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K-9 would say--"Affirmative!!!"
Most of the other reviewers here can't seem to get past the theme song--yeah, it's silly but hardly something you would want to commit suicide over! The producer John Nathan Turner wanted a Hart To Hart opening credit sequence and that was a bit of a bad idea considering that the two leads in this are a woman and a mechanical dog! However, there is something bizarrely funny about it that acually draws you in. Maybe it's the camera zooming in on K-9 sitting on a stone fence--just how the hell did he get up there?! All of that aside, the actual story of witchcraft in the English countryside is rather fun stuff. There is some nice nightime atmosphere surrounding the coven's ceremonies and the actors who portray the various locals are all well cast. The only real negative is the short running time which is why there is not a lot of tension built. If one reads the novel it can be seen there was much more going on in the background to create tension but this does an acceptable job. Anyone who takes this too seriously or gets mad over this needs to relax and take a few deep breaths. This is great fun in the solid tradition of Doctor Who and it is too bad it never became a series.
Tower of Evil (1972)
A must see
This is a movie for anyone who loves English horror films from the early 70's--and that should mean you!! A fog enshrouded island, a derelict lighthouse, plenty of blood, sex and dated slang--oh yeah it's here in abundance!! Don't listen to the other reviewers when they say this film would have been better if it had been made with today's effects and a larger budget. This film becomes better because it was made on a tighter budget, when the crew had to come up with inventive ways to create atmosphere, menace and a sustained mood. All of these things drip from every frame of this film and the cast is actually very good and even features George Couloris (of Citizen Kane fame) in a short but blood filled cameo at the start of the film and Jill Haworth, who had prior to this film starred in such acclaimed flicks as "Exodus" and the Broadway version of "Cabaret". Forget those films though this is the highlight of her career--everything else was just practice for this baby!! Some might say I'm going too far but that would be wrong. The twists in this film are truly fun and surprising and the musical score adds a real sense of unease to the well directed carnage and misty vistas (hats off to Jim O'Connolly!) So what are you waiting for--this is now out on DVD and looks crisp and vivid. Get it and see how good horror films were not all that long ago!
Good first attempt at Doctor Who spin-off!
Wartime was the first independent Doctor Who spin-off (made when the show was still in production in 1987) and is pretty good. John Levene stars as Sgt. Benton of U.N.I.T. (from the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker years) on a delivery mission who gets sidetracked to a haunting landscape that holds a painful secret from his past. Younger versions of himself and his brother, who died in a tragic accident at the location he finds himself in, assault his senses, as do images of his mother and father (the latter played by original Doctor Who Davros, Michael Wisher). Benton's confrontations with his father are well handled and sometimes quite eerie. A major issue that had haunted Benton is finally resolved and it is never really clear whether the images of his family are mental projections brought on by the previously unresolved trauma or actual ghosts and this ambiguity is a positive attribute of this production. The acting itself varies, with John Levene putting in an adequate performance (with a couple of minor lapses) and Wisher contributing a marvellous and occasionally spooky one. The overall look and some of the effects are strictly low budget but credit must be given to the crew who proved people outside the BBC could treat characters in a sensitive and interesting fashion. Also on the video is a Making Of Wartime section that is revealing in the trials and tribulations of a low budget production. Some of the remembrances are long winded but most are fresh and sometimes quite funny. Buy this to see where the Doctor Who spin-off phenomena began and give it a few viewings before passing judgement on it as it is really very intriguing and moody.
The Return of Charlie Chan (1973)
Not as bad as reputation suggests
I found this to be a fun, if overly complex, updating of the Chan legacy--Charlie is now sixty years old and has been in retirement for ten years. It is a bit jolting to see him roll up to his house at the beginning in a dune buggy wearing a gaudy Hawaiian shirt but it's got a good spirit about it. Ross Martin is certainly not the best choice to portray the great detective but he certainly is credible and grows on you with subsequent viewings. The mystery itself, as I mentioned, is quite confusing on the first go round but becomes clear on a second viewing. I suppose that this complexity is what landed this pilot film on the shelf for so many years before it was finally released. Unlike some other reviewers here, I love the "tacky" 70's feel of this and it adds a certain camp quality that makes it even more fun. The two offspring of Charlie's that appear as his companions here(one son and one daughter)again grow and you and showed promise as potential regular characters. This would have been a good regular series in the mould of McMillan And Wife, Columbo etc. etc. At any rate it is an enjoyable one off that is never less than diverting. In the end maybe it was right this didn't become a series, inasmuch as Ross Martin was not Asian and it was getting to a point where it seemed out of place to have caucasians portraying the great sleuth. Hopefully the latest chapter of Chan,with Chow Yun-phat will rectify this issue! So, if by chance your a fan of Charlie Chan, give this a try and realise it was simply a different take made for an early 1970's audience and enjoy it!
Whirlwind two part skit!
This story starts like a regular episode with the Rani in her TARDIS following the Doctor's TARDIS and generally up to no good ( she is trying to collect all the Doctor's selves to complete her menagerie), with a young travelling companion. The Rani has trapped the disembodied heads of the first two Doctors in a Time Tunnel (this must have looked very wild in the original 3-D transmission!). We then join the Seventh Doctor and Ace exiting the TARDIS in front of the Cutty Sark. Things then move very fast and get very confusing. The Rani apparently wants to capture one specimen of every living thing which will then allow her to have the power to control evolution (I gleaned much of this information from The Seventh Doctor Handbook as it's not really clear in the two part skit). Why many of the companions are needed instead of just one human, for instance, is not explained. However, this is still a ton of fun. This came out the year (1993) that the Doctor Who movie "The Dark Dimension" was to have been released and as a bonus this would have been the cherry on the cake. In reality, though, "The Dark Dimension" was cancelled and this was the consolation prize thrown at fans--quite a letdown in that context! It should be remembered, however, that this production was made for Children In Need and all actors donated their time and services free of charge. One wishes there was more screen time for each Doctor and interaction between them but time is literally of the essence here and even with the brevity of time on screen each shines as if they have never left the role (except Hartnell and Troughton of course who are just floating heads!). Many companions appear as well and one can only think of what could have been with more time. I mean the Sixth Doctor with the Brig as well as Susan and the Third Doctor and Victoia are just three examples. All of the meetings of Doctors and companions are fun but oh so brief. Towards the end tons of old monsters appear (a Tractator, Tetrap, Sea Devil, Zog from the stage play "Ultimate Adventure" among many others). The final resolution to this mystery is very confusing but it's still fun to see the Seventh Doctor, Leela and K9 together! One will miss the 3-D effects that this was originally filmed in and may become a bit dizzy with the rotating camera work but this is harmless Who fun. If you can find someone with a copy of this give it a view, if not for any other reason, to see the final official screen adventure of Jon Pertwee as the Doctor!
Ghost Riders (1987)
Avoid this junk!
To keep it short just avoid this movie. The premise of an old west killer putting a curse on the preacher of a lynch mob that subsequently haunts the family for generations may sound promising but in delivery it simply fails. After moving from 1886 Texas we join a Professor of Texan history in 1986, who happens to be the great-great grandson of the hangin' preacher. His son(a Vietnam vet and stunt pilot) is coming for a visit with his two mechanic buddies and a young lass who is smitten with him in about as much time as it takes to say "this movie sucks". Now the idea of old outlaw ghosts seeking bloody revenge should have been good for a few chills but the majority of this no budget affair takes place on a sunny blue skied day, which certainly takes away much of the fear of not knowing where the spectres are coming from! Add to this lame mix bland to just plain bad acting, generally annoying characters, a simplistic, non suspenseful and amateurish script, horrible sound quality and a limp pay off and you have a text book example of a time waster. Avoid this movie. It had potential but simply blew it!
House of the Damned (1996)
A wasted opportunity
This was a letdown in many ways. The location filming in Ireland, though quite beautiful at times, cannot save this uninspired flick. Greg Evigan and Alexandra Paul, as the married couple trying to get their marriage back on track and who inherit a haunted mansion, just aren't interesting characters. Paul, towards the end of the film, becomes incredibly annoying and one wishes she would just close her mouth and shut up, as it seems she is screaming as if it has just become an Olympic event! Other problems with this film are odd segments that have nothing to do with the core of the film, such as the opening sequence with two cleaning women and the woman in a bed with a severed hand climbing over her writhing, naked body. Although the woman is quite adequate doing this it does nothing storywise. One is left thinking the production team needed to pad out a short running time and just tossed in some padding and a bit of T and A. The CGI effects are cartoonish as well and the fiery finale rivals co-executive producer Roger Corman's much earlier and far superior film The Fall Of The House Of Usher in all its ineffective cheapness. Any attempt at true tension and suspense, and as a result chills, are thrown out the window in this low budget bust. If you like images of Ireland you might find something here but you would do better renting or buying a travelogue. Skip this unless you are undiscriminating and think plot is secondary. Rent another low budget ghost story(if you can find it) titled The Woman In Black and see how good and scary a movie can be. This was a wasted opportunity.
Scared Stiff (1953)
If you liked the film this is a remake of you should find something to enjoy in this movie.
If you liked the film this is a remake of (The Ghost Breakers) you should find something to enjoy in this movie. One improvement is that there are no glaring racial stereotypes that hindered the original and which make the viewer uncomfortable. Taking the place of Willie Best in the first film is Jerry Lewis, which at least allows Dean Martin to get cheap laughs off of him without relying on negative racial facial expressions and speech. Lewis certainly has a LOT of facial expressions and voices on display but they don't demean anyone but himself!! Martin is adequate in his role but lacks the natural pizzazz of Bob Hope in the original and Lizabeth Scott as the inheritor of the old Cuban estate is again merely passable in the role that Paulette Goddard sparkled in. All of that said, the story is still fun and the mystery diverting. The sets rival, and in some cases surpass, those of the earlier movie (although some seem to almost be the same ones)and the supporting acting is good. If you like Carmen Miranda and Dean Martin songs and Martin/Lewis comedy routines you will also be in for a treat as there are plenty of musical and comedic interludes that are pleasant in their innocent dated way. There are probably too many songs for this movie that stretch the length of it to nearly two hours but at least they are not horrid and pass with little boredom or desire to hit the fast forward button! The new dialogue is good but much of it, not to mention scenes in general, are verbatim rehashes of the first movie that suggests the production team and stars were not feeling particularly inventive or willing to try to outdo Hope's film. If you haven't seen The Ghost Breakers this will be fun for you and if you have but feel uneasy about the racial stereotypes of the first film you can watch this without that concern. This is a good looking movie that captures the creepy elements of The Ghost Breakers (and as I said surpasses in some instances) in all but the zombie which is merely okay here as opposed to truly frightening as the first one was--which might make it easier to watch for young kids. So, this is not as bad as some say and depending on your ability to stomach Lewis' comedic excesses a worthwhile view.
The Scarlet Clue (1945)
Another fun Monogram Charlie Chan
This is a very good Monogram Pictures Chan that has snappy dialogue, a lot of funny lines from Sidney Toler (as Chan) who berates No.3 son Tommy more than any other of his prodigious offspring and a couple of scenes with Mantan Moreland and Ben Carter which are priceless!! The plot may stretch credibility a bit but the movie has a fast pace, good direction and sets that are above the norm for a Monogram Chan. Keep an eye out, as well, for the great elevator segment that is surprising and innovative. The banter between the actors in the broadcasting studio is also inspired and fun. Although not quite up to par with the Twentieth Century Fox Chan's this is damn close! Monogram Chan's get a bad rap sometimes but this again proves there was magic in the old detective series still. Check it out.
The Jazz Singer (1980)
Saccharine fun that achieves what its supposed to!
Sure, this movie has its fair share of saccharine moments and heavy dollops of schmaltz but it also works remarkably well as a tale of following one's dream and the sacrifices that litter the path towards achieving it. Neil Diamond is no Lawrence Olivier and it is a bit surreal to see his name billed above the late great actor but he's credible and he certainly doesn't embarrass himself. Olivier is the acting highlight here and imbues every scene he is in with passion and heartwrenching grace. There are several highly emotional moments to be found here in some well constructed and directed scenes designed to bring out the tears--and they do! Fans of Diamond's music will also find much to enjoy here as such schmaltz classics as "Love On The Rocks" and "Hello Again" compliment the drama remarkably well. Supporting actors Lucie Arnaz and Franklyn Ajaye are also game and put in solid performances. Also, if your looking for jazz look elsewhere as the only jazz reference is the name of a particular baby!! All in all this is old fashioned fun that should reward the viewer. Saccharine yes, but a movie that achieves its goal admirably.