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8 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
This vulture is no turkey, 21 October 2013

I'm a huge science fiction fan, constantly on the lookout for any film with a futuristic theme – everything from "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe", to "Forbidden Planet", to "Pacific Rim". As a classic film buff as well, I know that, from film's earliest days, up until George Lucas redefined the box office potential with the megahit "Star Wars", science fiction movies were usually relegate to "B" status and assigned budgets accordingly.

What is really amazing is just how much the special effects wizards (in the time before ILM) were able to accomplish on such skimpy budgets. Sometimes though, the budgets were so skimpy there was no possible way to make a believable monster – which brings me to "The Giant Claw". Before I ever saw the movie I had a negative impression because it seemed to top all the "worst movie ever" lists (e.g. The Golden Turkey Awards). However, when I finally got the opportunity to see the movie for myself, I was surprised how much better the script and acting were than what I had expected. I ended up enjoying "The Giant Claw" as much as more highly regarded '50s Sci-Fi such as "Them", "The Giant Mantis", or "It Came From Beneath the Sea".

If "The Giant Claw" had substance as good as those movies though, where it fell flat was style. You can have the best acting, directing, cinematography, and sound; but, as the old saying goes – at some point the monster has to jump out and say "boo"; and that's where "The Giant Claw" falls flat. I mean, as one reviewed noted, the best way to describe the monster is looking like a half plucked Christmas turkey that escaped a Safeway freezer - 50 years ago.

One could speculate how much better it would have seemed - even then - if an effects wizard such as Ray Harryhausen could have had the time and budget to make a more believable monster. However, it is what it is and "The Giant Claw" is great fun to watch; sometimes adding a bit of cheese make the best tasting popcorn.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Search for the killers of a ranger, 21 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Texas John Slaughter" was broadcast as a recurring series from October 1958 to April 1961 as part of the Wonderful World of Disney during its run on ABC. The series lasted a total of 17 60 minute episodes and depicted the exploits of a fictional Texas Ranger - Texas John Salughter. In the days before cable TV, DVDs, and streaming video, it was common practice for the studios to try and recover production costs by repackaging episodes from their series for theatrical release overseas. Such is the case here; "Showdown at Sandoval" was originally broadcast on January 23, 1959 and Disney re-edited the 60-minute episode into a theatrical length of 74 minutes and released it in 1960 as "Gundown at Sandoval". Somewhere in the release chain, the movie was also titled as "Gunfight at Sandoval" - which was the name Disney used when the movie was released on VHS.

Here, Slaughter vows revenge when the murderous Barko Gang, headed by a husband-and-wife team (Lyle Bettiger, Beverly Garland), kills a fellow ranger during a bank robbery. After a deadly confrontation with the fleeing gang, a captured member reveals that their destination was a lavish haven for criminals known as "Sandoval" - run by an elegant but evil mastermind (Dan Duryea). Determined to rid the territory of both gang and notorious hideout, Slaughter plots an invasion of the fortress-like complex in a cleverly devised but treacherous masquerade - with his beloved fiancée Addie (Norma Moore) as a willing accomplice.

Regardless whether you look at "Gundown at Sandoval" as a TV show or theatrical western, it's kind of middle of the road; certainly watchable, but the lack of character development and simple plot shows its TV-origins.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An under-rated movie, 15 June 2010

Not to disagree with those who have written about how this is an over-the-top, uber-violent, and not-so-subtle presentation of patriotism but, if you dig deeper and think about it for a moment, it's a good thing Al-Qaeda's fixation on the "big strike" leads them to ignore the possibilities of causing equal terror by lots of coordinated "little strikes" - the scenario this movie presents.

Invasion U.S.A demonstrates the terror that can be unleashed when random acts of violence cause people loose faith in the ability of authority to protect them. Think it's absurd and unrealistic? Remember the panic caused not that long ago by one disgruntled scientist sending letters filled with anthrax, or two snipers riding around the East Coast shooting people from a battered old Chevy.

Termination Point (2007) (TV)
23 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
A hidden gem, 15 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Every weekend I look through the list of movies the Sci-Fi channel is showing. I won't deny a lot of them range from silly to just plain awful - wooden acting, cheap special effects, horrible scripts - but in there among the silly stuff are a number of what I call "hidden gems"; movies perfect to lean back in an over stuffed chair with popcorn and a soda and just enjoy the ride.

That's how I felt when I finished "Termination Point". It will never gross $100M or win any Oscars, but taken on its own merits it's really quite good. Jason Priestly plays a detective going on vacation with his family when he gets the call to go after a renegade scientist (Lou Diamond Phillips) who has stolen a scientific device.

What I especially loved about the movie is that, unlike most modern horror/science fiction movies (especially those that seem to make their way to the Sci-Fi Channel) the "surprise twist" ending doesn't have the monster or killer reviving once again (to show the last two hours you just spent were wasted and evil really wins) but has an uplifting twist where things actually work out better.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Not as bad as it seems, 19 September 2008

I will readily admit I've never been a big fan of Star Trek V, but a lot of the criticism levied against William Shatner isn't entirely fair. Much of the blame for how the movie turned out has to be shared by the "suits" at Paramount - from the miserably low budget Shatner was given to work with to the constant interference with the script.

Shatner's original concept may have been unfilmable (politically speaking), but it was ambitious and very much in line with what Star Trek was always about - using a futuristic setting to discuss highly charged issues; and what could be more explosive than a movie questioning not the existence but the nature of God; that each person, each society through time recreates "God" in their own image.

There's on old saying that there's no substitute for experience and that applies to movie directors as well. One thing experience as a manager teaches you is which battles you pick and how hard to fight; some things you blow off and some things you have to be willing to "fall on you sword" for. A lot of the humor people complain about was inserted at the insistence of the studio. If a light touch had succeeded with Star Trek IV, their reasoning went, then let's insert even more here. Same with the basics of the plot; the movie went from questioning out concept of God with a capital "G" to the tired old plot device of an alien who only looks like god (small "g" intended).

Same goes for the lesser quality special effects. Shatner himself admits the results weren't what he envisioned and a lot of that was due, once again, to his inexperience as a director. He got caught up in the micro detail of making sure scenes early in the movie were "just right" and lost sight of the fact that he had a limited, and fixed, budget and would have nothing left at the end when it came time to create the "payoff" when Capt Kirk confront "God".

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Supporting actors in their own movies, 14 September 2008

I love movies from the 1930s and 1940s and TCM is my favorite channel, so I've seen most of the Marx Brothers movies over the years. My comments here about A Day at the Races could apply equally to any of the movies they made at MGM.

Something I was struck by is the stark differences between their early features - Animal Crackers and Duck Soup to name two - and later releases like A Day at the Races. The difference, I realized several years is in early releases done at Paramount the Marx Brothers are "best actors" - the focal point of the story. Once they moved to MGM the brothers became "supporting actors" and their gags were subordinated to romantic subplots and over-earnest sentimentality.

This change also affected my perception of the song and dance numbers. When the brothers were the leads the predictable formula - Chico comes across a piano and Harpo finds a harp - feels more integrated into the "plot". Whether in A Night at the Opera, The Big Store, or A Day at the Races the musical interludes feel self-consciously cute - an interlude that stops the storyline (opera singers or horse owners) while the music plays.

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Murphy at his best, 27 August 2008

I've long been a fan of Audie Murphy and event his lesser movies are better than most of the drivel that comes out of Hollywood today.

This is a good movie on its merits and not just as a vehicle for Murphy. It works well on all levels - story, acting, and directing. What I most enjoyed is the fact each actor is given screen time to rise above the stereotypes and create a memorable character - even if they only have a few lines.

The two I remember most are the young banker Seymour Kern (John Saxon) and the Mexican cowboy Johnny Caddo (Rudolph Acosta). Saxon in particular does well showing true, believable growth; he isn't just there as a foil/sidekick for Murphy to play off of but as a genuine character treated as equally important to the storyline. Acosta, usually a villain in the movies, plays an equally important role as a Spanish cowboy who joins simply because "it's the right thing to do".

Meteor (1979)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Meteor and Film History, 27 August 2008

As a movie, this fits more in the "so bad it's good" category (which is why I, personally, recommend the film); but that's not why I wanted to post a commentary. In the posted comments all but one focused on its flaws; only one went beyond that and mentioned the relevance of this movie and I wanted to expand on that.

If remembered at all, "Meteor" is noteworthy as the film that finally sank the venerable American International Pictures. There was an excellent PBS documentary not long back called "The Monster that Ate Hollywood". One of the central themes was just how much movies like "Jaws" and "Star Wars" changed Hollywood - and not necessarily for the better.

AIP made its money as a distributor of low-budget movies designed for the drive-in market but, like many others, it became enraptured by the mega-millions to be made in one blockbuster movie - rather than thousands on a string of small, frugal (but profitable) movies. "Meteor" was AIP's "swing for the fences"; its "blockbuster" movie.

You can also call it really bad timing. This was the late '70s - before computer generated digital special effects made it possible for "low budget" movies to have "high class" special effects the looked believable on the big screen. It was also before VHS/Beta created a whole new revenue stream for movie studios and before cable TV with a channel devoted to Science Fiction.

So, "Meteor" was made the old fashioned way - signing up big stars (with big salaries); bringing together lots of technicians to build sets and create special effects (also expensive); and paying for a costly distribution to lots of movie theaters. The end result was a traditional AIP "B" movie with "A" list expenses. When critics and audiences were less than thrilled with the results, AIP lacked the resources to continue and folded - selling out to Filmways.