Movie Review: TRUCKER’S WOMAN

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trucker's woman
Super Pix
1975
R

  • A son is sure that his truck driver father’s deadly roadside crash was no accident; he leaves college to take up the old man’s profession and seek clues to determine who is responsible.

In the 1970s, America was obsessed with truckers. It was a pop culture phenomenon that spawned its own fashion, novelty songs, and obsession with CB radios. Oh, and there were several films romanticizing these noble asphalt cowboys. Cannonball Run immediately springs to mind. But, we’re not here to go over a good truckin’ movie. We’re here to review Trucker’s Woman.

Shot in only three weeks, and originally going by the title Truckin’ Man for the first few months of its theatrical release, Trucker’s Woman is probably one of the most 70s things I’ve ever experienced to have come out of that era. And remember, I was born two years prior to this getting released. There are pictures still floating around of me rocking a butterfly-collared magenta leisure suit as a wee lad. Why was the title changed to Trucker’s Woman, you ask? Sex appeal. The distributor figured doing that would result in higher box office returns. Rather than, you know, making a good movie, or something.

The story of Trucker’s Woman, in case you skipped the obligatory movie description blurb up top, involves a middle-aged young man named Mike Kelly, whose truck drivin’ daddy was killed by truck drivin’ bad guys. And so, since there was no other way to get justice for his murdered papa, Mike takes a job truck drivin’ for the same company that employed his dad to investigate and get to the bottom of things. But, the road to vengeance is a long and lonely one, so he makes time to stop at various truck stops and do…things with various truck stop ladies. Which one’s the titular Trucker’s Woman? Probably the one named Karen, who turns out to be the daughter of the eeevilll gangster kingpin at the trucking company he works for, whose goons may be the ones that iced his pop.

So, what we have with Trucker’s Woman is true Z-grade exploitation at its…well, no its finest, in a matter of speaking. It definitely does not deliver on the promises made from the movie poster and cover art for the VHS and DVD releases (especially the Troma edition in the early 80s, but that’s because Troma is Troma). I’ve seen truck driving instruction videos with more action and excitement than this movie has. The editing and cinephotography are choppy and uneven and uninteresting, and the acting is…well, it’s just bad. I’m not sure, but I think the dialogue was ADR’d completely. The action scenes, especially, are laughably bad. I found myself checking my watch several times during this runtime, and that, my tender readers, is not a good indication of quality viewing. If you must watch this, for whatever reason, watch the Rifftrax edition, so you’ll at least get a few intentional laughs out of this.

Movie Review: KISS OF THE TARANTULA

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KISS OF THE TARANTULA
Cinema-Vu
1976
PG

  • John Bradley operates and lives in a mortuary along with his wife, Martha, and daughter, Susan, who collects tarantula spiders and has always been ostracized by her friends because…well, she’s a bit strange. When Susan discovers that mommy dearest is plotting to have dear old dad killed by her secret lover, who is also dad’s brother, she places a tarantula in mommy’s bed while she sleeps. Abruptly awakened by the spider, mom dies of a heart attack. This bizarre little episode apparently puts sweet little Susan over the top. Later as a teenager, Susan uses her pet tarantulas in acts of revenge against her terrified classmates, who have been tormenting her for way too long. And innocent looking Susan doesn’t stop there, making good plot use of her father’s mortuary and her creepy little playmates!

Back when I was 6 years of age, one of my uncles — who is only ten years older than I am — told me that if any kind of spider bit me, regardless of what the size of type, it would kill me. And then he promptly shoved me into a spider web. I remember screaming before blacking out. Good times. Of course, that left me with a low-grade arachnophobia throughout my life.

Of course, over the years, I’ve managed to study up on these nightmare fuel of nature, gaining an understanding of what ones I should actually bug out over (pun intended). It still doesn’t mean that, despite many of the species of arachnids falling squarely in the “harmless” spectrum, I’m gonna be making pets of these things. Or allowing them to live if they invade my bubble.

Which bring sus to this mid-1970s low budget “horror” movie, Kiss Of The Tarantula. this is yet another nature-based movie that, like the Shatner-riffic Kingdom Of The Spiders that would come a year later, uses tarantulas for the visual freak-outs.

So, what we have with Kiss Of The Tarantula is a reworking of the plot from the 1971 movie Willard, only gender-swapped and substituting spiders for the rats. And so, let’s get the pedantic stuff out of the way: Them spiders wouldn’t kill anyone, even if they wanted to. It’s just that they’re the go-to critters Hollywood uses to up the ookie factor. Knowing that the worst thing a tarantula bite can do is give a painful bee-like sting and some muscle and skin irritation, the over-the-top reactions from the victims in this movie, followed by their melodramatic deaths, just stretches the suspension of disbelief. Even if you argue that they died from panic and shock, I would question the credulity of that. Otherwise, the entire community must suffer from high-grade arachnophobia.

Once you get past that, what’s left with Kiss Of The Tarantula is a slipshod exploitation flick that seems slapped together with a micro budget and features a creepy incestuous uncle angle that really didn’t add to the movie, other than an ick factor that didn’t involve the spiders. The story is dull, the tension and conflict unbelievably hackneyed, and acting that can be likened to nails on a chalk board. You’ll be shaking your head in disbelief, and not in a good way. Hard pass.

Movie Review: DEATH PROMISE

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death promise
Howard Mahler
1977
R

  • An apartment dweller goes on a search-and-destroy mission to kill the ruthless landlords who murdered his father.

Hoooo, boy. I have to admit that I’m not very well versed with the whole Kung-Fu Exploitation flicks from the 1970s. But, if they’re anything like 1977’s Death Promise, I really have to check some more of these type of flicks out.

The story of Death Promise is your standard Rich Evil Guy Shenanigans > Kills Father Of Kung-Fu Enthusiast > Kung-Fu Enthusiast Vows Revenge > Training & Gathering Up Posse Montage > Wacky Over-The-Top Kung Fu Battles Ensue flow. I had a blast watching this movie unfold before my eyes. Death Promise ticks off all the check points on the list: Dodgy acting, awful editing, cheep funk music, contrast issues with the film, really badly choreographed fight scenes and poorly staged scenes. Several minutes of the fight scenes are dedicated to the combatants standing there doing that hand-waving, “HOOOoooOOOOOooOOOAH” thing that I’m sure they think is intimidating and manly, but comes off as laugh-out-loud hilarious each and every time. And everybody does this. Of course they’re trying to pattern our hero after the immortal Bruce Lee, but he’s lacking the speed, agility and charisma. Which only adds to the unintentional hilarity.

I probably had more fun than I expected watching a low-budget grindhouse flick that didn’t involve vampires, space aliens or anything horror-related. Really, you should check this out this hunk of cinematic cheese for yourself.

Movie Review: 31 (Thirty-One)

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31

Lionsgate
2016
R

“You know what they say, Kemosabe. In Hell, everybody loves popcorn.”

  • Five carnival workers are kidnapped and held hostage in an abandoned Hell-like compound where they are forced to participate in a violent game, the goal of which is to survive twelve hours against a gang of sadistic clowns.

When it comes to Rob Zombie movies, love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t deny that you won’t be bored with them. With a style planted firmly in the 1970s-era exploitation style horror, calling his movies “over-the-top” just doesn’t seem to do it justice. Also, his movies seem to be able to give you the benefit of an acid trip without actually having to drop acid.

Same as it was with his 2016 flick 31. While Zombie’s previous movie, Lords Of Salem, was more of a psychological horror, 31 leans more to his House Of 1000 Corpses-style of intense, bloody and ultra-violent slasher style of movie, chock full of the kind of mind-bending insanity-inducing visuals you would come to expect from Rob Zombie in the first place.

On the plus side, at least Zombie doesn’t fill his movies with a bunch of pretty people. And these characters aren’t pretty, both in their looks and their speech. But, you should know by now that the characters in his movies revels in the ugliness. There’s a certain twisted charm in that, really.

In 31, we have an RV full of carny workers traveling to their next gig, traversing the bi-ways of 1970s America, when they stop at a gas station and comes across the local weirdos. Later than night, they come across a roadblock and are kidnapped by goons dressed in Freddy Kruger sweaters, and wake up in a warehouse, where they’re told via loudspeaker by a group of people dressed like 17th Century French aristocrats that they’ve been volunteered to play a game called “Thirty-One”, and for the next 12 hours they will be in kind of a Most Dangerous Game type setup, only they’re pursued by several different murderous clowns, and if any of them happen to survive the 12 hours, they win! Only, they never really get around to saying what it is they win, as nobody’s ever really one one of these games before. So, of course, you already know that one of ’em are going to survive. But, I digress. The clowns include a diminutive Latino dressed as a Nazi called Sick-Head, a couple of redneck wackos named Psycho-Head and Schizo-Head, a guy-girl team named Death-Head and Sex-Head (respectively), and when all of those fail, they call in the fan-favorite pinch-hitter Doom-Head, who was taking this year off and wasn’t in a good mood to have his Halloween festivities interrupted.

I wonder if it says anything about my own mental state by how I can watch a Rob Zombie movie like this and just shrug and say, “Okay, sure.” at the insanity that was unfolding in front of me while watching 31. For those of you who want your movies to ultimately make sense in the end…nope, 31 isn’t the movie for you. Sure, I was left with many more questions than answers while watching this: Why do they call the game “31”? Why is Malcolm McDowell dressed in a powdered wig and foppish 18th-century regalia? Does Rob Zombie really think that actual dialogue works like that? Doubtful that these and other questions will ever be answered, but I’m thinking that’s the point. I’m fine with insanity for insanity’s sake.

What this boils down to, though, is that 31 isn’t exactly what you would call a genre-defining movie. It falls squarely in the torture-porn exploitation style, with its sheer madness being the most amusing part of the flick. I wasn’t expecting a full mind-blowing freak horror that got under my skin and stayed there like Lords Of Salem; this, however, did feel ultimately like going through the motions. Good for a rental.

Movie Review: DAY OF THE ANIMALS

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day of the animals
Film Ventures International
1977
PG

“Mighty advertising executive speak with empty head!”

 

  • The depletion of the earth’s ozone layer causes animals above the altitude of 5000 feet to run amok, which is very unfortunate for a group of hikers who get dropped off up there by helicopter just before the quarantine is announced.

While the whole Nature Run Amok thing is one of my least favorite subgenres in horror, I have to admit that some of the most fun z-grade movie schlock tends to fall squarely in that kind of flick. Especially the ones made in the 1970s; there’s just a special kind of cheesy magic in movies like Frogs, Grizzly, and the Shatner-riffic Kingdom Of The Spiders. And now I have 1977’s Day Of The Animals to add to my list.

While being squarely a low-budget exploitation flick, Day Of The Animals has the distinction of featuring Leslie Nielsen in the midst of his “serious actor” phase, as an antagonistic jerk who eventually snaps and then fights a bear while shirtless. Among other things. Oh, what a glorious spectacle this is, with Nielsen practically unhinging his jaw to chew the scenery. Add to this the stock footage shots, the shoddy attempts to make the animals scary, the really very bad acting and dialogue, and the dodgiest scientific reasoning and explanations given for the why behind the animals revolting they way they are that would make Al Gore facepalm, and you’ve got a movie that…is still better made than Birdemic. Mind you, that’s like saying the Galveston Plague was better than the Bubonic plague.

Overall: Get yourself the Riff Trax edition of Day Of The Animals to take the edge off, and marvel at the underappreciated greatness that was the late, great Leslie Nielsen. Not for the faint of heart for all the wrong reasons.

Movie Review: The INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT

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The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant Movie PosterAmerican International Pictures
1971
R

“Stop jerking around. You and I are now one, dummy.”

Dr. Roger Girard id a rich scientist experimenting with head transplantation. His caretaker has a son, Danny, who is an extremely strong full-grown man, but he has the mind of a child. Meanwhile, Manuel Cass, a maniacal killer, has murdered Dr. Girard’s caretaker and is badly injured himself. Dr. Girard decides to transplant the murderer’s head onto Danny’s body. The new creature, with one head of a murderer and the other with the mental capacity of an eight-year-old attached to an extremely powerful body, begins wreaking havoc…

The 1970s was a wacky time for horror and sci-fi movies.As with the fashion, the music, and generally all other avenues of pop culture at the time, I can only surmise it had something to do with the nation detoxing from the last part of the 60s.

That, at least, would be the only explanation for the existence of this here movie, The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant.

This is a low budget sci-fi horror flick that co-stars Casey Kasem, America’s Top 40 radio host, and voice of Shaggy and various cartoon characters. Among other things. Here, he plays Dr. Ken, the best friend of Dr. Roger, the main character that takes the phrase “two heads are better than one” far too literally. I bring this up because the presence of Kasem is the most notable thing in this movie.

From the word go, The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant is about as cheesy as you would expect a movie with that kind of title to be. Of course, this was made in the era where the “psycho killer” was still characterized as a wild-eyed, grinning and manic individual, possibly high on the marijuana from Reefer Madness. And that is how the escaped lunatic killer is played, full-tilt, all throughout the flick. On the other end of the spectrum, I theorize that the only model they had to work with when creating the caretaker’s son with the mentality of a child was from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. There’s even a scene involving crazy enraged-for-no-reason bikers in here that, I’m fairly certain, was thrown in because bikers were a big thing in exploitation cinema at the time. Had this movie been made in the 80s, it would have been ninjas. Which would have made this movie better, really.

The acting matches the premise of the movie; that is to say, it’s crazy and over-the-top. The effects…well, it’s low budget, and also made in 1971. So, yeah, the whole 2-headed thing is kinda…well, it was done better on the television version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

All this to say that The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant is a glorious over-the-top mess that must be watched by everyone. Gather your friends, surround yourselves with your favorite libations, and make a night out of this.

Movie Review: SATAN HATES YOU

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1-13 - Movie Review: SATAN HATES YOUTLA Releasing
2010
NR

Tormented Marc wages war with his inner demons while unknowingly getting locked into an infernal collision course with his wild sister Wendy, who’s appetite for bad boys and hard drugs is positively insatiable.

I’m not sure, but I think I just watched what very well may have been the first Evangelical horror exploitation movie. The kicker is that I actually enjoyed Satan Hates You! far more that I thought I was going to.

Essentially, Satan Hates You! is a low budget satire of the old Evangelical style Turn or Burn! films that were staples of youth group outreaches in the 1970s and 80s. The 1990s, too, if you factor in the transfer to VHS. And if you’re lucky enough to have been subjected to any of these kinds of films, you know that making a satire of these films are probably the easiest things to come across. Some would say the original films are satires unto themselves. But I digress.

Going into watching Satan Hates You!, I had a few preconceived ideas of what I was getting into: low budget, cheesy effects, horrible acting, a hack script, and ham-fisted editing. There was no evidence that I was going to get otherwise–this wasn’t my first tractor pull, after all. However, when I pressed play and braced myself for the inevitable, I was greeted with a film that was indeed all of these…but one gets the sense that it was all deliberate. A method to the madness, if I maybe allowed to butcher the Bard. Everybody else does, after all.

Satan Hates You! follows the lives of Marc and Wendy, two people being tempted by a couple of lounge-lizzard type demons in hopes of harvesting them for eternal damnation. Marc is an unemployed alchoholic with serious insecurities about his sexuality. Wendy exists in a constant purple haze of drugs and sex, around friends that encourage and enable the behavior. They’re inching their way towards their own destruction…but unbeknownst to them and the demons that are following them around, there are other forces serving a Higher Power that are secretly working to save and protect Marc and Wendy’s souls.

There were a few points that impressed me about this movie: For starters, there was absolutely no nudity, and the only vulgarities came from the myriad of punk rock tunes in the soundtrack. If you’re familiar with a lot of micro-budgeted films, you understand that this is not the norm. And if that’s your main reason for watching these things, sorry to disappoint. Actually, I’m not sorry, but whatever. The acting is sub-par, but as I mentioned before, I have my suspicions that it was somewhat deliberate, considering the subject matter it’s spoofing. And make no mistake–this is a spoof. This is not for the squeamish and easily weirded out. There’s even one sequence that I couldn’t make through without looking away, and I’ve been known to consume food while watching these, no problem. Hint: It involves an abortion. Yeah. It goes there. You’ve been warned.

Impressive, though, is the inclusion of a couple of bigger names in the horror genre in minor roles: Michael Berryman as the motel owner Mr. Harker, and the late, great Angus Scrimm as an archangel.

Overall, I found myself enjoying Satan Hates You! far more than I thought I would. It’s cheesy, hammy, over-the-top and gads I enjoyed mostly every moment of this. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for some over-the-top exploitation that has some fun with religious tropes, Satan Hates You! is worth checking out.

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