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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)



This week I bring you another "book into movie" review. Orwell's 1949 novel of the same title has had no less than four film adaptions over the years but this is the only one that really manages to get things right. It's not an easy story to handle and nobody expects much of a return on making one of the bleakest novels possible into a film that will actually make any money. This film is a brave and very artful endeavour and often gets a rather bad rap for its soundtrack (which I will discuss later) which is not totally fair. This is by far one of the most faithful book to film adaptations I have ever seen and it doesn't quite get the reputation it deserves with members of my generation.

Trailer:


While this is a bit off topic, it is interesting to note that the trailer above and the one for Giorgio Moroder's 1984 restoration of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (released several months before this film) share striking similarities in narration and music. Considering their quite fascist interpretations of the future it seems quite fitting.

I have included the trailer below for the sake of comparison:


I think this is the one time I will be able to dispense with a plot synopsis simply because this story is so broadly read and well known. Besides, I would basically have to type out the entire screenplay for anyone who managed to NOT know what this even is. Many plot elements are so universal that words and phrases from it have entered everyday language and thought (ex: Big Brother, Thought Police, etc.). Even mentioning the year 1984 can conjure images like the ones in this film. I think that fact alone proves what a benchmark it really is. With today's technology, it really does seem like Big Brother is watching us. Doubleplusungood indeed...

Casting John Hurt as Winston Smith is maybe one of the best casting choices I have ever seen in a motion picture, the range and depth he exhibits is astounding and as an audience we feel our souls crushed flat along with his every second he is on screen. Suzanna Hamilton appears as Winston's lover Julia. This film is her best known performance and the levels of strength and fragility she exudes goes well beyond measure. Richard Burton appears as the chilling and omnipotently threatening O'Brien. Nineteen Eighty-Four was unfortunately his last film, as he died two months before the premiere, but it stands as perhaps his absolute finest work in a career filled with memorable performances. And I nearly forgot the smallish part of Cyril Cusack as Charrington the shop owner. He appeared in so many films it's hard to pick one out for you to recognize him in but he presents the sudden menace of a member of the Thought Police with precise calculation.

Like I said in my introduction, this film has had four adaptations including this one. The first version was made in 1953 by CBS and reportedly has a length of only 50 minutes (it remains the only version I have not seen). The second version to be produced came along in 1954 via the BBC and stars Peter Cushing in one of his first major roles and also features a young (though still bald!) Donald Pleasance and proved quite controversial upon release. This version ran for roughly an hour and forty five minutes, but still didn't quite capture everything and featured quite a few changes. In 1956 came a feature film version which was one and a half hours which also features rather dubious and extensive rewrites (as well as Mr. Pleasance appearing once again). Like I said earlier, nobody quite managed to get it right.

The version filmed in 1984 has many things that previous versions lack. The chief thing in particular being a thin layer of filth everywhere. There's rubble in the streets and clothes are disheveled. The Director, Michael Radford, wanted the film shot in black and white but Virgin Films (the company in charge of production) said no, which wound up being a fateful decision. What really helps add to the filthy and dystopian look of this film was the use of a technique known as bleach bypass. During the processing of the film, the bleaching is partially (or even entirely) skipped over. This in essence leaves a black and white image over the top of a color one leaving things looking gritty and washed out. More recent DVD releases (like the European Region 2 release from 2004) have full color saturation and lack the benefit of this simple optical effect. Go on youtube and you can find clips which will show you a world of difference between how either print appears.

This version is also notable for its ready use of the Newspeak language. Older versions did feature the language yes, but only here does it get proper justice. No dialogue in this version feels forced or half hearted, many pieces are pretty much verbatim from the novel in fact. It seems little was missed by the team behind this picture, even down to such things as the bottles of Victory Gin that appear in much of the film. The atmosphere of gloom and dread that Orwell so deftly put into words was something I never thought could be put on film when I first read the novel as a youth. One day in the video store I was of course pleasantly surprised, and may I say after watching it in more ways than one.

Some scenes (one cannot be sure how many) were actually shot on the days that they occur in Winston's diary. This must have leant a rather eerie tone to filming which I will definitely make a point of asking John Hurt about should I ever be so lucky as to meet him. Atmosphere is important for films just as much as a strong cast, and thankfully this film got it right. One thing it manages to divide the audience on however is the musical score. Most editions of this (up until the North American Region 1 release which is now sadly OOP and rather expensive) feature a score written primarily by then top Virgin Records (this was released by Virgin Films, remember?) pop group Eurythmics. This led to a bit of controversy on the film's part that continues to be a hot topic among fans to the present day.

Michael Radford had originally commissioned an orchestral score by a composer named Dominic Muldowney. Muldowney was involved with the film from early on in production to provide source music for many of the Telescreen sequences and the anthem "Oceania, Tis For Thee" etcetera. Virgin seems to have felt the need to put a pop group on the soundtrack to make it a little more marketable. Putting pop or rock groups in charge of scores was rather hip in '84 it seems, and had had mixed success with such gems as the band Toto doing the score for David Lynch's film version of Dune and the rather mixed bag attempt by Giorgio Moroder on his restoration of Metropolis already mentioned earlier in this review. I (like many) feel the score is clunky and very dated. I have also heard rather mixed reviews of Muldowney's score- but to be fair those were of the CD release of it (it's first and only release besides on the US DVD's) as a stand alone item. I would like to see a review of the film with this score in place to see how it holds up. Not all scores can stand separate from their films, but that doesn't mean it's a bad one.

Have a listen to the Aria (heard during the opening Telescreen broadcast) below:


Back to the subject at hand- Radford was sufficiently furious about the Eurythmics score being placed upon his film by Virgin that he made a public statement about it at the Evening Standard British Film Awards and withdrew the film from BAFTA consideration in protest. According to a public statement issued shortly thereafter by Eurythmics, they had no knowledge of there being a score before theirs and had accepted Virgin's request on good faith. I don't find their statement hard to believe, considering the long history of missteps production companies have taken when they exercise their right of final cut over a director's wishes before and since. It's things like that that are the reason we have Director's Cuts.

Controversy about the score aside, I just choose to ignore the bits of the score I don't like and enjoy the film as best I can. With vhs you really don't have any other choice! I've pretty much said everything I can about the movie, so let me take the opportunity to talk about the wonderful early "big box" rental packaging of my copy. Most copies you see of this are in a standard (though heavily built, as was the standard of the time) slip case. Both the slip cases and this edition feature something I have not otherwise seen on vhs packaging: a debossed movie logo (which appears on every side of the box!). It's a rather trivial and probably expensive thing to do on a movie box but adding some tactile sense to the package is interesting. Something I cannot make head or tails of is the fact that any copy of this particular edition I have seen features a decal on front proclaiming that the cassette is made with TDK brand tape. TDK must have had a deal with USA Home Video as I don't really see the point of that announcement, as it's not going to influence whether I would rent the movie in the end. The back side of the box is pure rental copy too- there is only a cursory plot explanation and much of  the panel is taken up by editorial quotes proclaiming the brilliance of the film in question.

Have a look:


A lost art indeed, as there is no such thing as a rental copy of a DVD. This box harkens back to a day when the local Mum & Pop video store was alive and well, a time which I miss greatly. So it goes. As you can tell the front of my copy is also tremendously sun faded, meaning this one spent some time on the front lines of the video rental war. This rather amusingly reflects the bleach bypass used in the movie as mentioned earlier.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is in my opinion a tremendous film effort. It is not to be missed, dismissed, or taken lightly. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Man With The Golden Arm (1955)


When books get transformed into movies all sorts of things get lost in translation. The two different formats offer completely different forms of story telling and seldom do books light up the silver screen effectively without suffering to some degree. While this movie is pretty good, the differences between it and the novel of the same title by Nelson Algren leave them standing pretty well opposed to one another. This is not to say the movie is bad, but to make this film just like the novel would have been pretty much impossible in 1955 if you wanted the film to actually be released.

Trailer:


Plot: Frankie Machine (played to near perfection by Frank Sinatra) is a down and out heroin addict fresh out of prison, whose card dealing abilites are his star attraction. He comes back to his neighborhood where his disabled wife Zosch has waited for him for six months, with a letter from the rehab doctor assuring him a visit with a man who can get him an audition for drumming with a big band. The only problems in his life are everything and everyone. As his underworld connections gnaw at him and his taste for heroin knocks on the door he must make some tough choices if he's going to make out of the downward spiral of his nobody existence.

Like I said earlier, the plot of this movie differs significantly from the novel. Nelson Algren was initially brought in to write the screenplay (a move which made a lot of sense for a story like this) but was reportedly fired. Director Preminger was infamous for firing people left and right as his working style demanded near constant conflict to harbor his creativity. Needless to say, the final script displeased Algren immensely and he distanced himself, and who can blame him? Almost everything that made his novel unique were either changed around, removed, or completely replaced. Some of them that come to mind are switching Frankie's addiction from morphine to heroin, his age (Sinatra was 39-40 at the time of filming, the character is 27 in the novel), mode of dress, and the manner in which he became an addict which roughly equates to everything about him.

Despite the overarching differences, I think this film is actually very good. The cast is stellar, featuring Sinatra in one of his hands down best roles and some of Hollywoods better character actors/main liners of the day: including a great performance by Darren McGavin the low life drug dealer Louie, Kim Novak as Frankie's former love interest Molly, and Eleanor Parker as Frankie's delierious and manipulative wife Zosch. The care and precision with which the cast must have been chosen really comes through as there's so much tension going on you could almost scrape it off the TV and chew on it. Sinatra even spent time researching recovering addicts in hospitals before filming to get himself prepared for the role. He really got the whole attitude of the serious addict down pat, and as he's in almost every scene in the movie you get plenty of opportunity to view his hard work.

This movie was truly shocking when first released. As a matter of fact it almost didn't get released at all! This was before the now familiar Hollywood rating system had been adopted and instead the censorship board had to give a certificate of approval in order for a film to pass for release. In 1955 this was a truly shocking film and Hollywood had yet to deal with all out drug addiction in this manner, so the censors were somewhat less than pleased. Preminger refused to give in to their demand for cuts, (which would have completely castrated the movie) and the public got more and more curious. The film finally opened and was a huge hit, undoubtedly much to the chagrin of the censors and indeed caused by the hullabaloo that they themselves helped create.

I think it's the addiction angle and how it is done that might turn a lot of modern viewers off from this movie. One needs to keep in mind that in 1955 drug use wasn't commonplace in films and wasn't even hinted at on television like it is in countless police and courtroom dramas today. This was truly a brave film effort by everyone involved, and it paved the way for open discussion about drug addiction in cinema on a more realistic level. I've been yammering on and on about all the acting and story and I should really show you a clip from the film shouldn't I? I just get myself so excited sometimes...

See me put my money where my mouth is below:


See what I mean? Every character in this movie is a low life scumbag who wants to get away. Kim Novak's performance is especially terrific and she holds her own with Sinatra in every scene they have together. Her acting talent at age 22 is pretty astounding. Frankie's wife Zosch is one of the more interesting and tortured characters in particular. Frankie caused her paralysis shortly after their marriage in a car wreck. She holds her disability (which is much more real in her head than in reality) like a weapon to keep Frankie all to herself failing to realize that she only propels his need for heroin to greater heights.

The film is also memorable for its opening title sequence, which was designed by Saul Bass (who designed the title sequences for Vertigo, North By Northwest, and many others), who created an animated paper cut that slowly transforms from hectic lines criss-crossing the screen to a mutated rendition of a heroin addicts arm. The mood and tension of the film is set before you've seen one second of acting and it's true brilliance at work. Combined with this was a score by Elmer Bernstein featuring jazz sequences by Shorty Rogers And His Giants (I have one of their LP's from this era, it's pretty good). The score is just as frenetic and strung out as the characters are, only calming down here and there for Shorty's west coast jazz (of which he is a central figure in its creation) to come to the front.

The Man With The Golden Arm is a real piece of work, something which serious cinephiles like myself can get real excited over. Many people get put off by "old movies" a lot and that really bothers me. A film's age does not diminish the quality it holds or the workmanship that went into the production. I think people today in many cases lose touch with that, but thankfully people like you and me are still kicking to enjoy something like this because let's face it- they just don't make them like they used to. Just think, I found this in the $5.98 bin at a grocery store! Talk about a diamond in the rough...

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Disorderlies (1987)


Some people on Earth feel this is a film best left forgotten. I feel it's a film best watched while drinking grape soda. I find this film cringe worthy, laugh worthy, and terrible. I love this movie. Maybe it's best left forgotten and replaced by grape soda, I can't decide. I'm not really that sure I want to. One thing I will decide is that I am really surprised this even managed to get a DVD release. It doesn't even have the trailer as an extra, which makes it about as bare bones as one can possibly imagine, but with a movie like this what the hell do you expect?

Trailer:


Plot synopsis: Winslow Lowry (he played Philo in UHF!) is fucking broke. He's also the nephew of rich octononacentigenerian Albert Dennison (played by Ralph Bellamy, who's career stretched clear back to the 30's, and sadly ended with Pretty Woman). He's a gambling scumbag who owes a literal shit ton of dough to crime kingpin Luis Montana (played by Marco Rodriguez, who you may recognize as convenience store robbers in the films Cobra and Maniac Cop 2) and his ass is going to be grass unless Albert kicks the bucket. Seeing the orderlies he has hired are doing too good of a job at keeping him alive, he goes out in search of the absolute worst caregivers that sleaze can convince to work for him so he can get his inheritence. The logical choice (and due to likely budgetary constraints the only choice you see) are of coure The Fat Boys. Not wanting to get fired from yet another nursing gig (which according to them happens a lot) they accept Winslow's overly generous offer and via a series of cartoon like escapades somehow manage to reinvigorate Mr. Dennison, thwart a robbery, see boobs from far away, and eat a hell of a lot of food.

Let's get one thing straight here: this movie is completely fucking ridiculous. When I say cartoon like escapades I really mean it- each and every time something ridiculous happens (which is A LOT) looney tune style sound effects play over the top of shit. It's basically like Who Framed Roger Rabbit sans animation and alcoholism. It so closely walks the line between borderline retarded and total bullshit that only a very boring person will fail to see the ludicrous amount of entertainment rivaled only by the physical girth of the main characters.

Their introduction in the film alone is worth it, see what I mean below:


Absurdity at its very finest. It really makes me want to chug Nehi soda while watching it, but unfortunately I didn't have the foresight to find the nowhere in my town that sells it. Serious, I get the jones for serious snacking during this picture, it's like a total immersion technique. Enough about food though. One thing that surprises me is the fact that The Fat Boys are actually halfway decent actors. No really! It's a shame this caper didn't lead to any other films (as no more came out, I don't have to take that comment back) featuring them beyond a cameo, because the sheer shenanigan factor here is akin to the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "Road To..." movies but with crasser dialogue.

Example at time signature of 1:50 below:


However many jokes unfortunately rely on the size of our stars. Like the hot babe insists that fat people aren't attractive and she likes a skinny healthy guy. I dunno, they moved around a ton on stage and for all intents and purposes seemed to be doing okay to me so what's with the chubby bashing? I guess it actually fits in with the bands music but on second thought their songs were more like "I'm fat and I don't give a sweet fuck what you think" rather than "I'm an unattractive loser because of my excessive weight". Also bothersome is the repeated use of a doberman attacking their legs. I don't think I have to explain that one beyond the phrase "civil rights activism", but the asswipe dog does get killed and gets shit talked to its stuffed ass corpse so yeah I guess it turns out funny anyway.

Speaking of shit talking, anytime one of The Fat Boys comes up with a comeback or an insult is basically golden all over. It's a shame they didn't get to do a comedy that was less wacky than this and a little more hard edged so they could lay that shit out actual style. But anyways, this movie isn't really for everybody. A lot of you probably fucking hate it. That's fine by me, but I just so happen to enjoy a good low brow lark like this every once in a while and if you are like me you will too. My one serious complaint is a serious lack of human beat boxing. It's slyly put in with the film score, but to actually see Big Buff Love do it would have been icing on the cake, I mean really- he shoulda been popping that shit out like every five minutes. If he had this might be my favorite movie ever.

HIGH POINTS:

- The Fat Boys are in it

- A BOING noise happens when the old dude gets a boner

- Ever so subtle human beat boxing happening in the background music

- Speaking of music, this movie has maybe one of the stranger appearances by a Bananrama song

- Perfect film for extreme snack attacking

- The Fat Boys are in it

BLLLLLLL STICK 'EM HA HAHA STICK 'EM!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Attention one and all!

Due to the fact that I keep amassing collectibles for movies I have already reviewed or have some I forgot to mention, make collages, and like other non movie related stuff, I have set up a Tumblr page for all this extra stuff to go to.

Here is where you can find it:

http://fuckshithomevideo.tumblr.com/

Enjoy yourself.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tuff Turf (1985)


The world of teen movies is equal parts strange, alluring, and also embarrassing. When we're teens we go "Yeah, this movie speaks to me!" while as adults we collectively slump in our chairs while doing a facepalm or laugh about how ridiculous it was over a pint at the bar. Either way most of them win as entertaining whether the reason is legitimate goodness or its cringe value. Lucky for you, this movie has both of these qualities.

TV trailer:


This film is interesting for having an R rating. For those of you outside the US this means that nobody under 17 is admitted without a guardian (or if you were me you knew everybody at the theater from school so they let you walk in for free regardless). This kind of movie really appeals to the 15-18 set (or as I prefer to call this age range- the tits and zits group), but giving it an R makes it sound more edgy and dangerous to mid eighties teens. Nothing spells teenage excitement like rock music, a social misfit, and girls right? Right? Thankfully this movie has nasty language, some violence, and various other mature situations to justify its MPAA grade. That being said there's still wacky "Really? They just did that?" moments befitting a teen action/drama too.

Plot synopsis: Morgan Hiller (James Spader) is a pretty smart cat. He's introduced in the opening credits in maybe the most 80's way possible, that is to say riding his ten speed bike through the city at night. He's from a formerly upper middle class family (his father lost his real estate business back east so they find themselves in LA scraping along like the rest of the people do). Morgan seems to attract trouble everywhere he goes, and when he messes with the local tough guy mini gang and starts making moves on the leader's main squeeze trouble is bound to come knocking, but will this be the end of Morgan's luck?

Okay a lot more than this happens of course but I don't necessarily want to give the whole thing away. When watching it one realizes pretty quickly that it is basically a western but set in mid 80's LA. The bad guys have a car, while our hero just has his ten speed (which they manage to ruin with their car pretty early on). This actually is rather reminiscent of the film A Fistful Of Dollars where Clint Eastwood's character rides into town not on a horse, but a mule. They ridicule him and chase off his mule. I know that is a rather tenuous connection, but if you watch it you'll see what I mean.

This movie is strangely cast. We get James Spader in his first starring role, we also get Kim Richards as the love interest (named rather androgynously Frankie). She's better known as the little girl who gets shot in the chest through her ice cream cone in John Carpenter's Assault On Precinct 13 back in 1976 and is an odd casting choice considering the greater bulk of her work was for television. Robert Downey Jr. appears in a very early role (and very confusingly not using the junior suffix) and much to my surprise Olivia Barash (who we punks immediately recognize as Otto's momentary girlfriend Leila in Repo Man).  They seemingly picked these guys and dolls from the casting calls willy nilly but it actually somehow manages to work.

If one does some research on Mr. Spader, it is said he refuses to watch any film that he appears in. I wonder if he started doing it then stopped or just never has? Yet another question I can ask a movie person should I ever meet them. Though I could definitely understand why he might not want to watch this one, especially when you have to groan out this scene:


Please don't get me started. However, I'd do it if they paid me too so I guess Spader comes up in...well...spades. Unfortunately I cannot find a clip of the really hilarious bit where Morgan and crew sneak into a country club and Olivia Barash's character Ronnie is small talking with rich bitch ladies about giving head. It was really unexpected and remains a good reason why I keep this movie on my shelf. Also a really fantastic reason is not only a cameo by the man himself but no less than three songs on the soundtrack by the Jim Carroll Band. One of which is of course his titular track People Who Died in what I believe might be its very first appearance in a movie, which both excites and ultimately confuses the ever loving shit out of me.

See, there he is:


It's now way beyond rhetorical for me to ask you this but would I lie to you? That song rips, just admit it. So yeah this movie is REALLY melodramatic but what the hell do you want out of a movie like this? Sometimes being able to guess what is going to happen next but still knowing there might be a few wrenches thrown in isn't necessarily a bad thing. So basically don't be a chump about it if you watch this, take the good with the awful and wait it out.



WARNING PLOT SPOILER BELOW:


Okay so after the shitty abusive gang leader boyfriend is dealt with after shooting Morgan's dad and almost killing Frankie there's a big party sequence. Am I the only person who finds this troublesome? I mean sure the guy was a dangerous jerkoff and attacked a lot of people but Morgan KILLED him by tossing him off a balcony in a warehouse. I don't know about you but if I were a teenager that had killed someone no matter the context I might not quite be up to partying shortly afterward. I know I should not allow this leap in logic to annoy me considering what kind of movie this is but gimme a break just for once.


OKAY, SPOILER OVER.


I've seen several different artworks (if one can call them that) for this film depending upon the format. The DVD I saw a picture of makes it look kind of homoerotic, don't you think? Shame on you Anchor Bay I know you can do slightly better than this.

See what I am talking about below:


Now is a good time to mention the trouble with barcodes. Whoever did the graphic design for this release obviously forgot to put it on there or maybe nobody told them to. I say this because the barcode is covering a portion of a rather dramatic image of asshole loser gang boyfriend brandishing a pistol. You think that home video box art is supposed to attract viewers by showing the drama and tension contained in a movie like this but apparently I am woefully incorrect. And no it is not a sticker it is printed on the box!

Look:


This movie is even available on Betamax, Laserdisc, and to my surprise CED (or Videodisc, for those of us in the know)! Someone had really high expectations for this movie to release it on a format that was dead less than a year after this particular CED was even marketed. But alas I digress, what I am trying to say here is that this movie is available on just about any common (either now or once wasish) format for your home viewing pleasure.

POINTS OF INTEREST:

-James Spader's spade tatto on his right bicep. Yes, it's probably real.

-Kim Richards being almost cute if it weren't for the fact that she's wearing one of those annoying real skinny headbands in almost every scene and has ass length crimped hair.

-Handsome shirtless boys for the ladieez to gawk at.

-Matt Clark playing Morgan's dad (you may recognize him as the Secretary of Defense from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension).

-The already mentioned Jim Carroll cameo

-Various embarrassing hairdon'ts/fashion choices befitting a film of this era.

-The fact that this film is known under the title of "Gang Tuff" in Poland.

Go ahead and watch it, if you think you're TUFF ENUFF.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

DOGS IN SPACE


This is a really peculiar film. One can say that about pretty much anything Australian though. Not to say that's a bad thing, it's a country isolated from many influences which means they do things however they see fit and damn the torpedoes. It's kind of like the American midwest only an entire country- having grown up in North Dakota from age 3 & 1/2 until 20, my cohorts and I definitely had our own art aesthetic which was viewed through what we affectionately dubbed the "midwest filter". As the "Australian filter" is also a very very real thing, lots of weird movies that nowhere else in the world could ever manage to think up sprang upon us from this land down under. This movie is an example of this phenomenon.

Trailer:


By now you have no doubt noticed that I did a massive sequence of run on sentences. You may also have noticed that this film stars none other than lead singer of INXS Michael Hutchence. Now in comes a problem. I can't actually give you a plot synopsis because this movie does not actually have a plot. It has a very loose one actually so I will give you an all too brief go at it okay? It takes place in Australia in 1978. There's a punk band called Dogs In Space (based on a real life band called The Ears) that lives in a ratty ass squat house. There's lots of weird and good music playing everywhere. That's about all I will say because I'd have to tell you EVERYTHING that happens in the movie because very little of it is related in a standard plot type sense and is instead composed of day to day happenings like real life. If I saw this as a teenager, I'd probably think it was the most brilliant movie ever made ever.

Now don't get me wrong, this movie isn't bad, but when you start to get into the nuts and bolts of the backstory (by this I mean the Australian "little band" scene in which it takes place) things unravel a little bit, at least for me they did. I guess I should expand on what the whole little bands thing is, as least as far as I can because I only know a very little bit (no pun intended). It centered around Melbourne Australia in the late seventies until the early 80's (it was strongest here, but also was going on in other places as well). It was an underground scene of electronics and non rock instrumentation, very much like punk everywhere else. If the essay on the back of the Dogs In Space soundtrack lp is to be believed, there is a unique difference between the little bands and punk.

I will give you an exact quote off of the lp jacket:

"Punk in Australia, unlike England, wasn't a politicized working-class push. Rather, in Melbourne particularly, it was predominantly middle-class: Intelligent, educated kids rejected the relatively rosy options the middle-class made available to them (unless they side-stepped the issue by studying) and consciously chose to go on the dole and do whatever it was they wanted to do. And mostly, what that was revolved around music somehow."


This is pretty well opposed to what punk stood for in the UK (at least initially). Basically that paragraph leads me to believe that a bunch of kids who weren't that bad off decided to slum it and make art by choice rather than out of necessity. Whether that is the case or not I cannot readily say, but out here in Washington State we call people like that "trust fund kids"- ie kids who shop exclusively at Goodwill (which is actually quite pricey now by the way) and act like they are broke so they can "fit in" with all the people who actually ARE poor. I really hope that paragraph isn't how the whole scene was, because it basically makes them out to be a right load of pretentious asswipes. Britain in the mid to late 70's was not a happy place to be. People didn't choose to be on the dole there, they had to just to survive. The sociopolitical climate of Britain was frightening to say the least. Punk was hopefully a way to change things (how much it achieved this is still open for debate), not a way for kids with an option to have a laugh (of course that still wound up happening anyway).

I dunno, willingly going on the dole doesn't really strike me as subversive, instead it strikes me as lazy. In fact it is Hutchence's character that seems to really exhibit this tendency to be a right prat. Besides his obnoxious slinking about, drug doing, and making his girlfriend pay for beersing, there's a point where his mum drops by and gives him a huge platter of food which without looking up at her he devours and complains about how there isn't a drink as she says he can come back home. His mum is super nice, there is no mention of him having an abusive home life or anything. He's basically just a big asshole, oh sorry, I meant "cool kid". Believe it or not, if you go into downtown Olympia you'll actually see people like this slinking around each and every day. It makes me ill.

The music is what really makes this movie worth it to me. Certain elements of the story are endearing yes, but music is what this movie is really about. Unfortunately, some bits of music in the film are from the years after 1978 as are some plot elements. There's a big to-do for some of the house kids when they find out that Skylab (America's first space station) is going to reenter the Earth's atmosphere and a radio station is offering a reward to the first person who brings in a piece. The only problem with this is Skylab didn't reenter until 1979- lots of you will say pish about that but facts are facts and I LOVE outer space history so sod off. I'd say the movie is definitely worth a watch or several so if you see it don't hesitate as it's rather hard to find on the loose in absence of a Region 1 DVD release (note: it is available on DVD in Australia so if you have a region free player and are really hellbent, go search ebay).

Back to the subject of the music right? The soundtrack for the movie is pretty damn good. There are unfortunately two different versions: one edited of foul language and one with the foul language intact and rude sound samples in between some songs. While I own the US pressing of the lp (which is edited by the way, booooo) I just so happen to have the two missing songs and whatnot in a file you can have. I know how you buggers really fancy free shit, so if you want it simply click here to get it. There's some real rippers on there, so get ready. The two unedited songs are in their correct places in the tracklist, while the edited "instrumental" versions are placed at the end. Enjoy!

I can recommend the soundtrack highly, but I recommend the film with some reservations. It's not that I don't like it (I went out of my way to own a copy after seeing it the first time didn't I?), I just want a little bit more than what I got. What that is eludes me but that being said some of you out there will really dig on this pretty well unknown (outside of Australia at least) gem. I do think the film deserves more attention than it gets and maybe will one day get a DVD release (outside of expensive bootleg copies dubbed off of vhs) stateside so it can finally get mass exposure. While yes that is a bit of a pipe dream, stranger things have happened. This movie was only released in the US by Key Video, and this is not the only rareish Key tape to not be put on DVD. Much like The Legend Of Billie Jean (also released by Key Video) this movie might sadly be relegated to over priced, poor quality bootlegs and increasingly worn and rare vhs for the foreseeable (and likely indefinite) future. If you wonder how uncommon this tape is, note the sticker on my rental copy. They probably had to keep it behind the counter to prevent some dickweed from legging off with it. One wonders if the store had it happen to them once before to make such a move necessary, we will never know...

Like I said before, if you see it for rent or even on the cheap, give it a watch, it's really pretty neat despite my misgivings about certain bits.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

No review post this week

For the second time ever, I declare a skip week. Thanks to me attending a ten hour long 35mm horror film marathon at the Capitol Theater in downtown Olympia Saturday night, my sleep schedule still has not reset, so you'll have to wait until next week. Or better yet, go read the two review I did for networkawesome.com about Trick Or Treat and Howard The Duck! Operations resume as normal next week.

Thank you for your forced patience.

John

Saturday, November 19, 2011

BORING STATISTICS, PART 2- and a big announcement!

I've decided to keep all of you abreast of the various and ultimately questionable ways people from all over the globe manage to find this blog. A few months ago I posted about this, but have since had more strange search terms lead to here. I'll keep doing these so long as those weird search results keep coming in.

Besides the unfortunately normal amount of porn websites that somehow manage to link to us (or so they say), we get a lot of traffic from people looking up pornography or otherwise ridiculous/absurd/questionable terms. I can imagine that all of these people are vastly disappointed at what they find. As blogger only keeps track of the top ten of everything in its stats section, I unfortunately cannot report on the countries from which many of these results come from like I could the last time. This means more of you are looking (and I hope spreading the word simultaneously) which is definitely a good thing.

Let's begin (note- not in chronological order):

Helpful links to the review in question, many of which remain sadly barely read, are included for your pleasure.

-Someone in New Zealand who found us by googling "Boob Humor". I hope he liked the Microwave Massacre review.

-There have been no less than two people looking for "THX 1138 nude dancers". One used that search  sequence and I forgot the other very similar one. Yes I mentioned that scene, but you people are gross. Read the review here.

-Yet more questionable searches that lead to my review of the film "Girly", came from someone trying  very hard to find "Tantalizing girly video". You are gross.

-Several recent hit have come from people trying to find out about the movie "Straw Dogs". Not really a problem in and of itself, it's just the WAY they tried to find out and just what they were looking for that's the problem here. So far these are "Straw Dogs fucking" and "Straw Dog fuck".

-One that actually JUST showed up was "cut-throat Kommandos foot sex" Yes, there is a foot sex scene in that movie which you can read about right here, but the scene is more what the fuck enducing than sexy. I guess this is what happens when you are the only person on the internet with a blog who bothered to give this movie an actual review instead of a download link...




So far those are the strange search results made privy to me. Hopefully none of them were lost but I check a few times a day just to make sure I don't miss anything. The following are extremely non specific things that lead to the blog you are now enjoying:

- Some people looking for images relating to "1945 Hohner Melodica". Thankfully this one is pretty innocent. All they managed to find was my google profile picture of me playing my old Hohner Soprano. Things did get slightly creepy when I noticed someone had looked for "davis melodica". In case you didn't realize, Davis is my last name...

-I am sort of honored, but someone found us by searching for "top fucked up video sites". WHile they were probably looking for gross stuff, I hope they at least stopped by and had a laugh reading some reviews.




And now for the search terms that were straight up porn related, or related to this site showing up higher in search than porn related bullshit:

-Someone looked up "www.home video.blogspot.com". This seemed innocent enough, but when I followed it up my ste was nowhere in sight. The Bing search page contained only four links, all of which related to gay porn. Thanks a lot Bing...

-Just today we received a hit via someone looking for "fucked up ways to fuck video". I don't want to know what they were expecting.

-Thanks to the ever vigilant never sleeping internet, this blog has made it to page one of Bing search. I don't give a shit about Bing and use google myself, but lots of my traffic seems to come through there. We are currently (as of November 19th, 2011 at 12:48 pm PST) sandwiched between the "fuckshit" page at deviant art and directly above the IMDB page for "Fuck My Dirty Shit Hole (Video 1997)". I am believe it or not very proud of this.



I am really pleased that the film Microwave Massacre has been searched for more than anything else. It was that way before and still is again. It's currently the number two most viewed post. Keep up the good work, I will keep on writing for you.



BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:

I have been offered a writing position for the really terrific website www.networkawesome.com. It's a lot like PBS. So far I have done a review of the 1986 horror film Trick Or Treat which you can read here, and this sunday (November 20th, 2011) will have a suitably damning review of Howard The Duck posted there also. Thank you one and all for your continued support of this blog. You have given me the will to continure honing my writing to a very sharp and dangerous point.
                           

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chopping Mall Aka Killbots (1986)


If you have any brain whatsoever you (like me) suffer from enjoy a particular disgust of the standard American shopping mall. Let's face it- they're loud, shiny, and full of people I don't like the overly perfumed scent of. On top of that there is lots of bullshit I do not want. This movie will make you feel better about all that I guarantee it. I haven't lied to you yet and I don't plan on it anytime soon. Jim Wynorski wasn't fucking around when he made this, just like when he made Deathstalker II (Yeah that's right, I've been doing this just long enough to be able to refer you back to older posts you might have missed! Go ahead, read this then click the link for DS2 to see that I'm a bona-fide Wynorski super fan).

Trailer time, jerks:


This trailer is interesting to nerds like myself for a number of reasons. First off: they do NOT break into the damn mall, they work there and stay after hours- but to be fair saying that in the trailer would be boring. Horror movie viewing teens want danger and excitement (and a little T&A of course) not sneaky real life style shenanigans. Lucky for you the second point onwards is resoundingly positive: The trailer is interesting for featuring footage not in the finished film. The clips appear to have been shot specifically for the trailer as they are filmed and lit rather differently from the rest of the movie, and also feature totally different robot claws from what wound up on the finished props. I like it when these sort of things happen, as it gives us an insight into production development and marketing of an otherwise obscure movie.

Sorry for the diversion from my normally formulaic blog setup, but I thought these tidbits were worth mentioning now rather than later. Now it's time for the plot synopsis okay? Plot synopsis: Park Plaza Mall has just received a super badass force of high tech security robots (and giant two piece sliding future doors too keep people out, which begs the question of why robots are needed if you have doors from an Imperial Star Destroyer blockading all entrances and exits to your mall) to keep it free and clear of dangerous mall robbers. A group of teenage buddies who all work at the mall (who are perfectly paired up as jock/bimbo, yuppies, and lovable nerds) are staying after hours to have a party fueled by pizza and sex. Unfortunately for them, an unseasonably huge lightning storm strikes the giant security computer conveniently located on the roof nowhere near a lightning rod turning the supposedly orderly and procedural robots into terrifying killing machines. WHO WILL SURVIVE!?

Lots of folks just dimiss this as cheap-o slasher fare. It kinda is yeah, but the slasher in this movie is not a dude or a ghost, but a team of bloodthirsty robots! Seriously how can someone not find that entertaining? One of the more amusing bits is the ludicrous heavy arsenal these security robots have. Everything from stun electrodes (makes sense), to lasers (makes no sense), and even plastic explosives (makes even less sense)! I'm pretty sure such things as these are only placed on the robot for the security of the audiences entertainment but I'm not complaining, because it worked. I find the choice of filming location- the super famous Sherman Oaks Galleria, THE California shopping mall of the 1980's- also adds to the entertainment too. Seeing teens get their necks slashed, heads exploded, or get set ablaze in a huge/ugly/iconic mall sounds like a fun time to me. Oh yeah- there's also a brief cameo by Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov as their characters from Eating Raoul!

YOWZAH!

Need I say more?


This film was originally released under the title of "Killbots". The poster for this version stunk, it made the movie look like some sort of Transformers ripoff cartoon, so needless to say it did not perform very well. Here's where I get confused though, so don't take the next sentence as fact okay? Some sources state that after the theatrical run didn't work out it was cut by 15 minutes and rereleased as Chopping Mall. Like I said I can't find much to back the fifteen minutes cut claim. I almost feel like it was only given a very limited release, or even a preview release, under this title in the US. I am also confused about whether or not it was theatrically rereleased as Chopping Mall or if this was just the video title, as I have seen what are clearly theatrical one sheet posters for this film.

See here:

I know this poster above is not a vhs release poster (because I own one, duh). Though the artwork is similar to the vhs boxart, it is far more detailed. Plus it has a cool and dangerous looking biomechanoid arm grasping the shopping bag. I don't know how wide the release must have been, all I know is this is a Chopping Mall one sheet. Compare it with the vhs box at the start of this review, or with this photo of my recently acquired original vhs release poster for when it came out on Lightning Video in 1987:


(sorry about the lens glare, it's the best I could do)

See what I mean? Also note the different tag lines. It's not often that horror movies have such a mire of facts to wade through. Sure they may come off as mundane to the rest of the adult population, but I'm not writing this for them am I? If I were (slightly) more resourceful and had a way to get a hold of Mr. Wynorski I guarantee you that the first thing I'd ask him about would be Killbots. Thanks to astute collectors we know that the Mexican release was subtitled as Killbots. Have a look at an image of one of the lobby cards for said release I snagged off the internet:


The lame poster I mentioned earlier is pictured on the left. Sorry I can't get you a better image than that, but if I stretch it any bigger it will get really pixelated and will mess up my blog format. I also found while digging around an image of the Vestron International vhs release used in Belgium/ The Netherlands. This one is interesting for having the art for Chopping Mall but with it's original title. Things get weirder the deeper you go!

See:


Like any good snake oil salesman, I can say that that's not all! I also found what appears to be a Japanese DVD release utilizing the Killbots monicker. Again I apologize for image quality, but I have to purloin a lot of this stuff off of google image search, so forgive me everyone (including the folks who's images I took!).

Look:


Either way, this film has a rather amazing variety of posters, marketing materials, and home video releases. I'm quite pleased to say that it has far more than I ever expected it to. This film had quite a long reach for what some people regard as a "B grade slasher" don't you think? Oh, I should also plug the soundtrack release too, I know I did it in the Deathstalker II review, but I want to flip the booklet around so you can see the alternate cover art. It's a good release, and affordable too! I highly recommend buying it off the buysoundtrax.com site, as they are responsible for its release and also have a non inflated price on it like some ebay sellers try to. There's a few older bootleg recordings that have been floating around the internet for a few years, but this one is official and of really good quality.

Gaze upon its majesty below:


You probably didn't think I have this much to say about Chopping Mall did you? The world is indeed full of surprises.

THANK YOU, HAVE A NICE DAY!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Straw Dogs (1971)


Let me start off this review by saying that this is the movie I watch every time a relationship I am in ends. Why? I'm not exactly certain but the overbearing amount of nihilism present somehow leaves my mind at peace once it's finished. It's a Sam Peckinpah joint, what more do I need to say here? Oh I know, fuck YOU 2011 Straw Dogs remake! Boooo, hisssss!

Trailer:


Plot summary: David and Amy Sumner are moving to Amy's hometown in rural Britain to escape anti war protests and everyday violence prevalent in the United States. Almost immediately upon arriving David manages to prove to the entire town that he is a complete pushover and an otherwise passive agressive twat. This later proves to have dire consequences for him in this tale of brutality, rape, and ultimate ignorance that is to unfurl before you. That's pretty much the best I can do without tipping my hat too far.

Sam Peckinpah at his best is visceral, brutal, frustrating and beautiful all at the same time. I believe this to be one of his true high points. As anybody who has seen this film knows, it's a pretty heavy view and not for light hearted watching. But what gets me more than the film we see on the surface is all of the subtext. Peckinpah isn't necessarily as well regarded as he should be for his ability to weave messages into his films, and I think this is one of his more successful attempts at making a cinematic layer cake. Mysteries and enigmas indeed! You get them by the bucketload here.

From the outset you are very frustrated by Dustin Hoffman's character David (or extremely sympathetic if you are a fucking xenophobe) due to his complete and utter spinelessness. The same can be said for his wife, who does what she can to flaunt herself about to the men of her old hometown, almost inviting them to cause trouble she knows her husband will do little if anything to stop. The men of the town are bored drunk rural asswipes with nothing better to do than pick on a weakling. You may have noticed by now that I am pointing out the fact that this film has a complete lack of redeemable characters anywhere in sight. No really, EVERYBODY in this movie is a fucking asshole. To be quite honest some of my most favorite films are this way, I find it rather mirrors real life in a way nobody is quite willing to admit to.

Something else I really like about the movie is at the end of it all, only the viewer actually knows what's really going on. Each character or set of characters certainly THINKS they know what's up and what to do about it. They go left when they should go right. This fly on the wall aspect of the film is often overlooked due to the more sensational elements of the plot. The smug self satisfaction David feels at the end of the film leaves the viewer sitting in a cloud of confusion, anger, and uneasiness. Thankfully only the immediate story is resolved, as the larger issues of the film remain up to our imagination which frankly is for the best. In other words, it's pretty well morally ambivalent when you add it all up.

The actual messages conveyed by the film are many, pretty much all of which are highly unpleasant. You may have noticed that the trailer seems to paint this film as a type of "every man has his breaking point" type film where he transcends his hitherto mundane and wussy existence and "becomes a man" through some trial of blood and violence. I guess you could call it that? I see it as a parable of just how fucked life really is and how people willingly blind themselves to the outside world until it is too late. Film marketing is a confusing and well less than exact science, but how many tickets would my idea of the film really sell? There's likely a pretty good reason I don't work for the film industry...

Do yourself a favor and see this film at least once in your life. I've seen it loads and I don't have any complaints.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch


I'm sick of people dismissing this movie. Apparently it's not part of the "canon" of Halloween movies. Canon arguments are for Star Trek and Star Wars- come on people! I'm convinced that most of the folks who say this is bad haven't even seen it or don't watch it because everyone they know says it's bad. Good thing I'm not a fucking teenager and know what to do in these situations right? While I go soothe my taste in movies, have a looksee at the trailer:


I also found this teaser trailer! I find the trailer interesting for its heavy emphasis on the witch mask featured in the film (there are three masks- a witch, a skull and a pumpkin all manufactured for the film  by Don Post who make AWESOME masks) as the pumpkin ultimately proves to be the titular mask in the movie. Don Post mass produced all three masks (the skull mask actually dates back to the 60's) to support the film. I really want the pumpkin, but they are quite rare and fetch a collectors price on the regular.

Have a look:



Sorry about the diversion, on to the plot...


Plot synopsis: A strange murder happens in the week before Halloween that gets Doctor Dan Challis (played by none other than super stud Tom Atkins) begin a private investigation. He teams up with the daughter of the murder victim Stacie and they follow the trail to the Silver Shamrock Novelty Company. Here they uncover a hideous scheme to murder children with their masks via a horrific Celtic ritual involving Stonehenge, a repetitive television commercial, and sheer downright assholeism. Can they stop the clock and save the children...?

I hear from quite a few folks (as I was starting to say above) who dismiss this movies as crap because "Mike Meyers isn't even in it". This isn't necessarily true because he shows up in a commercial for a television showing of the original Halloween in a bar early in the film. The reason he is not actively in the film is actually quite simple and far more interesting than naysayers will realize. John Carpenter (Director of the first film in the series and a producer/etcetera of Halloween II and III) wanted to start turning the Halloween series into a sort of Night Gallery style anthology series where each film would be a different story themed around the holiday (If you don't know what the show Night Gallery is, you might want to find out). Assumedly John Carpenter would have produced most if not all of them, and like II and III have his trusted crew and a few of his semi regular cast show up along the way. I really think it's a terrible shame this movie didn't connect with audiences the way I and II did, as that put the kibosh on the whole anthology idea.

I seriously don't see the problem, the movie (just like Halloween II) has Carpenter/Hill producing, Carpenter/Alan Howarth doing the soundtrack, the venerable Dean Cundey as director of photography, and Tommy Lee Wallace as the director. Many movie fans don't memorize names so this list doesn't mean a teaspoon of dogshit to them, but basically I am trying to point out that this movie is nuts and bolts a John Carpenter movie without him in the Director's chair. It has all the atmosphere (as I always say is a crucial and sadly absent quality from many new studio made horror films) and artistry of his films but trusted to his beloved crew.

I guess people just really like Michael Meyers. I mean sure he's creepy and the archetype for a lot of slasher movies that came later, but to drag that shit for another six movies and two (soon to be three) remakes? Sorry, it gets stale. What I like about anthology movies and series is that it's different every time. There will probably be clever nods and in jokes to other films in the series but each one would be a stand alone feature. I think Carpenter really went out on a limb to try and do something different here but the audience at the time just didn't get it. Like many of his films, it didn't seem to find an adoring audience until some years later with the advent of the home video cassette.

I honestly think this movie stands strong right beside the first two, just watch Halloween IV onwards and try to tell me THIS one is the worst, because I will point out just how foolish and uninformed of an opinion that is.

-Shit flows only one way.
-Last I checked that is downhill.
-The top of the hill was the third movie.

I mean really- they start introducing plot elements like secret cults and shit that help keep Michael safe. DUMB. He's way cooler as an anonymous nomad killing machine with no fear, pain or conscience who DIES AT THE END OF HALLOWEEN II. Continuing past that is boring, formulaic, and ultimately played out less than half an hour into Halloween IV. Having a fresh new horror movie about my personal favorite holiday (which a hideous cold ruined for me this year, thanks a lot) would have been way cooler. Can I really put it any more simpler than that?

No, not really.

Now, gather 'round and watch the magic pumpkin-
WAAAAAAAATCH!





Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Killing Cars


I bought this off a fella via a vhs collector facebook group a little while back. I'm not exactly sure what to think about it to be perfectly honest with you. The allure of seeing Jurgen Prochnow (better known to US audiences as the Captain in Das Bood or as Duke Leto Atreides in the 1984 theatrical version of Dune) in an industrial espionage thriller involving a bullshit looking super car was too strong to avoid. That and the packaging was a bit too much for my eye to turn away from without immediately coming back. Unlike last weeks review, this one did NOT live up to the box art.

As always, it's time for the trailer:


Now that you have seen this much, it's time to tell you what it is all about....or at least try I guess? Prochnow plays a wealthy dude named Ralph Korda. He's basically a TOTAL dickweed who doesn't give a shit about anything that doesn't advance his goals. He also doesn't appear to be very sensible as he is wearing sunglasses while night driving in the opening sequence. Basically he's perfecting a really lame and decidedly over futuristic looking vehicle called the "World Car" that will apparently solve all sorts of problems in the world. But auto barons, oil sheiks, and environmentalists stand in his way at every step...

This is a predictably yawn worthy plot, and I was bored multiple times. Seeing Prochnow run around looking like a sub budget Don Johnson with rolled up sport coat sleeves and an obnoxiously 80's office/apartment (because people thought big in the 80's, and these room is one and the same!) was the only thing that kept me barely interested because it looks so very off.  Perhaps the most jarring thing in this yarn is the complete moral ambivalence of Mr. Korda. He's designing a supposedly efficient car that uses fucking nuclear power. I dunno but last time I checked nuclear reactors fuck everybody's shit up when things go awry, am I right? Real safe shithead. I'm also pretty convinced that he simply gives up on the World Car at the end only because he knows that the auto industry will screw him over no matter what and that he can't make the money he wants because of that rather than a more lofty pro environmental epiphany. Basically this is a movie about a ruthless business jerk who stays that way the entire time- so I guess I can at the very least praise this film for getting that much right.

For such a cheesy movie the soundtrack actually isn't half bad. It's not half good either, but it's exactly the kind of "epic" new wavey trash one needs when watching something like this. I'll also give props for the beginning credits being blasted across the screen on a jumbotron type thing. That's right, the title in the trailer is straight from the opening credits! This film was made in West Germany (where it was released under the title "Blitz"), and as such has a cast of both English and German speaking actors. All you have to do is watch the lip flap on the rather run of the mill dubbing that was done for its international release. Far as I can tell Prochnow is the only actor who re dubbed his own voice as he is fluent in both languages.

I think a movie so aimless and bereft of a message (besides being a rich asshole is okay) could only come out of the mid 1980's. Materialism in extreme excess, awful clothes, ugly cars, and questionable hair cuts abound. I do wonder though if anything changes plotwise when it is watched with German audio, as pretty much any film loses bits in translation. That being said, I'm not curious enough to warrant trying to track a version down or even look around to see if it even exists. Some confusion for film aficionados may result from the surname of its director: Michael Verhoeven. PLEASE do not confuse him as some sort of relative of awesome Dutch powerhouse of a director Paul Verhoeven. Because they aren't related even a little bit. I fell for it without doing any research, so it's the very least I can do to help you avoid the same trap.

Quite mercifully there are no clips (at least that I could find) of this film available for view beyond the trailer. I think this is a good thing, because I'd rather you not waste any more time with this film than you absolutely have to. Next time I want a nap and can't quite find a way to settle myself down I think I'll stretch out on the couch with my blanket and put this on. It's definitely docile and otherwise flaccid enough of an espionage plot. Maybe it would make a good doorstop too. Use your imagination, unlike the people behind this film.

My verdict?
BOOOO! HISSSSS!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Vengeance Is Mine (Aka Sunday In The Country)


This is one of those movies you buy instantly based on the cover art alone without thinking about it. Most of the time it turns out total crap, but not this one oh no. Even a cursory glance will tell you this movie kicks ass, but I recommend taking a good long look. The manically angry visage of Ernest Borgnine brandishing a shotgun was simply too much for me to let it slip through my ultimately bewildered fingers. Unfortunately this is another one of those movies that has zero clips or even a trailer for it on the internet. If somebody would recommend a good A/V interface for a Mac to me I could have rectified this...

Have a look at the theatrical poster (One of several I have found pictures of, some better than other to be sure) in lieu of any other tidbits:


Plot synopsis: It's a sleepy Sunday morning out in the countryside of America. Farmers and their families are busy getting ready for church and all is quiet and peaceful. A carload of bank robbers from the city fresh off of a heist obviously gone awry murder an innocent couple, which later proves to have profound consequences when they try to hide out at a wayward farmhouse in their attempts to dodge the police. Unfortunately for these men, farmer Smith has his own very clear idea of how to interpret the law...

First things first, you probably noticed that the picture of my vhs copy and the movie poster feature very different titles (apparently it was also released under the rather enigmatic title of "Blood For Blood"). Considering the moral/ethical dilemas that take place in this film I feel the theatrical title is far more appropriate if for nothing else than its ultimately disarming nature. It's a pity the advertising wasn't equally different but if you confuse an audience too much they simply won't bother now will they? The main US theatrical poster unfortunately pointed out the rather light hearted title in order to attempt and draw more viewers.

Have a look:


I'm going to say this right now: this movie has pretty low production value. However enjoying exploitation/whatever films as I do I don't feel that this detracts from the film at all. The cast performs really well and quite naturally (the "crazy" robber is a bit over the top though) and the cinematography is actually pretty decent. The plot is well written enough to throw you for a loop repeatedly from start to finish. The wide open expanses and rolling hills of the country serve to both highlight and isolate all of the characters involved in a way city dwelling/suburban home invasion type drama can never really emulate. In the country neither party has anywhere to run to or hide and the stakes become that much higher. In other words the setting and atmosphere are of (in my opinion) seminal importance, much like the forest in my review of the film "Rituals" from earlier this year.

It's rather a surprise to find Ernest Borgnine starring in a flick like this one, but that was part of the appeal of why I wanted to see it. His character is an interesting one to say the least, being an aging farmer with very strict religious beliefs and worldview in the more relaxed and free thinking mid 70's. While his belief in looking after his own is indeed admirable, his bloodlust seems only further fueled by his dogmatic religious ideology as he quotes bible versus to justify pointing guns at criminals instead of calling the police as his poor young niece (who recently moved in with him while from college for the summer) begs him to to the point of hysteria. And to make matters worse his farmhand goes along with and defends his actions with total complicity. It seems the niece is the only character who really has her head screwed on straight and is viewing the world in a decent and rational manner.

I admit I am not entirely sure what this film is trying to say but I was reasonably entertained by what I saw enough to warrant repeated viewings for years to come (note: I have watched this at least four times in the three years I have owned it). It appears this film (not surprisingly) slipped under pretty much everyone's collective movie radar and I feel this movie deserves a little bit more credit. It's unfortunately another pretty decent movie of its era to fall into the inescapable depths of public domain. As such it is actually readily available on DVD and even vhs. Much like any public domain movie though the artwork fails to captivate anything near what the one pictured above manages to.

Here are a few of the examples I could find, some better than others...

The only release I have seen that is as visually eye catching as my Video Gems release is this one by none other than Paragon. These dudes are well regarded for their exceptional box art and this is no...well...exception. I apologize for the image quality but as I do not own this edition (I'm not some vhs collector scumbag that feels the need to own more than one edition of a damn movie on a single format) and the only high resolution image I could find was on a flickr page, so I had to knick this off of Amazon dot com:


This one is obviously a more bargain basement vhs offering. The graphic design is frankly quite aimless and doesn't actually appear to have a still from the movie anywhere on the cover. The picture on the right appears to be from the film "Emperor Of The North":


Here is one from Star Classics which has easily some of the worst airbrushed artwork I have ever seen. I'm not really sure what if anything to make of this particular edition:


This film has been available on DVD for a while now as well. Sometimes it's packaged as a double feature but is most commonly found on its own. Yet more insipid bargain basement graphic design. I wish these fellas would at least TRY for once in their lives. Again we are bombarded with images not necessarily from the film in question melded with lame countryside clipart:


So basically what I am trying to say is if you look hard enough this film is readily available. Being a rather obscure movie though it seems to just float on by with so much other flotsam and jetsam as litters many five dollar DVD bargain bins. If you see it lying about, I recommend giving it a watch- you might be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Return Of The Alien's Deadly Spawn (Aka The Deadly Spawn)


Let me start off by saying the obvious- this movie RIPS! It's pretty hard to find a good horror movie that also has capable young/teen actors, and this one shines above many. This film contains many or horror's necessary elements for success in a practically perfect formula. It also wins for having some of the very best big box art of any vhs currently in my collection. Complete with rental store stickers still in place, this thing is a true warrior from the front lines of yesteryear. Continental was pretty famous for having full cover photography on their tapes, and I think this is one of the best I've seen yet.

Give the trailer a watch:


Plot summary: A huge meteor crashes into the woods somewhere in New Jersey (You just gotta love ANY movie that involves catastrophic events occurring in New Jersey!). Out of the crater emerge gross, highly dangerous, and toothy flesh eating worms. Carnage ensues as the beasts grow and grow, making this rainy day a study session a few school friends will never forget...if they manage to survive. The plot is really that simple, for many more modern movie viewers it is too simple. But why mess about with a formula that works? It's the very simplicity of the story that makes it so damn entertaining in the first place.

The creature in this movie looks so awesome. Yes, the picture on the front of the box is of one of the actual ones used in the film. Note I say ONE OF because this film is actually full of really rad and really well done puppets of various sizes to show the different stages of the creature's development as well as all of the various offspring it and others like it presumably beget all over the countryside. Sometimes the creature only appears in silhouette and shadow courtesy of flashlights and a poorly lighted basement which is a simple technique I miss in newer films. All You have to do is put a flashlight behind the puppet and move its jaws while filming the wall. It looks great! I don't think I've ever seen a movie creature with such an ungodly array of sharp teeth coming out of its mouth before or since. You definitely do not want to rub up against one of these fellas in a poorly lit alleyway, as it will definitely tear you to shreds and then some.

SERIOUS!!!!!!:


THIS THING WILL EAT YOUR HUSBAND AND TEAR YOUR GOD DAMN FACE OFF! For being a rather low budgeted horror flick, they really pulled out the stops in getting bang for the buck as far as creature and gore effects are concerned and that clip is still the truth. Nothing is sacred from this fleet of killing machines and their blood lust. Not even a vegetarian luncheon of octogenarians. One minute they're fussing over a ceramic giraffe the next moment they are hobbling for their lives. Not too many horror movies have old people as victims and I give major props for the film makers for not being too shy to throw such an inevitable occurrence into what is already a malaise of sporadic carnage.


Yowzers! This movie is also pretty well cast. Even the schlockiest characters pull their own weight without mucking up the proceedings. As this is a sciency type movie, several of the older teen characters are science nerds who have science boners for each others science if you know what I mean. Serious, the smart science nerd girl is a super babe. We also have the duncey hick like buddy who's hoping to learn something before the big test coming up but his cromag brain will obviously never comprehend. My personal favorite character is the little brother who's a major horror movie buff and amateur special effects wiz who manages to save the day after spending hours locked in the basement with loads of these grosser than gross aliens. The script is actually pretty well written for a film of its budget. It has plenty of silly humor thrown in usually coming from the adults in the picture which shows that (unlike the horror nerd little bro who has shit figured out more than people realize cuz he's stone cold like that) they are all a bunch of sub par morons.

This movie has several titles. Some people get confused by this, so let me break them down to you so you can get down with the business. The original theatrical release title from 1983 was The Deadly Spawn. Makes sense right? I'm on the fence about which title I like more- as in the version on the vhs I have or simply the theatrical title. The one on the vhs box has its own flair when the image is present but the theatrical title is by and large much easier to say when in mixed company. As I am obviously very conflicted, I leave this choice up to you.

Well to confuse things this movie is also known as:

-Return Of The Alien's Deadly Spawn (as seen above)
-The Alien's Deadly Spawn
-Return Of The Deadly Spawn
-And in the UK, Return Of The Alien's: The Deadly Spawn

The list goes on and on......

The Region 1 DVD edition uses the original title, but all of the ones mentioning the word "alien" in the title were all done apparently to try and capitalize on the success of Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece ALIEN. As home affordable home video technology was still somewhat in its infancy this makes a great deal of sense, but to all of us who came later it's easy to mistake these for different movies when the subject comes up. The Region 1 DVD at least has a cool cover. While it's not as good as the truly glorious uncut big box you saw at the beginning of this review, it does hold its own as far as mostly lame DVD artwork is concerned. It also has a smattering of really cool extras like an alternate opening sequence and reportedly two audio commentaries. Wait...why don't I own this too just for those......!?!

Look:


When one does a google image search for vhs art for The Deadly Sawn, you really can't find one that's a dud. Practically EVERY release of it had art that RULES. The Japanese tape was even in widescreen with Japanese subtitles and English dialogue! No matter what edition you decide on, you really cannot lose. If you  give a decent search via internet you can also find the soundtrack on CD which was a serious surprise to me. It's not very often B grade movies get a decent soundtrack release on any format, so I think you/me/us/we ought to do ourselves a favor and go pick that up too.

If you like B grade horror that will still kick your ass then this is for YOU.