Some of us are old enough to remember Richard Lewis, a standup comic who achieved moderate success on the American cultural landscape, wrote a few books, and appeared in several movies and TV shows.
Forget about him. This is a different Richard Lewis. In fact, he’s not any Richard Lewis that you’ll easily track down. He doesn’t even appear on Wikipedia’s disambiguation page for “Richard Lewis”! He is said to really be a British suspense novelist named Alan Radnor, about whom I’ve found little information. All I need to know about him is that he wrote two magnificently delightful and silly horror novels about spiders.
Directed by Irwin Allen
Based on The Lost World Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Written by Charles Bennett and Irwin Allen
Starring Michael Rennie, Jill St. John, David Hedison, Claude Rains, Richard Haydn, Ray Stricklyn, Fernando Lamas, and Vitina Marcus
The conceit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World is enthralling. Explorers discover a region that stands apart from the modern world, where evolution stood still; a place where tribes battled apes—sure, he was ripping off Jules Verne to some extent, but who didn’t? And it is Doyle’s title that we use to describe plots that involve isolated pockets of prehistoric life. It’s been filmed many times but only once was it done by the master of disaster, director and producer Irwin Allen.
Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Written by H.E. Barrie and Richard E. Cunha
Starring Rudolph Anders, Irish McCalla, Tod Griffin, Leni Tana, Victor Sen Yung, Gene Roth, and Charles Opunui
The English language is cluttered with phrases like “too much of a good thing” and “everything but the kitchen sink”. These perfectly describe why I love She Demons, because if it wasn’t so over-stuffed with cliches that pay it probably wouldn’t be interesting all. It’s as though the creators couldn’t decide what story to tell and went with everything.
Directed by Jack Perez
Written by Adam Glass and Jack Perez
Starring Daniel Letterle, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chelan Simmons, Carmen Electra, Adam West, C. Ernst Harth, Alana Husband, La La Anthony, and Nick Carter
The horror movies of the 1950s have a certain cachet, not as exemplary films but as enjoyably cheesy. It’s a nostalgia thing, and it’s no surprise that filmmakers like Larry Blamire have used that as inspiration for their own efforts. Capturing that feeling of how we think movies were is a delicate task, and what is intended as homage can come of as misinformed, disingenuous, and cynical. By way of example, I give you the MTV production, Monster Island.
Directed by Tetsuro Takeuchi
Written by Satoshi Takagi
Starring Masashi Endô, Kwancharu Shitichai, Yôko Asada, Guitar Wolf, Drum Wolf, Bass Wolf, Mikoto Inamiya, Naruka Hakajo, Taneko, and Yoshiyuki Morishita
Sometimes a movie is so overstuffed that it transcends petty issues like coherent narrative and physical laws. The enthusiasm of the production is enough to propel the audience past any concerns about logic or story structure. Such a movie was Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, a gleefully gory zombie romp from Australia. Wild Zero is another such film, also about zombies — this time from Japan.
Directed by Mary Lambert
Written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris
Starring Kate Mara, Robert Vito, Tina Lifford, Ed Marinaro, Michael Coe, and Rooney Mara
Urban legends were all the rage in the late 1990s and early 2000s, in no small part due to the exhaustive series of books about them by Jan Harold Brunvand. These took the stories out of the realm of academic journals and presented them for enjoyment to a larger audience. It was inevitable that we’d get a slasher film using these modern folk tales as a gimmick. It was also probable that the sequels would wind up being released direct to video, as was the case with the third installment Urban Legends: Bloody Mary.
Directed by Spike Lee
Written by Spike Lee and Bill Gunn
Starring Stephen Tyrone Williams, Zaarah Abrahams, Rami Malek, Elvis Nolasco, Felicia Pearson, Katherine Borowitz, Joie Lee, and Naté Bova
For a long time, it wasn’t easy to see Ganja & Hess, especially not as originally released. The distributors pulled it from theaters, recut it (removing around a half an hour from its run time), and re-released it as Blood Couple. A complete print was donated to MoMA and has had a few releases, most recently though Kino Lorber. I mention this because because by doing a remake of the film as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Spike Lee essentially brought Bill Gunn’s version to a wider audience.