The Art of Ray Harryhausen Exhibition – Tate Britain – London 

So, decided to check out the Ray Harryhausen exhibition at Tate Britain today.

I understand the display featured is only a small part of the collection, so am looking forward to hopefully seeing the next/completed installment at some point.

The exhibition itself is set up in one of the Tates collection rooms and features the models used in the films, conceptual art, paintings by artists of influence to RHH, film posters and a display screen featuring trailers and commentaries on the films. 

As I was taking pics on my phone I couldnt really capture the scope of the detail in some of the other artists paintings – they were truly astounding though and offered a fantastic insight into what influenced the creative genius of Harryhausen.

I’ve always been a fan of the Harryhausen universe as the films have many horror elements to them, so I guess it was kind of an early introduction for me together with the introduction of the “Stop- Motion” special effects style. Stop- Motion remained prevalent and was vastly improved upon in film up to and around the late 90s and although not the original pioneer of the technique (more the perfector), Harryhausen introduced to many what would eventually influence the artists of the CGI special effects world of today.

I’ve listed my pics and the museum descriptions from the exhibition below:

Medusa Model From Clash of the Titans

“Harryhausen designed Medusa to be a striking yet unconventionally hideously ugly demon, something that was completely different from what film audiences had seen before. Designing a serpent’s body for Medusa; this complimented the ugliness of her face and created a wholly repulsive creature. Harryhausen is the first artist to ever give her this shape.”

Bronze Statue of Perseus and Medusa

“This was the first bronze RHH created in 1978. The statue is based on the famous scene of when Perseus slays the Gorgon Medusa in Clash of the Titans. Using the shield as a mirror enabled him to avoid her gaze which would turn him to stone. Along with drawings of other scenes it was this bronze that helped sell the idea of Clash of the Titans to MGM.”

Pegasus Model 

“If Medusa was the main reason I wanted to film the story of Perseus, the flying horse Pegasus became a very close second. Since seeing the wingless flying Horse in Kordas “The Thief of Bagdad” I had been fascinated with the concept. This is one of three different models of the flying horse used in the film.”

Skeleton from 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts

” The fighting skeletons from the mythological adventure Jason and the Argonauts 1962 are Harryhausens best known and admired creations. Creating the scene using stop-motion techniques was hugely difficult and laborious: each of the seven skeleton models had to be moved and photographed 24 times to make up one second of the film. Harryhausen recalled the whole sequence took a record 4 and a half months to capture on film. ”

I really enjoyed the exhibition and would thoroughly recommend it to anybody who’s a fan of the artists work. The exhibition is free and open until mid November time at Tate Britain in London. 

The Church 1989 Mini Review and Update

Been a bit quiet recently (3 months eek) mainly due to being a bit busy with work etc but here’s a run through of things going on with my horror collecting of late with a review/walk through of The Church.

Been concentrating on particular labels aka Arrow/Shameless etc as have been running out of space with buying – as you know being a film collector is an addictive process so have been trying to cut down on bargain bin buys and the sort, trying to buy better releases of films with glorious extras, flip covers etc. I figure why not – If you can get a better version of a movie then do it if that’s your thing (still haven’t upgraded to Blu Ray though haha).

Have been hitting London recently visiting Fopp – a brilliant store to pick up horror gems – have been really impressed by their selection and overall knowledge of all things film so will be back in the again at some point. I’ve even decided to stop trawling websites (as much) in order to make the shopping trip out more interesting as nothing really beats being able to get your hands on releases in store in my opinion. I’m sure I’ll break though and be back on Amazon soon enough though 😀

So yeah picked up a copy of Michele Soavis “The Church” out recently on the Shameless label – now I always thought this was Demons 3 “The Ogre” but I think that’s something else. I could go and Google it but for the purposes of the blog I’m going to just shoot from the hip.

I really like the first 2 Demons films and was always intrigued about a third installment to the series. The Church seems to have no resemblance to these though and it is confirmed by the director that this is a stand alone effort instead. Strangely enough the interview on the extras talks about Argento and Soavi working on the 3rd but this never came to fruition for whatever reason. Apparently “Black Demons” is the official 3rd sequel to the Demons series (I also own this) but that also bears no resemblance to Demons at all! Argh! Not sure what happened there. Italian films confuse me.

The story is about a group of evil Knights who murder and bury a ton of people for supposedly being witches. They seal up the mass grave, place a Talisman on the sacred soil and then build a Church on the burial ground (great idea) letting the “evil” lay dormant for hundreds of years. The evil soon returns in present day (unwittingly unleashed by the church Librarian) and visitors to the Church begin to fall prey to the sinister forces that reside within.

I was impressed by the visuals of the film and felt that it dared to do things that were beyond its budget. A particular scene includes the present day heroine discovering the talisman only for it to open out into a deep seemingly endless sea like abyss. A generally haunting and beautiful hallucination sequence which certainly contributed to the overall style of the picture.

At times the film does suffer slightly from its budget constraints and the rubber monsters do leave a little bit to be desired. I enjoyed this though (especially killer carp thing haha!) and appreciated it for daring to go there in the first place. I understand that Soavi left the Argento team for these reasons as he felt that he wasn’t able to get enough out of the productions with the limited budget at hand.

Acting wise it’s your usual affair – I did watch the English dub so its a bit hard to truly comment. A scene with the priest particularly stuck with me as it was gloriously over the top and made for some laughs. The two main characters do give a decent performance both as humans and errr demons so was pleasantly surprised there.

 

The Shamless DVD includes an exclusive interview with the films director Michele Soavi, an Italian Version with English subs, restored in 2k format and flip cover with original artwork.

Zombie Flesh Eaters Comic and Movie Retrospect 

Zombie Flesh Eaters is a classic.

The original nasty from 1979 cut a swathe into the home video market way back when with its vicious scenes of splintered eyes, tiger sharks, voodoo drums and blood drinking undead zombies. 

The movie was originally titled Zombi 2 and was marketed by the men in suits to cash in as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead (DOTD originally being released in Italy as Zombie, edited by Dario Argento and with a new musical score by the band Goblin) in its home country yet it’s director, Lucio Fulci rightly later claimed it as a stand alone effort. With this in mind, they ditched the slight comedic aspect of Dawn and just went straight for the jugular (no pun intended). 

Whilst the blood effects were like nothing really seen before; the zombies also looked rotten; literally caked in special effects make up, worms and other filth that would make Tom Savini swivel around in his chair and say “relax kids, it’s only a movie”. 

For those who haven’t seen ZFE, it stars Ian McCulloch and Tisa Farrow and tells the story of a certain Dr Menard trying to cure a voodoo curse on a Caribbean island called Matul. The curse is bringing the dead back to life and people are dying at an alarming rate. Later, a boat turns up in New York harbour and the sinister tale begins to unravel.

American printing company Eibon Press have now released the comic of Zombie which so far has 3 glorious issues to its blood soaked name. Naturally, I picked these up…. 

The comic is actually “based” on Zombie Flesh Eaters and goes more in depth into scenes that were otherwise left mostly to the imagination in the film. The witchdoctor for instance is now a staple character rather than just being a suspect for the outbreak. The thoughts of the characters are scripted in a way that delves into their personal psyche, namely Menards wife who dies in the cabin. I really enjoyed the extra scripting and it was cool to have that approach and gave a kind of “expanded” feel to the work. 

I understand that the comic itself was actually meant to be released at the turn of the century but due to whatever commitments the creators had at the time were unable to honour it.  Because of this, some of the artwork had to be returned to and restored and also some of the dialogue etc re scripted. The art style is quite cartoonish (rather than realistic ie Slaine) in parts which took me a little getting used to at first I’ll admit. The main artwork pages such as the shark attack scene are truly amazing though and really make the editions fantastic collectors items. 

The comics come packed each in a special sleeve with bookmarks/stickers and trading cards. I got mine in a white “Fulci Comics” box which was ace and a great touch. 

Eibon Press are now releasing The Gates of Hell collection – City of the Living Dead, House by The Cemetery and The Beyond as well as finishing the conclusions to the Zombie series. 

“When the earth spits out the dead…..They will return to tear the flesh of the living.”

CJ

The Prowler (Rosemary’s Killer) 1981 Review

The Prowler tells the story of a mysterious killer who brutally murders a couple at a graduation ceremony in the town of Avalon Bay in 1945. Fast forward to the 80s and another graduation later and the murders begin to mysteriously reappear again.

The films two main characters – a young policeman and a sorority student get thrust into the nightmare in the films early stages, leading to a mystery that keeps you guessing right up to the films explosive finale.

The setting of the campus and the graduation ceremony prove for a fun side story that gives way to your typical 80s style of bitching, rock music, douchery and throwing up in the toilet.

The Prowler is a tour de force of blood, guts and general mayhem that plays in a similar vein to the ultraviolent Spanish slasher “Pieces”.

The killer is really the main star, inventive, menacing and great to look at. A masked World War 2 Veteran; he carries a pitchfork, knife and other intriguing weaponry. The kills are extreme and for the time (1981) very controversial.

The gruesome effects are brought to glorious life by old school latex wizard Tom Savini and they don’t let up or compromise in the slightest.  I had the pleasure of meeting Tom once and am kicking myself now as I would have got him to sign a copy of my DVD (some fan 😂) as this is in my opinion some of his best work.

Fans of such franchises as Friday 13th/Halloween would be in their element with this and it’s a shame that it never had a sequel. Really, you know what you’re getting with the genre as it kind of does what it says on the tin (or at least it should) and this one ticked all the boxes for me.

Well worth checking out.

Vipco and how it Cemented my Love of Demented Horror Films

Vipco (Video Instant Picture Company) was a notorious horror distribution label, famed for releasing titles from the infamous video nasty list and beyond from around the late 1970s onwards.

The label took immense pride in being the flagship distributor of the nasty and for many; was an introduction into the world of more underground cult horror films.

Due to the restrictive censorship laws of the time, Vipco were often forced to release heavily cut versions of their titles for release on the world market. These titles were however, at some point returned to and re-released, being passed mostly as uncut. Even with the later easing of the laws surrounding the nasty craze, some still found themselves falling foul of the censor.

The features ranged from marauding zombie epics to dark twisted slashers, psycholgical exploitation dramas and monster loaded, subterranean cinema flicks.

Visiting the old Forbidden Planet store in London around the turn of the century, I fondly remember managing to pick up some Vipco VHS titles just before DVD took over in the mainstream. The covers included a typical Vipco warning label and a brief description of the type of shocker you were holding in your hands. Words such as “sicko”, “gut muncher” and “frightener” proudly adorned the covers in black humored fashion.

You can find out more about VIPCO at http://www.vipcosvault.co.uk/ – the website features stories about the company in the press, interviews with its founder Mike Lee, title lists and a whole lot more.

I’ve put together a list of Vipco releases that I remember for whatever reasons below:

House by the Cemetery

A nightmarish haunted house shocker; House by the Cemetery follows a family as they unravel the mystery behind the evil Dr Freudstein.

Zombie Creeping Flesh

A low grade exploitation Z flick from Bruno Mattei; ZCF is rich with stock footage of Herons and other wild animals but does have a cool, creepy atmosphere to it. Also known as Hell of the Living Dead, the film follows a group of army troops after a leak at a nuclear reactor. Watch for the “rat in contamination suit” scene.

The Zombie Dead

An unintentionally hilarious zombie film about a group of people plagued by the living dead in a mansion. Re-released recently as Burial Ground, the film features some strange scenes of nipple biting and other badly dubbed horrors that probably shouldn’t be in there.

Shogun Assassin

A flagship title for the company, Shogun Assassin is actually a mashing together of the first 2 films of the Lone Wolf and Cub series; Sword of Vengeance and Baby Cart at the River Styx. A Samurai epic that has to be seen to be believed; Shogun Assassin follows the story of Lone Wolf and his son Daigoro after the brutal murder of their wife and mother sends them on a path of bloody revenge across early Japan. Inventive and of course very violent, the film plays in a beautiful cinematic style, reminiscent of the emerging eastern martial arts movie scene at the time.

Cannibal Ferox

A kind of Cannibal Holocaust rip off, Ferox was still an entertaining take on the cannibal genre from director Umberto Lenzi. Also known as “Make Them Die Slowly”, the film builds and builds to a climatic end sequence and certainly earns its “previously banned” stripes.

Flesh Eating Mothers

More a black comedy horror, we follow the story of a group of women who get infected with a venereal disease and turn into blood crazed Flesh Eating Mothers!

Sewage Baby

Also known as “The Suckling” Sewage Baby follows the unfortunate life of a baby that gets flushed down the toilet at birth. Definitely one of the labels more “gross out” titles; Sewage Baby included some fairly decent stop motion and creature effects. Worth checking out for fans of creature features and generally weird cinema.

Zombie Flesh Eaters

What Vipco list would be complete without the genre classic that started it all (well, kind of). ZFL was the flagship release for Vipco back in 1979 and what a release it was. An incredibly filmed zombie vs Shark sequence, copious amounts of zombie throat munching and of course; the about as subtle as a shot of Dave’s Insanity Sauce “splinter through the eye” sequence. As well as the gushing gore effects on display we also get treated to a fantastically haunting musical score by composer Fabio Frizzi.

Gremlins Rip Offs, Killer Puppet Films, Slashers and other Creature Features you’ve Probably Never (or may have) Heard of

Ah, the blood soaked umbrella of the creature feature.

Nothing quite filled you with the awe and mystery of what lurked beneath that tea stained video cassette case cover residing on the shelf of your local video shop.

You got it home and were enthralled with what lept out in front of you from deep within your televisions gory innards. Your parents tutted at your taste in rental but you continued, like a soldier, ignoring all who scalded you.

Years passed and the internet reared its ugly, consumer driven head.

Your credit card was no longer safe and low and behold thousands upon thousands of these films were making their way through your letterbox, screaming your name out in the ether of their route, terrifying all the other fluffy parcels laying in the corridors of the nations desolate sorting halls.

The postman thought you were insane and your wife/husband/parents wanted to know the truth. Your copy of Ghoulies was held aloft and used against you in a jealous rage, your steelbook of Chopping Mall a catalyst for your marriage break up but still, you continued waving your sword of B.

Why are you reading this I hear you ask?

The truth is…who knows.

Maybe you’re alone and saddened by the traits of modern cinema going worship and you still think “Goblin Horror” has a place in today’s society…

1. Munchies

A Roger Corman classic. We follow the band of creatures known as the Munchies who are discovered by a scientist in a cave in Peru. Of course, when attacked, they split up into more of the same and ensure plenty of on screen laughs, carnage and excitement. The DVD release of Munchies is getting consistently rarer and can now command a fair price online.

2. Thankskilling

Thankskilling is a film about a killer turkey that attacks a bunch of college kids during Thanksgiving. The film is shot on video, low budget excellence complete with hilarious one liners (from the Turkey) and brilliant puppet effects. Amazingly, the directors made a sequel called Thankskilling 3 (not 2) which ups the ante in the puppetry department.

3. Berserker – The Nordic Curse

The Berserker tells the story of a Viking serial killer loose in the woods. It’s unclear what the filmmakers were going for here as the character doesn’t really fit the mold of a typical slasher villain but hey ho. Kind of like wrestling crossed with Halloween.

4. Castle Freak

A genuinely terrifying tale about a man who inherits a castle from a distant relative, only to find himself and his family being terrorized by an out of control, hideously deformed monster or “freak” if you will. Underrated and often overlooked, the film was noted by fans for its unsettling visuals and haunting, often ultra violent scenes.

5. Dollman vs Demonic Toys

Continuing in Full Moon fashion (the production company who also brought us Castle Freak) Dollman vs Demonic Toys was certainly a strange mish mash of 2 of the labels cult successes. The company would film new footage and club together clips from both features (and others) to give the illusion of a new release.

6. The Deadly Spawn

The Deadly Spawn was your classic monster movie, aliens from space type shindig just with copious amounts of gore thrown in. The notorious Vipco (horror/bad movie label of the 90s) originally distributed the film which was later subsequently re -released on the Arrow label with some new cover art by Rick Melton to boot!

7. Rabid Grannies

The film follows a group of would be inheritors as they go to discuss the terms of a will at their older relatives mansion. A suspicious package arrives and all hell breaks loose. A German film put together by a group of special effects experts; the picture was originally picked up by Troma films and released onto an unsuspecting public. Rabid Grannies delivers in a tour de force fashion with hilarious, dark and often blood splattered results.

8. Mountaintop Motel Massacre

A killer granny flick that takes place in a creepy old motel. Killer granny films have been on my mind for the last ten minutes so I may as well get it out of my system. The film is an interesting slasher, that packs a brutal punch in its finale.

9. Skeeter

From its inception, Skeeter seemed to be more of a higher budget effort, kind of like a Die Hard film, but with giant mosquitoes flying about instead of terrorists. At the time of the films release, the industry seemed to be investing more and more money into the monster horror genre with other gems such as Rumplestiltskin and Leprechaun also seeing the light of day.

10. Neon Maniacs

A horror film that plays like an episode of Power Rangers; this bizarre concoction of thrills and spills captivated viewers way back in 86. The plot revolves around a group of monster type super heroes who live underneath The Golden Gate Bridge. Yeah