Sunday, June 27, 2010

Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)

Director: Tom Graeff

Starring: David Love & Dawn Bender

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Teenage hoodlums from another world on a horrendous rampage!

Plot: A young alien falls for a pretty teenage Earth girl (Dawn Anderson) and they team up to try to stop the plans of his invading cohorts, who intend to use Earth as a food-breeding ground for giant lobsters from their planet.

My Rating: 3/10

Would I watch it again? Aw, hell no! OK, maybe, JUST maybe the MST3K version.

To everyone who showed up last night to watch this on a double bill with CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984), I'm sorry. I'm so very, very sorry.

So I had some friends over to watch movies outside on a 12' wide screen under the stars. It was a beautiful summer night. I had a lapse in judgment when it came to the movie selection. I have no one to blame but myself as I had never seen any of these. As it turns out, I never want to see them again.

I LOVE bad movies, the ones that are "so bad they're good". The problem with a lot of them is that they over-stay their welcome. At 85 minutes, this one is way too long but it does have some great bad moments.

The teenagers from outer space (and from Earth) are in their mid-twenties and some are clearly approaching 30.

The evil Gargon monsters are lobsters. And when they grow, they're shadow lobsters!

Gramps trying to cross the street (HILARIOUS!)...

So the teenager from outer space, his name is Derek? It's remarkable! That's a common name here on Earth as well.

Heh, heh! I like where this is going!

This 27 year old teenager needs to have my babies!

BADASS ray guns reduce Earth creatures to skeletons...

Skeletons cannot swim...

This guy's voice work is priceless!

But all of these great moments add up to about 20 minutes of fun with a good 60+ yawn-inducing minutes interspersed between it. I knew it was going to be bad but I also hoped it would at least be entertaining enough to sustain me to the end. Sigh.

This just in...Gramps is still trying to cross the street!

Children of the Corn (1984)

Director: Fritz Kiersch

Starring: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, John Franklin & Courtney Gains

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: An adult nightmare.

Plot: A young couple wander into a mid-western town where all the adults are apparently dead and the children participate in a cult that worships a malevolent force in the corn fields. Based on a Stephen King novella.

My Rating: 4.5/10

Would I watch it again? Not only NO, but fuck the sequels as well.

#165 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 2 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

Hmmmm...where to start? CotC is missing something and I'm not sure what it is except that that 'something' would have held my attention. I loved the opening with the kids killing all of the adults. Nice! Killer kids is usually good for some unsettling fun...usually.

It was fun seeing Hamilton in an early performance (the same year as THE TERMINATOR). I could just imagine James Cameron, her future psycho husband, standing off camera impatiently waiting to kick Horton's ass after their smooch scene.

R.G. Armstrong is great, as always. I'm not sure why he had to die. Maybe it's explained better in the book. So did Malachai just have a wild hair up his ass and want him dead? Beats me and who cares.

Gains looks creepy as all get out but he's not a good actor by any stretch of the imagination (at least in this film, his first).

I dug the MAN who played the lead kid, Issac. I say man because the dude was 24 playing a 14 year old. IMDB says he quit acting the very next year to start teaching high school. Great, creepy performance.

Can someone PLEASE find better ways to avoid amazingly obvious foreshadowing? JESUS FUCK!

Do ya think this is going to play an important role somewhere down the line?


I didn't care for Jonathan Elias's score at all. I can do without the electronic-y rock score. Just dreadfully banal. And that epilogue after the cornfield has been destroyed, where everyone is SUDDENLY full of smiles and levity? Yeah, I get that you just went through an ordeal of death and shit but really? It's as if none of the last 85 minutes happened. Whatever. It's insulting. But then again, this is a movie about killer corn kids.

I suppose it wouldn't have been nearly as bad if people didn't do such completely stupid things in this movie. When people yell at the screen, "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?" and "HOW FUCKING STUPID ARE YOU?" there's a problem somewhere. I can excuse a lapse in judgement but for most of the movie? That not only applies to the characters' actions but to the film makers as well.

X: The Unknown (1956)

Director: Leslie Norman

Starring: Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, Leo McKern & Edward Chapman

More Info: IMDB


Plot: A squad of British commandos returns from a covert mission suffering from mysterious symptoms and horrific burns. Dr. Adam Royston (Jagger), an atomic scientist, suspects lethal radiation and tracks down the source of this menace to a desolate area of Scotland. It's there that the threat morphs into a giant radioactive blob of mud that arises from the depths of the Earth to consume everything in its path.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? Oh, yeah.

#3 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

Man, what a neat little picture! It just reinforces my feelings for QUATERMASS & QUATERMASS 2 that the problem with those films was the casting of Brian Donlevy. Dean Jagger as the scientist in this one does a great job as well as the rest of the cast which is what we've come to expect in a Hammer film.

For the longest time we don't get to see the "monster". When we do, it's effective and the special effects are handled pretty well. Yeah, it's basically The Blob, but it works, even if it is a little hokey. The story isn't unlike a lot of the sci-fi horror films of this time but it's the pacing, the music and the acting that set it apart from most. It's not a shining example of the genre but it's certainly better than a lot I've seen. Maybe it's the British accents.

This cat (below on the left, Jagger on the right) gave me that Leo McKern vibe a couple of times and, sure as shit, IT'S HIM! He's been in tons of shit. I love this guy. It's always neat seeing people in their early work. Look for future Hammer regular, Michael Ripper, as the gruff Army Sergeant.

There's a great scene toward the end where a little girl is in danger of being killed by the monster. I really thought they were going to actually kill her. I knew better as that sort of thing wouldn't have happened in a film of this kind in the 50s. Too bad. Cute kid. It would have been awesome seeing her end up like this other bloke who was melted by the monster. THAT was seriously awesome! The melting effect was super cool and I couldn't help but be reminded of the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981). Me thinks there was some inspiration found in this picture by Spielberg.

Literally, from the first half dozen notes of the opening theme I could tell it was written by James Bernard. As a film score buff (hence my moniker) since I was a little kid, there have been many films I've watched solely because of who wrote the music. Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, John Barry, Alex North, James Bernard - anything with their name attached is a guaranteed viewing at some point. I've yet to see a film of theirs that wasn't elevated by their music. Bernard's score for this one is no exception.

X:tU is a lot of fun in the vein of the first two QUATERMASS pictures and it's a great example of 50s sci-fi/horror and also of scientists in a positive role (for a change). Hammer really had a grasp on how to tell a good, if simple, story.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Night of the Assassin (1970)

Director: Adriano Bolzoni

Starring: Michael Craig, Eva Renzi, Adolfo Celi, George Sanders & KLAUS KINSKI!

More Info: IMDB

Plot: The British occupy Greece. Col. Stephen Mallory (Craig) wants to bring a cease fire to the region on the eve of a visit from a high-ranking British officer. The problem is the leader of the Greek resistance, Hermes (Celi), has been operating in a secret location but no one seems know where. Mallory soon finds a way to make contact for a face-to-face talk to bring an end to the violence. Hermes agrees with Mallory but there's a hitch; Evagoras (Kinski), a mad and sadistic Greek priest, has secretly garnered support to continue to oppose the British and will stop at nothing to prevent the cease fire and to murder the soon-to-visit officer.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Would I watch it again? It's another one of those "if a great looking widescreen print surfaced" kind of thing.

#21 on Dusk to Dawn Drive-In Trash-o-Rama Show Vol. 1 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

The plot synopsis sums it up with the exception of a love story thrown into the mix. Not that that's a bad thing. It's handled alright and it's just sentimental enough where you get the idea they could (and do) fall in love and it's not just an officer-sleeping-with-the-enemy thing.

The performances are good, especially from Craig. Great job. I'm sure I've seen him in something. DAMN! The guy's 82 and still working in movies! Looking through his credits, I've seen a couple of films but nothing I remembered him from. Oh, well. Celi is great, too. Recognize his name? You should. He played the Bond villain, Emilio Largo, in THUNDERBALL (1965).

Kinski...what to say about Kinski...well, he's easily one of the strangest actors in the past fifty years. He tended to play bad guys. I'm sure that crazy mug he was sportin' had something to do with it. An off-the-charts nuts-o actor, Kinski was just right for a lot of parts. In TNotA he's his typical sinister self. It's often tough to tell how good a performance is when you're watching a dub. Not hearing the actor's own voice can change everything sometimes. Nothing new from Kinski in this one if you've seen him in this type of role before.

The great George Sanders has a few scenes as Mallory's superior, General Downes (snicker, tee hee hee). He's fun as always. Good casting all around, I'd say.

The story is fine for what it is, if even being better than average, but this is nothing more than a standard thriller with some action tossed in. Sadly, there's no Euro cleavage, but that's OK. When you sit there wondering when this is going to end (the last half hour picks up and the suspense and action are full-on until the finish), sometimes you just need a little something extra to hold your interest. A little spice would have helped.

Getting closer...

We're living in a world where more and more films are seeing the light of day. Granted, this will never see a proper DVD release but it is out there in the form of a watchable VHS rip. Ideally I would prefer to watch all of these films in their original scope in a theater, the way they were intended. But until that can happen, I'll have to settle. Under proper viewing conditions, I'm sure this is a better film but with all that was going against it, I couldn't find it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Groove Tube (1974)

Director: Ken Shapiro

Starring: Ken Shapiro, Richard Belzer & Chevy Chase

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: What turns the apes on? What makes a cop dance in the street? What has the night tonic done for her? Who chases her through the woods? What can Butz Beer do for you? Why are they eating grass?

Plot: The Groove Tube mocks TV Land and its trappings by spoofing kids' shows -- from a marijuana-smoking Koko the Clown who resides in Make Believe Land, to Safety Sam, the penis with a plan who gleefully informs the audience of the perils of casual sex.

My Rating: 3.5/10

Would I watch it again? I swear on Chevy Chase's long, dead career I wouldn't!

#18 on Dusk to Dawn Drive-In Trash-o-Rama Show Vol. 1 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

True story. I bought a beautiful 60" Sony HDTV four years ago. The day I bought it a friend of mine & former band mate was in town on business for a couple of days and was going to stop by for a visit. Great, 'cause I'll need him to help me place it on the cabinet. Done. I asked him what movie he wanted to watch on this monster and he asked if I had THE GROOVE TUBE. I did but I hadn't watched it yet. So why not? THE FUCK? It's a lousy print and it was filmed in 1:33! I should have slapped in something else, but then what the hell, right? It's only an hour and 15 minutes and soon I'll stick in something that'll really show off the TV. I was going to get around to watching it anyway plus he's a guest in my house.

That trailer, above, is a lying sack of shit!

I remember liking it OK at the time. Something's happened since then 'cause this is just not funny. I'm giving it a 3.5. 3 for each time I did laugh (once every 25 minutes is not a good ratio) and .5 for the copious amounts of nudity (which helped by the way.)

It's basically a string of sketches, the likes of which you would have seen Monty Python do but they would have found a way to make them funny. If super silly is your game then this might be for you. I like super silly but only when IT'S FUCKING FUNNY!

Take for example, the bit with Koko the clown. It starts out like it's the Bozo Show or something, taking FOREVER to get to the actual reason why this sketch is funny. He finally tells the children to kick everyone over the age of 10 out of the room. He waits a few seconds then he goes to his desk, takes off his fake nose, speaks in his regular, bummed-out sounding voice, lights up a doobie and talks about the requests the kids have sent in for him to read a specific page of out erotic literature like, Tropic of Cancer. That's funny but jesus-fucking-christ did it take way too long to get to the punchline. And he still goes on far too long after he's gone back to the Koko voice to close the show. Geez.

That's the biggest issue I had - the bits were way too long and either weren't funny or had worn out their welcome by the time the punchline was thrown making it largely ineffective. The sex Olympics? Funny. But the joke was over shortly after it started.

The last few minutes are the best part (and not only because the end was near) with Chevy Chase singing, Four Leaf Clover, with a guy slapping his head for the rhythm without Chase being distracted at all. THAT was funny!

Then there's this guy...

talking about the dangers of VD and other STDs. It might not take long to figure out the puppet's head is a dick and balls. It was so absurd it was hilarious.

I'm sure the people who made this were having a great time and thought what they were doing was funny. Maybe if I had smoked a lot of grass I would have thought that, too, but what a waste of reefer that would have been.

The Dirty Outlaws (1967)

Director: Franco Rossetti

Starring: Andrea Giordana & Franco Giornelli

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: They dealt in violence and death!

Plot: Set during the last days of the Civil War, an outlaw finds a dying Confederate officer. As the officer expires, he tells the outlaw about a cache of gold hidden in his blind father's home. The enterprising thief takes the dead man's clothes and tricks the father and his housekeeper into believing that he is the son. He is just about ready to begin looking for the gold when an outlaw gang comes to town and forces him to help them rob an army payroll wagon.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Would I watch it again? Yeah, but I've got hundreds of Spaghetti Westerns to get through before that happens.

#17 on Dusk to Dawn Drive-In Trash-o-Rama Show Vol. 1 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

Spags. I love 'em and this one's not too shabby. The pacing's not bad, it looks good, there's some great camera shots, some decent fights, lots of innocents killed, and, of course, the prerequisite one-on-one dual in the street at the end.

Some standout scenes...

In a bar fight that Steve (aka Desperado, played by Giordana under his laughable Americanized fake name, Chip Corman) initiates, the piano player gets interrupted by a falling bad guy. He stops playing long enough to throw him off and he's back to playing. Nicely done and funny, but not that over-the-top silly that's prone in these things.

I guess this is where they get the title.

The last 20-30 minutes really take off when Steve starts picking off the Asher gang one by one. This particular dual starts at the top of a hill and Steve's about to plug the guy when the guy starts saying he'd never kill an unarmed man and shit. Steve tosses the guns down the hill and commence to scrappin', eventually rolling down the hill where the each grab a gun in the midst of the scuffle.


Nicely done.

Meet Asher, bad guy numero uno!

Meet Steve, our bland hero!

...and that's where my problem lies. Giordana just doesn't cut it as the lead. Now I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say perhaps it's the English dubbing that made the performance underwhelming but then the dubbing on this one, by and large, is above average. I didn't have access to the original Italian track with subs which could have made the difference. Nope. Just look at the guy. Slap Franco Nero or Tomas Milian or, hell, even Giuliano Gemma (not one of my favorites) and that would have improved it by another point.

I almost forgot...Gianni Ferrio's outstanding score. The movie's worth watching just for the catchy theme song. Desperaaaadoooooo. Classic.

But despite Chip Corman's (ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha) performance, it's still a much better than average spag. It's interesting to note that this is director Rossetti's sole spag as director. But wait! HE FUCKING WROTE THE SCREENPLAY TO DJANGO THE YEAR BEFORE?!?!!??!! That makes it all the more sadder that Nero wasn't attached to this. Sigh. Excuse me while I take that piece of info and digest it while I watch the next film, as dreadful as it is, THE GROOVE TUBE (1974).