Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I come to warn you of a terrible thing. I have been known to subject myself and others to extremely bad movies for fun and profit but there are some lines I will not cross. I have found another ‘no go’ cinema area into which I will never direct friend or foe and its name is THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS (1960). I got suckered into this one because it’s available on NetFlix as part of their streaming library and the name of the director rang a faint bell. Something about it looked cheaply cheesy so I took the plunge- and nearly drowned.
The reason director Phil Tucker’s name seemed familiar was that he’s the fellow responsible for the gloriously awful ROBOT MONSTER (1953). If I had remembered that fact I would have saved myself 68 minutes of misery. That’s right- the film (and I use that term loosely) is only and hour and eight minutes long but it feels like three full David Lean hours. Twenty minutes could be hacked out of this mess and not change a thing about the ….. plot, I guess is the correct word. The film is boring beyond all comprehension, stupid in every way it is possible for a low budget SF production to be and mildly insulting to anyone with a fifth grade education. I do NOT recommend seeing this movie. Ever!
In my hunt for information about THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS I discovered a long write-up of it published on the web back in 2000. I think this man has put more time and effort into this piece than the film deserves but I consider that a fine act of journalism for movie fans the world over. I can recommend reading his work in which you’ll find more joy than you’ll find anywhere near the film under discussion.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Each year I get a kick out of discovering new (to me) holiday movies or TV shows. In some cases these new additions to my annual viewing are dull, forgettable efforts that I realize I'll never watch a second time but a few of them turn out to be fantastic. This year I added three new films to my list of Christmas time favorites- the 1951 SCROOGE turned out to be just as good as everyone has always claimed it to be. REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940) was loaned to me by a friend and its tale of an arrested shoplifter's holiday with her prosecuting attorney was completely charming Preston Sturges scripted fun. But the third addition to my December must-see list is one I caught only part of on Christmas morning.
I stayed Christmas Eve at my grandmother's house and on the morning of the 25th I woke up and flipped on Turner Classic Movies. I do this when I visit my Nanny because I don't get the channel at home and I always like to see what's playing on my most wished for cable station. On this day they were playing a movie I had never heard of before called SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954) and it was clear why. The entire first third of the film takes place on Christmas Eve and Day as 17 year old Susan (Debbie Reynolds) is placed in the reluctant care of Hollywood scriptwriter Mark Christopher (Dick Powell). I'm not sure exactly why this happens because I missed the first few minutes but the cast (which includes Anne Francis and Glenda Farrell) hooked me and the story kept me rooted. It's one hell of a good movie - funny, fast and witty. I'll say it has to be the most charming movie about statutory rape I've ever seen! Don't let that statement put you off. It really is a sweet film and I can't imagine any fan of classic cinema disliking it. I know I plan to watch it again next year. Maybe I'll show it to someone special - just not someone 18 years my junior, I hope!
Friday, December 24, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
One of my favorite Christmas tales is the venerable Charles Dickens classic 'A Christmas Carol'. Every couple of years I re-read the story (and promise myself I'll finally buy the annotated version) followed by a viewing of at least one film adaptation. The version I like the most is a strange choice for me because I generally don't like musicals but the 1970 film SCROOGE with Albert Finney in the title role is quite easily one of the most amazing movies ever made. It hits every plot point perfectly and contains some of the best acting I have ever seen. Finney is brilliant as both the old, embittered Ebenezer Scrooge and his younger, less bleak self in flashbacks. The rest of the cast is superb with the most memorable supporting performer being Alec Guinness chewing every bit of scenery he can lay teeth to as the Ghost of Marley. If you've never seen it I cannot recommend highly enough seeing it as soon as possible. It makes me laugh and cry every single time. I love it!
Now, the version of A Christmas Carol that most film fans call the best is the 1951 film starring Alister Sim. I have never seen this one even though I've had many chances. I just couldn't get interested for some reason. Well, this year I plan to finally change that sad fact by sitting down with a good friend and watching it this week. He and I are both huge fans of the story and love to talk about which adaptation gets the most right and how we'd love to piece together a 'perfect' version that melds various good elements from many different sources. We're going to sit down and watch the wonderful 1938 film and then the 1951 movie to compare the multitude of alterations made for both good and ill. It'll be the last non-family night of Christmas cheer I'll have before the big day and I can hardly wait. I am such a movie geek!
What is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol? Is it a film or a television show episode? Let me know in the comments below- you might name a version I'm unaware of completely and send me into a hunting frenzy for my viewing for next December!
Monday, December 20, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
After a couple of days of conflicting news reports it appears that French cult film director Jean Rollin has passed away. Rollin was one of the last of the great Euro-trash filmmakers of the 1960s through the 1980s still around and making art when he had the chance and the funding. His final film FIANCEE OF DRACULA was released in 2002. Although I didn't enjoy it as much as his earlier work is was still a good film and one worthy of his career. It was also clearly a movie made by the same man who made THE NUDE VAMPIRE, DEMONIACS, THE GRAPES OF DEATH and THE LIVING DEAD GIRL.
I fell in love with Rollin's skewed film world almost twenty years ago after viewing REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE. It was bizarre in ways that I could only barely describe. It played out with almost no dialog for long stretches, it involved a bank robbery, a clown, two gorgeous girls escaping their crimes and a castle full of vampires. I loved every mad moment and came back for more as often as I could. In his films he conjured a strange world that could often look like our own but was never solidly a place you might find on any map. Ghosts drifted through buildings, vampires haunted tormented people, beautiful women seduced men and then joined them in horrible acts of violence while during it all a dream-like mist floated over your senses smoothing the rough edges and moving the doomed characters to their sad ends. Rollin created an otherworldly place that only true storytelling genius can craft. At his best he carried the willing viewer on a unique journey to lands only Jean Rollin could envision. His films are never going to be appreciated by a large audience but those with whom his films click can find all the joys life can bring. Sex and death were his preoccupations and rarely has a director created a more beautiful fantasy to describe how they interact for our good and ill. His narratives are often thin but his ability to set a mood was marvelous.
For those interested in seeing some of his work I would suggest starting with THE GRAPES OF DEATH which is a easy entree to his themes and style of kink. After that I recommend FASCINATION for a deeper dive into Rollin's cinematic obsessions. You'll be able to tell pretty quickly if his films are for you- they will either haunt your dreams or put you to sleep.
Review of Rollin's NIGHT OF THE HUNTED.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I sat down tonight to watch the newest CD comics animated film SUPERMAN/SHAZAM: THE RETURN OF BLACK ADAM only to discover a bit of false advertising. I'm not complaining about this - as a matter of fact it has turned out be pretty damned great deal but you should be made aware. This is not a full length story. The Superman/Captain Marvel team-up is only about a 25 minute long tale. That's a kind of disappointing when the normal length of these animated adventures has been over an hour but the disc more than makes up for this by featuring three other short DC tales. The one showcasing Green Arrow I had already seen on the SUPERMAN/BATMAN: APOCALYPSE disc but the other two are new to me and both are fantastic. The Spectre makes his animated debut in a story that feels straight out of that brilliant, controversial 1970s run by writer Michael Fleisher and artist Jim Aparo published in Adventure Comics. The image of the 12 minute short has been given a faux aged look as if it were a ragged 35mm print and the score feels very much of the 70s as well. Adding to my enjoyment is the presence of one my favorite character actors Gary Cole as the voice of The Spectre and his alter ego Jim Corrigan. Excellent!
The third tale is a great Jonah Hex adventure scripted by Joe Lansdale from a recent story in the Hex comic book. I'm a sucker for a good western and this one fits the bill with another great group of voice talent getting things done very well. Thomas Jane makes a damned good Hex and Linda Hamilton is a saucy and devious antagonist. All I can say is bring on more of this kind of stuff, DC Comics. Bring on as much as you can produce!
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
I'm a huge fan of Doctor Who and even though I prefer the older show with its low budgets and cardboard sets I've been enjoying the new Who show too. I'm only partially through the third season so I haven't even seen this new, younger Doctor but if he's willing to go along with Craig Ferguson's mad song & dance number to open a talk show he clearly has the right attitude. I gotta speed up my Who watching soon.
Monday, December 06, 2010
I read over the weekend that Fox (they have control of the MGM film library) is planning to go the Burn on Demand DVD route with 400 movies never before released to disc. Being the type of fellow I am I'm most interested in the odder genre films but the entire list pretty good. Here's a list of some I find of interest--
By Love Possessed (1961)- Lana Turner, Jason Robards and George Hamilton star.
Diary Of A Madman (1963)-Vincent Price as a sculptor possessed by an evil spirit who becomes a brutal murderer. I love this film!
Futureworld (1976)- sequel to WESTWORLD that I haven't seen in years.
Rolling Thunder (1977) - Awesome revenge story.
The Satan Bug (1965) - A great film with John Sturges directing an Alister MacLean thriller.
Vigilante Force (1976)- Amazing modern day western with a great cast.
The Witches (1968)- I'm very curious about this comedy with several directors.
Of course, the usual $20 price point is a joke but one can hope for sales.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Oh my goodness! Naschy tries his hand at the giallo genre and hits one out of the park. In this episode we celebrate and analyze this thriller with more twists and turns than a mountain road. BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL is a stylish but sleazy murder mystery sure to keep you guessing up until the final scene. Naschy places his character Gilles in a bad spot as a man with personal demons of the mind and a nasty past and in a good place surrounded by a group of beautiful sisters. But is it a good place or a dangerous spot? When the cast features four of the most beautiful ladies working in Euro-Trash film in the early 1970s it’s a good place for us at least! Naschy squeezes udders, chops wood, rakes yards and does other things that might be considered sexual metaphors while the color red dances through his life. How many of the siblings will Gilles seduce? How many times will he be threatened with violence? How often will he have to take off his shirt to get his hard work done? Oh my!
Troy & I sing the praises of the high quality work involved and lament (repeatedly) the execrable score that attempts to undermine nearly every one of the story's emotional highlights. If a film can be said to be deeply flawed but still brilliant then BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL fits that description. As we dissect the film the attentive listener might ask many questions, such as - How many times will I mispronounce Gilles’ name? How often will the Blind Dead movies be mentioned? When will we break down and do a podcast on I HATE MY BODY? What is the connection this film has to both Hitchcock and the Coen Brothers? The answers to some of these are waiting within. I won't tell you which ones but you can download the show from HERE. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and subscribe through iTunes. Thanks!
Saturday, December 04, 2010
A fun November of film watching with some real surprises. I did not expect to watch the RUSH documentary all the way through in one sitting but once I started watching it I could NOT stop. Fascinating for its entire running time BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE was an incredible peek behind the scenes of a band I’ve love since my youth and I can recommend it wholeheartedly. BOOK OF BLOOD turned out to be another good example of adaptation and an interesting addition to the Clive Barker film list. I suspect it will not be loved by hardcore fans because of its slow burn nature but I found it to be a pitch perfect tale of terror.
It was an even split on my trips to the theater this month with RED being a fun if flawed ride but Wes Craven’s MY SOUL TO TAKE turning out to be a crap implosion. I know Craven is a smart, educated fellow but he waaaaaaayyyyy over thought his latest scare flick. When I’m rolling my eyes at your sad, clumsy attempts at animal symbolism you have failed to reach any level of deeper/hidden meaning and have entered the area we call ‘dipshit’. I would suggest Craven direct someone else’s script next time but since he did that with CURSED maybe its best he simply retire.
Two recent comedies were another split for me. PINEAPPLE EXPRESS was a genial waste of time and effort with a few laughs and several good ideas that just never seemed to add up to much. It often felt like it was going to advance to the level of truly funny but its artificial feeling just kept it flat. On the other hand THE HANGOVER was brilliantly funny with each amusing revelation leading to the next and the next on until the end. Rarely does a modern comedy feel so well thought out and consistently funny with a lot of the laughs coming from reactions to events rather than the events themselves. Well done.
MADE MEN is a shockingly good thriller with a great film-buff’s cast. RED BELT is a David Mamet film with his typically twisty plotting and an amazing cast supplemented by some great fight scenes. LEATHERHEADS is a period football film I can only imagine about 50 people in the world loving as much as I loved it. Very much in the realm of films of its period setting it hits every note exactly the way it should and has the effortless grace of a fine athlete in its prime. I laughed enough to ignore that it was made 70 years after its tale would have seemed new or fresh much less have appealed to a wide audience. Maybe I’m just an old film and football nut but I loved it!
THE EVIL (1978)- 7 (rewatch)
BOOK OF BLOOD (2008)- 7 (good Clive Barker adaptation marred only by a slow pace)
POPCORN (1991)- 5 (not awful but not well done either)
FRAGILE (2005)- 7 (rewatch)
V FOR VENDETTA (2006) – 8 (rewatch)
RED (2010)- 6 (not as good as it should have been but solid)
HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) – 7 (rewatch)
SATANIK (1968)- 6 (strange Euro-trashy mad science/killer woman story)
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (2008)- 5 (kind of OK)
THE TIME TRAVELLERS (1964)- 4 (silly, slow but interesting post apocalyptic SF)
PHILIP K. DICK: THE PENULTIMATE TRUTH (2008) - 8 (good documentary)
CULT OF THE DAMNED (1969)- 5 (fluctuates between interesting, pretentious and silly)
PAYMENT IN BLOOD (1967)- 6 (spaghetti western with a great score)
RUSH: BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE (2010)- 10 (great documentary about one of my favorite bands)
THE HANGOVER (2009) – 9 (damned funny film)
WEREWOLF IN A GIRL’S DORMITORY (1961)- 6 (good krimi-like horror tale)
MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010)- 2 (Craven shits the bed)
BLINDMAN (1971)- 6 (good spaghetti western take-off on the Zatoichi films)
MADE MEN (1999)- 7 (damned good crime/action tale with Jim Belushi, Timothy Dalton & Steve Railsback)
IDIOCRACY (2006)- 6 (not bad but the seams really show)
REDBELT (2008)- 8
DR. ORLOFF’S MONSTER (1964)- 7 (Jess Franco black & white awesomeness)
THE KILLER HAS RESERVED NINE SEATS (1974)- 8 (excellent Italian thriller)
LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE (1967)- 8 (Franco’s excellent spy comedy)
GRIZZLY (1976)- 5 (silly low budget JAWS rip-off is pretty fun)
STARCRASH (1979)- 5 (is it a 10 or a 1? I split the difference and love every minute of it) (rewatch)
MEGAFORCE (1982)- 1 (how can a film be so damned dull with that title?)
OCTAMAN (1971)- 4 (terrible, but in a goofy way)
THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS (1966) -2 (unfunny and dragged out to barely an hour)
LEATHERHEADS (2007)- 8 (old style football tale set in 1925- I have no idea why it got made – I’m just glad it did!)
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Very soon Troy and I will have been recording episodes of the Naschycast for a full year. It has been a fantastic experience and as with most any long journey there have been unexpected discoveries along the way. One of these things is not just further, deeper insight into the films we discuss, pull apart and reassemble but real insight into the creative side of Naschy the artist and filmmaker. Knowing before we started that he often had to finish a script in a very short time I did not expect to become impressed with how well they were constructed but that is what has happened. Being able to detect a deeper, more thoughtful aspect of Naschy’s storytelling has been revelatory and has made our exploration of his work more gratifying than I would have ever considered when we set out.
I have found it very impressive that in every case Naschy worked very hard to craft a story that made sense. I don’t, of course, mean ‘make sense’ in the way that reality makes sense but that the story being told has an internal logic that makes the various plot points come together when examined. These disparate elements that can often seem incredibly random usually end up dovetailing brilliantly as the tale progresses if attention is paid to the film. I first noticed this when going through HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB for the third time in a short period of time. I found that although it felt as if some scenes had been left unfilmed, the story’s chain of events held up amazingly well. For instance, the sudden appearance of the zombified corpses that terrorize Naschy and his female companion has always struck me as completely insane. Where the hell do they come from i.e. what causes the bodies to reanimate and attack the house? In the past I had wondered if for some reason the producers felt that some shambling ghouls might liven things up so why not have a few thrown in to amp up the ‘horror’. But after seeing the tale play out so often in a short space of time I caught the briefly mentioned point that our villains were necromancers- the film clearly says so! We had known that the zombies were doing Alaric’s evil bidding but being reminded that they dabbled in the use of dead bodies makes the entire sequence ‘make sense’. Now, I will agree that there should have been a scene showing Alaric and his lovely assistant Mabille calling upon their dark powers to animate the dead to better communicate the idea, but it does become obvious what is happening. Maybe not obvious on first viewing I’ll admit, but return visits to Naschyville make it plain. Still- I would love to have such a scene inserted and I wonder if something like it was filmed and possibly left on the cutting room floor. We’ll never know.
Another example of this careful but not always noticed attention to detail came to light when we were studying THE VENGEANCE OF THE MUMMY for our fourth podcast. I had always been impressed with the film for many reasons including the strong characters, fantastic period set detail, sharper than average dialog, a fine score and pretty smart plotting. But learning of Naschy’s deeper thinking about the motivations of the returned mummy gave me an even stronger appreciation for what he was doing. The mummy’s drive to be reunited with his lost love is a pure emotion, unsullied by the lustful desires of his past fleshly life. In an interview published earlier this year in Rue Morgue magazine he was asked about the importance of romance in his stories. Naschy commented upon how he defined the difference between the Egyptian monster and other creatures he has played.
“I consider the mummy less erotic than other characters like the werewolf or the vampire. The ancestral love of ages is more important, because the mummy is not supposed to be ‘equipped’. I used the idea of love...[…]… but he cannot fulfill anything because he is sexless. Because the mummy is a dry being, many thousand years old, it’s not the same thing that the werewolf is. The werewolf is often a normal man, he can make love with a woman. [….] I think the mummy also has an idea of love, of love for his queen, and I wanted to emphasize this respectful love spanning thousands of years more than an erotic feeling, because it doesn’t work out so well.”
When Troy brought this passage to my attention I was stunned. Maybe it’s just the slightly naïve Monster Kid in me but it had never occurred to me that maybe mummies couldn’t have sex! I had never freakin’ thought about it. Even while the sexual nature of Dracula and other vampires and Waldemar Daninski and other werewolves is a major part of their monster persona the dried out, ancient physical attributes of a living mummy had never factored into my thinking. Of course he couldn’t…….perform. His outer layer of skin was flaking off along with the moldering bandages each time he moved! No amount of lotion or lubrication would …uuhhh.... best to let that image lay under the sands.
As fans we are very lucky to have several excellent commentary tracks with Paul Naschy available on DVD. These few tracks (helpfully subtitled in English) allow us further insight to his process. Thanks to the track on the BCI DVD it is possible to essentially watch BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL with the film’s director Carlos Aured and writer/star Naschy and in preparation for our next podcast both Troy and I took the time to listen/read. While I wish the moderator had been a bit more willing to jump in and ask some questions the two old collaborators do a solid job of imparting some great information. I’ve always considered BLUE EYES to be one of Naschy’s best scripts because of the twisty nature of its murder mystery tale but once again I was to get a surprise from the master. He remarks that each main character has a hidden secret that will be exposed at some point in the film and that it is these reveals that drive the story to its finish. Before this I had watched the film five or six times but that simple aspect of the movie had just not occurred to me. Naschy buried the seeds of destruction in each character and then just let them grow. Brilliant! (Now if we could just replace the film’s score it would be perfect.)
To those that think that Paul Naschy simply made silly monster films about blood, nudity and crude romanticism I thumb my nose. He was a fine writer who often achieved incredible results under huge pressure and with limited resources and time. He was a great filmmaker and he is missed. His like will not pass this way again and we are all the poorer for that fact.