Sunday, December 17, 2017

What I Watched in November

I truly never thought that Marvel Studios would produce a funnier film than the first Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). But with Thor: Ragnarok we see that with his completely tilted attack on the material director Taika Waititi has crafted not just one of the best Marvel movies of the past few years, but by far the funniest. What's amazing about the film is not that it has a lot of jokes and laugh-out-loud ideas presented with style and colorful flair. The real joy is the deftness with which the humor is handled. Even though our main character Thor is often the butt of the joke - sometimes goofy, sometimes silly, sometimes just a little clueless - he's still the hero and he is still someone to be admired for his many heroic traits and courageous character. Yeah, he may accidentally hit himself in the head with a ball or lie about beating the Hulk in combat but he is the driving force to do the right thing and save his land and people.

The film wouldn't work as well as it does without the darker elements of the story though. There are real stakes and terrible consequences for a lot of characters in this story. We lose a number of my favorite Asgardians before the tale is over giving a sense of sinister threat that the great Cate Blanchet plays to perfection. Add to that the well handled story-arcs of several characters old and new and you have a smart movie with heart and  warmth even as the violence of the titular event comes to pass. This is an excellent comic book film and one I can't wait to watch again. 

I was a huge fan of both MAN OF STEEL (2013) and the much derided BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016). I like having a dark tale of superheroes if for no other reason than to provide contrast for the lighter standard of the Marvel films. What I primarily liked so much about those two movies was that they came at these characters from a more mature and grim perspective that allows for a more realistic view of what the reactions might be to a godlike creature intervening in human events. I understand I'm in the minority in my love of this approach as the constant bitching from aggrieved fans will attest. Still, I think these are excellent films with a smart take on these heroes and each time I watch them they feel like a breathe of fresh air.

I know that it was an awful family tragedy that took director Zach Snyder away from finishing JUSTICE LEAGUE and he and his wife have all of my sympathy. And having Joss Wedon step in to do the reshoots and oversee the editing was a smart move as it guaranteed the film would reach completion with some of the original vision intact. But, unfortunately, the newly enforced lighter tone of this film kind of removes a lot of the grit that made me so pleased with the previous films. This isn't a bad film but it certainly feels very neutered. In the first two movies I was deeply effected by the emotional core of the stories. I felt for the characters and was moved repeatedly by the dark deeds, harsh events and eventually uplifted by the heroic actions of the conflicted people caught up in the evil plots of Zod and Luthor. Things felt dangerous; felt as if there was real weight to the decisions being made. Sadly, the softening of JUSTICE LEAGUE means that it had the effect of a mid-range Marvel film instead of the emotionally gripping power of the earlier DC films. I enjoyed this adventure but it seems a little too soft. I know it's a minority opinion (again) but this is the weakest of the three and I hope that one day we might see Snyder's original vision. I hear Darksied was in that movie!


IT (2017) - 8 (rewatch)
THOR: RAGNAROK (2017) - 9 
THE DEVIL'S HONEY (1986) - 5 (Fulci's erotic exercise) 
CROSSFIRE (1947)- 7 (Mitchum and Robert Taylor investigate a murder) 
RAISING CAIN (1992) - 8 (rewatch of theatrical version)
FRANKENSTEIN 2000 (1991) - 3 (terrible effort from Joe D'Amato) 
WEB OF THE SPIDER (1971) - 8 (the full length Italian version) 
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (1987) - 2 (so bad) 
TERMINAL ISLAND (1973) - 5 (island-as-prison tale) 
STRANGE LOVES OF THE VAMPIRE (1975) - 6 (rewatch) 
ARIZONA COLT RETURNS (1970) - 5 (well directed but mediocre) 
VILLAIN (1971) - 7 (British crime film with Richard Burton and Ian McShane) 
CHAMBER OF HORRORS (1940)- 8 (rewatch on Blu-Ray) 
JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) - 7 
THE MAYOR OF HELL (1933) - 7 (James Cagney reform school melodrama) 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Merry Christmas From Godzilla!



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Songs of the Lesser Known Variety

For those tired of the same old Christmas tunes here are a few (very) different choices for the Holiday Season. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Bloody Pit #62 - And All Through the House (1972/1989)

December brings our annual Holiday Horrors episode! This year my two co-hosts have chosen a tale told twice and adapted from a 1953 comic book story by the legendary Johnny Craig. The story is about a murderous wife who decides to off her husband on Christmas Eve but then has to deal with an escaped axe welding killer dressed in a Santa Claus costume. The best laid plans of mice and murderers often go awry and this short story shows us a fine example. 'And All Through the House' was first filmed as part of the Amicus anthology movie directed by Freddie Francis in 1972. This may or may not have been the first instance in cinema of a killer Santa but it certainly struck home for viewers as it is the story that most people recall with great clarity even years after a viewing. Creepy, chilling and sinister in tone it is a difficult effort to beat.

In 1989 director Robert Zemeckis retold the tale as one of the first episodes of HBO's wildly successful series Tales From The Crypt. Adapted by Fred Dekker and lengthened out to fill a half hour time slot this version throws in a few extra curves, amps up the dark humor and broadens the performances for a more comic effect. The results are still pretty darned good but - as with any remake - the debates will never rest. Listen in as Troy Guinn, John Hudson and I discuss all three tellings of this Holiday Horror. We break down the differences and consider the qualities that each film brings to the table. We dig into the alterations, the motivations and the relative skill each version imparts to the main character as well as the portrayal of the nearly silent killer Kringle.

As is usual for the three of us, we get off-track a few times with my show opening gambit of asking about favorite childhood Christmas toys pushing the conversation into odd territory. Who knew a show about an EC Comics Christmas tale would reference The Six Million Dollar Man so frequently? If you want to tell us about your favorite youthful Christmas gift the email address is where we'll be happy to hear what you miss from years gone bye. You can also join us on the Bloody Pit FaceBook page where new links of interest get posted. Thank you for downloading and listening to the show and have a safe and happy Holiday season.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Santa Horror Comic Covers

Often in these comics Santa is exactly the scary thing kids feared - he knows all the secrets! 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Motion Comic of "And All Through The House" - The Vault of Horror #35 (February/March 1954)

Here's a narrated version of the original EC Comics Evil Santa tale done as a very good motion comic. The fellow that crafts these videos of classic horror comic stories is very good at both the presentation of the panel layout and throwing some emotion into the voice-over. This is well done and a great way to 'read' the creepy Christmas story. Happy Holidays! 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Lon Chaney, Jr Does a Christmas Song! - MONSTER HOLIDAY (1964)

Full confession - I have a major weakness for Christmas music. There are very few traditional carols that I don't enjoy hearing during the festive season and one of my great joys is seeking out the odder holiday hymns to mix in with the classics. Not all of these stranger tunes are going to be considered great but I find that after including them in my Christmas music rotation for a couple of years they eventually fit right in. Maybe this song's bizarre combination of growling monsters and cheerful joy will end up being part of your Holiday Playlist!