Saturday, December 30, 2023

seaman stays.

You know when you get to that point when you've eaten and drunk so much you can't move so just grab the first thing on the shelf?

The Rift, (AKA Endless Descent, 1990).

Dir: Juan Piquer Simón.

Cast: Jack Scalia, R. Lee Ermey, Ray Wise, Deborah Adair, John Toles Bey, Ely Pouget, Emilio Linder, Tony Isbert, Álvaro Labra, Luis Lorenzo, Frank Braña, Pocholo Martínez-Bordiú, Edmund Purdom, Garrick Hagon as Barton (as Garick Hagon) and Jed Downey.



"Bio-lab, sick bay, and the engine room are off limits. The algae has infected them!"


Top secret supersub Siren I (or is it Syren? or Sirene? no-one seems to be sure if I'm honest) has disappeared in mysterious circumstances leaving the bigwigs in Washington (played by the legendary - well around here anyway Edmund Purdom and Biggs Darklighter himself Garrick Hagon) no choice but to turn to the subs original designer - the big haired living beefcake that is Wick Hayes (American teevee regular and Eminence underpants model Scalia, looking for all the world like a love child of 80s era Mel Gibson and Kurt Russell if bought from Wish) to investigate the situation.

The official line is that Hayes shoddy design was to blame for the disaster but it turns out that this was just a cover story to hide the fact that the military added some secret stuff to the original Siren (nuclear torpedoes, experimental gene replicators, a dartboard etc.) without asking his permission.

Which would be OK if they admitted it to the folk Hayes will be working with as right now they all think he's just a bad designer with a shit mullet who gets folk killed due to negligence.

"What is this? Have you built a submarine for ants?!!?"



Leading the mission is the ball-breaking, no nonsense navy Capt. Phillips (Lee Ermey, essaying his role from Full Metal Jacket) ) alongside the Lego-haired bio-genetics expert Lt. Nina Crawley (Dynasty, The Love Boat, Days Of Our Lives and Melrose Place star Adair) who, it turns out used to be in a relationship with Hayes.

This is fairly unimportant tho' and will only come up once in the entire film and then only with them holding hands and gazing into each others eyes for about 30 seconds.

Let's just say character building is not this films strong point.

Neither is plot, effects or acting tho' if I'm honest.

Also onboard to fill out the painting-by-numbers cast - which I will admit does feature a comedy Italian cook played by Luis Lorenzo in his best "Itsa me Mario!" voice, a terrifyingly eyebrowed German engineer played by Frank Braña from Pieces, "Skeets" - a wise-cracking cliched 80s black man in tiny silk shorts shouting "Shit!" a lot played by John Toles-Bey from Dude, Where's My Car? and Lawnmower Man II 'star' Ely Pouget looking a wee bit sweaty as Ana - is a mysterious and twitchy new computer expert Harold Robbins - no, not that one - played by Ray Wise, obviously trying to cover his mortgage before starting to film Twin Peaks.

So with the cast introduced it's time to power up the Siren II (think the Seaview set from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea hastily reconstructed in an old Radio Shack warehouse and sprayed silver to hide the cracks) as they head out into the unknown to search for the ill-fated Siren's black box recorder or something.

To be honest none of this makes any sense.


A yellow submarine parked in the town where I was born yesterday.


After an exciting ZX81 graphics style encounter with some icebergs (turns out the navigation system hasn't been aligned properly for all the new shit they've added to the sub which is nice) the sub dives to over 27,000 feet (no me neither) into a mysterious abyss (not that one) where the crew are surprised to see a massive kelp forest at depths where photosynthesis is impossible.


Wanting to  pad out the runtime, sexy haired Sven (Spanish teevee god and actually aristocrat Martinez) is sent out to investigate - in scuba gear which is a wee bit mad seeing as it would only work up to (down to?) 130 feet but let's be honest, are we really here for the science?

Well Lt Crawley is as she very quickly blames this development on the experimental transgenic accelerator that the Siren crew were testing.

Anyway upon leaving the sub Sven soon comes across not only a dead body and an old toilet seat but mysterious jet stream of warm water emanating from a crack in the seabed.

Everything is going swimmingly (sorry) as he carefully takes a sample of the kelp but as soon as he tries to take some photographs the flash awakens the vines which tear him limb from limb.

Shocked and more than a little surprised by their encounter with the killer seaweed the crew decide to surface and radio for back-up only to find the sub engulfed by what looks like a discarded condom that attempts to crush them - and the sub - to death.

No caption required.

Luckily Hayes knows a thing or two about dealing with used condoms and orders Robbins to reverse the polarity of the subs shields in order to electrocute it and scare it away.

Look it sounded legit at the time.

Surprisingly this actually works and the condom beast retreats but not before draining all the ships power sending it hurtling to not just the bottom of the ocean (which is 35,876 feet down and is found in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench, at a place called Challenger Deep fact fans) but even further still to 45,000 feet according to the ships readouts. 

Now I'm no scientist but surely that would mean that they'd go all the way thru and pop out the other side a wee bit like the end of At The Earth's Core or something doesn't it?

As all around him panic, Hayes manages to pilot the sub onto a handy ledge that leads into a pressurized undersea cavern from which - deep inside - they pick up an SOS from the Siren.

Which is quite lucky seeing as when the crew investigate they can do it in decorators overalls and painters masks rather that in expensive scuba gear whilst wobbling about on wires as they're filmed thru' a fish tank.


Here come the Belgians!


Boarding a kiddies Paw Patrol dingy the crew soon make shore where they come across scattered piles of equipment from the siren but no signs of life - or intelligent script writing obviously - so decide to head further into the caverns where they find a huge stack of high-tech CD roms explaining the entire plot (which is quite lucky).

Preparing to head back to the sub they're suddenly attacked - in a scene that would do 70s Doctor Who proud - by giant ball-headed paper-mache bees that live in holes in the cave walls.

Imagine Aliens remade by Haribo infused toddlers and you're halfway there.

The team split up, running and screaming in different directions with Hayes and "Skeets" (and someone else but seeing as they're all wearing masks I can't really tell) managing to make it back to the sub before the character that's not either of them gets eaten by a giant rubbery mutant cod.

Who knew genetic splicing could be so much fun?

Unfortunately it's no safer aboard the Siren II tho' as the kelp sample has mutated (again) and has begun infecting the crew via the subs water system and making the engine room look like an overgrown garden.

Laugh now.


As our heroes discuss a plan of action the radio crackles to life. It appears that poor Ana is trapped in a cupboard, low on ammo and surrounded by beasts.

Obviously Hayes decides to mount a rescue mission (as opposed to mounting "Skeets" who I must admit has a really nice arse, especially in those aforementioned silk shorts) so the remaining crew suit up and head back into the caves.

Fighting their way toward Ana the team are (fairly) surprised - this happens a lot - to discover a room full of specimen cages and computers whilst Ana, heading deeper into the makeshift lab complex has discovered dozens of amniotic sacs contain strange hybrid human/fish babies (or people from West Bromwich as we call them here) alongside a giant genetic splicer cum DNA accelerator that surprisingly looks like a large industrial washing machine with a disco ball on top.

Oh yes and a giant man-eating starfish stuck to a wall.

At least it's not chocolate.

Unfortunately Ana doesn't get much chance to examine the beast as no sooner has she stopped for breath than some slimy tentacles slip out of the accelerator and drag her inside in order to fiddle with her genes.

Tho' I thought she was wearing Chinos.

But as our merry band fight for survival in the caves, Robbins is busy back at the sub packing the recovered CDs into a rucksack before prepping the escape pod. 

It seems he's a government spy who's only onboard to recover the missing data and dispose of anyone who discovers the truth regarding the fate of Siren I.

What a rascal.

Will Hayes and co. make it back to the sub in time?

Or will Robbins kill our heroes and score one for the evil government agency?

Go on, guess.

Strange as it may seem to any youngsters reading, way back in the late 80s/early 90s there was a huge upsurge in underwater adventure movies James Cameron had announced The Abyss so almost every film company and producer going, from Roger Corman to Dino De Laurentiis jumped in at the deep end to snatch a piece of this fish pie.

Obviously with all the secrecy surrounding The Abyss everyone assumed that the movie would be in the same style as Aliens so water-based bio-mechanoid menaces were on the bill with Lords Of The Deep, Leviathan and Deepstar Six among the first to be released.

Bizarrely there's more than just a cash-grab genre link with Leviathan and The Rift, you see both films were co-produced by (an uncredited) Dino De Laurentiis who must have really loved this script.

Or needed a tax break obviously.


"You chase me now!"

So with that tiny bit of backstory out of the way the main question is - is it any good?

Well it's from Juan Piquer Simon that made Pieces so it all kinda rest on what you think of that really.

Oh and if you enjoyed his adaptation of Slugs obviously.

But probably not Cthulhu Mansion as that is genuinely shite.

Even tho' it features the frankly fantastic Frank Finlay and another star turn from Frank Braña.

Oh and Melanie Shatner.

But I digress.

The Rift is cheap as chips with an almost total lack of any acting or characterization (save for Ray Wise and his coffee jitters and the permanently scowling R. Lee Ermey) and a plot so paper thin that it actually blew away at one point when I moved too quickly past the teevee to have a piss, the effects could hardly be call 'special' or even effects and the monsters are hardly seen (except for the big starfish that is which just bought Contamination to mind, whether that's good or bad I'll leave to you) but bizarrely enough I couldn't stop watching.

Yes maybe I'd drunk way too much and couldn't move from the sofa but I could've still passed out if it were that bad.

I mean ask your Auntie Jean if you don't believe me.


But scarily it's infinitely watchable - yes you've seen it all before (and done so much better) but somehow it wins you over and by the end credits you realise that it wasn't actually that bad at all.

I'm either getting soft in my old age or I'm beginning to lose my mind as I hit my mid 50s.

Either way happy new year all.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

people you fancy but shouldn't (part 110).

Mimi Heinrich, the pixie-esque, fright fringed star of Blændværk - where she became famous as the first ever nude actress in a Danish movie.

 Outside Denmark she was mostly known for her roles in the cult movies Reptilicus and Journey to the Seventh Planet as well as being a perfect genetic melding of Noomi Rapace and Bjork. 


Wednesday, December 27, 2023

dragon's den.

With it being the holidays I'm spending the week drunkenly eating rubbish whilst gorging myself on great movies.

And this one.

Reptilicus (1961).

Dir: Danish version: Poul Bang, English version: Sidney W. Pink

Cast: Carl Ottosen as General Mark Grayson, Ann Smyrner, Mimi Heinrich, Asbjørn Andersen, Bodil Miller (or Marla Behrens), Bent Mejding as Svend Viltorft
Povl Wøldike as Dr. Peter Dalby
Dirch Passer as Peterson
Ole Wisborg as Captain Brandt
Claus Toksvig as himself as himself, Jens Due


“We're not accustomed to seeing such a beautiful woman connected to science!”


Our story begins “somewhere in the forbidding Arctic tundra of Lapland” where, bizarrely enough, a hunky band of dishy Danish miners (in short sleeves, I mean how tough are they?) are busy we are told - via a fairly sexy it has to be said from our soon-to-be heroic lead, General Mark Grayson - taking loads of core samples (no me neither) whilst doing a variety of complicated things with a huge Meccano set.

Or at least they would be if it wasn't broken. 

Scraping shite off the drill head and picking old condoms and broken Buckfast bottles out of the pipe head miner Svend Viltorft (Mejding) discovers that a huge chunk of floppy, bloodied meat surrounded by bits of bone has jammed the drill and stopped it working.

And bizarrely the meat is still fresh.

As if from a living creature.


Quickly realizing that you don't usually find the remains of someones Sunday lunch (or in fact bits of the person eating it) whilst digging for oil, Svend decides to the take the bits to the University Of Stuff Found Whilst Drilling in the picturesque city of Copenhagen to ask the esteemed Professor Martens (ball-faced actor, director and founder member of ABBA Andersen) and his associate, Dr. Dalby (pervy of specs but high of hair Wøldike) what they make of it.

The fact that Svend has been surrounded by big burly men for six months and that Martens has two daughters - blonde bombshell Lise (Boots make-up counter server wannabe Smyrner) and the utterly hatstand but totally adorable Karen (the pixie-esque, fright fringed star of Blændværk - where she became famous as the first ever nude actress in a Danish movie - and my latest cinema obsession Heinrich) has nothing to do with his choice of expert obviously. 

Heinrich: maneuver.

Remember tho' no science fiction monster movie is complete without a plucky newspaper reporter to make up the numbers (which is a shame but hey ho) so enter - roughly and from behind Pease Morghann (Due) who will spend the rest of the film suggestively sucking on the tip of a pencil and pouting.

Popping the sample in a big bath, Martens surmises that the chuck of flesh actually comes from a still living creature and by slowly adding cold water and bubblebath to the mix they can probably find out exactly what species it actually is, which if I'm honest sounds a wee bit more complicated than just heading back to the site and digging the rest of it up.

Actually in the cold harsh light of day it sounds absolute bollocks.

But what do I know, I draw shit for a living. 

And with that Martens leaves Dalby to keep an eye on things whilst his (aforementioned) daughters paw violently at Svend as the foursome head out into town for a handy Copenhagen travelogue.

"Are you looking at my bra?"

Whilst all this sightseeing, flirting and eating is going down, the universities night watchman, Peter Peterson (wild eyed Danish comedy god and real-life Mater, Passer) is left in charge of making sure the samples temperature stays constant whilst Dalby busies himself doodling cocks in all the text books.


I mean if I'm honest this whole section is just an excuse for some top knockabout comedy as Peterson hilariously bumps into various bits of furniture before amusingly fingering an electric eel.

No, really.

He did WHAT in his cup?

After all this eel molestation, Peterson sneaks off for a crafty wank leaving Dalby to fall asleep at his desk after not closing the lab door properly which causes - yep, you guessed it - the sample to go all warm and mushy.

Martens is understandably fairly pissed off by this turn of events but just as he's about to thrash Dalby with his belt Lise points out that the warm air appears to have made the chunky flesh lump grow.

Yup, whatever the thing in the lab is, it's now regenerating.

Realising that this is well above their pay-grade, Dalby and Martens request the help of world famous UNESCO troubleshooter Connie Miller (Behrens or Miller depending which version you're watching) who upon arrival, just stands around looking concerned whilst Martens rubs his thighs and generally leches over her.

Luckily she has the studly (and aforementioned) American General Mark Grayson (tiny-eyed Ottosen, best know as Kommissær Boucard from the 1972 TV movie Hotel Paradiso - not that one -  fact fans) to protect her from any unwanted advances, which is lucky as he's seems to serve no other purpose to the plot at this point, I mean not even his superiors have told him why he's there so as it is he just stands around in a jaunty hat looking either angry or confused.

Exactly like the viewers.


Behrens or Miller - Tunnel or funnel?


Good old Martens manages to calm the General down tho, by informing him that everything will be explained at the press conference being held in the canteen that very afternoon and, if he behaves himself - not shouting at or shooting anyone, his daughters will take him out on a double date alongside his Dutch counterpart Captain Joe Brandt (Wisborg, who you may recognise from the saucy 1970 Danish/ American sexploitation epic Daddy Darling).

So pay attention cos here's the science part.

It seems that using 'the science', Martens and Dalby have invented a special nutrient mix that, when fed into the bath will enable them to control the creatures growth and make sure it doesn't grow to giant size and destroy the city.

Barring electrical storms obviously.

Oh yes and the creature now has a name. 

Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Reptilicus Martenus.

Or Steven as he's known to his friends. 

Cue one of those spinney headline scenes so beloved of the time.

"Boiled onions!"

Not everyone is happy with the news tho' as grumpy Grayson soon realises that he's been assigned to lead the lizard tail protection squad, meaning he's gonna be expected to stand in the corner of the office for a few weeks staring angrily at Peterson as he performs various comedy turns whilst Lise and Karen take it in turns rubbing their crotches up and down his leg.

So it's not all bad then.

Especially Peterson's genius sandwich-based microscope routine when he puts a bit of his sandwich under the aforementioned microscope before peering thru the eye-piece only to be so horrified by the teeny tiny microbes on it that he burps really loudly in disgust.

Comedy gold I'm sure you'll agree.

Insert cock here.

As you can probably tell, the films pace can be best described as leisurely.

Anyway after more hi-jinks, more grumpiness from Grayson, extra flirting from Lise and Karen things of an actual monster movie style nature eventually start to happen when Marten's orders them to pour even more nutrient fluid into the tank causing the beast to start bubbling and growing before quickly cutting to yet another travelogue as the cast head out to enjoy a musical cabaret featuring none other than Danish top entertainer and former Eurovision entry Birthe Wilke who wows the crowd with her timeless classic Tivoli Nights.

No really.

Birthe Wilke: Ask your granddad.

But as all this singing, boozing and furtive fondling is going on a storm is brewing over downtown Copenhagen causing Reptilicus to totally regenerate and escape from his tank.

Tho' not that quickly obviously as the whole thing is intercut with even more comedy pratfalls, sleeping scientists and drinking alongside a vaguely amusing sequence where Peterson attempts to ride his bike to the police station for help whilst Dalby waves a gun around for some reason.

"Laugh now!"

All this beast-based chaos gives Grayson a chance to shine, so he wastes no time setting up a 'command centre' in an old school gym and surround himself with the best scientific and military minds he can (well all of those not good enough to join Doctor Who's UNIT, Dad's Army or even Hogan's Heroes obviously) whilst covering the walls with maps from the local school.

Laugh all you like but this course of action seems to work and they soon receive a phone call informing them that Reptilicus has been spotted shouting abuse at a field full of cows on a small farm just off the coast.

Cue shit-loads of stock footage of soldiers jumping into trucks and riding around in  jeeps whilst carefully polishing large pieces of field artillery, all cut to a triumphant 'umpa' score.

Seriously I'm hard just thinking about it.

Well, thinking about that and Mimi Heinrich if I'm honest.


"Spice Girls number one for Christmas...MONSTA!"

Upon arrival at the farm our heroes find Reptilicus hiding in a barn (his tail is sticking out which gives him away) and Grayson gives the order to open fire giving the director to present us with even more stock footage intercut with shots of a threadbare dinosaur puppet vomiting cartoon-acid-spit in the general direction of the where the soldiers would be if any of this were in any way real or competently made.

But Reptilicus soon gets bored of all these stock footage based shenanigans (either that or the director found editing together action sequences way too complex) and decides to fuck off to the beach in the hope of scaring some topless sunbathers whilst a visibly annoyed (or is that aroused?) Grayson shakes his fist whilst exclaiming that “It's scales are like armor plates!” before realising that this'd be a good excuse to call in the big guns.

And by big guns I mean Svend armed with a flamethrower sitting in a jeep.

So with that in place the pair ride off toward the beach desperately trying to ignite the flame with a knock-off Zippo.
"You ain't see me right?"

Bizarrely the flame-thrower works (probably because Reptilicus is constructed from paper-mache) causing the creature to holler in pain before fucking off under the sea.

Heading back to the lab, Grayson and Martens reckon it'd be a good idea to do a wee bit of research regarding Reptilicus so to this end decide to consult a childrens dinosaur book (no really) and quickly come to the conclusion that Reptilicus is a kind of mutant brontosaurus cum elephant and is therefore the missing link 'tween  reptile and mammals.

Seems legit.

And with this new information Grayson orders the entire Danish navy to patrol the sea looking for it because that's where elephants hang out obviously. 

Cue even more military stock footage as pages of a calendar flick forward to show the passage of time intercut with various shots of behatted sailors peering thru' binoculars.

Just when you think the remainder of the film is just going to consist of grainy stock footage and angry men staring till everyone dies of boredom, Grayson receives a message that Reptilicus has been found snoozing in a local bay (next to a kids model boat obviously) and quickly orders a barrage of depth charges be dropped on the sleeping beast.

But as the attack begins Martens realises that if they manage to blow up Reptilicus each chunk of flesh will grow into a new monster, so he sprints down to the beach in order to stop the attack. 

Unfortunately all the excitement causes him to suffer a massive heart attack.

I assume it's a heart attack as by judging his facial contortions it could actually be a massive cum.

I mean he is Danish after all.

Anyway as luck would have it tho' Connie comes to exactly the same conclusion at almost the same time and quickly warns Grayson, who after much huffing and puffing calls off the attack but not before one of the charges explodes right beside Reptilicus causing his right paw to drop off and sink to the ocean floor.

This may be important later.

With Lise and Karen off to visit the hospital with Connie it's left to Grayson and Svend to, if not hold the fort, then at least hold up a variety of maps and photos of local tourist spots where Reptilicus may surface next in between sleeping at their desks.

For what seems like hours. Again.

All this serious staring is interrupted (thank fuck) when Brandt bursts in to announce that a Swedish trawler has reported being attacked by Reptilicus.

As is the way by now, we don't actually get to see the attack but we are treated to some top quality stock footage of capsized boats and the like as Grayson (in a grave voice-over) explains that Reptilicus strikes so quickly that no-one ever sees him till it's too late, leaving only a trail of death and destruction as evidence he was ever there.

Which is really lucky for the effects crew if I'm honest.


"Do you think he'll swallow me whole?" "No he'll spit that bit out!"

Anyway we're soon back to a beach (I'm assuming it's a different one but to be honest I don't really care) where dozens of holidaymakers are enjoying a a wee bit of frolicking fun without a single worry about the giant monster that's in the news destroying shit and killing folk on a daily basis - which just goes to show how fucking hard the Danish actually are.

 Everything is going swimmingly until that is a loved up pair sneak off behind a rock for a wee bit of kissing and the like only to accidentally bump into Reptilicus and wake him up by accidentally sitting on his snout.

Reptilicus responds by spewing even more acidic spit on them before attempting to eat everyone on the beach as the army race to the rescue only to see the creature fly off into the distance.



The government order for the residents to stay indoors is met with fairly impressive footage of literally hundreds of folk running around the streets in panic - except for the fair few waving at the camera and smiling obviously - as the might of the Danish military take up positions beside various touristy landmarks ready for action.

Expecting the films leisurely pace to continue I half imagined this scene to carryy on for at least an hour but surprisingly Reptilicus appears within a minute or so, popping his head up from behind a nearby church giving Grayson the chance to shout "Fire at will!” at anyone who'll listen.

This would probably be a good idea if someone didn't point out to Grayson that they can't use anything bigger than a machine gun in case they damage the buildings. Unfazed Grayson orders the deployment of flame-throwers seeing as bricks don't burn.

Or something.

Unfortunately Reptilicus is busy spitting at anyone who gets too close, so the army can only watch in terror as the beast brazenly bounces toward a massive draw bridge (filled with screaming civilians) in the centre of town.

Terrified by the beast slowly approaching, the bridge controller begins to raise the bridge for no other reason than to give the Danish stunt team something to do.

At least I hope it's the stunt team and not just extras desperate for fame seeing as one of them rides his bicycle of the bridge and plunges about 60 feet into the water below.

Luckily Svend is near by and heroically rushes to the control room and sets the bridge back down allowing the people to flee to safety whilst Reptilicus dives into the water to escape.


"I can see your house from here Peter!"


Grayson and Svend angrily head back to base in order to formulate a plan to destroy Reptilicus once and for all, including suggesting trying to blow him up and collecting the bits before they can grow back and digging a big hole and hoping he falls in.

Grayson being angry and American decides to just go ahead with the whole bombing it idea and is about to order an attack when a slightly peaky Martens stumbles in (propped up by his daughters) to suggest instead that they drug the beast to death  instead by firing shells filled with really strong cough medicine directly into the beasts mouth.

And no I'm not making this up.

So the race is on to find enough Calpol to fill the shells and destroy Reptilicus before he trashes the whole city....and beyond.

Billed as Denmark's first ever monster movie featuring a creature to rival Godzilla at the box office, both a Danish and English language version was made simultaneously -  the Danish version directed by Poul Bang whilst the English version was directed by the film's American producer (and so-called 'father of 3-D cinema' himself) Sidney W. Pink.
And whilst both versions feature an almost identical cast (save for Bodil Miller replacing Marla Behrens as she couldn't speak English, or is it the other way round?), the American version was deemed virtually unreleasable by American International Pictures (and if you've seen some of their output you can imagine how shite it must have been) so was hastily reworked by Danish-American novelist, short-story writer, film producer and film director, Ib Melchior.
Melchior, for those of you who don't know/care wrote and directed The Angry Red Planet (1959) and The Time Travelers (1964) as well as co-writing Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962) as well as writing the English language script for Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires (1965) and (allegedly) creating Lost in Space.

Oh and his 1956 short story "The Racer" was adapted by Paul Bartel as Death Race 2000 (1975).
So we should be really terrified at what state the original was in if this was deemed not only better but actually releasable.

Here come the Belgians!
Obviously Pink wasn't too happy with this situation and threatened to sue AIP but he quickly dropped the case when AIP played their trump card and screened his version for their - and his - lawyers.
So, is it any good?
In a word, no.
But is it enjoyable?
Hell yes.
True the effects can hardly be called special - or even effects for that matter - and the plot kinda meanders all over the place with it's bizarre travelogue moments and musical interludes but the cast are great (especially Mimi Heinrich) and once you get used to the aforementioned leisurely pace of the movie (and get enough snacks together to keep you going) then you'll be in for a surprising treat.
Recommended holiday hi-jinks.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

head boy.

Watched this last night to celebrate the start of the holidays (yes we're very romantic here) and suddenly realised I'd never seen it before....I shall hand in my horror fan card forthwith.

Oh and Merry Christmas.



All I can say to you is keep away from the skull of the Marquis de Sade!


The Skull (1965).

Dir: Freddie Francis.

Cast: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Christopher Lee, Jill Bennett, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Peter Woodthorpe, Michael Gough, George Coulouris, April Olrich and Maurice Good.

Our terrifying tale opens in a fog-filled graveyard somewhere in France (well I say somewhere but it's actually Épernon which lies some 27 kilometres northeast of Chartres, at the confluence of the Drouette and the Guesle, fact fans) in the year 1814 - tho' that might just be the time - where full-time phrenologist and part-time Tom Jones impersonator Pierre Soontodie (Good, Phineas Clanton himself from that 60s Doctor Who classic The Gunfighters) is busying himself exhuming the corpse of that well-known perv-miester Donatien Alphonse François - AKA Marquis de Sade in order to study his skull for signs of mentalism.

 No really.

Heading back home with the head in a bin bag Pierre is surprised to discover his sexy shouldered yet unfortunately unnamed mistress (Olrich whose biggest roles were as a party guest in Supergirl and as the bespectacled beauty Desiree in the 70s TeeVee 'classic' Roberts Robots) sprawled across his bed scoffing marshmallows.

Tho' to be honest I'd be pretty surprised to find myself in this situation seeing as although the recipe for marshmallows was invented by the ancient Egyptians, the weren't produced in their present form until 1850.

And it's this blatant disregard for historical accuracy that obviously causes him to push the Parisian strumpet aside and head straight into his makeshift laboratory to clean the skull of all its flesh. 

Three bags of marshmallows later and his French fancy is still sprawled across the bed awaiting the attentions of Pierre when she notices plumes of strange coloured smoke emanating from under the laboratory door and being curious/bored/French/ decides to investigate only to find her lover drowned in the same vat of liquids he used to clean the skull as the skull itself peers (as skulls do) from a nearby shelf...

Bloody Hell it's Fred Titmuss!

 Jumping forward to the present(ish) day (well 1965 so technically the past, spooky) we soon find ourselves - as in we're watching on the screen not in a Star Trek transporter type way, you get the idea - in a stuffy auction house where Michael Gough (obviously with an afternoon free) is refereeing a bidding war 'tween the eminent occult expert Dr. Christopher Maitland (Cushing) and the slightly less-eminent occult collector Sir Matthew Phillips as they battle to see who will spend the most cash on a set of four knock-off Gorillaz figures.

Phillips, being richer than Maitland - and it seems in a trance - wins out, paying double what the figures are actually worth yet seems to have no recollection of doing so and on that bombshell goes home leaving Maitland to drown his sorrows with the dodgy antique dealer Anthony Marco (genre stalwart Wymark) well known around the antique/occult circuit for acquiring rare items by any means necessary (including theft and probably offering sweet, sweet kisses) who offers him a rare book bound in human flesh (but not that one) for a princely £100 and a packet of Haribo.

"Can you see my bra?"


The book, it seems, is a complete horrible history of the Marquis and his erotically charged occult shenanigans and just to prove the point we get a spooky flashback to see what became of the marshmallow munching MILF from earlier when Pierre's solicitor, Dr. Londe (Coulouris from loads of stuff) turns up to sort out the dead mans affairs.

Oh and after seeing the skull on the shelf, stab the lady to death.

Maitland is understandably  intrigued by the book and excitedly hands over the cash but Marco has an ace up his sleeve.

And by that I mean the actually skull in question, in a Londis bag under his jacket.

And he's willing to part with it for a grand.

Or maybe even 500 quid.


Unfortunately Maitland isn't convinced (I mean let's be honest, most skulls look the same, except mine obviously seeing as I have a fucking huge head) so decides to discuss the proposition with Phillips that very night over their weekly billiards game.

"Put it in me!"

Fiddling self-consciously with his balls Phillips admits to Maitland that the skull is in fact the genuine article as Marco actually stole it from him in the first place but is reluctant to press charges as the skull had spooky powers that took him over and compelled him to purchase over-priced statues at the auction and the like in order to stage a demonic sacrifice style ritual over the next few days.

Sounds legit.

Anyway Phillips is convinced that the evil entity residing in the skull is the same force that compelled the Marquis de Sade to commit all that bad stuff and pleads with Maitland not to buy it.

Now convinced that the skull is worth having, Maitland heads home to prepare a space on the shelf and to take a deeper dive into the Marquis only to be disturbed (during a particularly juicy bit) by a knock on the door. 

Maitland answers only to be confronted by two (tiny) fedora wearing besuited blokes (less men in black more blokes from Barnardos)  who roughly arrest him before bunging him in the back of a police car and driving him to a big house where he's forced to play Russian Roulette by a grinning judge as the walls close in around him and acrid smoke appears from nowhere.

Tho' to be far compared to some of the stuff the police get up to in the UK (I'm looking at you Lesbian Nana - among others) Maitland gets off lightly.

A Lesbian Nana licking piss off John Nettles yesterday.


Suddenly Maitland wakes with a scream, yup it was all a dream but somehow he's woken in Marco's flat (and his trousers are on backwards) so without further ado he sneaks out and hurries home to explain his bedtime absence to his permanently bewildered wife Jane (button-nosed Bennett)and to get the cash to finally buy the skull.

Unfortunately when he returns (again) he finds Marco dead behind the door so quickly hides the skull in a cupboard to collect later before calling the police - who arrive in the form of cult favourites Patrick (WINE?) McGee and Nigel (Jason and the Argonauts, Zulu, Tobruk and The Ipcress File) Green - who conclude that Marco was killed (to death) by a wild dog or a very angry stoat due to his throat being ripped out.

Dirty nailed landlord Bert (Woodthorpe, the voice of Pigsy in Monkey) disagrees with this tho' seeing as he doesn't allow pets in the house.

Which is fair enough I guess.

Not that his opinion matters much seeing as later that night when he returns to retrieve the skull Maitland accidentally kills Bert by pushing him over a banister.

He then heads home to keep watch over the skull in order to see what funny japes it'll get up to.

Cue twenty (very) odd minutes of Cushing gurning and screaming whilst trying to stab his sleeping wife as the skull attempts to possess him...


It is you know.


With a plot (from Robert Bloch's - very - short story "The Skull of the Marquis de Sade") stretched almost to breaking point by producer-screenwriter Milton Subotsky, The Skull is a lean, mean and genuinely nightmarish (at times) thriller that for the most part relies solely on the acting prowess of Cushing (and a couple of really cool 'skulls eye view' moments) to keep the viewers entertained.

And incredibly it works.

A modern - for the time - British-based gothic horror that isn't afraid to channel the likes of classics such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari alongside the then current trend for psychological horror over the supernatural (before cheekily melding the two) to produce a taut and terrifying little thriller that's a forgotten gem in the Amicus crown.

Plus it's a nice wee change of pace to the usual Amicus anthology 'orrors.


Eye son.


Fantastically - and simply -  staged and with fantastic cinematography - the skulls eye view scene are a particularly creepy stand out - whilst Freddie Francis' direction is never better add to that the music by Elisabeth Lutyens' (the first female British composer to score a feature film, fact fans) and you have a perfect example of British gothic horror at it's finest.

And it's just right for a cold, winters watching.