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Leprechaun: Origins

Leaves you even more bored than when you were bored...
Oh this movie is dreadfully disappointing in so many ways, and I wasn't expecting all that much to begin with, but--well, I'll put it this way: I watched it expecting more of the trademarked tacky, heavy-handed, low-budget enjoyable zaniness that all the other "Leprechaun" films are notoriously noted for, but incredibly enough, this film, played "straight", would have been vastly more entertaining had it been done in the style of the earlier films--and dammit, that's what I had my heart set on seeing in the first place! Instead, we get a vague, blurry (literally) creature, scenes so dark and fragmented in their editing that you're not exactly SURE what just happened until you piece it together a bit later, about one hour of our characters running from one place to the next barricading themselves in, but getting polished off one by one just the same and the characters themselves are cyphers. Folks, that's pretty much the plot.

In fact, (SPOILER), at some point, one of the two males in the film gets his leg mauled by the creature and our protagonists flee the cabin making a run for the woods. The fellow with the (very--from the insert shot of his wounds, I don't see how he could possibly walk really!) damaged leg falls way behind and calls out to the other three to come back. Two of his friends just look at him over their shoulders, consider things for about 1 second and continue running on! I mean, I'm supposed to care about those two later on? Yanno? I generally expect better films from Lion's Gate--this ain't one of them!

The Money

I was there!
Honestly, I don't remember this film tremendously well as I was only 13 when I saw it; however, as I grew up in Atlantic City, I think my attention was mostly focused on seeing any street corners or things I knew very well and while I've not seen the film since it's premier (it was at the Charles Theater in Atlantic City; Mr. Tannenbaum, the owner, always let me in for free as he was friend of my dad's), I'd like to see it again and maybe this time focus more on what was going on with the story! It has a wonderful cast, so right off, I tend to think the crummy reviews may be a bit overstated.

My memories of the film (other than the location shooting!) was that it was kind of an "art" film--although I was too young at the time to know exactly what constituted an "art" film and was perhaps a little "too" off-key to register with my 13-year-old brain (although I was quite a radiantly bright rascal at the time).

So at this point in time, until I can see this film again, my personal rating is based on the knowledge that if I can find it, it would be like revisiting my childhood again.

Man in the Dark

Entertaining B Movie
I recently watched Bluray's 3D release of this for home theaters. Well, when I saw it was directed by Columbia workhorse Lew Landers, I sort of knew instinctively this was NOT going to be a film that could potentially be confused with something directed by say, John Huston. Yes, I was right! Edmond O'Brien is his usually sturdy self (just a year away from winning an Oscar for "The Barefoot Contessa") and any flick with Ted DeCorsia benefits greatly from his menacing presence). The somewhat convoluted plot is made slightly more credible by the earnest cast and swift direction by Landers, but does lag at times.

There's a chase on the rooftops between O'Brien and the cops and somehow I just couldn't picture the somewhat stout O'Brien leaping from about from roof to roof and scurrying up and down fire escapes without winding up being on a respirator at the Hollywood Hospital after completing the scenes.

Another aspect that confused the heck out of me is O'Brien's flashbacks detailing how he was finally apprehended by the police. There seems to be two versions flash backed, both entirely different.

As for the 3D, there is a somewhat startling shot of the surgeons' heads looming in a circle over the camera (methinks Landers used this same composition for a scene in "The Raven", a 1935 horror film he directed with Lugosi and Karloff) and some other nice touches, although the "gag" sequences (i.e., things thrown at the audience) don't always come off well (admittedly, these gags probably worked best on the big screen, not on a 3D television).

For example, the goons and O'Brien visit his old house, which has been abandoned and boarded up. Making their way through the cobwebs and dust inside, we are treated to what was either a bird, or a bat, or a hand towel flying out of the screen (it was just BOGUS whatever it was--well, the rubber spider pulled on a string effect, which made the animation on "Gumby" look like "Jurassic Park", was rather jarring as well).

The highlight of the film is definitely the climax taking place at an amusement park, but I somehow felt they could have made more use of the location, particularly with the advantage of filming in 3D.

A fairly good little film, particularly if you are able to see it as it was originally presented.

PS: Not related to the film, but to the Bluray release, as this was not a major movie by Columbia in any way, perhaps they should have added one of Columbia's Three Stooges shorts, namely "Spooks!", which was filmed in 3D. Who knows? Perhaps it did appear on the bill with "Man in the Dark" originally!

Sting of Death

Brilliantly Awful
For fans of "guilty pleasures" and pictures so inept in fascinating way they are riveting, this one deserves attention. It rivals "Plan 9" for just plain craziness. Highlight: the floating sandwich bag massacre in which many obnoxious young people are wiped out (although the guy dunking his head into a standard metal frame fish tank and turning into a jellyfish-man gives room for pause as well).

It's one of those hard to see pictures, but I believe I first caught it on Turner Classic Movies (!) and it's available on DVD now.

This is a masterpiece of bad filmmaking, and therefore it is a GOOD film of it's kind. Recommended.

Phantom of the Opera

Gorgeous film
Just finished watching Bluray's beautifully restored version of this film and just LOOKING at this film is breathtaking at times; it deservedly won Oscars for art direction and cinematography. I suppose my only gripes about the film are the same ones echoed throughout here: too much forced "comedy" with Nelson Eddy and Edgar Barrier, and with a picture focused mainly on opera and less on real melodramatics, it probably would have benefited with more moments like The Phantom speaking to Christine in her dressing room and more interplay involving Rains (who is splendid in his scenes; a fine example of this is the sequence where he leads Christine to his subterranean haunts: Rains effectively conveys madness without ever resorting to grandstanding or high theatrics; in his subdued way, he makes us feel even sorrier for him realizing he is in that condition towards the film's conclusion).

The "Phantom Unmasked" make-up may not be up to giving us a jolt similar to the Chaney moment in the 1925 version, BUT the make-up is VERY believable and realistic in keeping with a man burned with acid (also, is this the first make-up job by the great Jack Pierce in COLOR? I know there are color "home movies" from the 1939 "Son of Frankenstein" showing his work however). I think anything TOO horrifying would have turned this film on it's head and is just enough (the documentary available with this particular disc points out that the final make up was upon Rains' approval--he did not wish to be typed a "horror actor" (this film was not long after he appeared in "The Wolf Man")hence, the modest make up as it appears on screen.

Susanna Foster certainly has a beautiful voice! But boy, is she a cipher in the film when not singing. I think the characters fret too much about her, as if she was incapable of doing anything by herself--it gets annoying after a while! My biggest question about this movie is, as this was most obviously one of Universal's extremely rare "Class A and Above" production for that time and lots of money obviously spent (Rains was not cheap, even billed third, I'm sure he made the most money of the cast), why did they choose a director more associated with Abbott & Costello movies to direct? I mean to say, he did a nice job of it, but-- I'm not sure, but I have a feeling the use of symphonic music turned into opera was to make it more appealing to a broader audience (well that and just about all of the music in this film was in the public domain of course!)

This film has a lot to be recommended for: an amazing use of color, brilliant cinematography, sumptuous sets, fine music, and of course Claude Rains creating the first truly tragic "Phantom" in that character's reincarnation throughout the years.

Iron Sky

One of those great concepts that is mishandled and a movie I watched while constantly pondering what it would have been like had someone else done it. The film is funny if you're the sort who laughs at anything supposed to be funny I guess, but for more discerning audiences, it's very much a yawn. The humor is on the level of a Bowery Boys movie (without the corny enduringness) or worse; perhaps they should have shown Chaplin's "The Great Dictator", a clip of which is featured in the film, in it's entirety and shuttled the rest of this painfully dull movie. A better script (which could have been written by a 15-year-old who reads too many comic books), actors with a better known comedic persona and tighter direction would have helped. The effects were a saving grace--for a while at least! A heavy-handed disappointment.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: The Village of Guilt
Episode 8, Season 1

One of the better episodes
This had a lot of nice atmosphere and despite the plot, played it "straight" with many good touches (like many Irwin Allen TV shows, they started out more or less fine before descending into "What kind of weird monster can we feature this week?" Richard Carlson, a very underrated actor in my estimation, shows here that he could play outside the scope of diffident youths (when younger) or straight-laced scientific-types (as he got older). He gives a well nuanced performance here and it's quite a different characterization for him. The rubber octopus is bogus (shades of "Bride of the Monster" almost) but the clips lifted from "It Came from Beneath the Sea" made for a good opening. No disrespected intended to fans of the show or the creative forces behind it, but how on Earth did Richard Basehart get involved in this series? I mean, heck, the man was in "La Strada"!

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