Murder Rock [1983]

Since there’s a part of my brain that reacts as if I was raised by drag queens, I desperately wanted to love “Murder Rock,” Lucio Fulci’s early-Eighties mash-up of the then-popular (and now-popular too, seeing as how shows like “America’s Best Dance Crew” are into multiple seasons) genre of Dancesploitation (‘sploiting the deepest desires of every adolescent girl to be a ballerina fairy princess, if not always a welder) and the perenially-resurrected form that is the Giallo. Well, dear readers, that sentence had more twists and turns than this unfortunately restrained thriller. This movie would’ve benefited enormously from the splattery and perhaps over-zealous effects work that characterize Fulci’s zombie flicks, but instead we’re given some melodrama and a series of murders commited with a hat pin. Yes, you read that correctly–this is a movie about murders in a group of promiscuous and frothingly competitive young dancers that manages to be–dare I say it–boring. The cast is certainly pretty enough and it’s true that there are some inspired cinematographic moments, “Murder Rock” (aka “Slashdance”–what a TITLE!) is a dud.

"Murder Rock" Film Still

The slip-ups in the making of this film are pretty egregious. The simmering cauldron of jealousy and lust at the dance school never capitalized upon. Let’s repeat Rule One of exploitation: EXPLOIT SOMETHING, for heaven’s sake! Lots of characters talk about sex, but aside from some making-out and a bit of soap-opera style enjoyment of the afterglow, there’s no skin and relatively little nudity. While there’s not much nekkidity, there are plentiful shots of bare bosoms–which is to say, “bare bosoms in the process of being pierced by a deadly needle.” Which, for me, sort of detracts from the nipply glee.

"Murder Rock" Film Still

Also–lemme just take a moment to note that these are some of the easiest-dyin’ characters in cinema history! While I’m sure that medical science can clue me in to the existance of a magical Off Button that resides somewhere beneath the female breast, I’m thinking it would take a lot of practice and more than one straight-in stab with a pin to find it. I’m almost starting to think that the set square is a good murder weapon after all…

"Murder Rock" Film Still

The Keith Emerson soundtrack is whacked-out beyond belief, somehow managing to be viciously repetitive without ever getting stuck in one’s head (thankfully). There are strained, almost-off-key and certainly over-emphatic vocals that would make the Weather Girls start doling out umbrella beatings, featuring repeated cliches such as “Tonight is your night–YEAH!” I was yearning for the credits theme from “Faceless” by about eight minutes in. Deepening the criminality of the film is that there are several shot-on-location scenes in vintage New York City that are bland unto tears. This shame is doubly-deep, since the Fulcinator gave us that awesome shot of the masses of undead lumbering across the Brooklyn Bridge in “Zombie“–he can do great stuff with the NYC scenery, he just doesn’t do it here.

"Murder Rock" Film Still

Admittedly, some details are kind of cool–the young wheelchair-bound girl who witnesses one of the murders is a fine inheretrix to early-Seventies creepy ginger-kid Nicoletta Elmi. Honestly, I kinda of wanted to see her movie more than I wanted to see the one I was actually watching. Her obsession with photographic insects and learning the grisly details of their behavior was well-played and added some texture to the desperately-in-need-of-said film. Television screens and closed-circuit cameras appear throughout and provide some eerily voyeuristic touches, but all in all, the movie has the same literality as a Duran Duran video, but without the pleasing music.

"Murder Rock" Film Still

However, if you’re a person who likes lots of en-leotarded crotch shots, then this movie has plenty to offer. PLENTY. It’s really an homage to the cameltoe. Perhaps the lack of gore was a bold choice, so as not to distract from the bevy of mooseknucklage on display here. It’s like a Jane Fonda video, where those who fail to WORK IT with enough vigor are summarily disposed by a black-gloved killer. Which… come to think of it, is actually an awesome idea for a workout routine. I’d just be sure to pick better music.

"Murder Rock" Film Still
Since I know there are Leotard Enthusiasts reading this right now, I’ll toss you a sop for reading this far. Bask in the damp glow of this rather leeringly-lensed dance audition:

For more hott spandex action, check out the Flickr gallery of stills from “Murder Rock.”

The Dardos Award – Paying Forward the Blog Love

I am many things, but “timely” is not one of them. You might’ve gathered that by now. Even so, I must apologize for not getting round to acknowledging the honor of the Dardos Award that has been given to me by that gentleman and scholar, Pierre Fournier of Frankensteinia. More info on the Dardos Award:

The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.

The Rules are:

1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.

2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

I know so many amazing bloggers, it’s really hard for me to pick just five that I want to share the love with! I’m sure several of these folks have already been honored, but I’m going to go ahead and give them more acknowledgement of their awesomeness right here, right now:

Cinebeats–Since I was granted this award by a gentleman and a scholar, I feel it only proper to pass it along to a gentlelady and scholar, Mz. Kimberly. Cinebeats discusses the films of the 60s and 70s with a non-elitist eye–finding equal joy in experimental films, musicals, and horror flicks from all over the world.

Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies–Come on, like I’m not going to send a shout-out to the Vicar of VHS and the Duke of DVD and their lovingly detailed homages to far-out and freaky films…! What they lack in gentlemanliness, they make up for in pure glee. Must-read stuff, for sure.

Fascination: The Jean Rollin Experience–A gem of a blog dedicated to the French master of the fantastique. I admire the fact that blogger Jeremy Richey updates so frequently on such a focused topic!

It’s Deadlicious–A wonderful mix of lowbrow art, vintage magazines, cinema tributes and anything else that might strike the fancy of the mysterious lucha-masked cadre known as Deadlicious. And did I mention that they make heavy-metal-themed pies? Cos, yeah–they do.

Igloo of the Uncanny–The Igloo Keeper is an awesome in-character blogger who manages to balance insightful observations on the horror and exploitation films he reviews with a wonderfully dry sense of humor.

"My Bloody Valentine 3D" [2009]

Darling readers, your Tenebrous Hostess is not immune to gimmick–far from it, in fact. I will not apologize for the fact that I believe that the goofy magic of 3D improves even the lamest of films, at least for a few minutes. Just imagine it–through some chance of gruesome fate and a poor choice in spouse, you’re sitting for three hours watching “Sex in the City” and–WHAM–Sarah Jessica Parker’s freakishly-porportioned chin is COMING RIGHT AT YOU! Perhaps I’m stretching credibility here, and I’m certainly getting way off topic when what I’m actually trying to say is:

I totally dug “My Bloody Valentine 3D”–way more than is in any way ladylike or even probably justified.

Now is the part where I disclaimer this by saying 1) I have never seen the original film so I had no horse in this particular remake race and 2) I’m not a big fan of 80s slasher films in general.* So caveat lector, m’kay?

While I’m sure that 90 minutes of squicky 3D pickaxe effects would’ve held my interest well enough, there was a lot more than moist bodily trauma to be enjoyed in this movie. Due to some better-than-expected acting, I actually found myself caring about what was going to happen to the characters trapped in the fading mining town of Harmony, and while there’s plenty of predictable plot developments, I found them to be in line with genre-movie tropes. If I wanted something fresh and thought-provoking, I wouldn’t be watching a stalk-and-slash in the first place, non?

Because I am a teenage boy at heart, I must confess that I was delighted to see 3D simulated sex and full frontal nudity included. Hooray for including graphic violence and pubic hair in the same film–I salute this directorial choice! And what graphic violence it was–this didn’t pull any punches. It was love from the first prosthetic pickaxe point protrusion. I went in expecting gross, and this movie gave it to me. With boobs, too. It might not be love, but it felt like it for ninety minutes (surely we’ve all been there).

As to how this movie might fare without its 3D effects intact, I’d wager “fairly well.” The timing of the grisliness seemed to be pretty well-handled and the pace of the movie bops along pleasantly (I didn’t yawn too much during expositional sequences), leading up to what I found to be a satisfying conclusion.

Check your analytical brain at the door, pop on your novelty glasses (FYI–they do fit over standard eyeglasses, though with a somewhat hilarious effect to those sitting around you), and go see “My Bloody Valentine 3D.” And if you’re really lucky, you’ll get to sit in a sold-out theatre full of folks half your age yelling “SHOOT HIM” and “TURN AROUND STUPID” just like I did (honestly–that brought a gleeful tear to this geek’s eye).

*No, seriously–I’m the oldest in my entire family, and as a result of this and my being–y’know–a GIRL, I was kept gently sheltered from R-rated horror films until a not-so-tender age. So there was no “Jason jumping out of the lake” trauma or nightmares about Freddy Kreuger for this personage. I missed that golden window of nostalgia, I’m afraid!

Strike of the Tortured Angels [1982]


A title like “Strike of the Tortured Angels” sets up certain expectations in this viewer’s mind–expectations that, technically, are met in this film. It’s true that this film does involve some pretty girls, and there is revenge in the storyline. However, this movie takes a lot of wrong turns on Backstory Lane and, much like a nervous student driver terrified to push the speedometer over twenty miles per hour, never makes it onto Entertainment Highway. That’s not to say this was a waste of my time–far from it! This film answered a question I never dared to ask myself: Just how long can the utter wrongness of watching an Asian woman in blackface stay entertaining? The answer to this question is “twenty-five minutes.” Problem is, “Strike of the Tortured Angels” runs for an hour and twenty-three minutes.


After the suspiciously Anglo-name-filled credits* are done naming actors such as “George Bill” and “Laura Jone,” the movie follows Julie, Susan and Ginger, three inmates of a women’s reform institution in Hong Kong, through their imprisonment, escape, and plot to avenge Susan’s sister who committed suicide after her tragic relationship with a no-goodnik of a doctor. There’s a lot of promise early on, with mud-wrestling, clothing-ripping, and some mild humiliation and cat-fighting, but after about 20 minutes of tame WiP cliches, the movie chooses to focus on melodrama over shock value. There are plentiful, elaborate side plots without the benefit of character development and a significant portion of the film’s action is revealed through dialogue instead of being shown on-screen. By the time a fifteen minute flashback explaining Susan’s fucked-up home life is through, we’re almost missing the toilet-swabbing montage from the prison portion of the film. Add in a morally upright prison guard who wants to rehabilitate the girls in spite of their escape and you’ve got a recipe for… well, a really draggy hour and twenty-three minutes.


That’s not the most notable thing about this movie though, as you’ve already observed. I did, in fact, state that one of the leads–Julie–is a black character played by an Asian actress in heavy bronzer and a fright wig. She overacts pretty much continuously, mugging and flailing and generally acting wild. Julie’s subplot is that she is afflicted with tuberculosis, the main symptom of which is that she coughs during fist fights.


The really puzzling thing about this movie, once you get past the whole “blackface” thing, is that the movie appears to be a women in prison film intended for a mainstream female audience–sort of a “Sisterhood of the Incarcerated Pants.” I just don’t know how else to explain the vexing lack of nudity, or the fact that Ginger has a pet piglet that gets more screen time than the kinda-cruel-but-actually-merely-cranky warden. There’s a lot of exposition surrounding the love triangle involving the sleazy doctor and Susan’s sister and her mother, but it’s played like a soap opera rather than an exploitation film. Lots of words are exchanged–lots and lots of words.


There’s a rather noteworthy scene in a disco in which it becomes clear to me that the dancers are all cursed with the same disorder that plagues people at spooky nightclubs–everyone is dancing to a different song. Bonus points for the fact that the song that is playing in this scene sounds a whole lot like a muzak re-working of the Bee Gees’ “Tragedy.”**


Oh–did I mention that one of the leads is played by an Asian actress in blackface? I’m kinda hung up on the WTF’ery of that. Forgive me.


To sum up, this is exactly the kind of movie you’d want to watch if you’re a fan of confusing family drama, stilted dancing and racial insensitivity. All others can safely skip “Strike of the Tortured Angels” and check out the Flickr gallery of stills for the briefer visual experience instead. Better yet–just watch “Raw Force” or “Three Tough Guys” from the Grindhouse Experience box set from whence this one came instead. Gotta give points to those Grindhouse folks for releasing such a flagrant dupe directly from a Danish VHS–makes me feel just like the olden days of video swaps.

*In all fairness, I’d adopt a pseudonym if I was involved in this movie, too.
**This is my favorite Bee Gees song. Yes, I have a favorite Bee Gees song.

John Willie – Panels From "The Devilish Sir Darcy"

I love this take on the old “lady pretending to be a ghost in order to scare off unwanted guests” chestnut illustrated by John Willie. Editor of the highly influential fetish periodical “Bizarre,” Willie manages to incorporate hobbling heels and bondage into the mix. I can’t help but note that there are more efficient ways to outfit a banshee for chain-rattling, but you’ve got to give the artist credit for an innovative new way to put his damsel in distress. Diaphanous Gown Enthusiasts should be pleased as well–you know who you are, cupcakes…!

"The Devilish Sir Darcy" (1 of 4)

"The Devilish Sir Darcy" (2 of 4)

"The Devilish Sir Darcy" (3 of 4)

"The Devilish Sir Darcy" (4 of 4)

Originally published in “the Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline [Second Edition]” Belier Press 1999

Baron Blood [1972]

There’s a lot for the discriminating fan of Italo-gothickry to enjoy in Mario Bava’s “Baron Blood.” Were I pressed–probably at gun point–to choose an all-time favorite director, I’d have to name Bava. He balances elegant chills with graphic grue in a way that honors the tradition of black-and-white chillers (“Black Sunday”) while laying the groundwork for modern horror (“Twitch of the Death Nerve”–seriously, THAT is a movie title, lieblings). “Baron Blood” is a movie that’s best appreciated as a vehicle for Bava to demonstrate his mastery of employing evocative lighting and sumptuous mise-en-scene to elevate standard spooky fare above its presumed-by-too-many “B Grade” class.

"Baron Blood" Film Still

In this film, handsome young American Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora) returns to his family’s native Austria to reconnect with his heritage. His uncle Dr. Karl Hummel (you can tell he’s a professor on account of his tweedy attire and textbook on Ancient Greek Culture, in spite of the fact that he’s shown teaching a class on neuroscience later in the film) brings him to the ancestral home–the awesomely-ominously-named Schloss des Teufels. Fascinated with his ancestor Baron Otto von Kleist, a fiendish character whose chief amusement was the torture and murder of unfortunate villagers, Peter and mini-skirted architecture student Eva Arnold (played by groovy, leggy Teuton Elke Sommer) recite an incantation to bring the evil noble back from the grave. Twice. You know, just to be sure. Within minutes of his resurrection, the Baron is hell-bent on a kill-krazee rampage through the village–you know what they say about Germanic Efficiency! Now it’s up to Eva and Peter to undo their titanic occult stupidry and lay the Baron to rest.

"Baron Blood" Film Still

“Baron Blood” is not what you’d call a fast-paced thrill flick–its success rests on the fact that Bava fills the expositional moments with beautiful backdrops and ominous cinematograpy. It’s all about well-considered composition and stark shadows here. Shadowy hallways, authentic medieval architecture and ornate decorative details are used to gorgeous effect. In fact, this film could be seen as a valentine to the castle in which it was filmed, the Burg Kreuzenstein in Austria (for more photos of this amazing castle, view the German site and click the link labeled “Bilder”). This beautiful building is a character of its own as the camera peers through wrought iron gratings or positions itself within towering pointed archways. After plans to turn the building into a hotel come to an abrupt and grisly halt, the Schloss des Teufels is purchased for a mere $600,000 (“including the dungeons,” as Eva helpfully points out) by a mysterious wheelchair-bound stranger named Alfred Becker (Joseph Cotten). Need I say that, in my neck of the woods, one would have a difficult time buying a two-bedroom house in the ‘burbs for that much…? Add one more item to the “Reasons I Want To Live in Movie World” list.

"Baron Blood" Film Still

Like all truly enjoyable genre fare, the devil’s in the details, and Bava does not scrimp on the details. In addition to the amazing use of on-location filming, the casting is spot on. Elke Sommer is always easy on the eyes, and has several great scream queen moments throughout the film, with her fog-and-light pursuit by the undead Baron proving to be a highlight. Eerie little girl du jour, Nicoletta Elmi (“Flesh for Frankenstein,” “Twitch of the Death Nerve”), is on hand as an early adapter of the “Baron Blood has risen from the grave” school of thought. She is given several moments in which she lends her trademark stare to a scene. Say what you will about Samara from “The Ring”–this kid wins for sheer creeposity. Add in several dozen bonus points for the Baron’s amazing taste in hats, and you’ve got more WIN than any one movie should rightfully contain.

"Baron Blood" Film Still

I really appreciate that this is not a “Scooby Doo” mystery, where the ghost is unmasked at the end as being a profiteering land developer or somesuch–“Baron Blood” is set in a universe of supernatural happenings. Eva and Peter’s incantation works, and they pretty much immediately resort to magical means in order to stop the creeping evil they’ve unleashed.

"Baron Blood" Film Still

If you’re looking for a satisfyingly spooky way to spend an evening, you can’t do any better than selecting a Mario Bava film, and “Baron Blood” is certainly a showcase of the director’s trademark style. For more “Baron Blood” images, check out the Flickr gallery here.

Scream Blacula Scream [1973]

I’ll make this crystal clear–“Scream Blacula Scream” is not a good movie. It doesn’t have the freshness of the original “Blacula,” nor does it posess the odd sense of poignancy that the relationship between William Marshall’s titular vampire and his reincarnated love interest adds to the first film. Undead African prince Mumuwalde is a less rich character in the sequel and there are just too many missed opportunites for EXTREME AWESOMENESS throughout the iffy-paced plot to be ignored. The end product is textbook “Coulda Been But Wasn’t” cinema, but like most movies of this sort, there are a few important points worth noting.

The plot concerns the resurrected Mumuwalde seeking to rid himself of the evil that animates his body by employing the services of a gifted voodoo priestess Lisa Poitier (Pam Grier). Of course, a vampire-dude’s gotta do what vampire-dude’s gotta do, so Mumuwalde spends much of his time engaging in neck-bitey activities, amassing a ghoulish army to protect him until a successful exorcism can be performed. Lisa’s friend Justin, a successful entrepreneur and art collector, soon links the unexplained deaths to Mumuwalde, and attempts to persuade the police to track down the killer. I know, I know–it’s a voodoo-themed blaxploitation vampire movie, and it’s still not very good. Like I mentioned above, though, there are some highlights. Let’s discuss!


As a film about the struggle of outlandish fashion against eye-popping interior decor, this is actually a pretty successful film. Virtually every scene has at least one outfit and one design element that made me wonder what exotic chemicals were gripping the mind of the art director. Please witness the image above. This man is wearing a jumpsuit and a matching suit jacket made out of some exotic space-age textile, and he’s added what appears to be a Mondrian-designed placemat to the ensemble. Remarkable! It’s almost enough to detract from the gaslights, harp and Romanesque bust in the background.


Although he’s not given as much to work with here, William Marshall OWNS the character of Mumuwalde and acts the living hell out of every scene he’s in. This guy personifies dignity even when he’s covered in whiteface and crepe hair–you’ve got to admire and adore him for that. His stentorian voice and damn-near-Shakesperian delivery elevate his vampire above camp ridiculousness, and when he’s not monster-facing out, one can see why the ladies are attracted to this dapper gent. He’s a seductive bloodsucker in the finest Lugosi tradition.


Pam Grier’s role, while a scanty bore of a Good Girl character, does give the gorgeous actress plenty of screen time, underscoring my opinion that she’s got one of the finest profiles on a human being. I’ll also confess that it was more than a little thrilling to see a bedewed-with-sweat Ms. Grier participating in voodoo rituals.


Speaking of voodoo–one of the important elements of Mumuwalde’s exorcism is an adorable, wee Blacula voodoo doll. Witness its excellence.


Lastly, on a personal note, I managed to earn some nerd points for correctly ID’ing Nicholas Worth, the killer from Empire Fave “Don’t Answer the Phone,” during his one minute on screen. I love it when that happens!


There are far, FAR worse ways to spend ninety minutes than with “Scream Blacula Scream.” It’s got its fun moments, but the end effect of the movie is kinda forgettable.

For more “Scream Blacula Scream,” check out the Flickr gallery of stills.

"Salo" – I Have THE FEAR

I seem to have acquired a copy of “Salo” thanks to the internet’s own Darius Whiteplume of the superb Adventures in Nerdliness and Dirty & Nerdy. I’m possessed by a rather unspeakable fear, both because I’ve avoided this film for so many years (Karswell assures me there are no song and dance numbers–bummer) and because… well, let’s face it, I don’t think there will ever be a finer review of Pier Passolini’s infamous indictment of fascism than this one, by the Cinema Snob (j’adore this guy):

Dylan Dog – "Vamp"

Originally published in Glamour International – Issue 16, April 1991

This oversize Italian publication is a treasure trove of erotic art across the spectrum of fine art and pop culture. I was fortunate enough to pick up a bunch of volumes from Bud Plant several years ago, and was doing a little endzone dance when I slapped my geeky eyes on this exclusive Dylan Dog story. In this episode, artfully arranged with minimal dialogue, paranormal investigator Dylan Dog encounters a character inspired by the vamp of silent cinema, Theda Bara.

Art by Corrado Roi, story by Tiziano Sclavi

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 1

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 2

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 3

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 4

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 5

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 6

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 7

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 8

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 9

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 10

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 11

Dylan Dog - "Vamp" 12

Nice Boots

Let’s face it–Snake Plissken is a lot cooler than you are. He’s got 100% more eyepatch, 200% more heavy firearms, and 100% more hott leather buckle boots. That’s 400% more coolness than the average fellow on the street, by my accounting.

Well, the fine folks at Motor Cowboy want to help even the odds just a little bit by selling you a custom-made replica of Snake’s boots from “Escape from New York.” Next time you have a spare $600 lying around, I recommend paying them a visit. FYI–they also offer a variety of eyepatch-optional styles.

For reference, here’s the rest of the outfit that’s intended to go with those boots, folks: