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Rock: It's Your Decision (1982)
God Versus Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I notice that I'm the first one to review this movie on the IMDb, so I'll give it to you straight, okay? For years, Christian fundamentalists have told us that rock music is the ruination of the youth of America, that it's the gateway to sin and degradation an it will destroy your morals if you listen to The Eagles, Jefferson Starship and The Rolling Stones.
Nice religious kid Jeff loves God. He also loves rock music. And he loves some pretty decent groups, too. None that the viewer can listen to, though - God doesn't like modern rock but He does respects copyright laws, looks like. His parents are at their wits end listening to that "junk". His church pastor tries telling him that he must make a decision between rock and The Rock of Ages. His friends don't see the problem with listening to music he likes.
So the question is posed: can you follow the teachings of Jesus AND rock and roll all night? "Rock: It's Your Decision" is told a lot more straightforwardly than you might expect for this kind of movie; anyone looking for a "Reefer Madness"-style expose' or religious nuts hysterically spouting that you WILL go to Hell if you listen to anything by Captain and Tennille or Rod Stewart will be sadly disappointed.
Well...maybe not completely; there are a few over-the-top moments of overacting and a virtual bonanza of late 70s/early 80s fashions and lots of religious quotes. And the end sermon simply must be heard to be appreciated.
So is this a case of over-zealous religious nuts telling you that you're being brainwashed by mainstream rock and roll or just a presentation of the facts as they have been made known? I won't say any more about it. Save that YOU MUST watch this movie. It will either give you something to think about or a laugh riot to share with friends. Either way, "Rock: It's Your Decision" is a viewing experience for unwashed heathens of every brace.
Play it at your next church function - they'll either think it's a worthy Sunday School subject or a laugh riot.
Or don't - it's your decision.
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
So Bad It's...Comforting.
Okay, yes; "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is a bad movie. I think we're all ready to concede that point.
Bad directing, yes. Bad acting, most definitely. Bad sets, bad continuity, bad special effects; they're all in there. And REALLY bad use of actors the likes of Bela Lugosi (remember when he was actually scary in his "Dracula" heyday?) and Tor Johnson (yes, he was a good actor; anyone here recall his comedic turns in movies like "The Lemon Drop Kid" and his many appearances on "The Red Skelton Show"?).
So all of this is true, then; but there's still so many who watch "Plan 9" over and over again, drinking in every small detail and relishing such choice dialog as "A flying saucer? You mean the kind from up there?", "You see? You see? You're stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!" or the classic "Inspector Clay is dead, murdered, and somebody's responsible!".
So what is it about a movie like "Plan 9" that has people turn to it time and again, gets it colorized, brings vivid commentary from the likes of no less than Mike Nelson (from TV's "MST3K) and even lauded for its 'merits' in the classic tome "The Golden Turkey Awards"?
Quite simple: it is one of those films whose badness is tempered by the sheer likability of what is put on screen.
In other words, some scenes are so completely endearing and evocative of the work of Ed D. Wood that when you watch this film and see...
* Pie tin spaceships wobble happily across a cloth backdrop sky
* Police officers stumble over bending cardboard tombstones
* A detective scratch at the back of his head with his own gun barrel
* Scenes change from day to night and back again all within a few seconds time
* A double for Bela who looks nothing like him holding a cape over his face and stand a good foot or two higher than Bela did
* several different locations that use the same furniture and props as previous scenes had
...it just gives you a warm, comfortable feeling in that after watching so many movies that sweat over every detail of the film, here is a director who is only interested in telling a spooky story as a fever dream; never mind that it makes no sense, never mind that much of the dialog is incomprehensible, never mind that the bookend scenes with Criswell hold no context, and certainly never mind that the most expressive actor in the whole thing is one who never acted in another film before or since (John "Bunny" Breckenridge).
When you watch "Plan 9 From Outer Space", you can at least see what Wood was *trying* to do, and that's enough. It certainly was enough to make a little film from 1959 fondly remembered even today, which is more than can be said for many other, bigger films from the same time period (quick: name the biggest money-making film from 1959! ... See there?)
So forget everything you've heard. "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is bad, yes, but not bad in the same way that films nowadays are bad (like "Gigli" or "Baby Geniuses"). This is a film that is bad in an endlessly re-watchable way, a way that will guarantee you watch it with a huge smile on your face and a song in your heart. It really is sort of comforting; like wrapping up in a huge furry blanket in front of a roaring fireplace on a cold winter day...with spaceships and Mona McKinnon, sure, but you get the idea.
So I heartily endorse watching "Plan 9" as soon as you can. As often as you can. With as many friends as you can. And, above all...enjoy.
Eight stars out of ten...and this is all based on sworn testimony!
Death 4 Told (2004)
Trust me: I was in the movie!
When it comes to horror films, the only tried and true formula that has stood the test of time (besides red food coloring and corn syrup) is the anthology; that is, a combination of stories that form the body of a movie.
There had been several British variations of this over the years ("Tales from the Crypt", "Asylum", "Vault of Horror"), and Hollywood has tried its hand at it as well, with varying degrees of success. It's had its greatest success on TV ('The Twilight Zone', 'Outer Limits', HBO's 'Tales From The Crypt'), and therefore every filmic variation will indeed suffer by the comparison of style and substance to what had been set before.
It should come as no surprise, however, that there has indeed been more bad than good horror anthology films. Just look at your video store 'Horror' section. SO many, in fact, that it takes a special something to make even one stand out from the norm.
Sometimes it's a matter of attitude ("Tales From the 'Hood"), other times a matter of the talent before and behind the camera (the aforementioned British classics). And then other times still it depends on the energy, desire to entertain and a willingness to admit that there's nothing new under the sun and just crank it all up as loud and as fun as a horror movie can be.
To say that "Death 4 Told" does nothing new is not news. But for a movie that took less that $90,000 to film and produce and featured a majority of fledgling actors and so forth, it would be difficult to not appreciate the effort put forth. I'm sure this also isn't news to a majority of the people who are reading this.
Suffice it to say that as far as anthology movies go, "Death 4 Told" does deliver the goods from beginning to end.
Since this is an anthology, allow me to describe each segment as ambiguously as possible:
1) A DOLL'S HOUSE - A young writer (Brian Cade) and his wife (Britt Marder) move to a small town and rent a beautiful house for him to work in. Secrets abound, however, when footsteps and a child's laughter are heard within. This is only compounded when Pete (ME: George Litman!), a crazy local, asks a cryptic question: 'Have ya met Toby yet?'
2) FOLKLORE - A group of college friends set out for the woods when the driver Travis (Nar Williams) runs over a strange wolf-like animal. Soon, the group finds themselves beset by strange sounds deep in the woods, rustling bushes and glowing white eyes that lie in wait in the dark night.
3) WORLD'S MOST HAUNTED - A young intern (Stasia Andrews) on a reality TV show helps set up an abandoned asylum for a broadcast along with the director (Harley Kaplan), technician (Mark Van Fossen) and soundman (Michael Evanichko). But after she finds some unknown secrets on the building's history, its evil history comes to hideous light.
4) THE PSYCHIC - Hypocritical psychic Madame Baudeau (Margot Kidder) begins to find her predictions are finally coming true. Unfortunately, the future she forsees is all tragic. Will the next person she reads for live or die?
Again, nothing here is terribly original story-wise. That's not the point here. The point is that the directors (Bo Buckley, Michael Close) set the mood early on; messy and chaotic but with huge dollops of humor (much of it self-referential to those who are familiar with the genre); the actors, big and small, put everything they have into their parts.
It's all in the tone - fun, of course, but a suspension of belief is still necessary for any movie to work. That's true here; not to mention an appreciation for the general scenes you see in any b-movie: the scary legends, the dark shadows, the unexplained noises, the sinister locals, the sudden splashes of blood, the gratuitous displays of skin.
God bless independent horror films.
Ten stars out of ten. Watch for "Death 4 Told"!
Dennis the Menace (1986)
Hey, Mr. WIIIIILLLLLSSSSONN!!!!!!
I didn't think TV's original version of "Dennis the Menace" (way back in the '50s) was enough of a menace to earn the title. Let's fact it: it was the '50s, how much COULD he get away with?
That's part of the reason that this 1986 reinvention works so much better. Also the fact that here he's actually a CARTOON! Yes! Hank Ketcham should have been proud: this is the proper venue for a character born in the Sunday funnies.
But where Jay North was limited as to just what kind of mischief he could get into, this model of Dennis (voiced by Brennan Thicke) could literally get into ANYTHING! Here, he played with dinosaurs, foiled bomb-carrying spies, interacted with movie hero Cowboy Bob straight from the movie screen (a la Woody Allen's "Purple Rose of Cairo"!) and regularly thwarted aliens, opera singers, bullies, rude adults, criminals and, of course, frazzled neighbor George Wilson.
Wilson (as voiced by LaMarche and, especially, Phil Hartman!) stayed the same in every episode and rightfully so: any simple task he would start or try to start would consistently be thwarted by Dennis' misguided attempts to be neighborly, help him out or otherwise simply be there. Mr. Wilson knew what he was capable of, so why shouldn't he be wary of his mere presence? You know the equation: Mr. Wilson + Dennis = disaster!
I thought this was another great series distributed by DIC Entertainment and if you appreciate the mischief a child can get into (and get others into), you'll agree - this "Menace" was never better!
Ten stars. catch it, and enjoy this master of "Menace"!
Out of the Blue (1979)
Here's the setup - a stranger tries to help a family solve their problems. See, right there that covers nearly every family sitcom idea for the past fifty years (and beyond).
And here, right at the end of the '70s, comes "Out of the Blue" - another variation on a theme. This time out, an angel (Brogan) is sent to Earth to live with the prerequisite precocious suburban family and help them with their troubles. Sort of like a sitcom of "It's a Wonderful Life" - except it ain't that wonderful.
Did this even last the season? No, and no wonder; due to the zillions of these type of shows already out there (especially on ABC) it just wasn't (pardon the expression) heaven-sent, as such drivel would have to be. The jokes were blah, the people were blah and as for Brogan himself...blah.
SOLE MERIT - Eileen Heckart as Brogan's supervising angel. How could she be in anything and NOT be good? Even this?
I do remember Brogan's character popping up once (before his premiere, I think) on "Happy Days" as a very minor character in an episode. Well, at least he was seen in syndication SOMEWHERE.
No stars for "Out of the Blue".
By the way, Brogan's character name was Random - if that gives you any hint to how they did the casting.
Hee Haw Honeys (1978)
A spinoff from "Hee Haw"? A-yep.
"Hee Haw Honeys" took place in a truckstop (makes perfect sense) run by Roman and Price with the "Honeys" of the title as the waitresses.
Misty Rowe was one of them and the other? KATHIE LEE GIFFORD! I mean, WOW! She was cute and all but you just don't think of her name and "Hee Haw spinoff" in the same sentence. She made the best of the situation, though, even asking her on-screen mom Roman at one point (as concerns sister Misty), "Did you take more vitamins when you had her?"
And then there was Gailiard Sartain. He was the resident busboy/bottle washer and was a hoot unto himself. I swear, I watched the show regularly just to see what fool thing he'd do next.
And the music? All wonderful; there was a gospel tinge of songs therein (mostly by Roman and Price) but as far as comparison to the original? No way, cousin.
Seven stars for a "Honey" of a show.
The Oddball Couple (1975)
One's very mannered, very fussy and clean....
While the other has a very special talent for messing up the team!
I'm talking about "The Oddball Couple"; they're a couple that's a couple of oddballs! And if all that sounds familiar - congratulations, you remember part of that show's theme!
Every week, neat-freak cat Spiffy (Nelson) and slob dog Fleabag (Winchell) did a cartoon variation on Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau (or Tony Randall and Jack Klugman) and got on each others' nerves while sharing the same house/workspace. But as familiar as this "Odd Couple" variation may seem, the thought of a cat and dog trying to live with each other is funny enough.
And it didn't hurt to have vocal pros like Nelson and Winchell on board, either. They made the lines all the more enjoyable and the outlandish situations they got into (joining the Foreign Legion, babysitting a giant's baby, watching a talking plant, catching an unlucky leprechaun, etc.) all the funnier.
I know of NOWHERE to find these cartoons anymore. But at least I still remember them. VERY fondly.
Ten stars for "The Oddball Couple". Those eight-balls!
You didn't expect Pebbles to stay a baby forever, did you?
In "The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show", the babies from the classic "Flintstones" series are now teenagers and have their own friends, adventures and mis-adventures in Bedrock. Of course, it's all sprinkled with the "hip" attitude from the early '70s and lots of blackout gags and jokes to keep things interesting.
For the most part, Pebbles (Struthers) always had big ideas she tried to put into motion, usually failing in large-scale fashion. Sound Familiar? Like father, like daughter.
And Fred, Barney, Wilma and Betty are along for the fun, too - naturally, the respective Flintstone and Rubble pater familias are as helpful here as they ever were.
Was it any fun, though? Yeah, how could it not be? The situations were always good for a laugh and the voices (North, McCall, etc) all perfectly accentuated the characters - girlfriends, rich snobs, bikers, mammoths and all.
All in all, good rock-headed fun and a perfect extension of the series.
TIDBIT - Struthers did the voice for Pebbles here, just like she was daddy's little girl for Archie Bunker in "All in the Family". Coincidence?
Typical Hudson Brothers goofiness....
Anyone remember the Hudson Brothers?
Sure, who in the mid-70s didn't hear of them at least once in their life?
Now, do you remember "Bonkers"?
Well, suffice it to say that this was the syndicated equivalent of an insane asylum, with the Hudsons forgetting the songs they sang in their earlier TV variety series in favor of jokes, sight-gags, puns and the endless abuse directed at co-host/announcer/foil Bob "Don't Call Me Monkey" Monkhouse.
It wasn't subtle, it wasn't couth and it sure wasn't bright very often but I do remember laughing out loud more than once here. With guest stars like John Ritter, Karen Valentine and the like ambling in to join in for a few seconds at a time, they basically were whisked aside for the sake of a few vaudeville joke routines (featuring rimshots from a cobweb-covered drummer), a ditzy-looking blonde announcing segments in a burly truck driver's voice and a song-and-dance routine that ended up in a shambles by the end.
It seems that the Hudson's series never lasted very long. Maybe they were just too weird for TV?
Nine stars for "Bonkers". Weird fun!
Go with the "Flo"!
After leaving the employ of Mel's Diner from "Alice", what's a girl to do? In Florence Jean Castleberry's case, go to Texas and open your own place!
In "Flo", the lamentably short-lived spin-off from "Alice", Flo (Holliday) runs into an even more eclectic group than she dealt with at Mel's. The gruff Earl (Lewis), laconic Les (Keep), bucolic Farley (Baker) and Flo's extended family (Bond, Flippen) kept things interesting.
And when there wasn't the excitement at Flo's Yellow Rose there were always plots dealing with UFOs, mysterious strangers and men in Hawaiian garb ("I don't know why it's called a sarong," Flo lasciviously comments towards a sarong-ed Earl, "when it looks sa-right to me!").
There were always lots of laughs in each episode, both big and small. I'm kind of shocked it didn't last longer. Maybe the suits thought Flo couldn't manage on her own.
If that be the case, then on behalf of Flo herself: KISS MY GRITS!
Ten stars for "Flo"; Polly Holliday's SECOND finest half-hour.