Sunday, February 24, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
It’s rare that the main word that comes to mind about a film is ‘tired’. But that is definitely what I felt about SHOWDOWN as it unspoOled before me. I’m major fan of Dean Martin both onscreen and off and the sight of him in this was depressing. He didn’t look bad- he just sounded old and tired. Very tired. His voice was thick and slow like he wasn’t feeling well with only his sly smile to give hope for what was to come. It was almost as if he knew this story was better suited for a younger man even if that younger man would and should have been him about 10 years previous. It’s a sad thing because the character Martin plays is a perfect fit for him. He’s a solid citizen pushed into a life of crime by circumstances and what he terms ‘bad luck’. Hell! It’s pretty close to his defining western role in the classic RIO BRAVO. And by casting another ageing matinee idol against him as his old friend and lawman rival the producers showed a sharp eye for complementary styles. Both Rock Hudson and Martin are so smooth on screen that picturing them as lifelong buddies is effortless.
But as tired as Martin looks and sounds the film’s story is even more worn-out. There is nothing original about this tale and I can’t imagine what audiences thought about this in 1973. By this time the Spaghetti Westerns had been a major force in cinema for years injecting hyper violence and a grittiness into the genre that American filmmakers tried to emulate. Those influences are here in the titular showdown at the end of the film with graphic bullet hits and the grisly death of a main character which is mercifully left off screen. But these elements bump against the laid back nature of the dialog scenes giving the whole film a slightly off feeling because of this tonal split.
The thing is- there are good things in SHOWDOWN. Hudson is very good and Martin gets better as the film goes on. In the later scenes when he’s playing against Hudson and the (wasted) female lead Susan Clark Martin’s charm comes out and it’s easy to like watching him act. He really was a natural.
But the film is a dud. I can respect its downbeat ending and the chase through a burning forest that leads up to it but there just isn’t much there. The ending and the fine cast offset the dullness of the story making it a zero sum game. And that’s just too bad.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I cannot believe that this is getting a DVD release in the US! I've had a bootleg of this for a while and its a simply brilliant Italian-made WWII film. Action packed, filled with narrow escapes and great surprises all done with a sly sense of humor its one of my favorite Enzo Castellari movies. And remember- this is the guy who made STREET LAW, THE BIG RACKET, KEOMA and 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS. OK- THE BRONX WARRIORS movies are more guilty pleasures than great films but you get the idea. And this is a 3 DVD set! Its like Christmas is coming early in 2008!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
I’ve been a fan of Leon Klimovsky for years. He directed several of my favorite Paul Naschy movies (DR. JEKYLL AND THE WEREWOLF, THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK, WEREWOLF'S SHADOW, etc.) and I love THE VAMPIRE’S NIGHT ORGY so I was anticipating a good movie. But what I got was something I was not expecting.
Philandering husband Ernest is out partying in a nightclub with some co-workers one night. He gets in his car to take one of the secretaries home for the evening for a little mattress bounce but has overestimated his ability to drive while drunk. One crash later the secretary is dead and he is on an operating table breathing his last. Enter mad scientist/doctor of insane medicine Adolph who is pressed by his nurse into continuing his concentration camp experiments on poor Ernest. A gleeful Adolph takes the fellow’s brain out of his dying body and pops it into the body of Leta. It seems that she’d had a terminal brain tumor but her body is in fine shape so it’s a perfect match- right? You would think so- especially if you were a Nazi doctor hell-bent on proving his mad theories to the world.
Of course if you’re a macho man suddenly placed inside a woman’s body you might think otherwise. Ernst is shocked at his transformation and disgusted by the attention he/she gets from men. He’s still the same old pussy hound with the same old pussy hound urges and the idea of sex with a man is just not going to work for him. (Alternate titles- Creation of a Lesbian!; Night of the Lesbian; The Lady Wears a Tie; Is That a Boobie in Your Bra or Are You Just Happy to See Me?) Pissed at his new lot in life and suffering some decided shock he seethes with anger. Only able to take being locked up in the hospital for a short time he/she starts a distracting fire, shoves Adolph into it and makes an escape. A visit to his ex (?) wife reveals that she’s now sleeping with his best friend/co-worker and living comfortably off the million dollar insurance policy Ernest left behind. Hard up for money Leta tries to get Ernest’s old job at the engineering firm. After all- she has the same qualifications. When that doesn’t work (he/she actually calls his old boss a male chauvinist!) she tries to convince a psychiatrist of her predicament but he dismisses her story. Or he does until he realizes this is the escaped crazy woman who burned old Dr. Adolph to death! At this point Leta decides to visit her new body’s parents for a break. But Ernest soon learns that Leta has a son from a youthful out of wedlock relationship! Oh my. Not just a woman but a mommy! He/she leaves almost as quickly as he/she arrived exiting the old hometown, setting up house in a boarding room and getting a job in a factory. But when this and a bar slut job don’t work out Leta hits on a much better plan for cash. It’s time to blackmail Ernest’s wife for half the insurance money.
This is a pretty good but not great slice of sleazy trash. A movie like this often teeters on the edge of unintentional humor but for the most part I HATE MY BODY maintains its balance. The central idea of a man in a woman’s body is much more likely to be played for laughs than drama and there are some things that are impossible to present without a bit of humor. I laughed out loud at Leta’s reaction to learning about her son. But for every scene that veered toward amusement there was another that pushed things in the other direction. Once Leta starts making her moves on the insurance money she also tracks down Dr. Adolph’s nurse and beats the hell out of her with a whip. And if there was any doubt about how the film was to be taken the downbeat ending should erase all confusion.
This is by far the weakest of director Leon Klimovsky’s movies I’ve seen. That doesn’t mean its bad at all but it doesn’t measure up to his better work. It’s well worth a look for the Euro-curious and it’s a shame the only way to get it is the dubbed scratchy print that Something Weird sells. A nice boxed set of Leon’s movies from Blue Underground or No Shame would sure be nice.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
I have it on good authority that this is not very good. But when has that ever stopped me? It's Antonio Margheriti after all. I'll enjoy it on one level or another. And what a cast! Lee (Six Million Dollar Man) Majors, James Franciscus, Karen Black and Margeaux Hemingway. I need to find a copy of this soon.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Now this image has absolutely no relation to anything in Hammer's HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) at all. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
But DAMN! What a great poster! That sucker is beautiful!
The poster. Not the vampire.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
I’ve decided to keep a running tally of the films I watch this year. I’ve done this off and on for a long time and even shared this listing with friends but I’m going public with it for the next 12 months. What I’ve watched and my rating of it on a 1-to-10 scale will be posted at the end of each month. I’ll even detail what ever television series I’m checking out with some brief comments as well.
Here’s the list for January:
EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE (1978)- 6
THE LORELEY’S GRASP (1974)- 8
CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA (1936)- 6 (rewatch)
FUTURAMA: BENDER’S BIG SCORE (2007)- 8
CONVOY BUSTERS (1978)- 6
CHILDREN OF MEN (2006)- 10 (rewatch)
HATCHET (2007)- 2
THIS IS NOT A TEST (1962)- 2
LATITUDE ZERO (1968)- 6
MASTERS OF HORROR: DREAM CRUISE (2007)- 2
MONSTER OF LONDON CITY (1964)- 7
BAY OF BLOOD (1973)- 8 (rewatch with Tim Lucas commentary track)
CLOVERFIELD (2007)- 9 (Simply brilliant)
THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN (2005)- 8
THE SECRET OF THE RED ORCHID (1962)- 7
THE CRIME DOCTOR’S DIARY (1949)- 6
SWEENY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (2007)- 8
I also watched several episodes of the very good first season of HEROES and the entire excellent third season of LOST. I also finally checked out an episode (via cheap DVD) of the old western series THE RIFLEMAN. It’s a very well written show that seems more a reflection of the times in which it was made than of the period of history it portrays. I can’t wait to see more and wish for a legitimate release.