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Sunday, December 17, 2017

AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS is part of "THE AMICUS COLLECTION" (Blu-ray 4-volume box set) from Severin Films.
(And Now the Screaming Starts/Asylum/The Beast Must Die/The Vault of Amicus)

The title of the original novel by David Case was "Fengriffen", with Roger Marshall's screenplay similarly dubbed "The Bride of Fengriffen."  To the actors' dismay and my delight, the title of this 1973 Amicus production ultimately became AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS (Severin Films). 

I find this not only more interesting-sounding but quite apt, as leading lady Stephanie Beacham (DRACULA A.D. 1972, "The Colbys") and various of her co-stars emit piercing, full-bodied screams every five minutes or so in reaction to some unbearable horror visited upon them by the script.

It all starts when 18th-century British nobleman Charles Fengriffen (genre stalwart Ian Ogilvy) brings his new bride Catherine (Beacham) home to the rustic but extravagantly elegant family estate in the country.  (Perennial film location Oakley Court provides the lavish exteriors, with equally elaborate interiors constructed and shot at Shepperton Studios.)

What Catherine doesn't realize--and which both Charles and everyone else take pains to hide from her--is that due to the heinous crimes of Charles' grandfather Henry against his woodsman Silas (Geoffrey Whitehead), there's a terrible curse on the house of Fengriffen that's to be visited upon the first virginal bride to reside there.  (For which she, to her grave misfortune, qualifies.)

This offers director Roy Ward Baker a chance to punctuate the formal, richly Gothic atmosphere with shocking flashes of lurid imagery as the horrified Catherine is subjected to ghostly visions such as a bloody hand plunging through Henry's portrait and glimpses of the disembodied but ambulatory hand making its way around inside the house while a spectral Silas appears intermittently at the window with gory holes for eyes. 

We're led to wonder if such visions are real or merely figments of her heated imagination--that is, until various household staff and others connected with the Fengriffens begin to die off in violent ways.  Catherine herself needs no more convincing after a spectral presence seems to force itself upon her sexually on her very wedding night, setting into motion what will become the eventual ghastly fruition of the curse.

Baker's surehanded directorial experience on such classics as A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, ASYLUM, and FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH comes into play as he moves the camera fluidly within the spacious indoor sets.  Lighting, costumes, and other production details also contribute to give this film a look beyond its relatively modest budget.

This look is similar to that of the earlier Gothic-tinged Hammer films, and indeed seems to be trying to fill the gap left by Hammer's move at the time toward a more modern image.  Yet it somehow retains what I think of as the distinctive, perhaps indefinable visual ambience of an Amicus production.

Even with its R-rating, gore is kept to a minimum although that severed hand stays quite busy and Silas' bloody axe gets its chance to swing as well.  A couple of implied rape scenes (one featuring second-billed Herbert Lom in a revelatory flashback as the evil Henry Fengriffen) and some brief nudity add to the adult content.

The closing minutes also contain a scene in which a grave is desecrated in such a violent way that it comes off as shockingly morbid, and almost makes everything that came before seem sedate in comparison.  The final twist is no less effective for its predictability--the fact that what we expected all along finally comes to pass is, in fact, somewhat satisfying.

Performances are fine, with the always-reliable Ogilvy and the wonderfully expressive Beacham aided by supporting castmembers such as Patrick Magee (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, ASYLUM) as a family doctor all too familiar with the curse, and the aforementioned Lom in his brief but effective flashback scenes. 

Distinguished genre legend Peter Cushing doesn't make his appearance until around the halfway mark or later, but he makes the most of his role as a psychiatrist who tries to make scientific sense of what's happening to Catherine and those around her.  Even in those moments when the film's stately pace begins to lag, he and the other leads are always interesting to watch.

The Blu-ray from Severin Films offers a lovely remastered print with only the occasional rough patch.  The bonus menu is nicely stocked as usual, with a lengthy, clip-filled featurette about Oakley Court hosted by horror authors Allan Bryce and David Flint, an audio interview with Peter Cushing (with accompanying photo montage), a review of the film by horror author Denis Meikle, plus a trailer and radio spot.  Two seperate commentary tracks are available, one with Roy Ward Baker and Stephanie Beacham, the other with Ian Ogilvie, and both are marvelous fun to listen to.

AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS is one of those simmering Gothic tales that might've been a bit slow for me in my younger days, but now it's just the thing for me to settle into and enjoy like a good book. Only turn the pages in this book and you never know when a bloody hand or an eyeless woodsman with an axe are going to jump out at you. 

Order THE AMICUS COLLECTION (Blu-ray 4-volume box set) from Severin Films
(And Now the Screaming Starts/Asylum/The Beast Must Die*/The Vault of Amicus)
*The Beast Must Die is exclusive ONLY to the boxed set.



ASYLUM -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

ASYLUM is part of "THE AMICUS COLLECTION" (Blu-ray 4-volume box set) from Severin Films.
(And Now the Screaming Starts!/Asylum/The Beast Must Die/The Vault of Amicus)

I missed out on most of the cool-looking Amicus productions covered in "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine when I was a kid. Except TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which I did get to see at the drive-in when it came out and was duly impressed and entertained. 

Which is exactly my reaction to finally getting to see another quintessential Amicus anthology feature, ASYLUM (Severin Films, 1973), surely just as aptly representative of the small but hard-working studio that seemed to rival Hammer in its own modest way, but with a personality all its own, back in the 60s and 70s.

With super-efficient producing partners Max Rosenberg and Milt Subotsky handling the business end of things while hiring the best artistic and technical people for the actual filmmaking duties, ASYLUM ranks as one of their finer efforts thanks to a tight script by Robert Bloch ("Psycho") and what amounts to a pretty impressive all-star cast.

Robert Powell, best known by me from such films as TOMMY, THE SURVIVOR, and the TV mini-series "Jesus of Nazareth" (in the title role, no less), is Dr. Martin, a psychiatrist applying for a position in an asylum for the criminally insane. (I especially enjoyed the robust rendition of Mussorgsky's "A Night On Bald Mountain" that accompanied his country drive to the secluded location.)

The institute's eccentric boss, Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE), informs him that his predecessor, Dr. Starr, recently went violently mad himself and is now a patient with an entirely different personality.  Rutherford tells Martin that he has the job if he can interview the patients and ascertain which of them is actually Dr. Starr.

Thus hangs the anthology aspect of the film as Martin visits each patient in turn and listens to their stories, which we see in flashback.  They amount to a potent mix of spine-chilling horror tales, each boasting a kind of slow, deliberate storytelling that I find quite satisfying as well as an atmospheric British ambience with that pleasing 70s vibe. 

Things start out with a bang when patient Bonnie (Barbara Parkins, VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) tells the story of "Frozen Fear", the most lurid and visceral tale in the collection.  In it, she and her lover Walter (Richard Todd, THE LONGEST DAY) plan to do away with his wife Ruth (Sylvia Syms) via dismemberment. 

Ruth, however, has been dabbling in voodoo and, even in death, turns out to be more than just the sum of  It's the liveliest and most grotesque entry, and my favorite. (The film's spoileriffic trailer dwells particularly upon this segment.)

The next story, "The Weird Tailor", has the debt-ridden title character (Barry Morse of "The Fugitive" and "Space: 1999") accepting a lucrative commission for a very strange suit of clothes by a mysterious stranger (played by the great Peter Cushing).  The purpose of the odd suit of clothes turns out to be quite a shock for the old man, and for us when the supernatural tale reaches its violent end.

"Lucy Comes To Stay" offers a two-fer of great leading ladies with Charlotte Rampling (THE NIGHT PORTER, "The Avengers") and Britt Eklund (THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN) in a story of overbearing husband George (James Villiers, REPULSION) plotting against his mentally-unstable wife while her friend Lucy stops at nothing, including murder, to protect her.  It's the most low-key entry with a predictable twist, yet I found it involving enough, especially with such an appealing cast.

The fourth tale, "Mannikins of Horror", takes place right there in the asylum with Herbert Lom as patient Dr. Byron, a man whose hobby is fashioning doll likenesses of his friends and colleagues.  He claims that he can project his soul into his own miniature self, animate it, and use it as a weapon of vengeance against his most hated enemy, who happens to be one of the asylum's inhabitants. Which, in a delightfully staged sequence, is exactly what he does.

The individual flashback tales are involving to various degrees, while the framing story inside that big, Gothic asylum ultimately delivers the goods for a twisty, satisfying finish. 

Direction by Roy Ward Baker (A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS!) is solid and thoroughly professional as are all other aspects of the production, and, while not really gory, it's still strong stuff for its time.

The Blu-ray from Severin contains their usual lavish bonus menu beginning with "Two's A Company", a 70s-produced BBC report on the making of the film which, in addition to cast and crew interviews, features fascinating thoughts on filmmaking from Amicus co-producer Milt Subotsky himself.  Recent interviews of David J. Schow (regarding his friend Robert Bloch) and Fiona Subotsky (about her husband Milt) yield much information and insight. 

The featurette "Inside the Fear Factory" offers directors Roy Ward Baker and Freddie Francis and producer Max J. Rosenberg talking about Amicus. There's also an informative commentary track with Baker and camera operator Neil Binney, reversible cover art, and two trailers. 

ASYLUM is solidly made, nicely atmospheric, and just plain fun genre filmmaking that this horror fan considers time very well spent. 

Order THE AMICUS COLLECTION (Blu-ray 4-volume box set) from Severin Films
(And Now the Screaming Starts!/Asylum/The Beast Must Die*/The Vault of Amicus)
*The Beast Must Die is exclusive ONLY to the boxed set.

Order ASYLUM from Severin Films

Release date: December 19, 2017

Reversible cover art:


Saturday, December 16, 2017

She Demons Dance to "I Eat Cannibals" (Toto Coelo)

This is the famous dance sequence from the 1958 classic SHE DEMONS, which we've set to the exciting jungle rhythms of Toto Coelo's 1982 single "I Eat Cannibals."

Here's the original video by Toto Coelo.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Presenting -- The JOHN WAYNE/ "GREEN BERETS" Lunchbox!

Okay, this isn't a real lunchbox--we were just having a bit of fun with one of the goofier characters from John Wayne's controversial 1968 Viet Nam epic, THE GREEN BERETS. Namely, the doggedly "cute" little Vietnamese kid named "Ham Chunk" (Craig Jue) who's intended to make our heartstrings go all a-flutter.  (Click pics to enlarge.)

In the movie, Ham Chunk is an orphan who hangs around a U.S. military base deep in the combat zone and likes to play pranks on the soldiers (after which he points and utters his catchphrase, "Ha ha, you funny!")

He gets adopted by--or rather, adopts--an unconventional lieutenant named Peterson, played by Jim Hutton, who becomes his father figure.  The cuteness factor is cranked up to eleven during their scenes, especially when accompanied by film composer Miklos Rozsa's bathos-enriched "Ham Chunk" theme music.

[SPOILER] When Peterson fails to return from a dangerous mission, the kid loses it.  "Peter-san!  Peter-san!" he wails, searching desperately amongst the empty helicopters to no avail. 

It's up to the Duke to step up, take the poor kid by the hand, and lead him into the sunset (which, famously, sets in the East). [/SPOILER]

Anyway, the lunchbox may be fictitious, but we'd love to have one.  Whether in the lunchroom at school or the breakroom at work, it would make a dandy conversation piece!



Gravitas Ventures "THE BILL MURRAY EXPERIENCE"-- iTunes Sale Dec. 15-17, Limited Theatrical and VOD/Digital Dec 19th

This weekend: iTunes sale for the incredibly engaging new feature documentary “The Bill Murray Experience,” which shows we are all on a journey in search of a magic spark in our lives. 

The directorial debut from actress/filmmaker Sadie Katz (“Blood Feast,” “Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort”), “The Bill Murray Experience” takes the viewer on a journey of self discovery with the touch of the stars and is being distributed by Gravitas Ventures across VOD platforms globally and will do a limited theatrical run in Los Angeles beginning December 19th, 2017. 

At a crossroads in her life, actress Sadie Katz embarks on a quest to have a magical experience with legendary comedian Bill Murray.

After ending her engagement and finding herself at a loss for inspiration Katz, finds herself up late at night searching the internet. In her loneliness, she keeps clicking on stories of others having magical chance encounters with her favorite actor and life guru Bill Murray.

Katz shares with the audience that she finds herself at a loss as to why she needs to meet Bill Murray but, that's part of the intrigue and pleasure of knowing that secretly we all wish we had a little Murray Magic in our life...which starts both Sadie and the audience on the quest of finding the unfindable and zany Bill Murray.

The documentary features: Joel Murray (“Mad Men”), P.J. Soles (“Stripes”), and the legend himself Bill Murray.

**HD and SD pricing  $6.99 in US and Canada.  Sale runs Dec 15th through Midnight EST on Dec 17th.  

iTunes link:
iTunes Pre-Order Link:

Where to follow the filmmakers, the film and its journey:


Thursday, December 14, 2017


I don't remember ever sitting down and watching a production of Tchaikovsky’s classic musical fantasy (derived from the E.T.A. Hoffmann story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”) all the way through, so I was surprised to find that the 1986 screen adaptation, NUTCRACKER, THE MOTION PICTURE (Olive Films), is a lot less Christmassy than I imagined. 

It's also less skillfully rendered than I expected from director Carroll Ballard, who gave us the exquisite THE BLACK STALLION as well as NEVER CRY WOLF.  I think this is because Ballard excelled at more natural, realistic storytelling (albeit through a beautifully artistic eye) and was out of his element taking on a stagey ballet with an almost non-linear storyline that's told through music and dance.

He made a sort of metaphorical dance out of the boy and the horse getting to know and love each other in THE BLACK STALLION, and it was beautiful. Here, he's a bit at a loss as to how to shoot literal dance sequences, often editing a bunch of tight shots together in rapid succession to convey movement but losing the effect of the group choreography in doing so.

These sequences are at their best during the moments when Ballard pulls back and gives us a nice, wide master shot of the dancers doing their thing. Yet this is where his talent as a visual film artist is least utilized and the film is at its most stagey and uncinematic.  Throughout NUTCRACKER, THE MOTION PICTURE this uneasy juxtaposition of the cinematic and the theatrical seldom makes for a pleasing blend.

Indeed, I often found myself zoning out and simply enjoying Tchaikovsky’s brilliant music, rendered beautifully by the London Symphony Orchestra, as the images played out before me.  I found myself recognizing most of these oft-heard musical themes and savoring each one anew, gifts of the composer's genius that keep on giving across the centuries.

The story proper concerns a young girl named Clara (Vanessa Sharp) attending her parents' opulent Christmas party and hoping that finally this year she'll be old enough to join in the dance.  She especially looks forward to seeing her extremely eccentric godfather Herr Drosselmeier (Hugh Bigney), a clockmaker who never fails to bring the most special, magical gifts that he has fashioned himself.

This year Drosselmeier has outdone himself by building a toy castle in which one might actually see tiny figures dancing inside.  As an older Clara tells us in voiceover, he has a tendency to invade her dreams somehow, turning them into frightening but strangely wonderful nightmares.  This night is no different, and Clara's dream sleep becomes a wondrous journey through the magic castle and then into exotic foreign lands with the handsome Nutcracker Prince (Wade Walthall).

The opening act of the film contains the only real Christmas atmosphere, the rest being Clara's frightening encounter with some toy figures come to overgrown life (including production designer Maurice Sendak's grotesque animal creations) and then the balletic adventures of Clara's grown-up fantasy self, played by lissome ballet dancer Patricia Barker, in a sort of "Arabian Nights" world with Drosselmeier as an evil sheik or something. 

Barker bears a close resemblance to the younger Clara and is a pleasing surrogate figure with ample balletic skills.  It's nice watching her and the Nutcracker Prince during their elegant specialty numbers as well as a "snowflake" dance by members of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

I prefer these moments to the more chaotic ones with too many toy soldiers, anthropomorphic animals, and other characters leaping about in a confusing blur of closeups and rapid editing.  The story finally comes to a climax of sorts (including a noticeably bad flying effect) which I actually found rather intriguing--it really does end the way nightmares often do, and Clara, awaking with a start, seems well pleased by her odd godfather's most unusual gift.

NUTCRACKER, THE MOTION PICTURE will please fans of Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music even if they only listen to it. Those who look at it as well may find the images to be as much a mixed bag as the one from which Herr Drosselmeier produces his eclectic array of homemade Christmas gifts.  Try as he might, director Ballard just never quite gets a handle on this one. 

Buy it at Olive Films

YEAR: 1986
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (with optional English subtitles)
VIDEO: 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio; COLOR

PREBOOK:        12/05/17
STREET:           12/12/17

CAT:                 OF1386
UPC:       887090138611
SRP:                 $14.95

CAT:                 OF1387
UPC:       887090138710
SRP:                 $29.95


John Wayne: The Crooning Cowpoke

Here's a collection of some of the attempts by various studios in the 1930s to turn the young John Wayne into a singing cowboy.  His voice is dubbed--none too convincingy--in each clip.  In most of these, he's playing a character known as "Singin' Sandy."


"EXTRAORDINARY MISSION" From the Writer of "The Departed" On Blu-ray and Digital Feb. 6



Starring Huang Xuan, The Heart-Stopping Race To Defeat A Chinese Drug Cartel
Begins On Blu-ray™ And Digital February 6

It’s all the twisty verve and crazy inventiveness of Hong Kong action cinema.” -- Bleeding Cool

(Los Angeles, CA) – From Alan Mak and Felix Chong, co-writers of The Departed and director of Infernal Affairs, comes the “first rate-action film” (China Film Insider), EXTRAORDINARY MISSION, arriving on Blu-ray™ & Digital February 6 from Cinedigm (NASDAQ: CIDM) and Crimson Forest Films.

Blockbuster actor Huang Xuan (The Interpreter) stars in thrilling Hong Kong crime drama as Lin Kai, an undercover officer assigned to penetrate the Twin Eagles drug cartel. To gain cartel boss Eagle’s (Yihong Duan, White Deer Plain) trust, Kai is forced into gradual drug addiction while attempting to locate the cartel’s production base. Stakes are further complicated when Kai realizes Eagle has been plotting a violent revenge against his supervisor Li Jianguo (Jiadong Xing, The Last Women Standing) for over a decade.

The white-knuckle thriller holds an 83% score on Rotten Tomatoes and was a smash hit at the Chinese box office. Both Blu-ray™ and DVD collections will feature English subtitles, and will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.97 and $14.93, respectively.


From the director of Infernal Affairs comes this action-packed thriller about justice and one man willing to go to any length to get it. When police officer Lin Kai is assigned to go undercover with a notoriously ruthless drug cartel, he unwillingly becomes an addict to their incredibly potent supply. As he works to dismantle the network from the inside, his discovery of an elaborate revenge plot against his police supervisor puts his loyalties to the test.

Price:                  $19.97

Street Date:         February 6, 2018
Language:           Mandarin                 
Runtime:             120 minutes             
Rating:                Not Rated
Subtitles:            English

Price:                  $14.93

Street Date:         February 6, 2018
Language:           Mandarin                 
Runtime:             120 minutes             
Rating:                Not Rated
Subtitles:            English

About Cinedigm:
Cinedigm powers custom content solutions to the world’s largest retail, media and technology companies. We provide premium feature films and series to digital platforms including iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon, cable and satellite providers including Comcast, Dish Network and DirecTV, and major retailers including Walmart and Target. Leveraging Cinedigm’s unique capabilities, content and technology, the Company has emerged as a leader in the fast-growing over-the-top channel business, with four channels under management that reach hundreds of millions of devices while also providing premium content and service expertise to the entire OTT ecosystem.

About Crimson Forest Films:
Crimson Forest Films is a theatrical and home entertainment distribution label that specializes in bringing top content in film & television to North America and China. Crimson Forest Film’s corporate headquarters is in Los Angeles, California with offices in Shanghai, China.

For more information about Crimson Forest Films please visit


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"MOLLY'S GAME" True High-Stakes Poker Thriller In Select Theaters Christmas Day -- Watch the Trailer NOW!


In Select Theaters Nationwide Christmas Day
Everywhere January 5th

MOLLY'S GAME is based on the true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons.

Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey, who learned that there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led us to believe.



"SHOCK WAVE" With Andy Lau -- China’s #1 Box Office Hit on Blu-ray & Digital Jan 2



China’s #1 Box Office Hit Explodes onto Blu-ray™ & Digital January 2

Takes no prisoners when it comes to delivering high-octane action” -- The Star

(Los Angeles, CA) – Blockbuster star Andy Lau (The Great Wall, House of Flying Daggers), one of Hong Kong’s most commercially successful actors ever, headlines the edge-of-seat thriller SHOCK WAVE, arriving on Blu-ray™ & Digital January 2 from Cinedigm (NASDAQ: CIDM) and Crimson Forest Films.

Written and directed by Herman Yau (IP Man: The Legend Is Born), with both Yau and Lau as producers, the spellbinding action film captured the #1 box office spot in China and Hong Kong when it hit theaters earlier this year. With a $23 million budget, SHOCK WAVE has become Hong Kong’s second-highest grossing domestic film of 2017 and was celebrated as “disarmingly entertaining” by The Hollywood Reporter.

Set on the busy streets of Hong Kong, Lau stars as Cheung Choi-san, a bomb disposal expert working to protect his city from attack. When a terrorist who specializes in explosives, Hung Kai-pang (Jiang Wu, A Touch of Sin), takes hold of the busy Cross-Harbor Tunnel, he threatens to kill hostages if his demands are not met.

The third collaboration between Yah and Lau, SHOCK WAVE holds an 80% score on Rotten Tomatoes and is praised for its high-octane drama that put Lau in a 70-pound bomb disposal suit during filming. The Blu-ray™ + DVD Combo includes an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, including an interview with Lau.


SHOCK WAVE BLU-RAY™ + DVD BASICS                
Price:                  $22.97

Street Date:         January 2, 2018
Language:           Cantonese, Mandarin                      
Runtime:             119 minutes             
Rating:                Not Rated
Subtitles:            English

SHOCK WAVE DVD BASICS                   
Price:                  $16.97

Street Date:         January 2, 2018
Language:           Cantonese, Mandarin                      
Runtime:             119 minutes             
Rating:                Not Rated
Subtitles:            English


Modern Vehicle Blooper in "SHANE" (1953)

"SHANE" (Paramount Pictures, 1953) is our all-time favorite western but that doesn't mean we don't love this wonderful modern vehicle blooper that occurs early in the movie. It has been erased from the DVD print but can still be seen in the trailer.

Music courtesy of Royalty Free Music Maker


"ANNIHILATION" Sci-Fi Thriller With Natalie Portman in Theaters Feb 23 -- See the Trailer NOW!


In Theatres: Feb 23, 2018

Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s best-selling Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Oscar Isaac. It was written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later).

Alex Garland

Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Isaac

Social Media
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                                 WATCH THE TRAILER

©2017 Paramount Pictures. All Right Reserved.
5555 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90038


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Embarrassing Live-TV Blooper ("Auto-Lite" Commercial, 1952)

Here's an embarrassing live-TV blooper which took place in an Auto-Lite commercial during the live broadcast of the "Suspense" episode, "The Debt" (1952). 

Gotta feel sorry for that poor Western Union operator with the deer-in-the-headlights look.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Two Fun Bloopers from "OUR MAN FLINT" (1966)

(1) During the explosive finale of the James Coburn spy thriller OUR MAN FLINT (1966), everyone's in a blind panic--except for the guy who doesn't know he's in the shot. 

(2) Later, Gila Golan proves she has a thick skull when a rubber boulder bounces off of it. 



Sunday, December 10, 2017

HARMONIUM -- DVD Review by Porfle

HARMONIUM, aka "Fuchi ni tatsu" (Film Movement, 2016), is a very neatly-rendered Japanese film by director Kôji Fukada (SAYONARA, AU REVOIR L'ETE) which should appeal to anyone who wants a little more tragedy in their lives. Or at least in their movies.

I thought at first it was going to be some kind of harrowing CAPE FEAR-type thriller.  After all, it's about a fairly normal family--a somewhat distant, disaffected husband and father Toshio (Kanji Furutachi), his dutiful, religious wife Akié (Mariko Tsutsui), and their sweet young daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa)--suddenly having to deal with Toshio's ex-convict friend Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), who comes seeking employment and a place to stay after an eleven-year stretch in prison for murder.

Gradually we learn that there's more to Yasaka's crime than anyone realizes--namely, Toshio's involvement, for which he went unpunished and free to live his life (which he takes for granted) while his friend languished behind bars.

We feel about as awkward as Akié about the whole thing and wait for the violence and terror to begin, but a funny thing happens--Yasaka turns out to be a gentle, patient, and seemingly caring man who's everything that Akié could want in a husband. 

He even takes the time to teach Hotaru how to play the harmonium for her upcoming talent concert, assuming the role of both teacher and surrogate father. In short, he's starting to make Toshio look like yesterday's chopped liver.

Already this scenario has the potential to turn out a number of bad ways, and all we can do is grit our teeth in quiet dread and wait to see what direction it takes. 

This is exacerbated by the growing closeness between Yasaka and Akié, with the ex-convict covetously regarding Toshio's life as the one he himself should have had. Eventually, we fear, he'll begin to take whatever steps are necessary to make that a reality.

And yet even at this point, HARMONIUM refuses to settle into the course we keep predicting for it.  After a single shocking moment that drastically changes everything, the rest of the tale comes to us more in a haze of resignation and regret than anything resembling your standard thriller. 

The fear and anxiety are still there, but not because we're worried about any kind of violence and retribution.  Instead, we must watch the dissolution of a family that has lost its reason to exist and descended into suicidal despair. 

Not even the promise of possible revenge, legal or otherwise, is enough to hold them together.  They're like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces falling away one by one. 

Kôji Fukada directs it all with crisp, economical efficiency and is blessed with a cast who give their all in their roles.  While lacking the usual tension and suspense of a thriller, the story holds us firmly in a grip of morbid curiosity as to just how much worse things can get for these poor people.

HARMONIUM resembles a Park Chan-wook "vengeance trilogy" tale without the climactic visceral catharsis.  Instead, we're left only with the mundane sadness of everyday existence amplified by the crushing weight of circumstances too heavy to bear.  It's an effective slice-of-tragedy story that will leave you heartsick.

Buy it from Film Movement

DVD Extras:
Interview with star Kanji Furutachi
Bonus Kôji Fukada short film "Birds"
Film Movement trailers

5.1 Surround Sound/2.0 Stereo
Japanese with English subtitles
1.66:1 widescreen
120 minutes


Horse Rolls Over Rider: A Harrowing Stunt From "Fort Apache" (1948)

Man falls off horse, horse rolls over man--a cringe-inducing stunt from the John Ford cavalry epic FORT APACHE (1948) starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Failed Stunt Used In John Wayne Western "The Trail Beyond" (1934)

Lone Star studios hated to waste footage, so failed stunts were worked into the action whenever possible.

Here's an exciting one from John Wayne's 1934 western THE TRAIL BEYOND, performed by either Yakima Canutt or Eddie Parker. (Looks like Eddie.)


BAD LUCKY GOAT -- DVD Review by Porfle

Not quite the "boy and his goat" story I expected, BAD LUCKY GOAT (Film Movement, 2017) is more the story of a boy, his older sister, and their goat head.

It starts out as an entire dead goat but they sell the carcass to a butcher, trade the skin for a watch that someone found on the beach, and hang onto the head until they're convinced that it's the cause of all the bad juju they've been suffering since leaving the house.

But that's just the bare bones of what happens on that ill-fated day when Cornelius ("Corn" for short) and his sister Rita, while heatedly arguing about things as usual, smash the family truck into an escaped goat while on an errand for their parents in a rural village in the Caribbean. 

The damaged truck and the dead goat are problems the two will spend the rest of the day trying to solve, and their troubles only increase when they do so by lying, cheating, and generally avoiding responsibility whenever possible.

They're likable kids, though, despite constantly being at each other's throats as siblings often are.  Their misdeeds really aren't so bad that we can't identify with them--mostly--and they do keep us entertained not only with their attempts to earn enough to have the truck fixed (hence the goat carcass transaction and various other bartering attempts) but also by ending up on the wrong side of the local crime boss whose goat it was in the first place, not to mention the police.

We get to meet a succession of colorful characters, most of whom are either earning a meager living without getting all that worked up about it or making cheerful indigenous music in peaceful natural surroundings with their friends. 

I enjoyed listening to their Creole patois, which I only recognized as a form of English after listening to it for a few minutes (I challenge anyone who speaks English to decipher the dialogue without the subtitles). 

During all this we get a chance to drink in the beautiful tropical scenery and mostly laid-back ambience while the story ambles along at its own unhurried pace just like a reggae song.  (With a little kidnapping, cock-fighting, and other things thrown in to spice things up.)

Colombian director Samir Oliveros doesn't try to grip us with any big drama or hilarity, and there isn't a chase to cut to.  This gives us time to get to know Corn and Rita, and watch them gradually and somewhat begrudgingly grow closer during their long day of tedious travails which will test both their mettle and their basic humanity. 

This relationship is what the film is really all about, and its sweetly-rendered resolution makes watching BAD LUCKY GOAT not unlike a soothing balm for the soul. 

Buy it from Film Movement


Bonus short film "Miss World" by director Georgia Fu
Film Movement trailers

5.1 Surround Sound/2.0 Stereo
2.40:1 Widescreen
Creole With English Subtitles
76 Minutes


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