Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Main Entry: exclusion
Definition: expulsion; forbiddance
Synonyms: ban, bar, blackball, blockade, boycott, cut, debarment, debarring, discharge, dismissal, ejection, elimination, embargo, eviction, exception, excommunication, interdict, interdicting, interdiction, keeping out, lockout, nonadmission, occlusion, omission, ostracism, ousting, preclusion, prevention, prohibition, proscription, refusal, rejection, relegation, removal, repudiation, segregation, separation, suspension, veto
Antonyms: acceptance, addition, admittance, allowance, inclusion, incorporation, welcome
send to Coventry, to refuse to associate with; openly and pointedly ignore: His friends sent him to Coventry after he was court-martialed.
People from the music industry that I respect, idolize or just simply appreciate: Ennio Morricone, Amy McDonald, Daan, David Bowie, Therion, Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen, Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Joy Division, Bobby Darin, the Everly Brothers, Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney, Herman's Hermits, The Hollies, The Animals, The Byrds, Donovan, Vargoth, Drudkh, Behemoth, Triggerfinger, Falkenbach, Finntroll, Einherjer, The Smiths, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, BB King, Ministry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rufus Wainwright, The Allman Brothers Band, Johnny Cash, Paul Simon, Raymond Lefèvre, Children of Bodom, Volbeat, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Anathema, Velvet Underground, Norah Jones, Fatboy Slim, Moloko, Angelo Badalmenti, Sarah Brightman, Lady Antebellum, Enigma, Muse, Army of Lovers, Chris Isaak, Lesley Gore, Kasabian, Pearl Jam, dEUS, Mumford & Sons, The Subs, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Cuff the Duke, Pulp, Oscar and the Wolf,
People from the movie industry that I respect, idolize or just simply appreciate: John Saxon, Mario Bava, Joe D'Amato, George Eastman, Darren Lynn Bousman, Boris Karloff, Enzo G. Castellari, Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Antonio Margheriti, Klaus Kinski, Lloyd Kaufman, James Gunn, Rob Zombie, Sid Haig, Matthew McGrory, Karen Black, Dennis Fimple, Irwin Keyes, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley, Wolfgang Petersen, Nicol Williamson, Fairuza Balk, Piper Laurie, Philippe Mora, Tom Holland, Ronny Cox, Lucio Fulci, Christopher George, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Catriona MacColl, Fabio Frizzi, Nicolas Cage, Todd Farmer, Tom Atkins, Paul Verhoeven, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Stuart Gordon, H.P. Lovecraft, Jeffrey Combs, David Gale, Barbara Crampton, Fernando Di Leo, Joe Dallesandro, Terence Fisher, Anton Diffring, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee, Robert Stevenson, William Girdler, Rebecca De Mornay, Mako, Ti West, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, David Carradine, Roger Corman, Adrian Hoven, Monte Hellman, Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton, Steve Railsback, Ed Begley Jr., Peter Fonda, Nathan Juran, Lionel Jeffries, James Glickenhaus, Ken Wahl, Joaquim de Almeida, Sam Peckinpah, William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson, Edmond O'Brien, Kurt Raab, Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani, Karl Freund, Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, William Lustig, Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Tom Savini, Charles B. Pierce, Robert Wise, Fred Dekker, Fritz Lang, David Hemmings, Michael Ironside, Jan-Michael Vincent, Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Victor Buono, George Kennedy, Charles Bronson, Richard Fleischer, Elmore Leonard, Paul Koslo, Michael Winner, Brian Garfield, Lee Marvin, J. Lee Thompson, Riz Ortolani, Yul Brunner, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Michael Crichton, James Brolin, Mel Brooks, arry Cohen, Michael Moriarty, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Robin Hardy, Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Michael Reeves, Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Dick Maas, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Paul Naschy, Paul Morrissey, Truman Capote, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Elsa Lanchester, Peter Sellers, Gene Wilder, Patrick McGoohan, Herb Freed, Richard Kiel, John Landis, Tim Curry, Simon Pegg, Jenny Agutter, Frank Oz, Dario Argento, Quentin Tarantino, Everett De Roche, Stacy Keach, Russell Mulcahy, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Donald Pleasence, George Peppard, Simon Wincer, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Gary Sherman, Faith Domergue, Alexandre Aja, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Eli Roth, Ishirô Honda, Greydon Clark, Cybill Shepherd, Neville Brand, Vincent Schiavelli, Martin Landau, Jack Palance, Alan Rudolph, Jonathan Demme, Pam Grier, Mark L. Lester, Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Kilpatrick, Don Dohler, Everett McGill, Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Jake Busey, Charlton Heston, Lorne Greene, Walter Matthau, Peter Bogdanovich, Woody Allen, John Milius, Franco Nero, Crispin Glover, Dennis Hopper, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Armando Crispino, Sergio Grieco, Helmut Berger, Lee Van Cleef, Robert Forster, John Huston, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., George Miller, Mel Gibson, Robert Rodriguez, George Hilton, Kane Hodder, Michael Madsen, Tony Todd, Nicolas Winding Refn, William Grefe, Cirio H. Santiago , Joe Dante, Don Coscarelli, Angus Schrimm, Tobe Hooper, Tiffany Shepis, Brad Dourif, George P. Cosmatos, John Boorman, Stephen Boyd, Tommy Lee Jones, Rod Steiger, Brian DePalma, Gunnar Hansen, George A. Romero, Simon Boyes, Adam Mason, Jack Arnold, M. Emmet Walsh, James Stewart, Darren McGavin, Kathleen Quinlan, Jack Lemmon, Robert Foxworth, Olivia De Havilland, Michael Pataki, Jerry Stiller, John Carradine, Julian Sands, Freddie Francis, Don Sharp, William Castle, Bill Rebane, John De Bello, Terry O'Quinn, Peter Sykes, Wes Craven, Michael Sarrazin, Lewis Teague, Yaphet Kotto, Sergio Stivaletti, John Phillip Law, Michele Soavi, Umberto Lenzi, Anna Falchi, Lon Chaney, Sergio Martino, Edwige Fenech, Ursula Andress, Michael Sopkiw, Edmund Purdom, Hal Yamanouchi, Barbara Bach, Cameron, Mitchell, Alberto De Martino, Ernesto Gastaldi, Maurizio Merli, John Steiner, Mel Ferrer, Barbara Bouchet, Marty Feldman, Tomas Milian, Bruno Mattei, Lamberto Bava, Luc Merenda, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Sergio Corbucci, Tito Carpi, David Warbeck, Luciano Pigozzi, Gianfranco Giagni, Florinda Balkan, Rosalba Neri, Mel Welles, Dagmar Lassander, Neil Jordan, Walter Huston, Ray Bradbury, Gregory Peck, Orson Welles, Bert I. Gordon, H.G. Wells, Ida Lupino, Kirk Douglas, David Lynch, Eddie Romero, Bela Lugosi, Al Adamson, Tor Johnson, Edward D. Wood Jr, David Cronenberg, Christopher Walken, Tom Skeritt, Martin Sheen, Dino De Laurentiis, James Wan, Anthonhy Perkins, Curtis Harrington, Julie Harris, Ornella Muti, Ray Lovelock
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
Tchéky Karyo keeps searching even after "The Missing".
"Baptiste" is actually the third season of "The Missing", but since the missing person is already found in the second episode and an entirely new storyline develops from there, the makers probably thought it was better to start over as a spin-off with a new title. "The Missing" was a great series with tense & convoluted screenplays and a magnificent role for Tchéky Karyo as the brilliant and persistent ex-researcher Julien Baptiste, who still occasionally helps the police with difficult cases. When vacationing with his family in Amsterdam, Baptiste is called upon by the local commissioner (who's also a former girlfriend of his) to help locating the missing niece of a Brit named Edward Stratton. When Baptiste finds the girl, she tells a very different story, namely that she's a prostitute and that Stratton was an overly obsessive client of her. When confronted with her version, Stratton confesses to Baptiste that he's being extorted by a relentless Eastern European human-trafficking ring, the Brigada Serbilu, because he helped the girl to steal a large sum of money from the criminal organization. Shortly after, the young prostitute dies in an attempt to escape from Brigada Serbilu, but the money she stole is still lost and the Brigada now even targets Baptiste's family to force him finding the money. "Baptiste" is nowhere near the greatest TV-series ever produced, and even a step down from "The Missing" already (especially season one), but it remains well-made action/thriller entertainment with great performances, relevant social themes, solid suspense and a handful of unexpectedly shocking twists. Certain sub plots are rather silly and unnecessarily stretched with implausible twists, like the money that keeps disappearing, but every scene involving the portentous Brigadu Serbilu (and notably the creepy Constantin character) network is realistically raw and terrifying. Like "The Missing", "Baptiste" is primarily a British production but in collaboration with Belgium and The Netherlands, which mean that several local acting talents have the rare opportunity to finally star in a more prestigious series than usual, like Barbara Serafian, Boris Van Severen or Tom Audenaert.
The Bees (1978)
Teach us more about "Zhe Beez", mad Uncle Ziggy!
Don't be alarmed, there's nothing wrong with your television set. The blurry black dots on the screen are the makers' ingenious method to illustrate that the world is infested with killer bees!
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I was expecting to see a rather silly and typically cheesy late 70s B-movie in the 'nature runs amok' sub-genre, but I wasn't the least bit prepared for "The Bees" turning out to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious and awfully inept horror films of all times! This film, courtesy of the nobly unknown writer/director Alfredo Zacarías, deserves far more honor than I can write down in a simple review. "The Bees" deserves essays, novels and even complete MST3K specials to be dedicated to it, because that's how bad - but wondrously entertaining - this movie is!
Where to start with a masterpiece of lousiness like this? I believe the following sentence, which I stole from the trivia-section, pretty well summarizes what sort of utter nonsense you can expect: "Alfredo Zacarías got the idea for the story after his son gave him a jar of honey as a gift". Oh wow, that truly is the sort of inspiration where Academy Award winning titles are made of. I think I'll offer my dad a toy soldier and encourage him to script an epos on World War II! Writing a plot synopsis for "The Bees" is pointless, because it'll sound convoluted and intelligent even though it's dead simple and dumb. Here goes: African killer bees, that are being researched in South America, get illegally imported into North America by greedy cosmetics companies. Evidently, a few ones escape and in a very brief period of time, the entire US is beset by aggressive buzzers. The brilliant scientist Dr. Sigmund Hummel (John Carradine) and his niece (Angel Tompkins) team up with hunky Dr. John Norman (John Saxon) and develop an artificial pheromone to neutralize the male specimens, but the super-intelligent bees strike back even harder than before.
Sounds promising, doesn't it? And it is, until you discover that the first solution consists of turning the male bees into homosexuals, and the entire third act deals with Saxon and Tompkins actually communicating with the bees and spreading their warning to humanity to stop messing around with Mother Nature! If you are into really bad cinema, "The Bees" features one inane highlight after the other. A talented and experienced actor like John Saxon must have realized that the speeches he gives to the alleged board of the United Nations are utter drivel? Tompkins carries around killer bees in her beauty-case, the bee-attacks are completely random and the supposedly "shocked" and "petrified" looks on the faces of people are genuinely priceless. Notably the attacks at a beach and during the Gerald Ford parade are laugh-out-loud hysterical! But the - hands down - most bonkers quality of the film is the role of John Carradine as the German Dr. Sigmund Hummel; - or "Ziggy" as he's referred to by Tompkins and Saxon. There absolutely isn't any reason for this character to be German, but Carradine fully grabs the opportunity to go tremendously over the top with his accent, facial expressions and gestures. Sometimes, Dr. Ziggy simply falls asleep whilst others are talking, and then he wakes up and begins chattering about "Zhe beez! Zhe beez!".
You can't possibly give "The Bees" a higher rating than 3 out of 10, but ratings are meaningless for this type of films. It's guaranteed entertainment to watch alone, but preferably even with a group of friends. There are also plenty of other 70s bee-movies available to form a double-feature with, but make sure to avoid the big-budgeted "The Swarm" since that one is a pretentious and dull flick.
Macho-showdown at the River
"Barquero" ended up on my must-see list for a number of reasons. First of all because it's a so-called American Spaghetti western, which basically means (in my book, at least) that it's raw, uncompromising and violent in comparison to those polished and politically correct John Wayne flicks. Secondly, the basic premise is incredibly simple yet original and intriguing. A gang of outlaws and a bunch of townsfolks each find themselves stuck at the wrong side of a river, leading to a tense ego-contest between the embittered and asocial ferryman Travis and the vicious but indecisive gang leader Remy. And last but not least, because the lead actors in "Barquero" are two of the most robustly charismatic but criminally underrated actors in history. I think it's safe to say that both Lee Van Cleef and Warren Oates lift the film to a much higher level, and it wouldn't be even half as recommendable if their roles were played by different actors. Even with a broad river separating them, there's a continuously intense and ominous rivalry between these two über-machos. The film suffers from a few very tedious parts and Gordon Douglas' direction is rather monotone, but the locations and performances are great. Van Cleef receives good support from Forrest Tucker as the eccentric "Mountain Phil", while Oates' can rely on the excellent Kerwin Matthews.
The Haunting of Morella (1990)
Before she was a Baywatch-babe, she was a Witch-baby!
I hit puberty in the early 90s, so in other words, I was a horny and hormone-controlled teenager when "Baywatch" first aired on TV, and naturally had a crush on practically every babe that paraded through the screen in a skimpy red bathing suit. Pamela Anderson, evidently, but I was even far more enchanted by two other blond and typically nineties' beauties; - Erika Elaniak and Nicole Eggert. The latter was a cherubic and polished but nonetheless very sexy girl-next-door type. Whoever knew that, before her "Baywatch" period, Eggert had already appeared in a cheap and ultra-sleazy Roger Corman production loosely - VERY loosely - inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's writings? At the beginning of the film, Eggert depicts the fiercely foul-mouthed witch Lenora who gets executed in front of an angry town's mob and her powerlessly staring husband who's holding their few weeks' old baby in his arms. Nearly 18 years later, the baby matured into the gorgeous Nicole Eggert again. Morella is excited to celebrate her birthday and taste adulthood, but little does she know that the voluptuous nanny has been carefully preparing Lenora's reincarnation via the pure body and soul of her daughter.
Roger Corman knows Poe, trust me. He was single-handedly responsible for the absolute greatest Edgar Allan Poe film-adaptations during the early sixties, like "House of Usher", "The Masque of the Red Death", "Premature Burial", etc. If Corman really wanted to make an atmospheric, qualitative and genuinely frightening adaptation of Poe's short story, he certainly could have done so. Instead, he cleared just hired Jim Wynorski ("Chopping Mall", "Transylvania Twist") to direct a cheap but profitable B-movie with a focus on ravishing women, tacky horror, secondhand sets & scenery and boobs, boobs, boobs! 18-year-old Eggert still gets a stand-in for her nude sequences, but Corman regulars Lana Clarkson, Maria Ford and Gail Thackray showcase their bodily assets gratuitously and repeatedly. The sets and stock-footage, like the numerous lightening strikes, are shamelessly edited from much older flicks (you might recognize "The Terror" - 1963) and our producer would still continue to recycle them in later films like "The Haunting of Hell House" - 1999. "The Haunting of Morella" is nevertheless fun and amusing, at least if you don't mind the derivative plot and the dull moments in between the cheesy gore and the nudity.
The "Terrifying" type of low-budget Sci-Fi!
To me, at least, "The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler" belongs to a very selected group of 70s cult/science fiction movies. They are criminally obscure and practically forgotten, presumably due to the low-budget production values and lack of action and/or special effects, but at the same time they are unbelievably intelligent and downright terrifying due to the ahead-of-its-time themes and story lines. This film pretty much gave me the same overwhelming effect as when I first watched the 1979 gem "Parts: The Clonus Horror". Not coincidentally both films are very similar, dealing with early types of cloning methods, conspiracies to protect the elite classes and massive media cover-ups. Both titles are original, tense, disturbing and fascinating, but also inexplicably underrated. Oh, and they have something else in common: Michael Bay stole the innovative ideas of both films for his own fake Sci-Fi box office hit "The Island"!
The film predates Leslie Nielsen's typecasting period, which began with "Police Squad" and lasted for the rest of his life, so you might have to make a mental switch to take him serious as the stubborn but persistent research journalist. He, Harry Walsh, arrives at the scene of a tragic car accident and identifies a near-fatally injured victim as the young & upcoming senator Zachary Wheeler. Later in the hospital, however, all the staff denies that Wheeler got admitted and Walsh is rudely thrown off the premises. Despite pressure from his chief editor and government spokespersons, Walsh refuses to publicly recall his earlier reporting and gets fired. He privately continues to look for answers, though, and traces down Wheeler to a remote New Mexican medical facility where, in all secrecy, the upmost amazing scientific breakthroughs are being realized. Meanwhile, the recovering senator Wheeler also discovers the truth behind his miraculous rescue, and he's not as pleased as you'd think.
I deeply and humbly bow my head to the writers of progressive Sci-Fi like this! Can you believe this plot is nearly 50 years old? The plot already dealing with clones before the term "clones" was even properly integrated. They are referred to as "Somas" instead. Topics like stem cell treatment nowadays still lead to heavy moral discussion, but it featured here first. Moreover, "The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler" is also a very competent action/thriller effort! Walsh's cat-and-mouse games with a duo of pursuing goons are amusing and certain sequences inside the facility definitely hold a shock-effect in store. Excellent performances from Bradford Dillman and Angie Dickinson as well. The utterly abrupt non-ending initially feels frustrating, but it also underlines the soberness, realism and intellect of the script. Rich, influential and powerful people always win.
Everly move you make, we'll be shooting you!
Since the start of the century or so, there seemingly exists an additional new sub-genre within the world of action/thriller cinema, which is best described as "Shoot 'em Up" films. "Shoot 'em Up", starring Clive Owen, itself is obviously a good example, but there's also "Crank", "Hardcore Henry", "Free Fire", "Taken" and this "Everly". You guessed it; - these are films with very thin plots and without any proper character development, but they primarily focus on non-stop violent action, excessively over-the-top gunfire action and a practically immeasurable body count. They are entertaining if you're in a completely undemanding mood, I reckon, but they are quite unmemorable as well. Moreover, despite all the action and bloodshed, these films are actually sort of boring, because they constantly repeat the same old "bang-bang-you-are-dead" routine.
The sole difference between "Everly" and the aforementioned titles is that the indestructible killing machine here is a woman; - and one of the sexiest specimens on the planet, I may add. In fact, one might even shallowly state that any film starring Salma Hayek in a tight and bloodied tank top is worth checking out, regardless of the quality. Hayek, pushing 50 but still looking as fit as a 28-year-old, depicts the private luxury prostitute of an Asian crime lord, locked up in a fancy apartment. One day, however, Everly decides she doesn't want to be Taiko's prisoner anymore. The film opens with a heavily injured Everly and a room full of dead Asian gangsters already. I feared the script would be another structural mess with flashbacks but, to my surprise, the plot simply continues from there onwards and Everly only takes on new and other opponents. She tries to reach her mother and estranged 4-year-old daughter, and she receives help from a slowly dying but remorseful Asian she refers to as "Dead Man". Apart from a few notable highlights, including the battle of the prostitutes and the sickening games of the aptly named The Sadist, "Everly" is mundane and passable. The violence is really graphic, but never shocking or even remotely upsetting because writer/director Joe Lynch ("Wrong Turn 2") couldn't decide if he wanted a serious or a light-headed film.
De Premier (2016)
Suspense & Suspension of Disbelief
"The Prime Minister" is the type of fast-paced crime/thriller that delivers copious amounts of action and suspense, however, it simultaneously also requires an almost complete suspension of disbelief on behalf of the viewer. If, and only if, you manage to turn off your skepticism regarding the overall story and the near-ludicrous plot-twists, the film will provide fantastic and non-stop entertainment. In case you swear by realism, don't even bother to press the play-button.
Writer/director Erik Van Looy is, in Flanders at least, a well-respected and much-loved media figure. He's the host of the most popular quiz on prime-time TV, appears in the panel of several games and talk shows and the films he directed ("De Zaak Alzheimer", "Loft") rank among the biggest blockbusters in history. His American adventure to direct a remake of "Loft" perhaps didn't work out as successful as he might had hoped, but he certainly returned to Belgium with a typically "Hollywoodian" idea for a crowd-pleasing and intense thriller. Our national pride in acting, Koen De Bouw, stars as the Belgian Prime Minister. There goes the plausibility already, in fact, because this country never had such a charismatic and eloquent prime minister. On his way to a European-American summit in Brussels, he is kidnapped and learns that his family - wife and two children - are held hostage, and that they will be executed if the Prime Minister himself doesn't agree to murder the American President during their private meeting in the afternoon.
Great aspects include a handful of totally unexpected but seriously vile and brutal execution sequences, the clever references towards actual Belgian politicians and the sadistic role of Stijn Van Opstal as the driver. I previously only knew him as an adequate but inconspicuous supportive actor in local TV-series ("Tabula Rasa", "Met Man en Macht"), but he deeply impresses here as the downright evil and unscrupulous terrorist who enjoys torturing, humiliating and provoking the Prime Minister and his PR-assistant. Even with a fair portion of suspension of disbelief, there are still a couple of major defaults. Van Looy unnecessarily adds melodrama to the plot with a typically cliched twist regarding the Minister's private life. And, surely, the climax could have been slightly better? I appreciate that Van Looy didn't turn his protagonist into a bona fide action hero, like Harrison Ford in "Air Force One", but there must have been other options to avoid such an anti-climax?
La città gioca d'azzardo (1975)
You can gamble everything for love if you are free!
Browse through my review-history and you'll rapidly notice I'm a tremendous sucker for Italian cult/exploitation cinema of the 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, that also means I'm very biased. I'll admit straight away that you won't read too many negative things in this review! I absolutely loved every second of Sergio Martino's excellent "Gambling City"; - what with its highly original and intelligent screenplay (courtesy of prolific writer Ernesto Gastaldi), the raw and violent action footage, the authentic passion between protagonist Luc Merenda and the stunningly beautiful Dayle Haddon, the sleazy and loathsome villainous characters, Luciano Michelini's slightly over-eccentric soundtrack and the massively spectacular grand finale! Like most contemporary Italian films, "Gambling City" is quite the rip-off! That's totally fine, though, since these rip-offs by far exceed the Hollywood originals in terms of entertainment value and controversy. The main inspirations here are "The Cincinnati Kid" and "The Sting", but Martino also cleverly thrives on the success of the native Poliziotesschi. Granted, the hero is a sly con-man instead of an unorthodox copper, but the wild car chases, brutal executions and tragic retaliations are definitely there!
Luca Altieri is a charismatic thug with a unique gift. He's a fantastic cheater at poker games, so much even that he gets himself noticed by the crippled but powerful crime boss and illegal casino-owner known as "The President". Luca could then lead a laid-back and luxurious life as professional cheater, but instead he prefers to run off with the ravishing mistress of The President's son Corrado. The megalomaniac Corrado is a worthless heritor to his father's crime-imperium, but he naturally doesn't think so, and his jealousy and hatred against Luca makes him even more dangerous. Again, I may be biased, but seriously don't believe the people who claim that "Gambling City" is boring and predictable. Gastaldo's script contains a number of smart twists and original sub plots. Although superficially not as extravagant than most, Corrado Pani depicts one of the most psychopathic villains in crime-film history. The poker sequences are somewhat long and tedious, especially if you don't understand one iota of the game's rules (like me), but there are plenty of action-packed highlights to compensate for this. I'm still amazed by the beauty of Dayle Haddon, and Luc Merenda clearly enjoyed every second of his acting career at that point in time. Check out also "The Violent Professionals", "Shoot First Die Later", "Kidnap Syndicate", "Man without a Memory" and "Torso" with him. Oh, and one last thing you should always remember: happy endings didn't exist in Italian cinema during the 70s!
The Name of the Rose (2019)
Prestigious reworking of Umberto Eco's landmark novel
Only a limited number of films that I watched during my youth managed to leave an everlasting impression on me, but Jean-Jacques Annaud's adaptation of Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" is one of them. Even though we are 25 years later, and I've seen perhaps 15.000 films since then, I still remember practically every detail of that wondrously grim and mysterious film in which creepy monks were being killed off in a remote and petrifying old monastery. Although I tried a couple of times, I never found the courage to actually read Eco's source novel. It's just too thick, sorry. The 1986-masterpiece is urgently due for a re-watch, but instead I stumbled upon this Italian/German mini-series that allegedly was a lifelong dream-project for actor and producer John Turturro to realize. Come to think of it, it's actually quite surprising that it took more than 30 years for someone to make a new version! Seeing that Annaud's film is "only" a little over two hours long, I must assume that it threw a massive amount of Eco's book-content overboard. With 8 episodes of approximately 1 hour each, I'm sad to confess that "Il Nome Della Rosa" is too long and quite often balancing on the verge of boring. Also, I keep reading that the script differs immensely from the book, at least for what concerns the numerous sub plots surrounding the pivot murder mystery.
Turturro is great, but Sean Connery's charismatic image remains stuck in my brain as the one and only William of Baskerville; - wise Franciscan friar and Sherlock Holmes ahead-of-time. All the other, nevertheless adequate, actors can't even begin to measure themselves against the quality performances of the fantastic actors in the 1986 film, like F. Murray Abraham, Ron Perlman, Michael Lonsdale or William Hickey. The sole performance I rate higher comes from the fairly unknown Damian Hardung, who's portrayal of young novice Adso Von Melk is more authentic and convincing than Christian Slater's role.
Or, perhaps I just ought to stop comparing this with youth's nostalgia and simply acknowledge the multiple great aspects of this prestigious mini-series. The production values, for instance, are deeply impressive. The 14th century set-pieces, costumes and relics are astounding. Also, the history lessons processed into the screenplay are far more educational and compelling than anything you'll ever learn in school, and Tchéky Karyo has a brilliant supportive role as the megalomaniac Pope Giovanni XXII. If there's anything I firmly believe, it is that medieval Popes were exactly as deplorable and vile as him.
Il miracolo (2018)
Beautiful & fascinating ... But I've got a million questions left
Being enormous fans of Italian films and TV-series, my wife and I were instantly hooked to "The Miracle" as per the opening sequences of the first episode. It's the perfect combination of everything: the amazingly beautiful theme song ("Il Mondo" by Jimmy Fontana), the curiously captivating premise of the Madonna statue that cries copious gallons of blood, the convoluted characters (including a struggling Italian prime minister, his estranged wife and a rather unusual priest), the stellar performances of the entire cast, the slow-brooding but ominous atmosphere and the patient but excessively stylish direction.
The series follows a certain pattern as the episodes pass by, with the events leading up to the discovery of the statue at the beginning of each installment, and several parallel storylines unfolding throughout the series. Prime minister Pietromarchi desperately attempts to keep the blood-crying Madonna out of the media while politically battling to keep his country within the European Union. How contemporary accurate and relevant, by the way! His cynical and unhappy wife Sole detests the angelic Polish nanny whom her children respect more than her. Forensic expert Sandra Roversi starts an obsessive search for the person whose DNA matches with the blood of the Madonna. Father Marcello acknowledges the miracle of the crying Madonna and considers it to be a hopeful sign for the decaying world, but he can't conquer his own inner demons.
When reaching episode six or seven, of a total of eight, you'll realize that "The Miracle" definitely won't be revealing all its secrets. Quite the contrary, there are so many unanswered questions bouncing back and forth in my brain! I won't raise them here to avoid spoilers, but I can only hope that a second season will be released soon. Still, in spite of all the loose ends and a few shortcomings here and there, "The Miracle" is one of the most addictive and hypnotizing European series of the decade.
It's dumb and derivative; - Scout's honor
Let's see... We've had Nazi zombies, zombie beavers, Cuban zombies, Russian zombies, Aussie zombies, zombie strippers, retired zombies, zombie toddlers, intelligent zombies, mockumentary zombies, space zombies, ex-girlfriend zombies, drug-addicted zombies, football zombies, political zombies, cowboy zombies, zombie nerds, Lederhosen zombies, etc. I could probably list another dozen of variations and then simply add "And now we also have zombie boy scouts" at the end, but the point is rather clear. There's an oversupply of zombie comedies in all kind of shapes, settings or specific situations.
I really don't want to sound like a sourpuss, because most of these films are well-made and reasonably entertaining, but the issue is that they are fundamentally all derivative, mundane and tiresome. Without even looking at the trailer, social outcasts turn into unlikely saviors because their geeky habits come in handy, bullies and other loathsome townsfolk attack them in nasty zombie versions, and the biggest dork of the bunch gets to kiss the high-school princess at the end.
Of course, I'm well aware that we don't necessarily watch these "zomedies" for their innovative and intellectual plots. We watch them in the hope of seeing excessive gore, gratuitous sleaze, and maybe even a handful of memorable moments or ingenious gimmicks. Even in this area, "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" is seriously lacking if you ask me. The gore is adequate enough, although too much special effects are computer-generated, and the girls in the cast (Sarah Dumont, Halston Sage, Niki Koss...) are yummy. There's also a great scene with cats' eyes, but that about wraps up the good news. Where were the stand-alone splatter/comedy highlights? I only remotely chuckled with the Dolly Parton references and the one scene where one of scouts can't resist fondling Missy Martinez' giant fake zombie breasts. Embarrassing moments, on the other hand, there are plenty. It's a stupid sight to see a living corpse sing Britney Spears' greatest hit, and penis-stretching is simply infantile. And yes, I do realize I sound like a sourpuss now, but how disrespectful is it to cast the legendary Cloris Leachman ("The Last Picture Show", "Young Frankenstein", "Dying Room Only", ...) as a toothless old hag who tries to bite a teenager's butt?
Black Roses (1988)
Hold on to your mullets, the Black Roses are coming to town!
This probably won't mean anything to people from America, but the opening sequences in "Black Roses", which were the best part of the entire film by far, seriously reminded me of the winning act in the Eurovision contest in 2006. They were a Finnish band named Lordi and dressed up like OTT demonic monsters on stage. It was quite a shock they won the conventional and borderline puritan musical concert, but it was a funny sight. Same goes for the intro of "Black Roses", in fact, because the demonic make-up effects are delightful, but the music sounds more like glamor-rock instead of heavy metal.
During the 1980s, several directors had the bad idea to mix horror movies with metal music. Both were popular separately, so together they must be even more successful, right? Wrong. I love horror and I love heavy metal, but the string of combo-flicks that came out in the 80s is overall disastrous. Although I haven't seen "Trick or Treat" yet, "Black Roses" must be the indisputably masterpiece of the sub-genre! At least it's vastly superior over titles like "Terror on Tour", "Rocktober Blood" "Hard Rock Zombies" and "Rock & Roll Nightmare". Metal band The Black Roses, with their popular front man Damian, announces that they'll kick off their American tour with a series of shows in the sleepy town of Mill Basin. It's delightful news for the local youth, but the parents and elderly townsfolk are heavily against the Roses' type of "satanic" music and life-style. They don't realize how right they are, actually, since Damian and his band are evil minions of Satan that gradually gain control over their fans' minds and bodies during the concerts. Several aspects make "Black Roses" a lot more enjoyable than the aforementioned titles, for instance a better soundtrack ("Soldiers of the Night", "Paradise" and "Dance on Fire" are good songs) and a handful of awesome murder sequences. There's a nasty scene in which a guy is beaten to death with an ashtray and a very sexy high-school sweetheart even strip-pokers her friend's dad to death! The film also remains a pure 80s cheese-galore, with lovely images of spectators turning into skeletons during the concerts and Vincent Pastore (in an early role) getting sucked into a speaker. That'll teach him to make fun of boys wearing earrings!
Killer Force (1976)
How many macho-egos does it take to rob a diamond mine?
Many titles that are on my must-see list are there because I blindly added them for names in the cast, without necessarily knowing what the plot is about. "The Diamond Mercenaries", aka "Killer Force" is a prime example of this habit, since it unites cult icons Telly Savalas, Christopher Lee and Peter Fonda! What more do you need to know in order to see a film? And it's gets better, since it's also co-starring Bond-beauty Maud Adams and it was co-written and directed by one of Hammer's greatest talents; - Val Guest ("The Quatermass Experiment", "The Abominable Snowman").
In fact, "Killer Force" is a gift that keeps on giving, because it's a fantastic mid 70s action/thriller with a terrific heist-plot, an original setting, a fascinating cast of characters and plenty of bloody awesome execution sequences! The mighty Telly Savalas (and his uniquely flamboyant wardrobe) plays one of the coolest roles of his career as the obsessive head of security at a diamond mine in the godforsaken middle of the African desert. A supportive character asks him: "Where were you when they handed out feelings?". Savalas' answer: "Probably out somewhere chasing a diamond thief". He feels that someone is planning a major diamond heist, and he's right. Five former Vietnam mercenaries, with the help from someone on the inside, have a master plan ready, but it's not without risks. The first half of "Killer Force" is unnecessarily convoluted, as Fonda's role is quite ambiguous, but it's always compelling and especially the second half is non-stop exhilarating. All male characters are arrogant machos with ginormous egos, but notably Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas seem to be battling for the "who's the most sadist" character of the film. "Killer Force" simply embodies why I worship vile and nasty exploitation cinema of the 70s; - it's great sardonic fun and comes highly recommended!
Charlene Bronson Spits on Your Grave! And worse...
The starting point of this "I Spit on your Grave 3: Vengeance is Mine" is definitely interesting and courageous, and also quite unusual for a film of its type. Usually only TV-dramas focus on the mental & physical struggles of recovering rape victims. The plot picks up the lead girl of the original film (the original 2010 remake, that is) and elaborates on the fact that, several years after the traumatic experiences, she still hasn't been able to put her life back on track. Jennifer changed her name to Angela, she lives in a modest big-city apartment, goes to her desk clerk job every day and follows therapy sessions. But she still suffers from nasty flashbacks of her vicious gang-rape and avoids social contact with practically everybody, and especially men because she sees potential rapists in all of them. Angela then joins a support group with people who experienced similar traumas, and this finally seems to help her! Not because the sessions are so inspiring, but because she becomes friends with the eccentric daredevil Marla. Her idea of processing traumas is by extracting vengeance against random male chauvinist pigs, and she drags Angela on board. When Marla doesn't return after an encounter with her violent ex, Angela snaps entirely and goes on a vigilante killing spree that would even put Charles Bronson to shame!
Let me first come back to something I mentioned earlier, regarding the starting point of "Vengeance is Mine". Practically since the beginning of cinema, the horror genre has always been accused of being women-unfriendly or even downright misogynistic, and often righteously so. The least you can say about this film is that it attempts to turn the tables around. All male characters are either perverted pigs or pathetic wimps, whereas the females are forceful, intelligent and tough. That's a statement if there ever was one! And even though, technically speaking, Jennifer/Angela isn't a victim herself this time around, there still isn't a jury-member among the audience that will convict her (quote the tagline of the 1978 milestone), because all her targets are loathsome scum that deserve what's coming to them.
There naturally are a few defaults in the script as well. During the entire first act, and even in the first scenes where she joins Marla at night, Jennifer/Angela is exclusively portrayed as a sensitive and terrified victim, and the plot conveniently ignores that she already had her share of merciless and bloodied vengeance in the first film. Her flashbacks only replay the agonies she suffered, but ignore that she also tortured and killer her assailants in imaginative ways that would even make the Jigsaw-killer bow with respect! The bizarre and implausible climax is also a letdown, but at least it keeps the options open for more gratuitously violent sequels! Last but not least, albeit less gruesome than the previous two installments (and the '78 role-model), you can always count on the "I Spit on your Grave" franchise for some footage that literally makes every male spectator squirm on their seat and cover their family jewels for protection. Notably the castration/penile mutilation sequence and an excruciatingly painful moment involving a metal pipe and a sledgehammer are guaranteed to make you squeal like a you-know-what!
Mr. Ricco (1975)
You have the right to an attorney... He might sing "That's Amore" for you!
Like most people, I reckon, I primarily know Dean Martin as the singer of numerous Christmas Carols or as the performer of many legendary soundtrack tunes like "You're nobody till somebody loves you", "That's Amore" or "Ain't that a kick in the head". Not being a fan of the Rat Pack or comedy flicks starring Jerry Lewis, the only supportive films roles I've seen Martin in were "Airport" and "The Cannonball Run", so I was quite curious to see him appear in a thriller; - let alone a raw, gritty and violent mid-70s exploitation thriller!
But "Mr. Ricco" is a very competent and unjustly obscure thriller, with a solid and convincing role for Dean Martin! Although suffering from occasional slow-pacing and plot-predictability, "Mr. Ricco" is a compelling and suspenseful story about cops and lawyers, and more particularly about the tensions that arise when thugs, after they get acquitted by their sly attorneys, immediately revert back to committing crimes. The case even becomes extra sensitive when the crime in question is homicide of police officers. One of the main themes/morals of the film is that policemen should always uphold the law rather than acting as judge, jury and executioner themselves. This was quite a heavy and courageous theme in the contemporary cinematic era, especially since the formula of unorthodox macho coppers ("Dirty Harry", "The French Connection", ...) was so popular and commercially beneficiary. There are several good action sequences in "Mr. Ricco", but still the most powerful moments remain those where Ricco's friendship with police commissioner Cronyn (Eugene Roche) is put under pressure. The relatively unknown but experienced director Paul Bogart makes good use of the San Franciscan locations, but many scenes during the middle section are dull and redundant. The supposed twist-ending is far too easy to guess, but it's nevertheless presented in a pleasingly raw and violent fashion. This film may not stand out in the crowd of 70s action-thrillers, but it's a lot more intelligent than it looks and definitely worth seeking out!
One last word of advise for Joe Ricco: when you're almost out of toothpaste, you have to roll up the tube from the bottom...
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
A Mighty childhood classic, forever in the heart!
There are a number of films, childhood favorites, that I will forever hold dearly in my heart because they were largely responsible for triggering my passion for cinema that still continues to expand today! Films like "Dark Crystal" and "Return to Oz" sparked my interest in fantasy universes. Movies like "Watcher in the Woods" and "Something Wicked this Way Comes" ignited my bizarre habit of always rooting for the most evil and villainous characters, and titles like "Innerspace" and this "Honey, I shrunk the Kids" opened up the fascinating world of special effects to me. Seeing this film again, a good twenty years since the last time and now in the company of my own 9-year-old son, literally fills me up with joy, especially because the majority of visual & special effects still solidly stand today!
Only now I discovered an additional fact that pleases me. The original story came from Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon! The latter was even set to direct at one point, apparently. Both men rank amongst my favorite horror masters, and it's hard to imagine that the creators of gory and absurd 80s horror classics like "Re-Animator" and "Society" were also going to helm a Disney flick!
Nobody could have been cast better than Rick Moranis as a batty scientist, Wayne Szalinski, who works in the attic of his typically suburban house on a revolutionary shrinking machine that never functions when it is supposed to. When the machine gets messed up by an incoming baseball, though, it suddenly does function, and it shrinks Szalinski's own offspring, as well as the two boys from next door, to the ridiculously small size of six millimeters! When they then get swept up and taken out in a garbage bag, the foursome is forced to find their way back to the house via the garden. But, of course, due to their size, a walk through the garden is the equivalent of a trek across the Amazon rainforest, with multiple lethal dangers and unforeseeable obstacles.
"Honey, I shrunk the Kids" contains a handful of wonderful and legendary scenes that I have never forgotten. There's the magical flight on the back of a bumblebee, the slow-motion fall into the giant flower, the insects' battle, the close encounter with the lawnmower and the deep-dive into a bowl of cereal. The F/X are still amazing enough to deeply impress my son (and kids nowadays are certainly used to high digital standards) and underlying morals regarding parenting and friendship are heart-warming whilst not being shoved down our throats like in other Disney flicks.
Un killer per sua maestà (1968)
The Killer shouldn't litter!
Stupid as it may sound, it's almost unthinkable that this simple & straightforward crime-thriller could still be made today, and this for an utmost dumb fact. The titular killer leaves candy wrappings (the dude's sole vice is a sweet tooth) at the scene of practically every crime, and nowadays it would be "not-done" for any character - hero or villain - to litter. You know, what with the environment and all?
Am I exaggerating? Perhaps, but it also somewhat demonstrates that "The Killer Likes Candy" is a very mundane and forgettable late '60s thriller. I watched it less than 48 hours ago, and already I have trouble remembering the plot and the denouement. It's entertaining enough while it lasts, merely thanks to a few exhilarating action sequences and a handful of adequate performances, but overall this is a weak effort. No-nonsense American hero Mark Stone gets assigned to protect the king of Kafiristan during his diplomatic stay in Italy, after a previous assassination attempt resulted in the death of his regular bodyguard. The hired killer is the stoic and introvert Oscar Snell, and his instructors clearly don't have a lot of confidence in him, since they additionally send a small army of goons (including Cameron Mitchell) out to neutralize Mark. Good aspects of the film include the majority of settings and filming locations (Rome, Venice, ...), the swinging soundtrack and two or three death sequences (burned alive, electrocuted, ...). The film is far too slow-paced, however, and the inexperienced director Frederico Chentrens doesn't manage to generate the least bit of suspense.
Weasels Rip My Flesh (1979)
Weasel out while you can...
Although I love crummy B-movies, I generally have a very low level of tolerance for homemade, amateur horror flicks put together by a bunch of drunken buddies that use a handheld video camera and everything they can find around the house for special effects.
In the case of "Weasels Rip my Flesh", I do have to express a minimum of respect and admiration for Nathan Schiff. Don't know if it's true, but allegedly he was only 16 years old when he mobilized his family members, friends and neighborhood volunteers to help by appearing in his big film-project! Schiff's obvious enthusiasm, and maybe the imaginative title, are the only positive things I can think of, though. Fortunately, the plot synopsis is carefully described here on the IMDb-page, because I didn't understand one iota of what was happening on the screen. The first couple of minutes simply contain images of treetops. Then, a pencil (which is supposed to be a rocket ship) crashes into a pond (which is supposed to be the ocean) and loses its cargo of toxic waste. Interesting, I didn't know earth imported or exported toxic waste into space! Two young kids pour a can of infected water into a weasel's hole and the critter subsequently turns into a humongous killing machine. At least, the title wants us to believe it's a weasel, but I can honestly swear I never saw one. I think Schiff used his childhood teddy bear to transform into a monstrous creature, or something. The first quarter of "Weasels Rip my Flesh" is inept and very bizarre, but, trust me, it's the most entertaining part of the entire film by far. After that, there a bloke with a hideous moustache pretending to be a police officer on the lookout of the two missing boys, but he ends up in the shed of a weirdo in a jumpsuit who pretends to be a mad scientist. It's truly boring from here, and I honestly could bring myself to listen to their endless talking, atrocious acting and monotonous body language. The only remaining moment that woke me up from my comatose state was a hilariously random shark-attack sequence during the finale.
Nathan Schiff made two other films before vanishing and ending up as a footnote in exploitation/cult horror history. "Long Island Cannibal Massacre" (1980) is also lousy amateur guff, but at least a progression curve is noticeable. I haven't seen "They Don't Cut The Grass Anymore" (1985) yet.
The Abduction of Lorelei (1977)
Stockholm Syndrome; the Triple-X edition
Natural born beautiful and cherubic Serena stars as Lorelei, the daughter of a wealthy businessman who gets abducted on the parking lot of a shopping mall by a duo of thugs. On the way back to their hideout, the poor girl is already raped and sodomized in the ramshackle van. The first hardcore footage is already in the customary rough and misogynic style of late 70s adult-exploitation cinema, with lines like "No please, not in there!". Back at their hideout, there's a third female accomplice and they take polaroid pictures of Lorelei in humiliating positions to send to her father and demand $1.000.000 ransom for her release. Lorelei gradually uses her charms, and her physical trumps, to seduce her kidnappers and create distortion between the three of them. "The Abduction of Lorelei" obviously isn't a pleasant viewing experience, and I honestly don't even know why I'm reviewing it. One could state that the plot attempts to work around the theme of "Stockholm Syndrome", where a hostage develops a sort of psychological (or, in this case, physical) alliance with his/her captors as a survival strategy, but it's really just about the sex. The film has become so obscure over the years that the only available copies suffer from a downright dreadful picture and sound quality. From an exploitation/cult cinema point of view, "The Abduction of Lorelei" doesn't nearly play in the same league as titles such as "Forced Entry", "Femmes De Sade", "Water Power", "Unwilling Lovers" or "Hardgore".
Murders in the Zoo (1933)
Cruel and nasty stuff for an early 30s film!
I'm extremely fond of ancient horror movies from the late twenties and early thirties, but admittedly they are usually rather soft and tame both in terms of tone and execution. A. Edward Sutherland's "Murders in the Zoo", however, is not! The concept of the film, and particularly Lionel Atwill's hunter/millionaire character are astonishingly crude and relentless for a 1933 production. Probably so crude, even, that the producers eventually backed off anyways and - unfortunately - decided to compensate the cruelty of the essential plot with far too much light-headed comical relief in the shape of contemporary popular jester Charlie Ruggles. Who knows, without Ruggles, "Murders in the Zoo" might have become as controversial and universally banished as "Freaks" was for several long decades, so I can certainly respect the producers' choice.
The opening sequence is as fiendish and twisted as they come. After he allegedly just 'wanted to kiss her', Eric Gorman (Atwill) blandly disposes of an admirer of his wife by stitching up his lips and leaving him behind in a dark jungle full of wild animals. Back in the US, the petrified wife still has plans to run off with another lover, but the diabolical Gorman uses the zoo to which he supplies exotic animals as a macabre disposal ground. In between, the hysterical Ruggles goofs around as the zoo's marketeer/PR-spokesperson who's afraid of animals. "Murders in the Zoo" benefices from several things, most notably the unpredictable script (you genuinely can't tell who will or won't survive), the classy cinematography of Oscar winner Ernest Haller and the bone-chilling performance of Lionel Atwill. This legendary underrated actor was an evil genius as Dr. Moriarty in "Hound of the Baskervillers" and a vicious psychopath in "Mystery of the Wax Museum", but he was never more terrifying as here in this 30s horror gem.
Seconds Apart (2011)
Alexandra Daddario's baby-brothers are creepy as hell!
I didn't for the least bit expect it myself, but "Seconds Apart" left a big and positive impression on me! This is the type of horror film where you beforehand expect to see 2 or 3 noteworthy sequences, and maybe a bit of gore, but then it gets instantly and forevermore erased from your memory. Instead, however, debuting director Antonio Negret comes with a clever film that has a genuinely unsettling basic plot to begin with, and then lots of morbid atmosphere, freakish characters, shockingly grim imagery, insane twists and explicit gore to boot! A few historical titles, most notably Cronenberg's "Dead Ringers", already demonstrated that much horror/thriller potential lies in the bizarre and inexplicably psychic bond between twin brothers or sisters, and Negret clearly understood this very well. The Entin brothers are superbly cast as Jonah and Seth Trimble, social outcasts at school that solely rely on each other and on their disturbingly picturesque parents. The twins are on a mission - frequently referred to by themselves as 'the project' - to finally experience some kind of emotion. Any type of emotion will do, and therefore they use their strongly overdeveloped telepathic powers to make people at school commit suicide. After each death they stoically ask each other if they felt something, which is really uncanny! The traumatized police Detective Lampkin links the unusually high number of suicides to the apathic behavior of the twins, but their mutual bond also weakens because Jonah is attracted to the new girl in town. "Seconds Apart" begins very powerful, with a nasty game of Russian Roulette, and every subsequent murder/suicide scene is cruel as well. The flashbacks/nightmares Det. Lampkin suffers from are occasionally redundant, but they are also full of horrific imagery, and literally ALL sequences involving the twins' parents are freaky. The Entin brothers give away great performances. They may look like boyish versions of actress Alexandra Daddario (without the perfect boobs, obviously) but it's particularly their cherubic faces in combination with their emotionless attitudes that make them so menacing. Antonio Negret somewhat loses control over the plot and narrative structure when approaching the end of the film, and thus the final act is quite disappointing, but "Seconds Apart" definitely ranks among the top-best efforts of the After Dark cycle.
PS: I find it quite remarkable that I haven't read in any other reviews that these Entin twins strongly resemble Alexandra Daddario. Surely, I can't be the only person who thinks they look alike?
Oh Brother Burton, Where Art Thou?
Yours truly is largely unopinionated regarding the currently popular cinematic trend to transfer animated classics into live-action feature films. My first and spontaneous reaction would be that it's further proof to demonstrate that Hollywood is running out of inspiration while they do attempt to drain more profit out of old successes, but I don't want to judge the actual films without having seen them. It probably won't happen, since I'm not interested in "Jungle Book" or "Beauty and the Beast" and I don't intend to see "Aladdin" or "The Lion King", neither. I did have two very solid reasons to go and stand in line for "Dumbo" with my entire family. #1: I have been a giant Tim Burton fan my entire life. #2: my 4-year-old daughter recently discovered the original animated Disney classic (can you believe that one got released in 1941 already?) and this genuinely magical masterpiece sparked my interest to watch the new version and to share this experience with her. At the same time, however, I tried keeping my expectations low. Tim Burton's last great film, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", is already 12 years old, and even that one wasn't nearly as unique and authentic as "Sleepy Hollow", "Edward Scissorhands", "Ed Wood", etc... Also, Burton used to be a beautiful freak and his films embodied darkness, morbidity and fantasy landscapes. The fact I'm allowed to see his newest film in the company of a 4-year-old isn't very promising.
Alas, it quickly becomes abundantly clear that "the old Tim Burton" will never return. Admittedly "Dumbo" doesn't provide the subject matter to turn into dark fantasy tales and the film certainly does contain a few noteworthy and positive moments, but the problem lies deeper. It's a soulless film, utterly devoid of passion and the power of imagination. The entire thing is one giant and digitalized merry-go-round attraction and Burton's traditional personal touches are nowhere to be found. The potentially fascinating supportive characters (including ALL the circus artists) are wasted, the references towards the brilliant '41 original (the pink elephants sequence, the music and the little circus mouse) are seemingly thrown in because it was mandatory, and the primary moralizing messages (the ugly duckling variant and trust in oneself) have been replaced by imposed compulsory messages, like "Free all animals!" or criticism against large corporations that take over small but creative companies. Speaking of which, how hypocrite is the plot of Vandervere's mastodon theme park swallowing the traditional Medici circus and abruptly killing its creative employees? This is basically what Disney is doing with Star Wars, Marvel and even Tim Burton's persona. Are they predicting their entire imperium will eventually burn to the ground, maybe? "Dumbo" doesn't just solely exist of CGI-effects, it also appears to be directed by a computer or a CGI-machine instead of by a creative human being. And, judging by his numb and impassive performance here, Colin Farrell clearly thought so as well.
But hey, I can't finish my review without acknowledging that my darling daughter joyously cheered and shouted each time when the cute little elephant flew around the circus tent, and admittedly that sight also sent modest shivers down my spine.
At least the little bunny-rabbit survived!
After "Flood!" comes "Fire!", or vice versa! In 1976 and 19744, producer Irwin Allen and director Earl Bellamy shot two disaster movies back-to-back in the beautifully green state of Oregon. Ever since their releases these two titles seem to be inseparable. Most people watch them as a double-feature and, in my country, they were even release together on one single VHS-tape. There must be some sort of supernatural force involved because, after seeing "Flood!" last week, I also immediately felt the urge to see "Fire!" as soon as possible! Moreover, it's another great opportunity to subject another title to my specifically developed rating scale for typically 70s disaster movies!
Condition #1: without producer Irwin Allen, there wasn't a budget for special effects and thus no movie. "Fire!" is a TV-production, so obviously it's less spectacular than its distant fiery cousin "The Towering Inferno", but the flames, set-pieces and cinematography look very realistic (and superior to "Flood!") quite good, so I'll give it a full point. Condition #2: all disaster movies star one major star (Charlton Heston and Paul Newman were prime choices) and a long list of "secondary" stars (like Ernest Borgnine, Leslie Nielsen...). I am going to be very generous here and award the full point again. For reasons linked to the TV-movie status, there isn't a major star, but Ernest Borgnine rises to the top as a genuine hero, and the list of secondary stars is nevertheless long and impressive: Vera Miles, Patty Duke, Donna Mills, Alex Cord, Erik Estrada, Neville Brand, ... Condition #3: The characters are usually split into two camps with completely opposite ideals and/or initiatives. This condition, on the other hand, isn't applicable here. The little town of Silverton is exposed to a humongous forest fire, ignited by a convict as part of a more elaborate escape plan, and there isn't a chance for anyone to deny the fire's existence or to minimalize the impact. "Fire!" is one of the rare 70s disaster movies where all the characters work together to battle the inferno. Condition #4: Regardless what type of disaster we're dealing with, variants of the exact same perilous situations are always applicable. Pass, for sure! We have little girls gone missing during the local school's field trip, wind and weather conditions that continue complicating the working conditions and doctors that can't provide medical care because their car nearly crashes into a bear! Condition #5: always remember that, when the situation appears to be at its worst, it can and will still get even worse! For this condition, "Fire!" scores a lot better than its companion "Flood!". The rescue helicopter crashes down, the mountaintop lodge that initially serves as safe harbor nevertheless still threatens to go down in flames, dumb kids lock themselves into their rooms and certain people become forced to heroically sacrifice themselves in order to safe the others. There's one hopeful little moment, however, when a cute and furry little bunny miraculously gets rescued by fire chief Gene Evans.
If we sum it up, "Fire!" scores 4 out of 5 on rating scale for 70s disaster movies! Make no mistake, though, as this is only an indicator to state that the film qualifies as fantastic entertainment with all the joyous clichés and stereotypes represented! Skeptical film fanatics are likely to disdain the film for all the exact same reasons!
A Knife for the Ladies (1974)
The Good detective, the Bad killer and the Ugly Sheriff
Now here's something you don't encounter every day... "A Knife for the Ladies" is a genre hybrid between western and horror. No wait, let me specify that even more, it's a western mixed with strong and typical giallo trademarks! Of course, you can't really be sure if this was intentional. Was director Larry G. Sprangler even aware that overseas, in contemporary Italy, the giallo existed or was it just a lucky but coincidental choice to provide this film's killer with black leather gloves and make him/her hunt down lurid women with a sharp knife? It also doesn't matter that much, as the combo works quite effectively! "A Knife for the Ladies" is a heavily flawed film, mostly suffering from a pacing that is far too slow and a very poor use of western decors and set-pieces, but the plot is still an engaging whodunit and the murders are reasonably grisly. The town of Mescal is plagued by vicious murders and, so far, the bodies of three women have been discovered with their throats slit. The town council decides to hire private detective Burns to find the culprit, since Sheriff Jarrod is too incompetent to solve anything except for wrongly parked horses. Burns runs into a few suspects, including a morbid undertaker and the nasty saloon-owner who secretly aspires to become sheriff, but meanwhile the murders continue. "A Knife for the Ladies" is a recommendable effort, especially if you're into obscure and experimental 70s horror, but you'll have to accept the snail-pace, the lack of directorial style and the poorly created western setting. On the bright side, crazy-eyed Jack Elam is always a pleasure to watch and the denouement is vile and twisted in good old-fashioned Giallo tradition (albeit somewhat predictable if you look at the poster images)
The Undead (1957)
Bravo, Mr. Corman! "The Undead" is a triumph of ingenuity
It's easy to disdain "The Undead" because of its utterly poor production values, muddled script and complete lack of coherence. You could do that, ... or you could also acknowledge that it's one of the most imaginative and original horror-hodgepodges of all time! This is probably the best film to demonstrate how director/producer Roger Corman was a master in finding workarounds to cover for the budgetary restraints. "The Unknown" is a sheer horror feast full of twisted characters (including a singing grave digger and Satan himself), macabre padding footage (three ghostly women in black appearing out of nowhere to perform an eerie cemetery dance), genuinely creepy stuff (hiding underneath a corpse in a coffin), inexplicable bizarre gimmicks (like the sinister sneering imp shape-shifting into owls, cats and spiders) and strategically angled footage luscious Allison Hayes' luscious mammary glands!
The synopsis is grotesque and cheesy, but at the same time vastly intriguing. An unorthodox scientist lures a beautiful prostitute to his cabinet for different services than what she usually offers. Via hypnosis, he sends her to back to medieval times, to one of her previous lives as an innocent but condemned witch awaiting her execution. She escapes from the prison dungeon and then desperately attempts to prove she isn't a witch and avoid a bloody death via the executioner's axe. During her journey she meets many strange people, friendly ones and foes, and she also learns that her adventure threatens to alter the course of history forever. I have literally seen thousands of horror movies, but I'm genuinely astounded by the ingenuity of this one! The script is chock-full of neat, often only semi-processed ideas, and several of the themes were quite progressive for their time, like experimental hypnosis and reincarnation (inspired by the Bridey Murphy story). Roger Corman finds an apt balance between morbidity and comedy, and many of the performances are memorable. Pamela Duncan and Allison are beautiful and talented, Richard Devon is an archetypic Satan and Mel Welles is so terrific as Smolkin, the grave digger, that he honestly deserved his own spin-off series! I was impressed by "The Undead" throughout its entire running time, but I still I was hesitating between a rating 6 or 7 because there are nevertheless a lot of defaults. Upon witnessing the final and truly genius (yes, genius!!) end-twist, however, I knew for certain: this movie deserves at least an 8/10. Trust me, it's really good!