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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
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Welcome to New Atlantis.
A five man team of astronauts undertake a joint American-British mission to investigate the possibility of life on the previously undiscovered 13th moon of Jupiter. There they discover a civilization of babes who are supposed to be the last living descendants of the residents of Atlantis. Oh, and they also realize that there is a "creature" roaming around that the lovely ladies fear.
"Fire Maidens from Outer Space" just goes to show you that the Brits can deliver cheesy goods just as "well" as Americans when it comes to this sort of low budget genre entertainment. We of course don't take it seriously, although it's largely played with an endearing sincerity from the majority of the actors. That "creature" is certainly good for laughs; Richard Walter plays the role in a crude mask that seems to have no means of vocalization, yet the thing is always heard howling and snarling. The sets are designed as frugally as possible, and special effects are likewise economically done.
Anthony Dexter plays American scientist Luther Blair, our strapping hero, and receives amiable support from Paul Carpenter, Harry Fowler, Sydney Tafler, and Rodney Diak, who play his comrades. Owen Berry is a hoot as gnarly old man Prasus, Jacqueline Curtis is alluring as the jealous Duessa, and Susan Shaw is positively GORGEOUS as Hestia, the female lead.
"Fire Maidens from Outer Space" has its clunky charms, just like many other movies of this kind, but the unqualified highlight is when the Fire Maidens perform interpretive dance to the strains of music by Aleksandr Borodin.
Written, produced and directed by American-born Cy Roth, whose other theatrical credits include "Air Strike" and "Combat Squad".
Five out of 10.
Im Stahlnetz des Dr. Mabuse (1961)
God gives us nuts, but he doesn't crack them for us.
Enjoyable German crime thriller stars Gert "Goldfinger" Frobe as police commissioner Lohmann, faced with a series of crimes perpetrated by convicts. These convicts have been turned into obedient slaves by the nefarious, mysterious mastermind Dr. Mabuse, and are able to escape prison and return there once their deeds are done. Giving Lohmann an assist is American FBI agent Joe Como (Lex Barker); also involved is a sexy female reporter, Maria Sabrehm (the delectable Daliah Lavi).
Capably directed by Harald Reinl ("The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism"), this is good, zesty entertainment that gets by due to effective lighting schemes, a swift pace, and a snappy script. The movie rarely stops moving, presumably to keep us focused on the story and prevent us from thinking about it too much. It's a delight to see heavyset, jovial Frobe as a hero, and Barker (just one of many Tarzan performers over the years) is solid as a character about whom you're never quite sure; whose side is he really on? Lavi is appealing while also functioning as major eye candy. The strong supporting cast includes Fausto Tozzi as the sleazy looking Warden Wolf, Werner Peters as his associate Bohmler, Wolfgang Preiss as the slippery Mabuse, Rudolf Forster as a disgraced chemist, Rudolf Fernau as a priest, and Joachim Mock as Detective Voss.
Sometimes startlingly violent (one victim is turned into a human torch), but pretty stylish throughout, "The Return of Dr. Mabuse" is just plain fun for any lover of this film series.
Seven out of 10.
Dimension 5 (1966)
Lesson # 9: you don't have to go out of your way to see this one.
The swinging 60s strike again in this mildly - make that VERY mildly - amusing espionage nonsense about a supposedly top notch intelligence agent, Justin Power (Jeffrey Hunter, "The Searchers") who is partnered with a Chinese-American female agent, "Kitty" (France Nuyen, "South Pacific"). Their mission is to foil a criminal organization dubbed The Dragons, which are headed by wheelchair-bound "Big Buddha" (Harold "Oddjob" Sakata, who is dubbed by Paul Frees). The Dragons plan to detonate a bomb in the City of Angels, but the good guys have a secret weapon: a time travel device that can be worn like a belt!
"Dimension 5" is low-tech and minor league, and it's also pretty short on action. Therefore, it's never particularly exciting, but it still has its moments. The give and take between our hero and heroine is enjoyable enough; she's Americanized enough to prefer steak and potatoes to more traditional Asian dishes. He's confident and has a fair amount of swagger. That said, neither of them are THAT smart - he needs to be saved more than once, and at the end, when she has the villain dead to rights, she doesn't kill him when she has the chance. Hunter and Nuyen are both very good looking, which should help to make their characters palatable nevertheless.
They're assisted by a fairly good bunch of supporting actors, including Donald Woods ("The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms"), Robert Ito ('Quincy M.E.'), Jon Lormer ("Creepshow"), Bill Walker ("The Long, Hot Summer"), Tad Horino ("Galaxina"), and Robert Phillips ("The Dirty Dozen"). The filmmaking isn't overly slick but it's passable; this was made by many of the same people behind the previous time travel sci-fi flick, "Cyborg 2087", including director Franklin Adreon.
A watchable, forgettable diversion for an hour and a half.
Five out of 10.
Cyborg 2087 (1966)
Michael Rennie of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" fame stars as Garth A7, a cyborg sent by a future civilization back to 1966. His mission is to make sure that the revolutionary "radio-telepathy" technique being engineered by Professor Marx (Eduard Franz, "The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake") does not come to fruition. The thing is, in the future, this technique will be misused by evil minds and bring out about chaos. Once he is back in the past, Garth gets scientists Carl Zellar (Warren Stevens, "Forbidden Planet") and Sharon Mason (Karen Steele, "Ride Lonesome") to help him out, while being hunted by assassins dubbed "Tracers".
If this premise sounds familiar, it should: it was also utilized around this time by Harlan Ellison, as an episode of 'The Outer Limits' titled 'Soldier'. Of course, it would eventually be appropriated again, famously, by James Cameron for "The Terminator". While this ultimately upbeat diversion is nowhere near as atmospheric or grim as Camerons' film, it's certainly a reasonable bit of entertainment. Its obvious low budget and TV movie-like nature will inevitably invite descriptions like "cheesy". It does get positively goofy when, at one point, Zellars' daughter (Sherry Alberoni, "Nightmare Circus") and her friends (including a young John Beck of "Rollerball") groove to some hip tunes while he's trying to perform an operation on Garth. Various people get zapped by Garths' odd weapon, which really does no more than paralyze living things, rather than kill them. The music, while credited to Paul Dunlap, seems to consist of stock cues (such as one memorably used in "Night of the Living Dead"). Franklin Adreon (a TV veteran whose theatrical credits also include stuff like "Panther Girl of the Kongo") directs capably, if not stylishly.
The cast gives a straight faced go at this material. Rennie is good as a character committed to being ruthless in pursuit of his goal, yet who might just find some humanity after all. Wendell Corey ("Rear Window") is a sheriff, Harry Carey Jr. ("3 Godfathers") a pesky reporter, Adam Roarke ("Hells Angels on Wheels") Corey's deputy, and Jo Ann Pflug ("MASH") appears fleetingly at the outset as one of the people sending Garth on his way.
Lightweight and unmemorable stuff, yet it does show one a decent enough time, and should be interesting to see for fans of cult science-fiction.
Six out of 10.
Cathy's Curse (1977)
"Go on, you filthy cow. Make us laugh!"
Low budget Canadian knock-off of superior major releases such as "The Exorcist" and "The Omen" is nonetheless fairly pleasing on a "so bad it's good" level. It begins in the 1930s, as a man (Peter MacNeill, "Crash", "A History of Violence") and his young daughter perish in a car accident. 40 years later, the girls' now grown-up brother George (Alan Scarfe, "Double Impact", 'Seven Days') moves into the old family home with his wife Vivian (Beverly Murray, "Street Smart", "The Carpenter") and their kid, Cathy (Randi Allen). Soon, the kid is behaving strangely, the wife is coming unglued, and various bizarre & macabre things are happening.
"Cathy's Curse" is NOT without entertainment value: it's slipshod - and hysterically scripted - enough to make it pretty amusing in spite of itself. The acting is pretty bad from just about everybody, but that doesn't mean that it isn't enjoyable. The pretty Murray is the worst offender; she seems incapable of delivering a good performance if her life depended on it. Young Allen is a hoot, especially as the story progresses and the movie gets more and more priceless.
Special effects and gore are kept to a minimum, with French-born co-writer & director Eddy Matalon ("Breakout", "Sweet Killing") struggling in vain to give his movie some semblance of gravitas and atmosphere. But ultimately, "Cathy's Curse" is entertaining because of it being so laughable. It's hard to say whether this was intended; the actors, as underwhelming as they are; do largely play the material straight. Roy Witham ("Agency"), as old caretaker Paul, is amusing, as is Mary Morter ("The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane") as the medium. Best of all is when the dialogue suddenly turns vulgar, and the kid is hurling insults at her elders.
A must if you're eager to delve into the cheesier side of Canuxploitation, but don't go in expecting anything resembling a good film.
Filmed in Quebec.
Five out of 10.
Jack Frost (1997)
"Christmas came early this year."
Here's something to check out if you're sick of blander, more traditional Yuletide season fare. Scott MacDonald ("Fire in the Sky", "Jarhead") plays the title character, a prolific serial killer who finally gets caught, and tried. He's on his way to his execution when a traffic accident causes him to be doused with a cutting edge chemical. Then, when he lands in the snow, it allows him to be reborn as a killer snowman. A killer snowman with a horrible one-liner for just about any occasion. In his new incarnation, Jack slaughters the unlucky people of the town of Snomonton, with a bumbling sheriff (Chris Allport, "Dead & Buried", "To Live and Die in L.A.") as his nemesis.
Written and directed by Michael Cooney, this is the kind of self-conscious cheese that cheerfully lets you know early on that you are NOT supposed to take it seriously. Cooney and company are clearly having quite a bit of fun with their patently ridiculous premise (which got recycled for a family audience a year later with the same named Michael Keaton vehicle). It's amusing to see blow dryers utilized as weapons against Jack, and what the ultimate means of slaying the beast turns out to be, but the biggest laugh of all comes from seeing snowman-Jack behind the wheel of a car. If your tastes are extremely twisted, you may be amused to witness the fate of a pre-"American Pie" Shannon Elizabeth (in her second feature credit). Once Jack is reincarnated as the snowman, his dialogue starts to consist almost exclusively of those howlingly lame quips. "Gosh, I only axed you for a smoke!" The special effects are primitive, and there's not a ton of gore, but comedy and horror fans will likely still be quite entertained by the killings.
Some of the cast plays it appropriately straight; the late, handsome character actor Allport keeps his poker face on throughout. Stephen Mendel ("Scanner Cop II", 'Night Heat'), F. William Parker ("Revenge of the Nerds", "Lost Highway"), Rob LaBelle ('First Wave', "Watchmen"), and Kelly Jean Peters ("Little Big Man", "Pocket Money") are among the co-stars.
Overall, this is good fun for people ready to embrace some utter silliness when it comes to their entertainment. It's paced pretty well, and leads to a reasonably rousing finale.
Followed by a sequel.
Seven out of 10.
Impassioned low budget effort.
Renny Roker stars as Chris Townes, a volatile young man who drifts from job to job, and even gets in trouble with the law. As aimless as he is, his consciousness does get raised as he meets Mindy (Marie O'Henry), a recreation director at a school. Regularly, Mindy and the students, including a paraplegic named Little Joe (Danny Martin), are terrorized by bullying local drug pushers.
Ultimately, this is a quite sobering treatise on the elements tearing apart the black community from within. Its low budget shows quite readily, and while the filmmaking may lack slickness, the message still comes through loud and clear. The script, by producer-director Horace Jackson, does fall back on speechifying at the end, as Chris addresses the audience directly in an urgent wake-up call. You'll realize that when tragedies strike near the end of the film, things won't be resolved anytime soon. Still, it's hard to deny the satisfaction of seeing one of the antagonists be ostracized by his father.
The actors are similarly impassioned themselves, although with the character of Chris, it's not a quick progression / character arc. Much of the cast is made up of no-names, although veteran actress Juanita Moore (the 1959 version of "Imitation of Life") makes a special appearance, and you might recognize O'Henry from "Three the Hard Way" & "Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde" and Roker from "Melinda" & "Honky Tonk Freeway".
As with many blaxploitation features, one of the joys lies in the music score, performed by "The Enchantment", although it may be just a little TOO omnipresent.
Obviously, this is something of an obscurity within its genre, but blaxploitation fans should find it to be interesting.
Seven out of 10.
True Grit (2010)
Time just gets away from us.
Jeff Bridges gets to put his own spin on the character of Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn, first portrayed by an Oscar-winning John Wayne in the 1969 film adaptation. Rooster is hired by a very plucky 14 year old girl, Mattie Ross (debuting Hailee Steinfeld), who wants to avenge her father. Dad was murdered by the cowardly Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), who made out for Indian territory and who may now be riding with an outlaw, Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper), and his gang. They are joined by a determined Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who wants to arrest Chaney for a crime committed in the Lone Star state.
This new version of the Charles Portis novel was scripted and directed by the great filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, who treat the material respectfully, even reverently. The dialogue is antiquated, yet quite literate, and it truly comes to life when spoken by this well-chosen cast. The story is straightforward and without filler, the pacing very efficient. Serious at times (and funny at other times), the film never veers too far into melodrama. It hits the ground running, with an older Mattie (Elizabeth Marvel) narrating and giving us the back story of Mr. Ross' killing. Two frequent Coen brothers collaborators work some real magic: cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose widescreen compositions are wonderful, and composer Carter Burwell, whose music is breathtaking.
Bridges completely disappears inside the role of the surly, tough, hard drinking marshal, while Damon gives one of his better performances. Brolin and Pepper don't show up until around the 80 minute mark, but do extremely effective work. As soon as you meet Chaney, you know you loathe him; he's that much of a heel. The strong supporting cast includes Dakin Matthews, Paul Rae, Domhnall Gleeson, and Leon Russom; it's also great to see Jarlath Conroy from George Romeros' "Day of the Dead" as the undertaker. But young Steinfeld leaves the greatest impression, giving us a heroine who is capable, determined, and very mature for her age, a girl who can hold her own dealing with a character like Stonehill (Matthews).
"True Grit" 2010 is sometimes violent (and strikingly so), but is basically just a good, solid example of impassioned storytelling that maintains viewer interest for the better part of two hours.
Eight out of 10.
Deadly Hero (1975)
We live in troubled times.
Don Murray, in an intense, forceful performance, plays Ed Lacy, a well-regarded NYC law officer and 18 year veteran of the force. One night, he shoots and kills Rabbit (James Earl Jones), a flamboyant extortionist who terrorizes conductor / musician Sally (Diahn Williams) inside her apartment. The twist is that Sally soon develops doubts about her saviour; as her memory of that night returns, she believes that Rabbit was unarmed when he was gunned down. When she changes her story, an increasingly unhinged Lacy resorts to threatening and scaring her.
This is a good, gritty NYC cop drama, directed in efficient no-frills fashion by Ivan Nagy. It gets most of its juice from commanding central performances. While at first one might feel some sympathy towards Lacy, as they see a promising career go down the drain, he ultimately reveals a very dark side to his personality. The lovely Diahn Williams is appealing, while Jones gets to have some fun playing a decidedly offbeat antagonist. Several familiar faces in the cast include Lilia Skala, Treat Williams (playing Lacy's partner, in his film debut), Hank Garrett, Dick Anthony Williams, Conchata Ferrell, and Josh Mostel. Danny DeVito is listed in the end credits, but is hard to spot.
The film is admittedly violent, but the narrative (by Don Petersen, inspired by a real life story) is compelling, especially when it's told from Lacy's perspective. Location shooting and a vibrant music score by Brad Fiedel & Tom Mandel are definite assets (this was one of the earliest scores for Fiedel, who's best known for his "Terminator" theme).
This seems to be a largely forgotten film nowadays, but any movie lover who's fond of 70s cop / crime cinema will likely find it interesting if they seek it out.
Seven out of 10.
Roy Colt & Winchester Jack (1970)
Bava shows his humorous side.
A rollicking spoof of the Spaghetti Western genre, "Roy Colt & Winchester Jack" offers some fun for fans of the genre, although ultimately it's awfully silly stuff. American actors Brett Halsey and Charles Southwood star as the title characters, members of the same outlaw gang. Roy goes his own way, hoping that he'll be able to successfully go straight. But Roy, Jack, and others all end up on the trail of some hidden gold, with other people such as flamboyant villain "The Reverend" (Teodoro Corra) and self-serving, materialistic Indian prostitute Manila (Marilu Tolo) also playing key roles in the proceedings.
Although a far cry from the best work of Italian maestro Mario Bava, it's still a definite curiosity that his admirers will want to check out. It's a real change of pace for the filmmaker; rarely did he embrace comedy this thoroughly. While not always terribly funny - it does wear a little thin - it can't be denied that it's a very lively film that delivers some reasonably rousing action scenes. The performances are suited to the material. Halsey and Southwood have good chemistry; both are handsome, charismatic stars. Corra is way over the top as the effeminate bad guy who absolutely hates the feeling of being cold. But it's the gorgeous Tolo who often steals the show; her character really is something. In one hysterical sequence, she insists that Jack take a bath - in cold water - before she'll agree to make love to him.
Bavas' creation of visuals and camera work are typically stylish, helping to keep this modest diversion watchable for a decently paced 86 minutes. It definitely ends on a real high note.
Six out of 10.