Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Honor Among Thieves (1968)

Director: Jean Herman

Starring: Charles Bronson, Alain Delon, Olga Georges-Picot, Brigitte Fossey, Bernard Fresson, Marianna Falk, Ellen Bahl, Jean-Claude Ballard

More info: IMDb

Plot: After serving together in the French Foreign Legion, a mercenary and a doctor leave the service and go their separate ways. Later, they are reunited by a coincidence. The doctor has made a promise to a friend which involves his breaking into a safe to return some improperly removed bearer bonds. When he hides in an office building to accomplish his task, he is followed by the mercenary, who is out to steal the contents of the safe. Locked inside the building together, they reluctantly agree to cooperate in cracking the safe. However, surprises await them both and in the end, they both must rely on 'the honor among thieves' to straighten everything out.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

#45 on Project: Badass Charles Bronson

LEVEL OF BADASSICITY (10 being the highest): 8 (he refrains from killing anyone but he's clearly capable)

It really sucks that I can't find a trailer anywhere for this picture. It's a good caper flick with an unusually playful performance from Bronson as a fun-loving asshole. He's a hoot. Everybody else does a fine job, too, but it's Bronson that stands out for me. It's got one of those neat but strange scores you'd get from European genre pictures from that era and it looks really neat. The only issue I have with the film is that it's slow. It's the kind of slow that's off-putting to most people but if you're a genre freak like me, it's great - just don't slap this one in a half hour before bedtime because you'll drop this quicker than Dennis Hopper would drop a hit of acid.

Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010)

Director: Kevin Greutert

Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Cary Elwes, and lots of main characters from the previous films.

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Traps Come Alive

Plot: As a deadly battle rages over Jigsaw's brutal legacy, a group of Jigsaw survivors gathers to seek the support of self-help guru and fellow survivor Bobby Dagen, a man whose own dark secrets unleash a new wave of terror.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Well, it's over, it's finally over. I liked the first one very much although it's flawed and the sequels were interesting if for just the traps and the wildly ridiculous ways the film makers were able to keep this gravy train running but it had to stop and I'm glad they're done. It's funny that one of the main recurring actors, Mandylor (as Det. Hoffman) who was pretty bad in the previous pictures, turns in his best performance in this one. I like how they brought Elwes back to bookend the series. You can't get too deep into these movies because they're so over the top and ludicrous. The ending puts the final nail in the coffin to a series that should've stopped a couple of pictures ago. If they make another one it's going to have to be a self-referential comedy because they've been skating on thin plot ice for too long. Hell, most of the sequels are pretty laughable as it is.

Dead Calm (1989)

Director: Phillip Noyce

Starring: Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, Billy Zane

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A Voyage Into Fear.

Plot: A married couple sail the Pacific Ocean to forget a tragic accident. After a month at sea, they sight a mysterious yacht and are boarded by its lone surviving crew member. When the husband discovers the yacht's terrible secret, the crewman goes wild, kidnapping his wife and taking his ship. Terror on the high seas is center stage as the husband fights to keep the mystery yacht afloat and his wife battles the psychotic who's assumed control of their ship.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I remembered this being good but not THIS good! It's an excellent thriller with solid performances from all three leads (Zane makes a surprisingly good psychopath). There's a good deal of suspense and everyone's actions are pretty much what you think someone in that situation would do. The camera work is fantastic and there are shots that are so smooth (like circling a yacht while it's moving that seem too goo to be done without the help of some digital effects or something but this is before all of that came around. Director Noyce turned in a top notch flick. I'm impressed.

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)

Director: Gordon Hessler

Starring: Jason Robards, Herbert Lom, Christine Kaufmann, Adolfo Celi, Maria Perschy, Michael Dunn, Lilli Palmer

More info: IMDb

Tagline: LOVE and MURDER are the two consuming passions of the Rue Morgue!

Plot: In the midst of preparing his theater troupe for their upcoming production, Cesar (Robards) struggles to soothe his wife, Madeleine (Kaufmann), who's been suffering dreadful nightmares, and races to figure out who is brutally murdering his lead actors one by one. A loose adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story, this chilling horror tale effectively weaves back and forth between disturbing dreams and reality.

My rating: 4.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

#36 on 42nd Street Forever Vol. 2: The Deuce (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

I looked at the time remaining because it felt like the picture was about to wrap up and it turns out I was only one hour into it and another 38 minutes to go! Fortunately the last 20 minutes moved much faster than the rest of the film but it didn't matter, I was ready to go and looking forward to move onto something else, anything else. It's not that RUE MORGUE is too long and poorly paced in spots. No, it's that the lead, Robards, was miscast AND he was phoning in his performance. Lom delivers probably the best performance in the picture but that's not saying much and Celi, as the inspector leading the case, has the thankless job of acting a part that could be done by anyone.

Will someone PLEASE get me out of this picture?

This movie is uninspiring in most ways except the art direction and cinematography. This looks like the most lavish production AIP ever made. It looks fantastic but it's too bad it's dampened by forgettable performances. The only other thing I dug was a certain someone's death by decapitation. THAT was nicely handled. If the performances had any life to them and the pacing tightened up then this could easily be a 6 or 7 out of 10. The MGM Midnite Movies Double Feature DVD I have also has the Vincent Price flick, Cry of the Banshee, and if memory serves me this is another dull flick. Two snoozers for one low, low price.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Cottage (2008)

Director: Paul Andrew Williams

Starring: Andy Serkis, Reece Shearsmith, Jennifer Ellison, Steven O'Donnell, James Bierman, Cat Meacher, Danny Nussbaum, Logan Wong

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Sleeps six bloody comfortably.

Plot: In a remote part of the countryside, a bungled kidnapping turns into a living nightmare for four central characters when they cross paths with a psychopathic farmer and all hell breaks loose.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

Andy Serkis was what drew me to this picture and he's the best part about it. Unfortunately his two cohorts in crime are idiots and that's where they started to lose me. Sometimes their foolishness worked and sometimes it was "are you fucking kidding me?". It might sound like I didn't like the movie but I did. That's just my big annoyance. The killers sent to dispense of the kidnappers were fun as was just about everything else. I really like the unexpected horror aspect and that it wasn't played for the obvious laughs. The giggles came from things like hacking part of a guy's foot off or a shovel to the face between the jaw line. Shit like that was pretty funny and I'm glad they decided to play straight the mass murderer. If they hadn't you'd be rolling your eyes. There's some good gore and some genuinely good laughs and I liked it enough to check out the director's other two British crime films, LONDON TO BRIGHTON (2006) and CHERRY TREE LANE (2010).

Ace High (1968)

Director: Giuseppe Colizzi

Starring: Eli Wallach, Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, Brock Peters, Kevin McCarthy, Tiffany Hoyveld,

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The smile that kills...

Plot: Cacopoulos (Wallach) takes $300,000 from two hombres of questionable moral fiber (Hill & Spencer), then proceeds to spread the cash around generously. His victims follow his trail, but when the men finally do meet, they must join forces to defend themselves against a murderous desperado. Before that battle is over, Cacopoulos has once again absconded with the cash. And the chase is on, leading them, ultimately, to a crooked Mississippi gaming house, a blazing gun battle, and lots of money for everyone.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.


Good flick. I was worried that Wallach would be borderline great performance or over the top like he was in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966) (and I LOVED his performance in that one) but that fear didn't last long. He's got a little Tuco in him but with a bit more hate and vengeance. It's a good role for him. What I didn't care for, though, was Hill (and to a lesser degree, Spencer) as they play two major badasses on the wrong side of the law. The issue I've got is they come across as tough-guy-swaggering assholes that walk into town at the beginning and get their way. Clint Eastwood can pull that off beautifully but these two make it look silly. But once things start rolling with the three of these guys, all of that changes and they are much more easy to handle. Now we're right at halfway into the just over two hour movie.

Yeah, it's two hours but the second half fares much stronger than the first. ACE HIGH isn't loaded with action but the pacing (especially in the last hour) is strong. The performances are fine (except for what I noted above plus it's great seeing McCarthy in a Western), the direction, story, and everything else works well but it does suffer from being too long. What's there is enjoyable. It'd make my top 50 Spaghetti Westerns if I had to make a list after seeing all 500+ films of this genre made between '65 and '77.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cobra (1986)

Director: George P. Cosmatos

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson, Brian Thompson, John Herzfeld, Lee Garlington, Art LaFleur, Marco Rodriquez

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Crime is the disease. Meet the Cure.

Plot: A gang of neo-fascist thugs, led by the self-proclaimed 'Night Slasher', are breaking into people's homes & cars, then killing them at random. When of of these thugs holds up a food store & takes hostages, Lt. Marian Cobretti - an intense, take-no-prisoners cop, is brought onto the scene to end the hostage-taking. Ranting bizarrely about a 'New World', the man levels a sawed-off shotgun at Cobretti, who hits him with a knife, then guns him down when the man refuses to put down his weapon. Later that night, another murder occurs, attributed to the Night Slasher - and the next day, another one. This one is witnessed by a young woman, Ingrid Knutsen. She drives away before the thugs can kill her, but it isn't long before some creepy-looking people start making attempts on her life - and Cobretti's. Cobretti plans to move the only witness to the blood spree upstate, but with inside information, the thugs follow them. And a battle for survival rages between Cobretti and the thugs...

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I love Stallone. I'm going through his catalog as I didn't see most of them growing up. I was a Schwarzenegger fan and saw a bunch of his 80s flicks in the theater instead. Back then I though Stallone's movies looked dumb (as if Arnold's weren't). A lot of you may agree but some of these have a high entertainment value. COBRA is cheesy fun with an over the top tough cop who spits out one liners and does lots of crazy shit. These movies are filled with cliches, many of them were still being formed around this time, but it doesn't matter. Some of them, like this one, were made for one reason (besides making shitloads of dough) and that's to entertain. I had a really fun time with this one.

Dirtbag: I've got a bomb and I'm going to blow this whole place up!
Cobra: Go ahead, I don't shop here.

Ahahahahahaha. Classic. Stallone cracked me up. I'm a HUGE fan of the now defunct Adult Swim cartoon, ASSY MCGEE (2006) (I would pay good money to help get that show back on), and I couldn't help but see where some of that show's inspiration came from. There were lines Sylvester threw out that I'd swear I was hearing Assy and not him, especially when he called someone a dirtbag. Goddamn that was funny.

Ooh, then there's that poor classic car that gets beat to hell and back. Man, that was painful. I really dug this flick. It's ridiculous, fun and gives you a pretty good bang for your buck. I'm just sorry it took me 25 years to get around to it. Crap, I almost forgot...Brigitte Nielsen is terrible. It's plain to see that she had to marry Stallone to get into films (sadly her movie career didn't end as quickly as their year and a half marriage did). Woof.

Fighting Life (1981)

Director: Kei Law

Starring: Sam Chung-Chuen, Jackie Conn, Thomas Hong Chiu-Ming, Frankie Shum

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Two brothers, one without legs & one without arms, together they will persevere!!

Plot: Fighting Life is a remarkable film rejoicing the spirit of life. It is the dynamic tale of two brothers who overcome immense physical and emotional handicaps, and become vital members of society.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Sure, at some point.

Starring the two guys from THE CRIPPLED MASTERS (1979), this picture is regarded as the third in that series but there's a big difference, this film takes place in modern times while the other two are set more than a hundred years ago. Regardless, I'm a sucker for crippled kung fu movies. This one is basically a kung fu drama with one guy who has no legs and another who has no arms (he's got a flipper for one arm, though). Even though this is loaded with cliches about people overcoming their physical handicaps (and boy do they hit you over the head with that in the dialogue) and it gets REALLY sappy and the comic relief provided by a couple of bungling thieves is so over the top it's nauseating, it's what these two guys can do that's truly amazing. The final few minutes really show off what these guys can do.

Is that insane or what? Too bad you have to wait until the end of the picture to see it. One side note - every once in a while someone in one of the many crowd scenes will say the most outrageous things. If you are fortunate to find a copy of this, listen carefully 'cause it's funny as hell. Now I'm going to have to fast track watching TWO CRIPPLED HEROES (aka THE CRIPPLED MASTERS 2) (1980) and RAIDERS OF THE SHAOLIN TEMPLE (1982). Cripple fu is awesome!

ViCAP: On the Trail of Violence (2002)

More info: IMDb

Plot: Here's another fine entry into the made-for-cable, serial killer-centric documentaries genre which tend to air in the middle of the night on Investigation Discovery. This one, though not about any one particular killer, focuses a lot on several different killers, and how they led to the creation of (or were apprehended because of) the FBI's crime tracking software, called ViCAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program.) This film traces the origin of said program, from it's early days, in the 50's, when a crazy dreamer in L.A. (Detective Pierce Brooks, to be more precise) envisioned a nationwide network of police computers which would share information about crimes and criminals, therefore making it easier to connect seemingly unrelated crimes in different jurisdictions, and therefore get the bad guys. Oh, his superiors called him crazy, telling him that such a computer would cost a million dollars and take up a whole city block. Well, time went on, serial killing became more of a thing, and lo and behold, 25 years later, technology caught up with Detective Brooks' vision. He would, in fact, become the FBI's first director of ViCAP, n the late 70's.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

This is an interesting piece. It seems obvious now that having a central database for this sort of thing is a no brainer and a huge win for law enforcement across the country but it wasn't 5o years ago. It's a great story with everything you would expect in a documentary from talking heads to archival footage. I specifically enjoyed hearing about some of the early success stories. While I enjoy watching people do bad things (especially if they're really, really good at it), I really dig the flipside seeing the detectives and cops do their thing. I LOVE great police work and problem solving.

Satanik (1968)

Director: Piero Vivarelli

Starring: Magda Konopka, Julio Pena, Umberto Raho, Luigi Montini, Armando Calvo, Mimma Ippoliti, Isarco Ravaioli

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Man hunting she demons

Plot: Scarred, ugly Dr. Marny Bannister (Magda Konopka) listens to her research partner talk about the dangers of trying their rejuvenation serum without further testing, but she kills him instead, imbibes the serum, and emerges a lovely young woman. The nagging side effect is evil behavior, and she wastes no time hooking herself up with a rich but crooked businessman. When the serum wears off at an inopportune moment, Bannister kills and robs him. Scotland yard, aided by the Madrid police, try to figure out the mystery, while Bannister murders the wife of a crooked club owner, assumes her identity, and skips to Geneva to retrieve the blood money the wife had collected for turning in the gang. There she partners with the club owner's equally rich and crooked brother, and performs a striptease in his club, the Chez Mio. That's when both the cops and the crooks catch up with her.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

Here's yet another comic book based super criminal movie with a hot broad putting the fix on bad men. I already watched one this month from 1968, THE GOLDEN CLAWS OF THE CAT GIRL, which oozes with style but isn't all that fulfilling. SATANIK is slightly worse, or rather more boring. It looks cool from time to time and it's got a groovy score by Manuel Parada but that's about it. The biggest problem is it drags. It takes about 20 minutes to get into the film and another 2 hours to get out (even though it's really only 86 minutes long).

There were things that didn't make sense like the two detectives that go after the murderer behind theses killings and that one of them shouldn't even be there and how they're miraculously able to come to conclusions that lead them along the killer's path but by their own logic shouldn't even be close. Shit like that. I was captivated by the image above. You see her in that mask and outfit on some of the posters so I was hoping for more cat burgler or spy action and got neither. It's a light crime thriller without any real thrills and the only crime is I was robbed of 86 minutes plus however long it took me to write this.

The Antichrist (1974)

Director: Alberto De Martino

Starring: Carla Gravina, Mel Ferrer, Arthur Kennedy, George Coulouris, Alida Valli, Mario Scaccia

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Deliver her from evil.

Plot: Ippolita is a paralyzed young woman with serious mental problems stemming from the death of her mother. Her crisis of faith and the intervention of a well-meaning psychologist lead Ippolita to remember her past life as a witch during the Inquisition. Eventually, Ippolita becomes possessed and starts seducing local men, only to kill them. An exorcism seems to be the only solution to stop the madness.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

When it comes to jumping on a popular film's bandwagon and riding into the ground, the Italians excelled at it and usually with poor results. Surprisingly, though, this film (coming out a year following the immensely successful, THE EXORCIST (1973)) is the best I've seen so far of THE EXORCIST rip offs - almost too good. I rather enjoyed it.

OK, so that's only one really cool scene but the attention paid to lighting, sets, special effects and so on is very solid and professional. The horror sub genre of demonic possession and exorcism created by THE EXORCIST fortunately lasted only a few short years but there seems to be ripoffs from nearly every major country for the 4 to 6 years that followed and most of them are bad. I'm sure I'll catch shit for this but I'd about rather watch this film than THE EXORCIST. At least it's got the goat orgy scene. What's THE EXORCIST got? Head spinning? Anybody can do that. Geez.

Planet of Dinosaurs (1977)

Director: James K. Shea

Starring: Mary Appleseth, Harvey Shain, Derna Wylde, Max Thayer, CHuck Pennington, Charlotte Speer, Louie Lawless, Pamela Bottaro, James Whitworth, Michael Lee

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Trapped On A Lost World of Prehistoric Monsters

Plot: A space ship gets lost and is forced to make an emergency landing on an unknown planet. The planet looks much like earth, only with no trace of civilization. Soon the crew discovers that there are dinosaurs on the planet, and blood-thirsty buggers at that. The crew hopes to be found and rescued, but they have to struggle to survive until then.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? No.

This picture took obvious inspiration from a bunch of movies like PLANET OF THE APES (1968), ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966), LAND OF THE LOST (1974 TV show), and every stop motion animated dinosaur movie to have ever existed. Is this a bad thing? It's not an automatic "yes" but in this case it is. The stop motion effects work is outstanding! I can't emphasize this enough. If you dig that sort of thing then you MUST see this. Retromedia has put out a nice widescreen DVD of it. For everyone else, avoid it. The dialogue is awful and it matches the level of performances you get from the actors. Except for the dinosaurs, it's low budget all the way. All of that doesn't mean it's not fun to watch but when 84 minutes feels like 3 hours, you've got a huge problem. I watched this with a group of friends and we goofed the shit out it but I couldn't help but look at how much time was left after about 50 minutes. It reminded me of STARCRASH (1978) where it's so bad it's good but after 45 minutes you're ready to get off this ride. But, DAMN, the dinosaur work was fantastic!

The Night Digger (1971)

Director: Alastair Reid

Starring: Patricia Neal, Pamela Brown, Nicholas Clay, Jean Anderson, Graham Crowden, Yootha Joyce

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A lonely woman in a decaying mansion... A young stranger on a big, black bike.

Plot: Effective psychological love story with a macabre twist not found in the original Joy Cowley novel. The dreary existence of middle- aged spinster Maura Prince takes an unexpected turn with the arrival of young handyman Billy Jarvis, but there is more to Billy than meets the eye. This well-crafted film, full of sexual tension and Gothic flavor, was Patricia Neal's second after her return to acting, her real-life stroke worked deftly into the story by then-husband Roald Dahl.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Had I seen a good widescreen print of this it might have fared better but besides the excellent Bernard Herrmann score, it's rather slow. That's not to say it's not worthwhile but I found it boring but not so bad that you couldn't see the potential for a better film. There's just no tension. You've got the great background score but you've also got a good story that unfortunately just plods along. The performances are fine but the direction spends too much time getting from scene to scene. This is one of those pictures that I came to watch ONLY because of the composer. I'm glad I did but now that it's over, I'll just stick to listening to the soundtrack instead.

Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968)

Director: Robert Gordon

Starring: Mike Henry, Rafer Johnson, Aliza Gur, Steve Bond, Ron Gans, Edward Johnson, Jose Lewgoy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Eric Was Just a Boy, But He Could Still Teach the Mighty Tarzan a Few Secrets of the Jungle!

Plot: A reporter comes to the jungle looking for a boy who was lost a few years ago. She goes to Tarzan for help. They go to the chief of the tribe where he was seen and they tell them that there is such a boy on their land. At the same time the chief's two sons, Buhara and Nagambi are battling each other to see who will the next chief. Nagambi cheats which Tarzan notices and saves Buhara. Because of his treachery the chief declares Buhara the new chief. But then they discover that only Nagambi knows where the boy is, and because Tarzan foiled him, he intends to find the boy and kill him. Buhara tells them that he will try to find him but their custom doesn't allow strangers on their land and anyone who violates that will be killed, and he warns Tarzan that he will kill even him if he enters their land. Tarzan decides to go and find the boy anyway and tells the reporter that he has to do it alone but she decides to follow him after he leaves.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

This is the first Tarzan picture I've watched since TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE (1959) which I saw about this time last year. Gordon Scott made a great Tarzan in that one. Not only that, it was a stellar jungle adventure movie and it was lots of fun. Cut to 1968 with JUNGLE BOY and it's a few steps in the wrong direction.

Mike Henry was OK as Tarzan (his voice sounds pretty damn close to Fess Parker's as Davy Crockett and it feels out of place) but then it's really hard to stack up to Scott's solid portrayal. Henry donned the loin cloth for three Tarzan pictures in '66, '67 and '68, with this being the last one. I'll get to them eventually but I think I'll have to space them out with the Gordon Scott pictures. This flick is OK but it's flawed.

15 minutes into the film Tarzan and pals end up at a Segunda tribal competition to see which son of the Chief will assume their pop's job. The competition lasts TEN MINUTES. No big deal, right? Yeah except we literally watch them race each other, swim, jump over spears, etc and there's very little spoken. All of this serves two purposes - to show us that one of the brothers is bad and the other is good and it's there to fill up 10 minutes of screen time which isn't necessary because the picture runs an hour and forty minutes anyway.

It's dumb stuff like this that brings the movie down a notch or two. Tarzan insists that the female photographer doesn't go with them and then he quickly changes his mind after she tells him otherwise. I hardly think the Lord of the Jungle is going to succumb to some city broad so easily. it's not like she flashed a boob or anything.

Say, wait a second...this isn't the picture I signed on for!

(and don't try to justify it simply because the chimp is female)

Brazil provides a lovely substitution for Africa (although it's supposed to be set in Africa) with some beautiful location shooting. William Loose's score is good BUT every time, and I mean EVERY TIME, Hilda (a chimp that is to the Jungle Boy as Cheetah is to Tarzan) or Cheetah show up, Loose vomits up a ridiculously silly theme. It's awful and embarrassing. Apparently the film makers think you have to have shitty music to speak to the kids at their level. When will they ever understand that you don't have to talk down to kids for kids to enjoy a movie?

The action is fine but the film suffers from being too long and rather dull. It's a shame they couldn't come up with a better character than Jungle Boy. It's a weak story but the gorgeous scenery is almost worth watching this for. If you like Tarzan pictures you'll want to see this in the great new widescreen print that Warner Bros. released as part of their burn-on-demand Archive collection. It's a lesser entry into the long-running series but not a terrible one. Gee, that hardly sounds like a recommendation.