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Le frisson des vampires (1971)
Very Slow Yet Somewhat Intriguing...I Think
This was my first Jean Rollin film. Rollin, a pre-eminent French director known for his eroticism and surrealism in his "horror" films, definitely has an eye for atmosphere with his particular attentions given to color, shading, set pieces(love the Gothic look and feel of the film), and even the music chosen for the film. He also has an eye for the female form as well as we get to evaluate that critical approach again and again and again...honestly, Sandra Julien has one of the most beautiful backsides I have ever seen - in film or anywhere else! The story is very, very thin as Julien and her new husband want to pay their respects to her two cousins as they are on their honeymoon. These two strange men were vampire hunters(unbeknown-st to Julien) and have now been turned into vampires. Julien arrives hearing the news that her cousins are dead. That is more plot than the rest of the film which has a female vampire popping out of a clock and all sorts of strange places who turns Julien into her lesbian lover and then we wait for her final turn into a real vampire whilst her husband Antoine cannot understand what is going on. The two cousins have one good scene at dinner talking about vampirism but really the rest of the film is so slow....not much at all happens. The atmosphere does make up for much of it though...as do the plentiful breasts. While this film is not going to keep you on the edge of your seat at all(just wait until you see the anti-climatic end), it was interesting and intriguing and charming in its own way.
Las Vegas or Bust...OR Volare!
This is one of those weird little films that has the power to grow on you. Ostensibly, it should not be all that much as it details the story of three college boys in search of a great stripper as appeasement for joining a fraternity. How quickly we derail from that story(in fact it just about disappears and never resurfaces again) and go to the dark, twisted, removed world of the After Dark Club. This is where the guys are to find their stripper - in this case a very bizarre, strangely erotic, wholly creepy Grace Jones! There we find a sub-culture, apparently unbeknown-st to the police - who either look the other way or fear this bad part of town, of vampirism hidden behind the facade of a decaying strip show. Now, we do get some girls showing us their wares, though this really is not the major point of this film. We do get some genuinely eerie and scary moments as well. We do get those God-awful special effects that are so common in the 80s. We do get Grace Jones and all that that entails. But the primary purpose of this film is to interlace humor with all of that. It succeeds. I laughed quite a bit actually. The guys running the club are hilarious, particularly Sandy Baron who is the emcee and wearing some pink/red lounge blazer like a comedian might from yesteryear in the Catskills. He keeps ranting about he wants to take the act/show/everything to Vegas...his great dream. He of course works for Katrina, Grace Jones, the Egyptian vampire who owns the place. Anyway, we soon get one boy meeting Katrina and the other boy trying to find him and the story runs pretty strongly just from that. Comedy abounds from moments with a strange albino non-vampire group after the boys being assaulted from vampires in the community(the little girl flying and biting the neck of Billy Drago had me in stitches!) to the bizarre ending where we get this great rendition of Domenico Modugno singing "Volare!." Of course that means "to fly" in Italian, and it is that tongue planted firmly in cheek that made this film enjoyable for me. As I said before, there are some truly scary moments as well. The atmosphere is very well-done by director Richard Wenk sans those atrocious special effects. One can definitely see how this was an inspiration possibly for From Dusk till Dawn.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Gentlemen, STOP your Engines. Please.
In a simple word...bad. Quite bad really. Stephen King shows he has virtually no skill behind the camera as he directs this tale of a comet passing Earth and the planet being caught in its "tail." Because of this, machines begin to act violently and want nothing more than to kill, maim, destroy, eliminate, and eradicate those that made them. The movie never tries to take itself seriously, but my problem is that humor is not something you can just snap your fingers and manufacture. This is just not very funny. It was also quite boring. The worst part was the first fifteen minutes or so where we get exposition as to what is happening, meet all our unlikable, thinly-layered characters, and see King in a stupid cameo at an ATM. Really? At any rate I could go on and on about what is wrong with this picture. Look at the other reviews if you want to explore all that. It is mountainous! One major problem is that King, a writer who should have known better, tries to stretch a short story beyond its stretching point. This is just not substantial material for a feature-length film. Secondly, the whole film seems to lack and desperately need a sense of direction. I felt bad for some of the actors. Some are decent like Pat Hingle, yet he was chewing up scenery with an ALIEN-like mouth. It was too much. Most of the other actors are not very seasoned or good. Thank God for Yeardley Smith(the voice of Lisa Simpson herself). Without her I cannot imagine what watching this would have been like. She is about all the only real humor in the entire film. Then let's take a look at that AC/DC score. I tired of it quickly. It was like someone put me in a loud amusement park and never allowed me to leave. Some of the music is really good but sometimes enough is just enough. Unfortunately, this is one of those times for me when the film lived up to the hype. Maximum Overdrive is considered universally to be a very bad film. I try to never let that interfere with my viewing for the first time. I did not, but make no mistake it surely lives up to its legacy.
The Loved One (1965)
Momma's Big Tub
Director Tony Richardson takes no prisoners as he lambastes the funeral business, the government, religion, ideology, and anything else held sacred by many. Richardson does this in the most comically satiric manner with subtlety, restraint at times, over-indulgence at other moments, and a unique blend of English reservedness and wit mixed with American vulgarity and frankness. I loved this film and was laughing throughout. The story starts off with a young Englishman(Robert Morse) arriving in LA with no job or prospects other than visiting his famous uncle John Gielgud - who is in the movie business. Gielgud invites the young man to stay, introduces him to the strong acting British community, and provides him with living essentials as the young man decides what to do with his life(apparently after a romantic break). We see Gielgud at work and Richardson has no problems making fun of the movie industry at all as Gielgud, a veteran of 31 years, has been reduced to helping an American hick become an Englishman - not even remotely possible. He fails, is let go, and hangs himself. At this point we have a wonderful satire about the film industry, but what follows balloons into something even more grandiose. Character actor Robert Morley insists that this man be buried at the best place possible - Whispering Glades. We then watch Morse go there and see the hyperbolic excesses of the funereal business for those who least need their services - the dead. Morse meets beautiful Anjanette Comer, a make-up artist for the dead, as well as a series of people to help bring his uncle to "peace." Richardson, taking Waugh's novel, really has a knack at steamrolling his satire here with decadent grounds, huge rooms for repose, a bureaucratic network designed only for the wealthy, white, and people of "merit." Liberace, giving a great performance, plays a man who helps Morse decide on what casket, suit, and even shoes his dead uncle will have. The film then turns into a myriad of directions from a rich reverend who has a godlike complex but only a desire to make money, the help of the government to foster this big business, and a romantic triangle like no other with Morse, Comer, and Rod Steiger as Mr. Joyboy - the chief embalmer. While the end of The Loved One does not carry the impact now that it did in 1965, the film as a whole is a witty, incredibly black comedy de farce in many ways. Richardson made a film his way with his ideals firmly planted. Yes, this film will and I am sure did offend many. It also opens one's eyes to a number of things. The acting is great with Morse doing very solid work. Comer, as I said before, is lovely. Steiger - Steiger is great! His Mr. Joyboy with effeminacy reeking, long white curls, and fastidious outfits matched with his outlandish hand gestures steals every scene he is in...EXCEPT the ones with his mother(more on that shortly). His accented dialog was a real treat to hear. "I am saving for Momma's big tub!" His mother, "every inch a queen," is in one of the most bizarre film scenes I have ever seen in any "mainstream" picture. Words fail me. See it. I shall never look at a roast pig again - or a turkey - in the same way. I could go on, but I think you get my favorable stance toward this film which is most definitely under-viewed. Jonathan Winters is superb as well in two roles. Catch Paul Williams in his first film role. Watch Milton Berele give a great cameo as a husband fighting with his wife over a bereaved loved one. What a funny scene that was too!
I'll Take the Middle Road
If this was sold at one point in time(and really there is no doubt it was), then people were seriously ripped-off. However, I too saw it courtesy of Amazon Prime and was engaged and entertained for 60 minutes about an event I did not attend but would have loved to do so. Basically, we get an inside(not very inside though) tour of the Zombie Jamboree celebrating the 25th anniversary of that film. We get John Russo's narration throughout as we see guests at the convention sell their autographs, etc... but we do get some insights into the film itself, the people who made it, its enduring legacy, and much more. I found the Q and A bit with George Romero very interesting. The same for the two scream queens. Tom Savini's walk through the Monroeville mall was also a highlight. I enjoyed the discussion of Duane Jones's import in the film too. This is not particularly well-made. Yes, there are audio(and video) inconsistencies but bear in mind it was made over twenty years ago. So much technologically has changed since then. For what it is, it is a curious, interesting supplement to not only a great film but also to the convention craze which is still going strong.
Where else can you see David Niven called a Jive Turkey?
A-List star on less-than-grand times David Niven takes his turn as the Count in this hard-to-find film(currently it can be seen on Amazon Prime). A film like this you know is going to have problems because it has more than one title that it is frequently known by. It is called Old Dracula, Old Drac, and Vampira. I probably first saw this on TV sometime in the late seventies. I liked it then. I sought it out and re-visited it over forty years later. I kind of liked it. It is a tepid, lukewarm reaction to some stuff that really has become quite out- dated. This film was made during the Blaxplotation craze of the 70's. It takes the grittiness and edge from that away, and it gives you this. I also read it came out shortly after Young Frankenstein as a means of cashing in on that film's success. Obviously, it did not work as those two films have NOTHING in common. The film clearly has a nice budget as we see posh sets and locations along with good actors for the most part. Niven looks tired in this role - he is suppose to be too - as he tries to find the right blood type to bring his wife "back-to-life." He finds it when a group of Playboy models come to spend the evening in his now- opened-for-the-public castle. Trouble is that all the blood is mixed up somehow and he does not know which model had the right blood. Why is this a problem? When his wife comes back to life she is black. He must now take her and his servant to London and find the right model in the hopes that it will turn her back to her "normal" pale self. The story truly is my biggest problem with the film. It really is somewhat offensive as well as ridiculous. Try making sense of it if you can. I moved on so as not to miss the film from that point on. The acting is good throughout though Niven, as I said previously, is lackluster. Teresa Graves as his new wife; however, gives a lively performance(and is a beauty to boot). She chews up the scenery with her scene-stealing scenes(okay, more like taking something that nobody else wanted). The models are all luscious as well. Cathie Shirriff is particularly appealing(and free in her performance as well). So is the always lovely Veronica Carlson who is somewhat wasted in her role. Linda Hayden as a voluptuous castle-wench is funny and gorgeous. The best performance for me was the deadpan one of Peter Bayliss as Dracula's manservant Maltravers. He had the funniest lines and the bit he does at the castle being the mad-servant for the guests may have been the highlight of the film. That does not bode well then for the rest of the film. Old Dracula is an okay film from an era where you could make this type of film. I know it has a lot of detractors but was watchable at least.
"Where there is Death, there is Hope"
Yep, this is one BAD movie...but as others noted...strangely likable. The really difficult step in viewing and reviewing this film is finding a copy. It had one Media video release(VHS) eons ago and has been MIA for the last two to three decades. You might find a copy on Ebay but will spend a pretty penny. How did I see it finally? THANK YOU YOUTUBE! Anyway, we have Nocturna, played with beauty and an amazing lack of skill as any kind of a thespian, by Nai Bonet. Bonet's claim to fame as a half-Vietnemese and half-French belly dancer with dalliances with acting on the side has been strangely baffling. She had really no entertainment career that would merit a project like this, though one must be impressed that she found a way to make this film(and another called Hoodlums). Unfortunately for Nai, this film and the other were box office poison - and she essentially left this arena. Let's talk about what is wrong with the film quickly and then move on to what I liked. Nai Bonet cannot act. Period. Yes, English is clearly not her first language. That is obvious the first moment you hear her speak. But more than that is her total lack of displaying any kind of emotion. It was an incredibly wooden performance. Her male co-star(really stretching that word here) was equally as bad. The story, written by Nai, also borders on sophomoric tripe. It seems a very old Dracula has no longer a means to kill on his own and so relies heavily on his granddaughter Nocturna. A disco group comes to Hotel Transylvania and Nocturna kicks up her heels with some beefcake and falls in love. She follows him to New York and starts to turn into a human because of her love. Touching, isn't it? The special effects of vampires turning into bats is nothing more than really out-dated animation. It looks soooo silly even in a silly picture like this. There is an awful lot of disco music and disco dancing. What do you expect in a vampire disco film? Okay, clearly this is not Citizen Kane or even some of the great low- budget films of the seventies. It isn't Love at First Bite either. There is virtually no violence at all in the film. At its heart is a nice story - just one not very well executed. Despite all of this, I found myself liking the film overall. Nai is beautiful for a woman in her mid-to-late thirties. She looks like she is in her 20's. We get to see much of that beautiful body too. I had absolutely no problem with that at all. We also have a scene where Nai is visiting a pimp and his bevy of beautiful vampires who also share her free performance style in this regard. Actually, it was a pretty funny scene as well. The budget was obviously not huge but the film looks very good. The opening scene is quite atmospheric. The set locations were all done quite well too. The music was not all that horrible. The Gloria Gaynor opening theme, "Love is but a heartbeat away" was rather catchy. I thought the entire opening sequence was done with great aplomb. Nai was smart enough to get some names, lesser names, but names nonetheless for her film. John Carradine plays Dracula in a rather lackluster manner but he has a few intriguing lines. Yvonne De Carlo plays a vampire in New York who boards Nocturna and gives her advice. Another lackluster performance particularly in a somewhat thankless role. Both these thespians add some credibility. The other supporting players are all rather decent as well with one HUGE plus. The performance of Brother Theodore moves this picture up from being wretched to being somewhat endearing. He lusts after Nocturna and in one scene in particular(the bathtub scene) he gives one of the oddest, perverse, and hilarious monologues I have ever seen. That VOICE uttering some of the most ridiculous dialog and yet transforming it into something more. Just watch the way he rolls his eyes. So funny and creepy! I wish he had been in the film a bit more. So, check this film out while you have the opportunity. it is not great by no means yet is ... well, let me put it this way ...I would watch it again at some point.
The Video Dead (1987)
"Just Pray It's Not drugs Dear"
Probably more famous for its video box than as a film, this direct-to-video film is not all that bad. In fact it really grew on me. Why? It is not because it is particularly good or has great action or wonderful special effects. It does have a lot of heart and a sense of humor AND despite the low budget and the cast of mostly one and dones - it is fairly well-made. An odd package is sent to a writer who opens the box, finds an old black and white TV, plugs it in...and then the only thing that plays is a zombie flick. Wait! He turns off set and it comes back on. He unplugs it and it comes back on..and he is killed by a group of undead that come from the TV set. These rogue zombies then disappear for three months until a new family moves in - and then they start killing. Why did they wait three months? Your guess is as good as mine! Apparently they were in the woods the whole time. Anyway, the new people in the house are just a teen-aged boy and his hot sister. A guy that originally bought the TV set comes along - and its zombie hunting time. Now, do not get me wrong. This is no great cinema. How about that scene with the poodle going into the woods? Or the whole bit with the kid tied in the air? Or even the ending. these zombies are MIGHTY smart! I liked the performances of several most notably Sam David McClelland as Joshua Daniels(the guy that kept calling Jeff "Kid." He was not great but genuine. The girls were all hot in that 80s hot way. Victoria Bastel as April the cute blond and Roxanna Augenson as Zoe Blair - very pretty though not always convincing. The make up really is pretty good and the TV scenes were really pretty suspenseful. For what it was - I liked it. I do want to check out the new blu ray. I watched my old Embassy tape once again. Who says video is dead?
My Vote for Best Film of 2012!
Lots of division here - actually I am very surprised. I am not going into some long review. MANY on here have done so. I loved the movie and, after seeing most of the films nominated for an Oscar in 2012, was very perplexed why this one had not even been nominated. To me, it clearly was the best. Yes, I have read The Hobbit many times. Yes, Peter Jackson changed and heavily "added" but in the end he crafted a masterpiece - and I for one longingly await the second installment. Could this have been done in two movies? Sure. But it was not. At least you are getting your money's worth with these films. The action, story, acting, special effects, music, etc.. are all top-notch. That is all I have to say now - I told you I would be brief.
The Mutations (1974)
It's a Hybrid between Frankenstein and Freaks
Well, to keep the puns going, this grows on you after awhile. Really, it does. While I had never heard of it before, I was pleasantly surprised to find this film about a British bio-engineer/professor mixed up with a carnival and who uses bodies(inexplicably) to help with his experimentation to create an animal/plant race of beings. We get a Frankenstein type film, but when you add the oddities(most REAL) from the carnival - and who create scenes eerily reminiscent of Tod Browning's Freaks - we get so much more. While undeniably cheaply made - the special effects are ridiculous as is the final "invention" of man and plant, The Mutations(I saw it under the title The Freakmaker)does have some truly jarring scenes. The carnival freaks in this movie are allowed to act - and, quite frankly, are the scariest thing in this film as they lynch Lynch(played nicely by a heavily made-up Tom Baker - make-up here is quite good too!) - a deformed man who wants to be 'normal" whilst distancing himself from his freak brethren by calling them freaks and himself normal. Needless to say things do not work out well for him. This is the subplot of the film but I found it more interesting than the story of Donald Pleasance working with plants and creating some starved half-animal half-plant creature the size of a human. Pleasence is good as he always is - but really is given little to do EXCEPT for his wonderful lecture at the beginning of the film. There we are also introduced to four students(later Brad Harris will join them)who will come to know the doctor's work firsthand. The only thing you need to know about these four is that three of them are HOT, beautiful girls: blonde Jill Haworth, sensuous Olga Anthony, and the incredibly stunning Julie Ege - we also get to see them in various states of disrobe - a MAJOR highlight. Harris is OK, but it really is the real-life "freaks" that caught my eye. Michael Dunn plays the dwarf running the carnival - and I think he gives his best performance in film. I always thought he was a pretty good actor that went beyond his stereotyped image. This unfortunately was one of his last films as he died at the age of 38. The Mutations is a solid film with many undesirable elements but does, in my opinion, scare - why? Well, that will be for you to determine.