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Plot: not everything is what it seems in this retirement home….

La Nuit de la Mort! (or Night Of Death! back at home, re-released in 1988 by Colombus Video as the more colorful Les Griffes de la Mort or The Claws Of Death to fully exploit the advent of the American slasher as a subgenre) is a quaint and often overlooked little oddity from that time the once-fertile French cult cinema landscape had been reduced to a barren desert. In just a few short years the fantastique had become, for all intents and purposes, a relic of a bygone era and the arrival of the American slasher as the logical (d)evolution from the old terror and suspense films was felt in the French countryside too. Night Of Death! breathed new life into an old formula by injecting it with what was popular at the time. Released the same year as Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Friday the 13th (1980), and Altered States (1980) history has failed to remember director Raphaël Delpard, unwittingly or otherwise, as the father of the French Extreme and Night Of Death! as the first of this violent new breed. Not bad for a barely remembered little French shocker made for next to nothing and starring nobody in particular. As recent as 17 April 2019 it was shown as part of the Cabinet des Curiosites section on the 12th edition of the Hallucinations Collectives, Le festival de l'Autre Cinéma at Cinema Comoedia in Lyon, France. Vive la France!

Raphaël Delpard’s charming (and only) excursion into pastoral horror arrived at an interesting time in French horror and fringe cinema at large. Jean Rollin was still active but the halcyon days of the female vampire were well and truly over. Instead of looking outward Delpard looked inward and with that put a new spin on an old formula. By taking the central conceit of, say, Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast (1963), and Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) or that of Ivan Reitman’s Cannibal Girls (1973) and transporting it from the American heartland to the idyllic French countryside he could produce a horror on a miniscule budget and with no name-stars to speak of. Delpard was simultaneously trained in theater and puppeteering with Jean-Loup Temporal and worked as a screenwriter for Jean-Pierre Mocky. His other claim to fame is the comedy Les Bidasses aux Grandes Manoeuvres (1981) (an early role for future Hollywood star Jean Reno) and after perservering with cinema for a few years longer he reinvented himself as a multi-award winning novelist and non-fiction writer from 1993 onward. In that capacity he wrote on the Occupation, the Indochina War and the Algerian War. Allegedly sold in the United States, Germany, England, and Italy and counting the late Tobe Hooper among its most vigorous supporters (he even send Delpard a telegram to congratulate him) Night Of Death! has the good fortune of pre-dating other legendary splatter horror classics as Norbert Georges Moutier’s Ogroff (1983) and Antoine Pellissier’s Folies Meurtrières (1984). Before other infamous French (and Francophone) horror exports as Rabid Grannies (1988) and Baby Blood (1990) there was Night Of Death! Oh yeah, apropos of nothing, this was released the same year as Anthropophagus (1980) and Zombie Lake (1980). Somebody has to be the first.

After an 8-month dry spell Martine (Isabelle Goguey) has sorted her life out. She will soon be starting employment as a nurse-governess at Doux Séjour (Soft Sojourn, for some reason changed to the more grim sounding Deadlock House in the international English version), a stately manor and hospice de vieillards somewhere in the pastoral French environs, and for that reason breaks up with her boyfriend of some time Serge (Michel Duchezeau) through a hasty writ. Reporting for duty on her first day Martine makes her acquaintance with groundskeeper Flavien (Michel Flavius) as well as iron-fisted châtelaine and administrator Hélène Robert (Betty Beckers), in that order. Madame Hélène is clearly frustrated (and makes no effort to hide it) that Martine taking office before her colleague’s two months are up is not done and she’s thoroughly scolded for just that. Martine soon befriends current (and beleaguered) nurse Nicole Clément (Charlotte de Turckheim) who, despite experiencing opposition from her superiors, has no intention of leaving her position. Les pensionnaires sont the usual bunch of eccentrics, loonies, and lonely but there’s no denying that they’re remarkably well-preserved for their advanced age. One day Martine is told that Nicole picked up and left and that a maniac known as the Golden Needle Killer is on the prowl. As she starts investigating Martine discovers that things at Doux Séjour aren’t what they seem.

Delpard stacked his cast with stars, old and new. Among the elderly Betty Beckers, Jeannette Batti, and Germaine Delbat were stately monuments of pre/post-war French cinema and television and Jean-Pierre Mocky regular Georges Lucas (imagine being him in a post-1977 world) would later turn up in The Return of the Living Dead Girls (1987); ostensibly drawing the attention are Charlotte de Turckheim and Isabelle Goguey. That de Turckheim was destined for greatness was all but a given. As the daughter of Adrien de Turckheim and Françoise Husson of the Lorraine-Dietrich automobile and aircraft engine manufacturer and cousin of composer/director Cyril de Turckheim she initially worked as a secretary, clothing store clerk, and French teacher. Charlotte debuted in the Bernard Launois porno The Depraved of Pleasure (1975) in the demanding role of “a cyclist” and shared the stage with Eurociné regulars Olivier Mathot and Rudy Lenoir as well as sometime Jean Rollin muses Marie-Pierre and Catherine Castel. Mais oui, the same Bernard Launois who would go on to direct the utterly deranged gothic Devil Story (1986). In 1979 Coluche wrote and produced her first stand-up show, simply called One Woman Show, that premiered in the Théâtre d'Edgar in Paris in 1981. From there she quickly went on to bigger and better things beginning with Claude Berri’s Schoolmaster (1981), My Other Husband (1983), Dirty Destiny (1987), and Wonderful Times (1991). De Turckheim shared the screen (often several times) with Alain Delon; the Claudes, Brasseur and Chabrol, Michel Aumont (father of Tina), Philippe Noiret, Gérard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil, as well as Jean-Pierre Marielle, Sophie Marceau, Dominique Lavanant, and Virginie Ledoyen; Night of Death! is sure to stink up an otherwise impressive resumé.

Mon Dieu, Isabelle Goguey is what the French call une fille bien agréable. After appearing in the comedies The Big Recess (1976), The Phallocrats (1980), and A Dream Night For an Ordinary Fish (1980) la jeune mademoiselle landed her most enduring role in Night Of Death! assuring that long-desired cinematic immortality. Had Bruno Gantillon ever made a follow-up to his féerique Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay (1971) la jolie rouquine should have been at the center of it and such a thing would surely would’ve transformed her into an international sex symbol or at least a cult favourite. La belle rousse could, nay, should have been a star in a dream-like fantastique from Michel Lemoine, a pompous bodice-ripping Italian gothic or giallo, a Spanish El Hombre Lobo epic from Paul Naschy, or even a not quite as glamorous British knickers and knockers romp from Pete Walker or Norman J. Warren. Sacré bleu, that such a thing never transpired. Delpard was so good to give de Turckheim and Goguey a nude scene each. Charlotte’s happens early on but it’s Goguey who has the most memorable. After Night of Death! demand for redheads like herself dried up and economic anxiety forced Isabelle into working with her father Claude Pierson as a production assistant and assistant director on the numerous pornos (usually with France Lomay, Nadine Pascal and/or Cathy Stewart) he was filming at the time. Goguey would have been right at home in Jean Rollin’s The Living Dead Girl (1982). No doubt Isabelle Goguey could have been a bigger star given the right project and role.

Perhaps it’s somewhat too charitable to call Delpard a provocateur the way Joël Séria was. Night of Death! is a lot of things, but it’s hardly a masterclass in subversion as such. Regardless, surely Delpard was trying to make some kind of point (which is never exactly clear, but it’s the sentiment that counts) with the bourgeoisie quite literally eating the proletariat to retain its youth. It was something of a throughline in 1970s counterculture cinema at large, as was the generation gap and the attendant changes in morals and values. There’s something skincrawlingly eerie about the old feasting on the blood and gnawing on the bones of the young. Certainly Night Of Death! tries to say something (again, it’s never exactly clear what, but still) about class conflict, the struggle between the ruling – and the working class, the patricians and the plebeians, and the capitalist construct of social stratification. Jules, the resident card-carrying Communist, not only “knits the sweaters of the Revolution” but assures Martine that when has he “finished knitting, the Revolution of the old people will begin!" Does it say something about the treatment of the elderly, the infirm, and the mentally unfit? Probably. By the same token it decries that these elderly homes are permanently underfunded, understaffed, and its employees always on the verge of bankruptcy. The decade of untethered ego and greed was characterised by the disintegration of community, the dismantling of tradition, and fear of institutional, establishmental, and government overreach. None of which are necessarily bad in and of themselves but in unison tend to generate an explosive mix of fear and paranoia. Night Of Death! might not be a work of great socio-political critique but it’s definitely there.

While the gore is pretty much limited to one or two scenes it’s more than enough to qualify Night Of Death! as the earliest example of what history would come to call the French Extreme. Whereas in the 1970s directors as Jean Rollin, Mario Mercier, Michel Lemoine, and enfant terrible of French comedy, Joël Séria arguably were dominant forces by the time the next decade rolled around only Rollin, Lemoine, and Séria would remain active. In their decade-long reign of terror Eurociné unleashed some of the worst that exploitation and Eurocult had to offer. Night Of Death! has the good fortune of preceding Ogroff (1983), Devil Story (1986), and The Return of the Living Dead Girls (1987) by several years. Only Baby Blood (1990) from Alain Robak a decade hence would attain similar historical importance and cultural significance. That is to say, until Fuck Me (2000) but would do a similar thing another decade later. It’s rather interesting how French cinema upped the ante about every decade or so. A long way from the fantastiques and gothics of old Night Of Death! was a signifier that French fringe cinema wasn’t afraid to evolve with the times. The French Extreme begins here.

Plot: Spaces Babes crash-land on Earth. Hilarity ensues!

Apparently quite a few people are longing for the halcyon days when exploitation cinema catered to every discerning taste that Hollywood couldn’t or wouldn’t. In this day and age of superheroes and multiverses something like this is a breath of fresh air. Space Babes From Outer Space, if the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway, is a tribute to 1950s/60s science-fiction. Whereas the most accomplished and best remembered examples of the form were tightly-scripted and smartly written cautionary tales warning about nuclear annihilation and the importance of foreign relations usually in the guise of Cold War parables and Red Scare metaphors Space Babes From Outer Space has none such lofty or heady aspirations. As the scion of StarCrash (1979), Galaxina (1980), and Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) Space Babes From Outer Space has one thing on the mind and that is… boobs. Instead of pushing some or any kind of important message Brian K. Williams has made it his sole mission to have as many girls as humanly possible shake their boobs for the camera. Channelling the spirits of Russ Meyer, Andy Sidaris, and Jim Wynorski (which is pretty damn impossible considering Wynorski is still alive) Space Babes From Outer Space is just as outrageous and kitschy as its title suggests. Besides, the title just rolls off the tongue. Williams might just have made the favourite movie of every horny 15-year-old edgelord Redditor.

The creative force behind Space Babes From Outer Space is the husband-and-wife team of Brian K. Williams and Ellie Church. Williams and Church are the mavens behind the Indiana-based boutique production company Bandit Motion Pictures and with Space Babes From Outer Space they have taken to producing nouveau retro exploitation on the model of Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman (2012), Plan 9 (2015), The Love Witch (2016), and Commando Ninja (2018). Williams has been employed in just about every aspect of filmmaking before venturing out on his own. He’s an associate of and frequent collaborator with James Bickert from Work in Progress and both men seem to be on similar missions and creative plateaus. If interviews around production are to be believed Williams had an old script idea that he and Church reworked after a particular memorable night of heavy drinking. As with many of these ventures Space Babes From Outer Space was the subject of a successful crowdfunding campaign and delivers exactly what you want it to. According to a 2018 Idol Features interview with Church, and co-stars Alyss Winkler, and Allison Maier Space Babes From Outer Space was allegedly helmed in a brutal 10-day production schedule. Not only did it include principal photography but also the usual behind-the-scenes interviews and a glossy photo shoot. Written by Williams and co-produced by Church and Winkler Space Babes From Outer Space stars nobody you know or have ever heard of and “a bunch of strippers” from the Indiana nightclub scene. Considering how short the production time Space Babes From Outer Space looks incredible.

Exploring some remote quadrant of deep space Space Babes Carrieola (Ellie Church), Vanassa (Allison Maier), and Ragyna (Alyss Winkler) suddenly find themselves under attack by their sworn enemies, the repugnant Scrotes. In their desperation they open up a wormhole and are transported to that mythical planet they heard so much about, this Earth. Having sustained considerable damage to their ship they accidentally crash-land into a farmhouse somewhere in the wilds of Indiana. With their power cells depleted during their impromptu escape the three Babes need to find a source of energy to recharge their vessel. Marooned on a planet they know nothing about and in search of enough sexual energy to return home, the Babes deduct that they are left with no other option but to make first contact with the planet’s lifeforms. This happens quicker than they think when kind-hearted, socially inept Charlie (Brian Papandrea) comes to check out the ruckus and is instantly smitten with buxom blonde Carrieola.

Like any redblooded male Earthling Charlie is pleasantly surprised to find a trio of comically large-breasted Babes in pastel-colored spandex leotards in his home. Carrieola almost immediately ravages him once she her sensors detect his arousal. He’s charmed by a girl this straightforward and with the three insisting that they’re “not from here” he figures they must be tourists. His father Chuck (Josh Arnold) and mother Margo (Susan M. Martin) are happy enough to see Charlie finally bring a girl home. The way Charlie sees it the quickest way for the Babes to harness the sexual energy they require is to take them to the nearest stripclub, Night Moves. As luck would have it two strippers were just fired and before long Vanassa and Ragyna are gyrating around the stage. Things seem to be going their way until the Scrotes (Shane Beasley and Arthur Cullipher) launch a frontal attack on the Space Babes and each and every Earthling that happens to be in the crossfire. As the night deepens and the Scrote attack reaches its apex it will be up to Charlie to save his Space Babes from peril and imminent death. Charlie and the Babes manage to make it back to the barn and the Babes are able to recharge their vessel, only then does the malign Scrote Daddy emerge. Fated, championed and now hailed as their tellurian savior Charlie’s transported to the capital as an emissary of Earth and tasked with repopulating Titty City in what’s described as be an eternity of fornication with all of the planet’s most bosomy Babes. Would you believe this unbelievable tale is all a bedtime story that little Charlie (Drake Carter) is told by his foulmouthed grandfather (G.P. Bailey) while his mother Flow (Kelsey Carlisle) is called in to work the evening shift at Booty Bettie’s Fish and Tits?

If the plot synopsis wasn’t enough of an indication Space Babes From Outer Space is a free-for-all reach-around of plot elements borrowed from Barbarella (1968), Zeta One (1969) and 2069 – A Sex Odyssey (1974) with a dose of the puerile humour of Meatballs (1979), Porky’s (1981) and Revenge Of the Nerds (1984). Since this is a nostalgia-driven feature it lays on the references and puns on pretty thick too. First, there’s a portal-jump plot contrivance is straight out of Vampirella (1994) and the Babes crash into a farmhouse just like Marty McFly in Back to the Future (1985). In tradition of kitsch as Flesh Gordon (1974) the Babes’ aerodynamic spacevessel is, of course, boob-shaped replete with a virgin-white console decked out with tinfoil, colorful lightbulbs and (what else?) an ovary-shaped steeringwheel. The comparison to Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957) and its economic ship/cockpit design is easy and obvious. The Scrotes are penis-shaped monsters modeled on the Rock Eater from Galaxina (1980).

Of the three Church comes to closest to resembling the late Dorothy Stratten in and as Galaxina (1980). Obviously that was the biggest inspiration behind Space Babes From Outer Space and if the costumes don’t sell it, Church certainly will. Daddy Scrote is an abomination somewhere between the pleasantly clumsy Ordric from Galaxina (1980) and the overzealous Lord Crumb from Bad Taste (1987). The fish-out-of-water comedy is very much in vein of Sorceress (1982) and the much expected (and usually odious) slapstick does, thankfully, not materialize. The Spaces Babes’ formal greeting is worth a chuckle or two. While not all of the jokes land (some of them are just plain vulgar) the Babes’ names are a hoot by themselves. Carrieola is an obvious contraction of Carrie and “areola” (or breast tissue), Ragyna may not be an anagram the way Angvia was but the idea is pretty much identical. Unbelievable as it may sound, Vanassa doesn’t have any superpower emanating from her ass. For shame, mr. Williams, for shame. Which is perhaps a good time as any to discuss where Space Babes From Outer Space falters.

The cringy dialogue is way too try-hard in its edginess and while the barrage of double-entendres, racy witticisms, and unrelenting sexual innuendo from the Babes is both cute and side-splittingly hilarious; the constant profanity and expletive-laden banter is not. A strategically-placed F-bomb can completely liven up a static scene, constant profanity is cheap, juvenile and speaks to a dire lack of imagination. The dinner scene in particular is cruel and unusual torture for exactly that reason. Equally frustrating but true, wall-to-wall frontal nudity and an avalanche of jiggling boobs of just about every shape, size and form grows exhausting too. While we’re about the last to complain about female nudity in a feature some moderation would perhaps have helped here. As producer and headlining star Ellie Church abstains from any nudity and has the most dialogue. As such the brunt of the nudity falls on Winkler and Maier who wonderfully rise to the occassion. Since the majority of the cast is best described as “a bunch of strippers” it almost makes you wish they dug up Julie K. Smith or Ava Cadell for the matronly role of Sandy and hired a recognizable (more cross-marketable) name like, for instance, Ava Addams, Jelena Jensen, Bella Brookz, or Korina Kova for the kink-specific role of Momma Milk. If TomCat Films can afford Veronica Ricci and Rene Perez veteran Jenny Allford certainly the average adult star must be within an indie’s reach.

Only in the isolated scene here and there (be it through amateurish scene composition, cinematography, or wobbly acting) does the feature betray its independent roots. The overall production value, acting and cinematography is surprisingly decent for a crowfunded feature like this which, sadly, isn’t always the case. At least nobody’s expected to do accents here. In Amazon Hot Box (2018) it was impossible to tell whether Church’s accent was supposed to be German or Russian, for one. Since this is supposed to be a 1950s sci-fi throwback we’ll never understand the black metal kid gag during the dinner scene. The Scrotes are funny enough by themselves but they never really pose much of a threat the way the aliens in Bad Taste (1987) did. Space Babes From Outer Space caters to a bunch of fetishes but the actual sex (and erotica) is pretty limited. This actually looks like a semi-professional product which is not something that can be said about the median TomCat Films or The Asylum flick. We can’t wait for Brian K. Williams to take on the Andy Sidaris spy-action romp, the Albert Pyun cyberpunk action, the Cirio H. Santiago topless kickboxing movie, a Jean Rollin lesbian vampire epic or a Pete Walker knickers and knockers terror-suspense spectacular. If Space Babes From Outer Space is any indication, Bandit Motion knows their exploitation and it’ll be interesting to see what they produce in years to come. Hopefully they’ll pick up Rene Perez babes Eva Hamilton, Stormi Maya, Nicole Stark, Emily Sweet, Spring Inés Peña, Sierra Sherbundy, Omnia Bixler, Gemma Donato, or Raven Lexy along the way.