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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

ROGER CORMAN'S HORROR CLASSICS VOL. 1 -- DVD review by porfle


Every once in awhile something comes along that gives me that dancing-around giddy feeling and makes me glad that DVD players were born.  Today, that thing is the 3-disc DVD set ROGER CORMAN'S HORROR CLASSICS VOL. 1 from Film Chest and HD Cinema Classics.

This is just the sort of thing that would've had me flying around the room back in the pre-home-video days when you could only catch movies like this on the rare occasions when they showed up on TV (or, even rarer, at the Bijou), and you'd scour the pages of "Famous Monsters" just for pics and info on them.

But thanks to the wonders of modern science, you can now have three of legendary independent filmmaker Roger Corman's most celebrated horror films--THE TERROR, DEMENTIA 13,  and BUCKET OF BLOOD--nicely restored and right at your pulsatin' pinky-tips to indulge in anytime you feel like it. Woo-hoo!  And now that I've sufficiently contained myself, let's discuss them, shall we?

THE TERROR (1963)

This picturesque mood piece moves about as fast as the hands of a clock, so you might as well just gear down and settle in if you want to get anything out of it.  "The French Connection" it ain't.  That said, it's a pretty rewarding experience for the patient Gothic horror fan, especially one who appreciates aesthetically-pleasing filmmaking on a tight budget.

One thing about it, THE TERROR looks great--probably better than it has a right to considering its hasty schedule and slapdash origins.  Roger Corman had some sets left over from THE RAVEN which were due to be demolished in a matter of days, so he hired actor/screenwriter Leo Gordon and Jack Hill to knock out a script around them, managed to snag RAVEN leftover Boris Karloff for three more days' work, and was off and running. 


Aside from Corman's own efforts as director, parts of the picture were co-helmed by Francis Coppola, Monte Hellman (TWO-LANE BLACKTOP), Jack Hill, and co-star Jack Nicholson himself in his fourth film for Corman. 

The young Nicholson's acting chops hardly dazzle us here as he portrays Andre Duvalier, a French soldier separated from his regiment circa 1800 and drawn into a ghostly mystery involving reclusive Baron Victor Frederick von Leppe (Karloff) in his isolated seaside castle (with location footage shot at Big Sur).  Still, just watching this seemingly unprepossessing young actor with the knowledge that he will someday be widely regarded as a "national treasure" is interesting in itself.

The meandering plot is rather negligible and is mainly an excuse to let us observe the historic pairing of Karloff and Nicholson as they wander around the impressive castle sets and agonize over whether or not  the ghost of the late Baroness, whom Karloff's character killed in a fit of jealous rage years earlier, still stalks the dark hallways and surrounding forest.

Nicholson's wife at the time, Sandra Knight (already immortalized in the trash classic FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER), plays the elusive Helene, who may or may not be the Baroness' ghost, while Corman fave Dick Miller (billed here as "Richard" to give the film more class) is the Baron's faithful servant Stefan. 

Dorothy Neumann plays a local witch with a intensely personal interest in the affair, and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS alumnus Jonathan "Seymour Krelboyne" Haze is also on hand as Gustaf.  Most of the acting is stilted, thanks mainly to some unwieldy dialogue, although Karloff comes through with his usual unfailing professionalism and the real-life Nicholsons are a passable onscreen couple. 

Colorful cinematography, some nice stock shots of the castle and churning sea, and a typically robust musical score by the great Ronald Stein (the main titles theme and artwork are a highlight) contribute to THE TERROR's modest but rewarding appeal.  The DVD is in 16:9 widescreen with 5.1 surround sound and Spanish subtitles.  Extras consist of a trailer and a "before and after" restoration demo.

Things heat up (finally!) in the excitingly staged finale when the Baron's darkest secret is revealed at last and the entire surviving cast face death by flood, fire, bird attack, or melting into an oozing mass of putridity.  The ending,  I must say, is enough of a shock to put a satisfying cap on the whole thing, making THE TERROR a pleasantly chilling way to pass some time. 

DEMENTIA 13 (1963)

One of my most vivid childhood memories is of accompanying my older brother to a Saturday screening of a new horror movie with the puzzling title, DEMENTIA 13 (1963).  The stark black-and-white photography and dreary Irish castle setting were spooky enough, but it was this film which would introduce me,  for the first time, to genuine, grueling screen terror.


The credit "Directed by Francis Coppola" meant nothing to me or anyone else at time--the future creative genius behind the GODFATHER films was merely an aspiring Roger Corman protege' helming his first "real" movie--and neither did the rather mundane plot about an eccentric Irish family, the Halorans, who were obsessed with the drowning death of the clan's youngest child Kathleen several years earlier. 

I wasn't yet a fan of the wonderful Luana Anders (EASY RIDER,  THE LAST DETAIL) as Louise, John Halloran's scheming wife.  In the opening scenes, we see John die of a heart attack and Louise dump his body into a lake lest his death be discovered and she lose her share of the family fortune. 

Nor did I know that William Campbell, playing oldest Haloran son Richard, would later guest star in two of my favorite episodes of "Star Trek: The Original Series" (he was Trelane in "The Squire of Gothos" and Koloth in "The Trouble With Tribbles"), or that Patrick Magee as family doctor Caleb would feature so prominently in Stanley Kubrick's  sci-fi classic A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.


All I knew at the time was that part of Louise's inheritance scheme involved stripping down to her bra and panties and taking a creepy late-night swim in the same murky pond in which little Kathleen had drowned.  What happens when she resurfaces--and the spoilers are right there in the poster and trailer themselves--is one of the homages to the likes of PSYCHO that Corman instructed Coppola to include in his script.  (Corman also got Jack Hill to write and direct additional scenes to pad the running time and gore content, to Coppola's dismay.)  It's also the first-ever movie scene that really and truly scared the ever-livin' crap outta me.

But DEMENTIA 13 isn't done yet, because later there's a beheading (also a first for me) and other creepy goings-on thanks to an axe-wielding maniac who seems to be stalking the Halorans.  Unfortunately, much of these doings have lost their edge over the years--the leisurely-paced story is dishwater dull at times and most of the scares no longer chill the blood quite like they used to.  But the film still has a strong Monster Kid watchability factor and (thanks largely to the authentic Irish locations) eerie, Gothic atmosphere to burn.

Hearing music maestro Ronald Stein's creepy, harpsichord-based theme music kick in during those pleasantly-morbid opening titles always makes me want the soundtrack CD.  Come to think of it, I feel that way about all of his film scores.  The DVD is in 16:9 widescreen and 5.1 surround sound with Spanish subtitles.  Extras include a trailer and a "before and after" restoration demo. 

After seeing DEMENTIA 13 that first time back in '63, I found its double-bill companion (Ray Milland's colorful PREMATURE BURIAL) a relief for my jangled nerves much the same way DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS would help me recover from the traumatic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD some years later.  Modern viewers may find this hard to imagine since the film now plays as a slow but satisfying murder mystery with some mildly effective scares.  But it was my PSYCHO, and lovely Luana Anders' midnight swim was my shower scene. 

A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959)

This is the title that I was the least familiar with since I bought the dollar DVD years ago at Wal-Mart,  watched it once, and then sold it in a garage sale.  I probably only got 50 cents for it,  maybe even a quarter, but I was glad to get it because that's the kind of year I was having. 

Corman regular Dick Miller plays a guy named Walter Paisley, who's also having a bad year (how's that for a segue?)  He's an insecure milquetoast who buses tables in a coffee bar where beatniks hang out, but dreams of being a creative artist like pretentious poet Maxwell (Julian Burton) in order to impress his heartthrob Carla (THE WASP WOMAN's Barboura Morris).  Another Corman fave, the great Antony Carbone of THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH, CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, and PIT AND THE PENDULUM, is Walter's overbearing boss Leonard.


When Walter accidentally kills his landlady's cat, he covers the evidence with modeling clay and then shows off the result as his own artistic creation, garnering instant fame as a brilliant new talent.  But a hunger for greater recognition leads to murder when he whacks a gun-waving narc (future game-show host Bert Convy) over the head,  killing him, and then turns him into a highly-praised clay sculpture as well.  With more money and fame rolling in, Walter's trail of  victims grows longer, eventually leading to Carla herself. 

If you liked 1960's THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS you should really be interested in this amusingly morbid tale which amounts to pretty much a dry run for the later film.  Besides also being helmed by Corman,  both were penned by Charles B. Griffith, whose sense of humor seemed to play into the then-current appetite for beatnik culture and "sick" humor (the film's tagline is "You'll be sick, sick, sick--from laughing!") 

Both feature typical be-bop musical scores by Fred Katz and similar production values (moody black-and-white photography, modest stage-like sets, a "skid row" ambience).   Carbone's bullying boss Leonard, just like flower shop owner Gravis Mushnik, first sees dollar signs from his employee's creative efforts but grows increasingly squeamish when he discovers the truth behind them. 

Walter could be a first cousin of Jonathan Haze's Seymour Krelboyne,  another mousey shlub stuck in a dead-end job with an oppressive boss, who yearns to break out of his rut by doing something creative which will lead to murder.  We almost expect him to have a clinging, overbearing mother when he shleps back to his cheap apartment, and indeed his landlady is played by Myrtle Damerel, who was Seymour's hypochondriac mom in LITTLE SHOP.  

Barboura Morris, however, grounds the film by playing her role straight, and Griffith's script for BUCKET isn't nearly as whimsically farcical as the later story.  Carbone maintains a delicious deadpan even when Leonard's dazed reactions to Walter's bloodthirsty activities threaten to incapacitate him.  Other familiar faces include Ed Nelson as Bert Convy's undercover vice-cop partner,  Lynn Storey of LITTLE SHOP (she played "Mrs. Hortense Fishtwanger") as a curious square, and, as an art patron interested in Walter's work, the ubiquitous Bruno Ve Soto. 

In the lead role that would define his career as a cult actor, Dick Miller wrings every nuance of nebbishness out of his pitifully desperate character and manages to remain likable even as his murderous tendencies spin out of control.  Corman's camera explores Miller's manic expressions with his own artistic eye and the collaboration results in a truly memorable performance.  A BUCKET OF BLOOD itself stands as a minor classic and a model of efficient, creative low-budget filmmaking as well as simply being a real kick to watch.

The DVD is in 16:9 widescreen with mono sound.  No subtitles.  A trailer is the sole extra.  All three films in this set are restored in HD from the original 35mm prints.

Considering the depth and breadth of the man's career as a whole,  ROGER CORMAN'S HORROR CLASSICS VOL. 1 may not stand as a comprehensive overview.  But as a trio of spooky fright flicks to delight the old-school Monster Kid down to the very marrow of his or her rattling bones, it's a three-course feast in a keepcase. 

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THE WHITE QUEEN Ascends to Blu-ray with Digital HD Ultraviolet and DVD February 4th From Anchor Bay Entertainment


Lusty royal romp…” – Boston Globe

MEN GO TO BATTLE - WOMEN WAGE WAR

ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT RELEASES “THE WHITE QUEEN”
ON BLU-RAY™ WITH DIGITAL HD ULTRAVIOLET™AND DVD FEBRUARY 4th

Three-Disc Set Contains All 10 Episodes and Bonus Features!

Beverly Hills, CA – Get ready for a truly royal battle of wills. Anchor Bay Entertainment releases the acclaimed Starz Original mini-series “THE WHITE QUEEN” on a three-disc Blu-ray™ with Digital HD Ultraviolet™ and DVD set February 4, 2014 – allowing consumers to watch it anywhere, on any device, any time! Based on Philippa Gregory's series of best-selling novels, “THE WHITE QUEEN” is a vivid re-telling of the classic War of the Roses family feud (York vs. Lancaster) from the viewpoint of the women involved. The set contains all 10 gorgeous episodes of the drama, plus a bountiful supply of bonus features. SRP is $59.99 for the Blu-ray™ with Digital HD Ultraviolet™ and $49.98 for the DVD.  Pre-book is January 8th.

“THE WHITE QUEEN” is a riveting portrayal of one of the most dramatic and turbulent times in English history. A story of love and lust, seduction and deception, betrayal and murder, it is uniquely told through the perspective of three different, yet equally relentless women - Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. In their quest for power, they will scheme, manipulate and seduce their way onto the English throne.

The year is 1464, before the Tudor dynasty ruled the country, and war has been ravaging throughout England over who is the rightful King. It is a bitter dispute between two sides of the same family, The House of York and The House of Lancaster.

The House of York's young and handsome Edward IV is crowned King of England with the help of the master manipulator, Lord Warwick "The Kingmaker." But when Edward falls in love with a beautiful Lancastrian commoner, Elizabeth Woodville, Warwick's plan to control the throne comes crashing down. A violent, high-stakes struggle ensues between Elizabeth, her most fierce adversary, Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville, the pawn in her father's power game - each woman vying for the crown.

Bonus Features:

    The Making Of THE WHITE QUEEN                   
    Series Overview                   
    Book To Series                     
    The History Behind THE WHITE QUEEN            
    THE WHITE QUEEN: Set Tour                 
    Queen Elizabeth                   
    The King                  
    The Heir Apparent               
    Woman In A Man's World              
    Conjuring Up The Queen/Magic                  
    Dressing The Queen/Wardrobe                                 

“THE WHITE QUEEN” stars Rebecca Ferguson (A One Way to Antibes) as Elizabeth Woodville, Max Irons (The Host) as Edward IV, Golden Globe® winner and Academy Award® nominee Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) as Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta Woodville, James Frain (“The Tudors”) as The Kingmaker and Amanda Hale (“The Crimson Petal and the White”) as mother to Henry Tudor, Margaret Beaufort.  The series also stars Faye Marsay as Anne Neville, David Oakes as George, Duke of Clarence, Eleanor Tomlinson as Isabel Neville, Aneurin Barnard as Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Ben Lamb as Anthony Rivers and Tom McKay as Jasper Tudor.

About Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment is a leading home entertainment company.  Anchor Bay acquires and distributes feature films, original television programming, including STARZ Original series, children's entertainment, anime (Manga Entertainment), fitness (Anchor Bay Fitness), sports, and other filmed entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray™ formats.  The company has long term distribution agreements in place for select programming with AMC Networks, RADiUS, and The Weinstein Company. Headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, Anchor Bay Entertainment has offices in Troy, MI, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Anchor Bay Entertainment (www.anchorbayentertainment.com) is a Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) business, www.starz.com.

About Starz
Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) is a leading integrated global media and entertainment company with operating units that provide premium subscription video programming on domestic U.S. pay television channels (Starz Networks), global content distribution (Starz Distribution) and animated television and movie production (Starz Animation), www.starz.com.

Starz Networks is a leading provider of premium subscription video programming through the flagship STARZ® and ENCORE® pay TV networks which showcase premium original programming and movies to U.S. multichannel video distributors, including cable operators, satellite television providers, and telecommunications companies.  As of June 30, 2013, STARZ and ENCORE serve a combined 56.9 million subscribers, including 21.8 million at STARZ, and 35.1 million at ENCORE, making them the largest pair of premium flagship channels in the U.S.  STARZ® and ENCORE®, along with Starz Networks’ third network MOVIEPLEX®, air more than 1,000 movies monthly across 17 linear networks, complemented by On Demand and authenticated online offerings through STARZ PLAY, ENCORE PLAY, and MOVIEPLEX PLAY. Starz Distribution develops, produces and acquires entertainment content, distributing it to consumers globally on DVD, digital formats and traditional television.  Starz Distribution’s home video, digital media and worldwide distribution business units distribute original programming content produced by Starz, as well as entertainment content for itself and third parties.  Starz Animation produces animated TV and movie content for studios, networks, distributors and audiences worldwide.

“THE WHITE QUEEN” Blu -ray™ with Digital HD Ultraviolet™
Street Date:                 February 4, 2014      
Pre-book:                     January 8, 2014
Cat. #:                         BD61412
UPC:                           01313261412080
Run Time:                   580 Minutes
Rating:                        TV-MA
SRP:                            $59.99
Format:                        1.78:1/16x9
Audio:                         English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish Stereo
Subtitles:                     English SDH and Spanish             

“THE WHITE QUEEN” DVD
Street Date:                 February 4, 2014      
Pre-book:                     January 8, 2014
Cat. #:                         ST61411
UPC:                           01313261411380
Run Time:                   580 Minutes
Rating:                        TV-MA
SRP:                            $49.98
Format:                        1.78:1/16x9
Audio:                         English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Stereo
Subtitles:                     English SDH and Spanish 

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Monday, October 28, 2013

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES -- Blu-ray review by porfle


Like so many soldiers throughout the ages, returning World War II veterans were faced with a special dilemma--they were back in the homefront they'd yearned for, yet surrounded by people who had no idea what they'd just been through and what they were going through now. 

The problems these men had fitting back into peacetime society--including becoming members of their own families again--are skillfully and sympathetically explored in director William Wyler's Oscar-winning masterwork THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946), now available on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.


Three ex-servicemen--Army sergeant Al Stephenson (Frederic March,  DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE), Air Force captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews, CURSE OF THE DEMON),  and Navy swabbie Homer Parrish (Harold Russell)--hitch a long ride on a military transport to their hometown and become bosom buddies along the way. 

We begin to feel their tension at seeing family and friends again as they liken it to "storming the beaches", with Homer especially dreading the impending reunion due to the loss of his hands during his ship's sinking.  He fears not only how his folks will react but mostly whether or not his prospective bride, girl-next-door Wilma (Cathy O'Donnell, BEN HUR), will now reject him.

Fred has a different problem--his blond bombshell wife, Marie (a drop-dead gorgeous Virginia Mayo), to whom he had been married a mere twenty days before going overseas, is a party animal whose recent job in a nightclub has made her accustomed to a fast lifestyle which her unemployed husband can't provide. 


The young Andrews is ideally cast as a once-proud soldier who now must return to his old job as a drugstore soda jerk, biting his lip as a former underling orders him around while an uncaring boss, as did many at the time, regards him and other returning vets as a nuisance to society.  With Marie constantly berating him for not being successful or ambitious enough, and openly flaunting her intentions to "step out" on him, we can hardly blame Fred when he falls for Marie's exact opposite, the lovely and understanding Peggy (a vibrant Teresa Wright).

Trouble is,  Peggy is Al's daughter, and he's having his own problems without having to worry about her hooking up with a married man.  Unlike his two pals, former banker Al returns to a luxurious apartment but feels just as out-of-place among his wife and two kids.  Their reunion is tense and uncomfortable--empathetic viewers, in fact, may feel this way for much of the film--with Al first glimpsing his wife Milly (Myrna Loy) across the expanse of a long hallway that symbolizes the gulf still lying between them.  (He'll later describe the feeling of crossing that hallway as "like going overseas again.")


In  the film's opening scenes, it's heartrending to see the near-desperation with which the three main characters cling to each other's sympathetic company rather than face the prospect of returning to the families who now seem almost like strangers to them.  Later,  we fear that they'll never reassimilate back into normal life. 

This is especially true when restless Al urges Milly and Peggy to join him for a night out on the town.  March, seemingly slipping  into his celebrated Mr. Hyde persona at times,  portrays Al as a manic, nearly out-of-control drunk on his first night back--it's almost as though he's decompressing, or trying to put on the brakes like a speeding jet landing on a runway.  

It makes us glad that Milly is such a strong, sensible, supportive wife, with a rock-solid Myrna Loy (THE THIN MAN) lending her the stature of a woman any man would fight to come back home to and be glad to have on his side.  With her help, Al will eventually "mature" into a self-assured, no-nonsense personality whose unshakable principles threaten to get him into hot water back at the bank when he starts granting loans to other veterans with little or no collateral.  His drinking is another concern, as is the growing rift between him and Fred over daughter Peggy.

Even though we know Fred's marriage to Marie hasn't much of a future, his impulsiveness worries us when he steals a kiss from Peggy after an innocent lunch date.  Her growing attraction to him draws her into a terrible quandary which puts her at odds with her parents, and the scene of their most emotional confrontation is powerfully done. 

Meanwhile,  Fred's feelings of worthlessness are dramatically illustrated when he visits a "graveyard" for derelict bomber planes that are to be junked.  Sitting in the nose of a rusty, engineless plane and reliving his experiences as a bombadier, he realizes that he, too, is a wartime relic to be either recycled or tossed on the junk heap.  Director Wyler renders the sequence with exquisite skill, while Andrews gives it his all and musical composer Hugo Friedhofer pulls out all the stops--it's a gripping scene. 

Still, this is nothing compared to the emotional rollercoaster in store for the viewer regarding the unfortunate sailor, Homer.  Portrayed by real-life amputee Harold Russell, himself a former serviceman who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his debut role, Homer endures excruciating emotional torment which we can't help but share as he feels isolated amidst his own family and impotent as a man. 


During a scene in which he silently allows his father to remove his "arms" and dress him in his pajamas--in what was certainly a reflection of his own real-life experiences-- Russell's face and demeanor tell us everything we need to know about the thoughts and emotions roiling inside him.  When he angrily thrusts his hooks through a windowpane in response to the curious looks of his little sister and her friends, it's a shocking and disturbing moment in cinema. 

Russell gives an earnest, painfully uninhibited performance that lends added dimension to what is already a devastatingly effective and multi-faceted story.  Andrews has probably never been better, nor has Teresa Wright, with their final scene together delivering a substantial payoff for the film as a whole.

March and Loy, the two old pros, come through like gangbusters as a couple whose problems only seem to make them stronger as long if they face them together.  And in a role that displayed her dramatic talent at a time when she was known mostly for comedy, Virginia Mayo proves that she's not only a knockout but can deliver a raucous, punchy performance (her "mirror" scene with Wright dazzles, as do her frenetic exchanges with Andrews.)  Also in the cast are stalwarts such as Hoagy Carmichael, Ray Collins, Steve Cochran (as Marie's oily-haired new beau), Don Beddoe, and Gladys George.

The single-disc Blu-ray from Warner Home Video is in 1.77:1 widescreen and English 1.0 sound.  Subtitles are in English, French,  and Spanish.  Bonus features consist of a brief introduction by Virginia Mayo, interview footage with Mayo and Teresa Wright, and the theatrical trailer. 

After THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES has already put us through the wringer with its other stories of desperation and redemption,  it saves its deepest felt and most lasting impact for the final scenes between Harold Russell's "Homer" and girl-next-door Wilma (Cathy O'Donnell is sweetness incarnate in the role) finally resolving the long-running uncertainty that has lingered between them since his return.  It's one of the most heartrendingly emotional sequences I've ever seen, and if you can get through it without blubbering like a baby, then, as Kipling once said, "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!"

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

THREE CAN PLAY THAT GAME -- movie review by porfle


(NOTE: This review was originally posted at Bumscorner.com in 2008.)

If Oprah Winfrey ever drops by my house to watch a movie, I'll stick THREE CAN PLAY THAT GAME (2008) into the DVD player and then lock myself in the bathroom for two hours.  This is the kind of movie that might go over big at a girls' pizza sleepover or something, but for me it was just soul-crushing.

In this sequel to 2001's TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME, Viveca Fox is Shanté, a relationship expert who counsels Tiffany (Jazsmin Lewis) through a rough patch with her man Byron (Jason Winston George).  Byron just won a reality TV show called "The Trainee" and his fame is attracting all sorts of female attention, particularly from the show's amorous producer, Carla.  When Carla comes on to Byron in the men's room and Tiffany catches them together, Shanté comes to the rescue with her infallible five-step program to help the distraught Tiffany train dat dawg to sit up and beg.

If you think it's funny to see some poor guy get nagged and played into marriage then you'll probably enjoy this.  For me, it was like watching a horror movie with Byron as the innocent victim and Shanté, Tiffany, and Tiffany's clucky "you go, girlfriend" girlfriends as the flesh-eating zombies surrounding the house moaning "Brains!  Braaaains!"  Except instead of that, they'd be saying "Marriage!  Maaaarriage!"

Viveca Fox is insufferably smarmy and smug as Shanté.  At one point Byron comes to her for help, and she pretends to be on his side while actually playing him for Tiffany's benefit, which just ain't cricket.  The rest of the time she's giving Tiffany pointers on how to most effectively manipulate him, including teasing and denial ("Forget diamonds--blue balls are a girl's best friend!"), mind games, guilt trips, and other stomach-roiling activities.  All of which had me cringing with horror when I was supposed to be laughing along with the lighthearted fun.

Tiffany keeps whining about how much she loves Byron but she seems more interested in simply snagging a husband.  There's really not much to like about her character.  Byron is likable enough although it's depressing to see this previously happy guy mired in a web of jealousy and jerked around between the various matrimony vultures (especially Tiffany's shallow, conniving girlfriends) hovering over him as though he were a slab of fresh carrion.

The only bright spot in the movie is Tony Rock (HITCH, "All of Us") as Byron's playa friend Gizzard, who suppies Byron with his own dubious relationship advice to try and counteract Shanté's evil machinations.  He's funny but in a more down-to-earth way than the usual Eddie Griffin-type shuck 'n' jive sidekick.  He kept reminding me of a more subtle Chris Rock, which made sense when I found out that they're brothers.  But not even Gizzard is immune to the sinister Shanté's scheming when she aims a gorgeous babe named Candy his way in order to split up the guy team.

Melyssa Ford as Candy, by the way, truly is "all that."  Yikes!  Shanté actually does Gizzard a favor by hooking him up with this gorgeous babe.  As soon as she walked onscreen, I started doing that "Ha cha-cha-cha!" thing that Jimmy Durante used to do.  And Kellita Smith (FEEL THE NOISE, ROLL BOUNCE) as the sexy knockout Carla is another reason I was able to get through this movie.  Carla keeps urging Byron to fly off to Seattle with her to tape the next season of "The Trainee", and I kept thinking "Do it, Byron!  DO IT!"

THREE CAN PLAY THAT GAME tries to be lighthearted and quirky but it just can't rise above Mark Brown's leaden script and Mody Mod's lackluster direction.  The old "needle being dragged off the record" sound effect is used three times, which indicates the extent of comic invention on display here.  And we get yet another one of those wacky wedding day finales where love conquers all and the guys learn that they can never be truly happy unless they're married.  And to think that a guy wrote this--what is he, nuts?

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

THE THREE BEST EPISODES OF "STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES" -- by porfle



Here's a rundown of the three BEST episodes of "STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES" (as chosen by me) with commentary by a roundtable consisting of some of my distinguished Facebook friends.  (We discussed the three worst episodes HERE.)



3rd best "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode--"Journey to Babel."

Spock's parents (Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt), lots of aliens, lots of intrigue, and a nail-biting ending. 

Guest stars Reggie Nalder and William O'Connell  play Andorians (white-haired, blue-skinned aliens with antennae), who may be responsible for sending a "kamikaze"-style attack ship after the Enterprise as it transports ambassadors (including Spock's father, Sarek) to a peace conference.
 
During an ambush in a corridor, Kirk (William Shatner) gets to do his stupid drop-kick move where he ends up on the floor with his back  to his opponent (and, sure enough,  gets stabbed in the back). 


Sarek, meanwhile, needs an operation and estranged-son Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is the only available blood donor--but he refuses to relieve himself  of duty while Kirk is incapacitated, leading to a dramatic scene between him and his human mother, Amanda (Wyatt).  A real "event" episode.

   
Todd Frye: God, it looks so good with the film restored.

James Cole: "Tellarites do not argue for any reason. They simply argue."

Porfle Popnecker: "SAH-rek of VOOL-can!"

James Cole: "Threats are illogical...and payments usually expensive."

James Cole: I actually have BOTH the original TREATMENT and Final Draft Shooting Script by D.C. Fontana - it's "fascinating". In the treatment, Spock's father was named "Ambassador Karek".

Porfle Popnecker:  I like details like that.



2nd best "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode--"City On the Edge of Forever."

Harlan Ellison's original script was unfilmable, at least for series TV in the 60s, but what was left after Gene Roddenberry's revisions was enough to make for a bonafide Star Trek masterpiece.

 Joan Collins guests as Kirk's Depression-era heartthrob Edith Keeler, a good samaritan who runs a mission for the homeless but,  as it turns out, must die in a traffic accident in order to prevent the timeline from being drastically altered.  

Kirk, naturally, must ensure that this happens--and, needless to say, he's torn between personal feelings and duty to humanity.  Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), meanwhile,  gets to go nuts after an accidental overdose and end up causing the whole mess.



In addition to intense drama,  there are some memorable comedy bits including Kirk and Spock's run-in with a beat cop and Spock's attempts to blend in on early 20th-century Earth.

Probably the most tragic, downbeat, and powerful ending in the entire series.


Carrie Anne Betts: Absolutely!

Porfle Popnecker: A lot of Trekkers would probably choose this as THE best episode.

Carrie Anne Betts: I have a hard time rating things. This is at least in my top 2-3.

Nathan Baxter Simar: Boring ep.

Porfle Popnecker: I think you'd be in the minority on that!

Nathan Baxter Simar: I am amazed, but I can accept that. I never liked the eps where they time traveled.

Porfle Popnecker: You've never heard of what a highly revered episode this is among Trek fans? Especially followers of Ellison?

Nathan Baxter Simar: I don't care. I am honestly underwhelmed about it, and it wouldn't matter to me if the whole population of France had the other opinion.

Porfle Popnecker: There's a whole book about the evolution and history of the episode if you ever suddenly develop an interest in it.

Nathan Baxter Simar: Don't hold your breath.

Porfle Popnecker: I won't. Well, no more than usual.

Carrie Anne Betts: Ellison's a crotchety old man. I love him.

Porfle Popnecker: Me too, but I don't take his opinions seriously anymore.

John Comito: I'll have to catch this, not sure if I have but if I did it was too long ago.

John Comito: Looks great! Here's a teaser:


Porfle Popnecker: I've probably seen it at least fifty times!

James Cole: Ellison's script was rewritten by Steven Carabastos (story editor), Gene Coon, D.C. Fontana, and Gene Roddenberry.

Porfle Popnecker: I knew Gene R. had a toe in there somewhere. Enough to share Harlan's wrath, anyway.

James Cole: This is why [you should read] THESE ARE THE VOYAGES. The chapter on "City" is one of the longest - the details and memos back and forth between Bob Justman and Roddenberry and others - amazing.

Porfle Popnecker: I'll ask Santy Claus for it!




Best "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode--"The Doomsday Machine"

My favorite episode of "Star Trek." Before we got to see starships getting smashed and crashed and exploded all the time, the wreckage of the U.S.S. Constellation was a shocking sight. (Also, having Norman Spinrad as the author wasn't too shabby.)

William Windom guests as Commodore Matt Decker, whose crew is wiped out by a planet-killing war machine left over from some ancient alien battle. He takes over the Enterprise and launches a reckless suicide attack while Kirk looks on helplessly from Decker's crippled ship, with Scotty working to get the engines running so they can intervene.


Windom gives a stellar performance with shades of both Ahab and Queeg, leading to powerful confrontations between his character and both Spock and Kirk. Some "iffy" SPFX, including shots using the actual plastic model kit of the Enterprise, now only add to the episode's retro charm.

The final countdown sequence, fueled by a magnificent Wagnerian musical score by Sol Kaplan, is the most exciting cliffhanger ending of any "Star Trek" episode.


Todd Frye: One of the best episodes. Dang it, you're making me want to go back and watch the whole series. There are a lot of episodes I haven't seen since I was a kid.

Nathan Baxter Simar: I like this one a lot, too.

James Cole: The producers originally wanted Robert Ryan but he wasn't available - lucky us. Windom was astonishing. In my top 5!

James Cole: "VEER OFF!"

Porfle Popnecker: Todd Frye -- no kidding, the only episode I have on DVD right now is the dour "Man Trap." James Cole -- that was a hard-earned veer-off, too! Robert Ryan would've been fascinating in the role, but I love William Windom.





James Cole: "If you do not veer off, I shall....blow my brains out." - Spock, from the Blooper Reel.

Porfle Popnecker: I remember how exciting it was getting to see the blooper reel!

James Cole: Me too. The blooper reels were a huge thrill back in the day.

Porfle Popnecker: I sent in for a blooper record album as well, but it was mostly just unfunny blown takes.

Harcourt Mudd: Commodore Decker is my style consultant, on my better groomed days.

Porfle Popnecker: He does seem to have "the look" down to a precise but still somehow casual science.

Fitz Fitzstephens: 



Porfle Popnecker: I loved that show! It's what turned me into a James Thurber fan!
   

Fitz Fitzstephens: We have much in common.

Paul Sanchez: Like several TREK episodes, the music WAS the scene burned to memory. Yes, that countdown march used in "Doomsday" (and a few others) was a fave.  Original Trek had so many well done music cues.

Porfle Popnecker: I have the musical score on cassette.

James Cole: Sol Kaplan's score is incredible - and like all the best scores for the show - themes were re-used and cues were "tracked" in later episodes.

Porfle Popnecker: Especially that distinctive "DUH-DUM, DUH-DUM, DUH-DUM"!



Porfle Popnecker: Even the transporter is given its own little theme (also reused later as in "Obsession"). And early on when Scotty's fooling around with some electronics that flare up, that gets its own musical flourish as well.

Bob Shell: I hated this episode.

Porfle Popnecker: No, you said you loved this one, remember?
    
Bob Shell: Oh, I thought this one was "The Dumbsday Machine." I liked this one, it was great.

Porfle Popnecker: No, that's what they would've called a "Simpsons" parody of it if they ever did one.



Thanks to everyone who participated in this discussion!
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Friday, October 25, 2013

NIGHT OF THE GHOULS -- movie review by Squashpants


It's not hard to find Ed D. Wood, Jr.'s movies on the public domain channels because all of them do happen to have passed into that domain. There is one of his pics that I have yet to see on any of the several PD channels I access via Roku. It is NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (1959).

It is one of Ed's most competently (if that is the right word) made movies, and one that languished, unclaimed, at the lab that Ed had process the edited print, until Wade Williams rescued it in the late 80s (I think that is the timing, don't hold me to it). This is a PD film I have seen half a dozen times, and have always enjoyed.

It is actually a kind of sequel to both "Bride of the Monster" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space", and contains footage from an unsold TV pilot by Wood. It also features some of the players from his other movies, including the character of Kelton the Cop, and Tor Johnson, playing Lobo, from "Bride".

In purely technical terms, this is almost a full level above his prior movies, yet still has some hilarious "special effects" processes and dialog. I will quote the plot synopsis from IMDb to give you the bare basics of the plot:

"Criswell, the 'real' medium, rises from his coffin to tell us of 'monsters to be despised.' Dr. Acula (Kenne Duncan) is a phony medium aided by Valda Hansen, a bogus ghost, and big Tor Johnson, wearing rags and horrible scar makeup as Lobo. The doctor swindles people by pretending to contact dead relatives, but then accidentally succeeds in reviving a bunch of corpses that bury him alive! Sat unreleased for 23 years because Wood couldn't pay the lab bill!"


It features the lovely Valda Hansen as Dr. Acula's cohort in crime, playing the White Ghost. And John "Johnny" Carpenter, a TV bit player (no, not THAT John Carpenter), is the chief of police, who diverts Duke Moore (remember him in "Plan 9"?) from an opera date to investigate spooky goings-on at the house that is supposedly the same one that Bela Lugosi worked out of in "Bride of the Monster". Kelton (a prissy Paul Marco) is assigned also and is a rank fraidy-cat faced with the phony scares Dr. Acula (get it? Dr...acula? Oh, brother, Eddie) has planted on the estate.

By far the funniest part, in that Ed Wood-y way, is the seance sequence, where we are treated to a set of strange sounds and sights, all ludicrously designed and hilariously botched for the most part. It is one of the few times that, alone in the privacy of my home, I laughed out loud at something in a movie. It is unbelievable in its goofiness.

This is one of those pics, which, since I have actually seen it, I can list some of the interest points and curiosities that it contains:

1) Tor Johnson, as Lobo, with a really gnarly set of scars. The make-up work on it was actually quite effective; and Tor's piteous whimpering is rather affecting.

2) Paul Marco plays Patrolman Kelton especially fey in this outing, and at one point, you can see his captain rise to give him a kick in the butt as he minces out the office door.

3) Valda Hansen is gorgeous in a lovely dress that my wife tells me she would kill to have. One thing you have to say for Ed, is that he did manage to get a few good looking women for his productions.

4) Ed gets a cameo in this, with some footage of a "teenage fight" he filmed back in the mid-50s. This is used to illustrate the problem of juvenile delinquency, a problem that is minor compared to that of monsters.

5) There is one scene that is actually "undercranked", so that a character moves at an abnormally fast speed, making one wonder about the competency of whoever filmed that part of the footage.

6) This movie is full of minor WTF moments, that you just look at and go "wow". I won't even try to describe them, but when you see them, you know that it's that weird Ed Wood genius at work, to make this more interesting than it has to be.

7) And we mustn't forget Criswell, looking more inebriated and disheveled than he has in past appearances, spouting stuff like "Monsters to be pitied, monsters to be despised."

The climax comes when the cops are finally called in to raid Dr. Acula's base of operations, and Kenne Duncan's character discovers that he is more effective than he thought. For a half dozen living dead guys come for him and force him into a coffin, and then bear him away to God knows where (one of the men is supposedly Dave DeMaring, who played co-pilot Danny in "Plan 9", but I will be damned if I can tell which one of the zombies is him).

You have to be an Ed Wood completist to waste your time watching this, but if you are indeed a fan, you are guaranteed the sort of good time that can only be had by experiencing Eddie's cinematic works.

Buy it at Amazon.com
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THE THREE WORST EPISODES OF "STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES" -- by porfle


Here's a rundown of the three WORST episodes of "STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES" (as chosen by me) with commentary by a roundtable consisting of some of my distinguished Facebook friends.  (We talked about the three BEST episodes HERE.)



3rd worst "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode of all time--"The Way to Eden", aka "Space Hippies."

Charles Napier and Skip Homeier help make this one a real treat.  Skip plays a charismatic guru conning a bunch of futuristic flower children into thinking there's an Eden planet out there somewhere and they can reach it by hijacking the Enterprise. 

Before  that happens,  however, Spock tunes up the old Vulcan harp and jams with them in an impromptu musical concert that sounds like cats running around on a set of rusty box springs.  The "hippies" in this case are straight out of the DC Comics "Totally-Out-Of-It" notion of how hippies should look, act,  and, God help us,  speak.





    William J Ellingsworth: I want that guitar!
 
    Ruby Wolf: I always wondered where they got their hair bleach, Nair and make-up in space.
  
    Porfle Popnecker: Lucille Ball's "Desilu" studios had one of the worst makeup departments imaginable.

    Ruby Wolf: I know, right. Lucy came in as a redhead but by the time they finished with her, everyone was black, white and grey.
 
    Porfle Popnecker:  Florence Henderson tells of having to get made up for an audition at Desilu and ending up looking like one of "Mudd's Women."
  
    Richard Von Busack: Oh, my god! I can't wait to see this, knowing Napier is in it!  That's the smile of success!
 
    Porfle Popnecker: It does help make it one of the cooler "bad" episodes of a TV show.
 
    Ruby Wolf:  Looks like it was cold in there, too.

    Porfle Popnecker:  He was used to tweaking them for Russ Meyer before every scene.

    Paul Sanchez: I had Napier's same outfit back in my Vegas Disco days.

    Porfle Popnecker: I think he may be wearing it backwards.

    Paul Sanchez: I think SHE is wearing HERS backwards.

    Porfle Popnecker: Not according to NBC Standards and Practices she ain't!





2nd worst "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode of all time--3rd season opener "Spock's Brain."

(Pictured: Marj Dusay of the CBS soap opera "Capitol" feeds Kirk's femdom fantasies while a brain-free Spock waits for someone to jiggle his joystick.)

 The male and female members of this particular race live separately,  with the savage males (the Morg) roughing it topside and the childlike females (the Ey-Morg cared for in a comfortable underground complex by a brain-powered computer. 

Whenever this computer needs a new brain, the head female, Kara (Dusay), has a session with a helmet device called "The Teacher" (shades of FORBIDDEN PLANET), gains temporary intelligence, and goes off looking for a brain to steal.  Which, in this case, just happens to belong to our favorite pointy-eared Vulcan.
 

While not under the influence of "The Teacher",  these babes are pretty dense--"Brain and brain!  What is brain!"  Kara exclaims at one point as Kirk presses her for information.  He's barking up the wrong tree here.  Spock, meanwhile, is operated by remote control  like a toy robot until he can get his brain back.  Leonard Nimoy, not surprisingly, found the episode "embarrassing."

James Cole: But it's fun! Unintentional side-splitting humor!  "You are not Morg. You are not Ey-Morg! What are you?"

Porfle Popnecker: I love the way Shatner hogs the camera during their "pain" sequences.

Paul Sanchez: Not as much as he does in "Gamesters of Triskelion." [posts picture]
 


Porfle Popnecker: That's a great pic but I'd have to do a comparison.

James Cole: I actually used a cropped photo of the above for my profile pic!

Porfle Popnecker: It's classic Shatner.



Worst "Star Trek: The Original Series" episode of all time--"The Alternative Factor." 

With guest star Robert Brown ("Here Come the Brides") as "Lazarus."

Blah. Just...blah.

    Harcourt Mudd: Sitting around the break room, playing with the food replicator, and being disappointed there is no live gagh available. And you thought you could have it yourrrrrr way.

    Porfle Popnecker: Lazarus looks like he just smoked a space doobie in this pic.

    Nathan Baxter Simar: He's a late 60s mess.

    Nathan Baxter Simar: I am always struck by how blandly sterile the ship's interior sets were. Do people really live here?

    Porfle Popnecker: Well, it is sort of a science-military work environment. I always thought it was rather pleasant looking.

    Nathan Baxter Simar: It really grates on me. But, then, that's just me.

    Porfle Popnecker: I dig it. Now the first movie, THAT'S blandly sterile looking.

    Nathan Baxter Simar: Yeah, true. And too too disco-y.

    Porfle Popnecker: It looks like they're wearing pajamas inside a fish tank.

    Nathan Baxter Simar: I'd never thought of it that way, but that's a good way of describing it...

    Porfle Popnecker: Surprisingly, I like the J.J. Abrams Enterprise interiors except for Engineering, which is actually the interior of a Budweiser brewery.

    Nathan Baxter Simar: I have gotten to the point where I don't really see sci-fi ship interiors any more that grab me, like they used to when I was a kid and later as a young man.

    Porfle Popnecker:  I like most of them. ALIEN is a fave. And STARSHIP TROOPERS.
 
    James Cole: Absolutely agree. Worst. Episode. Ever. (Of TOS.) It's in part because a major subplot had to be cut and made the script too short - so they filled it with endless repeating shots of Lazarus running and falling and running and falling...

    Porfle Popnecker: Ugh, I'm starting to relive it now!

    James Cole: The episode always confused and bored me as a kid. It gives me a headache just thinking about it. Among its many faults: WHY DOES KIRK LET THIS RAVING MANIAC JUST WANDER THE SHIP BY HIMSELF?


    Porfle Popnecker: And you had to figure out which Lazarus you were looking at by keeping up with his Band-aid or whatever.
 
    James Cole: The editing was incomprehensible - and if you look closely, Lazarus's beard on the planet doesn't match how it looks on the ship. It's like twice as thick.

    Porfle Popnecker: The whole episode is twice as thick!
   
    Paul Sanchez: I kinda liked the basic concept, but yeah. the production of it was a mess.

    Paul Sanchez: And don't diss on ST:The Motion Picture. I love it. Those uniforms were the logical update from the TV show-- practical, yet comfy-- so sure, you could sleep in them too.

   Porfle Popnecker:  All that was missing was the footies!

   Porfle Popnecker: I actually have a much higher opinion of the first movie since the release of the Director's Cut on DVD.

   Paul Sanchez: Oh that cut is great. It all gels. Robert Wise had never made a BAD movie-- when allowed.

   James Cole: Friends of mine worked on the Director's Edition DVD. It's a far superior cut of the movie - it works great.

   Porfle Popnecker: And the addition of a countdown to self-destruct at the end adds some actual old-fashioned suspense like the original series had.

   Paul Sanchez: Porf's fave part is when Chekov gets an owwie and screams like a little girl.

   Porfle Popnecker: Yeah, that's the most thrill-packed moment in the whole movie.


Thanks to everyone who participated in this discussion!  You can check out the follow-up, "The Three Best-Ever Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'" right HERE!



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Thursday, October 24, 2013

"MY VERY FIRST VIEWING OF 'KING KONG' (1933)" -- by Tony Crnkovich


(Tony Crnkovich is an illustrator, film historian and author. Two books he co-authored are "The Flash Gordon Serials, 1936-1940: A Heavily Illustrated Guide" and "The Films of Fay Wray", for which he also painted the cover.)

My very first viewing of KING KONG (1933) was in 1973 when I was on spring vacation and Monster Week was the theme on "The Morning Movie with Ione."

This was a daily fitness program, Monday - Friday on Chicago's WLS station, hosted by Ione Citrin. The 90 minute show had Ione doing exercises and answering phone-ins during commercial breaks, which of course meant you got a little over an hour of movie.

Anyway, this particular week they ran KING KONG along with Hammer's THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN, CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, BRIDES OF DRACULA, and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. That was the most blissful spring break I ever had being the huge 11-year-old monster fan that I was.

The best word to describe KONG's effect on me then is "exhilarating". I remember the log sequence had me transfixed with its boldness; the sailors were getting KILLED and yet the scene had a sense of fun as Kong seemed to be playing a game of "let's roll the log", and where other movies would cut away, here I'm being shown bodies bouncing as they hit bottom.

The entire experience was euphoric and practically left me breathless by the end. I remembered thinking, "I gotta see this movie again."

That came a few months later when I could only catch pieces of KONG because I had to help my dad in the yard with something. I left the TV on and stole chances to run into the house and watch it, then go back outside.


At that viewing, the scene that fascinated me was when Kong is pushing against the gate with the sailors and natives pushing back, trying to keep him from busting through.

Again, it was the boldness of the action and the way it was all set up that sparked a response in me - it seemed like I was watching a "realistic" fantasy, something that in a weird way looked like a documentary. That feeling became even more pronounced for me during the Empire State Building sequence.

I was also intrigued by the mysterious way Kong moved; it was like he belonged to another dimension of reality that only existed on that prehistoric island. The film disturbed me in some profound way that I wanted to understand.


The viewing that finally REALLY took me over the edge was on Christmas Eve in 1974. KONG was being shown on the 3:30 movie and I was looking forward to it with a joyous excitement.

My younger sister and I were watching TV all day, building up to KONG's arrival. Again, it was a heavily edited broadcast - I still hadn't seen the full-length movie - but it worked its permanent magic on me nonetheless.

This was the viewing where I fell in love with Fay Wray and Max Steiner's music score. After the movie was
done I remembered I had the latest issue of Famous Monsters which featured MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, and the article had pics of Fay Wray and a list of her other horror films.

I spent that whole Christmas break digging up every little morsel I could find on KONG in my budding collection of books and magazines, abandoning whatever interests I may have had before that fateful viewing.

Little did I know that I was being plunged headlong into a love affair with classic movies that has lasted to this day. I was growing up, and at the same time KING KONG was changing my life.

Buy it at Amazon.com:
"King Kong" on DVD
"The Films of Fay Wray"
"The Flash Gordon Serials, 1936-1940: A Heavily Illustrated Guide"


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SOME GIRLS DO (1969) -- commentary by Squashpants

Tonight's movie, which I believe should by now have passed into the public domain so I can see it on Roku, is SOME GIRLS DO (1969). This is actually a latter day "Bulldog" Drummond movie, updated for spy sensibilities big in the Sixties. In color!

Now this is one that I have never seen, neither the film in toto, nor the trailer. I know it fromThe Internet Movie Database. And here is the plot synopsis from that venerable source:

"A series of unexplainable accidents befall the people and companies responsible for developing the world's first supersonic airliner (SST1). A British agent is sent to investigate and with the help of another agent uncovers a plot masterminded by Carl Petersen who stands to gain eight million pounds if the aircraft is not ready by a certain date. The evil Petersen has developed a number of 'robots' (actually rather beautiful girls with 'electronic brains') to help him sabotage the SST1 project by means of 'infrasound' (extreme low frequency sound waves) which can be directed at people or objects with devastating results." (Thank you, Kevin Steinhauer.)

Is that wild enough for you? It would be plenty wild enough for me. Especially with Daliah Lavi playing the main female role. Hubba hubba.

IMDb has 14 (!) user reviews for the pic, and one of them makes the claim that the movie is "Better than most modern movies. Very underrated." Every one raves about the starlets in the movie, and that is a big selling point with yours truly. The music is also reported to be "very groovy".

Oh and how can you resist an appearance by a young Joanna "Patsy Stone" Lumley. And for heaven's sakes, Robert Morley plays a character named "Miss Mary". And reportedly, it shifts into high camp mode in the second half. This has to be a tasty bit of heavier-than-fluff.

This, evidently, is escapist cinema at its near-best. I would take time to watch it in a second.

Buy it at Amazon.com (Region 2 only)
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

JOHNNY WAS -- movie review by porfle


(NOTE: This review originally appeared online at Bumscorner.com in 2006.)

Johnny Doyle (Vinnie Jones, X-MEN:THE LAST STAND and LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS) was a member of an Irish terrorist group until he finally got tired of blowing up innocent people and quit.  As JOHNNY WAS (2005) begins, he just wants to go straight and fade into the woodwork of his London flat where he lives between a Rasta pirate DJ named Ras (Lennox Lewis) upstairs and Julius ("E.R."'s Eric LaSalle), a two-bit Jamaican drug kingpin, downstairs. 

But Johnny's former mate, Flynn (Patrick Bergen, PATRIOT GAMES, SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY) will never give up the fight, and never see the casualties of his bombs as more than "collateral damage."  And now that Flynn has just busted out of prison, he needs a place to lay low while the area is crawling with cops.  His only choice is to drop in on his old pal, Johnny, both disrupting his new life and sparking a tense, racially-charged confrontation with Johnny's violence-prone neighbors downstairs.

It's a pretty cool premise and director Mark Hammond makes the most of Brendan Foley's screenplay, with an excellent cast at his disposal.  There's plenty of action, but the characters are the most important thing here and I was interested in what happened to them the whole time. 

Everything on the technical end is well-handled, and the pervasive reggae score--Ras plays the records really loud during his radio show--is an added benefit that might have you wanting to buy the soundtrack CD.


Things are tense from the start as mind-his-own-business Johnny heads downstairs to go to the store and inadvertantly walks into a scene in which Julius is harshly dealing with a smack-pilferin' lackey named Sparra.  Julius tolerates Johnny's presence as long as he stays out of the way, but this promises to become less likely as Johnny grows increasingly fond of Julius' main squeeze, the lovely Rita (Samantha Mumba, THE TIME MACHINE remake), who only stays with scary Julius because he doles out the white powder she's hopelessly hooked on. 

Later, when Sparra comes screaming for help and ends up dead in Johnny's doorway, the abrasive, hair-trigger Flynn's presence will ignite this powderkeg once and for all, and everyone will end up pointing guns at each other while Johnny watches his new, non-violent lifestyle go up in smoke. 

In an interesting turn of events, Flynn ends up making a lucrative deal with Julius to become his new chemist, in addition to ensuring that certain members of Julius' competition will begin to explode one by one.  But there's more to the devious Flynn's offer than meets Julius' avaricious eye.

I like Vinnie Jones a lot and it's nice seeing him get to play a real character here instead of the seriocomic cartoon character that was his murderous but likable bank robber Winston Briggs in SLIPSTREAM.  You can really sympathize with Johnny as he tries to go straight, especially after the flashback in which he finally has a change of heart and we see him frantically warning people about that last bomb he helped set in an outdoor food court.  Everyone gets away except for one young woman who is painting a mural while listening to headphones--she turns and smiles at him right before she dies, and her face will haunt him from then on. 

Patrick Bergen is well-cast as Flynn, playing him with a wide-eyed intensity that makes you feel this is a guy who doesn't mind blowing people up to serve his political fanaticism.  He's a heartless killer, but I couldn't help liking him somewhat as he takes on the equally-monstrous Julius and screws with him in a big way. 

As Julius, Eric LaSalle is all casual and easygoing until his friendly smile fades and he starts killing people.  It's fun to see LaSalle get to prove his talent by playing someone so different from his longtime character Dr. Benton on "E.R."  Samantha Mumba, who was very appealing in the 2002 remake of THE TIME MACHINE, is even better here with her subtle, assured performance as Rita. 

In a lesser role, Who frontman Roger Daltrey comes off well as Johnny and Flynn's former boss, Jimmy, mainly because he isn't given that much to do.  And former world heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis lends an air of quiet authority to his role of Ras, the pirate DJ who is not only a good friend to Johnny but a king to his fellow Jamaicans, which comes in handy later on when Johnny, Flynn, and Rita need all the help they can get while running for their lives from the revenge-crazed Julius even as the police are closing in from all sides.

At the end, you get to find out what the movie's title means, which isn't a huge surprise or anything but is a nice touch nonetheless.  The surprise comes right after that, and it's a pretty good one.  It allows Johnny to do something heroic for a change, make up for some of the bad things he's done in the past, and feel sorta good about himself at last.  Which, if you like his character as much as I did, will make you feel sorta good, too.

Buy it at Amazon.com



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X-RAY OF A KILLER (Sursis pour un espion) -- trailer review by Squashpants


Tonight's "How Come You're Not In The Public Domain?" movie is X-RAY OF A KILLER (1965). This is really obscure and one of those I have only seen the trailer for.

It was in a collection of Late Late Late Show trailers on my Something Weird Video Roku channel, so it qualifies as one of those little titles that comes out of nowhere to charm you at 3:30 am on the old black and white console. I would have been happy as a coon in a rhubarb patch if I would have had this pop up on the Channel 13 Late Late Movie when I was a teen.

But it didn't.

It is a French import (original title, "Sursis pour un espion"), and as you might guess, it is one of those spy themed movies that were so popular in the mid-Sixties. The biggest star in this is Jean Servais, a fixture of these kinds of movies and well respected in French cinema. He was probably slumming with this one. Some of the other names you might recognize are Wolfgang Preiss ("Mill of the Stone Women"), Olga Palinka, and Agnes Spaak.


The trailer tells you little and is mysterious enough to make you curious. It has some sexy European eye candy and a lot of cloak and dagger about who knows what. But it looks like the kind of thing that would give you a nice warm feeling in the wee hours of the morning, just for the European-ness of it. You know, Citroens and glasses of Campari, and funky-looking telephones. That kind of thing.

Evidently no one on IMDb has seen it because there are zero user reviews and little general information about it. The trailer was a modicum of fun, though. I would waste an hour and a half on it.



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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"THE BAT" -- 50s Cult Classic Flies Onto DVD Nov. 12 From Film Chest!


Film Chest Media Group Proudly Presents
THE BAT

Vincent Price & Agnes Moorehead Lead All-Star Cast in a ’50s Suspense, Cult Classic That Will Keep You Guessing Until the End!

HD Restoration Premieres Oct. 24th on Turner Classic Movies
Flies Onto DVD Nov. 12th


BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Nov. 1, 2013 — For Immediate Release — Mystery, murder and mayhem take flight in The Bat – restored and in HD for the first time ever –  debuting on Turner Classic Movies Oct. 24 and DVD Nov. 12 from Film Chest Media Group. Featuring an all-star cast, this suspenseful cult favorite from 1959, will keep you on the edge of your seat!

In The Bat, mystery writer Cornelia van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead, TV’s Bewitched, Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Citizen Kane) resides in a town terrorized by a mysterious murderer known only as “The Bat,” said to be a man with no face who kills women at night by ripping out their throats with steel claws.

Breaking into Cornelia’s countryside home one night, he releases an actual bat, which bites her maid Lizzy (Lenita Lane, Compliments of the Season, While America Sleeps), sending her into a panic that she has caught “the rabies.”  Cornelia calls her doctor, Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price, Edward Scissorhands, House on Haunted Hill, TV’s Batman), who happens to be conducting research on bats.

Little does Cornelia know that the good doctor has an ulterior motive for coming to her assistance—a thief who has stolen $1 million in bank securities has confided in Wells, leading him to believe the stash is hidden within Cornelia’s home. After dispatching with the thief, Wells plots to claim the missing treasure.


When additional break-ins and murders by The Bat continue, local police chief Andy Anderson (Gavin Gordon, Bride of Frankenstein, The Scarlet Empress) comes to the house with suspicions of both Wells and Cornelia’s butler Warner (John Sutton, Jane Eyre, Return of the Fly).

Also featuring Darla Hood (of the Little Rascal’s Our Gang in her final film appearance), The Bat, with its hand-wringing twists and turns, will leave you guessing until the astonishing reveal at the end. A non-stop thriller sure to get your blood pumping!

The Bat, presented in widescreen (16x9) and mono sound, will enjoy a Turner Classic Movies premiere Oct. 24th prior to its DVD release.

About Film Chest:
Founded in 2001, Film Chest offers high-quality content for a wide variety of production and distribution needs, boasting one of the world’s largest libraries (10,000+ hours) of classic feature films, television, foreign imports, documentaries, special interest and audio—much of it restored and digitized in HD. Headquartered in Bridgeport, Conn., with offices in New York City, the company also produces and distributes collector’s DVD sets for its American Pop Classics, CULTRA and HD Cinema Classics labels. Visit us online: www.filmchestmediagroup.com

The Bat
Film Chest
Genre: Thriller
Original Release: 1959 (B&W)
Not Rated
Format: DVD Only
Running Time: Approx. 80 Minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $11.98
Pre-Order Date: Oct. 15, 2013
Street Date: Nov. 12, 2013
Catalog #:  FC-490
UPC Code:  #874757049090



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SLIPSTREAM (2005) -- movie review by porfle


(NOTE: I wrote this review back when I loved recapping the plots to movies in detail,  so there are a lot of spoilers here.  This was first posted at Bumscorner.com in 2005 or so.)

There are plenty of time-travel stories about people going back hundreds, even thousands of years into the past.  But ten minutes?  If you think about it, this could come in quite handy in a wide range of day-to-day situations. 

You could win arguments, say just the right things to people you want to impress, avoid a variety of mishaps, missteps, and mistakes, or -- as Stuart Conway, inventor of The Slipstream Device, seems to have noticed -- you could cash the same paycheck over and over.

Stuart (Sean Astin) doesn't seem like a particularly dishonest person, but as SLIPSTREAM (2005) begins, we find that the beyond-top-secret government research agency that this beyond-intelligent-physicist is working for has cut the funding on his pet project and stuck him in a back room out of everyone's way. 

So, well, he's feeling a bit underappreciated lately, and decides to prove the validity of his theories on time travel by using his new invention, a "poly-dimensional translocation device" (which looks a lot like a cell phone) to cash his latest paycheck as many times as he wants to. 

So there he is, standing at the teller's window at the bank, trying in his worst beyond-super-geek way to sweet-talk the bank clerk he has a crush on, when a particular observation he makes about the highly distracting properties of her low-cut blouse prompts her to pick up the decaf, non-fat, soy concoction she's been sipping and hurl it right at his face. 

Reflexively, he whips out his Slipstream Device and pushes a button.  The liquid slows to a snail's pace and then freezes in mid-air.  Then it begins to retrace its path back into her cup.  Time suddenly zips backward ten minutes -- and their encounter is now at its starting point again.  Cool! he thinks giddily.  While she's counting out my money again, I'll have another chance to shower her with suave witticisms!

Suddenly the doors to the bank fly open and in bursts a band of armed bank robbers, a motley assortment of scruffy, lower-class Brits led by Winston Briggs (Vinnie Jones) and his punky fiancee of twelve years, Gillian (Victoria Bartlett), who are extreme movie fans and fancy themselves as either Bonnie and Clyde or Butch and Sundance according to the situation.  And the situation gets a lot tenser when two FBI agents who have been keeping Stuart under surveillance whip out their guns. 

At first it's a standoff, but in no time there's a heap o' lead flying around, and one of the slugs catches Stuart right in the chest.  The robbers take the money and run.  Agent Sarah Tanner (Ivana Milicevic, CASINO ROYALE) rushes to Stuart's aid.  He tells her to pick up the device and press the button, which she does. 

In a flash, it's ten minutes earlier and Sarah is back standing with her partner Jake (Kevin Otto) before the robbery.  Since she was holding the device when it was activated, she is aware of the time-jump and is understandably flabbergasted.  She looks at Stuart, then at the clock, and realizes that a bank robbery is about to occur.

Or reoccur, that is.  This time there's even more shooting, and things go even more wrong.  Jake runs outside in pursuit of the fleeing bank robbers, and is shot dead as they escape.  Sarah is stricken with grief because she's in love with Jake -- they've even been perusing the classifieds for a nice house to move into together -- and it dawns on her that if Stuart is able to turn back the clock ten minutes, he can save Jake's life. 

One problem, though -- the bank robbers have The Slipstream Device!  And if she and Stuart don't get it back within ten minutes, they won't be able to go back in time far enough to save Jake!

And that's just the start of it!  (Pardon me while I catch my breath.)  Briggs and his gang have a freeway crack-up in their van and end up taking a busload of people hostage.  Sarah and Stuart try to get on the bus, but Briggs shoots Stuart -- again.  So Sarah has to tell him about the device in order to be able to use it to save Stuart.  Briggs thinks this would be a great way to rob the same bank over and over.  When the chopper he's demanded arrives, he and Gillian rig the bus to explode and take off with their gang and Stuart in tow. 

Fast-forward a bit (we can do that, even if Stuart can't) and we find Briggs and Stuart on an airplane headed out of the country.  Sarah has managed to board the same plane.  She gets The Slipstream Device away from Briggs, but it is broken in the struggle.  Briggs would rather die than be caught, so he shoots out a window, and the sudden decompression causes the plane to go into a dive. 

The pilots try their best to pull out, but there's a really big mountain in their windscreen, and it's getting bigger and bigger.  To make things worse, a stewardess whacks Briggs over the head with a fire extinguisher while he's pointing his gun at Sarah, causing him to shoot her at point blank range.  Sarah goes down, dead.  The plane hits the mountain.

As you can see, a lot happens in this movie, and most of it is pretty entertaining.  It's a bit derivative at times -- the bank sequence reminded me a lot of an old OUTER LIMITS episode with Barry Morse, Grace Lee Whitney, and Carroll O'Connor called "Controlled Experiment", in which a woman shoots her husband in a fit of jealousy and a Martian who has come to Earth to study the act of murder uses a device to replay the event backwards, forwards, in slow-motion, etc., and the climax owes a bit to 1964's THE TIME TRAVELERS, although I have no idea whether or not the filmmakers have seen it. 

But there's also a great deal of inventiveness going on here.  David van Eyssen throws everything but the kitchen sink into his directing style at times, especially in the bank shoot-outs that get wilder and more dizzyingly cinematic (though a bit overdone) with every ten-minute replay.  The final moments aboard the airplane are nice -- time stands still, or is slowed down and extended so that we're able to appreciate the effects that certain actions or events have on the characters at crucial instances, and then images begin to flash by and become almost subliminal impressions rushing toward the inevitable conclusion. 

The actors are all very good in their roles, so much so that you even begin to care about the bad guys (Vinnie Jones and Victoria Bartlett make a lovely couple).  Sean Astin and Ivana Milicevic are appealing leads.  The musical score by Rob Lord is outstanding. 

This isn't a great film by any means, but it's definitely a thought-provoking, action-packed good time.  Ten minutes after it was over, I pressed the button on my poly-dimensional translocation device (okay, my DVD player) and watched it again.


Buy it at Amazon.com
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