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Scared to Death (1980)
Decent movie that makes the most of what it has going for it.
I read about this film in magazines like Fangoria and Cinefantastique. It looked and sounded good and I was looking forward to seeing it in theaters. Unfortunately it never made it to any theater near me. It never made it to home video either. 40 years later, I finally caught it on streaming, sporting a washed out print and low fidelity audio. However, the shortcomings cannot hide the fact that the movie has a lot of things going for it. (*Warning, possible spoilers ahead*) First off, you have a very nicely designed monster, courtesy of director, William Malone, assisted by Robert Short, among others. Clearly inspired by the work of H.R. Giger, who designed the title character of ALIEN, released the previous year, Malone, who was already a mask designer for Don Post Studios, and made his own replicas of film robots like Robby the Robot from FORBIDDEN PLANET, made a creature for this film that looks amazing. The acting is competent, the lighting is pretty good, although a tad too dark, but that might be due to the printing, and also due to the fact that it's possible the film was shot on 16 mm and blown up to 35mm. I saw a credit at the end for the company that made 16mm to 35mm blow ups is the main reason I think this. I don't know if they used canned music or if it was composed for the film, but the music is pretty good, although at times it seems like it is trying to imitate Jerry Goldsmith's score for ALIEN, but hey, if you're gonna borrow, borrow from the best. They do a good job at building suspense. Most monster movies just aren't very scary, but this is one of the very few that pulls it off by now showing too much of the monster too soon. I think it's a real shame that this film does not appear to have gotten a very wide release to theaters. It did somehow get a sequel, that is actually easier to see than this film has been. I hope that someday we will get a BluRay of this film. It is pretty obscure and is not deserving of that status.
Maciste e la regina di Samar (1964)
It held my attention for it's entire runtime
If you are looking to watch one of the Italian sword and sandal movies of the 1960s, you could do a lot worse than HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN. The special effects, by the same guy who did FX for ATOM AGE VAMPIRE are surprisingly decent for a peplum. Now, I would also emphasize it is well-paced for a 1960s peplum, and most of those move about like glaciers. Anyway, the acting seems good, although it's hard to tell from the dubbing. I have tried to watch many peplums, and there are many to choose from. Most of them have some interesting parts but get super slow for the most part. This one successfully builds up it's plot and I found myself caught up in it until the end. It's too bad that I guess these films will never be digitally remastered and color corrected, because this print I saw was all beat to hell. It's an deserving fate for this film to fall into obscurity. It's actually quite entertaining and one of the few peplums that did not put me to sleep.
Cameron Mitchell gives a sympathetic performance as a pilot past his prime, suffering from failing sight. His nephew and his co-pilot try to cover up for him but it starts to look like they really saw a UFO. Good performances by all in this episode.
Will cure your insomnia
As a completist of movies about the Bermuda Triangle, I used to think Satan's Triangle was the worst one, until I tried to watch Secrets of the Bermuda Triangle. Someone unfavorably compared Richard Friedenberg's THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE (1978) to the drek known as SECRETS OF THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE. They also compared the cinematography of the two. I'd agree that the cinematography of this picture is quite good, but that's the best thing about this picture that seems to go on, and on, and on, seemingly forever. In fact, it's the only thing on display that makes SECRETS worth trying to stay awake for. On the other hand, Friedenberg's picture actually maintains interest throughout it's run time. It covers some of the same events as this picture, only does a much better job, and shows us a photo
of the U. S. S. Cyclops, a ship, featured in both films. Friedenberg's film also uses clever, and impressive for the low-budget visual effects to help depict the events described, as well as to liven things up for the audience. The only thing to be found in SECRETS are lots of bad actors, obviously between dinner theater jobs, hamming it up in "dramatizations" where they chew the scenery mercilessly. The run time of THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE is actually eight minutes longer than SECRETS OF THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE, but THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE still seems much shorter than SECRETS OF THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE, if only because it actually keeps you awake an interested. Canadian director, Donald Brittain might have been a highly decorated documentary filmmaker, but it didn't stop him from making the dullest, cheapest, most visually unimaginative film ever made on the subject. Thankfully, Richard Friedenberg made THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE with suspense, action, visual effects, highly competent, if not standout cinematography by Henning Schellerup, who also shot 39 other films as well as directed a few, in his distinguished career. SECRETS OF THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE is an unwatchable waste of time and film, that only serves to increase the weight of your eyelids as long as it goes on (and on). SECRETS OF THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE could have only benefitted from being directed by an American hack, who would have at least delivered a film that audiences would have enjoyed sitting through. I'm only giving the film two stars because of the music score over the end credits. Otherwise, it deserves one or zero.
The Godzilla movie for people who hate Godzilla movies
So, I watched the trailer for this and saw a lot of destruction scenes, several of which are not in the movie, a few scenes of Godzilla, several of which are not in the movie and the guy from the show, BREAKING BAD, and I think almost all his scenes are in the trailer. He's barely in the movie. There is another "actor," who plays the lead when the guy you thought was the lead suddenly stops being in the movie. There are some monsters in the movie but they aren't the ones you expect, especially when you paid to see a movie called, GODZILLA. Even when the main attraction finally shows up, he's mostly confined to reflections in windows and on
TV monitors. If you enjoyed the movie, THE VILLAGE, after seeing the trailer for it, you will love this version of GODZILLA. If you really just pretty much hate Godzilla movies, then this is the movie you've been waiting for, because you won't have to worry about seeing him
much. The director cuts away to
something far less interesting anytime you think you're about to see him. If you could give the same crew and budget to director, Ed Wood, of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE fame, I bet even he probably could have made something more entertaining than this endurance test, that costs the price of a movie ticket. I still don't see how they messed this movie up so bad, but the problem started when they promised the audience things they didn't deliver...such as a giant radioactive lizard monster.
Crucible of Terror (1971)
Flawed but interesting horror film
*Possible Spoilers Ahead* Please watch movie before reading this
Okay, so I finally saw this movie and wow...it's amazing but not for the reasons you would think. First of all, the star, Mike Raven could have easily made a career out of being a stunt double for Christopher Lee. I am really surprised he never gave it a try. In the face, he is a dead ringer for Christopher Lee. What a shame he did not go that route. He also was one of the financial backers of this film and no doubt had some say-so regarding the script. The script often doesn't seem to make sense. Okay, first spoiler coming here if you did not read the warning above...
In the beginning of the film, we are treated to a James Bond type opening where we are dropped into a scene without explanation where someone is making a mold of a woman who is unconscious. He completely covers her except for one eye, in which molten metal is poured. Pretty horrible and unsettling open for a horror film and lets you know the filmmakers mean business. Problem is, he is later shown with a perfect cast of the woman. However, he would be unable to make that cast with her still in the mold. Pouring the molten metal in there would yield nothing more than a burned woman and even then, it is doubtful there was enough room for the metal to travel into the mold. Okay, nitpicking aside, this seems to be the only time he does this, until the end as it probably turned out to be very difficult to get that perfect metal copy of the woman with his lack of skills. So he tries it again at the climax but this time, the woman turns into the first woman he killed, now burned beyond recognition. The burn make-up leaves something to be desired as well. It is credited to make-up artist Jimmy Evans, who did underwhelming make-up jobs in other films such as TOWER OF EVIL and BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE just to name a few. The score is pretty over- the-top attempt at a horror score but it works for this film. It's not the worst film ever made but it just seems like they didn't think it out much before they started shooting. Luckily, there are 10 minutes of footage that have been restored for the DVD version so I suggest getting that one. I didn't talk about the plot because it makes so little sense, I see no reason to discuss it.
World War Z (2013)
Zombie Movie for people who hate zombie movies
Might Contain Spoilers*
Brad Pitt needed a blockbuster. I guess that's why he optioned WORLD WAR Z and then proceeded to make a movie that used only the title of the popular Max Brooks book. The problem with this movie is that it is neither fish nor fowl. It's not really an adaptation of the novel because other than the title, it has little to do with the book. It's not really a zombie movie, at least not one that fans of zombie movies would like. Not sure what drew Pitt and company to the material since it would seem that Pitt cares nothing for zombie movies. I doubt he and Jolie sit around watching things like NIGHTMARE CITY or THE GATES OF HELL. He probably read or heard that zombie movies do well at the box office and probably needs a hit to be able to adopt more kids so he bought the rights to the book thinking it would provide the framework for a hit. It's a best seller and it's about zombies, right? Okay, so start counting the cash that will come in. However, he probably didn't know enough about zombie movies to know that part of the reason why they are profitable is because they are cheap to make. Most of the better zombie movies feature slow-moving zombies and what makes them scary is that while you can outrun them, eventually you will tire but they will keep on going unless you can find a way to stop them but how do you kill what is already dead? Most zombie movies are usually gory too. Seems to go with the territory as much as sex goes with porno movies. However, Paramount spilled anywhere from $170 million-$200 million on this movie and yet, couldn't put any blood or gore into it. With that budget, you could hire every make-up effects artist in Hollywood and have lots of blood and make-up effects but they didn't do that. Instead they hired the guy from TRANSFORMERS effects, Scott Farrar, and had him come up with ridiculously sped-up zombies that are laughably fast. The effect is less sinister than it is just plain silly. Hopefully Brad will learn his lesson and stick with other genres of films than horror. It's just not his bag. He's a good actor and all but he doesn't seem to even like zombie movies but he has succeeded in making the perfect zombie movie for people who hate zombie movies. If you actually like zombie movies, then go rent NIGHTMARE CITY instead of watching this. It's a better movie about the same subject.
Lo spettro (1963)
A diamond in the rough
I'd read that THE GHOST (English title for Lo Spettro) was a sequel to THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK. It has the same character names - in some cases but in almost every case, the character from HICHCOCK is either played by someone different from the first movie or has a slightly different name than they had in the first movie. I honestly don't see how you can call it a sequel because it seems to have no direct connection to HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK other than a couple of actors returning from the first movie. However, I am getting away from the point, which is that you do not have to see the first movie to enjoy THE GHOST. I've now seen both and they can stand alone as films. I am only speculating but I suspect it may have originated as a sequel to HICHCOCK (both were filmed back to back over a span of 12 days if I am not mistaken) or maybe someone tried to make it a sequel to HICHCOCK during the dubbing. Who knows? Having seen both films, I personally like THE GHOST much better than HICHCOCK. Both are very pretty to look at with great cinematography and awesome sets. I think THE GHOST is a better told story and moves at a swifter pace I think. I'd not really tried very hard to track down THE GHOST after seeing HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK. HICHCOCK suffers from the fact that director Riccardo Freda got behind schedule and removed 10 pages from the script in order to stay on schedule. The American distributor removed another 10 minutes from the finished film and that kind of renders the final film very difficult to understand. In fact, I didn't really understand it until I read a long analysis of HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK on a fan site which basically explained what the film did not. In contrast to HICHCOCK, THE GHOST was apparently filmed as written. I was lucky enough to be able to see what appears to be an intact copy of the film complete with a murder sequence that must have seemed pretty graphic to viewers in 1963. It seemed graphic to me in 2010. One review of this film called it "almost bloodless" so I assume the film was heavily cut, for theatres as well as television. The copy I saw had a scene so bloody, I was shocked to find it in a film released in 1963, but then again, maybe people then didn't see the same film I saw recently. With Freda and probably most of the crew long dead, I guess we may never know if these cuts were only for the English releases or if they were inflicted on the Italian copy as well. If you are wondering why I praise the film so much, here are a few reasons. For starters, the story is excellent. The actors are dubbed so it's hard to judge their performances but the characters are pretty well drawn for a dubbed foreign film and all the production credits like music score, make-up, special effects, sets, cinematography are all top drawer. Like most Italian horror films from the 1960s, it starts off a little slow but give it a chance. If you manage to see an uncut print like I did, you will be very satisfied with the twists and turns that come fast and furious. I honestly got caught off guard by this movie. I may be dense but I didn't see some of the things in this film coming ahead of time, and I've watched horror movies all my life. Director Riccardo Freda proves he was definitely a better than average talent when he had the schedule, the script and the right actors. All the stars aligned for this one. I think it's Freda's masterpiece...easily his best horror film (I've seen this, HICHCOCK and TRAGIC CEREMONY). It's a shame that the credits call him "Robert Hampton." He should have had his real name on this since I think it's a movie he would be proud of.
Now, here is the only thing I do not understand about THE GHOST and that is why this film is not commercially available in it's uncut form. There are budget DVDs of it out there usually featuring a transfer from some old battered 16mm TV print and most of those are cut. THE GHOST is now one of my all-time favourite examples of the golden age of Italian horror films and ranks right up there with the best works from Mario Bava and Antonio Margheriti. I can only conclude this is another sad case of being unable to locate the original negative or not being able to find a usable and uncut copy of the film. THE GHOST is one of the most entertaining and satisfying examples of Gothic Italian motion picture horror and does not deserve it's relative obscurity. I'm just glad I waited until I could see an uncut print of it. It's not in the best condition but at least it is complete. Don't miss this one. THE GHOST is well worth whatever trouble you have to go to in order to see it. Hopefully someone will give it a pristine and restored release to DVD or Blu-Ray. Someday it will be recognized for the fine film that it is.
From the Earth to the Moon (1958)
I was warned not to, but I watched this anyway...
Normally, I try to find some good in every film I watch. In the case of FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, I would have to say the cinematography and lighting were very nice and I liked some of the music score. However, when you make a movie called FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, it's not unreasonable for audiences to expect to get at least what is promised in the title.
Now, I have read about this movie for about the last 40 years of my life and I saw it today. Not only is this movie as bad as they say it is, it's worse. I had read that this film was shot in Mexico and someone said it was shot at a location in Mexico formed from fairly recent volcanic activity. They said that scenes on the moon in this movie were shot there. Well, the location actually appears to have been used for scenes on Earth - not the moon and also, here's the part that makes this whole movie feel like you completely wasted your time watching it - you NEVER see anyone land on the moon. Sure, I guess it happens as viewed by someone else but it never seems to happen for me. Adding insult to injury, this climax (or lack thereof) is following 90 minutes of boring talk. The "special" effects are so bad as to defy belief. I'd read that you could see the bar holding up the spaceship in flight or that it flies against a blue sky while from the inside of the ship, space looks black. I suppose they ran out of money because it looks like it began as a fairly well-budgeted movie but perhaps the budget got cut. Regardless of the reason for it, the special effects, except for Lee Zavitz's full-scale explosions and other effects are so bad they wouldn't do in an Ed Wood movie. Sadly, the complaints lodged against this movie are all true.
One of the stories is that this was the last movie made by RKO. The print I saw shows a Warner Brothers logo on front while there is an RKO emblem at the end of the movie. As early as 1984, this movie was released by VCI on videotape. Obviously, even Warner Brothers saw no reason to hang on to this. I watched it out of curiosity but I finally concluded I should have listened to the warnings I'd read in books telling me to avoid this boring trash like the plague. I think it's now in public domain, assuming anyone would ever care to seek out this film that is so dull and lacking of anything that might make it worth watching. Just remember if you are curious about this movie that it's not as bad as they say it is - It's worse!
The Car (1977)
Better than I would have expected it to be
Okay, so when this movie came out in 1977, I didn't bother to see it as I figured a movie about a homicidal car would be stupid. I finally saw it some 33 years after it came out and was surprised at just how engaging the film actually is. James Brolin is good as a local sheriff investigating a series of deaths where the victims were hit by a black car that no one can seem to properly describe as it is a one of a kind vehicle. The cast is made up of some familiar faces and there is an effective score by Leonard Rosenman. There are some subtle but effective visual effects by Universal's resident effects master Albert Whitlock. I imagine this film got greenlit when someone decided they could cash in on the success of JAWS and THE EXORCIST. It works well as kind of a JAWS on land story. There are some really great creepy scenes in this too. I wish I could talk about them but I don't want to spoil it for anyone who has not seen it. It's available on DVD and I think it's worth picking up. So, if you enjoy well-made horror films, then take THE CAR for a spin.
Na komete (1970)
Pretty good Zeman film but not his best work
I'm a huge fan of Karel Zeman's films so it's hard for me to say which one I think is best, although I have a real weakness for BARON PRASIL and JOURNEY TO THE BEGINNING OF TIME. I finally got to see this and it has good characters and it seems to anticipate the kind of comedy that Monte Python would later end up doing. Based on Verne's story, it involves factions fighting one another who end up on a comet joining forces to survive. As someone else said, the comet looks enough like Earth that if they didn't tell you they were on a comet and the comet didn't have dinosaurs, you'd think they were still back on Earth. When the dinosaurs finally show up, they come in herds and they look pretty good. It's some fine stop-motion animation but it seems kind of tacked on. Photography and music score as usual are top drawer and even the characters are likable if somewhat silly. Overall, there is just no tension or suspense. It's a comedy pretty much so you never really believe anyone is in danger. The animation is excellent as it always is in Zeman's films but this is definitely not his best work. I still think his best work is BARON PRASIL.
The Vulture (1966)
POSSIBLE SPOILERS: I'm pretty lenient towards makers of low-budget horror films, especially from the 1950s and 60s. I try to give the benefit of the doubt that the makers of most films truly wanted to make the best film possible with the resources available. That having been said, after a lifetime of seeing B&W stills from THE VULTURE and assuming it was shot in black & white, I was surprised to discover it was shot in color, by Stephen Dade, the cinematographer who also had shot DR. BLOOD'S COFFIN and WAR-GODS OF THE DEEP, among others. This film has excellent photography and decent sets. The budget is said to be about $200,000 Canadian dollars which wasn't much for a movie even in 1967 but I can't believe anyone would have spent even that much to make such a nothing movie as this one. I understand it was released theatrically in black & white and the black & white stills make it seem more atmospheric than it is in color. According to the credits, it was shot in England although it is considered a Canadian film. The locations are nice taking place in Cornwall I think. From what I can recall of the plot, it has an involved storyline that is just some incredible hooey. I think anyone over the age of 10 would have a hard time swallowing this wacky storyline and the creature of the title is just plain laughable. Now, this isn't the only film to offer a laughable creature but I can't believe anyone really thought they could get away with this ridiculous monster. It would have been barely acceptable even in some creaky film from the 1930s, much less from a film made as late as 1967. This is not to say that the filmmakers went out of their way to try to even make something that could be shown in one complete shot. It's implied through editing. Some people say that monster movies are scarier if you don't show the monster. Well, this one could only be scarier if you never saw the monster, although as I said before, you don't get much of a look at it - but even if they had sprung for some full-body suit or even a stop-motion animation model of the creature as it appears in this film, it would still be a laughable, cartoonish design. I assume this is an attempt to do something along the lines of THE FLY. It has some gobbledygook about transmutation and a big underground lab with a creepy skeleton sitting at the controls (which was the first photo I ever saw from this movie). I assume IMDb has the year of release right. I've seen it listed as having been produced as early as 1966 and as late as 1968. It's hard to find these days and it's even hard to find online reviews of the film, probably because there just isn't much reason to be interested in the film. I was curious about it based on the publicity stills and I had read that the title monster was lousy but having seen it, I know I'd never bother to waste the time it would take to watch it again. Only worth seeking out if you are a fan of some member of the cast or if you are a completist who wishes to see every single horror/sci-fi movie regardless of quality.
Doroga k zvezdam (1957)
This is a Soviet documentary about space exploration and since I don't speak Russian, I have no idea what was said or how accurate it was but the visuals alone make this worth seeking out and it's a hard one to track down but keep looking - it's worth searching for. The copyright on the film itself is 1957 but it probably didn't get shown outside Russia until 1958. ROAD TO THE STARS has some of the best miniature photography I have ever seen. The scope of what they portray will truly fill you with a sense of wonder. It will seem a little dated obviously but that's okay. The science part is pretty dull but stay awake for the fine special effects. Watching ROAD TO THE STARS, I felt as if I had uncovered some buried priceless treasure.
Goes to show how advertising can make a lousy film look good
In 1971, I was a 5 year old kid living in Alabama and in the afternoons while watching old Popeye cartoons, I saw trailers for this movie called ZAAT at every commercial break. I have to say the previews made it look good and it also helps that I was 5 years old and not nearly as jaded and cynical as I later became, no doubt as a result of seeing so many movies that looked good in advertising but are incredibly lousy when you finally see them. Well, 38 years later, I finally get to see this movie. Luckily, I had already read some things about it that let me down gently that this was definitely no masterpiece and I've seen rotten movies before like THE EYE CREATURES and ZONTAR, THING FROM VENUS, both of which this film resembles. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd swear this was the handiwork of Larry Buchannan of EYE CREATURES fame but alas, it is the work of incompetent filmmakers from Florida and not Texas this time. There is, as others have pointed out, too much stock footage, too much narration and too few lights used in filming the night scenes and probably too many scenes of the monster. If you like monster suits, then you will get your money's worth out of this crazy little film. Yes, it's pretty much a home movie that somehow got a theatrical release but you've seen others at about this level of quality if you've seen BLOOD FEAST or 2000 MANIACS, both of which were also shot in Florida, I might add. Most of the time the movie uses "electronic music" which is highly annoying and then in some places they play what sounds like (and what might be) themes from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Maybe they are and maybe that is why this film is so hard to find now. In any case, that music from CREATURE or wherever they lifted it from is the only professional thing about this movie. There are some hippies singing as well and that's no better than anything else in this piece of junk. ZAAT is as bad as everyone says it is but somehow I just couldn't turn it off. I kept watching through every wretched minute because for reasons I cannot explain, it entertained me. I don't think anyone is in any danger of seeing this movie by accident. It's just way too hard to find so if you see it you will no doubt have had to seek it out. If you seek it out, chances are you probably already have some idea what you are getting into and if that's the case, well, I don't feel the least bit sorry for you. It's not a good film but ads from 38 years ago made it look good to my young eyes so I had to see it and now that I have seen it, I can definitely say without a doubt, it is terrible - but I will watch it again anyway. It took me 38 years to finally see this movie and let me tell you, it wasn't worth the wait, but if I'd seen something this lousy at age 5, I'd probably hate monster movies for the rest of my life.
Kyûketsu dokuro-sen (1968)
Creepiest Japanese film I ever saw
LIVING SKELETON is a film I first discovered in 1974 when I read Dennis Gifford's PICTORIAL HISTORY OF HORROR MOVIES. I saw a photo of a fearful-looking woman with a weird skeleton coming up behind her. I have wanted to see this film ever since and now I finally have managed to see a subtitled copy. For those of you who have seen this photo I am referring to, (and from what I can discern, it is the only publicity photo ever used for this movie), I am afraid I must tell you that this shot is nowhere to be found in the final movie and was probably a paste-up created to send to magazines like FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND but I am not sure LIVING SKELETON was ever distributed in the United States. I would assume U.S. distributors like A.I.P. probably figured they couldn't translate so dense a plot into English by dubbing and passed on it. That photo caused me to search out this film for years to come and now my search has finally been rewarded. Okay, now that I have addressed that subject, on to the actual movie itself. If you want to be surprised by seeing the movie for the first time as I was, please do not read any further because I cannot discuss the film without giving away certain details. The movie is well worth seeing so if you want to get it fresh, see the movie before reading the rest of this review.
A couple of people have mentioned similarities to John Carpenter's THE FOG and there are a few but I personally think they are minor. It might have inspired Carpenter if he saw it but although there are some common elements like derelict ships, fog and priests, that is about the only parts I found to be like the Carpenter film. Honestly, I didn't really understand the plot too much. The subtitles were obviously written by someone who did not use English as a native language and some of the translations are downright hilarious such as a guy being shot at who says, "It is boring". Really? I have never been shot at but I would think it would be anything but boring. The opening of this film seems very similar to that of GHOST SHIP (2002). From that point on, I kept seeing what appeared to be the same people killed and then walking around like nothing had ever happened. Some of the deaths are quite gruesome for 1968, although the Japanese were already way ahead of Americans in their acceptance of graphic violence. This film has wonderful black and white photography. Very moody and atmospheric. There is an air of gloom and doom from start to finish. The plot started off with me able to follow it but after awhile I just kind of gave up and enjoyed the pretty pictures, the fine music score and the nifty gore special effects which while not always realistic are still pretty shocking for their time. Various people get bumped off by what I presume was a ghost but I couldn't tell if good guys or bad guys were being killed. Most of the deaths were not that spectacular until the climax and the climax is a Lu-Lu. It's well worth seeing the movie for the climax alone. It does kind of wrap things up pretty tightly for a movie I didn't really understand for much of it's running time, I must say. Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention and need to go watch it again - and it's worth watching again I believe. My final verdict on this film is that it doesn't make much sense but you shouldn't let that keep you from seeing it and as for the LIVING SKELETON itself, there isn't one, except in the title. There ARE skeletons mind you - just no living ones. It's the creepiest Japanese film I ever saw.
More entertaining than those Star Wars "Prequels" for a fraction of the cost
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD.
Watching this movie, it looks like someone saw STAR WARS (A New Hope as it is now called) and decided to take all the scenes and characters, scramble their order and then toss them up on the screen again in some random order. You have a cheap Darth Vader, R2-D2, Han Solo, Princess Leia and land speeders, laser arrows instead of laser swords and of course this films version of a Star Destroyer. There is one new sub plot about a woman who will age hundreds of years in a few seconds if she doesn't get a serum made from other women's internal juices but that is about the only original idea in this film. Ennio Morricone decided not to steal John William's score but his is pretty forgettable. Special Effects are attributed to the same guy who directed HORROR CASTLE (1963) and CASTLE OF BLOOD (1964). Also on board for FX is Armando Valcauda, who did effects on STARCRASH. Somehow this movie cost $7 million back in 1978 or '79 when it was made but I honestly don't see where that kind of money could have gone as this film in no way looks that expensive. Apparently THE HUMANOID was too shoddy even for American International Pictures who bought the rights to distribute it in America and then shelved it. Either that or they were afraid it would land them in legal trouble with 20th Century Fox for releasing a film which so blatantly steals from STAR WARS. Ironically, this film is very similar to the "prequels to STAR WARS only without the CGI. Only big difference is that this film moves at a faster pace and is actually entertaining. It's a shame this film never got a U.S. release. It's a fun little way to spend a couple of hours.
War of the Satellites (1958)
We want it on DVD
WAR OF THE SATELLITES is too low budget for it's subject matter but is still great fun. First of all, you have the great Dick Miller as the lead, a cool score by Walter Greene and pretty good low-budget special effects by Irving Block, Jack Rabin and Louis DeWitt. Basic plot is that aliens take over earthlings in order to sabotage our space program, particularly the satellites. Roger Corman's strength was making something out of nothing and this film is no exception. He pulls off some neat ideas and manages to make us so interested in the film we forget how silly some of it is. I think it only runs a little over an hour so he gets right down to business. The movie is very fast-paced. I wish someone would take all of Corman's films for Allied Artists such as ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS and NOT OF THIS EARTH and this one and release them in a big box set with commentary. Are you listening to this Criterion/Voyager? Not likely but I can dream, can't I? WAR OF THE SATELLITES is hard to find but worth the effort it takes to see it. Recommended for sci-fi fans and Corman/Dick Miller completists.
The Time Machine (1960)
Fun movie from the 1960s
I've seen this movie several times. It's one that I can't help but sit and watch whenever it is on. THE TIME MACHINE won an Oscar for Visual Effects. Having seen the movie, I think they got it for effort more than results. Of course a huge amount of work went into the film since a large portion of it is done using time-lapse and stop-motion photography to show the passing of time but the overall effect makes it seem very similar to Czechoslovakian filmmaker Karel Zeman's work. This is not a bad thing. The special effects often don't seem very realistic but they are interesting to look at, probably because they are not very realistic. Some of the miniatures are out of focus in places making them dead giveaways but I suspect there wasn't enough light to carry depth of field in the high-speed photography and not due to any lack of expertise on the part of Wah Chang, Gene Warren and Tim Baar. This was also the first professional work of Jim Danforth who would later go on to be nominated for two Oscars for his work. It's an entertaining enough movie although the budget seems pretty low for the subject matter but in spite of this, I'll take this movie any day over the lame 2002 remake. Other high points are a beautiful, wistful score by Russell Garcia (preserved on a soundtrack album that is available) and great co-stars like Sebastian Cabot and Whit Bissell and the beautiful Yvette Mimieux (sorry, not sure I spelled that right) looking quite hot back in the day. Rod Taylor is fine as the time traveler. Excellent cinematography by Paul Vogel and the Morlock make ups are quite creepy. George Pal tried to get a sequel made and it's a shame he was never able to do it because a follow up to this movie would have been nice.
The Night Digger (1971)
I wasn't impressed
There might be spoilers here. Gonna try to keep from it but I have to describe the plot as I heard it verses what it really was when I saw the film. THE NIGHT DIGGER, also known as THE ROAD BUILDER, was a movie I read about that sounded interesting. It seems a spinster and her mother are in an old decaying mansion in England when a young man comes along to stay with them and work as a handy man while also working as a builder on a road being constructed. It seems this young guy is a psycho who also rapes and kills women and buries them in the road. Meanwhile the spinster is taking a shine to him. Sounded like the recipe for a pretty good thriller to me. Well, in spite of Bernard Herrmann's score and Alex Thompson's excellent, moody cinematography, this film doesn't play out anything like I thought it would have. The plot takes detours that really made me wonder if the director knew he was supposed to be making a horror film. There comes one part that has several people sitting around gossiping and although I imagined a suspenseful thriller where you wondered if the old woman and her mother are in danger, someone, maybe the director, or maybe Roald Dahl pretty much succeed in killing any degree of suspense. It's almost like they decided to shoot a scary movie and then later tried to turn it into something else altogether. It has gloomy cinematography and a fine score and even a kind of threatening title but that's where the horror/suspense elements end. The movie fizzles badly and the climax is just plain stupid. Maybe I was supposed to be moved or sympathetic or something but I just thought the movie was creepy for all the wrong reasons. BEWARE! BIG SPOILER!!!!
Still with me? Okay, there is a sex scene with the young man and old Patricia Neal. Luckily, you don't see much but just the thought of the young dude having sex with that old woman was about the creepiest thing I can think of in this entire movie. If she had been the young Patricia Neal from 20 years before this film was made, then fine, a sex scene might not have been so terrible but this was disgusting. When I read the title NIGHT DIGGER, I expected a movie where Patricia Neal discovers her handyman's is the murderer and her having to fight him off and struggle to survive. I imagined a pretty interesting plot when I read the title. Be assured that there is nothing in this film that is suspenseful, scary or thrilling unless you like watching old people have sex with young people, which is shot in front of a blurry lens, presumably to keep the audience from throwing up. Given the same exact actors, crew, locations and budget, I could have made a film that would have had audiences on the edge of their seats until the end credits. Someone took a good premise, a good crew, great locations, sets and actors and made a boring film about a guy who kills good-looking women and sleeps with old women who used to be good-looking. I wasn't impressed at all and cannot recommend this film - at least not as a thriller/horror film, which it was intended to be. No blood, no gore, no action. Just old ladies, psycho road-builders and boredom.
Only good Japanese remake since THE RING (2002) that I have seen
I've had to endure a lot of American remakes of Japanese horror films. I loved the remake of THE RING. Gore Verbinski got it right. However, since that movie featured haunted video cassettes that kill after 7 days, we've seen haunted cell phones, haunted cameras in this movie and there will probably be haunted toasters, blenders and dishwashers before the cycle burns itself out - and there is no sign that it will anytime soon. This film has a plot and kind of stays on track for the most part, unlike a lot of the others. It keeps things manageable with a smaller number of characters you can keep track of and best of all, it actually has some pretty effective scares. There isn't much more I can say about it without revealing anything and you should check it out for yourself. It actually satisfies, unlike a lot of these things. I don't know how the Japanese version stacks up but this is actually a pretty good little film. I was pleasantly surprised.
Just by looking at the title, you ought to know this film won't ever show up on AFI's list of the 100 greatest movies. This movie is a return to the type of exploitation film that only played in drive-ins when I was growing up. Think back to such titles as GODZILLA VS. MEGALON and ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY. Fast forward to the 21st Century and the drive-in theater is all but extinct but thanks to 20th Century Fox, the exploitation film is alive and well as personified by AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem. This is a modern update of the type movies that used to be released by Allied Artists or American International. I finally watched it and I found it enjoyable. It's a streamlined monster show without those pesky things that slow down other movies like character development, clever dialogue or a plot. I don't think I'd ever seen any of the cast in anything else and may not see many of them again in the future. In this case, that is a good thing because some of them couldn't act very well but mainly because when you don't have A-list talent, it makes it harder to predict who will stay alive and who will get whacked. For a monster/slasher/kill movie, unpredictability is a good thing to have. The make-up and visual effects are top notch. Nothing groundbreaking but more than competent, which is no surprise when you consider it was directed by two special effects artists. This is also the goriest of the ALIEN franchise. This movie more than earns its R rating and that is a good thing. The previous movie in the series was rated PG-13 and most people already know what the ceiling is on that rating so there is only so much that can be shown. This movie has plenty of blood and gore - and it should. This film wastes no time in getting to the point. We're off and running in the first couple of minutes. No exposition or build-up. You might do yourself a favor by watching the first ALIEN VS. PREDATOR movie if you have not seen it already so you will know what is going on here because they don't bother to rehash anything from the previous film. They get down to business right off the bat and keep things moving until the end. If you want to just check your brain at the door and relax with popcorn and your favorite beverage and just have fun, then I recommend this movie. You already know by the title that it's not great art but it succeeds in delivering what you were probably expecting (or should have been expecting) when you sat down to watch it in the first place.
Amazingly misleading advertising = Big Waste of Time
THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS: I remember this film was heavily advertised on television showing drawings of some hooded thing walking around and a voice-over saying that it had arrived on Earth. I was too young to see what was presented in the amazingly misleading ads as something similar to ALIEN. I am now happy that I was too young to see it because I finally saw this film on television and there are a bunch of birds flying around and some down and out actors looking embarrassed to be there but nothing resembling the claws and eyeball on the poster art. I think it was actually some kind of devil/demon OMEN/EXORCIST rip-off that was sold as an ALIEN rip-off. Come on guys, please decide who you are ripping off. This movie is a rip-off even if you don't pay to see it because it steals your time if not your money. I can't believe anyone likes this movie but I think it's a total waste of film.
Unexpectedly Decent Family Fun
I rented this and didn't watch it for about a month and was going to send it back unopened when I got sick and needed something to watch on the sofa. It starts off kind of painful in that you can relate a little too well to the predicament of the characters but I guess that shows how well acted and scripted this film is. By the time the movie was over, I was more than enjoying the movie and actually glad I watched it. RV is probably cleaner than most TV shows shown in prime time on network TV and keeps your attention and has a few laughs. It's one of the rare movies these days that I would feel comfortable showing my kids, if I had any. If you get the chance to watch this film, do it. It's better than you think it is.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974)
The reason I think this show is so popular
I loved KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER since I saw it on the night it premiered on September 13, 1974. I loved the monsters which seemed scary at the time and the cool music by Gil Melle (hey, where's the soundtrack guys?) and have often thought about what makes this show work for me so completely and have finally concluded that the reason it endures when many others do not is one simple, important element it has that almost no other scary show seems to have and that is a main character that most people can relate to on an everyday level. When Darren McGavin's Carl Kolchak starts to discover odd situations, he reacts like most people would. He finds them odd and as he gets closer to danger, he is frightened, even if he knows he must move forward to try to defeat whichever menace is being showcased in that episode. It's rare that he is brave enough to stand up against some superior supernatural force. He's usually set a trap and is hiding or waiting in the wings to see if it works. Sometimes, he seems as surprised that he managed to defeat a foe as we are. In one episode, he goes to find a monster in a sewer but when he first sees it, he runs to get out of there but is trapped so reluctantly, he must go back and defend himself. He's heroic because he is willing to do things most of us probably wouldn't do but that doesn't mean he probably wouldn't much rather someone else did it instead of him. He's a regular guy, doing a job, trying to make a buck, not a monster-hunter. He just gets wrapped up in things involving the supernatural, which he has an interest in but he doesn't want to be hurt or killed anymore than any of the rest of us do. If his plan to defeat the creature didn't work, you will often see him running for his life to get away from it, which is of course what I would do in the situation. That's why I was often watching the climax of the shows through my fingers as a kid. Kolchak was likable and you cared if something bad happened to him. You were scared for him and for the other characters too. The producers and writers obviously knew that anyone can create a monster suit, scary music and direct a suspenseful scene but it's all for naught if you don't care about the characters. Darren McGavin said that the reason why the show only lasted on season was because he got tired of doing a "monster of the week" show and he decided not to continue. I can tell you I mourned when this show was canceled when I was a kid but, as an adult, I can see why it couldn't go on in that formula for very long. I still love the 20 episodes and two movies that starred McGavin as the bumbling, determined and brusk but good-hearted reporter for the INS, known as Carl Kolchak. I seriously doubt anyone who makes shows or movies will ever really understand why I loved the show. It's not the monsters, darkly-lit sets, creepy music or goofy guest stars, although they are all vital ingredients. The secret to it's success is right there in the title - "Kolchak: The Night Stalker". Without McGavin's lovable, bumbling Carl Kolchak to root for and to care for, then it just ain't a Night Stalker.
The Silent Partner (1978)
I'd read some good reviews of this movie so I decided to check it out. It's definitely worth a look if you want a well-acted and scripted crime thriller. Christopher Plummer is off course one of the screen's best bad guys and seems to pose a credible threat. The script gives him some nasty business to show he means business. Still, as bad as the worst of it is, it's pretty tame compared to even an episode of one of the CSI shows on TV these days. Don't bother watching if you are expecting Lucio Fulci-type gore antics. This film doesn't showcase any groundbreaking make-up effects but the acting and the atmosphere make the few scenes of violence seem more effective than they would be without them. The music score is good and the cinematography is also good. Elliot Gould is likable even though his halo is tarnished. Suzannah York is lovely in this film and you even get to see John Candy in an early role. The pacing is probably slow by 2007 standards but it seemed to move along well for me. I don't know if I would buy The SILENT PARTNER but I am glad I rented it and watched it because it is definitely worth watching.