Wednesday, November 28, 2007

24th August 2007: Back to the Grindhouse double

24th August 2007: "BACK TO THE GRINDHOUSE" double!

Shriek Of The Mutilated

USA 1974 colour

aka Mutilated, Scream Of The Snowbeast

Director Michael Findlay Writer Ed Kelleher

Cast Alan Brock (Dr Ernst Prell), Jennifer Stock (Karen Hunter), Tawm Ellis (Dr Karl Werner), Michael Harris (Keith Henshaw)

Tonight on Schlock Treatment we take back the word “Grindhouse” from that thieving chinmonger Tarantino as we pay tribute to the fleapit cinemas of lasteryear with a pair of bona-fide American shockers. First up, from the fetid imaginings of husband and wife exploitation tag team Roberta and Michael Findlay comes a mind-numbing excursion into Yeti territory: the 1974 Shriek Of The Mutilated.

Between them, the Findlays produced, wrote and directed over forty films, mostly ghoulish sexploitation pics during the Sick Sick Sixties. Known affectionately as "Roughies", they cranked out one title after the other: The Curse Of Her Flesh, The Ultimate Degenerate, The Closer To The Bone The Sweeter The Meat, and, probably the most horrifying of all, the 1965 Satan's Bed, which unleashed an out-of-the-bag Yoko Ono onto the filmic world.

In between porno projects, the Findlays found time to dabble in horror like the infamous 1976 release Snuff and their yeti movie Shriek Of The Mutilated, with Michael directing and editing and Roberta on camera duties. Yet even their non-sexploitation films have a very similar feel - they merely play like porn films without the porn. So prepare yourselves for a frustrating experience - bad library music, bad sets stacked with bad furniture, filled with bad actors with bad haircuts and worse comb-overs yelling the most pointless exposition and wretched dialogue that at best can be described as "florid". I repeat: BAD. And that doesn't begin to describe the joy of how appallingly wonderful the film really is.

Shriek... begins with a group of college kids at a party preparing for a field trip set up by their obsessed professor Dr Prell to bag a real-life sasquatch. Amidst the general boogying to that hideous 70s song "Popcorn" and actual popping corn, an ex-teacher and now janitor grabs a bottle of vodka and goes nuts relating the story of how his last group of students were torn to pieces by an unspeakable abomination. "They said no more field trips!" he spits out, before going home and carving up his girlfriend with an electric knife. Why? She dropped his second bottle of vodka. Nuts, I tells ya.

Undeterred, the kids press on, and wind up at the country estate of Prell's associate Dr Werner, an odd duck in a turtleneck whose interest in Native American folklore extends to employing a Red Indian hatchet manservant named Laughing Crow. Not that Laughing Boy ever cracks a smile, particularly when the kids start getting picked off one by one by what appears to be a car seat cover with plastic Dracula fangs or the first screen appearance of Chewbacca, take your pick. Which thrills Dr Prell no end, as it proves the Yeti exists, and he uses the classmates' bodies as bait, much to the horror of young Karen who screams her disapproval to anyone within earshot: "You're a madman!" and a thousand variations on the theme.

Of course, something more sinister is at work, and the revelation upon revelation in the final ten minutes add up to one of the nuttiest endings I can remember from ANY horror movie, Seventies or otherwise. And that's really saying something. To get to that moment, however, you have to endure some of the most excruciating brow acting from the doctors, two unmitigated hams who are convinced the angle of the eyebrow is in direct correlation to each scene's level of intrigue. Be glad it's NOT one of the Findlays' porn efforts, or you'd see them raise more than an eyebrow.

To cap an extraordinary career, Michael Findlay's death in 1977 was like a bad B movie ending: on his way to demonstrate his new 3 D camera, he was decapitated by a helicopter's blades (and don't you wish his 3-D camera was rolling at the time). Such is the karmic nature of the Beast. Then again, if he'd made kids films, he would probably have been torn to pieces by homeless alcoholic Santas. In the overall scheme of things, there should be no forgiveness for films like this one - a porno in a boiler suit, a gore film without a money shot, a bad film but still a GREAT bad film, the 1974 Shriek Of The Mutilated.

Claw Of Terror

“Putting the hook into hooker...”

USA 1973 colour

aka Scream Bloody Murder, Matthew, The Captive Female

Director Marc B. Ray Writers Larry Alexander, Marc B. Ray

Cast Fred Holbert (Matthew), Leigh Mitchell (Vera/Daisy Parsons), Robert Knox (Mack Parsons), Rory Guy [later “Angus Scrimm”] (Dr Epstein)

Next is an Oedipal nightmare posing as a cheapo horror flick from the early 70s with the eyepopping title of Claw Of Terror. Now, we don’t often preface our films with a warning, but with this one we’ll make an exception. This is one very sick puppy, and you love your mommy as much as Scott and I do, you might want to avoid it. Are you still with me? Good. Now that the weenies have left the building, it’s time to have some fun.

Originally released under the less hook-like Scream Bloody Murder, Claw Of Terror opens with a young farmers lad Matthew starting up the family bulldozer and running over his father, as well as his own hand. Cut to ten years later, and Matthew is now a weird loner with a claw for a hand, who sees red whenever his mother Daisy is kissing someone else, and it doesn’t take long - he comes home from the hospital to find Mr Parsons is sleeping in the big bed with Mommy. The honeymoon doesn’t last long: Matthew gives Mr Parsons a few whacks with the axe, mama falls on a rock, and before you can say “rigor mortis” he’s hitched a ride with newlyweds. But, as he’s plagued with visions of his dead mother in increasing stages of decay, THEIR honeymoon doesn’t last either. And this is in the first twenty minutes of the movie!

Claw Of Terror doesn’t waste celluloid plunging you, the unwitting viewer, into a Freudian whirlpool of psychosexual deviancy. He’s befriended by red-haired Vera, a hooker with a heart of gold, who becomes his Mommy substitute - not surprisingly, as she’s played by the same actress. She lets Matthew call her Daisy and starts to believe his outrageous lies about his rich family, which he feels he must prove. Ingratiating his way into a mansion, he slices his way through the household - strangely enough, the one killing in the movie he is squeamish about is the family dog! He proceeds to romance his prostitute Mommy substitute with a closet full of dead bodies, and then, and only then, do things start to get weird

On one hand there’s an utterly unsympathetic portrayal of a devient serial killer, and an almost unbearable streak of cruel humour underpinning the carnage. Matthew of course gets the best lines like "I get groceries and art stuff and kill people - but do you appreciate it? No!" On the other hand... there’s some incredible imaginative photography you don’t usually see in B-grade horror, with fantastic distorted angles, almost as distorted as the minds who dreamt up this celluloid nightmare.

You’ve heard of the word “crawdaddy”? Well, this is “claw mommy”. We were going to play this next Mother’s Day but we just couldn’t wait to see your faces after witnessing the Oedipal splatter classic Claw Of Terror.

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