Celebrate Roger Corman’s Birthday With These 12 Trailers!


Roger Corman in The Godfather Part II

Today is a very special day!  It’s Roger Corman’s 92nd birthday!

Here at the Shattered Lens, we traditionally celebrate this day with a special edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers!  Below, you’ll find the trailers for 12 films that were either directed by,  produced by, or distributed by the legendary Roger Corman!

  1. Five Guns West (1955)

This western was the first film that Roger Corman was credited with directing.

2. The Day The World Ended (1955)

Though Corman worked in almost every type of film genre imaginable, he’s probably best remembered for his science fiction and horror films.  This was one of the first of them.

3. Machine Gun Kelly (1958)

Along with westerns and sci-fi films, Corman also directed several gangster classics.  Machine Gun Kelly is remembered as one of his best.

4. The Intruder (1962)

Corman was an exploitation filmmaker with a conscience.  At a time when other films were avoiding social issues, Corman dove right in with challenging films like The Intruder.

5. The Terror (1963)

Corman was famous for his ability to spot new talent.  His 1963 film The Terror starred a then unknown actor named Jack Nicholson.

6. The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

In the 60s, Corman was also well-known for his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, the majority of which starred Vincent Price.  With these colorful and flamboyant films, Corman showed himself to be a pop artist at heart.

7. Boxcar Bertha (1972)

In the 70s, Corman moved away from directing and focused on producing.  His ability to spot talent undiminished, Corman helped to launch the careers of the some of the important directors of all time.  In 1972, he hired a young director named Martin Scorsese to direct Boxcar Bertha.

8. Cries and Whispers (1973)

While Corman was producing exploitation films, he was also distributing “difficult” foreign-language films that might otherwise have never been seen in an American theater.  In 1973, he distributed this classic Ingmar Bergman film.  Cries and Whispers was nominated for best picture of the year, losing to The Sting.

9. Caged Heat (1974)

Jonathan Demme was another director who got his start directing Corman-produced films like Caged Heat.  Demme would later thank Corman by casting him in several of his films, including the 1991 Best Picture winner, The Silence of the Lambs.

10. Piranha (1978)

Piranha was one of Corman’s biggest hits as a producer.

11. Carnosaur (1993)

With Carnosaur, Corman showed that you didn’t need a lot of money to bring dinosaurs back to life.

12. Dinocroc vs Supergater (2010)

Corman has continued to produce films in the 21st century.  Films like Dinocroc vs Supergator not only won him legions of new fans but they also paved the way for films like Sharkando.

Happy birthday, Roger Corman!

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Gor (dir by Fritz Kiersch)


The 1987 film Gor opens with a nerdy college professor (played by Urbano Barberini, of Demons and Opera fame) giving perhaps the worst lecture in the history of underwhelming lectures.  The professor explains that there is a counter-earth, a place that he claims is known as Gor.  Gor shares the same orbit as Earth but it’s linearly opposed to Earth, which apparently makes it impossible to see.  However, the professor says that his father gave him a ring which can transport the user to Gor.  The only problem is that the professor has not figured out how to use the ring.

The students all look incredibly bored with the lecture and I don’t blame them.  Not only does the professor seem to be rambling but he doesn’t even offer up any visual aides.  He could have at least utilized a powerpoint presentation or something.  Instead, his only teaching aide is a whiteboard on which he’s written “counter-earth.”  I have to wonder what their final exam is going to look like.  “True or false.  Your professor is a freaking loon.”

(I found myself wondering what university would possibly grant tenure to some guy who thinks he owns a magic ring but then I remembered Evergreen College.)

The professor’s name is Tarl Cabot and I think that’s a good deal of his problem right there.  When you give a child a name like Tarl Cabot, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that he’s going to grow up believing that he has a magic ring that’ll transport him to another planet.

Of course, in Tarl’s case, it turns out that the ring does just that.  After his teaching assistant dumps him so that she can go on a date with another professor, Tarl crashes his car and when he wakes up, he finds himself on Gor.  Apparently, the ring only works if you crash your car or something.

As for Gor itself, it turns out to be kind of a dump.  It’s a huge desert.  Seriously, check out this counter-earth:

If Tarl wanted to see a desert, he could have just driven around Southern California and saved himself a lot of trouble.

Yes, there is trouble in Gor.  No sooner has Tarl arrived then he’s being attacked by a bunch of barbarians on horseback.  The barbarians are led by the evil Sarm (played by Oliver Reed).  Much as with the case of Tarl Cabot, I think that once you name a child Sarm, you’ve pretty much guaranteed the way that his life is going to turn out.  Anyway, Tarl somehow survives being attacked by the barbarians.  He even manages to kill Sarm’s son, which leads to Sarm declaring that he wants Tarl dead.

Fortunately, Tarl is eventually rescued by another group of barbarians.  This group is led by Talena (Rebecca Ferratti) and she wants Tarl to help her rescue her father from Sarm’s fortress.  But how can Tarl help when he’s literally useless?  Don’t worry!  The good barbarians are willing to train Tarl.  One montage later, Tarl is now a master swordsman.  Now, all Tarl has to do is dress like a barbarian and then track down a little person who can serve as a guide to Sarm’s fortress!

And what a fortress it is!  Sarm may be evil but he likes to make sure that both his guests and his slaves have a good time.  Sarm welcomes Tarl to the fortress and even tries to recruit him over to his side.  (So apparently, Sarm’s over that whole “you killed my son” thing.)  Sarm understands that the best way to recruit Tarl is with a dance number!  As Sarm laughs lustfully, the slaves put on a show.  It’s somewhat out-of-place but at least it distracts from the rest of the film.

Anyway, there’s a lot of problems with Gor but the main one is that the place itself just doesn’t seem like it’s worth all the trouble.  After spending years trying to figure out how to get to the planet, Tarl arrives and discovers that it’s basically the same desert that was used in almost every post-apocalyptic film made in the 80s and 90s.  (In fact, judging from John Carter, it’s still being used today.)  What I always wonder about this type of movie is 1) why is the other planet always full of humans who speak perfect English and 2) why do all of these planets feature a society that resembles that ancient Roman Empire?  Apparently, swords and arrows are literally universal weapons because they’re used on every planet in the universe.

When I first saw that this film starred Urbano Barberini, I assumed that it was going to turn out to be an Italian production.  (In the late 80s, there were several Italian films that featured barbarians fighting in post-apocalyptic landscapes.)  However, it turns out that Gor was a South African production, co-produced by the legendary Harry Alan Towers and directed by an American named Firtz Kiersch.  (Kiersch also directed the first film version of Children of the Corn.)  That said, the film itself is so ineptly dubbed and the production values are so low-budget that it would still be easy to mistake Gor for a film directed by Bruno Mattei or Claudio Fragasso.

Because he’s so badly dubbed, it’s difficult to really judge Barberini’s performance as Tarl Cabot.  At the very least, he looks good with a sword in his hand and he’s cute — if never quite believable — when he plays Tarl as a neurotic physicist.  However, Barberini can’t really compete with Oliver Reed, who devours every inch of scenery that he can find.  Reed bellows and laughs and appears to be drunk in almost every scene in which he appears but at least he seems to be having a good time.  Reed is also required to wear a silly helmet in most of his scenes and I sincerely hope that he got to take it home with him.

Oliver Reed isn’t the only familiar face to pop up in Gor.  There’s also Jack Palance.  Palance only shows up for about two minutes and he looks rather confused as he discusses his plan to conquer the world.  (Apparently, Palance returned in Gor‘s sequel.)  For two minutes of screen time, Palance managed to score himself third billing in the opening credits of Gor, above even Oliver Reed!  Way to go, Jack!

Anyway, Gor is a pretty stupid movie.  I appreciated the random dance number but otherwise, it’s fairly dull and only occasionally enlivened by Oliver Reed’s refusal to go gently into that dark night.  I’m going to guess that films like this were popular with filmgoers who saw themselves as real-life Tarl Cabots and who spent their spare time thinking, “Nobody will laugh at me once they see me with a sword!”  I caught the film yesterday on Comet TV, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite channels for watching bad movies.

 

The TSL’s Grindhouse: No Way Back (dir by Fred Williamson)


Jesse Crowder’s back!

You may remember Jesse Crowder as the super cool and unflappable private detective from Death Journey.  Jesse was a Los Angeles cop but now he works independently.  There’s literally nothing that Jesse can’t do.  Ride a horse?  Ride a motorcycle?  Slow motion kung fu?  Jesse can do it all and he usually do it without bothering to button up his shirt.  Jesse is such a badass that he can kill more people in the time it takes for him to light a cigar than most people will kill in their entire lifetime.

The 1976 film No Way Back is the second Jesse Crowder film.  Once again, Fred Williamson both directs and stars as Jesse.  Williamson is in almost every scene of the film and when he’s not killing bad guys or having sex or just posing with his shirt off, he’s listening to people talk about what a badass he is.  In short, No Way Back is a vanity project but it’s a vanity project with a sense of humor.  Watching the film, you get the feeling that Williamson knows that No Way Back is kind of silly but, at the same time, he’s having fun and he wants everyone watching to have fun too.

No Way Back‘s plot involves a missing man and a lot of money.  Henry Pickens (Charles Woolf) worked at a bank but, one day, he grabbed a briefcase full of money, jumped in a car driven by his girlfriend (Tracy Reed), and disappeared.  Everyone was shocked but you know who was really shocked?  His wife!  Mildred Pickens (Virginia Gregg) and Henry’s brother both want to know to where Henry has vanished.  They hire Jesse, perhaps finding solace in his catch phrase: “You pay the bill, I’ll deliver it.  Legal, illegal, moral or otherwise.”

Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long for Jesse to figure out that Perkins is in San Francisco.  Jesse lights his cigar and heads for the Bay City.  However, Jesse isn’t the only one looking for Henry Pickens.  There’s also a gangster named Bernie (Stack Pierce) who is determined to get the money for himself.  Much as in Death Journey, it doesn’t matter where Jesse goes or how he gets there.  As soon as he arrives, he people are trying to kill him.  Unfortunately, for them, no one can kill Jesse Crowder.

It all leads to a savage gun battle in the desert.  Fred Williamson jumps up on a horse, unbuttons his shirt, and rides across the screen.  People are betrayed.  People get shot.  Fortunately, no one can touch Jesse Crowder…

Anyway, No Way Back doesn’t really make any sense.  If you happen to watch this film (and I saw it on YouTube), just try to keep track of why Henry stole all of that money in the first place.  However, the plot isn’t really that important.  This film is all about Fred Williamson beating up gangsters and walking around without a shirt on.  It’s a dumb action movie but it never pretends to be anything different and the film’s total lack of pretension is enjoyable.  That’s always a good thing.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Bucktown (dir by Arthur Marks)


Welcome to the town of Buchanan!

It’s a small Southern town, popularly known as Bucktown.  It’s a town where you can literally get anything, as long as you know who to pay off.  Upon arriving, don’t be surprised if a little kid approaches you and asks you what you’re looking for.  He can get it for you.  That kid had connections!

The population of Buchanan is almost entirely African-American but all of the cops are white.  Under the leadership of the redneck police chief (Art Lund), the cops have turned Buchanan into their own private kingdom.  If you want to do anything in Buchanan, you have to be ready to pay the cops for protection.  Refuse and you’ll get arrested.  Continue to refuse and you’ll probably end up getting shot.

Obviously, someone needs to clean up Buchanan?  But who!?

How about Duke Johnson (Fred Williamson)?  Duke’s brother owned the hottest nightclub in Bucktown, Club Alabama.  Or, at least he did until he announced he wasn’t going to pay anymore protection and he ended up getting gunned down by the cops.  When Duke arrives in town, he thinks that he’s just going to stay long enough to attend the funeral and sell his brother’s bar.  However, when Duke find out that he has to wait 60 days until he can sell the bar, he decides to stick around.  Not only does he move in with his brother’s former lover, Aretha (Pam Grier), but also reopens the Club Alabama.

Soon, the cops are coming around and demanding their share.  However, they quickly discover that no one tells Duke Johnson what to do.  Like all good action heroes, Duke has friends all over the country.  He places a call to Roy (Thalmus Rasulala) and soon, Roy, TJ (Tony King), and Hambone (Carl Weathers) show up in Bucktown.  They quickly wipe out the corrupt police force.  The local citizens are so happy that they make Roy the new police chief and his men the new police force.

Unfortunately, that turns out to be a mistake.  Apparently, giving some totally random dude complete and total authority to enforce the law in whatever he sees fit isn’t always the best way to handle things.  Roy and his men quickly become just as corrupt as the old redneck policemen.  The only thing protecting Duke is his friendship with Roy but even that is endangered when T.J. decides that he wants Aretha for himself.  T.J. decides to turn Roy and Duke against each other.  It all eventually leads to an epic fist fight, with the winner earning the right to remain in Bucktown…

(Of course, you may be wondering why anyone would want to remain in Bucktown as the place is kind of a dump, regardless of who’s in charge.)

Released in 1975, Bucktown is a pretty basic action film but I liked it because it appealed to all of my anti-authoritarian impulses.  There have been so many movies about what it takes to clean up a town but there haven’t been many made about what actually happens after all of the corrupt cops and greedy businessmen have been kicked out.  Thalmus Rusulala was great as the charismatic but dangerous Roy and Tony King, a favorite of Italian exploitation fans everywhere, was an effective villain.  Pam Grier doesn’t get to do much but she does the best with what she’s provided.  Of course, the entire film is dominated by Fred Williamson, who may not have been a great actor but who had an undeniable screen presence.  Williamson struts through the film like the hero of stylish Spaghetti western.

Bucktown is an entertaining 70s action film.  Though it doesn’t deeply explore any of the issues that it raises, it still deserves some credit for raising them.  If nothing else, it’s a film that shows why Fred Williamson retains a cult following to this day.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Death Journey (dir by Fred Williamson)


Imagine being caught up in the following situation.

You’re the district attorney of Manhattan.  You’ve got a chance to convict the city’s most powerful mob boss on some pretty serious charges.  In fact, you’ve got three eye witnesses who are willing to testify against him.  Sounds pretty good so far, right?

But wait a minute!  One of your eyewitnesses just died.  Oh well.  You’ve still got two left and surely, the police can protect two… oh wait.  Hold on.  Okay, you know that second witness that you had?  Well, he just got blown up or something.  Now, you’ve only got one witness left.  He’s a weaselly little mob accountant named Finley (Bernard Kirby).  He’s really not a bad guy, once you get past all of the Hawaiian shirts and his obsession with candy.  The only problem is that Finley is in California and you’re in New York.  How are you going to get Finley across the country without him getting blown up by the mob?

Well, let’s see.  You could ask the government for help but when was the last time government managed to do anything without screwing it up.  You could reach out to the FBI or something like that.  Maybe Finley could go into witness protection.  I mean, it’s worked for a countless number of other mob associates…

But no.  There’s no way Finley could survive in witness protection.  He’d probably give himself away as soon as someone offered him a candy bar.  Seriously, Finley is really obsessed with chocolate.

No, what you’re going to do is you’re going to call up Jesse Crowder (Fred Williamson).  Crowder used to be a cop but now he’s a private eye.  He’s a lot like Shaft, except he doesn’t ever get political.  There’s really nothing that Jesse Crowder can’t do.  He’s a marksman.  He’s a fighter.  He’s a lover.  When we first see him, he’s doing kung fu in slow motion.  If you really needed proof that Jesse Crowder is the ultimate badass, consider this: he smokes cigars.  You read that correctly.

Now, you may be asking yourself: why would the Manhattan district attorney know a Los Angeles private eye?  Because everyone knows Jesse Crowder, that’s why.

Anyway, Jesse agrees to take the case.  He’ll escort Finley to New York, on the condition that he get paid $25,000 upon arrival.  Of course, if he has to kill a lot of people, Jesse expects to be paid $50,000.

Needless to say, Jesse does end up having to kill a lot of people.  It’s not really his fault, of course.  They just keep popping up and getting in his way.  Jesse tries all sorts of ways to get Finley to New York.  He tries to drive him.  He tries to take the train.  No matter what he does, the mob shows up.  Is it possible that the mob had someone inside the district attorney’s office?

Fred Williamson not only starred in 1976’s Death Journey but he directed it as well.  Though it’s obvious that Williamson didn’t have much of a budget to work with, he still did a fairly good job with Death Journey.  Certainly, his direction here feels stronger than it did in Mean Johnny Barrows.  In its own undeniably dumb way, Death Journey‘s a fun action movie.  Williamson may not have been a great actor but he had a strong screen presence and it’s impossible not to be amused by the fact that, no matter what he does or where he goes, somewhat inevitably pops out of the shadows and tries to kill him.  With the exception of that opening kung fu sequence that goes on forever, Death Journey is a fast-paced action film.  The film only last 74 minutes so, right when you start to wonder if Williamson’s ever going to show any personality beyond being a cocky badass, the movie ends.

If you’re a fan of low-budget 70s action films, you’ll probably enjoy Death Journey.  If you don’t enjoy it, just make sure Jesse Crowder doesn’t find out.  After all, he knows karate.

Mardi Gras Film Review: Mardi Gras Massacre (dir by Jack Weis)


(Note: The Trashfilm Guru reviewed this film on his own site in 2012.  Check out his review by clicking here!)

With this being Mari Gras weekend, I imagine that thousands of people are currently flooding into New Orleans and hoping to have a good time.  In honor of their commitment, I have been reviewing Mardi Gras-themed films.  Today’s film is low-budget 1978 “shocker” called Mardi Gras Massacre.

A serial killer is stalking New Orleans and…

Wait a minute.  Does this sound familiar?  Hmmm … okay, sorry, let’s continue.

…the police are powerless to stop him…

Okay, I swear, I think I’ve described this situation before.  But, anyway, to continue with Mardi Gras Massacre:

…despite being the most obvious serial killer in history, the murderer is able to move undetected through the Big Easy.  His motive?  Human sacrifices to an evil power…

OKAY, STOP! I just realized that I’m basically rewriting my earlier review of Mardi Gras For The Devil.  Despite the fact that there’s a 15-year age difference between the two films, both Mardi Gras Massacre and Mardi Gras For The Devil have the same basic plot.  A psycho wanders around New Orleans and commits occult-themed murders while an intense cop tries to stop him.  Eventually, the cop’s lover is targeted by the killer…

I mean, it’s the exact same plot!  The only real difference is that Mardi Gras For The Devil starred recognizable actors like Michael Ironside and Robert Davi while Mardi Gras Massacre was a low-budget obscurity starring no one that you have ever heard of.

In Mardi Gras Massacre, the killer’s name is John and he’s played by an actor named William Metzo.  John spends all of his time looking for prostitutes and strippers who he can sacrifice to an Aztec God.  John has an altar in his apartment.  The altar, of course, is surrounded by red curtains.  As I watched the film, I wondered where he got the altar.  Even more importantly, I wondered how he could fit that huge altar into what appeared to be a pretty small apartment.

John manages to sacrifice quite a few women without anyone becoming overly suspicious of him.  This is despite the fact that John spends almost the entire movie wearing a three-piece suit and glaring at everyone he meets.  When John steps into a bar, the first thing that he asks the bartender is where he can find the “evilest” prostitute.  No one seems to find that strange.  Then again, New Orleans is a very forgiving town.

Anyway, Sergeant Frank Herbert (Curt Dawson) is in charge of the investigation and, as soon as he shows up with his porn stache and his hairy chest, we know that we’re watching a movie from the 70s.  Sgt. Herbert falls in love with a prostitute named Sherry (Gwen Arment).  Halfway through the film, we get an extended falling in love montage.  New Orleans looks really pretty in the montage but, at the same time, the film has just spent 45 minutes establishing it as a city where a serial killer can ask for the “evilest” prostitute without raising any suspicion.  So, romantic montage outside, I have hard time believing that Mardi Gras Massacre did much for New Orleans tourism.

I should point out that, much as with the case of Mardi Gras For The Devil, there’s not really a whole lot of Mardi Gras to be found in Mardi Gras Massacre.  Towards the end of the movie, we get a chase through a Mardi Gras parade.  It’s obvious that the filmmakers filmed the chase during the actual parade so, from a historical point of view, it’s interesting to see how Mardi Gras was celebrated in the 70s.  At the same time, throughout the entire scene, drunk people are waving at the camera.  (One person even tries to grab the lens as they walk by.)

On a positive note, Mardi Gras Massacre features one of the best trashy disco scenes ever .  As well, the version that I watched had Spanish subtitles and I’m happy to say that my Spanish is apparently getting pretty good!  As for the rest of the film, it’s a movie that will be best appreciated by grindhouse aficionados.  It’s a low-budget, poorly acted, thoroughly silly film and its obviously fake gore managed to get the film banned in the UK.  It’s a historical oddity and, like many grindhouse films, its appeal mostly comes from watching it and saying, “Someone actually made this and managed to get it into theaters.”  At the very least, it will hopefully remind you to not admit to being the “evilest” anything during Mardi Gras.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Prison Planet (dir by Armand Gazarian)


(aka Prison Planet)

A few nights ago, I saw the no-budget 1992 sci-fi epic, Prison Planet, on television.

My immediate response after watching Prison Planet was to assume that I had just been dreaming because it was difficult for me to accept that anyone had actually made a movie this inept.  However, I then checked with the imdb and I discovered that Prison Planet not only exists but there were actually two sequels.  I was also surprised to discover that Prison Planet was an American production and not a poorly dubbed Bruno Mattei film.  Unfortunately, my attempts to google more information on the production of Prison Planet were hindered by the fact that every result I got was about Alex Jones.

Anyway, Prison Planet takes place in the far future.  2200, to be exact.  Earth is ruled by an evil dictator but that dictator’s power is being threatened by a rebel leader named Himshaw (Jack Wilcox).  When Himshaw is captured, he is promptly exiled to the planet where Earth sends all of its prisoners.  (Hence, the title.)  With Himsaw gone and perhaps dead, it now falls on Himshaw’s brother, Blaine (James Phillips) to leads the rebels.  However, instead of doing that, Blaine decides to go to the prison planet so he can discover whether or not his brother is still alive.  Blaine breaks into a government building and allows himself to be captured.

So now, Blaine has been exiled to the prison planet.  (The name of the prison planet, by the way, is Annakin.)  Blaine’s plan is to find Himshaw so that he can overthrow the dictator but, since there’s really no obvious way to get back to Earth after being dropped off on a prison planet, you have to kind of wonder whether Blaine really thought this through.  I’m assuming that he probably thought, “I’ll worry about that when I have to,” but it’s not like Earth is just the next town over or something.  It’s an entirely different planet.  You can’t just walk there.

On the prison planet, the prisoners are pretty much allowed to do whatever they want.  It’s a world ruled by an evil warlord, though there are small bands of nomads and rebels in the desert.  This is what the big scary warlord looks like:

Blaine decides that he’s going to 1) overthrow the warlord and 2) rescue the virgin that the warlord is planning on sacrificing.  (Or at least, I think that’s what the warlord was plotting to do with her.  It was kind of hard to keep up with what was going on, largely because Prison Planet seemed to be making stuff up as it went along.)

What’s odd is that, even though the film is taking place in 2200, everyone on the prison planet is driving around in cars from the 20th Century.  It’s kinda like Mad Max: Fury Road, except that it’s not very good.  But then again, who needs to worry about narrative logic when you’ve got stuff like this to deal with:

That’s the warlord, again.  You can tell why they made this dude the ruler of the planet.  He’s got a really big sword and a really thin mustache.  Plus, he doesn’t own a shirt.  He’s got the whole Conan thing going on.

And then there’s this other guy who keeps popping up, who wears a suit, a tie, and a hat.  He spends the whole movie scurrying between the warlord and Blaine and I have to admit that I’m still not sure what exactly his role was in the movie.  He spoke in a falsetto voice and everyone was constantly threatening to kill him.

Also, one of the warlord’s henchmen wears what appears to be wearing a Spanish conquistador’s helmet.  No one ever mentions that this is odd…

Anyway, I watched the whole film and I’m not really sure what I saw.  Blaine had to overthrow the warlord and find his possibly dead brother.  It was never really clear how these two things were connected.  It was a bad movie but strange enough to occasionally be watchable.

As for the two sequels, the imdb lists them both as being comedies.  I haven’t watched either one of them but that sounds about right.  The first Prison Planet is definitely not meant to be comedy but I still had a few good laughs while watching it.