Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Written by El Fangorio

I’ll try and make this one short and sweet as I’m sure many of you have fond memories of this 1981 spoof of slasher films: Student Bodies is pretty damn lame. Maybe it’s because we were 13. Maybe it’s because the conventions of the slasher film are no longer absurd enough to warrant a parody of them. Maybe it’s because we used to be a little bit on the retarded side. Who knows? All I know is that I probably laughed three times total during this film. With that said, it’s still a welcome addition to the format, and we have Legend Films to thank for reminding us that some films are worth unearthing if solely for preservation’s sake.

Toby, the school virgin, is losing all her friends to an unknown stalker, and everyone is a suspect. The killer is using such zany objects as paper clips and eggplants to do the job and when he’s not using a rubber chicken to make prank phone calls, he’s busy panting around in his goulashes, trying not to step on too much gum. If your pants are still dry after hearing those nuggets, fret not as there are also drooling phones, meowing dogs, and farting corpses. Throw in a giant, skinny, quadruple-jointed actor who goes by the name of “The Stick,” and you’ve got a film that plays infinitely better in your childhood memory. Because let’s face it, at the end of the day, it’s all about Malvert.

What surprises me most about this film is what little it has to do with particular slasher films of the time. There really is no reference to any actual one, just a jab at the formula, which is that if you are a teen and having sex, you will be killed with a bizarre weapon by an unseen killer. To be fair, the opening is both a riff on Halloween and When a Stranger Calls, but after that Student Bodies is usually just hoping that it can get by on POV shots and heavy breathing. The numbers that flash on the screen to let you know the body count used to be funny back when a body count seemed bizarre, but now it just wears thin as does the repetition of showing everyone having sex while offering no nudity. The filmmakers do find a way to still ensure an R rating and it’s one of the two laughs available here.

It’s not surprising then that the creators of this film chose to have their names removed. Its production is credited to one Allen Smithee, this being none other than Michael Ritchie who gave us such ‘70s classics as The Bad News Bears, Prime Cut, and Smile. Some have said that the Smithee is only due to the writers’ strike going on at the time but I beg to differ. Though it would explain all of the first-time actors on hand, it’s too much of a coincidence that this film is also a big POS.

Legend Films still manages to polish a turd by giving a terrific widescreen 1.78 transfer. Though a little washed out in some of the exterior scenes, I’m sure this is due to the source print and the monkeys behind the camera. The mono audio is decent enough and this time out, they’re able to provide us with a trailer, proving that they do think about these things when available. Another nice touch is the original artwork used for the DVD case as it was quite the iconic image from the days of “mom and pop” video shops.


Written by Fumo Verde

As heavy bombing from the allies started to hit the towns and cities of the Fatherland, German leaders came up with the idea of going underground with not only their ammunitions and supplies, but with entire factories. Director Michael Kloft gives us never-before-seen film footage of these tunnels and caves during their wartime-production heyday along with footage of what these facilities look like today. In these dark labyrinths where V-rockets were manufactured along with some of the world’s first jet planes, the audience gets to explore some of the deepest secrets the Nazis held.

Hitler and the German High Command were at first reluctant to put their production plants underground, but after the heavy and strategic air-bombing campaign carried on by the Allies, which really reeked havoc in the summer of ’43, Albert Speer was able to convince Nazi leaders into doing just that. Starting first by expanding mines that were already in use and utilizing the slave labor force they had gathered from their occupied territories, the Nazis were able to move entire war production plants deep under the earth. The Allies knew of about 300 by 1943, but German files bring the number to somewhere around 800 underground emplacements, which made bombs, planes, ball bearings, and other goods that fed the Nazi war machine. Some of the tunnels ran for miles, such as the one by the banks of the river Neckar in Baden-Wurttemberg. This place was used to also house NATO forces during the Cold War and is still in use today by the German government.

To see the massive size of some of these manmade caves really blew my mind. The labor that had to go into it was incredible and the poor souls who had to do it were there to work until they were dead. Even though these places were factories, making tools of war, they were also death camps of which a prisoner’s only way out was that final big sleep. All of these underground places were sealed up by the Americans and British but today the German government has opened some of the tunnels up to make sure they will not collapse in on themselves and destroy whatever may be above. This is how Kloft was able to go inside and give us a real picture of how big and how extensive the tunnels of the Nazis were. Even now, parts of these places are falling apart and it is up to the German government to decide on how to fix them or to destroy them altogether.

This is an interesting subject for those who are very involved in the history of WWII, but it never seemed to get up and go. It was like I was waiting with Geraldo and watching them open Capone’s vault all over again. Sure, some of the tunnels are in use, but we don’t get to see the inner workings of those places. This doc was one of those that is very interesting and has a lot of unknown facts, but it never really caught my attention. Admittedly, there was footage never seen before, but even this seemed to look the same as all the other Nazi atrocities I have watched over the years.

If The Reich Underground comes on the History Channel, then yes, I would watch it, but as for adding it to my already extensive WWII collection, I wouldn’t have bought it.


Written by El Fangorio

When Rosemary’s Baby hit the big time in 1968, Hollywood found that the supernatural was indeed a hot commodity. While the genre was always present in the independent horror films of the time, it wasn’t until then that the major studios decided it was legit enough to start producing some of their own. Soon, the marquees were filled with titles promising possessions, reincarnations, and resurrections. Also like Rosemary’s, the material was usually gleaned from a popular novel and anchored by an up-and-coming actor or actress. Such was the case with The Possession of Joel Delaney, based on the book by Ramona Stewart and starring an already established Shirley Maclaine.

Joel Delaney (played by then newcomer Perry King) is someone who, while brought up in the charmed life of a wealthy Manhattan socialite, lives and fights for the common man. He has given up his digs in Central Park West to live in a seedier section of the East Village, all the while remaining extremely close with his sister Nora (played by Maclaine) and her two children.

Starting with a destructive outburst that lands Joel in Bellevue, Nora watches in horror as her timid brother slowly changes into a man she doesn’t know. His erratic behavior, violent temper, and the sudden ability to speak fluent Spanish cause Nora to seek the answers necessary to save her brother. Making matters worse is the fact that people close to her and Joel are starting to lose their heads (literally) in the same fashion of a string of earlier unsolved murders. When the suspect, who was considered to be still at large, is found to have been dead for six months, Nora is faced with the realization that her brother may not be the person he once was.

The Possession of Joel Delaney has a lot going for it starting with the stellar performance by its main lead. Shirley Maclaine, like Alan Alda earlier in the Mephisto Waltz and Gregory Peck later in The Omen, lends an air of class to a picture that might otherwise have come off as exploitation. Don’t get me wrong, this film is still a lurid picture but there is something about a big-name star that helps delude the viewer into thinking they are watching something important. And who wouldn’t want to witness their very own Sweet Charity running around Manhattan bumping into headless corpses? Best of all is the setting of vintage upper and lower Manhattan, which are juxtaposed quite nicely when used to show the social differences between the two. Watching Nora treat her maid Veronica like her inferior is counter-balanced by a visit Nora makes to Veronica’s house, where she is in turn the minority. It is here that we begin Nora’s character arch from blissfully ignorant to horrifically aware. The feeling of being out of her comfort zone comes to its zenith when Nora attends a Santeria ritual that, in its attention to detail, has to be seen to be believed.

While being a bare-bones release, The Possession of Joel Delaney comes with a sparkling 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer and its original mono audio track. There is no doubt that this film has ever looked or sounded so good since it’s left the big screen. Another treat is the original artwork used for the DVD case, an iconic image to those in the know, and proof positive that there is no need for revamped imagery to sell a genre title (especially if it’s from the 70s!). A trailer would have been most welcome as it’s remained elusive for some time now (and it’s always a hoot to see how a large studio promotes a horror film like this), but this is a minor quibble. Most will just be happy to have this released at all as it’s been a forgotten gem for far too long.

Thanks to Legend Films for stepping up the plate in bringing us genre fans some titles that would have otherwise still be sitting in the vaults. A quick glance at their website (under the section: Studio Films), tells us that this summer will be full of hidden gems and forgotten treasures. All of these titles are new to the format and most of them are cult classics that the fans have been screaming for over a decade now. Some of the titles include Saul Bass’ Phase IV, Jacques Demy’s The Pied Piper, the infamously politically incorrect Mandingo, and the 1981 slasher-spoof Student Bodies.