Archive for August 30, 2012

A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #5: Lucky

"Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell" (1978)

Lucky is the Barrys’ new family dog. After his predecessor Skipper is unceremoniously run down by a big black station wagon, a creepy old produce merchant rolls up and just happens to have a litter of pups in the back. All of the Barrys were predictably distraught, but none more than Bonnie (Kim Richards long before she became a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills), who has had her tenth birthday party absolutely ruined.

But once Bonnie holds lil’ Lucky in her arms, she can’t resist. He becomes a welcome addition to the family, but not everyone’s convinced. As their housekeeper Maria (Tina Menard) tries to explain, “I don’t know what it is. It’s like a cheell. He gives me a scary feeling all over. Please, Señor Barry, get another cute puppy before the kids get too much attached to heem.”

Of course, Señor Barry (a delightfully deadpan Richard Crenna) don’t cotton to Maria’s Old World superstitions. At least not until a year later, when Lucky tries to hypno-hump him into sticking his hand into a spinning lawn mower blade.

Lucky and Maria (Tina Menard) stare each other down in "Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell" (1978)

Lucky and Maria (Tina Menard) stare each other down in Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978)

Next thing you know, the kids are painting with blood, the dog is slowly chasing the missus (Yvette Mimieux) through the house until she turns into a skinny-dipping seductress, you’re hanging out in New Age bookstores with old ladies in Snuggies, and all hell is literally breaking loose. Before you know it, you’ll all be listening to KISS and playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Such is the premise of Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978) a made-for-TV supernatural chiller that aired on CBS Halloween Night some 34 years ago (damn, I feel old).

Lucky, as it turns out, is a barghest, “a creature of another world and another time according to those who believe. It’s a demon who appears in the form of a dog. It’s a monstrous thing, a goblin dog with huge teeth and claws. Monstrous. It only appears at night. The demon dog, the black dog, the dog of darkness, sometimes he runs with backward-pointed feet. Sometimes he is ablaze. Sometimes he is headless, but even a glimpse of the beast in his true form will send a man to a hell.”

Even with all of his infernal machinations, Lucky is still helpless to resist chasing a frisbee. Strangely enough, that ISN’T the weakness Mike Barry exploits to defeat this corruptor of his suburban paradise. No, instead he’s got to go to Ecuador like a true Lovecraftian protagonist and get his research on, talk to an old dude in a cave (Victory Jory), that sort of thing.

But hey, don’t let me spoiler the whole amazing odyssey for you. Check it out on your own. A little taste lies below.

R. G. Armstrong is only the second creepiest araber in television history.
Moses Gunn from Homicide: Life on the Street still takes the crown.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the creepy riff that is repeated ad nauseam in this film. You only get a taste of it in the trailer. Wee-oo wee-oo waaaah! It reminds me of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, another ’70s fave, but apparently it’s the work of Artie Kane (Eyes of Laura Mars).

Director Curtis Harrington hated this movie due to the constraints of its low budget, but I have more than a little nostalgia for it despite all its hokiness. There are plenty of instances where sound and photography make something out of nothing. The scene where housewife Betty is alone with the dog and a series of unnerving noises is a decent precursor to such frugal fare as Paranormal Activity and its ilk.

Please join us for the rest of these infamous “Dog Days of Summer” as we count down
“A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.

A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #6: Barry

Barry the Bulldog in "Meet the Feebles" (1989)

When it comes to henchmen, you can certainly do worse than an anthropomorphic bulldog.

Barry (voiced by Mark Hadlow) is the loyal minion of Bletch (Peter Vere-Jones), the owner and director of The Feebles Troupe. But what the funk is a Feeble?

Meet the Feebles (1989) is Peter Jackson’s second full-length film and his thoroughly demented tribute to Jim Henson’s beloved Muppets. The film follows the efforts of the Feebles to land a network television time slot for The Fabulous Feebles Variety Hour, but where Kermit the Frog had to deal with demanding stars, a prima donna pig, and general incompetence, the Feebles are plagued by every vice known to man and puppet.

Bletch has his flippers in a number of other business interests besides the Feebles, all of them illicit. In the scene below, he sends Barry and Trevor the Rat (Brian Sergent) to pick up an overdue shipment of drugs from Louie (Mark Wright), a courier employed by the notorious crime boss Mister Big (no relation to the “rock supergroup” of the same name). Things do not go as originally agreed, and the situation takes a decidedly violent turn. Enjoy!

Slightly NSFW due to puppets behaving VERRRRY badly
(would-be drug use, violent death, murder).

I love the sound effect for Dennis eagerly snorting a line. Clearly a voice-over.

Barry joins Bletch in an assault on Mister Big’s dockside operation, including a scene with puppets driving a Morris Minor through another gigantic puppet. No human actors appear in the film, though Abi the contortionist is a humanoid Indian mystic puppet. He spends most of the film trying to get his head extricated from his posterior. Rectum? It nearly killed him.

A couple months back, I had quite the internal debate over including this little Kiwi gem in my countdown of “Bizarre Movie Musicals You Have to See to Believe”. After all, it’s not every day you see a fox puppet wax rhapsodic about the appeal of anal intercourse.

At least I hope it isn’t.

As seen in the clip below, Sebastian (Stuart Devenie), against the express wishes of Bletch, tries to save the Feebles production with his signature song, blissfully unaware that Heidi the Hippo (also voiced by Mark Hadlow) has had a psychotic break backstage and gone on the rampage with a machine gun.

Totally NSFW. It’s a song about sodomy for the sake of Pete.
Also, a rampaging hippo with an M60.

Please join us for the rest of these infamous “Dog Days of Summer” as we count down
“A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.

A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #7: Pac-Man

"Pac-Man" and Triple H in "Blade: Trinity" (2004)

Another horror comic adaptation in our countdown, the vampire hunter Blade first appeared in Tomb of Dracula # 10 (1973) by Marvel Comics. Blade: Trinity (2004) is the third film in the franchise and the last to star Wesley Snipes as the Daywalker. Snipes was so unhappy with writer/director David S. Goyer and New Line Cinema that he filed suit in 2005, claiming he was unfairly denied $3.6 million of his salary despite being one of the film’s producers. Snipes also had a lot to say about why Blade: Trinity didn’t perform as well as previous installments, throwing blame at Goyer, New Line, Ryan Reynolds, and Jessica Biel. Pac-Man was not named in the suit nor grievances, but we’ll get to him in a moment.

Hannibal King as he first appeared in Tomb of Dracula # 25 (1974)

Hannibal King as he first appeared in Tomb of Dracula # 25 (1974)

Blade’s opposition this time around is Dracula himself, going by the less recognizable alias of “Drake” and played by Dominic Purcell (Equilibrium). Despite his misgivings, Blade is assisted in his hunt by the Nightstalkers, a team of junior vampire hunters led by Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel). Even though Abigail is the daughter of his mentor, Blade cannot take her or her partner Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) seriously, perhaps because Hannibal doesn’t shut his mouth for more than seven seconds at a time. In predictable fashion, they’ll have to earn his trust and approval by kicking vampire ass.

Before that can happen, however, Hannibal gets himself caught by Danica Talos (Parker Posey deliciously playing against type), the vampire who had previously turned him. By the time Trinity opens, Hannibal has already been cured of his vampirism by the retrovirus introduced in the first Blade film. Danica is joined in henchperson duties by her brother Asher (Callum Keith Rennie), and Jarko Grimwood (professional wrestler “Triple H” in his feature film debut).

Oh, and Pac-Man. Wait, what? Who is this Pac-Man?! Pac-Man is a vampire Pomeranian, created by “porting the vampire gene into other species”, as explained by Asher. See him in action below. I think the clip contains all of his screen time. If not, by all means let me know, and I’ll see if I can round up every last frame of this little guy’s cinematic career.

NSFW because the film version of Hannibal King swears like a
14-year-old who just discovered profanity. But hey, Parker Posey.

Okay, so in my humble opinion, a vampiric Pomeranian is somehow NOT the strangest creative choice made for this film. That honor goes to writer/director David S. Goyer’s decision to make the fictional city setting bilingual, patterning it after Montreal (English and French) or Miami (English and Spanish). His choice for second language? The constructed language of Esperanto, created in 1887.

Signs around the city are depicted as being in both English and Esperanto. Hannibal King is even seen watching the old black-and-white film Incubus (1966), starring William Shatner in one of only two movies filmed entirely in Esperanto. A similar gimmick was used in the 1997 science fiction film Gattaca where public service announcements were made in the presumed state language of Esperanto, to evoke a kind of generic Orwellian multicultural New World Order. I don’t think it was particularly effective in either case, since I discovered both uses as trivia and didn’t key into it while watching either.

C’est la vie/Such is life/Tia estas vivo.

Please join us for the rest of these infamous “Dog Days of Summer” as we count down
“A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.

A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #8: Shane

"Shane" in "Tales from the Crypt" (1972)

Major William Rogers is the new director at the Elmridge Home for the Blind. With over twenty years of military experience, he is determined to run the facility as efficiently and economically as possible, even if it means shutting off the heat at 20:00 hours (8:00 p.m. to you civilians) and cutting back on food rations.

As the officer in charge, Major Rogers (Nigel Patrick) is certainly not going to sacrifice his own comfort. Paintings adorn the walls of his office. His lunches consist of steak and wine. And when he cannot finish his steak, he feeds the scraps to his Belgian Malinois, Shane.

Shane is a good dog. Shane protects his master from the ungrateful residents. As spokesman George Carter (Patrick Magee) tries to explain, blindness makes their other senses more acute such that the subpar food is intolerable, scurrying insects can be heard all around, and the cold bites like a wolf. Major Rogers is unmoved. Shane is there to make sure such complaints do not become threats. Like Shane, the residents of Elmridge should learn not to bite the hand that feeds them.

“Blind Alleys” is the fifth and final story in the horror anthology film Tales from the Crypt (1972), based on the notorious EC Comics series of the same name that thrilled children and horrified parents, teachers, shrinks, politicians, and clergy. Freddie Francis directed the film for Amicus Productions, one of several portmanteau films the studio produced, and the third for Francis. He would go on to direct a fourth, Tales That Witness Madness, for World Film Services, often mistaken for one of the Amicus series. Despite directing mostly horror flicks, Francis worked as director of photography on a wide variety of critically-acclaimed films including The Innocents, The Elephant Man, and Glory.

After one of their number dies from the director’s callous neglect, the residents begin plotting their revenge. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but Shane figures prominently into the cleverly devised scheme. Major Rogers doesn’t “see it coming”, and most likely, neither will you.

A portion of "Blind Alleys" as it appeared in Tales from the Crypt # 46

A portion of “Blind Alleys” as it appeared in Tales from the Crypt # 46

Sir Ralph Richardson (Doctor Zhivago) appears as the hooded, mysterious Crypt Keeper, issuing a dire warning to begin each of the film’s segments. His portrayal is stiff and lifeless, unlike the wisecracking punster that appeared in the comic book and subsequent HBO television series. It does fit the tone of the overall film, however, and deftly avoids the pitfall of camp.

Here is the film’s climax in all its vengeful glory, running a little over 10 minutes. Enjoy at your leisure.

Slightly NSFW due to blood and viciousness.

The story was later adapted for the television series episode “Revenge is the Nuts” with Anthony Zerbe (The Omega Man, The Dead Zone) playing facility director Arnie Grunwald (closer to the Gunner Grunwald character of the comic story). The sleazy sexual angle that is almost requisite in the comic series is restored here for HBO with the quirky but cute Teri Polo (Meet the Parents) playing the target of Grunwald’s unwelcome and unsubtle advances. Bruno the dog is also closer to Brutus as depicted in the panels above, but all in all, the TV adaptation doesn’t have the same pathos as the Freddie Francis film. It never conjures sympathy for Teri Polo and Isaac Hayes the way that Patrick Magee and company do with their grim determination.

Please join us for the rest of these infamous “Dog Days of Summer” as we count down
“A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.

A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #9: The Thing

Jed in "The Thing" (1982)

Is it a dog or isn’t it? Well, that’s the key question posed during the opening scenes of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). The Alaskan Malamute arrives at an American Antarctic research camp, pursued by a helicopter full of angry Norwegians from their own camp across the way. Before any of the Americans can figure out what the deuce is going on, the helicopter explodes, station commander Garry is forced to shoot the last crazed Norwegian, and the poor pooch is taken into their midst. The fools…

This version of The Thing is the second screen treatment of the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr., under the pseudonym “Don A. Stuart”. Despite criticism from fans of the earlier, black-and-white film starring James Arness, the much gorier and slimier John Carpenter adaptation stays closer to the original story about a shapechanging alien battling against an isolated and increasingly paranoid research team led by helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell, in his second of four starring roles for Carpenter).

Movie Poster for "The Thing" (1982)

Movie Poster for The Thing (1982)

Jed (White Fang) plays the dog for much of the film, though not the opening chase. For that scene, Carpenter used a dog with a coat dyed to look like Jed. He does get plenty of screen time, however, and was praised by Carpenter for his acting ability. Jed passed in 1995 at the ripe old age of 17. By all accounts, he was a consummate professional and leaves behind a fine legacy in film.

Special effects wizard Stan Winston was responsible for the design of the dog creature. 1982 would mark his first Academy Award nomination, for the insipid Andy Kaufman/Bernadette Peters robot romcom Heartbeeps, but his collaboration here with fellow SFX icon Rob Bottin (King Kong, The Howling) insured it would not be his last. Before his death in 2008, Stan Winston had racked up 4 Oscars (one for Aliens, a pair for Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and the last for Jurassic Park).

The Thing marked the first time director John Carpenter didn’t score his own film, but he found a more than adequate replacement in the legendary Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). Ambient noise also adds to the film’s signature sound. The howling Antarctic wind was actually recorded in the desert outside of Palm Springs, but you can practically feel it taking hold of your bones as the weather becomes an antagonist to be feared every bit as much as the alien horror. In a final bit of sound trivia, Carpenter’s then-wife, actress Adrienne Barbeau is the only female voice in the film, as the sultry-voiced “Chess Wizard.”

Rage quit. Slightly NSFW due to some bitter profanity.

You know it’s bad when a bottle of J&B Scotch and a phone sex chess computer are what passes for intimate companionship. Now, Clark’s obsession with those yapping dogs of his don’t seem so crazy, does it? Beats watching videotaped episodes of Let’s Make a Deal.

Okay, so earlier in this countdown, I gave some deserved attention to Silence! The Musical. It seems those Kaplan scamps are at it again.

Totally NSFW due to excessive gore and some lyrical profanity.
Oh, and also spoilertastic as it recaps the entire movie in song.

Please join us for the rest of these infamous “Dog Days of Summer” as we count down
“A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.

A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #10: Victor

Marlon Moreno in "Dog Eat Dog" (2007)

Look out! See what I’m doing here? Not all of these “Diabolical Dogs” are of the canine variety.

Such is the case with Victor Peñaranda (Marlon Moreno). Victor has a serious problem. In an impulsive moment, he stole a bag of cash from his boss Don Pablo. Now, he and Eusebio Benitez (Óscar Borda) are charged with finding the stolen money and dealing with the culprit. Victor just has to keep his cool and let things shake out before skipping town with his wife and daughter.

After all, there’s no honor among thieves. It’s every man for himself. In the Colombian underworld, it’s Perro Come PerroDog Eat Dog (2007).

Carlos Moreno made his cinematic debut co-writing and directing this taut little Colombian crime thriller that won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema – Dramatic at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. It’s not paced as rapidly as a Tarantino or Guy Ritchie caper, but it held my interest throughout and was an intriguing glimpse into the seedy underbelly of South America.

Movie Poster for "Dog Eat Dog" (2007)

Movie Poster for Dog Eat Dog (2007)

Victor’s choice is the inciting incident that drives the narrative, but Benitez has problems of his own. In circumstances that aren’t made clear in the film, he killed the godson of crime boss “El Orejón” (“Big Ears”, played broadly by Blas Jaramillo in one of his final roles). Thirsty for vengeance, the superstitious “El Orejón” enlists the aid of a witch named Irish (Paulina Rivas) to put a curse on Benitez, a fate worse than death. He impatiently waits for supernatural results, unaware that the target of his rage works right under his nose, on a quest to find his stolen cash.

Meanwhile, “El Orejón” has gone around Don Pablo and assigned his own minder to the mission. Silvio Sierra (Álvaro Rodríguez) is an obnoxious pragmatist, quick with a nasty joke or bitter observation. Having a racist, a sadist, and a loudmouth like Sierra babysit the two men, each on a rapid downward spiral into his own personal hell, is like throwing gasoline on a campfire. Their travels around town in Sierra’s pick-up truck, three abreast with Victor sweating in the center while they hunt for the money that can’t be found, is claustrophobic and unnerving.

Still, Victor’s not a killer at heart, just a man trying to do right by his family, but his decisions have a bad habit of snowballing out of control. Don Pablo isn’t the cruel, vindictive boss that “El Orejón” is, and he even risks his own life to help Victor, even while suspecting Victor is the man with the stolen money that has brought nothing but disaster. The truth, however, would certainly not set Victor free. More likely, it would mean a horrible death for both him and his wife and child. Can he get away with it? Given the widespread collateral damage, should he?

The music video for the title song, “Perro Come Perro” by accomplished Colombian rock band Superlitio, serves as a better glimpse at the film than any trailer I’ve found. Even if your español is rusty or non-existant, the song is dead catchy and hard to get out of your head once it lodges there like a bit of buckshot.

Carlos Moreno has kept busy with film and television work since Dog Eat Dog, but its spiritual successor seems to be his 2011 feature, All Your Dead Ones. The plot concerns a peasant who wakes up to find a pile of corpses in the middle of his land. He tries to do the right thing and notify the authorities, but Election Day looms and there’s too many bodies to deal with easily. Where did they come from, where will they go? I’m keeping my eyes out for this satirical take on civic responsibility.

Please join us for the rest of these infamous “Dog Days of Summer” as we count down
“A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.

A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #11: Max

Movie Poster for "Man's Best Friend"

“Nature created him.
Science perfected him.
But no one can control him.”

Max is a genetically altered Tibetan mastiff and creepy Dr. Jarrett’s “pet project” at the EMAX laboratories. Lori Tanner (Ally Sheedy) is a crusading journalist out to expose the atrocities committed against defenseless animals by Jarrett (Lance Henriksen) and his ilk, but manages to accidentally free Max in the process. When Max fends off a purse-snatcher (fatally, unbeknownst to Lori), she decides to keep him, much to the dismay of her boyfriend.

In the clip below from Man’s Best Friend (1993), a couple of neighborhood kids, Rudy (J.D. Daniels) and Chet (Bradley Pierce), goad Max into taking care of an obnoxious neighborhood cat. Check out the cheeky music. For a film ostensibly about animal experimentation gone wrong, there seems to be a sadistic glee in this scene. As someone horribly allergic to cats and less than sympathetic to their plights, I must confess I find it at least a little humorous, mostly because of the unrepentantly over-the-top style in which it is filmed.

Slightly NSFW with some mild language. And does the one kid say “fuggedaboutit”?!

After working on the script for Child’s Play and directing its sequel, John Lafia wrote and directed this awkward entry into the “When Animals Attack” genre. Max is clumsily treated as both antagonist and victim, while Ally Sheedy exposes her limitations by largely playing it as a Lifetime “Woman in Jeoprardy” Movie of the Week. The supporting cast at least has fun with the material and appear to identify that they’re all working on a B-picture that could easily have been part of Roger Corman’s portfolio two to three decades prior.

Since it is made clear that Max understands human speech and has the capacity for reason, his assault of Rudy’s innocent pet Collie certainly constitutes rape played for laughs, and it’s none-too-subtly implied that a similar fate might await clueless Lori. Max is so intelligent, he bites through the brake line in her boyfriend’s car and detects a poison hamburger, discarding it in the toilet and flushing it down. Suddenly, it’s Fatal Attraction with a dog and the dog’s winning.

Showing her ineptitude for investigative journalism is at least consistent, Lori identifies a local junkman (William Sanderson) as a prime choice for Max’s new home. Because, as everyone knows, junkyard dogs are beloved members of the community and treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Yeah, so the moment her back is turned, said junkman takes a shovel to Max to teach him who’s boss. Predictably, Max does not take kindly to this form of tough love and bites his attacker in the “junk”.

Returning home, Max has had enough of the boyfriend and his noise, so he drags him out of the closet where he’s cowering and pisses acid in his face. Acid. Yeah, I’ve got no idea either. The closest explanation I can find lies in the poster art in the upper left there, showing Max as a *spoiler* cyborg rather than genetically manipulated. Apparently, plans to reveal a Terminator-style metal skeleton were scrapped, probably due to budget constraints, surely not because it would look goofy (re: swallowing cat whole).

All the while, Dr. Jarrett is relentless hunting down Max, warning the slovenly authorities that “in the right hands, Max can save thousands of lives. In the wrong hands… he can be a deadly weapon.” While the movie may have intended to show the folly of radical science and genetic tampering in particular, Jarrett and Max are the only two people with a brain. This is sadly one of those films where you’ll end up wishing the body count was big enough to include the entire cast of characters. The stinger at the end implies the possibility of a sequel, but in an era when horror franchises seemed to spring up like dandelions, this one died not with a bang, not with a bark, but with a whimper.

Please join us for the rest of these infamous “Dog Days of Summer” as we count down
“A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.

Remembering Terry Nation

Terry Nation and his creations, the Daleks

Terry Nation is best known as the creator of Doctor Who’s most enduring villains, the Daleks. After a career writing comedy for radio and television, Nation was approached by David Whitaker, story editor for a fledgling science fiction series called Doctor Who. Nation penned the second serial, initially titled “The Mutants”, and introduced the Daleks.

Initial designs of the Daleks were to be handled by Ridley Scott (yes, THAT Ridley Scott), but a scheduling conflict prevented him from working on the series, so Raymond Cusick took the helm instead and is responsible for the Daleks’ unique design. Cusick was a BBC employee on salary at the time, and despite the merchandising boom and subsequent “Dalekmania”, he was not entitled to royalties. The BBC did eventually recognize his contribution and grant him a financial reward, but to Cusick, it was merely proper design credit that he felt was his due.

Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)

While the Doctor Who television series was still being broadcast in black-and-white, a version of “the Mutants” storyline made the leap to the big screen in Technicolor. Peter Cushing plays the good doctor, but not the Time Lord from Gallifrey made famous by the long-running BBC series. Here, he is an English inventor, an absent-minded professor, and “Who” is merely his surname, whereas in Doctor Who canon, he is generally referred to merely as “The Doctor”.

Another arbitrary change is in the nature of TARDIS. The definite article is dropped for the film, with Dr. Who referring to it as “TARDIS” rather than “The TARDIS”, though it still stands for “Time and Relative Dimension in Space”. No explanation is attempted for why Dr. Who chose a blue police box for its outer appearance, however, and there is no reference to its “chameleon circuit” or “camouflage unit” or what-have-you.

Despite all the drastic alterations to the cast, the plot basically follows that of the television serial. The heroes find themselves stranded in the middle of a petrified forest on some alien world. After some subterfuge by an insatiably curious Dr. Who, they encounter the Daleks and are taken to their city. The Daleks are locked in an ongoing war with the Thals, a humanoid race of supposed giants (though they look no larger than anyone else here, and their uniformly blonde hair from the television series has been transmogrified into some hideous copper wigs). The Daleks, heavily mutated by the exchange of nuclear weapons, built metal shells and retreated into their impenetrable city while the Thals took up an agrarian lifestyle, dependent upon constant doses of anti-radiation drugs to stay alive. Dr. Who, his two granddaughters, and the elder girl’s boyfriend take up the cause of the Thals and help them oppose the genocidal Daleks.

Daleks — Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

Jill Curzon and a Dalek in a promotional photo for "Daleks - Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D."

Sleeping with the enemy? Jill Curzon cozies up to a Dalek in a promotional photo for Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.

After the success of the first foray of the Daleks into film, the plan was to produce a Dalek movie every year as an annual event. The second story was loosely based on the 1964 serial “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”. Roberta Tovey returns as Dr. Who’s granddaughter Susan, but her older sister is replaced by a nebulous niece of the doctor’s, Louise (Jill Curzon). They are joined by London Constable Tom Campbell (Bernard Cribbins) just before traveling to the future London of 2150.

There, they are alarmed to find the city in ruins, dominated by the Daleks and their cybernetic converts, the Robomen. The heroes quickly team up with an underground resistance movement based in the London Underground. Eventually, they learn that the Daleks are using the Robomen to drill to the Earth’s core. There, they will place an engine which will allow them to use the entire planet as a vessel to carry them back to their homeworld of Skaro.

Not part of the Dalek plot, but part of the film’s financing is the seemingly everpresent product placement for “Sugar Puffs”. If this were done during the Russell T Davies relaunch of the television series, I would think it was a meme to foreshadow some “big bad” down the road, but it’s much more insidious than that. The collaboration must have done some good, as both the Daleks and Sugar Puffs continue to be a danger to the modern children of Britain.

Despite great expense promoting and merchandising the film, Dalekmania had seemingly run its course, and the second film grossly underperformed. The Times was particularly cruel in its review, stating “Grown-ups may enjoy it, but most children have more sense.” Despite disdain from Doctor Who purists, the films certainly helped further the imagery and longevity of the Daleks as iconic science fiction villains.

The House in Nightmare Park (1973)

Co-written and co-produced by Nation, The House in Nightmare Park was one of a number of 1970s films that parodied the success of the Hammer Horror franchise. The film is largely a vehicle for veteran comic Frankie Howerd (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), who plays Foster Twelvetrees, a bombastic thespian invited to perform a dramatic reading in a creepy old Gothic mansion. Spooky hijinks ensue. Ray Milland (The Thing with Two Heads) plays the master of the house and patriarch to the strange Henderson clan. I must confess I stumbled upon this film while researching this tribute, but now I fully intend to watch it in its entirety based largely on the clip below. Enjoy.

“I was just giving her me Little Nell.”

Later Work

Terry Nation continued to work in science fiction television, creating the post-apocalyptic series Survivors and the influential Blake’s 7. He died from emphysema in 1997 while working on a revival of Blake’s 7 with series star Paul Darrow. Survivors saw a brief, two season revival in 2008. While a sequel or relaunch of Blake’s 7 has yet to see the light of day, its tale of renegades on the run from the totalitarian Terran Federation was a stark contrast to the benevolent Federation of Star Trek and a direct precursor to such shows as Lexx, Farscape, and Firefly. As an ardent fan of all three of those iconoclastic shows as well as those dastardly Daleks, a posthumous “thank you” is certainly overdue for Terry Nation.

A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #12: Prince

Prince chows down in Wes Craven's "The People Under the Stairs" (1991)

Prince is the family dog of The Robesons, and you will never meet a closer couple. They are so simpatico, they could be brother and sister. Oh, wait, they ARE brother and sister.

In Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs (1991), “Mommy” and “Daddy” Robeson are a pair of slumlords who want to tear down the low income housing they own and put up condominiums, where “clean people” can live who will pay their rent on time. The charming couple are played by Everett McGill and Wendy Robie, who played a completely different creepy couple in the television series Twin Peaks. Here, they are the latest in a line of incestuous entrepreneurs beginning with the original owners of the Robeson Funeral Home, with each succeeding generation getting greedier and crazier than the one before.

Prince is their loyal and beloved dog. He even has his own doggie-door access to the labyrinthine catacombs between the walls of their funeral parlor home. While he’s surely menacing and gets more than just a nibble of would-be burglar Leroy (Ving Rhames), Prince isn’t technically a killer. He is horribly complicit in his owners’ murderous activities, more than happy to accept scraps from their own cannibalistic larder.

Please join us for the rest of these infamous “Dog Days of Summer” as we count down
“A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.

Honorable Mention: Precious

Purely from the way this scene from The Silence of the Lambs is shot, it looks like Precious is taunting her owner’s prisoner, Catherine Martin. “Yes she will, Precious. She’ll get the hose.” Still, there’s no reason to believe there is anything remotely malicious about the poodle, and <SPOILER ALERT>, she even leaves the dungeon in the arms of the rescued woman. I’d like to think Precious had a happy, healthy rest of her life, but you have to wonder if she ended up in the care of Ms. Martin and if that would really be such a good idea.

WARNING: Not Safe For Work due to harsh language and just being appallingly creepy.

Oh, and this is just too strange not to share. It’s not very obscure, admittedly, but I *do* love the recasting of “Precious”.

Let’s All Go to the Lobby…

Movie Poster for "The Breed"

Let’s All Go to the Lobby…
Let’s All Go to the Lobby…
and Get Ourselves a Drink!

Some films are so bad they’re good. Some films benefit from a little liquid encouragement. Some people seek out such entertainment. We are such people, and we’re willing to share our discoveries with you.

Please remember to drink responsibly.

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.” — Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Tonight’s Feature:

The Breed(2006)

Produced by horror icon Wes Craven, The Breed marks the directorial debut of Nicholas Mastandrea, frequent assistant director to Craven and key grip for George Romero on many of his classics throughout the 70s and 80s. Filming took approximately two months in South Africa, but each actor had to undergo canine training for about a week prior. Too bad Mastandrea didn’t spend as much time training his human actors or reworking the script. The Breed debuted at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival to little fanfare, but we’re about to celebrate its cliche excess tonight!

Our principals are all cliche “Horror Young People”, but let’s get to know them anyway…

Taryn Manning and Michelle Rodriguez in "The Breed"

Taryn Manning and Michelle Rodriguez in The Breed (2006)

Michelle Rodriguez

Michelle Rodriguez had already made a name for herself in Girlfight, The Fast and the Furious, and as Ana Lucia Cortez on the television show Lost. Here, she plays Nicki, one of five young people visiting the remote island that serves as the film’s sole setting. She is romantically linked to Matt (Eric Lively), but had previously dated his older brother, John (Oliver Hudson), creating a bit of natural tension between the three.

Established early in the film, Nicki is a health food nut and an “outdoorsy type”. She comes prepared with not only soy milk, flax seed oil, and kasha, but climbing rope and Dyna-Locks. Hopefully, all that will come in handy when the diabolical dogs show up.

Taryn Manning

One half of the sibling poptronic duo Boomkat, Taryn Manning had already appeared in the musically driven films 8 Mile and Hustle & Flow before joining the cast of The Breed. I must confess that I don’t believe I’ve ever heard her sing, but her performance here as the party girl Sara has a schtrange schpeech pattern that I’m not sure is an affectation for the role. It alternates between being cute and kind of annoying. Sch’est la vie.

Oliver Hudson, Eric Lively, and Hill Harper in "The Breed"

Oliver Hudson, Eric Lively, and Hill Harper in The Breed

Eric Lively

In 2005, Eric Lively joined the second season cast of the Showtime original series The L Word as the sleazy and self-interested documentary filmmaker Mark Wayland. The former Abercrombie & Fitch model plays it much more “straight” here as Matt, the responsible younger brother to John (Hudson). With “three final exams, two biology labs, and a term paper due in four days,” Matt is finding it difficult to get into the spirit of a vacation getaway like his roommate Noah and older brother John. The latter requests that Matt avoid acting like a “little vagina.” That’s both offensive and incredibly difficult for Matt, as you’ll see.

Oliver Hudson

Oliver Hudson is the son of Goldie Hawn and Bill Hudson, brother to Kate Hudson. Here, he’s John, the irresponsible brother of Matt (Lively). Up to this point, Hudson had been best known for a stint on the sixth season of Dawson’s Creek. Nicki (Rodriguez) is John’s ex-girlfriend. Now, he’s forced to stand back and watch her mack all over his more successful little brother, clearly rubbing salt in an old wound. He’s at least partly to blame, if everyone else is to be believed, because he doesn’t know how to treat a lady. Sometimes ya got to squeeze. Sometimes you’ve got to say please.

Hill Harper

Hill Harper plays Noah, the hard partying roommate of Matt (Lively). Harper began playing Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on the television series CSI: NY in 2004, an award-winning role he continues to play as I post this. During their first year as Harvard law students, he befriended President Barack Obama. In The Breed, Noah keeps much less sterling company and is characterized as a mediocre student at best, “a fan of the five-year program.” As the token wisecracking black man in a sea of young white people, the literal “fifth wheel,” he’s doomed to never finish said program. Hardly a spoiler alert to anyone familiar with the tropes involved.

Before we let the dogs out, you must first “ante up.”

Ante: A Salty Dog (one shot of vodka and two shots of grapefruit juice in a glass, salt the rim). Alternatively, a Bloodhound, Greyhound, or even a Slippery Nipple. Hey, we’re not lawyers, and tomorrow morning, it’ll all be “Hair of the Dog” anyway.

Now, once the feature has begun, pick your poison (beer, hard lemonade, etc.).
These are the few simple rules you must obey:

  • Rule # 1: Drink to new acquaintances whenever a named character is introduced.
  • Rule # 2: Any time a named cast member dies, drink to their memory.
  • Rule # 3: Drink for courage any time dogs enter the scene for the first time.
  • Rule # 4: Whenever you see a character drink on screen, you must do the same.

I recommend a 15-minute intermission about halfway through for smokes, restroom breaks, water (hangover-proofing), snacks, etc. Appropriate snacks include cocktail weenies, pâté and bagel chips, or, for vegetarians, cookies shaped like little dog biscuits. In any case, I do NOT recommend drinking additional alcohol during intermission.

Beer BottleBeer Bottle
Difficulty Level:
Viewers will typically consume 22 oz.
(2 bottles at 1/2 oz. per drink, 12 oz. per bottle)
of alcoholic beverage if all rules are obeyed.

Running Time: 96 min. (+15 min. intermission)

If you want to check your work or just live vicariously through others, give man’s best friend a pet (click) and scope out our official scorecard for The Breed:

One of the many personable pooches from "The Breed"

One of the many personable pooches from The Breed