Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reel Bad Cinema: Primal Rage (1988) review

Never before has a horror film began with such 80's accouterments as big hair, big butts and tight workout attire backed by a kitschy pop tune and about 30 minutes of laughable teen angst.


Patrick Lowe (Sam Nash), Cheryl Arutt (Lauren Daly), Bo Svenson (Ethridge), Sarah Buxton (Debbie), Mitch Watson (Frank Duffy)

Directed by Vittorio Rambaldi; written by Umberto Lenzi

The Short Version: Stunningly awful Italian horror film shot in Florida is all the more ludicrous in that it has such an accomplished pedigree behind the camera. Probably the single most interesting facet of this film is that it possibly was inspiration for 28 DAYS LATER (2002). Fans of unintentionally bad movies will find a lot to savor here.

A research scientist creates a deadly contagion while performing experiments on baboons in an effort to restore dead brain cells. A group of young college journalists plan to break into the doctors laboratory and one of them is bitten by an infected baboon. The virus spreads rapidly through scratches, or bites resulting in a mass slaughter on the college campus.

Bo Svenson and company prepare to 'Shock the Monkey'.

Brazenly stupid Italian horror movie has none of the verve and blood dripping energy of its Euro brethren from the 70's and early 80's. Michele Soavi seemed to be the only Italian director capable of turning out consistently good product at this time. What makes PRIMAL RAGE all the more disappointing is that it's a family affair with the Rambaldi clan. However, when I say disappointing, it's because that an award winning effects family couldn't have turned in a more polished movie than this. It's akin to the time another famous special effects ace, Gianetto De Rossi, took the helm of KILLER CROCODILE 2 (1990), a sequel to an already middling movie directed by Fabrizio De Angelis.

PRIMAL RAGE is a terrible movie, but one that fans with a sweet tooth for crap cinema will gleefully gobble up. From the very beginning the viewer instantly knows they are in for a riotously horrible good time. In fact, you're not even sure if what you're watching is a horror movie what with sappy opening resembling a teen sex comedy than anything else. If drivel like ZOMBIE 3 (1988) is your cup of tea, than PRIMAL RAGE will satisfy the beast inside. Probably the most fascinating (and that's about the only time such a respectable description will be used for this film) thing about this Umberto Lenzi scripted (using a pseudonym) production is how much it shares with the much later "zombie" hit, 28 DAYS LATER (2002). The similarities are quite astonishing (that's not to imply that there's anything remotely "astonishing" about PRIMAL RAGE aside from how astonishingly awful it is).

From the infected baboon, to the group that breaks into the lab housing the animal and the deadly "rage virus" itself, about the only real difference is that this poverty budgeted Italian non epic remains college bound while the Danny Boyle post apocalyptic nightmare is on a bigger scale. Still, what PRIMAL RAGE does reasonably right is in its plentiful gore effects which appear mostly during the last half. However, the scene with the insane baboon escaping the lab will have you pissing your pants with laughter. The sight of the infected baboon going ape shit, taking a bite out of a college snooper, then leaping through a window before being run over by a cop car all to the musical accompaniment of the metal group, Steel Grave is one of the funniest things I've seen in any movie.

The production crew had enough money in their budget for this incredibly realistic stunt mannequin employed to stand in for one of the actors during a crucial moment in the film.

While mostly for those who love good bad movies, there will be little, to nothing of interest for anyone else save for the most jaded of curiosity seekers. In addition, those who get off on subjecting themselves to all manner of painful torture will get a 90 minute cheap thrill. Bo Svenson looks both lost and embarrassed to have appeared in this delightfully smelly stinker. His participation was one of the reasons I purchased this disc, but he seems hopelessly miscast here as the doctor who is responsible for creating the deadly disease. He's much better suited to his tough guy roles.

The movie also apes (haha, get it? Baboon? Ape?) Dario Argento's propensity to lace his movies kill sequences with pounding metal music. Not only do you get a lot of head banging cues (courtesy of ex Goblin man, Claudio Simonetti and a band called Steel Grave), but you also get this seemingly interminable 80's style pop song that gets repeated several times. "Say the Word" is inexplicably hammered into your brain so you may be humming it for a time after the movie has ended whether you like it, or not. There's also other pitifully poppy 80's tunes to jam along with during the non horror sequences where the soundtrack automatically switches to metal mayhem.

More of a gore drenched version of a John Hughes movie, it's "complimented" (and I mean that as patronizing high praise) by an onslaught of 80's fashion sense and an aura that belies its Italian origins. It was shot in Miami, Florida and also with live sound which would make the most sense considering the predominantly American cast. The gorgeous Sarah Buxton is probably the most successful participant in the cast having gone on to a very prolific and recognizable career in television.

Not sure why this rapist decided to put a pantie over his head since he wasn't wearing one when he and his sex hungry friends kidnapped this infected woman.

For the most part, the acting is atrocious and the characters incredibly stupid. Nearly everyone in the film that isn't infected with the virus is afflicted with apparent nymphomania right down to the teachers who give good grades for "hard" work. Lenzi's script embraces every slasher cliche turning the proceedings into a funnier mess than many of those movies could ever hope to muster. One character leaves his car after its become apparent someone is outside and while wandering around in the woods utters, "I'm warning you, I know kung fu!"

I must admit this 'leaky faucet' gag is pretty damn funny. It gets better when the faucet on the OTHER side of this guys head begins leaking, too.

The aforementioned gore does come on fast and furious during the last twenty minutes or so during a Halloween costume party (I'm instantly reminded of NEON MANIACS during this sequence). Actually, the costumes here are very elaborate and fun to look at for there creativity. As for the gore--a guy gets his scalp ripped off, another poor sap gets his throat ripped out, skin is torn away from an arm, there's a hanging, a costumed victim is choked till they erupt blood everywhere, a head is lopped off, another has his head crushed in some bleachers and a guy is impaled through the mouth with a sharp implement among other things.

I could go on about the abject nuttiness and unintentional hilarity found in this goofy good time, but PRIMAL RAGE can be summed up best by two dialog exchanges between the two main protagonists towards the end of the movie: "It was all such a nightmare...", and "It'll be over soon."

This review is representative of the Code Red DVD

Shaw Brothers Cinema: Kwan Young Moon w/Ali, Stallone, Shaw Knighted & More!

This 'Shaw Brothers Cinema' entry is a two for one special featuring a lot of behind the scenes pics, some poster artwork, cast pictorials and some interesting extras such as the knighthood of Sir Run Run Shaw and even a surprise appearance from Ali and Sly Stallone! There's also some "unfinished business" with an encore of a troubled film that started out as HELLISH SOUL before being taken over by a different director, but yet it still never got completed!

***The images seen below all come from Southern Screen issues from--April 1978, November 1978, September 1980, November 1980 and February 1981***

SPOTLIGHT ON: Sir Run Run Shaw

On March 7th, 1978, Chinese movie mogul, Run Run Shaw became Sir Run Run Shaw.

Sir Run Run Shaw at the Asian Film Festival and on an Australian talk show with a slew of his talent pool including Ti Lung (at far right)

SPOTLIGHT ON: Kwan Young Moon

Korean super kicker and master martial artist, Kwan Young Moon (KUNG FU ZOMBIE, RETURN TO THE 36TH CHAMBER) is seen here with two of his students, Sylvester Stallone and Muhammad Ali.

Kwan demonstrates his internal power by allowing this truck to rest on his stomach


Controversial New Wave director, Mou Tun Fei registers for his marriage to a lady whose name I don't know. He caused a stir during his tenure at Shaw Brothers, but raised far more eyebrows with his two grueling WW2 torture movies--MEN BEHIND THE SUN (1988) and the real sequel, BLACK SUN: THE NANKING MASSACRE (1995).

Here's the original HK poster artwork for Mou's grim martial arts drama, A DEADLY SECRET (1980). His penchant for brutality can be seen here in this Wuxia feature starring Pai Piao, Yueh Hua and Shi Szu.

Called the Chinese SALO, Mou's LOST SOULS (1980) was based on real accounts of illegal Chinese immigrants being tortured and raped by slave traders. Mou really came into his own here and foreshadowed the gloomy aura his later productions would immerse themselves in.


John Lo Mar directed this wild comedic kung fu flick which contains near endless fight sequences and every indie kung fu cliche imaginable. Pictured above: Hou Chao Sheng (left), Lo Mar (middle), Ching Siu Tung (right; aka Cheng Hsiao Tung). Ching is the son of famed Shaw director Cheng Kang. Ching himself went on to a mega successful career in directing and choreography.


Director and choreographer, Hsu Hsia is seen here with Yang Pan Pan at top. Yang had been in a number of independent kung fu pictures in addition to her few credits in Shaw productions. Above, Hsu is seen directing a scene with former venom, Lo Mang.


Wong Yu (left), Sun Chung (middle), Ti Lung (right) during the filming of KUNG FU INSTRUCTOR. The film dealt with two families at war with one another in a small town. One family is passive and law abiding while the other is duplicitous and war mongering. Ti Lung enters the town and gets caught in the middle of the turmoil.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Chow Yun Fat at Shaw Brothers/TVB

International superstar, Chow Yun Fat did a lot of TVB dramas and also some early gangster films through Shaw brothers in the early 80's before gaining acclaim with former AD of Chang Cheh, John Woo in films like THE KILLER (1989) and HARD BOILED (1992).


Chang Cheh is shown here during the shooting of SHAOLIN TEMPLE (1976) along with a couple images from his then current production, CRIPPLED AVENGERS (1978). The venerable Chang Cheh had lost some of his box office clout by this time due to several disastrous experiments and changing audience trends to comedic kung fu films. He made the transition while still maintaining a minor sliver of his earlier successes, but never achieved the same level of critical, or financial accolades he had the ten years prior.

Here is a promo for Chang Cheh's second installment in his BRAVE ARCHER series. This first sequel is a lesser film and stumbles along till it finally picks up steam during the conclusion when the Iron Palm clan is introduced.


This gorgeous Shaw actress has been in many of the company's biggest action films such as THE CHINESE BOXER (1969), THE KILLER (1971), THE DUEL (1971), KING BOXER (1972), THE 14 AMAZONS (1972) and THE BLACK ENFORCER (1972) among others. She left the studio during the mid 70's, but returned in 1980 to shoot TIGER KILLER (1982) for Li Han Hsiang.


During the 1970's Chen Ping was Shaw Brothers reigning exploitation Queen. Her first Shaw picture was KISS OF DEATH (1973) co-starring Lo Lieh. At this time in her career she had no problem with nudity, but towards the end of the decade, became less willing to strip off. She did a number of action and erotic movies for the Shaws. Some of these include: QUEEN HUSTLER (1975), THE SEXY KILLER (1976), WEDDING NIGHTS (1976), LADY EXTERMINATOR (1977), THE VENGEFUL BEAUTY (1978), SENSUAL PLEASURES (1978) and SHAOLIN HANDLOCK (1978).


Chen Kuan Tai abruptly left the Shaw Brothers in 1976 while shooting had just began for FLYING GUILLOTINE 2 (1978) where he was to reprise his role of Ma Teng. Ti Lung was cast in his role and Hua Shan stepped in as director on this seriously troubled production. Chen ultimately went off to do a string of independent features including his directorial debut, IRON MONKEY (1977). CRIPPLED AVENGERS (1978) was heavily touted as his big return to the studio. He's one of the studios biggest superstars ever since becoming a huge name with THE BOXER FROM SHANTUNG in 1972.


Above and below are images from Lu Chin Ku's LOVERS BLADES (1982). It's a comedic Wuxia romp that was unable to secure a DVD release when the Celestial Pictures license ran out with IVL. Decent quality bootlegs from a Korean source are available for this fun feature film.


Previously in another enty of 'Unfinished Business', I posted some images from an unfinished Chu Yuan production from 1975 entitled HELLISH SOUL. Click above to read the English text about this film starting up again, but under a different director and title. The film still never got finished and ended up as one half of HAUNTED TALES (1980) with Mou Tun Fei. Chu Yuan retained his director credit for his portion of the movie.

Above is a poster advertising the release of Chu Yuan's HEAVEN SWORD & DRAGON SABRE (1978), a film whose first sequel would hurriedly follow it into theaters. It's yet another Jin Yong adaptation for the silver screen heavily condensed into a 90 minute feature. The movie itself is confusing unless you are already familiar with the source material.


Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Roger Corman Edition! Blood, Babes, Bikers & Beasts!

For this entry in Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews (and to coincide with the re-release of many of his best remembered films on DVD), it's a look at a triple feature of Corman tomes. I'll go ahead and state that all three are must own books. One covers the man's filmmaking life and movies from the perspective of someone that worked with him, another is the man's own words and the other is a look at Corman productions exclusive to the years he ran New World Pictures. The latter being the most recent, we'll start there....


By Christopher T. Koetting (2009)

Softcover; B/W; 280 pages

This simply amazing book that covers all of Corman's movies from New World including movies picked up for distribution by the company is an immersive read. New World was the headquarters for so many hungry up and coming filmmakers of the day. Like AIP, Corman's company unleashed some of the most memorable trash of all time to ever (dis)grace a drive in, or theater screen. This book divulges a lot of details about New World's production slate. However, some movies get more attention than others. Although some films may be a bit neglected, there's still enough trivial notes regarding the making of, and critical reception of the films discussed. The box office results are listed as 'rentals', or the amount the studio gets from the grosses.

From the early WIP hits, to the foreign pick ups, to the car crash smash ups, to the sci fi exploitation, to the gory monster opuses and everything in between, it's all here with a generous selection of B/W pictures. The chapters are as follows...

Foreword by Joe Ritter


Chapter 1: Angels, Demons and Nurses

Chapter 2: Cries, Whispers and Death Races

Chapter 3: Thrills, Chills and Spills

Chapter 4: Hollywood's Wild Angel

Chapter 5: Saints, Humanoids and Galaxies

Chapter 6: Harry, Larry and Larry

New World Filmography

For lovers of exploitation cinema, it's a difficult book to put down. If you're a fan of New World Pictures, than you simply must have this book. Without question, it's one for the shelves.

This book, despite being very expensive at amazon, is available for $30 from Midnight Marquee Press.

Next up, it's Beverly Gray's fascinating view at Corman and his films...


By Beverly Gray (2000, 2004)

Softcover; B/W; 320 pages

Beverly Gray worked with Corman for a few years during the 1970's and again in the early 80's when he sold New World and founded Concorde-New Horizons. In her book, she details what it was like to work with the famed fast and furious filmmaker and veritable launch pad for dozens of enterprising talents both in front of, and behind the camera (and sometimes a little of both).

What makes her book so interesting is her view of Corman the man and his seemingly complex personality. She discusses through her own experiences and interviews with many that worked with him, the intimate side of one of the most famous Hollywood personalities. There are many a great story told here. One that immediately comes to mind is the premier of FORBIDDEN WORLD with Corman in attendance and his reaction to the behavior of a patron sitting nearby.

This book covers all the bases and the contents are as follows....


Part 1: The Early Years (1926-47)

A Boy's Life

A Gentleman and a Scholar

Part 2: The American International Pictures Years (1948-70)

One for the Money

Maker of Monsters

The Rise of the House of Corman

Angels and Acid

Part 3: The New World Pictures Years (1970-83)

Sunset Boulevard

Artistic License

Piranhas and Other Fish Stories

To the Stars

Part 4: The Concorde-New Horizons Years (1983-2000)

Sex, Surprise and Videotape

Going Places


Future Tense

Epilogue-Winding Down (2000- )


Appendix A: Some Distinguished Friends and Alumni of the Roger Corman School of Film

Appendix B: Art Flms

Source Notes



Beverly Gray's book is a difficult one to put down and makes for provocative reading for those wishing to get a closer look at Roger Corman from many who worked with him at length. Very entertaining, frequently surprising and uniformly candid, Corman's bio through the eyes of Beverly Gray is definitely one for the shelves.

Finally, we have a book by the one and only, Roger Corman, himself...


By Roger Corman with Jim Jerome (1990, 1998)

Softcover; B/W; 239 pages

Where this book differs from the above tome is that here, it's Corman on Corman in his own words. Here, he discusses his directorial efforts and the difficulties of working with very little money. His years as a producer, working with AIP, the many talented people he worked with and employed are also covered. In addition, there are also anecdotes from those that collaborated with Corman over the years. Filmmakers and stars alike such as Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Francis Coppola, Chuck Griffith, Jack Nicholson, Sam Arkoff, Vincent Price, William Shatner, Martin Scorcese and many, many others.

A lot of the same topics and films are covered in Gray's book, but these are told from Corman's perspective and his trials and tribulations in churning out grand and greasy popcorn entertainment to an exploitation hungry, movie going public. It's all here including distro deals with the big studios and even the problems with New World after he sold the company. Highly recommended as are the two tomes reviewed above. Add it to your shelves!


Terror Circus (1973) review


Andrew Prine (Andre), Manuela Thiess (Simone), Sherry Alberoni (Sheri), Gyl Roland (Corrine), Sheila Bromley (Mrs. Baynes), Jennifer Ashley (Flower Child)

Directed by Alan Rudolph

The Short Version: Nasty and revolting no budget sleaze flick belongs to the 'Don't Take the Shortcut' subgenre of gritty horror movies. One could argue this as being an influence on similar movies to come throughout the decade. The violence and degradation towards women ensures this is one of the most repulsive cinematic experiences to ever come out of the daring decade that was the 1970's.

***WARNING! This review contains images of bloody violence & slight nudity***

Three women on their way to Las Vegas end up stranded in the Nevada desert after taking a short cut. They meet a man named Andre on the road who offers them shelter. Upon arriving at his farm, the girls realize Andre is quite mad having lived alone for years on an old army testing site out in the middle of nowhere. He captures the women and subjects them to all manner of degradation using them as "animals" for his bizarre circus. Those who disobey, or attempt to escape are killed by one of Andre's pets, or by the contaminated humanoid creature kept locked in a storeroom nearby.

While it's not very well liked by a lot of horror fans, this grim little movie is one of the most unpleasant pictures of the 1970's. while it never gets too explicit in the nudity and gore department, the unmitigated level of degradation perpetrated towards women is offensive in the extreme. It's yet another example of a director churning out a raw piece of filth before moving on to a career of respectability into mainstream cinema.

One scene in particular is quite striking. It's right after Andre has humiliated his "animals" beating them with a whip when they don't perform to his liking. The girls are all taking a bath while Andre looks on from a corner of the barn with his rifle. Some of the girls are terrified and wounded from the whip lashes. As the camera pans over all the women, some of them are in tears and some of them actually appear content with their situation. No doubt these girls have lost what little sanity they once possessed.

I first saw this movie under the title of NIGHTMARE CIRCUS on the Regal Video label and then later as BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD. Under both titles the movie did little to interest me at the time. However, upon seeing this recent DVD release from Code Red/Media Blasters, the movie looks amazing considering the way it's looked on VHS all these years. I appreciated the films domineering sleaze appeal this time around; it's the type of film that could only come out of the 1970's. Relentlessly misogynistic, what it lacks in over the top gore and excessive nudity, it makes up for it with its off the wall plot borrowing elements of PSYCHO (1960) and even brings to mind THE HILLS HAVE EYES from a few years later.

TERROR CIRCUS wouldn't be half the movie it is if it weren't for the oddball performance of Andrew Prine, a fine actor who alternated from greasy, low budget fat calorie films to leaner and lighter fare safe for family viewing. Prine is garishly over the top as Andre, the psychotic nut job with a mother fixation. Prine became a fixture of 70's exploitation movies and appeared in some of the decades most noteworthy trash. Titles such as SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES (1971), THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (1974), GRIZZLY (1976) and THE EVIL (1978).

Aside from the discovery of a severed head in a cage and the killing of a couple of hunters who stray to close to the farm, the bulk of the gore doesn't come until the end when Andre's deformed, nuclear irradiated father escapes from the small shed he's locked up in. Once he's out, he goes on a rampage butchering everyone in sight. Sadly, the ending originally had a much higher level of gore, but censors ordered cuts to be made to secure an 'R' rating. Apparently, this footage is no longer in existence. Still, it works just fine as is.

While it will never be mistaken for a good movie, Code Red and Media Blasters should be commended for salvaging another sordid example of 70's sinema and giving it a face lift. A year prior to this DVD release, Johnny Legend's Legend House outfit released a non licensed edition of this film under the BARN title. Incidentally, Code Red's release had already been announced. Potentially harming this legit release of its already limited appeal, the Legend House DVD (looking like it's from a VHS source) has yet to be removed from the market. The only feature that film has this licensed release doesn't is an interview with Andrew Prine. The Code Red edition features interviews with other cast and crew as well as other features.

It may not appeal to the crowd that's accustomed to the more flashy halcyon Hollywood horror fluff, but those with a penchant for no budget nuggets possessing grim subject matter should give it a look. Fans of Andrew Prine will surely want to add this to their collection. He's at his most insane here. More for exploitation lovers than the casual horror fan, TERROR CIRCUS isn't the most ghoulish show on Earth, but an act worth seeing at least once.

This review is representative of the Code Red DVD

Related Posts with Thumbnails


copyright 2013. All text is the property of and should not be reproduced in whole, or in part, without permission from the author. All images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of their respective copyright owners.