Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Captain Kidd (1945)

Director: Rowland V. Lee

Starring: Charles Laughton, Randolph Scott, Barbara Britton, John Carradine

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Adventure on the high seas!

Plot: In this unhistorical account, Capt. William Kidd is already a clever, ruthless pirate when, in 1699, he tricks the king into commissioning him as escort for a treasure ship from India. He enlists a crew of pardoned cutthroats...and Orange Povey, whom Kidd once abandoned on a reef and hoped never to see again. Of course, Kidd's intentions are treacherous. But there's more to gunner Adam Mercy than meets the eye.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? YES. Yarrrrrrrrr!

As I was watching this last night it suddenly dawned on me what my next big movie project is going to be...The Summer of Swashbucklers! I love pirate movies (except for the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN sequels) and it's damn time I caught up on the backlog of titles I own.

CAPTAIN KIDD was a blast and in no small part to the deliciously fun performance by Laughton. He's a hoot.

See what I mean? "Poo". Classic. He doesn't play Kidd as a ruthless pirate like you might think he should. It seems to me that, while Laughton is going a more lighthearted way, the real Kidd was probably somewhere in between. Read about Kidd at Wikipedia. If the accounts there are true, the film makers of this picture incorporated a few historic bits that make this even more fun and interesting.

There's a little bit of swordplay with a reasonable fight between Randolph Scott and Duncan Renaldo but there is a good deal of ship scenes and the well done sequence where Kidd takes another ship and her cargo without firing but one shot. Very clever. CAPTAIN KIDD is in the public domain which means you can see it anywhere on the cheap including YouTube.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Five Steps to Danger (1957)

Director: Henry S. Kesler

Starring: Sterling Hayden, Ruth Roman, Werner Klemperer

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They Carried a Hell-Bomb Horror From East Berlin Across Ten Thousand Miles---To a Secret U. S. Rocket Base!

Plot: When his car breaks down during a trip from Los Angeles to Texas John Emmett meets another motorist, Ann Nicholson, who offers him a lift. He learns that she is running away from her physician, Dr. Simmons, and the police, who want to question her about a murdered Central Intelligence Agent in Los Angeles. Anne, as it also turns out, is a native of Berlin, Germany. She had come into possession of a valuable secret formula for a 4000-mile-per-hour rocket, which is written on the reverse side of a small pocket mirror she carries. She wants to deliver this to a scientist in the United States. But, the scientist is an enemy agent as is her doctor and they, and the F.B.I are after her.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? It wouldn't be so bad but probably not. There's far too many movies I've yet to see.

Knowing that the AWESOME Sterling Hayden is in a picture is all it really takes to get my attention. I love his delivery and he almost always has great lines bursting from his yapper. FIVE STEPS is a standard short (81 minutes) B picture from the 50s but the big difference is that it stars Hayden. He makes everything better than it sometimes should be. Even when he's delivering sappy romantic dialogue it sounds badass.

For the most part it's a quick hour and twenty minutes but it does get a little funny going back and forth wondering if she's for real or not. Ruth Roman plays it a little bit on the cheesy side but that's OK. Sterling Hayden is there to make everything alright.

Super High Me (2007)

Director: Michael Blieden

Starring: Doug Benson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: 4:20 - 24/7 - 30 Days

Plot: Determined to find out the true effects of marijuana on the human body, stand-up comedian and former Stoner of the Year Doug Benson documents his experience avoiding pot for 30 days and then consuming massive amounts of the drug for 30 days. More than just an amusing story of one man's quest to get superhigh, this documentary also examines the hotly contested debate over medical marijuana use.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

Ya know, this wasn't nearly as entertaining as I thought it would be. It's not too unlike SUPER SIZE ME (2004). I like it OK but it just didn't grab me. I'm not unfamiliar with reefer but It's not exactly a good friend of mine, either. Benson's journey didn't surprise me, it just left me wanting more of the funny. He is a stand-up comedian after all. SHM has a good deal of information and, I suspect, some biased misinformation but the highlight for me was getting to see some familiar faces of comedy like Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Dana Gould and Brian Posehn. I guess I wanted a documentary with a little more comedic sustenance. Instead I ended up with a mild case of the munchies.

Closely Watched Trains (1966)

Director: Jiri Menzel

Starring: Vaclav Neckar, Josef Somr, Vlastimil Brodsky

More info: IMDb

Plot: Comedy-drama about a young man employed in a tiny station during World War II. Milos Hrma, a bumbling dispatcher's apprentice at a village railway station in occupied Czechoslovakia, longs to liberate himself from his virginity. Oblivious to the war and the resistance that surrounds him, he embarks on a journey of sexual awakening and self-discovery, encountering a universe of frustration, eroticism, and adventure within his sleepy backwater depot.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

What a delightfully refreshing movie. I watch a lot of genre flicks and ever so often I'll watch something outside of usual fare. I used to watch foreign art house movies all the time...until the dark times...

Anyway, I came across this title looking for WWII films and it turns out it was available on Netflix instant viewing. The performances in this Oscar winning Czechoslovakian film are innocent and fun, especially the young male lead. Oh, and the girl he's got the hots for...ME, TOO! YOWZA! She needs to have my Czech babies!

The climax of Milos's struggle is hilarious but the final scene felt like it could have been done just a little bit differently to produce a more potent effect. I'm no expert...just thinking out loud, that's all. Overall, though, CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS was a breath of fresh air from what I usually watch and a welcome distraction.

Machine Gun McCain (1969)

Director: Giuliano Montaldo

Starring: John Cassavetes, Britt Ekland, Peter Falk, Gabriele Ferzetti, Luigi Pistilli, Gena Rowlands

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Even the Mafia Calls Him Mister!

Plot: Tough criminal Hank McCain gets released from prison after serving twelve years for armed robbery. Hank hooks up with his son Jack, who has devised a daring plan to rob a Las Vegas casino. Unbeknownst to Hank, Jack is also involved with volatile and ambitious mob capo Charlie Adamo, who uses Hank as a pawn so he can gain control of Vegas territory that's currently being run by the formidable Don Francesco De Marco.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

Here we go again. If you have a movie called, MACHINE GUN McCAIN, then goddamnit have your main guy, whose name is McCain, USE A FUCKING MACHINE GUN and don't fucking wait until the last 5 minutes of the movie for him to even pick one up and use it and even then, barely use it! FUCK, this shit pisses me off. You've got a great cast (Falk and Cassavetes as gangsters? I'm so on this) and it's a late 60s Italian crime picture AND it's called, MACHINE GUN McCAIN? What am I waiting for? Whatever the wait was, it wasn't worth it.

Falk and Cassavetes are the best reason I can give to seek this out. They're always fun to watch. There's very little action in the allotted 91 minutes and the pacing makes it feel like a whole lot more. This was most disappointing and not even Falk, Cassavetes or Ennio Morricone's score could save it.

Andy Kaufman: The Midnight Special (1981)

Starring: Andy Kaufman, Freddy Cannon, James Burows, Slim Whitman, Bob Zmuda, Wolfman Jack

More info: IMDb

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? I don't fucking think so.

This was a TV special that originally aired January 23, 1980. Now I've always been a fan of Kaufman's since I was a kid in the 79s and saw his appearance on an early SNL one Saturday night. I always dug his outlandishness when it came to doing shit for laughs that no one else did. Naturally, I was so ready to enjoy an hour long TV special of his...that is until that hour was up.

He's playing that guy from TAXI. I'm not laughing.

He's got a good Elvis schtick going on so....what's the point?

Neat! It's everybody's favorite 70s DJ, Wolfman Jack!

Still not laughing.

This should be fun. Nope.

Andy sure plays a mean set of congas.

AWESOME! Slim Whitman! I love this guy!

Tony Clifton was usually funny. Not this time.

That's pretty much the gist of it. I really don't think I laughed once. I dug seeing Wolfman Jack and it was great watching Slim Whitman perform but when it came to the laughs, they were nowhere to be found. I felt like there was something wrong with me but I just wasn't diggin' Kaufman at all. If this special was made to showcase his talent as a comedian/musician, he showed what he could do musically but the comedy was left elsewhere.

Alligator (1980)

Director: Lewis Teague

Starring: Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo, Dean Jagger, Perry Lang, Henry Silva

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It lives 50 feet beneath the city. It's 36 feet long. It weighs 2,000 pounds...And it's about to break out!

Plot: Twelve years ago, the Kendall family's pet alligator was set free in the Chicago sewers, where it fed on the bodies of dogs used in genetic experiments. Now, the giant mutated reptile is on a feeding spree, killing everyone in its path.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Hells, yeah!

#188 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 1 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

You go into a movie like this just wanting to be entertained. You watch the trailer and/or read the plot summary and you've got all the ammunition you need for any expectation. If it's remotely fun, you're pleased. If it turns out to pretty damn good, you're flabbergasted. Color me flabbergasted! ALLIGATOR was a hoot and a half!

Thanks to a silly-but-fun script by John Sayles (that's right, THE John Sayles), a smooth and cool performance by Robert Forster (gee, I really dig this guy's easy going acting style) and an over-the-top Henry Silva as a big game hunter coming to save the day, ALLIGATOR is an hour and a half of pure goofy fun. You'll think I'm nuts but you need to see this to understand how wonderfully natural the chemistry is between Forster and his love interest played by Robin Riker. It's adorable and it feels so real. Yeah, I know, this is a cheesy movie called ALLIGATOR about a giant gator terrorizing the big city and it's got some lovely romance in it. Netflix the widescreen DVD and see for yourself. This movie really is a lot of fun!

Gator (1976)

Director: Burt Reynolds

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Jack Weston, Lauren Hutton, Jerry Reed, Alice Ghostley, Dub Taylor, Mike Douglas

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Gator. Come and get him.

Plot: Burt Reynolds reprises his role as Gator, an ex-criminal-turned-crime-fighter, in this 1976 sequel to the movie White Lightning. This time around, Gator's after a band of corrupt politicians whose machinations must come to an end.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? It's Burt from the 1979s, of course.

Several months ago I watched this on Netflix instant view in a beautiful widescreen print. Now I see it's off and the only option is a pan & scan DVD. You've got to go wide on this one even though it's a long two hours. This was Burt's directorial debut. I kind of wished he'd left this one to Hal Needham or someone else so he could concentrate on being Burt...not that he has to work at it - he was just that fucking amazing to begin with. Because he wasn't a seasoned director, he ended up throwing in a lot of extra stuff and a lot of showy scenes that, while very nice, showed his inexperience. GATOR is just too damn long and it doesn't know what it wants to be. It's trying hard to be a lot of things and I would have preferred just being what it should have been, a good action-driven drive-in action sequel to WHITE LIGHTNING (1973). You can have the love interest and all but for cryin' out loud, acknowledge where it came from and make it fun rather than slow it down with long scenes.

Yesterday's Enemy (1959)

Director: Val Guest

Starring: Stanley Baker, Guy Rolfe, Leo McKern, Gordon Jackson, David Oxley, Richard Pasco, Russell Waters, Philip Ahn, Bryan Forbes, Burt Kwouk

More info: IMDb

Tagline: War Is Hell!

Plot: Cut off by the Japanese advance into Burma, Captain Langford (Baker)and his exhausted British troops take over an enemy-held jungle village. Despite the protests of an elderly padre (Rolfe) and of war correspondent Max Anderson (McKern), Langford orders Sergeant McKenzie (Jackson) to shoot two innocent villagers, thereby "persuading" a Japanese informer to surrender vital information. When the Japanese recapture the village, their commander uses Langford's own desperate war-born tactics in a similar effort to extract information from the British.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? As much as I can.

This was released in 1959. That's what I kept telling myself as I watched it. There's no music, just hard, raw acting. Stanley Baker's performance is especially hardcore. That Peter Sellers (for I'M ALL RIGHT JACK) beat out Baker for the BAFTA is disgusting. The story is brutal. I found myself on the verge of repulsion with some of the tactics and decisions his Capt. Langford made. But what would you do if you were in his shoes? Is he suffering from the stresses of war or is he looking out for the greater good? This is a tough picture, and it came out more than fifty years ago!

This isn't some war drama that plays by any standard conventions. YESTERDAY'S ENEMY changes the playing field to bring you the harsh realities of war. It's in your face the whole time all the while straddling a ticking time bomb. If you think you know what's going to happen, you don't. That this isn't available in North America is tragic. It had such a profound effect on my that I couldn't stop thinking about it for a week. This is a damn fine film and one of the best war dramas I've ever seen.

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964)

Director: Michael Carreras

Starring: Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland, George Pastell, Jack Gwillim

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It Lives Again To Kill Again!

Plot: When European Egyptologists Dubois, Giles and Bray discover the tomb of the Egyptian prince Ra, American entrepreneur and investor Alexander King insists on shipping the treasures and sarcophagus back to England for tour and display. Once there, someone with murderous intent has discovered the means of waking the centuries dead prince.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? I love this shit.

#24 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

Why is it that in every damn Mummy movie (at least the several I've seen) they never kill the girl? Why are they always mesmerized by the hot chick? Is it because they've been dead for a few thousand years and they get weak at the knees whenever they see a bosomy broad? It's not like they're going to get to third base or anything. I'm just sayin'.

That's my biggest beef with this picture. SHE was there at the opening of the tomb and she's the only one that survives. That's BULLSHIT! Bitch should've snuffed it just like the rest. Oh, spoiler alert.

This is a Hammer picture so it's going to look absolutely beautiful. The sets are striking, the props (I LOVE what they did with the sarcophagus - I need one of those in my house - it'd make a great coffee table) are gorgeous and the photography is rich beyond belief.

The story isn't all that surprising and it works for me. I really dug the kills. There's one scene where an Egyptian (who was present at the opening of the tomb so he has to die) offers himself to the Mummy as a sacrifice for his wrongdoing. He kneels before the Mummy with his head at his feet and the Mummy slowly steps on the guy's head, squashing it. Nice. That's the kind of cool shit I expect in pictures like this.

I really don't know why so many people on IMDb gave it such a low score. THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB is a fun picture and it delivers no less than what you would expect...and a whole lot more. I would rate it a 7 or better if the Mummy had killed that bitch and fulfilled the curse. Oh, well. What are you going to do? Oh, look! THE MUMMY'S SHROUD (1967)!

Operation Crossbow (1965)

Director: Michael Anderson

Starring: George Peppard, Sophia Loren, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Richard Johnson, Tom Courtenay, Jeremy Kemp, Anthony Quayle

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They were schooled in sabotage...licensed to kill...and sent to destroy the world's deadliest rocket base!

Plot: A fearsome rumor reaches Britain's World War II command. The Nazis are developing rocket technology that could rain death on London and, then, New York. Quickly, England develops a plan to send saboteurs into the sites manufacturing the rockets. Just moments after the carefully chosen commandos parachute into the drop zone, their pilot receives an urgent message. The mission may be compromised. Abort. Operation Crossbow is the partly fact-based tale of how that team succeeded against daunting odds.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Most certainly.

This is one of the best WWII movies you've never seen and it's very different than the usual 1960s WWII fare. For starters, easily half the film is spoken in German with subtitles! Peppard, Loren, etc all speak German and most for a good chunk of their screen time. I'm sure you could pick their accents apart if you spoke German fluently, but for most of the audience it sounds legit. I've seen some people online bitch about the accents but you've got to consider the fact that at least they did something where most movies had Germans speaking English. The film makers get major points for trying to stay in reality.


Another cool aspect (aside from the many great camera shot and setups) is that A LOT of major characters die and I don't mean they're on screen for a few minutes and then snuff it. I mean they are built up and developed and then bite it. The balls they had making this astound me. Not only that but the form and flow are different. In just under two hours they tell a lot of story and it goes through many formats. It may end like a big budget 1960s WWII flick but the journey is told in a much different manner.

The performances are tops with Peppard showing that he's got a truckload of charisma and acting chops. Watching this just days after THE BLUE MAX (1966) which came a year later, I wonder what happened to Peppard. Having seen two films of his made within a year of each other, it's interesting to see the dynamic in his performance. He now seems sedate in TBM where he had previously been very much alive.

There are a lot of familiar faces in OPERATION CROSSBOW and they all do a superb job. Be aware that Netflix has a shitty pan & scan DVD. Look for the Warner Bros. release. It delivers a fantastic widescreen print along with the trailer (although not anamorphic) and a 9 minute promo piece made at the time it was filmed. It's a great disc and I highly recommend it.