Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Willard (USA, 2003)

(Trailer) This movie made me think of my childhood. Not that my only friends were rats (though many of them came close to it), but at the tender age of 9 when the original Willard came out in 1971, I was forbidden to see it. But a year later in 1972 when its sequel, Ben, came out, my 2-year-older sister somehow convinced my mother that this time around she should take us to see the new film. (I think the fact that Michael Jackson's saccharine love song Ben, which was being played non-stop on the radio, may have been of help here.) So, one rainy evening we hopped into our 1967 Rambler and drove across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge from Alexandria, VA, to someplace called Anacostia and caught the movie, a fuzzy warm flick about a health-impaired child who befriends an intelligent rat. I remember liking it, but what I remember more is that we three were the only white folks in the entire movie theatre. It didn’t bother me much, but my mother didn’t really seem too relaxed; after the same thing happened again two years later when my sister convinced my mom to go take us to see Claudine (1974) (Trailer), my mom said it was the last time she would let my sister pick the theater. Not that that mattered much, ‘cause by then my sister had entered the age when she no longer wanted to go to any movie with the family. As for me, I had entered the age where I would sneak off for the flicks I wanted to see ‘cause I knew my mom would never let them see them if I asked. (As a result, I was twice more the only whitey in a black theater: once for Abby (1974) (Trailer) and, four years later, for Dawn of the Dead (1978) (US trailer or British trailer) – you should have seen the popcorn fly and heard the loud “boos” during the scene in Dawn when Peter (Ken Foree), the Afro-American character, plays waiter for the white couple during their "romantic" meal.) So, what does all the above reminiscing have to do with the 2003 remake of Willard? Not much, really, except that director Glen Morgen's remake of Willard – or, to be exact, Crispin Glover's cover version of the song Ben (done for the Willard) – simply brought up a memory that I thought I would share with you.
But now, time to get to the movie itself.
While not exactly bad, Willard is far from something to jump up and down and write home to momma about. In fact, in all truth, the music video on the DVD to Crispin Glover’s version of Ben, the all-time classic love song to a rat and theme song to the same-named film from 1972, is actually far more creative and interesting than the film itself (although it, too, would probably get a bit tedious if it were as long as the actual movie). For all the good points of the flick – a great Crispin Glover, loads of cute & cuddly rats, some nicely black and/or ironic humor, good editing, nice CGI – it suffers an odd feeling of under-development and seems greatly hampered by its PG-13 rating. And, although nominally a modernized “nature’s revenge” film, Willard is far less a horror film than a film about a very confused and pitiful loser – made both believable and likeable by Glover – that finally snaps. Still, the new Willard really adds nothing new to the old Willard; it is not some reinterpretation (like Ghost Ship (2002, Trailer), House on Haunted Hill (1999, Trailer) or House of Wax (2005, Trailer) – all of which, whether you found them good or not at least tried to be their own film), but is actually a straight-out remake... and, in adding little other than modern technology, Glover’s performance and a few cosmetic changes to the story, it seems almost totally unnecessary. The final scene is also a nod to that of Psycho (1960), but the reference – like the film itself – seems less clever or creative than superfluous. It is so obvious that Willard could have been so much more than it is that if the viewer puts on their thinking cap instead of turning off their brain, the viewer might get aggravated. (The painting of Willard’s father hanging in his house, by the way, is a painting of the actor Bruce Davison; his last memorable role was that of the asshole senator that turns to water in X-men (2000), but he also played the title role in the original version of Willard.)
Willard is fine fodder for a rainy Sunday afternoon, and is so lacking in blood and guts and anything all that disgusting that you could probably even watch it with your kids. And, if you’ve never seen the original Willard (like me, thanks to my Mom, may she rest in peace), then you’ll probably find the film more than mildly interesting (like I sorta did). Still, while the young and impressionable might still get a nightmare from the movie, no one else will. (Another memory of the Dawn of the Dead screening: The people came to the late-night screening with their kids and babies and were left in – to an NC-17 film, no less!)
One can only hope that director Glen Morgen's next film, the remake of Black Christmas (2006, Trailer), offers a little more creativity and vision then this film does.

Kansas City Confidential (USA, 1952)

At the beginning of the 1950’s, Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer, two newspaper columnists, wrote a series of well selling pulp "non-fiction" books printed by cheapie-publishers Dell entitled, among others, Chicago Confidential, Washington Confidential and New York Confidential. These now hard to find, badly dated but entertainingly camp exposés supposedly gave "the low down on the big town(s)," naming the names and telling the facts about all that was illegal, half legal or simply questionable in taste. Kansas City Confidential, a pleasant little B-film from United Artists filmed in 1952, obviously hoped to milk some name recognition from the successful paperbacks, even if the "non-fiction" books and the fiction film had very little in common. In fact, Kansas City Confidential even has relatively little to do with Kansas City, and is not an exposé of any sort. After the quick moving first 15 minutes of the film set up the basic "wrong man framed for the crime," the entire action moves from the mid-western city to Mexico—or at least a Californian location meant to look like Mexico.
The story concerns an ex-military man with a slight criminal past who, working as a driver for a flower delivery van, almost inadvertently gets framed as the patsy for a "perfect" robbery of a bank, a well timed piece of planning executed by a group of four masked men of which only one, the leader, knows who everyone is and how they look like. The cops try to beat a confession out of our hero (no talk about Miranda Rights here), but are forced against their will to release him when certain evidence points towards his possible innocence. Out of work and unemployable due to his infamy, he sets out to find out who set him up. Following a slim lead down to Mexico, he ends up taking over the identity of one of the hoods, Pete Harris (Jack Elan), when the latter gets shot to death by some police. Making his way to the fishing resort where the criminals are to meet for the divvying up of the bank loot, his arrival sets off a series of events that culminate in a big showdown in which all the bad guys die, his name gets cleared and he gets the girl.
Featuring forgotten B-movie stalwart John Payne in the lead role, this prime example of low budget film noir also showcases nice, early performances by a beady-eyed Jack Elam and a smooth, slimy Lee van Cleef as two of the bad guys. In general, the acting in Kansas City Confidential is a tad above most similar B-films, if only because the various actors seem to be cast by type, as well as ability. The only weak link in the chain of thespians is Coleen Gray as the blond, law student love interest (and daughter of Mr. X, the Big Baddy of the film), but even if she seems a bit out of place, she does meet the ideal of the time and is pleasant to look at. (Vincent Price fans will get a kick out of his performance as a playboy nice guy.)
The direction is deftly handled by yet another forgotten B-movie stalwart Phil Karlston, who manages to keep the action moving and the visuals interesting – his composition of the picture frame is often excellent – thereby injecting some good tension into what sometimes seems, were it not for a few unexpected and interesting twists, like an old and creaking story. One of the better tricks Karlston uses, aside from some competent camera work and for its time unflinching violence, is to keep the viewer unsure about whether Payne, once he manages to track down those responsible for his situation, is really simply trying to save his name or is rather actually trying to hone in on a share of the loot. In the best tradition of Film Noir, good guy/bad guy gets mixed together ambiguously until the end. Kansas City Confidential may not be an acknowledged classic of its type, but it is definitely a good example of how, when handled well, all the little pieces add up to make a pretty satisfying whole. It is a film worth watching, and not just by fans of Film Noir.

Creepozoids (USA, 1987 Trailer)

(Trailer) Creepozoids, one of famed director David DeCoteau’s earliest directorial efforts, is without a doubt also one of his best films – but anyone who is familiar with his work also knows that that doesn’t mean much. Creepozoids is a hilariously lame blast from the past, a high-point of low-budget,1980s filmic ineptitude with a typical vomitorious synth score, bad hair and lousy clothes, a mostly talentless (or at least extremely inexperienced) cast, laughable special effects and hilarious story development. But, for all its innate and obvious flaws, Creepozoids is miles above and far more enjoyable than so many of DeCoteau’s later and more technically proficient (but miserable) cinematic forays such as Blonde Heaven (1995) or Retro Puppet Master (1999). Hell, if he made more films this hilariously bad, he would have a much better name as a director.
Like so many films of the time, Creepozoids is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story; and, like so many films of its time, it is written by the number and is far more badly made than it is creative or interesting. But if you like gratuitous naked shower scenes (Yeah!), rubber-suit monsters (Yeah!), gory ooze (Yeah!), plastic killer mutant babies (Yeah!) and a body count of brainless victims (Yeah!) and have absolutely no creative or intellectual demands or any expectation of obvious directorial or acting talent – then this piece of low-grade fluff might be your thing.
As is also typical of so many of the post- apocalyptic flicks of the 80s, Creepozoids is set in the “near future”: 1998, a few years after the world has been reduced to rubble by World War III. After a brief opening of some fat chick (Joi Wilson – who should have shot her hairstylist) in an almost empty lab room who responds to the noise outside the door by asking “anybody there” before finally opening the door and (as to be expected) deservedly dying, the remaining five cast begin earning their drug money. Five young military deserters – decked out in hip clothing that just arrived from the Laundromat – are on their way somewhere when they are forced to seek shelter from acid rain in an abandoned governmental research facility – a facility which seems to consist of only two hallways, two rooms and a shower. People wander around, paper-mâché heads falls out from somewhere, a rubber monster attacks a couple of times, there is the mandatory nude shower (featuring “scream queen” Linnea Quigley, who looks fucking ugly in the flick but has a great body) and a lot of ooze and gore as the characters die one by one. Oddly enough, although Bianca (Linnea Quigley) gets to show her bouncing boobs, the film’s other main female character Kate does not, despite the fact that the actress Kim McKamy (recently seen in Willard (2003) as a bitchy office co-worker) is by far the more attractive of the two girls. (Since Creepozoids, Kim McKamy has regularly shown more on video: as Ashlyn Gere she struts her stuff and has demonstrates certain talents in such films as Club Head (1990), Lethal Squirt (1991), Ashlyn Rising (1995), Cock Smokers 12 (1999) and Sunset Stripped (2002), to name but a few of dozens of hand-helpers that she has graced. In the censored photo included here, she is enjoying the salami of the famed (and hung) Italian stud Rocco Siffredi.) Regrettably, in Creepozoids, instead of shaking her boobies, Kate gets to shake an oversized mutant rat in a scene that most strongly brings to mind the famous segment in Ed Wood’s masterful Bride of the Monster (1955) in which Bela Lugosi fights an un-moving monster by twisting the creature’s tentacle around himself.
As mentioned before, we see Linnea's tits and people die and mutate and ooze, but a true highlight of the flick has to be the mutant plastic baby that crawls from the rubber-suit monster’s innards after the latter is finally killed by Butch (Ken Abraham – say, are we related, dude?). The mutant baby's appearance enables DeCoteau to stretch the film’s running time, and it is luckily also good for a few laughs.
And that actually, is all that the entire film is good for: a few laughs. (But then, few DeCoteau productions are normally even good for that.) Don’t expect anything more and you might enjoy the flick for what it is: vintage badly made trash.

Sars Wars/Khun krabii hiiroh (Thailand, 2004)

The Thai film industry is one of continual surprises. And Sars War is without a doubt one fucking great surprise! In what seems to be his first film, scriptwriter and director Taweewat Wantha decided to not only do a Thai take on the current zombie film resurgence, but to take the piss out of it (and everything else) as well. The result is a hilariously surreal and bloody comedy that (according to one Internet source) has a total body count of 110 people. But there is more to the film than just a body count and blood: Taweewat Wantha's humor swings back and forth and up and down and all over the place with such wild abandon that before one knows what’s happening, one begins laughing at even the stupidest joke. Indeed, the level of the humor often makes one think that the film was probably actually scripted by a room full of zombie-obsessed 13-year-old pubescent boys high on too much Thai and getting off on old sex ed books – but then, considering the supposed topic of Taweewat Wantha's second film, Asujaak/The Sperm (2007), perhaps the good man did indeed write Sars War by himself. (According to IMDB, The Sperm is about a rock musician who jerks off too much and whose flying sperm impregnates local women who in turn give birth to an army of little jerking clones that die when they have orgasm; things get complicated when an alien accidently turns one little creature into a giant...)
Taweewat Wantha is obviously a film junky, too, for the film liberally quotes dozens and dozens of films ranging from Star Wars series (the title and a sword) to Kill Bill (the occasional use of animation) to Demons 2 (the location) to Anaconda (the tertiary monster, a mutant zombie snake) and any dozen other films and/or genres. For that, the film remains a truly unique and enjoyable viewing experience for any and all people who can laugh at zombie babies on the rampage or hot Thai babes who turn out to be ugly, mustachioed transvestites. Hell, just watch the trailer or this funky video of a Thai industrial rap song sung by the main lead and hero of the film – if you don't find them to be the bee’s knees, go rent a copy of The Wizard of Oz.
The opening credit sequence is a bloody and violent animation short of heroes on motorcycles slashing their way through zombie hoards, which is followed by a brief scene of a decimated African landscape during which the new, deadly strain of the SARS virus is explained. An almost Jan-Svankmajer-inspired scene using postcards explains how a SARS infected cockroach makes its way to Thailand where it bites a bald-headed guy (in the deleted scenes one finds out that he is a doctor working on a cure for the virus) who manages to make it back to his high-rise before he goes zomboid. In the very same building a bunch of low-level gangsters are holding a kidnapped virginal babe in a school uniform named Liu (Phintusuda Tunphairao) for ransom; her father sends in the young virginal swordsman Khun Krabii (Supakorn Kitsuwon – the guy doing the industrial rap song; also found in the Thai cult fave Tears of the Black Tiger) to save her. But when the epidemic breaks out and everyone in the building turns into flesh-eating zombies – and turns one pet snake into a mutant snake monster – Master Thep (Suthep Po-ngam) decides to come to the aid of his younger superhero protégé. He's unexpectedly aided by Dr. Diana ("Lene Christensen" – the same babe found in the Ed Woodian Thai horror film Devil Species/Phantugram ammahit (2004)) who is on hand to try out her new (but ineffectual) SARS vaccination. But time is running out: To prevent the spread of the virus, the government plans to bomb the building flat.The plot is an excuse for a non-stop barrage of inane, almost post-modern jokes – at one point Master Thun even says something like: "zombies, a bomb, and now a giant snake! Boy, the producers really want to make money with this movie!" – about anything and everything, jokes that oddly enough even manage to meld well with the blood and guts and horror elements of the film. But for all the blood spilled and munching zombie hordes in Sars Wars, the flick is first and foremost an exercise of in hilarity and bad taste and is best enjoyed as such. Since Taweewat Wantha keeps his movie moving faster than a Porsche on the German autobahn, some logic and coherency does fly out the window, but neither are actually missed. (Love that noodles joke – one of the more truly disturbing and weird jokes ever caught on film.)
If a fast-moving film overflowing with exuberant inanity, pubescent surreal humor, hot babes and tons of blood sounds like your cup of tea, then you can't go wrong with Sars Wars.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Alien Lockdown/Creature (USA, 2004)

(Trailer) Tim Cox's fourth film, Larva (2005), is what brought me to this film, his third. Larva was a fairly decent and fast-paced B-film that may have offered nothing new but was nonetheless well made and gave the viewer a darn-tooting good ride. Good enough for me to note the director’s name as one to look for, so when I stumbled upon this title, I scooped it up to see whether or not Cox was a one-shot wonder or whether he was capable of multiple spurts of filmic creativity. And, what do you know: Creature, the good man’s third film, might not offer as titillating a ride as his fourth, but Cox does indeed appear to be a genre movie director of impressive promise, for once again he delivers a highly derivative B-film that offers nothing new but is nonetheless well made and even delivers a darn-tooting good ride. OK, Creature might be 7½ inches in comparison to Larva's 9, but does it really matter all that much after 6?
Originally entitled Alien Lockdown in the USA, where it was made for and broadcast on television, the flick was re-titled Creature for its European DVD release. Both titles are fitting, as the flick is about a creature of alien origins (re)created as the ultimate war weapon that is locked down within an ultra-secure and top secret science lab buried deep in the Rocky Mountain glaciers after it wakes up and kills everyone there but for its creator Dr. Woodman (John Savage) and some other guy named Charlie Dryfus (James Marshall). A group of mercenaries is sent in by some governmental organization on a “clean-up operation,” but they, of course, prove no match for the creature and its brood of its flesh-eating tadpoles... with the exception, that is, of the emotionally scarred Asian-American babe Talon (Michelle Goh). The film actually begins millions of years ago when some alien crystal crashes onto the earth, a plot device that is primarily used to fill the first 15 minutes of the flick with a totally useless prologue that could be comparable to bad foreplay (think of someone with no bodily appendages or tongue doing his best) before the Cox takes his characters deep into the black hole and finally hits the right rhythm, a rhythm he manages to keep for the rest of the film. (In that sense, in Creature, Cox is comparable perhaps to a man who has 15 minutes of trouble getting it up, but once up, doesn't stop.)
The direction is much better than the material. Cox has a good eye for angles and balance, and even knows how to properly use both tracking shots and editing; and if the CGI sometimes is a bit cheesy, the use of sound and filters is well done and effective. The acting is surprisingly effective across the board, with the possible exception of character actor Martin Kove; in his brief appearances as Anslow, the dickhead director of the governmental agency, he comes across more like a macho Elton John with hemorrhoids than like a top-level and dangerous military director. And if most of the tertiary alien-fodder isn’t all that memorable once the flick is over, the various thespians have enough talent to at least be obviously different characters within the flick itself. (But whatever you do, kids, don’t give up that day job yet.) John Savage, of course, steals the show whenever he opens his mouth: he overacts wonderfully, treating the trashy script as if it were written by Shakespeare. (Indeed, if there is any actor today that looks to be destined to eventually take John Carradine's (still empty) place as the Shakespearean actor of bad film, John Savage is that man. Much like Brad Dourif, Savage is always a highly talented but fun presence doomed to a career of genre film.) Michelle Goh fails a bit when it comes to showing emotion, but she kicks but convincingly enough and does look hot running around in that black leather outfit. She doesn’t do a nude scene, but hell, the film was made for television (where, as you well know, to ensure that our young ones aren’t corrupted, blood&guts&violence is OK, but nekkid skin is not). Even James Marshall, as the apparent nice guy of the flick, proves that he has learned to do a bit more than just act like a moody James Dean imitation (as he did back in Twin Peaks (1990-1991)).
As mentioned before, there is nothing new to be found in Creature, but at least all that is regurgitated is done so well that the flick remains an enjoyably wasted 88 minutes. Of course, you could just go ahead and watch Predator (1987) again, or Aliens (1986), but damn, haven't you seen them enough already? Face it, sometimes a Beck's Lime is a needed alternative to a Beck's. Expect a well-made but derivative B-film and you'll have a fun viewing experience...

Kamakazi 1989 (Germany, 1982)

Based on Per Wahlöö's book Mord im der 31. Stock (which translates into Murder on the 31st Floor), Kamakazi 1989 is a good example of everything that was wrong with "modern" German cinema of the 1970s and 1980s. Pure intellectual bullshit convinced of its own importance and content but completely lacking humor, narrative structure, any decent cinematic technique or any other aspect that might make it interesting—including content. Was to be expected, seeing that Rainer Werner Fassbinder is playing the lead roll of Police Lieutenant Jansen. Perhaps the man did direct a good film or two, despite the inherent lethargy all his films wallow in, but the man never acted in a halfway decent one.
In Kamakazi 1989 Fassbinder portrays Lansen as a disinterested alcoholic, fat, egoistic and overly self-assured. In other words, a mirror image of what the man was, but possibly with less facial expression. Director Wolf Gremm, already well on the way to becoming the third-rate television director he is today, failed to get the fat man to even simulate acting, much as he failed to make his film in any way interesting. Kamakazi 1989 is so downright painful to watch that you're happy when the film finally puts you to sleep. Even the brief appearance of Franco Nero fails to generate any excitement, but then, like every role in this movie, his character is a half-baked empty shell lacking conviction, drive or intent—despite being the bomber sought for most of the film.
In some totalitarian system of the future in which everyone drives cars from the 1970s and wears the worst stylistic excesses of the New Wave 80s and everyone seems to try much too hard to act eccentrically, Janssen is called in to find out who is responsible for the bomb threats at "The Combine," the ultra-powerful television company that seems to control the world. Why they bother or why he bothers is hard to fathom, for no one really seems to care or wants anything to be discovered anyway. Given four days to solve the crime, he is informed that he must work in total secrecy, but his partner Anton (Fassbinder regular Gunter Kaufmann, who got to butt-fuck Brad Davis in Fassbinder's indulgently entertaining Querelle (French Trailer) that very same year) dogs him constantly—and even saves his life at one point. Throughout the whole film the who or what or why or where or when or how for anything seems to be totally irrelevant. The non-plot eventually starts revolving around some secret 31st floor in the Combine's office building where terrible things supposedly happen, but once the floor is finally entered (for the second time, actually), Kamakazi 1989 ends so abruptly that the whole film comes across all build-up and no point. (But then, the film is pointless.)
OK, supposedly it some sort of campy persiflage of both totalitarianism and crime novels, but it isn't. Much more, it is simply a good example to use if you ever want to argue that Germans have no humor. Truly terrible, Kamakazi 1989 is bad in a bad way, a torture to sit through: boring and humorless, it is as badly dated as it is badly made and full of itself. A bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad film, but a good argument that Fassbinder should have overdosed a year earlier—maybe then this piece of shit would've gotten shelved and the celluloid used for something better.

Corruption (Great Britain, 1968)

(A version of this review appeared in a print copy of the excellent film magazine Shock Cinema some half-dozen years ago. If you don’t know the magazine, you should. For more info on Shock Cinema, check out their homepage).

(Trailer) It's Golden Turkey time, but in a good way. A true follower of the William Beaudine school of film making, Robert Hartford-Davis is the type of director one can best describe as a "hack auteur"... or at least he was by the time he died at 54 in 1977. At the start of his career, his cinematic vision leaned mostly towards art house exploitation like The Yellow Teddybear Girls (1963) or The Sandwich Man (1966) before he dived headlong into unapologetic, hyperkinetic trash. His name graces some truly entertaining trash, ranging from truly inept to simply sordid. This best (of his worst) includes The Bloodsuckers (1971), one of the more laughable vampire films of the genre, and Black Gunn (1972), one of the more embarrassing Blaxpliotation films that Jim Brown – or Martin Landau, for that matter – ever had the displeasure of starring in. Corruption is a fourth rate, full color regurgitation of the 1959 classic French horror film, Les Yeux Sans Visage (Eyes Without A Face), and as can be expected of a film that stoops so low, the film is truly entertaining flotsam. In Corruption, instead of a loving Daddy trying to replace the face of his daughter, we have Peter Cushing as famous surgeon out to restore the beauty of his bitchy fashion model fiancée (Sue Lloyd) after he inadvertently causes her disfigurement. Having discovered a restoration technique that combines laser technology with a serum made from the pituitary glands of dead women, the two are dismayed to find out that the effects are only temporary. Bug-eyed and with beads of sweat on his forehead, the doc goes head-hunting while the ex-model applies lipstick to her scarred face. Both the good doctor and the bitch go more and more batty with each woman murdered, and the whole situation finally explodes in the laboratory of their coastal house when they are interrupted mid-preparation by a group of thieving, psychopathic hippies. The big showdown features an out-of-control laser killing absolutely everybody, including the "good" characters, namely the model’s sister and the doctor’s co-worker. Among the best things about this film are its numerous unintentional funny parts, its innate and non-stop grind house aesthetics, its tacky, swinging soundtrack and the feature film debut of the beautiful Kate O’Mara as Val Nolan, the model’s (much better looking) younger sister. Regrettably, she keeps her clothes on throughout the film. (A special appeal to the Crippled Dick Hotwax record company: won't you please release this soundtrack?) Corruption is a hilariously entertaining piece of violent trash that should totally appeal to the sleaze bag inside of you.

Alien degli abissi (Italy, 1989)

Also known as: Das Alien aus der tiefe (Germany) / Alien from the Deep (USA)
Anyone who has a bit more than a slight passing interest in Italo trash film knows the name "Anthony M. Dawson" as the most popular "international" pseudonym of the productive Italian (primarily trash) filmmaker Antonio Margheriti. Dawson/ Margheriti, who died of a heart attack on 04 November 2002, had probably some sixty films spanning the entire spectrum of popular genres to his credit by the time he went the way of the wind (horror, western, adventure, crime, science fiction, peplum – you name it, he made it). As to be expected when one has an output as prodigious as his, his films, which were from their innate nature already of the lower echelons, often varied in quality; nonetheless, his name graces some true Eurotrash "classics"– including such gothic favorites as La Vergine di Norimberga/The Virgin of Nuremburg (1963), the original Danza macabra/Castle of Blood (1964, w/Barbara Steele) and its more popular but indefinitely trashier remake with Klaus Kinski Nella stretta morsa del ragno/Web of the Spider (1971), the finely cheesy La Morte negli occhi del gatto/Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye (1973) and the legendary Apocalypse domain/Cannibal Apocalypse (1980). (Better films than this one, one and all.)
1989’s Alien degli abissi/Alien from the Deep was one of his last productions and is one of his least known – and not without reason. Despite having been written by Tito Carpi, a true master of Italo sleazy and trash – his "writing talents" helped bring some truly unadulterated and enjoyable Italo flotsam to the screen (including Enzo G. Castellari's Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989)and Escape from the Bronx (1983), Joe D’Amato's Ladies' Doctor (1977) and The Pleasure Shop on 7th Avenue (1979), and Ruggero Deodato's Raiders of Atlantis (1983) and Jungle Holocaust (1977)) – Alien from the Deep is a rather uninteresting and pedestrian low-budget fusion of Sci-Fi monster flick and jungle action lightly peppered with an ecological message of some indefinable sort. The film's title is of course an intentional reference to Ridley Scott’s much better Alien (1979), from which Margheriti's flick lifts a few minor details and ideas (including acid alien blood and gratuitous scenes of the heroine running around in their underwear, while the big showdown in Alien from the Deep is in turn actually a low-budget version of the final confrontation in James Cameron’s sequel, Aliens (1986)). But seeing that originality is not a trait one usually expects in Italian trash film, anyways, his sources are immaterial.
In Alien from the Deep, two environmentalists sneak onto some tropical island with a volcano because they have heard that the E-Chem plant isn't being run kosher. They get discovered as they videotape evidence that the plant is dumping atomic waste directly into the island’s active volcano, but whereas Lee the Cameraman (Robert Marius) gets caught, Jane the Heroine (Marina Giulia Cavalli) escapes into the jungle with all sorts of nasty mercenaries hot on her tail. For no apparent reason she is assisted by Bob, a snake venom harvester on the island (Danile Bosch, in his second and only film after starring in the Italian art house hit Good Morning, Babylon (1987); currently he is bearded and a pastor at the Worldwide Church of God in Sardinia, Italy). To the anger of Colonel Kovacks, the big nasty who runs the plant (good old Charles Napier, whose acting hasn’t improved at all since the days he was one of Russ Meyers' coterie of regulars), they actually save Lee, but before they can leave the island an alien claw is drawn by the atomic waste to the location and kills Lee. See Jane run! See Bob run! Run, Jane, run! Run, Bob, run! One by one the alien kills the bad guys until its only Jane and Bob against the Colonel, but then he dies too so they can have a go at the alien; about this time we learn there is more to the alien than just a claw, but this doesn't make it any more convincing or scary. Do they manage to push the alien into the volcano and thus save the day? Well, what do you think?
Both Margheriti and Tito Carpi were seemingly on autopilot when they cobbled Alien from the Deep together, for the only thing the film truly excels in is its own mediocrity. Neither exciting nor very well made, it is also never becomes trashy or bad enough to transcend its innate mediocrity and become all that fun. In the end, the film is good for a laugh or two and also has some occasional (dated) gore but remains little more than a time waster... but there being so many better time wasters out there, there is really no reason to waste your time on it. Go for one of Margheriti’s earlier movies instead.
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