Friday, October 26, 2018

Misc. Film Fun (Faux Trailer) – Hell No: The Sensible Horror Film (2013)

A few years older than that other faux horror movie trailer we so like, Handjob Cabin (2015), this Austin-lensed faux trailer, Hell No: The Sensible Horror Film, not only has as many bull's-eyes as that earlier off-color project, but almost garners as many laughs.
In his trailer for a non-existent horror movie, one which that would surely be 0% scary if it were ever made, director and scriptwriter Joe Nicolosi (with co-scripter John Freiler) takes pointed and funny jabs at the idiocies that have served as the plot catalysts for an untold number of horror movies since the dawn of film horror. (See, for example, Segundo de Chomó's The Haunted House [1908], our Short Film of the Month this month. Even therein, the trio seek shelter in a scary-looking deserted house...)
Hell No is a filmic ode in trailer form to the truly foolhardiness (if not sub-intelligence) displayed by too many characters in the average horror movie, and that drives so many of us — horror fan to horror hater — to distraction. Here, however, the interchangeable non-characters that are the fodder in so many films — characters that exist (like their actions) only to drive the movie forward and supply the uncreative lead-up to their demise — unexpectedly reveal themselves as undeserving of a Darwin Award. Watch it, as Hell No's three minutes are truly "balm for your cinematic irritation".


But let's face it, as Nicolosi himself kinda infers by some of the fake voiceover used in the trailer, if characters in horror movies weren't wont to make all those stupid decisions, horror movies would be pretty boring.
As an extra, check out Mike Castro's short Stay Indoors (2017).

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Torso – The Evelyn Dick Story (Canada, 2002)

So, anyway, we were invited over to a friend's place to watch a flick entitled Torso. We went expecting the legendary Italian giallo from 1973, starring the great Suzy Kendall and directed by multi-genre specialist Sergio Martino — trailer directly below — but, no: instead, we were served some Canadian TV movie from 2002 entitled Torso - The Evelyn Dick Story. Our friend has a lot to make up for.
Trailer to
Sergio Martino's Torso (1973):

Not that we knew this Torso here to be a TV movie; indeed, we knew nothing about the movie at all. But what is it about so many TV movies, even well-made ones, that makes them feel like a TV movie even if you don't know it's one? Despite the beautiful classic cars and period clothing, enough of both that a budget must have been present, Torso — The Evelyn Dick Story still felt, looked, smelt like a Movie of the Week. Not that we don't like Movies of the Week; we just tend to like them a bit older, more in the direction of tacky TV GILF like Moon of the Wolf (1972 / full movie) or Bad Ronald (1974 / trailer) or Killdozer! (1974 / trailer) or Wes Craven's hilariously bad Invitation to Hell (1984 / great scene). Torso — The Evelyn Dick Story is just a tad too "good" to truly be our cup of tea.
Trailer to
Torso - The Evelyn Dick Story:
Outside of Canada, the story of Evelyn Dick is pretty much unknown; in terms of true-crime murders, hers are relatively mundane in comparison to, dunno, the Moors Murderers or Dorothea Puente or even Caril Ann Fugate. Nevertheless: a husband murdered and reduced to a torso found in the woods by kids, a dead baby encased in cement in a suitcase, and a by-the-hour goodtime girl who slept with as many men as most men wish they had slept with women — no wonder the case was such a scandal back in '46-47, when Evelyn Dick sat at the dock. In the end, after a retrial, she was found not guilty of the murder of her husband, John Dick, but went to jail for the murder her baby son….
The real Evelyn Dick
As a TV docudrama of the case, Torso — The Evelyn Dick Story is worse than some and better than most. That isn't to say that it isn't well made and interesting, it's just that it is also annoying superficial at times and, as perhaps appropriate to the case, leaves as many questions open as it does semi-answer others. And not just the question of who actually murdered John Dick, a question that [officially, at least] has never truly been answered. In Torso, however, doubt is definitely cast upon the guilt of Evelyn, whether for the murder of her husband or child, as either instigator or perpetrator. In fact, if we are to believe the tale as told in the movie, she was probably innocent of the death she was convicted of: that of her baby son.
As directed by the well-employed TV director Alex Chapple, Torso — The Evelyn Dick Story adds a sheen of neo-noir for much of the film, complete with the hardnosed inspector, Inspector Wood (Callum Keith Rennie), a beautiful but [possibly] heartless killer, Evelyn Dick (Kathleen Robertson), and cheap blasts of stereotypical saxophone music in the background. (The saxophone is such a cliché that it almost induces involuntary laughter whenever it toots.) Wood stays hard-nosed throughout the movie, but Evelyn proves to move beyond her cigarette-enveloped face to become something more than just some fem fatale.
To what extent the movie follows the book it is based on — the last book written by Marjorie Freeman Campbell (1896-1975), likewise entitled Torso – The Evelyn Dick Story — we know not, but as the movie unfolds one definitely gets the impression that Evelyn Dick paid for either the crimes of others, or was the lone scapegoat for crimes committed in cohorts. (The "truth", needless to say, will never be known.) As the titular Evelyn Dick, the Canadian actress Kathleen Robertson (of Nowhere [1997 / trailer], Psycho Beach Party [2000 / trailer] and I Woke Up Early the Day I Died [1998 / opening scene]) is vacuous in a way that is almost aggravating, but on the other hand, as the film progresses her very emptiness does well at reflecting a damaged, slightly brainless girl-woman under the manipulative thumb of parents from hell.
In the end, however, Evelyn remains a cypher. If, indeed, her parents were so manipulatively evil; and if, indeed, she experienced the molestations of her father; and if, indeed, her parents killed her child son unbeknownst to herself; and if, indeed, she so loved her daughter; and if, indeed, her parents literally frame her for the death of her son, what sense loyalty, what sense of debt, what extent of manipulation could be so strong as to make Evelyn watch silently as her mother, Alexandra MacLean (an excellently duplicitous Brenda Fricker), walk free and easy out of the courthouse with Evelyn's daughter, Heather Dick (Hannah Lochner of Dawn of the Dead [2004 / trailer]), without finally opening her mouth? 
And it is the discovery of the cement-encased dead son that outs Inspector Wood as possibly a man more interested in his record of success than in uncovering the truth, for the film makes it clear that although all the evidence found during the second search of the house was known not to have been there during the first search — ergo: it was planted, most likely by the parents — he never pursues the "why" and simply lets it paint Evelyn into the corner. Once again, what matters is not that justice gets served correctly, just that it gets served.
Now, decades after the fact, whether or not justice got served or shortchanged is probably irrelevant. And Evelyn, to some extent, was undoubtedly involved in her husband's death. But like all murders, you can take the "facts" and spin them in many different ways, especially so many years after the fact. (Cf.: Alex Jones, flat-worlders, Kavanaugh, and just about any conspiracy theorist you meet.) The spin of Torso - The Evelyn Dick Story is basically that not everyone who should have paid, did. But the movie fails to cast any light upon Evelyn's reasons for her action(s) or inaction(s), from the why of the marriage to the why of her silence.
Torso — The Evelyn Dick Story, a good-looking, tightly acted TV movie that feels like the TV movie it is, displays a convincing if clean sense of time and place, and is populated by a convincing cast with too little to do. Hardly the worst thing you can watch when bored, but a far cry from being exceptional, either as a conveyor of history or as a cinematic experience. You can watch this one with your grandparents.
John Dick (1906–46)
Like Lizzie Borden (19 July 1860 – 1 June 1927) in the US, Evelyn Dick was immortalized in verse in Canada, where children were once wont to sing:
You cut off his legs...
You cut off his arms...
You cut off his head...
How could you Mrs Dick?
How could you Mrs Dick?
Undoubtedly, were the crime one of today, the verse would instead surely be something like:
You cut off his legs...
You cut off his arms...
You cut off his head...
Tell us, Mrs Dick,
Why didn't you cut off his prick?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

R.I.P. Maria Rohm, Part IV: 1976 – 2007




13 August 1945 – 18 June 2018
  
Vienna-born Maria Rohm (nee Helga Grohmann), talented cult actress and wife of British independent film producer and screenwriter Harry Alan Towers (19 Oct 1920 – 31 July 2009), has gone the way of the wind at the age of 72 in Toronto, Canada, the home of Bruce McArthur. Rohm, who began her acting career on stage as a child actress, seems to have begun her film career at the age of twenty playing a prostitute in a 1964 film. Soon after she married producer Towers, also in 1964, he began putting her in many of his projects, including nine different movies directed by Jess Franco (12 May 1930 – 2 April 2013). She retired from acting in 1976, but like her husband remained active as a producer. 
In a German-language interview published online in 2002 by Terrorverlag, it is claimed that Marie Rohm produced up to five films a year with her husband Harry Alan Towers. That may have been true, but the list of movies in which she is credited onscreen for production is much shorter, at least going by what we found online. We do not claim this list to be complete.

Go here for Part I: 1964–67
Go here for Part II: 1968–69
Go here for Part III: 1970–75



Blue Belle
(1976, dir. Massimo Dallamano)
 
Massimo Dallamano (17 April 1917 – 4 Nov 1976), director of Dorian Gray (1970, see Part III), tries to cook up his own Emmanuelle-style franchise with this relatively uninteresting sex drama aka (in English) as Teenage Emanuelle and Annie; the original Italian title is La fine dell'innocenza ("The End of Innocence"). Maria Rhom supposedly shows up somewhere in the movie playing "Marie".

Linda Lee (Rossana Barbieri) sings the title track to
Blue Belle / La fine dell'innocenza:
The by-the-numbers script tells the tale of, basically, the "sexual adventures of a seventeen-year-old who has just left convent school." To add some details: her "daddy" Michael (Charles Fawcett) takes her to Hong Kong where, after he is arrested for smuggling, she is left penniless and to her own devices and the soon former virgin ends up proving that "have vagina, will survive". Luckily, she met Linda (Felicity Devonshire) on the flight over, and Linda has a good-looking husband named Angelo (Ciro Ippolito, aka "Sam Cromwell", the writer, producer and director of Alien 2: On Earth [1980 / trailer])…
Blue Belle / La fine dell'innocenza was very much an attempt to convert Annie Bell — the person, the actress, the body — into a personality and franchise. As the text of a magazine of the time parroted: "Petite, blonde, blue-eyed and stunningly attractive, Annie makes her film debut in a starring role — a film, incidentally, that is largely based on her own personality and experiences. […] It was producer Harry Alan Towers who dreamed up the idea when he met the young actress in Paris — a film based on her experiences in the Far East and her romantic adventures in search of true happiness."
Annie Belle Theme:
Annie Belle was the last film of Charles Fernley Fawcett (2 Dec 1915 – 3 Feb 2008), a real-life adventurer whose life sounds like fiction. He "was a wrestler, resistance worker, soldier, airman, film star, film maker, and co-founder of the International Medical Corps. He was a recipient of the French Croix de Guerre and the American Eisenhower Medal." That's him below with the titular Annie, in a film that surely would not, could not, be made today.
Among the films Fawcett appeared in that we here at a wasted life find "fun": Lust of the Vampire (1957 / German trailer), The Witch's Curse (1962 / trailer), The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse (1964 / scene), the infamously racist version of Uncle Tom's Cabin (1965 / full German film), and Target Frankie (1967, starring Joachim Fuchsberger).
Felicity Devonshire, seen above from Adam magazine (March 1975), who as Linda goes all scissor sisters with Annie Belle, is a former Page 3 Girl of the British newspaper The Sun who enjoyed a mild film career between 1971 & 1978; her most noteworthy film credit is undoubtedly Ken Russell's Lisztomania (1975), in which she plays the Governess.
Penis, anyone?
Ken Russell's Lisztomania (1975):
"[Felicity Devonshire] is ranked 1794 on The Times' 2008 rich list and estimated to be worth in the region of 40 million." Why?  Because: "Devonshire Investment Holdings Ltd. operates, manages, and leases properties in the United Kingdom. It manages retail, office, mixed, leisure, residential, and industrial properties. The company was founded in 2003 and is based in London, the United Kingdom. [Bloomberg]"
Full film,
in Italian: 


The Black Arrow
(1985, dir John Hough)

Marie Rohm moved into production ("associate producer" to Towers's "producer") with this television movie, never again appearing as an actor onscreen, big or small. British director John Rough had, some 13 years earlier, directed her in Treasure Island (1972, see Part III); like that feature film, the TV film Black Arrow is an adaptation of a public domain novel by Robert Lewis Stevenson. (Namely: The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses, which was first published in 1888 after initially appearing as a magazine serial.) A swashbuckler, it is also the only Harry Alan Towers production to be released by Disney, initially for broadcast on the Disney Channel and then on Disney Home Video. "Peter Welbeck" wrote the script with David Pursall (19 Aug 1917 – 7 Sept 1986), a man perhaps best known for his work on the Margret Rutherford Mrs. Marple films, Murder She Said (1961 / trailer), Murder Ahoy (1964 / trailer) and Murder Most Foul (1964 / trailer). Set in England during the Wars of the Roses (roughly 1455 to 1487), it was filmed in Spain. 
Trailer to
The Black Arrow:
Disney reduces the plot to "A wealthy lord in medieval England plans to murder one ward, marry another, and take over the property of both, but he is outwitted by the notorious Black Arrow."
Over at the imdb, however, nufs68 offers more detail: "In England, during the 15th century, […] two of the most powerful nobles fight a bitter war among one another. Sir Daniel (Oliver Reed [13 Feb 1938 – 2 May 1999]) is the head of the House of York, while Sir Henry is the head of the House of Lancaster. Among all the English nobles, they stand the best chance of becoming the next king of England […]. But there can only be one monarch. The two Houses go to war. […] The Earl of Warwick (Fernando Rey [10 Sept 1917 – 9 March 1994] of Eyes Behind the Wall [1977 / let's dance]) is the sitting monarch's advisor but he already starts to plot against the king in a secret alliance with Sir Daniel. The only party not having anything to gain from either House acceding to the throne is the English populace facing ever increasing royal taxes. However, a mysterious champion of the poor and the oppressed [the Black Arrow, played by Stephan Chase of José Ramón Larraz's Golden Lady (1979)] has appeared on the scene, attacking and killing any tax collecting officials and their armed escort. The mysterious stranger is clad in black and uses a black bow and black arrows that can penetrate chain mail. Annoyed by this impertinent avenger, Sir Daniel sends his retinues to hunt him down. Sir Daniel has two wards in his care, Joanna (Georgia Slowe of The Company of Wolves [1984 / trailer]) and Richard (Benedict Taylor of Perfect Life [2010 / trailer]). These teenage wards have inherited much wealth, lands and titles but cannot touch their inheritances until they come of age. A greedy Sir Daniel is scheming to marry beautiful Joanna in order to take her wealth and he plans to have young Richard killed for the same reason. But the avenger known as The Black Arrow keeps upsetting Sir Daniel's plans."
In 2015, Jeremy Hodges, author and former Scottish arts and features editor of The Sunday Times, rated the film as one of the top ten Stevenson stories adapted for the screen, saying: "The brooding presence of Oliver Reed as the wicked Sir Daniel, coupled with the sinister Donald Pleasence as the murderous priest Sir Oliver, gives this 1985 made-for-television movie more dramatic power than you might expect from a story written to order for a children's magazine. Despite numerous exciting action sequences that could have been written for Hollywood, Stevenson knew The Black Arrow fell short of the mark as a great work of literature — and dedicated it to his wife as a joke, because she refused to read it. [Edinburgh City of Literature]" 


Split — Edge of Sanity
(1989, dir. Gérard Kikoïne)

"Tasteless, pointless, and unpleasant."
Leonard Maltin

French director Gérard Kikoïne began his career as an editor for Jess Franco before directing his first soft-core sex comedy Mannequin (1974), whence he quickly moved into hardcore and even directed a minor Golden Age "classic", The Tale of Tiffany Lust (1979). Around 1985, with Lady Libertine aka Frank & I (film in French), which Towers produced and "Pierre Wellbeck" co-wrote, Kikoïne put away his raincoat and began making more mainstream, low-budget fare, including this horror film on which Maria Rohm is an "associate producer".
Like The Black Arrow (1985) above and Treasure Island (1972, see Part III), Split is based on a public domain classic by Robert Lewis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The source material, however, is spliced with aspects of Jack the Ripper. Split is very much an exploitation film filled with violence and nudity.

Trailer to
Edge of Sanity:
On their list of "Borderline Extreme Movies", the Worldwide Celluloid Massacre lists Split as being "Of Some Interest", saying, "Anthony Perkins (4 April 1932 – 12 Sept 1992) had more than his fair share of twisted roles, but this is by far his most demented performance in a surprisingly uber-sleazy movie. […] Perkins portrays a doctor with a repressed fear of women, boosted by nightmares involving an over-the-top sleazy and humiliating encounter as a kid. I bet the director knew exactly what he was doing, given Perkins's real-life fear of women. So after an accident with some chemicals, Hyde roams the streets and terrorizes a bizarre whorehouse straight out of a Ken Russell movie, and lets loose in some really warped scenes of frenzied perversions and unpredictable turn-ons and turn-offs, terrorizing both men and women before forcing them to perform sex, masturbating a whore with his cane, and then slicing them up of course. Altogether a surprisingly unpleasant and disturbing one from Perkins."
"This retelling of a classic tale of good versus evil unfortunately doesn't have a very high opinion of its main characters; it goes straight for tawdry erotic and gory thrills. Even Anthony Perkins' memorable performance of Mr. Hyde can't salvage this inarticulate film. It is a fun movie, but not recommended for anyone looking for a serious exploration of the duality of human nature. […] One of the better aspects of the film is the performance of Anthony Perkins. I can think of no other actor who better portrays twitchy nervousness. Perkins plays Hyde with a remarkable panache. [Classic Horror]"
"What makes this movie even more a weird watch is the fact that it can also definitely been seen as a soft-core-porn flick. There is really quite a lot of nudity in it and lots of different sexual acts get explicitly implied. [Boba Fett]"
"[Edge of Sanity]'s a loose Dr. Jekyll adaptation that feels like a lost early work of Paul Verhoeven. Its period setting and moody lighting give the movie far more class that one might expect. In this version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale, Dr. Jekyll (Anthony Perkins) is experimenting with cocaine as an anesthetic for use on patients. After a monkey knocks over some ether onto some of his cocaine supply, the fumes turn Dr. Jekyll in to Mr. Hyde (this scene is less funny than it sounds). After killing several prostitutes, his wife Elisabeth (Glynis Barber of Horror Safari [1982 / trailer] and The Terror [1978 / trailer]) starts to catch on that something not right is going on with her husband. […] The murder scenes combine horror and eroticism in surprising, surreal ways. There are plenty of bodices to be ripped, but the decent acting and set design put this movie in a higher caliber that one might suspect. An abrupt ending hurts the picture, but it's still worth a watch. [Battleship Pretension]"



Call Him Jess
(2000, writ. & dir. Manel Mayol & Carles Prats)
We took a look at this documentary in R.I.P. Janine Reynaud Part II. Original title: Llámale Jess. A documentary on the great Jess Franco (12 May 1930 – 2 April 2013) written by Mayol & Prats and Joan Ferré. To say that Maria Rhom participated in this documentary is an overstatement: she is merely one of the many actresses and actors — alongside Janine Reynaud (13 Aug 1930 – 30 Jan 2018), Adrian Hoven (18 May 1922 – 28 April 1981), Klaus Kinski (18 Oct 1926 – 23 Nov 1991), Christopher Lee (27 May 1922 – 7 June 2015), Soledad Miranda (9 July 1943 – 18 Aug 1970), Ewa Strömberg (13 Jan 1940 – 24 Jan 2013), and so many more — found in the various clips taken from Franco's films that are edited into the film. The real talking heads of the project are Franco himself and Lina Romay (25 June 1954 – 15 Feb 2012).
"Jesus (or Jess) Franco is one of the great names in B movies. With a number of pseudonyms (Clifford Brown, David Khunne, etc...) and a filmography including over 170 titles, it is extremely difficult to catalogue and categorize his work, despite the existence of many retrospectives and studies in both Europe and the United States. Jess began his career as an assistant director, the high point of which was working with Orson Welles (6 May 1915 – 10 Oct 1985), whom he admired greatly. Jess himself became well known in 1961 with The Awful Doctor Orloff (1962 / trailer), a horror film which instantly became a classic. […] From that moment his international career took off, his credits include The Diabolical Dr Z (1966 / trailer), Lucky the Inscrutable (1967 / opening credits), Count Dracula (1970 / subtitled trailer — see: R.I.P. Herbert Lom), Vampyros Lesbos (1971 / trailer) and Succubus (see Janine Reynaud Part I). […] In this documentary, arguably the most significant work about this director, Jess Franco speaks openly about his films, himself and his understanding of the world of cinema. He is, essentially, a director who defies conventional categorization […]. [FFC]"
The documentary has since been re-released as Llámale Jess Redux: "Jesus Franco, also known as Jess Franco, was one of the biggest names in 'B' cinema wordwide. With more than 200 films and a large and peculiar use of pseudonyms, his work remains difficult to categorize, which makes it more exciting if possible. Through a series of interviews with Franco, Call him Jess Redux dissects the sadist, esoteric and erotic world of the director, as refined as rogue. This new version [...] incorporates new scenes and pays homage to his muse and companion, Lina Romay. [Amazon]"
Manfred Hübler & Siegfried Schwab's great music
is of course also found in Call Him Jess:


Queen's Messenger
(2001, dir. Mark Roper)
Depending on which online source you prefer to believe, this is either first or the second in a series of two low-budget action movies, both made in 2001 and produced by Harry Alan Towers, featuring Gary Daniels (of Fist of the North Star [1995 / trailer], Knights / Cyborg Warriors [1993 / trailer],  Astro [2018 / trailer] and so much more) as Captain Anthony Strong. The other Strong movie is entitled Witness to a Kill (2001 / trailer).
Regardless of the actual order they were filmed — we tend to think this one is the first one — Maria Rohm is listed as a co-producer only for this one. The screenplay was by Harry Alan Towers and Peter Jobin (1 Feb 1944 - 10 Aug 2018), the latter of whom had, some twenty years previously, helped script the Golden Age slasher classic Happy Birthday to Me (1981 / trailer).
The plot description as found @ Impact Video: "By order of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Captain Strong (Gary Daniels), senior officer of the elite Queen's Messenger Corps, is given the dangerous assignment of delivering a delicate communication to the British Ambassador of Kazakhstan (John Standing of The Psychopath [1966 / trailer], Torture Garden [1967 / trailer], The Legacy [1978 / trailer] and  Nightflyers [1987 / trailer]). If intercepted, the document will compromise secret agreements. Now Captain Strong's commitment gets put to the test. Ben Samm (Christoph Waltz), the ruthless leader of the country's most powerful rebel force, knows that whoever holds the documents holds the key to controlling the region's untold oil wealth. In a daring move to assume control, he captures the Ambassador, Strong and Alexi Jones (Theresa Sherer-Donovan), an attractive but stubborn news reporter. Against all odds, Captain Strong leads the trio in a daring escape with impassioned rebels in hot pursuit. In an age of Internet, fax and e-mail, some messages are just too dangerous to be delivered by any means other than the Messenger of the Queen."
Trailer to
Queen's Messenger:
Over at Letterboxd, After Movie Diner moans that Queen's Messenger is "sadly not one of Gary Daniels' better efforts, but not for want of trying on our Gary's part. Sadly he is hampered by having an atrocious director. Something which seems to plague his career. A good B director given the same script and budget could've knocked this playful Bond rip-off out of the park. Sadly, the pacing and the TV-movie-style camerawork bogs this down and makes it almost unwatchable. It doesn't help matters that this guy is incompetent when it comes to filming fight scenes. Christoph Waltz shows up for 3 minutes to be... well... Christoph Waltz, but nothing much more can be said about this laughable entry into Daniels ever growing resume."
Over at the imdb, way back in 2003 Peter Forster was also not impressed: "Imagine a sandwich of gun fight, car chase, fist fight, gun fight, sex, car chase, gun fight, etc. with thin slivers of dialogue in between to explain why the protagonists are fighting or chasing each other. Our hero, Captain Strong, is diverted from his day job in the Special Air Service to take on a diplomatic mission to one of the former Soviet republics. With steely eyes and firm chin he manages to avoid several million rounds of ammunition fired in his direction by some very bad men and still finds time to engage in unprotected sex with attractive women who can scream very loudly when necessary. Nice to see that Brits can still save the world and avoid STDs."
Dunno, but going by what Daniels looks like above, we would be willing to bend over and scream very loudly when necessary. Talk about a total DILF! Yummy. 


She
(2001, dir. Timothy Bond)
 
Maria Rohm is associate producer to Harry Allan Tower's credited producer status in yet another direct-to-DVD cinematic version of a public domain classic novel, in this case H. Rider Haggard's popular adventure yarn, She, which "Is generally considered to be one of the classics of imaginative literature and, with 83 million copies sold by 1965, it is one of the best-selling books of all time." The cover below is to a 1968 British softcover.
Trailer to 
She Who Must Be Obeyed:
Now primarily a television director, Timothy Bond's directorial debut was the mildly entertaining and totally forgotten end of the world flick, Deadly Harvest (1977 / full movie). Some twenty years prior to She, Bond also helped write the classic slasher, Happy Birthday to Me (1981 / trailer), with She's scriptwriter Peter Jobin; here, however, Bond only directed and Jobin shares his scriptwriting credit with "Peter Welbeck".
We've never seen the movie, but have always liked the German actress Marie Bäumer (of Der Schuh des Manitu [2001 / German trailer] and Sieben Monde [1998 / trailer]). Over at the imdb, wellsangel puts the film down by saying that the "Filming is somewhat reminiscent of campy 1970's schlock sci-fi" — which, to us, sounds like a recommendation.
To date, no one seems to have seen the film and bothered to write about it. But that's what the imdb is there for — "Artemis-9" wrote a decent plot synopsis: "Leo Vincey (Ian Duncan) receives a map from his late father (Christoph Waltz), leading him to the legendary city of Kor in search of an explanation for his mysterious ancestry. He is accompanied by his girlfriend Roxanne (Marie Bäumer). He discovers that he is the only descendant of an Egyptian priest who had been executed for the crime of falling in love with the Egyptian Princess. The ruling queen Ayesha (Ophélie Winter), or rather She, is the same Egyptian Princess of centuries ago, her beauty and youth look being preserved by magic. She becomes convinced that Leo is the reincarnation of her former lover, and wants to kill him. Leo and Roxanne will have to fight against surprise attacks on them, but survival in that foreign land with strange customs, is difficult. Leo is terribly attracted to She's beauty, but at the same time he fears for her obscure spirit, and finally he must take a decision — to run away from her, or to love her and die."
"She largely serves as an obscure vanity vehicle for French singer and actress Ophélie Winter (2001: A Space Travesty [2000 / trailer], with Leslie Nielson). [Weird Flix]" That's her directly above, not from the movie, looking oddly uncomfortable.
Ophélie Winter & Coolio
Keep It on the Red Light:


Death, Deceit and Destiny aboard the Orient Express
(2001, dir. Mark Roper)

What a title! Now you have absolutely no doubts regarding what the film is about. But then, despite the Aylum-like mockbuster title, the movie has very little to do with any version of Murder on the Orient Express, book or film (1974 / trailer) and (2017 / trailer). This Canadian-Bulgarian co-production — Maria Rohm, "co-producer: UK"; Harry "Daddy" Towers, "executive producer / producer" — is not a train-bound detective film, it's a kill-dem-terrorists action movie. Die Hard (1988 / trailer) on a train and with no budget, you could say.
"Let's start with the obvious: Death, Deceit and Destiny aboard the Orient Express is a miserable excuse for a title. Off the top of my head, I can drum up a handful of perfectly serviceable alternatives: Terror on the Orient Express, say, or Millennial Terror, or, my personal pick, the spoilery yet evocative Throw Sendhil from the Train. [Preppies of the Apocalypse]"
Unlike the previous two Tower/Rohm productions from 2001 we looked, some English-speaking people actually seem to have seen this train-wreck of a movie, perhaps drawn by the non-drawing power of Richard Grieco's name. (The irony of having him play an action movie star... hell, the irony of having him play a star.) The general sense conveyed is, at best, that if this movie is to be enjoyed at all, then only in a bad movie kind of way — the scene below holds great promise.
This guy went on
to a big career:
As the Preppy of Apocalypse Morgen Richter says, "I'm sorry — I know it's a pile of crap, but I'm incapable of hating any film that draws inspiration from Scooby-Doo episodes." 
On the other hand, it could be that the movie is just bad: "What this all boils down to is that I can't even come up with a reason why you should watch Death, Deceit & Destiny Aboard the Orient Express as it has absolutely nothing going for it. Even those who might be fans of one of the cast should seriously question whether they really need to sacrifice 90 minutes of their time on this. [Movie Scene]"
Joe Scaramanga's House of Trash, which says "this is bottom of the barrel stuff", has the plot: "Anyway, events take place on the eve of the millennium, despite being made in 2000, when everyone with a grain of taste had realised that movies set then would out of date as precisely a minute past midnight. A group of wealthy individuals (and partners/business associates/whatever) gather for a New Year jamboree through Europe to Istanbul. Oddly no one seems to know who invited them. […] Obviously the lure of a posh train, and copious free booze and food is too much to refuse and they all duly turn up. And a motley bunch they are too: there's a mobile phone salesman, a mobile phone manufacturer, a gymnast, the son of an Indian industrialist, a couple of women who could be con artists (I'm not really sure we ever find out) and an action movie star, Jack Chase (Richard Grieco, of Webs [2003] and Raiders of the Damned [2005])! Seriously. About two minutes after leaving the never-identified station a bunch of bad guys shoot all the staff and, luckily all their uniforms fit them perfectly, and they take over the train, with one staying behind to prepare eight-course dinners for everyone. Turns out this is our bad guy, Tarik (Christoph Waltz), who tells everyone via a chunky widescreen TV that he has taken control of the train and wants everyone to pay him $50 million or he'll blow it up. Well, action star doesn't take kindly to this and assisted by the gymnast (Klara Romina Mondello of Wax Mask [1997 / trailer]), who he's decided will be his love interest for this evening, he disarms all the bombs, saving one to blow up the train and the bad guy. Hooray!"
Keep your eyes open for Gotz Otto, German bad film character actor/heavy found in, among many movies, the hilariously great Iron Sky (2012 / trailer below) and the hilariously bad Beowulf (1999). He must have signed a multi-picture deal with Towers, 'cause he's found in the background of this movie, of She, and of the next movie we look at, High Adventure. 
Trailer to
Iron Sky (2012):


Quatermain — High Adventure
(2001, dir. Mark Roper)
 
Aka Chris Quatermain and the Lost Treasure, Quatermain — The King's Treasure, Quatermain — The Treasure of Alexander the Great, and Raiders of the Lost Treasure. Currently, it doesn't seem available outside of Europe. Sad. 
Maria Rohm is the associate producer (and Harry "Daddy" Towers the executive producer / producer) of another already forgotten direct-to-video movie distantly inspired by the public domain character Allan Quatermain, a popular character introduced by H. Rider Haggard (22 June 1856 – 14 May 1925) in his 1885 novel, King Solomon's Mines. (Among the numerous subsequent books Haggard wrote, Quatermain even met up with She's beautiful queen Ayesha in She and Allan [1920].) 
The adventurer of High Adventure, however, is Chris Quatermain, the grandson of Allan Quatermain — a bit of an impossibility, one would think, seeing that in the Haggard books Allan Quatermain's son, Harry Quatermain, dies of smallpox as an unmarried medical student. (No son, especially one that was childless, usually means no grandson.) In the end, the film has less to do with Haggard and Quartermain than it does with the desire to produce an extremely low budget Indiana Jones mockbuster — see: aka Raiders of the Lost Treasure. Script: "Peter Welbeck" and Peter Jobin (again). For a plot description, we once again look to the imdb, where 15 years ago the big movie guy griped that the movie was "quite long even though it only lasts 94 minutes and [has] no cool scenes", supplied the following pot description: "Thomas Ian Griffith (of Vampires [1998] and Hollow Point [1996]) as gambler and adventurer Chris Quatermain. […] Griffith travels to Africa to recover Alexander the Great's treasure hidden somewhere in cave. His trusty assistant Johnny Ford (Harry Peacock) and his love interest Hope Gruner (Anja Kling) have to join forces to find the treasure before ruthless gangster Lorenzo (Kendra Torgan) gets her hands on it."
Scenes from
Quatermain — High Adventure:
Video Junkie saw the flick and came away thinking, "I was having such a hard time wrapping my head around just what the hell this was supposed to be that at the 60 minute mark I finally came to the conclusion that it must be a children's film! Only kids would be this forgiving."


Sumuru
(2003, dir. Darrell Roodt)

Maria Rohm is the "co-producer: United Kingdom" (and Harry "Daddy" Towers, the executive producer) of another already forgotten direct-to-video movie distantly inspired by the Su Muru tales by Sax Rohmer — the image below of a nicely pulpy Gold Medal printing — the source of the late-60s Towers movies (in which Maria Rohm acted), The Million Eyes of Su Muru (1967, see Part I) and The Girl from Rio (1969, see Part II).
For whatever reason, in this version of the tale, Sumuru is now no longer the antagonist and/or antihero, but rather the good girl of the movie — and, perhaps in even a bigger break from the source, the events now take place in the future and on another planet.
As normal, "Peter Welbeck" worked on the screenplay, this time alongside Peter Jobin and some guy named Torsten Dewi. Dewi has since gone on to develop and write to hilariously bad ecological end-of-day flicks, Post Impact (2004 / trailer) and Lost City Raiders (2008 / trailer).
Trailer to 
Sumuru:
Wikipedia has the serviceable plot description: "Earth's outermost colony was forgotten for 900 years — until now. Cut off from the rest of the universe, men have become beasts of labor — and women rule. Arriving on planet Antares, Adam Wade (Michael Shanks of Ice Twister 2 - Arctic Blast [2010 / trailer] and 13 Eerie [2013 / trailer]) and Jake Carpenter (Terence Bridgett of From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter [1999] and Kite [2014 / trailer]) come with a mission and a secret. Humanity has suffered from a deadly virus that has left the women barren, and the two are to seek out the last fertile members of the human race and relocate them. When the small spaceship crashes, the two find the planet run by women and the men slaving in primitive mines, used occasionally for procreation purposes. The two astronauts have to overcome anti-male prejudice as well as earthquakes, a giant snake and opposition from snake-cult priestess Taxan (Simona Williams of Spiders [2000 / trailer] and Raging Sharks [2005 / trailer]), but find support in relatively rational-minded queen Sumuru (Alexandra Kamp) as well as her personal guard Dove (Casey B. Dolan of Lost Boys: The Thirst [2010 / trailer]) and her kid brother Will (David Lazarus)."
 
Director Darrell Roodt, while probably unknown outside of South Africa, is a film-farting force to be reckoned with: he's almost as productive as, say, David DeCocteau, and his projects are almost as invariably embarrassing. Past projects of variable note:  The Lullaby (2017 / trailer), Prey (2007 / trailer), City of Blood (1987 / trailer), and Cryptid (2006 / trailer).
The true star of the show is, of course, the German model and actress and total MILF Alexandra Kamp (born 29 December 1966), seen above not from the film. (If we looked that good in the skin, we would eschew clothing totally.) Primarily active in German TV movies, her name is well known there but hardly a sign of quality. That said, she has been in a few fun B-flicks of varying quality — e.g., Deep Freeze (2002 / trailer), Shadow Fury (2001 / trailer), Vampires (2010 / trailer) and Dracula 3000 (2004 / trailer) — and were she only more active in that field, we here at a wasted life can't help but feel that she would one possibly achieve cult popularity as a genre Eurobabe of the 21st century.
In any event, when it comes to Sumuru, the German website Home of Fantastic Cinema more or less says: "The science fiction film Sumuru beams motifs of the English writer Sax Rohmer into outer space. If you overlook the absurdity of the premise, this trivial film manages to establish an occasionally plausible and interesting story despite the sometimes crass deficit of logic, simplistic dialogue and in part weak acting. The South African director Darrell James Roodt is, usually, a reliable producer of cinematic slag, but despite the problems mentioned above Sumuru is better than its (miserable) reputation and counts as one of the director's better works. The film is a rare example of a science-fiction from the African continent, even if was made with the massive support of German, Canadian, and British co producers. It makes good use of exotic desert landscapes, and the funding of the production is solid enough for it to pass as a 'real' movie — only some of the dialogue and the computer-generated special effects are really embarrassing." 



Dorian — Pact with the Devil
(2004, dir. Allan A. Goldstein)
Producers Rohm and Towers return to Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray — yes, the classic novel is in the public domain. The cover below, typically 50s.
The script was written by Ron Raley (see: Split [1989]) and Peter Jobin — no "Peter Welback" found this time around. The adaptation is, let us say, extremely free. Director Allan A. Goldstein, whose greatest claim to fame is probably the flop that is Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994 / trailer), the only Death Wish film not to include a rape scene, was also one of the many producers. 
Trailer to 
Dorian:
Over at Film Affinity, they simply use the plot description supplied by Claudio Carvalho  of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the imdb: "While temporarily working in a photographic studio with the famous photographer Bae (Jennifer Nitsch [10 Dec 1966 –13 June 2004], possible suicide), the simple and handsome worker Louis (Ethan Erickson of Jawbreaker [1999 / trailer] and John Dies in the End [2012 / trailer]) meets her manager Henry (Malcolm McDowell of Tank Girl [1995] and sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much more), who is impressed with his beauty. He invites Louis for taking some pictures, gives the artistic name of Dorian to him as an homage to 'Dorian Gray' and a framed picture of him. Louis wishes to have the same fate of Dorian Gray, and from this moment on, he becomes very successful in the career of model. As years go by, he notes that only his picture ages, and he has the same face of years ago."
 
In the book Indie Horrors! The Not-To-Be-Missed, The Acceptable, and The Forgettable, author Barry Atkinson writes: "A flashy, trashy updating of Oscar Wilde's classic novel, fare for the MTV generation and virtually going straight to DVD, but any film featuring the mighty Malcolm McDowell (playing the devil) has to be worth a look, surely. Ethan Erickson (wooden in his role) is the preening pretty boy Louis, renamed Dorian by McDowell [...]. Each frame is filled with the beautiful wealthy set and their parties, highlighted by a semi-pop soundtrack. McDowell reinvents his Clockwork Orange (1975 / trailer) persona with undisguised glee, and the women are gorgeous. [...] Yes, it's a million miles away from Wilde's book and purists will balk at this particular rendition of his work, but it's reasonably entertaining for 90-odd minutes and McDowell makes it worth a look anyway."
Interestingly enough, and typical of critical writing, over at the imdb, zeppo-227 basically writes the same thing, but with a reverse opinion: "This is a modern updating of the classic, Picture of Dorian Grey. As if the Oscar Wilde story was rewritten by sex & shopping book hack, Jackie Collins. There's nothing new here except for the setting, in a photo model environment instead of Victorian London.
 
It starts off interesting enough but McDowell as a poor man's Devil, begins to chew the scenery before too long. And sadly, Ethan Erickson doesn't have the range of acting to successfully portray the slowly morally declining Dorian. For a study in debauchery, there's precious little shown, you would get the idea the height of decadence was dancing in a few discos on the continent. Surprising since the video I watched had an 18 certificate. The original film version was made under far more stringent censorship rules but still was able to imply the depths that Dorian sunk to in his pursuit of hedonistic pleasures. This is just fodder for the MTV generation, full of flash style and hip music but lacking in any real substance at all."
Our biggest complaint about the flick is that Ethan Erickson doesn't do a nude full frontal. In fact, no one does a nude full frontal, not even the gorgeous women. To use one of the favorite words of tha fat joke in the White House: Sad. 


The Sea Wolf
(2005, dir. Mark Roper)

Aka: The Pirate's Curse. Maria Rhom is co-producer of this "Peter Welbeck"-written flick. After the massive success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003 / trailer below), still the best film of the whole series, pirate movies once again became a thing. Hardly surprising that Towers did one, too. But, in the good ol' exploitation fashion, the advertising is a trick: the tale is set in the contemporary world — "Great movie for all the family, adventure and fun in the islands. Great scenery and car chases." — and is not a swashbuckler in yesteryear. Also: does the name sound familiar? It should: Jack London wrote a book entitled The Sea Wolf which, actually, has little in common with this film but surely inspired the name of the ship in this movie.
Trailer to Pirates of the Caribbean
The first & the best one:
The back of an old VHS offers the following plot description: "Discharged from the US Navy for disobeying orders, Thorpe (Thomas Ian Griffith) sails the high seas as a mercenary for hire in his sleek ship called 'Sea Wolf'. Upon meeting the beautiful and mysterious Helene (Gerit Kling), she enlists Thorpe to find Moctezuma's Treasure, millions in jewels and artifacts, and return it to the government of Mexico. What he doesn't realize is that this will not only be his most dangerous mission ever, but also his most deadly."
On the website to Blue Rider Pictures, which did the "bridge financing" for The Sea Wolf (2005), they can't help reprint the (probably) singular good thing anyone has said about the movie: "What director Mark Roper has made is cheesy fun. It's nice to see an update of the swashbuckling genre, even if it is in jest. I enjoyed Sea Wolf in all it's [sic] campy splendour. [Ryan Cracknell @ Apollo Movie Guide]"
 
Blue Rider, in turn, also reveals: "Released on Hungarian TV in 2005 and on Spanish and Finnish DVD in Spring of 2006. It was also seen it the U.S., Canada, Italy and Denmark." But the TV release explains the decided lack of flesh in the film. 
Trailer to
The Sea Wolf:
 
In any event, over at Amazon some guy named Michael Butts was slightly less impressed than Ryan Cracknell and wrote, "Sea Wolf — The Pirate's Curse is lame, ponderous, and dull. Any attempts at humor fall extremely flat, and the whole movie is limp and flaccid. Thomas Ian Griffith [...] is one of the most bland heroes we've seen in some time. Attempting to be a new Harrison Ford, Griffith only serves to remind us how great Indiana Jones was, and how any movies claiming to be 'like' it always fall flat. Add Gerit Kling, a lovely German actress, whose accident [sic] is almost indecipherable, Barry Flatman who lives up to his last name in his role as a villainous colonel, and assorted chases and you have one cheesy movie. The heroes actually use a coral-colored Volkswagen as their getaway car; the bad guys pursue an old Chevy Impala in Suzukis!!! There is little to recommend the film except for some lovely scenery of Cuba."
Speaking of Gerit Kling, pictured above from a German Playboy pictorial, her sister Anja King is found in Mark Roper's (Towers and Rhom-produced) High Adventure (2001, see somewhere above), which also starred Thomas Ian Griffith. Not a very important fact, but an excuse to include the picture. As for Barry Flatman, he's been part of better films, including The Returned (2013 / trailer), The Paperboy (1994 / trailer), and Patch Town (2014). 
Trailer to
Patch Town (2014):

Maria Rohm — R.I.P.
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