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Highly entertaining campfest
This was much more entertaining than I expected. The overacting is in a class of its own. The actress who plays Frau Frankenstein chews up the scenery, but the actress who plays Juanita is even more over the top. The wide-eyed reaction shots are beyond what you could expect from even the worst street mime. The fact that her makeup was applied with a wide-tip Sharpie helps. And the vengeful cowboy is no slouch either when it comes to hamming it up. The production values are obviously not high-quality, but better than you'd expect thanks to getting the lab equipment from the original Frankenstein films. The Frankenhouse is the absolutely worst matte painting that I have ever seen. Cal Bolden is everything that you could want in a giant, zombie, muscle slave. When Frau F says, "Igor, go to your room!," she really should have said, "Igor, go to MY room!" And in the scene when she's bitterly complaining about being romantically spurned by Mr. James... and standing next to a musclegod who obeys her every whim... and there's a bed in the background... she really needs to sort out her priorities. I watched it without Mr. Briggs commentary and had a blast.
Beautiful but bloated
A little bloated, but fantastic performances by Helmut Berger, who chews up the scenery, and Silvana Mangano, who just sits there looking beatific. The music, which seems meant to reinforce Ludwig's obsession with Wagner, is somewhat intrusive. The sets, of course, are Ludwig's own constructions, and quite beautiful in a too-fabulous-to-live way. The costumes tend to overwhelm the actors, making the whole thing a bit costume-drama-ish. The lighting, which is much too bright, unfortunately reinforces the costumeyness. It would be interesting to send it to the lab and give it a more historical lighting tone. Visconti doesn't put any gloss on Ludwig's love for handsome, mostly-naked young men, who make up the bulk of the extras. Fairly daring for 1972, but maybe that was part of Helmut Berger's pay package.
The Pirates of Penzance (1994)
Too much slapstick
The director seems to have been trying to replicate the mood of the Kevin Kline/Rex Smith film version of PoP but ended up turning it into a carnival rather than a musical. The Fabulous Singlettes as General Stanley's daughters was a good gag. They turn their songs into DooWop numbers. They sit around the stage smoking and cackling. They look more like hookers from a Fellini film than the usual bevy of Victorian maidens, but it works.
Apparently, that wasn't enough comedy, because every character in the production plays their part with the broadest slapstick possible. I wouldn't mind .... except that they stop the music to do it. Almost every single song is stopped literally half a dozen times so that the singer(s) can do a pratfall or a gag. The actors playing Frederic and Mabel have very strong voices, and their duets are wonderful. The Pirate King and Ruth are clearly more comfortable with comedy than with singing. The Actor playing General Stanley was the worst. He does his whole part in a fake "old man" voice, and his physical schtick does not work. I actually left the room and washed my dishes while he was singing Major General. And I still didn't miss most of the song. This version is almost half an hour longer than the Kline/Smith version because they just keep stopping the musical to wink-wink-nudge-nudge at the audience.
The Pirates of Penzance (1980)
The only thing wrong with this...
...is that I can't take a time machine back so that I can be there for this performance. The tape is technically sub-par, but it's not that bad. There's a bit of a machine hum for a few minutes and there's a little gargliness in part of the finale. But it's absolutely worth it. I'm a big fan of the film version, but it's like the difference between a blow-up doll and a live person. Patricia Routledge gives a great performance. And in the live show, you realize that Rex Smith has a HUGE voice. This performance is so lively, and the audience is having such a great time. I rented it and then promptly went to Amazon and bought it.
Odd even by LIS standards
The menfolk take the chariot to search for a water source. Of course, there's a fishing hole within walking distance from the J2 and we know that there's an inland sea. But they go hunting for water anyway. It's unclear how they plan to get this water back to the J2 since they don't have any containers. And they make it clear that if they don't find water, they're all gonna die. But they still go hunting for water anyway.
Now this particular planet has an odd orbit that means that the temperatures go up above the 120s. The intrepid castaways never go hunting for water when the temperatures are moderate. They always wait until just before the season of fiery death. Then they get into their all-Pyrex car and go water hunting.
Stock chariot footage from the meteor shower episode ensues, this time cut with stock footage of lava to denote a volcano. After this episode of volcanism, the robot announces that they're driving over an underground water source. So they promptly drive the chariot right up a hill because when you're drilling for water, you want maximum elevation.
The water turns out to be brackish, so they get back into the Pyrex car. When it gets really hot (because Dr. S has stolen the AC parts) they drive into a cave. Will requests and receives permission to wander aimlessly through an unexplored cave system per standard Robinson parenting. There is a planet-quake, exactly like the last time that they drove into a cave. The quake is bad enough to toss Will and the robot down a mysterious pit which looks like a circular well full of debris from the top and a cave system from the bottom. Dr. R and Maj. W fail to notice the planet quake.
After a few twists and turns, Will and the robot find themselves on Gilligan's Island, only underground and furnished and populated by old Flash Gordon sets and costumes. Dr. R and Maj. W follow them down the hole. During another quake, a boulder rolls toward them, so Dr. R throws Maj. W in the path of the rock while hiding himself under a ledge. Note to Maj. W: back off a little on the Judy thing.
Prodded by the robot, Will kisses a sleeping child. When she awakens, she turns out to be a princess with Ferengi teeth who learned her lines phonetically. They all go to the underground kingdom where Will is supposed to marry the princess so that her major domo Ming the Merciless can unleash a thousand generations of mini-dress clad warriors to conquer the universe, starting with earth. The warriors wield full height weapons, because nothing's easier to shoot than a cross between a floor lamp and a coat rack.
At this point, the show turns into a Benny Hill episode with all the characters chasing each other from the throne room to the torture chamber to the instrument room several times, but sadly without Yakety Sax accompaniment. Eventually, Ming fries, the princess goes back to sleep and the castaways somehow get a two-ton robot out of a vertical pit.
The Swarm (1978)
Bees is bees.
So many questions, so few answers.
The on-screen talent for this film, as of 2011, has ten Oscars. Why did they do this film? Michael Caine might have been early in his career, but Olivia de Havilland? Irwin Allen's resume consists mostly of Lost in Space, Land of the Giants, Time Tunnel and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. How do you go from Gone With The Wind to The Swarm?.....
Why would passenger cars on a train explode when they rolled down a cliff? The cars are being dragged by the locomotive up front. Are all the passengers carrying thermoses full of nitroglycerine and napalm?.....
Why would the school principal allow the children to play outside when they knew that there's a swarm of bees who can kill with a single sting? Okay, I know the answer to this one: so that Olivia de Havilland can smash herself against the window and moan piteously......
Why would the two doctors in the room, when a teen-aged boy who's hooked up to monitoring equipment flatlines, respond by wailing rather than initiating CPR? On a related note, why, when the doctor who's vital to the project goes into cardiac arrest, would the other doctor leave the room for five minutes?.....
Why do Michael Caine and Richard Widmark, in every scene where they're together, yell at each other with three seconds of silence between alternate outbursts?.....
Setting aside the larger question of why you would decide to burn down an entire city to kill some bees - WHO CAN JUST FLY AWAY - why would you send flame-thrower teams to ride up and down the elevators in highrises, torching floors at random with no escape plan and no face coverings to keep the bees off? Okay, I know the answer to this one, too: after a while, it gets pretty boring watching people stung to death, so Irwin Allen decided that he should set them all on fire for the last 20 minutes of the film......
Why didn't Richard Chamberlain have a bigger career?.....
Did Irwin Allen slip LSD to the actors to get the interviews in the 'Making Of' special? Because both Michael Caine and Olivia de Havilland carry on a bit about how this film is really a public service documentary sort of thing because killer bees are real!!! And Olivia really sells it. Ben Jonson, on the other hand, actually says, "Bees is bees.".....
The Swarm is by far the most entertaining piece of inexplicable schlock that I've watched this year.
Heavy Equipment (1977)
A seminal example of the filmmaker's art
I saw this in San Francisco when it first came out, at one of the theaters on Market Street. The theater was packed, which was not, I think, the norm for weekday matinées of porn films. Needless to say, you feel like you're in danger of getting poked in the eye through the whole thing. Roger, in particular, almost hit the back wall of the theater. Although the stars were some of the most popular gay porn stars of all time, nobody in the theater seemed to regard it as an erotic experience. Everyone was laughing hysterically. When you see a regular film in 3D, you always have the impression that they've gone off mission by sticking things right into the camera and squirting things at it. It seems like the natural course of events in this film, so maybe it's time for a gay 3D porn renaissance.
Mou mian bei (1995)
On the minus side, it appears to have been filmed on a cell phone, the sound was processed in an underwater echo chamber (apparently the transfer process overlays Mandarin and Cantonese tracks) and the subtitles were created by someone who is clearly not a native English speaker. And there's a scene in blackface which keeps referring to African-Americans as negroes. On the plus side, Kaneshiro Takeshi. And it's a sort of charming window into lowbrow Hong Kong humor. Did I mention Kaneshiro Takeshi? It's more reminiscent of Benny Hill than martial arts. How else can you explain Sammy Ho being chased by the hot office chick? Interestingly, the final shoot-out, punch-out, knife-out turns seamlessly into the rap party. And Kaneshiro Takeshi is in it.
Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)
I like big sheep and I cannot lie.
For the first, say, 85 minutes, I couldn't make heads or tails out of this film. It appears to be a lost episode of the Brady Bunch where they wake up and discover themselves in a lost episode of Gunsmoke where they all wake up and find themselves in a lost episode of Night Gallery. I get why the hookers wear Victorian get-ups, but why does the visiting financier wear a Wild, Wild West outfit while trying to close a business deal? Most realistic dump ever. Coolest movie monster ever. It looks like a huge plushie that got caught in a fan and half skinned. And sheepy got back! Somehow, the last five minutes of this extraordinarily aimless film turned it into an existentialist allegory and it all seemed perfectly sensible. Except maybe the white plastic casket at the dog's funeral and, of course, the pie eating contest.
Samurai Deeper Kyo (2002)
Poor man's Inuyasha
Although reasonably entertaining, Samurai Deeper Kyo bears more than a passing resemblance to the much better Inuyasha. The (anti)hero has a violent history but is conflicted and ambiguous about being nice to people. He has a posse of sidekicks who wander around using their special skills to kill half-demons. There's a girl who moons over the hero even when he acts like a tool. Unfortunately, it isn't nearly as well written as Inuyasha. The plot is convoluted and confusing. There are way, way, way too many characters and too many of them look alike. Yuya-san, despite carrying a pistol, is a much bigger doormat than Inuyasha's Kagome. On the plus side, the story includes many real people, including Tokugawa Ieyasu, Tokugawa Hidetada and Hattori Hanzo. And in SDK, one of the main characters is a gender-bender, so there's a bit more homo-erotic subtext.