Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Ape (1976)

Director:  Paul Leder

Writers:  Paul Leder, Reuben Leder

Composer: Bruce MacRae

Starring:  Rod Arrants, Joanna Kerns, Alex Nicol, Nak-Hun Lee, Yeon-Jeong Woo, Jerry Harke

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  See APE *defy the jaws of giant shark *destroy a teeming city *demolish an ocean liner *vanquish monster reptile

Plot: A newly discovered 36-foot gorilla escapes from a freighter off the coast of Korea. At the same time an American actress is filming a movie in the country. Chaos ensues as the ape kidnaps her and rampages through Seoul.

My rating:  3/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

One of the things you'll read on the movie poster is, "Not To Be Confused With KING KONG".  You don't have to worry about that one bit.  There are a small handful of moments that you'll get a chuckle out of.  And these are moments where it's so bad it's good.  I'd say there were three or four.  It's not nearly enough to justify watching this movie.  The music is very repetitive, giving you plenty of chances to hear each of the three themes used over and over again.  I don't know what else composer Bruce MacRae did with his career but IMDb shows this as his only screen credit.  There are a few WTF moments that don't seem to have any relation to the rest of the picture.  Aside from those very few laughs, there's nothing all that entertaining about this.  The acting is anywhere from bad to fun.  Alex Nicol (in one of his final film roles before retiring) as Col. Davis has the most fun and he's easily giving the best performance.  APE does have the added benefit of starring Joanna Kerns in her first feature film.  I'm sure she's awfully proud of that distinction.  I would be.

The effects are cheap and shoddy which add to the entertainment value.  That there's a man in the monkey suit doing just about everything in slow motion doesn't hurt nor help.  The worst part is just how long many scenes run, dragging the picture down with it.  APE's 86 minutes can be brutal.  It feels like this is about as far from KING KONG (1933) as you can get, but then no one, and absolutely no one working on this picture had any expectations for much more than what it ended up being.  How about this cheesy dialogue at the end, after the destruction and fate of Ape?  Marilyn: Why, Tom, why?  Tom: It's just too big for a small world like ours.  Roll credits.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Pied Piper (1972)

Director: Jacques Demy

Writer: Robert Browning, Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm, Andrew Birkin, Jacques Demy, Mark Peploe

Composer: Donovan

Starring: Michael Hordern, David Leland, John Hurt, Diana Dors, Roy Kinnear, Donald Pleasence

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  Come children of the universe, let Donovan take you away, far far away.

Plot:  In 1349, while the Black Plague threatens Germany, the town of Hamelin hires a wandering pied piper (Donovan) to lure rats away with his magic pipe, but then refuses to pay for his services, causing him to lure the town's children away.

My rating:   7/10

Will I watch it again?   No.

I really need to read Grimm's fairy tales because I LOVE dark tales involving bad things happening to children largely because, for as long as I can remember, that subject is a big taboo that Hollywood doesn't dare tread (you know, killing children and such).  As I watched this I started to remember bits and pieces of the story from when I read it as a kid forty or so years ago.  This flick looks great and it's well-acted.  For a non-actor, pop music sensation Donovan does pretty well.  Naturally, this being the early 70s and written and performed by Donovan, the songs are all of their time and not sounding hundreds of years old, so hearing 70s folk tunes in a movie set in the mid-1300s is weird.  Michael Hordern kills it as local doctor/wizard-type.   I enjoy a good picture set in Europe way back when.  The Plague is near, people are on edge and bad people continue to do bad things.  I liked the last half hour the most, probably because that's when it's at its darkest.  I would've preferred a much darker ending but you can't have everything.   There are lots of known actors which are worth watching this for.  It's a good watch.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Action of the Tiger (1957)

Director:  Terence Young

Writers:  Robert Carson, James Wellard, Peter Myers

Composer:  Humphrey Searle

Starring:  Van Johnson, Martine Carol, Herbert Lom, Gustavo Rojo, Jose Nieto, Helen Haye, Anna Gerber, Anthony Dawson, Sean Connery, Yvonne Romain, Norman MacOwan, Brian Sunners, Helen Goss

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  How a beautiful blonde and a tough smuggler escape the net of Continental conspiracy!

Plot:  Carson is an American contraband runner approached by Tracy, a French woman who wants him to help rescue her brother from Albania where he is being held as a political prisoner.

My rating:  5.5/10

Will I watch it again?   No.

With the exception of maybe BATTLEGROUND (1949), I don't think I've seen any Van Johnson movie where he was the lead.  Even if I had, judging by his performance in this film, I don't think I would've remembered.  Here, he's bland and his voice is often monotone or close to it.  I mostly watched this for an early Sean Connery performance and for Herbert Lom.  Lom has a pivotal role and has about fifteen minutes of screen time while Connery has about a minute each in the beginning and at the very end so if you blink, you'll miss him.  Connery has a lot to do in those couple of minutes but it's nothing much to speak of.  The film itself suffers from a lackluster male lead and a screenplay with some poor dialogue for Carson (Johnson).  The movie has some action but it's also got that family kind of action drama as Carson has to travel several miles on foot with Tracy (Carol), her blind brother and several children.  Carson is supposed to be a hardened and impossible man but he puts up with this lot as if it were an eye-rolling family film.  And partly because of that, you just know that Carson and Tracy are going to end up together at the end.  Ugh.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Genghis Blues (1999)

Director:  Roko Belic

Writer:  Roko Belic

Composers:  Kongar-ol Ondar, Paul Pena

Starring:  Paul Pena, Kongar-ol Ondar, Aislinn Scofield, Richard Feynman, BB King

More info:  IMDb

Plot:  The extraordinary odyssey of a U.S. musician of Cape Verdean ancestry to Tannu Tuva, in central Asia, where nomadic people throat sing more than one note simultaneously, using vocal harmonics. A bluesman, Paul Pena, blind and recently widowed, taught himself throat singing and was by chance invited to the 1995 throat-singing symposium in Kyzyl. Helped by the "Friends of Tuva," Pena makes the arduous journey. Singing in the deep, rumbling kargyraa style, Pena gives inspired performances at the festival, composes songs in Tuvan, washes his face in sacred rivers, expresses the disorientation of blindness in foreign surroundings, and makes a human connection with everyone he meets.

My rating:  7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

You can't help but like Paul.  He's humble and talented as hell.  Seeing him on his trip to Tuva and his being among their people is just special.  It's something he never expected and his journey from when he first heard Tuvan throat singing on ham radio to being in Tuva performing at a throat singing competition is just remarkable.  I got a little choked up a few times.  It's a beautiful country, with beautiful people and beautiful music.  I am glad to have spent time with them and Paul.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)

Directors:  Curtis Harrington, Pavel Klushantsev

Writers:  Curtis Harrington, Aleksandr Kazantsev, Pavel Klushantsev

Composer:  Ronald Stein

Starring:  Basil Rathbone, Faith Domergue, Marc Shannon, Christopher Brand, John Bix, Lewis Keane, Gennadi Vernov, Georgi Zhzhyonov

More info:  IMDb

Plot:  In the year 2020, cosmonaut Marcia (Domergue) orbits the planet Venus while five astronauts and a robot journey on the surface. Professor Hartman (Rathbone) is also on hand to observe the exploration from a distance. The explorers are attacked by prehistoric beasts, and then lose their robot (and nearly their lives!) in a volcanic eruption. They discover signs of a lost civilization and an artifact indicating that the Venusians had looked human. But what of the strange singing sound they often have heard during their exploration? Do the anthropomorphic Venusians still exist?

My rating:   5/10

Will I watch it again?   No.

This is nothing more than a re-dub of the Russion classic, PLANETA BUR (1962), directed by Pavel Klushantsev.  My preference is going to be the original film over this or any other re-use of it.  But if you don't want to read subtitles or if you're a Basil Rathbone completists (in one of his last films) then knock yourself out.  Rathbone is barely in it and he's in a single room for all of his scenes.  It's a complete waste of this great man's talents and it's a role that just about anyone could've done. The ground-breaking special effects are fantastic and are worth the price of admission alone but they were created for the original Russian film.  I can't recommend enough the documentary, THE STAR DREAMER (2002), which tells the story of the director and the mastermind behind these marvelous effects (Klushantsev) and how he struggled behind the Iron Curtain to maintain his integrity as a filmmaker.  That's a far more interesting story (as is PLANETA BUR) than this American cheapie taking advantage of it.  But hey, it's money.  I get it.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Americathon (1979)

Director:  Neal Israel

Writers:  Phil Proctor, Peter Bergman, Neal Israel, Michael Mislove, Monica McGowan Johnson

Composer:  Tom Scott

Starring:  Harvey Korman, Fred Willard, Peter Riegert, Zane Buzby, Nancy Morgan, John Ritter, Richard Schaal, Allan Arbus, Elvis Costello, Chief Dan George, Tommy Lasorda, Jay Leno, Peter Marshall, David Opatoshu, Meat Loaf, George Carlin, Howard Hesseman, Cybill Shepherd

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  The Future is Here, Blow it Out Your Ear

Plot:  In a story told in narrative flashbacks, a young TV consultant is hired by the President of a bankrupt USA to organize a telethon in order to prevent the country from being repossessed by wealthy Native Americans.

My rating:  6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It's not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination but that's not to say it isn't without any fun moments and great laughs.  Among them are...

This opens the picture with George Carlin's wonderfully delivered and funny narration.  See, this is the future and this is Pittsburgh where two dinosaurs are fighting over a parking space.  The Ray Harryhausen footage is from THE ANIMAL WORLD (1956) and I need to see it!

We first meet Monty Rushmore (Korman) in drag, showing once again how much of a natural comedian and dramatic actor he was.  Damn, I miss that guy.

Zane Buzby plays Mouling Jackson, the most poplar performer of "puke rock" out there.  This broad was fucking hysterical and she owned every scene she was in.  I want more of her, please!

Topless marionettes.  'Nuff said!

Meat Loaf (as Oklahoma Roy Budnitz, AKA The Car Killer) kilss a car and wins over the audience.  He comes back later to give blood to raise money for the country and he's funny as shit. 

Jay Leno stars in one of the funnier bits during the 30-day telethon where he plays Larry "Poopy Butt" Miller boxing his mom (hilariously played by stuntwoman, May Boss).  This was one one of the more inspired bits of the show.

And an uncredited Cybill Shepherd kicks the telethon off with Monty.

Carlin's voice is heard throughout and not only is his delivery fantastic but he's funny and his voice is just what this picture needed for that role.  There are a lot of funny bits in this picture and I laughed out loud a few times.  Having the telethon with lots of different acts is a brilliant way to justify all kinds of wild and crazy bits which were touched on but could've been so much more.  It's a wasted opportunity right there.  The jokes aren't consistent and there aren't enough of them to keep the momentum going.  Had there been, this could've become a classic.  As it is, it's got a pretty good foundation for one and it's far from not being entertaining.  I'm oldschool and I appreciate a lot of the talent in front of the camera on this one so unless it's a shitstorm of epic proportions, I'm probably going to enjoy it on some level...and I did.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Cruising (1980)

Director: William Friedkin

Writers: William Friedkin, Gerald Walker

Composer: Jack Nitzsche

Starring: Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, Richard Cox, Don Scardino, Joe Spinell, Jay Acovone, Randy Jurgensen

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  Al Pacino is Cruising for a killer.

Plot:  A police detective goes undercover in the underground S&M gay subculture of New York City to catch a serial killer who is preying on gay men.

My rating:  6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I'm not sure where this film failed.  It's an interesting premise but I don't think it went far enough with Steve's (Pacino) descent into a world unlike his own and the overall investigation of solving the murders.  The picture is an hour and forty minutes and it doesn't seem nearly long enough and that another half hour would give the film time to really delve into what's important to the picture.  That's just my amateur opinion, of course, and I respect William Friedkin and his body of work that this is the story he wanted to tell.  But what I found fascinating isn't given enough serious time to develop.  It's neat seeing so many actors in early roles like Ed O'Neill, James Remar and Powers Boothe.  The ending is satisfying enough but it's what happens after Steve is done with his undercover work that blew me away.  The ambiguity was fucking insanely good.  It could've been a red herring for the audience and a way to make you go, "ooooooh!", but I loved it just the same.