Some explanation is required for Screamers, a US version of an Italian fantasy called Island of the Fish Men. The original film is a handsomely mounted piece by Sergio Martino, who pulled in an impressive cast including Barbara Bach, Richard Johnson and Joseph Cotton for an Island of Dr Moreau-type action adventure. The lack of exploitation elements here (no sex, little blood) seem to have inspired Roger Corman to buy the film, chop thirty minutes out and add in a specially-shot prologue which has more of a splatter/slasher movie vibe as a group of sailors led by Cameron Mitchell and Mel Ferrer are picked off by a much more homicidal branch of the fish-men team. The gore effects by Chris Walas are very 80’s, and both sections of the film are well-done, even if there’s not much connection in terms of story of theme. With exploding volcanoes, armies of fish-men and a diving-bell trip to Atlantis, this is much more of a Saturday matinee adventure than an adult horror, and the vigour of Martino’s story-telling is something to behold.
A good example of an exploitation movie with ideas above its station, Enzo G Castellari’s 1974 film features Franco Nero as scientist Carlo who gets caught up in a bank-robbery and taken hostage. When the police fail to deal with matters to his satisfaction, he embarks on a complex revenge plot. Rather than just hunt his captors down, he engages in a cat-and-mouse game, setting them up and planting evidence; it’s a demonstration of the film-makers skill that Nero’s character doesn’t actually kill anyone until the extended shoot-out in the final scene. The point is that ordinary citizens are ill-equipped to take on criminals; Nero gives a huge performance as he switches from mild-mannered man to crazed killer, and Barbara Bach provides surprisingly demure support as his domestic goddess. The inspiration of William Lustig’s Vigilante, Street Law is a tough thriller with patience and righteous anger.
Some films are ‘so bad they’re good’; The Humanoid is so bad, it’s very nearly brilliant. A Star Wars rip-off seemingly rushed into production without viewing anything more than stills of the George Lucas epic, Aldo Lado’s Italian opus offers interplanetary intrigue and diplomacy riddled with funny performances. Richard Kiel, Jaws from the James Bond films, stretches his abilities as a leading man in his portrayal of Golob, a mercenary who travels through space with his side-kick Robodog. He ends up on a mission to rescue Barbara Gibson (Corrine Clery) from the clutches of Lord Graal (Ivan Rassimov), whose pals Dr Kraspin (Arthur Kennedy) and Lady Agatha (Barbara Bach) have designs on her. In a plethora of badly costumed buffoonery, the mystical nonsense spouted by golden child Tom Tom (Marco Yeh) marks a highpoint, but the dialogue is consistently brilliant; ‘What in Helios does that space jockey think he’s doing?” exclaims Golob and another bit of cardboard falls off his spaceship. A hoot from beginning to end for bad-movie lovers.
Airplane was followed by a rash of inferior comedy films, but Caveman was one of the best, a spoof of the prehistorically-themed movies that have become a sub-genre since 1925’s The Lost World. Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach are Atouk and Tala, cave-people and aspiring lovers who go through the tribal alpha male rituals to consummate their love, or ‘zug-zug’ to use the local parlance. Shelly Long and Dennis Quaid appear to be having fun in a feature that, like The Artist, only features actual dialogue in one scene. Some fun visual gags and amusing stop-motion monsters make Caveman a bright, silly comedy for all ages.