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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Hitcher



This movie was remade a while back. FUCK THE REMAKE. Do not try and argue otherwise with me.

Anyways...


This movie is yet another horror sleeper hit. I first saw it on cable TV when I was a kid, and its really bleak and atmospheric and also has some class act plot twists throughout. Not only that but it is both well cast and well written with a more than capable cast. What's perhaps most surprising to me is that it was produced by HBO who I forgot made theatrical items. Think of it as a more action packed version of Spielberg's first movie Duel with more characters and some really ace high speed car wrecks and brutal murders. While on the subject of murders, its worthwhile to note that throughout the 98 minutes of the film we never actually see any of the murders take place, only their aftermath. In one cases you don't see the murder at all, just a blood drip, which  leaves it up to your own horrific imagination- kudos to you director Robert Harmon! I'll get back to the atmosphere later as I should really talk a little about the plot first.

The film revolves around a young man named Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) who is driving through the desert (Arizona desert maybe? I don't recall) from Chicago to San Diego on a drive away (for those in foreign countries, this is a way of having a car delivered from elsewhere to you by having someone who is moving somewhere get paid to drive the car to you rather than having it shipped at great expense) who makes the mistake of picking up a lone hitchhiker (Rutger Hauer) in the middle of a heavy rain storm. Almost immediately the hitcher tells Jim he is going to kill him. What follows is 98 minutes of tension, isolation, police misunderstanding, and terror. The titular scene in the film involves Jennifer Jason Leigh and a semi truck. I won't say anything more about that.

I have very little experience with deserts. I know they are the following: hot, enormous, and isolating. This is like the exact opposite of my review of Rituals from a couple weeks ago, but instead of a claustrophobic and equally isolating forest we have an oppressive barren desert to reckon with. Rutger Hauer is still in his immediate post Blade Runner badass prime and is a superb murderous creep. C. Thomas Howell is practically exploding with terror, frustration, and grief (I believe this is his best movie by and large) almost the entire film. Jennifer Jason Leigh's part is small but she does a very natural character that in no way detracts from the proceedings and if anything proves to make things slightly more tense.

The hitcher (named John Ryder of all tacky things) is one brutal motherfucker. He kills a number of cops, a family, and who the hell knows how many people before the film began? I'm not sure if this could be considered a slasher movie or not- in fact I'm not sure what to call it. Its definitely a thriller/suspense flick and a damn good one to boot. I want to get into the nitty gritty of the movie, really I do, but I want you to see it for yourself and be as surprised as I was at some of the goings on. Go and do yourself a favor and rent/buy/borrow this and watch it in a dark room by yourself. Just make sure you've done all of your highway driving for the evening first okay?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cut Throat Kommandos


Okay kiddies, its time for some nazisploitation! Here we have Cut Throat Kommandos (1969) aka The Cut Throats (as it says at the beginning of the actual film) aka SS Cutthroats aka She Devils Of The SS aka aka. These movies generally have about five titles as they all had multiple vhs/ theatrical releases over a span of years. As with any film in this misbegotten genre it contains a thinly veiled "plot" that is used as an excuse for soft or hardcore sex scenes involving men or women in nazi uniforms sexing it up with women. Sometimes in a brothel, sometimes a dungeon or a "love camp". It doesn't really matter that much as the genre is pretty much bullshit but can provide rare entertainment or multiple whatthefucks like this one did.

The movie was pretty much bullshit (try to contain your surprise please), but look at that big box and try and tell me to my face that its not a keeper. I mean really, IT HAS A HUGE FUCKING SS TOTENKOPF WITH EYE SOCKETS FILLED WITH DIAMONDS ON IT! Like any exploitation film worth its weight in horse shit, none of the images on the box have the slightest thing to do with the film at all. There is no sneaking up and knifing a guy in the throat, awesome SS mansion (The compound in the movie looks mysteriously like a two story ranch house in Utah or something, not a super secret SS planning base deep in Germany 1945, Germany doesn't have ginormous rolling hills of scrub land that I know of) or anything pictured on the back of the box even for that matter. The pictures are from other movies, which ones I cannot readily say, but I will hopefully one day find out and welcome any informative leads to aid in their identification. The third picture looks like an actual WWII photo! Wow VEC, you really hoodwinked a video renter or seven didn't you? Here's the back of the box:



The packaging is quite thematic, continuing the SS Allegemeine uniform black and white theme right down to the inner tray and tape label. I gotta hand it to 'em, they were thorough. There's even an SS dagger with the movie title in gothic script on the blade on each side of the box:


Anyways, enough ballyhoo about the awesome packaging as its time to talk about the tit shots (scratch that) I mean plot I mean tit shots. There really is no separation from the two at all so far as this film is concerned as we see tits and ass about every 8-10 minutes here (and that's an overly generous estimate, I think its more like 4-6). It all takes place somewhere deep in the non existant scrubland of Germany in 1945 near a super secret somebody's grandparents ranch house nazi base camp. A pointless character introduction is used as an excuse for a sex scene within the first four minutes of the movie. Flash forward to later and a rogue US Army officer is setting up a dirty half dozen type mission to raid said ranch house secret base. Unbeknownst to our would be badasses (except for the man behind the operation), there is a cache of jewells hidden somewhere on the base worth a million bucks. How does the audience find this out before anyone else? A sex scene of course!

I'm not even be sure it can be called a sex scene, it involves a topless woman giving a fat nazi officer a massage in a sauna then fucking his left foot. NOT JOKING. There actually really is no specific plot to speak of. But there is lots of tits, ass, and even a brief burlesque show for good measure. Oh, and I nearly forgot the erotic massage involving heavy sprinklings of that all too sexy substance talcum powder. The rest of the film could easily be summed up in the following sentence: "Ass and titties, ass ass and titties, shooting, death, ride into the sunset." THE END

Being a WWII enthusiast, I was obviously irked by the lack of attempt at reasonable German uniform/equipment accuracy. For instance, the SS NEVER used the black Allegemeine uniform for combat purposes! EVER. Besides the fact that one of them in the movie looks like they simply took an ugly black four pocket blazer and painted white piping on it everywhere- fuck it. Maybe the most baffling thing was the presence of a standard Kubelwagen with Afrika Korps markings... What's wrong here you ask? I'll fucking tell you what. This film takes place in GERMANY IN 1945, The Afrika Korps surrendered in TUNISIA IN 1943. Besides the fact that Germany has zero desert scrubland, there would be NO desert tan vehicles ANYWHERE in Germany- especially with the unique unit markings of a fighting force that no longer existed, FUCKING GOD DAMNIT. I know these movies are not meant to be accurate, but it just drove me so fucking nuts how could I not piss and moan about it!?

Watch it if you feel like it, that's all I can really say at this point.


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CORRECTION ADDED JUNE 2ND, 2011
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Some time after posting this, I realized that is NOT in fact an SS Totenkopf on the box cover but the type used by the German Panzerkorps. The SS version is noticeably different and also has a jaw.  I already knew this, whoops!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rituals



Every once in a while the great white north of Canada gives us something to salivate over. Horror movies have never really been Canada's forte' but Rituals (aka The Creeper) in a real gem. The movie is about a group of five old doctor buddies who are out in the deep forests of Canada on a yearly get together and are stalked by an unknown man in the woods. Careful meticulous planning weeds them out until only one is left for the final confrontation. I'm not going to do like other bloggers and tell you the entire plot, just what I liked about it. The idea here is to make you want to SEE THIS MOVIE after all, not give away each and every plot point so you know what's up when you finally sit down to watch it. Have a look at the trailer for a quick taste:



People all over the internet seem to either praise this film highly (like I am in the process of doing), or deride it as a shitty cash-in/rip-off of Deliverance. FUCK Deliverance. Everybody mostly remembers that movie because a fat guy gets ass raped and John Voight get told he has a quote "Real Pretty Mouth". Yes both films take place in the woods, both feature stalking hillbilly(ies), and grown men stuck in an inescapable situation. I like this film quite a bit more for several reasons. Ready? Here goes:

There are no annoying teenagers! Nubile young folk getting killed in the woods is great and all but after you've seen it for the Nth time, meh who cares? Here instead we have five older men who have been through their own shit in life. Its nice to hear them talk about real things when sitting around a campfire and not "who has a crush on who and will inevitably get their head smashed in while having sex". This makes things for me more realistic and subdued. You see their capacity for rational thought erode piece by piece throughout the film rather than a sudden outburst of terror as they try to escape the inescapable.

Also, there is no damn summer camp and the resulting buildings. This means they have zero shelter as they trek through the forest leaving their tents where they stand all the while being pissed on with rain and frozen by night time temperature drops. Being exposed to the elements in total darkness in the unending Canadian forest is pretty frightening. Some people also feel that this film lacks tension. I wholeheartedly disagree on this point. By "tension" people mean edge of their seat can't wait to see what happens next sort of thing. The tension in this film is more the interpersonal tension between the main characters as the hopelessness of their situation slowly sinks in. I think this kind of tension is more well thought out and realistic that the usual slasher flick fare and as a result leaves this film sans the amount of credit it really deserves.

Hal Holbrook's performance is great in this film. Most of you will recognize him as Father Malone in John Carpenter's The Fog amongst other things, but he really takes the cake here. His past is only hinted at- former alcoholic, daredevil Korean War pilot, and you are given just enough about him to understand his inner turmoil. The other characters (all great Canadian actors also) each have their own issues, but are not quite as fleshed out as Holbrook's which is maybe the one complaint I have.

The woods/ river are just as much a character as anyone delivering lines. Many slasher movies use the woods as merely a setting for the action to take place, while Rituals on the other hand uses the landscape as a character in and of itself, impeding each and every movement the cast makes. There is paranoia, disorientation, and despair all in the environments the characters trudge across, and I think many viewers ignore this and only see the film's perceived shortcomings. The power and presence of nature is a scary thing and many urban folk are either unaware due to lack of experience or don't have the imagination to see this. Go camping in the forest and you will see what I mean.

The copy that I have reviewed from my personal collection is the Embassy Home Entertainment release from  1985. It runs roughly 90 some minutes (though the back of the box claims 100) and is rather cropped to fit the screen. From what I understand Embassy's print was copied from one intended for television, and as such a good 10 minutes or so (some of it character building, other bits "gore") unlike the extremely hard to find Canadian video release which features the full cut of the film. Just last month a Region 1 DVD finally came out, featuring the full version and slightly better picture and a helping of extras not to mention a proper aspect ratio. I will surely pick it up soon before they disappear and do a brief review on that too, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"I'm so hungry, I could eat a whore!"



This here is one of those strange urban legend like movies. Many have heard of it and know the titular whore eating line, but relatively few have seen it- much less own it. Rest your weary head, Microwave Massacre IS a real movie and if you like light weight low brow misogynist humor laced with some boob shots, then this film my friend is for YOU! Just take a look at the beginning credits for christ's sake:



Information about the production of this film is sadly scant (ie, pretty much non existant beyond the fact that we know it was made). Everything from the various (and difficult but not impossible to locate) releases it has had to even the trusty imdb.com state the film was made in 1983. Looking at the fashion, production value, and the soundtrack this movie looks like it was made in the late 70's and not released until a few years later, but I could be wrong. I believe the sources I see that say 1978 more than anything as far as a production date goes but who can really be certain about when it was released? If you know AND are reading this, TELL US!

The film is the final cinematic appearance of comedian Jackie Vernon. You may better recognize him as the voice of frosty the snow man from those claymation shorts we all watched as kids. The camp is so heavy in this movie I almost had to pitch a tent to watch it, which would have made this movie no less enjoyable. I don't often laugh my ass off during a movie, and this one (for me at least) was worth its weight in gold. Some assholes did a DVD release of this claiming the movie to be the "Worst Horror Movie of All Time". I CALL BULLSHIT. Sure its sleazy and low brow as hell but fuck you, and your bad taste! Look at the lame ass graphic design of the DVD when compared to the glorious big box I have pictured above (Note: this is my only Midnight Video vhs (so far) and the only big box I have with a matching clamshell with movie logo sticker on the spine!!! Midnight had a fucking GREAT logo and box art!):


Look at that and tell me with all seriousness that it does not look atrocious I DARE you. The Rhino vhs has a really really amazing box featuring lights and sound even! Much better effort:



Shitty DVDuh and awesome VHyeS packaging aside, let us talk about the movie just a touch. The plot circulates around our poor hero Donald (Vernon), who cannot stand his nagging wife's uber cuisine. He's bitching about eating crab at the construction site with his pals!? What's wrong here you ask? SHE MADE THE SHIT IN A GIANT MICROWAVE. It certainly doesn't help that his wife pronounces words like gourmet as "gore-met". Poor Donald finally loses it and bashes his wife dead with a salt grinder and in a fit of rage chops her up and leaves her remains in the microwave.

He finds her in the morning after his drunken bludgeoning, dismembered and cooked. For some reason he decides to wrap her in tin foil, and later winds up accidentally eating her hand. This gets Donald thinking about how good dead chicks taste in a hoagie. The rest is a veritable cinematic pot of gold chock full of oneliners, cheesy puns, fourth wall breaking, and hooker fucking/killing/making into a sandwich/eating. I'm trying to give as few jokes away as possible, because I really really hope you, dear reader, go and track this movie down and watch the hell out of it for all it is worth.

Sure the acting is pure camp, and the script is dry as a desert, but fuck it- A GOOD MOVIE IS A GOOD MOVIE. Don't bother looking it up on netflix, they don't fucking have it. Don't believe me? Go waste your time typing it in. The dvd is rather scarce so its a shame it hasn't had a proper release so wider viewing is possible. Maybe if someone released it without such a shitty cover with such an outrageously inaccurate quote emblazoned upon the front about how the movie is, THEN it could happen...

Here's to you, Microwave Massacre!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Steele Justice



It was only a matter of time before a movie starring Martin Kove wound up on here. You may recognize him (supposing you don't already know, I will give you layman's examples) from Rambo: First Blood Part II, The Karate Kid and the TV show Cagney & Lacey. I present to you here one of his many and vastly mediocre yet somehow still vaguely entertaining bits of his film career with this 1987 outing titled Steele Justice. Check out the trailer:



I paid 99 cents for this, and if I were you I wouldn't pay more than that unless you are some sort of strange Martin Kove completist. I couldn't pass it up because I really like the ultimately cookie cutter and likely mostly direct to video genre of Vietnam Vet revenge movies. Here's a rundown of the plot to every one of these movies (there are deviations from this outline on occasion):

1. Footage of character in "Nam" showing his combat exploits
2. Flash forward to present day
3. Main character admits to buddy that "nothing has been right since Nam" because he is a shiftless alcoholic
4. Nam buddy/family member gets whacked by Vietnamese mafia or some such organization
5. Main character decides to start one man war, getting info along the way
6. Climactic showdown with main villain ending with main character finding peace and driving off.

I thought the way this was shot it was certainly direct to video, until of course I found this (anyone who saw this in a theater please chime in):

                       
                                                     And this! WHAT?



The Nam flashback is this movie is somewhere beyond baffling. It begins with all these Special Forces badasses on hovercraft going to a rendezvous point. Hovercraft!?! I thought SF guys were supposed to the silent and sneaky? Whatever, its made in 1987 and hovercraft kick ass so I will let this one go as it starts the movie off as laughably ridiculous. This is followed by shots of them preparing their very high tech 80's looking weaponry and Steele and his buddy Lee being jovial and non serious badasses as they walk into a trap set by General Kwan (The main villain, played by Korean actor Soon Tek Oh- I don't think a single Vietnamese actor appears in the movie) that results in one of two reasons I keep this movie: A LIVE HAND GRENADE TAPED TO A RAT! Unfortunately I cannot find so much as an image of this, but its pretty self explanatory.

I won't bother to detail the plot, rife with quite a few face punches and whatnot. The cast in this movie however is another story. We have Bernie Casey, Ronny Cox (you may know him from Robocop and Total Recall), and even two alumni of Big Trouble In Little China: Peter Kwong and Al Leong (AKA the ULTIMATE 80's action movie "that guy" everybody recognizes but never knows his name)! Not bad for a bottom of the barrel action flick released on vhs by the oft dreaded Goodtimes Home Video, right? Oh yeah, there's even a cameo by 80's singer Astrid Plane. For those who's name with which this does not wring a bell, she was a vocalist in 80's group Animotion, known for two dereadful songs ("Obsession" and the lesser known "I Engineer"). Don't believe me? Watch this if you think you can stomach a shit sandwich:



Before I forget, Steele also carries around a "poisonous" snake named "three step". You get bitten and die three steps later...yawnnnnn. He loves the snake so much, he brandishes it at cops while like any self respecting drunken (and obviously partially crazy) Nam vet would do. We all know that showing a deadly poisonous snake to cops and explaining how if it should bite you you'll fucking die is absolutely NO way to avoid arrest last I checked. On a side note- I don't know much about snakes, but I do know that red black and yellow snakes that ARE poisonous can be easily spotted. "Red touch black, friend of Jack" anyone? I don't have to tell you what the snake is...do I?

Like all competent 80's action flicks, this film also has the standard "hero works out and picks himself up out of the gutter" montage. Montages are pretty fucking lame, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Here its is, from a Spanish dubbed print. Just listen to the inspirational/awful jam on top of it:


I have to ask, what on earth does twirling left to right forcefully with a stick on your shoulders even work? The world may never know...

I have to be perfectly honest, I'm really not sure what to say about this movie really. Its a good get drunk and watch an action movie type of yarn. Oh yeah, there are some choice bits like when Steele gets kicked in the balls and drives his ex wife's truck through a bar as a result, and another great hand grenade related bit (Its the 2nd reason I keep this movie, I won't give the scene away!), lots of VERY wooden acting by practically all leading cast members- but that goes without saying- and a ridiculous bit with a warehouse shootout where Steele rides about like a right twat shooting everything in sight from some weird robobuggyguntruckwhatsisthingamajig. I am truly dumbfounded by this movie and I actually don't have any real idea why it is that I like it.

THE END.