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MARCH 7 2016 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : DEATH SHIP
From horrorexpress.com

Plagiarism generally does not go unnoticed, and one cannot help but see certain similarities in various works be it literature, art, or cinema. In listening to the commentary on the relatively new PAL Region 0 DVD of 1980’s DEATH SHIP, a horror oddity about an abandoned old ship inhabited by the ghosts of members of the Third Reich(!), author Jonathan Rigby remarks that the poster for 2002’s GHOST SHIP was remarkably similar to the poster art for this film, and it is true – the similarities are uncanny. I can’t help but wonder who came up with the idea for the poster for GHOST SHIP, as DEATH SHIP was well over 25 years-old and seemed to be relegated to the land of forgotten cinema.

Those of you who did see DEATH SHIP on its maiden release and would like to catch up with it again might want to invest in a region-free DVD player if you do not currently have one (the Zenith DVP615 is a nice portable unit that is easily alterable to Region 0 by Googling it).

George Kennedy plays a ship captain about to turn over the reins to Richard Crenna and he’s not happy about it. He seems perturbed by this changing of the guard, commenting in no uncertain terms that his place as captain should be regarded as more than something of a novelty to tourists. Unfortunately for him and his guests, the unmanned and haunted titular death ship is on a crash course to meet with his. Using footage stolen from Andrew L. Stone’s THE LAST VOYAGE (1960), the two ships collide, and Kennedy’s ship begins to fill with water and quickly sinks (too bad that THE CONCORDE – AIRPORT ’79 didn’t sink with it!)

Kennedy, Crenna, Nick Mancuso (who provided the bulk of the horrifying phone calls in Bob Clark’s BLACK CHRISTMAS), Sally Ann Howes (of DEAD OF NIGHT and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG) and a few other characters manage to be the only survivors in a lifeboat and make their way aboard the decrepit ship that put them in their predicament. Once on board, they find the ship bereft of passengers and crew, and slowly become victims of the supernatural games that ensue. As the plot unfolds, it becomes apparent that the ship in question was once used as a Nazi torture chamber, as evidence of victim’s teeth, clothing and medical devices start to turn up in explored rooms. The worst of these rooms houses a group of cobweb-infested corpses, presumably the long-dead Jews whom the Nazis tortured. One might wonder about the boundaries of bad taste pushed in a film that seems to make light of one of humanity’s most horrendous atrocities.

The director employs some nifty scare tactics, such as a projector that runs itself; a shower that turns blood red; and a crazed George Kennedy, apparently possessed by the long-dead Germans, going on a rampage.

One must wonder why distress signals are not sent, and why help is not forthcoming given the radio rules in place since the downing of the Titanic in 1912. But, this is a B-movie, and asking too many questions is not suggested.

Until the original elements are found, this is about the closest we’re going to get to a perfect rendering of DEATH SHIP on DVD. The disc boasts a disclaimer citing the film lab that housed the original camera negative closed in the late 80’s and the aforementioned resources were “lost” as a result. I would be curious as to how this sort of thing happens as this is certainly not the first time it has occurred, nor will it be the last. I’m always reading of an original negative somehow getting “lost”. DEVIL DOG: THE HOUND OF HELL, the TV-movie that Crenna made the year prior to DEATH SHIP, was released on DVD recently and the movie looks like it was just made yesterday – honestly, the transfer could not be more beautiful. Yet a theatrical film’s negative gets “lost”? Insert quizzical expression here…

The print that was used in this transfer, while not perfect and containing a few sporadic imperfections, is believed to be the best surviving print and has been cleaned up as much as possible. It looks fine for something made in 1979.

If you live in the States, this disc can be ordered from Xploited Cinema out of Cleveland, OH. Ask for Tony, and tell him that Horror Express sent you!


MARCH 7 2016 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : LOVELY BUT DEADLY (1981)

This is the incredibly dull story of schoolgirl Mary Ann 'Lovely' Lovett (Lucinda Dooling), a teenage vigilante who kills drug dealers because one dealer sold her younger brother drugs, which led to him tripping out and drowning in the ocean (trying to catch an imaginary tuna with his hands!). She gets the dealer that sold to her brother first, kicking him in the face a couple of times and then forcing him to swallow a fatal dose of his own stash. Lovely doesn't know that her own musician boyfriend, Javelin Scott (Mark Holden), is working for one of the biggest drug suppliers in the state, Franklin Van Dyke (John Randolph), who happens to be Superintendant of Schools! Lovely makes friends with school class president Steve Berringer (Michael O'Leary) and saves his life when school drug dealer (and football quarterback) Mantis Managian (Rick Moser) sends two of his goons, Driver (Judd Omen) and Gommorah (Irwin Keyes), to kill Steve when he refuses to look the other way when Mantis does his drug deals. Lovely uses her vast martial arts knowledge to kick the crap out of Driver and Gommorah. Lovely joins the cheerleading squad to get closer to Mantis and gets invited to a huge party thrown by rich drug supplier Warren Lang (Mel Novak). At the party, Lovely meets "Honest Charlie" Gilmarten (Richard Herd), a rich retail store owner who supplies the drugs to Warren and Mantis. She spies Mantis making a major drug transfer with Warren and she steals some of Warren's stash. Lovely gets into a catfight with Mantis' girlfriend Gloria (Pamela Bryant), which catches the eye of Gilmarten. He invites her to a party at his house which turns out to be a party of two, as Gilmarten tries to get into Lovely's panties. Lovely drops some high kicks on him instead and tries to forcefeed him the drugs she stole from Warren, but Driver and Gommorah save him in the nick of time and take Lovely prisoner. Gilmarten orders them to kill Mantis, so they beat him up, stick him in a cardboard box and shove a steam hose into the box, steaming Mantis to death (Gommorah says, "I hit my head and it hurts!" Driver says, "Why don't you take an aspirin?" Gommorah replies, "I don't like to do drugs."). Lovely is being held at a warehouse next to the docks where a big shipment of drugs is about to be delivered. Warren, Javelin and Gilmarten show up at the warehouse and Lovely discovers Javelin's deception. Luckily, Steve followed Warren and Javelin to the warehouse and he alerts her friends (the cops refuse to do anything). Lovely's female kickboxing friends show up and bring Warren and Gilmarten down and Lovely heads back to school to take care of Javelin and Van Dyke, ridding the school of drugs once and for all. Yeah, right! This deadly-dull action film plays like a TV movie with some sex and violence thrown into the mix. Besides a couple of martial arts fights and one or two topless scenes, this film is a chore to sit through. Dreadfully acted and plotted (Lawrence D. Foldes, who directed the horrible films NIGHTSTALKER - 1979, YOUNG WARRIORS - 1983 and NIGHTFORCE - 1986, gets a story credit here), LOVELY BUT DEADLY never finds it's footing. You're led to believe that this is going to be a vigilante revenge film, but it quickly turns into a teenage soap opera, complete with mean cheerleaders, sexed-up horny teenagers and every adult shown is either scum, hates kids or is weak-willed. And, oh yeah, drugs are bad for you. Even the finale, where a bunch of female martial artists show up to save Lovely's hide, is so horrendously-staged and badly shot, you'll be yawning rather than cheering. Director David Sheldon would make (the unreleased and unfinished) GRIZZLY 2: THE PREDATOR next. All I can say about the quality of this film can be summed up with this one sentence: You know a film's in trouble when the best acting comes from Irwin Keyes (FRANKENSTEIN GENERAL HOSPITAL - 1988). Irwin Keyes, for Christ's sake! I almost wanted to become a junkie after watching this because the straight kids in this film all deserved to be smacked around. This film was cut to achieve a PG rating for it's theatrical release and was shorn of all the nudity and violence. Thankfully, the VHS version is of the R-rated cut, but that doesn't make it a better film. It just has boobs and a little more violence. Also starring Marie Windsor, Susan Mechsner, Mary McDonough, Martin Katzoff and Wendell Wright as the most useless police detective to ever join the force. Billy Warlock (SOCIETY - 1989) makes his first film appearance as Lovely's ill-fated brother. A Vestron Video Release. Rated R. { text from critcononline.com }

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