Review: The Lair of the White Worm


Hugh Grant (Lord James D’Ampton), Amanda Donohoe (Lady Sylvia Marsh), Catherine Oxenberg (Eve Trent), Peter Capaldi (Angus Flint), Sammi Davis (Mary Trent), Stratford Johns (Peters), Paul Brooke (Ernie), Imogen Claire (Dorothy Trent), Chris Pitt (Kevin), Gina McKee (Nurse Gladwell), Christopher Gable (Joe Trent)
Director: Ken Russell
Producers: Dan Ireland, William J. Quigley, Ken Russell and Ronaldo Vasconcellos
Writer: Ken Russell
Released: 14th September 1988
Running Time: 93 minutes

The unearthed skull of a pagan snake god causes vampiric chaos in a rural Derbyshire setting.

Archaeology student Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) unearths a large dinosaur skull while digging for the remains of a Roman villa on a Derbyshire farm. The farm is run as a B&B by the adult but recently orphaned Trent sisters, Mary (Sammi Davis) and Eve (Catherine Oxenberg), who later invite Angus to a party being held at local stately pile, D’ampton Hall. While at the party Angus meets James D’ampton (Hugh Grant) and learns of the local legend of the D’ampton Worm, a mythical mediaeval white dragon who was reputedly slain by James’s ancestor, Sir John D’ampton.

Meanwhile, the mysterious Lady Sylvia Marsh (Donohoe) has returned to the village from her winter sabbatical. After learning of Angus’s find she steals the skull, which belongs to an ancient pagan snake god named Dionin, and reveals herself to be more than a little serpentine in the process. What’s more, the nearby Stonerich Cavern may just be the lair of another huge white snake, one which Lady Marsh plans to sacrifice the virginal Eve to.

Back in the early 1990s, Channel 4 had a short horror season titled Chilling Out. While I can’t remember all the films they showed (though one may have been the Harley Cokeliss film Dream Demon) I was intrigued by the few scenes for what I thought was a straight up vampire film called The Lair of the White Worm. It turned out to be a psychedelic monster movie, with vampire snake people, a giant serpent demi-god, and Hugh Grant as the local lord of the manor.

The Lair of the White Worm bears some similarity to Russell’s earlier film Gothic, with the psychedelic sequences and dream-like quality. The use of brilliant colour in the venom-trance scenes contrasts beautifully with the general greens and greys of the Derbyshire countryside and the film feels like a twisted, sexual fairytale. Amanda Dohohoe is delightfully wicked and brings a goodly amount of credibility to a bizarre role. She is gorgeous throughout, both in her art deco style costumes and in the blue body paint she later dons. Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi make likeable heroes and although the girls’ dubbed accents grate on the nerves a bit they put in solid performances. White Worm is a silly premise with a silly script but is played entirely straight-faced (except for Stratford Johns who plays a humorous butler) and makes for an enjoyable B-grade movie.

Three out of five white worms.


Posted in Reviews, Vampires

Days in the Dark: On Being a Child of the Cinema


This is a guest post by Mr Exploitica.

In the 1970s life was very much simpler. In 1971 I had had the great good fortune to leave school aged 16, never to return, and, with what now seems like haste bordering on the indecent, to get a job with a local light engineering company. For this I received the King’s ransom of £550 per annum – just over £10 a week, and after I had paid ‘rent’ to my mum, this left around £7.50 burning a hole in my pocket, whispering, sometimes shouting, always pleading to be spent in a good cause.

And there was the cinema. The best of causes. The only worthy cause. Yes, life was very much simpler then. No bills to pay. No other calls on my time or my albeit fairly meagre resources. Just the Odeon, the ABC, and occasionally the Focus in Crown Hill. Of which more later.

Of course, this wasn’t my first encounter with the Dark Mysteries. I was twelve when my Mum and Dad took me to the Classic in Crystal Palace to see Charlie Drake, Derek Nimmo and John Le Mesurier in Mister Ten Per Cent. I don’t remember anything about the film, but I still remember walking into that place and encountering somewhere bigger, more dark, more quiet (you couldn’t open packets of crisps or fiddle with your wrapped sweets in those days, or an usherette would escort you out), and altogether alien to any place I had ever been before. More trips followed. Goldfinger, Thunderball (together in one bill, those were the days), The Sound of Music (where for me the main attraction was a trailer for Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors) and others. But when I was finally cast adrift with Available Funds in late 1971, it was to the picture palaces and to Horror that I did head.

When I say life was simpler in those days, I refer not only to life in general, but to the world of cinematic offerings. There were two local cinemas, the Odeon (Penge) and the ABC (Beckenham, now perversely an Odeon). Each was single screen – multi-screen cinemas were still a glint in the chains’ eyes at that time. Each chain had a resolutely separatist approach to what films they picked up, so each week there would be two films on view, one per chain. If you were lucky, there was a double bill, a real, live, old-fashioned ‘B’ film. Strangely, though, there seemed to be more to interest than is the case now that we have 14-screen cinemas and nothing to see – the cinematic equivalent of “57 channels and nothing on”, to quote Bruce Springsteen (and even he’s numerically out of date). Less choice, but somehow always more motivation to go.

And go we did. My, how we went. Week in, week out, almost regardless of the film (or films) showing, we went. To the Odeon (Penge) on Tuesdays, to the ABC (Beckenham) on Thursdays, and occasionally, just occasionally, to the brand new, cutting-edge, multi-screen (it had three) Focus Crown Hill in Croydon on a Saturday afternoon or evening. If the Focus was accessible (funds permitting), that was truly a good week. Croydon has changed now, the Focus is long gone (replaced by a discount furniture store), and the town itself resembles nothing more than a 24/7, live action audition for the Jeremy Kyle show, but in those days, it was the height of aspiration for this burgeoning film lover, at least.

I’ve mentioned what seems like a fairly low level of available funds, but please bear in mind, that at that time, just on the cusp of decimalisation in the UK, both local cinemas could be accessed for 30p in the stalls, 40p in the circle (reserved for special occasions), and I-forget-what for the Focus (although it wasn’t much if any more at all).

Of course, none of this would have happened without accomplices. And accomplices I had – real, live, cinema-going friends (recently also exited) from school. I don’t know if you’re out there, but if you are, you know who you are. Four of us, discovering the joys of the moving image, religiously, Tuesdays and Thursdays, no need to discuss any arrangements except the meeting time, as programs tended to start at different times each week. No preamble, no meeting for a drink first, just the cinema. And a strict moral code as well.  You could talk during the trailers if you wanted to. You could whisper during the trailers if you had to. After that – silence. No talk. No whispering. No rustling of sweet papers. Nothing. Certainly no goons sending messages on their mobile phones, since mobile phones didn’t exist. I still think a complete ban on even taking a phone into the cinema, enforced by detector gates and armed guards in the foyer and made a capital offence with summary execution, is the only way to get people back into the cinemas. Much, much more recently we actually witnessed someone taking a call during a film, completely shameless, openly, talking. Maybe execution is too lenient.

Anyway, to the point, which is that among all this cinema-going, week in, week out, it was here that I learned to love Horror. Not the dreadful senseless torture-porn of today, but real, imaginative Horror. Portmanteau Horror (God bless you Amicus), episodic Horror (I’m talking about Theatre of Blood, The Abominable Doctor Phibes and the like), cheap follow-ups to classic Horror I had been too young to catch at the cinema (I’m talking Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, if you will). Everything a teenage boy could possibly want. I turned 18 in 1973 and the flood-gates opened even wider – although none of us thought twice about blagging our way into 18 certificate films before that, and the cinemas knew we were regular sources of revenue, and anyway, we were nearly 18 weren’t we…..? Week in, week out, it seems, there was something to attract the committed Horror fan. I remember seeing Don’t Look Now in a double bill with The Wicker Man. I think it was at the Odeon in Croydon, quite how I came to be there I don’t know. I do remember it was a long evening though. It was only years later that I learned that projectionists all across the land had apparently been cutting the Donald Sutherland-Julie Christie sex scene out of the reels at the end of the week and taking it home. I remember all the Amicus classics, Tales from The Crypt, Vault of Horror (there’s a  great scene featuring some occult revenge and an industrial guillotine, I’ll let you fill in the blanks), even older ones such as Torture Garden and the much-longed-for (in earlier years) Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors seemed to make comebacks. Was there a shortage of new films? I guess there must have been. Was there a shortage of new Horror films? Well the cinemas certainly seemed to know what would get people queuing outside. I still remember seeing Brian de Palma’s brilliant imagining of Stephen King’s Carrie from high up in the circle of the Odeon Bromley (again I’m not sure how I came to be in a ‘foreign’ cinema). I saw it twice. Straight through. Consecutively. My, they should bring back the days of continuous performances. Although  I can’t actually think of a film after about 1976 I would actually want to sit through twice, straight off.

Those were the films that coloured my youth. That was the lifestyle that I embraced, and the cinemas embraced me, us, all of us, we weren’t the only ones. There’s a generation of us out there somewhere. Horror. We loved it. Yes, we loved the cinemas, all of them, but most of all, it was Horror nights that we went for.

I rarely go to the cinema now. Nasty out of town soulless factories sucking people in, providing them with packets of crisps and smelly hot food with which to distract honest paying customers from their films. Home video and now DVD have taught a whole generation that of course it’s Ok to talk all the way through a film, because, after all, that’s what you do at home. The film as background. Horror as a challenge to good taste rather than as a spur to the imagination. Why would I want to?

I still love those old Horror films, but now, where I can, I have them on DVD. And I still don’t talk through them. Talk through the trailers if you really have to. But please, this is Horror. Please, give it the respect it deserves.

Posted in Horror History

The Bloofer Ladies: Adrienne Barbeau


Adrienne Barbeau may not be the first name that comes up when thinking of classic Women in Horror but she has a prolific career in the horror industry as an actress and a novelist. I first saw Barbeau in Romero and King’s Creepshow where she played the shrewish Wilma ‘Billie’ Northrup, but more of that later.

Adrienne Barbeau was born in 1945 in California and began her show business career in the late 1960s as a go-go girl. She soon became involved with several musicals including Fiddler on the Roof, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Grease where she received a Tony Award for her portrayal of Rizzo. In 1972 Barbeau took on the role of Carol Traynor in the sitcom Maude and during the six years the show ran she became close friends with her co-star Bea Arthur. She appeared in various television programs and films such as Fantasy Island, Quincy M.E, and The Love Boat as well as several TV movies, one of which was Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) a tense high-rise thriller directed by John Carpenter. It was to be Barbeau’s first horror-themed picture, but certainly not her last as Carpenter cast her as the lead in his next film, The Fog (1980), Barbeau’s first theatrical movie.

In The Fog Barbeau plays Stevie Wayne, a local radio DJ in the coastal town of Antonio Bay which is about to celebrate its centennial. However Antonio Bay is plagued by a mysterious fog, unbeknownst to the inhabitants is harbouring the spectral figures of a crew of sailors murdered by the town’s founders. The Fog was followed by John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1981), a dystopian sci-fi film written by Carpenter and Nick Castle, the original Michael Myers, and featuring Donald Pleasance and Jamie Lee Curtis, who had also acted in Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Curtis’s role was uncredited as she features as the voice of the computer, a part Barbaeu would do herself for Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and would repeat in Demolition Man (1993).

Both The Fog and Escape From New York featured Tom Aktins who appeared with Barbeau in Creepshow, though not in the same segment. Released in 1982 Creepshow was an homage to the EC horror comics of the 1960s and plays like an Amicus portmanteau film with five stories connected by the tale of young Billy (Stephen King’s son Joe) who has has horror comic taken away by his overly stern father (Aktins). In the fourth segment ‘The Crate’ college professor, Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver) discovers a sealed crate hidden away under the stairs of his university. He and the caretaker proceed to pry it open only to find a vicious creature resembling a yeti still alive and somewhat hungry after being imprisoned for over a hundred years. It attacks and eats the caretaker and Stanley flees to his friend Professor Henry Northrup (Hal Holbrook) who sees the monster as the perfect way to dispose of his alcoholic and emotionally abusive wife, Billie, played by Barbeau.

In the same year Barbeau starred in Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing, another comic book style horror film with a beauty and the beast theme. Barbeau naturally plays beauty, or rather Alice Cable, a government agent looking into the experiments being performed by Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) who is attempting to create crops that can survive in extreme environments and therefore goes towards eliminating famine. Unfortunately super villain Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jordan) wants the plant formula for himself and attempts to kill Holland by covering him in chemicals and setting him on fire. Holland flees into the swamp where he is mutated into a plant/human hybrid, the titular Swamp Thing, and proceeds to thwart Arcane’s plans and rescue Cable.

Barbeau’s next serious horror film, (the less said about Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989) the better) was Due Occhi Diabolici (1990), better known as Two Evil Eyes. This was another collaboration between Dario Argento and George A. Romero, who had previously worked together on Dawn of the Dead (1978). Two Evil Eyes is a double feature, both stories based loosely on Edgar Allan Poe’s tales’ ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ and ‘The Black Cat’. Barbeau featured in the former as Jessica Valdemar, a woman who has married the much older and wealthy Ernest Valdemar (Bingo O’Malley). Mr Valdemar is dying of an unspecified terminal illness and has been winding up his assets for cash, something that causes alarm bells to ring for Valdemar’s solicitor, Steven Pike (E.G. Marshall). However when Pike talks to Valdemar on the phone Valdemar seems more than happy to let Jessica have access to the money. Pike warns Jessica that should Valdemar die within the next three weeks she would be under investigation.

Pike’s suspicions are well-founded as Valdemar’s doctor Robert Hoffman (Ramy Zada) is conspiring with Jessica to wangle the old man out of his fortune by hypnotising him. Unfortunately for them during one such session Valdemar indeed dies and in a panic they store his body in a freezer in the basement, planning to reveal his death after the three weeks have passed. However that night Jessica hears strange moans coming from the basement and begins to fear that Valdemar isn’t quite dead.

Barbeau has worked steadily during the 1990s and 2000s, mainly featuring in TV movies, television series and voice acting for cartoon series and video games. She was the voice of the sultry Selina Kyle, better known as Catwoman in the animated Batman series and of Simone Lenoir in a personal favourite of mine, Scooby Doo on Zombie Island (1998). Barbeau has also featured in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Drew Carey Show, Carnivàle and most recently in CSI: NY and General Hospital.  She plays herself in the stil to be released  Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen and features in the thriller Argo, due for release in October 2012. Her autobiography There are Worse Things I Could Do was released in 2006 and her first novel Vampires of Hollywood was published in 2009 with the sequel Love Bites (2010) currently in development for a film adaptation.

Visit Adrienne Barbeau’s website.

Posted in Horror History, Women in Horror

Ghostly Goings On


A few years ago, TCM aired a double bill of horror films, The Haunting (1963) and Ghost Ship (2002). While this post isn’t an in-depth look at either film I wanted to use the experience of watching both films, one after the other, to illustrate why I don’t watch many modern horror films, and therefore why my blog concentrates on older films.

The Haunting is a film adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, which tells the tale of a group of paranormal investigators and their stay in Hill House, a sprawling mansion. Jackson uses the mounting tension between the characters and the sense of impending doom mingled with the emotional breakdown of the main character Eleanor Vance. The novel is a masterpiece of suggestion, and the ending is deliberately vague, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination as to whether Eleanor was actually plagued by spirits or simply a sensitive and emotionally disturbed young woman.

While the widely panned 1999 version of The Haunting went for an all out horror film with plenty of CGI ghosts, the 1963 film is more or less faithful to Jackson’s novel. The horror is implied and very little happens for the first hour or so, yet the sense that something terrible is going to happen slowly builds. The play of light and shadows mingled with the sound effects which vary from tiny tinkling bells to wave-like crashes creates the emotional charge needed to set the nerves on edge and add to the growing unease.

Richard Johnson plays Dr. John Markway, a paranormal investigator looking for evidence of supernatural activity. He contacts a number of people who have supernatural experiences and invites them to spend the summer at splendidly gothic Hill House (Ettington Hall which is now the Ettington Park Hotel). The only two to accept the invitations are Eleanor Vance (Julie Harris) , a shy and sensitive young woman who lives with and cares for her elderly and demanding mother, and Theo (Claire Bloom), an artist and possibly lesbian, bohemian. They are joined by Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn), the heir to Hill House, and resident sceptic. As with any classic haunted house, creepy things come out of the woodwork at night, but instead of gibbering demons or headless ghouls the terror is treated with a light but eerie touch, such as bending walls and booming noises.

Performances are solid, Bloom excellent as the cool and vaguely predatory Theo, though Harris seems on the verge of hysteria almost from the outset, as opposed to the creeping psychosis that slowly dawns on Eleanor (her performance actually reminded me a little of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, in that he already seems crazy before he even gets to the Overlook). As with the novel we are left to wonder whether the ghosts are real or not, neatly playing on both the fear of the supernatural and the fear of insanity.

By contrast, more happens in the first ten minutes of Ghost Ship than in the the entire 112 minute running time of The Haunting, though this isn’t necessarily a good thing. The story is fairly simple. An ocean salvage team attempt to recover anything of value from a luxury liner that went missing in 1962 and discover the original inhabitants are still there, in spirit anyway. Cue lashings of the red stuff, a ‘rocking’ soundtrack, some boobs and a sub-plot involving a demonic soul-stealer. Most of the cast spend their time either shouting to be heard over the sound of things exploding or whispering, meaning  just as soon as you get the volume loud enough to hear the dialogue the ‘rocking’ soundtrack kicks in, rendering you deaf while you grope for the remote control.

Despite being a ghost film the ghouls in Ghost Ship seem to enjoy a fairly hands-on approach to dispatching the crew rather than playing on their, and our, fears. The entire movie comes across as rather dull, in spite of the notorious massacre-by-wire scene in the opening few minutes, and while the cast put in energetic performances one feels it’s with a ‘let’s just get this over with’ kind of gusto.

Ghost Ship is just one of many horror films released post 2000, but it’s also fairly typical of its type. A film that uses cheap shocks and gore rather than creeping terror (and for those who think I’m completely adverse to gore read my review of Zombie Flesh Eaters), inept mixing in regards to sound, CGI effects (though it’s not only the horror industry who’ve resorted to almost entirely computer generated graphics), and seemed to be directed by someone more suited to making music videos. Mostly, and again this could be a gripe against most any genre of film that’s saturated with commercial directors and writers looking to make a quick buck, these films don’t convey any sense that the people who make the films had any love for them, and that’s really horrific.

Posted in News

The DPP List: Prosecuted Films

Following on from the Video Nasties post here is a list of the thirty-nine films to be successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, along with a brief synopsis and current status in the UK.

May contain some spoilers.












AKA: Rosso Sangue, Anthropophagus 2, Horrible, The Grim Reaper 2
Released: 1981
Featuring: George Eastman, Annie Belle, Charles Borromel, Katya Berger, Kasimir Berger, Hanja Kochansky, Ian Danby, Ted Rusoff and Edmund Purdom
Director: Joe D’Amato
Status: Released the UK with 2 and a half minutes of cuts in 1983 but withdrawn and not yet re-submitted. Released uncut as ‘Horrible‘ in the US.

Synopsis: Unofficial sequel to Antropophagus: The Beast and featuring George Eastman as Mikos, a seemingly immortal Greek serial killer who heals fast, like Wolverine. Unlike Wolverine he is completely bonkers and spends his time killing anyone he meets in increasingly gruesome methods until he is decapitated by an axe from an antique suit of armour.












Antropophagus: The Beast
AKA: Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper, Zombi 7
Released: 1980
Featuring: George Eastman, Tisa Farrow, Saverio Vallone, Margaret Donnelly, Vanessa Steiger, Mark Bodin, Bob Larsen, Simone Baker, Mark Logan, Rubina Rey and Zora Kerova.
Director: Joe D’Amato
Status: Released in the UK as The Grim Reaper in 2002 with 3 minutes of cuts. Released uncut in the US as Antropophagus: The Grim Reaper

Synopsis: A man shipwrecked years earlier on a remote Greek island is forced to eat his wife and child to survive. This drives him insane and he now stalks the island, killing and eating anyone who crosses his path. Notable for a scene where the killer murders a pregnant woman and devours her unborn child, really a skinned rabbit wrapped in streaky bacon. Also features a display of auto-cannibalism.











AKA: Lisa, Lisa; California Axe Murder; The Axe Murders
Released: 1977
Featuring: Leslie Lee, Jack Cano, Ray Green, Frederick R. Friedel, Douglas Powers, Frank Jones, Carol Miller, George J. Monaghan, Hart Smith and Scott Smith
Director: Frederick R. Friedel
Status: Released in the UK in 1999 with 19 seconds of cuts. Released uncut in 2005.

Synopsis: A typical revenge flick in which a group of three psychopaths seek refuge from the law in an isolated farmhouse and abuse the occupants. They obviously haven’t seen enough horror movies and are rather surprised when young Lisa takes gory revenge with a razor blade and an axe.













The Beast in Heat
AKA: La Bestia in Calore, SS Hell Camp, SS Experiment Part 2, The Beast in Heat and Horrifying Experiments of the S.S. Last Days
Released: 1977
Featuring: Macha Magall, Gino Turini, Edilio Kim, Xiro Papas, Salvatore Baccaro, Giuseppe Castellano, Brad Harris, Benito Pacifico, Alfredo Rizzo, Brigitte Skay
Director: Luigi Batzella
Status: Banned

Synopsis: A beautiful but devious female Nazi doctor tortures the male prisoners in her ‘care’ and tosses the female prisoners to a neanderthal-like dwarf who lives in a cage and is fed super aphrodisiacs which gives him a sex drive of Tiger Woods like proportions.  Crass exploitation cinema with the rape and torture of bored-looking actresses.













Blood Bath
AKA: Reazione a Catena, A Bay of Blood, Twitch of the Death Nerve
Released: 1971
Featuring: Luigi Pistilli, Laura Betti, Chris Avram, Anna Maria Rosati, Isa Miranda, Giovanni Nuvoletti, Robert Bonnani, Brigitte Skay, Guido Boccaccini, Paola Rubens, Claudio Volonté and Claudine Auger
Director: Mario Bava
Status: Released in 1994 with 43 seconds of cuts, released uncut in 2010

Synopsis: A ruthless land developer employs deadly family rivalry to get his hands on a picturesque bay. Gory and thrilling giallo classic with plenty of inventive deaths and a high body count.











Blood Feast
AKA: Egyptian Blood Feast, Feast of Flesh
Released: 1963
Featuring: William Kerwin, Mal Arnold, Connie Mason, Scott H. Hall, Lyn Bolton, Toni Calvert, Ashlyn Martin, Sandra Sinclair and Astrid Olson
Director: Herschell Godron Lewis
Status: Released with 23 seconds of cuts, released uncut in 2005

Synopsis: An insane Egyptian chef murders beautiful young women and serves up their body parts as part of a ritualistic cannibal meal to awaken the ancient Egyptian goddess Ishtar (in reality a Babylonian and Assyrian goddess but I’m just being picky). Widely regarded to be the first ever splatter film.













Blood Rites
AKA: The Ghastly Ones
Released: 1968
Featuring: Veronica Radburn, Maggie Rogers, Hal Borske, Anne Linden, Fib LaBlaque, Carol Vogel, Richard Romanus, Eileen Hayes, Don Williams, Hal Sherwood, Neil Flanagan, Ada McAllister and Robert Adsit
Director: Andy Milligan
Status: Banned

Synopsis: Three sisters are forced to spend three nights in a creepy old mansion to hear the reading of their dead father’s will. All very Scooby Doo until their husbands, a maid and one the sisters herself is murdered. The finger of suspicion is pointed at resident hunchback Colin, but is he the murderer? Predictable and cheap gory murder mystery. Presumably banned for the scene where Colin kills and eats a rabbit.













Bloody Moon
AKA: The Bloody Moon Murders, The Saw of Death
Released: 1981
Featuring: Olivia Pascal, Christoph Moosbrugger, Nadja Gerganoff, Alexander Waechter, Jasmin Losensky, Corinna Drews, Ann-Beate Engelke, Peter Exacoustos, Antonia García, Beatriz Sancho, María Rubio, Otto Retzer and Jesús Franco
Director: Jesús (Jess) Franco
Status: Released with 1 minute and 20 seconds of cuts in 1993, released uncut in 2008

Synopsis: Typical fare from the prolific Jess Franco in which a masked and hidden killer murders a group of young and nubile women. Could it be Miguel who was recently released from a mental asylum for hacking up a young and nubile girl with a pair of scissors five years earlier? This would probably have never been banned if not for the actual killing of a snake.













The Burning
Released: 1981
Featuring: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua, Jason Alexander, Ned Eisenberg, Carrick Glenn, Carolyn Houlihan, Fisher Stevens and Lou David
Director: Tony Maylam
Status: Released with 19 seconds of cuts in 1992, released uncut in 2001

Synopsis: Above average psycho slasher in which a summer camp caretaker is the victim of a misfiring prank which leaves him horribly scarred. After being released from hospital five years later he heads for the nearest summer camp to murder his way through the cast of likable nubile teens. Very like Friday the 13th and notable for having a soundtrack by Rick Wakeman.













Cannibal Apocalypse
AKA: Apocalypse Domani, The Cannibals Are in the Streets
Released: 1980
Featuring: John Saxon, John Morghen (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), Elizabeth Turner
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Status: Released with a couple of seconds of cuts in 2005

Synopsis: One that John Saxon would probably rather forget, when a Vietnam veteran goes out for a drink with a former comrade he can’t foresee that a virus that turns people into cannibals is about to be unleashed. Plenty of gut-munching ahoy here in this not-a-zombie zombie film. Saxon apparently signed on the dotted line without reading the script and was contractually obliged to go through the motions.














Cannibal Ferox
AKA: Make Them Die Slowly
Released: 1981
Featuring: John Morghen (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), Lorraine De Selle, Danilo Mattei,
Zora Kerova, Walter Lucchini and Robert Kerman
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Status: Released with 6 minutes of cuts in 2000

Synopsis: Two sisters and their friend journey into the Paraguay rain forest to prove that cannibalism no longer exists. They encounter two junkies who proceed to brutalise the natives until the locals snap and disprove the girls’ theory. Typical cannibal exploitation flick but with scenes animal cruelty that earned it the attention of the censor’s scissors.














Cannibal Holocaust
Released: 1980
Featuring: Robert Kerman, Carl Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen and Luca Barbareschi
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Status: Released in 2001 with over 5 minutes of cuts, re-released in 2010 with 15 seconds of cuts

Synopsis: A mockumentary film within a film in which an anthropologist leads a rescue mission to the Amazon Basin to find a missing film crew. After some naked frolicking with the native maidens the rescue team are given several reels of film which divulge the fate of the crew, and it isn’t pretty. More animal-cruelty in the name of art caused the extensive cuts in this film.















The Cannibal Man
AKA: La Semana del asesino, The Apartment on the 13th Floor
Released: 1972
Featuring: Vicente Parra, Emma Cohen
Director: Eloy de la Iglesia
Status: Released in 1999 with 3 seconds of cuts

Synopsis: Possibly a candidate for the Trades Description Act, this is an above average psychological horror flick in which a butcher accidentally kills a taxi driver and must kill again to cover his crime. Featuring no cannibalism, this was probably seized with other titles such as Cannibal Ferox.













The Devil Hunter
AKA: Il cacciatore di uomini, Man Hunter, Sexo Canibal
Released: 1980
Featuring: Ursula Buchfellner, Al Cliver, Antonio Mayans, Antonio de Cabo and Bertrand Altmann
Director: Jesús (Jess) Franco
Status: Released uncut in 2008

Synopsis: A model with the habit of losing her clothes is kidnapped by criminals who hold her to ransom in a cannibal infested jungle. Still the cannibals aren’t the main focus as a massive ‘demonic’ native with Cookie Monster eyeballs wants to eat said model as well. Will the ropey heroes rescue her? Typical trashy exploitation fare from Franco.














Don’t Go in the Woods
AKA: – Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone
Released: 1980
Featuring: Jack McClelland, Mary Gail Artz, James P. Hayden, Angie Brown, Ken Carter and David Barth
Director: James Bryan
Status: Released in 2007 uncut

Synopsis: Early US slasher clone. Backwoods hikers meet with backwoods wild man for cheaply gruesome murders. Generally slow with bursts of violence and lashings of fake blood.













The Driller Killer
AKA: Driller Killer
Released: 1979
Featuring: Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day, Harry Schultz and Alan Wynroth
Director: Abel Ferrara
Status: Released with cuts in 1999, uncut in 2002

Synopsis: The one that caused all the problems in the first place, though apart from the lurid video cover it’s hard to see why. More of a study in psychological breakdown than a slasher it still features the various Black and Decker inspired murders as a struggling artist goes slowly insane as pressure to produce a new piece mounts up.












Released: 1981
Featuring: Clint Howard, R. G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Don Stark, Charles Tyner, Hamilton Camp, Louie Gravance, Jim Greenleaf, Lynn Hancock and Richard Moll
Director: Eric Weston
Status: Released with 3 and a half minutes of cuts in 1987, released uncut in 2004

Synopsis: A young man being bullied at a military academy discovers a book of black magic which possesses his computer (naturally) and plots his revenge on the bullies, which manifests as phantom man-eating pigs (naturally). Fun little shocker that was nonetheless banned for its satanic themes and gore.











AKA: Trauma, The House on Straw Hill
Released: 1976
Featuring: Udo Kier, Linda Hayden, Fiona Richmond, Patsy Smart, Karl Howman and Vic Armstrong
Director: James Kenelm Clarke
Status: Released with 30 seconds of cuts in 1997

Synopsis: A struggling writer living in a remote Essex farmhouse hires a beautiful but psychologically troubled secretary to help him finish typing his latest novel. Sex and murder follows. A moderate thriller with elements of Straw Dogs but let down by too much emphasis on the softcore gropings.














Faces of Death
AKA: The Original Faces of Death, Face a la Mort
Released: 1978
Featuring: Michael Carr
Director: Conan Le Cilaire
Status: Released with 2 mins 19 seconds of cuts in 2003

Synopsis: Infamous pseudo documentary featuring footage  of various animal and human deaths. Some of the human deaths are staged while others come from newsreel footage of bombings, accidents and suicides.














Fight For Your Life
Released: 1977
Featuring: William Sanderson, Robert Judd, Catherine Peppers, Lela Small, Yvonne Ross, Reggie Rock Bythewood and Ramon Saunders
Director: Robert A. Endelson
Status: Banned

Synopsis: A racist redneck criminal has a frank exchange of views with a black minister when he and his cronies hide in the minister’s home after sneaking out of prison. Typical abuse/revenge flick though notable for being the only video nasty to have banned for its use of racist language.












Flesh for Frankenstein
AKA: Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein
Released: 1973
Featuring: Udo Kier, Monique van Vooren, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Joe Dallesandro and Arno Juerging
Director: Paul Morrissey
Status: Released in 1996 with just under a minute of cuts, released uncut in 2006

Synopsis: Dr. Frankenstein creates a pair of good-looking creatures in order to sire a perfect human race. Unfortunately Mr. Monster has the sex-drive of a plank of wood and so looks for an unwilling organ donor to increase the creature’s libido. Most everyone shags and kills everyone else.













Forest of Fear
AKA: Toxic Zombies, Bloodeaters
Released: 1980
Featuring: Charles McCrann, Beverly Shapiro, Denis Helfend, Kevin Hanlon, Judith Brown, Pat Kellis, Roger Miles and Philip Garfinkel
Director: Charles McCrann
Status: Released uncut in 2006

Synopsis: A group of cannabis-growers have their crop sprayed with an experimental pesticide which turns them into flesh-chewing zombies. Chemical-induced zombie mayhem with a few moderate gore scenes. See Return of the Living Dead for a better chemical zombie film.














Gestapo’s Last Orgy
AKA: L’ultima orgia del III Reich, Last Orgy of the Third Reich
Released: 1977
Featuring: Adriano Micantoni, Daniela Poggi, Maristella Greco, Fulvio Ricciardi, Antiniska Nemour and Caterina Barbero
Director: Cesare Canevari
Status: Banned

Synopsis: Tawdry Italian entry into the Nazisploitation genre featuring as many obscenities as they could fit into the 81 minute running time. Torture, rape, incest, cannibalism and poo-eating make for heady mixture of sleaze, oh and there’s a plot in there about a concentration camp commandant who falls in love with one of the female prisoners, if you can find it.









The House by the Cemetery
AKA: Quella villa accanto al cimitero
Released: 1981
Featuring: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander and Giovanni De Nava
Director: Lucio Fulci
Status: Released with 4 mins of cuts in 1988, released uncut in 2009

Synopsis: Supernatural shocker about a family who move into a house haunted by the undead previous owner. Though disjointed in parts Fulci maintains the sense of menace and the eerie eldritch quality cuts through the visceral goriness.










The House on the Edge of the Park
AKA: La casa sperduta nel parco
Released: 1980
Featuring: David Hess, John Morghen (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), Annie Belle, Christian Borromeo and Marie Claude Joseph
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Status: Released in 2002 with over 11 minutes of cuts, re-released with 42 seconds of cuts in 2011

Synopsis: Reliable rent-a-thug David Hess plays a murdering psychopath who gets himself and his buddy invited to a swanky party and proceeds to go stabbity with a straight-razor. Banned for an excess of sex and violence but now available with most of it back in.










Island of Death
AKA: Ta paidia tou Diavolou
Released: 1977
Featuring: Robert Behling, Jane Lyle, Jessica Dublin, Gerard Gonalons, Jannice McConnell, Nikos Tsachiridis, Marios Tartas and Ray Richardson
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Status: Released with just over 4 mins of cuts in 2002, released uncut in 2010

Synopsis: Despite scenes in which a man rapes a goat, a lesbian is burnt to death with an aerosol spray and a cigarette lighter,  a gay couple are tortured and killed, a woman is decapitated with a bulldozer, a ‘neanderthal’ of a man rapes a woman and a man is killed in a pit of quicklime this is a deeply dull exploitation flick with very little plot. Manages to be offensive without being clever, amusing or entertaining.












I Spit on your Grave
AKA: Day of the Woman
Released: 1978
Featuring: Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann and Richard Pace
Director: Meir Zarchi
Status: Released with just over 7 mins of cuts in 2001, released with 3 mins of cuts in 2010

Synopsis: Classic ‘rape/revenge’ film starring Buster Keaton’s granddaughter. Originally on the DPP list for the excessive gang rape and subsequent violent revenge, in particular where Keaton’s character castrates Tabor’s character while the pair are in the bath.












Last House on the Left
Released: 1972
Featuring: Sandra Cassel, Lucy Grantham, David Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain and Marc Sheffler
Director: Wes Craven
Status: Released with just over 7 mins of cuts in 2001, released with 3 mins of cuts in 2010

Synopsis: A pair of teenage girls are tortured, mutilated and murdered by a gang of vicious thugs who then unwittingly spend the night at one of the dead girls’ home. The girl’s parents discover their daughter’s fate and proceed to revenge themselves upon said thugs. Inexplicably popular murder/revenge flick that’s far too mean-spirited to be fun.















Love Camp 7
Released: 1969
Featuring: Maria Lease, Kathy Williams, Bob Cresse, Phil Poth, John Alderman, Carolyn Appleby, David F. Friedman, Bruce Kimball and Natasha Steel
Director: Lee Frost
Status: Banned

Synopsis: Two WAC officers go undercover at a Nazi concentration camp as POWs to find and possibly rescue an inmate who has useful information. However the rescue attempt by the French Resistance gets botched and the two women end up suffering lots of mild torture and softcore gropings. Silly Nazisploitation, nothing bloody or too offensive, unless you’re a Daily Mail reader.














AKA: There Was a Little Girl, And When She Was Bad, Party des Schreckens
Released: 1981
Featuring: Trish Everly, Dennis Robertson and Allison Biggers
Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis
Status: Released uncut in 2004.

Synopsis: Sibling rivalry becomes deadly when disfigured and demented Mary escapes from an insane asylum to stalk her unblemished sister. The killer? Mary’s outsized pooch. Gory thriller with a few decent atmospheric touches.













Mardi Gras Massacre
Released: 1978
Featuring: Curt Dawson, Gwen Arment, William Metzo and Laura Misch Owens
Director: Jack Weis
Status: Banned

Synopsis: A masked killer mutilates prostitutes during the Mardi Gras festival so he can make an offering of their their hearts to an Aztec goddess. If this sounds a little like the plot of Blood Feast, that’s because it’s a ‘semi remake’.












Nightmares in a Damaged Brain
AKA: Nightmare
Released: 1981
Featuring: Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith, C.J. Cooke, Mik Cribben
Director: Romano Scavolini
Status: Released with some cuts

Synopsis: Declared cured, disturbed killer George is released from psychiatric hospital. However the experimental drugs he’s been given to repress his murderous urges aren’t working anymore and after visiting a peep show he regresses back to his stab-happy ways. Average stalk and slash loaded with gore.












Night of the Bloody Apes
AKA: La Horripilante Bestia Humana, Horror y Sexo, Gomar—The Human Gorilla
Released: 1969
Featuring: José Elías Moreno, Carlos Lopez Moctezuma, Armando Silvestre, Norma Lazareno, Agustín Martínez Solares, Noelia Noel, Gerardo Zepeda
Director: René Cardona
Status: Released uncut

Synopsis: A surgeon transplants the heart of a gorilla into his dying son, resulting in the patient transforming into a monstrous man-ape which goes on a rape and murder spree. Silly monster movie that was probably in trouble with the censors for scenes of heart surgery.













Night of the Demon
Released: 1980
Featuring: Joy Allen, Rick Fields, Bob Collins, Michael Cutt, Jody Lazarus, Michael Lang, Melanie Graham
Director: James C. Wasson
Status: Released with 1 minute and 41 seconds of cuts

Synopsis: Satanism, sex and bigfoot feature in this 80s backwoods slasher which sounds more interesting than it really is. Notable for a scene where bigfoot scalps a bald guy with a bad wig.














AKA:  Slaughter, American Cannibale
Released: 1976
Featuring: Margarita Amuchástegui, Ana Carro, Liliana Fernández Blanco, Roberta Findlay, Alfredo Iglesias, Enrique Larratelli, Mirtha Massa, Aldo Mayo, Clao Villanueva
Director: Michael Findlay, Roberta Findlay
Status: Passed by the BBFC in 2003, but no UK release to date

Synopsis: A satanic cult look for people to kill and film their deaths. Inspired by the Manson Family, and infamous for marketing itself as a real snuff film, this features a tacked on scene at the end where a cast member is apparently murdered. It’s all faked, but rumours that is was for real helped it onto the Video Nasties list.













SS Experiment Camp
AKA: Lager SSadis Kastrat Kommandantur, SS Experiment Love Camp
Released: 1976
Featuring: Mircha Carven, Paola Corazzi, Giorgio Cerioni
Director: Sergio Garrone
Status: Released uncut in 2005

Synopsis: Typical softcore Naziploitation flick featuring plenty of nude bodies but little in the way of violence. This was probably initially banned due to the lurid poster art and Nazi themes.













AKA: Unsane
Released: 1982
Featuring: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi
Director: Dario Argento
Status: Released uncut in 2003

Synopsis: Classic giallo film featuring a masked killer who is inspired to murder his victims after reading the works of a popular mystery writer. When the writer receives death threats he must use his knowledge of crime to discover the killer’s identity. Stylish and shocking, it was banned by the BBFC for sexualised violence.


The Werewolf and the Yeti - Spanish One Sheet











The Werewolf and the Yeti
AKA: Night of the Howling Beast, Hall of the Mountain King, La Maldicion de la Bestia
Released: 1975
Featuring: Paul Naschy, Grace Mills, Silvia Solar
Director: Miguel Iglesias
Status: No UK release

Synopsis: The eight of Paul Naschy’s werewolf series, this time features Count Waldemar Daninsky journeying to Tibet to find a yeti. Instead he stumbles across two vampire women who turn him into a werewolf (of course). Landed on the BBFC’s cutting room floor probably due to the sex and gore.













Zombie Flesh Eaters
AKA: Zombi 2, Zombie
Released: 1979
Featuring: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay
Director: Lucio Fulci
Status: Released uncut in 2005

Synopsis: A young woman looking for her missing father, teams up with a reporter looking for a story, and travels to a remote island inhabited by zombies. Plenty of gore and eerie moments matched with a funky soundtrack, decent performances and a good plot make this one not to be missed.

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Review: The Satanic Rites of Dracula


Christopher Lee (Dracula), Peter Cushing (Lorrimar Van Helsing), Joanna Lumley (Jessica Van Helsing), Michael Coles (Inspector Murray), William Franklin (Peter Torrence), Richard Vernon (Colonel Matthews), Barbara Yu Ling (Chin Yang), Freddie Jones (Dr. Julian Keeley), Valerie Van Ost (Jane), Freddie Jones (Dr. Julian Keeley), Maurice O’Connell (Agent Hanson), Richard Mathews (John Porter MP), Patrick Barr (Lord Carradine), Lockwood West (General Sir Arthur Freeborne), Peter Adair (Doctor), John Harvey (Commissionaire).
Director: Alan Gibson
Producers: Roy Skeggs, Don Houghton
Writer: Don Houghton
Released: 3rd November 1973
Running Time: 87 minutes

Count Dracula returns to establish a satanic cult and bring about an apocalyptic plague.

Agent Hanson, a British Secret Serviceman, is being held prisoner at a large country house. His captors, a group of middle class satanists and guards who all shop at the same 1970s discount store, are holding a black mass ceremony, during which he manages to escape. Hanson later dies from the torture he received while imprisoned, but before he does he reveals that several prominent figures in society were present at the ritual; an MP, an army general, a peer of the realm, and a well-known bacteriologist.

To avoid drawing the MP’s attention to their investigation, Colonel Matthews brings in Inspector Murray from Scotland Yard to also work on the case. Having had some previous experience with satanic cults (Dracula AD 1972), Murray calls upon vampire hunter Lorrimar Van Helsing to add his occult expertise to the investigation. Recognising the bacteriologist, Van Helsing visits him only to discover that the man has been working on a particularly nasty strain of bubonic plague for an agoraphobic property developer named D. D. Denham. Of course Denham turns out to be a revived Count Dracula who is planning to use the plague to wipe out humanity, but not before attempting to put the bite on Van Helsing’s granddaughter, Jessica.

More like an episode of The Avengers than the grand gothic horror that Hammer was known for, The Satanic Rites of Dracula was Christopher Lee’s last portrayal of the count and the last Hammer film featuring both him and Peter Cushing. (Cushing would return for Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974) and Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974), while Lee starred in To the Devil a Daughter (1976), Hammer’s final horror picture before their revival with Let Me In in 2010.) Satanic Rites continues on from where Dracula AD 1972 (1972) finished off, with a present day setting and emphasis on devil worship. Though while Dracula AD retains a little of the gothic style with the mostly nighttime scenes and ruined church, Satanic Rites does away with it altogether and the result looks like a 1970s spy film with the horror aspects as interludes.

The black mass sections have some nudity and a little gore, but lack the atmosphere of those in The Devil Rides Out (1968), with Barbara Yu Ling’s character supposedly the head of the Dracula cult, but is given little to do but huskily whisper Christopher Neame’s ritual lines from Dracula AD 1972. Joanna Lumley also feels underused as Jesscia Van Helsing. Having had some previous experience with Dracula, it would have been nice to have seen her do more than scream (when she was conscious).

Bringing Dracula into present day was the final nail in the coffin for Hammer’s affair with the vampiric count, and though Satanic Rites is generally preferred to Dracula AD, I’ll buck the trend and say I enjoy Dracula AD more.

Two out of five vampires.


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Something fishy: Piranha and Piranha 3D (Some spoilers)


Occasionally Mr Exploitica and I play ‘If I had an Independent Cinema’.

This is a game for film nerds like us and involved picking the location, theme and films for our entirely fictional establishments. Mine of course would be Exploitica Pictures, probably be based in Bristol and feature the kinds of films I write about, with an odd Rocky Horror night thrown in for good measure. Seasons of films would also be important and one idea that crops up fairly often is a season of originals and remakes.

I rarely find remakes to be as good as the original films, only the 1979 Nosferatu the Vampyre really springs to mind as it manages to capture the ethereal beauty of the original 1922 film but also brings something new to the story. However Nosferatu is the exception as opposed to the rule and this is expressed very clearly in Piranha (1978) and Piranha 3D (2010).

Directed by Joe Dante Piranha is a spoof of the highly successful Jaws (1975) and tells of a school of genetically modified and highly aggressive piranha that are accidentally released from an army testing site and into a local river. Insurance investigator Maggie McKeown (Heather Menzies) and reclusive alcoholic Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman) are caught up in trying to prevent the piranha from reaching a nearby summer camp where Grogan’s daughter is staying. The gore is limited, aside from when local hermit Jack (Keenan Wynn) is attacked while fishing in the river and has his legs stripped to the bone, and mainly consists of underwater shots of people flailing about while the ‘feeding’ soundtrack plays. The humour is knowing (Maggie playing a Jaws video game, a guest at the water park reading Moby Dick) but still works, and the piranha effects are a little at the ‘rubber shark’ end of the spectrum. But despite (or perhaps because) of these things Piranha is a fun little film with a good atmosphere, beautiful scenery, a sense of humour and a few suspenseful chills.

By contrast Piranha 3D erupts into a welter of CGI blood and gore. A sort of remake, Piranha 3D features the killer fish being released into Lake Victoria, Arizona, by means of a subterranean earthquake. The prehistoric little buggers have been trapped for thousands of years and are tired of gnawing on each other. Well good news, spring break is upon them and with it comes several hundred tasty college students just itching to get topless and wet (ooer). The piranha start by snacking on local fisherman Matt Boyd (Richard Dreyfus), whose bloodied remains are found by Sheriff Julie Forester (Elizabeth Shue). Despite this disturbing find the town doesn’t want to turn away the income it receives from the tourists and soon enough the killer fish are eating everything in sight, and as messily as they possibly can. Now I have no aversion to gore. Lucio Fulci is one of my favourite directors, which should tell you something of how I feel about the red stuff. However in Piranha 3D the gore is the film. Well about 50% of it. The other half is taken up with boobs, lots of them, to the point where Piranha 3D feels like an episode of Girls Gone Wild with lots of CGI gore. Ah, the CGI gore. This is another bugbear, though there are other films as guilty of pixelating their effects. It’s sad when genuine artistry, as shown by folks like Screaming Mad George and Tom Savini, have been put aside in favour of a twelve year old with a laptop. Piranha 3D tends to divide viewers between “zomg this movie has loads of tits and blood, it’s AWESOME” and “ARGH! fucking hell! tear out my eyes and lobotomise me!”

Really the main difference between Piranha and Piranha 3D is the fun. Piranha feels as though it was made by people who love films and enjoyed the filming process. It’s well acted and gives us characters we can care about. It’s difficult to care about the fates of any of the characters in Piranha 3D, most of them are so detestable. Even the two children, who I assume were added as sympathetic characters, don’t seem to be too troubled by the death and destruction about them.

So, I would suggest going to the chippy for a battered cod and getting a copy of Piranha (1978), maybe in a double bill with Ebirah Horror of the Deep (1966), for a night of fishy fun.

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