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To paraphrase Warren himself: "This won't do"
I recently watched this during TCM's celebration of Warren Oates and I can't say I cared for it. Now according to the trivia, the movie was re-edited to make it easier for the audiences to follow.. and if that is the case, it shows.
Warren Oates plays a security guard bored with his profession, and takes no time to punch himself off the clock. Lucky for him, he has some higher up call upon him to track down a woman and keep an eye on her (and lucky for us, the bad guys of the piece spell out the plot for the audience beforehand).
The movie has two problems: the story itself is still pretty muddled for something so straightforward, and the technical aspects are pretty horrible.
Story wise, all Chandler (Oates) has to do is keep an eye on Katherine (Leslie Caron), which doesn't take much effort at all. Now rather than just being honest with her (I'm being payed to protect you) or finding some clever way of ingratiating himself with her, he just kind of creeps around her until she just breaks down and allows him to tag along. I know I'm supposed to believe she's falling for the lunk, but it's only because the script says so, not because there is any plausibility in it. Add a villain (if you can even call him that) that is only in a third of the movie, as well as some equally ambivalent "good" guys (who really aren't)... and you have a movie where Scatman Crothers has all of 2 scenes that have no importance to the plot, and the wonderful Mitchell Ryan who doesn't have much to do other than be punched around and shot at when required. When you finally reach the end where the "climax" happens, you have to wonder why the bad guys just didn't do what they do at the beginning of the movie, as all of the stuff with Chandler had no pertinence to what they do.
Technically, the movie is a mess. The editing is alright, in that you can basically tell what is happening (as opposed to some of the Avid fart high jinks of Michael Bay), but the editing is terrible when it comes to how the story is crafted. For example: Chandler and one of the government goons is having a conversation at a bar right after Katherine leaves their table to go to the restroom. One of the incompetent mob goons tries to pull Kat out (as the government goon mentions it while seeing it, and Chandler says "she can take care of herself", despite having rescued her from the same guy just 10 minutes earlier in this movie's idea of an "exciting car chase") and she knees him in the groin. While Chandler and the goon are still discussing, Mitchell Ryan finally shows up and leaves with her. Edit to Chandler in bed, and Kat coming in through the door in a silk dress/negligee. Did they sleep together? Where did she come from? Wasn't she with Mitchell? How did she know where he was? Next thing you know she's talking about someone being dead.. takes him to the house where the body "was", as it is no longer there... and I am thinking "What in the hell is going on?" Who is dead and why should I care? Add onto that the most inappropriate 70's horn selected soundtrack that tries to turn the mere act of walking into a dramatic action scene (that teeters on making the scene ludicrous like THE BLUES BROTHERS) and.. well... there is a reason this movie was forgotten.
I don't know.. maybe if you go into this watching it as a parody of hard boiled detective movies you might get a chuckle or two out of it.
Okay, I have to balance the reviews here...
For those who have seen more than one giallo on their watch, please save yourself the time. If you must know what the hub-bub is truly about, I will release spoilers later in the review.
To get right to the underlying reason for watching these kinds of films, Mimsy gets naked twice: once briefly in a fairly rapid love making scene (where the camera likes to pan away) and at the very end with the "surprise" twistish ending. The murders don't really happen until the 1:20 mark, and there is no real gore to speak of until the very end, so be prepared for a very LONG wait for anything to happen.
By the way, did I mention that this film is very dull? When I see words like "hypnotic" and "dreamlike" popping up when describing any film, they seem to be code for "drawn out" or "putting me to sleep".
The plot goes something like this:
Mimsy Farmer is a technician at a factory (either producing chemicals or beer, I couldn't tell which), who has frequent nightmares about her childhood and her mother (particularly how she died). In the course of this, she has a meeting with her boyfriend and some friends of his, some of whom appear to be dignitaries from Africa who converse about the dawning of science over witchcraft. As the story progresses, Mimsy's mental health starts to deteriorate as she begins to see a little girl who looks strangely like herself at the same age, as well as her mother in mirrors and the like. By the end of it, she is dressing like her mother and has gone quite mad, killing her boyfriend, the elderly scholar who resided beside her and her mother's former lover. It is revealed that Mimsy interrupted her mother having intercourse with the "lover" (or payee, if you know what I mean) and killed her own mother by pushing her out a window...thus, over time, the guilt (and maybe a little bit of shamanistic help from the aforementioned African dignitaries) pushed her over the edge quite literally.
Yet, while one could consider this to be a proper ending for the main character, it is further revealed that the 3 people she killed are indeed still alive (which I am guessing the entire sequence was "in her head"), and they proceed to take her body to an underground tunnel, where everyone given any screen time in the movie participates in a cannibalistic ritual, with her boyfriend gutting her and the rest lining up to pull out a piece to eat.
Now I can respect the visual aspect of the last shot, which (other than the Mimsy nudity) is the only saving grace of the film. Otherwise (as a friend put it tonight after finishing the film), "that's a pretty convoluted way to get your dinner".
All in all, I was just too bored in the end to care about either twist, as I could see the "Mimsy dying the same way her mother did" ending the moment the method was revealed, and the cannibal ritual stuff was never dealt with very well to the degree that it felt tacked onto the main story.
Would concur with the overbaked cake reference
I have to agree with jan_ulalume's review in that this may be avant-guard to those who have never seen such imagery, but to those who have (in essence) grown up on this stuff, it is more akin to a "giallo's best hits".
With the "camera looking through the clear lightbulb shot" from SUSPIRIA (along with the colored lights directed onto people and key subject areas), Fulci's preoccupation with eyes and nose bridges, even encompassing Bava and countless other Italian filmographers filmic visual ques (WHO SAW HER DIE's funeral veil POV), like the former reviewer states it becomes over-saturation of style to the point of becoming ridiculous.
I will say that the first segment with the little girl is the best, simply due to the fact that there seems to be more of a coherent story that one can follow compared to the other two segments, which focus primarily on visuals alluding to some set of visual metaphors (even Zalman King wouldn't go this far), not to mention that the last segment's "twist" is (regardless of how predictable it may be to those familiar with these things) isn't built up very well at all.
Regardless, I would still suggest it (at least the blu-ray, as the clarity may help the viewing experience a bit) at least just to take it in. Maybe with some editing and some more giallo music (as the second and third acts are nearly music-less, which hurts those sections quite a bit for me) the movie could come across better...
Death Machine (1994)
If you want to see it, see the 128 minute cut!
Yeah, yeah, it's low-budget, but as someone else pointed out, the movie at least knows what it is and delivers it pretty well.
I won't waste your time rewriting the plot synopsis, as you can read that above and below in the previous reviews. What I WILL say is that there is a significant difference between the 99 minute cut out on DVD and the 128 minute cut that is only available on a long OOP Japanese laserdisc and a long OOP German DVD (which looks fantastic, but has no English audio).
Regardless, there is a significant plot point that literally links the main character to the Death Machine (which I won't spoil), and among all of the other cuts and edits this makes for a better movie.
PS: keep an eye out for "Porkins".
Xia dao Gao Fei (1992)
Can't say I cared for this one too much...
I won't reiterate the plot, as you probably already know by now (or by reading the plot synopsis above) what the story is all about.
Yes, the fights are pretty violent (when there are fights), but I think what disappointed me was the characters. In essence, everyone is literally a punk and has a $h1tty attitude and not much of a character (unless you consider being horny or a generic thug to be character).
The editing is choppy, and there are some pretty big dead spaces in the middle as the movie attempts to build the characters. The problem is: we've seen the "deal gone wrong, now presumed dead character wants revenge" thing done before and better. I will give the movie some credit, in that it did the "bullet time" effect (sorta) 6 years before BLADE and 7 before THE MATRIX. Even so, I would say just watch HARD BOILED, THE KILLER or any of the BETTER TOMORROW movies instead.
BTW, other than the occasional '80's music (especially the REALLY cheesy stuff in the night club), did anyone else notice how poor the sound design was, much less the complete lack of a soundtrack? Now I did listen to the original Cantonese audio, and I know that a lot of Hong Kong movies just have poor sound design (especially the stuff from the early 1990's to early 2000), so maybe I should try to watch the English dub to see if it is any better....
The Italian Job (1969)
Can't say I cared for it that much....
I know I'm going to get rapped for this, but it wasn't very funny, nor very exciting. Michael Caine is good to excellent of course (or at the least as good as he can be with the material he has to work with), but that can't be said too much of his co-stars, who don't really seem to take things too seriously (with maybe the exception of Michael's love interest - even so, she isn't given much to do, as she's packed off onto a plane before the heist starts).
While there is some spectacular scenery, the chase is not very exciting, the Italian police are beyond inept and the heist is "gotten" way too easily only to literally end on a cliffhanger (where humans weigh more than a large pile of gold). And let's not even mention the under-use of none other than Benny Hill.
Overall, I was consider purchasing the UK blu-ray release, but after watching my $5.00 DVD I think I will stick with what I have (unless someone wants to purchase it from me).
BTW, did anyone else feel as if this film needed some Lalo Shifren music to liven it up (ala KELLY'S HEROES, which IS a really fun and exciting heist movie)?