Saturday, December 31, 2011

Keep My Grave Open


Keep My Grave Open aka The House where Hell Froze Over
(1976)



Keep My Grave Open would be the last horror film by cult director S.F. Brownrigg, who's first feature was the drive in classic Don't Look in the Basement. Retiring from making movies he showed up a decade later with the generally panned 80's teen sex bomb Thinkin' Big.

Keep My Grave Open is quite a ballsy movie. Not due to the gore, or sex scenes, or exploitative nature of it's content, but by it's attempt to make a psychological thriller about madness and insanity on the miniscule budget it had. Instead of relying on cheap gore and nudity Brownrigg relies on the talent of actress Camilla Carr and his own amateurish, yet unique, directing style to tell this twisted tale of madness.

What it lacks in budget (a light meter, I presume) it makes up for in a very fine performance in leading character Lesley Fontaine, played by Camilla Carr.



We start with a transient who creeps into an old Southern mansion and raids the fridge of booze and food. Soon after we witness his not so grisly death by a sword wielding stranger.

The following morning we're introduced to Lesley Fontaine, the owner of the property.

She seems to have a husband/lover named Kevin in a room upstairs. They have either had a fight, or he is a recluse who will not come out of the room for the coffee that Lesley has just made. She seems upset and obsessed with Kevin's refusal to acknowledge her.

Lesley also has a stable hand for her horses, a young man named Robert. Lesley seems so upset with whatever has been happening with Kevin, that she starts snapping at poor Robert.

The second murder on the property is young Robert's girlfriend. She also dies by the hand of a sword.






It is here in the film that we inexplicably find out who the killer is - Lesley. Why did the movie blow it's load so early on? Surely most slashers keep the killers identity a secret until the end. Keep My Grave Open obviously wasn't following the formulaic horror cliche's. Was this intentional? I wasn't quite sure at this point if I would even care what happened throughout the rest of the film, but I was taken in with it's cheap charm nonetheless.

Slowly we realize that it doesn't matter that they disclosed the identity of the sword wielding killer, because things are about to get weird.

Lesley, who we all know is the murderer now, starts dressing herself up. She sensually puts on makeup in front of a mirror and puts on her best seducing wear. All of this is filmed in a dream like sequence with odd camera angles, weird music, and a fisheye type of lens.




She sneaks into Kevin's room all dolled up and ready to go. We never see Kevin but what we get is a Pov shot of someone making love to her. The shot is one of the most unique ones I've seen in low budget film making.





Using the POV angle, "Kevin" suddenly stops and slowly gets off the bed and abandons her halfway through. We see Lesley beg and plead for him to continue. Cut to a shot of Lesley on her knees begging, and there is no one in sight. This entire sequence is wonderfully strange and seems to confirm what we were beginning to suspect the whole time - there is no Kevin. He's a figment of her imagination.

Throughout the rest of the film we eventually find out that Kevin is/was her brother!! Where is he and what happened to him? Did he ever exist? Did she kill him? Was his body in the house? What's up with the incest angle? What's going on here?

She delves deeper into madness murdering a couple of more people, including a prostitute that she gets for "Kevin."

The movie has gradually gotten so strange by now, that it actually had me hooked by this point.












I recommend sticking this film out to the end. It has a neat little surprise at the end that will leave you possibly more confused, but keeps you thinking about it.


The downside of the movie is the quality of most copies out there. Because it does move slow in some places, when combined with the quality could be hard to watch. But when taken as a whole you're rewarded with a gem of an exploitation that aims to be different in it's approach, and succeeds.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Devils Nightmare

The Devils Nightmare
(1971)




Let me start by saying that I love Alessandro Alessandroni. Here's the theme for Devil's Nightmare, it's awesome:


video

So we have a 1971 Italian/French Satanic/curse movie with a great score and a beautiful succubus played by Erika Blanc.



The beginning of the movie starts out with some stock footage of WWII. We soon learn that a Nazi soldier has a family curse that makes the first born daughter a succubus. He takes the appropriate action by killing a baby he believes to be his first born daughter. Being a Nazi probably helps with this moral dilemma, but he obviously made a mistake because...




We flash forward some years to the soldiers spooky castle which is now filled with stranded guests. We're introduced to the beautiful Lisa, who we soon learn is the Succubus.







Some seducing here, some killing there, cool atmosphere, early seventies aesthetic, some sleaze, some cheeze, some decent camera work, great soundtrack and you end up with a well above average Euro Horror flick.

Oh yeah, Daniel Emilfork was an excellent Satan!


Daniel Emilfork as Satan.




Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kelli Maroney in Jim Wynorski's remake of Giant Gila Monster!

Kelli Maroney, who absolutely makes Night of the Comet:





And Chopping Mall:




Is teaming up with Chopping Mall's director Jim Wynorski to remake the now infamous 1959 movie - The Giant Gila Monster.

It's the little things in life that make me happy. A picture of Kelli as Deputy Sheriff Wilma Power via her blog - http://kelli65.blogspot.com/

Sssssss: Bringing a Touch of Classsssss to genre films.

Sssssss(1973)



So I really needed to add Tobe Hooper's Funhouse to my collection. That's when I stumbled upon a Universal 4 Movie Marathon collection. It contained The Funhouse/Phantasm II/The Serpant and the Rainbow/Sssssss. It was ultra cheap and I loved every movie contained with the exception of Sssssss, which I hadn't seen. I figured they added the PG rated Sssssss to prevent making the package completely awesome. But I was wrong.

By the time I got around to watching it, the first shock was that Strother Martin was the star. Besides being one of the greatest character actors ever, he also played one of the greatest characters ever: The Captain in Cool Hand Luke.

The second shock was how well it was filmed. From the get go, this "B" movie was obviously done by people who knew what they were doing. And looking some of this up, yes, a lot of people involved in the making of this movie had already earned impressive resume's by the time this movie was filmed.

Maybe mad scientist movies aren't your thing, mine neither. Maybe animal movies aren't your thing, mine neither. Maybe the idea of a PG rated movie where a man turns someone into a human cobra sounds like a "so bad, it sounds like a ton of fun if I'm intoxicated" type, well it might be...but it's also a ton of fun while completely coherent.

We start with this nutty mad scientist Carl Stoner (Martin) who studies and obsesses over snakes. He has also come up with a serum that turns humans into king cobra/human hybrids. He studies them, like any good scientist would do and then sells them to a circus freak show.


The good doctor also has a lovely daughter named Kristina (Heather Menzies) who happens to share her fathers affinity for snakes.




In comes David (Dirk Benedict) who lands a job as a lab assistant to Dr Stoner. David and Kristina soon hit it off and become romantically involved. That will soon become a problem, mostly due to the fact that Dr Stoner has infected David with his human/reptile serum.




If someone had described this movie to me before I saw it, I would have cracked up. Of course I would still want to see it, but for other reasons and probably at another time. So I'm happy to say that I popped the disc in without any preconceived notions and I was blown away. Not only is this movie effective at what it sets out to do, the acting was impressive, the real snakes used in the movie were impressive, and the makeup done by John Chambers was impressive!

Yes, this movie is strange. But it's also strangely coherent and isn't self aware of it's ridiculous premise. It plays it straight the whole way through.



Don't believe me? Think I'm over selling it? Consider this:

Leonard Maltin gave Sssssss 3 out of 4 stars. For a point of reference - he also gave The Godfather 3 out of 4 stars.

Now I'm not saying that Sssssss is as good as, or better than The Godfather... I'm just insinuating it.

Trailer:
http://youtu.be/MnasfM3UtDc




Blood Sabbath and Brianne Murphy

BLOOD SABBATH - 1972



Ever find yourself watching a 70's porno and get totally caught up in the plot? Yeah, me neither. But that's how I felt watching the wonderfully bizarre naked witches-in-the-woods-romance-horror-exploitation flick Blood Sabbath starring b movie icon Dyanne Thorne(Ilsa) and future soap opera star Anthony Geary.

First off: this is obviously not a porno. In fact it's quite tame in both the sex and the violence department. The copy that I own is a pretty poor print(I'm not sure that a good print even exists.) But if you can get past a bad transfer of 16mm I recommend you give this strange flick a chance.


Dyanne Thorne as "Alotta"

Now, this movie is super strange for a couple of reasons. First, I'm glad that I'm not the only person who has genuinely enjoyed this ultra low budget tripped out oddity. In fact googling the movie I have seen other reviewers that have broken the film down in trying to describe it's charm, so I won't do that here. The basics:

A man traveling through the woods comes upon a coven of naked witches. Then he meets a water nymph who he falls madly in love with. Then he meets a hobo that tells him to stay away from the nymph. Then the nymph tells him that they can't be together because of the Queen Witch "Alotta" (Thorne). Then he has to give his soul to the Queen Witch to be with the water nymph. There's some boobs, some rituals, a beheading of a priest, a back story about Vietnam, some more boobs, and a conclusion that's just...well, it's a conclusion.

She's a water nymph, why not?


At one point halfway through the movie I got up to use the bathroom and I paused the movie. I actually hit pause because I was interested in what was going on- and no, it's not because I thought I would miss a boobie scene.





When I was finished the flick I went straight to IMDB to check some stuff out and to my delight I learned about the director, Brianne Murphy. Strange that a nudie type movie of this kind would be directed by a female. Even stranger that it would be directed by a future groundbreaking Emmy award winning cinematographer responsible for work over the years as diverse as Little House on the Prairie, to the movie Fatso, to Daytime After School Specials .

Brianne Murphy has quite a record of achievements. Starting out by crashing the opening night of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden in 1954 and performing the entire evening as a clown!! This antic led to publicity that eventually found her becoming a still photographer for the circus, which then somehow led her to Hollywood.

She married the infamous low budget director Jerry Warren, responsible for now mostly public domain bombs like Man Beast and Teenage Zombies. The former had her pulling multiple duties like script supervisor and even slapping on the costume of the Yeti. The latter she was a production supervisor AND played the role of Pam.

She was also married to another no budget maverick, Ralph Brooke. This was the gentleman we can all thank for Bloodlust! and The Right hand of the Devil. Thanks, Ralph...

She was the A.D. on Jayne Mansfield's last movie, Single Room Furnished, and a photographer on Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams.

If all of that wasn't enough she became the first female director of photography on a major Hollywood film and the first female member of the American Society of Cinematographers. And...she also directed Blood Sabbath.

Sadly Brianne Murphy passed away in 2003 of cancer in Mexico. But sadder yet is a shocking lack of information on this pioneer befitting her incredible life and her achievements. Both in B movie history and mainstream Hollywood. Even her IMDB comment page is basically empty.

Read Brianne Murphy's obituary here:
http://www.emmys.tv/news/2003/brianne-murphy-asc-cinematography-pioneer

And Bloodbath is part of a Mills Creek 50 movies pack:
http://www.amazon.com/Pure-Terror-50-Movie-Pack/dp/B003VOVW2C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324991397&sr=8-1