Monday, August 19, 2019

family ties.

Greetings readers!

In between work at the moment so keeping out of trouble by randomly picking films off the shelves and watching them whilst getting slowly drunk.

Quite a short one for a change with a distinct lack of 'laugh nows' mainly due to the fact that the kids are due home soon and I've still to sort their snacks.

Luckily I'm not feeling totally dejected as I've had a few review requests (well one) so I shall get to that ASAP.

But first.....

La notte dei diavoli (AKA Night of the Devils, 1972)
Dir: Giorgio Ferroni.
Cast: Gianni Garko, Agostina Belli, Roberto Maldera, Bill Vanders, Cinzia De Carolis, Maria Monti, Teresa Gimpera and Umberto Raho.

Well we're back in Europe and back in the woods (probably just around the corner from where Annik Borel is writhing around naked) where we're introduced to the tragic traveling wood salesman, Lesley Manhorn (played by the mightily mustached Maldera) who is passing his time wandering thru' the undergrowth clad only in a dirty sweater and torn Action Slacks.

Discovered by a concerned shepherd our poorly pal is quickly carted off to the local mental hospital, tho' probably not to be stripped naked and tied to a bed.

Instead he's viciously prodded and poked by the concerned (or constipated, I couldn't tell) Dr. Tosi (Enter The Devil's Raho) as his terrifying tale unfolds through the medium of dance (oh go on then, flashbacks), leaving him - and us - horrified to discover that he's become embroiled in yet another remake of the (one halfway decent) Leo Tolstoy novel, The Family of the Vourdalak.

But this time not one directed by Mario Bava or starring Boris Karloff.

Which is a shame but lets not be too hasty.

"You ain't seen me, right?"

It transpires that during his trip home from a particularly successful building conference Lesley, after drinking far to much of the local brew and taking a wrong turn managed to wrap his car around a tree leaving him stranded in the Yugoslavian countryside.

The whole situation is a wee bit like being stuck in Dudley in the West Midlands but with less chance of getting your arse felt by a tramp.
Or catching crabs from a beer glass.

Luckily (for the viewer obviously otherwise it'd be a really crap horror movie) he finds shelter for the night in the home of the Ciuvelak family, headed by grumpy patriarch Gary (Vanders).

All seems well, until day turns to night that is, when our hero (if you can class someone who self MDF and hardboard for a living a hero) is kept awake by strange noises emanating from the woods.

Questioning his host the next morning he's told not to worry as it's just a bloodthirsty witch that lives in the trees.

Which is nice if a little unexpected.

I was expecting rats.

After running out of strawberry jam, Madeline McCann made a stunning reappearance.

It seems that the witch killed Gary's brother a while back before deciding that it'd be a wee bit more fun for everyone to resurrect him as an exotically monikered Vourdalak, a mythological Russian vampire with a penchant for time keeping, fact fans.

Anyway back to the plot where Les seems to be taking all this gypsy gossip in his stride, which might be because he's fallen head over heels in love with Gary's busty redheaded daughter Sdenka (button nosed beauty Belli), either that or the constant bowls of oxtail soup and bread are beyond compare.

Agostina Belli: Your grandad did. Twice.

Either way he doesn't even bat an eyelid when Gary decides to don a big furry hat and heads out into the woods to confront the witch once and for all.

Number one son Terry (Garko) tho' is prepared for the worst, fearing that his poor dad will get vamped and return home the next day at precisely 6 o'clock and wreak havoc on the household.


Told you there was time keeping involved, I don't make this shit up you know.

Well, not all of it.

Beware! He's going to put his big chopper in you!

Suffice to say that Gary does indeed return at the allotted time the next day looking a wee bit greener than normal (which he blames on trapped wind) but insisting that he has in fact killed the witch and isn't a vampire.

The family (being a bit fick) believe him.

It won't come as too much of a surprise when I say that he's lying thru' his pointy teeth, leading to 60 minutes of death, depravity and dodgy trousers.

"I'm sorry, I have my woman's period."

Criminally under-rated and hardly seen by anyone outside the directors immediate family, Giorgio (AKA Calvin Jackson Padget) Ferroni's penultimate picture is a slow burning supernatural shocker that's a joy to watch from it's starch slacked start to it's devilish denouement. 

Whilst it never reaches the giddy heights of the directors earlier Mill of the Stone Women it's well worth the effort to track down, if only to compare how two totally different film makers (t'other being Mario Bava with his classic Black Sabbath) approach the same source material.

"Shite in my gorgeous Italian mooth you wood loving bastard!"

Whereas Bava's vision is all clinging atmospherics, subtle lighting and and knowing nods from Karloff, Ferroni decides to go straight for the jugular from the start, the film’s opening minutes featuring as they do a barrage of blood and boobs before quickly settling down into a more sombre state as the story begins good and proper.

With a pitch perfect cast playing the whole scenario as straight as Chuck Norris,
Ferroni is free to let his camera camp up the proceedings as it treats both gore and nudity with glee abandon.

And it's this freewheeling style, aided by Giorgio Gaslini's sinister score that enables the film to flip from gothic chiller to frantic chase movie almost without warning as it builds to it's climax.

Plus Agostina Belli really pulls off those early 70s fashions.

"Is it in yet?"

T'is a pity then that such a great movie is lumbered with such a generically piss-poor title, which probably hasn't helped it's availability* (or reputation) over the years, which is almost as much a shame as the fact that Ferroni made so few horror movies.

That and the fact that his best known work, Le baccanti (AKA Bondage Gladiator Sexy) is rubbish.

Well that's a bit of a downer to end on isn't it?

*Tho' saying that I've a feeling it's just been released on Blu-Ray in 'The States' - which would be good if I could actually play US Blu's.....oh well maybe a fan will buy me a new player.

Or not.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

root it oot.

Just back from my yearly trip to the motherland which you'll be interested to know has trees in it.

Hence I viewed this upon my return as it too has trees in it.

The Forest (1982).
Dir: Donald M. Jones.
Cast: Dean Russell, Gary Kent, Tomi Barrett, John Batis, Ann Wilkinson, Jeanette Kelly, Corky Pigeon, Becki Burke, Tony Gee, Stafford Morgan, Marilyn Anderson Jean Clark and Donald M. Jones.

'If you go down to the woods today... You might never get out alive.'

Somewhere in the American great outdoors an unnamed couple of the type you only get in early 80s horror movies that have only relatives and neighbours to cast from - you know the types, long, horse like faced women with Farrah flicks and middle-aged guys with stud beards grey chest hair poking thru' an open necked stonewashed shirt a size too small for him - are having fun hiking thru' the woods whilst attempting to chat in a non-stilted manner as an instantly forgettable MoR rock track plays in the background.

Everything is going smoothly, well as smoothly as two non-actors trying to recite dialogue whilst not slipping down muddy banks can go, until that is the lady (Anderson whose post Forest career peaked with an appearance as a Receptionist in a 1983 episode of Dynasty*) gets a feeling of impending dread and a notion of them being watched from the trees.

Her husband (Morgan, best known for his spot on portrayal as an engineer in Die Hard 2: Die Harder), being that kind of guy, poo-poos the idea but in order to placate his missis (in the hope of some tent based todger tickling later) allows her to walk ahead of him so she'll feel less threatened.

No me neither.

"I'm sorry, I have my woman's period."

We don't have to much time to worry about such trivialities tho' as the pair have soon been dispatched by an unseen assailant with a big knife as an even more forgettable MoR track with lyrics about spooky forests blurts out over the credits.

Which I have to admit feature one of THE best home made fonts of all time.

And here it is:


Anyway we're soon with the plot good and proper where best buds - handsome hunk Steve (mustached macho man and council estate Tom Selleck, Russell) and the ferret like Charlie (Batis who I think went into Christian-based arts as far as I remember, I'd check but to be honest I can't be arsed) are busy planning a boys weekend away camping in the woods much to their girlfriends - Teddi (Poundshop Cheryl Ladd, Wilkinson - and the thin lipped Sharon (Ex stunt person Barrett) - chagrin.

It seems that the laydees are a wee bit pissed off at the fellas constant digs at women's lib and the like so the pair decide to play them at their own game and go camping by themselves.

Or is it with the guys?

It's kinda confusing if I'm honest.

Anyway the next morn the girls drive off toward the forest but as they chat it becomes increasingly apparent that neither of them have any idea about camping and were only saying they did in order to come across as equal to the men.

Because feminism.

Or a glib generalization of what feminism is according to the (male) director obviously.

Meanwhile the boys are running late due in part to the car breaking down but mainly because it took Steve and hour and a half to fit into his crotch revealing denims so by the time they arrive at the campsite the girls have already set off into the woods, failed to put up a tent, broken a nail and been visited by two mysterious kids and a woman.

Oh and been attacked by a portly tramp named John (Kent, stuntperson and hubbie of Barrett) who murders Teddi before carrying her off to his cave to eat.

Which is nice.

Sharon, in case you're interested escaped by jumping off a (small) cliff into a lake by the way.

Which is probably why they cast a stunt type person.

"To me!" "To you!"

Anyway as night (and the rain) continues to fall Steve and Charlie are still frantically searching for their lady friends but decide that because it's so wet to hide out in a cave till morning and it's here that they too come across (but not in a sexual way, well not yet) the weirdy beardy John who's just finished cooking Teddi and offers the pair a nibble, proclaiming that it's actually a deer.

As the trio tuck in, John begins to tell his tragic tale of woe and how he came to be living in a cave in the woods stinking of piss, you see it seems that a few years back when he worked as a traveling rubber nipples salesman, his - nameless because this film has a really healthy view of women - dear wife (Kelly in her only film role - surprise) spent her days shagging anyone who passed by the house.

Repair men, post men, the paperboy - you name it she let them put it in her which wasn't until one day John came home early to find her in bed with the refrigerator repairman who, bizarrely enough and after an uncomfortable scene reminisce of when my mum got caught with the Jehovah's Witness in the conservatory by my uncle Peter actually pulls on his trousers and does indeed proceed to fix the fridge.

That's your mum that is.
This wanton display of multitasking masculinity sends John over the edge and after beating his wife to death with a table lamp chases the fridge guy around the garden brandishing a variety of sharp edged gardening tools (and a bicycle) before gutting him on a lathe as his children - John Jr. (Pigeon who scarily went on to have a huge career and is best known for playing Freddy Lippincottleman in the hit teevee sitcom Silver Spoons as well as drumming with top pop combos MXPX and Reel Big Fish) and Jennifer (Burke, who may now be working as a customer Account Manager at Aaron’s Sales and Lease Corporation in Texas) look on in apathy.

From there on in he's been holed up in a cave with only his baseball cap and by now very stiff pants to his name.


And on that note the boys unpack their sleeping bags and quickly fall asleep.

Which is what I wanted to do at this point thanks to the films 'leisurely' pace.

Less Grizzly Adams more slightly peeved Pete.

As morning dawns the pair wake to the sight of John standing over then licking his lips as he gently cradles his man package so making their excuses Steve and Charlie quickly pack up and head of to find the ladies soon finding their destroyed campsite and discarded belongings.

Because lets be honest, it's quite a short film.

"Oh Vic...I've fallen!"

Deciding that something terrible must have happened to cause the girls to leave their make up bags behind the pair split up to continue their search.

Meanwhile down on the riverbank Sharon is busy finding out more about the plot from the pair of spooky kids she met earlier, who it transpires are ghosts.

Fair enough.

It seems that getting bored with living in a cave with their deranged dad and living solely on wild berries and hikers  the pair killed themselves but are now trapped in limbo being chased by the ghost of their mother.

And this, coupled with marrying a whore caused John to turn cannibal.

No, really.

Man murders folk?

Blame a woman.

Or if that doesn't work blame his kids.

"Is it giro day?"

Realizing that the film is almost over the director decides to add a wee bit of excitement so to this end Steve falls down a hill and hurts his leg whilst Charlie stumbles around getting steadily sweatier and more simpering as he goes.

Just when all thought of absolutely anything entertaining happening is forever destroyed who should pop out from behind a tree but the ghost of the dead wife   who - quite politely for a dead slapper I reckon - asks him where her children are.

But as he goes to answer John too jumps out the bushes and attempts to stick his chopper in Charlie, causing ghost mum to vanish and our hero to experience a wee bit of chafing round the thigh area.

As the pair (slow) fight to the death John explains that he's not really a mentalist and only kills campers during the winter when it's too difficult to get to Asda to buy pork, which is OK then I guess.

And with that he drowns poor Charlie in the river.

Which given the state of the film so far is a mercy killing.

Dollar - The Pikey Years.

As John attempts to carry Charlie's body back to his man cave who should arrive but Sharon who, being a girl is quickly is overpowered by John (tho' it may have more to do with his onion breath than his strength) but just as he lunges in for the kill his ghostly weans turn up and beg him to let Sharon live.

And with that he lets her escape.

Will Sharon find Steve or will John go a bit mad again at the thought of lunching out on her tender thighs?

Will anything happen in the scant running time remaining to make watching this anything other than an utter waste of time?

Who knows/cares.

Not director/writer/tea boy Don Jones that's for sure.

From the man behind The Love Butcher, Sweater Girls and Schoolgirls In Chains (oh and who also did the sound on Switchblade Sisters and The Swinging Cheerleaders) comes probably one of THE most incoherently plotted, woodenly acted and crappily directed movies if not ever then definitely of the 80s.

But saying that at least it's in focus and does feature David Somerville 'singing' the fantastically cringe inducing "The Dark Side of The Forest" (with lyrics by Stan Fidel who wrote "Best of Friends" for Disney's The Fox And The Hound fact fans) over the credits so you win some, you lose some I guess.

But if you fancy 80 odd minutes of barely bargain basement gore effects, ghostly kids with haircuts that'd make even Jimmy Savile think twice, bizarro voice overs, a woman who looks like your auntie whoring it up on a camp bed and what seems like hours of footage of two guys arguing in/about traffic then The Woods may just be the film for you.

But I doubt it somehow.


It's almost like Jones is purposely trying to scupper any chance the film has to shine, whether it be the almost DOA pacing, aimless wide shots of trees or just the entire nonsensical nature of the plot, at every turn just when you think something interesting might happen the film, like some drunken bloke stumbling home from the pub with a greasy kebab in hand,  just fumbles and staggers across the road before dropping meat onto its shoes and collapsing in an alley.

Probably to get bummed by a tramp in the early hours of the morning.

Only Jones wouldn't show that bit, he'd cut to an empty taxi rank round the corner.

Tho' he'd probably dub the sound of foxes playing in a garden over the footage just to stop you falling into a coma.

Scarily according to the cast he actually remortgaged his house to pay for this so either he was really fucking delusional or he really hated the wallpaper and reckoned that losing his home to the bank was a better option than just burning it down.

Put it in me!

But who knows perhaps the film is actually really meta and is in fact just playing with our preconceptions of what makes a good slasher - I mean we all accept Jason wearing a hockey mask or Leatherface wearing your mums mug so why not a terrifying mountain-based cannibal in a child's baseball cap and a mantit hugging T-shirt?

And sure after The Evil Dead we were spoiled with Raimi's patented 'shaky-cam' and wall to wall grue but who's to say that overexposed static shots of random trees and stock footage of traffic jams isn't the next leap forward in tree-based terror?

Plus after axes, chainsaws and fingerblades what's stopping a jam covered pen knife being a terrifying weapon of death?

Indeed maybe this film is actually cinematic genius and it's me who's wrong.

What the truth is we'll never know for sure cos I'm fucked if I'm going to lose any more sleep thinking about it.

Good day.

*And I only know this as I own the entire run on DVD.....sad but true.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

people you fancy but shouldn't (part 86).

Maybe it's that pesky midlife crisis looming but I've been reminiscing over the halcyon days of Channel 4's Brookside and how, as a spotty Smiths loving youth I would watch avidly in the hope of a glimpse of Karen Grant's scuffed Doc Martens.
Ah....young love.


Monday, August 12, 2019

it's alive!

The James Whale memorial in Dudley....Just because.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

true story (bro).

I was in my local Morrison's the other day and was in line to buy some ham at the deli counter there for a friend who is ill so therefore couldn't shop.

The meat serving man asked me what kind I wanted, and, being a vegetarian and knowing fuck all about meat I had to reply "I have no idea what different kinds of ham there are, please help!"

I'd not realised that I'd been really loud - and fairly stimmy - and soon saw that the guy behind me in line had burst out laughing.

I turn around.

It was top 80s funster David Copperfield from Three of A Kind.

He half leaned over and said "Honey glazed my good man!" to the server whilst I just kinda stared at him for a second before smiling and saying thank you.

I was about to pay for it when he said "No way this one's on me" and handed over his platinum American Express card.

I was shocked and amazed, all I could think of to do was reply with one of my favourite David Copperfield quotes.

"I am a lone lorn creetur... and everythink goes contrairy with me!"

Once again he cracked up and asked me if I had any idea how long it had been since someone said that to him.

I said "a year?"

He replied "try twenty mate".

We ended up having a coffee at the newly opened Costa drive-thru opposite, where I found out that he'd bought a house in Knightswood and has been living there a while.

We talked and talked for about 45 minutes before he said he had to leave because his shopping was defrosting and with that I shook his hand and said he made my day.

As he stood up to leave I noticed a shiny object glinting in his hand.

it was a chrome ice pick.

He smiled stabbing violently and randomly at me with it.

I dropped to the floor and into a pool of my own blood and as I lay there I could just make out a blurry image of the madcap entertainer hoisting a breeze-block above his head.

Thru' the ringing in my ears I could just about hear his his acclaimed version of Classical Gas* as the breeze-block came crashing down, ending my life.

*Classical Gas is an instrumental musical piece composed and originally performed by Mason Williams with instrumental backing by members of the Wrecking Crew.

Originally released in 1968 on the album The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, it has been re-recorded and re-released numerous times since by Williams.

One later version served as the title track of a 1987 album by Williams and the band Mannheim Steamroller.

Copperfield often performs it for his encore.