2013 Drive-In/Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge! PART 7

by kdlough

After a lull in writing productivity, I realized I had these write-ups sitting in my draft folder. So here they are! Expect more frequent Screening Log updates soon.

20. Gamera vs. Guiron (1969) Genre: Kaiju

This is one of the most atypical and bizarre entries in Daiei Studios’ Gamera series, and one of my favorites! Two stupid little boys are kidnapped by brain-eating alien chicks whose pet is a giant monster with a machete for a head. Gamera, already established by this point in the series as “a friend to all children,” flies through space to save the day. The supporting cast is mostly Daiei contract players you’ll recognize from other Gamera flicks. Filled with all manner of surreal and incomprehensible moments.

One of the most intriguing features of the Gamera series is the over-the-top grotesquery of the monster-on-monster violence, best exemplified by the ending of Gamera vs. Jiger, in which Gamera rips off the bad guy’s leg and beats him to death with it (!). There’s a ton of blood-letting in this one too, with monsters bleeding all over the place and slicing each other up like salami. I watched it with my ~8 nephews recently, and they were very impressed.

21. Warbirds * (2008) Genre: Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie

Holy cow, does this suck. Warbirds is my first time to sit through a Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie and, uh, I wish I hadn’t. A crew of WAC pilots are delivering a new bomber to the Pacific front in the closing weeks of WWII. They wind up getting forced into making a special delivery, transporting an officer and his men on a secret mission; the officer has a secret package to deliver, you see (can you guess what it is??!). But they wind up getting stranded on an island covered with flying dinosaurs. At the end, they blow up the island with an atom bomb (because THAT was the secret delivery! Get it?)

For some reason (it’s because they’re stupid) the costume and make-up folks for this decided that during WWII, ALL women looked like Rosie the Riveter. This means that it’s impossible to tell the majority of the cast apart. Not that you’d recognize anyone here anyway; most of the cast have only no-budget obscurities and TV movie pap to their names. EXCEPT, once again, David Jensen! The specter of Cool Dog continues to haunt me!

22. Black Sunday a.k.a. The Mask of Satan (1960) Genre: Gothic Horror

I had to wash the taste of Warbirds out of my brain somehow, so of course I turned to Mario Bava. This is his “true” directorial debut, after years of uncredited jobs filling in for other directors (most notably Riccardo Freda) when they were fired or quit. It’s also Barbara Steele’s first memorable role, playing both a vampire witch and her identical but much more innocent descendent.

 

Watching The Awful Dr. Orloff last week really put me in the mood for this classic; not the first Italian Gothic horror entry, but such a big international success (especially for American International Pictures) that it pushed production of similar films into overdrive. What sets Bava’s work apart from the rest is his obvious enthusiasm for the material, probably the fruit of childhood viewings of the ’30s Universal classics. And that’s not even taking into account his visual sense, which is on full display here. Dark, foggy crypts and spooky mansions are rarely as foggy and spooky as they are here. Dig that 360 degree pan when the hero first walks into the crypt! I can’t see that shot and not think of Sam Raimi’s quote of it in the thoroughly Bava-esque The Evil Dead, while wishing that Raimi’s career had been filled with as many gems as Bava’s. Oh well.

I feel like the mainstream critical consensus is that this is Bava’s best film, or that he never lived up to his potential after this. Bullshit. Personally, I think Kill, Baby… Kill! is his superior entry in the Gothic horror genre, not to mention Blood and Black Lace, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, etc. etc. But still, great movie.

23. Cabin Boy * (1994) Genre: Flop

The movie that killed off Chris Elliot’s already slim chances of becoming a major comedy star, Cabin Boy is a weird little Ray Harryhausen tribute about a Fancy Lad who winds up on a deliberately fake-looking fishing ship full of stinky sailors who all want to kill him. Over the course of their voyage, they get into all kinds of wacky adventures involving mythological creatures. It was near-universally loathed when it came out, and it’s not hard to see why. The direction is terrible; despite the awesome sets and special effects, the cinematography is dull as hell with the half-assed feel of a sketch show. This creates a weird out-of-body experience where you recognize that certain bits or set-pieces are (in theory) “funny,” despite not actually having the effect of being FUNNY.

24. School of the Holy Beast * (1974) Genre: Nunsploitation/Pinky Violence

Were nun initiations really performed in the nude? Somehow I doubt it, but this BEAUTIFULLY SHOT Japanese exploitation masterpiece tells me otherwise. I’m not kidding: every shot is so ridiculously over-considered and stylized that it takes the film into the world of surreal trash. The staging of a scene in which a nun is forced to pee on a crucifix is enough to make Buñuel hang up his hat. The plot, meanwhile, has thankfully slid from my memory.

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