Tuesday, May 13, 2014


The Pack (1977): By now, I’m quite sure that Robert Clouse’s films and my approval shall never meet beyond Gymkata. This is even the case with what should be a shoe-in as a movie to at least slightly disturb a guy like me who gets pretty nervous around larger dogs (I blame a certain Doberman of my past). Unfortunately, The Pack’s dogs never do end up making me nervous, or feel as threatening as they should, mostly because Clouse isn’t one for mood building in his direction at all. He’s pointing, he’s shooting, he’s keeping things in focus, but beyond that, I always get the impression from his films he just wasn’t that interested in them himself. That’s not much of a problem in a film as insane as Gymkata that isn’t hindered by a lack of directorial vision, but in a tepid little nature strikes back film like this, you really want someone behind the camera who works for his audience’s excitement.

But at least Joe Don Baker is in it playing, of all things, a marine biologist (don’t ask), so there’s that.

The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959): This, on the other hand, is quite the thing, as macabre a 50s film as you’ll probably get to see, full of outrageous pulp ideas, and one of Edward L. Cahn’s most energetic directorial efforts.

Sure, the performances are somewhat mediocre, but who needs great thespian efforts in a film that features a most excellent shrunken head based curse and has no problems at all with throwing stuff like post-mortem decapitation, a living dead guy with stitched up lips whose bodily fluids contain more curare than blood, and another gentleman whose body belongs to a dead Amazonian tribesman and whose head is that of a mad anthropologist? This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call art.

A Dirty Carnival (2006): Yoo Ha’s gangster film mixes the traditions of classical US gangster movies made after the fall of the US studio system and of jitsuroku style yakuza films, aiming for its own kind of stylized hyperrealism. It’s a film that knows how many gangster movies its audience has probably already seen, yet somehow still manages to aim for and hit an audience’s emotions instead of the irony glands. Which I think is a particular achievement in a film that counts a director making a gangster movie among its cast, and therefore threatens to become much too meta and self-conscious for comfort. A part of the film does indeed concern itself with truth and fiction echoing one another, but it’s done quite intelligently and with so much care, this approach enriches the film as a tale instead of resulting in the empty poses of ironic distance.

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