Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Hailing from what some of us younger folk refer to as the Golden Age of Horror, SILENT SCREAM was one of the multitude of horror entries that invaded theatres in that lovely year of 1980.

Just think, the year that gave us MANIAC, FRIDAY THE 13th, HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, WITHOUT WARNING, ALLIGATOR. The list is pretty long and those are just a few of the good ones.

And then there's SILENT SCREAM...

Four college students take up residence in a spooky old house that hasn’t been vetted by the local university as being habitable or safe. But the university has no problem pointing those kids in the direction of that house. Things were different then. Today, you’d get sued for such a thing, pointing kids to their death. Nobody takes responsibility for their own actions anymore.

I also long for the day when you could rent a room in a big house for $75 a month and complain that it’s too much just like Scotty (Rebecca Balding, THE BOOGENS) does. So she takes the smaller one for $50 a month. Back then, you knew if you took a $50 a month room in a spooky old house rented to you by a creepy teen nebbish named Mason (Brad Reardon) and his equally creepy mother (Yvonne DeCarlo, “The Munsters”), there was a territory that it’d come with. Kids today, they’d just leave like the pussies they are.

I’m getting off track here and I apologize. To a certain degree, I was enjoying SILENT SCREAM until I realized that I was 48 minutes into this movie and there’s only been one murder. It wasn’t particularly graphic or shocking. The character that died I could give a shit about. And it takes almost another 20 minutes after that for SILENT SCREAM to barely kick into third gear. The movie is mercifully about 84 minutes without credits.

The real problem with SILENT SCREAM? It’s pretty boring.

Its tech credits are excellent. For a low-budget horror movie from 1980, it’s a pleasure to look at. The music is ominous and well-executed. The acting is a little sub-par but you can forgive it. The character actors on display here (DeCarlo, Cameron Mitchell and Avery Schrieber) are underused. Greydon Clark alumnus Reardon (THE RETURN, HI-RIDERS) and the always stunning Barbara Steele (BLACK SUNDAY, PIRANHA) are the only shining lights.

Really, it ain't bad by a long shot. It’s just not interesting, especially when you consider the controversial bloodletting that was unspooling across the nation’s screens that year. It’s quaint. But a dull quaint. Like TWO murders in over an hour quaint and that’s pretty damn quaint.

I remember seeing SILENT SCREAM years ago on TV and not liking it. This Scorpion Releasing DVD does nothing to change that opinion other than to admire the technical craft on display. The print is fantastic and the sound even better. The extras featuring Ken and Jim Wheat and Rebecca Balding are informative. Seems SILENT SCREAM was a troubled production that the Wheat Brothers (PITCH BLACK, AFTER MIDNIGHT) kind of rescued. Kind of because for all their input into the finished product it’s still a snoozer. Hard to believe it was rated R save for the one Rebecca Balding tit during a tame sex scene.

Is SILENT SCREAM worth your time? It is if you’re trying to watch every horror release from the 80’s. But be forewarned…it’s more of a thriller than a horror show. Whenever you introduce a gun as a murder weapon in what you’re trying to pass off as a horror film, it immediately becomes a thriller. That’s just a fact of life.


What a difference 20 years makes for some films. Unfortunately, this is not one of them.

Directed by schlockmeister William A. Levey (BLACKENSTEIN, THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES TO HOLLYWOOD), HELLGATE is as awful as they come. Throughout much of it’s running time, HELLGATE manages to stupefy its viewer with the worst acting, worst special effects, the worst sex scene in film history and manages to spoil a blood-gushing beheading that proves bad filmmaking can’t be taught but is ingrained into one’s DNA.

Taking the dead girl hitchhiker legend, mixing it with a sad-looking biker gang and adding a ghost town amusement park as your set sounds like it could be a fun mash-up. However, when you make WELCOME BACK KOTTER’s Ron Palillo as your dashing leading man, all bets are off. For example, I don’t want to call anyone unattractive but when the worst sex scene in history came on as I was dozing off, I thought it was a guy banging another guy (played by Joanne Warde as Bobby (!) and Evan J. Klisser as Chuck). This provided more of a shock, albeit momentarily, than this rest of this goddamned thing could muster up in any of it’s other scenes.

Palillo plays the guy in the 80’s who nearly runs over the dead hitchhiker (Abigail Wolcott) who was killed by the world’s shittiest biker gang back in the late 50’s. Nothing about these guys seems like the late 50’s. Her grief stricken father who runs the ghost town amusement park receives a crystal from a maintenance man who found it in one of the attractions. It seems to shoot out a terrible blue laser that reanimates the dead and blows shit up, depending I guess on how the grief stricken father feels at the moment. Cut back to 1989 when Horshack is driving to meet his girlfriend (Petrea Curran) and the worst sex scene couple at their vacation house. He picks up the hitchhiker who immediately finds him to be her knight in shining convertible and will use her undead crystal given powers to woo him back to the house and join her in undead love forever.

The rest of the movie involves a terrible diner set that can’t even get the 80’s right. Then there’s the lone biker who survived the grief stricken father’s revenge who grunts loudly and smashes windows and sharpens axes and knives only to show up at the end after you forgot about him and immediately gets zapped by the dad and the crystal. There’s also other women who find Palillo irresistible in his Chess King collection. I don’t even dare go into the lapses in character continuity and general logic that make you want to get an IQ test as quick as possible if only to make sure you haven’t been literally dumbed down by this criminal head-thumper.

I’ve noticed I’ve not made mention of the actual script. I’m trying not to. In a way, HELLGATE deserves to be seen if only to peep upon the worst dialogue ever to spill out of an actor’s mouth. Seriously, people say shit in this movie to pad the running time. There’s no other reason to repeat the same unfunny jokes as Levey has his actors do.

Apparently Palillo was to Levey what Kinski was to Herzog given that this was his third go around with the director. Together they did SKATETOWN USA (1979), COMMITTED (1988) and HELLGATE. Levey directed nothing else after this. His last known credit according to IMDB was on an E! True Hollywood Story on Joey Heatherton in 2001. Wolcott is an ex-model turned cosmetics manufacturer married to Quest Restaurant Executive Chef Tom Valenti. This whole sordid affair was filmed in South Africa. It is no KILL AND KILL AGAIN (1981) and suffers from a serious lack of Ken Gampu.

Had this not been double featured on the Anchor Bay release of THE PIT (1981), I’d have never watched it again. The transfer for it is quite good. How Anchor Bay decided to pair the two up, I’ve no idea and I have to say, there’s that movie nerd fan inside of me that’s glad somebody took the time to put this out and give it the best treatment it possibly deserved. That said, HELLGATE is a stinker of the highest order.

Here's the ending from YouTube. Everything you need to know is right here. Pay special attention to the grief stricken father on top of the car once he's thrown off into the building. That's HELLGATE in a nutshell.

Good luck. You'll need it.

HELLGATE cover photo nicked from

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Poggiali solves SPLIT SECOND SMOKEY stumper!

TEMPLE OF SCHLOCK's Chris Poggiali comes through again! It's DOUBLE NICKELS (1977)! Click on the link below to read all about it.


A big, big thank you to Chris. I was a little down not being able to make it to the Alamo's showing of BLACK CAESAR this evening and you made my night!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

THE PIT (1981)

A Canadian film shot in Wisconsin, THE PIT centers around the pre-teen exploits of Jamie Benjamin, who may be autistic but seems more like a bullied introverted pervert than a child suffering a neurodevelopment disorder. Jamie likes naked women and peeping. He talks to his teddy bear, Teddy, who tells him to feed not nice people to the furry little monsters that inhabit a pit out in the woods by a field. He has a hot baby-sitter/nanny hired by his parents because they’re going to Seattle to set things up for their impending move. She bears the brunt of his sickness for most of the running time until Jamie decides to quit feeding people to the “tra-la-logs” and helps them escape. Then THE PIT turns into somewhat of a slasher film for 15 minutes or so before the whole thing ends rather stupidly.

THE PIT boasts excellent filmmaking chops and is heads above most films of its time period. The acting ranges from amateurish to competent and the gore is almost nil but somehow there’s a loopy charm to this low-budget shocker stemming from promises unfulfilled. There’s obviously more going on than what made it to the screen which makes the film seem as if it was heavily edited. However, various internet sources that include an interview with the film’s writer, Ian Stuart, claim that director Lew Lehman eschewed the more dark and controversial issues contained in the script for a more commercial tits and horror combination popular at the time. That said Lehman seems to have shot some of those darker moments from Stuart’s original script as the dialogue sets up scenes, character motivation and drama that never comes.

Anchor Bay’s 2004 DVD release of the film (paired with the mind-numbing 1989 William Levy helmed HELLGATE) returns THE PIT to widescreen glory and showcases the talent behind the camera. The print used is near flawless to my undiscriminating eyes thus making THE PIT even more of a guilty pleasure.

It won’t change your life but THE PIT is a strange and effective time-killer that wouldn’t be a waste of space in your Netflix queue.





DON'T BLEED ON ME one sheet discovered so what the hell is SPLIT SECOND SMOKEY?

Lurking over at AV MANIACS, I found a thread started by Matthew Allison asking about DON'T BLEED ON ME, which was accompanied by a photo for the film's one-sheet that came from a recent auction on eBay. As Chris Poggiali pointed out in a follow up post on the thread, I had asked before on AV Maniacs if anybody had seen it (and with Chris not having seen it or heard of it, I knew it was pretty obscure).

Now since it really does exist and wasn't a newspaper typo, the plot thickens. How do we find the movie? And will it live up to it's title?

My newest dilemma is what the hell is SPLIT SECOND SMOKEY? I was going through old Miami News movie times from 1978 and came across the title. A Google search turns up a BOXOFFICE magazine (see page 94) from 1978 that announces it's showing in Atlanta in a couple theaters paired with Halicki's GONE IN 60 SECONDS. Could it be a re-title of SMOKEY AND THE GOODTIME OUTLAWS (aka JD AND THE SALT FLAT KID)? Something to do with GREAT SMOKEY ROADBLOCK? Could be an early cut of the POLK COUNTY POT PLANE (aka IN HOT PURSUIT)? Or is it some lost regional drive-in masterpiece?

I've asked my buddy Murphy to hit the microfilm in Hotlanta for some answers and he better come through.

UPDATE-Just found listing for SPLIT SECOND SMOKEY from a 1980 Miami News movie time clock at the Cameo Theatre.