And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


This Island Earth (1955)
The exposed brain makes him more powerful. It's not a weakness in any way whatsoever.

The exposed brain makes him more powerful. It’s not a weakness in any way whatsoever.

…is another sci-fi film eclipsed in fame by a fragment of it’s own iconography. “Everyone” “knows” the image to your right; you’ll have “seen” it in a thousand places. Possibly a thousand-thousand if you go to any decent number of sci-fi conventions. But can you name that man-in-suit monster without resort to Wikipedia? I couldn’t, until I watched the film again for the first time in far too long…and remembered why it’d been so long in the first place.  I’ll take it over Lady and the Tramp or fucking Oklahoma! any day, but as paragons of its era go, it’s no Day the Earth Stood Still. Or Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Technical movie nerds remember it primarily as one of the last films to use three-strip Technicolor, but as far as technicolor SF goes, War of the Worlds will give you more bang for your buck (literally). So what is it about This Island Earth that I like so much? All the pretty, pretty colors? Am I that shallow?

Cameras that printed color on one strip of film were available as early as 1941, which is where Ken Burns found all that color battlefield footage from World War II. If you watched The War you probably noticed how grainy and soft-focus everything looked. It took almost fifteen years to refine that out of the process, but it happened. That’s why movies from before 1954 look the way they do – all the colors are brighter – they “pop” at you – and I’m willing to bet that was this movie’s primary selling point. It looks, in almost every detail, like a parade of pulp magazine covers. Continue reading

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It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)
I'm sure you've seen this before in a hundred thousand "History of Special Effects" documentaries.

I’m sure you’ve seen this before in a hundred thousand “History of Special Effects” documentaries. Well, too bad, because 90% of the movie is…something else.

Columbia Pictures should give us all hope that we can rise above our station in life. This little Poverty Row studio, which made a name for itself producing comedy shorts in the 30s (including The Three Stooges’ most famous works) had, by the mid-50s, replaced RKO as a member of the Big Studios Club. With everything from Superman cartoons to  Marlon Brando Oscar winners in their catalog, its seems only natural Columbia would try to field a giant monster movie for 1955.

You have to give them credit for going about it the right way – hiring two of Them!‘s writers and a man (now) more famous than either of ’em – the stop-motion animator behind The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Ray Harryhausen. If this film’s remembered for anything, it’s remembered for Harryhausen’s effects. This is the mid-point between his career-defining turn in Beast and the next year’s State of the Art showcase, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers. But Art doesn’t come cheap, so I shouldn’t be surprised all of Harryhausen’s contribution’s are crammed into the film’s last 15 minutes. I was. Unpleasantly so. But I shouldn’t have been.

It Came from Beneath the Sea fired its first warning shot right off, beginning with a Bad Movie Double Down: droning narration played over military stock footage. It’s 1955, after all, one year after the successful launch of the U.S. Navy’s first nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus. This is meant to make the move Relevant to a distracted audience who may not give a crap about anything outside their pathetic little lives. It ends up pointing towards a theme that might’ve ameliorated the many failings of this film, had anyone cared to play that theme out. As Our Humble Narrator says,

“The mind of man had thought of everything – except that which was beyond his comprehension!” Continue reading



Blood Legacy (1971)
(courtesy of guest review – GORELORD)

Not too long ago, that maniacal misfit Dr. Psy Chosis asked me, “Where the hell do you find these things anyway?” Of course, he was referring to my wacky horror/sci-fi movie collection of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Well, I have a variety of sources I like to utilize to help add to the weirdness. Sometimes I hunt around my local flea markets and hock shops. Other times I go out to stores that I know hold some of the stuff I’m looking for. When it comes to an obscure, hard-to-find piece of schlock film making, I contact my good friends at Movies Unlimited, where they have a lot of rare horror and sci-fi. So I usually have no problem finding a fix for my B-movie addiction.

I found this chunk of insane bizarro sleaze in the $5.00 bin at my local hock shop. As they say, one’s man trash is another man’s treasure. Well, whoever trashed this treasure obviously had no taste. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want a hilariously over acted cheesefest featuring brutal bloodbaths and grade Z movie legend John Carradine? Actually, that sentence describes most of Carradine’s films. This one however is a real strange addition to John’s filmography. It’s got a cast full of veteran actors who would probably all consider this one of the weirder movies they’ve appeared in. Of course, if you’ve read some of my past reviews then you’ve probably come to expect this kind of stuff from me. Get used to it! There’s a lot more where this came from.

This one concerns the troubled family of a “dead” millionaire named Christopher Dean (played by John Carradine) who gather at his estate for the reading of a will. In the will (which is a tape recorded message from Christopher Dean), the deceased man states that in order for his four offspring to collect a large inheritance, they must spend a night in his luxurious mansion. If something should happen to them during their stay, the money will be divided among the butler Igor (played by Buck Kartalian), the maid Elga (played by Ivy Bethune), and the chauffeur Frank (played by John Russel). If anything should happen to them, well…

Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that most of this fucked up family aren’t gonna be breathing by the end. The Dean family, which consists of Greg Dean (played by Jeff Morrow), his wife Laura (played by Merry Anders), Victoria Dean (played by Faith Domergue), Johnny Dean (played by Richard Davalos), Leslie Dean (played by Brooke Mills), and her husband Carl (played by John Smith), ain’t your average clan. Especially Johnny and Leslie, who have incestuous desires towards one another. Also, the butler Igor is a crazy sadomasochist who likes to be beaten with a wooden stick. Christopher used to bruise his body with it all the time, much to Igor’s enjoyment.

Someone doesn’t seem to be too fond of the eccentric bunch and begins to prove it in various gruesome ways. It first starts with Greg and Laura’s little dog Chin, who gets too close to the unknown killer and ends up floating in a pond. The local law enforcer Sherrif Garcia (played by Rodolpho Acosta) comes up to the house to investigate and ends up getting violently axed in the forehead a couple of times. His head ends up in the fridge. The director Carl Monson used a brief freeze frame in between axings, which along with some decent gore made the scene more effective. I should say, more effective in a cheesy kind of way.

As usual in films of this nature, I don’t like to give away too much about who gets killed. I will say that there are a few mildly inventive kills, such as a head dunking in a piranha tank and a nasty face stinging by a swarm of bees. Look also for a duel electrocution and just a plain old bullet in the forehead. Something for everyone in the kill department.

As fans of this kind of bargain brand cinema, we crave the terrible dialogue that comes with the territory, and this one isn’t lacking in that. I laughed my ass off when Sheriff Garcia’s car breaks down in the driveway of the estate and he pounds the steering wheel and yells, “Damn it Christopher Dean! You and your kooky family. Hippies ain’t weirdos, you are! Even six feet under. You’re a freak, do you know that?” Or how about when Johnny comments on one of the much used cliches in a horror film and says, “Well, the phone’s dead of course. This is getting to be like some kind of horror film.” I suppose you could call it that, Johnny.

Non-dedicated horror fans who aren’t diehard enough may not want to sit through portions of the movie. At times the movie seems like more of a corny soap opera rather than a horror film. A few scenes drag on for a while as members of the family whine about their dysfunctional childhood’s and attempt to renew old love affairs. Director Carl Monson also attempts to focus quite a bit on the psychological problems of the family members, Johnny in particular. Johnny is constantly tormented by flashbacks of his romp in the sack with his sister Leslie. These flashbacks cause Johnny to act like a demented coke freak and actor Richard Davalos gives new meaning to the term “hamming it up”. The director also tries to give the flashback scenes a few odd psychedelic touches (I guess to keep up with the times), but they just come across as cheap. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

As is the case in a lot of these movies, some of the cast members have past experience in the horror and sci-fi genres. John Carradine being the most obvious, has appeared in all types of horror and sci-fi, from the greats to the most obscure celluloid nightmares. THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), INVASION OF THE ANIMAL PEOPLE (1960), HILLBILLIES IN A HAUNTED HOUSE (1967), BIGFOOT (1970), HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (1973), THE BOOGEY MAN (1980), and THE HOWLING (1981) are just a handful of the nearly 100 horror films the legendary Carradine has appeared in.

Others in the film are also veterans of science-fiction and horror, including Jeff Morrow, who has appeared in: THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955), THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956), THE GIANT CLAW (1957), and OCTAMAN (1971) among others. Buck Kartalian has also appeared in OCTAMAN, as well as PLANET OF THE APES (1968) and CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972). He also teamed up with the director Carl Monson prior to this in the drug movie THE ACID EATERS (1968), which Monson wrote. And also after this in Monson’s Little Shop of Horrors softcore sex remake PLEASE DON’T EAT MY MOTHER (1971).

So there you have it. This one’s a mixed bag. Some may find it tedious, while others like myself will find this brick of moldy cheese quite tasty. Decent gore and goofy acting galore! This one’s still lingering around on video for those interested. Also known as Legacy of Blood (but not to be confused with the film of the same name).

GG