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Pretty Awful Except for the Title, 25 March 2017

Did Baby Shoot Her Sugardaddy? (1972)

1/2 (out of 4)

Really awful film about a Mafia guy who is killed. A detective begins to investigate because there's a missing suitcase with a million dollars in it. He goes to visit the dead man's widow and soon is seduced by her as well as her daughter, Baby.

You know, the greatest thing writer-director Jean Van Hearn did with this picture was give it a wonderful title. After all, back in the days when exploitation theaters and drive-ins were in demand, a great title is all you needed to get people to watch your movie. I had never heard of this thing until Vinegar Syndrome put it up on their Amazon channel and naturally this title jumped out at me. Sadly, the title is the only good thing about this sucker.

I'm really not sure what the director was trying to do with this picture. It's basically a crime-drama with some sexploitation thrown in. For some reason you've got the sexy mommy and daughter seducing men yet their clothes constantly stay on. For a sexploitation picture none of the nudity even happens until after the hour mark and by this time most people would have already turned the film off.

The performances, as you'd expect, are horrible but there are some pretty funny moments that come from it. The direction isn't much better and the story itself is just downright stupid as every single scene just keeps going on and on as if no one knew how to construct a real story. DID BABY SHOOT HER SUGARDADDY? is a pretty worthless film outside the title.

On Vampyres and Other Symptoms, 24 March 2017

On Vampyres and Other Symptoms (2011)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

This here is a 73-minute documentary on the film career of director Jose Ramon Larraz, which features interviews with the man himself as well as clips from his movies. Obviously VAMPYRES and SYMPTOMS are the main focus as clips from both of them are shown throughout the picture.

I'm not going to lie and say I loved this because I really didn't. The documentary mixes the interview footage with footage like a comic book where we hear about various passages of Larraz's life. I thought the most interesting moments of the film come towards the end when we actually get to hear from the director himself as he discusses his movies, why he doesn't watch them and why he was so unhappy at Cannes. These moments where it's actually a one-on-one with the director were the moments I found the most entertaining. Some of the stuff dealing with the comic and the voice-over narration were the least interesting moments.

Fans of the director might be disappointed that more of his filmography isn't discussed but I think director Celia Novis was wanting to do something more than just your casual look at the filmmaker and his films.

Rather Bland Conspiracy Doc, 24 March 2017

We Need to Talk About Sandy Hook (2014)

** (out of 4)

I love documentaries that cover conspiracy theories. The best known theories out there usually take on the JFK assassination and to more recent times the 9/11 terrorist attack. It seems that there are a very large group of people who believe the government was behind Kennedy's assassination and that the government staged 9/11. It seems the up-and-coming theory centers around the school massacre at Sandy Hook Elementery.

Look, I'm not here to judge the filmmakers on the morality of what they're doing. If you believe Sandy Hook happened then you're going to look at the conspiracy theorists as a bunch of slime that are causing more pain to the loved ones of those who were killed. If you believe Sandy Hook was staged then I'm sure you're going to use this documentary to back up your claims.

The only thing I'm doing here is judging this film. As a film, I personally thought it was mildly entertaining but there's really nothing here that makes me believe the entire thing was staged. There are some interesting things brought up here but I've yet to watch any conspiracy video that didn't have at least one interesting thing. For example, Connetuicut passed a law to where death certificates, crime photos and other items can't be released to the public. Was this done because the fake Newtown massacre was in the works? Or was it just a coincidence?

Every conspiracy video has you asking questions like that. The problem with this movie is the fact that they really just don't say too many interesting things in its nearly three hour running time. Yes, we're given some clues and shown "evidence" but I personally didn't find anything here as credible proof that the government staged this. I personally didn't see a reason and especially since our guns weren't taken away, which seemed to be some people's biggest reason to think it was staged. Plus, with all the people needed to pull off a hoax, don't you think something would have slipped out there to give more proof that this was staged?

Avante-Garde Take on Poe, 23 March 2017

The Telltale Heart (1928)

*** (out of 4)

Charles Klein directed this rather interesting take on the Edgar Allan Poe story. Otto Matieson plays The Insane who murders The Old Man (William Herford) but slowly begins to lose his mind when he thinks he hears the man's heart beating.

Klein's THE TELLTALE HEART is certainly a very good version of the story and one that was filmed quite often throughout the history of cinema. This one here was done in an avante-garde way meaning that we get a lot of strange visuals that help tell the story. The sequences with the pounding heart and the "kill! kill! kill!" written all over the screen was quite effective and certainly the highlight of the picture. I actually thought the entire thing was well-made and for the most part the cinematography was exceptional. Klein certainly built up a nice atmosphere and the use of shadows was well-done.

Prelude (1927)
Worth Watching for Horror Fans, 23 March 2017

Prelude (1927)

*** (out of 4)

Castleton Knight directed this avante-garde short about a man who listens to a piece of music and then dreams that he is being buried alive.

This here is loosely based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem and like a lot of films from this era, it's a mixture of horror but done in an avant garde kind of way. Other examples that would follow include two versions of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER and THE TELL-TALE HEART.

This one here isn't quite as good as those other films but there's no question that it's worth watching and especially if you're a fan of the these types of movies. This one here works best when it shows the man being buried in what's basically a clear coffin. When then see his horror as he witnesses more and more dirt being thrown on him. These scenes were rather claustrophobic and they worked for what they are. There's even a small glimpse into Hell, which was nice.

Fun Short from Pennebaker, 23 March 2017

Daybreak Express (1957)

*** (out of 4)

This here was director D.A. Pennebaker's second short and it takes place throughout New York City just as the sun is starting to rise. The camera is basically placed on an express train and we get countless images from the city with all of them connected by the fact that the sun is rising.

It's obvious where the title comes from but for the most part I really enjoyed this short for what it was. There's a lot of quick edits and the focus never stays on one thing for too long but this works perfectly well against the Duke Ellington music score that is going throughout the picture. I really loved the cinematography as well and especially the early shots of the sun just starting to rise among the sky scrappers.

Good For What It Is, 23 March 2017

Jerry Lee Lewis: The Story of Rock & Roll (1991)

*** (out of 4)

This tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis was directed by D.A. Pennebaker as well as Chris Hegedus who I'm guessing put all the footage together. This "documentary" features a lot of early performances from Lewis as he appears on several television shows including the Steve Allen Show where he performs Whole Lotta Shaking' Going' On. We also see live versions of You Win Again, Great Balls of Fire while at the same time seeing footage taken from the Toronto Rock 'n Roll festival from 1969, which Pennebaker also turned into a movie with Lewis in KEEP ON ROCKIN'.

For the most part this is a very entertaining documentary, although there's really nothing too deep or detailed. It clocks in just under thirty-minutes so if you want to see the complete Toronto performance then you'd want to check out KEEP ON ROCKIN' from 1969. The archival clips are all great with the young Lewis really rocking and it's easy to see why he became a hit. The scandal that ruined his career is also covered here with various archival news programs.

Great Line Up of Legends, 23 March 2017

25 Years of Jerry Lee Lewis: A Celebration (1982)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

This television special aired nearly a year after Jerry Lee Lewis had nearly died from stomach issues. Obviously no one knew what the future held for Lewis so some of the biggest names in country music came out to pay tribute to him and the result was this setlist:

Whole Lotta Shaking' Going' On / Thirty Nine and Holding / Blue Suede Shoes (with Carl Perkins) / Great Balls of Fire / Chantilly Lace (w/The Oak Ridge Boys) / Bobbie Sue (The Oak Ridge Boys solo) / Folsom Prison Blues (w/Johnny Cash solo) / You're Not Easy to Forget (w/Dottie West) / Sweet Thang (w/West) / For the Good Times / One More With Feeling (w/Kristofferson) / Me and Bobbie McGee (w/Kristofferson) / Help Me Make it Through (w/Kristofferson) / Object of My Affection-Hey Good Lookin' (w/Mickey Gilley) / The Most Beautiful Girl (w/Charlie Rich) / Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time (w/Rich and Gilley) / Behind Closed Doors (w/Rich and Gilley) / Who's Gonna Play This Old Piano? / I'll Fly Away (ensamble)

As you can tell, there's a lot of music on display for a special that runs just under a hour. There's pretty much non-stop music from the word go with just a few words spoken in between everything. Lewis doesn't look 100% healthy but there's no question he's playing his heart out and he delivers a very strong and entertaining performance. Viewing this special today is even more special when you consider that a lot of the people featured here are no longer with us. Some of the highlights include Lewis kicking things off with a great version of Whole Lotta Shaking' Going' On as well as great duets on Hel Me Make it Through, The Most Beautiful Girl and Behind Closed Doors.

Symptoms (1974)
Well Made and Different Type of Horror Film, 23 March 2017

Symptoms (1974)

*** (out of 4)

After spending time away from home, Helen (Angela Pleasence) decides to return to her country estate and she brings along her friend Anne (Lorna Heilbron). It doesn't take too long for Anne to realize that there's some secret that Helen is hiding. As the film moves along we start to realize that there's something supernatural or psychological going on.

Director Joseph Larraz's SYMPTOMS is a film that was released to Cannes and got a few positive reviews but the film pretty much disappeared outside of that. Over the decades people spoke highly of the film but it was nearly impossible to actually find it. In truth, the majority of people had never even heard of it. With that in mind, it's rather shocking to see that the picture actually lives up to the hype.

This film contains elements of Polanski's REPULSION as well as Hitchcock's PSYCHO. The lead character is quite an interesting one because she's just so strange and has such a blank look to her eyes that you can just feel that something is haunting her. What makes the film work so well is that we don't know if she's really being haunted by something supernatural or if it is all in her mind. The director perfectly builds up a very strange atmosphere and the back and forth elements of what's really going on perfectly plays out.

The film also benefits to some shocking violence. Not shocking as in gory or over-the-top but instead it usually comes out of nowhere and catches you off guard. As I said, some of these seem influenced by the "shock" murders in PSYCHO but it plays out very well here. The performances are also quite good with Pleasence, the daughter of Donald, really shining in a very laid back and quiet role. I really thought she did a fabulous job at showing that damage this character has had done to her. Heilbron is also good in her supporting part as is Peter Vaughn.

SYMPTOMS isn't a shock fest or in-your-face and fast-paced horror movie. It takes its slow, sweet time building up the character, the atmosphere and the outcome. It's certainly not going to be a film to appeals to everyone but it's certainly well-made and entertaining.

Worth Watching for Bow and Cooper, 23 March 2017

Children of Divorce (1927)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

As the film starts off we're told about special homes where children of divorced parents can go and stay. We then meet Kitty who is dropped off by her mother and can't make friends but soon Jean becomes an older sister to her. Jean meets Edward and the two make a childish joke that one day they will marry. Flash-forward and Kitty (Clara Bow) is a flapper and soon a drunken night leads to her marrying Edward (Gary Cooper), which of course breaks the heart of Jean (Esther Ralston).

CHILDREN OF DIVORCE is the greatest movie that its stars ever made. In fact, I honestly thought there were quite a few problems throughout the picture and it wasn't nearly as good as I was hoping for when I went into it. With that said, both Bow and Cooper are legends of the screen and them alone makes this worth sitting through.

The story itself is pretty melo-dramatic and downright predictable at times. For starters, the story never really makes any sense because as children the Bow character is pretty much a shy and timid girl. Then, when we see the adult version, there she is as this loud, over-the- top party girl. There's just nothing here that's very believable as the first portion just seems over-dramatic and the second portion is just your typical Bow character from this period.

I'm certainly not going to ruin what happens as the movie goes along but there's no question that it's rather unbelievable and I'd argue that the ending is laughably bad and predictable. It's certainly a morality tale but to me it was just a bit overdone for its own good. Director Frank Lloyd (with apparent re-shoots by Josef von Sternberg) does a decent job at keeping the film moving but visually there's not too much here.

I thought Bow was good in the film, delivering the type of performance that you'd expect from her. This certainly wasn't her best role but there's no question that it's hard to take your eyes off of her. Cooper was also good in the part, although it's clear he was still learning his way on the screen. I didn't care too much for Ralston's performance as she was certainly the weak link.

It seems I'm really coming down hard on CHILDREN OF DIVORCE but perhaps it's mainly due to how disappointed I was in it. It's a decent movie and certainly worth watching if you're a fan of the stars but there's no question that they did much better work.

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