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Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell has a cute novelty behind it: A horde of very '80s-looking zombies barges into a downtown movie theater to watch nearly 50 TV spots and theatrical trailers for gory horror movies while a ventriloquist and his zombie dummy oversee the proceedings. It's neat at first, but wears out its welcome after a while. The trailers are the true stars of this fun package. Highlights include the Adolph Caesar-narrated TV spots for the Amicus anthologies Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror, the ultra-rare TV spot for House of Exorcism (a re-edited version of Mario Bava's Lisa and the Devil made to cash in on The Exorcist), a lengthy preview for the incredibly out of place and un-PC mondo doc Africa Blood and Guts (featuring live footage of animals and people being murdered), and an R-rated trailer for the Italian import Lady Frankenstein that shows off equal doses of skin and grue. There's a few duds mixed in, such as the previews for the godawful proto-slasher Three on a Meathook and the bargain basement mad scientist flick Flesh Feast. Thankfully, there's more hits than misses on Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell. Since the emphasis is on trailers that showcase lots of violence, gore, and nudity, Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell is definitely not for the kiddies or the easily offended. I would have liked to have seen more trailers and less of the vignettes, but the overall package is a fun trip down memory lane. Keep it handy if you're looking for some obscure horror movies to watch.
Often considered by serious kaiju fans to be the worst decade for the Godzilla franchise, the 1970s nonetheless managed to turn out some very memorable and fun films. This, the final chapter in the Showa era that began in 1954 with the original Gojira/Godzilla, King of the Monsters, ended the first generation on a high note. Besides bringing back Mechagodzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla throws in a new monster to team with Godzilla's cyborg doppelganger and some intriguing human drama.
A group of simian aliens disguised as humans (the same at those from the previous year's Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla) has rebuilt Mechagodzilla to use as a tool for world domination and destruction. At the same time, an ancient ocean-dwelling creature known as Titanosaurus has arisen from his aquatic home to wreak havoc in Japan. The eccentric Dr. Mafune (Akihiko Hirata), who was laughed out of the scientific community for his theory about the existence of Titanosaurus, aligns himself with the Simians and allows them to control Titanosaurus. Once again the big G must save Japan before the aliens' goal of conquest becomes a reality.
Unlike previous installments in the franchise, Terror of Mechagodzilla does away with the tradition of giving Godzilla a partner to fight the evil monsters. Instead, the big B must do battle alone with Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla. I actually liked this change of pace because it forces Godzilla to be more self-reliant in his battles. At one point, it almost seems as if everyone's favorite reptile is down for the count.
An interesting subplot concerns the daughter of Dr. Mafune, Katsura (Tomoko Ai). After being shot, the aliens agree to bring Katsura back to life by implanting a control device in her heart. The once doting daughter of Dr Mafune has now become an impassionate cyborg.
It is through the efforts of lead hero Akira Ichinose (the dashing Katsuhiko Sasaki) that Katsura begins to rediscover her humanity. However, this love affair has tragic consequences for Akira and Katsura alike. I shall not proceed in spoiling the beans here, but you will be touched by the climax where Akira is faced with an impossible choice.
Titanosaurus makes for an imposing monster here. Our first look at the prehistoric beast is a majestic low angle shot of him rising from the ocean to destroy a submarine. This shot establishes Titanosaurus as a truly frightening creature, but not a completely evil one. After all, he is under the control of the aliens. Titanosaurus is a worthy opponent for Godzilla, using his tail to create windstorms and relying on his powerful kicks and throwing abilities.
For his final bow in the Showa series, a new Godzilla suit was constructed. Although not the best Godzilla suit, he looks far more aggressive than in some of his other '70s appearances. Godzilla's first appearance doesn't occur until much later in the film, but it is a treat worth savoring. He rises from behind a patch of skyscrapers with a flurry of lights illuminating his arrival. This shot is the definition of the word "epic."
Keep in mind that Eiji Tsuburaya, the architect of the inventive SFX for Toho's kaiju films, was deceased by this time. Teruyoshi Nakano, who took over as director of special effects for Toho in 1971, did an admirable job in redesigning the big G and also in creating Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla. Details that particularly stand out are the orange fins running up and down Titanosaurus's back, Titanosaurus's reptilian eyes, and Godzilla's scornful eyes.
Series veterans Ishiro Honda (without question the greatest film director to come from the Land of the Rising Sun) and Akira Ifukube (likewise for film composing) came back to work their magic on Terror of Mechagodzilla. Needless to say, they both turned in remarkable efforts. Ifukube's score shows a wide range, moving from the somber to the rousing. Honda keeps both the monster fights and the tension between the aliens and the humans moving at a fast clip.
Terror of Mechagodzilla would be the last Godzilla film until 1984's The Return of Godzilla got the series back on track. There were a few ideas for potential reboots tossed around in the late 1970s, but sadly none of them ever came to pass. Still, titles like Godzilla vs. Gargantua and Godzilla vs. the Devil would have made for good movies. Considering how inferior movie series like American Pie and Saw continue to be sequelized, it's a crying shame the world never got to see Godzilla battle Old Scratch himself.
Anyway, that's enough of my bellyachin'. At least we have a satisfying conclusion to the Showa era of Godzilla films. Although I personally don't believe there is such a thing as a truly bad Godzilla movie (the abominable American remake doesn't count), Terror of Mechagodzilla definitely improved on some of its precedecessors in the story and SFX departments. Best of all, Messrs. Honda and Ifukube returned to make this a slam-bang finale. For Godzilla novices and veterans alike, this is highly required viewing.
This gorier, sexier take on the Creature from the Black Lagoon motif (a monster who is sexually attracted to human women and will kill any human men who stand in its way) is a underrated gem. Released back in the free-wheeling, no-holds-barred days of 1980, Humanoids from the Deep first found its fans in drive-ins and urban grindhouses. The eventual VHS release exposed this classic to audiences who hadn't made the trek to theaters to see it. Now, Shout! Factory gives us the definitive release of Humanoids from the Deep.
The town of Noyo, California (that's up in the northern half, in Mendocino County) plays host to this tale of hormonal monsters lusting after human women. When DNA-enhanced salmon escape into the ocean and are consumed by other, bigger species of fish, they transform into lustful beasts wanting to mate with human women. This sleepy village soon finds its populace at the mercy of these creatures. It's up to dedicated scientist Susan Drake (Ann Turkel), manly fisherman Jim Hill (Doug McClure, no stranger to fantastic cinema), and proud Native American Johnny Eagle (Anthony Penya) to end the monsters' reign of terror.
Let's start with the film's most effective facet: the monsters. The designs are so detailed (Check out those exposed bulging brains!) and lifelike, it's almost hard to believe that they were handiwork of a novice Rob Bottin (Then only 21 years old). These fearsome beasts are the things that nightmares are made of; they stalk their prey in the dark, underwater, and in the woods. One can almost sympathize with these monsters, as they simply want to continue their race by mating with human women.
Acting-wise, all the principals put their working shoes on and never fail to achieve what they set out to do. Ann Turkel is both pretty and precocious as the doctor determined to discover the source of the monsters and how to destroy them. Doug McClure makes for a commanding, take-no-prisoners hero. Vic Morrow is appropriately slimy as the bigoted human villain Hank Slattery. Pena does fine as the sympathetic Eagle, wrongly accused of slaughtering all the townspeople's dogs when we know the humanoids were responsible.
The supporting players account for themselves very well. Cindy Weintraub in particular is outstanding, as she develops from a maternalistic housewife into a raging defender of her home when the creatures invade. Denise Galik, Lynn Theel, Linda Shayne, Lisa Glaser, and Amy Barrett all satisfy the pulchritude department. It's always refreshing to see naturally beautiful women with few or no artificial enhancements so common in today's crop of manufactured screen sirens.
James Horner checks in on Humanoids from the Deep with one of his earliest scores. It's full of the ominous riffs and resounding cues that later became his trademarks. As with most Roger Corman productions, several notable behind-the-scenes personalities got their feet wet on Humanoids from the Deep. Besides Horner and Bottin, we've got contributions from editor Mark Goldblatt, SFX make-up assistants Shawn McEnroe, Kenny Myers, and Steve Johnson, first-unit/second-unit assistant director James Sbardellati, SFX designer Chris Walas, and production assistant Gale Anne Hurd.
The best part of Humanoids from the Deep is that it cuts right to the chase. We see the monsters regularly, either in head shots, full body shots, shadows, hand and arm shots, and medium shots. It doesn't take very long for the action to get rolling. The various explosions, monster attacks, and intimate interactions between the monsters and the human females are well placed. They neither overwhelm the viewer to the point of overkill nor take long to happen.
Finally, I must address the issue of the controversial monster-human sex scenes. Nothing is pornographic about them, although they're certainly not for young children, prudes, the heavily religious, or the overly feminist. As I said earlier, you can't help but feel sad for monsters who don't have females of their own to make some sexy time with. The sex and rape scenes are long enough to amp up the sleaze factor, but thankfully not to the degree that they become monotonous. I personally don't mind a helping of gore, sex, and nudity in movies, but it's got to be done effectively. Humanoids from the Deep succeeds in all these points.
I can't recommend Humanoids from the Deep highly enough. It's got badass monsters, buxom babes, a lot of interesting behind-the-scenes personnel, an unforgettable ending, and some credible performances. Feel free to dive in the ocean and soak up with this aquatic cinema delight. Just don't rile up the humanoids now!