Friday, April 29, 2011
I know it as THE GIRL FROM RIO (1969) but like so many Euro-Trash films from the period it has a dozen or more alternate titles. I enjoy this film but there are other adaptations of this Sax Rohmer tale I like more. Few are as colorful as this one though.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I’ve been rereading several of the James Bond novels recently and as often happens when I go on one of these jags I got the urge to watch one of the movies. As usual I had the unstoppable compulsion to pick at a scab and rewatch one that I disliked the last time I saw it. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN was Roger Moore’s second Bond film and has three stand out elements. Christopher Lee plays the villain of the piece Scaramanga which is one plus and Herve Villechaize playing Lee’s dastardly and mischievously wicked henchman/cook is another. But even though Lee does a very fine job making his character both charming and threatening the film wastes his efforts which I consider a crime. He was a great choice for the role but the script is a muddled mess unworthy of his attention. The film also has one of the most impressive car stunts ever captured on screen in which a car is made to rotate in midair as it jumps a river. If the movie had nothing else to recommend it this amazing trick is well worth seeing for any fan of real car tricks. But within this scene you can see the overriding problem of the movie and the encroaching problem of the entire series at this point. Perfectly shot and perfectly accomplished though the jump may be the film cannot resist turning it into a joke by putting a slide whistle sound effect over the action. You read that right. A car jumps over a river while rotating between take-off and landing – an incredible thing to see- and the filmmakers put a childish whistle sound over the shot. If they can’t be bothered to take things seriously then why should we?
Not that the film starts off well and then deteriorates, oh no. It never really finds a good groove with its first misstep being the rather asinine pre-credit sequence that introduces Villechaize’s character Nick Nack and his ‘cute’ attempts to present his employer Scaramanga with a deadly test. I’m sure this was envisioned as an amusing start to the adventure letting us meet the bad guy and show off his gun skills but it plays like a Kato outtake from a Pink Panther film and a bad one at that. Then we have a catchy theme song sung by Lulu that I like even though it has some of the lamest lyrics of any Bond tune. After this the film briefly finds its footing until it stumbles into a truly embarrassing one-two punch of setting a secret meeting on the capsized QE2 (how amusing- everything is sideways!) and the mid-1970s pre-requisite karate scene. This martial arts sequence is awkward in the extreme. Not only is it stupid and clumsy but it serves no purpose in the narrative and could be edited out and not change one thing about the film’s sad, limping story. Pathetic. I know that by 1974 it was almost a required element to have some form of martial arts fighting in an action film but this is terrible. That it is used to add yet another stupid joke to the film should come as no surprise.
And as for elements that could have/should have been left out let us speak briefly of the inclusion of J. W. Pepper, the Louisiana sheriff making his return appearance after ‘wowing’ us in LIVE AND LET DIE. Which moron is responsible for bringing this character back for another slow witted dose of Hee Haw styled redneck guffaws? Easily the dumbest thing thrown into the film it makes no sense to have this backwoods idiot vacationing in Thailand and even less to have him in the car with Bond during the show stopping car jump. This demonstrates to me that the series needed a long hiatus to consider what it was becoming verses what it had been but I guess the money rolling in made it seem as if they were making smart choices. That the movies they made in the 1970s are almost unwatchable messes now doesn’t really matter measured against the huge box office at the time. They made the movies that were right for the times but unlike the 1960s output they have aged very, very poorly. For me the reason is simply that they started treating the central character as a joke and the movies followed that lead. Ridiculously, by MOONRAKER it seemed as if the general public in the stories knew who James Bond was! In other words, people on the street knew Bond was a British spy. What the Hell were the producers thinking?
When I was younger I liked the Moore Bond films quite a lot. I suspect it is because of their less than serious attitude that an adolescent would be attracted to them but as an adult I see them as the poorly written, sloppily constructed excuses for grin inducing set-pieces that they almost all were. They are embarrassing and I find I can only enjoy three of Mr. Moore’s run – LIVE AND LET DIE was a pretty solid introduction of the new guy; FOR YOUR EYES ONLY is a great Bond film reversing the downward spiral that culminated in the disaster of MOONRAKER; OCTOPUSSY was Moore’s last strong effort before they made the worst of the series with VIEW TO A KILL.
I’ve really got to rewatch a good Bond film soon to make me remember why I own the entire run. Maybe I should reread the book?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
For those that are interested (and there are a few of you out there) I liked ETOILE. It’s not a great film but it is worth seeing and while it doesn’t completely succeed it is more than good enough to warrant seeking out. The story is reminiscent of several other tales with a touch of SUSPIRIA, a dollop of REPLUSION, a pinch of THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE and a sprinkle of every possession film the 1970s ever produced. It is never brilliant but it held my interest because of its mystery story structure, some fascinating cast members and the blossoming of Jenifer Connelly as an actress. This is a transition film for Miss Connelly as she moved from child actor to adult and as such her performance is sometimes off and sometimes perfect. You can see her learning her craft as she works here and doing a pretty good job but there are more than a few moments where she is flat and unconvincing. Of course, she has the hardest part in the script as the girl who has to essentially play two people one of which may be a ghost. Charles During has a small role but is really good in that way a great character actor can be depended upon to be. He knows exactly what is required of him and he hits all his notes well even when asked to go slightly nuts.
On the less than good performance side is Gary McCleery as the love interest. He is pretty bad and unfortunately since the bulk of the mystery element revolves around his search for Connolly’s character we spend far too much time watching him try to communicate confusion or awe. He drags the film down in most every scene. Sadly he’s not helped much by the direction which seems to be striving for an arch, mysterious vision but at times just manages to feel a bit too distant to get us involved. And I’m really not sure what to make of the bizarre ‘Black Swan’ thing that shows up near the end to terrorize McCleery’s character. It’s such an outlandish, unexpected thing I’m kind of impressed but it doesn’t at all fit the tone of what has come before and has no solid logic as part of the narrative. Strange.
As for the question of whether this film was an influence on BLACK SWAN (2010), I would have to say yes. Although there are a number of big divergences and a very different mood there are more than enough points of similarity between the two movies to indicate some inspiration at the very least. The fact that BLACK SWAN also feels very much like a tonal sister to SUSPIRIA speaks to the relationship as well. There’s nothing at all wrong with this and Darren Aronofsky's film is clearly superior but a double feature of the two movies would make for an entertaining discussion starter for film nuts.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
In the 15.5 Naschycast we spoke a bit about some of the cooler things inspired by Ossorio's quartet of classic Euro-Horror and I mentioned my love of David Zuzelo's short story turned comic story 'Ascension of the Blind Dead'. I first read and loved it when it was published as a small chapbook and was happy to see it become a comic tale last year. You can see it by picking up the zombie comic collection Zombie Terrors from Asylum Press or you can read it for free over at David's blog THE BLIND DEAD. Either way I recommend checking it out and also checking in regularly at his other blog Tomb It May Concern . You might even check out his other other blog The B-Side Barbarians which he really needs to update soon. Hint hint!
Damn! How many freakin' blogs does Mr. Z have, anyway? Am I missing any? Hell with it. Check them out and look over the most recent addition to the Blind Dead universe. Here's page one........
Damn! How many freakin' blogs does Mr. Z have, anyway? Am I missing any? Hell with it. Check them out and look over the most recent addition to the Blind Dead universe. Here's page one........
Thursday, April 21, 2011
If I was forced to choose my favorite horror film produced in Spain during the 1970s I think I would point to this one. As great as I think many of Paul Naschy’s movies are TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD is so good in so many ways that it stands out as a truly brilliant example of how to take an idea that could be silly and turn it into something grand. With this movie Amando de Ossorio created the greatest monsters of the decade in the undead Templar Knights and he manages to bring a great concept, sinister atmosphere, a haunting score and a creepy setting together in a mesmerizing 97 minutes of sheer Euro-Trash joy. Easily one of the most important horror movies of the past 50 years it is a must see and I can also recommend the three sequels. Strangely, while the Blind Dead films can be seen as zombie movies I have to admit that I never thought of them that way until someone else pointed to the fact that the undead Knights Templar are obviously of that genre. I always just thought of them as their very own ‘type’ of monster with their own rules and drives. I guess that points to the unique nature of TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD. It’s such a singular piece of cinema it took me years to think of what might have influenced it rather than what others drew from it.
Troy and I spend a long time discussing this classic – maybe too long- and try to touch on most of the obvious points of interest. Trying to keep the lustful drooling over the lovely ladies in the cast to minimum is hard but mad morgue attendants and Bava-esque lighting keep us distracted from the feminine beauty long enough to remind us of our obligations to our listeners. We both love the movie and have a personal connection to it as it shaped our fascination with Euro-Horror in much the same way as Paul Naschy’s work. Please be aware that we try not to spoil the movie but I’m sure we give away some of the more shocking elements as we talk. Enjoy the show and please let us know what you think about the Blind Dead, Paul Naschy and anything else you want at firstname.lastname@example.org and check us out on Facebook as well. Yes! The long awaited Naschycast Facebook page is up and running! Drop on by and ‘like’ the show to let us know you’re out there.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
In anticipation of our Beyond Naschy look at the first BLIND DEAD film podcast listener Luis (from Portugal!) sent us links to a few songs by the British band Cathedral. Each of these is about our favorite undead Templar Knights and are pretty damned cool in the bargain. I love that they use some of the creepy score and blend it into their sound. Enjoy!
Sunday, April 17, 2011
I learned of this obscure Italian/Hungarian ballet film just recently because a number of folks claim it to be the unacknowledged inspiration for the award winning BLACK SWAN (2010). I haven't seen it yet but images of the lovely Jennifer Connelly dancing have certainly enticed me into seeking a copy out. Once I see it I'll report back.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
As you might figure from the title of this blog I like horror films. I watch a lot of them and can usually find something to enjoy in most even if the film in question is less than high quality. The other night I ventured out to see the new movie INSIDIOUS mainly because I have come to respect its director James Wan. Wan’s first horror film was SAW and although it has legions of fans and spawned a trillion sequels I have always disliked the movie for its sloppiness and its laughably embarrassing final act. I can forgive sloppiness but to have written and filmed such a braindead ending as SAW sports is to lose me completely. Luckily for genre fans Wan and his collaborators forged ahead in horror and produced the amazing DEAD SILENCE about which I have written before. That movie tanked at the box office which may be why Wan’s next effort was the hard bitten crime/revenge film DEATH SENTENCE. Well received, this film was praised by most who saw it but sadly it failed theatrically too making the director’s next step a real question. Luckily for us he returned to horror and made INSIDIOUS.
From the ads I expected it to be a haunted house film but that turns out to only be the hook to draw in the punters. Not quite a haunted house tale, not quite a ghost story the film falls more into the possession sub-genre and it comes at those old EXORCIST ideas with a whole new take on the subject. I’m a pretty tough audience for horror as I’ve seen so damned many examples of the genre. Not that I’m hard to please – just don’t insult my intelligence and we’ll do fine, thank you.
Now that I’m in my forties its become pretty difficult for a film to scare me but I must confess that INSIDIOUS scared the holy living SHIT out of me! And not just once and not just through cheap jump scares either. After the film’s slow build to introduce the characters and the location once the scares start they do not stop. The story’s prevailing creepy sense of dread stays constant throughout making every creak or wind rustle ominous and tense. I lost count of the number of times I was seriously frightened by something onscreen and afterward realized I had goose pimples for most of the final 45 minutes. This is a great horror film and one I highly recommend for anyone wanting to be well and truly scared in the theater. Here’s hoping James Wan keeps making these types of movies for years to come.
Monday, April 11, 2011
I just finished watching this low budget Mexican variation on the whole ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ sub-genre and although it is not a good film I got some joy from it. The story is silly/ludicrous with a group of scientists following up reports of horrible monsters in a section of a huge system of caves. A more clueless bunch of people you are rarely going to find. As members of the group are picked off the leader continues to insist on staying to try to reach the ‘Center of the Earth’! How he thought they were ever going to manage that I cannot understand. Since they never got far enough away from the surface to make it impossible to have the dead bodies taken out by paramedics I really don’t think they were getting anywhere lower than, say, the upper layers of the outer crust. But this is not a film about logic or sense! It’s a film about finding winged cave monsters and blowing the living hell out of them. I actually liked the look of the monsters even as the poor guys in the costumes stumbled around the very real caves trying not to trip. They look pretty menacing most of the time.
Sadly the cool close-ups of the monster’s face are done as inserts and these shots do NOT match up well with the other footage. The cave shot footage shows the creature mask as a rigid, stiff affair but the close-ups are of a more articulated and scarier mug. Amusingly, when we are shown the cool monster face you can easily see that these scenes were shot in a room someplace and not a cave. I think I could even spot a painting hanging on the wall! It kind of works for what it is which is a poorly produced kiddie feature perfect for undiscriminating monster fans.
Damn! I think I just described myself!
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I know next to nothing about this 1972 film but I cannot wait to see it. Old Uncle Jess always has a way of making jungle girl stories entertaining in a sleazy fashion and I doubt this will be the one that disproves his skills. Known in English speaking countries as ROBINSON AND HIS TEMPESTUOUS SLAVES it is reportedly a comedy but I have faith that my man Howard Vernon can bring the solid cool to the proceedings- even if his role is listed as 'actor in adult movie'! This should be fun!
Friday, April 08, 2011
I have no idea how many hours of my childhood I spent watching reruns of Gilligan's Island. I would be embarrassed by any accurate count so I try not to think about it. One of the biggest reasons (besides the desire to laugh at the silly antics, of course) was to look at Mary Ann's amazing tanned legs. My goodness was that lady cute! And when she wore her hair back in pigtails it nearly drove me nuts.
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Maybe the last thing we expected when we watched EL CAMINANTE (a.k.a. THE TRAVELLER) was that we would discover one of Naschy’s best movies. That it is also an incredibly funny, bawdy, cynical and darkly incisive view of how the world works was a revelation. The last time we strayed away from his horror output we were cursed by CRIMSON but this time we struck blessed gold! Naschy described EL CAMINANTE as the most personal and sensitive of all his films and it was also one of his most critically lauded works. Looked at as a morality play it is brilliant and as a sharp critique of the ethical deficiencies of mankind it is excellent. As writer, director and star Naschy uses the classic tale of the Devil travelling the world to explore his own philosophy of life while never losing sight of the need to make an entertaining story. Even as the fable becomes more disturbing, reflecting his unfortunate disillusionment with people, the film retains its engaging spirit. The story’s episodic nature keeps it unpredictable and fun with one adventure leading to the next as each of the seven deadly sins gets its moment on stage. It may just be that my own view of life lines up pretty closely with Naschy’s but I found a lot with which to identify in this film and I feel that it is easily one of his finest works. Graced with fantastic dialog, fine performances, a good score and a creator in full flower EL CAMINANTE is a true classic that should be seen by anyone with an interest in quality cinema. This is our most surprising discovery from Naschy’s filmography yet and I recommend that everyone seek it out.
For more information about one of the many stories Naschy adapted into this film check out this page about El Buscon. And you can write us at email@example.com.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
March was a hectic month for me here in the Pit. I worked 30 out of 31 days taking only the day after St. Patrick’s off for rest and sanity. Because of that I didn’t get the usual number of movies watched but luckily there were a higher percentage of good ones to bad than usual as well.
I am apparently one of a handful of people that saw AND liked SUCKER PUNCH. I really enjoyed it with its very basic plot but pleasingly peculiar structure and stunning visual style. It’s fast, emotional and kept me wondering what mad surprise was going to slide across the screen next. Director Snyder continues to impress me but it looks like his cred with the geeks-boys has been shattered. I've enjoyed each of his movies so far and the more he stretches to be audacious/inventive visually the more I like them but I fear his days of commercial success may be gone. I think he’ll have to do a work-for-hire project next just to try to get the money people to trust him again. In 20 years we may just be glad we got the ones we have and wonder why everyone was bitching at the time. Shame.
I gave a 10 to two films in March and they couldn’t be more different (on the surface) if I tried. THIRST is a brazenly shocking and touching vampire tale that only mad Korean Chan-wook Park could have created. I thought he would never be able to top OLDBOY but holy hell! THIRST might not be better but it is equally as good. Its unexpected humorous elements worked brilliantly and constantly made the darker points more compelling. The film is as much about romantic relationships as it is about bloodsucking as a curse/blessing and I doubt I’ll see a better genre film this year.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP was just as fantastic as I’d heard. By this time I should expect a Powell/Pressburger film to be brilliant but each time I’m caught unawares as they work their magic. I was expecting a serious film and that is what it is most of the time but the funny segments are integral to the dramatic scenes and reflect perfectly how life deals equal parts sugar and salt to everyone. I loved the structure of learning the background and history of one British soldier's path through two wars so that we understand how he sees the world in his old age. Roger Livesey was an amazing actor and his performance as Clive Candy is screen perfection while any chance to see Deborah Kerr play three different roles is always going to be OK with me. It’s an incredibly entertaining film that I know I’ll learn more from as I revisit it from time to time as I get older.
My mini-festival of Walter Hill films continued this month as I showed friends TRESPASS and LAST MAN STANDING. Crowd pleasing is exactly what both of those action movies are and the big smiles they prompted from a roomful of guys is all the proof you need of their high quality. I also caught up with Gary Sherman’s last theatrical film LISA and while it is one of the least of his directorial run it was still well worth seeing. He was such a strong filmmaker with a great directorial style and eye for staging that it’s a sad loss that he never seemed to be able to craft hits enough to stay in the game. Seriously- any man who could make RAW MEAT, DEAD & BURIED and VICE SQUAD back to back knows how to make fine exploitation cinema and should have been granted at least one film project a year forever! ROAR OF THE DRAGON was an unexpected slice of pre-code nastiness that plays like a Yellow Peril pulp story brought to life. Sexy, violent and often surprising especially when certain characters open up with a tripod mounted machine gun! Recommended!
And NetFilx continues to offer up some things I’d never heard of before right there for the streaming. VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES is incredibly poorly named as there are no zombies, there is no valley and I suspect ‘of the’ might be misleading too. Still, the film is a fast B-movie horror effort that plays a lot smoother than similar, better known cult items from the period. It sports some clever dialog, fun characters and a cast that seems to really get into the material. You could certainly do a lot worse for a feature that runs less than an hour.
Here’s hoping I have some more time off in April and can get back to melting my brain with far too many movies crammed into the month.
SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011)- 4 (knight tale that is just not very good)
THIRST (2009)- 10 (Chan-wook Park is brilliant)
THE GODSEND (1980)- 5 (OK British evil child film)
THE MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET (1942)- 5 (OK mad scientist/island tale)
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943)- 10 (brilliant)
DRIVE ANGRY (2011)- 7 (an over the top exploitation blast)
THE STRANGE LOVES OF THE VAMPIRE (1975)- 7 (beautiful)
TRESPASS (1992)- 7 (Walter Hill’s modern Treasure of the Sierra Madre adventure) (rewatch)
MANNAJA: A MAN CALLED BLADE (1977)- 8 (fantastic spaghetti western) (rewatch)
LISA (1990)- 6 (well directed but unremarkable thriller)
THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN (1960)- 7 (Japanese sci-fi/revenge story)
THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST (2009)- 6
ROAR OF THE DRAGON (1932)- 8 (excellent pre-code pulp tale)
LAST MAN STANDING (1996)- 8 (rewatch)
BATTLE LOS ANGELES (2011) – 5 (silly and thin but Aaron Eckhart sells every second of it)
EL CAMINANTE (1979)- 8 (Naschy’s cruel philosophical masterpiece)
THE GATHERING (2002)- 7 (interesting British supernatural mystery)
LORDS OF THE DEEP (1988)- 2 (boring Corman produced ALIEN rip-off)
JOURNEY BENEATH THE DESERT (1961)- 5 (Edgar Ulmer’s slow Atlantis adventure)
THE DEADLY AFFAIR (1966)- 9 (rewatch) (even better the second time)
VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES (1946)- 7 (fast, fun B-horror picture)
SUCKER PUNCH (2011)- 8 (amazing but not for everyone)
NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND (1972)- 6 (odd, sedate ghost tale)
Sunday, April 03, 2011
Friday, April 01, 2011
I first caught up with this film only a few months ago in bootleg form under its original title La Moglie Giovane a.k.a. THE YOUNG WIFE and it was also known as THE SAVAGE CITY. I was blown away by the excellent, tense script and the fantastic performance by the gorgeous Marisa Mell. She really is amazing in the central role selling every nasty nail-biting twist and turn as she.....well. I don't want to spoil the film for newcomers since I think it is best seen cold. Or at least as cold as the trailer below will allow you to see it! The cool Marisa Mell blog reports that MYA Communication will be releasing the film to Region 1 DVD any day now which is good and bad. MYA has a sorry track record of committing asinine mistakes mastering their discs and of being incredibly sloppy as well. I think I've bitched before here about their lousy release of the film EVIL FACE and my disappointment with their HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE DVD is also on record. I can only cross my fingers and hope they have finally hired someone to do some simple quality control before the DVDs hit the streets. This film deserves a high quality presentation on video and Marisa Mell fans should see it regardless of how they manage to do so. If you can rent first that might be a good idea.