For me, only two of the titles stood out as new, or potentially just overlooked: 1974's Horror High and 1968's Kong Island. Both were novel enough that I could see paying $10 for it and not feeling short-changed, as long as you know upfront that the prints are less than pristine. As with such bargain compilations, however, visual and audio quality is far from the point. In fact, a lack of may even help some titles.
High school certainly is Horror High for Vernon Potts, a science nerd who’s continually picked on — and not just by his fellow students! After he accidentally gives the creepy janitor’s cat a bath of sulfuric acid, Vernon snaps and gets revenge by turning into a chemical demon. Look for Oklahoma City’s own Nick Felix in this one, and tell me this wouldn’t make half of a great double bill with the current documentary Bully.
As crazy as that one is, Kong Island is crazier. Since one of the opening scenes entails a real-time session of monkey-noggin surgery, how could it not? It’s about a jungle expedition with a woman who’s a real hot mess and a guy who can’t be bothered to rescue her when there's whiskey to be downed. Yes, there are gorillas, too, but not as involved as the title would have you believe. Italians!
Elsewhere on the budget set, you get:
• two movies starring Gamera, the fire-breathing turtle. That means cardboard acting, leaden dialogue, chintzy effects, balsa-wood models, unconvincing miniatures and, admittedly, a certain charm from a bygone era.
• The Crater Lake Monster, one of several no-star, regionally shot, hillbilly horror indies of the 1970s. This one comes courtesy of William R. Stromberg, who had never made a movie before (and it shows) and never made one again (and a nation thanks him).
• Bride of the Gorilla, most notably for starring Raymond Burr about three years before he got really famous as TV’s Perry Mason. It'll supply you with the monkey trouble that Kong Island lacks.
• 1964’s terror-free The Creeping Terror, which resembles a giant worm made of dryer lint, and deserved its skewering on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (as did 1960’s Horrors of Spider Island, an adventure of stranded showgirls that's as entertaining as it is incompetent).
• Horror of the Zombies, which is better known as 1974’s The Ghost Galleon. Part of Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead quadrilogy of those pesky zombie Templar knights on horseback, it may be the best film here, comparatively speaking. Plus, Maria Perschy, meow.
• Land of the Minotaur, a 1976 oddity starring Donald Pleasance, Peter Cushing and a half-man/half-bull who shoots fire from his nostrils. Neat trick.
• also from the spirit of ’76, Snowbeast, from those glory days when network television had the balls to make movies about Bigfoot with regularity.
• The Wasp Woman, a Roger Corman classic from 1959. ’Nuff said. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• Bully feature
• Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel Blu-ray review
• The Crater Lake Monster Blu-ray review
• Dangerous Babes DVD review
• Girls, Guns and G-Strings: The Andy Sidaris Collection DVD review
• MST3K vs. Gamera: Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXI DVD review
• Nick Felix interview