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that's about it.
Until we meet next time.
A Time to Die (1982)
"I'm going to get every one of them"!
Michael Rogan sets out for revenge against six men who interrogated him post WW2, Germany. Where also his pregnant wife was captured, tortured and murdered when he wouldn't comply in giving them the information they wanted. A creaky, so-so revenge drama that is quite laboured on every front. For these revenge stories to come off, there needs to be some sort of emotional attachment or pull, but the material along with Edward Albert Jr's limited performance fail to do so. So in the end there's really no impact to it all. Watching him calculate and then dispatching these men (led by Rex Harrison) was rather dry and uneventful. While durable in its craftmanship and scope, this didn't stop the execution coming off rather plain in its sense of action. The basic formula is there, but a real lack of excitement and suspense shows it up with a slowly progressive script and so does some disjointed editing. For most part it's terribly dreary and seedy. The European location work is well captured though, giving it some colour and Rod Taylor along with Rex Harrison gives it a bit of class and edge.
The Escape Artist (1982)
"You know escape is only good if it's dangerous".
Danny Masters is the teenage son of the late Harry Masters "The Greatest Escape Artist in the world, after Houdini". He leaves home to join his Uncle and Aunty, fellow magicians. He wants to follow in his father's steps and he's not that far behind him in doing so, even though his father died what he loved doing. One day while visiting a magic shop he meets the town's Mayor's neurotic adult son Stu, where a strange relationship begins, as Danny and Stu decide to create the ultimate escape, but are Danny's talents being exploited, or does he not care.
The theme at hand is engaging just thinking about it and "The Escape Artist" (which is adapted off David Wagoner's novel) is an enjoyably offbeat and wondrously moody drama with some splendid performances. Griffin O'Neal is fitting as the lead and Raul Julia is eccentrically good. The chemistry dynamics between the two demonstrates laughs, but also excitement as it remains unpredictable. There's charming support by Teri Garr, Joan Hackett, Gabriel Dell, Elizabeth Daily and Jackie Coogan. Then there are the likes of Desi Arnaz, M. Emmet Walsh and a minor, but comically good John P. Ryan. Never really heard of it before, but I was pulled in by its charm and mystic with a nice blend of witty humour between the characters and tension within some of the magic tricks. Sure it's a kid's film at heart, but the playful story does have its sombre moments and numerous smokescreen developments. Melissa Mathison (who was behind "E.T. The Extra Terrestrial") pens the screenplay, where it's sharply pitched and ambitious despite some shady details and plenty going on. Even the imagery stands out at times with imaginative touches and perfect timing in its performances and poignant direction.
The Sleeping Car (1990)
"What's your story McCreed"?
Strange, outlandish mix of horror and comedy feature heaving in this somewhat forgotten 90s midnight b-grade genre film starring David Naughton ("American Werewolf in London"), Jeff Conaway and Kevin McCarthy. Familiar ideas are presented in this supernatural yarn, but a unique choice of setting by using a rail car as its haunted house get-up gives it a bit of character, atmosphere and creativity. Too bad the story, while having some bite doesn't play out the same suit. The visual effects are competent and gruesomely twisted with some cheesy deaths. Even the demonic ghost mister is a vivid creation. Director Douglas Curtis keeps an up-tempo style and this allows him to keep the story moving then focusing on its limited scope. But what I found hurt it, was the humour and delivery of it. The dark tone had its moments, but the lame dialogue could have been toned down. It just felt forced and artificial with a script wanting to make a joke with every nearly every line. It kind of got overbearing, even the knowing performances felt off. Naughton's nervous energy just irritates and the lovely Judie Aronson is witless. While a bug-eyed McCarthy looks at a lost. Conaway simply hams it up, but I definitely found the most amusing. Also making a minor appearance is John Carl Buechler. For most part an enjoyable, if not always funny oddball horror-comedy.
"What is she trying to do. Get her self killed"?
Alan Morris guns down his estranged wife in cold-blood, and blames her friends namely Vegas showgirl Michele for turning his wife against him. She was there when it happened and he goes after her. This leads her to flee Vegas and make her way to Los Angeles, but Alan tracks her down. Late 60s flabby psychedelic psycho stalker on-the-run thriller that's thick on melodramatics but lacks tension despite moments of searing cat- and-mouse action and neon noir shades. However it remains hypnotic due to the wonderful presence of Raquel Welch and vivid Las Vegas and Los Angeles backdrops beautifully projected by agile camera-work. Sometimes the locations are much more of a character on screen then its leaden stars. Even though it's seedy in context and the nightlife shows, it's probably a touch too polished in presenting it, but its acts of violence have a touch of brutality. Pacing is somewhat a problem, as it seems to get lost in the neon lights, glitter and dance numbers. But the romance angle simply lulls between Welch and Stacy's characters and the script awkwardly goes about it. This just makes the film drag, until it reaches the fiery conclusion (now I know what the title means) between Welch and the steely Luke Askew. It's hearty in execution and well-made by director James Neilson, but generically crafted and less than exciting.
"What's a girl gotta do to get a job around here"?
Hidden Fears (1993)
Watch it for Meg Foster.
Straight-to-video, almost like a life-time presentation sees this sleepy, if rather underwhelming suspense drama treads water for so long to only end on a whimper. A young woman and her children horrifyingly watch from their car as her husband is beaten to death by two drunken rednecks in a car-park of a fast-food joint. Quite a few years later the case remains unsolved, but she's moved on with her life. That's until she's given a document from one of the old officers on the case which can reveal the killers and so she goes about seeking help from the public over a TV board cast. However the killers happen to be watching and decide that they want to pay her a visit. But also witnesses of her husband's death are being brutally murdered one-by-one. Is there a connection is she next along with her children?
The muddled script is thick on drama (where there are some very out-of- sorts, contrived and unconvincing developments), little suspense (weakly delivered) with a quite generic wrap-up. Sadly I found moments unintentionally laughably, mainly that of our trashy killers who were far from threatening. It didn't feel much like a thriller, but a piece looking more so of the affects facing victims of these types of deplorable acts of violence. It's rather numbing, possibly purposely done and this could be contributed to a non-surprising reveal. Meg Foster gives a strong willed, solemn performance, other than her Frederic Forest shows up in a minor part. Jean Bodon's direction is taut, but lifeless with a real lack of style.
The Ultimate Thrill (1974)
"God I feel fantastic. A new kind of high. I wonder what will be next"?
With a title like this, sadly it's anything but the ultimate thrill maybe a mild, predictably frosty one. A rock solid cast (Britt Ekland, Eric Braeden, Michael Blodgett and Barry Brown) and nice scenic location work of Vail, Colorado keeps you watching. There are a couple of dangerous looking stunt work involving cat and mouse chases scenes with a helicopter (my pick of the two) and the climatic final chase with a wind glider after some poor Joe on skies. Sadly they're not as suspenseful as they should have been, but for most part lackadaisical.
However the most intersecting facet is the lead up to them and that's the focus on the ruthless industrialist tycoon Roland Parley (a superbly intense performance by Braeden) and his twisted philosophy. "No man deserves the best unless he's willing to die for it". This sadistic guy is searching for simulation, and he gets it in a variant on the most dangerous game theme firstly by accident (because of his wife's imagined infidelity), but because of the high he goes about setting up the situation that leads to a deadly game, where losing isn't an option. Britt Ekland's alluring, if fragile character becomes the unknowing pawn in his insane jealously. It all becomes a game life, business and romance.
The story is simple minded and gradually builds upon the patchy circumstances, but the characters are somewhat complex in their shades of grey. Script-wise it can come over sounding clumsy and jarring in its shifting tones, but underneath there's certain uneasiness and the character motivations actually engage. Michael Blodgett and Barry Brown are fitting enough and are two different extremes in characteristics (one cocky and the other brooding) as the two unlucky Joes that get caught up with the Parleys.
"It's not your fault your batteries went dead".
From the creator of the insane Japanese zombie feature "Stacy" (2001), Naoyuki Tomomastu goes a step further with his erotically demented low- budget fantasy "Maidroid".
In the not so distant future, Maria was an android that was programmed to take care of Ueno when he was a child. When he got a little older his parents died in an accident and he decided Maria would look after him. As he grew older, he became attached to her emotionally and was upset that the sexual function didn't compute because of her being a prototype. Still this being the case the love he shared for her lasted long after her battery power had died. This shows when he's an old man still talking to her and washing her, though there's no life in her anymore.
While there's news reports of a series of serial rapes hitting the city, detective Yuri Akagi begins to suspect it's an android. Upon each night there seems to be an attack and Akagi might have to do something out-of- ordinary to get her suspect (and when she does it's quite a sight!?).
The concept looks better on paper, than so on screen as its rather patchwork with these two thin plot threads having no real connection, other than having something to say about society's approach to sex and love. Quite laughable with its observations of what men and women are after (especially the motivation for the serial rapist) and the sexual appetite that spurs them on (Love is eternal, nothing material about it and it's more than skin deep). Well the director does craft numerous eye-brow raising moments, both intentional and unintentional. Really it's like two different movies fused together, but have trouble gelling as the editing is a mess and it just doesn't feel right. Creative and unusual with the ideas, but the frenetic execution is ramshackle and clumsy. However there's no denying how jarring in nature it becomes; as the words lewd, sleazy and outrageous figure promptly. Soft-core sequences come from nowhere. The somewhat sweet and heartfelt romance of a man and his droid is broken up by chintzy and violent pockets of the serial rape investigation of very little groundwork. Still when they should be disturbing in detail, it's just goofy. The script is not always serious, as black humour shows up in those kinky scenes that come across like info-commercials for these maidroids.
Mo hua qing (1991)
"I'm so unlucky".
Offbeat, colourful and cutesy Hong Kong fantasy romance of a well-worn story concept. There happens to be two plot threads streaming from this story one more serious than the other.
Shing is a down-on-his luck cartoonist, who's on his way home when he hits a lady ghost Ching-Ching. This leaves the spirit stranded in the human world, where she attaches herself to Tony whenever his out of luck. While stranded there she meets another demonic spirit (known as ghost whore) who's trying to revive her dead son, after they were mistakenly sentenced to death for adultery.
It's likable, but familiar entertainment with a lousy ending. Batty characters come and go, while the scenarios are very cartoon-like with the jokes becoming tiring. Well it's like a comic strip coming to life, which does happen in the film in one very interesting scene. It's an odd and jarring mixture, mingling comical interactions and misunderstandings with some atmospheric imagery and nasty surprises. Still it's the central relationship that takes up most of the time where she helps him achieve what he wants, which for most part is quite dull. Where ghosts tease and torment the living, where the physical gags feature heavily and so does a superstitious framework when Feng Tien's Taoist priest arrives on the scene. The performances are mainly on the eccentric side (Tony Leung & Deannie Yip) and Joey Wang has a beautiful presence.
The File of the Golden Goose (1969)
"It takes two to call off a deal".
Quite routine as can be for a crime feature, but there's somewhat a dreary and hardened underbelly. The investigation that transpires is predictably weary as you feel like your watching something out of a old- school crime TV episode but what it has going for it is that the grimy locations help with the moody ambiance and the main performances up it a notch. Yul Brynner is in the lead and along side are Edward Woodward and Charles Gray as a shady, if eccentric villain "The Owl". So there are some real solid acting chops on show.
An American secret service agent working with Scotland Yard goes about trying to infiltrate a dangerous counterfeit ring looking to upscale their business. Brynner plays it tough as nails (but there's something a little more to his psyche that be shows minor cracks), while Woodward is the chatty local partner who's assigned to Brynner's American agent. I thought it was going to play out like some buddy feature (as the two shared a fitting combination with some British humour), but it soon moves away from that angle midway through when the thick script brings in the villains and the scheming begins (also slowing things down) as our protagonist (Brynner) sets his plans in motion by snooping and trying to uncover the mastermind behind this counterfeit ring. In between this are some intense exchanges, beat-downs, nasty encounters and sauna visiting amongst the London views.
There's clichés aplenty amongst the smokescreen of genre staples and throw in that racy big band score typical of the era. The plot is rather thin, as you can feel it being stretched out with the amount of repetitive actions occurring and its revelation feels abrupt making little headway, but I always found Brynner to be a very watchable actor despite that detached-persona and it does possess a dangerous edge never making the character feel too safe. The earnest direction is tranquil in manner and the handling rather practical in style, as the pace is leisured throughout making a little sluggish. Although its does come to a crushing end in the final stages with a downbeat final shot.
"He's rather a tough nut".
Densô ningen (1960)
Eerie Sci-fi Horror.
Nicely atmospheric Japanese Sci-fi Horror by Toho productions which sees a supposedly dead soldier getting revenge by killing off those crooks who left him for dead, by using a teleporting machine to locate and then finally dispose of them on by one. However a police detective and reporter are on the case in trying to stop this indestructible killer. "Secret of the Telegian" has a clever gimmick, striking special effects (mainly involving the life matter transmitter) and an interestingly complex little tale engulfed with mystery and darkness, however while there are some eerie visuals and a creepy villain (just listen to that cackle) who lives in the shadows. It's just not as fun as it could have been. Too bad as it starts off strange, but there are some really slow passages and its script is dry as can be. Even when it came to the action, it's rather streamlined with plenty of foot chases despite the distorted villain being able to teleport, but the best moments occur when it's leading up to the stylistic deaths. There's something ominous about its tension through those scenes and the music beautifully complements it with its haunting cues. The photography is smoothly projected and the art direction (with some obvious back-lot sets) is rich in details. I see some people mention about a black & white version, but try to get your hands on the colour film. Looks great! Yoshio Tsuchiya, Akihiko Hirata and Yumi Shirakawa give solid performances and the direction is tersely layered.