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Battle of Britain

Momentous and Historically Uplifting(Pun Intended!)
When WWII began, the German forces rolled through Europe with little real resistance UNTIL they were unable to persuade Britain to work with Germany rather than against. Thus the Germans came up with the Battle of Britain designed to bring Britain to her knees and, from a historical point of view, FAILED! This really was their first major failure and drove them to leave this tactic and open up the Eastern front with an attack on the Soviet Union. This film chronicles the lopsided British force - meager, desperately in need of pilots, and fighting to protect their own airspace and soil versus the juggernaut that was the German army, navy, and luftwaffe at this time. The film starts with the opening of the Germans trying to persuade the British through negotiations to leave Germany alone on the continent, only to be rebuffed and put their operation in movement to cripple the British isles. The film has quite a cast of great British actors. All do fine work though most have little screen time such as Robert Shaw, Michael Caine, Kenneth More, and others. The primary stars are the aircraft themselves and the wonderful story of Jack and the Giant. Director Guy Hamilton - man, this GUY gets around! - directs in his typically professional manner with some dazzling action sequences, solid acting moments, and some tedious scenes as well.

The Parallax View

Eerily Relevant to Today
Alan j. Pakula did some really fine films as a director. All the President's men. Sohphie's Choice. Klute. My personal favorite Love, Pain, and the whole darn things. Others too. All his films have a very strong core of emotions and fears. This one is no exception, and in many ways is his best in terms of creating those emotions and more profoundly those fears. Pakula directs with his heart sometimes more than his head, but that allows him to create some wonderful visuals. The opening of this film is incredibly strong with the assassination of a politician in the Seattle Space Needle We are introduced to our film's lead, Warren Beatty, as a reporter covering this political event. He does not make it up to the event but his friend Paul Prentiss does. She witnesses the killing. Three years go by and she comes to Beatty saying that all those that witnessed the event are being killed. She soon dies and Beatty does some investigating. Well, you will be surprised the direction the film takes as it is not along the storyline I just outlined. The Parallax View is an interesting, taut, suspenseful film that should make you thing. It makes you look for not just conspiracy in every corner but conspiracy in every corner of every corner. It also resonates with much of what is going on today with trust issues with government, media, law enforcement, etc.. The film has some quality acting. Beatty is good. Lots of supporting help by some real good actors like William Daniels, Hume Cronyn, Prentiss, Jim Davis, Kenneth Mars, Kelly Thorsden as a corrupt sheriff, and more. Additionally, there are some excellent shots in the film. Th aforementioned opening, the assassination of a politician at the end(various scenes here), a dam, and many more. The only real problem for me at times was the script. Sometimes it was a bit vague. Sometimes it lingered(like with the monatage). Sometimes it had poor transitions like where the film looks like it is going and where it really goes. But overall this is a powerful film.

Breaker! Breaker!

Enjoyable Blend of Truckin' and Martial Arts
This appears to be Chick Norris's first starring role - and, well. he cannot really act. He gets better with more movies under his belt, but the films he does are fun nonetheless because what he lacks in acting he certainly adds in ass-kicking, Watching Chuck kick someone who deserves it in the groin or the head or wherever is just plain enjoyable. This time around he plays a trucker in California who has just let his little brother drive his first load by himself only to get stuck in an incredibly corrupt town called Texas City, California. This town makes and sells moonshine. makes up charges and fees for anyone passing near their town. Cars are stolen and crushed for money. You get the general idea. This little brother is basically kidnapped. Chuck goes in and asks questions, and then the ass-kickings start to happen. All the townspeople are dolts with IQs that surface around 60 with the exception of the judge - a drunken reprobate played with relish by George Murdock. The town's depravity and nastiness are done in almost a surreal fashion and is definitely over-the-top. Because of that, we get lots of thin, one-dimensional performances which when added to Norris's dubious abilities as a thespian mean that this film is not getting by on acting. It is not. It has - like most of Norris's films - heart at its center. But let's be honest here - people watching this film want to see Norris kick ass. there is plenty of that. One particularly well-done scene is in a horse corral with Norris, shot and holding his gut, meeting head to head with one of the cruel deputies who was just beating Norris's brother. The scene is filmed well and I liked how the camera caught the horse's eyes often as the fighting was going on. There is a huge denouement with a bunch of trucks bulldozing the town. It was okay. I liked this movie. You get what you expect. So, it delivers what it was meant to deliver. If you are looking for anything else, I would keep truckin'!


Does It Go Off with a Bang or a Whimper?
Interesting British disaster film from the disaster decade - the 1970s! The story is simple: a luxury liner with over a thousand guests is told after advancing to sea that seven bombs have been wired throughout the ship. Should anyone try to tamper with them? BOOM! The story itself is handled well with a proper degree of suspense and tension, though the story seems a bit fragmented here and there and really much more could have been done with some of the characters. Don't get me wrong. We do get a good deal of character development. Omar Shariff plays the captain wanting to pay the ransom. He is not wholly one-dimensional as he has a mistress on board - Shirley Knight - looking quite lovely I might add. Aside from Knight, nothing is really done with any of the other passengers on the ship save the wife of Scotland Yard policeman Anthony Hopkins who remained in London. Most of the character development is with the people dealing with the crisis. Bomb expert Richard Harris and friend David Hemmings are flown out to the ship and have some harrowing scenes trying to defuse the bombs. Hopkins works tirelessly to try and find out the mastermind Juggernaut's identity. Ian Holm is head of the ship's business end and has surprisingly more heart than you might expect from someone like him. They eventually find Juggernaut and, well, you need to see the film to see what happens though admittedly I found the ending somewhat anti-climatic. Juggernaut for the most part is suspenseful and, I would say even more so, businesslike. It does what it needs to do but sometimes without the passion one might expect. It is ably directed by Richard Lester who directed some really fine films like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Three Musketeers, and several others. He does inject some humor....not very liberally I might add, mostly in the characters of the cruise director played by Roy Kinnear - playing his role outwardly as the clown trying to buoy the hearts and morale of all these passengers yet feeling the same fear and turmoil they all do and Clifton James playing a somewhat against type Character as a thoughtful, intelligent American passenger. Both he and Kinnear have some dramatic moments. Harris also has some humor in dialog acting like....Richard Harris. Overall, Juggernaut is well-worth a look.


Slightly taller than the Statue of Liberty
Brannigan is one of those movies that really serves as an actor's personal vehicle rather than a film as a whole. What do I mean by that? There are a few actors that transcend actor status to genuine star status, and then there is that incredibly elusive, exclusive club of actors that go on to the next level of mega-stardom - of which John Wayne sits with really very little company. John Wayne is considerably past his prime here in as he is well into his late 60s. For Wayne, late sixties would be 70s to others. He is grizzled, tired-looking at times, and certainly not in the physical shape he once was....but he is really very good with dialog and humor which he somehow manages to inject in everything he does. I found this film most enjoyable because of Wayne, which is good because he is the catalyst for all the action in the film. He plays a Chicago policeman out to catch a notorious badman who he is and has been after for some time. He learns that he must go to London to extradite this criminal and then the mayhem begins. The criminal is played with wit and that typical autocratic snobbery so well used by John Vernon. Vernon has one of the evil lawyers, Mel Ferrer, who has hired a hitman to kill Brannigan. Brannigan is picked up at the airport by perky Judy Geeson(a long way from To Sir With Love) working for Scotland Yard and is his escort/babysitter for Sir Charles the head of Scotland Yard, played with a great deal of humor by Richard Attenborough. Well, from here we get Vernon kidnapped, we have the hitman after Brannigan, and we have Brannigan mixing American rugged individualism with British sense of decorum, etc... All of it makes for what I would just say is a FUN film. I found myself laughing out loud a few times with the Duke having some great one liners and sticking out like a real sore thumb often. He is never rude or being what I would call the Ugly American, but simple yet honorable. There are some far out scenes, particularly the car chase across the Tower Bridge, but it was still fun nonetheless. The city of London is wonderfully used throughout and makes this film a travelogue a bit here and there as well. There is a lot of action too, and the end of the film had a bit of a twist I had not expected fully. Wayne is Wayne, and what I really like about his later roles for the most part is that there is no romantic angle at this point in his career. Refreshing really! Attenborough looks like he is having the time of his life as is Vernon and Ferrer. As I said before Brannigan is a fun movie. I wish Wayne had been able to do more films like this.

Columbo: Old Fashioned Murder
Episode 2, Season 6

Not an Old Fashioned Episode!
For a Columbo episode, this one quite frankly just does not make the cut. It seems first of all incredibly short. The story has lots of holes, the acting not the most exuberant, and there just seems to be a blah feeling here and there. Now, that being said - Peter Falk is still here as the great police detective Columbo. Joyce Van Patten plays our killer and she is dowdy, wealthy yet poor(however that works), and overshadowed in her life by either her older sister(Celeste Holm) or brother(Tim O'Connor). She does, for the most part, a pretty credible job. All the actors do, so my real problem with this episode must be the script. It is certainly no tight mystery. I could have figured this one out myself. Van Patten knows her brother is planning on closing their family museum - something she loves more than anything in life - and she coldly comes up with a plan to kill her brother so as to keep it. There are some reasons briefly given about her past life but really not explored at all. Celeste Holm spends her time being very humorous fainting, but she has virtually nothing else to do. I did not hate it...liked it a bit. It just is not an old fashioned Columbo episode.

Summer Camp

You know when you sit down to a movie like this that...well, there will be some limitations to budget, acting skill, sets and scenery, special effects, and story not to mention taste. Some of these small budgeted sexploitation movies are funny and rather enjoyable for what they are. This is NOT one of those films. I had trouble just thinking up some title for the review that is how plain boring and awful the movie is. A summer camp is in need of repairs in order to stay in business so it invites previous campers under the guise of summer fun to use them as cheap labor. Okay, the premise is decent enough. Yes, we can expect some pretty good-looking people to come to the camp. Certainly, some will disrobe. There should be some sophomoric humor as well, BUT the plot will at least be the focal point to all the action in some way. Not in this film. Here it is nothing more than a plot device to get these young people to the summer camp. We do not see the campers do one thing to rebuild the camp. In fact if not for the "prospector" storyline at the beginning and end of the film(and when you saw him in the beginning you knew exactly what Deus ex Machina was going to happen), you could easily forget what the film was about as nothing in it has to do with the story. What do we get? One scene after another of girls either disrobing or engaging in sexual play(again, I have no problem with this at all) or, and these scenes were really the hardest to sit through, a group of buffoonish guys judging the size of feces in a contest or charging admission to see girls in a shower, or one of the longest, most-prolonged panty raids in film with virtually no payoff in terms of sexual interest or humor. Look, the girls are fairly attractive. They do what you want them to do. The rest of the film is one major snooze. Done by porn director Chuck Vincent - who would go on to do Wimps and Hollywood Hot Tubs - this film is really nothing more than an exercise in naked tedium.

Gas Pump Girls

Graduation Flashed right by Them!
Really, this is a very tame, innocent sexploitation movie from 1979, and because it sets it sights realistically low with the material and talent involved - is way more fun that what it might have been otherwise. From one of the opening scenes involving a prank where a bunch of graduation gowns are ripped off the lovely graduates at a small school - all blonde with real nice breasts to the end, Gas Pump Girls has heart if nothing else. Well, there are plenty of the aforementioned breasts and tightly-packed buns in short shorts too. The story is incredibly simple. A bigger, better, more elite gas station opens up next to Joe's gas station - a small, independent operation by none other than Bowery Boy legend Huntz Hall himself. One of the perky blondes is his niece and when he has health problems, she comes up with an idea to use sex to sell gas....not the act of sex but rather girls in skimpy outfits and no bras filling up, etc... That really is it except for one scene with Sandy Jonson and one of the male graduates in a car getting its brakes fixed getting, how shall we say, a head start on the action if you will. The movie never gets nasty or offensive. For a movie like this it is what I would call a G sexploitation movie in spirit.

Gas Pump Girls, for what it is, is rather fun. You know what to expect before you start watching, and I was pleasantly surprised by some minor comedic touches by legend Huntz Hall and other cameos by Joe E. Ross and Mike Mazurki as contract killers. Dave Shelley as the competing gas station manager Mr. Friendly seems to have the most fun chewing up scenery, but before we get too lost here - the film is about the four or five girls who run around either bare-breasted a good deal of the film or in those lovely short shorts. They are the stars if you will, and none of them stand out better than Sandy Johnson from H.O.T.S and Halloween(as Judith Myers) fame. A joy to behold for sure. The music soundtrack is interesting and even at one point one of the girls just breaks out singing a song. It is what it is. The deejay on the radio throughout is Cousin Brucie.

On the Beach

Every Breath You Take...
Apocalyptic tale of radiation, after already having extinguished life all across the globe, slowly wending its way to Australia. What we get is a film about those final months as seen through the lives of four principal players primarily. Gregory Peck is in the lead as an American submarine commander with his crew who were on a mission when the "war" of nuclear epic culminated in the release of this earth-killing weapon of mass destruction. His ship is being tabbed to do some tests and is assigned a young, newly-turned father in Anthony Perkins as a member of the Australian navy. Peck is set up with a friend of Perkins - the lovely Ava Gardner, a playful, lonely woman who spent her life playing with men as mere toys. Rounding out the four is Fred Astaire as an English scientist who helped work on weapons in the past and now drinks heavily. Director Stanley Kramer unfolds the events of these precious months mostly through their eyes as they all prepare for an inevitable end.

On the Beach is lots of things but certainly not uplifting. The plot trajectory shows itself early on and really never wavers from its course. What we do get is insight into the human spirit, the inexhaustible human need for love and life purpose, a variety of ways dealing with the same crisis, and a sense of home and what that means to different people.

Kramer does a marvelous job taking us on this journey with memorable scenes which truly out rank the performances of the central four(or five if you wish to include newcomer Donna Anderson as Perkins's wife who prefers to be ostrich-like through all the proceedings). The empty settings in San Francisco and San Diego. The crowded streets in Australia with no petrol but horses and buggies. The end montage. Visually stunning is much of the film. Kramer is never heavy-handed with his message either. Clearly the film is lesson in what might or could happen when little boys play with dangerous things they cannot fully comprehend. Despite the poignant and serious nature of much of the film, the lead actors display a full arrangement of emotions and really show how they cope with this crisis by ignoring, redirecting, transposing, etc... They are all good though out of the main four - three were playing either Australians or, in Astaire's case, an Englishman, and clearly speak and act like Americans. A small quibble. Kramer also has a wide array of competent supporting cast and extras which are clearly Australian and they lend an air of credibility to the film which is lacking from the aforementioned leads at times. Some of their moments are some of the best in the film. Kramer even has one scene in a gentleman's club where two older patrons discuss the excess amount of quality spirits which will go to waste as five months is not nearly long enough to drink it all. It is a humorous scene to be sure.

On the Beach is a very good film and one that can have even some lessons for all of us today as it tackles a life everyone knows and many are very comfortable with to see a new norm created out of dire circumstances. How those circumstances and that new norm are dealt with directly affects the quality of the narrative and the outcome of the story.

Runaway Train

It Moves with a LOT of Steam!
Runaway Train was made by Cannon Pictures run by Golan and Globus - home to many exploitation-type films. This is not one of those. Sure, it has its moments with some nasty violence and blood, a hyperbolic jail setting, and loads of action but also has some performances worthy of Oscar consideration(both Voight and Roberts were nominated), some clever and insightful dialog, and some images that go beyond mere storytelling. At its core it is about the human struggle. Jon Voight plays Manny, a lifetime criminal who has just been released from his welded shut cell to the general population of the prison. Early on we know that Voight and the warden - played with some sadistic glee by John P. Ryan - are not just at odds with each other but kindred souls who do not want to have their spirits crushed by the other. Voight manages to escape with the aid of Eric Roberts and they get aboard a locomotive. Whilst moving, the engineer suffers a heart attack and falls from the moving locomotive. The rest of the entire film is set on that moving death sentence as we see Roberts, Voight, and later Rebecca De Mornay(who was working on the locomotive but was asleep) contemplate their collective fate and try to find ways to circumnavigate it. Although filled with taut tension and riveting action sequences, Runaway Train is really about Manny's struggle to be free - to be his own person. He is not a very likable character but does want something innate for himself that he views as integral to all life. Voight plays this character with depth and conviction and looks almost unrecognizable at times. It certainly is one of his better performances. Roberts is also good with less depth as a man who idolizes someone who really only cares for himself and his wants. De Mornay is there and perhaps is the only decent character in the whole film in terms of moral compass. Ryan is one nasty, beastly officer of the law to be sure. but gives one fun performance. I really enjoyed this film. It tells a compelling story but also looks at the futile nature of life sometimes. Director Andrey Konchalovskiy is more than competent is selling the story visually and even adds some wonderful touches like the locomotive, after having rear-ended another, looking like some Lovecraftian beast careening down the tracks of the desolate Alaskan wilderness into some oblivion. Which bring me to the ending. I loved it as it entertains that oblivious ending tying the lives of two contrasting yet comparable characters to the same bitter fate. Very little color is used throughout the film. Voight at the end in a beautifully shot sequence enhances that futile nature aforementioned. This is a good film.

The Night of the Hunter

Leaning on the everlasting Arms
Not a good movie or a very good movie but a great one. The sole directorial effort of master thespian Charles Laughton based on the work of Davis Grubb about a wicked Bluebeard parading around as a preacher who preys and prays on the lonely women who use their sexuality to make Harry Powell(Robert Mitchum) mentally succumb to his desires but seemingly unable to do so physically. This pernicious wanderer has killed dozens and we have him introduced to the main tale at hand about a man who robbed ten thousand dollars safeguarding his loot with his two young children John and Pearl right before the strong arm of the law collects him and he is hanged for murder. Ben Harper(Peter Graves) has his son and daughter promise to never disclose the whereabouts of his ill-gotten treasure. Whilst in prison, his cellmate is none other than Harry Powell who vows to find that money no matter what by introducing himself to the new widow Harper(Shelley Winters).

All this happens early on the film. As stories go, this one is really a straightforward thriller at its core, but with Laughton's deft and magical direction becomes something not like many films I have ever seen. Robert Mitchum gives one of his greatest performances as the somewhat affable and charming Harry(when he wants to be) to one of the most vile villains ever to "grace" the screen. Mitchum's singing of hymns contrasting with his murderous and villainous intents underscores many a scene. All of them remarkably powerful. But as good as he is...and make no mistake he is great...the film's main characters really are the two children - particularly John(played very capably by child star Billy Chapin).

What we really have is a horrific bildungsroman of the growth and manhood of John being pressed on him by the execution of his father, the unfortunate mothering of a very simplistic woman with virtually no common sense, and the adult responsibilities of being a man taking care of his sister, keeping his father's secret, and later protecting his own life. Chapin really gives some dimension to this role. His sister Pearl is considerably younger and played with a naivete and innocence that enhances the events of good and evil and the grey that sometimes can exist between.

In the last third of the film we are introduced to Mitchum's good counterpart played with such empathy as only Lillian Gish can. She is amazingly strong in her role and helps protect the children from this "wolf in sheep's clothing."

So what makes the film great? As I said you have first-rate acting all around. Even Shelley Winters in a bit of a throwaway role as the mother has her moments. Mitchum and Gish are powerhouses on the screen. The best aspect of the film though is the way Laughton directed it. It is surreal in many parts. the river scene with all the animals and the artificial stars looked liked something out of a dream or nightmare. Some of the scenes are shot with such exquisite beauty though their subject matter is disturbing. Two come to mind quickly. First, there is the murder scene of Shelley Winters. It is not shown explicitly, but look how Laughton framed the scene. The lighting almost suggest that these two characters are in church. The other is when James Gleason finds winter's body in a car below in the river with her hair waving like a mermaid...what a chilling shot to be sure!

Night of the Hunter is to me required viewing for serious student of film. I pick up more with each viewing and always leave with the feeling that I just got off a scary rollercoaster. Mostly, I always reflect on what might have been if Laughton had had an opportunity to direct another film.

Columbo: Troubled Waters
Episode 4, Season 4

Cruising Along
Enjoyable Columbo episode with the policeman out to sea. His unseen wife wins a raffle of sorts and both are rewarded with a cruise. The episode is unique in that, as another reviewer noted, Columbo has none of his signature trademarks with him. No raincoat. No old car. No funny dog. It is just Lt. Columbo. He also does not have a forensic team, additional police help, or technology at his aid either. He also is NOT expected to work in this episode at the beginning. He is on vacation here. These differences allow us to see him perhaps at first with a bit of his guard down. But murder makes its way into the picture, and the Lt. has a mystery to solve. The story here is quite inventive. The direction quite taut. Robert Vaughn plays the killer with his usual aplomb for such roles. He is a good actor but I really do not think there is a role where I found him affable. He always plays the kind of guys you like to see proverbially cut in half. The cruise ship is captained by the Avenger himself Patrick Macnee in a very officious but humorous at times role. And then there is Bernard Fox as another officer aboard bringing his charm too. The murdered woman sings Volare a bit long but she is foxy Dean Stockwell is here too as a red herring looking incredibly eccentric. Definitely a fun episode.


I Liked It!
I waited a LONG time to finally see this. I was expecting a schmaltzy love story - and got it BUT got a good deal more too. Just about everyone knows the story of Sam and Molly. I also knew I would have to sit through the pottery scene - fortunately it was early on. I also knew Whoopi Goldberg was in it and won her Oscar. Let's start with her. She deserved it. She was very funny, energetic, and breathed comedic life into some pretty pedestrian material at times. She is gorgeous too! The film is definitely a love story, a story of love conquering all, and love transcending death. It is also a story of redemption, good and evil, a murder mystery of sorts, and a comedy of situation at times as well. Add in some not-so-great special effects and we get spirits being asked to rise. Dark spirits whisking people to Hell. A variety of ghosts who seem content to sit around and be funny. At the core of the film, however; is a triangle of acting chemistry. No doubt at all that Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore have it. Their love looks real. Whoopi and Demi have some chemistry as well, but I think the chemistry between Whoopi and Patrick is what really carries the film. They have great timing together. They are funny together. The best parts of the film for me are the scenes where they are together. Swayze has this innocent naivete about him that really is convincing. The writing is wonderful and the direction crisp. The final scene is a tear-jerker that even I could not fail to succumb to in the end. I recommend Ghost heartily.

Cancel My Reservation

Definitely not Hope-less
I, like many other viewers have stated, got an opportunity to see this as a youngster on TV...probably late one night back when television stations would play movies like this into the wee hours of the evening/morning. I didn't remember much. Of course there was Bob Hope. I remembered Keenan Wynn for some reason and knew it was about murder in the desert. Well, I finally acquired a copy and was pleasantly surprised. Yes, Bob Hope's game is off. He is 69 or so here(looks absolutely incredible for his age). He turns out a one liner almost every minute he is on screen - which is almost every minute for the film. Most fail, but after awhile I was laughing at some of them - some because they were pretty good and others because he was trying SO terribly hard. Hope glides through the film with his typical Hope persona. Enjoyable but nothing great to be sure. The supporting cast is also equally enjoyable. Keenan Wynn playing a crusty sheriff with his usual flair for such roles. Ralph Bellamy and Forrest Tucker as a local rancher and his henchman. Bellamy is wheelchair-bound and as always quite good with dialog. Tucker looks tired though. Eve Marie saint plays Hope's wife. She is okay but has a dazzling set of legs which she shows off quite a bit. This is Anne Archer's first major film role and she is stunning - a buffet for the eyes and also quite good in her role. The plot is something out of the 40s with a body, then a missing body, and that kind of stuff. Nothing great but watching established pros work with inferior material makes it rise to a level no-talents could not achieve. There is a dream sequence with cameos by John Wayne, Johnny Carson, Flip Wilson, and old Bing Crosby himself. It is pretty brief but nice nonetheless. So this stroll down memory lane was enjoyable. Scenes I saw decades ago started to come back to me, and I will most definitely watch the film again soon as well as check out some more Bob Hope films. Honestly, I miss this stuff. Nothing today, though there is awesome television and good filmmaking abounding, creates the same kind of feel for me as that stuff I watched as a kid. Guess that is how it will be for young people today too.

Le frisson des vampires

Very Slow Yet Somewhat Intriguing...I Think
This was my first Jean Rollin film. Rollin, a pre-eminent French director known for his eroticism and surrealism in his "horror" films, definitely has an eye for atmosphere with his particular attentions given to color, shading, set pieces(love the Gothic look and feel of the film), and even the music chosen for the film. He also has an eye for the female form as well as we get to evaluate that critical approach again and again and again...honestly, Sandra Julien has one of the most beautiful backsides I have ever seen - in film or anywhere else! The story is very, very thin as Julien and her new husband want to pay their respects to her two cousins as they are on their honeymoon. These two strange men were vampire hunters(unbeknown-st to Julien) and have now been turned into vampires. Julien arrives hearing the news that her cousins are dead. That is more plot than the rest of the film which has a female vampire popping out of a clock and all sorts of strange places who turns Julien into her lesbian lover and then we wait for her final turn into a real vampire whilst her husband Antoine cannot understand what is going on. The two cousins have one good scene at dinner talking about vampirism but really the rest of the film is so slow....not much at all happens. The atmosphere does make up for much of it do the plentiful breasts. While this film is not going to keep you on the edge of your seat at all(just wait until you see the anti-climatic end), it was interesting and intriguing and charming in its own way.


Las Vegas or Bust...OR Volare!
This is one of those weird little films that has the power to grow on you. Ostensibly, it should not be all that much as it details the story of three college boys in search of a great stripper as appeasement for joining a fraternity. How quickly we derail from that story(in fact it just about disappears and never resurfaces again) and go to the dark, twisted, removed world of the After Dark Club. This is where the guys are to find their stripper - in this case a very bizarre, strangely erotic, wholly creepy Grace Jones! There we find a sub-culture, apparently unbeknown-st to the police - who either look the other way or fear this bad part of town, of vampirism hidden behind the facade of a decaying strip show. Now, we do get some girls showing us their wares, though this really is not the major point of this film. We do get some genuinely eerie and scary moments as well. We do get those God-awful special effects that are so common in the 80s. We do get Grace Jones and all that that entails. But the primary purpose of this film is to interlace humor with all of that. It succeeds. I laughed quite a bit actually. The guys running the club are hilarious, particularly Sandy Baron who is the emcee and wearing some pink/red lounge blazer like a comedian might from yesteryear in the Catskills. He keeps ranting about he wants to take the act/show/everything to Vegas...his great dream. He of course works for Katrina, Grace Jones, the Egyptian vampire who owns the place. Anyway, we soon get one boy meeting Katrina and the other boy trying to find him and the story runs pretty strongly just from that. Comedy abounds from moments with a strange albino non-vampire group after the boys being assaulted from vampires in the community(the little girl flying and biting the neck of Billy Drago had me in stitches!) to the bizarre ending where we get this great rendition of Domenico Modugno singing "Volare!." Of course that means "to fly" in Italian, and it is that tongue planted firmly in cheek that made this film enjoyable for me. As I said before, there are some truly scary moments as well. The atmosphere is very well-done by director Richard Wenk sans those atrocious special effects. One can definitely see how this was an inspiration possibly for From Dusk till Dawn.

Maximum Overdrive

Gentlemen, STOP your Engines. Please.
In a simple word...bad. Quite bad really. Stephen King shows he has virtually no skill behind the camera as he directs this tale of a comet passing Earth and the planet being caught in its "tail." Because of this, machines begin to act violently and want nothing more than to kill, maim, destroy, eliminate, and eradicate those that made them. The movie never tries to take itself seriously, but my problem is that humor is not something you can just snap your fingers and manufacture. This is just not very funny. It was also quite boring. The worst part was the first fifteen minutes or so where we get exposition as to what is happening, meet all our unlikable, thinly-layered characters, and see King in a stupid cameo at an ATM. Really? At any rate I could go on and on about what is wrong with this picture. Look at the other reviews if you want to explore all that. It is mountainous! One major problem is that King, a writer who should have known better, tries to stretch a short story beyond its stretching point. This is just not substantial material for a feature-length film. Secondly, the whole film seems to lack and desperately need a sense of direction. I felt bad for some of the actors. Some are decent like Pat Hingle, yet he was chewing up scenery with an ALIEN-like mouth. It was too much. Most of the other actors are not very seasoned or good. Thank God for Yeardley Smith(the voice of Lisa Simpson herself). Without her I cannot imagine what watching this would have been like. She is about all the only real humor in the entire film. Then let's take a look at that AC/DC score. I tired of it quickly. It was like someone put me in a loud amusement park and never allowed me to leave. Some of the music is really good but sometimes enough is just enough. Unfortunately, this is one of those times for me when the film lived up to the hype. Maximum Overdrive is considered universally to be a very bad film. I try to never let that interfere with my viewing for the first time. I did not, but make no mistake it surely lives up to its legacy.

The Loved One

Momma's Big Tub
Director Tony Richardson takes no prisoners as he lambastes the funeral business, the government, religion, ideology, and anything else held sacred by many. Richardson does this in the most comically satiric manner with subtlety, restraint at times, over-indulgence at other moments, and a unique blend of English reservedness and wit mixed with American vulgarity and frankness. I loved this film and was laughing throughout. The story starts off with a young Englishman(Robert Morse) arriving in LA with no job or prospects other than visiting his famous uncle John Gielgud - who is in the movie business. Gielgud invites the young man to stay, introduces him to the strong acting British community, and provides him with living essentials as the young man decides what to do with his life(apparently after a romantic break). We see Gielgud at work and Richardson has no problems making fun of the movie industry at all as Gielgud, a veteran of 31 years, has been reduced to helping an American hick become an Englishman - not even remotely possible. He fails, is let go, and hangs himself. At this point we have a wonderful satire about the film industry, but what follows balloons into something even more grandiose. Character actor Robert Morley insists that this man be buried at the best place possible - Whispering Glades. We then watch Morse go there and see the hyperbolic excesses of the funereal business for those who least need their services - the dead. Morse meets beautiful Anjanette Comer, a make-up artist for the dead, as well as a series of people to help bring his uncle to "peace." Richardson, taking Waugh's novel, really has a knack at steamrolling his satire here with decadent grounds, huge rooms for repose, a bureaucratic network designed only for the wealthy, white, and people of "merit." Liberace, giving a great performance, plays a man who helps Morse decide on what casket, suit, and even shoes his dead uncle will have. The film then turns into a myriad of directions from a rich reverend who has a godlike complex but only a desire to make money, the help of the government to foster this big business, and a romantic triangle like no other with Morse, Comer, and Rod Steiger as Mr. Joyboy - the chief embalmer. While the end of The Loved One does not carry the impact now that it did in 1965, the film as a whole is a witty, incredibly black comedy de farce in many ways. Richardson made a film his way with his ideals firmly planted. Yes, this film will and I am sure did offend many. It also opens one's eyes to a number of things. The acting is great with Morse doing very solid work. Comer, as I said before, is lovely. Steiger - Steiger is great! His Mr. Joyboy with effeminacy reeking, long white curls, and fastidious outfits matched with his outlandish hand gestures steals every scene he is in...EXCEPT the ones with his mother(more on that shortly). His accented dialog was a real treat to hear. "I am saving for Momma's big tub!" His mother, "every inch a queen," is in one of the most bizarre film scenes I have ever seen in any "mainstream" picture. Words fail me. See it. I shall never look at a roast pig again - or a turkey - in the same way. I could go on, but I think you get my favorable stance toward this film which is most definitely under-viewed. Jonathan Winters is superb as well in two roles. Catch Paul Williams in his first film role. Watch Milton Berele give a great cameo as a husband fighting with his wife over a bereaved loved one. What a funny scene that was too!

Zombie Jamboree: The 25th Anniversary of Night of the Living Dead

I'll Take the Middle Road
If this was sold at one point in time(and really there is no doubt it was), then people were seriously ripped-off. However, I too saw it courtesy of Amazon Prime and was engaged and entertained for 60 minutes about an event I did not attend but would have loved to do so. Basically, we get an inside(not very inside though) tour of the Zombie Jamboree celebrating the 25th anniversary of that film. We get John Russo's narration throughout as we see guests at the convention sell their autographs, etc... but we do get some insights into the film itself, the people who made it, its enduring legacy, and much more. I found the Q and A bit with George Romero very interesting. The same for the two scream queens. Tom Savini's walk through the Monroeville mall was also a highlight. I enjoyed the discussion of Duane Jones's import in the film too. This is not particularly well-made. Yes, there are audio(and video) inconsistencies but bear in mind it was made over twenty years ago. So much technologically has changed since then. For what it is, it is a curious, interesting supplement to not only a great film but also to the convention craze which is still going strong.


Where else can you see David Niven called a Jive Turkey?
A-List star on less-than-grand times David Niven takes his turn as the Count in this hard-to-find film(currently it can be seen on Amazon Prime). A film like this you know is going to have problems because it has more than one title that it is frequently known by. It is called Old Dracula, Old Drac, and Vampira. I probably first saw this on TV sometime in the late seventies. I liked it then. I sought it out and re-visited it over forty years later. I kind of liked it. It is a tepid, lukewarm reaction to some stuff that really has become quite out- dated. This film was made during the Blaxplotation craze of the 70's. It takes the grittiness and edge from that away, and it gives you this. I also read it came out shortly after Young Frankenstein as a means of cashing in on that film's success. Obviously, it did not work as those two films have NOTHING in common. The film clearly has a nice budget as we see posh sets and locations along with good actors for the most part. Niven looks tired in this role - he is suppose to be too - as he tries to find the right blood type to bring his wife "back-to-life." He finds it when a group of Playboy models come to spend the evening in his now- opened-for-the-public castle. Trouble is that all the blood is mixed up somehow and he does not know which model had the right blood. Why is this a problem? When his wife comes back to life she is black. He must now take her and his servant to London and find the right model in the hopes that it will turn her back to her "normal" pale self. The story truly is my biggest problem with the film. It really is somewhat offensive as well as ridiculous. Try making sense of it if you can. I moved on so as not to miss the film from that point on. The acting is good throughout though Niven, as I said previously, is lackluster. Teresa Graves as his new wife; however, gives a lively performance(and is a beauty to boot). She chews up the scenery with her scene-stealing scenes(okay, more like taking something that nobody else wanted). The models are all luscious as well. Cathie Shirriff is particularly appealing(and free in her performance as well). So is the always lovely Veronica Carlson who is somewhat wasted in her role. Linda Hayden as a voluptuous castle-wench is funny and gorgeous. The best performance for me was the deadpan one of Peter Bayliss as Dracula's manservant Maltravers. He had the funniest lines and the bit he does at the castle being the mad-servant for the guests may have been the highlight of the film. That does not bode well then for the rest of the film. Old Dracula is an okay film from an era where you could make this type of film. I know it has a lot of detractors but was watchable at least.


"Where there is Death, there is Hope"
Yep, this is one BAD movie...but as others noted...strangely likable. The really difficult step in viewing and reviewing this film is finding a copy. It had one Media video release(VHS) eons ago and has been MIA for the last two to three decades. You might find a copy on Ebay but will spend a pretty penny. How did I see it finally? THANK YOU YOUTUBE! Anyway, we have Nocturna, played with beauty and an amazing lack of skill as any kind of a thespian, by Nai Bonet. Bonet's claim to fame as a half-Vietnemese and half-French belly dancer with dalliances with acting on the side has been strangely baffling. She had really no entertainment career that would merit a project like this, though one must be impressed that she found a way to make this film(and another called Hoodlums). Unfortunately for Nai, this film and the other were box office poison - and she essentially left this arena. Let's talk about what is wrong with the film quickly and then move on to what I liked. Nai Bonet cannot act. Period. Yes, English is clearly not her first language. That is obvious the first moment you hear her speak. But more than that is her total lack of displaying any kind of emotion. It was an incredibly wooden performance. Her male co-star(really stretching that word here) was equally as bad. The story, written by Nai, also borders on sophomoric tripe. It seems a very old Dracula has no longer a means to kill on his own and so relies heavily on his granddaughter Nocturna. A disco group comes to Hotel Transylvania and Nocturna kicks up her heels with some beefcake and falls in love. She follows him to New York and starts to turn into a human because of her love. Touching, isn't it? The special effects of vampires turning into bats is nothing more than really out-dated animation. It looks soooo silly even in a silly picture like this. There is an awful lot of disco music and disco dancing. What do you expect in a vampire disco film? Okay, clearly this is not Citizen Kane or even some of the great low- budget films of the seventies. It isn't Love at First Bite either. There is virtually no violence at all in the film. At its heart is a nice story - just one not very well executed. Despite all of this, I found myself liking the film overall. Nai is beautiful for a woman in her mid-to-late thirties. She looks like she is in her 20's. We get to see much of that beautiful body too. I had absolutely no problem with that at all. We also have a scene where Nai is visiting a pimp and his bevy of beautiful vampires who also share her free performance style in this regard. Actually, it was a pretty funny scene as well. The budget was obviously not huge but the film looks very good. The opening scene is quite atmospheric. The set locations were all done quite well too. The music was not all that horrible. The Gloria Gaynor opening theme, "Love is but a heartbeat away" was rather catchy. I thought the entire opening sequence was done with great aplomb. Nai was smart enough to get some names, lesser names, but names nonetheless for her film. John Carradine plays Dracula in a rather lackluster manner but he has a few intriguing lines. Yvonne De Carlo plays a vampire in New York who boards Nocturna and gives her advice. Another lackluster performance particularly in a somewhat thankless role. Both these thespians add some credibility. The other supporting players are all rather decent as well with one HUGE plus. The performance of Brother Theodore moves this picture up from being wretched to being somewhat endearing. He lusts after Nocturna and in one scene in particular(the bathtub scene) he gives one of the oddest, perverse, and hilarious monologues I have ever seen. That VOICE uttering some of the most ridiculous dialog and yet transforming it into something more. Just watch the way he rolls his eyes. So funny and creepy! I wish he had been in the film a bit more. So, check this film out while you have the opportunity. it is not great by no means yet is ... well, let me put it this way ...I would watch it again at some point.

The Video Dead

"Just Pray It's Not drugs Dear"
Probably more famous for its video box than as a film, this direct-to-video film is not all that bad. In fact it really grew on me. Why? It is not because it is particularly good or has great action or wonderful special effects. It does have a lot of heart and a sense of humor AND despite the low budget and the cast of mostly one and dones - it is fairly well-made. An odd package is sent to a writer who opens the box, finds an old black and white TV, plugs it in...and then the only thing that plays is a zombie flick. Wait! He turns off set and it comes back on. He unplugs it and it comes back on..and he is killed by a group of undead that come from the TV set. These rogue zombies then disappear for three months until a new family moves in - and then they start killing. Why did they wait three months? Your guess is as good as mine! Apparently they were in the woods the whole time. Anyway, the new people in the house are just a teen-aged boy and his hot sister. A guy that originally bought the TV set comes along - and its zombie hunting time. Now, do not get me wrong. This is no great cinema. How about that scene with the poodle going into the woods? Or the whole bit with the kid tied in the air? Or even the ending. these zombies are MIGHTY smart! I liked the performances of several most notably Sam David McClelland as Joshua Daniels(the guy that kept calling Jeff "Kid." He was not great but genuine. The girls were all hot in that 80s hot way. Victoria Bastel as April the cute blond and Roxanna Augenson as Zoe Blair - very pretty though not always convincing. The make up really is pretty good and the TV scenes were really pretty suspenseful. For what it was - I liked it. I do want to check out the new blu ray. I watched my old Embassy tape once again. Who says video is dead?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

My Vote for Best Film of 2012!
Lots of division here - actually I am very surprised. I am not going into some long review. MANY on here have done so. I loved the movie and, after seeing most of the films nominated for an Oscar in 2012, was very perplexed why this one had not even been nominated. To me, it clearly was the best. Yes, I have read The Hobbit many times. Yes, Peter Jackson changed and heavily "added" but in the end he crafted a masterpiece - and I for one longingly await the second installment. Could this have been done in two movies? Sure. But it was not. At least you are getting your money's worth with these films. The action, story, acting, special effects, music, etc.. are all top-notch. That is all I have to say now - I told you I would be brief.

The Mutations

It's a Hybrid between Frankenstein and Freaks
Well, to keep the puns going, this grows on you after awhile. Really, it does. While I had never heard of it before, I was pleasantly surprised to find this film about a British bio-engineer/professor mixed up with a carnival and who uses bodies(inexplicably) to help with his experimentation to create an animal/plant race of beings. We get a Frankenstein type film, but when you add the oddities(most REAL) from the carnival - and who create scenes eerily reminiscent of Tod Browning's Freaks - we get so much more. While undeniably cheaply made - the special effects are ridiculous as is the final "invention" of man and plant, The Mutations(I saw it under the title The Freakmaker)does have some truly jarring scenes. The carnival freaks in this movie are allowed to act - and, quite frankly, are the scariest thing in this film as they lynch Lynch(played nicely by a heavily made-up Tom Baker - make-up here is quite good too!) - a deformed man who wants to be 'normal" whilst distancing himself from his freak brethren by calling them freaks and himself normal. Needless to say things do not work out well for him. This is the subplot of the film but I found it more interesting than the story of Donald Pleasance working with plants and creating some starved half-animal half-plant creature the size of a human. Pleasence is good as he always is - but really is given little to do EXCEPT for his wonderful lecture at the beginning of the film. There we are also introduced to four students(later Brad Harris will join them)who will come to know the doctor's work firsthand. The only thing you need to know about these four is that three of them are HOT, beautiful girls: blonde Jill Haworth, sensuous Olga Anthony, and the incredibly stunning Julie Ege - we also get to see them in various states of disrobe - a MAJOR highlight. Harris is OK, but it really is the real-life "freaks" that caught my eye. Michael Dunn plays the dwarf running the carnival - and I think he gives his best performance in film. I always thought he was a pretty good actor that went beyond his stereotyped image. This unfortunately was one of his last films as he died at the age of 38. The Mutations is a solid film with many undesirable elements but does, in my opinion, scare - why? Well, that will be for you to determine.

Without Warning

Holy Flying Flapjacks!
I too remember this film from my youth. I think I saw it on HBO in the early 80s - some thirty years better. What did I remember from the original? I remembered the flying alien discs. Aside from that nothing else except Larry Storch. As I watched the credits roll recently, I kept saying "Larry Storch is in this! He is some kind of boy scout or something." Indeed, he was - and still, for me, the best thing about this movie. He has one of those humorous cameos that steals scenes as he talks about Guapo Indians trying to impress his scouts. Well, let's backtrack. The film opens with a man(Cameron Mitchell in need of some bucks and bad!)out to hunt with his, in his words, "sissy" son when both soon find these aforementioned alien discs attack. What does such an attack look like? It looks like a disc being thrown at someone then sticks its tentacles into the flesh and soon the victim dies. We then go to Storch meeting the same fate and then we get a group of teens going to the lake to have fun. Are they aware that something is not quite right at the lake? Of course they are as they have been warned both directly and indirectly - but go nonetheless. Two die and two fly. Well, the film looks and feels very cheaply made. The actors over-act madly. Martin Landau plays a Fred Dobbs(yes, it is Bogart's name in Treasure of the Sierra Madre - and yes, he is crazy too!) Landau really looks like he took an overdose of acting pills, which is good because Jack Palance must have finished the bottle! These two are so far off the chart as to turn this from any serious vehicle to something of a parody nature - though unintentional I assure you. The film is not all bad. There are some nice scenes in an abandoned house toward the end of the film. The master alien is cool looking and the final part of the film FAIRLY effective. There is also a host of character actors given little to do such as Ralph Meeker and Neville Brand. The young foursome are decent at least. But what the film has going against it is quite ponderous: dark lighting throughout, over-acting - did I mention over-acting?, a novice-like feel for the direction of the film, etc... This is a hard movie to find. I watched a horror convention DVD - it took forever just to track that down. Once I watched it I was like - okay, I saw it again. I probably won't for another 30 years again.

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