Friday, June 21, 2024

Notes on Film: It Came From Beyond

by Anthony King
The streak ends thanks to the beach.

While my streak of Junesploitation movies I've liked ended at 13, I had six more bangers to make up for the one dud. A couple new categories, a free space day, and a birthday celebration made up this past week. Let's get into it.
We'll start with the one that ruined it all (kidding). Beach House (1982) is a terrible movie. It's one of those that you say, “Well, good for them for getting their movie made.” And that's the only compliment I can really give it. In a confusing version of snobs versus slobs, street smart kids from Brooklyn clash with preppy kids from Philadelphia on the Jersey Shore. Director John A. Gallagher and producer Marino Amoruso were in their early twenties when they made this for almost no money in just a few weeks. For that I commend them. Apparently this was originally pitched to Uncle Lloyd and Michael Herz at Troma but instead went with New Line after Kaufman and Herz suggested more horror themes. Better movie.
The following day was a free space so I went with Stanley H. Brassloff's Toys Are Not For Children (1972), a movie that had been recommended to me originally by Jacob Knight. This is a good and weird and cringey movie that unfortunately has more implied sleaze than actual sleaze. This isn't to say it's devoid of sleaze. After all the movie's about an emotionally stunted young woman with insane daddy issues who turns to prostitution and majors in DD/lg. This is Junesploitation fare at its finest, and I highly recommend any of you weirdos to check it out on the next free space day.
Next up we had a new category this year: Brucesploitation! In honor of Severin's latest box set, The Game of Clones: Brucesploitation Collection Vol. 1, we all turned to our favorite Bruce Lee rip-off stars. For me, I went with Bruce Leung as Wang Liu the Kung Fu Master in Little Godfather from Hong Kong (1974). Wang Liu is a martial arts movie star who is signed to star in a new movie in Rome. Surprise! The producers actually want to kill him! Car chases and kidnappings and plenty of action fill the screen in a brief 87 minutes. There are a ton of terrible Brucesploitation movies from which to choose; I've seen many of them. This is one of the good ones! (Shout out to the ending where Wang Liu and the big bad are having a foot chase through ancient Rome and are instantly transported to the top of a snowy mountain.)
On a recent podcast I stated that I'd seen most of the big Fulci movies (he's now my third most-watched director at 24 behind Scorsese and Brakhage). The two biggest remaining titles are Conquest (1983) and Murder Rock (1984). For his birthday this year I decided on his most well-known western, and the final disc in Arrow's Savage Guns: 4 Classic Westerns box I'd yet to see: Four of the Apocalypse (1975). Four crooks travel across the torrential torrain of the Wild West while a ruthless killer tracks and tortures them. The biggest surprise of the film is that the great Michael J. Pollard is one of the titular four. Along with Fabio Testi, Lynne Frederick, and Harry Bair, our not-so-merry band of bandits are an unlikable yet sympathetic bunch. The real star, though, is Tomas Milian as Chaco, the murderer chasing the four. Fulci once again proves that he was adept at making almost any kind of movie.
We had another new category the next day with Gangsters!, and I went for a second consecutive day watching a movie starring Tomas Milian. Umberto Lenzi's Brothers Till We Die (1977) is a really good poliziotteschi movie about the leader of a gang whose men try to kill. Milian is Vincenzo aka Humpo, the hunchback gang leader who then exacts his revenge on his former friends. Meanwhile, the cops are trying to solve these murders while also hunting for Humpo. It's safe to say at this point that Lenzi is on my Mount Rushmore of directors. The only movie of his I didn't like was Cannibal Ferox (1981), and even then I don't think I gave it a fair shake so I'll be revisiting it this year. Like Fulci, Lenzi has proven he could do it all: crime, horror, drama, comedy. I plan on watching a few of his adventure films from the '60s this next week so I'm preparing to be even more impressed.
For '80s Horror day I crossed a big title off my watchlist. Stuart Gordon's From Beyond has been on said list for years, and for whatever reason I just never got around to watching it. It finally happened, and I wasn't disappointed. I understand Gordon is a beloved director within the horror crowd, as well he should be because he seemed like an incredible human being. As a director, though, and this is just my humble opinion, he's very middle of the road. He obviously loved the genre, but he had limitations since he worked with Charles Band. That said, there's only one movie of his I really don't like (that honor goes to Robot Jox). From Beyond is up there in the Gordon filmography alongside Re-Animator (1985) and Dolls (1986). It's fun and goopy and sexy and perfect '80s horror fodder and I'm glad I finally saw it. Apologies for the Gordon slander.
Finally, for Blaxploitation Day!, I crossed off another longtime watchlist mainstay. Paul Maslansky's Sugar Hill (1974) was not the movie I was expecting. When I first saw the poster years ago I thought it starred Pam Grier. Having not looked at it closely enough I was not expecting a horror element. Cut to a year ago I read the synopsis and realized it was also a horror movie, but still thought it was Pam Grier. Cut to Thursday and what do you know? Pam Grier is NOT in Sugar Hill! That's ok, though, because Marki Bey as our titular queen is incredible in this movie. Sugar's boyfriend is murdered and she wants revenge. She goes to Mama Maitresse who uses voodoo to raise Baron Zamedi who subsequently raises an army of the dead to do Sugar's bidding. This movie kicks as much ass as it sounds.

My perfect streak ended, but one bad film out of 20 is pretty darn great. We're entering the final full week of Junesploitation. Can you believe how fast it's gone? Here's what on the docket for me:

Black Mama, White Mama (1973) – AIP!
Ichi the Killer (2001) – 2000s Action!
American Rickshaw (1989) – Free Space!
Highway Racer (1977) – Cars!
Close Range (2015) – Vigilantes!
Fear Is the Key (1972) – Free Sace!
Silent Scream (1979) – Barbara Steele!

1 comment:

  1. I've seen Highway Racer and may have to go with Massi and Merli's next effort, Convoy Busters, for Cars! Thanks for reminding me of this! I'll be interested in your take on Highway Racer. I found myself asking the question, does the mustache make the man?