Friday, July 27, 2012

Worth Mentioning - Titan of Terror on a Lustful Binge

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.

Cody talks of road hazards, transformation-inducing space rocks, and pure evil.


Walter and Eve Mancini do not have a healthy marriage. This is evident as soon as we're introduced to them, with a smirking Walter focusing on his wife's head through the scope of his hunting rifle. He laughs about this to Eve later, saying it was a tough choice whether to shoot her or the nearby deer.

The Italian couple, played by Django himself Franco Nero and Corinne Cléry - after her breakout role in Story of O and on her way to becoming a Bond girl in Moonraker - are on a road trip through the American southwest, Eve handling the driving duties for her perpetually drunk husband, when they spot a hitchhiker on the side of the road. Despite Walter's objections, Eve pulls over to the pick the man up.

The hitch-hiker's name is Adam Konitz, and since he's played by David Hess of The Last House on the Left (1974) and House on the Edge of the Park, it should come as no surprise that Adam is a lecherous murderer. It doesn't take long for Adam to make an obscene comment to Eve and reveal his true self.

Adam is an armed robber on the run after a job went bad, not only trying to escape from the police manhunt but also from the partners that he's screwed out of two million dollars. He orders the Mancinis to drive him to Mexico, and knowing that Walter is a reporter gives him the idea to tell his life story to Walter, let him get into the mind of a homicidal criminal, give him a good story to revive his career.

Mind games, twists, turns, double crosses, and violence fill the time on the way to the border, the tension builds, and it's only a matter of time before Adam takes his sexual comments to and lingering looks at Eve to the physical level... But when Adam does rape Eve, it's a much more tender scene than the two times we see Walter roughly "seduce" his wife into having sex with him in the beginning of the film. There's some twisted stuff in here.

It's all carried entirely on the shoulders of the three leads, and they all do strong work. Hess's role is familiar territory for him, but he does a good job differentiating Adam from characters like TLHOTL's Krug. Adam is more lighthearted and dimwitted, always laughing about things.

The film is very well directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile, the story based on the novel The Violence and the Fury by Peter Kane. Although it's set in the U.S., the movie was actually filmed in some great, picturesque Italian locations.


The film opens with a text crawl claiming that it's based on a legend, perhaps a true story, of what happened after a mysterious object fell from the sky in June of 1880.

The title character is a boy named Charles, who was helping his father mine for gold when they were both hit by a meteor. While his father was killed, Charles was severely injured... and changed forever.

Seven years later, Charles has grown into a hulking, hirsute brute of a man, while his mentality has regressed to that of a barely verbal toddler. His mother, Ruth, tries to keep him hidden away and under control, but sometimes he gets out, accidentally causing the deaths of farm animals that he tries to play with and killing people who get in his way. Stories of a rampaging monster spread through the community.

One night, Charles has a temper tantrum that leads to him kidnapping local waitress Kathy. Trying to smooth over the situation, Ruth offers Kathy $500 a month to keep her son's existence a secret and pass herself off as her paid companion... But now that she knows the secret of the local monster, Kathy gets ideas of how to use the knowledge to her further advantage, ideas that involve manipulation, murder and blackmail.

Also known as Meteor Monster and put together just to fill out a double bill with The Brain from Planet Arous, it's an interesting little movie, an oddball mixture of Western, sci-fi, and horror that flies by with a 65 minute running time. It's not very well known or highly regarded (see the 2.8 rating on IMDb), but I enjoyed it well enough, and was particularly impressed by Gloria Castillo as the devious Kathy.


A young man named Jodie is taking an aimless road trip around the country, killing time before he has to make a serious decision about his future, when he makes a terrible mistake: he turns down a farmland driveway on a whim. At first, his luck seems pretty good. While eating his lunch beside a pond, he's approached by an attractive young girl named Melissa, who lives on the walnut ranch property. They strike up a quick friendship and she invites him to stay a while in the guest room of her family's home.

But there's also a strange old woman living in the house, a woman said to be Melissa's great-grandmother, who just happens to be the "fromikidal maniac" that a local gas station attendant warmed Jodie about. Every decade or so, great-grandma gets loose and murders someone. The family has been able to keep this secret for many years and keep great-grandma hidden away, but now all of their secrets are about to come out into the open. And the killer granny isn't nearly the weirdest thing going on with this family.

Many think that Billy Jack writer/director/star Tom Laughlin directed this movie, since the director's name is the same as one of Laughlin's pseudonymns, Don Henderson. But it was actually made by a man named Don Henderson, who directed another movie that I've seen people credit to Laughlin, Weekend with the Babysitter.

This is another much-maligned movie, with a 2.0 rating on IMDb, but it is the subject of a popular episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. While the MST3K episode is admittedly the only way that I've seen the film, I'm a rare viewer who actually likes the movie beneath the mockery. I enjoy its odd, low-key atmosphere and the sunshine-blasted country locations. I would love to own a copy of the film on its own. There is a standalone DVD release, unfortunately it appears to be quite rare, and while I like the movie, I don't like the $30 price of the barebones DVD.

1 comment:

  1. I always wanted to See Hitch hike for the fact that "Krug" was in it. Also, that poster...