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Gods of Bali (1951)
7/10
More about Legong
7 September 2019
An extra on Milestone's Legong: Dance of the Virgins DVD, Gods of Bali provides additional context concerning the story told in the disc's main feature. It also offers fascinating information about Balinese culture, exemplified by music, dance, and puppetry, and depicts the peoples' deification of earth, water, and fire. Sadly shot in black and white, but very worthwhile nonetheless.
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The Crisis (1916)
6/10
How did you enjoy the debate, Mrs. Lincoln?
6 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Crude but effective, The Crisis purports to offer a dramatic retelling of the struggle between abolitionists and slavers in the run-up to the American Civil War. Beginning with a striking shot of Abraham Lincoln laying his hand atop the head of a kneeling slave, the film soon devolves into the sort of melodrama popular at the time. Scottish-born writer-director Colin Campbell integrated African-American characters into the story, and though most of them aren't significant they are certainly presented more sympathetically than those in Mr. Griffith's film of the previous year. A recreation of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates is a highlight, and there are some reasonably impressive battle sequences. Though IMDb lists The Crisis with a 100-minute running time, the copy held at the Library of Congress clocks in at 87. The final reel displays moderate vinegar damage.
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6/10
It survives!
4 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
While previous IMDb reviews of The Birth of a Race are based on a brief ten-minute excerpt, this one is based on the full ninety-minute feature, which slumbers in the archives of the Library of Congress. The film begins as a biblical epic, and a saucy one at that: there are numerous shots of bare-breasted nubiles at the court of Pharaoh. Eat your heart out, Cecil B. DeMille! The parting of the Red Sea is depicted by a title card - this is a pretty low budget film - and Jesus finally puts in an appearance at the 47:41 mark. Blessed with some unnaturally long eyebrows, he lectures to men of all races, but the crowd remains largely segregated throughout - and how a group of Asian attendees got to ancient Israel is not explained. Crucifixion is followed in short order by the arrival of Columbus in America, where he brings the gospel to the savages, after which Paul Revere alerts the locals to the arrival of the British Army and the Emancipation Proclamation is described as 'the last link in the chain of human equality'. Intended as a riposte to The Birth of a Nation, The Birth of a Race now plays more like a liberal apologetic - though it does anticipate the future integration of the armed forces.
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4/10
What, no reviews yet?
16 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I tuned into this western because the program guide indicated it would be the 1928 Law of the Range with Joan Crawford, but alas - it was this Universal second feature starring Johnny Mack Brown. Never mind: 1941's Law of the Range is what some people term a 'comfort western', a formulaic but pleasant diversion improved by some surprisingly good musical interludes. Nothing you haven't seen before, but a decent genre effort.
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Tara (2001 Video)
5/10
Not as bad as IMDb ratings suggest
17 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Generally, I only review films that have no - or very few - other reviews. Sometimes, though, I have to add a review as counterweight when a film has been seriously undersold by other IMDb users - which brings me to Hood Rat. Yes, the film is a low budget chiller about rats running rampant in the ghetto, and yes, the film's transitional sequences and special effects leave something to be desired. However, this is far from the mindless piece of exploitation garbage other reviews suggest. It's clear screenwriter Stan Foster has more than gore on his mind, with his script offering a sympathetic yet realistic depiction of homelessness as well as a harsh assessment of ghetto living conditions. Isaiah Washington is outstanding as Max, who lives on the street with his wheeelchair-bound alcoholic brother; Ice-T is as good as ever as building manager Grady; and Hill Street Blues veteran Taurean Blacque devours the scenery (in a good way!) as slumlord Souilliez. There is a lot more going on here than cheap thrills. Hood Rat is no hidden classic, but it is a solid and well-written B picture.
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Voices (1968)
7/10
Sympathy for the Revolution
5 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Shot while Jean-Luc Godard was in London filming One Plus One/Sympathy for the Devil, Voices is in many respects a more interesting - and more successful - film than its subject. We get to see Godard at work, setting up the junkyard philosophy scenes, the porn shop footage, and the curious Eve Democracy segment, and there's a Stokely Carmichael speech and an illuminating interview with cinematographer Anthony Richmond. In short, Voices is an intriguing 44-minute documentary that helps the viewer understand what Godard was trying to accomplish with One Plus One and his other political films.
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Take Me Naked (1966)
5/10
Leave Me Fully Clothed
18 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Almost everything about Take Me Naked is pretty good: the gritty black and white footage of mid-1960's New York City, the ridiculously over the top narration and poetry, even the Vaseline clumsily applied to the lens for the film's sex scenes. And then there's Roberta Findlay, who would have been best advised to keep her clothes on: at the risk of sounding horrifically sexist and being terribly judgmental, she looks absolutely awful throughout this film. To be fair, though, co-star Kevin Sullivan is unlikely to have many fans, either - but at least the Findlays allowed him to keep his pants on, sparing us some no doubt unpleasant sights.
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Impossible to rate
13 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, this Pakistani film is incredibly entertaining - even clocking in at a bladder-challenging two hours and forty six minutes. Secondly, it is immensely problematic, as it condones the assassination of Salman Rushdie. Finally, it is almost impossible to take its commitment to this theme seriously, as the film is laden with broad comedy, music, mayhem, bloodshed, and sexy women (though there is no nudity). I'd love to know how the film's producers squared their apparent devotion to the Muslim faith with complete disinterest in producing a film respectful of the religion. I am compelled to conclude that the apostasy of Rushdie was merely an exploitable element used by director Jan Mohammed and writer Nasir Adib to make big money for producer Sajjad Gul. In other words, this ain't no art film, and it certainly isn't a serious attempt to engage with Rushdie's arguments or the counter-arguments against him.
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5/10
Operation Paperclip was a rousing success
1 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Like many other reviewers, my memories of this film stemmed from childhood TV viewings in the 1970s, when screenings of The Frozen Dead were extremely common. The film's reappearance on TCM on Halloween night 2018 was, therefore, a cause for celebration!

Viewed as an adult, the film is of course absurd but it does raise the question: how did all these Nazis set up shop in the UK? The answer, of course, must be Operation Paperclip, the OSS plan to prevent German science from falling into the hands of the Soviets and harness it for Western purposes. Judging from The Frozen Dead, the operation must have been a massive success, because clearly the overflow of Nazi scientists reached the bucolic English countryside.

British Intelligence are entirely absent from this film. Dr. Norberg (Dana Andrews, sporting a terrible accent) and a host of other aging Nazis live and travel with ease as they plot to defrost 1500 fellow Party members and resurrect the Reich. Even as open collaborators, I would have thought that Norberg and co. would have handlers making sure they were still working on behalf of Britain and NATO. Am I overthinking things?

Whatever the case may be, I still enjoyed The Frozen Dead forty years later. It's a prime slice of cinematic silliness that will appeal to fans of The Brain That Wouldn't Die. If you have a child aged between 7 and 10, expose it to them today!
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3/10
Sex and love and the whole damn thing
30 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Tonino Valerii made some decent films, including Day of Anger and My Name is Nobody. This ain't one of them. Ewa Aulin-lookalike Silvia Dionisio stars as the titular Jules, a rather clueless young woman lusted after by virtually every other character that crosses in front of the camera. The film is punctuated by frequent softcore (very soft) sex scenes and relies on a number of cliches to define Jules' bedmates, including the tortured middle-aged man and the unhappy lesbian who drinks to forget. Dionisio drifts expressionlessly through the film, which climaxes with an outburst of violence hardly in keeping with the rest of the film. It's too little, too late to render this film anything more than a squirm-inducing footnote to co-star John Steiner's career.
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3/10
Mondo Talko
29 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Apparently, this film has never been dubbed or subtitled into English, which is unfortunate as it's a constant gabfest. What little action there is is quite perfunctory and the heist is underwhelming. Should someone give this a digital scrubdown and add Anglo subtitles I would give it another chance, but as it stands English-speaking viewers can safely give it a miss.
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5/10
At last!
7 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I found it: the last film on IMDb with NO user reviews, NO critic reviews, and NO user ratings. After all these years, how could this be? And is Spider Force a forgotten classic that only I have had the privilege of seeing?? Well, no, but it is chock full of gunfire, explosions, and blood squibs. Fans of John Woo will appreciate this Hong Kong crime flick, which also features lots of dry ice and a lively performance from Pauline Chan as police officer Sharon, whose uncle turns out to be one of the baddies. Is blood thicker than the criminal code? Watch Tai Seng's VHS tape to find out!
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5/10
Hokum of the highest order
30 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I'm pretty sure that if you look up the word 'hokum' in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of a Desert Pursuit promotional poster. The set-up is so preposterous and outre that the film can't help but be entertaining: three camel-riding Arabs from Smyrna are chasing Wayne Morris and Virginia Grey across Death Valley and will go to any lengths to steal their gold before they can get to San Berdoo. The fact that the Arabs are portrayed as a trio of lunkheads not far removed from the Three Stooges lessens the apparent threat! The gentle, unassuming Morris and feisty Grey work well together, and the desert locations look great. In short, if you put your brain on hold you'll enjoy this absurd and decidedly unusual western.
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2/10
Not excellent.
24 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I am sorry to contradict Kärleksvirveln's other reviewer, alexferdman-98602, but there is really very little to hold one's interest in this film. Perhaps Alex saw a copy of it in its original Swedish, but the dubbed-in-English VHS version entitled Swedish Love Story is incoherent and utterly plotless. There's a completely bizarre disco sequence that was almost worth whatever I spent on the tape, but that's about it. Is it an "erotic masterpiece" as the box art claims? Decidedly not.
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Brothers (1977)
7/10
A forgotten gem
24 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This fine fictionalization of the lives of George Jackson and Angela Davis deserves much wider exposure. Brothers showed up recently on TCM Underground (in itself an undeserved marginalization of a serious film which is NOT 'blaxploitation'), the first time it had been aired on television in many years - and it has never been released on home video. Very much of its era, Brothers is anchored by committed performances from leads Bernie Casey, Vonetta McGee, and Ron O'Neal, and offers a searing and still timely indictment of America's racist justice system.
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Who Is Safe? (1925)
3/10
Madame Girard
27 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This is an eight-minute instructional film that introduces the concept of jiu-jitsu to the modern woman, who needs protection from the 'carnival of crime' apparently sweeping the nation in the mid 1920s. It is a pretty dull eight minutes, most of which consists of slow motion footage of a woman taking down a male assailant and of self-defense expert Mme. Girard teaching her techniques to the same woman. Of interest only to those of us pursuing the vain quest of seeing every extant silent film.
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4/10
Chicken and egg
27 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Which came first, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923, starring Lon Chaney) or The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923, starring no one)? My guess is that the latter was an attempt to cash in on the former, and some patrons must have been incredibly disappointed when they discovered they'd paid to see a 10-minute poverty row one-reeler instead of the big budget epic they were anticipating. Quasimodo's hunch isn't even as notable as the one sported by Lon Chaney: in this version, it's more of a gentle swell than a major promontory. What had been a cast of thousands is here reduced to a cast of about two dozen, and the action takes place on no more than four sets. All that aside, I wish we knew more about this film - the credits don't even list a director!
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6/10
Family feud
22 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Time was when ethnic comedies were popular, and here's a really obscure one from the Weiss Brothers. The Goldbergs live across the hall from the O'Connors, and though Jews and Irish shouldn't really mix, their young adult children are making eyes at each other. The comedy is broad and things move along at a rapid clip, but the primary reason to watch Ham and Herring are the two female leads, Elfie Fay and Margery Meadows. As the O'Connor matriarch, the rail-thin Fay gurns brilliantly, crosses her eyes with aplomb, and looks considerably older than she actually was - perhaps unsurprising, as she was already dying of tuberculosis during production. Meadows, on the other hand, is a kewpie doll cutie who can roll her eyes and a pair of stockings with the best of them. Can true love overcome ethnic differences? Probably, but true love is not the focus of this amusing two-reeler.
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5/10
Time to hang 'em up
21 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Rudolph's Revenge was the last of eleven Hairbreadth Harry comedies, and it's clear that the energy and inventiveness had run out. The film also features a completely new cast in its three lead roles, with only the lovely Wanda Sibald delivering the goods as Beautiful Belinda. Vincent Brownell replaced Earl McCarthy, and brings none of the golly gee whiz insouciance of his predecessor, instead presenting the character as a self-assured hunk, and Jimmy Aubrey is completely inadequate as the villainous Rudolph: whereas previous Rudolph John J. Richardson brought a lanky looseness to the character, Aubrey is simply a chunky lump of malevolence. Nonetheless, there's still sufficient fun here to make this worthwhile for slapstick enthusiasts.
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6/10
Nyah ah ah
21 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
How did I live the previous 54 years of my life without being aware of Hairbreadth Harry? This delightful series of two-reel comedies (well represented on VCI's 'Weiss-O-Rama' double DVD set) relate the comic misadventures of Harry (Earl McCarthy, apparently felled by a heart attack at age 26!), a young man perpetually tasked with rescuing Beautiful Belinda (Charlotte Merriam) from the grasping clutches of villain Relentless Rudolph (John J. Richardson). These broad satires of the movies and of 1920s mores (witness this film's focus on all things Hawaiian) are hilarious in their absurdity, crude special effects, and over-the-top physical comedy. The moustache-twirling, top-hat and spats wearing Rudolph surely served as a source of inspiration for Jay Ward's Snidely Whiplash, and Richardson clearly relished the role, absolutely devouring the scenery in between intertitles of him screaming 'CURSES!'. Withal, any movie fan worth their salt will get a kick out of the series, of which Fearless Harry is the first entry.
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5/10
No Diamonds, some Dana
25 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This Italian crime flick deserves to be better known, and probably would be if its cast included any of the now popular stars of so-called 'Eurotrash' or 'Eurocult' cinema. Alas, all it has is Dana Andrews as a jewelry salesman with some cursed gee-gaws in his possession. Instead of the bankable Edwige Fenech, Janine Reynaud or Delphine Seyrig in the title role, Ursula is played by the unheralded French actress Jeanne Valérie (previously seen to better effect in 1965's Espionage In Lisbon), who spends the film wearing an ill-fitting wig and making little impression. The film benefits from a lush theme song crooned by Alida Chelli and looks nice enough (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Something Weird Video's VHS is in reasonably good condition, though it's pan and scanned). Not so much an overlooked gem as a pleasant surprise.
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The Big Mess (1971)
8/10
Sci-fi with a difference
28 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Several years before Star Wars, there was Alexander Kluge's The Big Mess. Though the films are entirely different artistically, it's hard not to see some surprising parallels: both focus on an evil empire (in The Big Mess, a corporate one called the Suez Canal Company that is buying up as much of the galaxy as possible as quickly as it can), and both feature a group of rebels trying to escape its clutches. Each film includes impressive fleets of huge space ships, though the one's in Kluge's film are distinctly low-budget and low-tech in comparison to those in George Lucas's space opera. And that is about where the similarities end: whereas Lucas was trying to emulate the chapter-plays of old, Kluge seems to have been aiming for something more modern and outre. His film features bold and unusual color schemes, crude animation, intertitles galore, and was surely influenced more by late '60s counterculture, Perry Rhodan, and Fritz Lang than by Flash Gordon. Highly recommended, though it will be a hard slog for fans of 'traditional' sci-fi.
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6/10
Above average spy flick
28 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
With apologies to contributor 'petropolisy', It Means That Much to Me is overdue for another review. Here it is. This is an above average Eddie Constantine effort, with the handsome expatriate once again channeling his Lemmy Caution character (a trench-coat wearing ladies man) as journalist Eddie McAvoy, here mixed up in government subterfuge involving top secret photographs. Constantine was a limited actor, but like other limited actors (Clint Eastwood, Jason Statham) he wisely stuck to the template throughout his career and made it work; he's as enjoyable here as ever. With a big assist from cinematographer Michel Kelber, director Pierre Grimblat shows flair behind the camera and there's a decent score by Michel Legrand. All of Constantine's '50s and '60s films are worth watching, and all are badly in need of digital upgrades, but even if you can only scope this one out on VHS you won't be disappointed.
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5/10
The Confusion
27 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This bizarre short subject could easily be mistaken for a Kenneth Anger film. A young man is about to assume the throne of an unidentified and apparently ancient kingdom and must complete a series of rituals beforehand (I think). His subjects seem to play volleyball (or is that a severed head they're bouncing back and forth?), and immediately prior to the Big Event a group of men and women in modern garb show up and disrupt things. A mute woman (or man?) in a frightwig is also involved. Perhaps The Coronation would make more sense if a good print were available, but alas the copy I screened was pretty washed out (or perhaps the original film was overexposed). A unique oddity.
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5/10
Frankly, I'm puzzled
25 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Why does Thunder In Carolina score a paltry 1.9 rating on IMDb? I'm absolutely puzzled, because while the film is no Citizen Kane it is a million miles better (and better made) than your average Doris Wishman or Al Adamson pic. Heck, it's much better than your average Howco International production - though admittedly that's setting the bar pretty low! Well directed by Paul Helmick, the film features a strong cast (Rory Calhoun, Alan Hale Jr., Connie Hines) in its tale of injured stock car driver Mitch Cooper (Calhoun) living vicariously through grease monkey and aspiring pro racer Les York (John Gentry). Shot in vibrant color by Joseph C. Brun (Who Killed Teddy Bear), this is an entertaining 'B' picture and a solid example of old-time regional filmmaking. You don't need to see it, but you also won't regret watching it.
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