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Dinosaur Island (1994)
A military plane carrying a hardnose officer bringing some deserters back for a court-martial crashes in the ocean. The survivors make their way to a deserted island, where they discover a tribe of semi-nude, large-breasted cavewomen and are menaced by a tyrannosaurus rex. That plot's been used in several movies from the '50s, but fortunately this movie has much more nudity than those films did. The women are gorgeous, most of them get naked, none of them can act (gee, what a surprise...), the special effects aren't as cheesey as one would expect from a Fred Olen Ray film. Altogether, I'd rate this 0 for acting, 0 for plot, 0 for a coherent script, 8 for gratuituous nudity. It's not a bad way to spend an hour or so on a Friday night with a six-pack. as long as you don't expect a whole lot. P.S.: If the T-Rex in this movie looks familiar, that's because it's the same one Corman used in his earlier movie, "Carnosaur."
Rio Conchos (1964)
Muscular, slam-bang actioner
"Rio Conchos" is a tough, fast-paced, action-packed western, with good performances by all concerned. If the story--Union soldiers go undercover to find the men who are supplying guns to renegade Indians and outlaws and come across a Confederate plot to carve out territory in the West--seems familiar, that's because it's a variation of John Wayne's "The Commancheros" of a few years earlier, and it's almost as good, and in some ways better. Richard Boone gives a very flavorful performance as the tough major in charge of the operation, in conflict with subordinate Stuart Whitman. Jim Brown, in his film debut, is a bit stiff, but otherwise acquits himself quite well. Anthony Franciosa, playing a Mexican outlaw paroled to accompany them on the mission, doesn't quite pull the characterization off, but handles the action scenes very well. Director Gordon Douglas, an old pro at this kind of picture, keeps things going at breakneck speed, with exciting action scenes and good byplay between the characters. This is one of the best-made action westerns of the '60s, with good plot twists, and is consistently interesting all the way through. Highly recommended for western fans.
Blind Date (1999)
Darwin was right
Apparently the premise of this show is to illustrate how smug, egocentric, self-centered, and materialistic 20-somethings are. If that's the case, it succeeds beyond its wildest dreams. Planned Parenthood should use episodes from this show as training films; the moral would be, "If you have kids, they might turn out like this!" The men--for lack of a better word--are invariably totally obsessed with their bodies; many of them take their "dates" to a workout at their gym. They then spend most of the date strutting, preening and bragging about their sexual prowess, and can't understand it when the women don't laugh at, or even get offended by, their smarmy, juvenile attempts at double entendre. The women don't come across much better, either. They're either simpering bimbos or arrogant, balls-to-the-wall barracudas determined to show the guy who's boss and take control of everything from the get-go. If this is an example of the generation that's going to take over from us, then we're in worse shape than I thought.
Mama's Family (1983)
Stupid, ignorant and offensive
If this isn't the absolute worst show to appear on TV, it ranks up (or down) there with whatever one is. Cheesy, unfunny "comedy" about a household headed by a shrewish, self-centered old hag, which includes her middle-aged, weak-willed, thick-headed son and his social-climbing, white trash wife. Just one more example of how Hollywood believes it's perfectly alright to portray Southerners as stupid, venal, uneducated slobs. Ham acting, terrible writing, cheap sets. A real dog.
Rio Lobo (1970)
Being the John Wayne/Howard Hawks fan that I am, I expected great things from "Rio Lobo." Unfortunately, it's one of the Duke's weakest efforts. Howard Hawks has a style all of his own, but none of it is in evidence here. As a matter of fact, the one thing this picture reminds me of is those cheesy A.C. Lyles westerns from the '60s, which were made cheap and loaded with familiar faces like Rory Calhoun, Howard Keel, Rod Cameron, etc.
The biggest problem in this film is the performances of the younger cast members. Jennifer O'Neill is ravishingly beautiful but can't act her way out of a paper bag. Her scenes with Rivero are among the most embarrassing on record. Rivero has trouble with English and seems to be reciting his lines phonetically; O'Neill doesn't seem to have the slightest idea of what she is doing. She steps on other actors' lines, forgets hers, misses cues, and is a pretty good argument for models not being paid for opening their mouths. Future studio head Sherry Lansing has a small part as a Mexican girl who ges beaten up by bad sheriff Mike Henry; she was a much better studio head than an actress. It's up to the old pros like Wayne, Bill Williams, Jim Davis, Victor French and especially David Huddlestson as a frontier dentist to give this picture some semblance of professionalism, performance-wise. Jack Elam as an ornery old codger gives an over-the-top performance that is nevertheless fun to watch. Mike Henry is quite good as a sadistic, crooked sheriff. Yakima Canutt staged the rousing action scenes with his usual flair, and there's a good Jerry Goldsmith score. Unfortunately, however, the trite script and the incompetent performances are obstacles that neither Hawks nor Wayne can overcome. O'Neill has a line early in the film that pretty much sums up her performance: "I'm acting like an idiot, aren't I?"
The Master Gunfighter (1975)
Even more brainless than the usual Tom Laughlin film
This movie apparently takes place in pre-Civil War California and everybody rides horses instead of Harleys, but other than that it's a typical Laughlin film, except even dumber. Laughlin plays a guy who is trying to save local Indians from being sold into slavery. It's difficult to figure out who exactly the bad guys are, because Laughlin kills whites, blacks, Mexicans, Indians, rich, poor . . . in fact, he blows away just about everybody (in the name of justice and equality, of course). Laughlin's idea of conveying anger (the only kind of emotion he shows in the picture) is to grit his teeth, talk slow and appear to be constipated. He carries an odd kind of shotgun/pistol (which didn't exist at that time, but why quibble...) and a samurai-type sword and proceeds to use both on everyone within eyesight. Fred Williamson, usually a reliable actor, also conveys a lot of anger, but it's probably directed at his agent or whoever got him to agree to do this movie. The story bounces around and goes off into every tangent possible, the "acting" is generally atrocious, the photography at times is so dark it's hard to see anything. Laughlin was apparently trying to make an "anti-Western", but in one respect he falls back on a bit that a lot of B westerns did: he manages to fire a limitless number of rounds from a six-shooter without reloading. Then again, maybe it's supposed to be an early version of a machine gun; that would make about as much sense as anything else in this picture . . .
Arthur the King (1985)
The absolute pits
Unbelievable. This movie is without a doubt one of the poorest excuses for wasting celluloid I have ever seen. I like the whole King Arthur/Knights of the Round Table genre, so I was prepared to give it a little latitude when I started watching it and saw in what direction it was going (downhill), but this movie's stupefying ineptness is mind-boggling. Candace Bergen in a red Bozo the Clown wig, cackling maniacally as she spouts gibberish that is supposed to be magic spells, Liam Neeson playing a Pictish barbarian talking like an Indian in a 1930s western ("Me have many babies with this woman! Me go now!"), poorly staged "battles" that looked more like a crowd of drunks lurching into each other, cheesy special effects, and some of the most brainless dialogue this side of "Plan 9 from Outer Space" combine to make this movie a laugh riot. The "acting" is at a junior-high school level, the photography is washed out, it appears to have been edited with a chainsaw--and they are just its =good= qualities. All in all, an experience to remember--if you can stay awake (I couldn't; I missed the last 20 minutes because this thing put me to sleep...).
Range Riders (1934)
The Plan 9 of westerns
Buddy Roosevelt was a minor western star during the silent era. He became even less of a minor western star in the sound era, and this movie was one of the reasons why. This mind-boggling film is almost totally inept from start to finish--the "acting" is laughable, many scenes are completely out of focus (apparently the cameraman had better things to do than look through his viewfinder) and the sound levels rise up and down like a roller coaster. The "plot" has something to do with an old rancher being harassed by bandits & calling his son to come back and help him, or something like that; the movie is so disjointed it's hard to tell what it actually is about. Roosevelt made a slew of these ultra-cheapos for Superior Pictures, supposedly shot in two days on a budget of $2500 each, of which Roosevelt got $500. He was overpaid.
Rio Bravo (1959)
Almost perfect, but . . .
It's hard to go wrong with a western with a cast that includes John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, John Russell and Claude Akins, and with a master director like Howard Hawks. The by-play between the characters, the overlapping dialog (a Hawks trademark), the bursts of violent action all contribute to an almost perfect film. There are, however, two drawbacks that keep it from being just about perfect, one minor and one major. The minor one is Angie Dickinson. While a competent actress, she just doesn't seem to click with Wayne onscreen (although she has stated she clicked with him very well offscreen). She tries hard, and she does have her moments in the film, but overall her part drags the film down a bit. The major obstacle, though, is Ricky Nelson. It's blatantly obvious that he was brought into the movie to draw in the teenagers, as he was a major singing star of the time. He's so laid-back he's almost comatose; he mumbles his lines, and when you can understand him it sounds like he's talking in his sleep. The film comes to a screeching halt whenever he starts to talk, and even in the action scenes it loooks like he's doing everything in slow motion. You don't believe for a second that he's a tough Texas gunfighter; he looks more like a schoolboy playing hooky and hanging out with the older guys. However, Nelson isn't onscreen all the time, and when he isn't, everything clicks to make an almost perfect western . . . almost.
Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)
Not one of Rog's better ones
One of Roger Corman's earlier efforts, and not one of his better ones. Director Bernard Kowalski has done better work, too ("Ssss...."). The main reason (the ONLY reason, actually) to watch this, though, is Yvette Vickers. Probably best known for playing Honey, the town tramp in the original "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman," Vickers absolutely oozes sex out of every pore without really trying. What Sue Lyon couldn't do in "Lolita," and what Carroll Baker couldn't do in "Baby Doll," Yvette Vickers does in "Attack of the Giant Leeches": show a young woman with a sexual draw so overpowering that you understand why an old man would kill to keep her and a young man would kill to have her. Check out "Reform School Girls" and "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman" to see her to even better advantage.