Reviews written by registered user

Page 1 of 626:[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [Next]
6258 reviews in total 
Index | Alphabetical | Chronological | Useful

Quality Fulci, 19 October 2017

An archaeologist (Christopher Connelly) opens an Egyptian tomb and accidentally releases an evil spirit. His young daughter (Brigitta Boccoli) becomes possessed by the freed entity and, upon arrival back in New York, the gory murders begin.

Dardano Sacchetti collaborated with his wife Elisa Briganti on a script originally titled "The Evil Eye". The film's title was later changed to "Manhattan Baby" which was an attempt to evoke "Rosemary's Baby". Sacchetti described it as "an attempt to do a technological piece. I was attempting to approach themes that were no longer classic or traditionally Gothic. I was trying to bring horror in a different direction." Sacchetti and Briganti were not pleased with the film's finished product, with Sacchetti stating that "when the producers decided to cut three-quarters of the budget, some of the special effects could not be realized, and the film was ultimately very poor." Sacchetti says the extended opening scene in Egypt was added as an afterthought to "give the film an international feel." The film would end the partnership between Lucio Fulci and producer Fabrizio DeAngelis. Fulci disliked the film himself saying he had no choice in making the film as DeAngelis was obsessed with it. Fulci commented that it was "a terrible movie; I'd venture to describe it as one of those setbacks that occur as you go along" Italian horror fans will recognize young Giovanni Frezza, known for "House by the Cemetery" and "Demons". They will also probably disagree with the negative assessment those involved seem to give the film. It is really quite god, and the gore effects are right up there with Fulci's best work. There is one scene that has a high-pitched noise I could do without, but all in all this is an under-appreciated part of the Fulci legacy.

Strong Directorial Debut, 18 October 2017

In the cold, wintry fields of New England, a lonely old house wakes up every thirty years - and demands a sacrifice.

Let's face it: Barbara Crampton delivers one of her stronger performances, whereas the male lead delivers his lines in a very stunted way. He shall not even be named here. But good on Crampton! Far too many "horror icons" feel the need to phone in their performances, thinking their name on the poster is all that matters. And while it is true that Crampton's name does sell, she adds a great deal of value to her name here, in what may be her best work since the Stuart Gordon years.

We also have a fun role for Larry Fessenden, who really deserves to have a little fun. Has any other creative genius launched more great independent filmmakers in the last decade? I would guess not.

Madness and Fellini, 18 October 2017

The amusing and entertaining adventures of a recently released mental patient and his band of misfits, discover conspiracies to concur while looking for love.

Fellini wrote a short treatment in two weeks with his long-time scribe Tullio Pinelli as early as summer 1988. Returning to themes they first explored in "La strada" (1954), Fellini crafted a parable on the whisperings of the soul that only madmen and vagabonds are capable of hearing.

The film screened out of competition at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, where it was panned, misunderstood or ignored by the majority of North American critics. One critic boasted, "Absolutely ravishing. I've never been so bored in my life". Ultimately, Fellini's last film became his first never to find a North American distributor. At least until 2017.

Mildly Entertaining, 18 October 2017

Set in the Second World War when whisky rationing is in effect, Scottish islanders of the Outer Hebrides try to plunder cases of whisky from a ship that is stranded on rocks just offshore, based loosely on the real events of the 1941 sinking of the SS Politician.

The production story of this film may be just as interesting as the film itself. Producer Iain Maclean had launched the project as early as 2004 with writer-director Bill Bryden attached. Maclean raised funds through private investment to finance the development of the film. Bryden ended up getting fired, and Peter McDougall was brought on board; he wrote a new script with filming planned for the summer of 2006. This never happened, producers left the project and the film eventually collapsed. In 2014, a decade after his first attempt, Maclean decided to rekindle the project when he met retired farmer and businessman Peter Drayne, who agreed to finance the film completely, as long as the project was started from scratch. Thanks to Drayne, the film was finally green-lit in 2015 and principal photography commenced later that year in Scotland.

Kevin Guthrie explains another part of the film preparation when he says, "I had no real understanding of whisky until we made the film but I think we're all self-proclaimed connoisseurs off the back of it now. We spent time going to distilleries, not just to have a drink, but to understand why it is what it is and why it's a global product. To understand why it's revered. We went to Glenfarclas distillery and they gave us a little sampling of the 105 which is special, too." This is an interesting insight, because such a trip and research was clearly not necessary, but does give food for thought on how deep the love and jot surrounding a social drink can be.

According to director Gillies MacKinnon, the film is a modern interpretation, rather than a proper remake of the 1949 Alexander Mackendrick movie of the same name. He says, "The style is contemporary, embracing drama, romance and comedy, with an array of colorful characters providing a platform for a wonderful cast." Indeed, while still clearly a remake, the entire feel and tone of the picture is different and can easily be seen as its own creation in many ways. The very color scheme and rich cinematography separate this film from its earlier incarnation.

The biggest name attached to the production (either behind or in front of the camera) is comedian Eddie Izzard (though Kevin Guthrie's stock is skyrocketing). Here, he plays the "straight" role, and interestingly enough Izzard does not claim that the film is a comedy at all. He prefers to think of it as a "quirky drama". That is a rather astute observation. While there are comedic elements, he is right -- this is more about family dynamics than a silly island film like "Hot Fuzz".

There is not much in the negative that can be said about the film. Guy Lambert calls out the "seriously questionable Scottish accents", but that is relatively minor. Guy Lodge sums it up as "innocuous" but "unmemorable", which is really the biggest downside. In all technical aspects, the movie is good -- script, directing, camera, acting and so on... there is nothing to dislike. But nothing really stands out, either.

While maybe not a film for repeat viewings, it definitely has its place. Arrow Films has released the movie on Blu-ray, with a few features. There are a handful of short interviews on their disc with just about every actor involved, as well as the director. Beyond that we get relatively little, which is a shame. It may have been nice to get a newsreel of the original (true) story or something to really put it all in context.

Bad CGI, Otherwise Decent, 18 October 2017

Eight strangers awaken with no memory and find themselves in a puzzling cube shaped room where the laws of physics do not always apply.

This sequel is directed by Andrzej Sekuła, more often known as a cinematographer; films shot by him include "American Psycho", "Hackers", "Vacancy", and "Armored". That list of credits might make you suspect this is going to be a great film, but you probably would be wrong.

Some of what happens in this film is interesting. The general premise is not all that changed from the original. However, it gets a bit more abstract and I am not sure if the science really adds up. Making matters worse, the computer effects are pretty sloppy. They just look bad, plain and simple.

Cure (1997)
Kurosawa Works His Magic, 17 October 2017

A frustrated detective (Koji Yakusho) deals with the case of several gruesome murders committed by people who have no recollection of what they have done. (Co-starring Anna Nakagawa from "Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah".)

A U.S. theatrical release came in 2001, in the wake of a renewed interest in Japanese horror cinema spurred on by Hideo Nakata's international cult hit "Ring". Inevitably, this prompted more than a few to dismiss "Cure" as a cash-in, despite the fact that it was made over a year earlier and that the line of influence more likely runs in the opposite direction. Regardless, this exposed Kurosawa to an American audience and he has made a number of great films that have been international hits since: "Pulse", "Creepy", "Daguerreotype", and more.

Tom Mes, the undisputed expert on Japanese cinema, says, "Cure is a horror film in the purest sense of the word; its ability to unsettle the viewer is second to none." He is not wrong.

The Day After (1983) (TV)
An Attempt at Real Horror?, 17 October 2017

A graphic, disturbing film about the effects of a devastating nuclear holocaust on small-town residents of eastern Kansas.

Although the film might be slightly dated today (2017), I would stress only slightly. The overall theme and message are unchanged. The real-life horror that would occur, even in the middle of America, with a full nuclear assault is still something that could occur.

While categorized as "science fiction", this is really pretty spot on. People do not gain mutant powers and America does not invent some new device to nullify nuclear weapons. This is a very realistic what-if scenario.

From Almost Lost to Classic, 16 October 2017

Seeking shelter from a storm, five travelers are in for a bizarre and terrifying night when they stumble upon the Femm family estate.

The film is based on the novel "Benighted" (1927) by J. B. Priestley, who saw the "queer inmates" of the house as symbols of post-war pessimism. He was quite reluctant to sell the rights, thinking his characters would not adapt well to the screen. However, in January 1932, he changed his mind when Universal offered him $12,500 (roughly $215,000 in 2017 money).

The novel was adapted for the screen by R. C. Sheriff ("The Invisible Man") and Benn Levy (Hitchcock's "Blackmail"). Universal Studios producer Carl Laemmle invited Levy from England to Universal City after being impressed with Levy's screenplay for "Waterloo Bridge" (1931), which was also directed by James Whale. Sheriff and Levy were able to have a script fleshed out by March 1932, a mere two months.

James Whale worked with many collaborators from his previous films including Arthur Edeson, who was the cinematographer for "Frankenstein" (1931) and "Waterloo Bridge" (1931) and set designer Charles D. Hall, who also worked on "Frankenstein". Edeson went on to help create the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and become its president. Hall kept "Old Dark House" very scaled back; a viewer could easily mistake the film for a stage production. Ultimately, Hall would work on 11 of Whale's 20 films.

For genre fans, the most obvious repeat collaborator is Boris Karloff, who plays the supporting role of a mute butler. Interestingly, though Karloff's best-known role is Frankenstein's Monster (under Whale's direction), and Whale's best-known film (also "Frankenstein") starred Karloff, the two were not necessarily friends. Cordial, yes, but never close, and yet their names are linked for all eternity.

The cast is all-star by anyone's standards. Whale chose newcomer Gloria Stuart for the glamour role, and this lead to her wider success and her helping found the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). She would soon work with Whale again on both "The Kiss Before the Mirror" and "The Invisible Man", both released in 1933. This was Charles Laughton's first Hollywood film, which came shortly after Laughton had worked with Whale on the English stage.

Laughton was married to Elsa Lanchester, who played the title role in Whale's "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935). "Old Dark House" also started Ernest Thesiger's Hollywood career, and he would go on to work on Whale's "Bride" as Dr. Septimus Pretorius, a role that the studio wanted Claude Rains to have. Of course, Thesiger embodies that role and is as memorable as the bride herself. At the time of casting "Old Dark House", Thesiger had already known Whale and was appearing in one of Benn Levy's plays.

According to Stuart, Whale was a very hands-on director, deciding line delivery, walking, costumes and more. She saw him as an "artist" with his background in both acting and set design, and was "fussy" about makeup, jewelry and props. Because of his rapport with Thesiger, Whale allowed for the most deviations from the script (and book) for his old friend.

"The Old Dark House" was largely ignored at the American box office, although it was a huge hit in Whale's native England. Variety and the Hollywood Filmograph gave the film negative reviews, with Variety calling it a "somewhat inane picture". Other reviews were more positive, but on the whole it was not seen as an instant classic, much to the astonishment of modern audiences.

For many years, the original version was considered a lost film and gained a tremendous reputation as one of the pre-eminent Gothic horror films. Whale's fellow director and friend Curtis Harrington ("Night Tide") helped to prevent "The Old Dark House" from becoming a lost film. Harrington met Whale and Whale's partner David Lewis in 1948, at a time when (according to Harrington) "Whale had no critical reputation at all", unlike how film historians view him today.

When Harrington was signed to Universal in 1967 to direct "Games" with James Caan, he repeatedly asked Universal to locate the film negative of "Old Dark House", although it was Harrington himself who discovered a print of the film in the vaults of Universal Studios in 1968. He persuaded James Card the George Eastman House film archive to finance a new duplicate negative of the poorly-kept first reel, and restore the rest of the film. The original nitrate negative had survived, though the first reel only existed as a lavender protection print.

Harrington further was the one responsible for getting the film legally released. Because Universal had not pursued the copyright, the rights to the story reverted to the Priestley estate and were bought up by Columbia, who released an inferior remake by acclaimed director William Castle in 1963. Harrington was able to convince Columbia to allow copies of the Universal film to be made, though it would be years before distribution and re-screenings were legally cleared.

In 2017, the Cohen Film Collection released a brand new Blu-ray featuring a 4K restoration that brings this classic back to life. They also packed the disc with two different commentaries (one with actress Gloria Stuart, the other with James Whale biographer James Curtis). There is a featurette on how Curtis Harrington saved the film from obscurity, and a completely new 15-minute interview with Sara Karloff.

Fanatic (1965)
Not Hammer's Best, 16 October 2017

A young woman is terrorized by her deceased fiancé's demented mother who blames her for her son's death.

This was the first film from director Silvio Narizzano, a Canadian under contract with Hammer. Narizzano's most successful film was "Georgy Girl" (1966), which received four Academy Award nominations. Unfortunately for genre fans, it seems that Narizzano spent very little time with Hammer or horror, and we have to settle for this one film, which is barely better than average.

The standout role goes to Donald Sutherland, not surprisingly. I mean, Sutherland has consistently been the highlight of any film he appears in. While I am not very knowledgeable on his career, this must be one of his earlier roles... and he nails it.

Back Page (1934)
A Hidden Gem?, 16 October 2017

A young female reporter is fired from a big city newspaper, then decides to take over a troubled small town newspaper. She encounters difficulties with small town politics, getting advertisers to help keep the paper afloat, and issues with 1930s feminism in the resistance she receives from the town's residents to her attempts to run the newspaper.

This film is amazing and not very well known. Why not? Peggy Shannon is like a Rosalind Roussell on a budget. And Sterling Holloway is here, in all his glory... is this an openly gay character? If not, it is about the closest we probably see in this era.

A great story through and through, and well worth a peak if you can find a copy. It is available as a bonus feature of "Deluge", though frankly it is much better than the main film!

Page 1 of 626:[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [Next]