Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Pulse (1988)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes comes…

VHS box for Pulse (1988)Pulse (1988) by #PaulGolding

w/ #CliffDeYoung #RoxanneHart #JoeyLawrence

A son tries to warn his dad and stepmom that they are being menaced by an intelligent pulse of electricity.

“It traps you in your own house… then pulls the plug.”

#Horror #SciFi



Not to be confused with Pulse (2001) – a Japanese horror films also know as Kairo – or the American remake, Pulse (2006) – which led to the sequels Pulse 2: Afterlife (2008) and Pulse 3 (2008) Pulse (1988) is a movie that I remember fondly from the dying days of the 1980s, but seems to be largely forgotten. In fact, I may have been the only one on the planet who, upon hearing that the movie Pulse (2006) was coming out, said “Is that a remake of the one with that Joey Lawrence kid?”

No, it’s remake of the Japanese film Kairo, someone told me.

“Was Kairo a remake of the one with that Joey Lawrence kid?”

I was almost kicked out of the horror movie appreciation society…

Just based on my own experience, it seems like Pulse (1988) is not remembered by many people, and was probably not a big success when it was released. But it feels like it should have been – or was designed to be. Since I hadn’t seen it in years, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test…

Pulse (1988) is a PG movie, and I dare say it’s pretty family friendly. I think it was going for the same vibe and/or audience as movies like Gremlins (1984) and The Goonies (1985). I might even go so far as to suggest that the filmmakers had Poltergeist (1982) on their minds when they conceived of this one.

Pulse (1988) takes place in a picture perfect (almost Spielbergian) suburban neighborhood and features a family being menaced by electricity in their house. Their TV set is featured prominently in the mysterious action, which automatically gives me flashbacks to Poltergeist. The story is ultimately very different, but I suspect the producers would have been thrilled to capture even a small percent of Poltergeist‘s success. 

Just to be clear, Pulse (1988) is nowhere near as good as any of these other films that may have influenced it. However, it’s actually a pretty good movie, with a great cast, some state of the art ’80s special affects, and a few genuinely suspenseful and scary sequences. I would have loved it as a twelve year old and, as someone who is a little bit older than that, I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

So what’s the verdict?

I would have to say that Pulse (1988) is a medium #Terror. Especially good for younger viewers, and those with a yen for healthy dose of 1980s nostalgia. I will be hanging onto my VHS tape for whenever I need my next fix.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Are You in the House Alone? (1978)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really enjoying the made for TV movies these days. – particularly made for TV horror films. For those keeping track of such things, Are You in the House Alone? (1978) is the second feature on the Shout Factory TV Terrors DVD that I purchased a while back. Normally I might wait longer before diving in and watching the second film in a set like this, but I enjoyed The Initiation of Sarah (1978) so much that I just couldn’t resist.

Book cover of re You in the House Alone? by Richard PeckI had heard of Are You in the House Alone?, but much like The Initiation of Sarah I had never seen it before. I knew that it was based on a book by Richard Peck, as I used to come it across it fairly regularly at thrift stores and The Children’s Hospital Book Market. I never read the book and didn’t know a whole lot about it. I always imagined that it was about a teenage girl at home alone getting menaced by some kind of psychopath. Perhaps a toned down slasher film (in book form) with no body count, in which we skip right to the final girl getting stalked and chased and finally doing battle with (and defeating) the killer. And, of course, all of it would be suitable for young readers in some PG sort of way.

It turns out that I had no idea what I was getting into when I watched Are You in the House Alone? last week. I am not a fan of SPOILERS, but I think I can reveal the big plot point that shocked me without ruining anything. The film revealed it in the first five minutes, so I think it’s fair to say that it’s not a spoiler at all. Are You in the House Alone? is about rape.

It is revealed to us in the opening scene that our main character – Gail, played by Kathleen Beller – is raped by her attacker. They ask her who he is, but she says “I can’t tell you… No one would believe me…” And then we flash back to how it all began.

It struck me as a strange way to begin a movie like this. But as the story progressed, I started to appreciate the brilliance of it. Now that we know what is going to happen to Gail, it becomes an unusual kind of suspense story – and a mystery. We know that her attacker is going to be someone that no one would ever suspect, so we find ourselves (at least I did) carefully scrutinizing each male character that Gail interacts with  – could he be the one? What about that guy? The suspense builds as we try to figure out who it is, partly due to that strangely human belief that if we can figure it out before it happens, we might be able to stop it. Anyone who has ever re-watched a movie and caught themselves hoping that a character (perhaps even shouting warnings at them) isn’t going to go into that scary looking house this time and get herself killed can back me up on this. We know what’s going to happen, but we’re still on the edge of our seat hoping that it won’t.

Surprisingly, we learn the truth about an hour into the movie, and then it becomes something else…

TV listings ad for Are You in the House Alone? (1978)

At the time that this movie first aired, I was a big fan of the TV show Quincy M.E. (1976-83). It was about a medical examiner who, each and every week, would uncover cases of injustice often due to a broken or flawed system. Laws that were unjust, rules that made no sense – or even a lack of laws and rules where there should have been some – would inspire Quincy to go above and beyond his job and crusade for changes in the system. Most of the episodes were left open ended because the show was shining a light on an actual problem in the real world and hoping that by doing so, someone might be moved to change it.

In it’s final act, Are You in the House Alone? becomes a little bit like an episode of Quincy, as it exposes the injustices of a system that fails the victims of rape. Gail feels that she can’t tell the truth – and that even if she does, her attacker will never be punished. She and her parents (played by Blythe Danner and Tony Bill) come up against attitudes, beliefs, and laws that seem to protect the rapist more than his victims. It feels ahead of its time (and still all too relevant today) but truthfully it’s the kind of story that Quincy might have taken on (and perhaps even did). In any case, it’s compelling viewing, and works on many different levels.

Shout Factory included Are You in the House Alone? in its TV Terrors set, which strongly implied that it was a horror film. In some ways it is – what happens to Gail is certainly horrific and nightmarish, and it contains some suspenseful sequences – but you would not be wrong to also label the movie as a drama, It’s a much more serious minded film than I expected – but I think that’s basically a good thing. If it was just another watered down, family friendly version of a slasher film, how interesting would it be?

Are You in the House Alone? (1978) is another fine example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema made for TV in the 1970s. As I’ve said before, if you didn’t grow up watching these kinds of movies at your home drive-in, you might not appreciate it quite as much as I do. This one, however, will be of interest to fans of issue-oriented movies of the week, and people who are curious to see an early exposé of rape culture, gender discrimination and the unjust patriarchal system. And if that doesn’t sound like a fun and fascinating #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn, then you clearly didn’t grow up in the 1970s…

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes comes…

Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973) by Larry G. Brown

w/ #TomBasham #JohnAshton #MargaretAvery

A children’s television show host named Mr Rabbey stalks and murders abusive parents.

“Nobody can escape him… Nobody!”



I’ve had this one in my collection for many years, and it’s a in a cheapjack VHS box that looks a lot like the picture above. Family Tyme Home Video the company is called. Family time? This movie hardly conjures up images of Mommy and Daddy gathering the kids around the TV set on a Sunday afternoon. On the other hand, Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973) is about a children’s performer, so maybe that’s where Family Tyme got the idea to release it. What’s really odd to me is that I don’t think the movie has ever been given a proper re-release on DVD on Blu-ray. I certainly have never come across it – and it seems like it would be a perfect candidate for one of the better niche companies that release special editions of weird, cult horror movies.

I’m not sure if Psychopath ever developed much of a cult following, but it really should have. The story, about a children’s entertainer murdering abusive parents, is about as close to brilliant to any cult horror plot that I’ve ever heard. And just to add to the mystique, Joe Spinnell – who gave one of the greatest performances as a psychopath in horror movie history in Maniac (1980) – attempted to remake Psychopath as Maniac 2: Mr. Robbie (1986). I’m not sure how official a remake it was, but the original movie features a children’s performer named Mr. Rabbey, and Joe called his character Mr. Robbie – coincidence? I think not. 

Honestly, Psychopath is nowhere near as good a movie as Maniac. Still, it’s fairly entertaining for what it is – and what it is is a PG rated early ’70s portrait of a weirdo going over the edge. It’s light on gore, violence, and nudity, but it’s a pretty twisted story that manages to deliver a few unintended laughs as well as some seriously creepy moments. The fact that it’s a little hard to come by on home video also adds to it’s understated appeal.

So what’s the verdict?

I would have to say that Psychopath / An Eye for an Eye (1973) is a mild #Terror. Hardly the best of its kind, but an acceptable way to spend eighty some odd minutes once every fifteen or twenty years. I will be hanging onto my VHS tape in the hopes that I might live that long.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Rage of Honor (1987)

As I may have mentioned before, ninja movies were all the rage when I was young. I was a huge fan of Revenge of the Ninja (1983), which starred the amazing Sho Kosugi. I watched and enjoyed a few of his other films, like Enter the Ninja (1981)  and Ninja III: The Domination (1984), but none of them quite lived up to the impossible standards set by Revenge of the Ninja. Perhaps for this reason, I never watched Rage of Honor (1987) back in the day. In fact, I barely knew that it existed…

Gordon Hessler is a name that I came to recognize from British horror films, like The Oblong Box (1969) and Scream and Scream Again (1970). He directed those films, as well as The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die (1965), Cry of the Banshee (1970), and Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971). He started his career working for Alfred Hitchcock on TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962-65). It seemed, to me, as if suspense and horror were Hessler’s thing. So imagine my surprise when I found out that he directed a 1980s martial arts action film like Rage of Honor.

Gordon Hessler went back into television after a successful run of theatrical features. he made some TV horror and suspense movies like Scream, Pretty Peggy (1973), Skyway to Death (1974) and Hitchhike! (1974), which stars Cloris Leachman as a woman who picks up a psychopathic hitchhiker on her way from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I saw this movie for the first time a couple of years ago and thought it was quite good. Hessler also directed episodes of TV shows like Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75) and Kung Fu (1972-75) – an early indication of where he was going, perhaps? He directed many mystery, cop, and crime shows, including twelve episodes of one of my childhood favourites, CHiPs (1977-83). He also directed one of the most significant water-fountain movies of my childhood, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978). The halls of the elementary school were sure buzzing the day after that one aired on TV – but that’s another story.

I barely remember this show, but The Master debuted in 1984, and got cancelled after a total of 13 episodes. It was about an aging American ninja master, and starred Lee Van Cleef, Timothy Van Patten and Shô Kosugi. It’s hard to believe it failed with a cast like that – but more importantly, it starred Shô Kosugi! This is the first connection (that I know of) between Gordon Hessler and the most famous ninja star on the planet (and when I say ninja star I mean actor, not the little throwing stars that we all used to make in shops classes). Hessler directed Kosugi in three episodes of The Master. They must have gotten along well, because Hessler went on to direct not just one, but two Shô Kosugi ninja films: Pray for Death (1985) and Rage of Honor.

I saw Pray for Death when it first came out, and I recall being a bit disappointed by it. It just didn’t live up to the awesomeness of the first three Shô Kosugi ninja movies. At least, this is how my friends and I felt back in 1985. I have never tried to watch the film again, so perhaps I would have a very different experience of it now. And I think that my reaction to Rage of Honor might be proof of that.

Put simply, I loved Rage of Honor. It delivered all of the things that I look for in a Shô Kosugi ninja movie: amazing action, a compelling revenge story, cool ninja weapons, and just a little bit of campy humour to top it all off. I’m not sure whether to credit Kosugi, or some unknown stuntman, but he did some pretty amazing stunts in this movie. And whether it was all him, or a team effort, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a joy to behold. 

VHS box for Fire in the Night (1986), which features Robin Evans, one of the stars of Rage of Honor (1987).Perhaps in an inadvertent nod to Gordon Hessler’s horror roots, Rage of Honor features Robin Evans as Kosugi’s love interest. She is best known for starring in one of my personal favourites, One Dark Night (1982). Sadly, she had a fairly brief acting career with mostly TV appearances to her credit. She was, however, in one other movie that looks like it might have Not Quite Classic potential: Fire in the Night (1986), which has something to do with a woman and her father being terrorized by a rich dude who had the hots for her until she turned him down (or something). Oh, and the woman seems to be a martial artist. I haven’t seen Fire in the Night, but now I want to. Rage of Honor was Robin Evans’ final film (at least so far). 

Gordon Hessler and Shô Kosugi would reunite one more time for Journey of Honor (1991), which could be described as a Shogun or samurai movie. It was Hessler’s final film.

I avoided watching Rage of Honor (1987) for years because I didn’t expect it to live up to the holy trinity of ninja movies (Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja and Ninja III). My gut reaction, upon seeing it for the first time, is that it actually does live up to those earlier films. Perhaps multiple viewings will give me a different perspective – and I dare say that I’m going to find out, because I will undoubtedly be screening Rage of Honor again on another #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. – but for now I will simply call it a sparkling example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema entertainment.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Psycho Cop 2 / Psycho Cop Returns (1993)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes comes…

VHS box for Psycho Cop 2 (1993)Psycho Cop 2 / Psycho Cop Returns (1993) by #AdamRifkin

w/ #RobertRShafer #BarbaraNiven #JulieStrain

A psycho cop decides to kill everyone who he thinks has broken the law.

“Something old, something new, someone bloody… and the man in blue!”



Confession: I’ve never seen the first Psycho Cop (1989) movie. I’ve always imagined that it was a ripoff of Maniac Cop (1988). Someone gave me an old VHS copy of Psycho Cop 2 (1993) back in the late ’90s. Truth be told it was a former video store owner who had closed up shop and was getting rid of old tapes. How could I not do my part to help? I brought home a boxful of ’90s movies that I’d never seen before. Most of them were trash, but I remembered enjoying this one quite a bit and adding it to my personal library. Fast forward a couple of decades and I really couldn’t remember much about it. I’d enjoyed seeing it on my shelf over the years, but for some reason I’d never had the urge to revisit it. Last week I decided that it was time to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test…

Psycho Cop 2 (1993) – or Psycho Cop Returns as it’s sometimes called – was directed by Adam Rifkin, who made films like Detroit Rock City (1999), The Chase (1994) and one of the segments in the awesome anthology Chillerama (2011). He also made a pretty nifty film called Look (2007), which was shot entirely from the perspective of security cameras. It works surprisingly well, and should be much better known than it is – but I digress…

Psycho Cop 2 is more like a slasher film than Maniac Cop – and as anyone who knows me can attest, I love slasher films. The plot goes something like this: a bunch of office workers throw a bachelor party and a psycho cop shows up to punish anyone who is breaking the law – which is pretty much everyone, since the whole party is against the rules. There are strippers, including relative newcomer and future star Julie Strain, and there are ridiculous, gory murders. Put simply, this movie really delivers the exploitation goods – and it’s all done with tongue firmly in cheek. It’s fast paced, funny, and just plain fun.

I can’t help but notice that it gets a higher rating on the IMDb than the original Psycho Cop, and I can believe it’s a better movie. Maybe one day I’ll watch part one and find out for sure. In any case, I believe that Psycho Cop 2 is entertaining enough to warrant repeat viewings.

So what’s the verdict?

As you can probably guess, I believe that Psycho Cop 2 (1993) is #Trash of the highest order, which means that it’s #Terror to me (although I wouldn’t exactly call it scary). I use the word #Terrror interchangeably with #Treasure – and I will certainly continue to treasure my VHS copy of this movie for years to come.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Stone Cold Dead (1979)

When I’m not watching movies, I can sometimes be found reading a book. Much like I love genre films and Not Quite Classic Cinema, I also have an appreciation for sleazy pulp novels and hard boiled crime fiction. As a teenager, I read all of Mickey Spillane’s classic books and had since moved on to more obscure novels that looked cool. One day I picked up six old beat up paperbacks for a dollar in a used bookstore bargain bin – and one of those books was The Sin Sniper by Hugh Garner. It looked like a sleazy crime story about a serial killer murdering prostitutes, which I hoped might make it a typical example of entertaining Not Quite Classic Literature.  But there was one thing that set this book apart from all the other pulp novels I had read: it was openly Canadian. I’m pretty sure that before that moment I had never encountered a book like The Sin Sniper that took place in Canada. Of course I had to buy it and check it out.

Book Cover of The Sin Sniper by Hugh GarnerSet on the mean streets of Toronto, The Sin Sniper was a good book – almost too good. It wasn’t the “so bad it’s good” kind of book that I might have expected. It made me curious to know more about the author, Hugh Garner, and when I came across other books by him at places like The Children’s Hospital Book Market, I picked them up and added them to my library. Most of them looked more like respectable literature than pulp crime novels. Cabbagetown seemed to be his most famous book, but he also won the Governor General’s award for Hugh Garner’s Best Stories. I did find a couple of other books that looked related to The Sin Sniper: A Nice Place to Visit (1970) and Violation of the Virgins (1971) – both of which had salacious looking covers. The more books of his I read, the more impressed I was with Hugh Garner, and I wondered why I had never heard of him. Despite winning Canada’s highest award for writing, Garner did not seem to be remembered alongside other great Canadian authors like Robertson Davies, Margaret Laurence, Mordecai Richler and Margaret Atwood. Maybe because he died of alcoholism at age 66, or maybe because he wrote pulpy looking mysteries toward the end – who knows? But I will always take an interest in any book with the name Hugh Garner on the cover.

I was surprised to learn, years later, that The Sin Sniper had been made into a movie – a Canuxploitation movie, no less – called Stone Cold Dead (1979). The movie was made at the height of the Tax Shelter Days, which I have talked about a few times before – most recently during my discussion of Sudden Fury (1975). Much like Sudden Fury, I had never heard of Stone Cold Dead. I had not seen it on late night TV back in the day, nor had I rented it with my friends during those glorious early days of Mom and Pop Video Stores. I first read about the movie in Gerald Pratley’s A Century of Canadian Cinema. Pratley, who can be very hard on movies – especially genre films, gave Stone Cold Dead a decent review. I knew that I had to track it down and watch it.

Until very recently, the only way to watch Stone Cold Dead was on an old VHS tape, and luckily I was able to locate one. I actually recognized the box art from the video store shelves of my past. I remembered seeing it, but somehow I had never picked it up and taken a closer look at it. If I had, I surely would have rented it long before now. In any case, I finally watched the movie and I liked it. I was surprised and pleased to see both Linnea Quigley and Michael Ironside making (admittedly brief) early appearances in it. I was also surprised, and less pleased, to see that the filmmakers seemed to be trying to imply that the story was taking place in New York City. The book had been clearly set in Toronto, and the movie was clearly mostly shot in Toronto. Pratley, in his review, had called it a “Steamy melodrama about a Toronto detective…”. I have read several other reviews that claim it’s set in Toronto – and even Wikipedia, at this very moment, says “A Toronto detective (Richard Crenna) searches for a serial killer who shoots prostitutes…”. So why does Julius Kurtz’s (Paul Williams) limo have New York license plates? And why is there an American flag prominently displayed behind the desk of Sgt. Boyd (Richard Crenna)’s boss?

Hudson's Bay coat like the one seen in Stone Cold Dead (1979)

Hudson’s Bay coat like the one seen in Stone Cold Dead (1979)

I knew something was up when an early shot of the city’s skyline included the Twin Towers, and there was also a montage of images from Times Square. These shots were, however, mixed with recognizable shots of Toronto’s famous Yonge Street. I thought perhaps the filmmakers were simply trying to fictionalize the city a little bit, or maybe make the unreasonably clean looking Toronto just a little bit grungier. This strange mashup of Canada and USA really came to a head for me during a scene in which a handful of American money is held up just a few feet away from a person wearing a Hudson’s Bay coat (an incredibly iconic Canadian thing). I can’t help but think that someone was laughing up his sleeve when this scene was shot.

I recently upgraded my old VHS copy of Stone Cold Dead to the new Kino Lorber Blu-ray, and I was shocked to discover that it’s a different cut of the movie. The one on the VHS tape is the 99 minute American cut, and the one that Kino Lorber has lovingly restored for the Blu-ray is the 108 minute original Canadian (and presumably director’s) cut. There are apparently many subtle differences between the two, which are itemized on The biggest difference, at least to me, is Linnea Quigley. To put it bluntly, she is in the shorter American cut of the film, but she’s not in the longer Canadian cut.

What the -?

Usually when a movie is restored to its longer, more complete form it has MORE scenes in it – not less. How can Quigley’s scene not be there? Mild SPOiILER ALERT for those who haven’t watched this movie yet: Linnea Quigley plays the first murder victim.  We see her get shot in the shower at the beginning of the shorter VHS version of the movie. I had seen this version of the movie a couple of times over the years, so I had strong memories of it. The longer, original cut of the film starts after the first murder has already happened. The police make reference to it, but we never see it. The first murder we see, is actually the second murder (and incidentally the victim is played by future star of Canadian stage and screen Jennifer Dale).

This brings up a question: Was this scene with Linnea Quigley shot for the original movie and cut for some reason (like running time), or was it shot and added later by the American distributor? I can’t find any reliable answer to this question. The Blu-ray includes an interview with the director, George Mendeluk, who went on to direct many TV movies and episodes of TV shows including Miami Vice (1984-1989) and Canadian favourite Night Heat (1985-1989). I had hoped that Mendeluk might talk about the different cuts of Stone Cold Dead, but alas he did not. Neither do film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson, who do the commentary track.

The fact that there is an offscreen first murder in the original cut make me suspicious that the scene may have been shot and left out for some reason. It just feels a bit odd that we don’t start the film with that first murder. It might be different if they were saying that these murders have been going on for years, but the killing just started. If they treated the second murder (of Jennifer Dale) as if it was the first murder, then I might be more suspicious that the Linnea Quigley scene was tacked on later. As it is, I’m just not sure what to think. But either way, it’s unfortunate that the Blu-ray doesn’t at least include the Linnea Quigley scene as an outtake.

Incidentally, Linnea Quigley has shared the trailer for Stone Cold Dead on her YouTube channel, and you can see clips from her scene in it. The trailer included on the Blu-ray is different (presumably from the original Canadian release) and does not include Quigley’s scene. However, the poster art for the movie, which is included with the Blu-ray (and used as the menu of the Blu-ray) is an image of a woman who’s just been shot in a shower (if that’s not actually Linnea in the picture, it’s meant to evoke her). Of course, this poster might have been created to promote the American cut of the film, and not the original Canadian cut…

And so the mystery only deepens.

One thing I can be sure of, is that I need to hang onto my VHS copy as well as the new Blu-ray – which is stunning, by the way. The movie has never looked better, and I for one am always glad to have more of a good thing, so the extra eight minutes of footage is gold as far as I am concerned.

I’ve already gone on for far too long, but I have to say a few words about the performances in Stone Cold Dead. They are all excellent. Paul Williams is particularly brilliant as Julius Kurtz, a pimp and prime suspect in the murders. He is essentially playing a bad guy in this movie, but he manages to be three dimensional and even sympathetic at times. He can be scary and evil in some scenes, but then display a depth of human emotion and sadness that you do not normally see in a character like this. I grew up watching Paul Williams guest star on some my favourite TV shows, like The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-1979), The Love Boat (1977-1987) and Fantasy Island (1977-1984). I also saw him in movies like Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), and of course The Muppet Movie (1979). I also loved the songs that Williams wrote for that movie and I even bought the sheet music so I could try to learn how to play them on the piano.

I should also mention that I am from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – and as such, Paul Williams is practically royalty to me. He was the star, and wrote the music for, Phantom of the Paradise (1974), which flopped all over the world but was a smash hit in Winnipeg and played here for years. I remember reading the movie listings in the Winnipeg Free Press and seeing Phantom of the Paradise and  The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) playing every weekend at midnight. I was too young to go, but I really wanted to. I was able to see Phantom of the Paradise when it debuted on TV – and it was still playing the theatres in Winnipeg. Needless to say, I loved it and it only furthered my appreciation of Paul Williams as an actor, musician and songwriter. Anyone who wants to know more about the story of Winnipeg and Phantom of the Paradise, should check out the documentary Phantom of Winnipeg (2019).

Newspaper ad for Phantom of the Paradise (1974), starring Paul Williams who was also in Stone Cold Dead (1979)

It’s hard to believe that a fairly obscure Canadian film like Stone Cold Dead could add even more fuel to my Paul Williams appreciation fire, but it does. I loved his performance in this movie, and I think it’s safe to say that it’s essential viewing for any Paul Williams fan.

Stone Cold Dead (1979) is an unfairly forgotten Canuxploitation classic. It could be compared to Dirty Harry (1971), Vice Squad (1982), and even Dario Argento’s giallos. It’s not quite like any of those things, as it tends to be more strangely nuanced and (dare I say) realistic – at least in terms of having three dimensional, human characters. This is rare for a piece of certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema, and some might call me mad for even suggesting it but I’m okay with that. I now feel like I need to re-read The Sin Sniper to see how it compares. And then I will definitely be re-visiting the movie on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Ghoul School (1990)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday…

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes comes…

VHS box for Ghoul School (1990)Ghoul School (1990) by Timothy O Rawe

Two thugs in search of hidden treasure mistakenly unleash a chemical into the school’s water supply, causing everyone it comes into contact with to become flesh-eating ghouls.

“Sex, babes and rock ‘n roll!”




I first found out about Ghoul School by reading J.R. Bookwalter’s B-Movies in the ’90s and Beyond, which was an autobiographical account of making his first 10 features films. Ghoul School was not one of the films that Bookwalter directed, but rather one that he produced for David DeCoteau‘s Cinema Home Video. Most of the films that Bookwalter wrote about were pretty hard to locate – at least at my local video stores – but whenever I found one I made a point of renting it – or if possible, buying it. Ghoul School was one of the ones that I purchased in a bargain bin somewhere, and have proudly displayed on my shelf ever since. 

But, as I mentioned before, movies are made to be watched – and I hadn’t watched this one in many years. So, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

No matter how you look at it, Ghoul School is a bad movie. However, it is, at times, entertainingly bad. It features a rock band (and groupies) rehearsing for a gig at a high school, and I have a real soft spot for old horror films about rock bands or “Heavy Metal Horror” as it is sometimes called. There is also some pretty decent low budget gore in the movie. There is no nudity, but there is gratuitous footage of Jackie ‘The Joke Man’ Martling and TV Host Joe Franklin – presumably to try to add some recognizable names or faces to the cast (although I’m not sure how many people would have actually recognized them). Honestly, their scenes are pointless and add nothing to the film. But that in itself is kind of charming, in a campy kind of way. 

So what’s the verdict?

Ghoul School (1990) is not a good movie, but it’s bad in a way that might entertain fans of bad movies. I think it’s safe to say that there’s not a scary moment in it’s entire running time, but I suspect that being scary probably wasn’t the point. All in all, I would have to call it #Trash – but it’s trash that I find mildly appealing. I think I may have to continue displaying it on my shelf – at least until the next time that I wonder it it deserves to be there.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Demoniacs (1974)

The consensus among my friends and acquaintances seems to be that The Demoniacs (1974), or Les Demoniaques (1974), is not Jean Rollin’s best film. I have to agree with that. I would much rather watch The Grapes of Death (1978), The Living Dead Girl (1982) or Requiem for a Vampire (1972), which I just saw for the first time a few months ago. Still, The Demoniacs is notable for a few things.

It was apparently Rollin’s first film with a larger budget. It was a France-Belgium co-production, and was shot on the Island of Chausey in Normandy. It has been called Rollin’s most “atypical film” and I can see why. Instead of the crumbling castles and graveyards of previous films like Requiem for a Vampire and The Iron Rose (1973), The Demoniacs spends a lot of time on the beach, and inside the remains of a wrecked ship. Rollin talked about his desire to make a movie that related to the swashbuckling adventure films of his youth, and with The Demoniacs he has created a story about pirates, or “wreckers”, who lure ships to their destruction on the rocks and then pillage them. The wreckers also gleefully murder any survivors, and in the case of the two sisters at the centre of The Demoniacs, they rape them and leave them for dead. Being a horror film, of sorts. the sisters survive and make a deal with the devil to get their revenge on the wreckers.

You could say that The Demoniacs is more of an unusual rape revenge film than a horror story. There are some weird, surrealistic and perhaps supernatural touches (it wouldn’t be a Jean Rollin film without them, would it?), but it isn’t about vampires or living dead girls – or is it? I must admit that I’m not 100% clear on all of the details. And as with a lot of Rollin films, it’s hard to decide exactly what kind of film it is. In a lot of ways, Jean Rollin is his own genre. Nobody makes movies quite like he does, and I believe that his films are not for everyone. I like to call his style art-house exploitation. Explicit and sleazy, but somehow classy and artistic at the same time. Rollin’s are not the only films to which I might apply this label, but I consider them to be perfect examples. They contain a lot of nudity and sex, and the word “porn” sometimes gets bandied about, but films like The Demoniacs are not porn. To be fair, Rollin did direct some actual hard core porn movies, but The Demoniacs is not one of them. A viewer who goes in expecting it to be porn will discover that it is decidedly soft core. There are a couple of deleted sex scenes on the Kino-Lorber Blu-ray, and if there had been any doubt, these scenes make it clear just how “soft” things really were…

Joëlle Coeur as Tina, one of the wreckers in The Demoniacs (1974)

I think most people would agree that the true highlight of The Demoniacs (1974) is the performance of Joëlle Coeur. She does not play one of two shipwrecked sisters, but rather one of the pirates, or wreckers, and she seems to take particular pleasure in molesting and murdering other characters. She also spends a lot of time naked. Coeur had an all too brief career as an actress, appearing in about twenty movies between 1972 and 1976, including I Am Frigid… Why? (1972), Schoolgirl Hitchhikers (1973) and Seven Women for Satan (1976). Exploitation film fans lost a potential superstar when Joëlle Coeur hung up her… um…  hat.

Poster art for I Am Frigid... Why? (1972)Poster art for Seven Women for Satan (1976)

Jean Rollin’s films are not for everyone, and The Demoniacs (1974) is a Jean Rollin film that isn’t for every Jean Rollin fan. I will probably never watch it as often as some of his other films, but I believe that it contains enough of his signature touch, as well as other #NotQuiteClassicCinema goodness, to make for a very pleasant #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Blood Sisters (1987)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday… 

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes comes…

Poster and VHS box for Blood Sisters (1987) by #RobertaFindlayBlood Sisters (1987) by #RobertaFindlay

Seven girls must spend the night in a creepy former whorehouse as part of an initiation.

“Sexy college girls pitted against an unspeakable power ready to prey upon their naked bodies and souls…”

#Horror #Slasher



Confession: I’m a bit of Roberta Findley fan and, as such, there was little doubt in my mind that I would want to keep this VHS tape of Blood Sisters (1987) in my collection. Still, it had been a long time since I had watched it, and it was collecting dust, so…

Blood Sisters is a weird mix of sleazy whorehouse antics in flashbacks to the past, and current day sorority slasher movie hijinks – which, as you might guess, is of particular interest to me, since I once wrote a play called Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical. There may even be some supernatural ghost action thrown in for good measure.

So what’s the verdict?

Blood Sisters (1987) is not Roberta Findley’s best movie, but it provides enough campy entertainment and good natured sleaze to easily entertain aficionados for ninety minutes. It is somehow both #trash and #terror, and I will be keeping it in my collection to enjoy again (and again, and again)…