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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Think Big
Two fun movies of nature striking back. Bert I Gordon's Empire Of The Ants is first. When ants eat radioactive sludge dripping from a beached barrel, they don't just die like they actually would(that would make for a rather short and boring movie), they grow, bro!! They decide to attack a group of folks on a real estate tour. No one's there to buy real estate,...
Published on August 21, 2005 by Stanley Runk

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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two chilling tales of nature gone wild...
Empire of the Ants (1977)

Run for the hills (or the Raid)! Bert I. Gordon, aka Mr. Big (due to his penchant for making films involving giant creatures, and also, it's his initials), brings on some serious cinematic pain with his rendition of author H.G. Wells story Empire of the Ants (1977). Gordon, certainly a man of many hats, not only wrote (adapted from an...
Published on May 3, 2005 by cookieman108


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two chilling tales of nature gone wild..., May 3, 2005
This review is from: Empire of the Ants / Tentacles (Midnite Movies Double Feature) (DVD)
Empire of the Ants (1977)

Run for the hills (or the Raid)! Bert I. Gordon, aka Mr. Big (due to his penchant for making films involving giant creatures, and also, it's his initials), brings on some serious cinematic pain with his rendition of author H.G. Wells story Empire of the Ants (1977). Gordon, certainly a man of many hats, not only wrote (adapted from an H.G. Wells story), directed and produced the film, but he also was in charge of the special effects. The film stars Joan Collins of TV's Dynasty, and Robert Lansing, whose television credits are too numerous to mention but is most familiar to me from the 1959 film 4D Man. In the beginning we get some painfully obvious foreshadowing involving stock footage, along with voice over, showing ants busy at work. We then cut to workers in HAZMAT suits on a boat, dumping clearly marked barrels of radioactive waste in the water. We see one of the barrels wash up on shore, as the ominous music plays on...Cut to preparations being made for an excursion by yacht to view swampy properties for sale, sponsored by some realty company called Dreamland Properties, or some such thing. It's here we meet Marilyn Fryer (Collins), the woman in charge. How do we know this? Because she's being a real pain in the rear, basically telling everyone she's the boss, especially Dan Stokely (Lansing), the captain of the boat, who, by the way, wears a lovely earring (yargh, I'm a pirate!) throughout the film (man, the 70's were weird). Soon the prospective suckers...er, I mean buyers show up, and what a charming lot they seem to be...adulterers, freeloaders, and just general sleezy characters all around, and they're off, leisure suits and all. They arrive at a pier, disembark from the yacht, and proceed to a tent to get liquored up (ply the rubes with free booze, and the property sells itself, I guess). Everyone then gets on a two-car tram, and tool around, while Marilyn, sitting in the front of the tram, all of about 3 or 4 feet from the clients, starts yelling into a megaphone in case anyone is hard of hearing (if they weren't, they are now). Earlier we saw the drum of radioactive waste wash up on the beach, and we also saw it beginning to leak silver paint, er...I mean radioactive waste, and we also saw ants wallowing around in the oozing material. That can't be good...I mean, if 1950's (and Bert I. Gordon) taught us anything, it's that radioactive materials generally have the effect of `embiggening' things. Well, sure enough, the ants exposed to the stuff become humongoid, and start picking off hapless members of this little outing. All I could think was this wasn't going to be good for the realty business, what with the radioactive waste and giants ants. Well, the remaining members of the party discover, to their horror, what ate up their former companions, and soon the nightmare ensues...

In terms of the special effects, the whole rear-projection enlargement technique was fairly well dated by the late 70's, but still managed to work well here at some points, but the noticeable difference in that technique and the use of prop ants certainly delineated the differences in the sizes of the ants. One method use would make them appear as big as a bus, while another would make them seem a large as a man. The actors all seem pretty bored and given they spent a fair amount of time futzing around in a swamp, I am sure they probably figured at some point they weren't getting paid nearly enough. The script, well, is pretty hideous. Inane remarks, pointless declarations, and lame characterizations only serve to make so very obvious who was going to be ant fodder. And not a likeable character in the bunch ensured the audience rooted for the ants, as this particular society really didn't seem worth saving. I did enjoy the sort of twist element near the end, even though it was telegraphed so obviously at the beginning of the film, giving this schlockery a bit of originality and a nice little spin within the genre. I have to say, I did get annoyed early on with some of the sound effects. The ants had two basic effects working, one being a persistent chirping which would indicate their presence nearby, and a screaming sound when they were attacking or being attacked. This second one was definitely the more annoying of the two, as it was akin to having a woman scream in your ear every ten seconds.

Tentacles (1977)

Also known as Tentacoli, Tentacles (1977) is definitely the worse of the two films on this MGM Midnite Movie creature double feature. Produced and directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis (Piranha Part Two: The Spawning), the film features a number of well-known actors including John Huston (Candy), Shelley Winters (Lolita), Bo Hopkins (The Day of the Locust), Claude `Sheriff Lobo' Akins (Battle for the Planet of the Apes), and Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond). The movie takes place in a small California beachfront town and begins with the disappearance of a couple of people due to something lurking in the waters (if you guess octopus based on the title, give yourself a cookie). Sheriff Robards (Akins) and local curmudgeon and reporter Ned Turner (Houston) are baffled by what is discovered when the bodies are found and examined, as the flesh has been stripped from the corpses, and the marrow sucked from the bones (okay, now I'm thinking maybe it wasn't a giant octopus, but a group of lawyers). There's speculation that Mr. Whitehead (Fonda), President of Trojan Tunnels (insert condom jokes here), and his company's local tunnel project maybe involved, but the evidence is thin. Soon it's decided to bring in a marine expert *cough cough* named Will Gleason (Hopkins), and he ultimately determines what this little beach front community has on their hands is a giant octopus, which then leads to a few more people getting all ate up along with a series of miniature boats destroyed. The situation becomes personal for Gleason, who sets out to destroy the carnivorous marine mollusk with the help of some recently released killer whales (insert free Willy jokes here).

I know the impressive cast list for this film has probably blown you away, but don't get too excited. Fonda appears in three scenes for a total of about five minutes. As far as the rest, well they can hardly save this film, despite their efforts...and not one of them got killed by the `giant' octopus (I was so hoping the incredibly annoying Shelley Winters' character might have been on the menu, but alas, no such luck). Overall the film is a series of loosely connected scenes eventually leading up to a final confrontation that's hardly worth waiting around for...the film starts off really strong with the disappearance of the people, but then gets bogged down as a bunch of rather meaningless characters are trotted around on the screen for the next hour and a half (the film runs about 1 hr 42 min which is about 20 minutes too long). I think Hopkins' character is supposed to be the hero, sort of a conglomeration of the three main characters from the film Jaws (1975) in Brody, Quint, and Hooper, but comes off as a complete lame duck character (most of the main characters that were introduced early on in the film are never seen again after about three quarters of the way in). Another thing I found really annoying was there was never any really clear shot of the octopus, giving us a clear perspective of its actual size, which seemed to vary greatly throughout the film. There was an attempt to create a sense that a giant killer octopus is much more dangerous than a killer shark (many of the films that followed Jaws tried to `one-up' themselves on that film), but it never really flies. At least this attempt wasn't as heavy-handed or obvious as was the case in Orca (1977). All in all the acting was okay with the direction and story sinking this film more than else. The music was odd, if not interesting (also repetitive)...

The anamorphic widescreen pictures for Empire of the Ants (1.85:1) and Tentacles (2.35:1) look very clear and clean, and the audio for both come through well. The only extra feature available for each film is a theatrical trailer. Now that Sony has bought up the MGM catalog, the fate of Midnite Movies seems uncertain. I hope they continue on releasing these lesser known films in this economical `twofer' format, as I will keep buying them.

Cookieman108
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed these movies, September 1, 2008
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This review is from: Empire of the Ants / Tentacles (Midnite Movies Double Feature) (DVD)
This review is more about Tentacles than Empire of the Ants. I watched Tentacles when it first aired on television back in the late 70s. It was nice seeing this movie again since it brought back some fond memories of my youth. It's been a long time and I'm happy I walked down memory lane for this one. It still hasn't lost any of its qualities as far as I'm concerned.

I had forgotten how brutal the octopus was. This creature killed indiscriminately so if you're a parent of an infant, maybe you had better reconsider watching this one.

I will say that the two marine biologists had a brutal yet elegant way of disposing of the monstrous octopus. It sort of reminded me of Boys from Brazil. That's all I'm going to say on that point.

Overall, it's a good movie to watch if you want a little horror without all the gore, which this flick has very little of, if any.

Empire of the Ants is another creature against man movie but with a novel twist that I won't give away. Joan Collins plays her role very well and the other actors do a good enough job. There wasn't a great deal of character development but it was enough to understand where the director was going with this flick. I liked Empire of the Ants because it reminded me of those 1950s movies where small insects get a dose of radiation and all hell breaks loose.

In the end, I say but this double feature instead of renting it. It's worth owning for your collection.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You know who likes calamari? Killer whales., December 16, 2008
This review is from: Empire of the Ants / Tentacles (Midnite Movies Double Feature) (DVD)
Tentacles (1978) When something turns into a big movie hit, like Jaws did, you used to be able to bank money that not too long after there would be a very similar movie released with a strong smell of garlic and fresh olive oil. Oh yeah, the first few names displayed in the credits might be American, but if you looked close the Italian names would start to creep in. And sure enough, here is Italy's big contribution to the "ocean critter makes local beach an all-you-can-eat buffet" flick so popular in the wake of Spielberg's little fish tale. Keeping this from seeming like a foreign film is a cast that includes John Huston (sometime actor and more often director--he directed The Maltese Falcon for pete's sake!), Shelley Winters (The Poseidon Adventure) , Bo Hopkins (Sweet 16), Claude Akins (Guns of the Magnificent Seven), and best of all, Henry Fonda (Meteor)! The story has something eating people right off the shore in a small California beachside community. Aging pesky reporter Huston digs right in, despite high pitched screechy warnings from his sister Winters who's busy trying to help her young son with his regatta race. Sheriff Akins calls in marine biologist Hopkins to help, and Hopkins is thrilled to pitch in because it means he won't have to play the sheriff role for once. Huston eventually discovers the eating machine is an octopus driven mad by high frequency sound waves used by Fonda's oil exploration company, but Fonda's not a bad guy, it was all the work of his assistant Cesare Danova (a fine Italian actor who was in enough American movies to almost qualify as part of the American cast.) Finally it comes down to Hopkins and his friendly trained killer whales (!) to save the day. Well, where to start breaking it down? I had vaguely dreaded this one, picturing it as an ultra gory exploitation movie (like a Lucio Fulci movie) with the American actors unable to hide their embarrassment at being seen in it. Actually, I enjoyed this rip-o--er, I mean...homage! It's PG rated, so there's some suspense and violence, but none of that zesty over-the-top Italian gore (you know, acid, maggots, extreme eyeball damage) and though none of the American actors are anywhere near the octopus scenes except for Hopkins, they give their roles enough care that their scenes are fun to watch instead of dragging the movie to a halt until the next octopus attack. Rumor has it Fonda only agreed to take the job if the movie crew would come and shoot in his backyard, and from his brief appearances on the phone or meeting with Huston or Danova around a swimming pool that are sprinkled throughout the movie, this may well be true, which is awesome! As for the title role, our eight legged star is represented by a real octopus, a big "mechanical" stand-in (towed behind a boat) during the regatta attack, and a couple of floppy rubber tentacles for the other attack scenes. To my trained eye the real fellow looks to be about the size of a cantaloupe but the effects guys use him pretty well. They misuse him pretty well too in the climactic attack as the killer whales (or their puppet doubles) make mincemeat of the obviously real octopus. Animal lovers might want to avoid the movie because of this, but I'd like to think the octopus agreed to the sacrifice for the sake of Italian rip-off movie lovers everywhere. If you're one of them, or a fan of American casts hired to lend a movie some American-icity, this one is not to be missed. If you've seen none of the myriad Jaws ripoffs from the 70's you also might want to take a look to see what you've missed all these years as this one is kind of decent. But then, I've seen Tintorera (1978) and Barracuda (1978), so I know how bad they got too. Ciao!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Killer Squid, July 5, 2010
By 
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This review is from: Tentacles (DVD)
Solid production values, exemplary location underwater photography, a
name-dropping cast of vintage Hollywood celebrities, and a terrific
fight between an octopus and two killers whales make "Beyond the Door"
director Ovidio G. Assonitis's "Jaws" horror movie rip-off "Tentacles"
worth watching. Basically, this movie concerns a giant squid
terrorizing a coastal American town. This octopus doesn't discriminate
when it comes to its diet. You can be an infant, an adult with a peg
leg, a beautiful bikini clad dame, or an entire yacht itself and the
eponymous predator will dine on you.

Incidentally, though it isn't visible that often, the octopus looks
believable, not like the octopus in the Ed Wood classic "Bride of the
Monster" (1955) that Bela Lugosi flailed around with in a hilarious
scene. The octopus with Lugosi was clearly phony just as it was clear
Lugosi was controlling every move that the octopus made. Additionally,
this octopus looks better than the "20,000 Leagues under the Sea"
octopus. Happily, "Tentacles" isn't laughable, and Assonitis and
company maintain a straight-faced, serious attitude toward these
shenanigans and refrain from camping up the plot.

Sadly, the chief flaw in the screenplay by a quartet of scribes--Steven
Carabatsos, Tito Carpi, Jerome Max, and Sonia Molteni--for this
atmospheric creature feature is the shortage of sympathetic characters.
Most of the suspense is undermined because only one of the stars winds
up in jeopardy. Nevertheless, any movie that opens with an infant in a
baby carriage serving as the initial snack for a gigantic squid cannot
be one-hundred percent bad. Indeed, Assonitis and his scenarists do a
splendid job of setting up the storyline, better than Spielberg did
with "Jaws." Underwater construction and the use of radio is what
prompted the squid to prey on humanity and once it has had a taste of
blood, it cannot assuage its appetite. The stalking scenes from the
octopus' perspective breed a sense of unease and eventually the sight
of the squid traveling on top of the water like a submarine is kind of
creepy. In fact, this "Jaws" rip-off anticipates "Jaws 2" by
endangering a fleet of young boaters during a regatta. Unlike "Jaws,"
"Tentacles" provides a reason for the appearance of the ravenous
octopus.

After a baby in a carriage and a peg-legged sailor vanish in the ocean
in separate incidents, Sheriff Robards (Claude Akins of "Return of the
Seven") and newspaper reporter Ned Turner (John Huston of "The
Deserter") investigate their disappearance. The bodies for the most
part have been reduced to skeletons. A horribly decayed corpse washes
up out of the drink at one point to scare a couple necking on a boat,
but the rest of the victims have had their flesh peeling from their
bones and the marrow sucked out of them. Sheriff Robards warns Turner
not to sensationalize the story until they obtain more information.
Perceptively, Turner observes that it all adds up to a nightmare.
Meanwhile, Mr. Whitehead, President of Trojan Construction (Henry Fonda
of "The Grapes of Wrath") reminds Turner to not draw hasty conclusions
unless he can furnish the facts to back them up. Turner believes that
Whitehead's company and their underwater construction are to blame. Of
course, Turner is right, but he doesn't get an opportunity to bask in
his beliefs. Whitehead discovers that overzealous engineer John Corey
(Cesare Danova of CBS-TV's "Garrison's Guerrillas") in an effort to
accelerate the construction violated regulations. Whitehead orders
Corey to stop his illegal activities.

Turner goes out of town to consult with Will Gleason (Bo Hopkins of
"The Wild Bunch") who is a scuba diver and ocean-going expert. He has
trained two killer Orcas and sends two underwater experts to the town
to investigate for him. The giant squid attacks them when they go down
to check out the ocean floor. Eventually, Gleason arrives in town with
his wife to conduct the investigation himself. The day that he is not
on his yacht, the octopus attacks the yacht and sinks it. In the middle
of all this mayhem the squid eats Gleason's wife. Gleason brings in his
two whales. The last half-hour of "Tentacles" depicts the struggle
between Gleason and his two Orcas with the huge octopus. Watching the
Orcas tangle with the squid is like watching angry dogs tear into a
bear. During the fight, the octopus touches off an underwater avalanche
and Gleason is trapped.

Assonitis has made a better-than-average octopus opus, but the film
lacks the general air of terror and enough scary scenes to make it a
goose-bump inducing horror chiller. Fonda confines himself to his
house, while the Huston character and the Winters' character are
brother and sister. The major set-piece that "Jaws 2" appropriated, but
on a smaller scale, is the regatta. "The Stranger Returns" composer
Stelvio Cipriani employs a harpsichord for suspense in his imaginative
orchestral soundtrack.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Giant Octopus Terrorizes a Coastal Town, with vetern actors., May 8, 2001
By 
John Blythe (Lake Isabella, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tentacles [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Personally TENTACLES is a joyful entertainment film that will please most campy fans of cult and B-movie. One the other hand TENTACLES is a ripoff of JAWS which is ment to be scary but is hilarious!!! The octopus never comes close to being terrifying. The dubbing is laughably bad, sound design is pretty cheap to. It's also sad that six Hollywood legends were put into this, John Huston, Shelley Winters, Bo Hopkins, Claude Akins, Alan Boyd and Henry Fonda. The town of Ocean Beach is suddenly terrorized by a octopus that was driven to madness by a construction company and it's owner Mr. Whitehead (Fonda). Reporter Ned Turner (Huston) and his wife (Winters) start an invesigation when skeleton remains are found on the shore. They blame Mr. Whitehead and find out that it is an octopus. With the help of a Biologist Will Gleason (Hopkins) they all sail out to sea with trained killer whales to destroy the beast! So I guess it is a lot of campy fun which will please non serious fans. Director Ovidio G. Assoniates (aka Oliver Hellman) had no success on his other film Beyond the Door (1974) and Exorcist ripoff. Later he made The Visitor (1979) and Beyond the Door III (1989).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Jaws" with eight arms, August 14, 2001
By 
C.H. (Beach Park, IL) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tentacles [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Just as the hoopla of "Jaws" was dying down, we got "Tentacles". Great cast - Henry Fonda, Shelly Winters, Bo Hopkins, Claude Akins, and John Huston. A San Diego community is terrorized by a giant octopus, and it's passable fare for those who aren't too critical. Could have been much better, but the trouble is that most of the story (and most of the scenes) try to ape "Jaws", instead of trying to create a story of it's own. As a result I have a hard time trying to get into a movie that draws heavily on another one. I was a bit disappointed that Shelly Winters didn't have a heroic underwater scene like in "The Poseidon Adventure." That might have enlightened things a little.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad, even by Drive In standards, May 17, 2004
By 
The JuRK (Our Vast, Cultural Desert) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tentacles [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I definitely have fonder memories of what was going on in my car at the drive-in than what was going on up on the movie screen. I believe my date's name was Jody and the movie (second on the bill) was TENTACLES.
The only thing I remember were the puppet killer whales tearing a real octopus apart for the finale (a dead octopus, from what I've read--but this was a European film, right?).
The only reason I'm writing a review for this movie--in the off-chance that you'll actually watch it--is to share some trivia: all of Henry Fonda's scenes were shot in his backyard. He agreed to do this piece of crap as long as they paid him and HE DIDN'T HAVE TO LEAVE HOME! Is that hilarious? He just walked out to his backyard, shot all his scenes on his own lawn furniture (most on a dummy phone, as I recall), and picked up a check.
You're going to put more effort into watching this movie than Henry Fonda did APPEARING in it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars big Hollywood names can't rescue tentacles from being a bottom feeder..., December 16, 2012
This review is from: Tentacles (Amazon Instant Video)
Intended to ride in the wake of the success of Jaws (1975), Tentacles (1977) is an Italian production that features some veteran Hollywood stars, in what is a mildly interesting horror thriller, involving an agitated "giant" octopus in California.

Following a familiar pattern, a number of people near the ocean, fall victim to an unknown threat. The investigations of a news reporter, leads to suspicion falling on a construction company that is involved in building an underwater tunnel. As if on cue, the creature becomes more aggressive, attacking a construction crew, and various boats. Despite a story that is a little soft and disjointed, the film does manage to conclude in an interesting fashion, with a pair of killer whales being employed against the giant octopus.

Production values are not bad for a film of this type, although the special effects aren't that convincing when it comes to the monster. The story has lots of holes, and doesn't have a strong central character, but the film does feature some well known names, including Henry Fonda, John Huston, Shelly Winters, Cesare Danova, and Claude Akins, to help draw interest. In the end it is up to Bo Hopkins, who plays an oceanographer type, to save the day. Another colorful aspect is the "giallo" flavored soundtrack. It's not very good, but Tentacles might be worth a look just out of curiosity, to see some aging stars in a horror film.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Think Big, August 21, 2005
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This review is from: Empire of the Ants / Tentacles (Midnite Movies Double Feature) (DVD)
Two fun movies of nature striking back. Bert I Gordon's Empire Of The Ants is first. When ants eat radioactive sludge dripping from a beached barrel, they don't just die like they actually would(that would make for a rather short and boring movie), they grow, bro!! They decide to attack a group of folks on a real estate tour. No one's there to buy real estate, everyone is portrayed as penny pinching tightwads along for a free tour and the chance of getting some nookie. Soon they're getting picked off by giant ants and must go upstream to survive. Then we find out what's worse than giant ants is a giant ant conspiracy. This is a fun movie.

Next up is Testicles, and you're sure to have a ball with this one. You'd have to be nuts not to. While watching this film you'll wonder how the hell John Huston and Henry Fonda were talked into starring in this film. Fonda's role is totally pointless. It's as if the producers said, "Look everyone, we can get Henry Fonda to be in our movie!" A giant octopus is killing folks and stripping them of all flesh including bone marrow. Nasty brute. Bo Hopkins is called in to get rid of the thing. The film actually tries to be a scary creature feature in the vein of Jaws, and there actually are one or two scenes that work very well. The film does look professional too. While it's not great, it's a good second half to this dvd package.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars John Huston, Henry Fonda, Shelley Winters and Sheriff Lobo!, May 18, 2014
By 
Jarrito Fresa (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tentacles (Amazon Instant Video)
This is a pretty high caliber cast for this 70's monster shlock. It's not Jaws, but it's not totally awful either. The special effects are pretty good - there are some real octopus moments throughout the film - but the story is flat and there are some long scenes where nothing happens. It's a good movie to watch with lots of popcorn and friends.
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Empire of the Ants / Tentacles (Midnite Movies Double Feature)
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