June 7th is National VCR Day! Balladeer’s Blog marks the occasion with some very brief takes on old VHS movies that I’ll probably never find the time to write full-length reviews about.
THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983) – This film is also known as The Alien’s Deadly Spawn. If you’re into less appreciated splatter flicks this is the movie for you! Diminutive creatures (ignore the poster) from outer space terrorize a neighborhood while literally chewing their way through anything in their way, including human bodies. The gore effects are graphic but not extreme, the acting ranges from awful to average and the creature designs may be cheap but the overall package makes this a cult classic. And watch out for that final stinger!
TRIUMPH OF THE CHAMPIONS OF JUSTICE (1974) – Another movie in the Campeones Justicieros series from Mexico. Blue Demon, Superzan and the White Phantom are back in action, aided by Elsa Cardenas as Venus. In their usual way, these wrestlers/ pulp heroes/ superheroes are clashing with their foe Black Hand and a group of evil midgets from another planet (or dimension, it’s hard to tell sometimes). And did I mention that for most of the run time the midgets are INVISIBLE while kidnapping Earth women? Lucha Libre the way it was meant to be – hard-hitting, Dutch-angled and barely coherent!
SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM! (1973) – The sequel to Blacula is almost as much fun as the original. Prince Mamuwalde aka Black Dracula aka Blacula returns and is seeking a cure for his vampiric condition. William Marshall stars alongside THE Pam Grier plus Bernie Hamilton, Lynne Moody and Barbara Rhoades. Only an actor as talented as Marshall could make audiences feel sad for such a derivative near caricature at the tragic climax.
COCKFIGHTER (1974) – The notorious film in which Warren Oates portrays a driven “coach” in the twisted and sadistic world of cockfighting. At one point he even takes a vow of silence, planning to refrain from speaking until he wins the Cockfighter of the Year Award. No, I’m not kidding. If not for the animal cruelty and the serious approach this would make for a dark-humored sendup of standard sports movie cliches but there’s no getting beyond the pointless pain inflicted by this grotesque activity.
KILLER FORCE (1976) – Filmed in South Africa, this unjustly forgotten caper film depicts the brilliant theft of a fortune in diamonds despite monumental security precautions on the part of the owners. Telly Savalas plays the security man, Peter Fonda is the thief, and along for the ride are Christopher Lee, Hugh O’Brian, Maud Adams and Ian Yule. Lots of twists and turns, and even though it’s not an all-time classic it’s far above similar films made in recent decades.
JUDGE DEE AND THE MONASTERY MURDERS (1974) – This made for tv movie was an attempt to launch a series about the legendary Chinese detective Judge Dee. The star is none other than Khigh Dhiegh, Wo Fat himself from Hawaii 5-0! In this mystery set in China during the Tang Dynasty, Judge Dee and his three wives get caught up in a series of murders at a Taoist monastery. In that culture, judges had both investigative AND judicial authority. Also starring Soon-Tek Oh, Irene Tsu, Mako and Keye Luke.
SHOCK TREATMENT (1964) – Roddy McDowall plays a man who gets released from a mental institution and then goes on to kill his wealthy employer. Locked up once again, he becomes the target of greedy predators who don’t believe he really burned the dead victim’s million dollar fortune. Lauren Bacall portrays a ruthless doctor who wants to force Roddy to reveal the truth, while Stuart Whitman co-stars as her competitor – a con-man paid to feign insanity in order to befriend fellow inmate McDowall and get the information that way.