Welcome to the Crypt!

Welcome to the Crypt!

Enter the Crypt as John "The Unimonster" Stevenson and his merry band of ghouls rants and raves about the current state of Horror, as well as reviews Movies, Books, DVD's and more, both old and new.

From the Desk of the Unimonster...

From the Desk of the Unimonster...

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14 September, 2009

DVD Review: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON—Two-Disc “Full Moon” Edition

Title: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON—Two-Disc “Full Moon” Edition

Year of Release—Film: 1981

Year of Release—DVD: 2009

DVD Label: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

One of the most popular Horror Films of the early ‘80’s, and one of the greatest Werewolf films ever made, John Landis’ AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON redefined that genre of horror as thoroughly as Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD did Zombie movies. With Academy Award-winning Make-up effects by Rick Baker, a terrific script from Landis, and a trio of incredible performances from David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, and Jenny Agutter, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF… stands head and furry shoulders above it’s lycanthropic competition of 1981, Joe Dante’s THE HOWLING and Michael Wadleigh’s WOLFEN.

Now Universal Studios Home Entertainment is releasing a brand-new two-disc “Full Moon” edition of this horror classic, hitting the stores this Tuesday, 15 September. In addition to a spectacular assortment of special features is a new, feature-length documentary, written and directed by Paul Davis, entitled Beware the Moon.

Two American youths, David Kessler (Naughton), and Jack Goodman (Dunne) are backpacking through England, and stop at a pub in the village of East Proctor, a pub with the ominous name “The Slaughtered Lamb.” Though the villagers are distant and cool towards the pair, the boys get along ok, until Jack asks the locals why they have a pentagram—a five-pointed star that legend holds is the mark of the werewolf—inscribed on the wall.

The innocent inquiry gets the pair banished from the pub, and they resume their hike with warnings to “… beware the moon …” and “… keep off the moors …” both of which are quickly ignored. They soon find themselves lost, and being stalked by… something. The pair is attacked; Jack dies, and just before David loses consciousness, the townsfolk of East Proctor, who followed the boys from the pub, shoot and kill their attacker.

Weeks later, David awakes in a London hospital to discover that his best friend is dead; officially, the two were attacked by an escaped lunatic. However, that doesn’t fit with David’s recollection of events. He saw the—thing—that attacked them, and it wasn’t human. Something that his friend Jack—his dead friend Jack—soon confirms, when he pays David a visit in his hospital room. They were attacked by a werewolf, and Jack is now condemned to exist as one of the undead until the werewolf’s bloodline is extinguished. A bloodline that now continues in David.

With this movie Landis, who had made his reputation as a director of comedies such as ANIMAL HOUSE, THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, and THE BLUES BROTHERS, demonstrated that he was equally adept at Horror Films. He skillfully blended both genres into a seamless whole, where the horror of David’s realization that he is a werewolf, and has viciously killed six people, can happen as he sits chatting with the corpses of his best friend and his victims in a pornographic theater. The bizarre dichotomy of the situation is perfectly balanced, and the viewer is never made to wonder whether they are watching a funny horror, or a scary comedy. It is what it is, and that is a terrific movie.

New to this release is Beware the Moon, a feature-length documentary by Paul Davis. Exhaustively examining the history and lore of the film, Davis visits many of the locations used in the production, as well as interviewing virtually every major figure involved in bringing the movie to the screen. Though most of the film’s background is well known to it’s fans, it has never before been presented in such depth and detail. If this is an example of Davis’ work, then I have a list of a good dozen films I’d love for him to examine in the same manner.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite films, and one of the three greatest Werewolf movies ever produced (along with 1941’s THE WOLF-MAN and 2002’s DOG SOLDIERS). Of course, the previous DVD release of this film resides in the Crypt’s library, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thrilled to have this release. For those who love this movie, the Beware the Moon feature alone is worth the purchase price; for those who have yet to experience this classic, I cannot think of a better way to do so.

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05 September, 2009

Rediscovering my Inner Monsterkid

I don’t think that it’s a secret among the readership here that I am a lover of Classic Horror. I certainly have never attempted to hide it; indeed, I proudly proclaim it. Classic Horror and Sci-Fi are my bread-and-butter, my raison d’être. Nothing satisfies me like a good Black & White movie—though I’m quite pleased the screen I watch them on is no longer 13 inches wide. I love everything from Edison’s FRANKENSTEIN, released in 1910, to the gore-filled Slasher flicks of the ‘80’s. True, I love the new stuff too—but nothing hits the spot quite as well as Karloff and Lugosi or a Giant Bug.

The only problem with that is that my icons… my heroes of horror, were gone before I had the chance to know them, even in a second-hand fashion through their films. Bela Lugosi died in 1956, eight years before I was born. Peter Lorre passed away in 1964, the same year I entered the world. Jack Pierce died when I was four, and the incomparable Karloff when I was five. I have vague memories of “the Wolf-Man guy…” dying in 1973—of course I mean Lon Chaney, Jr. I knew these names, of course—thanks to ‘Uncle’ Forry and his Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine—but all in the past tense, no differently than how I knew Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln. The stars of my youth, the ones I watched when my older sister would take us to the Drive-In, they were real, they were the present. Vincent, and Christopher, and Peter, and Robert… they might not be as good as Bela and Boris, but at least they were still here, and still making movies. And Forry was right there, still writing about them.

As I grew up, I failed to notice my heroes of the Horror Films were growing older, as well. When I was thirteen, I was thrilled to see Hammer’s best actor, Peter Cushing, as the Grand Moff Tarkin in STAR WARS. I also couldn’t help being struck by how old he appeared. I was nineteen when Famous Monsters of Filmland ceased publication, torn apart by a struggle to oust Forry from his editor’s chair. However, I was blissfully ignorant of this, mind occupied with the normal pursuits of a young man of that age. Soon the pressures and stresses of adulthood crowded the monsters out of that mind. Only occasionally could I revel in my childhood joys, with the chance airing of a well-remembered favorite or the regular Halloween movie festivals. With marriage came joint ownership of the television and the need to keep a wife, who did not share my love of horror, happy.

One genre film she did enjoy, far more than I did actually, was EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. Though I didn’t care for the film, considering it one of Tim Burton’s rare misses, I was pleased to see Vincent Price’s cameo appearance as Edward’s ‘Father’. I was also shocked at how old and frail he appeared, no longer the overpowering presence that so dominated the screen when he was on-camera. His death in ’93, followed by that of Peter Cushing the next year, in many ways were mileposts along the road that leads from the carefree days of childhood to the point at which life has wrung all the childlike joy from one. They were reminders that life is, at best, a temporary condition, one which ends for all eventually. In 1994 I received a much more personal, and lasting, reminder of that fact when my Father died.

More mileposts followed, and soon I felt as though the end of that road couldn’t arrive quickly enough, that I could hardly await the day when I could settle into being a bitter old curmudgeon sitting on my porch, yelling at the neighborhood children to “Keep the Hell off my lawn!” Divorce, middle-age, jobs lost and started were weighing me down, and life had essentially been reduced to a continuous cycle of nothing but Work/Not Work… no enjoyment, no relaxation, just working until I was tired enough to go home and sleep.

My family, my friends, even myself could see that something needed to change, and quickly. I needed to find something that I could enjoy, that would give me something to do, to keep me from focusing on all the negatives in my life at that time. Two unlikely, unconnected events coincided to give me that something, and reawaken a childhood love: Finding the Internet, and AMC’s Monsterfest.

In 1998, the Internet, while not new, was hardly the pervasive presence it is now. Now, phones, televisions, appliances—even our cars—are connected to the web, seamlessly and continuously. Then, connecting to the web was a process—and not always a smooth one. That was the year that my ex-wife and I had bought our first Internet-ready computer, and when we divorced a year later, I wound up with the machine. I turned back to writing; something I had done throughout my teen years, and something that always had helped me cope with problems that were plaguing me.

I also discovered communities on the internet, where people who shared common interests could gather and discuss them. I found several on Yahoo that appealed to me… one for Civil War enthusiasts, a couple for Aviation buffs… and of course, several for Horror fans. I was reminded of just how much joy I had found as a child in reading about Horror Films, and discussing them with my friends; and thought that perhaps, I could recapture some of that joy.

It was the fall of 2000 when I began to join the groups, and the buzz at the time was the upcoming Halloween season, and the anticipated glut of Horror films on cable TV. One package that was drawing many of the comments was American Movie Classic’s Monsterfest. Five days of non-stop Horror Films, featuring all the great Universal and Hammer classics that I had loved in my childhood. It had been years since I had seen most of those movies; I had to watch them. My only question was… “How?” Most of these films would be shown while I was working… how was I going to see them?

I knew the only answer was to record them, and, with the purchase of a jumbo pack of tapes and an extra VCR, I was ready. By the first of November, I had 42 movies on tape, ranging from James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN to PET SEMATARY, with dozens of classics in between. Favorites I hadn’t seen since childhood were mine to watch whenever I wished… and I found something to occupy both my mind and my time. Perhaps not the most productive use of that time, or that mind, but I didn’t care. At least I had something I could focus on outside myself—something that might serve to lift me out of my depression.

Well, they did that, and more. Soon I found inspiration for my writing, and began sharing my thoughts and opinions of these, and other, Horror Films with my fellow fans in the various Yahoo groups I inhabited. I began collecting Genre films, recording every one that aired, buying new ones as I could, seeking out the barely remembered treasures of my youth. In time, this led to an invitation to write for the Horror-Web, and my writer’s voice found an outlet, and a home. I also found friends, including one of the best I’ve ever had. I’ve never met the man face-to-face, yet I love him like a brother.

In the time I spent writing at Horror-Web, I gained so much… experience, and perspective, and an insight to the world of Horror Films that I had never known existed. I began my beloved Drive-In, my Attack of the B-Movie Monsters Yahoo group, devoted to the Drive-In theater culture and movies of the ‘40’s through the ‘80’s. It was through this eclectic group of fans that I gained two more of the best friends a man could wish for, friends that have hung together for each other through some very trying times. I also gained an identity—a nom de plume that would become very familiar to those who enjoy my writings—the Unimonster.

When my time at Horror-Web had run its course, contacts that I had made there served me well as I transitioned to writing full-time for Sean Kotz’s CreatureScape.com. There I was given the freedom to choose my topics, and to write the type of column I had long wanted to write… as I had described to Sean, an, “…op-ed column on the world of horror.” There I was free to rant and rave to my heart’s content, and to speak directly to the fans, whether they shared my opinions or not. Thus it was natural that, when Sean decided to change the focus of CreatureScape, I continue with my own site, and The Unimonster’s Crypt was born.

It’s now been two years since that day, and other than a lengthy hiatus during a period of transition in my personal life, the Crypt has continued growing at a healthy pace. As has my writing, which I like to think has improved considerably since I began committing thoughts to paper for the Horror-Web. Something else improved over the course of the Unimonster’s existence… John’s outlook on life. Ironically, it took one of the worst years of that life to teach me some valuable lessons about the mileposts on that metaphorical road I was traveling.
Beginning with the death of my Mother in the spring, and continuing through a personal health scare in the summer and a transition to a new house in the fall, 2008 was one huge milepost on that road… at least, that’s how I would have viewed it a decade ago. That’s before I had the pleasure of meeting one of my few remaining heroes of horror, albeit telephonically.

At what felt like my lowest point last year, I received a phone call from Forry Ackerman… the same Uncle Forry who had first inspired my love of horror nearly forty years before. For the duration of the phone call, we talked about many things… surprisingly, very little of it was genre-related. Instead, he spent more than a half-hour imparting some much-needed wisdom to an earnestly willing listener. Though it’s taken me awhile to glean the full value of that wisdom, I think I finally understand what kept that man happy until his death, several months after that conversation.

Through his long life, Forry had suffered many setbacks and heartaches, troubles that would’ve embittered many against a cruel and imperfect world. Yet he remained Forry, filled with the happiness of sharing his love of the Fantastic with any who cared to hear an old man talk. He never lost that ‘childlike joy’, or reached the end of that road. And that, I think, was his intended lesson to me.

Life is a journey, true. One that we can’t slow or stop. But we can have fun along the way, and we can choose what baggage makes the trip with us.

Blood in Black Ink: The CCA & The ‘Other’ Monster Mags

ARTICLE TITLE: Blood in Black Ink: The CCA & The ‘Other’ Monster Mags

ARTICLE DATE: Wednesday 26 July 2006

While very few Monster fans of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s would list anything other than Forry Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland as the most influential magazine devoted to our favorite genre, it was far from the only one. Following the success of FMoF, dozens of Horror and Sci-Fi themed magazines sprang up virtually overnight. Most faded away just as quickly, titles such as Screen Chills, Modern Monster, and World Famous Creatures merely a dim memory in the minds of a few dedicated MonsterKids.

One of the best of these short-lived magazines was Fantastic Monsters of the Films, published by Paul Blaisdell and Bob Burns, two veterans of the 1950’s B-Monster culture. As Burns recounts in his excellent book, “It Came From Bob’s Basement!” the experience was not a happy one, and ultimately ended with the Blaisdell’s utter disillusionment with the whole industry, and the end of their friendship. Unfortunately, its brief run ended years before I was born, and surviving copies are very difficult to find.

But nothing was going to supplant FM as the magazine of choice for movie information, at least as far as the young Unimonster was concerned. I was already getting the best movie news from Forry himself… Why would I need another “News” mag? No, my taste in monster mags went in quite a different direction.

I wanted stories to fire, as well as terrify, the imagination. I wanted ghouls, and vampires, and zombies rising up from the muck. I wanted blood spurting across the page… I wanted the legendary EC Comics I had long heard about, but had never seen. I wanted Tales from the Crypt and The Haunt of Fear, Shock Suspenstories and The Vault of Terror. But someone named Fredric Wertham had decreed, a decade before my birth, that such comics were “harmful” to the fragile minds of children. I learned at an early age an intense dislike for Wertham, the Comics Code Authority, and all they stood for.

Oh yes, there were horror comics to replace what had been lost, and I bought most of them, or as many of them as a dollar-a-week allowance would permit. (Remember, we’re talking 1973 or ’74, so that was quite chunk of change… at least, it was for a ten-year old Unimonster) DC had House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Tales of the Unexpected, and Ghosts. Gold Key had Ripley’s Believe it or Not True Ghost Stories. Marvel had… well, I was a DC loyalist, so I have no idea what Marvel had. Not that it would have mattered if I had, because all of these had one fatal flaw… they all fell under the watchful eye of that damned Comics Code Authority.

But I also learned that some publishers, not content to kowtow to the machinations of Wertham and the CCA, had figured out a way around the Code, and Dr. Wertham’s censorship. The CCA, they reasoned, applied only to Comic Books; therefore, don’t publish Comics, but rather Illustrated Magazines; oversized, printed in black & white rather than color. The first of these, not surprisingly, were the father & son team of William and Bill Gaines, the heads of the very same EC Comics that had started the controversy. Their breakthrough publication, Mad Magazine, soon inspired imitators throughout the industry.

Among the best of these was Skywald Publications, publishers of such magazines as Nightmare, Scream, and Psycho. Sticking closely to the formula that Bill Gaines proved successful fifteen years previously, their “Horror-Mood” group of magazines, with gruesome covers adorned with lurid titles such as “The Day The Earth Will DIE!” and “Monsters Battle Over The Blood Of ‘The Old Vampire Lady’!” never failed to grab my attention, though they were a rare sight in my neighborhood.

Another notable defier of the CCA was Warren Magazines, the home of Forry’s Famous Monsters. They began their battle in January of 1965, with the first issue of Creepy Magazine.
Creepy skirted the CCA the same way that Skywald’s Nightmare did, by not being a comic book. Their stories were as frightening, their artwork as gruesome, as the EC Comics I dreamt of reading, but these were free of that accursed stamp-like logo on the cover. Like Tales from the Crypt, it soon gained a host; a cadaverous old gentleman named, fittingly, Uncle Creepy.

Creepy was followed before 1965 ended by Eerie, similar in style and content, but never its equal in quality; at least not in my opinion. Both were good, and Warren got more than its share of my loot on both mags, as well as FM. Of course, Eerie needed its own host, a pudgy, Peter Lorre look-alike by the name of (go figure…) Cousin Eerie. Great imaginations, those people at Warren.

But one thing they did excel at was, quite simply, picking talented artists skilled at depicting the female form. And nowhere was this skill better utilized than on the covers and in the pages of Vampirella.

I don’t remember when I started buying Vampirella; I do know that it wasn’t as early as when I began buying the other horror mags in my collection. At that age, the adventures of a ‘girl vampire’ in a skimpy costume didn’t hold nearly as much attraction for me as did the zombies, witches, and werewolves of other mags. I do remember that there came a time when those Vampi covers began to look much more interesting, and soon, I was a regular reader. Thoughts of how Vampirella would have been impossible under the auspices of the CCA occasionally came to mind, and I was extremely grateful that there were publishers who resisted that faceless, bureaucratic, monolithic, bunch of… commies, who dared to dictate what I could see in my comics.

Well, I eventually learned that the dreaded enemy of my youth, the entity that I imagined hung like some great black cloud over the heads of the poor, oppressed writers and artists of the comics industry, was in fact that self-same industry.

Little had I known that this Stalinist figure I had imagined looking at each page of art before it went to press, tearing it to shreds in front of a cowering artist, was simply the industry’s effort to police itself to avoid stricter controls. And all the salaciousness that I thought had filled the EC comics that were the objects of my four-color desire would scarcely be noticed today, in these days of the Graphic Novel.

I had lost touch with the monster mags by the time I turned 17 or so. We moved to a small town in Tennessee, and I no longer saw them on the racks at the local store. College, and life, soon intervened, and I was completely unaware when Warren ceased publication in the early ‘80’s. All of my monster mags, all my comic books, everything that had filled my world when I was young was soon gone, seemingly lost into the void with my childhood.

But the memories remain… covers tight and glossy, pages flat and sharply white. My memories remain, unlike the real thing, always in mint condition.

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DVD Review: 300

Title: 300

Year of Release—Film: 2007

Year of Release—DVD: 2007

DVD Label: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


This might seem like an odd film for me to review, a historical epic about the Battle of Thermopylae 2,500 years ago. However, anyone familiar with Frank Miller’s work, especially the fantastic SIN CITY, would realize that he could make the dictionary fit into the genre category.

For those unfamiliar with this most pivotal battle in the history of western civilization, it occurred as a massive Persian army (best estimates place it at around 250-300,000 men, not the one million mentioned in the movie…) invaded Greece in the 5th Century B.C.
A force of 6-10,000 Greeks, led by 300 Spartans under the command of their King, Leonidas, met them at a narrow coastal pass that commanded the exit from the invasion beaches, a pass called by the Greeks “The Hot Gates”—Thermopylae. With the Thespian and Phoecian armies covering his back and flank, Leonidas positioned his personal bodyguard of 300 handpicked men—all the Spartan council would allow him to take—astride the pass.

Over the next three days, 300 Spartan soldiers held the pass against the combined might of what, at the time, was the largest empire on earth. On the third day, a local shepherd named Ephialtes led the Persians to a small path behind the Spartans. The Phoecians defending Leonidas’ flank scattered, and a contingent of Persian infantry encircled the doomed Spartans.
The Spartans, remaining true to their beliefs, refused to abandon their positions and retreat with the Thespian army. Earlier, when asked to lay down their weapons, the Spartans replied “Molón labe…” “Come and take them.” They honored that statement, dying to the last man. That simple phrase is still the motto of the Greek Army. At the site today lies a simple marker that reads, “Go tell the Spartans, passersby, that here in obedience to her laws we lie.”

That is the history. And as inspiring and heroic as it is, Frank Miller managed, in his graphic novel 300, to inject steroids straight into the bloodstream of the historical facts. Then Zack Snyder got a grip on it. He hit it with 1,000 volts of pure energy, and zapped it with a little gamma radiation for good measure. The result is history, mutated.

Snyder, whose last genre work was the 2004 remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD, does a spectacular job here of transferring Miller’s graphic novel directly to the screen. The look and texture of Miller’s artwork has been perfectly captured by Snyder’s camera, giving the film a look unlike any other.

The acting is superb, especially that of Gerard Butler as Leonidas, the Spartan king; Lena Headey, as his queen, Gorgo; and David Wenham, as Delios, the lone Spartan survivor, sent back to rally support for the king. Dominic West, as the traitorous Theron, also deserves special mention, as in Theron he creates one of the slimiest villains to slither across the screen in some time.

If this film has a flaw (and that’s a big IF…) it’s that the history of Thermopylae is often buried under layers of surrealism, from a 7½-foot tall Xerxes, to a Persian court that resembles a traveling circus side-show, to the use of elephants and a rhinoceros in the Persian order of battle. Scenes excised from the final cut of the film were even more bizarre, with dwarf Persian archers riding giant humans into battle.

But these excesses are faithful to the graphic novel, and do nothing to detract from one’s enjoyment of the movie. To be frank, only a serious student of history will care about such exaggerations; and in the core of the story, where it really matters, the filmmakers stay fairly close to Herodotus, the first chronicler of the story of the 300.

My DVD is the Widescreen 2-disc Collector’s Edition, and is absolutely perfect. Subtitles, menu design, graphics, video and audio quality… There’s nothing more I can say—everything is simply perfect.

As you might expect from a DVD labeled as “…Collector’s Edition” there’s no shortage of special features here, and contrary to the norm, none are ‘throw-away’ bits added just as filler. The best, at least to this history buff, is a detailed look at the history behind the fiction, the true story of Thermopylae. Hosted by historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson (who was advisor to the production…) this nearly half-hour long documentary examines the film in relation to the factual accounts of the battle, most notably Herodotus'.

There are also multiple looks at the making of 300, including the short clips that were originally posted to the movie’s website during production. These detail some of the fascinating techniques used to bring Frank Miller’s vision to life, and such insights are always a favorite of mine.

There are more bonuses than the norm on this set, for which I’m extremely grateful. When I’m as big a fan of a film as I am of 300, then I want every special feature I can get in connection to the movie… with this set, I feel like that’s what I’ve gotten.

Let me end the suspense now: Barring something truly spectacular on the part of the genre films yet to be released this year, (and I think I’m safe on that score…) this movie will be my Movie of the Year for 2007. It has everything you could possibly want in a film of this type, from fantastic action to tremendous special effects, all captured in stunningly beautiful photography. Miller’s art is extraordinarily unique, and it seems to compel filmmakers to try to transfer it intact to the screen; as in SIN CITY. I for one am thankful for that.

I grabbed my DVD from BestBuy the day it was released, and paid about $25.00 for it. And it’s selling at Amazon.com right now for about $2 less. But whatever you pay for it, pick it up now… and thank me later.

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Year of Release—Film: 2008

Year of Release—DVD: 2009

DVD Label: Warner Home Video

As anyone who read my 2008 in Review [7 February 2009] column might recall, the year in genre film was dominated by one movie—Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT. From the powerful script, by Nolan and his brother Jonathon, to some of the best effects work I’ve ever seen, to Heath Ledger’s chilling performance as the Joker, this movie scored on every level; so well, in fact, that I named it 2008’s Movie of the Year.

Most of the cast of BATMAN BEGINS returns for this sequel. The notable exception is Katie Holmes, who originated the role of Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend and love interest. Maggie Gyllenhall takes over the role here, and does an excellent job with it. Christian Bale, of course, returns as the Darknight Detective of DC Comics fame. Bale may not be my favorite actor to have essayed the role of Batman, but there is no doubt his is by far the darkest, most powerful portrayal. What he approached with his performance in BATMAN BEGINS he solidly nails here.

Michael Caine returns as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s aide (butler just doesn’t seem to do justice to his importance…), and delivers what might be his best performance, bar none. Morgan Freeman is solid as Lucius Fox, Wayne’s right hand man at Wayne Enterprises, and Gary Oldham does a superb job bringing Police Capt. James Gordon to life.

New to the cast for this sequel are Thomas Jane, as District Attorney Harvey Dent, and the late Heath Ledger as Batman’s archenemy, the Joker. Jane is a bit overbearing at times as the righteously crusading D. A., though overall he does a good job. And, while there’s little more that can be said for Ledger’s performance as Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime, it is something that the viewer must experience to appreciate.

This DVD is the stripped-down version, without any bonus features. While usually that works against any release I choose to review, the object here is the movie itself, and a film of this quality is quite capable of standing on it’s own merits. Though I still consider Tim Burton’s BATMAN the best filmed version of the Caped Crusader, this is by far the most powerful. See it—own it. Take the Unimonster’s word on it.

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Junkyardfilms.com's Moldy Oldie Movie of the Month: RAT PHINK A-BOO-BOO

The Unimonster’s Crypt—Junkyardfilms.com’s Moldy Oldie Movie of the Month!


Year of Release—Film: 1966

It's dark of night. (So dark in fact it's hard to figure out what the heck is going on!) A young woman is being chased and terrorized by three young thugs. She tries to hide but is found, severely beaten and her purse is stolen. The young thugs run off, laughing.

A well-dressed young man is seen standing on the sidewalk in LA, signing autographs, while a narrator tells us that he is Lonny Lord (Ron Haydock), a famous rock-n-roll singer who never goes anywhere without his guitar because he likes to sing for his fans. Sure enough, he bursts into a lame 60's R&R song on the corner of Hollywood and Vine even though no one asked him to sing.

Later, he meets up with his girlfriend, Cee Bee Beaumont (Carolyn Brandt, director Ray Dennis Steckler's real-life wife at the time). To prove they are deeply in love, we see scenes of them cavorting on beaches, riding a carousel, playing a spastic game of football and holding hands. Meanwhile, back at the thug's apartment, the gang leader Linc (George Caldwell) and his partner Hammer (Mike Kannon) lounge around while toady Benjie (James Bowie) restlessly paces, wanting some action. This is established by his repeating, "We gotta do something. We can't just sit around. We haven't done nothing since last night. Let's go do something fun" over and over for at least five minutes. Lonnie's seen taking Cee Bee back to her apartment while the thugs leaf through the phone book, searching for their next victim.

Cee Bee is taking a bubble bath when the phone rings. A threatening voice asks if she's Cee Bee Beaumont. When she answers in the affirmative, the voice repeats the question. Frustrated, she hangs up. Again the phone rings and the voice repeats the same menacing question. Seems the thugs have found their next victim! But, unconcerned, Cee Bee gets ready for the pool party at Lonnie's house. Lonnie sings another forgettable 60's rock-n-roll song while bikini-clad girls wiggle their fannies at the camera and Cee Bee does a spirited twist. Suddenly, she's informed she has a phone call. When she answers the phone, the menacing voice repeats the same question "I want Cee Bee Beaumont" over and over. Frightened, she runs out of the house and drives home. As she runs past the gardener into her apartment, she grabbed by the three thugs who kidnap her. The gardener Titus Twimbly (Titus Moede) tries to rescue her but is knocked unconscious.

****By now you are probably thinking "Whoa! I thought this was comic book hero month! What is this gritty little B&W crime drama movie doing here!?! Where's the super-heroes!?!” Well, hold on. Their on their way!*****

Learning of his girlfriend's kidnapping and having been instructed by the kidnappers to bring $50,000 by that evening, Lonnie sings a lover-done-me-wrong ballad while Titus tends to his wounded head. Titus asks what they are going to do and, with that, Lonnie springs to his feet and exclaims "This is a job for you-know and who-know!". And both race into a closet! After some audible banging and clanging and much door-knob twisting, out spring...Rat Phink and Boo-Boo! Two colorful caped-crusaders ready to do battle for truth, justice and Carolyn Brandt!
Benjie goes to the ransom money drop site and performs some comic relief by accidentally getting locked in a dumpster and needing the help of a passing cowboy as Rat Phink and Boo-Boo look on. Benjie takes the briefcase back to the thug’s lair, little knowing that Rat Phink and Boo-Boo are hard on his tail. A fight ensues as our super-heroes fight the thugs for possession of Cee Bee (who is basically useless as she just stands there looking horrified and not even running away or screaming!). Linc grabs the passive Cee Bee and flees in his pick-up truck as Boo-Boo gives chase on their motorcycle with Rat Phink standing in the sidecar. Linc drives through the hills surrounding LA until his tire becomes stuck in some loose dirt. Rat Phink and Boo-Boo arrive and begin the fight anew. Just then, a passing stranger asks Cee Bee if she'd seen Kogar. Confused, she shakes her head "No' but her confusion soon ends as Kogar, a giant ape, enters the scene. Kogar grabs Cee Bee and runs away into the hills, his trainer (Keith A. Wester) hot on his heels. Link is finally knocked out cold and Rat Phink and Boo-Boo go chasing after the fleeing ape. Just as Rat Phink is preparing to duke it out with the diminutive King Kong, the trainer arrives and takes his now passive ape away. [Ed. Note: From the author, “Steckler said the reason the ape was in this movie is an actor friend had been hired to play an ape on another shoot and still had a few hours before the suit had to be returned to the costume shop. So, Steckler, always looking for a cheap way to pad his films, wrote the ape fight scene in right on the spot!”] Pulling off his super-hero ski mask, Cee Bee learns that Rat Phink is Lonnie and they kiss.

Now, that should be the happy ending of Steckler's opus but the film was running short so he had to come up with a super-hero ending that fit. The city of LA was holding a parade that day so, without permission, Steckler had Rat Phink and Boo-Boo, along with Cee Bee, drive their motorcycle into the parade line-up so it looks as if the parade was being held in their honor! Cut to another beach scene where Lonnie sings yet another silly 60's R&R song as young girls wiggle their fannies at the camera and Cee Bee dances. The End.

In Feb 2004 I ran into Ray Dennis Steckler at his video store in Las Vegas. A very nice man, he discussed his career and his movies with me and I asked about the vertigo-inducing plot switch in Rat Phink A Boo-Boo. He explained that after shooting about 40 minutes of a crime drama, he got bored and decided to switch to a comedy about super-heroes. He explained that even the title was a mistake. The true title was supposed to be Rat Phink AND Boo-Boo but the title card designer forgot the 'n' and 'd' and Steckler didn't have enough money to have it corrected so there it stayed! And, so brings us to the end of this thrilling movie and this review! Until next month...enjoy! Or not!