Well, here it is: the final countdown… to Christmas, that is. Or perhaps Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or whatever you feel like celebrating this time of year. In the previous entry of my B-Movie Gift Guide series, I started to scratch the rusty surface of cult movies as gifts. For me, there’s nothing greater than opening a present on (enter_celebratory_event_here) Day and seeing the words “Directed by Umberto Lenzi,” or “Starring Barbara Steele.” Oddly enough, I have found out that I am not alone — and therefore, I present the final chapter of my B-Movie Gift Guide (for 2009, that is): Cult-O-Rama.
• Knife Of Ice / 1972 / Wham! USA / Not Rated
With there being very little doubt in my mind that Umberto Lenzi’s wacky masterpiece Eyeball will always be his best work (if that’s saying anything), it’s very difficult for me to settle for second best. Fortunately, in this case, “second best” happens to be Knife Of Ice, a stellar entry in the giallo genre in which Lenzi casts Carroll Baker as Martha, a mute woman who gets caught up in a Euro web of terror when a killer sets his sights on Martha and her cousin.
• Zombies Of The Stratosphere / 1952 / Cheezy Flicks / Not Rated
After thrilling the youthful audiences of the Saturday matinee in both King Of The Rocketmen and Radar Men From The Moon, Republic Studios decided to brush off their Rocket Man outfit once more — calling the character Larry Martin this time ‘round, and pitting him against some invading Martians. Zombies Of The Stratosphere is twelve chapters of guilty Saturday matinee serial fun, and features a young Leonard Nimoy as one of the alien baddies.
• Hardware (1990) / 1990 / Severin Films / Not Rated
In a barren post-apocalypse world, a young scavenger named Moses Baxter (Dylan McDermott) comes across the weird metallic skull of a fallen cyborg. Taking the souvenir home to his artist girlfriend (Stacey Travis), the two soon learn that the skull is from a murderous machine known as the MARK 13, which promptly reactivates itself and begins manipulating all sorts of household objects to kill. This cult classic is available on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of Severin Films, along with a slew of great special features.
• Art Of Love / 1983 / Severin Films / Not Rated
From the late controversial director Walerian Borowczyk (Immoral Tales, La Bête) comes the final chapter of his infamous “Immoral Trilogy.” Set in Rome circa 8 AD, Art Of Love finds voyeuristic poet Ovid (Massimo Girotti) watching over all of the strange and exciting sexual secrets of the ancient Romans. Expect everything from a Roman orgy to a people getting down-and-dirty with their livestock. Probably not a good gift idea for children.
• Hanna D.: The Girl From Vondel Park / 1984 / Severin Films / Not Rated
This season, give the gift of sleaze. The late Rino Di Silvestro only made a handful of films — all of which were raw and graphic oddities. In Hanna D: The Girl From Vondel Park, we are treated to a low-budget rip-off of Germany’s Christiane F. in which young Hanna D. (Ann Gisel Glass) goes from being a sweet and innocent teenager to a cracked-out streetwalker. Di Silvestro ups the ante even further from the film’s inspiration by knocking out any sort of plot and filling the screen with as much debauchery as possible. If you are looking for one single solitary film to serve as your personal poster child for seasonal holiday depression, you’ve found it. Merry fucking Christmas!
• The Perfume Of Yvonne / 1994 / Severin Films / Not Rated
From Oscar-nominated French auteur Patrice Leconte (The Hairdresser’s Husband) comes an erotic drama film that initially flopped at the box office. Its stunning female lead, former model Sandra Majani, vanished into obscurity after the film’s release. And yet, despite (or perhaps, because of) that, The Perfume Of Yvonne has managed to become something of a masterpiece. See it for yourself and decide.
• An Angel For Satan/The Long Hair Of Death / 1966/1964 / Midnight Choir / Not Rated
Not only do we get to see screen queen Barbara Steele in Antonio Margheriti’s classic The Long Hair Of Death, but this double feature from Midnight Choir brings us An Angel For Satan for the first time on DVD in the US. In An Angel For Satan, Babs gets possessed by the spirit of her witch ancestor from 200 years back. More witchery is afoot in The Long Hair Of Death, when Steele gets burned at the stake for heresy, but soon returns to extract her revenge in this atmospheric gothic beauty.
• Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street/Crimes At The Dark House / 1936/1940 / Raunchy Tonk / Not Rated
Last but not least in this lot are a couple of vintage gems from England’s unsung hero of horror, Tod Slaughter. This title by Johnny Legend’s Raunchy Tonk label unleashes Tod’s original Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (long before Hugh Wheeler and Stephen Sondheim’s musical), in addition to his later vehicle, Crimes At The Dark House. Also included in this release is a 13-minute look at Slaughter live on stage performing as Sweeney Todd. An ideal introduction into vintage English horror for newbies and a collector’s piece for longtime lovers, too.
And there you have it: my final 2009 contribution to the seasonal corruption of cult moviegoers everywhere. Enjoy, kiddos.