Saturday, September 23, 2017

9/23/2017: Party for Satan

Black Roses (John Fasano, 1988)
I can't believe I never saw this as a kid. The VHS would have dropped during my seventh grade year. It's got heavy metal, demons, possession by rock music, gratuitous nudity, 30-year-olds playing teenagers, class discussions of Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson, a rare acting role from Lou Ferrigno's wife Carla, the drummer from Vanilla Fudge, and a guy yelling "What the fuck?" before being eaten by a demon emerging from a hi-fi speaker. What more do you need? (BTW, Vincent Pastore, famous for playing "Big Pussy" on The Sopranos, plays the guy who gets munched by the speaker-demon.)
Black Roses is about a metal band called, you guessed it, Black Roses, and all the teens in the sleepy little town of Mill Basin are shocked and stoked that the band is bringing its unremarkable but energetic blend of shredding and power balladry to the school auditorium for a week of warmup shows before its tour hits the big cities. Unfortunately for Mill Basin, the big-haired rockers are Satanic demons in disguise, and they only came to town to do two things: rock and possess every teenager. The Mill Valley moralists are up in arms over a metal band coming to town, but Black Roses win them over during the first night's performance with a Richard Marx-style soft rock ballad about pining for childhood days in the old hometown. Appeased, the adults leave, and Black Roses start rocking much harder and begin Operation: Possess Some Adult Teens. The only suspicious grownup is cool English teacher Mr. Moorhouse. You know he's cool because he has a mustache, wears blue jeans instead of dress slacks, and raps with the teens on their level about Whitman and Emerson. Can he save the day before the headbanging minions of Satan control every teen in the town?
Black Roses is silly, no great shakes visually, and 100% fun. I'm looking forward to checking out director Fasano's other metal-themed horror movie, Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare, starring novelty rocker/bodybuilder Jon Mikl Thor, frontman of Thor.

Seven Footprints to Satan (Benjamin Christensen, 1929)
Danish director Benjamin Christensen made the incredible early horror film Haxan, but I didn't know he also made a few horror films in Hollywood until watching this rare silent, thought lost for years until a print turned up in Italy. Seven Footprints to Satan adds more comedy and Hollywood razzmatazz and a silly happy ending to the proceedings, but fortunately it's perverse and weird, too. It doesn't come close to the magic that is Haxan, but few things do.
Creighton Hale plays James Kirkham, nephew of millionaire businessman Uncle Joe (DeWitt Jennings). James is a bit of a doofus, living off his uncle's fortune and planning an expedition to Africa to discover the world's first civilization even though, as his uncle puts it, he's never even explored the garden in his backyard. Joe and Eve (Thelma Todd), James' fiancee, want James to drop his foolish idea because he's a nerd who will probably get killed, but James is determined to become a famous explorer before marrying and settling down. Everyone's plans are pushed aside, however, when James and Eve are kidnapped during an antiquities auction at Eve's place and whisked away to a strange mansion full of weird and grotesque servants of Satan. James and Eve get into one bizarre situation after another attempting to escape until finally encountering Satan himself. Christensen's film starts with a fairly generic visual style and grows more expressive as the film continues, culminating in the seven footprints scene of the title. I've only been able to find this film on YouTube in a less than stellar print, but it's worth watching if you're interested in silent horror and/or Christensen.    

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