Slumming With Cameron Mitchell …. A Triple Feature
Picking up where I left off poking a bit of fun while Slumming With David Carradine, I selected Mr. Cameron Mitchell for the second go around of less than stellar films featuring a well known face to classic movie fans and an actor that I always liked during my early years of film discovery. Both in his formative years on camera in films like Monkey On My Back, Garden of Evil with Gary Cooper and House of Bamboo opposite Robert Ryan or in his lower than low budget flicks I snagged down at the VHS rental stores like The Toolbox Murders or The Silent Scream.
Mitchell began his career in movies back in 1945 after serving in WW2 and stayed busy on camera up to 1990. Of note is the fact that he will be returning to the big screen in the long lost Orson Welles project, The Other Side of the Wind, slated for release in 2018 years after Mitchell’s passing. Settling on a trio of lower tier Mitchell films, I went with two I hadn’t seen before that proved to be a whole lot of guilty fun and one I regretted revisiting and hope to never sit thru again.
I do this slumming purely out of fun and with a love for low budget flicks and some of my favorite stars who populated them.
Frankenstein Island (1981)
This Jerry Warren production hits the bottom of the barrel for all concerned and that’s saying a lot considering it features a slightly larger than cameo role for John Carradine. Our plot concerns a group of buddies out for a Sunday hot air balloon ride who get blown off course coming to rest on an unchartered island. The leader of the group is another old hand at low budget terrors, Robert Clarke. Clarke should be a familiar name to fans of The Hideous Sun Demon among other drive in titles. Moving inland the foursome will come across a tribe of scantily clad women who harken us all back to the days of the caveman films or fifties sci-fi fare with women ruling faraway planets and time zones.
It’s while enjoying the festivities of dancing rituals and female scenery that a group of crazed shipwrecked sailors will descend upon our new island visitors led by noir favorite Steve Brodie. These guys are nutty and Brodie has to be wondering what happened to the good old studio days of black and white gangster films. It’s here that our featured star, Cameron Mitchell will make his entrance.
Cam is a stranded sea captain who lost his ship 17 years previously and sits in a large cell/cage he calls home. To pass the time away, his fading sanity has him reciting poems written by the great Edgar Allan Poe. Crying out for his lost Lenore who the plot will reveal is also the name of his long missing daughter. Might she be one of the cave girls?
This is a Frankenstein title so Clarke and his gang are to soon meet Sheila Frankenstein whose great great grandfather is the man himself. None other than Carradine who gets to appear as a spirit on occasion screaming, “The Power! The Power!” Like any doctor in horror films, Clarke kind of forgets that he and the boys are stranded and gets swept up in the laboratory experiments. Experiments in which poor Cam Mitchell is used as a donor when his white blood cells are needed to keep some old timer alive.
A monster? Yes sir though he’s a little bit more Bela than Boris in his style of arm waving and hulking about the lab. Sorry Bela, it’s all in jest and I’ll gladly put on Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman anytime I’m given the chance.
“The Power” is soon to fade and everything will be sure to collapse including the negative for this truly embarrassing film for all involved but mainly the “star” names who somehow got wrangled into this home movie of a horror. Yes this is the one film of the three that I don’t think I could bear to watch again.
Should you see it in the near future, close your eyes and listen to Robert Clarke. Does he not sound like Rock Hudson? Could have fooled me.
On to more enjoyable low budget efforts with Mr. Mitchell.
The Nightmare Never Ends aka Cataclysm (1980)
Mixing Nazi Germany, an angel of Satan and a bit of the Omen together brings us this low budget thriller that I kind of liked on my first viewing and can easily see it growing on me if I give it another go. Long time character actor Marc Lawrence actually plays dual roles in this story where at first he plays a Holocaust survivor who demands that his neighbor and police inspector Cameron Mitchell arrest the man he claims is responsible for war time atrocities and the murder of his family. At first Cam sets out to humor the old timer by looking into the allegations only to discover that the supposed killer is a young man in his twenties. Impossible, for if he was a war time criminal, he’d need to be in his seventies.
The elderly Lawrence will soon turn up brutalized and murdered. Plastered to his walls are newspaper clippings and historical articles that trace the life of the man he accuses of numerous war crimes. Cam is going to discover that the image of this young man is in various historical articles of different wars and the atrocities committed within them. He’s on the case in this occult thriller and quickly beginning to believe what the old timer had to say about this man in league with the devil.
Running parallel to this part of our story is that of a writer who has put out a book titled God is Dead. Our Satanic angel wants this man to join his coven while the authors wife, a devout Catholic will become a force he needs to reckon with. Borrowing heavily from The Omen is a priest who goes about warning everyone concerned of the forces of evil all around us and like Patrick Troughton, he will come to a violent end.
That other role Marc Lawrence fills here is that of Mitchell’s police chief/partner who isn’t so heavily bearded and made up as that of the old man he played in the opening stanza of the film. I thought there was a few genuinely creepy segments in this one and the ending is “bloody” good.
I’d like to see this one turn up in a restored version by one of the releasing companies who specialize in these gory classics of yesteryear. For now all I have is my creaky VHS tape but it’ll have to do. If you’ve seen it, I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on this one.
On to the real gem of this triple feature.
Raw Force (1982)
This time out Cameron is off to the Philippines. The land of low budget productions, nudity and Vic Diaz.
It’s all in satirical fun when we have a cruise line intending to check out an island of Monks who apparently have the power to raise the dead. Mostly samurai’s and sword wheeling karate kicking types. Did I mention the Monks have an endless supply of Jade that they barter with to ensure the delivery of sex trade workers? No they don’t use them for carnal pleasures. It seems Vic and his hooded gang of weirdos have a taste for human flesh. And this is just a quick rundown of what you can expect to find when the incredibly sexy Jillian Kessner arrives on the island via the cruise line captained by…….. you guessed it. Captain Cameron Mitchell.
Aboard ship are a host of karate experts, good old boys and babes just itching to take their clothes off and jump into bed with the most convenient male on board. Arriving first on the mainland, the fun loving boys will hit the bars and cathouses while running into a very Hitler like man in a white suit. He’s the one running the jade stones and supplying the monks with female flesh. When he gets wind of the cruise ships intention to visit the mysterious island, he’ll do all he can to prevent that from happening which includes sending his gang of cutthroats after the cruise ship, modern day pirates style.
Thankfully Cam is on board to help the karate kicking cook to defend the ship but in the end, it’s a lost cause and the main characters of our film will find themselves in a life raft winding up exactly where you would expect them to be. On the island of women eating monks and sword wielding samurai zombies.
I’ll let you’re imagination take it from here and leave you with a couple of those deep voiced warnings from the movie’s trailer.
“Who will win? The Living…. or …. The Living Dead?”
Or how about where Laurene Landon lookalike Miss Kessner is concerned, “Her deadliest weapon is her body.”
I forgot to mention the hungry piranha that play a major role and the totally charged ass kicking fight scenes you’re going to be treated to when Cameron Mitchell takes to the screen in a fun role for this Filipino production that requires multiple viewings of which I’m sure to take pleasure in as the years go by. Nice to see this one get a solid blu ray release from Vinegar Syndrome.
In closing, a special thank you to Cam Mitchell for countless films over a period of 45 plus years. Some great, some good and a working relationship with Mario Bava. Plenty of films meant to please us fans of the not so great cinema that in many cases prove to be far more enjoyable than the “serious” productions studios strived for. Seriously, I can confidently say that I’ll be watching Raw Force a second and third time before I even consider watching Mitchell turn up in Cass Timberlane ever again.