Sunday, May 23, 2010

Atlas (1961)

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Michael Forest, Barboura Morris & Frank Wolff

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: BEHOLD! The mightiest man who ever lived!

Plot: Evil king Proximedes convinces superhero Atlas to fight for him, but Atlas eventually sees the king's true nature and turns against him.

My Rating: 5/10

Would I watch it again? Nope! Maybe, just maybe, if a great widescreen print surfaced.


Roger Corman is known for his fast and cheap films. Some are quite good to fantastic like LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) and DEATH RACE 2000 (1975) and some are bad to moldy turds like this one. Of course it doesn't help that the only copy out there, and you have to really search for it, is a shit pan & scan vhs rip. These types of films are best viewed in their proper aspect ratio.

Surprisingly, this was filmed in Greece!

The battle scenes are weak as it's nothing but close ups. Corman's a competent film maker and he did the best he could under the circumstances. It's said that he had arranged for 500 Greek soldiers for the battle scenes. On the morning of filming, only 50 showed up and as the day wore on there were fewer and fewer. If that's the case, Corman was at least smart enough to know how to salvage something out of it. It really hurts when you see the army marching in single file. Ouch. But can't help but laugh at what look like gold painted wooden shields.

Low budget aside, the film benefits from location shooting and a somewhat decent cast. Michael Forest as Atlas is no Steve Reeves but he does OK. At 6'3", he's very lean and not at all what you would expect for a hero of this type, especially when the Italians were cranking out S&S films with larger than life bodybuilders as the headliner. It's not a very good performance, as he lacks that sparkle of charisma, but then it's not horrible. A few years later he would play another famous Greek, Apollo, in the STAR TREK episode, Who Mourns for Adonais?".

Oh, and even though his name is Atlas, he's not THE Atlas. He explains early on that he father named him after the famous Titan when, as a baby, he tugged on his father's beard with all of his might. weak...but, to Corman's defense, the Italians pulled that ruse all the time in their S&S films.

HUBBA, HUBBA! I am so going to read up on Greek mythology now!

The only real winner in this picture is Frank Wolff who plays bad guy numero uno, Proximates the Tyrant. He plays it like an over the top adolescent which is not too unlike what William Shatner was doing but I think it was Shatner that was always doing a Frank Wolff instead of the other way around. (Shatner later starred in a Corman film, THE INTRUDER (1962)). In fact, there are a few scenes where you'd swear it was Shatner and that only makes it even more fun. Wolff is clearly having a gas. If you're not familiar with his work, start watching a few of his films and you'll see why that even though most people will have never heard of him but, for those who have, he's highly respected. Great underappreciated actor. Start with THE GREAT SILENCE (1968), one of a long string of Spaghetti Westerns he starred in. ATLAS, it's interesting to note, was Wolff's first film abroad where he pretty much stayed until his death in 1971.

"You know, with good luck and the women willing, this may wind up as a old fashioned orgy."

Garnis: I want her [referring to Arione].

Proximates: Then take her.
Garnis: What about Indros [her father, the conquered king]?

Proximates: Take him, too.

Ahahahaha. Great stuff.

Low budget super hottie, Barboura Morris as Proximates' girl, Candia, is just cute as hell and seems like she'd be a cool person to hang around off the set. Her acting style is very relaxed, comfortable and charismatic. Sadly she died in 1975 with only 15 movie credits to her name. I'm definitely going to have to check them out. SORORITY GIRL (1957), MACHINE-GUN KELLY (1958), TEENAGE CAVE MAN ((1958), X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES (1963) (super good sci-fi), THE WILD ANGELS (1966) and THE DUNWICH HORROR (1970) to name a few. Nearly all of them are classic Corman pictures including one of my Corman favorites, A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959). It's a riot and stars the GREAT Dick Miller.

Speaking of Dick Miller, a Corman staple actor. He shows up in ATLAS as a soldier. The credits showed him in the picture but it wasn't until the last few short minutes that he's clearly visible; so visible that he's in more shots than not making it look like he's single-handedly defeating the opposing army.

I love that guy. He's priceless in everything he does.

Huge army #1...I'd like you to meet..

Huge army #2. Now fight!

Say, did you notice in the YouTube clip above that there was no audio when the trumpeters played? Yeah, welcome to the world of low budget films. It gets better. There's a big dance number during the victory feast with no music as well. And speaking of music (or lack of), Ronald Stein's score really helps lift the picture farther than it deserves. He really did a great job.

Atlas is victorious!

Unless this turns up someday in a nice widescreen print, pass on it. There are better things you can do with your life when you've got 79 minutes to kill. Don't be fooled by the great poster art.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

Director: Don Chaffey

Starring: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Honor "Pussy Galore" Blackman and Nigel Green

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: The epic story that was destined to stand as a colossus of adventure!

Plot: The legendary Greek hero leads a team of intrepid adventurers in a perilous quest for the legendary Golden Fleece.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? Yes, but without as much anticipation as the last time

This is part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT - #15 from SWORD & SANDAL TRAILERS VOL. 1.

It goes without saying that anything Ray Harryhausen does is remarkable....but then I just said it, so there. The films might not be home runs but his stop motion work is always stupendously amazing. For my money his best film, without question, is The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958). Now that's not sayin' it's his best work but as an adventure film of it's type, you just can't beat it.

Here Harryhausen steps up his game by having Jason fight not one skeleton like Sinbad did, but fight 7 or 8 of them THAT SPRING FROM BENEATH THE GROUND!!! Fucking badass!

The harpies kick ass and once you see the current remake of Harryhausen's CLASH OF THE TITANS you'll appreciate them even more. In the CLASH remake you never get a good look at them so you can't enjoy their design or anything. They're just a blur. But I'm not going to waste time on that stale film here. Ooh...the Hydra!

The Talos scene is just too cool for school! He moves just as you would expect him to. The stop motion technique is particularly suited for this sort of effect, bringing the giant bronze statue to life.

Bernard Herrmann is back with another fine score even if it's less memorable than the excellent notes he composed for SINBAD. The actors do a fine job with all of them holding their own.

The standout for me is the delicious Honor Blackmon as Zeus' babe, Hera. HUBBA FREAKIN' HUBBA! I was mesmerized by her beauty and that smooth, sultry voice of hers. YOWZA! She could read the back of a cereal box and get me excited. She's that good. She needs to have my babies.

Madea, Jason's gal pal, also needs to carry my seed...

With all of the great effects set pieces, I know what you're thinkin'. Hey, Scorethefilm, what's not to like? Well, I'll tell ya. It feels like forever before Jason and pals journey off to search for the Golden Fleece. But once the voyage begins, it's fun, fun, fun.

Another drawback is the half hour of the film deals with the prophecy that Jason is destined to kill King Aeetes. Jason unknowingly meets the king and the king, knowing the prophecy, sets Jason on his quest for the Fleece in a bid to buy him some more time. The problem is the film ends with Jason getting the fleece and he's back on the ship with his new girl, Medea. End of story. Oh, Zeus does tell Hera that he has more adventures for him. WTF? Wasn't there some destined murder that was supposed to happen? You know, the one you spent nearly a half hour setting up? Whatever. The second half of the film is so strong that you wonder why the effort to set it up the way they did. Oh, well. At least there's that badass skeleton fight.

It's been far too many years since I was in school learning about Greek mythology but I seem to recall Hercules being a macho badass with not only brawn but brains. Here's he's not the bulky Steve Reeves type (although the actor, Nigel Green, was 6'4"). I can get past that but he's portrayed as a cocky jock with little ability to think and lots of ability to make incredibly stupid decisions. It's just sad. I really need to dig into some Greek mythology books and refresh my memory. I'm sure Hercules just wasn't that dumb. I mean, shit! Lou Ferrigno played Hercules in the Italian 1983 film and he won the Nobel Prize for his work in nuclear fission. He's also the guy who created that little thing called THE INTERNET! Not to mention his high score for Galaga, which has gone unbroken since 1986!

Say, what's that guy on the left looking at?

Despite the plot inconsistencies, JASON is a lot of fun and the kind of adventure films they just don't make anymore. Fuck CGI. Give me stop motion any day. Damn kids these days and their stupid cartoon monsters...

Near Dark (1987)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Starring: Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Jenette Goldstein and Tim Tomerson

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: At Dawn They Hide. At Dusk They Wake. At Night They Search for Blood. Pray for Daylight.

Plot: A young man reluctantly joins a travelling "family" of evil vampires, when the girl he'd tried to seduce is part of that group.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Would I watch it again? Maybe in another 10-20 years

It's been a few years since I first saw this and even though it wasn't that long ago, my memory failed me as I had forgotten how much love story there was and that there's only two really good action scenes. Outside of that, it's a collection of hits and misses but mostly hits.

It's the same old story that's been told for centuries...boy meets girl...boy gets hardon for girl...girl is a vampire and bites boy (but not his wood)...boy is reluctant to kill in order to live despite girl's wacky band of vamp pals...boy gets his veterinarian pop to give him a blood transfusion...boy is now human again...boy finds girl and gives her a blood transfusion...girl is human...girl's pals die a grisly death in the sunlight...boy and girl live happily ever after.

The cast, for the most part, is pretty good. It's great seeing Henriksen, Paxton and Goldstein (Vasquez) in a flick just one year after having been in ALIENS. BUT, Henriksen is hamming it up sportin' a long-ass rat tail, Paxton is WAYYYYY over the top and Goldstein's hair is something to behold. This, of course, is all to the film's advantage.


The two leads, Pasdar and Wright, are fine except for a few moments of cheese. Wright is particularly cute and needs to have my babies. And it's great to see Tim Thomerson in anything. So what's not so great is that everyone is doing their best Southern accent and, in most cases, their best isn't good enough. Woof. Paxton pulls it off best.

We've got two standout scenes; the one at the bar where the gang rolls in and kills everyone in some lovely fashion (well, sort of...) with lots of hootin' and hollerin' and the other is their escape from the law, during daylight, after the one that got away from the bar told the coppers. Both are lots of fun with some great laughs in the bar and some tense moments with the cops.

Hey, Kids! It's Michael Bolton! "Sittin' on the dock of the ARRRRRRRRRGH!"

The score is by Tangerine Dream and it delivers but for a few moments that just don't click. I'm not a huge fan of completely electronic scores because so many of them just don't work; and by don't work I mean they stink on ice. John Carpenter's work is consistently good, for example, and Tangerine Dream's can be hit and miss. TG does mood-setting ambiance really well. Their action cues? Not so much. Half of them in ND sound out of place but the other half kick ass. It's as if there were two different composers on this film.

Oh, I almost forgot the love scene...

Anyway, despite the over the top performances and posturing and some sappy cheeseball high school lovey-dovey shit, NEAR DARK is enjoyable if for no other reason than to see some familiar genre faces having a good time in front of the camera. Just don't expect a thrilling vampire flick because this one takes it's time. At least the vampires don't sparkle...just sayin'.