Sunday 18 October 2009

Bloodbath at the House of Death

If you’ve ever wanted to see Vincent Price bang his hand on an axe-head and shout “Oh shit!” then this British horror spoof is the movie for you. Price appears as “The Sinister Man”, parodying his roles in various Roger Corman films, and is for a while the best thing about Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984), until his unceremonious exit about halfway through. Amongst the rest of the cast – most of whom play scientists and other experts investigating the titular mansion – Pamela Stephenson (Not the Nine O’Clock News) probably comes off best, despite enduring copious fart gags, Kenny Everett’s dubious attempts at physical comedy, and being stripped naked by an invisible force à la The Entity.

Yes, the standard of jokes in Bloodbath is about on a par with The Kenny Everett Television Show, meaning that you’ll likely either love it or hate it depending on your taste for innuendo-strewn, frequently incoherent grossness. If anything, however, the freedom to push the gore and nudity to the limit results in a lazier approach, meaning that the writers are too often content to rely on the aforementioned fart gags, while anything approaching a clever spoof of horror clichés falls by the wayside.

Bloodbath works best through a haze of nostalgia, recalling a time in British history when increasing permissiveness on TV collided head-on with escalating concerns over violent “video nasties” – and this feels like the bloody aftermath. Call an ambulance... Or, better still, a coroner.

Rating: 1/5

Saturday 17 October 2009

Wet Gold

Does DVD picture quality reflect the quality of a film? I’ve often wondered, but no more so than when I got about halfway through Wet Gold, a 1984 TV movie that tries to do for underwater adventure stories what The Deep did for underwater adventure stories. And fails. (I’d like to say “spectacularly” but putting that word anywhere near a review of this film would be misleading.)

So, anyway, the DVD’s picture quality – if you can call it that – is not good, but that’s not always a problem. A bigger one for Wet Gold is the fact that it very quickly descends into a quagmire of dull double-crossing between people you care very little about. There’s Brooke Shields as a Florida waitress who dreams of bigger things (shame she turns out to be so lazy and self-centred, then); Burgess Meredith as a drunken seadog who knows the location of a fortune in sunken gold; and Thomas Byrd and Brian Kerwin as the deckhand and diver competing for Shields’ affections.

The four of them head out to sea, they find the treasure, they see a SHARK! (at this point, I thought things were going to get interesting... alas not) and they have a run-in with some pirates. But mostly they go skin-diving and argue about their shares in the loot. It’s all quite dreary, really, although there is a nice moment involving the underside of a boat and the topside of a character’s skull that redefines the term “propellerhead”.

I’m easy to please when it comes to underwater action movies. There simply aren’t enough of them (unless you count submarine flicks, which to me are as interesting as films set in warehouses) but Wet Gold isn’t a good example of one, despite some decent scenes inside a sunken shipwreck. If you’re looking for a schlocky oceanic crime story along the lines of The Deep and Into the Blue, try Shark or Night of the Sharks instead. This one sunk without trace for a reason.

Rating: 2/5