October 28th, 2008

BREAKHEART PASS (1976) **

In the 1880’s, a murderer hiding out on a train heading west picks off its passengers one by one.  Charles Bronson stars as a doctor/undercover agent who investigates and tries to catch the killer.  In the end, we learn that the murders are all a ruse for some gun runners who are in cahoots with a tribe of Indians and it’s up to Chuck to stop them. 

 

This odd mixture of Agatha Christie and Louis L’Amour (written by Alistair MacLean) doesn’t exactly work.  Much of Breakheart Pass is pretty slow moving and the search for the murderer’s identity is rather uninvolving.  While the plot is thoroughly convoluted, the film certainly has its moments.  Even though the murders themselves are lackluster, the occasional action scene will spark your interest.  The fistfight on top of the train was pretty decent as was the Indian shootout finale, but it was the scene where the train cars containing the soldiers went off the cliff in slow-mo that was the highlight for me.

 

Breakheart Pass is an interesting misfire.  You have to give everyone involved credit for trying to do something a little different.  The problem with that though is that you don’t want to see a guy like Charles Bronson try something different.  You want him to be Charles Bronson at all times and blowing away the scum of the universe.  The supporting cast is excellent and includes Ben Johnson, Richard Crenna, Charles Durning, David Huddleston and Bronson movie regulars Ed Lauter and Jill Ireland.  It was also the last feature film for famed stuntman Yakima Canutt, so old school western fans will want to give a look-see too.

SCREAM… AND DIE! (1974) **

The year before Joseph Ramon Larraz gave the world the seminal horror classic Vampyres, he went to Britain and directed this kinda-sorta giallo.  The old “To Avoid Fainting, Keep Repeating It’s Only a Movie!” gimmick from Last House on the Left was used once again to lure people into the theater.  You won’t have to repeat that mantra though, as Scream… and Die is pretty lukewarm.

 

A model and her boyfriend break into a mansion on a dark and foggy night where they witness a naked chick being murdered with a switchblade.  When her boyfriend disappears soon afterwards, she tries to get people to believe her story, and of course nobody does.

 

Despite the fact that the flick is dreary and sluggishly paced, Larraz pours on plenty of gothic atmosphere during the murder sequences (the scene in the junkyard is creepy), which should help to keep your attention when things are getting particularly tough going.  If it doesn’t though, you can count on the ample amount of female breasts to do the trick.

 

The movie also features an inexplicable scene in which a hot naked chick unexplainably wakes up next to a monkey!  I’ve seen some weird shit in my time (after all, Troll 2 is one of my favorite movies) but this one took the fucking cake.  Scream… and Die ain’t all that great, but if you want to see a nude broad make out with a monkey, then this flick is for you!

 

AKA:  The Psycho Sex Fiend.  AKA:  The House That Vanished.

THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (1959) **

A lighthouse keeper in the small California town of Piedras Blancas feeds a monster that lives in the ocean on a daily basis.  When he misses his regular feeding, the monster takes to ripping off the townsfolk’s heads. 

 

The Monster of Piedras Blancas takes a L-O-N-G time to get going, but once the monster shows up, things improve.  The monster itself looks very cool.  Imagine if H.R. Giger designed the Creature from the Black Lagoon and that will give you some idea.  The flick even features a surprising amount of gore as the creature likes to carry around its victims’ severed heads.

 

One cool monster (love that drool!) and a plethora of severed heads ultimately aren’t enough to keep the movie afloat.  Without them, the film is just another 50’s monster movie, and a pretty bad one to boot.  Too much of the movie consists of the townsfolk standing around TALKING about what to do with the monster and not enough of them DOING anything about it.

 

Les (The Slime People) Tremayne, Jeanne (Untamed Youth) Carmen and Don (The Giant Gila Monster) Sullivan are OK in the leads, although it’s Frank Arvidson who’s the most memorable.  He’s freaking hilarious as the superstitious shopkeeper with an accent thicker than the Swedish Chef Muppet.  Director Irvin Berwick (who was a piano prodigy as a child) went on to direct Malibu High.

DEADLY JAWS (1974) ½ *

First things first:  If you go into this flick expecting a killer shark movie, you are going to be severely disappointed.  There are only a few brief scenes in which a couple of sharks menace some divers.  Even then, the sharks themselves are mostly just badly edited-in stock footage.  Jaws 3-D this ain’t. 

 

A group of explorers go on a treasure hunt in Mexico looking for a cache of gold hidden in a sunken ship.  They hire some French jackass to teach them how to dive and promptly go after the treasure.  Predictably, the Frenchie wants to keep the gold for himself. 

 

This German made production looks pretty cheap, is badly acted and is horribly dubbed as well.  I’ve seen some shitty dubbing in Japanese flicks before but I have to say that the Germans can do piss-poor dubbing like it’s nobody’s business.  Another thing that bugged the shit out of me about this movie was that it featured an ungodly amount of scenes where perpetually bored looking and impeccably bronzed Germans sat around jabbering about God knows what.

 

Deadly Jaws is the cinematic equivalent of a turd that won’t flush.  It stinks, it’s hard to watch, and just when you think you’ve seen the last of it, it refuses to go away.  The only good thing I can say about this movie is that it’s got some gorgeous underwater photography.  It’s strange because all of the scenes that take place above sea level are grainy, ugly, and dark.  If they had used the underwater camera to film the stuff on dry land, I may have been tempted to give this movie like an extra half star or something.  Then again if I wanted to look at a bunch of coral reef, I could stare into a fish tank for 90 minutes and have just as much fun. 

 

AKA:  No Gold for a Dead Diver.

SHARK HUNTER (1979) *

Franco (The Last Four Days) Nero stars in this tedious treasure hunt movie posing as a killer shark flick from director Enzo G. (Inglorious Bastards) Castellari.  Nero plays the titular Shark Hunter, a guy who gets his kicks by lounging on the beach all day, getting drunk, banging chicks and wrestling sharks.  One day, he gets wind of a sunken treasure hidden in a hotspot for sharks and he ropes a clueless local into helping him get some booty.  There are also some scheming American gangsters who are also looking to get their hands on the loot, which leads to some pretty inept action scenes. 

 

A lot of this movie is boring as all get out and the irritating score doesn’t do the flick any favors either.  If the turgid plot doesn’t put you to sleep, the long ass underwater scenes of divers swimming around aimlessly will.  It also doesn’t help that most of the scenes involving sharks are nothing more than stock footage that wouldn’t have cut it on the Discovery Channel during Shark Week.  Franco does an adequate job at portraying a badass, but his efforts are all for naught as he’s forced to wear one of the worst wigs in cinema history.  Nero’s dim-witted idiot sidekick will also wear on your nerves pretty fast too.

 

The only thing I can really recommend about this flick is for the one great scene when Nero has a hilarious flashback about his family’s death.  The music for this scene is supposed to be “freaky”, but it just sounds like somebody playing Galaga.  There’s also a death by spear gun and ONE decent shark attack scene, although it looks like the insert shots were one in somebody’s swimming pool. 

 

Castellari also did the shark themed Great White the next year.

 

AKA:  Guardians of the Deep.