Monday, December 31, 2012

With Great Power Comes Spicy Peanut Sauce

Superhero movies are a decidedly American phenomena, so on the rare occasion when I find the genre worked by another culture, I am immediately curious. Recently I stumbled upon “Mercury Man”, a product from Thailand.

I'm a big fan of Asian cinema as a whole, but my experience with SE-Asian cinema is quite limited and I have yet to pick up on a truly distinctive filmstyle. The few movies that I have caught tend to be very Western in their approach. It’s for that reason that I suspect that “Mercury Man” might be more palatable to a filmgoer that is cautious about foreign films. The disc I viewed gave you the option to watch it dubbed or in Thai with subtitles. "Mercury Man" does contain cultural elements that may come off a strange to a casual Western viewer, but less so than the Indian superhero flick "Krrish"

The plot of the movie is pretty basic and straight-forward. A Bangkok firefighter is accidentally embedded with a mineral from space and it alters his body chemistry to transform him into a superhuman. A terrorist is out to capture him and steal the mineral for use as a weapon of mass destruction.

“Mercury Man” takes it’s cues from the Raimi “Spider-Man” films and that US franchise is alluded to more than once. Indeed Mercury Man’s costume design is quite similar to that of Venom.

The flick uses CGI along with practical effects. but compared to what the US audience is used to seeing, they come off as rather primitive. I was willing to forgive this flaw since CGI effects are not a normal component of Thai film. Heck, I’ll give ‘em extra credit for budgeting them into the movie in the first place.

The movie’s Thai location adds some unique flavors to the show. The Thai martial art of kick boxing is heavily Featured as is a profoundly Buddhist sense of spirituality. Thailand is perhaps the most accepting culture in the world in it’s attitude about the transgendered or “third sex”. Consequently it’s no huge surprise that one of the lead characters is a shemale. However the production’s Asian origin does add an element that I need to caution some American viewers about. I wouldn’t exactly call it an anti-US sentiment but the United States is definitely
not seen through the same rosy glasses that Americans tend to view themselves with. For example the chief villain is granted a tiny bit of sympathy because it was the actions of the US military that turned him towards the embracing of terrorism.

All in all, “Mercury Man” as a solid piece of entertainment and is worth taking a peak at. 

Pat Hilger


I have been a fan of director David Cronenberg for many years and his work almost always has some sort of disturbing aspect to it. In particular his earlier work through the 1980’s featured a proclivity to what’s been called “body horror”, where the creepy aspect is derived from special effects showing the body doing unnatural things. I’m willing to forgive the gross out factor in his films because they are offset by an overall intellectual aspect. His shocks are specifically designed and thoughtfully considered when he uses them. Mr. X supplied me with a copy of David’s first horror feature, a 1975 film called “Shivers”, a movie that I have wanted to see ever since I first became a fan. As a veteran of watching his filmography, I *thought* I was prepared for anything he could throw my way… but I was mistaken. For me, it turned out to be the most upsetting entry in his catalog.

The story concerns a physician who develops a new and radical medical therapy where he has designed a biological parasite that has a specific talent that the host is deficient in. So if a man has a failing liver, the parasite might perform the function of cleaning his blood. Unfortunately the parasites also bring with them some serious side effects. They make you insane and induce an overwhelming degree of  sexual desire. Or to put it more succinctly, they turn you into horny, sex zombies. The parasites also reproduce and can be transmitted, people to people. The outbreak is initially limited to an upscale apartment complex, where the doctor had been having sexual relations with his infected patient. A different physician lives at the same complex and along with his nurse he is trying to stop the contamination from spreading.

Okay what’s so upsetting about that scenario you may wonder? Well it’s two things. The damned parasite looks like…there’s no way to put it gently.. a turd. So in one scene you have it exiting a man through his oral cavity and it looks as if the guy is taking a bloody dump out of his mouth. The other element is not so much a visual one but a conceptual one. The infected people are so sexually charged that they become poly-sexual. So the sexual acts alluded to include hetero, homosexual (both mail & female), bondage, incest and even pedophilia. We are spared bestiality, unless I somehow missed that vice.

I should also make mention that the acting is not very good. There are a few decent performances but some are outright goofy. Specifically I refer to the smarmy apartment manager and the doofus security guard. Maybe they were there to bring in a humorous element but if so they seemed to be wholly out of place.

Despite those “sins”, I actually did enjoy the film. It’s certainly not Cronenberg's best by any means but dammit, it is very smart. In a way it is an allegory on both consumerism and the lapse of sexual mores. On the former front this predates Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” and I wonder if George wasn’t influenced by the film when he did Dawn. 

Pat Hilger

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cult Cinema Treasure

In 1972 Toho studios began to release a trilogy of wonderfully bizarre films concerning a character called Hanzo The Razor. I’d heard about the films on the Mondo Movie podcast and was extremely curious to check them out. The movies are based on the manga series Goyakiba which was the product of Kazuo Koike, the man behind Lone Wolf and Cub.

Hanzo is a police officer in feudal Japan who has a very strict personal code of honor and ethics. Often times these go against the actions of his superiors and Hanzo occupies a character space that is vaguely similar to the American film hero Dirty Harry. The Razor does things his way, unafraid of the consequences.

Torture is an accepted method of interrogation in the period and Hanzo is compelled to be familiar with and truly comprehend these procedures. To that end he employs fellows to assist him in torturing himself. Hanzo needs to understand the limits of such procedures to correctly use them in coercing testimony from others. In the initial movie, “The Sword Of Justice”, he has himself bound and kneeling upon a series of sharp edges. He
commands his men to begin stacking huge weights on his thighs, the edges cut into his flesh and his cohorts are worried that the stones may actually break his legs. He finds his limit and as the heavy objects are removed we see that his body is decorated with numerous scars from previous tortures.

Another unusual characteristic is in the fact that he also processes a remarkably huge penis. This other “sword of justice” is also the subject of torture and training. Standing before a table, we see the outline of his phallus that has been worn into the wooden top. Hazo provides a whole new meaning to the phrase “beating off” as he attacks his enormous member with a club. He also “toughens” his Johnson by having coitus with a sack of uncooked rice.

Hanzo’s ethical code can put him into the occasional, philosophical bind. While eating at a noodle joint he witnesses a teenaged girl and younger brother approach the vendor. She orders two shots of the man’s most potent liquor, which she quickly downs. Sensing something is amiss, he follows the pair back to their home. Their father is dying of cancer and is in agonizing pain. He has begged his children to end his suffering and the alcohol
was needed to steel the girl's nerves enough for her to commit the act of patricide. Hanzo bursts in and demands that the children stop their actions. He explains that if either of them goes through with the act, that he will be forced to arrest them and that the crime will lead directly to their execution. All the while the sick man begs for final release. Hanzo sends the boy to fetch a physician that the policeman knows. The doctor gives the old man pain
medication and confirms that the cancer will end the fellows life in a month or less. After the doctor leaves, Hanzo instructs the children to leave the room. He uses linen to construct a noose and then hangs poor wretch. He calls the kids back in and tells them that their father did this himself and that they should summon the landlord. With the landlord as witness, the death is officially reported as a suicide and not a murder.

The film series is most often criticized for it’s elements of misogyny. The Razor has a unique interrogation method that he uses when dealing with women and it’s one which I feel certain he does not self-test. When questioning the ladies he essentially rapes them. Shortly after the assaults begin, Hanzo’s virility and pleasuring skills will change the gals attitude and they get close to orgasm. That’s when the real torture starts as he stops before getting them to
climax and invariably they provide the information he seeks, in return for a “happy ending”. In each of the three movies he uses his favorite method, where the girls are stripped, bound and hoisted in the air in a cargo net. The net exposed their genitals and Hanzo lays beneath them as his minions lower the captives upon his giant tool. When he is inserted he winds the net and
sends the girls spinning.

The star of the films is Shintaro Katsu who was a popular actor in his native land as the star of the successful Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman film series. Although popular, he was a bit of a diva. His substance abuse problems lead to arrests and the loss of his part in Ridley Scott’s film “Black Rain”. He was also cast as the lead in Kurosawa’s “Kagemusha” but came to odds with the legendary director on the first day of shooting and quit.

While all three movies (“The Sword of Justice”. “The Snare” , Who’s Got The Gold?”) riff on the same themes, I found the second entry to be the most satisfying. For the exploitation film fan, it ups the “strange” ante by including a quasi-lesbo scene and sex with a bald woman. Of special note to electronica music, the film score consists of vintage Synth-Rock performed by Tomita, before he became Asia’s answer to Walter (Wendy) Carlos. 

Pat Hilger

Naschy Quite What I Expected

Not long ago Mr. X and I were having a phone conversation about movies and the name Paul Naschy came up. It was a name that I vaguely recognized but one which I had no clear conception of. Actually my first thought fell to some kind of low budget monster affairs, an idea with no real basis. Well Mr. X set upon getting me educated by sending me six..count ‘em..six of his films.

If, like me, you are merely a dillitante of horror cinema, then you are probably not very aware of Naschy’s contribution to the genre. Initially a writer, Naschy worked in the Spanish film industry. As a youth he had seen a single Universal monster movie, "Frankenstein Versus The Wolfman" and it proved very memorable to him. Spain did not really have a tradition of horror films and in 1968 Paul cooked up his own take on the genre. He made a movie that in Europe was called “Mark Of The Werewolf”. He and the producers were having trouble casting the lead when it was suggested that Paul take on the role himself. In this groundbreaking feature Naschy establishes a characterization that would be echoed throughout his long career. Paul had a unique skill for giving his monsters a gentle and humane side. In “Mark Of The Werewolf” he makes the anguish of becoming a monster exceedingly poignant. The movie wouldn’t be released in the US until the 70’s and for bizarre reasons not worth going into here, was titled “Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror”. Yes the movie has both werewolves and vampires but Dr F’s famous zombie is nowhere to be found.

“Mark Of The Werewolf” was a success in Europe and soon he was Spain’s primary producer of monster and supernatural films. He became know as the “Lon Chaney of Spain” by virtue of the numerous and varied horror roles he took on. These include the mummy, Dracula and several werewolves.

Paul in his prime was a handsome fellow and had a somewhat (to me) familiar look. I finally realized why. Imagine a cross between the face of a young Marlon Brando and Joaquin Phoenix…. *that’s* Paul Naschy

The production values for these movies are extraordinary, rivaling the best that Hammer studios had to offer. He was also aided in having access to authentic, gothic locations in his native land, most of which had never been seen on film before.

Of the six movies I watched the one leaving the biggest impression was called “The Hunchback Of The Morgue”. He portrays the title character whose circumstance pushes him into murder. Again, as with that first werewolf character, he imbues the hunchback with a noble and gentle aspect, making his situation all the more sad. I must confess that the movie actually shocked me, not once but twice. The hunchback rescues the corpse of his beloved before it is due for dissection. He brings it to a secret vault, hidden below the grounds of a hospital. Placing her on a table, he lovingly speaks to her as if she were
still alive, promising to watch over her. He returns a few days later and to his horror (and mine) finds a bevy of rats gnawing at her face! That fright is trumped moments later when he friggin’ sets the buggers on fire with a torch. I should note that there is NO citation in the credits stating “no animals were harmed in the making of this movie”. They really lit the lil’ bastards ablaze! bbrrrrrrrr* choke * good lord!

If you have any affinity for the genre then by all means seek out the works of Mr. Naschy. One caveat though…make sure the films are of 60’s or 70’s vintage and stay away from anything made in the current millennium. Paul was coaxed out of retirement for some US fare that in no way reflect his glory years. 
Pat Hilger

El Vampiro Y El Sexo

I was digging through the stockpile of DVD’s from my mainman, Mr. X and I pulled out one that holds a pedigree of mystery. It’s a ‘lost film’ from Mexico’s popular Santo series.

Santo (Rodolfo Guzman Huerta) became a national legend as Mexico’s most iconic luchadore enmascarado or masked wrestler. He began his career in the mid 1930s using numerous identities, but settled in as El Santo (the saint) the following decade. He was unbelievably popular in this capacity into the 1950s. But fate would take him beyond this. In the late 50’s he was persuaded to take on the character in film. His earliest movies failed to catch on but he struck gold in 1961 with “Santo Contra Los Zombies”. This began a series of motion pictures issued between the years from 1961 to 1982 that numbered over 50.

The Santo films were decidedly formulaic. In them he played a combination wrestler, crime fighter and adventurer and typically battled enemies of a supernatural nature. These included a host of vampires, witches, mummies, zombies and werewolves. Often times his crime busting was officially sanctioned by the authorities. They almost always provided him with a chaste, love interest, but without any continuity from film to film. Scientists and professors were stock characters, as well as bumbling, buffoons for comic relief. The latter usually exhibited a high quotient of cowardice. The movies would almost always contain a complete, 3 round wrestling match as well.

The Santo movies also dealt into the mix, a bizarre but charming convention. Santo is never seen unmasked, even when doing the most mundane activities like eating dinner or sleeping. This extended into reality, as he was never billed as Huerta but only as Santo. Until 1984, he never publicly revealed his face, when he did so unexpectedly on a Mexican talk show.

Mr. X has hooked me up with several of the series entries and in spite of the stenciled plots, I just love these flicks. They exude a goofy allure with a similar tone to Wiesmuller’s Tarzan films or the 50s Superman TV series.

In 1969 a fairly typical installment appeared, in the form of “Santo and Dracula’s Treasure”. It begins in a straightforward series manner but does add one new element. Santo’s attributes go beyond being a crime fighter, wrestler and swashbuckler but also a brilliant scientist.  He has developed a time machine, which works in a very specific and particular manner. To begin with the time traveler must be female and the device sends the subject to one of their past incarnations. During their mission, people in the present day can watch their goings-on on a television. The design of the apparatus is flat out stolen from the one used in the old TV series “Time Tunnel”. Ostensibly this process will allow archeologists a better understanding of past cultures.

In “Santo and Dracula’s Treasure” the ‘chrononaut’ is Santo’s girlfriend Luisa. She returns to her previous incarnation as the daughter of a wealthy Mexican nobleman in the 19th century. She is now pail and weak suffering from some unknown malady. Only periodic blood transfusions seem to help, albeit temporarily. Her father sends for an old friend and medical scholar Professor Van Roth to aid in a diagnosis and treatment. Van Roth has some suspicions based upon his travels through Eastern Europe, but is wary to disclose them. A regular, new visitor to the household is a titled immigrant to Mexico, Count Alucard. Soon enough the truth comes to light, that Luisa has succumbed to spell of a vampire. Not just any fiend but the prince of vampire’s, Count Dracula. The Count declares Luisa to be his ultimate partner and shows her an immense cache of treasure that will support them into the centuries. Before Dracula can finalize her journey into the undead, he’s met by Van Roth and her father. They manage to drive a stake through his heart and the 20th Century crew retrieves her to the present.

Armed with Luisa’s first hand knowledge, Santo and company locates the whereabouts of Dracula’s tomb. They hope to find a medallion and ring, which together will ferret out the location of the treasure. Unbeknownst to them a hooded figure has been spying on them and will compete with them to find the treasure. Of course in the end, Santo triumphs over his adversaries.

If that were the whole story of the film, then it would remain just another unremarkable episode of the cycle. But there were other elements involved. Santo was not just popular in Mexico but in many Spanish speaking countries, including Spain. Now in Europe horror films were on the rise, many containing adult content. Based on anecdotal evidence, it was rumored that a different, longer cut of the movie ran in Europe under the name “El Vampiro Y El Sexo” which included nude scenes. Further that it was in color versus the B&W of the surviving prints of “Santo and Dracula’s Treasure”.

The idea of a Santo nudie seemed too strange to be believed. Santo was a beloved, family friendly personality and it would run contrary to his established cannon. It would be like having a nude version of the 1966 Adam West Batman movie. But incredibly a couple years ago an unedited version was discovered. Santo fan and master filmmaker Guillermo Del Torro put up money to have the movie digitally restored. But before the film could be re-shown the surviving Huerta family objected, saying that it would damage the memory of Santo. Amazingly Del Torro acquiesced to their will and surrendered the restored print to the family. Soon thereafter though, it was bootlegged on a host of torrent sites.

In fairness to the memory of Santo, it must be said that the “blue” scenes never involve the wrestler but occur with the Dracula character. Besides the luscious breasts of Noelia Noel as Luisa, we are privy to the naked loveliness of about eight other women and these include some fine asses and some bush.

Again my thanks go out to Mr. X for treating me to this trashy delight.

Pat Hilger

Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's Barbara Steele's Birthday

Barbara Steele 
The Queen of Horror!

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Barbara Steele (born 29 December 1937) is an English film actress. She is best known for starring in Italian Gothic Horror films of the 1960s. Her breakthrough role came in Italian director Mario Bava's Black Sunday (1960), now hailed as a classic.
Steele starred in a string of horror films, including The Horrible Dr Hichcock (1962) The Ghost directed by Riccardo Freda and Roger Corman's adaptation of The Pit and The Pendulum, among others.

She guested on various British and American television shows including the spy drama Danger Man and I Spy.

She took the role of Julia Hoffman in the 1991 revival of the 1960s TV series Dark Shadows. In 2010, she was a guest star in the Dark Shadows audio drama The Night Whispers.

Bachelor of Hearts (1958)
Sapphire (1959)
Upstairs and Downstairs (1959)
Black Sunday (1960)
Your Money or Your Wife (1960)
The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

The Horrible Dr Hichcock (1962)
Revenge of the Mercenaries (1963)
Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963)

The Ghost (1963)
The Hours of Love (1963)

White Voices (1964)
The Maniacs (1964)

Castle Of Blood (1963)
The Long hair of Death (1964)
Five Graves for a Medium (1965)

Nightmare Castle (1965)
I Soldi (1965)
Young Torless (1966)

Terror Creatures From The Grave (1965)
The She-Beast (1966)
For Love and Gold (1966)

An Angel For Satan (1965) 
The Crimson Cult (1968)
Honeymoon with a Stranger (1969)
Caged Heat (1974)
Shivers (1975)
The Space-Watch Murders (1975)
Pretty Baby (1978)
Piranha (1978)
The Key Is in the Door (1978)
Silent Scream (1980)
Dark Shadows (1990)
Deep Above (1994)
The Capitol Conspiracy (1999) 


A longtime fan of Horror, Sci-Fi and Psychotronic Film and media. As a child he was scared to death by a local TV Horror show and his life has never been the same since. 

Monday, December 24, 2012


Produced in 1968 this is a series of four short films, each running 8-10 minutes. All of them house an individual tale but integrate into larger, overall story arch. The series title refers to a ludicrously bizarre method of murder. The baddies use remotely controlled, walking baby dolls. When a curious victim opts to pick them up for closer examination, they spray poison from their eyes. Odder yet is the fact that they are triggered, not by a radio or infrared control, but via a stopwatch.

The strangeness continues with another aspect, possibly attributable to it’s International production. The director and screenwriter was a German named Wolfgang von Chmielewski. The movies were shot in a seaside resort in Spain using a largely Spanish cast, but starring a British actress. So to negate language or subtitling issues, the films contain no dialog.

In the main villain roles you have José Nieto and Jack Rocha. That same year José appeared in Paul Naschy’s first werewolf movie and two years later Rocha would be in Jess Franco’s “Count Dracula”. But the main distinction for “Minikillers” was it’s star. Fresh off her run on “The Avengers”, Diana Rigg was coaxed into playing a very ‘Emma Peel’ like character for the series. Bear in mind that at this time, Ms. Rigg was at the very height of her beauty and is almost criminally sexy and gorgeous.

I’m pretty certain that these can be watched on Youtube, should I have incited your interest.

After watching this, a funny thought occurred to me. As a pre-adolescent, I was precocious enough to have a fascination for feminine beauty and the erotic. At this young stage there were 3 actresses that could make me ‘tingle’ beyond those of any other. They were Ann Francis (as Honey West), Stephanie Powers (as April Dancer) and Rigg (as Emma Peel). The common denominator between the three is that they were action heroines. Being “merely” good looking was not enough to satisfy my aesthetics, I wanted a gal who could take charge and kick ass. 

Mr Patrick Hilger is The Trash Collector. A lifelong connoisseur of Cult Cinema and Pop Culture.