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Columbo: Troubled Waters (1975)
Enjoyable Columbo episode with the policeman out to sea. His unseen wife wins a raffle of sorts and both are rewarded with a cruise. The episode is unique in that, as another reviewer noted, Columbo has none of his signature trademarks with him. No raincoat. No old car. No funny dog. It is just Lt. Columbo. He also does not have a forensic team, additional police help, or technology at his aid either. He also is NOT expected to work in this episode at the beginning. He is on vacation here. These differences allow us to see him perhaps at first with a bit of his guard down. But murder makes its way into the picture, and the Lt. has a mystery to solve. The story here is quite inventive. The direction quite taut. Robert Vaughn plays the killer with his usual aplomb for such roles. He is a good actor but I really do not think there is a role where I found him affable. He always plays the kind of guys you like to see proverbially cut in half. The cruise ship is captained by the Avenger himself Patrick Macnee in a very officious but humorous at times role. And then there is Bernard Fox as another officer aboard bringing his charm too. The murdered woman sings Volare a bit long but she is foxy Dean Stockwell is here too as a red herring looking incredibly eccentric. Definitely a fun episode.
I Liked It!
I waited a LONG time to finally see this. I was expecting a schmaltzy love story - and got it BUT got a good deal more too. Just about everyone knows the story of Sam and Molly. I also knew I would have to sit through the pottery scene - fortunately it was early on. I also knew Whoopi Goldberg was in it and won her Oscar. Let's start with her. She deserved it. She was very funny, energetic, and breathed comedic life into some pretty pedestrian material at times. She is gorgeous too! The film is definitely a love story, a story of love conquering all, and love transcending death. It is also a story of redemption, good and evil, a murder mystery of sorts, and a comedy of situation at times as well. Add in some not-so-great special effects and we get spirits being asked to rise. Dark spirits whisking people to Hell. A variety of ghosts who seem content to sit around and be funny. At the core of the film, however; is a triangle of acting chemistry. No doubt at all that Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore have it. Their love looks real. Whoopi and Demi have some chemistry as well, but I think the chemistry between Whoopi and Patrick is what really carries the film. They have great timing together. They are funny together. The best parts of the film for me are the scenes where they are together. Swayze has this innocent naivete about him that really is convincing. The writing is wonderful and the direction crisp. The final scene is a tear-jerker that even I could not fail to succumb to in the end. I recommend Ghost heartily.
Cancel My Reservation (1972)
Definitely not Hope-less
I, like many other viewers have stated, got an opportunity to see this as a youngster on TV...probably late one night back when television stations would play movies like this into the wee hours of the evening/morning. I didn't remember much. Of course there was Bob Hope. I remembered Keenan Wynn for some reason and knew it was about murder in the desert. Well, I finally acquired a copy and was pleasantly surprised. Yes, Bob Hope's game is off. He is 69 or so here(looks absolutely incredible for his age). He turns out a one liner almost every minute he is on screen - which is almost every minute for the film. Most fail, but after awhile I was laughing at some of them - some because they were pretty good and others because he was trying SO terribly hard. Hope glides through the film with his typical Hope persona. Enjoyable but nothing great to be sure. The supporting cast is also equally enjoyable. Keenan Wynn playing a crusty sheriff with his usual flair for such roles. Ralph Bellamy and Forrest Tucker as a local rancher and his henchman. Bellamy is wheelchair-bound and as always quite good with dialog. Tucker looks tired though. Eve Marie saint plays Hope's wife. She is okay but has a dazzling set of legs which she shows off quite a bit. This is Anne Archer's first major film role and she is stunning - a buffet for the eyes and also quite good in her role. The plot is something out of the 40s with a body, then a missing body, and that kind of stuff. Nothing great but watching established pros work with inferior material makes it rise to a level no-talents could not achieve. There is a dream sequence with cameos by John Wayne, Johnny Carson, Flip Wilson, and old Bing Crosby himself. It is pretty brief but nice nonetheless. So this stroll down memory lane was enjoyable. Scenes I saw decades ago started to come back to me, and I will most definitely watch the film again soon as well as check out some more Bob Hope films. Honestly, I miss this stuff. Nothing today, though there is awesome television and good filmmaking abounding, creates the same kind of feel for me as that stuff I watched as a kid. Guess that is how it will be for young people today too.
Le frisson des vampires (1971)
Very Slow Yet Somewhat Intriguing...I Think
This was my first Jean Rollin film. Rollin, a pre-eminent French director known for his eroticism and surrealism in his "horror" films, definitely has an eye for atmosphere with his particular attentions given to color, shading, set pieces(love the Gothic look and feel of the film), and even the music chosen for the film. He also has an eye for the female form as well as we get to evaluate that critical approach again and again and again...honestly, Sandra Julien has one of the most beautiful backsides I have ever seen - in film or anywhere else! The story is very, very thin as Julien and her new husband want to pay their respects to her two cousins as they are on their honeymoon. These two strange men were vampire hunters(unbeknown-st to Julien) and have now been turned into vampires. Julien arrives hearing the news that her cousins are dead. That is more plot than the rest of the film which has a female vampire popping out of a clock and all sorts of strange places who turns Julien into her lesbian lover and then we wait for her final turn into a real vampire whilst her husband Antoine cannot understand what is going on. The two cousins have one good scene at dinner talking about vampirism but really the rest of the film is so slow....not much at all happens. The atmosphere does make up for much of it though...as do the plentiful breasts. While this film is not going to keep you on the edge of your seat at all(just wait until you see the anti-climatic end), it was interesting and intriguing and charming in its own way.
Las Vegas or Bust...OR Volare!
This is one of those weird little films that has the power to grow on you. Ostensibly, it should not be all that much as it details the story of three college boys in search of a great stripper as appeasement for joining a fraternity. How quickly we derail from that story(in fact it just about disappears and never resurfaces again) and go to the dark, twisted, removed world of the After Dark Club. This is where the guys are to find their stripper - in this case a very bizarre, strangely erotic, wholly creepy Grace Jones! There we find a sub-culture, apparently unbeknown-st to the police - who either look the other way or fear this bad part of town, of vampirism hidden behind the facade of a decaying strip show. Now, we do get some girls showing us their wares, though this really is not the major point of this film. We do get some genuinely eerie and scary moments as well. We do get those God-awful special effects that are so common in the 80s. We do get Grace Jones and all that that entails. But the primary purpose of this film is to interlace humor with all of that. It succeeds. I laughed quite a bit actually. The guys running the club are hilarious, particularly Sandy Baron who is the emcee and wearing some pink/red lounge blazer like a comedian might from yesteryear in the Catskills. He keeps ranting about he wants to take the act/show/everything to Vegas...his great dream. He of course works for Katrina, Grace Jones, the Egyptian vampire who owns the place. Anyway, we soon get one boy meeting Katrina and the other boy trying to find him and the story runs pretty strongly just from that. Comedy abounds from moments with a strange albino non-vampire group after the boys being assaulted from vampires in the community(the little girl flying and biting the neck of Billy Drago had me in stitches!) to the bizarre ending where we get this great rendition of Domenico Modugno singing "Volare!." Of course that means "to fly" in Italian, and it is that tongue planted firmly in cheek that made this film enjoyable for me. As I said before, there are some truly scary moments as well. The atmosphere is very well-done by director Richard Wenk sans those atrocious special effects. One can definitely see how this was an inspiration possibly for From Dusk till Dawn.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Gentlemen, STOP your Engines. Please.
In a simple word...bad. Quite bad really. Stephen King shows he has virtually no skill behind the camera as he directs this tale of a comet passing Earth and the planet being caught in its "tail." Because of this, machines begin to act violently and want nothing more than to kill, maim, destroy, eliminate, and eradicate those that made them. The movie never tries to take itself seriously, but my problem is that humor is not something you can just snap your fingers and manufacture. This is just not very funny. It was also quite boring. The worst part was the first fifteen minutes or so where we get exposition as to what is happening, meet all our unlikable, thinly-layered characters, and see King in a stupid cameo at an ATM. Really? At any rate I could go on and on about what is wrong with this picture. Look at the other reviews if you want to explore all that. It is mountainous! One major problem is that King, a writer who should have known better, tries to stretch a short story beyond its stretching point. This is just not substantial material for a feature-length film. Secondly, the whole film seems to lack and desperately need a sense of direction. I felt bad for some of the actors. Some are decent like Pat Hingle, yet he was chewing up scenery with an ALIEN-like mouth. It was too much. Most of the other actors are not very seasoned or good. Thank God for Yeardley Smith(the voice of Lisa Simpson herself). Without her I cannot imagine what watching this would have been like. She is about all the only real humor in the entire film. Then let's take a look at that AC/DC score. I tired of it quickly. It was like someone put me in a loud amusement park and never allowed me to leave. Some of the music is really good but sometimes enough is just enough. Unfortunately, this is one of those times for me when the film lived up to the hype. Maximum Overdrive is considered universally to be a very bad film. I try to never let that interfere with my viewing for the first time. I did not, but make no mistake it surely lives up to its legacy.
The Loved One (1965)
Momma's Big Tub
Director Tony Richardson takes no prisoners as he lambastes the funeral business, the government, religion, ideology, and anything else held sacred by many. Richardson does this in the most comically satiric manner with subtlety, restraint at times, over-indulgence at other moments, and a unique blend of English reservedness and wit mixed with American vulgarity and frankness. I loved this film and was laughing throughout. The story starts off with a young Englishman(Robert Morse) arriving in LA with no job or prospects other than visiting his famous uncle John Gielgud - who is in the movie business. Gielgud invites the young man to stay, introduces him to the strong acting British community, and provides him with living essentials as the young man decides what to do with his life(apparently after a romantic break). We see Gielgud at work and Richardson has no problems making fun of the movie industry at all as Gielgud, a veteran of 31 years, has been reduced to helping an American hick become an Englishman - not even remotely possible. He fails, is let go, and hangs himself. At this point we have a wonderful satire about the film industry, but what follows balloons into something even more grandiose. Character actor Robert Morley insists that this man be buried at the best place possible - Whispering Glades. We then watch Morse go there and see the hyperbolic excesses of the funereal business for those who least need their services - the dead. Morse meets beautiful Anjanette Comer, a make-up artist for the dead, as well as a series of people to help bring his uncle to "peace." Richardson, taking Waugh's novel, really has a knack at steamrolling his satire here with decadent grounds, huge rooms for repose, a bureaucratic network designed only for the wealthy, white, and people of "merit." Liberace, giving a great performance, plays a man who helps Morse decide on what casket, suit, and even shoes his dead uncle will have. The film then turns into a myriad of directions from a rich reverend who has a godlike complex but only a desire to make money, the help of the government to foster this big business, and a romantic triangle like no other with Morse, Comer, and Rod Steiger as Mr. Joyboy - the chief embalmer. While the end of The Loved One does not carry the impact now that it did in 1965, the film as a whole is a witty, incredibly black comedy de farce in many ways. Richardson made a film his way with his ideals firmly planted. Yes, this film will and I am sure did offend many. It also opens one's eyes to a number of things. The acting is great with Morse doing very solid work. Comer, as I said before, is lovely. Steiger - Steiger is great! His Mr. Joyboy with effeminacy reeking, long white curls, and fastidious outfits matched with his outlandish hand gestures steals every scene he is in...EXCEPT the ones with his mother(more on that shortly). His accented dialog was a real treat to hear. "I am saving for Momma's big tub!" His mother, "every inch a queen," is in one of the most bizarre film scenes I have ever seen in any "mainstream" picture. Words fail me. See it. I shall never look at a roast pig again - or a turkey - in the same way. I could go on, but I think you get my favorable stance toward this film which is most definitely under-viewed. Jonathan Winters is superb as well in two roles. Catch Paul Williams in his first film role. Watch Milton Berele give a great cameo as a husband fighting with his wife over a bereaved loved one. What a funny scene that was too!
I'll Take the Middle Road
If this was sold at one point in time(and really there is no doubt it was), then people were seriously ripped-off. However, I too saw it courtesy of Amazon Prime and was engaged and entertained for 60 minutes about an event I did not attend but would have loved to do so. Basically, we get an inside(not very inside though) tour of the Zombie Jamboree celebrating the 25th anniversary of that film. We get John Russo's narration throughout as we see guests at the convention sell their autographs, etc... but we do get some insights into the film itself, the people who made it, its enduring legacy, and much more. I found the Q and A bit with George Romero very interesting. The same for the two scream queens. Tom Savini's walk through the Monroeville mall was also a highlight. I enjoyed the discussion of Duane Jones's import in the film too. This is not particularly well-made. Yes, there are audio(and video) inconsistencies but bear in mind it was made over twenty years ago. So much technologically has changed since then. For what it is, it is a curious, interesting supplement to not only a great film but also to the convention craze which is still going strong.
Where else can you see David Niven called a Jive Turkey?
A-List star on less-than-grand times David Niven takes his turn as the Count in this hard-to-find film(currently it can be seen on Amazon Prime). A film like this you know is going to have problems because it has more than one title that it is frequently known by. It is called Old Dracula, Old Drac, and Vampira. I probably first saw this on TV sometime in the late seventies. I liked it then. I sought it out and re-visited it over forty years later. I kind of liked it. It is a tepid, lukewarm reaction to some stuff that really has become quite out- dated. This film was made during the Blaxplotation craze of the 70's. It takes the grittiness and edge from that away, and it gives you this. I also read it came out shortly after Young Frankenstein as a means of cashing in on that film's success. Obviously, it did not work as those two films have NOTHING in common. The film clearly has a nice budget as we see posh sets and locations along with good actors for the most part. Niven looks tired in this role - he is suppose to be too - as he tries to find the right blood type to bring his wife "back-to-life." He finds it when a group of Playboy models come to spend the evening in his now- opened-for-the-public castle. Trouble is that all the blood is mixed up somehow and he does not know which model had the right blood. Why is this a problem? When his wife comes back to life she is black. He must now take her and his servant to London and find the right model in the hopes that it will turn her back to her "normal" pale self. The story truly is my biggest problem with the film. It really is somewhat offensive as well as ridiculous. Try making sense of it if you can. I moved on so as not to miss the film from that point on. The acting is good throughout though Niven, as I said previously, is lackluster. Teresa Graves as his new wife; however, gives a lively performance(and is a beauty to boot). She chews up the scenery with her scene-stealing scenes(okay, more like taking something that nobody else wanted). The models are all luscious as well. Cathie Shirriff is particularly appealing(and free in her performance as well). So is the always lovely Veronica Carlson who is somewhat wasted in her role. Linda Hayden as a voluptuous castle-wench is funny and gorgeous. The best performance for me was the deadpan one of Peter Bayliss as Dracula's manservant Maltravers. He had the funniest lines and the bit he does at the castle being the mad-servant for the guests may have been the highlight of the film. That does not bode well then for the rest of the film. Old Dracula is an okay film from an era where you could make this type of film. I know it has a lot of detractors but was watchable at least.
"Where there is Death, there is Hope"
Yep, this is one BAD movie...but as others noted...strangely likable. The really difficult step in viewing and reviewing this film is finding a copy. It had one Media video release(VHS) eons ago and has been MIA for the last two to three decades. You might find a copy on Ebay but will spend a pretty penny. How did I see it finally? THANK YOU YOUTUBE! Anyway, we have Nocturna, played with beauty and an amazing lack of skill as any kind of a thespian, by Nai Bonet. Bonet's claim to fame as a half-Vietnemese and half-French belly dancer with dalliances with acting on the side has been strangely baffling. She had really no entertainment career that would merit a project like this, though one must be impressed that she found a way to make this film(and another called Hoodlums). Unfortunately for Nai, this film and the other were box office poison - and she essentially left this arena. Let's talk about what is wrong with the film quickly and then move on to what I liked. Nai Bonet cannot act. Period. Yes, English is clearly not her first language. That is obvious the first moment you hear her speak. But more than that is her total lack of displaying any kind of emotion. It was an incredibly wooden performance. Her male co-star(really stretching that word here) was equally as bad. The story, written by Nai, also borders on sophomoric tripe. It seems a very old Dracula has no longer a means to kill on his own and so relies heavily on his granddaughter Nocturna. A disco group comes to Hotel Transylvania and Nocturna kicks up her heels with some beefcake and falls in love. She follows him to New York and starts to turn into a human because of her love. Touching, isn't it? The special effects of vampires turning into bats is nothing more than really out-dated animation. It looks soooo silly even in a silly picture like this. There is an awful lot of disco music and disco dancing. What do you expect in a vampire disco film? Okay, clearly this is not Citizen Kane or even some of the great low- budget films of the seventies. It isn't Love at First Bite either. There is virtually no violence at all in the film. At its heart is a nice story - just one not very well executed. Despite all of this, I found myself liking the film overall. Nai is beautiful for a woman in her mid-to-late thirties. She looks like she is in her 20's. We get to see much of that beautiful body too. I had absolutely no problem with that at all. We also have a scene where Nai is visiting a pimp and his bevy of beautiful vampires who also share her free performance style in this regard. Actually, it was a pretty funny scene as well. The budget was obviously not huge but the film looks very good. The opening scene is quite atmospheric. The set locations were all done quite well too. The music was not all that horrible. The Gloria Gaynor opening theme, "Love is but a heartbeat away" was rather catchy. I thought the entire opening sequence was done with great aplomb. Nai was smart enough to get some names, lesser names, but names nonetheless for her film. John Carradine plays Dracula in a rather lackluster manner but he has a few intriguing lines. Yvonne De Carlo plays a vampire in New York who boards Nocturna and gives her advice. Another lackluster performance particularly in a somewhat thankless role. Both these thespians add some credibility. The other supporting players are all rather decent as well with one HUGE plus. The performance of Brother Theodore moves this picture up from being wretched to being somewhat endearing. He lusts after Nocturna and in one scene in particular(the bathtub scene) he gives one of the oddest, perverse, and hilarious monologues I have ever seen. That VOICE uttering some of the most ridiculous dialog and yet transforming it into something more. Just watch the way he rolls his eyes. So funny and creepy! I wish he had been in the film a bit more. So, check this film out while you have the opportunity. it is not great by no means yet is ... well, let me put it this way ...I would watch it again at some point.
The Video Dead (1987)
"Just Pray It's Not drugs Dear"
Probably more famous for its video box than as a film, this direct-to-video film is not all that bad. In fact it really grew on me. Why? It is not because it is particularly good or has great action or wonderful special effects. It does have a lot of heart and a sense of humor AND despite the low budget and the cast of mostly one and dones - it is fairly well-made. An odd package is sent to a writer who opens the box, finds an old black and white TV, plugs it in...and then the only thing that plays is a zombie flick. Wait! He turns off set and it comes back on. He unplugs it and it comes back on..and he is killed by a group of undead that come from the TV set. These rogue zombies then disappear for three months until a new family moves in - and then they start killing. Why did they wait three months? Your guess is as good as mine! Apparently they were in the woods the whole time. Anyway, the new people in the house are just a teen-aged boy and his hot sister. A guy that originally bought the TV set comes along - and its zombie hunting time. Now, do not get me wrong. This is no great cinema. How about that scene with the poodle going into the woods? Or the whole bit with the kid tied in the air? Or even the ending. these zombies are MIGHTY smart! I liked the performances of several most notably Sam David McClelland as Joshua Daniels(the guy that kept calling Jeff "Kid." He was not great but genuine. The girls were all hot in that 80s hot way. Victoria Bastel as April the cute blond and Roxanna Augenson as Zoe Blair - very pretty though not always convincing. The make up really is pretty good and the TV scenes were really pretty suspenseful. For what it was - I liked it. I do want to check out the new blu ray. I watched my old Embassy tape once again. Who says video is dead?
My Vote for Best Film of 2012!
Lots of division here - actually I am very surprised. I am not going into some long review. MANY on here have done so. I loved the movie and, after seeing most of the films nominated for an Oscar in 2012, was very perplexed why this one had not even been nominated. To me, it clearly was the best. Yes, I have read The Hobbit many times. Yes, Peter Jackson changed and heavily "added" but in the end he crafted a masterpiece - and I for one longingly await the second installment. Could this have been done in two movies? Sure. But it was not. At least you are getting your money's worth with these films. The action, story, acting, special effects, music, etc.. are all top-notch. That is all I have to say now - I told you I would be brief.
The Mutations (1974)
It's a Hybrid between Frankenstein and Freaks
Well, to keep the puns going, this grows on you after awhile. Really, it does. While I had never heard of it before, I was pleasantly surprised to find this film about a British bio-engineer/professor mixed up with a carnival and who uses bodies(inexplicably) to help with his experimentation to create an animal/plant race of beings. We get a Frankenstein type film, but when you add the oddities(most REAL) from the carnival - and who create scenes eerily reminiscent of Tod Browning's Freaks - we get so much more. While undeniably cheaply made - the special effects are ridiculous as is the final "invention" of man and plant, The Mutations(I saw it under the title The Freakmaker)does have some truly jarring scenes. The carnival freaks in this movie are allowed to act - and, quite frankly, are the scariest thing in this film as they lynch Lynch(played nicely by a heavily made-up Tom Baker - make-up here is quite good too!) - a deformed man who wants to be 'normal" whilst distancing himself from his freak brethren by calling them freaks and himself normal. Needless to say things do not work out well for him. This is the subplot of the film but I found it more interesting than the story of Donald Pleasance working with plants and creating some starved half-animal half-plant creature the size of a human. Pleasence is good as he always is - but really is given little to do EXCEPT for his wonderful lecture at the beginning of the film. There we are also introduced to four students(later Brad Harris will join them)who will come to know the doctor's work firsthand. The only thing you need to know about these four is that three of them are HOT, beautiful girls: blonde Jill Haworth, sensuous Olga Anthony, and the incredibly stunning Julie Ege - we also get to see them in various states of disrobe - a MAJOR highlight. Harris is OK, but it really is the real-life "freaks" that caught my eye. Michael Dunn plays the dwarf running the carnival - and I think he gives his best performance in film. I always thought he was a pretty good actor that went beyond his stereotyped image. This unfortunately was one of his last films as he died at the age of 38. The Mutations is a solid film with many undesirable elements but does, in my opinion, scare - why? Well, that will be for you to determine.
Without Warning (1980)
Holy Flying Flapjacks!
I too remember this film from my youth. I think I saw it on HBO in the early 80s - some thirty years better. What did I remember from the original? I remembered the flying alien discs. Aside from that nothing else except Larry Storch. As I watched the credits roll recently, I kept saying "Larry Storch is in this! He is some kind of boy scout or something." Indeed, he was - and still, for me, the best thing about this movie. He has one of those humorous cameos that steals scenes as he talks about Guapo Indians trying to impress his scouts. Well, let's backtrack. The film opens with a man(Cameron Mitchell in need of some bucks and bad!)out to hunt with his, in his words, "sissy" son when both soon find these aforementioned alien discs attack. What does such an attack look like? It looks like a disc being thrown at someone then sticks its tentacles into the flesh and soon the victim dies. We then go to Storch meeting the same fate and then we get a group of teens going to the lake to have fun. Are they aware that something is not quite right at the lake? Of course they are as they have been warned both directly and indirectly - but go nonetheless. Two die and two fly. Well, the film looks and feels very cheaply made. The actors over-act madly. Martin Landau plays a Fred Dobbs(yes, it is Bogart's name in Treasure of the Sierra Madre - and yes, he is crazy too!) Landau really looks like he took an overdose of acting pills, which is good because Jack Palance must have finished the bottle! These two are so far off the chart as to turn this from any serious vehicle to something of a parody nature - though unintentional I assure you. The film is not all bad. There are some nice scenes in an abandoned house toward the end of the film. The master alien is cool looking and the final part of the film FAIRLY effective. There is also a host of character actors given little to do such as Ralph Meeker and Neville Brand. The young foursome are decent at least. But what the film has going against it is quite ponderous: dark lighting throughout, over-acting - did I mention over-acting?, a novice-like feel for the direction of the film, etc... This is a hard movie to find. I watched a horror convention DVD - it took forever just to track that down. Once I watched it I was like - okay, I saw it again. I probably won't for another 30 years again.
"I'll Find Him One, two, Three."
I had always heard of this film but never had an opportunity to see it. Once I saw it - I confess I fell in love with it. It is in the tradition of Halloween and Friday the 13th and that whole slew of slasher films that littered the movie scene in the late 70's and more aptly the early 80s. While not on a par with Halloween(few films like it are) I thought Madman was MUCH better than Friday the 13th. It is undeniably cheaply made but really does not show. The film opens with a wonderful red drawing of two clutching, gnarled hands whilst the titles play and this loud yet engrossing theme plays. We then go to a campfire where we see an older-looking camp counselor singing some bizarre ballad about people getting killed as he goes from person to person(the counselors out-number the children). Then the leader of the camp, an older guy named Max, tells this terrifying tale of Madman Marz and how he butchered his family with an axe and then was strung up by a group of people but escaped from being hanged where he now waits to do the like to any one who says his name above a whisper. Well, his name is said above a whisper and you can imagine what follows: deaths - many of them. While this is a very formulaic film, it has style and I was truly impressed. None of the actors except the lead female - Gaylen Ross who was one of the leads in Romero's Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow - has had any career(hers as an actress preceded this film actually). None of them are embarrassing - in fact I though everyone was pretty good, BUT it is the tension of the film that carries it. The Madman looks scary as we really see little of him through the film. The deaths are scary - from a guy being strung up and almost freeing himself to a girl hiding in a fridge to, my favorite, the hot girl(Harriet Bass as Stacy) taking the lyrics to "Keep truckin" a little too seriously. The film is mostly separate killings until the end when Ross realizes what is happening. The ending takes place in Madman Marz's dilapidated house. The direction by Joe Giannone and the story by Gary Sales and company really are quite entertaining and I am surprised more did not come out of their careers. They have obvious talent. The print I saw was by Anchor bay and was PRISTINE. I also enjoyed much of the director/cast/crew commentary provided.
Hunter's Blood (1986)
A Host of Character Actors
When it comes to seeing an actor's face that you know BUT may not know the name that goes with it...Hunter's Blood delivers. Hunters Sam Bottoms, Ken Swofford, Clu Gulager, Joey Travolta(I knew he was related to John but not his name), and a bunch of yelling, heehawing Arkansas rednecks like Bruce Glover(more on him later) and Bill Drago(The Untochables and Frank Nitti) and several others are just some of those FACES. Hunter's Blood, a movie which currently is only on VHS(old) and laserdisc(old) - with a GREAT cover, tells the story of five city guys going hunting deep in the Arkansas woods where a bunch of semi-civilized poachers live, eat, kill, procreate, etc... It falls into that sub-genre of horror of wilderness horror like Rituals(a great film). This is a good film as well. The direction is taut and suspenseful. The beginning is a bit slow and talky, but we get invested in the characters. I liked the five hunters. None of them were bad men really. There is even a great little talk about hunting and how it brings men closer together. The musical score is just right in keeping that suspense going - particularly as the film winds down to that inevitable climatic end. We get some great scenes like the bar scene with its tension. There is the bloody close-up of a head after having been blown off(not completely) by a shotgun. There is the battle with David and several different backwoods hillbillies. The acting was surprisingly good as was the script. Clu Gulager is at his best as is Ken Swofford. Joey Travolta is annoying - but he was playing an annoying character. God, does he do it well! Then there is Bruce Glover as One Eye....putting on his own Barnum and Bailey circus as all the acts rolled into one! Watching him bob and weave and repeat, "We're gonna get ya!"...over and over and over became quite chilling. Eye candy Kim Delaney is really unnecessarily brought along for the ride, but she does not really detract from the film. Two things other than the general quality of all involved stood out for me. One - If I were from Arkansas or anywhere near it I probably would be offended. These hillbillies are unkempt, sadistic, inbred, and cannibalistic(so it appears) as well as amorous toward members of their own gender(one guy really had the hots for Joey!). It is a stereotype of backwoods rednecks first enunciated by the city guys as they drive there and, rather shabbily I might add, interact with the locals and then later proved to be true(?) Two - I liked the twist at the end and how the movie throughout had, directly or indirectly, paid homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(there) or Deliverance or others. Hunter's Blood is a good film that deserves DVD treatment soon.
Pacific Heights (1990)
Drake Goodman and Patty Palmer Build their Dream House
Rather typical, yet fun and exciting thriller that starts out somewhat slowly but builds nicely by the close of the film. The story involves a young unmarried couple who allow a man to "rent" a studio apartment in their newly financed Victorian home only to discover he has no intentions of paying and has other financial plans ahead...the story gets a bit convoluted by the end. Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith play the couple well-enough. Neither is great but both serviceable(and Griffith even in attire NOT made to accentuate her beauty) is a treat for the eyes. The real talent here is Michael Keaton who has a knack for playing psychopathic men. I wanted to bash his head half-way through the film as my heart went out to this couple for being right but laws supporting the real crook prevailed! Director John Schlesinger creates a nicely taut denouement and step by step we reach the chilling climatic moment. Tippi Hedren(Griffith's real-life mother) has a small part as does Jerry Hardin(of X-Files fame). Dan Hedaya also has a small role and Beverly D'Angelo has an uncredited role. Mako, as a Japanese renter, also is on board with a nice small performance. I enjoyed Pacific Heights despite the story which...if you think about things too long - just does not make sense completely.
The Burning (1981)
Like a Twig on the Shoulders of a Mighty Stream - OR Literally SHIVER Your Timbers(Fingers)"
I must have been in a mental fog when this came out initially as I just recently "discovered" it on Netflix Streaming. The beginning of the film opens with a camp worker getting pranked but then the prank goes awry by the juvenile boys that produce this prank and the worker ends up being engulfed in flames. The film starts like many of those slasher films of the early eighties like Friday the 13th, Happy Birthday to me, etc... BUT what transpires afterward - well, I got to admit surprised me. I was expecting a slew of teen murders at a camp, lots of blood and gore, and some maniacal killer with almost inhuman qualities. I did get the second and, to some degree, the third BUT what I did not get was a bunch of teen characters cavorting in the woods and then brutally slain when about to have sex. You know those characters that you do not even know their names, because they are just fodder for Jason or Mchael or Freddy. The camp in this film was humanized. The kids had names. We got to know them a bit. We got to care for some of them a bit. The girls were not wholly objectified. Don't get me wrong: this is a slasher movie, but it is better than most of the junk that was made in that period. Special effects maestro Tom Savini does his grisly best to supply vast bloodletting. There were a couple scenes where I had to turn away(the hooker scene with the belly was for me the absolute worst and also the least necessary). The famous or infamous raft scene - well, it was indeed something you would not forget. But the film does have a story beyond the killings. That may be because it was scripted by the Weinstein brothers before they started Miramax. They obviously have talent. The settings were very good and LIT - this film is pretty bright for a slasher film. The acting by a cast of then no-bodies was very good. We get three future "stars" if you will here - all young, enthusiastic, and carefree - Fisher Stevens, Holly Hunter, and Jason Alexander WITH hair! I liked this film. The whole thing with Cropsy and his garden shears was effectively done. The story of his revenge was interesting and the film as a whole was entertaining and invested more from me then just a desire to see sick gutting on the screen. There is also, just as a reminder again, a lot of bloodletting in this film. It is a slasher film, but just one of the better ones made. The print streaming on Netflix now is pristine too! the end of the film in the caves was very well shot and paced.
The Monster Maker (1944)
"There is a difference between Admiring and Ogling."
Poverty Row production by PRC and directed by journeyman director Sam Newfield, The Monster Maker is very good when one considers what the director, actors, and crew had to deal with with regard to budget, etc... The major premise here is that a doctor/scientist goes to a concert to see a great pianist and instead falls in love with the maestro's daughter because she resembles his former wife. He leers at her throughout the concert and gives an introduction to meet the pianist later. Now, we then get this scientist not taking NO for an answer - so what does he do when Dad goes to tell him to leave his daughter alone...why he injects him with a serum that gives him acromegaly(this is what actor Rondo Hatton had). This disease quickly transforms the urbane feature of Ralph Morgan into a shuttered "monster" with a face full of giant bumps and lesions and growths. For it seems that Dr. Igor Markoff has a specialty in this field and knows that he will be the only person Morgan can go to for help...then he will ask for his daughter for the price of that help. The script, despite this film being roughly an hour, is amazingly crisp and interesting. The acting by J. Carrol Naish and Ralph Morgan is good as well. Naish plays one of the sickest, depraved mad scientists in this era. He even is made to look like the devil with his pointed beard! I thought his twisted Dr. Markoff was very enjoyable a performance to watch. The rest of the cast - Tala Birell as Dr. Markoff's assistant and idolizer is particularly good as is Wanda McKay the pretty blonde daughter and Terry Frost as her boyfriend. Glenn Strange is a servant for Naish and we do get Ray Corrigan dressed in a gorilla outfit and Ace - the Wonder Dog. The scene with the gorilla and dog was one of my favorites. But it really is Naish and Morgan doing the heavy lifting here. They both were good and Morgan's make-up was very credible. Though this is a low-budget film, it is definitely worth a look.
What Can Be So Wrong with an Iron Maiden?
Well, yes, this is a pretty bad Euro-sleaze picture that has liberal doses of blood and murder but far more nudity and sex. Not really all that bad a combination is it? We get an asylum for rich women relaxing, playing croquet, and having fun - only to be visited by a masked, heavy-breathing murderer wielding a variety of medieval weapons. If you are looking for cogent and coherent story here, pass, BUT if you are looking for one of those classic entertaining, sleazy pictures that you could only get from the 70's(and in particular Italian cinema) then sit down and enjoy. The film has a pretty impressive cast from that era of "genre" stars like Klaus Kinski. He does virtually nothing in the movie and I barely noticed he was in the picture at all. True, most of my attention was focused on the female cast, but Kinski does nothing with his role of a doctor helping these women cope with their problems(he does start an affair with one later though). John Karlsen as Professor Osterman does a far better job engaging the audience with his acting skill as the man seemingly running this institution. But make no mistake, it is the female cast that is a veritable buffet for the eyes. First, there is Sara Bay - Rosalba Neri - she went by Bay in the classic sleaze-fest Frankenstein' Daughter where she played a nymphomanical scientist out to create the perfect lover to satiate her carnal desires. She disrobed frequently in that film and does so here. Guess what? In this film she plays a patient with a seemingly incurable disease - nymphomania! What acting range! Who cares. Just look at that black outfit she wears through most of the picture. Then there is Margaret Lee - a beautiful Englishwoman who is no stranger to these types of films and is very integral to the revelation of the denouement. Next we have beautiful blonde and buxom Gioia Desideri as a woman who tries to kill herself(fortunately she later gets some much needed help). There is a hot, steamy shower scene with Neri, but hands down the most erotic aspects of the film deal with a bizarre relationship with Nurse Helen and patient Mara. The way Nurse Helen - Monica Strebel - seduces and ravages Mara with just her delicious blue eyes is a real treat to see. She is so blatant that I was laughing. Then we get the massage scene where Mara has her exotic buttocks caressed for what seemed like twenty minutes. There is more. Both girls are pretty, and we even have Mara do one of her homeland tribal dances or something along those lines. But I digress from the horror of the film, for it does have some. No one dies until 30 minutes into the film. But the opening SUGGESTS a murder will take place. The deaths are interesting though we never really are given a real reason for why they happened. We get sword deaths, death by iron maiden, a crossbow, an axe, and even a scythe. The ending is very bloody and very surrealistic almost as a mace is used with frequency and energy - like the energizer bunny it keeps going and going. Look, this is no great film by any means. It is fun though(on many levels) and somehow keeps your full attention. It does have great atmosphere. It does have lots of eye candy. It does have some wonderful Euro-sleaze music. Before I set down to write this review, I gave it a 5...I have now convinced myself to give it a 6. It might be worthy for you to take a peek.
"I Must Be in Love - I Feel Lousy."
If you are a horror fan, this episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour may hold interest for you as it does contain Lon Chaney in it dressed as the Frankenstein monster. However, I only glimpsed him in an opera parody of Carmen as he came out near the end. The version I saw was on Netflix(streaming) and promises the Haunted candle routine but does not have it in episode. This is unfortunate as I fear this is where Chaney gets to do his best as the monster hamming it up with Bud and Lou. notwithstanding that if you love Abbott and Costello then you will not be disappointed terribly as you get to see them really as themselves. Lou breaks up at least four or five times. Bud even cracks a few unintended smiles as the lunacy ensues. They do do their "Who's on First?" routine. Lou also does a very funny bit trying to get a phone number whilst a cast of characters have no problem reaching their exchanges. This is classic A & C all the way. The episode has Chaney but also along is Sid Fields and opera singer Jarmila Novotna. When I am able to find the "missing" piece, I will re-evaluate.
Death by Nursery Rhyme
Ah! Agatha Christie always loved using nursery rhymes in her novels, and A Pocket Full of Rye is no exception. There is a lot going on in this mystery when ex Fortescue dies in his office with seeds of rye found in his pocket. soon another death takes place, and then another. Miss Marple arrives as she trained the awkward girl Gladys as a servant - who, it seemed, tried to ring her up. Gladys really is the key to the whole mystery. Again we get glorious Joan Hickson playing the senior sleuth to perfection. e also get some truly good character acting turns from the likes of Tom Wilkinson(yes, the Academy Award Nominated actor who has now turned to major star) as, for a change, a nice police inspector who wants Miss Marple's help. Elderly, and I mean old looking, Fabia Drake with some great dialog as the deceased man's sister-in-law, and how about Selina Cadell(Mrs. Tishel from Doc Martin) as the house-manageress Miss Dove with some splendid dialog as well. This really is a very well-crafted murder mystery and generally well-directed version. I particularly liked the by-play between Miss Marple and Detective Inspector Neele.
"When gentlemen of a certain age fall in love, they get the disease very badly."
Intriguing Miss Marple mystery about a series of poisoned pen letters being distributed in a small town. This time Jane is brought on board as she is the relation of the local vicar - and she hears of a mystery. Joan Hickson, as always, nails the role of Jane Marple. She looks befuddled at times. Says, "oh" quite a bit and seems to be omni-present and omniscient at times. The mystery here is, confessedly, not that hard to figure out. There, for me, really was only one conclusion, but we do get a host of nice British character actors doing their best as they are asked questions, put in awkward situations, or just bouncing dialog off each other. A young couple - a brother and a sister - move into a place called The Firs as its owner needs money and rents it out. Soon a poison pen letter arrives basically saying the sister is a trollop. We then find that many people, the doctor, the solicitor, the vicar, etc...have got letters as well. Why were these letters sent out? Well, we get to that by the end in typical Christie fashion, which means at least another murder or two after the initial murder. I particularly liked Richard Pearson's characterization of a flippant, petulant, single man living nearby. He is always good. Deborah Appleby; however, sort of got on my nerves. All that notwithstanding, The Moving Finger was enjoyable.
The Evictors (1979)
"I Want You to Move." BTW-Major Spoilers Ahead!
A great opening shot of a bank clerk and several deputies going to serve repossession papers to a house full of, well, how shall we put this...old-fashioned Southern undesirables, sets the mood for this often atmospheric, often slow-moving, often tense, generally well-acted, and shoddily at times scripted film(the ending just does not make any sense to me!). If I look at the film minus the last 15 minutes - it really is pretty scary. A couple, played very nicely by lovely Jessica Harper and amiable Michael Parks, move into an old country house somewhere in Louisiana. They soon discover that the house has a history of death. The opening scene happened in 1928, but we then see flashbacks of 1934 and 1939 where two different sets of couples were killed by the same man that is now canvasing their home. Well, a peddler chopping wood is killed and other strange things like lights being turned off, creaking stairs, etc...happen. I had my suspicions who might be involved, and was not wrong, but was not right as the final conclusion draws and is as unbelievable and ridiculous as can be. Why were they living in another house? Where did they get money from to live? What was the Realtor's part? Why did he kill his friend/relation? What happened to the body of the peddler? Does the house make people go mad? Why was Ruth with Rudd at the end? None of it made much sense to me, which really is a shame as it destroyed much of the creepy atmosphere up to that point. The acting is decent. The couple, as I have already pointed out, were quite good. Vic Morrow plays another creepy guy. Did Morrow ever play a likable character? I don't recall that ever happening. Sue Ann Langdon really is quite good in her role.. She convinced me at the beginning. Director Charles Pierce does do a very good job creating suspense, atmosphere, mood, etc... The figure of the man with the creepy hat was very effective. The set pieces, seeing that it was happening in 1942, were all believable. The film print I saw on Netflix was very bright and clear. This is not a bad film, but, for me at least, the ending drops this a couple points.
"There's a Bit of the Monster in All of Us...Especially Where There is a Flaw."
This is a major, I mean MAJOR guilty pleasure for me. The film is sick, twisted, depraved, and barely a horror film at all! Yet, I liked it...and, yes, I feel somewhat ashamed. But how can you go wrong with a voyeuristic, demonicly repulsive dwarf who fondles the breast of a dead girl or teaches a hulking caveman to have his first sexual liaison with a girl they kidnap for that sole purpose(BTW - he "kills" her with his girth!). Or that same caveman hulking about with his unibrow and eating raw flesh and coming basically from nowhere? how about the hunchbacked assistant Kreegin who is having an affair with Hans the butler's wife. She likes it VERY rough - pain kinda-stuff. Then there is Hans who is a sadist. Let's not forget Goliath the other hulking man who now has a new brain. This array of characters is quite ridiculous. It is cinematic nonsense, but this film is Euro-trash at its sleaziest best. Dick Randall(under the name Robert Oliver) directs the film - really is is his one big directorial job, but he produced many similar projects and wrote the screenplays for movies like Pieces, Lady Frankenstein, and The Mad Butcher(this film has the same feel of that one the most). He is going for sleaze, and boy does he find it. The monsters are really secondary to the sexual themes, scenes, fetishes, etc that abound. And then we have Rossani Brazzi as Count Frankenstein...not Baron but count. Really? There are also the two lovely, and I mean absolutely drop-dead lovely female leads who show us much of their acting "attributes" quite freely particularly when bathing in a warm mud pit of some kind. One is the Count's daughter - beautiful blonde Simonetta Vitelli. Hot! Then there is her friend Kris who falls in love with the Count and has both cavemen - Ook and Goliath - on her like white on rice. She is even hotter and played by Christiane Rucker. Where are the horror elements? They really are not there. Brazzi is OK, the girls really don't need to act, and the rest seem like they are happy to be acting in anything though some are fairly well-known like Luciano Pigozzi(the Peter Lorre of Italy) playing Hans or Italian sword and sandal strongman Gordon Mitchell playing Igor or cult favorite Xiro Papas as the revolting Kreegin or classy Edmund Prudhom as the prefect. Then there is Michael Dunn in all his sick glory as the conniving dwarf. Dunn can play this type so well. The sets are fairly impressive for a film like this, but the dubbing is excruciatingly bad. Again, this is not for everyone. It really isn't a horror picture but more of an exploitation picture that only could have been made in the 70s. Once again I reiterate this is my favorite decade for films. People could make what they wanted the way they wanted. I saw this as part of Elvira's Movie Macabre collection. She helps it as well with her bounteous "presence" or presents depending on how you look at it. She also has some great lines to go with what is going on in the movie.