Monday, May 23, 2022

CRASH! (Charles Band, 1976)


A crippled and bitter husband schemes to murder his much younger wife because she likes to go shopping without him, or something, so he trains their pet Doberman to run miles and miles to ambush her while driving on a back country road: luckily, the top was down on her ’67 Camaro! That strange sentence makes more sense than the rest of the film which includes a demonically possessed amnesiac wife with glowing red eyes whose Id manipulates her driverless Camaro to exact revenge upon her husband (and murder many innocents too), control his motorized wheelchair as a blunt weapon, become a victim of a rather unbelievable coincidence and then gets locked in a sauna.

Now, I won’t rehash the absurd plot as it makes no linear sense. It’s like Director Charles Band wanted to crash cars (hence the title) and had to write a script around some inane spousal melodrama…with demons. As the ’67 Camaro races and crashes everything off the road that explode into fireballs, we’re supposed to believe that it’s the same car that Kim (the wife, played by Sue Lyon) owns, yet we see the car begin its brutal rampage before Kim crashes it herself! When she’s laid up in the hospital and the car continues its random murder spree for the entire second act, we’re supposed to believe it hasn’t been impounded. Yet we get a scene in the final act where the Camaro is impounded and once the keys (with demon attached to key-ring) are inserted into the ignition it races off and we see nearly every crash replayed through a cinematic filter. WTF? Were all of the crashes foreshadowing this event and shown out-of-narrative context?  Some of the crashes are quite strident and darkly humorous such as the elderly couple that gets squashed by a racing police car! I suppose the Demon makes the cars explode too, even upon the most minute impact. And damn, this possessed Camaro truly hates cops for some reason, as it’s the husband who it races towards which we see in various signposts as it gets closer to town. Which is another WTF moment: how was this car so far away. I mean, she crashed in town (or just outside) yet the Camaro speeds through hundreds of miles of blacktop! Oh, and the crippled husband can walk just fine though he’s a bit lame. We see him walk out of his car and grab his wheelchair: is he just fucking with us? Note: this is the first film where I’ve witnessed a dog murdered by being bludgeoned with a motorized wheelchair.

The husband seems to think he has the perfect murder plan by locking Kim in the sauna and cranking up the heat. This from a guy who thought a trained dog racing through miles of empty desert to murder his wife was also a good idea. Ha! Now the great coincidence is that Kim has lost her memory so when her Doctor is researching the strange idol he brings her directly to her husband, the expert of demonic anthropological stuff! Both are clueless of the relationship except the husband, of course, who schemes her second demise by sauna. For some inexplicable reason that defies editing, when the ’67 Camaro reaches the house and confronts the husband, he motors back towards the house but ends up in the desert. As in, the wide-open spaces where a possessed car can run you over. Which it does. I thought it would crash into the house and kill him which probably would have put the film over-budget. Anyway, a 70’s action film full of car crashes and painful contact lenses gets my recommendation no matter how silly and confusing the story. And this ’67 Camaro is a Demon on wheels.

Final Grade: C

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

THE APE (William Nigh, 1940)


The good Doctor does some bad stuff transforming his Hippocratic Oath into hypocritical acts. This mediocre monstrosity makes no logical sense and becomes unintentionally hilarious which obscures some relevant metaphors concerning the ethics of small-town folk and the morality of modern medical science. Dr. Adrian wants to cure a young woman of her paralysis in order to redeem himself for his failure to cure his own wife and daughter of the dreaded unnamed disease of Polio. He’s a social pariah in this small town, an outsider more concerned with science than “fitting in” with locals, burdened by rumors of inhuman experiments that led to his own daughter’s death.  Then a Gorilla escapes from the local circus and becomes part of his curative equation. 

So, I have many questions concerning the plot. Dr. Adrian lives alone with an elderly woman housekeeper. He obviously kills the Gorilla when it crashes into his laboratory. How did Karloff and his elderly maid move the corpse of this 800-pound beast? Did they dismember it piece by piece? Then how in the fuck did Karloff just happen to have a Gorilla suite in order to cast blame on the escaped animal when local townsfolk go missing? Or did he somehow skin the Gorilla and make the costume out of its hide? And why dress as the Gorilla? He could just secretly kill people and leave Gorilla hair at each scene! Then how did Karloff, not being young himself, carry each corpse back to his lab especially in such a heavy costume? Or did he carry his needle with him and remove the spinal fluid of each victim? He kills some dreadful townsfolk to get their spinal juice to cure the innocent young woman: this is the ethical dilemma that is somewhat obscured by the horror trappings and logical inconsistencies. Get rid of the ape and there is an interesting story! A nice touch that creates suspense is that the Gorilla is seen walking upright, so it’s a clue that it’s not reanimated but actually a person. The final scene when Karloff is killed shows the sheriff removing the ape-head then a moment later Karloff is sans the costume entirely! Seen from the crippled woman’s perspective who actually begins to walk, this might reveal her own love for the Doctor that obscures his horrible deeds for her benefit.  

Final Grade: (D+)