Nick Millard enjoyed a prolific career directing numerous sexploitation flicks between the late 60s and mid 70s, with films boasting such great titles as FRAULEIN LEATHER and LUSTFUL ADDICTION.

In 1975, though, Millard created the pseudonym Nick Philips and directed his first two horror movies, practically back to back. And here they are, brought together on DVD by those fine folks at Shock-O-Rama.

SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING opens with Nina (Lisa Milano) walking down some steps, candle in hand, and into a dark crypt.

There, she finds a coffin and pushes it's loose lid to a side. A wide-eyed vampire smiles back at her from within the coffin - and moments later has possessed Nina, provoking her to slash her wrists open with a razor blade.

A few days later, Nina's brother Mark (Greg Braddock) flies in from Hollywood to attend her funeral. Unbeknownst to Mark, the vicar laying Nina to rest looks suspiciously like the vampire from the opening scene!

Mark arrives at his sister's house to tie up loose ends, and walks into her bedroom to find it covered in blood. The sullen Lieutenant Scott greets him, and reveals he does not believe Nina committed suicide. When asked why, he explains one of her fingers had been chopped off and is missing ... oh, and her body was completely drained of blood!

Meanwhile the vicar is back in his crypt, only this time it's Nina who is lying in the coffin with a mouthful of fangs. The vicar explains that Nina has been rewarded for her belief in Satan with eternal life ... all she must do first is slaughter her entire family.

Back at Nina's gaff, Mark finds the severed finger in a pool of gore and is even further alarmed when Scott tells him this is the latest in a succession of violent murders within the last year. All of which involved bodies being completely drained of blood ...

Mark decides to stay on a little longer and investigate further, discovering from his Aunt Lillian that Nina had become obssessed with a book she was writing on Satanic worship. Nina had apparently been spending all of her time at an abandoned local church researching her subject. And so, Mark makes his way to the church to learn more than possibly even he wants to know ...

... Meanwhile, Nina pays her ailing Aunty and maid a fatal visit ...!

SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING so desperately wants to find itself a horror audience. It's stuffed with every cliche imaginable - slow walks into darkened hallways, creepy piano-led music, bug-eyed maniac villains, graveyards, gore-soaked murders ... you name it, Millard embraces the motifs of the horror movie wholeheartedly.

And it works, bizarrely. It's cheesy, dumb and the acting is even more risible than the dialogue (which is poor!). But it's fun, and fast-moving with plenty of spirited murder scenes to enjoy.

CRIMINALLY INSANE (a.k.a. CRAZY FAT ETHEL) tells the tale of oversized Ethel Janowksi (Priscilla Alden, DEATH NURSE), who we first witness in a mental institution being pinned down and drugged by doctors.

Her grandmother (Jane Lambert, THE FURY) visits the hospital to speak with Doctor Gerard (Robert Copple, THE POLITICIANS) who advises that Ethel suffers from paranoia, depression and violent outbursts. Surprisingly, then, he reluctantly agrees to Ethel's release - on the provision that gran ensures Ethel meets her weekly electro-therapy appointments ... and keeps an eye on her weight.

Once Ethel and her gran arrive home, Ethel wastes no time in cooking herself a hearty plate of bacon and fried eggs. It doesn't take gran long to start nagging about Ethel's eating habits - but Ethel retorts by saying the doctors were trying to kill her by feeding her so little!

That night, Ethel sneaks into the kitchen for a midnight feast ... only to find the fridge bare and the pantry locked.

When gran refuses to give Ethel the key to the pantry, our overweight psycho chases her elderly relative through the house and eventually stabs her several times. She even stabs the old lady's hand repeatedly until the key finally frees from her dead fingers!

And then, of course, Ethel eats.

The following morning Ethel is disturbed by an unexpected visitor while trying to shift gran's corpse. No problem - she kills him too, and hides both cadavers in the attic.

Moments later, Ethel's floozy sister Rosalee turns up looking for somewhere to stay. She's ran out on her violent boyfriend, John (Michael Flood, DEATH NURSE).

Rosalee starts to bring men back on a night while a quietly disapproving Ethel sits in and eats ... and eats ...

But the bodies in the attic soon starts to mount up as Ethel becomes increasingly prone to her rages, and what's more ... they're starting to smell!

CRIMINALLY INSANE offers an offbeat killer in the form of Ethel - a 300 pound spoilt bully of a woman, who has no interest in her life other than eating. Although the concept may sound comical, Millard actually succeeds in keeping Ethel's eating disorder dark in tone, suggesting that it is only the constant satisfying of her hunger that can keep her temper down. Alden is key here too: she pulls off a difficult role.

The other characters in the film - the gran, the sister, the sister's boyfriend - are all given their moments to shine too. Each has quirks and nuances of their own, which makes them more dimensional and therefore believable than similar characters found in the vast majority of such horror flicks.

The majority of the action takes place in gran's house, and consequently CRIMINALLY INSANE is as visually entertaining as SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING. Millard direction is unspectacular, but at least the film is short, fast and gory.

Although boasting of new telecine transfers from 35mm negatives, Shock-O-Rama's presentation of the films leaves something to be desired.

For a start, both films show considerable damage on their prints (particularly at the beginning), and are faded during night scenes. Having said that, images are fairly sharp and there's not too much grain evident. They're both certainly watchable.

Audio on both features is efficient, loud and clear mono.

Both films are presented in their original 1.33:1 ratios, and have 11 chapters each.

In terms of extras, there's plenty here.

First, there are audio commentaries for both films from Millard, in discussion with critic 42nd St Pete.

The tracks are informative and Millard's memory is very good. He speaks scene-specifically, and is particularly fond of Alden.

CRIMINALLY INSANE 2, the 1987 sequel, is also included on the disc - yes, the whole film!

It's a composite print from what seem to mainly be (above average) VHS sources. The mono sound is poor here, but the video's okay.

The film itself is a bit of a stinker, seeing an older Ethel (Alden again) relocated to a halfway house.

It's mainly made up of flashbacks to scenes from it's predecessor.

There are short interviews with Millard addressing each film (4 minutes and 6 minutes), where he speaks of the fake blood being too bright, the length of shoots, his love of low budget filmmaking etc.

Next we get a 10 minute featurette where Millard and his wife Irmi (she produced the films) meet up with Alden to reminisce fondly over the shoot of CRIMINALLY INSANE.

Three trailers round off the extras - two brilliantly tacky and blood-strewn ones for SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING and CRIMINALLY INSANE, and one for SLIME CITY.

Millard's horror films are two slices of interesting, overlooked low-budgeted gory 70s fun. Check them out.

The extras are welcome surprise too - I just wish the transfers had been better!

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Shock-O-Rama
Region 1 NTSC
Not Rated
Extras : see main review