Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dead Snow (2009)

Director: Tommy Wirkola

Starring: Norwegians

More info: IMDB

Tagline: Ein! Zwei! Die!

Plot: A ski vacation turns horrific for a group of medical students, as they find themselves confronted by an unimaginable menace: Nazi zombies.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Duh! Nazi zombies, man!

Great tagline, eh? There's nothing you need to know about this film except for Nazi zombies. That's all I needed. What's this? It's Norwegian? Stop! There's snow? Stop! I don't need any more reasons! There's nudity and tons of gore, blood, decapitations, dark comedy? Alright, alright already. I'll watch it.

That's pretty much how that went. I first caught this in October '09. I showed it outdoors on a big screen to a group of unsuspecting friends. Goddamn did we have fun. So much fun that when another friend visited from out of town a couple of weeks later, this is what we watched and it was just as good the second time in two weeks. It's that much of a ride.

This is one of those horror flicks that mixes humor and gore and it walks that fine line without stumbling. It's funny where it needs to be and it doesn't step on the toes of the scary, more serious bits. Stop reading this and go watch it. It's a real hoot and the last shot before the credits will leave you screaming for more. What else could you ask for? Oh, yeah, more movies with Nazi zombies.

Get Mean (1976)

Director: Ferdinando Baldi

Starring: Tony Anthony, Lloyd Battista, Diana Lorys

More info: IMDB

Tagline: Hung by his heels...Barbecued...Shot with a cannon. Now it's his turn to get mean!

Plot: Tony Anthony returns as the Stranger and this time he's on a quest to Spain to escort a princess for money, amidst the battling Vikings and Moors.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? Only, and I mean ONLY if a widescreen print surfaces.

I've seen this twice now and I think I'm done. The first time I was struck by how unusual it is for a spaghetti western. It came at the tail end of the spag run which lasted a stunning 14 years from '63 to '77 with more than 550 films made. What makes this one strange is that our Western hero, The Stranger (Anthony), travels to Spain and gets mixed up with kingdoms of Vikings and Moors. There he gets mixed up with a princess, sacred treasure and so on. It's really out there and there's a goofy vibe that just screams Sam Raimi taking inspiration from this for ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992).

Tony Anthony makes a likable lead. He doesn't say an awful lot but it's not like Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name. The Stranger doesn't say much because he's selfish and lazy. He's the kind of hero that seems inconvenienced all the time. I dig this cat. He's a cool dude.

The problem the film has, and the fullscreen VHS print that's been floating out there for years does not help at all, is the pacing. It's just plain slow and it drags as much as The Stranger's lazy disposition. All that's left is a likable lead with some fun bits from time to time and some action but not enough to keep you from falling asleep.

You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you!
God damn you all to hell!

GET MEAN is screaming for a good widescreen release. If it happens, I'm all over it and I would welcome another viewing to see if that would make a difference. I really want to like this film but it puts roofies in my drink and I wake up alone on the floor when I'm done watching it and that's not a good sign.

Executive Action (1973)

Director: David Miller

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Will Geer

More info: IMDB

Tagline: Their Goal...Assassination. November 22, 1963...Accomplished!

Plot: This fictionalized speculation posits that a covert group of rogue intelligence agents, ultra-conservative politicians, unscrupulously greedy business interests, and free-lance assassins become increasingly alarmed at President Kennedy's policies, including his views on race relations, winding down the Viet Nam War, and ending the oil depletion allowance. They decide to terminate him through an "executive action" utilizing two teams of well-trained snipers during JFK's visit to Dallas and place the blame on supposed CIA operative Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

I'm no conspiracy theorist. I'm not saying that conspiracies don't exist - they do, but not in the extent that many would lead you to believe. I believe in coincidences and that often times the simplest explanation is likely to be the truth. I don't claim to know enough about the Kennedy assassination to discuss it. While I find it interesting to hear all sides of those who have an robust opinion, it's not a subject that I'm passionate enough to delve into. I will watch the movies, however.

I liked this one. It moves fairly quickly partly due to the two sides of the story being told in pieces, side by side. One is the planning and decision making between behind closed doors politicians, businessmen, king makers and so on. The other is the training of the potential assassins. I found the brains side more interesting than the brawn due to the heavyweights in the acting department. You've got Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan and Will Geer as the planners and the only name on the action side that stands out is the great Ed Lauter. It's lopsided, sure, but it sure is great seeing these men work that dialogue.

Something else that works is Randy Edelman's sparse score. Movies like this work best will little to no music. It creates a colder, more realistic tone. THE DAY OF THE JACKAL (1973) comes to mind. Also, from the moment the first shot is fired killing The President (OOOOPS. SORRY. SPOILERS), the only sound you hear for the next forty seconds is the sound of the other two shots fired. You see people screaming and other actions that require a good deal of sound and there is none. It's very effective and harrowing.

Together the whole thing plays out like a cold thriller. The only difference is you know who did it and to whom. So, in reality, who killed JFK? I don't know and I suppose it doesn't matter one way or the other. No matter what evidence surfaces, this debate will never end, ever, because the very nature of a conspiracy theorist will always have a reason to support it or deny it regardless of the facts. There could never be anything that would change his mind. But you can still enjoy a movie about it, can't you?

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

Director: Joseph Cates

Starring: Sal Mineo, Juliet Prowse, Jan Murray

More info: IMDB

Tagline: Why with everybody else - why with every slob ... and not with me?

Plot: A busboy at a disco has sexual problems related to events in his childhood. He becomes obsessed with a disc jockey at the club, leading to obscene phone calls, voyeurism, trips to the porn shop and adult movie palace, and more! A police detective is similarly obsessed with sexual materials, leading him to become personally involved in the case.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Absolutely!

That's one groovy theme song, huh? NICE! Even for a movie made in 1965 this seems awfully taboo. It touches on all kinds of things like incest, lesbianism, sexual abuse, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, stalking and on and on and on. This is that nice little piece of art house sleaze you've been looking for.

Here's a little who's who to get you through the rest of the shots...

Norah (Prowse) spins records at a NYC hot spot.

Lawrence (Mineo) and his mentally slow sister, Edie (Margot Bennett).

Lt. Dave Madden (Murray) is the man who's either going to save Norah or kill her!

Marian (Elaine Stritch), Norah's bull dike boss (but we don't know she's gay until muuuuch later when she makes her move on Norah).

WKTB captures what seems to be a true snapshot of early 60s NYC around, I'm guessing, 42nd street. The burlesque houses, theaters and 'dirty' book stores. There's an extended sequence where a frustrated Lawrence takes to the streets to get his kicks...

And now for some classic reading material...

Enough of these boring books and all their letters and such...it's time for a show!

What's this? Call Girl 77 & Hollywood's World of Flesh? I'll get my hands on these and report back soon!

He must have enjoyed himself 'cause now he needs a smoke!

Ahhhhhhh. That's better.

I wasn't around then but it feels so real. It'd be neat to go back in time to experience this era of NYC even for just a few hours. It seems like worlds away.

At one point everyone goes to the local zoo which has untold numbers of exotic wildlife.

Seriously? WTF? No kiddin', folks. These are the animals found at this particular NTC zoo!

Our old buddy, Bruce "Father of Crispin and all 'round Badass Character Actor" Glover stops by for a couple of minutes.

Lt. Madden is an interesting character. You really don't know until it's too late if he's the killer or if he's burned out and is as sleazy as the people he goes after or what. It's a great role. He has a small apartment where he lives alone with his young daughter. One night he's listening to some audio of a woman talking about being sexually assaulted and we get a glimpse of the reading material he has lying around the house (for his kid to see). Is he listening to the tapes for work or for kicks? He's so used to studying the seedy side of life that he's nearly numb to it. It's his job to know intimately about the types of people he's trying to catch...or is it?

There's a wonderfully funny moment after the Lt., reaching out to Norah in fear of her safety, brings her home for dinner and to stay the night. When Norah slips off to another room, his daughter, Pam (Diane Moore) slides up to him and says...

"She's very pretty."

"Is she a hooker?"

Her delivery is priceless. You get the idea pretty quickly that Pam is learning little pieces here and there just by observing her father and his work. One one level it may seem wrong but she's so well-adjusted that it's not that much of an issue.

This is one movie that I'd like to do a play-by-play full rundown on but with a backlog of more than 150 flicks to write about that I've seen in the past year I simply don't have the time.

I can never get enough of 60s dancing...

The budget is small but the ideas, acting, photography, music, and everything else is so big. Sadly this largely unseen masterpiece is not available on DVD. You'll have to find it elsewhere. It's not easy to come by but your reward for your patience and dilligence in searching will certainly pay off.