Thursday, July 31, 2008

PRINCE VALIANT (1997) trailer

Why have I never heard of this film until now! Its freakin' 11 years old! And look at the cast- Katherine Heigl, Thomas Kretschmann, Edward Fox, Udo Kier, Ron Perlman, Warwick Davis and Joanna Lumley. It's like a mixture of cult actors and current stars thrown willy-nilly into the newspaper strip. It could easily be a train wreck but I must see this.

Come to think of it-- it MUST be a train wreck. It must. Gotta see it!

Monday, July 28, 2008


I have seen two of Richard Kelly’s films and I am unimpressed.

Several years ago when DONNIE DARKO came out I rented the DVD and watched this burgeoning cult movie with friends. My friends all professed to like it but I did not. It wasn’t terrible but it never came together in a satisfying way for me. It felt half finished as if someone had several great ideas and then jumbled them together hoping that the ending would impress everyone enough to think it all added up. Not that the movie is nonsensical, but it is rather ‘kitchen sink’ in its approach. It was as if the writer/director wanted to include so many things he couldn’t bring himself to edit his work down to create a focused piece. When the ‘director’s cut’ came out a while later I gave the film a second chance but the expansion didn’t make the movie any better- just longer. I felt the same way after seeing this longer version as I did with the shorter one. It just doesn’t connect with me. It’s fairly interesting but not very entertaining. I can see why it might resonate with others but it does nothing for me.

Having now seen SOUTHLAND TALES I can say with some authority that I will probably never be impressed by Kelly as a filmmaker. This movie is a much bigger, less coherent mess than DONNIE DARKO but I can at least now see where Kelly appears to be getting his ideas. SOUTHLAND TALES plays like an American Jerry Cornelius story straight from the pen of science fiction master Michael Moorcock. Very much like those tales this one involves a huge cast of briefly sketched characters in full gallop through a slightly futuristic world in which apocalyptic events are happening. But what Moorcock is fantastic at doing Kelly can’t manage. Usually by the mid-section of a Cornelius tale you get a handle on what’s going on and the story’s central idea grabs hold. Then the small things Moorcock has added in for each character begin to build a strong understanding of their motivations so that by the end you are caught up and loving the ride. Kelly can’t get there even though he works hard to create an interesting experience. Everyone remains a cipher and I was just wishing the thing would go ahead and end. Part of this comes down to the difference between written and filmed fiction and the trouble of translating one to another. But the first Jerry Cornelius novel was filmed back in 1973 and while its not a great film it’s a sharper stab at it than this bloated ramble.

I’ll give Kelly credit for trying but this film just does not work.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Wow! Just wow! They simply don't make them better than this. Amazing.

"See, I'm a man of simple tastes. I like gunpowder...and dynamite...and gasoline! Do you know what all of these things have in common? They're cheap!"

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Life and Times of Jess Franco- trailer

An extended trailer for an upcoming documentary about Spanish filmmaker Jess Franco. I can't recommend all his films and I no longer think of him as the worst director of all time but his work is very much an acquired taste. His films are certainly not for everyone as the clips in this piece will make clear.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BATMAN (1943)- Chapter 5

The Living Corpse!

When we left Batman last chapter (over two months ago) he was in the cab of a speeding armored truck about to go over a cliff. Of course, he dives out of the vehicle at the last moment marking the first time he’s saved himself from one of the these cliffhanger endings. The no-goodnick in the truck with Bats dies in the crash but the Dynamic Duo retrieve the Radium Gun from the wreckage.

Back in the secret Japanese spy headquarters Daka is peeved! He gets a message from a Jap sub hiding offshore. They will be delivering a box of supplies to the beach that night and order Daka to have it picked up.

In Bruce Wayne’s home lab he is examining clues to try to get a lead on the saboteur’s plans when a letter arrives. It’s a secret message from his government bosses warning of a possible attack on Lockwood Airfield. Bruce and Dick make plans to infiltrate the place the next day.

The sub’s package turns out to be a coffin containing a Japanese soldier. Not completely dead the poor fellow is revived with an electrical surge and lives just long enough to relay his orders to Daka. Besides being a pretty hideous way to deliver what amounts to a brief note this is where the title of this episode comes from. The message is to steal a new experimental plane from (you guessed it) Lockwood Airfield and rendezvous with the submarine. To carry this out the bad guys lure two Airfield maintenance workers into the hideout in the carnival haunted house and brainwash them. This is my favorite WTF moment in the serial so far. What are the chances that these two guys would show up on the right day, be the right fellows and be suckers enough to go into the haunted house? Crazy! Daka uses his machine on them and they become his zombie slaves.

The next day our heroes are working at the Airfield and Bruce takes the chance of sneaking aboard the new plane to hide. This pays off in spades when the newly zombified workers show up, knock out the pilots and take their place on the test flight of that new plane. Dick realizes there has been a switch and radios Bruce just in time to change into his Batman costume and go into action. Cue fisticuffs with the zombie pilots as the three men bounce around the interior of the plane.

On the ground Dick alerts the army who immediately starts shooting anti-aircraft shells at the plane. Proving to be pretty damned good shots the army nails the plane which then spirals toward earth in a screaming fall! Will Batman escape the plane? Will the helpless zombies find love in the cockpit of that big plane? Uh… I mean, will Batman finally find Daka and defeat his evil plans? Tune in for Chapter 6 whenever I get around to it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

THE GIANT BEHEMOTH fan commentary

Last year I was thrilled to pick up a couple of the Warner Brothers three DVD sets of what they called 'Cult Camp Classics'. First on my list to grab was the one labeled Sci-Fi Thrillers because I'm just that kind of guy. In all honesty, the idea of being able to see QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE in its widescreen glory put a big smile on my face. But the real icing on the cake was the inclusion of commentary tracks for the each of the three movies. Genre writer and historian Tom Weaver handled the tracks for QUEEN and ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN but a couple of special effects masters did the track for THE GIANT BEHEMOTH.

But as I listened to this commentary I became angry. The two men clearly thought the film was beneath them and acted more like ADD teenagers than people interested in the qualities of the film they were watching. I found it insulting and switched it off after the fourth or fifth complaint from them about how nothing was happening but 'people standing around talking'. This level of cluelessness I expect from kids but not from supposed fans of the genre. So, I set out to correct that with my own commentary track.

I hope you will think I did a good job. This track has some faults – sloppiness, verbal stammering and stutters- but I hope I got across the information well enough to be enjoyed by fans.

I’d like to clearly acknowledge the sources for the information in the track.
Two interviews conducted by Tom Weaver were most helpful- one with director Eugene Lourie and the other with leading man Gene Evans.
Mark Berry’s fine book The Dinosaur Filmography was an invaluable resource.
The wonderful article from SPFX magazine #26 by Paul Mandell was fantastic and helped me form up my own thoughts about the film.
And last was Mark Berry’s great interview with Desmond Davis about his career.

I’ve tried to get my hands on a documentary about the life and career of composer Edwin Astley but that has proven harder than I thought. Produced in 2001 it’s never been released on video but I hope to catch up with it one day.

If you decide to listen to this track I hope you enjoy it and I would be glad to hear from you. I hope to eventually do more such commentaries and any feedback would be appreciated.

Oh- and one last thing. I must apologize for my most glaring verbal mistake. Near the very end of the track I seem to think the current year is 1978. I meant to say something else but obviously my mind and mouth were not linked at that moment. Of course, these films often make me feel like I’m 10 years old so maybe my slip was a Freudian one.



Friday, July 18, 2008

DVD news!

WOW! Only a few days ago I posted the poster art for WORLD WITHOUT END and wished for a DVD release. Today I read over at DVD Drive-In that its coming out at the end of July! Talk about a fast response. It will part of a trio of double features and WORLD WITHOUT END will be coupled with SATELLITE IN THE SKY. The other two sets are a Hammer Films double bill of WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH/MOON ZERO TWO and BATTLE BENEATH THE EARTH/THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR. They will be Best Buy exclusives (which kind of stinks) but each will list for $16.99.

I have never seen SATELLITE IN THE SKY, BATTLE BENEATH THE EARTH or THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR so this is very exciting.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leonard Rosenman's Apes score

I'm a huge fan of PLANET OF THE APES and its various sequels. My favorite of the four follow up movies is the second one, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES. One of the reason I like so much is its fine score by Leonard Rosenman. While not in the same league as Jerry Goldsmith's amazing music for the first movie Roseman's work is very good and quite effective. I have both scores on CD and I have to admit that it is BENEATH that I return to more often.
Here's a link to an interview with the composer in which he comments on his Ape score.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Oh man! I wish this existed!

As a fan of the Doc Savage novels and of the Big G this would be a dream come true. 150 pages of action filled adventure!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

DEATH RIDES A HORSE (1967) trailer

A decent DVD release of this would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

WORLD WITHOUT END (1956) poster art

Normally I would have pointed out that there is no way the film advertised could possibly be as cool as this poster art. But there is no film in the history of time that could be as cool as this artwork!
Plus I kinda like this cheesy little sci-fi mess. I'd love a nice DVD of it. Hint hint!

Monday, July 07, 2008


ANNO 2670! You gotta love the artwork and the alternate title too. And I only WISH there had been flying saucers and futuristic war machines in that impoverished film.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Robert Culp

For years I have thought of Robert Culp as a screen hero. My first encounter with him was in the TV show The Greatest American Hero when I was a kid and even if the show was never the best thing the performances (especially his) were great. He played a smart, sarcastic and highly competent man put into the position of having an extraordinary tool to use. The fact that the tool was in the form of someone he didn’t get along with well or was even able to deal with very effectively made that show fun. Even as a kid heavily into superhero comics I felt it was Culp’s non-super powered character who was the real hero of the show.

As I got older I occasionally ran across him in movies and other television shows with the standout being his amazing turn on the Outer Limits episode ‘Demon With A Glass Hand’ written by Harlan Ellison. Easily one of best OL shows ever made it stands out as one of the best pieces of science fiction for TV ever as well. Culp is fantastic in it making us feel for his amnesiac character so much that his fate is a real gutdrop. It was later reading Ellison’s thoughts on Culp that made me realize what a remarkable man the actor was. Ellison related how his first meeting of Culp was on the set of a show. The actor was patiently waiting on his set call by reading a serious, scholarly book on art. Ellison recognized a man of depth and culture and the two struck up a long lasting friendship.

So it was thinking of this that prompted me about four years ago to buy a single DVD of Culp’s 60s TV show I, SPY. Although the show is highly regarded it is rarely rebroadcast so this was my first chance to see it. I carefully chose the DVD I bought because it contained four episodes written by Culp himself and for which he had done commentary tracks. This seemed like a great chance to delve into his non-acting talents and see the real guy in fresh way. I have no idea why it took me so long to finally watch these shows but I’m glad I finally did! After only two of them I’m so impressed I have started looking for some kind of guide to the show. If these are any indicator of the rest of the series I Spy was a smart, intellectual show more interested in character and drama than guns or explosions. Not that there aren’t exciting fights and chases but the real meat of the show seems to be the people the stories are about. Quite a quality television show and one I will enjoy seeing more of.

The biggest surprise on the DVD so far is that the commentary track on ‘The Warlord’ is simply brilliant. Culp tells how the idea came to him, how he convinced the producers he could play two roles in it and his thoughts on the entire process. And Culp is so good at laying this information out that I was sorry when it ended. It’s actually more entertaining that the show itself!

Needless to say I’ll be watching the others on this DVD sooner rather than later. I expect my hero worship of Robert Culp will grow stronger with each new viewing.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What I watched in June

I got out to the theater more times in June than I ever thought I would. I enjoyed each and every trip too! I can barely believe the number of films I got to see last month.

THE NUMBER 23 (2005)- 4 (half baked)
WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE (1983)- 3 (Mattei strikes again)
HOUSE OF BLOOD (2005)- 4 (German made horror- interesting premise but not great)
CURSE OF THE AZTEC MUMMY (1957)- 3 (fun bad Mexi-horror)
SAM WHISKEY (1969)- 2 (slight and dull western/comedy with Burt Reynolds)
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)- 9 (rewatch)
A MAN CALLED MAGNUM (1977)- 7 (solid & exciting Italian crime movie)
THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES (1955)- 3 (rewatch) (I love this bad film)
BORDERLAND (2007)- 6 (not bad- not perfect- but a fairly well done horror movie)
HULK (2003)- 9 (rewatch)
THE STRANGERS (2008)- 7 (well done with much suspense)
KNOCKED UP (2007)- 7 (very funny and smartly observant but far too long)
CAGED WOMEN (1983)- 2 (Mattei- I love you!)
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)- 5 (rewatch) (better than I remembered)
SPEED RACER (2008)- 8 (smart/silly and just plain fun)
FOOL’S GOLD (2008)- 3 (what a waste of…everything)
THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)- 8 (solid reboot-well done and tense)
THE BANDIT OF SHERWOOD FOREST (1946)- 6 (nice small scale Robin Hood tale)
GHOST SON (2006)- 7 (Lamberto Bava pulls out a strong scare tale)
DOG SOLDIERS (2002)- 6 (good but not great British werewolf tale) (rewatch)
DEFINITLY, MAYBE (2008)- 6 (solid weeper with some good laughs)