Thursday, February 26, 2009

Way Back When

I have zero interest (perhaps less) in the recent DVD releases of slasher flicks like Final Exam and Sweet Sixteen.

I saw both of those movies in Detroit theatres in the early 80's (at the Showcase Sterling Heights and Northgate, respectively) and they were beyond execrable. Unbelievably boring pieces of shit that deserved eternal oblivion.

Romano Scavolini's '81 Nightmare (aka Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, '81), not yet released on DVD, is another matter entirely. It is one of the bleakest, bloodiest, most interesting slasher flicks ever made, sharing similarities with Clean,Shaven, Angst, Maniac, Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer, and even Agnes Varda's Vagabond.

It is NOT a masterpiece, but it has a filthy atmosphere of menace and psychosis that counts for something.

Clearly, the film has rights clearance issues. If it didn't, it would be out on DVD.

Released unrated in most US theatrical markets, it is the film that Tom Savini denied ever working on. Stills of Savini on the set of the film are rife. Thanks for being an up-front guy, Tom.

When this double opened, I ditched the horror-loathing ex- for the night and headed to the Northgate for a night of grim horror.

I'd read Russo's Midnight ('82) and liked it...

... and I was bonkers for William Fruet, Funeral Home's director, after being blown away by his The House By The Lake (aka Death Weekend).

Unfortunately, Funeral Home ('80) had minor impact as a horror pic.

Midnight, though wildly uneven, had a strange, sleazy, Pittsburgh vibe that really turned me on. Lawrence Tierney was creepy as a stepdaughter-abusing cop who redeems himself, and it was great to see John Amplas (Martin) on screen again. There is a terrific on-screen decapitation, courtesy of Savini (who didn't deny doing this one), and the film's prologue, in which a young girl is beaten by a mother and her kids, is delightfully moody.

For some outrageous reason, I went and bought the horrible soundtrack, thinking that it would contain some of the film's moody synth score. I was so wrong. It's actually a collection of putrid folk songs including the title song with the lyrics:

"You're own your own, You're all alone, and Midnight's at your door!"

Fuck me!

Complete retitling of Paul Morrissey's Flesh for Frankenstein ('73).

I attended this screening at the Gratiot drive-in. Liked the film a lot. Udo Kier is amazing. Got sore eyes watching the 3-D. That's pretty standard. The format doesn't agree with me.

I spent an hour driving from Franklin to downtown Detroit to attend the Plaza, an old-style grindhouse.

Although it was cut, it was still horror heaven.

Joe D'Amato's The Grim Reaper (aka Anthropophagus, '80) is not a technically polished or well acted movie, but it is a sincere piece of grisly exploitation that spits in the face of "common decency". It has bloody murders, cannibalism, and a vile villain played by George Eastman.

It's like having someone smearing feces on your eyes for a couple of hours.

Can that be a bad thing?

Ask Veronica Moser.

Pulp as a way of life was being redefined once again at the Northgate, my premier pit for sleaze.

Doctor Butcher MD (Medical Deviate), was also known as Zombie Holocaust and Queen of the Cannibals in order to cash in on Cannibal Holocaust.

I enjoyed it immensely.

It's not non-stop gore and dismemberment, but it features a bunch of showstoppers including a face pulverized by a spinning boat propeller. Lots of flesh chomping, too, and other forms of behavior deemed unacceptable by polite society.

Billed with the Doc was Umberto Lenzi's '76 Assault With A Deadly Weapon, a great police actioner that surpassed the Doc for sheer, polished filmmaking.

Still, Doctor Butcher MD ('80) lit my life up for a couple of hours way back when almost thirty years ago.


  1. Hah! That cover for "Midnight" is one of the creepiest things I have ever seen. Reminds me of Sarah Palin!

  2. Apparently, Palin posed for horror book covers before taking an interest in politics.

    They made her take her glasses off.

  3. I am going to have to keep an eye out for Nightmare to be released on DVD - sounds interesting - I wonder why Savini denied his involvement. . .?!?

  4. You have totally awesome taste in movies, Phantom! I have several favorites on this list as well, although my viewing experiences were all on VHS.

    Doctor Butcher, M.D. is one of my absolute favorites. I own it on DVD and watch it every couple months. I love that the box comes with a reversible cover depending on what you know the title by.

    I also used to own Nightmare on VHS and am pissed it got lost to the ages. And the one film I did see in a theater was Flesh for Frankenstein during an '80s 3-D craze re-release, which I'm glad I got to see it in that version.

  5. Another great post; you are on fire, Phantom...

    I have heard it said Tom Sav is a less than amiable guy; I read a few reports suggesting he charges $20 an autograph at conventions. Can this be confirmed?

    Is this standard for conventions? Is he that hard up for a buck?

    Robert Forster gave me his autograph, and slipped me $20 for recognising him when he was downunder! Steve Miner gave me his autograph and we went fishing!

    I must heartily recommend Larry Fessenden as a very pleasant guy, emerging talent, and champion of the indie film tradition. He reminds me a little of Tracey Walter and William Sanderson as an actor.

    Sorry- got off the point.

    Regarding yr early comment re. overrated stuff-fanboys and fangirls seem to be creaming their jammies over 'My Bloody Valentine'- the remake, and the DVD 'special edition'.

    Is it just me, or was that film not an interminable snoozefest??

    I love 'The Grim Reaper', I think Udo Kier lights up the screen in anything he does- yes, even the first few minutes of "Fear.Com", and 'Nightmare' would be perfect to screen with 'Maniac'. If it was available...

  6. Nightmares in a Damaged Brain is a great title for a film but I'm not quite sure how I feel about it--it's effective in a cheap way but it seems very long-winded. I guess the payoff makes the journey worthwhile. It's been released on R4 disc uncut but it's a shitty transfer that looks to have been captured from VHS. I believe the distro is called Infiniti.

    Tom Savini needs to get over himself. He's been bested by his protege Nicotero and between his horrible DTV ventures and his fx school his friends throw him bones like his role in Planet Terror. The guy does charge $20 for an autograph but that is par for the course--most of the celebs that do conventions charge for autographs. The main problem I have with him is he constantly pisses on the films he's worked on in interviews and seems to have disdain for the genre and its fans. He's also not very personable at conventions and doesn't want to be there unless I've read him completely wrong on multiple occasions.

    Speaking of weirdos at conventions--I attended one Horrorfind weekend where Udo was in attendance and he was a wildman. Completely drunk in a bar, he pointed at me in a group of friends and said, "You are gay." He told my wife, "Your husband is gay." These accusations continued until I slinked off somewhere. He was prominent for the rest of the evening --I had seen him cupping the hands of several different young men in the lobby, bar, and hallways and started to regret having escaped earlier. Who knows where things could have led?

    The next morning, Mr. Kier oozed up behind a male friend in the hotel cafe and massaged his shoulders, and told him how he'd spent the night with "the wolf." I have no idea who the hell "the wolf" might be but apparently Udo sexed him up good.