legendary filmmaker Joe dante is a titan of the film industry, having done everything, from Gremlins and its sequel Gremlins 2: the new bundle to classics such as Piranha, The Howling, Explorers, Innerspace, The ‘Burbs, Matinee, and Little soldiers. He even went behind the camera for segments of Twilight Zone: the movie and Nightmare cinema, not to mention the episodes of “The Twilight Zone”, “Amazing Stories”, “Eerie, Indiana”, and even “Masters of Horror” (S1 & S2 are now both streaming on Screambox).
And between creating new horror classics, Dante is also behind the awesome Trailers from Hell and Podcast “The films that made us”. Talk about staying busy!
As you know, Bloody Disgusting recently took the reins of the new Screambox, a movie-laden subscription streaming platform that also hosts our live channel, BDTV. We’ve got such sites to show you over the next year or so, but we’ve launched it with five movies Barbara Crampton watches on Screambox and we’ve followed up with six from veteran horror director Mick Garris!
Today we’re digging deep into our catalog with Joe Dante, who’s dealing with six movies he allegedly pulled straight from the video store shelves!
Go straight to Joe’s Choices here. And read his articles for each of the films below!
HAUNTED SEA CREATURE
In 1960, Roger Corman decamped to Puerto Rico to shoot another of his non-union FilmGroup productions, The last woman on earth. But never one to waste an opportunity, he called on his longtime scribe Charles B. Griffith (A bucket of blood) to come up with a quick script for another image to shoot there with the same cast and crew. It took 3 days to write, 5 days to shoot. The result was one of the wackiest (and most cheesy) sci-fi parodies of the era, recycling the storylines of two earlier efforts, Naked paradise and The haunted cave beast. The crooks plan to steal the Cuban treasure by faking a sea monster to scare the authorities. Only (you guessed it) it’s real! At one point, the action stops for the heroine to sing a torch song with the lyrics “Kiss me, baby and the haunted sea creature.” Most people have seen this on TV, with additional material shot by Monte Hellman to complement the brief runtime.
Released in places in 1972 in a blurry dupe of raw editing, this Spanish-made sci-fi and horror hybrid has fallen into the public domain and has since been restored to its original state. The year is 1906 and the frozen fossil of anthropologist Christopher Lee’s missing link has been lost on the Trans-Siberian Express to Moscow. The humanoid fossil has been invaded by a shape-changing alien, which absorbs the spirits and bodies of various period figures, including a mad monk and a vigorous Cossack played by Telly Savalas. It’s a fun ride, smarter, and more spiritual than you might think. It was Lee’s 18th lead role with his friend Peter Cushing from the 22 (!) They did together.
THE BRAIN THAT WILL NOT DIE
A sordid classic. Filmed in 1959 in Tarrytown, NY, as The head that wouldn’t die, this one remained on the shelf until it was finally picked up for publication by the AIP in 1962. A mad and excited doctor keeps his fiancée’s severed head alive in a tray, with a monster in the closet, as he explores strip clubs in search of nubile bodies dropping his head on them. Inexpensive, overworked and tasteless, yet insanely and insanely entertaining. The header is played by Virginia Leith in what must be seen as a comeback from her debut in Kubrick’s first effort, Fear and desire.
MESA OF LOST WOMEN
“Have you ever been kissed by a girl like this?” The mind gets pissed off at this, the next best thing to an acid-free acid trip. Built from the ruins of a failed project, this uninhibited farrago is a unique parade of mad medics, mutant dwarves, sexy spider-women, and out-of-the-cards acting by a loyal team of exploitation. Jackie Coogan, in full Uncle Fester mode, is the mad doctor obsessed with turning spiders into, what else, busty temptresses. It doesn’t make sense, but such weird movies don’t drop every day, so you have to take this trip at least once. The constantly rehearsed flamenco guitar riff of cartoon composer Hoyt Curtin is literally breathtaking.
I once compared Jack Hill’s offbeat debut film to a sitcom directed by Luis Bunuel. This one-of-a-kind jet-black comedy features Lon Chaney as the harassed guardian of a consanguineous murderous family. Weird, dark and funny, with stellar performances from Chaney, Sid Haig and the haunting Jill Banner, 17 when she debuted here, who died in a car crash at 39. Director Hill was disappointed when he released his low budget of $ 55,000.12 The Daytime Movie was shelved by bankrupt producers and went unreleased for years. It almost became a lost film, impossible to see, until it was saved by a personal video in the late ’90s.
THE CURSE OF THE DEMON
Director Jacques Tourneur reconnects with some of the Val Lewton magic he brought to relaxing classics like The cat people and Leopard man with this spooky 1957 occult thriller that ranks among the best supernatural films ever made. Skeptical psychologist Dana Andrews finds more harm than he expected in trying to expose devil-cultist Niall MacGinnis, one of the most dangerously magnetic Satanists in horror history. Atmospheric, literate, and beautifully done, this has been reduced to 83 minutes for easier double-billing, but restored to its original 96 minutes duration for home video. There remains some controversy as to whether the titular demon was meant to be shown on screen or left to the imagination, but what we’re seeing really looks like hell.
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