snakepeople karloff

Cult of The Dead (1971)

Cult of The Dead (1971)
Directed by Juan Ibanez & Jack Hill
Starring Boris Karloff, Julissa, Tongolele

Isle of the Snake People
Isle of the Living Dead
Muerte viviente, La (Mexico)
Snake People

During the last years of his life horror legend Boris Karloff made four films for a low budget company that operated out of Mexico. The scenes with Karloff were shot in Hollywood by B-movie schlock master Jack Hill and added via creative editing. This was Karloff’s second last flick and unfortunately a far cry from horror classics like Frankenstein (1931) or The Mummy (1932). Karloff is very frail and spends much of his scenes seated, possibly due to long suffering back problems from years of wearing a heavy brace dressed as the Frankenstein monster. It wasn’t uncommon for Boris to play characters confined to a wheel chair during this period.

Director Jack Hill has quite a few cult classics under his belt including Foxy Brown, Coffy, Spider Baby, The Wasp Woman and Switchblade Sisters. He also co-directed The Terror (1961) with Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Nicholson. This movie isn’t his most popular but certainly shows the mark of an exploitation genius.

The film is not quite as bad as many reviewers will have you believe, by no means is it a great movie but there is enough here to keep trashy film lovers entertained. Set on a small, remote island (a remote French colony in the South Pacific) where the natives practice voodoo rituals and worship a priest called Damballah. The local law officials tend to turn a blind eye to the death cult’s bizarre activities until the arrival of Captain Labesch, a stern and militant officer from the mainland who vows to put a stop to the rituals and clean up the local hard-drinking police force. He travels to the island with Anabella (Julissa), a temperance crusader and niece of Carl Van Molder (Boris Karloff), who is a wealthy landowner and plantation tycoon. Labesch and Anabella hope to receive assistance from Van Molder in their mission to clean up the island. Van Molder has spent his life studying parapsychology and warns Labesch not to interfere with the ancient religion of the island’s natives. But Labesch is an arse-hole, so of course he doesn’t listen and begins a campaign to crack down on the practice of voodoo.

The plot is fairly standard, nothing terribly exciting but there is plenty of weirdness, stupidity and occult kookiness to keep the ball rolling. The rituals are probably the best part of the film. I was surprised to see famed exotic Mexican dancer and movie star Tongolele (billed here as Yolanda Montes) in the film. I recently had been given a Mexican magazine devoted to Tongele by a friend, I had previously not heard of her so was thrilled to see her exotic snake dances in motion. Tongele has a long career in Mexican films from the late 1940’s into the 1980’s and is apparently still dancing and acting to this day. And you thought your grandma was cool!

But there’s more than just exotic dancing and voodoo rituals here. “Like what?” I hear you ask. Well, how’s about cannibal women devouring unsuspecting men they meet in bars? The sacrifice of virgins administered by flagellation from a psychotic dwarf? Depraved white men trying to have their necrophilic ways with blue-skinned zombie babes? An erotic dream where Anabella sucks on a live snake and then has a big sloppy lesbian kiss with herself/doppelganger? Murder? Romance? Terrible acting? Bad dubbing? An obvious body-double for Karloff in the Mexican scenes ala Bela Lugosi and Plan 9 From Outer Space? What more do you people want? Blood? … We got that too!!

hard ticket to hawaii

Hard Ticket To Hawaii (1987)

Hard Ticket To Hawaii (1987)

“Just when you thought it was safe to take a pee”
Starring: Ronn Moss, Dona Spier & Hope Marie Carlton
Written & Directed by Andy Sidaris

To the uninitiated (and I’m assuming that would be most sane people) Andy Sidaris is a filmmaker whose genre would be best described as ‘chicks with guns’. They are jam-packed with nudity, explosions, gunfire and god-awful one-liners. They could only be a product of one decade: the eighties. And action films don’t get much more “eighties” than this flick. This is one of those films that would change your life if you saw it as a fourteen year old. The plot is minimal and the dialogue is terrible, but if you turn your brain off and focus on the boobies, weaponry and violence (as Sidaris certainly has) you’ll easily endure the awful writing and acting.

Dona Spier & Hope Marie Carlton (both Playboy Playmates circa 1984-5) play busty undercover female agents operating a charter plane service in Hawaii. They are asked to deliver a snake to a local resort but on the way stumble across a diamond smuggling racket. Fortunately the girls know kung-fu and with the aid of some ninja stars they defeat the baddies, secure the diamonds and escape home in their sea-plane. Dona says “Let’s hit the jacuzzi… I do my best thinking there” and they jump in the spa topless and discuss what they should do now that they are targets of a lethal crime syndicate. It may seem a little odd that at this crucial point in the plot the lead characters whip their tops off and go skinny dipping, but as these girls spend 50% off the film either naked or in bikinis you’ll get used to it. Perhaps it’s Sidaris’ ingenious method of making sure we pay attention to the dialogue scenes or possibly a technique to distract us from noticing holes in the plot. Gratuitous nudity would be an understatement.

Back to the plot… the bad guys decide to break into the girls’ house and rough them up a little. Bad idea fellas. After defeating the creeps the girls telephone their secret agent friends Harold Diamond and Ron Moss (yes, Ridge from Bold & The Beautiful) hoping to get a little back up. And just when things seem like they couldn’t get any worse they receive a call warning them the snake they have in the cage is contaminated from feeding on cancer infested rats. Worse still, the giant snake has escaped and cannot be found.

Highlights of this film (besides big boobs) are plentiful and rank among some of the most ridiculous ever shot. Ronn Moss takes out an armed guard with a Frisbee lined with razor blades. Moss blows away a skateboarder in mid-air with a rocket launcher and then a blow-up sex doll for the hell of it. The giant snake (which is really fake and rubbery looking) leaps out of an exploding toilet to attack Spier. The same snake attacks and kills honeymooners snapping a few naughty Polaroids. Messages are delivered by Chinese cooks to secret agents inside salad sandwiches. An evil female spy working in a local bar turns out to be a transvestite. Moss crashes through the wall of a house on a motorcycle. There’s a softcore fetish/bondage scene and much, much more.

It’s not exactly high art but will satisfy your thirst for eighties action cheese. It should appeal to any testosterone driven male or anyone that likes movies about babes with big bazookas (in both senses of the term). Believe it or not Dona Spier returned for six sequels to this film (including Guns with Erik Estrada), all were directed by Sidaris naturally.