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Join Troy, Beth and I as we check out the second of Universal’s Sherlock Holmes adventures. 

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON (1943) is - as you might have guessed – another World War II tale full of intrigue and subterfuge. The story allows spy-master Holmes the chance for a few interesting disguises and the opportunity to match wits with his long-time rival Professor Moriarty! It seems that the Napoleon of Crime has hatched a plan to profit from the war regardless of the damage it will do to good old England. Is there nothing that villainous snake won’t get up to in his quest for monetary gain? Surely it is time to put an end to his nefarious plots. 

We dig into the film to examine the success the studio had converting the Victorian detective to a soldier in the fight against the Nazi. I have been reading two books that focus in different ways on this series and use them to broaden our discussion a bit. Amanda Field’s ‘England’s Secret Weapon’ is especially interesting, pointing us toward several topics that lurk under the surface of these fast, entertaining movies. We are repeatedly brought back to how fascinating it is to watch these movies with the knowledge that the filmmakers had no way to know how this devastating war would turn out or how dark the future might be. Of course, that doesn’t keep us from babbling praise for the fine actors including our last chance to see Basil Rathbone and Lionel Atwill paired together onscreen. What we wouldn’t give to have seen many more. 
As you might expect, our love for the movie doesn’t keep us from cracking a few jokes including our alternate title of SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DANGEROUS PUB CRAWL. When you go hunting for Moriarty in London during the Blitz you end up doing some risky things! Thank goodness for Watson. 

If you have any Holmesian comments or suggestions thebloodypit@gmail.com is the place to send them. 

In this episode I welcome filmmaker Robert Tinnell and film historian Anthony Taylor to the podcast for a discussion of the 1996 movie FRANKENSTEIN AND ME, which was conceived and directed by Mr. Tinnell. The film is a funny, touching tale of a young monster obsessed kid with an active imagination and what happens when he accidentally gets his hands on the real Frankenstein Monster! Having the movie’s writer/director along makes for a different kind of show! 

We dig into Bob’s inspiration for the film’s story including his childhood monster fandom and his dreams as a young director. The production of FRANKENSTEIN AND ME is examined as well as the original version of the story and the freewheeling times in which an independent Canadian film like this could come together. We talk about the great cast that includes Burt Reynolds, Louise Fletcher and the first film role for a teenaged Ryan Gosling. The conversation turns into what you might find after hours in the bar at a monster movie convention with topics such as Robert McCammon’s novel ‘Boy’s Life’, the writing skill of Peter Straub and the joys of comic books as a medium. We dart off onto several barely related tangents with one of the most satisfying being our mutual love of the DVD of Monster Kid Home Movies put together by the great Joe Busam.  That collection of Super 8 homemade films of Monster Kids showcasing the mad energy of the childhood creative impulse shows the clear beginnings of Bob Tinnell’s path to this film. And finally, we discuss the fact that the film has never been released on DVD or Blu-Ray and the possibilities of that happening one day soon.

If you have any questions or comments thebloodypit@gmail.com is the place to send them. We’ll be thrilled to hear from you. Thanks for listening to the show! 

I have talked about this film on many occasions and on several different podcasts but never on my own show. After all, there are hundreds of films I want to discuss and this one has had some attention around the podcasting dial.  But Mark Maddox loves this one almost as much as I do so he insisted that we make time to praise it as it deserves! Who am I say no? 

We start by relating our history with WILD, WILD PLAMET (1966) and first impressions from our younger days. After some fumbling with the titles of the other three Gamma One films, we talk about the relative merits of the various Antonio Margheriti science fiction films and even loop in THE GREEN SLIME. Part of the discussions revolves around the character stereotypes that the film uses and what they represent both as tropes and storytelling shortcuts. Mark makes note of a 1960’s German television series (Raumpatrouille – Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion - literal translation: “Space Patrol – The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion”) that reminds him of some of the better attributes of space opera stories and this film too. I have to find English subtitled versions of that show!

The film’s strong body horror elements are put under the microscope as we relate it to the public fascination with the then emergent field of organ transplantation. This leads us into dissections of several of the special effects and especially the variable quality of the miniatures. Fire gives the game away nearly every time! And then we point out the several threads the movie leaves dangling including the fate of the room of mad scientist experimental mistakes. Were they drowned in the blood flood? We may never know. 

If you have any questions or comments thebloodypit@gmail.com is the podcast’s email address. Thank you for listening! 

134 - 1941 (1979)

We don’t cover many comedies on The Bloody Pit for various reasons but 1941 (1979) ticks off many boxes for genre fans that makes it nearly perfect for discussion. Toshiro Mifune and Christopher Lee as bickering military leaders trapped together in a submarine? Is this a humorous variation on HELL IN THE PACFIC (1968) hiding in plain sight? 

Mark Maddox joins me to dig into our mutual fascination with this much criticized epic of American madness and wartime paranoia. Told before production that they should make a serious World War II film on the subject instead of a comedy, Spielberg and his team forged ahead with their warped vision of post-Pearl Harbor attack fears. It’s an ambitious tale with dozens of characters and multiple storylines that slowly escalates into a long December night of chaos and violence. I’m sure that a serious movie about this historical incident could be made but I’m so glad that this farce exists in its place. 1941 is one of my favorite comedies of all time and I never cease to laugh at the insanity every time I watch it. 

Using the sprawling template of IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1964) we are given a scenario ripe with potential sparks while the plot scatters metaphorical open barrels of gasoline around to how they explode in flames. Combining oddball comedic characters with characters that are taking the spiraling events seriously keeps the entire affair grounded enough to seem believable and suspenseful enough to be thrilling. The nutty folks’ antics never overpower the forward momentum of the wild story even in the extended version of the film that Mark and I discuss. We talk about our first encounters with the film, its effect on us at the time and how popular opinion of it has changed over the years. We dig into the huge cast of amazing actors and debate some of the performances. The topic of the John Williams score is broached with a snippet or two of the music inserted into the show and we marvel at the amazing miniature work in the film’s climax. We do get off-track at least once trying to decide what Spielberg’s worst movie might be. As usual, Mark is wrong! 

If you know which Spielberg film is the weakest the email address is thebloodypit@gmail.com where we’d love to hear from you. And if you think Mark and I should just bash in each other’s heads and call it a day – let us know that too! Thanks for listening to the show. 

Troy Guinn and I jump back to the 1940’s for our next Universal horror film of that decade. 

NIGHT MONSTER (1942) has two ‘horror stars’ first billed in the credits – Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill – leading first time viewers to expect them to feature heavily in the scary tale being told. But both actors are relegated to supporting roles which gives unexpected players the chance to step forward and take the position of possible villain. This sidelining of Lugosi and Atwill has been cited for years as the reason this is less well known than it might otherwise be, but I would argue the opposite should be true. By allowing actors not usually associated with the genre to step forward and take on the prime roles NIGHT MONSTER becomes a rare thing in Universal’s horror output on the 40’s – a real mystery! And, to make it more impressive, the film attempts to create an entirely new screen monster that the studio could have used in the future. That the choice was made to continue producing Frankenstein, Dracula and Mummy sequels probably speaks more to making safe money decisions than to a desire for new, creative monsters and that is a shame. 

We enthusiastically dive into this film asking all the usual questions horror movie fans have posited for decades. We don’t have all the answers but we do have some solid speculation and a few guesses. We remark on the casting choices including having a female doctor play such a prominent role. The treatment of Hindu mysticism in the story without the expected condescension for such ‘foreign’ religions is surprising, as is the relatively adult tone of the entire affair. The film strikes a more modern attitude in several ways even if it still seems to take place in a time oddly unaware of the then current war. We also note that the film seems to drop at least one character (Lugosi’s!) from the finale without ever letting us know if he was complicit in the crimes taking place in and around the crazy old dark house. The oddest point in the show might be when I conjure a fictious Three Dog Night song out of thin air leaving only a little blood on the floor! 

If you have any comments or questions about the show thebloodypit@gmail.com is the email account and we’d love to hear from you. Thank you for listening to the show! 

John Hudson and the mighty Bobby Hazzard return to discuss this late 80’s mystical mystery filmed in Miami.

Directed by Sergio Martino, AMERICAN RICKSHAW (1989) surely would not be nearly as entertaining or as coherent if it had been handled by someone with less experience behind the camera. Juggling enough disparate elements for two movies Martino somehow makes it all come together in a mad mishmash of sex criminals, televangelists, magical fires, mysterious ladies and the stolen pig idol that starts the whole crazed affair. Along the way we are witness to Donald Pleasence drifting in and out of a Southern American accent which might be worth the price of the Blu-Ray all on its own. Our hero is played by Olympian Mitch Gaylord and, for some reason, his performance gets better the more unshaven and sweatier he becomes. Maybe desperation breeds more believable acting in professional athletes?

Our conversation meanders all over the film and its various strange elements as we attempt to come to grips with the way that the plot is both insane and – eventually – straightforward. Of course, it is impossible from the start to realize that this tale of a poor college student working as a rickshaw driver in Miami will transform into the endgame of a decades long mystic war between rival sorcerers so I think it is understandable that we can’t maintain a straight-line plot discussion. In fact, it might just be impossible to talk about AMERICAN RICKSHAW in a completely linear fashion. There are simply too many things going on all at the same time! Luckily, I think we only lose track of what we’re doing a couple of times with the worst moment being when we are nearly derailed by tales of small-town strip clubs. And Hudson is still obsessed with transparent simians. Of course.

If you have any comments or questions thebloodypit@gmail.com is the email address where notes or recordings can be sent. Thank you for listening to the show and please let others know if you enjoy what we do here.

Troy and I return to the Mummy movies made by Universal Studios in the 1940’s.

THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1942) has always been the film in this series that is the easiest to dump on. It begins with almost ten minutes of flashback footage from the previous movie THE MUMMY’S HAND (1940) and with a running time that barely breaks the one-hour mark it is one of the shortest features Universal ever released. Add to the film’s perceived crimes the decision to advance the story thirty years and bump off the first film’s cast and you have the foundation of decades of fan sneering. But is this film truly as bereft of horror thrills or as ridiculous as the carping has claimed? A deeper look may reveal some hidden qualities. 

In this episode Troy and I follow Kharis through his change of actor and his change of address to Middleton, USA as the undead Egyptian monster stalks those who dared to violate the tomb of Ananka. We talk about the addition of Lon Chaney to the cast, the mysterious survival of the previous film’s High Priest and the fact that the 1970’s look a lot like the 1940’s. We use Thomas Feramisco’s book The Mummy Unwrapped to explore the alterations made from script to screen complete with the details of a few choice bits that should have been left in the film. I lay out my preferred version of this story and we discuss how some of the changes make for a less involving return for the characters. I think longtime listeners will be shocked by our final assessment of this entry as well as our ratings near the end. 

We are joined by Beth in the final show segment for some feedback about our recent Sherlock Holmes episodes. It seems that some radio shows are not so accurate in their geological descriptions of England! And then we wrap the episode with a song from Nashville’s amazing punk band Peachy, giving us a blast of rock coolness for the summer. 

John Hudson returns to the show to discuss one of director John Woo’s greatest achievements. 

The Hong Kong genre known as ‘Heroic Bloodshed’ was born out of a desire to move away from martial arts action stories and to present a different vision of the modern criminal underclass. Triad tales quickly  became the Hong Kong version of American gangster movies with the addition of the viciousness being turned up to eleven! At the forefront of this movement was John Woo, who employed slow motion shots and graphic bullet hits in ways not seen since the days of Sam Peckinpah’s ‘beautiful violence’ movies such as THE WILD BUNCH (1969). And, like Peckinpah, Woo built his films around tales of men of violence trying to forge a path through a world that often rejects them because of their bloody ways. The films are exciting and tense but with a sympathetic core that serves to enhance their emotional effect on the viewer. The characters in a John Woo film are not just cartoon heroes and villains set In place to fight each other for our amusement. They become people we are invested in seeing succeed even as we harbor doubts about their motivations. Violently complex, perhaps?

After a brief look at how we first encountered HARD BOILED (1992) Hudson and I dig into the film to find the things that still impress us nearly thirty years later. The movie’s rollercoaster ride structure and protracted final ‘cops vs gangsters’ battle make up a lot of our conversation but we also remark on the acting that sells the central character’s internal conflicts. Our personal history with collecting the film is a topic as well as the ways we sought out Woo’s earlier gangster movies from bootleggers. Hudson’s tale of seeking guidance from a professional to obtain the film’s soundtrack CD is a surprise and ties strangely into his recent rewatch of NYPD Blue! Connections are often in the oddest places.

Any comments or suggestions can be sent to thebloodypit@gmail.com where we’ll be glad to hear from you. Thank you for listening to the show! 

Monster Kid Radio’s Derek Koch makes his belated return to the show so that we can finally wrap up our multipart series on William Castle westerns of the 1950’s! It certainly took us long enough, huh? Without us realizing it this episode could have been labeled a Patricia Medina double feature! But are these last two movies actually westerns? Listen and find out. 

DUEL ON THE MISSISSIPPI (1955) is close since it takes place in 1820’s Louisiana and it involves a duel with pistols. But it is really much more a plantation adventure with river pirates stealing sugarcane and a romantic plotline that is more than obvious from the beginning. It’s a colorful widescreen tale filled with bad guys, a sort-of bad girl and a fair amount of time spent on a riverboat. The cast is uniformly excellent with easily a dozen faces familiar to fans of older movies with Lex Barker and Miss Medina leading the dance. We spend a good deal of time discussing her career and marveling at her range. 

URANIUM BOOM (1956) is a much more modern tale focused on the men swarming through Colorado in the 1950’s as part of the rush to find the titular radioactive ore. Dennis Morgan and William Talman become partners in search of riches but run into trouble when they realize they are in love with the same woman. The film becomes a darker tale than expected with these two men fighting to control their mining operation and with Talman’s character pulling some downright nasty tricks to break up his buddy’s marriage. It’s an interesting story and well worth seeing even if Miss Medina has significantly less screen time than in the earlier picture. 

If you have any comments or suggestions about the podcast or this episode in particular thebloodypit@gmail.com is where we can be reached. And, of course, Derek can be heard every single week over on Monster Kid Radio. How does he do it? Thanks for listening! 

Adrian Smith comes back to the show to discuss this giallo dressed up in gothic clothing.

Longtime listeners to The Bloody Pit will notice that this is the second time I’ve talked about SEVEN DEATHS IN A CAT’S EYE (1973) on the podcast. Normally we wouldn’t repeat a film but Adrian really wanted the chance to pick apart this colorful Antonio Margheriti film and compare it to his earlier black & white gothic movies. Plus it’s coming out on Blu-Ray in the states soon so now might be the time for it to reach a larger audience. We talk about the cast, the use of colored lighting and the oddities of giallo plotting that can often lead a bizarre chase to the same places. Adrian is amused by the not very Scottish location shooting and the distinct absence of Scottish accents among most of the cast of characters. He also gets a bit confused by the MacGrieff family legend that insinuates that dead people might pop back up as vampires. We advance a few theories about why the titular cat might have been chosen for its color and Adrian points to some very non-period music that plays during a fireside romantic scene. Oh! And we do spoil the killer’s identity simply because we wanted to talk about the ways in which this story slots very comfortably into the genre. We close out the show with some information about Adrian’s two podcasting ventures including one of which I will be a part. Busy, busy!

If you have any comments or suggestions the email address is thebloodypit@gmail.com and we’d love to hear from you. Thank you for listening to the show and we’ll be back soon. 

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