Friday, March 1, 2024

CUADECUC VAMPIR (1972) ****

There’s a note during the title sequence that says this film was made “During the filming of Jess Franco’s Count Dracula”.   I’ve seen it listed in some places as a documentary, but that’s not really accurate either.  Shot in grainy black and white, it’s basically a silent remake of Franco’s movie using much of the same cast (Klaus Kinski being the notable absentee) and shot from slightly different angles.  The big difference is that in between scenes, they leave in bits of behind-the-scenes footage. 

For example, when Dracula’s coach pulls up, we see Christopher Lee waiting for his cue.  Then, a crew member comes around with a fog machine and sprays fog everywhere.  When the fog becomes just right, the scene plays out as normal.  It’s cool seeing how director Pere Portabella pulls back the curtain during these moments to simultaneously show you the movie while giving you a peek at the filmmaking process.  (Some of the “captured on the sly” moments reminded me a little of Chubby Rain in Bowfinger.)

One great moment finds Lee joking around with the cameraman before hopping into his coffin for a scene.  As he’s lying there, a crew member comes along and touches him up with cobwebs.  While they’re doing that, you can see Lee’s expression change.  Slowly, you witness him transform from Christopher Lee the actor to Count Dracula the character.  Moments like this are worth their weight in gold. 

It’s been a while since I saw Count Dracula and I think that was to my advantage.  (It was forgettable anyway.)  I don’t know how well it would work with Franco’s film fresh in your mind.  However, for me it was a unique experience.  It’s a one-of-a-kind movie that does a lot of the things the French New Wave talked about doing, but in a more deconstructive and (here’s the biggest thing) entertaining way. 

The soundtrack is wonderful too.  It’s full of weird, atonal sounds.  Some scenes have rhythmic and arhythmic knocking, or an odd buzzing.  It works for the most part, and at times, it’s kind of unsettling, which is something that can’t be said for Franco’s feature.  The film also contains some interesting camerawork and unique shots.  The scene where the camera is placed looking out of the window of a moving train and is slowly sped up is quite surreal, and almost nightmarish.

Overall, Cuadecuc Vampir is a curio at worst and endlessly fascinating at best.  Even though it was made on the sets of another movie with the same cast, I can honestly say there’s nothing quite like it. 

Question:  What if Portabella made this on the set of a better movie?  Would it suffer from comparison?  I have no idea, but I kind of want to give Count Dracula a second chance now that this is fresh in my memory. 

AKA:  Cuadecuc, Vampir.  AKA:  Vampir.  AKA:  Cuadecuc.  AKA:  Vampir Cuadecuc.  

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

SMUT WITHOUT SMUT: SATANIC HORROR NITE (2021) ***

FORMAT:  BLU-RAY

After watching the three uncut versions of the Satanic horror-themed pornos on the disc, I decided to backtrack and watch the main feature, Smut Without Smut:  Satanic Horror Nite.  It’s a mixtape that sort of preserves the drive-in experience.  The sticking point is that all the hardcore footage has been cut out of the features.  Remember Grindhouse and the “Missing Reel” gag?  It’s kind of like that, but with way more stuff missing. 

Things kick off with a “Seven Minutes to Showtime” drive-in interstitial.  We then get concession stand ads, local commercials, and trailers (like Fanny Hill Meets the Horny Witch).  Afterwards, the “movie” begins. 

In Hotter Than Hell (a film sadly not included in full on the disc), Satan (who looks like he skinned several Muppets for his costume) learns he’s behind on his numbers, so he sends his sons to Earth to start corrupting women.  I don’t know if the complete version can live up to the clips, but what I saw was highly entertaining.  I might have to seek it out at some point.  It was nice seeing Satans Lust’s Judy Angel (who died the year before the film was released) turning up in a bubble bath and saying, “He was like a worn-out ball player.  Three strikes and he’s out!”

Next up is a condensed version of Sacrilege.  It hits all the highlights you’d hope for, from the cheesy dialogue to the scenes of the naked witch meowing like a cat.  Even though there’s no hardcore footage, we still get plenty of nudity. 

Then we have a truncated edition of a film called Sexual Awareness that begins with a cool tarot card title sequence.  Two doofuses in white robes initiate a naked chick into their Satanic cult.  They then lure members of a throuple to their (I’m guessing) doom.  After a fine set-up, this one ends in an abrupt and anticlimactic manner.  I don’t know if I really want to see the full version of this one, but the opening is fun. 

Afterwards, it’s intermission time!  We are treated to more concession stand ads and commercials, complete with some near subliminal snippets from the features. 

Then, it’s back to the smutless smut with an abbreviated versions of The Devil Inside Her and Satans Lust.  The editors do an especially good job at condensing the plot of The Devil Inside Her to the bare (no pun intended) essentials.  It also goes to show how much stronger the film is compared to the other movies in the collection as it plays like gangbusters even without all the fucking, sucking, and pissing. 

LET’S GET PHYSICAL: SATANS LUST (1971) ***

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LET’S GET PHYSICAL: THE DEVIL INSIDE HER (1977) ****

FORMAT:  BLU-RAY

A farmer (Director Zebedy Colt) catches his virginal daughter Faith (Terri Hall) cavorting around with Joseph (Dean Tait), the handsome farmhand, and he promptly strips and whips her.  When her sister, Hope (Jody Maxwell) learns Faith is in love with Joseph, it sends her into a tizzy because she loves him too.  Hope then offers up her soul to the Devil so she can be with him.  The Devil (Rod DuMont) shows up… that is to say… a naked guy in Gene Simmons KISS make-up shows up and jerks off, which makes him turn into Joseph.  He then rapes Faith and tells her she belongs to him.  Not to be outdone, Hope goes to see a witch (Renee Sanz) to make a love potion to turn Joseph into her slave.  Naturally, the main ingredient is cum, and since there are no men around to milk, the witch turns her pet bird into a man (!) and makes Hope suck him off! 

The Devil then goes around possessing various characters (they appear wearing unsubtle black eye make-up, so the audience knows they’re possessed) and bangs them while Gregorian chanting plays on the soundtrack.  Hope gets so horny she fucks an ear of corn, a squash, and a carrot (the latter two she takes at the same time) in a vegan fuck-fest for one.  It all ends with a witches’ orgy in which Annie Sprinkle gets… uh… sprinkled on. 

You know you have a wild one on your hands when the movie stops dead in its tracks for a mother to do a hymen check on her daughter. 

In short… WOW. 

Moral of the story:  No matter what your religious beliefs are, the Devil will find a way to fuck the bejesus out of your Hope and Faith. 

AKA:  The Devil and Her.  AKA:  The Devil Within Her.

LET’S GET PHYSICAL: SACRILEGE (1971) ***

FORMAT:  BLU-RAY

Sacrilege is part of AGFA and Something Weird’s “Smut Without Smut:  Satanic Horror Nite” collection.  It’s a mixtape of concession stand ads, previews, and drive-in interstitials peppered between condensed versions of five horror-related hardcore skin flicks.  I plan to go back and watch and review that soon.  First though, I wanted to watch the three films that are featured as bonus material in their uncut form. 

Sacrilege is a Ray Dennis Steckler smut movie, so knowing that, I had my expectations set accordingly.  Ray apparently insisted he didn’t make it, but some of the camerawork, dialogue, and the fact it uses music from Doris Wishman films suggests otherwise. 

The title scene is great.  A foxy raven-haired beauty opens her Dracula cape and reveals she has nothing on underneath and begins bumping and grinding and navigating her nether region up and down for the camera.  Then, the movie begins.

A guy is reading a book on witchcraft in a secluded spot when a bookish gal sits next to him and says, “Witchcraft is a part of our history!  It’s only because of Christianity that it isn’t included in our major curriculums!”  She invites him back to her place where she shows him her pussy (cat) in record time.  She drugs his tea, and he starts hallucinating almost immediately.  He begins seeing images of Satan and the witch appears to him dancing nude and meowing like a cat before seducing him.  Firmly under her spell, she has him invite his girlfriend back to the house and they drug her, tie her down, and force her to participate in a satanic orgy. 

Let’s get this out of the way.  The hardcore scenes are definitely not sexy.  They go on too long, suffer from static camera placement, and it sometimes looks like the actors are struggling to keep it up.  So, if you’re watching this to be aroused, forget it.  If you’re watching it for some unintentional laughs and silly low budget horror antics, it will fit the bill nicely. 

One scene in particular I really enjoyed was near the end.  The hero and his girlfriend awaken from their trance nude on the floor.  Shamed and shaken, they slowly put on their clothes without a word spoken between them.  Now, I’ve never had to prepare for a walk of shame after attending a satanic orgy, but I have to imagine this scene hits home for those of you who have. 

LET’S GET PHYSICAL: TOMMY (1975) ****

FORMAT:  BLU-RAY

For my money, Tommy is the best musical ever made.  You can have your Sound of Music and West Side Story.  This is the GOAT. 

Tommy is a feast for the eyes and ears, which is ironic since it’s about a deaf, dumb, and blind kid.  The Who’s raucous energy is perfectly honed by director Ken Russell whose flair for cinematic excess has never been unleashed with such exuberance.  The sound of The Who’s classic rock opera melded with Russell’s knack for visual extravagance?  It’s a match made in rock n’ roll Heaven. 

Ann-Margret gives my favorite performance by an actress of all time in Tommy.  Fearless.  Unbridled.  Daring.  She hits notes that God himself would have trouble reaching.  She leans into the “opera” part of rock opera and reaches Nicolas Cage levels of jaw-dropping gonzo bravura.  No one, and I mean no one, has looked hotter while rolling around on the floor in a fit of orgasmic fury while being sprayed and covered in eruptions of soap bubbles, baked beans, and chocolate while writhing on top of a phallic-shaped pillow. 

Queen Shit. 

I said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Tommy is the best musical of all time.  I mean, what other musical features Eric Clapton as a faith healing priest of a church that worships Marilyn Monroe?  Or Tina Turner as the motherfucking Acid Queen, who struts her stuff to one of the trippiest scenes on record.  Or Jack Nicholson as a suave doctor.  And of course, Elton John as the Pinball Wizard.  Not to mention The Who, who also trash their instruments as you would expect.  Or Roger Daltrey, who is especially great.  He spends most of the movie in a daze, and once he is finally snapped out of his stupor and breaks into “I’m Free”… well… it’s peak cinema. 

As for what it all means?  I’ve always thought of Tommy as a meditation of how people turn to religion, celebrities, family, drugs, women, and doctors to fill a certain void or cure their ills.  Really, the answer lies with you.   (“Go to the mirror, boy!”)   Then, once you find the answer and try to show others what you have learned, it opens you up to the same ridicule and hypocrisy inherent in other avenues of self-care. 

Or it could just be a bunch of hippie drug shit.  Either way.  It’s still one of the best movies of all time. 

PANDORA PEAKS (2002) **

Pandora Peaks was Russ Meyer’s final film.  As cinematic swan songs go, it’s a head-scratcher.  I hate to criticize movies for being “self-indulgent” because why make a movie if you can’t indulge yourself?  However, there is a line. 

Pandora Peaks was Russ’s object of affection in his later days.  And why not?  When you get a look at her 72HHH figure, it’s almost impossible to not want to make a movie with her.  The film itself amps up his already rapid-fire editing style into senseless bits that are over before they really begin.  Russ will narrate a bit of biographical info about himself while showing this (Russ fishing) and that (the history of Mojave) and God knows what.  Then, Pandora will go on and on about her life’s story and/or anecdotes about her stripping career while quick-cut images of her flashing the camera in an array of skimpy outfits appear on screen.  Then, for some reason, a huge-breasted (but not nearly as bosomy as Pandora) German chick named Tundi bounces about.  In the end, the legendary Candy Samples shows up to tell us about the wonders of tit fucking. 

You know you’re in trouble when a scene of a woman pleasuring herself is intercut with an oil pump moving up and down.  Not just because Meyer has used this sight gag many times before, but because Meyer’s narration tells us in excruciating detail how the movement of the pump mimics the sexual act.  Russ, haven’t you heard?  If you have to explain the joke, it probably wasn’t funny in the first place. 

There might’ve been an OK hook for a movie here as it harkens back to Meyer’s earliest work, which were basically just filmed versions of cheesecake centerfold spreads.  However, the editing is so chaotic you can never quite get your bearings.  The pointless reusing of footage (which I assume was only there to… ahem… pad things out) is kind of irritating too.  Peaks is certainly a vision, but the editing is so ADHD that it’s hard to really appreciate and admire her physique.  On the rare occasion the editing does slow down to accommodate her gyrating (like her sexy cowgirl striptease or when she’s lifting weights), the film threatens to work.  I mean a movie that manages to cram in this much nudity in a small amount of time even if it’s schizophrenic is still worthy of **.  Most of the time though, Pandora Peaks is just too much to handle.