The Shatner. Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. The night after this Zombie Club I was bragging about the joys and perils of the previous night’s Shatner triple bill when a friend said "What, you mean William Shatner has done other stuff apart from Star Trek? Was that allowed?" Friends, not only did he stray from the loyalties of the Starship Enterprise, but managed to somehow feature in some fantastic value B-oddities, two of which feature tonight.
The Night Shatner Came Home initially came to life after a little rarity called Impulse flirted with my hungry eye on the eBay Pre-cert VHS listings. "Starring Bill Shatner and Harold 'Odd Job’ Sekata" the listing boasted, and my curiosity was thus whetted so a bid was made. Upon winning and watching Impulse for the first time, I knew its rightful home was Zombie Club, because this is the Shatner, the Whole Shatner, and Nothing But the Shatner. Well, apart from some other actors and Odd Job from Goldfinger.
Next up, Visiting Hours. This is a flick many of us are aware of but have never actually seen (apart from Jim who “watched it drunk once but fell asleep”). Unavailable on DVD, tonight's version was Jim's rare pre-cert video version with those old '18' stickers on the case. Takes you back doesn't it? Upon noticing that legend Michael Ironside featured alongside Lee Grant (that awful woman from Damien - Omen II and Airport ‘77) and The Shatner in this hospital thriller, I was already kicking myself for not having made myself see this film sooner than tonight. Ironside AND The Shatner? If that's not essential viewing then I don't know what is, apart from maybe Earnest Borgnine and The Shatner, which takes us on to tonight's last entry from 1977, The Devil's Rain. With a strong, yet strange, cast that includes The Shatner, Borgnine, Ida Lupino, Tom Skerrit, and the humble Travolta debut, this Devil Worship Melt-Western is yet another b-flick that falls into that ever-growing category of essential horror viewing.
Time to open a HUGE VHS box and adjust tracking. Bloody old videos...
This evening's selection was chosen by Zomblee in association with the Shatner School of Acting.
Plot A paranoid, leisure-suit-wearing conman/gigolo named Matt Stone seduces lonely women, bilks them of their savings via an investment scam, then kills them.
Rawshark Evil Shatner! I’ve got to say the prospect of that those two words alone had me licking my lips in anticipation. A hazy remembering of a blurred Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk turns bad, and endless Halloween Shatner masks worn by Michael Myers had not been enough, they had only been glimpses of what the real William Shatner could bring to psychotically evil role. Impulse, in which Shatner plays a character called Matt Stone, who cons women out of their money before killing them, was simply put, a must-see.
So is William Shatner a right messed up, ‘hard-as-nails’ killer in this movie? Disappointingly, the answer is no, not really. He’s actually fairly inept, he nibbles his fingers a lot, dresses really badly (“Just like a pimp” – Jim), and pops balloons when he gets a tad annoyed. That said, as the weak conman Matt Stone, Shatner is still a joy to watch and is far and away the second best thing in the movie (I actually thought he got acted off the screen by the little girl, but hey). With his sleazy lap dance attitude, dog killing skills and patented Shatner point (you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of Shatner when he points at you, that’s for sure!) this film is Shatner’s baby, and boy he knows it.
The rest of the film is fairly routine, and, it has to be said, pretty boring. Harold Sakata (Odd Job) makes an appearance that proves to be an amusing distraction, but Shatner soon kills him because of his terrible acting by first trying to hang him (what, with that neck?) before driving him through a car wash (yes, really). The rest of the acting is mostly average, and technically the film is a mess, but I suppose none of that really matters. What you’re going to be watching this film for is the atrocious 70s fashions, and the appearance of the future TJ Hooker as a baddie. And when Shatner begins his final stalk towards the end of the movie, looking black-eyed and exactly like a living breathing 70s Michael Myers, you can’t help feeling that no matter how bad Impulse, it hasn’t been a complete waste of time.
"Dogs lick their wounds real good."
Zomblee "It’s like someone found a shitty housewive's afternoon matinee movie and then gave it the Shatner treatment," blurted Jim about fifteen minutes into Impulse. It’s a good point. Impulse feels really quite tame – certainly by Zombie Club standards anyway. And yes, it does contain some really quite dull scenes involving women talking about woman problems (in a boring "Oh, when will Mr Right come along again, Julie?" kind of way). However, in order to fully appreciate the level of Shatnerdom that Impulse is fully equipped and ready to supply, one must be prepared to be furnished with a little background for the characters who become entangled in Shatner’s nasty… web… of… deceit.
Enter The Shatner. Every scene with The Shatner features him wearing a different outfit and trust me here readers – every single one of them are something truly special. To see examples of his wardrobe, click here to my full Impulse review which includes some pics from the movie. If Matt Stone was played by any other actor of that time, Impulse would not be worthy or your time; it is The Shatner, and his outrageous finger-sucking portrayal of a mentally ill confidence trickster that makes this modest little thriller a true must-see.
Seeing former wrestler Harold "Odd Job" Sekata as Karate Pete actually made me feel slightly sad in hindsight. He didn’t get a lot of acting work after playing the steel-brimmed bowler-hatted bodyguard in Goldfinger, but the work he did get usually typecast him in similar types of roles, as is the case with Impulse. Unfortunately his character in Impulse is not mute and his awkward diction and stilted performance certainly won’t win him fans on the scale that Goldfinger did. As Rawshark pointed out, it’s as if "Shatner is over-acting to compensate for Odd Job’s under-acting".
You’ll notice I give this a higher rating than my rotting colleagues (even though Jim did say at one point "This is a legendary piece of cinema") - while it really isn’t a masterpiece it is a cool little early 70’s flick with Shatner as you’ve never, ever seen him before. Impulse is Shatner’s catwalk, so get a front seat and enjoy the show.
"You’re all the time horny!"
Jim Yeah, I know I said that, but this films triggers many an emotion. It has a bizare habit of switching from amazingly bad-bad to amazingly good-bad at the blink of an eye, but it is 100% pure unadulterated Shatner and for that it has to be commended, even if he does often dress like a pimp.
When he attacks that woman who lightly brushes against him with her balloons, I couldn't believe it. What is his problem? And that little girl who he gives a lift to the graveyard to then threatens to kill her - what a bastard! ("Wouldn't it be great if her Daddy rose from the grave to help her?" - Rawshark, and although he claims he never said that, my notebook never lies.)
They don't make this kind of film any more, in fact they very rarely did. As a cinematic spectacle it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Poor Zomblee got very carried away around the middle when one particular scene starts from a wide angle and zooms in to reveal two women talking. Dejectedly, Zomblee mumbles "Aw, I thought it was going to be Shatner..."
Don't worry Zomblee, there's plenty more Shatner where that came from.
"Tina if you tell anyone, I'll kill you! You hear me? I'll kill you!!"
Director William Grefe
Cast William Shatner
Runtime 82 mins
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Visiting Hours (1982)
Plot Michael Ironside goes on a kill frenzy in a hospital. Luckily Shatner's there to cheer everyone up between murders.
Jim Check this out. After initially being passed with an X certificate for theatrical release, Visiting Hours crept on to the video nasties list in 1983. After a few cuts the movie was re-released to little fanfare and was never prosecuted, but in all their infinite wisdom ITV went and broadcast the uncut version in 1989 (making it the first almost-nasty to be broadcast on terrestrial television) and was consequently fined by the ITC. If you had your video going that day you had a result - Visiting Hours has never been released on DVD and has been out of print on VHS for years, so if you want a copy of this you’ll have to hit ebay. It’s not that hard to find actually, I found an uncut pre-cert (with those little 18 stickers on that Zomblee mentioned in the intro) for only a few quid. Worth every penny.
The movie itself is a fairly tense, and mildly vicious, slasher movie made in Canada and featuring a rather menacing performance from future big-name bad guy, Michael Ironside, and a big-haired cheesy smile performance from your friend and mine, the great William Shatner. Lee Grant (from Omen 2) plays a crusading journalist type character that Ironside takes a dislike to, for some reason, and repeatedly tries to kill, mostly when she’s in hospital recovering from his earlier attempts. A lot of the movie is set in the hospital actually (hence the name) and Ironside does a good job of leaving a slow trail of destruction, offing random patients as he goes. The hospital scenes also include a lot of the amazingly porcelain Linda Purl as the beautiful Nurse Monroe, who in turn spends a lot of the time walking up and down hospital corridors, looking quite nervous. (“She’s looking for Shatner, ‘cause he’s not in it enough” – Zomblee).
Oh yeah, Shatner. He plays Grant’s TV producer friend who turns up to provide big happy pointless encouragement at key points in the movie. He has a permanent grin on his face no matter how much peril Grant’s in, although bless her she never lets him upstage her in a scene, no matter how much over acting the sly old dog stoops too. Every time Ironside bungles a murder attempt (after which he always manages to escape unnoticed) Shatner’s always there to pick up the pieces, but sadly that’s all he does in this film. Yes, that means there is no final confrontation between Shatner and Ironside – we were all quite gutted about that one.
It’s as much a thriller as a slasher though, with plenty of intentional plot padding to allow the actors to flesh out their characters. Ironside visiting his dad at the old people’s home and then picking up the 80s chick (“Oh my God he’s wearing a leather vest”) springs to mind, but the comedy highlight for me was the bit when (“that nurse got out of a double shift by finding a body so she gets to go home. Brilliant!”). The lengths people will go to just to skive off work.
Tight and engrossing but a bit long-winded in places, Visiting Hours is a decent effort. I’d thoroughly recommend it to any 80s slasher fans but be warned – there’s just not enough Shatner in it for my liking.
"This double shift is gonna kill me..."
Rawshark Within five minutes, it is apparent that Visiting Hours is a far superior film to Impulse. Better direction, spooky tension and a villain that actually feels menacing – step forward Michael Ironside as killer Colt complete with a Jack "I'm mad, me" Nicholson hairstyle. In fact, the whole opening sequence where Colt stalks Debra the TV presenter is a fantastically sustained exercise in tension, ending with a plummeting lift and Debra being taken to hospital.
From here on, it’s a case of Michael Ironside attempting as many ways as possible to enter the hospital in order to kill Debra (something to do with the Janet Mackland case if you’re interested in plot reasons). He first tries delivering flowers in a Bristol Flowers van ("Killers in vans! I love killers in vans!" – Zomblee), then attempts dressing up in surgery gear, before hitting on the bright idea of doing extreme damage to himself in order to get a free ride to the hospital in an ambulance (genius!).
This repetitive stalk"n"slash routine does become a little tired toward the end, but there are many highlights along the way, including pretty much any scene with the delectable Nurse Monroe and the occasional appearance of a coasting Shatner. But it’s Ironside’s movie all the way, playing the sick mutha to the hilt as he takes photos of the people he kills, stuffs squash balls into people’s mouths, and abuses the girls he manages to (effortlessly) pull down at the local disco whilst showing off his latest leather vest.
An effective script (with a surprisingly feminist slant – the real heroes of the film are all women), with some genuinely touching moments, Visiting Hours is not the greatest hospital killer movie out there, but it is certainly worth checking out if you have the patients for these sort of films.
"You’ve triggered a psychopath!"
Zomblee Visiting Hours is not The Shatner’s film – it is Ironside’s. And I’m not talking about the wheelchair-bound 70’s TV detective. If you think Michael Ironside was an evil shit in Cronenberg’s brilliant flick Scanners, then check him out in this taut, well-constructed early 80’s thriller. He's, like, really nasty. As with Impulse, Visiting Hours is no horror movie, but certainly contains enough unpleasantness to bring an evil smile to the faces of blood-hungry viewers.
Like Jim says, Ironside is hell bent on killing Lee Grant. The reason for this was something to do with whatever happened in the first five minutes of the film, though we were to busy talking shite to pick up on the necessary expository plot details. Perhaps he hated her role as Damien (Antichrist) Thorne’s aunt in The Omen 2 so much that he decided she needed a dose of Ironside nastiness. Personally, I reckon SHE was the Antichrist, not Damien.
Meanwhile, back at County General Hospital, Ironside is literally getting away with murder and visiting his disfigured dad. This is where the plot comes in. In a flashback scene, we see Ironside’s dad being abusive towards his mother, at which point his mother throws what appears to be boiling fat over his face, disfiguring him for life. Lee Grant’s character is a woman’s rights activist who champions these ideals publicly on her TV chat show. Am I right in guessing that Ironside wants to kill her because she’s a women’s rights activist, considering what happened between his parents? It’s either that or the Omen 2 theory…
One of my favourite moments during this screening was when Jim got up to go to the toilet, but sat back down again when The Shatner came onscreen. Then it cut to another shot and up he got again. And Jim takes the piss out of me for being a Shatner freak? It’s true, there’s not enough of The Shatner here – we didn’t want to miss a second he had onscreen, though what there was amused me no end because this was obviously made at the same time as T.J. Hooker – he’s got exactly the same haircut and everything.
Well-written and totally engaging, Visiting Hours is definitely worth seeing and is very much a curiosity because of it’s unavailability on DVD. Not sure if I fancied that nurse though, Jim.
"It all happened so fast!"
Director Jean-Claude Lord
Cast Michael Ironside
Runtime 105 mins
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The Devil's Rain (1975)
Plot A bunch of Satanists in the American rural landscape have terrible powers which enable them to melt their victims. However one of the children of an earlier victim vows to destroy them.
Zomblee So...hands up who likes Devil Melt Westerns? Jim's reaction to Devil's Rain was pretty strong - "I can't believe what I'm seeing" - and when we're witnessing The Shatner with black holes for eyes, being taken over by the evil of Earnest Borgnine's satanic coven, you can understand an initial shock reaction. I would have thought that a movie as strange as Impulse would have prepared you for anything, no matter how weird.
Devil's Rain is not by any conventional standards a good film. For a start, there isn't much of a story, but what there is can be summed up a bit like this: Shatner's father returns to the family's remote house on a stormy night. He's been gone for a few days, and now he seems to be melting and telling son Shatner and wife Ida Lupino, to "...give Corbis what belongs to him". Then he melts completely. Behold The Shatner's reaction to his melting father - absolutely ludicrous!
What his father was talking about was the Book, an ancient text that Shatner's family (the Prestons) have kept from Corbis for some 300 years. Now Corbis wants it back. Without the Book, the souls of his followers are trapped in the Devil's Rain, unable to complete their passage to Hell. Corbis, being the considerate goat enthusiast he is, wants to weave his spell to free the souls unto the Big Daddy Goat - Satan himself. Shatner confronts Corbis in the ghost town of Redstone, and looses the fight of faith while his brother (Tom Skerritt, you know him) and a classic all-round genius Dr Sam Richards (Eddie Albert from Airport 79 - Concorde, Dreamscape, Kung Fu, The Fall Guy) do the heroic thing and try to rescue him and his mother from the coven whilst also destroying Corbis and his followers.
This is mumbo-jumbo central. The Devil worship dialogue can't quite be taken seriously, and one would think that when Anton La Vey - high priest of the Church of Satan (no joke), was on hand as some kind of dark technical advisor (he also has a small role), that these sequences would seem realistic, believable even. No wonder the Church of Satan is in trouble these days. Even if events are not believable, Earnest Borgnine's performance as Corbis is highly effective, entertaining and powerful. If this is anyone's film, it's Borgnine's, and what makes this film such an event is that he looks like he's having a great time with it! On two occasions he transforms (in a puff of smoke) into a ridiculous looking goat - presumably this is his real demon persona, devoid of human vessel. "That's just not scary" I think I heard Rawshark comment and it's fair to say that Corbis' character is probably more effective without the silly mask. Why ruin Borgnine's incredible face with a mask?! Not that it matters too much of course, because the very concept of Borgnine wearing that mask is funny in itself.
Devil's Rain's (Mexican?) location is definitely one of the best things the movie has to offer - sparse, desolate and haunting, the town of Redstone is in itself pretty creepy, with the Church of Satan standing alone amidst a sea of nothing, above Hell itself. The exterior photography is stunningly composed and makes the best possible use of the landscape. The inside of the church is mostly characterised by the coven, all dressed in black robes with hoods and Corbis himself, dressed in a red cloak and looking demonically authoritative.
Unfortunately Tom Skerritt doesn't make much of an impression, he's simply there doing a job and I found his performance to be quite dull, even if "he looks like Bruce Lee!" (Jim). He is also the one character who does too much of that classic horror film cliché - looking around the place looking for clues of the Shatner's whereabouts. Plain boring, but at least it doesn't go on forever. John Travolta also features (just about) as a coven member, and you can only really tell it's him by the chin dimple.
Then of course there's the Devil's Rain itself, the star of possibly the most outrageously over-the-top endings ever committed to celluloid. I could go on and on, but this is where I must hand over to Jim and Rawshark.
Behold the Borgnine! Now beam me up, Satan
"Evil? there is no evil here. Only purity."
Jim Cor, doesn't Zomblee bang on a bit? Well I suppose it is Shatner night. Shatner, Shatner, Shatner, it's all Zomblee thinks about. Thank God I had Rawshark there to keep me on the right side of sane otherwise I would have left Chez Zomblee wearing a wig, sporting an expanding girth and talking... in... staggered... sentences... Argh! What am I doing?
Devil's Rain is bonkers. It's a mid-70s weirdo western (like Westworld and the coming to a Zombie Club soon Welcome to Blood City) mixed with a 70s cult movie (like Omega Man, Beneath the Planet of the Apes or A Boy and his Dog) which benefits greatly from having a very cool last 10 minutes. It's got that Ernest Borgnine goat mask too, which begs the age old question, "What were they thinking!?"
I didn't really getDevil's Rain and I doubt I'd watch it again. Unless, of course, I could watch it with my zombie buddies here, as their enthusiasm brightened up the viewing no end. And the last 10 minutes are fantastic - better melt action than Street Trash and The Incredible Melting Man anyday.
"It's so beautiful a feeling I could almost cry."
Rawshark Let's face it, without Zombie Club, I would probably have never dared pick this one up. Sure, it stars, William Shatner, Tom Skerritt and Ernest Borgnine, but one glance at the video sleeve cover and the atrocious make-up on Goat-Boy devil-man is enough to put any 'serious' horror-lover off the scent. Thank God for Zombie Club then, because otherwise this little cult gem would have remained unnoticed.
The Devil's Rain is by far the best-directed movie on offer tonight. Of course, it helps that the location itself is simply stunning, but the cinematography of the film is rarely of low quality. The acting is solid throughout (even Shatner rises to the occasion!) and the script and plot are intricate enough to be engaging. There are also lots of little neat throwaway details like the Holy waters of Forgetfulness ("Quick, write that one down before you forget it!" – thanks Jim) and literally loads of shots of dazed Devil’s disciples.
It’s no masterpiece – the awful effects of Ernest Borgnine's goat man pretty much put paid to that (why oh why make up men?) – but it certainly is good fun, especially when Shatner is finally turned to the Dark Side and becomes black-eyed too. For the second time tonight, we all feel like we're watching a Halloween film as the no-eye Shatner looks a dead ringer for The Shape, a full three years before Halloween was released. And then comes the last ten minutes.
If you, like me, love a good old melt scene (Street Trash was my favourite melt movie before this), then you can’t afford to miss his movie. When the final battle is over, and the Devil’s Rain begins to fall, we are treated to one on the best mass melts in movie history. Bodies melt, skin peels, fingers droop, skulls bubble and melt, and slime oozes in an extremely drawn-out melt marathon, that is just one hugely sick treat to enjoy. Ernest Borgnine as a Ram, William Shatner as Michael Myers, Tom Skerritt as well, Tom Skerritt really, Devil's Disciples and muchos melt action. You know you wanna see it…
Director Robert Fuest
Cast Ernest Borgnine
Runtime 85 mins
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You’d think we would learn from past experiences involving more than two films in a row that our little collective can be known to suffer from physical and mental impairment by the third set of end credits. Especially when all three films feature The Shatner. However when you consider that the same three guys once watched FIVE spider movies in a row it becomes clear that we’re obviously made of stronger stuff. We’re in this for the log haul. We can take it. Bring it on.
Did someone mention William Shatner? Mr. Shatner, I’d love it if somehow you knew that us three had an evening in honour of you and, even if somehow you read this piece and notice that we have a tendency to take the piss sometimes, please know that we couldn’t have done it without you. Respect.
I think I speak for everyone involved when I say I’m Shatnered out. Had enough now. Want to sleep. Don’t want to dream about Borgnine’s goat face, Ironside’s flick knife, or Matt Stone’s wardrobe. Thank you and good night.