Saturday, May 7, 2016

Brides of Blood (1968)

I first got interested in the cinematic history of the Philippines after watching the excellent documentary MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED.  One of the many marvelous things that documentary turned me on to was the Blood Island series of horror films from directors Eddie Romero and Geraldo de Leon.  Everything I read about these movies screamed blood, slime, sex and mutants, all the things we love best here at Radiation-Scarred Reviews.

Last spring at Cinema Wasteland, I decided instead of wandering the vendors' room aimlessly, I'd go in with a plan: I made a list of films I knew I especially wanted, and told myself I would hold myself to only buying films on that list.  I was fairly successful; of course, every film on the list was present at the show, just some were selling for more than I wanted to pay ("$35 for MARK OF THE DEVIL? I don't know...").  At the top of the list were the three films composing the Blood Island trilogy: BRIDES OF BLOOD, THE MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND, and BEAST OF BLOOD.  I think I got all three for about $15 from the Monster Bash guys.  If I'm looking for something from the 1920s through the 1970s that isn't too sexually charged, they've usually got my back; the only time I've walked away from their tables empty-handed was when I was looking for the boxed set collecting the original FLY series from the '50s and '60s, and they were just out of stock.

But anyways, back to BRIDES OF BLOOD!

The film opens by introducing us to three Americans on their way to Blood Island, despite their ship captain's repeat warnings of the island being under a curse and reminding them that a ship - his - only stops on the island once every six months.  These three are: Dr. Paul Henderson (Kent Taylor, during the period of his career that would see him appearing in SATAN'S SADISTS and THE MIGHTY GORGA), a nuclear scientist visiting the island to test for radioactive contamination; his sexually-frustrated wife Carla (burlesque dancer Beverly Powers, aka Beverly Hills, who also showed up as a stripper in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS and an uncredited role in JAWS) who is coming to the island for some exotic dick, and baby-faced Jim Farrell (John Ashley, in the movie that began his long association with the Filipino film industry), a Peace Corps activist ready to teach the islanders how to better irrigate their crops and build schools.

They quickly learn that something strange is going on on Blood Island; their first sight upon arrival is a native funeral, in which a dismembered corpse is thrown into the sea.  Local elder Acario and doe-eyed wahine Alma tell the Americans they wish they hadn't come ashore, and that the people of Blood Island have shamefully reverted to "the Old Ways."

They then meet with the "big man" of the island, a Mr. Esteban, who lives in a big Spanish villa up on a hill with - I shit you not - a household staff comprised entirely of shirtless midgets! The only full-sized person working for Esteban is his bald overseer Goro, who is very quick with a whip when the little guys get out of line.  Esteban gives them a brief history of the island, and Carla starts aiming her heat-seeking vulva in his direction.  Hey, he's rich, handsome and young, all things her scientist husband is not.  Also, he's willing to pay attention to her, something Paul flatly isn't.

let's just say that married to Paul, that bedpost is looking mighty appealing to Carla right about now.
Radiation has definitely affected life on the island - the beaches crawl with mutant crabs, while banana plants sprout tentacles and trees try to eat people.  But only at night; at dawn, everything reverts to normal, only in darkness do they become monsters.  Radiation is also probably responsible for the creation of the "Evil One," a hulking, green-skin, shaggy-furred humanoid that terrorizes the islanders.  Placating the Evil One is the "old ways" that Alma's so ashamed of, because the Evil One demands human sacrifice!

Specifically, the Evil One wants sexy female sacrifices - two "lucky" girls a night are chosen via lottery, stripped naked and strapped to bamboo frames to await the coming of their new husband.  The Evil One comes loping out of the woods and throws himself on the girls, fucking them with such gusto that they literally fall apart in his claws! That's right, he fucks them to pieces! Once he's satisfied, he returns to the woods, leaving the village in peace until the next night.

O-face? More like "No-face" when he's done with her.
Stranded and terrified on this island of mutant horrors, Dr. Henderson and Jimmy decide they need to destroy the Evil One after finding Carla's fucked-to-death remains being eaten by banana trees.  But wait...if all the mutant plants and animals are normal by day...does that mean the Evil One has a human alter ego?

Let's watch the trailer:

Oh man, this movie is a treat.  So many of my favorite things on display here - man-eating plants, sinister drumming in the jungle, half-naked (and fully-naked) women, radioactive mutants...the only thing that could have made this movie better would have been replacing Beverly Hills with Uschi Digard, but that's a pretty standard response from me - hell, I see movies made now, and think "Uschi Digard would have been better in that role."

The horror genre in the Philippines was really still finding its sea legs at this point; other than a Dr. Moreau-knockoff called TERROR IS A MAN, there really weren't any locally-sourced horror films preceding this one, so Eddie Romero really blazed a trail here.  With the rich, saturated colors (evocative of Fulci, though developed independently) on display here I'd love to see cleaned up prints of these films released on Blu-Ray.  My DVDs from Alpha Video are all well and good but I'd love to see Shout! Factory or Synapse (or best of all, my favorite company, Mondo Macabro) take a crack at putting these out.

I thought the film did a great job throughout - the building sense of weirdness is extremely well handled, creating a mystery that grows in menace over the course of the film as Dr. Henderson encounters first the shell of a mutant crab, then sees tentacles on a banana tree, then has a run-in with bloodthirsty insects, all leading up the reveal of the Evil One.

The special effects aren't amazing, but for the time period and the budget do just fine, and keeping things shrouded in darkness hides a lot of the weakness.  The Evil One, for example, is only shown full body to us once, and he's back-lit during that scene so you can't really see any detail, just this hulking black shape covered in shaggy fur.  But when we see his face in close-up, it's a bit hard not to laugh.

Pussy destroyer.
The Americans were all veterans of both the big and small screen, and while nobody gives a bad performance, nobody poured their heart and soul into BRIDES OF BLOOD either.  Beverly Hills did a great job screaming her lungs out and shoving her tongue in men's mouths, but that's about it, and Kent Taylor was largely forgettable as the professor, having all the personality and libido of his counterpart on Gilligan's Island.  John Ashley was fine as the clean-cut boy scout-type, and I was very pleased to see him know how to use a flare gun.

This is a thing of mine.  Flare guns in monster movies - I never feel like they're used often enough.  Ashley used his to scare off the Evil One, to drive back angry villagers, and of course in the explosive climax of the film.  More movies can take the lesson of how valuable flare guns are from BRIDES OF BLOOD.

In short, if you see a monster, shoot a flare gun at it.

Alright, this review's starting to run long so I'm gonna start wrapping up - for this iteration of Radiation-Scarred Reviews I'd like to be a little less scholarly and a little more visceral; to review movies as much from the gut and balls as from the brain, and that's going to take some getting used to for me, so bear with me while I find my sea legs with this.  I really dug BRIDES OF BLOOD and I'm looking forward to watching the other films in the series, plus I have a film that some consider loosely related to the Blood Island films, BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT, to watch again sometime, and that has my greasy little homeboy Vic Diaz as Satan so you know it's good.  If you haven't seen BRIDES OF BLOOD, I definitely recommend doing so, and if you're so inclined the full movie is on YouTube, though you'll get better quality from a DVD.

Also, supposedly (I haven't been able to verify) some drive-ins gave out chintzy plastic rings as promotion for the film to female patrons, making them "brides" of the Evil One.  I haven't been able to find a picture of one of these (probably none still exist) and 1968 is surprisingly late for that kind of promotional gimmick, but I kinda love it.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Eye of the Tiger (1986)

One of my big inspirations in coming back to this was Jocelyn over at The Church of Splatter-Day Saints.  Talking with her about cult/weird/exploitation film was the final spark I needed to resume writing about movies.  And her recent review of 1985's SAVAGE DAWN made up my mind what my come-back review would be.  I didn't have a copy of SAVAGE DAWN handy, but it reminded me of a movie I knew I did have: 1986's EYE OF THE TIGER, starring Gary Busey and Yaphet Kotto, from director Richard Serafian, best known as the director of VANISHING POINT.

Gary Busey (SILVER BULLET, PREDATOR 2) stars as Buck Matthews, a Vietnam Vet just released from prison following a murder charge.  Upon returning home to his wife (Denise Galik, of HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP) and daughter (Judith Barsi, who was, holy shit, murdered two years later by her father), he immediately finds himself in trouble with the Sheriff (Seymour Cassel, of COOGAN'S BLUFF and CONVOY), who doesn't like him and wants him out of town.  The only person on his side besides his wife and kid is J.B. (Yaphet Kotto, ALIEN, TRUCK TURNER), the deputy sheriff and fellow veteran of Vietnam.  

Buck just wants to get back to living his life, however, but that plan gets shot to shit when he stops a couple members of a biker gang from raping a young nurse.  The leader of the bikers, Blade (William Smith, of a number of biker films, as well as playing Conan's dad in CONAN THE BARBARIAN) takes it personally and responds by beating Buck up, killing his wife and putting his daughter in a coma.

Now Buck's mad.  And what happens when you make Gary Busey mad?

You get your shit pushed in on a Biblical scale.

Sheriff pencil-dick here has a lot coming to him.
Buck calls in a favor from Jamie (Jorge Gil, COCOON), a Miami drug kingpin he rescued during a prison riot, gaining an armored truck and a few other surprises for his one-man war against the bikers.  He starts small - razor wire strung across a street at night takes the heads off a couple bikers.  Things escalate from there - including a fucking improvised airstrike with bombs dropped by hand from a crop-duster - until it's just Buck and Blade, facing off in the desert.  

Here's the trailer:

Fuck me running, this movie is amazing.  Once the action starts up it doesn't let go for anything.  Busey hasn't achieved full Busey-insanity (or as I call it, Busanity) yet at this point, but he's crazy enough to be believable as Buck, a man pushed to his breaking point.  Like I said, severing heads is just where his quest for vengeance begins.  Ever see a man torture another man for information by shoving a stick of dynamite up his ass and lighting the fuse? Buck does it to one of the bikers! I literally said "no fucking way" out loud when I saw that, and I almost never speak when watching a film.  This is the low-budget love child of COMMANDO and FIRST BLOOD that I never knew I needed this badly.  If I ever need to rain down Hell on someone, I'm calling Busey.  

Films like this are why I love character actors so much.  I could give a shit about the latest greatest
actor up on the block.  Give me "those guys" who work for decades - and EYE OF THE TIGER is full of them; William Smith, Seymour Cassel, even Yaphet Kotto I think falls into this category despite some starring roles under his belt.  Another one that I didn't mention before was Bert Remsen, who I know best as Grandpa in the film TERRORVISION, who appears here as a Catholic priest who's done taking shit from the Sheriff.

There's not a ton of gore on display here, mostly just some fire engine red blood on the pavement following the decapitations, and some of the hand to hand fighting isn't really well coordinated, or at least not shot from optimum angles; there's at least once where you can see that Buck's fist doesn't quite make contact with a face.

To top it all off, the film begins and ends with the song "Eye of the Tiger."  Kickass.

Shout! Factory put out a beautiful print of this film on DVD in a four-pack with CYCLONE, ALIENATOR and EXTERMINATOR 2.  I was actually surprised at how clean the film looked here.

Closing Thoughts: I really dug this movie.  I went into it with high hopes of Busey being crazy and shit getting blow'd up real good, and I was not disappointed on either of those points.  I thought that a lot of the violence was really creative and came to characters that deserved it, though there was one plot point I would have brought up earlier if I were making this movie - that Buck was framed for murder.  Overall though, a really enjoyable film that I will give an unreserved recommendation.  See it!


This is for me.

I started the original Radiation-Scarred Reviews in December of 2008.  The relationship I was in at the time, with a beautiful, brilliant woman, was coming to a close - nobody's fault, just us growing apart - and I knew I needed a distraction to keep myself from grieving over the end of the relationship.  So I started a blog about horror movies.

Radiation-Scarred Reviews lasted longer than the grieving period, and began to grow.  I began to attend horror conventions and write for other sites, with Radiation-Scarred Reviews acting as my gateway into all this.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that this was supposed to be fun.  I started to stress myself out about the fact that I felt like nobody was reading my writing, that I felt like I was in a vacuum and started to wonder what was the point.  The search terms that pointed people to my blog showed that all anybody seemed to care about was finding nude photos of various actresses.  I finally threw up my hands in exasperation and walked away.

That was a year ago.

In the interim between then and now, I've realized that I've missed having this outlet to geek out and throw my opinions around about the weird and obscure movies I watch.  I've waffled back and forth on resurrecting Radiation-Scarred Reviews but after a pep talk from another cult movie freak like myself, I realized it was the right thing to do - but I have to be doing it for me, not for anyone else.  I'm not going to worry myself about update schedules or reviewing what other people want to see reviewed; I'm going to review movies that I want to see, and do so on my own time.  To do otherwise will be to depress myself aggravate myself again.