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Basically, it’s a remake of Easy Rider (right down to the downbeat ending), but with nubile young women. If that doesn’t scream “automatic recommendation”, I don’t know what does! Surprisingly enough, the performances by the Cycle Girls (all of whom are unknowns) are strong and their characters are unexpectedly three-dimensional, which helps elevate the film from being merely an exploitation item.
9. TRANCERS (1985)
Everyone was talking about the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future this year, but no one mentioned it was the 30th anniversary of Trancers. I had seen the video box for this (and its countless sequels) on video store shelves for years, but somehow never gave it a go. Shame on me. This movie rocks, mostly due to the awesome performance by Tim Thomerson.
8. HILLBILLYS IN A HAUNTED HOUSE (1967)
When horror and country music collide, you know you’re in for some (unintentional) hilarity. Speaking of unintentional hilarity, wait till you get a load of Joi Lansing’s song about gowns. Throw in horror greats Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, and Basil Rathbone grinding out a paycheck, and you have yourself one of the best bad movies Ed Wood never directed.
7. ZATOICHI’S PILGRIMAGE (1966)
Slowly but surely, I have been making my way through Criterion’s excellent Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman Blu-Ray collection. Of the Zatoichi films I’ve seen this year, this one was the best. It’s one of the most stylishly filmed entries in the entire series and Shintaro Katsu yet again delivers another incredible performance. The brief (but awesome) underwater swordfight is one of the many highlights.
6. VOODOO MAN (1944)
This is one of the few movies Bela Lugosi made at Monogram that I hadn’t seen. Turns out, it’s one of his best. Although it lacks the out-and-out nuttiness of The Devil Bat, there are a few hilarious in-jokes to keep you entertained. Directed at a snappy pace by William “One-Shot” Beaudine, who gives Bela plenty of opportunities to shine, it’s a lot of fun.
5. PSYCHIC KILLER (1975)
Although it’s apparently rated PG, this flick features enough nudity and gore to keep any fan of cinema sleaze entertained. There is a smorgasbord of memorable moments here, but I think my favorite is when the sexy nurse does a striptease in front of a helpless invalid. Her inevitable comeuppance via killer shower head will make your jaw drop (and if it doesn’t drop, it’s probably wired shut).
4. ENDLESS DESCENT (1990)
Of the three underwater monster movies that starred people from Robocop that were released in the wake of The Abyss, this was far and away my favorite. (Leviathan, starring Peter Weller and Deepstar Six, starring Miguel Ferrer were the other two). This one features the always great Ray Wise and was directed by Juan Piquer (Pieces) Simon. It features some of the craziest, goriest death scenes I’ve ever seen, as well as the best aquatic-mutant-breeding-with-a-human sequence since Humaniods from the Deep. If that isn’t a recommendation, I don’t know what is.
3. IT’S A SMALL WORLD (1950)
William Castle’s It’s a Small World would make a great double feature with Tod Browning’s Freaks. Both films are equal parts heartfelt as they are sensational. This one follows a little person struggling to find his place in the world who eventually gets taken advantage of by his sleazy neighbor. If you only know Castle for his gimmicky horror films, you definitely need to seek this one out.
2. COCKFIGHTER (1974)
I unabashedly love the work of author Charles (Miami Blues) Willeford. I am also a die-hard Warren Oates fan. Because of that, I was predestined to fall in love with director Monte Hellman’s adaptation of Willeford’s novel starring Oates and boasting a screenplay by Willeford himself (who also appears in a supporting role). This movie won’t be for everybody. (The cockfighting scenes were definitely NOT faked.) However, the performance by Oates (who is mute throughout most of the picture) alone makes it highly recommended.
1. CARNIVAL OF SINNERS (1943)
Of all the films I watched this year, this is the one that got under my skin the most. It’s an atmospheric and unsettling horror flick from director Maurice Tourneur (father of Jacques) that reminded me of the best Universal horror movies and German Expressionism while simultaneously having its own identity. I won’t tell you a thing about the plot (that would be spoiling the fun), as it’s best to watch this one cold. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.