Daniel Th1rte3n’s Top 10 Films: #1 Starcrash

Well here we are fiends; we’ve arrived at the end of our trek through some of the strangest images ever committed to celluloid. Superheroes, warriors, monsters, maniacs, zombies, rockers, bikers, fish men and vampires have all danced before our eyes in a whirling panorama of exploitation gold! But what waits at journey’s end? How about a grand space opera made on a fraction of the budget of the biggest science fiction spectacle of the 1970’s, Star Wars. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Daniel Th1rte3n’s #1 film, Starcrash!

Have you ever watched a film where it was obvious that the director was having the time of his life making the movie, and would do whatever it takes to ensure that you have the same experience? Well, watch Starcrash and you will experience that with every shot Luigi Cozzi committed to film.
More Flash Gordon by way of Barbarella than Star Wars (which it is often compared to), Starcrash is an over the top space adventure that throws everything but the kitchen sink at the viewer over its 94 minute runtime. And oh, what it throws at us!
I first discovered this film completely by accident in the mid 80’s. It was a chilly Fall afternoon, I had just eaten lunch, and was looking for something to watch before I went outside to play. Switching on the TV, I was greeted with a multi-colored starscape, a barely dressed female Han solo, and a ragtag group of aliens and robots. I was hooked…and still am to this day!
The plot of the film concerns outrageously sexy space pirate Stella Star and her erstwhile companion Akton, whom while escaping Space Police robot Elle (who speaks in a southern accent), run across the remains and a survivor of a starship that was destroyed by a mysterious cloud of red energy while trying to find the location of the sinister Count Zarth Arn. Soon Elle catches up with Stella, and she is sentenced to incarceration for life on a prison colony.
Stella manages to escape from prison, but is soon found by the chief of police, a blue alien named Thor. Thor takes Stella to a starship where she is reunited with Akton. Shortly the group, also consisting of Elle (who actually isn’t such a bad guy..err..robot after all), is contacted by The Emperor of the Galaxy, who gives Stella a mission, destroy the Count’s secret weapon, and in the process rescue his son! And with that imperative, things really get crazy!!
Stella and friends run afoul of amazons, a giant robot (reminiscent of Talos from Jason and the Argonauts, a favorite of Cozzi’s), extreme hypothermia on a planet of ice (2 years before Hoth would appear in The Empire Strikes Back), and treachery, as Thor is revealed to be a spy for Zarth Arn.
Soon our heroes arrive on the Count’s planet after surviving the same red energy attack that has destroyed previous intruders into the Count’s airspace. Upon landing Stella and Elle venture out to explore but are attacked by barbarians! Elle is destroyed, and Stella is captured, though she is soon rescued by a man in a golden, laser shooting mask. The man reveals himself to be two things: 1. He is Simon, the Emperor’s son, and 2. He is played by none other than the Hoff!
Stella and Simon are soon joined by Akton, and the trio make their way to Zarth Arn’s secret underground laboratory, where they come face to face with the Count, who reveals his nefarious plan to use the group as bait to lure the Emperor to the planet, which he will then destroy, at which point Arn will make himself the new Emperor. Arn then leaves the group under the watchful eye of his robot soldiers. Akton duels with the robots with a laser sword (ok, that part is like Star Wars). Unfortunately in the battle, Akton is mortally wounded. The Emperor soon arrives, but he is prepared for the Count’s trap. Using a time stopping ray, the Emperor delays the impending disaster, allowing our heroes to escape.
After arriving on board the Emperor’s flagship, Stella is reunited with Elle, who was rebuilt by the Emperor’s troops. Soon a massive battle breaks out as the Emperor sends his starships to destroy Zarth Arn’s space station. I know what you’re thinking, but I assure you this is crazier than anything Lucas dreamed up, for instance: The Count’s space station is a massive metal hand, which can clench into a titanic fist! Another moment of pure insanity: The Emperor gets his troops aboard the Count’s ship by firing them into the ship in torpedoes (which harkens back to Meilies 1902 classic “A Trip to the Moon”). The tide of battle soon swings in Zarth Arn’s favor, as most of the Emperor’s troops are destroyed. This leaves the Emperor with only one option: a Star Crash!
Will our heroes survive? The only way to find out is to experience the fantastic fun of Starcrash for yourself! I simply cannot recommend this movie enough, it’s colorful, crazy, and insane, in other words it’s perfect escapist fantasy entertainment! You can purchase Starcrash here!
As a special treat, the art for this article was a collaboration between myself and the amazing Sean Hartter! I hope you all dig it!
Well that brings my Top 10 films to a close. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the list (and your lists as well!) Stay Spooky!

Daniel Th1rte3n’s Top 10 Films: #2 Messiah of Evil

Now things are going to get totally bizarre as we reach the end of our adventures with Daniel Th1rte3n’s Top 10 Films. What could be stranger than androids, future barbarians, tentacle beasts, not one but two high school showdowns with the supernatural, swimming pool zombies, toads and bikers, and murderous salmon? Well, you ain’t seen my #2 pick Messiah of Evil yet!

I never viewed 1973’s (although it was released that year, it was actually filmed in 1971) Messiah of Evil, and never even knew of its existence, until I was introduced to it by a friend a few years ago, but when I saw it, it became an instant favorite. The film’s surreal atmosphere and outré situations went a long way in influencing me while writing my novella The House of Thirteen Doors.

Now describing the plot of this film will be a bit challenging, as a lot of things are never explained, and the film plays out a bit like a dream. Arletty travels to an artist colony named Point Dune, to visit her father, but upon arriving there she finds his house empty, and no one in town seems to know where he went. During the course of her investigations, Arletty meets Thom, a strange aristocrat dressed in an ivory colored suit, and his two female companions. Thom is in town attempting to learn of an ancient legend concerning a blood moon and a dark stranger that visited Point Dune 100 years ago.

Soon Thom and the girls move in with Arletty in her father’s mansion. As Arletty reads her father’s journal she learns he has become one of the strange vampire like creatures that roam the town at night, devouring everything living in sight (including Thom’s companions). As the blood moon rises, the dark stranger (a former minister and Donner Party survivor) returns and the vampires begin their final assault on the town, biting Thom in the process. As Thom returns to the house, he finds Arletty not faring much better as she is cold and vomits insects (never a good sign). Thom and Arletty attempt to escape Point Dune by swimming away, but Thom drowns and Arletty is captured. The dark stranger captures Arletty, but sets her free in order for her to spread the word of his coming. She is promptly locked away in an insane asylum when she attempts that. The End.

While not a feel good hit, Messiah of Evil is one of the most dizzyingly surreal films ever made, and although I described the film in detail, you have to see the film to experience it, as the story really plays second fiddle to the atmosphere the film exudes. You can purchase Messiah of Evil here!

An extra special thanks to the amazing Sean Hartter for providing the excellent artwork that accompanies this article!

Next time, our journey comes to an end with the greatest space opera of all time…and there’s nary a Wookie in sight! Stay Spooky!

Daniel Th1rte3n’s Top 10 Films: #3 Humanoids From the Deep

Ahh, now where were we on our strange journey into the dark recesses of cinema that is Daniel Th1rte3n’s Top 10 Films? We’ve faced Dragon Mom, dinosaurs, eldritch horrors, hydrophobic stalkers, zombies, electric ghost rockers , and bikers. What could be next? Why murderous fish men of course! It’s time for my #3 pick: Humanoids from the Deep!

As a young fiend, I remember vividly seeing the television spots for this Roger Corman produced fright flick playing on heavy rotation. Every commercial break I’d see quick glimpses of something from the briny depths terrorizing the citizens of a coastal town. I of course went into begging overdrive to convince my parents that I had to see this film no matter what! There was only one problem, this sucker was rated R, and my parents had heard from friends just how it came about that rating (more on that in a bit). Needless to say, I didn’t see it. So, in my despair, I sought out a creative outlet. I wrote and illustrated my own story of what I believed the films story to be, and while my creatures were a tad less lascivious than those in the film, I wasn’t too far off…except my story had a UFO, which in hindsight would have added another layer of awesome to the film!! Maybe not.

Anyway, what is Humanoids from the Deep all about? Basically it’s about recycling the story of Jaws, with one rather large difference: Jaws never sired offspring with the townsfolk (although that would’ve made for an entirely different cinematic experience…how about a new special edition Mr. Spielberg!).

Jim Hill and his wife Carol notice strange events occurring around their small coastal town, such as a boat mysteriously exploding, and townsfolk (including Jim’s brother) being victimized by mysterious assailants. Jim decides to investigate, and during the course of the search, discovers that Canco, a cannery that is looking to set up shop in the town, has experimented with growth hormones on the local salmon population which has resulted in fish men that are itching to breed with the town’s women (there’s that R rating!). Of course Jim learns this info too late to stop the village’s annual carnival, which becomes an over the top blood bath thanks to the creatures!

We also get a ventriloquist’s dummy that somehow moves it’s eyes while it’s owner gets slaughtered, woman cocooned in seaweed, and the birth of a baby monster…which makes Alien seem subtle in comparison.

Humanoid from the Deep is classic Drive-In fare. It’s bloody, bawdy, and completely ridiculous, so of course I recommend it highly! You can purchase Humanoids from the Deep here. I also should mention that the film was remade in the early 90’s…you can just go right ahead and skip that one.

Once more, thanks to Team Retroist member Sean Hartter for providing another amazing piece of artwork for this article! His love of the creatures from these films shows in every detail!

Next time an artist’s colony is terrorized by a curse from the past! Stay Spooky!

Daniel Th1rte3n’s Top 10 Films: #4 Psychomania

Welcome back Retrocreeps ! A quick review of what has come before: Chinese superheroes, Yor’s World, spelunking nightmare, squirt gun warfare, waterlogged undead, and satanic rockers! What could be in store for you next? How about a group of undead bikers resurrected by ancient witchcraft…and frogs? Yes fiends, today we examine my #4 pick in my Top 10 Films: Psychomania!

I was aware of Psychomania as a child, but never had the chance to view it. That changed one day when a friend let me borrow his VHS copy of the film in the late 90’s. Upon viewing this heady blend of supernatural hijinks, musical numbers, and outright comedy I was hooked!
Our story centers on teenage psychopath Tom Latham. Tom is the leader of a biker gang, who wear helmets painted to look like skulls, known as The Living Dead. Tom also has an affinity for the supernatural, fostered by his séance loving mother, and her equally outré butler. He also has a desire to become immortal. To aid Tom in his mad quest, his mother allows him access to a room within their home that will offer an individual the secret of achieving eternal life if the subject is deemed worthy. Tom’s father had died attempting to retrieve the secret of the room years prior, but Tom does not succumb to such a fate. And how does one cheat death? What is the arcane rite necessary to defy nature? You have to commit suicide and believe that you’ll come back to life. Yup, that’s it.

So of course Tom does just that. The Living Dead, believing Tom has perished, bury him atop his bike while singing a nice folksy ballad. Well, Tom doesn’t stay down for long, and upon his return from the grave, he convinces the other members of The Living Dead to commit suicide as well, which they do in a series of almost slapstick vignettes. Most of the members are successful at resurrecting themselves and the gang meets once more at an ancient circle of standing stones known as “The Seven Witches”, and then they embark on a rampage, before finally meeting their demise by becoming a new druid circle of stone. There is a toad in the film as well.

Does Psychomania sound weird and disjointed to you? Well it most certainly is! It’s also somehow charming, funny and most of all entertaining! You can purchase Psychomania here!

Once again I’d like to thank fellow Team Retroist member Sean Hartter for providing the amazing illustration (in my opinion his finest illustration to date) that accompanies this article!

Next aquatic terror comes to a festival in New England..and I’m not talking about Jaws either! Stay Spooky!