September 29, 2014

Movie Marathon that will leave you: Dead til Dawn! (2014)

This past weekend was the third annual Dead til Dawn Drive-In event at the Hi-Way Drive-In in Coxsackie, NY. It was the second time I was able to attend, and just like last year, it was an amazing experience. While, if given a choice I would target an indoor event like Hudson Horror Show, but attending both style events is just a fantastic way to go. There is something about sitting through the night under the stars in the crisp air of early Autumn that just feels right. This two night event boasted 11 films under the night sky, plenty of crazy fun for everyone in attendance.
Another great thing is that the guys who run the show picked a great line up featuring 8 movies that I had never seen before (not only that, I hadn't even heard of 7 of them!). The first night of 5 was comprised of completely unknown quantities, and I could not be more ready for them. Before jumping into this year's lineup, last year included such films as Re-Animator, Demons, Cannibal Apocalypse, Lady Terminator, Raw Force, and Blade of the Ripper. Now, let's do some capsule clips on this years lineup.

Night one began around 7:20 in the evening, the skies were clear, temperatures were tolerable, and I was all set sitting outside with some friends in the front row as the screen flickered to life.

Movie 1: Nightmare in a Damaged Brain. The print for this first go around had the title Nightmare, although it seems to be better known by the longer title. This gritty little number was written and directed by Romano Scavolini and seems to be worthy of its Video Nasty notoriety. The film tells of a mental patient who was used as a guinea pig for experimental drugs. He is then loosed upon society where he begins killing folks. He tracks a family to Florida, where he has his final siege, complete with a shocker ending. The film seems to borrow police procedure from Pieces and features characters acting anything but human. The flick is a lot of fun, even if it grinds to a crawl in the mid section. Has some nice gore and plenty of unintentional comedy. Tom Savini was an advisor on the effects.

Movie 2: The People Who Own the Dark. This movie stars Paul Naschy and was directed by frequent collaborator Leon Klimovsky (Vengeance of the Zombies, Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman) and features a human Naschy, as opposed to his frequent werewolf form. This flick is like a mash up of three different movies and none of them make a whole lot of sense. It starts with a build to a secret Marquis de Sade fan club/masked sex party, but is interrupted by what is surmised to be a nuclear explosion that leaves all nearby witnesses blind. The blind then attack the small group who can still see. As an added bonus, the blind can drive, know directions, and need headlights. Also, the small group of survivors are scared of the blind people with sticks. It makes no sense, but is still surprisingly fun.

Movie 3: What Have They Done to Your Daughters? This print gave this giallo the title of The Coed Murders. I have to say, this one did not really hold my attention and had an opening and ending that wanted to warn parents of kids using drugs, becoming prostitutes, and going missing, often murdered. It just shambles along and the conclusion doesn't really wrap anything up. It does have a good score from Stelvio Cirpriani. Overall, cannot really recommend this one. It was interesting to see Farley Granger (Strangers on a Train, Rope, The Prowler) in an Italian giallo.

Movie 4: The Witch Who Came from the Sea. Wow. Words escape me when faced with this slice of insanity. Seriously, I cannot really begin to put into words how nutso this movie is. The poster art and title have little if anything to do with the movie. Millie Perkins (who played Anne Frank in the Oscar winning Diary of Anne Frank) stars as Molly, a perfectly deluded woman who has this ideal of the perfect man and has a habit of killing those who don't rate against her father. It really has to be seen to be believed. It has some of the worst acting and dialogue, and it is within this that lies the movie's brilliance. It was directed by Matt Cimber, who also helmed Hundra and numerous episodes of GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (seriously).

Note: As I sat down for the fifth film, the back of my chair completely snapped off sending me tumbling backwards, feet and blankets everywhere. It was quite a site, as I am not exactly a small fellow. I rolled back and was almost immediately back on my feet. It was quite hilarious and only the chair was hurt.

Movie 5: Wonder Women. I don't know if it was me, or the movie, or just the time, but this flick did not really do it for me. Don't get me wrong, I was aware of the silliness, the goofiness, and the true entertainment value of the thing, but I was not able to remain focused on it. It was silly to watch Nancy Kwan play this rogue surgeon who transplants any body part you want to a new body, has a crazy accountant played by Sid Haig, and has a gaggle of kung fu trained ladies to do her bidding and kidnap athletes to use as surgical cattle. Well, now that you put it that way, this was a pretty fun movie that I should probably spend a little more awake time with. It was directed by Robert O'Neill who would go on to make Angel.

That rounds out the first night. Overall, it was not wall to wall greatness, but they were all movies I had never seen before and I am a better person for having had the experience. On to night 2!

Night two began on Saturday, roughly the same time. I came equipped with a new chair, same style, so I had that thought in the back of my head that it would break again on me.

Movie 1: The Beyond. I saw this screened at Hudson Horror Show a few years back. It is one of those movies I will never get tired of, there is nothing wrong with a little Fulci on 35mm (if only there was an available print of New York Ripper... quack, quack). This movie was originally released back in 1981, but did not make its way to American shores until 1983, albeit in a heavily censored version and bearing a different title, Seven Doors of Death. For a long time this was my favorite film from Lucio Fulci (of those I have seen anyway, it still lives near the top, sharing space with City of the Living Dead). The movie follows the story of a woman (Catriona MacColl) who inherits a hotel. The problem is the hotel is on one of the gates to Hell and the renovations have cracked the seal. The movie is bizarre, weird, borderline nonsensical, and these are some of the elements that have attracted me to it. The plot is very thin, the film is carried more through the visuals and the exploration of the living world and the world of the dead bleeding into each creating a very surreal film. It also looks great on the big screen!

Movie 2: Almost Human. This also goes by the title of The Death Dealer and was directed by Umberto Lenzi, who is probably best known for his horror output (Eaten Alive!, Nightmare City, Cannibal Ferox), but also had his hands in other genres, such as this crime film outing. Tomas Milian stars as Giulio Sacchi (a name you will not forget, when you hear how many times he says it), a low level criminal who decides he wants a big score. He and his buddies kidnap a rich man's daughter for ransom, but things get out of hand as Sacchi shows just how little heart and regard for life that he has (it's none). He will kill anything, rape anything (he is an equal opportunity offender), shoot anything. The guy is flat out nuts and suffers from delusions of grandeur. Fortunately, he has a ruthless detective hunting him down. Not my favorite, but definitely a crazy slice of old school Italo-crime.

Movie 3: The Lorely's Grasp. This print had the title When the Screaming Stops, I am told it was retitled to cash in on the Peter Cushing film When the Screaming Starts. Directed by Amando de Ossorio (Tombs of the Blind Dead), the movie centers on a school for girls where the students are being murdered, one by one. It is believed to be the work of the mythical creature the Lorely. It needs blood and, apparently, hearts to survive. A local hunter is hired to track down the creature. While he works, he has to fend of the man-starved students, and a mysterious woman tied to the killings. The creature looks a lot like the Gorn from Star Trek, but there is a good amount of gore to be found. This is fun, but dated. Perfect for the drive-in.

Movie 4: 1990: The Bronx Warriors. This Enzo Castellari directed tale is an absolute blast and begs to be seen on the big screen. It is set in a time when the Bronx is a no-go zone for the cops, the daughter of a weapons manufacturer CEO runs away to hide in the Bronx. An unscrupulous cop plays this out to start a gang war, aiming to get rid of the Riders' boss, Trash (Mark Gregory, who was only 17 when he played this role). Everything escalates into a war that sees many gang members die. The movie is filled with silliness, from the terrible acting, to seeing the “unused” bridges with traffic in the background, and the wonderfully random drummer at the dock. This is an absolute blast.

Movie 5: Superargo and the Faceless Giants. Hailing from Italy, this movie features a hero that seems to be greatly inspired by Adam West's Batman. I have to admit, this was a stinker, easily the worst film of the second night, even worse than the worst of the first night. I know there were folks who liked it, but I was not one of them. Superargo is a masked wrestler who has great strength and powers of the mind that he uses to battle an army of blank faced automatons. That is about it, it really was a bore.

Movie 6: This movie was a secret and will remain so. At this time of night (morning?) the lot was beginning to thin out, or people were just asleep in their cars. The rest of the drive in was quiet, the triple features on the other screens have long finished. I will say that it was rather surreal watching a monster movie at 4 in the morning and then racing the sunrise home to get into bed!

It was an exhausting two nights filled with tons of movies, friends, junk food, broken chairs, and blankets that was totally worth it. Great times.

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