Thursday, July 24, 2014

SHE DEMONS 1958

NAZISPLOITATION MOVIE NIGHT # 5 !


"From beauty To BEAST !"




    One of the more entertaining examples of low budget 50's horror 1958's SHE DEMONS is also one of the earlier entries in the "facial surgery horror" genre and along with the same year's FRANKENSTEIN 1970 was one of the earlier movies to reference Nazis in a monster type horror setting. SHE DEMONS has jack booted Nazi mad scientists, Nazi underlings with whips, bongo accompanied jungle dance numbers, female captives turned into pasty faced monsters and lastly (but surely not least-ly) TV jungle girl Irish "Sheena" McCalla, which although while not reaching the excitement levels as hoped for by the sum of these elements is still a fun little "so bad it's good" and plus has some rather lurid stuff lurking around in its (sometimes slow moving) plot.
    MaCalla plays spoiled rich girl Jerrie Turner who along with eventual love interest and nominal hunk Fred Maklin (Tod Griffin), comic relief Sammy Ching ( Victor Sen Yung - Hop Sing from T.V.'s BONANZA and # 1 son from Monogram Charlie Chan's) and soon to be monster fodder Kris Kamana (Charles Opunui) find themselves stranded on supposedly deserted island. After bickering for awhile (Jerrie whines that no one rescued her toreador pants) the castaways settle down for the night, but not before learning via radio that the island is scheduled to be used as bombing practice by the Air Force ! (which no doubt will factor into the climax). At this point Irish does one of those bare back behind a blanket topless scenes and later claimed (according to the booklet in the Image DVD) that director Richard Chuna desperately tried to talk her into a full frontal topless bit to "spice it up for the foreign markets" to which she refused to partake in. For some bizarre reason Fred spends these early scenes shirtless all the while wearing his slacks hitched halfway up his chest (and seems to be constantly holding his stomach in).




    The next day Kris is found dead with a couple of spears in him and a weird looking woman/monster thing with long fingernails, mis-shapened face and fangs is found dead on the beach. Later in one of the more memorable sequences in 1950's low budget horror they spy a bunch of women in native grab doing a wild dance while accompanied by a couple of said women on bongos ! As it turns the women are part of a bunch of showgirls (!) who are being held captive by by Nazi doctor in hiding Col. Karl Osler (Rudolph Anders) who's here along with a few of his subordinates and conducting facial reconstructive experiments.
    In a very long & highly detailed back story Osler relates how he was sent to the island during the later stages of WWII to set up a secret laboratory for reasons never made exactly clear. Now exclusively working on restoring his wife's mangled face (which is kept under bandages), he's kidnapped the woman in order to use them on some sort of electrical face repair apparatus - with the end result them being turned in the title characters (and are kept locked up in bamboo cages). While seemingly to continual fail on the face surgery side of things Osler has cracked the whole perpetual motion problem with help from the active volcanoes on the island (wonder where this is going to end up ??).




    At certain points the captive woman (in their pre She Demon mode) are let out and/or escape from their cages in order to do the wild dance number until their herded back into their cages while those who need to be punished are strung up and whipped by Osler's # 1 henchman Igor (veteran character actor Gene Roth). Eventually Osler begins to take in interest in Jerrie (especially after getting her into a black evening dress) while forgoing his bandaged wife which leads to an orgy of stock footage climax complete with the famous Bronson Cavern locations, mis-matched stunt double fight scenes, cardboard "stone" walls that wobble and a fairly copious amount of blood letting for 1958. The various dancing She Demons all are credited has being "The Diane Nellis Dancers" (!?).
    The German born Anders had a career going back to the early 1930's. He fled Germany after the rise of Hitler and appeared in Chaplin's THE GREAT DICTATOR along with various German spies and military officers thru the 1940's and would later appear in FRANKENSTEIN 1970 (also from the amazing year of 1958 - see below). The 5' 9" McCalla was a famous pin up model (she was a Varga model at one point) and was most recognizable for her leopard skin clad body swinging through the trees in T.V.'s SHEENA QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE which ran from 1955-56. She later become quite a well known western & cowboy artist.




   Director Richard Cunha along with producers Marc Frederic & Arthur Jacobs were also behind MISSILE TO THE MOON (convicts on the moon along with moon babes, giant spiders & rock men !), THE GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN (lightning resurrected giant Spanish conquistador !) and FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER with a pre - Beach Party John Ashley, Playboy Playmate Sally Todd and future Mrs. Jack Nicholson Sandra Knight. These were all (along with SHE DEMONS) released in the watershed year of 1958 that also included THE FLY, THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER, IT - THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMEN, I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, THE BLOB, THE CRAWLING EYE and FIEND WITHOUT A FACE among many others.


  



  





Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rosalba Neri News # 15 (and some other odds and ends of stuff)

A couple of (hopefully coming) new releases and some cool Spanish horror news !!

Bill Olsen over at Code Red DVD has leaked out an interesting hint (in his usual somewhat non sequitur and cryptic fashion) concerning a future release of 1973's THE DEVILS WEDDING NIGHT (ILL PLENILUNIO DELLE VERGINI).

"CRAZY TOM WARD who made 21st century groovy in the 80's save alot of smelly 35mm prints in rusty goldberg shipping cans (stuff from old Dimension pictures !). but behind those smelly prints  lurked and survive a CRI in pristine condition ! CODE RED shamelessly presents this film first time in HiDef ! first time to witness it spanking clean !

throw away that multi-best selling award winning alpha dvd's dupey worn vhs master to pass it off as dvd. this good shit that will limited and be on everyone's bucketlist! (here's a snapshot from lab)"



   Being the U.S. R rated print this will be missing a few seconds of bloody arm stump gore from the climax, which to me is no big deal when you balance it out with possibility of a classic piece of Italian horror along with Rosalba in all her HiDef glory. There's been a few comments on the Code Red Facebook page concerning this footage, but hopefully Bill will move ahead with the release.

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   Over on their Facebook page Raro dropped some more news concerning their blu-ray release of Frenando De Lio's LA BESTIA UCCIDE SANGUE FREDDO (SLAUGHTER HOTEL) with a release scheduled for sometime later this year. It's pretty mind boggling (to me at least) that we're on track for an double helping of Rosalba in HiDef !!


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  And finally Camera Obscura's limited edition 2 DVD set of TOP SENSATION has sold out, but they have released a non limited single disc amray edition containing just the Italian cut. Although officially not a limited edition Camera Obscura's titles have been known to sell out their initial run, so this single disc edition may disappear eventually (and you surely don't want to miss out on this !)

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  Scorpion Releasing have put up some exciting news on their Facebook page with the announcement of the forthcoming blu-ray release of A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL later this year. Also known as IT HAPPENED AT THE NIGHTMARE INN this intriguing 1973 Spanish thriller has been lurking around in those those multi-disc PD horror collections over the years in various running times. Concerning a pair of religiously psychotic sisters who operate a boardinghouse and who's tenants periodically disappear, which prompts Judy Geeson to investigate (with her sister being among the missing). Scorpion have also put up pictures of Judy participating in a taped interview to be included as an extra.


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...And in some excellent book news FAB Press is reprinting Stephen Thrower's NIGHTMARE USA : THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE EXPLOITATION INDEPENDENTS. I was lucky to get one of these during its initial printing and to say that its mind boggling is a huge understatement. At 528 (!!) pages this is truly an awesome piece of work and is guaranteed to make you spend countless hours tracking down hopelessly obscure movies. This has been going for insane prices on the secondary market, so I would suggest that if your interested jump on it pretty quick. And best of all a Vol. 2 (!) has been rumored to be in the works.






Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS (WEREWOLF SHADOW) 1971

AKA THE WEREWOLF VERSUS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN
THE BLACK MASS OF COUNTESS DRACULA





   Having worked our through The Blind Dead films now its time to start on the Spanish horror legacy of Paul Naschy. Most likely due to several factors (more on these this later) Naschy has always had a somewhat spotty and under the radar reputation in regards to American horror fans as he seems to be the last one that's explored when they dive into euro horror. First and foremost among these reasons is that except for one brief glorious time his stuff (and Spanish horror in general) has always been hard to get on this side of the pond in decent editions with most of them regulated to public domain releases of varying quality or mail order through collector video dealers.
   Born in 1938 in Madrid, Spain Naschy was a champion weight lifter as a young man and after knocking around films for awhile (including a small uncredited part in 1961's KING OF KINGS) in 1968 he wrote a screenplay based upon a werewolf figure that in human form was that of a Polish nobleman named Waldemar Daninsky. Securing financial backing it was released in 1968 as LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO (THE MARK OF THE WOLFMAN with its U.S. title being FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR). Originally in 70mm 3D (!!) this would kick start Naschy's highly prolific horror career and he would appear as the tragic Daninsky character in 12 more films (with one being a "lost" film along the way). Along with starring he also wrote the majority of the screenplays for his horror projects, that along with werewolf movies would would also include period horror movies and vengeful zombies, devil possession, Frankenstein's monster, hunchbacks, mummies and resurrected warlocks among other evil manifestations. A lifelong fan of horror movies (especially the classic Universal films of the 30's and 40's) Naschy's films are unique among other Spanish horror in that they featured a characters from "classic" horror monster figures and were influenced by the Universal and Hammer films.




   Released in 1971 LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS (NIGHT OF THE WULPURGIS) is most commonly known by its UK title of WEREWOLF SHADOW and was released in the U.S. as THE WEREWOLF VERSUS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN. It was the 5th movie in Daninsky saga (with the 2nd THE NIGHTS OF THE WOLFMAN being the lost one) and was the first one directed by Leon Klimovsky. The Argentinian born Kilmovsky would go on to direct eight of Naschy's films along with THE VAMPIRES' NIGHT ORGY and THE DRACULA SAGA among others. WEREWOLF SHADOW is often credited with starting the Spanish horror boom as it was a huge hit in Europe and played on American drive-in screens on various dbl. and triple bills.




   Somewhat following the events in 1970's THE FURY OF THE WOLFMAN (it's best not to attempt to follow a discriminable story arc in these films) Waldemar is resurrected by a couple of doctors who remove some silver bullets from his chest and after bloodily dispatching them he sets up house in a large French country estate. Elvira (Gaby Fuchs from MARK OF THE DEVIL) along with Genevieve (the very beautiful Barbara Capell) are traveling in the area searching for the grave of the medieval murderess, devil worshiper and most likely vampiress Countess Wandessa Nadasdy (Patty Shepard from HANNAH QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES and THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN) and they follow the usual Euro horror plot line of city people who dress in loud 70's fashions and venture out in the countryside where they become involved in the supernatural. Having run short of gas the two women take Walemar's up on the offer to take shelter in his home and upon learning of their search for the grave he offers to help them as he's looking for a silver cross/dagger believed to be buried with the countess.




   After comparing notes and a few minutes detective work its discovered that the tomb is located on his property (hey, how 'bout that !) near an an old monastery. After digging up the tomb the silver cross is removed from the countess's remains and in a bit of homage to Mario Bava's BLACK SUNDAY Genevieve cuts herself and her blood falls upon the rotted corpse. We soon have a resurrected countess lurking about and and with her long flowing black dress in the form of Patty Shepard she is was of the more striking images from 70's European horror. In one of the movies highlights the now vampiric Countess Nadasdy stalks Genevieve turning her into a vampire and in a bit true hyperbole (at least as far as the U.S. title is concerned) we actually do get a werewolf vs. vampire climax with the wolfman Naschy battling vampire Patty Shepard (or least her double).
    Like most of Naschy's scripts (and Spanish horror in general) there are several "what the hell" subplots that don't really go anywhere and are there most likely to pad out the running time as here we get a way too long sequence of  Elvira's boyfriend investigating her disappearance (most of which was cut for the U.S. release) and there's a weird bit involving Naschy's mad sister lurking about. Kilmovsky does set up some deliriously atmospheric scenes (mostly involving the female vampires) with slo-motion, billowing dresses and fog along with plenty of bright red blood splashed about. As in all these movies Naschy's werewolf is highly athletic bounding about and smashing trough windows all the while dispensing gallons of drool and spitting up copious amounts of blood after a kill. In addition there's one scene involving a zombie like monk figure that bears a striking resemblance to the Blind Dead whose first movie would go into production a bit later in the same year.




    The South Carolina born Patty Shepard was the daughter of a military man and while he was stationed in Spain she starting modeling which led to roles in movies. She had a very unique look and a presence that was somewhat reminisce of Barbara Steele and although only available in a severely butchered edit her 1972 film THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN is well worth a look. She worked fairly steadily up until the late 80's (appearing in 1988's SLUGS) before retiring. She passed away in 2013.
     As mentioned earlier Naschy has always been rather difficult to gauge as far as horror fandom is concerned as his catalog has for the most part been problematic in regards to finding decent additions and until the Phil Hardy and Michael Weldon books in the late 80's he hardly got a mention in print form. Although to be fair, his movies do have some achingly dull moments and the sometimes overwrought dialogue (especially in regard to the romance scenes) are unintentionally funny even in the subtitled versions. However for fans of Euro horror there is something fascinatingly entertaining about these (especially the Kilmovsky ones) as there's tons of great Gothic atmosphere, lurid color, blood and beautiful women. At the center of everything though is Naschy and as especially in regards to his characterization of the forever tortured soul Waldemar Daninsky its fascinating to watch an actor who truly believed in these movies and his work. I got the chance to meet him at a Fanex convention in 2000 where I purchased his then newly translated autobiography. He was very kind and I remember being a bit saddened at the lack of people there to see him.




    Back around 2005 BCI/Deimos put out a fine series of Spanish horror DVD's including this title and other Naschy films, plus THE LORELY'S GRASP, NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS and THE DRACULA SAGA. Except for a few glitches, these were beautiful transfers and as unbelievably as it may seem in these days of disappearing brick and mortar video stores you could walk into Best Buy and there they were. Unfortunately BCI went belly up before finishing the series, however in the past year there's been rumors of Kino/Redemption releasing some Naschy titles. Code Red DVD released the interesting & different (and sporadically available from Code Red ) Nsaschy/Kilmovsky post-apocalyptic zombie horror/thriller THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK with the always worth a look Maria Perschy. Please check out my fellow blogger Brian at his Cool Ass Cinema for a review of this. Code Red also has out a really nifty dbl feature disc of  THE VAMPIRES' NIGHT ORGY and Naschy's DR. JEKYLL VS. THE WEREWOLF and Shriek Show released FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR. As to be expected there 's been numerous European releases with Artus of France recently announcing some titles.