Monday, August 28, 2017

Rosalba Neri News # 27 - OSS 117 Collection On Blu-Ray

Cool Rosalba Euro-Spy Action in HD !!


    Kino Lorber has announced a Sept. 26 release for this 5 film/3 disc set which among its contents is 1968's OSS: DOUBLE AGENT which features (albeit in a small role) the presence of this blog's favorite actress. 
    Based upon novels by French author Jean Bruce with the OSS agent Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath (which numbered 88 in total !) they were adapted to the screen a series of eight films (along with a recent two film revival) that while staring in 1956 with OSS IS NOT DEAD didn't really kick into gear until the mid 60's with the advent of the James Bond films and the ensuing glut of spy movies.
    The OSS movies (for the most part directed by Andre Hunbelle) are some better of the Bond knock-off genre as they had beefier then usual budgets and are chock full of the usual components - jet setting world-wide locations, beautiful female co-stars, gadgets and evil master criminals. It's fun picking out the various 007 connections (Terence Young was the screenwriter of OSS 117: MISSION TO TOKYO) and they're wonderfully entertaining examples of all things 60's spy grooviness.
     OSS: DOUBLE AGENT features American actor John Gavin (PSYCHO) in the title role who replaced Czech born Frederick Stafford from the previous two films. A plastic surgery plot point was worked into the story which was an idea originally broached for ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. The film contains an amazing cast of supporting players (including a couple with past and future 007 linage) including Curt Jurgens (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), Luciana Paluzzi (THUNDERBALL), Margaret Lee (SLAUGHTER HOTEL w/ Rosalba !), George Eastman (ANTROPOPHAGUS) & Robert Hossein (CEMETERY WITHOUT CROSSES). Gavin's role in this (though unreleased in the U.S. at the time) led to him being considered for Bond in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. 
     Rosalba makes an early appearance (and quick exit) as the classic spy femme fatale who first beds the title character before attempting to off him.




The above screen caps are from the Region 2 DVD.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

THE EVICTORS 1979


"It was a small Louisiana town where people live and love and die 
and no one ever thought of locking their doors.... except in the Monroe house."



     In 1942 a young couple Ben & Ruth Watkins (Michael Parks & Jessica Harper) move into an old farmhouse in a small Louisiana town for Ben to start a new job at the local sawmill. In a sepia tinged prologue, we were shown a bloody confrontation at the same house in 1928 during an attempted foreclosure on the Monroe family. Shown the house by the smiling and strangely creepy local real estate agent Jake Rudd (Vic Morrow) Ben & Ruth eagerly move into the house to begin their new life.
     However soon after wards eerie things begin happening as Ruth finds a threatening note in the mailbox and the locals seem to treat the new couple a bit strangely. There is a seemingly helpful neighbor Ollie (Sue Ann Langdon) who takes a liking to Ruth who being left alone all day begins to feel something wrong as she sees a strange half-seen figure lurking about. Gradually the couple learn that house has a violent history with several past occupants meeting death or disappearing which again we're shown is flashback.





     In 1972 director Charles B. Pierce released THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK which for cinema became the ground zero for the 70's bigfoot craze. Shot on a shoestring budget it made almost $20,0000 (becoming the 10th highest grossing film of 1972) and pretty much made Pierce's career in the coming decade. Moving into different genres he made a "true crime" style thriller with THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976), a period medieval piece with THE NORSEMAN (1978 -Lee Majors as a Viking !) and several interesting western/Native American themed films including WINTERHAWK (1975), THE WINDS OF AUTUMN (1976) & GREYEAGLE (1977).
    Released by A.I.P and coming at the end of this fruitful decade THE EVICTORS has never been one of his more well regarded films - although the main problem with Pierce and his legacy is that the great majority of his work is damnably hard find existing on murky bootlegs. I happen to think that THE EVICTORS stands as one of his best films. It features a solid tight little story with very little padding, likeable main characters and some excellent supporting work with familiar faces.  Like BOGGY CREEK & TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN 1979's THE EVICTORS is also nominally "based upon true events" and at its core is a kind of back to the roots style of horror (unknown intruder lurking in a home) while at the same time looking ahead to upcoming decades' slasher bonanza (even sharing some atmosphere with the same years WHEN A STRANGER CALLS). The film also fits into the southern horror genre with such films as TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and Rob Zombies HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVILS REJECTS with their affirmation of families trying to hold on to their land and lifestyle. Being the 70's and the "horror sells" mantra and the one-sheet ratchets up these elements by showing a shadowed figure carrying a woman out of a creepy house (though to be fair that scene appears in the film).




    Being a big proponent of "magic hour" lighting Pierce shot most of THE EVICTORS at near dusk which gives the film a beautiful golden tone with long shadows and along with his other films it's shot in widescreen (used to full effect) which always gave his films a more substantial look beyond their budget.
    Having the action confined to the house or in the immediate vicinity helps Pierce keep the tension going and eschewing the corny country music songs or comedy relief that popped up in some of his previous films helps keep the proceedings in line also. Showing the various violent episodes of the house's history as spread throughout the films running time works better than having the entire thing lumped in together at the beginning as it helps slowly build the tension.
    Filmed on location in Louisiana it has an excellent period feel to it and Pierce was great at making his movies look a lot "bigger" then they were (the short sequences in the town have a real populated look to them with period cars and folks milling about) and he has a real knack for capturing the language and mannerisms of rural America.




   Though it's not hard to figure out what things are leading up to (especially if you pay close attention to the prologue) there is a nice creepy twist to the finale. Parks and Harper make a very touching couple as they seem to have genuine feelings for each other and attempt to work through things in a natural progression such as when he teachers her to shoot a gun (an act which will play into the climax with dire results). Harper a wonderfully natural actress who put together an awesome resume from the 70's into the early 80's including PHANTOM OF PARADISE (1974), INSERTS (1975), SUSPIRIA (1977), PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1981) and MY FAVORITE YEAR (1982) is great here as she brings a slowing encroaching felling of dread to her character.
     Previously released on DVD as a bonus with their TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN Blu-ray, Shout Factory have now released this as a standalone blu that will hopefully help its stature. Plus, it gets an added thumbs up as does any release that has Dennis Fimple among the cast Be careful of the spoiler filled trailer !!
    Now let's bring on a legit LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK release !!  







    All above screen grabs are from the Scream Factory Blu -Ray




Thursday, July 20, 2017

Rosalba Neri News # 26 LADY FRANKENSTEIN Blu-Ray Update

    Nucleus Films have posted an update on their ongoing restoration of Mel Welles 1974's feminist take on the Frankenstein mythos LADY FRANKENSTEIN. Their upcoming release of this Rosalba classic will clock in with a 99 min. (!!) running time - which is longer then all previously released versions ! They also put up some month watering frame grabs as seen below.  Sept is the projected release date.






Wednesday, July 12, 2017

BRAIN OF BLOOD 1971



     In 1971 after the successful run of Hampshire produced/Filipino shot Blood Island movies, Sam Sherman & Al Adamson's American Independent Productions (who had distributed Hampshire's product in the U.S.) discovered the Filipino production company's schedule booked solid and decided to produce an American version of the studios patented low budget horror.
    With the title alone (and maybe the presence of Kent Taylor from BRIDES OF BLOOD) attempting to tie it into the earlier Blood Island series Sherman and Adamson created a Southern Calif. produced horror product that that in a strangely opposite kind of way tried to hide its American origins and be passed off as a foreign production.
     Zooming in on a still photo of Middle Eastern-type palace we're introduced to King Abdul Amir (character actor Reed Hadley in his last role) of the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Kahlid. Dying of cancer, he's attended by Dr. Robert Nogserian (Grant Williams THE MONOLITH MONSTERS) who revels to Amir's aide Mohammed (Zandor Vorkov DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN) and his "# 1 secret agent"(!!) Tracy (the wonderful Regina "Freak-Out Girl" Carrol from ANGEL'S WILD WOMEN and SATAN'S SADISTS sporting a massive blonde hair-do & white go go boots) that he has a plan to save the beloved ruler. Explaining that he has a "mostly discredited"(!!) doctor colleague in the U.S. who can perform a brain transplant that would allow Amir's brain to live on in a new body, Nogserian proposes flying Amir immediately upon his death to the U.S. for the operation by his doctor buddy Lloyd Trenton (Kent Taylor from BRIDES OF BLOOD and BLOOD OF GHASTLY HORROR) as he explains there's a 15 hour (!!) window in which to remove the brain and successfully transplant it.

  

     At the blink of an eye Nogersian and Mohammed are driving through the canyons of So. California in a station wagon on their way to Trenton's lab with Amir laying in back wrapped in tin foil. Upon arriving at the lab Trenton informs them that he has no ready donor body but insists that this presents no problem as he can remove the brain and keep it alive with his nifty brain life support machine. Operating with his assistant Dorro (small person Angelo Rossitto from MESA OF LOST WOMEN & MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME - and who must push a chair up next to the operating table to assist) he removes the brain and sends his other henchman Gor (7' 4" John Bloom THE DARK and THE INCREDIBLE TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT) out to procure a body. Gor has a horribly scared face which we're shown in flashback as the result of a run in with beer swilling bullies & battery acid.
    Heading off to a hotel (seems Doc Trenton doesn't have guest quarters) Nogersian and Mohammed are forced off the road by an unknown shaggy haired assassin driving a big 'ol Cadillac in chase that seems to take up a 1/4 of the movies running time. Nogersian alone survives and thinking there's something fishy going on contacts secret agent Tracy to come over and help (and gets a buxom blond in line for some monster terror).




     Unfortunately Gor finds a suitable body donor by catching a burglar in act and pitching him off a roof. Scolding Gog after finding the body unusable Trenton comes up with the idea of transplanting Amir's brain into the hulking body of the acid-scared Gor (Hey, what can go wrong here??). Trenton also keeps a couple of women chained up his his dungeon as he periodically needs blood for his experiments along with Dorro being able to terrorize them ever so often (in addition the scene provides for a memorable publicity still).
     Unlike most of Adamson's other films BRAIN OF BLOOD was filmed as a complete movie and is minus his usual trademark of mis-matched footage cobbled together from other acquired and/or aborted projects. This all leads to a kind of cohesive storyline that while more like an actual film is missing the daffy of wackiness of HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS (which is a true mind bogglingly experience to sit through).
      Complete with a bloody brain operating sequence and that along with the presence of Tito Arevalo's score for MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND used throughout, BRAIN OF BLOOD does get some atmosphere of the Blood Island mayhem it was trying to emulate with Regina Carrol more than ably filling in for Angelique Pettyjohn or Beverly Powers. The fetid humid jungle atmosphere is missing however along with blood soaked bare female flesh (and John Ashley).
     Grant Williams (who started out singing in the New York City Opera) was a Universal contract player in 1950's and along with MONOLITH MONSTERS is most famous for the title role in THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN in 1957. Later he opened an acting class in Hollywood with BRAIN OF BLOOD being his last screen credit.
     After being reported missing in 1995 Adamson was found brutally murdered and buried under his hot tub with his contractor later being arrested & convicted for the crime. Along with his horror output he directed some hugely entertaining and brutal biker films including SATAN'S SADISTS (1969), ANGELS' WILD WOMEN (1972) and HELL'S BLOODY DEVILS (1970) along with the Russ Meyer inspired I SPIT ON YOUR CORPSE.








Monday, May 1, 2017

THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE 1959




     Released at the tail end of the 1950's sci/horror nature rum amok cycle 1959's THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE was also one of those that fell into relative obscurity in the coming decades. Largely unseen as for some reason it was absent from the TV "monster kid" boom of the 60's and 70's with only the admittedly ludicrous looking still of heroine Beverly Garland struggling in the grasp of the title creature (a scene that never appears in the film) that popped up in magazines and books. It was finally given a DVD release by Fox in 2004 and more recently as nice Region B Blu (the UK version of which can be had for less then $10.00).
    Often unfairly lumped in with the hipster "so bad, it's great" crowd, that while having it's share of  unintentional laughs (i.e. the alligator man running about in dress slacks and skinny belt) it's a highly atmospheric little production thanks in part mostly to B&W CinemaScope photography by the great Karl Struss (F.W. Murnau's SUNRISE and the 1931 version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE). It also has a highly capable cast including the above mentioned genre favorite Beverly Garland (IT CONQUERED THE WORLD), George Macready (PATHS OF GLORY) and of course Lon Chaney Jr. doing one of his patented late career drunken lout roles.




    Directed by Roy Del Ruth (this was his last feature in a career going back to 1920), it was produced by the independent company API (Associated Produces) as a co-feature for the company's THE RETURN OF THE FLY and was distributed (and probably partly financed) by 20th Century Fox. Most likely one those screen properties whose fruition worked backwards from a title (and maybe even a poster) as you can picture a group of studio-types sitting around a table throwing out various animal names to attach to a project in conjunction with Fly's return. Access to the Fox production facilities also gave both films the use of the studio's CinemaScope process that for double feature play dates made it that projectionists didn't have to change lenses.
    At a large unnamed city clinic nurse Jane Marvin (Beverly Garland) suffers from a lapse of memory as she is missing an entire year out of her life. Given sodium pentathlon by psychiatrists Bruce Bennett (MILDRED PIERCE) and Douglas Kennedy (THE LAND UNKNOWN) she recounts in flashback her marriage to Paul Webster (Richard Crane THE NEANDERTHAL MAN). On their honeymoon and traveling by train we learn in casual conversation that Paul survived a horrific plane crash and is spite of suffering severe bodily injury he bears no scars or lingering injuries. While stopped at a station he receives a telegram that causes him to suddenly bolt from the train and disappear as the train pulls away leaving Jane alone.


  

    Perplexed she spends the next year trying to track him down and finds a clue in the form of a Louisiana address on his college admission paperwork. Taking a train to the desolate town of Bayou Landing she arrives at the depot of the seemingly deserted town. Spying a wooden crate marked "CAUTION Radioactive Cobalt 60" she takes a seat on it (!!) and in a moment hook-handed Manon (Lon Chaney Jr.) shows up and offers her a ride to her destination which is the mysterious Cypresses plantation. After casually throwing the crate of radioactive material in the back of his truck he and Jane head off the remote plantation where Manon works as the handyman/lackey. While driving through the swamps Manon spies a couple of alligator "wranglers" trussing up a live alligator all the while waving his hook about and cursing the alligators who we learn had chomped it off earlier (he even gleefully runs over one as it crosses the road !).
     Arriving at the plantation the owner Mrs. Lavinia Hawthorne (Frieda Inescort THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE) coldly greets Jane and insists she's never heard of Paul Webster. Discovering that she's missed the last train that day Lavinia allows Jane to stay locking her in a bedroom. Later that night Manon drunkenly shots at alligators in the nearby swamp while a maid warns Jane that the house is "deeply troubled"imploring her to leave immediately.
     Discovering other mysterious goings on including "swamp doctor" Dr. Mark Sinclair (George Macready) preforming creepy skin revitalization via alligators experiments and patients swathed in bandages, Jane soon begins to realize whats up with her errant husband and the purpose of  the experiments - a deduction viewers will guess long before hand.  Along the way, in a pretty shocking scene for 50's drive in/matinee fare, she escapes a near rape by Manon.
     Something that's different here is that there's no actual hero in the film with no leading man to save the heroine from the beasties clutches at the climax and it can be augured (in a 180 degree turnaround) that Beverly's "Jane" is the hero of the film. Sure she recoils at the sight her alligator skinned husband but then immediately runs into the swamp after him - with Garland gamely splashing about in mucky water and skipping over live alligators. Macready's Dr. is no evil scientist as he actually cares about his "patients" and deeply worries about the afflictions which his experiments have caused. Chaney's scenery chewing Manon although viscous & mean isn't even a real villain - just a drunken oaf who inadvertently sets in motion the finale.




     When you pay to see a movie titled ALLIGATOR PEOPLE you better see a alligator person and in spite of its maligned main monster the movie does deliver and is no better or worse then what should be expected, plus does add to the film's charm and place in the genre.  The makeup by Dick Smith (no, not that Dick Smith) probably would work best if kept in the shadows (think Val Lewton) with the scaly skin makeup effects on the partial gator men being pretty effective. The entire sequence at the begiining with Garland and the two psychiatrists feels kind of tacked on (the film would work fine without it) and was added to most likely beef up the running time as the film also gets bogged down a bit with lots of running about the swamp and creeping about the mansion.
     Although some sources site Louisiana as a filming location the swamp & plantation setting have a very dusty southern California look to them and were most likely filmed on standing sets (probably at the Fox Ranch in Malibu). With its lighting and B&W scope photography ALLIGATOR PEOPLE has a unique look among the 50's big bug/reptile features. Del Ruth doesn't use the scope screen for any real atmosphere (mostly just having two talking heads on either side of the screen) and it's the lighting which really helps elevate the look of the film.
    The professional cast elevates the sometimes talky script cast with Macready's line readings bringing a depth and seriousness to the proceedings while Beverly as usual jumps into her role with both feet. Garland always played strong resilient women and in her work for Roger Corman, he obviously saw this casting her in such roles as SWAMP WOMEN and GUNSLINGER while even in IT CONQUERED THE WORLD she shoulders a rifle and strides off to Bronson Cavern to hunt down the invader from Venus.