Daniel R. Budnik’s writing can be found at Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things. He is part of three podcasts: Podcastmania – a free-for-all horror good time, The Made For TV Mayhem Show, which he co-hosts with Amanda Reyes and his own show, Eventually Supertrain: The Short-Lived TV Show Podcast. He is co-author of Bleeding Skull: A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.
Check out his Underrated '86 list as well:
Bloodsucking Freaks – An extremely sleazy film about a mad magician who tortures women (usually naked) on stage. He alsokeeps lots of naked women at his house for various purposes, including tables and dartboards. He has a dwarf helper who has some wry sexual peccadillos of his own. Sardu, the magician, is also involved in the white slavery trade. Just reading about the film makes it sound absolutely repugnant. But, at some point during the scene when a doctor sucks a woman’s brains out through a straw, we leave dark sleaze behind and end up situated on a high camp playing field. My parents let me rent this moviewhen I was 13 back in 1986. We got it from a video store that provided a big dot matrix printer list of all their movies. And, on one line, it said “Bloodsucking Freaks (X).” I said “I want this one.” My parents rented it without a pause. I was unable to close my eyes as I watched the film. Now, I’m not specifically saying only 13-year-olds should watch this. But, maybe I am. No… I don’t think so. Joel M. Reed’s Blood Bath anthology is a more straightforward entertaining film. But, Bloodsucking Freaks is screwball Grand Guignol that every horror fan should see once drunk and then once sober. Just so you can prove to your drunk self that it wasn’t a hazy booze-fueled dream.
Gemini Man – Yes, this is the TV movie that spawned the very short-lived show about Sam Casey, invisible INTERSECT agent, that MST3K went after in their very funny “Riding With Death” episode. “Riding” is a sloppily edited combination of the first hour-long episode of Gemini Man and an unaired episode. The show, itself, is really quite good. I reviewed it, episode by episode, over on my Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things blog. (The French put out a DVD set with this movie and all 11 episodes, including the 6 that didn’t air.) You can hop over there to get the full skinny. I wanted to state here that the Gemini Man TV movie is an excellent example of 1970s action/ adventure TV. It’s written and created by Leslie Stevens, the man behind The Outer Limits. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s nicely paced. And, it mingles the origin story of Sam becoming invisible with the intrigue (involving jerks trying to kill a businessman) of the episode. Unlike other TV movies (like The Man From Atlantis), which separate the origin story from the main plot making for less compelling viewing. Popcorn and a beverage of your choice will make it a very nice afternoon with my man, Invisible Sam.
Ma-Ma – I sometimes go searching for weird kids’ films. I found this one on YouTube a few weeks ago. It’s a Romanian (I think) film based on the Grimm’s Fairy Tale of “The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids.” I watched it in either Romanian or Russian so I didn’t always catch what was happening but I do know the fairy tale. The movie is a lot of dancers from Moscow half-dressed as animals in fun locations moving all over the place and singing a lot of very catchy songs. The whole thing borders on fever dream, especially the Wolf who reminded me of Detective Lassiter from Psych gone deep undercover. Look, I love odd kids’ movies. I don’t know that this one is actually odd. It could just be a cultural thing. But, to this dumb American, it looks like a bunch of goofballs having a great time rocking out while dressed as animals. I’m in. Alternate Title: Rock’n’Roll Wolf.
The Redeemer – I will always recommend The Redeemer as a great example of 1970s American horror in that free-for-all space before the slashers took over. The Redeemer AKA the Son of Satan is sent to reclaim six souls that have gone “wrong.” The sinners are assembled at a fake class reunion and evil abounds! From the wonderful school location to the rather good acting to the odd structure, The Redeemer is a hoot that surprises throughout. The film contains one of my favorite sequences: that weird bit where the camera is travelling down a backroad intercut with the killer making a mold of a face as thick synths play. (I’ve had a nightmare exactly like that.) It also has a great structure: 15 minutes introducing the premise and the characters, 50 minutes of proto-slasher and 10/15 minutes of conclusion, which doesn’t fully make sense and is very odd. I own this as Class Reunion Massacre on VHS and I have the Code Red DVD and Blu-Ray. I await the next format so I can purchase it again. Can someone program this movie to play on my eyeglasses?
The Wackiest Wagon Train In The West – Gilligan’s Islandon a covered wagon in the Old West! The Schwartz brothers strike again! A group of people become separated from their wagon train (or something like that). The group consists of Forrest Tucker as the Skipper stand-in. The original Bobbie Jo and Billie Jo from Petticoat Junction as the Mary Ann and Ginger stand-ins. There’s a snooty rich couple. There’s another guy who (I guess) is The Professor. (I kept forgetting he was there.) And, then there’s Dusty, played by Bob Denver. He’s a clumsy but lovable goofball. (The optimum form of goofball.) This movie is four episodes of the short-lived syndicated TV series Dusty’s Trail edited together, minus its laugh track. I came across this while researching short-lived TV shows for my Eventually Supertrain podcast. Elroy Schwartz (my favorite Schwartz) was involved. So, I watched it. And, it is incredibly unfunny. Almost hypnotizingly so. Bad gags delivered without laugh tracks proliferate. After a time, I could hear the laugh track in my mind, which may have kept me sane somehow. Episode is edited into episode sometimes blurring the line between where one ends and the other begins. There is a sequence where Bob and Forrest dress up as women that seemed like an excerpt from some transdimensional horror film. My mind is unable to absorb it all. The simple concept of taking four average episodes of a failed sitcom so out of context and releasing it as a theatrical film fascinates me. Is it funny? No. Is it worth a viewing for those curious to see something a bit odd? Definitely.