Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Birthdate: September 25
I bid you...velcome.
I'm a shameless movie fanatic who especially favours the following genres:
Favourite directors include:
George A. Romero
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
The Punisher (1989)
The original film version of the Marvel Comics character and his story stars a sullen, poker-faced Dolph Lundgren. Frank Castle (Lundgren) had to watch, once upon a time, as his wife and daughters were rubbed out by organized crime figures. So he retaliates: within five years he's eliminated *125* mobsters - and, of course, there's no assurance that the body count will stop there. Within the running time of this film, Frank will go up against mafia bigwig Gianni Franco (the great Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbe), who himself is locked in a war with Japanese villainess Lady Tanaka (Kim Miyori).
This incarnation of the character & his world will definitely appeal to some viewers. It's dark, gritty, violent pulp fiction, and it's pretty straightforward. Heroes and villains are well-defined, and ensuring audience involvement is the fact that our bad gal Ms. Tanaka is willing to kidnap the children of the city's white mobsters; since it's always uncomfortable seeing kids subjected to any sort of mistreatment, we automatically hate Ms. Tanaka and her Yakuza associates. Some viewers may not care for the level of violence here, but in truth, it could easily be worse.
Lundgren is a fairly realistic good guy in that he does take some lumps, and doesn't always have the upper hand. But when he is kicking ass, he's doing so and taking names, too. He's good, but his supporting cast is even better. Miyori is a fun and deadly antagonist, Nancy Everhard ("DeepStar Six") is fine as a detective, and Barry Otto ("Howling III") elicits some sympathy as a thespian-turned-derelict / informant. But the film really belongs to Krabbe, and Louis Gossett, Jr. (as Franks' former partner, who's never let go of his conviction that he knows the score); they deliver the standout performances.
Capably directed by top editor Mark Goldblatt, who'd previously helmed the uber-cheesy horror / action / comedy "Dead Heat". However, this was his last theatrical credit as a director, and he's continued to do what he does best.
Seven out of 10.
Young Guns (1988)
He ain't all there, is he?
"Young Guns" is another in the long line of Hollywood movies to take inspiration from the real-life Billy the Kid legend. And "inspired" is the right word, since, once again, this is a fabrication of factual events. But, overall, the film is fun: fast-paced, violent, not hard to follow, very well shot (by ace cinematographer Dean Semler), and generally well acted.
Emilio Estevez clearly has a ball playing the colourful outlaw in this story. It begins as British rancher John Tunstall (a wonderful Terence Stamp) recruits Billy as the latest in his "family" of outcast boys, whom the benevolent Tunstall employs as "regulators". Trouble brews when the villains, led by an effectively sleazy Jack Palance as Murphy, succeed in knocking off Tunstall. The boys are deputized into helping depose the villains, but Billy would rather go about seeking revenge. So, a couple of dead bodies later, and the Regulators become wanted men.
Efficiently directed by Christopher Cain (whose wife Sharon Thomas plays Susan McSween), "Young Guns" is decent robust entertainment that goes for a much more visceral approach than an intellectual one. Not that that's really such a bad thing. It serves to showcase a "Brat Pack" sextet of young actors: Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Estevez' brother Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, and Casey Siemaszko. Their performances are fine, but they tend to be outshone by veteran co-stars such as Palance, Stamp, Terry O'Quinn, The Dukes' son Patrick Wayne (playing Pat Garrett), and Brian Keith in an amusing but regrettably brief cameo as a scruffy old bounty hunter. Towards the end, keep your eyes peeled for Tom Cruise, in disguise as a bad guy who gets shot.
With stylized opening credits, and a jaunty rock score, this is clearly filtered through 1980s sensibilities, so it might not appeal to Western fans across the board. But, in truth, it's not as gory as some people might fear, and it delivers some good action. The finale at the McSween homestead is an exciting one.
Overall, entertaining stuff if somewhat overextended at 107 minutes.
Followed by "Young Guns II" two years later.
Seven out of 10.
Portrait in Black (1960)
Good for some laughs.
Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts scripted this soap opera-type thriller, based on their play, and it's a hoot. It's a far from airtight script, but holding it all together is a superior cast of familiar faces. Granted, some of them - especially Anthony Quinn - are required to give hilariously melodramatic performances that don't exactly evoke a lot of sympathy. The viewer is more inclined to think that the character is just getting what they deserve.
Lana Turner, in full glamour mode and decked out in Jean Louis gowns, is unhappily married to shipping magnate Lloyd Nolan, a tough and crusty old type. When the sickly Nolan passes away, it seems that Turner is free to continue her relationship with her doctor lover Quinn, but *somebody* knows every move that Quinn and Turner make, even as he resorts to murder.
The cast is further stacked with players like Sandra Dee (as Nolan's daughter from his first marriage), John Saxon (as a tugboat operator who's dating Dee), Ray Walston (as the affable chauffeur who has little to no luck betting on horse races), Anna May Wong (as the housemaid - this was her final film role before passing away), Virginia Grey (as Nolan's secretary), Dennis Kohler (as the son whom Turner and Nolan had together), and Richard Basehart (as Nolan's fairly slimy business associate). They're all entertaining to watch, which helps "Portrait in Black" over its rough spots and over the top moments. Ex.: heavy storms which occur during key dramatic sequences.
"Portrait in Black" is hardly great cinema, but as a filmic portrait of Glamour (with a capital G) - costumes, jewels, sets, the whole shebang - it's certainly amusing enough, leading to a finale where the bedevilled Quinn is just emoting for everything that he's worth.
Six out of 10.
Problem Child (1990)
The 90s were certainly cluttered with those "'fill in the blank' from Hell" movies. (The Best Friend from Hell ("Single White Female"), the Temp Employee from Hell ("The Temp"), etc.) Here at the beginning of the decade, we got this "kid from Hell" flick from the writers of "Ed Wood", and it is indeed like a comic spin on "The Bad Seed". Michael Oliver (what ever happened to him?) plays "Junior", a thoroughly obnoxious devil-child who often makes life miserable for people, including his new adoptive parents, Ben (John Ritter) and Flo (Amy Yasbeck). Yet underneath that ultra-bratty exterior does lurk a kid who's crying out for love and attention.
In that sense, this viewer wonders how it would have played if Junior were *completely* unrepentant and never revealed any inkling towards sensitivity or vulnerability. Not all children in real life are perfect little angels, after all. It might have been refreshing, but this being a Hollywood movie, we have to have that glimmer of hope and, ultimately, that happy ending.
Undeniably, "Problem Child" can be crude and childish, but it's still fitfully amusing what with its outrageous gags. In one twisted touch, Junior thinks psycho-killer / sleaze ball Martin Beck (a scenery devouring Michael "Kramer" Richards) is a cool guy to emulate, and becomes pen pals with him.
Basically, if one can tolerate the variety of disagreeable characters here, they may get through the movie. Ben is a typical Nice Guy who tries his mightiest to be patient, but he's also kind of a dope. It takes a lot before he snaps. Flo is a superficial wannabe social climber. Ben's dad (Jack Warden) is a crass jerk (and sporting goods magnate) running for mayor. There are snooty kids who raise Juniors' ire. And, of course, we have Gilbert Gottfried on hand for good measure.
Some of the more entertaining gags occur at the birthday party; overall, "Problem Child" does have its moments. The closing theme song was performed by the Beach Boys, of all people.
Followed by two sequels, the second made for TV.
Six out of 10.
The Nude Bomb (1980)
Missed it by THAT much.
The legendary 1960s spy-parody sitcom gets retooled for the big screen in this yarn of dumb-but-lucky super secret agent 86, Maxwell Smart (Don Adams). This time, his Chief (Dana Elcar) assigns him to go after a KAOS mastermind who's invented an unusual sort of bomb. It will destroy most of the clothing on Earth, rendering the vast majority of humans vulnerable to his machinations. Fortunately for Maxwell, he has a large team of colleagues upon which he can rely, including a comely "disappearance" expert (Andrea Howard) and a "Q" like gadget creator (Norman Lloyd).
Adams is once again in very fine form, and naturally the script (by Leonard Stern, Bill Dana, and Arne Sultan) allows for opportunities for him to utter lots of his classic one-liners. "AND loving it." On the whole, the film is certainly amusing enough to make it quite pleasant, even if it was never truly hilarious. The cast is certainly engaging, with Vittorio Gassman a hoot as a maniacal thug named Nino. The viewer will definitely miss the presence of Barbara Feldon (the original Agent 99) and Edward Platt (the original Chief), though. There are precious few holdovers from the series in terms of cast. But it's fun to see some of these performers here: Sylvia "Emmanuelle" Kristel as Agent 34, Pamela Hensley as Agent 36, Richard Sanders as the German delegate, etc. Co-screenwriter Dana has the small role of fashion designer Jonathan Levinson Seigle.
At the very least, it is nice to see the premise and characters get a story with increased production values. Subtle it's not, though: Universal (in association with Time Life) produced this movie, and there's a major chase sequence that takes us through Universals' theme park.
In the end, one does have some respect for Max. He may not be the brightest bulb in the drawer, but he's not so dense that he can't put two and two together when it really counts.
Six out of 10.
Howling III (1987)
There are more things in Heaven and Earth, than you can shake a boomerang at.
The beautiful Imogen Annesley stars as Jerboa, a marsupial werewolf who runs away from her tribe, ending up in the movie business, where she entrances a young man named Donny (Lee Biolos). The trouble begins when the true nature of her anatomy becomes obvious to authorities. Meanwhile, a scientist named Beckmeyer (Barry Otto) and his associate Sharp (Ralph Cotterill) go about proving that others of Jerboas' species exist. This leads to a standard story thread where some in authority see the marsupial werewolf as a threat that must be eliminated; Beckmeyer wants to do everything he can to spare them.
"Based" on Gary Brandners' novel, but re-imagined by director Philippe Mora (who'd also directed the infamous "Howling II"), this is a low budget production that proudly wears its Aussie origins on its sleeve. The words "upbeat" and "eccentric" definitely apply to this original take on the sub genre. Mora goes for a tongue in cheek approach, yet the film is not devoid of an odd, interesting poignancy. This is due to the fact that some of the main characters are rather endearing, and the viewer may very well wish for a happy ending for them. The werewolf effects are pretty damn cheesy, which helps to create a feeling of camp at times.
Annesley is not a great actress, but at least she's pleasing to watch. The eclectic cast includes a couple of Aussie icons in cameo roles: Michael Pate as the President, Frank Thring (who's quite funny) as an Alfred Hitchcock-style director, and Barry Humphries, who turns up at the end as his Dame Edna Everage character. Otto, Max Fairchild as Thylo, and Dagmar Blahova as Olga are all pretty good considering the nutty nature of the film in which they're appearing.
The "Howling" franchise does have a reputation for horrible sequels, but in truth (or at least this viewers' humble opinion), most of them do have entertaining attributes about them. And "Howling III" has a quirky charm that makes it impossible to just dismiss outright.
Six out of 10.
Some chuckles to be had.
Yet another in the long, long line of "Jaws"-inspired movies, 'Snowbeast' is hardly what one would call a "good" movie. It's far more funny than scary, with the director, Herb Wallerstein, seemingly incapable of creating tension. But, at least as an artifact from the age when the made for TV horror movie reigned supreme, it ranks as entertaining cheese.
The monster, a Yeti, is terrorizing a ski resort, and Sylvia Sidney plays the old lady running the show. She tries to downplay the presence of the monster, because of course, that resort *needs* that revenue from the current winter carnival. Her grandson, Robert Logan from the "Wilderness Family" series, heads out to save the day, in the company of former star skier Bo Svenson, Bo's wife Yvette Mimieux (a reporter), and sheriff Clint Walker.
Only bits and pieces of the monster are shown. Sometimes we see the face on the tacky costume, but we never do see the thing in all its glory. Perhaps the company couldn't even afford a full-body suit. For the most part, 'Snowbeast' consists of gorgeous wintry scenery, lots of skiing sequences in order to pad that running time, and uninteresting byplay between the principal actors.
The whole thing is played quite straight, although Bo is often to be seen with a smile on his face; he, at least, looks amused to be performing in this thing. Mimieux is quite appealing (they both are, actually), Walker is okay, and old pro Sidney does her best as a slightly more reasonable Mayor Vaughn type character. (She realizes her mistake sooner than you'd think.) But Logans' performance is simply lousy at times. It doesn't help that the script (by Joseph Stefano, the man who adapted "Psycho") is not so hot.
There's one element that was of real amusement to this viewer: a recurring theme of characters taking off and leaving their friends behind, to face the wrath of the monster!
Five out of 10.
Citizen Kane (1941)
An incredible debut for an undeniable young talent.
Orson Welles made his extremely well regarded filmmaking debut with this interesting and compelling example of cinema. It's the fascinating, highly atmospheric yarn of Charles Foster Kane (played by Welles himself), a young man who comes into a lot of money and decides that his main goal in life will be to run a newspaper (the Inquirer). Over time, he becomes a major publishing magnate, and even throws his hat into the political ring. But there are some things that he will never quite be able to overcome, such as his hubris, and his inability to admit when he might have been wrong.
"Citizen Kane" is noteworthy for the way that it moves forward and backward in time, as a reporter named Thompson (William Alland) is among those who research Kanes' life story. As the film opens, Kane has just died, and journalists are determined to unravel the mystery of his final uttered word: "Rosebud". Yet, the film is never hard to follow. You always do have the proper sense of time and place. Welles' storytelling abilities are in full bloom, and he keeps his viewers utterly engrossed, as he is assisted by a rich gallery of characters and actors to bring them to life. The high-strung Bernstein (Everett Sloane) was a particular favourite of this viewer.
But the entire cast, with principals comprised of members of the Mercury Theatre, has their moment to shine: Joseph Cotten as the drama critic, Ruth Warrick as Kanes' first wife, Dorothy Comingore as his second wife, Agnes Moorehead as his mom, Ray Collins as the slimy politico Gettys, etc. And Welles is fantastic as the enigmatic character at the centre: a complex, flawed, but compelling individual whose influence stretched far and wide. He wasn't a one-dimensional picture of integrity - he starts out with morals and ideals, and they slowly melt away - and a viewer can see how a person like this might one day have it all and then lose it all the next day.
This begins on a wonderfully ominous note, and features striking cinematography by Gregg Toland and excellent music by Bernard Herrmann. Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz wrote the utterly absorbing story, which won the sole Oscar among the nine nominations. And a young Robert Wise was the editor; his contribution cannot be overstated.
A film like "Citizen Kane" might not be everybody's cup of tea, but serious cinema buffs are advised to check it out. They won't be disappointed.
10 out of 10.
"How stupid can you get?" "How stupid do you want me to be?"
One of the final entries in the Abbott and Costello film series, "...Meet the Mummy" is far from prime A & C, but it's still lively and reasonably funny if you're into this sort of humour. Obviously their routines were no longer fresh, but they're still in fine form, and they're assisted by a good supporting cast. Some of the slapstick is still amusing, as well as the wordplay associated with A & C. Add to that secret passageways, and a conniving villainess (ever foxy Marie Windsor), and you have an entertaining comedy.
Bud is Pete Patterson and Lou is Freddie Franklin, two schmucks in Egypt who get the bright idea to accompany a mummy named Klaris (stuntman Eddie Parker) back to the States. But they end up accused of murder, and trying to dodge the enticing Windsor and her henchmen (Michael Ansara, Dan Seymour), while a cult leader (notable character actor Richard Deacon), who commands the followers of Klaris, has his own agenda.
While the comedy here may not be inspired, for this viewer it still elicited some modest chuckles. Lou terminally has bad luck when it comes to "snake charming", Bud does the "climbing the rope" routine, and you get a shell game (admittedly one that goes on too long) as both Bud and Lou try to avoid being in possession of a cursed amulet. Granted, some material was still pointless - a lady named Peggy King belts out one number that sort of stops the movie cold, and the business with the French entertainer goes nowhere.
The last A & C feature for Universal, and their penultimate vehicle overall, "...Meet the Mummy" can be funny at times, but it's more for undemanding viewers rather than their die hard fans.
Six out of 10.
The Cat from Outer Space (1978)
Amiable Disney film.
A feline from another planet makes an unscheduled stop on Earth. While the U.S. military ponders over his spacecraft and tries to determine if it's Russian (or otherwise) in origin, he makes contact with a bumbling, likeable, eccentric scientist (Ken Berry) and implores the human to help him with his spacecraft repairs. Meanwhile, a nefarious enemy agent (William Prince) is determined to unravel the secrets of the cats' powerful collar.
It's true that you can't be too hard on films like this. Although, as an adult, I found "The Cat from Outer Space" overlong and not always good at gaining momentum, it's still quite engaging family fare that the kids ought to enjoy. Certainly the talented cast makes it quite easy to watch: Sandy Duncan is cute as Berry's would-be love interest, McLean Stevenson a hoot as his sports-obsessed pal, Harry Morgan hilarious as a ramrod-straight Army general. There's a generous dose of familiar faces in the supporting cast, too: Roddy McDowall, Jesse White, Alan Young, Hans Conried, Ronnie Schell (who plays both Sergeant Duffy and the voice of Jake the cat), James Hampton, Howard Platt, etc. Berry is quite personable in the lead.
Overall, this is fairly mild as far as live-action Disney comedy goes, with not that many true laugh-out-loud moments, but again, kids are likely to be far less judgmental, and may very well take to most of the gags (there is one good laugh when we see Morgans' underwear); young and old alike will be endeared to the feline star, a very well trained animal indeed. The airborne finale is reasonably tense and exciting.
Sorrell "Boss Hogg" Booke appears unbilled at the conclusion, in his final feature film appearance.
Seven out of 10.
Go Tell the Spartans (1978)
One of the best Vietnam War pictures.
"Go Tell the Spartans" is tops of its kind, a tough, straightforward, and largely unsentimental war picture that looks at the Vietnam War in its formative years. Supervising operations is a Major, Asa Barker (a typically excellent Burt Lancaster) who already has doubts about this conflict which had yet to be thoroughly Americanized. The balance of the film deals with a delicate mission in a seemingly nowhere village named Muc Wa (the basis for the story is the novel "Incident at Muc Wa" by Daniel Ford), and the formation of the squad that will carry out said mission.
There's no room for showboating among the uniformly superb cast. It's chock full of recognizable and reliable character actors - Marc "Beastmaster" Singer, Craig Wasson (as the draftee who confounds Barker with his presence), Jonathan Goldsmith (now best known as the guy in those "Most Interesting Man in the World" commercials), David Clennon, Joe Unger, Evan C. Kim, Dolph Sweet, Clyde Kusatsu, and James Hong. Everybody still gets a chance to make an impact, with equal time devoted to the disparate characters.
What is notable about "Go Tell the Spartans" is its matter of fact approach. At no time does it NOT feel authentic, realistic, and believable. It of course does feature some intense gunfire and battle footage, but these scenes serve the story rather than the other way around. It's directed with perception and a strong sense of the insanity of war. The story does make a point that the American troops are basically treading the same ground as the French troops in Indochina who preceded them.
Extremely well shot (albeit in California), the film is also very well directed by journeyman filmmaker Ted Post, and the music by Dick Halligan is just fine without automatically calling attention to itself.
Definitely catch this one; it's not nearly as popular as other Vietnam War pictures, but deserves to be better known.
Nine out of 10.
"Bears don't eat people." "This one did."
The scenario for this memorable entry into the 1970s "nature strikes back" genre is simple enough: an enormous (15 feet tall, over 2,000 pounds) grizzly bear makes life miserable for the denizens of a national park, going on a series of attacks. It's up to the team of an easygoing ranger (Christopher George), a chopper pilot (Andrew Prine), and a dedicated naturalist (Richard Jaeckel) to do something about the furred and clawed menace.
Thankfully, there's not that much filler in this script by producers David Sheldon and Harvey Flaxman. The late director William Girdler works from their story to create an engaging and picturesque thriller, which gets pretty intense at times. Children aren't let off the hook in this yarn where limbs get torn off, bodies get partially buried, and animals' heads go flying. Our four legged antagonist is truly a beast to be reckoned with.
Similarities to "Jaws" are pretty much impossible to ignore, right down to the use of the three-man-team and the machinations of the park supervisor (Joe Dorsey) to ensure maximum press. Girdler even takes another page from Spielbergs' playbook by graduating from not showing the bear to revealing parts of it to showing it in all of its glory. Still, for something so clearly modelled after an earlier success, "Grizzly" is quite enjoyable, made with lots of style and gorgeously shot on Georgia locations by William Asman. It's made even better by a majestic soundtrack composed by Robert O. Ragland, which really goes hand in hand with those beautiful widescreen vistas.
The three stars are terrific, and it's especially fun when they're all on screen together. Joan McCall is fairly cute and appealing as the potential love interest for the ranger. Dorsey is an adequately slimy stand-in for Mayor Vaughn from "Jaws". And Girdler regular Charles Kissinger is fine as a doctor.
All in all, this is well worth watching if you love this genre. And even if it's derivative...well, if you're gonna steal, steal from the best, as they say.
Eight out of 10.
Family Honor (1973)
"It's justice!!!!! They murdered your father!!!!"
Tony Page stars here as Joe Fortunato, a tough-guy detective regularly hounded by his mom (Vera Visconti) and uncle. It seems that the mob had ordered the death of Joes' dad seven years ago, and the mom & uncle are still absolutely determined that Joe get revenge. Joe's not so sure, although circumstances will dictate that, before too much time has passed, Joe will be looking for some payback with the help of a sawed-off shotgun.
Sly Stallone had actually auditioned for the role of Joe, but the filmmakers, seeking gritty realism, opted for Sly's friend Page, who had real-life mob connections. A great actor Page is not, but he does have an amusing, rough-around-the-edges screen presence. The rest of the cast does decent work, with James Reyes a total hoot as an arrogant mafioso. (He's the one believed by mom & uncle to have given the order to rub out the dad.) Another familiar face in this is Toni Kalem, playing Reyes' daughter; her other credits include playing Chuck Norris' love interest in "Silent Rage" nine years later. Adding interest for some viewers is the fact that rock stars Leslie West and Corky Laing (of the band Mountain of "Mississippi Queen" fame) have roles here as mob underlings. But it's Visconti who will capture most peoples' attention. This woman defines the word "intensity".
The story itself (the film is written by Nicola Fisher, based on Louis Pastores' story, and directed by Clark Worswick) is sufficiently entertaining, although it's largely familiar stuff for any fan of low budget crime fiction. Still, it does have a certain raw appeal, with the occasional burst of splashy violence. And the recent Blu-ray release will be cause for celebration since this was unavailable on home video for the longest time, and now viewers will be able to delight in checking out some memorable dialogue whenever they feel like it.
Seven out of 10.
Campfire Tales (1991)
Quite watchable, for such a low budget affair.
Horror icon Gunnar "Leatherface" Hansen is on hand in this horror anthology, as he essays the role of Ralph, a rough-hewn stranger who materializes out of the night before three young male campers. He proceeds to spin a quartet of horror tales, and for the most part, they're actually pretty entertaining; this little film does live up to the word "horror". It gets pretty damn disgusting at certain points, so it will appeal to gore fanatics, and the stories are entertaining and succinctly told. This little film was the product of the imagination of William Cooke and Paul Talbot (if the second name rings a bell, it's because he's a Charles Bronson expert who's written books and recorded commentaries for a number of Bronson vehicles).
"The Hook" is pretty standard stuff about a couple who run afoul of the title maniac. It's decent, but is basically just a warm-up for the tales to follow.
"Overtoke" is good, gruesome fun. Two stoners come into contact with a supplier who gives them some VERY strange stuff indeed ... stuff that has dire consequences when ingested.
"The Fright Before Xmas" has the appeal of a "just desserts" sort of yarn, as a resentful, greedy son experiences his own consequences of a murderous act. As you can expect, the ending is very satisfying.
Finally, "Skull and Crossbones" is a solid, atmospheric tale of a pirate shipwrecked on an island. He's determined to unearth whatever treasure may be there, but is warned that he won't be successful if he tries to get off the island. This segment is pretty talky for a while, but it has a VERY fun payoff.
Overall, Cooke and Talbot do a good job with this little film, well worth seeing if slowly paced at times. Hansen makes the journey(s) worth taking; one might think that as the token "name" actor, that his cost made up a substantial part of the budget, but he proved to be quite reasonable, to the filmmakers' delight.
Horror anthology aficionados should dig this.
Seven out of 10.
A solid entry in this series.
Screenwriter Paul Dehn came up with a logical enough way to continue the "Apes" series after the total death and destruction that concluded "Beneath". Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter), in the company of a Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo), manage to escape in one of the original Earth spacecraft, and once again the phenomenon occurs that allows for time travel. They end up on Earth in 1973, where they confound the then-denizens of Earth. They even become celebrities. However, an alarmist on the Presidents' staff (Eric "Victor Newman" Braeden) asserts that their presence can spell nothing but disaster for the future, and he's determined to take drastic steps if necessary.
Directed by former actor Don Taylor, "Escape" is a rather ingenious sequel that explores what it would be like for this ape species in a modern-day society. Cornelius knows it would be folly for the people of Earth to know too much about their future (and his and his wife's own abilities), but things progress to a certain point no matter what.
The whole thing is played with a fair amount of charming humour (Zira develops a fondness for "grape juice plus"), while touching upon the ideas of what the offspring of Cornelius and Zira could mean for Earths' destiny. The President (William Windom) isn't ready to push the panic button, but Otto Hasslein (Braeden) fears the implications, and although he expresses some doubts, he still sees himself as a saviour from the possible machinations of intelligent apes.
Zooming along to a peppy Jerry Goldsmith score, "Escape" is just good, solid entertainment that manipulates us with skill; we firmly remain on the side of our simian protagonists, who certainly do not mean any harm.
It is, ultimately, an interesting inversion on the premise of the landmark first film, since here the apes are the strange visitors to a strange land, and must adjust.
It's all brought to life by a superb cast: McDowall, Hunter, Mineo, Braeden, and Windom are well supported by Natalie Trundy (a veteran of the series), Bradford Dillman, Albert Salmi, Jason Evers, John Randolph, Harry Lauter, M. Emmet Walsh, Norman Burton, and in a special guest appearance, a hearty Ricardo Montalban as a good hearted circus owner. James Sikking has an unbilled role near the beginning.
Overall, an intelligent and well-told story, directed with conviction and an engaging diversion for series fans.
Eight out of 10.
Lisa, Lisa (1974)
Not a great story, but an interesting effort all the same.
Three criminals on the run make a stop-over at a remote homestead, on which two people live: meek young Lisa (Leslie Lee) and her paralyzed grandfather (Douglas Powers). Two out of these three criminals are pretty nasty types - the domineering, hair-trigger-tempered Steele (Jack Canon), the predatory Lomax (Ray Green) - but they seem to have met their match in the soft-spoken Lisa.
Don't look for much more story than that, in this regional production written and directed by Frederick R. Friedel, who also plays Billy, the youngest and most even-keeled of the gang. Also, don't expect a very lively affair: Friedel seems more determined to go for mood and feel (the film has an almost European sort of ambiance) than hardcore exploitation. That's not to say, however, that there isn't some very effective grisly violence on display. And while the blood present may be of that bright red movie variety, Friedel does take the opportunity to sort of goof around with the colour palate. There are gags involving ketchup and tomato soup, showing that he is not taking his film too, too seriously. Good location shooting (in North Carolina) and an atmospheric soundtrack (composed by George Newman Shaw & John Willhelm) are definite assets.
The acting gets the job done, with young Lee appealing in the central role. Canon and Green are appropriately loathsome, especially the former as he throws his weight around and makes everybody around him miserable. Friedel himself is okay as the one member of the gang with something resembling a conscience.
"Axe" a.k.a. "Lisa, Lisa" may not suit the tastes of all trash film fans, but it delivers a slow, quiet variation on the standard home invasion scenario.
Seven out of 10.
Don't lose your head.
"Headhunter" is a fairly intense, murky supernatural horror-thriller starring the amiable pair of Kay Lenz (as Detective Katherine Hall) and Wayne Crawford (as Detective Pete Giuliani). They get faced with an African demon that is raising Hell among Miamis' Nigerian community; this demon decapitates some victims and possesses others, and generally makes life miserable for our protagonists.
While it's commendable that director Francis Schaeffer and screenwriter Len Spinell spend a fair amount of time developing the two main characters, some viewers may feel that all of this human drama detracts from the horror. And "Headhunter" does have some pretty good horror content to deliver, as well as some humour (it doesn't take itself too, too seriously). There's some gore, with director Schaeffer trying mightily to give his film some atmosphere and ambiance (it does go heavy on the horrific imagery). Unfortunately, we never do see very much of the demon, nor get much insight into why it does what it does.
The film does benefit from the chemistry between the weary Katherine and the more volatile Pete; Lenz and Crawford make an interesting pair. Steve Kanaly pops up as their racist boss, who's not too concerned about the killers' choice of victims, June Chadwick has a two-scene cameo as Petes' ex-wife (who's become a lesbian), John Fatooh is okay as Katherines' boyfriend Roger, Gordon Mulholland figures memorably as an exposition provider, and Sam Williams is similarly striking as another provider of background information.
At least "Headhunter" does manage to go out with a bang, as Pete channels his inner Ash and chops up everything in sight with a chainsaw. He and Katherine remain reasonably compelling heroes, and rooting interest in them does not wane.
Overall, an okay B horror flick.
Six out of 10.
The Brain (1988)
"I want action!"
The surreal and the utterly cheesy blend in this off the wall shocker, one of the weirder low budget ones to emerge from Canada in the 1980s. It has some interesting ideas, lightly touched upon, in this tale of a self-help guru / motivational speaker (David Gale of "Re-Animator" fame) who works hand in hand with a living, breathing brain to gain control of human minds. Likeable Tom Bresnahan ("The Kingdom") is an incorrigible high school student sent to to the gurus' base of operations who gets an eyeful of some very strange shenanigans.
If you're a fan of Gale, be forewarned that his role is really not that substantial, and that he doesn't get that much to do to cement his role as the story's villain. Fortunately, Bresnahan carries the movie reasonably well, and director Ed Hunt ("Bloody Birthday") keeps the whole thing rather amusing and fairly fast-paced.
Plenty of outre creature effects from the late Mark Williams ("Aliens", "The Fly" '86) help to make for a good show, as a couple of characters have close encounters with this alien brain, a very entertaining concoction from Williams with a face that only a mother could love. Add to that some partial nudity from Christine Kossak, who plays an assistant to our merry antagonist, and you have ingredients for a horror film certain to appeal to fans of 80s genre cinema.
Cynthia Preston ("Pin") is adorable as Bresnahan's leading lady, while George Buza ("Diary of the Dead") scowls and threatens adequately as Gales' thuggish associate.
As was said, if you're a lover of 80s horror, you'll likely regard "The Brain" as quite the hoot. As you can see from the poster art, it's pretty much impossible to take it very seriously.
Seven out of 10.
The Swinging Barmaids (1975)
A crackling exploitation-thriller.
Bruce Watson ('The Banana Splits Adventure Hour') is front and centre in this enjoyable trash offering, playing Tom, a pathetic, unhinged man who murders cocktail waitresses. Picking up his trail is a rumpled detective, Lt. White, played by the great screen tough guy William Smith.
Written by talented Roger Corman associate Charles Griffith ("The Little Shop of Horrors"), and directed by exploitation expert Gus Trikonis ("Moonshine County Express"), this is generally quite agreeable. It's an entertaining story with no filler, the expected amounts of sex (and nudity) and violence, and an array of solid performances. The attack scenes are pretty intense, and there's a reasonably exciting vehicle chase to cap off the film. (In his first outing as a killer, Tom is in disguise, and takes an assortment of photos of his victim. This aspect is dropped afterwards, presumably because our killer realizes that he can't continue with the same modus operandi.)
The movie benefits from engaging chemistry between our three appealing female leads - Laura Hippe ("Mausoleum") as the upbeat Jenny, Katie Taylor ("Invasion of the Bee Girls") as the sassy Susie, and Renie Radich ("Three the Hard Way") as the easygoing Marie. Top-billed Watson does quite well as the psycho, who puts up a "normal" front and even gets a job at the bar as dishwasher / bouncer, giving him increased access to potential victims. Co-starring are Dyanne "Ilsa" Thorne as an early victim, Zitto Kazann ("Waterworld") as bar owner Zitto, John Alderman ("New Years' Evil") as a detective, Milt Kogan ("Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde") as Jenny's dad, and Judith Roberts ("Eraserhead") as her mom. And Smith, of course, adds a touch of cool as the detective looking to solve these violent crimes.
Overall, this is quite absorbing and well worth a viewing for any fan of 70s trash.
Eight out of 10.
Black Gunn (1972)
Could you ever doubt Jim Brown?
Jim Brown once again shows us what screen presence is all about in this rather routine but enjoyable blaxploitation-action-melodrama. He plays the title character, who owns a club in L.A. One night, his younger brother Scott (Herbert Jefferson, Jr.), a member of a militant group, brings in the proceeds of a late night robbery, including some incriminating books; this brings down the wrath of the local mob. Before too long, Scott is dead and Gunn is therefore ripe for revenge.
The story is nothing special; it entertains solidly even if it's pretty predictable by and large. But director Robert Hartford-Davis (who went on to do "The Take" with Billy Dee Williams) handles a lot of this material with style. There's some eye candy on display (but no nudity), and the violence is potent all the way through the film. There's no shortage of slimy, reprehensible white villains to have fun booing; if nothing else, "Black Gunn" is enjoyable on a visceral level.
Brown is one cool customer, as so many of the best protagonists were in this sort of thing. You won't see him change his facial expression often, but you WILL see him take some lumps before this is over. However, as the primary nemesis, Martin Landau is almost thoroughly wasted, giving orders and throwing his weight around, but you never do see very much of the character.
Familiar faces scattered throughout the supporting cast also help to make it fun: Brenda Sykes (as Browns' gal pal), Luciana Paluzzi, Stephen McNally, Keefe Brasselle, Timothy Brown, William Campbell, Bernie Casey, Gary Conway, Tony Young, Jeannie Bell. The movie has a particularly strong role for Bruce Glover (of "Diamonds are Forever" fame) as a creepy white strong-arm man. He makes your skin crawl whenever he's on camera.
The dynamic cast and the equally dynamic soundtrack (composed by Tony Osborne) make this a most agreeable (if forgettable) way to kill an hour and 37 minutes.
Seven out of 10.
Milian makes it all worth watching.
"Almost Human" is the best known of the "poliziotesschi", or Italian crime films, made by the highly respected Umberto Lenzi. It's a crackling story that travels far on the unholy magnetism of its unbalanced villain, and it's also a story with its fair share of dark twists and turns. The action scenes are first-rate, and the script (by the prolific Ernesto Gastaldi) keeps one absorbed, wondering when, or if, our antagonist will ever receive his comeuppance.
Tomas Milian stars as Giulio Sacchi, a low life criminal who never passes up an opportunity to make some money - or spread some blood around. He actually has a girlfriend (Anita Strindberg), and while sitting with her one day he gets the bright idea: kidnap his girls' boss' daughter for a hefty ransom. He seems to be one step ahead of the law the entire time, although a determined police inspector (Henry Silva) does soon pick up his trail.
Mean-spiritedness prevails in this interesting, effectively violent film, and it's never more interesting than when it follows the activities of the piece of scum at the story's centre. Milian is a force of nature to behold here, having no regard at all for human life and fixated on that "big score" that will make him an insanely rich man. It's something of a treat to see Silva as the good guy who will ultimately work outside the law to see justice done, although truth be told, he's often been at his best when playing roles similar to Milians'.
Punctuated by the typically grandiose talents of composer Ennio Morricone, "Almost Human" is very, very good of its kind. You won't believe what depravities Giulio will be capable of from scene to scene; in particular, that moment in the country manor will definitely drive that point home.
You may not like Giulio Sacchi, but you may find him fascinating as he sometimes just can't control himself from his most vile intentions.
Seven out of 10.
The Take (1974)
"That's the best cover in the world...be a good cop."
Billy Dee Williams stars as a hot shot police detective named Sneed, who's just moved from San Francisco to Paloma, New Mexico, on job-related purposes. From there, he continues his practice of being on the payroll of local criminals. Here, the criminal in question is a kingpin, Manso (Vic Morrow) hiding behind a legitimate company. Sneed is always figuring how to do his job while also accepting this syndicate money, and he even has a business advisor (Sorrell Booke) to help him in his pursuits.
As directed by Robert Hartford-Davis, "The Take" is now somewhat forgotten over time, but it's an interesting little cop / crime film. Part of that stems from the fact that Sneed is so matter of fact about being corrupt. It's all part of the job for him.
There are capably handled action scenes, as well as a fair dose of violence, but "The Take" is fairly standard stuff for the most part. One standout sequence involves the humiliation of an overweight suspect (Robert Miller Driscoll). One thing the viewer will notice is that the screenplay (based on a novel by G.F. Newman) doesn't try to shoehorn in too many romantic scenes with Sneed and the woman he loves (Tracy Reed, gorgeous but infrequently seen). It mostly centres around this milieu of male characters who are sometimes morally compromised in some way. Beautiful photography of the various NM locations is a big plus.
Billy Dee does a solid job in the lead, although the scenario often has his supporting players stealing the movie away from him: Morrow as the sickly kingpin, Eddie Albert as the unknowing police captain, Albert Salmi as a colleague who's ALSO on the take, James Luisi as a trigger-happy thug, the ever-creepy John Chandler as a mystery attendant for the opening trial scene, and A Martinez as the determined young detective Tallbear. But the biggest surprise may be Frankie Avalon's deft performance as a low-level hood who becomes an informant. He has one impressive scene in an interrogation room where he breaks down.
All in all, pretty enjoyable, if not all that memorable.
Seven out of 10.
To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
To the Devil...the death of Hammer.
Occult novelist John Verney (veteran American star Richard Widmark) has his hands full. He has to keep safe the daughter (Nastassja Kinski) of an associate (Denholm Elliott). You see, eighteen years ago Elliott made an unholy pact, and now the girl is intended for use in something depraved by heretic priest Father Michael Raynor (Sir Christopher Lee).
At the time, this was the final theatrical horror film for Britains' renowned Hammer Studios. It was actually pretty successful, but the studio was simply too much in debt to completely reap the benefits. Based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley, it's a commendably low-key, restrained film, with occasional moments of violence / gore as well as cheesiness. As directed by Peter Sykes, the film has the potential to bore some members of the audience, but it's generally got enough interesting material in it to make it palatable.
The cast provides the principal value. Widmark at first seems really out of place, but he does a solid job. Lee delivers what is one of his all-time best villainous performances for Hammer. The supporting cast is pretty eclectic: Honor Blackman, Michael Goodliffe, Eva Maria Meineke, Anthony Valentine, Derek Francis, Frances de la Tour, etc. However, many eyes will be on Kinski, in one of her earliest roles; she does convey an essential naivety and innocence, and the audience will automatically be on her side. Those who are interested should note that she has a controversial few seconds' worth of full frontal nudity near the end.
Although not on the level of another Wheatley shocker ("The Devil Rides Out") produced by Hammer, this does show its viewers a fairly good time, operating with its approach of subtlety. One problem, however, is the ending, which is over too quickly, and robs us of real satisfaction.
All things considered, Hammer could easily have signed off with a much worse horror film. This, at least, is generally compelling.
Seven out of 10.
A cat that's been turned into a hideous mutant freak escapes from a genetics lab. Soon, it's found its way onto the pleasure yacht of unscrupulous businessman Walter Graham (Alex Cord). Everything seems fine for a while, until the cat starts to make its aggressive, bloodthirsty nature evident.
Given the extreme cheesiness of this premise (concocted by writer / producer / director Greydon Clark), the film is not quite as awful - as in laughably entertaining - as one might think. To his credit, Clark actually takes the whole thing pretty seriously - and his cast does, too.
That extends to the star value that Clark was able to assemble for this schlock epic. Cord is amusing as a shameless sleaze who's always got his eyes on the prize at the end of the run. Cast as his henchmen are a nerdy, bumbling Clu Gulager (who's very funny) and a cranky, hard-driving George Kennedy.
The younger generation is represented by a very sexy bunch of gals and guys: Toni Hudson as the ships' unlikely captain, Eric Larson as the resident egghead (because, of course, some bright guy has to be present to be able to understand the nature of the threat), Clare Carey, Beau Dremann, Rob Estes, and Shari Shattuck. However, given their presence, some people may be disappointed that the movie doesn't feature more nudity than it does.
Where the movie truly will make its audience bust a gut laughing are in the "special" effects sequences, where the harmless looking tabby reveals its monstrous inner self. These moments are so hilarious that they do help to create a "so bad it's good" appeal for "Uninvited".
Overall, the movie is funny enough to make it okay viewing.
Austin Stoker ("Assault on Precinct 13" '76) has a cameo, as does director Clark, who plays one of the stupid scientists at the outset.
Six out of 10.
Man's Best Friend (1993)
Seven wagging tails out of 10.
Ally Sheedy is fine as Lori Tanner, a reporter eager to move beyond fluff pieces, who then comes upon the biggest story of her career. With her trusty camerawoman in tow, she infiltrates the vivisection lab of mad scientist Dr. Jarret (Lance Henriksen) - and ends up with a steadfast companion, a genetically enhanced lab escapee named Max. Max seems sweet (and is helpful), but it's only a matter of time before the drugs used to put a lid on Max's most aggressive tendencies will wear off. Lori tries to care for Max, although this doesn't go well with her somewhat high-strung restaurateur boyfriend Perry (Fredric Lehne).
"Man's Best Friend" is an enjoyably preposterous sci-fi / horror / thriller that has a knowing sense of humour thanks to writer & director John Lafia ("Child's Play 2"). It takes various cliches associated with canines - mailmen, cats, dog catchers, etc. - and gives them some over the top flavour. Max, played wonderfully by a Tibetan Mastiff, is obviously extremely well trained, thanks to Clint Rowe, an old pro of an animal handler. It's quite amusing when we see him figure out doorknobs, climb a tree so he can make a meal out of a poor cat, and actually chew through a brake line in order to get the boyfriend out of the way.
The pacing is excellent, the violence (courtesy of Kevin Yagher) is quite effective, and "Man's Best Friend" moves along efficiently to the expected lively conclusion.
Henriksen is solid, as usual, playing a very unsubtle and dedicated villain. Robert Costanzo and John Cassini are okay as the pair of detectives faced with one of their stranger cases, and it's a delight as always to see the great character actor William Sanderson as a jerk junkyard owner whom you just KNOW is due for some comeuppance.
Overall, good fun for fans of the genre.
Seven out of 10.