Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972)

Director: George McCowan

Writer: Arthur Rowe

Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Stefanie Powers, Michael Callan, Mariette Hartley, Luke Askew, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Ralph Waite, Melissa Murphy, William Lucking, James Sikking, Ed Lauter, Allyn Ann McLerie, Gary Busey, Robert Jaffe

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A Brand New Seven -- Doing Their Number! They put their lives on the line and let it ride!

Plot: Forced by personal circumstances, Marshal Chris Adams recruits a writer and five prisoners to help him eliminate a gang of Mexican bandits.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I have a lot to say about this one.  This picture borders on greatness.  Really.  But it's a few little things that add up to enough to weigh it down with cheapness.  First there's the town where Lee Van Cleef (as Chris) is the marshal.  I shouldn't say it's the town that's the problem but however it was filmed.  It looks a little cheap like it was shot for television.

That screenshot doesn't show it well enough but the town doesn't feel lived in and authentic as how it might in a bigger budgeted picture.  Maybe it was the camera or the film but it just has that cheapness to the sets that I don't dig.  Then you've got the music.  Elmer Bernstein did all four of the Magnificent Seven films and each one uses the same main themes from the first one.  They're great themes but they tend to get stale after a while mostly because they've been used in every film and they're used often.  That problem carries over into this picture but there's the added problem of some of the cues being used inappropriately.  I'm sure it was the fault of the director or studio who wanted to shoehorn those themes in as much as possible despite where the scene needed music or not or needed that theme or a new one.  For example, the rousing main theme (you know the one) is heard when Chris and Noah (Callan) are headed South into Mexico to find the three bank robbers who kidnapped Chris' wife on the way out of town.   MAGNIFICENT SPOILERS AHEAD!!!  Chris and Noah find his wife dead and evidence that she was raped.  Chris is naturally pissed and he's got some harsh revenge to mete out.  They soon find two of the three men they're looking for and Chris, after a brief interrogation, kills them both in cold blood.  Now keep in mind that he's a lawman held in such high esteem that he's on friendly terms with the Governor of his state.  Minutes later he and Noah are riding to find the final bank robber.  Now it's been more than established that Chris is a tough and hard man.  He's a no bullshit kind of guy and his career body count is staggering.  You don't fuck with this guy, see?  So now he's hellbent on revenge at any cost and behind all of that is the rousing upbeat Magnificent Seven theme.  Really?  WTF?  Exactly.  This is just one of a few examples where the music is strangely inappropriately used.  Bernstein does provide some wonderful music that was written for this film once Chris & Co. get to the small Mexican village where they take a stand.

The script in the first hour is sometimes clumsy with the dialogue.  Every once in a while someone will say something forced or just plain dumb.  The priest's entrance is a prime example.  It literally feels like the actor was simply to stand there and not say much but the actor has other ideas and forcibly interjects himself into the conversation.  It's awkward to say the least.  Outside of these gripes (and to me they're big enough to hurt the picture), the movie is fucking fantastic.  At this point in the picture (about a third in) shit gets real.

We're only told and shown just enough of the main baddie, the Mexican bandito know as De Toro (Ron Stein) to serve the film.  He's got a little dialogue and I'm completely OK with that because there's a lot more going on with Chris' revenge plans, the criminals he recruited to help him and the town of nearly all women (because all of their men were killed by De Toro).  De Toro was fleshed out to the right amount needed.  The supporting characters are nicely done, especially Chris' criminal compatriots.  Of the five of them you don't always know who is good (for Chris) and who isn't and the characters say or do things sometimes that change your opinions on them.  Then there's one of the greatest cinema badasses of all time in the form of Lee Van Cleef.  He's so hardcore badass in this movie I felt a vagina growing inside of me and my masculinity disappearing.  And because he's who he is that it's really tough hearing people call him Chris.  He's just not a Chris.  It's too soft for this cat. 

The final half of the picture is about as good as you can get.  It's violent, brutal and fun.  The Seven have a few tricks up their sleeve when De Toro comes a-ridin' into town and they do a fine job of it but not so well that it's going to be easy.  They just even the odds out a little more like instead of 10 to 1 it's 6 to 1.  There's no point in trying to figure out who makes it to the end credits or who snuffs it.  The casualty list is long. 

This is the last of the four Magnificent Seven pictures and I'm very impressed with this series (except for the second one, RETURN).  As they stack up in my book it's the first one, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) (and some of that has to do with being the first and that amazing cast), the third, GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1969), the fourth (this one) and RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1966).  I won't be seeing RETURN again.  The rest will get many replays before I snuff it.

For what it's worth, this is as close to a smile as you get from Lee Van Cleef...

Moonshine Mountain (1964)

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Writer: Charles Glore

Composers: Charles Glore, Hershcell Gordon Lewis

Starring: Charles Glore, Gordon Oas-Heim, Jeffrey Allen, Bonnie Hinson, Carmen Sotir, Ben Moore, J.G. Patterson Jr., Stanley Dyrector, Gretchen Eisner

More info: IMDb


Plot: Charles Glore plays a country western singer who goes back home to the hills of Carolina where he gets caught up in a feud between some local moonshiners and "the Revenoores".

My rating:

Will I watch it again?  No.

I've said it before but it's worth repeating.  I get a sense of how others feel when their nationality is stereotyped in movies when I see crap like this.  I grew up in the Deep South and seeing Southerners depicted in such a cartoonish way is painful and embarrassing.  The accents are so bad that it hurts hearing them.  The comedy is dumb, the characters are dumb and it's shot like what you'd expect from HGL.  He made this one right on the heels of the movie he's most famous for, TWO THOUSAND MANIACS (1964).  That had dumb yokels, two but at least that one had lots of gory kills (and like this one, sadly, there's no nudity...what the hell did that man have against boobs?).  I'd say skip this one unless you're torturing yourself to sit through every HGL picture he made and that's a lot.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Orchestra (1990)

Director: Zbigniew Rybczynski

Writer: Zbigniew Rybczynski

More info: IMDb

Plot:  This anthology of classical pieces is paired with wordless stories through special effects.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I had no idea what to expect going into this and I'd only ever heard of Rybczynski and knowing nothing about him except he is a filmmaker.  The music is among the most popular classical music that most people would be familiar with or would've at least heard.  The visuals are so much fun and creative.  Special effects are involved in each story and there's a lot of inventive and cleverness to the visuals but most of all, it's a fun film.  There's no dialogue.  It's beautifully made and it's more than just what you see and hear.  It's actually funny in spots.  There's also a lot of sensuality which surprised me.  This is simply a pleasure to watch and it's readily available to see online.

Reservoir Cats (1968)

Original title: The Kill

Director: Gary Graver

Writer: Gary Graver

Starring: Antoinette Maynard, Walt Phillips, Sharon Wells, Natasha, Nancy McGavin, Tod Badker, Tony Brooks, Pam English, Uschi Digard

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Was it the nymphomanic...the hunchback...the gangland leader...or a million dollars worth of heroin...that led them down the bloody path to --

Plot:A gumshoe sets out to find a young woman's missing brother. His investigation leads him into the seamy world of drug smugglers...and a shitload of naked broads.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

#1 on the Uschi Digard Needs to Have My Babies Project

If you're looking for a goofy time with LOTS and LOTS of naked broads and you want it in 45 minutes or less then this picture is for YOU!  There's not much to it beyond a couple of cheap laughs, lots of nudity and something of a story involving killers, drugs and a two bit P.I. on the case.  The nudity is what brings it, especially near the end when Uschi Digard, in her film debut, shows up as a hitchhiker and steals the P.I.s car.  That was fun.  After that I think there's about 5 minutes left and everything culminates in a big chase leaving a lot of people dead.  Who?  I couldn't tell you because I just didn't care, especially when Uschi left the scene.  It looks like it was filmed without sound and everything was added later.  The music is cool and the titties are hot.  What else do you want?

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

Director: Terence Fisher

Writer: Harry Spalding

Composer: Elisabeth Lutyens

Starring: Willard Parker, Virginia Field, Dennis Price, Thorley Walters, Vanda Godsell, David Spenser, Anna Palk

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They Came From The Heavens... And Sent The World Into Hell!

Plot: The UK is invaded by alien-controlled robots, which re-animate dead human bodies. Survivors of the invasion are besieged by the walking corpses of slain friends and neighbors.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The picture opens with people dropping dead while doing things like flying, driving, walking and so one and it settles onto a small English village where one man is trying to make sense of what's going on.  There's no dialogue for the first eight and a half minutes.  That was neat.  The story unfolds little by little as human characters emerge, all wondering what happened with speculation all over the place.  Then the spacemen show up to kill the survivors.  The survivors find out a little about what's going on and how to possibly stop it.  And then it's hour after it started.  That caught me off guard as I didn't check the running time when it started.  It's got a nice atmosphere and the abandoned village is a great setting which adds to the creepiness.  The problem is, it's over before you know it and it ends in a traditional way.  There's lots of promise but it falls short of greatness because of the abrupt climax.  There should've been more to the mystery and harsher consequences.  The score is very good.  It's by Elisabeth Lutyens, someone I don't recall seeing before but I see by her credits that I have seen some of her pictures.  It's a rarity to come across a female film composer from that time and it seems just as rare today which is all kinds of messed up.  This one is worth a look but don't get your hopes up for the last five minutes.  It's a missed opportunity but a pleasant one at that.

Death Riders (1976)

Director: Jim Wilson

Composer: Jerry Styner

Starring: Henry Trumblay, Bud Boerma, Joe Byars, Jim Cates, Ron Cheesman, Larry Mann, Jim Moreau, Floyd Reed Jr., Floyd Reed Sr., Danny Reed, George Sisson, Rusty Smith, Bob Spears

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Meet the Death Riders ... As They Attempt the Most Dangerous and Terrifying Stunts Ever Seen on Film!

Plot: This documentary follows a traveling troupe of daredevil stunt drivers performing wherever there's an audience.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Well that was disappointing.  What should've been an exciting and thrilling look at daredevil stunt drivers ends up being about as bland as you can get.  It's not boring but then it barely achieves being entertaining.  The guys in the troupe are camera shy to an extent that makes for a lackluster interview.  They seem like regular Joes, down to Earth types that like to goof around only what we see isn't all that fun to watch...except for when they perform for a nudist colony!

It's a fuzzy picture but you can make out the biker jumping over a sea of butts.  That was a fun segment but it took up about five minutes.  The stunts can be fun but they repeat them which can get old.  What makes it worse is that there are a lot of close up shots of the stunts rather than the camera stepping back to allow the viewer to see it as you would if you were there.  These guys aren't doing this in their backyards; there's a big audience watching every time.  The lousy VHS print I saw didn't help at all.  It's practically unwatchable for the night scenes.  I came to this for the stunts and it was a let down.  It's even worse when watching this as a movie.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio (1971)

Director: Corey Allen

Writers: Chris Warfield, Corey Allen, Carlo Collodi

Composer: John Barber

Starring: Alex Roman, Monica Gayle, Dyanne Thorne, Karen Smith, Eduardo Ranez, Lavina Dawson, Debbie Osborne, Vincene Wallace, Neola Graef, Gwen Van Dam, Elizabeth Bell, Uschi Digard

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's not his nose that grows!

Plot: This is a bawdy burlesque version of the famous fairy tale. Instead of Gepetto, the old-man woodcarver, we have Geppeta (Gayle), an apparently frustrated and nubile young virgin. Geppeta carves Pinocchio (Roman) for herself as a gorgeous young hunk. Geppeta's fairy godmother (Thorne) magically transforms the young stud Pinocchio into a living man, who is quickly brought to work in the local whorehouse as a prize stud and exhibitionist.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

#44 on the Uschi Digard Needs to Have My Babies Project

These storybook adult movies are generally pretty bad.  This one is no exception.  The good thing about this (and them) is the gratuitous nudity but this one is softcore so as not to offend the kiddies. There are LOADS of tits, a little ass and no dicks (sorry straight ladies and gay guys).  There's also a lot of comedy that rarely lands.  It's groan-inducing at times.  What hurt my ears is the incredible amount of screaming, loud sounds and people.  It's a noisy as fuck picture.  Besides the gratuitous nudity (and the women are naturally attractive with lovely bodies) the only other thing I liked was Eduardo Ranez as Jo Jo, the man who exploits Pinocchio as a sex performer.  He's great and he also had the only laughs as far as I'm concerned.  And I'm shocked that he's only got this one credit on IMDb.  If you like your bevy of boobs in a loud and obnoxious movie then this has your name written all over it.  And another thing, did Dyanne Thorne get a boob job after this?  There's a remarkable difference between her lovely self in this and her lovely self in ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS (1975).  Just sayin'.  Oh, and if you're an Uschi Digard connoisseur like me then you're going to be very disappointed.  She's literally in this picture for about a half a minute. 

OMFG.  I want her to have my babies.  I don't care how old she is now. 

$ (Dollars) (1971)

Director: Richard Brooks

Writer: Richard Brooks

Composer: Quincy Jones

Starring: Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Gert Frobe, Robert Webber, Scott Brady, Arthur Brauss, Robert Stiles, Wolfgang Kieling

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The BIG bank-heist is on!

Plot: A bank security expert plots with a call girl to rob three safety deposit boxes containing $1.5 million in cash belonging to three very different criminals from a high-tech security bank in Hamburg, Germany.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Don't be fooled by the trailer or the poster.  This is not a comedy.  Goldie Hawn giggling a lot doesn't make it so.  It's a straight up heist movie that leans light.  The first hour is the setup, the next half hour is the slow process of getting the money (which really takes up too much time for what little is done) and the last half hour of this two hour flick is eluding the criminals Joe (Beatty) and Dawn (Hawn) stole from.  That's rather dull, too.  I'm disappointed to say the least.  Writer/director Richard Brooks was an immense talent who wrote and directed an impressive amount of classic films.  Check out his credits.  I'll wait.  The pacing is what hurts the film the most I think.  Well, that and the story needs help.  The build up should've been shorter, as well as the heist and climax.  It's not thrilling, funny, cute, romantic or fun.  Beatty is being Beatty and Hawn is adorable but they do as much with their roles as was there I suppose.  It was great, though, seeing Gert Frobe and speaking English with his own voice instead of being dubbed as he often was for English speaking audiences.  The score by Quincy Jones is often fun.  And there's boobs!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Iron Man (1931)

Director: Tod Browning

Writers: W.R. Burnett, Francis Edward Faragoh

Starring: Lew Ayres, Robert Armstrong, Jean Harlow, John Miljan, Edward Dillon, Mike Donlin, Morrie Cohan, Mary Doran, Mildred Van Dorn, Ned Sparks

More info: IMDb

Plot: Prizefighter Mason loses his opening fight so wife Rose leaves him for Hollywood. Without her around Mason trains and starts winning. Rose comes back and wants Mason to dump his manager Regan and replace him with her secret lover Lewis.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Released between two of Tod Browning's greatest known films, DRACULA (1931) and FREAKS (1932), this flick tells the origin of Kid Mason (AKA Tony Stark/Iron Man) and his quest to be the boxing champ of the world (AKA fly around the world killin' bad guys and bangin' hot broads).  His manager and best friend, George (AKA Happy Hogan), does his best to keep the Kid focused on what he needs to do (AKA ridding the world of bad guys and bangin' hot broads).  Now, when the Kid falls for a bad news dame, Rose (Harlow) (AKA Pepper Potts), and marries her, his world goes to shit and he fights hard to keep his title in the climactic fight against a low ranking challenger (AKA pick any boring ass villain from the MCU that never gets enough screen time to develop).  So there you go, kids, that's Iron Man!

It's OK.  The only music in the film is sourced from radios and whatnot.  It could've benefited from a score but that was how things were in the early days of sound pictures.  The acting is just as you'd expect for the period as is just about everything else.  Robert Armstrong is good for some laughs (intentional) and he plays a big part in moving the picture along.  The ending is great, too.  Overall it was a pleasurable experience but nothing notable enough to ever need to see again.  In case my jokey sarcasm didn't come across, this has absolutely nothing to do with comic book super heroes.  The film came across my radar from the name and then the talent involved.  Now if I could only find a 1930s movie called GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY about a union boss trying to start a local on Mars I'd be tickled to pieces.

Soul Patrol (1976)

Original title: Death of a Snowman

Director: Christopher Rowley

Writer: Bima Stagg

Composers: Trevor Rabin, Fransua Roos, Robert Schroeder, Patric van Blerk

Starring: Nigel Davenport, Ken Gampu, Peter Dyneley, Bima Stagg, Madala Mphahlele, Morrison Gampu, Joe Lopes, Hal Orlandini, Steve Cohen, Stuart Brown

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Rougher & Tougher Than Anything You Have Seen Before

Plot: A white cop and a black reporter join forces to investigate apparent vigilante killings in the South African underworld.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I really wish the print I saw were better.  It was rough, dirty and dark (there's a joke there somewhere I think), the sound was rough which all made it difficult to watch.  I'm a huge fan of Davenport so there's that.  I also watched this because it's the only South African Blaxploitation picture I know of.  I hope there's more and that they're better than this.  It's OK.  The story is interesting enough and there's more to it than your typical Blaxploitation picture.  The performances are fine and what I could see of the action looked alright.  I'm almost certain I would've liked it more had I seen a good looking widescreen print (hell, I would've settled for a good looking fullscreen one).  The above trailer is in much better shape than what I saw.  Geez.  It's at least got a nice, bleak ending. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Red Eye (2005)

Director: Wes Craven

Writers: Carl Ellsworth, Dan Foos

Composer: Marco Beltrami

Starring: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox, Terry Press, Robert Pine

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Fear Takes Flight

Plot: A woman is kidnapped by a stranger on a routine flight. Threatened by the potential murder of her father, she is pulled into a plot to assist her captor in offing a politician.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

As soon as I starting thinking about what was going on this picture turned to shit.  This is far more convoluted than it would ever be in real life.  To go through this much trouble to do one simple thing, as to kill a man, is an exercise in stupidity.  Why approach Lisa (McAdams) on a plane?  Why not somewhere easier like, uh, anywhere else?  Hell, why go through all of the bullshit they did just to get a man moved to a different hotel room?  And that Rippner (Murphy) spent two months following her in preparation for this crazy scheme to begin is utterly stupid.  There are far too many things that could go wrong for him to think this was the best and easiest means of achieving his end.  Despite all of the cliche'd BS, it's base level entertainment but be damned if you don't check your brain at the door and end up rubbing two brain cells together, enough so that a spark ignites and you begin to think about how dumb this plot is.  At the very least you can thank this movie for giving Brian Cox an easy paycheck, not that he'll ever share it with any of us. I'm probably being generous by giving this a 6 but it didn't bore me.  My yelling at the TV gave me some pleasure.

The Unknown (1927)

Director: Tod Browning

Writers: Tod Browning, Waldemar Young, Joseph Franham, Mary Roberts Rinehart

Starring: Lon Chaney, Norman Kerry, Joan Crawford, Nick De Ruiz, John George, Frank Lanning

More info: IMDb

Plot: A criminal on the run hides in a circus and seeks to possess the daughter of the ringmaster at any cost.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I'm embarrassed to admit this but I just watched my first Lon Chaney picture.  I'm shocked that I haven't seen any of his films before, despite the number of horror classics he starred in.  It's criminal, I know.  He's utterly amazing in this.  I was captivated by his presence in every single scene.  He demands it almost.  Joan Crawford is so young that she's unrecognizable (to me, anyway).  Wow.  What a picture this is.  It's remarkable how Chaney was able to hide his arms.  I mean, you really believe he's armless.  He really sells it.  The story might sound simple but there's a lot more to it plus it's got heart right along side the horror.  You feel for Alonzo (Chaney) even after you uncover his past and you see his actions.  There's some messed up stuff going on.  This was the second of three excellent movies I watched in a row over the course of three nights which is rare.  There's usually a crappy movie that breaks up the good stuff.  I sift through a lot of garbage searching for that hidden gem but every once in a while I go blind into pictures only to come out the other side seeing a whole new world in front of me and this time, that new world belongs to Lon Chaney. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wild Wheels (1969)

Director: Ken Osborne

Writers: Ken Osborne, Ralph Luce

Composer: Harley Hatcher

Starring: Don Epperson, Robert Dix, Casey Kasem, Dovie Beams, Terry Stafford, Johenne Lemont, Bruce Kimball

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They Wreck Each Other's Wheels and Steal Each Other's Girls!!

Plot: A group of surfers use dune buggies to protect their beach from a gang of invading bikers.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It's bad and far from so-bad-it's-good.  There's barely any action and the most you get is a brawl on the beach at the end shot at night and it's difficult to see anything.  It's just a jumbled mess.  It didn't help that the print I saw was lousy VHS quality.  Everything about this picture is at best mediocre which is probably giving it too much credit.  Some of the main characters are in a band that plays at the local bar or something and they get way too many songs to perform.  I guess they did that so they could release a soundtrack (which they did).  If you're looking for a decent biker flick, this isn't it.  I keep hoping to find a good biker flick but they are a rare breed.  

Brass Eye (1997) TV series

Creator: Christopher Morris

Directors: Michael Cumming, Tristram Shapeero

Writers: Christopher Morris, Arthur Mathews, Graham Linehan, Peter Baynham

Composers: Christopher Morris, Jonathan Whitehead, Adrian Sutton

Starring: Christopher Morris, Mark Heap, Kevin Eldon, Doon Mackichan, David Cann, Barbara Durkin, Amelia Bullmore, Albert Willing, Gina McKee, Julia Davis, Simon Pegg, Britt Ekland, PHil Collins, Michael Winner

More info: IMDb

Plot: Controversial spoof of current affairs television, and the role of celebrity in the UK.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again?  YESSSSSS!!!

If you're inclined, watch the above episode and laugh your ass off.  I'll warn you, though, it's the last and best episode so it's downhill from there.  The show debuted and ran for six episodes in 1997 and then they came back in 2001 for the one-off Paedogeddon episode.  Me being a fan of British comedy since I was a kid in the 70s, I ate this shit right up and went for seconds and thirds.  The satire is spot on and it's a fast paced half hour show with an enormous amount of gags.  Not all of them work but it doesn't matter because the shit is flying so fast that there's bound to be a big laugh in a few seconds.  It's purposefully overproduced from the busy graphics to the loud, bombastic, urgent music.  The humor is absurd and offensive and it's right up my alley.   I'm sure most people will find the pedophile episode horrifying but for me it's pure comedy gold.  This was the show that woke me up to Christopher Morris and wanting to see absolutely everything he's done.  This guy's a fucking comedy genius who isn't afraid to "go there".

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror (1994)

Director: Ted Newsom

Writer: Ted Newsom

Composer: James Bernard

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Roy Ward Baker, James Bernard, Martine Beswick, Veronica Carlson, Michael Carreras, Hazel Court, Joe Dante, Freddie Francis, Val Guest, Ray Harryhausen, Anthony Hinds, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Ferdy Mayne, Caroline Munro, Christopher Neame, Ingrid Pitt, Jimmy Sangster, Yutte Stensgaard, Raquel Welch

More info: IMDb

Plot: The history of Hammer Films and their legacy, narrated by the studio's most beloved stars, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

This is a must watch for any horror fan.  I've seen every Hammer horror film and some of them multiple times.  This excellent documentary covers the history of the studio from the beginning to its sad end with most of their horror films covered.  The real treat, besides being narrated by Cushing (who died the same year) and Lee is the amazing amount of people who worked in front of and behind the camera for the studio in its heyday.  It's a fascinating look into the foremost horror movie making machine.

Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire (2006)

Directors: Tim Dunn, Nick Green, Andrew Grieve, Nick Murphy, Arif Nurmohamed, Christopher Spencer

Writers: Andrew Grieve, Colin Heber-Percy, Jeremy Hylton Davies, Nick Murphy, Christopher Spencer, Lyall B. Watson, James Wood

Composers: Samuel Sim, Ty Unwin

Starring: Lyall B. Watson, James D'Arcy, Sean Pertwee, Michael Sheen, Ed Stoppard, David Threlfall, Pip Torrens, John Blakey, Jonathan Coy, Alex Ferns, James Wilby, Jonathan Hyde, Peter Firth, David Warner

More info: IMDb

Plot: A doc-drama covering the rise and the fall of the Roman world including the founding by Julius Caesar and the re-building of Rome by Nero.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I watched two of this six episode miniseries, the one on Caesar and then Nero and I was very disappointed.  This BBC production is lavish and it looks great.  You can tell that it had a nice budget.  What you get are little bits of narrated documentary cut with actual drama so there's this somewhat frequent back and forth.  The documentary bits are great but the dramatic recreations are not...they're often dull.  What's more, it was the dramatic bits that took up the lion's share of the episode.  I'm a massive fan of anything ancient Rome and I was so ready to devour this series but I gave up after the first two episodes.  The drama was largely unnecessary and anywhere from dull to mildly interesting.  I wanted to like it and I tried but it just wasn't happening.  Them's the breaks I guess.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

One Step to Hell (1968)

Original title: Caccia ai Violenti

AKA: King of Africa

Director: Giovanni Scolaro

Writers: Jack DeWitt, Sandy Howard, Eduardo Manzanos, Mario Siciliano

Composer: Gianni Marchetti

Starring: Ty Hardin, Pier Angeli, Rossano Brazzi, George Sanders, Helga Line, Dale Cummings, George Rigaud, Julio Pena, Charles Fawcett

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Hide and seek and kill in the jungles of Africa!

Plot: A British colonial policeman in Africa, circa 1900, pursues a band of escaped killers across territory so wild, it lies just "one step to hell."

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This Italian/Spanish co-production action adventure doesn't have much to offer besides a few good looking locations but those were marred by the lousy fullscreen VHS copy I watched.  You can't really appreciate scenery much under those conditions.  George Sanders is in it for a little bit but his few scenes take place in one room and it looks like he might've spent a day or two on the set.  Fans of his won't get anything out of him; he's just there to bring some gravitas to the production.  Now Ty Hardin (who only died a few months ago at age 87) put in a bland performance that brings the picture down.  Also adding to the blandness is the run of the mill, this could've almost been directed by anyone, direction by Scolaro.  I wasn't surprised to see that he only directed one flick (but he was the assistant director on seven others).  Then there's the bland score (and sometimes inappropriate) by Marchetti.  I don't recognize any of his credits (which doesn't mean much of anything).  I can't recommend this for any reason other than George Sanders completists and the president of the Ty Hardin Fan Club.  There sure are a lot of neat movie posters for it, though.

The Buddhist Fist (1980)

Original title: Fo Zhang Luo Han Quan

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen

Writers: Chi-Ming Lam, Siu Ming Tsui, Ching Wong

Composer: Fang Chi Chen

Starring: Shun-Yee Yuen, Siu Ming Tsui, Lung Chan, Hsi Chang, Shao-Peng Chen, Mei Sheng Fan

More info: IMDb

Plot: Aspiring barber and experienced kung-fu fighter Shang learns that his childhood friend, Siu Ming, has been framed for murder by an unknown villain. When Shang begins looking into the crime, he soon finds himself the target of an assassination attempt. Who is behind all these crimes, and can Shang stop them?

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I don't know why there's such an abundance of over the top, silly characters in 70s Kung Fu flicks but I can't stand them.  It's the kind of thing that appeals to very small children.  The Italians did it, too.  But you don't watch these things for the slapstick comedy.  You watch them for the Kung Fu action and this one's got some great fighting.  There's a scene early on when the bad buy gets bamboo poles through each pant leg and one through his shirt sleeves.  It's very well done AND it's funny without the goofy buck-toothed characters.  The chess match between the two masters is a work of art, too.  There's a big surprise at the end that I rather liked.  There are a few little things in here that inspired Tarantino to include them in KILL BILL (2003) or they were common in a lot of these pictures back in the day.  It's better than average for its time and it's definitely worth watching for fans of the genre.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Buccaneer (1958)

Director: Anthony Quinn, Cecil B. DeMille

Writers: Harold Lamb, Jesse Lasky Jr., Jeanie Macpherson, Edwin Justus Mayer, Bernice Mosk, Lyle Saxon, C. Gardner Sullivan

Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Starring: Yul Brynner, Claire Bloom, Charles Boyer, Inger Stevens, Henry Hull, E.G. Marshall, Charlton Heston, Lorne Greene, Ted de Corsia, Robert F. Simon, Woody Stode

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Mighty Movie Screen Brings You La FITTE...Man or Devil?

Plot: During the war of 1812, Louisiana buccaneer Jean Lafitte assists the Americans in defending New Orleans against the attacking British war fleet.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

It's funny that in the first few minutes of watching this I couldn't help but think that I'd seen this before until I realized that I saw THE BUCCANEER (1938) a few years ago (also directed by DeMille).  I like this remake for different reasons but the '38 picture is better and more fun.  The word around the campfire is that DeMille (who directed the previous one) took ill while shooting this and let his son in law, Quinn (who had a small role in the previous one), take over.  It's a good film with some fine performances and it looks great in color and in widescreen.  Brynner is fun but it's hard getting past that toupee.  And what's with that big white hair on Heston's noggin'?

(That's Heston on the right - har har)

Two performances bugged me and that's the guy seen right after the nearly 3 minutes of opening credits.  He's the sentry Jackson (Heston) confronts for not doing his job.  He's annoying (and that accent...geesh).  The other is Ezra Peavey (Hull).  He's also annoying, so much so that I'm surprised Jackson didn't have him drowned.  Walter Brennan, who played him in the '38 film, was much more enjoyable.  There are some good action scenes and intrigue.  It's not a home run by any means but it is enjoyable.  It helps to be fond of some of the cast going into it.  I expect I'll watch the '38 picture a couple of times before coming back to this one.