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Bigfoot: Man or Beast? (1972)
Vintage Seventies Paranormal Documentary at its Best
As a kid growing up in the 1970s, I was addicted to paranormal documentaries. Documentaries such as Mysteries From Beyond Earth (1975), docudramas such as The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) and TV's Project UFO (1978) and TV documentaries like In Search Of... were the kinds of shows I lived for. Recently, while wandering around on YouTube, I found the opening segment of one of my all-time favourite 1970s' paranormal documentaries, Bigfoot: Man or Beast? (the release date is often mistakenly said to be 1972, but it was actually released in 1975). Unfortunately, YouTube only features the first 10 minutes of the film (you can watch the first 11 minutes 48 seconds of the film on Google Video). Apparently, you can watch the entire documentary online at The Film Wall (http://www.thefilmwall.com), although the poster they feature on the Website is for a different Bigfoot film and the website asks for your credit card #, even though it insists you can watch movies online for free. It looks pretty dubious to me.
Bigfoot: Man or Beast? is a beautifully made documentary with outstanding production values, compelling footage and, at the risk of being accused of hyperbole, I consider it a work of art. Sadly, this outstanding documentary has not found its way to DVD. Many of the old- timers in the film are now, alas, no longer with us, so the film is also a very important historical document about early twentieth century sightings.
The film holds up beautifully today. The last time I saw it was on TNT back in 2000. Too bad it hasn't been released on DVD, because there is definitely a niche audience for this film and I think it would sell fairly well. The location filming and gripping eyewitness accounts combine to make this a remarkable film. If you see it, do not miss it. The sound of the screaming Bigfoot in the film (based on eyewitness descriptions) is chilling and worth the price of admission.
UPDATE (April 26, 2014): The movie is now available on DVD, as well as YouTube. Check it out if you get a chance!
The Simpsons: That '90s Show (2008)
This Episode is to The Simpsons What Archie Bunker's Place was to All in the Family
This episode is clear evidence that The Simpsons - once the very best show on television - has way overstayed its welcome. Everything about it was awful. The gags fell flat; Homer as a grunge rocker (with a far bushier mop on his head than he ever had in the 1960s or 1970s) was mind-numbingly unfunny; the band Sadgasm was a stupid "spoof" of grunge; the use of the Verve's Bittersweet Symphony puts the action in 1997, a year when some of the best Simpsons episodes were actually made; the character Professor August adds nothing to the show and the subplot involving Marge attending university was pointless. Clearly, The Simpsons has been on television too long. Either it needs to go off the air or it needs fresh writers who can bring back the show's edgy 90s humor. Watching this episode reminds me of the bad old days when we were subjected to some of those later Happy Days episodes or reruns of Archie Bunker's Place or the final season of The Love Boat. Some critics were upset by the fact that "That 90's Show" more or less subverted the entire Simpson family history time line. For example, the episode invalidates just about all of the flashback episodes, including the classic "Homer's Barbershop Quartet," which was set in 1985 and showed Bart as a little kid. But this is not what offended me about the episode. It was tired. It lacked creativity. It didn't even have as much edge as your typical Suite Life of Zack and Cody episode. What a sad assessment of a show that in its heyday used to excite TV viewers so much with its splendid subversive humor.
Chained for Life (1952)
Strange, But Good
This is an unusual film, to say the least. Chained For Life (1951) is the story of Siamese Twins Dorothy and Vivian Hamilton (interestingly, Daisy and Violet Hilton get to keep their initials in the film), one of whom -- Vivian -- is accused of shooting her sister's lover. We see their story in flashback form: Dorothy falling in love with a nasty, two-timing sharpshooter Andre (Mario Laval); Dorothy and Vivian singing (they sound like the Andrews Sisters) in a vaudeville act; Andre falling for Dorothy as part of a publicity stunt cooked up by their manager; oh, and did I mention the endless vaudeville scenes in the movie? One of the reasons the film falls short of its potential is because there are too many vaudeville scenes -- too much sharpshooting, too many stale jokes, too many music routines -- and they severely undermine the film's pace because they drag on so long. There are some terrific moments in the film, though, especially the dream sequence where Dorothy -- well, actually, a double playing Dorothy -- is separated from Vivian and dances outside under the starry sky, meeting her dream lover (in this scene, we only see a close-up of Dorothy behind some tree branches, which conceal Dorothy/Daisy's twin, Vivian/Violet). Another memorable scene is a profoundly humane speech delivered by a blind minister condemning bigotry. It is interesting that a blind character can see the world more clearly than the characters with 20/20 vision. Overall, this is a compelling film that keeps you watching. I agree with one poster who expressed regret that the movie is not a more faithful account of Daisy and Violet's actual story. The twins lived a deeply troubled life and it is amazing to see how much they have aged in the 19 years since Freaks (1932) was made. They look old and tired in this film -- even older than their 43 years. They have wrinkles under their eyes and they seem like they've seen it all. They've lost their youthful vitality and innocence they had in Freaks. And some of the acting in the film is pretty iffy. But this film deserves a higher rating than what it gets on IMDb. This reviewer gives it a 6/10. It is well worth your time. And it is now included in an excellent four-DVD set of exploitation films called "Cult Classics," released by Mill Creek Entertainment. See it if you get a chance.
Well meaning, but . . .
If good intentions translated into great film-making, then I wouldn't be the only person reviewing this movie, and everybody would be giving it a score of 10 on IMDb. Even though this is a well-meaning film, it has justifiably gone on to become a lost historical relic of the 1980s. I actually saw this film at a fund-raiser in Los Angeles and Haskell Wexler was there. Everything about the film was dreadful. The acting, the pacing, the plot development, the screenplay. Robert Beltran plays a sort of combination CIA/Special Forces-type of commando who trains Contras in Nicaragua and falls in love with a journalist. Their relationship develops against the backdrop of the Contra war in Nicaragua. There's little chemistry between them on screen, and the film fails to engage the audience on all fronts: as a love story, as a film about war and warfare, as a drama. There were other, much better films about Central America from the period: Oliver Stone's gritty Salvador (1986) and Roger Spottiswoode's epic/fast-paced Under Fire (1983). This film just sort of disappeared. I don't even know whether it's available on DVD. Maybe I'm being harsh--it has been 20-plus years since I've seen it. And the good intentions were certainly there.
Ring of Terror (1962)
I liked it more than most of the other reviewers here
I just finished watching this movie on the Silver Screen channel here in Canada, and it's pretty good! The acting is actually believable. True, the low budget clearly shows. The dialog is goofy at times. But it keeps you watching. The cast of unknowns (for most of the people in this film, this was their only outing in a movie) does the best they can, considering what they have to work with (a shoe-string budget, schlocky music, an uneven script). But the movie has its moments: a creepy rattlesnake-in-a-car scene, a cool autopsy, an rotund couple dancing to a silly musical number, and plenty of authentic hipster lines. It's very campy, but it's undeniably fun, sort of like The Hypnotic Eye.
Saints and Soldiers (2003)
Very good movie, but slightly overrated (and its low budget definitely shows)
Saints and Soldiers (S&S) was a powerful film with some unforgettable moments, but it wasn't quite the masterpiece that some of its more devoted fans claim it is. The 1992 film A Midnight Clear was similar, in many respects, to S&S, but better, in my view. The acting in S&S, for the most part, was solid. The real standout performance was delivered by Peter Alse Holden as Gordon Gunderson, who managed to convey warmth, pathos and humor in a way that was vaguely reminiscent of Jeff Daniels. Corbin Allred was also fine as the tormented, deeply religious corporal who served an LDS mission to Germany years earlier and has at least one major skeleton in his closet. One warning: Kirby Heyborne's British accent was absolutely appalling--not believable for one second. He almost ruined the film, though he probably gave it his best shot. This film is not, repeat NOT, a Mormon propaganda film, as some of its detractors have suggested. I'm *not* a Mormon, although many of my friends and family are, and I watched it with my brother, who is LDS. S&S, in fact, depicts an ongoing argument about the afterlife (or lack thereof) between the religious Deacon and the atheistic Gould, yet at no point does the film attempt to answer the questions raised in their exchanges, which is the indication of a compelling movie. Moreover, the debate was convincing and effectively handled. Not for a moment did the film preach. Ultimately, S&S is a deeply humanistic antiwar film that conveys a crucial message about the importance of maintaining compassion and not vilifying or objectifying one's enemies (in this case, of course, the Germans) during a time of war. Viewers would do well to apply its timeless lessons to the war in Iraq right now. The film was definitely hampered by a low budget. Not all of the European characters were particularly believable or portrayed very effectively. And some of the main actors performed more admirably than others. It won't stand up alongside Hollywood's finest war films (e.g., Saving Private Ryan, All Quiet on the Western Front, Platoon, etc.). But it's a worthwhile attempt that will, with time, hold its own among the better war films.
Married People (1990)
Underrated show . . . Went to the T.V. graveyard much too soon.
I loved this show and never missed an episode. It was clever, funny, touching, and had great character development. It explored the lives of different generations of married people living together in the same apartment complex, and did so with a lot of warmth and humor. It had a great cast, with a real standout performance by Jay Thomas, who, in my opinion, is one of the great, underrated comic actors of our time. I dislike most sitcoms, but thoroughly enjoyed this one. Why it was canceled is a mystery to me. If the episodes were ever released on DVD, I'd snap them right up, but I somehow doubt that's going to happen. Sad, but the episodes will probably just get stashed away in the T.V. vaults, wherever canceled T.V. shows go.
OK A&C . . . Not their worst, yet far from their best.
This film isn't as bad as some of its detractors claim. It's not in the same league as Hold that Ghost or A&C Meet Frankenstein, but it's still a lot of fun in places. The duo meets a couple of dim-witted crooks who are actually almost as funny as A&C themselves. The scenes during Mardi Gras are quite amusing. Costello's argument with Dr. Orvilla (Joe Kirk) is a total hoot. The special effects are loads of fun. The Venusians are real campy in a 1950s atomic space age kind of way (although I must admit, I had forgotten about what an exotic and lovely woman Mari Blanchard was until I saw the film again recently). Despite all of these good qualities, and some of the funniest sight gags in any A&C movie, the film also has lots of stale dialogue and the boys look quite tired. Except for A&C Meet the Invisible Man, there's something kind of depressing about watching A&C's 1950s movies. You sort of know they're on the downward slope (which began after they met Frankenstein), and the descent is evident in this film. And why the movie wasn't called "Abbott and Costello Go to Venus" will always be a mystery. Still, it's much better than some of their worst films (e.g., Mexican Hayride, Jack and the Beanstalk, A&C Meet Captain Kidd), and when "The End" flashes up on the screen, true fans won't feel like they've wasted their time.
Still Holds Up Fairly Well
I'm a big A&C fan and have been since I was ten. I saw this A&C film many times in the 1980s (I recorded it once and watched it over and over again). It turns out that this film is included in Volume 3 of the Best of Abbott and Costello DVD set. After purchasing the set, I had a chance to watch it again recently. There are some genuinely outstanding gags here. Of all the movies made after A&C MEET FRANKENSTEIN (the duo's high point), this is one of the best. The chase scene through the caverns is actually very well made and has withstood the test of time. It remains one of the best climaxes from an A&C movie. Unfortunately, Boris Karloff isn't put to very good use in the film. This is a surprisingly atmospheric film, though, and at times it even contains elements of noir. It reminds me of a cross between WHO DONE IT and HOLD THAT GHOST, although it's not as good as either of those films. Still, unlike A&C GO TO MARS or Africa SCREAMS, it's certainly not a blemish on their filmography.
Philip Marlowe, Private Eye (1983)
The 1983 Episodes Were By Far the Best
Long before Sex in the City or Six Feet Under, HBO proved itself to be at the cutting edge of television when it released several episodes of Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, with Powers Boothe as the best Marlowe in film history (even better, in my view, than Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell and Robert Mitchum). He's so authentic, so dead-on perfect, that I can't read Chandler's Marlowe stories without thinking about him. The episodes that aired in 1983 were, in my view, far superior to the series in 1986. The writing was better, the story lines were tighter, and they had a gritty, noirish atmosphere that made you think of Los Angeles in the early 1940s. Unfortunately, the 1986 episodes did not have the same Chandleresque seedy Los Angeles feel. For years, I watched and re-watched the original episodes on videotape, but--alas--I've long since lost those taped episodes and I haven't been able to find copies of them ever since. Let's hope HBO re-releases them on DVD. This was television at its absolute finest.
post-script: After writing this review, I discovered that the episodes are indeed available on DVD. What a great day I'm having!