Film Review: Danger!! Death Ray (1967)

Also known as: Nest of Spies (UK), Hellish Beam (Sweden), Death Ray (Netherlands)
Release Date: January 28th, 1967 (Italy)
Directed by: Gianfranco Baldanello
Written by: Dick Arthur, Juan Antonio Cabezas, Al Christian, Jaime Comas Gil, Aldo Cristiani, Domenico Paolella
Music by: Gianni Ferrio
Cast: Gordon Scott, Maureen Delphy, Nello Pazzafini, Tullio Altamura

Leda Films Productions S.L., Meteor Film S.r.l., 93 Minutes

Review:

Not all spy thrillers are created equal. This is one that is pretty close to the bottom of the barrel.

But this is an Italian-Spanish co-production that ripoffs a lot of tropes and stylistic cues from much better, more famous movies.

Also, this was thrashed pretty hard in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and for good reason. It’s schlock, pure schlock… although, there is still something charming and endearing about it.

That’s not to say that some sequences won’t bore you to tears but I did enjoy how insane the plot was and it almost felt more in tune with the Matt Helm movies than the James Bond ones. However, this was lacking Dean Martin, solid laughs and a sea of gorgeous women.

But I really can’t compliment it beyond that and beyond saying that I didn’t hate it.

This has a lot of flaws from the acting, the dubbing, the direction, the cinematography, the lighting, the set design and just about everything else.

It’s goofy, it’s shitty but it’s a strong, solid turd, as opposed to a soft mushy one. And I guess that’s something.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other low budget spy films and James Bond ripoffs.

Film Review: Attack of the Eye Creatures (1965)

Also known as: The Eye Creatures (original TV title), Terrors of the Dark (working title)
Release Date: 1965 (TV)
Directed by: Larry Buchanan
Written by: Paul W. Fairman, Robert J. Gurney Jr., Al Martin
Music by: Les Baxter, Ronald Stein
Cast: John Ashley, Cynthia Hull, Warren Hammack, Chet Davis, Bill Peck, Ethan Allen, Charles McLine

Aztec Pictures, American International Television, 80 Minutes

Review:

“[two radar men spy kids necking in the woods] Ain’t science wonderful?” – Culver

Attack of the Eye Creatures is the type of schlock that makes respectable schlock run for the hills. It’s basically a wet turd on celluloid, which is probably why it is only slightly remembered in modern times because it was the focal point of a fourth season episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Had it not been for that great show dusting it off, this movie would have been lost to the sands of time. Granted, that might be for the best because even with it getting the MST3K treatment, it’s still a tough one to get through.

This was distributed by American International, who are synonymous with schlock even though they sometimes pushed out good pictures like those Vincent Price and Roger Corman collaborations that adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.

However, this was so bad that it was distributed by the TV arm of the company. For American International to not have much faith in putting something in theaters, you know it’s bad.

I’m not even sure what the hell was going on in this movie, as it was hard to stay awake.

Although, the creatures are just so terrible looking that they’re at least endearing and the only salvageable thing from the film. I mean, their design and the execution of that design is pretty deplorable. Essentially, they are supposed to be humanoid creatures made up of naked eyeballs. They looks more like The Stuff from The Stuff trying to fully devour a mannequin. They should’ve titled this movie Attack of the Lumpy Marshmallow Men or Revenge of the Spooge Goblins.

As with all films like this, it is best viewed by watching the MST3K version. At least the riffing is good on this one.

Rating: 1.5/10
Pairs well with: the worst of the worst when it comes to films shown on MST3K.

Film Review: The Rebel Set (1959)

Also known as: Beatsville (Sweden)
Release Date: June 28th, 1959
Directed by: Gene Fowler Jr.
Written by: Bernard Girard, Louis Vittes
Music by: Paul Dunlap
Cast: Gregg Palmer, Kathleen Crowley, Edward Platt, John Lupton, Ned Glass, Collette Lyons

E. & L. Productions, Allied Artists, 72 Minutes

Review:

“Stew oceans of lotion on the beards of each man!” – King Invader

Other than the underappreciated Bucket of Blood, I’ve never seen a beatnik movie that I’ve liked. Maybe they all need the magic touch of Roger Corman and the acting chops of Dick Miller.

Well, since The Rebel Set has neither, it’s pretty much just mundane and drab schlock deserving of being lambasted on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The plot sees the owner of a beatnik coffee shop hire three of his patrons to rob an armored car. The plot is overly complicated but also dumb. This is a bad heist movie and even though it’s a late ’50s crime picture, it’s nowhere near good enough or stylish enough to fit within the classic film-noir genre.

The acting is well below sub par. The script is terrible, the direction is also terrible and it’s an ugly movie to look at.

Frankly, this is a waste of time unless you’re an MST3K completist and haven’t seen it yet.

Beatnik pictures were a thing for some reason though. None of them are particularly good, especially those that were featured on MST3K. And as far as Beatniks go, they were only enjoyable when Roger Corman parodied their culture in Bucket of Blood or when Don Draper cucked them out in Mad Men.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other beatnik movies, most of which are about the same quality as this one.

Film Review: The Human Duplicators (1965)

Also known as: Jaws of the Alien (video title), Space Agent K1 (Germany)
Release Date: March 3rd, 1965
Directed by: Hugo Grimaldi
Written by: Arthur C. Pierce
Music by: Gordon Zahler
Cast: George Nader, Dolores Faith, George Macready, Barbara Nichols, Richard Arlen, Richard Kiel, Hugh Beaumont

Hugo Grimaldi Film Productions, Woolner Brothers Pictures Inc., 100 Minutes, 80 Minutes (cut)

Review:

I’ve had a lot of good luck lately with watching and reviewing films from classic episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. What I mean by that, is that the last few films were actually enjoyable and not total poop.

The Human Duplicators, on the other hand, is a return to form for what is the quality of the typical film riffed on MST3K.

At least this one has a cool poster, though. Also, it was trippy as hell in some parts and it featured Richard Kiel, most famous for playing Jaws in the James Bond franchise but also seen in another MST3K featured film, Eegah.

The premise is about a bunch of aliens that clone humans. I mean, I guess the film’s title gives the cloning thing away. But other than the general premise, this is such a mess of a film that it’s hard to pay attention to the shoddy details.

The acting is terrible, as is the direction and the general look of this picture. At least, as far as the cinematography and lighting go. Although, some of the sets were imaginative but that’s probably due to their trippiness and because I was on edibles while watching this. But don’t be fooled, the sets still look like they’re cheaper than a Huddle House hooker in Starke, Florida.

In the end, I can’t recommend this movie but I did enjoy it enough with Joel and the ‘Bots making fun of it.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other bottom of the barrel schlock that owes its continued existence to Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Film Review: The Leech Woman (1960)

Also known as: Leech (working title)
Release Date: May, 1960
Directed by: Edward Dein
Written by: David Duncan, Ben Pivar, Francis Rosenwald
Music by: Irving Getz, Hans J. Salteri (uncredited), Henry Vars (uncredited)
Cast: Grant Williams, Coleen Gray, Phillip Terry, Gloria Talbott, John van Dreelen, Estelle Hemsley, Kim Hamilton, Arthur Batanides

Universal Pictures, 77 Minutes

Review:

“What woman lives, who has passed the prime of her life, that would not give her remaining years to reclaim even a few moments of joy and happiness and to know the worship of men?” – Old Malla

This is another one of those Universal B-movie horror pictures that was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. However, just like some of the others, it’s far from terrible and is actually one of the better movies to be mocked on that show.

Now I can’t say that this is as good as The Mole Poeple or This Island Earth but it’s still an enjoyable romp that has an old school Tiki vibe, lots of crazy science and even a romantic plot.

The plot, in a nutshell, sees a scientist go to the jungles of Africa because there is an old tribal sorceress that has the ability to make herself younger with an arcane ritual. The ritual does involve murder, however, as one of the ingredients needed is the secretion from a male pineal gland. Of course, the scientist and his wife want to steal the secret to use for their own selfish means. This obviously leads to tragic consequences for the pair.

The film is goofy but it’s also kind of cool. While a good portion of it takes place in the African jungle, the sets and the style feel more like they are using a Tiki aesthetic. I mean, that’s fine because in the time when this was made, filmmakers didn’t give a crap about accuracy or even research. African jungles, Pacific islands, Caribbean islands, voodoo bayous… all had the same aesthetic in film circa 1960.

For the time, the genre and the budget, this is a pretty standard film. It’s not well acted and the script is wonky but it is also salvaged by its style, its absurdity and the fact that it’s pretty fun.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Universal horror films of the era.

Film Review: The Mole People (1956)

Release Date: November 21st, 1956 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Virgil Vogel
Written by: Laszlo Gorog
Cast: John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, Cynthia Patrick, Alan Napier, Nestor Paiva

Universal-International, 77 Minutes

Review:

“Archaeologists are underpaid publicity agents for deceased royalty.” – Dr. Roger Bentley

Being that this is a Universal movie, I feel like the Mole People should be considered Universal Monsters by default. Maybe they aren’t included due to this film not being at the same level of quality as the debuts of their more famous monsters but if I’m being honest, it is better than a lot of the sequels once those properties went really deep into their runs.

Also, even though this was showcased on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, it is better than the vast majority of films that they lampooned.

You are exposed to the monsters pretty early on and for audiences of the 1950s, seeing creatures emerge from the dirt that can pull you under and suffocate you in the ground was probably legitimately scary.

And what makes this interesting, is that as the film evolves, you learn that these monsters are victims, enslaved by some shitty humans. So the real monster is man. Granted, this wasn’t a new angle, even by the time that this came out, but it adds an extra narrative layer to this film, making it more than just a standard, cheap thrills, creature feature.

Additionally, the sets are pretty impressive for the time and what I’m sure was a fairly scant budget, even for a major studio production. Sure the matte paintings are obvious with 2019 level HD but they were probably convincing backdrops for the time.

The Mole People is a film that is better than I thought it would be. I don’t ask for much with these sort of pictures but this one wasn’t your typical MST3K schlock and plays like something worthy of being on a double bill with the better Universal Monsters pictures.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: This Island Earth, Monolith Monsters and The Deadly Mantis.

Film Review: The Deadly Mantis (1957)

Also known as: The Giant Mantis, The Incredible Praying Mantis (alternate titles)
Release Date: May 1st, 1957 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Nathan H. Juran
Written by: Martin Berkeley, William Alland
Music by: Irving Gerts (uncredited), William Lava (uncredited)
Cast: Craig Stevens, William Hopper, Alix Talton, Pat Conway

Universal-International Pictures, 78 Minutes

Review:

“I’m convinced that we’re dealing with a Mantis in whose geological world the smallest insects were as large as man, and now failing to find those insects as food, well… it’s doing the best that it can.” – Dr. Ned Jackson

I have a soft spot for The Deadly Mantis and it is also one of the few films that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I don’t mind watching without the riffing of Mike and the ‘Bots. It’s actually decent for what it is and it’s better than most of the 1950s American giant monster movies.

Atomic Age films are a lot of fun though. There’s something cool about ’50s B-movies dealing with atomic fears, giant creatures and science run amok.

In this one, we get something special. It’s not just about a big ass bug smashing cities, this creature takes flight and has some big aerial battles with military fighter jets. In some ways, it kind of reminds me of Rodan from Japan, which came out a year earlier.

Now the acting leaves a lot to be desired and the direction and writing aren’t too great but this film is still pretty ambitious when looked at beside other films like it from the same era.

It’s got some good, action packed sequences and even if it has some dull science-y moments, it moves at a good pace.

The effects are also decent for what they are. I liked the scene where the mantis attacks the arctic lab, as well as the scenes where it takes flight.

While far from the best horror film of the 1950s, it’s definitely in the upper echelon of American Atomic Age thrillers.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Tarantula!, The Black Scorpion and The Giant Claw.