Helmut Berger Magazine Pictorials

I have no problem admitting that I get into a crankier-than-usual mood during this particular time of year. I dislike New Year’s celebrations (friggin’ PARTY AMATEURS) and the cold weather conspires to keep me indoors where I can stew in my own melancholy. In short, I’m not a happy Tenebrous at the moment.

There are some things that help to improve my mood. I’ll share two here. Consider it “a little something for the ladies and also for the gentlemen who are so inclined–hey, I don’t judge.”

Dandyish Helmut Berger:

Helmut Berger - Fashion Pictorial

Helmut Berger - Fashion Pictorial

Pantsless Helmut Berger:

'Helmut

'Helmut

Ohhh Mr. Berger–you achieve levels of fabulousness that mere mortals can only hope to attain. Seriously. When was the last time YOU looked that suave wearing a vest and pantaloons composed of quilting squares? I’ll answer that for you–NEVER.

"It’s a Man’s World: Men’s Adventure Magazines. the Postwar Pulps" – Feral House, 2003

Ohhhh Feral House Publishing, how I love you and your bounty of spectacular bizzaritude. What you’re looking at below are two of the AMAZING pulp magazine covers reproduced in the 2003 publication “It’s a Man’s World.” Just in case you didn’t get everything you wanted under your Giftmas tree, I recommend placing an order for this 280+ page, full-color orgy of exploitation excellence.

“Wildcat Adventures” appear to be the best KIND of adventures, just brimming with boobs and bondage:

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OK, so it’s not really “Death By Cats,” but I’m counting it since it’d be less useful to include a “Death By Catgirls” tag on the Love Train.

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It’s the NAZI KILLER QUEEN’s monocle that really finishes the outfit and exudes style, don’t you think?

El Santo y Blue Demon contra Dracula y el Hombre Lobo [1973] – TAG TEAM with the Vicar of VHS

During this season of light, it’s important to take time out to acknowledge the things in life that bring us joy. You know, things like “masked Mexican wrestlers” and “classic monsters.” In the spirit of community and sharing, I’ve invited the Vicar of VHS, Grand Vizier of the Tenebrous Empire and cornerstone of that bastion of cinematic wackiness known as Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies, to join me in a celebration of what is best in life (you know, other than seeing your enemies driven before you and hearing the lamentations of the women, which is also pretty goddamn good but significantly less festive).

To get you latecomers to the party all caught up, the Vicar and I have just finished watching “El Santo y Blue Demon contra Dracula y el Hombre Lobo.” It tells the heart-warming tale of the Cristaldi family and their generations-long fight against Dracula and his right hand lycanthrope, Rufus Rex. The Cristaldis quickly lose their patriarch to a Satanic ceremony which resurrects Dracula and Rufus, but the industrious Lina Cristaldi brings in her boyfriend El Santo and his best pal Blue Demon to help investigate the case and thwart Dracula’s plans to get revenge on her family and then turn the entire world into his supernatural army.

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TK: I loved the way each of the three in-ring fights seemed to be Pants versus Underpants.


VV: I did not notice till you mentioned it, but you are correct! The forces of good go for the long trousers without fail.

TK: It’s like shirts versus skins, but… pantsier.

VV: I’m only guessing here, but perhaps Santo y Blue Demon need the pants to make sure their GIGANTIC BALLS don’t flop out.

TK: You’re probably right. Those guys are almost TOO rad. I mean, El Santo can wear vests that look like they’re made from Midcentury bathroom flooring and still be AWESOME.

VV: Indeed, he’s not afraid to rock the home-knitted sweater. Though I must say, Blue Demon also had it goin’ on with the purple lace-up number near the end.

TK: That is a true statement of fact. It’s a rare man who can be iconoclastic enough to look like a gimp-masked pirate and STILL be the one on the dolin’-out end of the beatings.

VV: Truth be told, I was much more impressed with Blue Demon’s ass-beatin’ skills than those of the IDOL OF MEEELIONS.

TK: I think Blue Demon has a certain brashness about him that’s endearing.

VV: True. His small stature is misleading, but his profundo basso voice tells the true tale. He’ll also scale a tree like a monkey at the drop of a cape.

TK: And kick the crap out of Hippies! I admire that in a man.


VV: I confess, I kinda need a “Renato El Hippie” t-shirt.

TK: Seriously. I wanna know Renato’s backstory. His appearance was sort of a spoiler though–you could tell he’d lose that match to Blue Demon due to his lack of mask and pants.

VV: The announcer kept trying to talk up Renato’s consummate athletic skills, yet all I saw was the print of his ass on the mat.

TK: True, true. I mean, I’m no wrestling afficionada, but from a purely fashion POV, there was just no way he was gonna win.
One of the cool things I observed in this movie was that luchadores aren’t just good at rasslin’– they’re also chess players!

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VV: That shows they’re intellectuals. It takes more than brawn to take down aliens and lycanthropes and shit.

TK: I wonder if Mexican chess has different rules.

VV: Maybe if the Bishop has a lucha mask, he can move wherever he wants.

TK: Or the knight can take a flying leap off the turnbuckle!

VV: That would be rad. Everything’s better in Mexico.

TK: Seriously. I imagine there to be a lot more bandoliers and shouting and tequila. And Dia de los Muertos collectibles everywhere.

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VV: I can’t help thinking Santo did pretty well for himself with his girlfriend Lina. Not only is she quite the cutie in her miniskirts and her soulful eyes, but she knows how to drive a forklift.


TK: Absolutely! THAT is an effective girlfriend right there. “My skirt is shorter than my belt, but I will totally drive this heavy machinery into you if you mess with my MAN!”

VV: Not only that, she was far stealthier than Blue Demon.

TK: Yes. Blue Demon had more enthusiasm than skills when it came to surveillance.

VV: Well put.

TK: Mask =/= invisibility

VV: I love how Eric the Ugly Satanist TOTALLY made him as soon as his little blue head popped up in window-view.

TK: “Don’t look now, Wolfman, but there’s totally a luchador in the tree out there.”

VV: “But they’re not even in season!”

TK: Much like Lina was a great girlfriend, Eric was a very effective hunchback henchman!

VV: Eric was kind of awesome, actually.

TK: He suffered from greediness, but man-oh-man–when Dracula or Rufus Rex asked for something, he was ON that shit.

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VV: How about that opening scene between the 2nd and 3rd falls where he offers a malediction to Satan? You didn’t have to wonder who the evil mother fucker in this one was for a MINUTE.

TK: Totally. His characterization was very consistent. I dug the flame-spitting Chupacabra heads he installed in the cave, BTW. He didn’t have to do that, but he did, because he knew it’d make Drac and Rufus feel at home.

VV: Those things were LEGIT. I wonder how many crew members were immolated in making that scene.

TK: Doesn’t matter–it was worth it.

VV: I agree–the movie wouldn’t have worked without them.

TK: One of the things I always wonder about the Mexican Wrestler movies is who the audience is supposed to be. They operate on Kid Logic, and yet early in the film, Dr. Cristaldi suffers a very grisly death in order to bring about the resurrection of Dracula and Rufus Rex.

VV: I can only assume no adult in Mexico ever loses his childlike joy, probably thanks to Santo and Blue Demon.

TK: Mexico really is a wonderland, isn’t it? * sigh *

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VV: I was thinking about the scene after Eric wins “Spot the Demon,” when he leads Blue Demon and Santo to the warehouse. Blue Demon and Santo are totally inconspicuous in their red convertible.

TK: Hey, that’s how masked wrestlers operate! In any decision between Subtlety and Showing Class, Showing Class will ALWAYS win. That’s why there are so few masked wrestlers left in the wild.

VV: Maybe they weren’t as conspicuous as we think. Perhaps in Mexico City on a Saturday night, you’d see dozens of luchadores rolling around in their low riders. Nothing unusual about it!

TK: Stop–you’re making me want to move to Mexico now!

VV: So we’ve talked a bit about Los Enmascarados, but what about their opponents?

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TK: Oh! You mean Dracula and el Disco Lobo?

VV: The name is RUFUS REX, which is the total winner of “Most Awesome Werewolf Name EVER.”

TK: Seriously. He was like–“yeah, my name is Rufus Rex, I’m not making up a nom de guerre; in fact, I’m donning this AMAZING YELLOW SATIN LACE-UP BLOUSE in order to make myself even MORE excellent! And if you fuck with me I will werewolfize your ass!”

VV: I hate to correct you, but he was completely resurrected ALREADY WEARING the lace-up satin blouse. Not to mention the say-something leather belt.

TK: The leather belt was the finishing move. Maybe that was, like, a medieval rasslin’ award?

VV: He was the heavyweight champion of the Aztec Empire.

TK: Kinda like the Dracula medal. What do you think Dracula’s medal means? In this movie, it looked a little like a chicken…

VV: I love how Dracula ALWAYS starts out as a skeleton, and then as he’s reconstituted, his wardrobe is also automagically resurrected. In this one he even had white gloves and a cane.

TK: You’re right! And it’s not covered in blood or anything. That’s pretty amazing stuff.

VV: Dracula, it has to be said, was a major disappointment to me in this one. I mean, he LOOKED all super suave.

TK: Yeah, he was kind of a managerial Dracula.–just sending other people out to do his legwork. Good thing he had effective co-baddies!

VV: I counted THREE TIMES he was just about to bite someone, and got interrupted/distracted/startled and never got back to it. How long does it take, dude? CHOMP, you’re DONE.

TK: Yeah, but… he still dressed the girl vamps well, in those red diaphanous gowns. That counts for something. He’s… kind of a Mr. Blackwell of the supernatural world that way.

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VV: When he was marching down the hall with the aforementioned Novias de Dracula, I couldn’t help thinking of the Imperial Guard.

TK: See, I saw some Naschy similarities there.

VV: That wouldn’t be the only Naschy tie-in.

TK: Though I must say, Naschy would’ve PWN3D these supernatural baddies, like, fourteen times over the course of the movie.

VV: Oh, it would have been no contest. The LEAP ATTACK off the top rope would have had any of these guys cryin’ home to mama!

TK: There would have been no neck unbitten, no boob ungroped, had the Naschinator been present.

VV: I wonder what Waldemar’s mic skills would be like? “ARROOOOOO YEAH, BABY, WE’RE COMIN’ TO THE METROPLEX IN THE DISCTRICT FEDERALE! YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE THE NASCHINATOR? I’VE BENCH PRESSED BOULDERS MORE AGILE THAN YOU! THE PAIN FROM SPAIN RAINS MAINLY ON YOUR *BRAAAAAAAIN!* AR-OOOOOOOOOO!”

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TK: Also… another bit of a quibble but…
That dagger that’s so pivotal to the plot–the one that’s only effective against evil…
Presumably it still has… oh… I dunno…
STABBY POWER
even over good people.

VV: Well, of course they totally ripped off the dagger from Naschy as well. But yeah, Dracula sends Eric to get it from Santo because it “has no power over him.” No wonder Eric decided he’d rather Drac be his bitch than vice versa.

TK: No joke, man. Dracula is like one of those store managers who would always make you go alphabetize the videos while he sat in the back room eating a sandwich and reading “Maxim.” Only… wearing a tuxedo.

VV: I was EXTREMELY disappointed that the fight of the movie’s title did NOT take place in an actual wrestling ring. I wanted a tag-team match with millions watching on TV.

TK: Indeed. Although it did take place somewhere with more strategically-placed spikes. I think that was kind of critical to the whole outcome of the film.

VV: What was that place they were in, anyway? I mean, Drac’s castle is in Transylvania, presumably; and Eric found Rufus a SWEET apartment. So it’s just a rental, I guess. With caves and spiky death pits.

TK: Speaking of Rufus’ apartment–I like the fact that he showed he was sensitive by having what looked like portraits of the Bronte sisters on his wall.

VV: The Brontes were HAWT. That’s what passed for bikini posters 400 years ago, when he and Drac were killed the first time. Talking of which, I was impressed that Rufus adjusted to modern technology so easily. You’d expect him to be all “WHAT the fuck? Where are the horses? How does this light work? What’s that evil magical talking box?”

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TK: No joke! Although it did look like he was talking into a Hitachi Magic Wand at one point…

VV: You mean the rotary-base phone? I totally had one of those.

TK: Did it… you know… help when it rang?

VV: Well, one time I did slip and fall on it… but that was a total accident.

TK: All seven times.

VV: No matter what the insurance company said. After the second time I started lubing it up as a preventative measure. Better safe than sorry.

TK: I’m never phoning you again.
Hey, speaking of Gendered Issues–did you notice that all the chicks became vampires and all the men became werewolves?

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VV: You’re right that the girls all became vamps– there were no were bitches, but I did see some male vamps in their subterranean army at the end. IN FACT, one who I like to call “Mullet Vamp” really caught my eye. I noticed him because his plumage was so distinctive,
and also because he got thrown into the Spiky Death Pit.
And then a few minutes later was fighting again, in a different colored shirt.
Unless he had a twin.

TK: I also noticed that different werewolves were further along than others in their development. Some guys were all wolfed the fuck out, while others just kinda didn’t shave.

VV: In fact, even Rufus’s hairiness seemed to wax and wane. At first he was all wolfy, but then in the final battle, he was pretty much wearing a luchador mask, only made out of hair. No neck make up, no hand shading, nuthin’.

TK: Wow—you’re right! Maybe he got seduced into the modern ways of waxing?

VV: That’s possible. He was definitely a quick study.

TK: Also, hanging out with those glossy, hairless luchadores must have made him feel inadequate. They are big bucket-necked hunks of manhood, after all.

VV: Indeed.

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TK: I mean, El Santo has a black velvet painting of himself in his locker room!

VV: And I think the term “barrel-chested” is woefully inadequate to describe the barrelly-ness of their chests.

TK: Tank-like physique?

VV: It made me read lots into their trademark “knowing looks,” which would have been full of subtext anyway.

TK: Although, in all fairness, Blue Demon is NOT a cockblocker. He lets Lina and Santo have plenty of alone time.

VV: Blue Demon is the consummate wingman.

TK: He’s all like “oh no–I have STUFF to do–you go to the bank together.” * WINKWINK*

VV: I really like Blue Demon better than Santo, truth be told.

TK: I think Blue Demon is more willing to let his imperfections show. He’s more like you and I. If… you and I were stout rasslin’ Mexicans with shiny masks and giant red convertibles.

VV: To be fair, though, Blue Demon didn’t lose a SINGLE FALL in his match, whereas El Angel Blanco made Santo shit a squealin’ worm in their second fall.

TK: El Santo is more like a Jesus figure, I think.

VV: So if you and I were luchadores with convertibles, what would our handles be?

TK: Hmmm… La Loba Infernal! GirlKaiser works for me too, since Dr. Wagner is already taken.

VV: I would be “El Penguino Volidor “

TK: “The Violating Penguin…?”

VV: “The Flying Penguin.”

TK: Oh, see, that’s thought-provoking too!

VV: Though the other works too. I thought you were “Dr. Satan somethingorother”

TK: Oh… “Dr. Satan-Molesto.” That’s… a nickname I earned the Honest Way. By groping women while wearing a mad scientist outfit.

VV: See, you’ve already got your gimmick! How about finishing moves?

TK: How do you say “explosive fist” in Spanish?

VV: “puno de explosivo”

TK: Yes. That. How about the Violat–I mean FLYING Penguin?

VV: Mine would be the Amazing Ass Bomb.

TK: Does that have anything to do with the rotary phone?

VV: My lawyer says it’s best not to comment on that

TK: I… have a feeling it’s A Very Effective Move, then…!

VV: Yes, but it’s high-risk. I could also give them the Deep Dive Penetrator maneuver. But that’s been banned in 35 states.

TK: Oh boy.


VV: So Rufus actually gives Blue Demon a pretty good fight there at the end– I admired his skill.

TK: And his blouse.

VV: Though he didn’t seem to get the power boost I would have expected when he wolfed out. It seemed the same fight, only hairier.

TK: True! He was just a guy with really fast growing facial hair. Who lost the power of speech. Which is really a net loss of powers.

VV: In the scene right after his resurrection, Rufus was swaying at the shoulders quite a bit too
I couldn’t tell if he was trying to look beastly, or if the actor was drunk.

TK: Pullin’ a Joseph Cotton, as they call it in the biz.

VV: I wanted to say, though, that I was surprised by how decent the horror elements in this movie were. Despite Dracula’s net uselessness, he did look the part, and there were a few scenes where he was directing people through hypnosis that were atmospherically lit and effective.

TK: I think that’s really a realistic portrayal of a vampire. In my experience with real-life vampires, it’s a lot more about the swagger than about the supernatural stuff.
It’s like:
Outfit–check
Haircut–check
Neck-biting–Oh shit I got distracted.

VV: Fighting luchadores–I have People for that.

TK: Totally. That’s how vampires roll.

VV: Also, the resurrection sequence was unterrible. You had the flame spouting gargoyles, the upside-down old man getting stuck like a pig, and the steaming skeletons, all aces. Also Eric praying to Satan most emphatically.

TK: I am ALL ABOUT the “reconstituted from skeletal remains” scene.

VV: Although…did you notice that Dracula’s skeleton had its scapulas in the front?


TK: Maybe that’s how vampires are built–don’t judge.

VV: It would explain his uselessness in a fight.

TK: “I can’t help–my arms are rooted to my sides.”

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VV: Well, since one of the main Mexican wrestling moves seems to be “Throw myself head-first into my opponent’s chest,” I think he could have made it work. The scene where they’ve captured dozens of innocents to make their army and are going all bondage-scenario on them in the dungeon–that was pretty cool too. It’s hard to go wrong with a girl tied down to a stone altar. Which is probably the only way Dracula could actually get the business done, come to think of it…

TK: The basement of the Vicarage is a fantasy of iron chains and big rock altars–that’s what you’re trying to tell me?

VV: Again, my lawyer is giving me the “shush” sign

But yes.

TK: It’s ok. I will promise to only tell the internet.

VV: Did you notice the whole BDSM vibe going on throughout the flick?

TK: YES! With all the WHIPPING and DOMINATING in the ring, and how everybody who gets captured is chained up somehow.

VV: And then Blue Demon is CHAINED to the wall and he has to walk the Balance Beam of Pain while all tied up.

TK: Yes, there were indeed some Special Needs moments, proving, once again, my theory that EVERYTHING IS SEX.

VV: Like I say, those knowing looks between Santo and Blue Demon… there’s more than rasslin’ strategy going on there. Of course it seems that Bondage is big in many of these lucha flicks.

TK: True. And yet the women are uber-chaste! Nary a boobie to be seen anywhere, alas.

VV: How did they capture those dozens of innocents anyway? I can only assume it was Eric’s doing.

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TK: Seriously. Eric and the Uncharacteristically Trusting Mobsters he managed to hire.
“Who are we working for?”
“Can’t tell.”
“OK.”

VV: “I want to meet your boss.”
“No you don’t.”
“OK.”

TK: Man, I need to find help like that for the Empire.

VV: “Go to the library and bring back any stacked, shy-looking bookish chicks you find.”
“OK.”

TK: Yeah, I don’t want any of that “why?” shit. Just “I will trade you X bars of gold for Y reprehensibly immoral action.”

VV: It’s the beauty of Capitalism.
But back to our luchadores!
I got the impression Santo was a bit of an egotist. I mean, granted, he is THE IDOL OF MEELIONS.

TK: Kind of like Jesus.

VV: Expound on this Christ/Santo parallel that you’ve mentioned a couple of times. You’ve intrigued me.

TK: They were both Mexic–no that’s not it

VV: OH! I know–El Angel Blanco made Santo SUBMIT with a move called the “Crucifixion.”

TK: I’m pretty sure Santo must be related to God somehow. I mean, look at his name. And his fucking COOLNESS. I’m pretty sure he can turn water into wine with the sheer force of his AWESOME. And on the DVD box, his name is in the biggest font.

VV: His name is all over the credits.
“Produced by El Producer and SANTO”
“With the participation of the Government of Mexico and SANTO”
“Written by Escritorio Bueno while SANTO was watching”

TK: And that means Lina is like Mary Magdalene.
Who can also drive a forklift.
This is some serious DaVinci Code shit up in here!

VV: If Mary Magdalene could drive a forklift, the Pieta would look WAY different. In fact, she’d have totally sprung JC from Golgotha. You could easily fit the prongs of the lift under the crossbar of the cross, and Bob’s your Uncle.

TK: There wouldn’t BE a Pieta because El Santo would throw Pontius Pilate into a submission hold and then just take a jetpack up to heaven and continue kicking ASS.
Our Bible is much cooler.

VV: Seriously.
What about the other Cristaldi girls?

TK: Hmmm… the granddaughter had a funky haircut.
Very new wave, with its three tiers.

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VV: Plus, she didn’t seem too torn up that her mom was dead at the end.
Or maybe she didn’t know yet.
Actually, Lina asks Santo “What will we tell her when she wakes up?”
And they say “That it was all a dream!”
“Yeah, it was all a dream. Plus, your mom’s dead.”

TK: “You didn’t really see werewolves, but you’ll need therapy for the REST OF YOUR LIFE because of your vivid dreams that your mom was a vampire.”

VV: That scene where she meets her living-dead grandpa and mom in the mansion was actually almost creepy. Reminded me a bit of “Black Sabbath,” the Karloff sequence.

TK: Yes, it was a bit of a heavy sequence, right? The whole involvement of the little girl was very strange and almost superfluous. Why was she there other than to create that awkwardness at the end?! The movie would’ve worked even if Lina was the only other Cristaldi.

VV: Well, Santo needed someone to save after the little girl nonsensically wandered out onto the Balance Beam of Pain.

TK: Ahhhh…! See, that makes sense.

VV: Then he got to go all Errol Flynn on Rufus and Drac. He didn’t even fucking NEED the dagger.

TK: Just his own two meaty paws!

VV: And an assist from Blue Demon.

TK: Blue Demon is like St. Peter. He is the rock on which the church of El Santo was built.

More, more, MORE images of Santo, Blue Demon, Dracula and Rufus Rex live over on Flickr!

Nunsploitation.net

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Well, I couldn’t be a more tickled little degenerate! I’m now an official contributor on that most ecclesi-fap-tastic of websites, Nunsploitation.net. I’ll be working on some new nun-related material over the coming weeks, so watch this space and that space for more as it develops. In the mean time, go check out the marvelous array of reviews, photos and downloads available over there right now!

Night of the Howling Beast [1975]

While “Night of the Howling Beast” might not be a contender for the finest–or even the weirdest–film of Paul Naschy’s career, it’s got an awful lot going for it, not the least of which is its kinda mindboggling premise. Seriously, internet–I can’t find a lot of fault with a movie built around the premise of getting a werewolf in a situation where he can fight a yeti. I could quibble that the yeti might have had more screen time and perhaps ought to have been imbued with more rapeyness, but I realize that not every ape-man movie can be “Night of the Demon” (even when there are similarties in titles).

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“Night of the Howling Beast” has Paul Naschy an as-yet-unwerewolfized Waldemar Daninsky in a contemporary scientific exploration seeking to capture a yeti for study. Why is Waldemar Daninsky in this scenario? Well, in this incarnation, Our Waldy is an anthropologist AND a psychologist AND is fluent in Nepalese. I’m assuming these areas of study are beneficial to understanding only the Half-Mans portion of the mythical, snow-bound Half-Mans-Half-Monkeys. You’d better believe that Waldemar is absolutely irresistable to women, as is evidenced by the worried reactions of the ladies in his group when he goes missing in a portion of the Himalayas rumored to be home to demons. Fortunately for Waldemar, he’s rescued from certain death via exposure by two babetastic sisters who nurse him back to health for the sole purpose of using him for sex. UNfortunately for Waldemar, the gals are priestesses of Kali and–worse yet–also flesh-gobbling werewolves. Before you can say “I knew this was too good to be true,” Waldemar has been bitten by one of the sisters and transforms into a wolfman during the night of the full moon.

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This would make for an entertaining enough plot even if the development stopped here and just turned into a werewolf rampage flick, but if there’s one thing we can count on in a Naschy film, it’s the inclusion of as many genre chestnuts as possible. Set as it is in the Mysterious Orient, this provides the opportunity for Yellow Peril Wackiness that would bring a tear to Sax Rohmer’s eye. Early in the film, Waldemar hires a guide he’s met in that most Asiatic of vice spots, the Opium Den. Now, you and I both know that no Naschy film would be complete without the appearance of bandits, and this movie is no exception. However, these are Asian-flavored bandits with an Atilla-the-Hun-like leader called Sekkar Khan (when uttered on film, this sounds entirely too close to “Chaka Khan” for this reviewer). Waldemar manages to find his Lady Love Sylvia and save her from a rapey doom, but the rest of the members of the expedition (including his colleague Larry Talbot–GET IT?) get captured or killed by the bandits. Determined to get revenge, Waldemar hunts the bandits through the mountains to destroy them in their mountaintop hideaway.

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But wait–THERE’S MORE! Sekkar Khan is suffering from a syphillis-like infection and is being treated by an Eastern European vamp named Wandessa (oh goodness–references within references–it is to swoon!). Wandessa is the Bitch Goddess offspring of Vampira and Ilsa, and she might just be my new heroine. Not content to sit there looking pretty (though–trust me–she’s way good at that), this villainess is angling for the Khan’s throne from her mad scientist’s lair. Her cure for Sekkar Khan includes skinning young women alive and applying their still-bloodied flesh to the patient’s sores. Of course this means that there’s a stable of scantily-clad and nubile babes on hand, providing even more boobortunities in this already tittastic film.

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One of the interesting features of this film for devotees of the Daninsky Saga is that Waldemar is offered a cure to his lycanthropy here that doesn’t involve his death. In this universe, the curse can be lifted if the petals of a rare flower are combined with the blood of a young woman who loves the werewolf. Significantly, Waldemar only kills malefactors over the course of his wolf-outs. You see where this is going, surely?

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I know what you’re thinking–isn’t there supposed to be a yeti in here? There is a yeti, but you’ll be so distracted by all of the other wild stuff happening on screen that the promised yeti vs. werewolf smackdown comes as a cherry on a satisfying if not particularly tastebud-testing sundae.

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The film’s soundtrack is an odd mish-mash of orchestral music that sounds as if it might have been lifted from other sources. It’s traditional nature fits with the classic horror themes of the film without being particularly noteworthy. Cinematography is workmanlike throughout–not poor, but lacking in some of the low-tech but effective in-camera work of some of the other Naschy flicks. No vampiric slow-mo and no dreamlike fisheye lens punctuate the visual presentation.

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The Barcelona locations are undoubtedly beautiful, but they can hardly be mistaken for the Himalayas–gently sloping hills and deciduous forestation betray the Iberian setting. No matter how many extras dressed in rustic furs are placed in that setting, it’s still clearly not Tibet. This doesn’t stop the filmmaker from inserting a native dance sequence and some stock footage of snow-covered temples in order to remind us of the story’s locale.

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As a monster mash of modest proportions, “Night of the Howling Beast” delivers a fun diversion that will delight Paul Naschy’s fans and entertain anyone else with a soft spot for classic monsters who might walk into the room.

EDITED TO ADD: For those of you who are dying to catch a glimpse of this film, Pal of the Empire Brian Horrorwitz of TRASH PALACE offers a collector copy in his catalog. What are you waiting for? Hie thee to TRASH PALACE and hook yourself up with a Giftmas Present to yourself.

Click here for the Flickr gallery of stills from “Night of the Howling Beast.”

The Monster of Florence [2008]

I was first exposed to the Monster of Florence in an interview with Daria Nicolodi published in the 1996 publication “Spaghetti Nightmares.” In the interview, Nicolodi (Dario Argento collaborator in producing films as well as Asia Argento) is asked to speak about her native city of Florence and a rash of unsolved murders committed in the surrounding countryside from the mid-Seventies through the mid-Eighties. She reacts to the question with a mixture of enthusiasm for the subject matter (she’d intended to produce a film based on the story) and reluctance to say too much, whether out of fear of the murderer or of the people investigating the murders left rather unclear in this reader’s mind.

As a person with an admittedly morbid fascination with complex true crime stories, I was able to come up with only a sparse understanding of the case and a curiosity to learn more. The case of the Monster of Florence has been sparsely covered in the US, but it’s something of a national fixation in Italy. The murders of seven couples who were making love in parked cars at the times of their deaths evokes the unsolved crimes of the Zodiac, while the post-mortem mutilations of the female victims brings to mind Jack the Ripper. Until recently, the only English-language summation of the case I had read was the Monster of Florence entry in Crime Library.

2008 has seen the publication of what may become the definitive book on the case in any language–Douglas Preston and Mario Spezzi’s “The Monster of Florence.” The case has as many unexpected turns as the wildest of gialli, with the kind of political intrigue, far-out speculation, and colorful characters one might expect from a mid-Seventies fictional thriller.

I’d always posited that the fictional representations of Italian police as disorganized and bumbling fell into the same category as the Keystone Kops–exaggerated comedic portrayals with little relation to real-life investigators. Reading the true-life antics of the police at work on the Monster case (to make no mention of the more recent “Foxy Knoxy House of Horrors” case taking place in Perugia) is enough to make me reconsider this stance. In both cases, a fairly straight-forward if sensational crime is blown entirely out of proportion. While Occam’s Razor might suggest that the simplest and truest solution to the Monster case is that a lone sexual psychopath with more luck than brains is committing the crimes, the theories in the press that are seriously considered by police, to the point of putting people on trial, center around a Satanic cult run by wealthy men (including an Italian prince) seeking to expand their power and based out of a hilltop chateau. This is to make no mention of the discarded theories of mad gynecologists and demented butchers that were at one time considered relevant. The Italian concept of dietrologia, the story behind the official story, plays a crucial role here–in Italian culture, it’s considered vital to keep digging past the point of reason to uncover the true truth, not the simplest and likeliest answer.

The Preston/Spezzi book makes for an excellent read. It’s well-structured, telling Spezzi’s story first (he is a journalist who has followed the case from its early days) and then picking up with Preston’s arrival in Tuscany in 2000. There’s a bit too much attention paid to the case’s connection to the Thomas Harris film and book “Hannibal” (the frame-by-frame explanation of how a certain building relates to the real-life case is kinda overkill, for example), but when the narrative is centered around the Italy-centric occurences, it snaps along at an admirable pace. As with many an unsolved crime account, the authors put forward their key suspect in the case, which is backed up with some pretty compelling evidence. Unlike any other unsolved crime account I’ve read, the authors wind up as Persons Of Interest in the case as a result of their persistent investigations.

As a snapshot of real-life Italian police procedure, this book serves as a great companion to the completist giallo fan. “The Monster of Florence” also works as an immersive and fascinating account that belongs in every true crime library.

Ring of Darkness [1979]

“Ring of Darkness” is an obscure little occult thriller that’s the sophomore and final cinematic entry from Italina director Pier Carpi. To me, this movie is one that helps define the Coulda-Been-Super horror flick–all the elements are there for an above-average supernatural potboiler, but things never coalesce into the weird and wonderful.

To kick of a list of What’s Very Right is a great cast includes Nunsploitation vet Anne Heywood (“Nun of Monza” and “Nuns of St. Archangel”) as well as veteran Euro-actresses Valentina Cortese and Irene Papas as witches who are realizing the full, terrible price they’ve paid for infernal power, joined by Marisa Mell and John Philip Law, together again over ten years after “Diabolik.” Lara Wendel puts in a very good turn as the little girl whose soul belongs to Satan, walking the line between little girl and blossoming woman with an eerie efficacy. Fourteen at the time of filming, there are some uncomfortably sexualized moments surrounding Wendel’s character Daria. She’s a demonic Lolita imbued with deadly psychic power who evokes jealousy in women, lust in men, and eventually fear in all who encounter her.

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Things get off to an appropriately psychedelic start with an UH-mazing opening credits sequence. Four dancers in diaphanous gowns prance around a fountain before being joined by four men in red leotards, who do a Dance of Love that includes a nude lambada and a re-enactment of the four witches’ pact with Satan. That, my friends, is five minutes in camp movie heaven for this viewer. Part “Xanadu,” part “Rosemary’s Baby,” and all brainfuckling, this is definitely in my top ten opening credits sequences of all time.

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The story follows Carlotta Rhodes (Anne Heywood) as she attempts to save her daughter Daria from falling over to the Dark Side. Early in the story, it becomes clear that her efforts are too little, too late, and in spite of enlisting the aid of her coven as well as a Catholic priest (played by John Philip Law and conveniently in the clutches of a crisis of faith, leading him to shrug his shoulders when he realizes he’s participating in an occult-though-not-Satan-flavored ritual), Daria’s powers escalate, eventually leading to a confrontation between mother and daughter that has fatal results for one of them.

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Sadly, the movie doesn’t sustain the degree of AWESOME suggested by its credits sequence for long and it becomes pretty clear pretty early on that Carpi is determined to waste a capable cast and a cool plot with an overly talky script and static cinematography. The film is very literal–there are plentiful scenes of mid-range dialogue with a close-up on the reaction. Granted, the close-up on reaction is generally on the face of a beautiful, dignified cinema star, and I’m never going to complain about seeing the likes of Marisa Mell featured full-frame, but it’s not an effective way to build atmosphere and tension.

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What tension exists is derived from the interactions between the older (yet still beautiful) witches and Nadia, who has chosen to follow the Left Hand Path wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. Her burgeoning, youthful sexuality is at odds with the adult women, who have been thwarted in their quest for lasting, fulfilling relationships with men since their bodies and souls are owned by Satan, who shows up en flagrante delicto with his Eurotrashtastic white scarf and accusatory glare to frighten off any potential suitors. Mortal men are victims in this universe, from Daria’s father who is killed in a Devil-assisted plane crash to the Catholic priest who is overwhelmed by black magic powers during his attempted exorcism of Daria. Even poor Martin, the gawky classmate who takes a fancy to Daria, is ultimately doomed. It’s a matriarchal world; yet at the heart of the matter is the very male presence of Satan, manipulating events from the shadows (or from the spotlight–this movie loves to use dramatic spotlighting, lemme tell you).

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Stelvio Cirpiani’s electronic soundtrack recalls Goblin’s work on “Dawn of the Dead,” sometimes quite literally indeed. The music used during the exorcism sequence uses an incredibly similar bass line and progression of percussive sounds, to the point where it feels almost lifted in its entirety!

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This piece of occult-themed fluff is elevated above fluff status–granted, just above fluff status–by Lara Wendel’s captivating performance. Daria owns every scene she appears in, from her tense interactions with her mother through her commanding outbursts in her middle school classroom. She has a menacing look in her eye that reads as absolutely diabolical, putting her at least in a runner-up spot for the Creepy Kid Hall of Fame.

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As a Coulda-Been, “Ring of Darkness” is entertaining and watchable, but it plays more like a made-for-TV melodrama with underage boobage than as a Satanic shock film.
Huge thank-yous go out to Brian Horrorwitz of Trash Palace for providing us slavering geeks with a thirst for obscure weirdness with a place to purchase movies like “Ring of Darkness!” Take a peek at his excellent selection of titles and tell him the Tenebrous sent you 🙂

Happy Christmas from Père Fouettard, Plus More Krampus

If you guys thought the Krampus was awesome, check out France’s answer to Santa’s Grisly Little Helper, Père Fouettard–the WHIPPING FATHER. Yes, folks–the Europeans once again outclass us Americans with the legend of a butcher who murders a group of wealthy kids in order to steal their riches. After repenting to St. Nicholas, he’s forced into servitude to the Christmastime gift-giver. Over time, he’s become the punishing counterpart to kindly St. Nick, doling out horsewhippings to misbehaving kids.

So, in case you needed more influence over your kids this holiday season and they’re not persuaded by the threat of a demonic flogging, make sure they’re aware of the fact that there’s a potentially cannibalistic child-murderer following Santa who is just itching to get a piece of the punishment action.

Oh, and if you think this sounds like a great idea for a horror movie, so did somebody else! Here’s the website for “Krampus: the Movie. Looks like it’s yet to get a distribution deal, but my interest is certainly piqued.

To round things out, here’s a Krampusrun in Graz, Austria:

Decision-Making Fap Flowchart: "Valkyrie" Edition

It’s come to my attention that some of you are rather conflicted with regards to the relative fapworthiness of Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg in the upcoming WWII espionage film “Valkyrie.” As something of an expert on the matter of sexy-but-evil characters of a Third Reich nature, I’ve composed what I hope will be a helpful decision-making flowchart to guide you through this important self-abuse decision in a thoughtful and responsible manner.

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To summarize–it’s acceptable to fantasize to sticky completion over Tom Cruise’s character in “Valkyrie” because of the eyepatch. After some consideration, I’ve decided to rank the eyepatch above the fact that the actor in question is a Scientologist. Were it not for the eyepatch, wanking over this character would not be permitted.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled Internet.

Mission to Kill (aka Order to Kill) [1974]

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My only foreknowledge of “Mission to Kill,” an obscure entry into the Eurocrime canon, was that it features the Foppish Force For Awesome that is Helmut Berger. Honestly, that is enough to convince me of the watchability of any given film–the promise of brooding, bitchslapping and tantrum-throwing from the fabulous Mr. Berger is entirely more than I can resist. Fortunately, he’s in fine scenery-chewing form in this film, which is a not-too-bad tale of revenge and organized crime set in the Caribbean. José Gutiérrez Maesso steps into the director’s seat here after having worked on the scripts for“Django,” “Tragic Ceremony” and “Ricco the Mean Machine,” and perhaps-less-shiningly produced the “Exorcist” rip-off scenes inserted into “Lisa and the Devil” to craft “House of Exorcism.” The roster includes character actors and frequent teevee-show-guest-stars Jose Ferrer (notable to me for his role in “So Bad It’s Good” Empire fave “Zoltan, Hound of Dracula”) and Kevin McCarthy (a total “Hey! It’s THAT Guy!” actor with over two hundred screen appearances to his name), who join glamorous blonde actress Sydne Rome (featured in “Pumaman” and “the Killer Must Kill Again”) to round out an actually-pretty-creditable cast.

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Helmut Berger plays Clyde Hart, a Vietnam deserter turned organized crime hitman who has had enough of his life as a murderer. He is foiled in his plans to start a new life under a new identity with his lover Anne (Sydne Rome) when his employer, the gambling magnate McLean (Kevin McCarthy) catches wind of his intentions. Things get more complicated still when Police Inspector Reed takes custody of Clyde and involves him in his own plot to assassinate McLean. Anne is persuaded to shack up with brutish underboss Richard in order to ensure her own safety, a move that begins to convince Clyde of the wisdom of Reed’s scheme. The shifting motives of each character combined with the fact that no players are free from guilt make for an interesting crime tragedy.

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To be honest, Maesso doesn’t show much in the way of directorial chops. “Mission to Kill” isn’t going to be on anyone’s “lost classics of the genre” list any time soon. The shot-framing is pretty standard, and the amount of helicopter sequences borders on “Night of a 1000 Cats” territory. There’s not much in the way of soundtrack, and while the upbeat island music that accompanies the opening credits sure as hell shows us that we’re knee-deep in tropical paradise, it does little to set the scene for a film focusing on the futility of revenge.

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What the movie does have going for it is a leading couple with striking good looks (seriously–the rather energetic seaside makeout sequence a la “From Here to Eternity” provides some nice semi-nude eyecandy of Berger and Rome) and a cast that’s skilled enough to walk itself through a decent storyline. Alas, it’s not enough to really win my affection.

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This is a film that would benefit from some well-placed insanity. Sure, it’s insane enough to cast Helmut Berger as a hitman (a move that paid dividends in the trashy and over-the-top flick “Beast with a Gun” a few years down the road), but the movie feels a lot like a flat, made-for-television bit of filler. Wacky dialogue would be welcome, and some more of those full-body Captain-Kirk-style fisticuffs would provide a relief from what threatens to be blandness.

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Ah well–such is the life of a completist! It can’t rain groovy all the time.

The Flickr gallery for “Mission to Kill” lives here.