Saturday, July 24, 2010

Let's Go Bag Ourselves A Dingwhopper

FORBIDDEN WORLD began in a very typical “Roger Corman” manner. Corman’s New World Pictures had just completed filming on a spaceship set built for GALAXY OF TERROR. It was due to be dismantled over the coming weekend, but Corman asked editor Allan Holzman, who had directed second unit on SMOKEY BITES THE DUST and shot new action and nude scenes for FIRECRACKER, if he could write a scene in three days and shoot it on Saturday. Using actor Jesse Vint (MACON COUNTY LINE), a robot costume, and some stock footage from BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, Holzman directed and cut together an outer space dogfight. A few months later, using a screenplay by Tim Curnen based loosely on a story by New World marketing whiz Jim Wynorski, Holzman went to work on FORBIDDEN WORLD, using the space battle as the film’s exciting pre-credit sequence.

After the success of GALAXY OF TERROR, Corman wanted yet another ALIEN ripoff, and this one is even sleazier and more entertaining. Space cowboy Mike Colby (Vint) is sent to the planet Xerbia where some scientists are trying to create artificial foodstuffs. Thankfully for exploitation fans, two of them are nubile young ladies (played by future V star June Chadwick and teenaged Dawn Dunlap) who are eager to strip totally nude for love scenes with Vint and a memorable shower scene together.

Somehow, the scientists manage to create a (literally) bloodthirsty creature consisting of both human and alien DNA, which proceeds to bump off the tiny cast one at a time, usually by eating them with its sharp teeth. The sets and special effects were obviously created on a very low budget—the hallway walls are clearly made out of Styrofoam McDonald’s containers and cardboard egg cartons—but they’re also imaginative and effectively gruesome. Holzman and Curnen aren’t afraid to be outrageous; blood splashes freely, and the kill scenes are memorable. They also concocted a genuinely clever way to destroy the monster, which I don’t think I’ve seen before or since.

Released overseas under its working title of MUTANT, FORBIDDEN WORLD clocks in at a brisk and bloody 77 minutes, and is a blast all the way through. For decades, home video viewers could only see it in murky, dark pan-and-scan prints, but Shout Factory’s amazing DVD and Blu-ray release is outstanding. Not only does FORBIDDEN WORLD look great—at least, as great as a cheap ‘80s Corman movie could look—but it has received the deluxe treatment from Shout Factory, including a documentary, interviews, original art, and the theatrical trailer.

But the real find is Holzman’s original director’s cut. A skittish Corman had demanded the film’s intentional humor be cut (not that there wasn’t plenty left for audiences to laugh at in 1982), so the new version, which runs only about six minutes longer, contains wry jokes and little character moments that give the movie a little extra appeal. Unfortunately, the director’s cut exists only in a muddy but watchable full-frame version, but Holzman is present with a commentary to put his never-before-seen film in perspective. FORBIDDEN WORLD (seen in the director’s cut as MUTANT) may be a little better in Holzman’s version, but it’s undoubtedly Corman’s punchier preferred version you’ll revisit.

Galaxy Of Terror

Roger Corman produced this notorious science fiction movie, which is mostly remembered for a sleazy scene in which a female astronaut is raped and killed by a slimy two-ton space maggot.

Despite a budget somewhere around $1 million, GALAXY OF TERROR manages to look much more expensive, thanks mostly, I suspect, to the skills of production designer James Cameron (yes, that James Cameron), who also worked on the visual effects and directed the second unit. The screenplay by Marc Siegler and director Bruce D. Clark is surprisingly ambitious for a New World drive-in movie, though also derivative of FORBIDDEN PLANET and especially ALIEN.

Astronauts are sent on the spaceship Quest to a fog-bound planet to investigate the disappearance of a previous expedition. The crew includes hot-headed second-in-command Baelon (Zalman King), psychic Alluma (Erin Moran, the fresh-faced HAPPY DAYS teen whose appearance here surely raised a few eyebrows), square-jawed hero Cabrin (Edward Albert) and grizzled old cook (!) Kore (Ray Walston). I’m not sure why these space soldiers need a cook, but there you are.

Not long after landing, the crew discovers a very large pyramid where they are killed systematically in creatively gory ways. Jason Voorhees has nothing on the mysterious force inside the pyramid. One astronaut chops off his own arm (which then stabs him to death), another is immolated, another strangled so tightly by grisly tentacles that her head explodes. Clark and Siegler have structured GALAXY OF TERROR almost like a slasher film—a death occurs about every seven or eight minutes—and the New World effects artists did their creative best to make the kill scenes effective and original.

So much happens in the film’s 81 minutes and the production so attractive that the script’s lack of logic and taste goes forgotten. Clark was not an experienced director—his previous film, HAMMER, was made nine years earlier—but his work on GALAXY OF TERROR is assured. Cameron perhaps has not received as much acclaim for this film as he deserves, since he was apparently responsible for directing many of the scenes involving on-set effects (Cameron’s next project was PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING, which marked his directorial debut). Almost every SF film at the time was stealing from either STAR WARS or ALIEN, and GALAXY OF TERROR’s Gigeresque look leaves no doubt where Corman’s inspiration lies.

A headier brand of low-budget science fiction than New World usually provided (like BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, for instance), GALAXY OF TERROR is earnestly played by its talented cast, and Taaffe O’Connell deserves a Good Sport award for her role in one of the genre’s most notorious moments, allowing special effects guys to rip off her costume and smear goop over her naked body while a foam worm wallowed on top of her.

Corman first released it as MINDWARP: AN INFINITY OF TERROR and PLANET OF HORRORS before it finally became a hit as GALAXY OF TERROR in the fall of 1981. It’s an excellent example of Corman’s skill as a discoverer of talent; in addition to Cameron, other future directors who worked on the picture include producer Mary Ann Fisher (LORDS OF THE DEEP), production manager Aaron Lipstadt (ANDROID), FX supervisor Tony Randel (HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II), assistant director Peter Manoogian (ELIMINATORS), graphic designer Ernest Farino (STEEL AND LACE), and even Bill Paxton (FRAILTY), who was a carpenter on the set.

Although his performance is fine, GALAXY OF TERROR may have been the last straw for Zalman King, who gave up acting to become a fulltime producer (9 ½ WEEKS) and director. Moran, meanwhile, went on to JOANIE LOVES CHACHI a year later. After a healthy box office run, GALAXY OF TERROR appeared on a long-out-of-print VHS by Embassy Home Entertainment, but found a new life nearly three decades later when it appeared on a Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray by Shout Factory.

One could argue Shout Factory gave GALAXY OF TERROR way more love than it deserves (I wouldn't!), but you can't argue with the results. This is a terrific disc, jam-packed with entertaining, informative extras, including an audio commentary, a one-hour-plus documentary, and dozens of behind-the-scenes photos and advertising art. Plus, Shout Factory has provided reversible cover art, so you can turn the insert around and display the disc on your shelf as MINDWARP if you want.

Perkins Bombs Out

Perkins Bombs Out
March 10, 1980
Music: John Andrew Tartaglia
Story: David Chase and Bruce Shelly & David Ketchum
Teleplay: Mark Fink & Stephen Miller
Director: Jack Arnold

The screenwriting credits may be the most interesting aspect of “Perkins Bombs Out.” Yep, that really is the creator of THE SOPRANOS, David Chase, who contributed story ideas to the episode. Chase, who had penned scripts for MISADVENTURES OF SHERIFF LOBO executive producer Glen A. Larson on SWITCH, was just coming off a three-season run as a producer on THE ROCKFORD FILES. How Chase came to work this one last time for Larson is easy to explain and a typical example of Universal’s attitude towards scripts.

In 1975, Chase polished a story and teleplay by Bruce Shelly and David Ketchum called “The Walking Dead” for the Universal series SWITCH, which starred Robert Wagner and Eddie Albert as private detectives. In the episode, crooks strap a bomb to Wagner’s character, Pete Ryan, and force him to rob a bank.

Four years after “The Walking Dead” aired, SHERIFF LOBO used the same Chase/Shelly/Ketchum script, but tasked staff writers Mark Fink and Stephen Miller to give it a polish, which probably amounted to little more than changing the names of the characters and adding some slapstick. While 1980 viewers who remembered the SWITCH episode probably felt ripped off, at least the original writers received proper credit and, presumably, remuneration.

This time, hoods Jack (Christopher Stone), Tony (Michael Mancini), and Ann (Robin Eisenman) snatch Sheriff Lobo (Claude Akins) and strap a bomb to his chest. It’s a few hours before the timelock at the bank opens, so Lobo and Birdie (Brian Kerwin) concoct a ruse to fool the crooks into believing the sheriff has a heart condition and could drop dead from the stress. The plan backfires, however, when the bombers remove the device from Lobo and attach it to bumbling deputy Perkins (Mills Watson) instead.

In “The Walking Dead,” the bank manager who originally wore the bomb had a heart attack, which caused the bombers to transfer it to Ryan. Fink and Miller’s rewrite wisely makes better use of the leading characters, and getting Perkins involved leads to comic moments undoubtedly missing from SWITCH. Howard Morton as an officious bank manager delivers a funny scene by following Perkins’ confused directions resulting from radio transmitter interference. Director Jack Arnold, who made a name in the 1950s with Universal science fiction movies like TARANTULA and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, did very little television after this, though he did return for another LOBO later in the first season.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On DVD and Blu-ray Today

Finally making their digital home video debuts: GALAXY OF TERROR (1981) and FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982) from producer Roger Corman's New World Pictures.

Below are their original theatrical trailers. GALAXY OF TERROR was first released as MINDWARP, while FORBIDDEN WORLD was released in Germany and elsewhere outside the U.S. as MUTANT. Both trailers are NSFW.

Needless to say, since I've been waiting to see good prints of these films for years, nothing can stop me from watching these Blu-rays tomorrow night. Both were released on VHS in very murky full-frame prints, and because both are dark pictures in terms of their cinematography, they were quite difficult to watch at times.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Random TV Title: Flying High

Hey, Hollywood, if you wanna remake old TV shows, why bother with stuff people actually enjoyed like KNIGHT RIDER and HAWAII FIVE-0, when there are plenty of series like this just aching for a 21st-century reinvention?

Actually, it would be difficult to remake FLYING HIGH, because it was about the adventures of three sexy stewardesses, and when is the last time you saw three hot women working the same flight?

Only thirteen episodes plus a two-hour pilot were aired of FLYING HIGH, which premiered in the fall of 1978. Connie Sellecca, later to star in THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO and HOTEL, co-starred with Kathryn Witt (later in STAR 80 and LOOKER) and Pat Klous, who went on to replace Lauren Tewes on THE LOVE BOAT. You wouldn't think that stewardesses could get into much trouble, but our heroines clashed with drug smugglers, mad gunmen, old flames, new beaus, and even Wayne Newton before CBS canceled the series.

Here's the show's main titles, taken from the episode "Swan Song for an Ugly Duckling," aired December 22, 1978. See if you recognize that week's guest stars:

The FLYING HIGH theme was composed by David Shire, best known for THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

When A Stranger Calls

If Fred Walton’s feature debut had ended after twenty minutes, 1979's WHEN A STRANGER CALLS would be known as one of the greatest suspense thrillers of all time. And, in fact, it actually began as a short film called THE SITTER, which was so highly acclaimed that Columbia Pictures asked Walton to expand it to feature-length. Unfortunately, the premise that worked so great at twenty minutes was too thin to stretch to 97, leaving WHEN A STRANGER CALLS a thoroughly routine cop-versus-killer drama bookended by a truly chilling opening and closing.

Of course, the main gimmick of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS has been ripped off, parodied, and remade so many times that one may be tempted to take it for granted, and it’s to Walton’s credit that it still packs a punch, even though at this point we know what’s coming. Carol Kane (TAXI) plays Jill, a teenage babysitter who receives mysterious telephone calls from a psychopath begging her to go upstairs and “check the children.”

After this virtuoso opening—and this is a good place to mention Dana Kaproff’s masterful scoring—that ends with the capture of a dangerous serial killer, Walton and co-writer Steve Feke (MAC AND ME) jump ahead seven years to the escape of the murderer (Tony Beckley) and the obsessive detective (top-billed Charles Durning) who arrested him the first time. Walton’s climax is almost as good as his opening, reuniting the sadistic killer with an adult Jill, now a wife and mother.

The first and third acts are strong enough to make up for the somewhat flabby middle portion, which shows Durning pounding the streets interviewing witnesses and Beckley trying to befriend a middle-aged barfly (Colleen Dewhurst). The acting is strong throughout. Walton couldn’t have been influenced by HALLOWEEN, which wasn’t out yet when he shot WHEN A STRANGER CALLS in 1978, but the scare scenes are somewhat reminiscent of John Carpenter’s work. The R rating must have been earned for its general suspense, because Walton delivers a top-notch thriller with little blood.

Walton’s career never lived up to the expectations resulting from his first hit. He even got back together with Durning and Kane for a made-for-cable sequel in 1993. Ron O’Neal (SUPERFLY), Carmen Argenziano, Michael Champion, Rachel Roberts, Rutanya Alda, and Wally Taylor also appear with William Boyett (ADAM-12), the archetypal screen flatfoot, fine in a voice-only role as the cop who talks to Jill over the phone (and gets the film’s most famous line).

The difference in quality between Fred Walton’s original WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and Simon West’s 2006 remake is evident just from watching the opening minutes of both. While Walton sets an ominous tone with an extended shot of babysitter Carol Kane walking alone down a dark suburban street behind Dana Kaproff’s masterful, menacing score, West opens with a jar full of clichés poured all over the celluloid: jumpy edits, clumsy symbolism (yes, the death of a child is marked with both a runaway balloon—colored red, of course—and a slow-motion merry-go-round), an itchy soundtrack of crackles and hollow booms meant to be music. In three minutes, West delivers his first kill (off-screen), just so we don’t get too bored too early.

Babysitter Jill (Camilla Belle) is no longer a normal teen doing her homework, as was Kane, but a brooding hottie with a superfluous backstory involving a cheating boyfriend (Peter Geraghty) and a bitchy best friend—named Tiffany, natch (and played by perennial bitch Katie Cassidy from SUPERNATURAL and MELROSE PLACE). And instead of a modest this-could-happen-to-you-or-me home in the ‘burbs, West sets the remake in a creepy lakeside mansion way out in the boonies—where better to dilute the terror. It isn’t adequately explained why the parents need a babysitter in the first place, since they have a live-in maid on the premises, which is great for artificially upping the body count, but not when it’s to your advantage to isolate your antagonist against a mysterious predator.

It takes 49 minutes for Lance Henriksen, playing the scary voice on the phone, to ask Jill, “Have you checked the children?,” by which time you’ve long lost interest. I’ll agree it was probably a wise decision by screenwriter Jake Wade Wall (who also penned the HITCHER remake) to ditch the flabby midsection of Walton’s original, but the basic premise of a babysitter being menaced by a stalker inside the house proves to be too weak to sustain for ninety minutes, and Wall and West are unable to substitute anything besides thunder, lightning, and leaping cats to create a mood.

It does manage to squeeze Belle into a wet tank top, so it’s got that going for it.

That same year, 2006, The Asylum jumped on the “terrorized babysitter” bandwagon with a shameless ripoff of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS that hit DVD at the same time Screen Gems’ STRANGER remake made it to theaters. It would be hard to make a worse film than Simon West’s remake, but director Peter Mervis, whose starstudded career also includes SNAKES ON A TRAIN and THE DAVINCI TREASURE, has done it.

WHEN A KILLER CALLS is even wretched by The Asylum’s standards. The digital photography is washed out and grainy, and the production so shoddy that several botched line readings are left in the final print. Trisha (Rebekah Kochan) is the teen babysitter plagued by a mysterious caller who also sends threatening photos and text messages to her cell phone. To boost the body count, Trisha’s boyfriend Matt (Buckley) stops by with his jerk friends Frank (Derek Osedach) and Christy (Sarah Hall).

Mervis is inept at creating suspense. He shows us the killer prowling around the yard early in the picture, and the various stalk-and-slash sequences are shot without imagination. Unfortunately, KILLER has more in common with the trendy “torture porn” features of the era than with WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. The killer manages to capture the teens fairly easily and then spend the rest of the picture tormenting them in unpleasant style. While Kochan is a somewhat appealing leading lady (the other actors are horrid), there’s nothing to recommend about WHEN A KILLER CALLS, which is not uncommon for a film by The Asylum.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Man Of Your Dreams Is Back

When Wes Craven’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET became New Line Cinema’s top-grossing film of all time, hell, yeah, you better believe Freddy Krueger would return. Just twelve months after the original hit multiplexes, the man in the felt slouch hat was back for revenge in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, PART 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE, written by New Line staffer David Chaskin (THE CURSE) and helmed by Jack Sholder, a former New Line trailer editor who made his directorial debut with the studio’s first horror picture, the successful ALONE IN THE DARK.

Sholder was a good choice; he delivers some striking images, such as the school bus balanced atop a giant canyon spire, and effective scare scenes. The problem is Chaskin’s screenplay, which not only makes little sense within the context of this movie’s universe, but also violates strict rules already established by Craven the year before. Also, the not-so-subtle homosexual context is ridiculously hilarious more than two decades later. While Chaskin has said he intended the content to be homophobic, to feed upon the fears of the young men in NIGHTMARE’s target audience, it’s so broadly played by Sholder, who claims he never noticed any gay subtext, that the film is more campy than frightening.

Five years after the first NIGHTMARE, a new family, the Walshes, have moved into the Thompsons’ old house on Elm Street, where teen son Jesse (Mark Patton) finds Nancy’s diary. Her writings about a creepy monster named Fred who comes to her in the night remind Jesse of his nightmares, which always culminate in him screaming and awakening in a clammy sweat.

Of course, Freddy (Robert Englund) is back, but the problem with PART 2 is that he can now move about in the real world to cause havoc. Perhaps Chaskin and Sholder thought it would be scarier to let Freddy freely interact with the characters in their reality, but of course what it really does is take away what was so special about him. It also leads to some awful dumb scares like a possessed parakeet that attacks the Walshes, a flaming toaster, and a gay gym teacher (Marshall Bell) who is strung up naked in the locker room and whipped with wet towels.

Most of the neighborhood kids think Jesse is weird, but he comes to befriend jock Grady (Robert Rusler) and romance rich girl Lisa (Meryl Streep lookalike Kim Myers). He also discovers—and this is another off-target decision of Chaskin’s—that Freddy is possessing him, even when he’s awake, and forcing him to murder. Why Freddy, who seems to take great joy in tormenting and killing others, would push Jesse to do it for him is beyond me.

Because Sholder, Englund, and the special effects are so good, PART 2 isn’t a total nightmare. But when its big setpiece is Freddy Krueger running around a pool party tossing teens into the water, it’s fair to say it in no way approaches the heightened scares of Craven’s original. Also with Hope Lange (THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR) and Clu Gulager (with unnaturally darkened hair and eyebrows to de-age him) and Jesse’s parents, Melinda Fee, Sydney Walsh (HOOPERMAN), young Christie Clarke (who grew up to join DAYS OF OUR LIVES), Lyman Ward, Steve Eastin, and Brian Wimmer. Music by Christopher Young. Kevin Yagher and Mark Shostrom handled the makeup effects. Sholder went on to direct the excellent THE HIDDEN.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Undress You And Possess You

For maximum pleasure, catch Fred Olen Ray's EVIL TOONS on a double bill with Jim Wynorski’s HARD TO DIE. Both have the same plot, plenty of bare breasts, and dressed-down but top-heavy Monique Gabrielle. Its mixture of live-action and animation surprisingly anticipates COOL WORLD and STAY TUNED, though don’t expect richly detailed animation or even more than a couple of minutes of it. I don’t know if any filmmaker does this kind of sexy tongue-in-cheek horror better than Ray, who not only has an eye for cheap entertainment, but also the taste and resources to hire name actors like David Carradine that add a little class to what is really just a dumb movie about four hot chicks in lingerie fighting a demonic cartoon.

Four sexy coeds—Megan (Monique Gabrielle), Roxanne (Madison Stone), Jan (Barbara Dare), and Terry (Suzanne Ager)—are hired by crusty Burt (Dick Miller!) to spend the weekend cleaning a creepy old haunted house. To criticize the girls for their porno-movie acting is beside the point, considering two of them (Stone and Dare) really were porn stars and a third (Gabrielle) would become one.

Their first night, after working up a sweat moving empty cardboard boxes in the cellar, the ghost of Gideon Fisk (Carradine), who hanged himself before the credits, appears at the front door and drops off an old book that looks like the Necronomicon from THE EVIL DEAD. It produces a (poorly) animated wolf that kills one of the girls and then takes her place and wrecks havoc. Every twenty minutes, Ray splices in a random closeup of Carradine to make you think he’s a bigger part of the movie.

If the actresses were more charming, EVIL TOONS would be a lot better movie. Ray, who was also the screenwriter, tries to inject some Bowery Boys-type humor into the haunted house chestnut, but the girls just aren’t talented comediennes. To be fair, they were cast for their willingness to take their tops off, but I suspect Ray’s haste to pull the production together (one of his more endearing and sometimes frustrating traits) prevented him from casting more carefully.

Shot in eight days on basically two locations (plus an hour in Ray’s living room), EVIL TOONS is disposable late-night entertainment, more slowly paced than it should be, but with a sense of humor and fun that seems quaint by today’s standards. With Dick Miller watching himself in A BUCKET OF BLOOD on TV, Michelle Bauer as his sexy topless wife, and the voice of Robert Quarry (THE DEATHMASTER).

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Horror In The Skies

I had never even heard of this 1963 science fiction novel by J. Hunter Holly until its amazing cover popped up as the March illustration on a wall calendar I have hanging in my work cubicle. I loved the evocative art so much that I had to track down THE FLYING EYES, if only to find out whether what's depicted actually occurs in the book. Surprisingly, it does.

Holly was Joan Holly, who probably used the pseudonym to disguise her gender from readers and/or publishers, who may not have been interested in pulp fiction written by a woman. Holly, whose real name was Joan Carol Holly, wrote a handful of novels and short stories during the 1960s and 1970s, including a MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. novelization. She died in 1982.

THE FLYING EYES is set in a college town that is attacked by an army of--well, like the title says--flying eyes that come out of the sky and hypnotize the townspeople, a few at a time. Those who succumb are marched into the woods and down into a deep black pit for who knows what insidious purpose.

The hero is a scientist, Lincoln Hosler, who lives with his colleague and only friend, Wes. Linc has little use for friends or even other people for that matter, though he does have a crush on his and Wes' friend Kelly.

Linc and Wes, in their quest to discovering the power of the eyes (which grow as large as ten feet in diameter and float around the town), manage to capture one, cage it, and take it to their lab, where they train themselves to resist its hypnotic pull. Eventually, Linc manages to disguise himself as a victim and venture into the pit, where he discovers the eyes belong to large, slimy, blobby aliens that have come to Earth in order to invade it, wipe out mankind, and live here.

THE FLYING EYES is junky sci-fi for sure, but not unambitious. It runs less than 140 pages, but still manages to give Linc a true dramatic arc. His characterization is not complex, but it is there.

The book's biggest draw is its premise, which had me eager to discover what the hell was up with those eyes and who they belonged to. THE FLYING EYES isn't deep literature, but a quick entertainment read.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Psycho II

Twenty-three years after Hitchcock shocked audiences with PSYCHO, Universal brought Anthony Perkins back to the backlot for what had to have been considered the least likely sequel of all time up to that date. Many purists were offended when they heard the news, but in the hands of Hitchcock protégé Richard Franklin (ROADGAMES), PSYCHO II turned out to be not only a better film than expected, but a box office smash for Universal in the summer of 1983.

Norman Bates is released from a mental institution and returns home to the Bates Motel. At his new job as a short-order cook at a greasy spoon down the road, he befriends fragile waitress Mary (Meg Tilly) and invites her to spend the night at his house. Perkins is wonderful to watch as Norman, every damn twitch. I think he’s playing the role as comedy, but not camp, and it’s hard not to root for the poor nutbar Norman, who really does want to get his shit together and function normally in society.

Norman believes he’s been cured. So does his shrink (Robert Loggia). But some people, including motel manager Toomey (Dennis Franz as Dennis Franz) and Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), the sister of Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh in PSYCHO), insist on giving him a hard time. Soon, more knife murders occur, and the suspicious sheriff (Hugh Gillin) comes snooping around. Norman thinks he’s innocent, but how can he be sure?

PSYCHO II is a terrific sequel. It’s a logical progression of events from the first movie about a character we’re generally interested in. It calls back to scenes from PSYCHO, but you don’t have to have seen it to enjoy this one. Franklin really was something of a master of suspense, and he—with welcome assistance from composer Jerry Goldsmith—created a nifty old-fashioned thriller with gory touches to fit into the slasher-happy ‘80s. Perkins is fantastic, and Dean Cundey’s experience as director of photography on HALLOWEEN made him a perfect fit for PSYCHO II. Although the film is lit flatly in places, it makes sense for it to as a continuation of a low-budget picture shot in 1959.

Original PSYCHO author Robert Bloch wrote a novel called PSYCHO II, but Tom Holland (FRIGHT NIGHT) wrote an original screenplay for the film, one with clever twists and turns that lets us play along with Norman, who doesn’t know anymore about what’s happening that we do. And of course Holland included a shower scene. It just wouldn’t be PSYCHO without one.