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Let's Be Frank, 28 June 2017

Feud: Bette and Joan (2017)

Episode 4: More, or Less

Episode four kicks off with the film about to be previewed and Davis (Susan Sarandon), Crawford (Jessica Lange) and director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) are expecting the worse. The film actually turns out to be a massive hit but both stars react to the popularity quite differently but before long all three realize that a hit doesn't mean future projects.

This episode is certainly one of the more entertaining as we actually get away from the actual "fued" somewhat and see how all three principle players are affected by the success of the movie. There are some fine re-enactments of the projects Davis was doing at this time as well as some great moments where both actresses have to face the fact that even with a hit they are still old and Hollywood doesn't care too much for that.

Once again the performances are wonderful and the series has done a terrific job at putting you back into time when these events were happening. This episode has some really good drama throughout and ends on a very high note that just builds up your interest for the next episode.

Episode: A-

Highly Entertaining Spanish Horror, 27 June 2017

Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973)

*** (out of 4)

Warlock Alaric de Marnac (Paul Naschy) and his partner (Helga Line ) are executed for practicing witchcraft but before they're killed they put a curse on those who witness their death. Flash-forward five-hundred years later and a group of people travel to the country looking for a treasure and sure enough the spirit of the warlock returns for vengeance.

Director Carlos Aured and Naschy would make four films together with this one here being the first. The film is out there in at least three different versions including a clothed version, which was originally done for Spain and there's a short American version. The best version to watch is the uncut, international version, which contains all the gore and nudity. HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB isn't a masterpiece but there's no question that it's a very entertaining Spanish horror film that has a lot going for it.

What I enjoy most about this film is the fact that it's quite a dirty little picture. If you're looking for violence and gore then there's quite a bit here including several decapitations as well as scenes where hearts are ripped out. In one of the highlights, there's a great sequence where we see a man's chest ripped apart. If you like nudity then you'll be happy to know that there are several beautiful women who take their clothes off throughout the picture. These two elements are common in Spanish horror and there's no doubt that the film delivers.

The film also benefits from the country setting as the director manages to build up a rather nice atmosphere and especially during the final twenty-minutes when things really start to happen at rapid fire. The cast is also quite good with Naschy playing three different roles and doing a great job with each of them. His warlock is certainly the highlight of the three and I really loved the little touches like the neck. Line is good and seductive in her role and we get some nice support from Victor Alcazar and Emma Cohen.

HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMBS has a few pacing issues and it takes a while to get going but if you stick with the picture it's certainly becomes quite rewarding.

The Battle for Oscar, 27 June 2017

Feud: Bette and Joan (2017)

Episode 3: Mommie Dearest

Episode three takes a look at Bette (Susan Sarandon) and Joan (Jessica Lange) and their relationship towards each other as well as with their daughters. Bette is having to deal with her young daughter getting a role in WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? while Joan is questioned by her co-star on the toughness she shows her children.

This third episode is another very entertaining one as we get a lot more behind-the-scenes struggles as both Davis and Crawford use the press to try and make themselves the star of the picture as well as try to build up early Oscar support. In one of the funniest moments, the director has to scream at both of the women because they're fighting over an Oscar even though the movie isn't completed.

If you've enjoyed the first two episodes then there's no question that the entertainment will continue here. There's a lot of good scenes dealing with the two women battling and it's certainly a lot of fun. Of course, the two lead actresses deserve a lot of credit for really digging into these roles and you can't help but believe both Sarandon and Lange in the roles.

Episode: A-

'Psycho' Path (1999) (V)
The Making of Psycho, 26 June 2017

'Psycho' Path (1999)

*** (out of 4)

This here is an entertaining thirty-minute documentary that takes a look at the making of the 1998 remake of PSYCHO. Obviously, we start off hearing from some people who thought director Gus Van Sant was crazy for attempting to remake what is considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made. We hear from people asking why they were doing it and then we hear from the director himself on why he wanted to. From here it's a behind-the-scenes tour of the set and features interviews with most of the main cast members including Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Philip Baker Hall, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Rita Wilson as well as other crew members.

For the most part this here is a fun documentary that asks the obvious questions but the highlight here is all of the behind-the-scenes footage. This includes the director and Vaughn going over what type of haircut Norman should have, what type of hat Macy should wear and there's even a selection of the shower curtain. Stuff like this was a lot of fun but at the same time it also makes it clear why the movie was so awful and that's because everyone was trying to make this better than the original or trying to pay homage and the end result was just downright bad.

Going For the Throat, 26 June 2017

Feud (2017)

Episode 2: The Other Woman

Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci) convinces director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) that the film could be a major hit if only there was more controversy. This had Aldrich start a gossip war and soon Bette (Susan Sarandon) and Joan (Jessica Lange) are battling to stay one up on the other.

This second episode certainly picks up on the first as this one here gets into the meat of the story, which of course was the various conflicts that were going on during the making of the picture. The first episode pretty much introduced the characters to current viewers who might not have known who they were. That first episode was a nice introduction but this one here really takes off in regards to the gossip trash and behind-the-scenes fighting.

What works so well about this episode is the fact that we get to see Joan and Bette off the set and how both of their lives were already a mess and the various drama going on behind-the-scenes wasn't helping anything. We get some nice bits of information going back to their early days at the studio, which makes for a lot of fun and once again the episode ends on a strong note and makes you exciting for what's to follow.

Episode: A-

Realizing You Need Each Other, 26 June 2017

Feud: Bette and Joan (2017)

Episode 1: Pilot

Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) realizes that there aren't any good roles coming to her so her agent recommends she look for her own project. This leads her to discovering the book What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Joan realizes this could be the help her career needs but she's going to have to accept the fact that the only way to sell it is by getting her rival Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) on board.

I actually went back and watched WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? before I started this series. I was a little shocked that they decided to tell the story of Crawford and Davis since, well, so many actors and actresses from previous decades just aren't remembered by anyone other than film buffs like myself.

This first episode at least got the series off to a good start. I'm not going to call this episode great because it seems like it was made to try and inform people of who Davis and Crawford were. As a film buff, I'm well aware of them so there really wasn't anything ground- breaking here story-wise. It did do a great job at building up your interest for what is obviously going to follow.

Both Sarandon and Lange have fit into their roles quite nicely so it's going to be interesting to see where these two legendary actresses go while playing legendary actresses. It seems the series gets a chuckle out of some F-bombs being dropped as well as even more profanity, which seems to be becoming the norm on FX.

Episode: B+

Janie (1970)
Extremely Weird Exploitation Movie, 25 June 2017

Janie (1970)

** (out of 4)

Janie (Mary Jane Carpenter) is a young girl who apparently has some sort of bizarre sexual fantasy about her father. As the movie starts Janie is in bed with a much older man and she begins to tell him about her day. When then flashback to the various stories she tells, which includes her luring men in with her sexy body only to then kill them.

JANIE is a film that I'm really shocked isn't better known by people. If you're a fan of exploitation then how is it you've probably never heard of this film? Well, I'm going to guess the reason it's not better known is the fact that it's really not that good of a movie. Yes, the plot description is a knock-out but sadly the film was burdened with some flaws including a low-budget, which probably kept the movie from achieving more.

Still, if you're a fan of exploitation then this is still a must-see because, after all, how many awful sexploitation movies are out there and known to fans of the genre? This one here has a lot going for it including the lead actress who is extremely cute and she fits the part of a nymph very well. She's certainly easy on the eyes but she also makes you believe she could lure all of these men to their death. The budget doesn't allow for very gruesome murder scenes but there's still a little blood mixed in with the sex and nudity.

The film clocks in at a very, very short 65-minutes and it's really not that long because there are all sorts of weird flashbacks throughout the film. We get countless flashbacks to previous murders in the movie and I'm going to guess these here were done so that the running time could be extended. The film isn't all that well-made but these types of movies don't really have to be the work of Orson Welles, now do they?

Jack Bravman, who would later direct the horrid ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE, is credited with this film but many believe it was actually directed by Michael Findlay who has a small role in the film. This honestly doesn't look like the work of Findlay so I'm going to go with Bravman as the director.

Roberta In the Driver's Seat, 25 June 2017

The Altar of Lust (1971)

* 1/2 (out of 4)

Viveca (Erotica Lantern) is on the couch of her therapist who she tells about her stepfather raping her in Sweden. From here we see the various stories she's telling, which includes her move to America and her turn into lesbianism.

THE ALTAR OF LUST comes from director Roberta Findlay and was apparently the first movie she did without any assistance from her ex-husband Michael. If you're familiar with the type of "roughies" that the two were making in the 1960s then the style of this film will look familiar. This here was before DEEP THROAT changed everything to hardcore so you've basically got a cheap softcore picture that doesn't have too much to recommend in it.

The film was shot silent with dubbing used. Or, more accurately, narration used to tell us what we're basically looking at on the screen. This thing clocks in at 81-minutes and was a real chore to sit through as there's just nothing here that separates it from the countless other sexploitation pictures out there. It certainly helps that Lantern is so darn cute so seeing her run around naked throughout the movie is certainly the highlight. The biggest problem with the movie is that it simply drags. There's no real plot, just a bunch of simulated sex scenes and after a while they get quite boring.

Interesting To Say the Least, 25 June 2017

Angel Number 9 (1974)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Steven (Alan Marlow) is a worthless piece of crap who treats women as objects. One day he kicks out a woman who loves him because she tells him that she's pregnant with his child. The "heavens" decide to step it and have Steven ran over by a truck. Once his spirit is in Heaven, he's informed that he's being sent back down to Earth as a female so that he can understand the pain that he has caused them. Now, Stephanie (Darby Lloyd Rains) is back on Earth and wants to experience what it's like to be a woman and she must find someone to love her or else Steven will never come back.

This Roberta Findlay directed film also goes under the title ANGEL ON FIRE but no matter what you want to call it there's no question that it's a strange one. Look, there's a gigantic plot hole that never gets worked out. Steven is a really stupid and bad man and yet this side of his personality never comes through as Stephanie. Even though, as Stephanie, the "man" knows what's going on and he also understands that he's in a woman's body. Do you really think this "man" in this "woman's" body would be so willing to just hop in bed with every guy?

Yes, that's a logical issue with the screenplay but then again, how many people are going to be coming to a porno and questioning the plot? For the most part I found this to be a rather entertaining picture thanks in large part to the rather stupid plot. The dialogue is extremely bad at times but thankfully it's also quite laughable and especially the sexist things that the men are saying to the women before they're thrown out. Rains was actually very entertaining in the role and she certainly adds a touch of erotic nature. Jamie Gillis is fun in his role as the jerk of a man she falls in love with.

Findlay's ANGEL NUMBER 9 isn't a masterpiece or even a good film but it's an interesting woman's take on the subject of jerk men and what women go through.

Squirm (1976)
Good Southern Horror Film, 23 June 2017

Squirm (1976)

*** (out of 4)

A storm comes through and knocks various power lines down in the woods of Georgia. This electrical force is causing the worms in the ground to come up and before long they start attacking people. New Yorker Mick (Don Scardino) is visiting his girl Geri (Patricia Pearcy) and soon the two of them are trying to survive.

Director Jeff Lieberman's SQUIRM is pure Southern drive-in horror that manages to work even though it has a rather silly story and very little of what you'd call a budget. The first time I watched this film I thought it was somewhat overrated because there's really not too much that happens throughout the running time. With the second viewing I really noticed a lot more things that I had overlooked and I really thought this was a rather well-made little film that accomplishes a lot considering the budget.

I think what I enjoyed most this time around was the fact that the director perfectly captures the atmosphere of this small redneck town out in the middle of nowhere. The main star of this picture isn't the actors or the worms but instead it's the location, which is pure low-economy madness out where everyone knows everyone. I really loved that Lieberman was able to milk this Southern setting for everything that it was worth and you just really could feel the locations and their creepy nature. When the characters are out fishing you can just smell the stink. When they're walking through the woods you can just feel the sweat.

Another plus is that some of the performances are actually pretty good. Scardino is really good in the role of the boyfriend. He perfectly fits that "city boy" images but at the same time he makes the character one you like and you really do feel as if he can turn into the hero. I also really liked R.A. Dow who plays one of the rednecks. You've also got Jean Sullivan turning in a fine if short performance and Peter MacLean is a blast as the Sheriff.

The special effects are fairly good for what they are and the editing helps make several scenes quite effective including the notorious one with the worms digging into one man's face. SQUIRM isn't a masterpiece and there are certainly some flaws but there's no much going right here that you can't help but enjoy it.

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