Monday, July 29, 2019

Garfield's Nightmare - Kennywood

Truly nightmarish, more for the repetitive, overlapping audio clips than the visuals.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Executioner 79: Council of Kings

The Executioner 79: Council of Kings
by Chet Cunningham and Les Danforth
1985 Worldwide Library

Through the decades and hundreds of books, Mack Bolan has gone through several phases.  After Don Pendleton's original run of his war against the mafia, Bolan got recruited by the government to fight terrorism.  At some point he avenged the death of a love interest, burning his bridges with the government as he went, so he's back to fighting the mob, supported by his brother Johnny.  I may prefer this era of the Bolans, with Mack as a stone cold sociopath moving from target to target.

Council of Kings is set very much in Oregon, with shootouts at Multnomah Falls and Mount Tabor Park.  Bolan's target is a mafia lone sharking operation, which spins off into prostitution and arms running.  There's a little bit of him working with the sister of a women killed in the operation, but Bolan is so uniquely horrible at keeping women alive that she's soon dispatched and forgotten about.

There's a bizarre sequence of Bolan going through a series of deathtrap rooms in a warehouse before he can confront a pimp.  There's a room full of cobras, another room covered in sand full of landmines, etc.  I can't see the pimp having to run the gauntlet every time he wants to leave his office, and I wonder who feeds the snakes.

The book ends with Bolan telling Johnny a story from his 'Nam days as an excuse to include a short story to fill out the page length.  I don't know how common this practice was, but this particular story was one of the darkest in Men's Adventure.

Bolan has a buddy who, after getting a Dear John letter, shaves his head into a mohawk, signifying that he didn't intend to come back from his mission.  He doesn't, but Bolan's convinced that he managed to swallow a canvas map before being killed.  He becomes obsessed with the idea, and breaks into a mortuary to cut open his buddy's corpse to find it.  Instead, he finds a stash of heroin.

Here Bolan learns that the US military is controlled by a cabal of organized crime, the titular Council of Kings, who use war to push drugs.  And we learn that female VC spies would kill GIs while screwing them, via toilet paper tubes lined with razor blades secreted in their hoo-hahs. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Bad Influences: This Is Horror

This is Horror and related releases were a late 80s series of repackaged video press kits, showing movie clips, interviews, and behind the scenes footage.  John Simmons is the name that comes up the most as the responsible parties.

It started with Stephen King's World of Horror, a straight to VHS release.  Some sources have this as 1986; the copyright of this version is 1988.  Note that many uploads with this title are actually the later This is Horror.

This was expanded into the syndicated series This is Horror, which uses the King interviews as bookends.  I believe there were 13 episodes, copyright 1989, and they were all over cable TV.  I saw them on MTV.  This exact version isn't readily available on the internet - the closest thing is a two DVD set with Dutch subtitles.

These were re-edited further into a three VHS set title This is Horror.  I believe only the first was released in the US.  All three are currently available on YouTube.

There was another release under the title Encyclopedia of Horror - I don't know if these are exactly the same or another re-editing.

Finally, the same clips with the same narrator was repacked as Shadow Theater, with host clips by Robert Englund.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Real Evil: The Torture Gang

I'm reading a 60s Sexton Blake novel that has a gangster who nails his victims' knees to the floor with six inch nails.  I was reminded of Monty Python's Piranha Brothers sketch:

I figured that must have been a Kray Brothers thing, but it turns out it was their rival the Richardson Gang, also called the Torture Gang, who would also cut off toes with bolt cutters and pull teeth with pliers.  One collector caught skimming spent two days nailed to a warehouse floor while his associates would occasionally take a piss on him.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Apache Kid (1987)

Apache Kid (1987)
Dir: Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso

Image result for mattei apache kid

Mattei and Fragasso made a couple of very late westerns in 1987, this and Scalps.  Both are brutal and gory for westerns, but neither really cross the line into horror like Cut-Throats Nine.  Apache Kid is some silliness about a blonde boy saved and raised by natives.  It does contain Mattei's patented "small child awkwardly slumps to the ground after being shot" scenes like in Hell of the Living Dead.

Currently on Amazon Prime.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Destroyer 1: Created, The Destroyer by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Created, The Destroyer
The Destroyer 1
by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir
1971, Pinnacle

Remo Williams is a Newark cop framed for murder and sent to the electric chair.  His death is faked by the super secret organization CURE.  CURE is dedicated to wiping out organized crime through non-violent means: manipulating politics, fixing juries, etc.  They've decided to expand into assassination, starting with Remo.

Remo is trained in the martial arts and other areas of espionage before being sent on his first mission: murder his own recruiter.  Remo refuses and uses the opportunity to get drunk and considers going on the run.  Instead, he finishes his mission to infiltrate the building of a mafia enforcer by seducing his virgin feminist daughter.

Remo kills a bunch of mafia goons with his bare hands, including a pretty gruesome scene involving a thug's legs being cut off by a car crusher.  The novel ends with him banging the virgin daughter some more, which comes across a bit dark given that Remo said earlier that he was planning on killing her to not leave witnesses.

The 1988 reprint I read began with an introduction written by Chiun, Remo's Korean martial arts instructor.  Chiun is barely in the novel and has not developed into the comic relief he is in later books.  From what I can tell, the series gets increasingly comedic and over-the-top as time goes on.  1971 was still early for Men's Adventure, and the novel had a vibe more similar to Donald Hamilton or Andrew York.

The quality of the writing is good but you can feel that there were problems finding clear direction or sense of tone.  I'll need to give a later novel a try.  Some fans don't like the movie, but I actually preferred the film over this installment for having improved training sequences and having more charm.

The first men's adventure book I ever read was a Destroyer novel - a page of it, anyway, and I hated it so much I didn't touch the genre again for another 20 years.  My tastes have gotten more sophisticated over the years, but it's still taken me this long to crack open a Destroyer title.  Chiun seems funny in small doses, but would get real annoying real fast.  I've also read that the series later tends towards mean-spirited humor, reactionary politics, and a smug disdain for the genre, but none of that is evident in this installment.  I'll find out for myself later.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

TV Obscura: Half Nelson (1985)

Starring Joe Pesci, Victoria Jackson, Fred Williamson, Bubba Smith, and Dick Butkus.  Had celebrity guests such as Rod Taylor and Dean Martin.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Top Secret/S.I. - Double Agent #1

Top Secret/S.I
Double Agent #1
Web of Danger by Aaron Allston
Acolytes of Darkness by Flint Dille and David Marconi
1988 TSR

Top Secret was TSR's contemporary espionage role-playing game, originating in 1980.  The system was updated in 1987 with Top Secret/S.I., which had a variety of game settings, which in turn had tie-in novels.

Web of Danger is similar to The Man From UNCLE.  The good guys work for ORION, an extra-governmental espionage agency, who fight the bad guys, the Web.  The plot: the web has a knockout gas, which they plan to use on an attack on the New York Stock Exchange, which in turn is cover for spreading a computer virus into the world's financial computer systems.

The novel has the feel of an RPG campaign, with different characters having different specialties, and you can almost feel the rolling dice as they attempt different tasks.

Acolytes of Darkness is set in the 1930s and is pure pulp homage, with beats lifted from the Shadow and the Spider.  Agent 13 is a former member of the Brotherhood, which is led by the sinister Hand Sinister.  The Brotherhood is functionally a yellow menace threat, but it also incorporates ancient South American priesthoods and European monks.  There is a supernatural element, with formulas for eternal life and a vampire.

While Web of Danger had the feel of a fictionalized rpg session, Acolytes of Darkness was more of a series of scenes stitched together.

There are two more Double Agent novel collections with different writers, and at least a couple more standalone Agent 13 novels.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Blank That Ate Blank

It's been a running joke for decades to have monster movies with titles like "The Thing that Ate Pittsburgh" or "The Monster That Stepped On Cincinnati".  The joke started sometime in the 1950s - monster movies were common on TV and the whole thing has the feel of the quasi beatnik comedy albums of the time.  The earliest use I could pin down was December, 1959's The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, beginning the running gag of Maynard G. Krebs watching "The Monster That Devoured Cleveland".  Sid Ceasar had "The Creature that Ate the Monster", probably earlier but I don't know when.

The late 60s saw a musical variation of giant food items eating cities, spinning out of "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago" by Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band.

Growing up I always assumed that the joke was based on films of similar names, and also that there would be parody films using that name construction, but it turns out there's not much of either.

There may be more, but the only actual scifi movie coming to mind that has this title setup is "The Monster That Challenged the World" from 1957.

Even later parody film titles are slim: the only two I could find were 1974's "The Car that Ate Paris", and 1996's "The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati", which wasn't a scifi parody.  The movie that should have had this kind of title but didn't was "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" in 1978.  Around 1974 or 1975 there was filming on "The Tomato That Ate Cleveland", but I'm not sure it was releaseded or finished.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Robowar (1988)

Robowar is a Bruno Mattei copy of Predator starring Reb Brown from Space Mutiny.