Ma Barker's Killer Brood (B&W, 1960)
Pretty violent movie - two guys are gunned down and a third is burned alive before the credits even come up. Infamous criminal mastermind Ma Barker teachers her boys not to be sissies by breaking their violins and teaching them to rob from the church collection plate instead. Then they move on to robbing carnivals, which Ma is proud of, but her husband is appalled at the way she's raising them. She teaches them (the hard way) that the only crime is getting caught. And it's all because she was ashamed of having to wear hand-me-down bloomers made from flour sacks when she was a kid! In a few years they're pulling armored car robberies and machine-gunning all the guards ('cept the ones Ma runs over in her car). Then they team up with Machine Gun Kelly, Baby Face Nelson, John Dillinger, and other criminal big shots. One of the Barker kids even has Alvin "Creepy" Karpis for a cellmate (Creepy kills the guy's pet hamster 'cuz he likes to hear things squeal when they die). O' course they all get theirs in the end, but not before causing mass amounts of mayhem - bank robberies, forced Russian Roulette (before Deer Hunter was even thought up), kidnapping, plastic surgery (including fingerprints being carved off with no anesthesia), and shoot-outs). Supposedly this movie was put together from a TV serial, but that's hard to believe, given the amount and degree of violence, which is pretty heavy for 1960. Cheap-looking but doesn't stop moving and delivers the goods... funny in spots due to the extremity of Ma's criminal zeal. -zwolf

The Mack (C, 1973) AKA The Mack and His Pack
After getting out of prison a guy named Goldie (Max Julien) sets out to become the coldest, most successful pimp in history - the Jesus of pimps. His brother is a black militant who's trying to make things better for the community and doesn't like what Goldie's doing. Neither do a couple of corrupt, racist cops, because he's getting away with it and defying them. Goldie also trains his ho's to steal as a sideline, and takes them to the Planetarium where he delivers weird cult-leader mind-control speeches. They also go to Player's Balls and Player's Picnics with other pimps and hos. When any rivals give him problems, he deals harshly with them; one guy gets locked in the trunk of his car with a dozen big rats. Another is forced to stab himself and has dynamite shoved in his mouth. But all of this builds up some mighty bad karma. One of the biggest blaxploitation films and one I avoided for years because the poster and presence of Richard Pryor led me to believe it was some goofy comedy. It's definitely no comedy, and Pryor's not trying to be funny. Max Julien does a great acting job because you sense inner conflict throughout (possibly because Max's mother was a very religious woman and he would never have made this movie if she'd been alive at the time), and there's unspoken depth to his character. A lot of the dialogue has ended up in rap songs, and Ice T claims he used to have a TV and VCR in his car, with only one tape - this one. Plotwise it's pretty ordinary, but Julien does elevate it - hard to explain, but it's there. -zwolf

Mad Doctor of Blood Island (C, 1969) AKA Blood Doctor, Grave Desires, Tomb of the Living Dead
Second in Eddie Romero's infamous "Blood Island" series, which packed drive-ins for years. Several visitors to the titular island become potential prey for a very freaky-looking chlorophyll monster (a guy named Don Ramon whose chlorophyll disease has turned him into a real mess - a fuzzy, oozy, rotting fanged-and-clawed abomination so horrifying that the camera can't even focus properly when he's around - it zooms in and out slightly, just enough to give you a headache). One guy's there to study the disease, one is trying to get his mother to leave the island and find out what happened to his father (who, unfortunately, is Don Ramon). And Angelique Pettyjohn (who later went on to Star Trek and porn) is there looking for her father, who's an old drunk. Meanwhile, Dr. Lorca is still conducting experiments with his monster. It's pretty uninvolving when the monster's not around, but he sure does wreak some havoc when he is, tearing people literally to shreds, leaving extremely graphic piles of severed limbs and internal organs and blood (some green and some red - it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!). This was groundbreaking gore and still more vicious than most - it's worth sitting through the tedious plot to see it. The monster would return in Beast of Blood. Patrons of theaters and drive-ins were given vials of "green blood" (colored water) to drink to protect them from contamination by the monsters onscreen. You can make do with Kool-Aid at home. -zwolf

Madigan (C, 1968)
Cop movie directed by Don Siegel - need I say more? Okay, if you insist... Richard Widmark is hard-nosed, doesn't-always-go-by-the-book detective Dan Madigan, and Henry Fonda is his displeased boss. Madigan and his partner goof up an arrest of a guy wanted for murder (he takes their guns and escapes) and are given 72 hours to recapture the guy. As if that wasn't enough stress, Madigan's police lifestyle is causing a strain on his relationships with his wife and his mistress - he doesn't have enough time to spend with one woman and he's dumb enough to try to keep two. Gritty semi-documentary-style police procedural,, plus slice-of-life drama with the solid atmosphere, dialogue, and action scenes you can expect from a master like Siegel. Nice warm-up for Dirty Harry. -zwolf

Mad Love (B&W, 1935)
Peter Lorre is Dr. Gogol, a talented surgeon... and an accomplished creep. He attends a theatrical horror show every night because he's obsessively in love with the lead actress (or at least with watching her be tortured in the show). Lucky for her, she's already married to a concert pianist named Stephen Orlack (Colin Clive, the guy who played Victor Frankenstein), so Gogol has to make do by buying a wax statue of her from the theatre lobby, and satisfies his bloodlust by watching guillotine executions. When Orlack's hands are crushed in a train wreck, Gogol grafts on new ones - the hands of a murderous knife-thrower who was recently decapitated. Orlack notices that his new hands like throwing knives and he thinks they want to kill, so Gogol capitalizes on this, knifing Orlack's father and posing as the dead knife-thrower (an utterly creepy-looking get-up with metal hands and a big neckbrace to hold his supposedly-reattached head on, his voice a whispery hiss), framing Orlack for murder and trying to drive him mad in hopes of getting Orlack's wife for himself. Extremely bizarre, atmospheric, shadowy horror film with plenty of craziness in the second half... Lorre really goes brilliantly over-the-top. The director, Karl Freund, went on to work on the I Love Lucy TV series. The story was originally made as a silent in 1924, The Hands Of Orlac. -zwolf

Mafia Vs. Ninja (C, 1984)
Alexander Lou comes to Shanghai hoping to earn a living with his fists. Instead he shovels shit for ten bucks a month and then has to fight off thugs to keep it. About that time a local gang decides to sell out to the Japanese and kill their old boss, since he doesn't approve of their criminal activities. Alexander and his pals save the boss from an attack, and then Alexander's nearly tricked into delivering a bomb to him. Since the assassination attempts haven't worked, the Japanese send in ninja and a black fighter and Italian knife thrower. They do all kinds of amazing, gimmicky tricks. Alexander, who's now working for the boss, has his work cut out for him, especially when the boss is killed and the organization wiped out. But Alexander promised the dying boss that the Japanese would never sell drugs in Shanghai. So he and his friend keep up the fight, wasting ninja and goofy swordsmen and even finding time to deliver a well-deserved comeuppance to some racist nightclubbers. Basically it's a fairly serious story but with laughably cartoonish characters, and with legitimately good fight choreography mixed with unbelievable gimmicky ninja-power stuff, accomplished via hilarious special effects (wait'll you see the grass-clumps on strings that are supposed to be burrowing ninja!) and cheapo gore. This all adds up to something that's a hell of a lot of fun even if it's not all that dignified. And - oh yeah - there's no Mafia in the movie...

Manhunter (C, 1986)
Tense modern noir film from Michael Mann, director of TV's Miami Vice. A detective who's a specialist in tracking down serial killers is called out of semi-retirement to find a nut called the Tooth Fairy (because he leaves bite marks on his victims). The detective is on the edge and learns about the killer by thinking like him, which makes him almost go insane. A well-made police procedural that goes into great detail on investigation tactics. Riveting enough, but not much action. No gore. The versions broadcast on TV contain extra footage, which mainly consists of the detective's relationship with his wife, and a visit to the family who would have been next. Based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and if they had called the movie Red Dragon it might have done better at the box office, because the novel sold well. Most notable to most viewers as the first appearance of Hannibal Lector, the scary guy from Silence Of The Lambs, although he's got a minor role here and is played by Brian Cox, not Anthony Hopkins. -zwolf

Mania (B&W, 1960) AKA The Flesh and the Fiends, The Fiendish Ghouls, Psycho-Killers
Atmospheric British re-telling of the true story of Burke and Hare. Peter Cushing plays lazy-eyed Dr. Knox, who takes delivery of grave-robbed corpses for dissecting, to train medical students in anatomy. It's crime for a good cause, since what they learn will save lives. The problem is, the two scurvy creeps who've been robbing the graves decide to up their profits by killing people - the bodies are fresher and there's none of that strenuous digging. Donald Pleasance (in a top hat) is one of the brutal killers... murder doesn't bother him but he has a morbid fear of rats. His friend Burke rents out a room, and most of the would-be lodgers end up as victims. Meanwhile, Knox is highly arrogant, calling other doctors quacks and making enemies. One of his students is slumming with a bar girl, and everybody ends up regretting everything. A convincing atmosphere of squalor pervades this period piece, which could almost pass for a Hammer film. Strong stuff, with some graphic violence. Some of the lowlife accents can be a bit hard to make out in spots, so pay attention. Luckily, that shouldn't be difficult... -zwolf

Manos, The Hands of Fate (C, 1966) AKA Lodge of Sins
When an El Paso fertilizer salesman named Hal Warren tried for a career change and went into movie-making, he ended up still selling shit. In recent years, thanks to Mystery Science Theatre 3000 exposure, this has usurped the Plan 9 throne as worst movie ever made. Hal bet friends he could make a popular horror movie for $19,000, and, sadly, probably gave it his best shot, using a script he wrote himself, starring himself as the inept dad, and using a silent hand-held camera that could only hold 30 seconds worth of film at a time. The dialogue (and repetitive jazz noodling soundtrack) were dubbed in later, badly. A small family - idiot dad, a mom whose only emotion seems to be a constant state of panic attack, a little girl who's always whining about something, and a poodle named Peppy - get lost and end up at "the Master's house," a shabby little place looked after by a guy named Torgo. Torgo is a unique creation, played by a drug addict with family problems who committed suicide by O.D. soon after the movie was made (two other cast members killed themselves, too). He's supposed to be a satyr, but the movie never explains this, so you wonder why the hell the thighs and knees of his pants are stuffed with loads of padding. He twitches and flinches and spazzes and blinks like he's on dope, has a hillbilly hat and beard, and wobbles around like a drunk trying to walk and crap his pants at the same time. When he talks it's kind of goatish, and he often repeats himself. He made the costume himself, and it included cloven hooves, but those never really make it onscreen, because the whole movie's framed really badly. It's worth sitting through this tedium just to see Torgo. Finally they meet the Master, a bossy "not dead the way you know it" goof who sleeps on a rock in the back yard and wears a robe decorated with giant hands. There's a big "hand" motiff to the movie. "Manos," o' course, is Spanish for "hands," Torgo carries a staff with a hand on it, and the Master eventually burns off one of Torgo's hands, after having his wives (truck-stop whores in nightgowns who are chained to columns when they're not wrestling each other) kill Torgo by... well, touching him a lot, I think, or maybe just handling him roughly. It doesn't look deadly... hell, it doesn't even look like it'd raise a bruise. But, hey. Then, there's a surprise ending. A lot of this is extended (minutes at a time) shots of fields going by through a car window, or people standing around doing nothing. There's a pointless subplot (if anything about this film qualifies as a "plot") involving cops hassling a young couple who keep kissing. This was added because the actress in the car (who's one of the suicides) broke her leg and couldn't do her original role, and they didn't want to just cut her out... Truly bad, so bad it's haunting, and already a legend. The only thing missing is a dance craze inspired by it... "Do the Torgo!" I wish the DVD included a version without the MST3K bits, but I have to admit it'd probably be too slow to sit through without them. I'd still like the chance, though... too bad they didn't make that an extra feature. The MST3K commentary is funny, but you might want a chance to do your own, y'know? Essential terribleness. -zwolf

The Manster (B&W, 1960) AKA Nightmare, The Split, The Two-Headed Monster, Kyofu
A reporter (who's a bit of a dork) visits an amiable mad doctor in Asia, who slips him a mickey and then injects him with a mystery serum. At first all it does is make him more of a partier, but soon one of his hands becomes a hairy claw and he becomes angry, has blackouts, and kills a Buddhist priest and a couple of women. Then he finds an eye growing on his shoulder, which finally grows into an entire head (making this the first two-headed monster flick). His real head gets pretty monstery-looking, too, and the extra one has teeth sticking several inches out of its mouth. The police try to catch him/them, but he manages to evade them and finally splits into two separate beings! Pretty memorable, even if the scientist's caged, mutated wife is creepier looking than the two-headed thing. -zwolf

Mantis Fists and Tiger Claws (C, 1977) AKA Mantis Fist and Tiger Claws of Shaolin
An expert martial artist finds his long-lost sister through the well-established kung fu movie device of the each-has-one-half-of-a-jade-medallion trick. She's working as a prostitute in a brothel, and he wants to buy her freedom. The only problem is that the gangsters who run the joint think he killed one of their friends, so in a battle over a wine bottle and an attack by a guy with a spiked plate on his back, our hero is poisoned and beaten. Going into hiding, he recovers with some help. And that's when things get really, really weird. Using a spinning butterfly knife, one of the good guys squares off against a bad guy who uses a dart-throwing spear, while something - apparently a were-mantis, half-mantis and half-human - is slaughtering dozens. You see giant mantis legs waving around in point-of-view shots, and finally the whole monster, which you have to see to believe. Yep. Pretty good kung fu that hangs one big tire-smoking, hubcap-slinging left turn for the last reel into wacky-horror land. The DVD has French and Arabic subtitles because it was the only copy found of a film that would've been lost otherwise. Good thing they could recover it under any circumstances, and since it's on a DVD with another movie called Duel of the Brave Ones and the whole shebang'll only set you back around eight bucks, you can't go wrong. -zwolf

Mantis in Lace (C, 1968) AKA Lila
A topless dancer named Lila is introduced to LSD by a wimpy guy with a dangly earring. While they're having sex in Lila's cluttered warehouse room, she hallucinates blurry colors, patterns projected on faces, things like that. She freaks out, stabs her lover with a screwdriver, then hacks him up with a meat cleaver that just happened to be nearby... all because she thought he was a bunch of bananas, and she hates bananas. Next she picks up Stuart Lancaster (the dirty old man from Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!) and thinks he's a doctor, so she chops him up and then laughs and says, "You look so funny like that!" While she's tripping and trapping, the police are looking for whoever's leaving all these bodies around. Their investigation takes them to a lot of topless joints. Titties make good padding for these kind of movies. Meanwhile, Lila uses a hoe to kill a fat guy (or maybe it was a cantaloupe or a pinata). The story part of the movie would take about ten minutes; it's all padded to the point of preponderance by very softcore sex (which looks more like "making out") that goes on for ten minutes at a stretch, and if you're into endless footage of a girl sucking her belly in and out then this will be your favorite movie ever. It's really not much of anything unless you're fixated on titties, but it does have some nice Lazlo Kovacs cinematography amidst the tedium. One of Harry Novak's Box Office International's weaker efforts. There's supposedly a shorter, more horror-oriented edit of this film, which would be a lot better, but the people at Something Weird are a bunch of horny little boys, so the DVD is all just jiggle. It has lots of extras to make up for that, though. Still, as is, it's a tiresome film with an undeserved reputation for greatness. -zwolf

Man Wanted (C, 1995) AKA Wang Jiao de tian kong
Simon Yam stars as an undercover cop who's been on an assignment for years, becoming buddies with a crimelord named Feng. After Yam finally busts the crime ring (which feels like a betrayal, since they were such good friends), Feng is presumed dead... but resurfaces a year later, asking for Yam's help and saying that he understands that he was just doing his job and there are no hard feelings. Yam decides to continue the friendship but warns Feng that he'll arrest him if he steps out of line... but he doesn't realize that Feng is setting him up for a frame-job that will involve both of the women he loves. Action-packed Hong Kong crime drama, a little more underplayed than John Woo's stuff, but still excellent. -zwolf

The Man With The Golden Arm (B&W, 1955)
The harrowing, shabby hell of a smack junkie is depicted in this Otto Preminger classic, staring Frank Sinatra as "Frankie Machine," a hard-luck card dealer who's freshly out of jail and de-toxed, wanting nothing more than a job playing drums and to never touch drugs again. But the pressure of his clingy, nagging, neurotic helpless wreck of a wife, who's stuck in a wheelchair (or is at least pretending to be) due to injuries received when Frankie crashed their car while driving drunk, soon helps the monkey climb right back onto his back. His secret girlfriend Kim Novak tries to be a positive influence while his wife and his drug dealer (an unbelievably slimy Darren McGavin) try to drag him back down. And they're successful. Gritty, daring-for-its-time drama with great characterization, sleazy noirish sets, and stark black and white cinematography. Marlon Brando was originally slated to play the lead role, but Sinatra jumped on it first, which is probably a good thing, because he's perfect. I don't even like Sinatra, but he made a couple of good movies with this and Suddenly... and several companies have cheap (like five bucks!) double-feature DVDs with both films. That's a deal you shouldn't pass up. -zwolf

Mark of the Devil (C, 1970)
One of the great things about the early '70's was that selling points like "Likely to upset your stomach!" would guarantee that a movie would be a big hit. "You mean this movie will make me puke? Righteous! Gimmie a ticket! If it really makes me puke, I'll go twice!" Yep, this is the infamous "V for violence" movie where they handed out "stomach distress bags" when you bought a ticket. Nice souvenir, but kinda unnecessary - there are plenty of gratuitous torture scenes, but the effects aren't all that convincing. If you hurled, it was probably time to change the butter vat in the popcorn dispenser. Herbert Lom is a witchfinder general who tortures confessions out of women, because he's impotent and thinks witchcraft caused it. Withered-faced sicko freak Reggie Nalder also tortures witches, mainly for fun. People are racked, burned, tarred-and-feathered, get their fingers chopped off, are branded on the soles of their feet, stabbed with "witch-prickers," beaten, tongues are torn out, thumbscrewed, seated over fires, eye-gouged, water tortured, and all that other stuff that Jerry Falwell would love to be doing if he could get away with it. Finally the villagers have enough of the witchfinders and stage an uprising, resulting in bloody revenge. Some nice photography and a nice sleazy atmosphere, but for witchfinder movies you're better off with The Conqueror Worm. Still, this is worth checking out for the sick-minded, among whose number I proudly count myself, and I'll give you five bucks to show this as a "historical, educational film" to a church group. With Udo Kier from all those Andy Warhol horror flicks, and people with the lovely names-that-form-a-sentence, Herbert Fux and Gabby Fuchs. -zwolf

Martial Monks of Shaolin Temple (C, 1983)
Godfrey Ho directed and Dragon Lee stars in this kung fu extravaganza. The evil guy that Dragon fought in Dragon Claws is back, doing more evil things. He destroys a Shaolin temple and kills an abbot. Then a real scumbag with a (swear to God) Snidely Whiplash mustaches trumps up charges against his enemies and then uses a ridiculously large sword (it's so big it has a smaller sword inside it) to fight a vengeance-seeking monk named Master of Shaolin Temple. Then Dragon fights some guys who try to steal his backpack, then heads to town and does a show where he pokes his head through some holes and lets people try to decapitate him and win ten bucks. Dragon and a cute girl named Miss Poon (!) become Master of Shaolin Temple's students, which leads to some slapstick silliness. Then they meet up with the bad guys and there's a whole lot of crazy action, including spear-fighting, nunchuk-fighting, and even some food fighting. Never lets up, and not badly done. -zwolf

The Massive (C, 1978) AKA Murder of Murders
A kung fu master thief leaves jade dragonflies at the scenes of his crimes a trademark. Kam Kong investigates one theft, where everyone is knocked out with an anesthetic and jewels are taken from them... except Lo Lieh, who steals from himself to make himself look like a victim. Everybody thinks he's the Jade Dragonfly, but then he ends up poisoned, and Chi Kwan Chun, his brother, shows up to investigate his murder, even though Kam Kong says that's his job. Then a hired killer known as "A Light In The Dark" shows up, and Kam - as if he didn't have enough on his plate - has to deal with him, too. Luckily, he's soon dispatched by a masked guy who uses a bizarre nine-sectioning sword. Then Chi Kwan Chun has to deal with a guy who has a pipe that fires poison pins, and finds out that there have been numerous double and triple crosses involving the stolen jewels, and no one is what they seem. Complex but coherent plot and has a bit of a Shaw Brothers feel to it, and has good fights (the DVD would have benefitted from letterboxing, but what DVD wouldn't?) and some interesting weapons, including mailed fists and a spear with a whirling point... plus some gruesome arm-breaking at the end. -zwolf

The Master Gunfighter (C, 1975)
I saw this in the theater when I was 8 years old and thought it was a little pretentious even then. Now I see it's even goofier than I thought, although I still like it for its unintentional silliness. Tom Laughlin tried to create a new mythic hippie hero along the lines of his successful Billy Jack. But Finley, the master gunfighter/swordsman, just doesn't quite work, despite all of his mystical gesturing. Of course, he's a guy who just hates violence, yet engages in it every chance he gets, via a samurai sword (in old California?) And a 12-shot LeMat pistol (which exists but is an anachronism here). He is at odds with Don Santiago and his brother-in-law Paulo Santiago (Ron O'Neal from Superfly) because they keep massacring villages of Indians in order to steal gold shipments from ships they wreck. The bleeding-heart plot is very muddled and suffers from mysticism getting in the way of narrative flow, but the action scenes are okay, if familiar; Laughlin does a lot of his taking off the hat, rubbing his head and face, and the here-I-am-forced-again-to-do-this-unpleasant-thing-I-hate-to-do-each-of-the-ten-times-a-day-that-I-do-it blowing out air stuff to show he's losing his temper... which is really the only time he shows any emotion. -zwolf

Master of Death (C, 1975)
Kung fu retitle (according to the Ric Meyers commentary track it might be a movie called Crazy Horse Intelligent Monkey, but it probably isn't) with intense-looking Chi Kwan Chun studying kung fu for 18 years prior to setting out after his family's murderers. But there are a lot of people protecting the killer and so Chi's attacked everywhere he goes. He plows through them all pretty easily, though. In between brawls, a beggar girl busts some crooked gamblers in an unrelated side-plot that's probably footage lifted from another film. Chang Tao shows up to beat up some of Chi's beggar friends, before going after Chi himself. Then Lo Lieh and Chen Sing show up for an intense climactic duel involving a bladed flute that works with a helicopter effect. Why a bladed flute, I don't know, other than it's unlikely you'd see one anywhere else. Solid midline kung fu. -zwolf

Master of the Flying Guillotine (C, 1975) AKA One-Armed Boxer Vs. the Flying Guillotine, One-Armed Boxer II, Du bi quan wang da po xue di zi
Sequel to The Flying Guillotine (made by a different film company!) and The One-Armed Boxer stars Jimmy Wang Yu as a one-armed fighter who has to go against a blind monk who's highly skilled with a very bizarre weapon - kind of like a bladed wok on a chain that can slice the heads off of opponents - and who's working for the oppressive Ching dynasty. Jimmy kills the blind monk's two pupils and becomes the target of his vengeance. Unaware that he's being stalked, Jimmy takes his students to watch a big tournament with fighters from all over the place. There's a guy who uses his braid as a whip, a guy called Win-Without-A-Knife (who, ironically enough, uses a hidden knife), a guy with iron skin, and - craziest of all - a yoga master who can extend his arms like he's one of the Fantastic Four! It's a very good special effect, extremely strange-looking. During all this excitement, the blind monk shows up and starts aggressively seeking Jimmy, who has to go into hiding and plan some pretty ingenious booby traps to deal with the monk and his henchmen. Jimmy Wang Yu was the biggest kung fu star before Bruce Lee, and despite little real fighting skill and kind of a weak face, he still manages impressive screen presence, and his movies are great to watch... and this is one of the best, with a constant barrage of imaginative craziness. A classic. -zwolf

The Master Touch (C, 1973) AKA Hearts and Minds, A Man to Respect, Uomo da rispettare
Kirk Douglas is a master thief who gets out of prison and is immediately contacted by the mob to rob a million dollar safe protected by a security system called "Big Ben" - one of the hardest-to-crack security systems invented. A fly could set it off, but they insist that he tackle it. He gets a little help from a hard-fighting trapeze-artist friend, Marco. Marco has a persistent beef going with a mob henchman whom he beat up in a traffic altercation; this leads to several other fistfights and one of the craziest over-the-top car chases you'll ever see (I can't even start to describe what happens, but it's worth seeking out the movie for - available in Brentwood's Crime Wave 10-DVD box set). Kirk discovers an easily-exploitable flaw in Big Ben's programming and starts training Marco to crack it. Then they go in, each taking a different location as part of a convoluted plan, using high tech equipment and ingenious methods. And of course there are complications... Head and shoulders above the usual Italian caper drama, with most of the slam-bang action devoted to the first forty-five minutes and the rest full of slower-paced but equally-gripping heist stuff, and plenty of surprises. -zwolf

May Morning (C, 1970) AKA Alba Pagana, May Morning In Oxford, Delitto a Oxford
Obscure but somehow infamous (I've only seen it mentioned in one film magazine and they seemed to find it sickening, disturbing, and not something they wanted to talk about) pseudo-horror drama about the 70's intellectual scene at Oxford College. An Italian student who looks angelically-demonic, like a satyr, stays in trouble with both the administration and the other students. Nonetheless they want him on their rowing team badly enough to give him special privileges. Perhaps abusing them, he sleeps with the team captain's girlfriend and brings down the school's hatred on him. He takes this in stride and decides to "weigh their shitness against mine," and hangs around to watch a party that turns into a sort of hippie-orgy, and it's there that he's planned his revenge... and has some done to him as well. There's some unpleasantness but nothing over the top, no blood or anything, just a kind of decadent aura of nihilism. It's well-made but I don't know why that one guy found it so disturbing. The trailer talks about "pagan rituals" and tries to make the whole thing seem more of a Lord of the Flies / Wicker Man thing than it is. Not very disturbing, but not badly done, very 70's. -zwolf

Mean Johnny Barrows (C, 1976)
Fred Williamson gets dishonorably discharged from the army for punching an officer (the guy deserved it; he tried to blow Fred up with a mine as a "joke") and has a hard time finding work, even though he won a Silver Star in 'Nam and was a football hero. Gangster Stuart Whitman wants to enlist him as an enforcer, but Fred wants to find honest work instead... so he keeps drifting down on the skids. Of course he finally gets desperate enough to take the mob's offer, after they're hit by some enemies who've been running dope through the Black and Mexican communities (something Stuart's nice-guy gangsters drew the line at). When Fred finally takes the job, he goes about it cold-bloodedly. At one point he goes after the baddies with a sawed-off double-barrel shotgun in each hand (gotta love it when movies actually live up to the poster art!). He also strikes impressive kung fu poses, but then just brawls. Fred directed this one, too. It's no masterpiece, but I always like Fred's flicks and this is better than some (Black Cobra, fer instance). Roddy McDowell and Elliot Gould have bit parts. -zwolf

The Mechanic (C, 1972) AKA Killer of Killers
One of the best Charles Bronson movies. He's a meticulous hit man who's turned contract killing into an art form: it's never simply a couple of bullets in the head, cowboy-style. He studies his target and finds the best way to take it out. He kills one mob chief and ironically befriends the mob chief's son (Jan-Michael Vincent), who displays a strong interest in becoming a hit man. Charlie could use an assistant (and he also seems flattered and maybe a bit lonely), so he takes Vincent on as an apprentice... only to learn that Vincent may have been contracted to kill him. Some good action scenes and a classic final twist. Check it out. -zwolf

Messiah Of Evil (C, 1974) AKA Dead People, Return of the Living Dead, Revenge of the Screaming Dead, The Second Coming
Bizarre, slowly-paced zombie film emphasizes nightmarish atmosphere over gore. A woman, narrating from an asylum (depicted as a glaringly bright hallway), tells of her visit to a small seaside town called New Bethlehem, better known as Point Dune. She's looking for her missing father, who had been sending increasingly-crazy letters before he disappeared. There she finds complete whackos like Elisha Cook Jr. (who dazedly tells a story about how his parents almost fed him to the chickens when he was born. "I'm an ugly old man but I'm harmless!"), a gas station attendant who fires guns into the darkness, a cross-eyed albino black man who drives around all night eating live beach rats, and other freaks. Her father's house is a strange work of art, full of stuffed dogs and cardboard cut-out people and senseless displays. The town is empty and desolate, and people gather around the meat counter in the supermarket late at night to eat raw meat... and anyone they can catch. The rest of the late hours they gather on the beach to wait for some kind of god that's supposed to rise from the sea. It's not completely coherent and the editing is choppy, but that serves to keep you off balance and make everything more surreal and weird. Possibly weirdest of all is that this is from the same writers who brought you American Graffiti. Strong images and sincere creepiness make up for a lack of gore. -zwolf

Mill of the Stone Women (C, 1960) AKA Drops of Blood, Icon, Horror of the Stone Women, The Horrible Mill Women, Il Mulino delle donne di pietra
French-Italian horror set in Holland. A historian named Hans goes to the Mill of the Stone Women - a windmill containing a bizarre carousel of female statues in poses depicting the dark side of women's history (Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, witchcraft executions, a poisoner, etc.) - to write a paper detailing its history. It's run by a professor and his mad doctor friend who've secretly been using the mill to transfuse blood into his daughter Elfie, who keeps dying and being revived. They get the blood from kidnaped local girls, who become drained, petrified, and made into part of the exhibit. Lonely, unbalanced Elfie starts an affair with Hans on the sly, but Hans is in love with someone else, and this causes Elfie to have a fit and die again. Hans runs away, but returns to confess, but learns the horrible truth behind it all when he discovers that Elfie's been resurrected. Slow-moving and difficult to get into (I've probably fallen asleep more often attempting to watch this film than any other movie), but it's a great horror film if you hang with it, including some nightmarish scenes and a pervasive atmosphere of mental decay amongst the petrified corpses, both in their jerky rinky-dink carousel and cluttering the workshops in the back room. The finale provides some especially memorable images. -zwolf

Mission Kashmir (C, 2000)
This Bollywood hit was big enough to get a U.S. video release. A police captain loses a child because no hospital will treat him after an accident; terrorists have issued a fatwah against the families of any doctors who help the police. This enrages the police captain so much that he goes after the terrorists with a vengeance, and accidentally kills some civilians. He and his wife adopt the son of the dead civilians, but he eventually finds out what happened and runs away and joins a jihad organization headed by a terrorist mastermind so sinister he makes Osama Bin Ladin look like Mr. Rogers. A misguided battle between adopted-father and adopted-son ensues that leads to a plot that could result in the destruction of Kashmir... and all of India. Contrived, to be sure, but very dramatic and compelling and makes a strong point about the cycle of violence and terrorism. As usual, contains lots of singing and dancing numbers, and top notch cinematography. Recommended. -zwolf

Mister Scarface (C, 1976) AKA Padroni della città, Big Boss, Blood and Bullets, Rulers of the City
One of those much-maligned Italian gangster flicks that nobody except me seems to like. Tony is a happy-go-lucky, dune-buggy-driving collection man for the mob. He doesn't get much respect even though he's pretty good at it (he seems to know Italian kung fu or something). Jack Palance is Scarface, a crime boss so scary that one of the other mobsters says "every time I-a see him, my asshole a-twitches!" Scarface gives Tony's boss a bad check, and Tony - showing off - volunteers to go collect on it. Via a bit of trickery, Tony collects, but once he has the money Tony's boss panics and wants to give it back. But - too late - the incident sets off a small mob war, with Tony and his friends targeted. Add some old scores that need settling into the mix and you get lots of shooting, punch-outs, exploding cars, chases, and other assorted mayhem. Pretty cool and a good example of why I watch these things. The fact that most prints of this are faded and going slightly reddish actually adds to the atmosphere... -zwolf

Mitchell (C, 1975)
Man, does this one have a reputation for being bad, mainly because of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but if you watch it bot-less it's... well, okay, it's still bad, but not one of the worst movies ever made or anything. It's easy enough to make fun of, though, because Mitchell (the cop that Joe Don Baker is portraying) is supposed to be an unlikeable slob; it's supposed to be an anti-hero movie, but they overdo it a little, making him a not-too-bright alcoholic who can't get women and reads a lot of porn, isn't particularly brave or skilled, and gets by mostly despite himself. He has a hooker (Linda Evans) visit him, and then he still almost gets rejected and makes an ass of himself. Then there's a car chase (sorta) where nobody ever seems to go over 40 miles an hour, and Mitchell gets run off the road, anyway. Later there's another leisurely chase that leaves Mitchell stuck in the mud, but they finally get up to speed with a dune buggy chase that's ridiculous for another reason; they explode if they flip over! Mitchell arrests his hooker girlfriend, ends up on the losing end of several more fights, and succeeds mainly through stubbornness, not skill. Still, I don't care what anybody says, I like Joe Don Baker. His scene with the kid is hilarious and it takes acting skill to throw such a convincing fit. Not really that awful, though it does lend itself to mockery. Judging from the cornball theme song, at least some of that was intentional. -zwolf

Monkey Fist (C, 1974)
This one looks a little strange because the filmmaking is especially bad and the hero (Chan Sao Chung) is almost a midget. But he's supposed to be the best monkey kung fu master in the world. To make things a little more disorienting, the DVD is mastered from a non-letterboxed, glitch-filled tape of a patchy print that occasionally switches back to Chinese from the dubbed English. There's not a ton of plot - our hero almost gets press-ganged into the army but refuses, then gets jailed for eight years. While in jail, he watches a monkey through the window of his cell and imitates its movements to teach himself monkey boxing. He also teaches a little boy who comes to visit him. When he gets out he opens a school, but the thugs who've been oppressing everybody (led by Kien Shih, AKA "Mr. Han" from Enter The Dragon) mess with him and force a showdown. The fighting's not too impressive and the choppy condition of the tape the DVD was mastered from tests your patience, but apparently it's a rare film and supposedly based on a true story, so... may be worth a look for devoted monkey-philes. Easily passed over by most others, though. Ground Zero should have put this out cheaper and backed with another movie. -zwolf

Monkey Shines (C, 1988) AKA Ella, Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear
Another good George Romero flick, although most people didn't like it. A paralyzed man is given a monkey to help him around the house. The monkey has been given injections of brain fluid and is superintelligent, and somehow, the man and the monkey form a psychic link. The monkey picks up on the man's suppressed rage and becomes a homicidal maniac, utilizing a straight razor as an instrument of death. Special effects by Tom Savini, but most of them got snipped by the MPAA bastards, so don't expect your usual Romero splatterthon or you'll be disappointed. If you're looking for a very well-made, if almost bloodless, horror film, then give it a shot. A similar razor-wielding monkey also showed up in Dario Argento's Phenomena. -zwolf

Monstrosity (B&W, 1964) AKA The Atomic Brain
A mad doctor named Otto Frank is trying to transplant brains; his experiments are funded by a rich old lady who wants her brain put in a young body. They bring in housekeeping candidates as potential body donors. One of the girls is supposed to be from England, but her fake accent is so bad that half the time she sounds Southern... ah well, Birmingham, England... Birmingham, Alabama, what's the difference? He transplants the brain of a cat into one girl, and transplants the crotchety old lady's brain into a cat's head (how it fits, nobody knows) and this proves to be a big mistake. Cheap little B-horror flick that's considered by many to be one of the world's worst, but it verges too close to competence and is a little too entertaining to qualify for that... but it'd still be really easy to make fun of. -zwolf

Moonshine County Express (C, 1977) AKA Shine
Yee-haw, redneck actioner starring Claudia Jennings, Maureen ("Marsha" on The Brady Bunch) McCormick (as "Sissy Hammer" - now there's a name for ya!), and Susan Howard as the daughters of a murdered moonshiner. They decide to keep the business going and look for revenge against an evil crime boss (William Conrad, TV's Cannon). John Saxon (trying to act Southern) helps run the shine for them. Typical. Dub Taylor also stars. -zwolf

The Mothman Prophecies (C, 2001)
Richard Gere (infamous star of the unreleased and possibly mythical Gerbilman Prophecies!) is a reasonable stand-in for David Duchovny in this reasonable stand-in for an extended X-Files episode. Too bad I don't like the X-Files... Gere's wife dies from a brain tumor after seeing a strange moth man. Later he recognizes drawings of the thing in a town that's overwhelmed with strange paranormal activity, all involving a mysterious figure that calls itself "Indrid Cold." There are weird phone calls and accurate predictions of disasters. Gere becomes obsessed because he thinks his dead wife has something to do with it. Based on real-life phenomena and it's occasionally creepy and always weird, but it's highly overrated - it's not that scary and the big "payoff" isn't that much of a surprise and is very anticlimactic. They also try to get "experimental" with narrative structure, but they fail; there are serious flaws in the storytelling, apparently put there as pointless additional weirdness. It's interesting enough and worth seeing, but it's no big deal if you miss it, either. -zwolf
The pairing of "sexy old man" & young policewoman, along with the general big-budget spooky movie vibe, guarantee that this one would make a solid double-feature with Signs, which should definitely be the second film, as it's much better! -igor

Mr. Majestyk (C, 1974)
Charles Bronson is a watermelon farmer who wants nothing in life so much as to get his crop in. He hires Mexican laborers, but a smartass extortionist insists he use his crew, instead... and gets his ass kicked for his trouble. This gets Charlie in trouble with the cops, and an escape attempt by a hit man (played by typecast-as-a-hit-man great Al Lettieri) he's in the lock-up with gets him in trouble with the mob. They chase off his workers, shoot up his melons, and try to kill him, but Charlie never was the kind of guy you could push around. Good action scenes (although a bit crazy in one case - no way would Charlie be able to stay in the bed of a pickup truck that was being driven so insanely... Tony Hawk woulda fallen out of that thing!) and solid filmmaking and a plot taken from an Elmore Leonard novel make this one of Bronson's best. -zwolf

Ms. 45 (C, 1981) AKA Angel of Vengeance
Zoe Tamerlis (who looks like she could be Barbara Steele's daughter) is a mousy, mute garment district worker who gets raped on the way home from work one day. When she gets home, a guy who's broken into her apartment rapes her, too. She kills him with an iron (bringing work home from the office is a good idea!) and then dismembers his body in her bathtub, puts the parts in trash bags, stores them in the fridge, and then starts parceling them out in various places all over town (which isn't easy because her crazy old landlady is obsessively nosy). She starts carrying the guy's .45 automatic for protection, but all the males around her are jerks so she starts hunting them all down on general principles. She gets empowered by all this killing and starts dressing in leather and lipstick to attract them. It's never explained where she gets all those bullets or learns such marksmanship, but what the hell, it's still more stylish and has more psychology behind it than Death Wish. Directed by the never-been-normal Abel Ferrara in his usual I-don't-think-Scorsese-makes-NYC-look-quite-ugly-enough style. -zwolf

Munster, Go Home (C, 1966)
Munster, go to HELL! Stupid, juvenile feature made from the equally stupid and juvenile TV series. The Munsters visit England to claim an inheritance. The servants in their castle set up skeletons and act like ghosts to scare them off, which makes them feel right at home. They explore the castle dungeons, foil counterfeiters, and drag race their car. Was made as a TV movie, but went to theaters instead. I can't imagine anybody paying to see it. The Munster's Revenge was another feature. Fans of the series only. -zwolf

The Mutilation Man (C, 1998)
Thank the gods for commentary tracks, for without them this DVD would be almost entirely useless, because as much as I wanted to like it, it's a profoundly dull mess, not much more than home movies of people walking around. The plot would be intriguing if the pacing weren't so completely leaden and if there wasn't such an inept narrative structure. A guy who was abused as a child by his drunken father (Jim Van Bebber from Deadbeat at Dawn, legitimately drunk and acting extremely crazy, guest stars as the father) wanders a post-apocalypse wasteland (which never manages to look like anything but vacant lots in Dayton, Ohio), putting on shows of self-mutilation for whoever's willing to show up and watch. Lots of flashbacks and hallucinations of a dominatrix-demon and an angel fill the rest of the scant story. There's less than a half-dozen lines of dialogue, and the rest is amateurish, dull industrial music. There's some cheap gore and plenty of nudity but it's badly filmed, and the whole thing is a profound bore... unless you run the commentary track, which is interesting enough. The director comes across as a nice, enthusiastic, sincere guy, and hearing him talk about the film is pretty engaging, even if the film itself isn't. It's also funny to hear him point out a thousand different mistakes, malfunctions, and mishaps that he left in because "they work for the film" (and, I suspect, because he didn't want to throw anything out, since he'd paid the lab fees on it). It's done with the best of intentions and no money at all, but, alas, it's really really bad. Some of the acting is okay, though, just lost in the poor filmmaking. Worth checking out if you leave the commentary track on, though. -zwolf

My Brother Has Bad Dreams (C, 1977)
A very nerdy, very disturbed young man named Karl lives with his sister, who has to look after him because he's nuts. He has a fear of cats and talks to mannequins (and also attacks them with fireplace pokers and sleeps with them), because he thinks they're his mother, who died fifteen years earlier. Karl peeps at his sister and masturbates while she's getting dressed, and he wakes up screaming from dreams about their abusive parents. He also hoards mannequins to sleep with, because his sister doesn't think it's a very healthy practice and keeps taking them away from him. Karl meets a friendly biker named Tony and brings him home. The problem is, Tony and Karl's sister fall in love, which makes Karl jealous... This sparks really bizarre, creepy nightmares and homicidal rages, and pretty soon Karl is burying bodies in the backyard. A weird, morbid low-budget horror film that can make for pretty unsettling 2 a.m. viewing. -zwolf

My Name Is Julia Ross (B&W, 1945)
The title heroine takes a job working for a family in Cornwall and doesn't suspect they're up to anything even though they're very pointed about asking if she has any relatives. Turns out they're nuts and start keeping her prisoner and try to convince her that she's the one who's crazy, that she's actually named Marion and is married to the family's son. They tell everyone else she's crazy so she won't be able to get help in escaping. It doesn't stop her from trying, though... She learns that they plan to kill her and make it look like suicide (even though the psychotic son would rather stab her a few hundred times) so they can get the real Marion's inheritance... and he already killed her earlier, y'see. Since everything's going wrong for poor Julia, they just might get away with it. The kind of suspenseful little B-flick that often outshone the A's. Remade in 1987 as Dead of Winter. -zwolf

Mystery of Chess Boxing (C, 1979) AKA Ninja Checkmate
A frog-faced guy named Apau wants to learn kung fu badly enough to put up with lots of humiliating hazing at the school he enrolled in. The school's cook likes his enthusiasm, takes pity on him, and gives him a little help. He also picks up skills by adapting to the hazing. He'll need all the skills he can muster to get revenge on the evil Ghost Face Killer, who is a master of the Five Elements Style, so Apau is sent to study under an old man who's an expert at playing chess. By combining more rigorous training (hanging from ropes and doing brick-juggling) with lots of chess-playing (to teach him calmness of mind and quick wits), he learns powerful kung fu. Then he has to face Ghost Face Killer's Five Elements Style - fire, wood, water, earth, gold - all of which interact with and against each other, making him nearly unbeatable. Lots of skill on display in this one, although it may be most famous for the hype it got when kung-fu movie-fanatic rap group The Wu Tang Clan, whose first album was named after this and who also feature a rapper named Ghost Face Killah. -zwolf

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