Ratman (1988)

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I have my friends Val and Nick to thank for this – on holiday in Edinburgh, they spotted the DVD and thought of me. One way of looking at it – it’s good to have friends who buy you things like this; the other way – why did they torture me so? To say it didn’t exactly seize the attention of the people in the room is something of an understatement, but there’s stuff to talk about, should you, dear reader, be in a Fopp shop and wondering whether to drop your hard-earned cash on one of Shameless Videos’ releases.

 

The original title for this movie is, translated from the Italian, “The Villa At The Bottom Of The Park”, which is even less descriptive than the one we ended up with (perhaps “inspired” by “The House At The Edge Of The Park”, because if you’re going to be sleazy you might as well go all out). A scientist, going for his Nobel Prize, has successfully crossed a rat with a monkey.

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Wait, what? Wouldn’t the title of the film be “Rat-Monkey”, then? I wrote that in my notes at the beginning of the movie, and I now dream of the time when that was my biggest problem with it. If you’re in a forgiving mood, you can imagine that Peter Jackson was inspired by this to create the Sumatran rat-monkey which is the driving force behind all-time gore-comedy classic “Braindead” – he is a student of the genre, so it might well be true.

 

So, back to the rat-monkey, which the scientist has left for some reason in the world’s tiniest and most flimsy cage. The hybrid has poison in its claws and teeth which is fatal; and escapes pretty quickly. Ratman is played by Nelson De La Rosa, who was 2’4” and weighed around 16lbs at the time; you may remember him from “The Island Of Dr. Moreau”. I’m not really sure what to think of his use in this movie, although it lends it an exploitation authenticity that few others can touch. Slap a set of fake teeth in him, smear him in brown makeup and put some rags on, and you’re good to go.

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Nothing happens for half an hour. Then Rat-man watches a woman take a shower, at incredible length. Then nothing happens for another half an hour. Finally Rat-man kills a bunch of people, overpowering each and every one of them despite him being about the same size and weight as a small  dog, and being so clearly disabled that his walk is a slow side-to-side trot that anyone could run away from in seconds. Not a single person fights back or shows any desire for self-preservation at all.

 

There are a couple of main characters in it – Janet Agren (“City of The Living Dead”) and David Warbeck (“The Beyond”), but I’ve got no idea why they know each other or what their relationship is. She’s the sister of a model who goes into the jungle for a job, and they both go looking for her and instead encounter Rat-man. Even remembering what happened in this film 24 hours ago is a miserable experience, but I think I’ve given you the highlights.

 

This could well be the dirtiest, sleaziest, broke-looking movie we’ve ever reviewed. Every room is dingily lit, and the walls and floors are filthy. Everyone looks sweaty and ground-down by life, although this could just be the attitude of the actors who were obliged to take roles in a piece of crap like this.  According to about half this movie’s other reviewers, the main highlight is a full-frontal nudity shower scene featuring 80s Euro-hottie Eva Grimaldi, but luckily for those of us in 2016 who want to see that sort of thing, there are millions of websites and DVDs with nothing but nude ladies in them, rendering the need to watch 80 minutes of nothing to see two minutes of showering entirely moot. Add on to that an ending my notes merely described as “bullshit” (luckily, I remember none of it, thanks, chest infection!) and you’ve got something that resembles a movie!

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I’m actually sort of delighted that the era of exploitation cinema is over. It’s useful to remember why they were made – because unpleasant people wanted to make money as easily as possible. They’d have made ballet movies, or documentaries about concrete, if that’s where the money was, and almost to a person had no aptitude or particular interest in making movies. So we get hype – “you’ve never seen anything like this!” to describe miserable experiences, where huge chunks of nothing are broken up by female nudity or violence. Take “Ratman”, for example, whose DVD cover proudly states:

 

“a glorious exploitation fest of bad taste, worse acting, needless nudity and tense wince-inducing slaughter”.

 

Let’s clean that up a bit.

 

“A boring movie, with some needless nudity but barely any gore”.

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You’re welcome, Shameless Cinema. Of course, the current business model of companies like Shameless are partly responsible for the great swathes of old crappy exploitation movies. I imagine it goes something like:

 

  1. Person finds an old movie he loves and wants to release on DVD
  2. He does so, setting up a company along the way
  3. The connections and money he makes allows him to find some other cool old movies to give the same treatment to
  4. Eventually, quite quickly, he runs out of half-decent movies
  5. He carries on sweeping up whatever garbage movies he can find
  6. He has to lie ever more strongly to generate any interest in it
  7. Everyone stops caring

 

“Ratman” is just so un-entertaining. I feel annoyed towards everyone involved – the director (whose career looks like a series of bandwagon-jumps – spaghetti westerns to giallo to crap like this, plus “Exterminators Of The Year 3000”, and he retired immediately after “Ratman”, dying last month – September 2016); the producers who paid not one cent for any set dressing or anything that might be remotely nice to look at; and now the company that chose lying over just stopping with the DVD producing and obtaining gainful employment elsewhere.

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Is this caring too much about some trash with a Rat-man in it? Probably. It’s dull as hell, though, no matter how much or little you care about it. Sorry, Val and Nick! Thanks for the pressie though!

 

Rating: thumbs down

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Alien 2: On Earth (1980)

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Despite Italy having apparently normal copyright laws, for many years it was the place to go if you wanted to ignore them (if you ever bought a bootleg CD in the 90s, chances are that’s where it’s from). In terms of movies, this means two things to us – first, is the making of “franchises” out of random movies, such as the “La Casa” series, which started off with the first two “Evil Dead” instalments, then had a few Joe D’Amato-produced bits of garbage, before finishing off with La Casa 6 and 7, also known as the second and third “House” movies. No, it doesn’t make any sense to me either.

 

Second, and this is where this movie comes in, in case you were wondering about the title, is “unofficial” (read: right at the far bounds of legality) sequels. I’m guessing someone at Fox didn’t dot every I and cross every T on some legal document, which allowed the enterprising (read: scumbag) Italian producers to make a movie called “Alien 2”. However, if you were expecting it to be similar to “Alien” by having good actors, an interesting plot, and action that moved along (or indeed, having an alien in it), then you’ve got a long 90 minutes ahead of you.

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Where to begin? How about with a first ten minutes that’s absolutely chock-a-block with padding? Director Ciro Ippolito wanted you to see every damn minute of every car journey taken in this movie. Thelma (Belinda Mayne) is a speleologist who’s doing a TV interview at the same time as a group of astronauts are due to arrive back on Earth, and while she’s subjected to such piercing questions as “what makes an attractive girl like you go down caves?” she suddenly stops talking and buries her head in her hands. No, it’s not due to the stifling sexism! It’s because she’s a psychic and can sense something wrong with the space capsule!

 

Thelma and a group of other cave-explorers (who the movie doesn’t bother giving personalities to, so I won’t bother telling you their names) are off to do some science, underground. While they’re driving there, they hear on the radio that despite hearing from the astronauts 40 minutes before landing, the capsule is empty. This is tied to the mysterious blue rocks that have started appearing everywhere – a little kid gets her face eaten off by one when it starts pulsating, as if someone told the director “Can you have something happen at this point? Anything? Please?” While stopping to use the toilet (I told you the speed of this movie was somewhat less than breakneck) one of the team picks up a lump of this blue rock, just lying outside the toilet door, and gives it to Thelma.

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Now, here’s where things go a bit skewed. If you were exceedingly generous, you could say the movie makes sense, up to this point, but everyone in that van is a caving expert, a discipline which you’d expect to contain some geology. Nope! Upon being given the stone, she goes “it’s beautiful” and then just leaves it in her backpack. Who cares?

 

Then the movie arrives in the cave, where it spends almost all the rest of its running time…to say it grinds to a halt now is to imply it ever got going in the first place, but at least you might expect some aliens to show finally. No again! The rock eventually starts pulsating and, I think, does the classic Alien thing of laying an egg inside someone’s face, but it’s honestly difficult to tell. The vast majority of shots of the alien are from its perspective, which saves money I suppose but it pretty intensely boring to actually watch.

 

You might think a group of scientists would do some sort of science, but they bring no instruments of any kind…except, for no reason, a typewriter, which one of the cast uses by candlelight. Huh? Dammit, this movie is too terrible to waste this many words on, but there’s a few more bits stupid enough to deserve mentioning. At one point, they split up (obviously) and a rat does a massive jump to attack one of them, conveniently breaking their walkie-talkie / tracking device thing. Oh, and at every possible opportunity for one of them to fall and injure themselves, they do so, which even in the world of movie spelunkers (has a cave expedition in the movies ever passed off without a hitch, ever?) makes them pretty poor.

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Towards the end, the movie appears to be running in reverse, as rather than get out of the cave and go to the damn police or the army or anywhere actually useful, our two survivors go to the supply store, then to the bowling alley they were in at the beginning, before the one moderately interesting sequence in the movie, the final survivor running through a deserted city. But I doubt most viewers will make it that far, as it’s almost unbearably slow and boring – we never get a single shot of the alien itself, and while empty cities are always a bit spooky, there’s no signs of struggle or blood or anything else that might indicate aliens have taken over the earth.

 

The ISCFC will never run out of terrible movies to review, that’s for sure – despite this being a “sequel” to a beloved classic, I’d never heard of it til this week. How many bad bits of sci fi and horror were made in Italy in the 70s and 80s? I feel like this isn’t even the only sequel to a movie set in outer space, which is set on Earth and doesn’t have any of the original movie’s villains in it. Though it’s available in its entirety on Youtube, and has some decent gore effects here and there, please don’t mistake this hyperbole filled review as a recommendation to watch it on your bad movie night. Just forget it ever existed and move on, we’ll all be happier.

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Rating: thumbs down