Saturday, July 31, 2010

In short: The Girl With The Hungry Eyes (1995)

In the 1930s, model Louise (Christina Fulton) hangs herself in the beloved hotel in South Beach she owns. She has good reasons for it: her fiancée is regularly cheating on her and tries to steal her money, and the hotel itself is somehow responsible for a string of murders. Before she kills herself, Louise hides the deed of ownership to the place away in a safety deposit box.

About sixty years later, the hotel is a decrepit ruin without any occupants. It doesn't like this state of affairs at all and so revives Louise as a vampire. It wants her to get the deed in her hands again. And while she's at it, she can also start killing people, feeding their life energy back to the house.

But Louise has a fatal weakness - she's a romantic. In her nightly ramblings, she stumbles upon the formerly famous photographer Carlos (Isaac Turner) and into something of a new modelling career. Sure enough, it doesn't take long until she falls for the seedy idiot. But Louise has certain trust issues, what with the way her last relationship to something more mobile than a hotel turned out, the hotel doesn't like her lovelorn ways one bit, and Carlos owes rent money to some very dangerous people (yeah, I don't know either), so there are quite a few scenes of melodramatic writhing and killing to get through before the film comes to an end.

The Girl With The Hungry Eyes is a weird one. Obviously in love with its own earnest artistic ambitions, but never really able to fulfil them, I still appreciate it for being ambitious (and being loosely based on a story by the excellent Fritz Leiber), if only because the mid-90s weren't exactly the point in time when anyone was trying to make erotic horror movies more influenced by artsy/weird 70s films than by Anne Rice. You'll have to give director Jon Jacobs that he was trying his damndest to make a film in a very personal style.

The film's problems are manifold: the sound is so bad that the dialogue is at times incomprehensible, the film is terribly ineffectual when it comes to explaining itself (which would be less of a problem if it wouldn't so often try to explain itself), the plotting is rather random and jumpy and the acting is often atrocious. And then there's the idiotic vocoder voice with which the house speaks (and honestly, there's no need for it to speak at all, not even expositional need) that ruins exactly those scenes that are supposed to say totally profound things about love and life.

On the plus side, Christina Fulton's performance is appropriately weird, going from involuntarily humorous to quite disturbing to sleepwalkerish from one scene to the next, the shady locations (who knew Miami is this ugly?) are moody and fitting and Jacobs is trying his damndest to use every art house movie technique he knows of, at times with grating effect, at other times surprisingly successful.

Fulton's bizarre performance, Jacob's direction, the helpless groping for a philosophical profundity the film just isn't able to carry, and moments of classic exploitational badness and seediness come together as if the film were a free-for-all brawl between these elements. At times, this schizophrenic feel lends the film the atmosphere of a strange dream, at other times it outright ruins what the Jacobs is trying to do.


From Twitter 07-30-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-29-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-28-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-27-...
  • New blog post: On WTF: Night of Horror (1978): You like human backs? You dislike audible dialogue, but just love c...
  • Easy way to my heart for a musician: cover Townes Van Zandt. Okay, unless you're the Eagles, so a bit of talent is still required.
  • Oh hey, Del Rey is going to publish another book of Robert E. Howard's historical adventure stories early next year. I am pleased.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

On WTF: Night of Horror (1978)

You like human backs? You dislike audible dialogue, but just love caravans and US Civil War re-Enactment?

Then you should probably read up on Tony Malanowski's Night of Horror in my write-up on WTF-Film. Spoiler: I liked it.


From Twitter 07-29-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-28-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-27-2010: New blog post: In short: They Call...
  • They can't account for 96 percent of the money. That must be some sort of record.
  • New blog post: In short: Delitto Carnale (1983): A rich man has died in a rather surprising accident. The "bereave...
  • Friends of the work of Junji Ito (and enemies of the translation situation of his work) should scroll down here

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

In short: Delitto Carnale (1983)

A rich man has died in a rather surprising accident. The "bereaved" don't seem to miss him much, yet still all arrive in the empty hotel the dead guy lived in to wait for his funeral that lies some days in the future.

Because everyone's rich and decadent and bored and desperate everybody begins to have sex with everybody else - when they're not screaming at each other in anger or refusing to have sex, that is. How much of the copulation is incestuous is a bit difficult to say, because the film's not too clearly explaining the details of the family tree, but I'd wager a lot of it is, incest fans.

After fifty minutes of that, the director suddenly remembers that the film's supposed to be a giallo, and so one member of the family is found dead. The police decides that the best thing to do in a case like this is to investigate by locking the family in at the hotel and stare at the building from outside. It's probably good for the gene pool.

Delitto Carnale is a giallo of the decadent late phase of the genre that doesn't really want to be a giallo anymore, and would rather forget the visual style and the violence and be a softcore porn film. In this respect, the film and its director Cesare Canevari are quite successful.

Alas, Canevari doesn't seem to be too interested in making the sex interesting, either. Most of the many, many trysts consist of incredibly bored looking people rubbing the naked bodies of other bored looking people while the camera looks on, equally bored. It's quite an achievement to make this much naked flesh this unappealing and uninteresting, but I'm not so sure it is an achievement Canevari was actually going for.

From time to time, the director reveals that he'd be able to make quite a different film out of this material, a surreal series of decadent set pieces that would quite naturally climax in murder (oh, those idle rich!), but for each disco psych-out or significant lingering on a woman's sleeping face there are a dozen uninspired sex scenes that are about as stimulating as watching trains go by.


From Twitter 07-28-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-27-2010: New blog post: In short: They Call Me Hallelujah (1971): aka Heads I Kill ...
  • New blog post: The Spirits of Jupiter (1985): Welcome to the end of the world! This time around, the planets of th...
  • What was the last thing Grant Morrison wrote that wasn't based solely on nostalgia? WE3?
  • What would we do without illustrations like these?
  • Is Mark Clifton really a writer in need of being rediscovered? Aren't there, you know, good writers available anymore?
  • (Of course, I think the writers who one the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award before weren't exactly obscure enough to be in need of it,
  • but on the plus side, the weren't shit.)
  • And yeah, I know it's "won", but I've just watched "Delitto Carnale", so half of my brain has shut down in self-defense.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Spirits of Jupiter (1985)

Welcome to the end of the world! This time around, the planets of the solar system are shifting their alignment, causing Earth's gravity to rise and people to go ka-rayzay. The film follows the adventures of capitalist arsehole Big Jim Driller (Rex Cutter) who - after having sucked the lifeblood of the proletariat for years - can now prove how great his manly man-ness truly is in a world gone completely bonkers.

He's got a cowboy hat, he doesn't have a conscience (although he kinda-sorta loves his family), and he really likes to kill people, so he's all set for the new world.

But he also has an (assumed) heart of gold, so, before the whole madness can even start, the local little person sage, formerly named Nestor but now calling himself Nostradamus, gifts Jim and his son golden bottom plates which - when worn under one's hat - protect the brain from the madness rays. I suspect this can only work with brains as underdeveloped as those of the Driller family, but what do I know? Obviously, and totally sanely, the Drillers apply the plates to their hats and don't have any problems at all with that. Like sane people would do.

While Big Jim flies out to his mine to see what's happening there, his son and daughter are kidnapped by the especially crazy police.

The second half of the film consists of Big Jim's search for them (hint: they are at the sheriff's place, where you'd expect to find them) and a lot of very boring chase sequences. Somewhere in between, Jim has to pull out his eyeball after his own dog has attacked him, but that's all in a day's work for Randian manly men like him.

The Spirits of Jupiter is two films. Its first half is an awesomely skewed movie about a small town full of creeps, loonies and scenery-chewers going even more bonkers than it already is, presented in classic point-and-shoot-o-rama full of "acting", "humour" and "special effects" that will put the viewer either into a (thematically fitting) state of madness or make her very happy.

Me, I was pretty happy about what was going on on screen. There's a lot of crap to admire here, really, like the Sheriff's obsession with staring at naked feet and grinning like a monkey. Or Big Jim's unsympathetic arsehole "hero" right out of Heinlein who the film seems to think is the most awesome man on Earth, like a mix of Charlton Heston's chest and Ayn Rand's politics. He's even irresistible to a woman who could be his granddaughter, although at least the film's not so Heinlein she actually is his granddaughter.

I also liked the utter impossibility to decide between sanity and insanity with actors this off, the steampunky thingy Nestor/Nostradamus lived on and the random insertion of the movie's bizarre theme song while Big Jim rides across some fields and so on and so on.

And regular readers will by now know how I like a good eye mutilation. Or scenes of scientific gobbledegook even Ed Wood could have been proud of.

But then, after fifty minutes of high cult movie art, the film suddenly decided that it didn't want to show any more of its peculiar type of crap and pretended to be an action movie, just on a budget lower than the catering costs for an Italian Mad Max cash-in and directed by a guy who thinks the main principle of any action movie is to be as boring as possible.

It's really too bad, because the film's first half is as mind-blowingly bizarre as one can hope for. The second half is just very, very boring with only slight moments of the mood of utter mental derangement the first specialized in.

Well, at least there's still a scene in which the Sheriff plays Russian Roulette with someone's toes and another one that explains in very strict words that only a guy who can shoot other guys is a real man in Big Jim's world (and Big Jim is, like all "Objectivists", of course always right - if only in his mind). But what can you do?


From Twitter 07-27-2010

  • New blog post: In short: They Call Me Hallelujah (1971): aka Heads I Kill You, Tails You're Dead! aka Deep West ...
  • Hm, Jack O'Connell's books are really something when one does like non-realist mystery novels that feel like literature of the fantastic.
  • Being European and not a friend of taxonomy, I'm just going to call the guy a fantasy writer, I think.
  • Rejoice! Director Shane Carruth has put his fantastic time travel mindfuck movie "Primer" up on Google video.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In short: They Call Me Hallelujah (1971)

aka Heads I Kill You, Tails You're Dead!

aka Deep West

Mexican revolutionary general Ramirez (Roberto Camardiel) hires the mercenary gunman Hallelujah (George Hilton) to retrieve a bag full of jewels "Emperor" Maximilian has sent to the US to buy machineguns with.

It's a more difficult job than anybody could have suspected. At first, Hallelujah manages quite easily to get the jewels from the bandits (who just love to dress up as monks) of a certain Fortune (Paolo Gozlino), only to realize that these particular jewels are fakes and therefore quite useless. Hallelujah's next step is to have a look if Mr. Krantz (Andrea Bosic), the man selling the machineguns, has already gotten his pay. That's a dead end, too, and certainly not the last one the gunman will enter.

And of course Hallelujah, Fortune's men, Ramirez and Krantz aren't the only ones looking for the jewels, there are also the soldiers of Maximilian, a nun with peculiar talents (Agata Flori) and later on a Cossack with a shooting balalaika (Charles Southwood). Fortunately, Hallelujah is not only the owner of a shit-kicking grin, but also likes to stuff things in people's mouths before he hits them. Well, and owns a sewing machine which moonlights as a machine gun and a grenade launcher (or the other way round). Whatever could go wrong for him?

As you might imagine, They Call Me Hallelujah is firmly on the absurdist comedy side of the Spaghetti Western divide. That fits the talent of its director Giuliano Carnimeo - as I might have mentioned once or thrice by now never one to let depth get in the way of his fun - quite nicely, of course.

This time, Carnimeo actually makes a handful of jokes that could be read as political, as we have untrustworthy revolutionaries, dubious priests and corrupt people in power getting ridiculed, but apart from a vague sympathy for the revolutionaries, Carnimeo's again not committing to anything. It's understandable, too, because the director has way too much on his hands already with presenting his increasingly silly cast of characters with increasingly silly plot twists that not always tend to make sense, and working quite hard at putting a smile on my face.

There's no idea too obvious or too silly for Carnimeo, yet I find myself unwilling to criticize this theoretical problem in a film that is so enthusiastic about presenting everything from black humour about the problems with hanging doctors to jokes about diarrhoea to absurd characters like the "Cossack" Alexei with the delighted gestures of someone having the time of his life.

The actors are also having their fun it seems, with Hilton, Southwood and Camardiel carrying the main load of the absurdities and the fun with verve and a wink.

By now, I'm quite convinced that Carnimeo was the king of the light Spaghetti Western, only slightly less insane yet much more in control of the pacing, the actors and the craftsmanship of his films than most of the other of the less ambitious filmmakers of the genre. Often, making films that only want to entertain is a tired excuse for filmmakers to not put any of their heart and soul into their films. Carnimeo on the other hand seems to have put all his heart and soul into making his films entertaining.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Music Monday: Searching Edition

From Twitter 07-25-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-24-2010: Dear, meet BoingBoing and the Streisand Effect. http:...
  • New blog post: At Mystic Skull: Le Seuil Du Vide (1974): From time to time, I still stumble about truly surprising...
  • Man, I hope there's nothing sinister about the portrait of an ancestor who looks exactly like me that I found hidden behind the fireplace.
  • I feel the sudden need to use the word "verily". Verily.
  • That beard looks much too well groomed to belong to someone letting himself go after the murder of his wife.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

At Mystic Skull: Le Seuil Du Vide (1974)

From time to time, I still stumble upon truly surprising films. This is certainly one of those, made by a French pornographer (or so they tell me), but containing not an ounce of exploitation.

Instead, it's one of those deeply French movies between art house and fantasy.

You can (and possibly should) read all I know about it in my review at Mystic Skull Mag.

From Twitter 07-24-2010

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Three Films Make A Post: In Bloody Panic Color

Hard Gun (1996): This story of a one-upmanship competition in vengeance between a cop and a gangster seems to me to be quite typical of that era of Thai cinema , at least as far as I understand it, and not only because Panna Rittikrai action directs and Tony Jaa has one of his early minor roles.

The film features some cheap yet fine action and does the mandatory clichéd melodrama well, yet permanently undermines its own strengths by an incessant barrage of comic relief of the most painful sort that never seems to know when to stop (which would preferably be before it even begins). How much enjoyment one will get from the movie will certainly depend on one's ability to just ignore those parts of the film. I found them terribly difficult to sit through.


Guys in Ghost Hand (1991): No, I don't have the faintest idea what the title is supposed to mean.

This Taiwanese (or HK?, things are a bit unclear) fantasy horror ghost movie thing about the ghost of a raped and later beheaded woman taking vengeance on the descendents of her tormentors starts out very weak, with seemingly hours and hours of uninvolving dialogue scenes between characters without any character and pointless guest roles by people like Wu Ma and Alex Fong. Whenever the silly supernatural menace strikes, or Kara Hui and Ku Feng appear as the squabbling pair of Taoists who are our heroes of the evening, the film becomes instantly entertaining, only to fall back into drabness soon enough.

After about an hour of this, the plot suddenly becomes jumpy like a frightened kitten. Of course, nothing in the film's last half hour makes much sense, but at least everything is very colourful and completely bonkers, which is what I want from a film like this.


Clash of the Titans (2010): I could live with the fact that director Louis Leterrrier's film doesn't manage to capture the (often naive) charm of the film he is supposedly remaking and turns it into something that seems to be more based on the God of War videogames than the original.

I can't live with the fact that said videogames are a lot less dumb and a lot more fun than this movie is, or with the fact that Leterrier just has no talent at all for making action scenes exciting or visceral. No film with rideable scorpions has any right to feel this drab.


From Twitter 07-23-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-22-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-21-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-20-...
  • So, I get up, get on the 'net & the first thing I find is someone complaining the middle part of a trilogy is incomprehensible if you
  • haven't read the first part? Is it going to be one of those days?
  • New blog post: On WTF: Deadly Manor (1990): The 80s and 90s work of Vampyres director Jose Ramon Larraz is sometim...
  • Joss Whedon's going to direct the Avengers movie? So there's solid hope it's actually going to be good.
  • "Why film remakes are desecrating our most precious memories"? Yeah, all those precious memories of the "A-Team" & the first Predator movie,
  • are so important someone needed to write another long, whiny article against remakes. And it's such an important problem.
  • Full disclosure: I'm not much of a fan of current remake culture either, but I'm a grown-up and can cope. Oh, and my "most precious
  • memories" are - isn't it strange - not necessarily connected with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

On WTF: Deadly Manor (1990)

The 80s and 90s work of Vampyres director Jose Ramon Larraz is sometimes a problematic proposition (the goat sex! it burns!), but when the man was on he was really on.

And he certainly was on when he made his last horror film, Deadly Manor, as my review on WTF-Film explains in a bit more detail..


From Twitter 07-22-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-21-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-20-2010: New blog post: In short: Guzoo (19...
  • Do not use the phrase "magical realism"; it's people afraid of genre's way to say "fantasy".
  • New blog post: In short: The Losers (2010): Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Roque (Idris Elba), Pooch (Columbus Short)...
  • RT @seffers007 Benchmark Reviews, Corruption And Intimidation. and (via @RevStu)

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

In short: The Losers (2010)

Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Roque (Idris Elba), Pooch (Columbus Short), Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) and Jensen (Chris Evans) are an effective little black ops unit for the US military, yet they also have some of those hearts of gold prostitutes in Westerns are so often outfitted with. So when doing as they are told by their CIA contact Max (Jason Patric) on a mission in Bolivia would lead to the death of a group of children, they decide to save the babies and risk their on lives instead.

They needn't have bothered, because Max betrays them for their efforts and blows an extraction helicopter the team should have been on sky high. The team didn't enter the helicopter, though, leaving to make space for the children, who are now what children in Hollywood films usually aren't - dead. Max doesn't know about the group's survival (and couldn't care less about the children, obviously), but that leaves the soldiers still stranded without papers in Bolivia.

Thoughts of revenge aren't far, yet there just doesn't seem to be a way to get back into the US, even less one to get back at the evil traitorous CIA guy. Until the mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana) makes contact with our heroes and offers to smuggle them back into the country, if they are willing to help her kill Max.

It will probably be better if they do, too, because Max is using his copious spare time to buy insane weapons of mass destruction with which to incite a war or two to keep himself in business.

The comic book series by Andy Diggle and Jock The Losers is based on is known to be a Big Dumb Action series made by and for people who aren't as dumb as one would expect them to be, and the film keeps itself - surprisingly enough - very much in the comic's spirit.

The Losers seems to thrive on its own self-consciousness, an only slightly detached knowledge of, and, more importantly, love for classic action movie clichés that allows it to take each and every silly idea it thinks it might just get away with (and some it shouldn't expect to) and run with it, without having to care too much about deep characterisation or too sensible a plot. Often, movies this self-conscious tend to be rather dreary affairs, seeming more interested in congratulating themselves for their own cleverness than in actually being clever or fun. Director Sylvain White manages to avoid this problem nearly completely and makes his movie only ever exactly as self-conscious and clever as needed to provide that mythical feeling of being fun most US action movies of the last few years have tried to avoid like a venereal disease. And how's that from the director of I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer?

Although there are a lot of people dying here, White imbues his film with a lightness of touch that fits its silly set-up and not exactly deep characters perfectly. Somehow, action hero poses and action movie structures make sense again when presented in this way.

Besides White's light touch, The Loser works as well as it does thanks to some very enthusiastic acting by just about everyone on screen (although Jason Patric's bad guy might be too comically broad for some). The actors seem to be at once in on the joke and serious enough to throw themselves into the moment, no matter if it is a shoot-out or a silly comedy bit.

In fact being at once in on the joke and serious about it seems to me what makes The Losers work.


From Twitter 07-21-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-20-2010: New blog post: In short: Guzoo (1986): aka Life after Dead A quartet of J...
  • I'm the only person on the planet who didn't like "The Wire" (TV show) at all, huh? Naturalism is still a dead end.
  • New blog post: Jungla Mortal (1985): (If you believe the IMDB also aka Abriendo Fuego) Professor Ruger (Arturo Ma...
  • Man, the "Please change your tags" messages from LastFM are really starting to get rude.
  • "If this non-artist appears in your charts, do LFM & yourself a favor. Fix your tags by putting the actual artist name in the artist field."
  • Is that really the way to speak with one's users?
  • Any recommendations for an alternative service that does the same thing but doesn't insult me?
  • The Dance of the Cows
  • Leverage the leading platform in blabbering nonsense on the Internet!
  • So, the Scott Pilgrim movie starts January next year in Germany - four months later than in the US. I'm certain that won't encourage piracy.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jungla Mortal (1985)

(If you believe the IMDB aka Abriendo Fuego)

Professor Ruger (Arturo Martinez) gives his last penny to acquire a peculiar golden artefact that he thinks to be the key leading to a temple made of pure gold somewhere in the jungles that now cover the former Mayan Empire. Before he can do anything about his find, he is gunned down by the Bedouin attack troops of evil, somewhat non-middle-eastern-looking sultan El Holkan (Mario Arevalo). Fortunately, the old coot was able to give the artefact to his daughters Lucia (Alejandra Vidal) and Sonia (Imperio Vargas) and his student Esteban (Arturo Martinez hijo) with strict instructions to bring it to his old buddy Professor Sagan (the film's director Rodolfo de Anda showing off that he's as mediocre an actor as he is as a director).

When first they meet him, Sagan is in the process of getting his arse kicked by a little girl in a game of telekinetic chess, probably a typical game for a scientist to play. After studying the artefact, he explains to the sisters and their friend that he takes their father's theories for rather ridiculous nonsense. Surely, there's no pyramid made of pure gold somewhere in the jungle! It's quite obvious that the pyramid is the key to a stranded spaceship.

Thanks to his psychic powers, Sagan will be able to lead the trio there, their utter incompetence in outdoor survival notwithstanding. Of course, Sagan won't hire anyone except an old friend of his (Gilberto de Anda) to help them. That would make sense, as would going to the police when your father is murdered by armed bad guys, so we really can't have it.

The expedition turns out to be quite difficult - apart from a rude witchdoctor and his people, there are also magically angered rubber bats and other natural phenomena to fight; and the all-knowing Holkan is following the expedition's every step. That jungle business has its perks, though - Sagan will later safe a psychically powered virgin in a classical golden stripper bikini from being sacrificed, and she'll take a real shine to him.

But will that be enough to find the very tent-and-wood-like UFO?

If there's one thing you can always count on in the world of cheap and rather trashy cinema, it's an unending hunger for things to rip off. When I think "Indiana Jones" rip-off, I do of course think of Italy first, and especially of some very entertaining films made by beloved director and friend of David Warbeck Antonio Margheriti (and try to forget a lot of less entertaining films not made by him).

Italy of course wasn't the only country with a genre cinema industry hungry for money made on the backs of other people's successes, and that leads me to Mexico - a country whose filmic output I have learned to love dearly - and this particular Indiana Jones cash-in by Rodolfo de Anda, a guy who did more work as an actor than as a director, but still has more than one film to take responsibility for.

Comparing Jungla Mortal to Margheriti's adventure movies is rather cruel. Where Margheriti has a deep love of and understanding for the serials the Indiana Jones movies themselves ripped off, de Anda has the crappy imagination of a guy who has watched one or two movies and read one or two books by Erich von Däniken and is now desperately trying to throw half-digested elements from both together until they become something an audience could confuse with an actual movie (very much like the fourth Indiana Jones film, actually, just with better special effects). De Anda's tactic even works somewhat. Although the director doesn't have much of a hand for the staging of action scenes, or characterization (I suspect the actors would be quite overtaxed by that anyway) or anything else to do with, well, the art of filmmaking, he is certainly trying.

This is not the sort of cheap, tacky movie unwilling to show its audience something, it is rather the sort of cheap, tacky movie that tries to throw a lot of ineptly realized stuff at its audience, possibly in the hope of entertaining it. And lo! The attempt at being entertaining by plain persistence did its magic on me. After all, there's a lot of traipsing through the jungle - without library footage! - and some semi-impressive real ruins, there are rubber bats and girls in gold bikinis and ridiculously howling "natives" who are murdered in their dozens by our so-called "heroes", without a single thought about the morality of their deeds, weird scenes between the evil sultan (who has a completely unnecessary backstory with Sagan) and his possibly even more evil girlfriend in which they congratulate each other for their greed and evilness, some hilarious attempts at tragedy and a very golden UFO with a very golden alien inside.

That not a single one of these elements is realized in a way worth a damn is of no importance; they are there, singing their siren song of stupidity with the conviction of the idiotic until one can't help but love them a little, even if they will later turn out to have the lower bodies of fishes.

From Twitter 07-20-2010

  • New blog post: In short: Guzoo (1986): aka Life after Dead A quartet of Japanese schoolgirls travels to a summer ...
  • Fugazi are planning to release basically every show they ever played into the wilds.
  • It's summer in videogame news, which means an overabundance of quotes by "analyst" (which means "person without knowledge or ability")
  • Michael Pachter and the bizarre history of Peter Molyneux' "Milo", which is either a game or a tech demo, depending on the weekday.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In short: Guzoo (1986)

aka Life after Dead

A quartet of Japanese schoolgirls travels to a summer house in the country that belongs to the archaeologist dad of one of them. The girls don't have the place completely alone for themselves, though.

One of archaeolo-Dad's students is using the house's cellar as a lab for some mysterious "studies" and "experiments" (archaeologists do experiments?).

Something doesn't seem to be right about the place.

The countryside around the house is full of mirrors, while the house itself only seems to feature two. Early on, science gal secretly smashes all mirrors the girls brought with them too.

Could this random act of destruction have anything to do with the maggoty, rotten flesh the woman regularly brings into the cellar, as if she were feeding something?

All (except for motivations and plans and silly stuff like that, of course) becomes clear when one of the girls is attacked by tentacles trying to pull her into the kitchen mirror. Science gal tries to divert the girls' attention from the problem, but soon the mythical enmity between schoolgirl and rubbery tentacle monsters who live in cellars and use mirrors as doors can't be held back any longer. Only the random power of randomly played musical instruments will hold the monster off!

Given that Guzoo was directed by Kazuo "Gaira" Komizu, the director of Entrails of a Virgin I was a little afraid the film would be part of the live action tentacle rape genre that (unfortunately) never seems to feature watchable films. Komizu surprised me by keeping his film completely sex and rape-free and as clean as films in which teenagers are messily ripped apart by tentacles get. So clean, in fact, that I was a little disappointed.

Before the violence, Komizu has set put some efforts into setting a slightly creepy mood. A few weird camera angles and the strangeness of the shots of the mirrors surrounding the house don't add up to too much, but for a 40 minute direct to video film that needn't try to do even the slightest bit of mood-building, it's a tolerable way of going about it.

The rubber monster is satisfyingly rubbery and be-tentacled, the blood red and thin and the young actresses are better than they strictly need to be. (Digression: the character types of the girls reminded me a little of Hausu; perhaps both films source these from popular books or manga I've never heard about?)

A bit more problematic is the script, or rather its insistence on not thinking the motivations of its human bad guy, the reason for the mirror set-up or the logic behind the way the monster is dispatched in the end through at all - or at least never mentioning anything about it to the viewer - , but these problems didn't hinder me from being mildly diverted and entertained by Guzoo, which is all I ever asked of it.

In the end, you just can't go very wrong with Japanese schoolgirls fighting tentacle monsters.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Music Monday: Improv Edition

From Twitter 07-18-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-17-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-16-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-15-...
  • New blog post: Undead (2003): The charming Australian small-town of Berkeley loses a bit of its lustre when a bunc...
  • A writing competition to honour H.G. Wells that only accepts hand-written entries & doesn't allow SF stories?

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Undead (2003)

The charming Australian small-town of Berkeley loses a bit of its lustre when a bunch of meteorites descend, turning everyone killed by them into zombies. As if the rabid brain munchers weren't enough, the sun disappears behind a very suspicious mass of clouds that proceeds to send slightly acidic rain down to Earth in quite irregular patterns. And then there are the bright beams of light sucking animals and people into the sky, as well as the gigantic, spiky wall some fans of Cold War era Berlin have erected around town. It's all very confounding.

A hysteric group of survivors - down on her luck fish beauty queen Rene (Felicity Mason), two cops, Rene's pregnant fish beauty queen rival and hubby - escapes to the house of fashion-disabled town loony Marion (Mungo McKay), who only talks in action movie approved throat tones. Their host's social awkwardness notwithstanding, it is probably the best place to be in this particular situation, because Marion had a friendly disagreement with zombie fish and those light beams some time ago and is brilliantly prepared for an apocalypse. Well, he's also totally wrong, but the film will come to that later.

Undead is the feature film debut of the Spierig Brothers, who would go on to make the tonally extremely confused Daybreakers. This earlier film is quite a bit more consistent than their Hollywood outing, decides early on to be a zombie splatter comedy with local flavour and added nifty ideas in the spirit of young Peter Jackson and sticks with that decision enough to not feel as if it was written by fourteen different people who couldn't for their lives be bothered to coordinate what their film's supposed to be about.

As it goes with splattery comedies, not every joke is a hit (especially not with someone as bitter and humourless as your reviewer), but the Spierigs pace their film fast enough that no single idea overstays its welcome enough to become truly annoying.

Personally, I could care less about those scenes in the movie's second act that are mainly interested in having the whole cast "comically" shout at each other for hours in a row in thick Australian accents, and would have preferred the plot's central "secret" to not only work if you can accept all the characters to be rather slow on the uptake. On the positive side, said secret is at least a nifty little idea that I haven't seen in dozens of other zombie movies before, so that's something the Spierigs got right here.

And what's up with the cops still demanding the civilians not to be armed in the middle of a frigging zombie apocalypse? I do understand that the male cop is supposed to be a comically extreme hard-ass, but I still had trouble suspending my disbelief in this point.

I found myself even less enamoured by the fact that the film's characters identify their attackers as zombies early on, yet still proceed to not shoot them in the heads. A zombie film really needs to decide if its characters live in a world where the pop cultural concept of the post-Romero zombie exists or not and then stick with consequences like the fact that people know how a zombie is supposed to be killed; the way Undead treats it is neither here nor there.

These are of course relatively minor niggles I have with the film and not big sweeping mistakes that ruin it completely. Much of the humour does work for me, the pacing is - as I already mentioned - quite good, and I very much liked the whole alien angle to the plot, so Undead is a minor recommendation. If you can take all those screaming Australians.


From Twitter 07-17-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-16-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-15-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-14-...
  • For the record: the new Teenage Fanclub is absolutely fantastic.
  • New blog post: In short: Nightmares (1983): (Not to be confused with all those other films called Nightmare(s).) ...
  • "In the Stacks" by @scottlynch78 just made me very happy by being the best Sword & Sorcery & Libraries story in recent memory
  • My librarian friends (yes, you!) should really take a look at Eos' "Swords & Dark Magic" anthology that includes the story. I suspect love.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

In short: Nightmares (1983)

(Not to be confused with all those other films called Nightmare(s).)

Nightmares is an anthology movie directed by experienced TV hand Joseph Sargent. Initially the episodes were made as part of a short-lived TV show called Darkroom, but then deemed too exciting for a TV audience and stitched together into a theatrical movie. If this was too much for a TV audience of the early 80s, I don't want to know how they managed to survive the news.

The first story, "Terror in Topanga" finds Cristina Raines terrorized (see what I did there?) by an escaped mental patient who likes to (surprise) murder random people. It's about as exciting and original as it sounds, and would be more honestly titled "Very Mild Excitement in Topanga". At least it's professionally done, with all the needlessly sweeping music one could wish for.

The second story, "Bishop of Battle" is the film's highpoint. A teenage Emilio Estevez learns the hard way that videogames are evil when he becomes obsessed with a game against "The Bishop of Battle" and its elusive thirteenth level. This episode is not exactly a master piece of excitement, either, but the videogame does actually look like one from the early 80s, the teenage trouble angle is more or less believable, and the film provides some glances into arcade culture you don't get to see too often on screen.

If you're interested in the depiction of videogame culture in movies (and how could anyone not be?) this is an interesting watch. Additionally, there's the cheesiness of bad pseudo-punk rock ("Fear", honestly?) and pew pew laser guns to charm the susceptible viewer aka me.

Episode number three, "The Benediction", concerns alcoholic-priest-without-faith Lance Henriksen doubting his calling, driving through the desert, and being attacked by a demonic black truck until he throws a can of holy water at it that he'd only taken with him as a cooling fluid. No, it's not supposed to be a comedy.

Except for the always lovely Henriksen, there's not much too it - the clichés come thick and annoying, the ending is just ridiculous. I also didn't know that the devil drives a truck and molests priests who have already fallen from faith.

The film ends in "Night of the Rat", a little ditty about your typical American family (you know the type) being terrorized by an immortal giant rat that for some reason loves to grunt like a pig. Sargent does some solid suspense directing here, but is badly let down by another patently ridiculous ending and some special effects even Bert I. Gordon would have been ashamed of. Well, at least the rat is funny (and cute, if you like giant rats).


From Twitter 07-16-2010

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Friday, July 16, 2010

On WTF: Sartana the Gravedigger (1969)

My interest in the fluffy Spaghetti Westerns of Giuliano Carnimeo continues, and reaches something of a high point, with this whimsical epic about the adventures good ol' Sartana has when he is suspected as a bank robber.

Learn more about him and people with names like Buddy Ben, Hot Death and Dynamite Butch in my review on WTF-Film.


From Twitter 07-15-2010

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  • I am Sartana - and I'd like to help with your premature demise, if you please #spaghettiwesterntitleswithproblems
  • New blog post: In short: The Mysterious Mr. Valentine (1946): Janet Spencer (Linda Stirling) has quite an evening....
  • Hooray! Harlan Ellison has left the Internet again! Good riddance!

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

In short: The Mysterious Mr. Valentine (1946)

Janet Spencer (Linda Stirling) has quite an evening. First, one of the tires of her car blows, leaving her to wander through the night in search of a phone. She enters the chemistry lab of a certain John Armstrong (Tristram Coffin), who just manages to squirrel away the body of his partner whom he has killed a minute or so ago before Janet enters. Then, while Armstrong and Janet talk, someone steals the body, but before the film can tell us what that's all about, Armstrong's wife (Barbara Woodell) jumps into the lab with a photographer in tow to catch her husband in a situation that doesn't look like anything untoward at all. Nonetheless, Janet flees the scene by jumping in the next car she sees, and speeds away only to collide with exactly the same dead body that has gone missing from the lab.

The woman of course thinks she has hit some poor guy trying to cross the street and is all too thankful when two men who don't look suspiciously like gangsters at all volunteer to bring the "hurt" man to the next hospital while she drives home to get over the shock.

As luck (really working overtime that night) will have it, Janet then nearly collides with the car of sleazy, permanently smirking private eye Steve Morgan (William Henry), who follows her and decides that he "could use her… as a client". Ladies and gentlemen, our hero!

Steve's extreme punchworthiness notwithstanding, he will be quite helpful to Janet when it turns out that the dead guy never reached any hospital, Janet herself is wanted as an unidentified hit and run driver, and someone calling himself "Mister Valentine" is trying to blackmail her for it. The case will only get more complicated, and Steve more abhorrent.

The Mysterious Mr Valentine's production house Republic Pictures is today mostly known as a factory for some of the better serials, but did of course also produce short-ish genre programmers like this one. Valentine is a kind of semi-noir, obviously influenced by the visual style of the genre (that, I know, didn't necessarily exist as a genre) and adopting some of that genre's darkness through the use of noir character types, but shows itself more interested in being a fun romp than the often much bitterer noirs are. The chaotic, coincidence-driven first ten minutes of the film feel and look like pure noir, with a malevolent (and, to be truthful, slightly ridiculous) destiny hanging over Janet, yet as soon as it's day again, Mr. Valentine takes on the lighter tone of a mystery that might as well have been made ten years earlier.

Thanks to the film's director Philip Ford (nephew of a slightly more famous guy named John) and the snappy enough dialogue of its script by Milton Raison, this works out quite nicely for the movie. While I'll always prefer the darker and more stylized world of the noir, Mr. Valentine's snappy pacing and decent - if at times a little bright - photography still manage to be as fun as they were supposed to be 64 years ago.

Honestly, what more could one ask of a film that was never meant to be anything more than a slight diversion next to a longer and higher-budgeted main film?


From Twitter 07-14-2010

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  • New blog post: Night Screams (1987): Party night for future star footballer David (Joe Manno), his unpopular and k...
  • I'm usually not one of those guys piling on Peter Molyneux, but "films, TV, even hallowed books, are just rubbish because they don't
  • involve me" must be one of the stupidest (and egomaniacal) things I've heard this month. And I'm on the Internet.
  • My Name Is Sartana And I'm Going To Be Your Host...Of Death Tonight #spaghettiwesterntitleswithproblems
  • Ringo, Django, Sartana, Hallelujah, Sabata & Cemetary - The Greatest Dance Troupe (Of Death) On Earth #spaghettiwesterntitleswithproblems
  • My Name Is Rekha - Prepare To Die #spaghettiwesterntitleswithproblems
  • I Am Django's Beekeeper - And I've Brought You A Present #spaghettiwesterntitleswithproblems
  • Sartana - The Lord Of The Rings Is Not A Game Of Cards #spaghettiwesterntitleswithproblems
  • You know, some day I'd love to watch a spy TV show whose heroine wasn't the best in class in everything, but only kinda good.
  • RT @warrenellis: I just unlocked the "Dysentery" badge and became mayor of your toilet on #foursquare

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Night Screams (1987)

Party night for future star footballer David (Joe Manno), his unpopular and kinda Carrie-ish new-in-school girlfriend Joni (Megan Wyss) and their friends (and "friends"). It's a teenage (and "teenage") free-for-all in the house of David's parents. But oh noes! David hasn't taken the pills against his "severe hyper-activity"! And two hilarious dangerous loonies on the flight from the police are hiding themselves in the cellar after some badly staged action antics in a diner, making googly-eyes into mirrors while declaiming stuff! Plus there's a lot of teenage heartbreak going on, because every girl wants David's healthy athlete body! Then, odious comic relief attacks!

Is it any wonder that somebody begins to kill off the kids (and "kids") in increasingly silly ways? But who, oh who might the killer be?

One does not venture into the realm of the ultra-low budget slasher from the end of the 80s expecting anything like a coherent or entertaining film, so I can't say that Night Screams disappointed me. The film does in fact have a few things to recommend it, these things being the hilarious performance of a certain John Hines (this film is - not surprisingly - his only IMDB credit) as boss of the crazy killers who might or might not do most of the film's killing (yes, I'm not going to spoil the obvious identity of the main murderer; at least the film was trying to be different and so deserves to be cut at least that much slack) and an absolute overkill of 80s pain in form of 80s hair, more bad 80s "rock" than I ever wanted to hear in a film, and even - Lord Cthulhu protect us - 80s interior decoration.

Night Screams and its director Allen Plone (who would go on to direct the surely epic and important Earth, Wind & Fire: The Millennium Concert) get some extra points for creative use of other people's films. The first double murder is cross-cut with footage from Herb Freed's Graduation Day, which the victims are supposed to watch, instantly giving a hopeful viewer the wrong idea that this is going to be a very meta kind of slasher, aeons before Wes Craven did it. The fact that the Graduation Day scenes look stylish, moody and well-acted (and who'd ever thought I'd use these words when talking about that film) when compared to the film they are appearing in, on the other hand, gives the experienced slasher victim/viewer the right idea about the anti-quality she will experience in what follows.

This isn't the only time the film at hand will be enhanced by footage taken from a different film. It seems as if the actresses weren't on board with actually showing their breasts in the cheap and stupid exploitation film they were appearing in to show their breasts - unlike some of the very buff young men who are there to delight women and gays early on. What to do? Oh, right, let's just let the characters watch some porn videos and cut in some non-hardcore footage from them. This does not only fill the nudity quota brilliantly (if not necessarily in an erotic, attractive or sensible way), it also left me awe-struck and therefore un-bored for at least five, possibly ten minutes of the film. It is such a beautiful example of pure hucksterism and a director and producers very obviously not giving a damn about the integrity or basic coherence of their film as long as they have some breasts to show, just thinking about it fills me with the warmest glow of pride in belonging to the same, brilliant family of insane monkeys as the people responsible.

All these great (or "great") elements are somewhat wasted on a film that manages effortlessly to show ten or more (I wasn't counting and am certainly not going to watch this again any time soon) murders and still be mostly boring and very, very slow.

But - as I said - I expected this to be boring and stupid, and can now hardly complain that Plone's film delivers exactly what it promises. As with the breasts, so with the rest of the film.


From Twitter 07-13-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-12-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-11-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-10-...
  • There should be more reviews in comic form (especially of movies I like as much as this one)
  • New blog post: Three Films Make A Post: Revenge Has Never Been So Brutal: The Mysterious Mr. Wong (1935): A film f...
  • This made me sigh about the level of idiocy of big game publishers:
  • New rule for my Internet life: I'm not going to read a single comment thread on a gaming site ever again. The relentless negativity and
  • asshattish hatred for everything in them makes me want to puke. And I'm a frigging curmudgeon!
  • Heh, the spellcheck knows "frigging"
  • Well, I think the new M.I.A. album is kinda great. But I've always preferred my pop being about something beyond being a pop star.
  • RT @warrenellis: Remember I showed you the Tweet Of Twithulhu shirt we made, the other day? We made a mug too:

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Three Films Make A Post: Revenge Has Never Been So Brutal

The Mysterious Mr. Wong (1935): A film from Bela Lugosi's Poverty Row phase in which the great man is enthusiastically playing the most Hungarian evil Chinese mastermind ever to grace the screen. Alas, Bela is basically the only good thing on screen. Except for the grotesque and uncomfortable fun of Lugosi in yellowface, there's not too much else to recommend the film. Expect lots of casual racism, a "funny" arsehole-reporter (Wallace Ford) as our hero, and of course not much of interest to happen on screen. It doesn't look too impoverished for a Monogram film, but there's still neither the will nor the money for anything even vaguely exciting on display.

Worse, Bela (who also disguises himself as a kindly old herb seller), just doesn't have a lot of screen time. Instead, the film prefers to torture its viewers with Wallace Ford being "funny". That's one of those "things worse than death" deals.


Chaya (2003)?: Very cheaply done Thai cross of reincarnation soap opera (and wow, does reincarnation work wonders for melodrama) and vengeance horror film. Everyone's quite pretty and quite melodramatic, but the plot is not too interesting, the direction pedestrian and there are so many better Thai films to see.

If you're a Westerner like me, you'll probably at least get some moments of delight out of how matter of factly the film treats reincarnation and all that comes with the concept; I imagine Thai viewers to have comparable feelings about films including the Catholic confessional secret.


(The) Record (2000): Last in today's trilogy of cheap but not very good movies is this South Korean attempt at ripping off I Saw What You Did Last Summer, which itself wasn't exactly a film bursting with originality. Turns out that the two directors needed to make this film hate even the thought of originality with the burning passion of twelve exploding huts and so continue to pillage every post-Scream slasher they can get their hands on for "ideas" that were already long dead when those films stole them.

This frankensteinian way of filmmaking could of course still lead to an exciting (or at least interesting) outcome, but for that to happen at least one of the directors would have needed talent, or a bit of madness, or vision, or the ability not to bore me to tears.

As it stands, I even preferred watching Wallace Ford.


From Twitter 07-12-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-11-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-10-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-09-...
  • New blog post: Music Monday: Videoless Void Edition: Technorati-Tags: music monday,music,red house painters
  • "Don't be evil" and investing money in Zynga really doesn't go together.
  • How nice for Roman Polanski that there's a special law that keeps child rapists out of jail when they are famous.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Music Monday: Videoless Void Edition

From Twitter 07-11-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-10-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-09-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-08-...
  • The intensely negative reaction to that Dragon Age 2 stuff has me now convinced it's going to be brilliant. Reverse psychology works!
  • New blog post: Burndown (1990): A series of murders and necrophiliac rapes disturbs life in an American small-town...
  • Child, if you need to call yourself an "intellectual", there's quite a chance you aren't one.
  • Why did you kill Slim Shotgun?

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Burndown (1990)

A series of murders and necrophiliac rapes disturbs life in an American small-town in Florida that is mostly populated by people from the British Isles.

After murder number three, medical examiner (or whatever he's supposed to be) Doc Roberts (Michael McCabe) accidentally finds out that the dead bodies of the victims show a very high amount of radioactivity, seemingly brought about through their killer's sperm.

This leads sheriff Jake Stern (Peter Firth) to the brilliant assumption that the serial killer must have a connection to the experimental nuclear power plant at the edge of town. Alas, the plant's boss James Manners (Hal Orlandini) is not very cooperative and instead sets his security guard Freddie (Graham Weir) up to secretly observe Stern's activities. The guy gets quite a show when the sheriff hooks up again with his old girlfriend, reporter Patti Smart (Cathy Moriarty), to whom he blabs everything there is to know about the case.

Surprisingly enough, Stern finds his words reproduced in the next morning's paper (one supposes Patti faxed her article to her editor telepathically while she and Stern were getting it on). That, another unsuccessful visit to the plant and some political pressure by Manners, can only lead to a nice fishing vacation for the brilliant policeman. He's not protesting very loudly.

While the sheriff's away, Manners sees to it that the corpses are burnt, reports are buried and Patti's next article shelved. But then another murder happens and he decides that it's better to let Stern and friends work again and give them Freddie as a scapegoat. Which will certainly help him a lot when the next murder happens.

Well, that was boring. Usually, one would expect a film about a radioactive necrophiliac serial killer to be rather sleazy or unpleasant, but Burndown decides to show us no sex or violence at all, instead opting for the classic facial-freeze-frame technique of bad TV movies.

Not showing anything sexy or violent is of course in itself not a problem. There are quite a few films getting by on mood, intelligence or good acting, but those films have usually been directed by creative human beings and not astonishingly bad British TV director James Allen, whose only talent seems to lie in the lovely ability to make everything dreadfully tedious.

It is of course not too difficult to make boring what the film's script contains: long and pointless dialogue scenes full of long and pointless sentences showing all the charm and intelligence of a mob enforcer. I know, talk is cheap when you don't have a budget for anything else, yet I don't think there's a rule in any filmmaking handbook that necessitates to make the talking this uninteresting.

It certainly doesn't help that all actors seem to be performing under the influence of high dosages of valium, talking, moving and even blinking so slowly that I was waiting for a plot point explaining their behaviour as the result of secret, illegal drug tests on all inhabitants of the town. Alas, that never came to pass.

Now, Peter Firth and Cathy Moriarty aren't exactly the greatest thespians on Earth, but I remember having seen both playing conscious human beings, so I don't know what they think they are doing here except getting a paycheck for looking and sounding like zombies. Moriarty is especially bad, saying every single line in a slow, throaty whisper that probably is supposed to be sexy, yet only makes one wish she'd finally let a doctor treat her throat infection. Of course, she - like everybody else on screen - is always seen with a glass of alcohol in hand, so it might be possible it's all supposed to be the product of too much alcohol, the film itself being a dire warning against the horrors of alcoholism by a director in the last throes of his own addiction. Or I might now just be making shit up to get at least something of worth back for inflicting this film on me.

Burndown's production history must have been quite interesting, though, what with it (following IMDB) a co-production between the USA, South Africa and Zaire, filmed in Florida by a Brit with mostly British actors trying desperately to hide their accents, and drown their participation in on-screen drinking. I wouldn't be too surprised if this was someone's way to reduce his or her taxes.

Well, that or just a very successful attempt at boring innocents trying to watch this to tears.


From Twitter 07-10-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-09-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-08-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-07-...
  • Probably made up by the same people who cook up the supposed losses through piracy.
  • New blog post: In short: Medusa Against The Son Of Hercules (1963): This Alberto De Martino-directed peplum does s...
  • Umm, so there really are people who _don't_ think Resident Evil 5 is absurdly racist? Honestly?

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

In short: Medusa Against The Son Of Hercules (1963)

This Alberto De Martino-directed peplum does some rather peculiar things with poor old Perseus (Richard Harrison, as always very good at the physical parts of his role). For one, it makes his adventures much less fantastic and decidedly lacking in gifts from the gods.

It's not a bad movie, though. De Martino has always been quite good at keeping the cheapskate action up and varied, and does so here, avoiding the dullness some of the lesser peplums suffer from. Although the larger battle scenes and the special effects are held back by the film's impoverished production values, I can't deny the its sense of forward momentum, nor the primal, Tarzan-like call of scenes of men throwing each other through the air or whipping each other.

De Martino is less successful at filming drama, which in his interpretation means having people shout dramatically at each other while wringing their hands, or at creating the sort of dream-like mood the more fantastic elements of the film could use to be a little less ridiculous than they are. Not that I'm complaining about the film's use of two excellent, nearly motionless rubber monsters in ill-advisedly bright lighting. Or am I?

While I'd rather avoid talking about the half-paralyzed dragon Perseus kills in an underwater sequence in which I couldn't see anything beyond milky shadows, I have a certain degree of respect for the medusa sequence. It has an excellent matte painting (probably by Mario Bava's dad Eugenio) dominating the background, some surprisingly cool looking statues and it rethinks the medusa as a slithering rubber tree thing with a single, glowing eye, which shows more creativity in five minutes than the Clash of the Titans remake does in its whole running time. Really, what more could one ask of a film?


From Twitter 07-09-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-08-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-07-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-06-...
  • So, up to 36 degrees today? I'm not built for summer.
  • New blog post: On WTF: Mision Suicida (1973): What's better than El Santo (yay!) fighting against Nazis? Why, it's...
  • Not exactly happy about what I read about DA2's character building. I've never been a fan of changing what wasn't broken.
  • And I loved Mass Effect 2, but that doesn't mean every RPG should work that way. Also, "Hawke"? Really?
  • Of course I'm not too surprised you're not playing the first game's hero. There were just too many ways for her/him to end up to make that
  • a feasible option. Well, wait and see how it turns out - this developer gets the benefit of the doubt from me.
  • Sorry for the continuous blathering - it's the heat, I tell you!
  • Interesting definition of "involuntary manslaughter" those guys on the other side of the ocean have.
  • Where writers get their ideas.
  • Venerable cult movie reviewer icon Keith on Jackie Chan's "Little Big Soldier"
  • Turns out the Clash of the Titans remake is as bad as they say.
  • Release the Shoddy Script!
  • So Blizzard stopped their insane anti-anonymity plans. That was fast.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

On WTF: Mision Suicida (1973)

What's better than El Santo (yay!) fighting against Nazis? Why, it's Santo fighting against bikini-clad Soviet Nazi spies!

All this and more is featured in my write-up of the rather wonderful Mision Suicida on WTF-Film.


From Twitter 07-08-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-07-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-06-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-05-...
  • New blog post: At Mystic Skull: Werewolf of London (1935): Universal's first attempt at making a werewolf movie is...
  • Suddenly, Night Shade Books speaks up: . Of course, talk is cheap. Paying one's authors is a different thing.
  • Oh, c'mon now, "Dragon Age 2" isn't exactly a surprise, isn't it?
  • So, basically, this study that links ADHD and videogames does in fact do no such thing?
  • Man, all these people arguing against anonymity on the 'net in the course of the Blizzard crap-storm really depress me.
  • Is empathy with others really so difficult to come by?
  • Okay, a lot of those anti-anonymity people seem to be Libertarians (that is to say, sociopaths), so I shouldn't be surprised.
  • My repeat attempt at getting into the well-loved GTA games fails at boring macho arsehole protagonists, fratboy humour and (sorry) boredom
  • Hmm, "new hero" in Dragon Age 2? I'd be rather miffed, but I find it difficult not to trust Bioware's writers after the first game and ME2
  • Very disappointed in a certain PC gaming blog right now. Can't help but think that ad money is more important than integrity to them.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

At Mystic Skull: Werewolf of London (1935)

Universal's first attempt at making a werewolf movie is quite an interesting film, hampered by a rather limp lead performance and bland direction, but chock-full of healthy subtext.

Read my write-up at Mystic Skull Mag for the details about Universal's less whiny werewolf movie.


From Twitter 07-07-2010

  • New blog post: From Twitter 07-06-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-05-2010: New blog post: From Twitter 07-04-...
  • More fun with Nightshade Books (where "fun" means "fucking over their authors").
  • New blog post: The Lost Continent (1968): The Corita, a leaking rusty old pot of a ship, is heading in the directi...
  • I'd have more trust in the Alpha Protocol defenders if a) I hadn't played the abomination myself b) they wouldn't utter bizarre things like
  • "the writing is much better than that in Mass Effect 2". Which is the sort of thing that lets me doubt a person's sanity and not just taste
  • Oh, a Flash version of "Ultima IV" aka the first CRPG I ever played!
  • This is the film never ends, it never, never, never ends
  • Hugh Cook's "The Walrus & The Warwolf" really is something. At times whimsical, at times unpleasant, full of ideas and lust for storytelling
  • and getting poignant and touching when I least expected it. Will have to get the rest of Cook's books second hand - they're very cheap too.
  • Hey, a new Robert Wyatt album is coming in October. Will be a fine (slightly belated) birthday present for myself.
  • RT @CaseyBGH: oooo check out @missmontermel's awesome Cuthulu inspired stuff

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Lost Continent (1968)

The Corita, a leaking rusty old pot of a ship, is heading in the direction of Caracas. On board is a rather unpleasant assortment of passengers including a surgeon with a history of "problematic" operations (Nigel Stock), his nymphomaniac daughter (Suzanna Leigh), Eva Peters (Hildegard Knef) who has stolen quite a bit of money, the man sent out to get that money back and an alcoholic pianist (Tony Beckley). Oh, and the ship's Captain Lansen (Eric Porter) has taken on a highly illegal and dangerous freight in form of a substance called "Phosphor B" that has the tendency to explode when coming in contact with water.

A cute-meet with a hurricane leaves the poor ship even more leaky than before, driving large parts of the crew to mutiny and into the life boats (something the film tries to sell as despicable, but you know what? - it's the only sane thing to do). The captain and a few of the passengers stay behind, try to keep the Phosphor B dry and decide a bit later to try their luck with a life boat too.

Alas, they meet that most dangerous predator of the seas, the man-eating, chirping seaweed. El Weedo munches on poor Doctor Webster and somehow manages to drive the life boat back to the ship. It then proceeds to push our heroes and their explosives-laden ship into a very neat-looking Sargasso sea full of stranded ships and mutant monsters like a giant turtle-crab (with the cutest face I've ever seen) or a deadly, apathetic octopus thing.

But there are other people there too. Some families have been stranded in the area for centuries, braving their dangerous environment by walking on water with the help of big snow shoes and balloons strapped to their backs. A small group of evil Catholic nobility rules over poor hard-working Protestants. Obviously, the explosives will have to be put to use.

The Lost Continent is one of the more bizarre parts of the output of the beloved British Hammer Studios. It's a combination of character-piece, adventure story and assorted random stuff that seems to have accumulated in writer/director/producer Michael Carreras' desk drawers to spontaneously build a script that doesn't make much sense. For a film called The Lost Continent there's also a decided lack of lost continents on display, as two pieces of rock and a few stranded ships do not a continent make.

Carreras the director is his film's own biggest enemy. There's a reason why he mostly produced and wrote films, but only directed from time to time - his directorial style is of the blandest of the point and shoot variety, without style or verve, and not much visible intelligence; it's like a mediocre TV movie with better sets.

Although I approve of Carreras' attempt to fill his film only with sweaty, nasty people without any ethics - you know, the sort of people who quite obviously don't even think about the fact that detonating a galleon that might be full of innocent people for all they know just might be morally repugnant - I'm not too sure about the execution. The film holds too much of the characters' backstories back for too long, only letting the viewer see the characters being unpleasant, and only putting their unpleasantness into context much later. Sure, Carreras tries to make everyone a little more complex (and likeable) the more bizarre their adventures get, but pretending that an audience should be interested in your characters isn't the same as interesting your audience in your characters.

The film's pacing is also a bit off. Everything happens very slowly, with the more interesting (and bizarre) stuff shunted into the film's last thirty minutes. I can't shake the feeling that The Lost Continent was produced in something of a rush, possibly salvaging pre-production work already done for another movie that didn't come to realization and then written around these pieces and shot in a hurry.

Having said all that, I still have to recommend the movie. There's an aura of baffling weirdness surrounding The Lost Continent. The (very effective and strange) sets, the ropey looking monsters, the absurd little details (the balloons!), the nasty people and the fever-dream-like illogic of the plot combine (in a mystical, even alchemical way, probably) to transcend Carreras limitations as a director, pulling the willing viewer into a dimension where the importance of technical aspects of filmmaking is dwarfed by the power of the bizarre. This is not at all a place one would expect to find inside of a Hammer movie, yet one I'll visit again gladly.