Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Three Films Make A Post: You feel your Heart POUNDING, You know It's out there, You can't SCREAM, NOW IT'S AT YOUR THROAT

Le Serpent aka Night Flight From Moscow aka The Serpent (1973): Generally, this French film by Henri Verneuil with a very international cast is declared to be one of the better serious spy movies of its time, and I certainly can see the care that went into the construction of its plot, approve of the cast and so on and so forth. However, in practice, I find the film pretty much insufferable. It's ponderously in love with its own seriousness, and as self-important as the most pompous film one could imagine. I'm also not at all convinced its plot needed to be told in quite this slow manner, and be quite this concentrated on least important matters.

Time after Time (1979): Very much lacking in self-importance and pomposity, but not in intelligence and a great cast, Nicholas Meyer's generally delightful film about the fight of a time-travelling H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) against Jack the Ripper (David Warner) in 1979 San Francisco, may be the director's best film; in the very least, it's his most consistently entertaining one. Meyer spends much time and love on Wells's culture shock when he realizes the new time he's landed in is not the socialist utopia he was hoping for, but in some respects even worse than the time he came from (though, truth be told, when we compare the ages in more detail than a movie like this can or wants to, I'd rather stay in 1979) in its more humorous and its darker aspects. Surprisingly enough, the film also manages to make its plot-driving romance between Wells and bank teller Amy (Mary Steenburgen) kinda sweet in a not too contrived and not too unbelievable way, which is pretty helpful seeing that the film's basic pessimistic thesis is that life in any age sucks if not for love. And honestly, how could I not love a film that doesn't even attempt to hide this ideology behind its dapper time-travelling adventure?

The Burning (1981): When, oh when will you learn, America!? As horror movies have proven again and again, there's nothing more dangerous - well, except for your gun laws - than sending one's children to summer camp. If they're not indoctrinated by a cult or possessed by aliens there, they are sure as hell going to be killed by one of the large number of summer camp oriented slashers. Case in point is this documentary about a horde of poor summer camping teenagers (many of them actually played by teenagers, which gives some of the murders a rather more disturbing note than they deserve) falling ill of a garden scissor lover named Cropsy who is out to take revenge for his horrible summer camp accident related burn wounds.

The resulting film is of course a slasher very much by numbers, but in 1981, slashers by numbers still had a certain budget, and people with a degree of talent in front of and behind the camera, so it's decently realized, mildly exciting, and rather well shot, which makes The Burning an okay enough way to spend one's time. In "spot them before they were famous" news, say hallo to Jason Alexander with hair.

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