Sunday, August 28, 2011
I entered the theater to see the new film CONAN THE BARABARIAN with very low expectations. This was the correct way to sit down for a viewing of this film if you have seen more than 25 or 30 movies in your life. I can imagine a teenager, just out of the house with friends for the first time sneaking into a screening of CONAN on a dare because it’s an R rated film and being utterly dazzled. There is nothing wrong with this (other than whatever guilt the universe serves up for the ‘crime’ of watching age inappropriate cinema) and I could understand how a young lad might love the film with its wizards, pirates, naked breasts, fierce bloodshed and even a multi-tentacled monster. Twenty-five years ago I would have been that bright-eyed boy, happy to see some of the things I read about in adventure fiction come to life onscreen. But that was then and this is now so lowered expectations saved the day.
I have officially given up on there ever being a faithful adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s literary character of Conan of Cimmeria. Conan has become far too much a part of the wider pop culture landscape for the brutal pulp fiction written in the 1920s and 1930s to ever be translated to the big screen with real fidelity. But I’m fine with that. For years I had hopes that I might one day see such a film but this new movie has made me come to terms with the fact that I’m wishing for the extremely unlikely- and that’s OK. I understand how a Howard fan could be disappointed or angry that once again Hollywood has missed the chance to put the great warrior onto forty foot tall screens but I am not one of them. I now know that, although it would be great, I will never see it. After the 1982 film, a television series, an animated series, hundreds of comic books and even toys Conan is now and forever part of the larger entertainment environment. There will always be a place for the Barbarian but he will rarely be recognizable as the creation of REH. But that, once again, is OK. The original stories and one novel penned by that young Texas writer will always be waiting on bookshelves (both literal and electronic) for the rest of eternity and his work will be discovered by many a curious lad from now until the sun dies out. For me that is enough.
As for the new film- it’s not terrible. It starts off well with Conan’s birth on a battlefield as he is welcomed into the Hyborian Age by Ron Perlman playing his father. Nice! Any time you include Perlman in your cast I’m already on your side. The early scenes of young Conan proving his strength and sword skills are impressive as is the sequence that takes away his father and sets up the long term plot the film will follow. Overall I liked more of the film than I disliked and one of the things I liked the most was the upfront use of wizards and evil magic as central to the story. This gave a good feeling of threat to the proceedings as it also provided juicy opportunities to showcase some effective CGI work. The fight between Conan and a group of magically conjured Sand Warriors was well staged and quite exciting.
Sadly, there are three spots where the film looses its grip through a combination of poor editing, sloppy scripting and a bad choice in staging a section of the final confrontation. I won’t spoil things but I’ll just say that there was no need to make a certain escape quite so silly in execution by invoking the image of a playground see-saw. Still- the film managed to keep me happy for the most part and one of the main reasons is a bit of a surprise- I really liked the cast. Jason Momoa as Conan was very good at getting across complex things with few words and physically he was very believable in the well done fight scenes. The young actor who played Conan in the early part of the film was good as well but I would have left out the final scream of rage that signals his last moment in the film. Stephen Lang as the madman in a decades long quest to become a god and resurrect his dead wife is fantastic as is the suitable evil Rose McGowan as his wizard daughter. Everyone plays the film straight up the middle with no winking at the camera and for that I was very grateful. The film’s tone was serious and anything that might have disrupted this was wisely left out.
So, in the final analysis, CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011) isn’t too bad and is actually better than I feared it might be. It’s not great and I still prefer the seriously flawed 1982 film but maybe that’s because I was 14 when it came out. I should really thank my Dad for taking me to see that one at such an impressionable age.
It’s time to pull those new editions of the Howard tales off the shelf for some late summer pulp fiction reading.
Friday, August 26, 2011
As I get older I find myself enjoying Women In Prison films more and more. I think it was Franco's 99 WOMEN that actually made my attitude turn from indifferent to fan. What an odd realization.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
OK. There isn't and never has been an 8-bit Zardoz video game, but that does nothing to lessen the cool factor on this. Well- it does make me really, really wish there had been a game based on this whacked-out John Boorman film. I am one of the cult of people that name this film a favorite even though its is very easy to mock. Any film that has Sean Connery running around a post-apocalyptic future in a red loincloth while shooting folks is going to be ..... divisive. I may love it because in the 1970s science fiction hadn't been overwhelmed by the STAR WARS blockbuster effect and was able to be thoughtful and (yes) pretentious. Another reason to defend ZARDOZ is that the film has some amazing ideas while sporting an R rating and plenty of Charlotte Rampling! Or is that more than one reason? They all run together as I age normally.
And I still need to read the novelization I have on the bookshelf!
Monday, August 22, 2011
We bring back the Beyond Naschy episodes and take a cooling dip into the Jess Franco pool/pond/sewer with his haunting, beautiful A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD. Much has been written over the years about Franco’s oeuvre both pro and con. Aware of the possible pitfalls Troy and I try to give newcomers an idea of what to expect and how to approach this movie while exploring some of the things that make this particular film so interesting. Of course, we get off track a few times and discuss other subjects as well but overall we stay on topic this time out. Luckily this film allows for a lot of on point digression- how else could we talk about Fritz Lang, crappy VHS releases, lily pads, black phalluses, St. Cecil and the proper use of the zoom lens. One of the funnier things we note is that no matter how much the title may invoke images of shambling zombies there are none in sight- if you watch the correct version! This unfortunate expectation of undead flesh eaters is pointed out and played with in our image for the podcast. Artist Jeff Nelson took the title and created what it conjured in his imagination which perfect illustrates why A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD may have been the wrong choice for a name. But was CHRISTINE, PRINCESS OF EROTICISM any better?
While some fans might point burgeoning Franco-philes to VENUS IN FURS, VAMPIRES LESBOS or FEMALE VAMPIRE as a better start point for his more difficult movies we both feel this film is the one more likely to garner a positive reaction. It sports some of the things that make his work challenging but it is also better paced and more visually inventive than those other movies. The scenes with Paul Muller as Christine’s father are cinematically brilliant and well worth seeing for any film fan. So settle in and let us try to lead you down the dangerous path of actually enjoying a Jess Franco film. You may never be the same again!
Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and grab the show from iTunes or at the link below.
NaschyCast #19.5 LINK
Saturday, August 20, 2011
While talking with Troy about Franco's A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD we both remarked on the haunting beauty of Anne Libert in the role of The Queen of the Night. A gorgeous woman with eyes that seem to look right through you, she is able to impart paragraphs of meaning with a single lingering glance. In this case that is very good because the script gives her not one line of dialog! Miss Libert seems to have primarily worked with Franco and stopped appearing in movies by 1982. What a shame. I'd love to have seen her classic features mature into an older loveliness onscreen. I hope she's happy where ever she is now.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I'm working away making notes for the next 'Beyond Naschy' episode of the podcast and I realized I must rewatch all the bizarre, unnecessary additions to the film made by other hands. That is how dedicated I am to providing our listeners with the most informed Spanish Horror information possible - and I'm obsessive. Franco never wanted these sad 'living dead' scenes in his darkly poetic film but Jean Rollin hacked them out for the producers anyway. These dream sequences are pointless and silly but Rollin, as always, manages to get a few good images and ideas into even this cheap-ass crap. Seeing this outside of the film is actually the best way to see it at all. Plus, when seen alone you don't have to laugh at the sad way they tried to hide the actress' face because they couldn't get Christina von Blanc back to film the stuff! Doesn't everyone run around with their face completely covered by their hair?
And to demonstrate how even Franco's excellent dream like atmosphere can be undone by a bad dub job, here is the scene from the film that introduces Howard Vernon's character. Trust me- the French version is much better.
And to demonstrate how even Franco's excellent dream like atmosphere can be undone by a bad dub job, here is the scene from the film that introduces Howard Vernon's character. Trust me- the French version is much better.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
I have no idea where this fantastic poster art for Karloff's THE MUMMY (1932) comes from (I found it over at Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool) but I love it! What a perfect collection/collage of images from the film.
Friday, August 12, 2011
I am a huge fan of actor Darren McGavin. This stems from several things but primarily from the fantastic 1975 TV series called KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER. This Dan Curtis produced show was seminal in the development of my love of scary stories and the watching of the show as it aired in the mid-1970s form some of my favorite family bonding memories. I often tell friends about crouching on the end of the couch with my mother as we watched episodes of The Night Stalker. We sat close together and sometimes would pull a blanket or pillow up to our faces to hide our eyes from whatever nasty menace Carl was facing that week. It was (and is) a wonderful show and my mom and I still love watching reruns of it even if we have to watch them via DVD and by ourselves.
My enjoyment of McGavin as an actor was cemented when he played the cursing father in the brilliant film A CHRISTMAS STORY. It is this role that most people will know him from because of the 24 hour marathon of the film each December the 25th but to me he’ll always be Carl Kolchak. I nearly always expect to see him sitting in Ralphie’s living room surrounded by piles of arcane texts researching unexplainable events. Maybe that’s the only way to explain that pink bunny suit.
Over the years I’ve sought out several movies and TV shows with McGavin and in general I’ve been pretty happy with both the quality of the films and his performances- until now. Not that McGavin lets me down this time out, but the film is pretty damned dull.
FIREBIRD 2015 A.D. seems to be one of the dozens of movies made in Canada during the years when that country offered great tax breaks to producers. This flood of movies brought us a lot of great films and filmmakers such as David Cronenberg and Bob Clark but it also brought a lot of mediocre movies that I became familiar with as they crowded the late nights and long afternoons on cable channels in the 1980s. Some of these Canadian movies left a lasting impression on me either because of the stories, themes or stars so over the last few years I’ve been seeking them out to revisit the cable standbys of my youth. This hasn’t always been a positive experiment. I sought out HBO repeat king THE LAST CHASE a while back to see if it held up and was disappointed that, although the dystopian future scenario was still interesting, the film was rather lame. Not even the presence of Lee (Six Million Dollar Man) Majors helped that dull film in the cold light of adulthood.
FIREBIRD 2015 A.D. is very much of a piece with THE LAST CHASE. It, too, is a dystopian tale in which cars have been outlawed for some reason and the police hunt down people in violation of this most un-American of decrees. Both movies came out in 1981 and were clearly a natural outgrowth of the oil shortages and supply problems that had been so much a continuing story throughout the 1970s. I half expected both movies to have been made by the same people but there appear to be no linkages, so color me surprised.
As I said, FIREBIRD 2015AD is, unfortunately, a dull movie. Like many of the films that came out of Canada in this period it is shot in a very basic TV style with no energy or imagination. The setups are obvious, the coverage is clear but uninteresting and the visuals are dreary. The film takes place almost completely outdoors so that we can see a number of cars and motorcycles running around but all the car footage is boring. Only some of the scenes of two characters playing around in a dune buggy can be called interesting and that’s because they are tearing through some dusty hills with real speed. The movie plays out like a middle budgeted television film spiced up with a few dirty words and one flash of welcome nudity from the quite cute Mary Beth Rubens. Even genre stalwart Doug McClure doesn’t do much with his underwritten role as the head soldier trying to chase down McGavin’s legendary Firebird. The script makes a limping attempt to present some reason for all these shenanigans – something to do with driving a sympathetic senator to some important meeting - but its heart isn’t really in it. It’s clear that everyone involved knew that this was just a cheap car-porn film that was about five years too late to the drive-in. No, no. The only reason to watch this film is for the half dozen or so flashes of charm and screen charisma the great Darren McGavin is able to generate with this subpar material. I really can’t recommend anyone else checks this one out even if you’re as hardcore a fan as I am. Instead go rewatch a Night Stalker episode.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Artist/caricaturist Tom Richmond is offering a signed limited edition print of this excellent piece showcasing the seven (official) actors who have played Bond onscreen. The price is quite nice and he'll even personalize the signature so check it out before they are all gone! It is certainly suitable for framing.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Monday, August 08, 2011
I almost feel that we should apologize for the length of this episode- it comes very close to the three hour mark even though I made a real effort to keep our discussion tight. Clearly it’s just not meant to be. Still- no one has yet complained about the longer shows so maybe the fact that we don’t put out an episode a week allows us to get away with it. If you think we’re getting a bit too long winded please let us know. I can promise that the Beyond Naschy shows will stay much shorter. Really!
We start our dissection of EXORCISM by addressing the elephant in the room- THE EXORCIST. We both greatly admire the Friedkin film and share a brief list of our favorite 1970s horror movies. From there we talk about this rare heroic role for Naschy, the significance of his beard and I tearfully lament the unwanted knowledge of his receding hairline. There are a lot of interesting elements in this movie and I think we manage to hit on most of them although we both stumble when we try to remember the correct word when discussing diegetic music. You’d think two movie geeks such as we would have been able to pull that one up out of our memories with ease! Not even great musical skill can make the old brain function some days. One major area that Troy and I feel a little uncertain about is the details of the Anglican denomination and its rituals and ceremonies. It appears to be very similar to Catholicism but that could just reflect Naschy’s own religious background rather than anything else. Anyone with direct knowledge is welcome to educate us poor, backwoods boys.
Once again our favorite Spanish Horror star is surrounded by beautiful females including Maria Perschy, Grace Mills, Maria Kosty and that bitch Bork the dog. All of them do a fine job but only a couple of them model two piece swimwear. I guess you can’t have everything. Please write to us at email@example.com to let us know how we’re doing or if you have any suggestions for keeping the show shorter. We read all our mail and check in on the Facebook page regularly. Thanks!
NaschyCast #19 LINK
Saturday, August 06, 2011
I was looking around for the trailer for this fun Santo film and found it-- and then realized someone had also posted the ENTIRE film on YouTube! And it's even a version with good English subtitles! Check it out and soak up the awesomeness of El Santo!
Thursday, August 04, 2011
Man! I watched a lot of stuff in July that I had already seen. I guess rewatching things (often with friends) was the main theme of the month. I used to spend a lot more time revisiting films to delve a little deeper into the reasons why they affected me one way or the other but in recent years the desire to see the unknown wealth of the newly discovered stuff has pushed much of that form movie watching away. This summer has been a return to older kinds of entertainment in a few ways – I’m reading ERB’s Mars novels again for one thing - so it just seems natural.
One revisit that proved my initial response to have been a bit too positive was my second viewing of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. At the time of its release I thought it was certainly not a good film but after the sloppy formlessness of HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES it seemed a step further along the road for Rob Zombie to eventually making a good movie. Now, six years after the fact, with Zombie having shit the bed with two pathetic HALLOWEEN films TDR is looking even worse than it did at the time. I remembered thinking that he had no idea how to use classic rock songs as part of a narrative and listening to him cram song after song onto the soundtrack like some lunatic DJ trying to impress a jaded audience is sad. Also, I think that there is no worse writer of dialog working today in American film. Across four movies I don’t think he’s written a believable exchange between two characters yet.
Of the ‘new’ things I caught this up with the most fun were three classic El Santo movies. All three were incredibly entertaining but THE MUMMIES OF GUANAJUATO was easily the best of the lot. The film primarily features lesser known masked Mexican wrestlers Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras fighting a reanimated, zombie like group of mummies but Santo shows up in the third act to put the fiery smack down on the monsters. Who knew Santo had his own Q Branch?
SERAPHIM FALLS is a fantastic, low key western that, even though it’s about the old standbys of revenge and justice, finds fascinating ways to present its ideas. The acting from Peirce Brosnan and Liam Neeson is excellent as well. I recommend the film for anyone looking for a fresh take on old themes.
I only got out to the theater twice in July but both movies were good. BRIDESMAIDS was very funny if a little haphazardly directed. It might have been an even better movie if it had been directed by a surer hand but its delights outshine its minor problems. CAPTAIN AMERICA was dammed near exactly the movie I had been hoping for when Marvel announced they were making it. Set almost completely in the WWII era it smartly gets you invested in Steve Rogers as the good man he is before turning him into the muscled hero he eventually becomes. And since the hero is only as good as the villain he faces the film brilliantly gives us Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull. So evil the Nazi party is only a jumping off point he comes across as the bad guy destined to give even The Avengers a lot of trouble. It really is a great comic book movie and one I can hardly wait to see again- maybe at the drive-in!
THE OMEGA MAN (1971)- 7 (rewatch)
SANTO VS. LAS LOBAS (1972)- 7 (great color El Santo film- thank goodness for the subtitles)
ULTIMO DESEO (1976)- 8 (Spanish cut of PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK is even better)
ALIEN 2: ON EARTH (1980)- 3 (rewatch) (I love this terrible film!)
THE BIG BIRD CAGE (1972)- 8 (rewatch)
THE SAGA OF THE VIKING WOMEN AND THEIR VOYAGE TO THE WATERS OF THE GREAT SEA SERPENT (1957)- 5 (rewatch)
BRIDESMAIDS (2011)- 7 (very funny)
MOONLIGHTING MISTRESS (1970)- 7 (German thriller)
CLEANER (2007)- 8 (damned good thriller with Samuel L. Jackson and Ed Harris)
SANTO AGAINST THE STRANGLER (1965)- 6 (more padded than usual but a fun one anyway)
THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (1971)- 8 (rewatch)
HEARTLESS (2009)- 7 (interesting, thoughtful horror film)
THE INVINCIBLE BARBARIAN (1982)- 1 (miserable with nothing going for it)
GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHT (2011)- 7 (good animated, episodic tale)
DEATH RACE 2000 (1975)- 8 (rewatch)
WOMEN IN CAGES (1971)- 6 (rewatch)
SERAPHIM FALLS (2007)- 8 (fine, intelligent western)
THE CAVE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964)- 5 (rewatch)
JACK KIRBY: STORYTELLER (2005)- 8 (great documentary about The King)
THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997) -8 (rewatch)
MOH: CIGARETTE BURNS (2005)- 8 (rewatch)
THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005)- 3 (rewatch) (worse than I remembered)
CAPTAIN AMERICA (2011)- 9
GALAXINA (1980)- 2 (terrible sci-fi comedy)
EXORCISM (1975) – 6 (rewatch)
REC 2 (2009)- 6 (not as great as the first but pretty good)
PITCH BLACK (2000)- 8 (rewatch)
THE MUMMIES OF GUANAJUATO (1972)- 7 (mad Mexican wrestling fun)
THE NIGHT STALKER (1971)- 9 (rewatch) (the classic start of Carl Kolchak)