Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Spaceship On Venus-Critically Acclaimed Science-Fiction Entertainment

By Steve D. Stones

 First Spaceship On Venus is a 1960 German-Italian production that was later dubbed in English for its American release. The film has been featured on Utah Education Network’s Sci-Fi Friday program a number of times. The special effects are excellent for its time, which may account for why the film is a critically acclaimed, serious science-fiction feature. The cast is a multi-racial, international group of actors.

An Asian scientist and an African-American astronaut, along with French, German and American scientists make up the crew of the Cosmostrator, a rocket ship that carries the crew to an expedition on Venus. Early in the 20th century, an explorer discovers a meteor from Venus that fell to the Earth with a communication device. In the year 1985, an expert of languages and sound analyzes the device to discover that Venusians plan to launch an attack on the Earth. Before releasing this news to citizens of the Earth, a group of scientists assemble, along with a number of robots, to travel to Venus in an attempt to communicate with the Venusians. Their mission is to stop the Venusian attack on the Earth.

 When they arrive, they discover an extinct Venusian civilization and some artifacts and dwellings left behind. The real star of First Spaceship On Venus is not the international cast, but the bizarre and atmospheric special effects that give Venus a foreboding and eerie appearance. Like many science-fiction films before it, First Spaceship On Venus employs a strange Theremin score that adds to the eerie atmosphere.

At one point in the film, the crew encounters a strange golf ball shaped dwelling that looks similar in appearance to architect R. Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome design. If you’re in the mood for a classic science-fiction film, you won’t want to miss First Spaceship On Venus. Happy Viewing!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Vampire's Ghost -- Mild-mannered John Abbott as a bloodsucker

By Doug Gibson

This is an interesting 1945 vampire tale, only 59 minutes, from Republic Pictures. It's semi-obscure and few retailers carry it (I've been waiting years to catch it on Turner Classic Movies) but it's just interesting enough to have a chapter in McFarland's "Son of Guilty Pleasures of the Horror Film" and Frank Dello Stritto gives it a couple of pages in his collection of essays "A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore."

Plot involves saloonkeeper Webb Fallon, a haggard-looking white man with impeccable manners, who runs a small saloon in an African port. There have been vampire attacks on the natives, and they are getting restless. They speak the language of drums, and the drums spell Fallon (John Abbott) as their chief suspect.

They are right of course. Fallon is a vampire, centuries old and very tired. He bemoans his fate but also accepts it with chilling simplicity. When he sets his sights on the pretty fiance of a young Englishman, it looks as if nothing can stop him.

What makes The Vampire's Ghost so interesting is that it deviates from the standard vampire plot made famous by Bela Lugosi. Vampire Fallon can move around in the light and sleeps in a bed with native soil from his grave by the bed.

As mentioned, he's sympathetic early but Webb is able to give his vampire a sort of polite heartlessness that underscores the undead sociopath that lies beneath his gentleman English exterior. In one scene, Fallon ruthlessly and quickly dispatches a boat captain and saloon dancer who have cheated him at cards. He also plays with the boyfriend (Charles Grodin) who knows that Fallon wants his fiance (Peggy Stewart). Fallon the vampire seems detached, as if he is repeating a game he has played many times before. He relies on sapping the inner strength of his potential victims. The languid, remote location of his life (Africa) underscores his soft deadly power.

If you can find this film, it's worth a buy, particularly if you enjoy the changing genres of vampire film. Surprisingly, in its own quiet way, The Vampire's Ghost predates Twilight. It's an example of well a fiilm can be made on a tiny budget. This would be an excellent addition to UEN's Sci-Fi Friday roster.

Notes: The Vampires Ghost was written by Leigh Brackett, who wrote Star Wars 5: The Empire Strikes Back. Roy Barcroft, who played the doomed boat captain, later played a sheriff in the 60s cult film Billy the Kid versus Dracula. The Vampire's Ghost, directed by Lesley Selander, was released on May 21, 1945. In the early 1970s, it played on the TV movie show Creature Features paired with House of Frankenstein. Another good blog review:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Plan9Crunch re-run: Sherman Hirsh on Lords of Magick

UPDATE ON March 11 -- "Ulric's Sword" added above, and a review at end of post
ANOTHER UPDATE on March 12-- another review by Steve D. Stones
UPDATE on Aug. 22, 2012, by Sherman Hirsh

WELCOME PLAN 9 CRUNCH FANS, to our week of The Lords of Magick, a wonderfully obscure 1989 fantasy feature about two wizards transported 1,000 years into late 1980s Los Angeles to rescue a princess from an evil wizard. We love this film, which cost less than $500,000 and has stubbornly stayed alive, available via online sellers. Later in the week Steve Stones and I, Doug Gibson, offer reviews of Lords of Magick and more. But first, we have a fascinating essay by the film's writer, screenwriter/director Sherman Hirsh. What follows is an entertaining, informative look into low-budget filmmaking in the 80s. It's worthy of being assigned to a filmmaking class. Plan 9 Crunch readers will recall Sherman's great essay on the making of Andy Milligan's Surgikill

So, enjoy this great essay, look for more as the week goes on, and remember that we're on Twitter now at

Thanks a bunch, now read on! -- Doug Gibson (P.S. Sherman refers to the film as Lords of Magic for mostly personal reasons. He would have preferred it was named The Thousand Year Quest).

Behind the Scenes with LORDS OF MAGIC

In the 70's, if you wanted to break into movies, you scammed your relatives out of all the money you could and made a Horror movie. So, I spent my 20's immersing myself in the lore of Gore, all the time wishing I could shoot a Conan movie. I had fallen in love with Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber and their peers as my chief escape mode while I was in Vietnam, and longed to commit those synthetic legends to film. However, nobody was making fantasy movies, yet. So, I wrote and tried to shoot zombie movies and monster movies and maniac movies and so on, all the while pretending to go to college and working and teaching film courses at a local junior college and trying to sustain a relationship and survive Cleveland. Obviously, the cards were stacked against me, and I felt I was getting nowhere, and taking a long time to do it. Having little to lose, I went to Hollywood at the tender age of 34. Hey, I sold two scripts in Cleveland, so I figured I could do better in the Entertainment Capital of the World!

In the mid-Eighties, before DVD's and Downloads made independent films a popular commodity, a lot of Indie films were made for the then growing Cable TV market. “CABLE FODDER” was the derisive term for these movies, describing their marginal quality and lack of strong Box Office cast members. However, the market was profitable for a while and many filmmakers tried to get on board.

All this sounds like ancient history now, and it is. I got to participate in some of that as the screenwriter of a semi-obscure mini-epic called LORDS OF MAGIC. If you remember my recent rant about my experience as the writer of Andy Milligan's last gasp, SURGIKILL, you will recall my mentioning LORDS OF MAGIC, which I had written before SURGIKILL. Unlike SURGIKILL, I had a chance to actually observe the making of LORDS OF MAGIC. While I didn't see all of the shoot, I did see some major scenes as they were filmed, and had a chance to speak to participants who were there.

I had sold a few XXX scripts once I got to Hollywood, and longed to graduate to something I could have my real name on and didn't have to apologize for. I got involved with David Marsh, a producer/director who wanted to crack the made-for-cable thing. “Give me a film I can shoot in two weeks for $120,000” he said. We kicked around a few ideas and a few scripts that never made it to a second draft. Then at one meeting he said, “Let's do one of those movies about a wizard rescuing a princess from a giant spider or something,” and eventually ended up formulating a Fantasy movie about wizards rescuing a princess from a nasty sorcerer. Probably one of the reasons the Middle Ages fell apart was everybody was wasting time rescuing all those damn princesses, resulting in them going from Feudal to futile. I, however, loved the idea of doing a fantasy.

LOM was the result of my messing with the generic prototype of the Sword and Sorcery Genre: Hero goes on a quest to save someone or something and gets a mate, after fighting a hammy villain and dealing with magic, and prevails because Good always wins out over Evil, even though Evil is more fun. However, I tend to want to warp the conventions of a genre, because while I love the genre, I hate the cliches. I split the hero in two and made them brothers. This was so I could separate them, sending each off on a separate adventure and have them re-unite at the climax. Instead of wanting to go on this quest, my protagonists are forced into it.

I used GHOSTBUSTERS as a plot model, working the scheme of having a lot of little events lead up to a big finale. This caused the director to brag to everyone who would listen, ”It's a lot like GHOSTBUSTERS!”

He didn't want to spend a lot of money on period props, sets, etc, and made me set most of the story in modern times, a thousand years out of the time of the heroes, hence my original title: THE THOUSAND YEAR QUEST. (This was also the premise several years later, of Coscarelli's BEASTMASTER II..) The final title came from a line I composed while I was revising the finale, “There can not be two Lords of Magic!” And there wasn't since we never shot the sequel I wrote.

I wrote the first draft of LORDS OF MAGIC while I was on jury duty. The judge asked all the jurors about their backgrounds and vocations. I said I was a freelance scriptwriter and he bitched and moaned about how Movies and TV never show what really goes on in The Courtroom. I was tempted to tell him that it was because trials are really boring and technical, with very little real drama. I chickened out and said nothing. For 5 weeks, I showed up at the LA County Court House and gave reasonable attention to the case, while pre-writing LOM in my head. The other jurors would see me writing notes in my little notebook and were sure I was writing a movie about this case. Little did they know... Eventually, we all got really annoyed with the whole process and gave the plaintiff $2,100,000, and went home. After a few script re-write meetings and the usual pre-production rituals, principal photography on LORDS OF MAGIC began in April of 1986.

A few minor technical notes: LORDS OF MAGIC was shot, before SURGIKILL, on the then state of the art video format, Betacam, while SURGIKILL was shot on old-school 35mm film. At the time, shooting a feature on video was comparatively rare. There were a couple features shot in the mid-70's on video, but they never went very far. There was one other feature made at the same time as LORDS OF MAGIC on Betacam. This is not to be confused with another extinct format, Betamax, which was a home video mode. Now, Betacam is obsolescent, having been replaced by HD.

The action which took place on Hollywood Boulevard, with the Redglen Brothers getting busted by the LAPD, was the first day's output. I got to watch the shoot. I even signed my first autograph for a nice tourist family from Canton Ohio, a small Rust-belt Ruin city near my hometown rust-belt ruin, Cleveland. This was my first look at the two young actors who brought my fantasy to life. The director and I had several differences of opinion about various aspects of the film, and casting was one of them. More on that later. However, I was totally satisfied with the choices he had made for the two wizard brothers.

Jarret Parker, as our Frodo-ish nice wizard, Michael Redglen, was a professional magician. He had done shows at the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood, performing some extremely clever tricks in a show he called Microcosmos. I was there the day he showed up, uninvited, at the producers office, amazed us with a few of his illusions and went home with the part. If you watch his body language when he performs his wizardly wonders on the screen, you'll notice that he really looks like he's doing magic. He did.

Ulric Redglen, the Bad Boy of Good Magic, was portrayed by Mark Gauthier, a professional actor, who got the part through the regular channel, by auditioning for it. He told me that he had mentioned to some friends of his who were into Black Magic and Witchcraft that he was playing a White Wizard and they placed a curse on the film. I think the curse is that it's taken over 20 years for the flick to get any real attention.

The Brothers Redglen were Merlinite Wizards, followers of Merlin. As far as I know, there were no such wizards, however, according to my source material, Merlin, or Myrddhin, was a real 13th century astrologer who had absolutely nothing to do with King Arthur. Wishing to avoid lawsuits, I needed a made-up name. Glens are green, so we'll use red, hence Redglen. I met an English tourist who told me he actually knew someone named Michael Redglen. Must be that curse at work.

Their native guide in this strange new world, Tommy Hill, was brought to life by David Snow, the star of the classic, THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD. Good actor, but a tad old for a college student.

Salatin, our Boogy Man, was Brenden Dillon, Jr., a male model and ardent surfer. I always thought he was too pretty for the part. My Salatin would have been a repulsive ugly old creep, his appearance being a reflection of his befouled soul. The name, SALATIN, came from the name of a practitioner of the Dark Arts who first appeared as a character in an ancient play. I found the name in an old book on magic and witchcraft , my source material, which revealed itself to me as it lurked in the cut out bin of my college bookstore. Brendan told me that Salatin came to him in a dream, wearing a white robe. Salatin told Brendan that he approved of how Brendan was playing him. I rescued the old bastard from obscurity and he never talked to me!

I wanted to play Salatin. I'm a mediocre actor, but a brilliant ham. Unlike SURGIKILL, however, there is a little of me in LORDS OF MAGIC, all of it voice-over work. In the King's Court scene, you'll hear me shout the off-screen line, “Send for the Headsman!” I also supplied various screams, laughs, demonic growls, etc, for the end of the Gypsy scene.

Some superstitious employee told David that I had put REAL WITCHCRAFT in the movie and he took out a lot of the magic. I really hadn't, and most of it went back in. Did he really think he could make a wizard movie and not have magic? I left the old book I used as source material with the director so he could use it for reference purposes, but he got nervous and made me get it out of his house. He must have thought it was an actual Grimoir.

That old book was actually a modern re-print of THE ANTHOLOGY OF SORCERY, MAGIC AND WITCHCRAFT, a French text first published in the 1920's, I used that book for all sorts of magic related material. Assorted chants, curses, Latin phrases, ETC. all originated in that book.

There is a chant Salatin speaks during the magic duel at the end:
If you speak this chant in a darkened room lit by a single candle while drawing a pentagram on the floor in chicken blood, in the dark of the Moon, NOTHING will happen. This is not a real invocation of Dark Forces. It is nonsense words used in an ancient play. I copied it out of that old tome.

The aura of Magic attracted a few aficionados of the Black Arts to the project. There is a scene where the Brothers use necromancy to make a hanged corpse help them talk to “The Old One”. I was told that this was not the correct way to do this, and Ulric and Michael should have taken the severed hand of an executed felon and in the light of the Full Moon...blah, blah, blah.

Whether you interpret the “Old One” as either Satan or some nauseating Lovecraftian Deity, did we really want to talk to it? Sometimes the magic works, sometime it just fires up weirdos. Remember, however, that this all happened in Los Angeles, where the pound won't let people adopt black cats during Halloween because they get sacrificed.

A few months after the film had wrapped, I spoke to Richard Rifkin, the actor who got hanged for the scene. He told me he had hung there so long, when they finally cut him down, he couldn't lower his arms! He was supposed to have been hung by the neck, but a proper hanging harness system was not in the budget. OUCH!

Most of the interiors were shot at a rented sound stage in North Hollywood, across the street from the Ragu Spaghetti Sauce plant. The set designer made excellent use of the space. There are stairs at either end of a second story catwalk. Those stairs appear in the Inn scene and the old book vault, where Tommy and Michael are attacked by a demonized librarian. Her prosthetic make-up was created by Tom Shouse, a talented special effects artist who was the sculptor of the mermaid's tail assembly in SPLASH, for which he didn't get credit due to his non-union status. Her darting tongue was CGI. Since LORDS OF MAGIC left, the place has become the headquarters for a company which sells grooming products for the Latino market. Ragu moved too.

I was hanging around the set the day they shot the castle scene of the Brothers' trial. The King of England in 986 historically was Ethelred or Aethelred Evilcounsel, was played by John Clark, then husband of Lynn Redgrave. The assorted courtiers, as well as the customers at the Inn, were played by a local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a nationwide cult of Medieval re-enactors. They came in their own personal costumes, complete with huge swords, some costing almost a thousand dollars. However, they really knew the era and its customs. Never mind that they were dressed for a time 300+ years after the time portrayed. Hey, this is a fantasy, not a documentary. The Redglens' chief accuser was played by a disgruntled actor who wanted to be cast as the King, as evidenced by his slightly annoyed attitude. Not all acting is ACTING.

There is one huge set representing Salatin's temple and the location of the Alter of Skulls. It was done on a soundstage in Hollywood near Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue, the same studio where Raymond Burr shot his insert scenes for the original 1950's GODZILLA. I ran a fog machine. There was also a thick cloud of smoke coming from a fire burning in the middle of the set. The special effects team who did the effect used charcoal lighter fluid, a particularly dirty fuel. I was blowing soot out of my nose for hours afterwards. This scene was a re-shoot, because the director didn't like the first attempt. Unfortunately, you can't see Tom Shouse's alter, which was impressive. It was covered in sculpted skulls, but is barely visible in this version. There is a large gargoyle idol which was rented from Universal, and had decorated their Dracula attraction until that was re-vamped into the Conan the Barbarian attraction.

This scene was shot in November of 1986. The wrap party had been in August, but they kept shooting. Somehow, a 2 week shoot costing $120K took almost a year to finish and cost almost a half million!

I watched the shooting of the action scenes involving the Rejects gang, before and after they were possessed, as shot in an alley in West Hollywood. The Rejects were professional stunt players. When you see the Redglens doing stunts, it's really Mark and Jarret doing their own stunts. They learned those stunts and the swordplay from those stuntmen. This is the scene in which Ron Jeremy, Adult Movie star, director and Troma regular, played a zombie who gets blown up. After his scenes were completed, he hung around the set wearing only his undies. I guess he just wasn't used to being around a camera with clothes on.

One incident that night sticks in my memory. There is a shot where Ulric stabs a Reject with his sword. The zombie's torso was a standard department store dummy with its chest carved out. It was covered with a rubber-like skin, and the “Reject” stood behind it. When Ulric stabbed the torso, the skin tore back, revealing a chest full of guts, REAL GUTS, as furnished by a local butcher! The actor playing the Reject reached into the chest cavity and pulled out a huge chunk of real liver covered in movie blood and started chewing on it. Everyone who wasn't gagging was laughing. I will never know why the director didn't shoot a clean take, but what you see in the film is that shot, with the gross-out deleted in editing.

Bad old Ulric, having been separated from his righteous brother, strays from his mission, with a little push from Salatin. He picks up a prostitute and gets a room. Salatin shows up rather rudely in the bathroom as Ulric is getting ready to roll and seduces Ulric into betraying Michael and joining Salatin's side. In my written version, Salatin says that since his body is very old and no magic can preserve it forever, he wants Ulric and the Princess to breed him a son whose body Salatin can take over. Our intrepid director thought this was too creepy, and took out the part about taking over the lucky kid's body. This was later the premise of GHOSTBUSTERS II. Do you detect a pattern here?

This set was the scene of a small bit of temperment on Mark's part. He was standing on the set, waiting to nail his hooker, wearing only a loincloth. He demanded that everyone not working on the picture get out. A few did, but after all, it was a Sex Scene! “Hey, I'm an Actor, not an Exhibitionist!” he declared. It struck me that it was like saying, “I'm a doughnut, not a pastry!” He was a Pro and not a Primadonna, and gave up his struggle to maintain his dignity and did the scene. At least he didn't "BALE" on us!

The Quest culminates in a massive battle of sorcery, “Just like the one in THE RAVEN (Roger Corman's).” The warehouse set took up the entire sound stage, uh, warehouse. If you have read the review of LOM as posted by ARION1 on IMDB, he talks about this scene, pointing out various shortcomings. He cites the name of the place, MARSH ELECTRONICS. I needed to avoid any legal traps, so I used the director's name. He wasn't in the electronics business, but he had a lot of electronics, so I riffed off that.

Arion1 finds the scene confusing. That's because it is. Large portions of information are missing. When Michael and Tommy arrive at the warehouse to confront Salatin, they witness him destroying a follower named Morgan. Based on the film alone, you won't know why. Actually, Morgan was a banker, who dabbles in in the Black Arts. Earlier in the movie, Tommy takes the Redglens to see him, on the chance that he might know how they can find Salatin. Morgan won't cooperate until Tommy threatens to make public the fact that Morgan does strange things with goats in his garage. Morgan relents and helps the Boys, which is why Salatin fries him.

The battle scene has all kinds of problems. For no good reason, after flinging spells at each other, Michael and Salatin suddenly are swordfighting. Why would wizards fence? At least they weren't doing Kung Fu.

The battle scene was shot over several days, but I only got to watch one. Somebody had made a finely detailed miniature of the warehouse, with the intention to burn it. There were also several harmless little snakes who were supposed to be huge and frightening on that miniature set. Never made the cut.

I wish I had been there the day the tiger showed up. He was named Raja. He was a seasoned movie cat and everybody got a chance to pet him.

Arion1 says, “The film attempts (and for the most part succeeds) in attending to every one of the elements of a fantasy adventure.” Well, DUH! It's a Fantasy Genre film, Arion1! The whole essence of Genre is the use of recognizable conventions that make the mode immediately recognizable.

He also finds fault with the battle scene. He finds it confusing. The background material on Morgan is not the only missing data. Of course it's confusing. The whole sense of attack and reply is missing. The final cut is a muddled montage of scenes until the payoff at the end when Michael discovers that Ulric has been ensorceled by Salatin.

I hate the Princess and the Pea scene. It adds nothing to our understanding of the characters nor does it advance the plot. David demanded it. I always regarded it as bulk that displaced material of greater value. I hate that David tried to make LOM into an urban action picture and sacrificed a lot of the fantasy. The film loses its intended nature as a quest. Instead of having the heroes FIND Salatin, they have to have Salatin shoved in their faces. Salatin should not have survived the adventure. Instead of having Salatin get greased once and for all, he pops up in the end tag in an gimmick totally stolen from the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE movie.

I liked the castle used in that shot. It was about 4 feet tall and made of finely crafted cardboard. David kept it in his garage for a time after the picture was finished. He also had Ulric's sword, which I rescued from David's garage floor. It's my only souvenir of the movie, other than the original typed first draft of the script.

Does that mean you shouldn't see it. SEE IT! It's still a lot of fun, even if it has a few warts. If you are one of those fans who likes to find goofs and flubs in movies, I'll point out a few. If you watch the Redglens through most of the movie, you'll see that they are wearing amulets made by Tom Shouse, similar to those he made for BEASTMASTER. These amulets are made of metal and have glass eyes in their centers. However, watch closely and you will observe that in part of the movie, those amulets are felt and the glass eyes have been replaced by shirt buttons. Somebody lost the originals. “Lost” as in lost in the bottoms of their pockets.

While on Hollywood Boulevard, Ulric is startled by a kid's boombox when it blasts out a loud stream of music. Except that the music was never included in the final mix, so we don't really know why Ulric is suddenly chasing the kid down Hollywood Boulevard. He just starts chasing the kid for no clear reason. In the tavern scene, Ulric calls to Michael who is talking to a weeping girl, “Join us, Michael, if only in song.” Except that it's not Mark who speaks the line. It's David.

So, that's my memoir of LORDS OF MAGIC. Try to see it. There have been several copies available on eBay. I emailed one of the sellers in Texas that I had written it and that it seemed to be up for sale because it was a slow mover. He replied that it was because Science Fiction isn't very popular in Texas. Science Fiction? Did they think all those magic rays coming from the magicians' fingers were lasers? Was Salatin wearing a space suit? Beam me up, Ulric! Oh, well, at least it's not SURGIKILL!

Sherman Hirsh
LORDS OF MAGICK, a short review
by Doug Gibson
I enjoy this film, obviously, or we wouldn't be featuring it. It is hampered by inexperienced acting, 80s Los Angeles settings (I agree with Sherman that it should have been set in long ago times) and the early shot on video is a tad uncomfortable to watch. I can't really explain why, it just doesn't feel right.
Having said that, Lords of Magick is a fun tale. Its strength is it simplicity. As written by Sherman, two noble young brothers who are wizards rescue a beautiful princess from an evil sorcerer. What could be plainer. Jarrett Parker and Mark Gauthier work well together as Michael and Ulric Redglen. Ruth Zakarian makes a beautiful Princess Luna. The shots of hanged men, zombies and a possessed librarian are well done given the budget. The 80s gang members seem like they might have stepped out a Police Academy film, but I love the scene where the Redglen brothers use magic to escape two thuggish LA cops.
The zombie swordfights are a lot of fun. My favorite scene is the library and the possession that ensues. The final conflict is cramped but still exciting. The low budget synthetic electronic flashes look cool. There are places that drag. I personally would have trimmed about 8 to 18 minutes from the film. But Lords of Magick keeps my interest. Again, that is due to the overall simplicity and respect for the genre that is in the script.
Sherman talks about a resemblance to Ghostbusters. I have to say that watching Ulric and Michael strolling down Hollywood I was thinking "Beverly Hills Cop" for a few seconds. Maybe it was the music??
I hope these extended 20 minutes for Lords of Magick will spur a few sales via ebay, etc. It's a fun film. An earnest attempt to capture an era that will fascinate us forever.
ANOTHER UPDATE LORDS OF MAGIC: Pimple cream not required
I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to want to view this film. The artwork on the video box reminded me of all the geeks I knew in High School who spent their free time playing Dungeons & Dragons board games and coating their faces with pimple cream.
As a fan of “cult films,” I find that it is necessary to keep an open mind to all forms of cinema, regardless of whether or not the genre appeals to me. My second viewing of the film proved to be a much more rewarding experience. An evil sorcerer kidnaps a beautiful princess named Lina. Two Merlin Wizard brothers named Michael and Ulric Redglen are on a quest to save the princess. The two are captured by Knights in a tavern and are brought before the king to stand trial for necromancy.
The king eventually sets them free to continue their pursuit in finding the princess. In the forest, the Redglen brothers encounter a hanging corpse. After using necromancy to revive the corpse, he tells them to go to the altar of the skulls to meet the evil sorcerer Salatin. There they urinate on his altar, which infuriates the sorcerer. They demand the release of the princess. Lord Merlin soon appears and tells them to go fourth some 1,000 years into the future to battle Salatin and find the princess.
Their journey takes them to modern 1980s Hollywood, California. Although Hollywood is full of weirdos, dropouts and dead beats, the locals find the two brothers to be very strange as they wonder through the town. They think the Hollywood buildings are castles. A cop approaches them and demands they surrender their swords. Ulric fights one of the officers. Both brothers are arrested and forcibly put in the police car, but magically escape soon after.
Continuing their journey through Hollywood, the brothers find a poster advertising a theatrical production of The Princess and The Pea. Here they hope to find the princess. Entering the theater, they fit right in with the crowd dressed in medieval costumes. Outside the theater they encounter a woman who they think is the princess. A gang attacks them, thinking they are raping and kidnapping the woman. One of the gang appears to be adult film star Ron Jeremy. After reading Sherman Hirsh’s write up on this film, he confirmed for me that one of the gang members is indeed Ron Jeremy. I’m just glad I wasn’t on the set the day Ron decided to hang out in his underwear. The title of the movie would have to be changed to “Lords of Regurgitation,” if you know what I mean?
While battling the street gang, Michael recites a chant as a young man looks out on the street from his apartment window reciting the same chant. The chant transports Michael and Ulric to his apartment. Here they meet Thomas and ask for his help in battling Salatin. Thomas’ girlfriend does not believe that Michael and Ulric are wizards. Thomas takes the Redglen brothers to an address with the number 666 on the mailbox. They enter an old dark house filled with cobwebs and dust.
Michael and Ulric leave the room in search of The Chamber of Love while Thomas stays behind. A corpse rises out of a coffin with glowing red eyes. All three men eventually find Salatin holding the princess captive in a trance. Ulric breaks the spell of the trance. He realizes she is the real princess from a mark on her chest. The group flees the house and returns back to Thomas’ apartment. Here Ron Jeremy and his street gang attack them again. The gang is now possessed by the power of Salatin.
After defeating the gang, the Redglen brothers ask Thomas for candles, salt and chalk. They create a chalk outline barrier on the floor to protect the princess from the evil of Salatin. Thomas and Michael go to a local library to find a book written by Michael a thousand years ago. The librarian refuses to allow them access to a vault in the basement of the library, so the two carefully break into the vault to find the book. The librarian catches them and transforms into an evil demon.
Meanwhile, Ulric approaches a prostitute in Hollywood, and pays her with a gold coin for her services. While in the hotel room with the girl, he encounters Salatin in the bathroom mirror. Salatin convinces Ulric to betray his brother Michael by fornicating with the prostitute. He is now possessed by the evil Salatin, and kills the prostitute before leaving the hotel room.
Leaving the library, Michael and Thomas go to a gypsy named Esmeralda to ask for her aide in locating Salatin. She finds him in her crystal ball. This is one of my favorite scenes in the film because some of the special effects in the scene are quite intriguing. The skull and Buddha on the shelf in Esmeralda’s room move around and laugh. Ulric returns to Thomas’ apartment to lure the princess out of the chalk circle. She is led out of the circle and into the presence of Salatin.
Michael and Thomas soon find Salatin in a warehouse and discover that Ulric has betrayed them. Michael challenges Salatin to a duel. An armyof zombies is ordered to attack Michael and Thomas. The two escape the zombies with the princess through an opening in the warehouse wall. Both Thomas and Michael use their sorcery to destroy Salatin. With the death of Salatin comes the death of Ulric.
Michael then takes the princess back to his own time. Michael asks permission of his father to resurrect Ulric from the dead. His father must confront the archbishop for permission. The film ends with the princess delivering a message from Michael’s father, informing him that he is now a nobleman, and can now marry the princess.
This film is proof that you can’t always judge a film in its first viewing, or even by the video box art. I have a greater appreciation for it now that I have viewed it a few times and read Sherman Hirsh’s writeup on the film (found on this website.).
Making a movie is not an easy task, so we always need to keep an open mind when we sit down to watch someone’s hard work, even if it is just “Cable Fodder,” to use Sherman’s word. Forget the pimple cream when you watch Lords of Magic.
Steve D. Stones
I'm knee deep in the script for SWORD OF THE DREAMERS - LORDS OF MAGICK 2.  We could conceivably be shooting by the end of the year and have it out by Spring.  My zombie romp is done and is about to get kicked out of the nest.  I'm turning the original LOM  inside out, and having two modern brothers get sucked into the Past by "Guess Who"  SALATIN to facilitate his revenge.  The title is a reference to how Salatin captures our plucky heroes and how the original Sword of Ulric becomes a key prop in this adventure.  Think your readers are interested in a sequel to a film made in 1986?
-- Sherman Hirsh

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rat Pfink A Boo Boo

By Steve D. Stones

Low budget director Ray Dennis Steckler is best known for creating the first so-called “monster musical” – The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living & Became Mixed Up Zombies (AKA Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary). Like most of Steckler’s films, he cast his wife Carolyn Brandt in a leading role in Rat Pfink A Boo Boo (AKA The Adventures of Rat Pfink A Boo Boo).

As campy as the title may be, the person who created the opening titles for the film forgot to put a letter N and D after the letter A so that the title would read: Rat Pfink And Boo Boo. To further complicate matters, a letter P was placed in front of the word Fink, likely to not confuse the Rat Fink character in this film with the famous Rat Fink character created by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth in the 1960s. Confused yet? Perhaps this was Steckler’s way of avoiding copyright infringements?

A group of hoodlums is constantly harassing Ceebee Beaumont by calling her on the telephone. Ceebee is the beautiful girlfriend of rising rock singer and teenage heartthrob Lonnie Lord, played by Vin Saxon (AKA Ron Haydock). The group follows and kidnaps Ceebee, played by Steckler’s wife at the time – Carolyn Brandt, and demands a ransom of $50,000.00 from Lonnie.

Lonnie and his gardener, played by Titus Moede, thrust into action by dressing up in costumes similar to Batman & Robin, but instead they wear ski masks. They call themselves Rat Pfink & Boo Boo, in case you haven’t guessed by now. The two catch up with the hoodlums and save the day by rescuing the girl and avoiding a confrontation with a giant ape named Kogar.

Various interesting scenes in the film use colored filters over the black and white photography, such as an opening night sequence in blue of the hoodlums attacking a young woman to steal her purse. Other scenes use a red filter over the black and white.

The DVD and video print of Rat Pfink A Boo Boo, sold by Sinister Cinema in Medford, Oregon has a short introduction by director Steckler. Steckler’s films have gained a strong following in recent years, and have even been featured on Turner Classic Movies, a cable network that screens classic films.

Steckler spent the last few years of his life living in Las Vegas running a video store. He passed away in January of 2009. May his films live on forever for cult movie fans to enjoy for many generations to come!