101 Reykjavik (2000) 30-year-old, unemployed slacker Hlynur (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) lives an aimless existence, living with his middle-aged mother in a small flat. Instead of looking for work, he spends his nights drinking, going to parties and getting laid. Things take an unexpected change when his mother’s new lesbian companion Lola (Victoria Abril) comes to live with them. He becomes infatuated with the free-wheeling Lola, in spite of the fact that he isn’t exactly her type. Our nominal protagonist isn’t the most likable, but that’s the point, as we’re left to ponder whether Hlynur is capable of change. Writer/director Baltasar Kormákur’s amusing little film features some funny dialogue and an abundance of awkward situations. Don’t expect a travelogue-style depiction of Iceland, full of cheerful residents and breathtaking scenery. Instead, It’s an emphatically unglamorous, often bleak, snapshot of life in Iceland prior to the tourist boom.
Rating: ***½. Available on DVD
The Vampire Bat (1933) Anyone looking for a horror movie will be disappointed in Frank R. Strayer’s low-key mystery/thriller with comic elements. The denizens of a German village are up in arms after a series of deaths, in which the bodies were drained of blood. Some begin pointing the finger at vampires, while others suspect vampire bats. Herman Gleib (Dwight Frye) a mentally challenged man with an unfortunate (in the eyes of the superstitious villagers) fondness for bats, becomes the prime suspect. Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray Melvyn Douglas headline a superb cast, which also includes Maude Eburne in an amusing turn as a hypochondriac. It’s a mostly enjoyable romp that only falters during the tepid climax.
Rating: ***½. Available on DVD and Kanopy
Blood (1973) Set in the late 1800s, this $25,000 wonder from writer/director Andy Milligan is nothing, if not ambitious. Dr. Orlovsky (Allan Berendt), the son of a werewolf, lives in an arranged marriage to Regina (Hope Stansbury) the daughter of Dracula. Orlovsky raises deadly carnivorous plants with the hope of creating a serum that will sustain his wife. The film consists of mostly tight shots (with a few medium shots thrown in), likely to conceal the fact that there was no money to build elaborate sets. The dialogue, makeup and acting are uniformly terrible, but it’s presented with such naïve exuberance that you can’t help but admire it on some level. It’s an exercise in sheer chutzpah that has to be seen to be disbelieved.
Rating: **½. Available on Blu-ray (part of The Dungeon of Andy Milligan Collection) and Tubi
Scorpion with Two Tails (1982) After experiencing a nightmare where her archaeologist husband Arthur (John Saxon) is brutally murdered, Joan Barnard’s (Elvire Audray) bad dream becomes reality. She travels to Italy, with Arthur’s lab assistant, Mike (Paolo Malco) to investigate Arthur’s death. Her search leads her to some Etruscan ruins that he was investigating. This slow-moving neo-giallo (with some supernatural elements thrown in) from director Sergio Martino is an exercise in tedium, despite the lurid subject matter. The leads are bland, and John Saxon is barely in the movie. Van Johnson is similarly wasted as Joan’s heroin-smuggling father, who owes the mob millions of dollars. Don’t bother.
Rating: **. Available on DVD