December 17th, 2008


Exploitation entrepreneur Fred Olen (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers) Ray bought an old, barely released Moonshine movie from the 70’s, added a few scenes of an ancient looking John Carradine talking about God knows what and sold it off to Troma, who naturally re-titled it.  The results aren’t great but it’s better than most re-titled Troma movies.  The plot has four big city jewel thieves on the lam in hillbilly country who seeks shelter with a crazy moonshiner and his sultry wife.  When one of the sleazy thieves seduces the sexy wife, it leads to jealousy, catfights, and murder.


The biggest problem I had with the film is that it was filled with long scenes of the jewel thieves walking through the woods while A) Idiotic ominous music played in the background.  B) Idiotic banjo music played in the background.  C)  No music played in the background.  There isn’t a whole lot of massacring going on either, but if you are patient you’ll get to see a death by moonshine jug, a pitchfork to the throat, and a gunshot to the forehead.


The acting is subpar.  One of the thieves had an annoying British accent and looked like James Lipton and the supposed hillbillies really overdo it on their Southern accents.  It was also sad seeing an obviously close-to-death Carradine being paraded around so callously by Ray.  (It looked like his scenes were shot in Ray’s backyard in about an hour.)  At least Ashley Brookes, who played the sexy wife, is pretty good and shows off her nice rack during her sex scene. 


AKA:  Honey Britches.  AKA:  Death Farm.  AKA:  Hillbilly Hooker.  AKA:  Little Whorehouse on the Prairie.  AKA:  Moonshiner’s Women.  AKA:  Shantytown Honeymoon.


Anton Diffring is a crazed plastic surgeon whose unauthorized operation severely fucks up a woman’s face.  Afterwards, he gets the fuck out of Dodge, gives himself a new face and runs away with the circus ran by Donald Pleasence.  Anton easily wins his friendship when he performs a miracle operation on Pleasence’s badly scarred daughter’s face.  After Pleasence gets mauled by a bear and dies, Anton gains control of the circus and quickly sets up shop giving scarred female criminals new faces while using the big top as a front.  The fresh faced criminals start a new life by performing in the circus and whenever they threaten to leave, Diffring makes sure they die by having an “accident”.  One girl gets stuck in the neck when her knife throwing act goes wrong.  A trapeze girl gets her rope cut and plummets to her death, and another chick gets mauled by lions.  In the end, Diffring’s former patient with the severely fucked up face recognizes him while attending the circus and gets so crazy that she runs him over with her car.   


I hate circuses and think they’re pretty stupid in general, so a lot of the circus performances were kinda tough for me to sit through.  The pacing is also quite irregular and you have to sit through a lot of circusy bullshit to get to the good stuff.  Luckily, the good stuff is quite good.  The opening scene is really strong and the reveal of the woman’s fucked-up face is shocking (for the time at least).  The scenes where the snarky women meet horrible fates under the big top are also well done and feature more blood than you’d expect. 


The best thing about Circus of Horrors though is the special effects.  The make-up effects on the women’s deformed scarred faces are all excellent and still hold up well almost 50 years after the film's release.  The effects for the killer bear are decidedly less impressive as it’s obviously just a stuffed bear that falls on top of Pleasence.


Speaking of ol’ Donald, he gives a good performance here as the drunken circus owner.  But it is Diffring who steals the show.  He’s great as the conniving mad doctor who isn’t above feeding someone to a wild animal if they get in his way.  The chicks are also very hot too and it’s a shame that this flick wasn’t released a decade later as they probably could’ve been convinced to pop their tops.  (Although you can almost make out that one girl’s rack during her shower scene.)


AKA:  Phantom of the Circus.


Christopher Lee stars as the director of a lurid stage show in which hot women are realistically murdered on stage.  While preparing his latest play about vampires, people start being murdered in real life.  Since all of the victims have neck wounds that resemble vampire bites, Lee is naturally the prime suspect.


You would think that a movie in which Christopher Lee murders people in front of an audience would be a blast.  You’d be wrong though.  Even though Lee is charismatic, the script doesn’t give him very much to do except act like an asshole.  Once he’s out of the picture, things slow down considerably.  Julian (The Empire Strikes Back) Glover makes for a decent hero, yet his role is underwritten and his character doesn’t make much of an impact on the plot.


Although Theatre of Death has an ideal setting for a horror movie (Lee’ theater is based on the Grand Guignol Theatre in Paris), it doesn’t really do too much with it.  The film unfortunately squanders it’s potentially intriguing premise, has a habit of bogging down frequently and overall is really boring to tell you the truth.  While the identity of the real killer is something of a surprise, the murderer comes to an unsatisfactory end.  So does the movie.


AKA:  Blood Fiend.  AKA:  The Female Fiend.

SON OF GODZILLA (1967) ***

Scientists on a tropical island are doing a bunch of weird experiments that result in praying mantises growing to enormous size.  While a few mantises are throwing some dirt around, they unearth a giant egg which contains Minya, the Son of Godzilla.  The hungry insects try to chow own on poor defenseless Minya and Godzilla has to kick the crap out of some oversized bugs.  He body slams one bug and then uses his fire-breath on two others before the other one beats cheeks.  After being somewhat of a deadbeat dad (Godzilla likes to sleep a lot), the G-Man eventually teaches his kid how to blow his fire-breath.  When a giant spider tries to turn Minya into a cocoon, Godzilla once again has to kick some overgrown insect ass.  In the end, Godzilla finally gets to take his much needed nap.


I’m a diehard Godzilla fan; and while I personally prefer G-Man when he’s big and bad and mean, stomping on cities and turning people into crispy critters with his fire-breath to his more kid-friendly later years, even I have to admit that Son of Godzilla is a lot of fun.  The scenes of Godzilla and Minya having father and son bonding time are surprisingly touching.  The part when Minya hitches a ride on his daddy’s tail is... well....  Look, I’m not the kind of guy who throws around the word “cute” a lot, but that’s what that little sucker is, cute.  And then there’s the classic scene where Daddy Godzilla teaches his son how to breathe fire and he just blows smoke rings, which is just about the best scene in any Godzilla movie. 


Anyone with half a heart couldn’t help but love this movie.  Sure, like most Godzilla movies, it takes a long time for the G-Man to put in an appearance and the scenes featuring the human actors will bore you to tears.  Would I have preferred Godzilla squaring off against other gigantic monsters instead of a bunch of cranky insects?  Of course.  That’s okay though because Godzilla still kicks their ass and even gives little Minya a chance to get his licks in too.


Godzilla’s next stop was in Destroy All Monsters.


AKA:  Monster’s Island Decisive Battle:  Godzilla’s Son.