A Collection of Low Budget Horror Flicks, 80’s VHS Style
Having accumulated more movies than the average film goer is more than obvious to those who have gotten to know me either personally or through the blog here at Mike’s Take. It’s pretty near impossible for me to feature every film I see all by itself so here’s another way of trying to keep a spotlight on those I do sit in on. Good or bad, I love to shine the light on films that many of us have never heard of or wouldn’t give a second glance to if we came across them. I have a such a soft spot for the low budget fodder that populated the video stores of my younger days. The films that inevitably caught my eye were the many action fests and sci-fi/horror flicks that seem to show up every Tuesday when the new titles hit the shelves that in many cases starred actors I knew and considered myself a fan of. You know, the weekly release of the latest David Carradine or Donald Pleasence flick. Many of which never turned up in a theater setting.
I felt the urge to go on a binge watch of these oddities and flicks we’re not likely to see playing network TV any time soon so let the spotlighting begin. For a previous spotlight on 5 more sci fi/horror flicks of the VHS era, please click …………………….. HERE …………………
Island Claws (1980)
By no means as well known as Steven Spielberg, Hernan Cardenas produced and directed this snapping feature written by Riccou Browning (Creature From the Black Lagoon) that casts a couple of familiar TV faces in the lead roles. Robert Lansing and Nita Talbot run an island bar and grill not far from a nuclear power plant. Damned if they didn’t have some sort of spill that sent waste into the local waters and shorelines.
We could subtitle this one, “When Jan Met Pete.” You see Jan(Jo McDonnell) is a technician at a research lab that studies shellfish, mainly the King Crab while Pete (Steve Hanks) is Lansing’s son. It would appear that we have a bit of a Romeo and Juliet thing going on as Lansing isn’t a fan of the young ladies job or her father her owns the power plant. But enough about that romantic crap. This is a GIANT crab movie and when thousands of the little critters flee the waters into the island jungles, they’re going to attack the locals which culminates in one monster sized crab that can tear houses apart and snap a man in half with his large claws.
Thank heavens Lansing is on site to lead an attack against the hard shelled monster and heck, maybe we can even smooth over the Romeo and Juliet angle by the time the cast are enjoying a monster sized buffet of crab meat.
Nita Talbot should be a familiar face to most having done extensive work in television and movies. As for me, I always identify her with Hogan’s Heroes. Lansing made a habit of appearing in these kinds of films going back to a 1959 favorite, The 4D Man that I like to revisit on occasion. He’s also remembered as the man with the black cat in one of the episodes of the original Star Trek series.
I found Island Claws on blu ray thanks to Scorpion Releasing should you be wanting to sample the cuisine yourself.
What the heck took me so long to finally see this one from producer/director Charles Band?! How about the fact that it’s as bad as I’ve heard in most any review I’ve seen over the years. That is except for magazines like Fangoria which if I recall probably plastered the gore effects across their pages when I was buying monthly issues back in the day. More than anything the movie probably found a second life in the late 80’s when Demi Moore’s career took off making her one of the most desirable women in the world. At least in the eyes of this youngster she was.
Before going any further I need to know if anyone else thinks they hear pieces of the Planet of the Apes soundtrack in here. I know I did.
As for the plot, it’s a futuristic world filmed behind someone’s roadside diner in a rocky area to give us that post apocalyptic feel. Look close and you might see Fred and Barney working the quarry. Robert Glaudini is some sort of a scientist working for what’s left of the government and he’s on to some parasite that grows to epic proportions but like a certain space creature that Sigourney Weaver is familiar with, it needs a human host to incubate in and grow. Damned if it doesn’t want to burst free from your stomach as well.
Did I mention this one was a 3D release? That’s another reason why this one remains in my memory from it’s release date. I of course wanted to see it for that reason and the gory details I was hearing about like the pipe going into a man’s stomach and blood pouring out the end of it right into your lap thanks to the 3D glasses I’d be getting at the door. As the trailer points out, “In 3D you will live the film.”
Glaudini is on the run trying to save mankind in a Chuck Heston/Omega Man kind of way while Demi inexplicably seems to fall for the guy in less than 8 minutes of screen time and gets some atrocious dialogue to spout resulting in a performance that comes off as rather stiff. Who cares anyway, this one is all about the gross out special effects where faces explode and the parasite grows to arm length proportions with the teeth of a tiger shark to match. Stan Winston who would go on to big budget F/X flicks like Aliens (aha) and Terminator 2 is credited here early on in his Oscar winning career as the F/X designer.
Wanna see it? I found an old DVD release from Anchor Bay recently that wormed it’s way to my movie room.
Both Patrick Wayne and John Carradine were a long way from the John Ford stock company by this point in what was left of their careers but guess what, this one is a guilty pleasure filmed directly to the VHS tape that comes off looking slightly better than a home movie at times. Going in to it I had no idea that I was embarking on a sequel. Apparently this is a follow up to a 1985 VHS filmed title called Blood Cult. Have that one as well but the lure of the Wayne/Carradine combination suckered me in not realizing I was in for part 2 of a satanic cult operation.
Apparently some prominent folks are involved in the cult overseen by Carradine (of course) and a town Doctor. It’s farming country and Pat Wayne comes back to his ancestral home after his brother is killed. Then his sister. Then the gorgeous girl down the road with hardly a stitch of clothing on. Then the college Dean. Oh yeah I forgot about the farmer with the hatchet embedded in his cranium. Maybe these aren’t all coincidental Wayne begins to think. Duke didn’t raise no idiot!
With the aid of the farmer’s widow, Wayne discovers a secret location where robed figures call forth a demon and Carradine makes one of his two appearances in the film. By this time the usually busy John was slowing down and would pass on in November of 1988. I’m not sure what Pat Wayne is doing in here but perhaps he knew the director Christopher Lewis and was doing him a favor. It’s the lowest of budgets here and what there is of it probably went to Wayne and Carradine and the chopper pilot for some overhead footage. And still it got me with a twist ending. Kudos.
Low budget of the HG Lewis sort which got me thinking maybe director Christopher is related to the Godfather of Gore but NO, he’s actually the son of Loretta Young!
I recall this being released on VHS and skipping it way back when but thanks to a triple feature released on DVD from VCI Entertainment, it now sits on a shelf here in the movie room. It’s also allowed me to place a check mark beside another John Carradine appearance.
Destroyer (1988) aka Shadow of Death
Another title I missed on VHS that I’ve caught up with thanks to a release on blu from Scream Factory. I’m not sure how I missed this one either cause I usually made a point of seeing all the thrillers that starred Anthony Perkins in his post Psycho II era. Here his role is more of an elongated cameo but to see him play a director within the movie and holler out to his cast one line in particular makes the whole thing worthwhile.
“Cecil B. DeF—ingMille Cut!!!”
Perkins is directing the low budget thriller, Death House Dolls on location in a shut down prison where a famed psychopath was put to death. Or was he? The film opens with former football pro Lyle Alzado about to electrocuted for murders and other atrocities. While he’s in the chair, the electricity short circuits leading to a prison riot and the possible disappearance of Alzado’s madman. Fast forward to Perkins and his film crew just awaiting the return of the boogie man and the inevitable rising death toll.
Aside from Perkins and Alzado the film focuses around the script writer, Clayton Rohner and his girlfriend/stunt woman, Deborah Foreman who when the time comes are going to be running for their lives through the bowels of the prison when Alzado turns up alive and well and hungry for violence. The gore quotient runs high as Alzado is more or less a knock off of the Myers/Krueger/Vorhees style of killer who keeps coming back for more bloodshed just after you think he’s down for the count.
Kind of liked this one with the creepy prison janitor scoring points and hey, even the compulsory nude chicks in the shower scene for Tony’s low budget film get their own screen credit at the end of the picture. They’re all listed under the heading Sirens in the Shower.
Deep Star Six (1989)
Sean S. Cunningham, the director of Friday the 13th gives us this underwater thriller from producers Andrew Vajna and Mario Kassar. All three are names film buffs might be familiar with and for the most part they deliver the goods in this flick that was really the perfect late night rental on a rainy night.
Television star Greg Evigan gets the Kurt Russell role as the jack of all trades guy who along with a team of underwater specialists is living below the waves in an underwater facility. It’s a bit claustrophobic and the stress levels are rising. Could that be because an ancient logbook from 1848 suggests sea monsters were spotted in the area of the sea floor research they’re conducting? Panic is going to set in when a huge crater opens up and one of the teams submersibles are lost with the a crew aboard.
Human error? All eyes are pointing at Miguel Ferrer and he’s on the defensive. Underwater explosives trigger more issues so thankfully Lloyd Braun is onboard who is to go outside their underwater home and fix some techy stuff so the team members won’t lose their air supply. It’s when Lloyd is brought back in that something follows creating havoc for all. Blood and guts are about to be sprinkled about the facility in heavy doses. It also doesn’t do anyone any good to exit to the surface via a pod wither unless you decompress first. Yes I’m pretty much stating for a fact that someone forgets to do just that and is going to explode on his way to the surface.
It’s actually that scene that I recalled the most upon revisiting this one for the first time since seeing it on home video years ago. This one’s enjoyable in a Roger Corman kind of way. Made on the cheap with plenty of underwater sequences being filmed via the miniatures that are oh so painfully obvious. But come on, that’s what makes these flicks kind of fun.
Anyone out there know who Lloyd Braun is? I couldn’t help myself with the S——— reference.
This proved to be another title I revisited thanks to happening across a DVD copy in a throwaway bin just recently making this the only one of the 5 films covered here I’d actually seen before. If you’d rather a different underwater title perhaps you might enjoy Leviathan or The Abyss.
So how many have you seen or even heard of? Thoughts? Opinions? As always feedback welcomed and if I can suggest just one of these I’d direct you to ………………. nah, you pick.