Each year for a decade or so I have gathered with friends on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to watch terrible movies. This year the crowd will be subjected to these two pieces of crap. Oh, the pain!
Saturday, November 29, 2014
Thursday, November 27, 2014
In the spirit of Turkey Day here are a few minutes from several different TV pilots that never made it to series. A couple of these could have been good but The Archer was a bizarre concept for American television at that time. For a look at series that actually went to series but only lasted a few episodes or at most a season and a half check this out.
Monday, November 24, 2014
John Carpenter is easily one of my favorite filmmakers. He has made more than five movies that I hold to be of such enduring quality that I have lost count of the number of times I have watched them. Even in his weakest movies I can find lots to love and the film under discussion in this episode is NOT a weak one. ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 was only the second feature Carpenter directed but it shows off his skill and abilities brilliantly. I could go on and on but we get into that in the show! Carpenter may never get his shot at making a western but he come pretty close with this fine effort.
In this episode I'm joined once again by my friend John Hudson who last sat down with me to talk about Carl Kolchak. This time out we dig into this film and use it as a reason to touch on other Carpenter movies as well. I'm proud to say that we were able to stay mostly on topic so there weren't as many barely related things discussed this time out. Of course, that doesn't keep either of us from relating some very odd analogies among the actual information so you have been warned. Ad John is able to shock me with a bit of sleazy information that nearly shocks me into silence. Nearly.
Any comments, praise, condemnation or opinions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org - we welcome your input. What is you favorite John Carpenter film?
Sunday, November 23, 2014
This excellent and very fun cartoon must come with a big warning about the depiction of the natives on Old Klunk's island paradise. The images and actions are cartoonish and insulting to the non-white races being presented and I think that is a detriment to the show. But at the same time I know what the time period was like and this kind of thing is a part of a lot of entertainment of the times. Indeed, the scenes in KING KONG being parodied are just as offensive, so having this comedy version be racially politically incorrect is rather natural - it's sort of baked into the story. So- if you can enjoy this as a product of its time please do.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
For years everything I heard about this film was negative without being specific. Snide comments about 'the gimmick' were trotted out as if that were the only memorable thing on offer, with no mention of the movie's other qualities. Heeding these poor reviews I didn't go out of my way to track down The Beast Must Die but a few years ago I was able to finally see it as part of an adventure into other Region DVDs. Imagine my surprise to discover a damned good little movie! Far from being a gimmicky mess (as I'd heard it once described) I found it to be a smart variation on The Most Dangerous Game in which the idea of hunting a man has been one-upped. And now that it has been released on Region 1 DVD, more people can discover this hybrid of horror and thriller. Its well worth the time invested.
Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) is a wealthy man with one major hobby - big game hunting. Having bagged every dangerous predator the world has to offer, he has set his sights on something exceedingly rare. Convinced that lycanthropes actually exist, he's determined to provide himself with the opportunity to hunt and kill the most vicious animal in existence.
Having identified several possible victims of the disease and invited them to his isolated country estate, Newcliffe makes the conditions right for the beast to appear. His plan is to keep his guests under watch for the three nights of the full moon and wait for a transformation. To this end he has installed a high-tech tracking and monitoring system covering the grounds of the entire estate. Hired both to set up and control the impressive audio/video surveillance equipment is Pavel (Anton Diffring). When Tom explains the object of his hunt, Pavel is skeptical but as the pay is good he's willing to go along.
At dinner on the first evening Tom reveals to his guests his knowledge of their pasts, laying out his case for each person's possible guilt. He has only circumstantial evidence for his suspicions but is convinced that one of his guests is a werewolf. Is it the artist Paul (Tom Chadbon), whose subjects always seem to end up murdered? Or musician Jan (Michael Gambon), whose concert tour leaves a trail of half-eaten bodies around the world? Has the elderly lycanthrope expert Dr. Lundgren (Peter Cushing) gotten too close to his subject? Or perhaps the beast is Davina (Ciaran Madden), the young woman whose presence at dinner parties presages death by throat-ripping? It could be that disgraced British diplomat
(the great Charles Gray) is hiding the facts about why so many of his aides
Setting the scene carefully to make the mythical beast appear, Tom has rare beef served at dinner and even brings a pollinating wolfbane plant into the house. But after an antagonistic parlor game of 'pass the silver candlestick' gets no reaction, he makes it known that he has no intention of letting his quarry escape. Mr. Newcliffe wants his hunt and he's willing to go to any lengths to get it!
On the first night the surveillance grid shows an animal on the grounds and Tom, clad in shiny black and carrying a submachine gun, gives chase. He only gets a quick glimpse of the animal and misses his shot. But showing a high level of intelligence the beast beats him back to the house to kill Pavel and wreck the monitoring system! Tom realizes that he's underestimated his adversary but refuses to give up. Hiding Pavel's body to keep his death a secret, he continues on to the second night — upping the provocation in hopes of another chance.
Of course, I kept wondering what would happen if more than one of the suspects were lycanthropes! After hearing Tom's list of evidence against them it seemed possible that two or more might be shape changing monsters; maybe they'd join forces to off the sucker dumb enough to get too close. But that's not the way the story goes. We're told at the beginning of the film that there is one werewolf and that the audience will be given the chance to guess the identity of the creature. And this is The Beast Must Die's gimmick: the "Werewolf Break". At a point just before the killer is revealed there is a brief pause in the film, complete with a countdown clock so that viewers can demonstrate their deductive powers. It's a bit silly I admit, but I like it as it gives viewers the chance to talk about the suspects without missing anything. Maybe in the days of Pause buttons this is pointless but I think theatrically it would have been fun. The best thing about it is that the film immediately pulls a switch leading to a nice double-clutch surprise.
The film sports a very strong cast with veteran Cushing leading the way. Doing a nice Norwegian accent, he is easily the least likely suspect but adds enough arched eyebrow mystery to cause some doubt. Charles Gray and Michael Chambon are familiar character actors who bring a high level of performance to the table; Marlene Clark, playing Newcliff's wife Caroline, is very good as well. The real casting surprise is Calvin Lockhart. Casting a black man in a role originally slated to be played by Robert Quarry might have seemed a bit crazed to some but it pays off brilliantly. Lockhart is fantastic in the role, perfectly balancing the slightly mad determination to hunt his prey with the smooth genteel manners of the worldly man of wealth that he has made himself. It's a great performance that holds the movie together well.
Another surprising but effective decision of the filmmakers was in their presentation of the beast itself. Eschewing the standard man-in-a-hairy-outfit, they instead went with a large animal on all fours, loping across the darkened estate and attacking like a mad wolf. I was happy with this choice as well, as it emphasizes the beastly aspect of the creature and is a break with convention. And even if the animal is all too obviously a big dog with extra hairy padding stuck to it, the film does a good job of keeping him in shadow and therefore pretty menacing. The few clear shots of it against a moonlit sky are quite nice with its attack on Pavel being especially well done.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Sunday, November 16, 2014
After much behind the scenes wrangling we have finally produced an episode on Godzilla! And boy, have we found a way to come at this great character in a way guaranteed to confuse fans and confound listeners. That's right- we're going to talk about the stranger movies in the Big G's list of credits and what more bizarre place to start than this oddity also known as GODZILLA'S REVENGE. This will be the first in a series of shows
Troy and I will be doing
over the course of the next year focusing on the less well admired movies in
the long running series. This series of podcasts will be labeled Controversial Kaiju and we
think it will be of interest to both major monster fans and those with a casual
curiosity in the giant radioactive lizard.
If you have any information of your own to impart drop us a line at email@example.com and let us know what your favorite or least favorite Godzilla film might be. We should be back in the Spring with another Controversial Kaiju entry!
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
File this under 'Sequels Nobody Wanted'.
I recently watched for the first time RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (2007) which begs several questions. One - what is that? Two - why? Three- huh?
RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (2007) is the direct-to-video sequel to the Dark Castle remake of the William Castle/Vincent Price funhouse classic HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959). Why did a remake garner a sequel when the superior original never did? That’s a question I can’t answer but I can explain why I watched this sucker. First- I actually enjoyed the 1999 remake and have watched it several times since its theatrical run. It has been about ten years since I last saw it so maybe it’s time for a rewatch but my memories are of a fun romp with a game cast, plenty of scares and some nice creepy atmosphere. It also has some dodgy CGI effects but no film is perfect and they never bothered me. They might on a rewatch, though. Hum'
Anyway- I have wanted to see this sequel since it debuted because of my general curiosity about most horror movies but this one also had a neat gimmick. The Blu-Ray was supposed to give you the option of playing a kind of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style way of viewing the film. This was touted at the time of its release but I had no desire to pay money for what would probably be a crappy film just to experience this possibly crappy game-like extra. I was able to get the Blu for nothing (seriously- nothing at all) and I have now watched the film once as a normal film to see how it is supposed to play out. I plan to soon sit down and try to do the experimental Choose My Own Adventure thing soon but I had to let readers know about this one thing that surprised me.
One of my favorite actors from one of my favorite cult British science fiction TV shows stars in RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL! The fellow in question is Steven Pacey who played Tarrant on the last two season/series of Blake’s 7. I couldn’t recognize him in the professor role here but I knew I had seen him someplace before and it was driving me crazy until I resorted to an IMDb search. How cool! He’s a pretty good actor and in this film he covers his accent very well so I doubt I would have ever figured it out with the inter-tubes help. I now think I should look up the other cool actors from that classic show to see if I have missed them in movies I have already seen. Strange.
Oh- the film is not good. It’s not bad either, managing to fall in that sad mid-range that means it is not going to be very memorable. It was an OK movie that at least knew to keep the pace fast to hide the lack of logical reasons for the people to be crawling around the haunted old madhouse. It also doesn’t overstay its welcome with a short running time. Hell- the credits start at about the seventy-five minute mark so that is a plus.
Now I just need to mess with that strange viewing option….
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Sunday, November 09, 2014
Because of the wonderful internet age in which we live it is possible to see almost (but not quite) any movie we want to see. This is great for a movie nut such as myself and adds immeasurably to the list of films I want to eventually sit down and watch. In my hunt for the odder pieces of genre cinema available via the ‘special antenna’ I occasionally stumble across things that look like they might be hidden gems – who knows if that print of the ultra-rare GRIZZLY 2 is going to be worth my time? – but often these movies turn out to be at best passable time wasters and at worst they are boring trudges through the bowels of low budget incompetence. Sometimes a movies falls somewhere in-between.
When I stumbled across SCREAMS OF A WINTER’S NIGHT (1979) I had high hopes that this obscure small budget horror effort from
Louisiana might be good
creepy fun. It had a few positive reviews and a friend mentioned hearing that
it was a good scary movie from someone else. This third person recommendation
came from back when these kind of movies turned up on late night television.
The print I have access to is a rip from the VHS release which is the only way
it has ever been made available. The image is a little too dark for a film that
takes place mostly at night and in under lit interiors but it was watchable.
The strangest thing about the film for the first hour is that the opening
credits play out with bits of frantic dialog layered underneath. This gets to
be concerning because there is a long delay between the individual credits and
you start to think that the story has started but the picture is black! Luckily
this is a creative choice and not a screw up but it gets things off to a rocky
The plot is nothing you haven’t seen before- a group of college friends venture out into the country for a long weekend to stay in a cabin in the woods. See- the setup is so obvious that it’s become well known enough to be the title of a recent horror film. These friends are a broad cross-section of (poorly sketched) easily identifiable types and the actors are mostly too old to be playing kids in their late teens or early twenties. While huddled together in the cabin’s living room the friends begin talking about old myths of the surrounding area and relating scary stories they have heard. The first of these is a classic old urban legend that I won’t spoil for the cinematically curious but it was nice to see this chestnut played out onscreen even if the image IS too dark for maximum fun. After that one the stories become a bit less obvious but still retain a neat ‘told around the campfire’ feel.
I can't claim that this little movie is great or even very good but it has a certain charm and I can easily understand how someone coming across it on TV one night would get ninety minutes of enjoyment. It's a not very wonderful but interesting example of regional filmmaking back when that meant something more than trying to imitate a blockbuster hit. It's uneven, a little silly, a bit cheesy and it only cranks into gear in the final twenty minutes or so. I don't think I can recommend it except for horror nuts like myself but if this write-up intrigues you then dive in. The movie certainly ends strongly after a fairly weak first hour but most folks will find this too long to wait for the thrills to kick in. I would love to see this get cleaned up and released to DVD in the hopes that the darkest scenes would be clearer.
Saturday, November 08, 2014
I have always thought of the Mummy as the most neglected and derided of the classic Universal monsters but it has been pointed out that actually that crown belongs to the Invisible Man. I wonder why? No recurring actor? No continuing storyline? The descent into silliness? I enjoy the original and its four sequels but I don't find myself wanting to revisit them very often.
Friday, November 07, 2014
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
The 90’s were a terrible period of time for originality in film and the standout evidence to prove that point should be the number of TV series that were dragged squealing onto the big screen. I am of the general opinion that attempting to turn an older television show into a movie is a bad idea. I can’t think of many that were either impressive artistically or even very commercially successful even if the Brady Bunch films and the Maverick redux were considered hits. I couldn’t make through ten minutes of the Brady Bunch crap and although MAVERICK (1994) was passable it felt more like a typical Mel Gibson film of the 1990’s than a real reworking of the classic series. So why did I go to the theater to see a big screen adaptation of the solid 1980’s action show The Equalizer? Two things – the reteaming of director and star from the sharp and harsh TRAINING DAY (2001) and the fact that Denzel Washington is actually a fine choice for this type of character. Yes, I might still prefer the clipped accent and more austere bearing of Edward Woodward as Robert McCall but Washington brings his own kind of gravitas to the role that works quite well.
THE EQUALIZER plays as a kind of origin story for the job McCall eventually designs for himself in the world. He is a retired, widowed secret agent with the desire to live a simple, spare and quiet life working a menial job. As we get to know him we see that he is a very good man who goes out of his way to help co-workers with both positive words and encouraging actions but it also seems that he is a man just biding his time until his own death. He doesn’t seem to want to hasten his own passing but it’s clear he will welcome the chance to be with his wife again in her heaven. During his insomniac nights spent drinking tea in a diner McCall strikes up a friendship with young Russian prostitute and when she runs afoul of her pimp/owner he can’t stop himself from getting involved. After this initial confrontation things spiral out of control and McCall’s life and the lives of his co-workers are in danger.
This is the are modern action movie that takes the time to let you get to know the main character and his life before the violence starts. Because of this the film is engrossing and meditative in ways that I found exciting - maybe even more exciting than the scenes of hand to hand combat. Not that the fight scenes are bad- they are very well done and thrilling in their energy. But the characters both good and bad are the real draw in THE EQUALIZER and that is nice to be able to say.
GONE GIRL is David Fincher's latest offering and in many ways this is his most satisfying film ZODIAC (2007). Adapted from a novel with a script by the novelist the movie is both the perfect Fincher film and a completely impressive example of paring a book down to the screen. This is the first movie in years that I have seen that has an ending that is both final and open ended in a way that causes dread and sorrow. This is a tale about the traps we set for ourselves and the nasty extremes to which we will go to escape those traps. No one comes out of this story looking good or kind because we are shown over time their every dark thought and dishonest motivation Even good actions often have bad consequences and resentments can fester over time to make the most unthinkable possible. I won't spoil the many surprises for those that have managed to avoid learning too much but suffice to say that this one of the best movies I've seen all year.
THE EQUALIZER (2014) - 8 (excellent character driven action tale)
HIGH MOON (2014) - 7 (fun, Sci-Fi TV movie pilot for a failed series)
GONE GIRL (2014) - 9 (excellent)
THE RIFT (1989) - 3 (terrible with only a bloody mid-section making it tolerable)
THE LIVING DEAD AT
MORGUE (1974) -
8 (rewatch) MANCHESTER
THE GRUDGE 3 (2009) - 6
THE FOG (1980 )- 9 (rewatch)
BODY PUZZLE (1992) - 6 (Lamberto Bava thriller/horror) (rewatch)
SEE NO EVIL (2006) - 3 (terrible attempt at horror)
NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (1971) - 7
JACK THE REAPER (2011 )- 2 (amazingly bad low budget horror tale)
THE SUBSTITUTE (2007) - 7
OCULUS (2013) - 8 (rewatch)
JU-REI (2004)- 5 (slow moving Japanese ghost story)
THE MUMMY'S CURSE (1944) - 6 (rewatch)
SHADOW PEOPLE (2012) - 7 (interesting combination of fact and fiction)
THE SMILING GHOST (1941)- 6 (rewatch)
THE CREATURE WALKS AMOUNG US (1956)- 7 (rewatch)
THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN (1960)- 3 (rewatch)
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960)- 8 (Rewatch)
SCHIZOID (1980)- 6 (interesting slasher)
THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963)- 8 (rewatch)
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1989) - 4
TALES OF TERROR (1962) - 8 (rewatch)
DEADLY EYES (1982)- 4 (pretty terrible giant rat movie)
Sunday, November 02, 2014
Often, during the month of October, strange monster related things will be coughed up by the internet. Usually this means another "The Ten Best Horror Whatevers" list produced with little thought or genre knowledge as Halloween time click-bait for a website. But occasionally something worthy of attention shows up. This is one of those rare occasions. I present to you- Boris Karloff's recipe for guacamole!
See! I told you this was worth seeing! Who knew Karloff was such a fan of Mexican food? He and I were clearly brothers under the skin. Cause I love mexican food too. See? Yeah!
Seriously though- this is weird.
Saturday, November 01, 2014
Because it was October and I love horror movies I finally caught up with this version of the classic tale via NetFlix. I had shunned it for the past twenty five years out of fear it would be a barely gussied up slasher and I was right. While it IS a little more than what I thought it might be, overall it is a sad reduction of the original story that turns the plot into a simple stalk and slash effort of irritating silliness. Strangely, as I was watching it unfold and deteriorate I realized that this approach wasn't actually the problem - the story COULD be boiled down to the components of a typical slasher and still work very well. But the things that trip this film up are two bad choices linked to the audience the producers were aiming to target.
First problem - over the top gore. I have no problem with some well done blood & guts flung across the screen but almost every time its used here its so exaggerated in its extremity that it becomes ridiculous. The filmmakers sling fake blood around the sets like they got a deal at the special effects house. Sometimes more is less.
Second problem- they decided to have their Phantom be both superhumanly strong and able to teleport around his victims. This is the saddest of all slasher movies tropes best seen in all its idiotic glory in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 8. This is when the villain can magically be dozens of yards from where they were mere seconds before with just the use of a (not so) clever edit. To give this movie credit, the teleportation scenes are done with an identically dressed stand in for star Robert Englund but it is still a ludicrous thing to pull. It yanks me right out of the film and reminds me that the movie isn't really interested in making me invested in the story - it only wants to shock me. Ho hum.