I wanted to get this one up by Christmas, but alas, the holiday season side swept me right into the Christmas guard rail. Too much rich food and too much booze had my stomach screaming in agony, sluggish and carb sick I didn’t really want to do anything, much less write a blog post but I really wanted to introduce “Fantastic Games” to people who were not in the know, so I bucked up and gonna dive right into this thing.
So “Fantastic Games” was a movie I found on a external hard drive my buddy gave me. I actually watched this three months ago and to my surprise I found out this was a kid’s Christmas film, but not like any I’d ever seen. Watching the credits and doing research I found out this was an Italian made movie directed by Al Passeri who also directed the equally bat shit insane “Creatures from the Abyss” (1994). The whole Christmas motif is pretty much a wreath around the main body of the story which is some weird Never Ending Story/Power Rangers hybrid.
So during Christmas Eve, a family is stranded in a cabin while a snow storm rages outside, Mary the daughter is deathly ill covered in cloths, there is mom, grandpa and her brother Kevin, their awaiting the return of the father who is a doctor but he is stranded in the snow, their dog is also missing. Then there is the family “friend” who looks like a villain from Central Casting circa 1910, he wears a long black trench coat, derby hat and big black mustache. He goes to see if he can find the father out in the snow, but he has ulterior motives. Since its Christmas Eve the family gets to open presents, Kevin opens one for Mary that contains what looks like a cave girl on a surf board and a book. Kevin starts reading from the book and we are off to a rip roarin’ start.
In “Fantastic Games”, a gnome castle floating in space is threatened by a third rate Darth Vader type with a mask made of various mirrors who controls another floating castle called the Planet of the Black Fortress, the Lord of the Black Fortress, Makeb, wants all the wealth in the gnome castle, so the gnomes call on Jade, Queen of Hope who wants to be paid with a grain of golden wheat, they agree and Jade, along with her surf board and midget dog go to take on the Black Fortress full of weird technology that the gnomes seem not to have.
She enters a weird contest that mimics a video game to defeat Makeb and save the gnomes from destruction, and as all this is happening, Mary is ever closer to death and the blizzard outside gets worse and worse. Black hat “friend” keeps showing up saying he is trying to find the father but twitches his evil mustache. Some of the actions in the story correspond with what happens in real life. On the other hand Makeb keeps zapping his assistants from a stone dragon above his bone laden throne when they screw up, one in his death throes puts bugs in the system making Makeb’s job harder. In the game Jade/Mary battles evil eye balls, jazz playing skeletons, giant stop motion sand worms, fire demons and other things to get a higher score then Makeb who will get destroyed if Jade wins.
“Fantastic Games” is a strange movie in the best way, made in 1998 it looks like it could’ve been made in 1988 instead, in fact I wondered if this was made earlier but released later. As in any Italian production the acting is bad, the dubbed voices atrocious and a plot a mix of 1980 Flash Gordon and the Never Ending Story. For a holiday kid’s film this is just nutso all over the place and that is a good thing. The Italians don’t mess around when they make genre films, its everything out the window, including the kitchen sink.
Short films shot in black and white were a dime a dozen in the 1990’s, most low budget directors used the monochrome method to impart artiness, seriousness and mask whatever defects a low budget production spawned, most were pretentious shit from hipster assholes who had their heads wedged firmly in their asses. While the current entry “That Little Monster” was shot in black and white, tried to be arty, and tried to mask its defects with monochrome, serious it wasn’t and it is glorious to behold.
So the plot of “That Little Monster” isn’t really that complicated, it takes place in a retro future imagined by 1950’s sci fi writers, it takes place on a different planet, in a house with furniture, a TV set and Hi Fi record player that wouldn’t look too far out of place in a 1950’s swinging bachelor pad with a few tweaks here and there to make it look unearthly, add strange ornaments, sculptures and plants to make it look even more unearthly. Forrest J. Ackerman, founder of the first zine and movie monster magazine, “Monsters of Filmland” does the intro to the movie. In comes female earthling Jamie (Melissa Baum) looking for a baby sitting job to make a little more money on this different planet, another human Twelvetrees (played by Reggie Bannister of “Phantasm” fame) interviews her for the baby sitting job, first by trying to pitch her a alien soda in what looks like retro commercial. She gets hired, she is to watch the infant spawn of the Willock couple who are going to a costume party dressed like humans, the male Willock breaks into a weird folk song out of nowhere, they allude to their being other human baby sitters that didn’t work out. She is given instructions on when to feed the baby and that she can have as much microwave popcorn as she wants, the aliens on this planet think microwave popcorn is the best invention they were given by us humans. Twelvetrees warns her to be careful around the alien infant, of course she ignores his advice and the alien baby starts running wild and things and people get hurt and Bob Hope (yes that one) makes a surprise cameo.
For a low budget short film, the effects are pretty darn good, the alien baby gave me a chuckle and made me happy every time it popped up on the screen, I imagine this the way the baby in David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” would’ve looked like if it had lived a couple of more months, the gore effects and baby toys were well done, they made the baby toys look slightly familiar but otherworldly. This one really isn’t scary, its ridiculous, but ridiculous in a non pretentious and fun way, and to boot it is short, “That Little Monster” is one I will go back to and it makes it easy that its fifty minutes long and interesting, if it would’ve went on for an hour and half I would’ve been looking at my room wondering what I had to organize. “That Little Monster” came out of a time that was experiencing a “retro revival” every hipster was digging through thrift stores in the 1990’s looking for 1950’s-1960’s lounge lizard threads and digging through heaps of vinyl in used record stores trying to find the lost 45 or 78 of some obscure Swing Band. I can tell the director of this short, Paul Bunnell was one of those types of people.
Paul shot “That Little Monster” over three years, it was originally supposed to be a segment in the awesome “Monsters” TV show, the connection to “Monsters”, according to Paul, “died” so he decided to develop it himself into a artsy kind of film to get his work seen. In the interview I saw, Paul looks like your typical 1990’s retro hipster, he wears black frame Buddy Holly glasses, his hair is slicked back with Brylcreem, he wears a plaid suit jack and wide collar shirt whose collar flaps come over the suit jacket collar, he also drives a 1960 Thunderbird with Bob Hope spelled out on his license plate and he does Don Knotts impersonations, this is the kind of guy who would direct a movie like this. Paul said it took thirty thousand dollars to make and some help from some producers. Paul says he is more of a visual stylist and tells his story more through visuals than the actual story. This short is packed with eye popping visuals, Paul directed the segment “The Visitant” in the “Strange Tales” (http://www.noisepuncher.net/2021/09/20/want-to-watch-some-strange-tales-1986/)anthology I reviewed here awhile ago.
Stan Lee saw “Heavy Metal Magazine” eating into his profits, Stan Lee couldn’t have that, so Stan Lee decided to start his own rip off of “Heavy Metal Magazine” known by “Epic Illustrated” by first having Rick Marschall as editor under the title “Odyssey” in 1979, it was originally gonna appear in “The Marvel Super Special” magazine Marschall found out that there was other magazines with that same names so he changed the name to “Epic Illustrated”, he was soon replaced by Archie Goodwin who took over the editorial reins. “Epic Illustrated” started in 1980 as a quarterly with a “Roman Soldier” style Frank Frazetta cover, in my opinion not the best representation of the stories contained within the magazine.
Stan Lee, in the editorial to the first issue, says “Forgive us if we sound presumptive but ‘Epic Illustrated’ is more, far more than merely another new magazine. ‘Epic’ heralds the dramatic start of a new era in publishing, an era which proudly presents long awaited marriage of superb illustration and the best in imaginative fiction.” Thus Marvel’s competition to “Heavy Metal” begins and since this isn’t a comic book and is a magazine, more taboo territory can be covered without running afoul of the “Comics Code Authority”, in other words tits, peoples eyes and brains can pop out, really if you put an issue of “Epic Illustrated” side by side with an issue of “Heavy Metal” you’ll see very little difference even in the print type used in the editorials, letters and reviews section, Archie will be editor until the last issue. “Epic Illustrated” begins as a quarterly until issue five (April 1981) then it goes bi monthly. “Epic” will also use alot of the same artists “Heavy Metal” does, but whereas “Heavy Metal” is more “Eurocentric” in its artist choices, Marvel goes more for American artists, not that they don’t use European artists, there is a smattering of them but this is more of a stateside thing some of the same artists that appear in the pages of both magazines are Ray Rue, Arthur Suydam, Barry Windsor Smith, Howard Chaykin, Richard Corben, Terry Lindell, Jeffery Catherine Jones among others. In the last issue Archie writes “This will be our final ‘Epic Illustrated’. We regret that very much, but with the success of other projects here at Marvel such as our ‘Epic Comics’ line and the ‘Marvel Graphic Novels’ with which we’re involved and with wide reader interest in an anthology style magazine (particularly one as expensive to produce as ‘Epic’) increasingly harder to sustain, this seems the best course. The alternatives, decreasing frequency of publication, cutting the page count or paper quality, raising the price etc. would only lessen a product of which we’re quite proud. We prefer to bring ‘Epic’ to a close while its still the same magazine that we know and love.” I don’t know, “Heavy Metal” survived and is still going today though I’d hesitate to say “strong” but even in its weaker periods it kept the quality up and page count the same, we’re talking about “Marvel” here that was a multi million dollar comic book company that had its fingers in various pies, this seems to me a “Stan Lee cutting costs” type thing to focus on cheaper “Epic” related comics and graphic novels, as opposed to a talent laden, slick, and well produced magazine. Not only that, it seems “Epic Illustrated” leaned more heavily on the fantasy side of things and “Heavy Metal” leaned” more on the science fiction/space opera side of things, especially back in those days. And like “Heavy Metal, “Epic Illustrated” had continuing stories, short pieces, and articles on things pertaining to the whole sci fi/fantasy thing, and like “Heavy Metal” with various artists come different art styles that keep the magazine interesting. The continuing pieces in “Epic Illustrated” are Jim Starlin’s sci fi epic “Metamorphosis Odyssey” with his character Dreadstar seeking to destroy a race of aliens that annihilate whole galaxies published from issue one to issue nine (Spring 1980 to December 1981), Arthur Suydam’s ode to 1950’s sci fi and classic slapstick cartoons “Cholly and Flytrap” appearing in issues eight, ten, thirteen, fourteen, and thirty four (October 1981, February 1982, August 1982, October 1982, February 1986),
Roy Thomas adapts a story from Micheal Moorcock and P. Craig Russel illustrates “A Tale of Elric of Melnibone: The Dreaming City” in issues three (fall 1980), four (winter 1980) and fourteen (October 1982), Roy Thomas adapts yet another pulp sword and sorcery hero from Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, in “Almuric” where a lantern jawed, big muscled hero from earth travels to a brutal, barbaric world running away from the cops in issues two to five (summer 1980 to April 1981), Rick Veitch with his “Moby Dick in Space” tale “Abraxas and the Earthman” issues ten to seventeen (February 1982 to April 1983), Chris Claremont and John Bolton with their silver haired, barbarian woman warrior in “Marada” in issues ten to twelve (February to June 1982) and (twenty two to twenty three February to April 1984), Carl Potts with Dennis O’ Neil, Terry Austin and Marie Severin’s Japanese samurai warrior in the Pacific Northwest of the US battling dragons and evil samurai in “Last of the Dragons” in issues fifteen to twenty (December 1982 to October 1983), Pepe Moreno of “Heavy Metal” fame illustrates and editor Archie Goodwin writes a post apocalyptic tale of a world trying to heal in “Generation Zero” issues seventeen to twenty four (April 1983 to June 1984), Dean Motter continues what he started in the black and white sci fi comic “Star Ride” this time colorized with “The Sacred and Profane” where the Papacy sends the church into outer space to convert alien races with disastrous consequences in issues twenty to twenty six (October 1983 to October 1984), Doug Moench and Mike Ploog’s “Elf Quest” rip off (a good rip off by the way) “Weirdworld: Dragonmaster of Klarn” a tale of elves, evil wizards, comedic dwarfs and dragons mixed up in a battle that could destroy the world in issue nine, issues eleven to thirteen (December 1981, February 1982 to August 1982,
Tim Conrad spins a medieval tale of sorcery, and golems in realistic black and white with “Toadswart d’Amplestone” in issues twenty five to twenty eight and thirty to thirty three (August 1984 to October 1985), what is a continuing story and I don’t think belongs in “Epic Illustrated” is the Silver Surfer story in issue one, that needs to be in some other compilation, not a sci fi and fantasy compilation magazine, Silver Surfer, while having sci fi elements is more in the super hero genre and that goes for “The Last Galactus” continuing story in issues twenty six to thirty four (October 1984 to February 1986) by John Byrne, while the art is top notch, “The Last Galactus” is part of the Marvel Super Hero Universe and shouldn’t have been in “Epic Illustrated”. That aside it is a pretty solid series and good competition to “Heavy Metal”, just like with “Heavy Metal” I enjoyed the short pieces more than the longer and continuing stories because I have ADD, HA! HA! The review sections started in issue five (April 1981) Jo Duffy who worked for Marvel and was editor and story writer on the original old school “Star Wars” comics comes aboard as associate editor on “Epic Illustrated” and starts the review section that was prominent in their rival “Heavy Metal” at the time, in the issue she becomes associate editor she starts the “Bookview” column where she reviews fantasy and sci fi books and comics, Dennis O’Neil does “Mediaview” where he does tongue in cheek movie reviews and reminiscences about his childhood movie experiences in Indiana, issue seven (August 1981) will add Steven Grant’s “Gameview” where Steven reviews different role playing game modules and computer games and then husband and wife team John Robert Tebbel and Martha Thomases do “Futureview” a column that talks about technology and future possibilities for tech, this column was “better late than never” since it was introduced near the end run of “Epic Illustrated”, the columns ended in issue thirty one (August 1985) near the end of the magazines run. Also included in later issues were artist interviews, profiles and portfolios. Countless imitators came out of the wood work, some awful and some awesome (I’ll get around to reviewing those some day), however, I kind of wish that Stan Lee and company would’ve bit the bullet and continued this magazine, I don’t think its full potential was reached. In fact, I truly believe that if they would’ve continued the magazine they would’ve bested “Heavy Metal”, out of all the fantasy “underground” compilation magazines, “Heavy Metal” is the major one that rode out all the trends, all the economic downturns and bull shit and survives (some like me would argue it barely survives, its a shell of its former self). “Heavy Metal’s” continuing stories and short pieces still bested “Epic Illustrated” and I am not saying by a long shot that “Epic Illustrated” sucks, I just don’t think it was given enough time to grow but what we have is “Epic”.
Not to be confused with equally entertaining “Laughing Dead” (1989) this movie isn’t funny, in fact, its cynical and depressing. Then you ask why the hell are you reviewing this on your blog? Well, because its a cynical, depressing AND interesting. Speaking of “confused” this movie gets confusing in some parts. A kid runs away from some people after his mother is burned at the stake, he dives in a river and seemingly as an adult washes up on the banks of a city that looks suspiciously like L.A., a future LA where milkmen load the numerous dead and addicted into the milk trucks, people melt, people rampantly shoot up heroin, half hog half wolf things chase people, acid rain falls in intervals, all the TV shows look like something you’d see on public access TV in a nightmare alternate reality and a limo chases people down running them over.
Sometimes “The Laughing Dead” tries too hard to be depressing and ruling over this movies tries too hard to be depressing and ruling over this mess is a vampire elite who feeds on the poverty stricken populace. The man who is washed up befriends two female junkies and forgets where or when he came from, he runs into a black revolutionary who randomly blows people away and runs them over saying “Their gonna die anyways”. It turns out the man can travel on the river of time and his brother the vampire is the ruler of the city and he’s been looking for his brother for years this the Gen X cynical outlook pushed to the brink.
That being said “The Laughing Dead” makes for an interesting watch, again at an hour and half this movie didn’t have me looking down at my watch, the film looks scummy, and the surroundings look filthy, like this movie needs to take a long hot shower and be scrubbed with a Brillo pad, of course most of this is due to the cheap film stock this movie was shot on but besides that if they wanted to create a post apocalyptic hell hole they did a hell of job and is a must see for post apocalyptic film fanatics. The story about a time traveling vampire gets confusing and parts don’t make sense but just let your brain soak in the insanity of this movie. “The Laughing Dead” is a movie I don’t see or hear about too much and for good reason, I found this VHS at a yard sale, the guy wanted a buck for it, that is too much for this movie but I don’t think I wasted money, I’ll make sure you don’t either because really you can’t find this movie anywhere.
This movie is what happens when a person watches too many David Lynch, John Waters and 1950’s sci fi horror movies and mixes them up in their head. This movie’s logic is not of this world but that isn’t a bad thing. A goth looking girl, Connie Sproutz, checks into a decrepit motel and the night clerk, played by James Diederichsen who also does the special effects in “Disembodied” looks like death warmed over and he also gives out creeper vibes, the only room he has left is in the basement near the boiler, the look of this boiler would give David Lynch a hard on. Her next door neighbor is a buxom prostitute named Trixie, who turns tricks, there is also a cleaning lady who smokes giant cigars and complains about cleaning the shit hole of a hotel.
Connie keeps her brain in a jar and feeds it liquids, she also has a machine that keeps her dreams of outer space and alien landscapes from becoming a reality, all the while a man who looks like Colonel Sanders, Dr. Sigmund Sylvanus pursues her on behalf of a corporation. Connie used to work for the corporation and was taken over by a parasite alien while doing research and is on the run. Connie has a huge pimple that spews liquid that turns people into slime which she eats and then she gives birth to breathing vagina like things she stores in a dirty bathtub.
Trixie befriends Connie and the clerk tries to pick up both girls by asking them to watch old educational film reels and the girls always turn him down which makes him very frustrated. These characters are pretty much the main ones, except for two victims of Connie and a John Trixie slaps, it exists in its own strange world, there is stop motion and rocks that Connie collects that change into different items like balls, dolls etc. There is flowers that spew liquid in stop motion. I wasn’t bored one minute and the fact that this movie is only one hour and seventeen minutes makes it ever better. The otherworldly quality of this film and the world it creates will keep you interested.
The web site “Bleeding Skull” (my web site review here: http://www.noisepuncher.net/2021/05/13/web-site-spotlight-bleeding-skull/) dives deep, deep, deep in the scummy abyss like recesses of the pop culture of yesteryear and the present, bringing up the celluloid filth that most everybody else would like to see gone from the face of the earth. But I am glad I am not everybody else, there is times “Bleeding Skull” actually comes out of the recesses with a fistful of gold and diamonds. “Bleeding Skull” is the only site to have guts enough to try to watch every SOV (shot on video) and mid fi film in existence, I’ve done a review on their web site, now it is time to review the reference books they put out and, boy oh boy, did I find a lot of good movies I otherwise wouldn’t have found without the books and their web site.
The first book, “Bleeding Skull! A 1980’s Trash-Horror Odyssey”, is the first volume, published by the great Headpress Publishing, all films are listed in alphabetical order, with black and white photos and a handy index, this book dares to go into the steaming pile that is SOV and mid fi movies of the 1980’s. In the 1980’s video rental stores (RIP) were popping up all over the country, people forget that movies even back then on VHS weren’t cheap to buy, especially in the early days. So mostly local and regional film makers shot no budget “epics” on their camcorders or Super 8 cameras, using Halloween store make up and cheap prosthetics, primitive computer graphics, using friends, relatives, significant others as actors etc. slapping some interesting cover art on the box and selling them from video store to video store. I actually remember as a kid watching some of these movies when me, my brother and cousin would rent the movie based on the box art, only to take it home and be disappointed. As kids we bought the cover art hook line and sinker, it wasn’t until I was older that I got into SOV, as a kid I was too used to seeing movies with some of a budget, movies like “Dark Crystal”, “Return of the Jedi”, “ET”, “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” and the like, not something me and my friends made with my dad’s camcorder. The very first movie that brought back the SOV beast for me was “Black Devil Doll From Hell” directed by Chester Turner, which I stumbled across in “The Psychotronic Video Guide” (you can see my weird book report on aforementioned book right here: http://www.noisepuncher.net/2021/03/25/wtf-is-the-psychotronic-video-guide/) reference book, reading the description made me run out and get it off of ioffer. When I put the movie on my jaw hit the floor, it was like watching some pervert’s home made doll fetish video and then the SOV beast came roaring out from the back of my childhood mind and bit me good. That led me to searching out and finding “Bleeding Skull”. This book “Bleeding Skull! A 1980’s Trash-Horror Odyssey” turned me on to so many other movies from that period of time which I am eternally grateful . In addition to “Black Devil Doll From Hell” you’ll get reviews on movies with titles like “Attack of the Killer Refrigerator”, “Bloody Video Horror That Made Me Puke on My Aunt Gertrude”, “Cannibal Hookers”, “Killer Workout” and the like, you’ll get capsule reviews from Joseph Ziemba who I know personally is a cool dude and has responded to every email and message I have sent him and founder of “Bleeding Skull” and Daniel Budnik whose dry wit and humor had me belly laughing. The two guys don’t take the subject matter too seriously and who would? This book is free wheeling fun like the 1980’s as a decade were, I was literally writing down what movies I had to search out after reading this book, sometimes I couldn’t find the movies they were talking about because they were so rare. Speaking of rare, this book is out of print at Headpress and everywhere else, copies are gonna cost you an arm and leg. Luckily I was a early “Bleeding Skull” fan and bought the book when it was in print. This book covers movies from the 1980’s to the early 1990’s because to be honest the early 1990’s were still the 1980’s style wise.
This is when we dive face first into the 1990’s and face plant…HARD. “Bleeding Skull! A 1990’s Trash-Horror Odyssey” delves deep into the SOV and mid fi cesspit that was the 1990’s. Video rental stores were still around but they were more wise to the “box art masking a home made movie” so different companies sold them direct through catalogs, magazine ads and the newly burgeoning internet. Also, this was when the PC shit beast started to rear its butt ugly head and being “ironic” was the creed of the day. This book was put out this year and I’ve literally been waiting for it for about two years thinking it would never come out. Fantagraphics, whom people who read my site know I love, was taking forever to put it out. Well it finally came out, the dry wit of Daniel Budnik was gone and replaced with Annie Choi, and Zack Carlson with Joe still on board. This time the book has higher production values, it has color photos and art, slick pages, its again in alphabetical order with an index. And again this one put me on to movies I had never heard of movies like “Attack of the Serial Killers from Outer Space”, “Blood Slaves of the Vampire Wolf”, “Frankenstein’s Planet of Monsters!”, “I Was a Teenage Serial Killer” etc. And the problem is Annie, Zack and, to a lesser extent, Joe, took the 1990’s moniker too seriously, don’t get me wrong, the writers replacing Dan are damn funny in their own way, when their not trying to preach or virtue signal. Come on guys, this a fucking book on no budget movies not your college term paper, in fact, when I read some of the reviews peppered with PC millennial/zoomer horse shit, I’d roll my eyes. The prior book had little to no meditating on politics of any kind, in fact in Annie’s review for “I Was a Teenage Serial Killer” she abandons humor altogether and goes on a huge diatribe about how women are still oppressed, no humor at all, all I had to say is “SHUT THE FUCK UP”. I am here to find out about movies I’d never heard, not have some ex college ass hat lecture me on how evil I am, she is not the only one, Joe also does his share of preaching which he didn’t do in the previous book, like under the movie review for “Limbo” you get this “I am a white dude. Because of this, there’s no way for me to understand the challenges women and people of color face on a daily basis (me: semi true). I recognize that my life has been easier (me: bullshit you don’t know that, this isn’t Jim Crow America and not every woman and black person has the same experience, their individuals not a collective faceless mass, like white people, some women and black people have had either easier or tougher experiences depending on their circumstances.) This is why its important for me-and every other white man on the planet-to celebrate the accomplishments of people who are not white whenever possible (me: if their work interests me or their creative that is my criteria not because of skin color or gender, that is what you virtue signals call “Racist”)”. Then he goes on to tell a story of how a woman, Tina Krause, completed and submitted her movie “Limbo” to different film festivals under her own name and got rejection after rejection, then she did it under the name Stephen and was accepted once she was called to address the crowd she went on stage and berated the festival and film goers for “Sexism” and Joe slowly clapped, so Joe did it even enter your mind that maybe since “Limbo” is an SOV movie that most festivals wouldn’t take it? Is it quite possible that they didn’t like the movie and wouldn’t accept it? Too many people are quick to jump on the “victim” band wagon, maybe Tina’s experience was an actual one but this is the kind of crap that hurt the book for me. Annie, Zack and Joe do a good job, but they would’ve done a great job if they hadn’t thrown in the virtue signaling horse shit that is prevalent all over most indie/cult film sites, it isn’t original and its boring. That being said this volume is still good and you can easily ignore the political preaching junk, they don’t do it too much but when they do its annoying and makes them seem like virtue beggars. Guys stick to humor and reviewing movies, save the mealy mouthed bull shit for the talking heads and loser academics in their ivory towers. Mark Polonia who made a shit load of SOV movies and is a SOV legend does the intro for the book. These days digital cameras, cheap computer graphic and editing programs, even phones etc. have made it easier than ever to make movies, the SOV legacy lives on and all one needs to do is go to Amazon Prime Video or Tubi to see the independent spirit to make low to no budget movies is still alive, even though most video stores have gone the way of the dinosaurs. SOV makers now use streaming services, sell DVD and Blu Rays of their own releases through their own web sites and use video hosting sites to show their work, as long as there is a person with a passion and a camera out there of some sort that spirit will never die and “Bleeding Skull” is still the king of digging up these treasures, may they never waver in their pursuit of beautiful trash.
There is a “solar event” and ants start killing people. That pretty much sums up the plot of “Phase IV” it isn’t an original plot, nothing new there but what is surrounding the movie is new and breaths life into a plot that was done to death. Visually stunning, and steeped in some New Age horse shit, this movie pleasantly surprised me, people I trust who have the same tastes as me said “Phase IV” would be up my alley when I asked them if it would make me laugh they shrugged and said “It might I don’t want to give away too much info”. I was given the specifics of the plot and kind of rolled my eyes, another killer insect movie but this didn’t turn out to be another killer insect movie, no this was a sci fi horror/art house film.
It was directed by graphic designer Saul Bass and was his one and only movie which is a damn shame besides directing a few educational short films and the awesome, The Quest, loosely based on a Ray Bradbury short story, you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxqN0tGyLRI . He brought along his talent for visual flare to the film, sadly “Phase IV” tanked at the box office and “Mystery Science Theater 3000” (not a fan, don’t find their schtick funny, they fucking suck) skewered the movie relentlessly, because of the failure nobody would hire Saul Bass to direct another movie. Bass would continue to design company logos and posters and win awards, but lord knows what Saul would’ve come up with next if he were allowed to direct another feature.
Ken Middleham, a wildlife photographer, was the one that got the close up shots of the killer ants, interiors were filmed in England and exteriors in Kenya representing Arizona. Saul shot a different ending that showed what happened after the ant attack but the hippy dippy, visually stunning, New Age ending shocked even the coke jaded execs and they wanted it cut. That ending was thought to be lost but it was found in the Saul Bass Collection at the Academy Film Archive, it was cleaned up and showed at the film hipster haven Alamo Drafthouse, for a Saul Bass type festival in Austin, TX, the ending is available on Itunes Extras and 101 films in the UK did a special two disc release with the original ending included, that is out of print.
This film went from “failure” to cult success and one of my favorite new filmmakers, Panos Cosmatos, said this movie inspired his great “Beyond the Black Rainbow” and I can see the visual inspiration from “Phase IV” in this movie. Yeah fuck those not funny idiots on MST3, most of the movies they trash go on to become gems. If you want a visual experience get into “Phase IV” but the story isn’t original, its whats around it that is original.
Most horror anthologies have this problem, either most of them suck with a couple of good ones, or if your lucky they’ll be mostly good ones with a smattering of bad ones, “Strange Tales” has total of six and out of those six, three are good and three are boring and/or stupid. The really good ones shine like diamonds in coal. Vidcrest, who put out the infamous “Mondo Cane” movies, a company that is still around and run by Robert Weinbach who is still alive put this thing together, he seemed to specialize in finding weird and unusual shorts and putting them together. At the time, the only way to get a hold of this collection was to get it on VHS, at first when I e mailed him he said he had no copies, then he e mailed me back and said he had found a VHS copy in storage, so I bought it. Watching this, I could tell most, if not all of these shorts were shot on Super 8 and most if not all were probably student films. I searched this one out when a buddy of mine sent me a list of live action/animated shorts, one of the shorts on this VHS, “Twilight Journey” got my attention. The problem is this VHS was recorded to EP mode which makes the picture look kind of shitty, its to jam more stuff on less tape, the picture is soft and fuzzy, sometimes you can’t see what is being filmed. So without further ado, here are the good and the bad of “Strange Tales”.
The first short, “The Visitant” is an OK short, a guy chases the ghost of his dead son through a cemetery which looks like the famous Forest Lawn Cemetery in Burbank, CA, me and my weird family used to have picnics there, many famous people from the Golden Age of Hollywood are buried (and turning over in their graves). As he is chasing his son, a zombie chases him with an axe and various dead people as well as an driver-less van try to run him down, he comes across his daughter who is cursing him for killing himself and his son in a drunk driving accident, the guy finds out he is in purgatory and now destined for hell. This one had some cool make up effects and was at least interesting.
The second short is called “Desire in a Public Dump” and I wasn’t too impressed with this one, though I gotta give it credit for not dragging on too long. When I watched this I figured this one was shot in the 1980’s like the rest of the shorts on the tape, but the whole look of the actors and actress and the whole feel screamed “1950’s” yes I found out that this short was shot in the 1950’s, it is very weird to have all the other shorts be filmed in the 1980’s and one lone one from the 1950’s. In this one a hobo stumbles on a picture of a redhead pin up who comes out of the picture and when he goes to kiss her he gets a pitchfork through his chest, the girl disappears from the picture and is replaced by a gorilla, a kid with a BB gun finds the picture and it ends there.
The third short is “A Day in the Life of Snidley Carmichael” stupid, boring and hated this fucking short. All it is is a guy spazzing out to opera music, running around like a fucking retard pretending to get shot. Not funny and a waste of this tape. Next.
The fourth short is by far the best and most interesting, “Twilight Journey” is a god damn trip and this is the reason why I searched this tape out. I wasn’t disappointed, a hybrid of live action and rotoscoped animation, this one is hard to peg, this is acid for people who never have or will drop acid. From what I can tell the story is about a kid whose mom is prostitute, she wears a pig mask I guess out of kinkiness, now this is where it gets confusing either the boy kills his mom while the John is asleep or the John kills her and sets the house on fire.
As the John runs away in his car he gets in an accident and dies, soon he is tumbling through animated space.
Soon he encounters weird shapes, pyramids and killer orcs, whoever did this put a lot of work into it, looks like the guy was probably inspired by Ralph Bakshi’s “Lord of the Rings, LSD and a lot of pot.
Looking for keys and a sword battle ensues, its marvelous and fantastic and worth the price of this video, I wasn’t as mad when this short met my expectations, it made it worth the three other boring shorts on this thing. My only gripe is the short ends abruptly, wish this had had a longer running time and Robert would’ve knocked the other boring fucking shorts off this thing.
The fifth short is “Crystal Quest”, I loved this one, this one follows a guy who is being chased by something or somebody on what looks like a different planet, he takes the crystal from the mouth of a stone monster then he is actually chased by a monster who corners him near an elevator.
As he pushes the button and the elevator the monster chasing him runs away and he thinks he scared the monster off until he turns around and sees a behemoth of a monster blocking the elevator.
He dives underneath the monster’s legs shuts the elevator and pushes the lobby button. He gets to the bottom and the door opens and you find out the “Crystal Quest” is a futuristic game show. I loved this one, the make up was good and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the people who worked on this student film went on to do special effects and make up on bigger projects. This one was goofy fun and the other good short in this collection and the last good one.
The sixth and most certainly last one is “Bus Bench” all I can say is “YAWN”, “Strange Tales” goes out on a huge whimper and not a bang. Some old lady sits on a bench while buses and people go by, she seems to be thinking about her past and her own daughter or something. This was boring, so bad I was looking at the clock thinking about other stuff I could be doing. On the back of the VHS box it says “Award winning shorts” yeah, Weinbach I highly doubt this. So all in all there was three good shorts and three boring shorts, so is this worth your clams? I’ll say this much “Twilight Journey” and “Crystal Quest” will make it worth the price, and you’ll want this if your a horror anthology completest.
The title of this underground comix series sounds like the title to a bad b movie from the 1950’s-1960’s at the height of the red scare and I think that is the purpose. This series pretty much satirizes the “Red Scare” and science fiction comics and movies in general, kind of like what the early 1960’s card series “Mars Attacks” did. This was published by Last Gasp, first issue came out in 1973.
It was edited by Tim Boxell who would, oddly enough, direct the serialized puppet biker, soap opera segments of “Winter Steele” for the awesome animation anthology show, “Liquid Television”, he was also a technical advisor on the Eddie Murphy’s oriental occult movie “Golden Child” among other jobs in Hollywood. The series, a lot like Last Gasp’s other series, would span years and publish sporadically, in “Commies From Mars” case, after its first issue there would be a six year hiatus before the next one.
Many authors and artists would come aboard, most from the underground comix world, people like Greg Irons, Peter Kuper, Spain, S. Clay Wilson and Kenneth Huey which gave the series variety and kept interesting. Different strips explored different themes, some were straight up satire, some action, eroticism (especially between humans and aliens), science fiction, propaganda, societal control and social mores while not taking itself seriously.
In those fourteen years six issues came out, I first stumbled across this series while reading old “Heavy Metal Magazines”, the ads in the back were from Last Gasp Publishing’s underground comix satire line up which featured “Cocaine Comix”, “Young Lust” and “Commies from Mars”, when I read that title I busted up laughing, it brought to mind those corny and cheesy 1950’s B monster movies I used to watch while stoned on a Saturday night on the local public access station. I forgot about the title until I started going through my “Heavy Metal Magazines”, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to dig into my wallet to buy the series issue by issue. Luckily, Last Gasp released all six issues in one beautiful book.
“Commies from Mars The Red Planet The Collected Works” will set you right. Jerry Garcia from a band I fucking hate, The Grateful Dead, does the foreword and Tim Boxell gives warning about the “Martian Extermination Legion” knocking on your door at 2AM. There was very scant info on this series and its publishing, nonetheless the mystery adds to the mystique of this series. This comes highly recommended from me, visual white noise every noise addict should search out and inject in their veins. THE MARTIANS ARE COMING! THE MARTIANS ARE CUUUUMMMMINGGGGG!!!!
That would be one weird tasting dessert, one you wouldn’t forget, I wouldn’t call it “sweet” or “bland” or “bitter” or “gross” its just all of that mixed together. Coming out of the post apocalyptic husk that is South Africa and directed by Ryan Kruger, the movie features Barry (played by future character actor Gary Green) a heroin addict who has a son and pissed off wife, he has no job to support his family and just wanders around looking for drugs until a UFO abducts him and takes over his body.
An alien takes over his body and he is put smack dab in the middle of Johannesburg, that is when things go completely bat shit insane and doesn’t let up. The alien in Barry does drugs, his neck stretches, he knocks up a prostitute who gives birth seconds later, he gets sucked off by some creep in a public bathroom and sprays him with black jizz, he gets kidnapped by a pedophile and gets in a chainsaw fight with the guy, he gets put in an insane asylum, escapes into a beckoning businessman’s car who shoots him up and feeds him pills and they drive through an atom explosion, a grown man sucks milk out of a woman’s nipple etc. I could go on and on.
“Fried Barry” is like if the 1979 Peter Seller’s movie “Being There” had done tons of hard drugs. The alien in Barry just seems to be stumbling around and gathering whatever earth like experiences it can but on the way Barry inadvertently helps people kind of like Dougie Cooper in “Twin Peaks the Return”, the movie does stumble near the end and it picks up again. Depending on your movie tastes you won’t like a nonsensical movie where the character travels from one vignette to another, this isn’t a hapless film by no means, there is a story tying all of this together but I don’t want to give away the whole story.
The director took his short film and stretched “Fried Barry” into a feature length film. From what I’ve heard the actor playing Barry, whose name is Gary Green, was a stuntman, he is very unusual looking which fits the part perfectly of a man who is taken over by an alien force. Not much is told about the aliens, when he is in the ship he sees a lot of weird ass shit, and your left wondering if the alien itself is a drug addict getting high off of the experiences through Barry, an intergalactic tweaker stuck in the body of an earthbound heroin addict.