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China Moon (1994)
Mostly Predicable, yet still fun neo-noir
This is a mostly predictable neo-noir film worth seeing for the fine acting. There's at least one surprise twist in the story to spice it up. I have some issues with the Ed Harris character making some rather dumb moves. I wanted to yell at the screen. I suppose that was needed or they'd have no movie, as my wife pointed out. And besides stupid moves are often the case in films where a femme fatale has some poor guy blinded by love and lust. Often an otherwise intelligent law abiding man throws it all away for the love of an attractive woman in trouble. The movie was visually impressive at times and the ending will stick with you. I rate it 6 out of 10 stars.
The Unearthly (1957)
Top notch 50s Drive-in B movie treat for those with a taste for them
Mini Review: 'The Unearthly' (1957) - I watched this the other night and it was pretty good ! I wasn't expecting much since the IMDb only gave it 2.7 stars. Allison Hayes and John Carradine were both fun to watch. Tor 'Plan 9 From Outer Space' Johnson is also along for the ride and did well as a sympathetic type 'Monster'. The story is mostly predictable yet I really didn't care, the acting and B-film makeup made up for it. There was a slight twist in the plot that was fun. When will those mad scientists ever learn ! If you like 50s Drive-in type horror films this is one to see and enjoy. I give it a 6 out of 10 for its genre as fun drive-in B-movie fare.
Before Buffy and Blade there was Captain Kronos
Worth seeing as an an interesting twist on the vampire legends. Here the vampires drain the victim of their youth, not just their blood, leaving them aged looking and dead. The vampire in return stays young. The lead characters are well acted and intriguing. I especially like the scene where Captain Kronos teaches some bullies in a bar a deadly lesson about manners and swordsmanship. My only complaints are it's slow moving at times and the characters have a 1960s/70s hairstyle and makeup look to them. They don't all look like they belong in the period that is supposed to be the film's time. One character even looks like a Twiggy look-a-like. Also, the good captain sure waited till the last second before rescuing the women he used for vampire bait. Still the film is over all fun to watch. and worth your time.
Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)
More than just a simple Zombie film
********************************************************** ************** Warning Spoilers ************************** **********************************************************
As a zombie film I found the movie lacking. Luckily it seems to have deeper layers to explore and only in that and some of the visuals is it worth seeing. I just hope the writers intended the deeper meanings and I'm not seeing what was never meant to be there.
My initial thoughts while watching this film were that Dellamorte's experiences were different guises of what humans experience as love. For instance the all consuming "love" of the teenager infatuated with the dead motorcycle guy. She couldn't deal with the thought that he may have loved another woman and not her. These feeling were manifested in her being literally eaten alive by his zombie self and her accepting it as her fate in order to please him.
There were crimes that were committed and not blamed on Dellamorte. As if no one could come to grips with the fact that love can kill, especially scorned love or rejected love. Instead the inspector looks for another killer, because Dellamorte (who represents the focal point of love here) could not possibly be the killer even if all evidence points to him. Dellamorte even gets angry that his murders are being stolen from him. Nobody can see love as the killer or at least nobody wants to see love that way.
In the first incarnation of She (Anna Falchi) we see what is probably Dellamorte's first real encounter with love/Sex. His first is a woman who shares his obsessions with death and uses it to bring out their passion. But this sort of passionate first love is fleeting and can't last it will eventually burn out and usually does quickly. The emotional specter of her own passionate first lover is there to haunt them and literally rises from the grave to kill her.
Then there was the love that a man might feel is emasculating and a folly. This is shown by the second incarnation of She (Anna Falchi). Dellamorte is willing to cut off his genitals for her because the thought of making love is so frightening to her. His reward later is to find she has fallen for another man. This after driving him to try and commit the ultimate act to retain her love. He was willing to make this extreme sacrifice for her, ruining any possibility of other lovers for him. But instead of loving him back she falls for the man who abused and raped her. He was emasculated in two ways physically and mentally by her actions. Luckily thanks to the Doc one was only temporary.
Or there was the guise of love that is really only greed. In the third incarnation of She, Dellamorte wishes to hear her say she loves him when they first meet. She does so to please him and then supplies him with a night of passion and joy, but not without a price. In the morning he finds that it's time to pay for her "love" with money.
I believe there was one scene where Dellamote even said that his mother's name meant "Love" and how ironic that was to him.
Of course I have only scratched the surface here trying to explain my reasoning. I think others who have seen the film may find other examples of the role the faces of love plays in the story. It's worth seeing if you take it at more than it's face value as a zombie film only.
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Close to a perfect Science Fiction Film
To me 'Forbidden Planet' may be the closest thing to a perfect Sci-fi film ever made. It has it all good acting, an imaginative story, impressive special effects, Ann Francis, AND the most iconic movie robot of all time "Robby". In the case of 'Walter Pidgeon' it goes beyond good acting to the realm of excellent acting. His presence and talent bring the whole film to a higher level. Most movies about space travel at that time involved space ships, brave astronauts, ray guns, scary monsters and pretty girls. 'FB' has all that and much more. Basically the story is about a spaceship crew that goes to the very distant planet Altair IV to investigate what happened to the earth colony sent there. When they arrive they are warned not to land. They land anyway to find only two survivors left. One of the survivors is Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) the second is his daughter Altaira (Ann Francis). All the other colonists have been killed mysteriously by an unseen force. Morbius has been absorbed in studying the technology left behind by the previous inhabitants of the planet called 'The Krell'. The Krell were a highly advanced race that no longer exist. They have left behind some amazing machinery. Finding out what happened to the earth colonists and the Krell is the main drift of the story.
When I first saw the movie as a boy what impressed me the most was Robby the Robot. To this day I consider him the best designed mechanical being ever to appear in movies. Even with all his outdated lights and noisy relays representing technology of the 50s, he's still the best. On my first viewing I was a bit disappointed that there were no scary monsters except for a mostly invisible one. I felt a bit cheated at that time. We only see the monster briefly as a ferocious-looking image in outline trying to break through a force field. When the monster is present we know it by the eerie otherworld-like music that accompanies it. Sometimes there are footprints from its weight or in one scene we see the bending of the space ship's entry steps as it walks on them. As I grew older I learned to appreciate just how effective all this was to making the film something extra special. Sometimes what we don't see can be much scarier than what we do. The background music was a stroke of genius. This was the first big film to feature music performed entirely by electronic instruments. This adds a lot to the atmosphere. The special effects are also ground-breaking for 1956 and still hold up well to this day. Especially of note are Robby and the scenes of the Krell underground giant complex with its many levels.. Only 'War of the Worlds' from 1953 rivals its effects for that time, in my opinion. The final revelation was very imaginative too explaining just what the creature was....a monster from the Id. It seems that the Krell had created machinery that was so advanced it could make whatever they imagined become reality. The problem was they didn't realize something critical before activating the giant machine. Even though they had evolved to become greatly advanced scientifically, and perhaps as a society, they still had subconscious primal traits remaining. They had probably thought these traits were long gone through evolution. It turns out they still had buried feelings, like those of hate and jealousy. Once these primal urges were materialized by the machine it must have destroyed their race entirely. The machine was making monsters from the id. The id was thought by Dr. Freud to be that part of the psyche in which innate instinctive impulses and primary processes are manifest. It's later learned that the colonists that arrived from earth did not yet have the intellectual capacity to make this amazing machine function. That is until something happened to Dr. Morbius during his study of the Krell. He had accidentally boosted his intellect using a Krell device so that he was now at about the lowest level that could activate the machine. He was now a genius by human IQ standards, yet by Krell standards he was of the lowest intelligence. Still he now unknowingly had the ability to activate the machine. The other colonists had wanted to leave the planet and Morbius did not, so his subconscious had created the monsters to stop them. He did not realize this was happening. Now the Id monster was back again to keep his beloved daughter from leaving too, by trying to destroy the spaceship. Altaira had fallen in love with the captain. Another benefit of his new intellect was the ability to build Robby. Robby is an amazing mechanical man who can perform all sorts of super human tasks. He has a polite way of talking and a likable way about him. Morbius says Robby is little more than a useful toy. Some toy.
I could probably write pages on this film and how impressive it is to me. I want to keep these comments as short as possible. As I said this was as perfect a science fiction film as I've ever seen. I really only have one issue with it. I wish it didn't have those silly comic relief scenes with Earl Holliman as the booze loving cook using Robby to make liquor for him.
I never get tired of this movie. To me it's like looking at a beautiful painting or listening to a favorite piece of music. Sure you've seen or heard it many times before. That doesn't matter - you still want to experience it again. No matter how old I get I'll always love this movie for all the reasons I mentioned here and more.
The Jolson Story (1946)
Not real Jolson's story, yet great entertainment anyway.
The Jolson Story does for Al Jolson's life what 'Night and Day' did for Cole Porter's; it's a heavily romanticized fictional story with occasional bits of truth thrown in. Larry Parks does a fine job channeling the charisma that made Al Jolson one of the greatest entertainers of all time. Mr. Parks sang along to Jolson's records so it would look more realistic, like he was actually singing. The real Jolson sang the songs and it's a treat to hear, if not see him. Evelyn Keyes plays a character called Julie Benson as his wife. They had to do this because Jolson's real ex-wife Ruby Keeler would not give them permission to use her name. William Demarest is along for the ride as a man who supposedly gave Jolson his start in show business and later became like a second father too him...also fiction. Still the movie is very entertaining, the acting is good and it's well written. Especially enjoyable are the musical numbers. One scene that was factual is the real Jolson was known to stop a show and just sing for the audience's pleasure. It must have been something to see him live. I've read that his appearances on film pale in comparison to him singing in person. It's said he could electrify an audience so that each member felt he was singing just for them. Like so many other biographical movies...'The Jolson Story' is a very fictional story, still it is well worth seeing. Mr. Parks did deserve the Oscar nomination he received. The movie was a huge success at the box office and I can see why. It received Academy Awards for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound, Recording. The nominations it received: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Larry Parks), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (William Demarest), Best Cinematography, Color and Best Film Editing. A sequel with Mr. Parks came out three years later and is also a good film. I recommend this movie for a good time and don't be surprised if you start singing along with the sound track.
Blood on the Moon (1948)
They don't make westerns much better than this one.
'Blood on the Moon' (1948) mini-review - It still surprises me that after all these decades I'm still finding great old movies I've never seen before. Today on TCM there was an excellent western on called 'Blood on the Moon'. Somehow I'd never seen it. I will now add this to my list of favorite all time westerns. Robert Mitchum was in top tough guy form here. Walter Brennan was excellent as always. Mr. Brennan especially impressed me in one scene where he gets some terrible news. He expresses so much in that moment with just his face and no words. Barbara Bel Geddes was also impressive as a tough woman who stands up as a match for Mitchum. The direction by Robert Wise and Lillie Hayward's screenplay were top notch too. If I had one compliant it's that Robert Michum's character sure recovers fast from a serious injury...oh it's just a knife wound to the chest put a few herbs on it and I'll be good as new in an hour or two. Still if you love westerns I highly recommend this one.
Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)
Late 50s Drive-in Fun !
Some films are simply fun nonsense, like this silly, example of a late 50s teen movie. It predates 'Beach Blanket Bingo' and many others that used a similar formula. They had some quirky characters that actually were funny, like the tall girl with the glasses and her boyfriend. And the film did not take itself seriously which was a plus. The rock band shooting off guns in the air was surprising. I especially liked the costume party near the end where they used some creature outfits from other famous B-horror films of the time. If you watch it see which monsters you can ID. Once again the movie poster art makes promises the movie does not deliver on, still we had a good time watching this the other night.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Movie making at it's best
I continued watching Errol Flynn classics the other night with what may be the best of all his swashbucklers 'The Adventures of Robin Hood'. Yes I had seen it many times before, this time it was a beautiful copy from the TCM Flynn collection. It was the best print of the film I've seen yet. Like when I viewed 'The Adventures of Don Juan' the other day, I found I wanted to pause many scenes to study them like a painting. Especially impressive where the jewels on the elaborate costumes at court, the dresses Ms. De Havalland wore, and the outfits on Claude Rains and the others. This movie has it all, fine acting, action, very witty dialog, Flynn in his prime, Olivia de Havilland at her most lovely, beautiful costumes/sets...and rich Technicolor to show them all off to their fullest. I don't mean to reduce Olivia de Havalland to her appearance because she is of course an excellent actress and not just a very pretty face. We even get two of the best screen villains ever, Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone. Add to all that the talents of Michael Curtiz as director, the rousing score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and you have a masterpiece of cinema. Here are my two favorite lines from the wonderful dialog:
Lady Marian Fitzswalter: "Why, you speak treason!" Robin Hood: "Fluently." And Will Scarlett: "Robin, I've just got word of- " -sees Friar Tuck and breaks off- Robin Hood: "It's all right, he's one of us." Will Scarlett: "One of us? He looks like three of us!"
Adventures of Don Juan (1948)
The last of the greatest Flynn swashbuckler films
Last night I again watched one of my all time favorites, 'The Adventures of Don Juan' starring the amazing Errol Flynn and talented, lovely Viveca Lindfors. I've seen it many times before, this was the first time I viewed the copy from my TCM Errol Flynn collection DVD set. The quality of this video was excellent, better than I had ever seen the film look before. In fact I can not imagine it looking any sharper even on a blue-ray version. Perhaps because my blu-ray player is supposed to enhance DVDs too, not sure. Each scene was colorful sharp and impressively detailed, almost like a painting needing to be paused and admired. I can see why it won an Oscar for 'Best Costume Design, Color'. Also it was nominated for 'Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color'. The music by Max Steiner is as good as any swashbuckler ever had IMO. Sadly the movie was a box office flop at that time and the budgets on later Errol Flynn films were cut dramatically. Too bad cause it deserved better. This was the last of his greatest costume action movies, IMO. The special features section on the DVD includes a commentary on the film by director Vincent Sherman, I look forward to listening to that and the insights he shares.There were a few more Flynn action swashbucklers yet to come, they never achieved the grander of this work and those before it. I know most would consider one of his earlier films better examples of Flynn at his best, for me this has a special place among them as a favorite. Perhaps it's because Errol Flynn was so much like Don Juan, even in the last scene you could substitute his name for that of the famous Spanish lover when he says to Leporello (Alan Hale) " My dear friend, there's a little bit of Don Juan in every man, and since I am Don Juan, there must be more of it in me! " I love that line.