Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lyndsay. Why So Serious?

E'yup. It's that time of year, folks. Time for another September Sabbatical, where I pull back from the keyboard and spend some time in the "meat space" for a whole month of mental recharging and to let my knuckles scab over and heal up before launching back into the breach. Now, there might be a few updates snuck in, here and there, covering my excursion to Pittsburgh for the Drive-In Super Monster Rama and the boss Zombie tour that's slowly taking shape in couple of weeks. Again, maybe. Beyond that, updates will resume in October. Until then, via con queso my friends.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Favorites :: Behind the Scenes :: Lost in the Bermuda Triangle with Airport '77

The X marks the spot in Wakulla Springs, Florida.

And remember this one for your next trivia night: What movie starred Maid Marion, a Friend of Harry Lime, Kolchak the Night Stalker, Buck Rogers, Count Dracula, Ensign Pulver, sudsy Felicia Karpf, Johnny Bravo's Mom, Rage'n Rob Verne, Professor Eggstrum, Detective Ed Hocken, one of the Wild Women of Chastity Gulch, the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the Man Who Tried to Shoot Navin Johnson, and the Bermuda Triangle. And the only thing more amazing than that all-encompassing cast is the amount of property damage they caused, chewing on all the furniture inside that poor airplane.

FYI: Airport, Airport '75 and Airport '77 are currently available for streaming on Netflix. Please note the absence of Concorde: Airport '79, as I'm sure it's inclusion for viewing would cause more customers to drop the service than that ridiculous price hike last month.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Reads :: All of That and Secret Wars II :: MARVELS Eye of the Camera.

"My name is Phil Sheldon. I'm a news photographer by trade, and I thought I'd seen it all. Wars. Heroes. All the heights and depths this sorry world is capable of. I'm known for taking pictures of the Marvels ... the super-humans around us, from the Avengers and Spider-Man to the armies of Atlantis and the Incredible Hulk. And I've seen people celebrate the Marvels, be scared of them, dismiss them as nothing special, or claim they're the end of the world. But now ... it's like things have gone sour, like we can't tell the good guys from the bad anymore..."

To show you how slowly things tend to coagulate into some form of coherency around these parts, when it was announced that Disney had purchased Marvel Comics back in -- hell, I can't even remember, but it was a while ago, the first thing that popped into my head and rattled around that cavernous echo chamber was a thought of how freakin' cool it would be if Brad Bird and PIXAR adapted Kurt Busiek's and Alex Ross's MARVELS with the look, production design and overall aesthetics of The Incredibles. Noodle that for bit, True Believers. Yeah. Wow.

For those unaware, MARVELS was a four-issue limited series that gave readers a historical everyman's view -- here, in the form of photo-journalist, Phil Sheldon -- of the birth of the Marvel Comics universe, from the exploits of the original Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner to Captain America's entry into World War II, and gave us a ringside seat for the birth of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, and earth-shaking events like the Sentinels gone sentient, the first coming of Galactus, and the Kree-Skrull War, culminating with the events surrounding the tragic death of Gwen Stacey. The painted, photo-quality art was beautiful, and the ambitious scope of the story was like a shot of adrenaline for continuity junkies like myself.

So, getting back to the Marvel-Disney merger, the second thought that entered my mind was that I really needed to track down the book's sequel, MARVELS Eye of the Camera, and give it a whirl. And that's about as far as it got -- until now, finally, I managed to get my hands on a copy and am happy to report it was worth the wait. Busiek returns as writer with an assist by long time Marvel scribe, Roger Stern. Taking over the art chores, Jay Anacleto does, I think, more than an admirable job of filling Ross's shoes. His style isn't quite as fluid but has a more defined line that separates the characters from the background a little more.

Together, after a brief preamble about the Silver Age of heroes (-- a lot of it coming from some aborted plots from the original book), Eye of the Camera picks up with a jaded and terminally ill Sheldon trying to come to grips with his life and career in the age of anti-heroes like the Punisher, Ghost Rider and the outlaw X-Men, and earth-shattering events like the Secret Wars and the Fall of the Mutants. (My god, I'm getting old if stuff I read firsthand is now featured nostalgically like this. Yeesh.) Yeah, even Secret Wars II gets some major play, here. I never thought it would be possible but the, what, four of five pages dealing with the Beyonder and the aftermath of his death in Eye of the Camera have more impact than all nine issues of that piece of shit mini-series combined. Color me baffled. And even though it reduces the gut-wrenching impact of the conclusion of one of the arcs of the first series, it did my heart, at least, a lot of good to see Maggie the mutant alive and well to fill the role of Clarence the Angel for our lost and forlorn protagonist.

See. The thing is, you gotta think of this whole series like a Ray Harryhausen movie. We've come to see the animated monsters (the Marvels), sure, they're the selling point, but its the story of Jason or Sinbad or Phil Sheldon that glues it all together. And in the end, Sheldon realizes this, too, as his real life's work is not his photography but his family and extended family and friends. A pat George Bailey end that reeks of Capra-corn to the more jaded and cynical among us but, eh, I can dig it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Just in Case You Missed It...

I had meant to trumpet this earlier but, as usual, I forgot. Anyways, a couple of weeks ago I answered the call and provided a guest post for the vacationing (but not really) Stacia over at She Blogged by Night; the subject of which was Carl Laemmle Jr.'s lamentably lost The Cat Creeps, Universal's first foray into phonic fright films. And, no, that's not me trying to deliver a flash drive with said post to our most gracious host pictured above. Sadly, what that is is about 2/3rds of the only surviving footage of our featured flick. For more details and all that, feel free to clickey-clickey on over and read away. Thanks, and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DVD Spotlight :: Yukking it Up with the Men of the 12th.

"Like my grandfather used to say, 'Many things may look bleak at the moment of there occurrence, but at least we ain't got locusts.'"
-- Sgt. Nick Yemanaxxx
Barney Miller
I don't think it's all that big a secret that Barney Miller is, was and ever will be one of my favorite and funniest TV shows in the history of electronically transmitted sound and moving images. And for my fellow fans out there, the fine folks at SHOUT Factory have announced a spiffy, complete-series box-set due to be released in late October.

The packaging is pretty cool but the only real special feature that I can detect is the inclusion of the spin-off series, Fish. Disappointing considering how many of the creators and cast members are still around. But, the set and the show are still well worth it. Now, I know a lot of people are horked off because, like myself, they've already invested money in the first three seasons of the show, who, like myself, aren't all that interested or thrilled about double-dipping. I don't know if SHOUT intends to sell separate seasons at any point in the future, so, my plan is to visit the local Buy Back outlet, get what I can, and invest it in the new box-set.

Speaking of TV shows that I love unconditionally, after our annual September Sabbatical, we'll be participating in The Thrilling Days of Yesteryear's first ever Blogathon on another consistent Tuber laughfest, The Dick Van Dyke Show. Gotta couple of my favorite episodes all picked out for that and look forward to sharing the love with Ivan and the whole gang.

I'm participating. Are you?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Whoa. What? Really?

(Where it all happens, folks.)

Well, look at that. An enumerable amount of probable porn spambots, five secret admirers, and several dozen or so folks who are, apparently, completely out of their ever-lovin' gourds, equals 100 followers for this, here, blog. I don't know about you all but I'm flummoxed, flabbergasted and fuddled by this development. Seriously. When I started knuckling out this offshoot of the old website, I never thought I'd even sniff that particular threshold. (I remember how giddy I got when I reached 20. Anyhoo...) Regardless, thank you all for stopping by, and I'll do my best to offer more of the same that brought you here in the first place and to keep you all coming back.

The Management.
Micro-Brewed Reviews.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Drive-In Super Monster Rama? Oh, Hell Yeah!

Hot damn! The sun, the moon and the stars have aligned just right, folks -- meaning that yours truly and his bestest buddy will be attending The Drive-In Super Monster Rama this year! Wait. What's a Drive-In Super Rama? Glad you asked. Take a look:

For more info, click here.

1100 Mad-Cap Miles going and 1100 Mad-Cap miles back be our only obstacle, but, really, How hard could that be?

Simple, right? But between Mike's driving skills and my navigating abilities it'll probably go something more like this:

Eh, either way, piece o' cake. And totally worth it. Thus, undaunted as ever, we'll be there, ready to sing Happy 100th Birthday to Vincent Price and immerse ourselves in the rejuvenating waters of an authentic, all-night, dusk 'til dawn monster show under those same moon and stars.

I'm going. Are you?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Recommendations :: [REC]2

If you liked [REC], which I did -- a lot, then you'll probably like [REC]2, which I did -- just not quite as much. (And I would have liked it even more if that petulant little twerp, Tito, had met an even more gruesome fate.) Like with most sequels, the biggest hurdle [REC]2 has to overcome is the audience is keenly aware of the modus operandi of what came before, and what we get in this shrieking and gooey second helping, really, is just more of the same as the action picks up immediately from where the last film left off, with a specialized SWAT unit tasked to enter the quarantined building as an escort for some scientific muckety-muck, with his own clandestine motives, to find out what happened to the last group of inspectors sent in; who, you remember, met a grisly end in [REC]. The Lamberto Bava-esque explanation behind the outbreak works, sort of, but I think the franchise would have been better served if the true cause would have remained a mystery. As is, it leaves itself an even steeper hill to climb for the inevitable re-heated leftovers of [REC]3.

[REC]2, with a side order of
Rango, was also my first experience with the Red Box. Fairly slick and easy and affordable, and just as recommended.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Favorites :: Pulp Covers :: Monarch Books Brings the Purple Sauce Most Savagely.

Monarch Books was a subsidiary branch of the Connecticut based Charlton Publishing. Known more for their comics and magazines, Charlton briefly branched out with a series of full length pulp novels, most notably a string of film adaptations that were destined for infamy. Infamy that had nothing to do with their inspirational monsters or their individual reigns of terror but for the consistent addition of saucy and salacious passages and implicit sex scenes -- and being taken by a "savage lance of manhood" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the prose gone purple found, in great abundance, inside (and under) the covers, stirring up some non-Comic Code approved biological urges in many a unsuspecting reader. Don't believe me? Then read an excerpt from Dean Owen's liberal take on Konga:

"She ran a zipper down and the dress became a heap of limp black material on the floor. She pulled off a half slip, tore the strap of her bra in her anxiety to rid herself of these trappings of civilization. She ripped the panties and garter belt, peeling off her stockings, ignoring the fact that she tore them to shreds.

"Decker was aware that the chattering of Konga had ceased. He turned, giving the little animal a thoughtful stare. Konga was watching the white-fleshed woman…. "

"Later, on the familiar bed with its rose-colored spread, Decker possessed Margaret with a violence that frightened her and, at the same time, aroused her to a frenzy of passion such as she had never known. His hands and mouth roved her naked, perfumed flesh, stirring hidden fires within her and she clutched him to her, arching her body wantonly to take the savage spear of his long-starved need.

"'Don’t give this to anyone else,' Margaret said when the tumult and frenzy of their love-making had subsided and they lay quietly together, their senses lulled and content, their bodies sated."
Anyone else remember this scene from the movie? Yeah, me neither. Believe it or not, things get even saucier with Carson Bingham's, uhm, dramatic liberties taken in Gorgo:

"I was conscious only of the fact that the shreds of the shirt had parted over her breasts, and that one of them lay completely exposed, its white softness before my eyes. Then I touched her breast with my hand, and she closed her eyes, moaned softly and turned her head from me. The flaming red hair moved against my nose, tickling it. I held her to me, trying to forget what a slob and bastard I was to get her into a situation like this. But she would have none of my excuses.

'Take me, Somhairle,' she whispered, 'I demand to be taken.' She clutched my hand in her and I pressed her body, warm and quivering, to mine. Somehow I found the buttons to the dungarees she wore, and unbuttoned them, and slipped the clothes off her trembling flesh until there was nothing between us but the warmth of our bodies.

"She strained and twisted and clutched at me in the ecstasy of her stabbing, tearing pain, and with the unfeigned sincerity of innocence, she abandoned herself to me. And for me it was like dying and being reborn. It was a dizzying climb to a cloud of ecstasy such as I’d never experienced before.

"When the tumult and madness between us finally subsided, we lay there, breathless and sated and content, surrounded by the essence and magic of our love."
Bingham was a pseudonym of Bruce Cassiday, who, at the time, was serving as a copy editor for Argosy magazine, so, obviously, some of the lewd and lascivious nature of the Men's Magazines and Sweats of the day were leeching over into these adaptions. And even if that explains the how, it doesn't really explain the why for its inclusion in something clearly targeted at tweeners -- not that they were complaining, I'm sure. This was the story of a young boy discovering and befriending his pet lizard after all -- and the wrath of dear sweet mama when he tries to play with it. Yeah, I'm reaching there. And so was Cassiday, who wasn't done embellishing Gorgo yet:

"I felt her soft flaming hair pressing against my face, and I felt the warm soft curves of her body warm against mine, and I forgot all about the reason I had come to Nara. I kissed her again, and she closed her eyes, holding me to her with her arms twined about my neck. It was warm in the sand, and I gently slipped off her dungarees and unbuttoned her shirt so that her breasts fell free and gleamed in the starlight above us.

"She lay there naked on the sand, a study of voluptuous curves and gentle planes, and her moist lips gleamed. She touched my belt with her hand and released its clasp, and then her hands were around my waist, clawing at my back, crushing me close. We struggled against one another, moving our bodies into the age-old position of duality and completeness, and her lips tasted of salt and tears and I touched the taut nipples of her breasts and she cried out in the night and dug her head into the sand, arching her back to me. She seemed to reach outward with every fiber of her being, and surround me, and then she twined her legs about me in one terrible last shudder of emotion and the world whirled about us and the sea pounded on the beach and the skies opened and we seemed to be in the middle of space somewhere, with absolutely nothing else in the universe but us, our two bodies, and the one love that held everything, universe, planet, and us, together forever.

"Spent, we lay there naked in the sand, staring up at the clear night and the stars twinkling there, and we touched each other without a word, and let our sated, bruised, glowing bodies drink in the nourishment of our remembered pleasure."
Sure, I remember that part. That was right before the big Gorgo Jr. parade, right? Yeah, well, that ain't nothing compared to what happens in the novelization of Reptilicus. I mean, if you thought the monster was patently ridiculous, wait until you read about what was happening in between sock-puppet attacks -- according to Owen, that is:

"Then, hands on the gentle slope of her hips, she turned and faced him, her dark head tilted to one side. He stared open-mouthed at the rose-tipped breasts, the flat stomach, the perfectly formed thighs.

"He flung down the blanket and dumped her on top of it. She giggled, drew up her knees and bit his ear, pretending to fight him desperately.

You — you’re the most delightful female I ever met,' he panted.

"She squirmed away and he forced her back, his desperate hands on her knees. All the time she laughed shrilly.

"Suddenly she drew his face to her breasts, reveling in the touch of his lips. His mouth could not get enough of those hard, firm breasts and his fingers trailed all over her satin-smooth flesh, seeking and caressing, until desire was a hot blade in her insides and she pulled him closer.

"Expertly she guided him, her body accommodating itself to the savage lance of his manhood while the world spun around them in a riot of sensation. After a long blissful moment, she whispered in his ear, 'Have you ever been loved by a gypsy?'"


Then it’s a new experience.' Her body slammed furiously against his, arching and straining, alive with passion, sweeping them both into a vortex of renewed feeling."

Author Owen, one of the many alter egos of Dudley Dean McGaughy, who had a rather prolific career in the western pulps but also dabbled in lurid crime fiction, with titles like Three for Passion, Deuce for Death, and No Empty Bed for Her. And Owen's over-heated take on the only Danish kaiju-eiga was a large part of producer Sidney Pink's counter-suit against American International's breach of contract claims over the complete lack of watchability of Pink's film as completed. Want more evidence? Okay...

"He put his face between her breasts. 'We don’t know how long it will be before Reptilicus is sighted over Copenhagen, but until he is, let’s make every moment count.'

"She was stroking his back. For only a moment did she playfully resist, then she brought him close, hugging him to her, reveling in the riotous sweep of his hands on her naked flesh, instinctively shifting and moving her body to accommodate him.

"It was as if he had touched something electric deep within her. For now her whole body seemed to come alive. He felt himself completely enveloped and from his mind fled all thoughts of Reptilicus, of danger, of everything save this woman who was all female, all savage wanting, bringing him to a fruition of pleasurable feeling such as he’d never known."
There's more, believe me, with Grayson, Svend, Karen and Lise all happily boinking away, making one wonder which *ahem* spitting lizard was more dangerous, here. And for my sanity, and yours, I think I'll skip the not one, but two, attempted rape scenes during the battle for Copenhagen.

So ... Was it good for you, too?

Credit where credit is due: Many thanks to Steve Bissette, namely his blog, where most of the quotes for this tribute were cobbled from. And for more on the history of this sordid chapter of B-Movie-dom, click on over and read his exhaustive 8-part take on the same.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Highly Cunhalogical :: Richard E. Cunha's She Demons (1958)

Our adventure begins when four shipwreck survivors wash up on an uncharted desert isle somewhere in the Caribbean. (I think, meaning I think they're in the Caribbean.) Said survivors were part of an ill-fated expedition to find a legendary lost land-mass, where many a strange and salty sea tale of demons and monsters and sailors never heard from again who dared go ashore was born. (I think, but who the hell knows for sure. And, eh, it won't really matter in a couple of minutes...) Led by Fred Macklin (Griffin), his crew is rounded out by Sammy Ching (Yung), Kris Kamana (Opuni), and Jerrie Turner (McCalla), the spoiled daughter of the wealthy kook who financed this trip in the first place. (Jerrie bemoans the fact that the only reason the old man paid for all of this was to just get her out his hair for awhile.) Well, by dumb luck and dumb luck only, they've found what they were looking for but now find themselves stuck there indefinitely. Eureka! And here's hoping all of those legends are just legends, am I right?

As they work to salvage what little they can, a malfunctioning plot-specific radio sparks off long enough to report that the search for them has been called off and they're all presumed dead, and then, while Sammy tries to fix the infernal thing, it confirms that, one, the circling planes overhead are Navy scouts, and two, according to the pilot chatter, these castaways have had the misfortune of getting themselves stuck on Naval bombing range, with the next bombardment ready to commence the following morning! Leaving Kamana to guard the camp, the others head inland looking for better cover before the bombs start falling, with Macklin and Jerrie sniping and snarking at each other every step of the way. (Just kiss her already!) And aside from a menacing snake, a cursory exploration finds the island seemingly deserted. I say seemingly because they keep finding human footprints everywhere but no other sign of who left them. But upon returning to the beach, the trio finds their camp destroyed, the radio smashed, and Kamana dead with several spears sticking out of his chest! They also find another body, a native woman judging by her garb, rolling in the surf. Closer examination shows her face is hideously disfigured, twisted into demonic mask of pure and adulterated e'yuck.

Then, the sound of distant drums draws our curious castaways further inland, where they discover more scantily clad island girls (only these beauties appear to be normal) engaged in some bizarre native ritual. But, this orgy of dancing and bongo drums is soon interrupted by the arrival of a squad of armed jack-booted thugs dressed in Nazi SS uniforms, who round up the girls into several cages (-- some already full of disfigured captives like the one on the beach), save for one new captive, who is chained up and summarily whipped to death by the brutish Igor (Roth) as an abject lesson to the others on what will happen if they try to escape again ... That's right, folks. Not only has this doomed expedition been marooned on an island that is inhabited by blood-thirsty She-Demons and scheduled for demolition by the U.S. Navy, but it's also serving as a refuge for a band of rogue Nazis led by a mad scientist (Anders), whose experiments in glandular secretions resulted in all of those pathetic and distorted creatures. And the only thing that could possibly make things even worse is if this cursed island was perched on top of an active volcano. Well, guess what? And, believe me, all of that accumulated shit is about to hit the fan.

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

xx No, my dear. You are mistaken. It's only the
xx unimaginative who cannot believe that man is
xx incapable of improving upon nature."

-- Carl "The Butcher" Osler xxxx
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

She Demons opens with a stock-footage hurricane shredding some unnamed coastal town to pieces (-- this storm being the root cause of the shipwreck that gets our cinematic ball rolling), and that's a pretty apt metaphor when dealing with the filmography of Richard E. Cunha, where cheapness, cheesecake and exploitative sleaze meld together into a volatile storm of Buhwuhbuhwuh -- what the hell... that tends to overwhelm audiences with there self-destructive tendencies. But if you look a little closer, into the eye of the filmmaker, there's actually something pretty cool, unique, and even ground-breaking things going on in the middle of all that chaos. Don't get me wrong. Logic or coherency do not apply here. Don't bother to think about them rationally -- that way leads to madness, folks. But taken on their own Cunhalogical terms, his films are twisted, tweaky, and an absolute riot to behold, and, I believe, serve as the absolute zenith of independently produced Grade-B schlock.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Cunha, like a lot of his B-Movie brethren of this strata, got his first taste of filmmaking in the Army Signal Corps. After his hitch was up, he landed a job with Toby Anguish Productions, who provided material for the new and expanding medium of television, with the likes of The Adventures of Marshall O'Dell and Captain Bob Steele and the Border Patrol. When Anquish retired, Cunha and Arthur A. Jacobs (often mistakenly identified as Artur P. "Planet of the Apes" Jacobs) bought him out and rechristened themselves as Screencraft Enterprises. A lot of commercial work followed -- Texeco, General Mills cereals -- and the duo seemed content with that lot until one of their stock scriptwriters, Ralph Brooke, put a bug in their ear that they should jump on the insurgent monster-movie bandwagon, that had every crackpot crawling out of the woodwork to make their own hair-brained creature-feature at the time, and make some real money.

Cunha and Jacobs finally scratched that itch with Giant from the Unknown, the tale of an ancient conquistador named Vargas, who comes back to life after hibernating in the snow and ice for a couple of centuries to terrorize the town of Pine Ridge. A surprisingly moody and effective thriller, with a nice Hitchcockian wrong-man twist when the hero is initially blamed for the rash of animal mutilations and mounting homicides, Giant from the Unknown was in the can in six days for the princely sum of $54,000 dollars. Cunha managed to save money by skirting around the unions, sending their representatives to the wrong locations while he shot somewhere else with non-union extras. It was also originally intended for Cunha to only serve as the film's cinematographer but he slid into the director's chair to save even more money. Needing a giant monster that was just as cost-effective (read: cheap), the producers found Buddy Baer (uncle to Max "Jethro Bodine" Baer Jr.) to play Vargas. And his hulking, 6'7" frame, with make-up provided by the great Jack P. Pierce (-- after Universal unceremoniously dumped him after years of service), and decked out in fiberglass armor crafted by Harold Banks (-- who would go on to design and build the "Gumby" rock-creatures for Cunha's even more Cunhalogical Missile to the Moon), makes for quite a menacing figure.

Not surprisingly, it took longer to find a distributor for their inaugural effort than to actually film it (-- three months from inception to the final edit). Luckily, Jacobs had some ties to Astor Pictures, a company based out of New York, who agreed to distribute the film -- but there was a catch. The catch being that in those days of double-horror-bills, Giant from the Unknown needed a co-feature that Astor was willing to pony up for if Cunha and Co. were up for it. They were, and the end result was the ultimate Cunhalogical flick, She Demons.

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

[She Demons] used women as both sex objects and figures of horror, giving Cunha his status as a maker of rotgut kitsch. In sex, gore and a feeling of general ugliness, these were the 1950's nearest thing to R-rated shock as black and white American-made films went.
-- D. Earl Werth xxxx
The Sleaze Creatures

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Co-writing the script with H. E. Barrie, Cunha's sinister island adventure probably drew inspiration from the lurid pulp novels and men's "Sweat" magazines of that era. (Though a check of publication dates on a lot of these mags makes one wonder who inspired who...)

Also around this time there was a lot of global buzz about the hunt for escaped Nazi war criminals, namely Josef Mengele and Adolph Eichmann; the former providing the inspiration for Cunha's vile villain, Carl "The Butcher" Osler, whose dubious experiments are only matched by the callous disregard for his test-subjects. And after a lot of digging, the only other expatriate mad Nazi scientist angle that I could find that predates this flick was Sam Katzman's Creature with the Atom Brain. And, right or wrong, a lot of deviant medical/sexual Nazisploitation flicks, from Love Camp 7 to Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, were destined to follow. And, believe it or not, She Demons also beat the likes of Georges Franju (Eyes without a Face) and Jesus Franco (The Awful Dr. Orloff) to the cinematic punch by several years on the whole kidnapping nubile young women for some dastardly face-swapping experiments to restore the beauty of a disfigured loved one; in this case, Osler's wife, Mona (Tana). In point of fact, the revelation of Mona's damaged face is one of the more unjustly unsung *bleaugh* moments of this or any cinematic era.

See! *bleaugh*

And not only is the mad little Nutzi dabbling in God's domain in a glandular sense, he's also tapped the Earth's molten core for an unlimited energy source in a scene that rivals Ed Wood's take on the horrors of Solarnite in Plan 9 from Outer Space in both concept and execution in that neither makes one damned bit of sense and both, I believe, were unnecessary to the plot but necessary as padding to get the much needed 7th reel of film to break the magic 70-minute barrier. Anyways ... Luckily for Cunha's marooned party, Mona's guilty conscience (and her husband's less than subtle attempts to dump her and get Jerrie in the sack) finally boils over, and, through her, they manage to engineer their escape. For while the She Demons get their revenge on that lout Igor, Mona openly defies her husband and saves Jerrie, who is strapped to a gurney and about to have her glands scrambled.

Meantime, those Navy bombers have finally arrived, and as the island is pasted, Osler's lava machine overloads, killing him. With no hope for a cure, Mona remains behind, then, as more bombs fall, the long dormant volcano erupts, and our trio valiantly shoots there way out of the compound (and watch for a helluva nasty head-shot by Macklin, followed by a spectacular dummy death plunge) to the beach and the promised escape craft as the whole island implodes in a hellish inferno, taking all of Osler's evil with it.

Wow. All of that crammed into 77 mad-cap minutes. (And, to be honest, about half of that is still padding.) Even with an increased budget of $80,000 provided by Astor, She Demons was still brought in in just six days. The beach scenes were shot at Malibu (-- not far from where Jim Rockford's trailer sat according to Griffin), the familiar nooks and crannies of Bronson Canyon provided the caves and quarries, while the jungle and laboratory sets were built at Screencraft's own mammoth studio facilities. Yeah, those lab sets are pretty shoddy and the She Demon make-up F/X by Carlie Taylor, aside from that brief glimpse of Mona, is even shabbier, but there are a few things, and more than you'd think, that I can unashamedly trumpet on their merits. First is a rousing score by
Nick Carras that brings the percussion hard and heavy, which helps bring some gravitas to our ears when by all rights there shouldn't be any by what we're seeing with our eyes. The cast has some actual chemistry and play well off of each other, and though most of the overt comedy falls flat on its face there are some truly hilarious zingers to be heard if you keep your ears open. Also, mention should be made of a trio of action set-pieces that really stand out; namely the stunt where Osler is buried in lava:

Or the fire effects when Mona walks back into the inferno:

And best yet, a truly effective matte shot when a wall collapses behind our fleeing heroes to reveal a molten stream of lava.

Still, with all these minor technical triumphs, the gaffes and goofs in this fractured flick still rule the day; and none stand out more ridiculously than the epic fistfight between Macklin and Igor. Sure, it was edited together quite competently from many takes and cuts -- except for the bits where they went back and re-shot a few angles with a stuntman who is so not Tod Griffin and cut them into takes with the real Tod Griffin that one can only watch and boggle:

Tod Griffin.

Not Tod Griffin.

Griffin was a TV actor by trade, whose biggest credit up til then was starring in a Captain Video knock-off called Operation Neptune. Victor Sen Yung, his faithful sidekick, broke into the industry as one of Charlie Chan's innumerable Number One sons. This was to be his last theatrical credit before he switched mediums and moved out west to cook for the Cartwrights on the Ponderosa in syndicated perpetuity. And just by browsing their credits on the IMDB easily shows this wasn't Anders' or Roth's first rodeo on the whole Nazi thing, and Anders really has a ball as the smarmy amoral w├╝tender Wissenschaftler.

As for our bevy or beauties and dried oatmeal-faced demons, I give you the Diane Nellis Dancers. Alas, all further research on them proved about as fruitless as the attempted choreography of their salacious dance number.

But the real casting coup was landing Irish McCalla, who totally deserved her top billing. Coming off her own TV series as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, the former Glamour Queen and Pin-Up idol (she was an original Varga girl) was hired for her looks first and her acting talent last. Still, I kinda dug the spunk and unsuspected backbone she brought to her character that, honestly, was sketched out as nothing more than rich bitch with the gooey center in the script. I absolutely adore the scene where she backs down Igor in a battle of wits, claiming she "swished onto the island on a dry martini." Look, by no means does McCalla show anything, here, that would suggest any kind of career beyond these eye-candy roles. But ya gotta admire how she wasn't afraid to get into the middle of the stunts and how she butted heads with her director and refused to back down when Cunha kept pushing her to show more skin in the cheesecake sequence on the beach, where she changes clothes behind a makeshift curtain.

So pleased with the box-office returns on both ends of this wonky double-feature, Astor immediately commissioned Cunha for two more, which turned into the nigh inexplicable, even by Cunhalogical standards, Frankenstein's Daughter and the aforementioned Missile to the Moon, a cheaper remake of Astor's already dirt cheap Catwomen of the Moon. (I think they even recycled that ratty giant spider-prop.) Before filming began, Cunha and Jacobs amicably dissolved their company when Jacobs moved onto greener TV pastures. (Truthfully, you can kinda sense his guiding absence in these follow ups.) And aside from serving as the cinematographer on Ralph Brooke's Bloodlust, a teenaged take on The Most Dangerous Game -- that is nowhere nearly as retarded as that sounds, this, sadly, marked the end of Cunha's theatrical output. After which, he returned to TV, focusing on commercials. And that, dammit, truly and odiously sucks and a crying shame.

For, though his gruesome oeuvre may be small, one cannot deny Cunha's impact and influence on what followed. And with films like She Demons, Fiend without a Face, Monster of Piedras Blancas, and The Flesh Eaters kicking in the door, they paved the way for the grittier and more explicit fare that followed in the 1960's, culminating in another independent production, also made by a company known for their TV commercials, shot ten years later outside of Pittsburgh. Maybe you've heard of it.

Other Points of Interest:

This post is my contribution to Nathanael Hood's latest blogathon over at The Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear, where participants were asked to go all Bobby "Boris" Pickett on some gonzoidal monster movie gold nuggets from the 1950's. Hope you enjoyed it, and I encourage all of you to click on over and check out the other entries.

She Demons (1958) Screencraft Enterprises-Astor Pictures / P: Arthur A. Jacobs / AP: Marc Frederic / D: Richard E. Cunha / W: Richard E. Cunha, H.E. Barrie / C: Meredith Nicholson / E: William Shea / S: Irish McCalla, Tod Griffin, Victor Sen Yung, Charles Opunui, Rudolph Anders, Gene Roth, Leni Tana
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