April 2020 Mini-Reviews – Beast & the Magic Sword to Mighty Jack

Honest to God, I don’t know where the time goes.  I had the header set up for this right around the start of the month, but I didn’t want to step on the Frost Harrow chapter, so I wanted, and then…  Well, now it’s the end of the month, and I’m about to have this post stepped on by the next Frost Harrow chapter.

Such is life.

How are y’all?  We’re doing okay, an we hope y’all are surviving the pandemic without a lot of difficulties.  Either way, I hope my little reviews will make your life a bit easier or more entertaining.

In March, my good friend Derek M. Koch of Monster Kid Radio and I created a film festival for Virtual Gary Con when the in-person convention was wisely cancelled to protect attendees from the burgeoning pandemic.  Since then, Derek has run a MKR film fest, Social Distance Saturday, every weekend with approximately 9+ hours of programming, focusing on public domain and orphaned content.

Watching (and me interacting online) has become part of our Saturday family tradition.  Chances are good that Derek will continue it in some form even past the pandemic (though sadly, that won’t be really ending — despite what some politicians want — any time soon).  Why not join us on the MKR Twitch page (for computers, phones & some TV devices) at Twitch.tv/MonsterKidRadio.

You can watch for free, but if you care to subscribe or leave a tip on the Ko-Fi account or Derek’s patreon, you’ll help support both him and the show.  Though I can’t guarantee it will help you rack up the kind of movie-watching numbers I’m currently achieving. (53 movies/noteworthy shows/series this month, if I”m counting right.)

And with that… On to the shows!

Ratings are out of five stars. Here’s what those stars mean to me…

* – This film is not good. Avoid it unless you tolerate dreck well.
** – A flawed film. You may enjoy it if you like this genre or the folks in it.
*** – A good solid film. If you like this genre, you’ll probably like this film.
**** – A superior film within its genre. Thoroughly enjoyable.
***** – An outstanding film on many levels. A great example of its genre.

Beast & the Magic Sword (commentary) **** Rod & Troy give another excellent background track to one of Naschy’s best werewolf films. Worth the re-watch.
Siren of the Tropics *** French silent. Josephine Baker as island girl who goes to Paris to win man from his fiancee. A bit of nudity but standard.
Across 110th Street *** 70s gangster vs. cops & black vs. white violent crime drama with Anthony Quinn & Yaphet Koto as cop partners at odds.
New Gladiators, The ** Fulci’s SF mash up of Blade Runner & Death Race is less interesting than that sounds. Dreamlike & odd but sincere.
I Am NOT Okay with This (Season 1) **** Coming of age black comedy with good cast about a tean with psychic powers trying to cope with sex, friends, etc.
Revolt of the Zombies *** Low budget film has interesting characters & plot with non-standard zombies out of Angkor. Some fun stuff to be had here.
Creature from Galaxy 27 *** Bill Black’s inventive low-budget short of alien invaders with a recent polish. Some nice 60s feel, fun stuff, & imagination.
House on Haunted Hill, The (Castle) **** Vincent Price is super cool as eccentric offering money to those staying in his haunted house with him & hateful wife.
They Came from Outer Space *** British SF invasion story clips along like an Avengers meet Quatermas story, but then falls apart in the end.
NIght Fright ** Agar’s cop tries to hunt down monster killing groovy teens… Who knows why? Not enough budget & dark prints to boot.
Bewitched *** Despite enchanting title, merely a story about a woman with a murderous split personality lurking inside, waiting to strike.
Onward **** Elf brothers go on a fantasy quest to revive their late father & restore magic to the world along the way. Pixar is great.
Land of Doom ** Post-apocalypse meandering by folks who clearly liked Mad Max but didn’t really “get” it. Very 80s production values.
Lone Wolf & Cub: Sword of Vengeance (#1) **** First adapation of the classic manga is strong on story, sets & bloodletting. Very faithful to the source & full of action.
Forbidden Planet ***** Classic SciFi about spaceship crew menaced by invisible monster on distant planet. Shakespearean with great SFX.
Gojira ***** Japanese monster classic is both horror film & post-war lesson about atomic weapons & man’s inhumanity. Top notch.
Secret of the Blue Room, The (BR #1) **** The first of the Blue Room films has a strong cast & good mystery elements & surprises. Certainly the best of the bunch.
Vincent Price’s Dracula – The Great Undead *** 1985 TV doc about Dracula & the count’s possible historic origins, as well as his appearances in movies. Price makes it very watchable.
House of Mystery *** Couple wanting to buy a “haunted” house discover a past that makes them reconsider. Well done with nice ending.
House of the Gorgon **** Joshua Kennedy’s loving Hammer tribute with original Hammer stars. Family is plagued by lurking gorgons in their home.
Dementia 13 *** Corman gives Copola his first film & Fransic makes this moody proto-slasher with strong actors, cinematography, & music.
Beast from the Beginning of Time, The *** Obscure caveman flick made by Kansas City TV pros. It better than you’d expect on nearly every level. Deserves DVD.
I Wake Up Screaming **** Strong early Noir with Victor Mature pursued by the great Laird Kregar, undercut by musical comedy score. Still worth it.
Cove Me, Babe ** Robert Forester as edgy student filmmaker turning real life into film – at everyone’s expense. 70s neo-real experimental.
Missing Guest, The (Blue Room #2) *** Second adaptation of the Blue Room mystery isn’t as good as the first but adds reporter & still some fun.
Murder in the Blue Room (BR #3) *** Third Blue Room adaptation adds women singing trio & a real (humorous) ghost to the original mystery. Still fun.
Lone Wolf & Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx (#2) **** Another adapation of stories from the famous manga filled with gory sword action, lady ninjas & samurai action. More fun.
Lone Wolf & Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (#3) **** Lone wolf rescues slave prostitute, faces yakuza lady, takes on job of revenge & slaughters a whole army. Great fun action.
Sound of Horror, The *** Low budget Spanish film about treasure hunters digging up an invisible dinosaur & being hunted by it. Goofy fun.
Beast from the Beginning of Time, The *** Rewatch with film expert Rich Chamberlain doing facts & a bit of comedy. Still deserves a good print & DVD release.
Green Hell from the Void (Pilot) *** This fragmentary film by Tom Leahy (Beast from the Beginning of Time) has a cool monster but, sadly, was never finished.
Ghosts of Hanley House ** Effects added later don’t help this low-budget haunted house thriller that starts out promising & then peters out at end.
Santo contra la Invasion de los Marcianos (Santo vs The Martian Invasion) *** Santo fights against gold-clad aliens who want to bring peace to Earth by conquering it. Fan dubbed by Kenny from MKR.
Sapphire & Steel – Season 2 *** Strange duo of S&S match wits against future invaders of an apartment & man who can put people into old photos. Odd.
Floyd Norman: An Animated Life ***** Fascinating biopic about Disney’s first black animator & his peripetetic & feisty career from Sleeping Beauty to Pixar today.
Sapphire & Steel – Season 3 *** S&S end up in a cocktail party jumping between the 20s & the 80s & must make sure a man dies to prevent a plague.
Sapphire & Steel – Season 4 *** Our heroes & their ally Silver are trapped in a gas station frequented by people of many eras. Vert weird end to series.
Caged Heat *** Exploitation & nudity are on overdrive in Jonathan Demme’s womein-in-prison film for Roger Corman’s company. Hot fun.
Black Mama White Mama ** Pam Greer does her best but this Filipino female version of The Defiant Ones never becomes convincing or compelling.
Many Faces of Dracula, The *** Solid survey of the Dracula & vampire genres from the beginning of film to the Copola Dracula. Some Chris Lee narration.
Guns of the Apocalypse (rewatch) **** Rewatch with live chat on House of Social Distance Saturday. Still a great, fun Mihm film with many western homages.
White Zombie ***** Mood & atmosphere dominate this creepy tale of obsessed love gone wrong, with brilliant Bela Lugosi pulling the strings.
NIght-Time Winds, The **** A Carnival-of-Souls-like atmosphere & angles dominate this low-budget thriller about 2 sisters who return to haunted home.
Dungeon of Harrow *** Cartoonist Pat Boyette’s low-budget thriller about people stranded on an island with the castle of a mad aristocrat.
Screams on Planet Zero **** Faux trailer & making of documentary is full of clever tips for low-budget SF (and other) filmmaking. I wish it were real!
Zontar the Thing from Venus *** The best of the Buchanan remakes of better Corman movies. John Agar is sincere & monsters suck less than usual.
Mysterious Mister M, The (serial) ** Another by-the-book Universal spy serial. Mystery villain okay. Their recaps suck. Good twists at the end don’t compensate.
Smithereens ** NYC rock-promoter girl tries to make it big, meets displaced Montana boy, & screws up all her relationships. Good music.
Cookie *** Peter Falk’s mob boss teams up with his daugther (Emily LLoyd) to get a better life after leaving prison. Fair comedy.
Curse of Oak Island, The (S7) **** For me, this show is about finding artifacts & figuring out what happened on this island. Strong season, but oversold ending.
Borderland: The Life & Times of Blanche Ames Ames ***** Excellent documentary about artist, suffragette, & birth control advocate Blanche Ames Ames, whose family estate was just down the street from where I grew up. (And whose family sold us the property we lived on.)
Sword & the Dragon, The (MST3K) **** Soviet fantasy epic with Viking-types vs. Hun-types, a bit of magic, lots of battles & 3-headed dragon + Mike & the bots.
Mighty Jack (MST3K) **** Joel & the bots take on a Tsuburaya Sci-Fi/Spy TV show compiled by Sandy Frank into a “movie.” I want that TV show!

The count at the end of April is 179 movies, series, & misc. shows, which is a pretty big number this early in the year, but… Sheltering at Home has driven the numbers up, I think.  And that trend continues into May, especially with MKR adding a big chunk each week.

Next Month: Isolation watching continues, as do Monster Kid Radio’s Social Distance Saturdays, and so the movies and series keep piling up, including the Punisher Season 2 and Star Trek: Discovery.  With luck, I’ll even get the reviews posted before the last minute!

Remember, you can support this and all my other writing work, including Frost Harrow, Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors, and more, by joining my Patreon for a buck or two a month.  Thanks!