Friday, June 19, 2015

Worth Mentioning - Kicking & Screaming, Covered in Blood

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Horror icons, DTV action, and a friend-of-LBF's crowd-funding campaign.


This is a movie that is widely considered to be one of the worst ever made, and if you were to rank it that way, I wouldn't argue with you. My experiences viewing it have been rather unpleasant. This is despite the fact that it appears to be very promising on the surface - it has Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster fighting each other, in a movie with an "evil dwarf", Jim Davis of Dallas fame as a detective, and Lon Chaney Jr. as a simple man who becomes an axe-wielding maniac when given injections by a mad scientist.

But then you see the director's credit and you can understand how it could have been brought to the screen so poorly. Directed by Al Adamson. Oh, Al Adamson.

Adamson had no aversion to doing extensive tinkering with his films in post-production. This is the guy who made a spy movie called The Fakers and then ended up turning it into a biker movie called Hell's Bloody Devils. Dracula vs. Frankenstein went through similar alterations - when it was originally filmed in 1969, the title was The Blood Seekers, and it had nothing to do with Dracula or Frankenstein.

The Dracula vs. Frankenstein concept was draped over a hacked up version of The Blood Seekers, which stars J. Carrol Naish as Dr. Durea, a scientist conducting unethical experiments in the secret laboratory beneath the boardwalk Creature Emporium he runs with the aid of assistants Groton (Chaney) and Grazbo (Angelo Rossitto). After work hours, Durea has Groton go out and murder young women to bring their corpses back to the lab so the doctor can bring them back to life. There's something in the blood of re-animated corpses that Durea is using to create a serum that he believes will be able to cure all ailments.

One of Durea's subjects was the sister of lounge singer Judith Fontaine (Regina Carrol). Desperate to find her missing sibling, Judith travels to the beachside community Durea inhabits, and during her search starts to fall for local man Mike Howard (Anthony Eisley).

That's all there was to it originally. A woman's search for her missing sister leads to the discovery of a mad scientist doing experiments on blood.

In footage shot a year or so after The Blood Seekers wrapped, Count Dracula is played by Zandor Vorkov with an annoying effect on his voice. Dracula digs up the dormant body of Frankenstein's Monster and takes it to Dr. Durea, who is revealed to be an ancestor of the famous Dr. Frankenstein. Dracula forces Durea into a side project of reviving the Monster.

As Frankenstein's Monster is 7'4" actor John Bloom, buried under some horrendous makeup. He does end up in a tussle or two with the Count, but if you're expecting a bloody brawl along the lines of Freddy vs. Jason you'll be sorely disappointed.

The finished product of this reworking is, as you'd expect, a bit of a disjointed mess, but it's not like the Dracula/Frankenstein decision ruined The Blood Seekers. Those characters actually add reason to keep your attention on what was already a bad movie; poorly made, exceptionally dull, and packed with expository dialogue. This project was always going to be awful, so why not add in a couple horror icons to spice it up?

I may not like Dracula vs. Frankenstein, but it's still worth mentioning because of Adamson's unusual approach to putting together his movies and just how bad it is. Tell me a movie called Dracula vs. Frankenstein is one of the worst ever and I'm not going to be able to resist checking it out. I have, and now for readers who are drawn to the horrible like I am but haven't seen this one yet, it's your turn


There were seven years between the release of Sniper 3 and this fourth installment in the franchise, but the series didn't seem to be finished during the gap, word of a part 4 being in development would come out regularly enough to keep hope alive. At one point, legendary B-movie filmmaker Cirio H. Santiago was set to produce Sniper 4 and 5 back-to-back. Unfortunately, Santiago passed away from lung cancer soon after that deal was made. Some time later, a script leaked online that Sniper 3 writer Ross Helford had written for a part 4 that would work largely as a prequel. Using a military hearing as a wraparound in which Tom Berenger would reprise his role as Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Beckett, the bulk of the film would have been a flashback to Beckett's time serving in the Vietnam War.

The prequel didn't get made, but some of the basic concepts from that script - a military investigation, a young soldier going AWOL to exact revenge after the murder of a plantation owner by an enemy sniper - made it into Sniper: Reloaded. The setting was moved to modern day Africa, and the soldier isn't Thomas Beckett but his son; Chad Michael Collins as Brandon Beckett, a Sergeant in the Marine Corps. A character who shouldn't really exist, but sometimes sequels throw you curveballs. They try to explain his surprise existence by saying he's never been close with his father and doesn't seem to like him very much. He followed in his father's footsteps of becoming a Marine just to spite him, although he has no idea what Thomas's reaction actually was.

While stationed in the Congo to help train the Congolese army to fight against rebels backed by terrorists, Brandon is sent on a special mission. The rebels have been threatening Europeans living in the area, and now only one remains, a Belgian plantation owner. That plantation owner is to be extracted for his own safety.

The extraction goes disastrously wrong. The plantation owner and the Marines on the mission with Brandon are killed by a sniper.

For the rest of the film, Brandon seeks to get to the bottom of exactly why the man would be murdered and why his fellow Marines were killed by someone using an American rifle rather than the Soviet weapons the rebels use. He's aided in this personal quest by the Belgian's young daughter, a local hunter, a female Lieutenant who he starts romancing, and a guest returning character.

Tom Berenger is not in this movie, but his co-star from the first film is. Billy Zane reprises the role of Richard Miller, who is now a sniper trainer. Hearing that the son of Thomas Beckett is in trouble, Miller heads to Africa. You might expect Miller to become Brandon's mentor at that point and become the second lead, but he's actually given very little to do until near the climax of the film. Brandon brushes him off because he has connections to Thomas. Because of his daddy issues, he doesn't want anything to do with Miller, the local hunter is his chosen teammate.

When it comes down to the final battle, though, Miller is a good help. Especially since it's revealed that he's the one who trained the sniper gone bad.

Directed by Hollow Man II helmer Claudio Fäh from a screenplay by Another 48 Hrs. writer John Fasano (Ross Helford receives a story credit), Sniper: Reloaded is a decent direct-to-video action flick, a step up from the franchise's low point of Sniper 3.

It was fun to see Billy Zane's Miller back in action. The character has definitely gotten more likeable with age. Zane's acting has gotten quirkier since the release of the original Sniper, but he keeps his goofy tendencies reined in here. When Miller starts sniping bad guys, he also scores one of the gorier action kills this side of Rambo.

The presence of Thomas Beckett/Tom Berenger is sorely missed, but Reloaded isn't a bad movie in itself. Its main issue is that it drags a bit through the middle section, but the ending picks up the slack.

One of the earliest writing projects I embarked on here at Life Between Frames was "Witching Wednesdays", where I wrote in-depth articles about my first-time viewings of each installment of the Witchcraft series. When I reached Witchcraft 13: Blood of the Chosen, I was surprised to get a response from the movie's director, Mel House, who seemed just as surprised by the fact that I had actually sat through the whole movie.

House has remained a friend of the blog ever since, and since making Witchcraft 13 he has also been working on projects that I assume are more fulfilling than that movie was, like Walking Distance (a.k.a. Psychic Experiment), a horror film that stars the likes of Katie Featherston, Adrienne King, and Reggie Bannister, and the comedy web series Placeholders.

The filmmaker is now trying to get a movie together that's based on his own experiences in the business, a "black-ish comedy" called 30 to 45, about "a multiracial genre filmmaker with several projects, three day jobs, and a TON of baggage." It sounds like it will be great, a very personal story that has the potential to be a lot of fun to watch.

To help get 30 to 45 made, House is currently running a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo. If you'd like to aid him in his endeavor, get him closer to filming the movie, and allow him to keep "living the dream, barely", you can contribute to the campaign right here.

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