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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #401 (Vol. 8, No. 48) This edition is for the week of November 26--December 2, 2007.

"Enchanted"  by Mike Smith
Robert Sandsmark - R.I.P., DVD Grindhouse: "Rats...Night of Terror"  by Andy Lalino
DVD Review: "HELP!"  by ED Tucker
Metal Health....Mr. Karloff....House of Dark Shadows to DVD?  by Matt Drinnenberg
I Know They Have Hannauka Songs, I've Heard Them .... Giving Up His Day Job .... Ho Ho Honolulu .... Hogan Knows Best? .... And So This Is Christmas .... Passing On .... Andy's Challenge .... .... Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 35: Next Week! by Mike Smith
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Robert Sandsmark - R.I.P., DVD Grindhouse: "Rats...Night of Terror"

Robert Sandsmark - R.I.P. - Now Let's Make Personal Health Priority #1
Nolan, as I expressed to you over the phone, I was saddened to hear about the untimely passing of your friend and co-worker Robert Sandsmark. I always dislike hearing about the sudden death of someone so young, especially one from the Crazed Fanboy universe. I did not know Robert personally, but enjoyed his input, usually about politics (it seems he was a big Ron Paul supporter) on the CF message boards.

I'd like to propose that in memory of Robert that all of us make an unshakable commitment to get ourselves as healthy as possible. Nolan, I noted in your tribute to Robert that the both of you had often "stepped outside for a smoke". You know how I feel about that kind of irresponsible, self-depreciating, stupid behavior. I'm not going to keep repeating myself - STOP IT NOW.

Kick the nicotine habit, lose the pounds, and eat as healthy as you can under your own personal budget (this goes for everyone reading this). You'll feel a whole lot better and live much longer, with fewer health complications. Is that not worth it?!?

The following is not me patting myself on the back, but I'd like to state that I exercise for at least one full hour each and every day. Yesterday (11/28/07) I exercised for two full hours, once from 6am-7am (while watching the end of The Omegans, and the first 45 minutes of The Sender), and then from 8pm-9pm, while I watched the Republican National Debate live from St. Petersburg on CNN.

Nole, I challenge you to match my commitment in dropping a few pounds. Plus, as of this moment I demand a promise that you won't partake in cancer sticks ever again. Don't do it for me; do it in the honor of Robert Sandsmark. I'm sure that had he known what would happen to him as he continued to smoke, he would have done everything he could to stop you from doing it, and lose excess weight in the process.

DVD Grindhouse: Bruno Mattei's Rats...Night of Terror (aka Death Kill)

You know, I've seen a lot of exploitation films in my time, but this one is - unbelievably - stranger than most! Who could come up with a post-apocalyptic storyline involving a Night of the Living Dead-style scenario substituting rats for zombies? Well, apparently story creator/cult movie legend Bruno (Night of the Zombies - aka Hell of the Living Dead) Mattei could, with screenwriting accomplices Claudio Fragrasso and Hervé Paccini!

In studying Mattei's past and current works, it's evident that he's had one of the most juicy and illustrious careers in cult/exploitation cinema. Consider the titles: Porno Holocaust, SS Extermination Love Camp(!), Mondo Erotico, The Seven Magnificent Gladiators, and the aforementioned Night of the Zombies. In terms of quality, Mattei seems to have peaked in this time period ('83/'84) with the release of Rats... and Gladiators, both of which, despite the often ridiculous dubbing, are not bad at all.

Right off, I'm a sucker for the post-apocalyptic. Give me an empty, shelled-out metropolis, and I'm in paradise. Thanks to the huge success of The Road Warrior, knockoffs abounded, giving cult movie fans a smorgasbord of selections. This one, however, is definitely off the beaten path.

Rats... begins with a text roll explaining how in 225 A.B. (After Bomb) the earth met with ruin. a group of wasteland warriors entering a deserted European city looking for food and sanctuary. They meander into what looks like an abandoned set of an old spaghetti Western saloon (bet that's just what it was) and get good news...and bad news. Seems that they stumbled upon a supplies-rich bomb shelter-type of structure, bursting with grain, flour, fresh water, plant life (in a greenhouse), and other amenities. Problem is, this nutrient-rich haven is also infested with a burgeoning population of hairy, ugly rats.

I should point out at this time that Rats... stars Geretta Geretta, the star of Demons! In that flick, she was IMO the scariest Demon, but here she plays a LaToya Jackson lookalike called "Chocolate"(!). In one hilariously crazy scene, the wasteland warriors discover supply boxes full of fresh food. Chocolate finds a bag of flour, rips it open and begins to eat it (who the hell eats flour out of a bag?!?), and in the process, spills the powdery stuff all over herself - making her white! She does this funky dance (as the others clap and yell) singing: "I'm white! I'm white!".

Believe me, the utter outrageousness doesn't end there. As the story unfolds, we come to learn the rats possess a level of intelligence and cunning to the point that their ultimate goal is to kill off the band of marauders. In what seems like an endless parade of second unit shots, the rats invade the fresh foodstuffs, contaminating everything. One-by-one they pick off the cast, sometimes in gruesome ways. There's a woman who's in a sleeping bag. A rat bites his way in and while she's asleep, burrows into her body. When the group finds her the next day, a rat emerges from her mouth after eating through her innards! At least one other character suffers a similar fate - and wait till you experience the sci-fi shock ending!!!

If you own the Rats... DVD, you may have caught the 9 min. Mattei retrospective (highlighting mostly this film and Night of the Zombies), where Mattei states that the rats were actually painted guinea pigs! They actually looked very convincing, and were in fact some of the greatest screen rats I've ever seen. Some liken this film to Escape from New York, but I see much more similarities to The Road Warrior and other Z-grade future shock movies of the period.

The cast performs well despite the insane storyline, but the inane dubbing kills most any effort the actors may have put forth. It should also be noted that Rats..., despite it's post-apocalyptic/sci-fi theme, is very much a horror film with the rats themselves serving as razor-toothed monsters. The dark action is suitably kissed by a luscious spooky organ score by Luigi Ceccarelli. The gore effects are decent (rats burrowing out of human bodies) and the props/vehicles are ably executed in the vein of early '80s post-apocalyptic standards. A couple of scenes (and costuming) reminded me of the Tom Petty video "You Got Lucky", which received heavy rotation on MTV in 1983. Like Rats..., that video too was set in a dusty, post-apocalyptic world. Particularly good cast members include Fausto Lombardi as "Deus", a tall, mohawked marauder and Geretta.

If you get your kicks over off-the-wall post-apocalyptic fare, Rats... is one for you. Extra bonus points for the P.A.'s who I'm sure had to clean up the thousands of guinea pig turds after production wrapped. Let's hear it for the little guys!

"Oddservations" is ©2007 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.