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Luigi Bastardo’s Last-Minute Cult-O-Rama B-Movie Gift Guide

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If there’s one thing I’m good at doing in life, it’s putting things off. One great example is my ability to woo members of the opposite sex: I can put dem bitches off like nothing else. The same also applies to members of the same sex, oddly enough, even though I’m not trying to get into their pants (although the occasional emo boy does catch my eye every now and again, but that’s irrelevant). But if there is one thing I excel in putting off (aside from work, of course), it’s gifts. Whether the occasion is a birthday, anniversary, wedding, funeral, or those dastardly quaint commercialized events we have since come to call “holidays,” I never remember to get anyone anything in a timely fashion.

Although it’s not always accidental; I simply don‘t know what “normal” people like. I’ve always been a movie lover, and I feel that others should share my passion for the moving pictures. Unfortunately, the biggest reason I ne’er purchase anything for any of the people that have the misfortune of knowing me in life is that I tend to prefer watching the more “off-kilter” movies. You know, things that aren’t Avatar, Twilight and don’t feature the name “Michael Bay” anywhere on them. And, so, just in case you fall into the same category as me (whether it be as a gift-giver or someone that’s just hard to shop for), I have compiled this last-minute list of recommendations for “B-Movie” movie lovers everywhere.

Micmacs / 2009 / Sony Pictures Classics / R

French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of such classics Amélie, City Of The Lost Children, and Delicatessen, returns to thrill audiences with this engaging tale. After a gang shootout leaves him homeless, jobless and with a bullet permanently lodged in his brain, former video clerk Bazil (Dany Boon) teams up with a group of misfit artists and form a plan to take down two of France’s major arms manufactures: one company made the landmine that killed his father, the other made the bullet that he carries with him in his grey matter. Armed with their wits, street skills and a number of ingenious inventions, these outcasts start a war against the world of heavy artillery — and director Jeunet succeeds in making another fantastic fantasy flick. Sony Pictures Classics presents Micmacs on DVD and Blu-ray with a number of bonus features.

Vampire Circus / 1972 / Synapse Films / Not Rated

Yes, yes, yes! Not only have Don May, Jr. and his ever-diligent staff at Synapse Films given us the long-awaited US home video debut of the Hammer horror classic Vampire Circus, but they have also entered the world of High Def home entertainment with this Blu-ray/DVD combo set. Set in the 19th century, Vampire Circus opens with the members of a small Austrian village kiling a local Count when a little girl is murdered by a vampire. Naturally, the Count puts a curse on the villagers, and, fifteen years later — during the midst of the plague — a traveling circus comes to town to entertain the villagers; a traveling circus made up of bloodthirsty vampires who have come to drain the town dry! Synapse Films goes the extra distance her with this combo set by including a documentary, two featurettes, a motion comic book, and more.

The Monster And The Ape / 1945 / Cheezy Flicks / Not Rated

Here’s one for all of you classic cliffhanger serial lovers out there. Made on the heels of something we like to call World War II, The Monster And The Ape was probably what some might refer to as the first bona fide “science fiction” serial from Columbia Studios. Previously, Columbia’s serials had only inhabited a handful of sci-fi merits; whereas here we have a “Metalogen Man” (a big, clunky robot) which a group of scientists create to benefit mankind (by eliminating jobs — these were the same people that later came up with the concept of “outsourcing”). Unfortunately, a far more demented scientist (George Macready) accuses the other docs of stealing his work and sends a killa gorilla (named Thor) out to murder them. It’s up to hero Robert Lowery (a few years away from being the second cinematic Batman) to save the day in this 15-chapter cliffhanger co-starring Willie Best and Ralph Morgan.

Resonnances / 2006 / Synapse Films / Not Rated

Chalk up another for the French in this gift guide with Resonnances. Made on a budget that even Ed Wood would call “low” and starring a cast of mostly amateur actors, Resonnances tells the tale of three couples who venture up into the mountains for a weekend getaway and wind up wishing they could do nothing more than get away! Between a escaped psychopath on the loose, a ghostly female apparition, and a bizarre centuries-old critter living underneath the ground that has a hankerin’ for human flesh, these six poor souls are in for one wild-ass weekend! Writer/director Philippe Robert’s flick borrows heavily and pays homage to many of the great horror and sci-fi films of the last thirty years; and his feature debut is a true hoot for fans of homemade foreign genre-busters.

Death Of A Snowman (aka Snow Patrol) / 1978 / Synapse Films / R

Some exploitation movies are like wine, cheese and/or MILFs: they just get better with age. Hell, some aged exploitation movies are even better than having some wine, cheese, and a couple of MILFs over — such as South Africa’s Death Of A Snowman! Made at a time when it was actually legal for the minority of white folks in South Africa to segregate the native black people (see: here if you’re not old enough to recall), Death Of A Snowman follows the exploits of a reporter and a white detective as they both try to figure out who is behind a series of baffling, brutal murders committed against criminals. Chases, clashes, chicks and a funky music score endow this, one of the few blaxploitation flicks produced outside of the US of A.

Monster A-Go Go / 1965 / Synergy Entertainment / Not Rated

It started out as an abortion. It turned into a cult classic. Bill Rebane’s abandoned science fiction thriller Terror At Halfday was called to a halt when he ran out of money in 1961. Four years later, exploitation guru Herschell Gordon Lewis bought the unfinished product from Rebane, shot new footage with mostly new actors and called it a day — leaving many of the film’s post-production procedures unrealized (resulting in some very unintentionally amusing moments). Lewis’ new ending also delivers one of the worst copouts ever committed to celluloid. The result is something so baffling, convoluted and poor that it would even perplex the shit out of movie mashup master Godfrey Ho. The story, about a tiny space capsule goes up into orbit with an astronaut but returns with a ten-foot-tall radioactive monster, was a hit on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1993 and has returned to haunt cinemasochists once more with this 45th anniversary “Special Collector’s Edition” DVD complete with bonus materials (!).

Shinsengumi Chronicles: I Want To Die A Samurai / 1963 / AnimEigo / Not Rated

And finally, we have a samurai flick. Really, what movie collection would be worth anything without a good samurai flick? No, Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai doesn’t count. But Shinsengumi Chronicles: I Want To Die A Samurai certainly does: it’s an early period piece from Kenji Misumi, the director of many Zatoichi and Lone Wolf And Cub entries. A young ronin (Raizo Ichikawa) has dreams of becoming a full-fledged samurai. But, between the various political intrigue, assassinations and discrimination that’s to be found everywhere across the countryside, our hero has his quite a journey ahead of him. Tomisaburo Wakayama, the star of the Lone Wolf And Cub series, also stars in this Japanese gem that probably would have passed us all by if it hadn’t been for the folks at AnimEigo.

Well, there you have it, kids: Luigi Bastardo’s Last-Minute Cult-O-Rama B-Movie Gift Guide. Now go out and buy one of these films, dammit.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.