After successfully avoiding getting sick all winter, I got done in real good right after the FMU Marathon ended. Sprawled with flu on the couch for a good three days. I think it had to have been hearing/seeing Bill Mac's live crooning of "Knuckles the Dog" that just destroyed my senses and immunity system last Sunday. Needless to say, I caught up on DVDs in my delerium and didn't do much else. Watched Deep Purple Live California 74. My Voivod DVD. Sargossa Manuscript. The entire season of BBC's Garth Merenghi's Darkplace (which, I have to say, if you haven't seen, get it immediately. The best send up on sci-fi-egghead svengali doctor shows ever, with the best lo-rent production values unseen since the heyday of UFO). There's a whole half hour show up on You Tube here, one of the funnier ones to boot. But after flipping out a few years back for the Mondo Macabro reissue of the 1975 Mexican psycho-nun-bloodbath known as Alucarda, I had been steadily picking up more of that company's DVD's and just been completely impressed by the job they've done in preserving some of the weirdest in foreign exploito-cult-horror films that otherwise would be lost forever, sometimes tossing hours of extras on each disk. Hopped up on meds, it was time to crack 'em open. Hoo boy.
Where else can you get a bonus feature full documentary depicting the history of Indonesian exploitation films? That's the kind of thing tacked on for your viewing if your brain isn't destroyed by a film starring a disembodied head chasing people around, like in 1981's Mystics In Bali. There's also goofball epics like For Your Height Only, starring the 2.5 foot tall James Bond of the Philippines running around in a Travolta-style white suit, rarities like Lifespan (featuring Klaus Kinski and scored by Terry Riley circa 1974) a 1976 South African documentary about a controversial python-wielding stripper Snake Dancer, and yeah, horror, horror, horror. Mexico's 1973 Satanico Pandemonium clearly took its vivid imagery from Ken Russell's classic The Devils, but it's interesting to see Mondo Macabro digging up so many under-the-radar films that came out at the same time as Russell's (like the banned-in-France '71 psychodrama Don't Deliver Us From Evil) that shared similar production and shock value. Aside from the eye-popping visuals, the sound design, music and effects are often just as incredible, so much that
sometimes I will just pop one of these suckers on the computer in the studio and let the audio just roll unedited over the radio. When the couple trying to flee the insane asylum in Mansion of Madness are accosted in a courtyard by dozens of human-chicken people, sometimes hearing the audio is all you need. And in the vein of music, one of the true weird chestnuts in
the MM catalogue though has to be the twofer for Bandh Darwaza / Purana Mandir, the former of which is basically the Bollywood musical take on Dracula. Holy hell, it needs to be seen to be believed. Halfway through, I glanced at the box credits and realized that it was produced in 1990! I coulda sworn it was from 71 or 72. Turns out the documentary added on to this flick, a fascinating overview of South Asian horror flicks, explains a lot. These kinds of films were not allowed to be made in India until directors Tulsi and Shyam Ramsay decided to break the taboo and start rolling them out in 1985, riding the utmost line of censorship allowance. What happened thereafter was an avalanche of Indian horror films from 1985-1990 that were pretty putrid (though not as bad as the Pakistani attempts also previewed here) and eventually the Indian film industry decided that the public wanted to see lovin', singin' and dancin' again. It seems like MM has uploaded some trailers and clips to You Tube: the trailer for Bandh Darwaza is here, as well as clips from their documentary on Turkish Pop Cinema, and the mentioned documentary on the Ramsays and the rise of Bollywood Horror here. Stuff on Mondo Macabro seems to drift in and out of print (I didn't see Alucarda up there right now), but praise be for these fine purveyors of preservation.