Touch Of Death (1988)

Lucio Fulci’s career was a long strange trip. Internationally known for a 70s and 80s run of giallo and horror flicks, his best work was bleak, bloody and often darkly funny. The golden age of sensational splatter reached its apex in the 1981 dime store surrealist classic The Beyond. However, Fulci still faced unfavorable comparisons to the incredibly stylish but super self serious fellow director, Dario Argento. This Jan vs Marcia situation would dog him for the rest of his career.

By 1988, Lucio Fulci’s fortunes had done an abrupt about face. He had lost his wife to suicide, and his daughter was paralyzed in a car accident. Hepatitis and concurrent illness had forced him to leave the completion of Zombi 3 to human Xerox Bruno Mattei. A reputation for violent content and no fucks given criticism of the Catholic Church made financiers harder to come by.

Originally filmed for Italian television as Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio (Translation: When Alice Broke The Mirror, for those prone to putting on airs), the US release of today’s film was direct to video. What happens when Italy’s godfather of gore goes TV movie of the week? Let’s find out with (retitled for the US) Touch Of Death:


The credits are brief, and play over dead silence, which should tell you the approximate budget of this whole proceeding. Instead, we watch Lester the lost woodshop teacher cook up some lunch, while listening to horse racing results on the radio.

I’m not sure why he’s cooking with a sterno stove at the dining table, but perhaps the gas had not been turned on in what is CLEARLY the showhome for some Florida senior living condominium complex circa the summer of 1987.

He takes his steak, curls up on the couch and watches either some sort of weird home made porn, or a fairytale witch. The video is all gaunt cackling face, big hair and the occasional flash of shoulder, so choose your own adventure on which is correct.

Proving my point about the house, we get a POV tour, and it’s full of mauve based color combos and delicate faux houseplants that would make Blanche Devereaux and the girls jealous. It even has a finished basement.

Corpse non returnable once modesty panel has been removed.

Too bad there’s a corpse with a steak sized chunk of her thigh missing lying down there. I hope they lock that door at the open house. Humming along with the classical music on the soundtrack, Lester grabs a chainsaw and does a lovely little box step and sway as he dismembers the body. While I would think a bloody power tool would make a poor dance partner, he doesn’t miss a beat or get a speck on his polo shirt. Soft aqua is such a lovely color, but it really does show every little stain.

In fact, Lester is quite the homemaker. After the dismemberment is done, he piles the pieces into a meat grinder, whistling and waltzing as he works. In the spirit of “waste not, want not”, the bits that can’t fit through the grinder are fed to some conveniently located pigs.

This condo complex really thinks of EVERYTHING.

Television remotes in foreground are larger than they appear.



Lester wants to celebrate a butchering job well done. He pulls several stacks of cash out of a wall safe, pours himself a drink and has a chat with the local bookie. All is right with the world, until the evening news reports the investigation into the death of a rich widow who looks like she just might be Lester’s blue plate special from the day before. Despite 3 different processes, he still managed to leave something behind for the trash collectors to find. Guess he was too concerned with keeping grue off that sweet polo shirt.

In any case, Lester is a bit stressed, and pops his favorite classical cassette into the finest tape deck Montgomery Ward could provide. He has a nice chat with his audio system about his worries, and the equipment is kind enough to allay his fears. What a pal.

For those keeping score at home, Lester is not only a murdering cannibal, he is nuttier than squirrel shit. Even Son Of Sam had the dignity to take his orders from a dog rather than an off brand boombox.

We help people fleece people.


Apparently Lester’s betting is about as good as his body disposal. He travels to some weird abandoned building at the edge of town to hand over all of his ill gotten cash to a bookie who has yet to learn how to color match his browns. Our sadsack protagonist also begs for credit on his massive debts.

Because the bookie who keeps his own assistant literally over a barrel in a dilapidated building is going to be super generous and forgiving. Right.

Rather than sell his car or his house, Lester beelines straight for the personal ads in the local paper, to find more lonely ladies with an excess of money and a deficit of sense. For someone whose whole source of income is dependent on being Casanova in chinos, you’d think his seduction technique would have advanced past butterfly kisses and grin (or grimace) and bear it.

Unnecessarily drawn out hijinks ensue, with Lester trying and failing to poison his unfortunate paramour. He only succeeds in making her throw up, and magically removing the SFX facial hair that was tacked on to the actress’ face in the previous scene.

For crispier results, flip after 15 minutes.


A vicious beating with a bat also fails, but does give us the bylaw mandated eyeball in distress scene required of any movie with Lucio Fulci at the helm.

Bloody, eyeless and as energized as the battery bunny, she pops back up, finally meeting her end in an oversized toaster oven. As her face melts away, the death is doubly sad. Not only has Lester killed an innocent, he has killed a freakishly tough medical miracle that apparently had no skull under her oozing flesh. If this seems an excessive amount of space to devote to a single death, bear in mind that this sequence is nearly 20 minutes of the film’s 90 minute runtime, and likely 95% of the SFX budget.

All that physical exertion makes Lester a sloppy boy. Rather than pass the body to those handy pet pigs, he stuffs it into his car trunk to dump it at a local construction site. Not only does he leave the woman’s severed feet lying in his own driveway, he covers the corpse in concrete in full view of an off brand Charles Manson sleeping in a nearby box.

To avoid getting informed upon, he backs over Canal Street Charlie, but leaves the body in the middle of the street. There goes the remaining 5% of the SFX budget. I would also like to point out to all of you, that the car does indeed have Florida plates. Called it.

To top it off, jewelry he stole from his last victim is all worthless costume, and he owes even more interest to his bookie. A description of the likely killer has hit the evening news, and Lester has to change his appearance from shop teacher to portly sitcom dad to avoid detection by the police.

Our next victim is a slap happy S&M loving soprano, who doesn’t stop singing even in her sleep. Lester strangles her with a whip, and in his latest brilliant plan, transports her body in the front seat of his car. I suppose a jauntily tied scarf hides a lot of sins, as the cop who pulls him over for speeding assumes the cadaver is asleep.

Despite the ever so supportive talking stereo’s assertions that all of this trouble is due to a copycat killer, Lester is not soothed. The evening news once again has the breaking info, announcing the killer’s blood type and DNA genetic code(?!), and our doughboy matches both. While possible, it isn’t terribly PROBABLE that there are two moronic mass murderers with identical DNA on file with the police, and a secret twin seems unlikely on a TV movie budget.

Time for Lester to do some more gambling to destress, as this movie is going to have to try to flesh out the plot now that the SFX money is spent. For variety, he loses his shirt at poker. Why poker? Because even his bookie won’t take any more of his bad bets on horse races. He’d rather fleece him at cards and eliminate the wait.

Only 1 of these things belongs at the glue factory. Guess which.


In deeper hock than ever and plagued by mystery phone calls, Lester heads to the racetrack……to look for the copycat killer. Yep. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it. Spooked by a few loud noises and his own shadow, he heads home……..

….to deal with a highly convenient plot device. A woman named Virginia Fields (whom genre fans will recognize as Cannibal Ferox’s Zora Kerova) keeps accidentally dialing Lester’s number. Thrilled by his sexy voice, she strokes a decorative taxidermy swan suggestively (not a typo), and they make plans to meet. She happens to be yet another wealthy woman with a disfigurement.

Meanwhile, the nightly news has clocked Lester again, so he disguises himself as woodshop teacher version 2.0. This time it’s big square glasses and hair that is an odd piss yellow attempt at blonde. Hope poor Virginia likes big brass house keys.

Between his suit and her hair, let’s party like it’s 1979


We’ve seen this same basic scene 4 times now. He minces and winces and acts generally disgusted to be anywhere near a woman. At this stage, I sincerely wonder if he would have been happier with a nice cuddly bear of a truckdriver.

They don’t even bother using the scar prosthetic in the long shots, so Lester’s cartoonish distaste is even more pronounced when the camera pans to the lovely (non altered) face of the actress.

Just like all the rest, utterly enchanted by the powder blue pouched possibility of penis, she is smitten beyond all reason. When Lester sobs about business debts, she agrees to loan him $200,000, with his house as collateral. She promises to have the cash when they meet the next night for dinner.


Unsurprisingly, Lester prepares to kill Virginia as soon as he confirms she withdrew the cash…….

Unlike the rest of these dizzy birds, Virginia watches the news. She recognizes Lester from the police composite drawing……..

……and promptly shoots him. Wanting to die like a wild animal, a bleeding Lester runs out to the parking garage……

…….where we learn that Lester’s mysterious copycat……..

……is his own shadow. Because even the literal darkness wanted to bring Lester’s crimes to light. Or something. I feel like some metaphors got mixed here. Since Lester the murderer and (just that one time) cannibal is dead, I hope somebody thought to notify the questionably sentient boombox.

Nail Gun Massacre (1985)

In the last of what I’d consider the extended intro pieces for this blog, lets take a second to examine the era of shoulder pads, Aqua Net and cocaine, 1985 to be precise. The grindhouses and the drive ins are on life support, the home video revolution providing one of the last nails in their collective coffin. Rather than travel to the worst part of town and risk your dignity and/or your wallet to catch a screening, you could enjoy self programmed double and triple features in the privacy and comfort of your own home. No sticky seats, prying eyes or having to carefully watch the schedule for a replay of your favorite reels of sex, splatter and sensationalism.

The one big carryover from the grindhouse when home video became the dominant venue for schlock, was the legion of idiosyncratic films, fueled mostly by sheer hubris. This is perhaps the class of cross era trash my black heart has the biggest soft spot for. Be it once faded mainstream stars or a dime store auteur, they never let lack of budget, talent, good taste or logical sense stand in their way. A dream is a wish your heart makes, and this class of cinematic defilers made their putrid zombie babies with love. None of it is competent, but you can tell the makers of this type of shit film (most of whom made only 1 or 2 movies) thought they were genuinely making something, cool, new or remotely important. They were wrong. Horribly wrong. That smooth sugar of effort still makes this stuff go down way easier than purposefully bad cynical cash ins like “Sharknado”

Which brings us to today’s film, a micro budget, Texas made slasher from one and done director Terry Lofton:

AKA The Texas Not A Chainsaw Construction Toolbox Murders


The hellishly loud bong of distorted Casio synth presets plays over the cold open. The fade in is a gang of construction workers sexually assaulting a young woman. The scene is pretty brief and isn’t played for titillation as much as some other films of this era….but if you are looking for anything genteel or tasteful in a movie called “Nail Gun Massacre”, you are reading the wrong blog entirely. There is a hasty jump cut to yet another greasy redneck screaming about clean shirts while his wife hangs the laundry. A leaf crunching killer in woodland camo is shown stalking toward the family’s home. Actually, “stalking” is being far too charitable, given the motorcycle helmet, huge yellow air tank, and the fact that the killer is stomping through the woods carrying an industrial nail gun.

I didn’t even notice the baby.



Country fried wifebeater meets his demise via nail in the forehead, causing the killer to quip in a distorted voice about the worst headaches being right between the eyes, MUAHAHAHAHA. This movie has a high body count for the budget, and every single kill gets a wisecrack that would make Henny Youngman roll in his grave. The woman and child run away through the woods in what is Foley designed to sound like cornflakes over Jello, roll opening credits. The music accompanying this is just some manic laugher recorded near a desk fan, and we are on our way to the titular massacre. Kind of.

Rule 34, pre internet style



First we get a pointless distributor mandated T&A break, where a guy named Mike and his girlfriend are rolling around with a stuffed toy Snoopy, talking pillow talk that sounds like a 14 year old’s fantasy of what sexytimes sexy sex talk is like. The girlfriend shakes her breasts and pouts about needing an “organ donation” because her expensive cleavage is lonely.

Mike has to cut this ever so sensual interlude short, as he has a pressing appointment to go “cut wood” with his buddy on the edge of town. This is NOT a paraphrase. That’s the dialog in the final cut. He hops in his pickup and leaves to go have an annoying expository chat with his BFF Brad about bodies being found out there, and that they don’t fear the killer because they are in TEXAS and they have this here CHAINSAW. Right on cue, the killer arrives to off Brad as he’s taking a leak, because now he’s “really pissed off”. Mike falls into his chainsaw after being nailed to death, and cuts his own hand off. Not that it matters. Because he was already dead. Our ever so stealthy killer then drives off in a stylish gold hearse.
Because who’s going to notice a neon yellow air tank carrying, helmet wearing killer driving a car straight out of a Dolemite Halloween special?

Rat soup eating motherfucker….sorry, wrong movie



Not the local yokels, who discover the truck days later without bothering to look for bodies, call for back up, or remove the truck from the road. Instead we cut to the director’s actual grandmother, playing the challenging role of “clerk of the store she owns”. Her game, but utterly stilted, delivery of the single most ridiculous line in the film is a wonder to behold:

Clerk (to customers): Do you remember when you could sit outside and not worry about the mosquitos….and the killers?

She ends her brief cameo by looking straight into the camera, handing over the groceries, and revealing a copy of the script in plain view. God bless Meemaw Lofton.

Her face says what we’re all thinking



I would like to think that this scene was also the moment when the crew realized they were in way over their heads. When you can’t make someone doing their real life job look or sound remotely natural on camera, the shooting script is the length of a memo and your own grandmother looks nervous at what the hell it is you are up to, you might have miscalculated a tad. The rest of the film abandons what little logic it had managed to establish. It’s non stop blood, boobs, bad puns (and even worse sense) from here on out. It’s also an absolute blast.

Though we never see the nails fly through the air, a host of interchangeable victims meet their fates through inexplicably lethal wounds to the extremities, because the killer (and I quote) “doesn’t want money” (s)he wants “REVENGE, asshole!”

Could this possibly have something to do with the gang rape at the start of the film? It’s difficult to tell for sure, as the Goofus & Gallant team of county sheriff and Canadian tux wearing town doctor leave pretty much every stone unturned. No matter if it’s a gold hearse on the side of the road or a corpse in the street, they can find some way to ignore it. Granted, some of the actors playing corpses are still visibly breathing, but the point stands.

The new residents of the property where everyone keeps turning up dead are missing a nail gun? Interesting. Construction worker hobbies on a local job site include nail gun fights and cheerfully talking about the joys of townie rape? What’s a sheriff to do? Head straight to Burger King.

To kill some time, and allow Sheriff Stress Eater to complete the longest journey from point A to logical conclusion B in human history, we get a borderline slapstick scene involving a dumbass managing to piss off both his current and ex girlfriends at a Dairy Queen. Inexplicably the new girlfriend then has sex with this loser in his car. The radio repeatedly blasts a disco record about foosball, which succeeded in distracting me from trying to figure out what the fuck “Hornier than a rooster in a Chinese henhouse” is supposed to mean.

Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about our Lord and Savior?




As Sheriff is still busy (clearly with a line at the Dairy Queen), we kill some more time by cutting to a portly man who has mastered the obvious, as he mentions the killings are likely connected to the construction site. As his daughter changes into a swimsuit, he goes to check on some steaks he has grilling by the pool on this sunny afternoon. As this character is also not given a name, we all know what happens next. Our murderous mystery date pops out from underwater, pumping the unnamed bearded man full of nails until he falls face first into his own barbecue grill. I was thrilled that old helmet head had finally unlocked the “stealth” achievement. However, what would have been the coolest death in the movie is promptly ruined by being able to see the “dead” actor grabbing the fence to avoid hitting his head:

Just as Doctor Dumbass calls in a request for criminal profiler, Sheriff Sugar Doughnuts finally realizes what the rest of us figured out ages ago….the rape victim might have reason to want to see some creatively dead construction workers. Good job, Davey Diabeetus! It will still take him a solid week to do a god damn thing about this marvelous revelation, so cut to the killer dispatching 2 more unnamed women with this immortal line:

Killer (to victims): Time to get your NAILS done!

This poor girl is still wearing the same clothes from the opener



The doctor FINALLY goes to talk to our victim, who vehemently insists she knows nothing. Our slow as molasses sawbones also wants to talk to her brother, Bubba. He’s apparently out for a drive in his old hearse. The chase (and the light bulb) is on, and both the doctor and the girl rush off to the building site on Old Town road. It’s a mid speed chase, at best.

The hearse does a “Dukes Of Hazzard” death splat over a hill, and our killer runs straight up onto a construction catwalk some 30 feet up:

Catwalks. They end. So our mystery murderer conveniently falls to their death:

This gives Deputy Double Cheeseburger time to arrive for the final unmasking, which reveals…….



……. a character who is clearly a completely different height and build than the person who wore the camo suit for the rest of the movie. A character who would have absolutely no reason at all to mention the rapes in the first person. A character who was in the movie for all of maybe 90 seconds before this moment.

I guess everything (including nonsensical twist endings and masterpieces of unintentional comedy) really IS bigger in Texas.

Death Drug (1978)

This may seem like an odd place to begin even a bad film blog, as the failure and subsequent obscurity of “Death Drug” is very much deserved. B movie lovers are a devout bunch, tolerant of all manner of cheap sets, swiss cheese plotting and infinite variations of baseline technical ineptitude. They lovingly campaign for their personal favorite turds to be polished into updated Blu Ray editions, or limited run returns to the cinema. That is likely never going to happen here. However, I decided to open the blog with “Death Drug” because, to my head, it is a perfect example of 1 of the major classes of cinecrap.

In the age of the internet all media is infinitely more accessible, and all manner of film gets rediscovered. Every day, tons of titles ripple across blogs and forums as a “so bad it’s good” masterpiece, spreading outward until people who may have only seen a small part of the movie (if at all) feel the need to pass the word along. Much like the old children’s game of Telephone , except what gets lost in translation is that to get to the glorious few minutes of horror and hilarity, there will be 60-120 minutes where ABSOLUTELY FUCK ALL NOTHING happens. “Death Drug” only runs about 74 minutes, but without some friends to act as your MST3k crew, 56 of them are badly dressed dead air. That being said, if you too are damned to watch this alone, I’ll be giving you the TL: dr timestamps of the best bits, and that will likely be policy from here on out. Let’s begin, shall we?

Before watching this film
After watching this film


“Death Drug” is a pretty standard cautionary tale, and the entire character/story arc is pretty much summed up in these two photos. It’s the sort of ineffectual scare tactic melodrama US teens are regularly subjected to in health classes. A pre “Miami Vice” Philip Michael Thomas plays Jesse Thomas, a musician moonlighting as a plumber until his big break hits. He has a beautiful wife, a steady job, and has just been accepted into a prestigious music conservatory. However, he won’t even have a chance to pack for music school, before two music producers offer him the record deal of a lifetime. What could POSSIBLY go wrong? His friendly local neighborhood drug dealer even gives him a free party favor to help him celebrate during his victory lap disco celebration with the Gap Band(?!). Just one hit can’t hurt……….until Jesse starts hallucinating, and loses everything he holds dear to the comforting puff of PCP.

I will never fault a young actor for appearing whenever and where ever they can. However, most of them would quietly move on to bigger and better things. What takes “Death Drug” from shrill cheapie to internet pass around is that Phillip Michael Thomas decided to have this 1978 film partially recut with additional footage and rereleased on home video in 1986.

In 1986 Philip Michael Thomas was as big a star as he would ever be, making some $100,000 an episode as Tubbs on “Miami Vice”, and had accumulated some respectable stage and film credits. He was a household name with enviable cheekbones, but much like his “Death Drug” character…..wanted a music career. Rather than do another production of “Hair” or remind folks he was in cult favorite backstage musical “Sparkle”, Philip Michael Thomas had a better idea. He had “Death Drug” recut to be a showcase for his own new music video, and added a rambling intro about his performance as Jesse being a “dug deep from the soul” “dramatization” he hoped we enjoyed.

Ignoring the endless faux newsreel footage, the 4 FULL SONGS of Gap Band noodling, and the fact that this movie goes on for nearly 20 minutes AFTER THE MAIN CHARACTER DIES, let’s see some highlights of this “dramatization”:

I JUST WAAANT YOUUUUUU TOOOO SAAAAY YOOOUUUUU LOOOOOOVE MEEEEEE DAAAAADDDDY! (Timestamp: 22:35-24:42)
Not surprisingly, no one wanted to see PMT do the dad version of a robot dance move, and the music video failed to set MTV on fire, despite all of the blinking lights and superimposed effects $ 1.50 could buy (Timestamp: 26:59 – 30:33)
The Gap Band (of reptilians) is looking at me funny…GAAAAHHHAH (Timestamp: 41:17- 41:55)
There are motherfucking RATS in these MOTHERFUCKING ORANGES! (Timestamp: 52:16-52:53)
This is the face of a man about to play chicken with a truck…..YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME? Really, you should watch from the GIF above (52:16) to Jesse’s death (58:15) There’s MORE continuity addled faux newsreel after that, but it’s just to pad the runtime to feature length.


While Philip Michael Thomas may have thought he was digging deep for this role, he was digging his own career grave. Neither the recut film nor the music video made any impact at all, and by the 90’s the man who coined the term “EGOT” to describe his ambitions in entertainment was shilling for a psychic line. The psychic line was actually quite successful…..once they replaced PMT with everyone’s favorite faux Jamaican, Miss Cleo.