From skimming the extras, it sounds like this was a labor of love by American Cinematheque programming head Dennis Bartok, friend of Dante and Hellman, who wrote and produced. So on one hand, I respect the years spent assembling this, getting the help of excellent but underworked filmmakers, crafting an old-time hollywood-referencing haunted-house anthology story. On the other hand, it’s neither scary nor visually interesting nor creatively written – not exactly destined to be a horror classic.
Looks like the only non-Dante-directed films Dick Miller has been in since 1995 are a Lou Diamond Phillips thriller and a sci-fi comedy from the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra guy:
In the wraparound story directed by Joe Dante, bunch of Hollywood residents have received free tickets to tour an abandoned studio. Henry Gibson drives them around, getting an ornery Dick Miller to open the spooky gate leading them to the haunted house set. Or is it a real haunted house?!? The bunch (eight or so) seem to be trapped, so Henry prompts them to each tell a personal scary story in hopes of coaxing the house to let them leave.
Cool model shot from the haunted house:
GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN BREASTS
The latest work I’ve seen by Ken Russell since I wasn’t able to finish Whore. He’s still at it, making flamboyant, perverse little pictures. Girl gets breast implants to make herself more appealing to casting directors. It works, and soon she’s bonking some stud (both in a picture and behind the scenes), but her breasts have a tendency to bite, which is upsetting her man.
She goes back to the plastic surgery joint, but her doctor is on ice so she’s confronted with these guys instead:
The middle one is Mad Ken himself. Boobs, computer graphics and campy hilarity… it’s all downhill from here.
Sean S. Cunningham (who hasn’t done anything I’ve heard of since Friday the 13th) immediately drags everything down after the blitz of fun provided by Ken a few minutes earlier. Julia and her husband are in Japan for some boring business. They run into a dead guy, so a monk (Ryo Ishibashi – warden in Big Bang Love, star of Suicide Circle and Audition) tries to comfort them.
He was also in Dream Cruise:
Julia has an affair with a young dude named Seishin (is it the guy who killed himself earlier?), goes to some kinda sex-hell which awkwardly combines live-action and anime. Her husband saves her, whew. Key line: “I was sexually molested by a dead monk and dragged into the mouth of Buddhist hell.”
Hell looks like a Japanese cartoon; Why am I not surprised?
Monte Hellman, formerly known for such awesomeness as Two Lane Blacktop and The Shooting, now this is his first film since Silent Night, Deadly Night III. A shame. The movie itself is a shame, too…
John Saxon (Nightmare on Elm St., Mitchell), looking good for being in his seventies:
This is a deadly dull segment (with some classic film references, including L’Atalante) about a young filmmaker (no longer played by John Saxon, alas) who hangs out with his talented friend Stanley, who stops going out one month after he gets a hot girlfriend. Stan suddenly disappears, leaving the hot girlfriend to our man Leo, who proceeds to have a torrid affair with her.
But she ruins his life and sucks away his talent, leaving him a hollow shell of a failed Hollywood burnout for the rest of his life. While Stanley (last name withheld) moves to England, freed from the woman’s curse, and makes such classics as A Clockwork Yellow, Half Metal Jacket, Dr. Lovestrange and The Shinning, leaving Leo in his will a short film from the early 1900’s of the girlfriend, an ageless vampire!
Nice color for 1900:
MY TWIN, THE WORM
John Gaeta, VFX guy from the Matrix series, shines here. Maybe it’s because he had more to prove, or because he’s had recent practice making decent films, but this is pretty good.
The story is nothing much… woman is unable to get a tapeworm removed because she’s pregnant, so baby and worm develop together, and as girl grows up, she has a secret worm-sister who avenges her against evil babysitters. Some nice visual style almost makes up for the by-the-books plainness of the previous two episodes. The last three segments need visual style to survive, because they’re talky and the dialogue is boring (I have the feeling Ken did some uncredited writing on his bit).
Back to our framing story and it turns out everyone here is… dead? Or damned? Or supposed to be dead but escaped Final Destination style and now being rounded up by grim reaper Henry Gibson?
Oh no, Henry Gibson (Magnolia, The ‘burbs, The Nutty Professor) died last month. I hadn’t heard. This was his second to last film.
“Trapped Ashes is a reflection of Hollywood as a place that’s sort of between living and dying, between being famous and being forgotten.”