Saturday, August 30, 2014

Willard (2003)

Director: Glen Morgan

Writers: Glen Morgan, Gilbert Ralston, Stephen Gilbert

Composer: Shirley Walker

Starring: Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Harring, Jackie Burroughs, Ashlyn Gere, William S. Taylor, Edward Horn, Gus Lynch, Laara Sadiq, David Parker, Ty Olsson, Kristen Cloke

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A new breed of friendship

Plot: Willard is an awkward, inept young man ostracized by the world around him. His gloomy existence takes a turn for the weird, though, when he discovers that his connection with a pet rat has gained him acceptance among the ranks of rodentia, and soon, Willard is using his new found army of vermin to get revenge on everyone who's done him wrong.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

I tell you what, you couldn't have picked a better lead than Crispin Glover and a better asshole of a boss than R. Lee Ermy.  They're both fantastic.  Then there's the rats.  I haven't seen the original or its sequel and yet I've now seen this one twice. I need to fix that. Good score by Shirley Walker.  The pacing is pretty good although it seems a little long which could be that there's another twenty minutes after Willard (Glover) dispenses with his boss (Ermy).  The rats attacking the cat had me squeamish.  That cat was fucked no matter how you sliced it and you knew it was doomed as soon it was introduced.  For a picture that takes as long as it does to get to the goods, it's fun and engaging and you can partially thank Glover and Ermy for keeping acting dynamic interesting and director Morgan & Co. for making it believable.  The New Line Platinum Series DVD has a commentary with director Glen Morgan, Producer James Wong, and actors Crispin Glover and R. Lee Ermy, a 73 minute (!) making of documentary, another documentary on rats (19 minutes), a music video of Glover performing "Ben", deleted and alternate scenes, the theatrical trailer and TV spots. 

The Pyx (1973)

Director: Harvey Hart

Writers: Robert Schlitt, John Buell

Composer: Harry Freedman

Starring: Karen Black, Christopher Plummer, Donald Pilon, Jean-Lous Roux, Yvette Brind'amour, Jacques Godin, Lee Broker, Terry Haig, Robin Gammell, Louise Rinfret

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Demons Hunger

Plot: A detective investigating the death of a heroin-addicted prostitute uncovers evidence pointing to the existence of a murderous devil cult.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

The Trinity Home Entertainment DVD is a mixed bag.  I was pleased that the film is presented in what looks like its original aspect ration of 2.35 : 1 and it's formatted for 16:9, but the image is dirty and dark.  I'm OK with filthy prints, especially with films like this where it sometimes adds to the experience, but the image is often so dark it's difficult to see everything as it was intended. The end credits are almost completely illegible.  The disc does not include any extras, not even a trailer.  As for the movie, it's not that bad.  Some will find it a little slow and it might take some time to get used to the mixing of the flashbacks of Elizabeth's (Black) last day with Detective Henderson's (Plummer) investigation of her death.  The performances are quite good and the music score and songs (sung by Black) work very well, too.  Perhaps with a better print I might have enjoyed the film more.  Or better still, if I could have seen this 40 years ago at a drive-in...that would have been fun.

Friday, August 29, 2014

RoboCop 2 (1990)

Director: Irvin Kershner

Writers: Frank Miller, Walon Green

Composer: Leonard Rosenman

Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O'Herlihy, Belinda Bauer, Tom Noonan, Gabriel Damon, Galyn Gorg, Felton Perry, Stephen Lee, Willard E. Pugh, Roger Aaron Brown, John Glover, Leeza Gibbons, Yogi Baird

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He's back to protect the innocents.

Plot: After a successful deployment of the Robocop Law Enforcement unit, OCP sees its goal of urban pacification come closer and closer. But as this develops, a new narcotic known as "Nuke" invades the streets led by God-delirious leader Kane. As this menace grows, it may prove to be too much for Murphy to handle. OCP tries to replicate the success of the first unit, but ends up with failed prototypes with suicidal issues... until Dr. Faxx, a scientist straying away from OCP's path uses Kane as the new subject for the Robocop 2 project, a living God.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I saw this in the theater, hated it and I haven't seen it since.  I can't even tell you why I didn't like it it's been so long.  I don't know what's changed but it's actually pretty fun.  It's not a great follow up to the badassicity that was ROBOCOP (1987) and it's not nearly as violent or funny but it has its moments.  The best thing about it is the extraordinary amount of stop motion animation.  That final battle between Robocop and Cain is balls-out awesome with the stop motion.  That blew me away.  There's at least an attempt to capture the humor found in the first one with things like the telethon and the contortionist playing the violin but it's not as wild as the first one.  It doesn't necessarily have to live up to the first film in every way but this first sequel falls short in every way.  The story isn't that bad and there's a lot to like but it's lacking the maturity and assuredness the first film had.  I've never seen the third one but I'll fix that soon.  My expectations have been lowered.

Wild Rovers (1971)

Director: Blake Edwards

Writer: Blake Edwards

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: William Holden, Ryan O'Neal, Karl Malden, Lynn Carlin, Tom Skerritt, Joe Don Baker, James Olson, Leora Dana, Moses Gunn, Victor French, Rachel Roberts

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They were damned good cowboys, until they robbed a bank.

Plot: Ross Bodine and Frank Post are cowhands on Walt Buckman's R-Bar-R ranch. Bodine is older and broods a bit about how he will get along when he's too old to cowboy. Post is young and rambunctious and ambitious for a better life than wrangling cows. When one of their fellow cowboys is killed in a corral accident, Post suggests a way into a better life for himself and his friend: robbing a bank. Bodine reluctantly joins in the plan and the two contrive to rob the local bank. They make good their escape initially, but Walt Buckman and his two sons, John and Paul, are incensed at this betrayal by their own trusted employees. John and Paul set out to bring Bodine and Post to justice.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

Every once in a while Blake Edwards makes a really good picture.  WILD ROVERS is well-shot, paced and written.  His dialogue is so natural and not the kind of thing you hear much in pictures.  William Holden is great of course.  Ryan O'Neal has good and bad moments.  He feels out of place during the scene when he and Ross (Holden) are talking about death in the first half hour.  Then later they're in a saloon just kind of shootin' the shit and he's marvelous.  Look for some fun, pre-famous performances by Tom Skerritt and Joe Don Baker.  The movie's only two hours and sixteen minutes but I found it odd that there was an Entr'acte, a little intermission, about an hour and a half into it.  They were usually found in much longer movies and they were falling out of fashion by the dawn of the 1970s.  I guess audiences weren't used to two hour films back then like we are now.

The filming locations are fantastic.  I'd love to see this on the big screen, taking me back to so many of these places I've visited like Arches National Park, The Painted Desert and Monument Valley.  But the best reason to watch this film is for Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful score.  It's one of his best, if not THE best, he made for a Western.  It's just brilliant and exciting.  I've been enthusiastically listening to the soundtrack for easily twenty five years and it never gets old and it's as refreshing to hear now as it was then.  This is very good picture in so many ways, then why isn't this out on DVD?  I grabbed it off of TCM many years ago (damn, I love that channel), but the quality isn't the greatest.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Director: Robert Hamer

Writers:Roy Horniman, Robert Hamer, John Dighton

Composer: Ernest Irving

Starring: Dennis Price, Valerie Hobson, Joan Greenwood, Alec Guinness, Audrey Fildes, Miles Malleson, Clive Morton, John Penrose, Cecil Ramage, Hugh Griffith, John Salew, Eric Messiter, Lyn Evans, Barbara Leake, Peggy Ann Clifford, Anne Valery, Arthur Lowe

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He chopped down the family tree...

Plot: A distant poor relative of the Duke of D'Ascoyne plots to inherit the title by murdering the eight other heirs who stand ahead of him in the line of succession.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

I've seen this before and I think I dug it more then.  The acting is strong.  The writing is strong.  Hell, just about every aspect of this works as it should.  It's just not that funny which is odd because it's a comedy.  Maybe I just wasn't in the mood last night but I was only mildly amused.  The deaths were cute because most of them ended with a 'thud' but that was about it.  I like how you initially like Louis (Price) only to hate him by the end.  It's silly and playful at first as he plots and murders the members of the family that stand in his way of his royal title but as the film wears on he becomes more and more despicable, especially in the manner he treats the two women in his life.  Alec Guinness is fun and I enjoyed some of his 8 characters.  I love British humor, A LOT, but this one just didn't bring the laughs this time.  The Anchor Bay DVD has only a trailer for an extra.  I was hoping for a commentary as that would be something I could really sink my teeth into.   For a film that was once #6 on the BFI's top comedy list, I don't understand their thinking much like the AFI's placement of TOOTSIE (1982) as the number one comedy of all time.  It's not THAT funny.  Here's a drinking game for this one.  Take a drink every time someone says D'Ascoyne and you'll be sloshed in minutes.

Wishmaster (1997)

Director: Robert Kurtzman

Writer: Peter Atkins

Composer: Harry Manfredini

Starring: Tammy Lauren, Andrew Divoff, Robert Englund, Chris Lemmon, Wendy Benson-Landes, Tony Crane, Jenny O'Hara, Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Ricco Ross, John Byner, George 'Buck' Flower, Gretchen Palmer, Ted Raimi, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, Joseph Pilato, Verne Troyer

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Be careful what you wish for.

Plot: A demonic djinn attempts to grant its owner three wishes, which will allow him to summon his brethren to earth.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Not bad.  It does feel like a mix of other horror franchises like HELLRAISER (1987), A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) and probably something else I'm missing but it's still able to maintain it's own universe and set of rules.  My favorite fucked up wish was how Nick got his million dollars.  Divoff was fine as the grovelly-voiced Djin but he was even better as Nathaniel.  Harry Manfredini's synth score was typical of what you got back in the 80s.  It didn't help that there are lots of sudden loud bursts of music and sound effects. That was annoying as shit and had me reaching for the remote until it finally just rested in my hand ready to raise or lower the volume.  That's inexcusable.  I suppose it could be the DVD transfer was mixed poorly but I doubt it.  The Lionsgate disc I've got has a 25-minute making of documentary, an audio commentary and the teaser and trailer for the film.  I'm yard sellin' this bitch.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)

Director: Earl McEvoy

Composer: Hans J. Salter

Writers: Milton Lehman, Harry Essex

Starring: Evelyn Keyes, Charles Korvin, William Bishop, Dorothy Malone, Lola Albright, Barry Kelley, Carl Benton Reid, Ludwig Donath, Art Smith, Whit Bissell, Roy Roberts, Connie Gilchrist, Dan Riss, Harry Shannon, Jim Backus, Walter Burke

More info: IMDb

Tagline: One woman brings terror to 8,000,000 people!

Plot: Police seek a diamond smuggler while doctors, unaware she's the same person, desperately comb unprotected New York for a smallpox carrier.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Here's a neat picture that serves as a film noir crime thriller but is not only based on a true incident but it's inspiring how we humans can do the right thing from time to time.  Read the Wikipedia article about the 1947 New York City smallpox outbreak.  It's fascinating how quickly things were set in motion to keep the disease from spreading.  5 million people were vaccinated in two weeks!!!  Astounding.  This picture does a great job at taking something most people would find uninteresting and probably flat out boring and make it into a good crime thriller by making the carrier that brings the disease a diamond smuggler.  Once the disease is discovered as well as who probably is responsible, it's the entire city, not just detectives, that are looking for Sheila (Keyes).  Her story runs alongside the smallpox story which naturally culminate with her being stopped at the end of the picture.  That's not a spoiler alert as there's no way it would have happened any other way when this picture was made.  It's a great story and it's told with such urgency that it was easy for me to get caught up in it.  I really dug it.  It's the first film I've watched from the Columbia DVD set BAD GIRLS OF FILM vol 1.  It's got 4 films and a few extras.  The only extra for this picture is the original theatrical trailer but the other film on the disc, TWO OF A KIND (1951) has a 7 minute interview with Terry Moore as well as its trailer.  So far I'm very pleased with this set.

Phyllis Diller - Not Just Another Pretty Face (2007)

Director: ???

Writers: Joe Bigelow, Jay Burton

Music Direction: Mitchell Ayres

Starring: Phyllis Diller, Frankie Avalon, Joe Besser, Annette Funicello, Phil Harris, The King Family, Kirk Kirkham, Dean Martin, Don Rickles, Terry-Thomas

More info: Amazon

Plot: Highlights from Diller's hosting appearances on THE HOLLYWOOD PALACE (1964-1970).

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

It took me a while but I finally found out this was from a variety show called THE HOLLYWOOD PALACE that ran from '64 to '70 and it was guest hosted weekly on Saturday nights by people like Sammy Davis Jr., Don Adams, Jimmy Durante, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and other child beaters.  This DVD runs about an hour and is just clips of Diller's monologues along with some skits with Don Rickles and others.  The best ones were with her, Rickles and Terry-Thomas (from 1969) who kept flubbing his lines and laughing hysterically.  The canned laughter is is an assault on the ears but that's what you got with TV comedy for decades and there's no avoiding that.  Whoever put this brief compilation together didn't pay close enough attention.  Diller's monologues repeat jokes.  It's bad enough that it happened at all but at least you had a few weeks, months or years between hearing them as they originally aired.  You've got to be Leonard from MEMENTO (2000) to not notice it while watching this DVD.  I like Diller but in small doses.  She laughs a lot during her monologues and you get more than you can handle when they're strung together for long stretches at a time.  I still love her but that canned laughter added to the mix bugs the bejesus out of me.  You could say she's the female Bob Hope with a mix of Rodney Dangerfield.  She's very much a self-deprecating comic.  Her best joke on this release is when she's talking about being old, "My G-string is clear on down to D flat."  Now THAT'S funny!  The MPI DVD has a couple of extras, a soap commercial with Diller and a 7-minute segment from a 1963 episode of WHAT'S MY LINE? that has as panelists Shelley Berman, Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, host John Daly and announcer Johnny Olson.  That was fun.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Scalphunters (1968)

Director: Sydney Pollack

Writer: William W. Norton

Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Shelley Winters, Telly Savalas, Ossie Davis, Dabney Coleman, Paul picerni, Dan Vadis, Armando Silvestre, Nick Cravat, Tony Epper, Chuck Roberson, John Epper, Jack Williams

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He'll stop at nothing to take back what's his.

Plot: Forced to trade his valuable furs for a well-educated escaped slave, a rugged trapper vows to recover the pelts from the Indians and later the renegades that killed them.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

Burt Lancaster is a pretty solid actor and one that I'll watch in anything, especially Westerns.  The three Westerns he did after this one are all outstanding, tough and gritty.  Check 'em out...LAWMAN (1971), VALDEZ IS COMING (1971) and ULZANA'S RAID (1972). ULZANA is a real beaut and one of my favorites.  Well this picture has some great performances from everyone.  Davis, Winters, Savalas - all doing a great job.  And damn it, it took me until the end to finally figure out which one of Jim Howie's (Savalas) men was played by Dabney Coleman and it wasn't until the end when he had some lines did I recognize his voice.  I love that guy.  Bernstein's score is fun and upbeat to play up the light comedy but don't let that fool you.  The comedy isn't what you think.  It's light in tone but it's a serious picture.  There are a couple of bullshit moments like when Joe (Lancaster) suddenly pops up right behind Joseph (Davis).  Joseph would have almost walked right over him for that to happen.  Anyway, it's a minor complaint.  The back and forth between Lancaster and Davis is wonderful and they both pull it off beautifully. The Blu-ray just came out on 7/22/14 which sucks because I just watched this a couple of weeks before.  It's too fresh in my mind to buy it even for $17.  Years from now when I'm ready to watch it again and the price is closer to five bucks then it'll sit on my shelf in hi def. 

Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust (2008)

Director: Silvia St. Croix

Writers: William Butler, Muffy Bolding, Aaron Strongoni

Composer: ???

Starring: Michelle Bauer, Pieter Christian Colson, Michael Deak, Bruce Dent, Travis Dixon, Junie Hoang, K-von, Frank Nicotero, Greg Nicotero, Joseph Porter, Kelsey Sanders, Viorel Sergovici, David Sivits, Jon Southwell, John Vulich, Bryce Wagoner, Zack Wagoner

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Freshly Baked Terror!

Plot: The horrifying yet delicious and chewy Gingerdead Man causes murder and mayhem on the set of a horrible low budget movie set. It will take the determination of the studio's young new owner to save both his company and well as the lives of his young new friends. Including a terminally ill young boy whose final wish it was to meet the studios stars - The Tiny Terrors.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

If you like this sort of thing, you're going to like it.  That's a shitty way of putting it but it's true.  If you like the output Full Moon offers then this is more of the same.  One thing I dug about it is how it turns the camera on itself and presents a parody of the studio and everything about it as far as making movies filled with bad puns, relying on puppets and milking a franchise for all they can.  That part was great.  The Gingerdead Man stuff was almost a side story which I'm OK with.  The cooking/baking puns are back en force but there's more to it than being a sequel which is why I gave it a higher score.   The pacing is pretty quick and the just over an hour running time fits the film just fine.  The music, I'm guessing, is probably from Full Moon's library which might explain the absence of a composer's name in the credits.  It seemed like the film was almost wall to wall with score so it makes sense that it would've been culled from stock cues in their library.  That's cheap and easy to do versus hiring someone to score it.  The music is pretty good, too, especially for a film like this done on the cheap and direct-to-video route.  I've got the 3 film box set with all of the Gingerdead Man pictures (except vs. EVIL BONG).  I'm going to cut this one loose and skip the third film.  It's not doing anything for me at this point. The only extras on this disc are trailers for this film, DANGEROUS WORRY DOLLS (2008), EVIL BONG (2006), and DECADENT EVIL 2 (2007).

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972)

Director: Waris Hussein

Writers: Matt Robinson, Irene Kamp, Ramona Stewart

Composer: Joe Raposo

Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Perry King, David Elliott, Lisa Kohane, Lovelady Powell, Barbara Trentham, Miriam Colon, Edmundo Rivera Alvarez, Teodorina Bello, Robert Burr, Michael Horden

More info: IMDb

Tagline: If you believe, no explanation is necessary. If you don't believe, no explanation is possible.

Plot: Shirley MacLaine stars as Norah Benson, a New Yorker who puzzles over sudden changes in her brother's behavior. Joel (King) has begun speaking Spanish and practicing strange rituals. In order to protect her family and save her brother, Norah must delve deep into the mysterious world of Santeria, where she begins to suspect that the spirit of a serial killer may be the reason for Joel's behavior.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

The above video is the best scene in the movie and it happens in the last fifteen minutes, the best section of the film.  It's a real slow go from the start.  MacLaine gives a fine performance but the picture drags enough that it feels like not much happens.  The seance/exorcism is long and repetitious.   The thing is I often like slow and deliberate but this picture needed some 'oomph', a little kick in the pants because the finale is so frenetic and horrific that it seems like it belongs to a different film.  This predates THE EXORCIST (1973) by a year and this might be the first (or at the very least one of the first) films about possession.  It's a curiosity to that degree but be prepared for that slow first hour and a half before the in-your-face finale.  The Paramount DVD offers up a great widescreen transfer devoid of any extras.

Hercules (1983)

Director: Luigi Cozzi

Writer: Luigi Cozzi

Composer: Pino Donaggio

Starring: Lou Ferrigno, Sybil Danning, Brad Harris, Ingrid Anderson, William Berger, Rossana Podesta, Mirella D'Angelo, Bobby Rhodes, Gianni Garko, Yehuda Efroni, Delia Boccardo, Claudio Cassinelli

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Legend Lives!

Plot: Hercules must rescue Princess Cassiopea from her kidnappers, fight off grotesque laser-breathing monsters and in one case, jettison a giant bear up into space where it becomes Ursa Major, the Big Dipper or "Great Bear" constellation.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

You know what the problem is having nearly every scene shot on a sound stage is?  The film suffers from claustrophobia.   There are several outdoor scenes in this picture but a lot of them are accompanied by things like matte paintings and other optical effects which take away from the niceness of being outside.  The effects in general are clunky but they do throw in some stop motion animation which I always dig.  Hell, even Pino Donaggio's score feels thin, adding to the closed in nature of the film.  The performances aren't so bad but they feel hampered by the abundance of effects with lighting and everything else.  It's too bad Ferrigno's voice is dubbed.  I kept thinking of that Bill Murray skit from SNL where he plays Hercules out of shape.  I'd rather have that voice.  There's a sequel out there that's begging me to watch it.  Someday.  But for now I'm looking forward to the Dwayne Johnson HERCULES coming out in a few months.  I'll be there.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz

Writers: Robert Buckner, Edmund Joseph, Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein

Composer: George M. Cohan, Ray Heindorf, Heinz Roemheld

Starring: James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, Richard Whorf, Irene Manning, George Tobias, Rosemary DeCamp, Jeanne Cagney, Frances Langford, George Barbier, S.Z. Sakall, Walter Catlett, Douglas Croft, Eddie Foy Jr., Minor Watson, Chester Clute, Odette Myrtil, Patsy Parsons, Jack Young

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Based on the story of GEORGE M. COHAN with the Greatest of all his Great Music

Plot: A musical portrait of composer/singer/dancer George M. Cohan. From his early days as a child-star in his family's vaudeville show up to the time of his comeback at which he received a medal from the president for his special contributions to the US, this is the life- story of George M. Cohan, who produced, directed, wrote and starred in his own musical shows for which he composed his famous songs.

My rating: 10/10

Will I watch it again? YES!!!!!!

This was already one of my favorite movies of all time and Cagney IS my favorite actor but seeing this in a gorgeous 1920s theater up there on the big screen changes everything.  It was an emotional cinematic experience that further solidifies that movies are meant to be seen that way and you should take every opportunity to see them projected larger than life.  I was in tears throughout the entire film...not of sadness but joy.  Cagney is a presence to behold.  What a powerhouse of a performance!  The dancing alone is astounding.  It's one of the all-time great performances and there's no arguing that.  He'll make you laugh and cry within the same scene, without edits, and he does it so effortlessly that it's uncanny.  I could go on for pages about the merits of this picture.  There's only one minor grievance I have and that's Jack Young's performance of the President which sounds like he's giving a speech to the nation rather than a one-on-one with Cohan.  Outside of that this movie is utterly flawless in every department.  There's a wonderful scene where Cohan (Cagney) wrote a song for his wife, Mary (Leslie), but was forced to give to a top Broadway performer as enticement to be in his musical, something he desperately needed at the time. It kills him that he had to do it and he has to break it to Mary.  As a viewer, you're guts are all torn up because you feel just as horrible about it and you don't want to see Mary hurt but the scene plays out so masterfully that you're laughing with joy at the end of it. 

The actors hit all the right notes, the choreography (LeRoy Prinz, Seymour Felix, Jack Boyle) is top notch, the cinematography (James Wong Howe), editing (George Amy), costumes (Milo Anderson) and everything but Young goes to show what a large group of incredibly talented people can do.  If this picture has this kind of effect on me seventy years after, I can only imagine what it would have done coming out just a few months after the country had entered WWII.  One of the biggest stars, of course, is the music by George M. Cohan.  "Over There", "Give My Regards to Broadway", "The Yankee Doodle Boy", "You're a Grand Old Flag" are just a few of the songs he wrote and are featured prominently in this picture.  Then there's the beautiful song "Mary's a Grand Old Name" and the fun "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway".  I don't care how inaccurate this picture might be.  It's a damn fine picture and one of the best.  The Warner Bros. 2-disc DVD set is loaded with extras including a great 47 minute documentary on Cagney's movie career.  It's by all means just the tip of the iceberg but it's a great introduction to one hell of a guy that happened by make great pictures.

Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976)

Director: Mark L. Lester

Writer: Vernon Zimmerman

Composer: Barry De Vorzon

Starring: Marjoe Gortner, Lynda Carter, Jesse Vint, Merrie Lynn Ross, Belinda Balaski, Gene Drew, Peggy Stewart, Gerrit Graham, John Durren, Virgil Frye

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Bobby Jo was a car hop, she wanted to be a country singer. He was a hustler who dreamed he was Billy The Kid. For a while they had something... and then...

Plot: A young country-star wannabe takes off from her carhop career to join with a young, modern Billy the Kid wannabe for an adventure in theft, murder and mayhem.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Here's a mediocre (then) modern day BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) that's got something no other movie has...

Lynda Carter's super power of YOWZA!  Soak it in boys & girls, soak it in. It's got the usual mischief leading to bigger crimes of robbery and murder along with the expected outcome of cinematic B&C wannabe's.  The Western locations are nice (I love driving out West) and the film moves along about as well as expected for this minor drive-in picture.

Gortner & Carter make a good team with their wild-eyed dreams of self-imposed importance.  They aren't as tough or cool as they think which kept me from caring as much as the filmmakers would like (you know, 'cause they were wondering what I'd think, seeing it nearly thirty years after it was filmed) but that probably wasn't the intention of the filmmakers. Maybe they wanted the audience to see them as half-losers.  It's an OK time killer but this picture would be best served up as a drive-in double feature, giving you the chance to make out with your best gal (or dude) during the slow parts.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Any Gun Can Play (1967)

Original title: Vado...L'ammazzo e Torno

Director: Enzo G. Castellari

Writers: Tito Carpi, Enzo G. Castellari, Romolo Guerrieri, John Davis Hart, Sauro Scavolini, Giovanni Simonelli

Composers: Alessandro Alessandroni, Francesco De Masi

Starring: Edd Byrnes, George Hilton, Gilbert Roland, Stefania Careddu, Jose Torres, Ivano Staccioli, Gerard Herter, Ignazio Spalla, Adriana Gluffre, Valentino Macchi, Riccardo Pizzuti, Rodolfo Valadier, Marco Mariani

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A million dollars is the prize ... but the game is deadly.

Plot: A gang of bandits rob a train of it's $300,000 gold shipment. Once the gang's leader makes off with the pot he's pursued by a bounty hunter, a banker, and a lone bandit. Once word gets around about the missing shipment of gold mayhem ensues.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

For starters, Gilbert Roland is a badass and should have been in every Spaghetti Western.  He did a few in the late 60s and this is the only one I've seen and I've seen it twice now. He was in his early 60s when he made this one and he looks fantastic.  What a great look he had.  It's got some nice moments and the scenery is gorgeous (I have GOT to visit this region of Spain some day).  One thing that brings it down for me is the sometimes silly, comedic music, the kind you get with the extended bar brawl.  It's so idiotic during that scene I about reached for the remote to fast forward through it...but I didn't.  One thing I REALLY dig about this picture is the end.  It's a got a fantastic finish to a 3-way duel/faceoff.  It's a pretty good picture.  I've had the VCI DVD since it came out around 2001. Back then I had a 32" CRT TV so the widescreen image was great.  Now that I've got a screen more than twice that, it's awful.  I don't mind dirty prints but it's the transfer that's bad.  It's filled with digital artifacts AND it's not 16:9 so you have to zoom in and it still doesn't fill the screen.  The only extras are trailer for this film and A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL (1969).  I don't even see this version on Amazon.  It might be out of print. If I watch it again I'll have to find a better transfer.  By that time I'll probably have an even larger screen which will be even worse for this picture.  Woof.

Feast (2005)

Director: John Gulager

Writers: Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton

Composer: Stephen Edwards

Starring: Balthazar Getty, Henry Rollins, Navi Rawat, Judah Friendlander, Josh Zuckerman, Jason Mewes, Jenny Wade, Krista Allen, Clu Gulager

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They're Hungry. You're Dinner.

Plot: Patrons locked inside of a bar are forced to fight monsters.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

If you like your horror mixed with some black humor then this might fit the bill for you.  It's gory, the creature effects are good, there's lots of monster action, you've got a few familiar faces in the cast and there are some pretty good laughs.  People die and a lot of them don't last long which I dug.  It's also tedious and after the first half of the picture my attention started to wain.  It felt like it was one ordeal after another as if it had to reach that 90 minute running time.  A little less would have helped.  Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for it.  I've heard a lot of good things about it but it didn't gel for me.  It is cool that the director is the son of Clu Gulager.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Under Southern Stars (1937)

Director: Nick Grinde

Writer: Forrest Barnes

Composer: ???

Starring: Fritz Leiber, Fred Lawrence, Jane Bryan, Gordon Hart, John Sheehan, Wayne Morris, Pierre Watkin, Olive Tel, Myrtle Stedman, Harry Davenport, Al Haskell, Stuart Holmes, Dennis Moore, Jack Mower, Paul Panzer, Blackie Whiteford

More info: IMDb

Plot: Set in the springtime of 1863 in Chancellorsville, Virginia during the War Between the States, this colorful short profiles the heroic Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson the night before he would meet his fate in battle.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

This is part of the 'Warner Bros. Night at the Movies' extras that lead up to the DVD's feature film, BLACK LEGION (1937) (starring Humphrey Bogart).  It was used to show off the Technicolor process.  Why this little flick opens with Fred Lawrence crooning the title song is beyond me.  It's pretty cheesy.  Maybe songs sound better in color (hahaha).  There are some battle scenes which are kind of neat but it abruptly cuts from the action to General Jackson lying in bed, dying.  Back to the fight for a couple of minutes and let's end it with Fred bringing it home with one more chorus from "Under Southern Stars".  Hmmmmm.  It's a fun diversion from the other extras on the disc but it's not the kind of thing you'll probably revisit unless you tend to do the 'Warner...Movies' from start to finish on every release of theirs that has it. 

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)

Director: Norman Taurog

Writers: Robert Kaufman, James H. Nicholson, Elwood Ullman, Louis M. Heyward

Composer: Les Baxter

Starring: Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Susan Hart, Jack Mullaney, Fred Clark, Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley, Harvey Lembeck

More info: IMDb

Tagline: See Cuddly BIKINI GIRLS Made To Order!

Plot: Dr. Goldfoot has invented an army of bikini-clad robots who are programmed to seek out wealthy men and charm them into signing over their assets. Craig Gamble and Todd Armstrong set out to foil the fiendish plot.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

A dozen years ago I tried to watch this and turned it off after a half hour and moved onto something else.  That's rare for me not to finish a movie but I was watching it with friends and we were all having the same reaction.  It was dumb, unfunny and boring. I watched it last night with another group of friends and on a much bigger screen and something was different. It's still a dumb picture but I found myself laughing every once in a while.  I'm a fan of Price and Hickman (I used to watch DOBIE GILLIS a lot when I was a kid) and Price is hamming it up but this time the hamming adds to the fun.  Only a few of the jokes land well but they are pretty damn funny.  The whole thing is just ridiculous but it's mid-60s goofiness and you probably need to view it in that context to get the most out of it.  I can still understand why I turned it off all those years ago but I have a better appreciation for it now.  That doesn't mean I'll watch it again but, being the Price fan I am, I'll watch the sequel, DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS (1966) for better or worse. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Black Legion (1937)

Director: Archie Mayo

Writers: Abem Finkel, William Wister Haines, Robert Lord

Composer: ???

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Dick Foran, Erin O'Brien-Moore, Ann Sheridan, Helen Flint, Joe Sawyer, Clifford Soubier, Alonzo Price, Paul Harvey, Dickie Jones, Samuel S. Hinds, Addison Richards, Eddie Acuff

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They murdered at midnight!

Plot: When a hard-working machinist loses a promotion to a Polish-born worker, he is seduced into joining the secretive Black Legion, which intimidates foreigners through violence.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

If you watch some of Bogart's earlier work, and I'm talking about the pictures he made in the early-to-mid 30s where he was largely a bit player, you couldn't see much in his performances that would lead you to believe he'd be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.  He played a lot of thugs and criminal lowlifes.  In fairness, he wasn't given much of an opportunity to show off his acting chops. That's why it's so refreshing to see him stretch a bit in one of his first top-billed roles.  He makes a fine go at it, too, with a range of emotions, breathing life into the character of Frank Taylor.  At first he's a loving family man but that all changes when he loses his big promotion to a...FOREIGNER!!!  OH, NO!!!!  It's time for a KKK-esque group, The Black Legion, to step in and make things right for Frank and his fellow 'patriots'.

Naturally this is the wrong path for Frank but he's going to have to learn that lesson for himself.  There are lots of fine performances in this moral tale of bonehead groups like this.  The pacing is pretty quick until it gets to the last eleven minutes of the trial but even that has a few surprises left to spring on us. It's a good picture and probably one that most fans of Bogart will dig.  Warner Bros. knows how to treat their films right (but not all the time).  With this minor Bogart effort they give us a commentary (with Patricia King Hanson and Anthony Slide), the film's trailer and their 'Warner Night at the Movies' which has a trailer for THE PERFECT SPECIMEN (), a newsreel, a soundie (old timey music video) of Cab Calloway singing Hi De Ho, the 17 minute short film UNDER SOUTHERN STARS (1937), and a cartoon short PORKY AND GABBY (1937) which leads into the film. 

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

Director: William Asher

Writers: William Asher, Leo Townsend

Composer: Les Baxter

Starring: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley, Harvey Lembeck, John Ashley, Jody McCrea, Donna Loren, Marta Kristen, Linda Evans, Timothy Carey, Don Rickles, Paul Lynde, Buster Keaton, The Hondells, Earl Wilson, Bobby Shaw

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Any number can play...but it's better with just two!

Plot: In the fourth of the highly successful Frankie and Annette beach party movies, a motorcycle gang led by Eric Von Zipper kidnaps singing star Sugar Kane managed by Bullets, who hires sky-diving surfers Steve and Bonnie from Big Drop for a publicity stunt. With the usual gang of kids and a mermaid named Lorelei.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Dumb, silly, idiotic and sometimes fun, but it's the interesting cast that can't let me pass it up.  It's great seeing Rickles, Lynde, Carey, Lembeck and Keaton (who's got some really funny bits) in one picture.  The humor is way over the top.  I dig slapstick but I wasn't partial to what this picture was serving up.  In fact, I was wondering who was diggin' this stuff 50 years ago.  We watched the film outside on a big screen in my backyard and hung out in the pool which was fun.  It's a film that plays much better when you're watching it with friends.  I wouldn't recommend seeing it alone.  I think the only times I laughed were at the ridiculousness of it all.  Was Avalon wearing a toupee?  The songs are bad to OK with one standout sung by Jackie Ward (lip synced by Linda Evans)...

The end credits were fun and the song was catchy (we were all singing the tune for a few minutes after it was over but quickly forgot it when the second movie started).  It's pretty tame (no surprise) and most of the jokes fall flat but it's an over the top product of its time and it was popular, making lots of dough.  There are a few other films made by the same folks and I'll eventually watch them all and mostly because they're sprinkled with actors I dig.