Recently Rated Movies #39: Psychotronic Ketchup "Catch-Up" Part A

Variety -- it is both a blessing and a curse. I don't mean the Hollywood business rag (though I suppose I could for those who have actually read it); no, I mean merely the wide range of choice available to one who pursues a DVD-watching project such as the one that I have undertaken. By crawling through the debris left in the wake of The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (i.e. watching all of the movies contained within its pages that I have not seen previously, or have only seen partially, or saw so long ago that I have decided, with some reticence, to view them again), I have found myself surrounded by a vast selection of genres. Even if it seems to the casual observer that, because I am gathering films from what seems to be a rather select guide on wigged out movies, I am merely watching a lot of junk films in a row, I am actually finding that the guide itself has far more depth than one might imagine.

This is the blessing. In the pages of this book are pure and true schlock -- in fact, entry after entry of the stuff -- but then one stumbles over a 40's Agatha Christie classic that turns out to be just that: a bona fide classic of the French-pronounced sort. (This would be And Then There Were None; if you like mysteries, it is a must, and I am stunned that I have never run into it before.) One must battle intense weariness over bad English sub-horror flicks (The Beast in the Cellar) before crashing into a solid underrated English one (And Soon the Darkness, wherein Dr. Phibes director Robert Fuest and Avengers creator Brian Clemens prefigure much of the slasher genre to come later in the 70s). One switches quickly from Italian muscle-man flicks to Bert I. Gordon size-fests to Corman-produced disaster disasters to genuinely intense documentaries like The Atomic Cafe, which I had never seen in its entirety and have now made sure to add to my collection post-haste.

Herein lies the curse, for then there are the gore epics, many of which I really did not have access back in the day, or neglected to pick up the edited American releases in the 80s. Today, for some mysterious reason, DVD allows these films to arrive uncensored (for the most part) on our sets, where they tended to be hacked to pieces on VHS in the past. So, I end up finally watching Autopsy, a film that got some measure of publicity in the grindhouse '70s for its supposed "real" autopsy footage. The thing is, the first ten minutes of this film -- with corpses coming to life and starting to get down to "bidness" with each other, and a half-dozen rapid succession suicides -- had me thinking that this would be a fascinating, albeit disgusting, lost Italian classic. But after the shocking beginning, it cuddles up with ennui and turns out to be nothing more than a sub-standard giallo effort. One gore-fest to which I did have access to in the past, but neglected to watch, was Joel Reed's famous and controversial Blood Sucking Freaks, which many had told me was the most disturbing thing they had ever seen. I would point out Yentl, and those same people, even the Streisand-apologists, would mostly agree that I had a point. My verdict after finally watching it? Eh... while if you watch the gore in context with the film, one might consider its snuff-theatre and white slavery storyline and endless scenes of nude women being tortured and murdered shocking, for me it was all tempered by the fact that most of the torture scenes are too clumsily staged to seem real (the ballerina-feet sawing and the human dartboard being particularly comic in approach) and much of the gore is so amateurish as to make amateur gorehounds blush. And, to be honest, though I do not turn away from well-done gore in any film, my moment for films of this ilk has truly passed.

But some people swear by this flick, and that's fine. Some would find this to be a remark of great concern considering its subject matter, but after seeing the film, I know that the only way someone could take this film seriously is as one of those "so bad, its good" things. To this end, the most joyous discoveries on this journey thus far, apart from the genuinely well-made films I have encountered, were the Mexican "Wrestling Women" flicks and the Japanese "Starman" epics. The wrestling films are so dopey and inept as to be utterly fascinating, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't find them strangely compelling, even though the wrestling scenes left me wondering if I had taken the garbage out yet. (I hate wrestling.) The films have the feel of old '30s serials, even if they were made several decades later than the serial heyday, and this might explain my affection for them. Likewise, "Starman" hit my head in the way that Ultraman TV shows do, and this is a good thing. Pure fun as Starman wades through dozens of opponents in scene after scene of absolute chaos. I have heard this was Japan's answer to Superman back in the '50s, but Starman does something that ol' Supes would never do: when Starman gets hold of an enemy weapon, he will absolutely use it on the next dozen guys that cross his path. The truth is that these Superman knockoffs are actually better produced (some incredibly intricate, if cheesy sets, are used in both of the films that I saw) than their inspiration, and the action quotient is much higher.

So, as I wander further down the Psychotronic path, fighting my way through the many disparate styles of film, both good and bad, when I eventually meet up with Las Luchadoras and Starman again, they will now be considered my avid allies in this battle. Which is good, since there will be someone to headlock Fred Olen Ray, Andy Milligan and Jess Franco when I start running into their zillion bad flicks. Or, at least, Starman can shoot them...

The List:
And Then There Were None (1945, DVD) - 8; And Soon the Darkness (1970, DVD) - 6; The Beast in the Cellar (1970, DVD) - 3; The Astounding She-Monster (1957, DVD) - 4; The Atomic Cafe (1982, DVD) - 8; Maciste nella terra dei Ciclopi [Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops] (1961, DVD) - 5; The Ape Man (1943, DVD) - 3; Attack of the Puppet People (1958, DVD) - 4; Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957, DVD) - 5; Avalanche (1978, DVD) - 3; Atomic Rulers (of the World) (1965, DVD) - 4; Attack From Space (1965, DVD) - 4, Autopsy [Macchie Solari (Sun Spots)] (1975, DVD) - 4; Las Luchadoras contra la Momia [The Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy] (1964, DVD) - 3; Las Luchadoras contra el Médico Asesino [Doctor of Doom] (1963, DVD) - 3; Back Door to Hell (1964, DVD) - 5; El Secreto del Dr. Orloff [Dr. Orloff's Monster] (1964, DVD) - 4; Blood Sucking Freaks [The Incredible Torture Show] (1976, DVD) - 3; Because They're Young (1960, TCM) - 5.


matt Fosberg said…
While I have no room to comment on frequency when one considers my feeble attempts at posting on the web, I have to say YAY! a new post on cinema4pylon!

Rik Tod said…
Thanks for that. It is not for lack of having anything to post, but rather a lack of having time or energy to do it. I had a hell of a lot of OT the week before preparing for our convention, and then I have been sick the last few days post-show.

But now, forge on I shall...!!
Bloodsucking Freaks... god, what an awful movie. I had the misfortune of seeing that movie twice, although at least the first time I had the good sense to fast forward parts of it(not so lucky the second time). It wasn't disturbing to me, just ugly, poorly made, and pointless. IMDB and Amazon claim that the commentary is from Eli 'Cabin Fever' Roth, although the DVD I saw had someone who actually worked on the film. I remember this because the guy claimed all the interpretive dancing was his scathing attack on the Vietnam War.

Also, if you're digging the Luchadore movies, check out Superargo El Hombre En Mascedero. It might not be on DVD yet(I doubt it), but if you see it around anywhere, check it out.

oh yeah, ditto on the welcome back!

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