It’s been said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and while I’m sure that was written mostly for those dudes that drive around in old trucks on big trash day sifting through people’s curbside big-ticket items no longer of any palpable use, I personally like to believe that it was coined for fans of B-movies.
After all, these are films that are often times disregarded by the general populace yet somehow held in high-esteem by the lowliest of cinephiles, usually alone in their movie-room, far from the judgmental eye of those who can’t understand why anyone would enjoy these piles of crap without the help of a couple of wisecracking robots silhouetted at the bottom of the screen.
For said fans of this genre of film, May has been a virtual Big Blue of garbage cinema, starting off with the double-shot of releases from B-movie legend Jim Wynorski.
Wynorski got his start in the pre-straight-to-video era, when low-budget flicks were still allowed to be given wide theatrical release, and none of his films really exemplify this idea like his 1985 goofy sci-fi romp The Lost Empire (MVD Entertainment Group), starring the busty trio of Melanie Vincz, Raven De La Croix and Angela Aames as secret agents (sorta) who infiltrate the island of Dr. Sin Do (Phantasm’s Angus Scrimm) and end up in various gladiatorial games where tops frequently pop off, all to find a sacred jewel that will allow the owner to wield unlimited power. There’s also ninjas-a-plenty, so of course it’s a total recommend.
Released concurrently with The Lost Empire is Wynorski’s latest effort—which was straight-to-cable then DVD—Gila (MVD Visual Entertainment), his comedically-inspired remake of the 50s groaner The Giant Gila Monster. It’s a lot of fun and definitely worth a look, even if there are absolutely no ninjas to be found anywhere.
Even though they are classic cinematic landmarks now, people tend to forget that in their heyday, Britain’s Hammer Studios were considered quite trashy by the general public and few of their films truly hold up to that title like 1971’s femme-centric vampire shocker Countess Dracula (Synapse Films).
Starring the alluring Ingrid Pitt as the titular Hungarian countess who discovers she can totally stop her rapid aging by bathing in the blood of, of course, young virgins, it was (very) loosely based on the true story of Countess Elizabeth Bathory and was truly one of the most gory and explicit of Hammer’s long and varied output. It might have been one of the famed studio’s last gasps, what a swallow of oxygen it is.
Also hitting the shelves—and while nowhere near as trashy, given its behind-the-scenes pedigree—is Werner Herzog’s moody, atmospheric remake of the 1921 silent film of the same name, Nosferatu the Vampyre (Shout! Factory).
Herzog’s take on this Dracula variation feels like a barely-remembered, oddly-
paced fever dream, with the evocative and controversial Klaus Kinski in the title role as the inhuman bloodsucker who morns his mortality in a richly poetic story that unnerves as much as it moves.
Speaking of dreamlike atmospheres, the new film Mr. Jones (Anchor Bay Entertainment) takes it one step further in a wholly original tale of two worlds and the mad desperation one (supposedly) outsider artist goes to keep them from encroaching together. Of course two nosy city folk come along and screw up this balance, leading to a mind-numbing, twisting and turning finale that, bad acting aside, is genuinely creepy and thought provoking and definitely worth a 2 a.m. Saturday night viewing for extra effect.
Finally, we hit the nadir of this current spate of titles with the recent release of House of Dust (Anchor Bay Entertainment). What starts off as a promising tale of insane asylum abuses in the 1950s quickly devolves when we flash-forward to modern times and a group of extraordinarily irritating college kids decide to poke around in said abandoned institution, only to find murderous ghosts abound. Unlike Mr. Jones, the only dream you’ll be having about House of Dust is whatever pops into your head ten minutes after hitting the play button. Sometimes one man’s trash is another man’s valium, I guess.
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