Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lock Up (1989)

Director: John Flynn

Writers: Richard Smith, Jeb Stuart, Henry Rosenbaum

Composer: Bill Conti

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Donald Sutherland, John Amos, Sonny Landham, Tom Sizemore, Frank McRae, Darlanne Fluegel, William Allen Young, Larry Romano, Frank Pesce

More info: IMDb

Tagline: How much can a man take...before he gives back?

Plot: Frank Leone is nearing the end of his prison term for a relatively minor crime. Just before he is paroled, however, Warden Drumgoole takes charge. Drumgoole was assigned to a hell-hole prison after his administration was publicly humiliated by Leone, and has now arrived on the scene to ensure that Leone never sees the light of day.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Well, it was better than I thought it was going to be. Yeah, it's got the prison cliches which is fine and it helps to have a good cast (It's always great to see Frank McRae in anything) but it does go farther than you'd think.  It does feel a little long at close to two hours but there's a lot to it.  It's a near constant struggle for Frank (Stallone) once he's in the hoosegow under the watch of Warden Drumgoole (what a name, right?) (Sutherland) who sees to it that Frank's final six months is as tough as it can be.  There are the short cons and the long con that break Frank down to do what he's got to do.  It's not a bad film but it's probably not going to make anyone's top 10 Stallone films list.  Fans of him or the genre won't regret checking it out. The Live Entertainment DVD has a good widescreen print of the film and the extras are a fullscreen theatrical trailer, a vintage 7-minute behind the scenes featurette which is a fluff piece (no surprise there) with a little bit of interesting info tossed in and another 3 minute vintage piece focusing on Stallone.

Terrified (1963)

Director: Lew Landers

Writer: Richard Bernstein

Composer: Michael Anderson

Starring: Rod Lauren, Steve Drexel, Tracy Olsen, Stephen Roberts, Sherwood Keith, barbara Luddy, Denver Pyle, Lee Bradley, Ben Frank, Danny Welton, Nona Carver, Michael Fellen, Robert Towers

More info: IMDb


Plot: A college psychology student, intent on writing a term paper on how much terror the human mind can endure, learns his answers first-hand as he finds himself the target of a mysterious, hooded killer in an Old West ghost town.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I'm burning through a 4-DVD/8-film set from BCI over the course of two days (6 the day of this writing and two tomorrow).  It's all low budget, public domain stuff but it's sci-fi and horror from the 50s and 60s.  It's mostly crap but it's 50+ year old crap which kind of makes it a little more tolerable.  This one doesn't have much going for it as far as working up a desire to watch.  Future DUKES OF HAZZARD's Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle) plays the sheriff but you won't easily recognize him.  I didn't until he started raising his voice and his teeth were showing from the side.  Weird, I know.  Seeing the guy buried alive was neat and so was the Western ghost town.  There's a really nice shot near the end when a car pulls up and you see the town from inside the car's point of view and it's only lit with the auto's headlights.  The story is actually pretty neat but it's the execution that helps hurt it.  There's too much to do, scenes last too long, the music is often repetitive, and so on...the usual things that hurt low budget pictures.  But this was directed by Lew Landers (his last picture, by the way) who made over a hundred films and dozens and dozens of TV episodes.  Maybe he was tired.  Beats me but it's unnecessarily slow.  Good story or not, it drags enough to keep reaching for the remote to see how much time is left and that ain't good.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Knight's Tale (2001)

Director: Brian Helgeland

Writer: Brian Helgeland

Composer: Carter Burwell

Starring: Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon, Paul Bettany, Laura Fraser, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Berenice Bejo, Scott Handy, James Purefoy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: From peasant to knight; one man can change his stars.

Plot: After his master dies, a peasant squire, fueled by his desire for food and glory, creates a new identity for himself as a knight.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Well here was a nice surprise.  I didn't think I was going to like it.  I'd heard it's filled with classic pop/rock songs which I initially thought was a ridiculous idea (as I'm sure everyone else did, too.)  Then you see it and the songs work.  You'll laugh your ass off every time one starts but they strangely work.  The cast is great especially Ledger (William/Ulrich) and his cohorts Paul Bettany (Geoffrey Chaucer) (and it's especially clever and fun how they played around with his character),  Alan Tudyk (Wat), Mark Addy (Roland) and Laura Fraser (Kate).  They're a lot of fun.  It was good writing, too.   
SPOILER ALERT... And I'll say this, too, the story took some turns that are atypical for a Hollywood picture like William falling out of love with Jocelyn (Sossamon) and into love with his blacksmith, Kate. But they just had to do the one thing that I don't think has ever not been done and that's have someone discover his ruse by making up a different identity and throwing it back into his face at the end.  Are there any films where someone hides their true identity, falls in love with someone under that false name/persona and it never becomes an issue?  Why does is have to always come back and bite them in the ass?  Just sayin'.  It'd be nice if a picture bucked the trend and didn't allow it to burden the character.  Another thing that surprised me is they set up Chaucer having a gambling problem but it only served to provide a few laughs for one small plot line. What didn't happen is him gambling away the gang's money near the end or something of the sort.  It was a nice restraint that I really appreciated.  END OF SPOILERS...YARRRRR!!! 

If you've been on the fence about watching this for one reason or another, give it a chance.  It's actually a fun and enjoyable movie.  I'm not saying it's going to be something you'll return to but you'll at least spend over two hours (and a quickly paced 144 I might add, and it goes by very quickly - impressive!) having a great time with some really fun characters. 

The Columbia Special Edition DVD comes with the theatrical 132 minute film and the 144 minute extended version (the one I saw). The extras included are a commentary with writer/director Brian Helgeland and actor Paul Bettany, 11 short (usually 2-5 minutes each) featurettes on various stages and aspect of the production, 6 deleted scenes with optional filmmakers' introductions and a 15 minute HBO making of featurette.

The Creeping Terror (1964)

Director: Vic Savage

Writer: Robert Silliphant

Composer: Frederick Kopp

Starring: Vic Savage, Shannon O'Neil, William Thourlby, John Caresio, Brendon Boone, Byrd Holland, Jack King, Pierre Kopp, Ken Savage, Mark Field, Les La Marr, Mary Price, Louise Lawson

More info: IMDb

Plot: A newlywed sheriff tries to stop a shambling monster that has emerged from a spaceship to eat people.

My rating: 2/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Here's one you can believe the hype on...it's that bad.  No sound was recorded while filming so narration and dubbing are all that's added.  A lot of the score is a cheesy organ, done on the cheap.  There's an instrumental pop tune at the dance that goes on forever for the sake of filling the 76 minute running time...which is way too long.  It's no surprise that many of those involved with this picture did little to nothing else.  It's just a real drag, man.  If they'd recorded sound during filming, eliminating the need for narration, this might be bearable but as it stands, it's dreadfully dull.  It's not all that inept as far as the acting goes (which is hard to tell when it's dubbed) but more editing could have been invaluable in trimming the excessively long scenes into something tighter and leaner than this.  Ugh.  I only passively watched this as I organized my office and it still bored the piss out of me.  Viewer beware.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ned Blessing: Return to Plum Creek (1993)

Director: Jack Bender

Writer: William D. Wittliff?

Composer: David Bell

Starring: Brad Johnson, Luis Avalos, Timothy Scott, Donzaleigh Abernathy, Gregory Scott Cummins, Tony Genaro, Jill Parker-Jones, Julius Tennon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A lawless frontier.  One born leaer.

Plot:  The town of Plum Creek falls into treacherous hands when a loyal Sheriff Albright is brutally killed under mysterious circumstances. With a small town quickly becoming lawless under the watch of evil Emma and her husband, there is only one man who can bring justice back. Ned Blessing.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Here's an OK at best Western in the form of a TV movie. The acting is poor to good depending on the actor, the story is fine and it looks alright but the small budget shows from the limited cast and locations to the sparse and thin score (lots of somber violin).  The only standout performance for me was that of Rob Campbell who had his feature film debut in UNFORGIVEN (1992) (as Davey) the year before.  It's funny because the DVD cover of this film looks mightily close to that of UNFORGIVEN.  Hmmmmm.  Marketing geniuses.  Don't look for a deep plot or anything trying anything new or different.  It's a simple film that tells a simple story which is just fine.  I guess I wanted or was expecting a little more.  The Trinity DVD presents the film in its original fullscreen TV ratio and with not a single extra.

The Devil's Hand (1961)

Director: William J. Hole Jr.

Writer: Jo Helms

Composers: Allyn Ferguson, Michael Terr

Starring: Linda Christian, Robert Alda, Ariadna Welter, Neil Hamilton, Gere Craft, Jeanne Carmen, Julie Scott, Diana Spears, Gertrude Astor, Bruno VeSota, Dick Lee, Jim Knight, Coleen Vico, Roy Wright, Romona Ravez, Tony Rock

More info: IMDb

Tagline: ...It struck with savage fury destroying...killing all that crossed its path!

Plot: Rick Turner is engaged of Donna Trent and is having nightmares with a beautiful blonde woman dancing in the sky. One night, he is mysteriously driven to a doll shop, and in the next morning he returns to the place with Donna. He finds a doll that resembles his fiancé, but the owner Francis Lamont delivers another doll to him, with the face of the woman of his dreams, Bianca Milan. Rick looks for Bianca and is seduced and convinced by her to join a sect that worships the diabolic Camba, while the health of Donna is threatened by Francis and Bianca.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Nice flick!  For a short low budget horror flick, this one's really well made and packs a nice little punch.  The performances are good along with the story, sets, music and everything else.  For 71 minutes I kept wondering when it was going to fall apart but it stays true to itself all along. I won't spoil it but the ending was pretty damn good.  There's some good 'ole Voodoo type shit going on that added some fun.  Stuff with dolls and pins and such but this picture takes it more seriously than most from this era.  And who would have thought that 60s TV BATMAN's Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) was the leader of a Satanic cult?  He's terrific as are the rest of the leads.  This is one of eight films on a low budget 4-DVD set (each film is on one side of a disc).  Some come with extras and others don't.  The print looks really good and it's got a 'play as a drive-in' feature that gives you the drive in experience by starting the show with a vintage Water Lanz color Woody Woodpecker cartoon called PANTRY PANIC (1941) followed by some snack bar messages (mmmm them pickles look good!), a trailer for CARNIVAL OF CRIME and a final one for DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! just before the film starts.  You can pick up the set for well under ten bucks (shipped).  So far I'm halfway through it and it's totally worth it.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Blade: Trinity (2004)

Director: David S. Goyer

Writer: David S. Goyer

Composers: Ramin Djawadi, RZA

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Dominic Percell, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds, Parker Posey, Mark Berry, John Michael Higgins, Callum Keith Rennie, Paul Levesque, Paul Anthony, Francoise Yip, Michael Anthony Rawlins, James Remar, Natasha Lyonne, Ginger Broatch, Patton Oswalt, Eric Bogosian

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Where it began so it shall end.

Plot: Blade, now a wanted man by the FBI, must join forces with the Nightstalkers to face his most challenging enemy yet: Dracula.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I have the 4 Film Favorites Blade Collection 4 DVD set.  I watched what I thought was the first film (the disc face didn't say anything but Blade) and it was only when the credits rolled that I discovered it was this third film.  Anyway, I got ripped off because the set was minus the first two films.  I rather liked this one.  It's got a good cast except I would have liked Drake (Dracula) to have more of a personality.  Ryan Reynolds is fucking hilarious and he's the single best reason to see this picture.  He reminds me a lot of Jason Lee and his wisecracking self.  The special effects of the vampires dying were great.  The scene with Blade (Snipes) getting tossed the baby was hilarious.  Goochee goo. It felt like that would have been in the graphic novel somewhere (which I haven't read).  Is Blade supposed to have any charisma?  He didn't have much in this picture.  If this were the first one of the series I wouldn't continue but since it's part three I think I'll check out one and two someday.  They've both got good casts.

Bloodlust! (1961)

Director: Ralph Brooke

Writers: Ralph Brooke, Richard Connell

Composer: Michael Terr

Starring: Wilton Graff, June Kenney, Walter Brooke, Robert Reed, Eugene Persson, Joan Lora, Troy Patterson, Lilyan Chauvin, Bobby Hall, Bill Coontz

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Maniac Hunts Humans In A Jungle Hell!

Plot: A crazed hunter kidnaps people and turns them loose on his private island, where he hunts them for sport.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

Yeah, there are better versions of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME but this one's not all that horrible (nor is it particularly good).  The pacing hurts it the most.  It's just over an hour but it feels much longer.  As you would expect, once the kids are cut loose in the jungle to be hunted down, that's when things pick up and get more exciting and fun.  Wilton Graff does a great job as the bad guy, Dr. Balleau.  He's so good at it that you'd think they tried to get Vincent Price and failed so they went with another talented actor that looks and sounds like Price.  It works, regardless.  Future BRADY BUNCH father Robert Reed heads up the castaways.  He does a fine job just as everyone else. One cool thing you'll probably dig is Balleau's private trophy cave where he has his human trophies positioned as they were at the moment of their death.  That was super cool and the kills we see are neat, too.  If it weren't for that slow first half hour this would easily be a 6.5/10.  It's still worth a look.  It's one of 8 films on a BCI public domain compilation called Drive-In Cult Classics Vol. 2.  Each film is on its own disc side.  Some have extras such as trailers and some don't.  This one has nothing but the film.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Losers (2010)

Director: Sylvain White

Writers: Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt, Andy Diggle

Composer:  John Ottman

Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, Jason Patric, Holt McCallany, Peter Macdissi, Peter Francis James, Tanee McCall-Short

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Anyone Else Would Be Dead By Now.

Plot: A CIA special forces team are betrayed and left for dead by their superiors, galvanizing them to mount an offensive on the CIA.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Mabye.

It feels like THE A-TEAM (2010) but it's a better film.  THE A-TEAM was too over the top and the ending was hilariously bad.  THE LOSERS straddles that line of comedy and serious action.  Sometimes it's over the top but it's not so far out that it loses you.  For the most part it's a nice balance and it's funny.  You've also got a great group of characters played by some great names and faces. And the work well together.  Jason Patrick makes a great, cold villain. The dialogue from some of these cats is hilarious and the action special effects are great.  They know how to blow shit up in this one.  I really enjoyed it but it also felt like one watch could be enough. It's a shame we'll probably never see any more adventures with these kids as their fame and salaries have increased a bit since which is a shame.  I wouldn't mind spending some more time with these guys (and gal). The only extra on the DVD is a fluff piece (5-6 minutes) on Zoe Saldona playing the only female role in the picture.  The Blu-ray has more.

Madmen of Mandoras (1963) / They Saved Hitler's Brain (1968)

Director: David Bradley

Writers: Steve Bennett, Peter Miles

Composer: Don Hulette

Starring: Walter Stocker, Audrey Caire, Carlos Rivas, John Holland, Marshall Reed, Scott Peters, Keith Dahle, Dani Lynn, Nestor Paiva, Pedro Regas, Bill Freed

More info: IMDb (Hitler) & IMDb (Mandoras)

Tagline: The most incredible plot to conquer the world!

Plot: Nazi madmen preserve Hitler's brain on a small tropical island until the time is right to resurrect him and, along with him, the Third Reich.


Will I watch it again? No.

THEY SAVED HITLER'S BRAIN is a better title than the original...at least it's more exploitation-y.   MANDORAS is about an hour long; it's still slow and rather dull but it's only an hour long.  How do you make it worse?  Wait a few years and add 30 minutes of even worse acting and boring nonsense in front of it so you've got an hour and a half of something you can now sell to TV stations, that's how...but change the title to something more intriguing.  The plot is ludicrous but fun...as far as fun can take you considering the lazy pacing.  Thankfully there's lots of music to get us through it but that only goes so far.  The final twenty minutes is far more exciting than anything that came before it.  There's not nearly enough Hitler (or as one character refers to him as Mr. H) business to satisfy the TV title but at least he's there.  If you must watch this, fast forward to the ??? mark, skipping the incredibly sleep-inducing bits and get to where MADMEN starts properly.  You'll have more fun...at least in theory.  It looks like actor Bill Freed (Hitler) had a blast... Since this is in the public domain you can see it for free online and it's on countless DVDs.  I watched it from a BCI set called Drive-In Cult Classics Vol. 2.  They actually go the extra mile and give you more value for your dollars by having 8 movies on 4 double sided discs.  This film has 4 (fullscreen) trailers for films I've never even heard of which is surprising.  They're fun, though.  SECRET FILE HOLLYWOOD, DANGEROUS CHARTER, CATALINA CAPER and LITTLE LAURA & BIG JOHN (with Karen Black).  The flipside has MADMEN that you can play the film only or with the drive-in experience which begins with some drive-in promo stuff for the snack bar, etc., the film's trailer, the trailers for SECRET FILE HOLLYWOOD and THE HOSTAGE.  The the picture starts (74 minutes) then you're prompted to slap in disc 2 to continue the show.  AND you get a nifty and informative 7-page booklet with info on all 8 films! You can pick it up on Amazon for $7.55 and free shipping (for prime members) or used for even less (including shipping). 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Kentuckian (1955)

Director: Burt Lancaster

Writers: A.B. Guthrie Jr., Felix Holt

Composers: Bernard Herrmann, Roy Webb

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Dianne Foster, Donald MacDonald, Diana Lynn, John McIntire, Una Merkel, John Carradine, John Litel, Rhys Williams, Edward Norris, Walter Matthau

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Hunter...Frontiersman...Adventurer!

Plot: A Kentucky widower bound for 1820's Texas with his young son is thwarted in his efforts by a corrupt constable, a long-standing family feud, and a beautiful indentured servant.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Playing someone who lacks smarts and an abundance of confidence didn't suit him.  Elias (Lancaster) is a good man but not a learned one so he makes mistakes.  That's all fine and dandy but it's Burt Lancaster for cryin' out loud.  Well, he directed this one so maybe this is exactly what he wanted.  Older Lancaster fans might dig it but I'm rather indifferent with it.  I liked the last few minutes when Elias is under attack...and the riverboat gambling scene was fun but the rest of it is mostly too melodramatic for me to get behind.  OK, and the whip fight with Matthau and Lancaster was pretty darn good.  Shit, and the location shooting at the Cumberland Falls State Park in Corbin, Kentucky, is gorgeous.  The scoring duties were divided between Herrmann and Webb.  Fans of the former will easily be able to recognize which cues belong to him.  It's great seeing Walter Matthau as a villain and in his theatrical screen debut after spending a few years on TV and theater.  It's not a bad picture but it helps to know what you're in for before you start it. I guess in a way it's exactly what you'd expect for a family friendly Western drama from 1955.  The MGM DVD has a great looking anamorphic widescreen transfer and only one extra in a fullscreen (!!!!!!!!!!) theatrical trailer.  Really?  For an early CinemaScope picture they couldn't be bothered to locate a widescreen trailer?  Nuts.  N-V-T-S, nuts.

The Sci-Fi Boys (2006)

Director: Paul Davids

Writer: Paul Davids

Composer: Brian Thomas Lambert

Starring: Ray Harryhausen, Peter Jackson, Leonard Malton, Forrest J. Ackerman, John Landis, Dennis Muren, Stephen Sommers, Bob Ducsay, Rick Baker, Roger Corman, Steve Johnson, Ray Bradbury, Donald F. Glut, William Malone, Bob Burns, Paul Davids, Johnny Grant, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Phil Tippett, Frank Darabont, Stan Winston, Fred Barton, Robert Rotstan

More info: IMDb

Plot: Legendary all-stars of cinema bring to life the evolution of science-fiction and special effects films from the wild and funny days of B-movies to blockbusters that have captured the world's imagination. This is the story of the Sci-Fi Boys, who started out as kids making amateur movies inspired by Forrest J Ackerman's FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine and grew up to take Hollywood by storm, inventing the art and technology for filming anything the mind can dream.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

It's always fun spending time with the special effects master that found their inspiration from Ray Harryhausen, guys that came into their own in the 1970s and 1980s.  This documentary is less a history of special effects in film, although you get a little of that, but more a pastiche of a lot of the most important people in the film industry who had something to do in making and providing the best effects in the industry as well as those that took inspiration from Harryhausen or even Forrest J. Ackerman's ground-breaking 60s movie magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland.  It would be a mistake to go into this thinking you're going to learn a lot.  Instead, just sit back and listen to your old pals talk about what got them excited and inspired them as youngsters to want to turn their imagination into cinema realities.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Dogs of War (1980)

Director: John Irvin

Writers: Gary DeVore, George Malko, Frederick Forsyth

Composer: Geoffrey Burgon

Starring: Christopher Walken, Tom Berenger, Colin Blakely, Hugh Millais, Paul Freeman, Jean-Francois Stevenin, JoBeth Williams, Robert Urquhart, Winston Ntshona, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Ed O'Neill, Shane Rimmer, Jim Broadbent

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Cry 'Havoc!' And Let Slip The Dogs Of War

Plot: Mercenary James Shannon, on a reconnaissance job to the African nation of Zangaro, is tortured and deported. He returns to lead a coup.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

The only other time I saw this was probably a dozen years ago.  I didn't care for it but it felt like that I should have.  So I thought perhaps I had an off night.  Now that I've seen it again (and for the last time), I was right not to like it then. It's a long film at two hours made longer by spending too much time with Jamie (Walken) and his ex-wife and a lot of the setup to the last hour which begins his recruiting, planning and execution of the raid that closes the picture.  The pacing is pretty slow.  What's more, for as much as I like Walken, he wasn't the right actor for the job.  He feels like he needed more experience to pull off this character.  Jamie could have used more depth.  With a more experienced actor that role could have conveyed a lot more than what took up so much screen time to make up for it...if that makes any sense.  The supporting cast does a fine job and it's great to see a few faces that turn up a year later in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) like Paul "Belloq" Freeman, George "Katanga" Harris and Eddie Tagoe who played Katanga's right hand man aboard the ship.  For fans of RAIDERS this goes a long way in helping get through this picture.  Geoffrey Burgon's powerful theme is great but the score seems too sparse, especially at the end during the battle.  Normally I'm cool with not having music during big action scenes like this but not so in this picture.  There's nothing fun, exciting or compelling about it.  It's just a bunch of explosions and guys killin' other dudes. Talk about anticlimactic.  I'm probably being generous by giving it a 6 out of 10 but there are a lot of actors I dig in it.  It's a shame it's so mediocre. The MGM DVD has a good widescreen print with the sole extra being the theatrical trailer (also in anamorphic widescreen).

John Dies at the End (2012)

Director: Don Coscarelli

Writers: Don Coscarelli, David Wong

Composer: Brian Tyler

Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck, Fabianne Therese, Johnny Weston, Jimmy Wong, Angus Scrimm

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Just so you know...they're sorry for anything that's about to happen.

Plot: A new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion?

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

There are few directors that can still surprise you after nearly forty years.  Coscarelli has created a film that challenges you to pay attention but you'll have no problem having a good time.  The farther you get into the picture the more it begins to make sense.  I was in WTF mode for a good half hour (I was also REALLY sleepy and fighting to keep my eyes open) but I slowly started to come around.  The performances are fun and the story is quirky.  It's nice seeing some familiar faces.  Someday I'll probably revisit this when I'm wide awake.  One thing's for sure, truck-driving pooches are hilarious.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Blood Mania (1970)

Director: Robert Vincent O'Neill

Writers: Peter Carpenter, Tony Crechales, Toby Sacher

Composer: Don Vincent

Starring: Peter Carpenter, Maria De Aragon, Vicki Peters, Reagan Wilson, Jacqueline Dalya, Leslie Simms, Eric Allison, Arell Blanton, Alex Rocco, Reid Smith, Chris Marconi

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Plunge Into a Night of Unspeakable Terror!

Plot: A sex-crazed nympho helps speed along her father's death so she can use the inheritance to help out her depraved boyfriend.

My rating:  4/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Unbelievable.  After watching the film I checked out the trailer and right after the announcer (which sounds like Casey Kasem) says the last fifteen minutes will jolt you out of your seat, the trailer shows you shots of the final minute of the film which is supposed to be a shocker.  Way to spoil the damn movie.  It's not much of a spoiler since this is pretty dull to begin with.  It plays out kind of like a soap opera and it's about as paced as one, too.   And for a title called BLOOD MANIA you'd think there'd be some blood but that's almost non-existent.  There is some nudity sprinkled around but it's not enough (in quality or quantity) to come close to saving this picture.  The performances are fine if not slow and relaxed.  The score is less than desirable and sometimes it's downright irritating. This is part of a 3 disc set from Mill Creek called Gorehouse Greats Collection.  The widescreen print looks fantastic (especially for a collection such as this one).  There are no extras.  I picked this set up for pennies since it was missing two of the discs so I can't comment on any of the films other than the four films (two per side of a double sided disc) I watched from disc 1.

The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman (2005)

Director: Barry Avrich

Writer: Barry Avrich

Composers: Frank Kitching, Jim McGrath

Starring: Lew Wasserman, Jimmy Carter, Larry King, Alan Ladd Jr., Michael Ovitz, Suzanne Pleshette, Sydney Pollack, Steven Spielberg, Jack Valenti, Richard D. Zanuck, David Brown

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Scandal. Power. Corruption. Finally, a true Hollywood story.

Plot: Interviews with Tinseltown's biggest names recount the story behind the MCA president who controlled Hollywood for more than half a century.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

I'd only heard of this cat but I had no idea he was so powerful.  That he was a ruthless asshole is not surprising.  I can't imagine someone building an empire based on power and fear without being that way.  There's no way a picture like this could have been made if he were alive.  A lot of people skirt around some of the bad things he did to get his way and more than a few talk about how wonderful he was to be around when things went his way.  I think most people are great to be around when they're really happy.  Still, this guy built an empire the likes of which we will never see again.  The title is most apropos.  If you dig films on old Hollywood like me, you need to check this out.  There are tons of interviews and even more famous names and faces. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)

Directors: Al Adamson, Jean Hewitt

Writer: Rex Carlton

Composer: ??? Stock library?

Starring: John Carradine, Paula Raymond, Alexander D'Arcy, Robert Dix, Gene Otis Shayne, Jennifer Bishop, Vicki Volante, Ray Young, John 'Bud' Cardos, Ken Osborne, Joyce King

More info: IMDb


Plot: Count Dracula and his wife capture beautiful young women and chain them in their dungeon, to be used when they need to satisfy their thirst for blood.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I've often wondered what John Carradine's going rate was in the last twenty years of his career.  He did an incredible amount of low budget crap that he must have been working for sandwiches, liquor and the occasional damaged goods prostitute.  

Being from Al Adamson I really expected this to be as bad as the other pictures I've seen of his.  It's not good, either, but it's not an abomination.  I'll give the man this, though, he knew how to squeeze every dull nickel out of his near-non-existent budgets.  Yeah, it looks it but the man could make movies on the cheap and make money off of them.  The cast does a pretty good job, considering.  Alexander D'Arcy is amusing as Count Dracula looking more like an oilier version of Gomez Addams.

There's not much of a story but it's enough to get our heroes to their new castle only to be taken hostage and prepped for a ritual feast or something.  The pacing is surprisingly not dreadfully dull.  The 'castle' is in what appears to be the middle of nowhere north of Los Angeles.  It doesn't look like a pleasant place to live and I couldn't help but wonder who built it (in real life) and why.  It looks weak and boring.  Considering what this is and who was behind it you'd think it would be a complete stinker but it's mildly amusing.  Yes, that's a compliment.  It's one of several Crown International movies I've got in a set from Mill Creek called Gorehouse Greats Collection.  I picked it up for a dollar (or maybe less) as it's missing 2 of the 3 discs but the one disc in it had 3 movies I hadn't seen so it was worth it.  The anamorphic widescreen print is incredibly filthy in the first reel.  It's got more lines than the 2011 Rolling Stones concert after party.  Sadly there are no extras, barely any blood and no nudity.  Sigh.

Tabloid (2010)

Director: Errol Morris

Composer: John Kusiak

Starring: Joyce McKiney, Peter Tory, Troy Williams, Jackson Shaw, Kent Gavin, Dr. Hong

More info: IMDb

Tagline: An Errol Morris love story

Plot: A documentary on a former Miss Wyoming who is charged with abducting and imprisoning a young Mormon Missionary.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I've seen several of Errol Morris' documentaries and they're all outstanding.  There's usually a darkly comedic edge to them, the music is riveting and the stories compelling.  TABLOID is hilarious and he plays it up in his style.  I knew someone just like Joyce McKinney (and she was one scary broad) but I didn't realize it until near the end at which time it kind of turned creepy for me.  You hear two different versions of the story and it could really go either way although you're likely to lean more heavily to one side by the end.  It's a fascinating story told by fascinating people in a fascinating way.  And then there's the incredible media coverage of McKinney and her antics that really go off the charts.  And, boy oh boy, wait till you find out about her sordid past!  Yowza!!!  It's a terrific picture and it only gets me excited to see more of Morris' work.  I'll definitely revisit this one again.  It's highly entertaining and fun.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nightmare in Wax (1969)

Director: Bud Townsend

Writer: Rex Carlton

Composer: ???

Starring: Cameron Mitchell, Anne Helm, Scott Brady, Berry Kroeger, Victoria Carroll, Phillip Baird, John 'Bud' Cardos, Hollis Morrison, James Forrest, Virgil Frye

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You can't tell the living from the dead!

Plot: The disfigured curator of a wax museum murders his enemies and then uses their bodies as exhibits in his museum.

My rating: 4.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Geez, the budget's so low they couldn't afford a color movie poster.  Actually it looks OK but you can tell it's a low budget knockoff variation on THE HOUSE OF WAX (1953) and not a good one at that.  Mitchell overacts as he often would in his later years but then, in his defense, the production kind of calls for it.  It'd be worse, I guess, if he played it like a master thespian.  The pacing is slow as you'd expect.  There's very little gore and no nudity. I forget the character's name but the actor who plays Mitchell's assistant who has an alcohol problem is great and he's easily the best part of the picture. I thought I recognized the director's name.  He also did the odd ALICE IN WONDERLAND: AN X-RATED MUSICAL FANTASY (1976).  At least that one had musical numbers...and hardcore sex, either of which would have been welcome in this although I don't need to see an aging Cameron Mitchell naked.  Hell, I don't think Mrs. Mitchell needed to see an aging Cameron Mitchell naked.  There's no need to see this picture as it's not doing anything new, interesting or fun. The Mill Creek set called Grindhouse Greats Collection offers a pretty good anamorphic widescreen print with no extras.

Collateral (2004)

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Stuart Beattie

Composer: James Newton Howard

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill, Irma P. Hall, Barry Sabaka Henley, Richard T. Jones, Debi Mazar, Javier Bardem, Jason Statham

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It started like any other night

Plot: A cab driver finds himself the hostage of an engaging contract killer as he makes his rounds from hit to hit during one night in Los Angeles. He must find a way to save both himself and one last victim.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not.

I really didn't care for this much the first time around ten years ago.  What bothered me then, mostly, was the Hollywood-ish turn at the end when Max (Foxx) tries to stop Vincent (Cruise) from finishing the job.  That and it's the 'who' the job was that irked me.  I still feel that way but not as strongly as then.  Cruise is fantastic and I REALLY like the cold, professional persona he has.  I'd like to see Vincent in more movies, still as the bad guy and getting away with murder, but we all know that won't happen.  Everyone else does a fine job, too.  It's a fine action/crime/thriller with a nice buildup and resolution.  I would rather have a different ending but that's just me.  The two disc Dreamworks DVD comes with a second disc of nothing but behind the scenes featurettes.  I didn't watch any of them.  The movie is enough.  Sadly, there's no commentary by Mann.  Maybe he's one of those douchey directors who doesn't believe in them.  Bloody splitter!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Out of the Past (1947)

Director: Jacques Tourneur

Writers: Daniel Mainwaring, James M. Cain, Frank Fenton

Composer: Roy Webb

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Webb, Steve Brodie, Virginia Huston, Paul Valentine, Dickie Moore, Ken Niles

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A MAN - Trying to run away from his past... A WOMAN - Trying to escape her future!

Plot: A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

The first time I saw this was in a theater and I dug it but I didn't see it then as the classic it was hailed to be.  Now I do.  I'm still not convinced that Mitchum was the right guy for the roll.  His delivery feels off sometimes.  Otherwise, he's great.  I love the complex relationship between Jeff (Mitchum), Kathie (Greer), Whit (Douglas) and Meta (Fleming).  The first half feels by the numbers but it's the second half where the shit hits the fan and the betrayals begin.  That's the fun stuff.  And hey!  It's got Dickie Moore from the OUR GANG shorts of the early 30s before the series went to shit at MGM.  The sole extra on the Warner Bros. DVD is a commentary by Jim Ursini.  Really?  They couldn't be bothered to throw in more stuff for this picture?  Whatever. 

Shaft (2000)

Director: John Singleton

Writers: Ernest Tidyman, John Singleton, Shane Salerno, Richard Price

Composer: David Arnold

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Busta Rhymes, Dan Hedaya, Toni Collette, Richard Roundtree, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Josef Sommer, Lynne Thigpen, Philip bosco, Pat Hingle, Lee Tergesen, Gordon Parks

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Still the man, any questions?

Plot: New York City police detective John Shaft (nephew of the original 1970s detective) goes on a personal mission to make sure the son of a real estate tycoon is brought to justice after a racially-motivated murder.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.  Twice is enough.

It's been 14 years since I saw it last (which was in the theater).  I'm a fan of the original Blaxploitation classic, SHAFT (1971), starring Richard Roundtree (who also has a small role in the remake).  In this reboot, director Singleton and pals do a great job in the first half but the rest of it gets bogged down in the story with crooked cops and a whole bunch of other stuff we were already dealing with.  It's like that was one story element too much.  The picture's only 99 minutes long but it feels well over two hours...except for that great first half.  The performances are fun.  Casting Sam Jackson in the lead is the fun choice and he does go a long way to make it his own but simply by changing the actor to someone without all of his star power and previous films to reflect on would have possibly made this a truer reboot.  I fucking LOVE Jackson in this.  He's awesome but he brings that Jackson quality to it that no one else does.  With a different actor and making this picture more gritty...that might have made a better crime action picture.  But still, what a great first half.  The film is bookended with Isaac Hayes' classic theme tune which, because the second half is weak and overlong, it's great for the opening but not so much at the end because it reminds you of the better, classic film.  The Paramount DVD has a few extras with the theatrical trailer (non-anamorphic widescreen), 13 minutes of cast & crew interviews, a making of featurette "Shaft: Still the Man" (16 minutes), an Isaac Hayes music video with this theme (it's the same recording from the '71 picture but with Hayes performing on stage with other musicians and sexy ladies (kind of looking like a Robert Palmer video) mixed in with clips and dialogue from this new film), and finally a music video for "Bad Man" by R. Kelly.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Legends of the Knight (2013)

Director: Brett Culp

Writer: Brett Culp

Composer: Dan Phillipson

Starring: Petaluma Batman, Gotham Chopra, Brett Culp, Brian Elliott, Cary A. Friedman, Travis Langley, Patrick O'Connor, David O'Leary, Denny O'Neil, Jill Pantozzi, Lenny B. Robinson, Key Sapp, Danny Scott, Marcus Session, Michael E. Uslan

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Put on your cape and be inspired.

Plot: A documentary about the power of storytelling to create positive change in our lives and around the world, expressed through the lens of one of the most popular stories of our time - the Batman.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

While this is all about Batman in a sense, it's more about the people who have been inspired by the character to do more with their lives.  There's the millionaire who has a replica 60s BATMAN TV Batmobile who dresses up as Batman and visits terminally ill children at hospitals.  Then there's a 19 year old kid, Petaluma Batman in Lake Tahoe, who wears his homemade Batman costume in public as he does loads of volunteer work thereby inspiring others to help with whatever cause.  There's also Michael Uslan who bought the film rights to Batman in the late 70s and spent ten years trying to get a picture made against all of Hollywood telling him no one wants to see a Batman movie.  There are many others who have taken inspiration from this comic book character and taken their love for him and what he stands for to the next level.  You will laugh and you'll probably cry.  It's a good film even if you aren't a Batman fan or a fan of comics.  If you're looking to be uplifted by something different (and fun) then give this one a shot.  Beware, though, the music is dreadfully repetitive and depressing.  It sounds like that sad-ass music you'd hear behind one of those lengthy commercials of starving kids in Africa begging for your .35 cents a day.  Other than that, it's a great time with some nice emotions tossed into the mix.

The Quick and the Dead (1987)

Director: Robert Day

Writers: Louis L'Amour, James Lee Barrett

Composer: Steve Dorff

Starring: Sam Elliott, Tom Conti, Kate Capshaw, Kenny Morrison, Matt Clark, Patrick Kilpatrick, Jerry Potter, Billy Streater, Del Shores, R.L. Tolbert, Jeffrey Meyer, Kurt D. Lott, Hardy Rawls, Larry Sellers, Bill Steadman

More info: IMDb

Plot: Duncan and Susanna McKaskel are a young married couple travelling to the West with their son, hoping to start a new life. Along the way, they stop in a small town where they meet a gang of bandits led by Doc Shabitt. After Duncan unintentionally angers the gang, he and Susanna flee the town, but Shabitt leads his men in pursuit of revenge. A mysterious stranger by the name of Con Vallian soon begins helping the family as they try to find a new home and protects them from Shabitt's gang.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? No.

There's one thing you can always count on when it comes to Sam Elliott and the Western genre, he's about as solid a performer as you can get.  He's one of a short handful of actors perfectly suited to the genre.  No exception here in this TV movie.  The cast does a fine job in this par for the course Western story.  Besides the actors, one of the biggest stars of the picture is the gorgeous location shooting throughout Arizona.  I've been to some of these places and it's always a treat to see them.  Someday I'm going to permanently move out West and start my own adventures.  Cattle thieves beware!  It was a TV movie but I would love to see this on the big screen.  Again, the scenery is amazing.  There's plenty of action as the gang of eight are slowly whittled down to.... You're going to totally dig how Vallian (Elliott) dispatches a certain someone where some furniture was left behind in a field.  Classic!  This picture is good enough to watch again BUT there are thousands of Westerns I've yet to see and I want to see them all.  Maybe in a few decades once that's happened (HA!) I'll swing back around and pick this one up.  The Warner Brothers DVD gives us a great (matted as this was originally filmed in 1:33 for TV but it doesn't detract from the visual of the film) widescreen print along with two extras, the TV promo and a commentary by director Robert Day.  Recommended. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Land of the Minotaur (1976)

Original title: The Devil's Men

Director: Kostas Karagiannis

Writer: Arthur Rowe

Composer: Brian Eno

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Peter Cushing, Luan Peters, Kostas Karagiorgis, Dimitris Bislanis, Anna Matzourani, Christina, Nikos Verlekis, Vanna Reville, Robert Behling, Anestis Vlahos

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Half man . . . half beast . . . trapped in a world forgotten by time!

Plot: Tourists visiting a Greek archeological site are being abducted by a strange cult intent on providing their God - the Minotaur - with a sacrifice. Father Raoche (Pleasance) enlists the help of former pupil and NY private detective to find out what has happened to them.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I'm winding down through the 8 films on the 4-DVD set from BCI called Drive-In Cult Classics Vol. 2.  This is the first of two anamorphic widescreen films in the set.   The print is pretty good but short of great. The film?  It's slow and rather dull.  If it weren't for the fact that Cushing and Pleasance are in it there wouldn't be anything of interest except maybe it's a Greek co-production (with the UK and US) filmed in Greece.  The explosions (see video above) of the Satanists and the Minotaur are well done but that's about it.  Oh, and the score is by music legend Brian Eno and it's OK.  Had I not seen his name in the credits I wouldn't have known there was anything special about it.  It's a by the numbers plot that drags in a few spots but that's a little offset with the presence of Cushing and Pleasance and Cushing plays the leader of the cult which is a change of pace for him.  There's no nudity which wasn't the norm in the 70s for Devil worshiping flicks like this...and it's Greek.  Go figure.  The DVD has no extras for this film although there are some for some of the other 7 films in the way of trailers.

Omen IV: The Awakening (1991)

Directors: Jorge Montesi, Dominique Othenin-Girard

Writers: Brian Taggert, Harvey Bernhard

Composer: Jonathan Sheffer

Starring: Faye Grant, Michael Woods, Michael Lerner, Madison Mason, Ann Hearn, Jim Byrnes, Don S. Davis, Asia Vieira, Megan Leitch, Joy Coghill, David Cameron, Duncan Fraser, Susan Chapple

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The terror continues.

Plot: Damien Thorn is dead, but his prophecy is reborn in a mysterious girl named Delia, who is adopted by two attorneys, Gene & Karen York. When Karen realizes her baby was born under suspicious circumstances, she hires a private investigator to find Delia's real parents. A series of bizarre accidents occur, and Karen begins to suspect everyone of conspiring against her as she unravels the truth about her baby.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I had a hunch this wasn't going to be good.  There's not much to like.  One neat little bit was when Earl (Michael Lerner who stands out the most in the acting department) starts to lose his shit and the carolers turn into demon carolers singing Ave Satani (Jerry Goldsmith's amazing main title tune from the first picture)...and then he gets, uh, swept off his feet and...breaking eggs.  Best moment of the film.  The rest of it is half rehash of THE OMEN (1976) and some new business.  At least they tried?  Maybe but not enough.  I find it hard to believe they couldn't find a better child actor to fill the important role of Satan's spawn, Delia.  She plays it squinty-eyed menacing and her acting chops aren't up to snuff.  Composer Jonathan Sheffer had the unenviable job of following Jerry Goldsmith's outstanding scores for the previous three films.  What's worse (or better for us) is that the film utilizes Goldsmith's music from the first and third films.  That means Sheffer's score has to blend with it as much as possible and that's not an easy thing.  Sometimes it works and it's really obvious when it doesn't.  Hearing Goldsmith's music is nice but the scenes can't live up to the greatness of the music and it suffers from it.  And the ending?  Jesus.  They try for a ballsy finale but it ends up largely aping the first film, leading the path to the next film that never came.  It's hardly a spoiler as there wasn't much else they could've done and it'll be obvious as hell.  Seriously, pass this one up.  The only reason this exists is because of money.  Don't let them have any more.  For those who care about this one, the 20th Century Fox DVD is widescreen with a slew of trailers (non are anamorphic) including the first three OMEN films (the first two are fullscreen (!)), THE ABYSS (fullscreen), THE BEACH, COMMANDO (fullscreen), DIE HARD (fullscreen), FIGHT CLUB, INDEPENDENCE DAY, LAKE PLACID, MARKED FOR DEATH (fullscreen), PLANET OF THE APES collection (fullscreen), THE TOWERING INFERNO (fullscreen), and X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE.  The quality of most of them is poor considering this is a major studio but it's more than what you'd probably expect for a title like this.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Best of the Best (1989)

Director: Robert Radler

Writers: Phillip Rhee, Paul Levine, Max Strom

Composer: Paul Gilman

Starring: Eric Roberts, Phillip Rhee, James Earl Jones, Sally Kirkland, Chris Penn, John Dye, David Agresta, Tom Everett, Louise Fletcher, John P. Ryan, Edan Gross, Simon Rhee, Master Hee Il Cho

More info: IMDb

Tagline: There's a kind of inner strength you never know you have...until it's ALL you have.

Plot: A team from the United States is going to compete against Korea in a Tae Kwon Do tournament. The team consists of fighters from all over the country--can they overcome their rivalry and work together to win?

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I figured this was going to be a by-the-numbers sports movie and it is.  The setup is standard and there are few trials for the team to overcome in their training before the big match.  Everything is about as you'd expect in every department.  Sometimes the fight choreography is great and sometimes (but rarely) it's poor but the editing of the fights is outstanding.  I'm pretty sure everyone could kick above their head except for Chris Penn.  I'm not sure how he made the team and it all happened in front of my eyes. The competition takes up the final half hour and it's pretty damn good.  That final fight ends pretty strongly, too, and it would have more emotional impact without the cheesy synthesizer score.  Ooh.   So there you go.  Skip to the final third and enjoy the hell out of yourself.  The out of print Sony DVD widescreen print is fine and the only extras are for THE KARATE KID (fullscreen), RADIO (anamorphic wide), and HELLBOY (anamorphic wide).

Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981)

Director: Graham Baker

Writer: Andrew birkin

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: Sam Neill, Rossano Brazzi, Don Gordon, Lisa Harrow, Barnaby Holm, Mason Adams, Robert Arden, Leueen Willoughby, Marc Boyle, Milos Kirek, Tommy Duggan, Louis Mahoney, Richard Oldfield, Tony Vogel, Hazel Court

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The power of evil is no longer in the hands of a child.

Plot: The now adult Antichrist plots to eliminate his future divine opponent while a cabal of monks plot to stop him.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Probably.

I really dig this franchise despite each film's flaw of pacing.  This third picture doesn't feel complete.  Maybe the writing was rushed.  The performances are fine although Sam Neill (in his debut starring in an American film) overdoes it when speaking to his mass of minions but he's otherwise great.  Jerry Goldsmith is back with a fantastic score and the best part of the film (as were his previous two scores).  If you ever listen to each of the three scores you'll notice a nice progression from one to the next as they get darker and bigger.  Outstanding work.  The kills in this are great and they even kill babies!  Even though you don't actually see the baby deaths, they're still very effective.  The one with the priest is badass.  Say, aren't these pooches adorable?

That's a great sequence, too.  There's a lot of good but the problems I have with it are that it's not grandiose enough (considering this is the third and final film in an epic good vs. evil trilogy) and the ending it incredibly weak.  Seriously weak.  It's anticlimactic almost in how small of a scale it's on.  SPOILERS FOR SATAN!!! YARRRRR!  I love that the kid dies and stays dead.  For a second there I thought he might be brought back to life.  Thank holy Satan for that one!  END OF SPOILERS!!! YARRRRR!!! The big orchestral and choral theme Goldsmith unleashes as Satan loses this round only adds to the pain of what could have been an exceptional finale.  I'm not saying there needed to be an effects-laden insane climax but what they delivered ends with a whimper.  I still dig the picture but I'll always think about what could have been.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Glimpse of Hell (2001)

Director: Mikael Salomon

Writers: Charles C. THompson II, David Freed

Composer: David C. Williams

Starring: James Caan, Robert Sean Leonard, Daniel Roebuck, Jamie harrold, John Doman, John Benjamin Hickey, Dashiell Eaves, Hugh Thompson, Alan C. Peterson, Bill MacDonald, Ken James, John Dunsworth

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Tragedy. Cover-up. Truth.

Plot: A Navy officer tries to set the record straight after the Navy blames a 1989 explosion aboard the USS Iowa on a homosexual affair between two sailors.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

The reviews I've skimmed point to a lot of inaccuracies.  I don't know jack about this incident or Naval procedures so all I've got is what the film tells me.  As a movie it does a pretty good job a laying out the build-up to the accident that killed 40 crewmen, the Navy's investigation and ending with the senate hearing.  The performances by the leads are good as is much about the picture but there's something missing that makes this compelling although I'm not sure the film makers were going for a film that rivets your butt to the seat.  Let's just say 'it is what it is'.  Easy cop out, right?  While it's not a home run, it does offer an interesting story and a nice ending by way of Caan's performance sitting in the hot seat during the hearing.  You get a glimpse into his struggle which gives the picture the finish it needed.  Fans of TRAILER PARK BOYS show will like seeing John Dunsworth even if he doesn't offer any shit-isms.  The 20th Century Fox DVD offers an anamorphic widescreen print and the only extras are non-anamorphic widescreen trailers for DON'T SAY A WORD, THE DEEP END, KISS OF THE DRAGON and a fullscreen trailer for SEXY BEAST.  Really?  Fucking fullscreen?  Geez!

Raiders of the Seven Seas (1953)

Director: Sidney Salkow

Writers: John O'Dea, Sidney Salkow

Composer: Paul Sawtell

Starring: John Payne, Donna Reed, Gerald Mohr, Lon Chaney Jr., Anthony Caruso, Henry Brandon, Skip Torgerson, Frank DeKova, William Tannen, Christopher Dark, Claire Du Brey, Howard Freeman, Anthony Warde

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A CORSAIR CAPTAIN...A CREW OF ESCAPED CONVICTS...Plundering for Loot and Revenge!

Plot: Barbarossa, a pirate, frees a group of Spanish prisoners and makes them his crew. On a raid, he takes as a prize a Spanish countess, Alida. He has fallen in love with her by the time he arranges for her ransom by the officer who was to marry her. Exposing her intended as a coward and a liar, he goes to ask for her hand but she has escaped, and Barbarossa thinks she is the one who killed his aide, Peg-Leg.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I honestly don't get my hopes up for the off-the-beaten-path, lower budget pirate flicks of the 50s and 60s.  The genre's heyday was the 30s and 40s and it seemed that after the wind left their sails that the majority of them were relegated to Saturday matinee kiddie fare...which is fine if you're a kid or you're looking for something to fill the mindless escapism.  It's not really as bad as all that but it's close.  RAIDERS has an OK story with less than OK dialogue, OK performances and the low budget effects like ship models and whatnot. 

Payne does an admirable job as Barbarossa (AKA Red Beard, although his beard is nothing more than a really short goatee) but it's clear by him and a few others that getting a better script with better actors would've helped immensely.  It's funny but I never really thought about Donna Reed (here as Alida) in movies prior to her TV show in the late fifties even though I'd seen her in some.  I'm on record as not really liking Lon Chaney Jr.'s work but I thought he served this picture well as the one-legged friend to Barbarossa, Peg Leg. Including a young boy in the cast (Skip Torgerson as Datu) indicates (and justifies) that this is aimed at that young boy, Saturday crowd mentioned earlier.  Had I seen this sixty years ago and as a boy his age I would have eaten this up and come back for seconds.  Fans of swashbuckling swordplay will be disappointed as there's only a little bit and the choreography is sometimes clumsy.  Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone these cats are not.

As an adult who has seen a large number of these pirate pictures, many of which are the best the genre has to offer, I look forward to each and every one of these but I realize that I've probably seen the best and everything else is just leftover cake from the party last week.  Still, I enjoyed it despite it's limitations in the budget and the production.  No one knew they were aspiring to make a great film but they easily succeeded in making an entertaining one nonetheless.