Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Visit to the Underground Cities of Mars (1977)

Director: ???

Writers: Ruth Norman, Thomas Miller

Composer: ???

Starring: Ruth Norman, Thomas Miller

More info: Wikipedia

Plot: Take a psychic voyage to Mars and learn of the exciting way of life the Martians lead.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

If there are only two science fiction films released in 1977 you must see before you die it's STAR WARS & this peculiar gem.  At just under an hour, this film (made by the religious (of sorts) organization called Unarius Academy of Science) is essentially a fantastical commercial for taking a trip to Mars.  You get to know all about the spaceship that'll take you there (the dimensions, how it works and so on) as well as many aspects of the culture and civilization that exists on Mars.  Visually it's bonkers with re-enactments of ceremonies, cultural events and whatnot.  There are models, drawings and other effects to help bring this to a reality.  It's a fun, well thought out piece of sci-fi that's to be taken seriously.  Seriously.  Check out the amazing documentary called CHILDREN OF THE STARS (2012) and then watch this.  It's nuts. How nuts?  The following ends the picture: The preceding film was an actual psychic visitation experienced and written by Uriel (Ruth Norman) and Cosmon (Thomas Miller).  'Nuff said.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Danish & Blue (1970)

Director: Zoltan G. Spencer

Writer: ???

Composer: ???

Starring: William Howard, Suzanne Fields, Erika, Ron Darby, John Dullaghan, Linda Vroom

More info: IMDb

Plot: A shy, young American man vacations in Denmark where he meets an exotic dancer.  Over the course of his stay he experiences his sexual awakening, banging practically every chick he meets.  When his vacation ends, he's fully ready to conquer the US of A.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Watch the trailer, add A LOT of gratuitous nudity...

...and there's your movie.  It's about an hour of softcore porn with an abundance of boobs, dicks and pubes.  Johnny narrates his story with the conviction of a bad porn actor (that's right, as opposed to a good one).  If you're looking for something to add to the ole spank bank, keep looking.  It would have more value if it were hardcore but alas.  Boobs can only do so much.  I guess I need more to be entertained.  What makes it remotely humorous is the fake-documentary style it's filmed in.  This was released by SWV (Something Weird Video) which means the hour's worth of sex trailers after the film are a lot more entertaining than the accompanying feature.  I'd give those an 8 out of 10 if I were to score them.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Maltese Falcon (1931)

AKA: Dangerous Female

Director: Roy Del Ruth

Writers: Dashiell Hammett, Maude Fulton, Brown Holmes

Composer: ???

Starring: Bebe Daniels, Ricardo Cortez, Dudley Digges, Una Merkel, Robert Elliott, Thelma Todd, Otto Matieson, Walter Long, Dwight Frye, J. Farrell MacDonald

More info:  IMDb

Plot: A lovely dame with dangerous lies employs the services of a private detective, who is quickly caught up in the mystery and intrigue of a statuette known as the Maltese Falcon.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I'm such a huge fan of THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), and I've seen it many times, that there's no way I'm passing this up.  Now I just need to see the first filmed version of Hammett's story, SATAN WAS A LADY (1936) with Bette Davis.  After seeing the '41 film a few times, it's hard not to think of it when watching this one.  It is superior in every way to the '31 version.  Right off the bat I was turned off by Cartez's take on Sam Spade.  He's more of an eye-rolling wise ass.  It could've been played, and would've been more fun if it were played, by comedian Eddie Cantor.  It's hard not to mention the lack of music, which hurts the picture, but it's understandable as this was the norm in the early days of the talkies.  The lack of music does make the picture drag more than it would with it.  I found it fun and neat to see similarities between this and the '41 picture outside of the story.  Things like the casting of Gutman and Cairo.  Even Gutman's hotel room looks like it was re-used for the '41 film.  It's a great story and it does entertain.  Any fans of the '41 film would be amused by this one.  This one goes beyond the ending of '41 with a scene in prison between Sam and that sweet 'you know who'.  People complain about remakes constantly.  I used to be one of them many years ago until I stopped caring and accepted it.  Naturally it's out of my control so why bother burning calories bitching about Hollywood's seemingly lack of original ideas.  The '41 Bogart version of the film was the second remake of the story in ten years and it's also considered one of the all time great films, too.  I'm surprised it hasn't been remade a third time.  I should just wait a couple of more years to eat my words. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cold Sweat (1970)

Original title: De la Part des Copains

Director: Terence Young

Writers: Dorothea Bennett, Jo Eisinger, Richard Matheson, Shimon Wincelberg

Composer: Michel Magne

Starring: Charles Bronson, Liv Ullmann, James Mason, Jill Ireland, Michel Constantin, Luigi Pistilli

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Charles Bronson is Running...Charles Bronson is Running for His Wife. She Has 11 Minutes to Live...You Will Have a Lifetime to Remember!

Plot: A brutal drug trader takes his violent revenge after his wife is captured by a drug boss.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Only if I come across a better print.

#51 on Project: Badass Charles Bronson

LEVEL OF BADASSICITY (10 being the highest): 8

If you can suffer through the first half then you'll be rewarded with a much more fun and exciting, action-packed second half.   This flick doesn't feel like it's directed by the seasoned pro that directed three out of the first four Bond pictures.  It's not as polished.  Maybe that's the likely much lower budget doing the talking.  If that's the case, then OK.  Bronson doesn't become BRONSON until the last half when it's all action.  The start of the picture has him living the carefree life of a man who's discovered the secret to happiness.  In the film, he goes home to his family.  He could've just as easily stepped right into this commercial...

It's strange seeing Bronson so footloose and fancy free.  The manliness comes out when his past catches up with him.  The car chase is great and it's the best part of the picture.  Bronson is fun but it's the second half that works well.  I usually like James Mason a lot but his Southern American accent is really bad.  It's also awkward not hearing his wonderful British accent.  A few years earlier, Bronson stole Jill Ireland, the wife of British actor David McCallum (stole isn't the right word;  she couldn't help but throw herself at the walking testosterone bank that is Bronson).  I bet that Mason was so intimidated by him that he refused to speak with his British accent for fear of getting his ass handed to him and losing all of the women in his life at the same time. Just a thought. The plot isn't complicated but it doesn't need to be.  This is about exacting revenge for the dumb motherfuckers that chose the bad idea of pissing off Charles Bronson.   The print I watched was non-anamorphic widescreen and filthy, so much so that, while I like a dirty print with older movies sometimes, I would've preferred a better quality and anamorphic wide.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cleopatra (1934)

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

Writers: Bartlett Cormack, Waldemar Young, Vincent Lawrence

Composer: Rudolph G. Kopp

Starring: Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Henry Wilcoxon, Joseph Schildkraut, Ian Keith, Gertrude Michael, C. Aubrey Smith, Irving Pichel, Arthur Hohl, Edwin Maxwell, Ian Maclaren, Eleanor Phelps, Leonard Mudie, Grace Durkin, Claudia Dell

More info: IMDb

Tagline: History's most seductive woman! The screen's mightiest spectacle!

Plot: In 48 BC, Cleopatra, facing palace revolt in her kingdom of Egypt, welcomes the arrival of Julius Caesar as a way of solidifying her power under Rome. When Caesar, whom she has led astray, is killed, she transfers her affections to Marc Antony and dazzles him on a barge full of DeMillean splendor. But the trick may not work a third time.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I didn't care for the first half of this.  It's so stagy.  Most everyone is over acting.  Colbert comes off best.  Not only does she hold back a little but she looks amazing.  Her outfits are sexy as shit.  The dialogue is often stale and it comes off corny.  The actors often don't act any differently than if they were in a B crime film or melodramatic romance.  That style doesn't work in a historical drama such as this.  The second half of the film fares better except for some aspects that carry over from the first half like the romance angle.  The film makers play loose with the facts but that's par for the course in Hollywood. In the last act we get some battle footage that is clearly taken from other films with closeups of Anthony and Cleopatra as well as a few bits made for this film.  Despite that, there are some neat shots and kills.  They're the most enjoyable moments of the picture.  After that it's back to the melodrama but faster paced as we've got only a few more minutes in which to see the picture come to a close.  It's an OK picture but nothing special.  Reading the IMDb reviews and boards you'd think this was a masterpiece of cinema.  Perhaps if it were 80 years ago and all I had to go off of were the films up to this point, only then might my feelings be different.  There's nothing different here than you'd find in other genres of film of the time except for the costumes and set design.  According to IMDb David Niven and John Carradine can be seen (uncredited in the film) in bit parts.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Yakuza (1974)

Director: Sydney Pollack

Writers: Paul Schrader, Robert Towne, Leonard Schrader

Composer: Dave Grusin

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Ken Takakura, Brian Keith, Herb Edelman, Richard Jordan, Keiko Kishi, Eiji Okada, James Shigeta, Kyosuke Machida, Christina Kokubo, Eiji Go

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A man never forgets. A man pays his debts.

Plot: Harry Kilmer returns to Japan after several years in order to rescue his friend George's kidnapped daughter - and ends up on the wrong side of the Yakuza, the notorious Japanese mafia.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

When you think of Americans getting involved with anything in any foreign country, you can bet that it's the American that comes out on top and the foreigners couldn't have done it without them.  Well, this picture is an exception.  Not only is the American (Harry Kilmer nicely played by Mitchum) a contributor to the problem (but it's not his fault as he was duped by another American that really fucks things up).  Yeah, he helps but he does so out of a sense of honor and obligation.  The ending is really great.  For an American production, they handled the Japanese culture with respect and dignity.  I was really surprised at how much detail was paid to it.  I read that the original script was more about the action and revenge but that was toned down a lot in the rewrite from Robert Towne.  I don't know at what point the careful attention was paid to everything Japanese but it works very, very well.  Again, what Kilmer does in the final minutes is harsh and brilliant.  Kilmer might as well be Japanese.  There's a fair amount of action and it's good.  The acting is very good as well.  I was pleasantly surprised by the seriousness of it all.  Dave Grusin's score works well and I really dig his opening credits track.  It's got a nice groove to it.  The Warner Bros. DVD (not the Archive Collection which is how it's sold now...I'm assuming that version doesn't have extras as is usual with that line) has a great looking anamorphic widescreen print with extras in a commentary track from Pollack and a vintage twenty minute behind the scenes featurette (fullscreen).  It's a great look at the film's production and on dealing with the Japanese culture and Yakuza films.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Muscle Beach Party (1964)

Director: William Asher

Writers: William Asher, Robert Dillon

Composer: Les Baxter

Starring: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Luciana Paluzzi, John Ashley, Don Rickles, Peter Gurgeon, Jody McCrea, Dick Dale, Morey Amsterdam, Candy Johnson, Donna Loren, Stevie Wonder, Buddy Hackett, Dan Haggerty, Peter Lorre, The Del-Tones

More info: IMDb


Plot:  Local beach-goers find that their beach has been taken over by a businessman training a stable of body builders.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

These Beach pictures are a mixed bag.  They're dumb teen comedies but they're also goofy.  There's usually a few old timer actors in the cast that make it more palatable for the older audience.  Now if I were the target age for this film when it came out I might like it just a little more but I've never been much for dumb teen comedies even in my teens but with few exceptions.  What makes this more watchable is the inclusion of Rickles, Hackett and Lorre.  Then you've got music from The Del-Tones, Dick Dale and Stevie Wonder.  They're always fun.  What hurts these flicks is both some REALLY dumb characters and slow pacing that makes the 90 minutes feel like two hours or more.  It's hard to recommend these films but there are some funny bits and it's a blast to see Buddy Hackett & Don Rickles with starring roles.  Oh, and Candy Johnson's dancing is out of sight!

The MGM Midnite Movies double feature comes with SKI PARTY.  This film is presented with a nice anamorphic widescreen print and the theatrical trailer (also A-wide).