Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
Kain the Bore-barian.
Gotta love the artistic license taken with the poster for The Warrior and the Sorceress, which shows an oiled up, muscle-bound David Carradine striking a heroic pose. It's a misleading image: Carradine, 48 years old at the time, is far from the buff barbarian depicted, keeping his presumably less-than-ripped physique covered throughout. Still, who can blame the producers for trying to generate a Conan vibe with their promotional material, given just how lame this fantasy remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo actually is?
Carradine plays swordsman for hire Kain, who outwits two neighbouring tyrants, Bal Caz (Guillermo Marín) and Zeg (Luke Askew), playing them off against each other. Along the way, he rescues a Sorceress (played by Maria Socas, who spends the whole movie topless), is treated to an exotic dance by a four-breasted woman, battles a toothy monster with rubber tentacles, kidnaps a lizard puppet, defeats an evil slaver with a face like a turtle, and frees the downtrodden people of Yamatar, who only want to be able to visit the village's well in peace. While this sounds like a whole load of silly fantasy fun, the leaden direction, weak script, charmless central performance from Carradine, and a general air of cheapness make the film a real B-movie bore.
Night of Fear (1972)
Light on fright (and words).
Narrowly missing a collision with a truck, a young woman (Carla Hoogeveen) veers off the road and down a dirt track, her car ending up stuck in a ditch. Soon after, she finds herself menaced by a leering lunatic (Norman Yemm) with a gimpy leg and a rat on his shoulder.
Although considered quite the shocker when it first came out, being banned by the Australian Censorship Board, Night of Fear is a very rudimentary 'woman in peril' horror - woman crashes car in countryside, woman encounters killer hillbilly, woman flees with maniac in pursuit - which will hold very few surprises and deliver scant scares for seasoned fans of the genre.
I guess a few similarities to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre from the following year will make it of interest to some - animal parts and stuffed rats adorn the killer's shack, and the man himself likes to play with the bloody skull of a previous victim - but on the whole, this is a mildly interesting Antipodean obscurity (the complete lack of dialogue certainly marks it as unusual) rather than an essential piece of Ozploitation.
4.5 out of 10, rounded up to 5 for Pinkie the rat.
Love the title. The film, not so much.
After watching a movie as thoroughly bewildering as German gothic horror Castle of the Creeping Flesh, I log onto IMDb to see if any of the reviews (all seven of them in this case) are able to satisfactorily sum up what I have seen; I can't say that anyone has successfully hit the nail on the head with this film (and I'm not about to change that).
Directed by Adrian Hoven (Mark of the Devil), the film is like some kind of fever dream: disjointed, occasionally trippy, with stilted dialogue, moments of eroticism, gore and outright craziness. The muddled plot involves an aristocrat, the Earl of Saxon (played by Euro-horror regular Howard Vernon), who is attempting to bring his daughter back to life, the poor girl having been raped and killed. A group of revellers arrive at the Earl's castle and stay the night, after which I became totally lost, suffice to say that the film attempts to compensate for the fact that it makes little sense by chucking in lots of female nudity and quite a few scenes of real open heart surgery (all of which comes as quite a surprise for a film made in 1968). There's also a savage attack by a wild bear (played by a man in an unconvincing bear costume).
Imagine a Mario Bava gothic horror as directed by Jess Franco on an off day, and you won't even come close to appreciating what an inept mess of a movie this is.
Deathstalker II (1987)
Nowhere near as good as the first one.
I quite enjoyed the first Deathstalker film, a knowingly silly barbarian romp. This sequel is from writer/director Jim Wynorski and is pretty typical of his output: cheap, poorly acted, but with lots of T&A and a spot of softcore sex.
This time around, warrior Deathstalker is played by John Terlesky, whose s**t-eating grin, wisecracks and big chin (Bruce Campbell has some serious competition from this guy) really got on my nerves. He's not exactly Arnold Schwarzenegger either, making for a rather lacklustre hero. Thankfully, the heroine of the piece, Princess Evie, is played by stunning softcore actress Monique Gabrielle who gladly shows off her assets and very nice they are too. Also displaying great form are Toni Naples as wicked sorceror Jarek's evil sidekick Sultana, and Maria Socas as an Amazon Queen.
Hot women in various states of undress aside, the film is pretty dire: there are numerous poorly choreographed battles, a really dumb wrestling scene between Deathstalker and an Amazonian warrior woman (played by wrestler Queen Kong), some bargain basement zombies, a few scenes borrowed from the first film to keep down costs, and lots of terrible dialogue delivered unconvincingly by the 'stars'.
3.5 out of 10, rounded up to 4 for the dwarf playing a lute.
Welcome to the party, Dwayne!
Skyscraper is a 21st century Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno mash-up, with a one-legged Dwayne Johnson ('cos disabled black people can be action heroes too) in the John McClane/Steve McQueen role, the action ramped up to ridiculous levels ('cos modern action films don't let plausibility get in the way of thrills and spills), and the violence toned down to a 12-A rating to pull in a younger demographic.
Set in Hong Kong, no doubt to appeal to the lucrative Asian market, the film stars 'The Rock' as ex-FBI agent Will Sawyer, who lost his leg during a botched hostage situation ten years earlier. Will now works as a fire/security expert and is called in to assess the world's tallest building, The Pearl, the brainchild of billionaire Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han). When the 96th floor of the building is set ablaze by a gang of ruthless criminals, trapping Will's wife (Neve Campbell) and kids above the fire line, our fearless muscle-bound hero attempts a daring rescue mission.
Packed with state of the art special effects and numerous scenes of mild peril, Skyscraper is undemanding blockbuster nonsense that, despite the countless risks taken by Sawyer, feels far too safe to be wholly satisfying. The formulaic and predictable plot holds very few surprises - we know from the outset who the bad guys are, that Will's prosthetic leg will be used to save his life, and that the high-tech hall of mirrors (shades of Enter the Dragon) will feature heavily in the finalé, all of which seriously undermines the tension.
If the sight of Johnson leaping from a crane to the burning building (grabbing hold of a ledge with his super strong fingertips) or traversing the tower's exterior like Spiderman (with the help of duct tape) doesn't sound like a stretch too far, have at it, but I couldn't help but feel a little underwhelmed by the overfamiliarity of the material and its sheer predictability.
Daddy's Deadly Darling (1973)
Swill keep you entertained. You won't be boared.
Allegedly, one of the best ways to get rid of a human body is to feed it to pigs: they eat everything, including the bones. In Daddy's Deadly Darling, a dozen porkers have been raised with a taste for human flesh by their owner, ex-circus performer Zambrini (Marc Lawrence). When Zambrini hires a mysterious young woman, Lynn (played by Lawrence's daughter Toni), as a waitress in his cafe, he finds an unlikely source of dead bodies for his piggies, for his new employee is actually an escaped patient from an asylum who kills men that remind her of her abusive father.
Written and directed by Zambrini himself, actor Marc Lawrence, Daddy's Deadly Darling (AKA Pigs) was intended as a vehicle for his daughter Toni, but failed to launch a successful film career for the actress, who languished in TV land thereafter. Perhaps Marc should have chosen something a little less tawdry for his daughter's debut, since this cheap drive-in horror has all the visual appeal of a grimy exploitation flick and, like a hog, wallows in the unsavoury - mental illness, abusive sex, murder and mutilation.
Of course, for fans of tawdry 70s horror, these elements only make the film all the more desirable. Pigs might not be a grindhouse classic, being a little light on the gore and nudity (Toni has a cracking body, but with dad calling the shots, she doesn't go any further than her underwear), but its macabre themes and offbeat execution still make it a treat for those who enjoy quirky 70s oddities. The murders are quite vicious in tone, Lynn slicing off one man's todger (not too graphic... we see blood seeping through bedsheets) and repeatedly stabbing a couple more, although my favourite scene has to be the deranged girl on the phone talking to her imaginary father, a tear rolling down her cheek, Toni Lawrence proving that she's not as bad an actress as her subsequent career path suggests.
6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for the final 'WTF?' twist in the tale, in which it appears as though Lynn has turned into a pig.
Trashy sword and sorcery fun.
Sword-swinging warrior Deathstalker (Rick Hill, in an unconvincing blond wig) embarks on a quest to unite the three powers - a sword, an amulet and a chalice - in order to defeat evil magician Munkar (Bernard Erhard), who has seized the throne from the rightful king. Or some such nonsense.
To be honest, the plot isn't all that important. What is important is that the makers of this sword and sorcery movie know not to take matters too seriously, taking the cheeze-o-meter up to eleven, making the film a lot of fun despite its obvious budgetary restraints.
The result is a gloriously tacky flick featuring all manner of silliness, with lashings of nudity and a smattering of gore. Female warrior Kaira (the lovely Lana Clarkson) wanders around with her tits out (as do most of the women in the film); Deathstalker encounters a troll-like creature in a cave (a crappy John Carl Buechler creation); Munkar keeps an eye-ball-eating pet monster in a wooden chest; there's a debauched feast at Munkar's castle that features female mud-wrestling; a pig-man pulls a bloke's arm off and uses it as a weapon; and Munkar meets a bloody demise, pulled apart by horses.
6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for Clarkson, and beautiful Barbi Benton as sexy Princess Codille.
Young, High and Dead (2013)
Soap stars slumming it.
Graduating from TV to movies is often seen as progress for an actor or actress, but not when the film in question is a cheap piece of amateurish crud like Young, High and Dead.
Eastenders babes Hannah Tointon and Louisa Lytton play Katy and Jenny, who go camping for the weekend with their boyfriends and gooseberry Gary (Nigel Boyle), unknowingly pitching their tents a stone's throw from where a paedo serial killer has been burying the dismembered bodies of his victims. After spending the evening hoovering up lines of coke and smoking the weed, the campers pass out for the night, waking to find that their legs have been shackled, and they are now at the mercy of the killer.
The plot for this lame slasher is uninspired, the camerawork is lousy, the sound is dreadful, and the acting perfunctory, but it is the pacing that makes it a real test of endurance, with most of the first hour consisting of dull banter, drunken rambling, bickering, and endless scenes of drinking and drug use that really drag. None of this really qualifies as character development since we learn very little of interest about the group.
At around the sixty minute mark, the killer finally appears to threaten the fivesome, at which point the film resorts to extreme wobbly cam that makes it hard to follow what is happening-not that it matters too much: there's zero tension or gore, and I couldn't have cared less who got killed or not.
1/10 - Young, High and Dead is utter cack!
Brain Dead (1990)
A total head-twister.
Mind bending horror Brain Dead (not to be confused with the 1992 Peter Jackson film of the same name) is one of those films where it's hard to determine what is real and what is imaginary. It features dreams within dreams (and maybe even dreams within dreams within dreams), with a central character who becomes increasingly unsure about his own identity. Based on a story by Twilight Zone scribe Charles Beaumont, the film becomes more and more labyrinthine, leaving the viewer in a state of bewilderment, waiting for a coherent conclusion that never comes.
Starring the two Bills Ps, Paxton and Pullman (which might be confusion enough for some viewers), the film sees neurosurgeon Rex Martin (Pullman) approached by associate Jim Reston (Paxton), who asks Rex if he can perform surgery on an old employee, mathematician Jack Halsey (Bud Cort), who has some vital information locked in his brain, but who is now residing in an asylum, having slaughtered his own family. What follows is a hallucinatory trip of a movie that delivers plenty of weirdness, all of which proves moderately entertaining, but would have been a whole lot more satisfying if director Adam Simon had managed to wrap up matters in a more comprehensible manner.
4.5 out of 10, rounded up to 5 for IMDb.
The Vampire Raiders (1988)
Death by pig carcass. 'Nuff said.
Vampire Raiders Ninja Queen (AKA The Vampire Raiders) is another incredibly daft horror/martial arts mess from prolific director Godfrey Ho (hiding behind the pseudonym Bruce Lambert). While most of Ho's movies are pretty bad, and some are spectacularly dreadful, he occasionally turns out something so insane that it actually proves to be a lot of fun. This is one such film.
The incredibly dumb plot sees three hotel telephonists overhearing conversations between bad guys who are planning to monopolise the hotel industry by any means, including murder. As the trio endeavour to foil the plot, with a little help from a fat friend called Fatty and a fashionista named Alex, members of the purple ninja clan battle the baddies' warriors, the black ninjas and some hopping vampires.
Along the way we are treated to such craziness as an assassination attempt by pig carcass (the dead porker chucked from the roof of a tall building), the fit blonde female red ninja doing a spot of stretching and sunbathing in a bikini (only for her to be interrupted by a vampire hiding underneath her beach towel), numerous cross-eyed people (because that's always hilarious), random ghosts, loads of ninja fighting with coloured paint bombs and fireworks up the sleeve, two boat-hand zombies with stretchy arms, lots of bizarre comedy (including a prolonged scene aboard a boat that features a gag involving the urine of a virgin), purple ninja scuttling along the ground like a beetle and walking up tree trunks, a flying decapitated vampire head that explodes, and a boomerang sword.
All of this bonkers action means that Vampire Raiders Ninja Queen is one of Ho's more entertaining efforts, almost rivalling that classic of craptastic ninja cinema, Ninja Terminator (my favourite Ho film to date, but I still have well over a hundred to go!).
6.5/10, rounded up to 7 for the hilarious line, "Cut on it. Piss on it. S**t on it."
As Natalie Portman replies during her interrogation scenes in Annihilation, 'I don't know'.
I don't know what writer/director Alex Garland was thinking. I don't know what the point of the film was. I don't know how so many silly plot holes could have made it into the final script. I don't know whether I ever want to see another Garland film again. I don't know what Jennifer Jason Leigh has done to her face.
Natalie Portman plays biologist Lena, who volunteers to join a dangerous mission into the 'shimmer', a mysterious, expanding zone caused by an alien force. Inside the zone, Lena and her all-female cohorts encounter strange mutated creatures and fear that their own DNA is being slowly assimilated.
A boring build-up to the mission; some brief excitement involving the mutated animals; a smattering of gore; lots of introspection and ponderous pretentiousness; plenty of scenes that take an awful lot of swallowing; and an ending that makes very little sense: Annihilation is the perfect companion piece to Danny Boyle's even more disappointing and even more perplexing sci-fi Sunshine, which was also penned by Garland.
One thing I do know: I won't be giving this one a second watch anytime soon.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
A cut above the rest.
Father and son coroners, Tommy and Austin Tilden (Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch), attempt to find the cause of death of an unidentified woman found half buried in the basement at the scene of a multiple homicide. As they delve deeper and deeper, they discover a series of bizarre clues that point to a bone-chilling conclusion.
In a genre saturated with mediocre movies, supernatural horror The Autopsy of Jane Doe stands out as a superbly crafted creepfest that delivers nerve-jangling shivers, while providing enough graphic gruesomeness for those who enjoy more visceral thrills.
The film starts out as a fascinating study of a rather revolting vocation, as Tommy and Austin systematically dissect the 'Jane Doe' looking for answers, with director André Øvredal lovingly capturing every sloppy detail of the process. Things start to get seriously creepy once the pair start to reveal the truth about the woman's past, all the evidence pointing to the unthinkable, the action ultimately entering the realms of the fantastic.
Øvredal expertly cranks up the suspense, using his shadowy morgue setting to great effect, gradually introducing more and more unsettling elements guaranteed to leave the viewer with sweaty palms and on the edge of their seat (there's something about a reanimated corpse with its eyes and mouth sewn shut that really gets the heart a-pounding, although its the simple sound of a ringing bell that generates maximum tension).
Best watched alone at night with the lights out and the doors open, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a good old-fashioned scary horror that rarely puts a foot wrong, and in these days, that's something to be celebrated.
Under the Skin (2013)
Call me shallow if you like, but the only thing I liked about arthouse favourite Lost In Translation was Scarlett Johansson in her underwear; likewise, the only parts of pretentious pile of pap Under The Skin that I find remotely bearable are those in which the curvaceous actress sheds her clothes.
Directed by Jonathan Glazer, whose first film, Sexy Beast, mightily impressed me, this strange sci-fi sees Johansson as an otherworldly woman who seduces unwary men in Scotland, luring them to their death in a strange black void.
Shot in such a way as to suggest a completely alien existence, the film is a series of interminably drawn-out scenes accompanied by an eerie soundtrack, with an unemotional performance from Scarlett-an abstract experience designed to appeal to chin-stroking movie goers who like to wax lyrical about pure cinema, provocative imagery and meaningful subtext.
It's not a film for anyone who wants to be entertained. It's barely even a film for anyone who wants to see its lead actress in the buff, Scarlett only shown naked in long shots or under poor lighting. It is a movie for falling asleep to (it took me four nights to complete - a new record!).
The Alchemist (1983)
Band is unable to turn this garbage into gold.
A wicked magician, a curse, reincarnation, a doorway to hell, demons with glowing eyes: The Alchemist is a hokey hodge-podge of supernatural horror clichés that might have been fun if it hadn't been for the terrible performances and torpid direction from Charles Band (hiding behind the pseudonym James Amante). The action trundles along at a sluggish pace: scenes go on far too long and repetitive shots pad out the runtime (the same shot of four bulrushes is shown three times).
The film opens in 1871 with Aaron McCallum (Robert Ginty) trying to rescue his wife from the clutches of evil magician DelGatto (Robert Glaudini). During a struggle, Aaron accidentally stabs his wife, and is cursed by an angry DelGatto to forever live forever as an animal.
The action then cuts to 1955, with waitress Lenora (Lucinda Dooling) driving cross country, picking up hitch-hiker Cameron (John Sanderford) along the way. While at the wheel, Lenora suffers from visions that force her to crash her car. Travelling on foot, followed by a concerned Cam, Lenora arrives at a graveyard where she meets Aaron, still young, who recognises her as the reincarnation of his dead wife. What follows is a hoary mess, told with zero verve, with weak special effects and total lack of scares.
Perawan rimba (1988)
Trashy jungle fun.
Indonesian adventure Jungle Virgin Force is, as the schlocky title suggests, a big dose of cheesy exploitation, and provides trash cinema fans with a splendidly silly hour and a half of entertainment that is hard not to enjoy.
The film opens on an island where a jungle tribe make a mysterious vine-swinging woman (Lydia Kandou) their queen, much to the annoyance of the high priest and his followers. A fight breaks out and the tribe splits into two warring factions, tasty females in fur bikinis and their queen versus grunting ape-men and their priest.
Meanwhile, a group of scientists embark on an expedition to the island, closely followed by a band of ruthless treasure hunters, who have heard that the tribe have a hidden fortune in gold.
This set up allows for plenty of trashy jungle shenanigans, including naked frolics in a jungle pool (although any nudity is optically fogged), female explorers in hot pants, loads of poorly choreographed fight scenes, a cat fight, some black magic by the wicked priest, a few terrible special effects (including one of the worst matte shots I have ever scene, the island poorly composited with the sea), a couple of daft native dance routines, and quite a lot of gore: loads of extras are shot by arrows, skewered by spears and impaled by flying shards of rock, and director Danu Umbara even channels the spirit of Lenzi and Deodato with a spot of cannibalism, a man falling into a pit of spikes, brief animal cruelty, and a grisly scene in which a woman is strapped to a cross and decapitated.
Obviously, this kind of thing isn't going to appeal to everyone, but those who enjoy z-grade movies will have a blast.
6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for the baby sacrifice, the horned warriors, and for naming the female treasure hunter Doris.
Don't Breathe (2016)
In the opening scene to Don't Breathe, three youths - Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) - break into a posh house, steal anything of value, and vandalise the property, smashing ornaments and urinating all over the place before chucking a rock through the window; their next target is a blind man who is rumoured to have a small fortune in his home, the cash settlement he received after his daughter was run down and killed. Writer/director Fede Alvarez then has the audacity to ask his audience to give a damn about what happens to this trio of white trash scum-bags.
Not on your nelly!
I don't care how rotten an upbringing Rocky has had, or that she cares for her little sister, or that the blind man turns out to be far from helpless and more than a little bit twisted - rooting for Rocky and her thieving pals is not an option, making the film a frustrating experience from the outset.
But unlikable protagonists aren't my only issue with Don't Breathe: there's the small issue of the blind man (played by Stephen Lang), who makes Zatoichi and Daredevil look like clumsy buffoons by comparison. Some of the things this sightless guy is able to do are utterly ridiculous: disarming a gun-toting enemy, repeatedly turning up at the right place at the right time, abducting a woman and keeping her in a basement prison (which, presumably, he also constructed), reaching up to yank Rocky from air ducting, and silently tracking his victim in the surrounding derelict neighbourhood, all without stubbing a toe. His guard dog also displays supercanine qualities, the hound even climbing up furniture and entering an air vent to pursue Rocky.
Alvarez manages a couple of effective jump scares along the way, and delivers a memorably yucky scene involving a turkey baster and a large helping of 'gentleman's relish', but the movie is, for the most part, way too dumb and loaded with implausibilities and glaring plot holes to be good for anything but unintentional laughs.
Scream and Scream Again (1970)
Price, and Cushing and Lee, oh my!
Starring three of horror cinema's greatest icons - Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee - this rather atypical American International Pictures release consists of several seemingly disparate plot threads that director Gordon Hessler attempts to pull together in the final act, with little success, the ending almost as confusing as everything that precedes it.
The film opens with a jogger collapsing and waking up in a hospital bed where he finds that he is missing a leg! The action then cuts to an unspecified Eastern European country where Konratz (Marshall Jones) is killing his dictatorial superiors in a bid to seize power. Meanwhile, a murder investigation leads London police detective Supt. Bellaver (Alfred Marks) to the home of Dr. Browning (Vincent Price). Christopher Lee appears as Fremont, a government official who is trying to secure the release of a spy, and Cushing, in what amounts to little more than a brief cameo, plays one of those who stands in the way of Konratz's climb to the top.
While there are some decent scenes along the way, including a perilous car chase, and a killer ripping off his own hand to escape from the police, the choppy nature of the narrative and the disappointing ending make Scream and Scream Again a far from essential 70s horror, despite its trio of genre greats.
If you want to see Price, Cushing and Lee together in a good film, I recommend The House Of The Long Shadows: it's much more fun, and you get John Carradine thrown in for good measure.
Weekend at Bernie's (1989)
Andrew McCarthy possesses a smug, s**t-eating grin to rival that of fellow brat-packer Tom Cruise, but with a fraction of Cruise's charisma he has to be one of the most irritating actors of his generation. Quite how he became a star is a mystery to me. Still, in the farcical Weekend at Bernie's, he's in good company: co-star Jonathan Silverman is equally as obnoxious.
Together, the pair play co-workers Larry and Richard, who, hoping to climb the corporate ladder, go to their boss, Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser), with evidence of company embezzlement. Seemingly pleased with their discovery, Lomax invites the lads to his luxury house in the Hamptons for the weekend. What the duo don't realise is that it is Lomax who has been stealing the money and that he has arranged for Larry and Richard to be bumped off by his mob associates. However, in a turn of events, it is Lomax who is killed for fooling around with his Mafia partner's girlfriend. When Larry and Richard arrive at Bernie's house, they find their host dead, but must pretend that he is alive so that they can still enjoy their weekend.
With the two lads clowning around with Bernie's body, the scene is set for lots of very dark humour, but the woeful script fails to do the premise justice, while the young leads are painfully unfunny, their slapstick routines utterly predictable and poorly executed. Director Ted Kotcheff wrings far too few laughs from Robert Klane's one-note script to make the film anything but an embarrassment for all involved.
Devil's Partner (1961)
How the hell does six and a half gallons come to $2.30? (35.38461538461538 cents a gallon?)
What is up with that crazy poster for The Devil's Partner? The artist sure took some creative license when designing it, depicting a naked, torch-wielding woman astride a galloping centaur, despite there being nothing like this in the film. It's a little disappointing, if truth be told (can't beat a bit of naked centaur riding), but even so, this obscure B-movie is quite an entertaining little chiller, telling an engaging Faustian tale that delivers a reasonable helping of eerie atmosphere and decent performances all round.
The film opens with town pariah Pete Jensen (Ed Nelson in old-man make-up) performing a ritual in his run-down shack, making a deal with the devil. Days later, a young man (Ed Nelson, sans crazy hair and big beard) arrives in town claiming to be Pete's nephew, Nick Richards, only to be told that his uncle has died in mysterious circumstances. However, in reality, Nick is Pete, having been transformed as part of his Satanic bargain; in his new guise, he proceeds to charm lovely doctor's daughter Nell (Jean Allison), using witchcraft to deal with those who might get in his way.
After causing a savage dog attack on Nell's boyfriend David (Richard Crane) that leaves the guy hideously scarred and acting like a petulant ass, Nick also puts paid to Papers (Byron Foulger), the town drunk, who is trampled to death by a horse, kills plastic surgeon Dr. Marx (who crashes his car into a cow), and attempts to finish off David with the old 'turn into a rattlesnake and slither through the bedroom window' trick. All of this is fairly entertaining nonsense that passes the time painlessly enough, although at a scant 73 minutes there really isn't time for boredom to set in.
Still would have liked to have seen that centaur though.
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes (1965)
In 1908, Samuel Franklin Cody was recorded as piloting the first official British flight of a heavier-than-air machine, just a stone's throw from where I grew up. Set primarily in the South of England, just a couple of years later, Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines is an affectionate madcap comedy that celebrates the bravery and determination of such international pioneers of early flight - men who risked their lives to take to the skies.
Stuart Whitman heads a stellar line-up, as American pilot Orvil Newton, one of a group of aircraft enthusiasts competing for a prize of £10,000 in a daring race from London to Paris. Others signed up to take part include plucky Brit Richard Mays (James Fox), pompous German Manfred Von Holstein (Gert Fröbe), womanising Frenchman Pierre Dubois (Jean-Pierre Cassel) filthy rich Italian Count Emilio Ponticelli (Alberto Sordi), and Japanese flyer Yamamoto (Yûjirô Ishihara), with Terry Thomas as slimy cheat Sir Percy Ware-Armitage (aided by his crony Courtney, played by Eric Sykes).
Rounding out the cast of familiar faces are Sarah Miles as plucky love interest Patricia Rawnsley, Robert Morley as her father Lord Rawnsley, Benny Hill as Fire Chief Perkins, gorgeous Bond girl Zena Marshall as Countess Sophia Ponticelli, Gordon Jackson as Scot MacDougal, William Rushton as Tremayne Gascoyne, and Tony Hancock as airplane salesman Harry Popperwell.
Director Ken Annakin has assembled a magnificent cast, to be sure, but the real stars of his film are the flying machines, beautifully reconstructed early aircraft ranging from the ingenious to the utterly wacky, and the best bits of the film are those that show these inventions in flight. The pre-race slapstick nonsense offers a few fun scenes featuring the crazy creations in motion, but it's not until the race itself that one can fully appreciate the aircraft in all their glory as their pilots battle it out to be the first to cross the channel. With the competitors not leaving for Paris until well over an hour and a half has passed, the film is arguably overlong (I believe that several scenes could have easily been excised without any real loss), but it's still worth the wait for anyone with an interest in the history of flight: they might have been potential death traps, but the planes are marvellous to behold.
6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for IMDb.
Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
I'll get you, Butler.
Wonky-mouthed star Gerard Butler plays Clyde Shelton, whose wife and child are brutally killed during a home invasion. When one of his family's killers escapes death row after striking a deal, Shelton spends ten years planning revenge, using his skills as an inventor to punish not just the men who committed the crime, but also those working in the justice system who failed him.
Law Abiding Citizen starts off promisingly enough in Death Wish mode, but once it enters Saw territory, things get really, really dumb, with Shelton's meticulous planning meaning that he can carry out his revenge even from inside a prison cell, having somehow predicted the every move of legal eagle Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) and his Department of Justice colleagues. It's all so far-fetched that it's impossible for the viewer to take seriously, although that is clearly the intention of director F. Gary Gray, who conducts proceedings without a shred of irony.
Top Secret! (1984)
A generally mediocre spoof with occasional flashes of brilliance.
Jim Abrahams and David Zucker, the creators of Airplane!, bring more madcap humour to the big screen with Top Secret!, which stars Val Kilmer as rock and roll singer Nick Rivers, who becomes involved in a resistance plot to rescue a scientist being held captive in East Germany.
Kilmer, in his debut, is surprisingly good, handling acting, comedy and singing duties with aplomb, proving without a doubt that he is a major star in the making; Kilmer is joined by a wonderful supporting cast which includes more established faces such as Peter Cushing, Omar Sharif, Ian McNiece and Michael Gough.
Unfortunately, as talented as the cast are, the scattershot humour is far too random and wildly inconsistent to be a total success: for every laugh-out-loud moment (my favourites: a very silly dance routine, the novelty dog poop gag, the brilliantly executed Swedish book store scene, and the singing horse), there are dozens of others that will fail to tickle the funny bone.
With its silly-sounding title* and ambiguous storyline, Pyewacket seems to be following in the footsteps of The Babadook (2014), a film that left the viewer unsure as to whether its horrors were real or a figment of the imagination.
Pyewacket's protagonist is pretty teen Leah (Nicole Muñoz), who has developed an interest in the occult following the death of her father. When her mother (Laurie Holden) announces that they are moving to a new home, hours away from her friends and school, Leah is understandably upset.
Shortly after moving home, Leah has a bitter argument with her mother and, in a rage, conducts a ritual to summon a supernatural creature to kill the poor woman. In the following days, Leah regrets her actions, but is it too late to stop the monster she has unleashed?
Delivering no concrete evidence to support the idea that Pyewacket is anything but imaginary, a product of Leah's increasingly fragile mind, the film is more of a psychological drama than a horror, extremely slow-burn and devoid of scares or tension. Ultimately, the whole thing amounts to a drawn-out build-up topped off with a short, sharp, shocking payoff that is nasty, but not really worth the wait.
*After doing a bit of research, I found that Pyewacket was actually one of the familiar spirits of a witch detected by Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, in 1644. It's still a silly name...
Attack of the pod people.
Don Siegel's '50s sci-fi classic gets the '70s remake treatment, with Donald Sutherland starring as Matthew, a San Francisco health department inspector whose close friend Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) believes that her boyfriend Geoffrey (Art Hindle) has somehow been replaced by a duplicate devoid of emotion, and that others in the city are also not what they seem to be. Although sceptical at first, Matthew is convinced after he is called to examine a partially formed clone of his friend Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum). As more and more people are replaced by unfeeling doppelgangers, Matthew and his pals correctly surmise that the planet is under attack by aliens.
Invasion of the Bodysnatchers is a lesson in how to do a remake properly: the film takes the basic premise of the original, but smart changes here and there keep things fresh and interesting (the most notable being the switch of location from a sleepy town to a major city). The result is a creepy, ominous and occasionally freaky film (the dog with the human head has haunted me for years) that is hugely enjoyable, even for those who are very familiar with the original. The movie also benefits from a terrific cast (Leonard Nimoy, as psychiatrist Dr. David Kibner, proves that there is more to him than a pair of pointy ears, and Veronica Cartwright is excellent as Jack's wife Nancy), an unusual but effective score, great special effects (courtesy of Tom Burman), and a well-developed sense of unease that really helps to crank up the tension.
Death Wish (1974)
Blam! Blam! Blam! Take that, scumbags.
Crime in New York is rampant, the city teeming with switchblade-wielding, gun-toting thugs. Innocent people aren't even safe in their homes. After his wife is fatally beaten and daughter sexually assaulted in his apartment, architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) packs his .32 and goes looking for trouble, determined to wipe the scum off the streets.
Michael Winner's cathartic revenge drama delivers vicarious thrills for anyone who has ever felt outraged yet helpless about crime and disorder. In reality, vigilantism is, of course, a bad idea (as is the right to bear arms, in my opinion), but when Paul Kersey decides to fight back against the rising tide of crime, one can't help but feel a sense of empowerment, making the film a whole lot of fun for armchair avengers such as myself.
Winner handles the action matter of factly, with little sense of style, but Bronson's powerful performance ensures that the film is thoroughly engrossing throughout. So successful was the film at resonating with its audience that it spawned four sequels and, just recently, was remade by Eli Roth with Bruce Willis taking on the Bronson role.
8.5 out of 10, rounded up to 9 for an early appearance from Jeff Goldblum as one of the loathsome hoodlums who attack Kersey's family.