Shitty Movie Sundays: Helga, She-Wolf of Stilberg, aka Helga, la louve de Stilberg

There’s been a fascist takeover in some country, somewhere. The revolutionary government, led by the evil President Steiner (Jean-Charles Maratier) is sending the wives and daughters of political opponents to Stilberg prison, a repurposed 19th century pile of architecture in the rural countryside. To watch over the prisoners and punish them as she sees fit, Steiner sends the titular beauty Helga (Malisa Longo), a true zealot and sadist. For the remainder of the film, viewers get to see Helga and her guards whip prisoners, pull their hair, tie them up in a dungeon, subject them to unnecessary gynecological examinations, sell them for a roll in the hay for the price of two bottles of booze apiece, and force them to receive Helga’s sexual ministrations. And that’s it. There is some insurgency stuff in the final act, but no one is watching this flick for its story. If one is looking for some vintage sleaze from the 1970s, here it is. Just make sure the drapes are closed. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Helga, She-Wolf of Stilberg, aka Helga, la louve de Stilberg”

October Horrorshow: Spawn of the Slithis

Venice Beach, California, looks like it was a rough place in the late 1970s. Urban decay and homelessness abound, and everything looks brown and grey. Such is the setting for Spawn of the Slithis, the 1978 monster flick from writer/director/producer Stephen Traxler. Part Creature from the Black Lagoon and part Jaws, Slithis follows high school teacher/wannabe journalist Wayne Connors (Alan Blanchard), as he investigates a series of brutal mutilations in the Venice Beach area. The first victims were dogs, but it’s not long before there are human victims. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Spawn of the Slithis”

October Horrorshow: Terror (1978)

Sometimes when watching a film, a viewer can tell that the whole project barely held together. We viewers tend to hold that film is an artistic struggle carried out by a single individual. The director has a vision and a story they want to share. This is called the auteur theory of film, and is the main reason we heap praise on directors, at the expense of everyone else involved in a production. Less acknowledged is the reality that film is a business. As anyone who ever worked in an office can tell you, folks are just hanging on by their fingernails, hoping against hope that no one notices how much of the job is just faking it until it gets done. Here is director Norman J. Warren on his 1978 film, Terror:

 

[A] search for a story [in Terror] is in vain…There is no real storyline and very little, if any, logic. We had the money for a low-budget film, but no script and no idea of what film we wanted to make…we made a list of all the scenes we’d like to see in a horror film. We handed the list to writer David McGillivray, who incorporated the ideas into a ‘sort of story.’

That’s an excellent description of this film. There is a plot, involving an ancient curse set upon the Garrick family by a witch, but the plot is just a means to get from one death scene to another. It’s those scenes, fleshed out and very atmospheric, where this film truly lives. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Terror (1978)”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Deathsport, or, You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda

What a gloriously stupid movie. I mean that. Shitty movie fans know the struggle. We mine the depths of Netflix and Prime, the bargain bins at the big box, the lot purchases on eBay. Most of what we find is slag or chaff. But occasionally, one digs up something precious — a film of such mirthful incompetence that it can liven up a whole day. Such is Deathsport.

From way back in 1978, Deathsport comes to us from the Roger Corman stable. He produced this one, while directing duties were handled by Nicholas Niciphor, and later Allan Arkush (although, if the internet is to be believed, Corman did some uncredited work in the director’s chair, as well). Apparently, the shoot was a bit of a nightmare, with the unexperienced Nicophor trying to wrangle of bunch of drugged out loons. Well, their chaos was our gain. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Deathsport, or, You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda”

October Horrorshow: Piranha (1978)

What a classic drive-in schlockfest. From the Roger Corman stable, Piranha could have been just another cheap Jaws ripoff, à la The Last Shark. But Corman hired filmmakers with some genuine talent to write and direct. He was way too tight to give them a budget, but their skills allowed them to weave some shitty gold.

John Sayles wrote the screenplay and Joe Dante directed. This was very early in both their careers, and they have since gone on to greater things. But I wouldn’t call this a humble beginning. By 1978, when this flick was released, Corman had been in business for decades. The flicks he produces are not humble — they are just cheap. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Piranha (1978)”

Stallone Month: Paradise Alley

Before there was Rocky, there was Paradise Alley. That might not make any sense, since Paradise Alley was made two years after Rocky. But back in the mid-1970s, when Sylvester Stallone made his pitch to Rocky producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, this was the screenplay Sly wanted to make. They passed, but according to Sly, they said they would look at any other ideas he had. He went home that night and began to write Rocky. But there was still this screenplay out there, and after the success of Rocky, Sly was able to make this film. Not only did he write the screenplay, he also directed, starred, and, God help us, sang the opening theme song, Too Close to Paradise. All of this is very Orson Wellesian, in that it’s an overindulgent exercise in filmmaking, storytelling, and acting, but it doesn’t have the benefit of being any good. Continue readingStallone Month: Paradise Alley”

October Horrorshow: The Toolbox Murders

There’s nothing quite like a 1970s exploitation horror flick. That’s not a compliment. Often such films can be entertaining if there’s a sick spot a viewer needs to scratch, but just as often it can leave a viewer feeling a little filthy by the time the credits roll. Such is the case with today’s film. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Toolbox Murders”

The Empty Balcony: The Wild Geese

Seriously, if you want to see this film with no spoilers, do not watch this trailer.

Two years ago, the makers of the film Drive were sued, the claimant arguing that she was deceived into paying to see the film by a misleading trailer. Movie trailers that fib a little bit about plot, and even genre, are not all that uncommon. Besides the trailer for Drive, the trailer for Dead Presidents also made the movie it represented seem like a taut action thriller, which it was not. But trailers like these at least save some surprises for the audience. The trailer for The Wild Geese, Andrew V. McLaglen’s film from 1978, is just a condensed version of the film. It contains so many spoilers that there is hardly any reason to see the movie at all. The kicker is, by so drastically paring down the film into a four-minute commercial, it’s more tense and gripping than the movie itself, which is quite a feat, as it happens. Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: The Wild Geese”

October Horrorshow: I Spit on Your Grave

Beware cheap horror films with awesome titles. Growing up a horror fan, I had seen the VHS box of I Spit on Your Grave many times at the local video store in the sci-fi/horror section. It screamed cheapness, and did nothing to make it stand out among such fare as My Bloody Valentine or I Dismember Mama. So I always passed it up. I’ve seen it now, and while it didn’t make me wish I could claw out my eyes, or that I could build a time machine and go back to warn myself away from watching it (The Human Centipede), I do believe my life is not one whit better for having seen it. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: I Spit on Your Grave”

October Horrorshow: Dawn of the Dead

It’s October once again. The leaves are changing, the humidity is low, and the air is full of the smell of blood. That’s right, October is the month of Halloween, and also when film buffs the world over celebrate the greatest genre of film — horror. Missile Test has joined in the celebration, dedicating the entire month of October to watching and reviewing horror films. The good. The bad. The putrid. There’s no rhyme or reason here. If it bleeds, it leads. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Dawn of the Dead”