Incredibly Bad Film Show: Supergirl

Dir: Jeannot Szwarc
Star: Helen Slater, Peter Cook, Faye Dunaway, Peter O’Toole.

“Supernatural forces of malevolent evil are seeking to bring the Earth to its knees. Only the summoning to the planet of a true superhero can save us from demonic control.”

Thus begin the strikingly po-faced UK trailer for Supergirl as voiced by Patrick Allen, best known perhaps as the man who “narrated” Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Two Tribes. But as full-on nuclear holocausts go, the film probably trumps even “the last voice you will ever hear”. Oh, you can see how it could have made sense at the time, after three successful (albeit increasingly wobbly) installments of the Superman franchise. It’s just the startlingly bad execution which amazes.

You can’t knock the star power, right from the off. Peter O’Toole is Zoltar, creator of Argo City, some kind of extra-terrestrial hippy commune, going by the floaty dresses and wall-hangings favoured by the inhabitants, and his hang-dog expression suggests he saw the writing on the wall for the movie early. He is using the power source for the city, the Omegahedron, to…well, I’m not quite sure what, but it seems to involve making bad sculptures of trees. Supergirl (Helen Slater – sister of the then equally-unknown Christian) gazes enviously on, possibly contemplating the masturbatory potential in the rotating stick of sugar cane he wields for his tree-making. An clumsy and unfortunate incident sends the Omegahedron through a time-warp, and Supergirl follows in a sequence which combines the visual worst of 2001‘s climax and the opening of Doctor Who.

In one of those amazing flukes which tend to power Incredibly Bad movies, the Omegahedron, looking like a cloisonne paperweight, lands in the picnic of chief-villainess Selena (Faye Dunaway). What are the odds against that? Dunaway, while not looking round for scenery to chew (“Such a pretty world. I can’t wait until it’s all mine”), uses it to power the car radio, and abandons her sidekick, Nigel (Peter Cook). Supergirl turns up in the same spot, now in costume, and discovers her powers by crushing a rock to dust. Cue a montage of her flying cross-country, chasing second-unit footage of horses and sweeping over mountains in such a melodramatic manner, you expect her to break into, “The hills are alive…” Note that her skirt appears to be velcro’d to her thighs, to prevent it from ever rising more than an inch..

Selena’s lair is decorated in zebra skins and Turkish brothel off-casts, and one wonders whether she’s a lesbian, since the precise nature of her relationship with her assistant Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro) seems open to question. Indeed, the whole film sinks with surprising frequency into something bordering on the sordid, such as when Supergirl is menaced by two truckers. She escapes with the help of her breath power; I am tempted to make some kind of ‘blow-job’ comment at this point, but will refrain. The next morning, she wakes up next to a rabbit, and for one glorious minute, I thought it was going to go the same way as the rock, two paragraphs back. Sadly not, but Supergirl is soon disguised as a mousy schoolgirl, whose educational establishment just happens, by pure chance, to be the one where Nigel teaches maths. What are the odds against that? And if your credulity is not already snapping, she ends up rooming with Lucy Lane…yep, the sister of Lois. What are the odds, etc. etc.

Supergirl’s powers don’t win her any friends there, despite her lack of knowledge about bras. Meanwhile, Selena tests out a love-potion on Ethan, a handily-passing hunk, triggering a sequence that tries to be psychedelic, and fails miserably. He has to be rescued by Supergirl from a runaway digger — well, ‘walkaway’ is perhaps closer to the truth, since he could have saved himself with anything more than a sluggish amble. Mind you, the presence of Howard Jones on the soundtrack more than makes up for this. Viewers should also note the extremely obvious wires as Supergirl lowers the digger to the ground. Ethan falls in love with her instead, thanks to the love potion, which kicks in at just the right moment. It’s a good job the film isn’t set in Portsmouth, where drooling over schoolgirls tends to get you a brick through the window.

A miffed Selena unleashes an invisible monster, which speeds through the forest, Evil Dead-like, felling trees as Supergirl undresses, before dragging her into the woods where she is raped by the trees. Well, okay, I made the last bit up: she opens the window, says “Leave this place and do no harm”, and uses an electrically-charged lamp-post to zap the monster, in a scene nicked from Forbidden Planet, and its monsters from the id. After a brief pause for Ethan to spout some iambic pentameter – I guess that’s love for you – and get taken flying by Supergirl (whom he doesn’t realise is the same person as the mousy teenager with which he’s in love).

She has brought Nigel back into the fold, needing his knowledge of occult…things. Such as the Burundi Wand, which is “pure, unadulterated evil” (in stick form). Nigel shakes it. Ethan and Supergirl get it on, and he realises the connection to the object of his affections, proving that you can change the colour of your hair, but you can’t change the taste of your tonsils. A mountain has mysteriously appeared in the middle of town, with a castle on top — I presume the Burundi Wand had summat to do with this. To no-one surprise bar Supergirl’s, it’s a trap, and she gets imprisoned in a place with rocks even she can’t crush. She rapidly finds herself up to her neck in black tar, a sequence to gladden the heart of every lover of quicksand [you know who you are…] — oddly, the next time we see her, she’s all clean again. I presume the ‘hosedown sequence’ is in the director’s cut.

Selena installs a martial dictatorship, ruthlessly suppressing all demonstration – though since this more or less consists of Lucy Lane waving a placard, it’s not a major task. Supergirl teams up with Zoltar, who has been sent to the same place for losing the Octahedron (it’s nice to see that even super-advanced civilization prefer incarceration to rehabilitation). There is, inevitably, an escape route: the quantium vortex, which is a Wizard of Oz-like double tornado, resembling red and blue candy floss. Zoltar dies, but Supergirl makes it out, crashing back into Selena’s castle where the rest of the cast are enduring “the old dangling-in-a-cage routine”, as Nigel puts it.

The scene is thus set for a climactic battle between Selena and Supergirl, who looks a bit like Buffy – or maybe it’s just that all blonde, arse-kicking girls, look like Buffy. Will Supergirl defeat her evil nemesis, save the world and, most importantly of all, point towards a sequel? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out…

Any hopes of a sequel proved frighteningly optimistic – looking at it now, it’s hard to see how anyone could ever have released this and expected it to make money in the first place. The script never works out whether it is taking itself seriously, and while the cast is high-profile, they largely appear to be auditioning for panto. The two Peter’s, Cook and O’Toole, in particular have the same “I’d rather not be here” look seen on Gielgud and Mirren in Caligula. Rarely can hopes have been so high, not least for the previously-unknown Helen Slater, plucked from obscurity. One can only feel sympathy for her, a career sunk before it started, contaminated beyond all hope of recovery by one of the all-time turkeys. In the documentary about the movie, one of the creators says that Slater’s life will change after making Supergirl. I imagine that was likely very true: it probably had a great deal more laughing and pointing afterwards.


  • Keep an eye out for Matt (Max Headroom) Frewer, as one of the truckers who try to ravish Supergirl, and Sandra (Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) Dickinson as a guest at Selena’s party.
  • One of Supergirl’s costumes sold for $12,925 in May 2000 — I don’t know whether the velcro was included…
  • Director Jeannot Szwarc’s career didn’t exactly take off as a result either; subsequent work such as Santa Claus: The Movie would suggest that a lot of the blame can be laid at his feet.
  • The version reviewed is the 124-minute international version; a 138-minute director’s cut is also available, but there are some sacrifices I am not prepared to make.

Incredibly Bad Film Show: Panther Squad

Dir: Peter Knight
Star: Sybil Danning, Jack Taylor, Karin Schubert

When I bought this for $3.99, Chris suggested that my selection of it had been influenced by Sybil Danning’s breasts rather than any intrinsic qualities. While acknowledging their charm, I rejected this claim completely, and confidently expressed the belief that Panther Squad would extend Sybil’s long and distinguished track record of quality B-movies such as Reform School Girls and L.A. Bounty.

Ok, I admit it: I was wrong. Horribly wrong. For it is actually a dismal piece of jaw-droppingly bad dreck which makes dire mis-steps in Danning’s career such as The Howling II look like Oscar-calibre material. Before watching it, my original plan had been to review it in the upcoming Trash City, as part of the A-Z of action heroines (a sequel to a similar piece in TC22), but it was simply deemed too bad – yes, falling short, even of the low standards of Model By Day.

It may only be 77 minutes long, but long before that, the prospect of being savaged by a large member of the cat family will seem like paradise in comparison. It struggles from the get-go, beginning with stock footage of a rocket taking off, part of a new space initiative led by NOON, the New Organisation Of Nations, a UN-like group who have nicked the flag of the European Union and are headed by a Henry Kissinger lookalike. But the craft is hijacked by ‘Clean Space’ (a group dedicated to…well, clean space), despite the best efforts of Noon’s space centre, which consists of about four people in a power station, saying things like “Move from H to 6” while alarms make wheeee-wheeee noises. Clean Space also kidnap backup astronaut Jane Dantine, followed shortly after by the most pathetically-staged car crash I’ve ever seen, largely consisting of waving the camera about while pointing it at some trees.

To crack this tough case, they need “the toughest cookie in our job”, Ilona (Sybil Danning, of course), as we learn in a barely coherent section which leaps from location to location, and character to character without explanation, punctuated by shots of Ilona with binoculars. “Wander around – you could learn some stuff,” someone tells her, so Ilona wanders around, and Ilona learns some stuff, despite being involved in a fight scene, which occasionally switches into slow-mo for no real reason, and is intercut with a sublimely pointless shot of the now totally-empty room she just left.

Ilona teams up with local agent Frank Randall (Jack Taylor), to whom I couldn’t help warming, since he is laidback to the point of being almost horizontal – largely through alcoholic consumption – and fond of saying things like “Beautiful women are my favourite pastime.” The root-beer drinking Ilona isn’t impressed. The jeep carrying Jane (remember her?) gets stuck in mud, and she escapes. briefly. To no point at all. Oh, well. Frank and Ilona meet a contact in a restaurant which features the least-convincing guitar playing of all time. Their contact – “the one with the Julio Iglesias haircut” – gets killed by someone who looks like a dwarf version of Danny Trejo, but inevitably passes on crucial information to Ilona. She has had enough, and brings in the rest of the ‘Panther Squad’. Seeing them clad in hotpants, halter tops and mini-skirts, I had to agree with Frank: “The Dallas Cowboys must be in town.”

Some confusion occurs here, as the name of the enemy group seems to change from ‘Clean Space’ to ‘The Circus’. Or perhaps they are an entirely different evil force; by this stage, you may well have had to adopt ‘defensive apathy’ with regard to such things, purely to survive. Whatever they’re called, they launch an attack on the bungalow, but since any count of the attackers would stop at round about…well, two, it’s not very effective. While Sybil watches through her binoculars (yes, the same shot used in the earlier scene), the Panther Squad set out to investigate a boat that seems to be involved, but their professionalism seems to leave a bit to be desired: they take out the guards okay, but leave them their guns… “Oh, I’ve been captured”, as Eddie Izzard would say.

The rest of the team head for the bad guys’ base, who are now obviously ready. Says one, “the two guys keeping watch have been attacked” – which is odd when I counted at least four. Never mind. However, the villains’ accents are so heavy, they are near-impossible to understand, so a mere inability to keep count in English may be forgiven. Less acceptable is the way all their guards relentless fall for the oldest ruses in the book, whether it’s Ilona pretending to be a tourist, or the dumb “lobbing a stone behind you” trick, and they respond with the reaction speed of slugs on Valium. How did this lot ever manage to become a threat to the world?

“The insects are bad here, but we’ll need more than Raid to kill off that pest”, says Ilona in a somewhat bemusing one-liner before her amazons attack. Jane (still remember her?) is spirited away, and the girls give chase, pausing only to ask the conveniently-passing Frank for directions. He shrugs and has a drink, perhaps wondering why they prefer to jog off down the road on foot, rather than taking his car. Ah, but they manage to get transport from somewhere, as they are next seen in a car being chased by a helicopter: they get out, the car is strafed, Frank turns up, Frank gets strafed too. “Think we might need some guns”, says Ilona, somewhat superfluously. Luckily, Frank has some in the back of his car. The helicopter crashes in a blaze of stock footage depicting an explosion on a mountain, using totally different film-stock.

From here, it’s off to Government HQ, though before heading there, Frank gives Ilona a parcel she’d sent for for Sybil. At the HQ, a mad general is giving a banquet. “There is nothing and no-one to stop me now. I will be the lord and master of the world. Their so-called gate-posts will be reduced to slavery.” Gate-posts? Gate-posts? After four rewinds, I eventually realised that he meant “great powers”, but was burdened with the same dreadful accent as the rest of the crew. I say again, how did this lot ever manage to become a threat to the world? The guns the Panther Squad had in the previous scene have now vanished, and their opponents are too busy shooting them in the air, happy at the prospect of world domination, as their leader makes largely-inaudible threats which appear to involve nuclear power stations.

So, it’s off to the Space Centre, with Ilona now riding a motorbike — though there are two obvious proofs that it’s not her on the bike… The surprisingly loosly-guarded space centre prepares to, er, do bad things to nuclear power stations and…okay, I’m going to write this down exactly as I did at the time. Ilona’s parcel has a gun that makes a jeep invisible. The Space Centre sparks briefly, but is otherwise unharmed. The space program can continue and mankind’s new age of space has begun. Hoorah. You are now every bit as bemused as I was, watching it: “I need a drink”, says Frank, and not for the first time, I find myself in total agreement.


  • The final credits give “Special thanks to the Aerospatiale”; one suspects this may be because whatever “aerospatiale” it was, thought it best to remain anonymous.
  • Did Jess Franco have a hand in this? This site details the evidence.
  • It’s kinda hard to tell where this film was shot. Bits look like Belgium, bits look like Spain, and bits are Japan — but that’s just the stock footage of a Japanese rocket taking off, so may safely be ignored…
  • ‘Peter Knight’ is a pseudonym for (and, indeed a literal translation of) Pierre Chevalier, and was the last movie in a dubious career including such work as La vie amoureuse de l’homme invisible, which is pretty much what it sounds like.
  • Sybil also co-produced the film. What was she thinking…
  • If you’re wondering what happened to Sybil, her ‘agent’, the late, largely unlamented SC Dacy, appears to have been a significant reason. I vaguely recall some correspondence with him, trying to get an interview with Sybil in the early days of TC. I think communications were abruptly ended after he took offense at a sentence in an article which he perceived as being critical of her. I was unimpressed, shall we say.

Incredibly Bad Film Show: Lair of the White Worm

Dir: Ken Russell
Star: Hugh Grant, Amanda Donohoe, Peter Capaldi, Sammi Davis

In the late 1980’s, Russell teamed up with Vestron to make a series of cheap quickies, of which Lair of the White Worm was the second, following on from Gothic, with Salome’s Last Dance and The Rainbow to follow. While the others have their Incredibly Bad merits – particularly Salome, which includes future cabinet minister Glenda Jackson as well as Wolf from Gladiators – it is to Lair that we must turn to see Russell’s loopiness taking flight in its most fully-fledged form.

However, there was a fair bit of loopiness inherent in the source material, Bram Stoker’s last novel. While Stoker wrote a lot of books, he’s best known for Dracula – largely because the rest are pretty dire. This is especially true towards the end of his life, when he was suffering from nephritis, and spent a lot of his time doped up to his eyeballs. Lair of the White Worm was written shortly before his death in 1912, and represents a compelling argument for euthanasia. It’s available via Project Gutenberg, should any reader wish to wade through all 55,000 words of it. I did, and would suggest a Shaun Hutson book instead. But who better to film a book written by a certifiable loony than Ken Russell? And fortunately, his version is a great deal more entertaining. He ties it to folklore by bringing in the Dampton Worm, a genuine legend, and addresses all his usual obsessions: religion (and nuns in particular), class, and so much sexual symbolism it seems that every other scene has a phallic object in it. Snakes, garden hoses, cigarette holders, E-type Jaguars, pens – no Freudian opportunity is passed up.

Read this way, the opening shot is of an enormous twat – and I don’t mean Hugh Grant. It’s a huge, vaginal cave, which our heroes (and heroines) will later penetrate, and sets the tone for the entire movie. Viewers should thus permit themselves a snigger when the name of the cinematographer comes up – Dick Bush. Under other circumstances, I’d think this was Ken having a larf, but it’s a real person, one of Russell’s regular cronies.

The film starts with the discovery of an ancient skull by archaelogist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi), digging in front of the B&B run by orphaned sisters Mary and Eve Trent (Sammi Davis & Catherine Oxenburg – the latter with a delightful dubbed Derbyshire drawl). When this comes to the attention of local land-owner Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe), she is keen to get her hands on it, being the immortal priestess of a pagan snake-worshipping cult dating back at least to Roman times, who tends a huge snake in tunnels below her manor, to which she feeds Boy Scouts. She is keen to get her hands (as well as a very pointy dildo – the second time in three Russell movies such a device appears) on the pure & innocent Eve, for the usual sacrificial purposes. Flint and the Trents must battle against Lady Sylvia and her venomous minions, ably assisted by another local land-owner, James Dampton (Hugh Grant).

There, that’s the plot out of the way, for most of the highlights are not to be found therein, but in the execution, such as the dream/hallucination sequences. Some of these are flashbacks to ancient times, with a convent (whose nuns include Linzi Drew) being desecrated by Roman soldiers, while a giant white snake mauls a crucified Christ-figure. These video sequences are classic 80’s pop-promo stuff, redefining “lurid” with extreme colours and gratuitous visial effects. Slightly more subtle – albeit in style, rather than content – is James Dampton’s dream sequence from which entire conventions of psychologists could be sourced. This sees him boarding Concorde, where he is tied up and watches Amanda Donohoe and Catherine Oxenburg roll around the floor, cat-fighting. Oh, and they’re both dressed as air-hostesses. Here somehow seems an appropriate point to mention that you’re watching neo-royalty: Oxenburg’s mother is Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, second cousin to Prince Charles. [Appropriately enough, Oxenburg has played Princess Di on not one, but two occasions.]

The dialogue is wonderfully ripe, littered with the sort of double-entendres beloved of the Carry On series. Some choice examples:
James Dampton: “I love Mr.Flint’s hole – it’s rather fascinating”
Lady Sylvia: “Are you into any sort of banging?”
Eve: “Me spotted dick!”
But there are also plenty of non-sexual lines to appreciate:
Lady Sylvia: “That sort of music freaks me out!”
James Dampton: “I think we probably have another reptile loose on the premises.”
Mary: “She doesn’t go to church or any of that stuff – but she’s quite religious.”
James Dampton: “Put your bicycle clips on, Peters – I’m expecting company.”
and my favourite exchange of all:
Angus: “Still playing happy families at your age?”
Mary: “Not since we lost Mam and Dad, no…”

The main saving grace is that everyone realises – to borrow a line from Russell favourite Oscar Wilde – the importance of being earnest, with material of this sort. The slightest snigger and it would topple over from trash into farce; no-one slips up here at all, even Hugh Grant who delivers what Russell reckons is the best performance of his career, and I’m inclined to agree. However, it’s Donohoe who is the key to the film, and is totally brilliant, especially when spitting out lines like “Poor little virgins, masturbating in the dark.” Do you want extra relish with that, Amanda?

This helps paper over some gaping holes in the script, which leaves a lot of things unexplained. For example, Angus manages to rustle up, in short order, not just antivenin, but also a hand-grenade and a mongoose – which is not (as far as I know) a commonly-encountered animal in rural Derbyshire. Up until the final monster, the effects are pretty good, with dismemberments, fangs and death-by-sundials all coming across well. However, when we get to see the worm, we wish we hadn’t: the front of a Volkswagen was used as the frame for it, and to be honest, they could have left it at that and the result would have been every bit as terrifying.

The main difficulty is trying to work out, how much it is all intended as a joke. That it’s a spoof is obvious, yet when Russell says, “I feel I’ve added a more believable realism by making sure it’s done straight”, it’s hard to be sure. While I don’t agree with one review which said it was “D-grade horror trash”, to quote Roger Ebert, “This is the sort of exercise [Russell] could film with one hand tied behind his back, and it looks like that was indeed more or less his approach.” Regardless, its IBFS status is certain, and let’s put it this way: at his age, Ken is old enough to know better.

Incredibly Bad Film Show: Devil Fetus

Dir: Lau Hung Chuen
Star: Aai Dik, Lui Sau-Ling, Liu Pui-Pui

To mis-quote Twelfth Night, “Some are born bad, some achieve badness, and some have badness thrust upon them.” I think that Devil Fetus falls into the last category, since a good few of the people involved in this 1983 film should have known better, or would do much better later in their careers:

  • Producer Lo Wei directed Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury and The Big Boss, as well as being involved early on in Jackie Chan’s career.
  • Editor David Wu would go on to cut some of John Woo’s classic Hong Kong movies, including Hard Boiled, before moving to Hollywood and editing films such as Crying Freeman. But on Devil Fetus, he also did the music, though some of it sounds suspiciously like it came off the soundtrack to the Alien movies…
  • Director Lau had also worked with Woo, as his cinematographer, and would go on to shoot Jackie Chan’s Thunderbolt, as well as one of the most lyrical gun-fights ever — Cynthia Khan’s blood-spattered wedding in Queen’s High.

All good omens: so why is this film such a total mess? I think it’s largely a script which fails to convey the simplest information. You’ll find yourself rewinding to try and work out who did what to who: the plot description that follows should thus be regarded as a best guess, pieced together from a variety of sources. The film itself was not the most helpful of these, with subtitles which fell off the sides, and occasionally bottom, of the screen. However, even allowing for this, failure to mention when we leap forward a dozen or more years is somewhat inexcusable.

The film is based around the family Cheng, consisting of one grandmother, her two sons, their wives, and two grandsons. One of the wives buys a jade vase at auction; unfortunately, it’s possessed by the spirit of a Tibetan monk who advocate sex as religion (another point the subtitles make less than clear – I gleaned this nugget from a review by a Cantonese-speaker!). She’s soon taking the vase to bed and being humped by the horny spirit, much to her husband’s understandable distaste. But when he smashes the vase, his face rapidly gets covered in boils, and he decides to charge through a window. It was at this point that the films potential IBFS status became apparent, and it hardened when his wife suffers that horror-cliche, the Thrown Cat Attack, and falls down the stairs to her death.

At their funeral (I wonder if it’s cheaper to bury two at the same time?), the Taoist priest sees the demon foetus of the title erupting from her belly – its only appearance in the movie – and seals it in there with incantations, and dire warnings to Granny Cheng not to let anyone disturb the remains. You don’t need to be Nostradamus to see where that is eventually going to lead.

We are now introduced to Kent, a Kendo champ: it’s only when he returns to his family that we realise this is the same kid seen playing with toys previously. This is the point at which the film leaps forward a decade, without bothering to mention it – you’re left to infer it, though apart from the sons, no-one else looks any any older. He meets Juju (Lui Sau-Ling), a nebulous “friend of the family”, who is obviously the love interest. While picking Granny up for a party, they disturb the urns: anyone who didn’t see this coming needs a white stick.

Back at the party, the birthday cake turns into worms, although the only person who notices is the one we see eating the worm-infested cake in close-up, and the family’s pet dog gets possessed by (we assume) the evil monk. We now enter Psycho mode, with the dog as Norman Bates, stalking Juju while she sings selections from Strauss and Rogers & Hammerstein in the shower. Kent arrives just in time to slice up the dog with a handy samurai sword, but when the dog is buried, the spirit leaps into his younger brother Kwo Wei, with a dazzling array of visual effects, unsurpassed since…since..well, you know that screen-saver where lines bounce all around the display? In comparison, that’s a masterpiece

Kwo Wei begins to behave a bit strangely. He digs the dog’s corpse up and eats its entrails. He tries to kill Granny. And just to show what a total lunatic he has become, he puts on women’s clothes. This behaviour, as well as trying to drown Juju, and slaughtering a servant (whose body he keeps under the bed for purposes I’ll gloss over), leads his concerned relatives to consult the Taoist priest once again. He soon susses what has happened, and reveals that you need eagle’s blood to slay the spirit. So he summons Kwo Wei, and the duo engage in a battle of dodgy optical effects, and even worse filmic ones, with techniques that look a good quarter-century out of date. I suppose this could be a homage to classic fantasy movies – if so, it sits somewhat uneasily with the corpse-raping (oops, was supposed to gloss over that).

With the priest dispatched, Daddy follows, attacked by a cloud of dry ice. Actually, he meets his end in the sauna, the room collapsing in on him, crushing his head in spectacular, if highly implausible, fashion. Mummy is next for the chop, levitating round the room over a carpet which is bulging for no apparent reason. I suspect the idea was to evoke berserk spirits; it’s so obviously people pushing it up from underneath, they’d have been better off not bothering. She too gets chased by furniture, and the mirror seeps blood in one of the film’s occasional genuinely eerie images. Kwo Wei is now drinking gin straight from the bottle – does his evil know no bounds?

Kent and Juju return home to rescue their mother; while Kent tends to her, Juju goes to call for help. The phones are, inevitably, out, and the lights rapidly follow. Juju runs round screaming – everywhere she goes, Kwo Wei is there already. Kent’s attempts to fight his brother are foiled by the latter’s ability to teleport, though since he can’t be hit even when he stands still, this seems like overkill. Granny turns up with a bowl of eagle’s blood (the movie is unclear over whether this is a standard item in Hong Kong kitchens) which she drops. Just as Kwo Wei is about to kill everyone, Juju drives a spade through him; because the spade has lain in the spilt blood, it causes…I can’t believe I’m about to write this…a series of flying heads to sprout from his neck, which Kent decapitates with a similarly-smeared sword. This triggers stop-motion footage slightly reminiscent of the climax to The Evil Dead. Credits roll. The End.

The early 80’s were something of a golden era for Western horror, with the likes of The Thing acting as a showcase for new-found special effects techniques. Devil Fetus clearly springs from these, with nods to others already mentioned. However, despite a gratifyingly serious tone, the gulf between idea and execution is too enormous to bridge. However, it’s hard to deny the energy that goes into it, and the cheerful lack of concern over trivial things like story-telling can only endear it to the viewer.

Incredibly Bad Film Show: Paradise

Dir: Stuart Gillard
Star: Phoebe Cates, Willie Aames

This takes almost all the best elements from The Blue Lagoon and Walkabout…and chucks them out of the window. Fortunately, the one that remains is Cates, following the footsteps of Brooke and Jenny into the “guilty pleasure” hall of fame. She teams up with Willie Aames, the straitlaced son of a preacher, as they wander across a desert conveniently supplied with a surprising number of oases, pursued by a feelthy Arab called The Jackal in lacklustre fashion (he seems to forget about them for months on end) who carries a British flag around with him for no readily apparent reason. It’s supposedly set in the 1820’s, but possesses absolutely no period atmosphere at all: going by the frequency with which Cates de-kits, it’s more like the late 1960’s.

Due to this, we’ll cut her some slack, and say she copes well with a role which would tax no-one’s acting ability. Aames, on the other hand is expected to be heroic, fighting off the Jackal, rescuing his pubescent squeeze and taking care of business. He is utterly unconvincing at any of this, admittedly hampered by direction so limp, you feel nothing at all when his parents are slaughtered (“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord”, shouts his father – immediately before being kebabed. Oops). Since he also wrote the script, Gillard must also take blame for utterly laughable anachronisms. For example, there’s the totally fabulous house the pair knock up, complete with a verandah and all other mod cons. And if it really is “paradise”, why is no-one else living there – the Jackal and his gang know about it, since they visit repeatedly. There are also the long periods when nothing happens, save for the supposedly comedic antics of a pair of monkeys.

These are particularly irritating, since they’re a waste of perfectly good naked Phoebe time. The lack of head shots and some other strange quirks suggest that a body double was used for some of these. But that’s odd as it’s only some – other sequences are very obviously 100% for real, most notably a shower scene under a conveniently-warm waterfall that is both far too long, and not long enough, if you see what I mean. The scene appears on the sleeve of one British edition, with a little bra and panties painted onto her, which is kinda sweet. [I also don’t recall there being quite so much skin in that version…oh, dear, looks like I’ve just found an excuse to watch the film once more.] Moments like this are what provide the film with a reason for existing, crucial since we are left with no reason to care about the characters in the slightest.

So, where are the perpetrators of this waste of celluloid to be found now? Phoebe, as you should know, had a fine career, and made some 20-odd movies before retiring to becomes Mrs. Kevin Kline. Sadly, she was never again quite as revealing as here, save for one glorious moment in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The director went on to do Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III – presumably, the one in which the turtles throw off their shells and frolic in the surf – while Willie Aames…

Ah, yes, Willie Aames. I was going to say that he vanished into obscurity, reaching the dizzy heights of voicing one of the characters in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon show. But the story doesn’t end there. After a John Belushi-style binge, he found God, and he can now be seen playing Christian superhero Bibleman in a range of videos (click on the picture on the right for a beautifully straight-faced news story about him), as well as touring the States in a bizarre-sounding live shows designed to brainwash kids into accepting Christ as their Lord and Saviour. There’s something oddly satisfying about the way he has gone from playing the son of a preacher in a weird movie, to being a weird preacher himself.

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