Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Devil’s Kiss (1976)

I first encountered The Devil’s Kiss in rather unorthodox circumstances, to put it mildly. In the late 1990s Satellite TV was for the first time granting UK audiences access to television from Germany, France, Holland, Poland and all over Europe. In doing so the UK also suddenly had access to European TV channels that were broadcasting hardcore porn, which was going out scrambled, meaning you had to buy these cards that would unscramble the picture, which could be picked up in most UK satellite TV shops. All of which created a big hoo-ha in the UK press at the time, since hardcore was still illegal in the UK back then. These channels couldn’t be censored as they were being broadcast outside of the UK, but could they ban the sale of the cards? I never got into the unscrambling card racket myself, but one of the foreign porn channels we were getting in the UK at the time was (I think) called Eros TV, who seemed to be broadcasting out of France. Anyway, I’m not sure what happened exactly with Eros TV, maybe they ran into legal trouble in their native country, but all of a sudden they stopped broadcasting hardcore, and the channel became unscrambled and began to show old softcore movies from the 1970s and early 80s. These films were predominately from the back catalogue of Eurocine, the French film company who made dozens of cheap B-movies of all different genres…horror, softcore, war, even kid’s films. Eurocine knocked out movies in an assembly line fashion, whilst keeping directors like Jean Rollin and Jess Franco in gainful, if not exactly artistically rewarding, employment.

Eros TV showed many of Eurocine’s most well known titles like The Invisible Dead, Elsa Fraulein SS, The Bogeyman and the French Murders and Helga She Wolf of Stilberg. They also delved deeper into the Eurocine vault, unearthing obscurities like ‘Unknown Paris: Twenty Years Later Already’ which was a Mondo style travelogue about the sexual side of Paris in the 1960s, using lots of recycled footage from earlier Eurocine productions, a familiar trait of the company. They also showed a real sicko Eurocine production called ‘Unpunished Crimes’, a rape/revenge portmanteau movie featuring lots of heavy, prolonged sexual assault scenes, including a vignette starring Brigitte Lahaie as a trainee vet who gets gang raped in the back of a truck but then later uses her veterinarian skills to surgically castrate her attackers.

Consistency wasn’t one of Eros TV’s strong points, sometimes the films would be shown in French, other times they’d be shown in dubbed English, sometimes films would be heavily edited for sex and nudity, other times they’d go out intacto, it was all very random. One of the downsides to Eros TV was that every 15 minutes or so they’d cut to adverts which would all be for phone sex chat-lines and seemed to go on forever, these commercial breaks being something like 20 minutes long. I think it is safe to assume that the channel’s real raison d'etre was to pimp phone sex 24-7 and that these old films were just a front to give the channel some legitimacy- well as much legitimacy as showing The Invisible Dead and Elsa Fraulein SS can give you.

Even when they were showing the films themselves Eros TV would run this scrolling text at the bottom of the screen, in the manner of a 24 hour news channel, advertising these phone sex lines with a different phone number for what seemed like every country in Europe. Another downside to Eros TV was that sometimes they’d only show parts of a film, in some instances they’d begin a film halfway through, other times they’d show a film from the start but not show the end. So Eros TV made for an eye opening, but frequently infuriating, introduction to the world of Eurocine.

The Devil’s Kiss was a constant replay on Eros TV, and was by far the most mysterious of all their Eurocine acquisitions. The first time I caught the film, I missed the first couple of minutes so had no idea what the film was called, who directed it, or who was in it, and in that instance they didn’t even show all of the film. Then another time Eros TV didn’t show the film from the beginning but did show the end. Eventually they did broadcast the film from the beginning, but what would you know, the Eros TV version was missing a title, but did at least have cast and crew credits. On the basis of this I managed to piece together the fact that the film’s director was called Jordi Gigo (slightly anglicized to Georges Gigo in the credits) but the only cast member whose face was familiar to me at the time was Jose Rifante who I recognized from playing the creepy photographer husband in The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue.

These days the name of a director and one of its stars would be enough for you to uncover much more about a film, but back in the pre-internet days it took allot of detective work. I remember having to leaf through an entire book of capsule reviews of horror and sci-fi movies, the name of this book eludes me at the moment but it had obviously originally been a French book that had been translated into English at some point, although not all of the films’ titles had been translated. So, I went through the entirety of this book looking for a film directed by ‘Georges Gigo’ and co-starring Jose Rifante, and from the pages of that book managed to snatch a title for the film, albeit a foreign one, ‘La Perversa Caricia de Satan’.

It was obvious though that the version of The Devil’s Kiss that Eros TV was screening had been heavily cut, and at the slightest hint of sex and nudity the screen would fade to black and cut to another scene. As tends to be the case with heavily censored versions of films, the question over what was missing only added to your overall curiosity about the film. Don’t even try to comprehend why a TV channel would remove all scenes of nudity from a film, but think nothing of regularly interrupting it with sexually explicit phone sex ads, there seemed to be no motive to Eros TV’s madness. I finally managed to see the uncut version of the film, which turned out to be twenty minutes longer than the Eros TV broadcast, when Something Weird put it out on VHS under the title ‘The Wicked Caresses of Satan’. It seems that Harry Novak must have released the film theatrically in the States at some point, and Something Weird had found a print of it in Novak’s film vault.

The Devil’s Kiss works hard to deliver everything you’d possibly want from a mid-1970s Euro-Horror film. There is a sexually frustrated dwarf, a hideous rampaging zombie, a Satanic mass, a vengeful femme fatale, and a literal parade of garish fashions, all taking place under the roof of a spooky chateau. The Devil’s Kiss opens with the party to end all parties at the chateau of the Duke De Haussemont (Jose Nieto) who sure knows how to throw a bash. For starters there is a double act of an African tribal dancer and a stripper lewdly gyrating on the floor, followed by a fashion show featuring some hot models strutting their stuff and showcasing some outrageous 1970s threads, and if that wasn’t enough the night’s entertainment is rounded off by a séance conducted by Madame Claire Grandier (Silvia Solar). Despite this looking like a fab and groovy gathering, the Duke’s guests –a horrible bunch of bourgeoisie snobs- stubbornly refuse to let their hair down. Cutaways to their disapproving, miserable faces and snide comments “the Duke has always been an extravagant fellow”, amidst the intended frivolity are hilarious. Claire Grandier is also on the receiving end of their put-downs “these tricks don’t fool me, all you are is a bunch of tricksters”. Aren’t the bourgeoisie a bunch of killjoys?

The real focus of The Devil’s Kiss is Claire Grandier herself, a widowed Countess who has taken to dabbling in the black arts following her husband’s suicide. Grandier now has revenge on her mind and the Duke in her sights, on account of the fact that the Duke’s now deceased brother bought her husband’s horse stables at a cheap price following her husband’s death….talk about bearing a grudge!! Grandier’s partner in crime is Professor Gruber (Olivier Mathot) a textbook, white haired, bespectacled, mad scientist. The moment you hear Grandier boast that Gruber’s area of expertise is “the regeneration of animal cells” you know that this pair spell trouble. Generous and cheerful as the Duke De Haussemont is, he is also a bit of a schmuck, not only being oblivious to the bitching and sniping the bourgeoisie does behind his back, but welcoming Grandier and Gruber into his home with open arms. Despite the barely concealed contempt Grandier holds him in over her husband’s death and subsequent loss of their horse stables (and boy, does this film love to flashback to her husband’s suicide). Making an ill-advised attempt to make amends, the Duke invites the duo to stay on at the chateau after the party, where they set up residence in his basement.

Soon Grandier is performing black masses there, while Gruber continues with his experiments on regenerating flesh. Their endgame is to dig up a corpse and using a combination of science and the occult, resurrect it as a zombie killing machine, with the Duke in mind as its main target. Along the way Grandier makes a new fan in the form of a randy Dwarf (Ronnie Harp) who she rescues from a lynch mob, and is soon doing her bidding. Reflecting the film’s joint Spanish/French nationality, the cast of The Devil’s Kiss includes Spanish names like Jose Lifante and Maria Silva, while Eurocine’s involvement in the production is in evidence, thanks to the presence of Eurocine regulars Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot and Evelyne Scott.

The Devil’s Kiss is reminiscent of another Euro-Horror movie that Harry Novak distributed in the states, ‘Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks’. Both films are hindered by basic direction, with their locations doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to evoking atmosphere. Their casts read like a Who’s Who of Eurosleaze, and both have extremely busy narratives that fail to satisfactorily resolve everything. A subplot about the ghost of the Duke’s brother peters out, and the Dwarf’s storylines ends rather abruptly too. Nudity is frequent, mainly courtesy of Evelyne Scott who plays the Duke’s French maid Loretta and reliably takes her clothes off and engages in softcore sex scenes whenever the narrative threatens to flag (Scott serves a similar purpose in another Eurocine co-production ‘Crimson’).

The Devil’s Kiss is distinguished and kept afloat by star turns from Silvia Solar and Olivier Mathot, who despite their ubiquity, especially in Eurocine productions, were often relegated to forgettable secondary roles. The white haired, middle aged Mathot had a reserved, gentlemanly air about him, akin to Peter Cushing in the UK or Hal Holbrook in the US, that is ideally suited to the dedicated, seemingly emotionless Gruber, who when asks why he rarely speaks claims “I seldom find it necessary to speak, I know what people are thinking and I act accordingly”. A quick aside, I do find it hilarious in 1980’s Cannibal Terror when Mathot breaks with both his and his character’s uptight, respectable persona in order to call another character “a cunt”. A moment that goes totally against type and seems as inappropriate as it would be hearing Cushing and Holbrook come out with that expletive in a movie.

Like Mathot, the French born Silvia Solar (real name: Genevieve Couzain) had rubbed shoulders with the era’s great and the good, appearing in giallos and acting alongside everyone from Paul Naschy to Linda Hayden, yet she isn’t someone who gets written about allot. Solar’s age often resulting in her being cast as housewives and mothers, or very minor roles. She is killed off within the first five minutes of the UK/Spanish Linda Hayden vehicle ‘The Barcelona Kill’ for instance. In The Devil’s Kiss though, Solar gets a rare chance to vamp it up and play the femme fatale role. In her all black attire and matching wig, Solar anticipates Elvira- Mistress of the Dark, while regularly displaying touches of Dyanne Thorne like malice. The scene where she brings some food to the dwarf she has been harboring, only to turn this seemingly generous act on its head by insisting on him eating the food on the floor, then undresses in front of him, feels like a very Ilsa/Dyanne Thorne moment.

Back when I first discovered The Devil’s Kiss I’d forged in my mind what I now have to except was a heavily romanticized idea of Jordi Gigo and what an adventure it must have been to be young (Gigo being 30 when he made this film) surrounded by beautiful women and directing all these character actors in a crazy horror film at a wonderfully atmospheric chateau. It was all rather disillusioning and disheartening then to discover that the reality bore little resemblance to what was in my head. It seems the production of The Devil’s Kiss was in fact fraught with troubles all of which seem to have driven the first time director close to a nervous breakdown. There are few film credits for Jordi Gigo after The Devil’s Kiss. He is created as the director of the hardcore film Porno Girls (1977) the co-director of the horror spoof ‘El Jovencito Dracula’ (1977) and in 1986 ‘L’Espectre De Justine’ a softcore De Sade adaptation that -echoing Gigo’s Devil’s Kiss experience- was beset by production problems, and went unreleased until a one off film festival screening in 2013. These were the only other films by Gigo before his death in 1991, at the age of only 46.

Gigo’s youth is in evidence throughout The Devil’s Kiss, it’s the product of a fish out of water filmmaker rather one of Eurocine’s usual dusty old hacks. The film has little time for the stuffy, snobbish attitudes of the Duke’s inner circle, instead throwing all its affection in the direction of Richard (Daniel Martin) the Duke’s carefree, jet setting nephew, belatedly introduced in The Devil’s Kiss’ third act. Richard might well be my favorite character in The Devil’s Kiss, he is a hyper-exaggeration of everything men aspired to be like back then. Youthful, trendy, rich, lacking any social responsibility, and with an endless wardrobe of polo neck jumpers and safari jackets. The Devil’s Kiss might well be the most fashion conscious Euro-horror film of the 1970s, you’ll lose count of the amount of costume changes Richard and Claire Grandier go through.

An unrepentant horndog, Richard spends his days taking snaps of his supermodel girlfriend Susan (Maria Silva) and flirts madly with every female he meets. During his priceless first encounter with the Duke’s maid Loretta he can barely break eye contact with her cleavage, then when Loretta asks which room he wants to sleep in, immediately quips “yours, my little angel, if I may”. As with Peter Wyngarde’s Jason King there is an underlining campiness to Richard though, something that his ‘trying too hard’ attempt to appear a masterful, heterosexual, lady-killer only exacerbates rather than masks.

The influence of Hammer on the Spanish horror boom of the 1970s can be seen throughout The Devil’s Kiss, the zombie recoils in horror at the sight of the cross in the manner of Christopher Lee’s Dracula, and Gruber uses hypnosis to control the zombie and send it out on killing sprees recalling Zoltan’s power over the monster in The Evil of Frankenstein. The Devil’s Kiss explores more perverse territory than Hammer ever did though, and after all the nudity she has been required to do in the movie, Evelyne Scott is finally rewarded with a subplot of her own when Loretta is murdered by the zombie. Fearing she’ll be missed (especially by the cleavage loving Richard) Grandier and Gruber resurrect Loretta as a zombie too. A plot twist that leads to a distasteful moment when Loretta’s boyfriend shows up looking for sex, and inadvertently ends up committing necrophilia when he begins humping away on top of the understandably confused female zombie. A subplot that was nearly obliterated in the cut to pieces Eros TV version. The Dwarf’s erotic dreams about Madame Grandier riding about on horseback in a state of undress were also rendered incomprehensible by Eros TV’s edits.

The Devil’s Kiss maybe far from a perfect film, but it is one I’ve always had great fondness for, ever since stumbling upon it in the satellite TV netherworld all those years ago. For my money it represents all that is weird and wonderful about 1970s Euro Horror, and shines a light on the unrealized talent of Jordi Gigo. Who knows what he would have gone on to achieve had he not been dealt such bad luck during his brief career. These days, as tends to be the case with once elusive and obscure films, The Devil’s Kiss is easily available, it has shown up on Netflix in the states and it is available cheaply on UK DVD, where you’re spared the intrusion of twenty minute long commercial breaks for phone sex.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Merry Christmas

Merry 'samtsirhc' and a happy new year to all the readers of this blog (thankfully I managed to get it the right way round on the 2nd attempt)

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Devil Girl from Mars (1954)

Ever watched a film and been constantly distracted by the thought “I bet that actress received more than her fair share of kinky fan mail on account of this role”. Such is the case with Devil Girl from Mars, a characteristically cheapo production from quota quickie merchants The Danziger brothers (check out how many plant pots went on making the arms of the robot henchman). Devil Girl contains possibly the most quintessentially British line ever uttered in a sci-fi movie (“while we’re still alive we might as well have a cup of tea”), but really deserves cult immortality on account of the high camp spectacle that is Patricia Laffan’s merciless villainess Nyah, a female space invader intent on abducting earth men for breeding purposes. Resplendent in black leather with matching cape and helmet, and dishing out cruel but hilarious put downs (“It amuses me to watch your puny efforts!”), Nyah anticipates the leather and fem-dom obsessions of 1960s fetish mags like Bizarre Life, at the same time I wouldn’t even begin to speculate how many young women first realised they were gay while watching Patricia Laffan in this film.

Devil Girl from Mars beats Mars Needs Woman (1967) to the punch when it came to taking a gay lead, dressing them up in leather and casting them, somewhat ironically, as a character hell-bent on heterosexual procreation. Devil Girl’s leather boots also kicked the doors open for Spaced Out, Lifeforce, Species, and all the other sci-fi movies paradoxically enamoured with, yet terrified of, female sexuality.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Carnivore: Werewolf of London (2017) – round two

First of all, a bit of a confession. The last review I did of Carnivore: Werewolf of London was so short because the person who lent me the DVD wanted it back the next day so they could exchange it for a CEX voucher. If you couldn’t tell, they didn’t think too much of the film (“the only decent thing about it was that bird in the tight dress”), i on the other hand, have to say, i liked the film allot, enough to pick up the DVD myself and give it a bit more of a thorough write-up. So consider this Carnivore: Werewolf of London- round two.

In all honesty my first reaction to seeing the DVD cover of Carnivore: Werewolf of London –in the West Kirby Branch of ASDA- was “please let this live up to at least a tenth of what’s promised by that DVD cover, I’m not asking for the whole 100%, just a tenth of it and I’ll be happy”. That DVD cover, is quite simply a work of art, take a bow whoever put that together, it really does do the job of catching your eye and making it stand out from the Supermarket DVD pack. OK, it is guilty of promising more than the film delivers, but you’ve got to be pretty naive to the ways of Supermarket DVDs to think that a DVD cover can be trusted to depict the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Shameless exaggeration has after all been one of the long-time hallmarks of B-movies, and their dishonesty part of the overall experience, so why should the Supermarket DVD era be held to greater account. In a way these Supermarket DVDs hark back to the very early days of video, where distributors had on their hands films starring and made by people whose names wouldn’t mean much to the average person, and so entirely had to sell these films on the basis of an outrageous cover or a tag-line that compared the film to much more well known fare. Where once you’d have the VHS release of GBH (1983) hyping itself as “more brutal than The Long Good Friday”, these days Supermarket DVDs like to lay claims to be “Robocop meets Mad Max” or “The Terminator meets Universal Soldier”. Really, little has changed since the pre-cert video days.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London’s prized DVD cover quote is “very similar to Dog Soldiers but with civilians”, which i don’t think is quite as ballsy or catchy as “more brutal than The Long Good Friday”, but on the other hand it does lay out the film’s MO, and it’s difficult to argue with that assessment. That quote does at least let you know what you’re in for, allot more so than the DVD cover, which conveniently forgets to mention that only the final scene in the film and about 5 seconds at the start are actually set in London. The film opens with an aerial shot of Piccadilly Circus –i guess someone must have bought the director a drone for Christmas- and until the end scene that is pretty much your lot as far as London goes. After that briefest of trips to Piccadilly Circus we’re off to a countryside rental cottage, where two young lovebirds Dave and Abi hope to spend a romantic time. Dave is played by Ben Loyd-Holmes, a shaved headed, muscular actor in the Jason Statham/Luke Goss vein. I don’t think the film ever goes into Dave’s background much, but he is the type you can imagine working as a cage fighter during weekdays. For all his hardman appearance and swagger though, Dave is actually a likeable, ok kind of a guy. Surprisingly romantic and attentive to the needs of his lady love, Dave isn’t above preparing a meal for his girlfriend while she takes a bath, even throwing in a few dance moves in the process. During the whole dance/food preparing montage the sight of Dave chucking the flower around prompted a friend of mine (who was half-heartily watching the film whilst reading a book) to look up and enquire “are they using cocaine?”

For all of the time and effort Dave puts into preparing the meal, the end results aren’t really all that impressive. The fruits of Dave’s labour being this feeble, cheap looking Steak and Ale pie which looks like something you’d pick up in Iceland and stick in the microwave for a few minutes. Still it does appear to have the intended result.

Who knew a Steak and Ale pie was such an aphrodisiac? One of the many things you can learn from Carnivore: Werewolf of London. We also have to talk about the other half of this couple, American Abi, played by Atlanta relation to Dakota...she actually bears more of a resemblance to a young Kim Cattrall.

Where do we even begin when it comes to talking about Miss much you get out of Carnivore: Werewolf of London might depend on your response to this character, Abi does walk a very thin tightrope line between being adorable and being grating. If you do find yourself in the latter camp then Carnivore: Werewolf of London may prove to be a very long 80 minutes indeed. Even Dave, who is meant to be madly in love with her, can’t resist doing a mocking imitation of her speaking voice at one point (Atlanta Johnson being the latest in a long line of British thesps to adopt an American accent in a home grown B-movie, a tradition going back to the days of Fire Maidens from Outer Space). Kooky and high-maintenance may be among the kinder ways to describe Abi, her yo-yo relationship with Dave isn’t so much a whirlwind romance than a full on hurricane. She loves him, she loves him not, she loves him...Dave is never quite sure where he stands with Abi. One minute Dave is proposing marriage to her, the next she is turning him down and complaining that their relationship was just meant to be a short term thing. Then when a crestfallen Dave storms out of the room, Abi does an emotional 180%, tries on his ring, starts showing it off to her imaginary friends, begins dancing with one of them, then nearly dies of embarrassment when Dave comes back into the room and catches her errr...dancing with herself.

Intentionally or not these early scenes do evoke memories of all those Red Shoe Diaries type erotic thrillers of the 1980s and 1990s, with this young, affluent couple working on their relationship ‘issues’ and having all this passionate sex amidst a pleasant backdrop of scented candles, scattered rose petals and acoustic love songs. The film does pay particular homage to the famous food scene in 9 and a half weeks, when Dave blindfolds Abi and begins feeding her dark chocolate, i guess it’s a step up from Steak and Ale pie!! It’s a testament to either how much i like this film, or how easy on the eye Atlanta Johnson is, that i can tolerate the fact that the red dress Abi wears throughout the film constantly reminds you of a certain Chris De Burgh song. One of the unintended downsides to Carnivore: Werewolf of London, for sure.

No character in Carnivore: Werewolf of London is ever going to win prizes for logical behaviour, in fact Dave and Abi may well be the uncrowned King and Queen of illogical movie behaviour. One minute Dave and Abi are hearing heavy breathing noises outside, appear in fear of their lives and are making sure all the windows and doors are locked. A few minutes later they’re ripping off their clothes and having sex again, this time on their backdoor, whilst the werewolf watches them from the woods and –how can i put this?- appears to be knocking one off to the sight of them doing the business.

At which point Carnivore: Werewolf of London stops being “very similar to 9 and a half weeks, but with werewolves” and does indeed start to make good on being “very similar to Dog Soldiers, but with civilians”. Much as it feels just like yesterday that Dog Soldiers was released, the appearance of a film like this does drive it home that Dog Soldiers is now 16 years old, and that there are people who’ve grown up with Dog Soldiers and are now making their own films that are following in its paw prints. I suppose Dog Soldiers is a good blueprint for all low-budget, rookie filmmakers trying to get a foothold into feature filmmaking, with its simple location, small cast and ‘home invasion’ premise. In an age of lazy, done on the cheap CGI, it is pleasantly surprising to discover the werewolf here is mostly a practical, old school, man in a suit. The werewolf itself puts you in mind of a bad guy character from a 1980s cartoon like Masters of the Universe or Thundercats. Scary enough to impress the kids, but with a slightly goofy quality to it, to pacify any parents who might be thinking twice about letting their kids watch this show or buy the tie-in action figures.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London doesn’t short change the viewer when it comes to werewolf action, thankfully this isn’t one of those films where you see a claw in the half hour, a shadow at the hour mark and the full creature for the last 5 seconds. Once all the lovey-dovey/heavy breathing stuff is out of the way, the werewolf is rarely off-screen. At the same time, director Simon Wells seems to have a good idea of how much of the werewolf he can get away with showing. Setting the film entirely at night does obviously hide a multitude of sins, and only in a handful of wide shots does the werewolf really look like a man in a bear suit. As for the actual CGI that is in the film- chiefly shots of the werewolf jumping through a window and trying to burrow through the roof- well i suppose the werewolf does resemble a character from a 1980s cartoon show in that sense as well!! Once you’ve seen those shots it really does make you glad that this film favours the practical, bad CGI being the ruin of many a poor 21st century horror film.

No review of Carnivore: Werewolf of London can fail to touch upon Dave’s misguided, ill-advised yet unswerving belief that the best way of defending yourself against a werewolf is by arming yourself with a rolling pin. Yes, Carnivore: Werewolf of London really does tear up the rule book when it comes to werewolves, forget all that stuff about silver bullets, what really strikes fear into the hearts of werewolves everywhere is a good old fashioned rolling pin. Full credit to Ben Loyd-Holmes for trying to look all heroic and macho, while running around with that rolling pin.

Curiosity about the Carnivore: Werewolf of London cast did lead me in the direction of another hitherto unknown British horror short “Predator: Dark Ages” (2015). A half hour Predator fan film, set in medieval times, which pits a bunch of templar knights against the alien hunter from the 20th century fox film franchise, and represents another attempt by Ben Loyd-Holmes to muscle in on the action movie market. As is the case with most fan films you can watch Predator: Dark Ages for free on Youtube, and while the words ‘fan film’ automatically set the alarm bells ringing, Predator: Dark Ages surpassed all expectations. Production values, acting and storytelling are well above average for a fan film, and the period setting transcends its initial novelty value and succeeds in bringing something new and fresh to that franchise, albeit in an unofficial capacity. I’d definitely have no problem with putting both Carnivore: Werewolf of London and Predator: Dark Ages on a top ten list of my cinematic discoveries of 2018.

Ben Loyd-Holmes does actually get a bit ‘Arnie in Predator’ towards the end of Carnivore: Werewolf of London as well, what with Dave stripping off his shirt and running about the woods with a lit torch. Dave maybe needs to work on his Predator-esque one liners though, his shout out/challenge to the werewolf of “Hey...I’m calling the police” falls a bit below the Schwarzenegger standard. Even miss scaredy pants Abi manages to come up with better one liners when she goes all Sarah Conner towards the end of the film and starts dishing out remarks like “we’re checking out early” and “i’m gonna put you down”.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London also doubles as a great advert for the cottage they filmed it at, which if the film is anything to go by, may well be the most secure cottage in England. Try as it might that werewolf just can’t seem to break into the place. Even though elsewhere in the film it rips off a man’s arm and can pull people to shreds, smashing down a small wooden door of this cottage appears to be beyond it, and it fails to even put a scratch into that door. Strangely enough Dave is similarly unsuccessful in his later attempts to blow up the cottage with the werewolf in it, it’s almost as if one of the provisos for filming at this cottage was that they cause no interior or exterior damage, resulting in what is possibly the most considerate werewolf rampage ever seen on film. The werewolf might think nothing about tearing people limb from limb but it always makes sure to never cause any damage to the property itself, no broken windows, no smashed up rooms, nothing that would cause you to lose your deposit on the place. Although it does leave some dirty footprints on the bathroom floor at one point.

Seemingly impenetrable to damage from man or beast, the cottage comes across as the Captain Scarlet of holiday lets, it’s simply indestructible. A plot point that is even more absurd when you discover that the cottage is part of a nefarious scheme to lure hapless tourists to the place fully in the knowledge that they’ll be slaughtered by the werewolf. The brains behind this scheme being a sinister old farmer. Known simply as ‘The Man’, he is played by Gregory Cox an actor with extensive film and TV credits going back to the 1980s, his other claim to fame within the horror genre being having played the Jason Voorhees parody character Jackson in the 1989 horror spoof ‘Unmasked part 25: Jackson’s Back’. As i said earlier, characters in this film aren’t overly blessed in the logical behaviour department, since The Man’s end game is to have the werewolf kill everyone who stays at the cottage, why does he make it so secure that the werewolf has such a struggle to get into the place, frequently requiring its human sidekick to open doors for it. ‘The Man’ is also portrayed as this luddite yokel who goes around mumbling “wi-fi, there is no wi-fi, city folk!!!”, yet this cottage is tailor made to the needs of your average millennial, the place even has bluetooth and mobile phone chargers ferchristssake!!

Whatever else can be said about it Carnivore: Werewolf of London is a very 21st century British horror film, tapping into all of today’s frightmares about being trapped in a place without a decent wi-fi connection and with characters forced to venture outside and risk certain death in order to get a decent mobile phone signal. The film also taps into less common fears about having what looks like shit smeared on you by an old man. Part of The Man’s scheme being to rub this crap on unsuspecting people, which according to the rules of this film automatically attracts the werewolf. At one point The Man shakes Dave’s hand leaving Dave with all this gooey brown crap on his hands, which Dave just assumes is the sort of thing that country folk have on their hands all day. Apparently the crap in question is actually meant to be pheromone, but this isn’t really made clear in the film and instead it just looks like The Man is throwing diarrhoea around at all and sundry. Which makes a moment towards the end of the film, where The Man ties up Abi in a barn and smears this crap all over her mouth, seem especially gross.

Your heart really does go out to Atlanta Johnson, a fashion model making her first serious steps into acting here, in a role that requires her to put on an American accent, be hung up in a barn, and have blood and shit thrown on her. Talk about being flung into the deep end of the often unglamorous world of acting. Atlanta really does prove herself to be quite the little trooper here.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London does also pose the question “what does a film have to do to get an 18 certificate these days”. There is a very, very small disclaimer on the back of the DVD admitting that the film itself only managed a 15 certificate from the BBFC and that the DVD itself was upgraded to an 18 certificate on account of the DVD extras. Which doesn’t make a whole lick of sense because the extras on the DVD are just behind the scenes/talking head material and trailers for a pair of direct to DVD westerns (The Legend of Ben Hall, Lonesome Dove Church) nothing that would get you a higher rating. The film’s 15 certificate does seem like a source of embarrassment here, and rightly so, because this film has nudity, ass sex, entrails being pulled out, eyeballs being eaten, all of which would have easily earned an 18 certificate in days gone by. In an age where film distributors are frequently cutting films down to get a more commercial 15 certificate, its rather endearing that the makers of this film appear to have voluntarily put this out as an 18 certificated DVD, for fear that their film would otherwise be mistaken for a boring, bloodless horror film.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London is packed to the rafters with laughability, at the same time this isn’t an out and out, unmistakable horror comedy like I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle or The Revenge of Billy the Kid. Instead it’s more of the Horror Hospital school of films that can play as a straightforward horror movie if that’s what you want from it, yet is also a film that openly invites you to laugh along with it, should you so desire. On the surface everything is played straight and as sober as a judge, but the DVD extras do tip you off that the filmmakers’ tongues were slightly in their cheeks. Going into the film blind though, especially as a first time watch, you’re never quite sure whether the preposterous nature of what is unfolding before your eyes is meant to be legitimately funny or not. Its star, Atlanta Johnson, describes it as a “chill with pizza, laugh, get scared, watch the gore and enjoy” movie, and that pretty much nails it. It’s certainly head and shoulders above most films with the words ‘Howling’, ‘The’ and a number in the title (faint praise, admittedly) is the first, and likely last time, you’re going to see a werewolf knock one off in the woods and be violently beaten about the head with a rolling pin, and is heartening proof that the British B movie is alive and well and available for a few quid at your local supermarket. The world is truly a better place for having Carnivore: Werewolf of London in it, let’s hope for sequels, they could do one for each British town....Carnivore: Werewolf of Skegness....Carnivore: Werewolf of Scunthorpe....the possibilities are endless.

Monday, 19 November 2018

The Blood Beast Terror (1968)

" 'ere Tony and Laurie I've got this cracking idea for a film, there is this posh bird called Clare, only problem is whenever she gets all randy ...she turns into this bloody giant big moth and drinks a geezer's blood. So her father- who is a professor - makes a big male moth for her to mate with and as a future son-in-law for himself" How whoever pitched The Blood Beast Terror wasn't laughed out of Tigon's offices, not to mention the entire British film industry remains one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th Century.

Robert Flemyng, surely the poshest actor to ever come out of Liverpool, apparently hated every moment of working on this film, and boy does it show. There is more than a touch of authenticity in the way his character is continually yelling and blowing his top at everyone. A drinking game could be based on the amount of times Robert Flemyng loses his shit in this film. Thankfully, other actors appear to have taken a more humorous attitude to appearing in Blood Beast Terror, which does continually bleed on over into the film. Roy Hudd must have been using his own material for his role as the comic relief morgue attendant , but Peter Cushing steals the show with THAT sign off, which doubles as the film’s own greatest epitaph (“they’ll never believe it anywhere”). A final line sure to resonate throughout the decades with late night TV viewers who’ve spent the last 80 minutes or so trying to comprehend the fact that they’re watching a film about a killer, ‘were-moth’ lady.

One last thought, is ‘Billy the Bug Catcher’ the biggest drip to ever appear in a British horror film? His only pleasure in life is seemingly capturing butterflies in a net, for which he is continually belittled and reprimanded by women for, then nearly gets himself killed over when he ill-advisedly presents Ms. Deaths Head with a dead, distant relative of hers in a small box. Dennis Waterman’s wet lettuce of a character in Scars of Dracula seems positively macho in comparison.

Confessions of a Window Cleaner tweet along

My contributions to The Film Crowd’s live tweet along to Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974) over on twitter, its not easy to watch a film, tweet and correctly spell Vladimir Tretchikoff at the same time I’ll have you know.