Wednesday, October 1, 2014


All Cheerleaders Die (2013): I’m honestly not sure what to make of Lucky McKee’s and Chris Sivertson’s horror comedy about undead cheerleaders. The film is in turns funny, subversive, sleazy, weird, clever, dumb as a rock and the good as well as the bad kind of unpleasant, never managing to focus on any of these things, and more often than not emphasizing its worst elements.

A first watch suggests this to be an interesting mess, but then there are also quite a few moments when the film pats itself on the back for only it knows what that don’t make a second watch all that probable for me.

Lawman (1971): I’m pretty sure there’s an awesome Western about violence and the damage it causes in its victims as well as its perpetrators to be made from Gerald Wilson’s script, but Michael Winner sure wasn’t the man to make it. I know, Winner has had a minor critical resurgence in the last decade or so, with scattered writers here and there praising his films for their luridness, but to my eyes, said luridness was usually the result of the films’ subject matter, while Winner’s direction nearly always combined the blunt and the bland to me, robbing most of his films of any effect except annoying me.

Winner is a barely competent Western director, with little happening on the visual front that didn’t happen better in dozens of psychological westerns from the 50s. The director’s sledgehammer bluntness then proceeds to paste over all the subtleties the script seems to contain, until everything crashes down in an ending that is probably meant to be heavy and shocking but that really comes done more on the side of the ridiculous because Winner didn’t prepare what’s going to happen in it properly; there’s that lack of subtlety again. On the positive side, Lawman is held on a barely watchable level by a fine cast that only starts with Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan, with every single actor on screen doing his or her best to act through Winner’s lack of inspiration.

Murder by the Clock (1931): Edward Sloman’s pre-code mystery with elements of the old dark house film is a bit creaky around the edges with a lot of the flaws I by now expect from early talkies – the stiff acting, the needs to shoot dialogue scenes in static ways, that sort of thing – but it is not without its charms. There’s some fun efforts at establishing the fake supernatural, a tough-minded cop in form of William “Stage” Boyd’s (I dunno about the name) Lt. Valcour I wouldn’t mind seeing more of, and a hysterical (in at least three meanings of the word) femme fatale performance by Lilyan Tashman that clearly only misses out on moustache-twirling because facial hair on women is frowned upon in many cultures.

It’s not much, but it’s enough to distract one from the slowly approaching heat death of the universe for seventy-four minutes, which is really all one can ask of a film from this time and place.

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