Panic (C, 1976) AKA Bakterion, I Vivi Invidieranno i Morti
David Warbeck and Janet Agren star in a Eurohorror obscurity directed by Anthony Richmond (Tonino Ricci). A warning goes off in a lab where some bleeding rats in a cage are fighting. They break the cage, spreading green, flesh-eating contamination. Then a couple out parking are killed by some monster. A lady scientist and a cop investigate, heading first to a professor's house and (in a scene inspired by Night of the Living Dead) they find a corpse. Then (in a scene inspired by Psycho) the slimy-skinned monster kills a girl in a shower, drinking most of her blood and leaving her covered with bites and chemical burns. The military is called out, so the monster takes to the sewers, and somehow surfaces behind the screen in a theatre that's showing a horrible movie about a guy taking a leisurely drive. The wheezing mutant rips through the screen and kills and drains an airheaded girl who didn't run fast enough (although I was honestly wondering if anyone in the theatre could walk, because if they could, why were they watching that dreck film?) Then the monster does some more attacking, and you get to see it more clearly - it looks like a long-haired old man with pizza-cheese layered on his face. The townspeople panic at the situation and cause mayhem as they try to get out of town. Meanwhile, the monster breaks into houses looking for more victims. It's starting to become laughable at that point, since it says "Ooo! Ooo! Ooo!" as it stumbles along. It takes two shotgun blasts from one guy and then kills him anyway, while his remarkably-unconcerned-looking daughters watch. Even though an antidote to the deadly virus has been developed, the cop sets out to kill the monster anyway, but it's not easy because he's hiding in the sewers. So the military decides to just nuke the city instead. In the meantime, the cops (who look more like taxi drivers) still hunt the mutant, just because "he stinks, I want to see him dead." The lady scientist also hunts him, wanting to give him the antidote. She finds him and at first he wants help, but then his head starts pulsating and he fights it out with the cops, who use a fancy tricked-up fire extinguisher on him. And the bomber keeps coming... Pretty bad and ridiculous standard deadly-outbreak-monster flick with lotsa blood splashed around but no real gore and a "gotta fill the running time with attacks" plot. If you see this, in a way you're lucky because few people have, but in another way you have my sympathies because there's a reason so few people have seen it... -zwolf

The Panic In Needle Park (C, 1971)
A young Al Pacino (wearing a headband a lot of the time) is a friendly neighborhood drug connection and all-around small-time hood, who hooks up with nice girl Kitty Winn. Their relationship seems pretty good, even though they're hanging out in shooting galleries full of junkies, whores, and thieves. Pressures get to them, desperation sets in, and they start doing heroin. And then things go from bad to hellish, with Pacino nearly dying of an O.D. and then going to jail. When he gets out, Winn is whoring to support her habit, which Pacino's brother is supplying. Then Pacino makes a deal and becomes a supplier, but even though that's supposed to solve everything, it doesn't - they argue constantly and grow even more desperate. Winn turns more tricks and pushes pills to kids and every time they think they're ahead they find themselves behind again soon afterward. And they learn that gravity works; you can't go any other direction as quickly as down... Well-made, loosely-jointed, and grittily-realistic drama. -zwolf

Panic Room (C, 2002)
Director David Fincher, responsible for the excellent Se7en & Fight Club, puts out another winner here, starring Jodie Foster & Kristen Stewart as a mother & daughter seeking new digs after Foster has split with her philandering husband. Their new house is really nice & includes a panic room, installed by the wealthy & paranoid former owner. But all hell breaks loose when crooks bust into the house to score the millions hidden in the panic room. Jared Leto & Forest Whitaker are excellent as two of the criminals, but Dwight Yoakam is as wonderfully sleazy as the third crook as he was in Slingblade, & easily steals the show. The entire film has a very modern Hitchcockian tone, from the opening credits & music to the suspenseful attempts to get help by phone & by contacting the neighbors. Nowhere near as gory or over-the-top as Se7en or Fight Club, this one is nonetheless a masterful work of terror & suspense from a director worth keeping an eye on. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Fincher & Hitchcock! -igor

Paper: Incriminating Evidence (C, ????)
This is quite possibly the poorest excuse for a "movie" that's actually being marketed on DVD (buried at the bottom of the What It Is, What It Was 10-movie box set). It's poorly shot on video and you have to work at it to try to impose a plot on this non-thought-out mess. The dialogue (what you can make out of it) pretty much consists entirely of "shit," "nigga," "motherfucker," "dog," "bitch," "money," and "know what I'm sayin'?" repeated over and over in various configurations. I bet there's not one page of written script for this crap. And it's okay that the dialogue is pointless, because the sound cuts out a lot, anyway, because somebody didn't know how to edit, and there's a lot of bad homemade rap music drowning it out a lot of the time, anyway. All you see on screen is guys shaking hands and hugging, drinking, rolling and smoking joints, and throwing dice... basically conforming to every tired gangsta rap cliche. There's a shooting or two (why and who you never know) and a clumsy sex scene with two people you really don't want to see naked. The guy's so embarrassed he just barely pulls his pants down past his butt, and the girl leaves her thong on. There's no attempt at establishing a character for the viewer to follow (it's filmed so badly that you can't always tell who you're looking at, anyway, and all these guys wearing hoods and identical bandanas don't help in identification, either), and there's no story at all. I think they intended it to be some contract hit men being tracked by the feds (there are a few brief verging-on-competence bits with two investigators whose conversations you can actually hear, talking about some strange weapon that might be a gun - you never find out what it actually is) and an intro with some guy giving his last words before execution - which was obviously inspired by the "fuck all ya'll" intro to an Ice Cube CD. But there's really not any attempt to tell that story, if that's the story they were intending... instead, what this looks like is some guys trying to fit all their friends into a home movie and let them show off their G-style or some shit, and then getting stoned enough to try to market it. And, amazingly, somebody was stoned enough to buy it and put it out. Mercifully it runs less than an hour, a considerable chunk of which is apparently a cast party that runs under the credits, with the director proudly thanking you for watching his "joint." Jeez. I try to like these little homemade movies - I did kind of enjoy Bang and The Murder Men which were similar no-budget affairs put out on another box-set, but those had a story and some sincere effort, even if they weren't the most skillful products. But this thing, I'm sorry, it's just complete junk and isn't even good for filler. Save yourself an hour and avoid this, unless for some reason you just like watching people roll joints and do handshakes. This isn't filmmaking, it's just recording. -zwolf

Penitentiary (C, 1979)
Leon Isaac Kennedy as "Too Sweet" (because he likes candy bars) kills a biker while protecting a hooker and he ends up in jail. His musclebound cellmate, Half Dead (who's also half-toothless and all-the-way scary) has plans to punk him out. Considering this is a place where one guy gets beaten half to death because his "boyfriend" caught him standing up to pee, it's an especially bad place to get punked. So Too Sweet puts up a fight that's pretty damn nightmarish, and wins. But since he keeps getting in fights anyway, he joins the prison boxing team and does quite well. Whoever wins gets a conjugal visit with a woman. He wins, but it's no big prize - it's the hooker who landed him in the pen in the first place. He gets in another championship that might score him an early release. Very gritty blaxploitation classic that obviously had a very small budget but makes up for it by capturing an intense sense of realism. It's a simple, brutal story well-told. Two sequels followed. -zwolf

Pet Sematery (C, 1989)
Great adaptation of Stephen King's most morbid book. In case you've been in a media vacuum for years, it's about a secret burial ground behind a pet cemetery. Anything buried there will return to life, but will be... different. When the family cat dies, a man buries it and it comes back mean. Then his three-year-old son dies... One of the scariest, darkest-mooded movies of the 80's, without much comedy relief. Fred Gwynne is so good as the neighbor that he'll make you forget that he was Herman Munster. Not much gore, but what's there is pretty nasty. Scripted by Stephen King (who swore for a long time that he'd never allow it to be made into a movie). George Romero was originally slated to direct, but after lots of hassles, the job changed through many hands and finally fell to Mary Lambert, who did a damn good job, even though she used to direct Madonna videos. Maybe the best King adaptation. -zwolf

Pi (B&W, 1998)
Strange, low-budget experimental film that has kind of an Eraserhead look to it and lots of complex things to say about the nature of reality, mathematics, obsession, paranoia, and the cycles and patterns that define everything. A mathematical genius named Max Cohen has been working on his home-built supercomputer (named Euclid) to determine a pattern in the stock market. He overworks himself so much that he has to take drugs to control attacks of trembling, nosebleeds, and headaches. He gets courted by a Wall Street investment firm as well as a Hasidic Jewish sect who want him to decode secret patterns in the Torah and Kabbalah. One day an ant causes his computer to spit out a strange 216-digit number and short out, but after throwing this number away he learns that it's the crucial key to everything he's been looking for. His friend, an old man who used to do work on pi, also ran into that number as a program bug. And the more order that Max finds, the more chaotic the world becomes - chaos tends toward order but order is just another form of chaos, and everything is part of a spiral. Max suffers a breakdown, shaves his head, starts seeing brains everywhere, and goes on the run from the investors and the Jews, who think his number is actually the name of God. Very complex, cerebral, but for the most part understandable film featuring stark black and white photography (that looks great) and an abundance of odd camera angles and editing techniques, as well as an industrial electronic music score. Definitely worth repeated viewings. -zwolf

The Pigkeeper's Daughter
(C, 1972)
Down-home softcore hillbilly porkin' as a country girl named Moonbeam and her pig, Lord Hamilton, cause her parents some worryin' 'cuz she's 19 and ain't married up yet. She's too busy screwing just about any fella who drops by, while her little sister, the avowed virgin, watches jealously. Along comes a traveling salesman who's not too picky - he screws a guy he finds tied up, an underage hooker, and the pig farmer's wife (in exchange for cosmetics and stuff). And a local good ol' boy who drops by a lot gets the rest. Porn in general is pretty dull, and softcore (even when it's pretty hard softcore, like this - it shows more than those Cinemax after-dark flicks) can get really boring, so unless endless footage of naked bodies writhing around in various barnyard settings really appeals to you, then there's just not a whole to recommend here, drive-in novelty or not. For what it is, though, it's pretty well done. -zwolf

Playgirls and the Vampire (B&W, 1962) AKA Curse of the Vampire, Daughters of the Vampire, Desires of the Vampire, Last Prey of the Vampire, Last Victim of the Vampire, Vampire's Last Victim, L' Ultima preda del vampiro
Early Italian gothic horror in which a busload of showgirls and their cornball manager get caught in a storm and have to take refuge in a castle owned by a mysterious Count Kernassy, who only lets them stay because one of them - named Vera - looks like one of his ancestors, and seems to be a reincarnation. Soon one of the sillier girls is found dead. After a brief period of mourning, the girls go back to dancing...and stripping down to their skivvies. The dead girl's grave gets dug up and it soon becomes revealed that the Count has a 200 year old ancestor running around who looks just like him, and who's also enamored of Vera. Vera discovers the dead girl's body in a secret laboratory, and soon the dead girl's roaming around the castle with vampire fangs, hungry for blood. The Count's lookalike is also stalking around, and must be stopped. A mixture of bad cheesemo comedy (such as a guy sleeping with an "art photo" magazine tucked into bed next to him), decent cheesecake ultra-softcore (no sex and only some very, very brief nudity), and a few effectively creepy scenes... even if the advanced-decay-of-a-vampire scene is accomplished via cartoon cut-outs rather than makeup effects. -zwolf

Posse (C, 1993)
Mario Van Peebles directed and starred in this homage to the black cowboys of the old West. Casting rappers (Big Daddy Kane, Tone Loc) as cowboys actually works pretty well, and Mario makes an especially cool, bad-ass gunslinger, but there's just a bit too much goofiness and formula for this to come off as mythic as it wants to be. It's still fast-movie and entertaining enough, though, with Mario trying to defend a black town that was a dream of his father's and getting revenge on the men who killed him before he could see it realized. Plus there's a scumbag colonel who had exploited Mario and company and set them up to be killed, and he's after some gold that they re-appropriated from him. Loads of not-bad gunfights and beatings and welcome appearances by Isaac Hayes, Pam Grier, and Mario's dad, Melvin, among others. I just wish they'd found a slot for Fred Williamson, since he made a couple of pretty cool black westerns (Mario even dresses a lot like Fred did in Joshua). Not bad, but just short of being at Tombstone level. -zwolf

The Postman (C, 1997)
The fact that this movie includes a scene where a guy with a .45 is running around yelling for Shakespeare could be taken as a metaphor... IF this movie were as bad as its reputation suggests. Luckily, however, that's not the case. Kevin Costner likes making post-apocalypse movies almost as much as Westerns, and they always get snubbed. Remember that other not-that-bad-really film, Waterworld? Same case here. Costner's a scavenger who gets conscripted to be in an army of religious pieces of shit, but he escapes and holes up in an old mail truck, where he takes the dead mailman's uniform and sits around reading mail. Since he was traveling from village to village performing Shakespeare, he decides to use his acting talent to pose as a postman, delivering ancient mail in hopes of being welcomed into towns for free meals. The trick works too well: people are so glad to see a semblance of the old world and so gladly accepting of the idea of a reformed U.S. government that he becomes a source of inspiration. The schmaltz gets laid on thick and heavy (whole towns start singing "America The Beautiful" at the sight of him fer chrissake) and there's a lot of pretentious feel-good B.S., but nothing you can't roll your eyes and bear with. Meanwhile, the fascist cultists are blasting whole towns in order to try to stop the idea that the United States is being restored. Costner's wounded and a woman with more resolve and perspective than him nurses him back to health, and when he gets back on the road he learns that there are a lot of postal people now, led by inspired-by-Costner Larenz Tate (as "Ford Lincoln Mercury"), who's been running with the concept and organizing it because he believes in it so much. And the Postmen become a resistance movement. The movie gets silly a lot, with every scene trying to be epic (Costner turning around and riding in slow motion to pick up a letter from a kid should have you in stitches), but despite rumors, it's well made and it's not boring, even though it is a little overlong at 3 hours. And the manipulative nature of it can be forgiven, since (a) it's so blatant, at least it's not trying to sneak anything by you, (b) it's trying to make you appreciate your country and that's not a bad thing, and (c) if being manipulative was a crime we'd've had to hang Spielberg years ago. Tom Petty makes an appearance, possibly as himself. -zwolf

Primal Impulse (C, 1974) AKA Footprints, Le Orme
Generic title but very unusual movie. A woman named Alice (Florinda Bolkan from Flavia the Heretic) wakes up after dreaming of a scene she thinks she saw in a movie years before, where a man was abandoned on the moon as an experiment, and finds that she's lost three days of her life - she can't remember where she's been. She remembers something about a hotel in a town called Garma. One of her earrings is missing and there's an unfamiliar dress in her closet with a spot of blood on it. She travels to Garma and meets a little girl (the little redheaded girl from Deep Red, Who Saw Her Die, and numerous other Italian horror flicks) who says she was there a few days before, but her name was Nicole and she had long red hair. A dog finds a red wig in the woods, and there are some ruins of an ancient village in the woods and under the lake. People all over town recognize her so she tries to backtrack and find out what she was doing during her missing days... and why she can't remember them. The more she finds out, though, the more upset she gets, thinking it's somehow tied in to the lunar experiment (which was conducted by Klaus Kinski). The little girl tells her that her other incarnation had been being hunted by "bad people" whom she was hiding from. Alice starts an affair with a guy who claims he knows her and who tries to convince her she's crazy. Is she? Or is she really the subject of some organization's experiment? Strange, artsy exploration of paranoia in a sci-fi/horror vein. This is the kind of movie you might catch late-night on some local station and spend the rest of your life wondering about... -zwolf

Prince Of Central Park (C, 1977)
Cool, kid-oriented TV movie about a brother and sister who run away from home and live in a treehouse in Central Park. They have to evade an evil hood named Elmo and befriend an old lady through notes written on park benches. A small, early role for Brooke Shields as a rich girl. -zwolf

The Prowler (C, 1981) AKA The Graduation, Rosemary's Killer
This entry into the slasher movie craze managed to outdo most of the others thanks to fairly classy direction from Joseph Zitto (who then went on to slum by doing Chuck Norris movies) and some really vicious gore courtesy of Tom Savini. A G.I. freshly home from WWII is so upset at the "Dear John" letter he got that he pitchforks his girlfriend and her new boyfriend together at a graduation dance. They don't have the dance again for decades, but then they decide to hold it again, and people start getting stalked and slaughtered in very graphic fashion by a psycho in an army uniform. Bayonet through the head, pitchfork through a naked torso, slit and stabbed throats, and since it's a Savini movie you just gotta have an exploding head. While the killer is doing all of this, a deputy and his girlfriend are searching the area for the killer. The pacing is a little slow but it's still grade-A slasher material, with eerie, coincidental similarities to My Bloody Valentine, which came out the same year - masked and helmeted killer stalks people when a discontinued dance is held again after a period of years, etc. Lawrence Tierney has a nearly-invisible bit as a wheelchair-bound major. -zwolf

Psycho from Texas (C, 1974) AKA The Butcher
Pretty damned awful "horror" about an obnoxious jerk named Wheeler who plans out a kidnapping, all because he was twisted by child abuse as a kid. The whole thing's boring, embarrassingly dumb, and badly done. About the only reason anyone ever bothers to check this snoozefest out is because it features an early appearance by over-rated "scream queen" Linnea Quigley - Wheeler makes her take off her clothes and dance while he pours beer on her. It's not much, but it's the movie's highlight, if you can stay awake that long. -zwolf

Psych-Out (C, 1968)
One of the biggest hippie movies, produced by Dick Clark and starring Susan Strassberg, Dean Stockwell, Jack Nicholson (with a ponytail), Max "The Mack" Julien, Adam "almost every biker movie" Roarke, and Bruce Dern. A deaf girl named Jenny (Strassberg) runs away from home and gets lost in the Haight-Ashbury scene, and is befriended by Nicholson and his pals. She's looking for her brother, and cops are looking for her. Meanwhile a guy bugged out on LSD sees zombies and tries to cut his hand off with a Skil saw. They go looking for Jenny's brother (who's now a cult leader known as The Seeker) in a junkyard and have to fight some violent rednecks. Max Julien, happily tripping on LSD, lays them out with a 2 X 4, thinking they're knights and dragons. The great flower-punk band, The Seeds, play at a fake funeral, but most of the soundtrack is Strawberry Alarm Clock. Nicholson also has a band but knows so little about playing guitar that he can't even act like he does - he never moves his hands! When they finally find Jenny's brother, he's Bruce Dern in Charles Manson get-up, talking all kinds of wackiness. Not much plot but somehow engrossing even if you're no big fan of hippies (I hate 'em, but like this movie). Lots of wonderfully-dated dialogue and psychedelic filmwork add up to a great little cinematic time capsule. -zwolf

The Punisher (C, 1990)
Film adaptation of Marvel Comics' rip-off of Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan/Executioner books, with Dolph Lundgren well-cast as the Punisher, a man obsessed with killing Mafia goons to avenge his murdered family. The Japanese Yakuza are at war with the mob, and he works the middle to take them both out and rescue some kidnapped kids. What elevates this above standard action flicks is that, due to Lundgren's very deadpan performance, the Punisher comes across as not just an urban Rambo, but more of an obsessed psychopath taking out his rage in focused rampages. He looks tired all the time, like he never sleeps, and looks pale and feverishly sick from living in sewers. This is a big, bad, strong mofo, but not a healthy one, at least not mentally. The only time he looks alive is when he's blasting the hell out of gangsters, and then he gets an expression of almost-sexual satisfaction on his face. This makes for a much more multi-faceted badass - Lundgren's tiny emotional range as an actor actually works for him here. Wasn't very popular, but deserves more attention and a better rep than it got. -zwolf

Quicksand (B&W, 1950)
Compelling film noir with Mickey Rooney as a mechanic who sets himself up for major misery by taking twenty dollars out of the cash register at work so he can take a girl named Vera (James Cagney's sister Jeanne) out on the town. He intends to pay it back the next day but hits a snag in his plans and comes up with increasingly bad ideas to get him out of one jam by putting himself in a worse one. First he puts a down-payment on a really expensive watch, which he then pawns for the money. Turns out this is illegal, so now he has to come up with $100. Out of desperation he robs a drunk and pays the watch off, but sleazy arcade owner Peter Lorre finds out and blackmails him into stealing a car from work. The boss figures out that Mickey stole it, though, so now Mickey's got to come up with $3,000... and the crime-snowball keeps getting bigger and bigger until Mickey's in real trouble and evil bitch Vera shows her true colors. Girls named Vera are always bad news in these movies, so he really should've known better. Plenty of seedy locations (garages, penny arcades, bars, pawn shops) and a pervasive sense of mounting desperation in the narrative will keep you glued to this top-notch little B-flick, even if it ends up not being as dark and doomy as most classic noir. -zwolf

(C, 2001)
Geoffrey Rush plays the Marquis de Sade, imprisoned in a madhouse but still writing dirty, dirty manuscripts, which are smuggled out of the hospital by chambermaid Madeleine (Kate Winslett) to secret publishers who sell the books on the black market to an eager audience. When the Emperor Napoleon learns of these books, he sends a new doctor to the hospital to ensure that no more of de Sade's works are smuggled out. The ensuing plot, involving the doctor, his young wife, the Marquis, the resident priest, & the chambermaid, careens quickly along toward a resolution that speaks volumes about the nature & power of art & the artist. De Sade's art is considered dangerous & perverse, & efforts to stop it quickly spiral into a maelstrom that consumes everyone involved. Plus, you get to see Kate Winslett nekkid! Geoffrey Rush, too, for you real weirdos out there! -igor

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