FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Apr 18, 2024

Chilling Classics Cthursday: THE ALPHA INCIDENT (1978)

At last! This week brings us the first of several Chilling Classics from the multi-pack auteur himself, Wisconsin's own Bill Rebane. To call Rebane an acquired taste is...well, I cannot decide if that's an oversell or an undersell. Let's just call it a sell, shall we? The films of Bill Rebane are, in a word, weird. They're often dull affairs only sporadically livened up by some left-field choices that can only be explained with a "Forget it, Jake. It's Rebane-town (Wisconsin)." The more bonkers moments of his films remind me of William Girdler's The Manitou, but with 98% less budget and 100% more crew members with the last name "Rebane." (Seriously, don't make a drinking game out of this, do not do a shot every time a Rebane family member pops up in the end credits, you will die long before they are over.) To the more--or the way less, I suppose--discerning among us, these movies are home-grown, home-cooked charmers. I'm a big fan of another Chilling Classic that'll be covered whenever RNGesus makes it so, but today's flick, The Alpha Incident, was new to me and reader, it did not disappoint! Except in all the ways it's disappointing. But hey, that's Rebane-town, baby!

A space probe returns from Mars, arriving with a guest: a "disease organism" that leaves scientists baffled but yours truly delighted as this laboratory uses hamsters for some reason? I don't understand the science of this decision but I do understand the cuteness of it.

As they try to figure out what they've got on their hands, vials of the stuff are put on a train bound for Colorado. When the government agent assigned to escort the package (Stafford Morgan) decides to take a nap, a nosy train worker (George "Buck" Flower, last seen in Chilling Classics Cthursday's Drive-In Massacre) messes with a vial and drops it.  He cuts his hand on broken glass and unknowingly gets infected with a mystery...well, no one knows yet.

 George "Buck" Flower, seen here with his frequent co-star Booze

The train stops at a small station in Moose Point to switch engines. The agent and George "Buck" Flower, apparently the only two people on a whole long-ass train, disembark to wait. The agent finds out what George "Buck" Flower done did, and they, along with three train office employees, end up quarantined at the station as the scientists at the lab race to find a "counter-agent." Eventually the survivors are told one thing only: don't fall asleep under any circumstances because...something bad will happen.

Side note, about 25 minutes into the picture, a buzzing began, so loud that it drowned out the dialogue. For a moment I thought it might be a new addition to the film's Casio-flavored sci-fi "soundtrack," but then I realized that it was the disc and that the buzzing may never end so, full disclosure: I watched the rest of it on Tubi. On the downside, I had to suffer through some commercials for diapers and psoriasis medication. On the upside, Tubi has what I assume is the transfer from the Arrow Blu-ray release (can you believe it??), so I got to see it in its correct aspect ratio and in colors that Mill Creek would never allow me to dream up. I felt like Dorothy stepping into Oz when I got a load of the pinks and blues and a whole Skittles' worth of rainbow in the laboratory and the office of Lieutenant General Poor Man's Raymond Burr in Rear Window! (Please note that his official name is "The Official.")


I would also accept "Lieutenant General Poor Man's Roger Ebert"

Now, a movie full of people sitting around talking doesn't sound very exciting, I'll admit ("Unless it's written by Aaron Sorkin!!" -- you, probably haha lmaoooo). But the dialogue, courtesy of screenwriter Ingrid Neumayer, is rife with that patented Bill Rebane weirdness that had me invested in the small-town drama of Moose Point, as centered on its train station office. Give me a Moose Point night soap stat!

The drama centers around a woman named Jenny (Carol Irene Newell) who comes in to "do the books" at the station every Friday. Yes, it is truly a cosmic joke that she is there today of all days, the day when the train full of space stuff is due. 

After she arrives, her co-worker Charlie (Ralph Meeker) watches her pour herself some coffee and we get this shot, accompanied by what can only be described as "floozy music." Not raucous burlesque or nudie film-esque music. Floozy music. It's...quaint. Which is fitting, in my opinion.

I'm not sure if this is "Bill Rebane film" lascivious or strictly "Moose Point" lascivious, mind. But either way, it introduced what would become the true saga of The Alpha Incident; no, it's not about any "disease organism"s from Mars. It's about the sexual politics and love games of the Moose Point Train Station, which I have yet to figure out, quite frankly. I doubt I ever will. 

By the way, Ralph Meeker, who is ostensibly the closest thing The Alpha Incident has to a "name" actor, isn't given much to do or more than a handful of lines of dialogue until the final ten minutes of this thing, when it all goes off the rails (get it?). We'll get to that, of course. The important thing to note now is that through the whole movie he reminded me of Wilford Brimley as Blair in John Carpenter's The Thing.


Okay, but hear me out: Charlie's co-quarantined co-worker Jack is played by John F. Goff, who was Al Williams (aka Mr Janet Leigh) in The Fog. George "Buck" Flower was also in The Fog. Clearly John Carpenter is a fan of The Alpha Incident and did, in fact, model Blair after Ralph Meeker. Right? RIGHT?! 

In further red string conspiracy board news, John F. Goff was also in Drive-In Massacre AND John Carpenter's They Live, both alongside George "Buck" Flower. Maybe it's not so much that John Carpenter is a fan of The Alpha Incident as he is a fan of The Chilling Classics 12-DVD Collection 50 Movie Pack from Mill Creek Entertainment. Right? Or maybe...maybe...I'm John Carpenter? Hmm, I sure do love video games...the evidence grows and grows.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Moose Point After Dark.

So we've got Charlie ogling Jenny's gams--which go all the way up to here her tasteful knee-length hemline, and Jack incessantly making lewd comments at her. Sometimes she tells him to knock it off, other times she drapes herself all over him. But she insists she's not interested, as she has a big weekend date with Ted Sheffield, a man whom she's been seeing on-and-off. Jack is unbothered and continues to hit on her relentlessly.

For her part, Jenny takes an interest in the government agent, Sorensen, who does not take an interest in her. Not even when she decides to change her clothes and put on makeup! The nerve. The space infection that may or may not be coursing through her veins is bad enough, imagine getting rejected by the man who has been in town for five minutes and is also infected and Jenny, please remember that you are all quarantined and maybe dying?

In light of all of this, she decides to go have sex with Jack in an empty train car. What! It seems that Jenny's phone number is 867-53-OH NO amirite?

She immediately regrets the decision to sleep with Jack, but don't worry, it's not because she feels bad about maybe-cheating on Ted Sheffield. She later reveals that Ted Sheffield doesn't even exist?? He's like a George Glass...? Again I say: WHAT.

See, the Jenny storyline is just part of where the Bill Rebane weirdness comes in.

The quarantined group must stay awake, right? That's part of the whole space infection deal. Well, they can barely pull one single all-nighter before they start coming apart at the seams and Jenny has--or tries to--have sex with most of the men. But no worries: the government very helpfully air drops some amphetamines to them, along with some Slim Jims and plastic bags to poop in. (We don't want the infection seeping into the environment, do we?) It all leads to those final ten minutes I mentioned earlier, ten minutes which are kicked off by poor Charlie starting to doze and...well, let's just say that it's too bad Nancy Thompson hadn't been invented yet, for perhaps she could have reminded him: Don't. Fall. Asleep.



Oh man, that last screenshot really sends me! It's not the end of the sequence, mind you. Trust me when I say that it gets way grosser, but no more realistic. The "Wait...what?" that starts running through your mind won't stop until the whole thing ends on a lousy freeze frame ten minutes later. 

To those of you who are not partial to the character actor-laden cast list or the task of parsing Jenny's sad, small-town love (?) story or Bill Rebane in general, I don't know if those final ten minutes would make sitting through all of The Alpha Incident worth it.  

But as for me, John Carpenter, well. Maybe it's just the "disease organism" talking but I loved it? I can't wait until the next time we get to partake in some Wisconsin weirdness on a Cthursday. I'm a bona fide Rebane-iac and proud of it!

Apr 11, 2024

Chilling Classics Cthursday: FUNERAL HOME (1980)

When I tell you how simultaneously pumped and confused I was when Funeral Home's number came up for this week's CHILLLING installment! (And yes, before you ask: Pumped and Confused is my favorite Linklater film.) 

Pumped because it's Funeral Home, duh. I love it. Like the Millennium Falcon, she ain't got much but she's got it where it counts, kid. Confused because I thought surely I have written about Funeral Home before. But after some furious computer hacking, I discovered that I haven't. Nary a mention to be found. Not even in Final Girl's earliest days, when this place was solely about slasher films and I reported on every one I could lay my greasy eyeballs on, like I was a horror blog version of Cynthia Rothrock as the lady reporter in that movie Lady Reporter. Okay, yes, I could never dare to dream that I am like Cynthia Rothrock on any level. However, should I ever hit my head on a tree, I do hope it results in my becoming psychic as happened to Cynthia Rothrock in Sworn to Justice.

You know what, let me course correct before I end up talking about Cynthia Rothrock all day. I am here to discuss Funeral Home, a film that features a lot but does not feature Cynthia Rothrock. But if it did! Can you imagine--

Funeral Home (aka Cries in the Night) does boast bona fide Canadian slasher royalty in star Lesleh Donaldson of Curtains and Happy Birthday to Me, and director William Fruet, who brought us Death Weekend and most importantly a little something called Killer Party. Talk about a movie I love! And with any Killer Party mention, I am legally and morally obligated to post the movie's theme song, as sung by Jennifer, Phoebe, and Vivia.


Not to get off track again, but what if Cynthia Rothrock sang the theme song to any one of her movies...?

In Funeral Home, Donaldson stars as Heather, a teenager who's spending the summer out in the country at her grandma's place, a former funeral home that she's converted to a "tourist home." For those of us who don't speak Canadian, that means a it's now a bed and breakfast.

On her way to grandma's, Heather encounters the most delightful cat you will ever see in your life. This cat meows and meows and meows all cutely at Heather, and starts to follow her. This is the kind of cat I dream of running into out in the wild or literally anywhere at any time! Okay yes I dream of running into any cat of course, but this is the kind of cat who wants to hang out and JUST LOOK AT HER COULD YOU DIE.



For her part, Heather is not as enthusiastic as I.


She glares, tells the cat to shoo, and literally gets into a man's van just to get away from the cat faster.

Now look, I don't have to personally identify with a character in a horror movie to feel something for them, root for them, or what have you. But Heather's shunning of that friendly-ass cat is so anathema to me that I always find myself saying "Well, I guess I am rooting for the killer, unless of course the killer is Heather, in which case I won't." Mind you, ever since I saw this for the first time I know who the killer is and whether or not it's Heather, but I like to drive the point home regardless.

Grandma needs the extra help since her husband mysteriously vanished a while ago. In fact, there have been several missing persons reported missing after paying a visit to "Chalmers the embalmers" as Grandma and Grandpa were known around town. Now that it's a bed and breakfast tourist home, the influx of guests means more people will "check out" and go missing.

Heather becomes a somewhat-reluctant Nancy Drew, not wanting to believe the less-savory small-town gossip about her grandparents (grandpa didn't "mysteriously vanish," he ran away with his mistress! and he was a mean drunk! and grandma spent time in the hospital after a nervous breakdown!) while also desperate to find out why the cellar is strictly off limits...and just who grandma argues with down there at night.

Despite the numerous suspects Funeral Home throws our way--is it any or all of the Chalmers? their simpleton handyman? a lingering guest?--you don't have to be a genius to figure out who's behind the scant murders in the film. Regardless, there's a lot of fun to be had in wondering what's up in the family basement, and even more fun when the (unsurprising) killer is revealed and has a nice, big flip-out.


I'd say that this movie wears its Psycho influences on its sleeve, but really that's underselling how much Bates DNA there is in the Chalmers family. Again, it's all so obvious that Funeral Home holds few surprises. But hey, it was 1980, man! Slashers were only on the cusp of solely treading down the Halloween path and Hitchcock was still highly influential in the burgeoning sub-genre.


Though Funeral Home never reaches out into the bonkers WTFery of Silent Scream (1979), there's a bit of a commonality between the two films, each with their weirdos and innocents together in a big, odd house o' secrets vibe. In fact, they'd make a delightful double feature, I'd dare say. 

As would China O'Brien and China O'Brien 2, starring Cynthia Rothrock.

But I'll be real for a moment: the best thing about Funeral Home--yes, even better than Lesleh Donaldson or William Fruet or any of it--is the cat, who, as the end credits inform us, is named "Mitten." Yes, while
"Mittens" seems more natural a name, it is, in fact, the singular "Mitten." What a maverick. An iconoclast!  Mitten delivers some of the best cat acting you could hope for, and she is so cute that I will never understand what Heather's problem with her is no matter how many times I see Funeral Home

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go write a spec script about Mitten and Cynthia Rothrock teaming up to fight for justice against all the mob bosses, drug dealers, murderers, and Heathers of the world.


(Pretend that's Cynthia Rothrock holding Mitten)

Apr 5, 2024

awesome movie poster friday - the CHILLING CLASSICS CTHURSDAY edition!

While snowed in yesterday, I looked at the paper sticking out of my typewriter and discovered to my shock that I had not been writing my masterpiece at all! Instead, I wrote awesome movie poster friday over and over and over. Yeah, I made some neat designs with the spacing and format and all, but it was a bit disconcerting nonetheless. Rather than view my fugue state typing as a sign of psychosis I am taking the glass half full approach and viewing it as a sign from Blog that I should foist an AMPF on the world, as it's been a hot minute couple of years since the last one. 

So here select posters from a few of the movies I've watched for Chilling Classics Cthursday so far. Some real bangers in the bunch!

I cannot believe Medusa has such a cool-ass poster. I mean, I can, actually...it's Italian after all, and Italian posters are always preem. But the movie is not worthy. 

That said, it does raise the question: is that a very large glass, or a very tiny woman? 

Also I suppose that's champagne she's soaking in, but it looks like something much less savory.

But overall this poster could only be improved by adding Cameron Mitchell. (You'll find that is true of most things.)


These posters for Oasis of the Zombies are way more sleazy, way more exciting, and way more fun than the movie is, that's for sure.




Hard to believe these all represent the same film, yet in my opinion none of them represent it accurately. Oh well, they all look good and take it from me: looking good is the only thing that matters. *nail polish emoji*




 
Speaking of inaccurate representations, this poster for Crypt of the Living Dead that has it looking like a wacky vampire comedy? Twas the style at the time I suppose (was it The Fearless Vampire Killers's fault?), and it brought to mind the cheeky/sexy poster for Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.



Two movies that were better than I anticipated, one that was not, but three great posters:



Well, I'd better get back to it. A madwoman's ranting doesn't type itself! ...or does it?

Apr 4, 2024

Chilling Classics Cthursday: I EAT YOUR SKIN (1971)

Writer/director Del Tenney's Zombie Bloodbath was shot in 1964 and sat unloved on a shelf until exploitation producer/distributor extraordinaire Jerry Gross snatched it up, changed its title to I Eat Your Skin, and put it on one of horror's most famous drive-in double bills alongside I Drink Your Blood in 1971. I Drink Your Blood boasts satanic hippies, Lynn Lowry, contaminated meat pies, and gore enough to warrant the MPAA's first X-rating. I Eat Your Skin boasts...that it was the movie that played alongside I Drink Your Blood.

Writer/cad/Real Man's Man/Clive Cussler wet dream Tom Harris is content with sleeping with every woman in Miami Beach, but his mega-downer publisher wants Tom to get to work on his next novel--and he's got the perfect location to provide lots of inspiration: a remote place called Voodoo Island. As its name indicates, it's an island where people do voodoo. Also there's a scientist set up there, making use of the island's bountiful venomous snake population to help his development of a cancer cure. Oh, and a hurricane wiped away a lot of the island's men, so there are a shitton of women just waiting for a man like Tom to come along and sex them.

Tom, the publisher, and the publisher's shopping-addicted, poodle-toting wife Coral head to Voodoo Island. It doesn't take long before we get our first taste of voodoo zombie; they're crusty-faced and golfball-eyed, but they eat no skin. (Spoiler.) The local white folk, including the scientist and the "plantation overseer" blame it all on drugs. The locals just do voodoo and drugs to have a good time. Maybe they are doing too many drugs and it's causing the crusty faces and golfball eyes and murderous intentions?


That said, the locals (led by Papa Neybo) intend to sacrifice the scientist's blonde, virginal daughter because virginal blondes make for the best sacrifices. The ever-resourceful, ever chest-baring Tom helps out by promptly sexing her.


Long story short, it turns out that the "plantation overseer" was also Papa Neybo, and he wanted a voodoo zombie army so he could take over the world. The scientist, who had been using the local native population as guniea pigs in his cancer research (!), was forced into helping in this bid for world domination. Before he, his daughter, and Tom and cohorts escape the island, the scientist triggers a machine that blows the island up completely, killing the entire local population and causing untold ecological damage. Hooray!

Look, it's not like you can get mad at a dumb movie from 1964 for having dumb 1964 racial and/or gender politics. But I will admit I let out a sigh or twelve during I Eat Your Skin! Not only is it all that *gestures at Voodoo Island* with regard to race, it's also the kind of movie where men laugh as an angry husband starts beating his unfaithful wife, and the women are present to swoon, to be saved, or to be insulted. As a bonus, it's capped off with some decidedly un-ASPCA animal sequences that I fast-forwarded through. 


As I said though, it's also very dumb. It's got a beach blanket horror comedy tone throughout much of it that feels very 1964 and must have been a letdown to drive-in audiences after the technicolor LSD trip bloodbath of I Drink Your Blood. I guess that's where folks went to concessions to get some lukewarm pizza squares, or maybe they started making out (if they weren't already). 

Hmm. What can I say I liked about it? Well, the music from Don Strawn's Calypso Band was good. One zombie carries a box of explosives (you know the box contains explosives because it's labeled EXPLOSIVE) into a moving plane propeller and there's a big explosion, that was cool.


Oh, and there's the sort of Dollar Tree Saul Bass cool opening credits that promised a much better movie than the one we got. Today's post trivia: I pulled the screencaps for this post from Tubi, as the Chilling Classics transfer is, unsurprisingly, trash. In fact, it's also cropped so much that the title screen reads I EAT YOUR SKI. Ski-eating is weird for sure, but admittedly less menacing than skin-eating. Not that this movie features any skin-eating whatsoever, but you know what I mean.


From one of the great double-bills in 1971 to one of the worst in 2005, when Mill Creek Entertainment put it on a disc with the miserable Medusa--wow, what a journey through cinema history I Eat Your Skin has had. And what a journey through cinema history Chilling Classics Cthursday continues to be. Right, guys?

Guys?

Oh, this is the part of the post where you're all grabbing pizza squares and making out, isn't it.

Mar 28, 2024

Chilling Classics Cthursday: TRACK OF THE MOON BEAST (1976)

When Track of the Moon Beast's number came up for this week's Chilling Classics, I was surprised by how immediately gotdang pumped I was to watch it again for the first time in about 15 years. It's a terrible movie as far as, you know, movies go, but I don't care. I saw it at some point during my youth--it must have been on Creature Double Feature or something--and it deeply terrified me. I can't imagine it ever terrified anyone else, particularly anyone over the age of "child." But as a result, it's one of...well, I don't want to say it's one of my "favorite" movies, because that doesn't quite feel right. It's more accurate to say simply that it's one of my movies. Corny to say, maybe, but I'll say it: it's special to me, this tale of a dude who got hit in the head with a piece of the moon and subsequently turned into a lizard monster on occasion.

(Say what you will about Track of the Moon Beast, but the poster is lit!)

(Also, I'm not sure if it strictly qualifies as "a poster" because it never got a theatrical release. That's how bad it is! It was shot in 1972 but no one picked it up for distribution; it finally started playing on The Tee Vee in 1976 and has been somewhat ubiquitous ever since.)

Whenever I ask for your favorite horror movies for SHOCKtober, there are a few entries that may seem a bit out of left field. Usually, those are the movies that imprinted upon someone in some major way. Perhaps it was the circumstances it was seen a particular time: a bonding experience with mom or dad, a too-much-sugar sleepover, a first date. More often, it has to do with the film, no matter how cheesy or Z-grade, scaring one silly. We can all talk about how The Exorcist or Jaws or Halloween or Some Other Masterpiece kept us awake at night. But what of the Messterpieces that did the same? 

I think it's cool as heck that at for at least one person, this movie--this two-point-something on imdb, mercilessly roasted on MST3K movie--achieved its intended effect. It hit the right notes, and it worked

Watching it now, I go full gramma-in-a-rocking-chair-on-the-porch, shaking my head fondly and wistfully as I remember all Pepperidge Farms-style. Dare I say, though, it still has some value?...maybe?...as a curio. 

The 1970s saw a lot of films on the earnest end of redspolitation, and Track of the Moon Beast certainly counts among their number. No longer portrayed solely as the savages of 1950s westerns, indigenous characters now served to be wise and noble stewards of the land (crying over pollution in PSAs, for example) or wise and noble advisors to white men who are trying to figure stuff out. It's Frank Redbear teaching our caucasian hero about moldy corn in Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. And it's Johnny Longbow helping the police solve some murders in Track of the Moon Beast by showing them "400 year old" "paintings" of an "Indian legend" where someone also turned into a lizard monster. That's right, it's a 400-year-old painting, and definitely not a quick pencil sketch someone did on a pad they bought at CVS!

It's amusing (?) to watch all the ways Track of the Moon Beast does so wrong by Native Americans by trying to do right. Like our heroine Cathy, who heads to a Reservation to take photos of religious artifacts, only to then take one of the artifacts to use in a practical joke. It's all a bit like that frogurt bit from Treehouse of Horror on The Simpsons, you know?

Also I don't know how many indigenous religious artifacts are made out of tin, but I am not an expert so this could totally look like the real deal!!!! Just like the painting.

Also curious: this movie was co-written by Bill Finger, the man who co-created Batman. If you squint, you can see some shared DNA between Track of the Moon Beast and the formative comics and comic characters of yore. "A guy gets hit in the head with a moon rock ("Moon rock, oh wow" -- Cathy) and transforms into a lizard monster" is a premise that easily could have earned a 24-issue run at DC or Marvel in the 70s under the title Moon Beast. (I mean, Moon Knight's first appearance was in an issue of Werewolf by Night in the 70s, it's really not far-fetched at all.) 

The big show-stopper of the film, undoubtedly, is Albuquerque's own Frank Larrabee performing "California Lady" at a Ramada Inn. I love that it was a Ramada Inn. I love that Larrabee was actually performing there and they just...threw it in the movie. And you know what? Justice for Frank Larrabee! "California Lady" sounds like some discount Don McLean and it would absolutely be right at home on the 1972-1973 CD from Time-Life's Singers and Songwriters series. Sadly for Mr Larrabee, the 70s were chock full of sensitive men playing the acoustic guitar sensitively and singing sensitive songs and he never popped off beyond a 6-song EP. But "California Lady" is really theee thing that people take away from Track of the Moon Beast, which is more than Don McLean could ever boast.


Of course, I take away much more than that from it, despite the fact that it boasts some of the most wooden acting you will ever see, dialogue spoken at what feels like 75% speed, and a climactic "explosion" that looks like this:


I've written (and drawn) more about the movie a couple of times, both here and beyond, and who knows, maybe I'll write about it again in another 10 years. At the least I'm sure I'll give it another watch because although it may be terrible, it is mine, and that's rarer than a moon rock.

Moon rock, oh wow!

Mar 21, 2024

Chilling Classics Cthursday: MEDUSA (1973)

Okay, let's get this out of the way right up front: save for the sculpture in the opening title sequence, there is nary a gorgon in sight in the 1973 film Medusa. Not a single snake-coiffed queen to be found! One could certainly call this false advertising and file a law suit, although it's possible that an adept defense lawyer could argue that the film itself is a Medusa, seeing as how it has the ability to turn viewers to stone using the power of absolute fucking boredom.

So if we don't get a proper Medusa in Medusa, what do we get? Well, we get Ritz Cracker pitchman/ anthropomorphized ascot George Hamilton, the actor known more for his perpetual suntan (and his friendship with Imelda Marcos) than for his acting. To be honest, I don't think about George Hamilton very often. Hardly at all, you could say. But when I do think about George Hamilton, I picture him on the cover of People Magazine. I don't know if he was ever actually on the cover of People Magazine--surely he was at some point--but it feels like the place he fits best.


Medusa begins as the dead bodies of a man and a woman are found clutching hands on a bed in a boat that's adrift at sea. The man is Jeffrey (Hamilton), an American playboy who'd been galavanting around Greece. The woman is his sister Sarah (Luciana Paluzzi), who was newly married. "Clutching hands on a bed?" you say. Yes, Jeffrey and Sarah are close. So close and weird, in fact, you will often wonder if they are in love and/or "doing" "it." But it's never really addressed in blatant terms, so I guess it's up to you, the viewer, to decide the true nature of their relationship. How exciting!

Anyway, Jeffrey tells us in a voiceover that he's chilling in limbo, waiting to be reincarnated (I am not kidding), and he will tell us the tale of how he done got dead while he waits.

Jeffrey must be a shit storyteller, because Medusa immediately descends into an incoherent mess of a...well, it's less of a movie than it is a series of scenes that often have no relation to one another, make little sense, and might even have you cursing the day you ever heard the name "Mill Creek Entertainment."

As best as I can gather, Jeffrey needs money to continue his playboy ways. He owes money to a gangster named Angelo (Cameron Mitchell, 50-Pack King and the ONE bright spot in this movie), who also owes money to someone. To get the money, they are searching for a will that someone has absconded with. Also, Jeffrey might be a homicidal killer? This shit is all over the place and going nowhere, I am telling you!

The buzz that Hamilton garnered early on in his career had fizzled by the early 70s, so he turned to producing dreck like Medusa to give himself some starring vehicles. It's fun, admittedly, to keep this in mind should you decide to give this movie a go (please do not give this movie a go), not only because it's just plain terrible, but because you can feel how wonderful Hamilton thinks it all is. He is the very picture of pleased with himself throughout, overacting and treating subjecting us to impressions of Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, and other actors that you'd rather be watching. He relentlessly mugs for the camera, to the point where it's surprising he never actually says "Ain't I a handsome stinker?" and there's no little ding! sound gleaming off of his impossibly white teeth. There are also some scenes featuring his then-wife (and current political pest) Alana Stewart, which seem to be included solely to give them a chance to work and flirt with each other.


Make no mistake, Cameron Mitchell overacts even more throughout Medusa, but--bless him forever--it's in a way that serves...well, if not the movie itself, then surely us viewers. He interacts with other characters mostly through bizarre monologues delivered in strange situations. Don't try to get a handle on crime boss Angelo, he is unknowable and unexplainable! Just enjoy scenes that find him, say, all lathered up and enjoying a Turkish bathhouse, or delivering lines like these:
Old man Hendell's in pain, see? So they spaced him out on morphine, see? So how's he of sound mind, see? How can he write a will, baby, how?

Seeing all those sentences end with "see?" might cause you to think he is talking like a James Cagney-style 1930s gangster, but he is not. He is talking like a 1970s Cameron Mitchell. I love him, and without his presence I actually may have turned Medusa off. I found it to be that much of a slog. Consider this a warning to you, see? Use your time wisely, baby, wisely!

I really do love Angelo though

I will admit, I was a bit jazzed during the opening credits, what, with its NYC coffee cup font, Greek folk song, and promise of a Medusa. Director Gordon Hessler is the man behind some lesser-but-fun Cushing, Price, and Lee joints from AIP (Scream and Scream Again, The Oblong Box), the Bette Davis made-for-TV flick Scream, Pretty Peggy, and the curio/masterpiece KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. Cameron Mitchell was just gonna be the icing on the cake!

But it became quickly apparent that Mitchell was not only the icing, he was the whole entire cake--that there would be nothing else in this movie that remotely approached the entertainment value of any of the other Kessler films I just mentioned. And it didn't take long to realize its most grievous sin, that there was to be no Medusa in Medusa

I realize that it's generally unfair to lay the blame for a disastrous movie on only one person, as there are a shitton of contributing factors and moving parts that can break down at any point between "idea" and "big screen." But I don't care! I'm laying it all on George Hamilton's perfectly tanned, egotistic shoulders. Opa!

Mar 14, 2024

Chilling Classics Cthursday: I BURY THE LIVING (1958)

Here we are, ten weeks into this Chilling Classics thang and I have to say, it's been a worthy endeavor so far. In a box crammed full of 50 movies there has to be some gems, right? It's just statistics! And it's been proven a few times over already, by the forever esteem├Ęd Cathy's Curse, by another movie whose number will be chosen by RNGesus at some point, and by today's lit and legit treasure of a film, I Bury the Living.

If you don't believe me, well, surely you believe one Mr. Stephen King, who hailed I Bury the Living in Danse Macabre, his 1981 foray into the realm of non-fiction. Reading about horror movies--or really, reading about movies in general--has always been as vital to me as the movies themselves, and I ate Danse Macabre the fuck up in my (obligatory) read-all-the-Stephen King teen years. So it's sure nice to check off another one of the works first plopped onto my radar in that book once upon a time. 

"Heart disease is the country's number one killer!"
"Maybe not in Milford..."


Robert Kraft (Richard Boone), the perfectly average and mild-mannered President of Kraft Department Stores, is the newly-appointed chairman of Immortal Hills Cemetery. It's a year-long post, something to do with business and committees and community outreach and you know how it goes for tycoon types. Cemetery caretaker/handyman Andy McKee (Theodore Bikel, who made appearances on Columbo, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Murder She Wrote, and Arthur Hailey's Hotel, so you know I'm in love) shows Kraft a large map of the grounds; a white pin in a plot's location means the plot has been purchased, while a black pin means the plot is filled...with a dead body! (Because that is how cemeteries work.)


Kraft accidentally sticks a black pin on a newly-purchased plot and a few hours later, the purchasers are dead. As he's always been prone to deja vu and manifesting his daydreams (like some early proponent of The Secret or something), he wonders if there might be a connection: can he kill people with the power of the black pins?


After a few more tests, a few more pins, and a few more deaths, it would seem that yes, Robert Kraft is making this happen. While you might expect that he would then, I don't know, eliminate his department store rivals and enemies or something, he just gets bummed out about this terrible power. His guilt is actually rather refreshing! Kraft locks himself away in the map room, wallowing in misery and getting all dirty and disheveled as he tries to grapple with the fact that he's essentially become a murderer, wondering: "Does a man die on his own time, or on the map's?"


I Bury the Living plays out like a really terrific Twilight Zone episode or something penned by Richard Matheson...and then it fumbles at the goal line, drops the ball, and does some...other...sports analogy in its closing minutes that may have you blurting out an "aw man!" or some such. If you don't believe me, well, even Stephen King has talked shit about the ending of this movie. Now I am not sure why I feel the need to back up my opinions with Stephen King's opinions today. I guess she moves in mysterious ways.


But you know what? It doesn't matter that the ending craps the bed, because the rest of I Bury the Living is so damn good. Director Albert Band--yes, the father of Charles Band! And the director of oh, what? Just a little something called Zoltan: Hound of Dracula (aka Dracula's Dog)--makes the absolute most of the limited sets, using special effects and unique shot set-ups to make this movie more stylish and original than a B-movie from 1958 has any right to be. In a word, I Bury the Living looks cool as hell. I'll say it again for the people at the back: this is a total gem of a movie. All hail the 50-pack! All hail Danse Macabre! All hail the map!