Video Game Review: Castlevania: Bloodlines (Sega Genesis)

Who doesn’t love Castlevania games?

I’ve played almost all of them up until the late ’00s. Yet, I never got around to playing Bloodlines, which is actually kind of strange, as I owned a Sega Genesis and rented games for it all the damn time.

This was cool to check out now, though.

This plays just like all the other Castlevania games before it, well… excluding Simon’s Quest, as that one was a breed all its own.

Anyway, this plays a lot like the first and third games for the original Nintendo. You work your way through levels, you fight all sorts of monstrosities and you usually get the shit kicked out of you because Castlevania games tend to be hard as shit, even for those of us who have played them pretty steadily over the course of our lives.

For the most part, this Castlevania game is a lot of fun. I like that you have two characters to choose from but if I’m being honest, just pick the dude with the whip because playing a Castlevania game without a whip is like playing a different game entirely. Unless, you’re Alucard and you can transform into cool shit and have a lightning fast rapier. But this game doesn’t have Alucard as a playable character, so just take the whip dude.

This game is also set further into the future and the characters have a lineage to characters of the past. Hence, the name Bloodlines.

Still, the world looks about the same and it doesn’t really matter which century this take place in.

Now I didn’t beat this game. I think I got pretty far but man, this game will crush your ass. I especially had a lot of frustration on the level with the rising water and then having to kill that level’s boss without drowning. That’s the one spot where I really got hung up, lost a lot of lives and blew through too many continues.

Despite my difficulty, this is still a solid game and it was more fun than frustrating.

It has fluid gameplay, looks superb and boasts a great soundtrack.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The original Castlevania trilogy for NES, Super Castlevania IV for SNES, the Gameboy Castlevania games, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (also known as Dracula X) and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the original PlayStation.

Book Review: Famous Monsters – Ack-ives, Vol. 2: The House of Hammer

I’ve been a Hammer Films aficionado since I was a wee little lad. Growing up, my granmum always had AMC and other old movie stations on. As the sun went down, often times there’d be some solid old school horror, whether it was the Universal Monsters stuff, Vincent Price movies or the Hammer films, which almost always starred Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing and usually the two of them together.

I used to videotape every Hammer film that came on television and I had a solid collection. As I got older, I ended up getting just about everything I could on DVD, completing the Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy film series. Not to mention everything in-between.

So I had to pick this up when I saw it in my local comic book shop.

This reads like a book but is in a magazine format. But it’s pretty thick and has a slew of good articles about the history of Hammer studios and all the great movies they put out.

It delves into their big franchises, which were the UK’s darker and more serious takes on the franchises originally created by Universal, most of which came from famous works of literature like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Hammer didn’t just stop there, though. They did other vampire movies, mummy movies, zombie movies, werewolf movies and just about everything else under the sun that could be tailored into a good horror story.

Famous Monsters did a fine job of painting the picture of who the creators behind Hammer were and why their work was so essential to the evolution of horror.

This is definitely worth checking out and it is plastered with lots of great photos from the film themselves, as well as behind the scenes stuff.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other classic horror magazines.

Film Review: Horror Express (1972)

Also known as: Pánico en el Transiberiano (original Spanish title), The Possessor (US re-issue title), Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train (alternate title)
Release Date: September 30th, 1972 (Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival)
Directed by: Eugenio Martin
Written by: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet
Music by: John Cacavas
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Telly Savalas, Silvia Tortosa

Granada Films, Benmar Productions, 91 Minutes

Review:

“The two of you together. That’s fine. But what if one of you is the monster?” – Inspector Mirov

It’s been at least a decade since I’ve watched Horror Express but I really didn’t like it the few times I saw it, even though it is one of the 22 motion pictures that teamed up real life best friends Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. It also features another one of my favorite actors, Telly Savalas.

I’m not sure why I wasn’t a fan of it, as I liked it this time around but maybe I’m older, more mature, have a better palate and thought that this thing was a bit of a fine wine with just the right amount of cheese to accompany it.

I think that one of the reason’s I never liked it was due to the fact that all the prints and releases of this film are in pretty poor quality. I hope it gets a proper remaster, at some point. But I was able to not let that bother me this time, as I got caught up in the story, most of which I hadn’t remembered other than this being a mummy on a train movie.

There’s a weird twist though, this mummy is actually an alien and he has this power where he uses his glowing eyes to peer through his victims’ eyes and murder them with some sort of brain crushing ability. However, the alien mummy has to kill people to regain his form and his strength but he also can control them like an undead army.

This movie feels like a mix between Agatha Christie’s Murder On the Orient Express and a classic Hammer horror film. But it looks more like the ’70s visual style of an Amicus production. Strangely, this is neither a Hammer or Amicus film but it was able to lure in the talents of Lee and Cushing.

I liked the setting and how the environment was used so well. A train kind of limits what one can do in a horror movie but it never wrecked the plot here and it actually made you feel just as confined as the characters.

The movie uses miniatures for the exterior train shots but they come off really well. That could be due to the poor quality of the print hiding the imperfections but even the big finale, which sees part of the train go over a cliff was pulled off nicely.

I’m glad that I revisited this. I didn’t expect to actually dig it as much as I did this time but sometimes you can revisit something you weren’t fond of and see something new or worthwhile that you may have missed before.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Amicus and Hammer Films of the early ’70s, especially those featuring Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee.

Film Review: Being From Another Planet (1982)

Also known as: Time Walker (original title), Pharaoh (working title)
Release Date: November 19th, 1982
Directed by: Tom Kennedy
Written by: Tom Friedman, Karen Levitt, Jason Williams
Music by: Richard Band
Cast: Ben Murphy, Nina Axelrod, Kevin Brophy, James Karen, Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Antoinette Bower, Sam Chew Jr., Shari Belafonte, Greta Blackburn, Jack Olson

Byzantine Productions, Wescom Productions, New World Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Nothing can stop him, not even time.” – tagline

Someone that reviewed this on IMDb titled their review “Boring From Another Planet”. Well, that’s pretty accurate.

It’s also a perfect film to be torn apart on Mystery Sceince Theater 3000.

But if I’m being honest, this film does have one saving grace: James Karen. I love that guy. I mean he’s great in everything, even with really minor roles. I even enjoyed his Pathmark commercials, which I’d only see when visiting my family in New York City back in the ’80s.

Apart from Karen though, everything else about this picture is dead on arrival. I usually like stuff from New World Pictures too but this is well below their respectable schlock level.

The story revolves around this alien that was mummified and asleep in King Tut’s tomb but he’s now been awaken, centuries later. I guess this is kind of like a slasher picture but it is severely light on the slashing and it only sort of fits that in how the mummy alien just sort of lurks in the shadows and watches young couple struggling to go beyond first base.

The special effects in this are bad between the look of the alien and the post production work on trying to make the magical bits come to life.

Also, the acting is of the ’80s TV movie quality. It’s not atrocious or anything but it makes Airwolf look like Dunkirk, if I’m comparing.

This was a dud on nearly every level. It’s not interesting, it’s executed poorly and it’s only worth a watch if you check out the MST3K version.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s sci-fi/horror schlock: Forbidden World, Xtro and The Boogens.

Video Game Review: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation)

There are lots of great video games over all consoles and platforms, spanning five decades. Few, however, are actual masterpieces. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of those rare masterpieces.

I can’t say a bad thing about this game. I love it wholeheartedly and playing it in 2018 made me weep for myself, as I haven’t replayed through it enough over the years. This experience though, has assured me that it is something I’ll have to play through over a weekend every couple of years. Man, I really enjoyed stepping back into this for the first time in over ten years. It also made me feel the sense of excitement and awe that I had for it when I first bought it and took it home in 1997.

I have always been a fan of the original three Castlevania games and this takes the best elements of the original trilogy of titles, mixes them together and pushes away all the negative parts.

While most people don’t like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, I always adored that game and how ambitious it was for the time. That ambition and it’s RPG like style mostly just upset people that wanted it to be more like its predecessor. But Symphony of the Night borrows the RPG elements, throws them in here and presents it all as something closer to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, which was a much better version of the style of the original game.

Like Simon’s Quest, you have to round up pieces of Dracula’s body in order to fight him. And also like Simon’s Quest, you have the freedom to go where you please and obtaining certain items unlocks access to new areas.

The thing is, and most Americans in 1997 didn’t know this, but Symphony of the Night is actually a direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, which didn’t come out in the States until later and was then renamed Dracula X. I’ve never played Rondo of Blood but now I want to after revisiting this. Rumor has it, that a version of it is being released for PlayStation 4 soon.

Anyway, apart from this tapping hard into Simon’s Quest, I also love how many firggin’ boss fights you get in this game. There are bosses everywhere in the castle. It’s like you can’t go ten minutes without encountering another boss to fight. What’s also great though, is that the classic bosses return, as well. You get to fight the Grim Reaper, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy and Medusa. You even get the annoying hunchbacks, the pain in the ass gillmen and the mindless zombies, as well as so many other regular enemies that every section of this game is new and fresh.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is absolute perfection in an artistic and interactive medium where such feats are incredibly hard to achieve. Kudos to Konami, as this is one of the best games the studio ever produced and my favorite in the great Castlevania series.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The original Castlevania trilogy for NES, Super Castlevania IV for SNES, the Gameboy Castlevania games and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (also known as Dracula X).

Video Game Review: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES)

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse was really f’n cool when it first came out because of one reason, you could play as Alucard, the son of Dracula.

Well, you could play as a few characters but Alucard was just badass and you could turn into a bat and fly through certain areas. But each character had their own special purpose.

Most importantly though, this returned to the game style of the original Castlevania, which most people wanted after the more complex, tougher and RPG-like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. I am of the minority that loves that second game though, even if it’s a favorite classic NES title that people love to shit on. Those people are just simple minded and can’t solve more complex problems and puzzles though.

Anyway, Castlevania III is back to basics with some added flourish in the form of the characters Alucard, Sypha Belnades and Grant Danasty. Your main character is Trevor C. Belmont, as opposed to Simon Belmont, as this game is actually a prequel set a few hundred years earlier.

And while it does return to the formula of the first game, it branches out and is more creative, as it allows you to make choices that effect the game. You can choose different paths and the game has different endings based off of what you do along the way.

This allowed the game to have long lasting replayability. As different people beat it in different ways, kids talking on the playground came to realize that they needed to try different things in order to see the various finales. And this is back in the era when beating a game was a massive undertaking, especially since it typically had to be done in a single sitting. Castlevania III monopolized many summer vacation afternoons.

This is just a solid chapter in a solid series what was fun to play and exciting because of the options within the game. It really was a step forward in gameplay and storytelling evolution.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The other NES Castlevania games: the original Castlevania and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, also PlayStation’s epic sequel Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Film Review: The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (1958)

Also known as: La momia azteca contra el robot humano (original Mexican title), The Aztec Mummy Against the Humanoid Robot (worldwide English title)
Release Date: July 17th, 1958 (Mexico)
Directed by: Rafael Portillo
Written by: Guillermo Calderon, Alfredo Salazar
Music by: Antonio Diaz Conde
Cast: Ramon Gay, Rosa Arenas, Crox Alvarado, Luis Acevedes Castaneda, Jaime Gonzalez Quinones

Cinematográfica Calderón S.A., 65 Minutes

Review:

Is this a terrible movie? Yes. However, within the context of what it is and how it was made, I can accept it and not just trash it for being total schlock. Besides, it features a friggin’ robot fighting a friggin’ mummy. Okay. maybe the monsters are terrible and move at the speed of a mentally handicapped turtles through a sea of molasses but still, it’s got a robot and a mummy!

This film was featured on the first nationally syndicated season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and for good reason: it’s a big stinker. But show me a Mexican science fiction film from the 1950s that isn’t?

The MST3K versions and really, any version available in the U.S., has English dubbing. Sure, the dubbing is also terrible but it sort of adds an extra level of goofiness to the proceedings and makes this film more endearing than it probably should be.

To be honest, you’ve got to love these sort of pictures to have an appreciation for this. A normal person would probably rather claw their eyes out but it’s certainly not the most dreadful thing ever made and definitely not the worst thing featured on MST3K.

The biggest negative isn’t the crappy monsters or the shitty special effects, it’s that the film has some really boring and drawn out moments. This thing could probably be whittled down to a twenty minute picture and you wouldn’t feel like you’ve lost anything important. Hell, it’d probably play better that way.

One of the highlights is the mad scientist. That guy was pure gold and dedicated to that insane role.

The robot was some knee-less hulking thing with a window that displayed a full human face but he was referred to as a “human robot” so I guess that works. The mummy looked more like the zombie version of Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies but I totally bought into it being a former Aztec warrior. Okay, that last sentence was me totally being facetious.

Even though I don’t hate this, it is shitty. I know it is shitty. It is impossible to deny its shittiness. Therefore, it must be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: Lots of old school Mexican monster movies, especially some of the lucha libre stuff with El Santo and Blue Demon.