Monday, September 29, 2014
Friday, September 26, 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
I decided to rewatch SUBSPECIES the other night out of curiosity. I first saw it over 15 years ago and my memories were that it was nothing special which would account for me having never watched any of the sequels.
My return visit ended up reaffirming my initial impression of the film being OK - nothing too terrible and nothing too great. It's a middle of the road relic of the great direct-to-video period of the late 1980's and early 1990's. The film has some good location shooting, a pretty good idea, a C grade script and some C- level acting from most of the cast. The worst element of the movie is easily the D grade stop-motion animated little demons that the villain Radu creates in a nonsensical fashion at the beginning of the film. The animation is terrible, the creatures are poorly added to the live action shots and the fact that no one ever speaks about them EVER makes me think the filmmakers were hedging their bets and leaving open the possibility that they would be dropped from the movie entirely. If they had been eliminated I might like the film a bit more than I do but I doubt it would rate higher than a 5 out of 10 no matter what.
I've been informed that the sequel is considered slightly better so I might have to see that sooner rather than later.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
The internet tells me that today is director Bert I. Gordon's birthday and who am I to argue? I love so many of his movies regardless of their variable quality that I'm shocked to learn that he seems to have completed a new film set to be released this year! How did this happen? It titled SECRETS OF A PSYCHOPATH and sports what looks like a typical straight-to-video cast so I'm not expecting much, but that was always a good rule of thumb for checking out one of Mr. BIG's efforts. Fingers crossed!
Monday, September 22, 2014
How did I not know about this film? Holy Crap! This is the film the amazing (if you know what I mean) director Juan Piquer Simón made after the incredible (if you know what I mean) SLUGS (1988) and I didn't even know it exited! How I managed to look over his IMDb page and not gravitate to this tale of a damaged submarine and its rescue from the bottom of the sea I will never know. J.P. Simón created the brilliant (if you know what I mean) PIECES (1982) which left an indelible mark on the young me and I can only expect the same thing from this film. Right? It stars R. Lee Ermey, Ray Wise and even has Spanish actor Tony Isbert who popped up in several Paul Naschy films. Plus, its streaming on Amazon Prime for free so I cannot avoid it and its awesomeness. I'll report back!
It was also known as ENDLESS DESCNET! Look at the poster art! There are tentacles! I cannot wait!
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Coming off the (relative) high of enjoying the first Matt Helm movie a few days ago I jumped into the second one with a certain amount of enthusiasm. MURDERERS’ ROW came out only a few months after THE SILENCERS showing that the studio money people figured that the public was hungry for more spy movies – and they were. But I suspect that if most spy movies were as lifeless and insulting as this sad effort the genre would have collapsed much faster than it did.
I had been warned that the general consensus was that the first of this series was the best of the four and I fear they may be right. The level of quality drop-off on display here is embarrassing. Not that the first film was brilliant but at least it hung together and, although overlong, it had SOME forward momentum. MURDERERS’ ROW is one of the most lackadaisical spy adventure movies I have ever seen. The story doesn’t even really get underway until forty-five minutes have crawled by! The script is so half-assed that there are moments when the way we are lead from one plot point to the next is by Dean Martin spouting a charming (?) quip. At times the movie seems to have contempt for its audience’s intelligence with the highlight being when Martin and Ann-Margret switch from driving a black convertible to Helm’s pimped out spy-mobile IN THE MIDDLE OF A CHASE! No – they didn’t stop one car, get out and get into the other car- they are just magically in the tricked out spy car in the space of an edit! Did they expect us to miss this? Was it an in-joke? Were we supposed to laugh? If so there was no indication in the movie as it is never referenced at all! And this idiocy is on top of several instances of Martin just magically knowing things that he has no way of possible knowing such as the location of other characters, the likelihood of certain illogical actions and the motivations of people he has never met. This is incredibly sloppy freakin’ screenwriting or filmmaking (if this was done in the editing process instead of baked into the words on the page) and it shows that they were not trying to make a credible movie. Damn, this movie is irritating for anyone with a brain.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Thursday, September 18, 2014
I recently picked up used copies of the first two Matt helm spy novels from 1960. Author Donald Hamilton's terse, engrossing stories have turned out to be excellent and serious examples of espionage adventure and really are perfect for the movies. I intend to gather the rest of the series and read them as I can. They are a great alternative for me since I've read the original James Bond books several times over and this character could be seen as the American answer to Fleming's creation. Truth to tell, I had been curious about them for years because of the four Dean Martin films made from the series in the late 1960's. The movies occasionally popped up on television when I was a kid and they looked like exactly what they are- jokey Bond rip-offs with Martin having a high old time shooting bad guys and bedding lovely ladies. I have decided to give the movies a serious watch to see what I think of them and how they stack up to the books.
THE SILENCERS was the first of the series and although I find it very entertaining it shows that the producers had no real desire to craft a serious DR. NO style film. Well- at least most of the time. The film's biggest flaw is that it has some odd tonal shifts that keep it from being as good as it could be. The script takes elements from the first Helm novel Death of a Citizen and later entry The Silencers, jumbles them together and slings it out there. The story they come up with works for the most part giving Martin ample time with ladies, plenty of chances to smoke & drink and, on a few occasions, smack around gun happy criminals. The women on view are gorgeous (Daliah Lavi, Stella Stevens, etc.), the sets lavish, the characters fun and the cinematography colorful but the aforementioned tone shifts are off-putting. The swings into silly ideas and sillier set-pieces makes it impossible to get too invested in the supposedly dangerous goings on so the film has to please by keeping us dazzled with its other elements. For the most part it does amuse but I think the running time is a bit excessive and the movie could have been about ten minutes shorter. If some of Stella Stevens' clumsy comedic pratfalls had been deleted things might have seemed less unrealistic and we might have worried about her fate.
Overall, a fun start to the series but these are certainly not going to be in the same league as the novels or the competing Bond series from the same period.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
This is a look at the Spanish DVD releases of eight of Naschy's films by VellaVision. These photos come to us from The NaschyCast's third man - Dan Fisher, who is lucky enough to have these discs. Of course, the only problem for those of us without fluency in Spanish is that these DVD (as amazing as they are) have no English language options at all! Surely some American based company would be willing to partner with our European friends to bring these mostly never released in the USA movies to the Region 1 market! I'm looking at you Scream Factory.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Sometimes it’s the Principle of Moments that rules the day. This episode marks the first Docu-Drama we’ve covered and since I can’t imagine a reason we’d ever cover another one it is also probably the last. I mean, do we need to cover ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN or SWORD OF GIDEON? Then again – what other podcast is covering those movies? That's food for thought. Anyway! Back on point!
This time we cover a crime film that plays as close to a documentary as the filmmakers could get. COMANDO TXIKIA relates the year long story of the ETA terrorist team that carried out the 1973 assassination of
president Luis Carrero Blanco. The film strives to stick rigorously close to
the known facts and presents its tale with interesting detail. Perhaps too much
detail at times? Well- we will discuss that. This was Naschy’s third
collaboration with the film’s director and we get another good performance from
actor Tony Isbert who we praised in CROSS OF THE DEVIL last month. The lovely
Julia Saly makes an all too brief (and pointless) appearance which causes a
verbal detour that your silly co-hosts have travelled before. We also delve
into the surprising historical fidelity of the explosive end of the movie while
making absolutely no attempt to avoid spoilers – so you have been warned.
The mailbag section is overflowing again this month but feel free to add your voice to the program at any time. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or we can be reached over on the FaceBook page as well.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Three visits to the theater last month with the undisputed highlight being my favorite film of the year so far GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. I've given my thoughts on that film already HERE so I'll talk a bit about the other two movies.
I was very pleased by the much delayed sequel
A DAME TO KILL FOR. I see that it has not done very well at the box office and
that is a shame. I enjoyed this one almost as much as I did the first one with
the only downside this time being the loss of the shock of the new that the
visual style had in 2005. Since I've read the comics that the various stories
in the film are adapted from I can't say that I was surprised by the various
twists and turns presented but I was happy that the filmmakers and especially
the cast were able to give every nasty turn a smart spin. I was also impressed
once again with actress Eva Green who just continues to prove how great she can
be onscreen. I was stunned by how easily she slipped into the Femme Fatale role
and also how comfortable she appeared with the long stretches of her scenes
that required her to be nude. Between this performance and her amazing work in
the Showtime series Penny Dreadful she is fast becoming one of the most
underrated thespians currently working in film. SIN CITY
I also went out with the teenager to catch the latest action epic EXPENDABLES 3. I have been on record as hating the first film of this series and enjoying the much better directed second film. With this one things seem to be in solid hands again and although the movie is never rooted in a believable reality that we might recognize as Planet Earth it is a very fun action tale. This being a film with a script by Stallone there are problems, of course. The middle section in which Stallone puts together a younger mercenary team is a mistake for the most part. The reason for the new team is dumb and not in a good way. The young guns are mostly forgettable but Kelsey Grammer as Sly's guide to assembling a more disposable group is very good and the introduction of Antonio Banderas is fantastic. Through sheer force of motor-mouthed personality Banderas adds some real zest to the show that no one else seems able to accomplish. The best news is this film marks the return to the big screen of (raging loon) Mel Gibson in the big bad role. As much as I may dislike Mr. Gibson's personal beliefs about race, religion and how to treat women I have to admit that he is remarkable onscreen. He is able to breath real menace into the often (let's be kind) basic dialog and he milks every bit of juice out of the villainous situations he has to play with. He doesn't quite top the excellence of the second film's bad guy performance from Jean-Claude Van Damme but Gibson is very entertaining and proves why he was always such a pleasure to watch onscreen. I wonder what the fourth film will draw on for its villain.
SANTO VS THE ZOMBIES (1961)- 7 (Haitian zombies - not flesh eaters)
NOSFERATU (1979)- 7 (rewatch)
GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORA (1991)- 7 (rewatch)
FRAKENSTEIN'S ARMY (2013)- 4
SANTO & BLUE DEMON AGAINST THE MONSTERS (1970)- 4 (terribly sloppy but goofy fun -Santo isn't as much fun for me in color)
RAGEWAR (a.k.a. THE DUNGEONMASTER) (1984)- 3 (terrible Charles Band attempt to employ every FX team he could get to work cheap)
THE CROSS OF THE DEVIL (1975)- 7 (rewatch)
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)- 10
GODZILLA VS MOTHRA (1992)- 7 (rewatch)
KICK-ASS 2 (2013)- 7
SANTO VS THE STRANGLER (1965)- 5 (rewatch)
THE BLACK PIT OF DR. M (1959)- 8 (rewatch)
GODZILLA VS GIGAN (1972)- 4 (bad but fun - very colorful kids film)
THE SPY IN BLACK (1939)- 8 (excellent British WWI spy tale)
THE HANGOVER PART III (2013)- 6 (glad the series ended on an OK note)
BLACKFISH (2013)- 8 (heartbreaking documentary)
HAUNTER (2013)- 9 (excellent ghost story variation)
SANTO VS BLUE DEMON IN ATLANTIS (1970)- 6 (fun color Santo spy adventure - but there was no Atlantis at all!)
SILENT RAGE (1982)- 4 (terrible but entertaining horror/cop film with Chuck Norris)
ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (1971) - 3 (rewatch) a.k.a. GODZILLA'S REVENGE
THE QUIET ONES (2014)- 8 (well done ghostly story from the new Hammer)
(1977)- 5 LAKE MONSTER
THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)- 7 (rarely believable but very fun)
CELLAR DWELLER (1988)- 5 (not bad monster movie)
SON OF BATMAN (2014)- 8 (well done animated adaptation)
SWEET SUGAR (1972)- 4 (terrible women in prison tale but a lot of weird fun)
Thursday, September 11, 2014
THE CONQUEROR OF THE ORIENT was one of the slew of unwatched movies in my collection. It is one of the fifty movies in the giant pile of DVD fun from Mill Creek called the Warriors 50 Movie Pack Collection which means its one of a couple of dozen films I have every intention of eventually seeing. One day. So, I pulled this one randomly out of the pack and what I got was sadly below par.
The film tells of the fall of tyrant Dakkar who is played by Jess Franco regular Paul Muller. He desires a woman named Fatima who despises him but he forces the young beauty into a relationship with the threat of eventual marriage. She escapes into the countryside in a way that is edited out of this 74 minute version of the film and is rescued from her doomed rowboat by farmboy Nadir. Nadir is played by the not very oriental looking Rik Battaglia but since no one in the film seems to actually be portraying someone of their actual race I guess it hardly matters. He falls in love with the young lady just before she is cruelly snatched back by Dakkar's men causing Nadir to vow he will reclaim her from the palace. After he fails miserably and only survives his trip to the big city through
intervention our hero is told by his elderly parental figure that Nadir is
actually the son of the King that Dakkar deposed and murdered. And so, the stage is
set for the rightful King to rise up, build an army and destroy the usurper to
claim his birthright and his darling beloved. Trust me -you've seen it all before.
Most years I lament that there is little to no new Universal Monster merchandise for the Halloween season but this year I can keep my big trap shut! Toy makers Funko have partnered with Universal Studios to bring us these new old-style action figures - think late 1970's or early 1980's - and i couldn't be happier. Very nice addition to the shelf, I think.
Monday, September 08, 2014
Nude for Satan presents a conundrum for any reviewer. Or, at least, any reviewer that hopes to offer up something more than hyperbolic babble about the how bizarre the stuff on display becomes in this not quite coherent splay of images. Should this film be called stream of consciousness gothic fluff? Or perhaps a low budget sleazy creepfest? Is it maybe just a silly shaggy dog story with a punch line that lands with a thud instead of a pop? Or maybe it should simply be noted as a typical 1970s European entry in the 'hell is a place on earth' camp of EC comics inspired horror tales? No. While those labels might do for someone with less interest in this sub-genre those terms will not suffice for me. This movie more accurately falls into a category I like to call 'Foregone Conclusion Theater'. You've seen these stories before. The entire movie builds slowly to a final revelation that sharp viewers have copped to long before the onscreen characters gasp in reaction to the supposedly amazing information. Except even that description isn't quite right because both main characters are openly wondering if they are really dead by the half way mark of the movie. So what the hell is this thing? Crazy as a rat trapped in a coffee can, to be perfectly honest. Cinema delirium! But is it entertaining? Well...
The story begins simply enough with Doctor Benson (Stelio Candelli) driving through the night on his way to the Witmore Estate to make a house call. Unsure of his way, he stops for directions and is warned that going to the Witmore villa is a bad idea. He ignores this advice and drives on until a woman dressed in white looms up out of the dark into the path of his car. The doctor swerves and misses the woman but as he searches the roadside for her afterwards there is nothing to be found. Puzzled and at a loss to explain this he is about to continue his journey when a second car crashes on the road only a few feet from him. Just for the record, this is one of the worst faked car crashes in cinema history. The sound of a skid and crash are heard on the soundtrack and a lone tire rolls past Benson in the road. Hysterically, the tire would never have fit the car it's supposed to have detached from. This was the first indicator of just how strange things were going to get.
Benson pulls Susan (the very lovely Rita Calderoni), the only passenger of the 'crashed' car, out and loads her into his own vehicle. He recognizes her and decides it would be best to get her to the estate to care for her injuries. Once there he has a strange encounter with a servant who makes odd statements and then disappears into thin air. Unable to get anyone to answer his knocking he is about to return to the car when the front door of the castle opens on its own. Clueless that this is a BAD sign, he enters and looks around the apparently deserted, dusty and cobwebbed place. Searching for people he stumbles from room to room and behind each door there seems to be a new strange sight. There is a laughing, web-covered corpse, a nude woman being molested by a man dressed in Victorian clothing, etc. Confused as can be, Benson is then greeted by the hale & hardy woman he pulled from the car wreck, wearing a 19th century style dress. She insists her name is Evelyn, not Susan, and persuades the doctor to join her to be introduced to the family as her beloved.
From here on in it becomes increasingly clear that time has no meaning and both the present day events and 19th century happenings are jumbled together. The narrative swings back and forth between the modern day Susan meeting the lord of the Witmore castle and Dr. Benson trying to figure out his predicament with Evelyn. Susan is ushered into the house by the mysterious Lord (James Harris) and it quickly becomes evident that he is some kind of devil or demon pushing the characters around. Susan acts as if she is under a spell, never asking his name and blithely going along with his suggestions. She is shown to a room, given a hot bath and slips very naturally into a lesbian tryst with the black chambermaid. She then goes to bed but has a dream of her sexy new female lover that becomes a nightmare as the servant strangles her. Awakening out of this she goes wandering around the castle while a storm rages outside. Following odd sounds, she is horrified to find the chambermaid being whipped by an older male servant. Then things get weird. (I know — just bear with me!)
Running away from the torture scene, Susan stumbles into a room and becomes trapped in a giant spider's web. And here comes the big hairy spider right toward its new prey! Okay. Remember earlier when I said the faked car crash was hysterical? I should have saved that word to describe the fake spider in this sequence. Seriously! I have seen some bad fake spiders in my day. The ones Fulci set next to real ones in The Beyond. The awful one that leaped onto Rod Taylor in World Without End. The Volkswagen beetle in The Giant Spider Invasion. All of these now take a back seat to the miserable excuse for a spider in Nude for Satan. But that's not the funniest part! By this time the separate storylines are mashed together in such a way that confusion is par for the course. So when Dr. Benson bursts into the room and shoots the spider off Susan, all the questions lingering in my mind about what is actually happening evaporated as I sputter-laughed at the site of what looks like feathers flying off the thing. Disregard the madness of shooting at the girl- the fake spider's ignominious death is a classic of bizarre cinema.