Film Review: The Wild Rebels (1967)

Also known as: The Angels of Satan (West Germany)
Release Date: September, 1967
Directed by: William Grefe
Written by: William Grefe
Music by: Al Jacobs
Cast: Steve Alaimo, Bobbie Byers, John Vella, Willie Pastrano, Jeff Gillen

Comet, Crown International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“He’s square baby. Really square. ” – Banjo, “Look, you just keep trying to put that square peg in a round hole and everything’ll be FINE!” – Rod

If a movie is featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, it is pretty much guaranteed to be a total shitfest. There are only a few movies MST3K featured that were probably better than you’d expect but they either featured Godzilla or had something really unique about them. The Wild Rebels isn’t quite at the bottom of the MST3K barrel but that doesn’t mean it isn’t bad.

It is a bad biker picture that came out in an era with a slew of bad biker pictures, many of which were also featured on MST3K. I do like this one, even if I have to be honest and give it a low rating. It is easier to watch than most of the others and maybe I feel a bit of favoritism because it was filmed in South Florida, where I’m from and still live.

But it goes beyond that. In fact, I actually like the big shootout finale in the lighthouse, which I’m pretty sure was filmed at the Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne. I used to go there as a kid and never realized that a movie was shot there, albeit a shitty movie. Still that’s pretty cool but locale aside, the scenes that took place there were much better than the scenes in the majority of the other bad biker pictures of the ’60s. Also, the gun store robbery, while hokey as all hell, was still an amusing sequence.

Look, this is not a technical marvel or a film that is well directed, well acted or really boasts any other positives other than a few fun bits. However, even though it is bad, it is still better than it deserves to be, at least in my opinion and I’ve seen a ton of these crappy B-movie biker exploitation films.

Yes, the rating for this movie is low but it was one of only a few films featured on MST3K that I will liberate from the strong clutches of the Cinespiria Shitometer.

Film Review: Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)

Release Date: August 23rd, 1965
Directed by: Gordon Flemyng
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: The Daleks by Terry Nation
Music by: Malcolm Lockyer, Barry Gray (electronic music)
Cast: Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, Roberta Tovey

AARU Productions, British Lion Films, 82 Minutes

Review:

“How interesting! This is most interesting!” – Dr. Who

Dr. Who and the Daleks is a pretty interesting piece of pop culture. Really, it is an adaptation of the Doctor Who episode The Daleks. It was made in color and released theatrically but this Dr. Who, is not the Doctor Who.

Horror and sci-fi legend Peter Cushing plays this version of the Doctor but he is not an alien Time Lord, he is a human scientist that somehow built his own TARDIS. This isn’t canon with the rest of the Doctor Who mythos but it did get a sequel, which was also an adaptation of a classic Doctor Who episode featuring the Daleks.

This movie gets a pretty bad rap but I think it’s just because it exists as its own thing. Truthfully, it isn’t that bad, if classic cheesy science fiction is your thing. It certainly looks better than the Doctor Who that was on television, at the time. This is in color, unlike the show and it is actually pretty damn colorful, almost like an Italian giallo film from the late ’60s or early ’70s. There is a great vivid use of colored lighting between the emerald green petrified forest to the hokey yet opulent looking base of the Daleks. Plus, the Daleks are colorful and each seems to have its own unique visual flair. Even the humanoid aliens were colorful.

This is the type of film you’d expect to see pop up on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 but it would definitely be one of the better films they could feature. The former MST3K guys who run RiffTrax recognized this, as they did lampoon this film and its sequel.

I have always really like Dr. Who and the Daleks. I get why other people don’t but I feel as if they aren’t giving it a fair shot because it has major differences with its source material. The film, like the show, is full of fun and adventure and well, it has Daleks.

Film Review: Le Samouraï (1967)

Also known as: The Samurai (worldwide English title), The Godson (US dubbed version and Australia)
Release Date: October 25th, 1967 (France)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Melville
Written by: Jean-Pierre Melville, Georges Pellegrin
Music by: François de Roubaix
Cast: Alain Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier

S.N. Prodis, 105 Minutes

kinopoisk.ru

Review:

“I don’t like forcing the pace to extract confessions or get information. I’m very liberal, a great believer in the liberty of the individual… in people’s right to live as they choose. Provided that the way of life they choose harms no one else… and is contrary to neither law and order nor public decency.” – Superintendent

What happens when the French and the Italians get together, take a bit of American film-noir and a bit of Japanese jidaigeki and meld them together into one solid thing? Well, you get this incredible film that gives us a character that is part noir-esque hitman and part drifter samurai.

To call Le Samouraï “unique” is a bit of an understatement.

The film starts by following Jef Costello (Alain Delon) into a jazz lounge. He murders a man there and is seen by a few witnesses, as he makes his escape. Suspects are rounded up by the police, Jef being one of them. The lounge’s resident piano player recognizes Jef but she doesn’t dime him out to the police. Jef then goes to get paid for the hit but he is double crossed and shot by his contact. Jef escapes but now he must uncover who it is that hired him and why his contact shot him, all while evading the Parisian police that are closing in on him and his girlfriend/alibi, Jane.

While this entire film is enhanced by rich and astounding cinematography, the film truly comes alive during the cat and mouse chase scene between Jef and undercover cops through the Paris Metro system. This is a superb sequence and one of the best cat and mouse games ever played out on celluloid. Jef is aware of his surroundings and the game being played and outwits and stays ahead of the law trying to get their hands on him.

This film has style and it has a great tone to match. The characters are cool, the places are cool and the film, itself, is really friggin’ cool. I put this up there with Tokyo Drifter as one of the coolest motion pictures I have ever seen. Strangely, they both came out around the same time, are both foreign films (from different countries) and both have a lot of narrative and atmospheric similarities. In fact, I’m going to have to watch these two movies as a double header one night.

Alain Delon is an attractive man but he plays the role cold and with a dead pan look on his face in every scene. He is too cool for emotion and he doesn’t need his looks and a sexy smile to generate charm and charisma. While he has a few women in his life, over the course of the film, like the jidaigeki samurai hero of Kurosawa films, he is a man of his own and drifts in and out, never getting too attached. However, in contrast to the cinematic samurai, Jef does succumb to his affections in the final moments of the film. But who can fault the French? They really are romantics.

Le Samouraï is damn close to being a masterpiece. It is fine in every aspect of filmmaking and is a great homage to its influences. While it taps into film-noir and jidaigeki, it also taps into a giallo style, which the Italians were yet to fully unleash on the world.

Film Review: Destroy All Monsters (1968)

Also known as: Kaijū Sōshingeki (Japan), All Monsters Attack (alternate), Monster Attack March (alternate), Operation Monsterland (UK alternate)
Release Date: August 1st, 1968 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Takeshi Kimura, Ishirō Honda
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kenji Sahara

Toho, 88 Minutes

Review:

This was the Shōwa era Godzilla film that literally had it all. It was jam packed full of kaiju, had aliens and a ton of kaiju action and really good action sequences that didn’t even involve monsters. It isn’t the best Godzilla film of its era but it is probably the film that is the most fun. And when I am introducing friends to the Shōwa era and old school kaiju pictures, this is usually the one I pop on just for the non-stop action and overabundance of giant monsters.

Usually these sort of films get convoluted by trying to wedge in too much. Look at the modern Avengers movies versus the solo Marvel films. Destroy All Monsters throws a dozen kaiju at you but they all mostly get to shine without stepping on anyone’s toes or complicating the plot. Granted, a few were used minimally but that was due to their rubber suits being in bad condition due to age and the effects of previous films.

While the story here is decent for a kaiju picture, it really doesn’t matter. This is the Royal Rumble of Godzilla movies and all these fantastic creatures come together. Initially, they are controlled by evil aliens and attack different parts of the world. Godzilla even takes out the United Nations building in New York City. Eventually, the monsters are free from alien control, which brings in King Ghidorah because every sinister alien group seems to have a Batphone to King Ghidorah’s study in his stately manor.

The highlight of the film is when all the good monsters gang up on Ghidorah and just kick the living shit out of him. I love Ghidorah but the mud hole stomping finale is friggin’ glorious! Then the film is capped off by our Earth heroes in a cool ship fighting a phoenix. I mean, really? How cool is this movie?

Eiji Tsuburaya handled the special effects, Ishirō Honda returned as director and Akira Ifukube returned to score the film. Honda and Ifukube took a hiatus from the series, after being instrumental in giving it life and longevity. The reason for their return, is that this was initially planned to be the final picture for Godzilla. However, Toho didn’t even make it a year before they were working on All Monsters Attack a.k.a. Godzilla’s Revenge, a universally panned sequel but probably gets a worse rap than it deserves.

This film is set in the future, at least at the time of its release, so the chronology is a bit confusing after this movie but I’ve always seen this as the real final chapter and the Shōwa films that came out after this one as events that happened before this picture. So when King Ghidorah dies here, he really dies and his return later in the series in Godzilla vs. Gigan was set before Destroy All Monsters.

I love Destroy All Monsters. It is not my favorite Godzilla picture but it is exciting for old school kaiju fans.

Film Review: Carnival of Souls (1962)

Also known as: Corridors of Evil (reissue)
Release Date: June 1st, 1962 (San Diego)
Directed by: Herk Harvey
Written by: Herk Harvey, John Clifford
Music by: Gene Moore
Cast: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Art Ellison

Herts-Lion International Corp., 80 Minutes (theatrical), 84 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I don’t belong in the world.” – Mary Henry

Carnival of Souls was a film that I had heard others talk about for a long time but I never got to check it out until it started streaming on The Criterion Channel through FilmStruck. I had heard that it was a great inspiration to George A. Romero and David Lynch and after seeing it, it is hard not to see how it influenced them, as well as other directors.

It is sort of considered a zombie picture, even though it really isn’t. Ghoulish people do haunt Mary, the main character, throughout the film and a big horde of them chases her in the finale but they aren’t traditional zombies or what they would become a few years later with Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. These undead ghouls, however, certainly made a fine template to what Romero would give us.

Additionally, the look of realism, due to the use of guerrilla filmmaking tactics, would go on to inspire the look of Night of the Living Dead.

Carnival of Souls, despite its surrealism and fantastical elements, has a very real feeling to it. The camera is more fluid, there is a lot of movement and each shot isn’t over produced or the product of meticulous tweaking.

You can also see how the more surreal aspects of the film would inspire Lynch. At one point, in particular, when Mary is driving, a ghostly image is superimposed onto the passenger side window. There are also other surreal moments, many of which would feel at home in Lynch’s work.

The story follows Mary, the sole survivor of a car crash. Strange things happen to Mary as she moves on from the incident and tries to restart her life in a new location. There is a defunct carnival in the distance from her new home that calls to her. As the film moves on, we see strange characters appear to her. It all comes to a head when she can no longer outrun the strange happenings.

The film was shot in Kansas and in Utah, at the SaltAir Resort, which stood in for the carnival pavilion, the center of the story’s supernatural activity. The film was also made for just $33,000, which explains why the director had to go guerrilla to get some of his shots done. The financial limitations, however, are why this film looks so unique and would go on to show future indie filmmakers how to create a quality motion picture without using traditional means.

Carnival of Souls might not be a fully appreciated classic but it is a mother figure to many beloved directors’ early films and for opening the door to new techniques and a visual style that would be adopted by countless filmmakers after this picture’s release.

This is a film that displays an uncanny level of craftsmanship and raw talent on many levels. It is also better acted than a picture like this typically is. And ultimately, it is pretty damn significant when understanding what it paved the way for.

Film Review: The Crawling Hand (1963)

Also known as: Don’t Cry Wolf, The Creeping Hand, Tomorrow You Die
Release Date: September 4th, 1963 (Hartford)
Directed by: Herbert L. Strock
Written by: Joseph Cranston, Bill Idelson, Herbert L. Strock, Robert M. Young
Music by: Marlin Skiles
Cast: Peter Breck, Kent Taylor, Rod Lauren, Alan Hale Jr., Allison Hayes, Sirry Steffen, Arline Judge

Joseph F. Robertson Productions, 89 Minutes

Review:

These really shitty no budget horror/sci-fi pictures from the 50s and 60s usually never had enough money to hire a full ensemble of characters. Well, this managed that feat except none of the actors are really notable except for Alan Hale Jr. but this came out a year before he was “The Skipper” on Gilligan’s Island.

The monster in this thing was literally a crawling hand. It was like Thing from The Addams Family except it was still attached to an arm that slowed it down and made it an even less effective monster.

The arm is all that’s left of an astronaut that exploded. However, the arm is possessed by a sinister alien. After a bunch of people are strangled to death by the alien possessed astro-arm, the town is saved by a hungry cat. I would’ve said “spoiler alert” but c’mon, I watch these things so you don’t have to.

The only real reason why this film even sees the light of day, five decades later, is that it was featured in the first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in 1989.

The lighting in this movie is horrible, the acting is worse and the sound is pretty bad too. It is a visibly dark film but that was probably to obscure the monster in an effort to hide the effects, as it was obviously still attached to a human being for most scenes. They couldn’t pull this off with animatronics, as they didn’t quite exist in a really effective way in 1963. And whatever did exist would have cost money, which is something that this film didn’t have behind it.

This is a bad film but it isn’t so bad that watching it get riffed on MST3K isn’t a fun time. It certainly isn’t one of the worst films that was featured on that show. I rather enjoy that episode and this film being the focal point of it.

However, The Crawling Hand is most assuredly shit. And here at Cinespiria, we run these films through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”

Film Review: Monster A-Go-Go (1965)

Also known as: Terror at Halfday (working title)
Release Date: July, 1965
Directed by: Bill Rebane, Herschell Gordon Lewis (uncredited)
Written by: Sheldon Seymour
Cast: Henry Hite

B.I. & L. Releasing Corp., 68 Minutes

Review:

“What you are about to see may not even be possible, within the narrow limits of human understanding.” – Narrator

There are a lot of films that are truly atrocious. This one is worse than that, so I don’t know if there’s a proper adjective to describe it in one word.

This is horrible, even for Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. It may be the worst movie featured on that show and that should say a lot in regards to the type of premium schlock MST3K liked to throw at its audience.

I hate this movie. I hate it like a vegan trapped in a Longhorn’s Steakhouse during a zombie apocalypse. I hate it like a cop hates getting a doughnut box full of celery. I hate it like Hillary Clinton hates penis. I hate it like field mice hate owls. I hate it like an astronaut hates being marooned. I hate it like Gene Siskel hated Roger Ebert whenever he always got the upper hand. I hate it like Tom Brady hates solid balls. I hate it like an intelligent person hates Twitter. I hate it like… well, you get the point.

Herschell Gordon Lewis is the only remotely notable person associated with this film. He is uncredited for co-directing this movie. He would go on to make a ton of crappy exploitation films that gorehounds and sexually depraved misfits would cherish for decades. Films like Blood FeastTwo Thousand ManiacsThe Wizard of GoreThe Gore Gore Girls and others. I heard he’s a really nice and cool guy though. If John Waters likes him, he’s probably alright.

The killer in this film looks like the giant from Twin Peaks but with papier-mâché strips crudely placed on his face. He isn’t intimidating or scary, he just looks like a lanky drunk bald guy. He moves really slow but at least we get to see him creep up on some bikini chicks with decent tushies.

This movie gave me a headache. While the MST3K crew made it as tolerable as possible, it was still hard to get through and I’d prefer never to have to sit through this piss sandwich again.

So this most assuredly should be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer, even though there is a risk of breaking the machine with this massive turd. We’ll run it through anyway, as it is still under warranty for another hundred or so shitty films. So the results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”