Follow us on

Featured DVD Review: Roger Corman's Cult Classics: Movie Marathon Double-Shot

October 23rd, 2011

Roger Corman's Cult Classics: Movie Marathon Double-Shot - Buy from Amazon: Vampires, Mummies And Monsters Collection and Lethal Ladies Collection

At the end of September, a Roger Corman Double-Feature All-Night Marathon was released. It was a two-disc set that included a four horror films from the low-budget master. This Tuesday, another collection, Lethal Ladies, is going to be released. It has three exploitation films over two discs. That's seven Roger Corman films over four discs on two DVDs. I'm a fan of Roger Corman's work, but is this too much for one person to handle? Or will it leave me wanting more?

Lady Frankenstein

The film begins with three men in a graveyard digging up a corpse. These men work for Baron Frankenstein, but are having trouble getting bodies fresh enough for The Baron's experiments. He's attempting to revive the dead; to create life itself. He will have to work in secret for a bit, because his daughter, Tania, is coming home from school for awhile and he's worried his experiment will scare her. Far from it. She's drawn to his experiments and has been since she was a child and has snuck into his lab.

His latest experiment is conducted on a recently executed murderer, but while the operation starts off well, the brain is damaged before the transplant can occur. And then when the creature is revived by lightning, his face is burned as a result. The damaged brain is more of an immediate concern and the creature kills Baron Frankenstein. It then runs away and throws a naked woman in the lady. ... This is a Roger Corman movie, after all.

Tania and Baron Frankenstein's assistant, Dr. Charles Marshall, continue the Baron's work, this time trying to revive the Baron himself. In the meantime, the Creature goes off to get revenge on grave robbers.

As far as low budget horror films go, this one isn't bad. Having a strong female lead was rather unique for its time and helps elevate the film, as does having Rosalba Neri in the lead as Tania Frankenstein. She's a better actress and has better screen presence than most other actors in these films. That said, there are still more than a few problems here, including a clumsy script and more than a few scenes that go on too long or are only there to increase the number of naked ladies in the film. I have nothing against naked ladies; I just politely request they advance the plot.

The Extras

You can watch the extended edition, which runs 12 minutes longer. It is also compiled from various sources, so there are scenes with really bad picture and audio quality. There are also various TV spots, trailer, and images.

The Velvet Vampire

Lesbian vampires! Celeste Yarnall stars as Diane LeFanu, who we meet as she is walking alone at night. She falls victim to a would-be rapist, but we quickly learn she can take care of herself. Unfazed, she continues to The Stoker Gallery, which has a new art show. There she meets Lee and Susan Ritter, a married couple, and invites them back to her home in the desert. Susan worries about going, because she thinks Diane has eyes for Lee, but while Diane isn't above fooling around with Lee, she is really interested in Susan.

There's a much simpler plot for this film. Granted, there are a lot of smaller details, like a few murders, strange dreams, people disappearing, but that's enough to give you an idea what the movie is about. Does the film work? Yes and no. Celeste Yarnall is strong as Diane LeFanu and she's definitely the highlight of the film. On the other hand, the plot meanders, some of the dialogue is clunky, and neither Lee nor Susan are exactly compelling characters. I do like how it tries to do something different with the genre and it's better than average for a Roger Corman movie, but there are still some serious flaws.

The Extras

Nathaniel Thompson and Celeste Yarnall sit down for an audio commentary track. There's quite a bit of energy here and plenty of behind-the-scenes information given. Worth listening to. Also of note, the audio and video quality are a whole lot better than the previous film.

Time Walker

A film that was featured on MST3k. The film starts in Egypt with the recovery of a sarcophagus that is found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun, which is is brought to the States to be studied by Douglas McCadden, a university professor. He does the initial examination with his students, I guess to give them first hand experience, although I doubt this is standard operating procedure in real life. The hieroglyphics on the sarcophagus call the occupant a noble traveller. A noble traveller given a royal burial and placed inside the king's tomb? That's odd. It's not the only strange thing they discover. When it is opened, there's a green fungus covering the mummy. Then sarcophagus is closed again and x-rayed by one of the students, Peter Sharpe. While he examines the x-rays, he sees five objects hidden in the sarcophagus. They are crystals, which he steals and later sells, but not before taking more x-rays to cover his crime. However, this time the x-rays cause something to happen to the mummy and the fungus covering it.

The next day at the press conference to announce the discovery, one of the students touches the activated fungus and it burns his finger. When they open the sarcophagus, the mummy is gone. It's alive and it's looking for its crystals. Unfortunately, Peter has already sold four of the five crystals, so the mummy has a lot of targets to go after. As the body count rises, Douglas McCadden has to piece together the mystery of the mummy, while the doctors try and find a cure for the fungus.

This film was an excellent choice for MST3k and it has all the aspects you look for in such a film. It has a low budget that results in goofy special effects. It has a lot of bad acting from the supporting cast. It has a nonsensical plot full of "Huh?" moments. It even ends with, "To be continued". It wasn't. However, while every aspect of the film is bad, it's bad in a way that will appeal to B-movie buffs.

The Extras

There is an nine-minute interview with Dimitri Villard, one of the producers, and a ten-minute interview with Kevin Brophy, who played Peter Sharpe.

Grotesque

The film starts with an old women talking about... I have no idea. A monster comes in and... the film ends. Grotesque doesn't end, but it starts with a film-within-a-film. Orville Kruger is the special effects master that was responsible for the make-up. He's going to his cabin in the woods to spend time with his family. Lisa, his daughter, is driving up with her friend, Kathy, to meet him there. However, while on route, they have a run in with a gang of thugs, who drive a VW Minibus. Cause nothing says intimidation like a Hippiemobile.

The gang is also driving up to the cabin, because one of them used to live there when she was a kid and there were rumors of something big hidden there. She figures its either money or drugs. Either way, the gang wants to steal it and they are not too concerned if they have to kill someone to get it. And that's just what they do. They quickly kill Lisa's father, mother, and her friend, but Lisa runs away into the woods. Shortly after that, the gang learns what the big secret really is. It's not money, or jewels, or drugs, it's...

That's a spoiler. On the one hand, I wouldn't feel bad giving away that spoiler, as it wouldn't adversely affect anyone's enjoyment of the movie. On the other hand, the movie is so bad that it is not worth spoiling. The best part of the movie is the cameo by Mike Lane at the end of the film. This movie has a thin plot, really bad overacting by most of the gang members, bad dialogue, pacing issues, a switch in tone that is jarring, and two fake-outs. The film ends with the print breaking, which is when we learn the last hour or so was just another movie and we were watching it along with the director, producer, editor, etc. At this point we cut to the projection room and see a werewolf and Frank N. Stein (the aforementioned Mike Lane). Frank asks, "Why did you break the projector?" To which the Werewolf replies, "I hated the picture." That makes two of us.

The Extras

There are no extras for this film.

The Verdict

Of the four movies on Vampires, Mummies And Monsters Collection, none are what you would normally describe as good movies. One is better than average for B-movies, but the print quality is shockingly bad at times. The second boasts a good lead, but is mostly campy sexploitation. The third is pure MST3k level filmmaking. While the fourth is the weakest of the group. If you are a fan of B-movies, the bang for your buck is pretty impressive and it is worth picking up for its target audience.

The second DVD is less Halloweenie and more Sexplotation.

TNT Jackson

Jeannie Bell stars as Diana Jackson, better known as T.N.T. Jackson. At the beginning of the film, her brother, Stag, meets his end at the hands of a drug dealer while in Hong Kong. She travels to Hong Kong to find out what happened to him. She doesn't know if he's alive or dead, or what he was up to that could have gotten him into trouble in the first place. She immediately runs into trouble of her own when she is jumped in a bad neighborhood. TNT can handle her own at least for a while. When an American woman, Elaine, drives by, the thugs scatter and Elaine offers to give her a ride. Thus TNT makes it to Joe's Haven, the last place she knew Stag was. Joe can't help her out, but when trouble starts in his bar, he and TNT make a good team. She also impresses Charlie, the man who killed her brother. Charlie and Elaine both work for Sid, who buys heroin from Ming and ships it to the States.

So while TNT tries to figure out what happened to her brother, Charlie is given the task of making sure TNT doesn't interfere with the drug traffiking. But there are a few more twists yet to come.

When it comes to martial arts movies, you are looking for a lead that can either convincingly fight or act. Both is preferable, but a film can survive if the lead can only do one. Jeannie Bell's claim to fame before this movie was being the first African-American to be on the cover of Playboy. She looks good and clearly doesn't have a problem with sexuality. However, when she tries to act menacingly, she comes across stiff and unconvincing. Also, her martial arts skills are limited and she has to be doubled for all but the simplest moves. There is enough sex and violence to satisfy fans of the genre, as well as a couple of good twists thrown in here and there. But this is low expectations cinema.

The Extras

There are no extras for this film.

Firecracker

Like the previous film, this film starts out with a sibling in trouble. Susanne Carter (Jillian Kesner) travels to the Phillipines after her sister, Vanessa Goodwin, disappears. Her sister was investigating an illegal underground fighting tournament, one where the fights are to the death. Her arrival obviously worries someone, as she barely has time to check into her hotel room and undress to her lingerie before two men enter her room and there's a fight. She goes to talk to the owner of the place Vanessa was staying at, and there's another fight. Fortunately, Pete and his assistant Rey can handle themselves in a fight as well. In Vanessa's room they find her camera and after developing some of the pictures, they are led to Chuck Donner, who is not only a martial artist, but is also into drugs, prostitution, and gambling. He works at The Arena for a man called Bruno, a night club that has nightly displays of martial arts prowess. Susanne's a blackbelt and she's able to impress Chuck, by fighting, but his boss is convinced she's not just there for the martial arts.

In the meantime, Bruno's organization is in a bit of trouble. Chuck is in a rivalry with Grip, the man with the contacts and a couple of shipments of drugs have been ambushed. Also, his girlfriend is an undercover agent, which is the same surprise twist as in the last movie. It's not the only similarity between the two films. In both films the heroine has sex with the person who killed their sibling.

While there are a lot of similarities, this film stands out on top in just about every way. Jillian Kesner was trained in karate, so the fight scenes are a lot better, even if there is the occasional really obvious stunt double. There are a lot more fight scenes, so the "acting" doesn't get in the way of the movie. The fight scenes are more varied with better choreography. One fight scene in particular stands out. Susanne has to fight off two men and as she does so, her clothes keep getting ripped off, till she's fighting in just her panties. It's campy, but in the perfect B-movie way.

The Extras

There are no extras for this film.

Too Hot to Handle

Cheri Caffaro plays Samantha Fox, whom we meet as she attracts the attention of MacKenzie Portman, a banker with a medieval attitude towards romance and sex. He thinks Samantha would be a perfect playmate for an evening of fun, but he's made a lot of enemies and she's been paid $150,000 to see he doesn't survive this encounter. The next day the chief of detectives, Domingo De La Torres, discusses the case with Sanchez and deduces he was likely the victim of a professional assassin, who will be an absolute knockout. While staking out MacKenzie Portman's funeral, he spots Samantha Fox in a very low-cut black dress, and he thinks he has his suspect.

However, before he can do too much investigating, Samantha Fox meets with Miss Chow, who gives Samantha her next assignment. She is to kill three men and she won't get paid till all three are dead. She's very good at her job, but so is Domingo, and it isn't long till they have a face-to-face encounter. Will he be able to build a case against her? Or will she be able to charm her way out of this?

The value of this movie depends heavily on how much you want to see Cheri Caffaro naked. As an assassin thriller, it's not bad, when compared to other B-movies. Some of the hits are well thought out and there are more than a few suspenseful moments in the movie. However, it's also too slow, the dialogue is clumsy and the two leads don't have a huge amount of chemistry together. Because of the lack of chemistry, the central question (Will she be caught? We she get away? Or will the two of them end up together?) is less intriguing than it could have been. On the other hand, it is an exploitation flick and it delivers on its limited promises.

The Extras

There is an audio commentary track by Elijah Drenner and Cheri Caffaro that provides a lot of information on this film and Cheri Caffaro's career in general.

The Verdict

Roger Corman's Lethal Ladies Collection doesn't set the bar too high when it comes to high quality films. All three films have their strengths. Firecracker has the best fight scenes. Too Hot to Handle has the best production value and the grandest scope. While TNT Jackson has a funky blaxploitation vibe to it. If you are looking for equal parts action and nudity, with a bit of plot as filler, it's worth checking out. Paying $19 for the three films is more expensive than the other DVD, but I'm sure there are more than a few B-movie fans willing to pay that price.


- Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review