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Tarzan's Peril (1951)
A comparatively serious adventure
After the silliness of the previous movie of the series ('Tarzan and the Slave Girl'), 'Tarzan's Peril' attempts to go back to serious jungle adventures. Tougher action, more realistic fight scenes, not as much comic relief (by the monkeys). Tarzan tries to stop an arms dealer this time. In opposite to the usual American parks and studio sets, a lot was actually shot in Africa this time. Due to this effort, 'Tarzan's Peril' is probably the best of the 5 Tarzan movies with Lex Barker. On the downside: one ridiculous fight with a man-eating (huh?) plant, and very little to do for Jane except to sit home and wait for Tarzan's return. Director Byron Haskin went on successfully to shoot H.G. Wells' 'War of the Worlds', among others.
Las amantes del diablo (1971)
This Spanish-Italian horror movie from 1971 revolves around the evil Doctor Nescu who seduces various beautiful women, until they take part in his satanic rituals. Altogether tame and very slow moving, not to say boring. It feels like half of the running time is spent by people standing around talking, smoking cigarettes and drinking wine. Then smoking another cigarette and drinking another glass of wine. If you didn't watch this movie, you didn't miss much. To mention a few positive things: Krista Nell, usually only in supporting roles, stars as Hilde who tries to escape from the Doctor's spell. She can be seen in a good lead role here. Occasionally we get some nice psychedelic camera work, and a good, scary soundtrack with plenty of organ playing is provided by skilled Italian composer Carlo Savina.
Mortal Engines (2018)
'Mortal Engines' got the subtitle 'City Wars' ('Krieg der Städte') in my country which is remarkably honest, because it actually is 'Star Wars' ('Krieg der Sterne') with cities. Luke, I mean Tom, wanted to be a pilot and see something of the world. Instead, he is stuck in one place where he has to repair trashed machines. Leia, I mean Hester, becomes a rebel hero and encourages him to become a rebel, too, and finally even pilot. The Dark Lord, read: Thaddeus Valentine, reveals 'I am your father' in the middle of a duel to the death which was definitely the most ridiculous copycat moment of them all. Rebel gliders meanwhile attack the Death Star, I mean London, before its new super weapon destroys the rebel base, I mean The Wall protecting the non-moving cities. The cyborg Shrike seems to be on a mission to kill Hester, but turns out to be an old friend - this is from 'Terminator II', not 'Star Wars', must have slipped in by mistake. If anyone compares this movie to 'Mad Max' or 'Waterworld', he probably refers to the look, not the story.
Everything you see in this movie, you have seen somewhere else before, and better. With one exception, and that's the beautiful Steampunk design. I was fortunate to watch it in 3D for maximum enjoyment. The basic idea of cities on wheels is nonetheless never convincing. If you see the chase at the beginning, the huge amount of energy London requires to move its millions of tons to chase a tiny city, makes clear that you'd spend much more energy of the chase than you will gain from the catch. Economy and physics are so unconvincing that we are talking about a pure fantasy world here, the sci-fi label is certainly misplaced on 'Mortal Engines'. This explains why you have many negative reviews from annoyed sci-fi fans here. 'Mortal Engines' can be enjoyed solely as blockbuster entertainment, but it fails completely as a vision of a possible future.
I liked the casting, some very good choices were made. Hera Hilmar is an impressive outsider, determined to her cause, trusting nobody. Robert Sheehan plays the big step from librarian to action hero very well, doesn't know how to talk to Hester at first, looking a little bit clumsy next to warriors like Anna Fang, that is perfect for the part, a character that needs to grow up to unforeseen tasks. We have an impressive bad guy with Hugo Weaving who knows a bad guy is more believable if he also has good sides, for example caring about his daughter Katherine. The script is mostly limiting him to a guy who wants the power of ancient technology just to wreak havoc - yet that's not the actor's fault. Stephen Lang picks up the seemingly impossible task to play a soulless being with a lot of soul and is brilliant at it. To cut a long story short: enjoy it for what 'Mortal Engines' is, a big show with too familiar story line.
The Widow (2019)
Three years after her husband disappeared due to a plane crash in Congo, his 'widow' discovers faint traces that he may still be alive. She flies down to Africa and starts an investigation that may be clumsy (she does not even speak French), but her stubbornness takes her through in one piece somehow. What she finds is however not what she expected, and to unknown enemies, her investigation about the plane crash is not welcome...
Well entertaining TV series, at 8 episodes neither too short to develop a certain complexity and interesting characters, nor too long to maintain suspense. I watched it in only three days because I was eager to find out how it continues, a very good sign. Familiar faces among the actors include Charles Dance ('Game of Thrones'), Alex Kingston ('Doctor Who') and of course Kate Beckinsale ('Underworld').
Worthy conclusion of the series
'Valley of Death' is the final movie of the immensely successful German western series of the 1960s based on Karl May's novels (albeit very loosely). It did not repeat the mistakes from Brauner's earlier production 'Old Shatterhand': the story is action-packed and to the point, Pierre Brice can shine (for example in Winnetou's knife duel against the enemy chief), composer Martin Böttcher wrote a great soundtrack, and experienced director Harald Reinl had the right feeling for the series. For the locations, they returned to places familiar for example from 'Winnetou I'. Even if the story seems like nothing new (bandits hunting for gold), 'Valley of Death' became a very entertaining movie that shouldn't disappoint the fans of the series.
Old Shatterhand (1964)
Lifeless despite the good cast
Before a peace contract with the natives will be signed, Captain Bradley and a bunch of outlaws try and sabotage it by faking Indian attacks on settlers. Old Shatterhand and Winnetou start searching for the members of this conspiracy.
It is a little bit strange that the movie doesn't really click, because it has all the ingredients of a typical Karl May western of that period, plus a perfect cast with Lex Barker, Pierre Brice, Daliah Lavi and Ralf Wolter as the good guys, facing excellent villains (Guy Madison, Rik Battaglia). It is somewhat too long with two hours for a rather straight story, and with its occasional brutality (even murder of a child) and carelessness for detail never develops the sense of magic that was typical for the best contributions to the series. Ultimately a disappointment.
2036 Origin Unknown (2018)
Lost in the machine
Katee Sackhoff is sitting 90 minutes in front of a green screen, talking to a machine, while a lot of colourful computer graphics are swirling all around her. This movie is supposedly about a conflict between humanity and artificial intelligence. The irony is that its makers do not manage to show any human aspects in it. Devoid of human interactions that might show the value of emotions and creativity as opposed to a machine's logic, the movie misses its aim and pushes the audience into a kaleidoscope of effects which are utterly sterile and meaningless. I give three of ten points, due to a certain weirdness that kept me watching till the end. At least it is not a typical low budget sci-fi flick.
Within the Rock (1996)
It's collision time again
A rather large moon is on course for a collision with Earth. Dr Shaw (Caroline Barclay) is sent with a team of space miners to drill tunnels into that moon, preparing its destruction with explosives. However, they discover an ancient hostile life-form 'within the rock', and then they are killed one by one. Their survival is not made easier by Ryan (Xander Berkeley), the captain of the spacecraft who wants to use the opportunity and run with a fortune of platinum they discovered, too.
To many viewers, "Within the Rock" (1996) looks like a rip-off to "Armageddon" (1998) but looking at the dates, it can't be. Instead it is borrowing a lot from the usual monster movie sources "Alien" (1979) and "Predator" (1987) as well as earlier collision stories, a classic sci-fi theme going way back for example to "When Worlds Collide" (1951). The spaceship, where they still use floppy disks in the control room, looks early 80s rather than mid 90s; even for a TV production the effects are quite embarassing. So are the characters, because they leave tons of powerful explosives in the crates while trying to hit the monster with a pickaxe. The predictable story may be OK to watch once, but you won't remember it next week.
Black Jack (1968)
The last laugh
Django (aka "Black Jack" Murphy in the original dubbing) plans a bank robbery which is brilliantly executed, but when it comes to sharing the loot, his partners rape and kill his sister, almost kill Django and run with the money. You guess it: only "almost" killing him was a bad mistake. The injured Django - with a walking stick! - goes after them for revenge, killing them one by one in interesting ways and enjoying it more than he should.
For many years, I only knew a censored version with a different ending, and believed this was just another violent western. Now I had the opportunity to watch the uncut original version, and this has a lot more quality and impact to offer. Only a few westerns of that period went as far as 'Black Jack' in showing how revenge destroys a man. Jack/Django only lives for revenge like one of The Walking Dead, and from the sympathetic character at the beginning turns into a sadistic monster, laughing when his enemies die. And with the different ending (no spoilers here, of course) the uncut version makes a lot more sense than the old edit. Recommended (except for the squeamish).
Dying to watch it - literally
Kirby (Norman Reedus, meanwhile famous for 'The Walking Dead') urgently needs money because his movie theatre is deeply in debts. Just then, the rich collector Bellinger (Udo Kier, whose connection to the horror genre goes all the way back to 'Mark of the Devil' in 1970) offers him 200,000 dollars if he finds the only copy of the infamous movie 'The Absolute End of the World' by director Backovic for him. The first showing at a festival caused riots and deaths since it was so disturbing. Kirby starts his investigation and finds that most people associated with the movie or Backovic are either dead or insane...
Now this is a story guaranteed to attract the horror movie fans, because who didn't discuss the question 'what is the most extreme movie you've ever seen' with fellow fans? In the skilled hands of John Carpenter, this subject becomes easily one of the best contributions of 'Masters of Horror', season one.
Dar vs. Ninja Turtle
Old Lord Agon (David Warner) desires an object of power, the Eye of Braxus, which would provide him with new energy. Dar (Marc Singer) owns one half of the amulet, young king Tal (Casper Van Dien, with a ridiculous wig) the other half. Tal is caught by Lord Agon. Dar starts a rescue mission across the jungle and meets Shada (Sandra Hess, "Mortal Kombat 2"). He makes the mistake to trust her, but then she tries to steal the amulet. And on who's side is the witch Morgana (Lesley-Anne Down)?
It looks like a cheap TV production, not a movie, because it is a cheap TV production. The demon Braxus could be one of the Ninja Turtles on a Monday morning. Gabrielle Beaumont, an experienced TV director ("Dynasty", "Star Trek: Next Generation") does a good job within the budget limitation. The story is solid, the characters have a certain charm, thus 'Beastmaster 3' is neither a contribution as important to the genre as the first installment, nor trash as bizarre as the second part, but simply average entertainment to pass the time.
Dar goes to LA
Dar (Marc Singer) fights against the villain Arklon (Wings Hauser) who can shoot laser beams and uses his devilish laugh frequently to prove how evil he really is. A witch (Sarah Douglas) offers him access to a strange world, the so-called LA, where Arklon can obtain a weapon of ultimate power, the neutron bomb. Quicker than you can say 'transdimensional gate', Arklon, Dar and the witch jump through the gate and confuse people in Los Angeles by their outlandish garb. Dar meets a senator's rich daughter (young Kari Wuhrer) who introduces him to cars and other miracles of this world.
The sequel is nowhere near the qualities of the first movie, and it suffers from some scenes where the contrast between barbarians and modern age is just not as funny as the makers expected it to be. Still an entertaining little trash flick with a couple of good moments - I don't think I have seen another movie where policemen are trying to catch a guy with a pet tiger.
Raw Edge (1956)
The pack is lurking everywhere
Kirby (Rory Calhoun) comes to town and finds that his brother was hanged for a crime he didn't commit. There is a lot of tension between the men everywhere because too many of them are after two beautiful women, Mrs Montgomery (Yvonne De Carlo) and Paca (Mara Corday). Everyone who dies will mean less competition in the chase for them...
'Raw Edge' was shown in my country under a title that means 'The Pack Is Lurking Everywhere', and indeed it feels as if men behave like a pack of hounds here, no character is entirely sympathetic. The makers did not bother much about historical accuracy, because several pieces of clothing and weaponry look way too modern for Oregon in 1842. But surely the aim of the movie was to tell a story about the dark side of human nature, and it fully succeeded at that. A sinister and unusual western ahead of its time.
Masters of Horror: Jenifer (2005)
It's a pet, not your lunch
A detective shoots a man who is drunk, mad and armed, and trying to kill a blond woman. Jenifer has a hideously deformed face, but a stunning body, and although she is unable to speak, the detective will find out more from her about the man he killed than he wanted to know...
I remember reading somewhere in the press during the 1980s that Argento was attacked by serious movie critics for being misogynistic, for the way that women were victimized in his movies. They should have waited for this one! Jenifer is reduced to an animal with desires to have intercourse and eat lots of raw meat. Please don't eat the cat, dear - it's a pet, not your lunch.
'Jenifer' sticks to my memory as a rather gory contribution to season 1 of 'Masters of Horror', but not one of the best entries. John Landis' 'Deer Woman' for example was clearly more original on a similar story line of 'don't trust strange women'.
Easy Rider, 50 years on
'Guy on a motorbike comes to town. Nobody likes him, especially not the police. He takes various drugs to have a more interesting time, but instead, this leads to violence and killing.' You could summarize 'Easy Rider' with these words, but 'Adrenochrome' just as well, 50 years later. This low budget movie took a lot of effort with the visual effects. Computer painting in comic book style and such kind of graphic tools are omnipresent. But apart from the occasionally impressive exercise in style, it has little actual content to offer. I was hoping to dream in the following night about the skull face girl at least, but it didn't happen, so the makers didn't impress my subconscious as much as they wanted to. And they tried hard. You can give this a shot if you like weird movies - did I mention the surfer cannibals? - or just run out of drugs but want to feel like you didn't. I voted an undecided 5 of 10.
Coartada en disco rojo (1972)
Doctor Carli (George Hilton) is a heart surgeon at a clinic owned by his wife Elena (Luciana Paluzzi). Now imagine: if she should die an untimely death, her husband would inherit the clinic and become very rich. Inspector Nardi (Fernando Rey), while initially investigating a different case, realizes that Mrs Carli may be in great danger and starts to watch over her.
The movie boasts with footage from an actual heart surgery (not that I ever wanted to see that so closely), but doesn't manage to provide as many surprising twists and turns as other classic giallo movies. Thus it becomes only an average contribution to the genre, although with a great cast also including Eduardo Fajardo and Anita Strindberg.
They call him Sacramento
Jack Thompson aka Sacramento (Ty Hardin) could live happily on his farm with his son (Christian Hay) and daughter (Jenny Atkins - in real life Hardin's 5th wife) if it wasn't for his enemy Murdock (Giacomo Rossi Stuart). Murdock tries to kill Sacramento several times, each time he fails, and thus somehow the running time passes. I wouldn't really call this a 'story', it's too fragmentary.
One idea of the script is remarkable, though: Sacramento usually beats up his enemies in the same saloon. The saloon owner afterwards has a serious argument with him about the damage - and he can't pay her. I have watched so many westerns where tables and mirrors are broken in a saloon brawl, but how often they discussed the invoice afterwards? And even if the hero is asked to pay for the damage, he usually drops a banknote casually and leaves, but I've never seen him stand there and say: oops, sorry... There are a few funny moments along the way, but all in all it is a poor flick shot towards the end of the Italian western wave. Ty Hardin, who shot 4 of these Italian westerns in a row 1971/72, was only 42 when he made this movie, the grey hair is a bit misleading.
Zwei tolle Käfer räumen auf (1979)
Dudu V: Unceremoniously replaced by a robot
The last of five movies director Rudolf Zehetgruber made about a yellow Volkswagen beetle with many gadgets. However, the famous Dudu is trashed after only a few minutes at the beginning of this movie. It's a shame! A kind of spider robot with an annoying beepy voice becomes the new companion of El Guancho (played by Zehetgruber himself), obviously in the wake of the 'Star Wars' mania of the late seventies. Guancho and his robot are fighting various gangsters including Hidalgo (Brad Harris) and Alfonso (veteran western actor Fernando Sancho).
Even if the last sequel is a total disappointment, they managed again to find great locations: shot on the Canary Islands (mostly Lanzarote, partly Gran Canaria, I would guess from my own visits there). Anyhow, it would have been nice to get an actual story beyond a couple of standard chases around a (yawn) gold treasure. In opposite to the previous movies, they didn't even manage to install interesting female characters. I voted 4-7-6-5-3 for the five movies.
Dudu IV: The Swiss adventure
The fourth of five movies director Rudolf Zehetgruber made about a yellow Volkswagen beetle with many gadgets. He played the driver Jimmy Bondi himself under the stage name Robert Mark. Aldo Regozzani returns from the previous episode as a race driver. Walter Giller is back as well, but in a totally different part (last time a gangster, this time a hotel employee). Part 4 is a race movie again like the first movie, but instead of Africa set in Switzerland against a beautiful scenery of snowy mountains and castles. The screenplay writing, in opposite to the photography, leaves a lot to be desired. It is the usual race routine with accidents, tricks and rivalries. The only new ability of Dudu is that he can talk now, but that leads only to a few cheap jokes. Again he can fly, which helps to win the race, but also means he can quickly leave his driver behind if he's angry with him... Mildly entertaining, but the series gets tired at this point. I voted 4-7-6-5-3 for the five movies.
Ein Käfer auf Extratour (1973)
Dudu III: Running faster
The third of five movies director Rudolf Zehetgruber made about a yellow Volkswagen beetle with many gadgets. He played the driver Jimmy Bondi himself under the stage name Robert Mark. It is a common misunderstanding that the series is a kind of promotional tool of the Volkswagen company, but in an interview on the DVD of this movie, Zehetgruber confirms that they had no support at all from the car producers in Wolfsburg to make these movies.
Dudu's powers have grown again since the second movie. He can now fly, crawl up between two walls and Bondi has a more sophisticated remote control. Bondi's new partner in this movie is Aldo Regozzani as a stunt driver. The story revolves around a chase for the gangster Leskovich, featuring two ladies in danger and several bad men who volunteer to get kicked by Dudu several times. "Dudu will make it" is repeatedly uttered by Bondi as a running joke. And he does! I voted 4-7-6-5-3 for the five movies.
Ein Käfer gibt Vollgas (1972)
Dudu II: Growing special powers
The second of five movies director Rudolf Zehetgruber made about a yellow Volkswagen beetle with many gadgets. He played the driver Jimmy Bondi himself under the stage name Robert Mark, but the real star of this movie is Joachim Fuchsberger. Fuchsberger plays Plato, a police agent who is investigating in disguise against gangsters, while Jimmy Bondi just happens to be around and decides to support a bit with Dudu's special powers - which have grown enormously since the first movie. Dudu can now kick enemies unconscious with his movable front lights, for example, or let intruders rotate in his seat. Everything is done in a comedy vein with a memorable running joke: one of the gangsters saying "You think I'm stupid, but I'm not!" while regularly falling into the trap, nevertheless. To me it's the funniest of the 5 movies. I voted 4-7-6-5-3 for the series.
Ein Käfer geht aufs Ganze (1971)
Dudu I: Across Africa
The first of five movies director Rudolf Zehetgruber made about a yellow Volkswagen beetle with many gadgets. He played the driver himself, called Ben in this movie, but Jimmy Bondi in the sequels. Another difference is that there are considerably less gadgets in this first movie yet. This is a rather simple story about a race in Africa, entirely shot on location in Tanzania, where film-making was an adventure in itself almost 50 years ago. A hovercraft shall race against several racing cars, although it is obviously slower, but it is allowed to short cut the racing track across water to even the chances. Dudu, the yellow VW beetle, is only permitted as a support car, not as a full participant in the race, but the little car bravely faces the challenges of the African wilderness. This is a nice little race movie with some comedy elements, clumsily narrated and except for the Tanzanian locations, offering little to remember. Most of the sequels improved the concept a lot, I voted 4-7-6-5-3 for the five movies.
Tongue in cheek horror experience
A bunch of tourists are in Chile to party, but when an earthquake hits the city, they need to fight for survival, not only against the natural disaster, but also against criminals who seized the opportunity to escape from prison.
I would have rated 'Aftershock' higher than 6 of 10 if it wasn't for the boring first 30 minutes. We get introduced to characters who are so dumb that we really wouldn't care if they all get buried by the earthquake. This lengthy introduction turns out to be a waste of time, anyway, because some of them are killed off early, while other characters who are more important for the movie get 3 seconds of back story ('Trust me, I'm a firefighter').
However, after the quake it gets thrilling, violent, suspenseful with a lot of action, which made the movie worth watching after all. I was not surprised to learn in the making of (watched on DVD) that several of the makers of 'Aftershock' have previous experience in comedy rather than horror, it's the timing of some scenes that tells it. For example the lady who shows the tunnel and then makes the mistake to stick her head first - that's the 'oops' timing of a comedy, not a horror movie. But it works and makes the movie more original. Also the background with a catastrophe that destroys the usual human behaviour so quickly is believable. Not too bad after all, but I recommend to press fast forward at the beginning.
What Happened to Monday (2017)
Welcome to the Future
'What Happened To Monday' is a remarkable movie. I would almost love it, if it wasn't for a couple of stupid things that damaged it for me. Sorry I can't explain that without SPOILERS.
First, the unnecessary finger cut-off scene. Why unnecessary? Because they are living in a future where medical science has progressed so that for example Tuesday's missing eye can be replaced. But they can't repair a finger with a small artificial limb and prefer to cut off 6 more fingers instead? Second, the logistics behind the freezing operation. We are told siblings all over the world are frozen, so hundred of thousands of them must be stored somewhere. This requires huge facilities with thousands of staff members, doesn't anyone notice they don't exist anywhere? Third, the company in charge wants to pretend everything they do is legal and perfectly okay. And then they shoot passers-by who happen to stand in the way when they are chasing Wednesday? Warfare on their own citizens, does it go unnoticed or what?
Regrettably this movie is far from perfect with quite a lot of holes in it, but still it is very interesting and worth watching for the amazing performance of Noomi Rapace who talks to herself in various roles, from the shy computer nerd to the lazy party girl or the sporty chick. She even has a death scene with herself, how unique is this? I can hardly imagine the workload when you are constantly on the set in one of your 7 roles, shooting and reshooting the same scene from a different perspective. Give it a try - one more reason to watch is that the subject of overpopulation is so serious that you can't think enough about it.
Black Water (2018)
Shoot to thrill
'Black Water' really surprised me. It's easily one of the best entries in the filmography of its two stars in this decade. Comparisons to the old days are quite useless, because I wouldn' expect someone who is almost 60 to put his foot in other people's faces a lot - apparently some fans do, and that's the bunch with the low ratings. The movie does not feature any kicks, look elsewhere for that. Instead, 'Black Water' is an intense thriller with psychological tension (okay, and a lot of ammo used as well). Agents from different sides are locked in a submarine with their enemies, some may be double agents, most of them don't tell the truth, so the captain and many others have a hard time guessing who is on who's side - and then, in the extremely narrow space, chases and deadly shoot-outs take place.
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Wheeler is the hero here, while Dolph Lundgren as Marco is a prisoner whom Wheeler releases although he doesn't know anything about him, believing "my enemies' enemy is my friend - probably" which is a good example of how the movie never lets his characters walk on safe ground. Small grudges like the embarassing love scene aside, a good movie that did not need a big budget due to its confined location (almost completely taking place inside the submarine) and a clever script.