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Birthdate: September 25
I bid you...velcome.
I'm a shameless movie fanatic who especially favours the following genres:
Favourite directors include:
George A. Romero
The Green Slime (1968)
THAT theme song!
A team of astronauts are called upon to destroy a particularly large asteroid that is on a collision course with Earth. While they are planting charges on the big rock, an ooey, gooey green substance is discovered, and it ends up attaching itself to the suit of one of the crewmen. When the suit and the substance are back aboard their space station, it evolves, creating a bipedal, red eyed, tentacled monster. And its oozing green blood merely helps to make the creature multiply. Our intrepid heroes who must stop the infestation include Jack Rankin (Robert Horton of 'Wagon Train') and Vince Elliott (Richard Jaeckel, "Grizzly").
Whether or not the filmmakers actually had their tongues in their cheeks, the end result is that "The Green Slime" is magnificently cruddy sci-fi, a true camp classic. Some viewers may deride it for being overly silly and juvenile, but there's no denying its goofy charm, especially when the monsters are stomping around. The main problem is that it simply goes on too long, and interest level may wane for some in the audience. The special effects are hilariously awful, although the monsters are great fun, what with their tacky appearance. Overall, this American / Italian / Japanese production, directed by Japanese filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku ("Battle Royale"), provides pretty colorful entertainment, at least in a literal sense, and its widescreen photography also helps a great deal.
Viewers may feel embarrassed for co-stars Horton and Jaeckel, but they give admirably straight faced performances in the face of such inanity. Luscious Italian babe Luciana Paluzzi ("Thunderball") is mostly good for eye candy, as are assorted other female bit players. You do have to love the way that so many of these female space travellers wear miniskirts.
That priceless, rocking theme song ("The Greeeen Sliiime!!!") is over much too quickly; it's the kind of thing for which you want to rewind the movie.
Provided that prospective viewers know what to expect, they can have quite a good time with this one.
Five out of 10.
Well done, but not one of Bavas' best horror films.
Antonio Cantafora plays Peter Kleist, a young American who travels to Austria to research his heritage. There he hooks up with his uncle Karl (Massimo Girotti), a professor, and a very sexy blonde woman, Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer). Although we know right away that he'll be playing with fire, he and Eva recite an incantation that will help to resurrect Peters' ancestor, the Baron of the title. "Baron Blood" was a 16th century sadist who tortured victims in a dungeon, and now he stalks the family castle that has been purchased by an eccentric old American man, Alfred Becker (Joseph Cotten).
When it comes to technical execution, director Mario Bava is firing on all cylinders here. Paying tribute to the Gothic horror films that were so popular in the 1930s and 40s, and infusing the plot with a gory 70s sensibility, Bava creates a visually sumptuous, striking entertainment. The castle setting is just as good as anything seen in horror films of decades past, and naturally the Technicolor process really helps to bring it to life. The lighting (by Bava himself, uncredited) and use of camera angles are exemplary. The music by Stelvio Cipriani is effectively moody. There are some wonderful moments, but overall "Baron Blood" is not as thickly atmospheric as Bavas' best horror films. What prevents it from really being great, though, is that the plot just isn't that interesting. The big "twist" is obvious right from the start.
The performances are sound. Cotten is amusing, and Cantafora and Sommer sure do make a good looking pair. Girotti is superb, as is Luciano Pigozzi as the weaselly Fritz and Umberto Raho as the standard issue police inspector character that we always expect to see in stories like this. That's a very young Nicoletta Elmi playing Uncle Karls' daughter.
Certainly this is worthy viewing for any fan of Bava or Italian horror in general.
Seven out of 10.
Stunning to behold.
"Microcosmos" is a very fine nature documentary, which shows us the daily lives of insects and other minute life forms residing in meadows and ponds. The directors only occasionally use narration (by Jacques Perrin in the original French version, and by English actress Kristin Scott Thomas in the North American version), instead wisely deciding to let their amazing images speak for themselves.
This is simply excellent filmmaking, using macrophotography to allow human eyes to get a real eyeful of a whole other world that they don't see every day. Gorgeous, colorful, and genuinely interesting, this doesn't necessarily give us "stories" to follow, or focus on any particular critter for any extended period of time. But it's fascinating to watch as various insects sometimes fall victim to predators like spiders and birds, an army of ants hurriedly stock up on supplies, a caterpillar makes the transformation into butterfly, a mosquito is born, and - most excitingly - a pair of stag beetles have a fight.
The filmmakers' use of music is appropriate, the fairly brief running time (76 minutes) is quite succinct, and "Microcosmos" serves as vivid proof that the actual best special effects are those to be found in Mother Nature.
Highly recommended to lovers of nature documentaries.
Eight out of 10.
Marjoe is a true force of nature in this one.
Memorably uncomfortable, fairly interesting drama was produced by 70s icon Marjoe Gortner himself, and is notable for its showcasing of his live wire personality. The Gortster plays Teddy, a drug dealing, mangy Vietnam vet traveling with his girlfriend Cheryl (Candy Clark). Forced to stop over in a nowhere New Mexico town, he ends up taking over a diner and holding staff and customers at bay. In long and intense confrontations, he asks some hard questions of his prey and reveals them for what they are. Among those threatened by his presence are big city intellectuals Clarisse and Richard Ethridge (Lee Grant and Hal Linden), sweet waitress Angel (Stephanie Faracy), eager to please, crippled businessman Lyle Striker (Pat Hingle), and wanna be tough guy Stephen Ryder (Peter Firth).
Playwright Mark Medoff wrote the script, based on his play, and turns "When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?" into a lengthy examination of what it means to be a macho man. Although the presentation does largely belie the stage origins, director Milton Katselas does give it some cinematic flair when he can. It consists of a number of character vignettes before eventually getting down to business. And when Marjoe is dominating his victims, the result is a similarly captive audience at home. You can't take your eyes off him; he treats Teddy as the role of a lifetime, and gives it everything he's got. But that's not to take away from a sterling supporting cast. Grant is especially fine when she finally tries standing up to this charismatic antagonist. Familiar faces in smaller roles include Anne Ramsey, Bill McKinney, Alex Colon, Audra Lindley, Ron Soble, Robert Easton, and Barry Cahill. Medoff himself plays a faith healer.
Effective location filming, enjoyable rural atmosphere, and a top soundtrack all help to make this a pretty good entertainment.
Seven out of 10.
Fantasy done Fulci style.
A studly young man named Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti) embarks on a quest to vanquish evil. He's soon joined in his travels by Mace (Jorge Rivero), a Conan type lone wolf who saves Ilias' ass at one point basically because he admires his weapon, a magical bow. Together they fight the minions of evil witch Ocron (Sabrina Siani), some of them looking like bargain basement versions of Chewbacca, among other creatures.
There's barely a coherent story here, but people who just adore the trashiest and cheesiest of low budget fantasy features aren't going to mind very much. Celebrated Italian director Lucio Fulci puts his indelible stamp on this genre, completely saturating it with surrealism and atmosphere. Viewers will love all the details, especially the fact that Siani, although masked, plays her role almost completely nude, and sometimes has a snake slither over her body. Claudio Simonettis' score is simply perfect for this sort of entertainment. The soft focus photography by D.P. Alejandro Ulloa won't be to everybody's taste, but everything is filmed on some attractively exotic locations (Sardinia, Italy). The performances are appropriate to the occasion, with Rivero and Occhipinti as moderately engaging heroes, and sexy Ms. Siani, and Conrado San Martin as her equally diabolical associate Zora, functioning as amusing villains. The special effects are enjoyably laughable in their incredible tackiness. There's some wonderfully mean spirited gore here, supplied by Franco Rufini.
There's a lot of buildup here to a finale that is over a little too quickly, but "Conquest" does deliver the sleazy goods for those that like their fantasy as R rated (or unrated, as the case is here) as possible.
Fulci fans will recognize the mark between Maces' eyes.
Seven out of 10.
Valley of the Dragons (1961)
Not bad for this kind of entertainment.
Another movie to tap into the fertile imagination of Jules Verne, the 1961 production "Valley of the Dragons" is loosely based upon - or maybe we should say inspired by - Vernes' story "Career of a Comet". It begins in the 19th century, when a Frenchman named Hector Servadac (Cesare Danova) and an Irishman named Michael Denning (Sean McClory) are about to have a duel (over a woman). But a comet makes contact with Earth at that precise moment, and Hector and Michael are swept up, along with a large chunk of Earths' prehistoric past, and deposited on the moon. The two men agree to put aside their differences, in order to survive, and end up dueling with ancient beasts, dealing with primitive tribes, and romancing cave babes Deena (Joan Staley) and Nateeta (Danielle De Metz), respectively.
This is a fair diversion. There's nothing special here, but nothing overwhelmingly bad either. Even if done on a low budget (and heavily dependent on stock footage from "One Million B.C." and "Rodan"), it still manages to be just amusing enough for this viewer to stick with it. The attractiveness of Staley and De Metz doesn't hurt at all, and Danova and McClory deliver reasonably engaging performances. The black & white photography and atmosphere are respectable, while the special effects, largely consisting of trick photography designed to make ordinary animals seem huge, are passable. The action drags for a portion of the running time when our heroes are wooing their ladies. However, there is a mighty fine swimming sequence.
The climax may very well be comprised of this stock footage, but that doesn't make it any less exciting. Some of the moments are horrific as humans and animals alike fall victim to a major volcanic eruption.
Harmless stuff overall, if also unmemorable.
Six out of 10.
Satanis: The Devil's Mass (1970)
If you're going to be a sinner, be the best sinner on the block.
Although absolutely nothing special, this documentary by Ray Laurent takes us inside the Church of Satan, founded in California in the 1960s by Anton Szandor LaVey, a former circus lion tamer. It has no narrator, and isn't really attempting to tell a story. It's more a series of interviews - with subjects either standing and talking or sitting down and talking - and therefore, it may be rather boring to some viewers. But the material does have a certain fascination and interest level going for it. At least, that was the case for this viewer. Laurent films the perspectives of various witnesses to this phenomenon: neighbors, flock members, opponents, etc., as well as the man himself.
It's not overwhelmingly cinematic, but there are some decent camera angles and movements throughout; the lighting is also noteworthy. The main reason to watch is to see this vintage footage of Mr. LaVey, who comes across as a fairly charismatic, fairly easygoing individual. He based his "religion", if one can call it that, on the idea that humans are basically flawed anyway, and that these flaws could be celebrated and even encouraged. He felt that most organized religion spent too much time condemning people and insisting that they do / not do certain things.
If nothing else, "Satanis: The Devil's Mass" is an amusing enough look at an alternative lifestyle, no matter what one may think of Mr. Lavey's personal beliefs. We are witness to some entertaining decadence: nude women on altars, ass whippings, the expected incantations and rituals, etc. Among the major topics covered are public reactions to the goings-on at LaVey's "Black House" in San Francisco in the 60s, the hassles with the law due to Mr. LaVey having a pet lion at his residence, and his response when confronted with the notion that he may be nothing more than a big phony.
This is worth a look for curiosity seekers, provided they don't get their hopes up too high about it.
Six out of 10.
La ragazza che sapeva troppo (1963)
A little "fluffier" than other Bava works, but still worthwhile.
"The Girl Who Knew Too Much", a.k.a. "Evil Eye", is a typically stylish effort for the renowned Italian filmmaker Mario Bava. It's a Hitchcockian thriller with excellent use of locations, the kind of palpable atmosphere that the master was capable of creating, endearing characters, and fairly restrained use of violence. Some Giallo fans may feel that the comedy content is simply too much, and that the body count is too minimal, but the director does tell a decent story (he was also one of the credited screenwriters) that wraps up within a reasonable amount of time.
Leticia Roman stars as Nora Davis, an attractive young American woman vacationing in Rome. During one eventful night, she is mugged, and in something of a daze afterwards, witnesses what looks to be a murder. She even sees a character that could only be the killer. But many people are very quick to disbelieve anything she says, simply because she's addicted to murder mystery novels, and they think that she's got an active imagination. John Saxon co- stars as Marcello Bassi, a dashing young doctor who takes a romantic interest in her.
The mystery here is actually a little more straightforward than some viewers might expect. The reveal of the killers' identity doesn't come as any great surprise. But the journey to that destination is worth taking, with some ingenious cutting (by Mario Serandrei) and good pacing. Considered by many to be one of the earliest examples of that Italian genre known as the Giallo, it contains some wonderfully striking imagery and wonderful lighting by Bava himself. Lovely Roman and studly Saxon are charming leads, and they are well supported by Valentina Cortese as the gregarious Laura and Dante DiPaolo as the disgraced reporter Andrea Landini.
A must for Bava fans and devotees of the Giallo.
Seven out of 10.
Bamboo Gods and Iron Men (1974)
A man with a Buddha and a problem.
James Iglehart (Randy Black in "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls") is front and centre for this amiable, goofy Filipino martial arts action flick. Iglehart plays Cal Jefferson, American prizefighter honeymooning in Asia with his new bride (Shirley Washington). While shopping, they obtain a seemingly worthless Buddha statue that actually contains something very valuable to some very bad guys. Leo King (Filipino exploitation mainstay Ken Metcalfe, who also co-wrote the story & screenplay) is chief among them. But Cal has an asset: a mute Chinaman (Chiquito) whom he dubs "Charley"; Cal saves Charley from drowning and the grateful Charley becomes Cals' constant companion.
"Bamboo Gods and Iron Men" is overall not a terribly memorable movie, but making it above average for a movie of this kind is its generous doses of comedy. It's often very funny, and director Cesar Gallardo and company play all of this material with real winks in their eyes. This movie has quite a bit of energy, and superb pacing. It also makes sure to be exploitative, of course, with a fair bit of eye candy for viewers. The fight scenes are generally well executed, and the stars all handle themselves capably. The story makes great use of a MacGuffin and concludes with a very bright gag, with several characters bursting into laughter at the absurdity of everything.
Iglehart could easily have had a more extensive career, as he has charisma and good chemistry with the sexy Ms. Washington. Chiquito is extremely appealing, and he and Iglehart likewise make a good pair. The supporting cast of familiar faces includes Metcalfe, offering a decent performance as the villain, Eddie Garcia, and Joseph Zucchero. Devotees of Filipino cinema will be pleased to note the presence of the always welcome Vic Diaz, in a cameo as a hotel clerk.
"Bamboo Gods and Iron Men" delivers solid, diversionary entertainment for 96 straight minutes, and deserves to be better known.
Eight out of 10.
Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)
All hail the mighty Humphrass.
"Humphrass" was the behind the scenes pet name devised by actor Chris Robinson for his creature creation, a mysterious, web spinning, somewhat arachnid-like animal that stalks a small group of people in the South Dakota wilderness. Some of these people are criminals who came to stage a gold robbery, using an explosion in a cave as a diversion. Unfortunately, by doing so, they unleashed the beast, which occasionally catches up to its prey in order to do some pretty creepy things to them.
A 27 year old Monte Hellman, future icon of independent cinema (and director of classics like "Cockfighter", "The Shooting", and "Two-Lane Blacktop") made his directorial debut with this obviously low, low budget effort, done for producer Gene Corman and his brother Roger. On the whole, the movie isn't a great one, but it's under rated as far as this kind of B picture goes. It's got some genuinely spooky atmosphere, and Hellman and Robinson (himself star of such features as "Stanley") do their best to keep the monster in the shadows until the time arrives to show it in all its glory. And what a monster it is. It doesn't really look like anything seen on screen, before or since. It's wispy, long limbed, and has a largely featureless head.
The creature sequences are the main reason to watch, but not the only one. The extremely moody cinematography is by Andrew M. Costikyan; Alexander Laszlo does the effective music. The screenplay is by Roger Cormans' frequent collaborator, the talented Charles B. Griffith, and it does have some good dialogue. (Basically, the scenario is a reworking of the earlier Corman flick "Naked Paradise", but with a monster added.) There are some interesting characters in the bunch, especially gangsters' moll Gypsy (Sheila Noonan), who is already depressed and defeated at age 26. The acting is generally solid - Michael Forest is a likable hero, Frank Wolff appropriately despicable as the criminal mastermind, Corman favorite Wally Campo amiable as comedy relief guy Byron, and Richard Sinatra (Franks' cousin) has a solid presence as young punk Marty. Robinson does a good job at creating a nightmarish creature character that could easily spook younger children.
Not bad, this one. It's definitely worth a look.
Seven out of 10.