Gamera is one of those classic Japanese horror films that contains awful acting, worse English dubbing, and sometimes laughable special effects, but is still great fun to watch. A skirmish between American and Soviet jets over the arctic results in one of the Soviet bombers crashing and its nuclear bomb load detonating, which causes Gamera to be melted out of the ice and wreck havoc on the world (particularly Japan). As usual, a little kid who is sympathetic to the monster is thrown in, and probably as a result Gamera is not killed at the end (though I have to admit, if it really could have worked, the way they dispatched Gamera at the film's conclusion was rather ingenious). Probably the funniest scene is at a dance for teenagers in Tokyo, where a band is singing the Gamera theme song and eventually the monster himself makes an appearance! All in all, this is not a film that takes itself too seriously, and if the viewer takes the same attitude it is a whole lot of fun to watch. Gamera rules!
As others have mentioned, Nixon tells the story of the 37th President from his early days in California through his resignation in August of 1974. I started to watch this film with a grain of salt, as with Oliver Stone directing I assumed it would be a few hours of Nixon bashing, but instead I was impressed by the balance in the story, and Nixon does not come across as the monster you might expect (flawed, yes, but not the Ghengis Khan as you might expect from Hollywood). The flashbacks that are used tend to make the film somewhat surreal, as does the continual shifting from black and white to color film, but the story itself is riveting and engrossing, even if we all know how it is going to wind up at the end. Nixon might not be Oliver Stone's most famous or best film, but it is an excellent movie and a surprisingly fair and balanced view of our most controversial President.
While other commenters have given mixed reviews of this film, I have to say that this version of Godzilla is way overblown, boring, and almost not worth watching. Anyone who watches this expecting it to be superior to the original Japanese versions of the Godzilla films will be greatly unimpressed, as Godzilla here looks and acts much less menacing than in those 1950s and 60s classics. Quite literally, this movie is almost like Jurassic Park set in Manhattan, as Godzilla looks much more like a dinosaur than a creature spawned from radiation. Additionally, we actually see very little of Godzilla as a whole, as over half of the shots of the monster are of its tail swinging or a closeup of one of its eyes. In reality, this movie could be called The Worm Guy Story, as way too much time is spent focusing on Matthew Broderick's character ("The Worm Guy") and it seems at time that Godzilla is secondary to his trials and tribulations. I actually cannot recommend this movie at all, and I nearly shut it off halfway through it was so lame. Avoid it and rent one of those Japanese originals for a good time!
Anyone who remembers watching the exploits of Evel Knievel back in the late 1960s and 1970s will love this film! George Hamilton plays Evel Knievel as a confident, independent, and slightly foolhardy Knievel who tells his life story through flashbacks before a big jump at Ontario Speedway in California. The best parts are the flashbacks of his growing up in Butte, Montana, where much of the film was shot. It's hard to tell how many of the details of his years in Butte are accurate, but nonetheless they are entertaining to watch. Lots of good action scenes and chases through the streets keep the story moving well (SPOILER: watch for the scene where Evel rides his motorcycle through a sorority house to find his girlfriend - hilarious!). People who don't remember or were not fans of Evel Knievel may or may not like this film, but on its own merits it's an entertaining movie to watch. Rent it if you can find it, and happy landings!!!
You Can't Stop On A Dime teaches the lesson of its title, in that a police officer and various teachers show kids how long it takes cars and bikes to stop, and also how to avoid getting in driver's blindspots while walking down and/or crossing the street. Obviously made on a limited budget, but since this is a movie for kids and not a theatrical release this is not a problem. This film, while 50 years old, could still be shown today and kids would learn some lessons about traffic safety from it. Producer Sid Davis made many films like this in the 1950s and 60s, and this one is a good example of how he taught kids a valuable lesson on a shoestring budget. One interesting aspect of the film is that the playground of the school is enormous - seems like almost an entire square mile of pavement for the kids to play on!
As others have said, this film deals with people trying to stay overnight in a house that has a reputation of being extremely haunted. While obviously made on a shoestring budget with unknown actors, this film has does some good points. The house itself is a neat setting with loads of strange pieces of artwork and gothic furniture. The storyline has echoes of other ghost tales, but the plot twists towards the end add some surprises to the story. The actors are not Academy Award contenders, but do an adequate job with the limited roles given to them; the young woman who plays Sheila probably gives the best performance and is quite pretty as well. However, there are also a lot of faults with this film, as the sound is particularly bad in places, there are weird sidelines to the plot that are incomprehensible, and the story as a whole seems implausible from start to finish. Having said that, this may appeal to some viewers who enjoy ghost stories or like to watch obscure films from the past.
A retelling of the Godzilla story in a British setting, Gorgo is a lot of fun to watch. As other reviewers have said, two fisherman come across a monster ("Gorgo") off the coast of Ireland and decide to put it on display in London. Trouble begins when Gorgo's mother shows up and wants her child back! The scenes of terrified crowds rushing the streets and attacks by the military are all well filmed (obviously the British military helped out a great deal in producing the movie), and it's neat to see a monster destroy a city besides Tokyo for once. Gorgo is obviously someone in a rubber suit, but the monster itself comes across as totally believable. Takes a while to get moving, but well worth seeing.
As other reviewers have mentioned, Flesheater stars Bill Hinzman of Night of the Living Dead fame as the title zombie in an all out attack in the undead. The film by no means gets close to the entertainment level of the movie it draws inspiration from, Night of the Living Dead, but is still entertaining to a degree despite being highly predictable. As stated before, a farmer uncovers a wooden box with a bizarre warning on it that had obviously been buried for decades, and upon opening it releases the zombie Hinzman who starts his rampage of undead terror. The acting is not the greatest and the story drags at times, but some scenes are pretty spooky, such as when Hinzman and some other zombies wander into town and attack a family in a suburban house. The ending, which I won't reveal here, is highly predictable and you can see it coming a long time off. All in all, Flesheater may not be the greatest horror film ever made, or even a great zombie movie, but it's not totally awful, either.
The Ghosts of Angela Webb is a low budget film, but one that is well done and is good mix of a couple of different genres. Two New York psychics visit the colonial era home of Angela Webb in New Jersey to investigate the hauntings that are going on there, and they discover several different ghosts while touring the house. Angela does some investigating on her own and even meets the institutionalized former owner, and learns the house has a long and bloody past. The ending is a surprise, and the last scene where we seen Angela is extremely creepy. This is not a movie for kids, as the film has a lot of nudity and blood, but it shows how imagination and creativity can lead to a quality picture.
As others have mentioned, a group of photographers and models working in an Italian castle fall prey to a reclusive actor who thinks he is the reincarnation of the Crimson Executioner, a 17th century sadist and murderer who was executed and entombed in the castle. The idea for the plot isn't bad, but the former muscle man they hired to play the killer overplays his role so much it's laughable; all you hear him talk about is how perfect his body is and how impure the models and crew are - his gives a performance that is a textbook example of unintentional hilarity! Later scenes deal with the torture and humiliation of the models in the dungeon of the castle; these scenes are rather disturbing to watch even though everything is obviously faked. Not a great film but not bad either; has some good footage of a historic Italian castle in the countryside, and features some attractive young actresses as the models.
The Thin Red Line isn't the worst film ever made, but it is overlong, somewhat boring, and takes itself WAY too seriously. The action scenes themselves are well filmed and acted, however the parts where everyone asks why they are there and what the meaning of the world is are overblown and don't mesh well into a war film. Thin Red Line puts forth ideas about life and living and the meaning of it all right into the face of the viewer and basically demands that everyone to buy into the morals presented; a war movie is a bad forum for a spiritual lecture, which is what this is. This would have been great as a straight war movie or as a spiritual film, but not both mixed together.
As others have stated, Beyond and Back is a film that deals with the phenomena of those who have had near death experiences, and also talks some about seances and past life regression. While it deals with an interesting subject and has passable production values, the retelling of the near death experiences get to be somewhat tiring after a while. There are about eight experiences reported, and except for the last one dealing with an attempted suicide the stories are all presented the same way, so you almost want to say "here we go again" when a new case is presented. The narrator does an average job explaining everything, but he seems to be trying to imitate Raymond Burr most of the time. Not a great film, but not bad either and is worth watching for anyone interested in psychic phenomena. The video is long out of print and the best way to find it is at an online auction house, which is where I got my copy.
Massacre Harbour was the theatrical release of some episodes of the Rat Patrol TV series; the TV episodes were edited together to create the film (on television, the story was called The Last Harbor Raid). Anyone who likes the TV series would definitely like this movie, and even those who never saw the Rat Patrol on the small screen will find it enjoyable. The four-member Rat Patrol is sent in to initiate a mass escape of Allied prisoners from a German POW camp on the North African coast, using the local fishing boats to transport the prisoners to safety. All the cast does well here; Lawrence Casey (Pvt Hitchcock) has a much bigger role than he normally would in the TV series and he gives a memorable performance. Claudine Longet portrays a local singer who assists the Patrol; her acting is fine but her singing gets irritating very quickly. There are some slow parts in the story, particularly about midway through the plot, but the mass escape at the end is exciting and well filmed. Definitely worth watching for any Rat Patrol fan, and non-fans should enjoy it as well.
Castle Keep is a film people either love or find boring, and it really is a movie that isn't for all tastes, but is not a bad picture at all. As stated before, a group of American soldiers are stationed in a castle near the end of World War 2, and eventually meet a German offensive at the nearby town and at the castle itself. Much happens before the German Army arrives, some of it surreal (like the apparently supernatural VW) and there is also a lot of soul searching and carousing the troops engage in. The combat sequences are well filmed; best parts are the capture of the tank in the church, and Sgt. Rossi dispatching a German soldier by tossing a grenade down his coat. Lancaster shines in this movie, as do Peter Falk as the disillusioned Sgt Rossi and Bruce Dern as the crazed Lt Bix. Dern's performance almost has echoes of Charles Manson, as Dern comes across as a wild, unkempt, raving leader of a flock of outcasts (though the movie was filmed before anyone ever heard of Manson). All in all, Castle Keep is a surreal film, which may turn some viewers off, but the combat sequences are good, and the movie is good entertainment for an evening.
I've never seen Prince of Space other than in the MST3K version, but even without Mike and the Bots I think I would laugh uncontrollably during this picture!
POSSIBLE SPOILERS: The costumes (apparently worn without underwear) and special effects are hysterical, and the acting ability shown by everyone is almost non-existent. As others have said, much of the dialogue is of Krankor laughing, or Prince of Space saying that weapons are useless against him. I guess in theory the plot of aliens coming to earth to steal a rocket fuel formula is a workable one, but after a while it seems like the plot itself vanishes as well. Other fun aspects of this film are Krankor's spaceship (shaped like a turkey), the annoying kids who enjoy bootblacking very much, and the fact that Dr Makin is about 75 years old but has a son of about nine.
All in all, this probably isn't the worst film ever made, as it is great for a lot of unintentional laughs. Just don't take it seriously and you'll love it!
Good idea, well photographed, but needs new material
Cold Case is one of the best new series to come out of CBS this fall. The basic idea of investigating old, unsolved cases is a good one; it's a surprise that no one thought of this earlier, as there have been shows for years on A&E and other cable networks showing how actual cold cases have been solved. A nice twist is that the cases they investigate really are old ones (two recent cases went back to 1973 and 1964); one thought I had when I first heard of the show's concept was that they would only portray cases that were going to be a year or two old, leading it to be just another detective show. Having the cases go so far back allows for a lot of camera magic, showing people how they looked when the crimes were committed and then how they look today; some viewers may find this annoying but I think it is an effective way to show how much time has passed in the story. Going back many years also allows for the use of lots of classic songs and nostalgic clothing and hair styles, which I'm sure brings back memories for many people.
As other people have said here, the main drawback in the series is that every episode seems to tell a story that you know you've heard someplace before, either in real life or in movies or books. The premiere episode, though well told, is quite obviously a re-telling of the Skakel murder case; anyone who even saw the promo for that show could tell it was derived from that case. The other shows so far also seem to have familiar plots, but are still well produced; hopefully some new writers will be added to make up some original stories before viewers start getting bored.
Kathryn Morris really shines in this show as Detective Morris; she's smart, dedicated, tough at times, and attractive. As she is the only female homicide detective in the department, the show could have had a crusading feminist sort of theme, but this is thankfully not the case. The rest of the regulars are excellent as well, as are the supporting cast each week.
Overall, I would give Cold Case a 7.5 for now; it could how higher or lower, depending if the writing becomes more original in the future or stays somewhat derivative.
Half Moon Street is basically an average film with some good talent in it. From the reviews this is a movie people either love or hate, but I think the elements balance each other out and the end result lands it in the middle of the film quality spectrum. Sigourney Weaver comes across totally convincingly as a Mid East scholar who becomes an escort by night to make ends meet (anyone who is a fan of hers will probably appreciate her many nude scenes!). Michael Caine also gives a good performance as an English lord trying to broker a secret Middle East peace deal. Where this film falters is in the script, which is too talky and it seems to take a long time for the story to get going. The last twenty minutes is well filmed and exciting, but there is a lot of plodding to go through before the good part arrives. Fans of Caine and/or Weaver will probably love it; for everyone else, not really a bad film, but not really great either.
The production values of this movie aren't bad (the bat attacks are obviously animated but come off okay) but otherwise this plays like a parody of horror films with some miscast talent. Tracey Nelson plays a detective who teams up with animal control officer Whip Hubley to investigate bat attacks in a small town. Nelson, though having played investigative types before, comes across as a strange choice to play a bat hunter, though she does a good job. Hubley and the two kids aren't bad but it seems like no one takes this movie seriously. The plot twists involving the search for the person behind the bat attacks is entertaining, but overall Fangs isn't the most cerebral film ever produced. However, this is a movie worth watching as a mild diversion from serious horror films, or if you like Tracey Nelson (or really, really like bats).
Earthquake was released in 1974 during an era when disaster films were in vogue. It is overall a good movie, though some parts and performances are better than others. The subplot concerning Charlton Heston and his love affairs takes up too much time and seems to be thrown in to pad the film. The best performance is by George Kennedy as a embittered police officer trying to do his best in a bad situation (Kennedy even saves a bruised, scared dog at one point - a scene that sounds hokey but really isn't). The special effects are good, though the scenes with the elevator and the cattle truck seem a little unbelievable. Earthquake is a lot better than many disaster films, and while not a dramatic masterpiece it still holds up well almost 30 years later.
Shell Shock seems to have been made on a limited budget, and while everyone tries their best this is far from a classic film. Though set in Italy in 1943, it is quite obvious that it was filmed in the Hollywood Hills in the early 1960s and also apparently on a LA beach for one scene. It is quite a laugh to see lots of WW2 soldiers (both American and German) with mid sixties surfer haircuts. Some of the action scenes aren't bad, but the psychological aspects dealing with combat fatigue seem quite unbelievable. Not a totally bad film, but a movie to watch only once.
Greatest travel film of all time, and seems undated today almost twenty years after its release. I think everyone can, to a small degree, sympathize with what the Griswold family goes through on a disastrous trip to Wally World, as everyone has had a bad vacation in their life, but the Griswold's experiences top the list as the worst trip in history. Chevy Chase is probably in his best role here, as the bumbling food additive specialist who has good intentions in driving cross country but not enough common sense to prevent disaster. Beverly D'Angelo plays his hapless wife stuck in the middle of the mess, who tries to add some sanity to the trip but doesn't succeed. The bickering kids, awful Aunt Edna, and the vicious dog add lots of comic touches. This is a movie you could watch dozens of times and never be tired of seeing it. Great music in the soundtrack, and all in all a fun trip across early 1980s America.
Viewers used to series today such as Law & Order and CSI probably won't enjoy this classic show from the 1960s, but if you need a break from gritty realism and hard-boiled dramas this is a great show to watch. The 60s version of Dragnet was somewhat like the original show in the 1950s, but dealt with the topics of the day like drug use, race relations, student unrest, etc. Jack Webb plays Joe Friday to the hilt again, maybe a little less authoritarian that back in the 1950s version but still quite a memorable character nonetheless. By contrast, Harry Morgan plays Friday's partner, Officer Bill Gannon, as just a regular guy who happens to be a cop. You get the feeling that Gannon could easily move to some other career if he wanted to without much difficulty, while Friday seems to be interested only in police work; it's hard to imagine Joe Friday taking a day off, let alone do anything like go to the movies, visit a museum, etc. The supporting characters come and go regularly, as others have mentioned, but do a good job with their limited roles. Also, the crimes that Friday and Gannon investigate are quite interesting, and most episodes are well written. There will always probably be a debate as to whether the 50s or 60s version of Dragnet was best, but either way this series has held up well and is still a lot of fun to watch today.
Though it is full of bad acting, enormous plot holes, and some pretty bad songs, this movie is actually so goofy that it is mildly enjoyable. The tiny town the movie is set in is apparently about a thousand miles from any other sort of civilization, which seems to be why the Gila Monster is able to hide so well. This film looks like to have been a vehicle to launch the career of Don Sullivan, but his acting is pretty poor and his singing voice below average at best, so it's no wonder he didn't have a stellar career after the movie was released. Despite all this, The Giant Gila Monster is rather entertaining if you like monster flicks; having a real gila monster walk through miniature sets makes for some fun special effects. The actor who plays the sheriff does a good job with his role, and the party towards the end is a real laugh to watch. Don't expect a classic from this one, but on its own merits it's not as bad as you might think.
Though now dated with its abundant 1970s styles, fashions, and music, Death Race 2000 still is a lot of fun to watch. This is a film that is not to be taken seriously, as it does take itself seriously. Set in the year 2000 (which was the future back in 1975), America is ruled over by Mr. President, who acts as a dictator and whose word is law; we learn that all the former members of Congress have been locked up in a penitentiary compound since he took power, and he uses his Secret Police to keep order. To keep the masses entertained, Mr. President lords over the annual Transcontinental Road Race, whereby points are scored not only by crossing the finish line first but also for running over anyone on the streets. Carradine does a good job as Frankenstein, though he looks like he longed for the years he spent on Kung Fu while making this movie. Stallone is fun as Machine Gun Joe, making this movie about a year before he starred in Rocky. The other actors seem to be enjoying themselves in their roles, and despite the limited budget this is actually an entertaining film. Not a classic by any means, but one of the better overlooked films of the 1970s.
Shot in the American desert instead of the real Sahara due to the war, this movie is one of the best war films ever made. The desert is so bleak and barren, and the sun so bright, you can almost feel the heat in your living room. Sahara shows us just how brutal the conditions were in North Africa during the war, and how nature brought suffering to both sides. The Allied soldiers are a mix of a lot of different nationalities (American, British, French, South African, Irish, Sudanese) and we see how these men from diverse backgrounds come together to survive against the elements and the Germans. The Germans themselves have the usual stereotyping of nastiness that is found in most films of the 1940s, but even they are shown to be individuals and not a faceless enemy. Get a cool drink and watch Sahara - it's a great movie.