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Prehistoric Women

Love in the Sortahotchickzoic Era
Tigri and her gal pals (realisticly portrayed in lipstick, soft perms and miniskirts) pelt Engor and his buds with nerf rocks and take them hostage. The epic drama that follows is too intricate and ingenious to describe by mere words, but you can't miss:

The most feared beast in the jungle, Grotty (or somesuch), a big, tall, ugly...uh...guy.

The invention of fire by whacking two entirely not-flintlike rocks together.

Chick fight!

Pink Dragon!

Filmed in resplendent Drab-O-Vision with a flawless Nabokovian voice-over that never, oh no never, gets tiring in it's mesmerizing wit and turns of phrase.

Take your chances and miss this one it you must. But you won't die happy.


Chock full o' Implausability, but...
...Sinatra is great as hired assassin John Baron who's half million dollar job is to off the POTUS when his train stops in Suddenly, California.

If you've ever read Black Mask or any of the old crime pulps, Suddenly has that kind of vibe. Tough, highly stylized talk and attitude takes center stage in spite of any lick of logical behavior or plot coherence. I'm serious here, kids, the story is a mess. So, the decent 7 rating is for one reason only: Blue Eyes is that good.

A must see for Sinatra fans and a definite gripper for those who can really, really, really suspend disbelief.

Stop Making Sense

There is a season, Byrne, Byrne, Byrne
I don't know how many times I've watched this film, but I do know that it has never grown old. David Byrne, artist first, musician second, created the single most unique, and best, musical stage show of all time. Then he brought in a spectacular bunch of backing players to compliment the Talking Heads core quartet.

Demme captured it perfectly by not being too intrusive or overly busy. This is before the 40 edits per minute video era; while not stagnant at all it never makes you dizzy. You have time to take in the different personalities.

And, yeah, the music's pretty good, too.

Night Nurse

Better than average pre-code
This seems to start out as a thin exploitation (tame now) flick with Stanwyck down to her undies twice in the first fifteen minutes. It then evolves into a decent little thriller that is worth a view for early crime-drama buffs, pre-code buffs and, of course, Stanwyck buffs.

I don't want to get into the plot too much because at just over an hour there isn't that much plot to unravel. Let's just say it's a pretty ugly theme with children involved. As tame as this is nowadays, this one ain't for the kids.

Stanwyck is good enough though not her usual, stellar presence; she comes off a little stiff and unconvincing in parts. Joan Blondel is very good as the roommate but fades into the background in the latter half. Clark Gable is kind of one-note as the creepy chauffeur. So there are no career defining, must see performances. But these are minor quibbles on my part; it's still a solid way to burn an hour-ten.

Der letzte Mann

Well, there's this doorman, see...
Yep. It's about a doorman. A fat, pompous doorman. A doorman that, because he's getting old, get's demoted to Washroom Attendent. Then he does washroom things. Sounds dry, but it's not.

Emil Jannings play the lead (did I mention, doorman?). He carries the entire film in a masterful silent performance. Truly silent; not one dialog card in the entire movie.

Direction, camera-work and lighting are all excellent.

Could've been a masterpiece if not for a ridiculous deus ex machina ending. Not just a "didn't see that coming" ending, but a ending that is just absurd enough to ruin the integral mood of the first 80 minutes.

If you like classic silents you should check this out. But you will leave unsatisfied if you want an emotional payoff.

The Munsters

Props to the Actors
Credit where credit is due: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo and Al Lewis are what keep you coming back to the Munsters. Yes, the look of the show (Universal Horror all the way) is great, the writing often clever, the numerous sight gags usually entertaining. But if you didn't have good (very good) acting from the leads this show would have tanked.

Boiled down, the Munsters is a typical family sitcom in a bizarre setting. And while most of the episodes are fun, if feather-light, it didn't take long until the first clunker (#14: Grandpa Leaves Home). And that wasn't the last one but, thankfully, it's in the minority. The reason, again, is that Herman, Lily and Grandpa (along with the kids and numerous guest star appearances) are, frankly, endearing. You become so fond of them that some episodes actually become touching (Happy 100th Anniversary).

Only 70 episodes but that was about the limit of what you could crank out without it becoming painful. Too many sitcoms run on past their welcome. This one managed not to.

Yabu no naka no kuroneko

Moody Ghost Story
Early on in this movie there are three scenes that go like this:

First: A samurai meets a pale woman in a white kimono. The woman leads him home. There is a domestic scene, he is lured into making love to her and meets a grisly end.

Second: A samurai meets a pale woman in a white kimono. The woman leads him home. There is a domestic scene, he is lured into making love to her and meets a grisly end. (Okay, we get it.)

Third: A samurai meets a pale woman in (Okay, we get it!)

On repeated viewings, the above sequences gets a little tedious, even though in the domestic scenes there is information revealed that is vital to the movie. Here's the good news: that is my only beef with Kuroneko.

Kuroneko is otherwise a very good, atmospheric Japanese ghost story with a revenge angle to it. It's a very visual movie. Lovely sets, good camera work, good direction, good acting. The first time through the repetitive bits I griped about don't detract much but do keep me from giving this a slightly higher rating.

Check it out.


Good early drama
I first watched this about three months ago and was somewhat disappointed, but after watching it a couple more times I've started to appreciate it more, just not for the reasons I'd expected.

The carriage and driver are a striking image and the multi-exposure effects are the best ever in a film of this age. Seeing one of these clips is what made me anticipate watching the entire film. Turns out this is a minor part of the movie. Think Hitchcock's magguffin; it isn't about the Death Carriage. It is, rather, a morality tale about a mean alcoholic reflecting on his life. The story could have been done with or without the carriage.

And the story is certainly well done. I'm actually more impressed with Sjostrom's script and his acting than with the directing, which is stagnant, but no more so than most films of this era.

So, I came for supernatural horror and got horrific drama instead. Slow pacing and staging keep this one from greatness but it is engrossing by the end of it.

A couple quick notes on the Criterion DVD. Excellent commentary by Casper Tybjerg (who also does the commentary track on Haxan). Two scores that I would never listen to on their own; the KTL score does fit the movie though, the Bye score does not.


Good looking but dull early Hitch
Even in 1928 Hitch was beginning to stand out from other directors. The camera-work and editing in this flick is outstanding. If you're a big Hitchcock fan, it will hold your interest for that aspect alone. If you're looking for great entertainment, look elsewhere.

Though there are some funny moments, most of Champagne is a bit of a snooze. The story is okay (Daddy teaches rich daughter a lesson, you'll probably guess how) but far from engaging.

The biggest problem is Betty Balfour. She's in nearly every scene and she's simply not that good. It's not a problem with the typical big-gestured silent acting but more to the fact that the emotions she portrays often don't fit the scene.

Good for a diversion and a couple of laughs but you might end up glancing at your watch before the predictable end.


Toward the end of this movie I was making a grocery list in my head. Here it is:





tortilla chips

Why would I want to print that list? It's more interesting than Zombieland. By far.

The film is glossy and has a videogameesqueness that should appeal to those who like, well, glossy video games. Even has pop up rules like you might see in the tutorial level of a, well, glossy video game. It looks just fine.

End of positive comments.

I won't even go into the plot other than to wonder who got paid to pull a script out of The Big Hollywood Vomit Jar of Horror/Comedy Clichés. Not a surprise to be found in this one folks.

The cast. Woody H. plays (badly) a Twinkie obsessed, absurdly proficient gun slinger. Some kid I've seen somewhere before but don't know his name and don't care to look it up plays (fairly) Columbus Ohio, a social outsider who, predictably, finally finds a family. A couple of girls play (forgettably) a couple of girls. B.M. plays B.M. At least he has the good sense to get killed.

Oh, and yeah, there's zombies. Bloody, fast moving, never scary zombies. In a never scary, never funny, never entertaining film.

Please skip it. Put your money back in your pocket and add Twinkies to you grocery list. Now, those are good.

Les yeux sans visage

A Nice Slow Burn
The final section of this review contains spoilers, including a discussion of how the movie ends. If you haven't seen the film, and wish to, stop reading at the ALERT.

Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage, aka The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus) is from a time when it was okay to take time in telling a story. In other words, in this age of quick edits, I don't think the kids will like it. It does take its sweet time. But that's a good thing in this case; an atmosphere of slow dread suits some scenes very well, and adds to the beauty of others.

The story is simple. Dr. Genessier (stout, bearded, stoic Pierre Brasseur) tries to reconstruct his disfigured daughter with, let's say, unconventional means. Brasseur plays the doctor with the right touch of amorality, doing dastardly things just to meet his ends. The daughter, Christiane (round-eyed Edith Scob), while technically not the lead, is the most fascinating element of the picture. Scob more or less floats through her scenes giving essentially a silent performance, all eyes and body language, absolutely lovely to watch. The rest of the cast is good but not what you'll remember when it's over.

Although tame today there is one graphic scene and a general theme I would consider unsuitable for the very young.

***spoiler(s) ALERT***

I really like this film but it does have a rather large flaw. If you don't see the ending coming you've probably never watched any older thrillers. As soon as I saw the kennel I knew the doc was gonna be Puppy Chow. Sure enough, although it does redeem itself with a nice final scene of Christiane. With a cleverer ending I would justify giving this film a 10.

One more thing. Scob is masked through most of the movie, or made up as as Scar(tissue)face. In only one scene do you see her actual face and it's as screen-photogenic as nearly any actress you'll ever see. I understand she did more films with director Franju and would like to see her in something else.

Don't let the weak ending hinder you if you like classic horror/suspense and great b&w movies. Highly recommended.


Hammer's Best? Wow.
Hammer fans, prepare to gnash your teeth.

So, how many great Hammer Horror films are there? If there are any, I haven't seen one. Horror of Dracula is no exception.

Horror of Dracula is considered by many the best adaption of Dracula ever made. Maybe so. Part of the problem with any Dracula movie is the source material. Bram Stoker did not write a great book ("Oh no he dih-n't!"). The Universal movie, Lugosi especially, influenced future movie vampires more than the book, but, once again, not a great movie. Better than "Horror" though.

Hammer's film is the usual bright affair. Here's problem one. While it may be clichéd, good horror films have shadows; nooks and crannies where things lurk. Horror of Dracula may as well have been filmed in a mall at Christmas for all the atmosphere evoked. (Now I don't need to review Dawn of the Dead, huh?) Here is problem two. Christopher Lee. What a powerful screen presence, eh? Are you joking? Making with the big eyes and baring fangs is not a performance of depth. In point of fact, I doubt Mr. Lee can spell depth. I don't think he even tried to play a character, just talked with teeth.

OK, gotta say something nice. Uhm... Horror of Dracula is every bit as good as most horror offerings out there because there are not many great movies in this genre. Maybe the praise heaped on this bland-fest is because, as far as vampire flicks, there is not much competition.


Strange Fun
Disjointed and weird, historically inaccurate hodgepodge. But so entertaining. Haxan (The Witch) is probably not the title to seek out if you are new to watching silent film as it lacks what modern viewers might call a coherent narrative. It flips from tutorial to story to quasi-documentary in seven parts that range from ancient history to "modern" times (it is over 80 years old). Some of the content, particularly the Devil's Sabbath, while unintentionally comical (or was it?), may offend Wiccans or even some Christians if not viewed with a big touch of salt. This is simply how director Christenson saw history and pop psychology in his day. The flying witches sequence is stunning for its day, effects-wise. Great fun to watch but, as I said, not much of a story.

Note: The Criterion disc has an excellent commentary by Casper Tybjerg, who also does commentary on the Criterion release of The Phantom Carriage.

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