7. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)
Herb Evers, who later became Jason Evers and refused to discuss this film up until his death in 2005, is Dr Bill Cortner, a surgeon so gifted he literally brings a patient back from the dead in the opening scene. He’s also a little loose in his shoes and steals body parts from the operating theatre for the ‘research’ he and his deformed assistant have been conducting at their rural retreat.
We learn the nature of that work when his fiancée Jan (Virginia Leith) is decapitated in an auto wreck and Evers, always the devoted suitor, keeps the head alive (and talking) until it can be grafted onto a new body.
Think about that. If you woke up as a disembodied head, and instead of ending your misery your other half went to a titty bar to find a replacement body, wouldn’t that add some grit to your relationship? So Jan starts to go, you know, a bit daffy. A little, yes, funny in the head. And she starts plotting revenge, but what’s she gonna do? Nag him to death?
Fortunately, one of the doc’s failed experiments is locked up in the closet, so when Evers returns home with a ‘figure model’ on his arm, the creature breaks loose and begins throttling him while Jan shrieks maniacally in her pan.
6. Fugitive Girls (1974)
The penultimate collaboration between Ed Wood (Plan 9 From Outer Space) and Bulgarian porn auteur Steve Apostolof, Fugitive Girls is a synthesis of Ed’s The Violent Years and Roger Corman’s Swamp Women souped-up with heavy doses of T&A for the Drive-in crowd.
Arrested for a crime she didn’t commit, Dee (Margie Lanier) becomes a favourite of bulldyke Kat (Tallie Cochrane), who of course is planning to escape with three other women-in-prison movie caricatures. There’s an embezzler, a jive talkin’ black mama, a white trash racist and never a dull moment as they abscond in search of stolen loot.
Like Violent Years’ juvies, these femme fatales beat up bikers, engage in catfights and rape any man they come across, and Apostolof leaves nothing to the imagination, particularly in a scene where they fall foul of predatory hippies who force them to strip before the girls turn the tables and run. Then they start disrobing again because their clothes are lice-ridden etc etc.
5. The Galaxy Invader (1985)
Even a low-budget sci-fi epic needs stars and good make-up to succeed, so when you’re shooting a picture in your backyard with your half-brother in the floppy creature suit, the odds are stacked against you before you burn a foot of film. For all its home movie production values, amateurish performances and third-hand ideas, though, this time capsule of vintage pleasure is mounted with such genuine, straight-faced sincerity that it’s worth its weight in goofy charm.
This was Don Dohler’s fourth such opus, and as in all the others there’s an ET loose in suburban Baltimore, only this time it’s a benevolent creature and the rednecks are the bad guys. He immediately regrets choosing Hicksville as a vacation spot when he meets the soft-bellied locals who, fortified by Dutch courage, establish First Contact through Messrs Smith & Wesson.
Dollar signs flash in their eyes when they come into possession of the glowing ball strapped around the being’s waist, prompting the rounding-up of a drunken posse for a hunt-and-capture mission, much to the dismay of anthropologist Richard Dyszel (aka horror host Count Gore De Vol), who argues that it’s an important scientific find. So they shoot him. Then they take off after the creature anyway and get picked off one by one etc etc etc.
4. Attack Of The 50ft Woman (1958)
When a “strange glowing object” appears and a giant papier-mache hand pops out, heiress Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes), screams and runs back home to her husband. This turns out to be a bad idea, because two-timing Harry (William Hudson) has been planning to have her committed and steal her fortune, and all this talk about giant papier-mache hands does is put a gleam in his eye.
Nancy’s situation becomes even more dire when radiation from the object causes “Astonishing growth”, so Hayes soon smashes through the roof and rampages across town, laying waste to a number of miniatures while shouting, “Harry! I want my husband Harry!” Transparent in long shots, solid in close-ups and a giant rubber hand at all other times, this scantily clad she-hulk outwits the comic relief deputy (“A thirty foot giant? Oh no!”), locates Harry and squashes him and his mistress to a pulp.
So dismayed was director Nathan Juran (Twenty Million Miles To Earth) by the special effects that he took the billing “Nathan Hertz”, but while they may lack conviction, the central performances, especially the normally underused Hayes in her signature role, do not. Seek it out and enjoy it for what it is, and you’ll have a great time.
3. Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster (1965)
A Lily Munster-ish Martian princess and her bald, pointy-eared servant are seeking to repopulate their dying world, so they do what any Bad Movie Villain would – they kidnap bikinied ‘specimens’ from the beaches of San Juan and lock less-than-willing abductees up in a cage with a bad actor in a gorilla suit.
Meanwhile, our would-be Frankenstein, in this case a NASA scientist played by James Karen, has created a cyborg (named Colonel Saunders) and shot him into space only to see his rocket destroyed by the Martians, who think it’s an enemy missile. Surviving the stock-footage explosion with only third-degree burns, the Colonel malfunctions and goes on a lusty rampage, pursued (on scooter) by Dr Karen.
Sure, it’s cheap, silly and loaded with enough stock-footage to make Ed Wood proud, but the campy feel must’ve been intentional because producer Alan V Iselin’s resume also includes The Horror Of Party Beach. Here, the beach antics have been toned down, the number of pop songs reduced and there’s more going on whenever the antagonists are off-screen.
2. The Thing With Two Heads (1972)
A staple of All Time Worst movie lists, The Thing With Two Heads might live up (or down) to its reputation if it pretended to be anything other than a deliberately goofy exploitation film, but its ability to amuse (intentionally, we think) and entertain places it several rungs above, say, Blackenstein, The Black Frankenstein.
Viewers of the previous year’s The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant must have experienced déjà vu all over again as they watched Ray Milland’s terminally-ill surgeon attempt to cheat death by having his head grafted onto a healthy body. His confidence stems from the two-headed gorilla (played by Rick Baker) he keeps caged in his basement, a previous recipient of spare-head surgery.
When Baker escapes and drags his knuckles around town in search of bananas, Milland, unfazed by this bit of monkey business, declares the operation a success and moves forward, despite an understandable lack of volunteers.
When his deteriorating condition necessitates that the first willing donor be used, Milland regains consciousness to find himself attached to the considerably beefier shoulders of former Los Angeles Rams star Roosevelt ‘Rosey’ Grier. A wrongly convicted man on Death Row, Grier just wants to buy some time so he can prove his innocence, while an unimpressed Milland (“Is this some sort of joke?”) tries to arrange another check-up from the neck-up.
1. Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf
The ten thousandth birthday of werewolf leader Stirba (Sybil Danning) is approaching, which will cause all other werewolves to reveal themselves unless Christopher Lee, Reb Brown and Annie McEnroe venture to Transylvania to destroy her. So far, so camp, but then the narrative flies off into the stratosphere.
Danning’s presence usually signifies a fairly high jiggle quotient, though here she’s required not just to disrobe but to break out in fur for a lycanthropic ménage a trois that must rank as one of the least erotic, most unintentionally (?) funny nude scenes ever filmed.
When she’s not flanked by naked, cooing werewolves, the Playmate wears shades and a leather catsuit, shoots laser beams from her fingertips and causes noses to bleed and eyeballs to rupture with a mystical chant. She can also transform gargoyles into rubbery predators that suck their victim’s intestines out through their mouths, which is all her castle seems to have in the way of security since the ‘guards’ are more likely to be found indulging their orgiastic proclivities.
She even keeps McEnroe’s imperilled heroine, clad in rags and slathered in fake blood, chained up in an unlocked and unguarded cellar so that when our heroes arrive they can walk straight in. Armed with nothing less than the Holy Grail, Lee’s final confrontation with Stirba proves something of a letdown as, having expended her arsenal of colour-swirls, all it takes to defeat the werewolf queen is a single thrust of a titanium blade.
Author Bio: Ian Watson writes about film for one reason – to encourage people to watch films like Starcrash instead of that drivel where cars turn into robots and save the world. Every time one of those pictures makes money, an angel dies and falls from Heaven.