Movies Till Dawn: A Month of Monsters, Part 3

Beware! The Blob” (1972, Kino Lorber) That gelatinous eating machine, the Blob, returns for this curious sequel directed by actor Larry Hagman. Oil worker Godfrey Cambridge accidentally thaws the Blob – frozen in Arctic ice since its deb738329203719ut opposite Steve McQueen in 1953 – which then consumes a large number of guest stars, including Cambridge, hobo Burgess Meredith, hippie chick Cindy Williams, cop Sid Haig and scoutmaster Dick Van Pattern before facing amiable hero Robert Walker Jr. at the old Rollerdrome in Culver City. In his informative and amusing commentary, Richard Harland Smith explains that “Beware” might have been conceived by Hagman and producer Jack Harris during a hot tub soak, and the picture itself does play as a sort of stoned goof, with Hagman roping in his Malibu Colony pals to vamp with abandon before pretending to be gobbled up by the Blob. The end result isn’t particularly funny or scary or compelling, but watchable as a cult curiosity or the chance to watch Tiger Joe Marsh go streaking. Smith’s commentary provides a wealth of fascinating data on the film, including its comedy connections (improv vets Del Close, Richard Stahl and Shelley Berman are all featured in the cast) and the fact that no one associated with the film seems to remember anything about it, or recall exactly how it came together; Kino’s Blu-ray includes an alternate animated title sequence, the original trailer and previews for other Blu-ray releases, including “Deranged” and “Who Slew Auntie Roo?”

738329203290Invisible Invaders” (1959, Kino Lorber) Unseen aliens from our Moon reanimate the recently dead as part of their plan to dominate the world. Much has been made of the similarities between this hour-plus-long sci-fi adventure and “Night of the Living Dead,” but the comparisons begin and end with “Invaders’” platoon of blank-faced ghouls in business attire; appreciation of the picture hinges more on its orgy of stock footage (including the car crash from “Thunder Road”), absurd plot elements (though capable of laying waste to cities, the aliens consider a local hockey game as the best place to announce their plans) and the presence of John Carradine (cranky revived scientist), John Agar (cranky Army officer) and Bronson Caverns, all of which should go down like a big bowl of comfort food for Saturday afternoon creature feature fans. Kino’s Blu-ray includes typically fine commentary by Tom Weaver, who details cast and production facts, including the picture’s impoverished budget, as well as notes from soundtrack expert David Schecter and Dr. Robert J. Kiss; the disc is rounded out by original trailer, as well as a spot for “Magnetic Monster,” which you can read about next.

738329202170The Magnetic Monster” (1953, Kino Lorber) Stalwart G-men Richard Carlson and King Donovan must prevent a man-made radioactive isotope, which doubles in size and mass every 11 hours, from overtaking the Earth. The first in a trilogy of science fiction adventures concerning the (fictitious) Office of Scientific Investigation (the others are “Riders to the Stars” and “Gog”) by producer Ivan Tors (who later oversaw “Flipper”), “Magnetic Monster” plays as a police procedural mixed with what probably felt like hard science tech for postwar viewers; sci-fi favorite Carlson (“It Came from Outer Space”) ably embodies the former, and if the science chatter and methodology behind the isotope’s creation and destruction feels clunky, there’s a furious finale dominated by a Deco-futuristic power generator (from Canada!) – which is actually culled (somewhat awkwardly) from the 1934 German science fiction film “Gold” (also available from Kino Lorber). Curt Siodmak penned some of the better horror (“The Wolf Man”) and science fiction (“Donovan’s Brain”) of the ‘40s and ‘50s, though enjoyed less luck as a director: Tors replaced him with Herbert L. Strock midway through filming. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray includes commentary by Derek Botello and the original trailer, as well as spots for “Donovan’s Brain” and “Invisible Invaders.”

 

799975712734“Calamity of Snakes” (1983, Desert Island Films) Trump-esque real estate magnate orders his workers to slaughter the horde of snakes that have stopped construction on his latest project, only to face a slithering army of reptiles led by a colossal demonic boa. Mondo-style cheap thrills from Taiwan fueled entirely by the on-camera slaughter of hundreds of real snakes, which are hurled at writhing actors, crushed and burned, or devoured by a pack of mongooses, among other indignities. As such, it’s probably best enjoyed (?) by hardcore horror types who find the fun in titles like “Cannibal Holocaust,” though the sheer shoddiness of the production, epitomized by a frenzied slapstick-style brawl between the monster boa and a mystical snake wrangler (who finds a pile of cardboard boxes to break every fall), should amuse badmovie devotees. Desert Island’s DVD is widescreen and English-dubbed.mz-dvd-buybutton

 

 

639767538961“Bruka: Queen of Evil” (1973, Desert Island Films) Words cannot adequately encompass this Filipino-made fantasy/martial arts film, but I’ll do my best. In a nutshell: though lovely, Manda (Rosemarie Gil) has a unique cross to bear – a head full of (very real) snakes for hair – which so upsets her fellow villagers that they burn her parents alive and push her off a cliff. She’s rescued by Bruka (Etang Discher), a frizzy-haired hag with a colossal snake’s body who schools her in black magic. Armed with a stone that helps to conceal her serpentine locks, and with an army of half-naked, dancing dwarves and monsters (rock men, tree men and bat men, all freaky-creepy, Krofft-like creations), she lays waste to the village, but meets her match in kung fu master Alex Lung (a regular in producer Jimmy Pascual’s Hong Kong productions). Dizzying sequel to the equally nuts “Devil Woman” (a favorite of Quentin Tarantino’s) whips together folklore elements with monster movie, fantasy and martial arts tropes and serves up the whole mess at benzedrine speed, barely allowing the viewer enough to gape at the spectacle or wonder about its impact on his/her sanity. Desert Island’s disc is dubbed in Cantonese with some amusingly obtuse English subtitles.mz-dvd-buybutton

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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