Review of “Konga” (1961)

trailer from YouTube

This is our latest Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering, a King Kong exploitation flick. Kong isn’t the only thing it exploits. A mad-scientist serious/silliness imbues the film, making it hard not to smile at inappropriate times.


A single-engine plane crashes somewhere in Uganda. It’s feared both the pilot and the eminent biologist, Dr. Charles Decker (Michael Gough), are lost. Nevertheless, Decker returns, hale and hearty, to Great Britain a year later with a baby chimpanzee named Konga. He tells the press he bailed out of the plane just before the crash and was cared for by “friendly local natives.”

Back at his home greenhouse, he pitches all the flowers and plants his assistant, Margaret (Margo Johns), carefully tended in his absence. When she complains, he tells her there’s no room for sentiment in science. He’s brought some carnivorous plants from Africa that a witch doctor told him about. These plants grow quickly. The same witch doctor said he could control his patients with seeds from another plant.

“His word was law,” he tells Margaret.

While he’s preparing an extract from the leaves of the carnivorous plants, the pot boils over. The cat wanders in (ya left the door open, dude) and licks the stuff off the ground. Decker immediately pulls out a pistol and shoots the cat. He can’t have a housecat grow to the size of leopard.

I don’t care what else happens in the movie. Decker has to die a horrible death, preferably involving claws.

He and Margaret inject the baby chimp with the serum from the plant extract. The screen goes wavy, and the baby chimp becomes an adult chimp.

Decker goes back to teaching, making eyes at one shapely student, Sandra Banks (Claire Gordon). He needs a teaching assistant. Sandra blows off fellow student Bob’s (Jess Conrad) offer of coffee to spend more time helping Dr. Decker. ICK.

Dean Foster (Austin Trevor) asks Decker to stop by his office. He wishes to express concerns about certain things Decker said to the press. The two argue. The dean just doesn’t understand Decker’s genius.

Konga receives another injection. When the screen stops wavering, he’s the size of a tall human. He’s also no longer a chimpanzee, but a gorilla. Go figure.

Later that night, while Dean Foster is working at his desk, a talk, dark hairy figure looms outside his window…


Early in the film, both Margaret and Dean Foster tell Decker he’s spent too much time in the wilds of Africa. He needs a break. Margaret sees the results of his “experiments,” that the chimp grows radically in size and obeys Decker. She understands he’s wound a little too tightly.

Later, when she realizes Decker is using Konga to commit murder, she is appalled—to a point. He convinces her she’s an accessory, but she has her own plans.

One morning as Decker reads his paper, Margaret protests. His response is worth noting:

“If there’s one thing I can’t abide it’s hysteria, especially in the morning.”

The cool, dispassionate scientist resorts to cold-blooded murder at the smallest slight or threat. Was he that touchy before he went to Africa?

Toward the end, there are de rigueur scenes of people fleeing through a cityscape. It’s not Tokyo this time, but London. Of course things end up by Big Ben. I so wanted Konga to climb it.

During a class, Decker shows a film he claims he shot during his stay in Africa. He was lucky enough to bail out with his camera equipment. To my evil mind, that almost sounded pre-planned, but another story for another day.

The film, according the IMDB, is stock footage from Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands, a fair distance from Uganda. But who cares? They’re all black guys in grass skirts, ya know? I confess, there was one instance where I looked away. Decker narrated something about “pet snakes” One guy seemed to be licking the head of a snake. I don’t know what he did. I shut my eyes.

So much was weird and absurd to the point of almost comical that I found myself laughing in astonishment. I doubt it was intended as a comedy. It took itself so seriously that it made itself look silly at times. I rather liked this flick. I can see where others might not see it that way, however.

Try as I might, I could not find the available for download.

Title: Konga (1961)

Directed by
John Lemont

Writing Credits

Aben Kandel…(original story) and
Herman Cohen…(original story)
Aben Kandel…(screenplay) and
Herman Cohen…(screenplay)

Cast (in credits order)
Michael Gough…Dr. Charles Decker
Margo Johns…Margaret
Jess Conrad…Bob Kenton
Claire Gordon…Sandra Banks
Austin Trevor…Dean Foster

Released: 1961
Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Not Rated

Review of “Island of Lost Souls” (1932)

This is our Saturday pizza and bad movie offering, a flick that got banned, censored, and clipped back in the day. While there’s no sex or nudity, there is some violence. Mostly, it’s heavy and depicts cruelty. It’s not one for the kiddies.

We watched it with Svengoolie.


While traveling to meet his fiancée, Ruth Thomas (Leila Hyams), Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) is shipwrecked. He is rescued by a ship with a load of animals—tigers, lions, dogs, and a gorilla—bound for an uncharted, unnamed island. Because of a difference between Parker and the captain (Parker slugged him when he beat a man serving slop to the dogs.), he tosses Parker onto the dinghy bound for the island.

Isn’t Parker in a fix.

The man in charge of getting the menagerie to the uncharted island, Montgomery (Arthur Hohl), agrees to put Parker up until he can make arrangements to get to Apia, Samoa, where his fiancée waits for him.

As they unload, Parker notices the “natives” all appear a little…odd. Yet, he says little. The owner of the establishment, Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton), comes out the greet them and welcomes Parker. He, um, has plans for Parker. EWWW.


This is an early screen adaption of H.G. Wells’ 1896 novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau. Both feature a mad scientist, Dr. Moreau, who creates human/animal hybrids using vivisection and cruelty. The movie ends differently from the book, the latter of which has the Parker character (named differently in the book) spending an extended period of time on the island in the company of the hybrids.

The film is also pre-Hayes code, so it’s freer to take risks with things like sexuality, violence, and other forbidden topics. Outside of the cruelty—mostly implied—there is not much modern audiences will find objectionable. Well, the cruelty and the smoking, of course.

Crazy Dr. Moreau is not going to hybridize Parker. Dr. Moreau is in the business of cutting out evolutionary steps. He views man as the crowning achievement of evolution. He started with plants, getting them to evolve more quickly. He shows Parker his handiwork. Impressive.

Now, he has the ability—well, yeah, it involves a bit of vivisection and a lot of screaming in the House of Pain—but his more recent experiments start with animals and end up with near humans. However, they have this unfortunate habit of “reverting” …

He introduces Parker to Lota. She’s pretty. And scantily clad. Lota likes Parker and doesn’t want him to leave. When he explains that he’s reading a book about building a radio transmitter that will help him send a signal to get him off the island, she grabs to book and tosses it into a reflecting pool. Parker is aghast. He’ll never get to Ruth now. But Lota is kinda cute until her claws dig into his back…

The animal/men (with the exception of Lota, they’re all guys) live in a village of grass huts. The Sayer of the Law (Bela Lugosi—really) recites laws forbidding bloodshed and other prohibitions ending with the refrain, “Are we not men?”

Charles Laughton is a creepy Dr. Moreau—creepy as in take a step back from him. He’s not just menacing but slimy to boot, controlling the help with a gong and a whip. The screams from the House of Pain, where he makes “humans” from various animals, cause him no second thoughts. It almost makes the viewer cheer when karma bites him in the rear end.

I think this is one of the better adaptations of Wells’ book. It speaks not to whether a being is human or animal as much as whether that being can feel and remember pain and thus deserves compassion. Wells himself didn’t think much of the movie. In an interview with Screenland magazine in 1935, he repeatedly called it “miserable” and decried its emphasis on horror.

Although the recommendation has some caveats, this movie is worth watching.

The movie can be watched here.

Title: Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Directed by
Erle C. Kenton

Writing Credits
Waldemar Young…(screenplay) and
Philip Wylie…(screenplay)
H.G. Wells…(novel)

Cast (in credits order)
Charles Laughton…Dr. Moreau
Richard Arlen…Edward Parker
Leila Hyams…Ruth Thomas
Bela Lugosi…Sayer of the Law
Kathleen Burke…Lota the Panther Woman
Arthur Hohl…Montgomery

Released: 1932
Length: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Review of “The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions: The Ultimate Miss Phryne Fisher Story Collection”

author’s pic

The Stuff:

This is a collection of short stories involving Miss Phryne Fisher, an Australian lady detective of the 1920s. She is independent, knowledgeable, wealthy, and liberated.

This contains seventeen Miss Phryne Fisher murder mystery short stories. IMselddomHO, the short form doesn’t let the mysteries develop as well as the novel. Not all the stories involve murder. Some border on the simply cute. I enjoyed several more than the others. Most of the mysteries hinge on Phryne stumbling on just the right clue or having miraculous insight. Regardless, most of these are a lot of fun.

While I found most of the action in “The Hours of Juana the Mad” improbable, I still found it cute watching Phryne tweak the noses of academia. Phryne and some professors are led on a wild hunt for stolen property, and Phryne’s Latin is sorely tried.

Another one in a similar vein is “The Miracle of St. Mungo.” Our hero is called to retrieve a locket held as blackmail. Can she do it? Silly question. Sometimes, though, there are more important things than mere jewelry.

All but four of the stories appeared in 2014’s A Question of Death. The earlier book contained notes on Phryne’s favorite things—shoes, for example, plus period recipes for food and cocktails. These have been removed for the present book, but it is none the poorer for that. Some editing was done, and typos were removed. The author provides a glossary for Australian slang. The book ends with the first chapter of the latest book in the series, Death in Daylesford.

The book is introduced by a short essay titled “Apologia,” in which the author addresses the reader:

Dear Reader,

Thank you for buying this book (and if you haven’t bought it yet, please do so—I have cats to feed).

Following this is a longer—but still short—section on how the author came to write mysteries and develop Phryne Fisher’s character. It may interest writers more than readers, but it is told with a light touch. I found both these essays engaging and entertaining.

The stories:

“Hotel Splendide”

Mrs. Johnson left her sick husband at the hotel to buy medicine for him. Now no one seems to be able to find him or their room. Phryne steps in to help, even if it means being late to the Nibelung.

“The Voice is Jacob’s Voice”

Two brothers die at a costume party of Phryne’s. The story is written with heavy biblical allusions.

“Marrying the Bookie’s Daughter”

Phryne recovers some lost jewelry and seriously considers marriage.

“The Vanishing of Jock Mc Hale’s Hat”

A football (soccer) coach’s lucky hat disappears. He graciously allows Phryne to look for it at the archbishop’s request. (“What can a sheila do? What use is she?”)

“Puttin’ on the Ritz”

Phryne’s gauche date wants her to recover the pearls he inherited from his mother. His lothario father has given them to his current squeeze. While our hero’s solution is unlikely, it is funny.

‘The Body in the Library”

The body appears (at first glance) to belong to a working girl. The library belongs to Robert Sanderson, MP, who’s been trying to regulate brothels, that is, legalize prostitution. But not all is as it appears.

“The Miracle of St. Mungo”

Phryne’s friend has a favor to ask. She’s committed an indiscretion. She loves her husband, but now the young man in question has a locket with a picture of the two of them. On the back is a quote from Ovid that would be hard to explain. Can Phryne get it back? Natch. But there are things more important than a locket.

“Overheard on a Balcony”

Phryne’s escort has invited the insufferable General Harbottle to a June Christmas party. Harbottle intimidates his meek wife, and then he goes on to Valhalla. So many people with so many motives…

“The Hours of Juana the Mad”

Phryne attends an academic cocktail party on the arm of Jeffrey Bisset, who won her favor after he pronounced her name correctly. He wants to show her a recent acquisition of the University of Melbourne, a book of hours, made for Juana the Mad of Spain. It’s stolen. The thief leads Phryne on a merry chase, leaving clues in Latin and reeking of academia. This was fun, if extremely improbable.

“Death Shall be Dead”

Inspector Jack Robinson asks Phryne to consult on a case. Elderly Albie Jackson has been found beaten to death. He complained someone had shot at him. He’d refused reasonable offers for his house, which was in a state. Now his home is burned, and three people have been found dead inside, sitting around a table as if having tea. Oh, and Jack has taken up poetry. He’s reading Chaucer—“The Pardoner’s Tale.”


Phryne goes to the carnival with Bobby Ferguson, a scion of a major banking family, who is convinced everyone working at the carnival is a thief. He sets out to prove his point.

“The Camberwell Wonder”

The police recover a gentleman’s starched collar with human blood on it. Stevie Slade, a mentally challenged employee of the Clarke family, tells the authorities, “I killed Mr. Clarke.” No one has seen Mr. Joshua Clarke. Stevie’s mother, who works as a cleaner for the Clarke family, swears her son couldn’t do such a thing.

“Come, Sable Night”

This murder takes place among a group of madrigal singers. There is more than meets the eye. The victim is a thoroughly unlikeable person. Everybody hates him, but who did him in? Phryne listens to the music.

“The Boxer”

Wealthy Mrs. Ragnall hires Phryne to find her eight-year-old granddaughter. Her daughter is “lost.” What Phryne uncovers is deeply disturbing and hopeful at the same time.

“A Matter of Style”

Obnoxious Mrs. Ballard accuses Mme. Latour of stealing a scarf while she was receiving services at her salon. Other patrons have had items gone missing. This might be all for Mme. Latour’s business. Phryne uncovers more than just the solution to the missing items. Another unlikely story but fun.

The Chocolate Factory”

Phryne poses for the label of top-notch chocolates. Unfortunately, some nougats delivered to her house turn the stomachs of her adopted daughters. Who could have contaminated the chocolates and why?

The Bells of St. Paul’s”

While out for high tea with her companion and maid, Dot, Phryne notices an odd pattern in the bells of St. Paul’s. She figures it is a code and follows it. This is so unlikely I couldn’t buy it.


Kerry Greenwood (b. 1954) is an Australian author and a lawyer. She has published more than fifty novels, plays, and children’s books. Among her most well-known is the Phryne Fisher historical mysteries.

Title: The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions: The Ultimate Miss Phryne Fisher Story Collection
Author: Kerry Greenwood
First published: 2007; rev. 2022

Review of “War of the Gargantuas” (1966/1970)

trailer from YouTube

This is our latest Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering. I have to confess, after so many movies that I’ve found unpleasant recently, this is the kind of bad movie worth buying pizza for. Silly plot, people running and screaming through the Japanese countryside and then through Tokyo, unconvincing special effects—it was so much fun.


One dark and stormy night, a giant octopus with glowing orange eyes attacks a fishing vessel. If that weren’t enough, a huge, humanoid greenish creature (Haruo Nakajima) attacks the octopus. Is he a savior? Alas, no. He sends the ship to the bottom. The crew tries to swim away. Only one (Ren Yamamoto) survives. All that remains of the others is their torn clothes.

The survivor’s tale is barely believed. What were they doing there? Are they smugglers? Nevertheless, the Coast Guard (or, depending to which English version one watches, the Maritime Safety Board) calls Dr. Paul Stewart (Russ Tamblyn), “a Frankenstein expert.”

Dr. Stewart and his assistant, Akemi Togawa (Kumi Mizuno), admit they once had a young “Gargantua” as a scientific experiment. It escaped to the mountains five years earlier. It was a gentle creature and could not be the one causing the havoc.

At the same time, the lab has receives reports from hikers in the Japanese Alps of a Gargantua. Stewart and Akemi head to the mountains while their colleague, Dr. Yuzo Majida (Kenji Sahara) goes to the sea to collect tissue samples from a second unfortunate boat.

The monster attacks Tokyo International Airport from the sea, seizing and (ICK) eating one woman. He spits her clothes out. When sun shines through parting clouds, he runs back to the sea.

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) step in with spotlights and “Maser cannons.” Tank fire does little more than to irritate an already foul-tempered monster. When he’s suffering, a brown Gargantua (Yû Sekita) appears and helps him escape.

Only when the brown Gargantua sees torn clothing lying around and does he realize his fellow monster eats humans. He uproots a tree and slams it into the other’s stomach. The war is on.


According to Wikizilla, the film was inspired by an ancient Japanese story about two brothers, “The Sea-Boy and the Mountain-Boy.” The two Gargantuas are related, but this is hard to pick up in the film. Cells from the original benevolent brown Gargantua (a Frankenstein offshoot, relating to an earlier film, 1965’s Frankenstein vs. Baragon) sluffed off and grew in the sea.

In the original Japanese version, the two monsters had names. The violent green Gargantua from the sea was named Gaira, and the gentle brown Gargantua from the mountain was named Sanda. Sanda had known a loving environment. Gaira did not and thus turned violent.

While the film is slow at points, it is a lot of fun. The green Gargantua picks up tanks (obvious toys) and throws them into model houses. He gets burned by the Maser cannons—not to mention annoyed—but is hardly mortally wounded. He goes from fearing light to figuring out light indicates “snacks here.”

In one scene, Stewart and Akemi are hiking in the mountains to find Sanda. Faced with fleeing hikers, they realize they’ve met the green, human-munching monster. Akemi slips down the cliffside and hangs from a branch! Stewart says something like, “Hang on. I’ll come to get you,” as he makes his way down.

The brown monster catches her as she falls and places her safely back up on the cliff. Yes, it’s melodramatic, but it contrasts nicely with the green monster’s treatment of the poor woman at the airport.

As must happen, the monsters fight with the military trying to kill them. The military forces focus on the green one. (Empty) buildings crumble around them. The monsters end up in Tokyo Bay. (Slow) splash! Helicopters drop explosives around them. It’s spectacular.

I realize this is not everyone’s cup of tea. I enjoy these and laugh in delight, not derision. Special effects need not be sophisticated to be enjoyable. The special effects are secondary if the filmmaker is telling a good story. On the other hand, no amount of booms and boobs will make up for a lousy story.

Even with all the death and destruction in this movie—a monster eating people—ICK—the story’s moral is one of innocence: treat people with kindness, and they will treat you with kindness in return. The monsters are genetically the same. They behave differently because of how they experienced the world growing up, not because one is inherently evil and the other inherently good.

A corollary moral is: if people hurt others, you have a duty to intervene.


This movie can be watched here.

Title: The War of the Gargantuas (1966/1970)
Original title: Furankenshutain no kaijû: Sanda tai Gaira

Directed by
Ishirô Honda

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)
Reuben Bercovitch…(story)
Ishirô Honda…(writer)
Takeshi Kimura…(as Kaoru Mabuchi)

Cast (in credits order)
Russ Tamblyn…Dr. Paul Stewart (as Rasu Tanburin)
Kumi Mizuno…Akemi Togawa
Kenji Sahara…Dr. Yuzo Majida
Nobuo Nakamura…Dr. Kita
Jun Tazaki…General
Hisaya Itô…Police Chief

Released: Original Japanese release: 1966. English version: 1970
Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Rating: G—even with all the death, destruction and people-eating.

Review of “Duel” (1971)

trailer from YouTube

This is our latest Saturday pizza and bad movie offering, Duel, a TV movie adapted from a 1971 Richard Matheson short story of the same name. The extended theatrical release is what’s generally available now. Duel was Steven Spielberg’s feature directing debut.

We watched it with Svengoolie.


David Mann (Dennis Weaver) drives his red Plymouth Valiant through the desert of California to meet a business client. He must arrive on time because the client is leaving the next day. Showing up late could cost him the account. On the way, he passes a slow-moving 1955 Peterbilt semi that’s seen better days. The truck overtakes him and drives slowly in front of him. When David passes him again, the truck blasts its horn, startling David.

Later, David pulls into a gas—a service—station (kids, ask your grandparents) where an attendant (Tim Herbert) fills his tank and checks under his hood. The attendant advises him he needs new radiator hoses. David dismisses the notion. Hmmm….

“You’re the boss,” the attendant says.

The Peterbilt pulls into the gas station. The driver gets out on the far side, so David sees only his jeans and boots as he walks around his truck and kicks a tire. Mann calls his wife (Jacqueline Scott) from a public phone (kids, ask your grandparents) to discuss an argument they had the night before. They don’t come to a conclusion, but she tells him, “Just be on time.”

David leaves, figuring whatever was going on with the truck driver is over. When he sees the truck in his rear-view mirror, he waves it on. The truck passes him, then slows down. David sees a “passing lane ahead” sign and decides to bide his time. However, when the passing lane appears, the truck swerves across both lanes, making it impossible for David to pass.

Could it be this guy is something more than an jerk? Could it be that he’s trying to (gulp) kill David?


This film won and received several nomination for excellence. I can see why. It is a study in escalating tension. When David stops to ask for help, he’s laughed at. No one believes him, and the viewer begins to wonder: is the truck real?

Duel won a Primetime Emmy in 1972 for Sound Editing and received a nomination for (I’m not making this up) Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for Programming – For a Special or Feature Length Program Made for Television Entertainment. The Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival awarded the 1973 Grand Prize to Steven Spielberg for this movie. He also won the Taormina International Film Festival 1973 Best First Film award. In 1972, Duel received a nomination for Best Movie made for TV.

The viewer and David see little of the antagonist. We see only a few hints: boots kicking tires, a hand waving David on  before an oncoming car nearly hits him, hands and arms shifting gears. We know no more of him than we do of Grendel. We don’t know—but can only guess—that the driver was irritated by David’s passing him initially. But why the psycho reaction? Certainly, he doesn’t hunt down and kill everyone who passes him… or maybe he does?

Dennis Weaver is believable as the hunted man, with tensions at home with his wife and pressure to make this business meeting. Before things get hairy, he listens to talk radio. At the time, it could be silly, if not vapid, entertainment but not the white supremacist recruitment tool it often is currently.

The pursuit scenes are fast-paced and engrossing. How will David get away? Will he? Yet these are interspersed with enough relief the tension is not overwhelming. David becomes increasingly desperate. Just when he thinks he’s safe, he’s deeper in trouble.

Yet the movie is hardly flawless. In one shot, when David is in a phone booth, the viewer can briefly see the reflection of a camera.

Now, with all its technical expertise, and the awards and nomination it received from professional organizations, the only question remains, did I enjoy it? I have to give it a qualified sorta. I read the short story and found it, with its slightly different ending, to be more enjoyable than the movie. Many people disagree with me, of course, and thoroughly enjoyed the film adaptation. I don’t have major gripes. It just felt long. The short story got to the point quicker.

I could not find this available for free download, but it is available for sale for rent.

Title: Duel (1971 TV movie)

Directed by
Steven Spielberg

Writing Credits
Richard Matheson…(screenplay)
Richard Matheson…(story)

Cast (in credits order)
Dennis Weaver…David Mann
Jacqueline Scott…Mrs. Mann
Eddie Firestone…Cafe Owner
Lou Frizzell…Bus Driver
Gene Dynarski…Man in Café
Lucille Benson…Lady at Snakerama

Released: 1971
Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Rated: PG

Review of “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988)

trailter from YouTube

This is our latest Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering. God lord. I think I need another glass of wine.


While our heroes, Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer) and Debbie Stone (Suzanne Snyder), are parked along with half the local high school at the “Top of the World,” they see a fireball streak across the sky. It seems to have landed not far from them. Debbie wants to find it. Mike has other things on his mind.

In the meantime, local farmer Gene Green (Royal Dano) is reading a magazine on his porch with his dog, Pooh Bear. Farmer Green also sees the fireball and believes it’s Halley’s Comet.* Believing he’s finding the meteorite will make him rich, he takes a shovel and bucket, and (fatefully) Pooh Bear and heads to the woods, where he finds what appears to be a circus big top, lit up from inside. Now, who would put up a circus in the middle of the woods?

The farmer is the first casualty. Poor Pooh Bear receives a net thrown over him. The perpetrators are klowns dressed up like clowns with red rubber noses, masks, and big shoes. But why do they kill?

Mike and Debbie also find the big top and enter it. They stumble across a labyrinth decorated in bold Romper Room colors and explore. Ultimately, they discover a room where rabbit-foot shaped sacks of what appears to be bright pink cotton candy hang in a storage room. They debate whether this is how cotton candy is stored. (Uh—no.) To prove his point, Mike rips off a piece to reveal a human face. Debbie screams.

When they are discovered, a klown shoots them with a bazooka-looking weapon full of popcorn. But it’s not just any popcorn.

Mike and Debbie go to the cops. Debbie says she has a friend on the force. She doesn’t mention Officer Dave Hansen (John Allen Nelson) is an old boyfriend. No one believes them, but Dave agrees to drive out with Mike they saw the tent. He drives Debbie home. What follows is one of the longest obligatory shower scenes in any movie.

When Dave and Mike arrive, they find only a giant hole in the ground—no circus tents in sight.

Where would a klown go to hide? An amusement park, of course. The security guard challenges the klowns when they climb out of the klown car. They have come armed.

The hapless security guard continues, “What’re ya gonna do with those pies, boys?”


This is absurdist, gruesome, and satirical. Many elements of the opening are time-honored elements of horror flicks, e.g., The Thing. Men in Black uses many of the same elements to parody.

Everything about clowns and the circus becomes sinister and deadly—yet remains goofy. In one scene, the klowns drive a wildly-colored vacuum truck, picking up their victims. In another context, this would be comical or weird. In the present context, it is ghastly.

One little girl, ignored by her family while they are eating in a restaurant, is enticed by a friendly klown to come outside. The scene induces dread. Will she be lured to her horrible death under the noses of the adults around her? The movie’s play is for the absurdist. The viewer chuckles.

In another scene, a klown amuses soon-to-be victims with hand shadow puppets on a brick wall. His hands are awkward, yet he pulls off convincing shadows, much to the oohs and aahs of his audience. He even manages a reproduction of George Washington crossing the Delaware.

The klowns appear to be immortal. They get up after being struck by a car. Gunfire slows them but doesn’t kill them. They do have a kryptonite vulnerability, and it isn’t yodeling.

However, this movie isn’t for me. I can appreciate the premise, and I loved the absurdity, but I found the acting wooden and the dialogue…ick. Plenty of people disagree with me, however. Most professional reviewers looked at it favorably, and it’s become something of a cult classic.

In fact, the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films nominated it for two Saturn Awards in 1990, one for Best Music (John Massari) and one for Best Costume (Darcee F. Olson).

I generally love dark, absurdist stuff, even if the effects are off and the acting is less than Academy-worthy. If I had to put my finger on one deal-breaker in the film, it was its predictability.

According to Wikipedia, toys from the movie have been available. Universal Orlando has used themes from the film for its Halloween Horror Nights event. A game is available, about which I’m afraid to say I know nothing.

I have been unable to find a copy of the movie for free or even for rent. YouTube will sell you a copy for a mere $14.99. If you are interested in watching it, I recommend checking if your library has or can get you a copy. Yes, I’m cheap.

*Halley’s Comet last swung by in 1986. It, um, doesn’t appear as a fireball. Just sayin’.

Title: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Directed by
Stephen Chiodo…(directed by)

Writing Credits
Charles Chiodo…(written by) and
Stephen Chiodo…(written by)
Edward Chiodo…(uncredited)

Cast (in credits order)
Grant Cramer…Mike Tobacco
Suzanne Snyder…Debbie Stone
John Allen Nelson…Dave Hansen
John Vernon…Curtis Mooney
Michael S. Siegel…Rich Terenzi (as Michael Siegel)
Peter Licassi…Paul Terenzi
Royal Dano…Farmer Gene Green
Christopher Titus…Bob McReed (as Chris Titus)

Released: 1988
Length: 1hour, 28 minutes
Rated: PG-13

Review of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014)

Trailer from YouTube

This was last week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering, a flick based on a comic book series. It is an odd mixture of dark comedy and silliness. At its base, however, it is a surreal bloodfest that rivals many war/zombie apocalypse movies but ultimately appeals to idealism, patriotism, and egalitarianism.


In 1997 somewhere in the Middle East, four masked men have captured a terrorist (Adrian Quinton) and are trying to extract information from him through torture. When the terrorist picks his head up, they realize he’s holding a grenade pin in his mouth. One man, Lee Unwin (Jonno Davies), throws himself on the terrorist to contain the explosion, saving his fellows.

“How did I miss it?” mutters Harry Hart (code name Galahad) (Colin Firth).

In a tailor shop in London called the Kingsman, Galahad and his associates drink to the memory of the deceased partner and welcome Lancelot (Jack Davenport) into the association of the Kingsman, the Secret Service.

Later, Harry offers the dead man’s widow (Samantha Womack) a pendant with a phone number she may call in a time of need. She must speak the code, “Oxfords, not brogues.” She declines. She wants her husband back. He then offers it to her young son, “Eggsy” (Alex Nikolov).

Seventeen years later, bad guys hold Professor Arnold (Mark Hamill) captive in a remote cabin in Argentina. Professor Arnold is known for his activism in climate change. A knock comes at the door. Lancelot appears. He helps himself to a drink (too suave) and then beats the bad guys to a motionless pulp.

As he’s about to release Professor Arnold, another knock comes at the door. A lovely young lady with blades for legs, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), cuts him in two, top to bottom. She covers all the bodies in the cabin with sheets and opens the door for her boss, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), who gets squeamish at the sight of blood.

Gazelle and Valentine take Professor Arnold with them.

Meanwhile, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) doesn’t stay little forever. Now in his early 20s, he misbehaves in spectacular ways. He calls the number on the pendant he still wears. Long story short, Galahad bails him out of jail and submits him for replacement in Lancelot’s slot in the Kingsman. This involves a rigorous training and winnowing process against a backdrop of the group’s efforts to thwart a mad genius who has decided that the problem of climate change is best solved by eliminating vast numbers of people.


The Kingsmen is an international group of secret service agents created in the wake of WWI by men who had money but no heirs as they’d lost sons in the Great War. The tailor shop serves as a front but also as a place for members to buy natty clothes. They assume code names drawn from King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table.

And they are very, very cool.

In broad strokes, I saw a bit of the old James Bond movies in this. They’re referred to obliquely and in style. Another influence is the X-Men. One might stretch things and add Harry Potter with the life-threatening training and animal mascots the recruits are given.

Like Professor Arnold, Valentine has been active in the cause of fighting climate change for some time. He’s become radicalized and now sees global warming as a fever and mankind as a virus. “A cull is our only hope,” he proclaims.

A modest proposal.

And to kick off this cull? A dance party. What else?

At one point, Valentine’s guests don’t seem to be enjoying themselves.

“The fuck’s wrong with them?” Valentines asks.

“I don’t know,” Gazelle mutters. “Could be something to do with the mass genocide.”

While the violence in the movie is off the scale, it tends to be cartoonish. Before giving the goons in Eggsy’s favorite pub a well-deserved beat-down, Harry/Galahad locks the doors, declaring, “Manners maketh man.”

He begins by hurling a pitcher of beer with an umbrella handle and striking the forehead of one. That goon is down for the count.

Hey, it could happen.

Valentine controls people through free sim cards and extra special implants. At his signal, the cards trigger aggression and eliminate inhibitions. One limited exhibition takes place in a church Harry has gone to investigate because of its ties to Valentine.

The sermon is so venomous that Harry gets up and walks out. A woman confronts him. Harry’s response is one of the best lines in the flick because of its deadpan delivery:

“I’m a Catholic whore, currently enjoying congress out of wedlock with my black Jewish boyfriend, who works at a military abortion clinic. So, hail Satan, and have a lovely afternoon, madam.”

And then, the good stuff hits the fan. Only Harry emerges alive.

According to Wikipedia, this scene has been cut from the movie’s showing in several countries. It is bizarrely violent, and, well, Han shot first. Gazelle and Valentine watch remotely, but of course, Valentine turns away. He can’t stand the sight of blood, and gods know, there is plenty of that.

The bloodshed has a cartoonish exaggeration that I guess is meant to be absurdist, if not outright amusing. It was hard to feel sympathy for the people in the church, who were hateful to the core, yet given the violence in places of worship recently, I couldn’t quite shake a sense of horror watching it.

Paradoxically, when Harry is giving life lessons to Eggsy, he describes a “gentleman” as one who behaves like a gentleman. It has nothing to do with birth or clothes (or presumably money). It is a choice of how to conduct oneself. It is an exhortation to behave, to view life as precious, worth saving and worth fighting to protect. Manners and respect for one’s fellow humans are important. How…square.

Despite misgivings, I enjoyed this movie.

Title: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Directed by
Matthew Vaughn

Writing Credits
Jane Goldman…(screenplay by) &
Matthew Vaughn…(screenplay by)
Mark Millar…(based on the comic book “The Secret Service” by) and
Dave Gibbons…(based on the comic book “The Secret Service” by)

Cast (in credits order)
Adrian Quinton…Terrorist (as Adrian Quentin)
Colin Firth…Harry Hart / Galahad
Mark Strong…Merlin
Jonno Davies…Lee Unwin
Jack Davenport…Lancelot
Alex Nikolov…Little Eggsy
Samantha Womack…Michelle Unwin
Mark Hamill…Professor Arnold
Velibor Topic…Big Goon
Sofia Boutella…Gazelle
Samuel L. Jackson…Valentine
Michael Caine…Arthur
Taron Egerton…Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin

Released: 2014
Length: 2 hours, 9 minutes

Review of “Kiss of the Vampire” (1963)

trailer from YouTube

This is our latest Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering, a vampire flick with a lovely old castle and a creepy old owner with creepy kids who take flight when the sun gets too bright. Of course, the creepy old dude throws a masquerade party.

We watched it with Svengoolie.


This opens with a funeral. Pallbearers carry the casket while the priest reads the Latin rite. A man in tophat (Clifford Evans) appears in the distance. He approaches the mourners. The priest sprinkles holy water over the open grave with the ritual aspergillum. The man in the tophat holds out his hand, asking for the instrument. He sprinkles more water, then asks a nearby gravedigger for a shovel. Instead of throwing the first dirt on the casket, he thrusts the shovel through the top of it. Screams sound from inside, and oddly colored blood ooze around the shovel. The man walks away. Everyone else runs.

Elsewhere, honeymooners Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne Harcourt (Jennifer Daniel) run out of “petrol” while motoring. It’s the little lady’s fault. She just doesn’t know how to read a map.

While she waits with the car, Gerald arranges a tow. Marianne is not as alone as she might think. A local aristocrat, Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman), watches her through his telescope from what appears to be a dull, rundown castle. When the wind picks up and she hears animals howl, she gets spooked and runs. She runs into the man in the tophat, who tells her (…helpfully…) to return to her car.

Gerald arrives with a farmer and his draft horse. The farmer brings them to an inn—the Grand Hotel—which doesn’t appear to have much business. The innkeeper Bruno (Peter Madden) and his wife Anna (Vera Cook) tear sheets off furniture when they arrive. The only other guest at the inn is the man in the tophat, Professor Zimmer.

With the excuse that the cooking is poor at the inn, Dr. Ravna invites them to dinner at his castle. The Harcourts accept (sure, why not?). Dinner is delicious. Dr. Ravna is charming, as are his children, Sabena (Jacquie Wallis) and Carl (Barry Warren). Dr. Ravna even offers to have petrol shipped in for them.

A few days later, Sabena and Carl invite the Harcourts to a masquerade ball, even offering to furnish them with appropriate dress. Sure, why not? At the party, Marianne is lured to a locked room, and Sabena slips Gerald a potent Mickey Finn.

When Gerald wakes in the morning, Carl tells him he’s not welcome. He got drunk and took advantage of their hospitality. Gerald asks after his wife. Carl tells him he came there alone.


The sets, design, and clothing in the movie are quite striking. The interior of the castle is elaborate. By contrast, the inn has “Grand Hotel” stenciled on the outer wall, but its gate hangs open. Bruno and Anna are happy for paying customers and, upon learning Gerald and Marianne and newlyweds, try to make them as comfortable as possible.

However, they’re hiding something. Is the inn haunted? They are beholden to Dr.  Ravna in some way. Marianne notices Anna examining the contents of a drawer—keepsakes—and weeping. She understands they had a daughter. What happened to her?

Then there’s the only other guest in the inn, Professor Zimmer, who, like Cassandra, accurately predicts disaster, only to have his warning be ignored. Unlike Cassandra, his warnings are clear as mud, possibly because he drinks like a fish. He seems powerless to act against the evil Dr. Ravna until Gerald comes to him seeking help in recovering his beloved Marianne.

The solution to the vampire problem is not the typical cross and/or holy water, albeit it’s nice and gory.

According to Wikipedia, a television version of this was released in the U.S., editing out all scenes with blood. To make up for time, the writers added a whole new subplot.

Overall, I enjoyed this lurid little flick, but frankly, Rocky Horror Picture Show did the couple getting lost and stumbling on a castle much better. And the latter has music.

This movie can be watched here.

Title: Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

Directed by
Don Sharp…(directed by)

Writing Credits
Anthony Hinds…(screenplay by) (as John Elder)

Cast (in credits order)
Clifford Evans…Professor Zimmer
Edward de Souza…Gerald Harcourt
Noel Willman…Dr. Ravna
Jennifer Daniel…Marianne Harcourt
Barry Warren…Carl Ravna
Brian Oulton…1st disciple
Noel Howlett…Father Xavier
Jacquie Wallis…Sabena Ravna
Peter Madden…Bruno

Released: 1963
Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Review of “Clue” (1985)

trailer for “Clue”

This is our latest Saturday pizza and bad movie offering for a rainy evening. We didn’t have the thunder and lightning the flick showed—or any of the murders—but we had every bit of the downpour.


In 1954, six strangers arrive at an old mansion in the middle of nowhere, having received a dinner invitation with a further promise of relieving a financial burden. All these people are quite wealthy. What sort of money worries could they have? As they appear, Wadsworth, the butler (Tim Curry), addresses them with pseudonyms—the familiar names from the game. Nevertheless, a couple of people recognize each other.

Dinner begins without the appearance of the homeowner/Wadsworth’s employer, Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving). (Not a red flag or anything.) When he does show up, he’s obviously surprised to see everyone and declines food, as he’s already eaten. Wadsworth reveals that the six have one thing in common; they are all victims of blackmail. Mr. Boddy is the one blackmailing them.

Mr. Boddy reminds the assembled that all their dirty little secrets will come to light if he is arrested. He passes around boxes containing weapons—the familiar ones from the board game (lead pipe, rope, candlestick, etc.). He suggests someone kill Wadsworth. Oh, he’ll keep blackmailing them, but their secrets will remain safe.

He turns the lights off. In the darkness, there are thumps and bangs. A gunshot rings out, and a woman screams. When the lights come back on, the six find Wadsworth fine, but Mr. Boddy lies on the ground, unresponsive. No one can determine how he died. The bullet grazed the side of his head, broke a vase, and lodged in the wall.

Wadsworth then ‘fesses up that he sent the invitations. Mr. Boddy blackmailed his wife, who took her own life over the matter. He wanted to free others from the schemes. Mrs. Peacock sips champagne until warned it might be poisoned. She screams, long and loud, covering any sounds that might be coming from the kitchen, where someone sticks a knife into the back of the cook (Kellye Nakahara).

And the night is young.


When this was released to theaters in 1985, it had three different endings. A fourth was shot but never used, as the production thought not very good. The DVD includes all three endings, interspersed with intertitles: “How it Might Have Happened,” “How About This?” and “Here’s What Really Happened.”

In all honesty, at this point, it almost doesn’t matter whodunit. All solutions are equally improbable. The movie is peopled with outlandish characters whose actions are exaggerated and silly. It’s fun to watch them.

When the doorbell rings, the entire cast of living characters runs to the door to find an innocent (…maybe…) motorist explaining his car broke down and asking to use the phone. Wadsworth turns from him and confers—in front of the guy—with everyone. He then turns back with a smile on his face. Of course, he can use the phone. Sure. Step into the stud—er, the library. He doesn’t add—though he could have— that the study was, um, occupied.

The dialogue is fast, full of misunderstandings and witticisms. This is cute and amusing, but it doesn’t have any bearing on the plot per se. For example:

Colonel Mustard: Just checking.
Mrs. Peacock: Everything all right?
Colonel Mustard: Yep. Two corpses. Everything’s fine.

Tim Curry as Wadsworth is a joy: sinister, vulnerable, officious, and befuddled all rolled into one character. Madeline Kahn as the widowed Mrs. White is also great—the moment she and the maid Yvette (Colleen Camp) set eyes on each other, you know the two have history, and the phrase “shtupped my husband” is going to appear. Frankly, there isn’t a slouch in the bunch. Even hackneyed slapstick gags (a built-in ironing board lands on a character’s head while they’re searching the house) become chuckle-worthy.

The three endings make the movie a little long—not to mention confusing. This did not pose an obstacle for me, but a few things struck me as rather cold. In the midst of the six characters scurrying around trying to find who might be causing all the death and destruction, the doorbell rings (it does that a lot in the movie). On the doorstep—in the rain—is a young lady (Jane Wiedlin) with a singing telegram. She barely gets out a few lines before someone shoots her dead.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. It was darkly humorous, didn’t take itself seriously, and didn’t over-tax the intellect.

I could not find this available for free download.

Title: Clue (1985)

Directed by
Jonathan Lyn

Writing Credits
John Landis…(story) and
Jonathan Lynn…(story)
Jonathan Lynn…(screenplay)
Anthony E. Pratt…(board game Cluedo)(uncredited)

Cast (in credits order)
Eileen Brennan…Mrs. Peacock
Tim Curry…Wadsworth
Madeline Kahn…Mrs. White
Christopher Lloyd…Professor Plum
Michael McKean…Mr. Green
Martin Mull…Colonel Mustard
Lesley Ann Warren…Miss Scarlet
Colleen Camp…Yvette
Lee Ving…Mr. Boddy
Bill Henderson…The Cop
Jane Wiedlin…The Singing Telegram Girl
Jeffrey Kramer…The Motorist
Kellye Nakahara…The Cook

Released: 1985
Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Rated: PG