Sunday, September 14, 2014

NaschyCast # 48 - COMANDO TXIKIA (1977)

Sometimes it’s the Principal of Moments that rules the day. This episode marks the first Docu-Drama we’ve covered and since I can’t imagine a reason we’d ever cover another one it is also probably the last. I mean, do we need to cover ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN or SWORD OF GIDEON? Then again – what other podcast is covering those movies? That's food for thought. Anyway! Back on point!

This time we cover a crime film that plays as close to a documentary as the filmmakers could get. COMANDO TXIKIA relates the year long story of the ETA terrorist team that carried out the 1973 assassination of Spain’s president Luis Carrero Blanco. The film strives to stick rigorously close to the known facts and presents its tale with interesting detail. Perhaps too much detail at times? Well- we will discuss that. This was Naschy’s third collaboration with the film’s director and we get another good performance from actor Tony Isbert who we praised in CROSS OF THE DEVIL last month. The lovely Julia Saly makes an all too brief (and pointless) appearance which causes a verbal detour that your silly co-hosts have travelled before. We also delve into the surprising historical fidelity of the explosive end of the movie while making absolutely no attempt to avoid spoilers – so you have been warned.

The mailbag section is overflowing again this month but feel free to add your voice to the program at any time. The email address is or we can be reached over on the FaceBook page as well. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

What I Watched in August

Three visits to the theater last month with the undisputed highlight being my favorite film of the year so far GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. I've given my thoughts on that film already HERE so I'll talk a bit about the other two movies.

I was very pleased by the much delayed sequel SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. I see that it has not done very well at the box office and that is a shame. I enjoyed this one almost as much as I did the first one with the only downside this time being the loss of the shock of the new that the visual style had in 2005. Since I've read the comics that the various stories in the film are adapted from I can't say that I was surprised by the various twists and turns presented but I was happy that the filmmakers and especially the cast were able to give every nasty turn a smart spin. I was also impressed once again with actress Eva Green who just continues to prove how great she can be onscreen. I was stunned by how easily she slipped into the Femme Fatale role and also how comfortable she appeared with the long stretches of her scenes that required her to be nude. Between this performance and her amazing work in the Showtime series Penny Dreadful she is fast becoming one of the most underrated thespians currently working in film.

I also went out with the teenager to catch the latest action epic EXPENDABLES 3. I have been on record as hating the first film of this series and enjoying the much better directed second film. With this one things seem to be in solid hands again and although the movie is never rooted in a believable reality that we might recognize as Planet Earth it is a very fun action tale. This being a film with a script by Stallone there are problems, of course. The middle section in which Stallone puts together a younger mercenary team is a mistake for the most part. The reason for the new team is dumb and not in a good way. The young guns are mostly forgettable but Kelsey Grammer as Sly's guide to assembling a more disposable group is very good and the introduction of Antonio Banderas is fantastic. Through sheer force of motor-mouthed personality Banderas adds some real zest to the show that no one else seems able to accomplish. The best news is this film marks the return to the big screen of (raging loon) Mel Gibson in the big bad role. As much as I may dislike Mr. Gibson's personal beliefs about race, religion and how to treat women I have to admit that he is remarkable onscreen. He is able to breath real menace into the often (let's be kind) basic dialog and he milks every bit of juice out of the villainous situations he has to play with. He doesn't quite top the excellence of the second film's bad guy performance from Jean-Claude Van Damme but Gibson is very entertaining and proves why he was always such a pleasure to watch onscreen. I wonder what the fourth film will draw on for its villain.

SANTO VS THE ZOMBIES (1961)- 7 (Haitian zombies - not flesh eaters)
NOSFERATU (1979)- 7 (rewatch)
GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORA (1991)- 7 (rewatch)
SANTO & BLUE DEMON AGAINST THE MONSTERS (1970)- 4 (terribly sloppy but goofy fun -Santo isn't as much fun for me in color)
RAGEWAR (a.k.a. THE DUNGEONMASTER) (1984)- 3 (terrible Charles Band attempt to employ every FX team he could get to work cheap)
THE CROSS OF THE DEVIL (1975)- 7 (rewatch)
GODZILLA VS MOTHRA (1992)- 7 (rewatch)
KICK-ASS 2 (2013)- 7
SANTO VS THE STRANGLER (1965)- 5 (rewatch)
THE BLACK PIT OF DR. M (1959)- 8 (rewatch)
GODZILLA VS GIGAN (1972)- 4 (bad but fun - very colorful kids film)
THE SPY IN BLACK (1939)- 8 (excellent British WWI spy tale)
THE HANGOVER PART III (2013)- 6 (glad the series ended on an OK note)
BLACKFISH (2013)- 8 (heartbreaking documentary)
HAUNTER (2013)- 9 (excellent ghost story variation)
SANTO VS BLUE DEMON IN ATLANTIS (1970)- 6 (fun color Santo spy adventure - but there was no Atlantis at all!)
SILENT RAGE (1982)- 4 (terrible but entertaining horror/cop film with Chuck Norris)
ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (1971) - 3 (rewatch) a.k.a. GODZILLA'S REVENGE
THE QUIET ONES (2014)- 8 (well done ghostly story from the new Hammer)
THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)- 7 (rarely believable but very fun)
CELLAR DWELLER (1988)- 5 (not bad monster movie)
SON OF BATMAN (2014)- 8 (well done animated adaptation)
SWEET SUGAR (1972)- 4 (terrible women in prison tale but a lot of weird fun) 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Brief Thoughts - THE CONQUEROR OF THE ORIENT (1960)

THE CONQUEROR  OF THE ORIENT was one of the slew of unwatched movies in my collection. It is one of the fifty movies in the giant pile of DVD fun from Mill Creek called the Warriors 50 Movie Pack Collection which means its one of a couple of dozen films I have every intention of eventually seeing. One day. So, I pulled this one randomly out of the pack and what I got was sadly below par.

The film tells of the fall of tyrant Dakkar who is played by Jess Franco regular Paul Muller. He desires a woman named Fatima who despises him but he forces the young beauty into a relationship with the threat of eventual marriage. She escapes into the countryside in a way that is edited out of this 74 minute version of the film and is rescued from her doomed rowboat by farmboy Nadir. Nadir is played by the not very oriental looking Rik Battaglia but since no one in the film seems to actually be portraying someone of their actual race I guess it hardly matters. He falls in love with the young lady just before she is cruelly snatched back by Dakkar's men causing Nadir to vow he will reclaim her from the palace. After he fails miserably and only survives his trip to the big city through Fatima's intervention our hero is told by his elderly parental figure that Nadir is actually the son of the King that Dakkar deposed and murdered. And so, the stage is set for the rightful King to rise up, build an army and destroy the usurper to claim his birthright and his darling beloved. Trust me -you've seen it all before. 

The film is pretty slight with its budgetary constraints obvious in nearly every scene. The sword fight sequences are the worst example of the production's poverty as I have seen more convincing battles between laughing six year olds. The actors give it a hearty try and there are some good scenes of Muller being villainous but overall this is a below average film with little of interest to anyone outside of sword & sandal completists. I might be coaxed into watching THE CONQUEROR  OF THE ORIENT a second time if a complete print of it surfaces that is in the correct aspect ratio (this one is cropped to TV friendly size). Otherwise - no! 

Funko Universal Horror Action Figures!

Most years I lament that there is little to no new Universal Monster merchandise for the Halloween season but this year I can keep my big trap shut! Toy makers Funko have partnered with Universal Studios to bring us these new old-style action figures - think late 1970's or early 1980's - and i couldn't be happier. Very nice addition to the shelf, I think. 

Monday, September 08, 2014


Nude for Satan presents a conundrum for any reviewer. Or, at least, any reviewer that hopes to offer up something more than hyperbolic babble about the how bizarre the stuff on display becomes in this not quite coherent splay of images. Should this film be called stream of consciousness gothic fluff? Or perhaps a low budget sleazy creepfest? Is it maybe just a silly shaggy dog story with a punch line that lands with a thud instead of a pop? Or maybe it should simply be noted as a typical 1970s European entry in the 'hell is a place on earth' camp of EC comics inspired horror tales? No. While those labels might do for someone with less interest in this sub-genre those terms will not suffice for me. This movie more accurately falls into a category I like to call 'Foregone Conclusion Theater'. You've seen these stories before. The entire movie builds slowly to a final revelation that sharp viewers have copped to long before the onscreen characters gasp in reaction to the supposedly amazing information. Except even that description isn't quite right because both main characters are openly wondering if they are really dead by the half way mark of the movie. So what the hell is this thing? Crazy as a rat trapped in a coffee can, to be perfectly honest. Cinema delirium! But is it entertaining? Well...

The story begins simply enough with Doctor Benson (Stelio Candelli) driving through the night on his way to the Witmore Estate to make a house call. Unsure of his way, he stops for directions and is warned that going to the Witmore villa is a bad idea. He ignores this advice and drives on until a woman dressed in white looms up out of the dark into the path of his car. The doctor swerves and misses the woman but as he searches the roadside for her afterwards there is nothing to be found. Puzzled and at a loss to explain this he is about to continue his journey when a second car crashes on the road only a few feet from him. Just for the record, this is one of the worst faked car crashes in cinema history. The sound of a skid and crash are heard on the soundtrack and a lone tire rolls past Benson in the road. Hysterically, the tire would never have fit the car it's supposed to have detached from. This was the first indicator of just how strange things were going to get.

Benson pulls Susan (the very lovely Rita Calderoni), the only passenger of the 'crashed' car, out and loads her into his own vehicle. He recognizes her and decides it would be best to get her to the estate to care for her injuries. Once there he has a strange encounter with a servant who makes odd statements and then disappears into thin air. Unable to get anyone to answer his knocking he is about to return to the car when the front door of the castle opens on its own. Clueless that this is a BAD sign, he enters and looks around the apparently deserted, dusty and cobwebbed place. Searching for people he stumbles from room to room and behind each door there seems to be a new strange sight. There is a laughing, web-covered corpse, a nude woman being molested by a man dressed in Victorian clothing, etc. Confused as can be, Benson is then greeted by the hale & hardy woman he pulled from the car wreck, wearing a 19th century style dress. She insists her name is Evelyn, not Susan, and persuades the doctor to join her to be introduced to the family as her beloved.

From here on in it becomes increasingly clear that time has no meaning and both the present day events and 19th century happenings are jumbled together. The narrative swings back and forth between the modern day Susan meeting the lord of the Witmore castle and Dr. Benson trying to figure out his predicament with Evelyn. Susan is ushered into the house by the mysterious Lord (James Harris) and it quickly becomes evident that he is some kind of devil or demon pushing the characters around. Susan acts as if she is under a spell, never asking his name and blithely going along with his suggestions. She is shown to a room, given a hot bath and slips very naturally into a lesbian tryst with the black chambermaid. She then goes to bed but has a dream of her sexy new female lover that becomes a nightmare as the servant strangles her. Awakening out of this she goes wandering around the castle while a storm rages outside. Following odd sounds, she is horrified to find the chambermaid being whipped by an older male servant. Then things get weird. (I know — just bear with me!)

Running away from the torture scene, Susan stumbles into a room and becomes trapped in a giant spider's web. And here comes the big hairy spider right toward its new prey! Okay. Remember earlier when I said the faked car crash was hysterical? I should have saved that word to describe the fake spider in this sequence. Seriously! I have seen some bad fake spiders in my day. The ones Fulci set next to real ones in The Beyond. The awful one that leaped onto Rod Taylor in World Without End. The Volkswagen beetle in The Giant Spider Invasion. All of these now take a back seat to the miserable excuse for a spider in Nude for Satan. But that's not the funniest part! By this time the separate storylines are mashed together in such a way that confusion is par for the course. So when Dr. Benson bursts into the room and shoots the spider off Susan, all the questions lingering in my mind about what is actually happening evaporated as I sputter-laughed at the site of what looks like feathers flying off the thing. Disregard the madness of shooting at the girl-  the fake spider's ignominious death is a classic of bizarre cinema.

Anyway, things continue on like this for a good long while with doppelgangers running about the place getting naked and more hints that the lord of the castle is Old Scratch himself — all to little real effect. The film reaches its nadir with a ten minute chase through the castle grounds that ends with Benson catching himself. Yeah, it's that kind of film. It's crazy, nonsensical and mostly silly but I have to admit I didn't really dislike it. It's not for every audience and will most likely only please fans of Euro-Trash or those interested in bizarre cinema in general. Although I fit both those categories I only think of this as a middling experience. But as with any movie of this type, your mileage may vary. It's sleazy, sadistic and displays plenty of perversity making it a fun experience — if you know what I mean. On the 'Weird-Ass European Cinema' scale it's stranger than Delirium but not as freaky as Black Magic Rites (AKA The Reincarnation of Isabel). Take that for what it's worth. And did I mention that Rita Calderoni is gorgeous? And nude for a considerable percentage of the running time? That is well worth mentioning. (Trust me.)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Trailers From Hell: THE SWORD & THE SORCERER (1982)

I have a lot of (probably) misplaced affection for this film and this look at the trailer by the movie's editor indicates some of the reasons. If only they had produced a quick sequel or two! And where is the Blu-Ray o this one?

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Revisiting PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

Because of the two recent well received additions to the POTA series, I decided to rewatch Tim Burton's much derided attempt at rebooting the PLANET OF THE APES franchise from 2001. This film is generally disliked by both hardcore fans and the movie going public but I enjoyed it pretty well when I caught it theatrically and have never really understood the level of hatred directed toward this it. I never thought it was anywhere near as good as the original but it wasn't the crapfest everyone screamed about, either. So it was time to revisit the movie in question and reassess it in light of the franchise's rebirth and new health.

First, I must say that the two strongest elements of the 2001 film are the amazing score by Danny Elfman and the brilliant makeup effects by the legendary Rick Baker. I really enjoy the apes effects in the new movies but the apes in this film are superior to my eyes. The reality of them is tangible in a way that even the best CGI will never accomplish- these are real actors in prosthetic pieces and costumes that look and bend correctly and add a level of realism to the images that makes for a better visual experience for me. At the very least, I'm not constantly looking for mistakes in the CGI rendering to see the sloppy spots that distract me. Real actors in real makeup will always trump CGI for me. Sorry.

But with those two elements noted I have to admit that I don't find POTA (2001) to be as enjoyable as I once did. I'll lay out my thoughts like this-

1. The script seems to have been tailored to be a Tim Burton film instead of an Apes film. By this I mean that there is an overuse of jokey dialog and silly remarks that constantly call attention to themselves. Dressing up standard human conceits (bitchy formal dinner parties, sexual humor, jokes about hormonal teenagers, concerns about fashion, etc) in Ape Talk is silly and insulting if all you are going to do is point and giggle. If you are not making a point, plot or otherwise, there is no reason for it. We don't need a dozen examples of this culture being a distorted mirror image of human culture- a couple will do fine. This is too often done just to illicit a laugh and this isn't supposed to be a comedy.

2. I remember thinking that the film had been seriously edited down because several transitions were too fast. By this I mean story information seems to have been cut out in an effort to keep the film under two hours. On this viewing I still think it may have been too brutally edited but I also suspect things were just not scripted that needed to be in the story. Where is the conversation between our human astronaut and his fellow captive humans in the wagon pen on the journey to Ape City? Where is ANY conversation with his fellow prisoners until he is placed in the kitchen of his new owners? This is illogical and stands out as a major script problem. No one would keep their mouths shut in these circumstances. Why are we not given some time with the other humans to get a sense of them and their world? These people are not dumb brutes like in the original film so they must have stories to tell and information to impart to our fish out of water protagonist. Why aren't they doing this? Tribes are later mentioned so why not ask him where he comes from and about his odd clothes?

3. This may seem minor but I found it really distracting that characters would just disappear. For instance, when Paul Giamatti's slave-trader character shows up to reclaim his property he has two big enforcer gorillas with him but after Leo uses his blaster they are just gone. Poof! They weren't killed and we don't see them run off- they are just edited out of the picture somehow. Why not give us an idea of what the Hell happened to them?

4. If you are going to have two character make lovey eyes at each other there needs to be some payoff or you need to leave that aspect of the story out. If Helena Bonham Carter wants to get her freak on with the exotic human astronaut - fine. But do something about it or leave it out of your already complicated tale. If you are going to hint at interspecies sex either pull the trigger or leave the weapon on the shelf.

5. The film needed to step away from repeating classic lines from the first film. One was fine but by the time Charlton Heston is wheezing out his memorable final line from 1968 it is eye rolling time. I like Heston's cameo overall with its neat referencing of his personal gun worshipping history but that line too much.

As you can tell from these remarks I don't think as highly as I once did of the film. It plays like a film that was pushed into production too soon and almost as if the script wasn't finished. I suspect that it was a patch job of several ideas done to get a movie made during a window in Burton's schedule. He has remarked that he had little control over the film from the beginning and I can believe it. This is one of the least 'Tim Burton' looking movies of his career and the Burton touches all seem plastered on like the jokey dialog and silly characterizations.

I can't say I dislike the film as I feel it has too many good elements to wave away, but it is a mess and unlike most viewers I love the bizarre out of nowhere ending of the film. It is very much a throwback to the source novel by Pierre Boulle and for that reason alone I would like it. But the questions it raises with its final image of General Thade as a revered founding father still puts a smile on my face today. What a wonderfully strange idea to end the film! Maybe I'm the only one this appeals to but I seriously love the possible mad futures this could have created if this film had not been so loathed.

This is my least favorite POTA film but I still like it a little. I guess I'm just a hopeless fanboy!