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4/10
The fountain of youth is filled with blood!
22 November 2019
No, this slight, silly, forgettable feature is not a spin-off of a certain popular TV series. It's yet another of schlockmeister Jerry Warrens' shameless "cut and paste" jobs: he takes copious footage from a Mexican horror movie, "La Marca del Muerto", removes its soundtrack, adds hilariously moronic narration, and adds some newly shot scenes of his own.

The story has a young scientist removing his grandfathers' body from a mausoleum, using blood and lab equipment to resurrect grandpa, and finds out that - surprise, surprise - grandpa is evil, and he will continue to abduct hapless young victims, and replenish himself with their blood. Meanwhile, in the newly added Warren material, characters basically lounge around and talk about the plot.

Normally, this viewer loves schlock, but this is pretty dull overall. Although there are indications, as usual, that the original foreign film is at least fairly decent, it's all but ruined with the clunky revised soundtrack, and the flatly directed scenes from Warren. This material has dialogue that seems to go on forever, and is not of the slightest interest.

Familiar faces pep things up just a bit. Warren again works with regulars such as Lloyd Nelson, Katherine Victor, and Chuck Niles. Bruno Ve Sota, a corpulent actor and filmmaker who turned up in a fair bit of B movies from the 50s and 60s, is mildly amusing as an inspector who yammers on while getting a massage from Niles' character.

"La Marca del Muerto" does look like it may be worth checking out, due to its Gothic flavours and atmosphere. It's too bad that Warren did it no favours here.

Four out of 10.
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Lovely Molly (2011)
7/10
Worth a look.
20 November 2019
Molly (Gretchen Lodge) is a janitor who marries Tim (Johnny Lewis), a long distance truck driver. They move into her old family home, but since Tim is away a lot of the time, it leaves Molly alone with her unpleasant memories of her youth; obsessed with filming things, she comes to believe that there is some unholy, spectral presence in the house.

Commendably, Eduardo Sanchez, best known for "The Blair Witch Project", never dips his toes all the way into supernatural waters, preferring to leave us with an ambiguous take on a young woman losing her sanity and her health. This is also a young woman so deeply traumatized that it doesn't take much to send her over the edge. Indeed, she is a former junkie who is soon using once again. And Tim and Molly's sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden) are at their wits' end trying to cope with Molly's behaviour.

The film does keep visual effects to a bare minimum, but gives lovers of more visceral horror some good gore to enjoy. What "Lovely Molly" really is, is a good "slow burn" type of psychological horror film, the kind we don't get all that often in an era where genre cinema typically depends on jump scares. One of its main assets is the sound design, which Sanchez had perfected with BWP and a minimal budget. It's guaranteed to keep some viewers on edge. The other major point of interest is a gripping, bravura central performance by Lodge, who makes Molly sympathetic enough to sustain the films' 100 minute run time. But the acting from all of the principals is engaging, including Field Blauvelt as the genial Pastor Bobby.

Location shooting in Maryland, cinematography, production design, and music are all well done, but ultimately take a back seat to the journey undertaken by our haunted main character.

Seven out of 10.
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Blind Date (1987)
6/10
Not bad, but very predictable.
19 November 2019
After attaining TV stardom on 'Moonlighting', Bruce Willis got his first starring role in a feature film with this comedy from farce expert Blake Edwards (and screenwriter Dale Launer). Bruce plays Walter Davis, a rising young executive who needs to impress everybody during a corporate dinner. Desperate for a date, he agrees to a blind date with Nadia Gates (Kim Basinger), the cousin of his brothers' wife. She's a knockout, and seems utterly charming.

The hitch is that she CANNOT tolerate alcohol. And what does the moronic Walter do? He's soon giving her champagne. "One drink's not gonna make you go CRAZY..." It's not long before she tosses her inhibitions out the window, and proceeds to make a shambles of the night out. Not helping at all is the constant annoying presence of her psychotic-jealous ex-boyfriend David (John Larroquette). Ultimately, the overstressed Walter ends up utterly losing it.

While it is a little hard to be that sympathetic towards Walter, the predicament taking place has its moments. The humour tends towards the obvious, and truth be told, the film can get a little tiresome. This is not Blake Edwards at the peak of his abilities.

That said, the pacing is pretty decent, and the cast works hard to sell the material. Willis is amusing, and has good comic chemistry with the stunning Basinger. Larroquette, who mastered the portrayal of pure smarm with his Emmy-winning role on 'Night Court', is a hoot. Hartman is great as always, as the slime ball brother. Numerous familiar faces turn up in supporting and bit parts: William Daniels, George Coe, Mark Blum, Stephanie Faracy, Alice Hirson, Graham Stark, Joyce Van Patten, Georgann Johnson, Sab Shimono, Armin Shimerman, Brian George, Timothy Stack, Diana Bellamy, etc. Musician Stanley Jordan makes a guest appearance; also performing on screen are Billy Vera and the Beaters (who had that big 80s hit with "At This Moment").

Certainly there are some good laughs to be had, such as David and his traffic accidents (Edwards commendably stops short of beating this joke to death).

The final shot is quite funny.

Six out of 10.
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Game of Thrones: Lord Snow (2011)
Season 1, Episode 3
7/10
"When winter does come, gods help us all if we're not ready!"
18 November 2019
Among the assorted story threads of this solid third episode of the series: Ned Stark arrives at King's Landing, and is dismayed by the reckless spending done by the King. Poor Bran learns that he has been crippled for life after his fall. Daenerys starts to acclimate well to the life of a queen, also learning that she has become pregnant (with a boy, she believes). Jon Snow, Ned's illegitimate son, undertakes the training necessary to become a member of the Night's Watch.

As usual, this viewer is impressed with the level of care and precision that the cast and crew of this series show off. 'Game of Thrones' was given a true cinematic flair, indeed, with some incredible sets and locations alike, and the cast absolutely shines in their colourful roles. They grace us with some truly excellent performances, totally immersing us in this antiquated, classic fantasy world. Sean Bean in particular has always been one of this viewers' favourite actors, and it's nice to see him as the lead protagonist in a series when he'd made his name playing various villains. (Leading to that amusing running joke of how often he's been killed off in movies.) It was also a treat to see such veterans as Julian Glover ("The Empire Strikes Back", "For Your Eyes Only") and Peter Vaughan ("Straw Dogs", "Brazil") in guest starring roles.

The dialogue is still an invigorating mix of antiquated speech & delivery, and pointed use of cuss words. Best of all, 'Lord Snow' successfully walks a line between very serious and heartfelt moments and some priceless humour (like Tyrion urinating off the top of The Wall at one point).

The series continues to be fun to watch.

Seven out of 10.
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5/10
A (very) minor but amusing genre item.
17 November 2019
John Carradine and Lon Chaney Jr. headline this micro-budget horror flick about a family called the Desards that are always at odds with each other. Lon plays Belial, decked out with forehead horns and supposedly bearing a cloven foot. He's the antagonist seeking to wrest power away from his more benevolent brother, black magician Andre (Carradine). Caught in the ensuing battle are Paul (Tom Drake, who acted with Lon in "The Cyclops"), their brother, and Valerie (sultry young Dolores Faith, "The Phantom Planet"), their sister. A pair of psychiatrists, Eric Campion (Jerome Thor, "10 to Midnight") and Katherine Mallory (Andrea King, "The Beast with Five Fingers") are brought in to lend some assistance.

The story goes that this schlock epic was begun by one group of hack filmmakers, but not finished, and *another* group of hacks stepped in to try to salvage the production. Harold Daniels ("Bayou"), Jerry Warren ("Teenage Zombies"), and Reginald LeBorg ("The Black Sleep") were all involved, to one degree or another. It's fortunate that the story (credited to Richard Mahoney, who based it on a novel by Lora Crozetti) is at all coherent or entertaining, although the limited funding available shows at every turn. What counts as either the high point or the low point, depending on your sensibilities, is the hilariously inadequate werewolf makeup seen on one character near the end. Overall, the film is on the dull, uneventful side, but this viewer couldn't really bring himself to hate it. It's watchable, if hardly a "good" film. Other people, however, might cringe seeing Lon and Carradine in this, and feel that they couldn't possibly have sunk any lower. Both men had a tendency to say "yes" to a lot of scripts when it might have been best to say "no".

The running time is padded out with a couple of scenes of attractive young ladies belly-dancing, and to be honest, one of the brightest unintentional laughs comes from watching this film on DVD with the English SDH subtitles on. The word "(dancing)" actually appears on screen whenever these scenes take place!

Pay attention to see one of Warrens' regulars, Katherine Victor, as one of the coven members.

Five out of 10.
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Xia nan yang (1974)
6/10
"With friends like you, who needs enemies? I spit on you!"
16 November 2019
"The Black Dragon" is good goofy fun from that era in martial arts cinema when everybody wanted to cash in on the great success of "Enter the Dragon". This is obviously low budget, and is pretty crude, but it's lively and funny. The violence is potent enough to give the film a true visceral feel, and the characters are all quite easy to watch.

Jason Piao Pai plays Tai-Lin, a muscular hero who leaves his life as farmhand to seek fame and fortune in the Philippines. He befriends Siao-Mao (Ruel Vernal), a lowly street rat, and goes to work on the docks. He realizes that he is working for a crime organization that is smuggling opium, so he teams up with other local martial artists to teach his crooked boss and his cronies a lesson.

If you seek this out as a fan of four time world champion Ron Van Clief, be warned that he doesn't have much screen time. He's one of the other aforementioned martial artists; at first, he just seems like a troublemaker, but then you realize that he has an agenda. Ron is solid at kicking ass, but this really is Jasons' film, and he carries it quite well.

Of course, if you're watching the edited, dubbed North American release, there's a lot of entertainment value in the ridiculous performers doing the English language dialogue. These people are priceless. And the music is likewise a real hoot, as the filmmakers appropriate other scores, like the memorable 'Young and the Restless' theme and even Morricones' soundtrack for "Once Upon a Time in the West"!

A must for people who adore the cheesier side of chop-socky cinema.

Six out of 10.
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7/10
A great showcase for Richard Thomas.
14 November 2019
Richard Thomas of 'Waltons' fame stars here as Jimmy J., an Arkansas undergrad in the 1950s who idolizes rising film star James Dean. He feels a kinship with the young actor, thinking that their lives have mirrored each others'. When he learns of Deans' death, he goes a little crazy, dragging his friends into assorted escapades that ultimately have a sad result.

Written and directed by James Bridges ("The China Syndrome"), this little period piece seems to be somewhat forgotten nowadays. It's not always terribly compelling or interesting, but it's still worthy of some respect, considering the way that it examines the fascination that some people feel for movie stars. Dean in particular had an iconic presence that resonated with a generation; it's not hard to believe that his passing was deeply felt by people like Jimmy J.

A mixture of comedy and drama, "September 30, 1955" is sometimes amusing and sometimes poignant, leaving us with one memorable showcase speech for Thomas, and the idea that life is not really "like a movie" as some folks might think.

The period recreation is pretty good, and the film benefits from a touching score by Leonard Rosenman, who had scored the Dean vehicles "East of Eden" and "Rebel Without a Cause" once upon a time. But the main reason to watch is the talented, engaging young cast, some of them making their feature-film debuts. Thomas is wonderful, and his supporting actors make for an endearing ensemble: Deborah Benson (leading lady in the superior slasher "Just Before Dawn") as Jimmy J.'s girlfriend, Lisa Blount ("Prince of Darkness") as the fellow free spirit and Dean devotee, Thomas Hulce ("Amadeus") as the roommate, Dennis Christopher ("Breaking Away") as the sidekick, and Dennis Quaid as the jock. Collin Wilcox Paxton ("To Kill a Mockingbird") plays Jimmy J.'s mother, and Susan Tyrrell ("Forbidden Zone") plays Billie Jean's mom.

A semi-autobiographical tale for Bridges, who grew up in Paris, Arkansas himself.

Seven out of 10.
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8/10
Get that cat out of here.
12 November 2019
Few comedy actors can be as brilliant as Steve Martin when he's on top of his game. During the "wild and crazy" part of his film career, when he often collaborated with director Carl Reiner, he practically raised silliness to an art form. "The Man with Two Brains" is undeniably dopey, but it's hilariously so, coming up with enough verbal and visual gags to sustain it through an energetic hour and a half. The very funny script (by Steve, Carl, and George Gipe, the latter a writer whose works include the novelizations of "Gremlins" and "Back to the Future") can't help but lose some momentum as it goes along, but it remains quite watchable through to the end.

Steve is a hoot as the brilliant (according to him) brain surgeon Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, who has pioneered "screw top, zip lock" brain surgery. Into his life comes sultry, scheming witch Dolores Benedict (a radiant Kathleen Turner), who treats him like garbage. A ray of hope then enters his life when he falls in love with a brain in a jar, voiced by Sissy Spacek. He then goes about figuring out how to create a new "home" for the brain, whose name is Anne.

Steve, Carl, and company show that it takes very clever, and intelligent, comic minds to come up with such engaging foolishness. While the film does exhaust most of its best gags in the earlier parts, it's so wonderfully played by all that it still wins you over. The delivery of the lines is often breathless. As has probably been said numerous times before, two of the best bits involve the decor of Dr. Necessiters' (David Warner) condo, which looks like a much more traditional mad scientists' lab on the inside, and the identity of the fiendish Elevator Killer, once of the most priceless payoffs that you'll see in a film of this kind.

A rich variety of familiar faces pop up to lend Steve able support: Paul Benedict, Richard Brestoff, James Cromwell, George Furth, Earl Boen, Francis X. McCarthy, Randi Brooks (as the drop dead gorgeous hooker with the off-putting voice), Bernard Behrens, etc. Carls' wife Estelle, who went on to have that great cameo in their son Robs' film "When Harry Met Sally", appears as a tourist / victim; Jeffrey Combs, pre "Re-Animator", has a bit at about the seven to eight minute mark.

Zany fun, with a funky electronic score by Joel Goldsmith, that is perfect for anybody who just wants to relax their brain for 90 minutes of levity.

Eight out of 10.
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Bitter Moon (1992)
8/10
This takes us on quite an interesting journey.
11 November 2019
Co-writer / producer / director Roman Polanski again delivers a memorable bit of entertainment that touches upon serious relationship and personality issues. Hugh Grant and Kristin Scott Thomas play Nigel and Fiona, a reserved British married couple who go on an ocean cruise. They make the acquaintance of loud, obnoxious paraplegic Oscar (Peter Coyote), a failed writer, and his stunningly sexy French wife Mimi (Emmanuelle Seigner, who'd had her breakthrough role in Polanski's "Frantic"). Oscar has singled out Nigel, and is determined to tell Nigel the entire sordid story of his union with Mimi. When Oscar and Mimi first met, they were passionately in love, but over the years their relationship devolved into something far more twisted. And Oscar realizes full well that Nigel is developing an infatuation with his wife.

Coyotes' hilarious, bravado performance really carries this movie, even at it takes its time and goes on for approximately two hours and 20 minutes. He's fascinating to watch, as is Ms. Seigner. "Bitter Moon" is largely the story of these two people, with ample use of flashbacks, and it's compelling to watch as the bloom comes off the rose, and their chemistry takes on this bizarre, disturbed nature. Mostly, what Grant and Scott Thomas do is *react* to these new acquaintances, leading to an absolutely delicious finale when she finally decides to cast aside any predisposition towards repression. Victor Banerjee is engaging as a fellow passenger; Stockard Channing has an unbilled cameo as a literary agent.

Overall, Polanski does an expert job of pulling the strings and having this game play out for us, with Oscar assuring Nigel that the story isn't over yet - far from it. His use of Paris locations (where the extended back story takes place) and studio sets is exemplary, and it's all set to lovely music by Vangelis, well known for his scores for "Chariots of Fire" and "Blade Runner". Polanski wrote the script with frequent collaborator Gerard Brach and John Brownjohn, based on the novel by Pascal Bruckner, and the dialogue is fun; Oscar sure talks the way a writer would, with his tendency towards the grandiose.

At times, the film *does* come off as melodramatic trash, but in Polanski's capable hands, the results couldn't be more diverting. It does leave the viewer pondering what might become of Nigel and Fiona as "Bitter Moon" draws to a close.

Eight out of 10.
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Full Eclipse (1993 TV Movie)
6/10
Entertaining junk.
10 November 2019
Mario Van Peebles plays Max Dire, a cop going through some rough times. He's seen some weird and supposedly tragic things happen to his partner Jim (Tony Denison), and of course his marriage is on the rocks as well. Then a fellow cop named Garou (Bruce Payne) who heads a "special squad" goes about trying to induct Max into his team. They're supposedly dedicated to wiping out crime, but in truth they're not much better than the bad guys on the streets.

If you get a kick out of genre crossovers, this action-cop-melodrama-horror flick may provide you with enough amusement. Overall, it's pretty standard - the writing, the acting, the effects, etc. Still, its central hook is enough of a hoot to reel in the viewer, and the filmmakers try to draw parallels between the actions of the special squad and drug addiction (these guys and gals regularly inject themselves with something that gives them superhuman abilities). But at least it gives a little fresh life to the ultra-predictable "dead partner" trope.

Van Peebles has some good chemistry with the smouldering Patsy Kensit, as a member of Paynes' team. He himself does an okay job, but it's Payne, an actor who's typically specialized in villain roles, who dominates much of the film. It IS fun to see him and Kensit play Americans; for the most part, they are able to suppress their natural accents. And there's a steady stream of familiar faces in the supporting cast: Jason Beghe ("Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear"), Paula Marshall ("Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth"), Dean Norris ('Breaking Bad'), Willie C. Carpenter ("Hard Target"), Victoria Rowell ('The Young and the Restless'), Scott Paulin ("Teen Wolf"), and Mel Winkler ("Devil in a Blue Dress").

This is preposterous stuff, but it's slickly made (genre veteran Anthony Hickox ("Waxwork" and its sequel, etc.) is the director), and reasonably paced, wrapping up in a fairly trim 98 minutes, and it includes enough sex and violence to hold the attention of its audience.

Six out of 10.
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Defiance (1980)
7/10
A formula movie where the formula works.
9 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Jan-Michael Vincent is charismatic and engaging as usual in the role of Tommy, a merchant seaman currently on suspension. So he has to kill some time in NYC while waiting for a ship assignment, and this is a city he doesn't particularly care for. He finds a place to stay in the Lower East Side, where the citizens are being plagued and terrorized by a colourful, multi-ethnic gang called The Souls.

Tommy's main purpose is to get the hell out of this slum the first chance he gets, but any viewer will feel confident that he will experience a change of heart. As it stands, he's the first area resident to actually stand up to these degenerate creeps. This inspires neighbours such as Carmine (Danny Aiello), Herbie (Frank Pesce), and Abbie (Don Blakely). Tommy finds romance with the lovely Marsha (Theresa Saldana), and befriends a kid (Fernando Lopez) who lives with a benevolent former fighter named "Whacko" (Lenny Montana).

As you can see, there are plenty of familiar faces here (future star Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico is visible throughout), and they give a boost to a familiar storyline. Even so, director John Flynn ("The Outfit", "Rolling Thunder", "Out for Justice") is on top of his game, knowing just what buttons to push, and delivering top visceral entertainment. It's pure "root for the good guys, boo the bad guys" material. And these bad guys are absolute scum. Yet, they're democratic about who they torment, beating up senior citizens and young children alike.

Rudy Ramos is malevolent fun as swaggering Souls leader "Angel" (an ironic name, at that), and the radiant Saldana is a fine love interest, but Art Carney doesn't get that much to do as old Jewish grocer Abe.

Overall, "Defiance" is well worth your time, and it would make an appropriate double feature with William Lustigs' "Vigilante" (which also features Pesce and Blakely). However, it does have a sad, sordid postscript: after this, Saldana was victimized by a stalker who stabbed her multiple times; her ordeal was told in a TV movie.

Nicely scored by Dominic Frontiere, who realized full well what kind of music this urban exploitation-melodrama-thriller needed.

Seven out of 10.
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6/10
It has a certain charm about it.
8 November 2019
Gene Hackman is completely winning as George Dupler, an average Joe who vents after repeatedly being passed over for promotion in his company. So he gets demoted to managing an all-night drugstore - a place with a decidedly weird clientele. He buys some trouble for himself when he pursues new acquaintance Cheryl Gibbons (Barbra Streisand), who's already been getting it on with Georges' teenage son Freddie (Dennis Quaid)!

Overall, an interesting venture for the stars that didn't really deserve to bomb so mightily in its time. It's flawed, to be sure (for one thing, it's not completely resolved to any real satisfaction), but it has a certain endearing quality. In that sense, it's much like the unconventional casting of Streisand here, who was a replacement for Lisa Eichhorn. (Supposedly, Gene and Lisa did not get along, which is one reason given why the switch was made.) But Babs is fairly likeable here, and much of the cast does fine work. "All Night Long" is just offbeat and loopy enough to be watchable, although it works better when depicting the strange folk who come out at night, rather than the romance at the centre of the plot. (The screenplay is by W.D. Richter, who more often than not has specialized in offbeat tales, like his directorial debut, "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai in the Eighth Dimension".)

Hackman is the main reason to watch. He's at his most engaging, playing this middle aged man dealing with the various setbacks and nuances at this stage in his life. But there's a steady parade of familiar faces in supporting and bit parts to perk things up: Kevin Dobson, William Daniels, Hamilton Camp, Ann Doran, Raleigh Bond, Tandy Cronyn, Terry Kiser, Vernee Watson, Chris Mulkey, Richard Stahl, Bonnie Bartlett, etc.

In the almost 40 years since this release, Gene and Babs have expressed negativity towards the film if they indeed acknowledged it at all. And many Streisand fans denote it as a low point in her career. But the casual movie watcher might not be so harsh, and see this for what it is: a harmless, amiable trifle.

Six out of 10.
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8/10
Superior sleaze from Jess Franco.
7 November 2019
The setting is Inquisition-era Portugal. A teenager named Maria (appealingly played by Susan Hemingway) is seen cavorting with her slightly older boyfriend. Unfortunately for her, the man who witnesses this is holy man Father Vincent (William Berger), who forces her to atone for her "sin" by making her enter his convent. There, she finds out that these so-called people of God are actually Satanists, who regularly indulge in all of kinds of filth while embracing their dark lord.

The extremely prolific cult favourite filmmaker Jesus "Jess" Franco made TONS of films like this in the 1970s, when he'd hooked up with Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich. After a while, most of them tend to blend together, but this bucks the trend and stands above the pack. This is largely because the protagonist in this case is a sympathetic child who tries in vain to maintain some degree of innocence. Also, the fact that our antagonists are these seedy blasphemers ensures that some viewers will tune in to see Vincent and his Mother Superior (Ana Zanatti) hopefully come to ruin. The Inquisition doesn't play into the plot that often, but as scenes of torture play out, we're reminded of its horrors. On the fringes of the action is Portugals' young prince (Herman Jose) who believes that the Church has too much influence and power.

But don't worry if you watch this solely out of an interest in cinematic trash. There's sex, nudity, depravity, and kinkiness aplenty. Franco knows that certain demands will be made of him in making this kind of film, and he fulfills them all.

Overall, this is actually a fairly classy production, with excellent music, cinematography, and production values. And the performances are right on the money, with little scenery chewing from most of the cast. Adding some comedy relief is the portly mayor (Vitor Mendes), whom we think might be a saviour for young Maria.

This viewer is still fairly unfamiliar with the whole "nunsploitation" genre, and will be sure to delve further.

Eight out of 10.
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5/10
Do not panic. Do not panic.
6 November 2019
Evil alien invaders from Neptune - slow, inept, clumsy ones at that - attempt to take over the Earth. It's up to the dedicated scientists and military of Japan to figure out ways to combat the menace. Of course, a mysterious hero who is dubbed "Space Chief" by children conveniently shows up, whenever the plot calls for it, with the help of his own aircraft.

If nothing else, "Invasion of the Neptune Men" proves that the Japanese can deliver hilarious schlock just as well as anybody. It's a crude, low-budget affair dependant on stock footage. But what really sticks out - and what makes it as entertaining as it is - is the terrible dubbing, and the memorably goofy performances of the voice over actors reciting the English dialogue. And what ridiculous dialogue it is - our heroes devise an "electro-barrier" to try to repel the alien force (you could play a drinking game for every time the words "electro-barrier" are uttered). Unintentional laughter helps a viewer get through this fairly painlessly - and fortunately, the print on this DVD only runs about 69 minutes anyway. In one amusing touch, there are malevolent "soldiers" that, for whatever reason, are in drag.

The major debit are those six Japanese kids serving as a collective of protagonists. They're the first ones to lay eyes on a Neptune spaceship, and man, are these kids annoying. It doesn't help that the people performing their English dialogue have got to be the most dopey of anybody working on this priceless flick.

A young, handsome Shin'ichi "Sonny" Chiba is the star, but he's registered more strongly in later vehicles; one has to wonder if he bothers leaving this one on his resume.

Five out of 10.
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7/10
Kill 'em, and dump 'em!
4 November 2019
Michael Wai-Man Chan plays a young fighter named Shen Wei Ta, who accidentally kills the obnoxious brother of his fiancee. Ashamed of himself, he takes it on the lam, ending up in a remote fishing village where corruption reigns supreme. He's vowed never to fight again - at one point, he even goes so far as to maim himself - but he just might have to, in order to combat the gangland bosses who intimidate all the locals.

"Chinese Hercules" is not the slickest film of this type that one will ever see, but it serves its purpose, delivering one intense fight after another. Granted, the dubbing is hilarious - and who would expect anything different? - and the over-use of LOUD "impact sounds" is also worthy of many a chuckle. But the story is pretty decent, and the on-screen performances are capable enough. Despite the supposed brutality of the combat, there's very little gore to put a bad taste in the mouths of more squeamish viewers. The widescreen photography and the location shooting are excellent.

Yang Sze (a.k.a. Bolo Yeung) is touted as the star attraction, and the presence of this martial artist with the awe-inspiring physique will no doubt be the element that will entice most people. But this is really Chans' film, with Bolo reduced to maybe 20 or 25 minutes of screen time, as he portrays muscle employed by the bad guys to keep the locals in line.

All things considered, this is pretty fun. It lacks true distinction, but there are much worse ways to spend 95 minutes.

Jackie Chan and Corey Yuen have bit parts.

Seven out of 10.
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7/10
Good fun, for fans of the fantasy genre.
3 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Although "Arabian Adventure" is not up to some of the classics ("The 7th Voyage of Sinbad", "Jason and the Argonauts", etc.), it does show its audience a pretty good time. Yes, some of the effects and sets do show their age, and were probably done on a limited budget. Also, it doesn't look like our heroes have to overcome very many obstacles or challenges on the way to achieving their mission. As it is, it's mainly for a family audience, and kids are sure to be charmed. Overall, this is fairly harmless with very little violence and absolutely no gore, although rest assured, the guilty do not go unpunished.

Sir Christopher Lee is devilish fun as an evil ruler in the ancient years of the Middle East. He needs to obtain a magical rose in order to solidify the hold of evil on the world, and a young man (Oliver Tobias) who claims to be a Prince is willing to go on the mission. Provided, of course, that he gets to win the hand of the lovely Princess Zuleira (beautiful Emma Samms of future 'Dynasty' fame). Joining Tobias on his journey will be a snivelling toady (Milo O'Shea) and a spunky kid named Majeed (the appealing Puneet Sira, who ultimately walks away with the movie).

Adults will delight in a first-rate cast: Capucine, Peter Cushing, Mickey Rooney, John Ratzenberger ("Cliff Clavin" plays a despicable heel in this one), Shane Rimmer, Elisabeth Welch, Suzanne Danielle, Art Malik, Milton Reid, John Wyman, etc. Tobias is an amiable, studly good guy, although it must be said that Sira emerges as the true hero of the piece. This is a child with a good heart who often knows the right thing to do and say.

There's a glorious score composed by Ken Thorne, with much of the shooting done at Pinewood Studios in London. The director is Kevin Connor, who in the space of a few years had become an old hand at this type of genre fare. His other credits include "At the Earth's Core", "The Land That Time Forgot", "The People That Time Forgot", and "Warlords of Atlantis". He makes this good, agreeable entertainment, with one original element: the good guys and the bad guys duelling high above the ground while riding magical flying carpets.

Seven out of 10.
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8/10
Walter, you're wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way.
3 November 2019
The very definition of "madcap", producer / director Howard Hawks' update of the play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (previously filmed in 1931) is a sight to behold. The witticisms and insults come flying so fast and furious that it's impossible to catch it all, especially with so many of the actors speaking roughly at the speed of light. (No doubt that this is the kind of comedy that improves with each viewing.) That may make it hard for some viewers to make a lot of sense out of it all, but the film still benefits from high energy and a blazing pace. It barely allows its audience to catch its breath!

Cary Grant is hilarious as Walter Burns, a conniving sleaze ball who works as editor for the Morning Post newspaper. His ace reporter and ex-wife, Hildy Johnson (gorgeous Rosalind Russell), announces her intention to leave the business behind and marry insurance man Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). This he WILL not allow to happen, coming up with assorted schemes to put monkey wrenches into her plans. And all of this while a breaking story about a pathetic cop killer (John Qualen), who's set to be executed very soon, occupies much of their time.

The cast couldn't be better, in a yarn in which the news media take a serious drubbing. They're portrayed as ruthless, cynical, and willing to do almost anything in order to "get the story". (The opening disclaimer does read that the screenplay doesn't necessarily bear a resemblance to real life, although in THIS day and age, it's often easy to believe the worst about some characters in this line of work.) The stars are extremely easy to watch, and are backed up by a constant stream of superior character actors: Gene Lockhart, Porter Hall, Ernest Truex, Cliff Edwards, Clarence Kolb, Roscoe Karns, Frank Jenks, Regis Toomey, Abner Biberman, Frank Orth, Alma Kruger, Billy Gilbert, etc. The pretty Helen Mack has a memorable role as a sad-sack woman whose heart has gone out to the doomed Earl Williams (Qualen).

Hawks' style has transferred between the films in his resume, with actors BARELY waiting for co-stars to finish speaking before barking out their reams of dialogue. As this viewer already said, it makes the film run the risk of being incoherent, but overall everything is so fresh and funny that it makes "His Girl Friday" quite entertaining to watch.

Filmed again in 1974, and updated to the satellite television era in 1988 as "Switching Channels".

Eight out of 10.
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9/10
"I am not what is called a civilized man, Professor."
2 November 2019
The Walt Disney company hit pay dirt with this lavish, no-expenses-spared adaptation of the celebrated Jules Verne novel. It's a wondrous, one of a kind experience, and one of the best adventure-fantasies to ever come out of Hollywood. The cast is first-rate, the action scenes highly impressive, and the production design simply amazing. It's all set to a rousing score by Paul J. Smith, and was the second film to be shot in the very new CinemaScope aspect ratio (an extra wide picture designed to draw viewers away from their TVs and back into theatres).

In the 19th century, a dignified gentleman named Captain Nemo (James Mason) operates a futuristic submarine dubbed The Nautilus, and because it looks quite ominous (with green-tinted "eyes" in front), it gets thought of as a "monster" that wreaks havoc on shipping routes. A professor named Arronax (Paul Lukas), his associate Conseil (Peter Lorre), and a lusty, fun-loving sailor, Ned Land (Kirk Douglas) end up on board on The Nautilus, where Ned fails to be impressed with Nemo, but Arronax proves to be in real awe of the advances that Nemo and his crew have made.

This grand-scale film is truly awesome. Although the novel had been filmed before and has been filmed since, this very much remains the definitive interpretation of the material. Part of what makes it so special is the wonderful Mason and his performance as the unbalanced Nemo. This is a fascinating, complex character hardened by mans' inhumanity to man; he's no true villain, but rather a crazed antagonist who sees himself as an avenging angel. The other roles don't get fleshed out like this, but the actors are such a delight that it hardly matters. The effectiveness of Douglas' performance, as a stereotypical yo-ho-ho, life-of-the-party entertainer, may be a matter of personal taste, but both Lukas and Lorre are great. Fine support is provided by Robert J. Wilke as the thuggish First Mate, Ted de Corsia as the disbelieving ship captain Farragut, and Carleton Young as U.S. government agent John Howard. The seal Esmeralda, a.k.a. "Esmie", has a very endearing presence.

The Nautilus itself is a very cool vehicle with a striking design (much kudos should go to production designer Harper Goff), and the action sequence with a giant squid attacking the submarine during a stormy night is a true corker. It's definitely this viewers' favourite part of the film.

Although the late, great filmmaker Richard Fleischer didn't really have a style that he carried from movie to movie, he was one of the great journeyman directors, and this is one of his best efforts. He was nervous about taking on the project, since his legendary animator father Max and Disney were professional rivals, but his dad would give him his blessing.

A must see for fans of classic literature *and* classic Hollywood productions.

Look for a teen aged Charles Grodin, making his uncredited feature debut as a drummer boy. (You have to be quick to spot him.)

Nine out of 10.
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7/10
Not for purists, maybe, but an irreverent spin on the usual Frankenstein formula.
28 October 2019
"The Horror of Frankenstein" is a very amusing entry in the Hammer "Frankenstein" series. A semi-spoof / redux of "The Curse of Frankenstein", it signalled a temporary changing of the guard as it recast the role of the very determined not-so-good doctor. Old pro Peter Cushing was replaced with a handsome young fellow named Ralph Bates, and he doesn't even try to imitate Cushing in any way. Rather, he makes the role his own, playing him as a supremely arrogant, egocentric jerk who doesn't stop at murder to obtain his needs. He'll kill (or have killed) ANYBODY who presents an obstacle to him. He goes about his typical experimenting with life and death, ultimately creating a huge, lumbering beast (David "Darth Vader" Prowse) that goes on the eventual, expected rampage.

Bates is great fun, acting out this script by Jeremy Burnham and debuting producer / director Jimmy Sangster, who'd made his name writing screenplays for Hammer. There are some good, hearty laughs to be had, if not much in the way of real atmosphere. Frankensteins' lab is still full of interesting-looking equipment, and is a great set. Also, this film is in the mold of much latter-day Hammer with the increased accent on sex appeal (not to mention graphic violence). As the promiscuous housekeeper in the employ of the Frankensteins, Kate O'Mara is a delight as a sultry schemer whose breasts constantly threaten to burst out of her costume. Another Hammer beauty, Veronica Carlson, is entrancing, even if she has the less interesting role of the "good girl" who adores Frankenstein. The supporting cast is full of great British acting talent: Dennis Price, Jon Finch, Bernard Archard, Graham James, James Hayter, Joan Rice, Stephen Turner, Neil Wilson, and James Cossins. The best roles are played by Price and Rice as a husband-and-wife team of professional grave robbers! Actor / bodybuilder Prowse clearly had the physique to play The Monster, but fails to leave much of an impression in the role; he does a better job in the subsequent "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell".

Some genre / Hammer enthusiasts might not be too impressed with this offbeat take on the material, or the turning of the Frankenstein character into such a pompous villain, but this viewer had quite a good time with it. It may just boil down to personal taste.

Seven out of 10.
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7/10
"My name...is HORACE!"
27 October 2019
A likeable gang of pre-teens and teenagers are devoted to classic movie monsters. They then get the shock of their lives when they realize that the monsters are all too real. Dracula (Duncan Regehr) shows up, looking for an all-important amulet that, if destroyed at a very particular moment, will allow Evil to reign on Earth. But the caped and fanged one will get by with a little help from his friends: the Frankenstein monster (Tom Noonan), the Wolf Man (Carl Thibault), the Gill Man (Tom Woodruff Jr.), and the Mummy (Michael Reid MacKay).

"The Monster Squad" was the other 80s favourite written and directed by Fred Dekker, who'd previously done the equally fun "Night of the Creeps". His whole hook is "The Little Rascals meet the Universal Monsters", and, as such, it's an appealing, high energy horror / fantasy / action flick. People may argue that it lacks guts and vigor, but it IS aimed at a juvenile audience, so this hardly matters. It's bolstered by a very appealing cast of kids - Andre Gower, Robby Kiger (the original "Children of the Corn"), Brent Chalem, Ashley Bank, Michael Faustino, Ryan Lambert. And for adults, there's an appeal in a steady supply of familiar character actors and actresses in supporting roles: Stephen Macht, Mary Ellen Trainor, Stan Shaw, Leonardo Cimino, Jon Gries, Jack Gwillim, David Proval, Robert Lesser. Sharp featured Cimino is especially great as "Scary German Guy", who, in one very brief but interesting touch, is revealed to be a Holocaust survivor. Noonan, who has hit paydirt with a number of creepy and menacing roles over the decades (like Francis Dollarhyde in "Manhunter" the previous year) is an endearing Frankenstein monster, who poses absolutely no threat to the young heroes.

There's a fair bit to enjoy here: rousing music by Bruce Broughton, good widescreen photography, a heavy dose of humour (the zippy script was written by Dekker and Shane Black), fun monster design by Stan Winston, and the razzle-dazzle visual effects done by Richard Edlunds' Boss Film Corporation. The film only runs a scant 82 minutes, so it doesn't take much time to work up to a real fever pitch.

"The Monster Squad" is famous for one particular line uttered by Chalem, which people can't help but quote nearly every time the film gets a mention.

It's too bad that the lack of success experienced by "RoboCop 3" derailed Dekkers' career for a while; clearly, he did have it takes to create genre films that endure for adoring fans.

Seven out of 10.
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7/10
The worms are waiting.
21 October 2019
"The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave" is a twisty (naturally), engaging example of the Giallo genre that benefits strongly from its environs, atmosphere, and visual poetry (not to mention nudity). Anthony Steffen ("Evil Eye") stars as Lord Alan Cunningham, an aristocrat who can't get over the death of his first wife Evelyn. Now, his personality has taken on a sadistic, fetishistic bent as he takes his one night stands back to his remote castle and tortures them. Then, he decides he can best move on by impulsively marrying new acquaintance Gladys (Marina Malfatti, "All the Colors of the Dark"). But when some of those close to Alan meet horrible deaths, it seems as if Evelyn might be seeking revenge from beyond the grave.

This is a pretty good mystery that keeps its viewers engrossed, just like any good film of its type. Even if they think they have it figured out early on, it's still worth sticking with for its melding of sex, violence, and style. The actors are all excellent, with Enzo Tarascio ("Sword of the Empire"), Giacomo Rossi Stuart ("The Last Man on Earth"), Umberto Raho ("Seven Seas to Calais"), Roberto Maldera ("Assassination"), Joan C. Davis (in her only film role), and the luscious Erika Blanc ("Kill, Baby... Kill!") offering great support. The lounge score by composer Bruno Nicolai is the ideal accompaniment, especially for those flashback scenes in the garden. The film is violent, but the gore comes in spurts, such as a sequence involving pet foxes, and a series of stabbings near the end.

Alan is an interesting sort of protagonist: far from innocent, since he's spilling his share of blood, but not entirely unsympathetic due to his deteriorating mental state. This plays into a delicious final turn of events, when miscreants get revealed, but characters still have surprises for each other. Those are often the best kinds of endings in murder-mystery fare.

Recommended as a companion piece to filmmaker Emilio P. Miraglias' follow-up Giallo, "The Red Queen Kills Seven Times".

Seven out of 10.
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7/10
See you later, alligator.
21 October 2019
The lovely and endearing 1950s B movie queen Beverly Garland ("It Conquered the World") stars here as "Jane Marvin", who reveals her suppressed past to psychiatrists Bruce Bennett ("Mystery Street") and Douglas Kennedy ("The Land Unknown"). She was once Joyce Webster, married to a war hero named Paul (Richard Crane, 'Rocky Jones, Space Ranger') who disappears during their wedding night. She stops at nothing to track him down, and locates his old family home in Louisiana. There she learns that the initially unfriendly locals have been doing a lot of experimenting with gators in order to help human beings heal quickly from injuries. And there she learns the fate that has befallen Paul.

Directed capably by Roy Del Ruth, and well shot in CinemaScope, "The Alligator People" shows schlock enthusiasts a pretty good time. However, it does spend most of its running time by having characters like old Mrs. Hawthorne (Frieda Inescort, "The Return of the Vampire") and scientist Mark Sinclair (George Macready, "The Monster and the Ape") give Joyce the run-around and not tell her the whole story. That is, until their consciences start weighing too heavily on them. Yes, most of the antagonists here are generally well-intentioned, with the exception of a deliciously nasty Lon Chaney, Jr. ("The Wolf Man") as Manon, an ill-tempered, gator-hating thug with a hook for a hand. This guy is a true creep.

The atmosphere is pretty good, although naturally "The Alligator People" is not without sillier moments, like Garland running through the swamp in high heels during a rain storm and stumbling over reptiles that seem to pose no threat. It doesn't really kick into its highest gear until near the end, with the end results of the transformation in full bloom. Any fan of B flicks from this era will be howling with appreciation.

The makeup effects are by the great Dick Smith and a man named Ben Nye, another person whose name you'll see turn up time and time again in these older pictures. With pros like these handling makeup duties, you can expect some pretty good reptilian visages throughout.

Good fun in general.

Seven out of 10.
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7/10
A movie made by gore hounds for gore hounds.
20 October 2019
Those people who judge a horror films' success based on how violent it is will probably dig this sequel to makeup FX expert Robert Halls' first "Laid to Rest" feature. It's got sufficient atmosphere to enjoy, a blazing pace, and good energy, but let's face it: the main reason anybody would watch this is to see a steady supply of cannon fodder meet extremely gruesome demises. It does fall into that standard horror movie trap of Stupid People Doing Stupid Things, but if people can forgive the (mostly) routine script, they'll be delighted with the sadism and brutality on display. Basically, it's EXACTLY the sort of film you'd expect a makeup FX expert to direct.

ChromeSkull (towering, menacing Nick Principe returns to the role) has barely survived the finale of the previous story, and wouldn't you know it, he has an entire company of people eager to do anything for him. And that includes patching him up if he gets hurt in any way. His loyal assistant Preston (Brian Austin Green, a long way from 'Beverly Hills, 90210') feels like he's not properly appreciated, and does some damage of his own before this sequel wraps up. Meanwhile, previous survivor Tommy (Thomas Dekker) is found and interrogated by the cops, but Preston is not far behind.

If you're a dedicated slasher fan, "Laid to Rest 2" delivers the goods in a purely visceral way. And the audience will be more than happy to see most of these idiots buy the farm in glorious fashion. Hall does, however, give leading lady Mimi Michaels a more sympathetic and vulnerable part to play by making her character Jess be slowly going blind. Some of the best moments in the latter parts of the movie attempt to show things from her perspective. This viewer, however, would have appreciated it if the filmmakers had kept their damn camera steadier more often.

ChromeSkull himself remains a mild innovation on the typical slasher killer, what with his stylized mask and the presence of a video camera mounted on his shoulder. As to whether he will become more iconic as the years go by, that remains to be seen.

Seven out of 10.
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6/10
No sense kraa-ing over spilt milk.
20 October 2019
An interstellar villain named Lord Doom (Michael Guerin / voice of Jerry Lentz) unleashes a planet-destroyer for hire named Kraa on a hapless Planet Earth. But never fear: the young can-do team The Planet Patrol is on the case. One of their agents, an alien named Mogyar (voice of J.W. Perra) arrives on Earth, although he ends up in NJ when he really wanted to go to Naples. A flustered diner owner (Teal Marchande) and a tea-loving biker (R.L. McMurry) come to the desperate aliens' assistance.

Made by some of the same team that did "Zarkorr! The Invader", this is a shade better, with a more tolerable script and generally better acting. At least waiting for the inevitable scenes of destruction is not such a chore in this case. Of course, that still doesn't dispel the fact that this is Grade A cheese, probably of the most entertainment value to kids, who are usually less judgmental than adults.

The humour is pretty obvious - Mogyar speaks with a stereotypical flamboyant Italian accent - but it does elicit some chuckles. The special effects are agreeable, with an amusing design for Mogyar, who somewhat resembles a crustacean, and an equally fun design for the ferocious Kraa. The music score by Carl Dante is enjoyable, and pacing is generally not an issue - this silly B flick only runs an hour and 10 minutes.

The cast is fine; the most curiosity value here is in seeing the lovely Alison Lohman in what was her first on-screen appearance in a feature film. She plays Curtis, a member of this "Planet Patrol" who possesses psychic abilities that will naturally come into play eventually.

There is at least one major in-joke here concerning a major Hollywood monster movie from the same year; some creature feature fanatics may actually prefer this one over the other.

Six out of 10.
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4/10
Not as much fun as one might like.
19 October 2019
"Zarkorr" is a colossal beast (over 180 feet tall) unleashed by an alien intelligence and let loose on Earth. These same aliens select the most average doofus in the U.S. of A., a postal employee named Tommy (Rhys Pugh), to be the saviour of the human race. They give him the bare minimum of information through the use of a hologram (played as a miniature valley girl by Torie Lynch), and tell him that if he tries to avoid responsibility, Zarkorr will track him down and destroy him. Tommy's mission gets off to a VERY bad start, but he does convert a cryptozoologist (Deprise Grossman) and a cop (Mark Costello) to his cause.

Even at a fairly brief running time of 76 minutes, this Full Moon debacle is a hard slog for a while. Its hero is a useless, whiny lump who only becomes more engaging as a character towards the end. But the hacker character - excuse me, "cybernaut" - played by Charles Schneider is far and away the most intolerable idiot in this turkey. You can't wait for his scenes to be over. The scientist and the cop were the two main characters who didn't get on this viewers' last nerve.

Unfortunately, too much of the running time here is devoted to uninspired banter between the unlikely heroes as they endlessly talk about how to defeat the creature. (Apparently, there's not a single man-made weapon on Earth that can harm it.) Zarkorr itself is fun - for a bargain basement knock off of Godzilla, anyway - but its admittedly cool scenes of destruction only take up about 10% of those 76 minutes. And those 76 minutes don't exactly fly by.

Die hard devotees of these types of films may find more value here, but this viewer found it too tiresome overall.

Four out of 10.
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