Sunday, June 30, 2019

Trailers From Hell - THE LOST WORLD (1960)

I've been on a binge of giant monster films for the past few days. This is one of the few rewatches that didn't involve stop-motion animation but it's still a fun ride. 

Mara Corday Image Gallery

After a recent rewatch of THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) I became curious about why the lovely and talented model and actress retired from film. The most helpful clue came in realizing that she would occasionally turn up in movies years after she left the big screen - but only in Clint Eastwood films. Turns out Mara's old friend Clint was happy to help her out of an odd problem by having her work for him - even after she turned her back Hollywood. Here's a great little interview with Miss Corday that mostly focuses on her western appearances but also has some amazing behind the scenes celebrity details. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

A Musical Journey Through Ishiro Honda's Filmography

Here is an excellent video that presents the musical themes of a number of Ishiro Honda's film's. It's a wonderful look at a portion of his incredible legacy that I have often overlooked. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

THE GREEN SLIME (1968) - Blu-Ray!

Like several movies that have been put through the Mystery Science Theater 3000 wringer THE GREEN SLIME is better than its title or reputation would lead you to think. With a title like THE GREEN SLIME, convincing you that it is better than you are expecting is going to be an uphill battle. But if you'll bear with me, I'll explain why this is actually a pretty darn good 1960's science fiction film and why seeing it in HD is, for certain fans, a truly joyous experience.

Sometime in the near future, a massive asteroid has been detected hurtling toward Earth. Commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton) is ordered to lead a rocket expedition to land on the big space rock, plant explosives and blast that planet killer to dust. This plan goes well but while on the surface of the asteroid the team encounters a strange green goo that accidentally gets tracked back to the orbiting space station Gamma 3. Once there this tiny bit of slime grows exponentially, eventually turning into a bizarre one-eyed tentacle monster with the ability to discharge bolts of electricity at any threat. The now trapped humans must find a way to capture or kill this creature but there is a major disagreement about best methods. Commander Rankin is a brash military minded fellow who favors overwhelming force, while Gamma 3's Commander Vince Elliot (Richard Jaeckel) thinks that maybe some thought should be put into how this unique problem is approached. This battle of wills becomes even more heated because both men are in love with Lisa Benson (Luciana Paluzzi), the space station's doctor. Elliot's first plan to net the monster fails, injuring Elliot in the process so Rankin grabs a raygun and takes charge, blasting the creature and trapping it in a sealed room. This proves to not be the perfect solution as the monster's blood is then discovered to be capable of spawning identical new critters from even tiny drops. That means all that blasting just made the problem much worse. Soon the space station is overrun with green tentacle monsters and our two heroes are struggling to find a way to destroy them so that they don't reach the Earth and decimate humanity.

There is so much in THE GREEN SLIME to recommend that it's hard to know where to start! First, the justifiably famous theme song is a guitar driven rock & roll gem that combines ludicrous lyrics, a pounding beat and the sci-fi whine of a Theremin to create an unforgettable musical experience. You might never get this catchy tune out of your head - you have been warned! Then there is the shock of realizing that, having come expecting a low-rent effort, you might be pleasantly surprised by the high level of competence on display. This film looks like a million bucks because it was filmed in Japan by exceptionally talented people capable of great work and, as a co-production with MGM, there was enough of a budget to craft a very good looking film. The sets and costumes are top notch, giving the entire affair a solid reality that is only broken by the occasionally (but typical) old-fashioned rocket and space special effects work that can't help but date the film.

While Japanese studio Toei was responsible for making the movie, it was shepherded to the screen by producers Walter Manley and Ivan Reiner. These two men were looking to take advantage of the unexpected success MGM had three years earlier producing four cheap Italian science fiction films directed by Antonio Margheritti (WILD WILD PLANET, WAR OF THE PLANETS, WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS and SNOW DEVILS). This unofficial fifth film's only real connection to the previous movies is the reuse of the design of the Gamma 3 station, but it can be fun to imagine that they all take place in the same very dangerous universe.

As a film aimed at a younger audience, one of the primary attractions is the creature effects and on that account things are good enough that even overgrown kids can enjoy them! While the multiple green monsters are obviously classic men-in-suit affairs, the quality of the costumes is high and director Kinji Fukasaku (responsible for The BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY series, BATTLE ROYALE, etc.) is smart in how he frames the action to make the bipedal beasts a credible threat. We get to see them well and often but their attacks are cleverly edited to make what could be (and sometimes still is) silly, an actual plausible menace. Adding to the flailing rubber tentacles, the electrical effects of both practical explosive sparks and animated lightening gives the intended horror some credible danger and amps up the excitement as well. The director shows not just a clever eye but a good sense of pacing once the story is past it's first act. He's able to keep the soap opera romance subplot minimally intrusive so as to not distract from the escalating problem of how to deal with space station crewmembers dying left and right.

The script for GREEN SLIME came from the MGM side of the production with writers Charles Sinclair and William Finger getting main screenplay credit as they had for the last of the Margheritti films, SNOW DEVILS. And yes, that is the famous Bill Finger who was the co-creator of Batman and spent his later years penning TV and film scripts before his death in 1974. I have to wonder if these two men used assignments like this one to work out certain ideas about how heroic protagonists should act. The film sets up a tense rivalry between the male leads centered on conflicting theories of how best to lead men in life threatening situations. Rankin is the shoot-from-the-hip man of action while Elliot prefers to think through a situation before charging into danger. This disagreement about how to deal with Gamma 3's monster trouble could have become an interesting duel of philosophies but, as you might expect, things are tilted in the direction that brings on the kind of kinetic action that can't help but smother the embers of a fascinating concept.

Of course, the action-taking character will always be more interesting to watch onscreen, putting the more cerebral character at an automatic disadvantage and therefore bending the discussion out of shape. It might be asking a little too much of a fairly goofy SF premise of this kind to give the viewer a lot of food for thought beyond the obvious eye candy thrills the genre supplies. But I can see the outlines of an intriguing idea along the story's margins that might have kept the writer's frontal lobes engaged while the rest of the scenario appealed to their animal brain - just as it does for me! That being said, not all visions of the future carry through on some ideas as well as others and the choice Lisa Benson has to make is right out of a housewife dilemma tale from the women's magazines of the day. As might be expected, the resolution to this "romantic love triangle" will end in typical 1960's fashion, with our heroine choosing the manliest man.  At first, Lisa's affections seem honestly torn between the nice guy Elliot and the (to be blunt) jerk Rankin. This romantic conflict seems set in place by screenwriting convention with the viewer wondering why she'd have anything to do with the one that treats her like a possession, ordering her around like a slave. It certainly speaks volumes about the character's view of her own worth in this rather retro future. But then again, maybe I'm looking for hidden depths in a shallow pool. It might be best to just enjoy the fun surface things present in GREEN SLIME and let deeper thoughts float away.

Luckily, enjoying this film is made a good deal easier with this new Warner Archives Blu-Ray release. WA had previously put the film out as a Burn-On-Demand  DVD-R which looked quite good but the transfer here is an improvement, giving the colors more pop and sharpening the image to a great degree. As an upgrade for fans I can easily recommend it. I've watched this film on every format since VHS with this definitely being the best looking version yet. Being able to spot some of the fine grain details of the sets and monster suits in this presentation makes GREEN SLIME seem more vibrant even if it also enhances the limitations of the technical capabilities of the times. It's a beautiful film and this is a wonderful way to see it. My sole complaint is that WA once again has issued a legendary cult movie in a bare bones package. This is a film that cries out for background information, interviews and commentary tracks to give it some historical prominence in the genre and elevate it's reputation. Here's hoping that a special edition is somewhere down the road.

Monday, June 24, 2019

HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945) Poster Art

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Beyond Naschy #28 - THE DRACULA SAGA (1973)

Leon Klimovsky directed dozens of films of all genres but will forever be remembered for his substantial contributions to Spanish Horror. In collaboration with Paul Naschy he made some of the most successful and effective monster movies to come out of Europe in the 1970's. The horror tales he made without Naschy are often overlooked with THE DRACULA SAGA (1973) being a perfect example. Graced with a literate, intelligent script and the music of Bach, Klimovsky brings all of his impressive skill to making a smart and, in the end, surprising take on classic vampire mythology. This one doesn't end the way you might think it will!

Troy and I are clearly thrilled to be back in the Golden Age of Spanish Horror again. We marvel over the very strong cast that includes an actor who played Dracula multiple times over the years but is rarely talked about when discussing screen vampires. Working with the director again is the always wonderful Helga Liné as the matriarch of the cursed family, Maria Kosty as a young, dangerous part of the clan and Betsabé Ruiz as a local bar wench gone vamp. Add in Tony Isbert as a husband with a wandering eye and the talented Tina Sáinz in the lead role and you have a great group of actors giving this story their full attention. And how many Dracula films add the lamia myths to the mix?

If you have any comments or suggestions we can be reached at or on the show's FaceBook page. Thank you for listening and we'll be back soon with another very rare Naschy film!

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

THE MUMMY (1932) Poster Art

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Friday, June 14, 2019

What I Watched in May

When the second John Wick film came out a couple of years ago with action scenes that were just as impressive as the first I was not surprised. Those kinetic set pieces were the film's most electrifying moments so improving on them was the obvious thing to do for the sequel. What was unexpected in that second film was the deepening of the world in which John Wick moves. The dark criminal structure that he escaped from against all odds before we meet him was interesting but just colorful background to the action. The second film decided that the world of Wick needed to be fleshed out. There was a sense of a heightened reality in that movie that the first film had only hinted at. Detail was added, rules elaborated upon and rigid norms explained that made the assassins and their support organizations much more interesting. This Wick world began to take on less of a sense of realism and began to become more of a gritty cinematic fantasy. In Chapter 3 The World of John Wick continues to gain more expansive detail creating a deeper and increasingly weird universe that can no longer be a part of our real world. This is a wonderful accomplishment! We now have a completely alternate universe. Rarely have I seen a series of films stay true to its core goal while at the same time growing and becoming more complex with each subsequent movie. Only the Mad Max original trilogy comes close to matching the level of depth and detail being added to an already well imagined world.

Chapter 3 begins seconds after the fateful choice Wick made in the previous film that has him with one hour to save himself before a multi-million dollar bounty is placed on his head. The journey he takes to preserve his life and the touching reason he gives for not giving up and ending things are the catalysts for an amazing action film that finishes taking this series into it's own beautifully realized fantasy world. Staying just grounded enough to give the fights heft the film zips along showing us just how complicated this world can be and how far some friendships can stretch. It's astonishing to find myself becoming more of a fan of these movies with each new entry rather than feeling tired of the concept. Incredible!

But I was surprised at how hard this movie sets the table for a fourth film. Didn't see that coming. But I can't wait to see the next John Wick film! And as soon as possible, please.

A STAR IS BORN (1954) - 7
BLACK DOG (1998) - 6
THE MANSTER (1959) - 6 (rewatch on Blu)
THE THIN MAN (1934) - 9 (rewatch)
AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936) - 8 (rewatch)
FUGITIVE WOMEN (1974) - 4 (terrible late period Ed Wood film)
MR. SADONICUS (1961) - 7 (rewatch on Blu)
THE BLOOD DRINKERS (1964) - 6 (rewatch on Blu)
KILLER OF DOLLS (1975) - 6
DEMON WITH THE ATOMIC BRAIN (2017) - 6 (Mihm's affectionate 50's flavored adventure)
ANOTHER THIN MAN (1939) - 7 (rewatch)
GREEN MANSIONS (1959) - 6 (high class jungle girl tale)
MANDY (2018) - 8
JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3 (2019) - 8

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Trailer - THE DRACULA SAGA (1973)

Podcast on the way soon! 

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The Untold Legend of Batman Covers

This series was incredibly exciting to twelve year old me when it came out in 1980. I was so thrilled to have the history of the character laid out with art by my favorite Batman artist Jim Aparo that I considered buying multiple copies of each issue because I didn't ever want to lose access to this information for future reference. I read and re-read these comics absorbed in the details and action. Time to pull out my much newer, hardbound version and read this tale again! 

Friday, June 07, 2019

The Bloody Pit #86 - OPERA (1987)

We've wanted to discuss the films of Dario Argento for a long time but have been stumped about the correct starting point. In a career spanning more than fifty years and over twenty films where do we jump in? Luckily, our occasional podcast guest Jason Spear helped us cut through the noise to focus on the director's amazing OPERA (1987). This was prompted by the recent Scorpion release of the film in an incredible three disc Blu-Ray set that provides probably the best way to see the movie since it's theatrical run. Packed with extras that allow fans to deep dive into details of the production it serves to fuel our rather rambling look at this stunning thriller.

To dig into what we love about this movie we do away with the idea of a linear discussion of the plot and just hop around talking about random scenes and sequences. We assume that the podcast audience is familiar with the film and plunge forward pulling apart our favorite elements and puzzling over the odd things that make this giallo such a strange and wonderful experience. That means there are certainly spoilers, so be aware! We discuss the madness induced by repressed sexual desires as well as the perceived age problem between the killer and the focus of his obsession. We spend a good deal of time on the fascinating possibility that Argento rotates his narrative inside the head of his main character much sooner than usually imagined. We debate the sanity of the central figure of the film for probably too long and then devolve into relating our individual favorite three Argento efforts. As you can tell, we swing all over the place in this one!

If you have any comments or just want to give us your own list of favorite Argento movies the show's email address is where we will be glad to hear what you have to say. I cap the episode with an old Hoodoo Guru's song but stick around afterwards for some bonus complaining from me about Argento's Dracula film. Ugh! And, as always, thank you for listening to the show.