Thursday, April 17, 2014

REVOLVER (1973)


In REVOLVER Oliver Reed plays Vito Caprini, an ex-cop who is now the warden of a large prison in northern Italy. Happily married and very good at his job, Caprini is the very model of a solid citizen on the right side of the law. Fabio Testi plays Milo Ruiz, a petty thief in from France whose first robbery in Italy goes badly wrong and ends with him burying his best friend/criminal accomplice in an unmarked grave. After Milo is arrested and placed in Caprini's prison these two men with nothing in common are forced together for mysterious reasons. Caprini's beautiful wife Anna (Agostina Belli) is kidnapped and Vito is told by phone that if he wants her back he must keep silent and arrange for Milo to escape from prison. The warden delays releasing his prisoner for a day to pressure him for the names of whomever is trying to get him out. When Milo claims to have no friends willing to go through something so elaborate to free him, Caprini realizes he must break him out. Putting Milo in the prison infirmary (heh heh), Caprini allows him to escape only to grab the thief so he can make a forced exchange for his wife. Following the only information they have, the antagonistic pair avoid the cops and make their way across the border to Paris. They question Milo's pop star friend Al (Daniel Beretta), who has connections to the underworld. When Al is very surprised that Milo's partner died in Italy and not France, it becomes apparent that the thief wasn't rescued from prison to do a job. And after a swap for Anna goes very wrong, it looks like Milo knows something that might get him killed.


When I first started watching European crime movies years ago I quickly learned that even the worst of them can be counted on to entertain me with great action scenes, vicious characters and the unwritten law that bleak endings were generally the best kind. Before I watched Revolver I'd seen only one of director Sergio Sollima's crime films — the fantastic Violent City. From just these two movies I can say I really hope to see much more of his work. Revolver is not as action packed a story as I've come to expect from Italian crime movies although it certainly has its fair share of fistfights, shootouts and chases. This film has several things on its mind, chief among them how society values one person over another, and why. The movie poses one answer but at the same time asks the viewers if we agree or disagree. Is the death of a person justified if a 'better' person lives by their death? And what does making that choice do to those who are forced to carry it through? Although Revolver has the central mystery of who wants Milo Ruiz out of prison and why, it's primarily a character-driven story focusing on the relationship between the cop and the criminal. As the two are slowly forced to work together to stay alive, the script shows a steady hand in portraying them as very different people with different goals. The grudging trust they form is believable and affecting. Much of this effectiveness can be attributed to the great performances from Reed and Testi. I've come to expect strong work from Reed no matter what type of film he's in, but Testi is his equal here even with the handicap of being dubbed by another actor.


   Also contributing to the strength of Revolver is Ennio Morricone's usual excellent score. The incredibly prolific composer does a fine job here, but I did notice a strong similarity to the maestro's score for the crime movie Il Poliziotto della Brigata Criminale — released in the States as Fear in the City and The Night Caller. I can't complain about this at all, as I think the music is wonderful, but it was the first time I've heard Morricone quote himself so clearly from one score to another.




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966) poster art










One of the all time great westerns. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Batman: Strange Days" - Bruce Timm's Batman 75th Anniversary Short

Continuing my series of Batman post to celebrate the character's 75th anniversary is this fantastic piece of animation from one the greatest Batman writer/artists of the last 25 years. Bruce Timm made his mark on the brilliant Batman animated series in the early 1990's and has followed up that work with one great project after another.

Timm now presents this amazing short film that combines the black & white creepiness of a Universal Horror film with Batman in the style of the 1940's Columbia serials. I need to go back and finish watching those serials eventually. Enjoy!



Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Brides of the Impaler" by Edward Lee


On occasion I find myself really wanting to read a certain type of book. This can be anything from mystery to fantasy to a piece of hard science fiction to a trashy men's adventure novel or even a detailed history of a particular event. But more often than not I get the urge to read a horror tale of some sort just to see what surprises the author might have for me. To that end, I am always on the look for recommendations from friends and other writers whose work I admire and it was one of those friends that years ago that pointed me toward Edward Lee's fiction. Having now finally read some of his work I must say I am a fan!

I picked up a used copy of Brides of the Impaler months ago and last week I pulled it down to see what hideous visions Mr. Lee might have for me. I knew things were going to be interesting when I read the dedication page in which the author thanks Paul Naschy, Jess Franco, Amando de Ossorio and Jean Rollin and immediately realized I should have been reading his books for a long time. I must pay more attention to modern horror novelists in the future

So, clearly he is a man after my own Euro-Horror loving heart but I had no idea just how far he would stretch this love in the story. Two of the main characters are a pair of lawyer partners named- wait for it- Paul Nasher and Jess Franklin. The cop investigating the murderous goings on is named Howard Vernon. The Catholic priest caught up in the mystery is named John Rollin (and for bonus nudges he hates the French for historical reasons). Many events take place on or near New York's obviously fictitious Dessorio Street and the characters often eat at the posh D'Amato restaurant. A couple of secondary characters that meet hideous ends are named George Gemser and Laura Eastman which will count as extra credit knowledge for most neophytes fans of the joys of Euro-Cult film. And for real Naschy fans there is the linguistics professor named Carl Aured. I love it!

Oh! And did I mention the novel's story is pretty damned good even without the judicious and amusing in-jokes for us movie geeks? Cause it pretty damned cool an involves a fairly fresh variation on the old Vlad Tepes, Dracula and vampiric legend & lore. This is a horror novel well worth your time.

Edward Lee! 


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Jess Franco poster art - Part 27


Now this really doesn't reflect ANY of my memories of THE BLOODY JUDGE but its been a few years since I watched it. Might be time for a rewatch I guess. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

What I Watched in March

I saw a wide variety of movies last month but the one trip to the theater was hardly worth the cash. Showing just how out of touch with a certain subset of the entertainment world I really am, I was unaware that NEED FOR SPEED (2014) was based on a video game. If I had known this I would never have agreed to spend money to see it, but we learn and we grow, huh? Still, I was interested to see Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul on the big screen. It might have been worth the trip out to determine if he has a chance at moving from small screen to large so I'm not going to claim too much of a wound. I find Paul to be an engaging and extremely talented actor and I'm glad to be able to report that he is very good in this film. He is able to breathe some visible emotion into a character written as thinly as you would expect from a game adaptation. He does his best with the material but there is only so much you can do with this lifeless. The only other real plus the film has is something you would also expect from its source - very well shot car crashes. Well- I'm sure that there are some people actually interested in car races - which the film has to spare- but its the crashes that are worth seeing even if the rest of the movie is by turns predictable, stupid and thin to the point of emaciation. NEED FOR SPEED is worth seeing if you can fast forward through the dull, pointless stretches and just get to the car footage.

And what the Hell is Michael Keaton doing in this movie? He plays a character that never interacts with anyone else and mostly just stares into the camera pontificating about the Zen of Racing. He speaks convincingly whatever words he has to say but its all gibberish and comes off as a cinematic afterthought. It's as if they thought they needed a narrator but realized paying Keaton for a day's work would seem more impressive and less of a storytelling cheat. You know the film is confused about his character when we are told up front that on one knows what he looks like but we then see that he broadcasts an internet video show almost every day. How can no one know what he looks like? As I said- the film is pretty damned stupid.



HIT MAN (1972)- 6 (it has a certain lack of forward momentum but overall its a pretty good action film)
EYEBALL (1975)- 8 (rewatch)
REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983)- 3 (rewatch) (terrible, but entertainingly bad)
THE BEAST OF HOLLOW MOUNTAIN (1956) - 6 (rewatch)
SKULLDUGGERY (1970) - 7
LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971)- 6 (rewatch) 
47 RONIN (2013)- 7 (well done fantasy)
JOHNNY COOL (1963)- 6 (good but not great crime tale)
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1967)- 10 (rewatch)
CURUCU -BEAST OF THE AMAZON (1956)- 3 (not very good monster tale)
ACT OF VENGEANCE (1974)- 7 (interesting rape revenge film)  
NEED FOR SPEED (2014)- 4 (pretty silly and dumb revenge/carsploitation film- not boring but very paint by numbers)
THE INITIATION (1984)- 6 (well done slasher)
FRIGHT NIGHT 2 (2013)- 3 (not a sequel but a second remake of the original -colorful and pretty but dumb)
TRANCE (2013)- 9 (excellent mystery thriller)
THE BISHOP MURDER CASE (1930)- 6 (pretty good Philo Vance mystery)
ALL-STAR SUPERMAN (2011)- 9 (excellent animated film)
THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS (1976)- 8 (rewatch) 





Friday, April 04, 2014

Jose Larraz poster art

Most Cult or Euro-Trash fans know about the brilliant Larraz directed VAMPYRES (1974)....

...but far fewer folks know about his other genre efforts. I have seen a couple of these and have enjoyed each one. I recommend using whatever means are at your disposal to see his work- its very rewarding.