Thursday, June 30, 2011
I finally caught the 1957 film THE NIGHT THE EARTH EXPLODED and enjoyed it—for what it is, of course. I’m a huge fan of science fiction films of the 1950s and have watched the biggest and best of the genre repeatedly over the years so when I come across one I’ve never seen before I get pretty excited. Even if a 1950s era SF film isn’t great I can still find it enjoyable for the opportunity to see a less varnished version of American society than you would generally get from higher budget, higher profile movies. In this one we get a look at a relationship between two scientists, one male and one female, which sums up the mid-20th century idealized way in which both genders were viewed. Our heroic male scientist is brilliant and driven- so driven in fact that he hasn’t noticed the obvious affection of his gorgeous scientist co-worker. The female scientist has pined away for years hoping that eventually the male will realize that they should mate and raise 2.5 little scientist children or at least build a nest and incubate some eggs. But just as she is about to quit trying to make this dink notice her, marry some other man and live a life of quiet suburban desperation (cue the Mad Men theme music) the male scientist discovers a potentially earth shattering (literally) phenomenon that requires her continued services in the lab. Perfect! This is the basic plot of about a dozen great 50s science fiction films. You have the huge, dangerous, title-inspiring main plot such as a giant prehistoric llama and the romantic sub-plot for which the ending is all too clear. So while the giant llama rampages across the desolate plains of Nebraska (or Jersey or Sumatra) the growing apocalyptic danger draws the two inevitable lovebirds together. Classic! In THE NIGHT THE EARTH EXPLODED the danger is a new element that looks like a black rock and blows up real good when removed from water! And you thought giant prehistoric llamas were strange.
In the final analysis THE NIGHT THE EARTH EXPLODED isn’t a great movie- I can only rate it a 5/10 in an honest assessment. The film’s Carlsbad Cavern sets are not very convincing Styrofoam and cardboard; the dialog is pretty flat; stock footage is overused to show destruction; the scientific reasoning for events is stupid and the characters are really thin, but I liked the film anyway. I thought Kathryn Grant as the female scientist was cute and convincing as she soldiered on while fake stalactites were falling around her head. I also enjoyed the fact that the film is quick and pretty well paced clocking in at just over an hour. This isn’t a fantastic movie but if you like movies such as THE DEADLY MANTIS, THE BEGINNING OF THE END, CRACK IN THE WORLD or WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE you might get a kick out of it. I did!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
I don't think Mr. Lazenby will ever be anyone's favorite James Bond but he was good in his one time at bat. Indeed, I think he starred in possibly the best film of the entire series with the recent CASINO ROYALE being a close second. If you have any interest in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and the only one-time-only Bond check out this great, candid interview. You'll learn some surprising things that go a bit beyond the usual behind the scenes fluff.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
In news that is probably only exciting to me and about 30 other people Doc Savage is returning to bookstore shelves (and I guess e-readers) next month! Woo hoo! And these aren’t reprints of the original pulp tales I’ve been working my way through for the last 20 years either. (Although those are wonderful and please keep them coming!) These are brand new stories being written by Will Murry but based on Lester Dent’s unpublished notes, outlines and story fragments. So, these are not just new Doc Savage tales but new tales based on elements that the original author worked on long ago. A kind of quasi-resurrection of the character that could be thought of as ‘The Untold Tales of Doc Savage’! That’s not what they plan to call these books. Which is kind of a shame since that would be a great title for a new series of pulp yarns about the character. Some might even say the perfect title. But I digress.
This new series of novels will be called 'The All-New Wild Adventures of Doc Savage’. Wild? Is that supposed to draw in the young’uns? I don’t think it’ll work on the kids but I know I’m interested, so bring them on! Fresh Hero Pulp adventures are always welcome on my bookshelf.
Check them out at Altus Press.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
This is a very special episode. Since most of Paul Naschy’s collaborators are European natives our chances of getting the opportunity to sit down and talk to one of his co-stars about their experiences are slim. We’ve got a lot of questions about what it was like working with our favorite werewolf but our trips to Spain, France, England and Italy are few and far between. Luckily the lovely Caroline Munro makes a few convention appearances on this side of the Atlantic each year. After realizing that she would be in Louisville, KY in May we quickly made the decision to try to get her on the record about her time filming HOWL OF THE DEVIL. We expected a long, difficult experience ending in bitter disappointment and harsh recriminations that might well destroy the harmonious thing that is the NaschyCast. Surely it would be supremely hard to get an interview with one of my favorite cult actresses. Surely scores of PR people would line up to prevent easy access to the lady I’ve been in love with since my first viewing of THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD. How wrong we were! Miss Munro was more than willing to talk about her time working with Naschy and I was even able to ask a few questions about her little seen second collaboration with STARCRASH director Luigi Cozzi THE BLACK CAT (1989).
We can’t thank Caroline enough for letting us bug her about these often overlooked gems. She could not have been nicer, more accommodating or more giving with her time. It’s always amazing to meet one of your idols and its even better when they turn out to be genuinely wonderful people. Remember to drop us a line at email@example.com and let us know what you think.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Via NetFlix streaming I caught up with THE FILE OF THE GOLDEN GOOSE (1969). Billed as a Euro-Spy film it’s actually more of a police thriller with hard-nosed American Secret Service officer Yul Brynner traveling to England on a counterfeit currency case. In London he is teamed with Scotland Yard man Edward Woodward for a dangerous undercover operation. At first the American is against Woodward being part of this case because he has a family and Brynner is acutely aware of the possible downside for loved ones – he has recently lost his long time lady friend to vengeful criminals. Woodward and his superiors convince Brynner to accept him as a partner and the plot begins to unfold.
This movie has a good story, a great cast and is mostly shot on very interesting (to me) English locations that provide a snapshot of London and Liverpool streets circa 1969. The problem with the film is the direction. Everything is shot very flatly with no imagination and often things are handled quite sloppily. On more than one occasion the camera placement undercut the tension in a scene by framing shot so that our attention is drawn to extraneous elements in a room. At several points we are allowed to see a character when we shouldn’t because their reactions are being telegraphed in a way that deflates the conflict being set up. Also, there are a couple of action scenes that come off as pretty unconvincing because we can see the careful staging being carried out by otherwise competent actors. The blame for this has to fall on director Sam Wanamaker which isn’t too strange considering that he also made the worst of Ray Harryhausen movies- SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER. It’s not as if this film is the only blemish on his resume.
But even with the fairly lame direction I can still recommend THE FILE OF THE GOLDEN GOOSE to fans of espionage or crime thrillers of the 1960s or 1970s. It has enough good stuff to offset the uninspired direction and Brynner, Woodward and the always fun Charles Gray are great. It fits comfortably in the category ‘of interest’.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
If you have NetFlix you can watch TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD right on your computer or other streaming device! And the best thing about this is that they are only offering the full length Spanish version with English subtitles! That's right. You can watch the correct version of the classic 'La Noche del Terror Ciego' without wondering what bits got cut out to bring the running time down to a Drive-In friendly double feature length. What a wonderful world we live in where such a great piece of cult cinema is so easily available. Go forth and enjoy the deadly undead Knight Templars.
Of course, without buying the DVD you won't have access to the insane alternate prologue opening for REVENGE OF THE PLANET APE but you can see it here. I love the Drive-In exploitation madness of the 1970s!
REVENGE OF PLANET APE!
Thursday, June 09, 2011
If you've been listening to the NaschyCast you've heard us mention the excellent internet radio show Horror Rises From Spain hosted by our favorite Naschy fan Elena. Broadcast at Cult Radio A-Go-Go every Saturday at 10 am PST / 1 pm EST (7pm in Spain!) the show is an hour long combination of film reviews, interviews, Spanish horror film news, music and occasionally deep looks at the bigger films of the genre. Troy and I were guests last year to talk about Paul Naschy and we were so loquacious that poor Elena had to divide our babbling up over two separate episodes. I guess this didn't scare her off because a few weeks ago she asked me to join her again along with European Trash Cinema expert David Zuzelo to discuss the third and fourth Blind Dead movies. I love the Blind Dead films with a true passion but my feelings for THE GHOST GALLEON (#3) are much less strong than for the wonderful NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS (#4) while Elena dislikes SEAGULLS quite a bit. David Z loves them both unreservedly so you can imagine what the conversation was like!
Last Saturday was the broadcast of the show on THE GHOST GALLEON and this Saturday's episode features our discussion of the Lovecraftian NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS. I must apologize for not alerting Bloody Pit readers last week but in the rush to get the new NaschyCast out it slipped off my radar. Tune in if you can and get an earful of three Spanish Horror fans pulling a classic apart and explaining why we love it. I guarantee it'll put a smile on your face!
CULT RADIO A-GO-GO!
Monday, June 06, 2011
ASSIGNMENT TERROR turns out to be a direct sequel to THE MARK OF THE WOLFMAN which surprises both of your humble hosts. We should have looked that tidbit up before we pushed record, huh? It just doesn’t seem that it should be a direct follow up since its more than 45 minutes before Daninsky even has a line of dialog! Well anyway- hang with Troy and I as we stagger our way through this funhouse of mirrors and monsters with a few side shifts into discussions of Star Trek, Pink Floyd album titles, mispronounced creature names, pesky emotions and the joys of mini-skirts. It’s a bumpy ride because we get a much compromised Monster Mash that did not turn out quite the way Naschy hoped it might. Cheesy, slap-dash, messy and goofy as it can be the film is far from the best in his filmography but it has its points of interest. It sports two great monster battles and several beautiful ladies while moving at a brisk pace. Of course, at times this speedy pace seems to come from having whole chunks of the narrative ripped out! Although Daninsky is a featured player he is certainly not the main character in this pulp science fiction story which points to the strange elements any fan has to notice. What kind of Waldemar Daninksy film doesn’t give our tortured Wolf Man any dialog for the first half of the running time? Still, the movie is at its best when the monsters are onscreen creeping around the Gothic styled dungeons of the castle/monastery so those are the moments when the entire thing pays off. Monster fights!
Remember to drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or write on the NaschyCast Facebook wall to let us know your thoughts on ASSIGNMENT TERROR or which Jess Franco film we should cover. The show can be downloaded below or grabbed on iTunes. Thanks!
Sunday, June 05, 2011
May started off with my birthday (thank you) and the low budget adaptation of the Italian comic character Dylan Dog. I liked the film pretty well although the lack of money was evident at times and I felt the director could have been a lot more dynamic with his camera. If you’ve liked the comics you will probably enjoy the film but it won’t be as big a thrill as it might have been in better hands.
I finally got around to watching one of the very few of the (sadly defunct) Casa Negra DVDs I had not yet seen. THE LIVING COFFIN is a pretty interesting but clumsy western/horror film. It was shot in color giving it a strange look I’m not used to from Mexican genre films of the 1960s and its story is fun but overall it just doesn’t hang together very well. I'm still glad I had the chance to see it.
The first big summer movie THOR was a fantastic ride and easily surpassed my expectations. Thor has always been the Marvel comics character with the most difficult shot at being adaptable to the screen since the entire Asgard aspect of the Norse mythology has to be brought along to give the story its context. Luckily for this unrepentant comic book fan the writers found an excellent way to give us plenty of back story quickly and craft a smart adventure that served to retell the classic Lee/Kirby God-on-Earth-as-superhero tale while bringing newcomers along effortlessly. That the film also has a fine sense of humor about what its doing adds immeasurably to the brilliance of what happens. Kudos to an excellent cast and to director Branagh for pulling this movie off. Now I just want a longer version with the stuff reinstated that was obviously cut from the middle section to speed things along.
PAUL is the first film from writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost that wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad but it was clear that the compromises made to get the bid budget necessary to have a well done CGI alien in their little comedy made the film less entertaining. There are real dry stretches, the over obvious character arcs are dull, the silly moral is delivered with sledgehammer force and there is a real lack of inventiveness in direction at times that surprised me. I think that next time out the pair should forgo dealing with the Hollywood types and just make their own films without the interference.
AGORA is an historical film about the sweeping away of the older Roman religions by early Christianity. Set in Alexandria it depicts several historical events and characters very effectively and is a movie I know I’ll eventually return to if for no other reason to witness the excellent filmmaking skill on display. This was made by Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar and shows why I wish he were a more prolific man. He has only made five feature films and of the four I’ve seen I rate them all an 8 or higher. I guess it’s a question of quality over quantity but what I wouldn’t give for more work from Senor Amenábar.
I finally got to see the legendary exploitation action film THE EXTERMINATOR and really enjoyed it. For some reason I had dodged every chance to see it all the way back to the VHS rental days when it called to me from the video shelves. I don’t know why exactly I never watched it until now but I’m glad I did and the idea of it coming to Blu-Ray soon is great news too. THE SEXY HORRIBLE VAMPIRE is a title I stumbled across in doing research for the podcast and I couldn’t resist. It turned out to be pretty good and entertaining in that 1970s exploitation way I love so much. It doesn’t really add a lot to the genre and others might find it a little slow but it hit me just right. I love the fact that the cops never figure anything out about the vampire murders - not even at the end.
I got my hands on the 1975 remake of the classic THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE a few months ago out of curiosity to see if they filmed the original story or if the filmmakers screwed around and tried to ‘modernize’ it at all. Wonderfully they did not alter the story at all and the remake, while not being as fun as the 1945 film, is very good and extremely well done. The cast is top notch – Christopher Plummer, Jacqueline Bisset, John Phillip Law, Elaine Stritch - and the story translates to the second half of the 20th century very easily. Since they tell the same tale almost beat for beat I don’t think it would be good to watch the two films back to back but catching them a few weeks apart would be a good idea. I need to eventually find and read the Ethel Lina White novel they based upon.
DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2011)- 6 (pretty good adaptation)
THE GHOST GALLEON (1974)- 5 (rewatch)
THE LIVING COFFIN (1958) – 4 (clumsy Mexican horror/western)
PLANET HULK (2008)- 7 (rewatch)
THOR (2011)- 9 (excellent!)
THE MIGHTY GORGA (1969)- 3 (low budget giant ape movie that would make a good rainy afternoon flick)
THE BLACK CAT (1989)- 5 (rewatch)
PAUL (2011)- 6 (watered down Pegg & Frost)
AGORA (2009)- 8 (well done look at the early Christian takeover of Alexandria)
ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH (1976)- 7 (Lenzi police thriller)
DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (1967)- 8 (excellent British Euro-Spy/Bulldog Dummond film)
THE VENGENACE OF DR. MABUSE (1972)- 5 (typically silly, sloppy Franco nonsense but it plays like free form jazz!)
THE CONQUEROR OF THE ORIENT (1960)- 4 (lame peplum)
DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH (2008)- 8 (documentary about Harlan Ellison)
ROBINSON AND HIS TEMPESTUOUS SLAVES (1972)- 5 (fun, wispy thin Franco sex comedy)
THE FLAME BARRIER (1958)- 4 (fairly dull by-the-numbers jungle romp)
ASSIGNMENT TERROR (1970)- 5 (rewatch)
THE SEXY HORRIBLE VAMPIRE (1970)- 6
CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)- 8 (rewatch of the original cut)
DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARCROW (1981)- 7 (great TV movie) (rewatch)
THE TERROR WITHIN (1989)- 5 (Corman produced ALIEN rip-off)
DEAD SPACE (1991)- 4 (another ALIEN/ALIENS rip-off from Corman)
THE EXTERMINATOR (1980)- 7 (a grimy, gritty slice of vengeance cinema)
GREEN FOR DANGER (1946)- 9 (excellent WWII period British murder mystery)
MASQUERADE (1965)- 8 (fantastic spy movie)
FAST FIVE (2011)- 7 (how has this series stayed so fun?)
THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1975)- 7 (remake of a classic is good as well)
TARZAN’S DESERT MYSTERY (1943)- 7 (man eating plants and a giant spider!)
Friday, June 03, 2011
I don't know how I managed to miss seeing this until today but WOW! Now I've watched it five times in a row and its just as amazing as it was the first time. I love the 1953 film but this could have been even better.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Even with all its flaws I still like Franco's attempt at filming Stoker's book. It's far from perfect but it is an earnest try at doing the story and character some cinematic justice. DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN is a whole other problem though. Whoa boy, is it!