Search This Blog

Sunday, October 31, 2010


(Art by Loopydave)

Saturday, October 30, 2010


The blaxploitation flicks of the 1970's had a tremendous impact on me and many kids of my generation, bringing truly kickass black heroes to the screen for the first time (Herb Jeffries was a pioneer, but his era did not allow for cussing, nudity, or graphic violence). It was a glorious time that unleashed upon the screen a dynasty of ebony demi-gods, both male and female, who could out-fight, out-fuck and outsmart any jive-ass turkey who had the temerity to fuck with them, and while many of these films and their stars were derided for allegedly providing a terrible example of blackness, those of us who dug the stuff dug it with a vengeance and still carry its standard with zeal.

To me, the Holy Trinity of blaxploitation actors are Richard Roundtree, who got the ball rolling as bad muthaSHUTCHOMOUF! John Shaft, Fred "the Hammer" Williamson, who gave his films a sense of cool and machismo only matched by Sean Connery's James Bond, and Jim Kelly, the huge-Afroed brutha who shared the screen with Bruce Lee in ENTER THE DRAGON and made me want to see a whole movie about his character, so there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to meet all three of these elder statesmen of Negrotude when they appeared on Friday at the Chiller Theatre Expo in Parsippany, New Jersey. Here is the photographic evidence of this disciple meeting the sacred elders, along with some examples of the work for those somehow shamefully unaware of their oeuvre. First up is me with Richard Roundtree, whose SHAFT hit the screens with seismic impact in 1970.

The "Tree" and me.

Even if you know nothing about the blaxploitation era, you know about SHAFT, if for no reason other than its now-classic and Oscar-winning score. Watch the trailer and if you say you don't know that music, you are a muthafukkin' liar.

Then there's Fred Williamson, who is so personable that he practically gives off superhero radiation.

"Boss Nigger" and Yer Bunche.

I like many of Fred's movies but I have a special place in my heart for BOSS NIGGER (1975), a western that I often describe as BLAZING SADDLES if it weren't a comedy. I'll never forget watching TV at age ten and seeing the ad for it, which featured the theme song heard in the embedded trailer.

When my mom and I saw that, I was stunned and asked "Can they say that on TV?!!?" Having grown up in the deep south during the pre-Civil Rights era, my mom was utterly appalled and tut-tutted the "sorry state" of American blacks, which made me realize the film was likely worth checking out. I did not get the opportunity to see BOSS NIGGER until about two years ago, when it finally came out on DVD under the utterly neutered title of simply BOSS.

Last and definitely not least is Jim Kelly, the celeb who helped spark my interest in learning the martial arts and also growing my 'fro to proportions that almost gave it its own gravitational field. It says a lot that Kelly could be as cool as Bruce Lee in what many consider to be Lee's magnum opus, and he simply looked amazing when kicking ass in that yellow gi.

When I met Jim Kelly, I was so flabbergasted that I almost could not speak.

Kelly made a number of films after ENTER THE DRAGON, most notably BLACK BELT JONES and THREE THE HARD WAY (both 1974), and when the blaxploitation era inevitably waned he became involved in professional tennis and continues to work as a coach.

And, being the autograph-hound that I am, I had to get personalized 8x10's of these titans of the late-20th Century.

A classic shot of Shaft in Times Square, circa 1971 (translation: "before it had its balls cut off).

As seen in the trailer, here's the moment of NYC charm in which Shaft informs an errant driver that he's "#1." When Roundtree saw this photo, he laughed out loud and exclaimed, "Now, here's one that you don't see every day."

It's shots like this that make me glad I'm a collector-geek who brings his own stuff to get signed at shows. Fred had some good pics available, but nothing from BOSS NIGGER.

When I handed this to him to sign, Jim Kelly perused it for a long time, noting that he hadn't seen this promo shot pretty much since ENTER THE DRAGON came out.

As you may have imagined, I was deep in a geekish man-crush heaven, and I would count Friday as the blackest day of my life. *SQUEE*

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Britain's venerable weekly sci-fi anthology comic 2000 AD has unleashed many memorable series and characters since its inception in 1977, but it's often been argued that its best years are behind it and it continues on solely based upon the strength of its past achievements and its status as a landmark in British comics publishing. For the most part I would agree with that assessment, but every now and then there appears a new strip that reminds me of what 2000 AD can be like when it's firing on all cylinders, and its most recent strip to place a huge, stupid grin on my face is ZOMBO, a welcome return to the mag's signature blend of compelling narrative, twisted humor, and serious lashings of the old ultra-violence.

Debuting in Prog #1632 (April, 2009), the series opens with an inter-planetary charter flight crash-landing on planet Chronos, an incredibly hostile and sentient "deathworld" that lures in hapless victims and where damned near everything on it is lethal to man. In other words, the planet knows exactly what it's doing and has fun doing it. The spacecraft's thirty-three passengers all survive the crash, but in literally no time the planet starts whittling their number down one by one in alarmingly gory and painful ways. Help comes in the unexpected form of Zombo, a decomposing super-zombie who is the ship's top secret cargo.

The survivors meet Zombo, the most polite flesh-eating undead guy you could hope to meet.

Once awakened and out of his container, Zombo is instructed by his government handlers to protect the survivors, and from that moment on it's a chapter-by-chapter festival of creative and beautifully-illustrated carnage, punctuated by Zombo's incongruous good manners and generally cheery attitude. Sure, he's a super-strong mouldering re-animated corpse, but he's also a self-described "good boy."

The second arc is "Zombo's 11," a gloriously ludicrous parody of the original OCEAN'S ELEVEN (1960), with side-splitting jabs at YouTube JACKASS-wannabes and AMERICAN IDOL thrown in to hysterical effect. To give away more would spoil the fun, so I'll just shut up now.

Zombo's first weekly cover appearance. (art by Henry Flint)

Written with considerable verve by Al Ewing (JUDGE DREDD), who seems to be having a ball doing it, and gorgeously drawn by Henry Flint, the cruelly-underrated illustrator of 2000 AD's SHAKARA (among other projects), ZOMBO is the most fun regular strip to appear in the magazine in ages and it cracks me the hell up. The only complaint I have about this collected volume of the series is that there's so little of it to be had, solely by virtue of its relative newness, but that works to the advantage of new readers who would otherwise have to slog through, in some cases, literally decades of JUDGE DREDD, STRONTIUM DOG, SLAINE, THE A.B.C. WARRIORS and several others to have even half a clue as to what the hell was going on. And, frankly, many of 2000 AD's cornerstone series started out strong and then majorly screwed the pooch, some continuing to run interminably when for ages there's been no good reason to continue them (yeah, I'm lookin' at you, SLAINE and THE A.B.C. WARRIORS!), so this is the perfect place to get in on the ground floor.

In short, ZOMBO: CAN I EAT YOU, PLEASE? is a thoroughly entertaining breath of fetid air and I wholeheartedly recommend picking up the collection, the first of what I hope will be many. Now, if only they'd put out CRADLEGRAVE in a collected edition...


I can't believe I wrote this six years ago. How time flies...

Yesterday I got my hands on what amounts to a wrenching time warp gene-spliced with a memory-jogging roundhouse kick in the skull, and that item is a DVD of the 1976 Paul Lynde Halloween Special.

Holy fuckin’ Jesus…

If you are of an age that recalls the truly out-of-control excesses of the 1970’s occurring right around the time that you were either waging battles with rudely autonomous public hardons or your crotch hemorrhaging on a monthly basis while your nascent jubblies were first making themselves known, then you no doubt remember the loopy television of that era, television that reflected the “who gives a fuck?” vitality of that cocaine-fueled decade; TV fluff that literally was an opiate for the masses, granting us adolescents refuge from the steadily escalating rigmarole of leaving childhood behind. It seemed that after the cookie cutter, antiseptic fare of the 1950’s and the increasingly bizarre offerings of the 1960’s — to say nothing of the social upheavals that shook the US in both of those decades — network execs had an anything-goes attitude and approach to programming, no doubt spawned by massive consumption of booze and illicit recreational pharmaceuticals, and a veritable avalanche of cheese cornucopiaed its way out of our cathode ray altars.

The networks latched on to whatever was the current fad — disco (original flavor and the roller variety), CB radios and truckers, the kung fu boom, nostalgia for “the good old days,” sci-fi that was more action-oriented than cerebral, hot chicks with feathered hair and nipples as hard as your thumb — and quickly spewed it forth in a diluted fashion onto the airwaves. And then there were the “celebrities” who appeared on virtually every show under the sun, stars like Charo, Dick Gautier (remember him?), Charles Nelson Reilly, Ruth Buzzi, Joey Heatherton, Rich Little, John Byner, and the cultural criminals responsible for subjecting us to mime in primetime, Shields and Yarnell. The list is just as endless as it is riddled with mediocrity.

And the grand poobah of showing up on TV specials and guest starring all over the whole of creation was everyone’s favorite vicious alcoholic queen, the incomparable Paul Lynde.

Legendary throughout Hollywood for his downright sadistic wit and rampaging homosexuality (that was not, technically speaking, public knowledge but was as obvious as the dick on a bull elephant), Lynde gained a name for himself first as a stage actor and standup comedian, achieved TV immortality as the irrepressible and flaming Uncle Arthur on “Bewitched,” and reigned supreme as the resident snarkmeister on “The Hollywood Squares,” a show that he would tape after sucking down copious amounts of booze. It was widely agreed upon that Lynde was already a sharp-tongued S.O.B., but when he had a few drinks in him he became Josef Mengele (according to latter day raging Hollywood queen and bear, Bruce Villanch, who incidentally co-wrote the Halloween special), and nowhere was that more apparent than on “Squares,” a long-running gig that made Lynde rich and introduced us impressionable youngsters to rude, raunchy and hilarious gay humor that went as far as Lynde could get away with for the time; even today some of his quips would never have gotten past the watchdogs at Network Standards and Practices, especially after Janet Jackson so kindly treated us to an unwanted glimpse of her right dairy during an annual festival of man-on-man brutality and ads for Viagra and beer and the networks went into an Islamic-jihad-like frenzy of shielding the public from “indecent” material.

Needless to say, Lynde was extremely popular and, never too slow on the uptake when it came to potential ratings, the networks milked his catty groove for all it was worth and shoehorned him into any available showcase, no matter how ill-suited to his unique brand of bitchery. He appeared in an avalanche of absolute garbage that would have amounted to career seppuku for anyone else, but since he was savvy — and drunk — enough to be aware of just how lousy much of the TV gigs he got were, he rose (or sank) to the level of what he had to work with and became the shining yellow nugget of corn at the precipice of a mountain of shit. No line was too corny and no bit was too shameless for Paul Lynde, and he camped it up to such a degree that one had no conscious choice but to sit in front of the tube and stare like a drooling mongoloid.

Lynde’s 1976 Halloween special is nothing less than a spectacle of cosmic awfulness, something so mind-warping that you could no sooner turn away from it than you would turn away from witnessing the president holding a press conference and suddenly seeing him whip out his turkey neck of a pecker and actually piss out a surf board-riding Jesus Christ who was not only on fire but wearing assless leather chaps while screaming “Hey, kids! It’s the Second Coming!,” at which point Condaleeza Rice begins savagely masturbating on camera with a gravy-smothered leg of Kentucky Fried Chicken and singing “Old Man River.” It’s on a level with the infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special” but unlike that dead-in-the-water Hiroshima of the small screen, Lynde’s show at least has the decency of being mesmerizingly, entertainingly bad.

So just what is contained in the special that makes it so Christfuckingly bad? Here’s a play-by-play breakdown:

SCENE ONE- Paul Lynde is gaily mincing around his home in full Santa Claus drag and singing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and decorating a Christmas tree when his housekeeper (Margaret Hamilton, best known as the Wicked Witch of the West in THE WIZARD OF OZ, and later Cora the Coffee Lady in Maxwell House adverts) shows up and lets him know that it ain’t Christmas. Lynde snippily dismisses her with a disdainfully sneered “Why don’t you go dust?” and the camera zooms in on his face as we see that he has just had a clever idea. Cut to Lynde starting the scene over again in an horrendous Easter Bunny outfit, singing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” (by this point during the original broadcast I would imagine that thousands of closets across the nation flung open with a sonic boom as many “sensitive and artistic” young men burst forth and said “fuck you” to a country that hates fags yet gobbles up entertainment created by gays like it was a really good batch of General Tso’s chicken, this particular special being a case in point), only to be clued in on the fact that it ain’t Easter. Lynde again gets an idea and suddenly we are treated to him in a Hugh Hefner-style red smoking jacket holding a huge heart-shaped box of chocolates while mangling “My Funny Valentine” and sitting on one of the ugliest couches in the entire history of furniture, even by the questionable standards of the mid-1970’s. Again, Hamilton shows up and finally clues him in to the fact that it’s Halloween amidst much allegedly witty dialogue. Then we get the announcer stating:

“It’s the Paul Lynde Halloween Special! Starring Paul Lynde! With Paul’s special guests Tim Conway! Roz “Pinky Tuscadero” Kelly! Margaret Hamilton! Billie Hayes! (NOTE: she is best known as Witchie-Poo from “H.R. Pufnstuff”) Billy Barty! (the legendary dwarf actor) And special guest star Florence Henderson! A special appearance by Betty White (before she was two-hundred)! And a rock ‘n’ roll explosion, Kiss! And now, The Paul Lynde Halloween Special!”

SCENE TWO- Lynde launches into a staggeringly stale introductory monologue, followed by a re-written for Halloween version of “Kids,” his signature number from his role in the Broadway show “Bye Bye, Birdie.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, the stage is suddenly infested with poorly choreographed dancers in cheesy devil outfits — accessorized with dime store plastic pitchforks — who antagonize Lynde, but don’t have the decency to kill him, thereby preventing this atrocity from continuing. After being tied up and forced to dance in a satanic chorus line while lyrically bitching about how “there’s too much Alice Cooper, not enough Alice Faye,” Lynde is unceremoniously dumped into a garbage can by celebrated Mormon icons of ‘70’s TV schlock Donny and Marie Osmond (who happen to be dressed in devil suits). The garbage can then explodes for no adequately explained reason.

SCENE THREE- Lynde’s housekeeper drives him to her sister’s house in order to keep him away from the horrible kids of the previous scene, and we immediately discover that the housekeeper and her sister are actually card-carrying witches, specifically the Wicked Witch of the West and Witchie-Poo, both in their famous costumes and totally in character. They let him know that they want him to help them soften the worldwide image of witches despite centuries of evidence which they both deny, with the exception of the torments that Dorothy went through, which were justified because “she had it coming.” Then, Miss Halloween 1976 shows up, courtesy of a terrible video special defect, and it’s Betty White. She totally disses Paul Lynde, disappointed that he’s not Paul Newman (who was supposed to be her prize for winning the coveted title), and she bitches out the two witches as to why they couldn’t have gotten another famous Paul, such as Paul Williams, Paul McCartney, Les Paul, Saint Paul or even Pall Mall. She then disappears after pronouncing Lynde “a nobody.” Anyway, the witches promise him three wishes if he helps them in their cause, and his first wish is to be — now get this — a trucker. He is immediately transformed into what appears to be a Village People reject in a silver, rhinestone-studded jumpsuit with “Big Red” inexplicably emblazoned across the back, and a Tom of Finland-style matching cap.

Paul Lynde as The Rhinestone Trucker. No, you have not gone completely barking insane. This actually happened!

He also sings the indescribably trite “Rhinestone Trucker” jingle and hops into the cab of an eighteen-wheeler. We are then “treated” to the romantic rivalry between the Rhinestone Trucker and another rig jockey (Tim Conway, proving just how unfunny he was when not on “The Carol Burnett Show,” a trend that would continue in his later efforts as the vertically-challenged Dorf) over the attentions of Kinky Pinky (Roz Kelly). This sketch goes on for a short eternity and is replete with gags that were old when dirt was invented. The whole car wreck culminates in an overwrought square dance/disco number that will make you want to eat your own buttocks while jamming a rusty screwdriver into your eardrums. The unhappy ending features the Rhinestone Trucker marrying a woman.

SCENE FOUR- After the previous idiotic scenario plays itself out, Lynde returns to the witches’ place and is offered some soothing chamber music by Kiss. They lip synch through “Detroit Rock City” with all the convincingness of Ashlee Simpson on “Saturday Night Live” while a smoke machine is truly put to the test (or maybe it was the runoff from all of the joints that surely blazed on set during this fiasco). And not that we didn’t already know they looked like idiots, but Kiss’ makeup gimmick has seldom looked more stupid than it did here.

SCENE FIVE- Lynde then goes for wish number two, namely being turned into a Valentino-esque desert sheik, complete with enormous hoop earring, who is vastly wealthy and a master seducer who goes by the name “Florence of Arabia.” He then attempts to force his lusty will upon captive Englishwoman Florence Henderson… Their lip lock will make you cringe, I swear to God. Tim Conway shows up again as a member of the French Foreign Legion who attempts to save Florence Henderson from the swishy sheik. Sheer torture, folks.

SCENE SIX- The Wicked Witch of the West engages in painfully unfunny banter with her diminutive butler (Billy Barty) until Lynde pops back to the scary house. Paul selflessly sacrifices his last wish to the witches, who want nothing more than to go to a Hollywood disco; at this point, the show becomes truly impossible to turn away from since it is a cavalcade of bad TV-friendly discotheque antics such as Lynde spewing forth wretched one-liners (one of which involves bestiality between Tim Conway and an unwilling monkey), Florence Henderson performing a “disco” version of “That Old Black Magic,” and Peter Chris subjecting us to that wimpiest of Kiss tunes, “Beth” (in which the endless close-ups prove that Chris was bloated even then and that though his makeup is allegedly supposed to represent a cat, he looks like a “kitty”), as the band nods in approval as if to say “Yo, man. That shit is deep.” Then Lynde trades ultra-pitiful quips with Kiss until they take pity on the audience and lip synch “King of the Nighttime World.” Then, in a sequence that nearly caused me to have a seizure, Paul asks Roz Kelly to teach him some happenin’ disco moves and she launches into a version of “Disco lady” that somehow manages to be more noxious than the actual hit version. Then, incredibly, Lynde trumps that by singing the song himself; you have not lived until you witness all of the guest stars awkwardly shaking their groove thangs as the queerest man in the universe utters the lines “Move it in, move it out, move it in, and about, disco baby! I like that funky stuff!” Yes, you read that right.

EPILOGUE- Paul Lynde takes time to thank all of his guests and then commits the ultimate Halloween prank by ending the show on a freeze-frame of himself kissing the Wicked Witch of the West full on the mouth as his voice-over exclaims “Happy Halloween, everybody!”

I now have a perennial to run each Halloween, a confection more horrifying than THE EXORCIST, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and FACES OF DEATH combined. Fuck, I miss Paul Lynde…

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Renowned comics artist and illustrator Joe Jusko just informed me that Victoria Vetri, aka 1968's Playboy Playmate of the Year, Angela Dorian, the woman who single-handedly ignited my famous jungle girl/cavegirl fixation, has been busted for the attempted murder of her boyfriend. I've had a thing for her since I saw her in WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970), so this just plain shocks me. It's like finding out that Racquel Welch stuffed a butcher knife through some dude's chest.

Victoria Vetri, the blonde in the middle, as I first saw her when I was five years old. Now she's in jail and bail is set at a million bucks.

If you didn't see WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH, you may remember her as the pregnant neighbor who Mia Farrow tells she looks like Victoria Vetri in ROSEMARY'S BABY (a gag that I love), or as the briefly-seen humanoid form of Isis the cat in the classic STAR TREK episode "Assignment: Earth."

Vetri as Isis on STAR TREK.

If there's one thing Ive learned from personal experience, it's that you do NOT fuck over Italian chicks (Vetri was raised here, but her parents are straight from the Boot). If they love you, no one loves you harder, and the inverse of that is also true. If you fuck with an Italian chick in a serious way, you may as well dig the hole yourself.

You can read the news story for yourself here. I just hope that this is proven to be a case of clear self-defense...

I'm rooting for you Vicki. I just hope you had a damned good reason for shooting that guy.


NOTE: this piece originally ran on Halloween in 2007, but has once more been dusted off for any newcomers to this here site and slightly revised to add a couple of movies I've seen since it was first posted.

If you're a fan of horror movies you probably have a favorite monster genre that floats your boat, a particular flavor for which you'd be willing to sit through innumerable pieces of outright shit in order to find one halfway decent flick. For many it's vampires and their seductive allure, for others it's the gustatory frisson found in tales of flesh-eating zombies, and still others groove on the slaughterhouse rampages of bogeymen like Jason Voorhees and Michael Meyers. But for Yer Bunche, it's all about the werewolves, baby.

What is it that so appeals to me about the lusty lycanthrope? Shit, I think I just answered my own question: the werewolf is a creature of the basest, most primal lusts — the lust for killing, the lust for sex, the lust to protect its territory, the lust to consume warm, bloody flesh — each something clearly identifiable and understandable as the needs of an animal, something wild and untamed that garners its power from nature itself, rather than denying the natural order by being some reanimated corpse with an agenda. Vampires, for all their elegance, are a mostly bunch of aristocratic, poncy douchebags who most people forget are fucking corpses, and corpses are not exactly known for their pleasant bouquet. I always get grossed out whenever I see some horny suckface putting the moves on a hypnotized, heaving-bosomed cutie who's oblivious to his reeking charms, and while the actual bloodsucking can be read as metaphorical Osh-Osh, I'm way too literal-minded for that and can't help but picture Count Douchebagula's fetid member about to go to work in the Good Place. "Yecch," to say the least (although I've gotta admit that Frank Langella's Dracula was a pretty sexy guy).

The rapaciousness of the werewolf is far less steeped in treachery and mystical date rape tactics than that of the velvet-caped revenant. No less deadly or without quantifiable side effects, certainly, but far more honest in the way of a dog who dislikes you for no apparent reason taking a chunk out of your ass. The werewolf’s all about the indomitability of nature, and vampires, zombies, and other such critters fly in the face of that, which is perhaps what gives them their power, the threat of the expired refusing to be dead as we understand that state of being, and that animate expression of death seeking either to mind-control us, feed on our lifeblood, or feast upon our living flesh to fuel their aimless, undead march.

The werewolf, on the other hand, is as uncontrollable and unpredictable as a natural force while also being a fusion of “civilized” humanity with the primal, and seldom can the two find a harmonious middle ground. The typical protagonist in lupine lore does not embrace the loss of control that accompanies the transformative gift and instead seeks a cure, or, since treatments for lycanthropy are apparently few and far between, they seek death but can’t work up the gumption to off themselves, either from the urge for simple self-preservation, or through some aspect of their curse that also seeks to stay alive. Any way you cut it, the tales of those thus afflicted seldom end well, and that may also be a key to their appeal: a person unwittingly thrust into a supernatural state of great power and animal drives that they can’t hope to comprehend or master, often losing themselves to their lupine side and becoming perceived as a thing of evil, by others and themselves, only to face an inevitable and tragic end that scars the lives of their loved ones.

I can totally relate to that, having done some pretty out of control shit over the years, but I groove on the wolf more for its potential for a connection with the natural world in a way that man has long ago left behind. In legendary tales of werewolfism it’s a frequent given that the shape-shifter has full control over his actions and the moments of transformation, and is not merely a slave to the influence of lunar cycles. Imagine the freedom in that state, the sharpness of the senses, the supple power of a beast built for mastery of its environment, the innate hunting skills of a born predator, and the ability to return to one’s place within human society with the ease of doffing an overcoat…

That would simply be awesome.

So I’m fascinated with all tales of the wolf-folk, be they works of prose, comic books — the standout in that medium would be Alan Moore’s classic SWAMP THING issue with “The Curse,” a story that examines the connection between the lycanthropic cycle and the menstrual cycle — or movies, and speaking as a lover of such stuff I’m here to offer you a guide to the essential cinematic works in the field. And one thing that surprised me while coming up with a list for this piece was how few truly good or even notable werewolf flicks there are, so when you see a good one cherish it and let me know about it in case of the unlikely chance I may not have seen it.


The first of Universal’s werewolf movies, this one’s interesting today mostly as a curiosity since it really doesn’t grip the viewer as earlier entries in the studio’s legendary horror cycle did. You read and hear about Universal’s versions of Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy again and again, but Henry Hull’s turn as the unfortunate Dr. Glendon is often overlooked due the film’s wildly uneven script that frequently loses sight of its own point (the werewolf) in favor of “local color” character bits that were more appropriate in THE INVISIBLE MAN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, both films steeped in a certain fey campiness. Other than its historical significance, THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON is notable for Dr. Yogami — white guy Warner Oland in one of his many portrayals of an Asian — a scientist who covets the rare Marifisa Lupina plant, s specimen found by Dr. Glendon that provides a temporary cure for lycanthropy, a condition that Yogami passed on to an unsuspecting Glendon during the attack that gets the story rolling. Yogami is a thoughtful man, but his need for the cure overrules his morals and makes for a terrific performance.


The template for most werewolf flicks to follow, this was the last truly great film in the Universal horror cycle, and screenwriter Kurt Siodmak’s script introduced many elements into the lore of the werewolf that we now take as rote, including the silver bullet thing and the strict adherence to the full moon connection rather than merely a nighttime or willed occurrence. Lon Chaney Jr.’s Larry Talbot became an iconic character for his hangdog manner and anguish over his homicidal case of five o’ clock shadow, returning in several sequels and spinoffs, but none of those have even an ounce of the strong story meat found in this initial installment. Oh, and if the sequels are any indication, being a werewolf pretty much renders you immortal, so you’d better get used to an existence of tearing out people’s throats and waking up naked and confused in some strange part of town (although Larry always wakes up clothed, yet sans footwear).

And as you probably noticed in these sensationalistic publicity stills, there's definitely a correlation between sex and violence in this film since Larry's doomed to kill his fiancée. Hey, back in the days you couldn't get away with a werewolf rape scene — you'd still have a hard time with that one even now — implied or otherwise, so titillating stills like these were about as questionable as it got.


A couple of lapses into hokey, overage juvenile delinquent movie territory notwithstanding, I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF offers up a fun and mildly creepy metaphor for the horrors and pains of adolescence, and wouldn't be the last lycanthropy flick to tackle that theme. Michael (BONANZA, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE) Landon stars as a J.D. with an irrationally explosive temper who undergoes prescribed psychiatric treatment in an attempt to curb his hair-trigger aggression, only to end up in the “care” of a mad psychiatrist who uses hypnotic regression to send him down the evolutionary chain to become an actual werewolf whenever he hears bells (how a werewolf fits into mankind’s evolutionary tree I won’t even begin to theorize). The poor bastard goes on a killing spree before his doom, and the film contains one of the most effective werewolf-on-the-hunt moments in film: the werewolf prowls his high school after hours,

ending up in the gym and encountering a girl practicing moves on the uneven parallel bars. As she executes a move that inverts her visual perspective, she comes face-to-face, upside-down, with the slavering monster.

Terrified, she falls to the floor and attempts to escape, but no dice.

Not a great movie, but definitely worth at least a one-time viewing.


Surprisingly the only werewolf flick to come out of the venerable Hammer Studios stable, this one stars my man Oliver Reed as Leon, the result of a forgotten dungeon inmate’s rape of a mute serving girl, an unwanted child born on Christmas day while his mother dies bringing him into the world. Since a child sharing the birthday of Jesus is “an insult to heaven,” Leon’s doomed from the start, and as he grows up he exhibits behavioral and physical traits that mark him as a werewolf in the making, and then he falls in love with a girl betrothed to another…

Oliver Reed, on any given day at the pub.

Tragic all the way, it’s interesting that Leon’s troubles come not from being bitten or from some Satanic pact, but from the fact that little baby Jesus apparently has birthday attention issues.


Original 1976 American release one-sheet.

The 1970's offered slim pickings for werewolf fare, and this flick stands as a perfect example of what I'm talking about. This bit of lycanthropic Eurosleaze stars French-born, ferret-faced Annik Borel — late of such classics as BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE DEVILS (1972) and the Isaac Hayes blaxploitationer TRUCK TURNER (1974) — a blonde with haunted eyes who looks like a fusion of Sondra Locke and Judith Light, a concept for more shudder-inducing than anything found in the film. As was the wont of Eurosleaze actresses of the period, Borel was in no way afraid of shedding her clothing, a point made apparent less than thirty seconds into the flick as she is seen completely bare-assed nekkid, gyrating in a circle of fire to cheesy voodoo drums by the light of the full moon.

This marvelously gratuitous nudity plays out in lots of close-ups as the credits roll, the camera occasionally getting so close to Borel’s gingerish pubes that I began to feel like her gynecologist, something I’m not used to outside of the context of straight-up pornography and am willing to bet was one of the elements edited when the film first hit these shores under the title THE LEGEND OF THE WOLF WOMAN. Yes, this chick’s a werewolf, and her furry look can fairly be described as the makeup artist — overrated hack Carlo Rambaldi, just prior to his leap to international fame with the 1976 KING KONG remake — sticking a fake nose and some bogus teeth onto Borel, then painting the actress’ nekkid skin with an adhesive and having her roll about on a barber shop floor; perhaps the most bizarre aspects of this makeup are the werewolf’s blonde hairdo coupled with her otherwise brown fur and Borel’s pendulous breasts being stricken by gravity in such a way that they resemble the much-suckled-upon teats of a mother beast, capped as they are with nipples resembling black olives.

Sadly, during my college days I've awakened next to worse...

Anyway, the werewolf chick is abruptly seen trussed-up and ready for burning at the stake (we aren’t shown how this happens) and we skip ahead by about two hundred years to then-present day Italy where we meet Daniela (Borel), a mid-twenty-something dead ringer for the werewolf chick who was one of her ancestors. It’s not really made clear, but apparently Daniela summoned the spirit of her shaggy ancestor (that’s what the opening sequence was supposed to be, I guess) and is now possessed by it, giving vengeful power to her deep-seated hatred of men and the sex act. Raped in her early adolescence, she now lives in the country with her kindly and concerned father, but her now-possessed psyche goes completely around the bend when she witnesses her sister having sex with her new husband and lures the guy into the woods where she attempts to seduce him while stark naked and instead tears his throat out with her teeth before dumping his corpse down a ravine.

Driven mad by what she’s done, Daniela is institutionalized but soon escapes with the help of a friendly nymphomaniac (whom she kills with a pair of scissors), immediately embarking on a murderous spree, growling like a crazed wolf and ripping out throats willy-nilly before falling in love with a sweet and hunky stuntman who lives in an abandoned movie studio town once used for filming Spaghetti Westerns (no, seriously). Cured of her bloodlust after a month with this guy (and one of those soft-focus “romantic” montages common to Euro nudie flicks of the seventies), Daniela’s life starts taking a turn for the better. Well, that is until she’s gang-raped by three local scumbags during a home invasion, a trio of from-out-of-nowhere vermin who also murder her lover. NOTE: we are spared the “main event” of the actual gang rape but we do witness the preamble, a nasty bit of business very reminiscent of the most famous sequence in Sam Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS (1971), and if you’ve seen that movie you know what I’m talking about, so keep that in mind before renting this on date night.

Finally driven irrevocably mad, Daniela decimates her attackers, somehow tracking down each of them despite having absolutely zero clue as to who they are or where they live and crushing two of them with a junkyard’s claw-crane that she learned to operate after watching it in action for about a minute. Catching up with her at long last, the hapless detectives who’ve fruitlessly tracked Daniela since she escaped the mental institution capture her at a remote location where she sits, open-bloused and titties-a-swingin’, sampling spoonfuls of stew from a cauldron (where she got it from is anyone’s guess). Now snarling and completely feral, Daniela is apprehended as a ridiculous voice-over informs us that we’ve just watched a re-enactment of “true” events that took place in 1968. Yeah, right.

Those like me who love werewolf movies were suckered in by WEREWOLF WOMAN’s promise of a straight-up lycanthrope fright-fest, but instead we got a squalid piece of seventies Euro-sleaze exploitation featuring the so-called werewolf being seen only during the movie's first five minutes, minimal gore, no scares or suspense, a script full of ridiculous plot holes, and so much wall-to-wall nudity that I nearly got tired of staring at a naked chick’s bush (say it isn’t so!!!). Simply put, WEREWOLF WOMAN is kind of worth a look as a seventies curiosity that’s infamous for its general uselessness, but if you have something else to do rather than see it, by all means do whatever your other choice is. Believe me, you won’t be missing a blessed thing.


The first of 1981’s back-to-back landmark wolf-out flicks, THE HOWLING strays a bit from the source novel but is a terrific horror story nonetheless. When a TV new reporter agrees to meet a stalker/serial killer in a scurvy porno emporium, she witnesses something so traumatic that she succumbs to amnesia. Her therapist (Patrick MacNee of THE AVENGERS) sends her to “the Colony,” an upstate Californian retreat where he works with an odd assortment of patients. Once there, things take a turn for the truly weird, and to say more would ruin things for those who haven’t seen it, so I’ll just shut up right here and now.

Loaded with in-jokes for the horror movie junkies in the audience and bolstered by Rob Bottin’s excellent werewolf designs and effects, THE HOWLING stands as an exemplary entry in the genre that is not to be missed. Plus, the flick earns special points for the late Elizabeth Brooks as Marsha,

the nymphomaniac sister of the serial killer who’s enough to cause a line to form of guys who couldn’t wait for her to put the bite on them. "AAAAWWOOOOOOOOO," indeed! And you have to love the Germans for coming up with a poster campaign for the film that features werewolf rape as its main image:

I mean, talk about lurid!


Rearing its shaggy head four months after THE HOWLING, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON upped the lycanthropic ante by having a studio budget, picturesque UK locations, the toothsome and talented Jenny Agutter, and FX badass Rick Baker on the makeup/creature effects, so how could it lose? Frankly, it didn’t, and over twenty-five years after the fact it still vies with THE HOWLING for top position in the hearts of most werewolf mavens (hell, I paid to see it three nights in a row when it came out!). David Naughton and Griffin Dunne are two American tourists trekking on foot across the British countryside who, against the advice of the creepy, tight-lipped locals, wander off the roads and into the moors where they fall prey to…well, you have a pretty good idea if you’ve read this far into this post. Dunne’s character doesn’t survive the attack, while Naughton awakens in a London hospital under the care of a mouth-watering nurse (Agutter), and is visited by the mangled corpse of his best buddy. His buddy warns him that he’s now a werewolf and must kill himself before the next full moon, but if Naughton had killed himself the movie would have been about twenty minutes long and pissed off an audience that came expecting some righteous monster action, so you can guess the rest.

Very entertaining and engaging from start to finish, some find its blend of humor and horror to be somewhat jarring and as a result feel that film is deeply flawed by a schizophrenic tone, but I totally disagree with that assessment; THE HOWLING is also quite amusing — admittedly, provided you get the jokes — but no one ever bitches about it being a mess, so I guess you’ll just have to judge AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON for yourself. And it gets extra special points for Griffin Dunne as Jack, the most cheerful mangled and steadily decomposing corpse you’ll ever see.

Griffin Dunne as Jack: if ever there was a supporting role that completely steals the film it's in, this is it.

BAD MOON (1996)

Thor the German Shepherd: this is the face of a true-blue hero.

This film is based on the 1992 novel THOR, by Wayne Smith, a story told from the point of view of the titular faithful German Shepherd who lives with a family of humans that he understandably considers his "pack." In the hierarchy of the pack Thor functions as the very capable protector, and his natural abilities are put to the test when a relative, Uncle Ted, comes to visit the family and only Thor, thanks to his animal senses and intuition, realizes that the guy is a werewolf. I have not yet read the book, but the movie apparently follows the book's plot basics, only losing the family's husband/dad and two of the kids, leaving Thor to look out for a single mother (Mariel Hemingway), and her young son (Mason Gamble, the kid from the horrid DENNIS THE MENACE movie). Thor proves his worth as a guardian early on, when a con man tries to fleece money out of the mother by provoking Thor to attack him, unaware that the woman is a lawyer who has prosecuted dozens of would-be hustlers just like him, and from that incident onward the audience knows to trust Thor's instincts.

After an expedition to a foreign land where his colleague/girlfriend is savagely killed by a werewolf and he himself is stricken with the curse of lycanthropy while trying to save her, Uncle Ted (Michael Paré) returns to the States and embarks on a quest to find a cure for what has befallen him. Unfortunately, all avenues prove a dead end and Ted moves into a trailer somewhere in the deep backwoods of the Northwest, where his homicidal lunar activities will stand less of a chance of getting out of hand (a plan that doesn't work because his transformations are nightly and he's wracked up a body count of five before the plot even really gets rolling). When he invites his sister and nephew up to visit (with Thor along for the ride), Ted gets it into his head that the company of his family may be just the thing that will curb his rapacious supernatural urges. It is during this daytime visit that Thor is allowed to sniff about freely in the woods, where he picks up strange scents and the remains of a forest surveyor, a trail that leads right back to Uncle Ted. Thor may not be able to articulate what he senses, but he knows Uncle Ted is something very, very dangerous, and from that moment on he holds the man under very close scrutiny.

Creepy Uncle Ted, now a werewolf and safely ensconced within the bosom of his family...

...which puts him within Thor's territory of guardianship, and Thor knows EXACTLY what's up. And he doesn't like it one bit.

Following his latest murder and with the police investigating literally right outside his trailer door, Ted calls his sister and asks if he can stay with her for a while. Once he parks his trailer outside the family home, Thor immediately sets up a vigil to keep an eye on the lupine visitor. Ted, very much aware that Thor has his number, creepily tries to insinuate himself into a position of power within the pack while going out nightly to chain himself to a tree as his transformed self rages without causing harm to anyone.

Uncle Ted, all wolfed-out.

Thor witnesses the chained werewolf and has his worst fears realized, returning to the house and pissing on Uncle Ted's camper as a territorial warning. From that moment, you had better believe it's on, and in no time Thor's seemingly vicious and totally mis-interpreted aggression toward Ted lands him in the pound, leaving his pack very much in harm's way. But never underestimate the power of a boy's love for his dog, or the dog's love of his humans...

The film's low budget is certainly evident, but the story more than makes up for any deficiencies in the department of production values. The movie even has a werewolf that's much better than expected, although the transformation sequence is somewhat-justly maligned. Though low on gore (at least by my standards), the film is a lot of fun thanks to its unusual protagonist and if you're a dog-lover like me, you will root for Thor like you haven't rooted for a hero since Indiana Jones went after the Ark of the Covenant. Played by a pooch named Primo, Thor is a canine hero to be reckoned with and he even takes on the werewolf — a goddamned WEREWOLF!!! — twice, in what can only be called savage, animalistic combat. When stacked up against Thor, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie and Benji are a bunch of pussies and they can each suck it.

WOLF (1997)

This story of a middle-aged man's werewolf-bitten transformation from a fading light at a big publishing house into the literal alpha wolf greatly appealed to me for being pretty much what might have happened if THE WOLF MAN's Larry Talbot embraced lycathropy as the gift that it could be, but its blend of low key horror and romance didn't sit well with everyone. I recommend it, but don't check it out in hope of finding major scares, gore, or even a spectacular transformation sequence despite Rick Baker again lending his skills to the proceedings. Jack Nicholson's werewolf is very much a throwback to the hairy guy in slacks and a button-down shirt prevalent in werewolf movies until the special effects kick in the ass of 1981, and while Jack's look has it's detractors I must admit that it takes me back to the days of CREATURE FEATURES watched on my old B/W televison when I was little, only in a mildly R-rated version.

Jack Nicholson's modern day descendant of Larry Talbot.


This Canadian entry is proof of what can be done with a low budget and a hell of a lot of talent and intelligence. Drawing once more upon the lycanthropy/horrors of puberty theme, GINGER SNAPS deals with two uber-morbid and very close high school-age sisters, a pair of creepy misfits who, like good old Carrie White, have yet to have their first periods. The older of the two, Ginger, finally starts her menstrual cycle, but has the misfortune of that event coinciding with local animal attacks that turn out to be the work of a particularly savage werewolf. The monster catches her newly bloody scent and, in a scene intended to look and feel like a rape (according to the film’s co-scriptwriter), mauls the living shit out of her. Ginger survives and in no time flat begins to exhibit a hitherto unseen level of aggression, both socially and sexually — keep in mind that lycanthropy is a communicable disease — to say nothing of such undeniable signs of wolfing out as getting furry in odd places, her teeth becoming more suited to tearing flesh, and the tail that she’s sprouted from out of nowhere. Her younger sister realizes what’s happening, and sets out to cure her sister, and if that doesn’t work…

Sorry, but there are some things Pamprin just ain't made to handle.

One of the rare werewolf movies from a female perspective, GINGER SNAPS is highly recommended for its genuine scares, well-handled lycanthropy/puberty metaphor, and its wicked DeGRASSI HIGH MEETS THE HOWLING sensibility. And the first sequel’s actually pretty good!


A gene-splicing of werewolf movie conventions and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, this is one kickass mamma-jamma! If GINGER SNAPS is the “girls” werewolf movie, then DOG SOLDIERS is its testosterone-fueled analog, and Jesus H. Christ is it fun! A bunch of soldiers on maneuvers in some UK backswoods realize they’re being hunted by a pack of very big, very nasty werewolves, so they hole up in a remote house and wait for sunup while attempting to weather an ultra-violent lycanthropic siege.

That’s pretty much it, and it reminds me of what I would have come up with, playing with my G.I. Joes in the backyard when I was eight, provided Hasbro had made an adventure set that included werewolves. Sheer adrenalin and spewing gore set this one in the top ranks of the genre.

CURSED (2005)

Plagued with production nightmares that made it take forever to make it to the screen, CURSED is not a great movie by any means, a fact that wasn’t helped by the studio cutting most of the gore and violence to ensure a PG-13 theatrical release. Well, I didn’t even think of wasting my cash on that version and instead waited for the unrated DVD, but the movie is still pretty pedestrian if not for the following items of note:
  • Christina Ricci as a girl about to become a werewolf. What’s not to like?
  • The spectacular sight of Shannon Elizabeth being torn in half at the waist by a ravening beast.
  • A very funny sequence involving a female werewolf who takes umbrage at being called “fat.”
Anyway, that’s it for my list, but do you have any suggestions? Please write in if you do! And, no, I didn’t forget THE WOLFEN or THE COMPANY OF WOLVES; I didn’t include them because the monsters in THE WOLFEN aren’t werewolves, and THE COMPANY OF WOLVES was frilly, pretentious horseshit. So there.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Carrie Fisher, sometime between the May, 1977 release of STAR WARS and the start of production on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, which began shooting in 1979. This blows that stupid Valerian-ripoff space-bikini from RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) out of the water and comes dangerously close to Jenny Agutter in LOGAN'S RUN (1976) territory, which can only be a good thing. Yowza!