Friday, February 8, 2008

Cemetery Man (1994)

Director: Michele Soavi

Starring: Rupert Everett & lots of Italians

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Zombies, guns, and sex, OH MY!!!

Plot: A cemetery man must kill the dead a second time when they become zombies.

My Rating: 9/10

Would I watch it again? F’n YEAH!

WOW! WOW! WOW! Picture Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD for the art house crowd. Amp up the gore, sex, twisted humor, artistic lighting and camera angles and you’ve got CEMETERY MAN. I…laughed…my…ass…off! It’s fun, it’s sick, it’s gory, it’s engaging, it’s beautiful. I can’t wait to see it again.

This movie FLIES by so quickly you’d swear it’s only 45 minutes long. One thing that helps it along is that just when you “think” you’ve got the movie figured out to what it’s supposed to be it changes course to something completely unexpected. And then it happens again and again and again. There are more switchbacks in this film than on the inside of one of Rosie O’Donnell’s thighs. What? Too soon?

I kinda got the idea they approached Bruce Campbell for the lead and he turned it down and it went to Everett. Either that or Everett was much cheaper at the time since he was an unknown. Regardless, he pulled out a great under-played performance as the man whose job it is to kill the dead when they come back. His delivery is so straightforward, dry and unemotional. It’s perfect.
His love interest, played by Anna Falchi, did nothing for me. Nice body, which is why she’s there, but the face kinda gave me the weirds. Francois Hadji-Lazaro was great as Everett’s assistant, Gnaghi. His portrayal was very sympathetic and quite surprising especially in the end. That was a very nice tender moment of turnaround. You’ll have to see it to understand it. It was the last of the “where are we going now” moments.

"It's OK 'cause it's an art house film"

I urge you to seek this film out. It will not disappoint. It’s not everyday that you come across a cerebral gory comedy art house film like this. It’s fucked up. It belongs on the wall next to the Mona Lisa. Nat King Cole should’ve written a song about it. Maybe I should just watch it again instead.

Versus (2000)

Director: Ryuhei Kitamura

Starring: Japanese nobodys

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Witness a battle no one has ever seen

Plot: Set in the present where a group of ruthless gangsters, an unknown woman and an escaped convict have met, unwittingly, in The Forest of Resurrection, the 444th portal to the other side. Their troubles start when those once killed and buried in the forest come back from the dead, with the assistance of the evil Sprit that has also come back, come back from ages past, to claim his prize. The final standoff between Light and Dark has never been so cunning, so brutal and so deadly.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? Only in smaller doses

THIS MOVIE KICKS ASS!!! Except when it’s boring. If I’ve ever wondered about there really being “too much of a good thing”, this film answers the question and the answer is “YES”. At 119 minutes there are literally about 19 of them where there is no fighting. I’m serious. This movie is wall-to-wall fighting. Swords, kung fu, guns, everything. And it’s good. REALLY good. It’s funny. REALLY funny. It’s way too long. REALLY long.

"Here's my favorite character - a psycho bad guy who reminded me so much of..."

"...Jack Palance...if you can believe it just from these pictures"

Seriously, there are so many fight sequences (and really fresh and inventive ones, at that) it starts to get old after an hour. Then you’ve got ANOTHER hour to go. It was almost torturous. Not only are there multiple fights with all kinds of styles and weaponry, there are fights with zombies and time travel fights. It’s as if the filmmakers felt they had one chance to make a movie so they had better throw everything into it just in case. If it had been trimmed down to 90 minutes I would’ve easily given it an 8 or a 9 for sheer enjoyment but the second hour was far too taxing for me at that point. It’s too bad because it just oozes with style I was really into it until I realized I’m only half way through it. Yikes. And to make it worse the film is set entirely in a forest. That in and of itself gets old.

Check it out if you can find it. It’s definitely worth a look. Just know what you’re getting into. But if it’s the first half of the film versus the second half, the first half wins hands down.

Halloween (1978)

Director: John Carpenter

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: The Night HE Came Home!

Plot: A psychotic murderer institutionalized since childhood escapes on a mindless rampage while his doctor chases him through the streets.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? I suppose

What can I say that hasn’t been said before? Not much except even though I liked it I just can’t hold it up to the “masterpiece” status so many others do. Slasher movies had been around for a few years by this point. A GREAT example is BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974). HALLOWEEN has more in common with that than anything else I can think of. BC pretty much gave us the blueprint so many 80s horror movies followed VERY closely.

HALLOWEEN gives us a great performance by Pleasence and newcomer Jamie Lee Curtis. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that her mother is Janet Leigh, super star of PSYCHO (1960). Nevertheless, I’m glad she was cast because she’s done some fine work over the years. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that she’s a looker. (insert drool here).

It’s also got some great kills and a fair amount of suspense even though we’ve been desensitized to it in so many subsequent pictures. It still offers a lot of fun and a nostalgic look back when things “seemed” much simpler. Carpenter's score remains most effective and that theme goes down as one of the all-time best. No question about that.

By the way, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the fact this takes place at the end of October in Illinois and even though there are giant brown leaves on the ground (shipped in from out of state I predict) the trees and grass are COMPLETELY green. It’s really stupid, I know, but it distracts me and because it’s so glaringly obvious I have trouble overlooking it. I have the same trouble overlooking how hideous Angelina Jolie looks but that’s another movie.

Even though I haven’t seen any of the sequels but 2 & 3 (a looooong time ago) I sorta wouldn’t mind seeing them but I’m sure I will soon retract this statement after starting that marathon. I expect I’ll be writing that in October when I tackle all of the sequels plus the latest remake by Rob Zombie which I hear is pure rubbish. I have a feeling that I’ll have a much deeper appreciation for the original after watching all of the sequels. Maybe once you've sat through all of the sequels the original looks closer and closer to the CITIZEN KANE of horror after all. Wait...NOW I get it…

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Navajo Joe (1966)

Director: Sergio Corbucci

Starring: Burt Reynolds

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Navajo revenge slashes ...burns ...ravages the screen!

Plot: The sole survivor of a bloody massacre vows revenge on his attackers and on the men who killed his wife.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? sure, I'm game

There are two rumors floating around about Burt and this flick. One, according to imdb, says he only agreed to make it because he was under the impression that Sergio Leone (dir of Clint Eastwood's groundbreaking Dollar trilogy) would be directing and that when he found out it was that other Sergio it was too late for him to pull out. The other is he virtually disowns this picture and doesn't anknowledge its existence. That could be a possible explanation of why it hasn't been released here on DVD. I've got a pretty good non-anamorphic widescreen copy from Europe. Lucky me.

I will say this about the "Sergios" and the spaghetti western. If you can't get Leone, the next best Sergio is Corbucci. He cranked out some great ones: DJANGO (later that year), THE HELLBENDERS (1967), THE MERCENARY (1968), THE GREAT SILENCE (1968 - kickass ending to beat them all), COMPANEROS (1970) and a bunch more that I haven't seen yet.

But...this was before all of those. It's a pretty good revenge spaghetti western for starters. It does tend to drag a little sometimes but not for long. Besides the incredibly fucked up awesome score by Ennio Morricone (featuring the classic lyrics, "Na-hav-o Joe, Na-hav-o Jo-o-o-e" and lots of screaming voices), which I dig largely because of its uniquenes and originality, you need to see this because of this man:

Burt "Frankenstein, aka FrankInjunBurt" Reynolds. There's so many times when he just stands there and all I can think of is, "Arrrrrrr, uuhhhhhh, fire baaaaad, errrrrr". Classic. He's so bad in this. He really doesn't give a shit in his performance which makes rumor #1 seem all the more real. Oh, man, is he bad. And the posing! He's so conceited with his performance and I know it's not his character. It's definitely Burt. He also delivers some of the laziest line readings I've heard in a long long time. There are, however, times when I felt like he was channeling his idol, Marlon Brando, but to see that happen in that getup he's sportin' is laughable.

When there's action, it's pretty good. Having a torture scene for the hero seems to be a staple of so many of Corbucci's films and this one is no exception. Strung upside down, FrankInjunBurt is in no position to escape until an old dancehall pimp springs him free in a most unusual fashion. From there to the end it's ON with the bodies piling up.

I almost forgot the dialog. It's funny as hell. About halfway into the picture when an Indian girl, Estella, goes to enlist his help we get this gem of a scene:

"What's your name?"

fires shot 1

shot 2

shot 3


I'm howlin'. On the floor howlin'.

Remember that scene in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL where you've got two soldiers at the castle entrance and John Cleese is running towards them, sword in hand and music all menacing, ready to attack? And they keep cutting back and forth yet Cleese isn't any closer until finally he's right on them attacking? There's a similar scene in this one where the music is building and building as a man on a horse is searching (standing still) for Joe for easily a minute and there's nothing going on but this tense music when suddenly OUT OF NOWHERE FrankInjunBurt leaps at the guy knocking him off his horse. Ahahahahahaha. You can't help but laugh at this shit. Classic.

Navajo Joe. Come for the curiosity factor, stay for the laughs.

Hitch Hike (1977)

Director: Pasquale Festa Campanile

Starring: Franco Nero, Corinne Clery & David Hess

More Info: IMDB

Plot: A bickering couple driving cross-country pick up a murderous hitchhiker whom threatens to kill them unless they take him to a santuary, and in return agrees to split some bank loot he has on him.

My Rating: 9/10

Would I watch it again? You bet your sweet ass

#36 on 42nd Street Forever Vol. 1 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

There are many things that can make or break a movie. The ending is one of them. Lately I have been watching a lot of movies with truly amazing endings - some are films I've seen before and some are not. Like any one element of a film, a movie cannot be saved by a great ending. I don't care how good it is, if the picture is shit...then it's shit with a great ending and not worth sitting through for its attempt at redemption. But a great ending can enhance a picture with some questionable elements like acting, editing, lackluster camerawork, etc. After reading the plot and seeing the trailer, if that's all you know about this, you may think that this probably falls into that category. You're probably saying to yourself, "I've seen this type of picture before. How good could it possibly be?" All I should say is watch it and see for yourself. But I can't bring myself to do only that.

"Badass in waiting..."

The story sounds pedestrian, sure, but the beauty is in the execution. You think you know where it's going and it changes direction - not once but several times. Franco Nero is one of the best, if not the best, Italian badasses of the 70s. He's somewhat of a subdued badass in this one as the miserable journalist husband to the boss's FREAKIN' HOT daughter of nine years played by Clery. They bicker like most couples at that point in their marriage and you get the impression that their relationship is strained but salvageable yet only needs one major event to sever it completly. So right off the bat you're put on edge and pretty much stay there until the end. And, oh, what an end it is.

Say that reminds me, Clery shows off her acting "talents" throughout the film. Nice. She does a fine job as well. Btw, even though this is an Italian production, shot in Italy to look like the American South West, with two of the three leads being non-English, they do a fine job in their own dubbing. I've always dug Nero's accent and have long wished he would go back and dub his star-making role as the titular character in 1966's spaghetti western, DJANGO. The actor chosen to dub his voice back then was terribly miscast.

When I first watched this film about a year ago I thought Hess' performance was way over the top. It still is to a point on my second viewing but it's not as bad as I had remembered. He does give it a bit too much at times but then he is supposed to be a psychopathic nut job. I haven't know enough psychopathic nut jobs in my life to tell how accurate his portrayal is. From what I remember from his performance in THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972, directed by Wes Craven) he's pretty much doing the same thing in this one. It's more than obvious that Nero is THE MAN in their scenes together which is all of them.

"See if you can spot the REAL actor"

Naturally, this being a 70's Italian crime/thriller, there's plenty of nudity and much of it to the courtesy of Clery. There's one scene in particular that will make you feel unclean as its intention. Clery is raped (or is she?) by Hess with Nero forced to watch. It's more than just another rape scene and there's a helluva lot being said without resorting to speech. It's a remarkable scene.

The story is very engaging, the performances even more so, the editing is tight, and Ennio Morricone's music is outstanding. What you hear in the trailer is the meat of the score and it's incredibly effective throughout. He also wrote some lame-ass singalong song some campers sing in the beginning that pops in and out of the film. I could have done without it because it's so lame and catchy. It does serve a purpose, too, and provides an unusual service to the film that only enhances it and, after seeing it twice now, would be a loss if it were removed.

"...From my cold, dead hands and smokin' body!"

And then there's the end. I don't spoil movies. I especially stay clear of getting close to a spoiler when it concerns a good movie such as this. I don't have much of a problem, though, when the movie's a steaming pile of shit that needs to be avoided at all costs. I will say this, you are engaged in this film for its first 100 minutes and then the final 4 minutes will bitch-slap you across the room leaving you no choice but to yell out, "HOLY SHIT", or "FUCK YEAH". All I can say now is watch it and see for yourself.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is fantastic. You get a great 1:85 anamorphic transfer, a nice little 17 minute documentary retrospective with interviews from the principal cast and director and a trailer. It's more than what you would expect but not as much as you would like. Having said that I'm still very happy with this release and can't recommend it enough.