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Anchor Bay's "Man's Worst Friends" Collection

The Black Cat (October 11/05)

Based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat tells the interminable tale of a crazy old coot (played by Patrick Magee) who is somehow able to telepathically communicate with his black cat and force it to carry out his evil bidding. But when a visiting photographer (Mimsy Farmer) starts noticing odd scratches on an unusually high number of dead bodies, it's not long before said black cat decides to exact some vengeance of its own. Though The Black Cat is technically quite well done - the score, by frequent Brian DePalma collaborator Pino Donaggio, is particularly effective - it's clear that the source material just isn't dense enough to support a full-length feature. Consequently, much of the film consists of long, interminable sequences in which not much happens (ie the titular feline wanders around, Farmer's character goes investigating, etc), culminating in a thoroughly bland and uninteresting finale. The expectedly terrible dubbing makes it virtually impossible to make out the majority of the film's dialogue, which is admittedly the least of The Black Cat's problems (but frustrating nonetheless).

out of

Parasite (October 16/05)

A complete wash from minute one, Parasite tells the interminable story of a futuristic scientist (played by Robert Glaudini) who decides to hide a deadly parasite in his stomach in order to prevent the government from getting their hands on it. Enlisting the help of a plucky waitress (Demi Moore, in her second film appearance), the scientist sets out to kill said parasite without killing himself. Parasite was filmed and originally shown in 3-D, resulting in an absurd number of shots featuring things flying at the camera (ie pipes, cutlery, lasers, people, etc). Director Charles Band imbues the movie with a gritty, unpleasant visual style undoubtedly dictated by the microscopic budget, something that's exacerbated by uniformly awful performances and a hopelessly inept screenplay (by Alan J. Adler, Frank Levering, and Michael Shoob). Even the special effects - by no less than Oscar-winner Stan Winston - are shoddy and unimpressive, proving that you just can't make steak out of hamburger (coincidentally, hamburger meat seems to have been used for most of the film's gooey moments). This is the proverbial bottom-of-the-barrel; it really doesn't get much worse than this.

no stars out of

Slugs (October 14/05)

Slugs, in the right hands, could've (and should've) been a fun little movie, as evidenced by the ludicrous yet promising premise (radioactive slugs terrorize a small town). But director Juan Piquer Simón (the same man responsible for the equally inept Pieces) mishandles the material from the get-go, and while there are a few impressively disgusting sequences here and there, Slugs offers little in the way of entertainment. And though the hilariously campy dialogue is good for a few laughs (ie "you ain't got the authority to declare Happy Birthday!"), the uniformly awful performances generally suck the life out of every single sequence. The screenplay - by Ron Gantman (working from Shaun Hutson's novel) - is expectedly lacking in character development, which ensures that the gore-free opening half hour feels much longer than it actually is. If nothing else, though, Slugs might be worth a look for the revolting, gleefully gross sequence in which thousands of tiny slug babies explode out of a hapless victim's eyeball (that the film received an R rating from the MPAA boggles the mind).

out of

Zoltan... Hound of Dracula (October 16/05)

There's something a little depressing about watching a talented actor like Jose Ferrer (who, near the start of his career, worked with filmmakers like Otto Preminger and John Huston) slog his way through junk like Zoltan... Hound of Dracula, and though he does deliver a surprisingly effective performance, it's just not enough to disguise the movie's many, many deficiencies. The movie opens with the accidental resurrection of Count Dracula's former dog and human slave, and we learn that the two must track down Dracula's last known descendent in order to survive. This means bad news for family man Mike Dracula (Michael Pataki), who has just embarked on a camping trip with his wife and two kids (and their ill-fated dogs, of course). In terms of plot, that's about the extent of it - resulting in a surfeit of long, dialogue-free stretches in which characters wander about the campgrounds. There's barely enough story here to fill a 20-minute short, something that's exemplified in a particularly wasteful sequence that follows Ferrer's character (a famed vampire hunter) as he drives to a house, asks a few questions, and drives away. Add to that one of the worst scores in cinematic history, and you've got a thoroughly pointless little flick.

out of

About the DVDs: Each of these titles is available separately or as part of Anchor Bay's "Man's Worst Friends" collection, which also includes Dario Argento's Cat O'Nine Tails and Bruno Mattei's Rats: Night of Terror (with the latter going unwatched by me due to animal cruelty issues). Bonus features are generally limited to trailers, although The Cat O'Nine Tails is a full-fledged special edition.
© David Nusair