Flesh For Frankenstein; or Andy Warhol Should Have Stuck to Soup Cans

Hello and Hallo-welcome to our last Sorry Mary! Monday,where we come to the conclusion that the video nasties list may not have been completely overzealous. You join your traumatised bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they … wait, where are you going Lilly?

Today’s film offering: Flesh for Frankenstein aka Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein

Lilly: I’m out. Mary Whitehouse was right. The censors were right. Bye.

Andy: But Lilly, we’ve got to warn people about…

Lilly: NOPE every man for himself. Women and children first. Please do not block the fire exit. Lilly out.

Andy: Lilly? Lilly? Don’t leave me alone with it!

She’s gone, isn’t she. Fine.

Flesh_for_Frankenstein_(1973).jpg1973’s Flesh for Frankenstein is yet another version of the classic story of science gone awry, but with some important differences. First, this one has Udo Kier in it. Second, this one is perverted beyond all reason. You remember how this one has Udo Kier in it? He has sex with a gall bladder.

He. Has sex. With a gall bladder.

If you’ll pardon my language, WHAT THE ABSOLUTE FUCKING FUCK.

Anyway, leaving that aside (how?) for one second, the plot is pretty straightforward. The titular Baron has been experimenting on a pair of creations, in the hope of getting them to mate, but the ‘dude’ doesn’t seem that interested. Realizing a replacement head may be in order, they visit the local brothel and hang about outside with a large club and a hacksaw. Unfortunately they get a dude who’s about to take holy orders, and was only dragged along to the brothel by his randy friend.

Meanwhile, the Baron’s sister/wife is apparently some kind of sex fiend, and hires a new house boy (and aforementioned randy friend) to service her needs. Oh what wacky hijinks will ensue! Especially when he realises his friend’s head is now sewed onto … another … I’m not sure I can do this. I’m gonna go stare at a wall for a few hours.

OK, I’m back.

Meanwhile, the housekeeper’s snooping; Otto, Frankenstein’s assistant is getting bitter that HE doesn’t get to bone any internal organs (no, seriously); aaand there’s two creepy kids wandering about who may or may not be the product of incest. That’s, like, the least messed-up thing here.

The trouble is, in the kindest of possible lights, you can sort of see what they were going for here. The characters are libido and sexual liberation taken to an absolutely insane extreme, and in the aftermath of the 60s, I can see Warhol wanting to satirise that. But instead we got this thing, that swings between boring and badly acted, to gross, to softcore porn, to REALLY gross, to ‘I physically can’t look at the screen’.

Plus, Frankenstein seems like a really weird choice to adapt and then put in a bunch of sexual shit (awesome “I’ll be with you on your wedding night!” moment from the novel notwithstanding).

Ultimately though, it fails in almost every aspect. It’s disgusting rather than disturbing. It’s gross instead of horrifying, and when it isn’t, it’s dull.

There are only two groups of people I would recommend this picture to. The first are Rocky Horror fans, because I’ll eat my own gall bladder if the lab from that wasn’t inspired by this. The second are people that complain that horror movies got pointlessly nasty and artless after the year 2000. Look on Udo Kier’s works, ye mighty and despair!

I mean, if this is going to bastardise Mary Shelley’s work, I can at least do the same to her husband’s.

Bleh.

I’m going to go shower.

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The Beyond; or Cover Your Eyes Not Out of Fear But For Safety

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Sorry Mary! Monday, where we get down with the video nasty list to see what’s so nasty about the films listed! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they stand at the top of the basement stairs, discussing who has to go down and check where the water that is flooding in in coming from, and also maybe figure out who is screaming down there.

Today’s Film Offering: The Beyond

Andy: If there’s one genre that can possibly stand letting narrative conventions go from time to time, it’s horror. I mean, nightmares don’t make a lot of sense, right?

So then, Lucio Fulci.

the-beyond-movie-poster-1982-1010685606.jpgFittingly for a movie with this title, we’ve reached the limit of what most people, even horror fans, would consider comfortable, and found ourselves on the other side. Something like Halloween, Alien or even The Exorcist can excite a giddy thrill after a few viewings rather than terror. I’m not sure whether I’m the sort of horror fan that would ever feel that about this movie.

Lilly: While Andy isn’t sure, I’m definitely sure–I’m never going to sit and watch this whole film and be like ‘on loop, let’s do it again, fun!’ I need a break. A long one. It’s not me, it’s you, The Beyond.

Andy: The plot, although bearing in mind what I said about narrative, concerns an old hotel in Louisiana. Here, an angry mob attacked two people residing there in 1927, brutally nailing one up to the basement wall.

Lilly: Not to mention scaring the doorman, or really, it seemed like he was only mildly perturbed, but hey, we don’t know, maybe this happens all the time at this hotel.

Andy: Unfortunately for angry mob, it appears that the house is built on one of the seven gates of Hell, and their creative act of murder has opened it.

Lilly: Which must have really hurt the artist, who had been painting up a fury to try and really capture the horror of the place. All that work, and apparently all he had to do was nail someone to a wall? Damn it.

Andy: Flash forward to 1981, and the hotel is being renovated by the new owner. Unfortunately, people keep having exceptionally nasty, uh, accidents. Especially after one poor bastard goes to try and fix a leak in the basement…

Lilly: And not just at the hotel do these accidents happen–oh ho no. Anyone trying to find out anything about the hotel learns pretty quickly that the first rule of Hell Hotel Club is don’t try and find out anything about Hell Hotel Club.

Andy: This movie 110% isn’t for everyone. It’s extremely, extremely gruesome and visceral, with all sorts of unpleasant stuff happening to all sorts of people. Neither is it particularly coherent, and in the eternal style of Italian horror, the acting is pretty dreadful.

Lilly: Plus, not to spoil the gore, but it seems like someone on the design team visited some FX going-out-of-business sale and bought all their eye gore gags and decided to use them all in the same film. I was grossed out, and not in a fun way, but more a ‘enoooough already’ way. Which, hey, might be some people’s thing, but it’s a nope from me.

Andy: Still though, there’s something here. The ending is fantastically sinister, almost Lovecraftian in what it implies. Plus I dig any movie that plays with the idea of Hell being something other than a big fiery lake. Other than that though, holy mackerel is this not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Lilly: This is a film I’d suggest only after knowing 100% that a person would like it, definitely. It has a good mystery going, and the visuals will definitely stick with me, but I’m not sure if that is a good thing? Is it flattering to know your film is something I never want to watch again if you were aiming to terrify a person at a deeper level? If so, you’re welcome, Mr.Fulci.

So, if you are into gory, grim mysteries with the undead and a threat of Hell breaking out, then this could be your film! If not…maybe check out one of the other Sorry Mary! Monday offerings, or anything else we’ve reviewed. We wouldn’t blame you.

 

Dead and Buried; or The Tale of the Lying Movie Title

Hello and Hallo-welcome to this week’s Sorry Mary! Monday, where we figure out if all video nasties are as bad as the list makes them out to be! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they head for that quaint little town no one’s heard of that may or may not have some horrible secret–you never can tell with these things!

Today’s Film Offering: Dead & Buried

dead_and_buried.preview.jpgAndy: This is exactly the kind of ridiculous awesome nonsense we hoped we would find in plunging into the video nasties list. Dead & Buried manages to be, by turns, an intriguing mystery, a nasty little horror picture and social comedy, and even ends it with a fantastic twist, all in under 80 minutes. Cool!

Our story begins with “Freddie”, a doomed photographer who goes from working to flirting to burned at the stake within the space of five minutes.

Lilly: Three of those minutes being spent taking poorly framed pictures of sea weed and driftwood and I’m not joking.

Andy: Of course, then he turns up later, looking perfectly fine, as does a fisherman who we see harpooned. What on earth is going on?

Local cop Dan wants to know as well, and what begins is an attempt to discover the dark secrets lurking behind the town of Potter’s Bluff. But who is responsible? Could it be Dobbs, the coroner (played by Jack Albertson, better known as Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), or even Dan’s wife, Janet?

Lilly: Gasp!

Andy: Meanwhile, people are still being brutally killed…

Lilly: Double gasp!

Andy: To say too much more would destroy the fun of an underseen and seriously bizarre little movie. It’s really worth going into this one knowing as little as possible. A word to the wise, it is gory in some fairly unpleasant ways (syringe, meet eyeball), but we also finished it with big goofy grins on our faces.

Lilly: It really is a strange romp into murder mystery/otherwordly goings-on, and I might even go so far as to say I’ve not really seen something like it before. Plus, I agree with Andy’s point about saying much more, and I LOVE spoiling things in these reviews. I really wanted to know what the heck was going on, and I hope you readers will, too! It has some fun characters, some fun gore, and some fun ‘runrunRUN’ moments of menace, and is super compact! No wasted time in this film, really–which is the opposite of yesterday’s review, come to think.

Plus! Bonus Robert Englund! I never knew I wanted a team up of Grandpa Joe and Freddy Krueger, but now that I’ve had it, well, I want more!

Andy: So, there you have it! It’s a recommendation from us, in this short review for a short movie!

Living Dead at Manchester Morgue; or Agricultural Subsidies Can Bugger All the Way Off

Hello and Hallo-welcome to our second Sorry Mary! Monday, where we rip a film, blood gushing and flesh rotting, from the infamous Video Nasty list! You join your grisly bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they settle in for graphic imagery and adult situations to the extreme.

Today’s film offeri

Lilly: Wait, maybe we should actually explain who Mary is and what a video nasty is. We didn’t really cover that last week.

Andy: Probably a good idea. A deeply divisive figure of the last few decades in Britain was a lady by the name of Mary Whitehouse. She founded the National Viewers and Listeners Association – a socially conservative movement aimed at stopping the moral decline of the nation and the march of ‘permissive society’.

Lilly: She sounds like a bundle of laughs.

Andy: Yep. In addition, public prosecutors had been seizing and destroying unclassified video tapes from shops under obscenity laws, and in the end provided a list of 72 films that were liable to be seized in 1983 – the ‘video nasties’ list. Of course, banning these movies had the opposite of the desired effect: by banning them they only made teenagers and horror fans want to see them more…

Lilly: Ha! Sorry, Mary!

Andy: The movies on the list have now mostly been released under an ‘18’ Certificate in the UK, either cut or uncut. Probably the best known movies on it are Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, Dario Argento’s Inferno and Wes Craven’s first movie, Last House on the Left. And while this may smack of nanny-state censorship, it’s important to remember that before this point unclassified movies could be rented by anyone. You want a 10 year old watching The Evil Dead?

Lilly: Ooh no. Plus I’ve read the list and a lot of these movies don’t exactly sound like high cinema – Deep River Savages, SS Experiment Camp, Gestapo’s Last Orgy

Andy: There is a lot of senseless trash. Buuut there are also some quality horror movies, and we are going to be looking at some of the best, starting with probably the most underrated zombie movie ever: The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. How good is that title?

LivingDead1.jpgLilly: It’s excellent, and great news! It isn’t the only title this film has! The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue is also lovingly known as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, translated from the Italian and Spanish titles (of which the direct translation is: Do Not Profane the Sleep of the Dead), and the highly confusing Don’t Open the Window. Confusing in so much as we have no idea what windows have to do with anything, save one particular scene where someone definitely should have opened the window–the title might be on the side of the zombies, actually.

TLDaMM tells the story of George, an antique/rare finds dealer who is heading out into the country to sell some odd looking stuff to a buyer when his motorbike is ran over at a gas station by our (not) intrepid female lead, Edna. This sets these two crazy kids up for not only the important plot point that Edna is a horrible driver but also why they are together in the first place when things get living deadly. The pair make a deal–George will drive Edna where she is going in her car, and he’ll then go on with it to his buyer, since his bike is out of commission.

The couple then start on a journey that takes them by a farm that is using a new, experimental technology to kill pests that drives their simple nervous systems insane to the point of killing each other. F U, nature, man has arrived, and he brought science! Some brief menacing happens, then we are brought into the third storyline of the film, Edna’s drug-addled sister.

These three storylines (jerk dealer George and his sidekick Edna, Science!, and the drug addict who hates her husband for trying to get her clean) converge into a fun-filled, terrifying romp when corpses brought back from the dead get rolled into the mix–because, you see, dead people, like insects, have simple nervous systems, so the—you know what, whatever, zombies be zombie-ing.

Andy: There’s just so much to love here. The most particular to me is that it’s so unusual to see a horror movie set in the UK, made by a foreign director and production company. There are a couple set in ‘London’, but this takes place in the area of, at first Manchester, and then the Lake District. Director Jorge Grau absolutely nails the dour, dirty feeling of industrial decline that infected the north in the 70s and 80s, especially in the opening credits. I have only ever come across one person who hit this same area with such an unerring eye: Liverpudlian and horror novelist Ramsey Campbell.

Likewise, his treatment of the Lake District is so, so good. One of the most beautiful, iconic and well-known tourist destinations in the country becomes utterly threatening: its gorgeous hills and valleys become hiding places for the lurking dead, its rambling country roads and trails become disorienting and deadly cul-de-sacs, and comforting peace and solitude becomes lethal isolation. Aspiring UK filmmakers in the genre, take note: THIS is how you make the English countryside TERRIFYING.

Lilly: Yeah, the rolling hills were what kept me awake after watching it. Spooky glens.

Seriously, the corpses are ridiculously scary in this film. They don’t call them zombies, so I suppose I won’t either, but they are totally zombies, people. They have blood red eyes, don’t die easy, and have super-human strength to kill you with prior to eating you–no joke, these dead ladies and gents are all about the strangle. And the noise they make.

Can we just talk about that?

It’s an inhale, then an exhale, but in between, it’s like someone is sucking out of a rusty straw and then wheezing out the dust that came forth due to their efforts. It’s terrifying. And that is all you hear when they appear–no violin shriek, no sudden cue to make you jump, it’s breathing but not breathing, a twist of what should be, like the corpses themselves.

Then there is what makes the corpses come to life. Agricultural science. Listen, we live down the road from a place that does work on science to do with farming, soooo. No. Too real. Can’t handle it. But it’s not just the sonic waves that make the corpses wake from death, so don’t worry, Lilly! Still a reason to be terrified! They can rise the dead even when the machine is turned off through a ritual of sorts. Great! TLDaMM makes a hybrid zombie that is part science, part supernatural, and all nope. And by nope, I mean well played, film! Even if I don’t believe in the supernatural bit, science does exist, so. Fab. Thanks. Thanks. I’ll never sleep again, I guess! Night terrors starring shamblin’, rusty-breathin’, flesh rippin’ corpses it is!

Andy: Between these and what I said above, I will literally eat both my shoes if this didn’t inspire Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Even the eyes are similar!

Of course, as any zombie fan knows, the biggest threat in any zombie movie is other people, and here again Grau hits a very particular beat. If 1968s Night of the Living Dead flirted with the fallout of the Civil Rights movement and the later Dawn of the Dead satirized rampant consumerism, this one finds the UK’s generation gap and pitches a tent in it.

As Lilly said earlier, the core conflict revolves around our hero George, and an older Inspector Javert figure in the unnamed sergeant of the local police (Arthur Kennedy, probably the most recognizable actor in the movie), who believes that the murders and chaos around him are due to these degenerate young folks running around, instead of, y’know, zombies. I feel he and Mary Whitehouse would have got on.

A lesser movie would have made him the straight villain, to our put-upon hero (and heroine) but TLDaMM subtly brings in some shades of grey. George is, of course, in the right, but he’s such a belligerent asshole about it that it’s not surprising that the cops get a bit ‘hands-on’, especially after some of their own number are killed. It’s certainly implied that this kind of thing has never happened before and they are grasping for a rational explanation.

Lilly: Which is good, because who on Earth would be ready to accept ‘No, officer, I didn’t kill that man, it was the walking dead?’ without a momentary pause, right?

Andy: (Side note: Their talk late in the film about young people performing “black masses” and desecrating graveyards may seem silly to us now, but it was genuinely something believed at the time!)

George meanwhile steals evidence, breaks into crypts and ultimately steals a police car, all the while expressing his distrust towards the police. An ironic “Heil Hitler” is needlessly antagonistic and childish. His arrogance in decrying the agricultural equipment early on means they are less inclined to listen later when the dead start roaming around the countryside. The ambiguity here is delicious.

Lilly: It also does some awesome work with making me believe its mythos using newborns. I mean, I don’t think babies have nervous systems like insects, but I get you, movie. I get you and I am creeped out by homicidal infants, so touche.

Andy: Is there anything wrong with it? Well, the dubbing of this kind of European horror can be really weird and jarring if you’re not used to it, and it is a bit of a slow burn for the first 45 minutes or so. It’s gory, but no more so than Dawn of the Dead and certainly less than Day of the Dead. It’s also completely unlike modern horror movies. There are no jump scares, no sudden music shrieks and no pulse pounding action sequences. The horror here isn’t in surprise: it’s in a man, purposefully, slowly walking towards you and putting his hands around your neck…

It also does that Euro-Horror thing of prioritizing visuals over plot coherence, although it’s nowhere near the awesomely terrifying Inferno in that regard. Don’t think too hard about how zombies get from Point A to B too much. Just enjoy what they do when they get there, through your fingers.

Lilly: Also, there is a bit of violence towards a woman that is sort of sexualized that I didn’t care for–why those zombies always reaching for a lady’s chest and why skip all that lovely torso meat for where that hand went to rip from, ugh? No one was reaching right for the man’s south of the belt to see what was tasty down there, is all I’m saying–but that is modern standards and we can’t be too disappointed that a film from ‘74 doesn’t met them. Well. I can be disappointed, but there is nothing I can do.

So are we recommending this one?

Andy: This may be in my top 5 favourite zombie movies of all time. It’s inventive, socially interesting, scary as hell, beautifully shot and with a score to die for.

Lilly: …So that’s a yes?

Andy: …Yes.

 

A Bay of Blood; or Some Bava Beans and a Nice Chianti

Hello and Hallo-welcome to our first Sorry Mary! Monday, where we rip a film, blood gushing and flesh rotting, from the infamous Video Nasty list! You join your grisly bloggers, Andy and Lilly, who are of the firm opinion that you shouldn’t go swimming naked in lakes that may or may not have dead bodies in them!

Today’s film offering: A Bay of BloodTwitchOfTheDeathNerve

Andy: Hey Lilly! Welcome back to Hallowfest HQ. OK, I think I’ve finished working out the plot to Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood, from 1971.

Lilly: Hooray! And have you … wow, that is a LOT of red string.

Andy: Yes.

Lilly: …You do realise it’s not actually attached to anything, right? It’s just sort of spaghetti’d on the floor.

Andy: Um. Yes.

Lilly: …You still have no idea, do you?

Andy: Not really, no.

Lilly: And you’ve been here for…

Andy: A few hours.

Lilly: How many?

Andy: Sixteen.

Lilly: Right. Anyway. Well, we wanted to watch this one for two reasons. Firstly, it’s considered one of the earliest slasher movies and an important influence on Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street and most importantly, Friday the 13th. Some of the kills are lifted straight from this movie! Can you plagiarize a grisly murder? Who knows!

The other reason is that we love Bava’s 1963 Black Sabbath. Like, looove it. It’s Hallowfest’s favorite portmanteau. So we were pretty sold even before we pressed play.

Andy: And as is often the case with European horror, this one was released under multiple titles, including the awesomely creepy Twitch of the Death Nerve. So what did we think?

Lilly: Weeell…

Andy: Yeah, there was a slight difference of opinion here. I loved it, and Lilly didn’t. But anyway, plot summary!

A fairly cantankerous and rich old lady is spectacularly knocked off, and as she owned most of the surrounding bay, there is a mad scramble for the inheritance. Some parties want the bay to remain pristine, as it is now. Other, greedier types want to convert it into…something. A resort? Concrete was mentioned a few times. As a result, pretty much everyone wants everybody else dead. And none of them are the type to sit back and let nature take its course.

Also four teenagers turn up. And there’s a guy interested in the local insect life, and his tarot-reading wife who keeps predicting BLOOD and DEATH and is generally a cheerful sort. Oh, and apparently someone’s been dead in the lake a while before everyone else turns up.

I’m … I’m going to go stare at my string some more.

Lilly: He’ll be busy for a while, so let’s you and me talk gory deaths, readers!

Okay, so we mentioned earlier that the gruesome deaths were so awesome, they were yoinked for use in other slashers. Well, this makes sense, since they were fantastically over the top, my favourite type of movie murders. One guy–get this–one guy got this weird hook knife right to the face! Like vertically through his eye and all! I don’t want to spoil any of the other kills (why else do people watch slashers, after all?) but I’d suggest this film purely for those. It’s not Sleepaway Camp levels of crazy, but it definitely keeps you amused in a sort of ‘OH SNAP’ kind of way.

Andy: In a slightly ironic twist, considering its influence on slashers, I was reminded most of the 1964 Peter Sellers movie A Shot in the Dark, a very funny movie where the one obvious suspect turns out to be innocent, and literally everyone else is guilty.

In conclusion, it’s awesome.

Lilly: Yeah, awesome gore aside, it really isn’t.

Andy: How can you say that? The plot made no sense whatsoever, the kills were awesome, it was unintentionally completely hilarious in places and it had that awesome bit with the wheelchair.

Lilly: “It has an awesome bit with a wheelchair”. I feel that’s what you would put on the DVD case, isn’t it, next to far too many stars.

Andy: In a SECOND.

Lilly: …So, go, watch, and maybe enjoy, especially if you like deaths being mirrored by the spinning of a wheel on a wheelchair like Andy apparently does.