Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vernon Grant

Opening page; "A Monster Is Loose In Tokyo", 
published in 1972 by C.E. Tuttle Books, Rutland, VT, USA

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Yeti We Love You" - Indian VCDs part 5 of 6... or 7. Maybe.

Lebanese poster for AJOOBA KUDRAT KAA
Before I blather on about how intensely amusing I found this 1991 family film from Indian directors Tulsi and Shyam Ramasy, there is something I need to get off my chest. As a middle aged man, and a fair to middling writer in this field of film study and review, there are portions of my life when instances usually considered not at all that pleasing to the majority, strikes me as highly diverting. I have been searching for AJOOBA KUDRAT KAA for some time, as part of my study of the "bigfoot" genre. I even went so far as buying a 1-sheet of the film on Ebay. It was shipped from Tripoli, Lebanon. It rocks.

I was happy to note that the film was a Ramsay family production which typically mean that it's going to turn out to be some sort of rough ride.  This is a fun and violent monster movie musical for kids. Astounding. But before I continue, here's what really struck me about the film.

It's pretty good.

No. seriously, the plot moves along at a pace which most Ramsay films don't, and there are some charming musical numbers. For hose of you who enjoy Indian films like i do, you come to expect singing and dancing that appears out of nowhere smack-dab in between the action or dramatic plot.  "Yeti We LoveYou" is a six minute opus sung by a little girl to her big hairy goofball of a friend: the Yeti, a bumbling monster that has already slaughtered at least four people.

Slip case from an Audio Cassette of the film's popular soundtrack.
As with most Indian films, the soundtrack was released on vinyl as well as audio cassette. I have yet to see a CD release anywhere.  "Yeti We Love You" is appears on the soundtrack in both a happy and sad version!  The compositions on this tape are probably the ONLY original tracks to appear in AJOOBA KUDRAT KAA, as the remainder of the film is scored with cues from numerous Ennio Morricone westerns, as well as  some Kraftwerk and other spacerock ditties. It's as if the Ramsays spent too much money on the monster suit to bother with an incidental score.

videoOh well.... before I get too carried away with the plot and all, here's the hit single "Yeti We Love You".

Makes your heart swell with love.  No? Maybe the bile is gurgling in the back of your throat. That's a possibility.

So what is this kid doing frolicking in the snowy mountains of India? Northern India is home to the Himalayas, with peaks over 20,000 feet. Not only does it snow here, but it snows every month of the year, with peaks covered in glaciers. That's where the Yeti comes in. The young girl, Sasha by name, is the daughter of a forest ranger who works in that region. She is kidnapped by some nasty gangsters who want to ransom her back to Ranger and his sassy wife. The girl escapes and encounters the Yeti who is a friendly monster despite crushing the skulls of some men in the opening sequence of the film.


The VCD, widescreen without English subtitles.
Here's a YouTube link to the entire film (in 15 parts!). No subtitles, but you don't really need them. If you want to own this film may I suggest ordering the VCD like I did from Induna.com: http://www.induna.com/1000003635-productdetails/. The VCD is presented in widescreen and of very good quality for MPEG-2 compression. For those of you unfamiliar with VCDs, they are video CD that are easily playable on most DVD or Blu Ray players. They possess  a sub-quality like that of an old VHS video tape that has begun to deteriorate. This is one of the better transfers I've experienced, and looks like the same source by the person who uploaded it to YouTube.




In the meantime our young heroine makes friends with the snow monster and they get on swimmingly. Soon Sasha is rescued by her parents and taken home where she publicizes her relation with the monster, alerting the creature's existence to a shady European who wants to exploit the Yeti for financial reasons.  The Yeti is soon captured and locked away in a cage where it is teased and humiliated by leering and sneering gangsters and circus folk. Of course, this is intensified by a totally messed up and offensive dance routine with its Naga "tribesmen" in blackface.
video


Can the Yeti be saved from this abuse when Sasha, her band of girlfriends, and her parents and their band of do-gooders decide to raid the gang's compound? Will there be more song and dance numbers? Will there be violent Yeti vengeance? Yes. Yes. YES!


Exploitation cinema buffs are probably more familiar with the Ramasys' work thru some of the hoary horror films they directed and/or produced since the late 60's until recent. Tulsi Ramsay usually co-directed with either his brothers Shyam or Kumar:  BANDHA DARWAZA (Hindu Dracula), TAHKNANA (The Celler), and a handful of other of the more popular films are available on DVD with English subtitles (available thru Amazon.com).  AJOOBA KUDRAT KAA ("The Magnificent Guardian"), as far as I can tell, is only available on VCD or YouTube.

Hairy monsters not that uncommon in Indian fantasy, horror or mythological (as they are called on Indian video websites) film. Most of the critters are men in standard 1940's looking monkey suits with a hairy face a mouthful of fangs. They are usually galumphing beasts that grunt, roar, and growl as they stagger, stiff-leggedly, after the gorgeous heroine or brawny hero.  That's what makes the Yeti in  AJOOBA KUDRAT KAA so unusual. It appears as if the Ramasys' spent time making the monster somewhat believable. They did a pretty good job, although the Yeti still ambles after its prey looking as if any second the poor actor in the monster suit is going to land face first in the snow.

It's a pity that this wacky mutant of Indian family entertainment and horror was never released in the US. It apparently played in quit a few countries, includes Nigeria and Ghana in Africa. I have located one of those lovely hand-painted movie posters so popular with collectors of "kitsch" (which, by the way, I don't considers these works of art being).

I have one gripe with the film. It seems that there is a worldwide conspiracy in making any kid in a "children's film" the most obnoxious creature on earth. For some odd reason the monsters in these movies seem to identify with the horribly spoiled boys and girls that speak back to their elders, cause all sorts of havoc, and and just won't shut up for one fucking second.  That fact and the mandatory comedic relief that plagues Indian cinema makes ore than a few minutes of AJOOBA KUDRAT KAA cringe-worthy.

Those of you who are from my generation, you'll probably remember the 1960's Gamera films. In these wonderful giant monster ("kaiju) movies, Gamera, the gargantuan jet-propelled flying turtle, is typically involved with battling a bad monster while attempting to save both the Earth and an bunch of obnoxious kids. As a youngster myself in the 60's and 70's I was hoping that, at least in one of Gamera's many adventures, he'd squash the brats.  In AJOOBA KUDRAT KAA Sasha is such a winy shit that I was half-expecting the Yeti to crush her skull as easily as it dispatched the badguys.

Sadly, no.

For those interested, here is some artwork for other films by the Ramsay family:
















Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Eyeball Candy- Part 3 Random World Posters

Taking a break from the written word to present some of more recent movie monster posters from the world over. Enjoy these cinematic works of art! Some are currently available on DVD or VCD. Google them and you'll find them. Yes, most of them. Some.... nope.

Ramsay classic available on DVD in the US, Japan, India, & the UK.

Hand painted African poster for a video store that VHS and DVDs from Ghana and Nigeria

Taiwanese fantasy film -- I have this poster and the film; the poster is much more exciting.

"Ghost Nursing"- Thai poster.

Indian horror film --- look at that monster!  I NEED THIS ONE!

LOURD BALAA - looks like one of those vastly entertaining Indian hairy monster films.

Thai Snake Girl Monster movie -- from the 70's or 80's; anyone have a title for me?


ZIBAH KHANA - another grade c Indian horror/monster movie on my list from 2007: title translates as "Hell's Ground". The company that made this flick? "Bubonic Films". Awesome.

捉鬼大師  - one of favourite 80's vampire/possession films that stars some of  Hong Kong' comedy greats: Kent Cheng, Stanley Fung, Nat Chan, Jackie Cheung, and Elsie Chan.

Newspaper ad for the Pakistani horror film THE LIVING CORPSE/DRACULA FROM PAKASTAN from 1967.

Japanese film I know nothing about, except that it is probably about drug addiction rather than a monster movie. But it is a cool poster none the less!

The best Taiwanese fantasy film EVER!!!!! 

Chinese film. Thai poster. I should know what film this is, but I am currently brain dead.

More Snake Girl/Monster action from Cambodia/Thailand... Classic horror motif.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

INDIAN VCDs Part 4 of 5 - postscript

Before some of you decide to plunk down a load of cash on some of these VCDs I'm written about (and many other I haven't), let me give a heads up. DON'T EXPECT DVD QUALITY

Some of the better VCDs are pretty good looking as their their encoding and source material equals VHS quality. Here's an example from CHUDAIL: THE WITCH which was released by Golden Plaza Video:

video

Looks okay. This scene is crazy and reminds me of some of the odder and more exciting low-budget 80's horror film from HK or Taiwan. Anyways, the next video is an excerpt from the Friends Video VCD release of the Ramsay family's sorry excuse for a horror film called AUR KAUN. The monster-filled artwork for the VCD is very misleading, as I don't remember seeing ANY of these hoary bits in the film.

Then sitting down to watch the two disc set is even more disappointing. A sad purchase indeed.

In addition to a sub-par encoding of the video track, the audio is so over-saturated as to make it almost too dangerous to try and play on your DVD player without damaging your speakers. I had to keep it on the lowest setting to even try and understand the audio. What's worse is that the source for this VCD comes from a shitty VHS that has problems tracking. Geeeeez!
video



So, don't expect a lot when you pay 75¢ to $2.25 for a VCD. Paying a few bucks more for the DVD of  AUR KAUN won;t guarantee the quality won't be any better, which is why I haven't given that one a chance.  Yet.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

CHUDAIL: Indian Horror VCDs, part 4 of 5


The best part of recieving a large bundle or two of VCDs and DVDs in the mail is sitting thru ALL of them. Yes, even when they're the infamous "Grade C" horror films from all parts of India. These films were (are?) productions made outside of the "Bollywood" system -- so far out infact that they shame our Western indie movies in their abundance.

Sadly, this was on back-order... :(
The closest comparison would be to the movie boom of the 60's and 70's when drive-ins were chockful of wacky regionally produced and distributed US films.  Double, triple and dusk to dawn bills often included these low-budget beauties as well as foreign films which played after the (maybe) A-list first feature. Numerous fly-by-night companies were formed and folded within months of a production, with the end result of giving birth to some remarkable offspring. 

For thosw not in the know, India produces the most films per year than any other country. The Indians love cinema. Good or bad. So, there is a need for a lot of product. Imagine hundreds of films with hairy giants, possessed maidens, toothy monsters, scarred maniacs and various types of the living dead produced from the early 60's right on up to as recent as, well, last year as far as I can tell.  Slap-dash creations fabricated for folks who need their (sometimes) daily cinematic fix on the cheap. For the most part they all look like crap.

Crap.
Okay, that last line wasn't too truthful. It wasn't too far off the mark, altogether hastily remarked.  There are some films, like their cousins from Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as the Eurocine scene and even the US, that raise above deplorable. They are actually quite good. For every three dozen BAHOOTON KA HONEYMOONs with its rancid dance sequences and sorry excuses for monsters, you have superior works by the Ramsy family or, for today's blog, director P. Chandra Kumar and his film CHUDAIL: THE WITCH from 1997.
VCD artwork
Film Poster
Hindi Film Poster

I WOULD LOVE THIS POSTER!!!
As per usual this VCD was bought because of the artwork on the cover and not because I knew who the director happened to be. That came later after watching -- and enjoying -- the film. The essential elements were on the package: the monster represented as a strange dualistic creature with long finger nails; there is a striking brunette who happened to be soaking wet (a common erotic motif in these films), the goofy element (the man with the upturned mustache), and lastly: gratuitous cleavage. I was sold.

But before we continue, a little cultural background on the type of monster that is in the film. The title is a little misleading as a Chudail (चुडेल) or Churel, as the entity is more commonly known, is a female ghost from Hindu folklore that feeds on the energy of young virile men.  The film kinda gets this right once the plot kicks into high gear.

videoIt's a stormy night (as the nights almost always seem to be in these films) and a family is in desperate need of a healer or holy man to save the life of the head of the household.  A handsome tantrik holy man arrives to assist the family. As the stricken man is being treated by means of prayer and holy flowers, the handsome tantrik is distracted by the impressive bosom of the old man's young daughter Sundari (actress Poonam Das Gupta) . After the ceremony is completed and it seems that the once ailing patriarch is on his way to recovery, the holy man and Sundari hook up for a night of sexual healing. In the midst of their tryst they are discovered by her father who falls to his death down a stone stairwell. 

The energetic couple continue their passion, to the point where our holy man informs his the gorgeous brunette that he is using her sexual life force to extend his own, thrusting within her with a magical energy and harvesting it later during their mad embrace. Sundari plays along until the time is right and then kills her master and in turn absorbs his energy. This is witnessed by the holy man's servant who pledges his undying devotion to the "wicked" woman. The duo then sets out to ensnare you haughty men for a night of passionate yet life-essence draining sex. 

All seems to going jim-dandy until the "witch" is trapped in a ring of holy fire set up yet more holy men, and three nine-inch nails are driven into her skull. Sundari's lifeless body is then encased in blessed coffin and buried a isolated tomb, and her man servant is driven off into the wilderness.
That was he first 30-odd minutes of the film.  Now this is where the Chudail comes in.


"Years Later" the tomb is disturbed and the dessicated body of the witchy woman is uncovered. After some singing and dance sequences (which aren't that badly composed or choreographed), and the typical and totally unnecessary comedic relief, AND a romantic subplot, the monster finally makes its appearance. Once the body is removed from the underground crypt and placed in the local morgue for examination, the witch's manservant makes his reappearance and upon sneaking into the hospital removes the nails from the witch's skull.
video



 What happens next is pretty comparable to Hong Kong horror films from the 80's. Two prime examples being THE RAPE AFTER and DEVIL FETUS, two incredible films which are worth watching if you have a chance. Kumar's handling of the subject matter is naturally different from the Chinese films, culturally speaking. There is no nudity in this print, but I have read that (not unlike Eurocine productions of the 70's and 80's) saucy scenes of naked breasts and full-on lip-to-lip kissing were inserted for the more raucous off-the-beaten-track movie houses. The gore is not as abundant or icky as in DEVIL FETUS, but the mood and sheer creepy craziness is a most on par with the aforementioned films.

As the body count mounts the leader of the archeological team that found the tomb has to find a way to save both himself and the woman he loves from the Chudail and her insatiable sexual appetite. But, not before he has a chance to have a sultry dance with her. I mean, this wouldn't be a good Indian horror film without a sexy dance number. The film comes to an explosive (literally) climax in a series of mad dashes around the underground tomb as the monster closes in on her prey.

videoNot a bad film at all. Even better since it clocks in at 94 minutes, rather than the usual running time of most Indian films which is around two to three hours.

Director Kumar has made a few other "Grade C" horror films, although he seems to be more famous for ADIPAPAM (1988) which is his adult softcore Malayalam language version of the biblical Adam and Eve story.  I am currently on the hunt for more of his films, as he made around fifty movies during his career.  I am also not too certain it is he same director. Neither of the two horror films made by this P. Chandra Kumar (or P. Chandrakumar) appear in of his filmography on imdb.com.

Well, anyways, CHUDIAL was a delight. There have been numerous other films featuring similar titles that seem to have variations of the chudail ghost figured into their plot line. It will take some time, but I'll hunt them down down and make them mine! In the meantime, here are some posters or VCD cover art for some of those elusive titles:





As a bonus, comic book featuring a murderous चुडेल.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Eyeball Candy, Part 2

I'm not sure how important it is nowadays, but not too long ago posters were the way to go when it came to promoting a film. At a movie theater you'd gawk (well, at least I did) at the artwork presented on the "Coming Soon" marquees, with hopes that these wonderful films would end up at least one of the local theaters around where I lived (most of the time they didn't). In a vain attempt not to sound like an ol' fuddy-duddy, I won't rail too much against the recent, lame poster designs that most studio's pump out. In fact, I won't waste my time on US movie posters at all.

Yep, it's that time again. Time again to present to you, dear blog-aholics, a dozen or so non-western advertizements for thrilling monster films that you'll probably never get around to seeing. God knows, I've had a hard time tracking some of the films I've been writing about. They aren't your usual Netflix or Blockbuster releases. 

Let's start out with my current fascination, the Indian Monster Movies:
GHABRAHAT (1989).
GHABRAHAT, from 1989 and director Sunil Kumar.  No other information on this film. Looks cool, huh?  The film sports a classy Ramsy Brothers-looking poster. Classy? Ramsy? Hey, when you've seen as many of these "Grade C" films as I have, then that moniker fit. It's on my list of films to look for.


On a side note: the monster reminds me of the skeletal creature from THE DEATH CURSE OF TARTU (1966). If you haven't had the chance to see this USA made horror film, then you should treat yourself to some of its charm. This is as close to an Indian monster movie an American production gets. No, seriously, it has all the right elements. Trust me.

Next on my list is a film that I have had on VHS since I got it from a pen pal of mine in the early 90's. I have since re-discovered it on VCD. It's the monsterific JAANI DUSHMAN from 1979, despite looking  another Ramsy film, JAANI DUSHMAN seems to have benefited from a slightly higher budget, as along with its superior musical numbers, its monster is an incredible and very striking bouffant-headed werewolf.
Hindi poster art for JAANI DUSHMAN.
 











The hand-painted poster for JAANI DUSHMAN.
The crazy CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF variant.
The creature takes to abusing folks in the forest and in a spooky underground warren/temple surrounding a spooky mansion (as it always is) . The two posters presented are the classic Hindi one and a wonderfully crafted hand-painted canvas poster for what I believe was the Urdu market. I have also seen another design where the artist takes huge liberties in lifting Hammer's CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF and puts it to use to illustrate their film. And considering what I can make of the film, that intellectual theft is not too far of the plot.

video
In this exciting scene, our hero and a few of his friends has trapped the monster and in a desperate attempt to smite the thing with a trident of Shiva. The hairy beast lumbers about, stomping and grunting like most of its cinematic creature cousins.

To round things off here are a few more Indian Monster Movie posters of films I NEED TO SEE:
Here's gooey monster for ya!

 
Another sleazy "Grade C" from the late 1990's
A Fredrick March-inspired poster for a 1981 creature feature.


 


Another rarely seen  Ramsy family production.