Review: Terror in a Texas Town (Blu-Ray)

Terror in a Texas Town coverI sure wish director Joseph H. Lewis got more a lot more respect these days. Granted, his career spanned 41 mostly B-movies spread across different genres that it was hard to shoehorn him into a box (but that’s a good thing for those who love variety and surprises). You could say he was a journeyman with quite a vision, as some of his films were memorable and considered classics by those some film lovers who’ve seen his work and appreciate it. He took some chances in his time in the director’s chair, but also made the some pretty generic titles between the brilliant ones.  While some of the results might have gone over the heads of some viewers at the time, it’s worth tracking down some of his work to see a quiet master in action when the results were really good.

In 1958, Lewis planned to retire from movies and go to TV, but opted out to make one final film, the B-quality, but memorable for a few reasons western, Terror in a Texas Town. While it’s no epic (hell, it opens right off the bat with part of the ending sequence and also uses some ancient stock footage a few times, clearly as a means to kill time and save money during its tidy 81 minutes) and the story is a bit weathered (until you know certain things about its genesis), it’s worth a watch because it’s an intriguing B-grade flick on a few fronts. Is it a “good” movie? Well, one could say where it counts it is despite its budgetary limitations.

Terror in a Texas Town-01

“No, I don’t like your tie. Besides, I’m married to the man who’s going to try and kill you, sooo…”

Sterling Hayden plays George Hansen, a Swedish immigrant, who after almost 20 years at sea, comes to America to live and farm alongside his dad, Sven, who’s been waiting for him to arrive. Unfortunately, Sven is murdered in cold blood while trying to defend his land from Crale (Nedrick Young) the steel-fisted and black-clad killer hired by McNeil (Sebastian Cabot) who it turns out, would probably rather have paid Sven off or burned him out instead of having him killed. But, gone is gone, McNeil gets his ill-gotten land and Crale quite enjoys what he does. Protests from his weary wife, Molly (Carol Kelly) who warns Crale the law could close in any moment, go ignored by Crale and it seems he’s due for a fall at some point. He’s not exactly in his prime and his former gun hand was shot off and replaced with a steel one (it’s too bad more isn’t made of this, though). McNeil’s plan is to grab all the land in the area for its newly found oil and the film opens (after the titles) with a literal barn burning as a elderly couple gets one of McNeil’s less violent choices of treatment.

(Thanks, HD Retro Trailers!)

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May the 4th Needs a Fifth, I Think

Yeah, yeah. I kind of don’t like the over-celebrating thing when it comes to some stuff I appreciate, but that’s the way things are these days. Still, a little tribute is in order to a film that deserves it (well, in its original format), so here’s mine.

Perspective from an old fart who knows stuff: There was not a hint of internet nor the sort of over-speculation we suffer though today way back in 1976 when I was sitting in a movie theater and saw this teaser for the first time:

(Thanks, thecoolman!)

I vaguely recall being really curious about this upcoming film because it looked completely different than anything I could recall seeing (hey, I was only 12 at the time), yet it seemed really familiar in a few ways to stuff I’d seen on the local PBS station. At that point, I had zero idea of what a homage was or a way to grasp that George Lucas was borrowing from the past to create his own futuristic adventure (what was curiously, set in the distant past). Anyway, I noted the non-date and filed the film away in the memory banks as something to look forward to seeing. Those school friends I knew were either not interested at all or worse, had a low opinion of sci-fi films that extended to books and comics of the period. So only a rare few of the kids I knew even cared about this film before and to some extent, after it was released.

The most amusing modern thing in regards to this teaser is the Official Star Wars YT channel has an (intentionally?) embarrassing low quality teaser while other non-official sites have not only better quality ones, but one that’s been redone to include footage found in the actual release print. Granted, while MUCH prettier, I find that clip problematic because it’s redone history that erases the fact that the teaser was supposed to be cruder thanks to the film still being nowhere near completion a about a year out from its eventual release date. Sure, film fans didn’t know this and other that tiny bits (VERY tiny) of information dropped in a few sci-fi mags of the era. But that all changed as 1977 rolled around and more info as well as the successful Star Wars comic book appeared. I avoided the comic for a while, but eventually collected most of its run over time, enjoying a good deal of what I was reading (including stuff now FAR outside the current canon)

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Someone Left a Cake Out in the Rain (So it’s Likely for Me)

So, whadyagetme for my birthday? It’s today, you know. As for gifts, well… I got myself a little party to throw later:

(Thanks robatsea2009!)

Or, wait… maybe it’s this party?

(Thanks, 88 Films!)

Hmmm. I’m confused, but I know it isn’t this party because I went to it and did NOT have a good time at all:

(Thanks, Zero Media!)

In reality, other than thinking cake-like thoughts for a hot minute, I have no big deal plans for today at all. The day will be spent at home maybe with a movie, definitely with some gaming (I have a few backlogged films and games to get to, as usual), and probably no big deal food item other than what I plan to cook for myself later (ah, the wonderful world of restricted dieting, but at least it will be quite tasty). General mood in my current state is more or less this (and I’m not Thulsa Doom here):

(Thanks, Dean Oliver!)

Eh, whatever. I suppose things cold be worse, but let’s leave it at that for the moment.

Back in a bit.

-GW

Oh, The Horror! Severin Films Remasters The Horror of Party Beach

(Thanks, SeverinFilmsOfficial!)

 

HoPB_MPYes indeed, it’s a hot summertime thing from 1964 and it’s BACK. Well, it’s back on August 28, 2018, but you can pre-order this slice of not too scary sea life NOW.  Now, don’t get me wrong, people. The Horror of Party Beach is kind of bad. How bad? Well, I did a review a few years back noting it wasn’t all that good, if that helps. That said, in retrospect, its heart is definitely in the right place, the film is actually terribly funny and campy as hell, and will indeed make you laugh if your funny bone is in good working order.

I’d prattle on some more, but YOU, dear reader? You have some pre-ordering to do if this spiffy new 2K restoration floats your particular boat. Get the bundle! Or get the Blu-Ray by itself! Or get the DVD if you don’t have a BR player yet! You can also get the enamel pin and/or Beach ball from the bundle separately and make believe you bought the bundle (er, if that’s your thing).

Uh, if you only have a VHS or (eek!) Betamax player, you’re kind of out of luck, sorry!

-GW

Blu-Ray/DVD Review: The Aftermath

The Aftermath VCIThere’s a great bonus on the BR/DVD version of The Aftermath that’s well worth watching before you see the main event. That would be the 1973 student film, The Night Caller, directed by Dan Gilbert and inspired by Ray Bradbury’s short story, Night Call, Collect. The same guy who co-wrote and stars in that main event, Steve Burkett, also plays the lead in this short and it seems the plot is something of an expansion of a few ideas from the short as well as some of Burkett and co-writer Stanley Livingston’s own work.

That said, this shot in 1978/released in 1982 film was also something of a passion project for Burkett, as it was made for not a whole lot of money (and it shows), features a few of Burkett’s friends and family members along with the always fun to watch Sid Haig as the film’s main, mean villain. On one hand, it’s not the greatest action film you’ll ever see. However, it’s a case of a killer “B” flick with an oddly effective sting that happens to wear its battered heart on its bloody sleeve.

Burkett plays Newman, an astronaut returning to Earth after a lengthy journey with two others, Mathews (Larry Latham) and Williams (Jim Danforth!). They can’t contact anyone on the planet and after an explosion, the ship crash lands in the water somewhere near Los Angeles. Williams is killed and initially, Newman thinks he’s the sole survivor until Mathews washes up shortly thereafter. The men spend a harsh night outdoors where they’re attacked by crazed and somewhat violent (zombie-like?) mutated savages and it’s only when the dawn breaks they find out there’s been a big ol’ nuclear war while the men were away that’s wiped out a good chunk of humanity.  So much for that homecoming parade, right?

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Mail Call, Yesterday Edition

Mail Call Sunday

So, I’m in the process of writing up a certain review when I take a minute to check one of my inboxes which kindly notes that a DVD I finally got around to ordering has arrived (and rather quickly, at that). On Sunday.  As it was about 2:24am Monday (“Sleep?” What’s this “sleep” you speak of, mortals?), my eyebrow went up and yes, I got my keys, put some pants on (TMI: I tend to dress like a video game mascot character from the 90’s when at home) and hoofed it downstairs to check my mail with the first thought being the mailbox would be empty and somehow USPS and/or Amazon mucked up the delivery date. Wrong, and well, wow for the post office for delivering regular mail on a day when it usually doesn’t.

Um, go write a letter or postcard or something today and mail it, I guess. USPS kinda needs people to be less reliant on tech and more reliant on good old fashioned handwritten surprises via the post. Either than or they go under and we end up going broke because it’ll cost a mint to ship via other services angling to take their place and doing a worse job in the process. Anyway, back to the backlog, ladies and germs!

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: Brain Damage

BD_AV090 (Custom)I somehow missed out on Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage when it was first released back in 1987, but it’s been on my very long list of films to see for quite some time.  Arrow Video’s recent restoration is pretty awesome and is filled to the brim with some great bonus features. Depending on your tastes this is one of those outrageously creative films that you’ll love or hate, but like Henenlotter’s other exploitation flicks (the three Basket Case movies, Frankenhooker, Bad Biology), your best bet is to jump in feet first and enjoy the wild ride.

When a somewhat phallic-shaped brain-eating parasite named Aylmer (or Elmer) escapes from the apartment of the elderly couple keeping it as a twisted addiction source and ends up a few doors away with a new host, Brian (Rick Herbst), things get gory quite quickly. The old couple had been feeding Aylmer fresh from the meat market calf brains thinking they could sate his hunger, but you know how these things go in movies like this, right? Yes, there’s an explanation for how the parasite ended up in the apartment of that couple, but that comes later on in the film and I’m not telling.

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Blu-Ray Review: Madhouse (1981)

Madhouse_AV094Ovidio G. Assonitis’ 1981 horror flick Madhouse (aka And When She Was Bad and There Was a Little Girl and not to be confused with 1974’s Madhouse) is a good-looking but ultimately disappointing genre flick that throws a few interesting ideas around but doesn’t quite know how to fit them all together. But man, does it make a killer opening impression as well as pack in a few unsettling kills. That said, it’s easy to see why the film has its following despite some oddball flaws that keep it from being truly great.

That haunting opening still packs a wallop, though. As a creepy lullaby plays, one young twin gently rocks another in a darkened room before suddenly stopping to smash her in the face with a rock or brick of some sort. It’s definitely jarring, but actually has nothing to do with the film unless it’s meant to set the overall mood.

Yes, we find out that one sister had indeed been incessantly mean to the other throughout their childhood. But it’s Julia (Trish Everly), now a teacher for deaf children who was the victim of her sister Mary’s (Allison Biggers) cruelty. Julia’s got flawless skin and not a scratch on her face or body, but she’s bearing plenty of fears thanks to her sister making her early years a living hell. Given that there’s no mention of her receiving any sort of plastic surgery (she also mentions Mary’s dog used to bite her frequently), that opening seems open to interpretation.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Zodiac Killer

Zodiac Killer BR Ha. Way back in 1970 or so, someone should have told newbie director and pizza shop maven Tom Hanson that the Zodiac Killer has a far better chance to be caught alive during a screening of Dirty Harry than dead asleep at Hanson’s eyeball-rolling (yet pretty potent on occasion) The Zodiac Killer. While the film has some genuinely scary moments in replicating some of the more infamous murders, it’s also loaded with chuckle-worthy performances and a couple of hilarious made-up deaths that might have you choking on your popcorn.

Make no mistake, ladies and gents. This isn’t a “great” film by any means. But thanks to AGFA and Something Weird Video, we have a nice 4K restoration that still retains a certain grainy, grimy charm. Well, about as “charming” as you can get in a film explicitly meant to taunt and catch a notorious serial killer.

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Blu-Ray Review: Werewolf Woman

WerewolfWoman_BRWith most exploitation films, it’s best to jump in cold and hang on for dear life because over-scrutinizing every frame can mean missing out on what a film really has to offer. Flaws and logic gaps are commonplace as many genre films tend to be rushed (or pay homage to earlier rushed flicks) and rely on copious nudity, sexual content, and/or graphic violence to make their points. Of course, that’s probably one reason why they’re so appreciated by those of us with time to spend watching as many as we can fit into out libraries. You know who you are, so wave that flag proudly, pal.

On the other hand, a film like Rino Di Silvestro’s 1976 Werewolf Woman (aka The Legend of the Wolf Woman, among other titles) demands to be scrutinized (warts and all) because under that copious nudity, et cetera is a film whose director fully believed in the subject matter (Clinical Lycanthropy) and yep, decided to tackle it head on as a full on exploitation flick. While it’s a film that’s got quite a nasty, depressing bite to it when all it said and done, you can kind of see through all the sleaze that the director was trying to slap some sort of psychological depth into the proceedings.

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