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This film from director Steven Spielberg was filmed for $500 and according to the director it made a dollar profit when it was shown at a local theater. Sadly the film is now missing two-reels so it's impossible to fully judge the movie. What's available is a couple minutes worth of footage, which has been shown at a few festivals and can be found online. Obviously with so much footage missing it's impossible to judge the movie but it's certainly entertaining to watch. Of the remaining footage we basically get to see a few lights in the sky as well as a couple of the characters. Again, one really shouldn't watch this and judge anything in it but it's certainly fascinating to watch considering what Spielberg would eventually turn into.
Escape to Nowhere (1961)
It's impossible to judge this movie since I don't believe it's complete but it's interesting to watch since future legend Steven Spielberg was only 13-years-old at the time he made it. Borrowing his father's 8mm camera, Spielberg shot this movie and I must admit that it's quite dazzling to watch. I've seen quite a few kid's movies over the years and this here is certainly one of the most impressive but I'm going to guess that the young Spielberg had the benefit of parents supporting him and having the wallets to pay for such a film. It's interesting to note that the majority of the cast members all have costumes, which adds to the film. It's set in Africa during the war and we see several battle scenes played out. The film actually contains some great editing and it really does make you feel as if you're watching a real battle take place.
** (out of 4)
This four-minute short from George Lucas was filmed on the set of MACKENNA'S GOLD, the 1969 Gregory Peck movie. I'm really not sure why Lucas was on the set but I hope it wasn't to record anything that was actually happening on the set. This short movie really doesn't contain any behind-the-scenes stuff from MACKENNA'S GOLD outside of some fuzzy and out of focus shots. We get to hear a little from the cast and crew through voice-overs but that's about it. The majority of the running time is just shots of the sunset, various plants and items like this. There's certainly nothing bad with this short but it certainly doesn't contain anything special.
Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town (1967)
** (out of 4)
When George Lucas returned to USC after graduating he made two shorts. The documentary THE EMPEROR and this one here, which was actually the school's first student film to be shot in color and widescreen. Sadly, it's also the weakest short that Lucas had done up to this point. It's based on the E.E. Cummings poem and pretty much shows a man and a woman wondering around the country side. The short runs just 6-minutes, which is certainly a positive thing. The film is pretty to look at and it contains some nice cinematography but whatever plot the director was trying to get across doesn't happen. In fact, the film really doesn't come across as being about anything so it's up to the viewer to just come up with anything. I'm not certain that was the point of Lucas so in the end this is certainly the weakest of his short films.
Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB (1967)
*** (out of 4)
This short film from writer-director George Lucas was certainly the most important one he ever made for a number of reasons. For one, it got some national attention, which also meant critics were aware of his name. For two, it led to him meeting Steven Spielberg and we know what happened from there. And thirdly, the film would eventually be turned into a feature.
The story is pretty simple as it takes place in a futuristic world where a man (Dan Natchsheim) is trying to escape but no matter where he runs someone is monitoring him.
As of me writing this, I actually haven't seen the feature so I have no idea of knowing what Lucas changed or whatever but for the most part this here was pretty interesting. I thought the highlight was clearly the visuals since Lucas didn't have too much money to work with yet you still got the impression that you were watching something set in the future. The "story" was a bit all over the map but I guess that was to be somewhat expected and I'm sure it was expanded for the feature.
The Emperor (1967)
*** (out of 4)
Documentary of radio DJ Bob Hudson was written and directed by George Lucas while he was attending USC Film School. This is a pretty clever little short where Lucas gets to show off the subject but also some of his technical views as well. There are some pretty good shots throughout this B&W film including early on where we're listening to Hudson talk while the camera just zooms across the radio room and we get to see various things. Another good touch happens towards the end when we hear Donovan's Season of the Witch and Lucas shows off some of the local people. The film also benefits from a pretty good soundtrack, which shows Lucas' taste in music, which of course would become famous with American GRAFFITI. Fans of the director are certainly going to be entertained by this one and especially with the "end credits" happening at the middle of the picture!
*** (out of 4)
This seven-minute short is one that was done by George Lucas for his Senior Project while at USC. From what I've read, Peter Brock actually borrowed a car so that Lucas could film it doing laps at a race track. The title refers to the amount of time it took to complete a lap. For the most part this here is a pretty entertaining film thanks in large part to the way it was filmed and for the sound. The various sounds captured as the car flies around the track was put to good use and it certainly makes you feel as if you're right there inside the car. There were some nice shots including one where the camera was placed at the front of the car giving you a terrific view. There's certainly nothing here that would lead you to believe Lucas would become somewhat of an icon but it's certainly worth watching.
*** (out of 4)
Good early short film from director George Lucas, which he made while being a student at USC. In the film, we see a boy (Randal Kleiser) running but from what we're not sure of at the start. We see him continuing to run when we realize that he's trying to get his freedom by going from East Germany and crossing over to West. For the most part this is a pretty good three-minute short, which certainly has a message to get across and the director is able to do that even with the short running time. I thought the cinematography was quite good throughout and Lucas really managed to build up a little tension. The use of the voices at the end was very effective as well. Fans of the director will certainly want to check this one out.
** 1/2 (out of 4)
This three-minute short is from George Lucas and Paul Golding who made it during their 1966 year at USC Film School. It's a pretty basic short as we get a piano song from Herbie Hancock playing while we see various reflections of moving lights at night. A lot of the images are lights reflecting off of parked automobiles. Obviously there's nothing here that would make you believe that Lucas would go onto become one of the most famous names in cinema history. The short, for the most part, is entertaining as the reflections are quite nice but in the end they really don't add up to much. It should go without saying but the piano solo by Hancock is the highlight of the picture.
Deadly Eyes (1982)
* (out of 4)
Awful "nature gone wild" film from Canada has a bunch of bad grain being eaten by rats, which turns them into large creatures out for human blood.
This film pretty much disappeared from the radar until Shout Factory! released a Special Edition of it. This is pretty much in the same vein as NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, THE FOOD OF THE GODS, EMPIRE OF THE ANTS and countless other films where nature goes after man. This film here probably isn't as well remembered as those movies because it really doesn't feature a familiar cast or at least anyone remembered well today. Another problem is that the film is pretty darn bad from the start and continues that way until the end. Even worse is the fact that the "rats" are actually dogs with rat costumes on them, which will remind some of THE KILLER SHREWS.
There are countless problems with this movie but we can start with all the characters. All of them are rather bland, boring and you certainly don't care for any of them. The screenplay really tries to build up the relationship between the teacher (Sam Groom) and a health inspector (Sara Botsford) but it just comes across silly as does a subplot dealing with one of the teacher's students constantly trying to seduce him. Another major problem is that the film certainly isn't scary or intense. The animal attack scenes are all pretty stupid with either silly looking costumes chasing people or really bad looking puppets. There's some gore throughout the picture but none of it is all that memorable.
The performances are about the only good thing with both Groom and Botsford at least turning in good work. Both of them are certainly much better than the material and we also get a quick spot by Scatman Crothers. Sadly, everything else is pretty much a bust including the annoying sound effects and the rather silly music score.
Look, not many of the films in this genre are actually "good" but thankfully stuff like THE FOOD OF THE GODS is so awful that you can laugh. I found DEADLY EYES awful but sadly there just wasn't any laughs to be had with it.
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