Wild Sex! Gore! Monsters! It’s the twisted, sick and nasty ‘Blood Island Trilogy’!
11:20 am

There I was, 1971, ten years old, bored, and flipping through the newspaper when BAM! It hit me like a ton of bricks! The exact thing my ten-year-old eyes dreamed of seeing: A huge half-page ad with a giant grotesque monstrosity ripping its own head off printed in blood red ink! Dripping red letters screamed BEAST OF BLOOD! I was an avid monster magazine reader then (and now) and even made a slew of my own monster mags. This ad was so very important to me that part of it was used as the entire back cover of “Monster Journal” a one-off handmade on loose leaf paper by a couple of ten year olds (one of them being me, natch). The monster ripping his own head off was the centerfold.

Luckily I somehow still have it. Here’s the front cover, centerfold and back cover:
Having misbehaved, I was punished the whole week this movie played in our neighborhood theater and I never got to see it, cementing it even deeper into my psyche, as it became my own demented folklore in my personal history. That I had to wait at least fifteen years—and for VCRs to be invented—to see it may be hard for young people to grasp in these days of consumer enlightenment, but such was our world back then, and believe me, the rewards were truly that much more rewarding when it took you that long to find something.

Not so strangely enough, this is exactly what these now 54-year-old eyes still dream of seeing. I have been buying a lot of DVD’s of late and was missing one of the “Blood Island” films so I bought a box set that came out called The Blood Island Vacation on Amazon. The so-called “Blood Island trilogy” has quite a convoluted past. Even the box set has four films in it. There are at least three or four other films that also fit into this trilogy.

The Blood Island saga begins in 1959 with Terror is a Man (later retitled Blood Creature, of course).  It borrows its basic plot from The Island of Dr. Moreau—an obsessed scientist on a secluded island experiments with changing animals into humans. But the film is anything but a cheap rip-off. Terror is a Man is surprisingly intelligent, stylish and suspenseful, and from the same creators/directors/producers as the “Blood Island” trilogy: Eddie Romero, Gerardo De Leon and Kane Lynn. But let’s deal with the three main films to start with.
Brides of Blood (1968) begins the way all of the “Blood Island” films do, with our hero John Ashley (long time Hollywood B movie favorite starting out in fifties monster and juvenile delinquent films, graduating to sixties beach party films, doing quite a lot of weirdo flicks in the Philippines in the seventies, and then winding up producing TV shows like The A-Team, etc.), some hot chick with a specific reason for going to the island, some natives and the ships captain all sailing out on a steam ship to the dreaded island. This first film co-starred the ample real life stripper/actress Beverly Hills and 1930’s-1950’s B movie star Kent Taylor as her scientist husband (Kent Taylor was apparently the inspiration for the name of Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent).

They arrive on Blood Island and are met with the usual hostile/fearful islanders. Something weird is going on. Why are these people here? Everyone has their own concept of the monster in this film but to me it looks like a big burnt deflated Michelin Man with fangs and ummm… lipstick?
The big gimmick for Brides of Blood was the wedding ring give-away. Theater managers were encouraged to order hundreds of plastic wedding and engagement rings to give to every unmarried female in the audience.  Hemisphere Pictures even made a special trailer to advertise the rings. I actually have a set of them that were still in the press book for the film that I bought many moons ago. The marketing and advertising for these films is amazing. Wild trailers, including deranged narration from demented doom comedian Brother Theodore on the Mad Doctor of Blood Island trailer (see below), gorgeous posters done by world-class artists (paperback book cover artist icon Charles Copeland on Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Beast of Blood, comic artist Gray Morrow on Brain of Blood) etc.
You can read a great and funny review of Brides of Blood from here. The whole film can be watched for free on Hulu here.

More ‘Blood Island’ after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro
11:20 am
Underground Spookshow: Nick Zedd’s ‘Geek Maggot Bingo’
09:39 pm

Alternate title screen
One of the most enticing things about delving into fringe culture is finding both the gems and scraps that even the underground tries to nudge away with their boot. Nick Zedd, one of the most notable underground filmmakers to have emerged in the past 30 plus years, has created a number of short works that still play film festivals and merit academic criticism. Titles like War is Menstrual Envy and Police State are often bandied about like a seasoned musician’s greatest hits. (Which is not a snark, since both are worth merit.) One Zedd film that is the unloved B side to his better regarded work is 1983’s Geek Maggot Bingo or The Freak from Suckweasel Mountain. The title alone is so gloriously brain damaged or drain bamaged, that it already is going to weed out the less slackful of the art house crowd.

Don’t be fooled by the play on words, since Geek Maggot Bingo has about as much in common with the teenage-surf masterpiece, Beach Blanket Bingo, as The Deer Hunter. The film begins with a quote, featuring lines like “If you cut a face lengthwise, urinate on it and trample on it with straw sandals, it is said that the skin will come off.” It’s attributed to Hagakare, Yamamota Tsunetomo’s centuries old text about the code of the samurai. Unless there’s a hidden metaphor in the film that I missed, this also has about as much to do with Geek Maggot Bingo as any beach or Vietnam war film. But, hey, that is part of the dark ride from Mars journey you are about to go on.

Zacherle being awesome
Like any cinematic carnival ride worth its salt, there is a fabulously macabre host and it does not get much more terrific than the cool ghoul himself, legendary horror host Zacherley aka John “Dinner with Drac” Zacherle. For all of you monster kids, this should be a name that holds a dark, cobweb infested place in your heart. Looking at least twenty years younger than his actual age, Zacherley laughs, mugs and says some intentionally ridiculous dialogue like “Suckweasel Mountain…That’s in Brooklyn I presume!” with warm-hearted yet sarcastic relish.

After that, there’s a colorful beginning credits sequence involving some striking art portraying each character in the film, all courtesy of Donna Death who will pop up later. In true ham-boned 1950’s sci-fi/horror style, we meet the formerly esteemed and currently mad Dr. Frankenberry (Robert Andrews). You’ve heard it before. The brilliant but insane Doctor is obsessed with not only reviving dead tissue but with creating a new super race of enlightened beings. His boss, Dean Quagmire (Jim Giacama), is fed up with Frankenberry’s (groan) “unholy experiments.” It gets better, when the Dr. pulls out the evidence that his research has been fruitful. This “evidence” ends up being one Quasimodo Residue, an adorable white & beige kitten with magic marker markings on its dirty looking fur.

Does such cute proof win the Dean over? Absolutely not, though this leads to the Dean’s best line, where he goes on about how “that poor cat has been humiliated for no reason!” Fantastic.

Fresh out of a job, the Doctor puts an ad out for an assistant, a position quickly filled by Geeko (Bruno Zeus), a new wave looking hunchback with a rich history of assault and murder. Naturally, the Doctor loves Geeko’s resume and he quickly puts his new hire to work. “Do you know anything about prostitution?” segues into Geeko dressing up as a flea bitten hooker, luring a john that fell right off of the “night of the living dorks” truck. Instead of an evening of diseased hunchback loving, Geeko hacks away at the man & takes pieces of the “fresh specimen” back to the Doctor.

Buffy confronting her father
Meanwhile, the Doctor’s tarted up daughter, Buffy (comic singer Brenda Bergman) is nagging him about the basement. More specifically, what exactly is he up to in the locked room. She finds out quicker than you think, since Geeko comes back from his kill in record time, causing the bleach blonde harridan to pass out shrieking.

The average person’s libido would be more than likely quelled after getting a faceful of severed limbs, but Buffy is not your typical All American girl and is quickly sneaking her beau, Flavian (Gumby Spangler, real name), in the castle for some full on starkers, limp noodle soft core shenanigans. But of course, Geeko has to ruin Buffy’s fun and scares the bejeesuz out of Flavian, to the extent that he jumps out of a window?! Running in the woods, still completely nude, he has the misfortune of running into Scumbalina (Donna Death), a Morticia styled vampire who makes lunch with the Warhol-bewigged “actor.”

The Doctor decides to fully satisfy his daughter’s curiosity and has Geeko bring her to the lab. There’s a method to his madness and he goes on a long speech (a specialty of the mad Frankenberry’s!) ranting about how he needs her seamstress skills for sewing up the parts of his creation. He actually convinces her but she sees the monster, who is off screen, screams and passes out. Not catching a break, Buffy is later on visited by Flavian, who bites her but doesn’t fully turn her into a vampire. Just yet. Realizing that a potential vampiric epidemic is on the rise, the Doctor decides to work on his maddest creation yet: The Formaldehyde Man. Along the way, the alcoholic Rawhide Kid (Richard Hell) shows up and in an even stranger twist, so does the the Dean. Will the Doctor be able to save his daughter and the rest of humanity from Scumbalina? Will the Dean find his son? Will the Rawhide Kid find more booze?

Rawhide Kid sings
Geek Maggot Bingo is like one living, creature feature themed Mad Lib. The plot makes sense in only the foggiest of ways, the set and props toe that line between expressionist absurdism and a 3rd grade play and the acting ranges from hammy to laughable. It is these elements that have garnered this film some pretty bad reviews over the years, however, it is actually one of the things I enjoy about it. It’s not only goony, but it knows it is goony. In fact, it thoroughly revels in its ridiculousness, with lots of loving nods to everything from 1960’s sexploiters to B-Horror films from the 1950’s. The special effects, especially with some of the gore and monster design, courtesy of noted effects craftsmen Ed French (Riot on 42nd St, Terminator 2), Tom Lauten (Class of Nuke’em High, King Kong) and Tyler Smith (Tales from the Darkside), are actually quite good, especially taking the uber-low budget into account.

Monster Skeleton!
The cast is a fun, hot mess. Andrews is endearing as the crazed and highly verbose Doctor. He manages to inject some gravitas into his live-action cartoon of a role. Zeus makes a great, pervy assistant and while he doesn’t come into the film until it is halfway over, Hell is pretty funny as the Rawhide Kid. If you ever wanted to see a respected DIY legend in writing and music sing cowpoke songs that lyrically are more on the side of Dada than Will Rogers, this is your film. The fabulously named Gumby Spangler is horrible and is often out-acted by his wig, which is quite terrific. Donna Death doesn’t have a whole lot to do, other than look pretty-menacing.

There’s also a cameo by original Fangoria editor, Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin, doing an impression of one of the magazine’s former writers that is about as accurate as anything else in this film. (I’ll save that surprise for anyone who makes it to the end credits.) Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the glory that is Zacherley. The legendary horror host is as great as he always is here. If you need further proof, seek out his slack-laden appearance on the Uncle Floyd Halloween special or his voice work as Aylmer in Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage.

Geek Maggot Bingo is deliriously stupid and plays out like a strange, acid-laced make out session at your local carnival’s dark ride. It might not be one of Zedd’s more heralded works, but it is a lot of fun and even if you loathe it, you cannot say it is dull.

Posted by Heather Drain
09:39 pm
‘Pulgasari’ - Kim Jong Il’s Comsploitation monster movie in full (with subtitles)

The late Kim Jong-Il was a notorious film fanatic, but did you know that in the 70s he kidnapped a movie director called Shin Sang-ok, brought him to North Korea and forced him to make feature films? The most successful of these films is Pulgasari from 1985, a Godzilla-inspired monster movie-cum-allegory for capitalism run wild.

I was unaware of this incredible story until details of Kim’s life started emerging after the announcement of his death on Monday, but in 2003 Shin Sang-ok spoke to the Guardian about his ordeal:

In 1978, he fell foul of the frequently repressive government of General Park Chung Hee [South Korea], who closed his studio. After making at least 60 movies in 20 years, Shin’s career appeared to be over.

What followed, according to Kingdom of Kim, Shin’s memoir, was an experience that revived his career in an unbelievable way. Shin and his wife were kidnapped by North Korea’s despot-in-training, Kim Jong-il, who sought to create a film industry that would allow him to sway a world audience to the righteousness of the Korea Workers’ Party. Shin would be his propagandist, Choi his star.

Shin’s story is as fantastical as many of his movies. He writes of being caught trying to escape, and spending four years in an all-male prison camp as a result, left to assume that his wife was dead.

Then, just as suddenly, he was brought into the inner sanctum of Kim Jong-il, the would-be successor to his father, Kim Il-sung, who ruled the country for nearly 50 years. Shin’s talents then officially fell to the service of North Korea, and he made seven movies before he and his wife made a breathtaking escape in Vienna in 1986.

That entire piece is well worth reading, it’s fascinating! For those of you wondering what Pulgasari is like, here is the full, 94 minute film (in 9 parts, with English subtitles.) The story of a doll made of rice that comes alive after contact with human blood, and feasts on raw metal, the production values actually aren’t that bad - it’s certainly not the worst obscure B-movie I have ever seen (although admittedly I didn’t make it to the end.) But we will let you decide for yourselves, dear readers, whether Pulgasari is the crowning achievement of the Supreme Leader’s legacy:

Pulgasari, part one

Thanks to Simone Hutchinson!
Pulgasari parts two to nine are after the jump…

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
10:08 pm
Machete Maidens Unleashed: A look at ‘70s Filipino Exploitation Flicks

Mark Hartley—the man who brought you Not Quite Hollywood, the documentary on ‘70s and ‘80s Australian action, suspense and horror b-movies—is back to lay the same treatment on the Philippines. Machete Maidens Unleashed shows how that country became the shooting locale for tons of American-funded monster movies, jungle prison movies, blaxploitation and kung fu hybrids—along with better known shoots like Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which apparently left the land strewn with sets that got repeatedly reused.

Adding to the genre-crazy atmosphere was Prime Minister Ferdinand Marcos’s harsh and corrupt Bagong Lipunan (“New Society”) program of martial law, during which he and his family ruled with the kind of impunity that eventually led to his downfall in the mid-‘80s.

Check the trailer—it’s quite wild—and look for this ‘un soon at yr local movie establishment.

Thanks to Mark Turner for the heads-up!

Posted by Ron Nachmann
01:51 am