Three predictably tacky and cheesy ol' cheapies from the mid-'70s are collected here in one handy package: Two from schlock-maker S.F. Brownrigg (Don't Look in the Basement! and Don't Open the Door!) and one from last-time filmmaker Chris Munger (Black Starlet). If you know enough of the genre to recognize these three titles, then you probably also know what you're getting yourself into, so let's start off with...
Kiss of the Tarantula (1976) is a starchy little combination between Carrie and any ol' "spiders run wild!" critter flick. Lovely young Susan Bradley has a thing for arachnids. (Long ago she helped cause the demise of her evil mother, using only a (dun-dun-dunnnn) tarantula!) So what happens when a stupid gang of bullies decide to mess with weird Susan? Yep, spider central baby, express train all the way to Vengeance-ville.
It's your very standard tale of "don't mess with that freaky girl or she'll (quietly) jam a bunch of tarantulas into your car while you're making out with your girlfriend, thereby causing you to freak out and accidentally kill three people in the process." Like most mega-cheapies from the mid-70's, Tarantula is not all that interested in things like cohesive storytelling, strong performances or even professional-looking filmmaking techniques. It's a dry little shocker, but one that offers at least two or three good sequences for the arachno-fans.
And it sure is better than the other two movies on the docket this evening...
1973's Don't Look in the Basement (aka The Forgotten) is the debut film from director S.F. Browrigg, who also graced the planet with titles like Scum of the Earth, Keep My Grave Open, and Don't Open the Door (which we'll get to in a minute). Predating One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by about two years, Basement is about an asylum full of outrageous lunatics -- and the lengths to which they're pushed before they fight back against a horribly evil head nurse.
The similiarities between the two films pretty much ends right there, trust me.
I'm not even sure if the movie has a basement in it, but it's a real stinker to be sure. The lion's share of the story is devoted to a disparate bunch of rather garish inmates: the judge, the slut, the hulk, the perv, the ugly old woman displayed only in mega-close up, etc., etc. The flick opens with a goofy scene (that feels like it was later homaged in the opening of Friday the 13th Pt. 5, if you can believe that) in which an inmate spine-hacks the head doctor with an axe before a willowy new nurse hits the scene looking for a job. Then it's about an hour of the loony goofballs bouncing off of one another and enjoying long and painful conversations (for no discernible reason) before we get down to some mild carnage and a hilariously ineffective "twist" ending.
It's all very lame and starchy and only slightly watchable, but there's some camp value to be found in the Basement, and I only felt like turning it off about four times. Which isn't all that many when you consider the kinds of movies I usually watch. For example, Mr. Brownrigg's Don't Open the Door! (1975) is nothing more than a sleeping pill in celluloid form. Do not watch this movie while operating heavy machinery.
From what I was able to glean from the flick's anorexic narrative, Don't Open the Door! is about a pretty young blonde who returns to her dying grandmother's house after a 13-year absence. There she finds a bunch of ineffectual bastards who want granny's house for themselves -- plus there's this obscene caller who simply will NOT STOP harrassing our poor stupid semi-heroine. And get this: The movie's even LESS interesting than the way in which I just described it!
You can forgive a whole lot of flaws when it comes to indie fare, provided you're offered an interesting story, perhaps one good performance, or at least some minute piece of evidence that a real effort was being made -- but Don't Open the Door! is just endlessly tiresome. Even when it (finally) gets down to some horror-style nitty-gritty, the flick's just too aimless and boring to warrant much charity from the viewer. Well, this one, anyway.
So there's your "Scream Pack." Three mid-70's cheeseballs, two of which offer a slight dosage of genre goodness (but probably not enough to warrant a pair of 90-minute investments) and one that's as dull as five pounds of sweat socks. Genre archivists and completists might enjoy catching up with this trio of turkeys, but I doubt anyone else actually would.
Video: Flick one is fullscreen while the final pair are presented in wide. Don't for a second think these movies will look much better on your TV screen than they did at your local drive-in. Because they don't.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 across the board, and be prepared to keep those volume buttons handy.
Just a few random trailers, trivia bits, and bios.
Unless you love collecting old drive-in titles that have practically no value aside from the nostalgia kind, I'd say give this three-flicker a pass. The few small morsels of fun aren't worth the struggle to find 'em.