Film Review: Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Also known as: Communion (original title), Holy Terror (edited version), The Mask Murders (reissue title), Sweet Alice (Sweden)
Release Date: November 12th, 1976 (Chicago International Film Festival)
Directed by: Alfred Sole
Written by: Rosemary Ritvo, Alfred Sole
Music by: Stephen J. Lawrence
Cast: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Brooke Shields

Harristown Funding, Allied Artists, 98 Minutes, 108 Minutes (unrated version)

Review:

“She is a weird little girl. Did you notice her tits? When I put the tube around her she looked at me, like she wanted me to feel her up.” – Detective Cranston

Many people try to debate over which movie was the first slasher film. While this one isn’t it, it does predate Halloween by a few years. Although, it did come out after Black Christmas. But to me, none of those are the first and I feel like slasher films were born out of Italian giallo. The reason I even bring that up is that this is considered a slasher movie, and it is, but it has a strong resemblance to the giallo style.

This isn’t an Italian picture though. In fact, it was made in New Jersey. But it very strongly takes its cues from the films of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and others.

It’s lacking the visual allure of giallo, as it has a more natural and muted color palate but the story structure, the violence and the general tone just fits well with those cool flicks.

The story is about a little girl who is believed to have horribly murdered her younger sister in the church during her first communion. While things aren’t quite what they seem in this movie, the little girl is a real shit and she’s certainly pretty fucked in the head.

However, this seems to be more about tapping into the fear of the nuclear family breaking down in American society. It also might be a critique on the Catholic church. Many people seem to think so. Personally, I think it’s just a story that happens to take place in and around the Catholic church, which has a big presence in New Jersey and the Northeast in general, especially in the ’70s.

All things considered, this is a film that probably shocked some of its audience in its day but it’s hardly as shocking as a lot of the exploitation movies that were at their peak in the same decade. All the things that would’ve caught people off guard all stem from the fact that the title character is a young child.

This isn’t really gory. There’s some blood but the worst stuff is more implied and happens once the camera cuts away. That could also be due to the budget of the production.

Overall, this was a cool movie to check out. It has some cult status among ’70s horror aficionados but it doesn’t really hit the mark for me. At least, it doesn’t reach the heights of the best giallo pictures and I certainly wouldn’t put this above Black Christmas or Halloween.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s slasher pictures and Italian giallo.

Film Review: Eaten Alive (1976)

Also known as: Brutes and Savages, Slaughter Hotel, Death Trap, Horror Hotel, Horror Hotel Massacre, Legend of the Bayou, Murder on the Bayou, Starlight Slaughter, The Devil’s Swamp (alternative titles)
Release Date: October, 1976 (limited)
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Written by: Kim Henkel, Alvin L. Fast, Mardi Rustam
Music by: Wayne Bell, Tobe Hooper
Cast: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Roberta Collins, Robert Englund

Mars Productions Corporation, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Name’s Buck… and I’m rarin’ to fuck.” – Buck

A film that was directed by a young Tobe Hooper that features both Robert Englund and William Finley is enough to hook me. Now add in great TV legends Neville Brand and Carolyn Jones and you’ve got me hooked even further. Toss in Mel Ferrer, Marilyn Burns and Roberta Collins and this picture is now boasting some serious f’n talent!

But overall, this isn’t a classic and from a historical and cultural perspective, doesn’t hold a candle to Hooper’s previous film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

However, this was still an awesome experience and even though I know that I had seen it in my youth, I barely remembered anything about it other than it taking place in a shitty bayou hotel where the owner chases people with his scythe until they fall into a pit where he keeps a large man eating crocodile.

But you don’t really need to know more than that. And frankly, that’s all the film needs to be. One doesn’t need to get bogged down by details and an elaborate story. This was ’70s horror. Just throw boobies and blood at the screen every few minutes and consider it a job well done. Granted, this could’ve used more boobage.

This is gritty and pretty brutal but not so much so that it’s a gore festival. But if you like watching people get slashed by a madman and then chomped by a large animal, this should satisfy.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Tobe Hooper’s other earlier films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Funhouse and Salem’s Lot.

Film Review: Logan’s Run (1976)

Release Date: June 23rd, 1976
Directed by: Michael Anderson
Written by: David Zelag Goodman
Based on: Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, Peter Ustinov

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, 118 Minutes

Review:

“[seeing the sun for the first time] What is it?” – Jessica, “I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s warm.” – Logan

Logan’s Run was one of my favorite movies as a kid. As an adult, I still love going back and watching this every few years. When I first saw it, I was probably about six or seven and by that point, this movie was already a decade old.

However, I loved the style and look of it because it felt similar to the original Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, two TV shows that I watched in syndication almost daily back then. But what made this cooler than those shows is that it was darker, more violent and it had some boobies in it.

This is about a dystopian future dressed up like a utopian future. Once the layers are peeled back a bit, the truth becomes apparent and the illusion of a perfect society comes crumbling down.

The story follows Logan who is a Sandman. His job is to stop Runners. A Runner is a person that doesn’t go to Carousel for “Renewal” and instead, goes on the run, defying the most important law in this society. Basically, when you turn 30, you have to die. But this society believes that by surrendering yourself to this holy event called Carousel, that you will be resurrected and thus, live forever, as long as you continue to repeat the cycle every 30 years.

Logan is sent on a covert mission to infiltrate a group that is resistant to societal laws. He is tasked with finding a place called Sanctuary, where it is believed that over 1000 Runners have escaped to. However, the more Logan learns, the more he feels the need to become a Runner himself and to reach Sanctuary.

The story may sound complicated but it really isn’t. It’s actually interesting and it plays out really well over the course of the story.

Despite the colorful allure of this picture and the world these characters live in, this isn’t too dissimilar from stories like Nineteen Eighty-FourFahrenheit 451 and A Brave New World. The shiny and vivid visuals almost spit in the face of the viewer, as the proceedings and how this world unravels is incredibly dark.

I’m a big fan of what many now call “retro futurism” and this motion picture really is the epitome of retro futurism in that it looks very 1970s, even with its technological advancements. In that regard, it makes the picture cooler than it would have been if it were made in a later decade. In fact, a contemporary remake of this movie would completely miss this visual element that actually enhances the picture due to its otherworldliness. This quality is why I absolutely love old sci-fi movies because it’s just cool to see how past generations envisioned the future through the cultural eyes of their time.

The movie isn’t stupendously acted but both Michael York and Jenny Agutter give this their all and put in very convincing performances. York had charisma and he and Agutter felt natural together. I also really liked Richard Jordan and he pretty much steals the scenes he’s in.

Logan’s Run may feel dated but that doesn’t prevent it from being a cool movie. In fact, it makes it more endearing and a lot more fun to look at than similar films.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s sci-fi films: The Omega Man, Soylent GreenThe Black Hole, etc.

Film Review: Return of the 18 Bronzemen (1976)

Also known as: Yong zheng da po shi ba tong ren (original Chinese title), The 18 Bronzemen Part 2, 18 Bronzemen II
Release Date: August 14th, 1976 (Taiwan)
Directed by: Joseph Kuo
Written by: Chien Chin, Ting Hung Kuo, Han Meng
Music by: Fu Liang Chou
Cast: Lingfeng Shangguan, Peng Tien

Karlot, Kuo Hwa Motion Pictures Co., Taiwan Li Cheng Film Company, 93 Minutes

Review:

I don’t know if the dubbed version of this that I watched missed a lot of things in its translation but the film was hard to follow from a narrative standpoint.

The main character is a prince. He decides to go through the trials in the temple where all the Bronzemen from the first film are. There is some sort of conflict and the prince isn’t supposed to become a supreme warrior under the monks that control the Bronzemen but he hides his identity and trains to be the biggest badass in China anyway.

There were a few decent fights early in the film but the first half of this picture was really slow and incredibly boring. The action bits helped to break that up but it was a real drag to get through.

However, at about the midway point, things really pick up. The back half of this movie is much better. Things shift into high gear and our prince hero goes through each room and corridor, fighting Bronzemen and trying to survive their other trials.

The physicality in this movie is great, the fighting is above average and the choreography was nice.

Unfortunately, it is bogged down by being too incoherent and for the first half being literal Ambien.

If you do have the urge to watch this, you probably just want to start at about 45 minutes in. I hate saying that but I can’t recommend the first half. The second half is a different film where everything you want in a ’70s kung fu movie is all crammed into half of the normal running time.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Its predecessor, The 18 Bronzemen, as well as other mystical Hong Kong martial arts films of the era.

 

Film Review: Riding with Death (1976)

Also known as: Codename: Minus One (UK)
Release Date: 1976 (original episodes), 1981 (TV movie edit)
Directed by: Michael Caffey, Alan Crosland Jr., Alan J. Levi
Written by: Leslie Stevens, Steven E. de Souza, Frank Telford
Based on: Gemini Man TV series and The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Music by: Lee Holdridge, Mark Snow, Billy Goldenberg
Cast: Ben Murphy, William Sylvester, Katherine Crawford

Harve Bennett Productions, Universal Television, NBC, 97 Minutes

Review:

“You have any idea who those turkeys were?” – Sam Casey

This is another film that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that wasn’t really a movie but was actually two television episodes edited into a feature length cut. And like the other examples of this terrible phenomenon, this was an atrocious and unwatchable mess.

However, there was a pretty amusing fight scene in the middle of the movie where one of the two main dork dicks was performing, got heckled and then a bar fight broke out featuring the other main dork dick using his mastery of invisibility to cheap shot rednecks.

Frankly, that weird bar fight is about all that I can even recall from this film that I just watched last night.

There were some sci-fi bits I guess, which is why the dude had invisibility powers, but this was such a mess it was hard not to zone out for most of this film.

I don’t know, unless you’re a hardcore MST3K completist, this one is really friggin’ hard to get through.

There’s trucker stuff, sci-fi wizardry, invisibility kung fu and acting so bad that everyone here could beat out Carrot Top for a Golden Raspberry Award.

As for the rating, it really gets a 1/10. I added that extra .75 for the invisibility kung fu.

Rating: 1.75/10
Pairs well with: Master Ninja I and II, Fugitive Alien I and IITime of the ApesMighty Jack and Cosmic Princess.

 

Film Review: Grizzly (1976)

Also known as: Claws, Killer Grizzly (alternate titles)
Release Date: May 12th, 1976 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: William Girdler
Written by: Harvey Flaxman, David Sheldon
Music by: Robert O. Ragland
Cast: Christopher George, Andrew Pine, Richard Jaeckel

Columbia Pictures, Film Ventures International, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Kelly, you’re a maverick. We don’t have room for mavericks!” – Charley

I saw this when I was a kid. I didn’t think it was good back then. I always wanted to revisit it though because I like killer animal movies in general. So when I saw that a RiffTrax version of the film was streaming for free on Amazon Video (for Prime members), I fired it up. Well, at least my popcorn was good. And laughing along with Mike, Kevin and Bill is always fun.

After Jaws came out in 1975, there was a big wave of animal horror films that followed. Almost all of them were terrible low budget affairs that used the shtick but lacked the magic. This one stayed on land and gave us a giant killer grizzly bear, which was probably apparent by the film’s title and poster.

Most of the killer bear footage is comprised of two thing. The first, is shots of a normal sized bear growling while the camera work tries to used some force perspective tricks but fails. The second, is a dummy bear arm with claws that is used to crash through balsa wood cabins before clubbing people in the face to poorly imitate a bear attack. The effects are bad, the editing is worse and some of these kills are much more hilarious than terrifying.

This has Christopher George in it. He’s not a great actor or anything but he was in Enter the Ninja and Pieces, two films the great Joe Bob Briggs would consider “drive-in classics”. Other than George, there’s no one of note in this and the acting is below average.

In all honesty, this feels like a TV movie from the era albeit with a bit of blood thrown in. It’s just not terrifying and the bear just looks slightly annoyed and not like the ravenous killer beast he needs to be.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Day of the Animals, Prophecy and Alligator.

Film Review: Track of the Moon Beast (1976)

Release Date: June 1st, 1976
Directed by: Richard Ashe
Written by: Bill Finger, Charles Sinclair
Music by: Robert G. Orpin
Cast: Chase Cordell, Leigh Drake, Gregorio Sala

Lizard Productions Inc., 81 Minutes

Review:

“I wish I was kidding Mac, I’m not! Now there is an answer and I think I know what it is and it makes me sick to think about it!” – Johnny Longbow

The world has seen werewolf movies a million times over. But were-lizard movies? Those are much harder to come by. Thank god we were given this film to satisfy the were-lizard fans of the world. Sadly, it is as excruciating to get through as a were-lizard gnawing on your face.

I guess it is worth noting that this film was penned by Bill Finger, a man who died in poverty after Bob Kane took all the credit (and money) for creating Batman. Hulu recently did a documentary about Bill Finger and you should check it out for the full story. But he’s a guy instrumental in the creation of my favorite hero, so I thought his involvement in this was worth pointing out, even if the end result wasn’t anything worthwhile.

This film stars no one that anyone would recognize. And other than Bill Finger’s involvement, I haven’t heard of any of the other people involved either.

The story is about this Native American guy trying to solve these strange murders. It plays out like a werewolf movie but it’s got that lizard twist, which makes it completely original. Well, not really. The creature, called the Moon Beast, is created by fragments of a meteorite coming into contact with just some normal human dude. Actually, it gets lodged into his brain… his brain! He goes on a killing spree because these things have to happen in these sort of pictures and eventually, he is destroyed by an arrow made of the same meteorite. In fact, the magic meteorite arrow makes his whole body explode because why wouldn’t it?

Did I spoil the plot? Well, the entire film spoils itself and everything it comes in contact with.

I guess I have to give some props to the filmmakers, however, as they completely steal the most iconic scene from a great 1940’s horror film, Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur’s The Leopard Man. It’s the scene where someone is trying to get into their house, a loved one leaves them locked outside to teach them a lesson and then the loved one hears horrible screams from the other side of the door, as a pool of blood creeps into the house from outside. Granted, this sequence was completely butchered and looked like shit in this film but it was a nice attempt at an homage that most people would never pick up on. Or maybe it was just outright thievery.

Lastly, there is a band in this movie that plays a set that is entirely too long and feels like it takes up half the damn film. Okay, maybe like five to ten minutes but man, it’s terrible, terrible stuff.

This film is only worth your time if you watch it get riffed on MST3K. It was featured in the final season of the show’s original run.

So this is going into the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 3 Stool: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface.”

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: Other films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that deal with body transformation: WerewolfBlood Waters of Dr. ZI Was a Teenage Werewolf and The Incredible Melting Man.