Spring Break Scenes That I Love: “You jerk. You moron. You idiot.” from Welcome to Spring Break

Since it’s Spring Break for many people in the United States, I figured this would be a good time share some of my favorite Spring Break scenes.

This one comes from Umberto Lenzi’s 1988 film, Welcome to Spring Break.  In this scene, a student has decided to have a little bit of fun by pretending to be dead on the beach.  Since there’s an actual murderer on the loose, his friends are less than impressed with his sense of humor.

It’s a short scene but it features one of the greatest line readings ever.

“You jerk.”

“You moron.”

“You idiot.”

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.

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.

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Nightmare City (dir by Umberto Lenzi)


Since Case just reviewed 28 Days Later, this seems like the perfect time to say a few words about the 1980 Italian horror film, Nightmare City!  Though Nightmare City has never been as critically acclaimed or as popular with audiences, it is regularly cited as probably being one of the main inspirations for 28 Days Later.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I can’t say for sure whether it was an influence or not.  I listened to the entire Danny Boyle/Alex Garland commentary track on my DVD of 28 Days Later and neither of them ever mentioned Nightmare City.  As well, there are some pretty big differences between Nightmare City and 28 Days Later.  For one thing, 28 Days Later is a hyperkinetic Danny Boyle film whereas Nightmare City is obviously an Umberto Lenzi film, filled with over the top gore, gratuitous nudity, and nonstop violence.  For that matter, the Infected in 28 Days Later still look human whereas all of the infected humans in Nightmare City are covered with what appears to be burned oatmeal.  (I’m going to guess that it’s meant to be radiation scarring.)

And yet, despite all of that, it’s impossible to watch Nightmare City without thinking about 28 Days Later and vice versa.  Both Nightmare City and 28 Days Later are commonly mislabeled as being zombie films, despite the fact that both of them are about people who have been driven mad by a military accident/experiment.  Where you really see the influence that Nightmare City had on 28 Days Later is in the scenes in which various “infected” humans run through the streets, savagely attacking and killing anyone that they come across.  For all the attention that was given to 28 Days Later‘s “fast zombies,” Nightmare City got there first.  Call them human, call them infected, or call them zombies, the monsters in Nightmare City are relentless, unstoppable, and blood thirsty.  Whatever flaws the movie may have, Nightmare City‘s zombies truly do belong in a nightmare.

(Except for that one scene in which a zombie extra is seen to be kicking a soccer ball while a dog chases after him but you have to look closely to notice…)

But before I say too much more about Nightmare City, I’m going to ask you to watch this tribute to the hero of Nightmare City, journalist Dean Miller:

Dean Miller was played by Spanish actor Hugo Stiglitz.  (If that name sounds familiar, it may be because Quentin Tarantino named a character after him in Inglourious Basterds.)  To be honest, the first time I ever saw Nightmare City, I thought that Stiglitz’s performance was one of the worst in the history of horror cinema.  No matter how violent or bloody the film gets, Stiglitz rarely seems to react.  He might occasionally arch an eyebrow.  But, for the most part, he doesn’t seem to care.  But, after subsequent viewings, I’ve come to respect the fact that, while everyone else in the film was overacting, Siglitz distinguished himself by refusing to act at all.

Nightmare City is a relentless and nonstop film.  It starts out with Dean Miller being sent down to the local airport.  His job is to cover the arrival of a scientist who has been assigned to investigate a recent nuclear accident.  From the minute that the plane lands and a horde of hatchet-wielding zombies stream out onto the tarmac, Nightmare City is nonstop mayhem.

And, quite frankly, a lot of it doesn’t make much sense.  At one point, the zombies enter a television studio and attack what appears to be the most boring dance show in the world and, as bloody and borderline disgusting as the action got, I still couldn’t get over how boring the dance show was before the zombies showed up.  The other thing that struck me about that scene was that nobody at the television studio seemed to be that upset about a bunch of radiation-scarred zombies literally massacring hundreds of people on camera.  Dean may have arched an eyebrow but even he didn’t seem that concerned.

(Fortunately, Dean manages to escape by grabbing a TV and throwing it at the zombies.  Apparently, televisions explode if you throw them, even if they’re not plugged in at the time.)

Then the zombies attack a hospital and it’s the hospital attack that always disturbs me.  There’s a scene where a nurse comes across a zombie raiding a blood bank and he shakes his head almost apologetically.  Oddly, almost all of the doctors turn out to be self-defense experts.  One elderly doctor even throws a scalpel at a zombie with all the skill of an Agent of SHIELD (or perhaps even …. HYDRA!)

Meanwhile, the military is supposed to be doing something but I’m not sure what.  We get a lot of scenes of a general (played by Lenzi regular Mel Ferrer) staring down at a model of the city but he doesn’t ever actually seem to do anything.  His assistant, meanwhile, is worried about his sculptor girlfriend being at home alone.  He should be since there are two zombies in the basement, though we’re never quite sure how they got there without anyone else in the house noticing.

And the mayhem continues.  There’s a zombie priest.  There’s a zombie attack at an amusement park.  There’s many scenes of Hugh Stiglitz staring off in the distance.  At one point, his girlfriend falls off a roller coaster and we are briefly amazed at the sight of an obviously fake dummy crashing to the pavement below.  But fear not because … it’s all a dream!

That’s right, Dean Miller wakes up in bed!


No, I didn’t.  Believe it or not, the movie’s nowhere close to being over yet…..

Nightmare City is a hard film to review because, while it might not be good in any traditional sense, it’s also very much a one-of-a-kind movie.  This is one of those relentless and shameless exploitation films that works despite itself.  It’s preposterous, it’s silly, it’s often offensive, and yet it’s never less than watchable.  If you’re into Italian horror, you have to see this film.  If you’re into zombie cinema, you have to see this film.  (If you’re not into either, you probably stopped reading this review a while ago.)

And, while you watch it, I dare you not think about 28 Days Later

(This trailer is NSFW so watch at your own risk…)

A Special Bonus TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse Review: Hitcher In The Dark (dir by Umberto Lenzi)


So, I just reviewed a thriller called Road Games, which is about something bad that happens to hitchhikers.  And, as I was finishing up that review, I suddenly realized that I now had the perfect excuse to say a few words about Umberto Lenzi’s 1989 horror/thriller, Hitcher In The Dark!

The Hitcher In The Dark is a film that I specifically bought earlier this year so that I could review it in October.  I thought that Hitcher In The Dark was a great title.  Plus, I haven’t reviewed that many Umberto Lenzi films, despite the fact that he is one of the most prolific directors in the history of Italian cinema.  Hitcher in the Dark? I thought, Hell yeah, I’ll review that!

But then I watched the movie and I discovered that there’s really not that much to say about it.  There’s a reason why this is one of Lenzi’s more obscure films.  (He directed it around the same time that he made the infamous Black Demons.)  Not that much happens in Hitcher In The Dark.  It tells the story of a psycho rich boy, who is played by Joe Balogh.  Joe Balogh was also the lead in Black Demons.  In that film, his character was named Dick.  All through Black Demons, the other actors were always wandering around and yelling, “Dick!  Dick!  We need Dick!  I need Dick!  Please, show me Dick!”  Hitcher In The Dark is never that much fun.

Instead, Balogh’s character is named Mitch.  He’s obsessed with his dead mother, so he drives around Florida and kills people.  Because she resembles a framed stock photo that he keeps on him at all times, Mitch kidnaps Daniela (Josie Bissett) and tries to turn her into his mother.  The rest of the film is pretty much made up of Daniela escaping and then getting captured again.  Her boyfriend (Jason Saucier) is also searching for her.  He goes up into random gas stations and says, “Have you seen a blonde girl?”  Eventually, he stumbles across both her and Mitch.  Why not?  Florida’s not that big!

Anyway, there are three things that set Hitcher In The Dark apart.  First off, there’s the fact that Mitch spends almost the entire movie driving the most awkward vehicle imaginable, a gigantic RV.  Somehow, Mitch manages to kidnap and kill undetected while driving the most conspicuous thing possible.  Seriously, check this monster out:

And there are two lines of dialogue that are so weird that they deserve to be enshrined in some sort of Hall of Fame.

When the police pull Mitch over and notice that he has a cut on his hand (from where Daniela earlier stabbed him with a fork), Mitch smoothly explains, “It’s just a scratch.  I was cleaning my spear.”


The other line comes early in the film.  When Mitch ignores a girl who has been hitting on him, she snaps, “Hey!  Who do you think you are!?  Mickey Rourke!?”

Seriously, Hitcher In The Dark may not be very memorable or good but those three things made it all worthwhile!



6 Late Trailers For A Monday

Hi, everyone!

So, usually, I post my latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film trailers on Sunday.  However, yesterday was the final day that Cabaret was scheduled to be performed down here, at the Winspear Opera House, in Dallas.  Jeff and I caught the final matinée performance and it was absolutely wonderful!

However, it also meant that I did not have time to do my usual Sunday morning posting.

Still, I am nothing if not dedicated!  So, here below, are 6 late trailers for this wonderful Monday!  Admittedly, these trailers may feel a little bit random.  There’s no real theme to be found … or maybe there is.

Randomness can be a theme.



1) The Dark (1979)

I actually own a couple of DVD boxsets that feature The Dark but I’ve never actually gotten around to watching the movie.  Say what you will about the apparent cheapness of the special effects, the monster does look like he could serve as potential nightmare fuel.

2) The Evil (1978)

It feels appropriate to follow up The Dark with The Evil.  I’ve never seen this one either, but it’s apparently a haunted house film.  There’s some evil involved.

3) The House Where Evil Dwells (1982)

On the other hand, I have seen The House Where Evil Dwells.  Oh my God, is it ever a boring movie!  But the trailer’s kinda fun.

4) Ghosthouse (1988)

Despite what the credits may say, Ghosthouse was not directed by Humbert Humphrey.  This is an Umberto Lenzi film.  This trailer is actually pretty tame by Italian horror standards but it’s still graphic enough for me to suggest that you not watch it at work or if you’re disturbed by fake-looking gore.

5) Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1988)

I actually reviewed Killing Birds on this site a while ago.  I’ve always liked this trailer.  It’s full of atmosphere and it has an almost dream-like intensity to it.

6) Teenage Exorcist (1991)

And finally, let’s end things with the trailer for Teenage Exorcist!

So, I guess we did kind of end up with a theme here — evil monsters, haunted houses, and stuff.  I’m glad that worked out!


Well, damn.  That’s not nice…

6 Action-Filled Trailers For Memorial Day Weekend!


Well, it’s Memorial Day weekend!  As some of you may remember, I ran into some trouble last weekend when I got my dates mixed up and I was forced to post a hastily compiled, somewhat random edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers!

Fortunately, I’ve got my dates correct this weekend!

Anyway, without further ado, here are 6 action-filled trailers for Memorial Day!

Inglorious Bastards (1978)

No, not the Quentin Tarantino Oscar winner!  This is the film that gave its name to Tarantino’s later work.  The 1978 version of Inglorious Bastards was directed by Enzo G. Castellari and stars Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson.

From Hell To Victory (1979)

This World War II film was directed by Umberto Lenzi and features a surprisingly impressive cast for a Lenzi epic.  (Surprisingly, for a Lenzi film of this period, it does not appear that Mel Ferrer is anywhere to be found in From Hell To Victory.)

The Last Hunter (1980)

This is actually one of the best Italian war films ever made.  It was directed by Antonio Margheriti (who was given a shout out in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds) and stars David Warbeck, Tony King, John Steiner, and Mia Farrow’s sister, Tisa.  Tisa also starred in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

Tiger Joe (1982)

Margheriti followed up The Last Hunter with Tiger Joe.  Also returning (though in different roles from The Last Hunter): David Warbeck and Tony King.  The female lead was played by Annie Belle, who is probably best remembered for her co-starring role in Ruggero Deodato’s The House On The Edge of the Park.

Tornado (1983)

Tiger Joe was enough of a success that Margheriti made one more Vietnam-set film, Tornado.

Last Platoon (1988)

I’ve never seen this movie but the title was probably meant to fool audiences into thinking that it was a sequel to Oliver Stone’s Platoon.  I will say that, having watched the trailer, it’s interesting to see Donald Pleasence playing an American army officer.  This Italian film was directed by Ignazio Dolce.

To all of our readers in the U.S: Have a safe Memorial Day weekend!