Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Since Edgar Allan Poe really invented the detective story, it’s only logical (and Poe would agree) that he be used as protagonist in stories featuring the technique of “deductive reasoning”.

THE MASK OF RED DEATH appears to the third in a series of books written by renowned true crime author and scholar, Professor Harold Schecter. NEVERMORE and THE HUM BUG are numbers 1 & 2, respectively. A fourth, THE TELL-TALE CORPSE, was released some time ago, and I am unaware at this time of any newer Poe books by Professor Schecter.

There is another book out there called NEVERMORE, but was written by William Hjortsberg. It has Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini investigating murders which are committed in the style of those found in Poe’s stories.

THE MASK OF RED DEATH has Poe pulled into an investigation into the brutal, disfigurement deaths of two little girls in the summer of 1845. To make matters worse, the livers of both children are missing as well. It is suspected that New York City is dealing with a cannibal killer. As revolted as Poe is by all this, he is also darkly intrigued as well. To reveal more of what happens could possibly spoil the book for you, so I’m electing to keep my cards close to the vest here.

It is not a spoiler to let you know that famous frontier scout Kit Carson shows up to help Poe because of his experience in dealing with a certain liver-eating mountain man from Carson’s own past.

Chalk one up in the “win” column for Professor Schecter here. He’s got the tone of the period down pat and one could well believe that Poe himself had written the narrative. I can give no higher compliment than that.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

PIRANHA (2010)

This is the same movie released in 3D this past summer, and although it’s only in 2D here, you can pretty well tell which scenes would have looked bitchin’ in the 3D version.

The joke guest star of the movie is Richard Dreyfus, who turns out to be first on the menu. Not blowing anything by telling you that because it’s pretty obvious from the get-go that he’s going to be the baptismal munchee.

While our hero is fishing, an underwater earthquake hits and releases prehistoric piranha fish that have been trapped in some sub-aquatic cave for presumably millions of years. They’ve survived this long, we later learn, because of their cannibalistic tendencies.

Spring break hits the Lake Victoria area rather hard and of course there are the requisite drunken butt-head college students who flaunt authority in much the same way you see them do it on those TRU-TV Beach Patrol “reality” shows. So it’s kinda fun to see them getting ripped to shreds; a bonus treat is that it definitely kills the kids’ booze buzz, too.

There are tits o’plenty here because a “Girls Gone Wild” type video director (Jerry O’Connell) is on hand to film all kinds of nude decadence, including topless hang-gliding. We later get to “enjoy” one of the best penis sight gags in cinematic history (next to the one in Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno”, which features a talking tallywhacker), involving the sleazy porn director. And yes, THAT scene was set up to be seen in 3D.

It looks as though Dimension Films spared no expense in make-up, stage blood and ultra-ghastly wound effects to make this movie unforgettable. There are nude underwater ballets, a couple of girls ripped asunder by a flying cable and something awful that happens to a girl whose hair is caught up in a boat propeller.

Elizabeth Shue plays the town Sheriff and Ving Rhames as her main deputy. I don’t recall Mr. Rhames being interviewed for the DVD’s featurettes, but Ms. Shue mentions that she was drawn to the movie to develop her character. I’m sure that probably a six or seven-figure paycheck didn’t hurt, either. How much development does a character get by pulling body parts out of the water?

Good to see that Christopher Lloyd was available to play a land-based marine biologist in his usual disorganized fashion. Guess the Producers couldn’t get Crispin Glover as a first choice. Mr. Lloyd should have puffed his hair out more to enhance that scatterbrained scientist look that he pulls off so well.

Fun stuff, especially if you enjoy seeing some folks get just what they deserve.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Gratitude and much love goes out to Tina Buckner for sparing no effort to re-acquire this movie. Her original VHS copy had disappeared somewhere along the line. She’d been telling me for several months about how awful it was and how bad she wanted me to see it. Her faith that I would find it as amusing as she does is totally justified.

This movie claims to be a “Part 3” although it really isn’t. The original BEYOND THE DOOR was one of the first of the “Exorcist” rip-offs that I remember. I haven’t seen BEYOND THE DOOR II, so I don’t know if the story continues from the first movie (can anyone out there help me with this?). BEYOND THE DOOR III (which is also known as THE TRAIN) is a masterpiece of ineptitude.

The only “name” actor is this movie is Bo Svenson, who plays a Serbian professor. Cultured and sophisticated, the good professor takes a group of American students under his wing – and reveals quickly that he is not so “good”. He disappears for quite a while in the film and then shows up again for the climax.

The story concerns Beverly (the grating Mary Kohnert), a young lady with an odd birthmark around her navel. She’s on her way to visit Serbia, where her mother is from, with some school friends. Off she goes after a gratuitous shower scene where we get a good look at the birthmark and her less than impressive bosom.

Meanwhile, sinister forces are at work, setting Beverly’s mother up to die. An “accident” launches a big piece of lumber from the back of a construction truck through Mom’s car windshield, effectively taking her head off. It was a pretty funny scene when one sees that the special effects crew used an obvious rubber body to send the plank through.

Cut to the students arriving in Serbia where the professor meets and greets them. Before they sail off to wherever they’re going, the professor is handed a telegram for Beverly which is to let her know of her mother’s tragic demise. He wads up the telegram and throws it in the river.

This movie is peppered with some unintentionally hilarious moments. For instance:

1. Several “long” shots of the train they’re supposed to be on actually reveals the poorly constructed miniatures.
2. One can see wires moving train tracks and pulling the locomotive.
3. In the end credits, we learn that this movie is in Dolby sound – in “Selected Theaters”. You mean this piece o’ shit was actually shown in theaters?

Here’s what I learned from this movie:

1. It’s ok for people not to demonstrate consternation when something odd has just happened to them.
2. Decapitation changes a blonde girl’s hair to brunette.
3. The term “Time to Party” really DOES mean “Time to Party” in most cases. Here, though, it seems to mean “I’m supposed to be scared shitless but I don’t have the talent to act like it”.
4. Serbian villagers can save a TON of money on mouthwash when they communicate mainly by clicking rocks together. I was beginning to hope that the villagers would turn toward the camera and begin stoning the director.
5. You don’t feel fire burning you if you’re sitting up with your eyes open and yet you’re still asleep.
6. Being nailed shut into a hut is no big deal if the wood itself can easily be kicked out at the bottom of the door.
7. It’s not at all uncomfortable for a toothless old hag to stick her hand inside a young lady’s underwear to check on the status of her virginity.
8. You can still play a wood “recorder” even if you don’t completely stick the tip in your mouth.
9. Stupid, hunky college boys with feathered hair – and who look like yuppie ski instructors – should ALWAYS die in pieces underneath speeding train wheels.
10. There’s no guarantee when the director yells “action” that you’ll get anything more than the cardboard performances we see from the “actors” here.
11. All Serbian village women are only slightly less attractive than Ernest Borgnine.
12. Wearing a giant hot dog outfit on a street corner to promote some eatery would be less embarrassing than having been in this movie.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that being in this epic probably paid about half a semester of these kids’ college education. There’s a decent shot that it also kept them in Big Macs and Bennies during said semester.

Bo Svenson, at that time anyway (1989), would apparently do any film for a minimal paycheck. Hope he got extra for having to wear that awful chin beard. This was a far cry from playing Buford Pusser in several of those “Walking Tall” sequels.

Let’s hope that the director of this opus, Jeff Kwitney, is still somewhere directing. Traffic, preferably. Perhaps in Serbia?

Thanks, Tina – you continue to be a doll and one of our favorite people!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


If you follow this blog, or any of my others, chances are you know that I’m a sucker for very strange – some would even say “effed up” - movies. Any new readers will soon understand this as well.

I was so intrigued with this one, that I did something I’ve never done before: rented it on DVD at a local Blockbuster. Usually we just buy DVDs when they come out, but I could not find this for sale in Blockbuster’s used bins, so renting it was the only option I had.

Here’s the premise: Millard Findlemeyer (the not-quite-stable Gary Busey) shoots and kills two members of the Leigh family but fails to fatally shoot the daughter, Sarah, at a diner. Millard is arrested, tried, convicted and sent to the electric chair, all because Sarah lives to testify.

Mama Findlemeyer (whom we only see as a cloaked figure) hauls Millard’s cremated ashes home and mixes them in with some ginger spice. She then leaves this mixture on the doorstep of the Leigh bakery (now managed by Sarah and her alcoholic mother, who was not in the diner at the time of the killings).

One of Sarah’s employees, Brick, uses the mixture as a base for making a rather big gingerbread cookie. During the preparation, Brick cuts his arm and carelessly, apparently unknowingly, bleeds into the cookie mix. The blood acts as a rejuvenator and viola!, we have a very pissed off Millard, in gingerbread form, starting another murder spree. Yes, folks, he is a serial killing cookie!

A couple of mutilations, a few deaths and Millard’s attempt to turn a girl into a giant cookie (with stemmed cherries where her nipples would be) later, we have a showdown between Brick (a wanna-be wrestler) and Millard. Through a detail that I don’ t want to ruin for you here, Brick becomes possessed by Millard’s spirit and has to be dealt with in an unfortunate way.

Even though there are big errors in this movie, I guess that if one can accept a murderous cookie who manages not to get stomped back into ground powder, there’s no sense in asking yourself “why weren’t the police….” Or any one of a dozen other questions you might have.

How the actors managed to keep a straight face through this whole thing is beyond me. Therein, however, is the “charm” of this whole movie. No matter how absurd the script was, everyone in the film treats it seriously. My hat is off to all the actors.

This is one of these movies that if one is not “impaired” when they begin to watch it, they will probably feel stoned after it is over. If you have children who watch this, they will probably roll their eyes and complain that “this movie is dumb”. Can’t argue that, but it IS fun!

Short running time – just about 62 minutes (not including end credits).