Like a lot of folks, I'm a huge fan of animation in most all of it's forms. I'm particularly fond of stop motion or claymation. Whether in commercials; shows such as: Moral Orel, Robot Chicken, Gumby or the beloved Christmas specials with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the Island of Misfits Toys and all the variations I'm usually curious to check 'em out.
At some point in the 1980's I saw excerpts from Frank Zappa's "Baby Snakes" on television, perhaps Night Flight and that was my first exposure to Mr. Bickford's work. A few years later I tracked down The Amazing Mr. Bickford on vhs and was blown away. The soundtrack is orchestral pieces by Frank Zappa and the visuals are rendered in mind bending and bewitchingly fascinating claymation created by the talented Bruce Bickford, namesake of the film's title. It's a heck of a feast for the eyes, as the surreal scenes continuously morph piece by piece into something entirely transformed. The music often mimicking the on screen activity. It's heady, trippy stuff, and not for the little kids. Out of print, but worthy of viewing. Take a look below.
In 1970 Frank Zappa assembled a new lineup of the Mothers of Invention which featured three members of The Turtles along with some jazz and British musicians. The first release by this new combo was Frank Zappa's solo album Chunga's Revenge. This record plus a May 1970 concert where Zubin Mehta conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic along with a rock band, served as a preview of Zappa's intended film. He presented multiple audio tapes, a ten page treatment, and media clippings to United Artists and this pitch resulted in the studio giving Zappa $650,000 to create the film.
Initial filming took place at Pinewood Studios in the UK. Along with the new Mothers of Invention, musical celebrities Ringo Starr and Keith Moon were also part of the proceedings. Interesting to note that 200 Motels was lensed entirely on videotape and then blown up to 35mm film using a Technicolor film printer used by the BBC.
02. Best Goodbye
04. Gone Away
06. Number Three
08. Lean Into It
09. Deep Space
11. Big Bad Days
12. Man In The Trees
13. Seasons Of Wither
15. Shake Loose
16. Different Ways
17. Bitch Magnet
Frank (Basket Case) Henenlotter's second film as writer/director is 1988s thoroughly entertaining horror/comedy Brain Damage. The movie follows the downward spiral of main character Brian, who becomes involved with a talking parasite named Aylmer. This creature injects a narcotic fluid into Brian's cranium and simply demands that he be supplied with consumable brains in return. It's twisted and sometimes gory while the bodies pile up as Brian feeds his voracious Aylmer habit.
This Aaron Spelling made for television production from 1972, Haunts of the Very Rich, delivers a Twilight Zone-esque premise, a plane load of wealthy individuals suddenly find themselves landing on an island with many more questions than answers, and stretches it out over some 75 minutes. The casting is a true hallmark of the 1970s and features: Lloyd Bridges,
Edward Asner, Anne Francis, Donna Mills, Moses Gunn, Michael Lembeck, and Robert Reed as Reverend John Fellow. A truly odd movie that I first came across when it was re-broadcast in the afternoon during the early 80s. In some aspects this presages Spelling's Fantasy Island series.
One of world famous stuntman and blockbuster director Hal Needham's lesser known films is 1979s comedy/western The Villain aka Cactus Jack. Known for such widely screened movies as Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper, The Cannonball Run, Megaforce, Stroker Ace, and Rad; this film was Needham's lone western and for him a rare under performer at the box office.
The movie plays out as a live action Looney Tunes cartoon with Kirk Douglas as the stand in for the Road Runner. Sadly this was Paul Lynde's final film performance. These other familiar faces round out the cast:
Ann-Margret, Foster Brooks, Ruth Buzzi, Jack Elam, Strother Martin, Robert Tessier, and Mel Tillis.
Allegedly Canada's first horror film, 1961s The Mask is a curious entry into the world of both fright films and 3D features. The plot involves a psychiatrist who becomes the owner of an extremely old tribal mask after a former patient sends it to him before committing suicide. When he tries the mask on, it propels the psychiatrist into a bizarre realm that quickly morphs from purely strange to increasingly disturbing with nightmare like visions. These visions soon begin to take their toll on the psychiatrist, altering his temperament and driving him towards madness.
I first became aware of this cinematic oddity when a still from the film was used on the cover of 1986s highly recommended RE/Search Incredibly Strange Films book. It wasn't long after that I finally got the chance to check out the film when it was broadcast on cable television. Most of the film is shot in standard black and white, but there are portions when a deeply reverbed narrator will remind you to "Put the mask on, NOW!" as all footage within the mask world is presented in 3D. A unique gimmick, the 3D viewers were not the conventional glasses, but instead a cardboard mask somewhat similar to the one in the film.
This interpretation of an age old fairy tale was directed by Jiří Barta. Krysař (The Pied Piper of Hamelin) is an engrossing stop motion-animated Czech film. It's highly stylized wood carved visualizations take inspiration from the dark world of German Expressionism and the lack of understandable dialogue facilitates
The film anthology Three... Extremes (2004) aka Saam gaang yi is a sequel to 2003's Three and presents a trio of horror tales in a genre described by Roger Ebert as "Extreme Asia." Each of the three disturbing tales are handled by a different Asian director.
Hong Kong's Fruit Chan directed "Dumplings," a truly demented + sick story that illustrates one actress's bold quest to stay youthful through the ingestion of very unique edibles. The second story is "Cut," by Korean Chan-Woo Park, who had directed Oldboy a year earlier. Like that film, this story is also one of trauma born from revenge as a horror film director awakens from blackness to the horror of himself and family constrained (his wife in an especially complicated truss of piano wires) by an unknown and angry aggressor. Lastly, "Box" comes the mind of Japanese director Takashi Miike. Two young girls perform in a magic act with their father and jealousy causes serious problems between them. The shorts all live up to the "Extreme Asia" tag and present very twisted and horrific visions of reality.
Canadian director and favorite of mine, David Cronenberg speaks here in footage on 3sat (a public, advertising-free, television network in Central Europe that broadcasts in German) from 2013. He recounts his life and his progress as a film maker in a great interview that is both extensive in scope but very laid back in questioning, with much time allowed for him to expand on his answers.
Directing this 1980 horror film The Unseen, is Danny Steinmann using the pseudonym Peter Foleg. Steinmann passed away in 2012, but along with The Unseen he is remembered in the movie world for writing and directing the 1973 porno High Rise, the 1984 Linda Blair revenge-ploitation vehicle Savage Streets, as well as 1985s Friday the 13th: A New Beginning.
The Unseen follows a freelance reporter and her two gal pals who find themselves having to spend the night in an creepy old house which of course also comes equipped with a menacing and murderous resident. Along with Mrs. Ringo Starr aka Barbara Bach as the reporter, other notable faces in the cast include Animal House's Stephen Furst and veteran character actor Sydney Lassick.
The 1977 film Shock Waves would make a great double feature with Death Ship since they both deal with Nazi inspired supernatural terror on and near the high seas.
First viewed this when it aired on Night Flight in the 1980s. Director Ken Wiederhorn (King Frat, Eyes of a Stranger, Meatballs 2, Return of the Living Dead 2) does a superb job creating tension and terror on a very low budget. Brooke Adams along with horror veterans
Peter Cushing and John Carradine are the most notable faces in the film.
They story follows a group of vacationers who charter a boat to tour, fish, and dive around some Caribbean Islands. The weather becomes odd, the boat collides with a mystery freighter, and the hull is damaged. This forces the crew and passengers to seek refuge on a small island where they encounter Peter Cushing's character and things take a terrifying turn for the worse.
I first got turned on to Fantastic Planet when it aired as part of Night Flight's programming during the 1980s. The film was directed by René Laloux with production design by Roland Topor, written by both and animated at Jiří Trnka Studio. The production itself was handled by French and Czechoslovakian companies and after winning the special jury prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, distribution rights in the United States was picked up by Roger Corman's New World Pictures.
The film's source material was the 1957 French science fiction novel Oms en série (lit. Oms Linked Together) written by Stefan Wul. The film's plot concerns a human like race, known as "Oms" who are existing on the Draags' planet. The Draags are somewhat humanoid is appearance but are much larger and live longer than the diminutive Oms. Some of the Oms are brought into the Draag's homes as domesticated pets but periodically the Oms are hunted and exterminated. A group of Draag children accidentally kill an Om female and take her orphaned offspring home to raise the child. The story continues on filled with curious alien creatures and fauna found throughout the film.
Directed by Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker, Trilogy of Terror, The Winds of War), 1976s Burnt Offerings is remembered by many who caught a viewing of the film during the 1970s. According to IMDb.com trivia "Burnt Offerings is one of Stephen King's favorite horror movies."
Folks familiar with films from the 1970s (and earlier) will recognize many of the actors involved here: Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Burgess Meredith, Bette Davis, and Anthony James as a frightening chauffeur. They are long standing rumors that Bette Davis felt slighted by Karen Black for not affording enough respect to her standing as a veteran actress. This rift caused some minor trouble on the set.
For budgetary reasons the Long Island, New York setting of the novel was moved to California and the Dunsmuir House located in Oakland, California became the principal location for filming. Burnt Offerings was the first film to be allowed the opportunity to film on site. A few years later, director Don Coscarelli would also make great cinematic use of the Dunsmuir House when he used it extensively in Phantasm. Since the story basically concerns a "haunted" house, having such a ready made and impressive set helped flesh out Burnt Offerings.
Released in 1973, The Candy Snatchers is a sleazy movie that follows a crew of three anti-social miscreants who hatch a plan to kidnap a teenage girl on her way home from Catholic school and then make a pile of loot by making her family pay a substantial ransom for her safe return.
The initial scheme goes off well and in short order the girl is grabbed and buried alive in a field, with only a small tube providing her with air. An autistic and mute boy is a witness to the crime but due to his condition cannot communicate this to his parents. Things quickly go south as the kidnappers discover her step father is not the rich dude they assumed he was, in fact he is rooting for her demise since he stands to inherit money in that scenario. The gang fights among themselves as dread and desperation overtake them and eventually lead to a truly nihilistic conclusion.
Umberto Lenzi's 1975 film Eyeball is a curious giallo/proto-slasher movie. Punctuated by a unknown killer, notably dressed in a red hooded raincoat and wearing red gloves, who not only slices and stabs the numerous victims among a tourist group visiting Barcelona, but also gouges out an eyeball as a finishing touch to each murder. Italian soundtrack favorite Bruno Nicolai adds to a threatening atmosphere with a well crafted score.
This grim and somewhat obscure Euro-Western from 1972 provided patrons with a terror mask upon admission to a showing, in case the on screen carnage proved too much to handle they could avert their gaze. Filmed entirely in Spain by director Joaquin Romero Marchent, Cut-Throats Nine shifts the action to the snowy mountain sides instead of the dusty desert local so often used as the backdrop for standard spaghetti westerns.
The story centers on Sgt. Brown, a tough hombre who has to transport seven severely nasty criminals from an active mine to Fort Green for sentencing/jail time. Also along for this ride is his daughter, Cathy, so the seven bad dudes (who are chained together for the voyage) plus the Sargent and his daughter make up the nine referenced in the films title. Further complicating matters, the Sargent eventually reveals to his daughter that he believes one of these seven reprobates was responsible for the rape and murder of her Mom, his wife. Shortly after the group leaves the mine, a gang of robbers over take the wagon in search of any gold being transported away from it's source. This violent confrontation leaves the wagon drive dead, the horses gone, and one of the group now sports a broken leg. Things go from very bad to worse quite quickly and the film has a few tricks up it's sleeve as well.
Extremely violent and gory for it's time, Cut-Throats Nine offers a tale of man versus man coupled with man versus nature that brings to mind the existential struggle of many a Werner Herzog film. Not easy to find, the film is presented below.
This 1971 women-in-prison genre defining film is another jewel in the crown of skilled director Jack Hill. The Big Doll House was shot in the Philippines and features Sid Haig. This movie is also notable as Pam Grier's first major film role. She also contributed to the soundtrack, performing the song "Long Time Woman."
a big fan of reading books, all kinds of art, J.G. Ballard, autumn, Dr Pepper, listening to records, women wearing skirts and high heels, exceptionally weird movies, bike riding, diners and other stuff...