Last year, yours truly ventured all over Pennsylvania and New York in an effort to broaden my horizons. After much prodding from the late and great James “Doc Terror” Harris, I ventured to the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville (home of THE BLOB!) for their annual Italian All Night Splatterfest. I hit up the Anthony Wayne Theater in Wayne, PA for a Reel Cult screening of LADY TERMINATOR, ventured to every Hudson Horror Show event from Poughkeepsie to Yonkers, and discovered the joys of The Mahoning Drive-In!
2016 also marked my first journey to Philadelphia’s International House where I, and hundreds of other Horror fans, took part in Exhumed Films’ 24-Hour Horrorthon, a non-stop endurance run of fourteen mystery fright flicks! I enjoyed the hell out of this experience and vowed to visit the locale again for another killing dose of 35mm cinema! Though Exhumed does various other shows at this venue (particularly Ex-Fest), I’ve been waiting for a “can’t miss” lineup to appear in order to make the trip again. That finally happened back in May, when they announced 3-DEMENTIA, an all-3D film festival!
At first I was a bit apprehensive because I immediately assumed we’d all be sitting in the theater wearing cheap cardboard glasses (with blue and red lenses) and watching the lineup in anaglyph 3D. However I was completely wrong as Exhumed Films’ very own Harry Guerro developed a method to show classic 35mm prints in legit 3D as originally intended! This surprise was revealed earlier this year at Ex-Fest when they screened an obscure martial arts film called DYNASTY), and it blew everyone’s collective minds!
On Sunday, July 16th, after a relatively quick drive from my home to the “City of Brotherly Love,” I arrived just after 11:00 AM at The International House. After getting my wristband (and securing my ticket for October’s 24-Hour Horror-thon) I grabbed a seat in the dead center of the theater next to some of my frequent film fest brethren. (Shout outs to Carl, Chris (“The Critical Outcast”), Mark, Kaitlyn, and Mikael!) With seating secured, I ventured out into the lobby and snagged an event poster and pin, and then met the show’s special guest: Worth Keeter!
Keeter is best known (to me) as the director of UNMASKING THE IDOL and ORDER OF THE BLACK EAGLE, but is better known for his work on THE MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS, VR TROOPERS, BIG BAD BEETLEBORGS, and MASKED RIDER. (All staples of my pre-teen years!) I chatted with Worth about his experiences working with a baboon on the set of UNMASKING and ORDER, and he claim that said ape (named Typhoon by his trainers) was probably paid more than everyone else involved in the production. He also stated, that he’d “rather work with a tiger, inside of its cage, than with another monkey!”
Before signing my 3-Dementia poster, he also told me that Steve Miner had actually approached him about the cost of doing a 3D FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel. Worth told Miner that he couldn’t give an accurate cost for the necessary equipment without a script. Miner told him that “When we actually have a script, we’ll already be shooting.” Apparently this lack of foresight came back to haunt FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D early on, after shooting was canceled during the first week because they didn’t really know what they were doing!
Once noon rolled around, everyone began taking their seats (including a fan decked out in a film accurate Jason costume) and Exhumed’s Dan Fraga told us more about the 3D process being utilized for the days films. Essentially, we were about to have a one of a kind experience that at this current time cannot be duplicated by any other venue! Even the groovy 3D goggles we all received (but could not keep) were made exclusively for Exhumed’s usage, and would be useless for watching a 3D film anywhere else!
After Dan finished laying down the rules and giving away some super cool prizes, the lights dimmed and the day’s first 3D film began to unspool before our eager eyes!
MOVIE #1: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3D (1982)
As a lifelong FRIDAY THE 13TH fan, one of my bucket list items is to see all of the franchise’s films in 35mm. Thus far I’ve knocked off the 1980 original, PART2, PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER, PART V: A NEW BEGINNING, PART VI: JASON LIVES, PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD, and JASON X. Truth be told, I never thought I would ever see FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III on the big screen, in 2D or otherwise. This movie was the main reason I drove to Philadelphia, and I felt this wave of excitement wash over me as the final moments of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 began to play out on the screen.
Taking place immediately after the events of PART 2, Jason picks himself up, steals some new duds, and begins his killing spree anew. Eventually he arrives at Higgins’ Haven and begins stalking and murdering a group of horny “teens” who are ready for a weekend of pot-smoking, partying, and fornicating! The movie plays out like your typical slasher film, but is notable for being the first movie where Jason dons his trademark hockey mask. As for the 3D….
I’ve seen this film in 2D dozens of times, and once in anaglyph 3D, and I readily admit that many of the non-gore effects look dated and less than realistic. That being said, imagine my delight when I discovered that all of those hokey shots (i.e. the lunging rattlesnake, the harpoon-in-the-eye sequence, and the head-crushing scene) looked amazing in legit 3D! I was awestruck, and clapped and cheered along with everybody else every time something would pop off the screen! It was incredible!
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3D made a believer out of everyone in that theater that day, and it got us all psyched up for the next movie in the lineup.
MOVIE #2: TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS (1983)
This Cannon Films production has been in my movie collection for some time, but I just never got around to watching it. And boy am I glad I waited, because this is a film that was truly meant to be seen in 3D! Tony Anthony stars as J.T. Striker, an adventurer and soldier of fortune who must assemble a team to help him collect the eponymous “Treasure of the Four Crowns!”
After retrieving a mystical key in the film’s first mind-numbing fifteen minutes, Striker grudgingly agrees to track down the remaining crowns, and steal them from a crazed cult leader. Along for the ride are a drunken climbing expert, a former circus strongman, and a trapeze artist. Using their skills, they invade a fortress full of armed religious zealots in order to obtain a magical artifact that is capable of death and destruction!
Partially inspired by RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS is completely insane, and delightfully nonsensical! And boy do they utilize the absolute hell out of the 3D in this movie! Killer birds, ropes, vines, sticks, lasers, fireballs, arrows, spears, and fiery blasts from magical flamethrower hands, all come flying off the screen! It’s an exercise in complete and utter excess, and I loved every second of it!
When TREASURE finally came to its hilarious conclusion, we had about ten minutes to prepare for a Worth Keeter double feature!
MOVIE #3: ROTTWEILER, AKA DOGS OF HELL (1983)
After a brief intro by Worth Keeter, ROTTWEILER (under its alternate title of DOGS OF HELL) fired up. The film features a pack of trained Rottweilers that were created for a secret U.S. military program. Even though their creator Adam Fletcher (Bill Gribble) warns the army brass that the dogs are dangerous and uncontrollable, they ignore him and decide to move the experimental bio-weapons to a new location.
Naturally the truck carrying the killer dogs crashes, and soon the vicious hounds are unleashed upon the small town of Lake Lure. Fletcher attempts to enlist the aid of local sheriff Hank Willis (Earl Owensby) to recapture the dogs, but that plan goes awry as the Rottweilers continue to claim more victims. As the film heads towards its climax, Sheriff Willis and a group of townsfolk are trapped in a burning building with the remaining dogs, and must fight their way to freedom, or become charred chew toys for the killer canines!
After a relatively slow first half, ROTTWEILER starts to hit its stride shortly after the dogs attack a group of models doing a late-night photo shoot. But it isn’t until the film’s final act that it really becomes a lot of fun. Though there are a few missed opportunities (e.g. there’s totally a set up for a Normandy-style invasion by the Rottweilers during a beach party, but it never happens), the movie delivers exploding dog skulls, some very tense moments where actors race through a burning set, and cool interactions between the human and canine performers.
After a short break, we immediately leaped into the fourth film in the lineup, which was another relatively unknown film directed by Worth Keeter.
MOVIE #4: HIT THE ROAD RUNNING (1983)
Inspired by the likes of CONVOY, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, and THE DUKES OF HAZZARD, HIT THE ROAD RUNNING is a fun, action-packed comedy that delivers some great car chases and crashes! ROTTWEILER’s Bill Gribble stars as Beau Jim Donner, a small town deputy that is fighting a secret war against a greedy tycoon named Sam Grady. Aided by various allies, Beau Jim thwarts the shady backroom dealings of Grady and the inept Sheriff, “Little Leon.”
Eventually Grady calls for Beau Jim’s assassination, and sends a bounty killer and the police after the folk hero. Jim gladly accepts the challenge and flees in a very familiar looking Trans-Am. This results in a series of well-done car stunts, as well as a variety of jokes that are hit and miss. My favorite running gag was seeing Grady’s main henchman, Monty, getting knocked out repeatedly by Beau Jim throughout the movie. Monty is supposed to be a bad-ass, but he’s cursed with a glass jaw and is hilariously rendered unconscious nearly every ten minutes!
I found HIT THE ROAD RUNNING to be fairly entertaining. The stunts in it are impressive (considering the budget was a mere $800,000 or so), and the bulk of the cast is made up of relatively likable characters. Most of the humor works, and I totally dug the soundtrack, particularly the “Ballad of Beau Jim.” The 3D in this movie wasn’t as prominent as the films that played before it, but that in no way ruined my enjoyment of this ultra rare flick. (Besides, the next film on the roster would have more than enough 3D shenanigans to make up for it!)
After another short break, it was time to hear more about ROTTWEILER and HIT THE ROAD RUNNING from Worth Keeter himself during a Q&A where he fielded questions from the audience. In regards to ROTTWEILER, he talked about how most of the animals in the film were trained attack dogs that weren’t exactly user friendly. Luckily it was discovered that the Rottweilers absolutely loved bologna, so to get the desired reactions from the dogs, bits of bologna on fishing line were dangled just out of reach off camera.
Worth also touched upon the challenges of shooting a 3D movie at night, and revealed how some of the effects were pulled off. To simulate a raging inferno within the house at the climax, the crew painted the walls of the set with rubber cement, then lit it on fire. This had to be done posthaste, because the adhesive would dry very quickly. They also built a half-scale model of the house to set ablaze, because they worried that a burning miniature would not look as realistic.
Worth also answered a question about how they created the exploding dog heads in the film. He detailed how they sculpted the Rottweiler heads, filled the empty skulls with guts (sheep brains were a main ingredient), and then blasted them with a handgun. The end result was fairly effective and elicited big cheers from the crowd every time the Sheriff blew the head off a Rottweiler.
Mr. Keeter also chatted about his work on various tokusatsu TV series, and briefly touched upon HYPERSPACE (aka GREMLOIDS) which caused me to geek out a bit publicly. (Yeah, if you were at this show and recall some idiot shouting “LORD BUCKETHEAD” at Worth… that was me. Please accept my apologies.) After taking a few more questions, Worth signed off and we reached the day’s final film.
MOVIE #5: REVENGE OF THE SHOGUN WOMEN (1977)
With all the hype about DYNASTY at the last Ex-Fest, I was eager to check out this martial arts classic in 3D, and hoped that it would end the night on a high note! REVENGE OF THE SHOGUN WOMEN is a rape-revenge flick with a kung fu twist. A gang of bandits attacks a small village and engages in a long stretch of plundering, murdering, and raping. Thirteen of the female survivors of the attack are later sent to a Buddhist temple and become warrior nuns.
After some time passes, the masked bandits find a new target and attack a small village during a wedding. While the men battle the marauders, the women flee up a mountain to the monastery and beseech the nuns for aid. Though the new leader of the monastery isn’t too keen on helping out, eventually she and the others decide to protect the helpless villagers, and seek vengeance against the men that forcibly took their virginity in reel one.
Though it ultimately disappointed me, I have to say that the final half-hour of REVENGE OF THE SHOGUN WOMEN was pretty awesome, especially when the final Buddhist nun and the lead baddie fight it out! (The killing blow in this film rivals that of Jackie Chan’s deadly testicle-mashing in FEARLESS HYENA!) As the final film ended, I exited the theater, said my goodbyes, and Hit the Road Yawning.
3-DEMENTIA was nothing short of amazing! The lineup was super cool and the prints were all in beautiful shape. (Not too surprising, considering that most of these movies haven’t seen a projector bulb in three decades.) Exhumed runs an excellent show, and once again went out of their way to give ticket buyers a one of a kind experience. I had a fantastic time, and I can’t thank Harry, Dan, and the rest of the Exhumed crew enough for putting this show together! I’ll see you gents again in October for your 24-Hour Horror-thon!