Thursday, February 29, 2024

February Quick Picks and Pans


Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy Poster

Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy (1981) Robert (Zarko Potocnjak) likes to immerse himself in his writing, much to the detriment of his long-suffering girlfriend, Biba (Lucie Zulová). While working on his latest science fiction novel, his characters suddenly take on a life of their own: Andra (Ksenia Prohaska) an android, two precocious kids, and a terrifying monster that resembles a cross between ALF and Giger’s xenomorph. When they cross paths with Robert’s friends and neighbors, havoc ensues. Director/co-writer Dusan Vukotic’s Croatian-language oddity is full of WTF moments that will make you alternately scratch your head and smile. I’m not sure how this ever got made, but I’m kind of thankful for it.    

Rating: 3 ½ stars. Available on Blu-ray and Kanopy


The Cat Creature Poster

The Cat Creature (1973) This mildly engaging TV movie directed by Curtis Harrington (Who Slew Auntie Roo, Night Tide) and written by Robert Bloch (Psycho) plays a bit like a low-key Kolchak episode. After a thief (Keye Luke) steals an ancient Egyptian amulet, people tied to the amulet are killed off by a murderous feline. A college professor (David Hedison) teams up with a skeptical police detective (Stuart Whitman) to get to the bottom of the mysterious slayings before an occult store clerk (Meredith Baxter) becomes the next target. There’s some fun dialogue and nice chemistry between Hedison and Baxter, but the film never adds up to much (no thanks to a silly ending). 

Rating: 3 stars. Available on YouTube 

Tender Dracula Poster

Tender Dracula (aka: The Big Scare) (1974) Peter Cushing stars for his first and only time as a vampire (Or is he?) in this tepid French sex farce. The writers of a popular TV show visit a castle owned by reclusive horror celebrity MacGregor (Cushing). Strange things are afoot when they spend the night with two frisky actresses (Miou-Miou and Nathalie Courval), and something or someone attempts to kill them. Despite the frothy material, Cushing and co-star Alida Valli (as his wife Héloïse) seem to be enjoying themselves. There are a couple of fun nods to Cushing’s work at Hammer, but as a comedy, it falls flat. 

Rating: 2 ½ stars. Available on Blu-ray (included in the Cushing Curiosities box set) and DVD


Blood Suckers

Blood Suckers (aka: Incense for the Damned) (1971) A young woman (Madeleine Hinde) travels to Greece to discover the whereabouts of her fiancée, college professor Tony Seymour (Alexander Davion). To her horror, he’s become infatuated with Chriseis (Imogen Hassall) an oddly alluring woman, and the cult that surrounds her. This slow-moving, kind of, sort of vampire movie plays coy with its subject to the point where it ends up being an exercise in frustration with little payoff. Outside of a drug-fueled psychedelic orgy scene (in the uncut version), there’s not much to distinguish this from other, better horror films from the era. Despite being touted as a Peter Cushing vehicle he's barely in it, except for the beginning and ending, as Tony’s mentor, Dr. Goodrich. You’d probably be more entertained by watching a TV test pattern.   

Rating: 1 ½ stars. Available on Blu-ray (included in the Cushing Curiosities box set) and DVD


Saturday, February 24, 2024

Guru, the Mad Monk


Guru the Mad Monk Poster

(1970) Written and directed by Andy Milligan; Starring: Neil Flanagan, Jaqueline Webb, Judith Israel, Paul Lieber, Jack Spencer, Frank Echols and Gerald Jacuzzo; Available on Blu-ray and DVD 

Rating: **½ 

“Talk comes cheap, my boy, and I’ve learned not to gamble on people’s words. I can’t afford to. I have learned in this mortal life of ours that it is each man for himself. I preach that God takes care of those who believe in him, but I’ve discovered that all my years of believing haven’t helped me one bit. Mother Church sends me little money to exist on, and even then, it doesn’t arrive when it’s supposed to, so I preach one thing and continue believing another. Self-survival. You would be well to remember this.” – Father Guru (Neil Flanagan)

Guru Sentences Nadja

A gargantuan thanks to Rebecca from Taking Up Room for hosting the latest edition of the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, a continuing celebration of the best of the worst. Today’s offering is a piquant little number by the notorious filmmaker Andy Milligan, Guru, the Mad Monk. I would be remiss if I didn’t give thanks to author/blogger John Harmon for introducing me to the dubious charms of Milligan’s handiwork. Be sure to visit his blog, Tales from the Freakboyzone for articles about Milligan, and much, much more…

Guru, Nadja, Igor and Carl

The late great Andy Milligan’s ambition arguably outweighed his talent by a substantial margin, yet his films have more heart and craft than the generic big-budget prefabricated blockbusters typically churned out by the Hollywood studios. Milligan didn’t know the meaning of staying in his lane, given his limited means, creating costume period pieces for what would seem like pocket change to the typical Hollywood producer. Set in Eastern Europe presumably during the Middle Ages, Guru, the Mad Monk was his most cinematic to date (his first to be shot on 35 mm film), but don’t let that fool you – Cleopatra this isn’t. Guru was budgeted at an estimated $11,000* and in typical Milligan fashion, shot over six days. An old Manhattan church* provided a quasi-Old-World look (get used to it, since the church and its grounds are basically the only setting). The sound of waves crashing and seagulls screeching lead us to believe it’s on the remote island enclave of Mortavia (don’t bother looking it up). 

* Fun Fact #1: This was one of the few offerings by Milligan’s short-lived production company, Nova International Pictures (created in an effort to control his film distribution). 

** Fun Fact #2: According to founder Keith Crocker, the ever-hot-headed filmmaker was known for entering theaters that held unauthorized screenings of his films, and stealing back the prints. 

*** Fun Fact #3: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church was built in 1831, while the wrought iron fence surrounding the structure dates back to 1790.

Carl Makes a Pact with Guru

Hungry for power and money, the corrupt Father Guru (Neil Flanagan), with the aid of his vampire companion Olga (played by Flanagan’s real-life spouse, Jaqueline Webb) and faithful hunchbacked assistant Igor (Jack Spencer), looks for ways to bring more revenue to his church. He finds the perfect opportunity in Nadja (Judith Israel), a young woman imprisoned for a murder she didn’t commit. Her lover Carl (Paul Lieber) implores Guru to spare her life. In turn he’s employed by the holy man to acquire bodies for medical experimentation, which can be sold for cash (Carl’s ventures away from the church economically occur off-screen). Guru’s plans are sidetracked, however, when Igor falls for Nadja. His position as de facto ruler of Mortavia is further threatened when Bishop Kopel (Frank Echols) pays him a visit, along with his intended replacement, Father Polanski (Gerald Jacuzzo).

Guru's Mirror Scene

Milligan regular Neil Flanagan chews the scenery with his tour de force (or should I say, “tour de farce?”) performance as the title character. Guru’s contradictory behavior becomes a mouthpiece for Milligan’s deep-seated cynicism about organized religion and authority figures in general. In a scene that must be experienced to be believed, he argues with himself in the mirror, revealing the conflicted sides of his psyche (predating Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance as Gollum by 30 years). Every time he’s on screen, you know it’s going to be interesting. One of the few performers in the film with genuine talent, Flanagan was the secret weapon in Milligan’s troupe, having worked extensively in theatre, film, and television.

Igor and Guru

Flanagan aside, Milligan often rounded out his cast with non-actors pulled off the street, friends, lovers, and otherwise (hence, the varying quality of the performances). Paul Lieber,* who plays our hero Carl, recites his dialogue as if he’s reading the fine print in a non-disclosure agreement (calling him wooden is an insult to trees). On the other end of spectrum, Jack Spencer hogs the spotlight as Igor, grinning and hopping around like an overeager puppy, despite Guru’s constant barrage of insults and browbeating (“I can say anything to you, you ignorant bastard, and you just smile”). Jaqueline Web hams it up as Guru’s partner in crime, Olga, feeding off the blood of the executed. 

* Fun Fact #4: With 68 acting credits to date, one can only assume he’s gotten much better.

Look Ma, No Hands!

Guru’s not-so-special makeup effects, depicting the numerous tortures of condemned prisoners, would be gruesome if they weren’t so unconvincing. In one scene, a condemned man’s eyes (resembling hors d'oeuvres at a cocktail party) are gouged out, and a thief’s “hands,” which appear to have been pilfered from a department store mannequin, wobble before they’re chopped off. As stagey and cartoonish as the effects were, one crude decapitation scene was reportedly enough to make someone in the audience throw up.

Father Guru and Bishop Kopel

A highlight (or lowlight, depending on your point of view) of a Milligan production are the slapdash costumes,* created by Milligan himself. Guru’s costumes never disappoint, evoking a bygone, albeit indistinct, era. Witness scraps of furniture upholstery, curtains, and other assorted bits and pieces, held together with nothing more than pins and repurposed to vaguely resemble something from the medieval period, more or less. Meticulously researched adherence to period accuracy took a backseat to the practical requirement of having enough material to cover the cast’s derrieres. Another Milligan trademark on display was the copious amount of cloth draped over the walls of the cathedral to conceal modern fixtures. 

* Fun Fact #5: Frank Echols, who played Bishop Kopel, Guru’s superior, commented on his outfit: “Andy, I look like an old hooker off 8th Avenue.”

Nadja and Carl

Milligan claimed Guru was his worst film,* but don’t let that dissuade you (like most artists, he probably wasn’t the best judge of his own work). While it’s certainly uneven, Guru, the Mad Monk is among his most fun movies. Amidst the goofiness, there are some serious things to say, although considering Milligan’s fickle nature, you’re best advised to take any “messages” with a grain of salt. Working with budgets that would make 1940s Poverty Row productions look lavish by comparison, Milligan did a lot with virtually nothing. Perhaps that’s why his movies resemble something out of another time and place (or maybe another dimension). I would say Milligan’s films are an acquired taste, but I don’t think there’s a way to properly immunize yourself – you just have to dive in head-first. Either they click or they don’t. Lower your expectations, then lower them a few notches down from there, and you might have a good time (don’t expect Martin Scorsese or even H.G. Lewis levels of competence). Does it entertain? Yes, it does. Is it for everyone? Definitely not, but if you’re the kind of person that appreciates Milligan’s special brand of je ne sais quoi, you’re in for a treat. 

* Fun Fact #6: Editing the film was apparently a nightmare for Milligan, in no small part, due to the fact that sound and picture were recorded separately, and frequently out of synch.  


Sources for this article: The Ghastly One – The 42nd Street Netherworld of Director Andy Milligan, by Jimmy McDonough; Severin Blu-ray commentary by Keith Crocker; “Remembering Andy Milligan” featurette with Tom Vozza



Monday, February 5, 2024

Announcing the Mismatched Couples Blogathon


The Mismatched Couples Blogathon - The Shape of Water

Opposites attract, so the saying goes, but perhaps it should be “opposites distract.” Whichever way you look at it, we love to see synergy between two characters, but we enjoy it even more when there’s friction. With this in mind, Yours Truly and Gill Jacob from Realweegiemidget Reviews have conspired to bring you the Mismatched Couples Blogathon, a three-day (plus) exploration of less-than-ideal character pairings.

Little Shop of Horrors - Seymour and Audrey

There are countless examples of mismatched couples in cinema and TV, from buddy cop stories, to adventures, to romcoms, and everything in between. For the purposes of this blogathon, the “couple” can be romantic or non-romantic, as long as the relationship between the two characters is a key plot point. Here are just a few suggestions: 

·       The Odd Couple (1968) (The 1970-1975 TV version is perfectly acceptable too!)

·       Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) (Han and Leia or C3PO and R2D2)

·       The Princess Bride (1987) (Westley and Buttercup)

·       Moonraker (1979) (Jaws and Dolly)

·       The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) (Tick and Marion)

·       Die Hard (1988) (John and Holly McClane)

·       It Happened One Night (1934) (Peter and Ellie)

·       Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things (1971) (Paul and Stanley)

·       The Fifth Element (1997) (Korben Dallas and Leeloo or Korben Dallas and Ruby Rhod)

Godzilla and Jet Jaguar

What: The Mismatched Couples Blogathon 

Who: Hosted by Yours Truly (Barry P.) and Gill Jacob 

Where: Cinematic Catharsis and Realweegiemidget Reviews 

When: March 29-31, 2024 

How: Please read the rules below, and send me your post request (review, podcast, etc…) via email (, Twitter (@barry_cinematic), Instagram (barry_cinematic), or by commenting below. You may also contact Gill by commenting on her post, or through her blog’s Contact Me page (Be sure to include a link to your blog, your blog’s title, and your preferred name).

 Important Note: Barry will be away from February 10th – 15th, and Gill will be away from February 29th – March 13th. As a result, please be sure to contact us both with your choices, to ensure that we don’t miss them. (See Rule #2) 

King Kong and Ann Darrow


1.     You may review ANY film or TV show related to the subject, with the exception of biopics. Book reviews are fine, as well. However, please restrict your choice ON-SCREEN couples (no tabloid or gossip material).

2.     To ensure that your blogathon choice is recorded in a timely manner, be sure to send all requests to Barry and Gill.

3.     We will not allow duplicate pairings, UNLESS you are covering a series of films or a retrospective of an actor/filmmaker’s work.

4.     A maximum of TWO entries will be permitted.

5.     When responding with your choice, be sure to add your Twitter/Instagram/Mastodon/Bluesky handle or a link to your Facebook page so we can promote your post.

6.     Please choose one of the banners below to display on your blog.

7.     A full list of blogs, podcasters and review choices will be posted on a separate page and updated regularly.

8.     Only original, never-before-published posts will be accepted.

9.     Send a link to your post/podcast/video to Gill and me during one of the days of the blogathon.

10.  Note: we will publish all the links on both blogs, with daily updates on March 29th, 30th and 31st. If you plan to participate, but you’re running late, please let us know as soon as possible, so we can post a last-minute update.

11.  Please also note: Gill and I have already claimed the following the titles below, so they are off the table, unless they’re included in a larger retrospective (see Rule 2 above).


Barry at Cinematic Catharsis – Pink Flamingos (1972)


Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews – Kuolleet Lehdet (aka: Fallen Leaves) (2023)


Oh, and one more thing… Remember to grab a banner below and have fun!


Mismatched Couples Blogathon - The Odd Couple


Mismatched Couples Banner - Indiana Jones and Willy

Mismatched Couples Blogathon - C3PO and R2D2

Mismatched Couples Blogathon - The Shape of Water


The Mismatched Couples Blogathon - Polyester