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Today's game: The Ravagers vs. The Flockers.
One of a handful of post-apocalyptic films I've tried to track down over the years.(The others being Captive Women, Aftermath, The Last Chase and The Quiet Earth.) Recently, I viewed the film and found it to be quite entertaining as well as a bit weird. The "Ravagers" roam the Earth for the sole purpose of disposing of as much of the population as possible. Rewarding work? The "Flockers" are kind of new-age hippy types who party in cavernous caves. They are a strange lot and are in need of a constructive kick in the pants. Fred Karlin's eclectic score shines during this passage. Richard Harris, the hero by default, has a simple delivery of his lines. There is a cool scene involving a blind lawyer, who has been tossed out of his community and is later stoned to death in front of Harris. The movie was shot in Alabama of all places. The locations chosen are desolate and appropriately barren. Harris finds Art Carney in an abandoned military silo and army base of some kind. Carney's girth, remember there is little food, is explained by his ample ration stash. Rod Stewart's ex-wife, Alana, makes a brief appearance before she is quickly dispatched to heaven by the Ravagers. Everyone in the film follows Harris' lead in search of a city called Genesis. Strategically, Woody Strode played professional football and would have been a better blocker for the Flockers than the boozer, Harris. Just a plan.
Evel Knievel (1971)
A Caesar's Palace suite for the king of the daredevils
Marvelous AND surreal biography of the craziest man ever to jump a phalanx of buses on "Wide World of Sports." When I was a kid I even had the Evel Knievel doll and revved-up bike--which could actually soar across the linoleum floor. Returning to the movie, you would be hard pressed to find a more carefree fellow than Evel. He prides himself on his plethora of broken bones and slipped disks. Actual footage of his real jumps is seamlessly cut into the film. It's truly amazing this man is still alive to this day. Remember, once he really did try to fly over a canyon named "Snake River." George Hamilton torpedoed his own career by making poor choices along the way--but this was his zenith. Sue Lyon lends a sympathetic ear and is easy on the eye. This movie promises even more when Mr. Knievel pops a wheelie across the Grand Canyon. Well, not really. But one can dream. Later on, Knievel would star in his own bio-pic called "Viva Knievel."
After knocking off 26 positive reviews I felt the need to slaughter a cinematic turkey of mammoth proportions. And this it. This movie will depress anyone who loves movies. I would hate to encounter anyone who likes this piece of sewage. There is nothing of value on screen: from the horrid acting of LL Cool J to the gratuitous street luge scene. If the director had an ounce of humor he would have used The Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird" here. But that would be asking too much. Instead, the film makers get together and trash a classic. When this happens someone must step in and play policeman and arrest the Hollywood perpetrators involved in this criminal mischief. You have the right to remain silent. Anything--Well, forget it. I believe the director lost his mind. The night vision scenes were visual poison. Puke green. Fuzzy. Shockingly enough, an entire reel or two of this utterly useless footage of a chase of some kind made it into the movie. I have this feeling the film was unintentionally overexposed. The Rollerball game cannot be followed by anybody sober. Loud. Noisy. What are the rules? There is not a scintilla of drama anywhere in this motion picture. Take this stinker out to the curb before it contaminates the rest of your dvd collection or damages your player. Wretched. Shame on all who were involved. And a pox on their homes, too.
The Last Days of Disco (1998)
The love train goes express to Oz.
Chloe Sevigny, the independent film princess, lands in the great emerald city by the sea. The final moments of the disco period are about to expire and she must dispose of her wickedly evil roommate, Kate Beckinsale. The disco is the epicenter of the film, the "Oz" if you will, where the wizard appears to control the music and lights of the city. Whit Stillman produces movies as often as the Olympics come around, but I like the tone he achieves here. Check-out the eighties publishing world depicted in the film. What's missing? No computers. The office seems less cluttered and more soothing to the creative spirit. There's an off-the-cuff reference to J.D. Salinger and his different works. There are many such random references scattered through the frames of the film. The director keeps you on your toes. The highlight of the film arrives on an iron horse by means of an impromptu dance sequence. The extemporaneous dance number spills out onto the subway platform and beyond the station. Nice touch.
The Ultimate Warrior (1975)
Anachronism alert: the Twin Towers remain standing in the year 2012 A.D.
Hiring a warrior to protect your leaky compound after a worldwide plague can be an iffy proposition. Having to fight off a menacing gang lead by a man named Carrot is also a dangerous endeavor. Yul Brynner is ably cast as "The Ultimate Warrior." He wields a knife with the precision of a rabbi. The film's final reel will confirm this. And Max von Sydow is always fun to watch as he wrestles with the dialog and the ultimate fate of the barricaded parish. I admire the fellow who tends the garden on the roof. A movie like this needs a ray of hope cracking through the grim reality taking place. Stephen McHattie, who played James Dean in the break out role that didn't pan out, has the thankless role of a father who is desperate to feed his family. The film's climax takes place in the city's subway tunnels and is honestly brutal in its resolution. Bravo to the director for his use of still photos at the end. He releases the frame briefly for a burst of light--and coastal bliss. Lastly, my "summary" can be rendered mute if the towers are rebuilt before the date established by the makers of the film. Lets go!
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
Shopping list for a legend: gas, garlic and stakes.
Vincent Price has always been an acquired taste for me. I remember in the Seventies he had a goofy kids television show that relied heavily on his horror persona. It lasted for a few years and died. The movie "The Last Man on Earth" is alive and well and living in the public domain.
The movie is bleak from the start. The shots of an unkept city, lifeless, and littered with corpses will knock your shoes off. So be careful where you walk. And don't go out after sunset. Never. Price is wonderful in playing a disheveled man on the brink of insanity. His haggard look and stooped posture goes miles in conveying his deep sense of loss. Richard Matheson's novel,the original source, was set in Los Angeles. But this film was lensed in Italy. I think the move across the pond was beneficial in creating its creepy atmosphere. The locations chosen reveal streets, cemeteries, and buildings of worship that all look a bit strange to the American eye. Even the trees and cars come across as being from another land. Not the United States. But a world where the dead could walk alongside the living. The undead shuffle along like patrons in an after-hours club, but they are still ghostly and menacing. They lust, like vampires, after the blood of Price. He in turn spends long hours and endless days wielding a mallet and stake like Barry Bonds. Only later will Price discover the secret behind the plague and his ultimate fate. He cheated science but in the end he payed the final price.
Last Woman on Earth (1960)
Beware of lawyers in love.
The reviews for this love story turned apocalyptic fable were never very good. This is a shame. I think the movie is a shocker to those expecting a low budget potboiler with its brain missing. Don't worry. The existential script was written on the go by a young Robert Towne. He also pulls double duty as the odd man out in this fatal love triangle. Filmed in Puerto Rico, an unusual decision for the time, and possibly prompted by Roger Corman's desire to work on vacation. The results he achieved were nothing short of amazing. No one ever accused Mr. Corman of not squeezing every cent out of a film's budget. The story takes an unusual turn when the three lucky survivors return from a diving outing and find a city of the dead. The character we think is going to be the strong hero reveals himself to be a lazy cynic with no plan of action and eyes for the only woman left in paradise. The use of a modern church, the Hilton Hotel and what had to have been an upscale private residence, were a nice contrast to the cobblestone streets of the barrio. An ancient fort by the sea is used to great effect during a chase scene. There is a disturbing shot of a dead girl resting against a curb, her hand raised to shield her eyes. I very much liked the mellow jazz score. And finally, the notion that the world will end in a fiery blast is challenged by simply sucking the oxygen out of air. Different, anyway.
World Without End (1956)
The perfect movie Trinity: Babes, Beasts and Bazookas
Allied Artists pulls out their wallets and all the stops for this fantastic tale of men and mutants locked together in a time warp. The studio, at the time, had more in common with poverty row stalwarts like Eagle-Lion, Republic and Monogram, than the major studios of the era. But here they mounted a handsome production in "Cinemascope" and Technicolor. The major complaint about the film seems to concern the behavior and attitudes of the astronauts toward the females. I believe sexist and juvenile come to mind. But look a little under the surface and you will find the character of Deena. She breaks the typical space babe mold and develops an independent woman. Check out her courage in disobeying the elders as well as Rod Taylor, when she tags along in order to provide some practical information on the mutant culture. I can't believe I just wrote the words "mutant culture." In addition, I'm also aware that the costume department delivered the same mini-skirts which you might find in similar flicks of the period. But also remember that Star Trek dressed their female crew members in the same fashion--and in the late-sixties, too! I also like the engineer's character who is given feelings of sadness, regret and remorse when confronted with the ramifications of breaking the time barrier--with no means to return to his loved ones. Applause and salutations to the thoughtful screenwriter who delivered these pages.
I confess: deep, deep down, the devil made me do it.
The cult director Mario Bava toiled and dabbled in different genres before settling on the horror arena. He always elevated every movie he made with his sardonic sense of humor and warped sense of time and place. From the outrageous getup Diabolik wears to the wink-of-an-eye final shot, this movie exudes cool and hipness in stark contrast to a "hippy" generation concerned more with foolish radical politics. Realism is the enemy in a Bava film. He delights in turning everyday life upside down, creating a child-like kaleidescope of colors and textures. He uses his camera training to shoot at funky angles and in deep focus fields. Diabolik has a fetish for head-to-toe bodysuits. Strange? Not at all. Diabolik, after all, is a criminal. But we root for him over the decent civil servant, Inspector Ginco, who is hot on his trail to the very end. Ennio Morricone's score is glorious and wacky. I've heard the original studio tapes are lost forever. Sounds like a job for Diabolik.
Make sure your out camping and protected by a cave when the end comes.
Fondly remembered by all who saw it back in the 70's, this end-of-the-world flick packs a punch. I caught the last forty minutes about a year ago on an independent channel--which temporarily replaced another station that was being primed for a Spanish-language channel takeover. Could this made-for-tv movie have been inspired by the Star Trek episode titled "The Omega Glory"? There are striking similarities: most notably the state of the doomed crews' bodies. In the movie, however, the disease is caused by solar flares. You don't need elaborate and costly effects to convey the desperation and fear in the survivors' milieu. The situation itself is enough. Peter Graves sheds his B-movie threads and delivers a heroic performance as the father who leads by example and care, never loosing sight of their goal to hook up with their loved ones. The director, John Llewellyn Moxey, has deservedly earned his cult status. His television resume is impressive: The Night Stalker, The Last Child, Genesis II, Home for the Holidays, as well as the pilots for Kung Fu and Charlie's Angels.