HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Saturday, July 4, 2020

My Joy Harmon Video ("VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS", 1965)




This is our tribute to the great Joy Harmon...

...who played Merrie in the cult classic VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS (1965).

She's also famous for her television appearances with Groucho Marx...

...and as the girl who washes her car in the 1967 Paul Newman classic COOL HAND LUKE.


Music: "More Than This" by Roxy Music 

I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Thanks for watching!


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Thursday, July 2, 2020

JUST ONE MORE KISS -- Movie Review by Porfle




To be honest, the premise of JUST ONE MORE KISS (Indican Pictures, 2019)--the ghost of a woman's recently-deceased husband appears to her and tries to help her withstand the tragedy of their prematurely aborted love--sounded like a gateway straight into chick-flick hell.

Which only made it that much more of a pleasant surprise to find myself watching one of the most thoroughly engaging movies I've seen this year.

True, the first ten minutes or so subject us to the double whammy of (a) painfully uncomfortable social awkwardness when friend Barry gets obnoxiously drunk and makes a fool of himself at Max (Patrick Zeller) and Abby's tenth anniversary party, so Max has to drive him home, and (b) sudden unbearable tragedy of jarringly maudlin proportions when Max gets killed in an auto accident while driving Barry home.


Seems like this is going to be a tough and emotionally manipulative slog as Abby flees to the country cabin she and Max used to share, eschewing any attempts by loved ones to comfort her and rebuffing anyone who tries to befriend her in her new surroundings.

And when Max's ghost starts to appear to her, we get the unpleasant feeling that we're about to see a rehash of GHOST with a dash of THE SIXTH SENSE.

However, just when things are looking really bleak, something unexpected happens--writer-director Faleena Hopkins (who also plays Abby) sidesteps all of that predictable stuff and starts delving into some really interesting emotional and metaphysical territory.  This is especially true when Abby stumbles over the edge of a cliff and the incorporeal Max can't do a thing to help her as she hangs on for dear life.


She also explores the more playful aspects of the situation such as Abby seemingly talking to herself while onlookers look on in concern, and Max reacting with a bit of old-fashioned jealousy when a local bachelor takes an interest in Abby.

But that's nothing compared to what happens when Abby's sister Lorna (Emily Bennett) and the now-sober Barry (Joe Barbagallo) show up at Abby's doorstep to implore her to forgive Barry for being indirectly responsible for Max's death, and to urge her to let Max go and get on with her life. How will Abby react to this? What's more, how will Max react to it as he stands by observing it all unseen?

It was at this point that I realized that I was not only tolerating JUST ONE MORE KISS, but voraciously devouring it. Faleena Hopkins has done a masterful job not only putting this keenly enjoyable film together but also giving a fine lead performance.


Bennett and Joe Barbagallo as Lorna and Barry are stunningly good in their emotionally resonant scenes, as are Frances Mitchell and Erik Parillo as Max's long-suffering parents (and, of course, Patrick Zeller as Max himself), and when they delve deep into Hopkins' rich dialogue it hits hard.  The story builds to a wrenching conclusion that really pays off.

JUST ONE MORE KISS wallows not in maudlin sentiment and a by-the-numbers plot but in love, loss, guilt, forgiveness, suicidal thoughts, and spiritual uncertainty. Not only is it not a rip-off of GHOST, I actually think it's way more interesting, and one of the best true-blue chick flicks I've ever seen.


Buy it from Indican Pictures

TECH SPECS

Runtime: 91 minutes
Format: 1:78 HD
Sound: Dolby Sr.
Country: USA
Language: English
Rating: Pending




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Giant Spider Scene From "VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS" (1965) (video)




Mike (Tommy Kirk) and Nancy (Charla Doherty) go down into the basement...

...to lock up their secret giant-making substance known as "goo."

But little do they know that some of it has already been consumed...

...by what is now a terrifying giant tarantula!


I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Thanks for watching!


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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Great 3 Stooges Running Gag: "Stop Punching Yourself!" (video)




When a Stooge or supporting character is watching others fight...

...he cheers them on and makes mock punching motions with his arm...

...but he accidentally punches himself in the chin.

(threestooges.net)

CALLING ALL CURS (1939)
MUSTY MUSKETEERS (1954)

I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Thanks for watching!


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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

KING'S GAMBIT -- DVD Review by Porfle




One of those intriguing premises that's sort of like a feature-length "Twilight Zone" or "Outer Limits" episode, KING'S GAMBIT (Indican Pictures, 2020) asks the question: what if certain people known as "Heralds" possessed magical journals, passed down from parent to child, in which they wrote, in strange, glowing symbols, entries which actually came to pass in order to help people in need and influence world events?

Bryce Wheeler (Blake Webb) becomes just such a person after the death of his father gives him a journal and its inherent power, which, as Peter Parker's Uncle Ben would agree, brings great responsibility.

The use of such a power requires the wisdom which Bryce's father has long tried to instill in him by training him to be a master at chess.


With the help of his best friends Ashley (Rebecca Galarza) and Tyler (Reggie Peters), who know his secret, Bryce must use great care in exercising his philanthropic powers since every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Thus, the most well-meaning magical deed might bring about an equal measure of chaos, destruction, and death unless Bryce plots each possible outcome as he would in a game of chess.

Debut writer-director Joseph Sayer has fashioned an instantly compelling premise here, one which is explored in interesting ways by characters we come to like and a capable cast bringing the intelligent script to life.


A major subplot involves one troubled man Bryce tries to help, the dangerously unstable Jon Jenkins (Wade Williams), causing a near-catastrophic disruption of the man's timeline that will prove a recurring problem that comes back to haunt our heroic trio in unpredictable ways.

There's also the matter of TV newswoman Pamela (Sheryl Carbonell), who somehow learns Bryce's secret which may or may not be a good thing. Adding to the mystery is a series of messages in the journal from yet another mysterious Herald who claims to be offering his experience to guide Bryce along a better path.

Things get really serious when Bryce and his friends hatch a highly perilous plan which involves using the journal to set right all the things he's inadvertently thrown out of balance.


Some jarring plot twists follow, as well as a few suspenseful sequences as when Bryce is captured and threatened with death if he doesn't turn over the journal and its secrets.

Director Sayer gets the most out of his modest budget, giving KING'S GAMBIT a visual quality to match the imagination in the story, which, incidentally, is so complicated at times that I sorta let the "gotcha!" twist in the last few seconds go right over my head. But that's okay--I'll get it next time I watch.


Buy it from Indican Pictures

TECH SPECS


Runtime: 88 minutes
Format: 1:78 HD
Sound: Dolby Sr.
Country: USA
Language: English
Captions: English
Extras: None




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ROCKAWAY -- movie review by porfle



(NOTE: This review originally appeared online at Bumscorner.com in 2007.)

The tagline reads, "They took his family, now he'll take their lives."  Obviously your basic revenge movie plot, which can go either way according to who's making the movie.  In this case, Jeff and Joshua Crook, the directors of 2005's surprisingly good GHETTO DAWG 2: OUT OF THE PITS, are behind the camera, and their latest film ROCKAWAY (2007) is an intense, blood-drenched action flick that's even better.

Nicholas Gonzalez plays Trane, a war hero whose tour of duty in Afghanistan is cut short by the brutal murder of his wife and newborn son.  Back in the states, he hooks up with his boyhood pal Dave (Ricardo Chavira), who lives under the boardwalk at Rockaway Beach in Queens, and discovers that the old neighborhood has been taken over by ruthless Latino drug dealers and pimps in league with the Russian mob.  The grief-stricken Trane grimly swears revenge on whoever killed his family, whoever ordered it, and everybody in between--all the way up the food chain to the feared Russian gang boss, Sergei (Vitali Baganov).

With that set-up in place, Trane enters the old neighborhood like a shark and goes about his task with reckless determination.  He hooks up with the top Latino thug Juju under the pretense of having fifty pounds of heroin to sell and is taken to meet Sergei's second-in-command, Ivan, a stone-cold killer who resembles a cross between Charles Bronson and a large rock.  It isn't long before Trane has the two factions at each other's throats while he relentlessly picks them off one by one. 

With a compelling story and realistic characters to work with, the Crook Brothers (who also wrote the screenplay) set up a series of bone-crunching, bullet-riddled action sequences that have all the flamboyant style of a Robert Rodriguez shoot-em-up but with a harder edge.  Deft use of optical wipes, split-screen, and other devices keeps things interesting on a cinematic level, while the violence is as visceral and splatteriffic as a George Romero film.

But the tragedy that motivates Trane isn't just an excuse for funny one-liners and comic-book exploits.  We're constantly reminded of his inner pain and the toll that his descent into savagery is taking on his humanity, especially when he discovers that his own sister (sexy Delilah Cotto) is working for Juju.  Trane's no indestructible Superman, either, and like anyone else, he's capable of screwing up.  When this happens, he suffers a major setback that is both incredibly shocking and grueling to watch.

As played by Nicholas Gonzalez, Trane is an admirable character that we can root for all the way.  Mario Cimarro and Manny Perez are both scary and comical as Juju and his vile toady Antwan--much of the sparse comic relief in the film revolves around Juju's anal-retentive obsession with his car ("Drive it slow...SLOW," he keeps warning a frustrated Antwan).  The standout, though, is Oleg Taktarov as Ivan, whose cold-blooded exterior masks a surprising depth.  He's not your standard one-dimensional villain. 

As for that major setback I mentioned--I didn't see how Trane's quest for revenge could continue after that point.  But it makes the final confrontation between him and the actual killers of his wife and son even better.  This sequence is full of visual surprises and stylistic indulgences that could easily have been botched in lesser hands, yet the Crook Brothers pull it off in a way that is reminiscent of Sergio Leone. 

ROCKAWAY is one of the most gripping and effective action films I could hope to see this year.  Even the last shot is emotionally resonant, leaving a final impression that most films of this kind wouldn't even try for.


Buy it at Amazon.com


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Monday, June 29, 2020

HAIR -- DVD Review by Porfle




I've always had mixed feelings about director Milos Forman's colorful film adaptation of the 60s musical HAIR (Olive Signature Films, 1979), starting from the first time I ever saw it on cable back in the 80s. Or rather, the first five or six times I saw it, since I was a big rewatcher in those days even if I wasn't totally sold on the movie but liked certain parts of it while not caring for others.

The parts I didn't care for included, well, the characters. Or most of them, anyway. By that time, the allure of the hippie lifestyle had long since worn off for this boomer and I started regarding them as the manipulative leeches that they often were, rebelling against the "straight" life while begging members of it for money and eschewing possessions while doing their best to attain them.


Treat Williams' blustery hippie leader Berger is one of the worst offenders, a self-righteous manchild who's really an irresponsible con man at heart. When he and his "tribe" of fellow hippies encounter a young Oklahoman named Claude (John Savage) hanging out in Central Park before his impending induction into the Army, Berger thinks it would be funny to try and induct him into the ways of the hippie while steering him romantically toward a haughty debutante (Beverly D'Angelo as Sheila) who strikes Claude's fancy as she rides a horse majestically through the park.

Berger and his gang invade Sheila's fancy debutante ball with all that insufferable "free-spirited" attitude and delight in disrupting all its various proprieties to the point where he ends up stomping down the length of the dining table while shaking his ass at everyone (to the delight of Charlotte Rae, representing the open-minded oldie who finds such behavior giddily charming).

During this time we see John Savage giving a meaty performance as the confused Claude, who wants to do his military duty but is seduced into the seemingly "free" hippie life, especially after he's persuaded to drop LSD (the surreal sequence that follows is Forman's attempt to be Ken Russell for awhile, something he's not very good at).


With the pushy Berger amusing himself with the lives and feelings of Claude and Sheila, we also get to know the rest of the tribe and aren't always impressed. Jeannie (Annie Golden) is pregnant but doesn't know or care whether the father is blonde-haired Woof (Don Dacus) or the African-American Hud (Dorsey Wright), who also has a fiancee and a small son whom he seems to have abandoned.

It's to the credit of director Milos Forman (AMADEUS, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, MAN ON THE MOON) and screenwriter Michael Weller (who adapted the musical play by Gerome Ragni & James Rado and Galt MacDermot) that these societal outsiders aren't too overly romanticized even though we're often meant to find their antics funny and/or liberating.

There's also a certain veneer of realism that keeps things from getting too fantastical or stylized. Twyla Tharp's choreography is designed to look like a bunch of everyday people dancing around rather than a troup of professional, precision dancers. Real exteriors are used both in New York (mainly a rather grimy Central Park) and Nevada. The Army base where Claude ends up is a hellishly hot, dusty, joyless place.


Most of my reservations about the story were resolved with the stunning climax of the film, which contains a satisfying plot twist and a stirring rendition of "Let the Sunshine In" (a fitting bookend to the opening "Aquarius") which brings the film to a rousing conclusion.

Most of the play's familiar songs are reproduced in outstanding performances which feature the likes of Ellen Foley, Nell Carter, Melba Moore, and Betty Buckley, the latter soloing on my favorite number, the gorgeous "Walking In Space."

(On the non-singing front, keep a lookout for other such familiar faces as Richard Bright, Miles Chapin, and director Nicholas Ray.)


Even the Stylistics lend their voices to the incredibly strange musical number "Black Boys/White Boys" in which military officers inspecting naked recruits espouse their unbridled joy. Rivaling Betty Buckley's performance is Cheryl Barnes as Hud's spurned fiancee belting out the classic "Easy To Be Hard." Beverly D'Angelo handles the hit "Good Morning, Starshine." And of course the title tune is given a raucous, somewhat overbearing workout.

Strangely enough, it's my love-hate relationship with HAIR that has always made it interesting to watch.  Perhaps it's best that the film neither overly glorifies the hippies (when Berger goes home to beg money from his parents, we see what a phony he is) nor condemns them outright. And Forman's style is an uneasy juxtaposition of the real and the surreal, which pretty much represents that period in history as well as anything.


YEAR: 1979
GENRE: MUSICAL DRAMA
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (with optional English subtitles)
LABEL: OLIVE FILMS
TOTAL RUNNING TIME: 121 mins
RATING: PG
VIDEO: 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio; Color
AUDIO: STEREO

OLIVE SIGNATURE FEATURES

    New HD restoration
    Audio commentary by assistant director Michael Hausman and actor Treat Williams
    “The Tribe Remembers” – with actors Beverly D’Angelo, Don Dacus, Ellen Foley, Annie Golden, John Savage, and Dorsey Wright
    “Making Chance Work: Choreographing Hair” – with choreographer Twyla Tharp
    “Cutting Hair” – with editors Lynzee Klingman and Stanley Warnow
    “Hair Style” – with production designer Stuart Wurtzel
    “Artist, Teacher, Mentor: Remembering Milos Forman” – with director James Mangold
    Essay by critic Sheila O’Malley


US+CANADA
STREET: 6/30/2020
CAT: OS021
UPC: 887090602105
SRP: $39.95



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THE BEAST MUST DIE! -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle




(THE BEAST MUST DIE is part of Severin's gala Mid-Year Sale)
 

Having already released it on Blu-ray back in 2017 as part of "The Amicus Collection", Severin Films is now giving the cult classic THE BEAST MUST DIE (1974) an even better-looking updated release based on newly-discovered elements.

In Severin's own words: "A superior 35mm pre-print element of THE BEAST MUST DIE was recently unearthed in France and made available to us. On the previous Amicus box exclusive only an old HD telecine was available of the censored TV version and the censored scenes were scanned from a 16mm print and inserted. The newly available superior element was given a brand new 4k scan and fully restored by Studio Canal in France."

Having just viewed the latest version, I found it superior to the previous release. Not only that, but the disc contains the original bonus features in addition to some brand new ones.


Still included are an audio essay by horror historian Troy Howarth, an informative commentary track with director Paul Arnett, the featurette "Directing the Beast" with Arnett again, and the theatrical trailer.

New features consist of an audio interview excerpt with Milton Subotsky conducted by Philip Nutman, an audio interview with producer Max J. Rosenberg conducted by Jonathan Sothcott, and a trailer commentary by genre scholars Kim Newman and David Flint.

Both English and Spanish 2.0 mono soundtracks are available, with English subtitles.


As for the movie itself, here's our original review:



One of the most hard-and-fast rules of cinema is that any movie is worth watching if it has a "Werewolf Break."

Okay, I made that up, but I do find it to be true in the case of the 1974 Amicus werewolf thriller THE BEAST MUST DIE! (Severin Films), which not only does have a "Werewolf Break" but happens to be the only film I can think of to boast such a distinction.

It opens with a lively title sequence featuring eccentric millionaire Tom Newcliffe (American actor Calvin Lockhart, COTTON COMES TO HARLEM, UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT) being hunted by his own ex-military security staff in order to test their capabilities. This is in preparation for an antipated guest--namely, a werewolf.


Newcliffe, in fact, has invited a varied array of men and women to his secluded estate for the weekend, believing one of them to be a werewolf and looking forward to the opportunity of hunting it down to satisfy his sadistic lusts for sport and blood, as he does every other kind of wild beast he comes in contact with.

Thus, we already get a strong THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME vibe, especially when Newcliffe makes it clear that none of the guests--that is, werewolf suspects--is free to leave the grounds until one of them has been exposed and terminated.

There's also sort of a low-rent Agatha Christie flavor a la "And Then There Were None"/"Ten Little Indians", including even the traditional gathering of the suspects and surprise reveal at the end. (The script is actually adapted from a short story by James Blish, author of the very first Star Trek novel "Spock Must Die!")


What makes this variation on the old saw so much fun--besides, of course, the werewolf angle, which will have the attention of old-school monster fans from frame one--is the pure, undiluted 70s-era cheesiness of the whole thing.

While capable enough, the direction by Paul Annett, as well as cinematography,  editing, and some rather broad acting, give the film the look and feel of a quickie TV-movie of the era.

The original score by Douglas Gamley is perfectly fine and even somewhat reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann until he tries for a 70s funk-rock effect, which recalls the old thwacka-wacka 70s porn-movie backing tracks.

This, however, by no means hampers one's enjoyment of the film.  Rather, it increases it for viewers with a taste for fine cheese who revel in seeing such a cast, including Peter Cushing, Anton Diffring, Michael Gambon, and Charles Gray, taking part in such goings on.

Calvin Lockhart himself overacts his role with such magnificent abandon that I kept wishing he could skip the werewolf and go up against Rod Steiger in a ham-actor cage match.


With three successive nights of full moons, THE BEAST MUST DIE! gives us plenty of furious action (although the murky day-for-night photography sometimes makes it hard to see just what's going on) as well as lots of ensemble drama pitting the hot-blooded hunter against his own reluctant guests as he tries to trick each into revealing his or her hidden lycanthropy.  This includes even his wife, Caroline (Marlene Clark, who also tends to emote rather robustly).

When we see the werewolf itself, it's rather disappointingly played by an actual canine rather than a person in werewolf makeup (which I, being a lifelong fan of such films as THE WOLF MAN and CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, would much prefer).

I got used to this, however, and was primed when the film finally paused for its delightfully hokey "Werewolf Break", a gimmick harkening back to the days of William Castle in which we're given thirty seconds to weigh the clues and decide the true identity of the werewolf.  (I was wrong, and you probably will be, too.)

There are those, of course, who will find this  practically unwatchable if they require their horror films to be more costly, refined, and sophisticated.  That's fine for them, but I'm one of many who can watch a movie like THE BEAST MUST DIE! and relish it every bit as much as those other ones--and, occasionally, even more.



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