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Planet of the Apes

PLANET OF THE NYUK NYUK's, or: "I Waited 25 YEARS for THIS??!!"
(POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!) God in Heaven, where does one begin? I became an APES freak around 1973 and collected the toys, memorabilia, and all. I even made a fan magazine on PLANET OF THE APES. This franchise was lost in the dust for a few decades and I prayed it would return one day. Well, it FINALLY has - and I'm not so sure it's for the better.

Yes, the kids will love this film, and yes, the toys and Ape Popularity will soar once again. But Lord, what an AWFUL motion picture - heartbreaking, really, after suuuccch a long wait. When I heard that Tim Burton and Rick Baker were involved I had some hopes. As I saw magazine articles, trailers, and makeup shots I said "yeah, this may actually work!" But then I saw the finished product...and my worst fears were confirmed, my few hopes were shot down, and once again I knew that there is no escaping the wrath of today's lousy movies.

As the last 25 years or so passed before my eyes during the movie, I got disgusted, angered, and bored. Now, it's too easy to charge me with being too biased toward the 1968 original; I fully accepted some changes. Too bad every one was for the WORST. Well, enough preliminary stuff; let's get on to the movie, shall we? ---

It's treated as a silly, dumb, stupid, lame joke. It's like watching Looney Tunes on acid or something. Tim Burton reportedly had much fun with this film, even laughing after yelling "Cut!" after each shot - and it shows. Burton has NO respect for this subject and thinks the APES are funny monkeys to be snickered at. And tossing in some lame variations of classic lines from the 1968 version only hinders, and seem forced. Though the unfunny and aching silliness is what peeves me the most, there's more:

Where's the script? What little story there is is full of convoluted and illogical situations. The so-called "story" merely zips in and out of perfunctory APES scenarios: A convenient hunt scene as soon as the astronaut lands, and an obligatory escape attempt, for example.

The characters are totally uninteresting. ALL of the humans, that's the first thing. Michael Clark Duncan looks good, but offers nothing. Marky Mark is by-the-numbers and not much of an actor. People are speaking highly of Helena Bonham Carter as the girl chimp, but her character just squeals a lot and is afraid of her own shadow. Her Animal Activist potential is hinted at but dropped quickly. When she falls for Marky, it's absurd. I mean, she loves animals but does she want to sleep with them?? When she kisses the astronaut at the end of the movie, who cares, it's another loan from the original, except that at least there had been more involvement and caring between Taylor and Zira. THEY seemed to spend weeks and weeks getting to know and understand each other; this time, Carter and Mark seem to have only been introduced an hour or two beforehand. And her makeup (as with the other females) is VERY POOR. John Chambers runs circles around Rick Baker there, with his original Zira makeup from the first version.

Yes, by the way, the other makeup is very good. Particularly Tim Roth's evil-looking Thade. Pity that Roth's idea of portraying a villain here though is to snarl, grunt, hiss, and swing around the room. I was looking forward to Roth's performance most of all, but he blew it.

I don't much care for the beastial savagery and more "primitive" apes of this new feature, either. To me, the Apes were more like spoiled Monkeys, and far too irrational and animalistic to run the planet. And how does this make them so superior to the humans, anyway? These talkative homo sapiens look capable enough to plan their own revolt.

The character of Limbo was an annoying and unfunny Jar Jar Binks-type, and we needed him out of there ASAP. What a stooge. Assasinate him, please.

Charlton Heston's cameo could have been decent, had it not been destroyed by his classic "Damn Them All To Hell!" line that came off as desperate and embarrassing. It could have worked in a skit from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, but in what should be an intense and intelligent sci-fi film.

And the ending? What can you say? It is closer to the book, but comes off as confusing in its execution. It looks Stupid, obligatory, and conveniently sets up for a (gulp) sequel. Man, what a dumb excuse for a movie!!!! Whether there ever was another version or not, this is one limp knee-slapper. Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!

Damn You to Hell, Tim Burton!!

The Munsters' Revenge

Better Than Nothing, but Disappointing
What this film needs is a laugh track, but even with that we've got a missed opportunity on our hands. Still in all, it's a treat to see the family reunited (especially considering how much Fred Gwynne despised his role). It's still nice to see Herman and grandpa getting into those same old jams, but what's with that Eddie? Should have had Butch Patrick return as the now-grown son.


John Carradine's Subtle Performance is Wasted
RATING: * out of ****

Wow, what a letdown! As a big fan of early movies and of John Carradine, I was very disappointed in this film.

Carradine's performance was beautifully restrained, but that's about all I can say for the film at all. It's hard for me to believe that this came from the same director who gave us the classic 1934 BLACK's as dull as dish water.

I've enjoyed cheap films from PRC (the studio which made this one) and Monogram, but I was bored beyond endurance this time. There is never any real development regarding Carradine's psychotic side, and too much "nothing" throughout. The giddy and upbeat musical score never let up, and I wished we could enjoy even ten seconds of silence every so often.

As I said from the start, I love early movies and furthermore, I could never understand why younger viewers are unable to get involved in them. Well, BLUEBEARD is the closest I've ever come to feeling what a teenager might experience today while plodding through such a type of older movie.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again

Weak Sequel Is Muddled
RATING: ** out of ****

(Some Spoilers):

THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES was highly entertaining, yet its sequel cannot match (let alone surpass) it. The murders in this film are intended to be more "over the top" than in the first movie, but they're actually nowhere near as well-done or unsettling. Some of the methods border on the ridiculous and highly unlikely.

I didn't find the extra stabs at campy humor bad, although I expected to. Vincent Price might not have had much to say in the original, but at least he was quietly ominous; here he just talks TOO much as Dr. Phibes (and it's almost always the same tiresome crooning for his "Vic-tourh-eeyuhh!").

I'm not one to nit-pick at my horror films, but there were just too many senseless ideas this time (how does Phibes get a chance to get inside Quarry's home to rig the telephone? And if he has the time to manage that, why not just rob the safe in half the time? And why use robot snakes in addition to the deadly telephone?)

There is more dead weight to slow things down, and the beautiful "Art Deco" that was so consistent in ABOMINABLE is lacking here.

Robert Quarry makes a good hero (or is he the villain?) but he doesn't have much to do in his tangle with Dr. Phibes anyway, so it doesn't matter as much as it should.

At least I can say that this new Vulnavia is hotter than the original one! (or is she supposed to BE the original one?) Sigh

An American Werewolf in London

Stupid, Embarrassing Crapola
MORD39 RATING: * out of ****

If not for the cool transformation sequence (which doesn't even look as eye-popping anymore), I'd give this comedy masquerading as a horror film the BOMB.

I suffered through this dumb, silly, "nyuk nyuk nyuk", tongue-busting- through-and-outside-cheek embarrassment way back in 1981 (not much has changed for horror since then, sadly). It SUCKS. I used to blame Freddy Krueger for turning horror movies into a joke factory. Well, I was happened here first with this non-serious laughfest. It was probably the inspiration for TEEN WOLF and TEEN WOLF TOO (Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!)


Why? Well, I admit that I was thrilled to see it originally in the theater at the age of 12. In those days, before Arnold the Terminator came along, it was the coolest thing in the world to see an unstoppable Yul Bryner as a killer robot stalking his prey, especially in that deserted underground complex!

This film might be my favorite for sheer FUN. Everybody would love to visit a wild place like WESTWORLD where he can live out his fantasies. But when the fun turns to danger...well, it's...MORE FUN!

This film is the perfect example of what you can accomplish in movies with a small budget and a lot of talent. It was Michael Crichton's directorial debut (long before his similar but inferior JURASSIC PARK), and I once read in a "Making Of" paperback that he said "I like to think people have fun with this film. We had fun making it!" Well, you accomplished your goal, sir!

This is the type of horror/sci-fi we need today: Fast-paced, tight, not overlong, and not over-blown with too many effects. I hear that Hollywood is planning to re-make this PERFECT adventure...Please, God, send them a plague on their first day of shooting if that would be the case!

The sequel to this great movie was the truly frustrating FUTUREWORLD, a real lame attempt at a sequel if ever there was one.

The Wolf Man

Greatest Werewolf Movie Of All Time...PERIOD
Of course the Universal Horrors aren't scary by today's standards, but all the indifferent critiques from these "too young to appreciate" reviewers on this site certainly horrify!

THE WOLF MAN will always be the definitive werewolf film. Its strengths are due to a number of things: the heartbreaking performance from Lon Chaney, the creepy and misty and moody forests, the awesome makeup from creative wiz Jack Pierce, the robust music score from Hans Salter, and the overwhelming sense of mythology and legend that flows throughout the whole story.

I pity younger viewers today (as I say so often) who are incapable (perhaps through no fault of their own) to drown themselves in such masterworks like this! Sorry, kids, you won't find any pathetic humor (like in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) here, nor will you see over-the-top werewolves oozing about (like in THE HOWLING). But what you WILL find (if you can endure the glorious black and white photography in this day of MTV and CGI overkill) is a very good classic that your negative reviews can never change!

Shadow of the Vampire

DaFoe is very good in the film, and it's fine movie making. The atmosphere and sets are top-notch, and technically this is a well crafted motion picture.

BUT WHY TAMPER WITH THE HISTORY OF A CLASSIC? If the intent is to make a comical film about an obsessed director who stoops to hiring a real-life vampire in the lead, couldn't this have been accomplished by writing a fictional story about a FICTIONAL film? All they needed in this case was to hire Adam Sandler or Eddie Murphy as the bloodsucker, and utilize a plethora of talentless rap stars to provide a soundtrack album.

NOSFERATU (1922) did not have a history like this, and even though supporters of this film will say it was all in good fun, you cannot and should not falsefy history for your own funnybone.

Sleepy Hollow

Sweet Eye Candy...and...and...oh, I give up!
Here we go, another horror movie made in the "modern day era" of the genre, and a disappointment. It's actually one of the more excusable products made after the decline of horror in the early eighties, if for no reason other than that THIS FILM IS GORGEOUS TO BEHOLD. Every single frame is sweet candy for the eyes, and has the "look" of a great horror film. AND THAT'S ABOUT IT.

I was so excited that Hammer Horror Veterans Christopher Lee and Michael Gough were given parts in this film, and I suppose Johnny Depp is one of the better actors today (which doesn't mean much). But even with these three assets, I got bored.

How many decapitations do we need to see? In the good old days, if you got even ONE severed head it was exciting, and it was a "money shot" worth waiting for. But if you see endless and similar shots of heads rolling, it just gets tired REAL fast.

What a shame it is that the horror genre that flourished from 1910 to 1985 is so damned D-E-A-D today. No matter how close a film comes to capturing something (and for the sheer beauty of this movie alone, this one came close) it always misses its mark.

Being John Malkovich

Promising Start, Utterly Ruined

I don't know what all the praise is about. I started to enjoy the beginning about the puppeteer looking for a job, followed by the weird office on the 7 1/2 floor, and I laughed at Orson Bean as the peculiar boss...and then John Cusack found the entranceway to Malkovich's mind, and I actually got more disinterested, rather than more intrigued.

Actually, the story is not a new one if you've seen decades of horror and sci-fi films, as well as Twilight Zone episodes (after all, is ANYTHING original in films anymore!!??). Furthermore, there was a germ of a good story here, but as is typical of modern films, the film makers have a need to add mindless sex and/or homosexuality when all else fails. In this case, the lesbian angle was COMPLETELY unnecessary and helped ruin what should have been a better time at the movies.

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

Sensational Special Effects In An Ordinary Film
Even as a long-time horror and sci-fi fan, I have never been overly pleased with animation effects. I acknowledge Ray Harryhausen as a legend and a genius, but most of his "creatures" move too un-naturally for my taste. However, his work here on EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS is sheer BRILLIANCE. The flying saucers look pretty damned real even today, and must have been astonishing to any lucky child of the 1950s who was priveleged enough to see it on the big screen in their youth.

Unlike modern movie nonsense (like MARS ATTACKS, and INDEPENDENCE DAY) the aliens are here for one reason and one reason only: not to make you laugh, but TO F**K YOU UP! Unfortunately, aside from Morris Ankrum, I don't care for the cast. I would have preferred a Richard Carlson or Richard Denning in the lead role, and maybe a Faith Domergue or Mara Corday as the girl.

I hate to sound like a jaded youth of today (which I'm thankfully not), but when the exciting saucers and aliens aren't onscreen the film is ordinary and slack.

The Catman of Paris

Don't Forget Your Caffeine
I came across a copy of this rarely-seen film and I can safely say it's better off never seen. Some films just are too damned dull and uneventful for their own good, and this is one of the best examples of an uninvolving movie where nothing occurs.

If you have ever seen bores like DEVIL BAT'S DAUGHTER, SCARED TO DEATH, THE UNDYING MONSTER, or SHE-WOLF OF LONDON (all from the 1940s) you'll know what to expect...or should I say what NOT to expect? The only worthy mention is Lenore Aubert (from ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN) on hand as the leading lady.

The monster isn't seen until the very end, and you'll have given up long before that anyway. At 60 minutes or so, this feels like 60 YEARS.

Dr. Renault's Secret

J Carrol Naish is good in average Island Of Dr. Moreau clone
Here's another rarely seen film that runs only 57 minutes, and features a heartfelt performance from J. Carrol Naish. He plays a dimwitted servant of Dr. Renault (George Zucco), and is an odd-looking man who is the result of an experiment on a real ape by Zucco.

Like so many similar films (TERROR IS A MAN, TWILIGHT PEOPLE, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS) this is just another take on the "Dr. Moreau" theme, and if not for Naish's sympathetic performance, it would be unimportant.

Dracula 2000

Some Decent, Some Not
As a horror fan who proudly states that "the horror genre is DEAD today", and that Dracula has been done to death, I am amazed that I actually made it to the theater for this one.

What intrigued me was the idea of Christopher Plummer as Van Helsing, and the fact that the film would feature the character at all. As much as I despise new horror movies, I enjoyed the way in which the story flashed back to reveal classic moments of Dracula's legend...the ship to England, for instance. The film began promisingly, kept its roots in the true Dracula Movie History for awhile, and then (as expected) lost it all.

I don't like the way Hollywood insists on having young, long-haired studs playing the Count. This began in the disappointing BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA almost ten years ago.

It was shameful how many blatant plugs there were for VIRGIN RECORDS in the film.

As usual for post-Freddy Krueger horror films, there are silly wisecracks made by the vampires in the cast, thus ruining any horrific impact.

Last (and believe me, not the least) was the absurd revelation of Dracula's "true identity". Can't he just be Count Dracula again? Admittedly, I think it was an interesting idea to try a change, but what's next for horror icons? Will we discover that GODZILLA was actually Barney??


Beautiful, Seldom - Seen Gem
I'm so glad I recently had the chance to catch up with this film! John Barrymore is a joy to watch as the eccentric lead character, and the camera work and sets are second to none.

I was particularly captivated with 16 year-old Marian Marsh as the feisty beauty, Trilby. This is the very picture of who the old song "You're Sixteen" was singing about in my book! Although this is not a horror film, it's recommended for fans who love the style of those old cherished Universal 30s classics.


Same Old, Same Old...
MORD39 RATING: * out of ****

There's nothing in VALENTINE that you haven't seen already, especially if you've been around long enough to see all those early eighties slasher films. The film is simply unnecessary, but perhaps a hint of a return to the older (pre-1985) days...

In many ways, this film looks like it could have been made back then, although there isn't anything done with it to make you feel that it's worth your time.

By the way, I can't stand Denise Richards. Her Mr.Ed face (complete with huge teeth and bushy eyebrows) are highly overrated.


One Of The Better Eighties Slasher Films
MORD39 RATING: ** out of ****

What sets this typical formulatic eighties slasher film above some others begins with its beautiful use of lighting and camerawork. Witness that awesome blue moonlit sky, as well as the Madman's shadow stalking the woods.

The slaughter scenes are also well-staged, and the general feeling one gets from the movie is that the crew was trying harder than the average "Stalk and Slash" filmakers care to.

This, along with MOTHER'S DAY, is a good example of what can be done with a basic and played-out formula, if kept in good hands.

Billy the Kid Versus Dracula

More Fun Than People Think
MORD39 RATING: ** out of ****

Okay, we know that this is a silly premise with an elderly John Carradine in the Count Dracula role, but as far as "bad" movies go, it's definitely much more fun than most other trash. At the very least, it's miles and miles better than its totally boring companion piece, JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER.

Carradine is deliciously sinister as Dracula, and the story does flow nicely. No awards given here, just a fun afternoon matinee item that is FAR from Carradine's "worst" film. The actor himself often referred to this movie as the lowest of his career, but this was probably because the outlandish title stuck in his mind.

If you want to see truly UNWATCHABLE John Carradine garbage, there are literally DOZENS worse...ASTRO ZOMBIES and GALLERY OF HORROR to name but two.

4D Man

MORD39 RATING: **1/2 of ****

Ah, the good old days! This is one interesting and involving sci-fi film. The jazz music does indeed seem out of place in a film of this type, yet after a while it made me think how different it made the film feel in the long run.

Does anyone else think that Lee Meriwether looked even better when she got older? I call it the "Ann-Margret Syndrome".

Teenage Monster

Cheesy Fun Fifties Flick
MORD39 RATING: ** of ****

This is not a classic by any means, and it shouldn't be expected to be one. The 1950's gave us simple, cheesy fun from more innocent times (which we could all use again).

TEENAGE MONSTER succeeds in providing us with all the things we love in these half-baked films: A laughable monster, former Universal Forties film star Anne Gwynne looking embarassed just having to BE in it, and a scant running time of just over 60 minutes that breezes by with good, clean fun. I'll watch this over a a true modern piece of manure (like 1999's THE MUMMY) any day.


Typical Modern Day Filmaking Problems Plague Hannibal

Why do sequels take ten years (or more) these days? Or better yet, why are sequels even attempted anymore? HANNIBAL is not a bad film by any means, but it suffers through so many modern movie mistakes that it leaves an ordinary taste in one's mouth.


First off, why do modern films insist on running overlong to make their point? I know the answer most obvious is due to the need to justify the high ticket prices, but come on! I was intrigued with the idea of Hannibal becoming sought after as one of "America's Most Wanted" in a foreign land, and I loved the greed of the lawman trying to finger him out for his reward profit, but do we really need this business to commence for so damned LONG!!??

Anthony Hopkins is delicious in his role, but the stretched out lapses of "ticket price padding" simply get in the way. Furthermore, if Jodie Foster wouldn't do the movie, we don't need her character returning. Moore does an adequate job replacing her, but for the pure sake of continuity the character of Clarice should have been dropped. Her part in the movie seems to have been inserted out of sheer obligation anyway, and the story could have been written around another detective hot on Hannibal's trail.

The toasted marshmallow-faced character that was one of Hannibal's surviving victims lost all credibility for me when it was revealed via flashback that THE IDIOT DID THE MUTILATION TO HIMSELF!!! So much for any intense feeling of just revenge for that character.

The "dinner scene" at the end is potent and properly bizarre, but why do filmakers today insist on cheapening the overall effect by playing it for giggles rather than stark horror!!??

In the end, we get another sequel set-up (sigh) and a feeling that some spicy ingredients were on hand, but the final result didn't rise in the oven...or at least not high enough.

The Blob

Dull, Saggy, and No Classic
MORD39 RATING: ** out of ****

THE BLOB is said to be the King of all Fifties Monster Movies. I'm sorry, but it doesn't hold up (if it ever did at all) and is a boring and mostly "Blob-less" chore to hang around with.

It's a pity that it starts off so superbly and quickly lapses into endless talk and non-monster dullness. The whole idea is brilliant, with a meteor crashing to earth to reveal an oozing mass of gelatin that eats people. Our interest peaks immediately with the old man's discovery of said meteorite, and his tragic rush to a town doctor for emergency treatment...but then things get tedious in a hurry.

If this film hadn't been shot in such vibrant color I doubt it would be so revered today. It can't hold a candle to dozens of far worthier 1950's monster flicks. The Blob itself is quite menacing for what it is, but the overall effect is one of a sadly missed opportunity. Ultimately, THE BLOB is a creeping bore.

Indestructible Man

Grew up with this Fun Fifties Favorite! (But No DVD Restoration...)
MORD39 RATING: **1/2 out of ****

I'm partial to this guilty favorite since I saw it hundreds of times as a youngster on television. Even so, it's just plain fun as Lon Chaney knocks off the traitors who sent him to death with their treachery. The L.A. locations are terrific, and the Dragnet-style narration adds spice to the proceedings. It's speedy and nostalgic, very much a "fifties" film.

As for the Roan DVD, I'm sorry to say that it has not been restored and is a disappointment. I have had much trouble acquiring the "perfect" version of this film, even though I've had it on VHS from FOUR(!) different companies, as well as on TNT. Some day I hope this personal fave of mine will get a clean and proper transfer on disc.

Scared to Death

For Bela Lugosi Completists (like me) ONLY
MORD39 RATING: * out of ****

This is easily one of the least of the 1940's horror films...and I suppose of all time as well. It's boring, confusing, and inept. But it's a rare color appearance for Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, and Angelo Rossito. If you like Bela Lugosi, you have to see it at least once to see him in his only color film. And he's also pretty decent in it. If not for the cast and the color novelty, this would have positively NO value at all.

Blood of Dracula

Passable Just By The Skin Of Its Fangs
MORD39 RATING: ** out of ****

I agree that this movie should have been called either I WAS A TEENAGE DRACULA or I WAS A TEENAGE VAMPIRE, as it goes in a trilogy with AIP's TEEN FRANKENSTEIN and TEEN WEREWOLF. It's not as enjoyable as either one of those, but it just barely gets an "okay" rating from me due to the cool makeup on Sandra Harrison. #3 of the trio.

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