Welcome to Four Horsemen Films!

Here at Four Horsemen Films, we're dedicated to some of the very best and worst cinematic masterpieces you know, love, and despise. Think of us as Bad Movies for Bad People, or as a liaison to the inner sanctum of cinema. Or, just think of us as quick and entertaining reads. That's what Four Horsemen Films is all about.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Eegah (1962)

Eegah (1962)
Written by: Bob Wehling

Directed by: Nicolas Merriwether (Arch Hall, Sr.)

Starring: Arch Hall, Jr., Richard Kiel, Marilyn Manning, William Watters(Arch Hall, Sr.)

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
When attempting to review, discuss, or even think about a movie like Eegah, one must step back and attempt to admire the film for how poor it truly is. One must also reconsider their assessment and make sure not to intrude or infringe on the work of Mystery Science Theater 3000. What once was a 40-year old movie just considered bad is now a cult classic that sits atop its own plateau as downright awful. Easily one of the top 5, worst films ever made, Eegah just out and out blows.

Here’s the idea in a nutshell: Eegah is a prehistoric caveman living in the desert who seemingly minds his own business each day. Life is what we might call simple for this humongous eyesore, that is, until he comes across teenagers after a raucous party on one ill-fated evening. Suddenly, and without warning (even to the viewer, who by this point, can simply start hating life), Eegah is smitten with a young woman named Roxy, whose father just so happens to be some sort of expert in the field (of cavemen?) and will attempt to study the creature. Throw in a jealous boyfriend for some extra laughs and we’ve got all the instruments of destruction needed to compile on fecal cocktail.

Roxy’s father Robert has encouraged his daughter to act as if she truly loves Eegah so he can further his research and hopefully keep them both safe (CAVEMAN WANT ERECTION, NO SUBSTITUTES!), but things do eventually go awry as the two escape back to civilization with Flintstone hot on their heels. Meanwhile, and as if all of this isn’t enough of your daily schlock dosage, Roxy’s actual boyfriend Tom is in the midst of a huge rockabilly career that parallels the likes of the Honky Tonk Man and Jeff Jarrett. If I have to explain that joke to you, then I apologize. It’s a wrestling thing. Look it up.

His singing, like most things in the film (including the hand-drawn credits) is just another heaping helping of terrible, this time combined with unintentional hilarity. By the time more of these beach party, go-go dancing teens show up (to give the feel of those swinging sixties), Eegah is mighty pissed off and out for revenge (CAVEMAN SMASH!). What follows is a tale of one man’s lust for modern-day boobs in a world he doesn’t quite understand, nor does he even attempt to comprehend. Throw in a few incestuous sequences between father and daughter, more issues on the editing room floor (WATCH OUT FOR SNAKES), and even an appearance by the notorious Cash Flagg, and you’ve got a great waste of 90 minutes.

Member of the crew who should’ve been fired: Arch Hall, Sr. seemingly refuses to go by his own name during the production of this movie as he has not one, but TWO different pseudonyms he’s credited as having in the film. Not only is this a cinematic travesty, but he’s creepy as hell when onscreen with his “daughter.” Anyone else think Marilyn Manning was banging the Director?

Best Name in the Cast: See Above. Wincest.

Quote of the Film:
“Watch out for snakes!” -Arch Hall, Sr. (how does he do that without moving his mouth?)

Final Thoughts: Go ahead. Try and sell me on the schlock value of this movie as some sort of art piece that stands out as an avant-garde section of cinema. I respond with this humble, yet somewhat understated piece of wisdom: Caveman movies suck. Think about the short list of movies that were written about a caveman, and you’ll discover a lot of low cards in that hand. Well, with the exception of Encino Man, they’re almost all low cards. Man, Encino Man is a great movie. Why couldn’t I review that?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)
Written By: Tim Ryan

Directed By: William Beaudine

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Duke Mitchell, Sammy Petrillo, Charlita, Muriel Landers, Mickey Simpson, Steve Calvert

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
Late in his career, movie megastar Bela Lugosi had the wheels come off. While he finished up with Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (joining the ranks with Gene Kelly in Xanadu and Joan Crawford in Trog as starring in one of the worst last films of a career ever), he was in a bit of a spiral once he left the genuine horror business that made him so successful. Perhaps the best example of this downward depression is the 1952 “classic” Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla.

Yes, that’s the name of the movie, apparently penned to drum up ticket sales by making damn sure that you knew Bela was the star. He played Dr. Zabor, and, in a true stretch of his acting abilities, was a mad scientist. That’s right, Bela fell back into yet another typical device of the time, typecasting. The studio wanted to cast this action-comedy with Bela in his typical evil role, but since it was supposed to have humor, they planned to have Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis play the buddy role on the opposite side.

Movies of this time were a lot like this. Many buddy pictures were thin on plot and budget, but managed to showcase the stars in a manner that made the whole “good” feature of a film a moot point. The only issue was Martin and Lewis had no desire to film this one. So rather than scrap the project altogether (a wise decision, maybe?), it fell into the hands of “America’s New Comedy Team” in Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo. Two young, veritable unknowns to the Hollywood community and community at large, they were carbon copies cast to sound, act, and even appear, as if they were Martin and Lewis. There is even some speculation that the two characters were to be named Martin and Lewis. Clever.

So anyway, these imperfect clones find their way onto an island in the South Pacific, where, by some stroke of dumb luck, they encounter a lovely native princess in Nona and the evil Dr. Zabor. Duke falls head over heels for Nona, but he’ll have to contend with the dastardly tactics of Zabor, who also happens to be in love with the princess. What would usually follow is some kind of murder, but once again, since this is a comedy, Zabor instead decides to turn Duke into a stammering, singing gorilla. Oh yes, a man in a gorilla suit. This is fucking gold.

From here on out, we are subjected to some very, very bad humor and awkward racism as Sammy attempts to rescue his friend, animal pals, and why not Nona as well in an epic conquest that can only be described as, well, bad. Duke and Sammy are terrible onscreen and have very little chemistry as buddies. They stutter through one-note jokes and neither understands the majority of their blocking. It is even written in that Zabor, who, again, if you forgot, is played by Bela Lugosi, looks “familiar” to Duke. This tongue-in-cheek humor is just another plot point that they chose to bring up over and over rather than move past in just a few seconds.

Finally, and perhaps worst of all, I must refer once again that the movie is called Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, and yet, Lugosi is playing a character. So the movie might as well be "Bela Lugosi Fucks Your Mother" and it will have just as much significance.

Member of the Crew Who Should’ve Been Fired: Sammy Petrillo takes the cake for being so overbearingly annoying that he not only overshadows his partner Duke Mitchell but he makes you want to rip your ears off and stick them in the doom sphere. I mean, if you haven’t figured out that he’s ripping of Jerry Lewis by every mention already, just read the back of the DVD case. He is listed as having a “flawless” imitation. It was so “flawless,” in fact, that the case neglects to mention he was sued by Lewis for stealing the character. Lewis won.

Best Name in the Cast: Steve Calvert is a God among men in regards to typecasting. He’s played the man in the gorilla suit in nearly every film he’s ever been in, including this one, and The Ape.

Quote of the Film:
“This looks like Death not only took a holiday, but he got a hangover from taking it.” -Sammy Petrillo

Final Thoughts: This movie really pisses me off. Seriously, I’ve been calm and collected (for the most part) whilst reviewing this over-ambitious escapade that plays more like a crappy tourist’s guide than an actual art piece, but I can’t hold my emotions in when watching, or discussing, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. The plot sucks. The acting (mostly) sucks. The writing sucks. The print sucks. The editing sucks. The Gorilla sucks. Lugosi made this film after a notorious comment about wanting to be in more comedic pictures. If he were still alive, I’d like to see what would happen when Lugosi stars in a follow-up that I’d write, entitled "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Beatdown." Hilarity ensues, I’m sure.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Ape (1940)

The Ape (1940)

Written By: Richard Carroll and Curt Siodmak

Directed By: William Nigh

Starring: Boris Karloff, Maris Wrixon, Gertrude W. Hoffman, Henry Hall, Gene O’Donnell

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
With the prospect of this being Old School Month around the website, I took it upon myself to start the show off right with an induction so positively bad that it was “can’t miss” in more ways than one.

If you’ve never heard of The Ape and yet you were familiar with the names attached to it, you would naturally assume that the film was just that: “can’t miss.” It should have been an instant success that would rival the monster movies of the 30’s like no other. After all, it had Boris FREAKING Karloff playing the lead role and was co-written by Curt Siodmak, who penned The Wolfman years earlier. Can’t miss, right? Wrong.

Back during a time when actors and actresses were contracted by different studios (rather than the freelance vigilantes they are today), Boris Karloff grew increasingly pessimistic that he would renew his current contract in the late 30’s with Universal Pictures. He had already become a star due to the Universal masterpieces he was in while playing Frankenstein. Though he owed much of that success to on-again-off-again rival Bela Lugosi (who Karloff owes his career success to after Lugosi rejected the Frankenstein role), the two did not exactly see eye to eye and neither did Karloff with Universal Pictures. When his contract expired in 1939, he become one of the most sought after free agents in all of Hollywood. However, his stock plummeted upon one of his first post-Universal releases, that being The Ape.

Though we have become accustomed to the synopsis review of films from the modern era, it must be refreshing to know that The Ape provides us with just as awful a plot as anything coming into theaters nowadays. Karloff plays a somewhat humbled, somewhat mad scientist in search of a polio vaccine (at that time unheard of, see: Roosevelt, Franklin Delano) for a young woman. He requires human spinal fluid for his experimental procedures to uh…proceed, but has yet to make much procession (Damn that sentence was awful). Now, by this point, I know what question is just burning in the back of your brains: where the fuck is “the ape” character we spoke of for the movie called The Ape?

Turns out that “the ape” is an escaped primate from a local circus who has more than his fair share of run-ins with Karloff throughout the movie. As injured patients show up at Karloff’s doorstep (and he fails miserably to help them or to cure polio correctly), he has no choice but to clash with the ape itself in what should be a terrifying and bone-chilling sequence of cinema history. This, however, is not even remotely the case. For the first time ever (at least on this website), we have an ape who is nothing more than a man dressed in a generic gorilla suit. I challenge you to find the realism in this, but hey, it was 1940, and time was tight to churn out 60-minute epics like this one.

The majority of the film is spent with the most clueless townspeople either guessing where the ape could be hiding or simply becoming his next victims. When the film reaches its dramatic “swerve” ending, Karloff gets to due his favorite things in all of his movies: die. Truth be told, Boris really does get off on a death sequence and soliloquy before the final frame. Maybe I spoiled it a bit by telling you that he buys the farm, but if you know anything about Karloff, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Member of the crew who should’ve been fired: Maris Wrixon might be the worst actor in the all of the 1940’s. Her portrayal of a polio victim isn’t so much sad because of the polio, but rather the fact that it doesn’t kill her quicker. That would make for some entertaining schlock.

Best Name in the Cast: It’s hard to be so successful when you are not mentioned in the original credits for the film. Yet for I. Stanford Jolley, the “ape” trainer of the film, life sure has to be sweet. I’d like you to remember that the ape used in this film was nothing more than a man in a suit. Did he train the man to walk around in the suit? Or to fling his arms like an ape, or better yet, the way a man in an ape suit would fling his arms like an ape? How did he stay on the payroll for this movie? (Truth of the matter, his character was the ape trainer, but I found his death to be not nearly as comical as pondering what he trained.)

Quote of the Film:
“But you never could lift them before!” -Boris Karloff responds to his patient’s (bound in a wheelchair) revelation about her legs not lifting. Very subtle.

Final Thoughts: You know for a movie that calls itself The Ape, I didn’t get to see a whole lot of, well, ape. In fact, the ape in question shows up for less than 10 minutes onscreen, and the majority of it is spent thrashing about in an awkward and clunky suit. Karloff breezes through as the only actor in the film who can, you know, act. In fact, he puts so much into this picture that you can visibly see he’s out to prove that he never needed Universal Pictures or Bela Lugosi to make him a star in the first place. While he excels marvelously in his efforts, he fails to recognize that the people surrounding him both on and off the scene just tear the movie down to new levels of diabolical madness. Karloff’s demostration of overacting and overreacting (again, death sequence) makes for some funny fodder, but he certainly proved why The Ape isn’t mentioned in the same breath with Frankenstein during his career, that is, unless that breath is the statement: “The Ape sure was a hell of a lot worse than Frankenstein.”