Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977)

The Italian Poster
Genre: Cheapo Camp Italian Science Fiction

Far, Far in the distant future, where everyone dresses the same with funny red skull caps and the women don’t wear bras under their tops, a strange beam hits the earth from the outer regions of the galaxy.
Captain Alex Hamilton (John Richardson) and his crew are sent to investigate.

Captain Hamilton, who is described by his superiors as arrogant, demonstrates this by punching one of his crew in the face, but he also proves that he will take risks to save another member of his crew when a spacewalk goes badly wrong.

On their journey to the edge of the galaxy, the crew is able to relax by discussing books or making love – not by touch, though, but by transferring thought waves.

They trace the source of the beam to a small planet, which luckily has earth like conditions, so they land and disembark to find themselves in front of a giant Stonehenge monolith.

It isn’t long before they are surrounded by the local inhabitants, who are group of subterranean bald-headed purple people in loin clothes with pointed ears. Through their leader they tell their new visitors that they mean them no harm, but are prisoners themselves of a giant robot which they had previously built.
The robot had wanted the spaceship to come to the planet because it needed to have its circuits repaired before conquering the universe.

Well, what can I say? This is one weird movie. When I was watching it, I thought I’d made a mistake and was watching the director’s other movie, his 1979 Star Odyssey. Then I realized the sets and costumes were all exactly the same.
Directed by Alfonso Brescia,  this is Italian camp science fiction on its lowest budget. God knows how the cast kept a straight face while wearing those costumes, or even acting in this weird shit. The sets look like something from a cheapo 50’s science fiction with some TV sets inserted into the panels.
The subterranean purple people are a bunch of pot-bellied actors in very unflattering loin cloths and you can more or less see the greasy purple make-up dripping off their bodies.

The giant robot looks like one of the toy robots I had when I was a kid in the early 70’s. The special effects are a kin to something from a home movie – actually, I’ve seen BETTER special effects in a home movie. Remember, this was the same year that Star Wars hit the big screen and if you were a British kid, as I was, during this time, you may remember the BBC TV movie quiz show for kids called Screen Test. In the middle of the show they would show a home movie sent in by the young viewers. I remember one young viewer had made his own very impressive version of Star Wars and the special effects in that were superior to this movie. Actually the entire budget for this whole movie was probably equal to the cost of one Star Wars Stormtrooper’s uniform.

But did I like this movie? I have to admit I actually did.

The one thing that stood out for me was the music which was a great example of 70’s electronica with plenty of analogue Korg and Moog synthesisers. The music at times was very experimental, veering off into the Italian equivalent of the experimental German Krautrock electronica of those times. At times there was a thin line between which was the music or the movie’s sound effects. Other times it would try to replicate 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by playing a synthesized version of Strauss. I actually would be happy to have a soundtrack album to this movie if such a beast exists.

With this and the strange visuals, including the costumes, sets, stock footage of solar flares and volcanic eruptions, give this movie a quality similar to a fever dream. If you want to switch your brain off for 89 minutes or if you already have, then watch this movie.

A Degree of Murder (1967)

Genre: 60’s Crime Drama

Now this is an odd West German film and not particularly good, but it will definitely be of interest to some people.

First of all it stars the gorgeous Anita Pallenberg in her first screen role. Her next starring role would be opposite Jane Fonda as the The Great Tyrant in Roger Vadim’s sexy science fiction Barbarella (1968) and later with Mick Jagger in Nicolas Roeg’s Performance (1970)

As most of you probably already know, Anita Pallenberge is famous for being romantically involved with three members of the Rolling Stones. First it was with Brian Jones, who was her boyfriend during the making of this film, but then she famously dumped him for Keith Richards resulting in the both of them driving off to Morocco in Brian’s Rolls. Supposedly she also had a fling with Mick Jagger during the making of Performance.

In this movie, Pallenberge plays Maria, who in the midsts of having a fight with her boyfriend in her apartment, accidentally shoots him. His matter-of-fact response to being fatally shot is:

“Now look what you’ve gone and done”

... and then proceeds to die on the carpet.

With the body lying in the apartment, Maria has to somehow remove it before her flat mate returns, so she goes to the local railways station to look for help. Wandering around, she asks strangers if they would like to earn 500 DM by removing the body.

Unsuccessful, she ends up in a small bar in a working-class district where she meets Günter (Hans Peter Hallwachs). He agrees to help her and is soon in her apartment and bed while they both wait for it to get dark outside.

They need a car to transport the body, so they borrow an old one from the garage where Günter works.

After going back to bed with Maria, Günter tells her that the body is too heavy and that he needs to ask his friend Fritz (Manfred Fischbeck) to help.

With the help of Fritz, they move the body, which is wrapped in a carpet, into the car and drive out to the countryside where they bury it on a construction site.

Maria now also becomes romantically involved in Fritz, but he has some concerns that the body hasn’t been hidden well enough. The others aren’t keen to return, so they continue their journey home and depart company.

Except for the occasional flashback and one lapse into heavy drinking, Maria seems fairly unemotional about the fact that she had killed her boyfriend. She only finally breaks down uncontrollably once home when she sees his photo beside her bed.

On the whole, Maria seems to have a death fixation. In one scene in the car she instigates a game of 'dare or lose' which nearly results in all three being killed. She also points the gun around at Günter with total disregard for his safety, especially considering what had already happened. Actually, all the characters seem very blasé. If it’s not losing the 500 DM in cash by the side of the road, it’s the discussion about who had used or not used  protection during their love-making, to not being too overly concerned about the dead body. Without giving too much away, even the very last shot in the film is completely odd as if those involved are also slightly detached from reality.

Because of this, it’s quite hard to feel any sympathy for the characters which is what lets this film down.

Directed by Volker Schlöndorff (THE TIN DRUM) with a minimal budget and being rather pretentious at times, this film falls short of his later work.

As mentioned earlier, Anita Pallenberge was dating Brian Jones when this film was in production and he actually appears very briefly in one scene. I must have blinked because I missed it or it was missing from my copy which had 10 minutes of footage missing from the original 87 minutes running time.

This leads on to the second reason why this film will be of interest to some. Not only does Brian Jones have an extremely brief part in this film, but he also composed, arranged and produced all the music.

This was his only solo work away from the Stones and hearing it you can really appreciate the talent he had. With the help of session musicians Jimmy Page (guitar), Nicky Hopkins (piano), Kenny Jones (drums) and Peter Gosling (background vocals), Brian played all the other instruments, including sitar, organ, recorder, banjo, harpsichord, autoharp, dulcimer, clarinet, and harmonica. The result is a great piece of 60’s psychedelia, which sadly has never been issued on LP or CD and possibly never will be. Volker Schlöndorff says he still has the original master tape given to him by Brian, but is unable to release it due to publishing rights.

The Gorilla (1939)

Genre: Gorilla Movie


...scream newspaper headlines at the prelude to the film. Now those are the type of newspaper headlines I would like to see while I’m drinking my morning coffee.

I must admit, I have a penchant for gorilla movies. Not the movies with giant gorillas as in King Kong (although I do like those, too), but the movies featuring angry, murderous near life-size gorillas, such as Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) or The Ape (1940). I don’t know why I have this fixation – it must be something from my past, although one of my earliest childhood horror movie memories was watching a gorilla movie which I think was probably Konga (1961). Also the gorilla movie stills in Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies was another major childhood influence – well, I hope that’s what the reason is, or maybe I’m just plain weird.

Rich tycoon, Walter Stevens (Lionel Atwill), receives a note informing him that he will die tomorrow at midnight and the note is signed by “The Gorilla”.

Bela Lugosi is taunted by a Ritz Brother
Instead of calling the police he calls three useless detectives, played by comedy threesome The Ritz Brothers. He also calls for the help of his beautiful niece Norma (Anita Louise) and her fiancé, Jack (Edward Norris).

Bela Lugosi plays Peters, the butler, and is great in his role – typically creepy and obviously a prime suspect. Patsy Kelly is Kitty, the maid, who has one of those ear-grating screams that was so prevalent with the comedic female characters in 1930’s horror movies.

The whole film takes place in the mansion which has that dark creepy atmosphere that was so well done in the 1930's, with plenty of rain and lightning outside.

There are plenty of strange goings on as the Ritz Brothers bumble around trying to solve the mystery. Hairy gorilla arms reach out from behind hidden panels in the walls, people disappear without trace, contorted faces peer in through windows and bodies fall out of cupboards.

I personally found the Ritz Brothers' fast firing humour to be very lame, but this may have had something to do with it being the last film in their contract with the studio.

Directed by the accomplished Allan Dwan, who first began his directing career in 1911, this was a remake of an earlier version originally adapted from a stage play.

Not so much a horror movie, but a murder mystery, this will still appeal to all fans of 1930’s horror movies – as well as gorilla movie lovers.

Sexy Battle Girls (1986)

Genre: Crazy Japanese Schoolgirl Sexploitation/Pinku eiga

Mirai (Kyôko Hashimoto), who is a young school girl, takes off her chastity belt and has sex for the first time with her boyfriend. Suddenly at the moment her boyfriend climaxes there’s the loud crushing sound as his manhood is crushed by her virgina. Cue titles.

As punishment for removing her chastity belt, Mirai's father sends her to a new school where she is soon bullied by another girl who proceeds to throw pens at her like darts.

Meanwhile, the school principal’s daughter is helping her father (Yukijirô Hotaru) to force her fellow school mates into participating in a sex ring for politicians. As a side note, this same principal, who continually has a yellow budgie perched on his shoulder, has been responsible for Mirai’s mother’s death. I must admit, the plot gets a little confused there.

The girl who has been bullying Mirai soon becomes a victim of the politician’s sex ring, so she and Mirai forget their differences and team up together.
The school principal

The time comes for Mirai’s father to remove his daughter’s chastity belt, to which she says with relief:

“Now I can feel fresh air on my pussy”

Her father then explains the reason for the chastity belt. It was to protect her secret weapon – her virgina. With her virgina she can over-power men with the “Venus Crush”, which is what happened unexpectedly to her boyfriend.
The chastity belt

Mirai also has a second secret weapon which is a small flying ball on a piece of string which is a bit like a yo-yo. When she throws the ball, it inserts itself into her foes virgina where a small dick then protrudes out from the ball. This results in the other girl getting so much pleasure that she can’t fight on.

With these weapons and her new friend, the bully, Mirai takes revenge.
Mirai with her small flying yo-yo ball

This movie is great fun. Like other Japanese pinku movies, the running time is only an hour, but you’re guaranteed the usual subject matter the Japanese seem to love so much - schoolgirl outfits, sex scenes with naked girls in white socks, men probing there fingers into girl's nether regions through their white underwear and a certain amount of humiliation.

The girls are all cute, especially Kyôko Hashimoto who has made a few other movies, notably the Evil Dead Trap (1988). Yukijirô Hotaru is great as the demented school principal and has quite an established acting career. Directed by Mototsugu Watanabe, who is also responsible for the Sexy S.W.A.T. Team series.

The budget is mega-cheap, with the school only consisting of three students, but don’t let that put you off. This is very much like a live action Japanese anime cartoon. Its great fun and completely crazy.

Scream Bloody Murder (1973)

Genre: Drive-in psycho slasher exploitation

In between writing for children’s TV shows, such as Lidsville, New Zoo Revue or The New Mickey Mouse Club, Marc B. Ray wrote, produced and directed something far different. Scream Bloody Murder is a low budget horror slasher movie about a crazed psychopath on the loose.

The film opens in a field with a young blonde haired boy, Matthew, purposely driving a bulldozer over his father. While the vehicle is still moving, the boy jumps off and falls beside the vehicle resulting in one of the caterpillar tracks running over his hand.

We jump ahead in time to the boy, who has now grown up to be a young man (Fred Holbert) with an artificial hook now replacing the hand which was crushed by the caterpillar tracks. Amazingly this fruitcake has just been discharged from the mental hospital and has returned to his farm.

He instantly takes a dislike to his new step-father and kills him with an axe. Comforting his distressed mother, Matthew tells her he did it to save her and in the kerfuffle that follows, throws her to the ground and accidentally kills her - all this in the first eleven minutes of the film.

This sexually impotent psycho then goes on a killing spree across the country, deliriously trying to protect women while killing them and their partners and all the while hallucinating trippy images of his dead mother.
Eventually he meets a kind prostitute (Leigh Mitchell), who paints an horrendously bad painting which a three year old could have done better. Matthew befriends her and she seems very excepting of this creep.
In the meantime to show his love for her he kills one of her johns.

Trying to impress her, he gets into the home of a wealthy old lady, kills the old lady, her black maid and the dog, which for some reason is shown as a freeze frame standing in the middle of the room and then drives back the old lady's vintage luxury car to collect the prostitute.

He takes the prostitute back to the house, telling her that this is where he lives and keeps her tied up as a prisoner.
The second half of this movie has the demented Matthew psycho-babbling to the girl, trying to get her to paint more pictures and coming out with lines like:

“See what I do for you - I get groceries, clothes and art stuff - and I kill people.”

Will she escape the clutches (or hook) of this mad psychopath?

I actually quite enjoyed this movie – yes, it’s corny and low-budget, but Fred Holbert who plays Matthew was quite good and I was surprised he doesn’t seem to have made any other movies. Also, watch out for Angus Scrimm in an early role.

This movie is classic drive-in material where the viewer would either be stoned, drunk, necking with a date or all three.

The Glass Cage (1964)

Genre: 60's Experimental Thriller

The glass cage is a good mid-60’s psychological thriller with plenty of trippy experimental camera work.

The film begins with the shooting of a man followed by a voice of a girl calling the police to inform them of an intruder.

Lt. Max Westerman (John Hoyt, who also co-wrote the screenplay) and Sgt. Jeff Bradley (Bob Kelljan) arrive to investigate and soon the timid and mentally vulnerable girl (Arlene Martel) admits to shooting the man.
Max starts to become romantically involved with the girl and he soon realizes things aren’t what they seem.

How involved was the girl’s devious sister? What was that scar on the girl’s arm and why can’t she talk about her evangelist father? How involved was the nosey beatnik artist neighbour who can’t stand rejection?

From the murder at the beginning, this low budget film is filled with wonderfully creative camera work consisting of strange angles, hallucinatory dream scenes and staggered still frames.

 All the characters are eccentric, notably King Moody as Tox, the unbalanced beatnik artist – a character whose father wanted him to be a trash collector, but instead went against his wishes and became a painter - his studio/pad being an extension of his own dementedness. Elisha Cook Jr. is also equally crazed as the girl’s father.

Antonio Santean, directed the movie, but it sadly seems he didn’t direct any more.
The film is only let down in one scene by the appearance of the mike, but apart from that, this low-budget film is imaginatively made and the black and white photography and warped camera angles really helps to instil the feeling of madness and mental alienation.

This is one of those great obscure 60’s artefacts that’s worth tracking down and watching in a darkened room.

Queens of Evil (1970)

Genre: Euro-horror

David (Ray Lovelock) is a free-wheeling hippie in a society that doesn’t respect his beliefs. Not wanting to be tied down, he travels aimlessly across the country on his motorbike.

After stopping one night to help a wealthy man (Guido Alberti) with a flat tire to his car, he is questioned by the man about his beliefs and weather he would refuse the seductive qualities of the girl who lives down the nearby lane.

Out of no choice of his own, it isn’t long before David finds himself at the small cottage in the woods where the girl lives with her two sisters.

The inside of the small cottage is of stark difference to the exterior because it's designed in the height of 1970's mod chic.

The surrounding woods and lake have a slightly fairytale feel with an abundance of fish to catch and a solitary apple tree which David symbolically eats one of the apples from.

Beyond the woods is a castle owned by an unseen wealthy owner.

David soon falls for the charms of the three girls and their hold over him becomes more surreal where time and events start to become hallucinatory, out of place and more psychedelic.

The concept of having a young free-spirited man whisked away by three girls is similar to the predicament of the male pop star held captive in the giant bubble home by a group of fashionably hip girls in The Touchables (1968). But where in The Touchables the pop star stayed voluntarily, in Queens of Evil, David wants to leave but something is keeping him there which is more sinister and pagan.

When the girls and David are invited to a party at the nearby castle, you know things aren’t going to be what they seem.

Most of the film’s running time is light on horror, except for one of the girls’ hobbies being taxidermy, until the end when the viewer is suddenly jolted with bestial savagery akin to José Larraz’s Vampyres (1974).

Being an Italian/French co production, I was expecting, rightly or wrongly, a bit more skin on display, but sadly this was lacking.

Ray Lovelock, who also plays the lead role of George in The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974), is good as David. He also sings the Dylon-esque title song.

The three girls are played by Euro-babe actresses Ida Galli, Silvia Monti and Haydée Politoff.
The music score in places was good.

The Land Unknown (1957)

Genre: 50’s Science Fiction/Adventure

This film was supposedly inspired by the discovery of an area of inexplicably warm water in Antarctica in 1947.

A naval science team lead by Cmndr. Harold 'Hal' Roberts (Jock Mahoney) is sent to investigate this unusual phenomenon. On the expedition they are accompanied by blonde female reporter Maggie Hathaway (Shirley Patterson).

Once over the area of warm water, their helicopter is brought down by a combination of bad weather and being hit by a flying prehistoric Pterodactyl.

Descending a couple of thousand feet below sea level, they land in a strange tropical land. With no time to lose they get to work repairing the helicopter while Maggie gets to work doing her womanly chores. Suddenly they realize they aren’t alone - this land is inhabited by prehistoric dinosaurs.
 With their food mysteriously gone and no spares for the helicopter, it looks like the expedition party is doomed. That is, until they meet Dr. Carl Hunter (Henry Brandon).

Dr. Hunter, who’s clad like a caveman in animal skins, has been stranded alone in this land after his plane crashed ten years earlier killing the rest of his team. He has adapted well to this inhospitable place with his home in a cave, but there has been a price to pay for his years of danger and solitude – he has gone mad.

Now with the arrival of some more people, there is one thing he’s been missing and he wants it now, and that is - a woman. Maggie becomes his bargaining chip for the survival of the others.

Made by Universal Pictures and directed by Virgil W. Vogel (THE MOLE PEOPLE), this is a great adventure/science fiction movie with some beautiful lush tropical sets. The dinosaurs are a mixture of real lizards and models. The dinosaurs in the water are especially effective, although the Tyrannosaurus Rex is obviously a man in a suit. Don’t let that disparage you because this film is definitely not your average 50’s sci-fi film. Never once does it become dull.

The Land Unknown can be found on the The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection, Volumes 1 and 2.


Fallen Angels (1985)

Genre: Porn Documentary

“This is the story of the girls who are America’s fantasy turn-ons”
reads the prologue.

Most of us males have probably fantasized at one time or another of acting in a porno film; with lots of sex with beautiful girls and at the end getting paid for it. Well, your fantasies may be dashed after you have seen the reality in Fallen Angels.

It’s 1983 and the movie begins at the World Modelling Agency in Los Angeles. Jim South, the agent, sits behind his desk taking calls from hopeful applicants. He tells them with his clear well-rehearsed mantra the info needed to work for him. Previously Jim was an insurance salesman, but now finds those skills put to better use renting out models

Enter a new hopeful, Kim, aged 21. He takes her to a side room studio where she undresses and he photographs her with a Polaroid.
Jim South
Audition in Hal Freeman’s office
Of the girls featured, you can’t help but feel sorry for Kim. As a single mother, she is trying desperately to earn enough money to move out of her mother’s house with her young child. You can’t help but feel that she is going into modelling for all the wrong reasons.

We are then introduced to porn movie producer, Hal Freeman, who sits behind his desk as movie hopeful, Diane, strips while horrendously singing a country western song accompanied by someone on an acoustic guitar. The day to day office business and banter carries on around Diane as she removes each item of clothing.
Kimberly takes part in a screen test

Another Hollywood producer, who’s face has to be blotted out, does a screen test and you can’t help but cringe when Kim explains her true reasons for wanting to be in his film is her desperate need for money to help her child and herself.

Another hopeful is Asian beauty, Kimberly (more famously known as Kristara Barrington). Kimberly comes across as a true performer, relaxed, sexy and self-confident. She explains how she likes to be an exhibitionist.

Next we see Kim, Kimberly and another girl participate in an all-girl lesbian loop for producer Bruce Seven. All looks fine until they return to the modelling agency and explain to Jim how Bruce Seven broke their agreement by making them use dildos after the documentary crew had left.

We briefly meet a few of the male models and we listen to one guy’s story of upsetting a producer by accidentally ejaculating over the camera.
Bruce Seven

Next we view one of Hal Freeman’s big shoots with porn legend, Ron Jeremy and Eric Edwards. They come across as real professionals and explain how difficult it is to perform in such a film.

In this documentary we also get to meet the girl’s boyfriends where they discuss their relationships with the girls.

Then we jump 18 months ahead. The girls' careers, except Kimberly’s, are over, their boyfriends have left, they’ve gone off sex and are now emotional wrecks. In a fast moving business, where success is short lived, they have become a disposable commodity.
Ron Jeremy and Eric Edwards compare dicks in an issue of Playgirl

On discussing the end of the girls’ careers, Jim holds out his hands and explains:

“You weigh the amount of money in one hand and the amount of crap in the other. If the crap out weighs the money you get rid of the crap - right?”

The interesting thing about this documentary is that the girls really do seem to open up to the documentary makers with their feelings and emotions about the business. You can’t help but feel sorry for them.

The only girl who seems to have any real success is Kimberly, who continues to be in control and self-confident. She later became a top performer in the adult industry and we are treated to a clip of her in the ground-breaking New Wave Hookers.

Incidentally her career continued on into the early 1990’s where she eventually left the porn industry to become a veterinarian.
Eric Edwards discusses the correct angle

Made by porn director Gregory Dark (NEW WAVE HOOKERS), it makes me wonder if he approached his own porn shoots differently.

Incidentally Gregory Dark went on to develop a documentary style in his own porn movies where between the sex scenes the actresses would be interviewed about their deep inner feelings – sometimes bringing them to tears. The viewer/voyeur can then probe them mentally as well sexually with nothing left for the girl to hide.

N.B Erections and penetration were blotted out.


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