“Kid Lobotomy” Is First To Don The Black Crown


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

When Shelly Bond was let go by DC as head honcho of their Vertigo label, it marked the end of an era — the last member of that venerable imprint’s original crew had left the building, and its future was suddenly looking very uncertain indeed.

Truth be told, it still is — Jamie S. Rich took the reins for a time, and now they’ve been passed on to, if memory serves me correctly, Mark Doyle and Andy Khoury, so we’ll just have to see what happens there. Bond, though, for her part, landed on her feet pretty quickly — IDW offered her a line of her very own to oversee, and after a year (-ish) of planning and preparation, Black Crown is finally here. But for those either hoping or worried that a simple Vertigo redux was what we were in store for here, it’s time to get stressed or…

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The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Nightmare Beach, a.k.a. Welcome to Spring Break (dir by Harry Kirkpatrick and Umberto Lenzi)


Did Umberto Lenzi direct the 1989 film, Nightmare Beach?

That’s a question that Italian horror fans have been debating for a while now.  The film’s credited director is Harry Kirkpatrick.  Due to the fact that Kirkpatrick has no other known credits, it’s generally agreed that Kirkpatrick was a pseudonym.  But was it a pseudonym for Lenzi, screenwriter James Justice, or both of them?  In an interview for the book Spaghetti Nightmares, Lenzi said that he was originally hired to direct but, at the last minute, he changed his mind because he felt the film was too similar to his 1972 giallo, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids.  Lenzi says that he withdrew from directing but that he remained on set to provide technical assistance to the film’s actual director, “Harry Kirkpatrick,” who Lenzi also says co-wrote the script.  That may sound simple enough but skeptics point out that worrying about repeating himself didn’t dissuade Lenzi from following up Eaten Alive with Cannibal Ferox.  (Add to that, would Lenzi really have been concerned about duplicating a film that he made 17 years previously?)  As well, James Justice only has two credits listed on the imdb, one for writing this film and one for 2006’s Lesser Evil.

(For the record, I did a google search on James Justice and I didn’t find much.  However, I did comes across several Scientology sites that featured testimonials from “James Justice, screenwriter.”)

As for what the film’s about, it’s a strange combination of genres.  It starts out with a prisoner named Diablo (Tony Bolano) being sent to Florida’s electric chair.  Diablo was the leader of an infamous motorcycle gang.  He was convicted of murdering a teenage girl but, as he dies, Diablo yells that he’s been framed and that he was innocent.

However, no need to worry too much about Diablo!  No sooner has Diablo been sent to the chair then suddenly, Nightmare Beach turns into a spring break comedy!  Teenagers and college students are flooding the beaches of Florida and all they want to do is have a good time!  The local fire-and-brimstone preacher (Lance Le Gault) can’t stop the party, no matter how many times he says that everyone’s going to Hell.  The police chief (John Saxon) puts extra patrols on the beach.  The local doctor (Michael Parks) prepares to treat a hundred cases of alcohol poisoning.

The beach turns into a huge party!  Bands play.  T-shirts get wet.  For some reason, one dorky frat boy does the whole pretending to be dead while floating in the pool routine.  A young woman tries to stay in a hotel for free without getting caught.  Meanwhile, two college football players, Skip (Nicolas de Toth) and Ronny (Rawley Valverde) roll into town.  Skip is depressed because he lost the big game but Ronny is determined that his best friend is going to have a good time and get laid!  Whenever Skip gets depressed, Ronny pelts him with condoms.

It’s Spring Break!  Everyone’s going to have a good time…

Except, suddenly, a mysterious figure on a motorcycle rolls into town.  He never speaks.  He never takes off his helmet.  However, he does electrocute everyone that he meets.  Sometimes, he uses live wires and sometimes, he just has them sit on the back of his motorcycle, which has been designed to act as an electric chair.  Could it be the ghost of Diablo, seeking vengeance?  When Ronny disappears — NO!  NOT COMEDY RELIEF RONNY — Skip is determined to find out what’s going on.  Working with him is Gail (Sara Buxton), the sister of the girl that Diablo was convicted of murdering…

One reason why so many Italian horror aficionados are convinced that Umberto Lenzi must have directed Nightmare Beach is because, with its odd mix of genres and its weird combination of comedy and extreme gore, it just feels like an Umberto Lenzi film.  Add to that, around the same time that Nightmare Beach was filmed and released, Lenzi also filmed and released another film about teenagers being murdered during spring break, Hitcher In The Dark.

Because it’s such a strange mix of genres, Nightmare Beach is a much more interesting film than Hitcher In The Dark.  The motorcycle-driving killer is somehow both ludicrous and frightening at the same time. Plus, how can you resist a movie with both John Saxon and Michael Parks as ineffectual authority figures?  It just can’t be done.

Horror on TV: Thriller 1.31 “A Good Imagination” (dir by John Brahm)


In tonight’s episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller, Edward Andrews plays a bookseller who discovers that his wife has numerous lovers.  Fortunately, he has a collection of books that is just full of good ways to take care of the competition!

This episode was written by Robert Bloch and was based on his short story.

Enjoy the little tribute to the power of literature!

 

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Spasmo (dir by Umberto Lenzi)


Yesterday, Italian horror fans were saddened to hear of the passing of director Umberto Lenzi.

Over the course of his long career, Lenzi worked in almost every possible genre of Italian film.  He directed spy films.  He directed westerns.  He did a few comedies.  He directed two movies about Robin Hood.  In the wake of the international success of The French Connection, he was one of the leading directors of Italian crime films.  Among fans of Italian horror, he is best known for his cannibal films and his work in the giallo genre.  He even directed the first fast-zombie film, Nightmare City, a film that very well may have served as an inspiration for 28 Days Later.  According the imdb, Lenzi is credited with directing 65 films.  Some of them were good.  Many of them, if we’re to be honest, were rather forgettable.

But none were as strange as 1974’s Spasmo.

Attempting to detail the plot of Spasmo is a challenge.   Even by the twisty standards of the giallo genre, the mystery at the heart of Spasmo is a complicated one. According to Troy Howarth’s So Deadly, So Perverse Volume Two, even Lenzi admitted that Spasmo‘s storyline made no sense.  Add to that, Spasmo features so many twists and turns that it’s difficult to judge just how much of the movie’s plot you can safely describe before you start spoiling the film.

Spasmo tells the story of a man named Christian (Robert Hoffman).  While Christian is out walking on the beach with his girlfriend, they come across a woman lying face down in the surf.  The woman is named Barbara (Suzy Kendall) and, though she declines to explain why she was lying in the middle of the beach, Christian still becomes obsessed with her.  Barbara runs off but then he just happens to run into her at a party that’s being held on a boat.  Christian may be with his girlfriend and Barbara may be with her boyfriend but they end up leaving together.  Barbara says she will make love to Christian but only if he shaves his beard.

Meanwhile, lingerie-clad mannequins are being found on the beach.

Christian ends up getting attacked by a man named Tatum.  Christian shoots Tatum but then the body disappears.  Christian and Barbara hide out at a lighthouse.  There’s another couple at the lighthouse and where they came from is never quite clear.  They say that a dead body has recently been discovered but, when Christian demands to know what they mean, they say that they’re just joking.  Later, Christian thinks that he sees Tatum walking around but, just as suddenly, Tatum’s gone.

Christian is convinced that his brother, Fritz (Ivan Rassimov) can help him.  Barbara says that there is no hope.  We know better than to trust Fritz because he’s played by Ivan Rassimov.  Possessing the best hair in Italian horror, Ivan Rassimov almost always played the heel…

Meanwhile, mannequins continue to be found on the beach.

That may sound like I’ve described a lot of plot but I’ve actually only begun to scratch the surface.  Even by the standards of Italian thrillers, Spasmo is chaotic.  The film may not make any sense but it’s never boring.  Between the mannequins and the murders, it’s pretty much impossible to follow the plot but who cares?  As directed by Lenzi, Spasmo plays out like a dream, full of surreal images and memorably weird performances.  Robert Hoffman and Suzy Kendall are ideally cast while Ivan Rassimov is wonderfully slick and enigmatic as Fritz.  Spasmo is a film that keeps you guessing.  Whether it keeps you guessing because the plot is clever or because the plot itself is deliberately designed (and filmed) to make no sense is something that viewers will have to determine for themselves.  Personally, I think it’s a little of both.

Lenzi may not have cared much for Spasmo but it’s one of his most memorable films.

A Movie A Day #285: Bless The Child (2000, directed by Chuck Russell)


Kim Basinger is Maggie, a nurse who has adopted her autistic niece, Cody.  Her sister, Jenna (Angela Bettis), used to be a junkie but now she has cleaned up her act and married a former-child star-turned-cult leader, Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell).  Because Jenna’s daughter has supernatural powers and Eric is a Satanist, they want the little girl back.  Christina Ricci is Cheri, a junkie goth who used to be a member of the cult and who tries to warn Maggie before getting her head chopped off.  Jimmy Smits is John Travis, the FBI agent who helps Maggie out when Jenna and Eric kidnap Cody.  Mostly, though, he’s just Jimmy Smits, a TV actor who looks out of place whenever he appears in a movie.

Bless the Child was one of two movies that Kim Basinger made after winning an Oscar for L.A. Confidential.  She also made I Dreamed Of Africa, which probably did the most damage to her career but the box office and critical failure of Bless The Child probably did not help either.  Bless The Child was an overlong rip-off of The Omen films.  The only suspense is whether Cody is the antichrist or the reborn messiah.  Basinger and Jimmy Smits both look lost amid all the theological chaos raging around them.  Even Christina Ricci is wasted in a role that could have been played by anyone willing to dye her hair black.

One final note: Rufus Sewell is not terrible in Bless The Child, even if the majority of his lines sound more appropriate for Darth Vader than a former child actor.  (He even tells Maggie to feel the hate growing inside of her, like Vader trying to draw Luke over to the dark side.)  Sewell is still a busy actor but it seems like he has never really gotten his due in Hollywood.  Most of the good Rufus Sewell roles now seem to go to Jude Law.

Halloween Havoc!: REPTILICUS (AIP 1962)


cracked rear viewer

Are you ready for some Danish horror? Well, don’t get too excited; REPTILICUS is a giant monster flick that doesn’t really deliver the goods. The monster itself is on a par with THE GIANT CLAW , the film’s stuffed with stock footage and needless padding, the acting and dialog are way below average. Yet I’ve always liked this loopy movie; it has an endearing charm of its own, and is entertaining in spite of its limitations.

“High above the Arctic Circle”, copper miner drilling into the Earth’s crust hit flesh and bone. Scientists are called in, and sample’s are sent to the Copenhagen Aquarium. A piece of tail is kept in a refrigeration unit, until a sleepy scientist forgets to lock the door tight. The tail begins to rapidly regenerate, and turns into a giant prehistoric lizard dubbed Reptilicus. The giant lizard gets loose and begins to wreak the usual giant lizard…

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