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It’s difficult to think that there might be a Universal horror film that has never been released on video but THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK (1946) fits that description. Like a handful of other obscure movies the studio made in the 1940’s there has been no release of this interesting picture for home viewing. The only option for the curious is a dodgy, spliced print sourced from 16mm that can be found on YouTube. This is far from a good way to see this rare movie but, for now, the only way. I think the film is worth watching even in this muddy, blown out form but others don’t think so highly of it. In fact, I know one of these people!

 

Mark Clark is the author responsible for two excellent books on the horror genre. He makes an argument for the finer qualities of the best performances in classic horror in his excellent book ‘Smirk, Sneer and Scream: Great Acting in Horror’. His book ‘Sixties Shockers’, co-written with Bryan Senn, is an excellent overview of horror and thriller films of that pivotal decade that will point almost any reader to hidden gems while giving a fresh perspective on well known classics. And his three FAQ books on Star Trek and Star Wars are addictive tomes packed full of information even longtime fans will not know. Mark is currently working on a lengthy overview of the horror films of the 1940’s making him a perfect guest to discuss this hard to see movie. Will Mr. Clark and I find a way to punch each other over Skype when he attacks the movie? Tune in and see! Or, hear, I guess. You understand!

 

It’s not spoiling too much to say that we both survive the podcast but if you have an opinion on THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK drop us a line at thebloodypit@gmail.com or on the show’s Facebook page. Thanks for listening!

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE (1989) and we use that fact to discuss one of the least talked about movies of the Heisei era. The film contains a truly unique adversary for our favorite irradiated lizard. I mean, how many giant monsters are constructed from a rose bush and the spirit of a dead young girl? Jason Spear joins Troy and I to talk about this exceptional entry in the second age of the Big G’s cinematic history. Before we dig into the main topic, we consider the wealth of Godzilla Blu-Ray news that has been announced since our last conversation. The exciting Criterion #1000 release of the entire Showa series is chewed over as well as the recent Mill Creek MOTHRA Blu. We even talk about the extraordinary news that Mill Creek will be possibly releasing all of the various Ultra Man series in chronological order. Included in the opening section is a rundown (in every sense of that word) of the three Godzilla anime films with Troy and Jason explaining why I never need to see them. It’s not all good, folks!  

Once the discussion of GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE (1989) begins we range all over the film’s running time. We note the long break between 1984’s THE RETURN OF GODZILLA and the bizarre crowd-sourced way in which the new plant-based creature was created. Jason relates his amusing theory that the official Toho tale of the genesis of Biollante might be slightly fictional, much to my surprise. The film’s many strengths are examined as well as the sometimes very 1980’s John Williams nature of the movie’s musical cues. The details of the excellent Godzilla suit are discussed with perhaps too much time spent talking about the tongue. We mostly stay on target as we go along but I must apologize for my nearly five-minute-long rant about the Jurassic Park films. Sorry about that.

If you want to join the Godzilla themed conversation, you can email the show at thebloodypit@gmail.com or drop us a message on the Bloody Pit FaceBook page. We plan to have Jason back soon to talk about another Dario Argento film before we delve back into kaiju movies again. This is pretty fun! Thanks for listening.

The ‘old dark house’ tale was a staple of the horror genre for decades. It still shows up in the 21st century but most of the time it drops the gothic accoutrements for a less antique view of a creepy location. In the 1940’s the ODH story had become a standard for both straight scary tales and horror comedies wishing to use the tropes of the genre as easy set-ups for humor. Such is the case with Universal’s 1941 film THE BLACK CAT. While it treats its mystery with some seriousness it is often pushing events toward a silly joke from the film’s comic relief character. As with any scary movie incorporating laughs as part of its storytelling there is the chance that the humor will not appeal to each viewer. Smartly, the writers employ several different kinds of jokes throughout in an attempt to hit as many potential targets as possible. That means we get some clever dialog in places and some fairly broad comedic bits in others. But does the film as a whole work?

Troy and I walk into this old creeper looking to see how it fits in with the types of chillers Universal was producing at the time. We revel in the excellent cast that is so packed with talent that it even sports a young Alan Ladd in an early role. How can any film with Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, Anne Gwynne, Brodrick Crawford, Cecilia Loftus and Gale Sondergaard be less than entertaining? We take note of the ways the film adheres to the Old Dark House tropes (hidden passages, family hatreds, romantic betrayals, cruel Last Wills & Testaments, etc) and the strange ways it alters those ideas for the times. We remark on the unnecessary confusion caused by the softening of the violence in the story and the clever ways that the spirited investigators piece together clues. Our man Bela looks great in the film but is only given a limited amount of screen time. Luckily, he makes the best of it with some creepy moments and an unexpected humorous scene as well. And, while we both love cats, we have much sympathy for Crawford’s character as he deals with an allergy that we kept waiting to be part of the denouncement.

If you have any comments about THE BLACK CAT (1941) or any other of the Universal horror films of the 1940’s please drop us a line. The show can be reached at thebloodypit@gmail.com or over on the show’s FaceBook page. We thank you for downloading and listening to the podcast and we’d be thrilled if you could spread the word about what we’re doing here. Thank you for any help getting out the word to a wider world. Talk to you again soon.

John Hudson returns to continue our look at the films of Antonio Margheriti. This time we examine one of his last completed pictures ALIEN FROM THE DEEP (1989) which nakedly steals elements from several 80’s Hollywood hits. In fact, the movie can become a bit of a ‘spot the reference’ game as it goes along copping half a dozen ideas or sequences from other, more well-known works. But does this movie have enough creativity and energy to make an entertaining new thing out of all these recycled pieces? Joy is often in the eye of the beholder….

 What this film certainly does have is the epic onscreen presence of Charles Napier and Margheriti regular Alan Collins a.k.a. Luciano Pigozzi. These two men shoulder the acting weight of a script that often seems to have been missing a few important pages. Filmed in the Philippines with the usual explosive miniatures to enhance the scope of the action this is one part sweaty jungle adventure, one part evil corporation tale and one part deadly alien attack. Oh! I forgot to mention the alien until now! But the film doesn’t get around to the big murderous creature until more than half the running time is over either so I don’t feel too bad. And any similarities between this film’s alien and the monsters from a certain big budget series of hit movies is completely coincidental, I’m sure.

 Mr. Hudson and I dig into this one and are happily surprised by the lack of onscreen animal deaths even if someone really was throwing snakes at actors for one scene. We get excited at certain points in the discussion as we make note of the script’s problems and the variability of the character’s personalities. And, if you pay attention, you’ll hear me call Charles Napier ALAN Napier and that is a very silly mistake to make. Of course, the idea of Charles Napier as the 1966 TV Batman’s butler is pretty damned cool!

 The show can be reached at thebloodypit@gmail.com for any comments or suggestions. The Bloody Pit also has a FaceBook page where messages can be left for any of the contributors to the podcast. Thank you for downloading and listening to the show!

#86 - OPERA (1987)

We've wanted to discuss the films of Dario Argento for a long time but have been stumped about the correct starting point. In a career spanning more than fifty years and over twenty films where do we jump in? Luckily, our occasional podcast guest Jason Spear helped us cut through the noise to focus on the director's amazing OPERA (1987). This was prompted by the recent Scorpion release of the film in an incredible three disc Blu-Ray set that provides probably the best way to see the movie since it's theatrical run. Packed with extras that allow fans to deep dive into details of the production it serves to fuel our rather rambling look at this stunning thriller.

To dig into what we love about this movie we do away with the idea of a linear discussion of the plot and just hop around talking about random scenes and sequences. We assume that the podcast audience is familiar with the film and plunge forward pulling apart our favorite elements and puzzling over the odd things that make this giallo such a strange and wonderful experience. That means there are certainly spoilers, so be aware! We discuss the madness induced by repressed sexual desires as well as the perceived age problem between the killer and the focus of his obsession. We spend a good deal of time on the fascinating possibility that Argento rotates his narrative inside the head of his main character much sooner than usually imagined. We debate the sanity of the central figure of the film for probably too long and then devolve into relating our individual favorite three Argento efforts. As you can tell, we swing all over the place in this one!

If you have any comments or just want to give us your own list of favorite Argento movies the show's email address is thebloodypit@gmail.com where we will be glad to hear what you have to say. I cap the episode with an old Hoodoo Guru's song but stick around afterwards for some bonus complaining from me about Argento's Dracula film. Ugh! And, as always, thank you for listening to the show.

HORROR ISLAND (1941) is one of the 1940's Universal horror films that gets very little attention. The main reason for this it that it does not feature any of the big horror stars the studio created in the 30's or even an actor from the 40's that went on to larger acclaim inside the genre. Although it reteams the male and female leads from THE MUMMY'S HAND (1940), playing essentially the same roles they enacted so well in that film, it seems that Universal didn't even bother to make note of the fact to ballyhoo this picture. Another thing working against it is the movie's lack of a monster of any kind. It sports a 'phantom' but beyond looking vaguely like The Shadow the character offers little in the way of classic chills to entice the thrill seeking crowd. So, what does HORROR ISLAND offer instead? A fog-bound castle off the coast of Florida, a cast of mildly interesting victims and a hunt for hidden pirate treasure are the ingredients tossed about by the script. It's all a bit light and silly but does this under seen film deliver the goods? 

 

Once I'm finished babbling about the DC Comics animated films for video Troy and I discuss the film's comedic tone, creepy setting and it's stalk & kill plotline while marveling at the cast. Where else are you going to see the classic western sidekick actor Fuzzy Knight running around a gothic castle? We talk about the production history, the sick day that cost the film it's final scene and the clever use of left over sets. There is some examination of the idea of how difficult it would be to quickly get in and out of a suit of medieval armor and we wonder about well timed crossbow bolts. This is a movie that throws a lot of things at the wall and not all of them stick.

 

We close the show with two excellent messages from listeners. If you would like to send us your thoughts the show can be reached at thebloodypit@gmail.com where we'd be thrilled to hear from you. Thank you for listening to the show. Please share it with others that might like what we do!

Monster Kid Derek Koch returns to The Bloody Pit to continue our series on the early western films of director William Castle. This time out we tackle two efforts Castle made for producer Sam Katzman in 1954 that focus on historical characters of the Old West. First up is JESSE JAMES VS THE DALTONS which, depending on your point of view, might be called criminally misnamed. The film tells the fictional tale of a man that believes two odd things - that he might be the son of Jesse James and that the famed outlaw is still alive years after his murder. It makes more sense than you might think but it still doesn't justify skipping the opportunity to claim the title THE SON OF JESSE JAMES. That certainly seems like a much more exploitable phrase to splash across a movie poster!  

 The second film is MASTERSON OF KANSAS which includes not just legendary lawman 'Bat' Masterson but also Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Hewing closer to reality than our first feature this one still concocts a fiery conflict between Holliday and Masterson that drives the two men from dislike to anger with the threat of violence always in the air. Only their respect for the wishes of mutual friend Earp keeps them from a classic Dodge City gunfight as the story begins but they seem destined to clash. Once both men become enmeshed in a complicated plot to frame an innocent man for murder they are forced to side with each other even if their private motivations are very different. Can these two enemies restrain their hostility long enough to stop a war between the army and a local Indian tribe?

We have a great time discussing these two colorful westerns with only a few digressions down unrelated paths. I apologize for my lengthy Six Million Dollar Man babble but there were just too many actors in these movies that guested on that show for me to ignore it! Derek can be heard every week over on Monster Kid Radio where you can find more information about his various creative projects. Check it out! And any comments about this episode can be sent to thebloodypit@gmail.com and Derek and I will be happy to address your questions next time we record. Thank you for downloading and listening to the show!  

John Hudson and I dive back into our years long look at the career of Italian director Antonio Margheriti with a show on one of his early 80's war films. Known under several titles but currently available to stream on Amazon under TORNADO (1983) this is a violent action picture modeled closely on the hit movies THE DEER HUNTER and APOCALYPSE NOW. Like those bigger budgeted affairs this film tries to make statements about the horrors of the Vietnam war while simultaneously bringing exciting action scenes to the big screen. This attempted balance doesn't always play well in any story and we find ourselves differing on the success of this effort. And both of us end up puzzled by TORNADO's odd ending leaving the two of us wondering what might have been the original intent.

Still, we enjoy quite a few things in the film including the regular appearance of the Alan Collins a.k.a. Luciano Pigozzi as an intrepid reporter trying to do his job in combat. He's one of our favorite Italian character actors even if I manage to get his first name wrong at least once in this episode!

 We discuss the details of this fast paced tale and spoil the entire film right to the final scene so, if you want to see this without knowing how it ends, you might want to listen to us after a viewing. Luckily this one isn't difficult to find online although, as a warning, Margheriti continues his streak of onscreen reptile deaths with this film. Of course, he dips his lead actor in a pit of pig feces as well so maybe things equal out in the end. Our conversation takes many barely related side roads (Eddie Dezeen?) but we do eventually wind our way back to the main topic each time. And, for the curious, the damned invisible chimp rears his unwanted head again. Why do I record shows with Hudson? 

Questions and comments can be sent to thebloodypit@gmail.com or left on the show's Facebook page. We'd love to hear from your thoughts about the films of Antonio Margheriti or any of the odd things we babble about in this one. Thank you for playing along with our lengthy trip through these films and we hope you enjoy this episode.

This episode sees the return of cult movie expert and long time film writer Robert Monell. He and I discuss four of the newest Blu-Ray releases from Severin Films with a few mostly related side roads along the way. We're both stunned by the continuing announcements from several small labels that focus on giving obscure genre movies the chance to shine in high definition. These are films that would probably never be part of the Criterion Collection but are still very well worth being seen in the best possible presentations. And now, because of the love of discerning fans running niche labels, we can have incredible multidisc releases of rare giallo films, strange horror epics shot in the Philippines, little seen Jack the Ripper cinema and even a tiny budgeted 1970's attempt at making a human sacrificing druid cult into a terrifying horror threat. It truly is a great time to be alive!

Please join Mr. Monell and I for this brief show about some highlighted new Blu-Rays worth the attention of cult film fanatics. We talk about the virtues (and vices) of these entertaining movies and also the copious extras lavished upon these often unseen pieces of genre history. The films we cover in the most detail are ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, the 1959 film JACK THE RIPPER and the insane INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS. We also excitedly chat about the awesome extras-packed set called All The Colors Of Giallo because it is such a fantastic primer on that fine genre and, surprisingly, the German Krimi films as well. These releases are worth their weight in gold!

If you have any questions or comments the show can be reached at thebloodpit@gmail.com or on the podcast's FaceBook page. Thanks for downloading and listening!

In this episode I welcome longtime podcaster Derek Koch to the show! Derek is the producer, writer and host of Monster Kid Radio which is one of the best shows out there focused on the monster films of the 1920's through the 1960's. I've been a guest on his podcast covering Antonio Margheriti science fiction and horror as well as Mario Bava peplum films. The two of us share many cinema fascinations ranging far from just our mutual love of horror, sci-fi and fantasy but on MKR Derek is somewhat restrained by the show's stated goal of talking about the 'Great and Not-So Great' movies of those specific genres. With that in mind, I invited him to start a series of shows here examining the recently released set of eight western films directed by the amazing William Castle. These are all early career efforts made while Castle was learning his craft at Columbia and gives us the chance to see him grow into the genre filmmaker who would go on to scare the pants off of audiences.

We begin our chronological trek through this set by tackling the first two of these oaters in this episode. First up is a female-centric tale from 1943 called KLONDIKE KATE. Based on the life of a real life Yukon stage performer the film tells a sanitized version of early 20th century Canadian frontier shenanigans. It boasts a strong cast lead by Ann Savage and the incomparable Glenda Farrell as ladies that have to find creative paths to make their way in a man's rough world. Savage's later DETOUR (1945) co-star Tom Neal play's her rival and possible lover in this short, entertaining barroom tale.

The second film we cover is 1953's CONQUEST OF COCHISE which is a colorful fictionalization of events around Tucson, Arizona right after the 1853 Gadsden Purchase. Robert Stack stars as the Army Major in charge of troops sent in to oversee the transition of the area from Mexican control. He runs into trouble from both Apache and Comanche tribes while also making an attempt to romance the lovely Mexican lady Consuelo de Cordova (Joy Page). Add to this the desire of Apache chief Cochise (John Hodiak) to end the fighting and the military complications escalate. And does Consuelo have feelings for the Army major or is she more interested in the honorable Cochise?

Derek and I have a great deal of fun digging into these movies. We actually spend the first twenty minutes of the show talking a bit about our favorite westerns as a place setting exercise. This allows listeners a chance to understand what kind of films in the genre we enjoy most and, of course, it lets us babble about even more movies we love! We hope you enjoy our conversation and we plan to cover the next two films in this fine DVD set in a couple of months. If you have any thoughts or comments on these movies or western sin general the email address is thebloodypit@gmail.com or the FaceBook page for The Bloody Pit is available as well. Thanks for downloading and listening!

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