After struggling to organise a weekend we were all available to get together, we finally gave in and a cosy three of us met up at Justin's place to enjoy the 6th (recorded) Weekend of Trash (back story and previous write-ups can be found here – 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5).
After the last marathon's criminal lack of VHS titles and inclusion of far too many 'classy' and known titles to be truly called 'trash', we went all out this time, with 3 tape titles and only 1 known-ish film (maybe 2, I'm not sure how well known Grand Duel is).
I'm afraid my time's a bit restrained at the moment so my write-ups will be a bit brief compared to usual, but I'll still include trailers and concise thoughts on the merits (and otherwise) of each title.
Directors: Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow
Screenplay: Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow, John Penney, Earl Ghaffari & Joseph Stefano
Starring: Rod Steiger, Kim Hunter, David Allen Brooks
Duration: 91 min
Kindred is an 80's creature feature about a scientist, John (David Allen Brooks) whose mother (also a scientist) tells him to burn all of her notes and drops a hint that he might have a brother that he wasn't aware of. Unfortunately it begins to look as though (and the cover gives this away) John's brother isn't quite fully human and might not be full of 'brotherly love'.
It's a very dumb film and it's ropey script makes for a rocky first half, but it actually picks up later on and became quite a fun watch. The presence of five screenwriters was always a sign towards a clunky uneven story (why do we never go back to the evil scientist's basement full of crazy mutants!?) but at least one of the writers knows that the film works best when it doesn't take itself too seriously and throws in a couple of witty lines. The main draw though are the make-up effects. The practical monster and mutation effects aren't realistic, but they're pretty damn cool at times, especially when one woman sprouts gills!
Lizard in a Woman's Skin
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenplay: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, José Luis Martínez Mollá & André Tranché
Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Stanley Baker, Jean Sorel
Country: Italy, Spain, France
Duration: 101 min
Our one fairly well known title was Lucio Fulci's classic giallo, Lizard in a Woman's Skin. Carol (Florinda Bolkan) has recurring, strange, erotic dreams about her lively neighbour. One night however, she dreams that she viscously murders the woman and when the woman is found dead that morning, Carol tries to discover the truth of whether or not she actually did it for real.
Typical of a lot of giallo, Lizard in a Woman's Skin is an extremely stylish, occasionally violent film full of twists and turns. A nicely shot yet daft and dated opening dream sequence made us all a little unsure of the film, but it pulled me back to it's side fairly quickly. The plot's full of holes and it's full of the usual bad dubbing and suspect acting, but it's got a fairly engaging story and some well directed set-pieces that are most impressive. I enjoyed it, but it's no masterpiece.
Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw
OK, so this is actually a short film written and directed by Chris Regan, one of the regular attendees of our trashy movie get-togethers, so I feel a bit odd reviewing it and of course you're all groaning thinking he's going to go all soft and say it's amazing even if it's the devil spawn of Troll 2. Well no, I'm not one to kiss arse just to make people happy, so I'm going to try and be honest about my feelings towards the film.
Luckily it's definitely not the devil spawn of Troll 2 , it's an offbeat and charming comedy that isn't afraid to throw in a musical number half way through. The plot surrounds Jenny Ringo's (Rosie Duncan) quest to sort out the mess made by her boyfriend Gavin's (Lukas Habberton) reckless use of an enchanted monkey's paw. Along the way we meet a magician (Simon Messingham) and the two disturbingly 'perfect' friends that Gavin created using the paw, making for an unpredictable and fun cautionary tale.
The direction is nicely controlled for a debut short and there are some well-composed and visually interesting shots, yet the strength is in it's writing. I hate to use the word quirky, but it fits in this context without feeling as forced as 'quirk' often does in the Sundance-friendly American independents that want to be the next Little Miss Sunshine. Jenny Ringo has more of a Mighty Boosh feel - only less mindlessly silly. My only criticism would be that the actors occasionally let the subject matter down a little. They're not bad performers, but I got the impression a more experienced bunch of comic actors could have really made it sing (did I really just say 'made it sing'? I'm tired...).
Anyway, I enjoyed the film and eagerly await Chris' next project. In the meantime you can all follow the progress of Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw and find out when it's screening near you by visiting it's website at http://www.jennyringo.com/
The Avenger (a.k.a. Nasty Hero)
This was a real odd one. Chase (Scott Feraco) gets out of prison and looks to get revenge on the guys that put him in there. He heads back to the garage where he used to deliver high end cars (and got caught with a stolen one that had been snuck on his lorry) where he finds little has changed. At least before he arrived...
In terms of delivering on it's promises of car chases, action and, well, 'avenging', the film is a massive let down. Strangely enough I still quite enjoyed it though – at least in the 'so bad it's good' sense. Rather than actually beat up the bad guys or chase them down in the Porsche he drives around in, Chase just engages in a lot of male posturing and delivers 'bad-ass' lines to piss off the equally useless villains and get the girl. There are a few set-pieces thrown in, but they're generally lacklustre or get cut off before they get interesting. As a bit of dumb, trashy, 80's nonsense it went down quite well though.
Probably the best set-piece in the film (dubbed into Spanish):
Director: Frank Agrama
Screenplay: Frank Agrama, Ronald Dobrin, Robin Dobria, Fabio Piccioni
Starring: Robin Askwith, Rula Lenska, Valerie Leon
Country: UK/France/West Germany/Italy
Duration: 87 min
From “so bad it's good” to just plain bad, Queen Kong was a real low point. Still a distance ahead of The Roller Blade Seven, this was pretty dire. Starring the British sex-comedy legend that is Robin Askwith, Queen Kong takes the ropey humour from his Confessions Of films and strips away the titillation, leaving us with a really bad and horribly dated 70's 'comedy'.
The plot takes the story of King Kong and rips it off whole-heartedly, just switching the gender roles and putting the odd painfully unfunny spin on the occasional element as the Scary Movie franchise tends to do.
It's so unfunny it becomes sort of funny in the first half an hour or so, but the joke wears thin fairly quickly and it became quite a chore to sit through. The effects look decades behind the 1933 Kong even though it came out over 40 years later and there are dozens of horrifically bad musical numbers, plus a ridiculous feminist slant in it's finale which all add to this shambles of a film. I bet even Askwith, who hardly has a spotless CV, is embarrassed by this car crash. Lovers of films classed 'the worst of all time' should check this out as it's considered one of them, but most movie watchers should steer far clear which isn't difficult as it's pretty hard to find.
The House Where Evil Dwells
A fairly slow moving horror film wasn't the best choice to put on at the end of Saturday night, but I still kind of liked The House Where Evil Dwells. The film opens in 1840, where a samurai comes home to find his wife in bed with another man. He of course chops them both up with his sword and proceeds to commit harakiri. Flash forward to the 1980's and an American family moves into the house of the samurai. Everything's peachy until night falls and the spirits of the three try their hardest to make life hell for these newcomers.
Much of the film is quite bland and a bit dull, but there are enough decent scenes to keep you interested. In particular the opening samurai massacre scene, which makes use of slow motion quite nicely, is very effective. As is a creepy scene where a little girl is attacked by these weird crab/spider things. The bleak and bloody finale gives the film an extra edge too, helping it rise a little above its shoddy performances and sparse, predictable plotting.
The Grand Duel (a.k.a. Hell's Fighters)
I'm a huge Sergio Leone fan - Once Upon a Time in the West is one of my all time favourite films, yet I've not really seen any other spaghetti westerns other than this. A big cheap box set I picked up in America over the summer was my hope to remedy that and I got off to a great start with The Grand Duel. Starring Lee Van Cleef as a lawman not playing quite by the rules in seemingly helping a known fugitive (Alberto Dentice) stay one step ahead of the bounty hunters after him. Then the plot thickens once they get to the town whose patriarch the fugitive was accused of murdering.
The Grand Duel is a great, solid spaghetti western with all the right elements - it's stylish, ultra-cool and full of tense, exciting gunfights (some of which have all sorts of trampoline-utilising acrobatics even!). Like The Avenger it's full of male posturing and macho guys spouting cheesily 'bad-ass' lines, but here the charismatic cast pull it off. There's also an awesome Morricone-esque score from Luis Bacalov & Sergio Bardotti which Tarantino appropriated for his Kill Bill soundtrack. It doesn't quite have the grace of Leone's work, but it's damn close.