Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Good Night, But Not Goodbye

Hello friends. You may have noticed an unfortunate and unpleasant change at the A-List: I haven't been posting. The truth of the matter is that I have been too busy with my fiction writing to regularly put together content for the site, and therefore, I will be leaving the site for the present. I have still been updating my Movie Thoughts column over at my Patreon, because I do still watch a lot of movies and the goal of Movie Thoughts is to write about every single movie I watch. I think ultimately that sort of format has overtaken the directed reviews here at the A-List, where I focus on my favorite trash films and almost totally ignore the high-budget movies I enjoy, as well as the films which bring me great pain but which may provide entertaining reviews for you, the reader. Thus I encourage you to check out my $1 tier and see my movie reviews in a wider scope.

The beautiful thing about a site like Atom Mudman's A-List is that I can return at any time. And I think I will, if fate desires it. If there is one regret I have, it's that I'm walking away from Continuity Cavalcade with only two episodes under my belt. I hope to return to that show at some point, in some form or another, because continuity is a fascinating concept and I know people like learning about how it manifests in fiction.

Fiction has always compelled me more than anything, and it's my ultimate goal in life to survive off my earnings as a fiction writer. I hope you'll be able to see more results from the fiction side of things soon enough. This is a dream I've loved for many years, and I'm gonna follow it through to the end. Of course, the A-List has also been like a dream come true. So I really, really do hope I'll be able to come back. I want to take this time to thank each and every person who has ever stopped by and read or listened to a review. I want to thank you for standing by this little trash site and witnessing the madness of my passion. I want to thank you for inspiring me to check out new movies and to renew my relationship with cinema as a whole. I have seen so many beautiful movies now and it would not be possible if this site, and your interest in it, hadn't broadened a once-narrow worldview. I hope I have brought light in your life, because you sure as hell have done so with me.

This is not goodbye. Only good night. Every good show should end on a good song, me out, Bea Arthur!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Starcrash (1978), by Luigi Cozzi

It's time.

As far as I understand, Starcrash is an equal of Troll 2 and Birdemic as far as Famous Bad Movies go. Maybe it's not as famous--but until Troll 2 kicked off its reign as a Bad Movie Prince, Starcrash was possibly the most famous Bad Movie made by someone from Italy. Nearly everything about Starcrash is done badly in some way, but the cohesive whole is never annoying or agonizing. Far from it--the film is pure trash fun, in a nearly classical sense, and some parts are even done (mostly) well. Of course, there's the fairly obvious caveat--see that title? See that release year? Hope you're ready to take the fast train to Cashinsville.

This movie opens with a shot which has by now become classic--thanks to a different movie. Hmm, what other science fantasy motion picture came out in the late '70s that opened with a spaceship flying away from the camera, descending off the top of the screen? The name escapes me at present. Anyway, our decently impressive starship is manned by a bunch of guys who look like the Time Lord Chancellery Guards from Doctor Who. We will learn later that they serve the Galactic Emperor...who is a good guy in this one! See, this movie is totally original. The Imperial crew are wiped out by flashing red lights, which the film's characters insist on calling "red monsters." Um, sure. They use the same effect to make the stars of the space scenes, changing the red lights to white. Anyway, after the rampage of the "red monsters," we cut to our heroes, smugglers Stella Star and Akton. They are on the run from the Imperial authorities, represented by a green, bald, human-like alien named Thor and a robot named L. Thor's green skin ends at his neck in some shots, and L speaks with a Yosemite Sam accent. Later, he'll turn out to be a coward because they couldn't have him roll around and speak in beeps. Stella and Akton escape but end up at the border of "the Haunted Stars," a deathzone of uncharted cosmic territories. Here, they find the Imperial ship, with a single survivor left aboard. Before he dies, Akton reads his mind, because as we will learn wayyyy later in the movie, Akton has the Force PSYCHIC POWERS. Stella and her friend contemplate contacting the Emperor to let them know what happened on one of his missions, because they are the Good Samaritan sort of smugglers. The choice is removed from their hands when it turns out Thor and L managed to track them after all. They are arrested and tried by what I swear to God is the thing from the end of the 1953 Invaders from Mars, stolen wholesale and dubbed and greenscreened over. What's weird about this trial is that the not-Martian sentences Stella to 200 years hard labor, but then sentences Akton to life imprisonment as well as hard labor. This is odd because normally 200 years is a life sentence, but this is the future, so who knows.

Speaking of the future, did you know that leather bikinis will become standard for female prison laborers in the centuries yet to come? Well, actually, it's just for Stella Star. Don't know what makes her special, but she'll keep on wearing this outfit for damn near the rest of the movie. There are multiple opportunities for her to change, but she just sort of doesn't. I guess it would be comfy if you did a lot of running on planets where modesty wasn't a huge issue. Stella is surprised when Thor and L show up to collect her--she and Akton are no longer the Emperor's prisoners, but his guests. They were the ones who met the dying guard, after all, which gives them at least a tangential reason to meet with the ruler of the galaxy. The Emperor--whose privileged, uncertainly-ironic air gives him a strange resemblance to Prequel Palpatine--asks Stella, Akton, Thor, and L to go into the Haunted Stars and looks for the "phantom planet" of his evil counterpart, the wicked Count Zarth Arn. Indeed, it was Zarth Arn who sent the "red monsters" to attack the Imperial ship, which was one of several being sent into the Stars to combat the Count under the command of the Emperor's son. As with all the crew of all the ships who sought Zarth Arn's planet, the Prince has been lost, and the Emperor fears the worst. Stella promises to bring him back one or another, and the quartet leaves, with all prior grudges seemingly erased.

The first planet they go to sets up a formula which will follow for much of the rest of the film. Stella and L take the ship's shuttle down to the planet, while Akton and Thor stay aboard and uh. Tend to the machinery, I guess. Or maybe they "tend to the machinery"--hey, it's a great way to deal with boredom. When we do cut to Akton in the ship, he's practicing making plasma rings or something with his psychic powers. As she explores the beach, Stella utters one of the best lines of a movie made up of best lines: "Oh my God! Amazons on horseback!" L's reply is relaxed, despite his newly-acquired and oft-proclaimed nervousness: "I hope they're friendly." They are not. They take the pair back to their queen, an ally of Zarth Arn's, and when they try to escape they attack L en masse. This movie is another occasion outside of Death Note where I must be careful spoiling that L dies. Except not really--he just gets back up and saves Stella, but not before the smuggler learns from the Amazon queen that Zarth Arn's planet is protected by two guardians. The movie does remember this later, but the payoff is really stupid. Stella and L try to go back to the ship, when they are attacked by--and I'm not kidding here--a giant humanoid stop-motion robot with enormous spherical tits, complete with giant blown-out industrial nipples. The not-Harryhausen creature stumbles after them but they manage to get away safe and sound. Of course, they have to shoot down some Amazon fighter ships along the way, in a sequence which is similar to the TIE fighter scene from A New Hope in spirit if not in totality.

The next planet is an ice-world, just like in Star W--wait, hold on. This movie came out before The Empire Strikes Back. Surely it's just a coincidence, and not an instance of George Lucas having seen this movie. Anyway, it turns out Thor is a traitor, and he plans to leave Stella and L on the planet to die, after having seemingly killed Akton with a single karate chop. Akton is a little bit stronger than that, though, and shoots lasers out of his hands to kill Thor (making a creepy murder-face in the process); he saves Stella and L, but not before they have a genuinely cute bonding moment where they call each other friends and reminisce about how far they've come since the days of fighting each other. It turns out Akton knew Thor would betray them because he has future-vision. When Stella reasonably asks, "Why did you never tell me about this before?" his reply is totally amazing: "Because if I told you the future, that would be changing the future, and that is against the law." (Emphasis mine, but some words don't need to be spoken intensely to be emphatic.) I assume this is a weird dubbing thing, and they mean, like, the laws of reality, but I love the idea of the Emperor meticulously studying the future and then enforcing its flow no matter what, including the parts of it which don't go well for him, and dispatching time-cops--dressed perhaps even more ludicrously than their chronally-bound counterparts--to punish those who try to change the future. All while pretending not to know what's going on.

In orbit over the third planet, the heroes' ship is attacked by the "red monsters," but Akton reveals that they are actually a psychic illusion. While on the planet, Stella and L are attacked by cavemen. While the pair hold their own, the cavemen are great in number, and they attack L en masse. This movie is another occasion outside of Death Note where I must be--oh goddamnit! This movie needs to stop repeating itself. This time, L is really, truly dead, at least for now. Stella has been kidnapped and is about to be cooked and eaten when she is rescued by a figure in a fish-man mask. He takes the mask  off of his head, and reveals his true identity: DAVID HASSELHOFF. Again, I am not kidding, it is actually Hasselhoff. Hasselhoff with a fuckton of eyeliner, no less. This is Simon, and he is the only surviving Imperial from the original wave of ships that entered the Haunted Stars. He and Stella run into Akton, who whips out a lightsaber (there's no other name for it) and cuts down the cavemen who were chasing them. He then says that the red monsters and the cavemen were the twin guardians spoken of by the queen of the Amazons--thus, the planet which contained the last survivor of the Emperor's mission was conveniently also the base of Zarth Arn's they were looking for. Those are not interesting guardians, although the Count has a pair of really shitty stop-motion robots to protect him--a simple dialogue transplant would have fixed some things, because it's more likely to me from a story perspective that these robots are the guardians, and not two unrelated, random menaces. It turns out that Simon is, of course, the Prince, and the Count is using him as bait to come to the phantom planet--whereupon he will blow it up in his face, killing the galactic ruler alongside his son and the two smugglers. But Akton breaks loose and kills the robots with his lightsaber, sustaining fatal injuries in the process. He refuses to save himself because changing the future is against the law and everything. But he dies giving the universe a better chance.

It seems that Stella and Simon are doomed to die anyway, because they can't escape the planet--however, the Emperor appears and announces he has powers of his own. At that, he commands: "Imperial Battleship...stop the flow of time!" That ship can suspend time, alright, but it can't suspend my disbelief. The Emperor announces the final plan, which involves crashing his flying city into Zarth Arn's fleet--a Starcrash, as it were. The last battle begins, pitting good against evil in a fight to the death.

Starcrash does its best to do good with plundered loot. While there are countless scenes and moments shamelessly plucked from the vine that grew from Star Wars, the sets and costumes usually have some sort of creative image apparent in them. It is entirely possible that the design team had seen episodes of Doctor Who, as that aesthetic is present too. There are odd European touches here, as well as Flash Gordon. Yet all of these elements work in their own pulpy goofiness--this is a space opera, after all, and opera is nothing if not garish. This movie is surprisingly sexless for an Italian film of this vintage. But like the model it "borrows" from, Starcrash is more concerned with an unquestioning, un-cynical world which could appeal to children as well as adults, rather than the universes of anything that the Umberto Lenzis and Bruno Matteis of the world would ordinarily turn out. Hope is valuable in Star Wars, and that Starcrash preserves the hopeful atmosphere of its better counterpart is vital. It's a bit easier to believe in the cheapness, because at no point do you feel that the characters would get annoyed watching their own movie. The scene with Stella and L on the ice-planet is, as I said, genuinely affecting, and while Akton was kind of a tool who did mysterious things for dumb reasons, his death is upsetting because we care about Stella and we know by this point how dear Akton is to her. Also, with lovable robots being more popular than ever, it's hard to watch L's longer-lasting second death, even if he does come back in a new body for the finale. A lot of people, including myself, like to say things that try to synopsize cinema as a whole, and I want to avoid universal conclusions because I love movies for how amorphous they are--all the shapes they can take, all the games they can play. But I will abide by a broad and general maxim that Good Characters + Entertaining Events = Good Movie. I don't know what I need aside from compelling characters and interesting things for them to do. Throw in a Good Message and we've got something going here.

Of course, Starcrash is very funny, and not on purpose. I think my favorite scene is the one in the final battle where Zarth Arn's idea of leading his men is standing on a catwalk shouting "Kill! Kill!" over and over again. Maybe that's all I need. I don't know what I need, actually, but I seem to keep finding great things in life anyway. Starcrash is most certainly one of them.

You can help support the site at my Patreon, and like the A-List on Facebook to get updates.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Secrets of the French Police (1932), by A. Edward Sutherland

H. Ashton Wolfe was a strange writer. I can find virtually no biographical details of the man online, but he is known to me as an author of 1920s true crime lit which was probably only somewhat true. For example, in Wolfe's book Warped in the Making: Crimes of Love and Hate (1928), he tells two stories about the Parisian police's clashes with a larger than life Chinese criminal named Hanoi Shan. The story features Shan unleashing killer spiders and deadly poisons on the citizens of Paris--in a manner not dissimilar from Sax Rohmer's Yellow Peril racist stereotype Fu Manchu, whose stories were popular at the time. Indeed, comparing Wolfe's work to the pulp fiction of the era yields many more similarities that a comparison to late '20s true crime tales. This movie is ostensibly based on a series of stories by Wolfe which he claimed to be from the archives of the French Surete. I don't know if the French police ever had to deal with a cackling maniac armed with a basement Tesla coil who wanted to subvert the Communist regime of Russia with a royal pretender posing as Princess Anastasia Romanov. It's possible. I guess.

Meanwhile, we last saw director A. Edward Sutherland in command of a film which opens with Lionel Atwill sewing someone's mouth shut. He also committed a dark sin with the creation of The Invisible Woman, but we can let bygones be bygones. Because Secrets of the French Police is a sharp and fascinating film indeed.

We open at the funeral of the mysteriously-killed Brigadier Georges Danton, attended by his colleagues among the gendarmes of Paris. In case we missed the title card, his widow is told that he served the Secret police Secretly, and therefore is being buried in Secret. Using forensics they begin to look for the smokers of a special type of cigarette whose ash was found on Danton's corpse. They track it to a cigarette shop where we get an exceptionally bizarre vignette of a man who appears to be fucked up on meth getting mad over the cigarettes burning his mouth. He's supposed to be drunk, but his repeat exclamations of "FIRECRACKERS!!!!!" gets more and more surreal as time goes on. What makes this scene even stranger is the fact that it has no bearing on what follows.

Our real plot, when we do return to it, concerns a young pickpocket named Leon Renault, who is in love with a flower girl named Eugenie Dorain. Eugenie's father Anton despises that his future son-in-law is a criminal, but as we will learn, Monsieur Dorain has perversely good reasons for wanting his daughter to avoid the world of crime. You see, Anton used to be a criminal himself, as revealed by the mysterious man who comes to his apartment that night. Indeed, Eugenie isn't even his biological daughter, and it is entirely possible that Anton's "adoption" of her was a shady affair--the old man claims she was a war orphan in Russia (which raises some interesting questions as I'll explore below). But Anton does sincerely care about his adopted child and if he can spare her the horrors of his history he will. Unfortunately for him, he was friends with Brigadier Danton, and for that he must die.

The killer, whose belt buckle is actually a sheath for a knife, is a Russian General named Moroff. When we first meet Moroff he's saying something over the phone about Princess Anastasia, and how she will soon return. I started getting really excited for this movie when he mentioned the name, because whenever I hear a phrase from the conspiracy theory buzzword checklist that I totally have, my heart starts racing. "Illuminati," "Die Glocke," "the pyramids," "Kennedy"--now I'm lucky to have found a film which ticks off "surviving Romanovs." In case, Moroff's master plan, if you haven't guessed it, is tracking down a girl with a "Slavic" jaw who could be passed off as the supposedly-living Princess Anastasia, who was in our reality killed along with her family during the Russian Revolution. However, in case the girl is a poor actress or doesn't want to pose as fraudulent royalty, Moroff has trained himself in the arts of hypnotism, and trust me, it's way more hilariously pulpy than it sounds. It's really tempting to speculate that Moroff is meant to be a surviving Grigori Rasputin, just as it's tempting to consider Anton's story of Eugenie's origins meaning that she genuinely is Princess Anastasia (never mind that Anastasia was actually a Grand Duchess). I realize that latter point is more to explain the "Slavic jaw," but come on, do all Russians really look that similar? Do better, 1930s! What the emphasis on facial features also leads to is a face matching board used by the cops to come up with pictures of their suspects--pretty ordinary police work, a bit revolutionary in the 1930s, but for this movie they use a board which is ridiculously gigantic. The poor interns look so stupid looking for puzzle pieces to match to this thing as a guy called out a string of numbers and letters. This is the problem with making a police procedural: eventually, times will change so that your methods eventually look kinda silly. At least this wasn't made thirty years later, when they were showing us "the brand new computing machines" at their disposal. Even Batman knew it was hard to look cool using a '60s computer to solve crimes.

Moroff invites over the brother of the late Czar Nicholas II, the totally-not-fictitious Maxim Romanov. While initially Eugenie's act is decently convincing at first (if you get past the fact that she looks and acts about as lively as a zombie) but the sight of flowers is enough to break the hypnosis and drag her back to her old life. A slip in the act convinces Maxim that he's dealing with "a mental case," and ducks out on Moroff--but not before the General slips a note into his pocket claiming to be written by the Czar's brother, saying he believed Eugenie was Anastasia. Shortly thereafter Maxim and his chauffeur are driven off the road by an ingenious (but also ridiculously pulpy) movie screen projector, which simulates a car rushing towards oncoming traffic, and the plot against the Soviets goes on.

As an aside though, I do have to wonder--does Moroff legitimately think that Joseph fucking Stalin was going to hand over leadership of Russia to his cabal if somehow he did convince Maxim he had the real Grand Duchess on his hands? Really? More like Moronoff, dorogoy.

Eventually Leon, working with the police in exchange for a period where none of this thefts are stopped, breaks into Castle Moroff and nearly frees Eugenia when they are caught and brought down to the General's requisite torture-lab. Here, Moroff starts draining the girl of her blood, while he threatens Leon with a Tesla coil. I don't know what he intends to do with the Tesla coil, but it sure has Leon worried. But the police are right behind Leon, and their entrance is delayed only by the length of time it takes for an acetylene torch to get through a steel door.

Yeah, do you believe that happened in real life? You can say no, it's fine. If you do say no, you won't be alone. This movie is about as much of a true story as the Amityville sequels. I'm sure that it's possible to argue creative liberties, such as the fact that Leon has a well-developed personality that's too movie-perfect to be true--he never steals from Frenchmen, as he is a patriot who lost his entire family in World War I. But the difference between imagination and exaggeration can be a thin one when dealing with the tempestuous nebulousness that is "true crime." There's a strange blend of humor, horror, and stark, dour seriousness as we bounce from plucky Leon to Moroff's Gothic castle to the stiff procedural sequences. Ultimately this adds to a fun Pre-Code sum which is officially in my list of favorite unusual '30s movies. It's legitimately good, and where it isn't, it's at least captivating for other reasons. Give it a shot!

You can help support the site on Patreon, and like the A-List on Facebook to get updates!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Oracle (1985), by Roberta Finlay

Roberta and Michael Findlay were trash legends, it's fair to say. They made The Touch of Her Flesh and its two sequels, a film series in which someone is vaginally assaulted with a lobster claw. (Not in all of the movies, just one. I think.) It's hard to imagine a married couple being inspired by the goddamn Olga films, and then going on to make classics like Snuff and Shriek of the Mutilated. Michael met a grisly end, being chopped to pieces by a helicopter in 1977, but Roberta kept on making horror into the late '80s. The Oracle is the first of these later outings that I've seen, but what I saw not only impressed me cinematically, but it worked as great trash too. This movie's pretty intense.

We open with some good ol' automatic writing being down by downtown medium Mrs. Malatesta. (Huh, wonder if her husband runs a Carnival of Blood--no, not that Carnival of Blood, I mean this one.) She has a ghost-planchette which is about to summon the spirits responsible for her demise; the planchette's new owner comes along shortly. Her name is Jennifer, and she's a friendly, ordinary woman who is married to world's biggest jerk. Men, if you constantly call your wife hysterical and embarrassing except for when you want sex, you're a stupid motherfucker and you should put your testicles under a jackhammer. Anyway, once the landlord, Mr. Pappas--who has a Greek name but acts like a Mexican stereotype--hands off the planchette, then Jennifer starts running into trouble. And not just because her dumb houseguests make the hand spell out "I am horny." Jennifer makes contact with the ghost of a murdered businessman named William Graham, who helps her uncover a conspiracy of murderers involving an evil factory manager and a trans male assassin named Farkas. And of course, no one believes her, or believes that she's sane.

This movie actually works really well as a commentary on how women are treated and gaslit in our society. At almost no point in time do any of Jennifer's friends or loved ones consider that she could be, y'know, telling the truth. They don't even consider that her paranormal experiences could be based on completely ordinary phenomena! Maybe it's bad writing--trust me, the dialogue is pretty goddamn bad, even if it's frequently hilarious--but the world is set against this poor lady as it is for many women in real life. It's a pretty crude form of dealing with a real issue, but crudeness is perhaps what's needed. Sometimes a sword will do, but other times a club just hits a little better. Apply a little reason, chaps! If your ladyfriend goes crazy on you there's probably a cause, and not just a tilting of the womb or whatever.

The theme is so blatant that I'm not really gonna spend that much time on it. IT'S TIME FOR TRASH INSTEAD.

Alright, so this movie really acts like it's two movies sewn together, Godfrey Ho-style. There's the occult stuff and there's the murders with Farkas. They come together at the end but it's funny how far apart they are. And how awkwardly they're cut together. In between scenes of Jennifer's Christmas Eve party are snippets from Farkas' murders. He hires a prostitute who he kills after she finds out about his genitals. He goes to a diner with the world's bitchiest waitress and takes an angry phone call from the diner's phone. ("Oh my God! He even ate the bones!") He also pops a Happy Hanukkah balloon--Nazi fuck. Maybe there's meant to be an intentional play between the fun of the party and stark '80s New York apathy of these other scenes. It's not played up that way, though. It feels more like someone just had an accident with the editing machine.

Incidentally. With that facial structure, that voice, that weight, the AFABness and the antisemitism--my God, Farkas is actually Crazy Fat Ethel, isn't he? He found his true self in that stock footage mental hospital from the end of Criminally Insane 2! I knew the story continued! Now we just need a movie explaining the Janowski family tensions between Ethel/Farkas and his sister, Edith Mortley RN.

Then there's the supernatural stuff. Pappas ends up with the planchette at one point, but he tries to use it to figure out the next day's lottery numbers. Because that's what communing with the dead is for. He is attacked by slimy rubber kids' toys, who start drinking his blood; when he tries to cut them off with a knife he just ends up mutilating himself instead. Then there's Jennifer's visions. She sees a shitty-looking corpse on TV, a clawed boogeyman at the window, and finally the zombie of her landlord. At the end there's another bad-looking rubber corpse who we get to see in even more detail. All they could afford was rubber and slime. Frankly though, that's all you need to make a great horror film.

There's just one more thing I want to comment on. When Jennifer says she has a surprise, her husband rolls his eyes and murmurs, "Antique pistols." What?! Why would he think that's what she had? Did he think she was challenging him to a duel? Is showing off one's antique pistols a common occurrence in this couple's social circle? I don't know why this baffles me so much. I can understand this from a first draft perspective--lord knows how many jokes or bit of dialogue I've written that have made sense in the moment but have proven baffling on the return run. (That's right, you guys get my good material. Crumble in despair as you consider how dire my bad shit must be.) But this was just odd. Odd in a way that I love, naturally, but odd all the same.

If you like slime and communicating with the dead, then this is the movie for you. It actually feels like a "real" thriller at times, before someone opens their mouth and says something. Professionalism is on display. But not everywhere. It's that precise and unique dichotomy that really matters.

You can make reviews like this happen via Patreon! And you can like us on Facebook to get updates!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969), by Emilio Vieyra and Jerald Intrator

So, uh, there's no way the director of this film didn't see The Awful Dr. Orlof. Or Atom Age Vampire. Or The Corpse Vanishes. Fuck, there's a lot of goddamn glandsploitation movies! But The Curious Dr. Humpp differs from them in a variety of key ways. Namely, it's one of the more bizarre variants on the glandsploitation genre, throwing a bit of The Brain That Wouldn't Die into the mix--but with an actual brain this time!

Dr. Humpp is a researcher who forces his hideously (and hilariously) disfigured monster-goon assistants to kidnap young people to have a lot of sex. Not to have sex with; it's complicated and I'll get into it. In an astonishingly overlong opening segment, we witness one of the blatant man-in-the-mask mutants kidnap a pair of lesbians, an alcoholic dude, a masturbating hypersexual lady, a hippie foursome, and a stripper. All of them except for Outlier Alcoholic Man are young and attractive and improbably keep their makeup on at times. We know how young and attractive and made-up they are because we watch each of them (except the alcoholic) engage in sexual behavior for prolonged periods of time. The stripper is so sexy she makes a saxophone player cum in his pants! Huh, it's starting to seem like a movie called The Curious Dr. Humpp is a softcore porn or something. It transpires, in the bare excuse for the plot, that Dr. Humpp is making his victims have sex after consuming a smoking, bubbling potion. This somehow produces another smoking, bubbling potion (eww), which Humpp ingests to stave off a mutation such as that which has consumed his assistants. But also, the bad doctor's research is being used to the benefit of a preserved brain in a jar who schemes to conquer the world!

That's a big "but also." The copy I watched was in Spanish with no subs, and so while I could make out enough to tell what was happening, I'm pretty sure the Jar Brain was added in last second. He really doesn't have a bearing on the plot (if they are a he). However, he is much more memorable than our cop protagonists. Considerable time is spent trying to make this one cop into the hero, and it doesn't work, because he's just there to make it feel like a krimi. Speaking of krimis, and, consequently, Edgar Wallace, that's what makes me feel like this could have come from Jesus Franco circa 1962. Cops are just crammed in here because they'd be crammed into an Edgar Wallace adaptation. True, they are cheap protagonists, but I can't help but feel like the creators of this film were going for something particular in terms of style and genre. Interestingly, there were scenes set inside Dr. Humpp's complex which made it feel like a prison movie. It never lingers long enough to count, and the prisoners never interact with each other in a meaningful way, but they could have changed genres and it would have been a natural flow.

Let's talk about Dr. Humpp himself. He looks like Adam West and has a hot wife who's really into masochism. Outside of sex-sauce experiments they also cut open the heads of their mutants and stick hot metal in them to make smoke come out of their eyes. The Humpps have a lot of these mutants! When the cop breaks into the facility he's confronted by a whole army of them. I wish I knew why Humpp was himself turning into a mutant, or what caused the mutant outbreak through the lab. Maybe Humpp worked at the '60s incarnation of the Umbrella Corporation. Or perhaps it was merely fate, for Humpp seems to go out of his way to make his potions foam and sizzle unnecessarily, and he also keeps a skull on his desk. He is clearly evil, or mad, at the very least. On top of this, he gets sex hallucinations when he drinks his splooge-serum, which may or may not be manifestations of his own psyche. That doesn't actually support the idea that he's evil and so evil things happen around him, I just wanted to bring it up because I love me some good ol' psychedelic sex hallucinations. In living black-and-white!

Dr. Humpp is a minor work in the annals of trash, but the title alone is indelible. I've known about this movie for as long as I've been watching exploitation junk, and I'm happy to have actually seen it now. Long stretches of it will put you to sleep (YES WE GET IT THE PEOPLE ONSCREEN ARE FUCKING) but it makes a surprisingly funny double feature with Awful Dr. Orlof. I mean, c'mon, there are Astro-Zombies who look more convincing than this movie's monsters! And seriously--how many movies are there where someone takes someone's glandular fluids and uses them to create a scientist potion?! I just keep finding more! It's really disturbing, especially since few of them have Howard Vernon in them. Much less his dick.

Anyway. Take a look at the poster for this if you aren't swayed into viewing. Yes, the monster does actually look like that. Worse, even. The poster omits the fact that the monster's eyes aren't exactly synced up--he doesn't gaze down on someone like that, and you'll know what I mean when you see it for yourself. Today's a Wednesday, so have a happy Humpp Day.

You can help support my movie habit on Patreon, and like the A-List on Facebook to get updates!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Stud (1978), by Quentin Masters

This movie was pitched to me as "British Saturday Night Fever." What?! Not only are the plots completely dissimilar, but before this movie, the idea of a British disco movie struck me as being about as likely as dubstep in Puritan times. Well, I can now finally have a double feature with Disco Godfather. You have no idea how glad that makes me.

The film opens with a surprisingly catchy disco song that I had stuck in my head for--well, actually, it's still in my head, and I think I first saw this movie, like, a year ago. The only lyrics consist of "Ooh--Stud! What's his name, what's his game?" It implies immediately that we're dealing with a man of mystery; one who we've already seen to be the recipient of dozens of signed photographs from beautiful women that allude to his tremendous sexual prowess. The man in question is Tony Blake, the manager of a club called "Hobo" which is owned by the wealthy Fontaine Khaled. Fontaine is married to a diplomat, Benjamin Khaled, who is unaware of Fontaine's many affairs. Her favorite is Tony, who we learn she "made," training him in management, class, and sex. She says of him, "You know, when we first met, he thought a 69 was a bottle of scotch!" Fontaine has sex with Tony in an elevator where she's hidden secret cameras. Not only does she enjoy watching the tapes for her own satisfaction, but she uses the tapes to advertise Tony to her friends. She's planning a big trip to Paris, where Tony is the intended centerpiece of a massive orgy. He isn't to know until the last minute, though, an unnecessarily rape-y twist that shows off that Fontaine is a libertine in the style of de Sade. She loves wealth for wealth's sake, even though that wealth has left her bored enough where she's bound to completely collapse if she doesn't have sex constantly. The Paris plot develops slowly and runs parallel to a thread which has Tony trying to open his own club, so he can be free of Fontaine forever.

Of course, we also get plenty of eyefuls of the action at Hobo. (That actually is the worst nightclub name I've heard, ever.) We have Tony's pedo friend who "waits for 'em to get off the schoolbuses"; we have Molly, a black woman who Fontaine (the white bitch) calls "an interesting creature"; then there's the seemingly endless "disco" song which mostly chants, "Let's go, disco, let's go disco." That last bit is probably the funniest thing in the whole movie--I mean, I laugh at music from all eras, and I especially like laughing at the music I like. But disco can get so goddamn goofy sometimes. I'm on the floor every single time I realize that the fucking song has been playing for like seven solid minutes.

Tony hates his situation. Sure, he gets laid more than any other man in London who's not David Bowie, but even his conquests from outside Fontaine's social circles fully know about his place on the ladder. Molly calls Tony a gigolo, and while he's frankly a sexist pig, Tony knows that it feels wrong to be used. When Ben Khaled comes down to Hobo to visit with his wife, Tony falls in love with--or makes himself fall in love with--Ben's daughter from a prior marriage, Alex. Alex is turned on by Tony, even and perhaps especially after she learns that he's fucking her stepmother. Her own boyfriend is so no-sex-before-marriage that her attempts to make out with her are met with confusion and disgust. So she and Tony sleep together and something of a relationship starts. But then Christmas comes. It's time to go to Paris.

And oh my God, I'm glad movies exist, because you'd never see this in real life. Fontaine's Parisian friend has a gigantic sex-mansion, complete with what is probably the world's hardest-to-maintain swimming pool. Have you seen Caligula, or at least, Brad Jones' review of it? I immediately thought of Tiberius' grotto during this scene, albeit less ridiculous. I mean, the place has a fucking sex-swing on it! Anyone who is into sex-swings or fucking in pools is in the right because there's nothing wrong with what you're into (as long as it's not animals or children). However, I'm going to speak from my own personal perspective and set of kinks, when I say: 1) sex-swings sound extremely painful and dangerous; 2) fucking in a pool sounds even more extremely painful and dangerous because YOU DON'T WANT TO GET CHLORINE INSIDE YOUR FUCKING GENITALS. Also, orgies in a pool? Get ready for some floaters. Brrrrr.

Inevitably, Mr. Khaled learns about his wife's dealings, because that's usually what happens when you create dozens of sex tapes featuring yourself and your extramarital lover and store them in your husband's house. Tony is on his way out, because surprise, being drugged with amphetamines and raped is incredibly disturbing to him. At least Fontaine burns with him--or does she? I guess we'll have to find out in The Bitch! Because yes, this did get a sequel.

Thank Disco God!

Not only does The Stud offer us a fascinating glimpse into the British side of disco, but it's a pretty progressive movie for a film full of homophobic slurs and ruthless misogyny. It depicts the rape of a man with the same sort of gruesome focus as many movies of the period where women are raped. In fact, that's one of the central themes: that men, too, are harmed by patriarchy, because they're expected in all senses to be fuck machines. And naturally, not every man wants to be a fuck machine--in the sense of having sex frequently and/or intensely, or in the sense of being a genuine machine, so slavishly dedicated to his base desires that he'll accept anything that comes his way. And it does so in a way that doesn't show all women as monsters; only the characters in-universe are sexist. Everyone in this movie is pretty much awful, or at best severely obnoxious. Nearly everybody is a pedophile, a rapist, a racist, or just cruel for no reason. The richer you get, the bitcher you get. And this is a movie about the super-rich.

The dialogue is very pointy and sometimes it gets ridiculous. People talk about how snappy and dire Valley of the Dolls is, but Valley of the Dolls just made me a bit sleepy if I can be frank. This movie has about as many barbs as a drag show, but the costumes aren't nearly beautiful enough--it is a good-looking film, even if it never does anything too bold with the visuals. As far as the barbs, though, you do need to have a high threshold of tolerance, for both acid and camp. It's like if the Adam West Batman villains could say fuck.

Overall, The Stud has much to offer and its 3.6 on IMDB perplexes me. The movie made a good deal of money when it came out, and contemporary reviews were positive, it seems. I mean, it does deal with some dark topics, particularly that of male rape. Why would a film about male rape get such low reviews? Surely that's not a reflection of any aspect of our society? Hmmmmmmmm...

Like the A-List on Facebook to get updates, and please consider supporting the site on Patreon!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Continuity Cavalcade #2 - Supernatural Encounters in the Star Wars Universe

Joe Bongiorno has turned out one of the most continuity-heavy Star Wars Legends pieces yet! And you'd better believe that it turns everything you know about Star Wars upside-down.

You can get early access to the podcast on Patreon ( and like us on Facebook ( to get updates!

Image Source: