The Oily Maniac (1976) Eight years before Troma’s The Toxic Avenger, the Shaw Brothers unleashed their own grimy champion of justice. This entertaining hybrid horror/action film, directed by Meng-Hua Ho (Black Magic), is allegedly based on Malaysian folklore. Danny Lee stars as Shen Yuan, a disabled man who discovers the secret (from his death-row uncle) to transforming into a virtually unstoppable supernatural creature. Using his newly discovered superpowers, he exacts vengeance against all who have wronged him. In order to become the greasy creature, he has to periodically re-charge (in one scene, he covers himself in tar from a bubbling oil drum, and in another, he plunges into a vat of hot coconut oil). Although some of his choices leave something to be desired, it’s undeniably fun to watch him beat up the bad guys. It’s too bad this unconventional monster movie never spawned a series.
Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray, DVD (Region 2) and Amazon Prime
Cold Eyes of Fear (1971) This would-be thriller from director Enzo G. Castellari (1990: The Bronx Warriors), set in swinging London, is all talk and little action. An ex-con and his lackey invade a judge’s house looking for the files of the court case that sent him to prison. The judge’s nephew (who’s also a judge) and his lady companion are caught in the middle, and must gather their wits to survive the night. Outside of a hallucinatory courtroom scene and a gallery of questionable hair styles, there’s not much reason to recommend this snoozer.
Rating: **½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Kanopy
Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (1966) Prolific director William Beaudine’s follow-up to Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter proves to be just as baffling as its predecessor. After deciding to end his thieving ways and settle down, Billy the Kid (Chuck Courtney) goes to work as a ranch hand, where he falls in love with the rancher’s daughter Betty (Melinda Casey). But fate throws a monkey wrench into his plans when Dracula (John Carradine) rolls into town, posing as Betty’s long-lost uncle. If this sounds more like the synopsis for a bad sitcom than a horror/western movie, you’re not alone. The leads are miscast (Carradine plays an anemic-looking, perpetually bewildered count, and the actor playing Billy the Kid is about 15 years too old for the part), and the story is bereft of action or chills. Throw in some bad Native American stereotypes, generic “Old World” European characters, and one of the least convincing bats you’ve ever seen, and you’ve got the makings of an evening of so bad-it’s-good entertainment. It’s unfortunate that the end result is so dull.
Rating: **. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Kanopy
The Lost Continent (1968) This Hammer production, directed by Michael Carreras, bears no connection to the 1951 Cesar Romero film with the same name, although it covers some similar ground. The story is a confusing jumble, with lots of ideas thrown into the mix, but nothing really gels. A merchant ship carrying a small group of passengers and a cargo of illegal explosives meets rough seas. The passengers and crew endlessly bicker for an hour before we finally get to anything remotely interesting. They eventually wind up on a fog-shrouded island in the middle of the ocean, although calling it a “continent” is a bit magnanimous. The inhabitants are a mixture of Spanish conquistadors and British shipwreck survivors, who must contend with an assortment of prehistoric creatures, man-eating plants, and a kid who’s established himself as a demigod. It might be worth a look as a curiosity or if you’re a Hammer completist; otherwise, don’t bother.
Rating: **. Available on Blu-ray and DVD