The Halloween Crapfest

furniture-fascinating-orange-rubber-halloween-pumpkin-carving-ideas-with-orange-rubber-teeth-and-orange-plastic-tongue-for-dinning-room-halloween-pumpkin-carving-ideas-decor-magnificent-halloween-pumpWhile all that Hubrisween stuff was going on, I suddenly felt the craving for a movie experience much less solitary. A need to inflict suffering on others. I felt the need for an all-horror Crapfest (well, Crapfests are sort of predicated on horror, but that’s a larger issue). By and large, the call was answered.

Except on the day, Paul and the Other David begged off, citing Ebola, because that will never not be hilarious. Alan had a matinee performance  -O, cursed work ethic! – which left it down to me, Dave, Rick, Erik and Mark. We brought enough food for the original horde, so there were plenty of leftovers.

We began with a collection of Halloween cartoons curated by yours truly. I’ll make a perfunctory pass through YouTube, but I don’t hold much hope for finding any of them (and if I did, they’d be taken down within a month), so here’s a list:

  1. Bimbo’s Initiation (1931) – a sort of proto-Betty Boop short
  2. Scaredy Cat (1948) – Porky & Sylvester vs murder mice, and not for the last time
  3. The Mad Doctor (1933) – Mickey Mouse. Disney was scarring young minds way before Snow White
  4. Water Water Every Hare (1952) – Mad doctors again, this time with Bugs Bunny
  5. Snow White (1933) – but this time with Betty Boop and Cab Calloway
  6. Have You Got Any Castles (1938) – Musical earworm involving books, included for an appearance by Mr. Hyde, Fu Manchu, the Phantom of the Opera, and Frankenstein’s Monster. And dammit, because I love this cartoon.
  7. The Haunted House (1929) – Mickey Mouse again, and some skeletons who just want to party.
  8. Broomstick Bunny (1956) – Bugs Bunny, obviously, and the debut of Witch Hazel.

Okay, color me corrected (and hopefully these won’t disappear in a few weeks):

(I think I really love Have You Got Any Castles because it assumes a certain amount of cultural awareness on the part of its audience.)

This was before the switch off Daylight Savings Time, so we were still waiting for the sun to go down that the true horror could begin. It was best to go with something short, I thought, so Dwain Esper’s 1934 Maniac got the nod. Here’s the clip everyone recognizes, quoted in It Came From Hollywood:

Now here is something about Crapfest that really, I get my nose rubbed in repeatedly: subtlety is wasted, and this is the first and last time you are going to hear Maniac accused of subtlety. But so much of its charm and outrageousness is dependent on declamatory acting better suited to an 1890 stage, florid dialogue ditto, and shocking 1934 nudity excused on the flimsiest educational intertitles possible – that gets lost in the raucous atmosphere. This always happens, except for Bugs Bunny, who gets reverent silence.

It was now dark enough for the true nastiness to begin, so I trotted out Night Train to TerrorWe’ve been here before, you and I,  and we know that this movie is a cheapjack Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors made of cut-up versions of two previously released movies and one that was unfinished, so the usual Crapfest cry of “What’s happening?” was totally justified. But outside of the double-casting of Richard Moll giving Rick purchase for a desperate attempt to show Evilspeak again as part of a “Richard Moll Film Festival”, the best part was… well, what I did find on YouTube was an edited version that incorporates all the parts of Night Train to Terror that had Rick shrieking like a little girl:

But God is All-Merciful, except toward haters, so He resurrects the band for one more round of “Dance With Me” for the closing credits. The screams of outrage  in the room were incredible.

Dave then put something up on the screen for “the break”. Speaking of lessons never learned during Crapfests, nobody ever takes a break during “the break”. The psychology of this is beyond me, except in this case: I was held spellbound by this; I had no previous idea it existed, and it is absolutely delightful. It’s Music Box With A Secret, a piece of Soviet animation heavily influenced by Yellow Submarine – itself a heavy influence on yours truly as a child – and…

…well, just hit full screen on this. You will not regret it.

Dave, you never get to look at one of my entries and sneer, “This is quality, it has no place here” again, because this is top-notch stuff.

He followed it up with Prisencolinensinainciusol, which I love. If you’ve been under a rock for the last few years (as were, apparently, many of our attendees) this was a song written by Italian performer Adriano Celentano, to demonstrate what a popular English song would sound like to a non-English speaker.

Didn’t get that? Fine. So we watched it again.

(I was nice and advanced it past the Italian introduction. I assure you Dave was not that merciful.) (Videos of this song keep being taken down and put back up. Maybe these two versions will survive more than five minutes)

Then, since no one took “the break”, Dave unspooled his entry, a movie which has as many names as Legion: Dark Eyes, Fury of the Succubus, Demon Rage, Demon Seed, but in this case, Satan’s Mistress, starring Natalie Wood’s sister, Lana Wood, and her Moonpie-sized areola.

smiss1 smiss2 smiss3

This was a case when I was one of the people yelling “What’s going on?”, and it wasn’t because of the vodka, either. It was mainly because there is no there there. Lana is at her beach house with her husband, who does… something for a living. She moves into her own bedroom because she “needs room” and “needs time”, mainly because a dark figure keeps visiting her in the night for salacious purposes. So you’ve got your Satan, and you’ve got a lot of mistress-ing going on, and some dime store divorce drama. And Britt Ekland as a concerned friend who Satan nearly roasts in a hot tub.

Did I mention the beach house has a basement, which for some reason, contains suits of armor and a guillotine? Do beach houses even have basements? In any case, Britt’s hubby winds up afoul of the guillotine, and at his funeral John Carradine jobs in for a day as a priest who urges Britt and Lana’s husband to fight the evil in the beach house but not to “fall prey to their illusions”. Britt falls prey to their illusions and burns for it, but hubby stands strong, and apparently making your saving roll to disbelieve is all it takes to conquer Old Scratch. That’s worth remembering, write it down.

There’s not much video to be found from this flick (which sort of tells the story, right there), but leave it to Mr. Skin to post a NSFW clip of Ms. Wood in the altogether. It did pretty much sum up the production, which is probably why, like Prisencolinensinainciusol, it did not hang around long. So here’s the opening two minutes, complete with public domain scream sound effects…

So I didn’t feel at all bad about concluding the evening with a movie that had been asked for ever since its trailer showed up in a compilation: The Super Inframan. Mark complained that I was really stretching the definition of horror here, but dammit, it’s wall-to-wall monsters. What’s more Halloween than that? The fact that the monsters know kung fu just illustrates why this is known as the finest movie ever made.

“Six million light years beyond believability!” also sort of tells the tale, there.

Well. the holidays beckon. Chances that we will get in another Crapfest this year are pretty slim (even if my venerable VHS of The Magic Christmas Tree keeps trying to claw its way out of the storage box), so this may just have to carry us into the New Year. So long, fellow voyagers on the good ship Crap. It’s been fun.

Next time I’ll bring more Bugs Bunny.

Future Freex Weighs In: Turns out it wasn’t in a storage box at all. It was hiding:

magic xmas tree

Night Train to Terror (1985)

night_train_to_terror_poster_01Night Train to Terror is a very strange beast; I’ve been hearing about it most of my adult life, in one way or another. I think I first encountered it in that battered first edition of Mike Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film.  It’s an anthology film, and the stories contained therein are (according to who you’re reading) drawn from three, or two, or no unfinished movies. This often puzzled me, because early on in my amateur critic career, I reviewed one of the “unfinished” movies excerpted here, and it seemed pretty complete at the time.

Well, we finally have what has got to be the definitive version of Night Train to Terror, thanks to Vinegar Syndrome, who put out the most gorgeous presentations of the least defensible movies ever. And we can finally, finally figure out some of this thing’s ancestry.

We see the title train chugging on through the night, alternately as stock footage or a model. One entire car is given over to a music video. At least, that’s what it appears to be, with singers singing and dancers talking directly to the camera, all wearing clothing that was fashionable for about five minutes in 1985. Or on the set of Jem, take your pick.

vlcsnap-2011-03-09-17h29m48s71In another car, God and the Devil (Ferdy Mayne and Tony Giorgio, respectively) are having a meeting.  Satan is none too happy about the music video, which is something that always puzzles me when it crops up in a movie like this. Everybody knows that rock is the Devil’s music, so why do cinematic Satans always hate it? Maybe it’s because in this case, breakdancing is involved, and Satan has some standards.

It doesn’t matter, anyway, because the train is destined to wreck in ninety minutes, and all those poppers and lockers and gyraters will be dead. To pass the time, God and the Devil go over the case histories of three individuals, with the aid of the Night Porter (Earl Washington). As far as framing stories go, that’s not bad.

…because we’re going to leave the bad to the stories themselves.

screencap-02-03The first story, “Harry”, is going to test our mettle tout d’suite. This is the only segment actually taken from an unfinished movie (although there are rumors of available copies), Scream Your Head Off. The story is so disjointed, I fear actual brain damage can result from trying to follow it, but here goes: Harry (John Phillip Law!) is a jerk who crashes his car on his wedding day, killing his bride and putting him in the care of Drs. Fargo (Sharon Ratcliff) and Brewer (Arthur Braham), who brainwash him into drugging and kidnapping women. For what purpose, we’re not sure, except for Richard Moll to paw them. Then there’s some new footage that tells us that Richard Moll’s stand-in (note the hairy arms) cuts them up and the parts are sold to medical schools. Except for the ones that get lobotomized. Or something. And I deserve a medal for even figuring that much out.

There are some versions of Night Train that put “Harry” in the third position rather than the first. Putting it first certainly makes you appreciate what comes afterward – if you continue watching. I can see a whole lot of people jerking the tape/disc out of the player before the movie can unleash anything else in their direction. Then, I also know a whole lot of other people for whom “Harry” would only be an appealing appetizer.

This is followed up by more rock, then “Gretta”, which is taken from a movie called, unsurprisingly, Gretta. Vinegar Syndrome was kind and conscientious enough to actually track this sucker down, though they could only find a one-inch video master. I’ve only had time to skim it, but it is odd. Gretta (Meredith Haze) is an adventurous young lady who gets picked up by rich douchebag George Youngmeyer (J. Martin Sellers) at a carnival. He exposes her to a better way of life, which involves starring her in porn reels. Her true love in life Glenn (Rick Barnes) sees her in one of these stag reels while visiting his old frat and knows he has to immediately seek her out.

nighttrain19Youngmeyer gets Glenn involved in his “Death Wish Club” (which appears to be another title under which Gretta was released), a bunch of rich idiots who have, in one way or another, barely avoided dying violently, and try to replicate that rush at their meetings. In the first, one of the members has brought a “Tanzanian Flying Beetle” whose sting means horrible, instant death. In Gretta, it’s a realistic insect. In Night Train, however, it is a fairly cheap bit of stop-motion animation. It eventually flies out a window and kills a guy necking on a park bench, and his bloody, boil-bursting demise is another addition for this anthology.

vlcsnap-2011-03-09-17h34m57s84There are two more encounters with the Death Wish Club, though Gretta and Glenn want nothing to do with them; in the first, involving random electrocution. they are held at gunpoint. (Once again, the fairly gruesome fatality here was specially made for Night Train). In the second, involving a bizarre pendulum with a wrecking ball at the end, they are forcibly kidnapped. The wrecking ball takes out the perverse countess who was bankrolling the whole affair, but that’s only something you find out if you watch Gretta – in Night Train, she just dies, and the story ends, and Satan is told by the Night Porter that Gretta “went off with the nice young man, and lived happily ever after. Isn’t that nice?” A kiss-off that would probably lead you to guess that this movie was never finished.

But that is exactly what happens in Gretta. They probably could have trimmed its coda down and included it in Night Train, but there was no horror there, I guess, so it got tossed away. In a way that would piss off Old Scratch and the audience in equal measure.

Which brings us, at last to “Claire”, which is taken from the movie I had reviewed so many years ago. Originally called Cataclysm, the version I saw was titled The Nightmare Never Ends, and it honestly does have some nifty stuff in it.

It starts with an old Jewish man recognizing a young man named Olivier (being interviewed on TV) as a notorious Nazi war criminal – who has apparently not aged a day in 35 years! Oooh, there’s some devil shit involved, you can be sure of that! Cameron Mitchell is the cop who doesn’t believe the Old Man (but starts believing when the Old Man dies violently trying to shoot Olivier), Faith Clift is Dr. Claire Hansen, who is destined to go toe-to-toe with the Man-Goat, and Richard Moll – yes, again – is James Hansen, author of the international bestseller, God Is Dead. Who the Antichrist kills just to be a dick about it.night-train-to-terrror2

There is more of Cataclysm‘s source material in evidence here than in the other two cases, making it the strongest of the three stories, but doesn’t mean it’s any more coherent. There’s an itinerant priest roaming around telling people they’re messing with the Devil, but faster than you can say “The Omen”, he gets pulled down to hell by a stop-motion demon.

nighttrain10I really don’t remember any of the three stop-motion beasties that crop up here occurring in Nightmare Never Ends, and they all look like they were done by the same person who did the Tanzanian Murder Beetle in “Gretta”. Another argument that these sequences were done post-production (way post production) is their interaction with the tiny humans they terrorize isn’t done with foreground plates or any of that other fancy Harryhausen stuff. They made little puppets for the priest, and Richard Moll, and one other dude who gets  stomped by a big demon. And the puppets are very cartoony – it all looks like Davey and Goliath Go to Hell.

And there’s also a woman who shows up at the climax in an operating room (Claire has to put the Antichrist’s heart in a special box, because God uses the Snow White playbook, or something), and I know she had something to do with the plot, but now she’s just some crazy chick who shows up in scrubs and blood and starts stabbing the Antichrist (she always shows up on the video box). But if you haven’t kissed any hope of linear storytelling good-bye by now, you are far more of an optimist than I.

band2The train crashes, via stock footage of a building burning behind a model train. And God seemingly resurrects the music video on the next train, just to piss off Satan. The end.

Now, there is not a lot of terrible acting in Night Train to Terror, except in the music video segments. This is actually a pretty good bunch of actors trapped in a series of weird, if not outright bad, movies. Scream Your Head Off was never going to be high art, but Gretta is an intriguing little oddity and Cataclysm/The Nightmare Never Ends, as I said, has some good stuff that never quite managed to jell into a solid movie.  The slicing and dicing involved here did those two movies no favors.

It does, however, have a wild feeling of anarchy and desperation about it that’s kind of cool, if not ultimately satisfying. It’s the sort of thing you can inflict on your friends with a semi-clear conscience, especially if a copy of Things or Nukie is not readily available.

And there’s cheesy stop-motion. What more can you ask?

Just try to resist Vinegar Syndrome’s trailer: