Saturday, May 20, 2017

Jess Franco Poster Art - Part 35!

This is another in the long line of poster images for the mind-bendingly awful film OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1982). The film is an epic of boredom and idiocy but the posters used to advertise it are often amazing.    

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Fantastic Films of Vincent Price #77 - Percy's Progress (1974)

Would you believe that Vincent Price appeared in a film about a penis transplant? Of course you would! It was the 1970's and the shackles of censorship were (mostly) off. Madness! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

What I Watched In April

The James Gunn scripted THE BELKO EXPERIMENT (2017) is a blast of high concept horror that, with a less commercially successful pedigree, would have been a low budget film that turned up on NetFlix and slowly built a cult following. As it stands, the movie is a low budget effort with very good actors that flopped theatrically and will slowly build a cult following. See the difference there? Yeah, the actors in this one make all the difference in the world. In fact, THE BELKO EXPERIMENT is a great example of how a strong cast of solid character actors can elevate a piece of exploitation cinema. 

The plot is basic and brilliant - an office building full of employees is locked down so that no one can leave and then an impersonal voice over the intercom system informs everyone that a certain number of them must be dead in a certain amount of time or all of them will be killed. As you might expect, mayhem ensues. Part Office Space, part Battle Royale the film is well written and tightly directed with enough depth of characterization to make events more tense than average. As stated, the cast is excellent and the dark progression of violent demands on the trapped co-workers twists many everyday annoyances that haunt all of us in our work lives into grim signifiers. The ending is well played and carries a couple of good surprises making this a dark ride but one I can recommend.

I'm an unabashed fan of the super-silly Fast & Furious franchise films! With each entry in the series they become more and more ridiculous and less credible but, perversely, more fun. What started as a story about sophisticated thieves using fast cars to facilitate their crimes has morphed into a tale about a government sanctioned, ever expanding super-spy team. Madness!

This time out the twist is that, at the behest of a mysteriously threatening lady (the amazing Charlize Theron), model of dependability Dom (Vin Diesel) turns traitor to his friends running off with an EMP weapon capable of wiping out the electronics of an entire city. The rest of his team have to figure out why he has done something so contrary to his personality and stop his new cohorts from carrying out whatever bizarre plan they have in mind.

It plays out with speed, humor and insane car chases while the central mystery's solution makes all things clear and provides for another deepening of the emotional manipulation at the heart of the series. Playing on the heartstrings is part of this series' structure and family is the core driving characteristic in these movies now, reflecting producer Diesel's way of looking at life. It's a positive element that allows for relationships to grow and the group of friends to enlarge even if it requires some selective memory from film to film. Don't get me wrong - I like seeing Jason Statham brought into the action on the side of the angels (and he gets a great John Woo inspired sequence here) but didn't he flat out murder a member of their team a couple of movies back?

Still- these are perfect popcorn munching, drive-in evening action flicks that I'm glad are still being made. Dumb fun can sometimes be exactly what is needed, especially if it can be done without being too insulting to the viewers intelligence. Bring on number 9!

The List 

BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (1974) - 7 (rewatch)
FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK (1941)- 8 (Errol Flynn comedy mystery)
THE UNCERTAIN DEATH (1973) - 7 (Larraz drama of plantation madness in India)
JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET (1962) - 4 (rewatch)
WOMEN OF SAN QUENTIN (1983) - 6 (TV movie about prison guards)
THE SPELL (1977) - 5 (evil witch-child TV movie)
THE BEYOND (1981) - 9 (rewatch)
WORLD WITHOUT END (1956) -6 (rewatch) (silly, sexist, colorful SF)
BATMAN: BAD BLOOD (2016) - 7 (animated tale)
MASSACRE IN DINOSAUR VALLEY (1985) - 4 (terrible Italian made cannibal film)
THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1964) - 6 (rewatch)
PLAY MOTEL (1979) -4 (ridiculous sexploitation/crime story) 
IT (1990) - 6 (rewatch)
PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES (1956) - 3 (rewatch on Blu)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown!

This hilarious and violent short by Jim Reardon is well worth seeing. Reardon went on to direct a number of Simpsons episodes and the comic sensibilities on display prove he was right for the job. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Now that I've seen this 60's monster mess I understand why it took me so long to catch up with it. Usually a monster film from this period will have fans regardless of it's low quality but I have never had anyone recommend seeing FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER and that has kept me away. With good reason!

This micro budget affair relates the tale of an alien Queen who travels to our planet in search of women to replenish her homeworld's war depleted supply of fertile breeding stock. This is complicated by NASA's (at least I think it's NASA) newest astronaut - an android that can actually pass as human. The aliens shoot down the missile containing our humanoid robot and then land near him to begin their round up of female baby-pods. The heavily damaged but still sort-of functional android wanders around until his scientist creator (the great James Karen) locates him and then kind-of places him in the way of the invading aliens.

The running time of this incredibly boring SF effort is a much padded 76 minutes and at least 20 of those minutes are made up of stock footage. Seriously. The rest of the film is a series of poorly directed, barely scripted scenes that advance the story in fits and starts. This is easily one of the dullest and dumbest science fiction films of the 1960's and it's a terrible monster film to boot! The burned and damaged android is our Frankenstein Monster and the alien race has sent along a creature for just such occasions! Time to rumble - but not until the last couple of minutes of this overstretched, laborious, snooze inducing muddle. There are worse monster films from the 1960's but this one is still pretty damned bad. But that poster art is amazing!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Euro-Trash Poster Art Explosion!

Imagine the marathon viewing session it would take to watch them all! 

Sunday, May 07, 2017


Conceived as the ultimate homage to classic black & white adventure movies and multi-chapter serials, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow began as one man's labor of love. Kerry Conran worked on his dream project for years and after producing 6 minutes of footage as a demonstration of that he wanted to accomplish started hunting for financing. That he was able to bring such an unusual concept to fruition is a testament to Conran's fortitude as well as his skills. That he pushed this odd idea through with the then radical technique of filming everything against green screens and creating all the sets and special effects after the actors were finished makes his accomplishment simply amazing. Jam-packed with eye-popping sights and dozens of sly in-jokes for old movie fanatics, this is a film made by fans for fans. You've never seen anything quite like this movie both in look and content — at least in the last 70 years or so. 

The time is the late 1930s. The place: New York City. Newspaper reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) is investigating the disappearance of several leading scientists around the world when the city is attacked by giant flying robots. Joe Sullivan, a.k.a. Sky Captain (Jude Law), fights off this weird invasion but is unprepared for a later assault on his private airfield by more flying machines. During this attack Joe's best friend and genius gadget man Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) is kidnapped but leaves behind a clue to where he thinks the robots are getting their radio messages. Polly has discovered the man behind these attacks is named Totenkopf and also has found two mysterious vials that the madman needs as part of his plans. Despite acrimonious feelings between Polly and Joe they set out together to save Dex and stop the mysterious man masterminding things. After finding a deserted scientific base in the Himalayas they enlist the aid of eye-patch wearing Commander Frankie Cook (Angelina Jolie), of Britain's Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, in their search. With her flying aircraft carrier (could this be more Nick Fury?) they battle their way into Totenkopf's secret island complex and discover his plan to destroy the world! How can he be stopped?

Strangely, I did not come by my love of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow quickly. This movie is geared precisely for some one like me- I love old adventure films, watch and collect the classic serials of the '30s and '40s, read old hero pulp novels constantly and love retro science fiction tales of all kinds. But oddly, when I saw this film theatrically I was pleased but not overjoyed. After the initial excitement of the opening attack on New York and the first few hops around the world I began to feel a distance between me and the story — I just wasn't involved. I felt that the movie lost momentum in the last half becoming less interesting and tiring, so I came away liking Sky Captain but a little disappointed. But then I re-watched it at home and I suddenly got it — almost by accident. Because of my hectic schedule I was unable to go through the movie in one session so I divided it up over a two-day period. This led me to realize that the second half of the film was not only much better than I remembered but also easily the best part. By chopping it into five roughly 20 minutes segments I had, without knowing it, turned it into what Conran had envisioned making — a big budget 1940s style serial! 

The flaw in the film (for me) wasn't that it flagged in the home stretch but that it maintains its energy and excitement for too long to take in one sitting. Structured as a classic chapter play it has too many cliffhanger moments for a single viewing. Any fan will tell you to never watch an entire serial at one time — it'll deaden your mind, numb your butt and cause synaptic overload! Conran and his team have done a great job of capturing both the serial's good points (action, thrills, stunts) and bad ones (thin characters, stilted dialog, logic-defying stories) but by having to make it into a long form film they've almost overshot the mark. From looking at the original 6 minute short Conran made it clear he saw this as a serial and the piece even ends with the promise of "7 Exciting Chapters". There's ample evidence that they would've liked to make the story as a multi-part film; I'm convinced that they should craft an alternate version someday for home video. I can already imagine the chapter titles (Watery Crash! Island Assault!Rocket of Death!) and those great sound of doom voice-overs. (Will Dex be killed by the Metallic Monsters? ... Can Polly and Sky Captain escape certain destruction? ... Why is Sky Captain diving toward the ocean?)

But even as I confess that I really love this movie I'm not blind to its faults. Even within the strictures of the classic serials the dialog could use more zip and though he does a fine job I'm not sure Jude Law was the perfect choice for the lead. Also first time director Conran's inexperience shows at times with some flat scenes and missed details that really bug me. Of course, in a movie that sports a combination airplane-submarine maybe I'm being too picky for my own good. This is a movie I'll be putting in the Blu-Ray player repeatedly for years to come and I'm glad there are others out there that love these kinds of old fashioned thrills as much (if not more) than I do.