Friday, February 24, 2017

Note To Myself February 24, 2017

Seems like in the past few months the world has been tilted on its axis. Even here in Northern Illinois, right on the Wisconsin border, where nothing ever seem to change very fast, the change is coming so fast and furious none of us can keep up. It was 70 degrees all week here in February. 

In light of all this tumult I wanted to take a small break from the chaos and document that this is my daily reality: I walk down the stairs to find treasure like this waiting for me. I will have dinner with cherished friends later tonight. Although the conversation will no doubt at some point turn to how crazy things are it won't be all that crazy where we are. Not yet at least. 

Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set 11th Printing
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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Night of the Living trumps

Word came out today that trump plans to sell off NPR and PBS to the highest bidder. He also plans to slash funding to NASA. It's not clear if the descent into chaos will be sudden or gradual, but it seems clear at this point we're in for some cultural devolution to the magnitude we've never seen. I, for one, welcome our moron overlords.


So, from what once was an apartment, in what once was a city, in what once was a country, on what once was a planet, this is WGON signing off for the last time...

"Our responsibility here has ended."
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thriller Video Hosted By Elvira, Mistress of the Dark: Alabama's Ghost

Alabama's Ghost is one of the Thriller Video releases that was not also an episode of Elvira's Movie Macabre. Although I have the movie on both VHS and Beta, I've never seen it before, so I found it on You Tube and am about ten minutes into watching it right now. And I don't have one damn idea or another what is happening. Like all the Thriller Videos, Elvira does do an into and outro but does not appear to comment during the movie, unfortunately.

"And it's me again, the video beauty with the cute little booty, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. And I'm just the gal who can't say no. Well, actually, I did say no once, but only when asked if I had said no before. Oh, golly. How do you like my outfit? (Voices off) Shut up, sister. If I want your opinion I'll beat it out of you. She's just jealous because she's always trying to impersonate me. Nice try, sister. You can pad the bra all you want, but you'll never get your hair as high as mine. So, there, nnn. Well, I've got a great movie for you tonight. I mean, great that is if you're into Surrealism. I tell you, it has got everything. Ghosts, robots, vampires, voodoo, and vanishing elephants. Not to mention drooling idiots. Tonight's movie is called Alabama's Ghost. No, no, no, it's not about some cotton picking poltergeist, it's about this guy who's name is Alabama, which makes a lot of sense because his sister's names are Virginia, Georgia, and Wisconsin. Anyway, don't let this scare you, but Alabama is being haunted by a ghost. Well, if you're ready, I'm ready. And it looks like Alabama's just itching to begin. Enjoy the movie, and I'll see you at intermission."

It's entirely possible there's some sort of plausible plot to this movie, which I entirely missed while I was typing out Elvira's introduction. Perhaps something like an aspiring jazz musician/forklift driver mistakenly drives his forklift through a wall and finds the secret stash of a dead magician, who shares the secret of his magic, asking only that Alabama doesn't reveal any of the secrets he has learned. Does he? No idea yet. 

After meeting this groovy promoter who's mind is blown by his act, Alabama takes it on the road, all leading up to a final performance where he will perform Carter The Great's most famous trick: a disappearing elephant. There are long scenes of dancing Hippies. I'm actually watching Night of the Comet on another screen and have only looked over three or four times and it all seems like a weird mess. 

Then another musical number with go-go dancers. This is actually a pretty good musical number reminiscent of Sly and the Family Stone, then Alabama takes the stage with his overblown voice. 

But all arcane secrets come with a steep price, and soon Carter the Great begins to haunt Alabama. "I am the spirit of Carter the Great. And I come to warn you. Heed my warning before you die." Then something about robots and vampires. "I just met an old white racist ghost." Whoa, the woman he was in bed with just turned into a vampire. He's making a run for it. Then there's a scene where the vampire chick chases him through an abandoned little village in makeup reminiscent of Demons and he somehow comes to a door where his mother takes him in. 

You were promised voodoo, and Alabama's Ghost delivers. Rejuvenated after a voodoo ceremony, Alabama is back on the road. What, what? What the hell was that scene about? His promoter is striking a deal with a futuristic media conglomerate type who wants to use the vanishing elephant act as a springboard for his mind control network. Or something like that might have happened. With a little more effort this movie could have been really bonkers. 

In this scene the voodoo priest has returned to save Alabama from the ghost of Carter the Great, to which Alabama says "He's a racist. Tell him to go away." Then everything goes a little apeshit and there's a Dr. Caligula and a conveyor belt of chicks that vampires in dark hoods are feeding on and some mumbo jumbo about converting the whole thing into some sort of digital broadcast that can be used to control the minds of the world's population. 

"He's got twin Frankensteins, and they're trying to kill Alabama." This movie has officially crossed over into WTF land. 

"This is an out of sight experience."

Sort of.

For some reason that makes no sense, this movie reminds me of Phantom of the Paradise, a movie that was released a year later. 

I'm about ten minutes away from the end of this film when i realize I'm watching something truly unusual and completely idiosyncratic, and apparently that was evident in all four films by director Frederic Hobbs. Hobbs wrote, directed, and/or produced four highly distinctive and idiosyncratic films: Troika (1969), Roseland (1971), Alabama's Ghost (1973), and Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973), none of which I have ever seen before, and all of which I will soon be watching. I don't do reviews, per se, I just do reactions, and one of my favorite reactions when I encounter a piece of art is "What the fuck did I just see." 

What the fuck did I just see?

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Elvira's Movie Macabre Season 2, Episode 19: Craze, Starring Jack Palance

On the evening of January 29, 1983, exactly one week before The Monster Club, the movie Craze aired as Episode 19 of season 2 of Elvira's Movie Macabre. I do not remember seeing this movie, so I will be watching it and live blogging it tonight after I hear the voices upstairs subside so I can put on the earphones. 


Before I even begin watching Craze I notice the director, Freddie Francis, had directed many horror movies I am quite fond of, including Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Torture Garden, Tales From the Crypt, Tales That Witness Madness, and The Ghoul. He came up through the ranks working as a clapper boy then making films during his WWII deployment. He got his break directing in 1962 at Hammer, and like many classic horror directors and actors, spent the rest of his career being typecast in the genre. It is sad to hear that story over and over when the movies these people made endure, and have made so many people happy. 


The movie opens with Jack Palance and group of worshippers sacrificing a woman to C3PO. I bet they got a cease and desist letter from George Lucas before the end of shooting this scene.

There's a a lot of nudity in this scene, and Jenny said I should start doing warnings about how much violence or nudity are in these movies, so warning, warning, boobs. And violence.

Jack Palance plays an off-center antique dealer who holds nightly rituals in his basement trying to curry favor from the African demigod Chuku. 


After the first nightly ritual where the Black woman offers her blood, everyone goes upstairs, then this older woman comes down and says "That's my Chuku" and insists the idol is hers and tries to take it back. It goes badly for her. C3PO is apparently pleased, spurring Palance on to even more and more creative and grisly sacrifices (probably, I haven't actually seen the movie yet, but I'll give you a dog biscuit if that's not what happens).

Chuku was a creator deity of the Ibo people of Nigeria.


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Readers of this blog will no doubt remember Julie Ege from The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula and The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, which are the same movie. In this scene Palance is no doubt about to sacrifice Ege to Chuku. But first some casual drug use and a romp. This movie was listed in Britain's infamous Video Nasties. 

Dance for Chuku, dammit. Dance.

That's no way to treat Julie Ege.


Let's see what Neal Mottram gets from Chuku for Julie Ege. He got a drawer full of gold coins for the old bat.

A: Ming vases


Then he scares an old lady with this mask and I have to be honest I lost interest and went to bid on a Hot Wheel on Ebay. If Chuku is paying out Ming vases for Julie Ege maybe just a subscription to National Geographic for scaring old ladies with a kook mask? Got about forty minutes to ride out with this one and I have to say I'm not into it. I feel like I've started this movie before in the past and not been able to get through it. Just not my cup of tea, but maybe other horror fans will like it.

There a couple of musical numbers in subterranean English pubs that are reminiscent of The Amen Corner in Scream and Scream Again. 



Not sure what happened with the Diana Dors story arc. I wanted to talk about seeing her in The Alfred Hithcock Hour episode "Run For Doom" and then later in From Beyond the Grave. But now there's only a few minutes left and for some reason he has scheduled an appointment with a massage therapist/dominatrix and I have no idea how any of this fits into the story, but I did admittedly just skip past a half hour of dialogue.


With eight minutes left in the movie Palance schedules a massage with dominatrix Suzy Kendall. Somebody definitely isn't in for a happy ending. Mostly at this point it's me because I just want to go to bed. 

Eventually the movie ends and there are credits. By modern standards the sex, nudity, drug use, and violence are comparatively tame, so I don't know about being a Video Nasty, but maybe a video meh. 







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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Thriller Video, Hosted By Elvira: The Turn of the Screw

Thriller Video was a short-lived distributor of VHS and Beta tapes who began releasing tapes in February 1985, and released tapes through 1989. They were notable for their big box format, and securing the rights to distribute what are now considered classic horror movies, such as: zombie master Lucio Fulci's Seven Doors of Death and the cannibal classic Make Them Die Slowly. Perhaps their greatest coup was securing horror movie host Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, to present 24 tapes that they would begin releasing bi-monthly at the beginning of 1985. Unlike the aforementioned gory movies, Elvira refused to do hardcore horror movie, cruelty to animals, or gore for the sake of gore, so it was perfect that she would introduce the 24 Thriller Videos she did that were mostly episodes of a British series titled Hammer House of Horrors, with some B movies thrown in.

As I get closer to finishing my collection of Thriller Videos hosted by Elvira I have learned some of the titles are much more difficult to find than others. For instance, in over five years of active collecting, I have only seen titles like The Turn of the Screw, NATAS: The Reflection, The Human Duplicators, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde les than three times, usually only once, and I unfortunately was not able to secure them for my collection when I saw them. But I can do the next best thing: write about them.


Turn of the Screw Thriller Video

Turn of the Screw is a tape I have seen listed for sale one time in five years. I did not win that auction, so I'm still waiting for it to come up again. 

I also haven't seen the 1974 made for tv movie, but after watching a Kolchak: The Night Stalker a thon a few nights ago, and being a big fan of Trilogy of Terror and Dark Shadows, I'm always happy to watch a Dan Curtis production. 

In the 1898 novella written by Henry James an unnamed narrator listens to Douglas, a friend, read a manuscript written by a former governess whom Douglas claims to have known and who is now dead. The manuscript tells the story of how the young governess is hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after the deaths of their parents. He lives mainly in London and is uninterested in raising the children. The two children turn out to not be exactly what they appear.

This production starts Lynn Redgrave as the governess, Miss Jane Cubberly, oh, I'm just discovering this as I type, James "Shadmock" Laurenson as Peter Quint. Thriller Video fans will of course remember Laurenson as the tender-hearted Shadmock in Thriller Video's The Monster Club

There's almost no chance I'll take the risk of putting this tape in a VCR when I eventually do get it, so if I ever watch it most likely I'll do it on YouTube. 

Good luck with your own Thriller Video collection, and good luck next time this one comes up for auction on Ebay.
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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Elvira's Movie Macabre Season 3 Episode 6: Maneater of Hydra

"That gal on the couch who ain't no slouch."

So began Season 3 Episode 6 of Elvira's Movie Macabre, Island of the Doomed, on the evening of November 20, 1983. Was I watching? I don't think so, because I don't remember seeing this movie, but I'm going to live watch it tonight at ShoutFactory and comment.

If you were asleep in Botany 101, you will learn early in this movie, if you're still awake, that carnivorous plants obtain Nitrogen from their victims, not the soil. 

This is a nerdy Botany professor from the University of Michigan. He seems very curious about the Baron's flora. My guess is he's not going to be in the movie much longer. Yes, the picture quality is this grainy.

"It's like a cucumber, but it tastes like meat." 

During her second segment at twenty minutes, Elvira muses that while she was watching a cucumber that tastes like a steak she was busy coming up with a hamburger that tastes like a banana. But nobody wants to buy them, because "they don't have appeal." 

"Anybody for a little Frisbee? Mine are enormous." After a rather dry segment where the Baron explains about his porcupine plant Elvira returns with her Frisbee. It's a welcome diversion from the poor picture quality of this movie. How about that eye makeup? Looks a little bit like Piston Honda in Mike Tyson's Punch Out when he gets stunned by a punch. 

Alright, everyone is in bed now, so time to eat my Cherry Garcia ice cream and finish this sucker. I read ahead a little bit and am of the understanding there is an intense finish. 

Cameron Mitchell plays the Baron von Weser admirably in this movie. I have seen him in a great many movies and tv shows, including Night Gallery, and he often plays an over the top tough guy type, but here his performance is a little reserved. I'm actually watching this scene as I write. Here he is explaining to a woman who has broken away from the group to come and have sex with him that he is never lonely because he has his plants. I think it's about to go badly for her.

Yep, she was about to touch his giant gardenias, and was rebuffed, only to retreat in frustration.

"In a movie about a man-eating plant, I would keep my eye on a man named Moss."

Two dudes fighting it out with axes underneath a bloodsucking tree? Typical Friday night in Hydra, pronounced Heed-ra. 

Director Mel Welles was known for his killer flora movies, including playing flower shop owner Gravis Mushnick in Little Shop of Horrors, because of course he did. And I see looking at his IMDB credits that he played Dr. Hinkle in Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, another Movie Macabre feature I finished watching earlier today. 




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Monday, January 2, 2017

Elvira's Movie Macabre Season 1 Episode 28: Legacy of Blood

"Tonight's movie is Legacy of Blood. Legacy is an Italian word. Like, this is my leg yacee? And this is my other leg yacee?"

Movie Macabre intro to Legacy of Blood. April 10, 1982

I'm very excited because this is the first time since I saw any of the original episodes in the early 80's as a teenager that I will be watching one of the original broadcasts as it aired then, with Elvira's intro to the movie and pop-up comments (hopefully). So far all of the reviews I have done of Movie Macabre episodes have been of the movies themselves, without the intro or Elvira's segments. I found a handful of the episodes at ShoutFactory. I have never been able to find a complete episode of Elvira's Movie Macabre anywhere else before this. I wonder if they all exist somewhere. 

This movie, Legacy of Blood, also known as Will To Die, aired originally on April 10, 1982, and was episode 28 of season 1. The show had already become a runaway hit by this point. I know Legacy of Blood primarily because it was included in the horror compilation Drive-In Movie Classics. 

Legacy of Blood begins with the most cliche of premises: the children of a wealthy man assemble to hear the reading of the will, which (of course) stipulates they must stay at the estate for at least a week or get nothing, and if one of them dies, the remaining portion of the 136 million dollars shall be divided among the survivors. If all the children dies, his faithful three servants get the dough. I wonder what will happen next.

Reading IMDB reviews as I try to slog through the film one more time, I find that I disagree with most of the reviews. I enjoy this film. true, I watched several times at a time in my life when I had nothing else to watch, but I like it.

This guy is in the movie. His name is Igor. I'd have to say he's an obvious cypher as the killer. Maybe he is. I honestly don't remember. 

This is also something that apparently happens in the movie, but I don't recall this either. I think it happens when they come downstairs late at night to make a roast beef sandwich and this guy's head is in the fancy platter. I think there's also an electrocution and the dog bites it and someone gets poisoned and at the end someone is going to get the money even though they just killed seven people and no one is ever supposed to investigate that. All of that improbability taken into account, I'm a sucker for the house and the estate this is filmed on. They have a really nice pool table, and twenty minutes in Elvira hasn't said anything yet. 

"Sheesh. Just give a guy an inch..." 23:35


At about 1:04:30 mark Elvira says "This is getting a little heavy. Time for a musical interlude," then there is about a sixty second montage synched up to the Elvira theme. Then, unfortunately, more movie.

One more break at 1:12:48 to lament her life as a horror movie host, then back for the gripping finish to Will To Die, err, Legacy of Blood.

At 1:23:00 Elvira is back to read letters from ladies and their bad dating experiences. "I don't trust a man who let's his dog eat cabbage." "I don't trust a man who sleeps with his socks on." "I don't trust a man who likes to sit on his umbrella (triple rim shot)." etc then she ends the segment by being hit with rotten vegetables.  

I think at the end of the movie it even turns out that John Carradine is alive. Maybe. 

Elvira returns one last time for the post mortem to rightfully point out that the movie is both dumb and the ending is one of the biggest cliches in movie history. "I get paid for watching this garbage, but what's your excuse?"

I don't think it's a good idea if I answer that question. 

Unpleasant dreams. 

Executive producer Dick Johnson? Of course he is. 

Only two things could have made this more fun: if I were fourteen again, and if my six year old weren't somewhere behind me the whole time. 
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