Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ladyhawke (1985)

Director: Richard Donner

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leo McKern, John Wood, Alfred Molina

More info: IMDb

Tagline: CURSED FOR ETERNITY...No force in Heaven will release them. No power on Earth can save them.

Plot: Captain Etienne Navarre is a man on whose shoulders lie a cruel curse. Punished for loving each other, Navarre must become a wolf by night whilst his lover, Lady Isabeau, takes the form of a hawk by day. Together, with the thief Philippe Gaston, they must try to overthrow the corrupt Bishop and in doing so break the spell.

My rating: 9.5/10

Will I watch it again? And again and again...

I first caught this in the theater in '85, probably at least twice. I loved it then and still do 25 years (gulp) later. I'm not opposed to romance in movies but it takes something special for me to get behind them and LADYHAWKE fits the bill. I LOVE this flick. The time and place, the casting and performances, the story, the score, everything works for me. It struck a chord, so to speak, that still rings true.

Rutger Hauer is all kinds of Dutch badass and was ideal for the role. Pfeiffer is 7 ways of scrummy, Wood is nasty as hell as the number one baddie, the Bishop of Aquila and Broderick is very likable as Phillipe although he's a bit too silly from time to time. I could have done without so much of that. I was so taken by Pfeiffer and the romantic tragedy that, should I ever have children and one is a girl, I would name her Isabeau. Yeah, well that's not likely to happen. Unless I forget to pull out or something I'm probably not going to have any kids and that's probably a good thing as it would REALLY cut into my movie watching time. But the name is absolutely beautiful.

Andrew Powell's score is somewhat of a mixed bag for me. I LOVE his themes and the love theme is absolutely gorgeous...but why the orchestral/rock band groove? For the longest time I thought how much better it would be if the entire score were orchestral but time has allowed me the ability to just accept it for what it is and totally dig it. I don't just seemed weird hearing a trap set behind the strings.

LADYHAWKE is a magical film and it will always remain as one of my top fantasy films. Now where's the fucking special edition Blu-ray? Donner's gonna be dead at some point and we need some commentary, mother fuckers! Hauer's not getting any younger, either. I'll pony up the 200 bucks to get this guy in a recording studio for a couple of hours. C'mon!

Joe Kidd (1972)

Director: John Sturges

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Don Stroud, Dick Van Patten

More info: IMDb

Tagline: If you're looking for trouble - - - he's JOE KIDD

Plot: An ex-bounty hunter reluctantly helps a wealthy landowner and his henchmen track down a Mexican revolutionary leader.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

Seriously, did Clint Eastwood make a bad western? Now that I've seen JOE KIDD I think there's only one left, THE BEGUILED (1971). Not much to say about this one except it delivers in everything you would expect and want from an Eastwood western. It's not his best by a long shot but it's definitely better than average. Duvall plays a good asshole, Stroud's a sleazebag as usual and it's really neat seeing Saxon playing a Mexican. That was different. Beautiful locales and lots of action. I'm happy.

H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer (2004)

Director: John Borowski

Starring: Tony Jay (narrator)

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Castle. The Murders. The Monster.

Plot: Torture chambers, acid vats, greased chutes and gassing rooms were just some of the devices of death designed by the Torture Doctor, H.H. Holmes in his castle of horrors. Follows Holmes' entire life as a criminal mastermind.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

Like most people, I had never heard of this guy until this documentary came out and I've seen it a few times since. It's amazing what this guy was able to accomplish. There's only speculation as to how many people he killed but even the low numbers of a few dozen are impressive. He could have killed many more.

The most fascinating part of his story is how he was able to build a massive castle like residence in Chicago, how he hired contractors to build a piece of the puzzle and fired them before they could see what it was they were really building. No one but Holmes knew anything more than small pieces. He had air-tight rooms with gas lines leading to them. He had hidden chutes in some of the walls that went straight down to the lowest level where he would cut them up and various other things. He had a large acid bath and would often sell the skeletons to colleges. He was certainly enterprising.

Narrator Tony Jay has a fantastic voice. The first half of this 64 minute doc is ghoulishly fascinating. The second half details his downfall. I highly recommend this to anyone with the slightest interest in crime and/or serial killers. Fuck Jack the Ripper, this guy probably ate him for breakfast. Where's the big Hollywood movie about this guy? David Fincher needs to get on this 'cause it's time for us Yanks to show the world that our serial killers are the best in the world!

UPDATE 1/28/15:  This week I finished reading the EXCELLENT book by Harold Schechter, Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago.  It's so compelling and thorough that it makes viewing this documentary frustrating. I just had to watch it again after reading Schechter's book to see how it held up.  I can only assume that director Borowski's main reason for keeping this film criminally short at barely over an hour was for budgetary reasons.  There's so much information missing that what's told feels like a plot outline rather than a fleshed out account of this incredible, true story.  It's really shocking at how much is left out.  It didn't have to be this way.  There's plenty of padding in the picture with recreations of people lurking in dark hallways and such.  Tightening up these bits would allow more time to tell more of the story or at least punch up what's there with some added detail.  That would help but it wouldn't fix the film.  It's still a fine picture but I can't recommend enough that you rush out and get Schechter's book (who's also one of the few talking heads in the film).  And that reminds me, the backdrop to Schechter's filmed bits is incredibly bland as if there was little to no thought of where they should film him.  I've seen the film several times now and while I'm really keen to get the DVD and watch the extras, I'm more inclined to read the book before watching it again.  It's an incredibly fascinating read about an equally fascinating criminal mind.  

Heroes of the East (1979)

Director: Chia-Liang Liu

Starring: Gordon Liu

More info: IMDb

Plot: A Chinese man (Liu) marries a Japanese woman through an arranged marriage and manages to insult all of her Japanese martial arts family by issuing a challenge to her that is misinterpreted by the others. He must then prove how good Chinese Kung Fu really is through a series of duels with the seven Japanese martial artists who come to meet the challenge.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

Well there's a neat way to set up a shit load of different fights...and it's really fun, too! Gordon Liu kicks ass and with so many varieties of fight styles, there's an awful lot great choreography and exciting fights. Wow, that was short.

Hitler - Dead or Alive (1942)

Director: Nick Grinde

Starring: Ward Bond

More info: IMDb

Plot: A team of ex-con bounty hunters go to Germany in search of Hitler. If they can find him, a million dollar reward is to be paid to them.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? I just might.

OK WWII propaganda film with one fucking awesome premise! It's only 70 minutes long. The first 15 and the last 15 are the best with a bang-up start and finish. Then there's about 20 minutes that'll about put you to sleep. It's hilarious how the gangsters get from California to Hitler. They go to Canada and join the RAF and eventually hijack a bomber and take it from England to Berlin. Fucking classic. These gangsters are so gung ho about killing Hitler and collecting the $1 million that they become uber patriots.

How they kill Hitler (YES, Hitler is killed!!!) is classic. Quentin Tarantino DEFINITELY saw this when he wrote INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009). What happens after that is gravely serious. I'll just say a lot of people die in front of a firing squad including children. They kill kids? Fuckin'-A! It's a great one-two punch with the sudden level of emotion and then ending with an upbeat, rousing speech about destroying the machine of fascism and killing one man isn't enough. I was so pumped I almost bought some war bonds. I'll just go to the USO instead and jitterbug for victory with some cuties.

Force 10 from Navarone (1978)

Director: Guy Hamilton

Starring: Robert Shaw, Harrison Ford, Barbara Bach, Edward Fox, Franco Nero, Carl Weathers, Richard Kiel

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Odds Against Them Were 10,000 to 1...But What the Hell!

Plot: During World War II, several oddly assorted military experts are teamed in a mission to raid and destroy a bridge vital to enemy strategy.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Roger.

Forget about GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961). You can't go into this picture thinking it's some kind of a sequel. It is but it isn't. Once you sever that link just sit back and relax while you watch a good, old-fashioned WWII movie with an all-star cast - the kind they don't make anymore. It's loaded with badass actors, it's got a fun, rousing score by Ron Goodwin and it's great fun from start to finish.

The Eagle Has Landed (1976)

Director: John Sturges

Starring: Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Jenny Agutter, Donald Pleasence, Anthony Quayle, Treat Williams, Larry Hagman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In 1943 sixteen German paratroopers landed in England. In three days they nearly won the War.

Plot: Oberst Steiner, a German parachute unit commander, is sent to England on a covert mission to kidnap Prime Minister Winston Churchill and bring him to Berlin. The seemingly impossible assignment becomes more and more feasible as the mission grows nearer with Steiner and his men arriving in England to a very real possibility of success.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

Man, I haven't seen this since the 80s. Great flick. It's one of those WWII movies where you start rooting for the Krauts. OK, so I did but there's a good reason - Michael Caine is the leader of the mission and he's just all kinds of kickass.

Meet the bad guys...

Robert Duval as Col. Radl

Donald Sutherland as Liam Devlin

Donald Pleasence as Himmler

Michael Caine as Col. Steiner

And now the good guys...

Treat Williams as Cpt. Clark

Larry Hagman Col. Pitts

For the most part, I really dig the all-star cast...except for Hagman. He's playing it like a Keystone Cop. WAAAAAY over the top. I seriously doubt his character in the novel was THAT idiotic. I'm sure those kind of people were in positions of authority in the military but that performance did not belong here. It's embarrassing. Other than that, I really liked it. Sturges does a good job of keeping you in suspense from start to finish when the operation is under way. You really don't know if they're going to succeed or not. Now obviously this didn't happen in real life but this could be a film that deals with alternate history. I would have liked a different outcome but I'm cool with it. Check it out, it's a fun WWII thrill ride.

Deadfall (1968)

Director: Bryan Forbes

Starring: Michael Caine, Giovanna Ralli, Eric Portman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Michael Caine plunges into the world of the adulterous... the treacherous... and the perverse!

Plot: Cat burglar Henry Clarke and his accomplices the Moreaus attempt to steal diamonds from the chateau of millionaire Salinas.

My rating? 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

Whatever you do, don't read the plot synopsis on Netflix 'cause they spoil the shit out of it. I'm just now reading it and I'm stunned that's the one they ran with. I've been a huge fan of composer John Barry since the mid-70s. I used to listen to my parent's record of GOLDFINGER (1964) ad nauseum. My soundtrack collecting days were not far ahead of me at that point but it wasn't until about 1989 when a new found soundtrack collector friend had me listen to Barry's score for DEADFALL. WOW! His guitar concerto written for the most crucial scene in the film blew me away. Great stuff. It's amazing that it took another twenty years before I finally watched the damn thing.

John badass!

That scene I mentioned was for the big robbery Caine and the old man pull off. Their heist is inter cut with the concert the owners are attending. The music builds a lot of tension and the entire sequence is remarkably done. The guitar soloist, btw, is Renata Tarrago.

I digs me some Michael Caine and I think this is the first picture I've seen of his that I don't want to see again. It's a very long and drab two hours and the big twist, while an interesting development in the story, isn't the game changer they'd like you to think it'd be. Even for '68 it couldn't have been THAT insane, could it? The performances are fine, the music's great but when it came down to it, I really didn't care much about the characters. I'll stick to the soundtrack instead.

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Director: Desmond Davis

Starring: Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Jack Gwillim, Harry Hamlin, Burgess Meredith

More info: IMDb

Tagline: An Epic Entertainment Spectacular!

Plot: By answering a seemingly impossible riddle, Perseus, the son of Zeus, wins the hand of the Princess Andromeda in marriage. Trouble appears in the shape of Calibos, the princess's former love, and his mother, the Goddess Thetis. In order that the dreaded Kraken not be released, Andromeda has to be sacrificed and Perseus searches for the Medusa; her head is the only thing that can stop the Kraken.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Sure as shit!


I remember seeing this in the theater nearly thirty years ago. I loved it then and I love it still. It's a great adventure story in the mold of the Sinbad pictures and sword & sandals of the 60s. The special effects (except for when the city is attacked in the beginning) are outstanding. Ray Harryhausen's stop motion work is nothing short of fantastic. Medusa is downright frightening.

The makeup for Calibos is astonishingly good and nothing compares to it in the ridiculously bland remake that came out this year.

I'm OK with Hamlin in the role of Perseus but I cannot tolerate the comic relief that is that fucking mechanical owl. It looks cool as hell and I'd love to have one sitting on my desk but not in this movie. That's the one thing they got right in the remake and it made for a good laugh but for a different reason.

The original had life and I think the practical effects did much to exemplify that. The remake just sat there. This is an excellent case for how CGI does not equal better. Oh, and here's something the remake missed completely, an image that stayed with that 12 year old boy who saw this in the theater way back in 1981...

Chato's Land (1972)

Director: Michael Winner

Starring: Charles Bronson, Jack Palance

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The scream of his victims is the only sound he makes.

Plot: After Pardon Chato, a mestizo, killed a US marshal in self-defense, a posse pursues him, but as the white volunteers advance deep in Indian territory they become more hunted then prey, leading to internal strife. They rape Chato's woman, and are hunted down to the last man by the unrelenting warrior.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah!

Bronson = Badass! He doesn't say much...he doesn't have to.

First of all, look at Bronson's physique at age 51!

I need to start working out. Jeez. I don't know what more you need than Bronson and Palance but there's a shitload of killing on Bronson's part. He barely has any lines but then he doesn't really need any to say what he's got to say.

For the most part, it's a good movie but the nearly two hour runtime really hurts it. It's about halfway through that Palance's (who is surprisingly somewhat sympathetic here) men rape and murder Bronson's wife and child which sets off Bronson's revenge. The setup could have been much leaner and there's still some fat to trim once Bronson goes chimpshit. But seriously, though, it's Charles Bronson and Jack Palance in a western killing folks. That's all I really need...really.

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

Director: Val Guest

Starring: Brian Donlevy, Jack Warner, Margia Dean

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Beware of "THE CREEPING UNKNOWN!"

Plot: A missile, launched by the team led by Prof. Quatermass, lands in the English countryside. Of the three members of the crew, two have mysteriously disappeared. The third one, barely alive, undergoes an horrible metamorphosis turning into a monstrous "thing". When he breaks out and, chased in vain by inspector Lomax, starts killing humans and animals to feed his transformation, Quatermass realizes that this is the way chosen by an alien form of life to invade the Earth.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah. It's not a bad way to kill 78 minutes.

Brian Donlevy just doesn't work for me in these Hammer sci-fi flicks. I'm sure he's great in film noirs but in sci-fi, I don't think so. Maybe it's his heavy American accent in a sea of Brits or maybe he's just not that great of an actor. Combination of both I suppose. TQX is a fun little flick with a good story, mostly good performances, great James Bernard score and good special effects.

Evil Keg (2007)

Director: Allen Wilbanks

Starring: People living in and around Atlanta

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's Killer Time

Plot: Marcus Colby's family brewery, Col-Brew Brewing, is knee deep in financial trouble when Beer Mistress Vivian develops a revolutionary zero calorie beer. Unfortunately her late night experiments reveals a slight side effect; any one who drinks it turns into a flesh eating freak. When Marcus finds out about the bad beer he immediately sends Vivian home. The sexy evil beer mistress decides to get even and uses her invention for evil and world domination. She seizes Marcus' brewery and cooks up enough libations to infect the entire town. It's up to Marcus to save the family business, the townspeople, the love of his life, his father and the world.

My rating: 3/10

Will I watch it again? If I do, it's only because a friend of mine is in it.

I could add a couple of points to the score simply because it's an accomplishment just to make a movie, let alone one that lasts an hour and a half. BUT I can't do that because then you have to watch that hour and a half long movie. The problem with nearly all first or almost first-time no budget movies is they rarely have coverage shots, the pacing is too slow, there's not enough editing (which goes back to the lack of coverage) and scenes either run too long or shouldn't be there in the first place. I'll cut to the chase. Here's the best part of the movie...

IMAGE OF STRANGELY ATTRACTIVE (in that Sandra Bernhard kind of way)


If a buddy of mine hadn't had a bit part in it (he's in the party scene where everyone turns into if you're going to watch it now) which prompted us to watch it. Too bad he's barely in it 'cause it probably would have helped the picture if he had a bigger role. I'll give Wilbanks points for trying but that's about it except for the one scene of lovely nudity. Movies don't have to be 90 minutes long. It's OK to make one that's half that. I swear that when the day comes and I make a movie, my top priority will always be to make it fun to watch. No matter what I do I will always have that one principal in mind. At every turn I'll ask myself, "Would I want to see this? Is this entertaining?" and if the answer is "no" then I'm scrappin' it. Now if I could only find a camera and some girls willing to get naked...

One Dark Night (1983)

AKA: Mausoleum

Director: Tom McLoughlin

Starring: Meg Tilly, Adam West

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A night to remember - until the day until you die!

Plot: A strange man named Karl Rhamarevich dies shortly after discovering a way to become even more powerful in death through telekinesis. On the night of his burial in a crypt, Julie is to spend the night there as part of an initiation rite, supervised by two other girls. The crypt becomes a scene of horror as Raymar returns to life and deploys his horrifying telekinetic powers, with coffins sliding out and splintering open to release decaying bodies on Raymar's command. The bodies soon begin to menace the three girls trapped inside.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

Here's a flick I vaguely remember from my teen years on VHS. When I saw it in the mid-80s it was titled, MAUSOLEUM. It's alright. It's nice to see some familiar faces. Meg Tilly is scrummy as ever. It's always fun to see Adam West and that chick that plays the singer in BETTER OFF DEAD (1985) is in it (Elizabeth Daily). The first half is the most painful until they FINALLY get into the mausoleum. Once they're there the creepfest begins. There are some pretty good special effects and creepy moments but 45 minutes of good doesn't make up for the fist 45 of meh.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Director: Fred M. Wilcox

Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis

More info: IMDb


Plot: When Adams and his crew are sent to investigate the silence from a planet inhabited by scientists, he finds all but two have died. Dr. Morbius and his daughter Altaira have somehow survived a hideous monster which roams the planet. Unknown to Adams, Morbius has made a discovery, and has no intention of sharing it (or his daughter!) with anyone.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yup.

Excellent sci-fi classic - the best of the 50s. The intelligent story, the sets, the ground-breaking electronic score by Bebe & Louis Barron, the special effects, the introduction to the iconic Robby the Robot, the works! I never grow tired of watching this. The DVD special edition from a few years back looks fantastic. I'm sure the blu-ray looks even more amazing that it would make me giggle. Any self-respecting sci-fi fan owes it to themselves and to the sci-fi community to watch this and marvel at this 64 year old marvel in outer space storytelling.