July 15th, 2009

SEX BY ADVERTISEMENT (1968) **

Joel M. (Bloodsucking Freaks) Reed made his directorial debut with this ho-hum skin flick.  Porn legend Georgina Spelvin stars as a fake doctor (who has a phony shock of white hair to make her look old) that acts as an on screen narrator and tells us all about people who advertise in dirty magazines for sex.  She informs us on advertisements for S & M (pliers to the earlobe, soldering iron to the nipples, electroshock treatments, etc.), masked orgies (kinda like in Eyes Wide Shut), “bird watching” (voyeurism), and sleazy casting couch producers.  We also learn about people who use sex advertisements to scam their potential clients; including (but not limited to) con artists who use Lonely Hearts columns to fleece lovesick losers and white slavers who place ads for “nannies”.

 

Reed films everything in a pseudo Mondo movie style and that helps up to a certain point.  At first seeing people place sexy ads is kinda funny (think Craigslist:  The Movie) but after awhile, the flick gets stale and it ultimately fails to live up to its early promise.  It also doesn’t help that most of the girls look like a deer in headlights and often look directly at the camera.  And although Spelvin gets a lot of screen time, sadly she doesn’t get naked

 

Sex by Advertisement isn’t very sexy but it is good for an unintentional chuckle or two.  Most of the segments though are just interchangeable and boring; and bored is the last thing you want to be while watching a skin flick.  Reed returned the next year with the slightly better Career Bed.

THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927) ***

You know all of those Old Dark House clichés in movies from the 30’s and 40’s?  Well every single one of those movies owes a major debt to The Cat and the Canary.  When it was originally released, the film was a smash hit so naturally every horror-comedy/murder-mystery copied the formula.  (I hesitate to use the term copy “Cat”.)

 

All the familiar ingredients are here:  There’s the old millionaire who dies.  There’s the scheming relatives who gather at the spooky mansion to hear the reading of the will (at the stroke of midnight).  There’s the morose looking servant woman who claims the house is haunted.  There’s the escaped lunatic with long fingernails stalking the grounds.  There’s the elaborate series of secret passageways that the killer uses to move unseen around the house.  Etc., etc., etc.

 

You’ve probably seen all of these clichés before but since this is where they all originated, you’ve got to give The Cat and the Canary mad props for blazing the trail. 

 

The Cat and the Canary is a bit slow and creaky at times and some of the humor isn’t really funny but Paul (The Man Who Laughs) Leni’s lively direction keeps you watching.  The scenes where the killer’s hairy-handed poorly-manicured hand reaches out from the darkness are still very effective even 80 years after the film’s release.  I also liked the funhouse mirror effects that stretched the protagonist’s faces too.  The title cards are also very funny and I dug the all the different fonts for the title cards.  (Wait till you see how they edit out the cursing.)  It all makes for a solidly splendid slice of spooky silent cinema.

 

In addition to the numerous rip-off the film spawned, there were also three official remakes (’30, ’39, and ’78).

BEYOND THE FOG (1972) **

A bunch of archeologists head over to the mysterious Snape Island to look for some Phoenician treasure.  Since the island is mostly just rocks surrounding an old decrepit lighthouse, you’d think it be easy to find.  Anyway, they’re real keen to find this Phoenician spear but the downside to that is that it drives anyone who holds it crazier than an outhouse rat and forces them to kill.

 

Beyond the Fog is pretty much one big uneven mess but it at least has the benefit of a terrific opening scene:  Some sailors land on the foggy island and find a bunch of naked decapitated women.  Eventually they come across a screaming bloody naked lady wielding a large knife who stabs them both. 

 

After a doctor hypnotizes the catatonic chick and she recounts what happened on the island, Beyond the Fog starts slowly going down the shitter.  The film continuously cuts back and forth between the treasure hunters snooping around Snape Island with the crazy chick’s flashbacks of what happened to her friends.  Because of the choppy narrative, the film never really manages to build up any suspense.

 

I will say that the stuff involving the partying teens on the island getting picked off is way cooler than the scenes involving the stuffy Brits wandering around looking for treasure.  The stalk-and-slash scenes are rather well done and serve as an interesting precursor to the slashers of the 80’s.  The gore is solid (hands get cut off) and the headless naked women effects are impressive.

 

Also, all of the girls in the flashbacks end up getting naked pretty quickly, which is always a good thing in my book.  It’s almost as if director Jim (Valley of Gwangi) O’Connolly said, “Look girls, if you wanna be in my movie, you gotta make with the ta-ta’s!”  My hat is off to you sir.  Now only if you didn’t make those damn treasure hunting scenes so damn boring…

 

AKA:  Tower of Evil.  AKA:  Horror of Snape Island.  AKA:  Horror on Snape Island.  

THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR (1970) * ½

A bunch of idiot British “teens” get bored by their hip, mod, swinging party and decide to go check out a haunted house.  Because no American in their right mind would watch a stupid horror movie without a washed-up American has-been leading man, Frankie Avalon is also part of the group.  On the way over to the house, he tells everyone that it’s supposedly haunted by a psycho who murdered a bunch of people and then committed suicide twenty years earlier.  After a lot of inane shenanigans, one of the “teens” gets hacked up by an unseen killer.  The other “kids” go apeshit and cover up the murder and split.  Eventually, the psycho starts stalking the “teens” who fled the scene and picking them off one by one.

 

The silly title wrongly sets you up into thinking that this is going to be a haunted house movie but it’s really more along the lines of I Know What You Did Last Summer.  Except that it’s so bad that it makes I Know What You Did Last Summer look like Scream by comparison.  Man, if you thought Frankie’s beach party movies were bad, wait till you see this one.  It’s almost exactly like those beach flicks except everyone speaks in a British accent (except Frankie of course) and a couple people get stabbed to death.

 

There are numerous shortcomings that this flick shoulders.  From the sluggish pacing, to the dingy cinematography; everything is more or less bottom of the barrel.  Special mention must be made of the awful British cast.  These are some of the most irritating British farts I’ve ever seen in a movie.  Especially that one chick who kept yapping about getting some coffee.  I hate cunts like that who go on and on about grabbing Starbucks.

 

The only thing worth a shit in this movie are the slashings  Although you don’t get any gore, there is an abundance of cool looking 70’s blood (you know the kind that looks like red Sherman Williams paint).  I was tempted to give the movie One Star for the longest time (practically since the start of the film) but the scene where Frankie Avalon gets stabbed in the crotch was worth the extra Half Star if you ask me. 

 

Director Michael Armstrong did a much better job with his next film, Mark of the Devil.

 

AKA:  Horror House.  AKA:  The Dark.