in the local town hall.

No really.

Finishing up his romantic liaison with a quick wipe of his cock on the curtains he hails a cab back to his hotel only to be dropped off on the wrong street leaving him lost, confused and soaking wet.


Wandering around in the rain he soon comes across the white haired weirdo Mr Vic Sinister (Francis, who just happens to be - or was - Jonathan 'Star Trek' Frakes' father-in-law) who invites him into his house to dry off.


As they sit chatting about plumbing and stuff Mr Sinister informs Talmudge that he's the local mortician and - if he fancies it - is willing to show him a couple of dead bodies and tell him how they died.


Which I'm sure is a wee bit unethical.


Tho' I'm not a mortician so wouldn't really know for sure so if any are reading please write in a tell me.

Anyway it turns out that he's not just any old mortician but the mortician who gets to hand pick the most interesting cases so each one of the four deaths he's about to talk about are sure to be belters.




With nothing better to do Talmudge follows Mr Sinister to the morgue.....

Your mum's cum face.....trust me I know, your uncle Peter told me.



Opening the casket closest to hand Vic begins his macabre tales with the life (but mainly death) of the harsh-faced harridan Miss Sibiler (Bare Knuckles star Novgrod) an angry, control freak type teacher with a risk assessment obsession (probably) who harbors a deep hatred for children.**

You can tell this because as she's heading to her car after doing a wee bit of shopping she stops to shout "I hate you children!" at some kids in the street before driving away.

Arriving home she resigns herself to a frozen meal for one and some copyright free music on the radio but as she busies herself preparing for an evening alone with a half-frozen chicken and a bottle of cheap Aldi gin she begins to hear noises around her apartment.

It soon becomes clear that someone or something is attempting to mess with her little pin-like head so she decides - as you do -  to take a shower giving the director ample opportunity to do something a wee bit creepy Ala Psycho but alas all we get is a creep cardboard cut out shadow and a close-up of hideous shower cap.

Realising that this is an anthology (or portmanteau if you prefer) film poor Sibiler screams like a girl (obviously) and runs downstairs to find her house full of children clad  in hellish 70s bri-nylon fashions and a collection of poundshop Halloween masks.

For those of you about to say that this all sounds a bit shit hold on, because the director has an ace up their sleeve for as the children slowly remove their masks it's revealed that they're all wearing fake teeth.

And dribbling.



"come in the back of me car and let me bite you!" - The fucking state of this, honestly.

Cue 5 minutes of bizarro disco lighting and Top of The Pops style FX as Sibiler retreats into a corner looking slightly worried before we're back with Vic and Jeff, the mortician explaining that no-one really knows who bit the poor woman to death.

So he's actually just making this shit up then?

Before Talmudge can comment we're onto corpse number 2 which belongs to (as in it's actually his body, he hasn't bought it on Ebay or something) the infamous murderer Alan Growski (70s TV stalwart and star of The Incredible Melting Man DeBenning).

"Is it in yet?"


Played for sinister (PG friendly) laughs the murders are intercut with footage of Growski being lead away by the police whilst being asked if he really did kill them, which is kinda redundant if you think about it.

Realising that this tale is utter toffee we're soon back with Mr Vic who says that they refuse film him in the electric chair.

So I guess that's the twist then.

Marvelous.

Shuffling uncomfortably and checking his watch Talmudge looks on as the morose mortician approaches (yet another) coffin whilst beginning the story of top 'tec Malcolm Toliver (Aidman who was once nominated for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music And Lyrics, fact fans) who has recently been voted America's Best Criminologist (Ever!) by - um - American Criminologist Magazine.

Or was it Titbits?

Anyway whilst solving a gay love tryst hanging (as you do) who should turn up but the famed Inspector Andy McDowell (Dr. Bombay from Bewitched and Colonel Crittendon in Hogan's Heroes himself, Fox) who just happens to have been voted Britain's Best Criminologist (Ever!) thanks to Simon Cowell, David Walliams and the lovely Alesha Dixon, beating a tap-dancing dog and a comedy dwarf with rickets who used to shout "Moldy bread!" when arresting criminals.

Their rivalry is well known and the pair enjoy (well someone has to) a few moments verbal sparring - as opposed to a sword fight in a ladies mouth - as they give the reasons as to why they will end up crowned The World's Greatest Detective.

I always assumed that was The Batman but heyho.

Dixon: So far out of my league there's no point even thinking about it (or so my other half says).

Whilst out for a meal one night to celebrate the solving of the hanging case (it was a Mexican what done it....bad people, knife, knife, knife  etc.) the pair are intrigued when a note arrives for the Toliver saying (well obviously it doesn't really 'say' it as letters can't speak, this is just a turn of phrase) that someone he knows well will be murdered in three days so with McDowell in tow it's a race against time - and tedium - to solve the case.

Well I say solve the case but let's be honest it's pretty obvious who's behind it isn't it?

Lucky for us then that the performances on show are so good.***

Hannibal: The Pikey Years.


As the evening continues and the audience begins to slip into a coma we're introduced Mr Vic approaches the penultimate casket and begins to recount the tale of hard-nosed businessman Dirk Cantwell (Gates who according to a quick look at Wikipedia is either an American former Olympic sailor in the Star class who competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics together with Alan Holt or an American former political consultant and lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements - he may be someone else entirely but I really can't be arsed checking****) who lives for prifit and hates everything else.

After being rude to his secretary and knocking back the chance of a night out with his workmates at the famous Nobby's Burger Joint (They serve 23 kinds of burgers) he heads out to lunch (alone) and after slagging off a shopkeeper for not selling chewing gum he proves his 100% patent bastardness by telling a homeless man to "Get a job!"

What a rotter.

"I love you....could it be magic?"


As he walks down the street he notices that the local Primark is having a sale so pops in on the off chance that he can buy some cheap shorts for his holidays but imagine his surprise when upon entering he finds the place deserted.

And the doors locked preventing him from leaving.

Exploring the shop in the hope of at least finding a pair of Jesus sandels going cheap Cantwell stumbles on a discarded coathanger and falls down a liftshaft where he's attacked by a wall of nails.

As is the way of these things.

Trapped in the rubbish filled hole and fed nothing but booze by an unseen assailant hours seem to turn to days and days into weeks (or that maybe just how I felt watching) when, out of the blue, he’s finally released.

Stumbling into the sunlight he grabs a passerby for help but the guy just yells at him to "Get a job!"

See what they did there?

Hmmmmm.....donuts.


Obviously bored to tears by all this sub-Twilight Zone bollocks Talmudge makes his excuses to leave but not before Mr Vic points mysteriously to an empty coffin and announces that this one is waiting for an adulterer.

As you do.

Running from the mortuary Talmudge looks up to see that it is - in fact - the hotel (whit?) and scared shitless he legs it into an alley only to bump into the husband of the woman he was having 'the sex' with at the films beginning who shoots him dead.

And would you believe that when the ambulance turns up it's driven by Mr Vic himself?

Scary biscuits.


Just not that one.




Dubbed "Stillwater's own monster hit!" by someone who didn't get out much, writer David (Dark Honeymoon, Fatal Instinct, The Boogens - yup everyone a winner) O'Malley's horror opus began it's life as a TV script entitled "Five Faces" and then to "Five Faces of Terror" before producers realised that the film actually feature more than five faces.

I counted at least 18. 

Upon release it was entitled "Alien Zone" by the distributor to cash in on the scifi trend of the time before ultimately changing again to "House of the Dead." for it's VHS debut.

And why am I telling you this?

Because the whole title thing is by far the most interesting - and exciting - thing about the whole sorry affair.

Director Sharron (Cagney & Lacey, Homefront, The Trials of Rosie O'Neill) Miller may have gone on to carve out a prolific directing career on TV - being as she was the first woman to win the Directors Guild Award for directing a dramatic (non-documentary) film for the Afterschool Special, "The Woman Who Willed a Miracle" in 1983 fact fans - but there's none of that skill on show here as the camera just points at the actors as the slowly go thru their paces.

I'm not saying the film is slow but a 3 hour video tape actually ran out before even 10 minutes of the film had played out.

And my children who are 16 and 14 respectively had all gotten married and had kids by the time it had finished.

No, really.

"Mask on mah face!"


It's not all mind numbing tedium tho' as the clothes are quite funny and the Burr DeBenning segment is kinda kooky enough to hold your interest.

Plus the first lady he kills is doing enough 'acting' for the rest of the cast.

Trust me, she deserves if not a film of her own then at least the bumps in the playground.

Plus I'm pretty sure that Ryan Spindell, director of the really rather fabulous The Mortuary Collection is a fan, seeing as that movie has practically the same basic plot.

To be fair tho' Spindell actually does something brilliant with it.

 

Harmless enough I guess but then again you can say that about anything till someone loses an eye.





















































*Which to be honest is two.



 **I think I know who this may be based on but for legal reasons I really can't say.


***For any Americans reading (Americans? reading? ha!) this is what we 'Britfags' call sarcasm.



****I've just found out that he's actually neither of those people and was in fact once married to Veronica Cartwright.

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