Reviews written by registered user
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I have been a longtime fan and imitator of Alfred Hitchcock from day one. I opened up the file for "Key To Reserva" and I had to watch many times. As explained in the prologue, Martin Scorsese found some notes depicting a three minute scene from an unrealized Hithcock film called "The Key To Reserva". Scorsese decided to film the three minutes in the style of Hitchcock, basically the style of late 1950's Hitch ("The Man Who Knew Too Much", "North By Northwest", even "Torn Curtain") Not Marty style, Hitchcock style. Well, it was like Hitchcock came back from the grave (actually his ashes) and lensed this great piece. We have a hero in a blue business suit, ala Roger Thornhill, seek out a hidden key in an elegant theater box. It's pure Hitchcock, even down to the crazy Hitchcock logic (The key is hidden in a place that would be scientifically impossible. But we're watching Alfred entertainment us, not teach us.) Our villain hardly looks like a villain. He looks like anybody can mop the street with him, but watch it, still waters run deadly and deep. Throw in references to "Rear Window" "Notorious" "Saboteur" a Bernard Herrmann score, and you got one tasty cinematic snack!
I'm a big fan of George Pal's 1953 original film version of THE WAR OF
THE WORLDS, which is an exciting, suspenseful treat, drenched in rich
Technicolor. I remember, as a pre-teenager, reading that it was going
to be on TV one afternoon. At that point I hadn't seen the movie, I
only knew about it from incredible photographs in monster magazines. I
tuned in a little late, missing the opening credits. The TV station, at
the last minute, replaced the film with a western musical. Here I am,
ten years old, watching some cowboy get into a bar fight and I'm
thinking "Okay, where are those flying saucers?" The cowboy then
rescues a stray cat and takes it along on his travels. It's now almost
twenty minutes into the film. The cowboy is canoeing down river with
the cat, and he's singing about the countryside. I'm confused,
thinking: "Wow, this is the most bulloxed up sci-fi movie of all time.
Maybe the Martians are behind that mountain?"
Twenty years from now, the same thing will happen to some confused young film fanatic when the TV station replaces WAR OF THE WORLDS with BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In one scene from WAR OF THE WORLDS, my favorite 2005 release, a
frazzled military man shouts: "Our weapons have no effect on them! Just
help the citizens escape!" That's the tone of Steven Spielberg's often
disturbing and scary take on H.G Wells' story about a massive worldwide
alien invasion. Like Wells' story, our emotions almost never focus on
scientists and military men. The center of attention here is an
ordinary family man (Tom Cruise) protecting his children from
unbeatable, hate-filled aliens. We see very little of us fighting back.
Spielberg aims his camera at helpless, very often doomed people trying
to escape and shield their loved ones.
2005 saw the release of two excellent fantasy remakes, this one, and Peter Jackson's KING KONG. Spielberg and Jackson obviously both love the original versions of their big budgeted and effect-filled remakes. They never took the sneering tone of "Well, we have better special effects than what they had way back then, so nyah-nyah!"
WAR OF THE WORLDS never takes the ultra-cool, spoofy tone of alien invasion films like INDEPENDENCE DAY. This time it's very cold and dark! You truly get the idea that these are final days for the human race.
Perhaps one of the most famous drive-in shockers was Director Tobe Hooper's 1974 THE Texas CHAINSAW MASSACRE, now available on a Pioneer Special Edition DVD, complete with out-takes, pieces off the workprint, and an excellent audio commentary track by Hooper, his cinematographer, Daniel Pearl and star Gunnar Hansen. The gore is more implied than displayed, but it's CHAINSAW's unforgiving documentary style that grabs you and disturbs your dreams. Check out the neat Special Features on this incredible DVD. The out-takes have a raw look, the color is not yet timed, and all we get is the bare, hollow sound typical of un-mixed production sound. We see endless takes of human bone decoration that highlights the crazy cannibal house in CHAINSAW. There are many takes of the macabre cemetery bone statue, the image that opens CHAINSAW. The audio commentary tells us that Hooper and Pearl experimented by shooting the scene during different times during the day, to obtain different sunlit shooting schemes.
STING OF DEATH involves a large jellyfish that attacks young scientists. Only here the jellyfish looks very much like a heavy-duty garbage bag. Grefe, along with Frank Henenloter, (cult filmmaker and Something Weird's resident film restorer) provide commentary tracks for both films. STING features young Neil Sedaka introducing a dance (that did not sweep the nation) and a song called "The Jellyfish." This disc even comes with a print-out of the lyrics ("Forget Your Cinderella, and do the Jella... The jilla-jalla jella...") DVD's really bring out the run and shoot aspects of low budget film-making. Hand held work is accented with DVD's clarity. This clarity also shows off shifts in film stocks, where grainy stock footage is cut with staged fine-grain action.
One of my favorite drive-in classics has to be a 1966 gem made in
Florida, DEATH CURSE OF TARTU. Something Weird Video, the wonderful
distribution company that revived such great LBJ-era thrills as SCREAM
OF THE BUTTERFLY and THE CURIOUS DR. HUMPP for videocassette, has
continued their grand tradition on DVD. They took the trouble to grab
hold of an original 35mm negative and give it the best possible Digital
DEATH CURSE OF TARTU concerns a group of young, under-equipped archeologists venturing deep into the Florida everglades in search of Tartu's tomb. Tartu is a long dead Indian who protects his tomb by allowing his spirit to take the form of dangerous animals. It's sort of like a cross between THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and ANIMAL PLANET. Whenever Tartu's murderous spirit is nearby, the soundtrack is filled with chanting, yipping Indians. On the same disc is another Sunshine State shocker by the same director, William Grefe - STING OF DEATH
FIRST SPACESHIP| is a 78 American dubbed version of DER SCHWEIGENDE STERN, a 130-minute German sci-fi film made in 1959. Based on Stanislev Lem's novel "The Astronauts", this was the first German sci-fi film made after World War II A meteor fragment is found to have discarded radio signals from Venus, so an international team of scientists travels in a sleek George Jetson style rocket to our "sister planet". Presented here in letterbox format, in generally bold storybook like color, VENUS makes it DVD debut courtesy of Wade Williams. Mr. Williams is a valuable modern day video and film distributor who has kept a running supply of Edward Wood movies and other drive in treats on video shelves. The cinematography by Joachim Hasler displays Venus as a planet alive with primary colors. Some elements are sure to make DVD buyers giggle. The surviving inhabitants of Venus are tiny, spidery and bounce around, resembling cat's toys on strings. The workmen who help rocket blast off and return all have enormous letters on their chest, making them look like escapees from an Alpha-Bits commercial.
MONDO BALORDO, whose tagline promises "intimate shocking scenes of love
- man's insatiable hunger.." was slightly reshaped for salivating
American consumption. A lively Boris Karloff provides the often
We travel with Boris to all sorts of hidden corners of our weird, kooky world. First we see an Italian rock group in full swing. Their lead singer is Franz Drago, a frantic, almost acrobatic 27-inch tall volcano of energy. Then it's off to Las Vegas, to see Beauty Pageant footage lensed by a boob-obsessed cinematographer. Next stop, a photo session of Asian girls in bondage. "This is for magazines for readers of special tastes..." Karloff purrs. Some of the footage, featuring natives tearing apart hunted animals may turn off some viewers. (Hey, the Mondo films were meant to shock.) An actual African exorcism where a live chicken is consumed, instructions on how to behave at a drunken transvestite party, and a poverty stricken Italian town where citizens visit the cemetery to ask the dead to cast spells on enemies and choose winning lotto numbers, fill the bill. After watching this film, you will think the world is filled only with chicken-eating, gambling drag queens! One scene in BALORDO shows a European freak show where Mr. Karloff tells us "Sometimes the people buying the tickets are the freaks." Tell it like it is Boris!
PRIMITIVE LOVE, a strange Italian sex comedy, concerns two bungling hotel bellhops played by Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia, a team of bargain basement Euro Jerry Lewis imitators. They will do anything, I mean anything, to sneak a peek at one their new guests, a buxom, bleach-blonde beauty (Jayne Mansfield). About halfway through the film, Jayne invites a guest to her swanky hotel room. She takes out an 8mm projector and shows him rather mild footage of African natives. (I think once or twice we see bare-breasted native ladies. Hence the title of this movie?) This National geographic-esquire footage takes up a chunk of PRIMITIVE LOVE's 77 minute running time. After the lengthy film showing, Jayne does a striptease for her guest. She happily continues the strip tease even after she uncovers the spastic Franco and Ciccio spying on her.
A more serious, somber indie horror entry, NIGHT OF THE VAMPIRE HUNTER comes from Germany by way of debuting director/writer Ulli Bujard. It's a gritty vampire shocker that uses sly humor as well as a downbeat atmosphere to tell the story of pulp writer Jens Feldner (Stephen Keseberg) who finds inspiration for his vampire tales through his girlfriend, Selin (Nicole Bujard). The reason why Selin is good at this is because not only is she a vampire, but she's a vampire hunter, seeking the Master Vampire who bit her centuries ago. Indie vampire films are generally way too serious. Some of them make dramas about World War II seem light-hearted. Most of the time, if an indie vampire film injects humor, it's way too goofy. Movie fans will soak up Bujard's blood-sucking treat. It maintains a strong dramatic sense, and allows for on-target "giggling in the cemetery" macabre humor.
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