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Typical 1970s exploitation
'Deadbeat', aka: 'Tomcats' (theatrical title), 'Avenged' (video title), and 'Getting Even' (overseas title) is a tough, gritty, mean-spirited, but surprisingly well-made, low budget, rape-and-revenge thriller. It was directed by the same man who directed goofy 1960s soft core skin flicks such as 'Strange Rampage' and 'My Third Wife George'; Harry E. Kerwin. Before his sad and untimely death from lung cancer in 1979 at age 48, he had produced wrote and directed many sexploitation gems as well as ran the gamut from doing makeup effects for low-budget Florida-made trash pictures such as 'Love Goddess on Blood Island' and 'Sting of Death', as well as directing nudist camp flicks such as 'Girls Come a Too' and 'Sweet Bird of Aquarius'. With the sexploitation cinema dead by the 1970s as independent filmmakers were making profitable (but very illegal) X-rated hardcore sex films, Kerwin moved into the more drive-in friendly brand of exploitation flicks. In 1975, Kerwin teamed up with actor-producer-writer Wayne Crawford where they co-wrote and produced the neat little Florida hillbilly kill fest 'God's Bloody Acre' which starred Crawford under the pseudo 'Scott Lawrence'. Happy with the box office profits from that film, they decided to make another exploitation flick the following year in 1976, a rape-and-revenge thriller modeled after the 1974 Charles Bronson flick 'Death Wish'.
'Deadbeat' opens up in a small seedy suburban Miami diner where a 17-year-old, innocent and virginal waitress, named Wendy Garrett, is closing up the diner alone after her boss leaves for the night. A van with a Colorado license plate pulls up and the driver is this rugged, bearded cowboy named M.J. (played by Crawford, and acting under 'Scott Lawrence' again) along his three goonish sh-- for brains pals who walk into the diner to rob it, but just for kicks, the four goons gang-rape and murder Wendy, with M.J. doing the fatal deed with his shotgun. A few nights later, after drinking, smoking dope, and beating their girlfriends for their own enjoyment, M.J. and his group do the exact same thing again when they break into another diner after hours, gang rape, and kill another waitress. Another day later, they are pulled over for a routine traffic violation where the drunken idiots confess to both killings. But surprise, surprise.... the four cretins get away with it on a legal technicality, and a witness to the first killing, a derelict who was drunk at the time, is found unreliable. So, the four of them walk free. This of course outrages Wendy's older brother Cullen (Chris Mulkey). Despite being a law student and going against the advice of his girlfriend (Polly King) and his police detective uncle (played by Kerwin's brother William Kerwin, star of Herschell Gordon Lewis' 'Blood Feast', and acting under the pseudo 'Thomas Dowling'), Cullen decides to abandon the legal system and get justice the old fashion way: by producing his .44 Magnum revolver, going out, stalking, and killing the four bastards one by one.
Chris Mulkey (who would also later appear in the 1990-91 surreal TV series "Twin Peaks" playing Hank Jennings) is good as the troubled law student Cullen. Wayne Crawford ('Scott Lawrence'), who would go on to appear in a small role as a chem teacher in Harry Kerwin's 1977 sex comedy 'Cheering Section' and star as the doomed protagonist in Kerwin's last film 'Barracuda', before going on to appear in more mainstream films like 'Valley Girl', 'Night of the Comet', and 'Jake Speed', is marvelously repulsive as the central antagonist. The utterly amoral and sadistic M.J. is so evil that like most "revenge" films, the odds are stacked against him so that there isn't any moral dilemma in Cullen's justification for his murder plot to kill the four guys who raped and murdered his innocent sister. One is so anxious to see Cullen hurry up and kill M.J. and his goons is that watching this movie is like being part of a celluloid lynch mob. Another ignore-the-law revenge thriller for those who like the genue.
Despite it's low budget and faded-with-time color quality, and some plot holes with sometimes stupid plot twists, as well as two hard-to-watch rape scenes, and cheap violence and gore, it is recommended for those who relish with such exploitation flicks.
Good Bollywood thriller devered from Hollywood films
As a fan of Indian films, I found this one to be very entertaining and exciting from beginning to end. Though I'm not an ethnic Indian, a few of my friends are and they introduced me to this world of major Indian studio films, the best of which come from major studios in Bombay hence 'Bollywood.' This one has several major Hollywood action and dramas referenced as well as previous Bollywood action flicks too.
For the plot, it opens with police inspector Amar Damjee foiling an assassination attempt on a bus load of people at a rural rest stop (shades of Harrison Ford in Patriot Games) by a terrorist group seeking to abduct a government VIP. He is labeled by the press as a hero and becomes an instant celebrity. But one of the terrorists Amar kills is the brother of the leader and they form a complex plan to frame him for the murder of the police commissioner's daughter which Amar is sent to prison. But with the help from an inmate, Amar escapes and sets out to find the terrorist leader to clear his name with the help from his cellmate and a female journalist. From then on it becomes "The Fugitive" with a moderately erotic love scene devered from the food-tasting love scene in 9 1/2 Weeks, all of which the plot twists come together at the climax when Amar confronts the terrorists whom have taken a group of government officials hostage in a 12-story high-rise office tower in downtown Bombay and only Amar can save everybody (shades of Bruce Willis in Die Hard).
Good violent action with some impressive musical production numbers with some gripping drama and a little comic relief make this big-budget Bollywood film one for the record books.
100 Days (1991)
Good remake of Lucio Fulci's The Psychic
Spoiler alert As a fan of major studio production movies from India, 'Bollywood' as called, I found this to be a great, almost exact remake of the classic 1977 Italian 'giallo' thriller Seven notes in Black directed by Lucio Fulci.
The premise is the basically the same; a young clairvoyant woman has a vision of a murder and of the victim being walled up in an old house. Years later, she batters down the wall and finds the skeletal remains. She, with the help of a parapsychologist friend, try to solve the mystery of who the victim is and if the killer is still out there. The first hour more or less drags along with the woman, Deva, being introduced and meeting her future husband and after a nice courtship, they get married. Only during the second half does the movie really take off with the discovery of the body.
In the similarities between the Fulci film and this are many, with few differences. In the Fulci movie the heroine has her fragmented disjointed visions while driving through a road tunnel, here she has the visions while swimming in her backyard swimming pool. The yellow French cigarette burning in the ashtray in the Fulci film is replaced here by a light cigar. The magazine with a photo a young woman on the cover (the murder victim) is replaced by a photo of a racehorse. Also the incriminating letter detailing who the killer in The Psychic, is replaced here by a videotape with the English title: '100 Days' showing the killing. But basically the plotlines are all the same with the climatic chase, the murders, and even the now memorable wristwatch the heroine wears midway through the film which makes a loud beeping sound on the hour which gives away her hiding place as the killer is chasing her, and reveals her location when she's incapitated. In the Lucio Fulci film, the watch instead plays a haunting tune rather than a loud beeping.
In addition to the long dramatic opening hour, also added was an extended version of the climax which brings on a more upbeat ending. A fan of international films, I found this to be quite enjoying, not just for Indian citizens, but any fans of mystery-horror-thrillers regardless of their country of origin.
Fans of Lucio Fulci who have seen The Psychic, check this one out.
For misanthropics only
Vulgar, a low-budget, disturbing, gritty film by Kevin Smith associate Bryan Johnson, who wrote, directed and co-starred is one of those films one questions the motivation and presence. Often the movie cannot make up its mind if its supposed to be a drama, thriller, crime-story or just vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity. Do we really want to watch this kind of picture full of unlike able characters, profane dialogue, bad lighting, sound, etc.
It's mostly the story of an underachieving man living in a misanthropic world where bums sleep on the front lawns of houses, kids throw rocks and water balloons at you while driving your car, even a waitress in a restaurant can be downright rude for no good reason. The guy is Wil (Brian O'Halloran) who works as a party clown while trying to make amends meet in his small town where he grew up and taking care of his angry and spiteful mother, living in a nursing home following a stroke. Wil sees a get rich-quick scheme by dressing up as a transvestite clown for private parties. Here is where Wil runs into his very first clients, an angry, foul-speaking guy named Ed Fanelli and his two dim-witted, but dangerous, inbred sons, the hulking Frankie, and the gauntly hideous Gino. Ed Fanelli is the most scariest and disturbing villain to show up on screen. His character is so vulgar and misanthropic that he makes the character of Frank Booth (from Blue Velvet) look like a bad little boy.
Do we really need to see images like this of a negative world we live in with no happiness or sympathetic characters to root for? Worth a look for fans of the genre, but be forewarned, it does live up to it's title.
AKA: Silent Night, Deadly Night Redux
No one needs to see the first Silent Night, Deadly Night because most of the first third is of flashbacks to the first SNDN movie, which was deemed too anti-Christmas by people and clerics alike to be shown the public. This one, with almost no budget, attempts to outdoor Boogeyman II with it's flashback footage to make up for the under-written story.
The story is like this: it opens in a mental hospital for the criminally insane where we see a brooding, chain-smoking Ricky (Eric Freeman) the younger brother of the killer Billy (from the first SNDN movie) being interogated by a court psychiatrist, named Dr. Bloom, to determine if he's sane to stand trial for a series of murders Ricky commited. Ricky is very hostile and uncooperative with Dr. Bloom, but agrees to tell his story. The flashback footage, (the first SNDN film), has the infant Ricky and his five-year-old brother Billy witnessing their parents murder on Christmas Eve by a highwayman in a Santa Claus suit. Both brothers grow up in a Catholic orphange where they are raised by the demented and sadistic Mother Superior who prides herself on using punishment for the slightest disobedience which traumatizes Billy even more. Cut to 18-year-old Billy working in a department store where, after dressing up as St. Nick, flips out, grabs a fire axe and kills eight people, plus one innocent bystander killed by police. Billy is then shot by a detective before he can ax Mother Superior, who deserved it more than any of Billy's victms.
Then there are the 'contemporary flashbacks' with young Ricky raised by his adoptive parents, and killing a total of eight people, (five in the last part with some far-fetched, but enjoyable shootings.) Ricky finally escapes and goes on another rampage dressed as Santa to finish what his brother Billy failed to do: kill Mother Superior.
Despite the low-budget qualities, this picture moves right along and includes a quite entertaining performance by Eric Freeman who seems to be modeled after Jack Nicholson's character in The Shinning. Overall it may not be good to some, but has enough killings, including a decent hot-wired tongue-exploding eyeball gag, to maintain interest. A must see for those involved in killer Santa flicks.
Contents: 22 killings (in both movies); so-so splatter FX; flashback nudity involving Linnea Quigley; one decapitation; many blood-splattering shootings; no suspense, but not boring, but no plot at all.
Girls Nite Out (1982)
Campus Killer 101
Set at Dewitt University, a small Ohio college, this one starts out as a routine drama after a basketball game which Dewitt U wins the title cup. Afterwards, the first 30 or more minutes has the guys of the team partying, drinking, talking and talking with their co-ed girlfriends, etc. Then, an unseen killer, posing as the mascot for the basketball team, begins stalking and killing a number of young girls from the cheerleading squad. Mostly riping their throats out with a hand-made 'claw' in one of the paws made from kitchen knifes. Meanwhile, Mac (Hal Holbrook) is the campus security guard, looking very puzzled to what's going on, who wades through a series of red herrings.
Not the best of the early 1980's slasher flicks, with the bear costume the only original thing about this one. Worth a look for horror fans, with some nice touches to the low-budget.
Contents: seven killings; inferior slaughter; one psycho in a bearsuit; no sex or nudity; lots of Golden Oldies on the soundtrack; much duller and dumber than usual. Note: proper punctuation is not all this one is missing.
4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971)
Four Flies on Grey Velvet is the third, and last, of the so-called 'animal titled' trilogy of 'giallo' mystery-thrillers of the early 1970's, but not the best. As with the other predecessors, it's got it's style, music beat, and some chilling and violent murders, but very slow paced and lacking the thrill of the other Dario Argento films.
The main problem is the star Michael Brandon whom plays the insipid, neurotic 'so-called hero' of the film. Unlike the other stars, Tony Mustane from Bird With the Crystal Plumage, and James Franciscus from Cat O'Nine Tales, Michael Brandon's character of Roberto Tobias is not well liked for his casual ability to do bad things such as seducing his wife's cousin and playing jokes on people.
The movie opens with like a rock music video of Roberto Tobias playing his drums with a rock band at a recording studio when he notices a strange man dressed in all black and wearing dark sunglasses. Brief, Roeg-like flashbacks to days earlier indicate that Roberto realizes that this man is stalking him, while cuts to a beating valentine-shaped red heart is shown. After the recording session, Roberto follows the man to a deserted theater where, after a minor altercation, he semi-accidently stabs the man to death. A spotlight is turned on the scene of the crime and a masked figure from the balcony takes a role of photos of Roberto standing over the body.
From then on is where the film takes off with Roberto being blackmailed by the real unseen stalker who proceeds to make his life an living Hell, while he tries to keep his criminal secret safe from everyone including his wife Nina (Mimsy Farmer), while Roberto turns to an old friend Godfrey for help in catching his stalker.
Mid-way through the film, we learn that the man that Roberto thought he accidently killed is alive. The 'murder' was all staged by the real unseen stalker for the sole purpose to blackmail Roberto. But Roberto never finds this out as the man gets killed (for real) and his body disposed of. Whereas another movie hero might feel guilty about the killing of this mystery man, Roberto feels no guilt at all. He's more interested in not getting caught than anything else. Soon, the killer beings killing various secondary characters and setting it up to put the blame on Roberto.
Fans of Dario Argento will little doubt enjoy this. Others may use caution for its plodding and hard-to-follow narrative with periodic dream sequences of Roberto being decapitated and trying to figure out the connection between the recurring dreams and the predicament he's in. Worth a look for giallo fans of the era.
There's Always Vanilla (1971)
Little seen Romero non-horror film
There's Always Vanilla (AKA: The Affair) (1971) was the first of George A. Romero's films after Night of the Living Dead (1968) and probably the least seen. I guess after making Night... Romero feared being pegged as a horror film director and launched himself after the release of Night with this Graduate-type romantic drama, written by his associate Rudi Ricci. But sadly it's not one of his best, and it's quite obvious that the director's heart just wasn't in making it. It does not exist on video or DVD, only on crude bootlegged VHS copies here and there.
As for the plot, it could have been better if done on a higher budget. It opens with a guy named Chris Bradley (Ray Laine who appeared in Jack's Wife (AKA: Season of the Witch)) who returns to his home city in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania a year or more after his discharge from the U.S. Army and serving a tour in Vietnam. Chris has drifted from town to town, and city to city making money from playing his guitar in bars, to pimping for prostitutes. Chris' stern but benevolent father (Roger McGovern) wants him to abandon his new lifestyle and return to the family business of making baby food in a local factory which Mr. Bradley owns. But Chris refuses, wanting to make a new life for himself. On the street, Chris meets a beautiful young woman named Lynn (Judith Steiner) whom is about 10 years older than him and makes a living by modeling in local TV commercials. Chris charms Lynn into letting him move in with her.
For a time, Chris and Lynn's relationship is good with both of them sharing their love of of lovemaking, pot smoking, and rock and roll music. But she is supporting both of them as he plans to write a book based on his life, whereas he just lays around doing nothing. She motivates him to get a steady job and he lands one in a small advertising agency, which he grows not to like it with each passing day. Then Lynn finds out that she's pregnant and keeps the news from Chris knowing that despite his wits and charm, he is not responsible to be a father or a husband to her and her unborn baby. For the rest of the film, it does downhill from there and for Chris heading towards ruin and misery.
If it was restored by Anchor Bay or Blue Underground, it would be an interesting look at late 1960's early 1970's life with lusuous visuals (the grainy color of the aging VHS tapes is the disadvantage). Sad to say that even Romero himself disavowed this film for its not all bad despite the bleak storyline. I hope one day, someone will restore this movie for the public to once again view for themselves.
After Hours (1985)
Wicked and surreal.
I very much liked this movie for it was a wickedly, fast-paced, unpredictable, black comedy/thriller which was directed by Martin Scorsese, whom I'm a fan of his other films (Taxi Driver, et al.) plus this remains one of his best and less known work.
Set during one long night in the life of a lonely New York City computer programer Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) opens with him working his job and showing a new trainee (a cameo by Bronson Pinchot) who tells Paul he wants more than working in this kind of office. Paul goes home at the end of the day to his Upper East Side apartment where he wastes the evening away watching TV. Venturing out in search of carnal pleasures, Paul meets the sexy-but-quirky Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) in a coffee shop near his apartment building and begins chatting up a conversation with her. Paul asks for Marcy's phone number before she leaves and she tells him that he can call her anytime. Back at his apartment, Paul works up enough nerve to phone Marcy. She invites him to come down to SoHo where she is staying with Kiki, and artist friend of hers. Paul jumps into a taxi cab outside his apartment, and then the weirdness begins...
The burly cab driver whisks Paul through the streets of New York at 80 mph as if being chased by the hounds of hell. During the wild ride, Paul loses a $20 bill, the only money he has on him when it's whisked out the car window, and he is forced to stiff the driver. Paul finds the loft and meets Kiki (Linda Fiorentino) for the first time, who's wearing nothing but a black bra and leather miniskirt, working on a paper-maché sculpture that resembles painter Edvard Munch's The Scream. Eventually, Marcy shows up where they spend some time together. But Marcy is a strange person who prattles on about events in her life, delivering her lines with a staccato rhythm punctuated by a nervous laugh. Marcy turns out to be a hyperactive mass of contradictions, and Paul decides that swaying her emotions are a bit too weird to handle. So, he begins acting like a jerk and leaves.
In trying to get home, Paul does not have any money for a subway token and is forced to seek refuge in a bar where more wierdness happens involving an ecentric waitress (Teri Garr), the friendly barman (John Heard) as well as other ecentrics including Cheech and Chong playing a couple of dim-witted robbers that show up now and then.
I won't give any more away just in a sense of reason so one can view for themselves. Very surreal, this movie is like one long nightmare which one can never wake up from, plus I never wanted it to end. It's a film like this I myself can relate to: a well-off-but-lonely yuppie leaves his sterile apartment for a night out and pays a visit to a very different neighborhood of SoHo where it seems everyone is connected and looking out for each other, where as everyone in the Upper East Side keeps to themselves. Paul's rational sensibilities are at first intrigued, then terrified by the irrational, emotional and creative energies of this neighborhood, which is populated by every kind of different people one seldom sees in person. I think that the movie is a tragedy, because Paul, like a lot of unsure-of-themselves people, is stuck between these two worlds of SoHo and the Upper East Side, yet he belongs to neither. He seeks escape to the mundane, orderly and boring world that his day makes up in an office building, and finds the offbeat, freer lifestyle in SoHo intimidating, scary and dangerous. SPOILER In the end, through a combination of luck, skill, and divine intervention, Paul is rescued from certain danger (including death) and is delivered back to the cold comfort of his computers where he works, not that he belongs there, but because he really has no other place to go.
Stephen Spielberg's 1941 bombed when first released in late 1979. But the movie really isn't all that bad, honest. But the only problem is that it suffers from overkill. Just too many story lines going on at once and that makes the movie increasingly difficult to follow. But then again, it's something not to be taken seriously. People who take it seriously may not find it funny at all, since the whole thing is played for laughs.
As for the plot, if no one knows, let me try to explain a little. 1941 is set during one long day (and night) of December 13, 1941 one week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. One part centers on a hostile Japanese submarine, the I-19, which surfaces near the California coast where the commander Mitamura tries to find an inviting target to attack. Also on board is a Nazi advisor Capt. Von Kleinschmidt (Christopher Lee) always bickering about Mitamura's tactics.
Meanwhile, in war-crazed Los Angeles the action mostly centers on two young men, Wally and Dennis. Wally is a recent parolee from prison and wants to get the affections of his girl Betty Douglas, which her dominering father Ward (Ned Beatty) tries to prevent. Then there's this tank crew led by Sgt. Tree (Dan Ackroyd) who's crew Sitarski (Treat Williams), Foley (John Candy), Hinshaw and Reese place a 40mm AA gun in the front lawn of Ward Douglas's house, where Sitarski, a local bully, takes a liking to Betty and an instant dislike to Wally. Wally then spends the rest of the movie trying to get into the new USO club where Betty and her frumpy friend Maxine work as USO girls while Sitarski tries to starve off the advances from Maxine.
Also, there's this wild-eyed army pilot named Wild Bill Kelso (the late great John Belushi) spending most of the movie flying around in a stolen P-40 fighter plane looking for a nonexistent Japanese air raid squadron. A mad army colonel, Maddox, protecting Barstow army airport from a nonexistent Japanese landing force. Two dim-wited, bickering air raid spoters, named Herby and Claude, who spend the movie stuck on top of a carnival ferris wheel looking for Japanese aircraft. A hapless drunkard named Hollis Wood (Slim Pickens) who gets captured by Mitamura's crew to learn the directions to Hollywood, al la "Who's on First" joke. A neurotic U.S. Army general Stilwell (Robert Stack) trying to hold the city together, while his secretary Donna (Nancy Allen) is persued by airman Birkhead (Tim Matheson) who learns that Donna will only put out when airborne in a moving plane.
Lost you? That's only half of the movie as the rest of it gets increasingly chaotic and noisy. Many other familar faced character actors make cameo appearances, too many to name them all here. But for those who want some time passing movie watching this is the one to see and worth a look. Note: this review is for the 146 minute director's cut, not the theatrical 119 minute print which omits some characters and subplots. The longer director's cut is the one to see.