Targets (C, 1968) AKA Before I Die
Boris Karloff plays a fictional version of himself ("Byron Orlock") - an aging horror movie actor who's about to retire because his movies are all "camp" now, since real life has become so much scarier. He reluctantly agrees to make one last promotional appearance at a drive-in showing his last movie, The Terror (Roger Corman was a friend of the director so the footage was handy, you even get to see the infamous floating rocks footage). Meanwhile, a clean-cut All-American-Boy-looking gun nut (based on real-life psycho Tex Whitman) kills his family for no discernable reason, calmly puts them in their beds, then cleans up all the blood. Then he climbs a water tower and starts shooting cars on the highway. When the cops come he makes a getaway and sets up shop behind the screen at the drive-in where Karloff is making his appearance... Excellent, great-looking first-film from Peter Bogdanovich must've been really freaky to watch at a drive-in... This was a much-more respectful film for Karloff to end his career on than the dreck he had to make in Mexico and Spain just to pay his bills. -zwolf

A Tattered Web (C, 1971)
Old-school TV-movie atmosphere abounds, thanks to the able direction of Mr. TV Movie, Paul Wendkos. Lloyd Bridges is a cop who doesn't like his son-in-law Steve very much, especially since he finds out the guy has been cheating on his daughter. He warns both Steve and his mistress to knock it off, and, maddened by accusations that he's the one screwing up his daughter's marriage, Bridges accidentally kills the mistress (boy is she fragile! Just shove her against the wall and she dies!) and then he has to try to cover it up, mostly to protect his daughter. But the cops have an accurate artist's conception of Steve, and since he'd been seen with the dead girl they think he murdered her. So Bridges tries to convince an old drunk that he killed a girl during a drunken blackout. But as plans get more complicated, they also get harder to maintain, and Bridges starts to crack under the pressure. Absorbing, well-done little flick, available with a couple of other movies on a cheap DVD called Great Detective Movies. -zwolf

Tears of the Sun (C, 2003) AKA Hostile Act, Hostile Rescue, Man of War
This Bruce Willis action flick never misses a chance to be manipulative, but hell, it works. Bruce and his Special Forces team go into a war-torn Nigeria to bring out a dedicated but pain-in-the-ass doctor before murderous rebel troops sweep through and kill them all. But she refuses to leave without taking everyone else with her. Bruce gets a case of conscience and compromises his mission to rescue all the refugees, despite enormous odds against them. It stages every possible emotion-tweaking scene, and this gets kind of obvious and pulls it into formula territory, but it's good at it and the action scenes are slam-bang and logically arrived-at (although still fairly impossible - action-movie action, don'tcha know) without sacrificing plot. The acting is also solid, which is significant given the fact that the movie's about minds being changed by extreme circumstances - not your usual action-flick kind of substance. It's not completely successful due to too much formula, blatant manipulation, and the fact that the doctor who we're supposed to see as noble and heroic comes across as an unrealistic, overly-idealistic idiot who's unlikely to inspire much audience sympathy and, ergo, costs Willis some power due to the fact that he acquiesces to her so much - is he moral or merely weak-willed to be led by such a whiny, perspective-lacking person? But even if it misses its target, at least it has one. -zwolf

Teenage Gang Debs (B&W, 1966)
Obscure JD drama with a hardboiled feel and impressively-sleazy stark black and white cinematography. A new girl with the awe-inspiring name of Terry Fiori moves to Brooklyn and immediately hooks up with a gang called the Rebels, since she used to be with a violent gang called the Falcons. She steals another girl's boyfriend and then stomps her in a catfight, but the new boyfriend wants to carve his initials on her chest, and Terry Fiori don't play that, so she starts up with another guy and has him kill the first guy in a knife fight. The new boyfriend has to - at Terry's insistence - get the gang to pull a train on his former girlfriend. The Rebels ally with a bike gang called The Rat Pack for a rumble against another gang. The rumble was filmed silent and soundtracked with Peter Gunn-style music - it's effectively disorienting and a brilliant directorial choice. Terry continues her manipulations until the gang is in shambles and she can take it over herself... unless she gets her comeuppance first. Gritty, realistic, violent obscurity that oughtta be a classic. Includes people kung-fu dancing to a song called "Black Belt" and plenty of vintage hard-ass dialogue. No nudity, but there are some crotchless panties hanging on the wall. Makes most other JD flicks seem kind of quaint. -zwolf

Teenage Rebel (B&W, 1956)
A snooty, lonely girl visits the family of her divorced mother (Ginger Rogers). She refuses to have anything to do with anybody until the hot-rodder next door finally wins her over... but then she finds out he's been bribed to be nice to her. Not bad '50's flick that's not as exploitative as it sounds. -zwolf

Teenage Wolfpack (B&W, 1956) AKA The Hooligans, Wolfpack, Die Halbstarken
Apparently Germany made bad juvenile delinquent epics in the '50's, too. This one was marketed as an attempt to turn "Henry Bookholt" (Horst Buchholz) into the next James Dean, but that's a big stretch, especially since the dubbing is so bad that people must've been laughing this off the screen. Henry is Freddy, an obnoxious young criminal who steals watches, gets in fights at the swimming pool, wears leather pants, dances obnoxious dances, and eventually acquires a gun. His dad's sure he's destined for a .45 slug in the back, but his mom wants to believe he's a good boy. Freddy and his gang steal a car (and a dachshund by proxy - every German car has one, and that's why they lost the war!) and bully one of their wimpier friends, almost shooting him in the head. Freddy's brother doesn't like this kind of behavior at all but really wants the money from the heist to help their mom get away from their mean ol' daddy, so he helps the gang pull a bigger crime, robbing a postal truck. But they end up with nothing but mail and the gang thinks Freddy's not so smart (which he's not - tampering with the mail is a federal offense). Freddy's girlfriend Sissy has a plan to get money... but only wants to share it with his brother. This leads to unhappy conflict. This looks as trashy as any of its American counterparts but seems to have some aspirations (no matter how slight) of being more than just a B-flick. But any of these goals are swamped by some hilarious dubbed dialogue that strives to be "hip" but is stiff, forced, and comes off about as hip as golf-pants. Needless to say, Henry Bookholt didn't become the next James Dean - hell, he didn't even become the next Dick Miller - but he did have a bit-part career in the States. A lot slower and less violent than the trailer suggests, but still interesting as an oddity. The credits claim it's based on a true story, but I don't believe it - this thing isn't based on any kind of story... -zwolf

The Tenant (C, 1976) AKA Le Locataire
Bizarre horror (with some black comedy neatly ingrained) directed by Roman Polanski, who also stars as a meek Polish man living in Paris. He moves into an apartment that's just been vacated by a girl who's dying in the hospital from a suicide attempt. Roman moves in and becomes intrigued with the former tenant, even posing as one of her friends to learn more about her. His neighbors complain about him all the time and eventually he becomes paranoid and suffers delusions, thinking that they drove the girl to suicide and have identical plans for him. Being painfully alienated and not having much personality of his own to begin with, he begins to dress in drag and think that he's turning into the dead girl. He also finds a tooth hidden in the wall and sees the neighbors enacting weird, ritualistic things in the alley outside, as well as people standing frozen in windows across the way. It's all very strange, has many creepy moments, and includes one of the weirdest endings you'll ever see. Too bad such a talented director had to be a child-molesting scumbag. This culminated an unofficial trilogy that Polanski made (along with Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby) chronicling the horrors facing apartment dwellers. -zwolf

Terror Creatures from the Grave (B&W, 1966) AKA Cinque Tombe per un Medium, Tombs of Horror, Five Graves for a Medium, Coffin of Terror, Cemetery of the Living Dead
A pointless and unrelated (but at least it's gory!) intro in which a man's face is stomped in by a horse opens this atmospheric Italian horror film, starring Barbara Steele, so you know it's good. A gloomy villa built on the site of an old hospital for plague victims is haunted by a dead occultist who was murdered there the year before. He wants revenge, and uses the resurrected corpses of plague victims to achieve it... or possibly they're just the ghosts of plague victims; you can't really tell because they don't show you much of them on screen, unfortunately. Anyway, something spooky's going on, for sure, because a display of severed hands of plague-spreaders come to life, an invisible corpse wagon creaks around, leaving tracks, and there's a creepy song that's the key to surviving the whole thing... which isn't easy, since the ghostly ones soon start causing everyone to break out with the black death. Ya gotta love this stuff... -zwolf

The Thin Red Line (C, 1998)
This WWII film came out at approximately the same time as Saving Private Ryan and critics argued over which was the better movie. Personally, I'll see you on the beach, even though I generally hold director Terrence Malick in higher regard than I do the usually-too-manipulative wunderkind Spielberg, 'cuz this movie is amazingly artificial and pretentious. It's a beautiful-looking film and most of the battle scenes do have impact, but there's not much narrative flow to speak of; what story there is tends to get buried by superfluities and almost all of the philosophizing just sounds good but doesn't really mean anything when you try to ponder it. And much of it is actually silly. "Who is trying to kill us?" (duh... the Japanese? Y'think?) And, at the end, "Where have we been?" (Guadalcanal, buddy, check yer map). At times it resembles a nature documentary; while all the bats and possums or whatever are certainly interesting and nicely shot, they're also a distraction from a story that's just barely on track to begin with. It's by no means bad - the cinematography is excellent and I'm not even going to try to list all the stars in this thing (other than to warn you that George Clooney gets big billing for what is basically a cameo) - but a movie that runs three hours long, and from the guy who directed a masterpiece like Badlands - should be a lot more involving. This is worth seeing, but the European Theater takes top honors for WWII in '98. -zwolf

This Gun For Hire (B&W, 1942)
Alan Ladd hit the big time with this Graham Greene adaptation, co-starring the always-cool Veronica Lake. This isn't really counted as a noir film, but I don't know why it shouldn't be: it's hardboiled enough ("Okay, I'll shoot it out with them, and I hope your copper gets the first slug!"), with Ladd as Raven, a ruthless (and a little unbalanced, due to childhood abuse) hitman you'd have to be a fool to double-cross. Ah, but the world is full of fools, and some of his contractors pay him off in stolen bills, setting him up for trouble with the cops. Lake does an impressive singing magic act (either there was some great trick camera work or my girl's got skills) and she gets mixed up with Raven when they meet on a train. She gets away from him and does another singing act (in a black leather outfit... in 1942!?! The song even had some sadomasochistic overtones to it, or at least it seemed that way to me) while Raven continues to hunt for his betrayers so he can settle the score. Lake ends up helping him out... even though her boyfriend is a cop. But it turns out that it's all okay, because the gangsters he's gunning for are also traitors, selling poison gas to the enemy. Fast-moving action film loaded with coolstuff. -zwolf

This Is Not A Test (B&W, 1962)
A hardnosed deputy sheriff gets an alert to set up a roadblock on a mountain road because a nuclear attack is imminent. He stops a varied group of people (an old farmer and his daughter, a truck-driving lothario, a smartass and his silly girlfriend, a man and wife, and a fugitive criminal) and forbids them to leave. They decide to try to use a truck trailer as a bomb shelter, but the plan doesn't go so well because of strife and problems with looters. Bleak, intense, well-shot little drama with a Rod Serling feel to it and explosive payoff to all that Cold War paranoia. -zwolf

A Thousand Pleasures (B&W, 1968)
Incredibly strange and sleazy low-budget black-and-white sexploiter about a man who kills his wife and then is captured by some lesbians who lock him up so they can use his sperm to make babies. They collect it by jacking him off into condoms. They have a full-grown woman who acts like an infant and plays with candles. They breast-feed her and hit her endlessly with a whip. When the murderer escapes, they re-capture him and burn his feet in the fireplace to prevent him from escaping again, and he gets a straight razor and attempts revenge. Incredibly badly-made (it looks like it was filmed by somebody who's never seen a movie, only heard one described), with every scene dragged out endlessly. That's one of the reasons its so enjoyable - you'll laugh in amazement throughout at the ineptitude and the bizarreness. Grimy, sleazy, slightly less than an hour long, with lots of nudity, very softcore sex, a shred of not-even-trying gore, and a guy suffocated by a breast. Somebody once described this as a film written by Russ Meyer and directed by John Waters, which pretty well sums it up. Directed by Michael and Roberta Findlay (of Snuff, Shriek of the Mutilated fame) under the assumed name of Julian Marsh. -zwolf

Throne of Blood (B&W, 1957) AKA Castle of the Spider's Web, Cobweb Castle, Hidden Forest, MacBeth, Spider Web Castle, Kumonosu Jo
Astounding MacBeth adaptation by Akira Kurosawa, proving (as Kurosawa also did with Ran, based on King Lear) that Shakespeare lends itself well to Samurai cinema. The great Toshiro Mifune (at his most menacing and severe) is Taketori Washizu, a samurai general who quelled a rebellion. On the way to his Lordship's main castle to deliver the news, he and his best friend - another top general - meet a ghost in the forest who prophecies that he will soon rule over all the castles. After receiving a promotion and having his mind poisoned by his evil wife's ambitions, Washizu kills his Lordship and assumes command. But, as the ghost also predicted, his reign will be short. Great black and white cinematography, spectacular battle scenes, and a great performance from the increasingly-unhinged Mifune, and, of course, Kurosawa's superlative direction add up to nothing less than a masterpiece that would awe The Bard himself, and put this in the top ranks of all filmed Shakespeare. And once you see the arrow-laden climax, you'll have to wonder if Brian DePalma didn't have this movie in mind when he was filming the finale of Scarface. (The arrow-through-the-neck effect is as amazing as anything any slasher film's come up with). -zwolf

Thundering Mantis (C, 1984) AKA Mantis Fist Fighter, Dian tang lang
Ah Chi (played by Leung Kar Yan, one of my fave kung fu actors) is a scruffy, somewhat-Manson-looking fish-seller with a kind heart but a little-slow-on-the-uptake mind, and he knows pretty good kung fu, which he uses to protect the downtrodden. His kung fu style is odd, called "shrimp fist" because he developed it by catching fast-swimming shrimp with his hands all day at work. He gets mixed up with a little kid who's conning people on the street and ends up fighting the kid's grandfather, who knows the deadly Mantis Fist technique. Ah Chi picks up just enough of it to get in trouble with the Jade Horse Gang, and the grandfather helps him recover and teaches him Mantis Fist. Then the Jade Horse Gang goes too far and causes Ah Chi so much suffering that our happy-go-lucky lovable hero does a total 180 and becomes a raging cannibalistic madman who knows no limits and can't be stopped, and what started out as a pseudo-comedy becomes very dark, and much astounding (horrifying, really) ass-kicking is the result. Incredible and unique, not the average kung fu flick by any means. Seek this one out. It's not only full of amazing fights on the part of all present (Leung Kar Yan is an underused genius, and the little boy is an extremely talented acrobat - look for both of them in Sleeping Fist as well), but the acting is good, too. This one will shock you and leave you dazed... you may not believe what you've seen. I haven't gotten this effect from many movies in any genre, much less kung fu. Stunning in every sense of the word. This one did well in the 42nd street grindhouses and is somewhat legendary. -zwolf

Tiger from Canton
see Chinese Tiger

Tiger Over Wall (C, 1980)
Weird title, bizarre plotline, great movie. An upper-class foreign lady loses her boxer dog, Rover. This puts police captain Hwang Jang Lee on the spot, and when he gets nowhere in his investigation he makes a scapegoat out of a poor umbrella maker, promising to give him a business license for taking the blame. While in custody, he's abused by the foreigners who lost the dog, and his family wants him out of jail. Hwang says he might be able to get him out, if his daughter will become a whore in his brothel! The daughter's husband, Philip Ko, investigates on his own and discovers a lot of lies and pay-offs, which leads him to kill a policeman and have to go on the run. Hwang kills Philip's teacher and the whole family in exchange, and this builds to a climactic duel with Hwang that lots of fans list as one of the best fights ever filmed. Unsung classic that should be sought out. -zwolf

Tiger's Claw (C, 1974)
Mild-looking Cliff Lok goes around challenging other martial artists to prove he's the best. But there's a guy around called The Tiger, who's supposedly even tougher. But Tiger's in prison. So Cliff, who apparently isn't a genius or anything (despite also starring in Kung Fu Genius), stages an attempted rape with a lady friend so he can get thrown in jail with Tiger! Tiger's not fighting anymore, though, so Cliff and his girl break him out of jail just so they can duel. Tiger is attacked by old enemies, and Cliff helps him out so he'll be in good shape when they finally square off. It kind of plays like a wrestling plot, like a build-up to a SummerSlam pay-per-view or something, with lots of barely-motivated, badly-filmed fights to pad out time until the main event. Then there's a pretty unbelievable plot twist of Shakespearean proportions before they have their final, fateful duel. Average chopsocky melodrama. -zwolf

Today It's Me... Tomorrow You! (C, 1968) AKA Today It's Me, Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die!, Oggi a me... domani a te!
Obscure spaghetti Western that's important because it's where Dario Argento cut his teeth on directing - he directed a few scenes of it, and he wrote the script. Montgomery Ford (as "Bill Kiowa") serves out a jail sentence burning with hate and vengeance, spending all of his time practice-drawing a wooden gun he's carved. As soon as he's released he buys the real thing (in a scene kind of similar to Tuco's gun-shopping in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Argento did have connections with Sergio Leone since he wrote Once Upon a Time in the West, so that could be intentional influence) and he ends up using it before he's even out of the store. He goes out recruiting gunmen (including Bud Spencer) for $5,000 each to help him go against his enemies, the Comanchero Gang. The gang's leader had killed his Indian wife, y'see, and they're real creeps and jerks in general, so you're always happy to see them get shot. So, when our heroes lead them out into the woods and start picking them off, it's a good thing. Pretty ordinary Western without all that much style (Argento didn't direct much) and no real surprises; it seems to burn up most of its creativity in the first ten minutes. But it's not bad if you're not picky. Some mundane violence but no blood. -zwolf

To Kill In Silence (C, 1972) AKA Uccidere in Silenzio
Foreign (Italian, I think) drama about a girl who accidentally gets pregnant. Her mother tries to force her to have an abortion, but she has a fit in the operating room, runs out, and gives mom a piece of her mind. Every once in a while they show the baby-to-be, cheering on the decision to let it live. Pretty much an anti-abortion tract disguised as a feature film. I saw it a long time ago and don't remember much about it, but a skimpy review of an extremely obscure movie's better than none, right? -zwolf

Tokyo Drifter
(C, 1966) AKA Tokyo nagaremono, Man From Tokyo
I love Seijun Suzuki's Branded To Kill and think this eye-poppingly-colorful effort is great looking and inventive, with a wonderful eye for composition... but there's not enough action and damn if it makes any sense. A killer named Tetsu tries to go straight when his boss gives up the gangster life, but their rivals just won't let it be and they drag him back in. And it just kind of goes from there, not making a lot of narrative sense but bombarding the viewer with expressionistic style to burn. Most striking is the climactic gun battle, where the set overwhelms the action - people dressed in white fighting on a huge white set which is mostly bare, except for stairs and columns. It's definitely style-over-substance, as opposed to Branded To Kill where substance at least made an effort to keep up. It's worth checking out, but see Branded To Kill first, lest you be put off. -zwolf

Tomb of Torture (B&W -1963) AKA Metempsychose
Old-fashioned Italian horror with a "spook show" feel to it. The plot - what there is of it - concerns a girl named Anna who comes to an old castle and starts having nightmarish visions. She's a dead ringer for a certain countess Irene, who disappeared years before. While people discuss the dead countess, and a missing treasure, a monstrous nutcase lurks in the castle dungeons, putting any girls he can capture on the rack and listening to a talking suit of armor. He's pretty messed-up looking - half of his face is all heavy scar tissue, with one eye much lower than the other - but he seems pretty happy, 'cuz he laughs a lot. In the girl's dreams, there's also a skeleton and the suit of armor. Looks like somebody's been trick-or-treatin'! Anna finds a boyfriend in a reporter named George (whose old car serves as comic relief - it's not really the least bit funny, but you know you're supposed to think it is because they play a lot of goofy music whenever it's on screen). The rest of the time you get ominous music with rattling chains and stuff, so you'll know it's scary). George insists on investigating the castle, despite Anna's warnings. That's just asking for trouble... The movie's pretty cornball, but you gotta love it, what with every horror element piled on - shots of skulls, cobwebs, shadowy dungeons, "rats" (they look more like hamsters or small guinea pigs), chains, people skulking around with candles and lanterns, secret passages, ghosts, liberal use of fake blood - you name it. So what if it comes off as kinda hokey - at least they're really trying. The film doesn't look bad at all, and there is some nice atmosphere. -zwolf

Torture Ship (B&W, 1939)
Adaptation of Jack London's "A Thousand Deaths," directed by Victor Halperin of White Zombie fame. A doctor who's working on endocrine gland operations to eradicated criminal tendencies invites a bunch of notorious underworld types onto a yacht, where he plans to do surgeries on them. When they found out this plan they're less than pleased, but they're far out at see, so where are they gonna go? They try to get the ship's captain to take over the boat from the doctor, but no luck. The doctor's experiments also change good men into criminals, though, and when he makes a guinea pig of his nephew, he assembles the criminals and forms a mutiny... but that doesn't go smoothly, either. Not much in the way of scares and most of the horror stuff goes on behind the scenes, but at only an hour long it moves quickly enough. Unfunny comedy relief comes from a Swedish steward, who probably got the "funny ethnic coward" role because Mantan Moreland was busy elsewhere. -zwolf

The Touch of Her Flesh (B&W, 1967) AKA The Touch of Her Life, Way Out Love
This is the first of an infamous trilogy from the even-more-infamous Findlay filmmakers, Michael and Roberta. It starts out with the standard boring softcore nudie-gropefest (people were a lot more easily entertained in the '60's, I think) that seems to go on forever. These people spend so long fondling and kissing that the woman's husband gets home before they even get around to dropping their pants. Richard, the husband, is so upset at being cuckolded that he runs aimlessly into the night and gets hit by a car. He loses an eye and his legs are temporarily paralyzed, but mostly he becomes bitter... a bitterness that grows into a pathological, misogynistic rage. He decides that all women are "soft pink traps" and rants lethargically in narration while everything but pubic hair is awkwardly shown in a montage of female nudity. He decides the only way to escape the "trap" is to kill as many women as possible. Haunting stripclubs for prey, he starts his killing spree by sending a dancer a poisoned rose that kills her. Or perhaps she just died of old age 'cuz they spent too long filming her putting on lipstick and perfume, then show her dancing for so long that they actually have to start the record over. Richard, still in a wheelchair, continues hunting at a burlesque show, where he watches a girl wiggle for an interminable amount of time before finally killing her with a pea-shooter. It was probably a blowgun dart, but I like to think it was a pea-shooter : that's funnier, and it's crucial to make up as much of your own entertainment as possible while watching this film. Then he meets a hooker who he takes home, fondles awkwardly, then goes off to get a knife while she lays around on the bed for, oh, a few hours I guess it is. Then he kills her with one stab and goes back to work tracking down his wife's artist-model / lesbian playmate. He finds her with his wife and vaguely decapitates one with a buzz saw (all implied - you see nothing. I was hoping to at least get a glimpse of a terrible fake severed head made out of chewed gum or PlayDoh or something after being so patient with this movie, but no, cheated again! And the Findlays think women are teases...) and goes after the other with a crossbow. This is basically a long string of nudie filler with only a sick premise to make it stand out (maybe the most disturbing thing is that director Michael Findlay plays Richard and he went on to make two very similar sequels - Curse of Her Flesh and Kiss of Her Flesh - so this may be something he had strong feelings about). There's no gore or anything - a few drops of chocolate syrup on the stabbed girl's hand is as close as you get - and it's basically silent, with a few instances of dubbed-in dialogue or narration. Most of its value is as an artifact, 'cuz it's dull. Ironic that the tagline was "fast-paced thrills!" because the pacing is leaden. -zwolf

Tower Of Evil (C, 1972) AKA Horror Of Snape Island, Beyond The Fog
A completely unhinged girl is found on an isolated lighthouse island, the only survivor of a massacre that left some friends of hers mutilated, decapitated, and feeding the crabs (but from the looks of 'em - British hippie types - they may have been feeding crabs before they were killed, anyway). Because one of the hippies was killed with an ancient Phoenician spear (worth big bucks on E-bay!), some archaeologist types take a trip to the island, in hopes of finding a burial site. But soon a gibbering, scrawny, bearded madman is turning the whole island into a burial site as he stalks and kills them with a weird Phoenician axe/meat cleaver dealie. He blows the boat up, smashes their radio, and leaves badly decomposed corpses in rocking chairs for them to find. And he has help. Meanwhile, the people find an ancient altar to the evil Phoenician god Baal in caves under the lighthouse, and also manage to set the island on fire. (All Brit horror has climactic conflagrations - ever notice?) No major classic or anything, but this is a good early British slasher film with some creepy scenes, a decent amount of gore, and a freaky twist at the end. It was later re-released with an ad campaign to make people think it might be a sequel to The Fog. Despite rumors, there's no mention of cannibalism or incest. But, it's good anyway. -zwolf

The Toy Box (C, 1971) AKA The Orgy Box
One seriously twisted softcore porn flick. People go to orgies at "Uncle's" castle, where they enact perverse scenarios for him to watch. If they're good enough, they can take a reward from the "Toy Box." On this particular night, however, Uncle seems to be dead. It's hard to tell for sure, though, because Uncle is kind of a prankster, and it's not beyond him to play dead for a joke. He also may be an alien; he's a fat, bearded (Orson Wellesian) guy with no eyes - just tiny white orbs. He sits in a chair with a blue light on him, and hardly moves. Supposedly he's collecting degenerate humans for some kind of cosmic zoo; the house is locked and the atmosphere on this night is even weirder than usual. But people carry on with their games anyway, because they want rewards. One girl plays a Christian being eaten by lions; the lions are two naked girls who snarl and lick and nibble her a lot. Then Russ Meyer babe Uschi Digard has her huge breasts pawed by a hand in a box and then is ravished by a bed - the sheets paw her while she writhes around. Another guy in a mocked-up butcher shop has sex with "dead" women, who get revenge on him for it. And a couple recreate some kind of Swedish movie scenario... that ends up with a pitchfork killing. The sex is all on the harder edge of softcore, and, like most such things, gets dull fast. Soon the guests figure out that people are being killed (severed heads keep falling from the ceiling in the living room) and a stoned-looking giant girl explains some of what might be going on. But the truth may be more nightmarish than any of them suspected. Extremely strange and unique and kind of disturbing, cumulatively, even if the softcore squirming does make for some slow stretches. The director - using a different name - went on to direct episodes of the TV shows Renegade and Pacific Blue! -zwolf

Trainspotting (C, 1997)
Odd, artistic, funky Scottish film following the misadventures of several young drug fiends. The narrator has a love-hate relationship with heroin; the film was criticized by some for making heroin look fun, but that criticism isn't really justified. Sure, they make heroin look euphoric - if it wasn't, nobody would take the stuff. But only an idiot would be attracted to heroin by watching this film; even though the narrator finds a heavenly wonderland by surrealistically diving through a toilet, when he comes back to reality he's still digging through the dirtiest, nastiest toilet in the country. A creative, interesting film full of crazy characters and reflecting a sense of lost, aimless hopelessness... but at the same time it's pretty witty in a Pulp Fiction kind of way. If your TV has closed captioning you might want to turn it on to watch this; some of those Scottish accents are pretty rough to make out without a little help. -zwolf

Tremors (C, 1990) AKA Beneath Perfection, Dead Silence, Land Sharks
Extremely entertaining Jaws-on-land monster movie about some desert residents coming under attack from massive carnivorous worm-monsters (they call them "graboids") that burrow underground and pull you down and eat you. It's kind of like what Blood Beach might have been if it had been any good. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward are a couple of knockaround handymen who do odd jobs and drive around in their truck a lot. Michael Gross and country singer Reba McEntire are gun-crazy survivalists, and there's a college girl out studying seismographic vibrations, and several other people... many of whom end up eaten. The action stays pretty constant, there's lots of comedy but it's well-handled and not intrusive, and the special effects are great (and they're NOT C.G.I., hallelujah, goddamnit!). Followed by sequels. -zwolf

Truck Turner (C, 1974) AKA Black Bullet
Mack "Truck" Turner (Isaac Hayes, who's famous for a lot of things but chief among them at the moment being the voice of Chef on South Park) and his partner are skip tracers (bounty hunters) contracted to bring in a violent pimp named Gator. They kill him, and his woman (Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek) takes over the whoring business and offers control of the entire stable to the person who can kill Truck. Yaphet Kotto is a gangster who plans to give it a try... along with a lot of other people who keep popping up out of the woodwork and being put right back into it. They do a lot of stuff that makes Truck real mad, and they're going to regret it. Solid action scenes (including a decent car chase), some funny scenes (like when a guard is shooting at Truck's car and he's praying that they hit the left rear tire because that one needs to be replaced anyway), great soundtrack (by Issac, o' course), and a good cast (including Scatman Crothers with hair, and Matthew Beard (who was Stymie from The Little Rascals) if you look close through the grating. Total coolness all around; it may not be one of the deepest Blaxploitation movies, but it's one of the most fun. -zwolf

Twenty-Eight Days Later (C, 2003)
Not to be confused with the Sandra Bullock comedy of the same name (or even a sequel to it, although I love the idea of fans of that shit mistakenly going to see this - "I don't understand, the first one was such a cute movie!"), this is one of the best-regarded horror films of '03, and it's basically a melting pot of several other zombie flicks (Dawn & Day of the Dead plus even lesser-known efforts like Nightmare City). A bike messenger injured in a wreck wakes up to find that the world - or at least England - has ended, due to a fast-acting rage-virus that some Greenpeace-type idiots unleashed on the world when they raided a research lab to free some chimps. This virus is spread by bites or blood (which the infected will puke into your face) and starts infecting the victim in about half a minute. The infected become bloody, red-eyed hissing speedfreaks filled with homicidal aggression. The bike messenger finds a few other survivors and they try to escape the madness by meeting up with some soldiers... who turn out to be nearly as dangerous as the infected. Overall it's quite effective and scary but does get bogged down in hyper-flash-cut editing and noise that overwhelms you (but not in a good way - it makes it hard to tell what's going on). So it has its drawbacks, but it's still must-see viewing for any fan of horror and should stand as a future classic of the genre. -zwolf

Twilight People (C, 1972) AKA Beasts, Island of the Twilight People
Philippine horror based on The Island of D. Moreau. A playboy big game hunter is kidnapped and taken to an island where animals have surgically been turned into man-like creatures. Our hero spends the movie sneaking around the estate, peeking, while stock music (also used for lots of cheap PBS programming - usually science shows - which gives this film a strange "educational" air if you were raised watching those things) plays. He observes caged freakbeasts and some mostly-offscreen brain surgery, decides he doesn't want to become a subject, so he and the mad scientist's daughter escape with the animal people, which include an antelope man, a flying bat man, a panther woman (Pam Grier, believe it or not), ape and boar men, a wolf-woman, and even a briefly-glimpsed scar-tissue woman. It's all played very seriously, but comes across as goofy all the same, and the gore's pretty mild; there's not even an incision scene like there was the first time Eddie Romero made this, as Terror Is a Man. This used to come on TV at 2 a.m. back in the good ol' days, but now you're gonna have to buy the DVD and stay up late to watch it if you want that experience. -zwolf

Two Mules for Sister Sara (C, 1969)
Clint Eastwood Western that kind of slips through the cracks; TV shows most of the others repeatedly (Pale Rider is always on somewhere) but this one goes forgotten. Maybe it's because Shirley MacLaine is in it, and she's a nut. Anyway, Shirley's a nun (supposedly) who's trying to help the Mexicans fight the French. Clint's a cowboy in the mold of his Man With No Name archetype; he kills for money. Shirley enlists his aid, which he gives reluctantly, and they have an African Queen thing going. Clint gets hit with an arrow and they have to take care of that, then they blow up a train and attack a French fort. It's lighter in tone than Clint's other westerns, but it's still not really a comedy, and has a fair amount of action. And the fact that it's got one of Ennio Morricone's best post-Leone scores should definitely be a strong selling point. Worth checking out for Eastwood fans, and anybody else, really. -zwolf

Two Thousand Maniacs (C, 1964) AKA Centennial
Hershel Gordon Lewis's best movie isn't quite as gory as some of his other films (although only by comparison - it's still a gore fest) but it's better made. Which, again, is relative, since it's still pretty sloppy. Yankee tourists are brought to a small backwoods Southern town called Pleasant Valley for a centennial celebration... but they don't know it's the centennial of the whole town being slaughtered by Yankee troops in the Civil War, and the town is full of vengeance seeking ghosts, who cut their thumbs off (that's the most disturbing scene), chop their arms off, pull them apart between horses, roll them down the hill in nail-lined barrels, and drop big rocks on them, while grinning sadistically and playing bluegrass all the while. Kinda unsettling (everybody seems so happy), but the gore is mostly blood splashed around, nothing too spectacular, except for the mannequin arms. With Playmate of the Year Connie Mason, who keeps her clothes on. -zwolf

Unbeaten 28 (C, 1981)
A young boy is trained from infancy in numerous kung fu styles and grows up to be Meng Fei! His rigorous training culminates in a test where he has to go through various chambers and fight bronze men, stone men, and other traps. It's pretty nightmarish, so he doesn't make it the first time and engages in more training, then goes through again. When he finally gets through he's given a secret kung fu book, but he has to figure out the mystery of that, too. It's a good thing he's getting all the crazy training, because he'll have to face Mark Long (famous as the Ghost Face Killer in Mystery of Chess Boxing/Ninja Checkmate) in a house full of traps. Mark has mastered many styles and is leading a clan of evil killers who terrorize the country, and he's also the guy who killed Meng Fei's parents. Good kung fu flick for anyone who likes a lot of training sequences; basically it's a well-done but lower-budget variation on The 18 Bronzemen. -zwolf

The Untouchables (C, 1987)
Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness squares off against Robert DeNiro's Al Capone in this not-very-faithful-to-the-truth but-damn-entertaining-anyhow chronicle of the famous '30's gangbusters. Ness assembles a small group of incorruptible lawmen (Sean Connery is his main help, and Andy Garcia gets to be a cop instead of a gangster for once) to go after Capone's crime machine. Capone doesn't take it sitting down, so a personal all-out-war rages between him and Ness, leaving Ness's family endangered and some of his men killed. Good action sequences (a fight on some steps that's patterned after the famous Odessa Steps sequence proves that director Brian DePalma took his eyes off of Hitchcock long enough to check out some Eisenstein), solid scripting and direction, and good performances add up to a solid gangster action flick. And an Ennio Morricone score is, as always, a very welcome bonus. -zwolf

U. S. Catman - Lethal Track (C, 1990?) AKA Catman in Lethal Track, Lethal Track
Absurd low-budget Asian action flick with a lot of white people in the cast. While stopping some punks from stealing a radioactive cat, a middle-aged doof gets scratched by the plutonium pussy and develops super powers. First he can use his fingers like a universal remote for the TV and lightswitches, and he can light cigarettes with laser vision, can punch through walls, can deflect bullets with wristbands ala' Wonder Woman, knows kung fu, and strikes dramatic superhero-guy poses. His costume's basically a pair of black coveralls, a studded belt, and fancy sunglasses. You could easily recreate this at Halloween, if you had the guts! He's up against a gang of badguy punks who want to "rule the world" but don't appear to have any specific plans for going about it. One is a self-styled Satanist who proclaims, "We have a holy mission in this world: kill as many as possible, rob the poorest man, and fuck whatever moves!" Catman uses most of his five minutes of screen time battling them. The rest of the time just regular people have bad kung fu and gun battles, or, usually, just prepare to. In fact, the "Catman" footage looks like something that was tacked onto another film when its producers realized it sucked and needed some kind of hook, even a pathetic one. Good for some bad dubbed dialogue laughs, but otherwise tedious. -zwolf

V (C, 1983) AKA Storm Warnings
Big sci-fi miniseries that spawned a sequel miniseries (V - The Final Battle), a brief TV series, and a paperback book series. And there are talks of another sequel on the table somewhere, too, I've heard. All over the planet huge saucers appear, full of "Visitors" who look human (they're actually rodent-eating lizards wearing latex disguises to look like us) and claim they're here because their planet - near Sirius - is in environmental crisis and they need to manufacture some chemicals here. But it soon becomes obvious that they're a bunch of space-fascists who soon brand all scientists as terrorists, take over the media with propaganda, set up martial law, and indoctrinate young people as a sort of "Visitor Youth" corps, and the scientists have to go underground and form the core of a resistance movement to fight the alien's evil plot, even though many humans believe the propaganda and think the Visitors are our friends. It's allegorical, reminding us of the rise of the Nazis, but nowdays it's starting to look more and more like it was a prediction of the George W. Bush administration, what with all the propaganda, paranoia, mistrust of intellectuals, propaganda, secrecy, propaganda, etc. But at least nobody's trying to eat us, I'm sure of that. In any case, regardless of your politics, this is solid action-packed sci-fi and very well done for a made-for-TV product. -zwolf

V - The Final Battle (C, 1984)
Follow-up miniseries to the original hit assumes that you've seen the first one and continues with the Fascist Lizards From Outer Space (and their stupid right-wing thug followers) moving forward with their final-solution-to-the-human-problem, while the secret human resistance movement gets bigger and more professional. Possibly the most important part is... Diana (Jane Badler) looks even better and gets more screen time. Also, an Earth girl gives birth to a mixed-species baby, and Julie, the resistance leader, has to deal with the aftermath of a conversion process. Plus mercenary Michael Ironside is thrown into the mix, which adds greatly to the gunplay and explosions. It's all marred a little by a deus ex machina ending, but there's plenty to like before you get there. -zwolf

Victim (C, 1999) AKA Muk lau hung gwong
A computer engineer is kidnapped and taken to a supposedly haunted house where a terrible family-massacre happened years earlier. The police find him beaten and hanging upside down, and he's acting crazy. They're not sure if it's from the trauma he experienced, or if he's become possessed by an evil spirit. A cop tries to find out who kidnapped him and why he's acting so crazy, but the engineer isn't much help; he can't seem to get himself out of trouble with a criminal he owes some money to, and he may have killed one of the criminal's middle-men. He's doing counterfeiting work for the criminal, but that's not going so well, either, since the guy has a secret he's just not going to be able to keep. Action-packed, sometimes hard-to-keep-up-with thriller directed by Ringo Lam is an attempt at blending horror and shoot-'em-up crime films, and it's fairly effective. -zwolf

Violent City (C, 1970) AKA The Family, Citta Violenta
Hitman Charles Bronson and double-crossing girlfriend Jill Ireland are involved in a crazy car chase which Bronson barely escapes alive. After serving jail time, Bronson heads to Michigan in pursuit of revenge. He gets it, but a crime boss (Telly Savalas) who wants him in his stable blackmails him... or tries to. Bronson doesn't play along and becomes a target. The cops are also after him, adding to the tension. Quality Italian crime drama starts out with a bang (a really good one!) and then slows down a little around the middle, but overall it ranks as one of Bronson's best action flicks. The Ennio Morricone score adds a moody, sinister atmosphere. -zwolf

The Violent Years (B&W, 1956) AKA Female, Girl Gang Terrorists, Teenage Girl Gang
The infamous Ed Wood wrote the screenplay for this bad-girl classic, so you know that it's chock-full of the finest dialogue! Because her rich parents give her everything but quality time, 18-year-old Paula leads an all-female gang on violent gas-station robberies, lover's-lane shakedowns (including sweater-robbery and even the rape of a guy!), having pajama parties with men, wrecking classrooms as part of a Communist plot, and killing cops in shoot-outs. Plus, they wear tight sweaters, and that's just wrong, especially in the 50's. It's shameful! Their body count goes up but they continue their crime wave even when their own gang members start getting killed. And, in the best exploitation tradition, it all pretends to be conveying a moral message. There's a sermonizing judge giving a big speech at the end, just in case you missed the morality amidst all that beating and bondage and gunfire and heavy petting. Hilarious, but not as bad as it might've been had Wood actually directed it, and very fast-moving at 57 minutes. -zwolf

Voices from Beyond (C, 1991) AKA Voci dal Profundo, Voices from the Deep
One of Lucio Fulci's later films is kind of like "Who Shot J.R.?" turned into a horror movie. A man who was always a complete prick dies of hemorrhaging, and an autopsy (very graphic, although it's 'bout the only gore in the movie) is performed, but the chunk of innards that would prove he was murdered is put in a jar and not examined promptly. This greatly upsets the dead man, who keeps narrating from the grave. All of his relatives, except his daughter, are all happy he's dead, and any one of them could have killed him, but he haunts his daughter to find out who did. There are shots of his increasingly-decaying corpse, a plate of eggs that turn to bleeding eyeballs, and a dream sequence of attacking zombies to remind you of Fulci's better works, but it's all too brief and you're mainly left with a mystery, finding out who fed the mean old bastard (who you absolutely don't care about) the broken glass, and not much horror. But it does have some style and keeps moving, so even though it's not classic Fulci, it's among his better later works. His later stuff is all pretty bad, though, so that's not saying too much... -zwolf

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