Film Review: Red Zone Cuba (1966)

Also known as: Night Train to Mundo Fine (original title)
Release Date: November, 1966 (los Angeles)
Directed by: Coleman Francis
Written by: Coleman Francis
Music by: John Bath, Ray Gregory (theme)
Cast: Coleman Francis, Anthony Cardoza, Harold Saunders, John Carradine, Lanell Cado, Tom Hanson, George Prince, Frederic Downs

Hollywood Star Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“That’s my daughter. She’s been blind and all, ever since her husband was killed in the war.” – Cliff

Coleman Francis movies are synonymous for being actual poop on celluloid. Thankfully, three of them were shown on episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which are the only versions of these movies worth watching.

Red Zone Cuba is exceptionally bad, even for MST3K standards. It is almost always featured on bloggers’ lists about the worst films featured on the show and honestly, I agree with the consensus.

There is not much redeeming value in this film, unlike other mega-schlock like Manos: The Hands of Fate or Space Mutiny. This is just a slow, boring, ugly turd.

But hey, at least it has John Carradine in it! Granted, he mostly did a lot of crap pictures after his heyday.

Anyway, to solidify my point about how bad this movie is, the voice of Tom Servo, Kevin Murphy, has often times referred to it as the worst picture he had to watch while working on and writing for MST3K.

The film’s plot sounds kind of interesting but this is Coleman Francis, so it is terribly executed and presented.

The story revolves around an ex-con that recruits other ex-cons to get involved in the Bay of Pigs while also looking for hidden treasure in Cuba.

Frankly, this is a monotonous dud. It’s even hard to watch on MST3K and I really only revisited it this time because I’m trying to review every film featured on the show and I’ve put this movie off for far too long.

Rating: 1.5/10
Pairs well with: other Coleman Francis schlock but watch the MST3K versions of them all.

Film Review: The Deadly Bees (1966)

Release Date: December 23rd, 1966 (Deming, New Mexico)
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Written by: Robert Bloch, Anthony Marriott
Based on: A Taste for Honey by Gerald Heard
Music by: Wilfred Josephs
Cast: Suzanne Leigh, Guy Doleman, Frank Finlay, Michael Ripper, Katy Wild, Michael Gwynn

Amicus Productions, Paramount Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“[Referring to a liquid he has] I’ve made this especially for you, Vicki.” – H.W. Manfred

The Deadly Bees has a really low rating on IMDb and pretty much everywhere else you might look. Despite what seems to be most people’s disdain for the film, I actually like it.

I think this may be due to my love of British horror from this era but I’ll always have a pretty big soft spot for Amicus Productions, along with Hammer Films: the two studios that really made their mark in the ’60s and ’70s and epitomize the second wave of classic horror.

The Deadly Bees was also lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000 in one of the later seasons. I understand why it was rife with material to riff but there is still something truly eerie and effective about the film.

The biggest factor working against the movie is the special effects where the bee attacks are concerned. I mean, even for the ’60s, it’s kind of horrible. All of these scenes are comprised of victims flailing around, simulating a bee attack with yellowish bee blobs superimposed over the screen. It’s really bizarre looking and I know that funds on these sort of pictures were very limited but it bogs the rest of the film down in its cheap hokiness.

The plot is actually decent, most of the characters are good and there is a predictable twist at the end but I think it still works and it doesn’t diminish the feeling of dread when the damsel is in mortal danger.

The film also features Michael Ripper and Michael Gwynn, two actors that you’d see pop up in several Amicus and Hammer films.

I thought that Suzanne Leigh was pretty good in this and put in a convincing performance. She truly is an old school beauty and with that, has an enchanting presence.

Guy Doleman did a good job too, as you never really knew where he stood in the story. Was he an evil bastard or was he just kind of a jerk?

The Deadly Bees does have some issues but I don’t think any of them outweigh the positives to the point that this deserves a 3.6 out of 10 on IMDb. I think that its inclusion on MST3K has negatively effected the public’s view of the film. It’s far from the worst movie that you’ll see on MST3K.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Amicus and Hammer horror films of the ’60s and ’70s.

Film Review: Agent for H.A.R.M. (1966)

Release Date: January 5th, 1966 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Gerd Oswald
Written by: Blair Robertson
Music by: Gene Kauer, Douglas M. Lackey
Cast: Peter Mark Richman, Carl Esmond, Barbara Bouchet, Martin Kosleck, Wendell Corey, Robert Quarry

Universal Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“This could’ve been you, and don’t you forget it! Better go back to the judo range.” – Adam Chance

This is a bad and bizarre movie but it was also riffed in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, so that probably goes without saying.

Agent of H.A.R.M. was released in the mid-’60s when there were a slew of spy films coming out due to the success of the James Bond franchise. This one also adds in some crazy sci-fi elements, which was also popular at the time.

The threat in this film is a special gun that shoots spores. When these spores come into contact with flesh, it turns them into fungus, which basically transforms its victims into mushroom goo. I can’t believe I just typed those two sentences but that’s the MacGuffin in this sci-fi spy turkey.

Originally, this was developed to be a television pilot but Universal ended up deciding that it would be best to be released as an actual motion picture on a double bill with Wild Wild Winter, which was a beach party movie that left the beach behind for the slopes. So this wasn’t really a logical pairing but studios didn’t care when they were just trying to make a dime back off of a dollar thrown away.

I didn’t find this as terrible as most of the reviews I’ve read on it. It certainly isn’t good but it’s also far from the worst thing to make it on an episode of MST3K.

I also didn’t get too bored watching it but I’m also fascinated by batshit crazy sci-fi plots and I’ve got a soft spot for ’60s spy films regardless of their quality.

In the end, if you are into weird shit like this, it’s worth a look. If you’re an MST3K fan and haven’t watched this one, it won’t drive you to madness.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’60s spy movies with a weird sci-fi twist.

Film Review: The Projected Man (1966)

Also known as: Frankenstein 70 – Das Ungeheuer mit der Feuerklaue (Germany), Laser X: operazione uomo (Italy)
Release Date: March, 1966 (UK)
Directed by: Ian Curteis, John Croydon (uncredited)
Written by: Peter Bryan, John C. Cooper, Frank Quattrocchi
Music by: Kenneth V. Jones
Cast: Bryant Haliday, Mary Peach, Norman Wooland, Ronald Allen, Derek Farr

Compton Productions, Universal Studios, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Pretty you may be.” – Chris Mitchell

Ugh… why?! Why was this made?!

This turkey is terrible. And if it actually was a turkey, it’d be a giant mass of dried out, tough to chew, hard to swallow turkey. Kind of like the turkey my Aunt Grace made that one year for Thanksgiving when she passed out drunk on Rebel Yell and none of us kids knew what to do because we were like eight years-old so that thing baked for like 14 hours.

Like a couple hundred other terrible movies, this one was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and really, that’s probably the only reason I have even heard of this cinematic typhoon of monkey poop. This one is really hard to get through, even with the comedic prowess of Mike Nelson and the ‘Bots ripping it to shreds.

I have to assume that people have to try really hard to make a movie this bad. Like was it a challenge or a dare? “Hey, here’s twenty quid, now go make a pile of shit, make it seven reels long and get it in the theaters!”

I guess it doesn’t help this film that the monster is a guy that looks like he is cosplaying as the Phantom of the Opera with a mask made out of an old pair of tighty whities.

The plot is about a scientist trying to find a way to transmit matter. He then decides to be his own guinea pig. So it’s sort of like The Fly but nowhere near as cool. Obviously the self-experimentation goes awry and the dude gets all disfigured, gross and crazy.

They should have just gone the Ed Wood route with this film and just thrown a bunch of other shit into the movie too. If there was like an alien zombie attack going on, a couple vampires and just some general flying saucer shenanigans, I could have at least thought that this was ambitious. But really, it takes a basic, tired ass plot, gives us a basic, tired ass movie and was really just a massive waste of time. A waste for the people that watched it, the people that made it and the poor celluloid that could have been used for something better like, I don’t know… a Dutch documentary about the history of Klomp crafting.

Anyway, I’ve had migraines that were more enjoyable than this film. So you bet your friggin’ ass this is going into the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 5 Stool: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).” I beg to differ on the “passed easily” bit.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: That moment after a big sloppy pooh when you look over and realize that you’re out of toilet paper and your mum isn’t home to pass you one through the cracked door.

Film Review: The Black Klansman (1966)

Also known as: I Crossed the Color Line (alternate), Brutes (UK)
Release Date: June, 1966
Directed by: Ted V. Mikels
Written by: Art Names, John T. Wilson
Music by: Jaime Mendoza-Nava
Cast: Richard Gilden, Rima Kutner, Harry Lovejoy, Max Julien, Jakie Deslonde, James McEachin

SGS Productions, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Get control of myself?! Who the hell are you, white woman… to tell me to get control of myself?!” – Jerry Ellsworth

The Black Klansman isn’t blaxploitation, it’s half a decade too early and it doesn’t have the wisecrackin’ street slang of those pictures or the sweet style. However, it does feel like a sort of proto-blaxploitation film. At it’s core though, it is a Civil Rights era thriller in a similar vein to Roger Corman’s The Intruder. This falls more on the exploitation side though.

The story sees a man return to Alabama from Los Angeles after his young daughter is burned to death during a church bombing orchestrated by the Ku Klux Klan. The man is a light-skinned black man and he decides to go undercover, infiltrate the KKK and get revenge for his daughter and for the black community that is terrorized by the violent, hate-filled, murderous bigots.

This isn’t a film that boasts good acting but the acting is still effective and the point is made. It’s hard not to feel for Jerry, the man who’s daughter was brutally killed. While he initially flies off the chain, he pulls it together and orchestrates his plan to near perfection. He even gets to hook up with the daughter of the KKK leader and later gets to boast about it, as racist daddy can’t handle the reality of Jerry’s revenge.

From a technical standpoint, the film also isn’t great. Everything is pretty average though but it does feel like a picture with very limited resources. The cinematography and lighting are fine but nothing special. Surprisingly, the sound has held up well in the prints that have survived the ravages of time.

What is probably the most interesting thing about this movie is that it was directed by exploitation schlock master Ted V. Mikels. This is the guy that gave us awful gore festivals with films like The Corpse Grinders and Blood Orgy of the She-Devils. He also directed Girl In Gold Boots, one of IMDb’s 100 worst rated films of all-time, Dr. SexThe Astro-Zombies and its sequels, The Doll Squad and several other grindhouse thrillers.

From a filmmaking standpoint, this is probably the best film Mikels has made. It was definitely exploitation cinema at its finest but it carried a strong political and social message and delivered it well. You can’t really say the same thing for The Corpse Grinders.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Roger Corman’s The Intruder and if you want to up the octane, The Black Gestapo.

Film Review: Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

Release Date: August 5th, 1966 (UK)
Directed by: Gordon Flemyng
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: The Dalek Invasion of Earth by Terry Nation
Music by: Barry Gray, Bill McGuffie
Cast: Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, Ray Brooks, Jill Curzon, Roberta Tovey, Andrew Keir

AARU Productions, British Lion Films, 84 Minutes

Review:

“[over the radio] Surrender now and you will live. Resist and you will be exterminated. Show yourselves in the streets immediately and obey the orders of your masters, the Daleks!” – Dalek

I know that these non-canonical Doctor Who movies get a really bad wrap, as they exist in their own universe and ignore some of the established continuity of the television show, but I have always liked them for what they are, B-movie sci-fi adventures with hokey effects and the legendary Peter f’n Cushing as this version of The Doctor.

Like its predecessor, this theatrical and colorized Doctor Who adventure is a remake of a famous Dalek serial from the William Hartnel era of the television series. Where the first Cushing movie was a re-imagining of the first ever Dalek story, this picture is a re-imagining of the second Dalek story. Where the first film took place on the Dalek homeworld of Skaro, this one brings the Daleks to a future version of Earth, where they have invaded and conquered humanity. The Cushing Doctor and his companions have to outwit and outright battle the Daleks in an attempt to survive the proceedings and to return to a much safer place like the Earth of their present time.

One really cool thing about this movie is that it also stars Bernard Cribbins, who would go on to play the much beloved companion Wilfred Mott from the David Tennant era, some forty years later. In this film, Cribbins plays a beat cop that stumbles into the TARDIS and ends up in the future with the Doctor and his other companions: Louise, his neice, and his young granddaughter from the first movie, Susan.

This film has a larger budget than the first one and its apparent, even if this feels like an old B-movie. Where the first one was on closed sets in a bizarre forest and a Dalek fortress of boring corridors, this one took to the streets of London and felt much more like it was on location in the real world. Granted, I liked the vivid and otherworldly feel of the previous picture.

Still, this one is a bit better. It feels more refined and even though Cushing was ill during filming and it was rewritten to use his character less, the other characters held their own and made the film a worthwhile experience for fans of this sort of thing.

This was originally supposed to be the middle chapter in a trilogy of Dalek movies but it did not get a sequel and would be the last of the non-canonical Doctor Who stories.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Dr. Who and the Daleks and the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who.

Film Review: Murderers’ Row (1966)

Release Date: December 20th, 1966
Directed by: Henry Levin
Written by: Herbert Baker
Based on: Murderers’ Row by Donald Hamilton
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Dean Martin, Ann-Margret, Karl Malden, Camilla Sparv, Dean Paul Martin, Desi Arnaz Jr.

Columbia Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Well what shall I do with the costume?” – Miss January, “Drop it in the ashtray.” – Matt Helm

Man, I really love these Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin. There is also four of them so this is really a quadrilogy of James Bond parodies three decades before the more famous parody trilogy Austin Powers.

Dean Martin is just the epitome of cool, even more so than anyone who ever played the James Bond character. Martin existed on an otherworldly level when it came to cool and because of that, these films sort of have an edge even on the James Bond franchise. Well, at least in the realm of pure coolness.

They also have a ’60s go-go vibe, mixed with a Tiki aesthetic and feel like they could fit within the same universe as the 1960s Batman television show. These movies are fun, entertaining and pretty hilarious. Martin is just a lovable guy, even with his womanizing ways. He exudes a certain kind of panache that is missing in modern times because such characters aren’t considered “socially acceptable” anymore. While some may consider Dean Martin a relic of a bygone chauvinistic era, I think he’s a harmless and wholesome guy that just appreciates a pretty girl and isn’t afraid to express his admiration. Granted, if he existed today, he’d probably be one of the dozens upon dozens of Hollywood men accused of something naughty.

In this film, Martin is joined by Ann-Margret, who was a mega star at the time. Despite the significant age difference, which was never really an issue for James Bond, it was cool seeing Dean Martin and Ann-Margret come together and star in this film, almost working as a tandem in the second half of the story.

Karl Malden plays the villain and he was a well-known veteran actor at the time that brought some extra gravitas and legitimacy to this production. While his role here wasn’t as challenging as his roles in On the WaterfrontA Streetcar Named Desire or Patton, he looked to be having fun and he really brought something to the picture that was lacking in the first film, even though I liked Victor Buono as the bad guy in that one.

These Matt Helm movies aren’t necessarily cinematic masterpieces but they are a blast to watch. Dean Martin was always great but I love seeing him play a fun loving super spy probably more than any other role he’s had. And as much as I loved the first film, this one is a wee bit better.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The SilencersThe Ambushers or The Wrecking Crew: the other Matt Helm films.