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1522 reviews in total 
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A surprisingly clever little movie, 17 March 2017

You know the advice students are always given in English classes where they are told to write about what they know about; well that adage has been applied quite a bit in the case of Almost Hollywood. It's actually very unusual indeed to find an exploitation film that it about the behind-the-scenes goings on featuring the people who make exploitation films. So hats off to the film-makers here for doing something that is simultaneously so obvious yet so utterly rare. Its story surrounds a film producer who specialises in soft-core exploitation films; he gets mixed up in murder and other shenanigans.

I have to say that I was pretty surprised with this one. It obviously was made on an absolute shoe-string budget, yet it actually displays a decent amount of ambition to not be a genre film but to be about the making of them. Sure, it's a comedy and some of it gags fall flat but it was surprisingly clever quite a bit of the time too, with some worthwhile things to say about the business and a few clever scenes where we in the audience don't know if what we are seeing is real or a film. So, yeah, well done I say for giving us something more thoughtful than the usual generic drivel. This one also has the good fortune of starring the Playboy playmate India Allen, who also is in on the joke, while still being kind enough to strip off once which was, of course, nice.

An early post-apocalypse bit of sci-fi that is more fun that its given credit for, 17 March 2017

Damnation Alley was quite an unlucky movie seemingly, it was put out with the idea that it would be another profitable sci-fi b-movie but unfortunately for it, a few weeks before it was released a movie called Star Wars was released which changed the rules for sci-fi forever more. To be honest though, I kind of like this one. It has its own significant factors too, for instance it's quite early in the cycle of post-apocalypse movies - the Mad Max series certainly seems to have borrowed some of its ideas – and so I think it's fair to say that its core look and feel went on to be used in quite a few similar movies in the 80's. Its story starts with a nuclear war devastating the world, leaving a small band of survivors in a desert outpost. After a while they are forced to set off on a journey to try and find other survivors in an all-terrain vehicle.

This one has a plot that boils down to a succession of set-pieces strung together along a hazardous trek. It's essentially a road movie...without a road. Along the way our heroes battle giant scorpions, swarms of flesh-eating cockroaches, mutant feral humans and they endure an electrical storm. They also pick up a woman and an incredibly annoying teenage boy. The film is chock full of corny dialogue and charmingly poor special effects but it remains entertaining nevertheless with good pacing and enough variety of events to ensure things remain interesting. It has to be admitted though that it does end with a very poorly conceived conclusion that felt like it was tagged on because the original idea was too expensive. But on the whole, I found this to be good fun mainly, certainly a fair bit better than its poor reputation suggests.

Mediocre spaghetti western-buddy film, 17 March 2017

A bounty hunter is hired to find a bandit who has stolen money from the government. He enlists the help of a criminal he helped put behind bars.

Bury Them Deep is a typical spaghetti western which borrows its fair share from Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy, even going as far as re-using sets from A Few Dollars More (1965). The story is not very interesting and the characters are really no more than standard for this kind of thing. It sort of operates partially as a buddy film, with the two protagonists not getting on and then getting on – you know the drill. It all amounts to a pretty mediocre outing though with little to truthfully recommend it, although it's still worth seeing if you want to delve into the more obscure corners of the spaghetti western genre.

Burnout (1979)
A semi-movie at best, 17 March 2017

There is a good film below the surface in this Crown International release. But alas Burnout fails to deliver ultimately. Its main problem I would say is that there is so little material that the run-time has been padded out with an awful lot of real footage from the racing circuit. This stuff lends the film a bit of atmosphere to a certain extent but it definitely is over-used. The main feeling is that Crown cobbled this one together quickly and cheaply with a minimum of film-making and a considerable amount of stock footage to bring it up to an acceptable running time.

The story focuses on a teenager who looks to be not a day under thirty, as he tries to become a drag racing driver. Add in some drama pertaining to his rich, disappointed father and you have the bare bones of a narrative. There's just not really enough on screen to get involved with here and it probably works best as a nuts and bolts look at the goings on at a drag racing circuit in the 70's; beyond that its honestly slim pickings at best.

Blood Rage (1987)
An entertainingly gory, yet unheralded 80's slasher, 17 March 2017

Two ten year old twins sneak away from their parents at a drive-in. One of the boys viciously slaughters a man and blames the other for the crime. The latter is sent to a facility for the criminally insane and ten years later he escapes and returns to the family fold while the evil twin sees this as an ideal opportunity to begin a mass killing spree.

Blood Rage is one from the vast selection of slasher movies that came out in the golden period of the genre, the 80's. I was pretty surprised to learn that it was made in 1983 but actually sat on the shelf for four years before being released in '87. My surprise comes from the fact that I have seen a few slasher movies from this time-period and this to me was definitely one of the better ones! So lord only knows why it was deemed unreleasable until the late 80's, when the slasher craze had begun to wane. Anyhow, for what it's worth, this one was somewhat entertaining and I was never truthfully bored. It has a typical dumb story-line naturally but what can really be expected? More to the point it contains quite a commendably copious amount of OTT violence, including bloody slashings, a woman cut in half, someone getting a fork in the neck, while we also have hands and heads being lopped off. So, points allocated for effort I would say. It's also probably worth acknowledging too that Mark Soper does pretty well with the dual role of the weak and crazy twin brothers, I mean we're not talking Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers (1988) levels of thespian emoting but he did well enough with what he was given I thought. All-in-all, this is not a bad effort at all for this kind of thing.

Informative Eastwood TV biography, 17 March 2017

It almost goes without saying that Clint Eastwood is a bit of a cinematic legend. He's pretty unique in that he is as famous for being a great director as he is a charismatic movie star. His roster of films is a pretty impressive one, with not very many mis-steps along the way. This made-for-TV documentary doesn't necessarily tell us much that other similar biopics have already but it still offers the occasional interesting titbit and it does feature some focus on some lesser known films such as White Hunter Black Heart (1990). It's made up of interviews with Clint himself as well as the views of many who have worked with him.

It features the period from the series Rawhide up until his Oscar winner Unforgiven (1992). Not all his films in between are covered and there is only praise to be found here with nothing critical being offered by way of contrast. This is standard practice for this kind of thing of course but it does make the film definitely less balanced and not as interesting as it could be. Still, Eastwood's career is such that there still remains much to appreciate here and so for any fan of the man's work I would say this makes for a good watch but it probably would work best for someone less familiar with his filmography.

Poor spaghetti western which brings nothing new to the table., 17 March 2017

Here is another film which gives the name Django to the title character as an after-thought, in order to cash in on the popularity of that spaghetti western series. In this one, a gang of bandits kill a man who turns out to be Django's father which of course turns out to be pretty bad news for those criminals in the long run. And there's some missing money, or something.

This one stars Ivan Rassimov in the title role, yet he was completely unrecognisable here to me, so much so I thought there must have been a mistake in the credits here. Needless to say it turns out it was Rassimov but I guess he didn't make too much of an impression here, which is surprising given how memorable he was in some later 70's giallo flicks. I guess the western genre just wasn't too suited to him really. Much better was his sister Rada, who would also go on to appear in a prominent giallo, namely Dario Argento's Cat o' Nine Tails (1971). The reason I think I am rambling on about other movies is that this flick was so incredibly forgettable. Like many standard Italian westerns it contains nothing new or very interesting and instead just gives us more of the same. This isn't always a bad thing of course but when it's delivered in such an under par manner it gets old pretty quick. This one is strictly for die-hard fans of this sub-genre.

Not especially memorable but enjoyable enough all the same, 17 March 2017

Django and Sartana team up to fight back against two gangs of outlaws who are terrorising a lawless town.

The unique angle of this Italian western is in combining both the Django and Sartana characters together, both of whom had their own series of spaghetti westerns. Although it does have to be said that this distinctive aspect has to be set against the fact that both protagonists only resemble these characters in name and act decidedly differently than usual. Truthfully, it seems obvious that these names were only applied to the characters as an after-thought. Quite honestly, this is a very clichéd and derivative affair with stock characters such as an enigmatic bounty hunter and amoral villains aplenty. But despite all this, I found it overall to be slightly better than average for this kind of thing. It didn't descend into tedium too often and its sparse running time seemed like good manners on the part of the film-makers. So, while any seasoned fan of this kind of thing is highly unlikely to find anything new here, I still think it entertains more effectively than many others in the sub-genre.

Where wild nature and human madness intertwine, 16 March 2017

Grizzly Man is another film from the German director Werner Herzog which focuses on a man who hovers over the line where visionary meets madness. In this instance it is the character Timothy Treadwell who fits the role. This was a guy who between 1990 and 2003 spent each summer in Katmai National Park in Alaska in the land of the grizzly bears. He had an uncanny affinity with these creatures but had no official training on them. He is perhaps most famous for getting up and close to them in ways that no one previously had ever attempted. This extraordinary behaviour was captured on film by Treadwell; he in fact filmed over 100 hours of often fantastic footage. His videos also served as something of a confessional, as he often addressed the camera straight on and voiced his opinions on many issues which affected him, many highly personal. So this endeavour functioned partially as an attempt to define himself. But the truth is that Treadwell was a very unhinged man in many ways. At the end of the day, in spite of his achievements, his reckless actions resulted in the violent death of both himself and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard in 2003, when they were killed by a bear that clearly saw them only as meat and not as friends. Herzog reveals this fact very early on in proceedings and this allows viewers to have this in mind as we watch Treadwell in his mission.

This is another of those documentaries that reveals truths so strange it is surprising that they are facts at all. Herzog is both sympathetic and critical of Treadwell, admiring his individuality and unique vision but condemning his recklessness and idealistic view of nature. While Treadwell styles himself as the protector of the bears, it's never made at all clear what he is protecting them from and what it is he is precisely doing to protect them in the first place. The actual irony is that his 'protection' led to the death of the bear which killed him, an animal which would not had died if he had never interacted with it. His concept of protection was more an idea than an action. He is certainly a very self-indulgent protagonist but ultimately he interacted with grizzlies like no one else ever has and his story is absolutely fascinating. Like many other Herzog films this one boils down to man vs. wilderness, a story about a kind of human madness suffered by someone on the outer fringe of society. On the one hand this is a film about beautiful and deadly nature; while on the other it's a very human story about a man who actively did something extraordinary, if somewhat insane. But it's also about a man who wanted to create an illusion, a man with many insecurities who found meaning in something completely unexpected. Timothy Treadwell's story is one full of contradictions – it has tragedy, stupidity and narcissism but it also has beauty, wonder and inspiring qualities. It's very much a documentary of considerable merit.

Not Bava's best but this is certainly a very important Italian horror film, 1 March 2017

Black Sunday is a very significant film in several ways. For one thing, it is the key movie that got the Italian Gothic horror sub-genre underway. Secondly, it cemented actress Barbara Steele's reputation as one of the queens of the horror genre. Thirdly, and most importantly, it was the film that truly announced director Mario Bava to the world and was the first in a long line of extremely good directorial efforts which established him as an undisputed king of Italian genre cinema.

In the 1600's a witch is executed brutally by having a mask of Satan nailed into her face, two hundred years later she is resurrected and vows revenge on the descendants of the family who killed her. It is in truth a very rudimentary plot of the kind that could be found in many other supernatural horror films. But what makes this one stand out from the crowd is the visual eloquence that Bava brings. He had been chiefly a cinematographer up to this point in his career and it certainly shows, with some beautiful fluid camera-work, great lighting and well composed framing. It does have to be said though that this was one of only a couple of films that he directed which were black-and-white; this doesn't prevent him from composing great imagery but because he went on to become such a master of colour, it does have to be said that it does lack this hugely important factor which defined his subsequent work so greatly. Aside from Bava's eye, this one does benefit considerably from having Steele at its disposal and this is certainly one of the films which utilises her best in that she gets to play a dual-role of the witch and an innocent heroine. She convinces fully in both modes and adds a lot of class in front of the lens.

Unlike quite a few people, I wouldn't put this one in the upper bracket of Bava's output. I think the over-familiarity of the plot ensures it doesn't stand out as much as other bolder, more original films in his later filmography. But it is still very well done for this kind of thing and certainly is a key entry in the Gothic horror boom of the 50's / 60's.

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