Monday, July 31, 2017

The Happy Hooker (1975)

Director: Nicholas Sgarro

Writers: Yvonne Dunleavy, Xaviera Hollander, Robin Moore, William Richert

Composer: Don Elliott

Starring: Lynn Redgrave, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Lovelady Powell, Tom POston, Nicholas Pryer, Elizabeth Wilson, Conrad Janis, Richard Lynch, John Getz, Vincent Schiavelli, George Dzundza

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You know about sex. Now learn about life.

Plot: Having emigrated to New York and immediately got the kiss-off from her mother-besotted fiance, a Dutch lass takes a well-paid office job and starts liberally sampling the local male talent. After a while she decides to make her pleasure her business too, and as her reputation grows she graduates to a high-class bordello. Soon she realizes she has the right talents to make a real success of a place of her own.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Would you believe that a mid-70s rated R movie called THE HAPPY HOOKER doesn't have the titular character get naked?  That's the pig in me that was bummed out.  I wouldn't blink much if the late, great Lynn Redgrave disrobed.  She couldn't have been all that happy, right?  There's very little in this picture you could call sleazy.  The filmmakers definitely weren't going for an exploitation flick.  It's just a mainstream movie about a subject that you didn't see much in mainstream films back then.  Right off the bat half the audience (or more) is going to be disappointed.  What worked for me is seeing a lot of familiar faces in the character actors.  That was neat.  It's not all that bad a film.  It should've been tighter and stayed focused on the narrative.  There were scenes in the brothel that lingered too long just to satisfy some of us who came to the picture to see something naughty. like when one client sprays a nude woman with whipped cream to resemble a wedding dress.  Hanging onto those moments wasn't bad on its own but it took away from any momentum the story had.  The ending wasn't much of anything and I'm not sure about where the Happy Hooker was going to go with her life except for now it would be business as usual.  They clearly wanted to take this subject seriously enough to avoid being too salacious so it seems that you'd want to have Ms. Hollander (Redgrave) to have more of an arc.  I'm not suggesting there should've been some big finale or anything typical but they surely could've gone in another direction.  But then, maybe that was their point.  Ah.  I shouldn't even care but I do want to see the two sequels where she (played by a different actress in each one) goes to Washington and the last where she goes to Hollywood.  I already checked a movie site for nudity on those and it looks like they didn't shy away from the sleaze.  Oh, goody!


The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

Director: Don Taylor

Writers: H.G. Wells, Al Ramrus, John Herman Shaner, Richard Alan Simmons

Composer: Laurence Rosenthal

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Michael York, Nigel Davenport, Barbara Carrera, Richard Basehart, Nick Cravat, The Great John L., Bob Ozman, Fumio Demura, Gary Baxley, John Gillespie, David S. Cass Sr.

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Doctor Is In-SANE!

Plot: A shipwrecked survivor discovers a remote island owned a crazed scientist who is carrying out sinister experiments on the island's inhabitants.



My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

SPOILERS BE HERE...YARRRRRRR!!!

I've literally been wanting to see this for over 35 years and now the wait is over.  It's pretty good and better than I expected.  The island is beautiful.  I liked the casting, especially with Lancaster.  He didn't play it like your typical mad scientist who's let it go to his head.  He was reserved which was a nice change of genre pace.  I suppose the creature effects were good enough.  I liked that Moreau experimented on Andrew (York) and how that played out all the way to the end...that is until he's on the dingy for a few hours and the effects wore off so he's back to being the pretty boy he was earlier.  That was bullshit.  I would've been much happier had they left him in a semi-monstrous state.  You can't have everything.  A bleaker ending would have been appropriate for the decade and for the story, although I've never read the book/story.




Sunday, July 30, 2017

Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me (2009)

Director: Beth McCarthy-Miller

Writer: Wanda Sykes

Starring: Wanda Sykes

More info: IMDb


Plot: Wanda Sykes returns to HBO for her second full-length stand-up special.


My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I adore this broad.  She's so fucking funny.  This 90 minute concert was filmed in Washington D.C. not long after President Obama took office so she opens with bits about him and Michelle.  She also talks about coming out, her French wife, being a new mom and so on.  Fans don't need a reason to watch it other than it's Wanda.  She's one of the few comedians I'd love to see live.  The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and there are no extras.

Black Turin (1972)

Original title: Torino Nera

Director: Carlo Lizzani

Writers: Nicola Badalucco, Luciano Vincenzoni

Composers: Nicola Di Bari, Gian Piero Reverberi, Gianfranco Reverberi

Starring: Bud Spencer, Andrea Balestri, Domenico Santoro, Francoise Fabian, Marcel Bozzuffi, Guido Leontini, Vittorio Duse, Mario Pilar, Saro Urzi

More info: IMDb


Plot: Mino and Lello, two sons of a worker wrongly accused of murder, try to find out evidence of his innocence and begin to investigate mafia business in Torino.



My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

For a Bud Spencer picture, you don't get much Bud Spencer.  He's in it in little bits in pieces between the flashbacks and present day.  It's funny because I noticed immediately that his American dubbed voice was different than usual and the usual voice actor turned up as another character that seemed to have more screen time.  I wonder why he didn't voice Bud.  Anyway, the movie isn't much more than an hour and a half but there's a mid section that drags.  There's too much detective work on behalf of the kids, the lawyer and cop.  The older kid does a fantastic job.  Oh, and the dubbing is very good, too.  If it were for that pacing problem the picture has for a while it would be much better.  The ending is grim and powerful.  I didn't see it coming.  I would say that's the European sensibility (which does play a part in it) but it's also the seventies when cinema got real and cynical.  It's a different kind of Poliziotteschi and that's a good thing. Don't let the kids angle keep you from seeing this.  It's much better than it sounds. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kung Fu Brothers in the Wild West (1973)

Original title: ...Altrimenti vi Ammucchiamo

Director: Ban-Yee Yeo

Writers: Nagi Hon, Tu Lung Li, Carlo Mancori

Composer: Franco Bracardi

Starring: William Berger, Jason Pai Piao, Donald O'Brien, Po Chih Leo, Sally Leg, THompson Kao Kang, Joe Chan, Winnie Tang

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Chen comes to America in order to complete a duel with his younger brother, Chou, to decide who will succeed their grandfather as master of kung fu.  He arrives in the town where Chou and their younger sister have started a Chinese restaurant just as Steve’s gang arrives in town, raping and pillaging. Steve works for Angelo and Dragon and after a few failed attempts to kill the king fu brothers, they send for their bosses. When they arrive, there is a final gunfight/kung fu duel.



My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

OK, so yeah, this isn't that good but it's not THAT bad, either.  There was a little genre mixing in the Spaghetti Western genre but not much.  This isn't the only Western/Kung Fu hybrid but there can't be more than five I think.  Anyway, the wild west is the backdrop to this story that's heavily laden with kung fu action.   Don't get too excited because the fu action, while not bad, has way too many clunky moves like reacting to taking a hit too late.  The music isn't good but there's a neat thing done in the big fight at the end.  The fight starts in the town's street before it moves to a river nearby.  For that first part of the fight, the music is accentuated with vocal noises, howls and screams.  That was cool.  Spoiler alert...William Berger's character, Angelo, gets kicked down and then the fight focuses on Chen and the Chinese bad guy until the end of the film.  What the hell happened to Angelo?  In movies like these his character would certainly be killed to pay for his deeds.  I'm not going to lose any sleep over that one.  I'm already thinking about what I'm going to watch next and it's got something to do with a hooker who is happy.

The Island of the Bloody Plantation (1983)

Original title: Die Insel der Blutigen Plantage

AKA: Escape from Blood Plantation

Director: Kurt Raab

Writer: Kurt Raab

Composers: Jurgen Marcus, Warner B. Ryder

Starring: Udo Kier, Barbara Valentin, Tet Antiquiera, Karl-Otto Alberty, Karen Lopez, Hans Zander, Karina Fallenstein, Mike Monty, Rosemarie Sarita, Kurt Raab, Peter Kern, Fouad Mediouni-Zaoudi, Ronald Buenaventura

More info: IMDb


Plot: A women's prison on a tropical island is a hellhole where the inmates are raped, tortured and otherwise abused by the evil commandant and brutal guards. However, one of the guards falls in love with a beautiful inmate, and decides to help her and all the other prisoners escape.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Wow!  Where to start?  This picture looks fantastic!  The cinematography is very good and it's probably the best looking WIP (Women In Prison) film I've seen that was set in a jungle.  This film is the sole feature film from Kurt Raab and I"m not sure what he was going for.  He died young in '88 so I'm sure I'll never find out.  It's a little different than your standard WIP pictures.  One way is that there's barely any nudity.  I know, right?  There's just enough to say, "Yeah, we know this is probably why you're watching this but we don't want you to like it.".  It's like when you get really shitty service at a restaurant and you leave a few coins to let the server know that this was intentional and we didn't forget to leave a tip.  I've done that.  Anyway, it's a crime about the lack of boobs.  Just by making a movie about this subject, you're already in exploitation territory so you might as well go there.  Raab didn't and we're worse off for it.  I watched the English dubbed version which is bad.  It's not so much the line readings that suck but more the choice of voice actors for each part.  Udo Kier's dub sounds like a naive fourteen year old.  The voice doesn't suit the face at all and there are examples like this almost across the board (at least with the male actors).  The story is OK but shit balls, the movie is missing the violence, gore, nudity and sleaze that this genre commands.  The anamorphic widescreen print looked amazing but I can't recommend this movie on that alone.  Fans of this genre will want to see it for completist reasons but other need to avoid this one.  It is worth noting that the film opens with a song called 'The Island of the Bloody Plantation'.  You might want to watch the first two minutes just to see how those words in that order can possibly be sung with a straight face.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Sheba Baby (1975)

Director: William Girdler

Writers: William Girdler, David Sheldon

Composers: Alex Brown, Monk Higgins

Starring: Pam Grier, Austin Stoker, D'Urville Martin, Rudy Challenger, Richard Merrifield, Christopher Joy, Charles Kissinger, Charles Broaddus

More info: IMDb

Tagline: She's One Mean Mama!

Plot: A Chicago private detective returns back home to Louisville, Kentucky, to help her father fight mobsters.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Sadly, no.

I loves me some Pam Grier and I'm a big fan of a lot of her 70s Blaxploitation pictures.  This one doesn't hold up as well as the others but it's still worth watching.  There's a lot to like and it starts with Pam.  There's not much action but the chase at the carnival was fun.  It's a tamer Blaxploitation flick than her earlier entries and there's a reason.  I was surprised at the lack of nudity and the things that make some of the other pictures in the genre more fun.  After it was over I saw that it was rated PG.  That was it.  Now I know that's not the only problem the film has but it didn't help that the filmmakers had to tone everything down because of it.  The biggest problem is the story.  The first half of the movie, while not all that exciting, has lots of scenes, spending time with some interesting and colorful characters.  D'Urville Martin is always fun to watch.  His speech to his crew is a gas.  But it's the second half of the film where the problem lies.  It's almost entirely on a yacht.  Sheba (Grier) gets on board for the bad guy's big party so she can bring him down.  She gets caught, escapes and chases the baddies down on a speedboat and then it's over.  There's little variety to the setting and scenery and that's a big part of what's wrong with the film.  The music is groovy and fun.  I could see slapping this album on for some great background music.  So if you haven't seen this, just go in with lower expectations, understand that the most you're going to see of Pam is some side boob and have a good movie lined up to follow this with. 



The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (1971)

Director: Graham Stark

Writers: Bob Larbey, John Esmonde, Dave Freeman, Graham Chapman, Barry Cryer, Graham Stark, Marty Feldman, Alan Simpson, Ray Galton, Spike Milligan

Composer: Roy Budd

Starring: Bernard Bresslaw, Joan Sims, Patrick Newell, Harry H. Corbett, Bill Pertwee, Ian Carmichael, Alfie Bass, Robert Gillespie, Spike Milligan, Ronnie Barker, Marty Feldman, Ronald Fraser, Stephen Lewis, Arthur Howard

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Written and starring many of Britain's top comedians, this anthology film features 7 stories, one for each sin. 



My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

So you're looking at 7 short stories, one for each sin and it's written by and stars a who's who of British comedy from the 60s and 70s.  I was so ready for this.  The first story starts and it's not funny although it's trying really hard.  At this point I'm hoping it's going to get better because there are six more to go.  Story two happens and I'm still not laughing...at all.  Fuck.  Five more to go.  Story three wraps up and I'm regretting this.  Four more to go.  The problem so far is these tales are barely more than a one joke premise that keeps running variant circles around itself with a slight ironic twist at the end.  FINALLY story four (written by Marty Feldman and starring Harry H. Corbett) was funny.  I laughed a lot.  What a relief.  I bet they can't keep this up.  Story five was amusing and got better as it went along.  Story six was styled after a silent comedy except the comedy (like the first three segments) was base and broad.  And then the last one was like a live action cartoon that didn't elicit any laughs from this dude.  It was painful to get through except for the two middle stories which were very good and funny.  I'd say avoid this but if you're a fan of British comedy like I am, it's just barely worth watching for the familiar faces.  For Feldman fans, he's literally in this for one blink of an eye.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Director: Matt Reeves

Writers: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves

Composer: Michael Giacchino

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite, Toby Kebbell, Gabriel Chavarria, Judy Greer, Sara Canning, Devyn Dalton, Aleks Paunovic, Alessandro Juliani, Max Lloyd-Jones

More info: IMDb

Tagline: For freedom. For family. For the planet.

Plot: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.



My rating:  8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I respect the filmmakers of this series for putting so much care into them.  The sequels have minor flaws (or maybe even big ones but I've only seen them once) but they're well made and entertaining.  The CGI keeps getting better.  It's remarkable how real the apes appear.  Like the previous installments, there is emotional weight that is earned because you care about the characters.  The bad guy, The Colonel (Harrelson), isn't a strong character but I suppose he doesn't need to have much more than one dimension as he's simply an excuse to put the apes in the position they're in.  The ending is fine I guess.  More on that in a sec.  Michael Giacchino knocks the music score out of the park again.  This time I heard a heavy John Barry influence (70s/80s era) in his main theme in the first half of the film.  I loved it.  This guy is an amazing talent and he's the most exciting composer I've heard since Danny Elfman hit the ground running in the late 80s.  The more I think about this more I'm about to sound like a hater but the bottom line is the apes are incredibly well done inside and out.  They have great, distinguishable personalities and I care about them.  I'm looking forward to seeing this and the previous one again.  I hope they hold up.

PLANET OF THE SPOILERS...YARRRRRR!!!

Now that I've had half a day of thinking about this movie the more I think the writers went in the wrong direction.  You shouldn't have a title like this and not have the movie about it.  There is no war for a planet of apes.  The apes are building a wall for The Colonel to keep his human enemies out.  The apes escape and would've gotten away without any conflict if it hadn't been for the bad timing of the humans doing battle and the apes were stuck in the middle.  There is no war and the apes aren't fighting it (save for a little fight here and there).  Why is The Colonel at war with these other guys from the North?  Is he that dumb that he thinks he can win a battle cornered with his back to the mountains?  I get that he's holed up in a weapons dump but you've only got one way out and that's going to be blocked by your enemy and they've got tanks and helicopters.  That made no sense at all.  And then there's the big reason for The Colonel attacking the apes so that he can capture them to make them slaves to build his wall for protection against the tanks and artillery?  That's weak.  And how about Caesar's kid coming back with the scouting party at the beginning of the film with a bag of sand telling them they've found a great place for them to live (you know, the desert which is where we found them in the 1968 original film)?  Would apes really rather live in the desert where there are few trees?  Wouldn't, oh you know, the forest or jungle be more suitable?  It's a weak way to have this one link to the '68 film as if there were not going to be any more Apes movies.  But you could also make the case that at least they tried. 

Deadfall (1993)

Director: Christopher Coppola

Writers: Christopher Coppola, Nick Vallelonga

Composer: Jim Fox

Starring: Michael Biehn, Sarah Trigger, Nicolas Cage, James Coburn, Peter Fonda, Charlie Sheen, Talia Shire, J. Kenneth Campbell, Michael Constantine, Marc Coppola, Micky Dolenz, Brian Donovan, Renee Estevez, Ted Fox, Angus Scrimm

More info: IMDb

Tagline: ...The ultimate con

Plot: After he accidentally kills his father, Mike, during a sting, Joe tries to carry out Mike's dying wish by recovering valuables that Mike's twin brother Lou stole from him years earlier. But Uncle Lou is also a confidence artist, and Joe is soon drawn into his increasingly dangerous schemes.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

OK, so there are a lot of reasons why you need to see this and it begins and ends with Nicolas Cage.  Yeah, this is the worst performance I've ever seen from Michael Biehn but it's a lot of the cats around him that make this the fun ride that it is.  Geez, he's so bland and his narration is just awful.  Anyway, you've got Angus Scrimm is channeling Sydney Greenstreet (the fat man from CASABLANCA (1942) and he's nailing it!  I actually liked Martin Sheen for a change.  He's very cool and smooth.  Blink and you'll miss Peter Fonda.  James Coburn is all through this and he's just a class act no matter how you slice it.  I love that guy's work. But the biggest you've-gotta-see-this-'cause-of is Nicolas Cage.  He's batshit bonkers and he steals every scene he's in.



See?  The story is fine and fast so it feels like you're in and out pretty fast.  The ending is satisfying, too.  The low IMDb reviews are ridiculous.  It's actually a good deal of fun and there are so many familiar faces that you'll be entertained by them alone.  Check this one out.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Composer: Hans Zimmer

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: At the point of crisis, at the point of annihilation, survival is victory.

Plot: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.



My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

DUNKIRK forgoes any character development to concentrate on the gravity of the situation.  We don't need to feel a connection to any of these people because we should care about all of them as they're all in the same boat so to speak.  We want all of these men to make it home alive.  That means the film can stay focused the bravery of these people and get a glimpse of what it must've been like.  We get the perspective from those who contributed from the land, air and sea and there's an interesting device used to convey a sense of time.  As each of the three is introduced, there's a title card that tells us the time frame.  The land operation takes place over a week, the sea a day and by air an hour.  Writer/director Nolan doesn't waste time.  The film opens with nearly 400,000 soldiers waiting on the beach to be rescued and an effort to enlist civilian boats has begun.  What follows are men dying and others struggling to survive.  Zimmer does a fine job with the score.  He doesn't provide melodic themes so much as augmented, droning, atmospheric sound.  It worked nicely.  While it's only an hour and forty-six minutes long (including several minutes of end credits) nearly the entire picture is that struggle meaning it's constant tension.  It's not the grand slam the internet tells me it is but I like it very much.  I don't know what could've been different for me to like it even more but it might have something to do with being emotionally invested in the main characters.  As it is, the only reason why I cared about them is because I don't want to see the good guys lose.  Besides, they all needed to get home quick so they can rest up and get back to giving the Jerrys what fer!

You Can't Win 'Em All (1970)

Director: Peter Collinson

Writer: Leo Gordon

Composer: Bert Kaempfert

Starring: Tony Curtis, Charles Bronson, Michele Mercier, Patrick Magoo, Fikret Hakan, Gregoire Aslan, Leo Gordon, John Alderson, Tony Bonner, Horst Janson, John Acheson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Two soldiers of fortune matching wits and guns against the armies of two nations!

Plot: During the 1922 Turkish Civil War, two Americans and a group of foreign mercenaries offer their services to a local Turkish governor who hires them as guards for a secret transport.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

#49 on Project: Badass Charles Bronson

BRONSON'S AGE: 49
LEVEL OF BADASSICITY (10 being the highest): 9

Charles Bronson in his prime at 49 in 1970.  'Nuff said.  I'm surprised I hadn't seen this one before but that's OK because, as one of my favorite action heroes, I welcome every opportunity to see a Bronson picture for the first time (well, almost).  This one is fun.  Bronson smiles a lot and looks to be enjoying himself.  I like that rarely seen side of him.  Tony Curtis plays his usual happy go lucky, always on the make with the ladies character that he played so often during this period which is fine as he's very good at it.  Bronson grins and kicks a lot of ass but it's Curtis that provides the occasional laughs and some of his reactions are very, very funny.  There's plenty of outdoor war action going on and the location shooting in Turkey makes this even more special and different.   Patrick Magee is fourth billed but he doesn't show up until the last 6 minutes.  He probably put in one day's work for a nice little paycheck.  The Turkish landscape is beautiful and I can't say enough about how refreshing it was to see such a different type of landscape and period this film was set.


As you can see by the above video, Bronson logs in 41 kills.  He would've had more.  In fact, not many people know this but it was in his contract that he would get all of the kills in every movie because he felt, and rightfully so, that no one would ever believe that any of his co-stars would be able to get a kill in while Bronson was on the job.  It's still hard for me to accept that his kill count isn't in the hundreds.  It turns out that behind that super masculinity and solid testosterone lies a compassionate man so, at least for this picture, he was generous enough to allow Curtis to get a couple of lethal shot in and some of the other cast members.  I guess he felt bad for some of his crew that didn't get any speaking lines so he told the director, producers and studio that some of the other fellas can shoot some mofos dead.  It's a little known story but I swear it's true because I just made it up.  Another top Hollywood secret is that the studios would allow scenes in his romantic comedies where he would off a bunch of lowlifes only to have the footage end up on the cutting room floor.  Bronson never knew this as he wouldn't watch his own movies and it was only after his death that that little piece of skulduggery was leaked out.  They even waited 8 years to release it for fear that a freshly deceased Bronson was still a lethal Bronson. 




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Traveling Executioner (1970)

Director: Jack Smight

Writer: Garrie Bateson

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: Stacy Keach, Marianna Hill, Bud Cort, Graham Jarvis, James Slyan, M. Emmet Walsh, John Bottoms, Ford Rainey, James Greene, Sam Reese, Stefan Gierasch, Logan Ramsey, Charles Tyner, William Mims, Val Avery, Walter Barnes, Charlie Briggs, Paul Gauntt

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  1918. The year this man traveled the South with a portable electric chair.

Plot:  Stacy Keach is an ex-con who in 1918 travels around the bayou with a portable electric chair. At $100 a head, he renders his services with loving care. But then he falls for a female "client".



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

What an unusual film this is.  Stacy Keach is fantastic.  He knocks it out of the park.  He's got two tender, passionate monologues, one at the beginning and one at the end.  It's good stuff.  I dig the setting of 1918 Louisiana, although it was filmed in Alabama and it could've just as well have taken place there.  It's a quirky film that gets even more odd when Jonas (Keach) cooks up a scheme to free Gundred (Hill) and he has to come up with a lot of dough to grease a few palms at the prison.  In his desperation he makes a big mistake and his predicament goes south and fast.  The final twenty minutes is some of the best work in the picture and it's worth sitting through everything else (even if you don't dig it as much as I did) just for the final act.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Murder Clinic (1966)

Original title: La Lama nel Corpo

Director: Elio Scardamaglia

Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi, Luciano Martino, Robert Williams

Composer: Francesco De Masi

Starring: William Berger, Francoise Prevost, Mary Young, Barbara Wilson, Philippe Hersent, Harriet Medin, Germano Longo, Massimo Righi, Delfi Mauro, Anna Maria Polani, Rossella Bergamonti, William Gold

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Bloodletter! Bone-chilling! The thing is subhuman and it has a knife!

Plot: Patients and staff of an isolated mental hospital are being killed off by a hooded maniac who stalks the halls.



My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I don't think the Giallo genre is for me.  I've liked so few of them and the rest often have pacing issues.  This picture looks fantastic.  The period look rivals that of Hammer.  De Masi's score has some really nice moments.  The acting (I watched an English dub) gets a tad too dramatic at times but it was fine for what it was but I just couldn't stay engaged.  It took a few attempts to get through it.  On paper and considering that it looks like a high quality picture, I expected more...and that's while I'm watching it, thinking this is going to be good as it unfolds.  I'll say this much, they kept me guessing who the killer was and I reckon I wasn't disappointed by the ending so much.  Geez, this was slow.



Sunday, July 23, 2017

Homicidal (1961)

Director: William Castle

Writer: Robb White

Composer: Hugo Friedhofer

Starring: Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, Alan Bunce, Richard Rust, James Westerfield, Gilbert Green, Joan Marshall, Wolfe Barzell, Teri Brooks, William Castle, Joseph Forte, Ralph Moody, 'Snub' Pollard, Hope Summers

More info: IMDb

Tagline: SPECIAL "FRIGHT BREAK" * There will be a special FRIGHT BREAK during the showing of "Homicidal." Can your heart stand the challenge when the clock starts the COUNTDOWN?

Plot: The brutal stabbing murder of a justice-of-the-peace sparks an investigation of dark family secrets in a sleepy small town in Southern California.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

This is William Castle's answer to Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) and it's not a bad one at that.  I'm not going to spoil anything and I recommend that if you're ever going to watch this to not allow yourself to be spoiled.  The ending is a great mind fuck and I was pleasantly surprised that it caught me off guard.  I LOVED the ending.  For most of the picture I was wondering if they'd have a good conclusion to all of this because it was a mixed bag for most of it.  The acting is good enough except for one actor and that one person bugged the shit out of me.  You get a great kill in the first twenty minutes that was harsh considering it was coming from Castle.  The mystery is a good one but it's the ending that makes it great.  I can't help but go apeshit for the ending.  Anyway, Castle just has to have a gimmick so he puts a clock on the screen near the end and warns the viewer.  That was awful.  Any tension he'd built up to then was ruined with that one move.  For me it boils down to some really great scenes and ideas marred by that gimmick of the warning clock and the general lower budget and filmmaking.  Had this material been handled with great seriousness to maximize the horror and suspense, it would be a classic.  I'm sure a European filmmaker could've done justice with this material.  As it is though, it's still a fun ride with one hell of a climax.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)

Director: Mark Cousins

Writer: Mark Cousins

Starring: Mark Cousins, Juan Diego Botto

More info:  IMDb

Tagline: Made over six years, on four continents, covering 11 decades and a thousand films.

Plot: A comprehensive history of the medium and art of motion pictures.



My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

This 15-hour documentary on the history of film is staggering in its comprehension alone.  It's told from a lover of quality art film so most people will find it pretentious as I did at times.  The sheer amount of films discussed will have movie fans struggling to keep up writing the titles down to watch later.  I gave up minutes into the first episode and gave myself to the program.  It was a wonderful ride but there is one hangup - the narration (by Cousins, I think).  He has a manner of speaking that leaves most sentences leaning upward as if it were a question.  It's annoying and it took at least the first couple of hours before I was used to it and grew to like it.  I guess you could say I had no choice for if I wanted to continue the next 13 hours I'd have to accept it.  There are times where he's pretentious on his own merit, strange question speak not withstanding.  And there was one point where he came off as a complete asshole when he bluntly said that anyone who doesn't like this film (I forget which picture he was talking about) is wrong (both critics and laypeople).  I'm sorry, but any medium is subjective.  Something might generally accepted as beautiful, brilliant or well made but not everyone is going to see it that way.  That angered me even if I felt he could be right.  It's a lot to absorb and it's easy to feel small (I've probably seen over 10,000 movies in my lifetime and I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable and I felt inadequately prepared for this, discovering more movies that I didn't even know about), but get over it quickly and get through this.  For me, it's hearing others discuss movies.  At the very least, this is worth watching for the extraordinary amount of beautiful imagery that is burned on film forever (hopefully).

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Enemies of Reason (2007)

Director: Russell Barnes

Writer: Richard Dawkins

Composer:  Glenn Keiles

Starring: Richard Dawkins, Derren Brown, Deepak Chopra, Chris French, Craig Hamilton-Parker, Nicholas Humphrey, Satish Kumar

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Professor and well-known skeptic spends 90 minutes exploring many beliefs people have that go against proven science.



My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Richard Dawkins: "We should be open minded but not so open minded that our brains fall out."

The first half of this British TV documentary tackles such wacky shit as astrology, water dowsing, psychics and so on.  These are low hanging fruit and make easy targets but there's an extraordinary amount of people who believe in them and waste billions of dollars on them.  But they also offer the easiest and most accessible subjects to introduce to those unaware of how easily they can be explained as bogus.  That's just what Dawkins does.  His voice is pleasing, his questions are just and his explanations are sound.  This is the fun half of the program.  The second half gets serious and deals strictly with health and medicine tackling homeothapy among others.  This is much more dry and less entertaining but it's just as informative and important.  You don't have to be a skeptic to enjoy this.  It's fun and you'll learn something coming from the very real world of science and reality which is far more fascinating than superstition and the supernatural.  I've seen this twice in the past yen years so I think that's enough.

The Great McGinty (1940)

Director: Preston Sturges

Writer: Preston Sturges

Composers: Friedrich Hollaender, John Leipold

Starring: Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus, Akim Tamiroff, Allyn Joslyn, William Demarest, Louis Jean Heydt, Harry Rosenthal, Arthur Hoyt, Libby Taylor, Thurston Hall

More info: IMDb

Tagline: WHATTA GUY! He loved a fight or a frolic...and he usually found one!

Plot: Depression-era bum Dan McGinty is recruited by the city's political machine to help with vote fraud. His great aptitude for this brings rapid promotion from "the boss," who finally decides he'd be ideal as a new, nominally "reform" mayor; but this candidacy requires marriage. His in-name-only marriage to honest Catherine proves the beginning of the end for dishonest Dan...



My rating:  7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Preston Sturges, in his directorial debut, has a lot to say about politics and humanity.  It's often funny but the political horseshit is right on target.  It would be funnier if it weren't so spot on true.  The performances are very good.  I think I like Donlevy before he slid past his prime.  He's perfect for this role.  And the same goes for Tamiroff, an actor that it seems every movie I've seen him in he plays so over the top that it's annoying as hell.  Not here.  He's A-OK.  The first two thirds of the picture straddle the funny well but it's the last act where barely a joke is had and it's here where it gets serious and very real, a stark contrast to what came before.  I really enjoyed that part the most because if felt sincere and it packs some punch.  It's a great first time effort and it was only the next year when Sturges would make what many consider his masterpiece, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1941), a picture I haven't seen in thirty years.  I should correct that.

 


Friday, July 21, 2017

Ghosts That Still Walk (1977) movie poster

Director: James T. Flocker

Writer: James T. Flocker

Composers: Ronald Stein, Hod David Schudson, The Edgar Kelly Band, Richard Thompson, Michael Tshudin

Starring: Ann Nelson, Matthew Boston, Jerry Jensen, Caroline Howe, Rita Crafts, Janice Renney, Lee James, Phil Catalli, David Kane

More info: IMDb

Tagline:

Plot: A young boy is possessed by the spirit of an Indian medicine man and begins to terrorize the local population.



My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Geez.  This movie is sloooooow.  It's essentially a horror anthology but the kicker is each of the three stories involves the three main characters, Grandma (Nelson in her film debut), her grandson Mark (Boston) and Dr. Sills (Crafts).  Once we breakaway to the first story after the set-up it's all about Grandma and Grampa from a few years earlier when they're driving their RV across the California desert.  Their RV has a mind of its own, swerves all over the lonely highway and eventually offroad when it just stops.  Minutes later small to large rocks and boulders roll across the landscape toward them like tumbleweeds.  Gramps gets the rig started and they're chased by big rocks!  It's a wonderful idea and Flocker is sometimes effective at showing us but the scenes go on too long which takes the wind out of any horror or suspense he's going for.  It really lasts much too long.  The next two stories involve the kid and the doctor, both of which suffer from even worse pacing than the tumblerocks.  How's the payoff?  I had zero shits left by the end.  It was OK and you could tell there were some kernels of good ideas but they're lost in the bad pacing and execution. 

Man with the Gun (1955)

Director: Richard Wilson

Writers: N.B. Stone Jr., Richard Wilson

Composer: Alex North

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Jan Sterling, Karen Sharpe, Henry Hull, Emile Meyer, John Lupton, Barbara Lawrence, Ted de Corsia, Leo Gordon, James Westerfield, Claude Akins, Angie Dickenson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: His Gun Was For Sale...And His Life With It!

Plot: When a notorious tough 'town tamer' is hired by the citizenry to rid of the gunmen driving them off their land, he finds the local saloon madam to be an old friend.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Ummmmm...it's OK.  I was hoping for more and there was a moment when the film promised it but then it just kind of ended without much of a sizzle.  Mitchum does fine as the stoic gunfighter who agrees to clean up the town.  He sticks to his rules and shit gets done...until he gets pissed his ex-gal so he kills the owner of the saloon where she works and burns it to the ground.  It would've been nice if the film kept going with that anger and changed the tone of the last act but it doesn't.  The last fifteen minutes builds to the showdown between the bad guy and his right hand man but it's so weak of a buildup and finale that I couldn't help but wonder why they went that way instead of any number of more exciting routes.  I must have blinked during the opening credits because I didn't see who the composer was.  During the saloon fire I knew instantly as the cue sounded far to similar to his fight cue from SPARTACUS (1960), way too similar.  Ultimately the movie is a missed opportunity but it does offer enough entertainment value that it's worth a look for fans of Bob.




Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974)

Original title: Zeroka no Onna: Akai Wappa

Director: Yukio Noda

Writers: Fumio Konami, Hiro Matsuda, Tooru Shinohara

Composer: Shunsuke Kikuchi

Starring: Miki Sugimoto, Eiji Go, Tesuro Tanha, Hideo Murota, Yoko Mihara, Ichiro Araki, Seiji Endo, Hiromi Kishi, Rokko Toura

More info: IMDb

Plot: After a politician's daughter is kidnapped by a ruthless gang, a brutal policewoman is released from jail and sent after them.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

It's been at least ten years since I saw this and I didn't remember anything about it (thanks, fucked up memory).  At least I had some fun seeing it again for the first time.  Where the lead in this Pinky Violence flick is lacking in charisma (I'll give her the benefit of the doubt that the character is so jaded and burnt out that she's so drab), it makes up in hard violence and lots of nudity (I love the Japanese people so, so much.  Thanks, ya'll!).  The violence is really fucking harsh and in your face.  Like all of the PVs I've seen so far, the cinematography is fantastic with eye popping colors and camera angles that give these films the style they're known for.  The nudity isn't the sexy kind.  When you get it the girls are being raped or tortured.  While it's not a slow film, the finale feels like it's a long time coming.  I could've used a couple of minutes trimmed from that last fifteen minutes but you do get your money's worth with the brutality and action.  The ending delivers a great payoff that leaves enough for the viewer to piece together without having to hold your had to explain it.  It's a good entry into the PV genre but so far, nothing tops GIRL BOSS GUERILLA (1972) which is so good that I don't think there's a better film in the wonderful, crazy world of Pinky Violence.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

10 Rillington Place (1971)

Director: Richard Fleischer

Writers: Clive Exton, Ludovic Kennedy

Composer: John Dankworth

Starring: Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, John Hurt, Pat Heywood, Isobel Black, Miss Riley, Phyllis MacMahon, Andre Morell, Robert Hardy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: What happened to Ena and Geraldine and Beryl and Muriel and Rita and Ethel at 10 Rillington Place?

Plot: Based on the real-life case of the British serial killer John Christie, and what happened to his neighbours Tim and Beryl Evans.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Sure.

The movie starts of innocently enough and then BAM!  The first kill within a few short minutes!  Nice!!!  Something else happens early on and that's the appearance of John Hurt looking like I've never seen him before...young.  He's always looked old to me ever since I first time I saw him in anything.  It was ALIEN (1979).  I thought he was born middle-aged.  Jokes aside, it was odd seeing him look like he just got out of high school even though he was 29 when he made this.  The plot builds as you know Tim's (Hurt) young bride, Beryl (Geeson), is going to probably snuff it at some point as Christie (Attenborough) is very sweet on her.  See, this is based on the true account of this guy who strangled and then had sex with his victims.  Nearing the halfway mark I was very settled into the film and thinking it was OK but nothing all that great.  Then a certain something happens and there's no friggin' way Christie's getting out of this one.  From that point on I was hooked and taking up a good chunk of the edge of my seat.  The second half is even better than the first.  It's a good film with very good performances.  Some my find it a little slow but do stick with it because it gets interesting really fast just when you think it can't.  It's worth the wait.  An odd aside, this just happened to be the second Richard Fleischer movie I saw within three days.  The other was THE NEW CENTURIONS (1972), another very good picture.



Deadly Trackers (1972)

Original title: La Lunga Cavalcata della Vendetta

Director: Tanio Boccia

Writer: Tanio Boccia

Composer: Carlo Esposito

Starring: Richard Harrison, Anita Ekberg, Rik Battaglia, Furio Meniconi, George Want, Emilio Vale, Dada Gallotti, Omero Gargano

More info: IMDb

Plot: Jeff sets out to murder each one of the five outlaws who robbed, raped and killed his poor sister.



My rating: 4.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Yawn.  Example.  In the first half hour there's a chase (of sorts) of the bad guys chasing a woman on horseback in the desert.  It lasts far too long and the music, which does nothing to build any attention or excitement, is dull and repetitive.  I wouldn't say that that scene represents the problem with the film but it's certainly a real drag on it.  The only thing I thought was interesting was having Jeff (Harrison) makes himself sheriff in the town the bad guys have taken over so he can wait for them to return and kill them.  Even the finale was ho-hum and it didn't help that the time before that was spent in a lull while he and Jane (Ekberg) have tender talking time.  Hell, she's barely in it until at least the last half hour.  It's middle of the road at best but the slow (unintentional, I'm sure) pacing pulls it down.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Night of the Hell Hamsters (2006)

Director: Paul Campion

Writers: Paul Campion, Hadyn Green, Mike Roseingrave

Composer: Andrea Possee

Starring: Ailsa Baker, Beth Charlesworth, Paul Campion, Pete Connell, Ryan Lloyd, Paul O'Neill, Elisabeth Pinto, Stephanie Ratcliff

More info: IMDb

Tagline: From the very pits of hell, furry death on four tiny stumpy feet!

Plot: A young couple unwittingly bring about the apocalypse - by possessed hamsters.



My rating:  7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

OK, I think I've seen this a half dozen times over the past few years (it's something fun to toss on during a party).  It's one of those things that sound like it began with the title and the filmmakers worked their way backwards.  It is a great title and a fun idea that works well at sixteen minutes. The first half is fast paced and fun but once the hamsters dispose of the first victim that's where things slow down a bit and stays there.  I think since the hell hamsters have been released into the real world they wouldn't muck around, playing with their victim.  Shit would move a lot faster than it does here (thus making it that much more fun for us).  The ending is neat.  Overall it's a cute little film with a surprising amount of gore.  Plus, it's amazing what you can do with editing and sound effects.  It wasn't until I was writing this up that I noticed the writer/director also did THE DEVIL'S ROCK (2011), his only feature film.  That's a very good film and horror fans should seek it out.  Seriously, though, Paul, make some more movies, man!  You've got talent. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Manson Family (1997)

Director: Jim Van Bebber

Writer: Jim Van Bebber

Composers: Phil Anselmo, Ross Karpelman

Starring: Marcelo Games, Marc Pitman, Leslie Orr, Maureen Allisse, Amy Yates, Jim Van Bebber, Tom Burns, Michelle Briggs, Sherri Rickman, Nate Pennington, M.M. Jones, Carl Day, Jim Sayer, Mark Gillespie, Paul Harper, Norris Hellwig

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The most notorious mass murderers in American history

Plot: A dramatization of the horrific and notorious Manson Family Murders, in the form of super 8 home movies.



My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Oh, yeah!

What a powerful film.  Writer/director/actor/producer/editor/special effects guy Van Bebber so much into this that it had to be a labor of love and it shows.  It's a brilliant picture incorporating interviews, drama, documentary style scenes, re-creations and all kinds of techniques to form a great narrative that goes where all other films and documentaries I've seen don't dare go.  It's the underground, not-afraid-to-show-it story of what happened before, during and after their infamous murders and it doesn't pull any punches.  It's loaded with nudity and gore.  Much of the picture looks authentic as if it were shot nearly fifty years ago.  The sound is fantastic and it's at times almost a collage of words, music and effects that don't fit the typical narrative but it works beautifully here.  It's trippy, ballsy and simply down & dirty fantastic.  Highly recommended.  I've got the Blu-ray set now for the next time I'm ready for a re-vist.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Director: Jon Watts

Writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

Composer: Michael Giacchino

Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Abraham Attah, Hannibal Buress, Kenneth Choi, Jennifer Connelly, Stan Lee, Chris Evans

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Homework can wait. The city can't.

Plot: Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man when a new threat emerges.



My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes!

I LOVED IT!  This is the funniest of the Disney Marvel movies so far.  The action is great, the cast is top drawer, the music, story, the works.  I loved the emotional beats between Peter Parker and Tony Stark.  They felt earned.  When it comes down to it, despite the 133 minute run time, I could've used a lot more - partly because it was that damn good and I wanted to spend more time with the characters and partly because I would've liked to have spent more time character building. Tom Holland is fabulous as Parker/Spider-Man.  He's a lovable spaz.  I really dug how Tony Stark is branching out as a pseudo-father figure.  Captain America's bits are hilarious and what he brings after the credits had me howling.  And speaking of laughing, I lost my shit with laughter with Aunt May's line just before the end credits began.  My only head-scratching moment is the ferry scene.  How could that boat stay afloat when sliced in half?  I'll pay more attention the next time I see it.  Oh, and one more thing, I love what they did with Toomes, giving him a lot of humanity and a very justifiable motive for being the bad guy.  He's charming, funny and very dangerous and menacing.  Keaton is outstanding in the role and I wanted so much more time with him.  I guess that's the biggest compliment I can give is that I had so much fun I didn't want it to end.  I hope this movie makes all the monies.

The Cry of the Black Wolves (1972)

Original title: Der Schrei der Schwarzen Wolfe

Director: Harald Reinl

Writers: Jack London, Kurt Nachmann, Rolf Olsen

Composer: Gerhard Heinz

Starring: Ron Ely, Raimund Harmstorf, Gila von Weitershausen, Arthur Brauss, Angelica Ott, Jean-Claude Hoffmann, Hans Terofal, Catharina Conti, Carl Lange, Alexander Grill, Dan van Husen

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The power and savagery of the Northern wilderness leaps from the screen as only Jack London could describe.

Plot: Mountain man Bill Robin (Ely) battles nature and the bounty hunter hired to kill him for killing another man, only he's innocent.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

I've had a boy/man crush on Ron Ely since I was a little kid in 70s watching him in TV's TARZAN and DOC SAVAGE: MAN OF BRONZE (1975).  He's got that cool, calm badassery about him that few actors possess.  Plus he's about 6'5" so he makes for an imposing dude.  There's a lot to like in this picture besides Ely (even though his voice is dubbed by another actor).  The story, while somewhat simple, has enough going for it that I wasn't bored for a moment and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous (it was filmed in Austria but it sure looks great standing in for Alaska).  The buildings look and feel authentic, inside and out and there's a little gunplay and action spread throughout the film, from beginning to end.  And the ending?  Not bad.  I liked it.  One bonehead reviewer on IMDb said it was the worst movie he'd ever seen.  He must not've seen many movies.  This is definitely worth watching.  I watched a great looking widescreen print.  I'd steer away from anything fullscreen.  The scenery alone deserves better.