First came the double-feature disc, beginning with the "Let's Go to the Drive-In" feature, continuing with complete extra feature films, and now still remaining jam-packed with supplements to fill the platter to the brim. Now Something Weird Video has introduced the Triple Feature Disc, a format that has been visited several times before (MARIHUANA/ASSASSIN OF YOUTH/REEFER MADNESS, the OLGA trilogy, the FLESH trilogy) but seems to be the company's favored presentation of their lesser-known oddball attractions. I can't say that all three flicks here are enjoyable trash, but at least they're being preserved by a company that cares!
Hailing from the Lone Star State of Texas, THE ATOMIC BRAIN is one of those films you honestly can't believe was conceived in the mind of a sane individual, let alone given a theatrical release. Meet Mrs. March (Marjorie Eaton, veteran of several 50s horror flicks), a crusty old hag who is tired of her withered carcass and has enlisted the help of her servant Victor (Frank Fowler) and disturbed scientist Dr. Otto Frank (Frank Gerstle) in retrieving the perfect female specimen to transplant her brain into. Three foreign domestics, British vixen Bea (Judy Bamber, the snotty art model in A BUCKET OF BLOOD), Austrian brainiac Nina (Erika Peters), and Mexican dumbbell Anita (Lisa Lang), come to the house to begin serving Mrs. March. They start putting two and two together when Mrs. March screams at them for getting their hands dirty and calls Anita "useless and disgusting" when she discovers a mole on her back (!). The pace of ATOMIC BRAIN can be tedious, but there are so many moments of sublime madness that the short (but long) runtime can be forgiven. Take, for instance, Anita: she's shacked up in the basement due to her less-than-perfect body and becomes one of Dr. Frank's bizarre experiments. The result? A snarling Anita with a cat's brain inside of her body! She drinks milk from a plate, hisses at Mrs. March, and climbs all over buildings on the March estate! Yowsa! Add to the mix a dog-faced monster man stalking the grounds, an inane musical score, some of the lousiest foreign accents you'll ever hear, a grisly pin-through-the-throat effect, a great surprise ending, and Bradford Dillman narrating (!!), and you've got one of the strangest low-budget horrors to erupt from the South, and one of the most entertaining.
THE ATOMIC BRAIN was a late-night TV staple for years and has seen a number of public-domain video releases, most recently on an Alpha disc and as part of an MST3K DVD set, but all have been fuzzy 16mm transfers. Now, Something Weird has unearthed what seems to be a negative or a mint 35mm print under the original title MONSTROSITY and has done a superb job remastering it! Blacks and whites are solid in contrast, with only a few scenes suffering from grain and white lines (usually dark outdoor scenes and stock footage) and two short instances of print jumping. You've never seen ATOMIC BRAIN look better, anywhere, so fans of this low-budget meowfest will be overjoyed to have the definitive presentation here. The mono sound mix is serviceable, given that the finished product was cheaply dubbed, and the musical score grates the nerves to no end.
Up next on this triple bill is LOVE AFTER DEATH, a black-and-white Argentinean sex-n-horror outing. We open at the funeral of Mr. Montel (set to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD library music), and in an instance similar to 1972's SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS, it turns out the poor fellow is suffering from catalepsy and is about to be buried alive! His mind screams out to his friends, his wife, his doctor, but to no avail. It's a pretty gripping opening to what amounts to a typically bizarre South American take on the horror genre. It's not as outrageous as, say, THE CURIOUS DR. HUMPP or one of Jose Mojica Marins' Coffin Joe films, but it's definitely not something you'd see an American company produce! Mr. Montel emerges from the grave as the mourners leave the cemetery, grabbing at mounds of dirt to escape, and staggers zombie-like through the cemetery. The entire sequence is very reminiscent of George Romero's 1968 classic, and is just as effective as the eerie opening scene of that masterpiece. However, just as the audience is settling in for a good old-fashioned horror flick, the film cuts to a close-up shot of Montel's blonde wife's busty delights, as she drinks a shot of bourbon while being felt up by the good doctor. It turns out that Mrs. Montel, Sofia, is a gold-digger who claims to be a virgin as her husband couldn't get it up in bed. Well, it seems that he can now! Directly after he crawls back to his castle and changes into some smarmy new threads, Montel is roaming the city streets, looking for kicks. He assaults a busty blonde in an alleyway, then barges into the apartment of a curious bystander, dragging the comatose blonde chick with him! He undresses the now willing blonde and forces the elderly apartment dweller to watch...her response: "Oh, if I were ten years younger"!! Unfortunately, Montel can't finish the deed and runs off shaking, leaving the blonde modeling her nude horny body for the head-shaking old bag. Keep in mind all I'm describing to you happens in the first 20 minutes! If you think that's wild, keep watching, there's so much more sexual deviation, film noir shenanigans, random Wishman-esque shots of squirrels, hilarious dubbing, ultra-strange violence, and eye-popping sexual kinks that I'll allow you to be surprised for yourself! LOVE AFTER DEATH is a film much more deserving of a cult following than it has; it's quite simply the most unbelievable film I've seen in quite a long, long time! Not since BLOOD FREAK did my jaw hit the floor so many times! There is plenty of familiar NYC library music present, most of which appeared in Andy Milligan's 16mm opuses, and in fact, most of LOVE AFTER DEATH looks to be an American production, with some great camerawork and oddball editing and a woodland setting reminiscent of New York's Central Park or the popular upstate locations of so many Distribpix productions. But it's really the library music that makes the movie even more fun than it already is, kudos to whoever distributed this monster for loading it up with great tunes!
LOVE AFTER DEATH's transfer, taken from a 35mm print bearing the alternate title UNSATISFIED LOVE, isn't in as good shape as that of MONSTROSITY, with a healthy dose of grain, white lines, dirt, and spots, so much in fact that during the finale it seems to be raining! Still, it's a quite satisfying presentation of a film that should be lost! The audio, preserving a delectable array of stock music regulars and some of the oddest dubbing you'll ever hear, delivers the goods well enough.
The bottom portion of this triple feature is THE INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD, which was called INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED MOVIE by critics upon first release...and it deserves it. Director Jerry Warren was famed for acquiring the Mexihorror films that even K. Gordon Murray wouldn't touch, and dubbing them without rhyme or reason. He made a number of awful "cult" items himself, including the abominable THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN (which resulted in a lawsuit by the character's copyright owners), TEENAGE ZOMBIES, and MAN BEAST, all of which are pretty hard to watch. INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD is not too different from his other films: filled with talk, little action, and not enough quirky touches to make it interesting. Scientist John Carradine conducts oceanic experiments in the middle of the ocean, sending down four of his team into the depths of the sea inside a diving bell. But the diving bell's cable snaps and they are sent plummeting to the bottom of the ocean floor. After Phyllis Coates (TV's "Lois Lane") has a hysterical fit complete with slapping to snap her out of it, the quartet emerge from their watery tomb and explore underwater. Uh...not much happens. Carradine gathers a search party and they putter around on the surface while the team discovers miles of secret catacombs...with nothing in them. Except a Gila monster...then they keep walking...find fresh water...(yawn)...share dramatic monologues...walk some more... Things finally get somewhat interesting when they find a skeleton and along with it, a bearded hermit who offers them no help...then it gets interesting again when he plans to kill them...then a volcano erupts underwater...then it's over. INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD is one of those movies that shows everything in real time...like a man getting into his car driving to the airport. The whole drive is shown, including close-ups of the radio, him driving, them his plane ride is given special detail (with a Jerry Warren cameo) even though nothing happens. It's padding of the worst kind, worse than stock footage, of which there is still plenty here! Tons of underwater stock footage makes up the majority of the running time, including some cool glances at octopi and sharks eating squid, which is pretty gross in a mondo movie kinda way, while we hear a narrator ramble about underwater life and the possible "secrets of the black wilderness." You get to hear more library music memorable from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, too, but I can't imagine anyone finding anything remotely entertaining or rewatchable about INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD and it's a journey best not taken.
The cover box makes no mention of it, but the presentation of THE INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD is letterboxed at 1.66:1 (!). The letterboxing makes the top and bottom of the frame seem incredibly cramped in most of the diving bell shots, but it seems to be accurate, for the most part. Needless to say, given SWV's track record in their black-and-white restorations, PETRIFIED WORLD looks superb, even if the film isn't so deserving of such treatment. It is slightly below the quality of the ATOMIC BRAIN transfer, but is clean and crisp enough to blow away any other video versions, with only the aforementioned stock footage suffering from any overwhelming grain. The mono audio is strong and supports the dreary dialogue and awesome library music clearly, if you want to hear what little happens.
In addition to the feature films, two of which combined have enough entertainment value for one disc, SWV has also compiled a nice array of frightful horror and sci-fi trailers. You get the original previews for ATOMIC BRAIN and INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD. The BRAIN title plays under its original title MONSTROSITY. PETRIFIED WORLD's trailer tries its best to make the film look exciting, but I'd be surprised if anyone bought the hard-sell on display here. If they did, I feel sorry for them. BACK FROM THE DEAD is a letterboxed preview for an early possession flick, with Peggy Castle being possessed by the former wife of her new husband. Looks interesting, and Castle is lovely. CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE played on a double-bill with Del Tenney's HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, and is the only other film by Candace Hilligoss (CARNIVAL OF SOULS), who sadly isn't shown in this preview. It's your standard story of kill-the-relatives-in-a-spooky-house, but this looks like it's a lot of fun, with a severed head on a silver platter before Andy Milligan did the same thing in THE GHASTLY ONES. The hyperbole-filled preview sells the Fright Release, an insurance policy similar to William Castle's MACABRE gimmick. FROZEN ALIVE is another petrified movie, with scientists experimenting with re-animated corpses. THE HANDS OF ORLAC is the 1960 version with Christopher Lee in another villainous role. Mel Ferrer is a pianist who believes the hands he inherited during a transplant are from an executed murderer and they are trying to make him kill. I've wanted to see this for some time, and the trailer does a good job of selling a rather silly concept. MONSTER A GO GO is a far-out preview for a deathly dull movie; do yourself a favor, skip the movie and revel in the psychedelic charms of its DVD co-feature PSYCHED BY THE 4-D WITCH, available from Something Weird! TERRIFIED looks awesome, I'm surprised it's not better-known if it's as good as its preview! There's a man impaled on a fence, a masked executioner chasing after his victims, a man is buried alive in cement as he screams for mercy, and an uneasy atmosphere of dread and chills. I've yet to see it appear on legitimate VHS or DVD anywhere, which is a shame. You can play all the trailers in a row via the Trailer Menu "Play All" option, which I think is another great extra feature.
You are also treated to the alternate opening title sequence for ATOMIC BRAIN under that name, which was its TV title. Compare the quality of this footage to the restored MONSTROSITY print and you'll be blown away at just how incredible a job SWV did with this flick! If that isn't enough, dig the always groovy gallery of horror comic book cover art with awesome music by the Dead Elvi! These galleries aren't praised enough, as they're not as extensive or historically fascinating as posters and stills galleries, but the music is just great and the garish pulp art just gorgeous. One cover of "Tales of Voodoo" even steals the poster art for THE NAKED WITCH! An Easter Egg on the extras page highlights a sexy shocker nudie loop, with two girls in revealing underwear peeking inside a haunted house and being tied up and terrorized by a skull faced stranger. It's pretty sick for an 8mm stag reel!
Another unadvertised extra is
the ability to play all three films in a row as part of a triple bill. It's
not as cool as the "Let's Go to the Drive-In" feature, but it's kinda
strange seeing a relatively innocent creaker like ATOMIC BRAIN followed by a
twisted sex bonanza like LOVE AFTER DEATH, which is then followed by a boring
sci-fi entity like INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD. Whoever selected these three
flicks to be thrown together on this disc deserves either a medal or a strait-jacket!
And I mean that in the best way! Go get this disc immediately for some warped
entertainment Something Weird-style. (Casey Scott)
BACK TO REVIEWS