Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Conference Championships: Ripkowski Stripped By Jalen Collins and “The Food of the Gods”

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Published on : January 26, 2017

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the walls drip blood, and the bell tolls for thee.

 

Conference Championships: Ripkowski Stripped By Jalen Collins

 

What’d I tell ya? The Falcons D-men showed up and gave Green Bay a headache all day long. There’s always gonna be a little schadenfreude involved for this Lions fan when The Pack loses, but even with the nutso amount of injuries they had coming in, I never saw this total implosion coming down the pike.

 

The Packers died the death of a thousand cuts with a majority of their top players off the field or playing hurt, an early missed field goal by Mason Crosby, and this mega-bummer of a fumble by Aaron Ripkowski.

 

Ripkowski has shown some impressive flashes as a power runner and this big statement play, pushing past the first-down marker, felt special on a day where both teams had trouble running the ball. But you gotta hold on. This is great textbook play on the part of Jalen Collins playing for the ball with Ripkowski safely wrapped up by a couple other guys. Collins really owns the damn thing by recovering the rock in the end zone for a touchback.

 

Congrats to the Falcons. Bring on the Super Bowl.

 

Conference Championships: The Food of the Gods

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Director: Bert I. Gordon
Released: 1976

 

It’s no secret that Roger Pretzel loves a good giant animal flick, and this one’s gotta be my favorite of them all.

 

It’s a fairly simple setup from famed genre scribe H. G. Wells himself, in which the titular goop causes all animals who consume it to grow to massive proportions. And while the chickens, rats, and other quotidian creatures may not be as shocking or crazy as the giant ants of Them! (1954), or the tarantula of the cleverly named Tarantula (1955), the generous amount of beautiful matte shots, solidly constructed puppets, and good old fashioned animal wranglin’ all laid out by special effects vet Bert I. Gordon, here as director, makes for joyous viewing.

 

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Something tells me that the original H. G. Wells story didn’t include shaggy blonde football players with sideburns in the lead, but this is ScoreBoredSports so we welcome that addition, plus all the ‘70’s affectations only add to the fun filled B-picture feel.

 

Once again, the survival horror angle of a disparate group thrown together wins the day as the jocks, a standard love interest, a pregnant hippy couple, and a straight up asshole from Central Casting all vie to live another day.

 

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If the visuals are worth the ticket alone, some of the schlockier elements provide icing on the cake with eyebrow-raising plot conceits like “even though regular rats are excellent swimmers, big ones might not be” and the notable instance of a poor actor trying his hardest to act terrified as a giant chicken puppet is aggressively pushed from off screen into his face.

 

At its most fun, when not taken too seriously, The Food of the Gods remains required viewing for junkies of pre-CG effects and lovers of the stranger cinema.

 

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The Trailer:

 

 

Full movie: Here

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Divisional Playoffs: Matt Ryan Finds Devonta Freeman For Huge Gain

Written by :
Published on : January 18, 2017

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum, I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the knives are sharpened, and horrors lurk amongst the shadows.

 

Divisional Playoffs: Matt Ryan to Devonta Freeman For Huge Gain

Enough with the heartbreaker history spiel: it looks like the Falcons have finally become the real deal. And while it sounds a bit crazy, I’m actually favoring them over the Pack for Sunday’s NFC championship tilt. They’re Super Bowl worthy when the defense steps up and we all know what this offense can do…

 

Two times on this play Seattle’s defense ends up chasing ghosts with a blitz attempt in which Matt Ryan drops back expertly and releases the ball off a back-foot throw while under respectable pressure from three Seattle linemen. When I saw the play live, I thought “Matty Ice” had gotten lucky on an ugly throw, but seen in replay that ball looks downright gorgeous.

 

After the catch, Freeman loses Bobby Wagner and cuts, causing safety Steven Terrell to lose his footing. The Falcons star back resembles a steam locomotive off the rails as he careens downfield with a burned Seattle secondary in hot pursuit. It’s actually a bit impressive that Kam Chancellor and DeAndre Elliott were able to catch up to him and prevent the TD. Do Atlanta fans dare get their hopes up? That’s for them to decide, but this was certainly a decisive victory.

 

Divisional Playoffs: The Green Slime

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Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Released: 1968

 

In this tantalizingly titled offering, east meets west in a joint effort by Metro Goldwyn-Mayer and Japanese studio, The Toei Company. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who is best known today for The Hunger Games predictor Battle Royale (2000), and the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, in which Yakuza gangsters fight it out down and dirty in a postwar Hiroshima. The film was shot with a predominantly Japanese crew and American and European cast.

 

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This unusual historical collaboration is nothing compared to how strange the picture is, however. While there’s plenty of corn to be had with the intended demographic solidly resting with the kiddie-matinee crowd, this is far from your average penny-pinching sci-fi cheapie. There’s lots of Japanese styled miniature special effects, some truly trippy extra-terrestrial habitats, and a whole gang of rubber-suited monsters.

 

Amusingly enough, the plot itself is somewhat similar to Alien (1979) with the titular menace becoming an unknown stowaway on an interstellar aircraft that grows and mutates into a horde of crimson-eyed Cyclops, with wildly waving tentacles that shoot lasers. Certainly a little different aesthetically from H.R. Giger’s sleek and horrific creature design, but just as malevolent.

 

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It should go without saying that the visuals and frenzied tone are The Green Slime’s real charms but the just-adequate acting and hoary old love triangle plot add just enough human interest to keep one engaged in the haggard Troy McClure-esque alpha males duking it out over the leading lady.

 

The manic balls-to-the-wall zaniness of the picture is also amplified by a groovy theme song courtesy of Richard Delvy, in a tune that’s equal parts, catchy, fun, and terrible.

 

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Dig that slimy trailer:

 

Your new favorite B-flick theme song:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkFalUlcWY

 

Full movie (cropped) here. DVDs available on Amazon.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon: Le’Veon Bell Waits and Waits… And “Who Can Kill a Child?”

Written by :
Published on : January 11, 2017

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the cauldron bubbles, and the bats roost above.

 

Wild Card Weekend: Le’Veon Bell waits… and waits for the opening on huge day

 

Watch: HERE

 

Le’Veon Bell had an amazing day on Sunday, busting down the field for 167 yards and the Steelers postseason single game rushing record. Out of all of Bell’s great moments in making the Dolphins’ defense look goofy and flatfooted, it’s this brilliant play in which Bell shows us why he’s top tier.

 

Bell puts a lot of trust in his offensive linemen as he waits for what seems like an eternity behind a black and yellow human wall before taking advantage of an open hole and breaking off 15. In watching most of the games this Wild Card Weekend, this play felt so much different from the majority of run plays I saw where guys with jitters were happy to just run into amped up defenses for a couple yards (this of course discounts Thomas Rawls, who took the Lions straight to shed with an impressive streak of power running).

 

Bell shows bonkers vision as a back and his acceleration is simply bananas. Let’s go Steelers.

 

Wild Card Weekend: Who Can Kill a Child?

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Director: Narciso Ibanez Serrador
Released: 1976

 

Definitely my favorite “evil kids” movie of all time. Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s Who Can Kill a Child? comes on strong with a provocative opening credit sequence depicting politically charged stills of wounded and dead children caught in war zones. But after that it’s a slow buildup to mayhem as a massively pregnant gal and her partner look for a little R & R on an island her beau had enjoyed visiting as a youth.

 

Despite a few kids running around, the town seems completely deserted and the tension mounts as the mystery unfolds. Meanwhile, the island’s moppet inhabitants become increasingly and disturbingly hostile.

 

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A masterful sense of tone combined with a genuine 70’s grindhouse feel make this picture unforgettable as director Ibanez Serrador gleefully perverts the innocence of children in a sickening crockpot of menace to a point where the tykes are gleefully shooting guns at adults and turning their hapless elders into piñatas.

 

The picture’s astounding complexity is starkly laid out in a moment in which two boys are inspecting the mutilated corpse of a naked woman: it’s not the horror of violent death that attracts them, but instead it’s the novelty and taboo of her bare body that inflames their youthful curiosity, even in this most perverse of settings.

 

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Of course our heroine’s advanced pregnancy provides for some built in tension, as well as some good philosophical grist for the mill in terms of the film’s message. The explosive final efforts of the couple to save themselves from the pipsqueak mob are worthy of the hysteric plateaus of The Last House on the Left (1972), and there’s a twist towards the end that sounds ludicrous on paper but is really quite effective in its unrelenting insanity.

 

The Children of the Corn end up looking like a bunch of candy-asses next to this murderous gang of li’l rascals. This is another one of those pictures that I can’t recommend highly enough.

 

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The trailer: 

 

 

Disc available for rental on Netflix and available for purchase on Amazon.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 17: Minnesota Defense and The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

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Published on : January 5, 2017

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the bloodlust is sated, and tarantulas crawl over virgin flesh.

 

Week 17: Minnesota Defense With Team Effort in Strip Sack For TD

 Celebrating the TD.

 

Watch Video: Here

 

Sure there’s always gonna be one or two high drama games in week 17 in terms of playoff hopes, but for the majority of squads, the die was cast back in weeks 15 and 16. The best games in the regular season’s final week are invariably those between two teams already locked out of the playoffs, playing for pride alone.

 

Minnesota has had a high caliber defense all season and this play against a hapless Matt Barkley shows us that scary pass rush in all its glory. Three different Vikings D-men get in on the action here, starting with Linval Joseph. The Defensive Tackle doesn’t so much strip the ball as he puts a hard shot on Barkley that knocks the ball loose. Anthony Barr comes in with the smart play to goose the ball down the field in the other direction when he realizes there’s no whistle, and that Charles Leno Jr. of the Bears is about to recover. Finally Everson Griffen scoops it up with the sure hands and brings it home.

 

My Lions are going to the playoffs this season, leaving the Vikings behind, but I’m not looking forward to facing that Minnesota defense again next year

 

Week 17: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

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Director: Joseph Green
Released: 1962

 

Operating on a level that may be the closest to the platonic ideal of what this column is about, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die serves up enough monsters, kink, and weirdness to satisfy most obsessives of obscure cinematic horror.

 

Once again, we have mad science to thank for the majority of this film’s pleasures with an ambitious Frankenstein-like doctor brilliantly, but unethically, pioneering new transplant technologies including the successful reviving of his fiancée’s severed head!

 

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“Jan in the pan” isn’t thrilled about her new predicament and begs to be taken offline for good, but Doc Cortner won’t have any of it as he prowls the streets, strip clubs, and beauty contests in search of a proper body to affix Jan’s noggin to. Meanwhile, in the laboratory basement, Jan’s tortured melon begins to communicate telepathically with a giant monster locked behind a heavy wooden door…

 

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Lots of good stuff here, particularly Virginia Leith’s performance as Jan, with her husky voice and barely concealed rage expressing a Medea-worthy madness. The sex angle is pure sleaze and gets a pulp slant when the bad doctor introduces a two-faced burn-victim and former beauty queen into the scenario as Jan’s body-to-be.

 

The monster is no joke either with a seriously ugly makeup/prosthetics design that’s of a higher quality than might be expected. His inevitable violent rampage includes an arm ripped from the socket, and a throat chewed open. The whole experience is dizzyingly unwholesome. Just what the doctor ordered.

 

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Cop that trailer:

 

Full flick here:

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 16: Antonio Brown Stretches For Game Winning TD and “The Killer Shrews”

Written by :
Published on : December 31, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the black candles gutter, and the dark lord has been invoked.

 

Week 16: Antonio Brown Stretches for Game Winning TD

 

 

Can it be? Act like you know.

 

It’s damn near impossible to pick anything except this in week 16, with Antonio Brown showing the kind of skill and effort that makes him one of the league’s top receivers in a play that all but wrapped up the AFC North for the Steelers. Y’all know Roger Pretzel’s a run kind of guy in the red zone but that’s obviously not the way the league works anymore, and you’re not gonna do it regardless with a scant fourteen ticks left in the game and no times out.

 

I love this play. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s not rewriting the book with a short cross pass, but making the route just shy of the goal line and trusting your receiver to fight for the touchdown is pure gold. Brown stands up to three D-men and has the power to not go down and the smarts to stretch that arm out. This should be a contender for play of the year.

 

Week 16: The Killer Shrews

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Director: Ray Kellog
Released: 1959

 

This surprisingly intriguing B-movie is rightfully famous today for its atrocious special effects, in which greyhound dogs were outfitted with toothy facial prosthetics and some sort of shaggy fur suit in order to depict the titular shrews that are let loose against a hapless group of humans holed up for a last stand. I’m not going to say the visuals aren’t often ridiculous but you owe it to yourself to give this one a chance.

 

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Here’s the concept behind the silly title: in the real world, shrews are tiny little guys related to moles who, because of their diminutive size, have a bonkers fast metabolism rate that requires them to eat more than their body weight every day. So what if you sized up these crazed predators to a stature that could take down humans? In reality the animal would have a lower metabolic rate, but this is Hollywood baby, so let’s suspend the disbelief.

 

The writing is easily the strongest element of the picture with not only the conceit of the hyper predatory shrews becoming giant, but also the concept of a scientist trying to shrink down humanity so we’ll have more resources to go around (“The Big Shrink” by The Dead Kennedys, anyone?).

 

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There’s some good human drama here too, with hero James Best evading assassination attempts from wannabe-top-dog Ken Curtis all while the slavering beasts are pounding the gates. Finally, the depiction of violence is far more serious here than one might reasonably expect. Shotgun blasts knock over well trained dogs-cum-shrews within the same frame without a cut, which is really quite impressive for such a low budget picture.

 

And yet it’s clearly this combination of positive elements and schlocky visuals that elevates The Killer Shrews from a worthwhile programmer into the pantheon. The threat of death is so palpably real for these lousy actors, but on the other hand, their attackers come off so distinctly as dogs dressed up as monsters.

 

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View the trailer here:

 

 

And the masterpiece in its entirety:

 

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 15: Two Sacks By Jadeveon Clowney and “Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter”

Written by :
Published on : December 21, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the full moon looms ominously, and the black spells have been cast.

 

Week 15: Jadeveon Clowney Sacks Blake Bortles Twice

Watch the first sack: Here

 

It’s natural for humans to create patterns in the things they see around them, and every football season it’s inevitable that my diseased brain is prone to obsess over the NFL defensive squads I like the most. Seattle is pretty much a perennial contender, and I’m also a big fan of Kansas City. Last year, I was losing it over Denver’s squad for obvious reasons, and this year it seems my defense of choice is the Houston Texans. They’re definitely not the best, but over the course of the season they’ve caught my eye the most.

 

In his third season in a pro career plagued by injuries, it’s great to see Jadeveon Clowney have a game like this. Both of these sacks may come in the first quarter but an early statement like that can have a rattling affect on a QB.


The football intelligence on display is remarkable with Clowney sidestepping or shooting a gap to get the hapless Bortles in the blink of an eye. In the first sack, Clowney gets scary sneaky as he crosses over to take advantage of a gaping hole in the line. On sack number two, the Texans’ defensive end has great eyes in not being fooled by the handoff. On both plays he hits the Jacksonville QB with such authority and efficiency that it’s hard to imagine the label “draft bust” being laid on Clowney now.

 

Week 15: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter

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Director: William Beaudine
Released: 1966

 

I’m not sure if it’s possible, but this is arguably the most unapologetically schlocky B-movie we’re going to screen in the Dungeon this season, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a flick begging to be given the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment more than this one.

 

The title speaks for itself with European fugitive Maria Frankenstein playing God with corpses and prairie lighting just as famous gunslinger Jesse James hits town to rob the place. The monster in this outing winds up being Jesse’s hulking, slow-witted, and recently departed, partner who gets his sub-par brain replaced with an artificial one thanks to Maria’s kooky mad science.

 

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The acting and casting are delightfully atrocious all around, but the leads stand out with Narda Onyx (that name!) as the baroness hamming it up in an unapologetic hackfest while John Lupton just gives up by playing the saddest, oldest, and least charismatic Jesse James one could imagine.

 

Unfortunately, the horror elements take a complete backseat to what is mostly a cheapie western. One imagines the accessibility of old timey western sets, costumes, and props easier to find on your average backlot than the duds necessary to make a proper Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.

 

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You’ve got to be willing to slog through some boring scenes and are way more likely to enjoy the flick for its camp value than anything. The monster himself has no defining makeup other than the circular scar around his dome where the brain was replaced, but Cal Bolder (again with them names) is so totally ripped, shredded, and jacked that his strongman act almost adds a hint of the sideshow to this eccentric turkey.

 

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I present you the trailer in all its goofiness: 

 

Whole movie here for the true masochists out there:

 

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 14: Matt Stafford Rushes For Game Winning TD and “Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell”

Written by :
Published on : December 14, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the blood ritual completed, and the demons have been summoned.

 

Week 14: Matt Stafford Shows Toughness on Rumbling Rushing TD

 

There’s nothing quite like December football with the winning teams battling for playoff spots, and the hopeless ones happy to play spoiler. Week 14 gave us a billion amazing special teams plays, and Vic Beasley Jr. became Jared Goff’s own personal hell, but this week’s highlight comes from none other than the comeback king himself: Matt Stafford.

 

It’s starting to get a little nutty for us Detroit fans as we watch the boys in blue repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. The amount of different opinions and analyses of Stafford over the years have been all over the map, and I would argue that he’s actually one of the more divisive QBs in the game in terms of opinion.

 

One thing I don’t think he gets enough credit for though, is his ability to move within the pocket. He avoids a sack attempt before opting to run, and even breaks a few tackles along the way into the end zone. In the replay it looks like John Timu has a great opportunity to stop the play, but Stafford makes a bit of a cut and ends up home free. It’s a pretty ugly run for sure, and it’s definitely hilarious to see number 9 bowl over teammate Eric Ebron in the end zone, but with each successive season I’m starting to appreciate Stafford’s goofy looking QB scrambles more and more. He’s getting results.

 

Week 14: Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell

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Director: Hajime Sato
Released: 1968

 

I’ve read before that this is apparently a favorite of Quentin Tarantino’s, and it’s so damn good I don’t see why it wouldn’t be.

 

The setup: An airplane is downed on a garishly colored desert island thanks to the passing of a UFO. The alien craft’s occupant is a blob that acts as a parasite, splitting apart the head of one of the surviving passengers and turning him, and successive victims, into vampires.

 

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The sci-fi/horror mash up works wonders here and director Hajime Sato takes the brilliant Goerge Romero rout of centering much of the drama on how different human personalities react in a crisis situation. The characters are a hoot too, including a corrupt politician, a morally bankrupt businessman and his trophy wife, a would-be terrorist youth, and a grieving American widow.

 

Nothing is quaint or quiet in this picture as the survivors’ predicament is highly politicized, mirroring the turbulent political climate of the late 60’s, with references to the Vietnam War, political assassinations, and the growing rift between socioeconomic classes. All of this is of course made more hysterical with a complete lack of drinking water, leading to a dehydrated fever-pitch of desperation.

 

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The film’s simplistic antiwar statement dressed up in cautionary-tale-clothing makes a great backdrop for all manner of bizarre and terrifying happenings. There’s a wide range of special effects shots on hand from miniatures and models, to the more horrific face molds, oozing slime creatures, and bodies drained of blood.

 

And unlike our glorious Independence Days and Wars Between Worlds, the baddie Gokemidoro alien at the heart of this film knows it’s a little too late for humanity this time around.

 

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This trailer gives you an excellent idea of the wackiness on hand:

 

You can catch the whole movie here, but Criterion Eclipse has a beautiful DVD copy that’s definitely worth tracking down:

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 13: Albert Wilson’s Fake Punt TD Run and “Karate Bullfighter”

Written by :
Published on : December 8, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the virgins sacrificed, and screams echo down the halls.

 

Week 13: Andy Reid Gambles and Albert Wilson Flies Downfield For A Touchdown

 

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a fake punt play that went straight through the line before, but Andy Reid makes it look easy with wide receiver Albert Wilson breaking through the gap as if he were shot from a cannon. The surprise factor on the part of Atlanta’s special teams squad is palpable with the secondary players, including the punt returner, completely caught off guard by the barreling Wilson.

 

I always love how amped so many special teams guys get on a good play due to their limited field time. It’s a real treat in the replay to see KC backups Daniel Sorensen and James O’Shaughnessy just pumping their fists like crazy as their teammate disappears over the horizon. While I know I’m guilty of often commenting on the amazing speed of NFL players, this is 55 yards ate up in a blink. Let’s give these special teams guys some chances, eh?

 

Week 13: Karate Bullfighter

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Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Released: 1977

 

Sonny Chiba is probably best remembered by film nerds in the U.S. for the ultra-violent cult flick The Street Fighter (1974). That one was great because it felt so far removed from Bruce Lee’s composed morality and ultra-good guy status as to make it a real breath of fresh air for the darker impulses of martial arts cinema.

 

Meanwhile, Karate Bullfighter is the first in a trilogy based on real-life karate champ Masutatsu Oyama (Korean Choi Yeong-eui by birth) that also includes Karate Bear Fighter (1977), and Karate For Life (1977). Masutatsu himself is best known for founding the Kyokushin School of karate, which Sonny Chiba studied in.

 

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As a whole the series is a bit of a mixed bag with two films promising epic fights between Chiba and a bull in the first, and even better, a bear in the second! I initially wanted to review Karate Bear Fighter, as murdering that type of wild animal seems way tougher and cooler than something Spaniards in bedazzled Capri-pants and a funny hat still do to piss off PETA, but ultimately, bullfight is the better movie.

 

Regardless, for all the solid martial arts and standup choreography there are some serious dramatic missteps on hand with Oyama’s main opponent, a rival martial arts school, never really achieving a degree of menace that feels sufficiently threatening. As well as Oyama attempting to teach an obviously psychopathic student who is eventually gunned down by the police. It would have been much more satisfying to have the teacher confront the monster he created.

 

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And yes, Sonny Chiba does kill a bull at the climax, rewarding us with over the top arterial spray. This is admittedly what we came for, and it is worth it.

 

However, this flick is guilty of bordering on hagiography in regards to its main subject, who seems more boring than anything, and Sonny Chiba has always been a much better anti-hero, and even villain, than straight up good guy. Chiba is undeniably magnetic as always, but this one is more of a programmer with a fun ending than a true classic.

 

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Cop the trailer here:

 

Cheap DVD’s available on Amazon.com

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 9: Aaron Donald Takes Down Cam Newton and “The Ghost Ship”

Written by :
Published on : November 9, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, blood drips from the walls, and my hideous assistant has turned in for the night.

 

Week 9: Aaron Donald Gobbles Up Cam Newton For Big Time Sack

 

Week 9 proved to be a pretty glorious one in terms of highlights with a miraculous Lions victory, a great game for the Ravens in Baltimore, and Melvin Gordon starting to look downright freakish in San Diego. The Haunted Dungeon is always looking for a good sack, and while there have been a few good ‘uns in the 2016 season (I’m looking at you Khalil Mack) we finally got that monster QB hit we’ve been waiting for.

 

Aaron Donald’s second sack of the game came in the fourth quarter of a supremely ineffectual offensive effort for both teams. The big boy in 99 looks almost Suh-like as he pushes forward, pulls a little move, and then leaps out to smother Cam Newton and take him down. It’s a textbook power play that brings the oft-used word “explosive” to mind.

 

I’m not gonna forget this hit anytime soon. I don’t think Cam is going to either.

 

Week 9: The Ghost Ship

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Director: Mark Robson
Released: 1943

 

In week 1 of the Haunted Dungeon I made a little jab at Val Lewton for making movies in which you never really “see the monster.” In a way it wasn’t a fair thing to say because Lewton’s real genius efforts were sort of in a league of their own that had nothing to do with jump scares or rubber monster suits.

 

Lewton is primarily known as a producer for RKO, a studio that wasn’t Poverty Row, but wasn’t one of the big players either. He’d take wonderfully lurid titles thought up by company brass and then generally work those pulpy monikers into highly cerebral and atmospheric thrillers and horror films. Today he’s best known for Cat People (1942), but my very favorite Lewton films are the ones without any hint of the supernatural at all.

 

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The Ghost Ship is one of those films. The title evokes all sorts of eerie happenings and ghoulish goings-on, but in reality the film deals with something far more terrifying than ghosts or goblins: human psychosis.

 

Lewton was the king of atmosphere, and here he builds unbelievable amounts of suspense, dread, and foreboding with noir-ish cinematography and a ship captain (Richard Dix) who is mentally unstable and incompetent to such a degree that the lives of his entire crew are in jeopardy.

 

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The salty world of sailors is a fun one to dabble in and the depths of psychology involved really cut to the quick with a frightening combination of megalomania and cowardice interwoven into the nut-job captain. It’s a level of insight that goes far beyond the film’s b-picture trappings to make it worthy of Hitchcock’s brainier forays like Rebecca (1940) or Marnie (1964).

 

There’s also a nice device in one of the more visually interesting seamen, Finn the Mute (Skelton Knaggs), narrating the story through interior monologue. The effect comes off as cheesy initially, but grows more powerful and poignant as the picture progresses.

 

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If this is your kind of thing I also highly recommend the Lewton films Isle of the Dead (1945) and especially The Seventh Victim (1943).

 

I couldn’t find a trailer online but you can cop the whole flick here:

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 7: Landon Collins Insane Pick Six and “The Creature Walks Among Us”

Written by :
Published on : October 26, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the ghosts are screaming, and the chains rattle ominously.

 

Week 7: Landon Collins Insane Pick Six

 

We here at the Haunted Dungeon love a good pick six and this is the wackiest one we’ve come across this season. Straight from Twickenham Stadium in jolly old England, Case Keenum pitches one to Tavon Austin who gives up a monster tip that lands in the arms of Landon Collins. And that’s when the fun begins.

 

Intercepting the ball at the 45-yard-line, it takes Collins nearly fifteen whole seconds to cut and amble his way into the end zone. He does a good job breaking that first tackle that comes from behind with speed, and picks up an even better block immediately right after from safety Andrew Adams.

 

My favorite part of the play is the convoy of blockers at the end just rumbling through those last few yards before an exhausted Collins collapses into the end zone. It speaks to this wild and wooly six points being a team effort as opposed to just the singular heroics of one dude. Big Blue Wrecking Crew indeed.

 

Week 7: The Creature Walks Among Us

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Director: John Sherwood
Released: 1956

 

Universal Studios will always be best known for its cycle of classic monster movies from the 1930’s all the way into the 1950’s. You know the crew: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, not to mention a whole host of one-off chillers with the kooky The Old Dark House (1932) being my personal favorite. It’s also pretty amazing to think that our primary pop-culture visual conceptions of these monsters, particularly Dracula and Frankenstein, come directly from these movies.

 

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All these beasties appeared in multiple films and sequels, but in the entire cycle there is no single film more bizarre or improbable than The Creature Walks Among Us. Dig the plot: A deranged scientist and his cheesecake pinup wife are hunting the escaped the Gill-man down in the Florida Everglades. Upon capture, the monstrous innocent is horribly burned in a fire, and a surgery to save his life shows that he has human-like lungs in addition to his aquatic gills. The logical conclusion is to put the Creature in a bizarre ill-fitting suit and try to integrate him into society!

 

The ludicrous premise along with the Creature’s noticeably shabby make up design is a hoot, and when the picture tries to elicit sympathy for the Creature’s plight, with the bulkily clothed brute staring out longingly towards the ocean, you’ll enjoy picking your jaw up off the floor.

 

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Along with the inevitable and obligatory destructive rampage, there’s some hilarious scientific pontification about how the Creature’s genetic makeup could provide that boost to send man into space. There’s a truly memorable moment in which the Creature manhandles a savage mountain lion in a style that would make Andre The Giant proud.

 

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For proof that I’m not lying, behold the trailer here:

 

 

I couldn’t find any streaming options out there but there are plenty of cheap DVD copies available on Amazon.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 6: Bernardrick McKinney Clobbers Andrew Luck, and “Hard To Be A God”

Written by :
Published on : October 19, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the remains have been entombed, and the storm rages outside.

 

Week 6: Bernardrick McKinney Clobbers Andrew Lunch on Third Down in OT


How about that Houston comeback on Sunday Night Football? To be fair, it may have been more of an Indianapolis meltdown but there were still a solid handful of brilliant plays executed by the Texans’ defense. My favorite came at a critical moment in overtime with only three yards to go on a third down when Bernardrick McKinney shot the gap and put Andrew Luck into the turf.

 

Both defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus come flying off their marks in a pincer attack that opens up a huge hole for Bernardrick McKinney to fly through. That D line is scary even without J.J. Watt. So much so that even with a struggling Brock Osweiler the Texans currently sit atop of the AFC South.

 

And while Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus are definitely two of my favorite football names, Bernardrick McKinney ain’t so bad either.

 

Week 6: Hard To Be A God

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Director: Aleksey German
Released: 2013

 

It’s hard for me to overstate how mind-blowing this movie is. Really. It was the hot ticket for the art-house set when it became available stateside, but I remain surprised that it didn’t find a broader audience.

 

Based on a Russian sci-fi novel in which a group of cosmonauts live on a planet identical to earth except that it’s trapped 800 years in the past in a permanent state of dark ages, the plotting is nearly impossible to follow and frankly the film is all the richer for it.

 

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Comprised mostly of long takes with a constantly roving camera (albeit at a leisurely clip) the viewer is treated to a meticulously detailed world of filth and a parade of human grotesques spewing all manner of bodily fluids amongst the pervasive mud, grime, and ash. The wide angle black and white photography is revelatory in capturing all the ugliness humanity has to offer.

 

Shot in fits and starts from 2000 to 2006, and involving several more years of post-production with its director in failing health, this singular film has an idiosyncratic production history as well with German’s (pronounced Grrr-man, not Jer-man) wife and son putting the finishing touches on his messy swan song.

 

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With it’s near incoherence and three-hour running time it’s a challenging view, but every minute is worth it. Catch this carnal and visceral masterpiece of flying snot-rockets and dribbling slave piss as soon as you can.

 

I implore you to watch the trailer here:

 

 

Currently streaming on Netflix! Go now! Also available for rental on Amazon and itunes.

 

 


Week 4: Steve Smith is Gone and Matango AKA Attack of the Mushroom People

Written by :
Published on : October 6, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum, I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the wolves have ceased howling, and the mummies have been wrapped.

 

Week 4: Steve Smith Sr. Knocks Over David Amerson For Lightning Quick TD

 

This was one of the week’s big ones, but I had to chime in too since Sr has always been one of my favorite receivers and I’m gonna miss him when his inevitable retirement comes. Small, but sturdy and with alacrity to spare, Smith, shows that he’s 37-years-ageless with this 50-plus yard catch for TD off the play action pass.

 

Flacco throws a bullet here that Smith has to extend on, but the coverage ain’t there so once old 89 gets possession, he wastes no time giving Oakland CB David Amerson the unkindest cut by shoving him down to the turf with his shoulder as the poor guy struggles to make a tackle. You can almost hear that authoritative “sit down” that we all imagine in our heads.

 

Hard to blame Safety Reggie Nelson for the total half-hearted whiff on the tackle attempt because Dad’s off to races on a play that cut more than half the field, lasted mere seconds, and resulted in a score.

 

That is the quickness right there.

 

Week 4: Matango AKA Attack of the Mushroom People

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Director: Ishiro Honda
Released: 1963

 

Earlier this season we talked about the great George A. Romero and how his legacy will always revolve around the flesh-eating undead zombie trope he pioneered. Ishiro Honda’s career is marked in much the same way with being the grandfather of Japan’s most important (my opinion) export: Godzilla. While the original Gojira (1954) is a lot darker and more violent than many of us remember, Honda basically spent the rest of his prolific career at the Toho studios churning out a long line of less serious, but no less destructive or fun Kaiju movies, including some of the genre’s greatest classics like Mothra (1961), Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), and Destroy All Monsters (1968).

 

But amongst all the slumbering reptilians asleep under the ocean, aliens, and his very own bizarre rendition of Frankenstein’s monster, one of Honda’s strangest cinematic fever dreams would sometimes be retitled as Attack of the Mushroom People.

 

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When a gang of pampered city-slickers become stuck on an eerie rock that even birds seem to avoid, this “Gilligan’s Island” from hell is a very slow build where the danger of sexual assault against the women castaways mounts uncomfortably and the diminishing food supply is a cold hard truth. Thankfully (for the viewer!) this island is covered in all manner of wildly proliferating fungi, and when one member of the party succumbs to the hunger in his belly it’s inevitable that things start to take a turn for the monstrous.

 

This is going to be one of the best looking pictures we screen in the dungeon this season, with lots of great production design that includes an entire derelict wrecked ship and of course the many vividly colored examples of the island’s eerie fungal flora. And while as previously mentioned, this is a very slow build, there is indeed an actual payoff of “Mushroom People” in a way that is satisfying to horror fans that want a little bit more than pure psychology to dictate their frights. The strong sense of craftsmanship, partially thanks to this actually having been made at a major studio also carries over to the photography and most importantly to the genuinely creepy sound design with unnatural and jarring sonic stunts that complement the nightmare island presented onscreen.

 

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Take a nibble on these toadstools with the trailer here:
 

 

 

Or get fully weird with the entire picture for free!
 

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 3 (Special Edition Mamma Pretzel Picks): Derrick Johnson Pick Six and Awakening of the Beast

Written by :
Published on : September 29, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the prisoners manacled, and the graves have been robbed.

 

Week 3 Special – Mamma Pretzel’s Choice: Derrick Johnson Picks Off Fitzpatrick, Rumbles His Way 50-plus Yards For The TD

 

 

Mamma Pretzel is a football fan, and I’m lucky enough that each year her and I head off to Ford Field to see a Lions game in October. As I was chatting about the NFL with her while going over the highlights Monday so I thought I’d hand over the reigns and give her a shot at picking this week’s highlight.

 

I was personally pretty giddy over LeGarrette Blount’s long run for TD on Thursday night, aided by a great Julian Edelman block and capped off with a goofy photo-op celebration with the “minutemen,” but that was rejected out of hand by Moms: “I’m not going to pick anything involving the damn Patriots.” I submit without comment. “Well, I guess it’s gotta be that one…,” she admitted after reviewing Derrick Johnson’s pick of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who then went on to follow his blocks cleverly, end the thing with a nice stiff-arm, and stumble/spin into the end zone. It turned out to be a compromise seeing as how Mamma Pretzel is a bit of a Jets fan and a real-deal believer in Fitzpatrick. Again, I submit without comment.

 

Kansas City had their way defensively with the Jets at Arrowhead on Sunday. Fitz threw a whopping six interceptions, with this one being the final straw late in the fourth. While it was a lost cause for sure at that point, I love the focus by Johnson, as well as the dedication of Jets WR Quincy Enunwa rushing back only to take the rough stiff–arm to the mask that sealed the play. The Chiefs continue to have one of those maddening hot/cold defenses. At their best they are easily in the league’s top three, but that’s not always the team we see on Sunday. Thanks Mom! See you in October.

 

Week 3: Awakening of the Beast

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Director: Jose Mojica Marins
Released: 1970

 

Brazilian director and horror personality Jose Mojica Marins, better known by his top-hatted and long-taloned persona “Coffin Joe” is still working today, but he’s best known in the States for a duo of shockers made in the 1960’s that are lurid, stylish, and sport some great titles: At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964), and This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (1967). The flicks are good fright fare with a combination of dreadful tone in the menacing character of Joe himself, and the general theme of the madman subjecting beautiful scantily clad women to torture by all manner of creepy-crawlies. Spider on midriff? Check. Snake around thigh? Check. Marins also has a legitimately threatening presence as an actor, imbuing these two films with a sense that violence can happen to anyone at any minute.

 

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Awakening of the Beast is sometimes considered the third installment in a trilogy along with the aforementioned films, but given Marins’ scattered and varied output, most of which involves Coffin Joe, I don’t find the assessment to be appropriate. More Roger Corman exploitation cheapie than spook show, Marins uses the hoary old MacGuffin of psychedelic drug use as an excuse to stage skits involving all manner of deviant sexual behavior (S & M, bestiality, and incest all get at least passing attention), and like many other good examples of the “freak out” genre this one switches over from black and white to candy color for a phantasmagoric orgy of sex and violence once the LSD properly kicks in.

 

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Laughably sensationalist treatment of drug culture and cheap thrills and chills aside, Marins using his own Coffin Joe character as a kind of mock-documentary host/educator instead of boogeyman bad-guy is the most fun to watch, and the picture’s crowning achievement.

 

This extremely NSFW opening scene gives you a taste of what Joe/Jose is serving up in Awakening of the Beast:

 

 

This one is pretty hard to get a hold of today, with no easy streaming options I could find, but it looks like Amazon sells DVD copies for pretty cheap. Both At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, and This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse are available for free in their entirety on Youtube.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 2: Kelvin Benjamin TD and Knightriders

Written by :
Published on : September 22, 2016

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the wine’s been poured, and the wolves have been fed.

 

Week 2: Cam Finds Kelvin Benjamin For Short, Bruising Touchdown

 

While last week The Haunted Dungeon looked at a determined play from young up-and-comer Derek Carr, this week we focus on toughness. The theme is no coincidence since many of us are now looking to patch up the injury-related holes in our leaky fantasy rowboats after a week two that was particularly hard on some dependable names. I managed to snag returning behemoth Kelvin Benjamin for a song in my league’s auction draft and he’s been paying dividends. This is a guy built a bit like linebacker, but happens to be a gifted receiver.

 

It’s 2nd and 9 so Cam’s got some wiggle room: why not throw it to the big fella short of the plane and see what he can do? It looked like a hard play to defend against with both ‘Niners’ edge-rushers committing to sack Newton on the play-action, but the pass defense looked limp. Benjamin takes some licks on his way to end zone, but if it were actually one dedicated tackler instead of two guys giving up against a veritable rhino, I’m not sure the end result would have been any different with Benjamin barreling into the end zone. I hope Kelvin stays healthy. He’s been my favorite receiver to watch in this nascent NFL season.

 

Week 2: Knightriders

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Director: George A. Romero
Released: 1981

 

George A. Romero is of course best know for the Night of the Living Dead (1968) and its two sequels, but the wryly political king of zombie terror has a few other oddball entries in his oeuvre from the blatantly violent low-budget statement against chemical weapons The Crazies (1973), to the ludicrously bizarre premise of a murderous helper-monkey capuchin in Monkey Shines (1988).

 

Knightriders is the only major non-horror project that Romero has helmed, but this story of a group of fringe bikers, putting on fully motorized jousting tournaments for the benefit of curious gawkers at Renaissance Fairs rates as one of the very best in Uncle George’s output.

 

The combination of outlaw cool mixed with the freedom and fun of the traveling circus is made even more fascinating by the performers’ dedication to living under a medieval code. Ed Harris may be “King Billy,” but that doesn’t mean The Black Knight, special effects legend and sometimes actor Tom Savini, can’t challenge him. To my mind, this is Savini’s finest performance in front of the camera with his cocaine-fueled ego dishing out heaping helpings of snark and petulance.

 

At two and a half hours it’s a little long for a genre flick for sure, but that allows Romero to explore plenty of interesting and unexpected avenues. While the obvious thrust is the difficulty of living a truly alternative lifestyle under one’s own rules, other concepts like the dilution of what’s cool and worthwhile when outside money is injected into a vibrant subculture, as well as the pitfalls of celebrity that come with being a corporate shill. Most impressively, Romero addresses the homosexuality of a troupe member, and the bald-faced and truly humanistic treatment feels downright revolutionary in an early 80’s movie.

 

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While there are no undead decapitations or cannibalistic disembowelings on hand, the choreographed motorcycle stunts have a gritty authenticity thanks to the lack of over-editing, and the whole film has a synergistic DIY feel both in its subject matter and production style.

 

They really don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

 

Trailer:

 

Full Movie:

 

Free in eight parts on Youtube. Disc available through Netflix. Streaming rental available through Amazon video.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon Week 1: Derek Carr and The Giant Claw

Written by :
Published on : September 14, 2016

 

 

 

Welcome to my new digs blobs and ghouls! While the last NFL season was spent woozily sprawled out on the couch with the room spinning, this year I’ve decided to take refuge in my macabre sanctuary. A place where I can obsess over the week’s best play as well as the week’s weirdest movie in peace. Without the cruel admonishments of so called “tasteful” film critics.

 

Pull up an electric chair, lay back on the rack, and get comfy as I run the tape.

 

Week 1: Derek Carr Strong Run and Vault For First Down

 

 

Now those familiar with the old Pretzel know that I have a certain weakness for the defensive side of the ball. As such, I was hoping to start the season with a big sack, safety, pick, or crucial stop, but after reviewing all the tape I couldn’t get this one out of my head.

 

It’s a tie game in New Orleans well before the half, and the Saints send a couple of extra guys after Carr on a 3rd and 9. After a quick scan downfield, the Oakland QB scoots to the left and takes off, and while most of the focus rightly belongs on his acrobatic flip-dive for the first, I really like the determined run that got him to that point. Even in slow-mo, the guy’s legs are a blur. There’s something about this play that while risky, also smacks of the irrepressible excitement of football’s return. I’m not saying that Carr wouldn’t be able to repeat such a feat in say week 15, but I am saying that the likelihood of it is rarer than an ex-convict’s first steak out of the joint.

 

Week 1: The Giant Claw

Director: Fred F. Sears
Released: 1957

 

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Val Lewton became deservedly famous for producing a series of fright flicks for RKO that traded in on atmosphere and what WASN’T seen, leaving the scares to your imagination and keeping the production’s budget manageable. But sometimes you just want to see the damn monster, and I want my monsters like this.

 

Behold The Giant Claw: A massive and indestructible flying chicken with the head of a vulture, a beak lined with rows of T-Rex teeth, and a bitchin’ Mohawk to boot. This one fits solidly into that 1950’s commie-hating, nuclear-annihilation-shit-scared, national-security-at-all-cost zeitgeist that gave us wonderful films like Them! and The Thing From Another World.

 

You’re obviously in this one for the ugly puppet, but television vet Jeff Morrow and female lead Mora Corday dabble in some genuinely clever and romantic back-and-forth dialogue that is much better than the usual filler these types of flicks tend to have between action scenes.

 

Behold the trailer!

 

 

And the entire thang for the craven and brave!

 

 

Until next week, gang… Stay creepy.

 

 


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